Five Favorite Books

A simple little post, talking about my five favorite books of all time. Admittedly, some titles on this list are flexible, but these are definitely in the upper echelon at a constant rate.

5.) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
“COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”
I am admittedly due for a reread of this book, as I’ve only read it once, but I remember reading it my senior year of high school and absolutely loving it. For those of you unfamiliar, Brave New World is a science-fiction novel set in the distant future which plays with several different ideas involving human nature, love and desire, and conformity versus nonconformity. It’s definitely the book that made me really fall in love with the sci-fi genre, with its details of a dangerous futuristic world known as the “World State,” where Henry Ford is considered a god, and individual freedom and thought are spurned and repressed in favor of the collective. Not the most cheerful of topics, and the content itself is quite dark, but it is an important novel nonetheless and well worth a read if you’ve never read it.


4.) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
“I want to put my hand out and touch you. I want to do for you and care for you. I want to be there when you’re sick and when you’re lonesome.”
I was that girl in high school. You know…the one who liked all of the books in English Class that everyone else hated – and Ethan Frome was one of the big ones. The book is about a man named Ethan Frome whose wife, Zeena, is ill – and so, her relative Mattie comes to help care for her. But it’s not a traditional love triangle – it’s extraordinarily sad, but very compelling. I don’t know what it is about novels like this – short, depressing, and ‘simple,’ with powerful, haunting themes that stay with you. It’s a very real novel – it requires some reading in-between the lines, but I think it sends a very unique message about feeling trapped, and the potential costs of freedom. That said, it’s really not a book for everyone…though I still recommend it.


3.) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
For me, Jane Eyre was the first female literary character that I truly considered to be a badass with an independent will and a very brave, admirable outlook on life. By today’s standards, she might not be considered to be as badass as Katniss Everdeen or Hermione Granger, but the time period needs to be considered – for the era in which it was written, Jane Eyre was pretty daring, and she certainly was a breakout character. Following the life of mousy, average, but very intelligent Jane, the novel, set in 1800’s England, is about freedom and independence and Jane’s journey toward discovering who she is and what she wants out of life, and she doesn’t let no one stand in her way. If you like strong female characters and classic literature, this novel should be on your ‘to-read’ list. And the 2006 miniseries starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens is incredible!


2.) The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.”
A staple for all fantasy and sci-fi readers, and, in my opinion, one of the best series of all time. I read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a child, and then again as an adult, and love it just as much now as I did when I was 11. Tolkien, in my opinion, is the penultimate master of this genre. He created languages, worlds, and characters that are unforgettable. From Bilbo’s journey with Thorin and Company to reclaim their lost gold from Smaug the dragon, to Frodo and Sam making the hike up Mount Doom to end the tyranny of Sauron and the One Ring, Tolkien weaves amazing stories and characters together for some truly brilliant adventures. As an aspiring author, he’s a big inspiration to me, and these novels never fail to entertain, even if you’ve read them more than once.


1.) Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
“To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
I have never been drawn to the idea of growing up – so Peter Pan has been a personal anthem to me, more than any other novel. Following Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, and his interaction with the Darling children, the Lost Boys, and Captain Hook, the novel takes the reader to the magical world of Neverland, and explores the theme of what it means to ‘grow up,’ and touches on ideas concerning what happens when the magic of childhood begins to fade. I think, at a point in time, a lot of girls feel like Wendy – you want to be whisked away by a charming boy and play games and have fun forever, but then, the realization eventually sinks in; such things are only suited for dreams. As I got older, I realized the tale of Peter Pan is not just a novel about not wanting to grow up – it’s a novel about how one must grow up, something I would have never realized as a child. But I think this book sends that message in a very appealing way, and while it holds very compelling themes, it’s also a fun novel, though a bit ‘darker’ than the Disney film.

Worst

2020 has been the worst year of my life.

