Charlie Brown Syndrome (or, Chronically Single on Valentine’s Day)

Last July, I wrote this post about my experiences of being a 30-year-old single woman. It still holds true for me. One downside of this, though, comes along every February. February 14th of every year marks Valentine’s Day, or as I like to call it, “Singles Awareness Day” (as in it makes me aware…very aware…that I am single). In a time of year when people are talking about dates and flowers and love and special moments, it often leaves me feeling sad, lonely, and oftentimes jealous because I somehow always feel left out. For all intents and purposes, I am the real-embodiment of Charlie Brown.

This is not a new experience for me. I experienced it all through high school. In a time of one’s life when people are normally pairing off and experiencing the wonders of things like dating and making out and relationships, I was one of the ones who was shut out (I came close to it a time or two, but it never worked out). I’d see classmates receiving things like teddy bears, flowers, and candy from their significant others, and it almost always made me feel sad and jealous. Some classmates tried to “help” me out of pity one year, but unlike Charlie Brown when a girl named Violet finally sends him a (used) Valentine, it only made me feel worse. After a while, I just got tired of it: the gift-giving, the making dates, and even seeing the shelves of the local Walmart lined stem to stern with boxes of chocolate and similar candies, loads of large stuffed teddy bears holding little red hearts populating other sections of the store, and greeting cards proclaiming messages of love was enough for me to feel sick to my stomach.

In my younger years, my friends knew and understood this and would try to help me feel better. A lot of those friends are now married themselves and have their own traditions, so my community of fellow singles has shrunk considerably over the years. Now being 30, almost 31, and still never having been in an actual relationship…it’s more of a feeling of general loneliness now than actual sadness. My loneliness has accompanied me through life, not as a friend or a companion, but as more of something familiar that has just kept me company for all these years. I’m used to it by this point. A lot of times, I wish it would just go away, but I’m used to it being around me…I know nothing different.

I know I’m not the only one out there who’s going through these feelings. There are many, many other people out there, chronically single, who are feeling similar emotions to the ones I feel every February. If you are one of those people, I just want to let you know that you are not alone, your feelings are valid, and that it’s okay to feel sad, jealous, and lonely on Valentine’s Day. But it’s also okay to take those emotions and do something positive with them, and that’s something I try to do every year. That’s what I’ve been doing in writing this post. It’s okay to love things about yourself and try to celebrate those things. It’s okay to celebrate what you love about your friends and your family instead of trying to find a date for the sake of finding a date. It’s okay to stay at home and watch Netflix with your dog, if that’s how your plans are turning out. And it’s okay to just hang out with your friends, maybe watch some movies, play some poker, or spend the evening making lots of snarky comments on some ridiculous TV show…perhaps The Bachelor? (FYI, I can’t stand that show. I usually watch wrestling instead. 😆) Don’t have a spouse or significant other? Make Valentine’s Day what you want of it. You will get through this day, one way or another.

For me, there is always a bright side in getting over the hump that is Valentine’s Day: My birthday will be coming up around the corner. I start to look forward to my birthday once Valentine’s Day passes, as it is about five and a half weeks away. It is a day that is mine and one that I can get excited for as I know the year ahead will be an unpredictable ride. I know I’ll be okay. I won’t be happy tomorrow, but I know I’ll be okay.

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Cold, But Snowless

Personally, my New Year’s Eve was uneventful, just me and a cup of coffee watching most of the coverage of Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve special from Times Square (which I actually found more entertaining than the usual fare and fluff that you see on the broadcast networks because on CNN’s special, you can see otherwise strait laced journalists getting tipsy and Anderson Cooper getting candid, especially now that his longtime friend Andy Cohen has joined him). Such is life for a single woman in her thirties on New Year’s Eve.

