It’s Been Awhile…

(Cue some dudebro humming sounding vaguely like Staind.)

It wasn’t my intention to go on an extended hiatus when I last posted, but…life happens. I don’t really have a ton going on in my personal life right now that warrants updating, but I assure you I’ve been doing quite fine since my last post!

I’ve been busy knitting and reading and poking around on social media. I’ve got a few shawls waiting for weaving in ends and a photo shoot, but I haven’t gotten around to it just yet. I’ve also got an original shawl in the works that I hope to get a pattern posted for at some point.

Anyway, I hope to be posting again soon, and I hope you’re all doing all right!

Hello, 2022, or: A Sign of Life and It’s Cold AF

I didn’t expect to go almost 2 months without a post! I tried opening up my WordPress app a few times in that span, but for some reason, the words just weren’t coming.

Anyways, it’s the day before my best friend, The Lady Bryan’s, birthday and right now it is what we would call in Florida, “Cold AF”. It’s not supposed to get above 50°F today and where I’m at lows are going to dip into the 20s tonight. My readers in the Northeastern U.S. and Atlantic Canada (where, yes, I do have a few Twitter followers) are experiencing a heck of a Nor’easter complete with blizzard. I hope all of you are keeping safe and warm in these very cold conditions. Currently, I’m under a fleece lap blanket trying to keep my feet warm.

Before I get into 2022, let me share how we ended 2021. When I last posted, it was just a few days after Thanksgiving. My dad and I spent quite a bit of time last month getting ready for Christmas, which included trying to figure out what to get for two girls. I did get a gift for Nipote, but as he was only about 5 months old at the time, safe toys for a baby that age are a bit scarce. I ended up getting him a rattle and teether set, with the rattle in the shape of a donut and the teether was a chain of plastic macarons. I later saw a toy piano that would have worked nicely for him, but I haven’t gotten it for him at this time. For the girls, we ended up getting them dolls, dinosaurs, drawing toys, a toy makeup kit and a toy fish for R., a fire truck and Potato Heads (both Mr. and Mrs.) for The Bambina, and both of them got toy airplanes, too. I wrapped every single one of them and took them over on Christmas Eve.

While we were there, my brother and sister-in-law gave my dad a set of towels and washcloths, a blanket, and coffee thermos and matching keychain that both have the same “Scat Pack” logo as his Dodge Charger. I got a fleece blanket (which immediately went right onto my bed), a wall hanging, and a USB reading light. I don’t normally use reading lights, but it will be incredibly useful for when I do visit my brother’s house and the political discussions start to get so awkward that I need my “in case of emergency” book to mentally tune it out, especially after dark. We didn’t get them anything in return (totally our fault, we just got caught up in getting stuff for their kids), but my SIL’s birthday is coming up next month, so there’s an opportunity there.

My dad ended up taking the first week of 2022 off from work as a vacation/reset week. I don’t mind those weeks, but it’s always nice to get back to a normal routine.

What else? I had some spare cash on hand and I got myself a gift card for more ebooks because I hadn’t gotten one in a while. I still haven’t spent all the money from that one, but here’s what I’ve gotten so far:

  • Lovingly Abused by Heather Grace Heath. This is a memoir written by a woman who was raised in the same (for all intents and purposes) fundamentalist cult that the controversial Duggar family also belongs to, IBLP/ATI. I actually heard about this book from a podcast, Leaving Eden, whose co-host was a former member of a similar fundamentalist cult called the IFB. I read this book in about 11 days and Heather’s story is just incredible. She lived in a different state from the Duggars and she does not mention them by name in her book (but does reference them a few times), but she provides a great, first-person account about how the IBLP/ATI and similar groups cause more harm than good, and in her acknowledgments at the end, I found a few more podcasts to check out. (Side note: I kind of have a fascination with cults, from real ones like The People’s Temple and the FLDS to fictional ones like The Chosen from The Tribe.)
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. My third Murakami in my ebook collection, but I want to read Kafka on the Shore first before I take on this one, which is nearly 1000 pages long and was originally published in 3 volumes in Japan)
  • Me by Elton John. Yes, his own memoir…I’ve heard a lot of great reviews for this one, but as I have memoirs coming up in my physical TBR, I don’t know if I want to be reading two memoirs at once)
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This one has been on my Bookstagram radar for a while. From what I’ve gathered, this is a historical novel set in Ghana (where the author and her family are originally from) and traces the stories of two half-sisters, born in different villages and sent on two very different paths. One sister ends up being kidnapped and sold into the transatlantic slave trade, while the other marries an English man and lives a life of privilege on Africa’s Gold Coast.

And finally, I did finish two shawls, but I have not yet woven in the ends and gotten them ready for pictures. What I’ve been primarily working on is a pullover sweater in some heather gray yarn, although I’m currently only on the body portion. I still need to work on the sleeves, too, so it’s not ready to wear yet. But it is coming along, and I promise to share some pictures when it’s finally ready!

So, anyway…that’s what I’ve been up to lately. There just hasn’t been a ton going on lately. But I am on the countdown to a milestone birthday now…less than two months to go until I turn…gasp 😱…thirty-five. What?! That also means my five-year blogiversary is coming up! I might have a lot of reflecting to do soon! Until next time, readers!

Thanksgiving 2021: The Blog Post.

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, not for lack of trying. Life’s been going on and it’s been much of the usual. But we did get to go to a little Thanksgiving gathering last week.

Even when my mom was in the later stages of her illness, we didn’t really do much for Thanksgiving in recent years because Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday, and since my dad’s been at his current employer, Thursday has usually been his first day off after his work week. Since he works night shift, he usually uses that time to rest up and get some sleep. Sometimes our neighbor would bring by some of the food he cooked, just out of the goodness of his heart (even though we didn’t actually need the food, but he’s a nice and generous dude who cooks good food, so we always accept his cooking with a smile).

