July 17th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


In the mornings of the two days that we went to see the eye doctor, I’d wakened up with a bit of a scratchy, sore throat and I was tired, so I wondered if I needed to postpone the appointments, but I was pretty sure that it was due to my allergies and extreme heat. By the time we had to leave for Peterborough, I was feeling just fine so I answered the questions at the doctor’s office honestly. But, by Thursday evening my throat was really sore and my ears were blocked. Again, under normal circumstances, I would have gone with the allergies diagnosis, but I began to worry about the slight chance that it could be COVID and I felt very concerned about having been to the Optometrist office the day before.

On Friday morning, after breakfast and allergy pills and using the netti pot, my throat was back to normal. In fact, I felt better than I had for weeks! Still I felt that I should go to the local clinic for a COVID test just to be sure. It was in the next town over from us. The info we found online wasn’t up-to-date so it took a couple of tries to find it, only to discover that it wasn’t open on Fridays! I’d have to wait until Monday, or drive further to find another clinic. It would have been nice to not worry over the weekend, but I knew I wouldn’t get the results before the next week anyway. So we kept pretty much to ourselves all weekend, going out only for an evening walk around our rural block. We don’t usually meet up with anyone we know to stop and chat. When we did see friends who were standing in line at the ice-cream shop, I kept my distance while they chatted. I’d forgotten to take a mask with me. That night my throat got really sore again. I was so disappointed.

The weather cooled down some. I slept better and regained my energy. I had no more sore throat after that. I kept doing the Self-Assessment on the phone App. I never did have any fever. By Monday I was confident that it wasn’t COVID, but I made appointments for both Jim and me to get tested anyway, to relieve everyone’s mind. We had to wait until Tuesday.

The Clinic visit was a horrible experience. I was called in first. Jim filled out the questionnaire while he waited in the car. I was expected to fill it out while also answering the verbal questions that were being fired at me from the technician! I have no idea if I filled in the written pages with all the correct answers! He finished his questions and then waited impatiently, holding a very long stick in his hand, for me to finish my form.

“Take off your mask. I’m going to put this way up your nose. Don’t cough and don’t pull away,” he said. And there it was, pushing further and further through my right nostril until tears rolled down my cheeks. I resisted the urge to pull back by holding my breath. Even after it was removed, the pain lingered. Outside, the slight breeze entering my nose increased the discomfort. I wish I had a picture of that!

“We’ll send you the results in two to three days, or you can go online to get them,” the other, female, worker said to me as she handed me a page of information. She was very pleasant.

Jim had his turn. He didn’t have to fill our questions at the same time as answering verbal questions, but he did have to endure the same pain. He was unable to resist pulling back and the fellow held his head!

I can’t imagine President Trump and his staff going through that every single day!

On Wednesday we drove to Cobourg to look at storage sheds for our new bikes, which should arrive within a month. On Thursday we went back to order one and all the materials needed to build the floor. I stayed in the car and Jim, of course, wore a mask and used hand sanitizer. We had no way of bringing it all home, but one of our neighbours offered to pick them up with a trailer when they will be going that way on Monday. We know what we’ll be doing next week to fill in some time! Assembling.

This morning, we went online to get our test results – NEGATIVE!

July 10, 2020 – Mind Travelling during COVID-19


Last week I started a post this way:

Some days I feel like we’re just treading water, living on hold. I’d really like to get back to doing some sort of travelling. It’s still not safe to venture too far away from home, but there are things we could enjoy within our own province. Maybe we could possibly fly to BC to visit my family. But now that the airlines have decided to fill their planes again, I’m not comfortable with that.

Then my muse disappeared. With no travel, I had nothing more to write.

This week we had a few things on our calendar. Monday we were again hosting our weekly Ukulele Jam on our lawn. Well, we thought we were.  We got all set up under the trees and waited. No one showed up! We did a bit of practicing ourselves and some of our neighbours came out to chat.

On Wednesday, we thought, Jim was to have a care conference by phone with his brother’s support nurse (Andrew) at the Long term Care Facility where he lives. It was supposed to be at 10:00 a.m. At 11:00, when Jim hadn’t heard from him yet, he called the home. They had to track Andrew down and would have him call back. We left here at 12:00 p.m. headed for our appointments with our Eye Doctor in Peterborough. We got about half way there when Jim’s phone rang. It was a call from the Nursing Home. The appointment with Andrew was scheduled for Thursday, not Wednesday!

We carried on to Peterborough. Because there were all new rules of conduct, due to COVID-19, timing was crucial, so we’d left home early enough to allow for the  possibilities of road construction delays, as is the norm every summer. We arrived at the Clinic parking lot a half hour before my appointment, so we waited in the car, with the windows down, capturing any little breeze that drifted in. We were on a week of extremely hot and dry weather.

Five minutes before my appointed time, as instructed, I put on my facemask and entered the building. I rang the bell on the office door and waited for someone to come out. When she did, she looked at her clipboard and said, “Iris?”

“No, I’m Judy,” I replied.

She looked through her papers and said she’d be right back. When she came out again she told me that the mask I was wearing (which has a filtered vent on it) wasn’t allowed because it “let’s air out.” She said she’d have to check with the doctor, but she had been told no vents. I explained that there was  a filter. She said she had one she could give me if they didn’t allow mine.

Vented Mask

I shrugged and said, “Okay.” She couldn’t see my smile behind my mask.

Another woman came along while I waited and she was asked questions and then ushered into the office. I wondered why, since I was there at exactly my time slot. I texted Jim to tell him that I’d be longer, and that he wouldn’t be able to use his vented mask either.

