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Song of China

Mom, thinking 2

China always intrigued me. As a child I read Pearl Buck’s books, and later happily studied Chinese history, literature and philosophers at our local university.

Confucius

Confucius. We also learned about Laozi, Mencius, Zhu Xi, and Mozi, all great minds.

 

 

When the country opened, if just a little, after the Tiananmen Square Massacre (1989), I finally visited in 1991, after obsessing about China for years.

 

 

 

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Tanks in Tiananmen Square, 1989

Many died in the Tiananmen Square Massacre. We’ll probably never know how many. Our group were some of the first tourists to visit afterwards, so I was not surprised at the mixed reactions we created.

 

 

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Tiananmen Square, Beijing, where a man said ‘Go back to your country.’ and meant it.

 

The presence of many soldiers throughout the cities made me uncomfortable, I wasn’t used to so many military men in the streets. Were they following us?

 

 

 

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Protests, Tiananmen Square, 1989

Shopping district Shanghai

I wrote about China being ‘wall-to-wall’ people. They took us to this shopping district in Shanghai.

I’m not a shopper nor used to crowds, and so was terrified at the crush of people in the shopping district of Shanghai. Hans and I just fought our way across the sidewalk to dash back to our bus before it left to park. We sat in it talking as we waited for the others to return.

We think of the Great Wall as one of the wonders of the world, but I considered the bus drivers, who managed to get us safely from one place to another in the insane traffic as the real wonders of the world.

I wrote this  little poem to read from the top of the famous Great Wall of China as a tribute to the many brilliant Chinese poets I’d read through the years.

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I did read my poem from the top of the wall in Beijing. The many tourists ignored me, which was just as well.

 

Song of China

Oh, revered Chinese poets and scribes
Who have given beauty in song for ages
Hear these unworthy words I offer you
As they drift softly on the winds of your land
Where my breath and presence
Are but a wink in eternity.

I humbly give you this song as a tribute
To the beauty and wisdom you give me
With your words which will endure forever.
May this little poem, in my foreign tongue,
Please the ears of your spirits, who hover
Around me In the heavens above China.

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The Great Wall of China

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Yes Virginia: There was life before plastic…

Muriel2017

by Chandra

If you listen, you’ll hear people say we won’t know how to manage without plastic bags and containers. Not to worry. There WAS life before plastic and I remember it very well. It was fine….

During Montreal’s cold winters, when I became old enough to travel streetcars on my own, mom would send me to bring hot food to my dad, who ran an unheated poultry shop. The pot I carried had a handle, but the old top didn’t fit well. Occasionally, when the streetcar rattled, the contents overflowed onto my coat. I didn’t enjoy that — but survived. It might have been a better idea to put the hot food in glass jars, wrapped them in towels, in one of those cloth shopping bags mom had. However I wasn’t bright enough to think of it.

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This is what dad’s shop looked like

By the way, that unheated poultry market had live chickens delivered straight from the farm displayed in metal coops, and when a customer selected the one she wanted, the bird was quickly butchered, cleaned and packed in butcher paper, then in used newspaper, secured with a string and taken home or delivered — no styrofoam trays or plastic wrap required. (Dad would bring very fresh eggs home for us.)

1940s store

Note customer carrying groceries in paper bag

What were our grocery stores like? I remember fruits and veggies being displayed in wood boxes they originally came in, or round wood bushels. There were packages in cardboard boxes plus items in glass jars. If you purchased slices of cheese or deli meats, it was weighed and placed in butcher or waxed paper. It all got home okay.

When I ran my own household, our trash was placed in doubled paper bags in the kitchen container before being transferred, when full, to the large one outdoors. We never considered it a problem.

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Baby turtles already have many obstacles without us making life more difficult.

True, we didn’t recycle food yet. I admit I thought the sink garbage disposal was the cleverest invention ever created. (I still have one because it was already installed, but have NEVER used it since learning it pollutes our waters.)

they're worth saving

Magnificent orca, worth saving

Today I prepare food waste for recycling without plastic. My indoor container is lined with layers of newspaper and when full, tossed, paper and all, into our building’s large food waste bin. My container gets a good washing, and when dry, is ready to use again.

