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!

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.

100 (Somewhat Random) Things About Me

First of all, I’d like to announce that I recently passed the 10 followers mark here at WordPress (and gained my 11th follower and first email subscriber on Monday), and I’d like to take a moment to thank them for their interest in my blog and I hope they all continue to enjoy reading what I have to write here, however mundane or grandiose it may be.  Whatever brought you here, no matter what brought you here, thank you for taking the time to read what I’ve written so far, thank you for being interested enough to continue reading what I write and deciding to follow me, and those of you who have commented, thank you for your kind words and encouragement.  I hope to continue to learn a lot more about myself through my writing.  It’s made what I thought would be a bumpy start for me a lot less bumpy.

Today’s post is more than a bit lengthy, but fun.  I think this kind of post has been around for about as long as blogging has, but that won’t stop me from doing one of my own.  It is a long post, but be patient.  With that said, here are 100 somewhat random and quasi-interesting things about me.

  1. I have no tattoos whatsoever, and do not plan on getting any (mostly because I feel like I will regret them once I get to old age).
  2. The only piercings I have on my entire body are the ones in my ears that I got when I was 7 years old.  My family has a bit of a tradition of piercing girls’ ears at a young age (my mom, my late maternal grandmother, and even my baby niece have had pierced ears as well).
  3. I have never done any recreational drug of any sort, and do not plan to.
  4. Despite coming from a family of tobacco users (on both sides), I have never smoked a cigarette.  I tasted a cigarette butt once as a child, and that alone was enough to turn me off from tobacco.
  5. I rarely drink.  I probably have less than 10 drinks a year.  I will occasionally drink a beer while watching a baseball game or a Kahlúa with company.
  6. I’ve only ever gotten drunk once.  I didn’t particularly like it.  It did nothing to make me more social or confident.
  7. I don’t particularly care for tea.  I’ll occasionally drink the sweet tea I make for my mom, but just about any other kind of tea grosses me out.
  8. I can’t stand yellow mustard.  Any other kind of mustard (brown, Dijon, honey mustard, coarse grain) is fine, but I find the bright yellow stuff to be gross and will only eat it on hot dogs when there is no ketchup available.  Mostly because the only thing I dislike more than yellow mustard on a hot dog is a hot dog on dry bread.
  9. I love natural cheese.  Processed cheese (like American cheese) is okay, but there is nothing like a cheeseburger that has had a slice of Muenster cheese melted on top of it.
  10. I will also admit to liking seafood (including shellfish and sushi).
  11. I have not watched any footage of the 9/11 attacks since about a year or two after they happened.  I watched those events unfold on live TV as a freshman in high school, and the memories of that day are still vivid enough that I have no desire to relive them by watching them over and over again (and this year will mark 16 years since that day).
  12. I have kept either a diary or a journal since I was 8 years old.  It took me 10 years to fill all the pages in my first diary, and I’ve had my current journal since 2006 and am only now within 30-50 pages of filling in all the pages of that one.
  13. My earliest writing influence was Anne Frank, whose story I first learned about in an issue of Reader’s Digest when I was 7.  I remember being amazed at how such a young girl could have such a way with words.  I was able to get a copy of Diary of a Young Girl when I was 13 through one of those book order catalogs through my school.  I’ve read it cover to cover numerous times and am still amazed at how a girl in such a harrowing situation was able to see humanity and humor in life, and how she was able to relate teenage emotions and experiences in such unusual circumstances.  It is heartbreaking that it took her death in order for her gift with words to be shared with the world.
  14. A lot of my favorite authors over the years were women.  The first author of chapter books I remember reading is Beverly Cleary.  Over the years, I have also read books by Cynthia Voigt (author of the Tillerman saga novels), J. K. Rowling (in addition to the Harry Potter books, I have also read and enjoyed The Casual Vacancy and would eventually like to read her Cormoran Strike novels), and, as mentioned in my very first entry, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (also known by her blogging name, The Yarn Harlot).  I quite liked Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, but have not been able to find the other two novels in the trilogy.  And Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was a heck of a read.
