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Stretching a dollar can save the environment

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

My first mother-in-law liked to say she could stretch a dollar — and she could. After all, her generation lived through the Depression. Besides, before she left her native Poland as a young woman, her father was unable to meet his debts and officials came, locked up all their possessions, and hauled everything away. They were left destitute — she never forgot that.

 

I could easily please her by buying apples or tomatoes for her on sale — and telling her so. I was young. I was stupid. I thought she went too far.

 

 

kitchen curtains

She could work wonders with her sewing machine

An experienced seamstress, she worked wonders

tablecloth

A tablecloth with burns in it became kitchen curtains

with her sewing machine. When her adult sons burned holes in her cloth tablecloth, she cut them down to make kitchen curtains. When the sun faded areas of the curtains, she cut them further and made handkerchiefs.

 

I was in charge of finding clothes for her to be buried in when she died. I was embarrassed when I had to tell the funeral home I couldn’t find any underwear without patches. They were clean. They were neatly repaired, but they were patched. Well, I already told you I was young and stupid. What difference could it possibly have made?

cutemachine

I don’t have her skills

Lately, I find myself rethinking that period of my life. I sometimes think I’ve become my late mother-in-law, but for very different reasons. I can’t match her sewing skills, but these days, like her, I find myself wanting to really use things up — for the sake of the environment. She may not have considered that, but little was wasted or thrown out in her well-organized, thrifty household! She was an accidental environmentalist!

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She was an accidental environmentalist

I wonder if my kids think I’ve lost it? I take my own plastic containers along in case I’ll be taking restaurant food home. I carry used plastic bags when shopping for veggies or fruit. I use towels until they’re threadbare and then cut them down for cleaning rags. We need to create less garbage for our cities’ dumps. I reuse paper gift bags….

 

forest

I use less paper to save our forests

I make my own ecologically gentle cleaning fluid (Vinegar, Baking Soda, Water) and use it for most surfaces in my household. The backs of printed pages are fine for when I print stuff which isn’t going elsewhere — we need to save trees and forests. I also want our seas to be healthier for the creatures living in them and I want the air to be better to breathe.

Remyand me2018

Remy, taller than me and proud of it!

 

Yes, I want a lot. I have children and grandchildren I love more than anything. I want there to be a beautiful world for those who are younger to enjoy in the future. I want it for you too…..

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Remembering my brother…..

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

Daughter Susan suggested I write about my childhood. She deserves that I do. Besides, it’s time for me to write about my brother Bob. He was the firstborn and only son in a family of five kids. As the youngest, I held him in awe. If he just noticed me, I was thrilled. However, I also remember him being very funny, kind, and at times wise.

I was about five and for some reason, he decided to take me to Belmont Park in Montreal. In those days, cotton dresses were

bluedress

It was a blue dress

washed, starched, and ironed. Mine was blue. It was also stiff and itchy, but I enjoyed the feeling of the clean fabric against my skin. I got onto a streetcar with my big brother, who was taking ONLY me somewhere. It was grand….

At the amusement park, Bob probably indulged me in too many treats, took me on too many rides, and I thanked him by — throwing up all over my clean dress. I don’t believe he took me out like that again, nor can I blame him.

Bob also pulled some pranks for which he got ‘what for’ from our dad. Once when I was too young to tie my own shoes, my mom was tying them for me on my sister’s bed. I saw movement under my own bed. An ogre? A monster? Yikes!

isthatanogre

An ogre? A monster? Yikes!

I screamed in terror. It was early morning, dad was still home. Bob was pulled out from under my bed and dealt with. I still couldn’t stop screaming. That wasn’t the only time Bob got into trouble for pulling stunts adults don’t appreciate.

Our parents would sometimes catch a matinee on Sunday mornings. On the way home, mom stopped at a deli to buy our lunch. Bob babysat us while they were away. Mom had made wine. It was ready — and accessible. Bob offered us a penny or two per glass we drank. I wanted those pennies. You could buy an ice cream then with three pennies!

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Happy but too drunk to stand up

I drank wine — it was sweet. I liked it — how much I downed I don’t know. I was unable to stand afterwards. We girls were all drunk! When dad entered, I was sitting on the kitchen floor leaning against a cabinet for support. Bob was in trouble again. I believe I never collected those pennies and enjoyed teasing Bob about that for years.

