How is it June Already?!?!?!

Self-explanatory, really: how is it June already?!?!?!

Well, the most notable thing going on around here recently is that we’ve been replacing and installing appliances left and right.

First off, the refrigerator. It turns out what was causing our fridge problem was a clogged vent. But…we didn’t realize this until after we had ordered a new refrigerator. We first offered the old fridge to my brother to use as a garage fridge, but he turned it down saying that he already had one and didn’t want to upset A., which is understandable. We actually still have the old fridge in our kitchen, waiting to be moved out. We’ve been waiting for my brother to come over and help move it out, but he hasn’t had the time yet. This is why our new microwave hasn’t been installed yet, either. It’s an over-the-range model from Samsung that will certainly require an extra set of hands to install. But for now, we have the old fridge standing in the middle of our kitchen, looking like those giant Monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The old fridge, which will require a lot of cleaning inside, will be taken down to the curb, and what will likely happen is that a junker or scrapper will collect it (they love to snap things like these up and usually will before any garbage collector can) and will see if they can fix it up to sell later, which is fine by us.

My dad also bought two ceiling fans for the kitchen and dining areas (although both areas are still quite cluttered…I want to try and get both areas as well as the spare room cleared out, although I’m not throwing out my book collection; I want to put those in the spare room for now until I can eventually get myself a bookcase). We were able to get both fans installed without much issue. My dad did have to figure out some of the wiring issues, though, as switches to both fans were being overloaded. Luckily, as a technician by trade, he has some experience working with electrical stuff (his jobs have basically been mechanic, electrician, and technical skills all rolled into one), and was able to rewire one set of switches so that the less loaded one operates the dining room fan, and as for the kitchen fan, that one has some quirky wiring and switch work to begin with, so one of two switches can operate it. We just switched switches to operate that one. The fans, combined with the new roof, have done wonders on taking a load off of the air conditioner, which can get a lot of use during the summer and drive up energy costs. So far (and we’re in the early part of the hot season), we’ve managed to keep the house at a steady, comfortable temperature without having to fiddle with the air conditioner too much. We’ll see if this holds up for the rest of the summer.

I guess finally I should update you on how my reading is going so far this year.

Currently Reading — I started Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier about a couple of months ago but for some reason I haven’t gotten very far into it. It’s not a “not liking the book” issue, it’s more of a “distracted when I have energy and just tired when I don’t” issue. I also decided to try starting the Short Novels of John Steinbeck a little early, but I’m only a few chapters into the first novel, Tortilla Flat. What little I have read, though, has been all right.

Recently Read — The most recent full books I finished reading were Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (the final part of the Hunger Games trilogy) and Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. It took me a while to finish Mockingjay but ended up finishing it on the same day my dad and I watched the entire film series of The Hunger Games, and I think I finished Mockingjay during the Catching Fire film. Norwegian Wood took me just 11 days to finish and was a well-written (as well as well-translated, since I was reading the English translation of this Japanese novel), immersive novel that had stretches of where I just didn’t want to put my iPad down (I was reading the ebook). I have another Murakami in my ebook collection, Kafka on the Shore, that I’m saving for another time.

Recently Acquired — Physically, I’ve acquired four books this year so far:

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I also got a gift card for my birthday and I was able to get the following ebooks:

  • The African Trilogy by Chinua Achebe. It consists of Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, and No Longer at Ease, all set in what is now Nigeria, where Achebe was from, and are novels centering around people from the Igbo ethnic group before and during European colonization. I first heard of Things Fall Apart in an episode of Crash Course Literature, and I’ve been wanting to read it ever since.
  • Big Trouble by Dave Barry. He’s been a favorite author of mine since I was a teenager, and while most of his books are narrative humor nonfiction, this one is one of his first novels. It’s set in our home state, Florida (Barry spent many years writing a humor column for The Miami Herald and is still writing into his seventies) and has an alligator’s open jaws on the cover.
  • Fatal Purity by Ruth Scurr, a biography about the notorious French Revolution politician-turned-tyrant, Maximilien Robespierre.
  • The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, about the first full month of World War I. This book won Tuchman her first of two Pulitzer Prizes, and she was the first woman to win a Pulitzer for nonfiction.
  • Precolonial Black Africa by Cheikh Anta Diop. I saw this on a list of best history books, and by chance I happened to see the ebook on sale at a discount a few minutes later. I have developed an interest in learning about African history in recent years, and unlike most African history books, which are often written by non-Africans and take a Eurocentric perspective, this one was written by a historian from what is now Senegal, and he writes about the history of Western Africa before the Europeans began colonizing it in the late 1800s.

The first anniversary of my mom’s death is in eight days. I don’t know how I’ll handle it, to be honest. Mother’s Day a few weeks ago was a bit rough to get through, but I did manage to get through it. The one bright spot of this is that the 10th falls on a Thursday, which is my dad’s first day off from work during a typical work week for him, so he may be feeling a little too tired to notice or get emotional.

But he carries her with him every day. On my dad’s phone, his lock screen has a picture of her smiling and clad in a Dale Earnhardt Jr. jacket during one of the last vacations my parents took together before the Alzheimer’s really started taking a toll on her. I’ll probably reflect on how’s he handled this more a bit closer to the actual day.

My older niece’s birthday is in four days. She’ll be turning 5, old enough to start kindergarten this fall. I keep thinking of how quickly time has gone by since she was born. It’s crazy. I think of this quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Have I been able to look around yet? It’d be nice if I finally could.

Stay safe, my friends, and I hope you’re having a good day.

Checking In

It’s been a heck of a month. We had our roof redone, some family members caught the COVID, and now our appliances may possibly be going kaput.

