Saturday, December 16, 2017

Who cares




I get so tired of people who get their knickers in a twist about saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

There are many religions and many of them  celebrate holidays at this time of year. 

I have decided on my Facebook page, I will wish my many friends who are of a different nationalities and religions the appropriate greeting in their own languages.

Thus:
  • I will wish those whose religion I don’t know happy holidays (this includes my Arabic friends who will have time off during the period and will use it as a holiday—so many businesses close in Switzerland between Christmas eve and Jan. 2 and it is not part of the minimum 4 week guaranteed vacation).  
  • I will say Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends 
  • Joyeux Noël will be sent to my French friends
  •  Feliz Navidad is for my Spanish friends
  •  Frohe Weihnachten works for my German friends
  • Veselé Vánoce to my Czech, although each year they laugh at my pronunciation. 
  • And Merry Christmas of course to my Christian friends 
  • To my pagan friends I'll send Samhain, Yule and Solstice greetings. Most societies have some celebration around this time of year and the Christians borrowed from the pagan tradition for Christmas.
  • Etc.
The point is to share good wishes and to come together rather than build walls. How narrow my life would be without so many people from so many places in my life. And whatever people say to me that brings good cheer, thank you, shukran, danke, merci, gracias and and and...


Friday, December 15, 2017

Sad



I have come to the conclusion that the U.S. government is not of or by the people but against it.

Our multi-year battle against FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) both in the courts and in Congress has been useless so far.

For those that don't know what FATCA is legislation based on the goal to catch money stashed off shore to escape taxes, not a bad cause in and of itself. However, the government bullied governments all over the world to sign agreements where they must under threat of draconian fines to report every American account.

 While many of the sought of tax dodgers live in the U.S., nine million American expats do not. What the government calls "foreign" banks are their local bank down the street.

Afraid of fines that could put them out of business, banks around the world have spent millions ferreting out American customers, closing their accounts, calling their mortgages, forbidding them to invest, cancelling their credit cards--in other words making it impossible for them to have ordinary financial lives. Even insurance companies were cancelling policies. Employers were not hiring Americans who might have fiduciary responsibilities and who could not participate in the company pension plan, merely for being American.

Congress has referred to expats as tax dodgers, slave traders, drug dealers. Maybe a few are. Most are ordinary people leaving ordinary lives until they were indirectly attacked by their own government.

It is not just expats. The alleged tax reform bill will make life more difficult for ordinary people in the States.

The government sends its youth to phony wars allegedly to protect the homeland, where people are not safe from bad water, oil spills, crumbling roads and bridges, health issues, guns, food, etc. The items on the list is more apt to kill them than any terrorist, just not as directly.

Net neutrality elimination is the latest attack against ordinary Americans.

There is little doubt that congress is bought and paid for by the corporations where the bottom line overrides almost every criteria of human decency.




Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Breed

"I know what breed Sherlock is," my husband said.

We were told at the rescue center his mother was a Yorkie, his father a Griffon and many other things.

"He's a Homing Terrier?"

"A Homing Terrier?"

"I take him out to do his business, carry him around the corner and he heads straight for home."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sherlock


Rick and I have been talking about getting a dog since we got together almost five years ago.

There were many reasons to delay including our travel. We thought we might this summer and even arranged for friends to dog sit for the almost five weeks we were in Edinburgh during autumn. They ended up with an easy sit, just the flat.

Rick has been looking at rescue sites.

Then a homeless man who has an old, old dog, with him all the time whom we give a biscuit to when we give the old man a coin, was dogless.

I asked almost afraid.

"C'est la fin," he said.

I assumed he meant the dog died.

"Do you think we should get him a dog?" Rick asked. He started looking at rescue sites which he had been looking for us all along. Later that day we saw him with the dog totally wrapped in a blanket against the Tramantane blowing at full force.

Rick kept looking at rescue sites: We found one, Mila who met all our criteria:
  • Female
  • 12-20 pounds
  • Older
  • Housebroken
We were open to many breeds, but Mila was a Griffon. Why not? We headed to the animal shelter near the airport. Despite a map we traveled up and down streets finding nothing, finally stopping at a restaurant.

"We don't have a Mila," the young woman told us.

Of course, they didn't. Mila was at a different rescue center.

"We have other small dogs," she said and mentioned a Jack Russell. I love Jack Russells for their intelligence but their energy level was more than we wanted.

"And there's Spider." She put this bundle of part Yorkie, part Griffon and part question mark in my arms.

Okay so the dog was:
  • Male
  • About six pounds 
  • Eight weeks old
  • Not housebroken
I knew it, I knew it. I knew it. It was what the French call a coupe de foudre, love at first sight. It was going to happen.

Spider was renamed Sherlock, because I have a good friend who is afraid of spiders and I don't want her uncomfortable around him if and when we are together, is now asleep right outside my office door having:
  • Eaten
  • Investigated the flat and seemed to approve
  • Drunk water
  • Played with a toy
  • Taken a nap on my husband's lap
My husband has a dueling blog at http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.fr/2017/12/wrong-place-right-mutt.html

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Icons


Johnny Halladay died last night a little after 1:00.

