On Fathers

Today is Father’s Day here in the States.  It doesn’t quite get as much fanfare as Mother’s Day gets here in May (and seeing as I have at least one follower from the UK, yes, we celebrate Mother’s Day here in May instead of March like you all do).  Maybe that’s because male gender roles here don’t require as much pomp (You’re supposed to get flowers for Mom and take her out to brunch, but all Dad gets is a necktie and a coffee mug?), or men in general just aren’t crazily into said pomp?  Some people grow up without a father, but I was one of the lucky ones.

My dad and I have a somewhat complicated relationship.  Maybe that stems from my childhood years, when my dad worked various jobs to make ends meet and my mom stayed home to take care of me and my little brother (who is now celebrating his second ever Father’s Day…his first came just a couple of weeks after his daughter, my niece was born).  As a result, I developed close bonds with both my mom and my maternal grandmother (who would come over and watch us on days off from school after Mom returned to work), but not so much with my father.  But it didn’t seem like things really started to fall apart for us until I became a teenager.  We began having major personality clashes then, usually over one thing: politics.  My dad has been a staunch Republican for as long as I can remember.  My own life experiences and reactions to major events of my childhood and teenage years (Columbine, 9/11, the war in Iraq, my growing dissatisfaction with religion, and my almost-always present love of all things related to science) clearly began sending me on a course that would send me to the opposite side of the spectrum.  I think the issue he had with me asserting my own views was not so much hatred of the other side, but I think it felt more like a betrayal to him and everything he believed in or supported.  In a way, the feeling I got of him not having my back in this felt like a betrayal to me, like I was no longer worthy of his love.  We had numerous arguments in those years.  It led to me closing myself off from him emotionally, making sure he was no longer privy to my thoughts and feelings.  Though things have improved since then, this isolation is still something I struggle with; it still brings tears to my eyes.

In my twenties, I discovered baseball wasn’t so boring.  In fact, great games played out almost like soap operas, with moments of drama and heightening anticipation in between runs or leading up to a game winner or walk off.  Slowly, I would start asking questions about the game or what kind of rule was being enforced, and he would explain.  This would turn into moments of us watching a game together, and he would begin to wax poetic at the mention of certain players from his childhood and young adult years: Phil Niekro (“the dirtiest pitcher in the game, knew how to doctor and baseball and would see if he could get away with it”), Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine (you can tell he was a Braves fan, right?), Johnny Bench.  We wouldn’t say much during these games, but we’d just sit back and watch it all play out.  We had once again found something in common.  Same with watching professional wrestling, a favorite pastime of his since childhood, and eventually from my childhood.  Though words were usually left unspoken, we knew there was an understanding.  This also brings tears to my eyes.

Despite our issues, he’s remained one of my biggest champions.  He had my back when I struggled with reading classes in middle school because I had a lack of motivation and hated doing homework, resulting in my only F of my academic career.  A few years later, he had my back when my struggles with high school geometry became exposed and I was on the verge of failing that class (I genuinely had problems understanding the concepts).  He helped my teachers come up with ways to raise my grades in both classes, which I eventually did.  For all the times he’d berated me about being chronically unemployed, he’d also encourage me when he knew I’d found something I truly loved (and thanks to that encouragement, I hope to eventually be able to sell some of my hand-knit treasures and start to make some of my own money…a traditional 9 to 5 may be out of my reach by now because of my inexperience, but it is not my top priority right now, as my mom needs me more than the rest of the world does; I’d prefer to keep why she does private).  We watch shows like MasterChef and Survivor together with genuine interest.  I watch him play video games with wide eyes, and sometimes he watches me play, too.  We enjoy listening to hard rock and heavy metal music, but I also sit back and watch him sing along to old and outlaw country songs.  I listen to his work stories and pretend to understand the technical jargon, and also laugh at the ridiculous stories he tends to bring home.  I let him hug me if I’m upset (not very often), and tell him “I love you” before he leaves for work every work night and he gets ready to drive the 40-50 miles or so into Orlando to go to work.  I watch him turn into a total goober when he plays with his granddaughter.

