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2017 in review

Carla

Front: Carol, Judy, me, Donna. Back: Carla, Peter

2017 brought losses — friends Peter and Carla, and I’m afraid Georgina too. Two others no longer remember me. I’ll miss them also. However, I met Grace and Howard this year, and look forward to getting to know them better. Linda, too, came into my life and she’s a treasure. I’ve met Marion in our new Tai Chi class and since Val’s in it too, I’ll get to see more of them both.

Didn’t go anywhere in 2016. Couldn’t even walk! Wasted dollars on travel health insurance I never used. 2017, too, began dismally. Something had to be done. Bless Judy, she came with me to see Dr. Gredanis and filled out forms for me to get a new hip. Friends and neighbors like Amy and David, Wayne and Mairona, Linda, Vinson, Judy, Marlene, and others kept cabinets and fridge stocked and got me wherever I needed to go.

2017 also brought some accomplishments. Our book club’s list of ‘Books Read’ is now over 200! We’re pleased with ourselves. I organized a new Tai Chi class with help from Jean, our kind new instructor. She’s absolutely the right person to lead us. Some of the old gang had nagged about missing the class, Jean happened along and viola. We have a class! I then realized my own balance needs a lot of work, so it’s all good.

My new hip happened on March 17, with Susan at my side. Rafi came afterwards. They didn’t want me home alone between hospital discharge and Rafi’s visit, so dear Trudy came to stay. Samantha dropped in on a Sunday morning for the real biggie. I wanted to see if I could manage a real bath. (I love baths.) I made it! Talk about joy….

Hamming it up

Having fun in Nevada

I traveled in 2017. July found me in Nevada, visiting daughter Susan and her Michael. Why not make it a birthday celebration? The San Francisco contingent joined us and spent the week, and dear Joe, all the way from L.A. made it a birthday I’ll never forget. He ordered bagels, smoked salmon, and cream cheese for our breakfast, plus a huge birthday balloon, all delivered from Reno up to us in the mountains! He hand painted a lovely coffee mug, which waited for me in a package with coffee and cookies for added pleasure. What a guy!

Joe had called regularly while I was in hospital and was the one who realized my nausea was due to the morphine. (I’d assumed I was having a vestibular reaction to the stress of surgery.) He was right! Joe’s often right.

BetterRebaJoeMe6

Joe, me, Rebecca

The next trip was to my kids in San Francisco, where I

Redwrap

Joe’s Susan and me in their gift, a RED wrap

was spoiled rotten again. I got to see my Chandra climb the scaffolding most days while the outside of their home was being painted. (Rafi, like me, is uncomfortable with heights.) Then, I took the train to L.A., and stayed with my kind-of (but no less beloved) kids Rebecca and Brian, who spoiled me rotten yet again, and so if you notice how spoiled I am, you know why. Joe’s Susan invited us to a lovely family dinner, where Joe and I ‘entertained’ with a short skit he wrote. We exchanged gifts and hugs — it just doesn’t get better.

LadyonbikeThese are not all the 2017 happenings. I quickly returned to Keno’s exercise classes and worked really hard at trying to regain my leg muscle strength, Wayne lent me (then told me I could keep) a ‘stepper’ which I’ve been using to help me get stronger, and after two years being unable to use it, I’m finally back on my Exercycle.
It was a very good year…..

 

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Persistence brings progress…

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

I’ve been working hard at recovery since I had my hip replaced in late March. Am I neurotic? Perhaps. I’m probably also one of those ‘A’ personalities who is driven.

I’m not the type to buy an Exercycle and then just use it to hang laundry on. Nor will I enroll in an exercise class and lose interest. So, I used my bike regularly about five days a week and attended both Tai Chi and ‘Joint Works’ exercise classes and never missed if at all possible until — I was in so much pain I could hardly walk (prior to this surgery).

After I got my new hip, I did my assigned exercises diligently, returned to my exercise classes before I was able to do all the moves the rest of the class did, and got back on my Exercycle before I could lift that right leg over the centre. I had to walk around the bike and get up on the left, and began with very few rotations, which I slowly built up. With time I was able to lift that right leg over the centre — barely, but it was progress. Bravo!

