New traditions



I can be rigid and a total stickler for keeping traditions the same every year, especially when it comes to the holidays. But it can be difficult to do so when the world is constantly changing and throwing unexpected things at you.

Since moving to Cape May in February, I’ve celebrated all the holidays here. In April, we celebrated Passover and we had an unofficial seder. But as the seasons changed and the winter holidays are in sight, I knew there were going to be bigger changes ahead.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, even though it is a difficult time of the year. In 2009, my grandpa passed away the weekend before Thanksgiving. And in the years since then, I have had two Thanksgivings in Cape May, which was the start of a new tradition that was cut short.

Thanksgiving 2015 I spent incapacitated on the couch due to a muscle spasm in my lower back (think unpleasant pain & serious painkillers). And of course, last Thanksgiving when I was two weeks out from getting my wisdom teeth removed and was in a lot of pain. Two years of less than stellar celebrations.


Thanksgiving 2017


I was hoping this year’s Thanksgiving would be a little bit better, but my grandma passed away the week before Thanksgiving. And in an unexpected turn of events, I ended up staying in Cape May. I felt like it was the right thing to do, even though I did want to be with my family. Another part of me knew that going home and not having my grandma with us at Thanksgiving dinner would just make me realize that she is really gone.

Lucky for me, I have fallen in with a great group of people through my roommates. My roommate AJ and I set out to have a Thanksgiving dinner for two people – easier said than done.

The pre-Thanksgiving weekend started out with a bang, between me spraining my ankle on Thursday night and then our refrigerator stopped working that weekend. I completely took on the “I’m not stressed, you’re stressed” mentality.

Uncertainty gives me anxiety, so not knowing whether we would have a working fridge by Thanksgiving made me worry we might not be cooking. But we had a backup fridge that was up and running by Wednesday night, Thanksgiving eve (Shout out to AJ, Tom and Kyle). AJ and I even did the Thanksgiving shopping on Wednesday night. Yes – I hobbled around ShopRite on crutches and it was not a fun time.

After 23 years, I had my first Thanksgiving away from home. It might have been one of the best holidays yet. There’s something about removing yourself from family drama and just having a casual Friendsgiving dinner that just works.

I had just written a newspaper article about breaking Thanksgiving traditions by trying new foods. I did not think I would be breaking my biggest tradition by spending Thanksgiving away from my old Virginia home. Cape May is home now.

It seems like making new traditions is better than I thought it would be. And I’m very thankful for this year’s Thanksgiving with AJ and Nabs.


Friendsgiving with AJ.


Why not write a novel?


November is notoriously known as National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short. It’s a month where you write approximately1,666 words a day with a goal of 50,000 by the end of the month.

In 2012, I attempted to write a fiction novel, but I did not like the story and I also was too busy with my senior year of high school and college applications.

In 2015, I sat down to write a non-fiction story about my life with anxiety. I wrote 11,000 words and then I was just too consumed with my senior year to continue to write.

I promised myself that when I was out of college that I would continue the story that already had 11,000 words and keep going. I’ve always wanted to be an author and I have wanted to do a lot of writing to work towards eventually publishing a book.

Even though I was out of school in 2016, I was going through a lot of anxiety as I waited to find out when my surgery for wisdom teeth would be happening. I was experiencing so much anxiety, that writing about anxiety just did not feel right at the time.

Fast forward to this November — I’m settled in my life in Cape May, working the motel front desk and writing for the local newspaper weekly. I have no excuse to not be writing, so I decided that this year is going to be the year I write a 50,000-word novel.

NaNoWriMo’s slogan is “the world needs your novel,” and that is truly an inspriation to me to sit down and write this damn book.

Writing about my anxiety is not always easy, but if I could write a book that helps one person with their anxiety – then I feel my book will serve the right purpose. I have so many thoughts about anxiety, that writing it all down feels really good.

I thought I would share an unedited excerpt, for those who are interested in reading some of my thoughts:

      Once I started learning I had friends and family who struggle with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder among others, I realized that we all cope in different ways.

            The treatment and medication that I have used to treat my anxiety work for me, but not necessarily for others. Finding what works for you is half of the battle and it does take some trial and error to find the right match.

            I am a strong proponent of therapy and medication, which is something I had to learn for myself. I was extremely resistant to both at first; but again, it’s the culmination of finding the right person to speak with and the right medication to take. Having a great therapist and being on the right medication is what allowed me to see that asking and receiving help did not have to be a scary thing.

            I have read a handful of books about anxiety, but none have clicked completely. I wish that there were more books about mental health, particularly with anxiety out there. With this book (and if you’re holding a copy or eBook in your hands, mama I made it!), my goal is to provide context for not only people in my life who have both understood or misunderstood me – but also to enlighten those with anxiety.

