A Special Happiness Box Initiative Newsletter: A Hot, Sultry, & Special Summer 2019

I’m rethinking how I write the Happiness Box Initiative’s newsletter. At the end of the season, I often write recaps and what I hope to achieve in the upcoming season. Not every season is as special as this summer was, but maybe going forward, I’ll write specials from time to time.

One goal I had this year was trying something new each day. I had a theory that by getting out of my comfort zone and defying some fears, not only could I learn about myself but I could build some joy. As Wraith healed this summer and boy did I make sure he kept protected from the sun, I had a great summer filled with new experiences, adventure, and catching up with Anna.

Be loud and be proud! June ushered in Pride Month and I took time to celebrate the LBGTQIA community. I reached out about something that has been plaguing me since 2013 and with the help of the community, I am addressing the deep seeded feelings. I tested healthy in June and at the end of July, I reached out to counselling services. I’ve been in counseling since the end of July.

The Happiness Box Project has helped and apparently, despite everything that has happened to me, I am a strong woman and I am coping well. I am halfway through the sessions and I’m sad that in three weeks, they will be done and I will have to find a new therapist. I am learning about myself through these sessions and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m 30 and a decade wiser than I was in my 20s, but I’m noticing changes in how I am conducting myself now.

Mom discovered the debt I am in and while she is helping me with my budgeting, I know this isn’t what the change is. I have discovered that we are who we are. I believe our 20s are a time of discovering ourselves and in our 30s, we begin to sort through what worked or didn’t work for us, and we begin to see that our core never really changes from when were young. I believe we mature, but the messages from our souls remain the same.

While I would like to live in New York City or Baltimore for a year before Canada,I never really had the desire to leave my parents or Nan. I wanted to be here for them and I want to stay in King of Prussia until I get on my feet; I also want to help mom financially after dad retires. Deep down I think that’s why I never really went far away to college, I was here through Nan’s sickness and death. I helped and I’m glad I was here. I want to be present for my parents in their old age, I want to care for them. I guess deep down, I’ve always done what the little voice in my soul has told me. Although I changed religions, family is still important to me; wherever I move to, I know when my parents become elderly and ill, I will either move back or I’ll move them in with me. I don’t want them to live in a nursing home, unless they require care I can’t give and it would be too much for a home health agency to handle.

I guess my obsessions with crafting and money are who I am too. I remember having these obsessions as a child and they grew in my 20s; although I am in debt, I watch my money like crazy, but I am also sentimental and want to document everything in my life. I also never liked driving or riding a bike, I discovered that when I was 8 when Daniel placed me in the driver’s seat, I froze on the road and panicked. It was early morning and no one was out driving, but the idea of being behind the wheel scared me. Riding a bike scared me too, I was always afraid of accidents and dying, I guess I associated driving with that too. Besides roller skates, I can’t be on wheels, even go-carts. I learned how to drive in my early 20s, but failed the test nine times and decided I am not a driver. I would not continue with the tests and I will just have to live near transit; I’ve always loved riding buses and trains, that was no big deal to me.

Be you. Listen to your soul and do what is best for you. There are still days I struggle with these concepts, but through therapy and learning to listen to myself more in the third decade of my life, I will continue to be wonderful, fabulous me. I will listen and value the beautiful lessons this life has to offer.

30 June 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots in New York City. This summer I spent two nights in New York City, my first time ever doing so. I usually take day trips to New York City, but I wanted to stay a few days in Brighton Beach. I decided to visit the Stonewall Inn while on vacation.

On 16 July 2019, I visited the Stonewall Inn, where I met Sammy. I was enjoying a Shirley Temple and he asked if he could sit next to me. I never turn people away, as it’s an opportunity to meet someone new, and we began chatting. I told him I was visiting from King of Prussia, he told me he was looking at a job opportunity there and asked me how I liked King of Prussia. I said, “it’s not my favourite place, but if you have an opportunity, take it!”

