On Geekdom

I normally don’t pay much heed to vanity “holidays”, unless it’s something funny like International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), something yummy like National Cheesecake Day (July 30), or something ridiculous like World Beard Day (this year it’s on September 1). (Don’t get me wrong, I love beards and I tend to find bearded men to be incredibly attractive, but color me surprised to find that they get their own recognized day of appreciation.) And for those of you wondering if we knitters get our own day, yes we do: Worldwide Knit in Public Day is scheduled for Saturday, June 9, and you can learn all about it right here. But it was another one of these “holidays” that has actually inspired today’s post, and it celebrates something that is close to my heart. Today is Geek Pride Day, a day intended to celebrate every aspect of geek culture. (It also happens to be Towel Day, which celebrates the life and work of Douglas Adams, the author and creator of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and fandom, which itself can be included within the celebrations of Geek Pride Day.)

These days, I am pretty proud and accepting of my identity as a geek, but it took me a long time to get to this place. I should’ve known I was a geek in the making when I was 8 and wrote a brief little “article” for my school’s newspaper all about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World…but I didn’t. I should’ve known I was a geek in the making when I was a kid and I always seemed to have my nose in a book before I even started preschool…but I didn’t. I should’ve known I was a geek in the making when I tested for and got into a rigorous academic program at my high school…but I didn’t. Not when people called me “The Walking Encyclopedia” in late elementary school because I could spout knowledge off the top of my head, or when I’d consistently get high scores and top percentiles in reading on various standardized tests, or when I became obsessed with a New Zealand TV series that was essentially a post-apocalyptic teenage sci-fi soap opera called The Tribe in my early years of high school…it was essentially my first niche fandom. (Episodes of that show are now available on both YouTube and Vimeo, if you’re interested in watching or can afford to watch it in HD on Vimeo.) Those years I remember struggling to desperately try and fit in with the more popular kids, a crowd that I now realize would’ve never been the most accepting of me in their circle in the first place (although a handful of those kids did actually show kindness to me in high school). For the longest time, I was a geek in denial. I honestly didn’t begin to appreciate the geekiness that I had already possessed until The Lady Bryan came into my life. As we became friends, I was finally able to reconcile my dalliances with anime (which I never became hugely obsessed with, but I did have some Sailor Moon and Yu Yu Hakusho mixed in with my Pokémon as I was growing up), the occasional sci-fi, and Monty Python with my overall personality: one who enjoys making her own mental database of popular music of everything from doo-wop to heavy metal, who can play along with Jeopardy! with confidence, who can enjoy debating aspects of Harry Potter with friends and/or former rivals or even random people on Tumblr, and who reads whatever she wants and doesn’t care who notices. My love for knitting came about a little later, just after high school, but even then as my skills improved, I was able to develop my own database of knowledge from experience that I now use to try and pass on to others who are either insecure about their skills or are looking to improve. In her book Knitting Rules, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee talks about different kinds of knitters as sort of characters, but I like to think of myself as a combination of two of them: the Knitting Missionary and the Knitting Sensei, both a (secular, knitting-related) preacher and a teacher. I tend to approach the spread of knowledge like I approach cooking, I don’t believe in “secret recipes”…I believe knowledge (or recipes or patterns) should be made readily available to others. Knowledge is not something only meant for the wealthy, privileged, or employed…it belongs to everybody. That is one element of geekdom that I love: that we’re willing to talk endlessly about the things that interest us and share our knowledge and fandoms with others.

