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No gifts please….

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As a child, I never had a birthday party. Not that my parents didn’t allow it but because I

clown

I once made a clown costume

wasn’t comfortable about having one. To me, it felt like ASKING for presents and that embarrassed me. Instead, I became known at school for throwing annual Halloween parties — costumes required. It was great fun.

  1. At that time none of us knew you could buy ready-made outfits. Maybe
    tutu

    Lois wore her tutu

    they didn’t even have them, who knows. We all made our own using crepe paper, sewing the seams by hand. You did have to be careful how you moved, they tore easily. It was also a good idea to wear clothes underneath — just in case. Lois was the only one who took ballet lessons, she always wore her tutu and would dance for us. If I recall, her dancing improved some each year.

Muriel Age 60

My 60th invitation, a crazy hat party

At 60, I decided it was time to celebrate the day I was born. I invited friends to help me enjoy the event at a restaurant lunch where one looks out at the water. What to do about gifts? Daughter Susan made my invitations which stated I had enough ‘stuff’, therefore ‘no gifts please’.

The years flew and 70 came along. My children insisted another celebration was in order. Again, we stressed ‘no gifts’.

Occasionally we gain a little wisdom with the years, and when 80 came along last year, I agreed with my offspring another party was appropriate. To reach the venerable age of 80 is certainly worth celebrating. However, this time I asked friends and family to make a donation to my favorite charity instead of a gift. They did. It was extremely pleasing to know more was donated in my honor than I could possibly have afforded to give on my own.

This year my family gathered at Michael and Susan’s home in Nevada. It was the best birthday party yet — made even more so by Joe, a dear Los Angeles friend who began our day by having bagels, smoked salmon and cream cheese, along with a big Happy Birthday balloon, delivered right to our door high up in the mountains.

We celebrated all week and while we were together visited Virginia City where we posed for the photo below. Note the funny faces we all purposely made for the camera. We had a ball and laughed a lot. I am the ‘Madame’ sitting in front, holding a large money bag.

Virginia City Family Photo Framed, 6-5-17

The clan gathers for my 81st. I still enjoy wearing a costume

Celebrating a birthday? Have everything you need? Don’t want friends or family to spend money on gifts you don’t want? How about it? Suggest a gift to your favorite charity instead. Non-profits are struggling. Why not make the one you like best benefit by your special day?

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

Upon Turning 80

Mom, thinking 2

photo by Susan Kauffmann

I have found whenever I do something to just be a good person, I get back much more than I ever give. This is exactly what happened when I sent Joseph Tresser some information about vestibular disorders because he suffered with dizziness a few months ago — I know how scary that can be.

Little did I realize how much he would help ME get through a challenging, painful period in my own life. With wisdom and knowledge, encouragement, and a wonderful sense of the ridiculous, Joe helped see me through the long wait for and actual hip replacement surgery. His help has been invaluable.
Joe sent me this and gave me permission to share it with you.

MY GOAL IN LIFE — UPON TURNING 80

Joseph Tresser

Joseph Tresser

By Joseph Tresser

Having experienced ups and downs

Over many years

On a rapid train through many countries

From revolutions to hurricanes and shaky earthquakes,

I developed a simple formula enriching

‘My Goal in Life’ which states:

‘Live young, have fun, and arrive at your final destination

As late as possible

With a big smile on your face

Because this would mean

That you truly enjoyed the ride.’

You can’t go wrong, especially so

If you have made many good friends

Along the way.

Shall we dance?

susans-sculpture

daughter Susan’s wood wall sculpture she claims was inspired by my love of dancing

Joseph Molnar was a charming and debonaire, well traveled continental, who had lived in and traveled to many countries — and loved many women. Born and raised in Hungary, he studied in France and, besides Hungarian, spoke English, French and Spanish fluently, and perhaps others. My husband, a Parisian, first met Joseph on a train in France.

