Capturing Memories (And an “In Memory Of…”)

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the death of Bliss Michelson. Michelson died yesterday from complications of COVID-19.

He was 71. Last month his beloved wife died in New York City from complications of COVID-19. Michelson was the host of one of my favourite classical radio stations, WRTI in Philadelphia. Mornings aren’t going to sound the same! First, it was Gregg Whiteside’s abrupt departure, now Bliss is gone!

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After I heard the news, I looked through the photos I took of WRTI’s Block Party in September 2019. I remember Bliss standing next to the stage, but sadly, every photo I took of the stage Bliss wasn’t in them! I was sad about that and I was even more sad with the fact that I talked to Bliss briefly then, thought he was a kind man, but was too nervous to ask for a photo with him or a selfie. Now I wish I did.

I was having disagreements with some people on one forum site and many of the posters told me to put down the camera, stop documenting, and start living life without documenting. I disagree. I live every moment fully, but I also want to capture it. I also want to write it. I think documenting is important.

Many others would agree too. Scrapbooking and photo book making are a multi-billion dollar industry. I have never said and I never heard anyone else say, “Man, I wish I didn’t take so many photos of grandma!” “Gee, I wish I didn’t write down my vacation in Poland!” No. I have heard, however, “Gee, I wish I took one last photo with grandma.” “Boy, I wish I did take photos and I wish I did document my Sabbatical to Israel.” We can live in the moment and we can document. We can do both simultaneously.

Bliss’s sudden death yesterday had me looking at old photos before dinner. I found photos of Great Grandma, Pop-Pop, Nan, Aunt Kelly, Aunt Millie and some of Mom-Mom. However, I wish I had more photos with Great Grandma and Pop-Pop when I was a teenager. I wish I wasn’t an angry teenager who was angry at Pop-Pop and resentful towards the end. I wish I had more photos with him towards the end. Same with Great Grandma, although I wasn’t angry with her.

When I was given my first camera, that was right after her stroke. She was 94 when she had the stroke and lived by herself until she was 96. My great aunt placed her in a nursing home in the last two years of her life – she died at 99.5. I wish I wasn’t self-conscious about taking photos when the Irish came to visit in 2008. It was a year before Great Grandma died and it would have been nice to have photos. Aunt Kathy is a photographer and I believe she took photos, I think I will have to ask her. I want to make a scrapbook.

I was angry with Nan after her cancer diagnosis, I think when I’m in active grieving, I don’t get sad and teary, I get angry. Angry is how I grieve in the beginning. Nan’s cancer came back in July 2012, it was stage 4, she was 89 and decided against chemo. It wouldn’t prolong her life. She accepted she was dying and I didn’t want to lose Nan. I was both angry and sad. I held it against her in the first two months, but in her final four months, I took as many pictures with her as humanly possible. I will probably make a scrapbook with those photos and talk about her final months. Fill the pages with beautiful memories too.

Mom-Mom died when I was 7 and there are quite a few photos of me with her when I was a child. She was 57 when she died and we had similar birthdays. I’m July 4, she was July 2. I have a sweet photo with her blowing out our candles on our birthday cake. She had throat cancer and she was really sick in the photo. While I wish there were more memories and photos, I’m grateful for those I have and can remember since she died so young and when I was so young.

Part of joy is our relationships with our families. Part of joy is making memories and keeping those memories. Part of joy is sharing those memories with others. We only regret the moments we didn’t have, the photos we never took, and anything we never did.

Rest easy, Bliss. May your memory be a blessing. Rest easy, Nan, Pop-Pop, Great Grandma, Mom-Mom, Aunt Kelly, Aunt Millie, may your memories be blessings.

Thankful Thursday 11 March 2021

Today is one year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Tomorrow will be 1 year since I was furloughed from the library for 7 months and the last time I saw Mrs. Davenport alive. The 13th will be a year since I was granted work from home access and sure enough, one year later and a promotion, not sure when I will be going back. The was the last time I saw one of my favourite co-workers since she found a job elsewhere in the summer.

Life was so different a year ago and the 16th will mark a year since we’ve all been sequestered. We’ll be sequestered for a while more, but we will get through this. I’m thankful that we have the technology to stay in touch with others and can still participate in activities, even if it’s at a distance. Technology has helped me through this year, as I’m sure it has helped others.

My synagogue is having a Havdallah service on Saturday evening after Shabbat ends. I’m heading into the city, but maybe I’ll install Zoom and participate. We’ll be praying for everyone who has perished, essential workers, and just everyone. I am so grateful for my congregation and I’m still grateful that Alex got me set up. I really am fortunate enough to find my spiritual home.

Spring has sprung in Pennsylvania! Well, for the next few days. It’s definitely March, the weather will be going back downhill over the weekend and next week. I’ve been enjoying the weather and I’ve been grateful for it.