What else is geekdom about? Geekdom is not defined by one fandom or activity or pastime. Not every geek is into Star Wars or Star Trek…or even sci-fi, for that matter! (Count myself among that third option, although I do enjoy watching the Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy movies. 😄) Not all geeks are into LARPing (Live-Action Role Playing) or cosplay. Not all geeks write fanfics (although The Lady Bryan is bloody brilliant at it). Not all geeks play tabletop games (but the actor Wil Wheaton is more than willing to talk about it). Not all geeks watch anime (which my dearest friend Manda-Panda 🐼 does and is willing to tweet all about it). Some geeks watch wrestling (that, I do share with Manda-Panda) and are ready to debate and wax poetical about favorite wrestlers and storylines or are willing to drop a (as former WWE Champion CM Punk would put it) a “pipe bomb” or “truth bomb” of an unpopular opinion. Some geeks follow their favorite shows closely and fill notebooks with information and opinions (as I used to do with Fox’s original run of American Idol and I now do with the songs that are entered into the annual Eurovision Song Contest). Some geeks are ready and willing to debate everything from the Marvel movies to current politics (although the latter I only debate on individuals’ posts as most of the Internet’s Comments Section has turned into the Tenth Circle of Hell of which all dignity has been stripped, and where the words “intelligent conversation” are a curse). And some geeks yell out responses to Jeopardy! clues with such fervor that had people like me been around back then, Dorothy Zbornak would’ve actually stood a chance of making it onto the show itself (as seen in the Golden Girls episode “Questions and Answers”). Some geeks turn their constant talking of their passions into a career (like comedian and TV personality Chris Hardwick, who I like to think of as my celebrity spirit animal). And some geeks will even find a way to work a Golden Girls plotline into a normal, everyday conversation 😌. Geekdom is simply possessing great knowledge and passion for the things we care about in life. And we usually have fun doing all these things.

Side note: there is currently a convention going on in Orlando called Mega-Con (much in the style of San Diego Comic-Con or Atlanta’s Dragon-Con). I have never been to one of these kinds of conventions, but be assured it is on my bucket list.

As for the post that inspired this one, which you can find here at The Tony Burgess Blog, Tony mentions a little bit of biblical wordplay and proclaims that “The geek shall inherit the Earth.” This actually made me think of a band from Germany that did a whole song around that phrase many years ago. They are no longer together, but a little pop rock band called Wir sind Helden (which is German for “We Are Heroes”) made a song called “The Geek (Shall Inherit)”, which is mostly in German but contains a few English phrases. It’s basically a song of encouragement for those who’ve been teased for their geekiness, letting them know that they can basically go on to great things, “inherit the earth”. Here is the chorus, first in its original German and then translated into English:

Die Verletzten sollen die Ärzte sein

Die Letzten sollen die Ersten sein

Sieh es ein: the meek shall inherit the earth

Die Verletzten sollen die Ärzte sein

Die Letzten sollen die Ersten sein

Die Ersten sehen als Letzte ein

The geek shall inherit the earth

The injured shall be the doctors

The last will be the first

See it: the meek shall inherit the earth

The injured shall be the doctors

The last will be the first

The first ones will be the last ones

The geek shall inherit the earth

I think, given today, that this song is a little extra special. You can listen to it as is, or you can google around for a translation of the lyrics, but either way, I am choosing to close my post today with “The Geek (Shall Inherit)” by Wir sind Helden. Happy Geek Pride Day to all you geeks out there! You are all beautiful souls and don’t stop being you!

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

So, for the last month or so I’ve been hiding a bit of news because I didn’t want to reveal it too early and then have it go south. But, as of this week it is now a sure thing so I can talk about it now.

You readers may remember that my brother got married last October and that he and his wife have a daughter together, who will be turning 2 next month. For the last couple of years, they have lived together in a unit of a duplex just off the main highway that runs through our hometown. They’ve been married about 6 months now, and they’ve been house hunting.

Well, this week they’ve finally closed on a house and are now officially homeowners. It has three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, an enclosed front porch and an enclosed back porch as well as a detached garage in the backyard that will almost certainly end up becoming my brother’s workshop/”man cave”. The house itself, though, does need some interior work done to fit their style: as I summed it up to my sister-in-law yesterday while she and my dad were working on the living room (he was painting the ceiling to cover up the tobacco stains from the previous owners, while she was patching nail holes in the wall with spackle and applying the first coat of primer to the walls), she is “rustic” while he (my brother) is “redneck”. They plan on pulling out all of the carpeting and the tile in the living room and their daughter’s room and replacing all of it with hardwood flooring (leaving the kitchen and main bathroom tiled). The walls will likely be painted a tan color with dark brown as an accent color and adding wood trim along the baseboards and the area that delineates the kitchen from the living room. There is a chandelier in the dining area that will be replaced with something more modern. Their new house is in a bit of disarray right now, but I honestly can’t wait to see what it looks like when they’ve finally finished the interior work on it…and my sister-in-law can’t wait to start decorating it.