It took us a long time to get back to civil.  Most people use the words “doting” or “adoring” to describe their dads.  Mine?  I’d say he’s: dependable, fierce, and willing to do anything for the sake of his kids.  I never got the adoring dad or the dad with whom I could share my heart’s thoughts like Molly Ringwald’s character Andie does with hers in Pretty in Pink.  But the one I did get, I could say, has been a constant in my life as has always stood up for me in the most unexpected of times.  As I said before, not everybody gets to grow up with a dad in their life.  I was one of lucky ones.

Before I finish, I’d like to leave you with a song by one of my dad’s favorite singers and a legendary song he wrote about a dad’s complicated relationship with his son: “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads and kids of dads out there!

Randomly on a Friday

Well, the gray finally went away…for now.  This time of year in Florida is famous for afternoon thunderstorms that pop up out of nowhere (especially when the seabreezes from both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts collide right over the peninsula), so it could very well be gray and stormy by late this afternoon.  You remember those gray skies from a couple of posts ago?  Well, this morning it is now…

Birds are singing, the street is relatively quiet (I don’t live in the country, I live in the suburbs, but I usually angle my outdoor pics this way to avoid giving away my exact location), and my dog is just as excited to chase the lizards, having finally shaken off her canine ennui.  (And every time I see the word ennui, I now think of Michel from Gilmore Girls talking about his own ennui.)

And as a bonus, here is another pic.  If you look real closely, just above the kudzu leaves, you’ll see the Moon, in its last quarter phase, getting ready to descend down the western sky for moonset.

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Though somewhat faint due to photo quality, the Moon is visible just above center, right above the tips of the kudzu vines.

I will say that though we are sitting in the shade, it is still incredibly humid out here.

Finally, I have a little announcement to make.  Not anything life changing, but it is still worth noting: I have decided to set up my own Tumblr page, for all the random and silly stuff that doesn’t really merit posting here.  It has the same name as this blog (I guess I’m the only Snowless Knitter on the entire internet?), and you can check it out right here.  If you’re a Tumblr-er yourself and like what you see, don’t be afraid to give me a follow, and if I like what I see on yours, I may just give you a follow.  Warning, though: my language may be a bit more…unfiltered on Tumblr.  But so far, I’ve already made a few posts, followed a few blogs, and am just getting acquainted with it.  You may see stuff related to: knitting, Florida, cats, yarn, Gilmore Girls, I Love Lucy, wrestling, and the randomest of the random.

Have a great day, everyone!

WIPs: 6/14/2017 (or, An Update on La vie en rose et violet)

In which I give to you the latest update on my current Work in Progress.

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Detail from La vie en rose et violet

It’s been a while since I posted some actual knitting updates on here, mainly because I’ve been working on one big project instead of several smaller ones.  As you’ve seen before, I’ve been working on an afghan since March that I lovingly refer to as “La vie en rose et violet” (which is French for “Life in Pink and Purple” and a reference to the legendary song by Édith Piaf, “La vie en rose”).

The last time I wrote in depth about this project, I had been working on the sides to make the dimensions for one large, square afghan.  Since then, I’ve been slowly filling it in, churning out a few shapes in the span of a day or two.  According to my calculations, I will need to make the equivalent of 324 small squares to complete this afghan.  I am nowhere near that at the moment.  However, the 25 small squares I recently added in a checkerboard pattern does put me under 300 total small squares to go (and then some, considering I’ve already completed two side edges of it, equivalent of 18 small squares per side).

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The checkerboard!!!!1!1!!
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The checkerboard and immediate surrounding areas.

I also started a little bit on the lower left side of the afghan, and will probably start filling more of that in next.

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Portion of the lower left side of the afghan; the left edge of the checkerboard can be seen on the right side of the photo.

I hope to get more done soon, and once I have another sizable portion worked here, I’ll do another update.

Until later, and happy knitting (or for my non-knitting followers, happy reading)!

PULSE: One Year Later

One year ago today, something unthinkable happened: a gunman with terror on his mind and hatred in his heart decided to take out his depravity on a nightclub in my birth city of Orlando, Florida.  When all was said and done, 49 innocent souls and the gunman lay dead in that club.  I am, of course, talking about the PULSE nightclub, and that shooting is considered the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

While I did not know any of the victims personally, it still affected me because of the connection I have with the LGBT community, a community from which I have made several friends over the years.  Some of these friends I knew for only a few years before life happened and  we would go off in opposite directions and ambitions, others I remain close with.  It broke my heart when I awoke that morning to news of the carnage that had occurred overnight.  Many of the victims that night were LGBT, but some of them were also friends, family, and allies to their loved ones in the LGBT community that had come to enjoy what was supposed to be a fun-filled evening with music, dancing, and lots of positive vibes.  No matter the orientation of the victims, the friends, families, and those who loved the 49 most dearly have now spent the last year trying to learn how to live with the voids in their hearts that the tragedy created and trying to live a life without their loved ones.