The weather around here, though, has been quite eventful. For those of you outside of North America, here’s what’s been going on: a blast of cold air from the Arctic has dipped down quite further south than usual (I’m no meteorologist, but I believe this event is called a “polar vortex”), sending most of the eastern and Midwest of the United States into quite a chill compared to normal winter temperatures…including Florida. A lot of the more northern portions of the country are experiencing snowstorms and/or single-digit or teens temperatures in the daytime and subzero temperatures at night. And Florida? We welcomed 2018 yesterday with rain and temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit (quite unusual for Florida this time of year; I may have mentioned before that cold weather here usually comes with very dry air and very little precipitation). For two days before New Year’s Eve, we had cold air and clouds that hung so low in the sky that the broadcast towers within sight from my home had their tops obscured by the cloud cover. We managed to see some very clear blue skies with some cool temperatures in the 60s on New Year’s Eve, but all that was gone after sunrise on New Year’s Day. Over the next couple of days, another cold front will move in, bringing some precipitation with it, and our nighttime temperatures here will drop below freezing. But alas, it will still be snowless here. The air here will still be too warm to turn that rain into snow (or more precisely, snow flurries and a wintry mix of snow, sleet, and/or freezing rain). The best chance of any sort of snow reaching Florida this week will happen much closer to Jacksonville than it would near Orlando (and I live closer to Orlando than I do to Jacksonville). So, we will end up getting cold rain tomorrow. It’s still unusual here, but not unheard of. At least we will have our heater going during those freezing cold nights (we rarely run the heat setting on our air conditioner in the winter to save money on our energy bills, but we do run it on very cold nights because otherwise the room temperature would end up in the low 60s, way below comfortable).

Let’s see…I also finally have a finished project! I finished the actual crocheting on it a little over a week ago, but I finally wove in the ends this morning. I give you…my Unicorn Shawl!

Pattern: Virus by Julia Marquardt / Hook: Size H (5.0 mm) / Yarn: Lion Brand Mandala (2 cakes) / Colorway: Unicorn 🦄

I loved working on this one! The color changes, the lightness of the yarn, and the fact that once I got the pattern down, I was able to crochet this from memory! It was the first time I had ever worked a pattern solely from a chart, which was intimidating at first…but it kept things interesting!

(And I have to admit that the lighting was not bad, given how gray it is outside right now.

I have not gone to the bookstore I wanted to go to yet; the holidays tend to change around the hours a bit, but I’m planning on asking my dad to take me there possibly later this week.

I’ve been working on a Phrygian cap as of late, a simple knitting project that also fulfills some of my desires as a history geek (the cap was famously worn by French revolutionaries). I’ve been on a break from major knitting projects since finishing La vie en rose et violet in September, but I feel ready to start a new project. I’m thinking of making another patchwork blanket, but just a little bit more structured than the previous one. I’m envisioning a central square with rays of rectangles emanating from all four sides of that center square. Then, in each of the spaces created by the right angles of those rays, I want to fill the spaces in with freeform patchwork like in my previous afghan. I’m envisioning a green and brown color scheme, so it’s a little more man-friendly if I decide to sell it. It’s still in the concept stages!

Happy New Year to you all. I hope everybody enjoyed themselves, and I hope 2018 will be a good year for all of us!

I’m Dreaming of a Mild Christmas

Hello! I hope your holiday season, no matter what you celebrate, has been a good one. Here’s a little rundown of how my Christmas went.

We don’t really decorate around here anymore, so our halls aren’t decked and there are no jingle bells or Christmas trees. In fact, our Christmas tree has been in our attic since 2011 (the last time we set it up, at the request of my brother’s then-girlfriend; they split up the following summer…he didn’t start dating my sister-in-law, A., until around 2014). We have never used a natural Christmas tree, we always used an artificial one. I will admit, though, that I do miss the decorating and the shopping and the presents. My friends are so spread out now that I don’t even make presents for people anymore. I’ve kinda lost the drive for it at times. Perhaps this drive will come back in future years. But it is nice to see my neighbors’ houses aglow with lights and flanked by all sorts of decorations, both the inflatable and the non-inflatable. Since this is Florida, our Christmas was not a White Christmas as it was in many parts of the north and midwestern United States, but it was quite nice. In fact, it was mild. Not too hot, just a tiny bit cool because of a weak cold front that had passed through the night before.