They officially moved out of their old unit yesterday, but it will certainly be a busy time before they finally move in. Life certainly has been moving at a busy pace in my family lately.

Connections

Do you remember those connect-the-dots games you’d play in your coloring books as a child, drawing from dot to dot in anticipation of what the final figure would look like at the end? I’ve come to notice lately that life is a bit like connect-the-dots: at first glance it looks like a random disarray of moments, interests, and people with seemingly nothing in common whatsoever with each other…until you connect them in a particular order and you finally see the big picture, in this case the life or representation of a particular person. And each and every single one of us has a unique set of dots and a unique order in which they are connected to depict a unique life experience, one that only that particular person can relate to.

It’s made me think of the connections I’ve made in my own life. My Big Picture is not complete or clear, and won’t be until the day I die. But my dots consist of the people, choices, and experiences I’ve faced in my life so far. It’s funny how the most random of people can shape one’s life, and even funnier how some of them come into our lives. In one of my more recent posts, my “blogging buddy” Mr Knitter brought this up in the comments. Just about a year ago, neither of us had any idea that the other existed. It took my “randomly” coming across his blog (and I only use that in quotes because I recognized his picture from Beautiful Knitters, which had profiled him just a few weeks earlier, not long after I started this blog; Beautiful Knitters was one of the first blogs to start following mine, by the way) and leaving that first comment to start our friendly ongoing correspondence that has now lasted the better part of a year. And there are a handful of other bloggers (👋 Kris) that I have built a similar rapport with in the last year that would have never occurred if I had never made the decision to dive in and start this blog. I also think of one of my dearest friends IRL (In Real Life), The Lady Bryan, and not just the events that began our beautiful friendship, but also those that brought her husband (and the father of her son) into her life. Our friendship began on a random spring day when we were 16 and had nothing better to do in gym class. We talked the entire class period that day and it was almost as if we’d found our twin. How she met her husband was even more random: it involved a copy of Wrath of the Titans, a Doctor Who scarf and a ringtone in a public library. Their story was set on the rails essentially with just one word: “Exterminate!” (And if you’re not a Whovian and don’t get the reference, shame on you. 😝) Sometimes we meet the people who have the biggest effects on us in the strangest, most random ways.

Or how about interests? I wouldn’t be the knitter I am today if not for randomly coming across a knitting kit in the craft section of a Walmart and deciding to buy it when I was just 18. Perhaps a child who wanted to find out how their favorite toy worked is eventually able to turn that one interest into a career in mechanics, engineering, or mechanical engineering. Or maybe there’s a kid out there who has always had a penchant for telling stories who may someday become a bestselling author. One dot connects to the next connects to the next connects to the next, and so on and so forth.

The point I’m trying to get at is: life is unpredictable, but the choices we make and the people we meet can influence our lives further down the line. The things that influence us when we are young can, with the proper amount of nurturing and development, help us develop into successful adults, perhaps with careers that intrigue us and utilize our best talents, or perhaps with a passion that has helped us find some purpose in our lives, if not our careers. And the people that enter our lives can help guide and shape us into better human beings, whether those relationships are out of kinship (regardless of if they’re actual family or they’re like family to you), pure friendship, or all-consuming love. Do I believe these connections are set out beforehand? No. But I do tend to think of these connections in the way that painter, television personality, and fellow Central Floridian Bob Ross always so eloquently referred to his slip-ups on canvas: “We don’t make mistakes. We have ‘happy accidents’.” And somehow, these happy accidents all have some, even if it’s just a small, impact on the bigger picture of our lives.

