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!

qMonth Post

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s been a warm Fall and very botanically-oriented. SMS has developed a keen interest in native Southern California gardens. The beauty of them is…subtle. While many might just see piles of sticks, true visionaries see beauty, sustainability, (tiny) flowers, and hummingbird attractors. We went to a few native gardens in the local area, to include one in Point Loma and the one in Morley Field. The later was a demonstration garden that gets watered frequently so has a much shorter dormant (read: stick-like) period. We talked to the gardener there for a bit. He was slightly eccentric and knew a lot about the plants.

After our garden tour, we went to Mission Hills to walk through the neighborhood. We had coffee and quiche at Kettle and Stone, a cute coffeeshop with an awesome succulent/moss wall frame.

I also tried to rehabilitate my raphis palm that did not take well to not being watered for two weeks. Oops. It will come back, I know it!

Little native garden seedlings at my feet- San Diego Sunflower and mint!

SMS and I went to North County to pick up some Native plants and pick up some pizza from Blue Ribbon Pizzeria. It was a fun field trip and both of us decided we could definitely handle living in North County!

We also went to a few outdoor wine tastings. I really liked the vibe at Grant James. It’s definitely unpretentious and their wines are really good! Who wouldn’t love a wine tasting with beer pong vibes?

Wine tasting at Wiens Family winery

We also had a family outdoor lunch followed by a tasting at Wiens winery. With a name like that, I think your professional destiny is pre-ordained.

Halloween decorations, 2020 style!

I did micro-Halloween decorating. I have a cute figurine from Linda, but SMS is against too many seasonal decorating items. And since we are a little squished in the apartment, I agree for now!

C-bird’s new favorite toy.
Colorful native garden plants. These I can get behind!
Flaming dessert to celebrate my MIL’s birthday!
SMS, hitting the trail!

Summer 2020 Catch-Up

If 2020 was a drink, what would it be? Vodka in a water bottle when you were expecting it to be water. Now, this is from a funny person on the internet, but I laughed so hard since this has happened to me, it is a horrible surprise, and it aptly describes 2020.

A quick round-up of a few highlights on the Summer.

SpaceX rocket launch 5/30. It was successful. It was also preceded the doubling of Tesla stock which, alas, we missed out on. But $2000?!?! I never would have dreamed. Need to dream bigger, I guess.

On May 30, SMS and I watched the SpaceX launch of two astronauts to the International Space Station. It was a success! Our little stuffed owl put on his cosmonaut helmet but, given the size of his wings, stayed firmly grounded.

Left: Luminous Starter and Right: Proofing loaves

I continued a few quarantine hobbies. I received the gift of a sourdough starter from Stacy and Michael and made some pretty decent sourdough loaves. It took me a few tries to get the leaven concept, but then it was pretty awesome. I haven’t made any loaves recently but we had some deliciously fluffy pancakes this morning!

Cucumber blossoms, a baby cucumber, and tomatoes!

My garden ended up being a little bit of a bust. I need to do some more research on optimal sun and water for specific plants, but it is also true that the soil is only so-so. Especially when inconsistently watered.

SMS and I in Bird Rock, CA.

SMS and I were apart for part of June, together in July, and then up in Menlo Park for his birthday. We celebrated his birthday there and then I drove back down to SD alone, which was unplanned. He had been put in charge of a short timeline, high stakes project at work so he stayed back in case he had to go in. So, for August, I was back in SD alone and it was a tough month to be apart with heat, wildfires, real estate misadventures, and work stressors. Even though we are still incredibly fortunate and we can still find silver linings, August was definitely the month that 2020 became very 2020 for us.

Brady-bird also had a rough month. I rescued her from behind the wine fridge though. She was ungrateful.
Cynthia’s super-cute dog at the Oceanfront house!
“No workie.” Fortunately, there was a back-up that did, in fact, “workie.”

I went to NMCP for the last week in August, which was a great trip professionally but still stressful since the surgeries were high-stakes and required a lot of concentration. Everything went really well and it was super rewarding. I also had an awesome visit from Mom and Dad, who came down from DC to visit Thursday evening through Saturday. The highlights were our amazing dinners at Luce and York 411, with excellent food and great conversation. I wish I saw them more!

From L-R: Sutro Height Lion and me, view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sutro Baths

I went back up to the Bay Area and SMS and I had a fun trip to San Francisco. We actually had an impromptu stay overnight after deciding to treat ourselves to a hotel room for the a/c. We used points and definitely like they were points well-spent!

