Monday, March 19, 2018

has been

When I was pregnant it seemed like everyone was interested in my health, weight and general well- being.

Then Llara was born, and like Jack Kennedy who said he was "the man who brought Jackie Kennedy to Paris," I was the woman who brought this chubby-cheeked baby into the world.

People who never visited me, came to see the baby, including parents of my friends who never visited before.

I could live with being a has-been among my friends and their folks, for I was in love with the baby.

Rick and I talked about getting a dog for five years or so. We wanted a rescue dog, a female, older too.

When we went to the rescue center, one of the workers put a 12-week old male mongrel (Yorkie, griffon and many other things) into my arms. It was love at first lick.

We are spending the winter in a centuries-old French village with narrow streets, where it is almost impossible to walk without greeting neighbors and chatting.
Sherlock quickly replaced the normal questions or comments with "Il est très mignon" and other exclamations on his cuteness. I wasn't jealous. He was overdosing on cute. It never bothered me that he received about 98% of the attention and my attention, the remaining 2%, was more about how he was doing. I could report a good pee and poop report, how he sat on command etc.

However, now when I walk down the street when I'm heading to do some errands that would take too long with Sherlock, I don't hear, "Ca va?" "Bonjour" or any of the other French chit chat.

My neighbors spy me and the first question is "Oú est Sherlock?"

Like a few decades ago, I can live with being a has-been to an adorable five kilos of wiggles and fur.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Several times a week on Facebook I post what made me happy that day or at least the last couple of days.

Yesterday there was so much happiness that it was much too much for a post.

The day started with breakfast at Mille et Une, who added a fruit plate: apple, mango, kiwi and tangerine.

Our Swedish friends joined us and told us of the vernissage at the Salle Marianne where they had bought a sculpture before it opened and suggested we join them for the real exhibition.

 I was entranced with a sculpture by the Burkina Fasso artist, Kossi Traoré, who was exhibiting of a mother holding up a child which showed the joy of both.

Rick bought it for me. It meets two of the three criteria for me to own anything: beautiful and a memory.

We went to the Short Film Festival in a nearby town. The festival had selected 38 shorts from the 800 submitted from 78 countries. We watched 13 and scored them on the form given us. What fascinated me was, with one exception, our scoring was very different. The reasons were a pleasure to share adding another depth to the showing.

We also discovered a cultural center and exhibits that we hadn't know existed. Something else to explore.

Then home to a quiet night with Sherlock.

Each moment of the day was a tickle to the senses, an experience. But the best part was I with someone I love and someone who stimulates my imagination, makes me think, laugh.


My husband really should appreciate me. I am easy to please, although sometimes he doesn't believe when I ask for something, I'm serious.

We go back and forth a lot between Southern France and Geneva, taking anywhere from six to eight hours with stops. I travel light, one small suitcase (the kind that fits in the overhead) and my computer. In fact that was all I needed for a month in Edinburgh, but that's another story.

He loads the car full with his stuff. During the trip, we add food wrappers, empty water bottles, and all kinds of stuff.

Even on small day trips it seems the bad trash fairy fills the car.

Since we first started making the trips by car (pre-Rick I only trained it) I wanted a trash can (for the poubelle) so all the detritus was in one place.

He thought I was joking when I kept saying, we had to get a mini-trash can for our poubelle. Since he does 95% of all our shopping and the stores in Argeles didn't carry small poubelle cans, the discussion went on, not as a nag, but as sidebar so to speak.

Then this week he bought me my desired gift...see photo above.

Some women want expensive jewelry, diamonds, rubies or pearls. Some want furs. He made me ecstatic with a trash can for under 10 Euros. However he did mention my desire for a $45 million plane. A Falcon 6X might do nicely for our many trips between the south of France and Geneva as long as it has a can for the poubelle.

He has a dueling blog at

Thursday, March 15, 2018

History unfolded

Sometimes there are books that are irreplaceable. I originally bought The Complete Works of the Mayflower Pilgrim by Caleb H. Johnson to do research for my novel Murder in Caleb's Landing. It was a limited edition and back in the 90s I paid $125 for it. Similar books by Johnson are now available at Amazon.

I've kept the book, not for cozy bedtime reading, but it is fun to open to any page for an insight into another time every now and then.

"I understand from Mr. Prence, who had it from an Indian of good esteem amongst them, that the Narraganansetts (sic) prepare for war, that the Mohawks have promised to aid them with a thousand men in the spring." William Bradford

"They lay a false charge upon the churches in affirming 'that Christian vigilance is now may exercised towards such as are not in church fellowship.'" Edward Winslow

"These people are not (as some have thought) a dull of slender-witted people, but very ingenious and very subtle." Thomas Morton about Indians.

"It pleased God to take away, by death, Mr. William Paddy, who was a precious servant of Christ." Nathaniel Morton.

There is a section of the wills with inventories.

Mary Ring left to her son "all my brass and pewter." She also left him her bed and two white blankets.