My turn came to answer all of the questions. I put on the mask that I was given and tucked my own into my pocket. After using hand sanitizer on the way through the door that was being held open for me (we were told not to touch anything, including the door knobs) I was instructed to sit in the rolling chair located near the station where eye glasses are checked. I’d just sat down when someone else rang the door buzzer. The young woman went to answer it and then came back saying, “I must have the wrong Judy.” She got the file and said to me, “You’re Judy Green, right?”

“No,” I said, “I’m Judy Lawless.” She looked perplexed. Apparently the woman at the door was also a Judy.

The technician heard the conversation and looked at the daily list of patients. “We don’t have a Judy Lawless on today’s list,” she said.

“What?” I asked. “I talked to someone on Monday, confirming my appointment, and she sent me the emails. Do you have Jim Victor on there?”

“No.” She checked the next day’s schedule. “Your appointments are for tomorrow. Dr. Shields isn’t even in today!”

I was stunned. “Okay,” I sighed and got up and headed toward the door. She ran past me and said, “Wait, I’ll open the door for you.” I waited, then dropped the mask into the waste basket that I noticed by the door as I headed out to tell Jim my saga. He checked his phone calendar and sure enough there sat the two appointments for the day, but they were both for Thursday! I don’t know why I had it in my head that they all were to be on Wednesday.

We were to meet a friend at Costco parking lot to pick up something from him. I texted and he asked if the original time would still work. I said sure. Jim had just asked if I thought we should buy the e-bikes that we’d looked at a couple of weeks ago. I’d given up on them because he didn’t seem that interested, so I was happy that he’d changed his mind. We stopped at the store and ordered them. They don’t come cheap, but I think when they arrive in August the weather will have cooled down enough for us to get out on our local trails at least.

When all was done and we were driving home, I replayed the appointment mix ups in my head, and realized that we both should have thought to check the eye appointments when we learned the conference call was not that day. And, I think I was a little rude with the women in the office. And I could have saved the mask for later use. I blame it on the lack of sleep and the high heat. My brain felt frazzled. I hope that’s all it was!

Fortunately, I was able to return the next day and apologize, and I was relieved to learn that my eye issues haven’t gotten any worse, and neither have Jim’s.

June 16th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


I’ve been trying to write this post for two weeks now. Although we are still in the midst of the Pandemic, it pales in comparison to the new events in today’s world.

I didn’t know when I wrote my last post, about keeping my own morale up with painting, and trying sourdough baking, and playing ukulele, that the next day I’d be watching the horrific video of  George Lloyd being held to the ground by a knee to his neck while he pleaded for his life and struggled to breathe.

The lingering sadness that I’d been feeling during the COVID-19 crisis suddenly meant nothing. My heart broke.

Now, several weeks later, I struggle with many emotions. At times tears still stop my voice from talking about it, and blur my eyes when I try to keep up with the news, trying to understand, looking for hope for a new world.

There just are no words. My mind races from one thing to another. I think of friends and relatives that I haven’t been in touch with for too long and friends that I lost touch with years ago. I think of my deceased parents and am thankful that they are not alive to see all that has changed the world so much in the last six months. Much of it they wouldn’t understand. It was not the way they were raised.

It’s strange how, no matter what I’m doing, little snippets of memories from my past, from my childhood to senior years, drift through my mind. Sometimes I wish there was more that I could remember, to connect the dots, to improve my understanding.

I sign petitions. I don’t know what else to do.

One ray of sunshine during the past few weeks was watching the little blue robin eggs hatch into little babies, and eventually seeing them leave the nest. All but one made it.

BabyRobins

I miss looking out the window to see how they are doing.

Of course, I haven’t forgotten about the pandemic completely. Some days I’m comfortable going out to do the shopping and having some social distancing interaction with friends; other days I’m quite content to stay indoors baking or reading, with no desire to go even to a store to buy more groceries. Today has been one of those days. Tomorrow I’ll have to push myself out the door.

May 24th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


Another month is quickly slipping by. It’s been a better month for sure. Mothers’ day brought great comfort, with phone calls or chats with all of my children, and gifts from my step-children left at the door, with a distancing visit.

The box of paints, brushes and a canvas were meant to prompt me to try something new. I took that challenge and found an online Paint Workshop that was suggested. I didn’t join it live because the time wasn’t convenient, but I did it on my own time the next day. It turned out that was good, because I struggled at first with mixing enough paint to do big sections, in different shades of blue, but I persevered. Unlike using watercolours (which I’d tried many years ago) my mistakes could be painted over and corrected. Well, most of them, until I ran out of the very important white paint required for mixing. Then I had to improvise. The two-hour class took me most of the day to finish this one painting. But, in the end I felt  good to have completed it, and it didn’t look too bad for an amateur. I enjoyed the challenge and hope to get some more canvas to try another one, sometime.

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Another gift was a jar of sourdough starter. It brought back memories of the delicious and light sourdough muffins that I used to make. The recipe made big batches and, because the starter had to be divided up with some to feed a new starter and the rest to be used in baking, once a week (actually it seems to me it was more often) my freezer was full of frozen muffins of a variety of flavours. My son told me years later how he used to often sneak down to the freezer to grab one or two and eat them frozen. I didn’t even notice the missing ones. I had to wait a week until it was time to feed the starter before I could use some of it, but I kept those muffins in mind.

I had several days when baking was my outlet, creating another (better) lemon meringue pie and chocolate/peanut butter squares one day.

