Sunday, January 10, 2021

Glimmers of Hope

Here we are in January 2021 and I am looking back on the past few months. Craig and I have remained at home in our bubble, going out only to doctor appointments, a rare trip to our local supermarket, or a masked visit to Marjorie.

We have enjoyed many walks in the pretty little parks around town as we watched the leaves change color and fall from the trees. Halloween was passed by. Our street is dark and curved, so we seldom receive more than a few trick-or-treaters, which was a part of the reason we chose to ignore the traditional festivities. 

Autumn at the park

When Thanksgiving approached, we ordered a small family meal from a local independent restaurant that specializes in soul fusion cooking. I had little prep to take care of, as the turkey came seasoned and ready to pop into the oven. The sides were also ready to heat and eat. The meal was enjoyed by Craig and myself, Janey, and Jennifer. 

Sunlight through the pampas grass

We had hoped to be able to pick up Marjorie for Thanksgiving day, but she declined. Long car rides are difficult for her, and of course there was also the fear of exposure to illness. She had ordered items for a small dinner for one, but it broke our hearts to think of her dining alone. We arranged a FaceTime meet and ate "together". Marjorie showed us her table and I almost burst into tears as she scanned the room. She had placed photos of all her family members around her on the table. Once the meal began, we had a good time. There was a lot of lively conversation and laughter. 

As Christmas drew near and the Coronavirus continued to worsen and spread, we were forced to make the unhappy decision to remain at home within our bubble. Our children and grandchildren were very disappointed, but understood that this was the safest thing to do. I spent hours shopping online and making gifts to mail or drop off at their homes. Craig and I made a little road trip to the Kansas City area on a gorgeous sunny day to deliver gifts to two of our daughters and their families. We came in contact with only one person, and all three of us wore masks. We treated ourselves to our favorite burgers at DoB's in Emporia, on the way back. We simply drove through and then ate the deliciously messy burgers in the car while parked. 

On Christmas eve, Jennifer came over to spend the night. She was a huge help to me, wrapping gifts and prepping food for our Christmas dinner. I had scaled down the menu and tried to make items ahead, due to the annoying back problem I have been experiencing for months. 

Christmas day was fun, yet a bit sad. We missed having a houseful of boisterous grandchildren and their parents. The highlight of our day was a Zoom meetup with Desmond at his home in France. He joined us as we all opened gifts. Craig set up his laptop so that Desmond could see the four of us, and it was wonderful to be able to watch him as he unwrapped the gifts which had been delivered to his home. It almost felt as if he were in the room. 

Around noon, we sat down to a meal of baked ham, German rope sausage, cheesy scalloped potatoes, German green bean casserole, red-hot salad, and pecan pie. The only item not made from scratch was the pie crust, as I just couldn't handle using my rolling pin the day before. When the meal ended, Craig and I packed up double portions for Marjorie, along with a gift for her, and drove an hour to visit her. The weather was warm, so the three of us sat on the patio and we served her the meal. She thoroughly enjoyed it. Craig and I wore our masks the entire time when we were inside her home, but were able to remove them outside because we sat six feet apart.


Soon, we hope to be able to receive the Coronavirus vaccine. This deadly virus is still ravaging the world and we realize that it will be a very long time before anything becomes normal again. However, protection from Covid-19 will allow us a bit more freedom to visit our loved ones, go shopping, and perhaps return to our local gym. 

I hope that all of you will have a safe, happy, and prosperous 2021. 

Winter sunset



Friday, September 4, 2020

Lockdown Life

 Lockdown Life


Even though we are no longer on official lockdown, we are remaining at home as much as possible. Coronavirus cases are still on the rise in Kansas, though areas which follow mask mandates are showing some improvement. The start of school has been delayed until September 10. We are hesitant to allow Janey to return to school. She doesn’t care for remote learning, but we are seriously considering it for the first nine weeks. 

We will carry on with ordering groceries, eating takeout every now and then, declining invitations to parties or gatherings, and remaining safely at home.  When we feel restless, a walk or a drive helps to alleviate the boredom. Craig was able to take his mother out for a drive recently, and it was such a treat for her. 