28 years in, and 2020 broke me. It broke me down, chewed me up, spit me out, then stomped all over me. Maybe it’s a quarter life crisis. Maybe the whole quarantine lifestyle got to me. Maybe the state of the world wore me out. Maybe the election (despite the favorable results) took a toll. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m deeply unhappy with where I am in my life. Maybe it’s the ever increasing persistence of my dysthymia. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

Kidding, it’s definitely not Maybelline. It is, however, likely a combination of all those other things. A big ol’ toxic cocktail. It’s very fortunate that I don’t really drink, because that would probably just make it all worse.

I mean, I totally get that I’m privileged. I have a job that was not majorly affected by the pandemic. I have a wonderful family, and my sister recently gave birth to my baby nephew, who is adorable. I have a nice place to live that is near my sister, and close enough to my parents. I don’t face persecution for the color of my skin or my sexual preference because I’m a straight, basic white girl. The Mandalorian is back. Starbucks holiday drinks are out.

But I find things difficult these days. More difficult than ever. My job is stressing me out and I can’t focus on anything for more than five seconds. I can’t even muster up the energy, when I am home, to do adequate chores or the typical life things I am supposed to do. Some days, when I’m not at work, I don’t even get out of bed for more than five minutes at a time. My health isn’t super great and I’ve gained 15 pounds. I had to make a heartbreaking personal decision. And, as the cherry on top of the terrible sundae, I have not written anything in months. MONTHS. Writing, and creating, is my passion, and I have done none of it for almost the entirety of 2020 because my mental state is so poor and I keep beating myself up about it.

So, yeah. 2020 fucking sucked. Did good things happen? Sure. Like I said, I have a brand spankin’ new nephew. Tr*mp will be out of office in January. I spoke to a book club about my book for the first time since it was published. But, in spite of these glimmers of positivity, that dark cloud is brewing over my head, and the storm has continuously blocked out the sun.

So, I don’t want to dwell on it. I’m not really a ‘woe is me’ person because I am fully aware that many, many other people have it much worse than I do. I know 2020 still has a little over a month to go, but I am, as cliché as it is, gearing up for 2021, because I don’t see much of a chance of it turning around in that time. And I know I’m not the only one.

I want to drag myself out of this hole I’ve fallen into. It won’t be easy, and I’ve spent a lot of time wallowing, and I am seeking help. But I’ll make 2021 the year of the climb, and I know I must take steps to make it so. So, for my fellow folks who have been broken by this past year, let’s get ready to put 2020 behind us, and let the sun in.

Deep Forest

Instead of doing a “current tunes” post, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about one song in particular, and that song is Fukai Mori (translation: Deep Forest) by Japanese band Do As Infinity.

Some folks may know this song as the 2nd ending theme for the anime Inuyasha, which is how I, as a young weeaboo back in the day where liking anime was “uncool”, came to know it as well. I actually started watching Inuyasha because I caught the ending theme on Adult Swim one day, and then watched entire episodes just to get to the ending so I could hear the song. Now I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel series slated to run this fall, but that’s another story entirely…

In 7th grade, the first thing I begged my mom to buy me on eBay was an Inuyasha soundtrack album so I could finally have Fukai Mori on CD. Within a couple of years, I owned three soundtrack CDs because I grew to love the entire musical library from the show all because of one song. It truly sparked my love of J-Pop music, and Do As Infinity remains one of my favorite bands. And to this day, Fukai Mori remains a stalwart presence on the soundtrack to my life.

I don’t know why it connects with me the way it does, but it stuck to me from the first time I heard it. It burrowed into my heart, and has inspired me in my lowest moments. At first, I didn’t understand the words – I’ve since read a translation, of course – but I could feel the song. It’s a song that will stay with me, if that makes any sense at all. It makes me think of the past – when I eagerly stayed up on Saturday nights to watch anime – and helps me feel hopeful for the future.

Does anyone else have a song like that – one that defines certain moments in their life, or attaches to them in some meaningful way?

AF

So, my real name isn’t Allie Frost.

My real name is not a huge secret or anything, so I don’t particularly care if folks know it, but my actual initials are still AF. And I sign everything with my initials. Documents, emails, etc. I do have very poor, distinctive penmanship though, so forgery would be quite hard.

The other day, before a meeting at work, as I was settling down in a chair with my notepad and pen ready to go, my boss asked me, “Did you know your initials are internet slang for ‘as f*ck’?”

To which I replied, “Why do you think I sign everything with my initials?”

I mean… that’s not really why I do it, I do it because I’m lazy and my handwriting is atrocious, but still. I am fully aware of what my initials indicate in the internet/social media world. And my boss thought it was funny, so…

But now, hearing it aloud, it has struck me. The weight of those two letters.

I need to try to live my life not only as AF, but live my life af.

Yesterday

Yesterday, my alarm went off at 4:30AM. I smashed the snooze button until 4:50, but it was technically my day off, so I wasn’t under much pressure to be on time to work.

I brewed my coffee into a “Do or do not, there is no try” travel mug emblazoned with Yoda on the side, grabbed a protein bar, donned lazy-day yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and climbed into my car as the sun began to break over the horizon. For about the fiftieth time since I bought it, I thanked the car gods (and the previous owner) for blessing me with a vehicle that was customized to have a seat warmer installed in the front seat. It will be a blessing on cold winter mornings.

I lamented that the Radio Classics station on XM Satellite Radio was playing a comedy, and not one of my favorite detectives, like Philip Marlowe, or a good creepy show like Suspense or the Witch’s Tale. So I settled for music on the long commute to work, hating the bits and scraps of poor, car-struck deer littering the sides of the highway.

I strolled into work, determined to fly under the radar, but still said hello to a few folks as I hastened by, though I reminded them that it was my day off – not to brag about my “dedication,” but to hopefully inspire them not to bother me too much with the usual day-to-day shenanigans since I was putting in my own time. For three and a half hours, I managed to get a good chunk of work done, but left before I could get too sucked into a project. Also, my supervisor told me I looked terrible when I walked by, so I figured I should leave and hopefully alleviate some of the haggard-ness from my face.

I nabbed Starbucks breakfast – the spicy chorizo sandwich and a caramel cloud macchiato – and made the long drive home. This time, Gunsmoke was on the Radio Classics channel, and though I normally shy away from Westerns, I decided to give it a go, and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. Not as much as my favorite detectives, but my ears have been opened to a new genre, at the very least.

Once home, I made a couple of phone calls – endured the tedious wait times and horrible hold music – and set up my utilities for my new apartment, feeling proud to see new account numbers written down in my name. Then my mom and I went to the gym, where I was able to knock out a few chapters of my latest read, and reached the first few pages of the final installment in Claire Farrell’s Chaos series, which I am absolutely loving. It makes me look forward to the tiring treadmill sessions, as all great books should.

After a quick drive home and an even quicker shower, my mom and I drove over to the movie theater for an afternoon showing of Harriet, the biopic starring Cynthia Erivo. Though I yet again cursed the inefficient way the theater conducts their concessions lines, especially on $6 Tuesdays, I was thrilled to see that the female-driven movie about a heroic black woman was showing in theater #1, which is the largest and often reserved for the hotly-anticipated blockbusters, even though it came out the same day as Terminator: Dark Fate. Despite some audience annoyances, we were both thoroughly engrossed in the film and enthralled by the powerful performances.

Still pondering the messages of the movie, we ran a couple of errands, grabbed another Starbucks (don’t judge me) – me a venti pink drink, her a pumpkin cream cold brew – and then, before returning home, we decided to do our duty and vote in the local elections. I am personally a long way from being fully informed, but I made my choices and cast them, and felt proud to receive the little “I voted!” sticker at the end of the line. The sun was going down as we drove home – the curse of the dreaded daylight savings – and I started the first of what would be three loads of laundry in an effort to get a few chores finished before the close of the day.