So, in order to revisit this, we have to go back a few months. My dad has been wanting to have the roof redone for several years, but for various reasons wasn’t able to make that happen. Around October of last year, though, he finally decided to start the process. First, he had to have the roof appraised and then secure some funding from our home insurance so that he wouldn’t have to pay so much out-of-pocket. Then, once he had selected a roofing company and secured the funding, there had to be a permit filed with the county before they could even purchase the materials they’d need to use. This took the longest to get done. It took something like three or four months to have all the paperwork come through.

The actual work on the roof took place during the week of my birthday (around the end of March). It took about 2 days for the roofers to complete the job. The first day involved removing the old shingles and installing new plywood. The second day involved the installation of new shingles and the replacing of the fascia (among other things). There was lots of noise and it drove the dog absolutely nuts, but once they finally finished the work, we were able to take a look. My dad originally wanted a metal roof, but the roofing company he used didn’t specialize in installing metal roofs, so he opted for higher-quality architectural shingles that are more durable than standard asphalt shingles. They do cost a bit more than standard shingles, but he felt the added cost was worth it. He also ordered them in the lightest color available, which is supposed to reflect sunlight rather than absorb the heat, which should keep the house cooler from the roof on down and help reduce energy costs during the summer. We’ll see how energy efficient this ends up being.

The one unfortunate part of this is that the color of the shingles clashes with the exterior paint job (which has the house currently a beige color with brown trim). Luckily, the neighbor that we are closest to in terms of neighbor-to-neighbor relationship paints houses for a living and has offered to paint our house once he can get enough paint together. However, there may be a delay in this, because he and his girlfriend got into a motorcycle accident last week that resulted in her being hospitalized with serious injuries that required surgery. (Thankfully, she’ll be able to recover.) He suffered more minor injuries, but was still kind of banged up. This is the second motorcycle wreck they’ve gotten into within the past year. As a result, he’s decided not to get another motorcycle for the time being. And this wreck also happened a couple of months after someone wrecked his SUV in a hit and run crash while he was at a gas station. Our neighbor’s a nice guy; it just seems that he’s one of those people where he doesn’t necessarily go looking for trouble, but trouble finds him.

Now…the COVID. Thankfully, it wasn’t me and my dad who got it. It was my brother and sister-in-law. My sister-in-law believes she caught it from her grandmother, who was hospitalized but wasn’t confirmed to have COVID until 3 days later. She and my brother both ended up developing it, but somehow their daughters avoided catching it. (I later told my brother, “It’s because they’re low to the ground!”, since both are under the age of 5.) My sister-in-law, A., got moderate symptoms (fever, chills, overall body pain and fatigue), but didn’t require hospitalization. My brother got mild symptoms (fever, loss of taste and smell), but took a little while longer to clear the virus and thus be able to return to work. Sadly, my sister-in-law’s grandmother lost her fight against the virus on April 1st. She had been in the hospital at least three weeks before she passed away. Her funeral was held last week. I only remember meeting her a couple of times. I don’t have the closest relationship with my sister-in-law’s side of the family because we simply don’t meet up all that much (even before the pandemic).

My dad and I were able to avoid contracting it from them because we live on the other side of town from them, and when they did come down with the virus, it had been a couple of months since the last time we’d seen them. For once, not visiting on a regular basis was actually a good thing! 😅 Dad and I are doing good health-wise. We have not been vaccinated yet, and I don’t know if my dad wants to. Personally, I’d like to try and look for work in the next few months, and I may look into getting vaccinated then once I start the process. Thankfully, the vaccines in Florida are being offered at no cost (out-of-pocket), so money and lack of insurance wouldn’t be an issue for me.

Now, as for the more recent stuff…it seems like everything in our kitchen is going on the fritz. First, it was the lighting on just about everything, from the ceiling fans to the fluorescent light over the sink. The fans will likely need to be replaced entirely, while when it comes to the fluorescent light over the sink, only the actual “bulb”/tube/whatever needs to be replaced. Since those went out, I’ve been opening the kitchen blinds during the day and using an auto shop light at night (which uses fluorescent lights; I’ve been hanging it off of the cabinet handles, which are metal).

Then last week, I started hearing a loud hum coming from the microwave whenever I’d try to run it. Some googling and figuring out the appliance’s age (it turns out this microwave is 20 years old, manufactured in 2001) led me to deduce that the magnetron (which generates the microwaves and heat in a microwave oven) may be going out. So, as a result, we’ve stopped using the microwave, and my dad is looking for a new one. Our current one is a Whirlpool Gold over-the-range microwave (which fits in the area right over the stove and connects to the exhaust fan) and has been good to us for most of these 20 years that we’ve had it. Just given the age, and not knowing whether there are compatible replacement parts out there, we’re probably better off just replacing it.

The only real inconvenience I’ve been dealing with (in regards to the microwave) is that we recently got off the meal delivery service plan and instead I’ve been getting Lean Cuisine dinners at the grocery store…and they can’t be heated up in a regular oven. I ended up cooking the proteins we’d already had in the freezer (chicken, salmon, a ribeye that had been in there for many months, but still thawed out and cooked up perfectly) this week while my dad took the frozen dinners to work with him. (They’re not too bad, actually. Each meal is under 400 calories, and I’ve also packed low calorie snacks with them for him to nibble on through the night.) I still got some Lean Cuisine dinners at the store yesterday, but I mostly got stuff I could cook on the stove. (I can use the oven to reheat food if needed. 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes if I’m warming up room temperature food, 45 minutes to an hour if it’s straight out of the refrigerator. I just put said food in a small baking pan and cover with aluminum foil.)

