Even in a Hurricane of Frowns

In case you haven’t already heard, Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle yesterday at a very strong Category 4, and the damage up there is looking catastrophic, especially where it made landfall at the coastal town of Mexico Beach.

Some have (rightfully) expressed concern for me in the wake of Hurricane Michael, so I figured I’d write a quick post to let you all know that I’m fine. I’m lucky that we live quite far away from where the hurricane struck. Michael hit the Panhandle region (Northwest Florida), while I live in Central Florida. We weren’t spared effects from Michael’s wrath, as we did experience some squall line storms from Michael’s feeder bands, but thankfully my part of Florida was spared the worst of the storm.

The one casualty on my street related to the storm was a pine tree in a neighbors’s backyard (which was already dead) that was snapped in half by the wind. The top half of the tree landed on a neighbor’s roof, but since the branches of our pine trees are spread out wide instead of conical like a Christmas tree, the falling branches seem to have caused minimal damage to our neighbor’s roof. The bottom half is still standing, and I can see it sticking out over my other neighbor’s roof.

It is going to take a long time for our fellow Floridians in the Panhandle to clean and rebuild, but if anything we are a resilient and tenacious bunch and I send them all the good mojo (I guess you could say it’s a way of sending positive energy) I can.

As for the title? It comes from the Capital Cities song “Safe and Sound”: “You could be my luck / Even in a hurricane of frowns / I know that we’ll be safe and sound.”

Advertisements

The Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness

I’ll admit something: I love being alone, I hate being lonely.

How can two synonyms mean something so different, though?

The way I see it, solitude (the state of being alone) is a choice, while loneliness comes from mismanaged solitude.

I’m a pretty obvious introvert, have been for as long as I can remember. For me, being around people (even my own family members) for too long can leave me feeling exhausted and stressed. I need some time to myself each day to decompress from all the noise and tedium of the day. Some days caring for my mom are more stressful than others, and just ten or fifteen minutes by myself in the evening right after my dad gets up and before he gets ready to go to work are enough for me to get my brain back into a more relaxed state of mind and I can proceed with our usual nighttime routine. Days when I actually have the house to myself are rarer and rarer now, but when it does happen, I actually treasure the solitude that comes with it. When I’m alone, and the noise around me goes silent, I feel at peace. For those brief moments or days when I don’t have to answer to someone else, I feel comfortable in my own skin. When I’m out around others, that comfort goes away, and I start to feel awkward. It’s not as bad around family members, but I’ve always hated that feeling of awkwardness that seems to follow me wherever I go. So, many times when there’s an opportunity for me to spend a little time to myself, I take it. I like those mornings when all I have to do is wake up, feed the dog, put on some coffee, and then drink it while watching some morning programming and/or reading my emails or checking out the morning news online. I like those mornings when my parents decide to go for a ride around the Florida backroads in the Jeep and they let me sleep in. I like being able to experience things alone: opportunities to read while both the dog and I are sitting in the front yard, her enjoying the sun on her fur and me near some shade, preferably in a chair, reading a few pages from whatever book I’m reading; or being able to cook a dish just for myself (not as often these days, but when my parents would vacation and I’d have the house to myself, I’d get adventurous with what I’d cook and try out new recipes or indulge in things that were a little too expensive otherwise for more than one person, like some fish or a cut of steak).

Sometimes I dread the prospect of someday living alone; not so much for the fear of having to defend myself from intruders or people with bad intentions, but more because I fear that I’d be a terrible housekeeper on my own or that my habit of sometimes hoarding things would rear its ugly head. (Thankfully, I have managed to deal with some of my hoarding issues on my own and my own clutter is much smaller now than it was when I was younger.) But I also wonder if living alone would eventually turn into loneliness? Would I eventually crave to have the company of another person in my life (either a roommate or a significant other), at the cost of being able to set my own rules and routines without having to answer to anyone else? And that gives me a little bit of anxiety, too.