Sammy treated me to Polish the Queen, which was my first time watching a drag show. I loved Fifi Dubois and their performances of showtunes. The way they performed “All That Jazz” from Chicago, I can’t stop listening! I want to rent Chicago for the autumn and make a day out of it. Toxic Shock was also interesting and after the show, I randomly met them at CVS. We were both waiting in line and they were from Pennsylvania too! They were from New Hope.

I finally uploaded the videos to YouTube and I want to share them with you:


Brighton Beach was an interesting experience and I loved beach. The water was so clear that I could see fish swimming and crabs scurrying in the sand. Water was also cold – it felt like I was taking a polar plunge in July! Brighton Beach also didn’t have rough waves and was perfect for swimming.

On the first day at the beach, I met the family sitting next to me. The father saw me struggling with my sunscreen, asked if I needed help, and had one of his sons apply it to my back and Wraith, especially Wraith. Later, they invited me over to their spot for lunch and dominoes. Juan Carlos, the father, brought me back lamb and the other guys had gyros. I was also given a bottle of water – these guys were very kind.

I felt like I was in Russia while visiting Brighton Beach – all the shops were in Russian – only knowing “yes”, “no”, “please”, and  “thank you”, I was at a disadvantage – however, to my advantage, I learned a little Russian and customs while on my trip and I tried borscht for the first time! It was delicious and I might have to try warm borscht this autumn.

Before I left Brighton Beach on Wednesday morning, a man was sitting at the kitchen table at Alex’s Air BNB – I knew Alex had other guests, but I was a bit standoffish. When Oliver spoke to me in English, we chatted for 45 minutes. A NGO worker from Belgium, he was on holiday with his daughters. We connected on Instagram and we still keep in touch. That is one reason why I love staying at Air BNBs and staying at Alex’s apartment gave me an opportunity to meet new people (and he had a black cat, Simba, which gave me a taste of home).

I spent the last three days of my vacation in Asbury Park, my favourite beach in New Jersey. I loved the Air BNB I stayed in near Bradley Beach; John and Jim were awesome hosts and I felt at home. They were hospitable and made sure I was safe, had water, and were fun to chat with. They love Broadway and I enjoyed chatting New York shows with Jim. Asbury Park was fun in general, and met a few bands while visiting.

I turned 30 on July 4th and celebrated with family and my friend, James. Marsha had to work that day, but we met up a month later for a belated celebration. Maddie and Max were in attendance and it was nice to see them before they moved to the Pacific Northwest for Max’s job. My birthday was quiet; I had a fun birthday weekend ahead with Anna, her cousin, and friends from Tower City.

Ah, birthday weekend. Anna visited from South Carolina and this was my first time seeing her since 2009. I met up with Anna and her cousin, Luke, on the fifth and had drinks (non-alcoholic Shirley Temple for me!) at Woody’s. Amber, one of Anna’s and Luke’s friends from Tower City, met up with us later and we had a delicious dinner at Banh Mi and Bottles—I absolutely love phǫ. The next day, Anna, Luke, Amber, Ally, and I enjoyed the day at Dorney Park sailing the pool waves, sliding down water slides, hanging upside down on rollercoasters (I passed and watched belongings) and carouselfies. The day was filled with laughter too. It was so nice seeing Anna again and meeting Luke, Amber, and Ally—I can’t wait to see them again! It was a fun weekend and a precursor to a trip planned for ten days after my birthday: New York City and Asbury Park.

While I was away, I met up with Doug at Bare Burger in Brooklyn and had a chance to see him before he moved to London. I’m glad we had time in our schedules to meet up with one another, that made the whole trip.


While I didn’t go roller skating that much this summer, apparently it was the year for theme parks. I went to Luna Park in Coney Island for the first time and I loved the experience. I loved how I could pay for the rides I wanted to ride and that the rides were old fashioned, so they were enjoyable. I went to Knoebels with the Browns in August and Knoebels was another old amusement park in Elysburg, PA. I spent most of the day at the water park, but I did enjoy the train and haunted house. These were unforgettable experiences filled with laughter; it’s okay that I didn’t skate that much this summer.

