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.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Not well traveled

It is not a joke when I say my mother thought if you went two towns away you fell off the edge of the earth. We were on the same street as the country club where we played golf and swam (I waded). The Quanapowitt Players put on three plays a year and the Reading Symphony would satisfy any classical musical urges.

I was not allowed to go on school trips to Boston (12 miles away). I was an adult before I walked the close by Lexington/Concord battlefields, where my country was born. Some of my classmates thought I had a heart condition which prevented me from going on the bus. In reality it was a neurotic mother.

My freshman year of college at Lowell, MA I was under a half hour away. When the boy I was dating wanted to take me to meet his parents in Attleboro, it was forbidden. That would have taken about an hour by car.

A year later to the day, I sailed on the S.S. America to join my new husband (different boy) for his Army stint in Stuttgart, Germany.

I didn't fall off the edge of the earth. I discovered the world I thought was out there really was there. He was in an Army band, a public relations unit, and we played fashings and fests in cities and villages around Germany. Wives were encouraged to go. I need no urging.

My ex wasn't much for travel when we returned to the States, but we did go to Niagara Falls to see his sister, D.C. to meet up with friends and NH.

The year we separated I took a trip alone to London. I tried to visit Europe at least once if not two to three times a year after that. When my daughter was nine she began to go with me at least on some of the trips.

There was a point I realized that she'd been to Europe five times without ever seeing her own capital. We made sure she saw D.C.

Eventually I found a way to live in Europe (about 800 C.V.s mailed across the Atlantic) and between business and pleasure trips, I explored the European countries. I knew life had changed when I HAD TO GO to London on a business trip and I wanted to spend a weekend at home to catch up with laundry. If I could have kicked myself for resenting the trip, when once going to London would have been a miracle, I should have.

Though I've been to Turkey, Iceland and Syria too,  I now know I am not that well-traveled in comparison to many of my friends who talk about their trips to India, China, Japan, Bali, Thailand, Australian, Mauritius, South Africa and most places that one can find on a world map.

Even school children (public and private) get to go on school trips that once were only a fantasy nothing like Lexington and Concord which were down the road from Reading where I grew up. Imagine skiing in the Alps or building a school in Tanzania  or giving a play in Jordan as part of your curriculum .

I am not complaining nor am I jealous. I've come/gone a long way from being that "little girl in Reading" that one of my friend's used as a description when he listened to my adventures. He had never been further than Maine.

I don't take it for granted that I am at home in Paris, comfortable in London, happy in Vienna. I also am proud that it is still an adventure to discover some historical event, a natural phenomena that most people aren't aware of off the usual tourist destinations. No matter where I have been, there is something to delight.

I am happy that when I went more than two towns away, I did not fall off the edge of the earth. I am also happy for my friends who have been able to discover even more than I have.

It's a huge world out there...Carpe diem.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

His face

When the man walked into La Noisette, I did a triple take. His resemblance to my father, when my Dad was younger, was striking, especially the chin, face shape and eyes. His eyebrows were slightly thicker than my Dad's but the baldness was the same.

However, my father died 35 years ago.

Unlike my father, the man at La Noisette did not wear glasses.

Three more times at La Noisette, I saw him. And when I was having a blood test, he was at the lab too. The last time I went up and mentioned how much he looked like my father. He wasn't sure how to respond. I thanked him for the memories.

I just found this photo of my Dad, taken at the surprise party with all the aunts and uncles to announce that he was going to be a grandfather. He was the last of the siblings to have a grandchild and he had teased them so much they all asked me to tell them first when I was pregnant for some loving payback. It was great party with joke gifts.

I still miss my father. Due to family dynamics, I did not know him as a child. When I was at university, he appeared. He had been afraid of rejection, but my wonderful stepmom encouraged him to make contact. We developed a wonderful relationship.

There is one major difference. My father smiled a lot. The man at La Noisette does not. Yet, seeing his look alike, smiley or not, brings back all the good memories.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

me too

The French actress Catherine Deneuve has set off a storm by saying that #metoo has gone too far. She feels that it reduces the normal give and take between the sexes.

Let me say that I am a feminist. I have been sexually harassed from the dentist who wiped his hands on my almost non-existent 12-year-old breasts to the boss who was going to make sleeping with him a condition of employment. He was replaced for other reasons within days before I had to act. I had another boss who constantly told dirty jokes, of which about 2% were funny. Two of the men my mother was dating at different times made a pass at me. One company where I worked, made warning about the CEO part of the orientation process for women employees.

As a pre-teen and teen I wasn't sure what to do. I kept it a secret. As a single mom, who needed her job, bad behavior added to the stress of having too much to do, too little time to do it in and not enough money to do it with. 

