Thankful Thursday 4 April 2019

It’s Thursday again and the first Thursday in April. I’m going to cut back on blogging in April because of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Write Month), scrapbooking, work, and book discussion reading. Cutting back on things when life gets overwhelming will be part of my self-care and I know this might sound bad, but blogging is the last thing on my totem pole right now. I plan on cutting back this summer too.

Anyway, it’s Thankful Thursday and I feel like I have a lot to be grateful for. Dad of course, as well as my mom and family, but also the people I ride the train with in the morning. Jack, a young man that started talking to me a few weeks ago when he saw I was wearing a Blue Jays hat – his brother-in-law used to play in their minor league team and now plays baseball in Japan. Casey Lawrence – I remember him! Well, we chat every morning and he’s a pretty nice guy so far. He works at a WaWa in Conshohocken and tomorrow I’m seeing a show in Ambler. I have to catch a bus in Conshohocken to get to Ambler and I was asking him some questions about the town. He was very helpful; I’m grateful for his help and I’m glad we strike up friendly conversations each day. 🙂

I’m also thankful for Michael’s and I picked up some supplies at Michael’s today and the cashier said, “I saw you in here the other day. Still the same project?” I said, “Yep. I had a last minute idea and I want to bring it to life. For my subway adventures, I am going to make a subway sign and write ‘MTA’ on it, then I’m going to cut the colours of the transit lines and in the circles I am going to spell out ‘ADVENTURES’.” He smiled and said, “now, that sounds neat. When you are finished with your album, please take photos and share them with me.” I said I would and I said, “I should teach scrapbooking. Do you still offer classes?” They don’t, but anyone can teach now. He gave me the flier and information – if I want to teach classes, tell Michael’s and they’ll take a cut for renting the space, and I would get most of it. I’m really thinking about it. I think people would be interested.

My supplies came today and I can’t wait to put my NYC album together. I’m excited with all of these supplies and I feel grateful for those who encourage my creativity.


What are you thankful for?

Happy First Birthday, The Happiness Box Project Initiative Blog!


Today marked one year since I created this blog! When I created this blog, I wanted to showcase my project, but I wanted to make it a bit different than my old blog that was a mixture of everything. At first I was just going to display the box and lessons from the box.

However, since I was undergoing a health scare and went totally gluten-free a year ago in a few weeks time, I decided that I needed to fill my life with more joy. I took a day trip to Washington D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival and the concept of blogging about my joy and spreading joy to others was born. I created the Happiness Box Initiative to help others, and I’ve shared my adventures because I have learned that sharing my joys in the stories I tell, spreads joy to others – more so than anything I can buy them. In fact, most of my friends told me, “don’t buy us things, Jess. We just love hearing your travel stories and the joy in your voice. It makes us happy too!”

I’m going to continue the Happiness Box Initiative this year because I do love random acts of kindness, but I am going to do more service than gifts. I think helping and being there for people is the best gift you can give. I am also going to focus on self-care more because being selfish in certain ways makes us healthier and creates selflessness. I know that might sound weird: selfishness can lead to selflessness, but I know when I feel burned out, I am not a very nice Jess. Sometimes resting and taking care of yourself will allow yourself to heal and better care for others.

Here’s a video of me transferring March’s entries from the makeshift box to the Happiness Box.  March isn’t even in order! Oh well, it doesn’t remain in order when I open it on 1-1.


Thank you for all of the support for the past year! I can’t wait to celebrate for many more years to come!

Saturday Ice Skating

But, first, a poem for a pre-NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Write Month – April) warm-up. Tomorrow is the first day of NaPoWriMo and I’m grateful for the exercise.

And now for our early-bird prompt (optional, like all our prompts!) Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poetic self-portrait. And specifically, we’d like you to write a poem in which you portray yourself in the guise of a historical or mythical figure. Does that sound a bit strange? Well, take a look at this poem by Mary-Kim Arnold, “Self Portrait as Semiramis,” or Tarfia Farzullah’s, “Self-Portrait as Artemis,” and perhaps you’ll get a sense of the possibilities.

