Should Be a Nice Week This Week.

This is not going to be a long entry.

I’m hoping this week will be a good week, given the two special occasions we have in our family this week.

Nope, not my brother’s wedding.  But they have already set a date for that…more on that in a later entry.  I will say that it will happen before the end of the year, though.

Nope, the two special occasions are both birthdays…namely, my mom’s and my dad’s.  You read that right.  They both have birthdays this week.  In fact, today is my mom’s birthday!  My dad’s birthday is on Friday.  In case you’re wondering, they are not the same age.  I won’t share their exact ages, but my mom is actually seven years older than my dad (yep, my dad married a cougar).  The closeness in their birthdays usually makes birthday plans for them pretty simple.  We went grocery shopping over the weekend and my mom picked out a carrot cake, which we cut into this morning.  We still have half of it left, and may hold onto it until either Friday or whenever my dad next feels like eating carrot cake.

I hope we have a good week this week, and that my parents have great birthdays.

And here is “Happy Birthday” by “Weird Al” Yankovic (only because YouTube took down all the good videos for “Birthday” by The Beatles).

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Bumble

Idea for this post taken from this prompt.

Dictionaries define the word “bumble” as a verb referring to the act of moving, acting, or speaking in an awkward or confused manner.

Sometimes I feel like I am the epitome of the word “bumble”.  I think back on choices I have made over the years, and I realize that my path to finding myself has not been a straight line, but a meandering path with a lot of dead ends and backtracks.  I think back on even the littlest things, and I wonder: what if I had stuck with band class in sixth grade instead of quitting after just a couple of days?  What if I had taken that driver’s education class?  What if I had said yes to that boy who had asked me to go to a dance with him when I was 14 and not bowed to the pressure of my parents (who thought I was too young at the time)?  What if I hadn’t dropped out of college?  What if I had been able to find steady work?  What if I’d been more assertive about myself and my ideas and opinions?  And even now, I see so many possibilities for my future, but my own personal path has so many forks in the road that I don’t know how to go about it.  In my 30 years so far, I have bumbled through my life without so much of an idea of where I want it to go.  And it bugs the crap out of me.

It bugs the crap out of me because I know I should be doing better things.  It bugs the crap out of me because I feel like I should’ve already had an idea of what I want to do with my life now.  It bugs the crap out of me because I feel like I’ve disappointed my family.  It bugs the crap out of me because I feel like I’ve disappointed myself.

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s a common view in my generation.  Why do so many of us have such a lack of personal fulfillment?  How do we deal with all these crossroads in our lives and pick a path that not only leads to self-sufficiency but also to self-fulfillment?  How do we make our own lives and preserve our happiness at the same time?  Do we have to sacrifice happiness to become self-sufficient or can we have both?  How can we escape the constant feeling of bumbling through life and actually take control?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for that question right now, but there is one thing I have figured out in my first 30 years so far: it’s okay to not know all the answers.  Hopefully, my not knowing doesn’t resign itself to complacency and results in my life ending with no purpose, meaning, or fulfillment.  I hope to be able to answer that question someday.  I hope a lot of people in my generation going through the same challenges are able to answer that question as well.

Some Knitting & An Announcement

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least.

First, the knitting.  I’ve had quite a bit of knitting time this week because my dad decided to take the week off from work (he used one of his vacation weeks), so it hasn’t been so busy around here.  I was able to finish another motif of small squares that I was working on (15 squares in a diagonal orientation, going from 5 squares in the first row, to 4 squares in the second row, and so on, all the way down to one square.  The rows alternated between pink and purple.

And here’s how it’s looking so far.

First, the wide shot of the whole thing.

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Now, it is folded up in a couple of places to make room for most of it to be seen on my bed, but the section I was just working on is in the lower left-hand portion of the photo.  As you can see, it has pretty much caught up with the 25-square checkerboard I finished last month.  In fact, that pink square at the very upper-left hand corner of the latest section (which you will see in more detail shortly) marks 10 small squares up that particular side.  I have reached a pretty big milestone: I have filled in a little over half of this afghan, which measures 18 small squares by 18 small squares.  When I resume work on this project, I will be working some more on the right-hand side of the afghan and starting to fill that in.  Considering I started this nearly four months ago with some leftover scrap yarn and decided to go with it, it’s not bad at all.  (Of course, we have had to purchase more yarn for this over the months, but I’ve only added a skein or two at a time.)

Here are some more detailed pics of the most recent section I was working on:

The first pic is a wide shot as it sits on the afghan, the second is more of a close-up, and the third is from the angle that I actually knitted them onto the piece.  I started with a row of five baby pink squares, then the next row of squares was variegated purple, then a row of variegated pink, then the solid gemstone purple, and capped it off with the strawberry pink square.

All right.  I made a reference to an “announcement” in the title of this post, and I will string you along no longer.

The announcement is:

There will be a wedding in the somewhat near future.  No, not mine.

My brother and his girlfriend got engaged this week!

