Verklempt Friday

Yesterday my full-time job had their picnic and I feel verklempt. I mentioned to Ms. Ernestine that I packed my own lunch since there weren’t any gluten-free options. Wouldn’t you know, she ran to the store before the picnic and picked up a GF rotisserie chicken and chips for me? She picked up enough for me to have for lunch on Monday! I am beyond verklempt and grateful.

Last night was also a quiet night in the city. After spending an hour in Barnes and Noble, I walked through Rittenhouse Square Park and met Bosley, an adorable pug. He let me get a selfie with him! I am printing this out for my Happiness Box.


I went to South Street and I was in the mood for pho; I decided on Banh Mi and Bottles. Most of their street snacks could be made gluten-free, I had brisket on rice rolls – my favourite! The pho was amazing too! I chatted non-stop with my waitress, Lin, and before I left she agreed to a selfie. She was fun and a great waitress. I made a friend. 🙂


Thankful Thursday 4 October 2018

It’s Thursday, again!? And it’s the beginning of October?! Where did this year go? That’s okay, autumn is one of my favourite times of the year.

I am thankful for co-workers at both jobs – when I returned to the library this week, all of my co-workers asked me how I was feeling post-procedure. I told them I was feeling great. Co-workers at my full-time job also followed up; I am thankful I work with kind people. Tomorrow the full-time job is having a picnic and while I’ll be bringing my own lunch, I made a gluten-free applesauce cake. It’s currently baking.


I’m also thankful for my friends, both local and internationally. One of my British friends sent me a gift from the UK and Rome. I can’t wait to read the letter later and I can’t wait to take a picture and add it to my Happiness Box. 🙂 I love my friends and family.


What are you thankful for today?

I’m Now a Young Friend of the Philadelphia Orchestra!

On Friday I signed up for the Young Friends of the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is a free membership for orchestra lovers from ages 21-40 and packs a lot of benefits, such as reduced tickets. I’ll get my membership information later this week, and I am super excited.

Last night I ventured to the Kimmel Center to see the Tchaikovsky Concerto and enjoyed my first concert as a Young Friend. I think I was a little too excited because, at intermission, I told the gentleman I was sitting next to that I just became a young friend. He said to me, “congratulations! We need more young friends because it would be nice to see younger people enjoying the classics. Every show we come to, we always see people who look like us.” At the end of the show, I took a selfie with the group and they all welcomed me to the orchestra family! 🙂


Anyway, the Philadelphia Orchestra put on an amazing show as always. Yannick Nezet-Seguin is one of my favourite conductors and I am just in love with his style. For the Tchaikovsky Concerto, the Orchestra brought in Lisa Batiashvili on violin and oh my God. Oh my God is all I can say because the ferocity in which she played the guitar, the soulful sound brought tears to my eyes. It was just breathtakingly beautiful. I love classical music for that reason.

Next Saturday I am going to see the harp concerto – I just have to check to see if tickets are still available! I might start spending one Saturday evening a month at the orchestra.

The Happiness Box Initiative Newsletter | Fall 2018

The other day I wrote the Fall edition of the Happiness Box Initiative newsletter and I am rethinking it. Since this is my first time creating newsletters for a project, does it make sense to include experiences from the previous season into the new season’s newsletter or should I wait to the end of the season to include that respective season? Now that I am thinking about it, when I read a company’s newsletter, the company often puts summer earnings or events into the fall newsletter. I’ll continue to do just that for the Happiness Box Initiative newsletter. Enjoy!


The Happiness Box Initiative
Fall 2018

Summer went by quickly! Although it was rainy and humid, I didn’t let the miserable weather damper my spirit. I’ve continued spreading cheer and the word about the Happiness Box Project. This summer I also partnered with others and together we will make the world a more positive place, one note or through one classroom at a time.

I partnered with Notes for People, an activity where the artist sends me carefully crafted envelopes with positive notes tucked inside and the participant must leave the note in a public space where someone can find the note. Unfortunately, the notes arrived after my trip to Long Branch, Asbury Park and New York City, but I’ve left a few notes in the Philadelphia Area and in Baltimore. I’m hoping that these notes inspire the finders; Ajdin sends me updates after I send the photos that I’m doing well with this project. Notes For People is a brilliant idea and adds kindness to our world.

At the end of May, I was featured in’s Spiritual Newsletter. Sonali interviewed me and posted links to articles I wrote about my Happiness Box. Surprisingly, in July a school in Africa reached out to me about the project. The school works with children that have experienced trauma and was interested in the Happiness Box activity to help the students. I’ve sent a lesson plan and while communication has been slow, I’m hoping my Happiness Box will help the students and will help others in traumatic situations. That is the goal I am slowly working on and that is my hope with the Happiness Box Initiative.

The fall will be a busy time for the Happiness Box Project Initiative! With cooler weather, I plan on spreading more joy to others and I have a lot of hope attached to the lesson plans I’ve been writing. One day at a time and always with a positive attitude. Have a great pumpkin-spiced filled season!

