January 2021

My second jab! I was too self-conscious to get a picture the first time but the second time, I wanted a picture.

Well, January was pretty eventful for the US and I definitely followed current events in a much more timely way than my blog posting schedule suggests. I really like Heather Cox Richardson‘s near-daily posts from a historian’s perspective. She’s still writing about current events and I really appreciate her ability to inform the present from events in the past.

The birds continue to do well. Mom continues to send them seeds and treat sticks, so they’re well-fed. Their daily routine is about the same: sleep, eat, drink, chirp, fly. They are especially vocal during Mark’s conference calls. They don’t understand why he isn’t thrilled about this. So they chirp louder.

In other bird-related topics, I used my parakeet ornaments on the tree. They were from the RN I worked with in Portsmouth and I love them. But they were put away by early January so I was on top of the tree takedown for 2021. Speaking of takedowns (or downfalls?)…

Then, on inauguration day came my favorite meme of 2021: the Bernie meme! I know, it was old within a week but there were some pretty clever riffs. My favorite?

Finally, we had some spectacular sunsets. The picture below on the left is from our balcony while the picture on the right is from the City Lot just east of Balboa Park.

Finally, SMS looked pretty good in his Christmas sneakers. I don’t manage to surprise him very often but this gift was a good one!

Christmas 2020

I had a two-part Christmas this year! After getting my Pfizer first dose on 15 Dec, I decided to travel and see my family this year. It was great to see Mom & Dad and my brothers and their families. Dad and I went for several walks, where he was the tour guide for several of the “lesser” monuments in DC. The picture above features a super-attractive one on the left and a more normal picture on the right in front of the Capitol Christmas tree.

Getting ready to see the Christmas star!

We even got to see the Christmas star, which I had also seen in California as Saturn and Jupiter made their way towards each other in the early evening sky. Imagine if the planets had actually collided! (joke)

Getting super-2020 with the nap dress! More comfy than flattering, I think.

We had Christmas dinner at Joe and Nicole’s house. We hung out in the backyard for a bit and then moved inside for an ordered dinner from Army Navy country club. It was delicious! It reheated super well and the Chateaubriand was amazing.

Needs more smize!
Harper’s Topiary Garden in Mission Hills

After a great family trip, I came back to San Diego and celebrated a belated Christmas with SMS. Because he wasn’t vaccinated, he didn’t feel comfortable making the trip to DC. We took a walk in San Diego December weather which was delightful! A lot of houses still had decorations and I was particularly infatuated with the Christmas Corgis!

2020 in Books: A Review

In 2020, I read 67 books. 21 were non-fiction, 46 were fiction. Oooo, already I am pretty happy with myself since I did not think I had read that much non-fiction.

As I look at my non-fiction books more, I’m even happier since I read fewer memoirs than I thought. My favorite book was The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by Barry. It shot to the top of my to-read list in April, when I thought I should get better perspective on a historical pandemic. It’s really well-written, engaging, and informative. Learning about the disease spread and its likely start in Ft. Riley, Kansas were new information for me. It was also interesting that the incubation time was 48-72 hours, which meant that once it arrived at a place, it hit like a lightening strike. 5 stars, for sure!

Other recommendations from the year include She Said by Kantor and Twoley, Cork Dork by Bosker, Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo, and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Wilkerson. And if you want a totally satisfying memoir in the beach readiest of ways, try Open Book by Jessica Simpson.

For 2021, I would like to read a more “educational” non-fiction book every month that broadens my knowledge base and academic frame of reference. I’m going to focus on the Navy Surgeon General’s list and Bill Gates’ book blog, but I’m open to other suggestions!

Fiction reading is my joy and if I scroll a little less on my phone, I anticipate even more reading in 2021. I gave myself a little grace to be mindless during parts of 2020 but it’s time to shape up!

On my year in review post, I listed all of my five star reads: Olive, Again by Strout; The Dearly Beloved by Wall; City of Girls by Gilbert; Celine by Heller; Writers & Lovers by King; Milkman by Burns; Deacon King Kong by McBride; Girl, Woman, Other by Evarist.

For Olive Again, I would definitely recommend reading Olive Kitteredge first. I really liked this character- a prickly, off-putting, stoic Maine woman. It reminded me of a more modern Ethan Frome where, due to upbringing and temperament, the character suffers because of how much is left unsaid. In Olive’s case, there is also the addition of what is said is often said in a less-than-constructive way. [By the way, I should have started off saying that I am the worst at describing books in a manner that would make people want to read them. But then this paragraph would have made such a warning redundant.]