 

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Sea creatures get stuck in this plastic and die

With so much plastic doing damage to our waterways and creatures who must live in them, we must change our ways. We’re doing too much damage and I fear for the future if we don’t stop. I know we can do it. It’s easy enough. It’s all good. Don’t worry. Just go for it.

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Let’s end this forever

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

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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….

 

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.

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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…..

The battle of the fashionistas

It was her own fault. She shouldn’ta done it. She should know better. Everyone knows red is MY color. My exercise classmates know I always choose the red band. Everyone I know knows I like red. So why did she do it? Do what, you ask???

Daughter Susan visited on her way home to Nevada from Edmonton. That was sweet. I

Royalty free bull

I saw red like a bull in the ring

love that she came. But she made the error of turning up at breakfast in a red shirt. Red. RED! I saw red like a bull in the ring sees the toreador swinging that red cloth right in his face.

Not only was the shirt RED, it was beautiful and had sleeves reaching down to her elbows. I’d been looking, without success, all over for summer tops with sleeves long enough to cover my flabby arms. They’re difficult to find here.

They have more choices in the U.S. It’s understandable — they have a much larger

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They’re really nice shirts, no?

population, but that doesn’t help me in my search for tops. I liked her shirt. I wanted it. I took the darn thing off her back to try on, and wouldn’t give it back. Then Susan made another logistic error.

‘I’ve got another just like it in blue,’ she admitted, perhaps realizing I’d get to see it anyway. I wanted that one too, even though it wasn’t red. I grabbed it out of her suitcase. ‘What will I wear?’ she pleaded. I didn’t respond.

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Remember, you saw it here first!

We’re creative. We can think on our feet. I gave her a plastic London Drugs bag and she fashioned an attractive top out of it.
It was a brilliant idea. We two created a fashion statement which can save the planet.

As soon as they see it, fashionistas by the thousands will be copying this new trend. New York’s top designers will be scouring the world searching for usable plastic bags. As this brilliant, beautiful design spreads, they may even have to send ships out to sea to pick up those thousands of plastic bags floating in the ocean, where they create havoc. Do remember, you saw it here first!!!

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The ensuring battle was well-fought

The ensuing battle was well-fought — and somewhat hilarious. We got carried away. It was madness and uncontrollable laughter. Linda, Susan’s friend (and probably now my ‘former’ friend) snapped away with her camera, in-between gales of giggles, and these ‘beautiful’ photos are the result of the mom-versus-daughter fight.

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The winnah

Who ended up with the shirts? Waddaya think? Me, of

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She did forgive me

course. After all, I do pull some weight. I’m Susan’s ‘maughm’ and she loves me, though sometimes I’m sure she wonders why. In the end, she did forgive me.

Thank you Susan. I’m enjoying my new shirts, especially the RED one. I also loved your visit and spending time with you. I’m convinced my dear, you’re as nutty as I am, though you came by it honestly — and I love you.

 

1,2,3,4 long days without my computer….

Muriel2017

My

In spite of my admiration for Catherine the Great and Empress

knight in shining armor

My knight in shining armor

Wu, right now my friend/neighbor Wayne is my new hero. My computer collapsed. Poor thing had to be hospitalized and have surgery. Wayne carried it gently down to his car and drove it to the Apple hospital, where they deemed it too old to bother with. (Apple must be hard up for cash and needs us to purchase new ones. Make a donation if you can.)

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My ailing old computer

Undaunted, gallant Wayne found somewhere else to take my ailing computer, drove it there and after a few harrowing days, brought it back to me. I was more than willing to shell out the $392 required for a new video processor chip, whatever that is.

Meanwhile, I had fretted and lost sleep over the possibility of losing everything on it. Worrying, as you know, is something I excel in. However, I also learned how much time I spend on this electronic contraption. I now must admit I’m addicted and I missed it terribly.

red brook and duster

Without my computer I had no excuses

This monster takes up so much of my time, there are dozens of obvious tasks-to-do I pass by each day and think I must take care of ‘one of these days’. Well, these four days ended up being those days. I couldn’t produce any other delaying tactics not to do them.

