A project that builds gratitude day by day to build resilience.
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.
It’s Thursday already?! It’s almost the end of January?! Time sure is flying!
I’m grateful that there was a peaceful transition of power yesterday. I’m grateful that Donald and Melania vacated without a stir. I’m grateful that VP Harris and President Biden were safe during the inauguration. Here’s hope that the next four years will be peaceful.
Some great news! Alex just reached out to me and he heard from one of his Rabbis. He told the Rabbi my story and the Rabbi can’t wait to work with me. (I have to send him a text after “An Evening with B.J. Novak” is over.) I can’t wait to finalize my journey and I’m super excited!
One more day until the Trump Presidency comes to an end, although I believe we will feel its impacts for many years to come.
On 19 January 2017, I marked my work calendar as “World Kindness Day” for 20 January 2017. Although it was my cousin Matthew’s 21st birthday (and he celebrated with my cousin Kaitlyn in Washington, D.C., where she lives, which prompted her to post, “Happy birthday to my brother, even though the Orange is getting sworn in right now.”), 20 January 2017 was Inauguration Day. I, like millions of others, were dreading this day and I decided to make it “World Kindness Day.”
I’m only going to focus on 2017 for this entry because the Trump Presidency was exhausting. Yet, I can be grateful in a way because 2017 was the first year I used a Happiness Box and his utter chaos and absurdity sort of helped build this project. I won’t claim that too much because he might sue me for royalties and I wish I could say that was a joke, but that petty man would probably find ways to milk something and clean it dry. I made my project successful and it really helped during these four long years.
Let’s begin on World Kindness Day, 20 January 2017.
After Trump was inaugurated, our local Metro paper posted an article about a new species of moth that was named after him. Ironically, this moth was named because it was becoming endangered and the scientist hoped that by calling the moth Donaldtrumpi would educate the public about the real threats of climate change.
Right away, Trump set to work on the Muslim Ban, anti-Semitism and hate crimes sky-rocketed. Then his staff scrubbed the White House’s LGBTQIA page clean, our Asian, Black, Brown, and handycapped friends all became targets under this administration. I held my friends tightly and close; I hung out with Danielle and her boyfriend, Lee, a week after “World Kindness Day” and we danced to her father’s band. I also sent my dentist a Lunar New Year card and celebrated the Year of the Rooster in Philadelphia’s China Town.
A Jewish cemetery was defaced and I read about it in the Metro. I reached out to one of the coordinators of the Jewish Federation and donated some money. Thus, began my relationship with the Jewish Federation. I took a DNA test in July 2017 and that helped on the journey too. 2017 began my spiritual journey.
Around February, this flyer popped up in the library, near the young adult section. I know children, teens, and young adults were feeling especially afraid.
I was so happy to see this. It was so wonderful seeing others try to spread kindness around as well. In the first few months, random acts of kindness mattered.
On 1 March 2017, I was issued my invitation to apply for residency in Canada. I’m thankful for those who helped me reach my financial goals and while I was refused residency in October (my full-time job didn’t write the letter), I’m thankful for those who let me use those funds for the liver crisis that popped up and led to the Celiac diagnosis. Although I didn’t make it in 2017, things happen for a reason and I can try again when things are more settled. I can also try again when there are better relations between the foreign countries and the US. Donald Trump destroyed all of those relationships and built better ones with dictators.
Science was placed by “alternative facts.” We pulled out of the Paris Accord and the dumb-dumb in chief said windmills can cause cancer. “Alternative facts” are lies and the scientific communities came together on Earth Day and marched. I had the pleasure of being present for the march in Philadelphia on 22 April 2017.
Even the Juggalos marched on 17 September 2017. The Browns invited me on a trip to Washington, DC, so I was able to go for a little bit. Juggalos are so kind and I felt safe. Ironically, Juggalos are better behaved than the White Supremacists that met on 6 January 2021. We were peaceful and kept it peaceful, and the fact that we’re labeled a gang is so wrong.
I am grateful that the Browns invited me and that the Browns welcomed me into their family. We may be neighbours, but they treat me as family. All of my communities and I came together for celebration and that love countered the hate.
Even travelling brought kindness. When I went to Atlantic City on 26 August 2017, someone gave me their rented beach chair. They were leaving and saw me sitting on the sand, so they offered me their chair. That was so beautiful.
I went to Baltimore a week later and the Air BnB I stayed in was awesome too. Max, the owner, invited me to watch college football with his friends. I watched the games with them for a few hours and sadly, I didn’t get photos of this, but I did of the accommodation. Max was friendly and his friends were courteous, they weren’t loud, and it was a good experience. That was my first time using Air BnB.
