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My Personal “Bests Of” 2020

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Here’s some stuff that happened this year that I particularly enjoyed, presented in a stream-of-consciousness kinda way because I’m high and these block paragraphs are attractive to me.

Carole Fuckin’ Baskin This year, I converted much of my wardrobe into big cat print to model myself after my hero, Carole Baskin. As someone with a long-time interest in tigers, I knew who Baskin was from Big Cat Rescue’s videos and various news stories. But I’m not like that into tigers. I just think they’re really cool and lions are, too. I’ve always said that if I won the lottery, I would start a sanctuary for big cats. Then, I saw Tiger King and I was like, ha ha ha, fuck that, no thank you very much. But I finally had the Baskin backstory. And I love her. Let’s all be honest with each other: ehhhh…looks kinda suspicious, right? Suddenly, everyone is talking about this evil woman who murdered her husband and is just running some shifty business and trying to ruin the competition. Where was this person? I didn’t see that person in the documentary. I saw a hero. A woman who had a change of heart about the exploitation of animals for profit and decided that a rich white man had to go. A rich white man who picked her up on the side of the road when she was nineteen or some shit? So what if a dude like that gets accidentally covered in sardine oil? How did she become the villain of the piece? We’ve got a choice between a meth-dealing human trafficker who murdered baby tigers, two guys who have definitely involved tigers in sex acts while completely sober and also likely murdered baby tigers, and Carole, a lady who may or may not have murdered a regular old human who abandoned his family to fuck a teenager? Yeah, okay. Whatever. She’s a badass whether or not she killed that dude and she’s definitely been a highlight of my 2020. If I lived near her sanctuary, I would volunteer there for sure. But only things where I don’t have to actually get by tigers because I am very, sensibly, terrified of them.

Did you know I can dance? I didn’t! Definitely, the best part of the year was the part where we weren’t living in the end times. I really liked that part. Especially because there was still live theater to participate in, which is one of the great loves of my life. See how pretentious that sentence was? That proves that I’m a theater person. But earlier this year, in the weirdest, wildest twist of fate imaginable, I ended up in a production of Chicago. When I told my husband, he was like, wait, are you sure? And that’s because I’m a really bad dancer. And I’d just gotten the all-clear to walk without an air cast after breaking my foot in late 2019. Somehow, I ended up in the iconic “Cellblock Tango” as Hunyak. I had to learn Hungarian lines. I had to learn to dance. It was hard. I spent a lot of time on my ass with an ice pack on my foot, doing the arm choreography from the sidelines. I can’t believe I got the chance to do it, but I did, and I really surprised myself.

 

 

This meme that hit FB about two minutes after Trump’s covid diagnosis:

Melania Trump in high heels and a long coat, smiling for the cameras as she breaks ground on something or other with a shovel. Beside her, someone has added the text, "I make grave for husband now"

 

Not having to go anywhere. If there was any upside to 2020, any tiny crumb of joy that it can’t snatch away from me, it’s this: I never had to force myself to fulfill plans I had made when I was in a more functioning mood weeks before.

Rachel True’s True Heart Intuitive TarotIf you’ve ever tuned into my currently hiatus-ed YouTube live broadcasts where I get drunk and read tarot for viewers, you know I’m a big believer in intuitive reading. Rather than looking up every definition in a book, you read about the cards and spend time with them and get a sense of their energy and then you look at them differently every time you do a reading. At least, that’s how I do it. The art on True’s deck is incredibly fresh, but not in the way many decks will just slap a cool picture with zero interpretive imagery on it just because it’s pretty. All the traditional themes of the card meanings are there, presented in new (and often more effective) ways. And the book is amazing. Part memoir, part tarot instruction, True ties each of the Major Arcana cards into anecdotes about her life and acting career, written in a way that feels incredibly personal, as if the reader is having a conversation not only with True, but with the cards themselves. Overall, the deck and the book present themselves as a thoughtful friend who’s kind, but who will also tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it at the time (but you know in your heart they’re right). A++ would let these cards read me again and again.

