Weekend with Anna and the Williams Valley Crew | Philadelphia and Dorney Park | 6-7 July 2019

What a birthday weekend! I haven’t seen Anna in ten years and last week she surprised me when she texted me that she will be in town this weekend. 
Anna, her cousin Luke, and I met up at the TLA and I was greeted by a big bear hug from Anna. Anna introduced me to Luke and we walked around South Street to find a place to eat; Anna and Luke also wanted to drink. We walked to Tattoo Mom’s, but it was too crowded, unfortunately. I was sort of glad because when I first had to go GF, they didn’t have too much on the menu that was friendly for those with celiac and NCGS. While they were just opening, and things can change in 15 months, I want to do my research beforehand. South Street is mostly known for restaurants and they didn’t really want to go to a full sit-down restaurant. I suggested Woody’s, which is in the Gaybourhood, and asked if that would be okay with Luke. Anna was down and Luke was willing to try it.
I’ve never been in Woody’s before, but I have walked past it many of times and it’s always crowded during Pride. We all enjoyed Woody’s and I enjoyed my Shirley Temple. 🙂 Casey, our bartender and server, was really nice. Anna and I caught up, I had the opportunity to get to know Luke a bit more when Anna took smoke breaks, than Anna’s friend, Amber, joined us.
Amber came rather late to Woody’s, maybe around 8:45ish. We didn’t stay much longer and Anna wanted to eat to offset what she was drinking. Amber lives on South Street, so we agreed on Banh Mi and Bottles; Amber’s favourite place also and it had GF options. We shared Friendship Pho before going back to Amber’s where we hung out until 12:30 listening to Cardi B, oldies, Enya while reading our tarots, and Lizzo. The tarot readings were fun.
Anna and I crashed at Luke’s. Luke lives in Allentown and by the time we got back to his place, it was almost 2 AM. I managed to be a champ for Dorney Park with only 5 hours of sleep! I slept pretty well considering I was on the couch, but his cats woke me up at 7. Kitters and Bubbles were adorable, however.
Luke lives about ten minutes away from Dorney Park, but before we went to the park, we had Chick-Fil-A and he gave us a tour of Allentown. Allentown is a nice little town; the downtown area is really nice. We drove past WFMZ, and I smiled because that is one of my favourite stations. After the tour, we went back to his house and got ready. Anna wanted me to help her tie her swimsuit, I helped her. Even though Anna and I haven’t seen each other for 10 years, we still stay in touch by phone and text. She was one of the people who was involved in the tattoo process and gave me advice on how to relax during. Deep breath and it’s not the worst pain. I was a champ because it didn’t really hurt. On Friday evening I told her I wanted to show her Wraith in the flesh, so I showed her Wraith. She loved him!
Dorney Park! Dorney Park was awesome. Amber, her new boyfriend, and Allison were going to meet us there. Allison also lives in Allentown, but she wasn’t coming until later. Before we headed to the water park, a Dorney Park photographer stopped us and took our pictures. The first one was funny because Anna used me as a headrest. The second one was cute, the photographer wanted us to stand side by side with our arms folded (that’s the photo I ended up ordering). 
On the way to the water park, I said to Anna, “let’s get a picture together with our tattoos out! Sun’s out, tats out!” She laughed and agreed, then said to me, “doesn’t it feel great to flaunt your tattoo?” I smiled and shook my head yes. I also took a “shameless selfie.” 
Anna, Luke, and I enjoyed the water park for a few hours until Allison, Amber, and Sam (her new boyfriend) showed up. We managed to enjoy the wave pool, which I wish I brought my GoPro because there were a lot of picture moments in the water park, and we rode a water slide that had us all laughing and screaming. We were so close to riding on the water slides, but they closed it down because of thunderstorms. I did manage to capture two photos of us sitting on beach chairs, resting and hydrating.
We were decommissioned for an hour. We changed into our clothes and took photos. First, I took a photo of the Williams Valley High School group, then the girls of Williams Valley High. After, I handed my phone to Luke and he took a photo of me, Anna, Allie, and Amber together. I had someone else take a group photo. I also took a selfie with Luke. These photos were fun!
The regular theme park was fun. I don’t ride rollercoasters, so when the group decided to go on roller coasters, I watched their things. The Raptor was closed for 45 minutes and Allie had to leave. We caught up, she told me the gang was still waiting, and she hugged me goodbye; since Anna started a group text, we agreed to keep in touch. After an hour of waiting for my friends, we reconnected and rode the Carousel. It started to pour while we were on the Carousel. I’m glad the rain didn’t last long and we were able to ride the Bavarian Wave Runner. I also rode Tilt-A-Whirl with Luke and that was fun. We left at 7 PM, and we were exhausted. Anna, Luke and I had an eight hour day at Dorney Park.
Anna dropped me off at home and I’m planning to visit her in South Carolina probably in the winter or early spring. It was so nice seeing her and spending two days with her. It was nice meeting Luke and her other friends that lived in Tower City, but didn’t quite meet when I was a teen. The friends I met as a teen are no longer friends with Anna either.
Luke sent this awesome photo earlier today via the group text:
I don’t want to wait another 10 years to see Anna; the plan is to pay off my credit card debt and in early spring 2020, I want to go to South Carolina to visit her. We were talking about me flying into Atlanta, hang out in Atlanta for a day, then go to South Carolina and I can fly from there going home. I had a fun weekend; I hope to keep in touch with the local crew as well.

