Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Reflections and Resolutions for the New Year (Los Altos TOWN CRIER January 7, 2015)

Those of you who have been following my column for some time may remember a year ago when I wrote about my brother’s terrible accident, a fall from an extension ladder which broke both wrists and crushed his face.  A year later, I am welcoming him as a “guest columnist” by passing on substantial parts of his Christmas letter, complete with some New Year’s resolutions which I hope we can all think about.

My brother’s words:

“Last year, in October, I had a serious accident with an extension ladder that put me out of commission for 5 months. Along the way of recovery, I have found that there are people and friends that mean so much to me… and I didn’t know it, or know to tell them. And I also found out how much it means to have family that loves you and is willing to sacrifice time and effort to help you heal.

Four months into my recovery, my fiancée was diagnosed with metastasized colon cancer. After a seven hour surgery, two month recovery, six months of chemotherapy and  another major surgery in December , we now both know how well we can deal with each other’s infirmities, and how much our families love us. These are gifts that you cannot find in stores, cannot buy on the internet and could not have enough money to buy if they were available.

We have not done a lot this year, with both of us being laid up due to injury or illness. We go to work, do everything needed, and come home to crash on the easy chair, watching “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune”  while we eat dinner, then watching whatever takes our fancy on TV until, exhausted, we trundle off to bed. The hiking, biking, tent camping and long walks of previous years are not on this year’s calendar.

But we HAVE done some important things: a major family gathering last year in November just after I got out of the hospital, easygoing trailer camping at the beach, in the mountains, at an RV park and more, and visits with  family in California and in Idaho. Growing closer together (in ways that we NEVER dreamed of!) and finding “simple” things to enjoy together rounded out our year.

I would be remiss if I did not mention our  lessons from the past year:

  1. Extension ladders are evil! Do everything you can to exorcise them from your life! The small cost of hiring someone else to clean the gutter, hang the Christmas lights or clean the chimney is nothing compared to the pain and expense I have incurred due to these evil things!
  2. If you are 50 or over and have not had a colonoscopy, go to your primary care provider and demand one immediately. The small cost and discomfort of the preparation are nothing compared to what we have gone through.
  3. Cherish your friends and family; they are the ones that help you through the rough times         in life.”

To you, my readers, I join with my brother in wishing for you: “Let the New Year bring love and special events into your life, as it will be bringing them into ours.”

January 13 – to celebrate today

What’s to celebrate when one is laid low with a cold, a fever of 101, a sleepless night of coughing, and shooting pains in the head?

There is a lot to be said for warm snuggies to wear while lounging on the sofa under an afghan in front of a fire .

More to be said for ibuprofen for the shooting pains, antihistamine to ward off congestion, oatmeal for breakfast to coat the throat, chicken soup for lunch to bolster the system, and a sympathetic husband to fix dinner.

Maybe it was time for me to stop the carousel for awhile.


January 10 – to celebrate today

Movie Club setting


A long day, but, in retrospect, a lot to celebrate!

Awakened at 2:30 by a call from Kalisi,  Mom’s caregiver –Mom had fallen on her way to the bathroom, now back in bed she is complaining of neck pain.

Call to doctor-on-call at local clinic; he advises DO NOT MOVE HER, call 911, get Mom to ER for evaluation

3AM – house invaded by huge friendly guys on firefighting crew (“They always send us because we can usually get here 15 minutes faster in case of urgent need”) and ambulance crew. Ambulance guys strap Mom to a board a la mummy from head to toe and cart her off. I go back across the hedge, don sweatsuit and shoes.   Tearful Kalisi  has gathered Mom’s pills, ID, documentation of health care, clothing. Off to El Camino Hospital.

3:30AM: Mom is admitted and in a room waiting for CAT scan.

4:30 AM. Good news! Per CAT scan. Mom has not broken any bones, just a muscle strain. To be discharged, with a foam collar to support strained neck.

6:30 AM – back home, Mom in bed and so am I, not sleeping.