Thankful Thursday 27 September 2018

Another Thursday where I have a lot to be thankful for. For the past two days, I’ve been off from both jobs; yesterday prepping for the procedure and I had the procedure this morning. My managers from both positions reached out to me yesterday via my personal e-mail address, wished me luck for my procedure and kept me in their prayers. Co-workers from both jobs also texted well wishes too. One of my co-workers from my full-time job checked in on me after my procedure and asked if I was okay. I am grateful that I work with awesome people. Their actions made me verklempt.

Maddie is also a physician’s assistant and checked in on me yesterday too. I was feeling anxious about the prep, and she walked me throughout it – grateful for her patience, and I was thankful for the doctors’ staff today too. They made me comfortable and talked with me, I love kind medical professionals. My doctor met with me afterwards, I am gluten-free for life, she handed me literature and gave me great suggestions for foods that follow halal guidelines. I’m thankful she took the time to meet with me afterwards too.

I’m going to spend the rest of the day relaxing. What are you thankful for today?

Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos | 23 September 2018

Sunday Funday! On Sunday, dad and I trekked to Baltimore to see our beloved Ravens battle the Denver Broncos. This was his Father’s Day gift, and we hoped for nice weather, but Mother Nature had a different idea of “nice.” It rained.

When we hopped off of Amtrak at Baltimore Penn Station, we took Lyft down to the Camden Yards and walked by the baseball field to get to the Ravenswalk. At the Ravenswalk there were festivities such as a band, photo opportunities, and games. Ray Lewis was honoured at halftime for the Hall of Fame; dad and I took photos with his statue and with the raven mascots. We listened to the music until it was time to go to our seats.

M&T Field doesn’t have coverings; we were sitting in the rain. We were bundled up, but the rain didn’t stop the fun we had. I took a selfie of dad and me, we ended up on the jumbotron since I shared it on Instagram. The Ravens won! We did a celebratory dance and dad kept saying, “this was the best Father’s Day gift! We need to do this more often! We bring them luck.” That made my day too.

We ended our evening at Lebanese Taverna, and this was dad’s first time having Lebanese food. He thought his lamb burger with rice pilaf was delicious! I had grape leaves stuffed with lamb and rice, which was delicious too. When I made the reservation, I wrote that dad’s birthday was 6 October; the waiter brought out baklava with a candle, and it surprised dad. We were in a rush because dad was afraid of missing the train, but that made him slow down a little. We ended up eating only half (significant portions) and taking the rest home.


On our way home, Amtrak was full, and at first, dad and I had to sit separately. Dad was telling this one gentleman about how I took him to the game for Father’s Day – the gentleman gave his seat to me, he sat next to his colleague, then proceeded to say, “that’s wonderful you took your dad to a game. I hope when my girls are older, they do the same for me.” He turned to my dad and said, “you did a great job in raising her.” I blushed.

Stories of Refuge

Yesterday afternoon I ventured to Philadelphia and saw part II of Tania El-Khourey’s ear-whispered. Stories of Refuge is interactive; the participants lay in bunk beds, similar to what refugees would sleep on in camps, and you listen to their stories of refuge in Arabic. On the wall in front of the beds, you can see footage from the person speaking, with the English translations. There are three stories.

I’m speechless; while these stories brought me to tears, there is still hope for the living. Unlike in Gardens Speak where the dead tells us of their stories, there is still hope for the living. There is hope that they can become German residents, learn German, learn English, find love, raise children, that their children become healthy adults. And maybe, just maybe, they might be able to go back to Syria some day.

Before I left, I chatted with the gallery owner and discussed what I wrote above. She agreed; there is still hope for the refugees, and there is still hope that others will continue to help.

Last night before I caught the bus home, I ordered the photos for my Happiness Box, and as I was waiting for the pictures, the guys in front of me were speaking Arabic. I asked the one, “Arabic?” He nodded his head, yes, and we began talking in Arabic. They were from Lebanon. It’s indeed such a small world – we had a blast chatting for several minutes. They said my Arabic was pretty good. 🙂


Thankful Thursday 20 September 2018

Wow! It’s Thursday again already!? Today is my cousin’s 24th birthday and this morning when I woke up, I sent her a message. She lives in Washington, D.C. and replied, “Thank you for the birthday card you sent me! I’m having a birthday party tonight and I will open it with my other gifts.” I didn’t get her a gift, but hopefully, a card is just as thoughtful.


Well, my “tattoo” lasted into today and I am thankful for it! Now, after my shower, it’s almost gone… but I am reusing yesterday’s sentiment about love. I would like to thank my dear friend Tom for his beautiful comment yesterday – that made my morning. I’m careful about posting my Arabic/refugee project because someone at the library said, “refugees are evil, just ask those in Germany and Sweden.” I was stunned. However, my other friends thought my project was a beautiful sentiment as well. Grateful and I am still grateful that Bryn Mawr College and the Fringe Arts decided to showcase their work. Tomorrow I am seeing part II of El-Khoury’s work and I am excited.