Solitude is something that can be managed, nurtured. Even the loneliest of hermits, I think, sometimes have to leave the hermitage and get a sniff of the outside world. Otherwise, that solitude turns into cabin fever, and not a lot of us can handle that without going crazy every once in a while. I like solitude, but I also like going to restaurants on occasion and reveling in the camaraderie with my family (because I’m usually dining out with family) over good food and a friendly atmosphere. I also like to visit my brother and sister-in-law and getting to see my niece as she’s grown from a newborn baby to a very active toddler, and I look forward to seeing her grow even more. I like going on walks with my dog and seeing the trees that fill the area in all their greenery, or even just joining her on the front lawn and reading a good book in the sun.

Loneliness is one of the darkest emotions a human being can feel. We are by nature very social creatures (even if introverts and extroverts choose to socialize in different ways). There was a period of time, about five years ago, where I had cut myself off from the outside world for the most part, where I didn’t use the Internet for about three years or so, beginning in the middle of 2012 (which had been precipitated by some virus hitting our home computer, and it left me very stressed out and anxious, like it was my fault). During that time, which was basically a sabbatical, I missed out on my best friend finding the love of her life, their wedding, and the birth of their son. I missed out on finding out how many of my old friends were doing. I missed out on the Yarn Harlot and her adventures. I missed out on a few Eurovisions, too. During that period where I was cut off, I remember feeling incredibly lonely and sad. I was content to stay away from technology during that time, and it felt nice not being addicted to a screen the whole time. But it also left me feeling incredibly, utterly alone and not in a good way. I felt like I was out of the loop and disconnected from the world and the people in it. And that feeling of disconnection was what was getting to me.

I slowly started coming out of it, when my dad got his laptop and decided to give me his tablet in 2015 (which was an Android that originally belonged to my brother…long story; and yes, that was the tablet that crapped out on me and forced me into a temporary hiatus last year, and oh boy did that feeling of disconnect come back, and quickly). I was very wary about where I went online and was content just lurking and finding out what was going on. I didn’t get my own email address again until January 2017 (many months after talking to my best friend for the first time in about five years), and not long after that was when I joined Ravelry. It took a few days before I made my first posts there, but there I found a community of crafters like me and I started opening up again. Two months later came this blog, which has come to serve as much of a platform for self-expression just as much as it has for tracking my knitting projects. My Tumblr came about in June that year as a way to keep more in touch with my best friend, who is very active on there, and has also become a platform for self-expression. Last October I took a dive into Facebook, although I have opted to keep that particular part of my social media very private and just for people I’ve known personally throughout the years, people who I’ve been longing to reconnect with. And then Instagram the following month, where we chronicle our lives and interests through our camera lenses. It has been a great way to connect with other knitters and crocheters outside of Ravelry, and when I see a project I like, it’s a great way to offer instant feedback to those who create. Or when I see a book pictured that I’ve read or am reading, I can give my input on that particular book. I don’t get many opportunities to go out into the world in person, but technology has allowed the world to come to me. Blogging has introduced me to a very interesting array of people who all share a common passion of letting others into their own little corners of the planet, talking about life or the things they love. For me, knowing that people are genuinely interested in what I have to say makes me feel a little less lonely. So, while I physically spend a lot of my time alone, these days I’m not feeling particularly lonely, whether it’s commenting on a fellow crafter’s handiwork or a fellow blogger’s latest post, or having a dialogue of political discourse or venting with a friend over messenger, or allowing my silly, nerdy side to come out over Tumblr. (In case you are wondering, I am not active on Twitter, for a myriad of reasons that I’ll keep private, but I do lurk on there, reading friends’ Tweets on occasion.) Especially in my last post here, which was admittedly quite a bit of doom and gloom (but doom and gloom that needed release), it felt nice knowing that you all cared about what I was feeling and willing to offer your own thoughts and advice on caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s, and that I truly wasn’t alone in my experience. Technology used in the wrong ways can dumb us down and rob us of our humanity like in Fahrenheit 451, but used wisely, it can connect us in amazing ways that wouldn’t have been possible even thirty, much less a hundred, years ago…and that makes the world a little less lonely.

