My 2020 On the Screen and On the Page

With all credit to AvocadoMoon for the idea, I’m gonna yack about what I read and watched in 2020. I didn’t have extra weekdaytime because of the pandemic, because I was able to work remotely. I may have had a little more free time on weekends, tho luckily I was able to see friends a lot, outdoors. Man am I glad I got to take 2 watercolor workshops last winter before it hit.

Shows & Movies: (Hulu, Netflix)

Galavant. It’s Monty Python Meets The Princess Bride Laced Throughout With Mel Brooks. It is *sparklingly* funny and intelligent. It’s a musical comedy!

ER Season 1. What a pleasure to see the very first episode, which I’d missed originally, and revisit Love’s Labor Lost, and so many scenes I’d remembered all these years, and so many great ones I’d forgotten. Those actors were CHILDREN! Sherry Stringfield and Julianna Margulies are just as wooden as I remembered them. Season 2 was so clearly inferior that I didn’t finish even the 2nd episode.

Normal People. Be.Still.My.Heart. I rewatch the whole series periodically. And the book is exquisite.

Veep. I got to watch half a dozen or so eps, while HBO let us Hulers (?) watch free at the beginning of the pandemic. What a marvel of a show. SO funny, so political, so smart, so scathing.

Barry. Ditto, tho only a few eps. Bill Hader, much more contained than on SNL, plays a hit man who takes an acting class to relieve the stress of his work, and can talk about his job since everyone thinks he’s making it up for acting class.

Ben Is Back. Julia Roberts is the mother of an addict in trouble. A very serious look at addiction; nothing schmaltzy at all in this movie. I’m not even sure I laughed once in it.

Normal People. I wanna list it again because I love it sooooo much! Also the Irish accents are a treat. And wow do those characters drink a lot.

Mrs. America. About the fight to ratify the ERA. I lived this and I love this series. Cate Blanchett is a marvel, as ever. There’s some SCATHING dialogue.

(can that be all? I reserve the right to revise)


The pandemic is the reason I learned how to use Libby. It’s great! I didn’t think I’d like reading on my phone, but it’s eminently doable. I much prefer a real book, but this is a great 2nd choice. COVID and my dear indie bookstore are the reasons I bought a few more books than usual this year, including hardbacks, which I almost never treat myself to.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. Nowhere near as good as The Handmaid’s Tale. Too many plot contrivances, and her first-person narrators sound too narrator-ish.

Oryx and Crake by same. (First in a trilogy.) A masterpiece.

The Year of the Flood by same. (2nd in the trilogy) Same problem as The Testaments: too narrator-ish. Plus, I was confused with the non-chronological way it was written. I didn’t finish it; it was not gripping the way Oryx and Crake was. I will try the 3rd book tho; I’ve come this far, and when Atwood is good, she is stunning.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Fantastic, what I’ve read of it.

How To Be an Anti-Racist by Ibrahim X. Kendi. Fantastic, the parts I listened to. (had to return to library)

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. Delightful, sweeter than pie, hilarious, touching, complicated, fascinating.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Excellent story, interesting characters, intriguing moral dilemmas.

Hunger by Roxanne Gay. Gay was raped at 12 and quickly and intentionally became morbidly obese. This is her memoir. Didn’t finish, too repetitive and needed a better editor. (audiobook) I am glad to have discovered Gay though.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. Totally gripping, horrifying, believable, heartbreaking novel about a teacher who grooms and sexually abuses a student and how she lives her life from there.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bakman. Sweet and lovely.

Gmorning Gnight! Little Pep Talks For You and Me by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Unbelievably inspirational and comforting.

Dear Girls by Ali Wong. Not as funny as her Baby Cobra show, which was almost illegal, it was so funny. Didn’t finish listening.

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish. Didn’t finish: not that funny or interesting.

Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel. AMAZING. Iraq and Afghanistan vets and PTSD and how our country is failing most of them.

Missing Her

I’m in a 5-day writing workshop, meeting for an hour at noon every day this week. Today we did a meditation and it brought me to the constant ache I have for M, the M of her young years when she was available to me, actively connected to me, when we shared things as naturally and as often as breathing. I think of her preschool years, her K-2 years, and right thru 6th grade even, when she’d still want to go to a movie with me. We live very separate lives now, and I profoundly miss having fun with her.

So here’s what I wrote. Then I read it to the group, while crying. (But not crying too hard to talk.)

* my bright shining child*

those lively eyes

that impish face

that beaming smile

those stormy brows

i was allowed, then

[PS WordPress has changed things and I no longer know how to format the way I want to. There should be indents and different spacing, and I couldn’t make them happen.]

Just a Few Drops?

For a blog with Juice in the title, it’s been pretty dry around here. I just read ReBel’s latest post and was shamed/spurred to write a quick one.

