Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the tag “Saying “Yes””

January 8 – To Celebrate Today

One of my informal resolutions for the year is to try to find something, however small, to celebrate each day.  Thursday was a day particularly rich in small beauties and achievements – here is the list I jotted down that evening:

Jogging around the neighborhood this AM – squads of people driving to work, moms and dads shepherding their kids to school, some kids non-escorted walking seriously eyes averted from “stranger danger.”

Helped Mom figure out how to print an envelope on her printer (Where IS the upper cassette?)

Lunch at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero – warming fish chowder and an excellent spinach salad. Checked out the quaint general store and deli and the vintage stuff for sale in the coffee shop (Ancient LP:The Beatles – England’s #1 musical sensation!)Pescaderosurfer

Then to Pescadero State Beach, watched a surfer catch a perfectly cylindrical wave and ride it at least a hundred yards up the beach.

On the way home, a flock of wild turkeys grazing the pasture at Filoli, a small herd of deer in Arastradero Preserve.

wild turkey

Chinese class, with technology and FaceTime bridging the gap between California and Colorado, where my teacher is having a month of skiing in between keeping our lessons going.

A very lovely dinner at Mom’s, cooked by her caregivers, but under her supervision, followed by good conversation about ideas, things we had been reading. A bravura performance for my mother at 93!

Home to a warm fire and making plans to go to San Francisco for lunch and some museums. Settled down with an unexpectedly good book of essays by Ann Patchett (The Story of a Happy Marriage – many essays on writing – my sweet spot!) with Smetana’s “The Moldau” burbling in the background .



Trust (Los Altos Town Crier, January 2014)

California Hillside Dec 2013


We trust that the sun will rise in the east, and that the day will be 24 hours long.

We trust that the earth will not shake under our feet, and that the ocean will stay in its place, rising and falling within its tidal bounds.  Sometimes this trust is betrayed – there is an earthquake, there is a tsumani.

In California, we trust that between April and November it is safe to plan a picnic or a camping trip or an outdoor wedding.  The weather will be fine.  Once in a while there is an untimely diversion of the jet stream, and we have you-tube videos of drenched brides and soggy wedding cake.

We trust that between November and March we will have rain.  Rain that replenishes the snow back in the Sierras, delighting skiers, snowboarders, owners of second homes at Tahoe and children of families who rent those homes for a weekend.  Rain that makes our hills in December look like sleeping giants under softly curving blankets of green, tempting us to send pictures eastward to rouse the envy of our snow-bound relatives.

Sometimes a resilient high pressure ridge deflects the rainclouds, and we have drought burning our hills into barren gray, and tempting our eastern relative to ask us if they should bring their own water if they come to visit.

We trust in government, to provide safe roads, safe airways, safe airports, safe city centers, safe food and drink, safe industrial practices, safe working conditions.  Sometimes this trust is betrayed, and we have government shutdowns, locked-down schools, grounded aircraft, epidemics of salmonella.

All of our decisions are based on trust.

We trust in colleages.  Sometimes our trust is betratyed – there are moles in the FBI, there are back-stabbers at the office, there are businesses that fail and paychecks that bounce.

We trust in fellow citizens to follow the rules of the road, to pay attention while driving, to get their children vaccinated, to stay home from work when they are ill.

We trust in neighbors to watch our homes, but not invade them.

We trust in family.  if I jump from the wall, Daddy will catch me.  If I hurt my knee, Mommy will make it better.  If I need a place to stay, my sister will welcome me. Sometimes our trust is betrayed.  There are abusive parents, bitter divorces, family feuds, estranged children.

We trust in friends.  A triumph can be shared.  A secret will go no further.  Sometimes our trust is betrayed. When that happens we feel anger, bitterness, resentment.  The foundations of our world are twisted.  We blame others for our pain.  We feel we can never expose ourselves to this kind of pain again.

But if we cannot trust, we cannot love.  We cannot laugh, or be child-like, or share any kind of intimacy.  A world without trust is a world without smiles, without community, where all the headlines are grim.

My New Year’s wish:  May you trust freely, and may your trust be well – earned.  And may it rain.

The Power of Yes

Years ago, living with my family in California after completing  my master’s degree, I received a call inviting me to fly east for an  interview for a job on the East Coast.  I was already in the final stages of negotiating a job down in San Diego, so I turned down the invitation. My mother, a very positive force, scolded me for turning down the invitation and the free ride to New York – what harm could it do to check it out?  I ended up accepting the East Coast job.  In the first few days on the job I met a colleague in my new department who eventually became my husband.  What would my life have been if I hadn’t said “Yes”?

Much later, now living with my husband and children in Oakland CA, I received another job interview invitation, this time to work for a small software company across the bay in Mountain View.  Although we were considering moving, the Peninsula was not on our short list, being too expensive.  However, my then job was clearly going nowhere, so I accepted the invitation to interview just for the practice.

At the same time, my parents were discussing subdividing their acre of land, and invited  my husband and I to buy half the parcel and build a house next to them.

I ended up accepting the job, we agreed to the land purchase offer,  and I commuted for a year while we built a house on the land where I had grown up.   Where would we have ended up if I had not said “Yes” to that job interview and land buy?

Once established in our new home, I resolved to say “Yes” to any friendly overtures from my new neighbors.  My mother took me to a friend’s annual Mother – Daughter Tea, where I met a woman about my age.  She mentioned that she loved to exercise every weekend at the local community college, and gave me her business card in case I would like to join her.  To her surprise, I called her up, and she became one of my closest friends over years of regular exercise together.

Last year I was visiting a friend who teaches at Monterey Peninsula College.  One of the many foreign students in her class had invited her to come visit and perhaps do a training course for her business: training  women to lead trekkers in Nepal.   My friend was planning to do a two-week trek as part of the visit and said in the casual way friends do, “Why don’t you come with me?”  To our mutual astonishment I said “Why not?” and because I said “yes” I enjoyed one of the most enthralling adventures of my life.

So I’m giving you fair warning: If you make me an offer, extend a casual invitation, suggest some joint activity – watch out!   I’m very likely to say “yes” – just to find out what will happen next.

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