Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the category “COVID-19”

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 21 – Cutting Closer to the Bone

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I’ve gotten used to the lack of retail therapy as most stores have limited access, and aimless browsing is discouraged.  I’ve gotten used to the empty parking lots around offices, schools, and churches.  I’ve gotten used to meeting friends on ZOOM rather than meeting them for lunch. I’ve gotten used to take-out food rather than white tablecloths at my favorite restaurants. I’ve gotten used to bringing my own folding table and chair when I visit a park.

I put up with cancelling a trip to Europe (my husband’s bad knee wouldn’t have stood the trip anyway), cancelling a long weekend at a hideaway inn to the north, cancelling the family reunion picnic we had scheduled for my milestone birthday this year, cancelling my grandson’s 6th grade graduation, my other grandson’s high school graduation.  My monthly visits to help look after my toddler grand-daughter have morphed to bi-weekly story times on ZOOM.

County Library: Contactless Holds Pickup and Material Return Now Available

KatieSurprisecropI’m just beginning to feel some fraying in the social fabric. My son refused to get together for a mid-point picnic between our homes, as his son and daughter had recently traveled and he couldn’t guarantee they weren’t infectious.  For the same reason my other son canceled a planned joint camping trip with his brother’s family – an infection in his four-room apartment would be a disaster, and he couldn’t risk it. Still not “serious”, no-one is ill, but when families are afraid to meet, that’s wrenching.

On the other hand, my sister and her husband just returned from an expedition to Yosemite.  They were able to obtain a day pass, they set off at an ungodly hour of the mroning, and by 10AM they were beginning the hike up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. She said “It was like I remember from my childhood – no shuttle buses, but not so many people, and no crowding on the trails.  We picnicked at the top of Vernal Falls and dangled our feet in the pool beyond Nevada Falls.  It was lovely.”

Maybe this is the preview of our future: much- curtailed activity and options for most of us, but for the few who are able to maintain their income stream,  travel safely, obtain the right permissions, and keep their health, a rather pleasantly emptied world.  It’s not the future I want.

Yosemite: Ways to Get a Reservation

Four icons for the four permit types

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 19 – Revisiting a Blast from the Past

tarzan_jumpdocYears ago, my father used to say “Everything I know about life I learned from  Tarzan of the Apes.” Although some tattered Tarzan paperbacks were around the house, somehow I never got around to reading them, though my kid sister read the series avidly.  Some time back I mentioned this family story to my husband, and as a gag gift at Christmas he gave me the first four books of the series.  They sat on my bookshelf untouched until four months into lockdown.  With all libraries closed and the neighborhood Little Free Libraries exhausted, I turned in desperation  to the Lord of the Jungle for escape.

Fortunately, I was able to remember that my father was laughing when he claimed Tarzan as his literary preceptor.  The book was published in 1912, and by today’s standards is offensively racist, with its portrayals of black Africans as vicious and cowardly: sexist, with its portrayals of Jane Porter and other women as helpless creatures instinctively drawn to the alpha male; and even animalist – Jane Goodall would shudder at the way Burroughs describes the life and traits of the Great Apes.TarzanJanedoc

If you can overlook the above offensiveness, the story can suck you in.  Tarzan’s birth, adoption by the apes, upbringing, and his discovery by other white men are ingeniously plotted (though Burroughs probably owes a lot to Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli of The Jungle Book). The first volume, Tarzan of the Apes, takes our hero through the events of the above paragraph, terminating with his unselfish refusal to claim either his title of Lord Greystoke or the woman he loves from the hands of the man, his friend, who has  taken both.

Tarzan2Of course, we couldn’t leave it there.  The second volume, The Return of Tarzan, sees Tarzan transformed into a 1912 version of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher: handsome, well-spoken, without ties, and able to fend off an adoring female or fight off  a dozen malefactors without suffering a scratch. I’m about half-way through this volume, but I’m pretty sure that Tarzan’s true love Jane Porter will end up in his arms by the end.  After all, I still have Son of Tarzan and Tarzan the Untamed waiting on the shelf, and I’m pretty sure Tarzan didn’t get it on with any of the apes.

Life in a COVID-19 Hot spot – Week 17 : the Doldrums

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I’ve hit the wall. I feel as though the General Confession I learned in my innocent childhood has come to fulfillment:  I have left undone those things I ought to have done (like getting this blog entry out on time) and I have done those things I ought not to have done (like completing 199 rounds of Word Play in three days). And there is no health in me (although I passed my Covid-19 test with flying negatives.)