Another Sunday we must have been hungry. (Maybe the matinee was longer.) Bob placed a can of Campbell’s vegetable soup in a pot of Campbellsboiling water to heat. It exploded — all over. There were pieces of vegetables stuck here and there, as well as on the ceiling, Dad, as usual, arrived home first. This time he didn’t scold. He quickly helped us clean the mess up. It was impossible to remove the orange stain from the ceiling. Nobody, as far as I know ever mentioned it to mom. Maybe she never looked up — it remained our secret.

Last year, when I was hospitalized getting a new hip, Bob passed away. It has taken me all this time to be able to write about him. I think of him so often — but now always with pleasure.

BobShirPau.jpeg 1

        Bob with my still beautiful sisters, L- Shirley, R- Pauline                           photo by Bob’s talented son Gary Rush

 

Working on my bucket list….

Bucket List: A list of things one hopes to accomplish during their lifetime.

Muriel2017

Photo by my Chandra

For years there were oodles of things sitting in that bucket of mine, but it has been getting lighter. There were countries I wanted to visit and see, and trips I wanted to make. I had promised a family of favorite students, who had returned to Taiwan, that I’d visit someday. That day kept being put off.

WuFamily.jpg

The Wu family.  Rear: Kevin, Megumi, Jason, dad Hank, front: Jennifer and Ethan the whiz (as clever as his dad)

 

 

Once I (mistakenly) thought since I was paying a visit I owed to a friend in New Zealand, Taiwan would be close by. (Shows you how little I knew.) I immediately called Jennifer in Taiwan and told her I would come to see them, but then learned it would be another eight hours tacked on to the 14-hour plane ride to New Zealand.

That was too much for me with the Vestibular Disorder I live with. Jennifer was, understandably, disappointed. I felt stupid..

 

Years passed, some of which were difficult  for me. I required a knee and later a hip replacement. (I’ve refused so far to have the other knee done, though it needs it.) Nonetheless, I’m now a bionic woman.

All those who could attend from the Wu family came to Canada from Taiwan to attend my 80th birthday celebration two years ago. That did it. I decided, no matter what, immediately after I recuperated sufficiently from the hip surgery, I’d have to get there. They certainly deserved it — plus if not now, when?

eatingourwaythroughTaiwan

We ate our way through Taiwan — lavishly.

In Taiwan, I was treated like a queen. How interesting that  you do a few little things for someone to be a good kid and you can get so much more in return. That is certainly what happened with the Wu family.

They have never forgotten anything I may have done for them years ago, and have given me back more than I ever could have given them. I, on the other hand, remember with pleasure the times Jennifer invited me to stay for dinner after the boys had their ESL lessons. They truly owe me nothing!

 

Chandra:Arthurmehotel2018

The Wu family saw to it that Arthur, their driver, took extra good care of me. (Chandra, Arthur and me outside the oh-so-ritzy hotel we stayed at)

It was thrilling to see Kevin again, whom I taught so long ago.

Muriel:Kevin2018

With Kevin, that old close feeling

We hadn’t seen each other for about 15 years. It felt as if not a day had passed, that old warmth was still there as strong as ever and I felt I could say anything I wanted to him.

He now has a beautiful wife and two young boys. The oldest, about four, seems as clever as his dad, the younger, at two, doesn’t ever walk. He only runs and must keep his mom, Megumi, on the run.

Chandra:Jennifer2018

Jennifer adores Chandra — the feeling is mutual

My Chandra, who traveled with me, captured everyone’s heart. Without her it would have been more difficult for me — I am getting older.

I’ll also owe my Chandra forever for remembering to bring coffee and the means to fix it, which she did for me every morning. (I’m addicted to the stuff.)

Jennifer adores her, and rightly so. I do too….. Son Rafi, who stayed home, gave me the greatest gift when he chose Chandra for his wife.

 

Sushiplace

Everywhere we went, we ran into friends of the Wu family. (Having sushi in Taipei)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how are YOU doing with your bucket list?

Flagrantly Flirting….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

At last fellows, I’ve got my revenge. I now have the advantage. I am able to flirt flagrantly and get some good laughs and hugs every day. As you get older, you can’t get away with that. If you behaved like me, they’d call you a dirty old man and call the cops. I NEVER get that reaction. People just smile and join in the fun.

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L A, during the 80’s. Looks like I started ‘flagrantly flirting’ long ago

Walking along the Avenue on my way to breakfast, I may see a young couple hugging and ask shamelessly, ‘Is this gorgeous guy giving out free hugs this morning?’ Invariably I get the hug and a laugh from both of them. Often enough, the three of us hug. Let’s face it, I’m no threat.

Reiner@Terra's

Reiner graciously gave me his seat at Terra’s. What better excuse for a hug with a cute guy.