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Another day I recruited Jim to help me make a big batch of perogies, one of my favourite quick from the freezer meals, but that I’d never made myself before. They were a lot of work, and took a long time, but we worked well together.

 

When the day came to feed the sourdough I was having a major pain day, which usually causes some brain fade. That day was no exception. For one thing, the new way of measuring ingredients is by weight instead of volume. Fortunately we have a scale that we used for weighing packages when doing product shipping for our online businesses, but I had to learn the trick for adding multiply ingredients. Then I put the water in before the flour, which made mixing more difficult. I doubted that it was going to work, but the next day I saw that it had.

I made a batch of muffins, not the recipe I used to use. Seems I didn’t keep it, never expecting to be doing volume or sourdough baking again. They might have turned out good if I hadn’t been trying to do something else in the kitchen while they were baking. I somehow tuned out the sound of the timer and they got way over baked. Not burned, but rather dry. Disappointing.

Oh well, the sun came out the next day and the temperature climbed.

We had a few ukulele players over to our lawn to play some tunes one day, keeping our distance and staying no more than an hour. We limited the invitation to only five of us in total. It was a welcome change.

One Friday evening we ordered take out Fish and Chips from one of our local restaurants, a restaurant that had been closed completely for two months and just recently started doing order-ahead take outs. We invited another couple who lives in the building to join us at the twelve-foot table in the Common Room, each of us with our own orders, using our own plates and utensils, sitting at opposite ends of the table. It was nice to chat and get caught up, something we hadn’t been able to do since we’d been gone for six months.

I bought vegetable seeds and planted one of the three planter boxes that our Condo Board acquired so we could have a little community garden.

I’ve gotten used to grocery shopping. It seems to be the new normal for me now. More people are wearing masks, and so far there has been no news of CORONA-19 outbreaks in our small tri-town community. I have to admit that that might not necessarily be a good thing, only because it becomes too easy to forget that we still have to be diligent with our social distancing and mask wearing. I was shocked when, one day after I was introduced to the woman who agreed to rent us parking space for the motorhome, without thinking I reached out to shake her hand — and she reciprocated! That weighed on my mind for a long time. I sanitized my hands as soon as I got back into the car; I hoped that she did too. I didn’t sleep well that night, after that incident and after hearing the latest COVID case statistics. The curve was rising, or at least no longer falling in many places in Canada and around the world. I had another major pain day.

We sat in our car by a nearby beach and watched and listened to the peacefulness.

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This morning I woke up feeling optimistic and planning things I wanted to accomplish. It was to be another sunny day. But the first thing I saw when I opened my iPad was a message from someone who cares, warning me that “take out” food is dangerous unless we’d cooked it again at home for ten minutes at at  least 80 degrees. He’d seen Jim’s Facebook post about our sharing with neighbours. Then I opened a news app and saw huge crowds of people on beaches enjoying Memorial Day  in the US, and I thought “they are never going to get out of this virus if they continue like this.” When I opened an app with Canadian news I saw the same thing happening in a park in Toronto! There goes my optimism and respect for my fellow human beings.

At least the sun is still shining, today.

And the flowers are blooming in the beds.

And a mother robin has decided to build her nest in a corner of the building, on the ledge of our bedroom window! How beautiful is that?

PLEASE STAY SAFE! AND KEEP YOUR LOVED ONES SAFE TOO!

May 9th – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


The weather has been crazy; spring can’t decide if it’s going to stay or not. It’s as confused as we are.

Snow on the deck, May 8, 2020

Snow on the deck, May 8, 2020

 

I’ve been having trouble working through this lately. Maybe because I haven’t set any goals to complete projects, but that’s because the projects I have now are my own and they don’t have any urgency. There is always tomorrow, right? The calendar is blank. I’ve heard others make the same observation.

Calendar

 

Each day I wake up feeling a lingering sadness, even if I have something in mind that I might do that day. Today, I realized that, after nearly three months of avoiding close contact with people, then avoiding them altogether during self-quarantining on our way home from Arizona, and then continuing upon our return, and then becoming so conscious of the danger of not constantly washing my hands, or sanitizing them when out (wearing my mask) to do grocery shopping, this has become the new normal. As much as I long to sit down at a table with friends and family, to return to playing pickleball and ukulele in a group, I have trouble imagining being able to do those things again, without fear.

I’m one of the fortunate ones. I get to stay home where it’s safe. I don’t need to worry about losing my job or not being able to pay my bills if I don’t want to go to work in one of the dangerous environment out there, without adequate protection. I don’t need to feel obligated to risk my life to help save the lives of those who have been hit with the virus, although I shed many tears for those who are brave enough to do it.

And I do feel guilty about being so privileged. This is my new normal. Who knows if it will ever change?

Thank goodness for all the beautiful, and funny, video clips that are shared through the internet! They help to lift my spirits.

I’d love to hear from people around the world. How are you working through COVID-19?

Journaling Through COVID-19 – May 1st


Wow, I can’t believe it’s May 1st. I thought that I’d be writing and posting more frequently as I intended to Journal Through COVID-19, but although I’ve done nearly daily entries in my personal, hand-written journal, I’ve managed to find several projects to keep me busy with self-imposed deadlines, so my blogging got pushed to the back burner.

What have I been doing? Well, I first decided to try making a couple of face masks for Jim and me to use when we began venturing out to the grocery store and post office.

Jim's mask with ukulele chords on it!

Jim, of course, wanted one with ukulele chords on it!

Then I heard about a number of people making cotton face masks as requested by the local hospitals to be used for non-medical staff and patients being discharged. In exchange for some elastic that I had on hand and was no longer available in any stores that were open, a friend left me some of her extra fabric so I could make some too. I made twelve of them.