My Christmas morning did not involve unwrapping presents placed under a tree. It was just another relatively normal morning. I had slept in just a little bit (by maybe an hour) and when I awoke, my dad’s Jeep (which he got a couple of months ago after trading in his pickup truck; he decided to trade the truck in so that he could get a vehicle that was easier for my mom to get into) was already in the driveway, and then I realized he was in the attic getting something he was planning to give to my niece, R.: a handmade rocking horse that he had made for me and my brother nearly 30 years ago. We had also gotten a couple of books for her a few weeks earlier (a book about animal sounds and one about Frosty the Snowman), which I wrapped just a day or two earlier. He then gave my mom and me both some spending money (which I will talk about a little bit more in just a bit).

About 9:30 that morning, we drove the 3 miles down the road to my brother’s house, and when we got there, we spent the next 15 minutes at their door, with my dad constantly texting them and ringing their doorbell with no answer. We left and returned home, where my dad proceeded to call and text them every 5 minutes…with no answer. So, we go back at 11:00 am, and my dad starts ringing their doorbell over and over again. About 2 minutes later, my brother (who has obviously just woken up) finally answers the door. Turns out he and my sister-in-law didn’t get home until 6:00 am Christmas morning because A. (my sister-in-law) had been in the emergency room getting treated for a thumb injury that she sustained from a falling lamp the night before. After my dad gave J. (my brother) a piece of his mind (just of consternation, he didn’t yell at him or make a scene), he presented J. with the gifts we had for R., and then he also gave J. some spending money of their own for both J. and A. After leaving J.’s place, we went driving around to see what was open (I knew we weren’t going to get groceries because just about every store is closed on Christmas morning). We eventually found a 7-Eleven, where my dad went in to get some milk, coffee creamer, and cigarettes for himself (Mom and I do not smoke). Then we drove around a little more and saw that the local Steak ‘n Shake was open, and that was our Christmas lunch: steak burgers, fries, and milkshakes. We came home and ate, and after that Dad went to bed to sleep in preparation for his work day that night (which is nice, though, because where he works they pay their employees extra on holidays that they work on, and that includes Christmas and New Year’s, among others). Mom and I then watched the final four episodes of I Love Lucy that I had recorded earlier in the year on the DVR (I was on a mission to watch the entire series) as well as some stuff on Netflix. That evening, after Dad went to work, I watched the Christmas episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw (this year marked the first time ever that WWE aired a live episode of Raw on Christmas Day).

The day after (Boxing Day to those of you outside the United States; we normally don’t use the phrase “Boxing Day” here in the States for December 26th), we finally went grocery shopping (and was able to get the stuff I needed to make a very basic turkey dinner, which I plan on making on either Friday or Saturday at the latest), and later that day I watched the I Love Lucy and Doctor Who Christmas specials. I thought Peter Capaldi got a pretty nice send-off, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor. Looks like she’ll be without the Tardis for a little while! And as for the I Love Lucy Christmas special, each year that it’s been aired since 2013, it’s been paired with a colorized classic episode, and this one was the one where she was in the fashion show for designer Don Loper (where she gets a nasty sunburn just before walking in the Hollywood wives’ fashion show in exchange for a $500 dress that she told Ricky was $100).

Ah, yes…the spending money. I’m not going to give the exact amount here, but it is enough to get a decent amount of what I want to get if I budget it right. About all I really want to get to wear is a pair of boots to wear with my houndstooth print pants. But…there is also an independent bookstore near my hometown that I want to go to so I can buy some books to add to my collection. Don’t get me wrong…I like the iBooks e-reader I have on my iPad, but…there’s just something about having a book in my hands with pages to turn with the fingers of my left hand (yes, this is how I read: book goes in either my lap or my right hand, and I turn the pages with my left). This bookstore, which I have visited only once before (about 13 years ago when I had to purchase books to read for an AP English class), has quite the collection, selling new and used books. I’m bound to find some gems in that store if I look closely enough! Even if I get the boots, I should still be able to get a nice number of books that should interest me. Who knows what I’d find there, but there are a few on my wish list that I’d love to get:

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (note: she was actually from a little town near Orlando called Eatonville, and the city hosts a festival in her honor every January called Zora!Fest; a lot of her works were set in Eatonville)
  • All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Of course, a random gem of a book could pop up when I least expect it.