If you read this book and can take away that you are not alone and that anxiety comes in all shapes and forms – and realize that you should be patient with yourself, even when you are the most frustrated.

To those who have no experience with mental illnesses, but might be reading this book to understand someone who does have one, I hope that you might find yourself with insight into illnesses that might not be visible, but are very much real in every way.

La Croix is for Millennials

La Croix is spamming my Facebook. Everyone is drinking this seltzer-like beverage and posting about it on social media. But why?

NPR says La Croix (pronounced /la croy/) is having a moment among millennials, who are looking for a healthier option than soda. I have been contemplating reducing and/or giving up Diet Coke…so I thought that if I liked La Croix, it would be a good replacement.

I had to investigate La Croix for myself, and honestly, I’m always down to try the latest fad. Now considering I don’t like seltzer water, I wasn’t sure that La Croix would be something I would like to drink.


Image courtesy of Giphy.


I asked my friends what the carbonation of La Croix is like. I wanted something similar to soda but not as sharp as seltzer. I don’t like seltzer, even though it’s a staple in my family’s household. Our fridge may as well dispense seltzer since my parents go through multiple bottles a day.

My Facebook friends recommended I try lime, coconut or peach-pear. I ignored them all. I tried strawberry pineapple since those are two flavors I like.

The flavor was not right, nor was the carbonation. But I bought a case of eight and mama didn’t raise no quitter, so I drank the case. I was underwhelmed and I knew that it wasn’t going to be a Diet Coke replacement.

So again, ignoring the recommendations (sorry friends), I tried cherry lime. DING DING DING we have a winner. I started drinking a can of the cherry lime La Croix with my dinner and slowly I phased out the caffeine-free Diet Coke I allowed myself at night.

I started drinking La Croix in August. Flash forward to October and I realize I have gone months without drinking caffeine-free Diet Coke. MONTHS!

Months, months, months. I’m trying to wrap my mind around that because I never thought I’d be able to give up one of my two daily sodas. One regular Diet Coke in the morning and the caffeine-free at night.

Let’s not discuss the morning soda. It’s not something I’m ready to part with – I get my soda caffeine fix before my coffee at lunch. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.

I do occasionally get a craving for the caffeine-free Diet Coke, but every time I have ignored it and it eventually goes away.

Apparently, I’m just your average La Croix drinkin’ millennial – trying to give up soda.

A day in the life

Routines are important, which is something I learned in college. I did not have a good daily routine in high school because I never consistently went to school at the same time – which I 100% attribute to anxiety and insomnia.

College was an amazing learning experience for me, and not just from the classes. I learned how to manage a routine that took some flexibility. My first semester of college was at the local community college, and I was stuck with a 4:10-7:30 pm history class on Mondays, a bunch of random afternoon classes, and then Fridays I had a 9 am math class. I had Thursdays off, which were days I never used to do work.

Despite hating the three-hour classes, dragging myself out of bed to make a 9 am math class, I figured it out. It wasn’t always great, but it worked out.

Then my second semester of college, I transferred to George Mason, which was a whole new campus, new people, and new schedule. I learned that 10:30 am classes didn’t necessarily agree with me, which was something I figured out a little late in the semester (combined with a bad teacher…but that’s really another story). So I took afternoon and early evening classes and almost always had no classes on Fridays.

The last few semesters at GMU, I learned that if I really wanted to graduate “on time,” I probably had to take a few 10:30 am classes to get the rest of my requirements done. So I started taking a few 10:30 am communication classes and French at 11 am. Having my best friend in the classes helped encourage being on time (and going in general, to be honest).

By senior year, I had my shit together. I got on a better schedule, I was able to make it on time to classes and I worked harder than ever before. I graduated cum laude and on the dean’s list for the last few semesters.

Everyone always speculated how I would manage a 9 to 5 job. If anyone ever doubted me being able to function in the adult world most, it would’ve been one of the assistant principals at my high school. I proved him wrong by graduating high school, taking 10:30 am classes and graduating college. His “no, she can’t do it” attitude stuck with me in the back of my mind. Now I just had one more time to prove him wrong.

Flash forward to my first full-time job at the Victorian Motel. My schedule is 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. I like to prepare everything the night before, so in the morning I really don’t have to do much before I walk out the door. And I also like to stay in bed until the last minute possible.

7:30 am – The first of my many alarms start. I get out of bed anywhere between 7:50-8 am. Get dressed, make my lunch (I pack everything but a sandwich the night before) and be out the door by 8:23 am.


Many alarms with sayings to remind me to hustle.


8:30 am – Arrive at the motel and begin working. My daily routine is signing in housekeepers, checking guests out and in, rebooking reservations and replying to emails as well as answering phone calls. I act as a concierge and I try to be as knowledgeable about Cape May as possible.