  15. Male authors I have enjoyed reading include Dave Barry and Stieg Larsson and his Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels written in Larsson’s lifetime).  Larsson’s trilogy marked the first time I ever read and completed said reading of crime novels.
  16. I am an atheist with a humanist worldview, and have identified as such since I was 16 years old (well, the atheist part…I didn’t realize I was also a humanist until about a year or two ago).
  17. I consider myself to be geeky/nerdy, but strangely I am not into comic books or most science fiction.  I will admit to liking Star Wars and dystopian fiction.
  18. I’ve always been a voracious reader, whether I’m reading a book or articles online.
  19. I always tested pretty strongly in reading in school, but I didn’t care much for English or language arts classes.  I still find my writing style from those classes to have been incredibly static and robotic.
  20. I had my IQ tested once, in 5th grade.  I scored about a 128 (although a visual puzzle portion confused me and may have affected my score).  Unfortunately, my county required a score of 130 for me to be placed in the gifted program.
  21. I went on my first date at the age of 18 and haven’t been on a date since.  (To clarify, I am not using this blog for dating/relationship purposes.  This blog is intended to be a creative and literary outlet.)
  22. I am from the South and I do not care much for country music.  In that genre, I really only listen to Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire, and even then not on a regular basis.
  23. Other stereotypes about the South that I do not identify with: I am not a rabid NASCAR fan (I will occasionally watch a race with my dad), I do not identify as either a redneck or a Southern Belle, and I am not politically conservative.
  24. Because of my relatively clean lifestyle, I find myself to be the most conservative liberal I know.  (I intend to keep this blog apolitical unless it’s something I really need to write about.)
  25. I love to cook.  Baking, not so much.  I prefer the liberties you can take with flavors and ingredients in regular cooking.  Baking is more of a science.
  26. I have a dog now, but I consider myself to be a total cat person.  My personality gets along better with cats.
  27. I’m a history and science nerd.  My favorite historical period to study is Antiquity (basically between the beginning of recorded history to the beginning of the Middle Ages), and my favorite branches of science are Astronomy and Biology.  Sadly, I don’t think I have the math skills to be able to study astronomy or physics in-depth.
  28. I will readily admit to being a huge fan of The Golden Girls.  I never seem to tire of it.  From season 1 to season 7, it was funny from beginning to end.
  29. I have a guilty pleasure for ’70s disco music and anything camp (basically any combination of cheesy, glittery, and/or ridiculous).
  30. I have seen Kung Pow: Enter the Fist so many times that I can still quote various lines from the movie.
  31. I loved Nicktoons from the early ’90s.  I like it that I can understand the more “adult” jokes from Rocko’s Modern Life now.
  32. I’ve watched wrestling on and off since I was 12.  I’m mostly a WWE girl, and have been since the very beginning of my fandom (even in the days when my dad watched WCW religiously).
  33. My favorite wrestlers of all time are The Rock and Chris Jericho.  I was also a huge Edge & Christian fan back in the day.
  34. My favorite current wrestler is…Chris Jericho.  Even as a heel/bad guy, I never get tired of him.  He has managed to keep his character fresh and interesting every run he has had.
  35. I have been a Monty Python fan since high school.  I’ve watched just about every episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and have seen each of their movies (including And Now For Something Completely Different) at least once.  I’ve seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail way too many times to count.
  36. I also love watching Mel Brooks movies.  Blazing Saddles was the first and will always hold a special place in my heart, but I also absolutely loved Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
  37. Animated Disney movies in the 1990s were an important part of my childhood, and I think I’ve watched every animated movie from that decade at least once.
  38. The first movie I ever saw in a movie theater was Disney’s Aladdin.  I may have only been about six at the time.  I also remember seeing The Lion King and Mulan in the theater as well.
  39. I read Gone with the Wind before seeing the movie (yes…all 1000+ pages of the book).
  40. I am a big time music nerd, and I enjoy collecting knowledge about songs, bands, albums, and even entire genres.  If I know a song’s chart peak, I will let you know.
  41. My music tastes are eclectic: I have been known to listen to classic rock, classic R&B and soul, new wave and its related subgenres, ’90s alternative rock (especially R.E.M.), old school country (usually when my dad is listening to it), ’80s and ’90s hip hop, funk, classical, and some modern pop music.