Besides, I already had a lot of memories of my mom and my grandmother doing Thanksgiving cooking when I was younger.

This year, we did Thanksgiving dinner over at my brother’s house, which is just on the other end of town from where my dad and I live. There were only nine of us there: my brother, my sister-in-law, and their three kids (although the youngest isn’t quite ready for solid food yet), my sister-in-law’s aunt and her husband, and me and my dad.

My brother cooked both the turkey and a ham in his smoker. For those of you unfamiliar with southern barbecue, is a big old iron chamber that’s usually filled with wood chips that are set ablaze and produce heat and smoke at a relatively low and steady temperature. The wood used is usually either hickory or mesquite, and the meat is placed on a rack inside the smoker, which is then left to cook in the smoker for several hours. The turkey took about 7 hours or so to cook in the smoker before it was ready to serve. (He began cooking it around 7 that morning, and my dad and I arrived right around 2 pm.)

Some of the other food also served:

  • Mashed potatoes with chives (I don’t eat it with chives all that often, but it does add some good flavor to it)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Green bean casserole (I also love serving this stuff with meatloaf on occasion)
  • Yellow squash casserole
  • Stuffing (I think they had the stove top stuff, but I also enjoy making it as a casserole with onions, celery, butter, and broth; I don’t cook it in the bird because that’s a breeding ground for bacteria and food poisoning)
  • Sweet potatoes topped with caramel and walnuts that their neighbor brought over
  • Pumpkin and caramel apple pies (both store bought, but still good)

I also got to hang out with my nieces and get to know my nephew a little better. R is almost 5 1/2 (she’ll officially hit that mark on the 6th), Bambina is 2 1/2 and will be turning 3 in March, and Nipote hit the 4-month mark the day before Thanksgiving. Here’s how they’re doing:

  • R is doing well. She’s in kindergarten now (I don’t know if she’s in regular school or doing home learning, as school was starting just a few weeks after Nipote was born and my SIL was worried about her possibly bringing COVID home with a newborn in the house). She’s pretty well-behaved and will also talk your ear off whenever she gets the chance.
  • Bambina is definitely being a toddler and SIL is calling her the “wild child”. Bambina actually looks a lot like I did at her age, except when I was her age I was a bit blonder and my hair wasn’t quite as curly as hers. (My hair is wavy now, but it didn’t really start getting that texture until I hit puberty. It was pretty straight when I was a kid.) The girls have a Magna-Doodle type toy that they like to draw on, and while Bambina isn’t quite old enough to write yet, she is starting to make scribbles on the drawing surface. She scribbles with both hands, but when my dad drew a horse on there, she decided to turn it into a unicorn and drew the horn (and then proceeded to draw a whole bunch more) with her left hand. If she does end up being left-handed, I think she’d be the first in our family.
  • Nipote, as I mentioned, just hit the 4-month mark. It’s been a little bit rough for him lately, as he’s been dealing with a bunch of skin irritation that looks like it could be infantile eczema. Eczema does run in our family, and in fact I myself have been dealing with it since I was a small child. Luckily, the type of chronic eczema that I have does lessen in frequency and severity as one gets older, although I do still deal with the occasional flare up. At the moment my brother and sister-in-law have been going by trial and error as to what products they can use to lessen the irritation, but I did recommend that they consult a dermatologist if he’s still dealing with it. Talking about it with them brought back memories for my dad about trying to get my eczema under control as a baby, and it did involve having to use some strong ointments and creams. (These days I’m usually able to get my flare ups under control with hydrocortisone cream.) I hope they’re able to get him to a pediatric dermatologist to see what may work for him. Seeing all that redness on his skin made me think of how uncomfortable he must be feeling.

We stayed there for about 6 hours, just talking or watching the girls play. It felt good to get out of the house for a few hours.

Now, for the next order of business: trying to figure out what to get the kiddos for Christmas! Until next time, everybody! And for now, I’ll leave you with a pic of a half-eaten slice of pumpkin pie.

The Bane of My Backlist

I figured it was time for another summary of my reading and book collection as of late.

First up, what I’ve recently been reading (and the reason why this book is the inspiration for this post title).

My edition of “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck.

I started reading this one, often regarded as an American classic, towards the end of August, just after I finished reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I read that one after finishing Rebecca and it only took me 12 days to read it. It was 200 or so pages compared the 400 or so in Rebecca and the 600 pages in this book I’m about to talk about.

Now, The Grapes of Wrath and I have a complicated history. I first obtained this copy when I was assigned to read (or, as it turned out, attempt to read) it for my AP English class (one of two slightly different English courses I ended up taking) in my junior year of high school. And I know it was my junior year because I distinctly remember my teacher (who was also my English teacher in my freshman year) explaining the origin of the book’s title: it came from the opening lines of the Civil War-era patriotic song “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. For those unfamiliar with the opening lines of the song…

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword

His truth is marching on.

Julia Ward Howe, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Anyway, my school had a deal with a local independent bookstore where they would share the reading list for the AP English courses each year, and not only would the bookstore order more copies of those books for their inventory, they would also bundle the books together and sell them as a package with a discount. I have maybe a dozen or so books in my collection that were bought in this manner. Not only did we not have to borrow books from the county and were free to mark up our own copies with margin notes and highlight relevant passages, it also provided the bookstore with extra business. This bookstore is actually still open all these years later (although I think the ownership and management has changed since my high school days), I have since returned to that bookstore one more time, which I detailed in this previous post back in 2018. I’d love to go more often, but…yeah, money.

My attempt at reading this book in high school (as with many of the books I was assigned in high school English) did not go well. When you have to balance reading with a bunch of other coursework, especially in the math courses where I tended to struggle more and thus placed a higher focus on getting homework done there, reading often fell by the wayside. And it showed in the quizzes and tests on those books. To be honest, the reason why I passed all those English classes was because of the written portions. Essays I tended to do well in. Needless to say, I started The Grapes of Wrath, but I never finished it. I think the only novel I may have finished during those courses was Native Son by Richard Wright.