Ms. Pat also gave me candy this morning so I could enjoy throughout the day. I am grateful for Ms. Pat; she is one of my older co-workers at my full-time job (retiree from an insurance company) and I am thankful she not only listens to me, but we can have a heart-to-heart about Motown and oldies.



What are you thankful for today?

Message to a Refugee Mini Project

I was surprised at how long my “tattoo” was staying and wanted to get a photo of it for my Happiness Box. I decided to write a special note about how our stories intertwine. I wrote “Ashway ma al-mustajir. Ana aklah ma al-mustajir” which translates into “I walk with the refugee. I cook with the refugee.” That’s what I did on day #1 and continue to do while the “tattoo” is still imprinted on me. Figured it might be an interesting way to practice Arabic. J


Unfortunately, tonight is the last night for the message since the “tattoo” most likely won’t be on my arm tomorrow. However, our stories still intertwine and I will continue to tell their stories.

I can’t wait to open these when I open my Happiness Box and scrapbooking them!

ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury

Last month as I stepped off of the train to head to my full-time job, I took a look at the magazine boxes to see if there was anything that interested me. I saw a catalogue for the Fringe Arts, a month-long arts festival in September in the Philadelphia Area. I devoured the magazine and bookmarked pages of performances that sounded interesting.

I was happy (and a bit shocked) to see that there was a performance in Arabic. Gardens Speak, an interactive piece by the artist Tania El Khoury, showcases the lives of ten Syrians who were killed in the early days of the uprising. There would be two Arabic performances on Saturday, 15 September at Bryn Mawr College.

I decided to go. While I’m not fluent in Arabic yet, I did study two years of Arabic as a student while attending West Chester University, and I wanted to immerse myself in the experience. I knew I wouldn’t understand it all, but I wanted to experience the words and learn. When I arrived, I let the staff and the artist know that I wasn’t totally fluent, and they gave me English directions too.

When it was time for the performance to begin, I was instructed in Arabic to take off my shoes and put on a raincoat. I picked a card with a tombstone that had an Arabic name. I went into the room with Sofia and Mohammed, two other participants, and we sat on a bench until we heard a sound coming from the garden.

As soon as we heard the sound, we had to walk to the garden and look for our corresponding card. I was a bit nervous since I am not fluent, and didn’t realize there was another row. Tania helped me a bit, and I found the corresponding grave. I was Ayat the Martyr. I dug the grave, and I had to the opportunity to hear her story. She was a revolutionary and one of the early protesters of the Syrian uprising. She died for her beliefs of a more peaceful country, and better opportunities for her children. It was haunting to hear the gunshots and chaos surrounding her death toward the end.

After the story finished, the card instructed us to rebury the black box, then lie on our backs in front of the tombstone. We listened to the story and took the place of the spirit below us. The call to prayer was then played, and like a funeral, Tania placed white flowers beside us. We were buried in the garden just like the stories we heard.

It is not uncommon for Syrian families to bury their loved ones in community gardens, holding a funeral is too, dangerous because the families would be attacked. These gardens are mass graves with simple markers. We represented these mass graves on the surface, but deep down we take on the life of those that have past. It’s indeed a powerful piece of art, and I know it gave me a deeper understanding of the horrors in Syria.

Before we left, we sat and reflected, then wrote a letter to the families corresponding to our martyr. After we were done writing, we had to bury the message; the letter will either be showcased in the exhibit or sent to Syria and will be buried with these graves.

After, I chatted with Sofia and Mohammed. Mohammed moved to the US from Egypt and he was saying in some cities in Egypt, the same things are happening. Especially after the Arab Spring. He was telling me about it, and I never realized that Egypt was pretty much in the same situation because it’s not talked about as much.

I had the opportunity to meet Tania, and I told her I admired her work; this was an excellent way of learning about the stories of other people. It was a powerful way of learning and empathizing. I also thanked her for helping a bit; she thanked me for coming and immersing myself in a language that I’m not fluent in. I told her I thought it was important; as an artist and writer, I like immersing myself in the language (and life) of my subject matter. She smiled, agreed because she does it herself. Although I was a bit shy, I enjoyed chatting with Tania.

There was another part of the ear-whispered works: As Far As My Fingertips Take Me. We sit in front of a wall, then we hear a rap song about the refugees’ journeys. As we are listening to the story, a refugee holds our hand and draws on it. Words can’t really describe the feeling, and after the story ended the refugee/ artist came out, and I had the chance to meet him.

I’m glad I went, and I am happy that the Fringe Arts included these moving pieces. In Philadelphia, Tania has another exhibit that showcases life in the resettlement camps. I’m thinking about going next Friday.