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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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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.

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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 –

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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 –

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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

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!

My Canada scarf in Chile..

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photo by Chandra

I’d just finished my exercise class and was feeling noble. I strutted over to my bus stop where a beautiful young couple were hugging. I asked for a hug too. (I can do silly things like that.) The young man looked at me with question marks all over his face. He hadn’t understood a word I said. That was embarrassing — for a moment. He spoke only Spanish.

How to explain or translate such nonsense? I hadn’t used Spanish in years, not that I did well with it to begin with. When daughter Susan studied Spanish in high school, she declared I spoke Spanish totally in infinitives. Did I even know what an infinitive was?

Nonetheless, between the young man’s few words of English and my terrible Spanish with French words thrown in, he got it. Immediately I was given a happy, enthusiastic hug from him and another from his young lady who wanted to join in the fun. What followed was a hugging fest.

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What followed was a hugging fest

Our trilingual conversation continued. He had spent three months at UBC researching  mining and that very night they were reluctantly going home to Chile. They loved Vancouver and Canadians and had enjoyed every moment in my beloved city. NIce….

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The Canada Scarf my friend Joe sent me

When our bus arrived, they chose to sit with me.. It was cold out. I was wearing one of those wonderful, warm scarves with CANADA and the maple leaf proudly displayed in  red. My kind, thoughtful friend Joe, who lives in Beverly Hills, CA, had sent it after I’d complained about having been caught out in that devastating, cold wind storm we had recently.

When the young woman admired it, I impulsively took the scarf off and gave it to them. Surprised and delighted, they thanked me again and then again and with delight, stuffed it into their backpack.

As for me, I love imagining the conversations this lovely young couple are having with their friends back in Chile when they tell them the story of this crazy old woman they met at the bus-stop in Vancouver who asked for a hug and gave them a CANADA scarf.

 

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My friend Joe sporting the Vancouver T-shirt I sent him

And, what did Joe think? He has a generous soul and a fabulous sense of adventure. He was just delighted and declared he’d have done the very same thing himself! Yeah!

Meanwhile, I know my CANADA scarf is busy learning Spanish.

 

****The following is another scarf story……..

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** This is the scarf which won’t let me lose it

 

To read about the scarf which won’t let me lose it or give it away, go to:

https://viewfromoverthehill.wordpress.com/2013/12/

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

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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!

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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.

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        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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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….

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!!!

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Clowning with my gorgeous ‘grandson’ Vinson