Maybe it’s Post Project Depression – I had been working on a fun project for one of my favorite little girls (see below), and happily I was able to gift it in person last weekend,(socially distanced, air hugs, but in person!) and see the gleeful reception first hand. Now it’s finished, no more figuring and contriving and eking out, and there is a vacuum where that flicker of creativity glimmered, and no glee to look forward to.

Maybe it’s the general flatness of my social life.  Other than the week-end’s distanced visit, my calendar is a panel of blank days punctuated by periodic Zoom and Skype encounters.  The trouble with Zoom and Skype is that they are so darned flat!  No body language is visible in those postage-stamp-sized video clips, no signals that the other person has something to say,  it’s like being in grade school where you have to raise your (digital) hand to be recognized.  By the time I figure out where the Hand icon is, I’ve forgotten what I meant to contribute to the discussion.

Or maybe it’s those rounds of WordPlay and Spider Solitaire that are slowly eating away my brain. Even with a sparse calendar, I find myself forgetting Zoom meetings and Skype appointments, doing my classwork (yes, I’m taking an online class) haphazardly at the last minute.

July is a big Birthday month in my family.  I have eight birthday cards to mail.  Hope I don’t forget anyone!

An article in the paper gives me some hope that it’s not just me; even people who normally have proved to have total recall are finding it difficult to distinguish one lockdown day from the next. If only, like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”, I could feel that I was learning to live my day better with each repetitive cycle.  At the moment, I don’t guess that I could say I am.

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot: Week 16 – Minor Surgery, Social Distance Style

Once a year I go in to have my skin inspected.  That  sore that hasn’t healed – is it  sun damage? A genetic pre-disposition?  A pre-cancerous lesion? Or is it the Big C? Usually it’s one of the first two.  Once in a while, the third diagnosis surfaces, resulting in some nitrogen burns here and there.  This last February, just before the lockdown, one small sore on my ear that had recurred several times turned out to be basal cell carcinoma – not too serious, slow-growing, but needed to be excised.

But then lockdown. Elective surgeries were postponed.  Three and a half months later, I get an invitation from my doctor to reschedule.  Outpatient surgeries which did not requre a hospital bed are being allowed to go forward.

A little bit different than earlier trips to the clinic.  Entry porch is clearly marked with footsteps at six-foot intervals.  Signs say “No entry without mask.” I enter, show my card to the receptionist, who is behind plexiglass.  She confirms my appointment, takes my credit card for the copay, waves me to the next station, where a guard waves something in my direction which turns out to be a remote thermometer.  Also behind plexiglass, he raises a paddle with a Thumbs-up sign, and I pass through the portal into the main lobby.  Signs on the elevator door  say “Maximum two people in elevator.  Please respect social distancing.”  I’m the only one in the elevator to the third floor.

The nurse who escorts me to the operating chair is masked.  The doctor is masked.  She ties her long black hair back firmly before tucking my hair into a cap, leaving my ear, site of the excision, exposed.  A sting as the anesthetic goes in, some pressure as the bad cells are carved away, a thirty-minute wait reading the magazines I brought while the lab confirms all is clear, and then I’m done.  I leave with a packet of band-aids and vaseline, and some printed instructions for cleaning the wound.  I have scarcely exchanged a word that was not related to my procedure with anyone I encountered. There may have been smiles behind the masks, but they were short-circuited.  Not much scope for comforting or building a relationship, but I got my $20 copay’s worth.

 

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 14: We Are In This Together – or Not

20200613_banner_webI read the disheartening news articles at the end of May about the George Floyd protests gone awry.  I read about  looters standing with crowbars at the ready as peaceful protesters marched down the streets of San Francisco and Oakland .  They were waiting for the right moment to turn and smash a window for plunder.  I read about rubber bullets and tear gas and arson and professional criminals driving up in vans to strip computer shops and appliance stores of their goods.

But amid the turmoil of the end of May and early June, I took heart from the signs and banners spanning the streets and decking the lawns in my town: “We are in this together”, “We are strong – We will get through this together.”  During the COVID-19 lockdown I had used Zoom and Skype to form new bonds with neighbors, exchanging news, congratulations for milestones, produce, and garden info.  We are a community, safe together.