Before I post, I’d like to let you all know that I finished Hidden Figures earlier this week (according to my Goodreads profile, I finished it two days ago, on April 17th). Within an hour, I picked up my copy of Fahrenheit 451 and read the introduction that English author Neil Gaiman had written for the 60th anniversary edition that I had purchased. I did try to read the first couple of pages of the novel, but I decided to put it down and give myself a couple of days off before diving into this one. I will likely begin trying to read it in earnest today, and I can’t wait to do so! I have waited about 19 years to read this book since I first heard of it. I hope the payoff is as good as the anticipation.

And so I sign off from this post, sitting outside with my mother, trying to figure out if the guys renovating the vacant house across the street from us are speaking in Spanish, in English but with thick New York accents, or a little bit of both. It’s been a real head-scratcher. 🤔

Hippie Bird Day, Two Ewes

(The title of this post is sort of an inside joke on Ravelry, and is normally used to wish someone a happy birthday.)

So, yesterday was my 31st birthday. It actually wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have any cake, but my dad had gotten donuts and breakfast sandwiches (sausage patties and cheese on English muffins) that morning, and he even volunteered to make coffee. About 2:30 that afternoon, I was getting a bit bored, so I finally asked my dad if he’d be willing to take me to a local independent bookstore I’d been wanting to go to for a while, and I still had a considerable amount of Christmas money still burning a hole in my wallet. He agreed to go, and so we all hopped into the Jeep and drove the 10 miles or so to the store. I don’t want to give away my exact location, but this is an independent bookstore that’s been around for a while, and I remember going to this same store over a decade ago to get books that were required reading for one of my high school English classes. (I still have those books and have attempted to revisit some of them, as recounted in “My Love Affair With Books”.) It sells mostly used books, but there are also plenty in new condition, with just about every genre you could think of. There are several rooms filled floor to ceiling with bookshelves. The front room houses the most contemporary books and children’s and young adult fiction as well. The next room contained the classics and all sorts of nonfiction books (biographies, history books, philosophy) on one side, and new age and self help books on the other. The third room had the general fiction books, with authors like Danielle Steele and Debbie Macomber and V.C. Andrews and Dan Brown lining the shelves. The fourth and final room contained mostly fantasy and science fiction novels, which while I am not a major reader of those two genres, I did take a look to see if there was anything interesting for people that I know who do enjoy those genres. Ultimately, I bought five books, four of them from the Classics/Nonfiction room and the fifth was from the front of the store. Some of these titles you may recognize from the list I posted, but wasn’t limited to, in “I’m Dreaming of a Mild Christmas”. And I’ll explain my reasoning behind each of them.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This one was a case of “I have seen the movie, but I have never read the book”. I remember watching the 1960s film adaptation of this novel in high school, but for one reason or another I have never read the book. I have even seen John Green’s Crash Course Literature course on this novel and still have not read it. From what I know of this novel, it is like “Survivor” on steroids, and illustrates what happens when the most extreme of circumstances forces us complex human beings into our most basic, primitive instincts and behaviors.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

You readers do not understand how long this book has been on my Book Bucket List (basically, the list of books I want to read before I die)! I have been intrigued by this book since 1999…the year that I saw an episode of The Famous Jett Jackson in which this very novel plays a very important part in an episode’s plot. The dystopian themes of censorship and the limitation of knowledge (two things that I personally take a strong stance against) also draw me to this particular novel, and I’m excited that I’m finally going to get a chance to read it!