The Dearly Beloved was a really thoughtful book on two married couples over several decades. The two husbands are co-ministers at a church, while the wives are as different as me and my college roommate (very). I loved the character of Lily Barrett, but all four members of the quartet are well-developed and complex.

City of Girls was a surprise to me since I find Elizabeth Gilbert slightly insufferable in her non-fiction (Eat, Pray, Love anyone?). This novel was well-told, frothy, and fun. I recommend!

Celine might be my favorite book of the year. This sporadically employed private investigator is a feisty, formidable woman in her 70s with COPD but she can still take on bikers in a bar! I so wish that there was a series based on this character but alas, this book is a one and only (so far!). I do like other Peter Heller books but this is tops for me!

Writers & Lovers opened my eyes to how good a writer Lily King is. The main character Casey is 31 and basically, just trying to figure it out. The writing is excellent and I really like it. There are few unlikeable characters, but none fully demonized which is pretty true to life, right?

Milkman is a similarly themed book of a young woman trying to figure it out but set in the time of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Since I had read Say Nothing by Keefe earlier in the year, I had a pretty rich historical context while reading this novel. It may be a little too dreamy and “literature-y” for some, but still, it was a five star for me!

Deacon King Kong features several characters in inner city 1960s Brooklyn. While there are some heavy themes and circumstances, the book is also hilarious. The title’s character ability to get himself into trouble but then somehow comically escape his fated comuppance/score-settling is laugh-out-loud funny.

Girl, Woman, Other starts as several loosely tied stories featuring a different protagonist before tightening up over the course of the book and becoming a pretty cohesive whole. I almost lost the thread a few times but ultimately, thought the book was fantastic.

So, the above fiction books are listed in order read through the year. If I had to rank them (tough for me!), I would say…

  1. Céline by Peter Heller
  2. The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
  3. Writers & Lovers by Lily King
  4. Deacon King Kong by James McBride

But ask me again tomorrow, I may have a different order!

Reflecting on 2020

Since 2011, I’ve used this list to help reflect back on the year.  I really enjoy looking back while preparing to move forward. So…

1. What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?

Got vaccinated against COVID!

2.  Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I did ok!  I feel pretty happy with my betterment efforts although there is still work to be done. To pick a small area, I am happy with how much I read this past year (67 books!) but I will make a much more concerted effort at reading more non-fiction!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My sister! (Repeat from last year.  Go B!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.  

5. What countries did you visit?

Ouch.  Oh 2020, what could have been.

6. What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

International travel!

7. What dates from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 23: I was supposed to go to Norfolk for a one week surgical visit and instead, I was on the USNS Mercy response to the Port of Los Angeles!

April 2: On the Mercy for my 40th birthday.

August 21: Our housing offer went bottoms up

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

SMS and I navigated a tough Fall.  I 100% realize that we are still very fortunate in our lives but August and September were rough.  

9. What was your biggest failure?

Well, it’s not really a failure but I do feel a little stuck in my job if I want to advance from a research or military rank perspective.  But more opportunities should open in 2021 assuming that things will, in fact, start to get back to “normal.”

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My right shoulder for a bit.  And I think I’ve avoided being sick with COVID.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

SMS Christmas present- a pair of special sneakers.  I might realize the high of being a sneakerhead!

12. Where did most of your money go?

Rent/Two Households for 2/3 year.  Real estate debacle. Savings account.

13. What did you get really excited about?

SMS and I have had a great time being together in SD.

14. What song will always remind you of 2020?

“Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion.  And let’s be real, W.A.P. made quite a splash :]

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Same.  Pretty happy.

– thinner or fatter? A little thinner

– richer or poorer? Poorer (real estate debacle)

16. What’s one thing you wish you had done more of?

Non-fiction reading!

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Phone-scrolling.  Gossip site reading during the second half of the year- I was so good the first third! (Argh, this is a repeat.  Will do better in 2021!)