When confinement first began, My husband was the restless one. He simply must have a project! He ordered lumber and rebuilt the play fort. We had intended to tear the old structure down, but when the grandkids got wind of it, they begged us to reconsider. When Craig finished that, he refurbished the shed. After that little project, he ordered more lumber and supplies and proceeded to completely rebuild our deck! I wasn’t much help, other than assisting with the application of sealer and ordering new cushions for our deck furniture. He did a great job, and it’s such a nice space now. 

Beginning to rebuild the fort

Much of our time is spent out here

Our spring planting was accomplished by ordering flowers and plants from a local nursery that offered curbside pick-up. We also purchased another bird feeder so that we’d have one directly in front of the living room window. It has given us hours of entertainment, especially when the squirrels attempt to get at the the food!

Chocolate-orange Black-eyed Susan

I love the vibrant color of this lily.

More recently, tragedy has befallen our family. A young relative died unexpectedly, and we are all heartbroken and grieving. Her husband and little  daughter are devastated. This was followed by a horrific accident in which our son-in-law’s foot was severed. He has months of recovery ahead of him, which includes more surgery. A daughter-in-law lost her car when it was destroyed by an electrical fire, and a niece became seriously ill with a condition unrelated to Covid. My hairdresser, who is also a friend, became ill with Coronavirus, as did her husband. She decided to retire because of the ongoing fatigue from the virus.  As for myself, I underwent cardiac ablation a couple of months ago. The surgeon is confident that the procedure went well and that I now have a perfect heart. While the operation was frightening and uncomfortable, I’m very glad I went through with it. I had lived with PSVT for over 50 years and I’m grateful for the technology which enabled me to have it corrected. 

We have become accustomed to the solitude and this new way of life, though we look forward to a time when these precautions will no longer be needed. How nice it will be to socialize with friends and family, dine out, and travel! I realize that those pleasures may be months away. They will be all the more special because of the wait. For now, we will continue to count our blessings and enjoy the little things. 

The surprise lilies are always a visual treat

May you and your loved ones be safe and well. 






Wednesday, August 19, 2020

I’m Still Here!

It has been over five months since Covid 19 became a threat in my little corner of the world. In all that time, I have been inside a public space only a handful of times. I wore a mask on every occasion but have been appalled to see how few people were doing the same. Those inconsiderate folks have forced me and other high-risk persons into becoming hermits. I feel resentment toward those individuals who complain that wearing a mask impinges on their freedom, because they have quite literally deprived me of MY freedom! 

When the Coronavirus first began making headlines my heart broke over the numerous victims and their loved ones. As the virus continued to spread and the news became more alarming, my husband and I realized that our planned trip to France and Belgium would have to be canceled. It was heartbreaking, but necessary. We had prepaid most of our accommodations and had purchased airfare months prior. Nearly every penny was eventually refunded to us  The only exception was one of the AirBnB apartments, which was located in Brussels. The owner flatly refused to even discuss a refund, but since we had only paid half up to that point our loss was minor. 

Meanwhile, we were alarmed at the news coming out of France regarding that country’s battle with the virus. For weeks, I had difficulty sleeping due to my concern over loved ones here and abroad who lived in what had become Covid hotspots. As the virus continued its rapid spread I became worried about myself and Craig. I was at risk due to asthma and a heart condition. Craig is healthy, but with both of us falling into the senior citizen category, there was cause for concern. 

On March 13 we decided it would be prudent to remain at home as much as possible. We ordered groceries online to be delivered, which was something I often had done anyway. We utilized the drive-through at the pharmacy. Other necessary items were ordered online or purchased locally with the option of curbside pickup. For several months, we didn’t even get takeout or meal delivery. I cooked every day. Our home was well-stocked because I had purchased many non-perishable items in February, which is something I do every spring in preparation for tornado season. 

It’s mid-August now, and I’m grateful for our comfy little home and the lovely outdoor spaces we can enjoy. Our outside space is very important to us. Craig and I love to sit on the deck, watching and listening to the many birds which inhabit our neighborhood. Lots of frisky squirrels provide entertainment with their silly antics. We’re fortunate to have access to many wide walking paths nearby, which meander through parks and alongside ponds and  streams. 