So, yeah: I love being alone, but I hate being lonely. It takes a lot of work to balance the two, but I feel like I’ve managed to manage my desire for solitude to the point where I am content that it won’t turn into loneliness. Not as long as I find ways to make connections and maintain them.

On Sacrifice

I don’t know if this is the best place for me to write, emotionally, right now, but it is the most honest. I’m writing from a place of self-doubt, negativity, and lot of questioning when it comes to my own self worth (not what I’m worth to others, just myself). This pops up from time to time, and up until now I’ve never really written about it. Most of the time I keep it buried within my subconscious because I feel like I have to be the strong one in a bad or upsetting situation. But there are times when something just triggers me and I end up becoming passive-aggressive. I had one of these moments this morning, and I stupidly tried to take it out on my dad, which I should’ve known is a bad idea because he’s the kind of guy with whom I’ve learned I have to pick my battles wisely. He didn’t yell at me, but talked to me in such a stern way that I knew was a gut punch and a reality check. And he was right. But at times I am stubborn as f🤬k and I wanted nothing to do with him or say with him and I just wanted to feel like I was worth something to myself, because at this point I feel like I lack that.

So, what does this have to do with sacrifice? Quite a bit, actually.

There’s something I’ve hinted at at times on this blog that I haven’t felt entirely comfortable talking about in such a public manner (as I do make this blog available for public viewing), and it has something to do with my mom. Before I get into the meat of what’s going on with her, I want to tell you a little bit about the mom I grew up with. My mom was a kind, gentle soul who I could come to for so many of life’s problems. She was also strict and a bit overprotective (especially since I was her oldest child), which I think she inherited from her father, who was a captain in the United States Coast Guard and a strict disciplinarian (although my mother was a little bit looser in her strictness compared to her father). She was vibrant and had a personality that made her seem a lot younger than she actually was. She was very close with her mother (who died of cancer in 2004) and that closeness made its way to her and I as I was growing up. She was my world, and still is.

What I’m about to reveal, only family, close friends, and some Ravelers have known. Two years ago, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was about 64 when she was diagnosed and is now 66. Her father (my grandfather) and her aunt (his sister) both died of the same disease in their 80s. In fact, my grandfather passed away four years ago this month at the age of 85. She’s in the middle stages of the disease at the moment: she can talk, but has trouble formulating complete thoughts; she can still walk and can still feed herself, but is getting more and more dependent on us to help with things like bathing and making sure she gets to the toilet when she needs to use it. My dad and I are her primary caregivers, and we’ve done it so far without need for outside assistance (although she does see her doctor twice a year, and he’s been her doctor for many years). We kind of “tag team” when it comes to her care.

I’ve ended up having to sacrifice a lot in my life as a caregiver, from the physical to the way I live my life.

These last couple of years especially have been tough on me. I can’t remember the last time I got a full night’s sleep without having to worry about her, checking on her, or having to go to the bathroom. Even when I get an aggregate eight hours or more of sleep, I often still feel tired and incredibly exhausted. There are times when I feel completely alert in an afternoon and then I end up falling asleep while sitting in a chair. There are times when I feel like just lying down in my bed and passing out into sleep. Coffee doesn’t do much to ease it; washing dishes or doing laundry keeps it at bay for a while, but I typically don’t get my energy back until 6:00 pm at the earliest.

I spend almost every waking hour with my family; the one break I get from being around my parents so constantly are the two hours I spend at the grocery store every couple of weeks. It never seems like enough. I’m always glad to see them again when I’m done, but sometimes I wish I could just get away from my family, even if it’s just a night out with a few friends. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen anyone not related to me when my family wasn’t present.

I’m not gainfully employed because I spend almost all my time taking care of my mother, to the point where it really isn’t feasible for me to look for work right now. Because I can’t work, even part time at this point, I’m not able to drive (and I would have to get a steady job in order to pay for auto insurance). I don’t drive, so I’m not able to socialize, and I end up at home all the time, with not much more than mom, dad, dog, and my iPad for company.

