Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the category “Memoir”

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?

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 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?

Life Goes On in a COVID-19 Hot Spot – Week 2

20200313_115218docLast week I mentioned that life was slowing down in my area due to the COVID-19 spread, and suggested going to a museum as a way to avoid both crowds and stress.  Things have changed in a week!

Monday: The Nutrition Center where I volunteer has changed its procedures:  instead of letting the homeless/indigent clients line up and pick their own bread, produce, and packaged goods from the shelves, each client will receive pre-bagged groceries as their number is called.

At noon I showed up for my dance class’s annual lunch at a popular local Chinese restaurant, only to find it had been cancelled the night before.  (The instructor mis-typed my email address so I hadn’t received the message.) The restaurant, normally crowded, was nearly empty except for people picking up takeout.  I had wondered when I found a parking spot right in front.

Tuesday:  My sister’s choir was about to have its first rehearsal with an orchestra in preparation for a gala spring concert.  Rehearsals and performances have been cancelled.

My dance class usually has about forty participants.  On Wednesday and Friday we were down to about twenty-five, but we  voted to continue the class as it relieves stress and preserves sanity for those who continue to attend.

Thursday: I was planning another lunch with a friend who was coming to town to see her grand-daughter perform in a school musical.  The performance was cancelled, so my friend is not coming.

20200313_115207webA neighbor and I were planning to carpool to an adult education class at nearby Stanford University.  The class has been re-vamped to take place on-line until further notice.  My brain will get dusted, but the friendly chats on the way to and from class will be lost.

Friday: My grandson’s school is closed for deep cleaning for three days.  His sixth-grade class camping trip is up in the air.

Friday: My husband bought tickets for a piano concert in a beautiful venue in San Francisco at the end of March.  The concert is cancelled

Saturday: #1 Son, the benefit auctioneer, has had two of his booked auctions cancelled.  March and April are normally the height of the charity auction season.

He was also planning to take his family to Seattle to visit his daughter in university there.  The university is closed, with classes being held on-line.  Seattle is another COVID-19 hot spot.  #1 Son cancelled the trip.

20200313_115201web#2 Son is organizing a neighborhood meeting to strategize how to assist parents who can’t work from home since the local day-care center is closing.

Sunday: On his most recent trip to the grocery store, my husband bought extra toilet paper and canned goods (SPAM?  We haven’t eaten SPAM since our first year of marriage!)

The local libraries announce that they are closing.  Fines will be suspended for the duration.

Monday:  When I do my pickups at two local groceries for the Nutrition Center, I notice that there is NO CHICKEN in either store  – the only poultry available at all is previously frozen turkey back and wings.  What’s with this?

I get word that despite our vote, our dance teacher is cancelling the remainder of the session as anxiety deepens over the COVID-19 virus.

Local museums announce that they are closing (I hope you took my advice last week while you could!)

Monday afternoon:  we are warned that effective at midnight, our county along with six others will be in lockdown mode: only essential travel, only essential businesses to be open (pharmacies, grocery stores, food markets, doctor’s offices are included, but restaurants must close unless serving takeout.)

What next? Stay tuned for a Life in Lockdown.

Travels with a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 6 (and conclusion)

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We wake up to sunny skies.  With deliberate speed we fix our breakfast (why does hot oatmeal never taste as good at home as in camp?), pack our gear (so much easier when it isn’t raining!) and amble down to the boat ramp at Schroeder County Park to check out the Rogue River flowing peacefully past. 20191023_110409web

Suddenly the peace is broken by a raucous noise reminiscent of several large garbage trucks operating their compacters and power brakes at the same time. But the racket is coming from over our heads!  It’s a giant straggling flock of geese, all greeting the morning as best they can as they soar past only 50 feet or so above us. (the photo is of a second, less large and less near flotilla which went over after I managed to get my camera ready.)

20191023_145043webAll is well as we head out.  We make a brief stop at Castle Crags State Park, as Sis wanted to show me where we would have camped if we had not been so delayed on Day One. When we saw the campsites in daylight, we thanked our lucky stars.  The trailer sites were sliced into a hillside, and not as level as one would like.  We would never have been able to maneuver the Tiny Trailer into one of those sites on our first night, in the dark, in the rain.  We make a brief obeisance to the stately rock towers above us, and move on south.

We are in California now, and looming ahead is the Mt. Fuji of the West, Mount Shasta, alone in the center of the Central Valley, lightly frosted with early October snow, welcoming us back.    We need to get the trailer back to its berth before end of day. And our husbands are waiting. Sis steps on the gas.   20191023_134727doc

End of our adventure.  Sis and I experienced weather, we dealt with sins of omission and commission, we saw places we had never seen.  But the memories that will live longest are those of family and friends who greeted and sheltered us.  Thanks, Bro, and wife C and Dr. Sam!  Thanks family!  Thanks, Sis, my travel partner!  Now onward!

Travels with a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 4 (cont.)

