Saturday, April 18, 2015

The art of celebration

Life is full of happy moments and I'm lucky to have a husband and a housemate who know how to celebrate them.

There are the special little celebrations for a beautiful sunrise with a pastry.

This past week there have been many small victories and solutions to long-time annoyances. In this case nothing short of champagne and goodies were called for.

Wine and champagne connoisseurs will shake their heads to learn that it was the label that made me decide to buy this bottle.

My housemate picked up cheeses and meats to go along with it.
In some ways every day is a celebration when surrounded by wonderful people...

Friday, April 17, 2015

I'll never wear a brand

I will never be seen with a brand name on my body.

If I buy a brand name anything I will remove the brand or hide it.

One friend, whose husband believed in brands as a way to make himself more important, cut one alligator off an old shirt and sewed it over another alligator on a newer shirt. He was not happy when he saw the copulating crocodiles.

Now if any brands would pay me to be a billboard for them, yes I would wear them.

Did the alligators get the last laugh? I hope so.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I really don't like money

That I don't like money doesn't mean I like poverty either. What I don't like is that pursuit of money and the material which makes it impossible to enjoy all the other wonderful things in life.

I do enjoy following banking news. I adore talk about the messed up economy and why it is...I wish he'd been wrong more often, but he's not.

That's why Smith's book, Why I left Goldman Sachs was so interesting. In effect he gave up 11 hours of almost every day to do nothing but make money.

Yes, I had to work. And I often put in long days and I was lucky enough to never have jobs where the product hurt people. Still work was only part of my life and the end goal was not bigger and better but enough.

Most of my life I've had enough. I've been lucky not to have had more.

Frowning their disapproval

I suspect the four ministers on Geneva's Reformation Wall would have been shocked to see those scantily-glad students (including, horror of horrors women) doing weird things (exercises) and having fun.

The four men standing over five-meters are:
  • Theodore Beza (1519–1605)
  • John Calvin (1509–1564)
  • William Farel (1489–1565)
  • John Knox (c.1513–1572)      
They were anything but fun loving. Ask Mary Queen of Scots about her nemesis Knox.

Dour is an understatement. One person described their faces as hate-filled. The first time I saw the wall, I went home and took a shower to wash away the creepy feeling the wall left me with.

A minister friend of mine who was visiting saw the wall and shuddered. Later, walking through the Paquis area of the city, where the hookers hang out, he said he liked that part of the city more.  He thought there was more life in the women than those early Calvinists whose philosophy restricted so much of the beautiful things in life.

The wall is located in the park which includes the University of Geneva, founded by Calvin 350+ years ago.

There is something about walking through the halls of the university and knowing so much learning has gone on. The curriculum has expanded greatly from its original theology and law concentrations. By European standards it might be considered expensive at 500CHF per semester. Today the dollar and CHF are about one to one.

Calvin and his cohorts probably not approve of much of what is going on at the university today. Still much good has come out of their narrow-minded, joyless philosophy in spite of them all.

Stained glass windows of the University of Geneva.

Writing in yellow

Three photos of daffodils.

They are almost a metaphor for writing a story from many points of view. How does it feel to be one of many daffodils none of which stand out?

And what about the daffodil that turns it back to the camera. Why does it want to remain anonymous or is it standing up tall to show off it's yellowness?

Than again there's the daffodil that stares at the camera. She would probably take a selfie if she could.

Unless it is a children's story probably I wouldn't write about a daffodil point of view, but when writing about humans it is sometimes a good exercise to change the point of view, especially when I'm stuck. Putting something in third person into first, does help me understand my character's motivations.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The nightmare continues

The major reason I gave up my nationality is the US FATCA that blackmails banks all over the world to report American bank accounts held in their banks to the IRS. Huge fines are their alternative. Most of these account holders are in compliance with the US tax structure of Citizen-Based Taxation rather than the rest of the world's Resident Based Taxation. Most expats find themselves being double taxed on things like capital gains, unemployment, investments and pensions. Mortgages are being called in.

Anyone born in the US or the child of US citizens will owe tax on every cent they have for their entire lives even if they only spent one day in the US and none of the money ever touched US shores.

The result is that banks are closing American accounts.

My choice was to have a bank account or be an American. Since I never planned to live in the US, the bank won. The blog from the day I renounced in Dec. 2011 is below under the title One of the Saddest Days.

As soon as I got the State Department certificate that I was no longer American I took it to my bank.

Today the bank called.

It is not enough. They need another copy and I need to file more forms to make sure, really sure I'm not American.

I want the nightmare of being American to be over so I can bank like a normal human being.

One of the saddest days

Part of me will always love the man I thought my ex-husband was. After trying everything, I divorced the real man.

Part of me will always love the country I thought I grew up in. Like trying to save my marriage, I tried everything. I’ve made hundreds of overseas calls to Congress and sent thousands of emails. I’ve followed legislation from committee to signing. Most was about Bill of Rights issues such as the loss of habeas corpus. If the president does not veto the new amendment just passed by the Senate, than the military will have the power to arrest anyone, anywhere with no charges, no trial indefinitely. I have made no calls and sent no emails on this one. I am disengaging.

Today I divorced my country. The decision was not easily reached with too many facets to recount here just like I won’t recount the whys of my divorce to my ex-husband.
The U.S. Consulate is in Bern. The rain on my umbrella drowned out normal street sounds.
I was told I could tap on the door. A guard came out and growled I couldn’t bring in my pocketbook.

“What should I do?”

“Leave it in your car?”

“I haven’t a car.”

“The bakery down the street to the right will keep it for you. Three Swiss Francs.”

The woman at the bakery was friendly and told me I also had to leave my phone, my camera and my medicine. I could take my wallet and my passport.