Speaking of the freezer…there’s now a possibility the refrigerator could be on its way out as well. It’s a Samsung we got lightly used (with a little help from my brother, who was working at a Lowe’s at the time, which is where we got it from), and we’ve had that one maybe 10 years. Well, the fridge isn’t getting as cold as it should. And in the freezer, things keep thawing out and refreezing. The freezer unit is on the bottom on this model, so I don’t know if that’s contributing to the issues or not, but all of this is getting a bit irritating. I don’t know if it’s the near-summer heat causing it or if the fridge itself is on the way out.

Why is it that appliances like to crap out on us in groups? It’s never just one thing that needs replacing, but, like, two or three! Does Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong…will) apply here? If the world was a person, would it be laughing at us right now?

Anyway, that’s what’s been up in my corner of the planet lately. I may talk a bit about what I’m reading or knitting at some point. (I do have a project on the needles, I just can’t talk about it right now. Once I do talk about it, which will eventually happen, you’ll realize why I had to hold off on it for a while. I’ll just say it doesn’t involve me directly.) I apologize for the silence on my end; I just haven’t had the motivation to write here lately. Life’s been happening, but when it becomes the same old cycle over and over again after a while, it’s just not as interesting to write about. And really, that’s what I try to make this blog about: my life. I hope to be able to write again soon. Until next time, I wish you all good health and safety in these trying times, and much happiness.

The Parenthood Dilemma

I think I’m reaching the point in life where just about every person of childbearing age is seriously having to consider (if they haven’t already had a child) whether or not they should or want to have children. I think I’m at that point and it’s my turn to make that consideration.

I’m 34 and I’m childless. I have two nieces, but it’s obviously not the same. I’ve never had a partner of any kind and at this point in my life, the idea of romantic relationships (pandemic notwithstanding) is still very foreign territory to me. I look back on my twenties, and I realize I was probably too messed up then (dealing with the depression and the anxiety and the low self-esteem) to handle a relationship, let alone having a child, even though now I know those were probably my best years biologically to do so. My thirties so far have been filled with so many obligations to others (especially caring for my mom when she was alive) and then the pandemic putting a speed bump on much of humanity that I’ve had no real opportunity to make a life or decisions for myself. My social life is nonexistent with the exception of online interactions over social media, so I have had no opportunities to meet anyone in a romantic sense. And honestly, I’ve gotten so used to being single that I wonder if I’d function well in a romantic relationship at all.

Then I think back on my interactions with kids over the years. There are times when I feel convinced that children hate me. I remember visiting an old friend of my mother’s many years ago, and her very young grandson was there that day. He couldn’t have been any more than three at the time, and I was maybe 12 or 13. I was tasked with keeping an eye on him while the adults were talking and hanging out, and the kid wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. He kept running from me, even though I was just trying to keep him calm. By the end of it all, I was starting to feel like he had driven me insane.

And then I think of when my neighbor tasked me with watching his ten-year-old daughter one summer while he was at work…that girl absolutely drove me crazy. For one thing, we had completely polar opposite personalities: she was a major extrovert while I am a major introvert; she was always full of energy, and while I’m already quite a low energy person, on top of this my mom was in the early stages of her illness at the time. This girl would be rambunctious and run me ragged with her games and constant talking, and just for funsies she’d sometimes go into dramatic hysterics (like locking herself in a bathroom and refusing to come out or pretending she had been possessed by a “spirit”) just to get a rise out of me, which would stress me out to the point of me being in tears. There were times afterwards where I’d actively question myself on whether my inability to have kids in my charge get along with me meant I was gonna make a terrible mother.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my niblings to the moon and back and I will always be there for them if they need me, but more often than not, children and I don’t necessarily mesh. I don’t get the same reaction from seeing babies that most women seem to do (go into absolute cute mode and baby talk). My mom got that reaction all the time when she’d see a baby. I feel upset inside when I overhear a small child comment on the size of my rear end in a grocery store (which has happened to me). I’m so used to being alone that the prospect of having a partner, let alone a child, scares me.

Sometimes I question if I even have that so-called “maternal instinct”. I’ve been called highly sensitive and can be a bit of an empath, but caring for my mother (which in many ways was like taking care of a child) came with its own set of challenges. I sometimes found it hard to show compassion and patience with her, when my mind was feeling tired and exhausted. Could I possibly handle two decades of that with a child? Am I gonna be one of those parents who doesn’t have enough mindfulness to make sure their child doesn’t fall into a dangerous situation and I end up harming them, or worse? Would I end up as strict as my parents were with me and have my child sometimes resent me for over sheltering them?

(Side note: my parents had a rule that I couldn’t date until I was 16, and even though there were a couple of interested boys before that age, I begrudgingly stood by it. I sometimes wonder if that was partially responsible for my romantic failings in life.)

And what if I have the same genes that caused my mother to develop Alzheimer’s? Would I want to put that burden on my own child to care for me when I’m not in a position to take care of myself? It took two of us (me and my dad) to care for her, and I wonder what would have happened if I had managed to build my own life, family, and career before the illness really took hold of her? Would my dad have still been able to care for her at home? Or would he have had to look into outside assistance? What if my piece of the puzzle that is our family had fit in a different section, one where I was making a puzzle of my own?

I’m torn about whether I think motherhood is a good choice for me. There is part of me that would love to have that experience of raising a child, knowing that I had a part in hopefully making them a loving, compassionate human being. But I think about my niblings, especially my nieces, and I know that I can make a positive impact on their lives without having to be their parent…or even a parent.

I had kind of told myself that if I didn’t have a child by age 35, that I likely would not want to have a child at all. That age is now one year away, and I don’t see my life changing significantly enough for motherhood to happen. I feel like I’m entering a period of mourning.