It took many years for me to rediscover my love of reading, and once I did, I decided to revisit some of those novels that had fallen by the wayside. One of the first was The Great Gatsby. Over the ensuing years I have also read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Awakening, The Sound and the Fury, and Beloved. I still have some in the collection that are awaiting a full revisit: Crime and Punishment, Native Son (I attempted a re-read a few years ago), Heart of Darkness (although I have not found my copy). But somehow, Grapes kept eluding me. I remember trying to start it at a family friend’s gathering. No luck. I remember at least one other attempt to start it. No luck.

So, you can see why I call this book “The Bane of My Backlist”. The fact that I have never finished it has been annoying me to no end ever since high school. Which is why I was determined to set a goal this year to finally read it and finish it. I even decided to try and dedicate the summer to not only reading this book, but some of John Steinbeck’s shorter novels. At this point, I have only read Tortilla Flat, which I’ve read in fits and starts. But it does have sort of a humorous element to it that keeps it interesting. Grapes, however, has fared much better this time around.

One way I decided to tackle this book was by deciding to narrate portions of it to myself when reading it, usually on nights when my dad was at work and it was just me and the dog in the house. I did this with portions of Rebecca as well. Reading it aloud helps to cement the text in my mind. Sometimes reading silently makes the text pass by with a blur, so reading aloud makes it impossible for me to ignore the text. And I’d adopt different voices for different characters. For example, Tom Joad got sort of a low, flat-ish voice reminiscent of Henry Fonda (who played Tom in the film adaptation of the novel). Jim Casy got sort of a twang. Ma Joad is basically my own voice, but with a more exaggerated accent (which Steinbeck renders out in the text with unique spellings and punctuations). Grandma and Grandpa got sort of raspy voices reminiscent of old people, although Grandma’s voice got a higher pitch to it. And so on, and so forth.

Well…it worked. I finished it last weekend. It had its challenges, though. Steinbeck also employs an unusual narrative device throughout the book. The book alternates between short descriptive chapters (that either set up the environment that the next part of the story takes place in or adds context to what the characters are about to experience) and longer narrative chapters (that sometimes are at least 50 pages in length) that tell the actual story. Those longer chapters I normally could not finish in a single sitting. I sometimes had to read a little, and then put it down…read a little, put it down. This was a book that had to be taken on a little at a time. But much like a marble statue, what started off as a giant, imposing block of text — with a little patience, time, and attention to detail — eventually became a work worthy of the adulation. It wasn’t a 5-star read for me, but because I felt like the challenges I had with it did actually eventually serve a purpose and get me into a rhythm when it came to how the story progressed, I felt it was worth 4 stars.

Currently Reading

I have also been adding to the collection in recent months. The last time I updated you on the physical books I had added, I think it was June and I had briefly shared with you the books I had gotten in January with some of the cash my dad had given me from the sale of my mom’s hospital bed in June of last year (a couple of weeks after her death). I’ve already read one of those books (The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison), as well as one other one, and I took a break from my newer books to read The Grapes of Wrath. I’m now on the second book from that purchase, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

Hillbilly Elegy is Vance’s memoir about him and his family. I’m only a few chapters into it, but his grandparents (“Mamaw” and “Papaw”) married as teenagers in the 1940s and left their impoverished hometown in the dirt-poor Kentucky Appalachians for the chance at a better life in Ohio. J.D., whose mother was a drug addict, would go back and forth between his troubled mother and whatever man she happened to be dating or married to at the time and his Mamaw’s house; he eventually came under Mamaw’s guardianship. I haven’t read enough to see how his story really pans out, but Vance eventually graduated from Yale Law School and made a career as a venture capitalist. He’s encountered some controversy since this book was published in 2016 for comments he’s made in his bid to become the Republican nominee for Ohio’s open Senate seat up for election next year. (The current Senator in that seat, Rob Portman, is retiring.) One of the more notable comments he made blamed the “childless Left” (as he put it) for the culture wars currently going on. He also proposed that parents be given an extra vote for each child they have. As you may have gathered, I do have issues with the positions he holds, but it’s not stopping me from reading his book (which I bought months before he announced his Senate run and before I even really knew much about him; I had bought it on impulse because I had recognized that it had been adapted into a movie for Netflix directed by Ron Howard).

I brought this up a bit on my Instagram when I posted about this book a few days ago, but I’ll elaborate a bit more about it. When it comes to authors who are known for their careers or influence on politics (whether it’s politicians like J.D. Vance or writers who influenced politicians, like Ayn Rand, or people known for their connections to politicians, like Michelle Obama, who I will be getting to shortly), I try not to read to create or advance an agenda, but rather to get an understanding about them and at least give them a chance to tell their story. And as I’ve said in the past, people have different life experiences that shape their beliefs as they get older. No two people have the same experience. Reading with an open mind is the only way I can stay sane when it comes to this highly politicized world anyway. I wish people on both sides of the aisle would think the same way when it comes to hearing out people they don’t necessarily agree with.

In my e-reader, I’ve currently got The Short Novels of John Steinbeck and Congo: The Epic History of a People as active reads, although I’m considering starting either Foundation by Isaac Asimov or Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut very soon. As mentioned earlier, I’ve only just finished Tortilla Flat in the Steinbeck collection and am now up to The Red Pony, though I’ve yet to start that one.

My Acquisitions

The third book from that “mini-haul” back in January was Educated by Tara Westover, which is about a woman who was raised by a survivalist Mormon family who were so wary of public schools and the federal government that her family did not practice formal education. She eventually was able to study independently and get into college, and earned her doctorate in intellectual history in 2014. I’ve heard a lot about this book and can’t wait to read her story.