  42. My favorite band of all time is Queen.  From their hard rock stuff in the ’70s to their experiments in funk and dance in the ’80s, to Freddie Mercury’s incredible farewell effort in Innuendo.  I also enjoy listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, and (as previously mentioned) R.E.M.
  43. I used to play some guitar; however, the neck on my guitar broke a few years ago, rendering it unplayable.  I have not been able to replace it since.
  44. In addition to relearning guitar, I’d also like to learn ukulele and violin someday.
  45. The best I can play on a piano is the first few bars of Bach’s Minuet in G.  Other than that, I don’t really have much coordination at all between my left hand and my right.
  46. I suffer from eczema and dry and sensitive skin, and have since I was a kid.
  47. I have numerous scars on my face and arms from an attack of chicken pox that I had as a small child.  These include a somewhat prominent one on my left cheek.
  48. I am a female sports fan.  I watch just about all the major sports at some point.
  49. The only sports I was decent at playing were basketball and tennis.
  50. I was so terrible at volleyball that once when I was serving during a game in PE class, the ball actually flew vertical and hit a light on the ceiling, which had to have at least been about 25 feet high, if not higher.  Thankfully, I didn’t break anything.
  51. I love a good cup of coffee.  I like it with a little sugar and some good liquid creamer or half & half in it.
  52. I love vanilla ice cream.
  53. I cannot stand most kinds of fruit.  The only fruit I can tolerate are: apples, bananas, grapes, citrus, strawberries, and occasionally cherries.
  54. I have only attended three weddings in my entire life, and the person in each wedding that we knew were all part of the same extended family…and it wasn’t my extended family (but rather one that my dad has known since childhood).
  55. I have never attended a wedding where the bride or groom was from my own extended family.
  56. I have also never been in a wedding party.
  57. I have only attended two funerals in my entire life: my great-grandfather’s at age 8 and my paternal grandmother’s at age 25.  (My grandmother was the daughter of said great-grandfather.)
  58. I never met my paternal grandfather.  He died of a pulmonary embolism 3 1/2 years before I was born.  Supposedly, my dad’s youngest brother looks just like my grandfather (and my dad looks like he could be his youngest brother’s twin, but they were actually born several years apart).
  59. I was two weeks late to my own birth.  I was due March 10, but I stayed in so long that they ended up inducing labor on my mom on the morning of March 24th and I was born around 2:30 that afternoon.
  60. Strangely enough, I get annoyed when we are running late to a planned visit or excursion.
  61. My favorite kind of books to read are historical fiction, dystopian fiction, and nonfiction in fields like history, science, and whatever else happens to interest me.
  62. I have never managed to finish a Charles Dickens novel, even when we were assigned to read one for some English class.
  63. The first music video I remember seeing was “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel.
  64. My first celebrity crush was on Lance Bass (let the record show that I have terrible gaydar).
  65. When I was younger, I used to have a habit of ripping and tearing at (but not biting) my fingernails.  This habit has largely disappeared since I took up knitting.
  66. I don’t get motion sickness.
  67. I have never traveled west of the Mississippi River.  The furthest west I have ever gone is Indiana (for a funeral).
  68. I have only seen snow once to date…in Indiana.
  69. Another Southern stereotype I do not adhere to is that I do not call my father “Daddy”.  I prefer to call him “Dad”, and I am the only one in the family who calls him “Dad”.  Everyone else, strangely enough, calls him “Daddy”.  Same with my mother: I call her “Mom”, not “Mommy”.
  70. I love pickles (especially kosher dills), but I cannot stand cucumbers.
  71. I enjoy playing video games.  My favorite brand is Nintendo, but in the last couple of years, I have also been playing PlayStation (those two analog sticks confused the crap out of me for many years).  My brother’s XBox had so many issues that it kinda put me off of XBoxes forever.
  72. My favorite video game of all time is Tetris.  I love being able to use my brain and challenging myself to drop the blocks efficiently and properly with the speed constantly changing.  I have experienced the “Tetris Effect” (where you can visualize the blocks dropping in front of you for minutes or even hours after playing), usually after I’ve played it for a considerable amount of time.
  73. My favorite PlayStation game is the Assassin’s Creed series; I have played four of the games so far: the original, II, Black Flag, and Rogue, but I would eventually like to play my way through the entire series.  I have also played some of the God of War games and tried Infamous, although the first battle against Alden frustrated me to the point that I haven’t touched it since.