I gracefully swirl,
my arms leading the way;

deep breath in,
slowly exhaling,

the blade cuts
the ice below me;

my arms continue
guiding me,

it reminds me of the time
when I learned how to drive –

my right arm
guides me left,

my feet follow,
kept straight,

knees bent
at a forty-five degree angle:

swirling in a perfect circle,
I descend from the ice –

a year ago, maybe even two,
this would have been unheard of:

terrified of the ice,
a monster that injures;

careful work and dedication,
breathe in, exhale out;

I’m grounded now,
I dance with a smile:

straight fees, bent knees,
slowly bending down,

picking up the ice crystals,
throwing them in excitement:

the crowd goes wild,
erupting in applause;

judges cry, scribbling numbers,
gold is placed around my neck, unexpected.

I conquered my fear and won crystallized gold.


Yesterday, I went to Center Ice in Oaks to continue practicing what I learned in New York City a couple of weeks ago. Since it was 73 degrees outside, the rink wasn’t crowded, and I met a few kind people while I skated. I skated in the center, didn’t fall, and continued practice skating in circles. I’m glad I took lessons and I’m glad I keep going back to Oaks in the off season, despite what happened two years ago with those teens.


I’m so proud of myself. Also, the guy I got a selfie with took the pictures. He was just learning to skate and he asked me for pointers! I told him what I learned from Erin in New York City; he took my advice and he looked great. What a lovely day.

A Hungry Pigeon Type Evening

Last night I broke from normal tradition when it comes to the last Friday of the month – I didn’t go to the Art Museum and didn’t see their final Friday. They are renovating and the bus doesn’t pick up near the Art Museum and I have to walk a few blocks. While it’s usually no big deal, last week it was miserable, cold and I was getting over acute bronchitis – it wasn’t appreciated last week and I didn’t feel like doing it this week. I’ll return in May (April’s Final Friday is Def Poetry and has a $50 fee attached).

Instead, I decided to have dinner at the Hungry Pigeon and after go to Barnes and Noble. However, before I trekked down to South Street, I wanted to head to Arch Street and go to the sock shop. I always passed Philly Socks on Sundays before skating, but the shop was never opened. I needed new socks since I go through socks like water.

Fortunately, Philly Socks was opened and I will be honest, I was a bit surprised when I walked in. The shop always display funny, hip socks in the window, and I assumed a young, urban professional owned the shop. Instead, it was an older Italian man, who was extremely sweet and helpful. He reminded me of my great uncle – who made socks (ironically) before he moved (and later died in) Arizona. I hadn’t seen him for 20 years and since he died two years ago, I don’t have that opportunity anymore, but the owner reminded me so much of him.

Last month when I walked by, I saw Drake socks in the window. They said, “God’s Plan, Ask and It is Given”.  When I walked in, he noticed my Blue Jays jersey and asked if I was from Toronto. I said no, but was hoping to move there one day. He smiled and I asked him if he still had the Drake socks – he handed me a the only pair left. He saw me look at the Canadian flag socks he had hanging up, then suggested the socks with all of the Canadian PMs. I couldn’t resist. I also found “professional” socks that I can wear with my work clothes. As I was checking out, I told him my needs – heavy, good quality socks, since I go through socks like water. He reassured me his socks were high quality and they are. He thanked me for the business and I was so happy with not only the product, but customer service. I’ll go back in the summer to pick up some more socks for the fall.


Friday was a beautiful day and it was a nice walk to South Street. Since Friday was so nice, for the first half an hour I sat at the bar at the Hungry Pigeon, the restaurant was empty. I guess 5:15 is a bit early for dinner, but I enjoyed the lull of activities. I had the opportunity to chat with the manager and my waiter. My waiter was great, he was knowledgeable of gluten-free (actually, all of the waiters are and I am most grateful about their knowledge) and suggested socca for dinner. A Middle Eastern chickpea flour with grilled carrots, vinegar onions, and Labneh. It was good. Filling and needed a doggy bag (this will be Sunday’s lunch).

