Favorites of 2020

It’s the final day of 2020 – that alone is cause for some happiness. It’s a time to reflect back on the year and then consider the year ahead.

Favorite picture of the year: That’s a tough call. I took some good pictures in 2020 – not enough, but some good ones. So I’ll pick several. The first one is from January 4th, 2020. I like it because (a) it’s my brothers, and (b) it was weirdly prophetic. The masks have nothing to do with the pandemic – in January 2020 we’d never heard the word COVID. We wore the N95 masks while we were cleaning out Dad and Phyllis’ garage, full of some nasty dust and stuff. We had no idea that those masks would become de rigeur only a couple of months ahead. Very weird coincidence.

My next favorite picture of 2020 was taken in Cabo in February. I’m including it just because it’s a damn fine picture – I love the lighting.

My final favorite picture of the year has to be this one. It captures one of my favorite moments of the year, meeting Jesse.

Favorite song of the year: Texas Sun, by Khraungbin and Leon Bridges. That song kept me driving happily during the first pandemic cross-country trip. (Now that I think about it, my favorite song of 2020 is pretty much anything by Khraungbin. Though Texas Sun was my first.)

Favorite books of the year: The Expanse, books 1-6 (still have 7 and 8 to look forward to). According to Goodreads I read 84 books in 2020, totaling 28,738 pages. Yikes!

Favorite TV show of 2020: a tie between Yellowstone season 3 and The Expanse, all seasons. I’ve been binge-watching The Expanse seasons 1-4, saving the new season 5 for some down time in 2021.

Best meal of 2020: Has to be the luxe 11-course meal K and I shared at Manta in Cabo. Every course was superb. I wrote about it here, back in February.

Favorite moments of the year: A tie between (a) waking up not-dead after surgery, and (b) meeting and holding grandson Jesse for the first time.

Least favorite moment of the year: Seeing the George Floyd murder pictures/video for the first time. A stark reminder that man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds. Call this a tie with the night of the election when it appeared that Trump might have won a second term.

Good question

Dave Winer over at Scripting News asks a very pertinent question:

“Why are we paying taxes to the US Treasury when the government won’t protect us from a deadly virus? Why are we funding a military when we can’t get vaccine into the arms of Americans? This is a war where, if we chose to fight it, we could win in 3 weeks. What’s the purpose of such an expensive military beyond protecting Americans?”

Why indeed? Our government lost its way a long time ago. It doesn’t serve the people’s needs, it serves itself.

2020 in hindsight

This was a year we’d like to forget, but it will be remembered by all. Here are some of my key memories from 2020:

  • The time spent in January in KY with my brothers, moving my Dad and stepmom from their independent home (where they were doing poorly) into a wonderful new assisted living facility. It was a massive job, with some tasks still in progress.
  • The Nashville trip with Kathryn and Emily at the end of January.
  • The trip K and I took to Cabo in early February. We were both sick (maybe COVID; we have our suspicions), but we wanted to make the trip. We pretty much just sat on the patio and watched whales and boats go by. The world still hadn’t rung the alarm bell when we left, so we can be forgiven for traveling then. That was our last airline flight of 2020.
  • The realization in late March that things were going to be bad for the entire year. And it’s been worse than I imagined.
  • The birth of grandson Jessamine Memphis Monsma (that’s still quite a name for the little guy) in May. And my subsequent cross-country drive to meet him.
  • Taking grandson Hudson on his first fishing trip.
  • My knee replacement surgery on August 31, then a month of rehab/recovery. I’m still amazed and grateful it went so well.
  • Finishing the first draft of my novel and then realizing I was going to have to rewrite the damn thing. Still working on that.
  • The second cross-country drive we took in October, to see kids and grandkids. We visited some of the Dionne family too.
  • Seeing the Grand Canyon again and the AZ Meteor Crater for the first time.
  • The crazy Presidential election, and POTUS 45’s subsequent and ongoing meltdown.
  • The tough decisions we had to make about Christmas visitors. We were supposed to host 15 people, K’s side of the family, for the first time in a decade. That didn’t happen.
  • Realizing recently that UK basketball season was going to be a bad one. Worst start in 110 years for UK. It figures.
  • Living through an actual worldwide crisis, the pandemic, month after month. It’s like being a character in a dystopian movie. Probably the third worst disaster ever in America, after the Civil War and the 1918 flu.
  • Visiting my Dad and stepmom by talking to them through a window. Kind of heartbreaking.
  • The realization last month that much of 2021 will be a loss similar to 2020. There’s some hope on the horizon, but the bad times financially, pandemic-ly and culturally are far from over.

