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I am actually Bethany. She/her, lover of problematic things, tumblr old.
I used to read a hundred books a year or more, easy. And then a few years ago, I just…stopped. I spent three or four years reading almost nothing but fanfic and meta, partly thanks to depression and partly thanks to life circumstances, but also just because FANFIC IS AMAZING and it’s FREE.
Eventually I did start reading books again, and I’m happy about it, but honestly? Who cares if what I was reading for a long time wasn’t published by a paid author? Reading fanfic brings me joy, a very specific kind of joy that I can’t always get from books, and allows me to share that joy directly with the authors! That’s amazing, and something you rarely get with books. All of which is to say:
If you’re the kind of person who used to read so many books and now you read nothing but fanfic, you should feel ZERO shame about this.
If you’re only reading poetry, or only short stories, or only fanfic, you’re still reading stories. Even if all you’re reading is twitter or tumblr, you’re still reading stories.
Even if you’re reading nothing at all, I still don’t think you should be ashamed.
You love stories, and you will read more when you have the spoons to do so. And in the meantime, stories come in other forms, and right now maybe you’re getting your stories from TV or movies, or maybe you’re writing your own stories in your head—enjoying them, thinking about them, dissecting them with like-minded fans, writing meta about them. Those are all good and valid ways of experiencing stories! And when you find that you need more than that, you will read books again eventually.
In the meantime, it’s totally okay that you’re not reading books, for whatever reason. It’s not shameful. <3
When I see posts like this, yeah I chuckle, but I also get sad because a lot of my family might make these spelling mistakes. They moved to the US when they were older, and didn’t have the chance to learn English.
I don’t want people to make fun of my mom because she says or writes space noodle instead of needle, or because she doesn’t know how to spell break room…
leaving maeve as we do in episode seven - grappling with mingled feelings of betrayal and devotion where otis is concerned, as well as an understanding that she doesn’t feel the same degree of either emotion when it comes to jackson - it’s no wonder that her storyline in the final episode is all about the role love plays in her life.
the episode identifies three major components to love of every kind - familial, platonic, and romantic - as seen through maeve’s eyes: trust, self-sacrifice, and support.
let’s start with trust, since we’ve already laid a lot of groundwork there, talking about maeve’s ability to do so in every part of this essay. it’s not something maeve gives away easily or often because of the way her family has failed to provide her stability through her formative years. her dad’s never been around, her mom - even though “she tries not to be” - is a drug addict, and her brother borrows the worst traits from both parents by dealing and then leaving as soon as he’s meant to face the complications of his messy life choices. and because of this lack of solid foundation in her life, maeve also can’t trust her living situation. she’s constantly behind on rent and bills, out of milk and out of gas. she refuses to give up on her right to an education - “i just don’t want to be living here in ten years, you know?” she confides to sean when he’s baffled that she’s considering joining aptitude scheme; education is explicitly framed as her ticket to a better life - but being a student certainly comes at the cost of full-time work that might otherwise allow her a modicum of material comfort to replace her constant anxiety.
this inability to trust also highlights one of the other components of love i mentioned the episode focuses on, namely support. in lieu of having anyone else to lean on, maeve becomes hyper-self-reliant. her lack of support feeds her inability to trust, and her inability to trust means she has trouble asking for the support she needs.
maeve herself connects this vicious cycle back to the way she’s had to make a choice between subsistence and rising above her lot in life to make more of herself.
the important part of this line, for me, is the way she punctuates her point with a bit of uncharacteristic positivity. “i know i can do better,” she says with confidence. she’s able to make the assertion for the same reason she’s able to open herself to the possibility of aptitude scheme back in episode six - she’s met someone who believes in her and her reach for a brighter future: otis.
otis, who doles out advice that, more than trying to endure other people’s perception of you, you should embrace who you are by “own[ing] your narrative.” otis, who stayed to walk her home from her abortion. otis, who committed himself to helping her fix ruby’s problem the moment he understood how much it meant to maeve. otis, who recognizes maeve’s writing through voice alone and insists that she’s worth a trophy.
(at this point, i’d like to note that the only other character who comes close to this kind of dynamic with maeve, is aimee. their smoke-break confidences and the way maeve had gone right to aimee when she couldn’t get ahold of sean while looking for someone to take her home from the abortion speak to the way maeve is primed to allow herself vulnerability in aimee’s presence. and it’s not really a failing on aimee’s part to show up - she’s there, involved in maeve’s life - so much as a wide-eyed innocence that keeps aimee from engaging fully with the gravity of maeve’s need. aimee’s a bit self-absorbed, caught up in her petty dramas and interest in being popular in a way that keeps her from supporting maeve the way she needs it. but maeve still treats her as a useful sounding board and someone trustworthy enough to merit reaching for their connection over and over again.)
throughout the season, otis proves that he’s worthy of maeve’s trust by offering the support that’s usually so absent from her life. he offers it when she tries to insist she doesn’t need it, specifically when she asks for it, and even when she hadn’t realized she’d needed it in the first place.
