books & reading, personal & miscellany

Upside down

When I set my intentions for 2020 at the end of last year, cultivating more tranquility was at the center of all of my plans: figuring out how to slow down, pay more attention, and enjoy the gifts of my good and simple life. It goes without saying that this year has been pure chaos, and I can’t say I’ve made great strides on the tranquility thing. “Shut down” in no way describes what happened when the pandemic sent us into quarantine almost five months ago, and like many people my daily life now is the same flurry of work, activities, responsibilities, and anxieties that it’s always been. Now I just do all the same spinning within a lot less square footage.

When the pandemic began, while everyone was stocking up on hand sanitizer and toilet paper, I grabbed all the library books I could carry.

By any measure, we’re doing fine. Marc and I have stayed healthy, San Diego provides good weather for daily exercise outside, and we like each other’s company. Our small condo is ill-equipped for two people to work in all day – no matter how much they may like each other – with no office, private spaces, or even desks. But we have stable employment and a big dining table, so I’m calling it good. I’ve been utterly buried in the redevelopment of the community dementia education program at Alzheimer’s San Diego, which launched as an all-online program in late March and has been steadily building. I haven’t had more than a handful of days off since this all began, and am withering – but we’ve got a solid infrastructure in place now, and I think I’ve got a realistic sense of my capacity and a good road map for the months ahead. So now I’m looking forward to a little of this quarantine “down time” I keep hearing about.

When I need to deliver live webinars for work (generally once or twice weekly), I move all of this from the dining room table, and set up a “studio” in our bedroom. The Instagram WFH life, it is not.

We were holding out our hopes for a race and vacation in Utah in the early fall that is definitely not going to happen – but I’ve decided to take the time off anyway, and we’ll figure something out. It may end up being little more than a 10-day nap, but something different to look at through the windows would be a dream. Your suggestions for safe quarantine vacation destinations – while traveling with a very old dog – are welcome.

Yes, Norma the very old dog is still with us! She made a remarkable recovery from February’s near-fatal bout of pancreatitis, and has been in pretty good health since then. If she was one of those companionable types I’d think she was sticking it out to make sure we survive these long months in quarantine relatively intact. But she’s not. She’s Norma. Whatever her reasons for hanging around, we’re grateful for the company and goofy distraction she brings to our days.

Norma spent the early months of quarantine wondering what we were doing in the dining room all day. She’s over it now.

I wrapped up the spring semester of library school in May (halfway through the MLIS program now!), and then took the summer off from classes, knowing I was going to be up to my strained eyeballs at work for many months to come. I’ll be back at it soon, as the fall semester begins in two weeks. I really miss my weekly volunteer shifts at the downtown Central Library, which remains closed, and am hopeful (but not optimistic) that internship possibilities will open up in the coming year.

Baseball came back, Marc can golf again, and I can run. Life in a mask is weird but this is totally manageable, and we’re managing. Everything is weird and not like before – except for books. Mornings with a book is one thing about my life that happily hasn’t had to change, although my choices have been admittedly a little out of character. I’m glad that I spent the first part of this year reading an unusual quantity of self-improvement books, on topics ranging from Stoic philosophy, to leadership, to nutrition. This has turned out to be a great year for trying out new habits, since everything’s upside down anyway.

Hope you’re finding occasional moments that feel right side up, staying healthy, and wearing a mask when you’re out among the humans. XO

Here’s what I’ve read so far this year (list follows):


  • This Chair Rocks: A manifesto against ageism (re-read), Ashton Applewhite (2016)
  • Elderhood: Redefining aging, transforming medicine, reimagining life, Louise Aronson (2019)
  • The Yellow House, Sarah Broom (2019)
  • Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (1962)
  • Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a public librarian, Scott Douglas (2008)
  • The Stoic Body: An ancient twist to modern health, Philip Ghezelbash (2017)
  • No Meat Athlete: Run on plants and discover your fittest, fastest, happiest self, Matt Frasier & Matt Ruscigno (2013)
  • Manifest Destinies: The making of the Mexican American race, Laura Gomez (2007)
  • Stillness is the Key, Ryan Holiday (2019)
  • RETOX Yoga-Food-Attitude: Healthy solutions for real life, Lauren Imparato (2015)
  • Meaty, Samantha Irby (2013)
  • We are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby (2017)
  • Wow, No Thank You, Samantha Irby (2020)
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The ancient art of stoic joy (re-read), William Irvine (2008)
  • The Stoic Challenge: A philosopher’s guide to becoming tougher, calmer, and more resilient, William Irvine (2019)
  • Running with Sherman: The donkey with the heart of a hero, Christopher McDougall (2019)
  • The Book of Ichigo Ichie: The art of making the most of every moment, the Japanese way, Hector Garcia Puigcerver & Frencesc Miralles (2018)
  • Me and White Supremacy: Combat racism, change the world, and become a good ancestor, Layla Saad (2020)
  • How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, Sue William Silverman (2020)
  • The Ravenmaster: My life with the ravens at the Tower of London, Christopher Skaife (2018)
  • The Leadership Workout: A practical 31-day guide to review and refine your leadership, Brenda van Camp-Elmes (2019)
  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and arguments, David Foster Wallace (1997)

Fiction – Adult

  • The Best of Isaac Asimov, Isaac Asimov (1974)
  • Bliss, Peter Carey (1981)
  • Exhalation: Stories, Ted Chiang (2019)
  • Greenwood, Michael Christie (2019)
  • The Rapture of the Nerds, Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross (2012)
  • Dune (re-read), Frank Herbert (1965)
  • Shoeless Joe, W.P. Kinsella (1982)
  • The Postmortal, Drew Magary (2011)
  • Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963), Gideon Marcus, editor, (2019)
  • The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern (2019)
  • The Elephant Vanishes (re-read), Haruki Murakami (1993)

Fiction – Young Adult

  • Dread Nation, Justina Ireland (2018)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)

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