The risks that go with being pregnant get higher past the age of 35; the risk of chromosomal abnormalities and all the conditions that come with those occurring goes up, the risks of the pregnant person developing complications like preeclampsia goes up. Pregnancy is already a dangerous thing to go through, and not every person of childbearing age wants to put their body through that process. (I say “person” rather than “woman” because some trans men and non-binary people do choose to keep the reproductive organs they were born with in order to bear a child naturally. It’s important to include their experiences as well.) I want to know that if my time as a functioning member of society are numbered because of any potential genes for Alzheimer’s, that I want to spend that time feeling happy and content with how my life is going.

My mom was 34 when she gave birth to me, and 37 when she had my brother. She was a wonderful mother and it worked for her…but I’m now the same age that my mother was when she had me…and I don’t know if I’m meant to be a mother. It breaks my heart having to write that. I’m crying as I write that. This is a dilemma that so many people have to go through, especially as they approach middle age. Society places so much value on people who choose to become parents: most religious groups see them as more worthy of their god or gods’ love, governments usually give parents some sort of tax break, and society in general seems to appreciate people who become parents more than those who don’t.

I’m probably going to have to make some tough choices for myself over the next few years. I’m not completely ruling out the possibility of having a child in the next few years, it’s just that I’m realizing that the possibility is becoming less and less likely for me. I feel kind of sad coming to that realization. I feel like it’s another life goal that I set for myself that I know I’ll be failing at. And that’s what hurts me more than anything else. That by not necessarily wanting to have children, I feel like I’m failing myself and failing at life.

I’m feeling angry at the cards that life dealt me and knowing that the draw probably won’t get much better. I feel like I deserved better, but all the good hands have already been played and that I’m on the verge of going to the rail. (For those of you unfamiliar with poker terms, “going to the rail” means losing all your money in a poker game, being eliminated, and becoming a spectator watching from the sidelines.) I deserve to be happy, but for whatever reason it hasn’t happened. Trying to stay positive in this gets really hard sometime. I’ll be okay physically, but this is something I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

Am I a bad person for treating this realization like a mourning period? Have you ever been in this position of trying to figure out whether or not you want children? How did you end up handling it? Did you end up feeling fulfilled with your decision about having children, whether you did end up having children or not? I hope I’m not feeling alone.

Hat-A-Palooza

I have something to confess: since December, I’ve been obsessed with knitting stranded colorwork hats (otherwise known as “Fair Isle” knitting). I have affectionately branded this “Hat-A-Palooza”.

It started innocently enough: I had a significant amount of smaller balls of yarn to stash bust (from what The Lady Bryan sent to me for Christmas 2019), and it was around Christmas and I wanted to knit myself a hat with snowflakes on it. So, I took some balls of blue and white yarn and I knit myself a snowflake hat…

The Snowflake Hat

…and there was still some yarn in both colors left over. Then I got the desire to knit myself a TARDIS hat (which is supposed to evoke the TARDIS craft that The Doctor uses to time travel on Doctor Who), which I did…

…and I still felt like I needed to knit something. First I tried a brioche hat, but it became clear that two-color brioche and I haven’t quite come to an understanding yet. So decided to abandon the brioche hat, and I started on a colorwork beret. And I even figured out how to purl in Continental (where the yarn is held in the left hand) so I could make this gorgeous two-color ribbing. The hat itself wasn’t too bad once I got into the stranding on the charted section. However, when the time came to decrease for the crown, the chart got all wonky and I still can’t figure out what exactly I did wrong. But…I decided to leave the crown as-is and call the wonky colorwork in the crown a “design element”.

The Béret Généreux, stretched over a dinner plate to better show its shape.

I had these all knitted by the middle of February, but I was too lazy to weave in the ends and didn’t do so until a few days ago. So, here are my hats on my head, and I will link to the Ravelry pages of the patterns I used, all available for free.

Pattern: Snowflake Hat by Evan Plevinski / Yarn: Premier Yarns Just Yarn in Blue and White / Needles: U.S. #8 (5.0 mm) circular and DPNs

Pattern: TARDIS Beanie by Alena Ruman / Yarn: Premier Yarns Just Yarn in Blue and White, Mainstays Basic Yarn in Black /Needles: U.S. #6 (4.0 mm) circulars, 16-inch and 29-inch (for the crown decreases)

Pattern: Béret Généreux by Isabelle Allard / Yarn: Red Heart Super Saver in Baby Pink, Mainstays Basic Yarn in Black / Needles: U.S. #6 (4.0 mm) circular needles, 29-inch (and I think used 16-inch needles for the ribbing section)

In case you’re wondering, I took these pics while standing in the front doorway, all while my dog was sniffing around in the front yard!

I do have another project on the needles, but I can’t really talk about it right now. I’ll let you in on it when the time is right.

I know I haven’t posted much since the beginning of the year, but honestly not a whole lot has been happening…just life. However, my birthday is a week from tomorrow, and then my blogiversary is coming up after that…so we’ll see if anything good enough to write about happens at that point! Until next time, everybody!

How Did We Manage to Avoid All This?

So, unless you’ve been living disconnected from the world around you, you’ll have either heard of or lived through some recently freaky weather that’s been going on in the South. A polar vortex forced some cold air and the resulting jet stream much further south than usual, resulting in a lot of parts of the Southeast getting snow or ice. Texas was hit especially hard…but that’s a whole other story that I’m sure that every news outlet has covered within an inch of its life.

Much like the Mongols, though…Florida was the exception. We were barely touched by any of this ridiculously cold weather…maybe with the exception of parts of North Florida. We had some rain come through and a couple of cool blasts, but other than that…it feels like March. We’re not even at the end of February!

This is meant to be a short post, a sign of life from me. I’ve been knitting and planning and knitting some more…and I promise you that I have some finished projects to show you very soon! But anyway, I’m doing fine, my dad is doing fine, my dog is doing fine, and things have been relatively uneventful. I hope to be posting again soon. Until next time, stay warm and stay safe!