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After a day  that included a museum tour, retail therapy, and beach walking in late afternoon sunshine, we make our way back to our campsite, looking forward to sitting around a campfire sipping wine while Bro fixes those delayed hamburgers on the Titanic‘s outdoor kitchen BBQ.   We get the fire going strong, the outdoor kitchen is activated, the burgers are ready to go and the wine is poured – and Bro has rolled out the awnings just in case. 20191020_095047(0)web

And a good thing, too.

Almost as soon as we have sat down in our camp chairs, we get another dose of Oregon weather. the sun disappears, the clouds roll down with the event of the day.  This time, it’s hail.  Serious hail.

 

Even Bro’s brave little moppet of a dog is awed by the onslaught.  But thanks to the strategic awning, the Titanic‘s  indomitable propane tank, and (let’s admit) the excellent wine, we are undaunted.  We sip, the burger sizzle, we  eat them inside the Titanic, where we are warm and dry.  The fire is the only thing dampened by the weather.

Will it rain on us all the way home?  Will we be able to reload those bikes we left behind at Bro’s house?   What route will we take back to sunny (we hope) California? Stay tuned!

 

Travels in a Teardrop Trailer – Day 3 (cont.)

 

Sis and I spend the morning unloading the wet tent, soggy chairs, and bicycles from the back of the Subaru and setting everything up to dry inside Bro’s garage.  Our plan is to have Bro help us load the bikes on the top of the teardrop when he gets home, so we can take advantage of those bike trails at the campsite.  Except it is still raining.

Bro planned to leave work early for a daylight departure on our two-trailer trek to Ft. Stevens State Park. Somehow that did not work out.  He arrives at 6PM, we finish loading the trailers, truck, and SUV by about 7. It is still raining.  The forecast is for more rain.  We decide to opt out of biking after all.  The bikes stay in the garage.  Everything else fits so easily now!  Off we go in the rain, following Bro’s Titanic.  We arrive at the campground at about 8:30.  The rain continues.  It is pitch dark.  Deja vu all over again.

But this time we have some better options!  To start with, Ft. Stevens State Park’s trailer sites are all pull-through.  No struggles to park! True, by the time we arrive and get set up it is too late and too wet for us to have the planned hamburgers grilled in the outdoor  kitchen of the Titanic.  But in our pop-up kitchen I happen to have all the ingredients for a one-skillet hamburger/noodle casserole which I had planned to offer on our return trip home.  C fires up the inside kitchen of the Titanic, and in 30 minutes we are cozily sitting around the table in the Titanic’s dining area, wolfing down the casserole with the help of a nice bottle of zinfandel from the Titanic‘s wine cupboard.recipe_doc

[You can see from the state of the page how often this recipe has been used.  You don’t need a “thermostatically controlled burner”. Enjoy!]

After dinner and dishes we are not ready to call it a night.  Sis pulls out a game gadget which she brought along just in case.  It’s called “Catchphrase” and is a combination of charades and trivia, driven by a little electronic gadget that one must toss from one team to the next between rounds.  We were in hysterics by the end of the game (how does one act out “Ozzy Ozbourne?”)

Finally we decide it is time to retire to our traveling bedroom next door.  It’s just a few yards to our trailer, and the rain seems not so heavy with a full stomach and recent laughter.  And so to bed.

Coming up in Day 4: Ft. Stevens by daylight, an old friend, a Hidden Gem, and (believe it or not) sunshine!

 

Travels in a Tiny Teardrop Trailer – Day 3 – Going Upscale

 

Sis and I wake up cozy, dry, and rested under my sister-in-law C’s handmade quilt.  After breakfast, C shows us around the new house, ending with the back balcony, which stretches the entire length of the house and is hung with blooming baskets of fuschias.  Looking out over the back yard, C points out the playhouse for the grandkids, the workshop for Bro, the outdoor patio and BBQ, and the storage space for the trailer.  There is a trailer in it. But wait – what about the trailer that is parked in the driveway, the one Bro had to maneuver our teardrop around last night in the rain?

“Oh, the one down there is our old trailer. The one in the driveway is our new trailer.  We’ve only had it for a week.  This will be our first real camping trip in it.”

C shows us and a couple of admiring neighbors around the new trailer.  The new trailer is almost 10 feet longer than the previous one. “We call it our mobile honeymoon suite,” she says, smiling, as she points out the king-size bed, the reclining chairs, the fold-out sofa, the full kitchen and bathroom, the pop-out barbeque kitchen outside, and the 2 widescreen TV sets positioned over the two fireplaces.

Our tiny teardrop looks like a tugboat positioned next to this land-based Titanic.  But the neighbors seem equally eager to explore the clever space usage and pop-up kitchen in our mini.  It seems that trailer travel is an equal – enthusiasm activity.

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We plan to leave for Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast as soon as Bro gets back from work – he has promised to cut out early if he can on a Friday, so we can get a head start.  The forecast predicts a 99% chance of rain.

Will Bro get back on time?  Will the rain hold off?  Will the maiden voyage of the Titanic end in a crash?  Will we be able to park the teardrop any more easily the second time?  Tune in next week!

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