I got to help a swan cross the street. We were driving down the road (in the old days, when you could eat at restaurants), headed into the city for family breakfast because we all wanted pancakes but we didn’t want the clean up, when on the side of a busy state highway we spotted a swan in distress. Swans are not friendly animals, nor are they safe to be around in most cases. They’re more dangerous than you’d think. But I’m not a smart person, I’m a caring person, and when I see an animal in trouble I have no choice but to abandon all sense. I told Mr.Jen to pull over. He did, but he wasn’t super thrilled about this particular journey into the heart of nature. I got out of the car and crouch-walked toward the hesitant swan, who started coming toward me. It was at this moment that I remembered that swans are dinosaurs and I was like, what the fuck am I doing? I’m going to die like Newman in Jurassic Park. As it got super close, I tried to see if it was hurt, if it had fishing line wrapped around it or something like a bone sticking out, but it just looked like a regular, not-injured swan. I was like, “Hey dude, what do you need?” and this thing made eye contact with me, bobbed his head at the road, and deliberately put one foot on the pavement. It blew my mind. This animal was clearly communicating to me that it wanted to cross the road and it knew that I, a person, could help it do so safely. I don’t think he had room to take off. Or maybe it was smart enough to figure out that roads are a people thing but not smart enough to remember he can fly. Whichever it was, I stepped out in the road, Mr.Jen stopped traffic, and I escorted the swan to the soybean field across the street. Sorry, farmer.

Ashes of Love At some point in mid-May, I had watched pretty much all the English-language stuff on Netflix. And that’s when I found out about C-dramas. Friends. Romans (just in case the Swiss guard checks this blog), countrythem: Chinese fantasy television shows are like nothing you’re ever going to see on English-language TV. First of all, there’s like sixty episodes in a season, I guess. Second, production value and imagination is off the fucking roof. The heroine, Jinmi, is the secret daughter of this flower goddess who cursed/blessed her by making it impossible for her to fall in love. So, she thinks she’s just a random fairy. Or a grape. Sometimes they say she’s a grape? It might be the translation. But she does wear purple a lot. Anyway, there’s a whole thing where she sneaks into heaven in the sleeve of a phoenix she rescued. But the phoenix is Xufeng, a prince of the Heavenly Realm. And he’s one of those brooding, stand-offish heroes, while his foster brother, Runyu, who is…a dragon-water-thing? Look, this show has a lot going on in it, okay. Anyway, Runyu falls in love with Jinmi and Xufeng is in love with her, too, but she’s only interested in getting as much magical power as she possibly can. I’m not done with it yet, but at the moment they’re like, amnesiacs? Or something? Game of Thrones could never.

My friend Scarlett wrote a book for me. My lovely friend, Scarlett Parrish, wrote a book to appeal directly to my crush on Craig Ferguson. Take Me Home is a love-letter to Edinburgh, as I said in my longer review here. This was such a fun experience because I got to watch the story come to life in my Twitter DMs before I read the actual book. Definitely a highlight of 2020.

So many plants and mushrooms! One of the biggest revelations I had in 2020 was hey, I can smoke a lot of the plants that grow in my yard. I’m blessed to live out in the country in the Midwest in North America. There are so many plants just growing around, and once you pay attention, you can find medicine for free. This is like, no shit, real medicine, not “use essential oils.” There is a plant that grows all over my yard that is an honest-to-bog sedative. Like, I researched these little flowers that Native people throughout the Midwest and New England used as a sedative for women in childbirth. I put some in a joint for funsies and I’ve never felt so god damn relaxed. I’ve been buying garlic for years like a dipshit when there is a 20 x 20-ish patch of it just growing behind the landlord’s pole barn. He didn’t know, either! And we always pick the black raspberries (not blackberries!) that grow against the barn, but I didn’t realize I could make tea out of them. Did you know there’s a plant affectionately known as “witch’s Xanax” because a tincture of it can calm you down? Obviously, you have to be careful with this shit (especially with mushrooms, which are also free and just everywhere here but which are also sentient, trust me) and not just fuck around because you will die if you do that, but I have had a lot of downtime due to my increasingly miserable chronic pain condition and I got fascinated with this shit. I can’t wait for spring to get me some wild oats and eat dandelion leaves out of someone else’s yard who doesn’t have a dog.

Spiders. One of the best and most rewarding experiences of 2020 has been my increasing relationship with and understanding of spiders. I used to be afraid of them until I realized that it wasn’t them I was afraid of, but hurting them by accident. I didn’t want them to touch me because they surprise me and I might swipe at them. After I realized this, I suddenly didn’t have a problem with them anymore. And since then, I’ve taken time to really watch what they’re doing and tried to communicate with them. And you know what? So many people are missing out. Jumping spiders are really funny and they have personalities. Wolf Spiders can be aggressive, but they’re mostly curious. That only spiders I’m leery of now are tarantulas, because I can’t get over my fear of hurting one. They’re just way more fragile than the little spiders.

 

What were your highlights of 2020. There has to be something. Even if it’s just spiders.

 

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16 Comments

  1. Alana Skye
    Alana Skye

    I learned to trust myself to make reenactment kit without having someone else help me, I’ve been doing it for several years now (reenactment) but have a tendency to be convinced that anything I make will turn out wrong if I don’t have someone else there

    I befriended a visiting cat that likes to hang out in our back garden! She’s well fed so I know she has a home somewhere and our garden is part of her territory.

