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Friends are the family we choose….

Muriel2017You’ve been inundated of late by posts about visits to and from my real family. They’re in the U.S. and I’m in Canada. Their voices on the phone are enough to give me a warm fuzzy. I’d love to have them nearer — however I believe parenting requires us to allow our children to go wherever their lives take them.

I’m still surrounded by a loving CHOSEN family — and each and everyone of them is precious as well.

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Me, Rebecca and Brian celebrating my birthday (private joke)

It all began, I believe, with Brian, who lives in L.A. Lunatic that he is, he decided to adopt ME as a mother. His wife Rebecca qualifies as family because I know her since she was born and was always drawn to her. Brian is very funny and manages to make me laugh out loud with his clever emails.

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Amy

 

Amy, my Chinese daughter, is more than a blessing. She loves and allows me the honor of being her ‘Canadian’ mom. No daughter could possibly be more devoted, caring and helpful and always there for me. I am also very proud of Amy and all she has accomplished on her own since she moved here.

 

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Samantha and me celebrate my 80th

For about 18 years, beautiful Samantha has been a close and important addition to my home-made clan. After surgery, she came by to be sure I could make it in and out of my bathtub on my own. I made it! That was us you heard celebrating that achievement. Samantha is always willing to be helpful and loving. Like a daughter? Absolutely. Yes, good hugger too.

 

Mom pic, Vinson

Vinson, looking serious, but he’s lots of fun

Then, there’s Vinson — proof you always get more than you give. I met Vinson because I volunteer in my community. He decided that since I already had a Chinese daughter, he ought to be able to be my Chinese son. No way! Vinson’s too young for that, so we settled on him being my Chinese grandson. He’s finishing his studies and is really a hoot even though he’s pretending to be very serious for this photo.

 

 

Vinson’s pal Andrew came into the picture and became part of our ‘family’.

Mom pic, Andrew

Andrew knows a lot about technology — thank goodness

Andrew knows a heck of a lot more than I do about many things, especially technology. (Thinking about it, so do they all!) If you ever come over, try to get a hug from this guy. He gives the greatest! What can I say, love spreads like the flu — another wonderful grandson. He too chose to pose very seriously for this photo, but he knows how to smile.

 

 

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Alison took this photo of us around Mothers Day this year

Alison is very special. I’m delighted to have found her. I didn’t have a granddaughter and now I do.  Alison didn’t have a grandmother and, lucky for me, was willing to become a member of our CHOSEN family.

Each and every one of these wonderful young people bring joy and laughter into my life.

Nor does any of this diminish my love for my very own children and grandson. They are also well-loved and I’m sure they know it. Because they love me, they are glad to know I’m never lonely.

 

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Precious memories….

Mom and Remy, SM

I fell in love with him the moment I saw him

Sometimes I have to admit nature figured a few things out right by giving children to young adults rather than to their elders. Occasionally one reads about some woman somewhere who decides to have a baby at the age of 60. All I can say is rocks of ruck lady, it won’t be easy.

When I think of raising my children, I’m amazed I survived all the challenges — illnesses, sleepless nights, accidents, traumas and everything else parenting requires. Besides these, think of the wear and tear parents endure attending to their off-springs’ intellectual and moral development. How did I manage? And, could I do it now?

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A favorite photo of little Remy

Yes, I love my grandson with all my heart. He’s definitely worthy of my love and surely,

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All photos of little Remy are favorites

as the grandma in a Turkish series on Netflix often says to her grandson, I would die for him. Still I didn’t do much babysitting. I would have liked to, but wasn’t physically up to the task by the time he came along. The few times I did, I worried because….

My children live in a home with about 30 rather steep stairs to climb. I deal with a vestibular disorder which causes imbalance and dizziness. I once watched him (he was an infant) so my son and his Chandra, as new parents, could get out for a rare dinner alone together in the neighborhood. I worried. I’m good at that as you know.

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2017,taller than me already

What’s if there was a fire? How would I get my precious, little grandson, asleep in my arms, down those stairs? I devised a complicated plan. I would place him on the floor at the top of the stairs, sit on the top step, take him back into my arms, and bounce down on my bum one step at a time. I don’t know if it would’ve worked, but it made me feel better. It was never tested thank goodness!

