Monkey kisses

2020 Books

At the beginning of 2020 I set a goal to read 12 books.
Because in 2019 I had read 0 books.

That was very unusual for me, I wasn't comfortable with it. It reflected something about the state of my life and what I prioritized that I didn't like. Some of it was outside of my control (Simone was born in late 2018 and was--and still is--a poor every time I would try to read I would fall asleep) and some of it was me (defaulting, in spare moments, to the endless & seductive scroll of social media because I convinced myself that it wasn't enough time to do anything REALLY productive).

Note: I'm not here to judge how much anyone else reads or doesn't read. But reading *a lot* had/has always been a part of my identity and seeing that slip away was a piece of the greater puzzle of losing one's self in becoming a parent and, ultimately, not feeling like a real, whole person.

So a goal of 12 seemed like a good way to ease into things without going nuts. 1 book a month I could do, and if that was all I did I would be pretty satisfied.

I ended up reading 88 books. Which is, I grant you, a lot more than 12.
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So here is my 2020 list. I've put ratings (some I modified as I went through and thought about the book again) and I'll call out a few stand-out books, too. Ask me about anything...mostly I have reasons for why particular things weren't higher or lower.
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This is me on Goodreads. I will probably "steal" all the books you like and mark them as "want to read" if friended. I'm a shameless book-stalker.

Hey, TLDR: what are the 6 I'd call out that I enjoyed or made me think the most and are also different from each other?

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, Lindy West, 5/5 : I like Lindy West's easy, funny, to-the-point writing. Her arguments are satisfying in their brevity and cohesive tightness.

What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, Lesley Nneka Arimah, 5/5 : This really stuck with me, upon reviewing the list. It's a collection of short stories set in Africa, has doses of magical realism, and can be both wonderful and deeply weird.

The Best We Could Do, Thi Bui, 5/5 : This is a multi-generational coming-of-age graphic novel that is an immigrant story, a refugee story, a first-generation story...all woven together with the complexities of coming to terms with being a daughter in the way you do when you have a child yourself.

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caroline Fraser, AB, 5/5 : This is a fascinating look at the whole myth and mythology of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Spoiler: Rose Wilder is a TERRIBLE person, and most of their bootstraps libertarianism is a fabrication. (Heeeey, guess what? "We did everything for ourselves and no one gave us handouts" literally means "we were given stolen land for free!" and "sometimes we lied to get free land claims!" with an extra side of "we're racist as f*ck" and "sometimes Nazis had good ides!" and "why be a journalist who researches stuff when you can make it up and pass it off as true!")

The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai, AB, 5/5 : This is about a group of friends/lovers living through the AIDS crisis in the 80s (and also some during more recent times). It says a lot of really poignant things about love and loss without being pretentious or obnoxious about it.

Black Girl Unlimited, Echo Brown, 5/5 : This one stuck with me a while as well; it has some magical realism, but primarily it's metaphorical magic--what happens when girls and women are abused and how do the shrouds of sadness settle over them forever.
Monkey kisses

Tidbits of the pandemic

Throughout the pandemic lots of places have been offering "exciting" virtual events. Crafting classes! Hang outs! Happy hours! Museum tours!

All things you can do to interact with others while stuck at home!

I hope some people are getting to take advantage. As for me, well, the only reason I could do these things was that I was out of the house away from my children. So making a virtual crafting class? Waste of time. Waste of money.

I must escape the children to do neat things. It's no use bringing the neat things here.
Unbearable Lightness of Being Hat

Open Shades

When I was small, I remember riding home from my grandparent's house after dark. In winter, when the sun set early, people wouldn't close their shades right away. I would peer out the window in the dark at the little illuminated boxes; catching bits of vignettes of other lives. People eating dinner. Watching TV. Rows of pictures meticulously arranged behind a couch. Kids in jammies playing on the floor. Someone doing the dishes.

In my grandparents' neighborhood, there were mid-century-mod houses; a first-ring urban expansion of the suburbs. The new-now-next neighborhood in the 40s and 50s that signaled prosperity. Catching glimpses of those lives--that sort of americana perfection that only holds up in a fleeting glance from a rolling car--was a kind of magic.

And it was something I didn't get where I grew up. Who could see their neighbors? Not us. It was fascinating. So many lives being lived, entire, so close together and so separate. So many complete stories happening--more than I could ever imagine.

My treadmill broke.

Lots of things have broken in 2020. The dishwasher, the refrigerator, the TV, my phone, the coffee maker, kitchen faucet, my laptop, my spirit. And now this. So I've started to go for walks around the neighborhood. I walk a half hour out and a half hour back--meandering along any route that looks interesting.

There's that same sort of quasi-magic. It's chilly. I walk with a book in my ears, peering up at old, old houses. Victorians and post-WWI models, some mid-century thrown in. None of the houses here are very new. Some are grand and odd, with eaves that block windows that shouldn't be there. I look for the ones who haven't pulled the shades yet and see little bits of lives.

But there is another dimension, this time. Because as I walk--unencumbered by the box of a vehicle--I can smell everything as well. I'm not speeding by, I can linger. Supper is cooking. There is a dog in the yard. Steam pours forth in rolling clouds into the cool night smelling of detergent and dryer sheets.

