Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 10: The Choices are getting hard

Today I drove to a produce market and bought fruit.  Not amazing, except it is the first time in two months that I have driven my car. (My husband has used it on alternate weeks to keep the battery charged.)

At the market, I wore my face mask.  The market allowed only 10 customers at a time.  Within the market, duct-taped arrows on the floor directed me around the fruit and vegetable stands – if I missed something, no turning back.  I avoided putting my choices in bags as much as possible – everything went into one bag at the check-out station, which was shielded by plastic curtains except where  I could insert my credit card for the check-out.

For a decade we have been asked to bring our own reusable bags to shop. Now reusable bags are possible vectors of infection, and the plastic bag makers are staging a comeback.  All I can do is to pile my fruit and vegetables all together in one cart, let the checkout clerk sort, and put my purchases into one paper bag.

Public transportation, re-usable bags, cluster housing – all those ecologically correct ideas are now hazardous – how can we save the planet now?

Live in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 11 – Testing Online “House Calls”

Week 11, and we have a medical problem in our home. My husband’s arthritis (we think) has flared into a brushfire, he can’t walk or stand without a cane, and even then not for more than a few minutes. Last night he tripped over a rug and fell, and it was several scary minutes before he was able, with my help, to struggle into a chair.

He had called a doctor two days before, but the closest appointment available, in an on-line video conference, was Tuesday mid-afternoon. My husband is something of a Luddite when it comes to modern technology, so we were a bit apprehensive about going on-line with the doctor. Tuesday morning we got a call from the doctor’s office: Could we move the video conference up to 12:20? They would send a new link via email.

As of 12:05 the new link had not arrived. And then our internet connection went down.

Backup, of course, was my husband’s new smartphone, grudgingly bought a few months ago because he was tired of having to call me for GPS information. I decided that maybe the old link for the mid-afternoon appointment would still work. I started working on that, while my husband used our landline to contact the doctor’s office. After 5 minutes on hold, he got through, as I was still trying to decipher the difference between “username” and “password” on my husband’s cheat sheet of access codes.

Turns out the office had forgotten to send out the new link. My husband had an old-fashioned phone conversation with the doctor, ending with the decision that yes, husband had better come in for an even older-fashioned office visit in another two days.

At this rate of “progress”, we may find the doctor making house calls in person!

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 11 – Celebration!

20200520_170602_resizedwebI was due to have a milestone birthday this month, and we had planned a big family reunion picnic at a central location convenient to my two sons, my sister, and a couple of nieces and nephews. Of course, several weeks ago it was clear that was not going to happen. My friends and relatives compensated with a cascade of birthday cards. It was not quite the same.

“We can still have a picnic,” said my husband. But the morning of my birthday dawned dark and damp – unseasonable rain. Not even a vestigial picnic would be possible. We ate hot soup inside. It wasn’t very comfortable, as we had decided to take advantage of the lack of foreseeable company to get the carpets cleaned, so all the furniture was piled around the edges of the room. Oh well, I told myself. I’ll have a whole year to celebrate this birthday, as soon as I get a chance.

By early afternoon the sun was out, and I was just getting my shoes on to go for a bike ride when the doorbell rang. I opened the door, and there were my two sons standing on the lawn.  They had brought lawn chairs, a bottle of chilled sparkling prosecco with their own champagne glasses, a custom-crayoned picture of a frog from my 3-year-old grand-daughter,  a bouquet of origami flowers from my 11-year-old grandson, and a very classy wooden jigsaw puzzle to help pass the time.

I brought out my birthday cards, my husband brought out a birthday cake, I opened a couple of other presents from my husband and my oldest friend, we sipped the prosecco, and we had a lovely hour-long visit with our sons sitting 6 feet apart on our back patio.  Such a great surprise. 

So, we harvest bits of joy here and there.

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 9 – Tallying up the Cloistered Life

What I’ve finished:

Six face masks (see above)

Three jigsaw puzzles,

An old-fashioned rag doll with a matching toddler size outfit for my granddaughter – including a face mask for wearing outside.

 

What I’ve read: Bloomberg Business Week (weekly) , Time (weekly), The New Yorker (weekly) and nine books  (click for links to my reviews on Amazon):

        The Horse and his Boy – C. S. Lewis

        Milkman – Anna Burns

        The Fourth Hand – John Irving

         The Belton Estate – Anthony Trollope

         The Chinese Have a Word for ItBoye de Menthe: 

         Paris by the Book – Liam Callanan

          Celtic Myths and Legends – Eoin Neeson:

          South of Broad – Pat Conroy

          Season of the Witch – David Talbot

What I’ve grown:

Hair: at least two inches of shag.  Kudos to my hairdresser Heinz, – 10 weeks between haircuts and I haven’t really had a bad hair day yet.

Orchids: moved from my mother’s garden.  Largely neglected. Vitalized by timely spring rains.

