Reflecting on Happiness Box 2020

Sorry that this is so late, by the time I organized the first few months of Happiness Box 2020, it was Shabbat time and I tend to not use much technology during Shabbat. Earlier in the day, we ordered sandwiches from Hymie’s (their gluten-free Schmoozer is the best!), then Mom, dad, and I had a Scrabble game night.  (Just mom and I played Scrabble tonight. Mom beat me twice, but it was still fun.)

I was very tired but tuned into The Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day orchestra on PBS. It was wonderful to lounge while welcoming in the New Year. This New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day was different, but it was enjoyable. After a salmon and filet mignon dinner, I dressed up for the evening, and watched the National Orchestra on PBS. I normally go to the Philadelphia Orchestra for New Year’s Eve, but it was still nice to get dressed up for an evening at home. I enjoyed myself.  

I opened up Happiness Box 2020 on Friday morning. We are getting new carpeting and I had to move everything from my bedroom downstairs. Unlike in previous years, this year the Box Opening is a two parter – I was called for breakfast.  It was nice opening it in the basement, until dad came downstairs, started complaining about boxes since they took their holiday decorations down. He only said the S word, but I told him to take everything upstairs. You know what, the spirit of 2020 and quarantine life! Tina, a friend from, said, “typical man!” Ha, yes, probably typical man, but it did make for good videos.

Also, I’m proud of myself: instead of getting mad because perfection was ruined, I let it go and said, “life isn’t perfect! Messy and imperfect make for better lives, videos, pictures, and everything else!” I’m grateful for everything I have, I reminded myself of that.

Here’s a link to the blog that has the video: Happy New Year!

I went through my notes, then organized everything by month. Organizing my notes by month makes it easier to scrapbook.

I re-read the New Year’s card I gave myself and the note I wrote on 1-1-2020. I was visiting Mary and Flo, Nan’s old neighbours and our long-time family friends. Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos of that meeting and in the note I wrote: “I can’t wait to see them throughout the year and get more photos with them!” Sadly, Mary died on 25 March 2020, unrelated to COVID-19. With the COVID-19 restrictions, I haven’t been able to see Flo since 16 March 2020. I did send her cards through the year, but I can’t wait to see her again. I’m glad I did get to see them early on in the year and I’m glad I recorded the stories we told.

I also wrote about the kindness of Mrs. Davenport, my manager at the library, and the joys she brought even while we were furloughed. Unfortunately, Mrs. Davenport passed in June and now that I’m back in the library, it feels so weird not seeing her. I miss her presence. I want to ask the library if I can copy her obituary to put in the scrapbook. I know it may sound odd, but I like adding these types of touches to the scrapbooks.

Then my full-time job. We started off the year at the office, while Revenue Recovery was still downstairs. I wrote about this one lady from one department who remembered which magazines I love and held some Philadelphia magazines for me to read. That was so kind! We moved back upstairs, to the third floor, in February and it was so nice to see friends in Enrollment and Reimbursement again! I also shared laughs with Ms. Pat and Ms. Marva. By mid-March we were all homebound. It’s weird not seeing my co-workers.

Yet, the corporate wellness meetings were the salve we all needed during these unprecedented times. It was nice meeting people from all over the company; mostly people from Florida, Michigan, Tennessee,  New Jersey, and a few people from the Conshohocken office attended. Dr. Stef and Tasha have done wonderful jobs running it (the wellness meetings are still ongoing). I was also able to share my Happiness Box Project, the project interested HR and Kat asked me if she could use my project for training purposes. I gave her the OK and wrote an outline for her. YAY!

I also met Avi and Joel, and later they branched off to start a Torah/Bible Study. The Torah portion was helpful, but I loved how the two connected one another. Both Avi and Joel have other jobs now, but they still continue the studies every Wednesday night.

2020 was the year of Zoom! All of my Jewish groups moved to Zoom and it was interesting holding Shabbat over Zoom. Yet, it was nice to “see” everyone and it was nice to come together to celebrate. In June, Tribe12 held a Pride Shabbat and that was so beautiful. We sang and prayed and talked about LGBT+ issues. In September, Tribe12 held a Zoom meeting to break the Yom Kippur fast together. I can’t fast for health reasons, but I decided to give up sweets for the day. It was nice breaking our fasts together.

I met Rachel at a Shabbat in 2019 and she invited me to her improv group. When everything went online, I was able to attend a few. She also sent me headphones, to make the Zoom meetings easier. That was so nice of her and I’m grateful! I stopped attending in May because they were the same games over and over again, but I’m thinking of starting back up on Monday. They were fun.

I connected with someone from City-Data and he was going to get me set-up with his Synagogue because I wanted to attend online services. We went back and forth, he was in touch with his Rabbi, but things sort of fell flat. I didn’t want to be a pest, but I notice sometimes my Yahoo account (that’s my professional e-mail address) sends safe e-mails into spam. Maybe I will follow up with him, can’t hurt. I’m grateful for his help this year and look forward to conversing with him in 2021.

