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A winter wonderland….

balcony

That’s my Inukshuk pretending he’s a snowman

It’s below zero and very cold out. It snowed. Then it snowed again. And now, it’s snowing even more and the wind has decided to join the fun and play ring-a-round-the-rosy.

Huge snowflakes wiggle seductively this way and that like pole-dancers looking for a lap to land on. They rudely push each other about until they find a spot that feels good.

 

They’re careful as they create perfectly fitting marshmallow tops to cover the pots on my balcony. Maybe they’re concerned about my baby garlic plants growing under their white covers. Is that why they work so hard to knit their puffy blankets?

 

Bird

My neighbor Wayne filmed this beautiful bird, a Towhee (I’m told)

 

Jerry, my Inukshuk, who lives under my miniature tree thinks he’s back in the Arctic. He’s playing peak-a-boo with me and pretending he’s a snowman. He thinks I don’t know who he is, but I’d know him anywhere — silly guy. At least he’s wise enough to wear a warm, white cap on his head to keep his ears warm.

 

big tree

looking north from my window

The Northern mountains have been gone for days. They probably went south to visit my friend Joe in Beverly Hills, where it doesn’t snow at all. And who can blame them? They’re not used to this extra cold weather , especially without our beautiful clouds to wrap them in their arms. What the heck, why stick around?

I’m inside for the duration. Schools and universities are closed, my exercise classes are cancelled, flights aren’t going anywhere and the ferries aren’t running to the islands. Our buses are slipping and sliding on the icy streets and can’t make it up the hills, while those brave enough to drive, are often ending up in ditches. None of us are accustomed to this kind of weather and we aren’t equipped for it. People like me are wisely staying in to avoid falls.

 

After opening my balcony door for my good neighbor,

Wayne's table

A marshmallow on Wayne’s table

Wayne, who took these photos, I can’t get the darn door to close properly. (Don’t worry, I’ll work on it.) And, didn’t Wayne do a fabulous job? He also went shopping for some of us who needed help. (I needed milk.)

I’m not bored. I’ve taken care of a lot of things which needed attention inside my apartment. It makes me feel so noble. So, in spite of everything, I look out the window and wonder at the beauty of it all.

It is, indeed, a winter wonderland….

Idiomatic idioms..

Muriel2017Having taught some poor souls struggling with the complexities of the English language, I know what a son-of-a-bitch idioms can be. They don’t say what they mean and even kids born into English speaking families are sometimes confused by them.

My own son, at three, opened those

Baby Rafi and sue

Little Rafi with big sister Susan

big eyes of his in terror when my friend told him she was picking him up from nursery school because his dad was ‘tied up’. She quickly noticed Rafi’s distress and explained his dad was just too busy to come. Whew!

A son of Polish immigrants painfully related what happened long ago in his 7th grade woodworking class. Dissatisfied with his sanding job, the instructor told him to use more ‘elbow grease’. Having no idea what that meant, he told his teacher he didn’t have any. I hope teachers today would be kinder, but he was sent to ask another teacher to ask for  some. He’s never forgotten how embarrassed he was when that teacher and his whole class burst into laughter.

raining caats dogs

It’s raining cats and dogs

When I taught an adult night class, I had one student who loved idioms. He’d regularly watch English TV and bring in the idioms he didn’t understand and ask me to explain them. He brought in many, including ‘The buck stops here; The Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; and Don’t upset the apple cart’.

 

3ladies

We live in a rain forest

We live in a rain forest. It happened to pour the evening I told him we’d say: ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’. I then asked what they’d say in Chinese. He seemed uncomfortable and said he couldn’t tell me. I didn’t push it. The next week, he came into class. came up to me and said ‘I can tell you now. We say ‘It’s raining dog excrement.’

I didn’t laugh. But I found the whole incident hilarious and have never forgotten it! Well, we’ve had a whole lot of rain lately and it’s been raining dog excrement for weeks for sure! Enough already….

angrybull

Enough already!

 

 

iBears

 

Thank you for reading my blog. I love that you do. Enjoy whatever you are celebrating — and may 2020 be kind to us all.

 

Hey, I found a dime…

graybending

I found a dime!