Many of us, as we age, live with a common condition — arthritis. Babysitting with this active, clever child when he was little required the playing of games. When he was about three, he seemed to have the wisdom of a sage. Did he know I was hurting?

He had just been given a new little suitcase, so we played going on vacation. We walked around and around the kitchen counter in opposite directions, he dragging his empty suitcase, with both of us declaring ‘See you later alligator.’ whenever we passed each other. The next time, the greeting was changed to ‘In a while crocodile.’ We laughed a lot. Afterwards, I was exhausted. I’m not sure if he was truly amused, or just babysitting me.

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2018, much taller than me

When my son Rafi was about 14, he’d come up behind me as I cooked breakfast on the stove, give me a morning hug and rest his chin on my head. Remy can’t wait to be able to do the same. He’s rapidly getting there.

Yes, Remy, like that grandma in the Netflix series, I WOULD die for you!

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.

 

 

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She could work wonders with her sewing machine

An experienced seamstress, she worked wonders

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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?

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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….

 

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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.

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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…..

Where does my time go?

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy

Where does my time go? Have you see it around? I’ve been looking

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Where does my time go???

everywhere for it — even checked under my bed. These days everything seems to take longer. My undeveloped brain thinks I’m capable of doing oodles of things, but my body won’t cooperate. This became especially clear when I decided I ‘should’ get rid of ‘stuff’.

Friends complain about having to dispose of too much junk when elderly parent/s pass away, so I decided to be kind to my beloved offspring and throw out what I don’t need now. My office shelves seemed the perfect place to start. Spotting the many brochures and papers saved from numerous trips abroad I decided to start there. Have I ever looked at them? No… so okay. ‘Out, out damned papers!’ I declared aloud, trying to sound like Lady Macbeth when she tried to wash the blood from her hands.

The project was terrific. It felt noble — and what fun to look at all those souvenirs before tossing them into the recycling. Then, behind one envelope, I spied a stack of annual appointment calendars from the years 2,000 to 2,005. As a self-employed individual then, I kept detailed records in case Revenue Canada decided to audit my return. These could go too. Hurrah! It felt so good until….. I decided to look at those pages before tearing them up.

How did I manage to do all those things in one day — day after day? How could I have breakfast with a friend, manage an audition at 11, attend a business meeting at 3, and attend a theatre performance the same evening? Or, meet a friend at an art exhibit in the morning, study my lines over lunch, and get to a shoot by seven? I ran from one thing to another and on to yet another.

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Our wonderful book club still meets monthly

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Frida Kahlo, self- portrait I saw at our local gallery

These records go back 18 years. What a merry-go-round I lived on. No wonder I’m tired today. I was writing, had constant deadlines; I was acting, with auditions to prepare for and/or lines to study for performances; I covered the arts in one of my columns, so visited museums and attended live performances; I was on our Strata Council and active in the building; my wonderful Book Club was already happening and our monthly meetings were held at my place (they still are — we’ve read over 200 books together).

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Constantly facing deadlines for columns

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An hour to make me look older???

I noted that I attended a Film Festival in Palm Springs. A short film I co-starred in was  included. I didn’t look old enough for the part, so the makeup artist spent an hour each time to make me look older. Ha! On top of everything else, I kept up with having breakfasts, lunches and/or dinners with friends, many of whom I love and who are still in my life.

 

Yikes, I’m tired just looking at those pages full of stuff I used to do. These days I try to limit my obligations to one or two per day and feel lucky to make it. However, since my brain has never grown up, I continue to plan all kinds of household tasks to be done in one afternoon. Somehow, I rarely accomplish them all. What happened to all that energy? Where did I lose it? Have you seen it anywhere?

What patients need to know….

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photo by daughter Susan

Attention Medical pros: What patients need to know….

I should be getting a new hip this month. I’m better prepared than I was six years ago when I had a knee replaced. My lack of knowledge then led to a disaster of an experience. After that debacle, I declared it would be over my dead body I’d ever go through something like that again.