More recently, I’ve taken to just getting one or two books at a time when I’m at the local Walmart Supercenter for groceries, so I haven’t gotten all of these at once, and several of them were from the bargain books bin, which has been selling what I guess are remaindered books (unsold books from a particular printing) at a steep discount. This store has been selling them for $5.97 a copy, which, considering the original list prices of most of those books, is a major steal. Anyway, here are some of my more recent acquisitions.

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (I think this one was described as a Southern mystery novel)
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (A psychological thriller published in 2019; heard quite a bit about this through Bookstagram)
  • The Pioneers by David McCullough (A history book looking into Americans settling the Northwest Territory — which contained parts of what are now the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin — in the decades following the American Revolutionary War. I normally don’t study as much American history, but the book was from the bargain bin, so I thought it was worth a shot.)
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama (The former First Lady’s memoir about her life, her marriage to husband Barack Obama, and finding her voice during his time in the White House; she did have some assistance from a ghostwriter, as many celebrities end up doing when writing a memoir, so I’m not going to fault her for that. I do eventually plan to get a copy of her husband’s latest memoir, A Promised Land, when it comes out in paperback.)
  • Wham!: George Michael & Me by Andrew Ridgely (A memoir about Ridgely’s friendship and career with his classmate-turned-Wham! bandmate George Michael, who would go on to become a pop music icon as a solo artist. One of the bargain bin books.)
  • Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton (A thriller novel set in New York City that reportedly borrows elements from The Talented Mr.Ripley. Another bargain bin book.)
  • Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki (A noir novel described as being about a “babysitter gone bad” in the Hollywood Hills. Yet another bargain bin book.)
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (A psychological fiction novel about a woman who was groomed into having an affair with her 42-year-old English teacher when she was 15, and has internal conflict over whether to come forward when the teacher is alleged to have slept with another student nearly 2 decades later. The most recent book from the bargain bin.)

That’s been quite a bit to catch up on, hasn’t it? I hope you all have been reading interesting books as well!

Finished Object: Nipote

It took me six months from cast on to last end woven in, and missed its recipient’s birth by a month and a half, but the baby blanket I have knitted for my nephew, lovingly called “Nipote” (both the blanket and the nephew), is finally finished.

I would have loved to give this a nice photo shoot outside, but the last couple of days were rainy and cloudy. Today it’s been sunnier, but the ground is still damp.

Anyways, let me introduce you to my latest finished object, Nipote.

Yes, that’s a router box it’s sitting on.

Here are some of the specifics:

  • Pattern: I didn’t use a pre-designed pattern for this one, but I used this tutorial as a template, and the base consisted of 13 triangles of 8 stitches each. All of the tiers and side and end triangles also have a base number of 8 stitches. The tutorial is free and also has a YouTube video embedded if you’re more of a visual learner or just need a visual refresher on certain steps.
  • Yarn: Caron Simply Soft, in Soft Blue and White; I ended up using maybe a skein and a half in the blue and 2 full skeins and part of a third in the white. (You’ll learn why I used more white in a minute.)
  • Needles: U.S. #7 (4.5 mm) circular needles, 29 inches. (This project is worked flat, but the cable supports the weight of the knitting better than straight needles do. Believe me, I learned that the hard way.)

I cast on for this blanket back in March, when my sister-in-law would have been around 5 months pregnant. The technique I used is called “garterlac”, which is entrelac worked in garter stitch. The primary difference between the two techniques is that while entrelac uses stockinette stitch to give the short row blocks a woven texture, the garterlac uses two different types of garter stitch to achieve sort of a harlequin style appearance. Depending on which side I was picking up stitches from, the blue tiers were done in knit garter (stitches were picked up and knit, and the short rows were worked with knit stitches and ssk — slip, slip, knit — decreases); the white tiers were done in purl garter (stitches picked up and purled, with the short rows being worked with purl stitches and p2tog — purl 2 together — decreases).

Now you may notice that the stitching in the white blocks looks a little looser than in the blue. This is due to my knitting style. I tend to purl looser than I knit, and unfortunately switching to a smaller needle to work the purl rows would have proven too cumbersome, as I would have had to slip all the stitches from the previous tier from one circular needle to another one before I could begin working the next tier. When taking a look at the white tiers compared to the blue ones, I realized the visual difference wasn’t all that jarring. So I just decided to work with the same needle all the way through. The only major issue was that I needed a little more yarn to work the white tiers since the looser gauge used up more yarn. I ended up getting two skeins in the blue and three skeins in the white.

As of this post, I have not yet met Nipote. He’s almost two months old (he’ll reach that mark in a little over a week). My sister-in-law has been especially cautious about COVID possibly getting into their home, and hasn’t really let anyone visit. Also, with any newborn there’s usually some chaos going on as everybody starts to settle into a new routine. At least this is the last baby they plan on having, so the chaos is going on one last time. I’m hoping once my dad and I are fully vaccinated (which should be by the second week of October), they’ll finally let us come over and meet him. Anyway, at least this blanket is finally finished and ready to give to the recipient and his parents when we finally do get to meet him!

Before I go, I’ve got a couple of quick updates of what is currently on my needles.

I’ve been working on the Study Hall shawl by Sarah Schira, which is available for free on Knitty. The original pattern calls for some fancier yarn on size 6 and 7 needles, but I’m using Red Heart Ombré (in True Blue, which is a gradient yarn) and Red Heart Super Saver (in Black) and size 9 and 10 needles. I’ve gotten most of the second section done, but I’m excited to get to the slip stitch section. Should be nice and cozy when it’s done.

I’ve also resumed work on my Neapolitan blanket after it was in hibernation for the better part of a year. I’m currently working on a round of brown rectangles, which will then be followed by a round of white rectangles, and then I’m thinking of adding the final large corner squares and finishing with a narrow brown border.

What have you all been up to? I’d love to hear about your latest projects (be it yarny, or written, or even just some sort of renovation project). In the meantime, I’m off to get ready to cook a slow cooker stroganoff. I’ve made it before, it’s delicious.