A favorite place to walk
Mornings are spent on the deck, weather permitting. We sip our coffee and catch up on the news while enjoying the early chorus of birds. A game of Scrabble is always part of our morning routine. Throughout the day, there will be more games of Scrabble. We are avid readers, and also enjoy ourselves studying French. Recently, our son has begun teaching us via Zoom. We’re making good progress and always look forward to those weekly classes Desmond is a natural teacher and has been extremely helpful in our quest to learn the most beautiful of all languages. 


Our teenage granddaughter, who is currently living with us, has been simply amazing during the course of lockdown and isolation. Janey has never rebelled against confinement, nor even whined about not being able to see her friends. Recently, we have loosened our restrictions to allow a friend to visit. We maintain distance, wash our hands frequently, and wipe down high-touch surfaces. However, most of the time, Janey busies herself with drawing, which is her passion. She also plays games online with friends and watches movies. 

We’ll carry on as long as necessary in order to protect ourselves. 


Our cozy little porch

A springtime view from the picnic table

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Not Just Another New Year’s Eve

Pages from Jan’s Travel Journal: Monday, December 31, 2018

New Years Eve. I can’t say that the three of us were in a festive mood. It was our last full day in France before Craig and I flew home to face the funeral of our beloved mom, Ruby. It would be hard to leave Desmond to mourn on his own. We ate breakfast and then began packing our bags and cleaning the apartment. We left the luggage inside and headed out on a last exploration of Lyon

A lovely building near our apartment in Lyon

Our view crossing a bridge in Lyon on a cold winter day
Our first stop was the Cinema Museum in old Lyon, which houses over 450 movie sets and props. The main exhibition room contained many of the sets from the movie “Parfum”, which was a very creepy film. The sets were intricately detailed and quite fascinating. There were props from dozens of well-known movies which we really enjoyed viewing. We saw Harry Potter’s wand and learned that the studio had to keep making replacements because Daniel Radcliffe would nervously scratch the paint off of them. I enjoyed seeing many of the props from one of my favorite movies, Amélie. We saw Mrs Doubtfire memorabilia, costumes from Star Wars, Mary Poppins’ umbrella, and so much more! 

This is a full-sized movie set from Parfum.

Another movie set from Parfum
Props from Amélie,
one of my favorite movies

Props from the movie "Mrs Doubtfire"

There was also an exhibit of miniature interior scenes. My favorite was a restaurant, with tables no more than a couple of inches high. They were fully decorated with table linens, flowers, candles, tiny plates, cutlery, wine glasses, and even baskets of bread! I wish I would have gotten a picture of it. I did get a shot of an little apartment scene.

A very detailed scene in miniature
After that, Craig returned to the apartment for a rest. Desmond and I wandered around looking for a place to have lunch. We ate at a very crowded Italian restaurant and were lucky to find a table. Des ordered a tasty truffle ravioli and I chose a creamy chicken and mushroom pasta bowl. We did a bit of shopping after lunch, which was fun, but I was glad to return to our apartment. The temperature had dropped and the afternoon had become quite cold. 

A chilly day in Lyon, France

It was soon time to leave for the train station. We had hired an Uber, and it was a long ride to the station. I wondered if we were going to just ride all the way to Paris! The Gare de Lyon was a very open, modern looking structure, but it was absolutely freezing inside. Our train was late arriving and we endured a lengthy wait in a long line before we finally boarded. 

The train car was warm, at least. We soon settled in. Desmond contacted the host of our AirBnB to let her know we were running late and was assured that it wouldn’t be a problem. Months previously, I had made the effort to find a luxurious place with a balcony and a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower for our New Year’s Eve celebration. (Not that we were now in any mood to celebrate.) It was to have been a special treat before Craig headed back home, while I would have returned to Orléans with Desmond for another ten days. 

