Thankful Thursday 6 January 2022

Wow! The first Thankful Thursday in 2022! There’s a lot to celebrate and be thankful for today. Let’s get started.

On New Year’s Day, Tommy and I went to the mall and I bought my first skate deck because he’s going to teach me how to skateboard. We went into Zumiez and we looked at all the options. I’m tiny, so I wound up with a 7.75″ Globe deck. The sales associate helped me pick out a pad set and Tommy helped me pick out the gear I need for skateboard care. So thankful Tommy was there to help me and I’m glad he’s going to teach me how to skateboard. We’ll be doing that this weekend.

It’s finally cold enough to ice skate! It’s so cold that we may even get snow tomorrow. Tommy and I are meeting up to ice skate tomorrow night after work and Saturday. We’ll ice skate on Saturday after skateboarding. I can’t wait to ice skate! Thank you, Mother Nature! I hope you remain cold for the rest of the winter.

I’m also thankful for friends, family, and coworkers. What are you grateful for today?

Opening Happiness Box 2021

Today was the day! Today was the opening of Happiness Box 2021! I always look forward to New Year’s Day and counting my blessings from the year that has passed. This year was even more special. A lovely, handsome man and a lovey-dovey cat helped me unbox this morning. I only taped the unboxing, I didn’t want to read the notes on air like previous years.

I’m glad I didn’t tape the reading. Tom read some notes with me, but then we took breaks, and we came back to the notes every few hours and we finished reading them before he left and before I left Terry’s.

I let him read about Summer Crush, Logan, because while he didn’t work out (Thank G-d) he opened the door for Tom. I truly believe that. Tom read it and said, “Oh.” It doesn’t matter, but I wanted him to see me before I met him. I also let him read about the old job struggles, how happy I was to get a new job and how awesome the new job is. He really smiled when he read what I wrote about him. His smile makes me smile. He’s one of my biggest Happiness Box moments.

I didn’t take photos of all the notes. Towards the end, I didn’t take any photos. Here are the photos of the notes I took yesterday.

I had a lot of growth in 2021 and it’s amazing to see the transformation. I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings.

Happy New Year!

2021: A Year of Great Change

A little addendum since I can’t tell a full story on cards. You know the meme with the football player saying, “Not gonna lie, the first half had me.” The first half of 2021 was like the last three quarters of 2020: not much going on, everything was still virtual, the few outings I had were limited to a certain number of people and I had to be masked. I was also spending a lot of time alone and even got involved in a scavenger story hunt. I wrote for it, but I think the creator got overwhelmed because the creator deleted the Instagram. I don’t think my story was posted.

I was promoted to analyst at RTI, and it was a rough transition, especially since we were still remote. I’m not an analyst and I looked for a new job, which I found in mid-July.

My last day at RTI was 13 August. I took a trip to Brighton Beach/New York City, where I spent time at the beach, learned Russian, went to comedy shows, the Stonewall Inn for a drag show, and got inked in China Town. Logan, the one I had a summer crush on, drew the Star Compass design for me. While it didn’t work out, the tattoo tells a story, an important one. It tells how Logan helped me come out of my shell a bit, post trauma, and opened my heart. It led me to something beautiful that happened in November and is my current story, which you will read about later in this letter.

I stayed with a kind Russian family and there was another guest visiting from Russia. She was on holiday in America and heard that Brighton Beach is a home away from home. Her name was Eva and on my last morning in Brighton Beach, we spent chatting for a few hours, with Natalyia (our host) chiming in. Eva agreed to a selfie with me, which I added to my Happiness Box Project. I can’t wait to go back. I look tired in this selfie because the shoulder tattoo was a swollen and it wasn’t a restful sleep.

 I’m glad I had two weeks of down-time before I started my new adventure.

I started my role with the Montgomery County DA’s Office on 30 August 2021 and at the end of November, I celebrated three months as a legal secretary, paralegal in training. I really love my job, even though some days are challenging than others since I am still learning. I love the people I work with, and I like how the County feels like family. In October, we had a Halloween party, and it was a blast. I’m in the right job now and it just feels good.

On the day after my three-month probation period ended, the County held a Menorah, Christmas Tree, and Kinara (Kwanzaa) lighting ceremony. It was enjoyable and after, I had the chance to meet the Commissioners. They let me get in a few photos with them and they welcomed me to the County family. It was so beautiful!

The DA and his Chief of Staff are really pleased with how well I am doing. The DA called me at the beginning of December and asked how things were going, I told him they were going well and he was happy to hear that. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a forensic investigator. My dream has been realized to an extent, a paralegal in training is a cross between a writer, which is my forte, and investigator.