(As for what I am currently reading, I am still reading Ulysses. I am only about 100 pages into it, and I am at the portion of Bloom’s journey where he attends a funeral. It can be a bit plodding to read at times, but if I managed to finish Gone with the Wind, then Ulysses shouldn’t be too rough on me.)

I hope your holidays were more interesting than mine, but perhaps I’ll be able to share my loot of books with you at some point in the near future. Also: stay tuned for a finished project. The crocheted shawl I was working on is finished, and I hope to be able to showcase it for you in the coming days!

Happy Halloween!

Today is my favorite day of the year, besides my birthday.  I’ve always loved dressing up in costumes and eating candy 🍭🍬🍭🍬…and just the entire atmosphere that comes with Halloween has always made it a fun day for me.  I think back on various Halloweens throughout the years, and I remember the times that my brother and I would go trick-or-treating (the year where I was a princess and he got to be Superman comes to mind), the times where I’ve handed out candy, and I even think back to the year that I went trick-or-treating with my best friend, me as a beatnik and her as Ash from the Evil Dead series (played by the legendary Bruce Campbell).

This year, I’ll get to see my niece in a Halloween costume for the first time (she was almost 5 months old at this time last year, and she and her parents did not stop by for us last year…but my SIL has promised us that she will be making a visit today).  I have no clue what costume she will be wearing, but I know it shall be adorable, whatever it is.  We have our candy for her (plenty of chocolate so she can get extra messy while eating it…my dad said that was his “…duty as a grandpa…”), and I am fully prepared to take pics of her in her costume for my own collection.

Knitting and crochet-wise, the Wonder Woman Wrap is going well, and I finished the second-to-last section this morning.  All I have left is the Upper Border, the bind-off, and the weaving in of ends (of which there are a lot).  I hope next time I will be able to share some pictures of a finished wrap.

I also have a crocheted shawl in progress.  I got a cake of Lion Brand Mandala (which is a light worsted, gradient self-striping acrylic yarn), and the colorway is called…Unicorn 🦄!  I got a size H ergonomic hook for it, which doesn’t dig into my hand as much as a standard one, and so far I like how it’s turning out.  The pattern I’m using is called “Virus” by Julia Marquardt, and is a free pattern.  It is the first time I’ve crocheted directly from a charted pattern, and once I was able to examine the chart piece by piece, I started to get the hang of the pattern.  After the setup rows, it’s a four row repeat, with one more section added to each side of the shawl in each repeat.  I figure I should have the rows memorized within the next couple of repeats.  Here are some pictures of this one, that I’m calling the “Unicorn Shawl” in my Ravelry projects.

A cake of Lion Brand Mandala…I’m already into the next color!
Yarn and shawl together.

It’s only just gotten into the next color in the cake, a brief run of purple before it goes into pink.

I hope you all have a wonderful Halloween, if you choose to observe it, and please have as safe of a Halloween possible!  I hope to have pictures of a finished Wonder Woman Wrap next time I write.

Until later, everybody!

They Did.  (Or, I Have In-Laws Now!)

If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, then you’ll remember that in Some Knitting and an Announcement I mentioned that my brother had gotten engaged.  Well, their engagement was a relatively short one, and they had their wedding day over the weekend.  This past Saturday, to be exact.  They had set the date about a month after their engagement, and they set the place for their wedding at a favorite local restaurant, a mom-and-pop barbecue joint which is a favorite in our family for its smoked pulled pork, their smoked beef brisket, their barbecued pork ribs, and (I must say) some amazing prime rib (I don’t eat steak or the like all that often, so it’s a treat when I do).

So, here is my experience of their wedding day, as captured though my trusty iPad.  Note that out of a want to protect the privacy of my family members, their faces will not be shown in detail in the photos.  I will also not be using their full names, but I will use their initials instead.  My brother (the groom) will be referred to as “J.”, my sister-in-law (the bride) will be “A.”, and their daughter (my niece) is “R.”.

