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My own ring story

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

I’d have thoroughly enjoyed this costume

Ring

My mask ring, photo by Samantha

jewelry ring through the years I covered the arts for newspapers in L.A. and Vancouver. I did have a collection of mask earrings to wear to performances, but I’d have worn the ring too. These days I seldom have occasion to wear it, however I do whenever I go to the opera. Then it seems right and I enjoy thinking about how I came to have it.

When I’ve traveled, I’ve often wanted to approach a stranger in the street and ask if I could provide coffee or tea and cake if they’d invite me to have it at their home. I wanted to see how locals lived. Therefore, when Tai Chi pal, Peter Lear, had friends visiting from China, I invited them over.

 

Carla

 Tai Chi participants, L-R: Carol, Judy, me, Donna, back: Carla & Peter, both now gone

Peter, like me, had a special interest in China and Chinese culture. He could even speak and read Mandarin and read the local Chinese newspapers. Peter’s visitors gave me this ring but it always makes me think of Peter, who is now gone but whom I so enjoyed knowing.

Nohtheatre

Japanese Noh Theatre

It seems masks have been used

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Chinese opera mask

on stage throughout many cultures since antiquity. The ancient Greeks used them. Chinese opera has used them for centuries. The Romans did too, and masks remain a major part of their Venice Festival each year. I tend to think ancestors who lived in caves probably used them too.

 

GreekTragedymasks

Greek tragedy

While in Taiwan last year, I was truly fortunate to be invited to a rare and special performance of ancient Japanese opera with magnificent, colorful costumes and masks. All the roles were played by women, which I found fascinating. I still enjoy theatre — and masks.

Carnival of Venice

Venice Festival

wredcurtains

Masks and theatre belong together

Have you ever noticed how you always get more than you give? I invited Peter’s Chinese friends over to give them a chance to see how an ordinary Canadian lives. Their gift to me in return has brought me years of pleasure.

 

Nohactor

Japanese Noh Actor

 

 

 

 

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Look at what I found….

Going through old papers, I found a letter written to my family after I rode a mule down (and up) the Grand Canyon in the 1950s. Only a stupid youngster like me (who had never even been near a horse) could do such a crazy thing….

Enjoy reading it.

grand canyon.jpg

Believe it or not, that’s my name in faded ink proving I actually did this

Dear everyone:

Shirley and I were in the saddle from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. today with only one short break at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for a box lunch. Are we ever sore — and you know where. Surprised? Well, no one is more surprised than I am. This is the most foolhardy thing I’ve ever done. Of course, I’d no idea what I was letting myself in for….

dawn on the S rim of the Grand Canyon

The magnificent Grand Canyon

It’s six miles down and six miles up a steep, narrow trail with sharp turns. Looking down, I worried about the mule, but then more about myself. Often I just had to close my eyes and trust in God.

We were eight daring souls and a guide, as for me, a good part of the battle was just getting up onto the mule for the first time. After a while, I got used to the movement and even the height. But when we got down to the bottom for lunch, our guide helped me down, asked if I was okay, I said sure, and my cramped legs collapsed under me. Still, it was a great experience and left such an impression I’m so sore I can hardly sit.

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Ready to go. That’s me right in front of the last man up on top. He’d whip my mule when we slowed down.

My trusty steed was Howard, who made me feel as if I should carry him instead of him carrying me. Sometimes he slipped on the rocks, always preferred walking right at the edge of the narrow trail, and stubborn as a mule, wouldn’t budge from there.

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Our group on the trail

Shirley’s mule was Eva, who  nibbled on every patch of green we passed. On one of the stops we made climbing up to allow the animals to rest, Eva leaned way over the cliff for a snack. Terrified, Shirley, who thought the dumb mule was going down, jumped off. She landed on the ground right under Eva, frightening the poor animal which darted about upsetting everyone.

Nothing would make my Howard run. (*We were right behind Shirley.) He was merely startled and a quick pull on the reins and a real western ‘Whoa’ put him in check. Our guide, however, was furious. True, it could have been a deadly accident. Shirley didn’t want to get back on Eva and I can’t blame her, but it would have been a long, hot, three mile hike straight up. She had no choice.