I heard people try to minimize the effect this tragedy on the LGBT community by only referring to it as an act of terror; others ignored the act of terror portion and solely called it a hate crime.  Personally, I think it was both: it was an act of terror because the gunman had a religious/political motive, but it was also a hate crime because he specifically targeted the LGBT community.  No matter the motive, it does not change the fact that 49 souls will never again return home to their families, 49 souls will never again smile and laugh with their friends, and 49 souls will never again feel the many kinds of love that drive us all through life.  The “why” does not and will not fix the “what”.

The way that the city of Orlando came together in the aftermath was nothing short of beautiful.  The (Democratic) Mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, and the (Republican) Mayor of Orange County, Teresa Jacobs, both joined forces to lead the mourning in a city reeling from the darkest weekend in its history (a singer named Christina Grimmie had been murdered in another club in an unrelated incident just 24 hours earlier) and help The City Beautiful get back on her feet, pick up the pieces, and find a way to live once again.  Orlando City SC, our local MLS squad, led a moving ceremony before its home match a few days later where the fans sang along to our national anthem (almost unheard of at American sporting events; fans here usually stay silent during the singing of it), and a moment of silence held when the game clock reached 49 minutes.  (When Orlando City moved to its new stadium this spring, 49 seats were painted in a rainbow color scheme in tribute.).  It has been an emotional year since then.

Orlando, a city that I like to call the “Jewel of the South”, has come quite a way since that night at PULSE one year ago.  My heart is with her as she continues to heal.  If there’s anything about Orlando that is its most incredible attribute, it is that she bends, but does not break in the face of tragedy.  She survives, she advances, she thrives, she embraces.  Orlando is one of the few major cities in the South that has embraced its LGBT community the way it has, in the face of other cities and states in this region fighting to marginalize and keep basic civil rights away from the same community.  Orlando is called “The City Beautiful” for a reason: it’s not just for her physical beauty, it’s also for the beauty in her resolve in the face of adversity and tragedy.  I’m proud to have been born there, and I’m proud to still have a connection to her, 30 years later.  May the 49 souls who lost their lives that night forever rest in peace.

Gray, Gray, Go Away

Florida’s “wet season” has arrived in full swing after quite the dry spring.  For the last few days, the view has pretty much looked like this:

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The southwestern view from my front door; apologies for the subpar photo quality...tablet camera.

And this…

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The view from my front door, looking north.

Even my dog is bored.

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Roxy demonstrating canine ennui at its finest.

From what I gather, it is gonna be like this pretty much through the next week.  Oh boy.

Hopefully I will have some updates on my knitting soon.  I’m planning on doing another photo update once I finish a checkerboard section on the blanket that I’m currently working on.  In the meantime, I’ll tease you with a shot of the blanket in progress in its current home, a Toys R Us bag (selected because it was big enough to hold the blanket).

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Her First Orbit

On Tuesday, June 6th, my little niece will be celebrating her first birthday, the first anniversary of her entering this world and marking the completion of her first orbit around the Sun.  We celebrated her birthday a few days early, on Saturday the 3rd.

What has happened in that first orbit?

I remember entering that hospital room with my parents just a few hours after she was born and nervously approaching her mother to give her a blanket I had knit for her (the Hoover blanket from Knitty).  She was crying her lungs out (probably wondering “What the heck am I doing here?!”), and about the only thing that could calm her down at that point was my brother (her father) holding her and patting her on the bum.  I was too nervous to hold my newborn niece and decided to hold off from it.