Samuell Eaton of Middleberry left:
  • 3 cows
  • 2 two-yeer (sic)old heiffer and one, one-yeer old.
  • 2 colts
  • 2 mare
  • a horse
  • undisclosed number of swine
He also elaborated on his tools, ground Indian corn. He must have been wealthy for his day. His debts were a fraction of the value of what he left behind, although by today's standards he would be poor.

Matthew Slade wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton about a missing William Brewster.

And then there is "A PARTICULAR ANSWER TO THE Manifold Slanderers and Abominable Falsehoods contained in an article called Simplicities defense against Seven-headed Policy: Wherein Samuel Gorton, desperately dangerous to his Countrymen the English in New England and notorious slanderous in what he he hath Printed of them. This is not a catchy title but probably a 1600s version of fake news concerns pre-Internet.

As a modern writer, I want to edit, edit, edit, the flowery language and standardize the spelling.

The respect I have for Johnson in bringing together all this material has no limit.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Snow day

As a kid growing up in New England, waking to snow meant staying in bed and listening to the no school announcements. Because they were read alphabetically, and I lived in Reading, it was a long wait to be able to snuggle back under the covers with a non-school required book.

Then later in the day my brother and I would build snow forts. My grandmother would heat maple syrup and pour it on the dish of snow that we'd scooped up and given to her. It hardened into a great candy.

My mother would set up jigsaw puzzles in front of the fire. We had to do the border before we could do the insides. Sometimes there was a story log, where stories were told or read while a log burned.

My daughter had a much-reduced waiting time to learn Latin would not open. We lived in B for Boston. Read after the Actons, Arlingtons, Belmonts...

Now school closings are on line.

Although Switzerland photos often include snow-covered Alps and people skiing down mountains with a background of chalets, Geneva itself does not often get heavy snow or even snow. I lived here three years before there was even a dusting and that was on Valentine's Day while I was eating in a Japanese restaurant.

A couple of years ago while I was undergoing chemo, there was enough snow and I had enough strength that with my husband we made a snow rabbit on our patio.

Thus yesterday, when our Rick parted the curtains to take Sherlock for his first walk of the day, we were delighted to see a white world compared to the green and brown one visible when we went to bed.

Our original lunch plans with an Egyptian friend had already been cancelled. He wasn't arriving in Geneva until Friday. There was everything we needed to eat in the frigo and cabinets. No need to go out except for the dog.

Thus there was extra reading, some writing and a bit more time to catch up on paperwork. We could watch the Beast from the East, as this storm blanketing much of Europe has been called from the warmth of our home.

Even without forts, maple syrup candy and puzzles, the day was a gift of calm and beauty.

My former housemate who did go out has a blog on a snow day in Geneva a different perspective.

My husband has a different point of view


The warmth of the bus was welcomed after Geneva's icy cold. I sat next to a young woman.

I adore public transportation bus and train. In Geneva with its traffic hangups it is often faster than a car. Sometimes I find the most interesting people and if I don't there's always the window to inspect the scenery city or country.

This young woman was disabled, but worked 35% as a secretary. She confessed to being afraid of tornadoes and dreamed of being a doctor. Having just finished work, she was finding time to visit her granny who had a stroke. "Most people can't understand Granny, but I can." We spoke mainly in French, with a smattering of English. 

She asked me if I were English and accepted my explanation that I was born in America, but was Swiss, and learned French starting at 48 when I moved to Neuchâtel.

We talked about following dreams and even if one never reached their goal, trying was an experience one might never have if they didn't try.

We both descended at Rive and crossed the street. At the French macaroon store, she went right, and I went left to catch the next tram.

I had a single seat the rest of the way, but felt warmer than the weather deserved for a brief friendly encounter, with a person who had dreams and the hope to take some steps toward achieving them while being aware the chances were slim.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Teachers and guns

It's been eons since I've been in high school, and as most teens I had things to worry about such as math tests and would Rick (my first husband not my second) was going to ask me to the junior/senior prom. Would the blue sweater in the store window I saw on the way to Torre's for a sundae with the chocolate spilling over onto the silver saucer, match my blue plaid skirt.

I never worried about a gun man shooting up my school.

Now the idea is to arm teachers. I couldn't help but wonder what those wonderful men and women, who opened the world to me, would use for weapons.

Mr. Spenser taught Latin and coached the senior play. I wonder if would have selected one of the Roman Army weapons.

I bet Mr. Aldrich, who taught U.S. History would like a Revolutionary War rifle.

Sally Stembridge taught English. She was thin with short, red curly hair. I can picture her strutting down the hall with a Glock on her hip. Athletic. I can just see her at the firing range, goggles and headphones hitting a bullseye every time.

Zimmy, Dr. Zimerman, taught me biology, chemstry and anatomy. Despite being in range of retirement she was a very with-it lady. I bet she would go for a AK15.

And when Mr. D'Orlando, one of my all time favorite teachers, taught Shakespeare, I bet a crossbow might be his weapon of choice.

As I write this, I find the idea of any of them armed as ludicrous.