30 Candles: Picture Yourself at Jessica’s Birthday (4 July 2019)

Well, well, well, it turns out the anxiety I’ve had for the past year about 30 was for nought – age is just a number and I’m still young. I accomplished some great things in my 20s, failed at some things, but I learned from both the failures and successes. I know I will continue working towards my Canadian goal for the next few years. It may be slow, but I will be patient and persistent. My aunt’s Canadian mother-in-law (Mrs. Friese) was in attendance and we were chatting about everything; it was nice to have someone chat with after James left.
Anyway, I made non-alcoholic Sangria and it was a hit! I also put out some games and my scrapbooks that showed different things throughout the decade. Mom and dad ordered a GF and allergy free cake from Sweet Freedom and lined up the cards by the cake. I kept it simple.
It turns out simple was good because Maddie and Max, who is in the Navy, were in town visiting before they move to Puget Sound. I haven’t seen Maddie and Max since their wedding on 12/30/2017 and it was so nice seeing them! Maddie, who is a physician’s assistant, brought gluten-free snacks for me. James was the only friend who could make it and he really hit it off with Doug, my cousin who lives in Brooklyn and will be moving to London next month. James also hit it off with Jason, one of my baby cousins (though he will be 22 in October). It was nice to catch up with Maddie, Doug, and Mrs. Friese.
James was the only one to look through my scrapbooks and listen to some stories. He gave me some advice and said that my feelings were normal: he felt the same way just before and when he turned 30. He understood. Everyone else stayed upstairs and just chatted. We weren’t interested in the board games; we just mingled with everyone else, ate, and enjoyed cake.
Before Aunt Kathy and Uncle Dave left, Uncle Dave asked me if I had anything fun planned. I told him Anna, who I haven’t seen in 10 years, is in town this weekend; I’m staying with her and her cousin on Friday night and on Saturday we’re going to Dorney Park. I also told him about my vacation to Brighton Beach and Asbury Park from 15 July – 20 July. He laughed and said, “you sure do love New York, don’t you? You’re a New York gal!” I laughed and said NYC is so easy to get around; plus it’s lively. Both Aunt Kathy and Uncle Dave exclaimed, “you always plan fun things! Enjoy yourself!”
I’m thankful for everyone who was in attendance and I am grateful that I was surrounded by loved ones to celebrate my third decade of life. The day was peaceful and a lot of fun.
I set up a guestbook and people signed it. I am not sure if I want to put it in my Happiness Box or if I want to place it in the binder scrapbook I am going to get now for Happiness Box 2019. For those I didn’t tell, six weeks ago I gave myself an early birthday gift: I joined the inked club. I have my favourite album cover tattooed on my rib cage: the Wraith. I made a few layouts that I want to include in this binder, then wrap it to open with my Happiness Box on 1-1-2020.
Oh! And Mrs. Brown surprised me too! She placed a lovely birthday card in the mailbox and treated me to a trip to Knoebels for their family reunion. They invited me in 2017 when they went to DC (that’s how I got to go to the Juggalo March) and I can’t wait to go to Knoebels. I’ve never been there. Thankful Thursday indeed, my heart is full and I am grateful for everyone in my life.

The gift from Kathleen:


Non-Alcoholic Sangria… and the recipe: https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-non-alcoholic-sangria-170254

Thankful Thursday 4 July 2019

Happy Independence Day to my American readers! I turned 30 at 6:23 am and I’m grateful for those who will come later to celebrate my milestone of a birthday.