    There’s also a squirrel that I’ve seen several times in our back garden, once eating a mushroom that was growing in the lawn.

    I’ve been having regular WhatsApp video calls with my family, including my new baby nephew.

    December 31, 2020
    |Reply
    • Tez Miller
      Tez Miller

      We’ve been doing WhatsApp video calls with my sister in Germany – including my niece who was born in February. I don’t think she realises we exist yet – more interested in trying to grab my sister’s phone 😉 But perhaps one day your nephew will realise that the sounds coming from the phone are real people – you!

      December 31, 2020
      |Reply
  2. Gretel
    Gretel

    Years ago I got over my fear of spiders by realising that they just want to…live and hang out. They don’t attack me, they just chill in the corner and might accidentally walk over me, but I can just kill them if I want to. And that made me lose all my fear. Now I just let them be and only move them to another place when they’re in danger or in a place where there’s human food, my bed or clothes. Really cool that you found new friends, Jenny. <3

    My highlights:
    – I joined two GR book clubs and created my own focused on reading radical nonfiction books on antiracism, history, feminism, sociology, politics, economics, etc.
    – I restarted my blog on a new platform and continued my reviews (and also got some amazing and positive feedback <3)
    – I read so many fantastic books by Black women
    – I, huh, got accepted as a PhD student after four years of trying and working towards this goal…I cried and screamed
    – thanks to finally getting accepted I participated informally in a colloquium for PhD students and met lots of wonderful, supportive and smart women and bathed in the positivity, which was an antidote to the toxic and abusive poison my former professor made me endure
    – I found four new awesome publishers: Pluto, Verso, Haymarket and AK Press
    – I didn't get COVID until this month and that only because my GF works in the health sector and the virus broke out in their senior home (it would've been avoidable but the hospital forced positive but asymptomatic employees to work, so…), but luckily enough, we have had "mild" symptoms. I'm still in mandated isolation, but I feel comparatively well and I count myself very fortunate, especially because I have a heart problem and GF asthma.
    – I have lost all the fucks to give for assholes. My patience and grace is gone. I won't stay calm, quiet or nice in the face of injustice.
    – I took care of my health as best as I could

    December 31, 2020
    |Reply
    • Amanda
      Amanda

      Did you say they forced positive but asymptomatic people to work in a senior home?? Is that legal? And, if it is, how is that ok?

      January 1, 2021
      |Reply
      • Gretel
        Gretel

        Yes, that’s exactly what happened.
        And yes, it’s legal because our government (I don’t live in the US) decided against all other opinions that health care workers not only can but must work when positive but asymptomatic because…we need the people and taking the risk is worth it (I wished I was joking but one high-ranking politician has repeatedly said how it’s okay for people to die if their death saves the economy by not allowing another mild lockdown…of course he’s a right-winger). The hospital management could’ve decided against it, but they didn’t. So yes, they had asymptomatic health care workers take care of their senior patients and things went as you’d expect them to go.
        They (hosp. management) knew they’d kill them. And they knew some of the employees might die, too.
        But they didn’t care.
        So instead of letting one person stay at home for two or three weeks because “not enough people” (a problem they themselves caused!), they now have, depending on the floor, 50-90% sick employees who are in isolation and 95-90% sick elderly patients to take care of. One floor alone lost seven people in less than a week. And one health care worker is in the hospital rn.

        This whole thing should lead to a lawsuit, some people losing their jobs and a major restructuring of the health care system. But it won’t.
        Because human lives are worth nothing to the almighty machine of money, shareholders and stock market. Grind people to fucking dust so that a millionaire/billionaire doesn’t have to abstain from making money, going on holidays or not buying worthless crap.

        I’m so filled with rage and hatred for these assholes.

        January 1, 2021
        |Reply
  3. Tez Miller
    Tez Miller

    Yep, I knew of Big Cat Rescue long before the doco. Didn’t know of its history or the people involved, though. Haven’t watched their YouTube videos for a few years, but I remember they were very hands-off – very safe cage door system, and meat-on-sticks to push through the cage bars as part of their enrichment. Basically the only time there’s human-to-cat contact is when vet visits are necessary – they dart them, then touch them only when the cat is well and truly unconscious. That’s the same rule for big cats in zoos I’ve seen – accredited zoos, and not the shady roadside zoos I’ve heard about.

    (Does Tiger King count as a doco? People seem to be treating it as entertainment, calling for Joe to be pardoned because they hate Carole Baskin.)