I’m also thankful for Tina on She sent me a delicious Kosher chicken recipe that I had for dinner tonight:

Kosher Herb and Mushroom stuffed Chicken

One whole chicken – washed and clean. Pat dry.
3 cups rough chopped white mushrooms (or any kind of your choice)
1 large onion diced
3 cloves fresh garlic minced
6 green onions chopped
1/2 teaspoon of dry thyme
1/2 teaspoon of dry rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or red wine vinegar)
1 whole stick of Kosher unsalted butter cut in half
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces plain unflavored yogurt

In a saute pan put half stick of butter and melt. Add onions and let saute until translucent. Add mushrooms and garlic. Saute until softened (about 4 minutes). Remove from heat and add seasonings and yogurt. Set aside to cool.

Place your chicken in your roasting pan. In a small bowl add the half stick of butter and nuke in the microwave in 30-second intervals until melted. Slowly pour melted butter all over the chicken. Use your hands to rub it all over and insure the whole chicken is coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste (you can add any other seasonings of your choice here as well).

Using a spoon, stuff the mushroom mixture into the cavity of the chicken. Place in a pre-heated oven at 375 and roast uncovered for an hour. Depending on the size of your chicken, check to test doneness. If not cooked all the way through, add just about a cup of water to your pan and cover. Bake until done. The yogurt and chicken juices will mix to create a thick, creamy gravy sauce.

When done, let rest at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving. *Note* You could use any type of fowl in place of chicken as well.

I used a chicken breast, but it was still good!

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

Welcome Back, Barra Rossa

From March-September 2020, Barra Rossa remained closed for COVID-19. They came back when Philadelphia said 25% can eat indoors. However, they closed again in November when the moratorium on indoor dining happened again.

They re-opened a few weeks ago! On Saturday, towards the end of Shabbat, I enjoyed a delicious GF pasta dinner.

Welcome back! I look forward to dining again in the future!

And That’s a Wrap! | Blue Cross River Rink’s 2020-2021 Ice Skating Season Ends

Winterfest’s last day was on Sunday 7 March, but those sessions sold out and I reserved a double session for the evening of 6 March 2021. I rented an ice walker since the ice was uneven; the ice was different this year, but it could have been the year it was.

What a difference a year makes! Brian now works at the River Rink! Of course, masked selfies too.

I skated over to Brian, well, I didn’t know his name before I skated over. I said, “Hey, it’s nice to see that you are working here!” I could tell he was smiling, you can tell when people are smiling with their masks on because their eyes light up. He was so excited and I asked him if he also roller skates. “Yep! I will be working here for roller skating too.”

“I hope Summerfest opens this year.”

“We should be.”

“If you are, I will probably come at night. Roller skating with masks sounds difficult.”

He agreed and laughed, “Yeah, I would stick to nights too. I don’t handle heat well either.”

Before I skated off, I said, “I’m Jessica by the way.” “I’m Brian.”

If Summerfest opens, I’m sure it’ll be ticketed and limited like Winterfest. I didn’t go ice skating as much this year as in years past because of the timing and selling out.

I had a joyful season and I had fun, despite being masked and taking selfies at a six feet distance. I met some wonderful people this season too. Can’t wait for November 2021!

I’m Verklempt!

Saturday’s service was so beautiful! It was a bit untraditional since there was a bar mitzvah taking place, but we still met. One of the members who was supposed to lead had computer issues; we decided that we would all read different parts of the service in English and Hebrew. I read! I also read part of the Torah portion, Ki Tissa, but I had to read the opening prayer in Hebrew.

Sometimes it’s so hard for me to ask for help because I don’t want to be viewed as weak or dumb. However, since I’m still a baby in Judaism and I’m still learning, I asked for help. Everyone read along with me in Hebrew to help me! Then I read my part in Ki Tissa in English. I’m so verklempt and grateful for the help! I’m so verklempt that they welcomed me as well.

I think part of my fear is I might not be welcomed. However, I’m finding that is not the case and the congregation is pretty much welcoming to everyone who wants to learn. They don’t care who I am as long as I’m a kind person.  I’ve ran into someone who has told me, “you aren’t valid unless you do things the Orthodox way.” Fortunately, he’s the minority that I’ve run into. Most I’ve met on my journey so far have said, “the more the merrier!” and haven’t been pushy either. 

In Memory of James and the McAndrews

Today marks an anniversary, one that also leaves an ache in my heart. Ten years ago today, James’s twin brother murdered James and his parents. The brother was an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and his parents were trying to help him, he had an appointment coming up. I don’t know what set off Joe, but he grabbed a sword (Samurai I believe) and attacked his family. He killed all three instantly.

The last time I talked to Jim was about 6 months before he died. I liked him a bit and I liked him when I was a 9th grader. He was nice and quiet, very kind and never made fun of anyone. I was bullied and that was a great thing about him. I remember the last time I talked to him, I was agitated and I stopped talking to him.

I remember when breaking news disrupted the news segment I was watching. I thought I was dreaming. “Family of three murdered inside their home. The suspect is a family member…” I was too stunned to cry. I don’t even want to think about how they must have felt during, it makes me sick to my stomach to imagine and I can only hope it was instant.