I went on my first date in 9 years on 6 November with a guy named Tom. It was an arcade and skate date. Tom noticed my skates didn’t have the right bearings; we went to Zumiez and I let him change my skates. Much better! After the arcade, we enjoyed our time together that I canceled plans I had with someone else and went nine hours together. Tom taught me how to skateboard, we had a pizza dinner at the Angelo Pizza, and walked around Philadelphia. I felt comfortable with him, and we planned date #2.

It was cute how he asked me to be his girlfriend. We were walking through DSW and he pointed out a pair of Tom’s sneakers. I said, “I used to own a pair. They are very comfortable.” He replied, “You have your very own Tom now. What do you say? Be my girlfriend?” I’m still blushing. It’ll be two months on 11 January 2022 and we’re happy.

I’ve been teaching him how to ice skate, we’ve been walking around Philadelphia and Clifton Heights and in the coming months, I’ll introduce him to the skate park in King of Prussia. I feel comfortable and safe with him; he makes me laugh, I make him laugh and I make him feel at ease too. He feels just as comfortable.

Here we are at Pain’s Park in Philadelphia, PA. I’m so used to roller skating in a rink with a flat surface. I’m slowly getting used to skate parks. We’re planning on meeting up with some of his friends and having an evening skate session complete with a picnic.

On our third date, we had pizza in one of the parks in Philadelphia. We couldn’t eat inside, and it felt lovely eating pizza with him in the darkness on a Saturday evening. With the time change, 6 pm felt like midnight. It’s an experience I can’t forget and wrote about for my Happiness Box Project.

Tom has truly been a blessing.

I hope that you have a wonderful holiday and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2022!

Thankful Thursday 30 December 2021

I can’t believe this is the last Thursday in 2021 and next Thursday will be January 2022! What a year it has been!

I’m cat-sitting for Terry until the evening of 1/1. The opening of Happiness Box 2021 will be in a new location for 2021. I will have a cat and most likely a guest that will help me with the Box. I’m super excited and I’m grateful that I’ll be surrounded by love. Tom is most likely coming over; Terry okayed him coming over and staying New Year’s Eve. She would rather us here then going out spending all that money, and it’s not always safe to go out on New Year’s Eve. I’m grateful that Terry trusts me enough to allow this and I’m grateful she’s helping me save a bit of money. After they return, she would like to have us both over for dinner. So grateful, beyond grateful. I’ll follow up with Tom today.

What are you grateful for as 2021 comes to a close?

2022 Visions

I was going to post my announcement with the year in review on New Year’s Eve, but since this was a question on this morning, I took it as a sign to post tonight.

The question of the day on was this:

What is your vision, or dream, for the new year?

I answered in the following:

Less time online, focusing on my jobs, boyfriend, friends, family, and life. I also want to work on my Happiness Box and the book I want to write about it.

The one who posted the question responded:

Sounds like you have your priorities in order.

I responded:

Yeah. Life has been on an upswing and while I expect storms along the way and all sorts of ups and downs, I want to stay focused on the most important things. Blogging and social media aren’t really important right now. Will I stop it entirely? No… But I won’t be updating my blog often or visiting other blogs. I’m sort of tired of it right now.

I won’t be active in the blogosphere in 2022. I won’t be writing as much and I won’t be visiting as much either. I really want to focus on my offline life, especially with Tommy and my full-time job. I have a lot on my plate now and what is on my plate is more important than blogging; I’m a Happy Jess when I focus on the priorities and a blog isn’t my top priority now; same with reading.

Thank you for understanding. The Happiness Box Project will be celebrating 5 years on 1/1 and I will be adding to the box in 2022. I think focusing on real life will benefit the Happiness Box too.

Christmastide 2021

I ended up not going to Tom’s for Christmas. His sister’s lab partner tested positive for COVID; his sister is feeling under the weather, but she tested negative. He told me on the 23rd and yesterday his mom sent me a message on Facebook (yes, we’re Facebook friends) wishing me a Merry Christmas. She also apologized about cancelling, explained the situation, the sister is doing well, and they’re all doing well. We’ll definitely reschedule after the holidays. I like Tom’s parents and I’m glad his mother reached out.

While I was disappointed about not going to Tom’s, my holiday was filled with family. On X-mas Eve, mom had her side of the family over and it was fun. When Aunt Kathy arrived, she handed me a belated Hanukkah gift and said, “I know it’s late, but this is for you.” I was verklempt and thankful. She instructed me to put it upstairs so it wouldn’t get confused with the White Elephant gifts.