I found out the news when she sent a picture of her engagement ring to my dad’s phone on Wednesday night (although my dad had already gone to bed by then), followed by a simple text saying “We got engaged” about 15 minutes later.  I’m not expecting them to set a date just yet, so no word on any wedding plans for the time being.  Although I must say that I have been privately calling her my “sister-in-law” for some time now.  It’ll be nice for them to finally make it legal, and I’m very happy for them.

Until next time…have a great day!

Happy 4th!

This won’t be a very long post.

I just wanted to wish all my American readers a happy, safe, and wonderful Independence Day.  And to those of you from outside the United States, I hope you’re having a lovely day, too, even if it is just another Fourth of July where you live.

Here in the States, today is a celebration and appreciation of those who decided to take that step and sign our Declaration of Independence (or, for those of you willing to be a little irreverent, the biggest middle finger in the history of the world), the first step towards becoming the United States of America.  There will be lots of pomp, music, and plenty of fireworks.  There may be food involved.  I’m sure there are plenty of grills firing up across the country, and America may indeed smell of charbroiled burgers, hot dogs, and maybe even steaks.

Me?  My family will likely be spending a quiet evening at home.  I made some burritos last night, and I plan on making some black beans and rice soon to go with the leftovers.

I hope you are having a great day.  Happy Fourth!

Annoyed Grunt

If any fans of The Simpsons are reading this, they will understand what I mean by that title.  If not, I’ll let you in on the reasoning at the end.

Well, I effed up my project.  I effed up my project in such a way that I had to perform some surgery on my afghan.

Surgery, you say?!  On an afghan?!  (Of course, by “afghan”, I’m referring to my hand-knitted project, not an actual person from Afghanistan.)

Yes.  I had to perform surgery on it.  Let me show you the “before” pic and explain why.

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This is the section I was working on at the time I noticed a glaring error (note that I had a square in progress).  Do you notice the error yet?

What if I gave you a closer look?

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See that variegated purple L there?  When joined to that dark purple rectangle, it creates three edges to pick up from.  That’s all fine and dandy, except that my method only allows me to use two edges to pick up for a small square, as the space between the two shapes would dictate.  I would have no way to connect the third edge to the other two.  What was I to do?

Well, the square that was in progress was no big deal.  I’d be able to frog that one (which for my non-knitting followers and readers, refers to the act of unraveling a knitted piece all the way to the end, like a frog saying, “Rip it, rip it”), since it was still attached the the skein.  However, two small squares and that variegated purple L were going to have to undergo a yarn-ectomy.  By this, I mean I would have to pick out the ends that I’d already woven in, work my back all the way to the fastening off point, and frog the whole damn piece.  (Pardon my langauge.)

Thankfully, I had already given myself a bit of an out because I have a very specific way that I tend to weave in my ends on these mitered projects.  After fastening off the last stitch or stitches, I will normally weave in that end as follows: I weave up and down alongside my center column (that chain of stockinette that runs up the middle), and then I will weave in and out of a stitch away from the edge or any cast on edges, so it makes a noticeable lump that is easy for me to detect for just this kind of situation.  I do the same thing with the yarn tail that began the piece, weaving along with the grain off the garter stitch present in that part.  When I cut my yarn tails after weaving, I always cut on the right side of the fabric, that way when the tail naturally unravels, it stays on the wrong side of the fabric rather than poke out on the right side.

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Procedure area prior to yarn-ectomy. Note that the pink square that was in progress has already been frogged.

Now, the yarn-ectomy.  First thing you want to do is look for the yarn end.  I ended up using a yarn needle to help me with some of this.  When you locate the yarn end, using a combination of your fingers (which will tug on the yarn end; look on the other side of the fabric  to see where the yarn end tugs and loosen from there, using the yarn needle to pry the yarn loose) and the yarn needle, gradually loosen, pick out the yarn end, and then tug again to find where your yarn end goes next.  Follow the yarn end in this manner until you get to the fasten-off point.

Repeat for the yarn end leading to the cast-on/picked-up edge.  There should be two yarn tails on the piece loosened prior to the next step.

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After both ends are loosened, you are free to frog the piece.

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Frogging in progress.

After frogging, I decided to store the yarn in a Ziploc bag, although this amount of yarn probably will not be enough to reknit the square.  Instead, I will store it in case I am running dangerously low on yarn while working on a shape on that particular color, then I will have enough yarn to work a Russian join (which is basically folding two ends of yarn intersecting each other, and then each tail is sewn in on itself), and finish the shape.

I did the same thing for the small pink square.  The yarn from that one also got stored in its own Ziploc bag.

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When it came time to frog the L, I repeated the same steps as I did for the squares.  However, since it took more yarn to knit the L, I knew I’d probably be able to reknit this yarn into a smaller shape, in this case a rectangle to free up a space to pick up the shape properly.  To keep the yarn from tangling, once I frogged the L, I wound the yarn into a ball and put it in its own Ziploc bag to keep the yarn clean and to allow the yarn to stay in place as I knit it (hence why there is an end hanging out of it).

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And this is what the section looked like after the yarn-ectomy.