4:30 pm – I leave work and go home. What I do next depends on what other jobs I might be working that night. First thing I do at home is usually let my housemate’s dog, Nabs, out to do her thing. Sometimes I lie down and watch YouTube or TV. If I’m in the middle of an interesting book, I will read on the porch with Nabs. I catch up with my housemate Max. Sometimes I wander around the backyard, checking out what is growing in the greenhouse or in the gardens.

If I’m covering a meeting for the newspaper, I tend to eat dinner on the earlier side. Usually, my meetings are anywhere from 5-7 pm. Sometimes they are short, sometimes they are long. I never do any writing after the meeting – I like to let what I’ve just heard soak in overnight – so when I’m at work I can write my articles.


Taking photos of the migrating monarch butterflies after work.


I often go to the beach after I relax at home. Nothing is better than going to the beach after a day’s work. One of the reasons I moved to Cape May is so I could go to the beach after work. Anytime I do that, I really feel like I moved here for the right reasons.


fall beach
Relaxing on the beach on a Fall day, where it was cool enough for a sweatshirt.


9:30-10 pm – I start thinking about going to bed. The goal is to be asleep by 11:30 pm. The last month I have had a hard time going to sleep before midnight, which means I don’t get enough sleep. For someone who used to typically not go to sleep until 2 am, it’s an improvement – but I know I can improve upon that even more.

I have been afforded such wonderful opportunities since I moved to Cape May. I got to live in my family’s beach house for a few months before finding my fantastic room with my housemates.  I have a great full-time job and I am freelancing weekly for the local newspaper, the Cape May Star and Wave.

But the thing I am most grateful for is that I get to live in the town that I have spent so much time in, for every year of my life. I love getting to tell people that I’m living the dream I’ve had for a while now and that I’m writing along the way!

MTV show puts spotlight on area’s teen moms


Special to the Star and Wave

MTV is once again filming a reality television show in New Jersey. With a due date of this fall, “Teen Mom New Jersey” is the latest spinoff of “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” franchise. Teen Mom New Jersey will follow young moms in southern Jersey area.

The official announcement was made Aug. 27, during the MTV Video Music Awards. broke the news on Aug. 30, stating that MTV was seen filming at the Cumberland County Fair. MTV had multiple casting calls this year, searching for teen moms and young expectant mothers located in the same area.

According to America’s Health Rankings 2015 report, New Jersey had a birth rate of 40 per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 1993. That number declined to 13 per 1,000 in 2016.

Per the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, New Jersey has seen a 71 percent decline in teen pregnancy between 1991 and 2015. In 2014 there were 3,678 births to teens. Of Teen births in New Jersey, 72% are to older teens ages 18 to 19. Data shows that 16 percent of the births were to teens who already had a child.

In 2010, public spending on unplanned pregnancies in New Jersey approximately cost $477 million.

Cape May County has two programs that offer family planning. The Hope Pregnancy Center has locations in Rio Grande and Ocean City. The Hope Pregnancy Center offers free and confidential services. Family Planning Services is a program which offers family planning and gynecological services and care for women and adolescents. The program offers low-cost family planning services with a sliding scale.  There is no fee for teens 18 and under. No parental consent is needed due to Title X regulations that provide services to minors without parental consent.

MTV has been criticized for their shows glamourizing teenage pregnancy, as some of the stars of the shows have had major brand deals. Notably, Farrah Abraham, who become involved in the adult film industry.

Despite the claims of idealizing teen pregnancy, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that their research has shown that the national teenage birth rate has steadily been declining in the years since the series premiered.

The state Department of Health states that NJ is ranked fourth out of 50 in teen birth rate and 18 out of 50 in the teen pregnancy rate. However, NJ is ranked 5 out of 50 in the decline of the teen birth rate. 1 is the lowest. So despite the decline, NJ is slower than other states at reducing the number.

New Jersey offers three programs to combat teen pregnancy. First is the teen pregnancy prevention (TPP) program, which identifies the multiple risk factors for teen mothers and their children. Next is the NJ Prep program, or personal responsibility education program. It is a school- and community-based comprehensive sexual health education program. The state also offers NJ AEP, Title V abstinence education program.

“16 and Pregnant” was the original series that started the MTV franchise in 2009. The unscripted reality show featured a different pregnant teenager each episode. The series followed showed the teen moms throughout their pregnancies, the birth of their children and their first months of motherhood.

The idea behind “Teen Mom New Jersey” is to show teen moms from the same area and their interactions, much like the “Real Housewives” franchise. The other installments currently airing, “Teen Mom OG,” and “Teen Mom 2,” feature four to five girls located in different states. The only time the cast is typically together, is when they film their reunion special check-ups with Dr. Drew Pinsky.