I love baths. My whirlpool jets are set to hit directly at my arthritic joints. The warm

drawing of woman in tub

I love baths

water is wonderfully soothing. After three months, my surgeon said I may bathe again. A dear friend came over (just in case I needed help) and I made it! If I were a drinking person, I’d have celebrated with champagne! That was a real biggie….

I hadn’t been able to travel for well over a year. Gleefully, I

Susan& Michael

Michael and Susan at their front door

planned a visit to see the new home my daughter and son-in-law had built the year before. It required two airline flights each way, but I made it! I also climbed 17 stairs (Susan counted them) to see their upper floor. Since it was my birthday while I was there, my San Francisco contingent joined us. We celebrated. It was fantastic.

SM, Spa Day

Being spoiled rotten — facial and foot massage

Everyone spoiled me. My Chandra and grandson Remy gave me a facial and foot massage. Chandra noticed I hadn’t trimmed the last three toes on my right foot. True. I couldn’t yet reach them and wasn’t happy with having them done at the pedicure shop. (They’re into esthetics and that’s not what I need.) My loved ones took care of that too.

Hamming it up

Hamming it up

After my return home, now and then I begin to feel, in spite of my continued hard work, I haven’t made any new progress. Then something happens. One day I discovered I WAS able to reach and trim those three toenails on my right foot by myself. It was so exciting, I sent an email to my kids to give them the news. This too was a biggie.

Little by little, I keep increasing my exercises, and now and then I get a new or unexpected reward. I’m now up to 4:20 miles per seating on my bike, and am doing 70 steps each time on my stepper. I continue attending exercise classes, and my loyal pedometre counts my steps when I walk each day. I’m building them up too.

I’m not done with little miracles yet. When I bathed yesterday, I was able to get into my higher-than-average tub without using my arm to pull my right leg up and over. Yeah! Another step forward….

Why am I telling you all this? So you won’t ever give up.

‘Worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe’

Muriel Hip surgery in hospital, 2017

After surgery, in my lovely springtime robe

My oh-so-clever friend Sandy once said: ‘Worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe.’ I like it. I know it by heart. However, if I have any talent, it is my great ability to worry — a lot. Worry is what I do best of all!

So, told I would have to go home just three days after hip-replacement surgery, I panicked — what else? — and worried! How would I manage? My leg muscles, after months of severe pain, were in miserable shape, more like wet noodles than muscles. How could I NOT worry?

I’m 80. My children live in the U.S. They care. They came. Susan was here for my surgery. She was terrific. Rafi came after I got home to help. He cooks such scrumptious food, I gained two pounds while he was here. Still, they need to go back to their own lives.

Another worry? I have a vestibular disorder, which causes imbalance and unpredictable dizziness, often brought on by stress. Surgery IS stressful and I had a terrible siege of dizziness after my knee surgery in 2011. It was a disaster.

Whadaya know. As Sandy’s wise saying indicates, my worrying WAS a waste of time and energy. After surgery at UBC Hospital, I learned about the Transitional Care Unit (TCU)  right at the Koerner Pavilion, and was able to go there for rehab and care until I was ready to go home.

How come I’d never known about this possibility? I wrote about things like this as a columnist, yet had no idea the unit existed. It was a perfect fit. True, my first night there I had a roommate with dementia who cried out all night in a language I didn’t recognize. The very next night, however, I was blessed with a well-read, clever and interesting roommate, Howard Greaves, who, thankfully, also has a great sense of humor. (A necessary trait to survive the couple of weeks he spent with me).

Howard Greaves.

With Howard Greaves, who survived two weeks as my roommate. Howard deserves a special award for putting up with me.

Another blessing with having my surgery and staying  at UBC was that my dear ‘daughter’ Amy works there.

IMG_0231

My beautiful Chinese ‘daughter’ Amy

Amy visited and checked on me whenever she arrived to work, at her lunch break, and on her way home. Bless her, she also helped me survive the hospital food by cooking my favorite Chinese dish and bringing it in for me. She also would buy and bring me tastier food from outside. Hospital food, after all, is hospital food.