We became concerned when our host did not give us the full address of the AirBnB. Each time we sent a text, it took longer and longer for her to respond. We also needed the entry code to the building, but she told us to just stand outside and wait for someone to exit the building and then just slip inside! We were unwilling to do that and still she had not told us the apartment number, but simply said that the key was under the door mat! Apparently she expected us to enter the building illegally and then start looking beneath random door mats! 

By this time, the train was nearly due to arrive at our station. Several times, we tried calling the host, but got no answer. Desmond suggested that we remain on the train, which terminated at the airport. We decided to do that and explain to the conductor our dilemma while offering to pay the additional cost. However, the conductor never came into our car to check our tickets. Meanwhile, I was on my phone reserving a triple room at the airport Ibis Hotel. 

We arrived at the station and had begun walking the short distance to our hotel when Desmond spotted a Marks and Spencer! Craig patiently waited in the hallway with our luggage while Des and I darted into the busy store. We selected items for our New Year’s Eve "dinner" and Des found us a nice bottle of champagne. 

Within minutes of settling into our room at the Ibis, we received a call from our AirBnB host. She claimed her phone had gone dead, yet we could hear that she obviously was at a party. Could she not have used another phone? She became a bit angry when we told her we were not going to stay at her apartment and that we would be requesting a refund. (The corporate office of AirBnB arbitrated the dispute and I am happy to report that we received a full refund.)

We spent the last few hours of 2018 reminiscing about mom/grandma. We shed some tears but also laughed a lot over the many happy memories of that very special woman who never allowed Alzheimer’s disease to destroy her bright smile and loving heart. Between the stories and sips of champagne with which we made a toast to mom, we munched on stuffed grape leaves, sausage, tiny sweet peppers filled with cheese, savory crackers, a baguette and some lovely cantal, with crisp Florentine cookies and spicy mince pies for dessert. 


Our midnight supper on New Year's Eve
 in the airport hotel
While it certainly wasn’t the celebration we had planned, the three of us had made the best of it and found some happiness with which to ring in the new year. Instead of a view of the Eiffel Tower, we had a view of the parking lot. But we also had each other, and hearts full of love and special memories. 



Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Keeping it Light

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Sunday, Dec. 30 2018

We slept late, and I know it was something we all needed. Desmond had rested very little the night before, but managed to slip out of the apartment and return with pastries before Craig and I were finished with our first coffee of the morning. 

The weather was damp and cold when we left the AirBnB, but we made the decision to take the double-decker bus tour of Lyon. The huge vehicle was very crowded and we had to sit on the top level which was open to the weather. It was absolutely freezing up there! I was very grateful for my warm hat and gloves. About halfway into the tour, we were able to move to the lower deck and were much more comfortable. The views of Lyon, along with the commentary, held our attention. It’s a lovely old city with many modern touches and we would love to return someday for further exploration. 


A view of Lyon, France
When we made it back to our starting point, it was lunchtime. We found a cozy restaurant where we ordered pizza. I don’t think we have ever been disappointed when ordering pizza in France, and this place was no exception. 


There really are no windows or wildcats on that building.
 It's all a mural. There are many in Lyon.
Our next stop was the automaton museum. We love just about anything quirky, and were delighted with the place! In the entrance lobby was an entire automated circus scene, complete with acrobats, jugglers, and high-wire acts. A clown was feeding seals from a bucket of fish. The figures were only about eight to ten inches high and were painted in vivid detail. As we continued into the interior of the museum, we saw many animated dioramas, most with figures twelve to eighteen inches high, recreating scenes of medieval life, art, fairy tales, and so on. 


A lively circus scene at the automaton museum in Lyon, Fr

This automaton certainly looked familiar!
The museum is on the ground floor of an ancient building in old Lyon. As we progressed through it, we were walking on a downward slope and I noticed that we were literally in a cave with the walls and arched ceiling carved out of rock. The jointed wooden people and animals created a cacophony of clicking and whirring as they picked grapes, wove silk, baked bread, and washed clothes. One huge scene depicted Nôtre Dame de Paris, complete with Quasimodo and music. Guignol, a popular puppet character in France, was also present. There was much to see and it was charmingly quaint. This would be an enchanting place for children, and since we’re just kids at heart we enjoyed it.