  74. I will readily admit that I am not a good dancer.  Choreography (even for the Electric Slide) makes me trip over myself and my attempts at hip hop dancing make me look like a fool.  (This was proven via videotape.)
  75. I listen to ABBA and like it.  Along with the late Michael Jackson and George Michael, I consider Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus to be amongst some of the greatest pop music songwriters of all time.
  76. I can’t stand the band Train.  I find their songs derivative, unoriginal, and their lyrics are inane and filled with too many pop culture references.
  77. I also can’t stand The Bachelor and its related shows.  They are faker than a spray tan, and the proposals on there make me want to gag.  Just once, I want to see a proposal turned down on that show, because I have a lot of trouble believing that you can find your soul mate (and know it) on a reality TV show.
  78. I like watching the Eurovision Song Contest and listening to the songs that compete in it.  This is unusual for an American, but remember that I like all things camp.  The cheesier and the more I can laugh at it, the better.  (But there have also been some great songs that have come out of it as well.)
  79. I have seen the Disney movie RocketMan multiple times and liked it.
  80. I watched almost every single episode of the original run of American Idol.  (All 15 seasons of it).  I am up in the air about whether I want to watch the reboot on ABC.
  81. My ancestry is Sicilian and Irish on my mom’s side; and German (including some Frisian), Swedish, and British (as in I have ancestors from all three of the countries on the island of Great Britain: England, Scotland, and Wales) on my dad’s side.
  82. I like collecting key chains and pens.
  83. I once had a set of fountain pens that came with a calligraphy set.  Then I ran out of ink.  I’d like to add a fountain pen to all the ball points I’ve collected (and use).
  84. I don’t believe in secret recipes.  I believe cooking is an art that should be shared with as many people as possible.
  85. I only speak English fluently, but I can speak and understand some Spanish (although I’m better at reading Spanish than I am at speaking it).
  86. Hospitals and nursing homes make me uncomfortable, likely because watching people in pain or suffering strikes a chord in me (I also vividly remember watching how much pain my maternal grandmother was in when she was being ravaged by the cancer that killed her; she was not diagnosed with it until a few days before her death; when my dad had a scare with his heart last year and had to stay in the hospital overnight, I was a bundle of nerves then, too).
  87. I’m practically mute around men, especially ones I’m not related to (think Raj from The Big Bang Theory before he was able to conquer his anxiety around women).  I usually need a lot of adrenaline flowing through me in order to talk to them.
  88. The only kind of chocolate ice cream I will eat is the Frosty from Wendy’s.
  89. I write poetry, but only when the inspiration strikes me.
  90. I’m a passionate gay rights supporter, and I have considered myself a straight ally since I was about 15 or 16.
  91. I love earrings.  They’re about the only kind of jewelry I wear.  I especially like the French hook earrings with dangly charms hanging off of them.  I find I always feel prettier when I put on a pair of earrings, even without any makeup on.
  92. I’m wordy here, but I’m actually very shy and quiet in real life.  It’s always been a part of my personality.
  93. I have and use too many notebooks.  I prefer to use composition books, but there are a few spiral ones as well.
  94. My hair color looks mostly brown, but it also has elements of just about every other color: blonde and red undertones that show up especially in sunlight, black in the lower, thicker layers of my hair (even more obvious when my hair is short), and I even have a few grays as well (but not widespread).
  95. I don’t particularly wear dresses for looks.  If I’m wearing a dress or a skirt, it is usually for comfort, especially in the weather is warm or hot.
  96. I like cake.  I like just about all kinds of cake, but I particularly have a soft spot for “Death by Chocolate” (moist chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and bits of shaved chocolate and chocolate candy on it) and tiramisu (a classic Italian coffee cake, usually soaked in espresso or Marsala wine and layered with frosting made of ricotta or mascarpone cheese, sometimes dusted with cocoa).
  97. I also love cheesecake.  New York style, with a Graham cracker crust.
  98. I’ll eat just about any kind of pizza except for Hawaiian.  Why?  One word: pineapples.  I can’t stand pineapple.
  99. I’m not that good at drawing.  My drawings often look cartoonish.  And not in a good way.
  100. I have lived in the same house since I was five months old.  Nearly 30 years later, I’m still here.