When things started to meet in person, although limited, I enjoyed Sukkot Shabbat and a Halloween movie with RSJ Philly. They were fun. Now, all gatherings have ceased and they hold events over Zoom now. Next weekend I’ll be learning how to make these Russian dumplings (mine will be gluten-free!) with Jonathon over Zoom. On the 17th, I’ll be making (gluten-free) gyros with Alex over Zoom. At the end of the month, Russian story time on Zoom. I’m looking forward to it.

While my spirituality grew during quarantine, as did my creativity, there were some blah moments. I lost a friend, Anna thought I should be journaling instead of reaching out to her. I told her my Happiness Box Project was my journal and after three months in quarantine, there are some blah notes and same throughout the summer. I felt yucky reading those notes, HOWEVER, I remembered why I started this project, all feelings are valid. I don’t want to be toxically positive and I embraced those blah feelings after I read the notes. They helped me reflect.

These blah moments also led to breakthroughs and discussions, which were written about in other notes. The blah led to discussion, which led to empathy and with empathy one can build joy and/or gratitude. I had a lot of discussions with friends throughout the summer, and while we won’t always see eye to eye that is okay. We all have our own experiences, traumas, and joys, they are not competitions. We all share in humanity and we are all precious beings. Not always seeing eye to eye shouldn’t ruin a friendship and I learned it (again) this year.

Yet, during these tumultuous times, there were a lot of joyful moments. Graduations! When the two brothers up the street from me graduated from Upper Merion Area High School, before they were off to graduate, I congratulated them and we got a selfie together. Their little brother wanted to be in the selfie too and his smile is just pure. When other high school students around me graduated, I wrote out cards and gave them each $10. I felt bad that they couldn’t have the normal ceremony, and I hope the cards gave them some cheer.

I celebrated my Jewish holidays at home and my parents agreed to a few dinners. The Jewish Federation held some classes and I learned from those classes. The dinners were successful! I did a lot of cooking this year and ordered out from time to time, all brought joy.

Reddit! Reddit was another source of joy. The subreddits I joined were uplifting, and I was promoted to Mod. I love being a Mod and building my subreddit. I love running the Discord and I just love the community. For Hanukkah, two people sent me lovely gifts and cards. Someone from the Judaism subreddit also invited me to his Menorah lighting one night and it turned into a Q&A session, it was really nice. Reddit gets a bad rap, but it’s a lovely community.

I would like to share the album with you. I took photos of the notes, in case if you didn’t want to watch the videos. I also hope to start working on a manuscript about the Happiness Box Project and want as many pictures as I can get for a book.

I don’t know what 2021 will bring us, but whatever it does bring us I’m ready! I start my new position, Reimbursement specialist, on 11 January 2021 and I will be homebound until we are called back. I still work at the library two days per week. I have a scrapbook project plan, I’m going to join the JAC and that will be over Zoom for 2021, and I’m prepared.

This year is a special year. At the end of January, it’ll mark 10 years since Christina and I became friends. In April, it’ll mark 10 years since Jeremy and I became friends. In July, it’ll mark 10 years since Andrew and I became friends. In May, it’ll mark 10 years since I’ve started going to Infinite Piercing Shop. I look forward to fostering these friendships!

I hope that you have a wonderful year ahead too, dear reader! Whatever 2021 brings, we are in this together!


Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you. ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Creator of the Happiness Box Project Initiative, a project where you write your happiness or gratitude each day, then open the box in the New Year. The Initiative is to teach joy and gratitude, to pass it on to others.

2 thoughts on “Reflecting on Happiness Box 2020”

  1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

    Yessum, 2020 could rightly be called “The Year of Zoom.” I wonder what we will call 2021 as we look back on it this time next year? I shudder to think it could get any worse.

    I applaud you for finding ways to adjust and adapt throughout this challenging year. Examples of how you made the most of the situation are when you treated yourself and your family to a salmon and filet mignon dinner, dressed up just because… and listened to orchestra music to celebrate the arrival of the new year. The food looks lovely, as did you.

    It’s sad that you intended to visit Nan’s old neighbors Mary & Flo throughout the year and that Mary died before you could see her. I’m sure Nan was there to greet her when she crossed over the bridge. I am also sad that 2020 took from you library manager Mrs. Davenport. Through virtual group meetings and seminars you acquired new friends this past year and enriched yourself intellectually and spiritually. This includes finding a home in the Reddit community. You learned new coping strategies to help you through unpleasant anniversaries. You learned how to take your traumas and transform them into personal power and affirmative action in service to others. I salute you for identifying those very happy ten year anniversaries coming up this month, lasting friendships for which to be thankful. Surely they and all your other blessings offset the unpleasant reminders of the past.

    I wish you much success at your new position and a happy, healthy and productive year, dear friend JM!


  2. Thank you, dear friend.

    The Year of Zoom, I like that. When I start Happiness Box 2020’s scrapbook, I might call it that: The Year of Zoom: The Start of Roaring 20’s 2.0. LOL! Or Roaring 20’s 2.0, The Beginning: The Year of Zoom. I’ll play around with the title. Thank you, dear friend.


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