Aunt Kathy and I chatted for a bit – she was happy to hear about Tom, and to hear about how the ADAs showered me in gifts. “You really deserve it. You’re a hard and dedicated worker.” She’s so happy that things are going so well. Aunt Peg and Uncle Tom were happy to hear it as well.

The White Elephant was fun, total Christmas Eve shenanigans. I ended up picking a towel set and I squealed in joy. I’ve wanted red towels for a long time and I finally have my own set of red towels! I joked, “I’m the towel queen.” Everyone laughed. The whole game made everyone giggle. Dad won a set of Japanese spa masks and everyone ribbed him. We’re going to have a self-care day for him and everyone wants to see the before and after photos.

While I don’t celebrate Christmas, I participate out of love. For me, Christmastide is just a time for peace, love, good tidings, and joy with loved ones. That’s how I was going to handle it with Tom and his family. I’m sure that is how Tom handled it with Hanukkah and that’s how my parents handle it with my Jewish holidays. Anyway, yesterday was a time for peace, love, good tidings, and joy with family. Same with X-mas Eve.

I am enough. I am loved. I may not always get along with mom, but the past few days have been good. She was disappointed for me and like Tom’s mom said, once the holidays are over and people are feeling better, we will have him over for belated holidays. I have my father’s love and I will always have my father’s love. As tradition, we l’chaimed and Mazel Toved at dinner.

I also opened Aunt Kathy’s belated Hanukkah gift. She knows me well! And I can’t wait to wear it!

While this time of year is traumatic for me and while I didn’t get to spend the day with Tom, I’m glad I spent it with my family and I’m glad I’m here at Terry’s cat-sitting. Terry left a gift for me as well.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and holiday season filled with peace, love, and joy.

Thankful Thursday 23 December 2021

I’m sorry that I’ve been absent for a week, but the holiday season has been a bit stressful and I’ve been taking care of myself. I’ve been reading and listening to music.

Others have helped out as well. I’ve spent Friday evening with Tom at the Franklin Institute. We enjoyed watching the stars in the planetarium, drag bingo (we almost won twice, but others beat us to it), and a drag show. He had a lot of fun and it was a chance for both of us to relax a little.

When I got home, I had an e-mail waiting for me from one of my pen-pals. Brooke drew me a holiday gift. I’m going to frame it. I thanked her, it’s such a beautiful photo of me and Tommy.

I tend to really miss Nan during the holidays. Next month will be 9 years since she died and the holidays seem to be me hitting me harder this year. I think probably because I’m in a relationship and I wish she was here to see it. She would love Tommy and I know she would welcome him with opened arms. Of course she’s doing this in another existence, but I wish her existence was still in the flesh. Sunday I really felt it, especially since that was the 37th anniversary of her husband’s death (my grandfather I never met, he died 4.5 years before I was born). We used to visit him on the anniversaries and I guess that’s why it hit me too.

Tom and I went ice skating and rode the Ferris wheel. He cheered me up a bit and for that I am grateful. We both hate heights, but being with each other on that Ferris wheel calmed our nerves. He kissed me as we were stuck on the top, the Ben Franklin bridge as the backdrop with the Delaware river. “I love you,” he whispered, “I love you too,” I whispered back. So grateful. Also, the ice skates were perfect!

This week, four ADAs and the DDA gave me gifts and thanked me not only for the hard work I do for them, but my dedication. I am loved and appreciated. I am grateful that I have a wonderful job. I have two wonderful jobs! One of my library friends also gave me a gift with a card stating she’s so happy that life has been turning around for me, and looks forward to seeing what 2022 brings. I’m verklempt.

I’ve also had a generous secret Santa from Reddit who has been showering me in gifts for the last two days. Thank you, dear Reddit Santa! You know me so well!

I’m also thankful for friends and family. What are you thankful for today and for this holiday season?

Surviving Holiday Hustle and Bustle

One of my Facebook friends shared someone’s status update from 16 October 2020 and it applies to the holiday season in 2021:

Reminder that your friends still love you. Everyone is just very tired.

I’m exhausted this holiday season. Since starting my new job, there have been a lot of firsts and especially experiencing them with Tom. Since we agreed to celebrate both holidays together, I’ve been running around like crazy. It’s been non-stop since Hanukkah a few weeks ago. Now I’m going over Tom’s house on Christmas Day and I’m debating if I should bring a small gift for his parents. What is the etiquette? Small flower? He told me not to bring any food, but should I? Just a flower?

I’m trying not to stress out, I’ve been taking deep breaths and reminding myself that this is all a learning curve. I’m giving myself grace, as well as kindness. We don’t have to be perfect, we only have to be present. That is all we need to do this holiday season: be present and enjoy your time with loved ones.