The first time I actually held her was about two weeks later, when the new family had finally had some time to settle into their new life.  My parents and I made the two-mile trip from our home to the duplex that my brother’s family called theirs.  It had been many years since I had held a baby as young as her, and I was still nervous.  As my dad reminded me to hold her head above the plane of her body, I finally got a chance to look into my niece’s gemstone-blue eyes.  Her cries had calmed since she was born and had become a somewhat calm baby, and she was no different in my arms.  She looked up at me with a curious look on her face, as if I was a puzzle she was trying to solve.  This curious look would reoccur throughout our interactions in this first orbit.

The next time I remember seeing her was maybe a few months later, when my brother turned 27 last November.  By this point, she was able to lay on her belly, but not crawl.  One of the highlights of this visit (other than the birthday cake my brother’s girlfriend got for him) was watching my little niece sitting in my dad’s lap, him holding her tiny hands and she doing what I can best describe as “baby squats” (for those not in the “Having Raised or Interacted With a Baby” club, baby squats are when said baby stands up with assistance on a person’s lap, and then drops right back down into a sitting position).  She was grabbing at my dad’s shirt (as a smoker, he wears pocket tees on a daily basis, and many of them have screen printed designs on them), and just having the time of her life trying to figure out her Grandpa’s furry face (yep, my dad has a beard).

Regrettably, I missed her first Christmas.  A couple of days before the big day, my parents brought over a couple of presents we had gotten for her online, but I was sleeping when they decided to leave.  I was a bit sad that I ended up missing it, but grateful that I got the extra sleep.

I didn’t see her again until February.  By this point she was crawling and standing herself up with assistance.  And we had seen her again just a few weeks ago in order to deliver her some much-needed new clothes, as she was growing so fast that she was already needing to wear clothes usually meant for 18-24 month-olds (both of her parents are taller than me, which would not surprise me that she’s growing so fast).  At our last visit, she was able to walk around while holding on to something and making baby talk.

Which brings me to today…

Yesterday, we had gotten her some birthday presents (a toy drum, some textured spiky rubber balls, and a toy picnic basket, along with a couple of sets of pajamas and a dress) and we also gotten some ingredients to make a slow cooker baked beans recipe my dad found online.  I awoke this morning to the smell of bacon, which I knew was being cooked for the beans.  My dad had cooked and crumbled the bacon, chopped up an onion, and mixed together all of the ingredients for a four-hour odyssey in our slow cooker before we would take the whole thing to my brother’s house.  We took our turns showering, dressing, and getting things just right for our little trip.  I don’t have any photos of the party, so what you get is a selfie of me waiting for the time to come to leave for the party.

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My hair was still damp, and i was wearing no makeup, but hey...it was still worth it.

After a quick trip to the store to get beverages, we made our way down to my brother’s place.  We were the first guests to arrive.  We got the slow cooker plugged in and warming up the beans, while we found a place for her presents.  After a few minutes, more guests began to filter in (most of them from my brother’s girlfriend’s side of the family) until somewhere around 20 of us filled their living room and kitchen, including a baby, a toddler, and a tween (who was the older sister of the toddler).  It was at this point that we learned my niece had finally started walking on her own (although she still needs assistance from tall things to stand up if she falls over).  It was later that I found out she’d only been walking for about two weeks, so she was still learning to straighten out the wobbles, but my…she can run.  We socialized and got to know some of my brother’s girlfriend’s family members, some of us drank beers (myself included…I treated myself to one Yuengling lager, and the rest of my drinks were colas), and we all ate from a delicious potluck spread that included hamburgers that my brother cooked on a charcoal grill that honestly were so smooth to bite through that it was like a hot knife meeting butter for the first time; hot dogs and smoked whole chicken also cooked by my brother on the grill; mashed sweet potatoes with chopped pecans; pasta and potato salads, and one of my favorite foods of all time (any Southerners here may agree with me): some Publix chicken wings, double breaded and deep fried to a crispy but not oily bite with the most tenderly cooked meat for this particular cut of chicken (my goodness, my family used to make a thing of eating these when I was a kid; we don’t eat them as often anymore, but it is still a wonderful treat when we do).

After the food came time for my niece to receive her presents.  In addition to ours, she also received some additional toys, including a baby doll and a ride and push toy shaped like a lion; a few pairs of earrings for her little ears, and a miniature sofa bed with some Disney princesses on it.