9/11: Twenty Years Later.

This is the first time I’ve decided to write a post about 9/11 (or 11/9 for my international readers) in the four or so years I’ve been writing this blog. There’s been reasons why I’ve avoided it over the years. For one, I watched much of the events of that day play out on live TV, and I have had little desire to relive those events over and over again. 9/11 was the “flashbulb memory” of my generation (the Millennials), much like JFK’s assassination was to young Baby Boomers or the Challenger disaster was to young Gen-Xers.

Today marks 20 years since that incredibly tragic morning that forever changed the course of history, opening a chapter that spanned four presidencies of both major parties that has only recently just ended. But I’m not going to get to that part just yet. I’m going to start with my own experience of that day…that late summer day in 2001, less than two weeks before that year’s autumnal equinox.

That Day.

The morning of September 11th, 2001, started off like any normal morning. I was a fresh-faced 14-year-old (okay…actually, it was more like slightly acne-ridden and I had a smile that was almost ready to have the metal braces from my mouth removed…but I digress). I had just started my freshman year of high school a month earlier and was only just feeling like I had settled into a routine in this new environment that I was trying to navigate. (Where I’m from, 9th grade or “freshman year” is the first year of high school, so this was indeed a brand new school for me.) My English class was actually scheduled to meet with a group of exchange students that day, so I actually dressed nicely. I wore a sleeveless blue and green paisley dress and white wedge shoes that day. (I should mention at this point in my life I had only just begun some of the weight gain that would end up defining my teenage years, so I was actually of average size at the time.) Anyway, I went to school as usual that morning.

My first class of the day was actually a gym class, specifically tennis class (my high school offered physical education classes in specific sports that would count towards your P.E. credits on your diploma, and tennis was one of them). For my first class, which started around 7:30 that morning, I ended up dressing out into my P.E. uniform and went to class. Our classes were split into four 90-minute periods and the classes themselves would change every quarter (our grading periods were four quarters of nine weeks each), so my class ended around 9:00 that morning, and we’d go to the locker rooms to dress back into our street clothes about 10 minutes or so before the bell to end that class rang. So, right around the time the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center (8:46 am), I would have been getting ready to go back to the Girls Locker Room.

Now, I had absolutely no clue of what had just happened at that time, because this was 2001. This was before the age of smartphones and social media. Cell phones with internet capabilities were around at this time, but the phones were usually clamshell flip phones that charged by the minute how much data you used to go online. Text messaging was only just becoming a thing for teenagers, and schools would have normally outright banned the use of cell phones during school hours anyway (although if one’s parents were well off, they would sometimes let their kids carry a cell phone in case of emergencies). So, the way we would have found out about the events of that morning would be either by logging onto an actual computer (whose internet browser would probably have some sort of news site as its home page) or by turning on a TV.

I arrived at my second period class, Biology Honors. Now, at my high school, we had an actual TV Productions class, with a classroom that also functioned as a TV studio. There were a few levels of the TV Productions courses, and typically one of the advanced levels of the course was scheduled for the early periods, and they would produce and air the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the morning announcements. These announcements would air during the early minutes of second period over the school’s closed circuit TV system. Well, the announcements didn’t come on that morning. And that’s when I first noticed something was not quite right.

What we saw on the TV instead was live footage from NBC’s Today show. In those first few minutes, the first thought in my mind was not “Planes have struck the Twin Towers”, but rather:

“Oh my God, the World Trade Center’s on fire!”

The second plane had just struck the South Tower minutes before I had arrived in class. It would be a few minutes before my classmates and I realized the actuality and the gravity of what was going on. The hijacking and crashing of the other two planes into The Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania both happened during that Biology class. By the end of class an hour and a half later, both of the Twin Towers had collapsed. I remember the gasps and “whoas” of the boys in my class as the towers came down. I remember feeling numb, helpless, and dumbfounded as we all watched the events play out on live TV. I’m pretty sure the news of both of the other crashes broke during that class as well. We’d later find out that a classmate reportedly lost his uncle in the attacks.

Much of the rest of that school day was a blur. Lunch was a blur, and English class was mostly a blur. I do remember our teacher asking us to write about our thoughts on the day’s events in our journals. I don’t actually remember what I wrote that day. My final class of the day was Chorus, which had been through its own drama. (Our original teacher basically quit or left a week or two into the term and he was replaced by a long-term substitute who had previously long-subbed one of my science classes in middle school.) I don’t remember much of that class either other than the sub basically scaring us into thinking that they were going to bring back the draft (forced conscription). He basically went around asking all the boys in the class how old they were, and he’d reply with, “In ___ years, you’ll be going to war.” (The blank representing how many years it would be before they turned 18, which is when American men become eligible for the draft. Even now, all male citizens are usually required to sign up for the Selective Service System upon turning 18 in case the government needs to bring back the draft. I was exempt from this because I’m a female.)

The rest of that day after school is hard for me to remember.

The Immediate Aftermath.

The weeks and months following that day saw what I can only describe as shared grief. Not just in my own little microcosm, but all over the country. So many people either had a family member or friend or partner die that day. I saw “United We Stand” signs going up in yards, or as bumper stickers on cars. I got a long sleeved blouse festooned in American flags and wore it on the 11th of each month for almost a year. I used my backpack as an opportunity to share my anger towards the cowardly terrorists responsible. (“How?”, you ask. On the flat side of the backpack that would normally rest against my back, I wrote my feelings on there in Sharpie, that’s how.) We grieved and cried and stayed solemn until a few weeks later, when then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who at this time was a respected figure among both major political parties and was a far cry from what he’s become now) gave Saturday Night Live creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels permission for his show to be funny and for America to laugh again. The New York Yankees (who are based in The Bronx, while the attack took place in the nearby borough of Manhattan) went all the way to the World Series that year, but were defeated in the decisive final game of the Series, Game 7, by the Arizona Diamondbacks almost two months after the attacks.

