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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!

reuse-reduce-recycling-sign-s-4984

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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Reading Richard Wagamese

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

It’s Canada Day today. I’m home with a bothersome cold, which wouldn’t be nice to give to anyone so I’m alone, listening to the CBC and reading Richard Wagamese. Good, they’re talking about Canadian Literature. Since reading is one of my greatest pleasures, I’m interested. They haven’t mentioned any of our native writers yet, but they may.

Our book club has given me the gift of discovering,

Wagamese author

Ojibway author Richard Wagamese, 1955-2017

often for the first time, many writers I didn’t know of before. The books we chose to read this month are ‘One Native Life’ and ‘Embers’, both by Richard Wagamese. We

indian Horse

Indian Horse by Wagamese (now a film)

had already read two other of his books, ‘Medicine Walk’, and ‘Indian Horse’, each of which were very worth reading. (Indian Horse was made into a movie, but I haven’t seen it. I don’t like to see films based on books I’ve read. I like to hold on to it in my own way.)

We lost a special Canadian when Wagamese passed away in 2017. He was an Ojibway journalist, radio and TV broadcaster, and producer. All of this in spite of an abusive childhood and little education. (His parents were Residential School survivors.) Wagamese was only 61 when he died and certainly had more books left in him. He did, however, leave us a rich legacy. I’m now reading his ‘Embers’. Here are a few quotes from this account of his journey in learning how to live.

Embers

An easy read, yet full of wisdom

‘I am a traveler on a sacred journey through this one shining day.

Walk gently on the earth and do each other no harm.

We live because everything else does.

A gift is not a gift until it is shared.

Keep what’s true in front of you.

Freedom is letting go of bounds and barriers, and hurling yourself into the adventure of living.

Let the mystery remain a mystery.

Be filled with wonder.

Take the first step and try to make it beyond.

Shout something.’

I hope this moves you to read ‘Embers’ and then more of Richard Wagamese’s books. Enjoy!

Old lady reading

I may have a cold, but I’m enjoying my day doing one of my favorite things.

 

 

Okay, I’m brushing, I’m brushing…..

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

A while ago my grandson, Remy, asked if I had false teeth. Huh? He must have heard something about old folks and teeth. I put that kid straight right away! I, indeed, have my own teeth. However, because I have more luck than brains, I admit it may just be genetic. My roots are so long, whenever I change dentists and they see my x-ray, they comment and chuckle about my small teeth and huge, long roots. For all I know, they reach my toes! I’ll probably never lose my pearly whites.

I’m feeling lucky right now. I had a call from a friend who lost all her teeth some years ago due to gum disease. She also suffered several devastating strokes, which I had attributed to her smoking. What disturbed her most was being told, too late, that had her gums been looked after properly, it wouldn’t have happened. (She had seen a dentist regularly that she liked and felt betrayed.)

Dentalimplants

Tooth implants

She subsequently went through a time-consuming, expensive and painful process of getting implants. (This procedure may have

false teeth

Ordinary false teeth

improved since.) Later her implants became infected and had to be removed. With her medical history, she was advised to stick to ordinary dentures.

With a mouthful of fillings and crowns of my own when I was still young, I was sure I’d lose my teeth early. “Don’t worry,” my dentist said, “we can always

Dentist tooth#2

Take care of your gums

fix them — just take care of your gums.” The man was right and I’m grateful to the dentists and periodontists who have educated me and taken care of my mouth throughout my adult life.

Recently I read that gum disease may be connected to strokes and heart disease. Could it be? Was smoking not the only risk my friend dealt with? It is impossible for me to make such an assumption, still I wondered, so asked my periodontist.

“Periodontal disease,’ he explained, ‘is a bacterial infection of the gums, bone and attachment fibers that support teeth and hold them in the jaw. The bacteria are found in dental plaque, a sticky, colorless film that forms on teeth. Toxins produced by the bacteria irritate the gums and cause infection. If untreated, it can result in bad breath, bleeding gums and eventually, tooth loss. Almost half of all adults have some form of periodontal disease and may not know it.

Winking tooth

Keep me happy and I’ll help you stay healthy

“Since periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs, beginning new infections. The heart is one of the most susceptible organs. Thus, theories explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease — oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream.

“Researchers have found people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than those without. It has also been linked to other health problems, including respiratory diseases, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis and premature and underweight births. A new study of fat deposits in the carotid arteries of stroke sufferers shows that 70% contain bacteria, and 40% comes from the mouth.”

Wow! I had no idea there was so much more at stake. I’ll go brush my teeth. Okay, I’m brushing, I’m brushing….

blk:wht:I'm brushing

Okay, I’m brushing, I’m brushing…..

I thought I invented it….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

That’s how things go folks. You think you’re particularly clever and have come up with a unique and brilliant idea that no one else has ever thought of before — and you learn it’s been used for centuries. Bummer!

For years I’ve seen myself through scary, painful or difficult times by singing — aloud. The older the song, the better because then I have to work harder at remembering the words. I’ve fought my way out of my apartment step-by-agonizing-step after devastating dizziness sieges by singing. At times I’d make it as far as the elevator, but later might make it as far as the front entrance. Sometimes guys, that can be a big accomplishment, especially for a dizzy dame.

I’ve survived driving my car home (right turns only) while experiencing severe

old lady nervous in car

terrified driving when vertigo begins

vertigo by singing encouragement to myself. Want the words? (Don’t worry about copyright, use them anytime.) ‘You’re fine because you’re fine, because you’re fine, because you’re fine….’ (Use any tune you like, it doesn’t matter, no one’s judging.) It obviously worked for me — I’m still alive!

After my hip surgery last year, while five fussing nurses gathered round my bed trying to figure out how to extricate the stubborn last staple (out of 18) which had somehow formed a ring in my flesh, I sang an old kids’ song as they dug in. When they finally succeeded, they gleefully gave each other high-fives and danced about. Were they just pleased with themselves for solving the problem, or delighted with the quality of my (ahem) beautiful voice? I never asked…..

I’ve many stories I could tell you about times when my singing saved the day for me, but I won’t bore you with all the grizzly details. Suffice it to say, it has worked.

lady with earphones

Really, it works

Why do I risk making a fool of myself in front of others who are sometimes strangers? Because it works. It seems my brain, unable to double-task well, has to concentrate on the (preferably) old song I don’t remember too well. I actually believed I was the one who figured this out all by myself — that nobody else ever thought about it before. Ha.

 

320px-Louis_Gallait_-_Power_of_Music_-_

Music Therapy by Louis Gallait, Belgian artist, (1810-87)

 

Recently CBC Radio had a program about Music Therapy. I had to find out more so called on Mrs. Google. Waddaya know? It’s been used for years for relaxation, reminiscence for the elderly, physical rehab for stroke victims, plus more other physical and mental conditions than I have the space to list here. Interesting, no?

Go ahead. Give it a try. Why not?

 

Are they out to get me?

muriel-6

Are they out to get me?

It’s all Brian’s fault. He had this fabulous guide put out by Harvard Medical School called ‘A Guide to Cognitive Fitness’. I read it with interest while I was his house guest. It offers ‘6 steps to optimizing brain function and improving brain health’.

My brain still functions well enough for me to realize I need help in that area, so I was determined to put into practice some of the suggestions the brilliant people at Harvard had to offer.

It told you what to expect of your brain after 50, 60, 70, or 80. What was Brian doing reading about the aging brain? Was he just telling me I’m getting forgetful? To me, the guy was still a kid. Then I realized that while I’d been aging, so had he and everyone else. I wasn’t the only one interested in the aging brain!

Did I make it up or did it really say it was normalMom report cover for my age to lose some of your short-term memory? That gave me a sense of relief. I’m normal. I would have liked to swipe the darn book so I could show that line to everyone I know, but you can’t do that when you’re someone’s guest.

Okay, my memory ain’t what it used to was, what now? It suggests learning or doing something new. I gave that thought. What can I do that’s new, interesting and fun?

I had already started to learn about Facebook, which I think, for the most part, is the biggest waste of time. (How many photos of someone’s lunch does one need to see?) However, the wise members of my book club had encouraged me to continue, because, said they: ‘It’s good to learn something new.’ (Were they giving me a message too??)

woman_doing_crossword

I’d never done crosswords

Something new? Something I’ve never done? Ah, crosswords. I’ve never done crosswords even though I love words. I decided to try. I had a friend who used to do the New York Crossword Puzzle completely every morning. He told me you got to learn how the guys who write them think and once you did, it got easier. Aha!

I found a crossword for dummies in a local newspaper. Well, it wasn’t called that, but it was easy enough and my friend was right, I got to know the words whoever wrote them liked to use. Even someone with my brain capacity could feel clever. I WAS able to finish them, except when they cheated by using names of athletes or actors I didn’t know. (My ten-year-old grandson could be a great resource for athletes, he knows them all — in case YOU need help with those.)

I learned something else. When I couldn’t find one or two words on the crossword and left it next to my coffee cup on the table, when I got back to it later or the next day, I COULD finish it. How come? I wonder why. (If you know, do let me know. I’m curious.)

So, why am I upset? What happened to that newspaper? Why can’t I find it all this week. I’ve looked everywhere I know they usually are and they’re not there. Is it a plot? A plan to confound my brain before it’s ready to go further?

old-lady-with-walker

They won’t win

THEY won’t win, I tell you! I won’t let them. I’m a fighter. I’m going to try harder ones, the kind real people are able to do. If I can’t finish them, I’ll just write in any letters I want in the blank spaces. Ha-ha! That’ll confuse them — then if they ARE out to get me, they won’t get  the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve accomplished their mission.

Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

Persistence brings progress…

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

I’ve been working hard at recovery since I had my hip replaced in late March. Am I neurotic? Perhaps. I’m probably also one of those ‘A’ personalities who is driven.

I’m not the type to buy an Exercycle and then just use it to hang laundry on. Nor will I enroll in an exercise class and lose interest. So, I used my bike regularly about five days a week and attended both Tai Chi and ‘Joint Works’ exercise classes and never missed if at all possible until — I was in so much pain I could hardly walk (prior to this surgery).

After I got my new hip, I did my assigned exercises diligently, returned to my exercise classes before I was able to do all the moves the rest of the class did, and got back on my Exercycle before I could lift that right leg over the centre. I had to walk around the bike and get up on the left, and began with very few rotations, which I slowly built up. With time I was able to lift that right leg over the centre — barely, but it was progress. Bravo!

I love baths. My whirlpool jets are set to hit directly at my arthritic joints. The warm

drawing of woman in tub

I love baths

water is wonderfully soothing. After three months, my surgeon said I may bathe again. A dear friend came over (just in case I needed help) and I made it! If I were a drinking person, I’d have celebrated with champagne! That was a real biggie….

I hadn’t been able to travel for well over a year. Gleefully, I

Susan& Michael

Michael and Susan at their front door

planned a visit to see the new home my daughter and son-in-law had built the year before. It required two airline flights each way, but I made it! I also climbed 17 stairs (Susan counted them) to see their upper floor. Since it was my birthday while I was there, my San Francisco contingent joined us. We celebrated. It was fantastic.

SM, Spa Day

Being spoiled rotten — facial and foot massage

Everyone spoiled me. My Chandra and grandson Remy gave me a facial and foot massage. Chandra noticed I hadn’t trimmed the last three toes on my right foot. True. I couldn’t yet reach them and wasn’t happy with having them done at the pedicure shop. (They’re into esthetics and that’s not what I need.) My loved ones took care of that too.

Hamming it up

Hamming it up

After my return home, now and then I begin to feel, in spite of my continued hard work, I haven’t made any new progress. Then something happens. One day I discovered I WAS able to reach and trim those three toenails on my right foot by myself. It was so exciting, I sent an email to my kids to give them the news. This too was a biggie.

Little by little, I keep increasing my exercises, and now and then I get a new or unexpected reward. I’m now up to 4:20 miles per seating on my bike, and am doing 70 steps each time on my stepper. I continue attending exercise classes, and my loyal pedometre counts my steps when I walk each day. I’m building them up too.

I’m not done with little miracles yet. When I bathed yesterday, I was able to get into my higher-than-average tub without using my arm to pull my right leg up and over. Yeah! Another step forward….

Why am I telling you all this? So you won’t ever give up.

Joys of new motherhood

Mom, look I'm telling you 2

photo by Susan Kauffmann

Today women are talking openly on CBC radio about feeling overwhelmed and exhausted as new moms. They’re also speaking of isolation and boredom. We didn’t dare say so when I was young, but it was real for me. They’re now suggesting an app to help moms find others in the same boat living nearby. Maybe, but that wouldn’t have helped me.

When I became a mom, I’d been working at an interesting, challenging job. We were ‘expected’ to leave when pregnant. I did. What a shock awaited me — no one told me how tough it was to be a mom, or how much I’d miss adult conversation.

If baby slept, I was afraid she was dead, if she cried, I knew there was something terribly wrong. I fed, changed, checked and bathed her, and washed diapers. (Disposable diapers didn’t exist) I was exhausted, but the worst of it was — babies aren’t great conversationalists.

My husband suggested I attend a ‘Coffee Klatch’ some of the young mothers in our circle attended. I was desperate. I tried and failed miserably. In those days doctors didn’t encourage breastfeeding, so I diligently packed bottles of formula, diapers, bibs, extra baby clothing, and goodness knows what else — 15 pounds of stuff, 10 pounds of baby. I lugged baby in her carrier and everything else out to my car and off we went. (My children would have a heart attack at the lack of safety available at the time for transporting infants in cars.)

None of us were homeowners. Apartment buildings in L.A. often came with buzzers outside, where your mail was left. Seeing some right there, after buzzing, I carried it in.

“Oh, no!’ our friend cried ‘Jeffrey doesn’t like me to pick up the mail.’

Jeffrey was one of those brilliant men who marry simple women. (That’s interesting in itself.) He didn’t like her to pick up the mail?? He didn’t TRUST her to pick up the mail. She ran outside to replace it immediately. (I could never forget that?)

 

group moms:babies

Looking for a giant headache?

Looking for a giant headache? Try four mothers having coffee

crying baby

If mine was quiet, another screamed

accompanied by four infants. Migraine guaranteed. When my hellion on wheels was quiet, another screamed and/or required attention. When mine wailed and set off a storm of crying, I felt guilty. It’s not rational, but when have I ever been rational?

Following the conversation over the constant noise was beyond me. I missed much which was no great loss. What did they talk about? The best way to wash diapers and how to make spaghetti sauce (the use of the word ‘pasta’ came later). Surprise, surprise. It was the last ‘coffee klatch’ I attended.

I couldn’t take a class because we couldn’t afford a babysitter. What to do? I needed something or I’d go mad. I called the accountant who worked for my former boss, asked if he’d help me find a part-time job. He did. It wasn’t the most delightful of environments, being a locked facility for people with dementia, but I dressed like a real person and went to work two days a week and earned enough for the baby-sitter.

A plus: I learned patience and understanding. I even smiled and thanked the resident who carefully placed her urine sample next to my sandwich on my lunch tray. She was part of what saved MY sanity.

Have you seen my scarf?

She helped save my sanity

We are all different and have different needs. If meeting with other young moms and babies is for you, more power to you. However, be aware it doesn’t make you a terrible mother if you find, as I did, you need time away from your little one.