I’m thankful for Kathleen, Diane, and Linda. Kathleen gave me a thoughtful gift of daily affirmations and a card. Diane left a birthday card in my work mailbox and I was telling her about some of my anxiety about turning 30. Linda was listening. An hour after she left, she came back and I exclaimed, “that was a quick weekend!” She handed me a card and said, “happy birthday! I didn’t know; I hope you enjoy!” I’m verklempt and I’m thankful for each and every one of them. Terry also sent me a birthday card and people from both jobs wished me well.

What are you thankful for?

A Decade of Change and Growth

Today is my last day of being a young woman in my 20s; in two hours I will be crossing the bridge from 29 to a young woman that will be 30.

It has been one hell of a decade and one I didn’t imagine would happen as a naive teenager on 3 July 2009. I had hopes for a relationship that I’m glad didn’t pan out and when he broke up with me on 27 September 2009, I never looked back. I focused on myself and seized opportunities from learning Arabic to exploring different locations with my Arabic class; working the library and a paid internship to working the library and a full-time job; publishing four books on Amazon; graduating from college; traveling to Canada; going for permanent residency and later being denied because of my silly job; working to try again–it’ll work in my 30s!– traveling in general; meeting new friends; losing Nan; losing Olivia and Mimi; learning how to ice skate; polar plunges; BODY PIERCING; and Wraith as a gift to myself six weeks before my actual birthday. Also, the love of people in my life.


The pool and truck pictures were from my 20th birthday on 4 July 2009. The truck belonged to my ex and I was learning how to drive. I realized after I failed the test for the 9th time that me and driving weren’t an item either. I get too anxious and I rely on public transit. 2009 is when I met Marsha, Elizabeth, Spencer, Mary, TJ, and the Sykes group.


I got my nose pierced, learned Arabic and learned how to belly dance. Reuben and Janna from my Arabic class.


Worked as a Mary Kay consultant for a few weeks before I realized it was a ponzi scheme. Learned more Arabic; participated in my first polar plunge; met Christina; went to Green Bay, WI for the first time; went to NYC for the first time with my Arabic class; Marsha and I participated in a Halloween Fun Run.


I meet Jared and Dave in Wisconsin. Dave and I met up for a few years after that, but lost touch after our last meet in May 2015. Jared and I are still friends. Nan was also diagnosed with cancer and was given six months.

2012 – Piercer calls me a war horse. I have a high tolerance to pain.



Nan passes on 1/25/2013; I graduate from WCU. I joined a flag football team for 2 weeks. Went to my first Ravens and Orioles games.



I tried moving to Detroit, but realized nope. First thought of Canada and working in Canada while living in Detroit. Mom and I went to Memphis. I went to my first Twiztid show and met my idols for the first time.



Worked at the Senior Center, the seniors loved me just as much as I loved them; turned 26, went to NYC; first fulltime job; beginning to skate.


I went to Toronto,met Michelle who became a lifelong friend, met Moe, decided I was going to move to Canada and I started the process. Went to DC where one of the museum’s had a pottery demo. Matin is a potter from Afghanistan and we had fun chatting after. He came to Philadelphia in November, remembered me, called me his friend, and let me try pottery. Also, went to Asbury Park for the first time, caught up with Jared and met his friends. Beginning to skate better, but still afraid. Getting my 13th piercing.



I was invited by the Canadian government to apply for residency, was refused because of my silly job and money, beginning of health issues, Juggalo March, polar plunge, and confident skater.


Diagnosed with early celiac disease, improved health, going to try Canada again in the next few years. Diwali and Shabbot. I met Twiztid again and they remembered me, embraced me in warm hugs.



I look forward to what my 30s have to offer. I know I will be surprised 10 years from now, just like I am surprised about how many adventures I had in my 20s. I can’t wait to meet more people to take selfies with; May be I’ll add 44,000 more photos to my Google collection. That’s how many I have now!

Thankful Monday / Party Planning

You know, I have a lot to be grateful for. I am surrounded by people who love me and while not all of my friends can make my birthday, James, his wife, and my family are coming to make my 30th birthday special.

Mom bought a cornhole game for the outdoors; I think I’ll bring up boardgames for those of us who want to stay in to beat the heat. Boardgames are fun too. 😊

I’m thinking about having a homemade guestbook – a few blank scrapbook pages for people to sign and write well-wishes or anything they feel like. Ah, sentimental Jess is coming out.