Monday, February 26, 2018


Love In A Cup of Tea

Whenever I stayed over at our Indian friends, the husband always brought a cup of tea to his wife and to me in bed before we started the day. Such a considerate, loving gesture. I wasn't jealous as such, but I realised that some lucky women had husbands who brought them tea in the morning.

At the time I had no desire for a husband-- tea or no. I was happily single. Of course, Rick appeared in my life for a cup of coffee, which turned into a fondue and a lifetime together and I was happier when I didn't think that was possible.

I never told him about my Indian friend and his cup of tea. And I don't know where it started but now every morning, Rick brings me a cup of tea and a biscuit. Since we've had Sherlock, the biscuit has to be placed higher on the nightstand, especially those with chocolate.

We may read in bed for a short time, check email, talk. Whatever happens once we get up, it is just a little bit better knowing my day started with love and consideration.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Has been

I am a has been.

In my village we can walk everywhere including to buy fresh baked bread, meat, sit in a café, go to the doctor.

Sometimes progress is slow, because neighbors and friends stop to talk.

Those days are gone.

Most of the time I walk with Sherlock our new mixed-breed puppy. The greetings, usually start with Sherlock being called, patted and cooed over. After a time they will remember like Jack Kennedy brought Jackie to Paris, I am the one who brought Sherlock to the street and greet me with Bonjour or Bonsoir depending on the time of day and I will be asked about his progress.

However, it is getting worse. I was out yesterday and left him home. I saw my neighbor who came up to me and instead of her usual "Bonjour" it was "Ou est Sherlock?"

I told her he was at home.

I'm not jealous. The dog is too cute. Let him have his day in the sun. I am okay with being a has been.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Mimosa -- One of the joys of spring is mimosa. The trees in full bloom look as if the sun dropped from the sky.

I also love mimosa in my house. The scent is delicate a small whiff of happiness.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pentagon Papers


At 16 I was a cub reporter for the Lawrence-Eagle Tribune. I was fascinated by the process and loved to watch the the type being set, the presses running. I loved covering my hometown of Reading. I remember breaking a story about something the Selectmen did wrong and the next time I was at a meeting, one of them yelled at me.

I started to cry. One of the other Selectmen, said, "Go easy on her. She's just a kid." I was embarrassed because I cried even though I was proud of telling the truth about officials doing something wrong, no matter how small it was.


Rick and I went to see the Pentagon Papers, the French name for The Post. The scenes of the press room crowded with reporters typing out stories, linotype and presses running were like flashbacks.

The story of the Pentagon Papers was also a flashback because I had followed it eagerly in the news. It was the end of my innocence when I realized how much many governments, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson  had lied, how many people had died Americans and even more, Vietnamese.

The Americans who died thought they were defending their country. They weren't. They were defending politicians who didn't want to be humiliated by losing a war.

The revelation that the U.S. injected itself into the 1954 Vietnamese election, just reaffirms what I've been saying that if Russia interfered with the 2016 election, it was no different from the U.S. interfering in other countries' elections.

The coziness of people in Washington between press and leaders seems the same.

The Washington Post risked everything to bring the truth to the American public. Tom Hanks at one point in the film said the purpose of the press is to serve the governed not the government (the idea not the exact quote).

Not much has changed. The government is still lying to the public. Young men and now young women are going off to fight wars based on lies. The U.S. is still interfering in other countries' governments sometimes behind the scenes sometimes with bombs.

As the folk song "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" says, "When will they ever learn?"

Rick has a dueling blog at

Monday, February 19, 2018


It was a good 15 years ago and I was shopping at Co-op, a Swiss grocery during my lunch hour. The store carried household stuff, too and I as I headed for the cash register, I saw a fitted sheet, of red terry cloth. There were no other colors, but I thought it might be warm in winter and cool in summer.

I was right.

As a minimalist I try to have as little possible, so that sheet was used almost nightly UNTIL . . .

. . . Sherlock.

This was the male puppy we ended up out of pure love at first sight instead of an older female dog we were looking for. One should never go into a rescue center with exact expectations.

Although he had his own bed, Sherlock decided that sleeping between my husband and myself was a good idea. In the cold room he buried under the blankets.

Puppies chew.

The sheet ended up with holes. Although I mended them, it happened again.

I have said goodbye to my sheet. A new one is on the bed, but it is not terry cloth.

Sigh. RIP and thanks for all the lovely nights.f

Sunday, February 18, 2018


I am not domestic.

I do not necessarily love ironing.

At the same time I want my home to be neat and welcoming and I like the feel of my PJs, t-shirts and sheets ironed more than wrinkled. I do Rick's too because I want him to have the same pleasure.

Thus I clean, neaten and iron.

Our flat came with an ironing board.

Sort of.

It was narrow and wobbly.

My cheap heart never wants to replace something that works.

However, once we got Sherlock, I was afraid he'd bump into the board and be seriously hurt if the iron fell on him.

My solution was to wait till he slept or was out for a walk with Rick to iron.