Quasimodo atop Notre Dame

Automatons using a loom to weave silk
I’m old enough to remember when automatons were used in advertising displays and delightful Christmas scenes in shop windows. Some are still in use today. I have seen a cobbler recently, in the window of a shoe repair shop in Orléans.

We strolled along the river for a while, where a huge outdoor market was taking place. It was tempting to linger, but we were on our way to another museum. It was all about the history of Lyon and was very interesting. It’s simply amazing to think that this area has been inhabited since the year 43 bce when the Romans established a military colony. The museum also had a huge exhibition of marionettes that was fun to view. 


Garlic at an outdoor market in Lyon, France

An enticing display of cheese at the outdoor market
We were very tired and cold from walking in the brisk winter chill. On our way home, we stopped at a lovely tea shop for a hot drink. The hot chocolate we ordered was unlike any we had ever tasted. It was made with rich bars of chocolate melted and frothed into fresh, hot milk. Before serving it, our waitress piled each of our enormous cups with whipped cream. She then slowly poured the frothy chocolate carefully over and around the billowing cream and left us to enjoy our decadent treat. We lingered for quite some time over that delicious beverage and left the shop feeling content and almost happy. Keeping ourselves busy had helped to distract us from our grief over losing mom. It had been a pretty good day, all things considered. 


Incredible chocolat chaud in Lyon, France

Desmond and Craig heading home to
our apartment up the hill in Old Lyon, France

Monday, October 7, 2019

Distractions

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Saturday, Dec. 29 2018

We awoke after a restless night of tears and little sleep. Desmond had slipped out early and picked up an assortment of pastries, which I vaguely remember choosing from. I think we were all a bit numb by then.

The previous afternoon, Craig had been successful in his attempts to change our plane tickets. He and I would be able to return to Kansas on January 1 so that we could make funeral arrangements for the woman who had meant so much to all of us. The wonderful clerk at Delta Airlines had gone above and beyond with her kind and compassionate assistance. Desmond, too, did more than his share. He insisted on returning to Orléans on the train that night, where he packed up our things and cleaned our little AirBnB. He explained to our host what had occurred and then after a few hours sleep in his own home, boarded a return train for Lyon. It was a loving gesture and was much appreciated.

Though the three of us were numb with grief, we chose to soldier on. What we lacked in exuberance, we made up for in a dogged determination to continue with what remained of our vacation. We met up with Florent for a tour of the traboules, the secret passageways which were very important during the many years of silk trade in Lyon. The covered walkways and staircases were used to transport the silk, thus keeping the delicate fabric safe from the elements. It was intriguing to explore a few of the traboules and learn something about the architecture of old Lyon. I regret that I didn't get any interior photos of the traboules, but it was shadowy inside and the floors were a bit uneven.

Waiting for our tour to begin
Our morning tour ended at a silk weavers museum in which it was possible to view the actual silk screening process. It was much more involved than I had imagined and the end products of hand-painted silks were astonishingly beautiful. Scarves, ties, and garments were available for purchase, though most were way out of my price range. I can’t say that tears were not shed as we explored the museum and the beautiful area in which the buildings for the huge looms had been built years ago. Many times, I encountered things that I knew my mother would have been delighted to see.

Explaining the silk-screening process

Silk being painted by hand; a tedious
 process with a beautiful result!
The finished product will be stunning!
The four of us lunched at Crock n Roll, a trendy bistro which served many unique croque sandwiches, along with craft beer and other tasty offerings. I chose the croque Germain. which was made with smoked ham, emmental cheese, and bechamel. It was a nice break with good food and great company.

Croque monsieur Germain
A fountain near city hall in Lyon, France
After lunch, we made our way up to La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere on the high hill, using the crowded funicular. I was grateful to ride up the steep hillside instead of having to walk. I doubt I could have done it! The cathedral was lovely, though oddly built. It had been criticized during its construction in the 1800s and was said to resemble an elephant lying on its back! Inside were some fabulous mosaics. The afternoon had become rather chilly, with an unwelcome breeze which cut right through my jacket. We warmed ourselves with coffee and hot chocolate and some delightful pastries purchased from a small establishment next to the basilica.


