The Scarlet Letter

… is one of my least favorite books. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate its literary significance and the importance of the messages and themes expressed in Hawthorne’s famous novel. But – and I say this as someone who loves classic literature – it’s a downright slog to read. I’m glad that I read it, but I will never pick it up again.

I read The Scarlet Letter in 11th grade, back in 2009. And my teacher at the time had our class participate in an experiment to make us understand, to at least some degree, the trials and tribulations of the socially-condemned Hester Prynne.

We had to make a ‘letter’ and wear it around school as a brand for a day. So, if we considered our personal “flaw” or perceived “crime” to be greed, for example, we would make a “G” out of craft materials and pin it to our shirt. As a seventeen year old girl, I picked “A,” but not for adultery. It was for ‘anger.’

I was often angry in my teens, and that anger bled into and impacted several areas of my life. It caused me a lot of frustration, stress, and irritation. It was the root of many personal issues I was experiencing at the time, and vice versa. And I spent that whole day with an “A” on my shirt to announce it to the world… and really, all it did was make me angrier because friends/peers would constantly ask me, “what’s the ‘A’ for?” and it was annoying. But, I digress…

However, the lesson did, at the time, make me think about how anger was affecting my life. I have been able to let it go, per se, as I’ve grown older. And now, eleven years later, that lesson has crept back into the forefront of my mind. Anger is not what I would consider the ‘root’ of my issues now, but I might wear a different ‘A’ as a twenty-eight year old in the year 2020 – an ‘A’ for anxiety.

It might not be an obvious thing, nor does anyone make me march around town with some visible indication that I suffer from anxiety, thus allowing others to scorn me. Times have changed since the Puritan era. But I can feel that ‘A,’ burning a hole in my chest, every day. It is not visible, but I know that it is there. And, of late, it has been swallowing me. Part of it is definitely due to the state of the world at the moment, but there are also other roadblocks in my personal life that are making that “A” blaze brighter and brighter, if only on the inside. And there’s a big ol’ neon ‘D’ right beside it. It’s probably obvious what that stands for.

I am trying not to let it consume me. It’s difficult. I can feel the weight much heavier than ever before, and that creeping dread digs its fingers into my skin more often than usual. I mean, I know – I’m a basic white girl who has been afforded many opportunities in my life, so my issues are trivial in the grand scheme of things and when compared to what others are going through. This isn’t a ‘boo hoo, feel bad for me’ type post, it’s just cathartic to get it out there. And I know I’m not alone.

It does help a little to know that, even though we do not outwardly wear our own scarlet letters, everyone has at least one. And before judging others, I try to think what their own burdensome letter might be, and how it might weigh on them. Some guy cuts me off in traffic? He’s probably fighting his own battles. The person who ordered the last cake pop at Starbucks? Maybe they needed that sugar boost to get through the day more than I did. Knowing that we are not alone can make those letters feel a little smaller, even if, for some of us, they will never disappear entirely.

The ‘A’ may be heavy, but I do wear it with some measure of pride. It has not defeated me yet, nor will I let it.

Aunt Allie

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this on my blog yet (I am a little behind) but I’m going to be an aunt! I technically already am – my sister has a stepson – but she is now pregnant with a little boy and is due in October.

It is also well-known in my circle that I do not like children.

This is a blanket statement, of course, and requires clarification. I am child-free, but I love the kids in my family, blood related and otherwise. I just do not relate easily to children and lack maternal instincts. Like… if a kid falls down at my job because they’re running around or doing something they’re not supposed to, I ain’t stopping to help them up. Kids are known to freeze in their tracks when I send “the glare” their way, and I had a reputation of being scary to children in my old neighborhood in MA, because no one would ring my doorbell during trick or treat for two years running. Those kids also shouldn’t have been playing in my yard, thus prompting me to yell at them a few times, but I digress…

Not liking children does not mean I am not stoked for my sister to have a baby, because I am! I love my step-nephew (or stephew, if you will) already – he is a polite and genuinely fun kid to be around, but having a baby around will be new territory.

We held her baby shower this past weekend, and it was awesome to see friends and family coming together to celebrate with masks and hand sanitizer on hand and as much social distancing as possible. I have felt bad for her because, with the state of the world right now, she hasn’t had what can be called a “normal” pregnancy, but I’m super glad she and the baby are both healthy, which is the most important thing.

My sister has been one of my few companions during this pandemic, and, if I ever don’t feel well, I make sure not to go around her. We’ve been going for walks and getting “starbies,” our standard white girl indulgences.

With my typical dislike of children, I never thought I’d be excited to be an aunt. But I really am – I’ve already got stuff for the baby’s third birthday, and when I go to the store, I usually pick up my stephew some Pokemon cards. Maybe it’s growth – part of getting older. I actually stop and look around the childrens/baby department at stores now instead of hustling by to avoid being around stranger’s spawn.