All in all, quite a year. One I will never forget, and hope to never repeat.

Didn’t see that coming

I saw this online today and just had to share it. It’s perfect:

Apparently the Washington Post ran a write-in competition for the best summary of 2020, and the winner (a nine year old from the mid-west) came up with this totally accurate description:

“2020 was like taking care to look both ways before you cross the road, and then being hit by a submarine.”

Yeah, that’s about right. Hit by a submarine…

Better late than…well, you know

Well, we have a Christmas miracle or two after all. (1) After nine long months, it’s raining here. We’ve gotten about half an inch so far. And (2) Trump signed the COVID relief bill. Millions of people will get some financial relief – not enough, but better than nothing.

More later, but I wanted to get my thanks out to the universe immediately.

Holiday pictures

Been busy this morning importing a lot of pictures from phones, cameras, and text messages. Turns out we have a lot of great ones. First up, the featured image above – this was our sunset on Christmas Eve. It’s beautiful yet forbidding. Can’t tell if it’s Fallbrook or Mordor.

Next up is Emily sitting behind the wheel of her new car for the first time. This is the canonical New Car Smile.

Then we have Jessamine, maybe the easiest photo subject ever. He always smiles, he always looks like a little happy and wise Buddha. Here he is in his first cold snowy day.

Then there’s grandson Hudson, experiencing his first-ever ice skating adventure. I wonder if he knows that the mask is a 2020-only artifact? (At least I hope it’s 2020-only!)

Finally, a nice shot of our new favorite evening spot. We bought a fancy heater so that we could sit outside and visit with a person or two, and Kathryn added some lights. It’s turned out quite nicely, I think.

Christmas COVID-style

It’s Christmas Day, 2020. It sure doesn’t feel like Christmas, but there it is right on the calendar: 12/25/20.

For us, it’s Christmas COVID-style. No kids or grandkids, no siblings, nieces or nephews, not even any Socal friends visiting. Just us. We have a lot to be thankful for – I never entirely lose sight of that – but the losses of time, family and special events in 2020 are hard to accept.

We did get a nice little gift this morning, though. The management at Dad’s assisted living facility sent a note saying that all the residents there will receive COVID-19 vaccine on December 30. That’s great news, obviously. One more possible tragedy averted (probably).

Last night we watched a movie that I really wanted to see, Midnight Sky. A George Clooney-produced science fiction film, with George himself in the leading role. Sounds great! But watching it on Christmas Eve in 2020 was a mistake. The movie was well-done, well-acted, beautiful, but unrelentingly sad. I mean “end of the world, nothing matters any more, how could this happen” sad. Drive you to drink sad. Probably not what anyone’s psyche needs right now. So nice job George, well done, but shitty timing. Should have held on to this one until 2021, maybe 2022.


Update: We ended up having a great Christmas Day. We talked and texted with family and friends. We decided to do a little project we’ve needed to do for a while – decanting and bottling our 2019-harvested olive oil. So sticking with an Italian theme (we grow Italian olive varietals), we opened up a nice bottle of locally-grown Negroamaro and filled 45 bottles with some excellent oil. Was a great, un-traditional way to celebrate an un-traditional Christmas.

Good morning?