My husband had a different solution. He bought a new ironing board, one color-coordinated with the flat. It included the rest, which makes it safer. It is also is wider making ironing easier.

I was raving about it to my husband not just to let him know that I appreciated his thoughtfulness. I felt like I was doing some kind of advert as I listed the board's merits, and a bit silly. 

But when I went to bed last night on clean, ironed sheets in clean iron pjs, life was good.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers
Thoughts and prayers

The mealy-mouthed politicians mumble those words after every shooting. Or take a few seconds to tap them into a tweet. Thoughts and prayers were promised for 9 school shooting alone this year.

So what are in those thoughts?
  • Can they imagine the mother finding a dress with which to bury her dead daughter?
  • What are the father, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles doing?
  • Do they even know the names of the dead?
  • Their hopes?
  • Their strengths?
  • Their weaknesses?
And how much do they pray? Will they go to the denomination of each victim and pray? Light candles? Kneel by their bed at night? Make donations?

Without action, their words are meaningless, so much drivel. The next time the same words and the same results...nothing.

I wish everyone would send a politician who uses this meaningless phrase and then do nothing send them a check for a campaign contribution in the amount of THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Goal 1: To take the little yellow train, Le Train Jaune, up the mountain to Fort Romeu

Goal 2: To introduce Sherlock to snow

Method: To be up at 5 to leave by 6 to arrive at 8 and catch the 8:30 that arrives around 11. Spend and hour and go home.

Reality: Woke at 5 and drove out of Argelès by 5:48.
  • Arrived at 7. It didn't take two hours.
  • Found a bakery and wandered the walled city that has existed sine the 1098.
  • Went back to train station.
  • Bought tickets.
  • Waited for train.
  • It didn't come.
  • Went back into the station. 
  • Girl pointed out on schedule 8:30 train only starts in April.
  • Next train would get us home too late.
 Decided to drive up to Fort Romeu to enjoy the beautiful scenery from the car.

Stopped about half way up and let Sherlock play in the snow after he was car sick. He appeared to enjoy it.

Turned around and came home still enjoying the snow-covered mountains.

Stopped for sushi (me) and hamburger (Rick).

Had a wonderful time.

Rick has a dueling blog at

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

food joy

If my husband had given me a $10,000 diamond necklace, it would not have meant as much to me as having lunch at Bartavelle, the excellent restaurant around the corner from where we live.

It was a fixed valentine's menu with lots of fish, something he is neutral about to disliking, even if Bartavelle's preparation of things he usually wouldn't touch takes him to neutral to almost liking. 

But the last course was lobster, my favorite food of all time. As a New Englander living in Geneva and Southern France, lobster is a rare treat. Knowing that he was happy to treat me.

Some of the courses included things I can't eat such as scallops. The owners know that and, without us asking, made substitutions.

As for the lobster itself, I devoured it.

The desert shown at the top of the blog was a work of art. The outside was a type of donut paste and the flavor was pineapple. Even if it looked like a work of art and even if I was full, I was able to consume the whole thing.

This was a gift of caring, far better than any diamond from a diamond of a husband.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Travel Fatigue

Rick went to Milan last month on assignment followed by an assignment in Paris the following week. To someone, who might, if they are lucky, will get to Paris or Milan once in their life time, it sounds exciting.

I could have gone, but stayed at home.

When I was growing up in Reading, MA with a mother who felt going two towns away put me in danger of falling off the edge of the earth, I had to laugh at myself when I was living in Switzerland in the 90s. I had been traveling on business and I was really looking forward to a couple of days at home. Doing the laundry seemed like the most wonderful thing in the world. It also meant I could stop buying clean underwear because I didn't have time to wash my clothes.

I was living in Motiers, Switzerland at the time and then I had to go to the UK on business over the weekend. Long gone were the days as a teen, I wished that I had need for a suitcase. Long gone was dreaming over maps.

Business travel is not exciting. I still remember a conference I covered in Warsaw. If you give me colored pencils I can probably recreate the rug at the Marriott because that was all I saw. Lovely rose flowers on green.

Fun travel is a bit different. We've been hither and yon the last five years including:
  • Rick fulfilled his dream to play St. Andrews.
  • Three weeks in Westport Ireland
  • I "met" Eleanor of Aquitaine.
  • We've slept in a bubble in Austria. 
  • I showed Rick where I lived as a bride in Stuttgart.
  • We stayed on a canal boat in Amsterdam. 
  • There was a whole month in my second most loved city, Edinburgh allowing us to wander around Scotland, a beautiful, beautiful country filled with great people and history.
I loved every minute of  it.

On the other hand, sleeping in the same bed for weeks at a time, being able to say yes to a dinner invitation next week knowing I would be home and having a routine is also wonderful.

Some readers may shake their heads and think I'm whinging. I'm not really. I love what I've done, where I've been.

And it doesn't mean I want to stop traveling. Elton John is playing Montreux during the summer 2019. Rick hasn't seen Vienna. There are friends I want to visit in Copenhagen.