The day before the wedding, I finally was able to get some new clothes to wear (not an easy task for a plus size woman like me), and I ended up settling on a pair of houndstooth print pants and a long-sleeved purple cotton/polyester v-neck top.  I had previously gotten some neutral eyeshadow to round out my makeup kit (although it is still not complete, even now; it still needs some eyeliner, some evening eyeshadow, some darker lip color, and possibly some mascara).  I figured with the atmosphere of the venue, super-formal attire was not required.  Heck, my dad wore overalls over a plaid button-up shirt!  And I was right.  Even my own brother didn’t wear a suit!  I’m pretty sure their pastor did, though.  We were asked to be there for a 4 pm ceremony; we got there at about 3:30.  While waiting for the ceremony to begin, I took a selfie (my brother was getting pre-wedding pictures taken all over the place…I won’t be able to show it here, but in one of the pro pictures taken of my brother and his daughter, my dad can be seen photobombing in the background, but it wasn’t on purpose).

Pre-ceremony selfie with okay-ish makeup job.

The ceremony took place outside the restaurant building, which has a barn-like façade (J. & A. are country music fans and J. especially is a bit of a redneck).  My brother built the arch that they were married under, and they also put together their own sign and a fence backdrop where guests could take some polaroids with fun props, and each pic was pinned with a clothespin to some wires spanning a picture frame that serves as a keepsake for the bride and groom.  I managed to get a panorama of of the ceremony area before the wedding.

A panorama shot of the ceremony area.

And I also got a couple of shots of the reception area.

The bride and groom’s reception table.
The reception area.

Of course, events like this never start on time, and this was no different.  The ceremony itself started at around 4:30, and it was a relatively simple ceremony compared to other weddings.  There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen (mainly because they were on a tight budget, but likely also to avoid any unnecessary drama or stress that comes with such positions).  They instead opted for a ring bearer (A.’s nephew, if I remember correctly) and a flower girl (their little girl R.).  My brother wore a simple black button-up shirt, dark blue jeans, a belt, and cowboy boots, and the ring bearer wore a similar outfit.  A. wore a white, one-shoulder gown with lace detail and a champagne-colored sash and…cowboy boots.  R. wore a white gown with her own little cowboy boots.  You can tell they like their country style.  The officiant was a pastor (I never asked about the denomination, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was Southern Baptist, as this seems to be a common denomination here, and my brother and I both attended Baptist churches in the past), who wore a white beard similar to Abraham Lincoln’s, neatly trimmed with no mustache. This was an unusual wedding (only the fourth I’ve ever attended, the other three being for family friends) in that no vows were recited (rather, the pastor outlined the meaning of marriage and the bride and groom simply confirmed their agreement to the terms with an “I do”) and that no words were recited during the exchange of rings (again, the pastor outlined their symbolism).  Within a matter of ten minutes after her father had given A. away, J. & A. were pronounced husband and wife and sealed it with a kiss.  Here is the ceremony in a few pictures:


(That’s R. in the little wagon, by the way.  She can walk, but doesn’t quite have the stamina to stand still just yet.  She’s getting there, though!  And the key to getting a perfect kiss pic?  Photo burst!)

After the ceremony, everyone filed into the reception area and after some time for the bride and groom and their families to get their pictures taken, it was time for the reception dinner to begin.  It was buffet-style, with coleslaw, rolls, macaroni and cheese, French fries, baked beans, and barbecued chicken, pork, and beef brisket.  I had coleslaw, a roll, some mac and cheese, baked beans, and beef brisket (which I topped with a little of the house sweet sauce).  The bride and groom got champagne and beer, and all the adult guests of drinking age got two tickets to redeem for drinks at the bar.  I used both of my tickets on a couple of bottles of Miller Lite, and I think I may have been the only one at the entire reception drinking Miller!  Hey…I can’t help it if I’m a Miller girl (which is kind of a big deal, because most people here in the South prefer to drink Budweiser).

A nice, cold bottle of Miller Lite, with some of my mom’s plate in the background.
Beer selfie! Why not?