Three people lost their lives; one was 23 and was just starting out in life. I can’t argue about mental illness, about gun laws or knife laws, or any laws that are on the book. This probably couldn’t have been prevented, as sad as it was. Schizophrenia is hard, paranoid schizophrenia is even harder. Since most aren’t violent, this couldn’t have been predicted. Bad things happen, unfortunately.

I miss Jim. I didn’t know he had a twin, the twin didn’t go to school with us so there were probably always some issues present. I never met the McAndrews, but they sounded like lovely people.

Today, on this 10th anniversary, I celebrate the lives of Jim and the McAndrews. May their memories be a blessing and never forgotten.

From the Inquirer’s article:

Thankful Thursday 4 March 2021

Happy first Thursday of March! I can’t believe we are in the third month of 2021, one year into COVID-19 and while there are vaccines, we are still in the mask up, wash hands, and avoid crowds phase. We got this and we will get through this together, one day at a time.

I’m still riding high from last Thursday’s Megillah reading and Saturday’s Insane Clown Posse meet and greet. I found out the adult Hebrew class is every other Wednesday at 7:30, an hour after I get home from the library and I will be signing up! I also can’t wait for more ICP meet and greets in the future. I subscribe to their Patreon and they have events every night. So thankful for both of these groups!

Kathleen, a friend from work, turns 60 on Saturday. I decided to send her a card and I ordered her a tea set from Amazon. I wanted to surprise her for her birthday, since she surprised me on my 30th. Both arrived today (such a miracle it worked that way since I sent the card via USPS) and she was over the moon. She sent me a nice thank you e-mail and Klara, her dog, loved the box the tea set came in. She was thankful for the early gift and it’ll make her 60th special. I’m grateful for her friendship.

I’m thankful for friends and family. What are you thankful for today?

Meeting Insane Clown Posse (27 February 2021)

I met Insane Clown Posse virtually on Saturday and it was an experience in a half! My heart was pounding and I was a bit starstruck when I answered the call.

Shaggy and Violent J asked me how I was and I said, “I wish we were meeting in person.” They agreed and instead of talking about how much of a fan I am, we talked about the pandemic, and events in our respective cities. They thought I was staying in a hotel, which made me chuckle. I said, “Nah, I’m in the basement.” “Wow, nice basement!” I giggled a bit.

They’re cool dudes, Shaggy said I’m an awesome person and Violent J thought I had an awesome voice and personality. Whoop whoop!

On This Date: 1 March 2017

Four years ago today I was invited to apply for permanent residency in Canada. I was super excited and spent three months selling things to build up my savings, and getting the financials in a row.

On 1 October 2017, I was refused because my full-time job didn’t write the letter and it could have been my financial health too “does she really work two jobs?” It could have been both. I was devastated at the time and then health issues cropped up.

I like to say things happen for a reason and I keep on discovering that maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t get Canada. I like to say, when something is meant to be and when something is a good match, it is effortless and it’s not filled with dread and anxiety. You feel like it’s meant to be and it just clicks (I hope that doesn’t sound cliche; and some things do take effort, and a lot of hard work and dedication, but usually when we know something is meant for us, it’s not filled with foreboding and anxiety).

While Canada is a beautiful country and health care is included in their taxes, I’m not sure if I would personally do any better up there. I still haven’t visited the country as a Celiac and I do want to visit again. I still keep in touch with Michelle, who is now Celiac too, and she keeps telling me it’s EXTREMELY hard to be Celiac in Toronto. Although I keep seeing posh restaurants open up in downtown Toronto, but they’re probably expensive hipster spots.

I’ve interacted with Jewish people from Toronto on Reddit and they have told me they’ve had to leave many congregations because they weren’t very welcoming of others. I was telling them about my experiences here and they said, “maybe we should move to where you live!” Huh. Maybe as I found something that fits me better, the more I’m realizing things: home is where you feel comfortable.

I’m grateful I was invited four years ago and I can reapply at any time. If I was ever offered something in Canada, I would take it. However, I’m not going to stress about things and if it’s not meant to be, I’m not going to force it. I also realized another thing: I am a people person and people tend to respond well to me. I very rarely have bad experiences with others and that is going to colour my experiences. I have to remember that too.

Sometimes some things don’t work out and that is life. However, when one door closes, another one opens and that makes our journey on Earth even more meaningful.

Thankful Thursday 25 February 2021

The last Thursday in February, can you believe it?! This year is flying by. February was a snowy month in the Northeast and I like to joke, “it was a long wintry February!” Everyone smiles when I say that.

So, I did it! I did it! I did it! My new group cheered me on and say I’m doing a wonderful job! I’m verklempt and very grateful. Happy Purim!

I recorded early because I knew when I was going to be called, I’d be so in the moment. The whole video is 4 minutes and I didn’t want to show the whole 4 minutes. Here’s me actually speaking.

What are you thankful for today?