After a salmon dinner, I scrolled through my FB feed, rife with “Remember, remember, the fifth of November” posts, and just as many posts lambasting them – and then my mom and I tuned in for The Little Mermaid Live! on ABC, while my dad left the room to watch NCIS upstairs. I was charmed, watching one of my favorite Disney movies come to life onscreen, and I was personally pleased by the performances and the production value. Still humming the familiar tunes, I turned in to my bedroom for the night, watched a few Youtube videos, then drifted off to sleep.

Yesterday felt like a simple day – not a waste, per se, but maybe a little dull, not too jam-packed, nothing to sneeze at. An average November day. But when I write it out… sometimes, even the simple things can have more meaning than we first believe.

 

 

To My Younger Self

Here, on Olde Poetry Monday Friday, a poem I wrote in 2012. I don’t remember writing it, but with all the changes going on in my life, I thought it was appropriate.

 

To My Younger Self

To my younger self,
A bit of advice for your future.
When Coach Smith tells you not to try and stop suddenly,
at the end of your section of the relay,
listen to him.
He knows what he’s talking about.
And your knees will never be the same.

Don’t take A.P. Government your senior year.
You aren’t even going to take the A.P. Test
and that ‘B’ is going to ruin your G.P.A.
and while you’re at it, don’t take Calculus freshman year of college.
that ‘B’ is going to ruin your G.P.A.

Practice your violin a little more,
so you don’t get embarrassed when you have to play for a crowd,
and so you don’t have to fake-play your way through concerts.
Actually learn how to play the James Bond theme
instead of moving your bow and hoping you’re in synch with the others.

Say hi to your old Spanish teacher when you walk past him in the hallway.
Even when he isn’t your teacher anymore.
Because when he runs into your class and congratulates you
on the hefty college scholarship you received
you’re going to feel like an asshole for not talking to him for two years.

Don’t steal your government teacher’s prized stress ball during class
and then spend study hall cutting letters out of the newspaper to make ransom notes
and then slide said ransom notes under the door of her office.
…actually, you should still do that.
That was pretty funny.

Remember to tell your grandmother you love her every time you see her.
Remember that no matter what stupid shit your sister does,
she took you to pet cows on your sixteenth birthday.
Remember to always see movies with your parents.
Remember to always thank Alex’s parents for having you over for dinner.
Remember to tell that guy you aren’t interested before he breaks up with his girlfriend for you.
Remember to always laugh at ‘That’s What She Said’ Jokes.

But most of all, past self,
Remember. No regrets.

12 Random Questions

1. If You Had The World’s Attention For 30 Seconds, What Would You Say?
REMEMBER TO FLOSS YOUR TEETH EVERYDAY! AND STAY HYDRATED!

2. If You Had To Work But Didn’t Need The Money, What Would You Choose To Do?
Any type of writing. Or cuddling kittens. That counts, right?

3. What Is In Your Fridge Right Now?
Leftover pizza, yogurt, milk, coffee creamer, some fruit, some veggies. Pretty boring, typical stuff.

4. If You Were Home On A Rainy Sunday Afternoon, What Movie Would You Most Want To See On Television?
Jumanji! The 1995 version.

5. Where Do You Not Mind Waiting?
I don’t mind waiting anywhere, really. I usually bring a book along so the time doesn’t drag.

6. If You Could Close One Fast Food Chain, Due To Disgusting Food, What Would You Pick?
…Taco Bell. *braces for torches and pitchforks*

8. If You Could Be A Member Of Any TV-Sitcom Family, Which Would It Be?
Oddly enough, the Crane family from Frasier. I think I’m neurotic enough to fit in with Niles and Frasier, but chill enough to be like, a more laid-back, distant cousin of theirs at the same time.

9. What Would Be The Best Thing About Not Having A Sense Of Smell?
I have a fairly sensitive nose, so I would like being able to walk into a soap store or candle store without feeling nauseous.

