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Isolation-an orange, a dog and a puzzle

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

My friend, Bess, planted a seed in my brain.

When I told her of cancelling my much-anticipated trip home to Texas, she countered:

How to make lemonade out of lemons?

Fiddling around my home today , framing some artwork, planting tomatoes, weeding, writing to anxious friends.

Lazing around too.

Slow down.

Let it be.

Let it take time.

Bread baking came to mind? Get yeast! Who to share with?

Where is my incomplete knitting - did I give all the yarn away when I moved?

Books to be finished or reread?

Is Gym ok?

Are we elderly? Are we at risk?

A stressful surprise and daily challenge!?

After moping around an unnecessary amount of time, I challenged myself to “do things I would not ordinarily have done” if my trip hadn’t been cancelled and a boatload of discretionary time landed in my lap.

My first day, which was Sunday, erupted with repeating bursts of energy. I cleaned and oiled five cutting boards, planted basil, re-read Catcher in the Rye which I found sorting through a box in the garage, ordered both dahlia and gladiola bulbs which I will stagger plant in my garden for a splash of showy summer color, moved my bed four inches toward the south wall, and from Oprah’s favorite list purchased a jigsaw puzzle.

My game was entertaining me in unexpected and fun ways, so I emailed my pen pal, Janis, in Texas. She’s always up for drama coupled with comedy. When I asked if she wanted to play my little game of “new, not ordinary things,” she instantly replied affirmative:

Up early and ready to go nowhere. A cup of coffee required for disposition, synthroid for my non-working thyroid, and some peppermints for breakfast. Dogs and cats served. I continue foraging. Have cereal, no milk. Filled the washer, no detergent. I’ll organize my closet. Again. Bored. Watching Netflix. A nice comforting, drama called “Contagion.” Their virus is much more violent. Guess I’ll just stay calm and cloistered. I wonder if Donald will get the virus? He seems to have done a lot of handshaking with people who now have the virus. I thought he was a germaphobe. Maybe I’ll get out my paints. Maybe I won’t. I have a puzzle I can work on...where is it?

I said she was funny...

For day one dinner I ate two cranberry orange scones; carbs are not something I ordinarily devour. Chalk it up to stress. Or maybe again, it’s just the unusualness of the situation that causes weird behaviors.

Thinking about more offbeat things to do, I read up on cleaning cowhide upholstery which covers my dining room chairs. A soft brush, some saddle soap and warm water and my dining room glistens with fresh clean cattle. Since I opened the saddle soap, maybe I clean my leather purse.

Needed to touch base with Gail. I texted my walking buddy; she always high-fives my ideas.

“Here’s a list of things I am doing since I have new discretionary time due to cancelled trips. What’s up now that you’re not going to Alaska and Atlanta? Want to play?”

It was quite some time before she texted me back. This is unusual for Gail; she’s a constant contact. When she did it read:

“So, with all our trips canceled we didn’t know what to do so we did this.”

Gail and Marty beaming their anchor person smiles over the most adorable long-legged, short-haired white female puppy they rescued from Helen Woodward Animal Center.

When I sent the photo of the proud and happy couple and the shivering puppy along to my kids, Brent commented,

“that’s a pretty extreme response.”

Gail’s answer text when I prodded her again about my challenge of sharing our lists of new and unusual tasks, she replied simply,

“I got a dog. I win.”

Day number two started out not quite as energetically as the day before. I had binge-watched four episodes of The Stranger the night before and started slower than my day one surge of activity.

Very quickly into the morning’s digital read of newspapers I read that placing half an orange in your garden is a good way to attract the colorful hooded oriole. I did that. What a beautiful way to start the morning, for both me and the birds.

I was anxious to share this with Alice, my wonderful friend who is dealing with breast cancer, so I proposed my new game to her and shared the orange trick. Within thirty minutes, my whirling dervish friend had replied:

Worked out and stretched for 2 hours, got an ozone treatment, grocery shopped, two series of Death in Paradise, turned my mattress(omg the weight of a mature Bison) also oiled some furniture. Enjoyed onion and bacon green beans over rice....yummy..also placed all my house plants outside in the rain for a soft water soaking..they are so happy!!!and so am I❤️

Alice’s flurried action made me tired, so I laid down for a twenty-minute nap, which is something I never do in real life. My second new venture of the day.

Number three thirty minutes later; attended my first Zoom lecture because the art museum where I work is closed and all training is on-line now. Not so difficult, thanks to my best pal there, David, who set us all up and gave incredibly thorough instructions.