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I know I may get some flack for picking this one, as a lot of people tend to associate Rand’s work with right-wing politics and political figures like Paul Ryan; I personally identify as socially liberal with a libertarian streak, but I also try to allow myself to be open minded to other points of view. My main motivation for picking this one was actually Neil Peart, the drummer from the Canadian progressive rock band Rush, who mentioned Rand and The Fountainhead in the liner notes to the band’s landmark album 2112, which (according to his interview in the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, which I decided to watch again on Netflix last night after buying this book) inspired a then-twelve-year-old Canadian boy named Sebastian Bierk (who would later become a famous heavy metal singer named Sebastian Bach, famous for singing in the band Skid Row and later for playing Hep Alien guitarist and singer Gil in Gilmore Girls) to go out and actually get a copy of The Fountainhead and read it. The members of the band are all well-read people, and Peart especially (as the band’s primary lyricist) has never been afraid to incorporate literary themes into the band’s songwriting. I mean, their song “Xanadu” was inspired by a Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem! (“Kubla Khan”, by the way, if you’re wondering!) I mainly wanted to see what all the hype was about, even if I didn’t necessarily identify with Ayn Rand’s political themes or stances. And I should state the following: Yes. I am a female Rush fan. We exist.

A Farewell to Armsby Ernest Hemingway

I think it’s safe to say that most Americans’ exposure to Ernest Hemingway’s work has come primarily from being required to study The Old Man and the Sea for a high school English class. I include myself in this. I studied The Old Man and the Sea as part of my English class in my freshman year of high school. I vaguely remember reading it. I don’t know if it had much of an effect on me. Now, from what I know of this one, this novel is semi-autobiographical and based off of Hemingway’s experiences in World War I. Will this have more of an effect on me than The Old Man and the Sea did? I can’t wait to find out. This wasn’t necessarily on my Book Bucket List. I picked this one on a whim. But sometimes you find a gem 💎 when you least expect it. Perhaps this will end up being a gem 💎 in my collection. And perhaps I’ll get the same reaction I had to The Catcher in the Rye and wonder “WTF?” at the end of it all. Who knows?

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I read The Hunger Games about two and a half, maybe three years ago and loved 💕 it. How much did I love it? I finished the entire book in one week. I have only read Harry Potter novels in a quicker span of time! I wanted to read Catching Fire almost immediately afterwards…only to find that Walmart stopped carrying the Hunger Games novels just after we’d bought the first novel in the trilogy! There was also a copy of Mockingjay available, but I was unsure of how much it would eat up my budget, and I’d already found quite a few titles for my collection. I hope to eventually get a copy of Mockingjay someday, but I hope I have just as much fun reading Catching Fire as I did reading The Hunger Games!

After paying for the books and leaving the bookstore, I hopped back into the Jeep where my parents were waiting, and my dad drove us around some of the more rural parts of our home county, which is filled with Florida scrub forests and the occasional cattle pasture (or as I like to call it, “Cow Country”, which Florida actually has quite a bit of). We made our way back towards our home, but not before stopping off at a local car wash first (the Jeep is white and was covered in pollen from recent rain storms that came by earlier this week). We finally got home after a couple of hours away, and had a mostly relaxing evening, which I spent watching Netflix and drafting and formatting the post you are currently reading!

Thank you to everyone who sent me their birthday well wishes, be it here on my blog or through Instagram or other social media! I appreciate it and I appreciate all of you who take the time to read my blog! I hope the next year ahead for me is a good one!

I’ll Take My Snowless Knitter Decaf

It’s unusual that I reference coffee in the title, but I feel for what’s been going on for the last few days or so, it’s appropriate. See, I am currently in what is probably my longest stretch of going without coffee ☕️ ever since I started drinking it on a regular basis (which was basically my original stint in college, so about 18-19 years old; prior to that, I would enjoy the occasional gas station-style cappuccino from my high school’s cafeteria, or a styrofoam cup of highly sweetened black coffee at the bingo hall while helping my mom and grandmother set up their playing papers prior to their going to bingo night, probably as far back as 14 or 15 years of age).