Religion was extremely important to Joseph. He loved and enjoyed them all. As a Catholic, he attended Catholic, Protestant and Jewish services — and did so regularly. They could be in French, Spanish, English, or Hebrew — it didn’t matter. The first time I met him, by then in his mid-sixties, which I thought ancient, was at such a service.

He sat me between himself and my husband-to-be, and said: ‘A rose between two thorns’. A line, perhaps, but a young woman doesn’t forget something like that.

ilona-massey-02

Hungarian actress Ilona Massey.

Joseph called himself a bachelor, but had lived with a woman in Mexico for 20 years. I argued that anyone who had done so could no longer call himself a bachelor. He’d laugh, but never talked about her or any of the women in his past. I learned by chance about one special love.

sticks-better

Silver candlesticks, unpolished

In helping him move from one apartment to another, (to across the street from our home so we’d be closer) I came upon a lovely, very old pair of ornate, silver candlesticks. They were tucked away in a drawer and hadn’t been used or polished for years.

‘They’re too lovely to hide,’ I said, ‘I’ll polish them for you. They should be on your dining table where you can see them every day.’

single

A little more detail

That’s when he told me he had had an affair with the actress Ilona Massey’s mother in Hungary and she had given them to him. Ilona Massey was such a beauty, I can only imagine how beautiful her mother was in her youth.

The following Mother’s day, Joseph came across the street with a greasy, brown paper bag under his arm in which he carried those precious candlesticks as a gift for me. I still treasure them. (I’ve been advised not to polish them any more– that it rubs off the artistic details.)

Joseph was the sole male member of several Hungarian, French, or Spanish ladies’ church groups. He would be sure to ask every member to dance with him at their dinner-dances.  No wonder they loved him.

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Dancing with Joseph

My husband had two left feet, but Joseph could dance to anything. We did the Csardas at Hungarian dinner dances, and the rumba, tango, Viennese Waltzes, or what-have-you at other times. The two of us became a team, and even won two competitions!  I look back to those evenings with much pleasure.

My children adored Joseph and he returned

joseph-and-rafi

Rafi with Joseph at Cinco De Mayo celebration

their love. He had been a furrier, and had scraps of animal furs he’d give to Susan when she’d run across the street to visit. She loved the fur and Joseph. Little Rafi enjoyed going out with Joseph by himself and would climb on his lap whenever the lap was available.

So, what happened to our dear friend? He was hit by a car as he ran to catch a bus across a busy Los Angeles Boulevard. It was holiday time and he was in a hurry to get to a church  party. He died before he could leave the hospital when he was about 71. We were devastated.

Shortly after his death, the children wanted to visit ‘Uncle Joseph’ at his grave site. We did so. If memory serves, I think Susan wondered where ‘Uncle Joseph’ was and what he was doing. Rafi, about four at the time, knew and with certainty stated: ‘Uncle Joseph is dancing in heaven.’

The Most Beautiful Cat in the World

Naturally I was looking for something else this week and what did I find?  A picture of the real SHATZI, ‘the most beautiful cat in the world’. I could not resist showing him to you here. If you didn’t get to read about him in 2013, I know you will fall in love with Shatzi now, as my friend Hans did some years ago.

It’s holiday time and visitors are coming and I’m busy but still I want to wish everyone a fabulous Christmas and Hanukah — may 2017 be kind to us all.

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SHATZI, THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CAT IN THE WORLD

 

Had lunch with my friend Judy yesterday. She’s a cat person. She offers me snippets about the mischief her growing kittens get into.

Judy's mischief-makers playing innocent.

Judy’s mischief-makers playing innocent.

I get a kick out of it, especially since I have none of the responsibility. When her two felines were very little, Judy says they were called “Blur” and “Smudge” because they moved so quickly, that was all you could see of them. Now, they enjoy getting into the recycling and shopping bags, but as cat lovers will, Judy smiles while relating their latest antics.

ReadTheList

“Are you SURE it says CAT FOOD?”

My friend Hans was a cat person too. According to him, his last cat was no ordinary cat, but “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”. Hans wrote and called me regularly, so I got to follow the adventures and misadventures of Hans and his cat, Schatzi, which means “darling” in Vienna.