By 5:35, the crowd was picking up, and when I left at 6:10, there were no tables left. An older couple came in and sat next to me and as I was eating ice cream, my cute waiter suggested socca to the older woman. I said to her, “you will love it. I just had it – it was savory and tasty, a dinner pancake, and it’s filling.” She smiled and thanked me, she couldn’t wait to sink her teeth into it.

Before I left, I asked my waiter for a selfie. He agreed and the older woman said to me afterwards, “that’s my nephew. He’s a great guy.” She smiled and I smiled too, “I come here a lot and this is my favourite place. He’s one of my favourites too.” I left and I realized that I forgot his name! Since I paid in cash, he took the check away, and I didn’t get a receipt with a name. Next time I go back, I’ll remember to take the check since I’m teaching myself to pay for most things in cash.

I took the bus to Barnes and Noble. I wanted to buy Jesse Duquette’s The Daily Don and according to B & N’s website, they had copies in store. I didn’t see the book with the new releases and I asked a staff member. He went out of his way to search the computer, walk through two floors to find this book. There wasn’t a copy in store, but he put in an order. This morning, Jesse responded to an e-mail I wrote a few weeks ago asking if he could sign a book for me when it was released. He apologized for not seeing this sooner, but he would be honoured to do so. $20 for a signed book, that includes shipping and handling. I guess it worked out in my favour that B & N didn’t have the book since I will now have a signed copy – the signed copy plus S & H, will cost me what I would have paid at B & N without the signature. Actually, it’s cheaper because it would have been $22 after taxes. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book.

I listened to the Blue Jay’s game on the way home. They won!

Today’s entry in the Farmer’s Almanac is a simple phrase, “a kind word is like a spring day.” Spring is finally here and the kindness of both Philly Socks and Hungry Pigeon yesterday testify the validity of that assessment.

I’m thinking about writing Hungry Pigeon a thank you note, thanking them for the care they take of me for ensuring a safe dining experience. Also, the staff is kind and make the dining experience too. Would that be too much?


The Happiness Box Project Initiative (Spring 2019 edition)

The Happiness Box Project Initiative

Spring 2019

And like the cold white waves crashed onto the shores, winter 2019 disappeared into the sand.

I decided to explore New York City—the Big Apple—on the last day of winter. After a difficult winter, filled with much darkness and sadness after my beloved cat, Mimi, died after a short battle with squamous cell carcinoma, I decided to shoo out the season by getting lost in the Big Apple and Coney Island, and welcome in good tidings for spring.

New York City is always an adventure and the last day of winter brought some beautiful weather. I also found laughter and light throughout my journey. Whenever I travel, I try to visit somewhere I have never been to before and I try new activities. New York City wouldn’t be any different and I planned to visit one place I have never ventured to and I decided to ice skate at Rockefeller Plaza, a dream I’ve had since I taught myself how to ice skate in 2017. I’ve always wanted to glide next to Prometheus and say, “I’ve skated at the Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink!”

I began my morning with ice skating. I decided to pay for a lesson and I am glad I did because I learned how to skate in circles, change direction, how to prevent myself from falling, and how to stop. Erin was a great instructor and very patient with me. It was a 45-minute lesson, then I had an hour of free-skating. I was really moving on the ice and it was so much fun to skate not only in circles but keep up with and skate with others. I was also living one of my dreams and felt proud of myself that I felt confident again and could glide past Prometheus. Confidence is such a beautiful thing. I love ice skating and can’t wait to skate indoors this spring. I can’t wait to confidently take the ice and skate in the center.