At times, I feel so jealous of my brother: he’s gotten to live the life he wants, on his own terms. He was able to find steady work and drive a car, he has his own house and a wife he loves deeply and a daughter who is the apple of his eye. He’s gotten to do everything he wants to do in life, and I feel like I’m watching from the sidelines.

I feel like every dream I’ve ever had in my life has been ruined, either by my own hand (quitting band just a couple of weeks into my sixth grade year for seemingly no reason at all or giving up on going to my dream college because my parents wanted me closer to home or dropping out of the community college to ease the financial burden on my parents when their longtime employer laid them off because changing technology was making their jobs obsolete) or because of my mom’s illness. My dream of possibly becoming a mother has likely been ruined because if my hunch of my mom’s illness being genetic is correct, I realistically only have about three or four more years to have a child and see it grow to adulthood before I possibly begin to lose my own cognitive faculties. My chances of finding lasting love are practically nonexistent; lookswise, I know I’m plain and plain usually means ignored and under appreciated and socially my prospects look awful. My dreams of having a decent career seem dashed because I’m getting too old. I don’t want to be just another housewife like my grandmothers were, and I don’t want to shuffle from job to job like my mom did. I want to be able to say I got my degree, but sometimes I feel like there are so many roadblocks in my way that I keep wondering if I have to change routes to find my own path in life. I’m 31, I should be living my life right now, but instead I feel like I’ve lost myself in the needs of so many others. I can’t just “get away from it”, so many bricks would fall out of the wall without me in it.

Most people my age are expected to at least be independent, employed, and able to support themselves. My dad claims that my being unemployed doesn’t change my worth to my family, but the thing is, it hangs like a dark cloud over me and I feel like I could do so much better.

And what if I have the same gene that is causing my mother’s brain to slowly kill her? What if the prospects for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients haven’t changed 20 years from now, and I end up having my own brain start to slowly kill me? What if it happens even earlier than that? Was all this truly worth it, or will I be forgotten by almost everybody but the ones who cared for me the most? Sometimes I feel like I’m losing myself in all of this.

I apologize for all this personal melodrama, but I was feeling feelings this morning that couldn’t really be spoken to my father. I had to find a way to let them out. I don’t know how many will actually care about my corner of the planet, but I don’t really care so much about the response I get from this. All that matters is that I let those feelings go and try to figure out my next steps.

After I post this, I’m gonna try and get back to doing my daily work of trying to get the kitchen straightened out and washing those dishes that I can’t stand. I have to try and get back to some sort of normal, whatever that is.

Hotter Than Satan’s Jock Strap

You may remember from my post “Florida is a Cruel Mistress” that our air conditioner broke down in June. Well, guess what?

It broke again!!!1!!1! 😖

This time, the problem is a blown fan motor on the outdoor unit. But, I do have some good news and some bad news. The good news? My dad should be able to fix it himself. The bad news? After three different tries, he was finally able to order a replacement part…and it won’t be here until tomorrow morning. The first vendor he tried didn’t have it, the second vendor he tried had it and he ordered it a couple of days ago and then got an email saying they were out of stock. He didn’t want to wait until the part was back in stock, so he ended up checking with a third vendor to see if the part was in stock before ordering it online. Once he got that vendor to confirm it was in stock, he ordered it and told them to overnight it so that it should be here by tomorrow morning.

It seems like it’s a proven law of the Universe that air conditioners will always break down or go on the fritz when you need them the most. This is no different. You may have heard about Hurricane Florence striking the Carolinas (North and South) over the weekend. This storm has dumped tons of rain on the Carolinas…but has gone nowhere near Florida. In fact, it is responsible for the dry air that is being pumped into our state right now. And that dry air, being heated by our late summer sun…is hot. And our house has insulation, so the room temperature inside has been hitting 90 on a regular basis for the last few days. Now, I don’t believe in gods or afterlives or underworlds or anything like that…but I think the phrase, “It is hotter than Satan’s jock strap!”, would be appropriate for our situation, eh? Hot, sweaty, and gross.