The reception went past sunset.  There was lots of music, laughter, and general hubbub.  Unfortunately, I cannot upload video directly here, but I did manage to catch some video of the kids at the wedding dancing to “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry, a song that was about 8 times older than they were, with reckless abandon.  It was cute.  The bride and groom danced to “Love of My Life” by the country singer Sammy Kershaw, and then they cut the cake.


Unfortunately, we were a week too early for the first major cool down of the season (we have another cold front coming through this week, which will see several nights of temperatures in the 50s Fahrenheit, sweater weather for us Floridians), and we were getting warm and tired, so my parents and I left the reception at around 7:30, but not before we got Polaroids taken…and we got about three or four of them (a couple of them candids).  

J., A., and R. are now in the Carolinas for a family honeymoon.

I don’t know if marriage is in the cards for me, but I am so glad that I got to share in my brother’s special day.  Sure, I think about what I would want in a hypothetical wedding, but then I remember that I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch.  Soon, things will get back to normal, only now…I have in-laws.

I close this post with the two songs I mentioned here: “Love of My Life” by Sammy Kershaw and “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry.

Until next time…

The First Signs of Fall, a Work in Progress, and Remembering

The calendar reads October, and although the autumnal equinox happened nearly a month ago, it hasn’t felt much like it here.  Save for a few drier days with highs in the low and mid 80s F following Hurricane Irma, the heat that has defined the Florida summer has stuck around all the way into our Tenth Month.  Some of the leaves are only now starting to get the signal, and the weather has started to dry up.  Autumn doesn’t come in an instant in Florida…it’s a transition.  And the biggest sign of that transition will be coming shortly.

Later this week, we will have our first cold front approaching the area.  Albeit, this will be a weak cold front, but it will pack the first punch that will finally knock the summer heat out of the atmosphere over Florida.  We may be seeing some of our last 90s F for the year.  (I use the Fahrenheit abbreviation because I do have some followers that live in metric countries that use the Celsius scale, so the Fahrenheit abbreviation is there to avoid confusion.)  After rain associated with the front clears out, the daytime temperatures should go down to the low 80s F, and nighttime temperatures will remain comfortably in the low 70s F.  There could possibly be another cold front approaching next week and knocking our overnight lows into the upper 60s F, which is close to sweater weather here.  Even though I was born and raised here, I’ve never been a fan of the heat and humidity that comes with the Florida summers…but the autumns and winters here make it worth staying here.

Now, you know by now I am never not knitting, and the sign of a true knitter is that one almost always has something on the needles!  This one is no different.  I started working on the Wonder Woman Wrap about a week or so ago.  I initially cast on in Red Heart’s With Love in Peacock, but I knew there wouldn’t be enough there to finish the project.  So when I went to the store, I was hoping to find another skein of it.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to.  So, I decided to start again, this time in a different color, and I decided to pick out Red Heart’s Super Saver in Burgundy, which I figured would pair well with the Soft White I already had in the stash (which I decided to use because I am not a huge fan of yellow).  I should let you know that the resemblance to Santa’s outfit 🎅🏻 is not intentional.

Up to this writing, I am almost finished with the Lower W portion of the Wrap, with about 4 rows left to go before I begin the first of the two Side Stripes.  I don’t have any circular needles longer than 29 inches, so the stitches are completely bunched up, but you can get an idea of the size of the wrap.

Casting on…
First stages of the Lower W
Showing off my work while preparing to Stitch & Pitch (knit and watch baseball)
Halfway through the Lower W section
Four rows left in this section, right in the middle of the Lower W. Note the short row triangle worked below it in Burgundy.

And now the Remembering: I realize I’m a bit slow to this, but two weeks ago, we had one of the darkest days in recent history.  That Monday morning, I awoke to the news that the deadliest mass shooting in American history had taken place, surpassing even the death toll at Pulse just a year ago.  Nearly 60 people were killed and about another 500 were wounded.  My heart breaks for those victims and their families, even two weeks later.  And then later that day came the news that one of Florida’s most legendary musicians, and a man whose song I had just featured on this very blog two days before, had died.  I am, of course, referring to Tom Petty.  Petty was a musician who I think just about all of Florida would be proud to claim as their own, despite the fact that he spent most of his career in California.  Despite that, Petty always kept some sort of connection to his Southern roots in his music, be it in twangy guitar riffs, maintaining a drawl in his singing voice, or his band incorporating thumping drums or swampy, melodic harmonicas into their songs.  His partnership with The Heartbreakers was one that seemed poised to stand the test of time, and his collaborations with his fellow Traveling Wilburys were the things of legends.  Tom was taken from us suddenly and way too early, and two weeks later my heart 💔 still breaks for him and for his Heartbreakers who have lost their dear leader.