Yet, there was more absurdity in the summer. In August, Townsends, a Colonial cooking YouTube, showed a video about making an Orange Fool. A fool is custard dessert and has nothing to do with Trump. Yet, the Trumpflakes saw this and trolled the heck out of Townsends, which prompted Townsends to create a YouTube video condemning this trolling. I made an orange fool and it was good.
This is only the tip of the ice berg, but I think I’ve done a good job documenting life during this presidency through this blog. While the Trump Presidency is coming to an end, let’s dub 20 January 2021 as “World Kindness Day” again. Let’s Make America Kind Again and let us build back empathy.
Friday would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 92nd birthday and today the US celebrated his holiday. The Happiness Box Project lives by Dr. King’s philosophy that I do not judge the person by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. The Happiness Box Project also believes in Dr. King’s following quote as well:
This year my full-time job gave us this Federal holiday off. In the past, we never did, but they are doing away with floating holidays. However, the wellness meeting was still held today and I presented my Happiness Box Project. Only me, Tasha, Dr. Jen, and someone else was in attendance.
Needless to say, Zoom bloopers! Yesterday I was chatting with Claire and Christina and Christina suggested I take photos of the contents of the Happiness Box, so I did. I talked about the Happiness Box and when I tried to share the pictures, the audience could only see the thumbnails. Unfortunately, with Zoom, I think I could only share one thing and I shared that document. I had no idea how to change it.
Oh well, we laughed it off and I explained the photos and the project. I suggested to start, they could always write week by week or month by month. The Jar was my practice, and since I like to write, I like writing every day. I also journal reflections at the end of the month, and then I write articles at the end of the year.
Tasha and Dr. Jen loved my project and Tasha recorded our session for other employees to watch. My Happiness Box Project is becoming famous!
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, dear readers! Let me end this post on this note:
Happy Thursday, dear readers! We’re half-way through the first month of 2021, and I think we’ll keep the current year. It’s up to us to make lemonade out of lemons and finding the tune in the rain to dance to.
I survived almost a week in my new role! I had some anxiety about timing issues and tech issues, so first thing is first, I want to thank all of you that listened. Both issues have been smoothed out, and it truly was first week grumbling. I’ve had another newbie e-mail me some questions and we’re both in the same boat.
I’m learning the reigns, but once I get used to the analytics and get the programming I need to learn, it’ll be all good. With some practice and patience, I will be there in no time (okay, I am giving myself a good six months to learn, which is a good rule of thumb). I’m thankful for my new co-workers, they’ve been very helpful.
I officially joined OCJAC! Rabbi Zash was extremely helpful in signing me up. I can’t wait to join weekly Shabbat Zooms and I can’t wait to tour the galleries, by appointment only. I’m hoping that I can awaken my artistic spirit and maybe I’ll share some of my scrapbooks with the community. I am grateful for this opportunity. Here is their site: https://www.ocjac.org/
I’m thankful that there is less than a week left of the Trump Presidency and he was impeached for the second time. I’m praying for peace on the 20th and that we can usher a wave of kindness in. Stay tuned, I am going to do a special post (or two) leading up the inauguration.
I’m also grateful for friends and family. What are you thankful for today?
After Shabbat ended on Saturday evening, Jonathan of RSJ Philadelphia hosted a Zoom cooking class. I was excited about learning something new and was happy to see that six others were in attendence.
Pelmeni are Russian dumplings that are similar to Piergis. This was Jonathan’s first time making them too, but his grandmother used to make them. I enjoyed hearing his beautiful memories – of how mixing, kneading, and rolling the dough brought them closer together. It reminded me of when I used to help Nan make spaghetti (same process).
I made my Pelmeni gluten free of course. As I was mixing the dough and meat, listening to Jonathan and the others laugh, I began to laugh. Not only did I remember Nan through Jonathan’s memories of his grandmother, I was making new memories with one friend and new people. Such a beautiful hour!
I decided to cook them the next day and have them for dinner. I boiled the dumplings in chicken broth. I let them cook for 20 minutes and topped it with fennel.
Mom and dad had a few of the dumplings. They thought they were very good, but the dough was a bit too thick. The dough kept sticking to the rolling pin and mom said next time I make them, she will help me roll the dough.
Not perfect, but delicious, and I can’t wait to make them again. Here is the recipe:
INGREDIENTS FOR PELMENI FILLING
2 lb ground meat (chicken, turkey and mixing in ground beef)
1 large onion grated
1/2 tbsp salt to taste
1 tsp pepper to taste
INGREDIENTS FOR PELMENI DOUGH
3 cup flour (depending on brand, you may need to add more)
2/3 cup luke warm water
1 tsp salt
I used beef and veal for the mixture. I also used King Arthur’s Measure for Measure GF all purpose flour.