“Teen Mom” originally aired in 2009 through 2012, before it was revived and rebranded in 2015 for the four original girls, hence the new “Teen Mom OG” tagline installment.

“Teen Mom 3” aired for one season in 2013, before its cancellation. Briana DeJesus, from the third installment, was added to the “Teen Mom 2” cast for the eighth season that premiered on July 17.

MTV has commercials that air during the series providing their viewers with websites to visit for more information. The websites include, and

How to become a dog person

I have always been a cat person. My parents had two cats when I was born, and then we adopted kittens when I was in elementary school. And over the years we volunteered with a rescue, fostered cats and eventually adopted more cats.

The ASPCA says that 44% of US households have a dog and 35% have cats.


I pet sat for dogs for over the past ten years, but I’ve never had a dog of my own. My dad had dogs growing up, as well as cats – but my mom only had a cat. And my poor brother is a dog lover trapped in a cat house. You can’t feasibly have a dog when you have eight cats.

When I moved to Cape May, I found myself feeling very isolated inside the house when there were no cats running underfoot. But that changed when I moved into my new place with my housemates because they have a dog. There is a difference between interacting with dogs in a public setting, versus what it’s like having one living with you 24/7.

Nabs is a border collie/lab mix, 35 pounds, and active pup. She is super friendly and almost cat-like, so I took an immediate liking to her. The last few months I have really bonded with her and have totally fallen in love.

Flash forward to this Saturday morning when my housemate Max was on a run with Nabs and she ran away. He called me, I threw on clothes and went out looking for her where he last saw her.

I drove around, calling out for her and then reconvened with Max. He called the animal shelter, non-emergency police and we posted all over Facebook. He was already late to work and had to leave, so I continued to look for her and ran back to the house to make sure she hadn’t found her way back home. I changed into leggings and sneakers and sprayed some bug spray and went back to walk the trail where she went missing.

The moment I got out of my car to search the trail, I got a phone call from a girl who said they had found our dog and they were on our front porch.


In one of my trips back and forth to the house, I had put a post-it note on the door that read: “Lost Dog Nabs, call Rachel or Max” and our phone numbers. It was quick thinking on my feet. I had read online that if you had a landline number on your dog’s ID tag, that there should be someone at the house to answer calls. Even though it was Max’s cell number, I thought the post-it would be good just in case.

I raced back home and there she was, wet and muddy and definitely scared. The moment she got into the house, she ate all her food and drank a bowl of water. She curled up with me on the couch and looked relieved that she was home from her adventure.

Everyone was so upset when she was missing, and she was gone for about three hours. Those were three very long, stressful hours. I recognize that not everyone is so lucky when their pets get lost outside, and I’m so grateful that Nabs was returned safe and sound.

She even went to Britton’s bakery to pick me up some donuts to thank me for saving her…I tried to thank Max but he said, “No, thank Nabs. Well, I did have to drive her.”


As my friend Matt said, I’ve found the middle ground of being both a cat and dog lover. Thanks to Nabs!



Millennial journalist

Recently, I’ve found that I’ve been introducing myself to people very frequently. Whether it is to friends of my housemate Max, interviewees for my newspaper job, or just general folks in Cape May.

“Hi, I’m Rachel. I work as a front desk clerk at the Victorian Motel at the end of the Washington Street Mall, across from Congress Hall. I’m also a freelance journalist and I write for the ‘Cape May Star and Wave’ and ‘Cape May Magazine.'”

I typically leave out that I’m a blogger since it isn’t a paying gig (insert frown emoji & because I’m not very consistent), but if I get further into conversation with people, it usually comes up under other topics.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer and you know, be paid for writing. Maybe some day I can write full time! Working for these local publications has allotted me that opportunity to work as a journalist while covering the town that I have spent so much time in – summers and the off season.

My beat has primarily been covering local municipal meetings. There is so much involved in the way this small town’s boroughs are run…you would have no idea unless you attended the meetings…or you know, read my articles in the newspaper!

I’ve gotten to write articles about events and hard working locals. I previewed Shabbat on the Beach, which was truly a tranquil and spiritual experience (I attended as well). And I got to write about Adelia Jonas, owner of Domino’s pizza in the Villas, which you can read on my blog here.

At work taking photos for my article.

Not every new college graduate can say that they are working in their field of study. But my freelance jobs allow me to let everyone know that my field is alive and well.

And on a side note – I did take two hospitality/tourism classes while in college. Neither of which was anything that prepared me for working in a motel.  You can do all the reading and tests that come with school, but few things prepare you for the field work than actually working in the field.

Though if I was going to recommend a great field, I would recommend my own communication degree – because you really can do anything you find along your path.