thoughts for 2021

I have a couple of posts in process, and I finally have time to write them, but I have a strong urge to take New Year’s Day off, even from writing, so… a little personal news this morning, then some offerings that I hope will encourage/delight you as they do me. Then on to relaxing, maybe jigsaw puzzling.

I’m still recovering from a 3-day depression brought on by extreme overindulgence in cookies and chocolate on Christmas Day. My stomach capacity seemed boundless. The immediate pleasure of the gluttony was powerful, but not enough to be worth what it did to my body, mind and spirit. I’ve been gradually clawing my way up from the depths of despair and shame, which is more powerful by far than the pleasure of gluttony. I wonder if I’ll remember that next time I’m surrounded by taste temptation? I hope so.

In the middle of November, I took on a decluttering challenge, this time with professional help (a reference to my coach upon request). My kids + partners were going to visit us from LA, first planning to come at Thanksgiving, but postponing until December 10 to celebrate Katie’s birthday (Dec 11) and Hanukkah. My immediate decluttering goal was to make it possible for Sam and Emily to stay in the room with the comfortable Murphy bed. Blocking the lowering of the bed, however, were numerous boxes full of old photos, a table with projects in (minimal) progress, and a jumble of other stuff. As it turned out, the visit never happened, Covid being as rampant as it was and is in LA, Phoenix — and so many other places. So our plans were deferred, but the decluttering has gone on in fits and starts.

With that project, an online class that requires some hours of study, my 5+ hours of online tutoring each week, two daily walks, housework, watching TV and movies with Richard in the evenings, and (of course) squeezing in time to work on jigsaw puzzles (which simply MUST be done), I’m not feeling particularly retired. The fact that my only complaint is being too busy puts me in the 1% category given the current dire situation of so many. I readily acknowledge that “I can’t complain but sometimes I still do,” as Joe Walsh says. (I had to look that up that reference. Until this minute, being sorely out of touch with much popular culture, I had no idea who Joe Walsh is, but now know he’s a guitarist who has been in several bands, a couple of which I’ve heard of. Thank you, Google.)

So… on to a few poems, a cartoon strip, and a kid story:

poem of hope

Ring out false pride in place and blood, 
The civic slander and the spite; 
Ring in the love of truth and right, 
Ring in the common love of good. 

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, poet (1809-1892)

astounding poems from Lily’s Aunt Sally

[I don’t know Lily Einhorn, but happened to see the following Tweet announcing the Covid death of her aunt, Sally Heilbut, and including three samples of her poetry. A pamphlet with more of Aunt Sally’s poetry can be purchased here.]

My great aunt Sally died on Tuesday night of Covid, 8 days after testing positive in her care home. She wanted to be a poet. She wasn’t really educated, she never had a tutor, an editor or a publisher. But she self-published a pamphlet. I’d love you to read my favourites.

She wrote about life, and the camps, and sleep, but these are the ones I love: a quirkier inner life than she ever let on. We lit last night’s candles for her.

I’m really overwhelmed by your words about these beautiful poems and you’re all right, it wasn’t that she wanted to be a poet, it’s that she was one. Thank you.

Her name was Sally Heilbut.

The response to these has been overwhelming. I wish I had thought to share them sooner but I’m glad they’re being read now. If you have enjoyed Sally’s words I’d be honoured if you’d donate to a charity she cared for. Thank you.

Here we go (with apologies to the publisher for getting my facts wrong)

I’m going to mute the replies to this now. If you want me to see your message please @ me separately.

Originally tweeted by Lily Einhorn (@madewithstring) on December 17, 2020.

4-panel comic by Katie, Jan 1, 2019

This is our daughter Katie’s first post to Instagram under her “katiedoodlehands” handle. It’s one of several posts, including other 4-panel cartoons, in which she represents herself, but most posts in that feed are artwork, from lovely to silly to rather outrageous.

from the mouths (and pencils) of kids

A bit of background for those who have never taught beginning reading: Many little ones can recite the alphabet and recognize capital letters, but they assume that the name of a letter is a clue to the sound it makes in words. This is true for some letters, (e.g. B, D, P, T), but the names of the letters C, G, H, W and Y do not give a clue to their primary sound.
Adam, now a fourth-grader, came for tutoring when he was in first grade. He had mostly learned letter sounds, but occasionally lapsed into relying on the letter name when attempting to sound out words. Early in the year, he brought in a spelling list of silent-e words (e.g. mile, gate, like, etc.). We had analyzed the effect of the silent e on the previous vowel in each of them, studied the words, and near the end of the session, just to change it up a bit, I told him I would give him the initial letter and a clue to each word, then he would guess the word and write it on the whiteboard.
So, I said, “This word starts with G. If you were in the backyard and wanted to leave, but the house was locked, you would look for a…”
Adam was very puzzled, thought for a few moments, then said, “A jainsaw?”


  1. Susan,

    I’m sorry you had such a tough few days. There’s not much to do with the holidays that I feel strongly about, except I do really, really believe that everyone needs to take it easy on themselves around this time. I think most people (excepting many in the federal government) manage things the best they know how to at any given moment, and that for some (myself included) that might not look particularly spectacular. At the holidays especially, I think it’s difficult when there are so many expectations, especially this year when so many of our anticipations are unmet due to the virus.

    For whatever reason, a lot of horrible things have happened in my life around the holidays from the time I was quite young. Unlucky coincidences, I suppose. For example, someone very important to me was killed in a bicycling wreck, a close friend wound up hospitalized under a frightening set of circumstances, another friend shot himself, my boyfriend left me and returned to his former relationship, my marriage ended, my father died, I nearly got arrested (unfairly, of course) to name just a few incidents. My sister once famously remarked that it wasn’t a real holiday until someone called 911. She wasn’t that wrong.

    Fortunately in the last decade things have calmed down considerably, but I continue to be wary of the holidays. In my book, the bar is low – if you survive the holidays, intact, out of the hospital, and not in custody, you’re doing well. So, from where I am sitting, you are doing really well, my dear. I hope you will allow yourself the gift of doing whatever you need to, whatever that may be, as we head into the New Year. Much love to you!



    • Wow, Frances — the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” probably runs through your mind when you see accident scenes or hear devastating news from around the world. So many unhappy memories, and all crowded into a month or two.

      Good advice to take it easy on oneself. In the depths of depression, that’s a hard reminder to summon. Just found this song that runs through my head unbidden — a lot. Not a bad one for an earworm: I’ll probably put that in another post. LOTS of folks need to hear it. . . Love to you, and thanks for your warm reply! S


  2. Susan, I’m hoping you’re in depression recovery mode (you sure sound as if you are in your blog). Good insights and being back to a routine are important components in re-adjusting. Loved the story about Adam – and as I’ve known for years, you remember my kids’ childhoods far better than I do. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself in *Itsjustapuzzle* – always so much to ponder and learn. I so enjoyed Sally Heilbut’s poetry this time… 💕Susan

    On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 10:59 AM wrote:

    > Boo’s Thoughts posted: ” I have a couple of posts in process, and I > finally have time to write them, but I have a strong urge to take New > Year’s Day off, even from writing, so… a little personal news this > morning, then some offerings that I hope will encourage/delight you ” >


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