The pretty puss, for some reason, was homeless and showed up at Hans’s son’s house. His son already had a cat, “Kiwi”, a wife, and two little children, so Hans, who resisted for a week or so, finally told me he had to give in because “Schatzi the Beautiful” was just too lovely to be turned away. He decided that having a cat again so late in life was not absolutely and totally insane.

Truth be told, Hans never met a cat he didn’t like. On his visits to Vancouver, we would walk most mornings. Each time, every kitten we met received special attention — it was a given. I grew accustomed to standing patiently by as Hans pulled out his pocket-chain to dangle before little whiskered feline faces. They found that chain irresistible, which was probably why Hans carried it.

Hans fell head-over-heels in love with Schatzi, “the most beautiful cat in the world”, and I can attest to Schatzi’s beauty. Hans sent me a photograph to keep on my desk. He had a sleek white body accented by varied shades of brown on his ears and face; a distinctive off-centered white triangle sat on his aristocratic nose; myriad tones of brown covered his tail and legs, while he sported definite white booties of different lengths.

Not Schatzi, but  a Himalayan too

Not Schatzi, but a Himalayan too

So it happened that after some years of being cat-less, Hans became cat-more. His life changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. His calls and letters were a record of the ups-and-downs of what was obviously a tumultuous love affair. One early morning phone call from a distraught Hans advised me he was sure someone had kidnapped his beautiful cat.

“Why else,” he asked, “Would Schatzi not have come home last night?”

This was followed by a second frantic call the next morning. Hans was convinced someone had taken Schatzi. For the three days the felonious feline was on the loose, Hans was beside himself with concern. Finally, after Schatzi had apparently tired of meandering through the Hollywood Hills, the cat came back.

That was not the end of it. Schatzi was disciplined. He was placed under “house-arrest” for three whole days, which Hans felt was fitting in order to teach him a lesson. Schatzi must have learned which side his tuna was buttered on, because this daring escapade did not reoccur.

Letters reported more royal imprisonments, multiple visits to the hospital emergency ward, plus many pleasant hours with Schatzi happily ensconced on Hans’ lap as they watched soccer games together. The first emergency occurred when Hans, who had suffered several strokes and no longer had the manual dexterity he used to, opened his hand while opening a can of cat food. That bloody episode necessitated the first visit to the hospital. The hand was sewn up. This event was later repeated, but was reported to me somewhat sheepishly with an addendum of “Never-mind, it’s worth it!”

These mishaps didn’t make Hans regret his decision to adopt “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”. On the contrary, he seemed even more smitten than ever. He letters became glowing reports of adjustments made on both sides, of growing affection, intimacy and satisfaction with the relationship.

Now that both Hans and Schatzi are gone, they both remain tucked away in a corner of my heart and I remember them with pleasure — oh, and yes, I agree that Schatzi was indeed “the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world”.

The Kindness of Strangers

stranger-in-red-coat

Stranger in a red coat

A stranger in a bright red raincoat came up from behind me as I plodded across the busy intersection as fast as I could, but not fast enough — the light had already changed to red. ‘I’ll walk beside you’ she said, ‘They won’t want to hit both of us.’

My knee is mad at me so I use a walker. It helps, not only with my angry old-lady-with-walkerknee, but also with my old balance disorder, which has caused many falls through the years. (That’s why my knee is so upset.) The woman realized I was having a difficult time and decided to help a stranger. Why?