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But I was a little slow to the dance. By the time I had them finished, the hospitals declared they had received enough of them. They were now requiring some made with their own specific pattern, and special fabric that they would supply.

One hospital, however, wanted cotton surgical caps and clothing bags made, as well as crochet “mask buddies” – five inch pieces with buttons on each end that the elastic of the masks could be fastened to, relieving the pressure on the tops of the ears after a long day of wear. I had no fabric left, but I had plenty of yarn.  I started making the mask buddies. I was short of buttons, but a shout out to people in my community produced an abundance. I delivered the first batch of twenty-one within a few days. Yesterday, I dropped off another batch of 30.

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I gave a few of the masks to friends before a notice on one of my Facebook pages brought interest from a friend who works at the local prison. She was happy to receive the eight that I had left, and I felt good that I could help her out.

In the meantime my Book Club has had a couple of online meetings, and I joined a meeting of a Writing Club, also online for now. It was great to make some connections with people, and get some feedback on some of my writing.

A week ago we ventured to Peterborough to stock up on supplies from Costco, so that I wouldn’t need to go into the small grocery stores so often. I know, it’s better to support local businesses, especially during these hard times, but I was finding it just too stressful to safely navigate the narrow aisles while following the direction arrows and waiting my turn to enter. I always forgot or couldn’t find something I needed and was too anxious to have to go back through the maze again.

I was nervous about going to Costco too. I’d seen stories on the internet about the  long lines of people, many of whom gave no respect to social distancing, so I had no idea just what to expect.  We were fortunate to arrive at a time when there wasn’t much of a line. The carts were outside, and a fellow was spraying them all down, presumably with disinfectant, as they were returned, so we knew that the one we took was safe. Both of us were permitted to go in together. We put on our masks and were able to navigate the wide aisles quickly, giving anyone we encountered plenty of room. We were able to backtrack to find some things that were no longer where they were when we left in the fall.

The downside was the price of things, but I just got what I needed and left behind those items that I thought I could manage without for now, and ignored the cost. What else can you do when you don’t have much choice? The bill was far higher than I’d ever spent on food in one trip. But then, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had to make three meals a day, every day, for forty plus days in a row and counting! The extra help added to our Canada Pension cheque will make up the difference.

And the cost of gas is lower than it’s been in years too!

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We didn’t need to worry about bags, because Costco never has supplied them. We put everything back into the cart and transferred them to our own bags when we got to the car.

On the way home, we stopped at a local chicken farm that has a small store, where we bought chicken and fresh frozen vegetables. Except for some fresh produce that we’ll have to replenish soon, we are good for a few weeks.

I’ve not only been doing more cooking than I’ve done in years; I’ve also been baking more. I dug out an old cookbook that used to be my stand-by many years ago and I started creating some of my old favourites, and some new.

Lemon Pie

Made with a graham cracker crust because I didn’t have ingredients to make a crust! Used a lemon brought from Arizona tree.

Banana Bread made in Coffee mugs

Banana Bread made in coffee mugs, in fifteen minutes from start to eating! I added chocolate!

I thought we’d be putting on weight, but to our surprise, we’ve both lost those extra pounds we’d put on while eating too large portions in restaurants or at pot luck parties, or the chips that come with every sandwich in the restaurants, while in Arizona!

Last weekend Jim’s daughter asked if I could make a few surgical caps for her daughter’s nursing team at the hospital. She brought me some fabric and I found a bit more. I completed and delivered four to her yesterday. I still have two more cut and ready to put together.

Now I’m anxious to get back to writing, reading and perhaps add some more photographs to my stock portfolio.

It’s amazing how much you can find to do, if you just turn off the depressing news and get creative.

Hope you are all staying well and finding positive ways to get through this crisis.

April 11, 2020 – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


Remembering Europe

Several days ago, I was thinking about how dire the situation is in Italy, and my thoughts travelled to my very first long-distant adventure, to Europe. So I dug out my photo book, and scrap book of postcards, and took a stroll down Memory Lane.

I was just twenty-two years old and working in a temporary job back in my hometown when I suddenly decided I wanted to go on an adventure after my job was to finish at the end of the summer. I had money saved up. I went to see a local travel agent and came away with information about a twenty-one day tour of Europe through Fourways Travel. I called my friend, Carol, and convinced her to take time off work and go with me.

On October 4th, 1972 I left home by train to meet Carol in Toronto, where she lived.

On October 5th we embarked on our adventure! We somehow got to the airport, probably by taxi, to catch our flight to London. I had a little journal to record our trip, but somewhere during a series of moves that I made after my return, it got lost, so all that I have to tell this story is my now vague memory, my postcards with a few notes beside them, and some photos.

In retrospect, it’s obvious I knew nothing about photography at the time, and I realize that I didn’t pay too much attention to the history and geography lessons that I could have learned. I took a several (poor quality) pictures, but I’m stumped to know what many of them are. If any of my European travellers recognize anything, I’d love to hear from you!

According to my Boarding Pass, we left at 7:00 pm that night. My ticket receipt says that I paid for a round trip ticket between Toronto and London for $210 Canadian! I also have a Menu that indicates a dinner was provided and a Continental Breakfast was to be served at 6:45, so presumably we arrived in London sometime on the morning of October 6th. We were booked into the Regent Palace Hotel Piccadilly. We were on our own to explore London for the rest of that day and most of the next.

London

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Later in the day of October 7th we met up with our Tour Group and took a train to Harwich, where we boarded an overnight steamer “Queen Juliana” to The Hook of Holland. Upon our arrival, our Fourways motor coach, with our driver and guide were waiting for us and our tour began.

