Friday, August 07, 2020

Good Byes Suck



Good Bye

Good byes happen.

Living in Geneva, good byes are almost a rule. People are assigned to different missions and NGOs for 2-6 years. Some permanent locals don't bother to make friends, because they will just move away. I am the opposite. I would not have missed many people who came and went. The memories are too precious to have missed. Some we visited in places like Prague, Germany, Syria. We are in various degrees of contact. Others others have faded away even beyond Christmas greetings.

In Argelès, friends who've retired here, decided as they age, they would be better off near children. Thus they've flown back to Denmark, UK and Scotland. 

Lately, some of the "permanent" people, full or part time, have been moving to their former home base. A British writer who became Swiss found the perfect place for her and her husband's retirement in the UK. Yes she will be back to their Valais chalet and yes, she is close enough to the Scottish border that when we go to Scotland, it's a hop and skip and a jump. And maybe, we should have done more Ladies that Lunch and film festivals, but we didn't.

Yesterday I learned that one of my Argelès favorites just sold her house. Lots of the time she isn't here because she's off on this or that adventure. Having survived more than one devastating illness, we are lucky to have her at all. Here, there or anywhere, she is a role model on carpe diem

Now that I am lucky enough to have "permanent" and "summer friends" in two.

At the same time, new friends have come for new memories. A Swedish couple, an Irish couple. A widow who found happiness with a retired French flic (cop). Locals. A writer/teacher who spent years in the U.S. She came home to Argelès probably leaving people in the States sad at losing her regular company.

We live in a mobile time. I am good on concentrating on how much I have enjoyed people when they are in a "let's meet for coffee tomorrow" distance. But I still think good byes suck. 

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Democrat v. Republican

"Do--rooo--theeee," I can imagine my mother's friend Lillian saying to what my mother said as my mother shook her head in disbelief on what Lillian had said.

They had been friends since secretarial school into their deaths in their 70s. Lillian was a rabid Democrat and my mother an equally rabid Republican. They agreed on nothing political: abortion, feminism, Roosevelt (Franklin and Eleanor), Truman, Stevenson, McCarthy,Kennedy, etc. The closest Lillian would ever grant my mother was that as a Republican Eisenhower could have been worse, but she wished he'd stayed in the military. I don't think my mother ever gave an inch.

Lillian was a widow, my mother divorced. Lillian lived almost in Boston in an apartment. My mother loved living almost in the country on 14 acres of land in a big house.

Despite their differences, they were the best of friends, looking forward to many weekends away to Stage Neck Inn in Maine where they would enjoy the food. Sometimes for a longer weekend, they'd head to Portsmouth, NH to eat at the Blue Strawberry. They would often come back, sore from laughing at memories while making new ones.

I loved it watch them in action. They loved each other. Despite differences their basic values were identical: love, honesty, hard work, sharing, caring for others.

If only today's Democrats and Republicans could find common ground. One thing Lillian and my mother agreed on. They were Americans and they were friends. Would the party leaders think of themselves as Americans first and party members second. Friends might be pushing it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020


I've been accused of eating books. By tonight I should hit 30,000 pages read so far this year, not including newspapers, magazines, blogs and ketchup bottle labels.

I track the books on Excel, partly out of curiosity and partially because a couple of years from now I'll pick up a book and after a few pages suspect I've read it. With the spreadsheet, I can check.

As a child my grandmother and mother read to me regularly: fairy tales, the Bobbsey Twins--I pretended I was Flossie and my Grandfather played the part of Freddie putting aside his gruffness.

How disappointed I was in my first grade reader. Dick and Jane were boring.

Throughout grade school there were many kids series I devoured. I became part of their lives living on the island with Little Maida, solving mysteries with Beverly Gray, and walking through history with the Landmark Series written by well-known authors for kids.

The library was a regular haunt. I took out every twin series book, about twins in other countries. I know now they were terribly stereotyped, and I worried about Chinese little girls having bound feet.

As an English major in college, I read the classics and looked forward to having the time to read whatever and whenever I wanted.

I'm eclectic: fiction, non-fiction, how-to, history, biographies, auto-biographies, mysteries. Every now and then a French book sneaks in, but they take me longer.