Although I've probably spent six plus months in Paris over the years, I have family of choice there and hopefully the Seine's flood will not wash it away. There are still museums to visit and cafes to sit in. Just walking the streets pretending I'm part of the Hemingway crowd has never gone stale. And if Rick covers a conference in Stuttgart, I will want to go and walk in the gardens by the Altes Shloss and maybe feed the swans like I used to do.

Once when my daughter was a student at Mannheim University and was in the UK at the same time I was doing a distant learning in Wales we discovered we were in the same country for an overlap of a few hours. We met for lunch.
A Massachusetts friend said, "You lead such a glamorous life."

I didn't tell him our lunch was not at some quaint pub but at Burger King in Paddington Station.

But between a new puppy and love of my home, traveling less is high on my bucket list...but then a chance comes up to go to (fill in the blank) and I get my teddy bear suitcase packed and am headed for the car, train or plane.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Brownie woes and joys

My former housemate makes the world's best brownies. What a joy to be writing away and have the smell of baking chocolate waft up the stairs. She often made them as gifts, but left enough for the house. Sometimes, when I came back from a trip, I would find brownies on my desk.

The second best are made by Catherine, the Brownie Lady, who sells her wares at the Argelès marché on Saturdays. She also bakes other goodies, minced pies, different fruit pies, savory tarts. In the winter her husband's homemade vin chaud is beyond yummy as guests at our Tree Decorating Open House attested.

We would buy four and ration them out during the week usually while watching a DVD. Ice cream, chocolate sauce was optional.

The last couple of weeks the weather had been too bad for Catherine to set up her stand.

We are going through serious brownie withdrawal.

Thank goodness Rick found a package of brownie mix bought at the American store in Collogny. It was Ghardilli. He will make them today.

Hopefully, they will be able to tide us over until Saturday's marché.

Friday, February 09, 2018

FATCA damage

I am in the process of putting together testimonies of people who have been hurt by FATCA in anyway from denied employment to losing banking access, a marriage breakup, renunciation, etc. The stories will be collected and I intend to self publish it and send it to every congress member.

I want to make sure they at least have the story of the damage they are doing to their fellow countrymen in their offices.

You can remain anonymous if you wish.

Email me at

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Sherlock 0, Pigeon 5

Sherlock went into crouch position. His back legs trembled much like a cat waiting to attack a mouse. Sherlock had seen his mortal enemy, the white pigeon.

The bird would taunt him, walking back and forth in front of the glass door to our house while Sherlock would bark and scratch at the glass.

Now we were out on the street and there was no glass between him and her. It was early, early, early morning. The sun was still waking up.

Alain was setting up his sausage stand for the day's marché. The egg-onion-garlic-herb lady was already set up on the other side of the narrow street. No one else had ventured out into the cold.

Sherlock lunged. The pigeon flew a few feet out of reach. Sherlock lunged again. The pigeon put just enough space between her and the pup to frustrate him. 

He returned to crouch position. The pigeon continued to strut. It was if she had measured his leash and the distance between them and added a meter.

"Il n'a pas de chance," I said to both vendors who were laughing at my puppy.

"Mais il a de l'espoir," the woman said.

The pigeon continued the game three more times then flew onto a nearby ledge. Sherlock sat his eyes following the bird.

I was right -- he had no chance. So was the woman -- he had high hopes.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018


This is the worse case of "shoot the messenger" ever.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

"There's an R in Paw?" Rick asked after I mentioned Sherlock's paw. "Is that where they go?"

Okay, more teasing about my Boston accent. We have had some real misunderstandings about it. Like when I said I was going to the yarn store and he thought we had a Chinese store with the name Yan.

And then when I was with college friends, he said they had a problem understanding them. I said, they talked like I did. 

His response, "I know."

When on a tour with many Bostonians or at least people who lived in the area, he said he knew we were in the right part of the breakfast room, because all he heard was my twang, although I don't call Beantown's accent a twang.

He suspects that somewhere there is a trunk filled with the letter R left over from all the cahs, Hahvard, wohlds, wohds, etc. spoken that I bring out for insertion into words that never were intended to have an R sound.

That's wicked cute.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Driverless cars

Rick's printer threw a temper tantrum. It refused to print word documents but would print the test page.

"That is why I won't ride in a driverless car," I said.

He looked at me. 

I went on to explain.

All the things that don't work now with too great a regularity:
  • SFR and Bluewin TV transmissions
  • A switching device on a train track that doesn't switch (UK accident)
  • Glitches in regular computer programs
  • Phones where we can't get a signal
  • Car recalls for all kinds of problems--why should I believe they would take better care of a driverless car.
  • Lying -- such as VW's standards fraud
I am not a Luddite. I love technology that makes my life simpler. But more often it adds to the complications.

