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:

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

And this…

The view from my front door, looking north.

Even my dog is bored.

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).


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.

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

Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Summer’s Door

This Monday marks Memorial Day here in the United States.  While the day itself is meant to be a somber one (as it commemorates our war dead), this particular day also represents a turning point in our cultural calendar: the unofficial start to summer (the actual summer solstice takes place about 3 weeks or so later).  Many schools end their academic year right about now (some a few weeks earlier, others a few weeks later), the Sun’s rays seem to arrive with greater intensity as our Hemisphere leans closer and closer towards the Sun as our Earth orbits, and especially for Florida, the thunderstorms start to clap and flash and soak us at greater frequency.  It all sounds lovely, but…it’s my least favorite season.

Seriously?!  A Florida-born woman who doesn’t like summer?!  Heresy!  Sacrilege!  Traitor!!!!

Yep, I said it.  I don’t care much for summer.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it when the blue sky is out with nary a cloud in the sky, but…the heat.  The burning, blistering, so-hot-you-could-fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement, don’t you dare walk barefoot on the street or you’ll get blisters, time to get out your Blue blockers on to keep the Sun out of your eyes heat!  We regularly experience temperatures of at least 90° F here during the summer.  If you want to take a walk here, you better bring lots of water.  Shade can come at a premium around here, but it feels oh so good when you manage to find some.  And don’t get me started on the humidity.  Oh yeah, it’s usually not a dry heat around here.  The humidity around here is so ubiquitous this time of year, that it seems like sometimes you need to cut through the mugginess with a machete.

So…what do I like about summer? Well…

The beaches and the swimming pools begin to fill with people looking to escape the heat.  It’s been years since I’ve been to a beach, but I can still recall the briny aroma that comes off of the ocean, and the din of the waves crashing onto each other and onto the sand.  I can recall the memories of minnows swimming around in the shallows as the water beckons them towards the open sea.  I can see myself, swimsuit-clad, just sitting in the shallows, allowing the water to splash over my legs.  I know I’m not a very strong swimmer…I dare not even think of going out too deep into the water.  I watch the seagulls swooping in and out of the sand and waves.  But that scent…I can never get enough of the smell of seawater.

Inland, the trees are resplendent in beautiful shades of green.  The bugs fly around trying to dive-bomb by my ears, as if they know how much the sound of their wings beating against the hot, humid air annoys me to the core.  Gnats attempt to infiltrate my eyelashes as I sit in the shade, knitting, and my dog enjoys her sunbath.  I see her sprawled out on a sunny patch of grass, her nose in the air looking for a scent and her tongue ever-so-slightly hanging out of her mouth…not so much out of heat, but out of sheer happiness.  (Believe me, when she’s hot, her ears warm up and her tongue is hanging way out of her mouth like it’s trying to escape it.). She turns to get the other side of her body warm, as I continue to knit.  The mockingbirds are out in full force, chasing anything and everything that dares to come near their nests: crows, buzzards, even squirrels.  (I can vouch for that: I saw two mockingbirds chasing a squirrel through a tree across the street from me this morning.).  The cardinals, dressed in feathers of red, continue to make their tweets loud and clear…I’m sure their songs are longer than 140 characters.  😉   But what I really notice is the buzzing of the cicadas from the tops of the numerous pine trees that call my part of Florida home.  The buzzes migrate from tree to tree, in a sort of call-and-response echo that I can hear all around me.  First from one tree off in the distance behind me, then they come closer and closer to me, until the closest tree to me is singing with cicadas in one loud buzz.  When these cicadas die and fall off the trees, the appearance of one’s corpse is kinda uneasy on me, due to their sheer size.  They make the beetles that like to crawl near my front door on these summer nights look tiny.