My dear friend, Trudy, says she puts up with me because I make her laugh.

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Trudy, who puts up with me because I make her laugh

Daughter Susan says when she thinks of me, it is always of me laughing. (Truth be told, Susan makes me laugh more than I ever could make her do so. She is a clever AND funny girl.)

Daughter-in-law Chandra, a favorite in my life, tells me she loves to laugh with me — and we certainly do often laugh together. Chandra particularly enjoys teasing me about my frequent flirtations with waiters, which, admittedly, I am guilty of. They’re so often cute……

Waiter at Mexican Rest. & Me, SF 2013

Dinner with kids at Mexican Restaurant. Well, isn’t he cute?

Flirtingwaiter

Dinner in S.F. with kids. Chandra and I laughed our heads off.

How can I resist cute waiters???? There are many more I’ve hugged and don’t have photos with. My Chandra was present and so took these while she laughed and teased me.

 

 

 

 

No one is safe when I’m around.. I joke with employees on trains or at airports.

Muriel and boyfriend on train, 2013

A new friend on the train

Today’s airports are intimidating for everyone, however, since my vision isn’t what it used to be and my relationship with computers is tenuous, I really do require help. I ALWAYS get it. When I spot two or three male employees together, I’ll approach and tell them I’d like the handsomest to help me. They laugh. They all offer their assistance.

As a result of this nonsense, I get many smiles and the very best of service everywhere.

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Greg, who makes me laugh more often than just about anyone.

So many people add so much to my life!!!

Vinson and me

Clowning with my gorgeous ‘grandson’ Vinson

Fun on the bus

Muriel2017

Photo by my Chandra

On the way to my exercise class by bus yesterday, when I disembarked, the driver unbuckled his seat belt, got up, carried my walker down to the sidewalk and offered me his hand to step down as if I were a very special personage. What did I do to deserve such special treatment? Give him an expensive present? Offer him a mocha-latte? Nothing like that. All I did was make him laugh!

As the first to climb aboard, because those of us waiting were all female, I jokingly told him this was his lucky day since he was so

busdriver,jpg

It’s easy to get him to smile

gorgeous, we lovely women had especially gathered to get on HIS bus. He laughed. The women laughed. Then unexpectedly, a few more females arrived in time to get on too.

‘Oh, look,’ I continued, ‘The word has gotten out already. Throughout the neighborhood they are passing the news around. More beautiful women want to ride with you!’

passengerssmiling

Merriment ensued

Merriment ensued. Others joined in the fun and the woman sitting in the next seat chatted with me as if I were an old friend. Amazingly, her sister-in-law is in my exercise class! Waddaya know…..

In my neighborhood, people wait politely for buses, but when they see me approaching with my gray hair and walker, they’ll invariably move aside to let me on first. I thank them and climb on to advise the driver they do this not because I’m older but because I’m so beautiful — we all chuckle.

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Drivers can have a hard time with some passengers

I take the same buses at the same time each week to regularly attend classes, so some drivers have already become friends. One recently told me he was being transferred to another line and would miss me, but added: ‘I’ll be back in the winter. Look for me.’ I certainly will. He is very thoughtful and kind to me.

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some passengers fight their own demons

Bus drivers often have a hard time with passengers who are ill and/or unreasonably difficult. Even I’ve been frightened by some who fight their own demons. I handle it by staring out the window, afraid to even look in their direction. Some can be drunk and argumentative. Our bus drivers are forced to deal with all of it. They deserve a break.

Here’s to the bus drivers of our city whom I find very helpful, considerate and caring. Let’s all treat them well.

 

Muriel’s Metamorphosis

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

Last night, I went to bed. I was me. My ordinary self. All was well. I snuggled into a comfortable space and took a deep breath. It had been a busy day. I turned the radio on. I like to listen to it when I go to sleep. All was set for an ordinary night’s sleep. Ahhh….

Muriel, probably 19:20 yrs. old

The night before

The next day I awoke. What happened? Where were my arms? They were around here somewhere. I opened my eyes and looked around. Ah, there they were. They reluctantly moved over, obviously still tired. They had been dancing.

happygirlarms

The arms had been dancing

I tried to place those arms where they belonged. One ought to be able to do that. But it isn’t that simple. There is a right arm and a left arm. The flesh had been firm the night before. But, if there had been a breeze in my room, these began to look like they would flap about.

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka, why would he visit me????

I couldn’t stop there. I needed my legs. They were here when I went to bed. This was getting too weird. Was Kafka visiting me from his grave? And why? I looked around. There were a few sets of legs to choose from. They just lay there waiting for an invitation to join me. I don’t usually give invitations before breakfast, but this was an unusual occasion, so I chose a pair.