So, last week we ran out of creamer (and I’ve gotten so used to creamer by this point that I can no longer drink my coffee with just sugar in it, I now need to have creamer or milk in it) and I wasn’t going to be able to get groceries until Tuesday (which was yesterday morning, so I’ve already done the shopping now) because my dad decided to finally get a physical done on Monday morning. (Other than high blood pressure and his weight, he’s actually doing okay for someone who’s a nearly pack-a-day smoker. He saw the same doctor who’s treated my mom for many years, and my grandmother for years before that.) So I get the groceries done yesterday morning, and well, I was already fueled by both a cherry Coke and a regular Coke (vending machines, right?), so I planned on waiting until yesterday evening to have my first cup of coffee since maybe Friday or Saturday. I put a K-Cup into our Keurig brewer (which we’ve had since maybe late 2012 or 2013, when our Mr. Coffee’s hot plate stopped working) and went to go wake up my dad. After he starts to get out of bed, I go back to the kitchen to get his coffee. It is not brewing like it’s supposed to. It just goes *drip…drip…drip*. One. Drop. At. A. Time. This is not a good sign. We try cleaning out the needle housing. No luck. We try changing cup sizes. No luck. So I give my dad a glass of sweet tea for his trouble and I decided to attempt to descale the brewer in the morning.

This morning, I get up and within half an hour began my attempt to descale the brewer. Not only is the liquid still dripping out one. drop. at. a. time., I also begin to hear clicking noises when it attempts to pump water out of the reservoir. Dad gets home a little after 9:00 am, and joins me in the kitchen. After a couple more attempts at getting the water/vinegar solution to pump out of the reservoir, it just stops attempting to pump altogether. My dad says nonchalantly, “I think the water pump’s dead…time to get a new coffee maker.” Knowing he’s been interested in getting a Ninja for the last few years, I said to him, “You’ve been waiting a long time to say that, haven’t you?” He smiles back at me. He goes to his laptop, and while I only get a glimpse of a checkout screen, it seems he has placed an order for a new brewer. He also watches a video about using a Ninja coffee brewer. He has seemingly ordered the Ninja. (I will not be able to confirm or deny this until we actually obtain a new brewer, so maybe this will be a two-parter.)

I feel a little sad that our Keurig has finally croaked. I loved that Keurig. It was a fantastic brewer, willing to pump out a nice cup of coffee for me whenever I needed one. I think I’ve permanently been turned off from carafes because of that Keurig. I was always dumping out leftover coffee from the carafes we had; when we went single-serve, it felt nice not having to wait 15 minutes for the cup of coffee I’d been craving.

There is a downside to switching to the Ninja, if we are indeed switching to it: we are gonna have a boatload of coffee pods that we can no longer use (as the Ninja operates on standard coffee grounds, which is cheaper than using the K-Cups)…and I hate to throw away good coffee! (My brother and sister-in-law have a single-serve brewer that can take both grounds and coffee pods; I wonder if they’d be willing to take our coffee pods once we get our new brewer?) Oh my…

Well, it looks like I will be going at least one more day without coffee. Wish me well.

Up and Down the Road Apiece

Friday marked only the second occurrence in my entire life of its kind: I set foot in South Florida. See, unlike a lot of Floridians, I had never really explored the region that a lot of people like to refer to as “SoFlo”. South Florida to me has always been a bit of a mythical land, like Asgard, Shangri-La, or Dallas*. I had only been there once before, to visit one of my mom’s cousins in Port St. Lucie, many many years ago…when I was, maybe, 10 years old.

*= When you see somebody on “Undercover Boss” enthusiastically choose Dallas as their destination when said boss offers them a trip to literally anywhere, you might as well consider Dallas’ appeal to be as mythical as that of other, actual mythical places.

