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.

Yellow…Lots and Lots of Yellow.

So, I finished a thing. It’s mostly yellow. It’s “Don’t Huffle the Puff”.

And I’ve started another thing. It’s going to be a cabled bag. I started it with a provisional cast-on using some old dishcloth cotton in the stash and a crochet hook.

Once I cast on my stitches (I cast on 81 with my provisional cast-on, then decreased by one stitch to 80 a few rows into my base), I started knitting the base of my bag in the main yarn.

Once I got the base to the size I wanted it, I started to pick up and knit the stitches around it, placing markers to mark each corner of the bag.

I should mention that for the base I used two separate needles because I purl looser than I knit, so I used a size 8 needle to work the knit rows and a size 7 needle to work the purl rows.

These were part of a set of Woolworth bamboo needles given to me by The Lady Bryan and her mother before they moved to Georgia. The needles only had diameter measurements in millimeters on them, so I used a needle gauge to approximate their U.S. sizes and then I wrote the U.S. needle size equivalent on the top of the needle ends.
My corner stitch markers (the white one marks the beginning/end of the round) and the band of my digital row counter.

I’m only a couple of repeats into this one, but I’m hoping this bag will stick as a project. Here’s a sneak peek.

The actual color is closer to the pictures above this one, the lighting kind of lightened the vibrancy of the yellow here. I’m normally not a huge fan of yellow, but I felt the color would pair nicely with the honeycomb cable you’re starting to see here.

Will this project stick with me? Watch this space.

Death Stuff and Life Stuff

It’s been sad times in the knitting and crochet community lately. We’ve lost two major designers to cancer in the past month, and a little more closely to me a couple of acquaintances I had made on Ravelry also died from cancer. I’d like to talk a bit about some of them.

You may remember that I mentioned Cat Bordhi in my post “Searching for Knitting Mojo” back in August. Sadly, she died on September 19th, a month or so after she had revealed the news of her terminal cancer to the world. Her loss was such an impact on the community that The New York Times published an obituary about her. I’m not sure if there’s a paywall involved, but I will link to it, which you can check out here. I am still working on the Rio Calina cowl whose pattern she posted about a month before her death, but I’ve only managed about a foot or so of it (it’s knit flat).

Another designer, Annie Modesitt, lost her own battle with cancer on October 1st. While I was not as familiar with her work as others may have been, her passing has been recognized on Ravelry. Looking at her pattern collection on Ravelry, she was a master with both the needles and the crochet hook and designed patterns that were eye-catching and things of beauty. Her blog can be found here.

The other two people I’m going to talk about weren’t people I had ever met in person, but were part of a Ravelry group that was one of the first ones I’d joined when I signed up for Ravelry three and a half years ago after slowly coming out of a self-imposed sabbatical from computers and technology. This group is called “Atheist and Agnostic Crafters” (or “A&AC” for short). As I’ve mentioned in the past, I live near the very southern edge of the “Bible Belt”. While people here in Central Florida aren’t as steeped into religious fundamentalism as they are in the rest of the South, telling people you outright don’t believe in God will probably still get you either some side-eye or a “bless your heart”. It’s not necessarily something that’s comfortable discussing with family. So it felt good to have a place to go to online where I could meet likeminded people and not feel shame for it. Some users I’ve been a little closer with than others. Last month, two of our group died just a few days apart. One of them was one of the few men in our group, who was married to another Raveler (who was also in our group, but left…not due to a change in religious beliefs, but due to some posting drama that I’d rather not get into; but she’s always welcome back in my book if she ever wants to), and the other was a young-ish lady in her 40s. Her Ravatar (slang for “Ravelry avatar”) was a pair of cats snuggling, and I always kept misreading her username because I kept mistaking a lowercase L for an uppercase I. I wasn’t incredibly interactive with either of them, although I did enjoy discussing video games with the man I’ve mentioned. We were both Assassin’s Creed fans and it was always great to discuss the games with him. We as a group were greatly saddened to hear of their deaths, and if you’re wondering how an atheist approaches the subject of death, here it is: since we don’t believe in an afterlife, we see death as closure, the end of our one life. We grieve for the loss of a person, surely, but we also recognize that if the person was suffering in their final days, that they are now at peace and their suffering is over. We don’t think of them as being in a “better place”, but we remember the impact they had on our lives. Even if they touched the hearts of just a few people, they will never be forgotten for as long as those people who loved and remembered them live. I approached my mom’s death in the same way. For most of the rest of my family, the thought of her “being with Jesus” comforted them. For me, knowing she was no longer suffering comforted me. I raise a glass to those we’ve lost.