10. Would You Leave Your Hometown Forever Or Stay In Your Hometown Forever?
I’d leave it forever, only because many of my friends have moved away, and my parents plan to leave within the next couple of years. Also, it’s a bit of a “backwards” area.

11. When Scrolling Through Social Media, Do You Prefer Posts From Celebrities Or From Your Best Friends?
Friends, but I enjoy commentary from my favorite celebs. It depends on the medium, though.

12. Is There An App That You Hate But Use Anyways?
I get really addicted to random games, but only ever have one on my phone at a time. I got sucked into a game called Wordscapes and got through 900+ levels in a week. I’m onto a new one now, so although I hate them… I still use them.

Questions borrowed from HERE.

This Child

So, I know I do this a lot, but I just stumbled upon an old poetry assignment from high school… based upon the first Walt Whitman poem I ever read. I thought it was lost, but it was on an old flash-drive I recently dug up. Considering the huge effect that Walt Whitman’s poems have had on me since then, it feels like a gift to have rediscovered it.

My classmates and I were told to write our own poems based on Walt Whitman’s poem, “There was a child went forth everyday,” but to shape it around our own lives, and it had to end with Whitman’s own words, which I will italicize. I was 15/16 when I wrote it… might take a crack and writing a new one sometime, to reflect new experiences.

For Olde Poetry Monday, enjoy!

This Child

Doctors and white walls were a part of this child,
Needles in arms and IV’s in foreheads,
A bit of blood turned into life-saving power,
For one tiny, incubated figure,
Too frail to even utter a cry,
And as the years went on, the scar grew smaller,
Serving only to gently remind
Of painful days and cold linoleum.

Summerville was a part of this child,
The town where the sun never died,
Shoes weren’t needed, and southern drawls summoned,
From across the street,
This child’s head was filled,
With impossible dreams of otters,
And pretending that the backyard was some far-off land,
Though the boat she made out of cardboard
Never floated anywhere,
She was happy.

Books and rain-streaked windows were a part of this child,
This child, who sat in her closet for hours,
Wishing that she could find Narnia.
She thought that simply howling at the moon would make her a wolf,
And even though it was only a game,
She really thought was the World’s Greatest Pokemon Trainer.
And that she and her blonde-haired best friend,
Really could fly when they sat on the swingset,
And flung their shoes out over the mulch to see whose went the furthest.

Soccer fields were a part of this child,
A checkered ball hammered into the left corner,
And cleats smudged by mud and dew-kissed grass,
The freedom to run from white line to white line,
Avoiding elbows and knees, ignoring harsh words,
Enduring practice in sweltering heat,
Striving to become worthy of that pale green jersey,
And the number ‘3,’ emblazoned in white,
In the end, the cleats proved too big.
And she traded the jersey in for a pen and paper.

Terrified screams were a part of this child,
Being chased by the Licorice at Hershey Park,
Pursuing a hug that she did not want to relinquish,
To some creep in red and white, with a never-fading smile.
But screams turned into peals of laughter,
During remembered hours of hide-and-seek,
Out on the lake, fishing with Dad in the grey of the morning,
Setting the bass free that was meant to be breakfast.
And at sleepovers, when staying up until 11:00 was an incredible feat,
And we waited for the first girl to fall victim to sleep,
So her face could be decorated,
With the vibrant colors of a marker box.

Awkward silences were a part of this child,
A struggle to fit in, once moving vans carried a cherished friend away,
And the halls grew longer, the crowds heavier,
But friends were made at last, and kept,
The ‘See you soon’s’ written in the yearbooks became sincere,
And the taunts became distant echoes,
No longer heard in her ears.
Instead, laughter rang out in summer nights,
As fireworks crackled in the driveway,
Car rides down Friendship Avenue became adventures,
And text messages almost always exceeded 160 words.