Sammy also moved to King of Prussia and I ran into him one afternoon on the bus. I hope to spend more time with him this autumn and see if a friendship blossoms. Also, since I am saving money, I had Marsha over for lunch and movie in mid-August; we hope to make lunch/movie Sunday a monthly event. I plan on nurturing my close friendships not only through the autumn, but throughout my life. Friendship is important, just like family.

I can’t wait to see how the lessons I learned this summer will serve me for the remainder of 2019.

Tastes of the End of Summer: GF Strawberry Galette

Last month, Gluten Free on a Shoestring sent me a recipe for a strawberry galette. I ended up buying the tapioca starch and coarse sugar, but never got around to making it.

I decided to make the GF Strawberry Galette today, on second to last day of summer. I thought it was a perfect send off to Summer 2019. Here is the recipe: https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/rustic-strawberry-tart/

However, since I used Trader Joe’s GF pie crust, it was small and I used a pound of strawberries, 1 Tablespoon of tapioca flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and salt. The galette turned out deliciously and mom said she wants to make whipped cream for it tomorrow.

Walking the Manayunk Trail

While I’m not 100% yet, I decided to walk the Manayunk Trail yesterday. I didn’t feel like paying for the train, it was a gorgeous day, and I missed walking since my illness. The weather was gorgeous and so was the scenery. I love the way nature looks in late August through late September, right before the leaves change. Of course, I also love when the leaves change too. I felt at peace.

Although I brought my rollerskates, I decided not to go. I coughed a lot after my walk and I knew roller skating wouldn’t be good for my lungs right now. The rink also closes on Labour Day, Monday, to get ready for ice skating. I know the rink is torn up, as is true at the close of every season, and since I’m not 100%, I didn’t want to fall. It has been a weird summer because I didn’t skate a lot… I missed July and most of August. The weather was hot and rainy, when it wasn’t rainy, it was just too hot to skate. I’m looking forward to ice skating.

Thankful Thursday 29 August 2019

Ah, the last Thursday in August and we are marching towards Autumn, one of my favourite times of year!

I’m still battling my cold – can’t smell or taste anything, but I still have an appetite. I’ve been eating, but mostly tea and soup, plus solids. I can’t wait to get back to normal!

This elderly gentleman I ride the train with asked me how I was this morning. I said I was the same and he gave me a bag of fisherman’s friend lozenges. He said they will cure what ails me and they are strong! They have helped and I’m grateful.

Yesterday was my 13th anniversary at the library and I’m such a lucky person. I won the final summer raffle again. I’m thankful for the people I’ve worked with for the past 13 years.

The top photo is from last year, bottom from yesterday.

I heard from Rachel! I can’t make the improv group during the week, but hopefully they have weekend meetups. I’m so glad i heard from her! I also saw Jack on Tuesday and he gave me his number. Can’t wait to see where both acquaintances turn into. I’m grateful for these opportunities!

I am also thankful for my parents, family and friends. What are you thankful for?

Discussion Around the Shabbat Table: Can Money Buy Happiness?

At the Shabbat table, the Hillel Network left question cards to help break the ice. The guy sitting next to Rachel, he might have said his name but I missed it, picked up the one card and asked us: “Can money buy happiness?”

Rachel and I thought about it for a while. In the Torah, Bible, and Qu’ran, money is said to be the root of all evil. If money is the root of all evil, then how can evil buy happiness? Money can buy lust and a temporary high that is disguised as happiness, but money can’t change how you feel on the inside.

However, the guy countered our thoughts, “money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a peace of mind.” We’re not very happy if we are in debt, struggling to pay bills, and homeless. We need some money to survive — food on the table, water for us to drink, and a roof over our heads. Money itself isn’t evil, it’s how we use the money that could be. We stress if we don’t have it, but with a bit of money, we can use it for our needs.