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Now, I could replace the L with a rectangle to fill in the space.  Which is just what I did.

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The new rectangle in progress
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The finished rectangle.

I’d say the yarn-ectomy was a success and I am free to move on with this section.

By the way, the title refers to when Homer Simpson didn’t have a way in the script to describe his anger or frustration at things.  This was rendered in the earlier scripts as “(Annoyed Grunt)”.  Eventually this (Annoyed Grunt) became Homer Simpson’s world famous catchphrase, ” D’oh!”

Have a great day, everybody.  Happy reading and happy knitting!

Local

Local

Locus.  Locality.  Location.  Location, location, location.  Local.  We all know what the word “local” means when we look it up in a dictionary: Adjective.  Referring to something nearby.  But what does “local” mean to each and every one of us?  I cannot speak for the other billions of human beings on this planet, but I can speak for myself.

I prefer not to share my exact location online, but any of you who follow my dear friend The Lady Bryan on here know that she used to live in Florida for several years, and the town that I live in neighbors both of the towns that she used to live in.  I live within driving distance of both Daytona Beach and Orlando and we can get to either location in an hour or less.

My town is a bit peculiar for what one would expect of a Southern town.  For one, it’s not a small town.  At least, not by stereotypical standards.  Our population is in the five figures, home to at least 10,000 people.  I’ve lived in this town for nearly 30 years (my family moved here when I was about 5 months old, well before my brother was born), and in those 30 years, I’ve seen my town evolve from a somewhat sleepy little place to a hustling, bustling, busy suburb.  I remember when the stretch of road that connects my town to the two nestled next to it had more trees than restaurants lining it.  My town’s side of that road is filled today with all sorts of chain eateries, gas stations, doctor’s offices, stores and boutiques, and a hospital where a vast stretch of Florida scrub once was.  I remember when the area where the local high school now stands was once a dense collection of sand, pine trees, and “secret” forts that the neighborhood kids would build.  My neighborhood itself has changed very little.  My neighborhood has always been a very hilly place, ranch-style houses lining the terrain around every peak and every dip.  Walking around this neighborhood certainly will give one’s legs a workout, better than any inclining treadmill could give you. 

I’ve always been a bit wary of many of my neighbors, possibly a consequence of my own overly cautious personality, but the ones I’ve managed to get to know are some of the nicest people you’ll meet.  A sweet Latino family lives just around the corner from us, our backyards adjacent to each other.  The guy just across the street from us is a single father doing his very best to raise his youngest child right, and he knows he has challenges ahead of him because his little girl has just become a teenager.  He divorced his little girl’s mother years ago, and sadly his little girl’s mother has since passed away.  His little girl, or as my mother likes to call her, “Little Bit”, is an incredibly outgoing, vivacious young lady of thirteen who loves to dance, tumble, and strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone, even if the “anyone” isn’t really feeling up to it.  Next door to the single father and his Little Bit, is a couple we’ve known for years.  We’ve watched their three boys grow up over the years.  I remember when the middle son, who was just a little over a year older than me, decided to marry his girlfriend before they even finished high school.  They had three children together, but their ending was not a happy one.  His wife, who I later learned had been afflicted with all sorts of health issues, died at the young age of 24, leaving my childhood friend a widower with three young kids before he turned 25.  He and his children moved in with his parents and his younger brother until he could get back on his feet and find a place of their own, which he eventually did.  The kids still come to visit their grandparents pretty often.   Across the street in the other direction is a retired couple with a lot of dogs.  The wife likes to garden and maintains a lovely looking set of plants in their front yard.  The husband usually can be seen tinkering with things, common with the men in my neck of the woods.  Before them, a gay couple lived there; we would sometimes see them at bingo, and they even gave me some crocheting supplies after seeing me crochet at a bingo night.  And before them, a couple with three kids around my age lived there.  I was friends with the oldest daughter, who was a grade behind me in school.  I remember being sad when she told me her family was moving to North Carolina when I was, I think, in third grade.  I sometimes wonder how that family is doing now.  Unfortunately I don’t have Facebook (and I have no cell phone to start one).  Our neighborhood is relatively quiet.  Of course, you also notice some of the more colorful characters: the rednecks living on one street near us, a Mexican-American family living around the corner on another, both of which announce their presence with the numerous cars that dot the front yards (I think I may have seen five different cars parked in the rednecks’ front yard at some point).  There’s another redneck man who can be seen walking his little Dachshund mix some mornings, which drives my own dog nuts even though he can’t come through her window.  Sometimes when we go walking, we can see him and his wife sitting in some armchairs set up in their garage with pedestal fans running, just watching the passers-by.  We even talk to him on occasion.

Local, for me, has so much more going for it than the places.  Any location can make it a place, but it doesn’t come alive until you get to know the characters that inhabit it.  And the memories you make as you inhabit it give that location meaning.  Local, for me, is an experience.  And the great thing is that no two people, even within the same family, will have the exact same experience.  Local is life, imagery, color.  That’s the difference between just a place and a home.

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!