London postcard

October 8th – We spent this day travelling toward Brussels, Belgium, through Amsterdam, Breda and Antwerp, with a side trip to the colourful tourist town of Volendam, where I picked up a few postcards. In Amsterdam, I took pictures. Some I recognize; most I don’t.

Holland

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From there the bus continued on to Brussels, Belgium, where we did a walking tour through the old cobblestone streets and enjoyed dinner and camaraderie with our fellow passengers before settling down in our rooms at the Hotel Bedford. It’s funny how some things stick in our memories. The Manneken-pis Fountain was one of them.

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Brussels (2)

October 9th – Germany

On driving out the Belgian capital, toward Heidelberg, my Itinerary tells me that we saw many other principal sights of Brussels, including the Royal Palace, before continuing the route through forests and several towns, including Luxembourg, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

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In Heidelberg, we toured Heidelberg Castle. The Heidelberg Tun is an extremely large wine vat contained within a separate building of the castle.

We ate dinner at The Red Ox Pub, and we stayed the night at a (not-noted) hotel.

So… five countries in five days!

October 10th and 11th – Lucerne, Switzerland

After breakfast, presumably in the hotel, we drove on through Freiburg, situated in the southern part of the Black Forest, and onto Basle, Switzerland, through Olten and Sursee until we reached Lucerne, where we spent two nights in the luxurious Grand Hotel Europe and had the chance to enjoy more history, culture and cuisine. We saw the Alps up-close from a cable car from Mt. Pilate (7000 ft)

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Beautiful Hotel

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Enjoying dinner out with our fellow travellers

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On our first morning there, I was surprised by this delivery of red roses, from my love back home! Unfortunately, when we left, I had to leave them behind.

October 12th – Austria

This morning we drove on through Kussnacht and Nafels, and made a brief stop in the Principality of Liechenstein where I recall the Prince greeted us before we took a tour of a Perfume Factory, before entering Austria. We climbed the Arlberg Pass (5,910 ft.) and soon reached Innsbruck, a beautiful city. We spent the night at the Clima Hotel. Unfortunately, even the Itinerary tells me nothing about the city so I’m thinking we arrived late and left early the next morning. (Sigh) I do have a postcard.

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October 13th – Italy

This day was spent on the motor coach, travelling from Innsbruck to Venice. We had to go through Customs formalities at the small village of Brenner before crossing the border between Austria and Italy. Because we would have no time to do any touring ourselves, I suppose, the Itinerary includes some history of all the seven cities we passed through. Brenner, for instance is on the watershed between the Black Sea and the Adriatic. In this village several conferences were held between Hitler and Mussolini.

On the Italian side of the border, we entered Vipiteno in the Italian Tyrol, which was formerly Austrian territory until 1918.

It was afternoon by the time we reached Venice. The coach was left at the terminus of the motor bridge, a mammoth, multi-storied garage, and we were transferred to our hotel. I remember it looked onto the canals and the gondolas. I remember feeding the birds and looking at the monuments of Piazza San Marco. I remember that I wasn’t feeling very well, a cold was coming on. I was offered an evening ride by a canal gondola operator and it was tempting, but now I know that it was a good thing I was sick. I was rather naïve back then.

October 14th I was really sick and that was one of our busiest touring days. Most of it is a blur. I remember sitting on a bench in the Palazzo Ducale Great Council Room looking at the amazing art work on the ceiling through watery eyes, my whole body feeling weak, and finally asking our Guide and Interpreter to take me to the pharmacy for some cold remedies. I don’t remember if I did the rest of the Tour. If anyone took the recommended “lift to the top of the Campanile for the magnificent panorama of the Lagoon and the 117 islands that comprise Venice,” after the Tour, I know I couldn’t have been among them.

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Palazzo Ducale

After lunch we left for Florence. I’m sure that I slept all the way. We spent the night at the Hotel Ambasciatori in Florence.

The next morning, October 15th, we were taken on a sightseeing tour with a local guide and saw The Medici Chapel “the most important of Florence’s architectural and artistic treasures, with its façade of white, green and red marble,” the Gothic Cathedral and the Chapel of the Princes. Again, I now wish that I’d been more in the present and captured more of the memory. I have a cut glass ring that is very similar to the engagement ring of Princess Diana, which I’m quite sure I purchased at a glass factory in Florence.

After lunch we drove through Tuscany, Umbria and Campania before reaching Naples. We were on our own to explore until we were ready to crash in our rooms at the Parker’s Hotel.

October 16th  After breakfast in our hotel, we boarded a steamer for the short trip across the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the romantic island of Capri. A local tour guide was supposedly in charge, but he spent the whole trip over flirting with Carol and me, and he disappeared into a bar after lunch. We never saw him again. We had a beautiful time without him.

We took the steamer back to Naples, through Bay of Naples, and once more boarded the coach to drive through the Campania region toward Rome. That evening we checked into the Caesar Augustus Hotel.

October 17th and 18th we were again on our own to tour Rome, with all of its Cathedrals, Museums and Ancient Ruins. As the Itinerary says “To see everything in detail would certainly take many weeks.” For that reason, I wish we’d had some guidance as to how to best plan our day.

The last evening we all got together for dinner at Risorante Tempio Di Giove for Pizza and Champagne.

October 19th found us once more on the Autostrade heading toward Rapallo, with a side trip into Pisa to see the leaning tower.