Then I think of all the conditions that could bring down the car's system.
  • Hurricanes (more often these days)
  • Power failures (The US electrical grid is in rough shape)
  • Fires 
  • Tornadoes
  • Earthquakes
  • Regular thunderstorms
  • Hacking
  • Human mistake (attack alert in Hawaii?)
  • Updates when going 95 MPH on a highway
It is ingenious how they have made traffic lights signal to the driverless cars. Even if the electrical grid is working well, all it takes is one kid with a stone to put one of those lights out of commission leading to chaos.

Cars do have some great new stuff, such as letting a driver know when something or someone is too close. But the driver should be in control if he's not reading, talking on his phone, or had too much to drink etc., all of which a driverless car would not do. One driver can create a bad accident, but imagine if the driverless system goes berserk for any of the reasons above and all the cars are out of control. Or the system shuts down. Or the software that runs the car pulls a temper tantrum as Rick's printer did.

Nope. No driverless cars for me.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Red Flannel Hash

As a child growing up I was always excited when we had a New England boiled dinner, not because I loved it so much (although I did) but because it was followed by red flannel hash.

I am enough of a New England Yankee to pine for some of the childhood foods: New England Boston baked beans, Brown bread, clam bake (without the clams but with the lobster, corn,) Indian pudding, etc. All were made with love by my grandmother.

I've never been able to get the corned beef in Europe. It may exist but I haven't found it.

For those that don't know, a New England boiled dinner the meat is boiled with potatoes, turnips, onions, cabbage and carrots. Beets are cooked separately.

Although there is usually enough for two to three more meals as is, the leftovers in our family were always turned into red flannel hash.

However, my husband discovered canned corned beef hash, Although he is beet phobic, on his day to cook, he divided the hash into two and loving chopped the beets and to add to mine.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Illegal Immigrant

I have been an illegal immigrant. If you are picturing me struggling across the Rio Grande or jumping on top of a train to cross from Mexico, you're wrong.

I also did not risk my life in an overcrowded boat.

I'm not hiding on the underside of a truck crossing the Channel.

I was not forced off my land by my northern neighbor dumping produce so I could no longer sell what I grew and I had to find an alternate way to feed my family.

My home was never bombed.
None of that matters.

Because of my appearance I was not likely to be harassed. In those pre-computer days, It was easy to walk through customs at Charles de Gaulle.

I am a highly educated, white privileged woman, but when I overstayed in France where I wanted to live I was illegal and always afraid I would be deported from my dream.

My job search was not productive. Because the companies needed to get working permission, few bothered to even look at me. I came close to an Assistant VP for a major multi-national but was beaten out by an internal candidate...fair. A direct mail company wanted to hire me, but my French was too poor to handle part of the job and I could not guarantee fluency fast enough.

It all came to nothing when my mother developed cancer and I returned to the states.

You might ask why I wanted to leave the States: even in the 80s: it was health care, education, infrastructure, vacation time, culture, violence although it is much, much worse now.

Legal Immigrant

When my mother died, I started sending CVs (resumes). With no internet, I flew to France for want ads. I mailed CVs to companies found in a directory. I used European addresses for members of two professional associations I belonged to. Over 800 went out within a few weeks. I was like a machine.

I became friends with the man at the post office as I dropped off my stack of job hopes daily.

Then a response to an ad that said: "Sales person, knowledge of Digital Equipment Corporation, French, German, English. We'll get working papers." It was in Switzerland, where I hadn't tried being told it was impossible.

My German was rusty, my French below basic,  That I disliked sales wasn't important. They said they would get working papers.

I answered.

Two months later I was at my desk in Peseux, Switzerland, a Permis A in hand until my Permis B could be processed. I was legal. It was probably the worse job I have ever had, but they held my permit. And it would be cruel to compare it to a laborer picking tomatoes in the blazing sun. The permit was not transferable to another company and it took almost three years before I found a company that would sponsor me (I should add with the help of my first boss--no one is all bad).

The company that hired me had to interview local candidates first. In my case, I had a unique combination of skills that would have been almost impossible to find along with the writing ability. I feel sorry for those that didn't get the job that they wasted their time. And if I took a job away from a national, I brought something to the company that they couldn't have found locally. I paid my taxes and spent my money locally. I participated and contributed to the Swiss society even although I had been born 3000 miles away.

At that time to get a Permis C, the equivalent of a full green card it took 10 years for an American, Africans and most Asians. However, it was reduced to five. 


On the 12th anniversary of my arrival to the day, I applied for citizenship. I took another three years, three months and five days to be processed. I had been rejected once, but was accepted on appeal.

I say the day I stood in the Hotel de Ville, raised my hand and took the oath was the third happiest of my life: (my daughter's birth and my marriage are the other two).

Immigrants, legal and illegal

My heart goes out to immigrants, legal and illegal. I did not suffer even a nano-fraction what a majority of them suffer because an accident of birth put me in a place where I could maximize my natural abilities. The color of my skin lets me meld in with the crowd as long as I don't open my mouth and they hear the accent. I have been able to marshal resources to risk changing countries, cultures and languages while always having a roof over my head and enough to eat. I am well aware that others are not so lucky. Yet, we immigrants are the same--we want a better life.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


P3 chic.