After a delicious gluten-free lunch, my next stop was Coney Island. I’ve never been to Coney Island and I’ve never been to a beach in the winter before; the last day of winter was the perfect time to experience both.  Coney Island was neat, and it looks like a lot of fun in the summer. The amusement park was closed, and I was tempted to visit the aquarium, but I didn’t want to pay $25 for only a 45-minute tour (I arrived at 2:45, the aquarium closes at 3:30 in the off season, I could easily spend a few hours in an aquarium) and went to the beach. I set up my towel, kicked off my shoes, rolled up my jeans, and walked down to the water. I was going to do a polar plunge, but since I was just recovering from acute bronchitis, I only dipped my feet instead. I walked in the water, watched the seagulls, and the few ships sailing. I spent about an hour and a half on the beach, and I loved sitting from the distance to watch people walk their dogs. It was quiet and peaceful.

I spent another hour walking the boardwalk. Most of the shops were closed and my phone was about to die; I needed a portable charger. There were many people walking the boardwalk and I decided to ask. Coney Island and Brighton Beach have a large Russian community and unfortunately, most of the people I ran into spoke only Russian. When I was a senior in high school, I was planning to learn Russian in college to pair with my German skills, but never followed through when Arabic classes became available in college. However, with me being a polite person, I learned how to say, “thank you” and “please” in Russian (along with “yes” and “no”). “Spasibo,” I replied to each one until I finally found someone who could speak English and pointed me to a shop that was opened.

The Brooklyn Beach Shop didn’t sell chargers, but I ended up buying a few souvenirs and they pointed me to a shop that was a five-minute walk away from the beach. Fortunately, that shop did sell the portable phone charger and I went back to Manhattan for a gluten-free dinner at Friedman’s before heading home. As I was walking from Friedman’s to Penn Station, I ran into a few Rangers fans. I said to a young man, “I love your jersey!” He thanked me, and I stopped to ask him if I could get a selfie with him. His father and another gentleman they were with also decided to join the selfie. I explained that I grew up a Rangers fan since an exchange student that was living with my grandma in the early 90s loved the Rangers and we always watched the games. The men were very friendly, and I wish I had looked at the schedule before I left for the day because I would have stayed for the game. Ah well, I had a full day in New York City and created many memories that will not only fill my Happiness Box, but a scrapbook as well.

For the month of March, my Happiness Box Project has been on display at the Upper Merion Township Library. I have the box, the scrapbooks, and various books about mindfulness, gratitude, and happiness on display. My project has garnered a lot of positive attention and people have expressed not only interest, but awe in the dedication I’ve put into this project. When I created my happiness jar at the end of 2015, I never imagined the project would make it this far. I’m quite happy that it has, and I am glad I continued working on a happiness box when I found the jar too small.


On 1 April, the Happiness Box Project blog on WordPress will celebrate its first year. On 7 April, the Instagram profile I created will celebrate its first year, and the Initiative will celebrate its first year at the end of April. The project really grew in 2018 and I can’t wait to see how it’ll grow in 2019. There will be some changes, with more of an emphasis on self-care and mindfulness, but I still want to build community with others.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Spring and that your season will be filled with many joyful moments that will not only fill your year ahead but will fill your life for years to come. I look forward to reporting back in the summer. Enjoy the upcoming warm weather.







Happy Birthday, Bach!


On Thursday, J.S. Bach turned 334 years old and the whole world has been celebrating for the past few days. I created my own Bach masterpiece through the Google doodle too!

This afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised that I caught Bach in the Subway. It’s a tradition each year, worldwide, where musicians gather in the subways and play Bach. They take turns and even orchestras get involved. Unfortunately, I missed the Philadelphia Orchestra, but the musician I did catch was amazing. Ah, the sweet sound of Bach.


CBS swooped in to interview him after his performance:


A birthday fit for a legend. Such a joyful day, indeed.

Thankful Thursday 21 March 2019

I’m feeling better! Although, I still have a cough, but the doctor did say that will last a few weeks even after I’m feeling better. I’m grateful for the better health.

I went back to the library tonight and I had a gift waiting for me. A patron that always comes into the library has some nice bags. I always loved her Grinch bags because I am a Grinch fan, and she always gets a kick out of my comments. Well, she must have had an extra bag because I have my very own Grinch bag now! Next time I see her at the library, I’ll have to thank her. I am very grateful.


What are you grateful for?