I also shared the orange in the yard idea with my writing mentor, Judy. She replied:

Love it. Thanks Marilyn. I may share an orange with whatever birds or butterflies, or critters want to stop by. Yesterday I took a lovely walk in my neighborhood in the late afternoon. So many people out with their dogs and kids in the park. Friendly and smiling. And, oh! the blooms and blossoms everywhere. The wisteria at that one house and the hedges of jasmine at another where I nearly hyperventilated taking in so many deep breaths. I nipped a nasturtium from the slope near Bird Park and brought it home. It’s still abloom in my kitchen window.

Take care and be well.

At noon—a pulled pork sandwich for lunch. What on earth was I doing? Making up for those twenty-two years as a vegetarian, I guess.

There’s more. Just discovered I got the damn cherry version of Diet Dr. Pepper. Dr. Pepper is cherry enough by itself; this is too much!

A quieter afternoon. I love planning trips and do it often. I almost like the research more than the actual travel. So yes, I am disappointed over my trip cancellations. First to San Francisco with my Arizona kids. And then Texas Tour 2020; this cancellation was devastating but will either happen in the fall or will morph into Texas Tour 2021, same itinerary. How to recover? Plan another trip I decide.

My friend, Sue, is the consummate travel companion. However, she has a very “significant other” these days and our trips together are limited. I called her anyway.

“Want to go to Boston for art?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, she was all in. A better part of the next hour found me in and around Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island searching for the best art destinations. We’ll hit them all just like we did last year in New York.

A few chapters into my late afternoon read of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and my phone dings. New text from Gail:”

“Dog’s name is Poppy. We just spent $200 at Petco. Dogs are expensive.”

I spent the day ignoring the news, but when I did finally tune in at 5:30, what I heard was jolting. In my mind, the folly was over. No more fun and games. This is dead serious. I was struck with a tightness in my chest and constriction in my throat. Do I have enough of everything? How long should I plan for? House isolation recommended for everyone sixty-five and older.

I am not scared for myself. I am radically healthy, my daughter-in-law physician lives next door, I take no medications, and do what I’m told. It’s others I’m frightened of and about.

It’s my third day of isolation, a more somber time.

More cancellations change of plans, postponements. I made a list of things I’d like to do today which does not include looking at the stock market. I didn’t plan to leave the house, but just after breakfast, another cranberry orange scone, a FB message from Bess to anyone


“Need wine and eggs”

“Red or white?” I asked.

Ten minutes later, she stood on her sidewalk; I drove by with white wine and brown eggs and admonished her to wait on the wine at least until lunchtime.

I do worry about a misstep in all these precautions. When I returned Oscar, the gardener waved from my front yard. I parked the car and went to chat a bit, ask some questions and talk about my plants, mainly my giant cactus that is overtaking my front door area.

Afterwards, coming back in the house, the moment I closed the door I reach for the Clorox wipes which I used on the doorknob and railing and then went to wash my hands for the nine-hundredth time this week. Oscar is such a nice young man. I felt badly reacting as if he were here to put a spell on me.

Throughout my time in isolation I have continued to try new and out-of-the-ordinary things. I’ve signed up for a Brooke Warner Webinar on “Finding Your Voice,” an on-line drawing class, and made some minestrone soup. Just as I put the lid on the crockpot, an email from Renato, the heart and soul of our small drawing salon:

How are you guys holding out? Are you catching up with long abandoned projects? Aren't we lucky that we are forced to be in our beautiful homes?

Because of all the rain I have been busy in the garden pulling voracious weeds (wildflowers and their cousins). But I have worked in the studio too (the Iris drawing is almost done).

So, shall we get together Wednesday and with our salon prove to the world that we are not giving up?

Miss you all enormously, ❤❤❤ Renato

Hopefully, the others will want to gather. I will save the minestrone and sanitize our drawing table.

With all this time on my hands, I am even more conscious of the value of friendship and what a blessing it is.

I’m beyond anxious for my jigsaw puzzle to arrive. Please Amazon. Today.

What an incredible revolution this is. Me wanting to work a jigsaw puzzle…

What's up with you?


Fun dissertation on the vicissitudes of life in the time of corona!



Kids out of school in Prescott Valley!


Puzzle just arrived. What was I thinking?

No pictures...


Especially delightful to read your missive today - just as I finished a Liberty jigsaw puzzle.  They are wood with very intricate die-cut pieces.  Mind blowing but so satisfying to finish!

I get to look forward to filling out the Census, reading 40 scholarship application for the San Diego Foundation, and applying Wite-out to my calendar for the next however-many weeks!