    My favourite memes this year were all Gritty/election. Especially the one with Gritty and Stacey Abrams – we can appreciate both of them 🙂

    You are the Swan Whisperer! 🙂

    December 31, 2020
    |Reply
  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    My highlight: after years of not writing because I thought I would be bad at it, I’ve started writing fanfiction and even some poetry. And I kind of don’t completely suck at it.

    January 1, 2021
    |Reply
    • Cherry
      Cherry

      Good for you! What fandoms do you write? I’m always looking for something new to read. 🙂

      January 1, 2021
      |Reply
  5. Karen Skedgell-Ghiban
    Karen Skedgell-Ghiban

    That was a very cool thing Scarlett did for you! I remember her way back when she was on Absolute Write. I miss those days, miss a lot of people that used to be on there but aren’t anymore. The place is pretty dead now compared to how it used to be. Scarlett was a favorite.

    January 1, 2021
    |Reply
  6. JS
    JS

    – I got to interview someone I really like (for the second time in roughly ten years) and it’s always a lot of fun to talk to this person, who gave me a really sweet compliment (although I figure they were just being nice).
    – I appeared on two different podcasts as the fandom nerd that I am and it was so much fun to be able to just be my hyperfixated self and have people actually vibe with it.
    – I did this massive review project on my fandom blog and I am so proud of myself for actually Doing The Thing (because it was *a lot* of work!).
    – I read/listened to a lot of good books in 2020 and I’m really glad so many good books were there to comfort us all in this hellscape.
    -I wrote this sort of Regency parody thing in the summer and a few people were just, like, “OMG this is amazing!” and I was really touched by that response.
    -I didn’t write as much fanfic as I wanted to, but I do like the pieces I accomplished this past year.

    January 3, 2021
    |Reply
  7. Emily Barnard
    Emily Barnard

    Discovering edibles, and the joys of reading lit theory whilst high, because yes, even high, I am still pretentious AF.

    January 3, 2021
    |Reply
    • Tez Miller
      Tez Miller

      😉

      January 4, 2021
      |Reply
  8. Sheila the Wonderbink
    Sheila the Wonderbink

    I wrote stories! Complete, self-contained short stories! And I got great feedback from my writers groups to make them better. (Viddy chat works just as well as in-person, and is almost as much fun.) This year will be the year I send these things out to sell.

    I also learned how to cook more things. Sunday dinners at my folks’ were no longer an option, so I pulled out the family cookbook my mom made for my siblings and me and figured out how to reduce a dinner for six down to a dinner for one. I’m just finishing up some Chicken Supremes as I tap this out. I even invented a recipe to get rid of some excess mushrooms and onions and it came out pretty good if I do say so myself.

    January 3, 2021
    |Reply
  9. Ange2
    Ange2

    My highlights:

    Autism diagnosis in March, just before lockdown 1 over here
    The Untamed, which I love so much – another Chinese drama featuring a m/m romance
    Top surgery in December
    And I got sent my first (and probably only) ARC to review on my blog! My tiny blog with like 50 followers, so I’m kind of amazed by that!

    January 3, 2021
    |Reply
  10. Casey
    Casey

    Joining the highlights party:

    -Writing? Sort of? It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of motivation and general chill, but I believe I’ve staggered through the valley and found myself at a happy place with it, where I have a vague idea of the direction this story is going and am excited to watch it get there. (This might be a little silly when we realize I’m talking about fanfiction, but oh well.)
    -Stardew Valley updated. Seeing as I’ve already logged 3k hours in this game, it’s a very big deal to me.
    -Got back into rollerblading! Sort of. Can’t wait til the snow melts so I can try again.
    -Thanks to covid, actually, my old RPG group had time to start back up a campaign we’d started and then abandoned in 2018. It’s been going really well!
    -Rediscovered (and then binged) all of Jenny’s books, JHBC, and Buffy/Angel recaps over the course of like 3 months. You’ve been such a light during a dark time, and I’m extremely grateful to you and this reading community.

    Neither the best of times or worst of times, but considering the year that was, I’ve been exceptionally fortunate.

    January 5, 2021
    |Reply
  11. MacyDN
    MacyDN

    Highlights:

    I finally learned how to make the best jam, thank you to Itsnotcomplicatedrecipes.com.
    It now turns out as perfect flavourful jam and not hard candy that i cant get out of the bottle. I have made jam out of all the fruits and have jam for the bevy two years.

    And how to bake soft ginger bread cookies.

    And i got to spend time with my son that i would not have been able to otherwise.

    I learned the name if the cactus that grew in my garden for years which i could not for the lufe if me figure out what it is, is echinopsis lageniformis. Ha, ha, no … it is called the penis plant. And now i can’t unsee that when i look at my plant.

    January 11, 2021
    |Reply

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