What is P3?

Pup PJ Parade.

Sherlock's first run in the morning often involves Rick (more often) or me stumbling out of bed putting on the closest socks and shoes and going for a walk.

The streets in our little French village are narrow. Two doors down is another 4 month puppy.
Our neighbors, Alain and Sylvie often are out walking with Muffin (pronounced Moofen) and Tintin and we can't forget the man with the two chihuahuas.

My normal careful color coordinated outfits give way to whatever is closest. As I call it -- P3 chic.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Off grid

The first time we went off grid, we didn't mean to.

We were staying in a bubble on the roof of a garage in the Austrian Alps in an Airbnb. Our hosts had invited us to share their dinner and we'd talked as the sun set.

Climbing into the beds in the bubble, we couldn't get the wifi to work. That was okay. Looking at the stars and the wind bending the trees above the bubble was a good substitute.

In fact we didn't get on wifi until we reached our hotel in Liechtenstein the next day. Nothing catastrophic had happened, although there was the usual bad news.

We sat on the terrace of our suite watching a robot lawn mower cut the grass and decided that not being on grid was pretty peaceful.

Rick had the idea to do it once a week. Except for the Catalan referendum, we have kept to it. Twenty-four hours of no Trump, no May, no Putin, no Facebook, no email. It can be a calendar day or 24 hours.

If our family of friends needs to reach us for an emergency, there's the old-fashioned land line.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Time flies

 It's Friday. Ten minutes ago, or so it seemed, it was Monday.

The days pass at supersonic speed.

Okay, we tend to stay in bed until 9 and maybe we could pick up time by rising earlier. But time is spent reading, drinking tea, sharing ideas, plans, good writing with my husband. It gentles us into the day.

And sometimes by the time the morning necessities -- meds, shower, dressing, breakfast -- are over, it is time to run down the street for fresh bread, veggies and other things for lunch. Unless, of course one of us decides to "cook" at one of the local or not-so-local restaurants. We have been known to cross the border into Spain, for those great buffets. In France or go to France if we are in Geneva. Takes as long as going a couple of towns away, but it still pushes the clock.

Some days we get caught up in paperwork. Other days we are lost in our writing.

And I try to work on both in polishing my French and recapturing my German. After all, working in second and third languages are good stimulation for the brain. C'est vrai.

We can't forget friends whether the formal plans for an apèro or a meal are decided, often last minute. But equally impromptu is walking by La Noisette or Mille et Une and seeing a friend having a cup of coffee. People have precedence.

Then there's Sherlock and necessity walks or taking him to the beach or down to the river bed to let him run off his excess energy.

People drop in -- more to see Sherlock these days. Tea, biscuits, chat and ball throwing ensue.

Wednesdays and Saturdays are the marchés with all the vendors we have come to know: the brownie lady, for example. Friends gather at cafés and it is a good chat time.

Facebook traps us, but again people, people, people -- some from the past, some from current interests.

Nights in the summer can involve café sits at L'Hostalet where our friends congregate or curled up on the couch watching TV, Netlflix. Right now it is The Crown and Grace and Frankie.

Despite all the activities the to-do list still has things on it, usually the least appealing. 

I am not complaining because everything, except maybe for the paperwork, I love. 

But life seems like a beautiful sunset that only lasts a few minutes when we want it to last longer.


Thursday, January 25, 2018


A poem about buying a cemetery plot in the 22 January issue of The New Yorker, triggered a memory of our family's twice a year trek to the grave of my grandfather, uncle and aunt. My grandmother would plant flowers, often purple and yellow pansies in the spring and yellow chrysanthemums in the fall.

The selection of the flowers from Weston's florist had been the first stop. The florist had an earthy smell and the greenhouse always felt warmer than the air outside.

When finished sprucing up the grave, my grandmother did the same for her sister-in-law's family. Auntie Maud lived in New Jersey and wasn't able to do it herself.

My brother and I would run around, sometimes fill the water bucket for my grandmother, sometimes just letting out excess energy knowing we have to sit still when we ate lunch at a restaurant afterwards. We neither loved or hated doing those trips, it was just part of our lives like brushing teeth or eating red flannel hash after a New England boiled dinner.

My Aunt Lois died in 1915, at a year old. She had failed to flourish. My grandfather, worried about my grandmother, insisted they go to see family on the coast. Half way there, my grandmother insisted on going back. She walked into the house, picked Lois up and within minutes lost her daughter forever.

My Uncle Gordon died at 33 of a cerebral hemorrhage during the night.

My grandfather joked he wanted to be buried in his beloved veggie garden, claiming, the tomatoes would be wonderful with him fertilizing. Imagine the shock when we arrived one time to see a flourishing tomato plant over where he was buried, the only one in the cemetery, which is located in a city nowhere near a farm.

When my grandmother died, my mother kept postponing adding my grandmother's name to the tombstone. I finally did it myself.

Once my grandmother was gone, we no longer tended the graves.