This brief period before the beginning of the Afghanistan War later that year was one full of promise and optimism despite all the pain we were experiencing. There was one Saturday Night Live sketch in particular that I think summed up the spirit of this time perfectly. It’s since become known as not just one of Will Ferrell’s most memorable moments, but one of the most memorable in the show’s history.

But that brief window of optimism began to close and close quickly.

The Ensuing Decades.

It turned out that the attacks were the opening salvo in what is now known as the “War on Terror”. Within a month, we began sending troops into Afghanistan, which at the time I was okay with because we believed that the mastermind behind the attacks (we all know his name, I will not glorify him by writing it here, but I will refer to him as “The Mastermind”) was in hiding there.

I could debate whether we really should have invaded Iraq a year and a half later, but I know the specifics behind why we invaded and whether we should have invaded would be certain to invite flame wars, which I for one am not really interested in starting. The point is that we invaded, and I will admit the response to that war really began my complicated relationship with my opinion on the military. Suddenly, it became the norm for people to affix yellow “Support Our Troops” magnets to their cars, almost as if to say, “If you don’t support this war, you’re not a real American.” I remember going on day trips to a family friend’s house out in the rural part of Central Florida, and on the road where we’d turn onto to head towards that house, we’d see this large sign that read in huge letters: “We proudly support our troops. You either stand with us or you stand against us.”

I honestly think it was the Iraq War, even more so than Barack Obama’s election as President in 2008, that was truly the beginning of our hyper-polarization of our national politics. Unlike Afghanistan, there seemed to be a lot of disagreement on whether the invasion of Iraq (and the subsequent overthrow of the authoritarian dictator running the country) was justified. Anti-war protests popped up all over the country. And looking back on history, the pro-war side pretty loudly echoed the pro-war side during the Vietnam War some four decades earlier. Unlike in the Vietnam War, though, the anti-war side during the Iraq War never quite had the loudness or the clout that they had during the Vietnam War. But I sure do remember the pro-war people pretty strongly doubting the patriotism of the anti-war people. And I did tend to sympathize more with the anti-war people. Even now, I still think of myself as mostly a pacifist, but I’m no longer an idealistic one. I realize that self-defense is sometimes necessary.

The polarization had gotten so bad that when The Mastermind was finally found and killed in 2011, my dad openly questioned whether or not he was really dead. There had begun a major distrust in government that would permeate throughout much of the decade.

It took me a while to figure out that one could still support members of the military without necessarily supporting what they were sent to do. Our military, though its members are deserving of respect and admiration for doing one of the most selfless things a person can do (put their life on the line in service for their country), are not gods. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen…they’re all human beings with flaws. My dad could have been very easily called into combat if needed during the four years he spent in the Marine Corps. He had the training and this is what he signed up for. He got lucky in that he enlisted in the post-Vietnam period.

The Iraq War basically killed the idea of nuance when it comes to patriotism. And the fact of the matter is that patriotism isn’t always black-and-white, especially when we get ourselves involved in war. We can love our country and also wish for it to do better — better for its people, better for its service people, better for its own prosperity. Sadly, it seems that a lot of people (whether it be about war or vaccines) have lost sight of that.

20 Years Later…What Have We Learned?

First off, I think we’ve learned the following the hard way: Declaring war on a concept or ideology almost always does not go well. As we saw last month in Afghanistan, the war there had essentially delayed the inevitable: the people who were in power before we invaded are back in power, like they never went away. Another lesson we’ve learned is: We cannot build nations for people who do not want them. At times I really do hope that our days of imperialistic policy and nation building are behind us. We cannot be everything to everyone in the world.

Twenty years later, the girl who looked on at the TV screen in horror as the World Trade Center was aflame on live TV has grown into a woman who is at times cautiously optimistic, but at the same time realistically cynical about the state of the world. Her expectations and aspirations have been worn down by reality, but somehow she still keeps a small flame of positivity, even if it’s only a flicker now instead of a torch.

Twenty years later, that TV show that made it okay for us to laugh again is still on the air…and one of the cast members of Saturday Night Live, Pete Davidson, is the son of a firefighter who lost his life trying to save people in the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Twenty years later, the unity that we saw in the immediate aftermath of the attacks is now nothing but a distant memory. The name calling, the demonization of perceived political opponents, the absolute negativity has now become a regular part of political and social discourse. We’ve been at the scourge of the worst pandemic to strike the world in over a century, and we’ve managed to make it worse in our country because of the division and bickering over how to manage it, how to treat it, and even whether to get vaccinated against it.

(Had we had this attitude over a half century ago, the world would still be dealing with smallpox.)

Twenty years later, we are seeing how 9/11 has changed us. In some ways, it changed us for the better. But in many ways, it also changed us for the worse. What hasn’t changed, though, is the fact that it changed us all. It was one of those days that lives on as a significant day in the annals of history, along with days like:

  • 15 March 44 BCE (the date of Caesar’s assassination)
  • 28 June 1914 (Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered World War I)
  • 1 September 1939 (the day Germany, under Hitler, invaded Poland, triggering World War II)
  • 6 June 1944 (D-Day)
  • 9 November 1989 (the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which was the beginning of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe)

Today is a solemn day for all of us. As we reflect on how the events of 11 September 2001 have affected us over the last two decades, let us also remember the lives of the nearly 3,000 people killed that day, and their families and friends. Two decades seems like a long time, but a lot has happened in those years. Let us hopefully, finally, find some peace amidst all the turmoil…even if that peace is ultimately a pipe dream.

Better Later Than Never

I know I’ve been putting off getting my COVID vaccination for a while, but I’m finally getting my first dose. And so will my dad.