Luckily, we have the window unit running in the master bedroom and we can go in and cool off at any time, although right now my dad is sleeping in there so he’ll be ready for work tonight. We’re also staying hydrated with ice water, fruit punch (really just flavored water so my mom will drink it. I have the ice water in a Yeti-style metal tumbler (it’s my dad’s, but he lets us use it) that can keep ice cold and solid for up to 24 hours and without a drop of condensation on the outside. It is awesome. And it does keep my ice water ice cold.

What else? I’m three chapters into Lord of the Flies, and on Series 1, episode 52 of my Great Tribe Re-Watch.

I’ve also put Rock Me on the Bias on hold for a little while until I can get some more yarn to finish it. In the meantime, I’m undertaking an effort to learn two-color brioche knitting: flat for now, but I’d like to learn how to knit it in the round eventually. It took me a YouTube tutorial to learn how to knit it properly (apparently my yarn overs on the “burp”/brioche purl rows were being wrapped incorrectly). If all works out, I may work it into a “Foldini” bag (a big rectangle folded and sewn into a bag shape).

I found some green and beige yarn from the since-abandoned “Forestry” and have been working with that. I posted these on Instagram, but here’s what the two sides look like.

The top one is the green bark side (where the brioche knit/”bark” stitches are done in the green yarn), and the bottom one is the beige bark side (where the brioche knit stitches are done in the beige yarn).

Here’s to hoping that we get our air conditioning back sooner rather than later!

And in case you’re wondering, here’s the video I used to help myself learn the two color brioche, from The Nervous Knitter.

Ernest Hemingway: America’s Answer to Marmite.

It took me about four months and many fits and starts, but I finally finished reading A Farewell to Arms! I’ll admit that part of the reason why it took so long for me to read it was because my nighttime routine of waking up several times a night to check on or help out my mom during my dad’s work nights messed up my sleeping patterns enough that I was often feeling incredibly tired and would end up falling asleep during the day, which would take time out of my reading. And some of it did have to do with Mr. Hemingway’s writing style as well.

What follows is my own account of my experience of reading this novel. It is not a straight-up review, as reviews tend to nitpick the text itself more or less, while I like to include my own personal insight on the overall reading experience. This is not intended to be an academic analysis, so I may change subjects without much notice.

A Farewell to Arms is only the second Ernest Hemingway novel I have ever read, and the first I have read of my own volition. I have mentioned previously that when I was a freshman in high school, my English class studied The Old Man and the Sea, which I have also said is usually a typical teenager’s first exposure to the work of Mr. Hemingway. I believe my dad has said he also remembers reading it in school as well. My experience of reading The Old Man and the Sea took place so long ago that I barely remember any of it! Thus, I consider A Farewell to Arms to be my first real exposure to Mr. Hemingway’s work. I bought it on a whim at my local bookstore, as when I went into the shop that day, I had no list of any particular books in mind and just decided to go with my gut. (My local bookstore has a pretty extensive classics section and seems to have just about every notable novel you could think of! The ones I bought back in March barely scratch the surface of what was there, and I’d love to go back and add to my collection whenever I have a significant sum of money again.)

Ernest Hemingway may very well be one of the most polarizing authors in the entire American literary pantheon. This post is subtitled “America’s Answer to Marmite” for a reason: that is because just like the British delicacy Marmite (and its Australian cousin Vegemite), unless you’ve had a longtime exposure to him, you’re either going to like Ernest Hemingway and his writing style or you’re going to detest him. There is no middle ground when it comes to Hemingway (or Marmite).