My mother wanted to be cremated and her ashes spread in the woods which she loved looking at from her North Andover apartment balcony even though she said terrible things went on the woods (read teenagers making out and maybe more).

On the day my brother and I would follow her wish, I picked up my girlfriend. I found her sitting on the stoop of her Boston townhouse. "I checked Emily Post to see what you wear to an illegal ash scattering of a woman you don't like on Earth Day," she said. We wore jeans and sneakers, had my two Japanese chins, Amadeus and Albert with us, and ate at MacDonald's afterwards. The dogs split a plain burger.

Later I was telling a co-worker named Bill about it. We were a small firm of eight, four of which had the name Don or Donna. Bill said I should write a story about my mother's ghost who killed any teenager making out in the woods. 

I read the poem in bed, my puppy Sherlock curled up between myself and my husband. The church bells did their usual seven o'clock symphony. It also dawned on me that I had spent ten days in the spring at my daughter's in Malden. I could have gone to the cemetery, but it never entered my mind.


The people who are buried there have left only their earthly remains. Who they were, what they did is part of me wherever I go. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Self help

Self-help is a $20 billion industry between books, apps and products. But is it causing more problems than it solves, so asks the Jan. 15 issue of the New Yorker.

A question is why do we need to spend so much time, money and energy fixing ourselves to a point of constant discontent and sense of failure.

Maybe I'll write a book called, Weaning Yourself off Self-Help.

Subtitle, The Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever Need."

Friday, January 19, 2018


I was in the shower this morning, when it dawned on me, except for paint for our flat that I want to buy. I have enough or more than enough of everything I need or want. Okay there is the exception of books.

I told my husband.

"You're a failure as a consumer," he told me.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


I have a friend, a widow, who had many years of a good marriage. She has done a remarkable job building a new life. This year she went skiing for the first time in decades. My reaction was, "I am so proud of her."

One of the definitions of pride is a reasonable or justifiable self-respect.

I shouldn't be proud of her. I had nothing to do with her courage in living.  I wasn't there during her times of self-doubt and often not there when she pushed herself to do something new or difficult. 

When my daughter has some new accomplishment, I may feel a sense of pride on the off chance I did something right in raising her, but deep down I know, she accomplished the things on her own. My part may have been placing things that helped her should she decide to use them, like a good education, but I never conjugated her Latin verbs or passed the accounting exam or wrote her masters thesis. She did that.

Then I came up with a different phrase...I am so proud for the sense that I recognize the accomplishment and want you to know I care and celebrate what you've accomplished.

Hope that is a better phrase.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Not having a dog for more than a decade, I'd forgotten how much a pup adds to one's life.

We wanted a rescue dog, probably an older one. We didn't want to go thru the puppy training. And we thought, because we are older, we'd probably outlive older dog.

That was before Spider, now known as Sherlock, was put in my arms. All preconceptions disappeared in a lick.

What has been fascinating is watching not just his growth (oops he can reach that now, put it higher) and how quick he learns. He mastered "sit" fast if you consider sit is having your butt graze the floor.
A few days later "sit" lasts longer and the treat can stay on the floor until we give the okay -- unless we take too long, that is.

His household accidents have diminished and biting is reduced.

Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, has become my favorite youtube.

Mostly it is the pleasure of watching Sherlock put his toys away in his chosen place, moving his bed and blanket to where he wants it. He has a mind of his own, and is only beginning to realize that Rick is Alpha dog in our pack and I'm Beta. He can be any of the rest of the letters.

In a way, it reminds me of my daughter's early days, where each day there was something new in her development.

We are part of P3 (Puppy PJ Parade) Club in the early morning hours for the first walk. And I find I am talking more to neighbors in French and/or English. My feelings aren't hurt that they greet Sherlock before me.

To say he has altered our lives, is a true statement. As for our hearts, there is a wiggly puppy that has set up his own place there.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Davos demonstrations

The U.S. embassy in Bern has issued an alert to American citizens concerning the World Economic Forum in Davos. They expect major anti-Trump demonstrations.

"Demonstration Alert – U. S. Embassy Bern, Switzerland (January 12, 2018)
"Location:  Bern, Geneva, Zurich, Davos, and possibly other cities in Switzerland – monitor local media for confirmed locations and times.
"Event:  Planned and unplanned demonstrations are expected to take place in a variety of locations in the lead up to the 2018 World Economic Forum which will take place January 23 – 26, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland.
"Actions to Take:
  • Monitor local media for information about specific demonstrations
  • Avoid the areas of the demonstrations
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities at all times
  • Exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests
  • Keep a low profile"
As for the actions to take, I suspect many Americans will be demonstrating not afraid of actions against them during the demonstrations. So many times people have come up to me and asked me to explain Trump. This has included
  • a nurse in the emergency room as she took my blood pressure
  • my dentist
  • my vet
  • strangers on public transportation
  • other diners in restaurants 
  • people on the street

    If I were home in Switzerland, I would be demonstrating too.