I think our world will never be quite the same. Thanks for sharing! Donna

It’s been a day!   I’m at the Crossroads.  I may go rogue.   I have followed all the rules, listened to all the virus updates, watched the stock market spiral downward, washed my hands until they’re dried out, and kept myself indoors for the past 4 days.  Now, I’m done.   It’s an Emergency!   I’m out of wine!!! I’m very cranky.   Do I risk my life for wine? Why not?  I feel sick just listening to the news.  Actually, I’m sick I don’t have wine. It’s not like it’s life or death....or maybe it could be.    Happily, “The Bachelor “ is over, so half the pleasure of Chardonnay is gone.  As you can tell, I’m trying to convince myself. It’s not working. I miss the days when liquor stores delivered.   Centennial Liquor should have been given a monument in Greenway Park. Ok, I’ve talked myself out of wine.   Tomorrow’s another day.   I know for sure wine will be in it.   Even if it kills me. JW in Texas


From a docent friend...I love this!

What a day!

I attended mass this morning via live-streaming.  I was still in my pajamas.Organized my calendar and to do lists.  So much to do.  Nothing on the calendar.Dusted the furniture.  Did it need it?Did the laundry.  All of it.Did my mother’s laundry.  Played scrabble with my mother and gin with my husband (the card game.  I drank the gin with my mother).Caught up on Jeopardy.Began a binge watch of The Rake.

We have lots of toilet paper.  My husband thinks our supply is critical if it gets below six rolls.  I don’t get it either.

I’ve put him under house-arrest.

Tomorrow I may iron what I laundered, but why rush it.  We may be shut in for months.

I’ll get out a crazy wooden jigsaw puzzle.  I have a closet full.

I’m watching The Great Courses lecture series on The Fundamentals of Music.  But I may skip to The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague.  Seems appropriate.

I like the idea of creating a new cocktail every day.  I’ve mastered the Rob Roy.  Maybe I’ll try a Sazerac. I just like saying it.

A votre santé!  Enjoy your tomorrow.


Hi Marilyn,

How are you? Love to read your blogs!

We had our first online class today; it went better than I thought. My assignments at the museum are: Kupka. Blue Space and Stella. Flin Flon VIII. Neither one of them I particularly like, but it's more of a challenge to write about them, I guess. My mood is pretty low, mostly because there is no chance of going to NY to see my new granddaughter any time soon. On one hand, they don't need my help now since my son will work mostly from home, and their apartment is so tiny that I probably would be more in their way than really helping. But, on the other hand, well... no need to explain. And even going in summer seems iffy right now. My daughter-in-law is sending pictures and texts in detail, and I'm really grateful, considering how busy she is now. I'm doing a bit of gardening, a lot of reading, and not much more. But I'll start working on reports right away, mostly to occupy myself with something that needs to be done anyway.

I hope you are doing well and staying healthy!  I miss you! Olga

Stella- Flin Flon VIII


Kupka - Blue Space

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Love hearing of your friends and love, even more, being counted among them! We have to get through these times together - even times like we've never seen before. I'm putting an orange in my garden tomorrow. Thank you!


Mar 17, 2020

Ain't done nuttin'. Looking forward to tomorrow's Zoom. Number one son, who is bi-coastal, has been here in California for the last few weeks with no possibility of returning to NYC, so I've become his latest project...he is worried about my social isolation. We've really reversed roles and I don't like it.

I'm a jigsaw puzzle freak and I don't dare do one, or else I REALLY won't do anything else. You and Carrie have loads of energy, as do I, but mine just isn't properly channeled just yet. Made a coffee cake, a pot of chicken soup, and continue to play lots of games on the computer...

I don't drink wine, so I eat everything that's not nailed down…


Also. Just viewing Corona guidelines. We don’t think of ourselves as OLDER folks because we DO so much. BUT we ARE! 74 and 78. Sooooo we are part of that group that can get the virus easier. Soooo we ARE following guidelines to stay home and enjoy our home. Thankfully we have golf and walking and lots of healthy neighbors who are doing the same. We have security and easy deliveries and club to eat sometimes..... no big events. Keeping guidelines going there. We hope all those younger generation citizens are able to be careful with life styles to get this contained. And WE WILL.


Can’t wait to read your book!!!!! We are good here in the country. Staying home and still getting outside. Praying for all!!!!


I cleaned out my drawers, found a bargello project I haven't finished, bought a loom, for once in my life, my tax stuff is ready before my appointment with the tax guy. I'm making bread in my bread maker, cooking black beans in my crock pot. I have enough written for two different sessions of our writing group. The garage is clean...these are all new and unusual behaviors...ones perhaps to keep? I am enjoying the time to read wonderful blog posts like this one! Thank you...

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