So a few days ago, we got an invitation to visit my mom’s best friend from high school at her place in Ft. Myers before said friend was scheduled to leave to bring her longtime boyfriend’s mother home to Massachusetts before spending the spring and summer in New Hampshire (which they used to call home full-time, but have now moved to their home in Florida). When my dad asked me if I wanted to come along, I jumped at it. You may remember me mentioning this friend in one of my earliest entries, “You Might Be a Floridian“. Over a decade ago, before my mom’s memory had started to cloud, she had found her friend’s ex-husband online and sent him an email asking about her. He sent a reply back saying that he and my mom’s friend had divorced years earlier, but was able to provide her with contact information. When she and her friend, who I will call L., talked to each other for the first time in over 30 years, it was as though they hadn’t missed a day. One of the first things L. said to my mother was, “You have an accent!” (This referred to the fact that my mom, after growing up in New England for most of her childhood, had long lost her New England accent and currently speaks with more of a Southern accent, although even now the New England accent will occasionally sneak back in.) We have met with her and her boyfriend, who I will refer to as W., many times over the years, even as my mom’s condition has worsened. (I still don’t feel completely comfortable talking about what my mom is dealing with, but I may do so at some point in the future. Only my closest friends really know the details right now, and I still feel like keeping it that way.) L. is genuinely one of the nicest people in the world, not a single mean bone in her body, and she has such a gentle, warm personality that welcomes anyone around her. She wears her blonde hair in a short bob with bangs, her slender frame tan from years of enjoying the sunshine and the beach. She greets everyone in a soft-spoken but friendly voice accented with the same dialect that my mother grew up speaking, New England (specifically northwestern Massachusetts). My mother’s face lights up every time we see her, a sight that is hard for us to see on most days.

We made plans to go down to visit her Friday, but it would be quite a trip. We’d make it a day trip, but it was gonna be around 400 miles round trip. So, we got into the Jeep (a Grand Cherokee that my dad traded in his truck for a few months back so that it would be easier for my mom to get in and out), and after having to leave the local McDonald’s drive through due to their card reader being out of order, we ordered some breakfast sandwiches and iced coffee from the Burger King across the street…but they forgot to put straws for the coffees in the bag (which meant that we had to take the lids off and drink them the old-fashioned way). I had sausage biscuit sandwiches, which were okay…but not quite as good as McDonald’s version. McDonald’s version has a nice, buttery biscuit that is not too moist and not too dry. The iced coffee was good, though; its flavor was a nicely-balanced blend of vanilla and coffee. Burger King’s version had the biscuit a bit more softer than I like, but it wasn’t terrible. I ate the second biscuit somewhere around Tampa. (Mom and Dad both ate sausage and cheese croissant sandwiches.)

We made our way to I-4 and then to the 417. Now, normally we don’t take toll roads (and the 417 is a toll road), but if you need to know anything about Central Florida traffic, it’s this: driving on I-4 through Orlando on a Friday can be hell. Taking the 417 around Orlando ended up saving us about an hour…or so we thought. That hour got eaten back up when we made the switch over to I-75 around Tampa. You see, there is no one particular driving style unique to Florida, and that is because Florida (being a popular tourist destination and retirement state) is a microcosm of the United States as a whole: it is a salad bowl of different states and states’ cultures. And much like the immigrants that have brought their traditions and incorporated them into American culture from the very beginning, the same goes for people who move to Florida from other states (and that includes driving styles). There are many people who drive like idiots on Florida highways, essentially treating Florida’s interstates like a game of Frogger, seemingly crossing into any open space in a lane and waiting until the last possible second to make their exit, which of course increases the risk of an accident. My dad, having driven in Florida for most of his life, has learned from this extremely well and is very well-versed in the Art of Florida Driving. Watching him drive and navigate his way through I-4 traffic, knowing I will at some point have to learn how to do this myself (and it scares the 😈 out of me at the thought of it), I have learned that the number one rule of driving in Florida is Expect the Unexpected. (Also known as “Prepare for Idiots”.)