Italy (10)

We passed through Viareggio, La Spezia and Sestri. That evening we checked into the Grand Hotel & Europa in Rapallo, which is a beautiful seaside resort at the head of the Tigullio Gulf.

Rapallo (2)

It’s too bad we didn’t have more time there, but then most of us wouldn’t want to leave! But then, our next stop was Monte Carlo.

October 20th was spent travelling through several other towns and cities along the eastern Riviera, such as Nervi, Genoa, Finale Ligure Marina, San Remo and Mentone until we reached Monte Carlo, where we would spend two nights, giving us one full day to enjoy the beauty and excitement of this famous resort, and capital of the Principality of Monaco. We stayed at Hotel Balmoral and visited the Casino. Beside a souvenir stub in my scrap book is the note: “Cost six francs to get in and lost two francs playing machines. That’s hilarious! It was the first time we’d ever been in a casino or tried slot machines. I remember being very nervous, not understanding how it all worked, so I didn’t play very long for fear of losing more than I could afford.

Monaco (2)

October 22nd we continued our drive along the French Riviera coastline. I’m sure we stopped in Nice, France, although I have no mention of it in my Scrap Book. We went through Cannes, Aix En Provence, Avignon, Montelimar, and Valence and Vienne, which are situated on the banks of River Rhone. We stopped for the night at Hotel Bristol in Lyon France.

We arrived in Paris late in the afternoon of October 23rd. The next day a guided tour was provided. We visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Place de Bastille, From the coach we saw The Palace of the Louvre and Tuileries, which comprise the former royal residence, the Champs Elysees and the Arc de  Triomphe, and of course the Eiffel Tower.

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That evening the tour culminated with an excursion to the Moulin Rouge to see a fantastic show.

October 25th we travelled to Calais where we caught a steamer to Dover and the train back to London, where it had all begun.

Calais (2)

The next afternoon October 27th, we were on a plane taking us to Toronto.

Wow, that was a whirlwind trip! No wonder I can’t remember many details.

While going through Customs, I was questioned about the leather coat that I was wearing. I’d bought it in Toronto. They made me take it off, so they could check the label I guess. They searched all through my luggage and then shoved it aside and told me I could repack it and carry on. What a warm welcome home! Carol was ahead of me and wondered what was taking me so long.

I always thought that I’d go back to my favourite places someday and take the time to really see them, but it never happened. Life took another turn.

Thanks for the Memories.

April 6, 2020 – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic 


I began a much longer post yesterday, a walk down memory lane, my trip to Europe in 1972. But it was a much bigger project than I’d realized, because I had nothing of the trip computerized. I needed to scan photos and post cards and read through the Itinerary to jog my memory. I’m still working on it, but for now I thought I’d share my experiences and emotions from this morning.

I woke up with a feeling of dread. When I looked at my iPad to get a synopsis of what the latest news was, I couldn’t contain my tears. It all was awful. What broke me most were the articles about how manufacturers of the medical equipment that all countries need so desperately, are inflating the prices to 700, or 800 or 900 percent above the normal price, making it so difficult for hospitals and the smaller health care centres such as Long Term Care Homes, to get them, And then there are the stories of people praying on the elderly by offering to buy groceries and then absconding with the money; or offering to clean their homes with them out of them, and stealing from them. What has happened to humanity?

I dried my tears and went to the kitchen to make some breakfast. Although I wasn’t really hungry, I knew I had to eat. The fridge was nearly empty. I made toast from the last two pieces of bread, and made coffee. One thing we do still have is plenty of grapefruit, so I cut up one of those. I knew I had to go shopping.

Jim thought I should just order it again, but I wanted to be brave and not let the paranoia I was feeling control my life. I also didn’t feel it was fair to put extra burden on the stores and volunteers that are generously delivering for free. Despite my age, I’m healthy. I have a good immune system. And I wanted to keep it that way with some fresh air and exercise. So I made my list and gathered my little wagon and reusable shopping bags. I had a mask I’d made from a kerchief, and disposable gloves and hand sanitizer in my pockets. I didn’t take my phone to avoid it being exposed to anything. I took only the one card that I needed to pay for my purchases. I didn’t expect Jim to go into the store with me. He wore his gloves and went into the Post Office to pick up our mail and then waited outside for me.

When I got to the store, the parking lot was full and I almost turned back. Then I realized that many of the cars parked there were probably the ones that had usually been parked beside the old Community Centre next door. Whether they belonged to tenants somewhere, or the owners of the few businesses that were open, I don’t know, but the Community Centre had recently been torn down and Contractors were working within high fencing, cleaning up the remnants.

I took my mask and gloves out of my pockets and put them on before walking up the ramp to the store entrance. A staff member came to the door and told me that I couldn’t take my wagon or bags in with me.

wagon

I hesitated, disappointed. I felt that there was far less chance of there being any virus on my own cart and bags that had been with us in our own space for three weeks, than there was with the store carts and bags. But I couldn’t argue, under the circumstances. I took the cart and made sure she’d wiped the handle.

By now I could feel myself quivering. There weren’t very many people in the store. Some shoppers wore masks and most of them were very conscious about keeping a distance. Perhaps they were more concerned about me because of the heavy mask and gloves I was wearing. I got very warm and for a moment I thought I might faint, but removing my jacket helped. As I made my way around the store looking for the things on my list I was having trouble seeing clearly. I thought maybe my glasses were fogging up from my breathing through the mask. My quivering continued and I cursed in my head, thinking how terrible it is to be so fearful of doing grocery shopping.

At last I was finished, and through the checkout.

“Isn’t this fun?” I said to the cashier, who was one more time sanitizing the gloves she wore, behind a sheet of Plexiglas.