18. How did you spend Christmas?

With family.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Call My Agent (Pour Deux Percent) Seasons 1-3; Pandemic; The Queen’s Gambit; Insecure Season 4; Unorthodox

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

Olive, Again by Strout; The Dearly Beloved by Wall; City of Girls by Gilbert; Celine by Heller; Writers & Lovers by King; Cork Dork by Bosker; Milkman by Burns; Deacon King Kong by McBride; Girl, Woman, Other by Evarist; Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Wilkerson

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

“Dance Monkey” by the Tones and I.  Hahahahaha

BTS, “Rain on Me,” Dua Lipa, Mabel, Emili Sandé

And one of my last workouts featured “Wait Til You See My Smile” by Alicia Keys is really beautiful, even if it’s from 2009.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

I watch so few movies that, shamefully, my favorite of the year was Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.  I thought The Social Dilemma was a huge missed opportunity and about 40% of the “documentary” was a super-cheesy Hallmark-like film.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

40.  On the USNS Mercy.  I mostly tried to avoid anyone knowing it was my birthday.  

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

No COVID.  Is that too glib?  Yes, but it’s also true.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

I am all in on the joggers trend and recently bought a huge sweater.   When I wear it, SMS calls me Dobby the House Elf (not in a good way but I don’t care!)

26. What kept you sane?

SMS and my family!

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020

The power of social justice and hoping/believing/acting that the moral arc of the universe truly does bend towards justice.

Seven (+1) Bridges Urban Hike, San Diego

As one of the online guides said of this walk, it can be called “walking” or “urban hiking.” Either way, it’s an easy, flat walk through several San Diego neighborhoods that is enjoyable, fills some time, and allows for exploration. Some of the bridges are pretty cool, too!

Map of the Seven Bridges, each one represented by a green circle. The bonus +1 bridge not included in the official description is the University Ave bridge over the 163.

We started at Bread & Cie, where we had placed an online to-go order. It was a little disorganized and even though I knew I should have checked our order, I didn’t. Poor judgement secondary to hunger. So, our iced teas were left behind. We went back to get them, but this added a little distance and I was hungry and out of sorts.

Fortunately after we ate, I felt better. Although I was still a little grumpy, I was willing to give the hike a second chance! We walked through my favorite corner of Banker’s Hill (around Walnut and W. Upas) towards the Spruce St Suspension Bridge.

Spruce St Suspension Bridge

I think this wins for coolest bridge. It spans a canyon and it moves quite a bit. If someone is running, it can be pretty dramatic! The view towards the water is beautiful and overall, I highly recommend!

Quince St Bridge

We continued towards downtown and made a slight detour to cross (and return) the Quince St. Bridge. It spans another canyon and feels much more sturdy.

Returning back to First St, we crossed the only steel-arch bridge in San Diego. It crosses another canyon and as we got towards the end, SMS noted how the side rails were disconcertingly low. Geez, I was fine until then but after that fact, I wanted to get off the bridge fast!

We also saw a cool terraced backyard/hill that is added to the collection of native garden inspiration.
This bridge is a multi-arch bridge and much more beautiful looking from below.

Next, we crossed into Balboa Park and crossed the Laurel St. Bridge, that used to cross a small lake but now crosses the 163. It wasn’t too crowded but this bridge and the pedestrian avenue through the Park were the most crowded areas of the walk.

Balboa Park bridge over Park Ave.

After crossing the park and the single-arch cement bridge over Park Ave, we took a quick break and walked through the Rose Garden. We found some favorites! Although does a rose named “Ketchup and Mustard” smell just as sweet? Talk amongst yourselves!!

The Desert Garden is right next to the rose garden and is another one of my favorites.

Cactus tree in the Garden. It looked cooler in person.

Then we walked up Park and crossed the Georgia Ave bridge. It used to be made of redwood trellises in 1907, but this concrete bridge has been in place since 1914.

Once we crossed, we saw a hill that seemed to be partially cultivated- maybe by the neighbors? I leave you with pictures of otherworldly beauty.

We crossed Washington Ave and were a little unsure that we’d find the Vermont Street Bridge. Trust the walk! We found it! I would vote it as “Bridge most likely to party” since it was decorated and has a lot of quotes incorporated into the bridge concrete design.

Finally, as we were walking along University back to our car, SMS noticed that, yes! We were crossing another bridge! This is not included in the official description of the Seven Bridges walk, but it is definitely part of the loop. So, we present the bonus bridge! It is another bridge crossing the 163 and has charming green side rails, also somewhat low.

Overall, it was a great day and I recommend this walk. SMS found it when searching for social distanced activities in San Diego, but even in more normal times, I think this would be a lot of fun. You could add more bar-hopping through Hillcrest, more museums or the Zoo in Balboa Park, or more garden walks in Banker’s Hill. Five stars!