It took us about two hours to get to Tampa, and then about another two or two and a half hours to finally make our way to Ft. Myers. We found our destination with help from the Jeep’s GPS system, and we were glad to be able to get out and stretch our legs when we saw L. and W.’s mother (who I will call F.), as W. was not there at the time; he was at the local flea market selling holographic pictures they had ordered in bulk. More on those in a moment. L. & W.’s House was located in a retirement park where the streets were lined with lots of small, trailer-like houses (not unlike the one that my maternal grandfather lived in up in New Hampshire for many years before his illness, although L. & W.’s house was a bit smaller than what I remember of my grandfather’s home). Their house was a light blue color, a favorite of L.’s, as almost every memory I have of her is of her wearing either pastel blue or pastel pink. The front door (on the northern end of the house) opened to two steps leading up into the combined living room/dining area; the living room section had a squishy armchair with a sky blue cover, a small white coffee table, and a couch that could seat three (and possibly also had a fold-out bed for guests). There was a Roku TV set up, but not on, in the living room, and a radio playing ’70s and ’80s music in the kitchen. At the end of the living area opposite the front door was white dinner table with white chairs that could seat four. The walls were decorated in all sorts of tropical colors and wind chimes present in almost every corner of the room. What caught my eye, though, was their Christmas tree (still up in February). It was not an actual tree, but lights strung up across a conical, Christmas tree-shaped structure, and in almost every space between the lights’ wiring hung a small, glass wind chime. Imagine these spread across an entire Christmas tree. A curtain of seashells separated the door between the living area and the kitchen. Their kitchen was actually the largest room in the house, with their stove and appliances situated on the southern end and a small, narrow hallway on the northern end that led to a laundry room, a bathroom, and the master bedroom. The bathroom was just as tropical in appearance as the rest of the house.

Outside, their front yard had a small palm tree 🌴 and a display out front with a witty message. Out back there was a coconut palm tree (one of two in the immediate area) which had at least a dozen coconuts in various stages of growth attached to it. To the right was an area covered in seashells (which L. had told us were gathered from the beaches of Sanibel Island, not far from the Ft. Myers area), in which sat a lime green lounge chair, some decorations, and several pots with small, round trellises inserted to guide the vines of cherry tomatoes that grew within them. While most of these tomatoes (planted and grown by W.) were still green, there were a few that were ripened enough to pick, clean, and eat right from the vine. We ate a few of the tomatoes, and they were juicy, flavorful, and absolutely delicious. I just wish she’d have been able to put some in our chicken salad that she had made for us. That was delicious, too. L. gave Dad a couple of the holographic pictures she and W. had been selling for most of the winter, one for his office at work (that consisted of three different images of eagles), and one for our house (a black and white image of a girl and a wolf that appeared incredibly three-dimensional).

All in all, we stayed for just three hours, as L. and F. were planning on going to bingo that evening for one last time before they were scheduled to leave for New England the next morning. I didn’t get to see any beaches. Then it came time to make our drive home. After a few moments of me falling asleep in the backseat after just barely leaving Ft. Myers, we stopped at a McDonald’s in Charlotte County to get some burgers, fries, and Cokes for the road. Barely a few minutes into that, one of the packs fries fell straight onto the floor. Back onto I-75, where I watched the sun set from the back seat of the Jeep, mused about the ridiculousness of a flat Earth (assuming such an Earth rotated on a vertical axis), and then hoped I could see stars through our moonroof. Sadly, I did not. My father, at the wheel, all the while did his best to avoid being stuck behind idiotic drivers, those likely to be out in full force on a Friday night. We got back to I-4 before 8:00, refueled at a gas station in Polk County, with ’70s and ’80s rock music blasting on our radio. We found our way back to the 417 and then had to take a bathroom break at a rest stop along the way. We stretched our legs while I consoled my mother, who got anxious. Dad cleaned the fallen French fries from his floorboard and then took his own bathroom break. We took a brief stroll back to the Jeep, and on the way I was able to look up and see both the constellation Orion and nearby, the waxing gibbous moon. We helped my mother back into the Jeep, my dad and I got back in once again, and then we set out on the road one last time, riding the 417 through the various toll booths until we found I-4 and were able to find those familiar roads back to my hometown. We arrived home at about 10:30, a bit tired, a little cranky, and to the greetings of our excited American Bulldog/Jack Russell mix, who ran to us with glee before proceeding to dart around the yard. She kept showering us with wet, sloppy canine kisses, even when we didn’t want her to. We finally settled down for the evening. I didn’t go to bed until 1:00 in the morning on Saturday, a full 18 hours after I had first gotten up. It was the end to what was for sure a memorable day in my mind.

I’m Dreaming of a Mild Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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