I leave you with one of my favorite songs of his, “You Don’t Know How It Feels”.

I hope to be able to share with you all about my brother’s wedding soon, as it will be taking place this weekend.  Next time I write, I shall have legally gained my first-ever set of in-laws.

The Irma Saga, Part II: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

After this particular part of the story, I could not get that Tom Petty song out of my head.  Which is why I referenced it in the title.

At this point, I should warn you that I don’t have a very linear narrative here…I will jump back and forth in time at points…just bear with me.

One of the biggest things we went through in the aftermath of Irma was one that a good portion of the state of Florida went through: being without power.  After going almost the entire storm without losing power (save for a few flickers throughout the day and evening), Irma finally knocked out our power on her way out of my hometown, at about 6:00 Monday morning, on September 11.  Yes, this is obviously a date of significance here, and because of Irma, this was actually the first time since that tragic morning in 2001 that the memory of those events didn’t really cross my mind (and having watched those attacks play out on live TV, the memories of those images are still ingrained in my mind all these years later…I can still replay those moments and memories in my head, which is why I haven’t felt much of a need to rewatch footage of those attacks).  We were just focused on trying to clean up and get our post-hurricane plans in motion.

Dad set up our generator on our back porch area, and it was this generator that would become our sole power source for the next 5 days.  We got this generator more than a decade ago after the nightmare that was the Triumvirate of Hurricanes in 2004, an experience which I discussed in detail in my last entry, The Irma Saga, Part I: Possibly the Longest Weekend of My Life So Far. Since we’ve gotten this generator, Irma has marked only the second time we have had to use it (the first time was after Hurricane Matthew, which knocked out our power for about 36 hours last year).  Out came the extension cords and power strips, and with a few configurations, we were able to use it to power the following: our refrigerator, the window unit air conditioner in the master bedroom (which my dad normally uses to keep himself from sweating profusely when he sleeps, a condition I myself seem to have inherited), a shop fan (which produces a fantastic cooling current, I must say), a pedestal fan, the living room TV and its associated devices, and an auto shop light that would serve as both a bathroom and kitchen light and a spare outlet for our coffee brewer or our microwave.

Now, about 6 million customers lost power because of Irma, and with household estimates taken into account, somewhere around 15 million people were without power.  That amounts to about three-quarters of the entire state that lost power during Irma.  Crews from all over the country came in to give our own linemen extra sets of hands to try and get the state back online as soon as possible.  We knew we were gonna have to be patient.  Sometimes our patience was tested, and that’s partly due to how my neighborhood was built.

My neighborhood is unusual in that not all of the houses on my street are on the same power grid.  The houses on my street were not all built at the same time.  My street is a short little street that runs from north to south in a straight line, with about 10 houses lining the western side of the street, and my house is the only one on the eastern side, just a little over halfway down if you go from north to south.  The north and south ends intersect with one street each, with the street on the northern end taking a path straight to the local US highway, and the one on the southern end connects with another street that also takes a path straight to the same highway.  Right next to my house is another intersection with another small street that ends in a cul-de-sac next to some woods, through which a trail runs that connects the end of that street with the corner of another nearby one.  Now, the houses on the southern end of the street, all the way up to my house, were built first, and they share a power grid with the houses that are on the street that intersect with the southern end of my street.  Our neighbor’s house, just across the street and one house to the right from my house’s vantage point, is one of the first houses on a separate power grid, which includes the little side street that intersects near my house and the street that intersects with the northern end of my street.

