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Working on my bucket list….

Bucket List: A list of things one hopes to accomplish during their lifetime.

Muriel2017

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.

WuFamily.jpg

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?

eatingourwaythroughTaiwan

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!

 

Chandra:Arthurmehotel2018

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.

Muriel:Kevin2018

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.

Chandra:Jennifer2018

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.

 

Sushiplace

Everywhere we went, we ran into friends of the Wu family. (Having sushi in Taipei)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how are YOU doing with your bucket list?

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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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Remembering rain stories…

Muriel Susan

Susan, who still loves all creatures, and me

After the oh-so-hot, humid, smoky summer, the first rainfall

Baby Rafi and sue

Susan playing with Rafi, she also loved him

was a blessing. It watered the parched earth, delighted growing things, cleaned the air, and brought joy to our residents. I purposely walked without a hat to experience those precious drops running down my face. The years fell away. I felt like a naughty child.

While relishing the much-needed rain, I thought of other walks taken years ago in Los Angeles where droughts could last for years. It didn’t make sense to buy boots for the children. They were rarely needed. I’d just wrap plastic bags over their shoes and out we’d go to either walk or splash about in the water, and sometimes sail hand-made paper boats.

On one such walk with 4-year old Susan, who loves every creature that flies, walks, crawls or slithers, she was worried. Dozens of worms were out because of the rain.

Pink worm

Little pink worms

“The sidewalk must hurt their little pink bellies,” she fretted, as she gently picked each worm off the cement and placed it onto the soft grass of the parkway. I like thinking of that rainy day.

Which reminds me of the morning 3-year-old Susan woke up and

green bug

I can’t find my green buggie

was crying. Concerned, I ran to her room. It seems the night before, she’d carefully placed a green bug to sleep in her bedside table drawer. Of course, the bug was nowhere to be found. She was distraught. Tears flowed. Seeing her so upset tugged at my heart. I knew it was useless, but what to do? I found myself crawling on the floor with her ‘looking’ for her ‘green buggy’. Well, what would you have done? Finally, the child had to settle for a hug.

There was also the time her kindergarten teacher had a container full of crickets to feed to a lizard. Susan decided the crickets must be unhappy cooped up in a

Jiminy Cricket

A

little carton. She turned them loose. This resulted in absolute chaos. Children, terrified of the little creatures, screamed, ran around and jumped up and down on chairs and desks — that is — all except Susan, who delighted in having given the crickets freedom and loved seeing them going off in all directions. Then, those crickets had to be gathered when/if possible. Oh, dear. (I learned about this adventure through a complaint from Susan’s suffering teacher.)

Another day Susan came home from school, again in tears, because she

Cockroach

A family of roaches?

had found a ‘cute family’ of cockroaches to bring to her beloved mother. A ‘mean’ boy slapped them out of her hand and stomped on them.

‘It’s okay Susie,’ I said hearing her tale of woe, ‘Perhaps they’re alright and he just took them to HIS mother.’ I doubt I ever told Susan how relieved I was those little critters hadn’t made it to our home.

Talking about bugs, once on the way to school ((Kindergarten again) Susan

Snail

Snails all over her coat

picked up every snail she saw. They, too, come out when it rains. She arrived at school with her pockets full of snails, and snails crawling all over her coat. Her poor teacher gave her an empty shoe box, and all the snails were saved and brought home to lucky me. I wasn’t that thrilled with this gift, we had a garden, but what can you say to a child who treasures every creature.

Enough rain stories. Stay well and enjoy each day.

A foray into the confession genre

Years ago I took an adult ‘Writing for Publication’ class. Attending weekly required the

teacher

She taught us about all the genres

juggling of work, family, pets, etc. so it was sometimes difficult to complete assignments. Frances Rockwell, our delightfully wacky teacher, usually understood. She taught us about all the genres available to writers.

With little free time, my reading was selective. I enjoyed, as I still do, history, classics, biographies, and novels. I once tried reading six romances with the idea of writing some, but decided if you can’t read it, you can’t write it.

One assignment was to write a piece for the ‘Confession’ market. I didn’t bother. This time, for some reason, Rockwell chose to ask me, as I left with a whole group of women, why I hadn’t turned it in. Why did she pick on me???

embarrassed

I had to open my big mouth

Had I not been so young and stupid, I’d have apologized and said I hadn’t had time. She would have accepted that. That wasn’t what I did. Oh, no! I had to open my big mouth! (Maybe I needed a lesson I’d never forget.) Instead of being wise, I chose to be a smart-ass.

‘I’m not interested in writing that kind of crap.’ I announced. Oh, oh. That did it!

teacher scolds. jpg

You’re not interested?

‘You’re not interested? Indeed, if there is anyone in this class who could bend a little, it’s you. NICE ladies don’t write interesting stuff. It would do you in particular good to climb down from your pedestal. It would do you good to write a Confession piece.’

I goofed

embarrassed, humiliated

I deserved it, but why didn’t the floor open up and swallow me at that moment? I would have been happy to have breathed my last breath if only it would. I was embarrassed, humiliated — and humbled. Right there In front of everyone I had been properly cut down. Demolished.

I’m sure that wasn’t the last time I allowed a thoughtless, stupid comment to pass my lips, but I’ve never forgotten it. I sheepishly crawled back to class the next week and completed the course.

typewriter

It was long before computers

You know I’m too neurotic to forget something like that, so years later, when I finally had some time to write, what was the first thing I worked on? Right. I did that darned assignment and sent it off to ‘True Story’ in New York.

Lo and behold, our telephone rang while we were breakfasting weeks later. They wanted it! They paid me $250. (The most I’d ever been paid for anything at the time.)

Susan, a very clever teenager, looked up over her Cheerios. She had no idea what it was I’d sold. (I hadn’t told anyone about it.)

‘Can I read it?’ She asked. How could I say no? She’d think that strange so I got it for her and she read.

‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this,’ she almost stuttered, and again ‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this!’ Susan, usually so verbal, was almost speechless.

True Story

The actual issue I was published in

Afterwards, I sent a published copy to Mrs. Rockwell, with a note saying I’d finally done the assignment she had dressed me down for, and that I was sure she would find it satisfactory — since I’d sold it.

Her response was a total surprise. Not being as neurotic as I am, she didn’t recall the incident. However, she wrote if she had done so, it was because she felt I was someone especially talented enough to make it. Interesting, I hadn’t realized that.

Well, the ‘Confessions’ genre is long gone. Young people today have no need to read about it — they’re busy doing it themselves. And no. I didn’t choose to write another.