Why I Don’t Do Reading Challenges, and What I’m Reading Now

So, I’ve seen a lot of people on Instagram and Goodreads share the goals they’ve decided to set for their reading for 2021, and these usually include setting a goal for the number of books that they read in a single year. Heck, even my own Goodreads page has a place where I can set a reading goal for 2021, if I so choose.

However…just like last year, I have chosen not to set a goal for a certain number of books, and here’s why:

  • First of all, I usually tend to go for quality over quantity. I’d rather read a dozen good books over the course of a year and really take in what I’m reading than read 100 books and not remember half of what I read or get frustrated over a book that may not be as good as what I hoped for.
  • I’m kind of a slow-paced reader to begin with. Most novels I read for enjoyment take at least a month for me to finish, usually because of the curveballs that life likes to throw at me, and also my energy levels just vary from day to day. This was true when I was caring for my mom, and it’s true now. I enjoy reading very much, but to take the time to sit down and dedicate my mental and physical energy to immersing myself into a book does take a lot. If I really get into a book, then I can finish a book in a matter of days, but it takes a lot of motivation and really investing myself in a book for me to do that. My brain just needs more time to really process what I’m reading. But…when I do come across a novel that I just can’t put down…then I’d say that’s a pretty good novel! I felt it when I was reading Looking for Alaska and The Testaments, both of them very good novels. I’m kind of feeling this with my current read, too, which I’ll talk about shortly.

That doesn’t mean I’m not setting goals for myself, though! I do have some ideas in mind for what I’d like to accomplish this year, they’re just not quantitative (they don’t have a number attached to them). Here are some of the things I’d like to accomplish in my reading at some point this year:

  • I’d like to do a “Summer of Steinbeck” at some point. I have a copy of The Grapes of Wrath from high school that I have attempted to read no less than three different times…and have never finished it. It is the bane of my backlist. The fact that I have never finished it is a source of great annoyance to me. I want to fix that. I may even bump newer physical books back in my reading list (which I usually read in the order I bought them) in order to assure that I read it. I also have a collection of his shorter novels in my e-reader, and I may read at least one (or perhaps all six of them) before taking on Grapes in order for me to really get in the mindset for John Steinbeck’s work.
  • After I complete Dune (which I am currently reading, and I’m about two-thirds of the way through it), I’d like to read at least one science fiction novel. The front runner here is Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Luckily, one of my friends took advantage of some of his recent stimulus money and bought himself the first four books in the Foundation series…so there could be a potential buddy read there. (Basically, a buddy read is like an informal version of a book club; you and at least one other person decide to read the same book at the same time and then you talk about the book. I’ve been in a couple of these buddy reads and that’s how I’ve met some of the Bookstagrammers that I follow. In today’s world of social media and direct messaging and the wonders of technology, this is easier than ever, can be done by either a group DM or a video chat, and you often end up sharing your thoughts on a book with people all over the world.)
  • I also would like to read some more nonfiction this year, too. I have a few books in my e-reader that would work for this; I could return to The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (which I decided to take a hiatus from, but I didn’t designate it a DNF — Did Not Finish — as I intend to eventually return to it). I have another Wolfe book, The Right Stuff, but I’m thinking of saving that one for July…you know, the anniversary month of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and thus “Space Reads Month”. I also have a book about the history of the Congo region (more specifically the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and a book about the French Revolution…so I have options. I’m also considering buying former President Barack Obama’s most recent memoir, A Promised Land, the next time I go to the store. (I know some people will dislike that choice because they might not agree with his politics, but I think everyone can agree that he is a very intelligent and classy man and I’m genuinely interested in reading what he has to say. Anyone who’s seen my Twitter feed knows where I stand on most issues, so it’s not really much of a secret; I just have made a conscious decision to keep my politics separate from this blog.)
  • I also want to read more “classics” this year. I have a bunch on my e-reader and quite a few in my physical collection that I would love to get to. One of the newer books in my physical collection, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, is often considered a classic.

So…what am I reading right now?

At the moment I am reading Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is my first time reading any of her novels, although fellow Bookstagrammers have told me they quite liked her previous bestseller, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This book is about a (fictional) groupie-turned-singer, the titular Daisy Jones, and her relationship with one of the biggest (fictional) bands of the 1970s, The Six. Since most of the novel is set in the 1970s, it’s categorized as historical fiction. I’m only about 100 pages into it (and I took a break from reading it last night), but so far I’m enjoying the narrative device (it’s written as sort of a transcript for something like either a long-form Rolling Stone interview, an episode of Behind the Music, or like a feature-length music documentary — that last one being a favorite film genre of mine) as well as the characters.

Some fellow readers who had read the book recommended that I put on some ‘70s rock music while reading this book, and to be honest…it really helped to set the atmosphere for reading this one! Fleetwood Mac, Harry Nilsson, Led Zeppelin, and Badfinger are some of the artists on my playlist for this novel, and SiriusXM’s “Classic Vinyl” station (which plays exclusively ‘60s and ‘70s rock music) has been a wonderful option as well. My dad listens to SiriusXM in his Jeep and we also have an app on our main TV that can stream the stations. If that’s not an option, I’d recommend either ‘70s Rock or Classic Rock on Pandora and set it to either “Discovery” or “Deep Cuts” mode to expand your station’s playlist.

So…what are your reading goals for 2021? And what are you reading now?

…You’ve Got to Be Kind

It’s currently the holiday season of the clusterbleep of the year that has been 2020. As I write this, Christmas is 12 days away and people are currently celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Let’s face it, this year has been one sad, stressful, heartbreaking thing after another. We’ve had to adapt to living with a pandemic and an extremely contagious airborne virus threatening our lives. Many of us know someone or had a loved one who contracted the virus or even died from it.

I myself spent the first half of this year trying everything in my power to help my dying mother, but even our best efforts couldn’t stop Alzheimer’s landing its final blow on her six months ago.