Hemingway has a reputation of being the epitome of the American vision of manliness and machismo, and his writing style, as such, is not incredibly nuanced. His reputation, as such, could make him the literary equivalent of men like Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Teddy Roosevelt, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne. Any twists and turns that I came across while reading A Farewell to Arms came at me in a very straightforward manner. Hemingway has no time to paint the scene for you with his words: he tells you exactly what is going on as it’s going on and puts you right there with Frederic Henry as he experiences meeting and falling in love with the beautiful English nurse, Catherine Barkley. You are there with Frederic Henry as his knee is severely wounded while eating cheese in a trench with his fellow Army medics during a battle in World War I-era Italy (“I was blown up while we were eating cheese.”). You are there as he recovers in an Italian hospital and his relationship with Catherine becomes serious, and she eventually becomes pregnant with his child. You can see a pattern here. I won’t spoil the later parts of the novel for you.

In some ways, Ernest Hemingway’s writing style reminds me a lot of my own father, who I would consider to be very much of the same mold of personality of men like Hemingway and Chuck Norris and Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. (Any Hemingway readers may have just noticed I used a Hemingway trademark literary device in that last sentence, the polysyndeton: the deliberate insertion of conjunctions to break up the rhythm of a section of prose in order to make a point.) My father is also the kind of man who doesn’t like one to spin a yarn while telling a story (as I am one to normally do), he’s very much a “get to the point already!” kind of guy. Hemingway, I found, employs that same kind of attitude to his storytelling. His tone can be very blunt and succinct at times, but he also loves to insert as much detail into certain passages to try and set up the scene for you. He’s not really one for symbolism and the bigger picture because his style is so blunt. His descriptions of things are blunt. His recounting of events is blunt. His cynicism is blunt. It can come across as cavemanesque at times, but he was a minimalist by nature, from his time as a journalist into his career in writing fiction. His practice of “iceberg theory” (or theory of omission) is very much present in A Farewell to Arms, where he doesn’t tend to ponder very long about the meanings of things that have happened to Frederic Henry over the course of the novel. At times he leaves it up to the reader to fill in the blanks, and reading up on Mr. Hemingway’s life and writing style, these are techniques he would employ throughout his writing career (A Farewell to Arms was only his second novel, after The Sun Also Rises, which is Hemingway’s entry on the list of 100 novels being considered for the PBS series The Great American Read. It begins airing next Tuesday in the United States).

I can understand why a lot of female readers find him off-putting and consider him a misogynist. In A Farewell to Arms, Catherine is not really portrayed much as an independent-thinking or acting character outside of her relationship and interactions with Frederic, and he tends to treat her like a delicate object meant for adoration rather than an equal partner in the relationship, even before she becomes pregnant. A couple of teenage (?) girls that his company comes upon while his unit moves through the Italian countryside after he is kicked out of the hospital are seen as sex objects by some of Frederic’s men. This, combined with his no-frills, straight-to-the-point writing style tends not to appeal to the average female reader. The average female reader tends to rely a lot upon emotional reactivity during the reading process and also relies a lot on empathy, putting herself in a character’s shoes and trying to experience the character’s experience. Hemingway’s storytelling, by practice, tends to be the very opposite of that, which can make it difficult for the average female reader to put herself in his characters’ shoes. Thus, a female reader attempting to really read Hemingway for the first time is definitely taking on a challenge when she dives into one of his works. The most emotional part of the entire novel actually comes at the very end (again, I will not spoil it for you), and even then Frederic chooses to remain emotionally distant from what has just happened to him and resigns himself to walking back to his hotel in the rain, leaving it up to the reader to wonder what will happen to Frederic in the aftermath of what he’s just gone through.

So, did I end up liking Hemingway or disliking him? I ended up giving the book itself three stars on Goodreads (out of five), mostly because the readability of it did not flow as nicely as I would have liked and I didn’t find myself emotionally engaging with the novel…but that doesn’t mean it was terrible! For me, readability plays into emotional engagement and it left my own personal experience with it a bit lacking, but once I considered Hemingway’s writing style and put it into context with his life and his personality, I feel like I understand him a little better. Perhaps a different adventure would connect with me a little better than the foreign-to-me concepts of love and war did. I haven’t moved out of the gray area just yet, but I honestly would take the risk and read another one of his novels. Perhaps I should’ve started with The Sun Also Rises! But A Farewell to Arms wasn’t too bad for my first voluntary foray into an author as polarizing as Ernest Hemingway.