Instead of checking my email and seeing how many visited my blog first thing in the day, I made my often neglected bed every morning. Then, although I attend Tai Chi every Monday, plus exercise classes on Wednesdays and Fridays, I managed — in addition to get on my Exercycle Ladyonbikeand Stepper three times during the four days without electronic distractions. (The last time I’d managed time for that was March 8th!) I also managed to daily do the physio-recommended arm exercises for my torn tendons.

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My desk is now neater…

I have oodles of paper left over from my old printer which require detaching before I can use them in my new one. I now have a respectable stack ready and prepared. My desk is also somewhat neater. I filed many papers which had sat there for months. Papers and documents awaiting shredding got shredded and properly recycled. At last, my 2016 phone book/calendar got disposed of, with all your names and phone numbers safely shredded as well. Long neglected, shocked loved ones and friends received phone calls out of the blue. I feel so noble!

My kitchen received attention as well. I neatened up my ‘plastic bag’ drawer, piling various bags high on my counter, after which I diligently separated them by size. I carefully weighed the separated stacks down in the drawer with paperweights. (I did this in spite of son Rafi’s warning that this madness would indicate to visitors that I’m neat, thus making them uncomfortable in my home.) After that, I attacked my wealth of plastic containers, matching tops and bottoms, and discarding all those I couldn’t fix up with anyone. Then, because I;d rather not go out when it snows, I’d accumulated extra ‘just in case’ food supplies during winter, I pulled everything down from those crowded cabinets and put things in order. Can you imagine?

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I cleaned up the winter debris

Nor did my balcony get overlooked in this frenzy. On a rain-less day, I got out there and cleared up the debris left over from winter. My outdoor pots are now ‘almost’ pristine and ready for spring planting. You’ve got to be impressed!

Well, now I have my computer back and this ain’t gonna happen again for (hopefully) a very long time. I’m back. Thank goodness for small favors! I was even driving myself crazy…..

Hudson’s Bay Company and — Tsar Nicholas????

Muriel Susan

Daughter Susan and me, you can blame her for this blog

I’m not a shopper. I have no patience and particularly hate trying on clothes. I also don’t like large department stores — haven’t a clue where things are and too often can’t find someone to ask. Our Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is one such store. I avoid it if I can. They once had a huge sign on the outside of their downtown location declaring ‘Shopping is good’. I didn’t approve. The statement is debatable, but that’s a whole other story.

Our bodies have to be clothed, so it becomes necessary now and then to shop.

summer pants at HBC

found a new pair of these at HBC

That means going to larger stores for me. I’m short. I need a petite. Most smaller stores don’t carry petites, so I went to HBC for my recent summer clothing requirements. Who’d have imagined what I read about them later?

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HBC didn’t only buy and sell furs

I’m a history buff. Of course I knew HBC, as one of the oldest businesses in existence, would have a long history. However in reading ‘The Secret Plot To Save The Tsar’ by Shay McNeale, I learned the company had been involved in far more than just buying and selling furs.

The book says HBC was contracted to construct a residence in Murmansk, in northern Russia, to be used as a safe house for Tsar Nicholas II and his family pending a hopeful rescue by the Allies in 1917. It was believed/hoped this might even lead to the Tsar’s eventual return to power. And it was HBC’s Henry Armitstead (1877-1956) who headed the project.

During World War One, (1914-1918) HBC operated as purchasing agents for France, Russia, Romania as well as others. The firm had headquarters in London. They were able to claim the house was being built for use by employees, but it was paid for by the British Admiralty and constructed under the auspices of the British Secret Service. (Armitstead’s boss, C.V. Sale, was head of HBC at the time.)

As during most revolutions, in the Russia of 1917, factions jostled for power. Bolsheviks, Czechs, the White Army, Reds, Cossacks, Caucasians, and others manoeuvred, used extortion, blackmail, ransoms, bribes and double-dealing to gain control of the country during the civil war. Agents and double agents infiltrated the various factions, often changing identities and names, other countries utilized a multi-tracked policy of espionage. It was a real, live ‘cloak and dagger’ whodunnit with murders and disappearances a common occurrence. Lenin was a master at the game. He accepted huge bribes from all sides — and was the guy who trained Stalin — only too well.