The best things in life are free, but some of the other best things in life do cost some money. The love I receive from family and friends is free, my faith and patriotism are free as well. However, some things that I do with friends and family aren’t free. To create memories, we have to spend some money, though not a fortune. There is a price to these relationships, as is there everything else in life.

John Pavlovitz posted this the other day, which I think ties into this concept well: “Nothing in this life comes for free, even though we sometimes imagine it does.
Everything valuable we receive needs to be paid for somehow.

When the separation happens between us and the people who mean the most to us, the instant they are gone—we suddenly realize how much the closeness is going to cost. We learn that we are going to pay for a lifetime in profound sadness.

Grief is the tax on loving people.

It is the inevitable price for being loved well.”

Can money buy happiness? Not really, but it does give us a peace of mind. Also, the things we consider free in this life also have a price, even if the price doesn’t come from our wallets.

Shabbat Shalom! | Hillel Network of Philadelphia’s Shabbot Dinner | 23 August 2019

The other day, I received an e-mail from Jewish Philly about their Shabbat at the end of October (I have to tell mom so I can work it into the budget – $18), and I am super excited for that evening. However, I wanted to attend a Shabbat dinner earlier than at the end of October and I Googled different events.

There’s a Meetup type website for faith based activities and I did see a free Shabbat dinner, where I had to bring my own dish, in Rittenhouse Square. I was tempted, but since I was looking at work and it was only a few hours away, I didn’t have a dish I could bring. The Hillel Network for Grad students and Young Professionals was having a dinner, $10 at the William Way LGBT Center and I decided to go. I bought the ticket and was ready for 7pm.

I arrived at 6:30 and saw two Jewish guys standing outside of the red door at the William Way LGBT Center and knew I wasn’t too early. Matt and Tsil; Matt loved my Ravens shirt since he was from Baltimore and we chatted for a bit. I apologized that I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, I found the event on Google and decided last minute. They were glad that random people could find events.

Anyway, as the evening went on, I chatted with Matt and he is going to be moving to Israel to go to Rabbinical school. I asked him what the process was of becoming a Rabbi because that always interested me. Melody, the group’s president, and I were chatting and I mentioned that I was brought up Catholic.

“Oh, are you converting?”

“Just learning. I did my 23 & Me test because dad was adopted and mom’s mother was adopted, so I wanted to see what exactly I am. Ashkenazi Jewish showed up in my lineage.”

“What percentage?”


“That’s a good amount!”

” That’s why I’m interested in learning more. Catholicism never stuck with me, I left at 11 because it didn’t feel right and I’ve been exploring ever since. Dad and I used to joke that Judaism felt natural to us and now it might make sense.” (Mom’s DNA didn’t show Ashkenazi Jewish, so it had to come from dad… dad doesn’t want to get his DNA done, since being in law enforcement, he’s a bit paranoid.)

I was welcomed into the fold, met Jon and Rachel and washed up with another young lady. I also met Anna. I sat with Rachel and she invited me to join her improv group. I gave her my e-mail address and I’m waiting to hear from her about the first meet up. 🙂

At 7:30, Shabbat began. We lit the candles, I followed the lead of the Yiddish songs that were sung, blessed the Challah, and passed it around. I had to say, “No thank you, I have Celiac Disease.” However, the chicken, rice, and the rest of the food that was served was GF.

I had a great evening and met a lot of new people. I can’t wait to go to other events and I feel blessed. I am grateful that I was included, welcomed, and was invited back.

Thankful Thursday

Wow! The penultimate Thursday before September. We are inching closer to fall and my body can feel it.

I was home yesterday because I caught the dreaded summer cold. I think it’s also mixed with allergies, hay fever is rampant this time of year. I’m thankful that I rested yesterday and I’m thankful that mom made me broth, tea, and had aspirin waiting for me when I got home on Tuesday night.

I’m thankful that I’m feeling a little better today and grateful that I can rest this weekend. I’ll be on the mend by Labour Day. 😊

What are you thankful for?