President Macron issued a statement about an hour later.

The rocker was 74 and had sold over 110 million records. In France you only needed to say Johnny and everyone knew who you were talking about.

Most of the major stations preempted broadcasts with the story of his life and music.

It has been suggested that there be a national day of mourning, although I doubt that will happen.

The next issue of Paris Match will be filled with photos past/present.

And the type of headlines that dramatize death that the French love so much said "France has been left an orphan by Johnny." It doesn't quite have the same emotion for a non-French, American born me as the one that said, "Arthur Miller has joined his Marilyn."

At the same time writer Jean d'Ormesson died at 90. His death was eclipsed by Johnny, although France treats many of its writers with reverence. They even have TV shows about books.

In England Christine Keeler died at 75. She was the mistress of a British Secretary of War John Profumo and caused a massive scandal. She was an icon of another kind. The British stations rehashed her life.

Neither D'Ormesson or Keeler will get the shock and tears that Halliday will get.

I wish I could think of something profound to write about the different levels of reactions to icons or near icons or even well knowns. I can't. Like all of us, they will have walked thru their lives and others and like every living creature will end their time on earth marked by various degrees of sorrow.



Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Airline meals

Flying today is no pleasure, especially the long hauls. The security lines are long and frustrating as we take things out of our suitcase to push them thru the conveyor belt and then shove them back in. Once getting patted down in Frankfort, the security guard grabbed my crotch and her name wasn't Lauer, Weinstein, etc.

Of the hundreds to trips, there are a few bright moments.

I was amused the time, security told me to take of my jacket, only to stop me when he realized I had nothing on under it except my bra.

And I wonder if the Swiss security guard ever made the American apple pie recipe I gave him when he questioned my can of Crisco being taken to Scotland because my daughter was making a typical Thanksgiving dinner for her friends.

Mostly getting onto and seated is a necessary pain if I want to get to my destination.

The pushing and shoving to get on board (what if they called all window seat holders board first, then the middle, then the aisle?) means I will step on or be stepped on, hit by or hit someone with my carryon,

When my company paid for it, I sometime had first and business class seats but no way would I pay for them myself. If I find the seats in economy tight at 5 foot one, I wonder what taller people suffer.

The one thing I love about flying is the meals. Granted they do not match a gourmet restaurant, but they are as good as anything we get in many food courts or chains. I start looking forward to them when we arrive at the airport. When I'm standing at line at security or customs, I am wondering with anticipation what the meal will be.

The attendant puts the tray in front of me. Many little dishes are tinfoil covered. If the airline does not give the menu in advance (a thrill to see), it is like opening Christmas gifts. Even if I know what the main course is, I don't know what kind of roll, salted or sweet butter, what kind of cheese, etc. Because I am a grown up, I can take a bite of the dessert before I finish my meal, even if I'm an adult or maybe because I am an adult.

The low cost, short haul airlines don't provide meals, but you can buy a sandwich, which is not that interesting. But going from Toulouse to London, Geneva to Prague is a few chapters in a book or barely a nap. I can grab a snack before boarding.

Going intercontinental is when those marvelous, silver gift trays come out with the surprises inside. It doesn't quite balance the inconveniences and the discomfort, but it helps.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

December



Autumn may be my favorite season, but December is my favorite month.

The sun arrives later and the bed hugs me closer in the morning. At night the sun quits the sky earlier and we turn on the lights in the house and live in their glow. PJs, the fuzzier the better, are put on and we curl up with a book or a DVD. Sometimes we go early into our pre-warrmed bed.

The year is drawing to a close. It has been a good year filled with adventures. The dark allows me to reflect on what we've done and felt. 

Store windows and village centers are decorated.

Tea takes on a whole new meaning.

Even in the South of France the wind can create rosy cheeks. In Geneva there can be snow but not often. The snow falls up the mountains, creating a reality postcard.

Today we drove home from the South of France to Geneva, worried that the snow might hamper us and we would need to spend a night in a hotel somewhere. Instead the snow only decorated the forests and mountains leaving the roads clear. The drive is always spectacular, but this trip the countryside was decorated for the holiday in white.

Geneva was warmer than France, although warm is not the word.

Each day the days are a little darker until the solstice when I will bring in our Christmas tree, always a real one.

This year we are inviting friends to an open house to help us decorate the tree. We'll serve vin chaud, muscat de Noël and nibblies as they help us decorate. Many were made by my daughter and me when she was little, but Rick and I have added a few of our own. We will hang the stockings my daughter made for me years ago and for Rick when he joined the family.

Hopefully some of our other friends from the UK and Switzerland will come down.

And then, little by little, the days will grow a bit longer promising a new year. And after the dark rest, I will be ready.