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When’s the last time you…

When’s the last time you wrote an email, letter or card to: A teacher who was special? A friend who was supportive through a tough time? A mentor who helped you in your career? A doctor who made you feel he/she really cared? A business which supported your sports team? A coach who, as a volunteer, worked without pay? A volunteer who helped you in some way?


In an effort to whittle down ‘stuff’ my loved ones will have to deal with eventually, I’ve been going through files full of thank you letters (or complaints) to corporations and businesses or ordinary folk who mattered to me — and thinning them out.

Rafi loved playing and he did well
Rafi in his baseball uniform


Right now, I’m looking at a letter written in 1981 to a Furniture Guild thanking them for sponsoring the very first baseball team my son was on. Rafi was nine, and excited about becoming a part of this new team. The day uniforms were distributed, I was sure he’d sleep in his — he paraded about in it so proudly.


Such sponsorship can make participation possible for some families who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise. It IS a good idea to let businesses know you appreciate their help, no matter what their reasons for doing so are.

Rafi, now a devoted high-school teacher


As an adult, Rafi is a devoted high school teacher. He occasionally receives letters telling him how much he has meant to students. Sometimes he’ll share them with me. I get a warm fuzzy when he does because I know how caring he is and how much it pleases him when students appreciate his efforts on their behalf.

Rafi cooking at a fundraiser for my grandson, Remy’s school
Lovely Chandra working at a fundraiser for Remy’s school


Both Rafi and his beautiful Chandra are enthusiastic about volunteering. Here they are working at a fundraiser for my grandson’s school.

If you decide to write to someone who mattered to you, I’d love to know about it and why…

When my baby was hospitalized…

Going through old correspondence, I found a letter I wrote to UCLA Hospital (L.A.) in 1973. My son was 18 months old and had been very ill and a patient there. I was distressed at what I saw and experienced in the children’s ward. Parents were only allowed to be there during ‘visiting hours’. (Many of us disregarded this unless told to leave.)


When I was there, I changed my child’s diapers and soiled sheets, fed him when possible and if he awoke crying, hearing my voice, he’d wrap his little fingers around mine and fall asleep again. I recall laying on the floor for one or two nights to be there for him. (One night I counted eleven parents sleeping on the chairs in the waiting room — there were no sofas.)

I walked to the nurses station
He had to go to the bathroom


The boy next door was about six and attached to an IV. He called again and again for a nurse until I went over to ask what he needed. He had to go to the bathroom. I walked to the nurses station and forwarded his request, then got busy again with my own child.

When I heard anguished crying, I went to ask what happened. He had been unable to hold it any longer and had soiled himself in bed. He was embarrassed and traumatized. At his age I can only imagine how he felt.


With parents purposely kept away, other children were neglected. One little girl across the way cried from morning til night each day. No one attempted to comfort her. She spoke only Spanish. My letter, therefore, mainly requested they rescind their policy of not allowing parents to remain with their sick children.


I made copies of the letter and mailed it to six people in charge. I never had a reply. The letter, however, did create a reaction. My pediatrician was told that my child and I were BANNED from UCLA, which was very close to our home. After that I was required to drive across town each time my little boy was seriously ill — and he was.

My pediatrician was told I was BANNED


I am pleased that since then things have changed and now parents CAN be with their hospitalized children. Did I play a role in this change? I’d like to think so, but probably not.


What’s been your experience with your own children’s hospitalizations?

COVID:19 Words for right now…

Dr.BonnieHenry

Dr. Bonnie Henry

I feel fortunate to be living in British Columbia where the number of people affected by the virus is low and we are directed by an especially capable Provincial Health Officer,  Dr. Bonnie Henry. The doctor is effective,  popular, very photogenic and gentle yet firm.

We have a Dr. Henry fan club, songs have been written for her, and because she enjoys shoes (the kind I could never afford) her favourite shoe manufacturer made a limited number of a particular pair she enjoys and sold them to raise money for charity.

the DrHenry shoe

The Dr. Henry shoe which sold like hot cakes.

Dr. Henry will be remembered by the words she leaves us with every time we hear from her: ‘Be kind, be calm, be safe’. Good advice for now…

This is a good time to think about words which can serve us well during these difficult times. (They are from a little book called ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’)

‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.’ (Niels Bohr)

Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.’ (Herbert Hoover)

‘A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.’ (Bob Hope)

BobHope

Bob Hope 1903-2003

BenjaminFranklin

Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790

‘Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.’ (Benjamin Franklin)

‘I am an optimist. It doesn’t seem too much use being anything else.’ (Winston Churchill)

‘There is no education like adversity.’ (Benjamin Disraeli)

‘A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: It would be hell on earth.’ (George Bernard Shaw)

Schulz2

Charles M. Schulz 1922-2000

‘Don’t worry about the earth coming to an end today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia.’ (Charles M. Schulz)

‘Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.’ (Lord Byron)

‘Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.’ (Voltaire)

‘My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.’ (Michel de Montaigne)

A sense of humor?