6:45AM – alarm goes off. I can either make some phone calls cancelling my scheduled activities, or

6:50 AM go ahead with my day as planned, which includes

7:30AM pick up my friend DM and do an aerobic gossip/exercise course in a nearby park. I gradually stop yawning.

9AM: DM and I volunteer to prune roses and weed flower beds at the San Jose Rose Garden. Swarms of people, including several middle school groups, teen-age service clubs, nearby residents with children and grandchildren. Lots of chopping thorns, whacking weeds, smashing snails. Great therapy!

12noon : home to a hot shower and the newspaper

1PM lunch at Casa Lupe in Los Altos – my favorite tostada

Rest of afternoon: Laundry, prepare house for

6:30 PM arrival of our Movie Club friends for our monthly dinner and discussion (Movie of the Month: The Imitation Game – average rating 9 out of a possible 10, my rating: 8.5)

10PM: “I’m going to sleep until 10 tomorrow”



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 .



OMG! RSVP? WTF? LOL! (Los Altos TOWN CRIER, December 2014)

Some time back I had occasion to host a small party – not a big deal, just a get-together tea party for a few women who I wanted to get to know a little bit better. I sent out e-mail invitations well in advance of the date. After all, this is the 21st century – we don’t use the Post Office any more, do we?

I waited for responses. And waited. And waited. The date got closer and I had no guests yet. Did the e-mail fail? I sent out a follow up.

I got a phone call from one invitee. She would have to be a little late, was that ok? Fine, of course – and at least I knew the e-mails had reached their targets.

I waited some more. Maybe these ladies don’t check e-mail. Let’s be retro – I sent out snail mail invites with a return address label and a handwritten “Hope you can come!” ten days in advance of the date – just so they would have something to put on their refrigerator to remind them, I told myself. After all, this is the 21st century.

On the date, I had had just the one response from the invitee who was going to be late. Maybe the others thought “RSVP” meant “Regrets only,” I told myself. I bought some pretty little cakes, polished the ancestral silver coffee spoons, set out the cups and saucers and little plates and put on my earrings.

Right on time, the doorbell rang. And rang again. And again. My guests were arriving! My invitations had been received! The party was actually rather a success, despite the initial nerve-wracking uncertainty whether anyone would show up and several no-shows. But where had I gone wrong in asking for acceptances in advance?

I talked with a few younger family members and learned I had gone about the thing all wrong for the 21st century. US Mail? “We NEVER check our mailbox – well, if I happen to remember when I come back from walking the dog. We don’t get anything by snail mail anymore but ads and catalogs, so why bother?”   E-mail? “There’s so much spam and junk, I just filter out anything that’s from someone not in my contacts already. If I don’t know you, your e-mail is in the Junk file, sorry!” RSVP? “What’s that?”

So what should I have done to lure people to my house? And to find out how many would show up?

I could have Tweeted: “Polishing silver for tea 3 PM October 16, 2014 at 123 Mystreet Los Altos – Hope you can come -Let me know if you can’t make it #AllysonTeaParty” . But I don’t have a Twitter account, a handle, or know anyone else’s Twitter handle – complicated!

I could have texted:   “Kum 2 T 101614 3pm 123 Mystreet Los Altos – BCNU!   I wondered if anyone would really understand this cryptic message. IMHO anyone who knew me would LOL at the idea of such a message from verbiage-besotted me. And would they have texted back? I noted that “RSVP” is NOT one of the top 50 text abbreviations listed on the Internet reference to help out puzzled parents. Maybe people really don’t know what this means any more. Abbreviations can be tricky. The same Internet reference says LOL could be either “Laughing Out Loud” or “Living On Lipitor”. IMHO anyone who knew me would LOL at the idea of such a message from verbiage-besotted me.

Undaunted, I’ll be sending out my Christmas cards as usual this year, by snail mail, with a printed-out picture at the top of an annual Christmas letter, 20th century style. And of course, they will come in a SASE, SWAK. LOL.

(POST HOLIDAY UPDATE: Don’t get me started on Thank You notes!)

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: