Archives

The Farming of Bones

I haven’t been to a city library since the pandemic started. For a long time, they were closed. However I’ve done very well sharing books with reading neighbours by using a little free street library a mere block away. I’ve learned they read some worthy books around here.


Stuff happens to me that never happens to other people. By sheer coincidence, after just finishing ‘The Feast of the Goat’ by Mario Vargas Llosa, a novel based on the Dominican Republic during dictator Trujillo’s era, what do you think falls into my hands?


A harrowing but fantastic can’t-put-down read by Edwidge Danticat called ‘The Farming of Bones’ about the destitute Haitians who crossed the border from Haiti into The Dominican Republic during Trujillo’s rule. Those who did struggled for survival doing the dirty and dangerous jobs no one else wanted, meanwhile suffering outright racism.


Danticat’s book didn’t end the way I wanted it to. A love story, the lovers don’t get to walk off into the sunset, get married and live happily after. If that’s what you want, it isn’t the book for you. It isn’t a pleasant story, but it reads true…

One hand washes another…

VinsonMur2020

Vinson and me

We’re having a hot spell — too hot for me. I’ve never taken heat graciously and it isn’t easier now.

Vinson, one of many blessings in my life, wanted to come over and treat me to a birthday lunch. Walking at noon in this heat??? I just couldn’t. I begged off.

‘How about I pack a little picnic,’ I suggested, ‘And we go to the park across the street and sit on a bench under a tree. You can treat me to lunch after it cools down.’

So we did that. It was lovely. What I enjoyed most was the interesting conversation we ended up having. Vinson said he learns a lot from me. (Important things like you can separate two sides of a sandwich using waxed paper. Ha, ha.)

I had to honestly respond that I, too, learn

oldlady?

Who would teach me if they didn’t?

a lot from him (and my other young friends Andrew and Alison). Who would teach me if they didn’t? Aside from showing me how to use my smart TV, newfangled telephone and new computer, they teach me current words or expressions which have changed through the years.

Judy, one of my favourite friends and also a member of our book club, brought us each a coffee mug which says ‘Reading is LIT’. I thought ‘LIT’ stood for literature.

 

Photo on 2020-07-28 at 12.05 PM

I thought it stood for ‘Reading is Literature.

 

When the youngsters visited, I showed off my new mug. They chuckled and explained that ‘LIT’ is modern slang for ‘exciting’ or ‘excellent’. Aha! I am now a well-informed old lady.

MurielAlisonMothersDay2019

That’s me behind Alison

One day, having lunch with Alison and Andrew in my neighbourhood, a local man came in and greeted me. I introduced him and after he left explained I regularly give him money — he is ‘mentally retarded’ and lives on disability. Alison said we no longer use that term, but now say such people have an ‘intellectual disability’. I’ve lived a long life and things change.

I am grateful to my young friends

Andrew20206

Hey Andrew, I don’t have a photo WITH you.

who respect me enough to help me continue to learn. Besides threading needles for me, reaching items too high for me to get to, helping with my lack of technological skills and being willing to do whatever I’ve happened to put on my ‘To Do’ lists, they help me continue to grow as a person.

Thank you Vinson, Alison, and Andrew. I treasure you…

Stuff is falling apart…

Muriel2017Things are falling apart all around me. First, I replaced my old computer, then the brand new one wouldn’t function, but you know about that already. Now there’s more happening. What’s going on??

Next to give up was my shredder.

scarfshreds

Next to quit was my shredder.

That was understandable. The poor thing served me faithfully for years. Son Rafi helped order a new one online. (In the midst of COVID:19, stores are closed.)

 

newsshred blk

Something like my new heavy shredder

It’s bigger, much heavier — and more complicated. It not only shreds in one direction, but in several at the same time. But, there’s no place to store the papers-to-be-shredded like I could in my old one. So the old shredder’s basket remains, adding more clutter in my office. Oh, well…

The latest to quit??? My toaster oven! I had one that was just that, an ordinary toaster oven. The new ones I saw locally aren’t that simple.

Photo on 2020-07-03 at 10.28 AM

Sad goodbye to old simple toaster oven

The one I bought is also a ‘Convection’ oven. (I don’t even know what that is.) It came with l-o-n-g instructions — in several languages. The printing is so small, a magnifying glass was required for me to read it. I did. By the end, I was so confused, I had no idea where to begin.

It came with several parts but I had no idea where they were supposed to go. It didn’t say. Is it a secret? It has knobs which do various things, most of which I’m not interested in. Said knobs have tiny little things written on them here and there which I can’t see anyway.

Photo on 2020-07-03 at 10.32 AM

New toaster oven: blue pen points to spot I painted with red nail polish

Thank goodness Andrew came by and set it to just make toast. After he left, I painted the spot he’d told me to use with red nail polish, because the original mark is so obscure, I would never find it. I had to tip the oven over on its side to see it. You can’t do that while it’s going.

I sure hope nothing else goes. I can’t cope with more ‘improvements’. As it is I still need to pull out the instructions twice a year when they change the time for the no-longer-new clock radio I use in my office. You can set multiple alarms and it has so many possibilities I can’t keep straight. If I were really clever, it would probably fix dinner and walk my dog — if I had one.

And, this week I’m having another birthday. Talk about falling apart. I may be next!!!

funnykady

 

Computer Crisis…

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

I already had an idea for this post. I already had chosen the images to go with it. It was just about set to publish and — my NEW computer wouldn’t work. The curser was stuck on the upper left-hand corner and no matter what I did, it refused to go anywhere else.

Hail brilliant son Rafi, he who knows all,

Rafi 028

Rafi in a vineyard

and who suggested I turn the machine off and on again. I did. It didn’t. Then, because he’s so smart, he recommended I go out for my daily walk first and deal with it later. Good idea.

When I got back, I tried again. No co-operation. It was lunch and ‘beauty’ nap time. I decided I needed fuel and rest in order to face it again so put it off. Nothing. Rafi had given me instructions. I’d written them down: ‘If it won’t work, disconnect the power and then, reconnect it and if that doesn’t do it, try turning it on and at the same time press and hold down Option, Command, p and r.’lady3

anotherI checked to see if I could reach all those keys. Well, waddaya know — I could. So I tried. It didn’t seem to respond, so just before I broke down and cried, I called Apple. (Rafi cleverly had arranged that service for me when he decided what I needed. He knows his mother.)

As I listened to classical music and held the phone, lo and behold, the computer S-L-O-W-L-Y decided to follow my directions. Yeah! Wow! It’s working even though the coloured ball initially said it wouldn’t.

I hung up on Apple. I decided NOT to cry and tried to call Rafi to tell him how brilliant he is. Just because I want him, he’s not home.

Rafi 037

Rafi and his lovely Chandra, married 15 years today

Please call him and tell him how grateful I am… While you’re at it, wish him and his lovely Chandra Happy Anniversary. Today is their 15th!

 

COVID:19 Haircut — Yahoo!!!

blongfraZZ

I need a haircut.

Today is a very special day. I’m getting my first haircut in a long, long time. My curly hair has been having a wonderful time disobeying me and making me crazy by behaving like a hormone-crazed teenager.

 

It does just as it pleases and won’t listen to me no-how. Why should it worry? I still carefully shampoo and condition it no matter what it does. Maybe I should pull it hard until the roots hurt, but that would probably hurt me more than it would the hair.

 

Never imagined I could be so excited about something

Photo on 2020-05-27 at 4.22 PM

Lynne braided my rat’s tail

so ordinary. Lynne, my stylist, will be able to make a braid with my rat’s tail and I’ll be able to send grandson Remy a photo of it. Yeah! I’m trying to act cool, but I admit to being anything but.

 

This project was front and centre when I awoke this morning. I purposely wore an old top because no matter how Lynne tries, I end up with itchy bits of hair under my shirt and tear it off as soon as I get home — unfortunately I can’t do that in the elevator. Decency requires I wait until I get into my own apartment.

frazzledcomputer

Yup, sometimes I even groan.

 

Meanwhile folks, my new computer and I are doing a careful, uneasy dance around each other. I’m trying to learn more about dealing with the confusions (plural) it throws at me. It seems to endlessly enjoy seeing me in a state of despair. Yup, sometimes I even groan.

 

Last night that technological wonder gave me a new lesson on control. Dear Andrew had found a totally different game of solitaire for me. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new challenge while I listen to ‘Ideas’ on CBC Radio. I like to do that and by my age I feel entitled to indulge.

winexompur

I could sure use that…

 

When I finally turned in, my right hand and wrist ached and complained so much I found it impossible to sleep. I’ve already had surgery on that wrist so you’d think I’d know better, but no. I still have more learning to do — about CONTROL! No more than three games at a time from now on. Wish me luck…

 

 

I want a rat tail like Remy’s…

Remy's rat tail2020

Remy’s tail

The last time my San Francisco crew visited, I teased Remy about his long braid. After admiring it, I suggested he not dare fall asleep at night because I would cut it off and glue it on for myself. He laughed. He wasn’t terrified. (I’m using his photo here with his permission.)

I had no idea it was called a ‘rat’s tail’. Why would I? It was my patient friend Celine, who made my first real braid and commented that’s what it looked like. I thought it was because my hair is grey and Remy’s is black, (like mine used to be).

Then, son Rafi told me it WAS called a ‘rat’s tail’. Imagine! I keep learning folks. Don’t we all NEED to know these things? Aren’t you glad I’m telling you?

I’m a determined sort. Ask my kids. It drives them nuts.

Photo on 2020-04-22 at 10.18

All I could do was make a small ponytail

So, I continued to let my own rat’s tail grow, but now I’m isolating because of COVID:19 and giving friends and others I love a break by not seeing anyone. I’m definitely not talented enough to make a braid for myself in the back of my head. Forget it. All I could do was make a small ponytail and hope for the best.

Photo on 2020-04-25 at 09.12 2

The lovely braid Samantha made

Then, finally Samantha visited wearing a mask, washed her hands 100 times, etc., etc., etc. but still beautiful. What a treat. She made a lovely braid for me. I loved it. The next morning, it was stubbornly curled up to the left and no way was it willing to straighten out.

Photo on 2020-04-26 at 10.49

Note the stubborn curl toward the left of photo

Want some good advice? Watch out what you wish for. You may get it AND regret it. I had straight jet-black hair and would have sold my young soul to the devil to have it curl. Well, now I’ve got what I then wanted so badly. My grey hair IS wavy. I hate it! It drives me crazy. It won’t wave the way I’d want it to. It is totally uncontrollable. Sometimes it looks like the 1920s. Oh, woe is me… I’m back to nothing but a silly little ponytail.

You mean I didn’t make you cry with this very sad tale about my tail??

Desperate measures for desperate times…

funny lady at computer

Life during COVID:19

There’s a saying: Man plans and God laughs. If ever there were truer words, find them for me.

My children live in a different country. I’ve been an avid reader forever. I’ve owned many books. I decided if I got rid of them, it would be easier for my kids when I need to move or pop off. If I decide to do something, I usually do.

I gave away books — many books.

Zhuangzi, 4th century BC

Zhuangzi, 4th century BC

Well, I’m hunkered down for the duration of COVID:19 and the libraries are closed. I’ve finished the few books waiting around to be read, so what next?

Going through my half-empty shelves, I saw ‘Zhuangzi: Basic Writings’, a textbook from a Chinese philosophy class I audited at UBC some 20 years ago. What the heck. It had been interesting, so I decided to revisit it.

FriedrichNietzche1844-1900

Nietzche, 1844-1900

What I found most fascinating were my own notes. This class had followed another I took about Western Philosophers, which included people like Freud, Nietzche, and even a contemporary well-known Canadian thinker, Charles Taylor.

 

‘Woman was God’s second mistake.’ Nietzche.

CharlesTaylor1931

Charles Taylor, born 1931

In my  notes on Zhuangzi, I’d noticed how similar  his written thoughts and those of Nietzche were, who came along hundreds of years later. Could it be? Had Nietzche read the ancient Chinese thinker and borrowed from him? Perhaps. Probably. Well, I, for one, thought so….

We stand on the shoulders of those who come before us.

xunzi

Xunzi, maybe 310 BC

 

‘The noble person uses things, the lesser man is used by things.’ Xunzi. (Actual birth date unknown.)

COVID:19 project #2 — Junk Drawer

lovethisone

Project #2

So you’ve been biting your nails, anxiously waiting to learn what you’ve always wanted to know — what I found in my junk drawer. It’s been an exciting project. I’m learning a lot during this solitary COVID-19 life, which I’m now passing on to you, my readers — free of charge!

Firstly, I was surprised at how pristine my junk

junkdrawer

looks like mine

drawer actually was. My cabinets were installed 28 years ago and it had never ever been emptied.

Here’s a hint for you: Never work with food on your kitchen counters while drawers below are open. That way, no food or crumbs get into them. (Now, aren’t you lucky to have been given this brilliant tip? Also free of charge?)

tidyup

My drawers ALL look like junk drawers

I learned that all my kitchen drawers LOOK like junk drawers and I marvel at how my loved ones knew which I was talking about when I used that term. Will they recognize it now?

It’s about a week since I neatened my junk drawer. It will take about a week until it’ll be back to it’s familiar mess. But that’s okay, I’ll then know whose kitchen I’m in.

 

Stuff I found:

Photo on 2020-03-29 at 15.23

Tin foil to sharpen scissors, rose made of wood, metal straws w/cleaning brush, and bottle opener from France

A beautiful rose made of wood (I think) by Dusty, a wood-wright who moved away. We used to have morning coffee at Benny’s, which is gone too. (Dusty follows my blog. I’m keeping it.)

Left over tin foil, to sharpen scissors. (Another tip! It really works. Cut foil with your dull scissors.)

Some metal straws with a cleaning brush, a gift from Alison. I’m enjoying one I use on my office desk. (You can’t have any, no way Jose.)

A bottle opener, from Paris, with Napoleon on one side and the Eiffel tower on the other. (Please take it.)

Photo on 2020-03-29 at 15.18

Butterfly pin, seed splitters, key chains w/lights, tea holder

A butterfly pin, given me by a friend just before she checked out for good. It reminds me of her and it’ll stay.

Two items to split seed shells, used (I think) for watermelon seeds. Chinese students’ families used to give me them because I like them. (If you know where to buy them I’ll be your best friend.)

Four key chains, with lights. Friends know I like them with a light. (Up for grabs.)

One something to hold tea leaves. I don’t drink tea and have teabags for friends. (Also up for grabs.)

bluebroom

How long will it last???

 

This most exciting post about a thrilling COVID:19 project is my attempt to help you  manage the current crisis. What next? Maybe I’ll find a way to get a hug one of these days. I miss them most of all. Stay tuned. I’ll let you know….

Learning about my computer…..

better sick comp

My computer was ill

My computer must be about 14 years old. When it was 11, it was ill and needed care, so I took it in to the Apple Store where I bought it. They do repairs, but refused to fix mine because, said they, it was over 10 years old. Obviously, if I didn’t buy a new one, Apple would go bankrupt for sure. Right? so, I took it elsewhere and it’s been feeling fine ever since.

 

If you think I know how to use everything on my computer you are absolutely mistaken. I’m not at all a technologically-gifted individual.

confused-old-lady

Technologically??

 

Daughter Susan visited. She deemed it of value to attempt to teach her maughm how to use something new –my computer’s built-in camera. It’s always been there, but has never ever been used before. It was an experience to remember.

Photo on 2020-02-12 at 19.17

The first photo. How could I resist?

 

It takes more than a little patience to teach me computer stuff, but Susan knows me well and how to keep me focused. Make me laugh and you’ve got my full attention. This Susan accomplished — in spades. She definitely had my attention after she showed me this gorgeous photo of herself.

 

Lucky you, because of Susan’s Photo on 2020-02-12 at 19.17 #2patience, you get the privilege of seeing two real beauties. Aren’t we gorgeous? Well, we sure had fun.

 

Photo on 2020-02-13 at 09.15

The thought of her leaving. (Note I was just coming out of a cold, I can see it in my eyes.)

After we howled with laughter, Susan diligently wrote down very clear instructions to leave for me.

Will her efforts bear fruit?

 

 

Look Susan. I just took this one of me in my reading glasses! Your instructions were great!!! Thank you! Thank you!  I love the idea of learning something new.

Photo on 2020-02-17 at 16.58

For you Susan. With love!

 

Porgy and Bess — the opera

Muriel2017Many important issues were covered on Broadway in those 1930s musicals — issues which society would not have been comfortable confronting in other ways. Just as comedy was, and continues to be, used to help us deal with the unbearable, musicals often presented audiences with differing views than their own. Audiences were thus encouraged to look at and rethink their own attitudes.

 

 

‘Porgy and Bess’ the first and only opera created by the famous American Gershwin brothers, was written and first performed in 1935. Unfortunately, George died of a brain tumor in 1937, so no more operas followed. The magnificent songs alone make it worth seeing, however, this masterpiece is so much more than only beautiful music.

 

Scan1 1

Eric Owens is Porgy and Angel Blue performs Bess (The Gershwins would have been pleased by the casting)

 

 

GeorgeGershwin1898-1937

George Gershwin, 1898-1937

The Gershwin brothers, whose parents

IraGershwin1896-1983

Ira Gershwin, 1896-1983

immigrated to the U.S. from Russia, like my own — for good reason, well understood discrimination, prejudice, antisemitism — and racism. For this opera, they insisted that all performers appearing in black roles, be black. This at a time when opera singers in the U.S. were white only and using white performers in black face was common.

 

Marian Anderson1897-1993

Marian Anderson 1897-1993

 

 

Contralto Marian Anderson waited until 1955 to be able to perform in a Metropolitan Opera. Before that, she performed in concerts in Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

The libretto of Porgy and Bess, set in 1920‘s South Carolina, makes a powerful statement regarding the vulnerability of the black community’s attempts at survival. All this years before Dr. Martin Luther King came along. Shamefully, the struggle still continues today.

But, if all you want are songs, Porgy and Bess has glorious songs: ‘Summertime’. ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, ‘I Got Plenty O’Nothin’, and then some. Definitely worth seeing! (I saw the Metropolitan’s Live Broadcast at a local theatre, and yes, all black roles were performed by black artists — as the Gershwins would have wanted..)