I saw this on Annie Modesitt’s blog, posted during the last months of her life as she was battling cancer. I thought it was a nice perspective on how she saw the eventuality of death.

None of us will beat death, it will get us all in the end. I’ve become much more at peace with that truth over the last few years. I’ve lost so many folks who are close to me, maybe that’s why I have such a strong desire to see a grandchild. Or maybe it’s just that I love babies. At any rate, I feel that as fine as my kids are, there are rough edges to be smoothed, more lessons to be taught.

Annie Modesitt, “Anti Climax”, Mode Knit

Steering away from the topic of death, here is some life stuff.

I ended up getting three more ebooks since my last book update:

  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: A fellow bookstagrammer recommended I read this one first whenever I decide to take a dive into Murakami. (I also want to eventually get a copy of his novel 1Q84.)
  • Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut: Since reading Slaughterhouse-Five last year, I have been on a mission to find and read as much Vonnegut as I possibly can.
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: Not to be confused with The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, this book is considered a landmark work in African-American literature.

I haven’t voted yet in this year’s election, but I plan to. Early voting starts in about a week here, but I may end up going with my dad to vote on Election Day morning (which is when he usually goes to the polls).

Now, before you get worried about me catching the COVID while waiting to vote, hear me out:

  1. We have masks. I will be masking up, no matter what. In fact, my hometown requires them by city ordinance. I just hope my dad will go along with it, at least for going to the polls.
  2. Our polling place has been changed from a small church lobby to a much more open school gymnasium. Hopefully this will give us a chance to make more space in line, too.

We in all likelihood will vote for different candidates, and that’s okay (he jokes that we’ll “cancel each other out”, which is probably why we also don’t do lawn signs). I’m thinking of asking if we can go to the bookstore after we go to vote. After all the shenanigans and the bombardment of ads and the name-calling and the “my guy is gonna whip your guy’s ass because your guy means the end of America as we know it”…I’m gonna need something to look forward to. I still have some spending money. I’ve been wanting to go back to this bookstore for a while, but I just couldn’t figure out when the opportunity would pop up.

The diet is going okay at the moment; I can’t tell you if I’ve lost any weight because I’ve decided not to weigh myself at this time. I do have some pants and shorts in smaller sizes than what I wear now. If I find myself fitting into them, then I’ll know that I’ve lost weight. Then maybe I’ll reevaluate the whole weighing myself thing.

Most of it is portion control, which has been going okay. We do allow ourselves to have one “cheat meal” a week (although I’m not craving a cheeseburger every week, thank goodness), but for the most part I’ve been trying to stick to the meal plan, and when I do feel like I still need something to eat, we’ve gotten some extra snacks (fruit, some cottage cheese, whole grain crackers) or I eat a salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing (less fatty than the commercial stuff) to try and stave off the feeling of not feeling full. I’ve also usually had a protein shake with my snacks for the day (I eat a snack in between main meals). For dinner tonight (which I’ll also put together for my dad when he gets home from work in the morning), I’m trying to recreate one of the dinners we had, which was chicken breast with brown rice, peas, and tomatoes. My recreation ended up missing tomato sauce, but otherwise I think it might work. With portion control in mind, I think I’m gonna use a smaller plate.

I think I’m almost finished with my “Don’t Huffle the Puff” shawl, but I’m going to save that for another post. While it was kind of sad reasons why I started this post, I’m glad to have gotten a chance to give you all a bit of an update. I think I’m gonna go and put together my dinner right now, and then after I eat it’s back to work on the shawl while I watch Roman Empire on Netflix.

More Than a Number

My dad is trying to get us to go on a diet. Frankly, I’m not thrilled.

I’m not going to name the company that we’re using, but it’s one that delivers food as part of its plan. It wasn’t the first time he’s brought up this plan, but I honestly only agreed to it this time because if I didn’t, he would have just brought it up again later. And he also brought this up the day after my stomach bug, and I was feeling tired and still a bit out of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I need to lose some weight. But for as long as I’ve been dealing with weight issues (since my teens), it’s always been a really sensitive subject for me. I first put on the weight because of a combination of binge eating and boredom. The summer heat is so ridiculous around here that even thinking of trying to go outside to get some exercise makes me feel like I’m gonna suffer from heat exhaustion. My mom and I did try afternoon walks for a while with Roxy, usually taking a bottle of ice water with us to try and combat the heat. That went by the wayside as Mom’s condition gradually worsened, but I’ve thought of trying to bring that up with Dad, but maybe in the mornings instead.

I just have a feeling that this diet is gonna be more trouble than it’s worth. It’s calorie-counting and they claim eating small portions throughout the day is supposed to combat feeling hungry all the time…but I fear I’ll still end up feeling hungry all the time. And when I feel hungry all the time, the more I’m tempted to binge eat. I feel like I’m setting myself up for sabotage. I feel miserable right now, and we haven’t even started.

Why are we attaching ourselves so much to numbers? Dress sizes, numbers on a scale, body mass index…you know, it’s been years since I’ve weighed myself on a scale. I stopped weighing myself because seeing the number go further and further up just made me feel worse about myself.

Sure, I could lose weight. But I feel like the way we’re about to go about it isn’t gonna be the right way. I’ll try this “diet” for two weeks. But I honestly think we need an overhaul of what we’re eating, but not in a way that will make us feel like we’re starving ourselves. I think we’re better off just making better choices at the grocery store rather than having it delivered to us. I don’t quite know how to tell him what I’m feeling. He’s so hell-bent on this. I’m feeling anxious and miserable. Is there something wrong with me, or is my anxiety justified?

Jambalaya, Set My Stomach on Fire…

Last week was…interesting.

So, last Tuesday I decided to make some homemade jambalaya, which ended up being pretty delicious. I used this recipe from Tastes Better From Scratch, if you’re interested. It wasn’t the making of it that caused problems…it was the eating of it.

You see, I ended up eating way too much of it in too short of a time period. I won’t tell you the exact amount I ate because I’m kind of embarrassed, but…let’s just say I had a lot of spicy stuff going through my stomach over a span of about six hours. Big mistake.

Cue me waking up around 6:30 the next morning with a terrible stomachache and a backache. I take some Tums for the stomachache and a hot shower to try and relieve the back pain. Doesn’t really work. My dad gets home from work around 8 am and I let him know what’s going on. He tries to get me to eat a little bread and it ends up making the stomach pain worse. In fact, the only things I was able to ingest last Wednesday without worsening stomach pain and a triggering of my gag reflex were applesauce and water. I try everything from more Tums and alternating between Advil and aspirin to relieve the pain, and…nothing. At this point, I am now feeling pain in my stomach, back, and approximately where my gallbladder is and I am worried about whether or not I’m gonna have to see a doctor, which gets me more worried because I have no health insurance. (My dad does, through his employer, but I’m too old to be on his policy.) At this point I am feeling miserable and anxious (and through all this my dad is sleeping).

I spent most of Wednesday lying in my bed, because lying down is the only position at this point where I can feel any sort of comfort. I had taken two more showers to try and relieve the pain…with not much improvement. At least I could sleep through the pain. I end up waking my dad up about 20 minutes earlier than usual (which has been 6:30 for the last few weeks because my dad’s employer moved everyone’s shifts up an hour earlier), mostly because I didn’t want to be by myself any longer. I make his coffee and lay back down for a little while longer.

By this point I had fashioned myself a “puke bucket”, a wastebasket lined with a garbage bag, because I’m now convinced I am feeling severely nauseous and I realize the only way that I’m gonna be feeling relief from this is by having stuff come up. My dad gets ready for work and leaves right around 7:30 pm. Not 10 minutes after he leaves, I can feel my gag reflex starting to kick in. I grab the bucket, hold it right in front of me, and within seconds the contents of my stomach are in the bucket. The pain is still there at this point, but I decide to call my dad (who was in his Jeep and can take hands-free phone calls) to quickly let him know what was going on, and he reminded me to keep drinking water and stay hydrated. I keep the call brief and told him I’d text him later in the night to let him know how I was doing. I ended up lying down in his bed (because his room has the window unit and I honestly felt like I needed the cool air). I wake up for a bit around 11:30 and I realize my stomach and back pain are finally starting to go away. I drink some more water and lie back down. I wake up again around 3:30 the next morning and the pain is pretty much gone by this point. I text my dad and then I go back to bed.

I decided to take it easy on my stomach for the next couple of days, because my stomach was still feeling a little sensitive. But I did tackle that jambalaya again a few days later…with restraint. I heated up one bowl of the stuff (and told myself I was going to stick to just one bowl) and ate it with gusto. Thankfully, I did not make myself sick again. I was victorious.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t get sick because the jambalaya was improperly cooked; I got sick because it was a perfect storm of spicy, greasy, and my overeating it. My dad ate some and was perfectly fine.

And I must mention that the title makes more sense if you sing it. My dad loves classic country music, and one of his favorite singers from that genre is the late, great Hank Williams. One of his best known songs is a song called “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”. So, if you sing the title of this post to the tune of the chorus of this song, it makes sense.

It’s almost a week later, and I am feeling much better now. I hope to write again soon.