The basilica on the hill above Lyon

 Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière

Lovely artwork inside the cathedral
The Roman ruins and museum were next, and had been high on our list of must-see attractions in Lyon. We were not disappointed. The theater, which had been built for plays and concerts over 2,000 years ago, was large and in surprisingly good condition. There was a good view of the city from its position on the hillside.


One of the ancient Roman theaters in Lyon
The museum was fascinating and was filled with hundreds of objects which were discovered locally. It is said that even now, people are likely to discover coins, pottery shards, or other artifacts simply while digging in their own gardens! I was most impressed by the glassware. Some of those pieces were of colored glass and were ornamented with scrolled handles or other decoration. Amazingly, many were completely intact. I also liked the little oil lamps which were made from the local stone. Replicas were available in the gift shop, and I very nearly bought one.
A detailed floor mosaic from Roman times
Remains of a Roman cart used to trasport wine-filled urns
Our evening meal was at a restaurant which served crepes, something we can never seem to get enough of. I enjoyed a hearty tartiflette gallette which was followed by a decadent salted caramel crepe.

It had been an interesting day, filled with hours of unique sights. We had been distracted from our grief for a while, and that was a good thing.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Heartbreak

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Friday, December 28 2019

Craig and I awoke early and went to Desmond’s for breakfast. We were all excited to be going to Lyon for a few days. After a quick bite, we carried our small cases downstairs to await the driver. Instead of the train, Des had reserved space for us through a ride-share app. We were soon met by a very nice man and were on our way. Our driver spoke no English, but with Desmond sitting up front there was never a communication problem. 

I enjoyed the scenery as we passed through towns and countryside. The closer we got to Lyon, the more beautiful it became. We stopped for a bathroom break about three hours into the drive. The little roadside rest area had only a squat latrine, which is often referred to as a Turkish toilet. I was dismayed, as it had no handrail or anything to hold onto; not even a nearby wall to lean on! If I were young and spry, it would have been no problem. I made the best of it and managed not to fall over. 

On our way again, the scenery became craggy and rugged. The mountains were visible through the mist. Just before reaching our destination we stopped at a modern rest area which had large, clean restrooms. Upon reaching Lyon, our courteous driver let us out at Place Bellecour, where we could visit the tourism office and purchase a packet of tickets for the metro. It would have been wonderful to see the square during the Christmas market, as I had heard it was a good one.


The Ferris wheel at Place Bellecour, Lyon.

Even on a grey day, Lyon is lovely.

After that, it was a fairly short walk to our AirBnB. It was located near the top of a steep, narrow cobbled road and the apartment itself was up three long flights of stairs. It was roomy and had lots of personality, though it was a bit chilly. 


We enjoyed this cute little apartment in Lyon.

Our cozy bedroom in Lyon, France
We stowed our bags and then set out to find something to eat. After our six-hour drive we were definitely ready for lunch. The only place open nearby was a kebab shop and that was fine with us. We devoured the veal kebab sandwiches and crispy fries in the cozy restaurant and then set out to explore. 


A warm and filling lunch

A pretty street on Lyon, France
We had decided on a double-decker bus tour and had a little time to kill before boarding, so we walked around for a bit. We purchased some delectable pastries at an artisanal patisserie. I chose a Mont Blanc, which was a concoction of chestnut cream, meringue, and pastry cream. I had just thrown the wrapper away when my phone rang. My heart jolted when I saw that the call was from my mother’s hospice nurse. I knew it was bad news. 

Craig and Desmond knew how bad it was by my reaction. Our only comfort was that our sweet Ruby had passed away swiftly and peacefully. We immediately made our way back to the apartment, sobbing and trying to support each other. The rest of that day was a blur. We called our daughters and one of my sisters, who said she would inform the rest of the family. I vaguely remember Desmond handing me a hot drink and Craig making phone calls to the airline. Desmond went out later and picked up food for the three of us, but I have no memory of what we ate. 

To lose a loved one so suddenly when we were thousands of miles away was particularly heartbreaking. Stunned, bleary-eyed, and inconsolable, we cried ourselves to sleep.