At the TCU, I had much needed, supervised physio five days a week, was helped with my ability to walk, and taught how to get my operated leg up onto my bed — no small feat. The nurses and I were given clear instructions about what I could or could not do so my vestibular disorder wouldn’t cause a fall and create a disaster.

There was a reasonable fee, (I understand it can be discussed if it is a problem). Dr. Reinhold Bernat, in charge of my case, was present and accessible when I needed to talk to him, patient with my concerns, and obviously caring — I know I was lucky.

Yes, the TCU was a good match for me, but, you ask, was there anything I felt was not up to par? Yes! We were allowed only one shower a week. I wasn’t thrilled with that, but survived.

Should you or loved ones live in the area and require it one day, I want you to know about the UBC Transitional Care Unit. Or, if there is such a service where you live, try to inquire about it. I am truly grateful it was there for me. And yes, I’m doing well.

Napoleon and (Josephine) Marie

Muriel's 80th-Me&Remy

Me with a special love, grandson Remy

For years I was captivated by Napoleon, (1769-1821) and read many books about him. On my bookshelf still sits a set of four volumes ‘The Private Life of Napoleon’ by Constant, his valet. Constant thought Napoleon brilliant and tells us, as an example,  that when Marie Louise of

Napoleon by Antoine-Jean Gros

A young Napoleon

Austria didn’t become pregnant immediately, she did so only after Napoleon instructed her not to bathe. I love old books. (The English translation was copyrighted by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1895.)

Study of Josephine

study of Josephine

My own impression is that Josephine (1763-1814) has been badly treated by historians — mostly male. As Napoleon’s first love, she opened doors for the young officer. She already had important contacts, and probably was the brains behind much of his success. Napoleon didn’t realize how much he owed to her.

You can’t deny things went rapidly downhill when he, as self-proclaimed emperor, became too big for his britches and wanting an heir to the throne, he divorced Josephine and banished her from the palace. Big mistake…..

300px-Ingres,_Napoleon_on_his_Imperial_throne

Self-proclaimed Emperor Napoleon

Maria_Walewska_by_François_Gérard

Marie Walewska, Napoleon’s mistress

Of course Napoleon had lovers along the way. Power and money are sexy. There are always women willing to give themselves to men like him. Yet, in all the reading I did, nowhere did I find a word about Marie Walewska, (1786-1817) a Polish noblewoman who became his long-time mistress. I read, sometimes wearily, of battle after battle and his prowess in the battlefield, but never much about his prowess in the bedroom with this beauty.

The young Marie, married off to an elderly Count by her family, (because of an inconvenient prior pregnancy) was not smitten by Napoleon when he marched into Poland. The Poles, however, adored him — they desperately needed his help. No sacrifice was too big to win his favor. Marie, a mere child of 18, was pushed into the affair by Polish nobles and, yes, even her elderly husband. After all, what was one woman’s honor compared to the freedom of your country? Marie obeyed. Well, she WAS patriotic. Wouldn’t you? If you were patriotic?

She already had one son, and was to be the only woman to give Napoleon a son of his own who lived to adulthood, Count Alexandre Florian de Walewski (1810-1868). Her husband, the patriot, continued to be cooperative and willingly gave the child his name. After all, the man loved his country and Napoleon had promised to make Poland a strong, free kingdom. (He never kept this promise.)

Obviously a generous guy as well, when Marie, who grew to love Napoleon, (the guy could be magnetic) divorced him in 1812, Walewski gave her and her oldest son half his estates, which made her wealthy in her own right. She had also moved to Paris in 1810, where Napoleon set her up in splendor. Not bad….

For awhile, the lovers did discontinue their affair for political reasons because Napoleon wanted to divorce Josephine and thought, under the circumstances, it wouldn’t look good. But their feelings for each other persisted.