Family II

Tsar Nicholas II and family

King George V and first cousin Tsar Nicholas, often called twins

First cousins: Tsar Nicholas and King George V ‘The Twins’

What is the truth? Did the Tsar and his family actually survive? To this day some think so. Some don’t. The Tsar was closely related to many other European Royals. His first cousin, King George V of England, and he looked so much alike they were often called ‘The Twins’ and easily mistaken for each other.

Do I think they survived? No.

And what do the Hudson’s Bay’s records say of all this? Their

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HBC Winnipeg — archives

archives are online and fascinating — I spent hours totally intrigued. They say Armitstead was indeed employed by them and was posted in Archangel, on a ‘special trade mission’ during 1917.  Archangel (Arkhangeiska) is located in the north of Russia. Interesting, no?

Elevator buttons — a conspiracy?

Can it be a conspiracy?

Can it be a conspiracy?

Sure, I may be older and wiser and all, but I’m still baffled by buttons in elevators. They’re beyond comprehension. I stand there staring at those little suckers confused — desperately trying to figure out which one to push. My relationship with them leaves much to be desired.

Admittedly, my sense of direction is non-exist but once I finally get to where I was supposed to be ten minutes ago, I pretty much know where I’m supposed to go. Now, if this sounds confusing, it is, so you can imagine how mixed up I feel because that last hurdle — the elevator — is the most confusing of all.

Elevators are where the real challenge begins. Does “G” mean ‘Garage’ or ‘Ground Floor’? Will “B” take me to the Basement or the B-level? Why do they use “P” for Penthouse as well as Parking, “M” for both Street Level and Mezzanine? Isn’t there anyone in charge of elevators clever enough to realize that I find all of this bewildering?

There ought to be a law making all elevator buttons standard

There ought to be a law making all elevator buttons standard

And, what about those additional buttons with pictures which are supposed to be helpful for confused, simple folk like me? They indicate either Open or Close and have something to do with the doors, but by the time I figure out which does which, the door has slammed shut in some poor soul’s face and I’m feeling guilty and apologizing to the air. I hate being rude to strangers. Whatever do they think of me?

Some people come up with brilliant ideas. For instance, don’t you agree a statue should be erected to honour the genius who first invented the potato peeler? You have to acknowledge that the potato peeler is absolutely fabulous — a genuine treasure. What would we do without them? Terrific, right?

There should be a statue in honour of the genius who first invented the noble potato peeler

There should be a statue in honour of the genius who first invented the noble potato peeler

But then, there are also people who lie awake all night dreaming up mysterious new secret codes for public elevator buttons, especially those I will be required to use. It has to be a plot! A plan purposely devised to keep me humble in these, my later years, which are supposed to

Elevator buttons are one way

Elevator buttons are one way “they” keep us feeling inadequate.

provide me with some wisdom.

If you are inclined to believe in conspiracy theories, you’d be well justified in concluding these elevator buttons are one way “they” keep all of us feeling inadequate. After all, if we consider ourselves unable to figure out something as ‘simple’ as elevator buttons, how
can we presume to question those in power? Right? Bingo!

People like me, who have vestibular disorders, don’t like large shopping centers. The lights and colours alone make us uncomfortable. Add to that my lack of any sense of direction which makes it even more difficult for me to find the stores I want in large shopping malls. Besides, I just hate shopping.

Occasionally one must work up the courage and go. Be advised, however, information in shopping centre elevators is reserved for big-time spenders only. Obviously, I don’t qualify. Pray tell, what in the world does “R” , “C” or “P” represent? Like an idiot, I recently stood in an unmoving elevator looking at those meaningless letters until I was rescued by a kind stranger.

“C is where you want to go,” she stated with assurance.
“I thought it meant “Close”, I muttered, “That’s what it means in my doctor’s building. What does it stand for anyway.”
“I have no idea, but that’s where the stores are.”

I’m intrigued by a puzzle, so on the way down I tried again. This time the man I cornered in the elevator suggested it might stand for Centre.

“But, isn’t the whole structure a centre?”

He couldn’t help and I am a curious sort. I had to find out, so I called and spoke to an expert in our city’s planning and building department. He thought the “C” button at the shopping centre probably stood for — Concourse.
Of course, everyone knows that!