Now, does that mean I am warming to the idea of having my own children? Well…

ABSOLUTELY NOT. But Aunt Allie is ready to be the best aunt ever.

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.

Try

I think it’s a safe bet to say that most folks have heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

I must admit, I am someone who has been known to try and then give up at the first whiff of an undesirable outcome. Contributing factors often include fear of failure, lack of confidence, severe anxiety, and, perhaps most common, a toxic combination of all three. Kind of a “why bother trying if you’ll probably fail,” type of mentality. And that mindset has plagued many facets of my life. My writing, my personal life, my career. Etc.

Well, obviously, “you can’t win them all,” is also a true statement, but that does not mean that one should not try. And I have decided to keep trying. Obstacles may be many, and they may be dire, and they may make me want to back down – but I’ll try. And I certainly won’t back down without even giving a solid attempt, as I’ve been known to do.

In an effort to take a small step in this direction, I have bought myself a bonsai tree growing kit.

This may seem bizarre, but I have long considered myself a failure at keeping plants alive…because I killed one once. So, I figured it was time to try again. I spotted a bonsai tree grow kit on a clearance shelf at Marshalls and thought it was perfect.

It will be a long journey – bonsai trees are not swift growers – but I am hopeful. Even if the seeds fail to sprout, it will be worth the effort, and I can always try again. And considering the first plant I killed was a succulent, I also decided to buy a new succulent, and make the effort to care for it properly so it can flourish.

This may be the first step… but I’m using it to move forward, and not backward. And maybe tomorrow I’ll take another step forward, too.

I’ve Got Plans

Hours at my job vary depending on a multitude of circumstances. Some days I can (allegedly) trek home after 9 hours, which is the standard length of a shift for a salaried executive at my workplace. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve worked a 9 hour shift since I started, and the other day I pulled a 6AM to 9:30PM, then Sheetz forgot to put tater tots in my made-to-order burrito I bought on my way home, which really capped off a wonderful day, but I digress…

Last Friday, I went to work at 6AM and aimed to leave by 5:30 at the latest because I had plans. I’d mentioned it in passing to my coworker, who also had plans, so we both vowed to leave “on time.” The day wore on, hitting the same type of beats they always do, maybe a couple of snags, until the sun went down and reinforcements arrived, allowing us to wrap up and prepare to head off into a nice weekend off.

As we were preparing to leave, my coworker asked me, “So, what movie are you going to see?”

I was about to answer, but paused. When I’d mentioned having plans, it had been only a brief thought – I’d not divulged any details. So I furrowed my brow and asked, “How did you know I was going to see a movie?”

She laughed, and said something to the effect of, “Well, no offense, but what else would you be doing?”

I took no offense at all – because she was 100% right, and I was meeting my parents for an opening-night screening of 1917. My actions may be predictable, but it’s a comfortable sort of predictability, one that I can happily accept as a part of my identity. Movie-going, and film-watching, is my thing. In my circle, it’s what I have come to be known for, and I like that. When I say, “I’ve got plans,” those who know me can say with about 90% certainty (sometimes I just go to dinner) what exactly that means.

Hall of Fame pt. 3

Okay, okay. It’s been a minute, I know. I’m a bit behind. The holiday season (which, if you work retail, is Sept-Jan) has been rough on me this year. But I am TRYING to get back on track with posting and I appreciate the patience!

Though, my job has not been the only reason I haven’t been posting. I have also, unashamedly, spent most of my limited free time playing Pokemon Shield. It’s been a wonderful journey through the Galar region for me, and I can now say that I have become the league champion! I’m currently enjoying filling my Pokedex, and, for the fourth time since Diamond/Pearl, my Pokemon have contracted the Pokerus virus!

But here is my final team!

1.) InteleonSarge
I always pick the water starter, and I was super pleased with Sobble and its evolutionary line. While I’ve breezed through games with other water starters at the helm, this one actually gave me a nice, but not too frustrating challenge at times, which allowed some other team members to shine. Plus, the secret agent/spy theme Inteleon has going on is pretty cool – definitely an upgrade from Primarina.

2.) CorviknightRook
I caught my brave bird as a Rookidee way back at the start of the game and he stayed with me through the end! Even though HMs are no longer used for their traditional functions in Sword and Shield, so a bird was not necessary for the move ‘Fly,’ it would have felt strange not having a flying type on my team, and Corviknight was easily the coolest option.

3.) BolthundScamp
I had a corgi growing up, so I had to catch a Yamper when they popped up on route 4. Scamp ended up being the ace on the team once she evolved, and when I began swapping team members out after the sixth badge, Scamp was the only one who had a guaranteed spot.