I’m also thinking about putting some scrapbooks out from things I did in my 20s. Travel, school, (I have to make a few pages about graduation), and maybe I’ll put out my Happiness Box scrapbooks. I know it sounds silly, but I think it’ll be joyful to share memories from my 20s and what I have to look forward to in my 30s. I’m nowhere near done Happiness Box 2018 scrapbook,  but I can share what I have done.

I have photos of me getting pierced and I’m going to put those out too. Maybe I’ll put those photos in with one of the school albums or include it with Wraith and make an alternative mish-mash of body modification in my 20s. I’m sure my aunts and uncles won’t look at them, but my cousins might. No one might, but I love what I did and each thing I had done brought much joy.

In 2011, I started making a yearbook scrapbook about my sophomore year in college. Never finished it, but I have an extra album laying around and I might put what I have done so far in. Or it can be a mish-mash of everything. I’ll do that… I have the knack of being random at times.

My birthday will be fun, regardless.

Thankful Sunday: Lazy Sundays at Terry’s

This afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting Terry, one of my library co-workers, this afternoon. She texted me earlier this morning stating 2 PM was fine to come over to swim. At 2, I went over and was greeted by her husband and two of the three cats. Donnie and Alfie were happy to see me. They saw me out to the pool, where Terry greeted me.

This was my first time swimming with Wraith. I took my Go Pro and I didn’t see the photos until I got home, but only one photo has half of Wraith. I have to remember that GoPro is the opposite, so I will have to turn to the right side for better photos. Terry liked Wraith and helped spray on sunscreen. I applied it twice, once an hour, to protect him.

Terry and I chatted as I swam. She did get in for a little bit, but I stayed in for two hours. She has a lovely pool and it was a beautiful day for laps. In the last half an hour, I got out to dry, and we had Pepsi and chatted about different things.

I’m welcomed over anytime and I am very grateful for Terry and her husband. I am grateful for their welcoming nature and including me.

The Happiness Box Project Initiative: Spring 2019

Hear ye! Hear ye! The Spring edition of the Happiness Box Project Initiative!


Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day…

…except an other day became everyday. This spring brought us too much rain, but I didn’t let the dreary skies bring me down. I didn’t let heavy rains ruin my goal of trying something new each day.


April showers not only brings May flowers, but also new friends. In March, Jac was my Lyft driver and he gave me his band’s CD. He also gave me a sticker with his Instagram and I decided to follow. I went to his show on 5 April 2019 at Forest and Main in Ambler, PA and loved his style. It was an hour bus ride to a town I haven’t really visited before, but Ambler is a nice small town with lovely boutiques and friendly people. As I waited for Jac with No K’s set, I sat with a young family and had the joy of chatting with them until the show started. Jac is a great performer and Jac with No K is a talented group of young men; the family I sat with thought so too and their young children loved dancing to the music too. I’ve had the opportunity to see him a few times since and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this summer brings in terms of seeing him again.


May saw many rainy days as well, but I went ax throwing for the first time on 10 May 2019 and learned that I am a natural. I kept hitting bullseyes and fours. It inspired me to get a tattoo and at first I wanted to get a hatchet girl, but decided against it for now. I had a better idea and the idea came to life when the sun decided to show up and the weather started heating up at the end of May. The Wraith has been one of my favourite Insane Clown Posse albums for the past fifteen years and I decided to get it as a tattoo.


I joined the inked club on 26 May 2019; Christina accompanied me for moral support. Antman, my artist, walked me back, placed the drawing of the Wraith on my ribcage, and after I approved the location, he had me lay down on the leather bed. I took a deep breath; people told me that the ribcage would hurt, however, I have a high tolerance to pain and it felt good. Forty minutes later, my first tattoo—the Wraith—was born. Christina took a few photos of the tattoo when it was done. I’ve been taking photos of the Wraith each day for the past month—I’m in love with my tattoo.


Many new experiences bloomed in the Spring, growth that added to the joyful beauty of my life. These experiences have made me very happy, as new experiences tend to make others more joyful and resilient, and I can’t wait to experience new things this summer. I hope that all of you will have the opportunity to do the same this summer.


Have a great time in the sun, fun with friends and family, and I hope that you create long lasting memories filled with laughter. Please remember that joy is portible and can be shared with everyone. See you in the fall!