Yes, he’s in the demographic that would be vaccine hesitant (older, white, politically conservative)…but he’s also employed at a job that pays him well for what he does and it’s a job that he actually likes. His employer hasn’t begun requiring employees to get vaccinated yet, but they’ve been asking employees whether they have and are strongly encouraging employees to get vaccinated. He doesn’t want to risk getting fired later, so he has begrudgingly decided to get vaccinated. I offered to get vaccinated along with him, mostly for my own peace of mind, but also so he wouldn’t have to do it alone. Luckily, it’s still being offered for free regardless of insurance status, so even my uninsured self can get it.

So what we ended up doing was that we both set up appointments online to get it done at a local pharmacy. They would have taken walk-ins anyway, but things just flow much easier when you set up an appointment. Because we set our appointments up separately, we’re getting them done on different days. We’re getting ours on the same day of the week, but one week apart. He’s getting his first dose this week, while I’m getting mine next week.

I’ve been wanting to get vaccinated for a while now, but I didn’t quite know how to bring it up with my dad. So, in a way, his employer encouraging employees to get vaccinated was kind of a good thing. And hopefully us getting vaxxed will ease some of my sister-in-law’s concerns about us possibly bringing in COVID with three kids ages 5 and under (including a newborn). I don’t know if my brother and sister-in-law are getting or have gotten vaccinated (even though they both already had and recovered from COVID earlier this year; SIL may have to wait a little while anyway because she’s in the period where she’d be nursing, although her first two babies, I think, were formula fed). Given that none of their kids are currently old enough to get the COVID vaccine, it would be smart of them to get it and get that extra barrier of protection.

It’s still a Petri dish 🧫 down here, and the Delta variant has been rampaging its way through the South. My dad and I have been lucky to avoid contracting it thus far, mostly due to us being isolated for the most part (we don’t really go anywhere on weekends, when my dad is off from work), my dad’s job being at night and working with a small crew (and thus being away from large groups of people), and me masking up when I do go out to get groceries every couple of weeks. Even after being fully vaccinated, I still plan to mask up in those situations so I can do my part to avoid becoming a carrier of the virus. I can’t trust other people around me to be responsible human beings, but I can do everything I can to be responsible for myself.

The Delta variant has certainly put a damper on some activities, but I still keep wondering what we might be able to do once we’re fully vaxxed (which should be early October). TBH, I wouldn’t mind just the two of us going for a drive around the more rural areas (which is something he and my mom loved to do), maybe getting a bite to eat at a mom-and-pop restaurant or something. I haven’t left my home county in over a year, maybe a year and a half. It’s been ages since I’ve been to a restaurant…at least since before my mom’s condition worsened and left her increasingly homebound until her final decline early last year. I’d even be okay with eating outside and swatting flies if I have to.

I know there are some of you out there who may be hesitant to get vaccinated, and that’s okay. I’m not going to be judgmental to you about that. Trying to shame a person over their choices is just a bad idea all around.

I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about the vaccines and how they work in recent months, and ultimately I think the benefits far outweigh the risks. I have had a dislike of needles for many years and still can’t bear the sight of seeing a needle going into skin, but for me the fear of contracting COVID while unvaccinated is even worse. The vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations consist of unvaccinated people. A small fraction of cases (“breakthrough infections”) have been in vaccinated people, and an even smaller fraction have been hospitalized or died. While no vaccine is 100% effective, it’s clearly like the infectious disease equivalent of a condom: some protection, when used or taken properly, is better than no protection at all.

I could explain how the mRNA vaccines (the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines here in the U.S., the former of which has just gotten full approval from the FDA rather than just for emergency use) actually work, but this Twitter thread actually did a pretty effective job of it. Here is the first tweet in the thread.

(There is also a TED-Ed video on YouTube that explains the whole process in less than 5 minutes, which can be seen here.)

This whole pandemic has affected humanity in ways we haven’t seen since maybe the 1918 Flu pandemic or even the Black Death (bubonic plague) in the 1300s. I’m pretty sure each of us has known somebody who has either contracted the disease or even died from it, if we haven’t contracted it ourselves. I could go on and on about how the irresponsible behavior of people has made this even worse than it could have been, but it would be futile. The fact of the matter is that 38 million people in this country (a little over 10% of our population) have caught the virus, and 631,000 have died from it. My brother and sister-in-law were two of the 38 million, and my sister-in-law’s grandmother was one of the 631,000. My brother and sister-in-law both fall into the category of white and conservative, the same demographic that have typically been vaccine-hesitant. But my sister-in-law would probably also give anything to have just a little more time with her grandmother.

To try and convince everyone around me to get the vaccine would be an effort mostly in vain, but I can take action for myself. And I’m glad my dad’s taking action for himself, too, even if the motivations are different from emotional appeal.

Better later than never, I guess.

One Heck of a Saturday

So, when I last posted, I had just let you all know that I had a nephew about to arrive.

Well, the little guy kicked off this past weekend by making his glorious arrival at 12:28 Saturday morning. He came in weighing just a little over 8 pounds and was otherwise a healthy baby. Not surprisingly, he is named after my brother (as for as long as I can remember, my brother was set on naming his son after himself if he ever had one). I’m not going to post his name here, so I will keep referring to him as “Nipote” on here. I’ve seen a few pictures of him that my sister-in-law shared, and he totally looks like my brother’s Mini-Me. 😂 Then again, all three of my brother’s kids looked like his Mini-Me when they were born. Oldest niece, R., now looks more like a blend of both of her parents, while Bambina definitely looks more like my brother.

I have not met Nipote yet (he only came home from the hospital yesterday), but I imagine my dad and I will eventually. It’s probably best for now that we give them a little time to settle into a routine with the little guy. The blanket I am working on is not finished, but the majority of it is done. I had planned to make it 13 base triangles by 13 side triangles in garterlac, and I have 10 of the 13 side triangle tiers done. However, the white tiers have had to be done in purl garter, which comes out at a slightly larger gauge because I purl looser than I knit. This eats up the white yarn more quickly, and I may have to get one more skein of white yarn to finish it (although that will be a couple of weeks from now if I need to). Luckily, the dimensions are large enough that it could double as a crawling mat when he’s a little older.