From L-R: A marriage proposal, Saint Frank coffeeshop, Andytown Coffee Roasters
9/9/20: A really weird day, super orange-y with the wildfire smoke blowing through. This photo is unaltered/unfiltered.
Suuuuuuuuuuper lazy gardening hack, Palo Alto-style.
Robot vacuum, hard at work.

SMS’ work had their big reveal on 9/9 and it went really well. He made the decision to give up his apartment in Menlo Park and move down to San Diego. Working remote will still be “a thing” for several months and it just seemed time to be together. This was/is very exciting news!

And finally…

September 11th

Hi. It’s been awhile and while there is a Summer of catch-up (spoiler alert: not much happened, #COVID) today is 9/11 and not a day to reflect on frivolity. Instead, I’m more interested in a quick flashback and some thoughts which, while not monumental, are mine and I’d like to write them down.

On 9/11/01, I was a senior at Williams College, a prestigious liberal arts school that I was doing well at, although certainly not a shining star. Looking back, I realize that I missed out on the potential that it offered in terms of a potential consulting or Wall Street career, or even an early Silicon Valley entry. But no matter- I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was 10 years old and I’m so happy with my career. It’s just amazing to me to see me how many other options could have been explored.

So, on 9/11, I was on my way to my senior biology seminar, “Circadian Rhythms and Biological Clocks” (or something to that effect). Even that subject has grown in leaps and bounds since I studied it in 2001. It really is amazing, even though I’ve only kept up with the field peripherally. The seminar was 9-11 a.m. and I was cutting through the student union around 8:45. A news report was on showing smoke coming from one of the Twin Towers. My first thought was confusion- I didn’t think it was the anniversary of the bombing in the ’90s because that had been a Winter day with flurries. What I saw on the screen was a gorgeous cloudless day just like the one that I saw outside in Williamstown, MA. Within a minute, I realized that it was real-time. Even still, the exact situation was unknown and what was known was that I had to get to class. An absence was non-excusable, apart from very limited circumstances.

The professor, whom I don’t remember although I can look it up, called the class to order, specifically saying to focus on matters at hand rather than developing news story. The next week, he briefly but deeply apologized, saying that he had no idea what had actually been happening. In the course of a 90 minutes seminar, the South Tower was hit and both towers collapsed. The world incontrovertibly changed while we were ensconced in a small academic bubble studying the current science in a field that has progressed in leaps and bounds during the following 19 years.

Since then, I’ve finished my career at Williams, followed by a medical career in the U.S. Navy since June, 2002. So much has changed within our country, our culture, our military, and our health care system. While there are deep, and even deepening, political divisions, I draw solace from the fact that overall, I feel we are learning from our circumstances and trying to effect change. I hope we are successful.

Free Wine

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After the Medlock Ames virtual wine tasting, I was on the lookout for similar events.  My father-in-law had mentioned Venge several times when discussing Napa/Sonoma trips so I decided to explore if there were any virtual tasting available.  While Medlock Ames had sampled full bottles that I already had as a wine club member, I was looking for wine tastings where little kits are mailed out with 3 oz pours.  This would be more in line with a normal wine tasting and I had seen a few wineries advertise it.

So, in mid-May, I searched for Venge virtual wine tastings and found an event on 3 June!  Success!  Best daughter-in-law ever!  There was a pretty basic page asking for my name and address, which I filled out.  It was under the domain name Lessonly, which sounded about right.  Wine lessons, Lessonly, online learning- it all fit!  No other information was required so I figured it was a request/mailing list/something?  I wasn’t sure it would work but since no significantly personal information was asked for- no credit card, birthday, etc- I felt ok.

So, out of sight, out of mind until the next week when I got an email from Lessonly saying they were looking forward to the event, but would I mind providing the company I worked for?  I ignored that email, thinking it was a bit weird when, the next day, I received a shipping notification from FedEx that I would have a package the next week.  Specifically, a 22-lb package from Venge.  Uh oh, that’s a lot more than 3 oz wine samplers.  And again, I had not provided any form of payment!