We had a presidential election that seemingly divided my country into even stronger divisions of “Us” and “Them” than ever before.

We had to learn how to live a new normal of cloth masks covering our faces, sanitizers covering our hands, and keeping our distance, even from ones we love. The first vaccines against COVID-19 are only just now being administered and it will still be many months before we find out whether the vaccine is effective at creating the herd immunity we need to stomp out this disease and resume some semblance of normalcy.

The Gulf Coast got smacked by what seemed like hurricane after hurricane (while Florida somehow miraculously escaped the brunt of hurricane season). Wildfires devastated Australia.

We lost notable names in all different fields: Chuck Yeager, Olivia de Havilland, Alex Trebek, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bob Gibson, Helen Reddy, Neil Peart, John Lewis, Regis Philbin, Charlie Daniels, Kelly Preston, Ennio Morricone, Little Richard, John Prine, Kenny Rogers, Terry Jones, Chadwick Bozeman, and Don Larsen, just to name a few.

This world has seen so much sadness and negativity this year — especially this year — and I think we’ve forgotten how to be kind to each other. We’ve spent the year calling people names like “demon-rats”, “soy boys”, and “magats”, spent our quarantine time turning Internet comments sections into even more despicable dens of denigration, and have just all around been terrible people to those outside of our “bubbles”. We need to learn how to be kind to each other again, especially now.

It doesn’t cost a thing to show kindness to someone. But here are some ways we could spread a little joy in the world:

  • Wish someone a nice day.
  • Tell someone they’re beautiful. Doesn’t matter what the person’s gender is. Compliment them on their hair, their eyes, or their overall demeanor. You never know whose day one kind comment like that could make.
  • Give someone a bouquet of flowers (okay, this one may cost a little money, but it’s okay). I have yet to see someone without a smile on their face after they’ve received flowers. My dad used to send his mother (my late grandmother) flowers for Mother’s Day every year as a way to show his love and appreciation for her. I dream of the day someone sends or presents me flowers.
  • Help someone in need.

I know there are many other ways we could spread kindness during these trying times.

This is intended to be a somewhat short post, but before I post this, I want to end this with a quote from an author who’s becoming a favorite of mine, Kurt Vonnegut.

The following quote comes from Vonnegut’s 1965 novel, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, where the title protagonist (Elliot Rosewater) is preparing to deliver a speech for the baptism of his neighbor’s twin babies. There is slightly mild language, but I promise you he’s saying it for emphasis.

Kurt Vonnegut

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Damn it…we’ve got to be kind! I know it’s hard to do right now in times like these, but we’ll be worse for it if we don’t.

Where My Strengths Lie

I haven’t written on writing in a while. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about.

I used to think that I was a terrible creative writer. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have attempted to write fiction only to look at my work and feel absolutely dissatisfied with it. Every attempt I made at world building and character building seemed to be an epic fail, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I was so terrible at writing fiction. And it made me feel bad about my abilities as a writer. I had this concept in my mind that a writer wasn’t worth their salt unless they could write fiction. It’s taken some insight from some fellow Ravelers for me to realize that I’ve been looking at my abilities in the wrong light.

I’m not a good fiction writer. And that’s okay.

I’m a nonfiction writer. My best writing comes when I can look at a set of cold, hard facts and weave them together with some well-thought-out prose. I can take information and turn it into a story. I can take a concept and write a full essay on it. I can take bits of my own life and find a way to share them with you, which is why I have stuck to writing this blog for three and a half years.

So what if I get frustrated with the characters I create? The characters that populate our own real world create themselves. So what if I can’t come up with my own fictional land? The land around me…especially the land around me (Florida is so crazy it’s become its own meme) has its own stories to tell. I can’t draw, so I might as well write and play with yarn, right?

So, yeah…today’s post is kind of short, but I just wanted to let it out into the world.

People on Tinder Have Had Better Luck

So, the last couple of times I’ve gone to the store, I’ve ended up getting cakes of Lion Brand Mandala in “Spirit”, which is a gorgeous blue and gray colorway that really goes well with my eyes (which are…blue and maybe have a hint of gray).

What I didn’t realize is that I would start and frog this yarn (which was begging to be made into a shawl) somewhere around fifteen times. I thought I’d make the Solitude shawl (a crochet shawl pattern I found on Ravelry), but not only was the shawl not going to be the size of my liking, some of the stitch pattern also kept failing to line up. I got frustrated and by the time I got to the end of the cake, I decided I wanted to try and knit a shawl out of it, so I cast on with the other end…and quickly grew bored. So I set that yarn down. I still have not frogged either one of these yet.

WIPs that will eventually be turned into frogs.

So I started with the other cake. I basically started trying all sorts of knitting and crochet patterns to see which one would stick. This sort of “speed dating” went so badly that honestly…people looking for one-night stands on Tinder have had better luck. (Note: I have never used Tinder or any other kind of online dating service; I have this recurring concern that I’m gonna end up being catfished, because when it comes to love and relationships my luck is ridiculously bad.)

I was able to start a pattern a few days ago that has stuck so far…once the pattern is set up, it’s only a five row repeat that produces a surprisingly interesting texture and look combined with the self-striping. I did cut the yarn once so far, since it was kind of a jarring color switch from blue to the first gray in the colorway. Other than that, it’s looking pretty nice.

I’m about halfway through this cake; once I finish the first cake, I will probably unravel the other projects and join that yarn. Hopefully, if this sticks, this shawl will be a nice size when it’s done.

At least I have better luck with shawls than I’ve ever had with men. Shawls don’t ignore me or think I’m just “cute”.