The pandemic still sucks (shocker, I know). M is still fairly uninterested in spending any time with me. We are fighting a bit less though. I found a way to back off. It means I clean the sink when I want it cleaned, even though she’s supposed to. It’s worth it though. I never thought I’d take that approach. I’m usually a stickler. But having a teenager has changed me, by God.

That’s all for now.

Out of Empathy

I was  texting with some  friends and one talked about not having had any physical contact since the quarantine began. She lives alone.  I live with a teenager who rarely wants much to do with me and is very selective about the hugs she’ll give me. Rather than having no-one to touch, I have someone who frequently refuses touch. I had a distinct lack of empathy for this friend. Feeling that way feels terrible. I hope my compassion comes back in the AM when I’m rested.

9 Minutes, Go

That’s how long til I promised to get off the computer. A friend is very good about nudging me off. So I’ll just write what I can and call it good.

Corona virus, why not talk about that. I can only keep the reality of it in my mind for a short while. It’s the same for me as when someone has died: comprehension seeps in slowly. It’s like when I sat with my uncle’s body: the first couple of hours I’d look right at him and not comprehend how he could be dead. As the hours passed, it became more real, and eventually it made sense. The devastation of the virus is slow in becoming real to me. Not that I don’t believe it. But that I can’t keep my grasp on it, because it’s so vast. I read the stats of the dead, the sick, the unemployed, the number who will yet get sick …

Tomorrow I’ll do yoga with a friend by Zoom or possibly at her house, six feet apart. M and I will work out with my best friend her her family by Zoom. I couldn’t believe M agreed to. If I’d asked her she would have answered with either a scornful No or a flat No Thanks. But the 4 year old asked her and she beamed and said yes. I’m really looking forward to it. My best friend is one of the lights of my life. She worked out with me every single day during the crippling depression that I had 2-3 years ago. She was a lifesaver. Anyway, I hope also to run tomorrow. I always have grand plans for a weekend and rarely achieve them. I do better with modest plans. We’ll see.

Drat. Where do I choose the tags? This is not about AD/HD. Well, the not doing the plans part is. But that’s not the tag I’d choose.


Don’t Play Music!

There are radio news and talk programs I love. They are excellent at talking about things that are interesting, important, touching, funny … But they are not good at playing music and they shouldn’t do it. If I want to hear music, I’ll listen to a music station or a CD. I especially hate their music when it’s late and I’m tired and should have been in bed an hour ago.


Stupid Online Dating

I’m on and I hate it. My heart is not in it at all. I want to meet someone organically, doing something we would have been doing anyway because it’s something we want or like to do. Dating websites feel artificial. I’m not new to them, and I used to like them better. Don’t know why or how I’ve changed. Age?

I have a dear friend who met a man on Match this summer. They are now in love with each other. She’s so happy about it. I want so much to be happy for her, and intellectually I am, but my heart is jagged when she talks about it. I’m so sad that I don’t have that love.

Tonight another dear friend told our little group, which includes my other friend, that she too is dating someone and loves him. My heart got more ragged.

I despise not being totally happy for them. I don’t despise myself, but I despise not being fully happy. This is not how I want to feel. I want to feel unalloyed happiness for these lovely women who, in fact, are both widows.

Part of me knows it’s not about anyone deserving anything. I deserve all the good things everyone deserves. It’s not that I don’t deserve love. I do often wonder if I’m equipped for love. I’m pretty terrified that I’m not. Part of me wants to find out, while that scared part is holding on tight to the railing. The first friend was scared too. She didn’t want to go on their first date, but she made herself. So I can’t believe that the universe’s rule is that you only find love when you’re not afraid to. There is also mountains of anecdotal evidence of this not being true.

I met a man in October and I liked him so much immediately. I could tell he liked me too, and I asked him out. We were both very excited about having dinner together. He had to cancel, and then I never heard from him again. This crushed me. I tried contacting him and he didn’t respond. This crushed me even more, not knowing why. I didn’t plan to argue or criticize, I just wanted to know what had happened. He seemed so nice.  He was so nice.

Tonight I felt so very sad that I went into M’s room and told her how I feel. I had misgivings about it, but did it anyway. Poor thing, she thought she needed to help me, and was at a loss. Which is exactly why I’d had misgivings. But I was able to tell her that she didn’t need to “help me cope with it” at all, and that just having her listen with kindness was a wonderful thing. Which it was. Then before long we got into a squabble about her phone use.


My Vanity Fair Interview

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Peace, fulfillment, connection.

What is your greatest fear? Drowning.

Which living person do you most admire?  Michelle Obama comes to mind. I might revise this answer.

What is the trait you most deplore about yourself? Criticizing and judging others.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? Selfishness. (Is that an example of me criticizing and judging though?)

What is your greatest extravagance? My greatest intentional extravagance is trips to France. My greatest unintentional extravagance is the food I waste.

What is your favorite journey? Up Franconia Ridge.

On what occasion do you lie? When I’m surprising someone, including with gifts. When I need time for myself and cancel work or a meeting with another professional.