Wow.  That took quite a while to write.  If you managed to make it through all 100 things, consider me impressed!  If not, that’s okay.

Until next time…

 

 

Panda

This post is not about the bear species (even though panda bears are precious and beautiful creatures).  This post is also not about the rap song by Desiigner (which is not about panda bears, sadly, but apparently about cars).  This post is about a friend who holds a special place in my life.

Today, my friend Amanda turns 30.  Amanda and I have a long history going all the way back to our early teens when, we first met.  Now, I cannot remember the way that we actually met (then again, I don’t remember the first meetings I had with other close friends over the years), but I believe we were about 13 years old and likely met in the cafeteria of our middle school.  It wasn’t until high school, though, that our friendship became stronger.  It took a while, but we eventually bonded over a shared interest in American Idol and a mutual admiration for Clay Aiken.  (Well, she had more of a celebrity crush on him…I just liked his singing.  We both had bad gaydar.).  We were sort of yin and yang: she was the calm, yet stubborn and steadfast Taurus to my impulsive and occasionally off-the-cuff Aries, she was the voice of reason when I had no clue what I was saying or doing, and she was the one to bring me down to earth if I got way too full of myself.  There were times when we had our differences, but we always somehow found our way back to each other.

When her family threw her a very formal Sweet Sixteen party (basically a quinceañera and a Sweet Sixteen all rolled into one), she invited me and my mother, and for her having me there provided an element of fun in a super-formal environment.  I remember her wearing a pink ball gown (and knowing her as well as I do, pink was not really at the top of her list of favorite colors…she was more into purple at that time), and my mom and I had to wear evening gowns; Mom wore a sequined dark blue dress, and mine was a black, flamenco-style number with prints of pink roses on it.  (I actually still have that dress.  I do not currently fit into it, but I keep it in the hopes that I will someday lose enough weight to fit into it.  It was a beautiful dress.).

We talked about the latest music stars together.  I very vividly remember her having a celebrity crush on Adam Levine.  We made our attempts at writing fan fiction together.  Most importantly, we learned about the value of true friendship together.  Around our junior year, the girl who would later become The Lady Bryan entered our circle.  (I could do a whole post about my history with her, too.  But today’s post is all about Panda.  I’ll say that I’ve known Z since long before she got the “Bryan”.).  With her in the mix, our bonds grew even stronger.  We all brought things out of each other’s personalities that really helped to shape who we all are today.  We also had another friend in our group, a younger boy nicknamed “Meatloaf” who I originally met on a bus during a field trip to Disney World after I had a kind of upsetting day.  The four of us ended up thick as thieves.  Then Amanda, Z, and I graduated.  Life happened, and we’ve all drifted apart physically.  Z moved back up to Georgia and eventually married and had a child, although we still try to keep in contact when possible.  I’ve stayed in this same part of Central Florida, being a homemaker and helping to keep things running smoothly around here.  And Amanda and her family moved to a different part of Central Florida that is a considerable distance away from me.  She has her own job, her own friends, and her own life there.  From what I’ve gathered from her social media, she is happy and confident and enjoying life.  I haven’t been able to reach her directly, but overall I’m glad that she’s thriving.  I miss her a lot, but I’ve never forgotten about her.