I could walk all night and forever. But I have to get home to put the kids to bed, and it is getting colder, besides. And more people are pulling the shades into the coming night, shuttering their little shadowbox lives.
Monkey kisses


Nadia has been watching RuPaul's Drag Race with me while I run.
The newer episodes are on Xfinity on Demand, the older seasons are on Prime.
We watch with captions so I don't have to turn it up really loud.

Before the lip-synch or challenge, RuPaul often says, "Good luck, and don't fuck it up!"

Of course, they bleep "fuck" on tv.

Nadia was DYING to know what was being said. I told her it was an adult word, and that words aren't bad, but you have to be old enough to know when to say the word and when to NOT use the word for adult words. She was intrigued.

Xfinity captions the bleep with asterisks.
Prime, however, captions the bleep with [bleep].

So Nadia is now CONVINCED she is getting away with something when she says, in a naughty whisper: "Good luck, and don't bleep it up!"

Monkey kisses


My favorite threat for Nadia is "stop that or I'm going to turn you into a newt."

It's a toothless threat, but it breaks the pattern of the situation enough to get her to stop doing the thing, and then we have this exchange:

N: Mommy. You don't know HOW to turn me into a newt.
Me: Yes I do. I've done it before.
N: But I'm not a newt!
Me: Well. You got better.

Someday she'll understand why I find this so amusing.
Shirley Temple--whoa


I've been having a lot of heavy/weird dreams lately.

Last night I had a dream my sister was murdered. It was so real and vivid that I woke up panicking. As soon as was decent I texted her to make sure she had not, in fact, been murdered.

"Had a horrible dream you were murdered. You are still alive, yes?"
"...Yes, alive... I had a dream we went thrift store shopping!"
"Yours is much better...I have got to stop listening to murder podcasts before bed."
Family Guy--Accusing Monkey

The margins

Toni Morrison would explain that she wrote in the margins of life. Outside of raising kids and family, she'd write in the early mornings before everyone was awake; scrabbling together bits of minutes and words and stacking them into hours, days, sentences, novels.

I'm not doing anything so grand as Toni Morrison, but I've always been comfortable in the wee small hours. Mine aren't early mornings, they're late nights.

If I was stuck on a script, I could clunk along with it at work for hours, or I could crack open my head and let it pour out nearly-effortlessly at 2 am. It's just how I'm wired. Before kids I could then sleep in in the morning, take a nap after work, etc.

Alas. The night before last I got rolling on a script and Simone woke up at 12. After nursing her I didn't have the energy to start that engine going again, and I went to bed (only to be kept awake from 1-3:30, rendering me non-functional at work yesterday anyway...clunking heavily through plodding, meandering portions of script.

Last night I buckled down at 11:30ish and cranked out 40 pages of script. I have one section left, but it was 3 am again and I made myself go to bed.

Now I lost it. That flow. This last chunk is so tortured. I'm having to re-read everything to get into what was coming so easily in the late-night.

I wonder if there's any science to the brain being wired this way--I've never been able to wake up early to do a thing, I have to stay up late and finish a thing--or if it's just habit.

I will say, however, that the wee small hours of creativity are very incompatible with the business of wee small child-raising. 
Monkey kisses

(no subject)

Last week was MEA. Nadia had Thursday and Friday off school.

I checked her bag on Wednesday night and found two packs of cereal. I didn't think much of it. Maybe they had extra?

But it just occurred to me. Our school is a free breakfast AND lunch school. They sent home two days of cereal knowing that unless they did that, some kids wouldn't get to eat breakfast on the two days off.

Jesus fucking christ, America.
Monkey kisses

Garden report

This year in tomatoes (with tags, for the record):

Cherokee Purple--Comes early, prolific, great flavor, A+ would plant again. YES
Japanese Trefele--Comes late, ALL THE BUD END ROT, rots quickly when picked. NO
Black Krim--Later than CP, prone to cracking, great flavor though. YES

German Johnson--Super late, super tall. Didn't produce well for us. YES
Cosmonaut--Early red heirloom. Good flavor. YES

Pineapple--SO much bud end rot, but SUCH good flavor and VERY minimal seeds. YES
Mr. Stripey--Sunshiny fairly little orangish fruits. Good flavor. Still producing, though late to come on. YES

Indigo Rose--NO. Weird flavor, quick to rot. NO NO NO
Sweet 100--Put in a bad spot this year, so minimal production. So leggy, but the kids like the little popable tomatoes. YES I guess.
Black cherry--Low production this year but I love this. YES

Green Zebra--Not a great flavor/texture unless picked underripe. Will switch out for Berkley striped green. NO
Lemon Boy--One of my faves. Great, sweet fruit. Ours got huge this year. YES.

Last year, but remember:

It was a rough year for tomatoes, though. Long, cold, wet spring and then it got immediately hot with no rain. So lots of black spot, lots of bud end rot. I know the black spot is in the soil. If I knew what was good for me I'd take a year off of tomatoes but I CAAAAANT. 
Monkey kisses


We let Nadia watch the first Harry Potter movie (for the second time) tonight.

And it tickles me beyond reason that she calls Voldemort "the dustbuster".