The Wednesday evening after the weekend of protests-turned-violent I heard laughter from across the street.  The family whose children are normally in camp or in nanny care while their parents are at work were outside in their front yard, parents and children playing volleyball with an invisible net. Work-at-home families are playing together.  The hills across the bay stood out sharp and clear, despite the earlier 90 degree heat.  My neighbors weren’t driving; no driving means no smog.  It seemed that even in hard times, divisive times, there is upside.

That Friday I heard helicopters, then saw a couple circling seemingly right over our back porch.  I checked online – there was a protest march going on down our section of El Camino Real, the main street of California, led and followed by police escort.  It was peaceful, no violence. We are standing together.Los Altos Protest

On Saturday, I drove past downtown  and noticed that Main Street was closed. Another peaceful march circled downtown,  protesters carrying placards, all carefully masked.  It was pretty much a white or light-skinned crowd, marching to show solidarity with people whose experiences most of them had probably never shared. The protests seemed like a way to express community, to meet for something positive. My secure little bubble seemed a good place to be.  We are in this together.

The next Monday we entered Phase 3 of lifting restrictions.  Retail stores were allowed to open, allowing only a few customers in at a time. I drove down El Camino again and saw a line of socially distanced people stretching almost a block up the street.    What could it be for?  A trendy boutique?  A liquor store? An auto supply shop?

They were lined up for The Gun Vault.

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Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 13 : Re-Imagining the House

 

20200609_162804_resized_1webBefore the Lockdown, we lived in six of the rooms in our nine-room house. We slept in the bedroom, and used the adjoining bathroom. We watched TV in the TV room (den, to real estate agents.) We cooked in the kitchen, ate in the dining room, read and had our pre-dinner glasses of wine in the living room.

We have been empty nesters for a while, and our two sons’ bedrooms remained like shrines to their memory, used only when one or the other or both returned with family to celebrate some occasion. The third bedroom formerly doubled as an in-home office and official guest room. Since we have retired, the office function faded. It was nicer for me to work in the corner of the living room where I could exchange an occasional comment with my spouse. The two extra bathrooms were dusted fairly regularly, and before any guest arrived we ran water in the sinks and tubs to make sure the pipes weren’t rusty.

But after twelve weeks of lockdown, we have reclaimed our un-used territory. Rooms that were seldom used have acquired a new purpose, rooms that were used for one purpose are now multi-tasking.

20200609_162633_resized_1webThe TV room is still where we watch TV, but it is also my exercise studio, as my thrice-weekly exercise class has moved to Zoom. And it also serves as a chldren’s library, as I have collected all the children’s books in the house and spread them out on the sofa as resource for my bi-weekly Skype Story Time with my toddler grand-daughter.

The guest bedroom is now my husband’s physical therapy room, where he can practice the exercises designed to stretch the muscles and sooth the nerves of various aching joints. And it serves as an classroom extension, where I can participate in some online classes and meetings without disturbing my housemate’s reading or TV watching.

The living room is still the reading room, and includes a table for my in-home office, but we have added a card table in front of the picture window for whatever jigsaw puzzle is occupying my idle moments.20200321_120038web

My second son’s bedroom has become my sewing center, my mother’s sewing machine lifted out of its cradle for instant availability and both beds strewn with fabric from previous and planned projects.

I’m lucky, I know, to have space to expand into. I wonder, once the world opens up again, whether I will be able to confine my life back down to only six single-purpose room

Life in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 12 – Silver Linings

I had an eerie experience today.  I drove south on a major freeway at 4:45.  I was driving to a destination about 15 miles from my house. Normally (at rush hour, going in the commute direction) it would have taken me nearly an hour to go 15 miles.  Today – 15 minutes.

I looked up from the road. Today was an unusually hot day, in the nineties. Normally, in that heat, smog would have blanketed the valley I live in.  I would be fortunate to see the foothills five miles away.  Today, despite the heat, I could see the mountains at least thirty miles away.  The observatory buildings at the top of the highest peak in our area gleamed white. No traffic = no smog.

This evening I heard laughter from across the street.  The family whose children are normally in camp or in nanny care while their parents are at work was outside in their front yard,  parents and children playing volleyball with an invisible net.

In hard times, divisive times, there is upside.

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 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?

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