She and I had no sisters growing up, only brothers.  We were basically each other’s surrogate sister, a source of female companionship in our own age group, someone who each of us could relate to.  I don’t know if she’ll see this post, but the fact that I’m leaving it out here and paying tribute to her and the effect she’s had on me I think should say that she is appreciated.  I do hope she eventually reads this.

Finally, the explanation behind the nickname “Panda”.  Amanda has never cared much for the nickname “Mandy”.  She always preferred the nickname “Manda”.  “Manda”, naturally, turned into the rhyme “Manda-Panda”, which she eventually shortened to “Panda”.

Manda-Panda, wherever you are, I hope your 30th birthday is a great one, and may the year ahead be an incredible one.

Dipping My Toes

Hello readers.  I had been mulling over the idea of starting a knitting blog for some time, but today was the day I decided to cast my anxieties aside and finally start it, just a few days after turning 30.  You only live once, right?

First, a little bit about me.  My name is Crystal, and the reason why I decided to title this blog “The Snowless Knitter” is because of the fact that I am a knitter (and occasional crocheter) who lives in the incredibly snowless region of Central Florida.  I was born and raised right here in Central Florida, and as I mentioned in the last paragraph, I just turned 30 years of age.  I am unmarried, with no children, but I do have one dog and one very adorable baby niece.  I have been crocheting since I was about 8 years old, learning how to make granny squares from my maternal grandmother, although I did not learn flat crocheting until I was about 18 years old.  I also took up knitting at 18, although it took me a year to learn how to purl.  Once I figured out purling (thanks to a dear friend’s mom), the other blocks kind of fell into place.  These days, I can knit almost anything, even some projects without a pattern, except for intarsia, and I can crochet almost anything with the help of a pattern.  My main craft is knitting, but I am not above pulling out some yarn and a crochet hook when the inspiration strikes me.

While this is not my first attempt at blogging, this is my first time blogging on WordPress.  I’ve kept my own personal journals and notebooks over the years, but this is the first time I am publishing a knitting blog.  I guess in a way I am trying to explore myself through writing, because I am currently at a point in my life where I am not sure what direction my life is going to go in terms of a personal life or a career.  I have a lot of ideas and dreams, but I don’t have any idea as to what I want to do.  I currently care for my mother while my father works during most of the week.  At times, I think she needs me more than the rest of the world needs me, and for now, I’m probably right.  To express myself and indulge my ideas, I usually knit.  I pick colors that reflect my mood or state of mind, and I design projects that reflect my ideas.  For me, knitting is more than just a hobby…it is a way for me to express myself in ways that I normally feel like I can’t do by speech or in writing.

I feel like I’m trying to rediscover my literary side by doing this.  My favorite blogger is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, better known by her nickname, “Yarn Harlot”.  Ever since I found her blog about a decade or so ago, I’ve always admired how she approaches things in life, the big and the small, with a sense of humor and a touch of whimsy.  The smiles and giggles I’ve gotten from reading her blog over the years helped me through some tough times for me emotionally in my early 20s (along with watching The Golden Girls and discovering a love for baseball), and even now as I’ve been on more even footing emotionally, I still enjoy reading about her adventures in life as she is about to become a grandmother (as she’s chronicled on her blog) and her continued adventures in knitting.  I hope to discover things about my writing through this blog.  I really do.

I don’t know how often I plan on posting here.  I do know this: I don’t plan to post just for the sake of posting.  This is a blog, not a diary.  This is not for sharing my deepest, darkest secrets; this is for sharing a bit of myself with the world and hoping that the world will appreciate me in return.  I hope the readers enjoy my writing, and perhaps I may start chronicling my knitting here very soon.  Thank you.