Hanukkah Dinner | 13 December 2020

I made Bubbe’s brisket (https://www.kosher.com/recipe/bubbes-brisket-5023) and gluten-free latkes. I lit the Menorah and sadly by the time we sat down for dinner on the fourth night of Hanukkah, the candles had burned down.

I’m thankful that my parents accept me and that they have agreed to let me have holiday dinners this year. While it felt odd not celebrating with my groups, it is always nice to sit down and have a peaceful dinner with family. The true spirit of the holidays!

Some tunes I’ve enjoyed during Hanukkah. I hope your holidays are full of love and light as well.

New Hanukkah Traditions, COVID-19 Style

On Saturday, I ventured into Philadelphia to go ice skating. When Hanukkah started at sundown on Thursday, mom mentioned that the Betsy Ross House now has a Menorah and only a few Rabbis were there to light it, the event was being livestreamed.

I decided to go to the Betsy Ross House and look at the Menorah. The way her house was decorated, it was decorated for all religious traditions. Betsy Ross herself was there and we chatted for a bit. What a magical scene and it feels good to see all faiths represented at a historical house. A new day is dawning!

Even the River Rink had a Menorah lit. I enjoyed my time ice skating and towards the end, I decided to check Instagram. The Angelo Pizza posted they ran out of pizza for the day. Panicked, I checked my Find Me Gluten Free app and I ended up at Oh, Brother. I ordered a gluten-free vegan burger since I was having a brisket dinner the next day.

As I was waiting for my food, I waited outside and found a table. As I was reading emails, I heard Matisyahu’s Miracle playing. I saw lights flashing and it was a Hanukkah drive-by parade! Since we cannot gather for Hanukkah this year, many congregations and families got together, decorated their cars with Menorahs and wished everyone a Happy Hanukkah.

I was chatting with the people sitting near me, I was telling them about my journey and that I was having a Hanukkah meal on Sunday. They thought it was cool, and when another car drove by, they asked, “is anyone else celebrating Hanukkah?” They pointed to me and I said, “I am!” He asked if I had a Menorah, I said I did and he gave me chocolate gelt instead. The next car that drove by engaged me in conversation, and gave me a Menorah anyway.

It was such a joyous atmosphere. I had two Hanukkah gifts from strangers and I was on cloud 9. I wish I could have given them something, but maybe since I gave to the JRA and participated in Operation Santa through the USPS, their kindness was a sense of rewarding good deeds.

After a few minutes, I went inside to see if my food was done and I overheard the waitress say she also celebrates Hanukkah. I asked her and we both have the same story! Raised Catholic, but left. However, she was married to a Jewish man and even though they divorced, she felt comfortable and at home. I told her, “I’m taking my time with everything. I feel comfortable and at home too.” She gave me some advice and the mood was just festive.

While we cannot gather for the holidays this year, there is still joy to be found. It may look different, but Hanukkah is a miracle and it’s about lighting the way out of the darkness. These new traditions are just that.

Thankful Thursday 10 December 2020

What a great day for the beginning of Hanukkah – on Thankful Thursday! While this year was difficult, I think any holiday falling on Thankful Thursday is even better!

I’m thankful for all of the people I met at Shabbat this year before COVID-19 pushed them all on Zoom. I met Jonathan and we kept in touch, that when we were able to gather (although limited) I was invited to the events. I’m grateful that I was included and it’s making my journey a bit easier. Although I missed out in December, I don’t have Facebook and the events (that are even more limited – 5 people instead of 10) fill up quickly. I sent a Hanukkah card to Jonathan, and his roommates Ben and Alex. I thanked them for their hospitality and welcoming me this year.

I’m thankful that Hillel and the Jewish Federation took me under their wings. They’re allowing me to take my time, to ask questions, and allowing me to learn without judgement. I’m thankful that their programs moved to Zoom. Last Friday I met up with Mallory, from Hillel, for a little bit and she gave me a beautiful Hanukkah gift. A Menorah and a gift card to a bakery that sells delicious donuts, they even have GF options! I was so verklempt.

My heart is full this Hanukkah. I’m grateful that my parents are accepting and that they are willing to celebrate one of the days with me. We are having a brisket dinner on Sunday and we will play a game of Dreidel. I bought dad Emoji Dreidels last year and we will play with those. I’m excited.

I lit my first Menorah tonight. I bought an Emoji Menorah (same company that made the Dreidels) and it looks great.

What are you thankful for today?

Spreading Holiday Cheer

As I was walking in the snow at lunch, I decided to check Instagram and noticed Old Glory Tattoo Shop in Asbury Park, NJ posted a story. I clicked on it and they received my card! They were so happy and I made their days. They love their clients and they thanked me.

I have a feeling that Old City and Infinite Body Piercing in Philadelphia received their cards right away (I sent them off last Thursday) and even though they didn’t post them like Old Glory, I know they appreciated it. I mentioned to my pal Zach, who was my piercer a few times at Infinite, that I was going to do it and he loved that idea.

I loved making cards this year. I was happy while creating and it created joy in others. The true spirit of the holidays!

The Angelo Pizza

On Sunday, I went to The Angelo Pizza since he added “The Jessica” to his menu and the Island podcast paid for my gluten-free pizza. I totally forgot when I walked in, I was having a bad anxiety day (so much so I forgot my ice skates, and the rink let me rent a pair free of charge since I’m a regular and they were sold out of tickets for the day, to issue me a new one with paid skates) and then I remembered.

Angelo’s dad or grandfather saw me sitting in the corner waiting for my pizza and we began to talk. I mentioned the free pizza to him and showed him the DM between the podcast and me. He talked to Angelo and Angelo talked to me. Angelo is 24 years old, this is his first business. He took care of it and was very friendly about it, so much so we talked for a few more minutes.

Oh my! His pizza is to die for! This had to be the best gluten-free pizza I had. I ate 8 slices of it, took the last two home for lunch yesterday. Heated up nicely too. When I was walking towards the bus, I saw Angelo again, he asked me what I thought and I have a new after-skate shop! He noticed I didn’t order it with cheese and he asked if I had a problem with dairy. I do, except I can tolerate lamb and goat cheeses like Locatelli or Pecorino. He said, “I’ll remember that for your pizza the next time. I have that on hand!” Super nice and I feel super grateful. It was a Happiness Box Project moment on Sunday.

Making a Hanukkah Card

One of the Jewish forums I belong to asked me to make a tutorial about making a Hanukkah card and I obliged. Hanukkah is four days away and making a card is simple:

A lovely card to add to my Happiness Box for one of the eight nights. Crafting has brought me such joy during this pandemic and I hope it can bring you some joy as well.

New eating spot for after ice-skating!

The post I made the other day, the guys who run that pod-cast asked the Angelo Pizza if they would make a gluten-free option. The Angelo Pizza listened and answered. The eatery now offers “The Jessica,” which will be a gluten-free pizza.

I’m excited and so happy. COVID-19 has restricted a lot of the gluten-free places I used to dine in, some have stopped carrying it temporarily. I can’t wait to go to The Angelo Pizza after ice skating! I’m very grateful too.

Thankful Thursday | Thanksgiving Edition | 26 November 2020

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! While Thanksgiving looks different this year, we are blessed that we have reached the holiday season. Yesterday during Avi’s Torah reading, he recited the Shehechiyanu since it was fitting for the holidays.

Back during Rosh Hashana, Mallory sent us all the recitation of the Shehechiyanu. The Shehechiyanu is a prayer of gratitude that we have reached the holiday season. This prayer usually marks the beginning of a holiday, or is recited when something brings immense joy. 2020 has been a merry-go-sorry year mixed with immense hardships, joy and a whole range of emotions. For those of us who have large Thanksgiving dinners, not being able to have your family and friends over for a meal is hard.

While we don’t always have my cousin Jason over for the holidays, he celebrated Thanksgiving with us last year and in 2017. Since he is an EMT, mom didn’t want to chance anything since all three of us are high risk. We’ve had a small Thanksgiving since 2009, but after Nan died in 2013, it became the three of us.

I tend to get sad around this time of year because 2013 was a year of loss. Nan’s death in January 2013, my traumatic experience on 7 November 2013, then it being dropped in December 2013, it was just empty. 2020 has some parallels to 2013 for me, so I’ve been filling it with Zoom activities, gratitude, and love for friends and family. I’ll be taking photos this year and I will add them to my Happiness Box.

I’m thankful for family and I’m thankful that I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and two jobs. I am fortunate that I haven’t lost my jobs during the pandemic, and while I was furloughed from the library for 7 months, I’m back at half the hours I worked before the pandemic. I am grateful to still have that part-time job. I am grateful that I am able to work from home during this pandemic too. Going in once per week to print isn’t that bad.

I’m thankful for my full-time job’s corporate wellness meeting, which introduced me to Avi and Joel, and tons of other people that I call friends now. Avi and Joel started the Torah and Bible weekly meetings and it has allowed me to learn more about my spiritual journey. I’m glad Avi lets me ask him a lot of questions and I can learn from him.

I’m thankful for Zoom because it has allowed me to get together with my Jewish groups, meet and mingle with new people, and build my network. Zoom and e-mail also have allowed me to keep in touch with people I met before the pandemic, and it has allowed us to build upon those relationships. Zoom has also allowed the Upper Merion Township Library to hold their book discussion this fall and it was wonderful to meet up with everyone to discuss literature.

Tina on Writing.com held a gratitude contest last week and I want to share the 25 things I am grateful for:

  1. I’m thankful that Lyft is still operating. 12 November was office and library day, rather rainy too. My Lyft driver was a kind young man from Russia. He was a joy to chat with for 24 minutes. He’s still learning English, but he did great. I loved chatting about Germany and Russia with him. This is why I love Lyft and grateful he agreed to a selfie. Thank you kind Lyft driver!

2. For both of my jobs. While they drive me crazy from time to time, I’m glad to be gainfully employed and I have some awesome co-workers.

3. The Browns. They may be my neighbours, but they are sure a lot like family! I’m grateful that they include me in things.

4. Contagious🤷‍♀️ Krista! Thank you for sending me the scrapbooking materials. This will come in handy in the next month and a half when I open my Happiness Box and begin scrapping Happiness Box 2020. I appreciate you.

5. Lilli ☕, thank you for sending me stickers and recipe cards. I also want to thank you for encouraging me to start a GF foodie Instagram page. Your recipe help and encouragement has helped me learn how to bake confidently.

6. Tina Stone Tina Stone, I want to thank you for helping me pan sear that steak. It was delicious and I now prefer to eat my steak that way! *Bigsmile*

7. Friends and family. I’m thankful for all that they do for me, even if we all don’t see eye to eye. They remind me that it’s okay not to, and they love me for who I am.

8. A roof over my head, three meals per day, a bed to sleep in, clean water, healthy food, and I’m privileged to live in a First World Country.

9. The people of the Lehigh Valley, PA subreddit I moderate. They’ve helped me grow and a few have taught me the ins and outs of Discord. They make moderating easy. *Bigsmile*

10. The Writing.com Community. When I found this site almost 15 years ago, you helped a lost teenager grow into a bit more confident adult. Thank you for that.

11. Scrapbook.com’s community. Same with the Reddit scrapbook community. They both helped me build back my crafting confidence by reminding me perfection doesn’t exist and they are my memories, I am free to design in any way I want (hell, I have to thank Elle for reminding me of this too).

12. The quarantine. I know, I know, crazy right? Not so fast! Being quarantined introduced me to Zoom and without Zoom, I wouldn’t have met company friends in other states. They’ve become a lifeline and one helped me get in touch with my new spiritual journey. I have also become a better writer with Gotham. I also was able to put more love into the Happiness Box 2019 scrapbook and the 2020 Box. Sharing layouts at the bottom that I just created for Happiness Box 2020.

13. My trauma. I know, I know, another crazy thing right? Through this pain and through this experience, I was able to start the Happiness Box Project and I was able to inspire others. While I would never wish what happened to me, I feel indebted to what this experience has allowed me to do with my life.

14. Infinite Body Piercing. The way the Infinite staff treat me, they made 2020’s self-care day even better. I knew that would happen because after the case was dropped, I went there and they comforted, then they comforted me before my liver tests and after.

15. Old City Tattoo. Like Infinite, the way they treat me and treated me on 2019’s self-care day, I love spending my time there. They make me feel comfortable and their artists are awesome.

16. Old Glory Tattoo. My Asbury Park tattoo place (I guess I now have two tattoo places) and similar to Old City Tattoo: kind artists who make sure I am comfortable and let me hang out in the studio after, as I waited for Jared. Tattoo artists, just like piercers, are kind people.