But my favorite part of summer, the one thing that gets me through these long days, is baseball.  I get excited for the games that come on during those summer days.  I scour the TV guide in the hopes I’ll be able to watch a favorite team of mine play.  More often than not, I usually end up watching the Boston Red Sox, a team whose 86-year-long curse was the stuff of legends (of course, rivaled only by the 108-year curse that the Chicago Cubs finally broke last year).  My mother’s family had their roots in New England, and this part of the country holds a very special place in my and my family’s hearts.  Though the Red Sox are no longer the underdogs they once were, they still have me as a part of their dedicated Red Sox Nation, and they are the only American League I regularly root for (or support, if you’re Australian, as I hear that “root” means something very different in Australian English).  In the National League, I cheer on both the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs because of the connection they have to my dad.  When he was just 9 years old, my dad and his family moved from Indiana to Florida, and back in those days the only baseball team you could watch or listen to in Florida was the Braves.  He still waxes poetic about guys like Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, and later on the likes of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, and the Central Florida native Chipper Jones.  The Chicago Cubs, though, were my Granny’s team.  She was a fan of the North Siders for as long as I could remember, until the day she died.  She died only four years before they finally broke their curse.  I am a fourth-generation Cubs fan: in addition to my grandmother, her dad (my great-grandfather) and my dad have also been supporters.  And it wasn’t just them, either.  My dad has cousins who are Cubs fans, and where they come from in Northwest Indiana, many of the people there are Cubs fans.  But enough on fandom.

What I love about baseball is so much more than balls and strikes, hits and runs, batting averages and on-base percentages.  It’s about camaraderie, between fans or between teammates.  It’s about the moments of drama in a close game, wondering if this pitch will be the pitch, the one that could turn a game around for my team.  It’s about memorable moments, whether it’s David Ortíz launching a game-tying grand slam into the Boston bullpen in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS or Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo recording the final out of the 2016 World Series or Clayton Kershaw throwing a no-hitter.  It’s about rising and falling with the tide of a game, and keeping your hands clenched together in hope or prayer until the final out is recorded or a team walks it off.  I don’t get much emotional adrenaline rushes in other sports.  These things help me get through the summer.

I don’t know what this summer will have in store, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  Perhaps I will learn to like this summer better than previous summers, perhaps not.  I’d hate to be a seer who knows everything in the future…knowing everything would probably drive me mad.  I much prefer life’s element of surprise.

May your summer be a good one.

Blogger’s Block

Have you ever tried to find inspiration for your writing only to have no effing clue what to write about?  It’s like that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie’s writer’s block in between relationships is so bad that she writes an entire column comparing her search for the perfect man to looking for a French fry and was about to write another one comparing men to socks.  Mine right now is pretty bad.  It’s bad enough that there isn’t enough random stuff going on right now to qualify for a “Randomly…” post.  I wrote a post over the weekend that will be posted next month to commemorate the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that hit me and many Floridians pretty hard in our hearts.  Otherwise, I haven’t had much go on.

So I guess the topic of this post is about the lack of a topic.  Or more precisely, how we manage to write ourselves out of it.

Where do we find inspiration anyway?  I often find that inspiration for my various writings, projects, and ideas often come when I’m not looking for it.  I’m not the kind of person who can force themselves to write.  I can’t force myself to write a poem, because if I wrote a poem for the sake of writing a poem, I would find the quality of it to be…crap.  Complete and utter crap.  I find my best writing comes from my heart.  My best ideas don’t come from mentally taking magnetic letters and throwing them at a board to see what sticks.  That afghan I’ve been working on since March?  I started it when I found some old scrap yarn that I had rolled up into a Frankenball of yarn and decided to see if I could start an afghan from that yarn.  I liked the color scheme so much that I decided to continue on with it.

I find the creative process goes along a little more easily for me when I don’t pressure myself to write…even when it comes to this post.  Yes, it does come across in a style of stream of consciousness, but I can immediately tell that its quality is much less static and sanitized, which is what I sound like when I force myself to write.  It reminds me of all those essays for various English classes that I had to write, and all I can think of after having read them over, many years later, was, “Man, those sucked.”  (At least they sucked from an average, everyday reader’s standpoint.  From an academic standpoint, most of them were perfectly acceptable.).  My writing back then was very robotic and formulaic.  I’ve only ever taken one creative writing class (my freshman year of high school, and even then I don’t remember much of it), and I don’t think I remember a single thing I learned in that class.  I’ve learned more about my writing style over the years from just writing, be it in my journals or my notebook where I write my poems.  An individual’s own writing style cannot be taught in school, he or she has to discover it for themselves, through experience, both in life and in the very act of writing.

How’s that for trying to work through blogger’s block?  Sometimes I have to write by the seat of my pants, but in the end, I think this was a pretty nice result for an effort of experimental, impulsive writing.

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…




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.