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Me on Howard

Howard begrudged me every step. I wondered why the guides kept teasing me. From way up, I’d hear them yell: ‘Get on there Howard!’ Afterwards I asked and was told Howard had always been the laziest thing they’d ever seen. I didn’t mind that and Howard and I got along famously. The only disadvantage was that we kept falling behind and I hated to whip him. The guy behind me would get fed up with us both and give Howard such a lash on his backside, he’d go flying with me hanging onto my Genuine $2 Stetson, my eyes closed, praying for all I was worth.

colortrail

In this color photo of another group, you can see how narrow and steep the trail is.

The picture I sent you today was taken before we started down the Canyon. We all look cool and neat. I took a snapshot after we returned — big difference. We were covered from head to toe in brick-red, white, yellow and gray dirt. I had so much gray in my hair, our guide teased me about being so frightened I‘d turned gray. Tonight, I see what he was talking about.

After the fabulous Grand Canyon, we arrived in Flagstaff, showered the filth off, washed it out of our hair, and now feel better. We had planned to go Las Vegas tonight, but need to recuperate. Don’t laugh, you would too.

With a very tender rear, I bid all goodnight. I’m having the time of my life.
Regards and love to all,

Muriel

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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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?

My day off….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

My friend Trudy takes every Monday off. At least that’s what she says, but then when we talk afterwards, I learn she was busy all day catching up on stuff at home. I’ve never done that, but this week I decided I too needed a ‘day off’.

Did I sit around watching Soap Operas and eating chocolates? Did I hunker down under my favorite lamp reading a favorite book from cover to cover? No…. But I did have a wonderful time. This is how things went.

My knees had been tortured the afternoon before by too many miles on my Exercycle — at too high a tension. It wasn’t by plan but by error — or plain old stupidity. I didn’t realize it until it was too late. Thus my plan to walk the next morning was abandoned. I promised my knees a rest instead.

Ladyonbike

My knees had been tortured

I stayed home to relax and okay, just maybe do a few things around here. After reading my emails, I decided to shred some documents, mostly of my 2010 tax return which I no longer need to retain. What efficiency, I felt good about that. Well, wouldn’t you?

Peter the Great1

Peter the Great turned a swamp into a city

Turning around, I saw a thick envelope full of photos, postcards and souvenirs I’d saved from my trip to Scandinavia and St. Petersburg with my sister Shirley in 2000. What a great opportunity to go through it and get rid of more things as part of my effort to be a thoughtful mother so my offspring won’t have to deal with so much stuff in the future. I hadn’t seen these since I first stored them on my office shelf right after the trip. Looking through it gave me an interesting hour or two.

Why in the world did we take all those photos of buildings and bridges anyway? Yes, St. Petersburg was originally a deadly swamp, thousands perished in the creation of the city and it still has many bridges. Do these photos mean anything to me now? Out, out — oh here’s one of Shirley and me, and Tony and Barbara, who live in Australia. We first met these dear friends on that trip! They’ve added so much to my life through the years.
Tony is an Australian member of our book club. He reads every book we do if he can get his hands on it, then sends his reactions via email, which I share at our next meeting. His opinion is of value and always of interest.

IMG_0283

a pot on my balcony

Spring is in the air, and when I looked out at the pots on my balcony, I decided to be optimistic and plant some flowers, kale seeds and peas. The sun was shining — what better time for it? Done! What a noble soul am I!

Then… Oh, you’d better sit down for this one or the shock will be too much for you. I don’t know why, perhaps insanity, but I decided to bake bread — actually Aboriginal bannock. The doing of same reminded me why I don’t do it more often. What a mess! Multiple measuring cups, bowls and spoons, flour covering counter and floor, and butter sticking to my cutting board. Sure, it tastes great with homemade jam, but as long as I have any memory left, I vow not to try this one again. Whew!

Old lady baking. jpg

I won’t try this again

No more days off for me! I’m exhausted…..

 

2017 in review

Carla

Front: Carol, Judy, me, Donna. Back: Carla, Peter

2017 brought losses — friends Peter and Carla, and I’m afraid Georgina too. Two others no longer remember me. I’ll miss them also. However, I met Grace and Howard this year, and look forward to getting to know them better. Linda, too, came into my life and she’s a treasure. I’ve met Marion in our new Tai Chi class and since Val’s in it too, I’ll get to see more of them both.

Didn’t go anywhere in 2016. Couldn’t even walk! Wasted dollars on travel health insurance I never used. 2017, too, began dismally. Something had to be done. Bless Judy, she came with me to see Dr. Gredanis and filled out forms for me to get a new hip. Friends and neighbors like Amy and David, Wayne and Mairona, Linda, Vinson, Judy, Marlene, and others kept cabinets and fridge stocked and got me wherever I needed to go.