I am transported to other times and places. If I want to visit Boston, all I need to do is delve into a Robert B.Parker/Ace Atkins mystery. Through books, I can revisit places I've liked/love: Edinburgh, Damascus, Stockholm, Amsterdam, etc. I can move to other times and ride on a crusade with Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I just finished a ChickLit/Shopping novel. And if the numerous sex scenes and brand names were boring, I had to finish.

"Why?" my husband asked.

"Because the characters are fascinating and I have to find out what happened to them."

When I'm deep into a book, it is as if the characters were living with me, sitting on the couch, asking if I can meet with them after dinner. I find the same thing when I write. My characters move in.

I could stop reading. I could stop writing. I could stop breathing too. It isn't going to happen.

Monday, August 03, 2020

RIP John Hume

John Hume 1937-2020

John Hume died today at the age of 83. I had the honor of interviewing him twice, both at World Conference of Credit Union Conferences in Ireland, several years apart.

The second time was over a good Irish beer. I was amazed that he had remembered me from the first time.

Hume is best known outside Ireland as a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his contributions to the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Ireland after centuries of discord.

I interviewed him first as a reporter for Credit Union Times and later my own CU Newswire. He was an easy interview, sharing his tales of the early credit union movement where he worked along aside the founders Nora Herlihy, Sean Forde and Séamus MacFoin. There was no trace of arrogance and more than a smattering of humor. Although he was in demand at the conference, he did not rush the interview, extending it to add a bit more information.

He was a founder of the Derry Credit Union and the youngest president of the Irish League of Credit Unions. He once said, "...all the things I've been doing, it's the thing I'm proudest of because no movement has done more good for the people of Ireland, north and south, than the credit union movement."

He was inactive for the last decade or so and suffered from dementia.

In these difficult times around the world, not just from an out-of-control virus, but from a dearth of people contributing to the good of society, Hume was a role model.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Fake News, etc.

Call it fake news, propoganda or state-mobilized information, it has been around probably since the cave man. However, Matthew Fraser in his book, In Truth: a History of Lives from Ancient Rome to Modern History, demonstrates how those in power or those who want to be in power manipulate facts, fantasies and wishes to their own ends starting with Julius Caesar.

We find familiar people such as Charlemagne, Bede, up to modern times and a few lesser known beings as well as the unknown and how they used events to shape the many myths we believe today or explain their marching across the historic stage.

The goals may have been the same although modern times have brought new tools and adaptations of old methods.

Even as a history buff, there were several times I had to put down the book with a sigh and and "I didn't know that, but I wish, I had."

What I found especially interesting is that whether it is a Roman citizen or a Florida housewife and most humans in between, how people over the centuries have fallen for the lies, let them shape their lives many times to their own detriment.

As Fraser says in his conclusion, "The truth about truth is complicated."

Friday, July 31, 2020


When I was growing up, we kept a bottle of champagne in the second living room closet for a special occasion. That occasion was my engagement.

We opened the bottle. It was flat and sour.

There might be a couple of messages here. Carpe diem. Or it could have been an omen of an unhappy marriage. Or both.

Champagne wasn't much part of my life until I moved to Switzerland. My boss was a firm believer in champagne to celebrate each sale. And because I lived in the company apartment in the village of Môtiers, I was responsible for keeping the refrigerator stocked.

Mauler & Cie from 1829 produced champagne in a cave in an old Benedictine monastery located in this 700-person village. Technically it wasn't champagne, because it didn't come from Champagne, France. Even champagne from Champagne, Switzerland can only call itself by another name, but everyone knows.

When I invited people to dinner it was fun to go to the cave for a tasting apèro before we walked the five-minutes back to my home for the meal.

Champagne seems to be much more common in Europe. As are Kir Royales which add fruit liquors to the beverage. My stepmom fell in love with Kir Royales when she visited me in Geneva and we ate at Mortimer's. Out of business, I still miss their chocolate cake more than the Kir Royales.

Champagne has become more common place in my life. Before the pandemic when we had guests we might offer red, white or champagne.

There was one morning we went to the beach to see the sunrise armed with a blanket, croissants and a split of champagne. A romantic moment at its very best.