“I’ve had about enough of it,” she said and I agreed. “Thank you,”  we both replied.

I took off my disposable gloves and handed them to the girl at the door, who said she’d dispose of them. She was wearing gloves too. I was glad to see that the wagon was still where I left it. I breathed a sigh of relief. When I walked out into the sunshine, I reached for my sunglasses and realized I’d had them on all the time! No wonder I was having trouble seeing!

I found Jim next door watching the construction crew, of course. We walked home enjoying the sunshine.

At home I put my mask into the bathroom sink to wash. I carefully handled the groceries and bags,  putting them all away, always aware of what I was touching and wondering who else had touched them. I washed my hands many times.Oh crap! Did I remember to disinfect the counter where they sat? Nothing I used to make lunch touched that side. Is it too late?

Now we have enough food to last us for another couple of weeks. Who knows what things will be like when we need more?

I have no idea how the people who have been dealing with this daily as they do their jobs to provide health care and other essential services, have not lost their sanity. I weep some more for them.

Mind Travelling – Journalling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


April 3/20

Today I woke up with the urge to write again. So what should I write about? Obviously it isn’t going to be about physical travelling, at least not anything new, so I guess the Mind Travelling part of the website description will dominate for the next weeks, or months.

It’s been two weeks since we crossed the border back into Canada. The days seemed long, but the weeks have passed quickly. For Jim, I don’t think it is as irritating to be sitting most of the day, but I’ve always been physically active and my body hurts too much when I’m not.

The first week we had plenty of food in our fridge and cupboards, thanks to Jim’s daughter, who took my list that I’d sent her and made several shopping trips to find all but one of the items on it. They were in place when we arrived. After the second week I placed an order with our local grocery store and it was delivered the next day. It’s surprising how much food we go through when we eat at home three times a day, seven days a week! When I think of it, it’s been years since I’ve had to make that many meals in a row! It’s now time to shop again.

Our condo building is small, only six units, all on one floor. We share a small laundry room, so I was hesitant to use that common space until we’d done at least 14 days of quarantine, including our time on the road. Then I got caught up on the laundry. Everyone in here is keeping pretty much to themselves, so I didn’t need to worry about running into anyone.

Most of our days have been cloudy and rainy, which doesn’t help the emotional spirits, but the last few days we’ve had some sun and we’ve gotten out for short walks around our rural neighbourhood. Each time, we bring another load of things from the motorhome, which is parked within sight of our deck, in the parking lot of the Sports Dome that is now closed. It’s good to just say hello to neighbours from a distance, and share knowing smiles.

Besides making meals and doing laundry, I’ve tried to keep myself busy doing little household chores, like finally cleaning up my desk, and putting away things that were dropped onto my dresser. I’ve tried to encourage Jim to do the same, but he has never been so inclined, which can sometimes put a little strain on our relationship, especially now when we share an office and I’m spending more time in it. He spends a lot of time re-arranging new music and learning to play it on his ukulele. We both spend too much time (probably like most of us who aren’t risking our lives to treat the sick or keep essential services running) either on our computers/iPads or watching TV. I’ve been trying to think of how we could get in some pickleball practice.

Yesterday was a full sunny day for which I was grateful because it was also a day of hearing about sad local stories while sitting at my computer. A few days ago I’d seen an appeal to watch for an elderly lady who was lost just a few miles down the highway, in an area near where my Book Club friends live. Yesterday, I learned that it was one of their neighbours and police were out searching the woods and the lake, for the second day.

While following that by Messenger, I saw a GoFundMe request on Facebook asking for donations for the children of a young woman who had died, in my home town. When I looked further to see how she’d died, my heart broke to learn that it was a domestic “incident” that police believe to be a murder suicide. She leaves three small children behind. I don’t know her, but I have friends who do.

And then news of the virus hit closer to home. We now know someone who knows someone who has died from it. A friend of Jim’s sister was one of the many victims who succumbed to it in a small-city Nursing Home a couple of hours drive from here.

So far, our community is safe, but do I want to go out to the grocery store, or should I place an order for delivery again? After all, I am now in that “vulnerable” age bracket of being over 70 (less than a month ago). But I’ve always been healthy and seem to have a good immune system; so could that make me an unknown carrier? Our town is a Retirement Community so there are no doubt many others who are more vulnerable than I.

The really scary part is that nobody seems to really know enough about this virus.

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One day, when all the cars were in the driveways and we were the only ones out, this rainbow gave us a sign of hope. The curve is flattening.

Escaping the COVID-19 – The Full Story


On March 11, 2020 we were still in Arizona and had several things on our calendar for the next week. But disturbing glimpses of what could be coming were appearing in all our online news feeds. I wanted to pack up and head for home then. But we did seem to be isolated in our little community and I was convinced to hang on. In my head I prayed that they would all be cancelled.

That night we were in a crowded restaurant for the Sandwich Islands Ukulele Band final rehearsal for the upcoming Aloha Festival, but before we left we’d made up our minds that we wouldn’t attend the huge Festival that usually attracted thousands of visitors – my first sigh of relief. The next day our park management decided to cancel all large-group events, which included the Theme Day, in which our Mesa Regal Ukulele Band was supposed to play – my second sigh of relief. Some of our Canadian band members had already decided to head for home so wouldn’t be there to play anyway.

A Facebook comment from my son, who lives with his wife in Poland, told me to “pack up the RV and get out of there. You don’t want to be caught in a country that didn’t prepare for the threat of COVID-19 earlier.” He was speaking from firsthand knowledge. We decided to heed his advice, but it took us a few days to make it happen.