Accidents were a part of this child,
Taking a horseshoe to the head,
Running headlong into a telephone pole,
That day, the race wasn’t much,
The competition poor,
But she ran her hardest, regardless of a sure-thing,
The steps were miscalculated,
But the baton left her palm,
Her feet left the red rubber,
The race won, but something else lost,
The only standing ovation she ever received,
Rang in her ears, even in the Emergency Room.

Boston was a part of this child,
Golden ducks at Boston Commons,
And free chocolate bars from the cute guy at Starbucks,
A house shared between 12 teens and 3 adults,
Attempting to share 3 bathrooms.
Something was found on the grey-paved streets,
Floating on the cold, salty Atlantic,
And in the embers of a towering campfire,
Perhaps it wasn’t what she intended to find there,
But it was real,
And those sharing the memories may be scattered,
But she can look at a simple cone of ice cream,
And remember,
That seven day journey to understanding.

Comic books were a part of this child,
All of her dreams packed into one word balloon,
Accentuated with sound effects in all the right places,
Inspired by vigilantes and men in masks.
Microsoft Word files exceeding 540 pages,
And a burning desire to see her name in print.
Will drive this child to pursue a new life,
If only this child can stave off procrastination,
To reach her distant dreams.

These became a part of that child who went forth every day,
And who now goes,
And will always go forth every day.

The Choices We Make

I have technically been an adult for 9 years, but in many ways, I feel like I’m not quite there. I sometimes forget that I am the master of my own destiny, the bearer of my own burdens, the navigator on my own stretch of road, and I determine the path, and how to handle the obstacles that arise. I can go out, buy a whole cake, and eat it all by myself if I feel like it, with no one but my conscience to stop me.

I’ve wanted a Nintendo Switch for a while now, and planned to buy one next month. Thanks to an employee special at work, I would be able to get one for a great price. And then, come November, I’d be playing Pokemon Shield, and making my way across the Galar region. And there would be a lot of Mario Kart, and maybe some Let’s Go Eevee! until then. Plus, I could play online with my two best friends – Mario Party is great fun when the three of us play together.

But I had my car inspection this week on my beloved Nissan, Vice. It has been a long while since I’ve needed anything done to it – I usually breeze through inspection with maybe a couple of tweaks, nothing major. So it was time, and $337 later, my wallet was a bit thinner than I would like it to be – and I’m looking at new tires in the near-ish future. Which won’t come cheap.

And so, I had a moment of clarity – that the choices we make can reflect where we are in our lives, and our values. I have bailed on plans because I don’t have the funds, but have also spent money on things that aren’t necessities. No matter how badly I want that Switch, it is going to have to wait until my Nissan has some new tires, even if I miss my initial chance to become the champion of the Galar League. So, I must be an adult for now… but eventually, play time will come around again.

 

Duality

There is a butterfly bush in my backyard. It’s not uncommon to spot little winged friends taking a sip of nectar, or catching a break from the hot sun.

The other day, I was looking out the window and spotted two butterflies in the air by the butterfly bush. Both were of decent size, but one had buttery yellow wings, and the other had velvet black. I watched as the two seemed to spar in the air with one another – or maybe it was some type of mating dance, I don’t know – over and over.

It was a bizarre, beautiful dance. They proceeded to flit all around the yard, clashing against one another – light and dark in symbiotic union, until they disappeared from my sight.

Their aerial dance got got me thinking about duality. Light and darkness. Happiness and sorrow. Hatred and love. And how, so often, one does not exist without the other – or we do not realize how vital one is until the other creeps in upon us. Can we ever appreciate our happiness if there was never any sadness in our lives? Can we ever bask in the light without first moving out of darkness?

However, on the other end, we can combat sadness by remembering the happy times that preceded it, and darkness can be less frightening when we know that light is out there. We can battle hatred with love when we know the highs and lows of both. Duality is not fearing one side and embracing the other. It is seeing, and appreciating, and enduring, and being able to accept whatever side we must face, and come out stronger on the other side.