It is almost sacrilege to report that one Sunday when preparing a fondue we discovered we were out of white wine. I looked at the champagne split. It did work.

Champagne is also lovely with the two of us whether we are on the patio in Geneva or Argelès.

Having just finished a ChickLit/Shopping Novel, champagne was the rule it seemed along with the brand names. I don't usually read this type of book, but the writer had me hooked to know what happened. As a writer I know it takes as much work to do a well written Chick/Lit/Novel as is does to do any genre. The champagne frequency amused me.

I don't mean to give the impression, we guzzle champagne through out the day every day. It can be special, like Rick passing his French test or having Deirdre produce another wonderful cover for my next novel.

I've learned to carpe diem all over the place along with the merit of a good husband and a glass of champagne.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Vaccination No or Yes

I am NOT an anti-vaxer, but ...

I remember another epidemic in the early 1950s. It was polio. Summers were spent mainly at home: no swimming pool, no movies, no even going downtown. Too dangerous as the numbers mounted even though they were a fraction of today's count for COVID-19. I also remember school being postponed.

In the 1952 U.S. epidemic, 3,145 people died. 21,269 were left with paralysis, most of which were children.

An acquaintance of my mother's ended up in an iron lung (photo above). In 2009, one of the last patients to use one died at 72. She'd spent 60 years in an iron lung.

Dr. Jonas Salk (1914-1995) developed a vaccine.

When asked, "Who owns this patent?," he said "Well, the people I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?" Had it been patented it would have earned an estimated seven billion dollars.

Polio was eliminated as one of the world's most dangerous infections.

As a child I had chicken pox, mumps, measles and whooping cough as did my brother and most of my classmates. None died. We had already been vaccinated against smallpox as part of the requirement to attend school. I was proud of the scar on my upper right arm. Today, it is invisible.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was exposed to German measles, which had I come down with the disease could have led to birth defects. I didn't catch the disease.

During pregnancy I was also given a flu vaccine, caught the flu and nearly died. The other two times I've been given a flu vaccine, I've had the flu and been seriously, seriously ill. The years I didn't get a shot, I didn't get the flu.

The flu mutates so I could have been given the wrong vaccine for the type I had.

I did do the basic vaccines with my daughter. Today there are many more.

I am not saying I don't believe in shots, but I don't trust big pharma.

There is the CEO of one of the big companies who claimed he wasn't in the business of saving lives but making money.

There have been medicine and vaccine failures. Thalidomide is one of the biggest mistakes. It's original use did solve a problem, but only when it was given to pregnant women, was it discovered it caused birth defects.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) between 1940-1970 relieved potential miscarriage problems. Only in the 1970s did a number of the women's daughters developed cancer of the cervix as well as hormone disruption. Being fair, no vaccine can wait two generations before being used.

America is suffering a opioid crisis from a company that oversold its product.

Hormone replacement therapy was given to almost every postmenopausal woman for years, problems or not, almost a rite of passage. For severe cases, it was helpful. Most others could have been treated nutritional. From personal experience, adding tofu to my diet eliminated problems. Other friends reported the same results. We were a cash cow to big pharma.

Other medicines have been discovered to have adverse side effects after use. Sometimes big pharma has withdrawn the drug immediately -- other times, they have not.

A book, Pharma, by Gerald Posner, goes into far greater detail.

Now we are faced with a global pandemic and labs in countries all over the world are racing to find a vaccine. It is needed.

  • How safe will it be?
  • How good will the quality control be?
  • How expensive? I doubt if big pharma will have Salk's attitude.

There is no doubt that pandemic did not have to be as bad as it is. There were ways to slow and stop it. Government officials have not been willing to conduct the necessary steps to stop it.

People have not been willing to follow the steps that would stop it.

I hate to admit a certain pleasure when someone who had opened themselves and others to danger, have come down with the disease. I've never been a fan of stupid, but I feel guilty thinking I told you so and wishing anyone bad. I feel even more guilty when I think how innocent people, those who are doing what is recommended have been made victims of the inconsideration and stupidity of others.

Will I get the vaccination? I can't say one way or another. I'm leaning not to, but it depends on the country and the company.