I walk most mornings. I’ve done so for years. I used to find coins on my way to whatever cafe I chose to have coffee/breakfast in, but haven’t found any for years now. Could this dime be a good sign? Is it possible things are picking up?

variouscoins

Canadian coins

 

Living these days is EXPENSIVE, especially here. Rents alone in my beautiful city are beyond the reach of far too many. Workers whose incomes aren’t high can’t manage to make it. So, I figured, if someone drops a coin, they bend down to pick it up.

busdriver,jpg

Bus drivers are on strike

 

Right now our bus drivers are on strike. Hotel workers are on strike. Some school employees are on strike and teachers won’t cross the picket lines. Even  university professors are on strike. And I heard on the radio that forest workers are striking as well. Goodness…..

 

So there was a real dime — right there on the sidewalk in front of me. How exciting! I looked carefully to be sure it was really true. It was! Let’s hope it IS a sign things will improve for all of us.

 

7, Triumph

Its tough when your kids are smarter than you are

 

Then clever daughter Susan called and blew my whole theory to bits. ‘It has nothing to do with the economy, Mom. Nobody carries cash anymore.’

I always carry cash, but she’s right. The young don’t. Its tough when your kids are smarter than you are. Oh well, so much for my theories.

I owe an apology to my mom…..

Muriel2017

How interesting to look back at childhood from this vantage point. I currently see things so differently. Does that mean there’s hope we garner a little wisdom with age? Perhaps… I now realize I owe my mom an apology.

I was the youngest of five children. We lived in Quebec when birth control was illegal so our family wasn’t considered that big.

Ruch Muriel 5 yrs. approx

finally five

I was finally five and expecting to go to kindergarten. All my siblings attended school and I could hardly wait to go too. I was so excited. Woweee!

 

crying girl

they refused to accept me

Mom dressed me up in a starched dress for the occasion and we walked hand in hand to our local school to register. They refused to accept me. Why, I’ll never know.

Perhaps they had too many students or something at the time because the next year they put me directly into first grade. They surely didn’t ask me what my opinion was about their dastardly decision. All I knew was they said NO!!!

childgreendress

I cried….

I howled

I didn’t cry, I howled

My mom probably tried, but was not prepared to argue for too long. I was heartbroken. I cried all the way home. Actually, that’s not at all true, I didn’t cry, I howled in five-year-old frustration and despair. It just wasn’t fair!!!! Everyone else (in my family) went to school. My poor mother tried her best to comfort me, but it wasn’t possible.

Now having raised children myself, I realize what a break those few hours each day would have been for my poor mom. She was probably looking forward to having some time to herself even more than I was looking forward to going to school. Being older today, I can’t help but imagine how disappointed SHE must have been herself.

poormom

The poor soul had to wait a whole year before having me at school

After all, I don’t think we ever had a babysitter — preschool may not even have existed yet, so my mom had to wait a whole year before having a few child-free hours.

I feel I was cheated out of the kindergarten experience I never had, however I also wish I had thought to apologize to mom…..

Write to a special teacher…

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

Once upon a time, in sixth grade, we were introduced to Shakespeare.

three witches in Macbeth

The three witches in Macbeth

Our teacher, Miss (sounds like) Merovitz, taught Macbeth. She acted out the roles as she read aloud — she must have known the play by heart and obviously loved it. I was mesmerized. The woman turned me on to Shakespeare. Much later, I thoroughly enjoyed his work and Macbeth remains my favorite.

In junior high, we had a class called ‘Music Appreciation’. Mr. Hopper, our teacher, played recordings of classical pieces for us and at exam time, we were expected to recognize the piece and know who the composer was. (I made up words to the music which helped identify which piece was which. It worked.) One

Modest Musssorgsky, 1839-81

Mussorgsky 1839-81

was ‘Night on Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky, another, ‘Fingal’s

Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-47

Mendelssohn 1809-47

Cave Overture’ by Mendelssohn. (By the way, I highly recommend a fascinating book called ‘Mendelssohn is on the Roof’ by Czech author Jiri Weil — a fascinating read.)

 

Jiri Weil 1900-59, Czech author

Jiri Weil 1900-59

Was Mr. Hopper an especially, exciting teacher? Absolutely not. He was a bore — in retrospect probably a shy man who played piano. However, he received ten tickets to the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of Saint-Saens’ Sampson and Delilah. Why he chose to give ME one, I’ll never know. Montreal didn’t have an opera house then. Undaunted, the Met performed at the Forum, a hockey arena. My seat high up in the bleachers wasn’t too high for me to be enchanted. I’d never seen or heard anything so beautiful. To this day, merely two of the first notes of that gorgeous aria are enough for me to recognize it. (Mr. Hopper would be proud indeed.) I’m sure I thanked him for the ticket, but that would have been all. I had no idea what an important role opera would play in my later life.