Muriel2017

I’d been there before. Several times. Still, when leaving, I headed in the wrong direction. I do stuff like that — very often.

Andrew and I were at a local hospital where I’d had an appointment with my hand surgeon. I wasn’t sure what the doctor would do about that troublesome hand, so I asked Andrew to come with me ‘just in case’.

As I was leading the poor guy astray, he gently reminded me we had to go in the opposite direction.

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Andrew looking serious. (He hates taking pictures.)

‘I told you I have no sense of direction,’ I laughed, ‘You can believe it.’

‘A sense of humor is much more important,’ Andrew responded. He is SO wonderfully clever.

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Where am I???

I burst out laughing. I do that a lot. As for a sense of direction, forget it. Turn me around in my bedroom and I probably wouldn’t find my own bed.

Andrew is right. My crazy sense of humor is helpful. I had just had the doctor cracking up because I asked him to marry me. (He said he would except he loves his wife.)

Then he showed me videos of his new baby, born one day before my birthday, and his little girl. He has told me I can ALWAYS get in to see him, which is terrific for me with my  arthritic hands.

betterlaughingdr

My doctor cracked up when I asked him to marry me.

I often get great service because of my nutty humor, bus drivers remember me and smile when I climb aboard and make sure I’m seated before they restart the bus. Busy professionals try to fit me in, and, admittedly, I sometimes take advantage of that.

This year, my wonderful, caring family doctor gave ME a Christmas present! I’ve made her laugh often, but she put up with me in tears when I was very dizzy. I adore her….

During the present crisis, I’ve agreed to not be stubborn and I’m staying in because everyone is reminding me how old I am. Old?

Well okay I AM old! And I tell my loved ones I intend to stick around until the last cheque/check bounces!

Appreciation for supportive friends….

Muriel2017I met Bill and Nancy Keuntje on a train in 2017. They’re a warm couple who were kind to this old lady and very worth keeping in touch with. (I think they live in New Jersey.) Bill collects miniature toys and promised to send me some — and immediately did so. He also composes beautiful music, some of which I get to listen to on my computer.

supportafriend

Support your friends when they need you

‘I’m just a blue-collar guy who’s made it to age 70 and knows but for the grace of others, I would be much worse off.’ Bill says humbly, but he’s no ordinary guy. So, during his recent chemo treatment for cancer, Bill thought about all those who gave him love and support during the harrowing experience and wrote this for all those who love and supported him:
.
maninbedAnd I don’t know what special is –

Don’t know why it is –

chemo

grateful to support during treatment

How just a moment alone or among a crowd,

Can become the why of a lifetime –

How sometimes it appears…. or just happens –

How the solitude of a whisper within a passing cloud

Can become the dominant essence that pervades and envelopes

That which wasn’t there just a thought ago –

But I do know what’s special –

The value that it holds, the power it possesses –

How it can overwhelm and dominate –

Or be the gentle note a bird might sing as glimmers of the

first light of day appear –

The first breath of a newborn today.

And I do know that it’s always there –

Impatiently waiting – biding its time –

olddoctor

Doctors know friends help

Needing to nourish – to be nourished –

Whether by a congregation of souls

Or an unknown entity X-degrees separate,

Alone and distant within the depths of a shadow

But more importantly, I know the Who –

Maybe not by name or familiarity –

Couldn’t pick it out of a crowd, for the crowd might be it –

But you are there – amongst the throngcup

As a color within a rainbow graced by its hue –

Unique as a dewdrop upon a blossom kissed by the sun.

Yes, you are special!     More so than you realize!

Yes, you are special!   More than you could ever imagine!

YES!

YOU ARE SPECIAL!!!!

You can send Bill good wishes for complete recovery directly to: bkeuntje@gmail.com

afternoon naps…

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

Hail the snuggly, comfy, fabulous and relaxing afternoon nap; that rejuvenating miracle I’ve indulged in since email came along. I toss off my shoes, puff up my pillow, crawl under my soft covers, and — ahhhh. What does email have to do with it, you ask? Listen up, email changed my life!

Years ago I worked for a local newspaper. I appeared at their offices every weekday morning, wrote on whatever subject the editor told me to, even — twice a year — fashion.

old-lady-with-walker

If we met, you’d know it was kind of hilarious

(If we met, you’d know why that was kind of hilarious.) However, I’d long ago been taught a good writer can write about anything, so I managed to think of something to write on the subject.

tiredinpm

By afternoon, my brain is barely functional

I’m an early morning person. By mid-afternoon my brain is barely functional. A nearby cafe, opened for breakfast and lunch, closed at 3 p.m. Each day at 2:30, you’d find me there buying a cappuccino.