The medical profession sees gray hair and presumes you’ve had numerous hospitalizations and surgeries, and taken dozens of medications and you know all there is to know about hospital procedures and what your rights are and what is usually done. I hadn’t — and didn’t know a thing.

When did you last visit your doctor?

Vital information was not passed on

I had the audacity to presume that questions I answered recorded by a young doctor in my surgeon’s office would be passed on to the necessary recipients of such vital information — like my allergy to sulphites. It wasn’t. My surgeon promised he would not allow me to be sent home, where I’d be on my own, because of my vestibular disorder. The nurse in charge said ‘He has no say in the matter.’ I was discharged. I came down with a severe, long siege of dizziness and nausea the very next day. It was horrible.

Never having been hospitalized in Canada for more than one night, I didn’t even know I had a menu choice for meals, terrible as they are reputed to be. No one told me. I was served rice every day for five days.

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Rice every day? Not a happy camper.

I like to learn all I can, and had gladly attended information sessions regarding living with arthritis at the hospital. We were advised to use Tylenol for pain, so I did, but had no idea special Tylenol for arthritis, (stronger dose) existed until a friend told me about it some years later. Why didn’t they tell us while they were at it?

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Your surgeon has no say in the matter

I’m not a shopper. I have little patience in stores. I just head to what I want and buy it. Not for me the wandering up and down aisles to see whats on the shelves. I’ve got things that interest me more to do with my time.

I’m writing about this now with the hope some medical professionals will read it and realize that not every gray-haired old woman has had major surgery before, or knows about hospital procedures and medications.

I hope I’m better prepared this time. Wish me luck.

It’s official, I’m the shrimp in the family

Mom, look I'm telling you 2

photo by daughter Susan

It isn’t fair. Why would I, short as I am, have a son over six feet tall whose nine-year-old son already plays basketball and is the tallest kid in his class?

On their recent visit, it was bandied about that Remy (grandson) is taller than me. Huh? ‘No way!’ I argued. (I know how to argue, I was on our high school debating team.) The day before they left for home, they had the two of us stand head to head to see. I stretched as high as I could, and little was said until…..

I was better to him than you were

I was on our high school debating team

After safely back in San Francisco, son Rafi emailed me the proof. They had a photo showing Remy is, indeed, taller. Wisely, Rafi waited until he was safely home and far away from me to send it. I may have thrown something at him if he was close by when I first saw it. I’m still recovering. However, I’m afraid it’s official, I’m the shrimp in the family.

Chandra, my very thoughtful daughter-in-law, decided since I’d been dealing with knee pain, what I could use was a spa treatment. She arrived well equipped for the job. She and Remy worked together to give my son and me facials, plus wonderful foot and hand massages.

Chandra and Remy, the two ‘experts’, had decided I should recline in my recliner for my spa treat. Real people recline in recliners, but I had never done that before. Ordinarily I just raise the leg-support to ice my knee, but never lean back.

Meanwhile, Rafi, lying on a pillow on the floor for his own spa treatment, pulled out his cellphone when I wasn’t looking and took the following photo of me without my consent or knowledge.

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Being pampered — hand massages

I tried to be cooperative. You’d cooperate too if someone offered to spoil you rotten — and I have to admit, mother and son did a fantastic job of it. (They could go into business.) So, I tried, I really did, but had difficulty keeping the back of the recliner down. It kept rising on its own — poof –as if by magic. This led to much merriment and laughter and Remy had the additional job of pushing it down again and again.

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Next morning I was reluctant to wash my face

First thing the following morning, dressed in the bright red robe Chandra bought for me, I was reluctant to wash my face — it felt so wonderfully good. That was when the kids probably took the photo that shows the painful truth — that I AM the shrimp of the family.

After the kids left, I was down in the laundry room chatting with my neighbor Mike, ordinarily a nice guy, who suggested the reason I couldn’t keep the recliner down was that I’m too short! Argghhh….

 

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The painful truth? I AM the shrimp of the family

I should have worn high heels!

The Kindness of Strangers

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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?

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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?

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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!

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