I know that this is a Happiness Box Project, but loss and sadness are all parts of life. I don’t believe in toxic positivity and think that expression of all feelings leads to a healthy life. A healthy individual experiences all emotions and works through them.
We all need a support system and friends are a healthy part of life. Unfortunately, some friendships don’t last. Some enter for a season, but there is a reason for the season, and some seasons are longer than others. We all grow and change, it’s an inevitable part of life and sometimes good friends don’t follow us. It happens and while it is sad, one really can’t place blame. One reflects and moves on.
Marsha and I aren’t friends anymore. She cited I have too many personal and anxiety issues, which I should get professional help for. I disagree, I was getting professional help and while it helped during the sessions and I can apply to most things in life, with the advent of COVID-19 and being in most of the time, the triggers are unavoidable. Therapy over the phone is not private and I’ve done therapeutic chat rooms that help. However, I don’t believe that was the main reason. I am of a different religion and to some Christians, if they can’t “save” you, you’re a lost cause.
I was actually reevaluating the friendship a few weeks ago when I saw some cards from her that emphasized Jesus and the Christian holidays. She knows how I feel about it all and disregarded. I never really noticed, but since I am cleaning out for new carpets, I saw and I saw it for what it was. I come from a diverse background and I love diversity. We were growing apart and that is okay.
I cut ties and for my sanity, I will not be reevaluating the friendship. She was in my life for a season, the season had a reason, but I am on a different path and I don’t want to be judged harshly for it. That is okay. No blame placed, just a mutual agreement that things weren’t working out.
Ah, Thursday in a brand new year! So far, so interesting. I would like to say that I do not stand with what happened at the Nation’s Capital yesterday. Like the riots and looting from this past summer, rioting and sedition will not be tolerated. Sedition must be punished federally. We must denounce agitators and we must come together as a nation.
Now, Thankful Thursday! I’m thankful for my friends and family. I’m thankful for Shetana at my full-time job. I’ve been without work for a month (three weeks since I was off for two weeks) because I start my new role on Monday. Today, Shetana finished work early and we played an hours worth of Uno. That was really nice.
Today was my last day going into the office since I had to go in once a week to print. With my new role, I won’t be printing and I’ll be home indefinitely now.
Tomorrow is my last day in my old role. Before I left the office today, Shetana gave me a big hug and congratulated me. I’m looking forward to it. While I’m a little nervous, I was reading over SQL today and I don’t think it’ll be that bad. It’s like learning a new language. Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not going to be what my college profs envisioned for me: going for my MFA in creative writing and publishing.
While I would love to do that, I have to be practical too. I have chronic conditions and I need benefits. I also like having a 401K. I need a full-time job, but I can always write and publish on the side and that could be extra income. I’m thinking about creating a scrapbook business (for a side-hustle). We’ll see. It’s okay to be something else, especially since I am the one who has to earn the money and live my life.
I’m reading this book called Women Who Worry Too Much and it’s been helpful. Dr. Holly Hazlett-Stevens, the author of the book, suggested keeping a notebook or journal and make a chart ranging from 0 at one end, 50 in the middle, and 100 at the end, then check in with yourself three times per day to see what your worry and anxiety levels are like and write about it. She also suggests writing down your worries and asking yourself the worst that can happen. Then work through that. Mitch suggested that and so did all the other therapists in the past, so I’m going to work on it. I will still do my Happiness Box Project, but I’ll keep a notebook for the worrying.
We’re four days into 2021 and I decided on 1/1 that I am taking this year slowly, and hopeful. With that said, my blog is going to reflect that decision.
I will not blog on weekends. I observe Shabbat and that runs from Friday to Saturday evenings. I consider blogging “work” and don’t blog. Sundays are usually reserved for things around the house, grocery shopping and from time to time, ice skating.
I want to focus on mindful concepts this year. Since I am not a trained therapist, I will tie into how these concepts impact my life. Since I am not a trained therapist, I can’t give you advice. I hope to write in a way to inspire.
I was going to have a paid component to this blog in 2021, but I am going to hold off. I want to see how well the mindful concepts work and go back to the drawing board in August or September and see if this is something I want to do for 2022.
I’m embracing the quiet, quarantined life this year and I’m looking forward to it. I want to fill my life with meaning, and I have some odds and ends I want to work on too.
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 Writing.com, 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.
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
I opened up Happiness Box 2020 this morning. 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! Here are the videos, later I want to re-read through everything off camera, reflect, and take photos before I organize them by month. Organizing by month makes it easier to scrapbook.
I forgot the press record on the computer for the first 20 minutes, but I was doing an Instagram live, so the first video is what I downloaded from Instagram Live. I love capturing me dumping the box.
Second one is part II from the computer; I downloaded the part II on Instagram Live, but it didn’t show up on my phone. I think my phone has better video quality, though I sound louder on the computer.