Fueled on caffeine, I managed to survive the rest of the afternoon. (Friend Hans once added up how much I spent on those cappuccinos per year. It was a shock.)

How much I spent on cappuccinos was a shock!

Later, writing from home for several newspapers, I could email my articles to the editors. As long as I met deadlines, no one cared that I crawled into my bed after lunch

funnysleeping

No one cared that I crawled into my bed after lunch

to do what brilliant people in many countries do — take a nap. My eyes, tired of looking at my computer screen, delighted in this indulgence which, in time, became a necessity. It doesn’t even matter if I sleep or not. I close my eyes, listen to the radio, and R-E-S-T. I’ve renamed my daily snooze. It is now referred to as my ‘beauty nap’.

veryfunnybeauty

I’ve become more beautiful

 

I declare to anyone who will listen to my insanity that I’ve become more beautiful than ever.

 

I once asked my doctor about my naps. He heartily approved!

doctor

He heartily approved

Is a nap for everyone? Maybe not, but I recommend it highly, and if aging gives one any wisdom at all, just maybe I’ve accumulated a little along the way. (Ahem!) If you decide to try for yourself, let me know how it goes.

 

Am I too sane to write really well?

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

The other day I attended a ‘Music in the Morning’ concert featuring pianist Pedja Muzijevic, which was not only enjoyable but, for me, particularly interesting. Am I capable of judging the artist’s talent? Of course not. I certainly enjoyed the performance and felt it worth braving the rain and windstorm that chose to hit our city that day.

Said storm created floods and hazards and made it difficult for me to obtain cabs and I got soaked. (We are, after all, located in a rain forest.)

 

pedjaMuzijevic

Pianist Pedja Muzijevic

 

On the program was Robert Schumann’s Carnaval, Op. 9.

ClaraSchumann(1819-1896)

Clara Schumann, (1819-1896)

RobertSchumann(1810-1856)

Robert Schumann, (1810-1856)

In introducing this selection, Muzijevic said something about Schumann which I’ve been thinking about ever since: ‘Schumann, being mentally ill, wrote music without boundaries.‘

(Schumann’s wife, Clara, was also a gifted composer and musician and deserves mention here.)

 

This was the first time in many, many years since I’d heard something like that. Way back in my 30s, when I still hoped to someday write the ‘great American novel’, my husband and I had a friend who was a psychiatrist. One evening when he and his wife came over for dinner, he told me I would never be a great writer because — I was too sane!

having dinner

Dinner conversation years ago

He went on to say he had some patients who were very successful authors, who were able to write things ‘normal’ people can’t. People who are sane, he continued, have something like a protective fence around their brains and they tend to stay within those perimeters. People who are not sane don’t have that barrier. This makes it possible for them to follow ideas outside where you would not dare go.

I’ve never forgotten that evening so long ago and the interesting discussion we had over dinner. This week was the very first time since then I’d heard that same idea expressed. What do you think of it?

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.

Me give up? Are you kidding?

muriel-6

Am I stubborn?

A while ago my eye specialist said my vision had diminished — new glasses would no longer help. He told me not to bother trying. The thought was devastating. I’m an avid reader. I didn’t want him to be correct.

doc letters

I didn’t want him to be right.

Did I accept that? Of course not. I made (and paid for) an appointment with a local optometrist, who has fascinating new technology, to check. I wanted him to say my doctor was wrong and I could, indeed, be fitted with glasses which would keep me reading.

He agreed with my specialist. I wasn’t a happy camper.

Rebecca 1

Rebecca and Brian in Los Angeles

Did you expect me to stop there? Are you kidding? Four friends and loved ones recently told me I’m stubborn. Well, perhaps they’re right. Perhaps there are times it’s good to be.

Brian Singer is a practicing optometrist in Los Angeles. He and his wife Rebecca are dear ‘children’ whom I often visit. It made sense to discuss this problem with Brian. He cares more about me than any other optometrist and promised to check my vision the next time I visited  — and he did.

peering over glasses

I can still read

Brian WANTED to help. He took a chance. He tried. My reading glasses aren’t gorgeous. (He suggested I use old frames to save on the cost in case they didn’t work.) However, he has managed to keep me reading since 2011. Imagine what that means to me. Hurrah! Bless you Brian!!

There are many things I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for Brian and Rebecca’s caring love and hospitality through the years. I’m grateful for Brian’s skill and knowledge and his willingness to go the extra mile to help me, that he was successful and I’m still able to read and continue to participate in my book club. It adds so much to my life.

Yes, I am stubborn. I don’t give up easily, and the friends and dear ones who so recentlyMad old ladyan-with-a-rolling-pin-isolated-on-white told me so were probably referring to my determination to work hard at recovering after hip-replacement surgery. Okay guys, you’re right. I AM stubborn. But, I’m getting stronger every day — and getting my life back. Yeah! There are times being stubborn helps.

‘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.

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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.