Coincidentally, I also felt ready to finally get a proper haircut, almost a year and a half after I had buzzed off my hair. My reasons for wanting to cut it now were pretty much practical, as it’s the middle of summer right now and it’s hot and humid here in Florida. My thick and wavy hair and the sweat that’s caused by the Florida heat don’t mix. It hadn’t gotten to the point where it was getting heavy, but it was getting long and it was just time to nip it in the bud.

Here’s what it looked like just a few days before.

Me sheepishly trying to hide my double chin…

You can see it was about shoulder length, maybe just barely long enough to get into a ponytail.

So, just a few hours after finding out about my nephew’s birth (which my dad informed me of just after I got up that morning), after we got some cash to pay for it, I went into the hair salon housed in the local Walmart (since I was going to do the grocery shopping afterward). The girl who did my hair was a Latina girl, probably in her twenties, with very curly hair. She was super-nice and helped me figure out how exactly we were going to execute the hairstyle I had in mind. She washed my hair and then we went over to her station so she could get to work on cutting it.

I definitely had something quite short in mind. I usually like having a little hair to play with as well, so a Peter Pan-type pixie style was out of the question for me. I ended up asking for a layered pixie style, which ended up working out really well for my hair. The hairstylists who’ve worked on my hair in the past have always fawned over how much they love working with my hair type: thick and wavy. This girl was no different. Buzz cut aside, this is the shortest I’ve ever had my hair done professionally.

Much of how my hair was shaped was done with a razor comb, although the front areas of my hair were cut in a way that it falls around my cheekbones (more flattering for my face, especially since I have a double chin) and I can part it off-center (also a little more flattering; I lost the ability to part it off-center as my hair had grown out). Before I went to go pay for the haircut, she put in some volumizer and conditioner to bring out the waviness in my hair, which I was okay with for that day, although I typically don’t put a lot of products in my hair (usually shampoo and conditioner, and maybe the occasional bit of mousse). Here is the result from Saturday.

I also took some pictures that evening as the sun was setting, to see if it would bring out the blonde in my hair.

The following day, I brushed my hair out, which got rid of some of the product in it and smoothed out the hair.

I actually washed my hair yesterday morning, and I currently don’t have any product in it.

So far, the new hairstyle feels great. I don’t know how often I’ll have to trim it, though!

How was your weekend?

An Announcement

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, this announcement does not involve me personally, but it involves my family.

I will be becoming an aunt for the third time. In fact, it will be happening in the next few weeks.

And this time, I’m gaining a nephew! That’s right, my brother and sister-in-law are having a boy. Which means I have to come up with a new code name!

Luckily, I already have a good code name for the little guy, thanks to Assassin’s Creed II. I’m going to refer to this one as “Nipote” (pronounced “nee-PO-tay”), which is Italian for “nephew” and is also what Ezio’s uncle Mario referred to him as in the game rather than by his name. Also, since one of his sisters has an Italian code name (my younger niece, who I usually call “The Bambina” on here), going with one for my nephew makes sense.

So, why did I wait so long to share the news with you? The simple answer is: my sister-in-law (the one carrying this baby) has not posted about her pregnancy this time around. Her pregnancies have caused her to become kind of withdrawn every single time. Also, in between her pregnancy with The Bambina and this one with Nipote, she suffered a miscarriage. My dad and I didn’t find out about the miscarriage until right around the time we found out she was pregnant, which was late last year. She suspected she was pregnant back in October, but they (she and my brother) didn’t confirm the news with my dad and I until around Christmas of last year. My brother also confirmed with my dad and me a few weeks ago that this pregnancy will be their last. I haven’t asked my sister-in-law why she hasn’t posted anything about her current pregnancy, as it’s her choice and she’s not obligated to justify anything to me.

(And if you’ve been paying attention to my past posts, this means that yes, she contracted COVID while she was pregnant. Thankfully she has since recovered, and the baby will likely be born with COVID antibodies in his immune system.)

Nipote is due to be born later this month. I actually have two old friends/classmates who have also been pregnant during this time, and one of them is about 2 weeks ahead of my sister-in-law in her pregnancy (the other one gave birth to a baby boy just a few days ago). Based on that, I suspect my sister-in-law is due sometime in late July, which opens up the possibility that he could be born on my mom’s birthday (July 17th, which would be an appropriate tribute to her, I think) or my dad’s (which is July 21st; my parents’ birthdays were four days apart, but my mom was 7 years older).

Before this post, I had actually only revealed this news to a handful of people outside the family: The Lady Bryan (aka my bestie IRL), our mutual friend/my closest guy friend, the old friend of mine who is due two weeks before my sister-in-law, and a handful of people on Ravelry and Instagram. As with my nieces, I will not be publicly revealing my nephew’s name on here. But I will still be referring to him as “Nipote” on here even after he’s born.

I actually do have a project in the works for the little guy, although I don’t know if it will be done in time for his birth, but it’s an adorable blue and white garterlac blanket (that can also be big enough to become a play mat when he starts crawling) that I am fittingly calling “Nipote”. As of this post, it’s a little over halfway through the length I’m going for (enough to make roughly a large square). I won’t be posting pictures of it right now, but I’ll probably write up a dedicated post for this blanket once it’s finished. I will say, the white tiers have been harder for me to knit in one piece because it’s done in purl garter stitch (to give it a right side and a wrong side), and I tend to purl looser than I knit. So these tiers end up looking slightly bigger and looser gauge than the blue tiers (which are done in knit garter) because I’m too lazy to move all the stitches to a smaller needle for the whole tier. But the difference isn’t so jarring that it bothers me visually, so at least I’m at peace with that.

I hope to be able to let you know soon when my nephew has arrived. Here’s to hoping mother and baby do well when the time comes! I can’t wait to meet him.

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.