What all this means is that we didn’t all lose our power the same way.  My neighbor that I mentioned?  His loss of power was likely caused by either a blown transformer or a downed tree at the northern end of our street.  Since we’re on a different grid, that had no effect on our power.  However…the street that the wooded trail connects to?  A large oak tree managed to fall on that street, which is what knocked out our power.  This was gonna take much more than 36 hours to fix.

During this whole thing, I did not leave my street, so my dad’s updates from his drive home from work were my updates to the outside when it came to what was happening in my hometown.  He had Sunday off because of the storm, but was due to return Monday night.  However, I was so uneasy about how to run things that my dad decided to take Monday night off and return Tuesday.  Monday night I slept in my bed, while parents and the dog all slept in the master bedroom.  They got the air conditioner, set to a very cool 60 degrees, and I got the shop fan set up on my floor, all with the generator refueled and running through the night to power them.  The shop fan actually did help to relieve some of my sweating…much better than the very sweaty nights I would experience during a typical powerless night.  Tuesday, we were able to come up with a routine where my dad would refuel the generator before going to work, which would allow us to run the window unit while he was gone until about 7 or 8 in the morning, when it would run out of fuel.  (Not a long wait, as he typically gets home around 9:00 am.).  Tuesday  and Wednesday nights, I slept in the master bedroom and was able to keep my mom company, as she typically has night panics these days and doesn’t like to sleep alone.  (These nights, though, I wouldn’t go to bed until at least 11:00 pm so I could make sure our DVR programming recorded on time.)  The cool air helped me sleep with minimal to no sweating.  Thursday was my dad’s first night off from in his regular schedule, but I ended up sitting out in the living room to keep an eye on our back door, which had to be cracked open to allow the extension cords to run in from outside.  I tend to get very cautious when this happens, because I prefer all the doors to be locked at night.  I ended up trying to watch Frasier reruns until my dad woke me up at 4:00 am (he typically doesn’t sleep as much on his off nights because his internal clock is so used to him being active at night), so I got a few extra hours of sleep in the cold master bedroom.

How did we eat that week?  Well, with the power out, we had no use of our stove, which meant we couldn’t cook anything or even brew iced/sweet tea (which is my dad’s favorite thing to drink: he takes it barely sweetened, only about 1/3 cup of sugar per gallon, and with 5 tea bags steeping in the water, as he likes his tea strong).  We ended up eating mostly sandwiches, fast food burgers, and pizza that week.  When our power came back on, I was so glad to finally be able to use the stove again after a week!

On Wednesday, our neighbor knocked on our door that afternoon to inform us that his power was back on and that the crews had finally begun the process of clearing out the tree that had knocked out our own power.  Unfortunately, our power did not come back on that night.  The following day, my dad had not noticed any crews working in that area that morning, but were in another part of the neighborhood.  That afternoon, after a drive around the neighborhood, he did notice something in that area, though: a power pole had been installed, but had no line hung up (though the supplies were at the site).  I immediately perked up, because I knew it was only a matter of time before our power would be back on.  Sure enough, the new transformer and power line were installed the next day, and our power finally came back on at about 10:45 Friday morning…we were into our fifth day without power.  After turning off our generator, winding up the extension cords, putting the power strips back into their proper places, and all three of us each getting a good shower 🚿, we were finally able to go back to our normal routines and put the memories of Irma behind us.

Tomorrow will mark just three weeks since Irma, and it’s already feeling like a distant memory.  But as Floridians like myself have been reminded time and time again, just because the memories are distant doesn’t give us permission to become complacent about just of what Mother Nature is capable.  We Floridians have learned this in the wake of Andrew; of Charley, Frances, and Jeanne; of Wilma; of Matthew; and of Irma.  Outside of Florida, we humans have learned this lesson through Katrina and Sandy and Mitch…and even most recently through Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.  I hope those of you who live in hurricane-prone regions take this to heart.  Heed any warnings that are given, and take them seriously.  Don’t think that you can outsmart a hurricane…because you can’t.  You will save yourself a world of trouble, or even your life.

Now, I shall close this post with a clip of the song I referenced in the title, “The Waiting” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, probably the most famous rock band to ever come out of the state of Florida (although Lynyrd Skynyrd is a close second).

Until next time…