Shortly after the presents, her mother placed my niece in her high chair and we sang her Happy Birthday as her own special cake was brought to her.  It was a small, round cake covered in green frosting with red frosting writing and accents: this was her smashing cake.  With a little encouragement, she dug her diminutive hands into her cake and went to town, licking the cake and frosting off of her tiny fingers.  Once the cake was sufficiently smashed, her hands and face were absolutely covered, which meant that her parents had to wash all that off of her.  As she got sufficiently clean, we guests were then treated to our own cake and some ice cream.  The cake was a two layer chocolate and vanilla sheet cake with buttercream frosting, and we had a choice between vanilla and Neapolitan ice cream (I chose vanilla, and it was quite rich).  Not long after that, most of the guests filtered out while my parents and I joined my brother on his back porch and talked and drank cold drinks in the muggy heat.  By the time we got back inside, we were the last guests remaining.  We weren’t in a hurry, so we gathered in their living room as my niece’s parents cleaned up the scene of the earlier party and put the baby gates back in their usual places.  We watched my niece play with her new presents and talked about anything and everything.  It was 7:00 PM before we finally decided to leave, a full 6 hours after her party began, and we said our see-ya-laters and love-yous, taking with us our slow cooker and some leftover cake.

As I sit here, watching my Red Sox play the Orioles, I look back on the experience of my little niece’s first orbit around the sun, and it makes me wonder what is in store for her second.  She officially completes her first orbit on Tuesday.  We each only get a certain number of orbits around the sun, and it makes us all wonder: do we all get the best out of ours?  Because I sincerely hope my niece gets all the best out of hers.

I Feel Pretty? Oh So Pretty?

So, I finally got my hair cut this morning.  I’d been needing a haircut for some time.  I have incredibly thick hair, and I knew that if I was continuously putting my hair up in a bun (normally to keep what seems like tons of sweat from creating Niagara Falls on the back of my neck; I am a notorious head-and-neck-sweater, as opposed to an armpit-sweater or “pitter”), then it was getting too long.  And it was getting way too long.  Long, thick hair and hot Florida summers go together like pure wool and and a washing machine on hot (felting joke for all you yarnies out there).  You risk getting sweat and water and hair products caught in the deeper layers of your hair, it is trickier to comb and brush, and most of all, it is just plain heavy.  My hair was very shapeless and just hanging off my head.  I looked, in my opinion, quite frumpy.  My hair is also quite naturally wavy, and so the wave was occurring near the ends of my hair, but was weighing down the roots.  I was about ready to get rid of all that excess hair.

I went to the salon this morning before we went to get our groceries, and the lady who cut my hair was really nice.  She was probably about my age, had a few tattoos, and seemed pretty knowledgeable about different hairstyles and helped me figure out what to execute what I had pictured in my head.  I knew I wanted a bob, on the shorter side, and bangs.  I hadn’t worn actual bangs since I was about 10 years old, when I started training my bangs that I had worn since my toddler years to lay back on my head with headbands.  I didn’t quite know which bangs would flatter my face and forehead, so she suggested side-swept instead of full bangs.  I felt a little adventurous, so I went with it.  We decided on an A-line bob (shorter in the back, longer in the front) that would help keep my neck cool during the summer, with layers that would complement both the thickness and the texture of my hair.  She said she was actually excited to get to work with my hair, because thick hair is apparently a hairdresser’s dream (much more versatile to style than finer hair, although even thick hair has its styling drawbacks, like any other thickness).  She was not the first hairdresser to say this about my hair, by the way.  It took probably around an hour or so to get it all done, but once I did, I must say that I quite liked the result.  And now you’ll get to see it for yourself.

The “before” picture was taken last week.  My hair is normally not that dark, I took that picture in the shade.  The “after” picture was taken earlier this afternoon, not long after we got home.  I wasn’t wearing my glasses because my current ones need to be replaced…the frames are pretty worn out.  This picture was also taken in the sunlight, with a little cloud cover.  I had also taken some when the Sun was out, but the glare was a little too much for my liking.  In other words, I did not color my hair.  Here are the pics:

Overall, I like how it came out.  The bangs look a little awkward at the moment, but I hope they’ll look better after they grow out a for a few weeks.  Otherwise, this is probably the best haircut I’ve had in years.  Agree? Disagree?

My niece has her first birthday party on Saturday, and her actual birthday on Tuesday.  This will be an interesting next few days.