4.) DragapultMerry
It took me wayyyyyy too long to find a Dreepy, but I knew I had to have this beautiful creature on my team and the two hours I spent hunting it was worth it. A Dragon/Ghost Pokemon that launches two smaller dragons from its head as a weapon? Uh, YES PLEASE.

5.) Galarian RapidashMana
It’s a FAIRY-TYPE UNICORN, people. Why wouldn’t I have one on my team??? She was a bit of a late addition, but from the moment Galarian Ponyta was revealed, I knew I would have one on my team. She is beautiful, and kicks butt too!

6.) CoalossalRiga
I had no intentions of using this Pokemon one I was able to preview the dex, but I caught a Rolycoly fairly early on and she grew on me! She is now my main egg-hatcher, since she has the flame body ability, but she can also totally wreck the competition.

Honorable mentions:
ThievulThistle
He still pops in now and then to max raid fight, but I swapped him out for Merry before the end. He also crushed the ghost gym.
AppletunFiji
I didn’t catch an Applin until right before I fought Raihan, so Appletun didn’t make the cut… but he is a treasured member of my secondary Dragon-only team, which I am currently developing!

 

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.

 

 

McFlurry

Little known fact: I am scared of drive-thrus.

This is a quirk that stems from my irrational fear of car washes, I think. Or it’s born from some other bizarre facet of my psyche. I don’t really know, but I have actively avoided drive-thrus since I got my driver’s license ten years ago.

My new route to work features numerous drive-thrus that make food more accessible, which is convenient for someone with an hour commute, but for my first few shifts, all I did was mobile order Starbucks and pick it up for a dose of caffeine on the ride home. No drive-thrus – I’d rather go inside the establishment and order something “to go” than to go through a drive-thru.

But, the other night, I closed at work, so I wasn’t ready to leave the building until around 10:30, and then a snafu with the alarm system kept me there until around 11. I was very, very done with the day by that point – because a very nice police officer also scared the living daylights out of me while I was working out the alarm problem, because he thought I looked suspicious sitting alone in my car in front of the building. Which I did, I guess, but it was a shot of adrenaline I didn’t need.

As I was finally driving home, I passed a Wendy’s, a Burger King, a Sheetz… and then I saw it. Those horrible, beautiful golden arches. McDonald’s.

My stomach rumbled, and I knew what I had to do. I had to face my fear in order to scrape some semblance of joy from the night.

I pulled up to the order box, heart pounding, and ordered my favorite item on the menu – an M&M McFlurry. And, by some miracle, their ice cream machine was working! I carefully pulled up to the next window and paid, then pulled up to the last window to claim my prize. The employee held it out to me, but it was there, at the final window, that one of my drive-thru related fears materialized… I hadn’t pulled up quite close enough.

This might have, in my earlier years, prompted a bit of an emotional crisis. I was once driving on the Mass Pike and didn’t pull up close enough to take the ticket in the toll station and had to get out of my car, serenaded by the blaring horns of fellow drivers. It was an irrationally traumatic moment for me, and heightened the fear of drive-thrus. So, this same scenario unfolding on a chilly October evening, in the twenty seventh year of my life, could have sparked an equally upsetting episode.

But, it didn’t. I just put my car in park and leaned out the window a little further, and the McFlurry was mine. It was a smooth drive home that evening. Not only did I conquer a fear, but I got one of my favorite sweet treats in the process.

And maybe – just maybe – I can take on some bigger drive-thrus now, too.

The Great Zoltar

While doing some after-dinner shopping while on vacation a couple of weeks ago, my mom, sister, and I wandered into a new-agey mineral shop. I enjoyed perusing the crystals and geodes, but what ultimately drew my attention was the fortuneteller machine by the door. It was a good one, too – just like Zoltar from Big.

I know that suck things are basically nonsense. A flashy machine with a semi-sinister looking puppet inside isn’t going to be able to tell your fortune. But there was a dollar burning a hole in my wallet. I mean, why not give it a go? It worked for Tom Hanks, right?

20190926_2046268461337887423456400.jpg

My fortune read (if you can’t read the picture, which you probably can’t):

“Something that has been puzzling you will finally be revealed. A lost object may reappear, or a letter may come from afar. Friends share secrets and your loyalty is rewarded. A Capricorn supervisor is very impressed.”

That night, I was standing on the brink of a big change in my life. I strolled along the pier feeling confident and ready for what the future held. I am going through a major shift now, and… it’s a struggle. I knew it would be, but I’m having a harder time than I anticipated. So, I am keeping this fortune tucked in my wallet. It may be a load of hooey based on random numbers and conjecture, but I still have hope in the future.