Big fire in Fallbrook last night. For some reason I woke up at 4am and checked the news, and bam…there’s a wildfire five miles from the house. 750 acres burned so far, but wind is driving it west into Camp Pendleton. Not a great way to wake up on Christmas Eve.


Updates: The fire is larger, but still tracking away from us. And the winds have died down, so CalFire and others should be able to handle it.

Yesterday’s water main break is also now fixed. I was able to “fix” it, but used a weak sort of PVC glue and the water pressure popped the pipes again. Thankfully a pro came out this morning and fixed it, teaching me a few things in the process.

Sooooo….a flood, then a fire in less than 24 hours. Not sure what’s next – earthquake or tornado. I wouldn’t put anything past 2020.

It helps to have low expectations

It’s the third day of winter 2020, and things are going about as expected. Kentucky basketball is at a 100-year low point and getting worse. Trump is a madman, pardoning criminals. Socal is still dry; no rain. Coronavirus is still beating the shit out of the US and has decided to mutate into something even more infectious. Cretinous pandemic-denying congressional members are getting their vaccine ahead of everyone else. Santa Claus crashed into power lines and had to be rescued. In other words, SNAFU.

Close to home, everything about Trump’s pardon of Duncan Hunter bothers me. Quote from CNN:

“Hunter, who was sentenced earlier this year to 11 months in prison and three years of supervised release related to his misuse of more than $200,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, was recommended for a pardon by “many members of Congress,” according to the White House release.The former California lawmaker pleaded guilty in December 2019 to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds and was set to be on supervised release for three years after serving his prison sentence. He was also required to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program. Hunter would have started his sentence in May, but it was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and he would have reported to a federal prison in West Texas in January 2021. Hunter and his wife were indicted in August 2018 for lavishly spending on “items as inconsequential as fast food, movie tickets and sneakers; as trivial as video games, Lego sets and Playdoh; as mundane as groceries, dog food, and utilities; and as self-indulgent as luxury hotels, overseas vacations, and plane tickets for themselves, their family members, and their pet rabbits Eggburt and Cadbury,” according to prosecutors. Federal prosecutors charged that Hunter had fraudulently spent more than $200,000 on expenses that included a $14,000 Italian vacation and thousands of dollars on routine items like groceries, bedding and other household items. Hunter resigned from Congress in January, after winning reelection in California’s 50th Congressional District, which encompasses much of eastern San Diego County.”

The fact that he was my congressman bothered me. I was happy when he was convicted, but now he’s dodged justice completely. Not a day in jail.


Update 4-5 hours later. The day’s not getting any better. Big water leak on the property that’s taking me most of the day to fix. Nothing I love more than shovel work and kneeling down to work on my knees. And, I find that my hired hand “fixed” my Gator by attaching the seat incorrectly, and stripped the bolts. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make it right.

And yes, I’ll have some cheese with this whine.

Just over the horizon

As I write this the sun is going down over Camp Pendleton and the Pacific, off to my west. Today was the beginning of week 52 on my 2020 calendar (yes, the end is near!) and the day before the Winter Solstice. And it was 83 degrees F and sunny. Not very Christmasy.

I managed to work out more today than I have in a long time. Ninety minutes of structured exercise, including rowing 5 kilometers. You’d think that would set me up to have a productive day, but after that all I’ve been able to muster is some reading and naps. I planned to break out the novel and write a chapter or two, but all I’ve got is…this.

One final thought. I watched Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” last night for the first time in a long time. It’s as if it were made in 2020, not 1989. It’s a great movie, but so sad that the movie’s tragedy of a black man killed by a cop’s excessive force was a thing back then and is still a thing today. Thirty one years since then and it appears we’ve learned nothing. I can’t even imagine how Spike felt about George Floyd – his killing was so uncannily the same as Radio Raheem’s in the movie.

There were no happy endings in the movie, or maybe they were just beyond the credits. That’s my hope for 2021 – the happy ending may be just a bit farther away than we can see.