So, for those of you who’ve read Hemingway, did you feel the same way I did or did you get something completely different out of it? Have you ever come across any authors that challenged you and your reading preferences like Hemingway did for me? Have you ever gone out of the box when it comes to reading choices just out of pure curiosity? Share your experiences in the comments! I look forward to hearing your insight on Mr. Hemingway or any other author you feel like discussing!

Girls Who Read

So, last weekend I decided to begin the long process of rewatching a show I had first discovered at the age of 14 that aired on a premium cable channel while I was attending summer school before my freshman year of high school (not because I was failing any classes, actually, but so I could get a half-credit out of the way from my phys ed requirement before starting high school; I ended up taking the health/sex ed class, BTW). I almost immediately fell in love with this series, called The Tribe, as soon as I started watching it. Now, you know I am not much into science fiction, not on TV, film, or in writing…it was just something I could never really get into. This was different, though. It revolved around the lives of teenagers who had been left to fend for themselves after a mysterious virus killed every single person over the age of 18. In the unnamed city where the show is set (in actuality, it was filmed in and around Wellington, New Zealand 🇳🇿), several gangs or “Tribes” had taken over most of the city and had turned it into their own personal evil playground in the name of “Power and Chaos” (the primary villainous tribe in the first series were the Locos, founded by a disillusioned teen named Martin who renamed himself Zoot after the Virus, and “Power and Chaos” was his mantra that he used to unite his followers). Think of this as sort of “Mad Max” meets “Gangs of New York”. Several teens trying to escape the violence and destruction being caused by the Locos and their allies the Demon Dogs (mentioned but not really seen) find refuge in an abandoned shopping mall and eventually form a Tribe of their own, becoming the “Tribe” referenced in the show’s title. This show ran for five seasons and well over 200 half-hour episodes, with at least a couple dozen cast members finding their way in and out of the show’s main tribe, the Mall Rats (named in honor of the shopping mall they called home); the Locos would fall out of power, but other villainous tribes would fill the void over the show’s history.

I am only about 15 episodes into series 1 right now (each series consists of around 52 half-hour episodes, and is structured more like a soap opera than a traditional sci-fi series, with supercouples and minor subplots in addition to each series’ overall storyline arc). So, what does all this have to do with the title of this post, “Girls Who Read”? Well, one of my favorite characters then (and now) was a girl called Amber (who is played by a very talented New Zealand actress named Beth Allen, who would also later appear in a Power Rangers series called Operation Overdrive, and is still active in acting in both television and theater). Amber was a girl who had a natural ability to lead and also mediate in times of conflict and comfort in times of trouble, although she came into the leadership role reluctantly. She was a compassionate leader and quite intelligent for her young age (Ms. Allen was about 15 when the show premiered, so her character’s estimated age was around 14-15 in the show’s first series). She would become an integral part of the show’s overall storyline in four of its five series. For reference, this is what she looked like in series 1:

Given the circumstances, there aren’t a lot of things these kids could do to pass the time during the long days learning to survive after the Virus. And I should mention that the Locos practiced book burning during their rule over The City. Which means this one little shot I saw when watching an episode recently was pleasantly surprising.

(Yes, I screencapped it from YouTube.) One scene opened up with a shot of Amber sitting on her bed reading, of all things, a copy of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. I had never noticed this before! And while the world after the Virus meant no more television, radio, or internet for entertainment (because, you know, electricity), it didn’t destroy the books. Sure, the Locos got to some of them, but not all of them. To see a woman reading something like The Prince was both novel (you wouldn’t expect to see a 14-year-old girl reading Renaissance Italian political discourse) and refreshing (because of the standards that girls tend to be held to that oftentimes preclude indulging in their intellectual curiosities).