Since we wouldn’t be back anytime soon, we had a couple of big items to get rid of, like our car and patio furniture. It was probably risky, but I signed us up for the Patio Sales the next day (Saturday), and Jim put an ad online to sell the car. We were successful! While the sale was on we started packing things up. I had the inside of the motorhome mostly ready by that night, but Jim had to unload and reload outside bins in order to get everything he’d taken out, plus a few more new items, in. We weren’t ready to leave on Sunday. Jim wasn’t ready in time, so we accepted the offer of friends to go to their home, outside our park, for dinner. It was a nice evening of chatting, laughing and playing ukuleles, forgetting for just a while about the trouble brewing in the world. Small group gatherings were not yet frowned upon, but we were all conscious about frequent hand-washing.

Monday morning, March 16th, we managed to get the rest of our things into place, give our forwarding address to our Post Office, and check-out. But even that took a while as we stopped to say goodbye to our friends and neighbours along the street. No hugs, handshakes or kisses this time! Everyone was feeling the stress. There had already been 400 or more Canadians pull their rigs out during the last two days and more would follow us soon.

After a quick stop at the bank, we said goodbye to Mesa, possibly for good, and began our 2700 mile trip home. Our fridge, freezer and pantry were filled with food so we had no need to stop at restaurants or stores all the way home. When Jim had to get out to pump gas, or to hook up at a Camp Site, he wore disposable gloves. He had contact with no-one. In the six days it took us to get home, I left the motorhome only once, for about ten minutes to walk along a deserted path at one of the rest stops.

Jim with his gloves on

Jim with his gloves on waiting to pay for gas at the only full-service station we saw.

We put in long days after the first one, and covered hundreds of miles. Most days were uneventful. We listen to music and started an audio book, but found there was too much noise to hear it, even with an external speaker. Transports made up the bulk of traffic on the highways, roads were rough, and wind did blow.

Thursday morning was an exception. I was awakened by the sound of heavy rain on the roof and loud rumbling. I couldn’t decide whether it was thunder or just the roar of the many  trucks on the highway, until one big clap of thunder and the roar of wind got us both out of bed and dressed in a flash! The motorhome was rocking like we’d never felt before. We thought we were in the midst of a hurricane! We were in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so that was a good possibility. We were in a mostly empty Walmart parking lot, with no service of any sort, so I dug out the weather radio that we carried with us, but had seldom used in all of our years on the road. Relieved to learn that there were no Hurricane warnings in the area, but there was a flash flooding warning (2 inches of rain had already fallen and the drain ditch beside us was nearly full).  We decided to just try to relax and have some breakfast. The rain and wind stopped as quickly as it had begun. By the time we had eaten and secured everything inside again, it seemed safe to leave. It was only 8:15. We were both a little testy after that early morning scare. No flooding impeded our way, but we noticed spots where it probably had been up on the road. Fields were flooded. It rained off and on during the day, but Jim kept on pushing. A little nap after lunch revived him enough to keep going until 6:00 that evening. Needless to say, we were in bed and asleep early again that night.

Flooded Fields Close to Road

Flooded Fields Close to Road

We’d heard that the Canadian Border would be closed at midnight on Friday, to all visitors and anyone without a good reason to be crossing into Canada. It wasn’t looking good. On Friday morning Jim decided we should try to make it to the Detroit crossing instead of carrying on to Buffalo as earlier planned. We had 500 miles to go!

We hit the road at 7:45 a.m. We made short stops for gas and to have meals in our “home”.

While driving through Ohio, we passed these strange looking items being moved along the highway on flatbed transports. The first time we saw two different parts, which Jim determined were some parts of an airplane. One definitely looked like a wing. Hours later we passed another two. At first we thought they were the same ones we’d passed earlier, that they’d gotten ahead of us while we stopped to eat or gas up. But then we noticed that these parts were a little different. One looked like the opposite wing from the first one. Because of road construction at that part of the highway, which involved construction cones along the right hand shoulder, the entire convoy was blocking both lanes of traffic in order to accommodate the right side overhang. We patiently followed along and it wasn’t too long before the construction zone came to an end and the left passing lane was freed up once more.

We made it across the border without any problems at 6:00 pm! That Welcome to Canada sign brought us great relief and joy.

That night we shared parking with several other RVs and transport trucks at the first Onroute Travel Centre that we came to, near Windsor, Ontario, too tired to go another mile. It was noisy with all the traffic in and out, but surprisingly we did get some sleep.

We were up at five and on the road before the sun came up, so anxious to be in our home town, in our small condo. Traffic was light. We got through Toronto in record time and arrived home shortly after noon, to nearly empty streets and cold weather, but it never looked so good! Thanks to Jim’s daughter, we had food in our fridge and pantry that, along with what we had left over in the motorhome, should do us for a couple of weeks.

We’ve been in self-quarantine ever since. It’s been difficult – not wanting to watch the news, but needing to know. I’ve shed many tears, not for fear of us getting the virus, but for our families and friends all over the country and beyond; for the front-line workers everywhere who are risking their own lives to try to save many; for those who have lost loved ones, and those who are stranded in foreign countries where the epidemic is far worse than here; and for the stories that are emerging of the amazing people who are doing so many self-less things to help those who are suffering.

I’m grateful for the phone calls, texts, video chats from family and friends. We even had our Book Club meeting yesterday, by video!

It’s a time for reconnecting with people and appreciating what we have. Soon, tomorrow will be a better day. For now, stay inside, stay safe and keep in touch.