Back at the consulate there was an airport-type examination, and then I went down stairs for a second examination. This man was friendly and we chatted as I waited my turn.

A woman called my name and asked for verification on the information I already provided.
Then the Counsel came out, a thin man with glasses.

He told me that my decision was irrevocable—I could never live or work in the U.S. again. I could never get my citizenship back--not tomorrow not in 30 years. I signed that I understood.

He asked me to raise my right hand and swear that I was renouncing. My eyes blurred. “Are you certain you want to go through with it.”

Then I had to take a second oath. “What if I change my mind here?” I asked. I didn’t want to change my mind, I was just curious.

“Then I would take this back and we could probably . . .”

I shook my head. “It hurts, but I’m sure.” I took the second vow.

Within two weeks to two months I will get my cancelled passport and my certificate of renunciation. I will then pay $450. I can take that around to the banks so I can resume normal banking relations because I will not be subject to U.S. FATCA legislation that has caused so many problems for Americans and will continue to cause problems and other financial institutions. If Switzerland and the US do not come to agreement about the US have access to Swiss police records, it is possible I would need a visa to enter the U.S. It is also possible I wouldn't get one. I knew when I started this that I might never be able to enter the U.S. again.

Leaving the consulate to retrieve my bag at the bakers, I vomited.

Like the day I was divorced, this was one of the saddest of my life. I don't regret the choice.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

mmmmmmmmm mmmm good

Nothing to do with Campbell soup which used to have chubby faced children commercials. See one here.

I'm back in Geneva and I realise that all the restaurants I want to eat at have an M connection.

Mid Eastern

Mmmmmmmmm mmm good.

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Caesar Salad at last

My mother found a recipe for Caesar salad in the defunct Gourmet Magazine back in the 60s. It was wonderful and became a family favorite.

In the 80s, a French restaurant in Maynard, MA made a great Caesar salad. They also had a desert they described as tagliatelle chocolate which was a chocolate crepe cut like tagliatelle with a homemade black chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream. I did as many businesses lunches as I could there and always ordered both.

Flash forward to my life in Europe. I saw many Caesar salads on menus but when they came they had iceberg lettuce (why bother--no taste, no nutrition) and a sauce that never read the recipe for a real Caesar salad.

At Marro, where we eat beyond frequently, I was chatting with the chef and said how Caesar salads were a real disappointment not even a good imitation of a "real one." He asked what a "real one" was.

First, romaine lettuce only, I told him.

He asked if I had a recipe. I couldn't find my mother's, but I located one close to it. I took it to him with apologies. After all he was a trained chef. I'd gone six months to chef school and only on weekends and over the years he has prepared wonderful meals that my housemate and I've devoured along with his clientele.

He said he would try it.

Today we tried his attempt which he hand delivered to us and waited for me to sample. He also offered to put our shopping in the restaurant frigo. He'd added a few flourishes that only added to the wonderful base.

It was as good or better than my mother's and that French restaurant.

I do wonder at my nerve of telling a chef how to cook, but his openness perhaps was our shared love of good, if not great, food.

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So what happens next

Babette: So Loretta is having lunch with Jonathan's father, who is thrilled she is carrying his grandson?

Me: Yes, but he's even more relieved to think Jonathan isn't gay?

Babette: But he is, isn't he.

Me: I'm not sure. I'm not one of those writers that plans things out in advance. I think I know how Murder in Edinburgh will end, but sometimes surprise myself. In Murder in Caleb's Landing, I changed the murderer at the end and when I went to drop clues in earlier chapters I found they were already there.

Babette: Creative process, Hun?

Me: Something like that. Now, please may I have my keyboard back?

See all of my novels at

Monday, April 13, 2015

The 52 week savings challenge

I'm beginning to think this isn't going to work for me. So far their suggestions are part of my daily life or not applicable.

Last week's challenge was to write down everything I spend.

I've done that for years and years.

This week's challenge is to make my own shaving oil.

I will as soon as I grow a beard.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Standing out from the crowd

If it weren't for my Russian friend, I would not have thought of using the Nice Meridian toilets. 

And if I hadn't used the toilet I wouldn't have seen this wonderful series of photos.

Any sheep can be white. Not many can be colorful. Creativity adds color to our lives.

The photos were taken by Gray Malin, an LA-based photographer.

Sometimes words aren't enough

Even as a writer I sometimes I'm limited in words, especially when I want to express sheer joy.

Today was the day I met up with lost friends. The last time we'd seen each other was 1991 in Germany. When I say old friends, I mean not just in years, but in time and shared experiences.

We'd shared silly and sad times in Germany, Florida, DC, Boston, Colorado. Moves made us lose contact. Attempts to find them were hampered by their common name and lack of a computer.
They found me right before they left on a world cruise with a planned stop in Nice. No way was I not going down to meet them.

I was awake with excitement from the middle of the night and we were out to catch the train to Villefranche arriving well before the scheduled time of deboarding. Good thing.

Their ship had docked in Nice. A taxi driver flew us thru the streets. We were there a little before 10 our designated meet-up time.

The guard who couldn't let us thru to the ship checked to see if we had the right ship.

We did.

A woman than asked us if were meeting a couple and said a couple was looking for us.

And there they were. She's still beautiful. He's a little heavier with gray not brown hair. I'm a little heavier too.

The time in the coffee shop and over lunch was far too short, but we were able to bring forth memories and catch up on our lives. Rick fit as he does with all my friends.

We walked them back to the boat.

I stared after them until they disappeared.

Rick and I decided to take a historic tour of the city. On the first pass near the port, the ship was pulling out.

On the second pass, it was a dot on the horizon creating both sadness at the shortness of the time and joy at the time we shared...a hugathon as Gary described it.

It was just that not just with arms but with spirits.