His marriage to Marie Louise of Austria (1791-1847) produced a son too, who died in

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Marie Louise of Austria

childhood, but Marie Louise fled when things got rough and later became the mistress of a Count. Marie Walewska, on the other hand, remained true to her famous lover although she did marry again. She visited Napoleon while he was in exile and disgrace at Elba to (ahem) console him. This surely was a woman who cared. She later died in Paris while Napoleon was a prisoner at St. Helena. They say the very last word she ever uttered was: ‘Napoleon’.

If you like this kind of thing, you may enjoy ‘Famous Affinities of History’ by Lyndon Orr, published in 1909, which can be found on:

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Category:Bookshelf

Am I grateful? You bet I am!

photo by Susan Kauffmann

photo by Susan Kauffmann

It’s Thanksgiving time in Canada, and it comes soon in the States. This has always been a favorite time of year for me and it has nothing to do with turkey. I have so much to be grateful for — beloved family and friends, the adventure of life and the privilege of living long enough to appreciate it.

When my children were young I liked giving them paper and pencil at our Thanksgiving dinners so they could write down and share what they were grateful for. Amongst my treasured papers, I still have some of those lists, one which son Rafi wrote when he was about seven.

Son Rafi, his beautiful Chandra and me. They keep teaching me....

Son Rafi and his beautiful Chandra. They keep teaching me….

As for children? Where to begin? I’ve learned more from my children than they could ever learn from me — and they continue to teach me. I appreciate their intelligence and insight and at times, their honesty. I’m grateful for their continued love and forgiveness for the times I goof, and goodness knows I do. Parenting is no easy task. I believe we all fail in one way or another during the process.

I am grateful for this blog and to daughter Susan, who realized before I did how much I’d enjoy it. I’d never have been able to get it going without her, and she continues as unpaid trouble shooter. I am also grateful to each of you who take the time to read it, and delight in the fact you live in 73 countries, many of which I’ve never visited. Kudos too to son Rafi, who takes time out of his own busy life to help mom when she creates difficulties in her tenuous relationship with this computer, which I’m convinced doesn’t like me. Then there are the lovely

Grandson Remy, who makes being a grandma a real pleasure

Grandson Remy, a real pleasure

people these two have married, and my dear grandson Remy, all of whom accept and love me no matter what. I love them all back.

Now the real miracle — those who just ‘choose’ to love me, and

Robert and Jenna's twins, Eliana and Noah, extra treats in my life

Robert and Jenna’s Eliana and Noah

whom I love as if they were my very own — Amy, Rebecca and Brian, plus Robert and Jenna. How to explain these things? How lucky can you be? It’s gratifying to be loved by your own children, but to be given so much warmth, love and caring from others is a blessing beyond understanding.

My daughter Susan, me and my special additiional 'daughter' Amy

Daughter Susan, me, and my other special ‘daughter’ Amy

I would surely have been killed under Nazi rule

I would surely have been killed under Nazi rule

I am grateful to have spent my life in countries in which I have never had to live with war first hand. That’s a real biggie. I was a little girl during WWII and had I lived in Europe, probably would never have survived under Nazism. Not many humans have been so fortunate.

As a woman, I feel lucky NOT to have been born in a country where women have no freedom. Things may not have been fair for females during my working days, nor are they yet, still I know things could be much worse.

Women in Saudi Arabia, they are not even allowed to drive

Women in Saudi Arabia, they are not even allowed to drive

Susan's gift that keeps ongiving, my own little lilac tree

Susan’s gift that keeps on giving, my own little lilac tree

No one could have derived more pleasure from home ownership than I did. I would do a little walkabout in our garden each morning before leaving for work, marveling at each new leaf or promise of another blossom. Today, I live in an apartment I like, in a neighborhood and city I love. And on my balcony, I have a little lilac tree of my own which daughter Susan gave me years ago. It keeps blooming each year.

I am grateful for those in my book club and especially books, and still being able to read them. (Thank you Brian!) I am grateful for friendships and interesting conversations over coffee. I am grateful for those doctors who truly seem to care about me, and for kind strangers. I am grateful I can still take baths, which I love. I keep thinking of other things to list here, but I’d better stop. I can go on forever. Better just to say I am indeed grateful.