What do you dislike most about your appearance? Sometimes my nose, sometimes my hair, sometimes my shape.

Which living person do you most despise? Trump. Fred Phelps.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “you know”

What or who is the greatest love of your life? My child.

When and where were you happiest? Ages 3 – 7.5 in Toronto, and junior year in college in Strasbourg, France. And on many vacations.

Which talent would you most like to have? Playing a musical instrument.

What is your current state of mind? A bit discouraged.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would not have ADHD. Wait, make that cyclical depression. And anxiety. I claim the power to change those three things.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Achieving my lifelong dream of living in NH. And, as a young adult, living for 2 years in France.

What is your most treasured possession? Objects of great meaning that other people have given me. Partial list: Burgundian family corkscrew from Patrick, china vase from Marie-Jeanne, crock from Liza, small vase from Kathleen and Beth, Uncle N’s framed mirror.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? For me, it’s depression.

Where would you like to live? Where I live now. Or France. Maybe Scotland. DC.

What is your favorite occupation? Hiking and speaking French.

What is your most marked characteristic? My keen interest in others.

What do you value most in your friends? Acceptance and forgiveness.

Who are your favorite writers? So many! Louise Erdrich tops the list.

If you were to die and come back as a person, or thing, what do you think it would be? A blue heron. Or Franconia Ridge.

What is your motto? Truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing. Also, “be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart,” by Rilke.

Why I’m Back

I’ve been thinking about resuming. What really spurred me though was a friend who began a blog. Her blog is lovely, and since it’s a WordPress blog and I was in the digital neighborhood, I came here and reread my posts.

I’m happy to say that M’s problems with inappropriate sexual behavior are a thing of the past. I recently gave her Peggy Orenstein’s book Girls and Sex. That book should be reqired reading for all teenagers and their parents, all genders. I can’t tell if she’s read it, and I don’t need to know. I just needed to make sure she had it.

Anyways, I hope to use my blogging muscles again. Happy August.

Paying It

I live in an apartment with a porch on the second floor. It’s the old-fashioned kind of second-floor porch: not a deck, but a porch with a ceiling. It’s off M’s bedroom, and because she is deathly afraid of bugs (even moths), she asked if we could screen it in. There’s no way my landlord would provide either materials or labor for this, so I figured we’d buy a roll of screen and staple-gun it to the porch enclosures, which make a kind of frame around the porch’s 2 open sides. Lo, this turned out to be more complicated than I thought, and as a homeowner I had learned that doing things the quick and dirty way does not always yield the best results. So, I asked a friend if he would help me.

This is not a close friend; he’s a member of my synagogue. He and another member have become what I call the widows squad: there are some women whose husbands died in the last 2 years, and these 2 men are fantastic about doing things for them that their husbands used to do. One day it occurred to me that although I didn’t have a husband who died, I was nevertheless a woman living on my own who wasn’t handy with tools and needed help. So I asked one of them, R, if he’d help me. He instantly said yes, of course he would, and he meant it.

It turns out that he seems to be more of the spur-of-the-moment or short notice kind of person, while I very much want and need to plan, especially so I can make sure I or M am home when he wants to come. So far he’s come by and taken measurements, and now I’m waiting til he’s free to buy materials (some lumber) and get to work. I very much want to help him and learn; I’m not angling for him to do it all himself.

M has grumbled and whined at me a few times this summer, saying “when is R coming?” and “why don’t you just ask P to do it?” P is the guy I dated a number of years ago and whom I have set very clear and firm boundaries with, for good reason. I’ve explained to her that a) I don’t want P over here doing a job and b) I don’t want to invest money in this project. I’ve told her that when you ask people for help, you have to accept it on their timetable. Now I have to remind myself of that. *I*’d like M to be able to spend some of the summer on her porch, but there’s no reason R should have that agenda.

Now, it just so happens that earlier this summer a woman I know lent me a kayak for a day outing. Not only that, she and her husband drove it to the launch, lent me all the equipment, showed me how to use it, and came back to pick the kayak up. This was an amazing level of service, and she had volunteered all of it; I hadn’t asked. When we were setting the kayak up, she said that maybe sometime over the summer I would come and do a couple of hours of gardening with her. She knows I’m a gardener, and she needs help because of a handicap she has. I was ungracious and childish enough to think “what?! I thought she was offering the use of her kayak. I didn’t know this was a quid pro quo.” I said yes with no enthusiasm in my heart, though I *hope* I faked it.

I’ve offered once to go over, and that day didn’t work for her. That was at least 3 weeks ago. Today, grinding my teeth about R, the light finally dawned. “Mompoethiker, you need to fulfill your debt to this woman.” I called her right away and offered to garden today, or either day next weekend.

It won’t matter whether this karmically spurs R to help with the porch. I’m actually grateful that it’s taken this long with R, otherwise I might not have woken up to what *I* need to do.