On the other hand, one place where I worked, I started dating another employee who was slightly higher in rank. My boss, a lovely older man, a mentor in the full sense of the word, had said, "Bill, you're single. Donna-Lane is single," and left it at that. We did the rest on our own. In today's world this would not have been acceptable and we would have missed out on an overall pleasant experience even if it ended.

This morning I asked my husband if he felt funny complimenting a coworker about her appearance. He said when he did, she thought he was hitting on her. That's sad.

Years ago I was going up the stairs at the Central Square T station. A man passed me and said, "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but you look great in those slacks." They were burnt orange. He continued walking and I never saw him again. I didn't feel insulted. In fact, I'd been having a bad day, and he made me feel a bit better. Today that would be unacceptable. 

Had he followed me, tried to get information about me, that would have been scary.

I don't think Deneuve is totally wrong. There should be room for flirting and compliments without pressure. At the same time there should never be room for forcing one self on another or making another person uncomfortable, especially when there is a power difference. 

It is never acceptable. 


Tuesday, January 09, 2018


Today, sitting behind L'Hostalet sipping tea and munching Catherine's savory tarts, we watched the vendors and customers at the marché. They gave us much inspiration for my writing friend and I to do our ten minute exercises creating a flash fiction piece. The only drawback was we know too many people to chat with. And people come first. But I did get one piece written. Here it is unedited.

GINA spent at least 10 minutes trying to decide to buy flowers. She left the marché stand, selected cheese and tomatoes from Jean and Pierre's stalls.

The desire for flowers was too strong. She went back. Lilies were four euros, a mixed bouquet five, and a single rose three.

"Is it a gift?" the vendor asked.

"Yes." It was a gift for herself.

He put the flowers in a transparent film, took yellow and orange ribbons and made a bow near the bottom of the stems. He used a small knife to run down the ends, creating curly cues.

Gina's other errands were mundane, although the smell of fresh bread from the oven made the bakery smell heavenly. The butcher was able to sell her a cheap piece of mutton, that she knew she could stew into tenderness

Back home she put the flowers in a vase on the kitchen table, but then moved them to the living room.

As she prepared the stew, she changed her mind and returned the flowers to the kitchen table. She found herself smiling every time she saw them as she moved from table to counter to stove in preparing the lambb stew.

The kitchen door opened. Thomas stormed in. "What are those?"


"How much did you pay for them?"

She told him.

"God damn waste of money." He went into the living room slamming the doors behind him.

She looked at the flowers and a wave of sadness swept over her not at the waste of money on flowers but the waste that was her marriage.

Sunday, January 07, 2018


My daughter and her step father, my beloved husband, are more alike in movie tastes than I am even with no related DNA.

Last night Rick put on a James Bond movie. I don't know which one and it had Daniel Craig. I may not be typical, because I know many women find him sexy. I find him creepy even though I usually like blue eyes and blond hair.

I watched for a few minutes.

He and a woman were walking through a Day of the Death parade. She led him to a motel room, but he went out and walked on a ledge above the parade and came across a gun where he proceeded to kill a bunch of people through a window across the street.

Then the building blew up and he slid down the crumbling building and landed on a couch, a bit dusty, but the dust disappeared as he went into the crowd who didn't notice a building collapsing.

There was a man he was trying to catch and after this accident which should have left him in intensive care if not a funeral home, the two men had a fight in a helicopter flying over the crowd.

Helicopter did do some amazing flying if it wasn't a special effect. But it went on and on and on and on and on and on...I could have had time to get a snack.

The crowd seemed to ignore them. No one seemed to notice a building collapsing in a neighborhood. No one noticed that gun shots had killed a bunch of people. No one paid any attention to a helicopter flying upside down above them, sometimes with people hanging out the door.

Overall special effects boor me. Ya, they are clever for a few minutes at best but let's get on with the story. There was one movie I walked out on when it took a full five minutes for a car to fall off a cliff, and not a very big cliff at that. Five minutes after I looked at my watch. I've blocked the title from my memory and am happy it was only a five Euro movie.

What I like in movies is story, story, story with deep and well thought out characters that are tested.

It can even be movies like Shrek. I adore Donkey and Puss.

Limited violence is okay, but war scenes past, present, future, bring to mind real war, with real suffering at the hands of corrupt leaders. The evening news is enough.

I can like silly movies...Every now and then a good nincompoopy movie as my friend calls some chick flicks can take my mind off more serious issue, personal and public if there is a reasonable story behind it and the characters are believable.

If Rick had wanted to, he could have watched the whole thing. We don't have to agree any more than my daughter and I have to agree on movies.  I didn't care if they ever explained Bond's miracle of landing on a couch unhurt or where the dust on his clothes went.