This October, for the first time since I saw this performance so many years ago, I will see it again. The Met is doing Sampson and Delilah. I’m excited. I’ll be in my seat at my local theatre on a Saturday morning watching, listening and enjoying.

Camille Saint-Saens

Saint-Saens 1835-1921

At the time, we held teachers in awe — like one step down from God. I certainly didn’t feel they would be interested or care about my reaction to anything. Besides, it was many years later, after my children were grown, that I was finally able to find the time to attend performances. Only then did I realize the gifts these two teachers had given me so long ago.

Things have changed. Teachers are now more approachable, students have easy access to email and can more easily send notes of appreciation to teachers who are special in some way. My son, Rafi, teaches high school. He receives notes and letters from students, former students, and parents who want him to know how much they have appreciated him. I know how much it means to him and love that it happens. So, if a teacher has been meaningful in your life, do take the time to let him/her know.

 

photo from newspaperRafi

Rafi, teacher of the year, 2012

Okay I’ll brag. I’m a proud mom. Rafi was nominated ‘Teacher of the Year’ in 2012 out of 5,000 teachers in the county. The guy was born to teach. He profoundly cares about his work and his students. He’ll probably be annoyed with me for doing this, but do watch him at it in the short video below taken during a student walkout at his school where an unpleasant racial incident occurred right after Trump was elected. Go, Rafi, go!

To see him at it, click below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5Z5ePJSVtrBSTBxb3BMam9zeGs/view?ts=58572979

 

Our schools teaching LGBTQ issues….

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

Our schools have introduced a program to teach children about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender issues. Good. I applaud the program. If it’s truly successful I’m sure less people will suffer.

One school trustee has criticized the new policy, calling it ‘child abuse’. What? I hope he’ll be promptly replaced by a more forward-thinking, knowledgeable trustee. The man is ignorant and very much behind the times.

For the most part, when I was in high school during the early 1950s, we didn’t even know homosexuality existed. I certainly didn’t. There was an unhappy girl in our class who, by the way, excelled in sports — something most of us didn’t participate in unless we were required to.

“I wish I were a boy,” she’d tell me, her eyes sad as she said so. It WAS sad. I felt sorry for her. She was what we would now call ‘Butch’. (I remember her name but will not use it. If I still exist, she may too.) I do, however, think of her often and hope she found her place in life and became comfortable with who and what she was meant to be.

In those days many gay people married, not wanting to admit to their families, or at times even to themselves, who and what they really were. It was not acceptable. This led to unhappiness for everyone. Wouldn’t it be better if we were all free to be who we are?

Of course there are parents who still object to their children being taught about these natural differences in people, due to religious beliefs and/or backward traditions. That saddens me. We don’t choose to be born ‘different’. Who would? Life is difficult enough as it is. Why ask for the kind of problems those who are LGBTQ have been subjected to, and let’s face it, it is far from over yet.

I just attended a ‘Music in the Morning’ concert where we were treated to my favorite Tchaikovsky String Quartet. I recall reading Tchaikovsky was ‘outed’ and to avoid the horrible scandal which loomed over him, took his own life. Surely he had more music in him to compose. Our loss…..

tchaikovsky-kuznetsov-crop

Tchaikovsky

Oscar Wilde, that witty writer of plays and stories, was jailed because he had an affair with a man.

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Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The inhumane conditions of jail at the time destroyed his health. His children were never allowed to see him and had no idea what horrible crime their father had committed. His son, writing about it years later in his book says when he finally found out, his reaction was: “That’s all?” He grew up thinking his father had committed murder or something truly awful. Broken physically, Wilde died shortly after his release.

Alan-Turing

Alan Turing, brilliant mathematician who broke the Nazi code

Then there was Alan Turing, the mathematician to whom we owe so much. He was the brilliant man who cracked the Nazi code, which not only served his country, but may have saved us all. How was he thanked? Arrested and disgraced for having a homosexual relationship, forced to undergo surgery to ‘correct’ what was ‘wrong’ with him, and finally, miserably, took his own life.

How many other great thinkers and creative people have we lost because of our stupidity? How many more need to suffer needlessly?

Good luck to our school board with this new program. More power to them.

FullSizeRender

Sign I saw at Chandra and Rafi’s home while I visited them in San Francisco this month.  I love it. I love them.