In my neighborhood, many shops have handicapped door operators which you push to open the door. Still, passersby who don’t realize that often stop on their way to pull a door open for me. My favorite morning breakfast stop has one, which occasionally isn’t operative yet if I arrive early. (The activator is above the door — I think the staff can’t reach it.) A favorite, tall fellow patron, Greg, will get up and switch it on if he sees me coming. Nice….but why?

door-operator

Handicapped Door operator

The other morning, Greg noticed my walker wheels were caked with what he thought was dog poop. He warned me about it, but I continued reading. I’m such a passionate reader, I didn’t even notice when he and his pal Garth wheeled my walker out the door, cleaned it so I wouldn’t have to deal with it later, and brought it back in. (I’m hoping they were wrong, that what they cleaned was actually ground up wet brown leaves which gather at the sidewalk cuts I have to use.) Why did they bother?

bus-driver

Bus drivers deal with some abusive riders

I regularly attend exercise classes at a community centre. I no longer drive. I use transit. How do bus drivers in this busy city who deal with mentally ill and abusive riders plus crazy traffic manage to stay so considerate? They wait until I’m seated before starting the bus. They patiently wait again for me to painfully rise and slowly back off the vehicle with my walker. (It was a bus driver who taught me that it’s the safest way to leave.)

This week I told a driver I wish I could sit on my walker on the bus. It’s higher and less painful to rise from. At my stop, she urged me to take the time to place it in a particular spot, set the brakes, and see if it would work. Not wanting to make her late, (they are on schedules) I told her I’d try it next time I rode a bus. Hey, it works. I hope I see her again so I can thank her. I’ve since used her idea twice. Why did an absolute stranger do this?

Then, the volunteer who sells coffee once a week at the center carries my coffee to a nearby table for me. It’s difficult for me to manage that and the walker — multitasking was never my thing. He says he’s not allowed to accept tips, I never ask him to do it, but he does it anyway. Why?

What makes so many strangers so kind? For one, I believe most people are inherently good. I also know that when I am kind to others, it gives ME a warm fuzzy. So it goes…..we give, we get. I am ever grateful to my wonderful caring family, to my friends, and especially those many strangers who are there for me. Warm hugs to you all!

chandra

My son’s beautiful wife Chandra who worked so very hard to plan a special 80th birthday party for me. She succeeded.

Facebook?

mom-pic-to-cropI’m a tough old broad. I don’t give up easily and I’ve always wanted to be more technologically knowledgeable. (I dare you say those two words in a row quickly.) I thought I wanted to know how to use Facebook like a lot of other people do. After all, anyone who IS anyone is on Facebook, right? So, once when my son visited, I cornered him to help me and he set me up.

However, all good things come to an end and that was all Rafi had time for on that visit. After he went home, I took advantage of a very patient young friend to become more computer literate and asked him to teach me how to actually use Facebook. He tried. He knew what he was doing. I learned a little. Whatever was I thinking?

At first it was thrilling. I suddenly heard from a few wonderful people out of my

funny worried lady again

How do they know???

distant past whom I hadn’t heard from in years. That was pleasurable, but also a little scary. How did they know so quickly I was on Facebook? I would feel better if I understood more about how these things really work.

There are the many emails I now receive telling me I have 28 or 35 new notifications, or this person and that person want to be my ‘friend’. I don’t know most of them. Why would they want to be my friend? If I didn’t know me would I want to be my friend? And are they even aware that they do? I wonder…. Then, how much time does it take to view 28 or 35 new notifications? And, can I spare all that time?

Girl-dizzy

All those colours and pop ups can make me dizzy.

I also get emails telling me someone or other has posted a new photo. If i know them, I do try to go see them. Sometimes I manage and sometimes I don’t. What I too often find are numerous advertisements, many of which pop up in boxes, and so much dizzy-making colour busyness and confusion that I find myself rapidly withdrawing. It’s a matter of self-preservation. I have a Vestibular Disorder. This kind of moving visual thing can be a trigger for dizziness.

Over all, I’ve discovered, after the initial joy in finding and touching base with treasured old friends again, Facebook can mercilessly gobble up your time as well. Yes, I am retired. Yes, I don’t work anymore. Still, there are things I need to do, or want to do, or find more interesting to do with my free time.

Have you seen my scarf?

This old body of mine demands more attention than it used to.

As an ancient personage, I have discovered everything takes longer than it used to and this old body of mine demands a lot more attention than it used to. So, the question is: Do I really have time for all this?

What is your experience with Facebook? I want to know if you use it and what you think.