2017 also brought some accomplishments. Our book club’s list of ‘Books Read’ is now over 200! We’re pleased with ourselves. I organized a new Tai Chi class with help from Jean, our kind new instructor. She’s absolutely the right person to lead us. Some of the old gang had nagged about missing the class, Jean happened along and viola. We have a class! I then realized my own balance needs a lot of work, so it’s all good.

My new hip happened on March 17, with Susan at my side. Rafi came afterwards. They didn’t want me home alone between hospital discharge and Rafi’s visit, so dear Trudy came to stay. Samantha dropped in on a Sunday morning for the real biggie. I wanted to see if I could manage a real bath. (I love baths.) I made it! Talk about joy….

Hamming it up

Having fun in Nevada

I traveled in 2017. July found me in Nevada, visiting daughter Susan and her Michael. Why not make it a birthday celebration? The San Francisco contingent joined us and spent the week, and dear Joe, all the way from L.A. made it a birthday I’ll never forget. He ordered bagels, smoked salmon, and cream cheese for our breakfast, plus a huge birthday balloon, all delivered from Reno up to us in the mountains! He hand painted a lovely coffee mug, which waited for me in a package with coffee and cookies for added pleasure. What a guy!

Joe had called regularly while I was in hospital and was the one who realized my nausea was due to the morphine. (I’d assumed I was having a vestibular reaction to the stress of surgery.) He was right! Joe’s often right.

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Joe, me, Rebecca

The next trip was to my kids in San Francisco, where I

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Joe’s Susan and me in their gift, a RED wrap

was spoiled rotten again. I got to see my Chandra climb the scaffolding most days while the outside of their home was being painted. (Rafi, like me, is uncomfortable with heights.) Then, I took the train to L.A., and stayed with my kind-of (but no less beloved) kids Rebecca and Brian, who spoiled me rotten yet again, and so if you notice how spoiled I am, you know why. Joe’s Susan invited us to a lovely family dinner, where Joe and I ‘entertained’ with a short skit he wrote. We exchanged gifts and hugs — it just doesn’t get better.

LadyonbikeThese are not all the 2017 happenings. I quickly returned to Keno’s exercise classes and worked really hard at trying to regain my leg muscle strength, Wayne lent me (then told me I could keep) a ‘stepper’ which I’ve been using to help me get stronger, and after two years being unable to use it, I’m finally back on my Exercycle.
It was a very good year…..

 

Henry is having his way….

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

Henry is resentful. He’s upset. I didn’t take him along on my recent trip to visit my children in California. He wanted to go, but I had decided it would be best to leave him behind this time. He did accompany me on my trip to Nevada in July, but he was kept behind at airport security for further interrogation, and I was at the gate before I realized he wasn’t with me. Well, what do you expect? My memory isn’t what it was when I was 20!

Flying is no longer the pleasure it used to be, so I wasn’t thrilled to have to go back to security to find him. And, security wasn’t quite sure where he’d gone. It was a real nuisance. It seemed more practical to have less to deal with this time.

Chinese Airbus, 1992

Flying is no longer a pleasure

She always liked you better than me

Henry’s chagrined

So Henry is chagrined. He’s hurt and not behaving as he should. He’s generally undermining my efforts to know how far I’ve managed to walk each day even though I always remember to invite him along whenever I go out. Come on Henry. Cut it out. I get it. I know you’re angry with me. How long will this go on?

Henry can be temperamental. This isn’t the first time he’s chosen to ignore me. During the heat of the summer, he found my capri pants too disconcerting to concentrate on how far we’d gone. Like me, he isn’t good at double-tasking, and I believe he was endeavoring to romance a nearby resident. Would you call that a double-cross?

Henry is the name I chose to give my pedometer. It was difficult enough to figure out how to use the darn thing — well, okay, I still have problems now and then. However, after having received a new hip, I’m trying to gradually increase the number of steps I take each day. I need Henry’s cooperation to accomplish this. He’s definitely falling down on the job.

pedometer

Henry is my pedometer

I don’t know why I chose the name Henry. It just came out of the blue. My friend Joe said it means ‘Runs the household’. I checked that with Mr. Google who says Joe is right. Henry obviously already knows this and is throwing his weight around.

Cool it Henry, or I’ll get angry too and toss you out!

 

 

 

 

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

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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.