it’s what makes this particular beat in episode eight so heart-wrenching.
knowing that, at some point soon, she’s going to have to “face an external tribunal who will decide whether [she] has a future at this school,” maeve meets otis’ eye across the hall and longs for the ability to lean on him for the encouragement that her value isn’t dependent on what these people will say about her, for encouragement that she’s worthy of the brighter future she wants even given the way her family - her heritage, if you will - tries to keep her stuck in the lifestyle she currently has. and then she watches him walk away.
still, the fact that she yearns to reach out to him at all is, ultimately, hopeful. it’s proof that, even while she’s outwardly pushing him away for his betrayal of her trust by colluding with jackson behind her back, she wants an excuse to let him back into her life.
speaking of the betrayal, i want to talk a bit more about how otis’ part in it looks to maeve. as she sees it, after she’d spent all these months relying on otis for both financial and emotional support without a second thought - after she’d spent all these months falling in love with him - he’d taken their easy friendship and peddled it off to jackson. then, to add insult to injury, he donated the money he made off this maneuver to her. it recasts their entire relationship in her eyes as otis pitying poor, parentless maeve. their relationship never meant as much to him as it did to her if he was so willing to trade his intimate knowledge of her life to jackson and, by extension, push maeve and jackson into a relationship.
since this plays upon some of her deepest insecurities, maeve falls back on her old anger, stonewalling otis from her life completely (hard for her to do though that is). in contrast, she lets jackson off the hook for his involvement in the same betrayal, remaining in a relationship with him and letting him stay at the caravan to avoid his mother. and the reason for this, of course, is trust.
it’s hard to feel betrayed by someone you never allowed yourself to fully know or care about in the first place. forgiving jackson for going behind her back is easier than forgiving otis because, while maeve felt safe with otis and is now dealing with the fact that yet another person exploited what modicum of comfort she’d managed to find in her life, her relationship with jackson was a facade from the first encounter. at least as far as maeve’s concerned.
which brings us to the third component of love, as told by episode eight - self-sacrifice.
many characters throw themselves on one fire or another to prove how much they care in this episode. maeve allows herself to take the fall for sean’s dealing. maeve also, to a lesser degree, is taking the fall for otis in the same scene, insisting again and again that otis’ done nothing untoward when the clinic dealings actually probably do merit some kind of disciplinary action (at least in the headmaster’s eyes). jackson resigns himself to swimming to keep maeve in school - and the way the gesture fails speaks to how one-sided their relationship was the entire time. aimee gives up popularity in order to stand by maeve’s side when she needs it most - cementing herself as someone worthy of the pull maeve feels toward their relationship. and jean sacrifices her pride in order to apologize to otis for her own betrayal of trust.
the last example is important for how it inspires otis to stop with his self-pitying and make the amends he needs to after the events of the dance.
his apology to maeve including the reassurance she’d been looking for earlier in the form of the trophy - you are worth more than others insist you are - adds to their history another instance of otis proffering support when maeve is trying to pretend she doesn’t need it. he also restores to her the self-respect he’d robbed her of when he made it seem like he pitied her more than he cared about her with this line:
with the other relationships in her life, the love given and received often falls short. maeve is constantly self-sacrificing for her family, but she neither trusts them, nor gets any of the support she needs to make her relationship with them fulfilling. jackson trusts maeve, gets support out of their relationship, and offers a bit of self-sacrifice in return, but the relationship is still too one-sided to survive. aimee’s light-hearted and breezy approach to life means she isn’t always the most stable person to lean on for support, but this episode marks a turning point in their friendship where that’s no longer the case, mainly through an act of self-sacrifice, i.e. telling off the untouchables and siding firmly with maeve once and for all.
but with this apology, otis positions himself as the person with which maeve has the most equitable relationship. she trusts him like she trusts no one else, she supports him to see himself as worthy of more than being just “a guy in the corner”, and she takes every opportunity in episode eight to keep him out of trouble even as she’s sinking deeper into the very same. otis offers support in all the ways we’ve already talked about, he trusts maeve to tell him the unvarnished truth, and he sacrifices his pride to make up to her a mistake that, we the audience have the privilege of knowing, was more the result of him being in the wrong place at the wrong time than any wish to do maeve harm.
so, in love with him and, having just passed through a huge test of their relationship that leaves her more certain of it than ever, ready to speak her truth about that love, maeve sets off to find otis. which she does - kissing ola.
it’s the other main moment for which you could make a case the title of this of this piece refers. maeve takes otis’ apology as proof that they’re on the same page about their feelings for each other, only to find out that he must have meant it as a gesture of friendship. whether it’s a delicate and drawn-out exhale or maeve’s actually mouthing oh to herself in this moment, it’s clear she’s having an epiphany, taking their abhorrent timing to mean he doesn’t care about her the same way she does him. it hits her, she steels herself against the pain of it, and then she turns and walks away.
as we dive into season two, we’ll get to talk about how that abhorrent timing rears its head in their relationship again and again.