Watching History in the Making

In case you missed it, my country (the United States) held the 59th presidential election of its history, which concluded last Tuesday, November 3rd. Due to the current pandemic, many voters chose to vote early or by mail (whose rules vary from state to state; in my home state of Florida, one only needs to be a registered voter in order to vote by mail and does not need to provide a reason for requesting a mail-in ballot). I was not one of them.

Ultimately, I decided to cast my vote in person on Election Day for a couple of reasons: 1. There was tomfoolery going on with the Postal Service and I wanted to be absolutely sure my vote would be received and counted. And 2. My hometown already had an ordinance in place requiring the wearing of masks in indoor public spaces. I was already planning to mask up anyway and I’m not at a high risk of developing complications in the event I do catch the virus…but prevention is still better than catching it.

But I did vote. I made sure to get up a little earlier than I normally do last Tuesday morning, I took a shower, got dressed, and waited for my dad to get home from work. When he got home, he had not gone to the polls yet (sometimes he goes straight there from work, although this was also the first election without my mom around, so that may have also had something to do with it). I pulled out a fresh mask (I use disposable ones, that way I don’t have to worry about washing masks), and then got in the Jeep and had to figure out where our polling place was. It had been changed from a church lobby to a local middle school cafeteria, presumably so that there would be more room for everybody to spread out and distance. (Why do I have the feeling that “social distancing” will be the Word/Phrase of the Year?) When we got there, the line was long enough where it practically lined up with the edge of the last building on the school’s property…but thankfully not long enough to reach to the street. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the door. I should also mention we had just had our first notable cool front of the season, so it was in the upper 50s/low 60s Fahrenheit when we were outside (this was a little after 8:00 in the morning; polls in Florida open at 7:00 am local time on Election Day and close at 7:00 pm local time…I say “local time” because Florida sits in two time zones, with most of Florida in the Eastern Time Zone and the Panhandle in the Central Time Zone). I had decided to mask up as soon as I had gotten out of the Jeep; my dad decided to wait until we were about to go inside. I think our exposure outside would have been minimal anyway because no one in line turned towards us. We did a little bit of small talk to each other in line; I usually ask him about his work day while we’re drinking coffee in the morning, but instead we did our small talk while waiting in line.

The poll workers were only letting in two or three people at a time, and usually after about the same number of people were exiting the building. My dad was let in first, and I had to wait a couple more minutes before going inside. Once I was let in, I walked over to a sign-in station, presented my ID, and then had to sign a slip. Another change brought in due to the pandemic: sign-in was not digital this time, like it was the last time I voted in 2018. The poll worker (who was behind a plexiglass barrier) entered my information into a screen, asked me to confirm that my name, address, and birth date were all correct, and then she had me take a pen (brand new and wrapped in plastic, so I was the first person to use it), and sign a slip printed out with my name and polling precinct. She handed me a ballot, and I found an empty polling booth right across from my dad. I took out my sample ballot from my purse (which I generally fill out before Election Day as a “dry run” and to use as a guide when I fill out the real thing), and then filled out the actual ballot. I put the sample ballot back in my purse, then I went over my ballot to make sure I’d filled everything in the way I wanted to before I finally went over to another poll worker to turn my completed ballot into the collection box for counting.

Then came the waiting game. While Florida’s electoral choice for President was called on Election Night, it would take four more days and lots of counting in several close states before the media outlets were able to get enough information to determine who would clinch enough electoral votes to win the presidency. It’s been all over the news, so I don’t need to rehash it here. The Electoral College will officially cast its votes next month, and at that point, the winning candidate’s election should be official (and just requires the vote being certified by Congress in early January). Personally, I’d like to see the Electoral College abolished in favor of a national popular vote, but it’s the system we’ve got right now, so there’s not really much we can do about it at the moment.

I’ve stated multiple times that I prefer to keep this blog apolitical (and I have readers of all different political stripes), and thus I don’t really talk much about politics here. However, anyone who’s seen my Twitter feed knows exactly who I supported for this election (and thus, who I cast my vote for) and exactly how I felt about the incumbent running for re-election. Needless to say, I’m feeling good about the result. I don’t know if my dad or my brother and my sister-in-law (who almost certainly voted for the other guy) are feeling the same way. I actually haven’t talked with my dad about it at all. But he hasn’t acted like some of the other supporters of the person who lost and been a sore loser and calling for votes to be overturned (which, by all accounts, there is no evidence to suggest that those votes should be invalidated in the first place). He’s just kind of continued on with his life. He’s supported more than a few losing candidates for President in the past. Each time he’s seemingly handled their losses with grace. Heck, I supported the losing candidate in 2016, and I handled it with a stiff upper lip and used my energy to start knitting a sweater that took me most of the winter to finish.

Voting in an election is one of the ways that we, the people, can directly affect history and the direction of the nation for the next few years. This election was historic for two reasons.

The first reason is that this year marked 100 years since women were granted the right to vote nationwide thanks to the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It was the culmination of a nearly century-long battle where women not only wanted the right to vote, they demanded it. As stated in the PBS series American Experience episode “The Vote”:

The textbooks, when I went to school, said, “Women were given the vote.” We weren’t given anythingwe took it.

American Experience, “The Vote”

By the way, this two-part episode is available for viewing on the PBS website, which you can find here. I’m not sure if it is viewable outside of the United States. It’s about 3-4 hours long (split into two parts), but so worth watching if you get the chance.

I posted this picture on my Instagram a couple of years ago with a collection of some of those women who fought for the right to vote and the immediate beneficiaries.

Top row (left to right): Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone. Middle row: Sojourner Truth, Alice Paul, Julia Ward Howe. Bottom row: Carrie Chapman Catt, Jeanette Rankin.

I initially considered posting this image on my Instagram to honor the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, but ultimately did not do so for reasons I don’t immediately remember. But I will post it here. These are all women who were activists or held public office and in a sense are the beneficiaries of the Nineteenth Amendment. (I tried to keep this one as bipartisan as possible, so there are women from both major parties in this one.)