Amaryllis: benign neglect works well

Roses: Most fragrant – Double Delight, Secret, Just Joey

Most perfect for bouquets: Fame (but no smell)

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 8- the Shadow Comes Closer

Week 8 of Sheltering in Place.

I have developed a routine:

Monday morning is my Aerobics Class on Zoom.

Monday evening I go to a neighbor’s house and we maintain social distancing while tuning into a Continuing Education class focusing on the Roman historian Tacitus.  It’s not a pulse-pounding subject, but Donna is the only adult besides my husband that I see in person these days.

Tuesday morning  I jog around the neighborhood, and then I do a Story Time on Skype with my 3-year-old Granddaughter.

Tuesday afternoon I Zoom with my oldest friend, the one I was supposed to visit in Texas when all this started.

Wednesday morning Aerobics again.  In the evening we often call and chat with my sister in Sacramento.

Thursday morning jogging and Story Time again.  In the evening we often call and chat with my cousin in Ojai, California.

Friday morning Aerobics again.

Friday afternoon we Skype with my older son and his family in Sacramento. In the evening we often call and chat with my brother and his wife in Longview, Washington.

Saturday morning jogging again

Sunday morning I do yoga. In the evening we often call and chat with my brother in Texas.  In Texas they take the threat of COVID-19 a lot less seriously than us Hot-Spotters do.  My brother always asks me, “Do you actually know anyone who has had the virus?”

This week, I can answer, “Yes.”

One of my favorite professors at college died of COVID-19 last week.  He was in his 80’s, had had a stroke some years back, and was being cared for in one of the most well-equipped and competently-staffed elder care centers in the country.  Somehow, the virus, no respecter of money and privilege, made its way to him and had its way with him.

The world is a little bit darker.

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 7: Nature’s soft side shows in Spring

Nature has been throwing  us a lot of nasties in the last months – pandemic, killer tornados, smothering snow, torrential rain, and historic drought levels, to name a few.  And then, as if to make up for the tantrums, she sends us a Spring as lavish and luscious as any I can remember.  From native-plant gardens,  to cultivated rose gardens, to bursting containers, everything that has ever thought of blooming in my own garden and my neighborhood is out-doing itself this year.

Above: Poppies, sage, lupine, and blue-eyed grass from a native-plant garden in a nearby park.

Above: calendula, roses, raphiolepsis and orchids in my own garden.

Above: ranunculus border, tulips, wisteria, and rhododendron from a heritage garden nearby.

Above: cultivated roses at a neighboring university campus.

I hope these pix refresh you a bit, especially those of you who are still snowbound as well as lockdown-bound.  Spring still arrives, in spite of everything!

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 6 -Lockdown Extended 4 more weeks!

 

Cooped up with the morning paper and the hourly news, one would think the apocalypse is at hand.  A walk in nature is called for, but where does one go during lockdown?   Many parks are closed, or have closed the  parking lots  in order to discourage crowding, or at least have cordoned off picnic tables and playgrounds.

20200403_172027webWe found a little oasis not too far from our home – theBlackberry Farm Preserve.  Normally, this green dell offers visits to farm animals and truck gardens as well as grassy paths, but these tours and visits are now locked off.  The playground and picnic areas are also marked as dubious.  But the stately redwoods, the creek,  the twisted bay trees, the fearless deer, and the feral vincas are all still available to soothe the restless mind.

 

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 5 – in praise of Little Free Libraries

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Thank goodness for the Little Free Libraries which have popped up over the last several years in my neighborhood!  With the public libraries closed during Lockdown, these are the source for books I would not have thought of reading an movies I would not have thought of watching. These little neighborhood oases of exchange are so welcome!

Each library has its own style.  Some are shingled, some are stained wood, some are gaily painted.  I’ve seen one made from a doll house,  and one  splash- painted with peace symbols.  On my street is ones built into a stone pillar,  with an accompanying bench seat if you can’t wait to start reading. One is decorated inside with  origami flowers, and gives away origami bookmark.  One gives away colored pencils, sharpeners, and erasers as well as books.

And each has its own literary personality.  One  offers a lot of teenage fantasy novels featuring magic and quests.  One is almost exclusively filled with early-reader story books. One has a lot of 20200406_114628webclassy trade paperbacks which look like they were originally purchased for a book club. Another features a variety of interesting non-fiction.

20200407_080112webOf course, anything you put out for the public is liable to malicious abuse.  A neighbor had worked with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to set up a Little Free Library in front of her house.  The girls decided it would be good to make it into a food pantry during the Lockdown, and stocked it with canned goods and dried pasta.  The next morning the door had been ripped off and the canned goods had been scattered around, dented, wrappers ripped off.  The debate began – was it vicious mean-spirited teens, or was it racoons attracted by the food?  A neighbor’s security camera settled the question several days later:  it was a person, not an animal.  Maybe he was crazy-mad because he was hoping to find a book?  New hinges were bought, and the Little Free Pantry is open again, fingers crossed.