‘Would you two legs kindly move over and join me?’ I asked tentatively. Was that MY voice????

They looked around doubtfully and conferred before making a final decision. Since no one better was hanging around, the two closest to me decided I was the best they could do at the moment. Where these legs will go tomorrow, I have no idea. Be aware. They may choose your bed instead….

Just last night, I was young and strong. I felt invincible. My skin was smooth. I had no wrinkles. After those legs settled down I dragged my new body (including arms) out of bed to wash my face.

old woman in mirror

The strange lady in my mirror…

There was this strange lady in my mirror who had never been there before. Who was she? And why was she hanging out in my bathroom? Didn’t she have a place of her own to wash up in the morning? Poor thing. One can’t throw an old lady out so early in the day — before breakfast yet.

I dragged that old woman into the kitchen with me. What else could I do? I prepared enough coffee and toast for both of us. What would you have me do? Perhaps I made a mistake because now she won’t leave. She keeps hanging around and her face looks at me from every mirror in my apartment.

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She’s opinionated

However, there is one compensation. I’m never without company. Sometimes she even has interesting things to tell me when we chat. She’s kind of opinionated.

 

Write to a special teacher…

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

Once upon a time, in sixth grade, we were introduced to Shakespeare.

three witches in Macbeth

The three witches in Macbeth

Our teacher, Miss (sounds like) Merovitz, taught Macbeth. She acted out the roles as she read aloud — she must have known the play by heart and obviously loved it. I was mesmerized. The woman turned me on to Shakespeare. Much later, I thoroughly enjoyed his work and Macbeth remains my favorite.

In junior high, we had a class called ‘Music Appreciation’. Mr. Hopper, our teacher, played recordings of classical pieces for us and at exam time, we were expected to recognize the piece and know who the composer was. (I made up words to the music which helped identify which piece was which. It worked.) One

Modest Musssorgsky, 1839-81

Mussorgsky 1839-81

was ‘Night on Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky, another, ‘Fingal’s

Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-47

Mendelssohn 1809-47

Cave Overture’ by Mendelssohn. (By the way, I highly recommend a fascinating book called ‘Mendelssohn is on the Roof’ by Czech author Jiri Weil — a fascinating read.)

 

Jiri Weil 1900-59, Czech author

Jiri Weil 1900-59

Was Mr. Hopper an especially, exciting teacher? Absolutely not. He was a bore — in retrospect probably a shy man who played piano. However, he received ten tickets to the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of Saint-Saens’ Sampson and Delilah. Why he chose to give ME one, I’ll never know. Montreal didn’t have an opera house then. Undaunted, the Met performed at the Forum, a hockey arena. My seat high up in the bleachers wasn’t too high for me to be enchanted. I’d never seen or heard anything so beautiful. To this day, merely two of the first notes of that gorgeous aria are enough for me to recognize it. (Mr. Hopper would be proud indeed.) I’m sure I thanked him for the ticket, but that would have been all. I had no idea what an important role opera would play in my later life.

This October, for the first time since I saw this performance so many years ago, I will see it again. The Met is doing Sampson and Delilah. I’m excited. I’ll be in my seat at my local theatre on a Saturday morning watching, listening and enjoying.

Camille Saint-Saens

Saint-Saens 1835-1921

At the time, we held teachers in awe — like one step down from God. I certainly didn’t feel they would be interested or care about my reaction to anything. Besides, it was many years later, after my children were grown, that I was finally able to find the time to attend performances. Only then did I realize the gifts these two teachers had given me so long ago.

Things have changed. Teachers are now more approachable, students have easy access to email and can more easily send notes of appreciation to teachers who are special in some way. My son, Rafi, teaches high school. He receives notes and letters from students, former students, and parents who want him to know how much they have appreciated him. I know how much it means to him and love that it happens. So, if a teacher has been meaningful in your life, do take the time to let him/her know.

 

photo from newspaperRafi

Rafi, teacher of the year, 2012

Okay I’ll brag. I’m a proud mom. Rafi was nominated ‘Teacher of the Year’ in 2012 out of 5,000 teachers in the county. The guy was born to teach. He profoundly cares about his work and his students. He’ll probably be annoyed with me for doing this, but do watch him at it in the short video below taken during a student walkout at his school where an unpleasant racial incident occurred right after Trump was elected. Go, Rafi, go!

To see him at it, click below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5Z5ePJSVtrBSTBxb3BMam9zeGs/view?ts=58572979