Top row (left to right): Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Margaret Chase Smith, Ann Richards, Shirley Chisholm. Bottom row: Condoleezza Rice, Geraldine Ferraro, Carol Moseley Braun, Tammy Baldwin.

Just to explain their significance here:

  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Cuban-American and Hispanic woman elected to Congress, and was also the first House Republican to publicly support same-sex marriage (or “marriage equality”).
  • Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to be elected to both the House of Representatives and the Senate over the course of her career. She was a Republican from Maine, and during her tenure in the United States Senate, was a critic of Joseph McCarthy (another Republican, who was from Wisconsin) and his tactics to try and find alleged communists working in the U.S. government. You can read about her famous speech calling out McCarthy, called the “Declaration of Conscience”, here.
  • Ann Richards was Governor of Texas (in fact, she was the most recent Democrat to serve as Governor of Texas). During her tenure, she implemented programs to revitalize the Texas economy in a time when the rest of the country was dealing with a shrinking economy and worked to streamline Texas’ state government. She also worked to reform the state’s prison system and actively appointed women and minorities to official positions. She famously said of then-incumbent Vice President George H.W. Bush in her keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention: “Poor George. He can’t help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” She was later defeated in her bid for re-election by Bush’s son (and future President), George W. Bush.
  • Shirley Chisholm was a Congresswoman from New York. She was the first Black woman elected to Congress (serving from 1969 to 1983) and in 1972 also became the first Black person (male or female) to run for a major party’s presidential nomination, seeking the Democratic nomination against Richard Nixon, who was running for re-election that year. Ultimately she did not win the nomination (that would go to George McGovern, who lost in a landslide to Nixon), and it wouldn’t be until 2016 that either of the major parties would nominate a woman as its presidential candidate. She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
  • Condoleezza Rice served as National Security Advisor from 2001-2005, and in 2005 became the first Black woman (and second Black person) to serve as Secretary of State (her immediate predecessor, Colin Powell, was the first Black person to hold the position). She is also the second woman to be named Secretary of State, and one of three women to have held that position. She is the only person in this collage to not have been elected to her highest-serving position.
  • Geraldine Ferraro was a Congresswoman from New York and was also the first woman named as a running mate (a party’s nominee for Vice President) for a major party’s presidential ticket (and was the first of three that have been named). She was the running mate of Walter Mondale, the Democratic nominee for President in 1984. Mondale had previously served as Jimmy Carter’s Vice President. Unfortunately for them, they were running against incumbent (and wildly popular) President Ronald Reagan. Reagan defeated Mondale in a landslide; Mondale only won his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia (the “DC” in “Washington, DC”).
  • Carol Moseley Braun was a Senator from Illinois and was the first Black woman ever elected to the United States Senate. She served one term in the Senate before being defeated in her re-election bid by Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Braun’s seat was later held by future President Barack Obama and is now held by Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who, among other firsts, was the first woman with a disability elected to Congress (she lost both of her legs in the Iraq War when a helicopter she was piloting was hit by rocket-propelled grenades).
  • Tammy Baldwin is a Senator from Wisconsin, the first woman elected to either house of Congress from that particular state. She is also the first openly gay woman elected to Congress (there have been several LGBTQ members of Congress, but were closeted when elected and either came out during or after their tenures or were ousted by other people), and is one of two openly LGBTQ Senators (the other being Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, who is bisexual). Baldwin currently holds the Senate seat once held by the controversial Joseph McCarthy.

The other reason that this election was a historic one (well, more historic than others) was because (provided the projected electoral vote holds) it resulted in the first-ever woman being elected Vice President. Her name is Kamala Harris, she previously served as United States Senator from California, and she was only the second-ever person of color to be nominated to a major party’s presidential ticket (either as nominee or running mate; the first, of course, being Barack Obama). She is the daughter of immigrants, her father being from Jamaica and her mother from India, and she herself was born in California. With her election, she will become the highest female office-holder in American history. And if you’re wondering how to pronounce her first name, she says it as “COMMA-la”.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris during her and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory celebration.

While it will still be a couple of months until Inauguration Day, and the outgoing incumbent is sure to be causing some chaos on his way out…it’s still important to note that we are watching history in the making. History is always in the making, and we all have a front row seat. No matter who we vote for or how we react to the different policies and bills put forward, we have to remember that we are all in this together, whether we like it or not. We may not always like the results of the voting process, and sure there are ways we can fix the system to make elections as free and fair as possible…but being able to guide our own destiny through the voting booth is one of the most American things we can do.

And finally, before I post…I’d like to recognize the last two days, both important days for certain members of my family. Yesterday marked the Marine Corps Birthday, which marks the anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps. Many of you familiar with my background know that my dad served in the Marines for several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He never saw combat, but spent most of his service working on airplanes and vehicles as a mechanic. Today is Veterans Day, which honors the service of all members of the military, living and dead. Most other countries use this time of the month as more of a memorial day to honor those who died in combat, but here in the U.S. we already have a separate day for that, Memorial Day (which is held on the last Monday in May). Veterans Day is more of a celebratory day here in the United States, usually marked with parades and displays of gratitude, although my dad has always handled this in more of a humble way. I’ve had relatives serve in every branch of the Armed Forces except for the Army, but my dad is the only one still living at this time. On my mom’s side of the family, her father was in the Coast Guard (sort of the Navy’s law enforcement branch; they also perform life-saving operations at sea), her brother in the Air Force (which was originally part of the Army, but spun off into its own branch a couple of decades before he enlisted), and her uncle (my grandmother’s brother) was in the Navy. All of them are now deceased.

I hope your November is going well at the moment. I really do need to try and post more.