17. Philadelphia. I know, I complain about it from time to time, and while I don’t like the sports teams, the city is filled with lovely people. I love spending time in the city, from ice skating to roller skating, to restaurants, concerts, the orchestra, the museums and everything else. I’m grateful that I live near an open-minded city and while Philadelphians aren’t the best sports fans, they’re human just like the rest of us. I’ve never experienced anything bad in the city, like the Orange Man liked to say, but only kindness when I needed it.

18. Travelling.

Joy! Thank you for lending an ear and a shoulder, I really appreciate you. I’m thankful for your friendship and guidance.

20. Schnujo. Thank you for also lending an ear and a shoulder. I really appreciate you as well! Thank you for your friendship and guidance.

21. Nan. January will be 8 years since her death, and she is still with me in spirit. I’m thankful that she (and my dad) raised me and was my cheerleader. She was also my best friend and I truly believe she helped make my formative years so kind, pleasant, cheerful and that set the bar for normalcy to seek as an adult. I love Nan.

22. My Jewish groups! I’m Noahide and while I am still on my spiritual journey, they welcome me with opened arms. They want me to take my time and they’re happy to answer any questions I might have. It feels so lovely to be included in their events, programs, and volunteer activities. I am glad I read the newspaper in January 2017 and donated to the Jewish Federation. I’m glad it was around the time I did my DNA, found out I’m part Ashkenazi and the timing is a blessing. I’m glad my DNA doesn’t matter to them either.

23. I’m also thankful that my family accepts my spiritual journey and I’ve been able to celebrate my holidays while in quarantine.

24. Gregg and WRTI. Gregg is my favourite DJ on WRTI classical, and Ms. Blue is my favourite DJ on WRTI jazz. Both are super friendly and I love when they reply to my e-mails, which is always. That makes my day. It’s so simple, but meaningful. I love WRTI, as classical helps me relax.

25. Living in a climate with four seasons. I couldn’t live in a place with only one or two seasons, and the four seasons help shape my photography and writing. I love having variety.

November isn’t my only time for gratitude, I try to be grateful all year long. However, since November is a difficult month for me otherwise, and since it coincides with American Thanksgiving, I like to make a month of sharing gratitude.

A lot of these photos are from Halloween 2020, where everything was still masked and from a distance. I still was able to get selfies safely and had fun. I started my day at the Franklin Institute, where I became a member in August. I went on a river cruise at night. A lot of Halloween parties were cancelled due to the riots since Philadelphia had a curfew of 9pm. They waived that curfew on Halloween, but I found an earlier party, the river cruise from 5pm-9pm. It was perfect and I was able to get home by 10:30pm. I had a blast too.

Last weekend, Philadelphia put a kabosh on indoor dining, museums, and gatherings of more than 10 people. Concert halls are still closed and let me tell you, it felt odd walking by an empty Kimmel Center. I usually go to orchestras around this time of year and will be seeing them all online this year (I have to buy the tickets), which I’m grateful they are doing. The restaurants that still offer outdoor dining, I am dining there and any restaurant that offers take-out, I’ll take out. I’m dogsitting this weekend and after skating, I plan on bringing take-out back to Aunt Kathy’s. I’m grateful for the small businesses and performers and service workers, so I want to help.

Wraith also turned 18 months today! He has healed and we walk side by side on this journey together.

This year is different, but we all have so much to be grateful for. We are all in this together and we will bounce back stronger. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! What are you thankful for?

Making Spirits Bright

When we give thanks to our blessings, we can give those blessings to others.

I’ve been scrapbooking this year and I decided to try my hand with cards. I’m already making Hanukkah, Christmas, holiday and New Years cards, and decided to participate in Cards From the Heart via NextGen and the JRA. This morning I sent off 8 Hanukkah cards and a gluten-free Hanukkah meal. These cards and the meal will be delivered during the holidays. ❤️

I’m grateful that I was a part of this. It warms my heart that this will make many Hanukkah memories for others.

Ice Skating Saturday (Picture Entry) | 21 November 2020

Just a quick entry… I’m in the process of making the Hanukkah cards for charity, but I’ve been neglectful of my blog. I had a wonderful time ice skating on Saturday, even though it was warm.

After, I walked under City Hall and Aijee was serenading us with her cello. I haven’t seen her in a long while, but was happy to see her perform. Aijee’s musical talent added a whimsical and holiday spirit to the atmosphere.

I’m dogsitting for Aunt Kathy this weekend, but will make some time to get back to ice skating. The River Rink is set to open on Friday and I can’t wait.