Each one of these carefully built, gaily decorated, and communally filled mini-libraries is like one of those magic boxes in fairy tales that, no matter how much you draw from it, is never empty, but always refills with a new treasure.  Every time I pass one and open the door, I might find a book I will never want to give away.  And if not, I’ll be able to try again. Thanks to all my librarian neighbors!

 

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 4 – What to do during Lockdown

20200322_165641webWhat can you do when you are in lockdown mode:  all restaurants, libraries, schools, and museums closed.  No non-essential travel. Social distancing (no one closer than 6 feet) enforced, so no neighborhood potlucks, no coffee klatches, no bridge or mahjong or chess or poker. The streetside kiosks that normally are covered with announcements of events sales,  and meetings are stripped bare.

1. Tend to the garden.  After a month of record drought in February, we have had drizzling rain day after day.  Still I was able to get outside with a pair of shears and vent my frustrations by whacking away at my overgrown lantana.

While outside, I discovered that the orchid plants I had inherited from my mother and stuck away in an untraveled corner of the yard had unexpectedly burst into furious bloom.  An upper, much needed!

2. Get organized.  I sorted all the fabric in my fabric stash by color and by size of scrap.  I have enough to make two dresses for my grand-daughter as well as a rag doll with matching outfits.  Unfortunately, my scraps are overwhelmingly red, yellow and blue, while her favorite colors are purple, pink, and green.  All fabric stores are closed, so she will have to make do.

3. Read all the magazines that have been accumulating in the magazine rack.20200317_133136web

4. Clear the clutter.  One by one I hope to clear a drawer a day. The bottom drawer next to the sink was my first target.  It was jammed with the utensils I seldom use (A mango splitter, an egg slicer, turkey lifters, etc.) and spare parts for hardware we know longer own. (If you don’t know what it is, and the plastic doesn’t match any appliance you currently own, it’s probably safe to toss it.)

On walking around my neighborhood – still allowed, thank goodness!- I can see that clearing clutter is a favorite pastime.  Bags of “Free toys! Free Clothes! Free !!” are lined up along the street. Normally these items would have been sold at a rummage sale, or taken to Goodwill, but rummage sales don’t work for groups of less than 10, and no charities are open to receive donations.

5. Set up a jigsaw puzzle table.  Unfortunately, I get obsessive about this, and have to limit myself to adding three pieces at a time and then walking away.

6. Read the books on the Someday I’ll Get to This Shelf.  I finished off “The Fourth Hand” by John Irving (a winner) and started and gave up on “The Emperor’s Children”.  Both are now down the street in the neighbor’s Little Free Library.  Now I’m working on “The Belton Estate”, a minor work by Anthony Trollope, who is always good for  providing interesting characters and lots of words.

7. Learn how to socialize online.  I have Zoom’d my dancercise class and my writing group, and Skype’d a story hour with my granddaughter. Hey, the 21st century isn’t all bad!

8. Go for a bike ride.  It’s a way to get around without compromising social distancing.

9. Find a way to contribute. I recruited a neighbor’s daughter who has been kicked out of her college dorm to take my place at the food bank. It didn’t feel as good as doing it myself, but it helped.

10. Clean the garage.  I haven’t actually started this one yet.  But it’s amazing how many things you can get done when the alternative is cleaning the garage! Look how much progress I’ve made on that jigzaw puzzle!

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Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 3 – Things Cutting Closer

20200318_095207webDespite our vote to continue, my dancercise class is cancelled – no meetings of more than 10 people allowed.

Instead, the teacher set up a Zoom class.  Prancing around in my family room is not quite the same, but I did keep moving for an hour.

My neighbor Mike was in a horrific skiing accident several weeks ago, was comatose for several days, tore his shoulder apart.  He has recovered wonderfully from the brain injury, but he has no use of his right arm.  The surgery needed to repair  the torn tendons and muscles has been classified “elective” during the lockdown.  If too much time passes, he may use the use of his arm permanently.

A pack of coyotes wandered up our  unusually quiet street from the creek at the end of the cul-de-sac.

I received notice from the Food Bank where I volunteer that, as I am considered “vulnerable” to COVID-19 due to my age, they can no longer accept me as a volunteer.  This hurts!

I canceled my annual trip to Texas to visit my #1 Brother and my Friend-since-4th-grade.20200323_115431web

Grocery stores are setting aside an hour each morning exclusively for us vulnerable folks to shop.  My husband waited 20 minutes in line, as people were admitted in small numbers in order to maintain the recommended 6 -foot social distancing.

One of our local newspapers has announced that it will no longer publish a paper version;  it’s too expensive to publish without the ad revenues from restaurants, theatres, and real estate companies.

If the media shut down on us, how will we know what to be afraid of?

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