So, I wrote to the woman asking for the company name saying that there may be a mistake in that I thought I was signing up for a routine wine tasting and this seemed to be an industry/corporate event.  Well, to summarize a few emails, it turns out that the wine tasting was a customer appreciation event by Lessonly for its corporate customers.  I think the wine was already paid for and I was told to enjoy the wine, but I wasn’t invited to the actual virtual event (this was said very nicely).  It still seems super-weird to me that a tech company wouldn’t be able to keep out unwanted people from subpages on their website but, *shoulder shrug*, I got wine! Retail value $300+, omg.

I liked the Croix wines the best.  I brought over the Venge to my in-laws’ house where we enjoyed the three.  SMS and I liked the Merlot the best while my father-in-law liked the Cabernet the most.  I wasn’t as big a fan of Venge as some other wines.  I thought they were super-jammy and almost too rich.  But it was still delicious- I just mention my rank order in a way that I would rank a day of wine tastings.  Some places I like better than others but they’re all really good.

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Day 1: Bird Update

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“I’m not stressed, you’re stressed.  Thanks for the playground, BTW.”

I am concerned that the birds fragile nervous systems may lead to their untimely death.  SMS and I have increased their freaked-outedness recently.  They really do get stressed out.  First, SMS scared them due to killing house flies, which have increased a lot in the last week.  Since the process involved sudden movements, loud “thwacks,” and killing of flying things, we’re pretty sure the birds thought they were next.  Although their eyes are small, they seem to weirdly widen and roll around when they’re really freaked out.  They also refuse to go into their cage.  SMS has since developed a more subtle way of killing flies that the birds seem not to notice so they’ve recovered.

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It was time for the poopy mirror to go!

But then I decided to do a deep clean of their cage.  After the great mite outbreak of 2019 after the extended stay in the bird hotel (although to be fair, the fig tree may have been to blame), I have worried when they seem to preen/scratch themselves a lot.  I decided it was time to clean their cages and throw away all their toys.  Boo!  This was an unpopular move in bird land. I sealed the deal by spraying them with mite spray, which they haaate.

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A knitting needle for a perch…a pathetic temporizing measure.

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Amazon, it’s for the birds!

I went guilt-shopping though and bought new toys.  So, now they have a new perch, sitting circle (currently ignored), and a new playground that they love.  Joe-bird has also decided to fly towards the balcony door and hang out.  I fear he may go the way of Edward-bird someday.

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Joe-bird plots an escape…

You know, I used to think birdwatchers were weird and boring.  And now, here we are.

 

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Surrounded by toys and treats…birdie paradise?  Why would Joe-Bird want to go?

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Can’t cage us!

San Diego Quaren-Queen!

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Me on the bow!

What does a blog that mostly focuses on trip reports and travel do when travel is off-the-table for awhile?  Go dark, in this case!  But I want to continue writing so while COVID-19 is limiting travel, I’ll start writing my deepest, darkest, TMI secrets.  I kid.  There is absolutely no way that’s happening.  I have been reading blogs that are on pretty impressive writing streaks so, no time like the present!

After spending the first part of May in a hotel room in LA, I came back by bus on 13 May. The Mercy pulled in on Friday, 15 May and, overall, it’s great to be back.  It’s an honor to serve and be part of a ship whose mission brings so much hope.  It’s also nice to be back home since the surge/backup capabilities of the Mercy weren’t needed- which is a good thing! I’m glad LA didn’t have an overwhelming situation similar to NYC.

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USNS Mercy, back in San Diego (5/15/20)

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We rule the roost!  Deal with it!

You know who else is happy to be home?  The birds.  That may be an overstatement.  They loved my in-laws house.  They seem to tolerate me.  But at least they were good houseguests (by report) and they certainly don’t seem to have missed any meals.  #quarentine15, but maybe in grams.

Things looked pretty good when I got home.  The houseplants and garden looked good, and I have one baby zucchini, one stunted tomato, and lots of blossoms.  Fingers crossed!  I also fixed the internet, aka, waited for the Spectrum Repairman to fix the internet.  Two-part solution: replace the corroded external connector and, when the connection was still dead, replace the modem.  Success!  The internet is now “blazing fast!”

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So many pieces that look the same. Sand!

I have started many quarantine hobbies.  SMS and I are working on a puzzle.  I cannot think of a more mentally draining endeavor.  I sit down enthusiastically and within 5 minutes, I feel like an eye-strained, pattern-blind monster with no energy.  It’s great!