In the past, I’ve talked a bit about my experience being a girl who likes to read. I think girls tend to be held to impossibly high standards when it comes to attracting potential partners: look pretty, doll yourself up, keep sweet, don’t show any sort of a personality, don’t let on that you’re smarter than he is, nod your head in agreement with whatever he says…basically, we’re expected to dumb ourselves down to appeal to men. I think any guy that a girl has to dumb herself down for in order to get him to notice her is not a guy worth falling for. We women are better than that. A man of quality would never want a girl to do that. He’d appreciate her for what she’s packing in her brain.

Girls who read exist. We read all sorts of books, too! We aren’t the stereotypes of lovesick women reading Jane Austen and the works of the Brontë sisters. I mean, there are women who enjoy reading those kind of books, but that’s not all we read. We don’t all spend our days reading Harlequin Romance novels or Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel or Debbie Macomber (although there are those who do and enjoy them very much). There are those who enjoy Orwell and Huxley, Lovecraft and King, Asimov and Clarke. We read Bradbury and Vonnegut, Atwood and Collins, Herodotus and Homer! We read Dante and Machiavelli, Miller and Stein, Thompson and Kerouac! We grew up on Ann M. Martin and Beverly Cleary and find ourselves graduating to Ann Rice and Toni Morrison. We get the urge to read Hurston and Wright and Salinger and Marquez and Achebe. We challenge ourselves to read Joyce and Melville and Tolstoy. And yes, some of us even try to read books by the most macho of macho men, Ernest Hemingway. Yes, women read Hemingway. 😁

If you’re a girl who reads, I just wanted to say that you are awesome. You are awesome and brave and adventurous, and don’t let your gender define what you read. And that goes to male-bodied readers, too. If you identify as male and you enjoy reading romance novels and gothic novels and the likes of Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts, you are awesome, too.

Be like Amber, read bravely. Read where your heart takes you.

Blogger’s Block Episode III: A Whole Lot of Nothing

Oh my, it’s been almost a month since my last post! I’m so sorry about that! I promise you all, I haven’t been on any sort of hiatus like the one I had to take last year; my iPad is doing just fine.

Honestly, I just haven’t had much going on to blog about. Well, that I can blog about at this time. I have some information that I’m sitting on right now, but I cannot reveal it at this time until I’m certain that it’s okay to do so. But that is for a future post. And that is all I’m gonna say about that.

So, what has been going on for me this month? To be honest, a whole lot of nothing. August 2018, personally, has been a very uneventful month. Here’s what I’ve been doing so far this month:

  • I am still reading A Farewell to Arms and I am making significant progress on it. I am about 3/4 of the way through (I’m on Chapter 30 of about 40 chapters total). I had initially set a goal of finishing it by September 1st, but it looks like I may miss that deadline by a few days. I do plan on writing a post about my experience of reading this book once I do finish it. I have a title in mind for the post, and for those of you readers who live in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand, it has a little something to do with Marmite and its Australian cousin, Vegemite. Stew on that for a while.
  • Rock Me on the Bias is going nicely. I am in the decreasing stages of the blanket, have used up just about all the Tourmaline, and I have almost completely used up the Flamenco Stripe…and I will still have quite a bit of work left to do on it. This will likely require at least one more skein of yarn to complete, but I have no yarn shopping trips planned any time soon. I have come to the conclusion, though, that I wouldn’t mind doing another one of these corner-to-corner throws with just the Flamenco Stripe and the Soft White, or another one of the Red Heart Super Saver Stripes.

Sometimes we just come upon those times where we experience a whole lot of nothing. It seems like this month is one of those times.

Before I go, I’d like to leave you with a song that’s been in my head for a couple of days, just because. It’s a song from the late ’70s (actually, it was the very last #1 song of the 1970s and was #1 in the early weeks of 1980) called “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes. It reminds me of Shrek and the scene where Lord Farquad is trying to find a princess, and when the Mirror shows him Princess Fiona, he lists Fiona’s likes as “Piña coladas and getting caught in the rain”. It makes me giggle.