In the end we both went to bed and read as the rain poured down outside and the wind blew. It was a nice night anyway.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Viking blood

"Of course we are all beautiful, the gorgeous hunk of man said. I had remarked how handsome (and tall) I'd found the Norwegians.

We were a café in Oslo Norway and at eleven at night it was still daylight on the pleasant May night.

"We were Vikings. We only captured the most beautiful women."

Fast forward many decades and like many others I had my DNA tested. Much of what came back, I already knew: English and French predominated.

But there was a surprise. A tiny bit of my DNA contained Norwegian heritage.

It made sense with all the Viking raids in the late 700s, I had an ancestor that crossed the dangerous seas to land in the Angl-Saxon area of what is now the UK.

Did his arms get tired as he rowed? Was he seasick?

Did he worry his wolf helmet would rust from the salt water if he had one.

Then when the boat landed how much did he plunder and kill? He must have found a local woman and like the man in that café said, select a beautiful one.

Did he rape her?

Or did he fall in love, and like some other Vikings stay and farm, and raise off springs one of which who passed their DNA onto me? Since such a little part of my DNA is Norwegian, I assume he did not take the woman back to Scandinavia.

Or did he just leave the woman pregnant. When she gave birth was she shunned by the community, or were they glad they had survived the onslaught and accepted her and the child?

I like to think of it as a love story. That tired of the cold of his homeland, sick of the sea, he was happy to settle down.

I will never know although I am tempted to do a series of short stories with the different possibilities...or not.


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Santon Dolls

Santon dolls create a world of their own and have been made since the 1700s in France. The detail in clothing, facial expressions and accessories have amazed me since I first saw them at a Christmas fair in Grand Saconnex.

When my friend Barbara, I inherited two, this old woman and a fisherman. As much as I love them, I am trying to reduce my possessions but I had to make sure they went to go to a good home.

Facebook to the rescue. A notice brought a message from a friend, a former Argelesian. I didn't want to sell them, but she felt she would like to make a donation to a cleft lip charity in Barbara's name.

Barbara would approve.

That is a win-win.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Christmas Debts

Christmas is over but for many the bills keep rolling in. Some of the bills are for things already discarded or broken. Even if people got tremendous bargains on Black Friday, interest charges could wipe out what they saved.

In the 70s I worked for a credit union and one of the big products was a Christmas Club. Members deposited a certain amount each week and in late November of early December would withdraw the money for their holiday shopping. Amounts were usually under $1,000.

I don't know if these products are still offered but there is nothing to stop someone from setting up a savings account and putting money aside for the holidays or for that matter, any other purchase coming up.

It's an old fashioned concept, saving for something rather than charging it.

I admit I have a horror of credit card debt. There was a period that I had huge debts due to a family illness that prohibited me working full time. Once it was paid off and I realised the thousands of dollars that went into interest, I vowed never again.

At the end of each month, my credit card debt will be zero. If I can't pay for it outright, I won't buy it until I have the money.

Boy am I out of step with modern society. I don't care. I never have to dread the after Christmas bills.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Bye 2017

What a year it was.

As Rick was looking thru receipts for our taxes, he would say, “We did . . .” And we did. It was a combination of places, activities, learning and most importantly people.

I am posting it as a list.

I read from Murder in Schwyz at the American Library in Paris.

There was a family reunion of Rick’s daughter, mother, brothers, and grandkids in upstate New York followed by a couple of days in NYC.

Three visits with my daughter in Boston, Argelès, Edinburgh. Time with her is always a gift.
Testifying before Congress in Washington, DC and meeting with Congressmen in our fight against FATCA. Here is the video that started the hearing.

Was able to see my friend in Long Island and once again had multi-colored bagels. The friend was the best part, the bagel was just the extra-extra.

Learning that the Supreme Court will be asked to hear our FATCA case.

Wrote and am preparing for publication Coat Hangars and Knitting Needles, to fight for women’s rights to control their own bodies.

Slept in a bubble in the Austrian Alps.

Celebrated the third stage of our ongoing honeymoon in Liechtenstein.

Reconnected with a friend from my hometown in Zurich.

Attended the Paris Air Show.

Spent time in Paris with my Syrian family of choice.

Stood at the tomb of Eleanor of Aquitaine (also Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted)

Spent a month in Edinburgh.

Stood where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned and also where David Rizzio was murdered.

Had a chance to see the former neighbour who was a little girl and would visit me almost every night and see what a fine young woman and almost doctor she is.

Remet a young man from Demark, who has beaten back his handicaps.

Worked with a fledgling company in Colmar. What a pleasure to deal with these dedicated, intelligent people.

Had a few days with my former housemate bringing back good memories and creating a few new ones over Thanksgiving.

Adopted a puppy.

My marriage to my wonderful husband just keeps getting better.

On to 2018.