I also made sourdough bread, which turned out pretty well.  Starter thanks go to my sister- and brother-in-law.  I followed the Tartine recipe, which is insane.  I took it one step at a time.  It made for a delicious loaf of bread.  My tips for next time (oh, yes, there will be a next time) are to use my standmixer at the first combined dough step and, biggest thing, use baking flour, not all-purpose.  I mean, the recipe even said this but I had what I had on-hand.

Finally, I bought knitting kits and started the first one.  Now, I’m the proud maker/owner of a cowl, perfect for the start of Summer!

I have read a lot over the last three months.  I watched Call My Agent/Deux Pour Cent, which is an amazing French show about a Parisian talent agency.  I’m trying to figure out a show that SMS and I would both like, but that’s sometimes tough.  The Great is out.  SMS knew that from the period piece costumes alone.  I’ve heard great things about Ozark but we watched the first episode and he thinks it’s a show I’d quit because of violence/nightmares, a là Breaking Bad.  That could happen.  The search continues.

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This past weekend, we extended our quarantine bubble and had a Medlock Ames wine tasting with my in-laws (4 other people, 6 total).  The takeaway lessons were low since it was easy to talk over a Zoom tasting but everyone thought the wines were great.  We also talked about the book Cork Dork and the utility of the Coravin system.

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Finally, I got some super-cool Facemasks as a frontline worker from Mark’s cousin’s company Goldsheep!  They are great and I’m really appreciative to Keri and her team!

More Mercy

Hello from Restriction of Movement (ROM) status!  Since SARS-CoV-2 decided to show up on Day 16 of the mission (boo!), our leaders not only moved quickly to take care of the patients/close contacts, they also decided to minimize the hazards of close quarters shipboard living by sending most of us to hotels.  Today is Day 10 since I moved off the ship the morning of 4/16.

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So, the above picture shows my last lunch on the USNS Mercy and it was delicious!  I’m dining al fresco because one of the initial social distancing measures was putting a mess tent/dining area on the help pad.  It was a gorgeous afternoon.  They must have known we were about to leave for the deliciousness of hotel food and they decided to up their game.

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On 4/16, I woke early for my last Mercy donut 5K.  I was a little slow but I knew that this would be my last chance for awhile.  Gorgeous morning.

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Here I am on the bus with our silly t-shirt masks.  The rules kept changing, which is fine. We’ve never been through anything like this before.  We now have to wear N-95 masks outside of our rooms.

The first hotel I stayed at was the Doubletree Downtown.  It was nice.  The room was a reasonable size and there was a small area that I could roll out my exercise mat.  Each lunch and dinner came with a DoubleTree cookie which is delicious but they are very rude and put the calorie count on the back of the bag.  Why is a cookie that small 330 calories?

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The food was fine, but not great PLUS my friend and I had a craving for delicious food.  The above picture is of my friend Sable (urologist) and I having a socially distanced lunch of Onigiri.  Yum!

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And I had visitors!  Mark’s cousin Amy, her husband Johnny and their son came over.  They were so nice and brought presents!  They are the best and repping their GoldSheep masks, a company owned by another one of Mark’s cousins.  We had to follow ROM rules so I couldn’t invite them in but it was a nice moment of social contact!

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On 18 April, my family had a Zoom promotion ceremony for my brother’s promotion to Major!  Huge news and an amazing achievement.  I had the honor of administering the oath.  It was awesome and we had a great family conversation afterwards.

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The next day, I had an awesome Zoom meeting with my college friends.  It seemed a little touch-and-go based on schedules but it worked out!  We had a great hour-long hangout and it was really special!  What’s also special is my face- thanks for picking the best picture, Karen.

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On the 23rd, a significant number of people were switched to the Westin Bonaventure. Not sure why, but it is nicer and the food is a lot better.  Above, you see my current level of critical decision-making regarding which bed do I sleep in.  Sigh.  I’ll get back into the OR someday.

In the interim, I have been on Instagram a lot.  Popeye the Foodie Dog is an old favorite and fjamie013 is pretty funny with his fulfillment of photoshop requests.

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I have also started to take online Blender tutorials.  My goal is to learn how to use the software package to make medical models off of CT scan DICOM images.  For now, I set monkey heads on fire and make doughnuts (in progress).

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Finally, here’s my cute cloth mask from a general surgeon’s Mom.  He got a lot and offered a mask to all the surgeons in our chat group.  I also have my own care package on the way with Goldsheep– I can’t wait!