Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I am ready for April 1

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

What anglophones call April Fool's Day the francophones call...fish of April. I have no idea why, but I'm armed with my rod and ready.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A dog's tail.

As I left the house to do a Migros run, the small, fuzzy black dog sat at the edge of the garden. He had a roll in his mouth. Dogs off leashes and dogs without owners near by are about as common as wooly mammoths.
"Hello," I said. When he didn't respond, I tried "Bonjour." Obviously, he was a French speaker because his tail wagged.
As adorable as he was, he was also scruffy. He had a collar and I hoped a tag. I enticed him into the kitchen. He was content to trade his roll for cat food and water but he would not let me look at his collar.
I am not sure who to call to pick up a stray dog in this commuity. I didn't want to leave him in the house because of Munchkin, the cat. If she were my cat I probably would have, but then you know the saying that you always take care of other peoples' children (or in this case cat) better than your own.
"I tell you what," I said to the dog in French. "You go outside, and I'll stop at the vet's on the way to Migros, unless of course I can convince you to get into the car."
His response was,"Outside, okay. Car? You are out of your ever-loving mind." With the roll in his mouth he backed away.
Knowing he wasn't hungry I was willing to risk he'd be
1. okay until I get back
2. more apt to hang around because he knew there was a meal there
3. really wasn't lost and would find his own way home
In any of the cases I didn't have to worry. Just as I was pulling out of the drive, a car passed going about three miles an hour when most cars approach the curve at 30 anyway. The driver's window was rolled down and a grandfatherly man was looking and calling.
I waved madly.
He parked and came over. "Are you looking for a dog?" I asked.
"A little black one. He's infernal, always disappearing," he said.
The two were reunited.
Half of me was sorry, because I would have loved a dog like that, but again with Munchkin, again with both my housemate and me travelling as we do, a dog is about as practical as making that elusive wooly mammoth a pet.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Almost 25 years in the hanging


8/86 is in the upper left hand corner. 12/94 is in the bottom right. That is how long it took my daughter to create this tapestry for me. It took me longer, almost 14 years, to get it hung.
I had it on a stretcher in Argeles, but there was no wall where it fit properly. The stretcher came off so I could bring it back to Geneva and I am still looking for someone to put it on another stretcher, but I refuse to wait any longer to have it up.
Now it is across from the bottom of my bed so it is the first thing I see when I wake in the morning.
There are twelve squares in two rows of six, one for each month of the year. My birth month has a water lily on a pad, and the same yellow flowers that were in my vase before I left Argeles. March has violets, my favourite flower. The month where important people in our lives have birthdays have their names enscribed in yarn: even my dog, Albert's name is noted. May is for Susan and iris. Some are no longer with us like my mother, one person has gone out of my life, another is important to Llara's childhood.
When I look at it I find my eyes moisten because in each stitch something else was going on in her life, my life, in our lives.
Part of the time she was pushing the needle through the fabric hundreds of times, deciding on colours, selecting the design we were under the same roof, an apartment on The Riverway in Boston. Part of the time we were in separate countries. During the period between the start of the tapestry and the finish, she went from Boston Latin to Mannheim University. I went from working at Digital to fulfilling my dream to work and live full time in Europe. Many of the evenings when the tapestry was only a couple of squares while she sewed, I was in my Riverway office alcove, a pretty yellow room, writing hoping against hope that someone, some day would publish me.
That tapestry has been in the US, Germany, Switzerland and France and back to Switzerland, travelling more than many people.
I adore you Llara.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


My obsessive compulsive postmaster...

I needed to mail two tubes of diaper rash creme to an expectant mother to keep her until she figures out the equivalent here...

I bought one of the cleverly made mailing cartons that the post sells and he explained to me step by step how to put it together, which was exactly like the last 22 times I used the boxes.

I wrote very carefully...he needs to approve my handwriting...but I put the label on upside down. Knowing how many tries it might take to get equally good printing on the label, he carefully removed the address part and turned it rightside up...

Half of me finds him amusing, half of me finds him frustrating and half of me wishes that if everyone did their job thoroughly, we would all have less problems created by shoddy workmanship and yes I know that's three halves.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Leaver vs.leavee

*(Rose, see note on graphic)

The tea room was the same warm decor. The almond croissant was no different. The tea cups still had their unique twisted shape. And the writer sitting opposite was the same one that I had coffees and conversations, or in my case tea with any number of times along with walks and talks. What was different was this was the last time. Tomorrow, the Mighty Family (see Mighty Mom's blog in my list at the bottom) would be airborne on the way to their new home in another country and this was the last time we would have the luxury of a face-to-face conversation. It wasn't that we did it so often, but it was the idea I could pick up the phone and we would... or I might get a bulletin about an alleged male hampster giving birth...or...or...or...
As an international living in two countries and being friends with loads of other internationals I've mastered being the leaver and the leavee. The period of absence can be anything: days, weeks, months, years, eternity. In many cases the leavee reappears. Thanks to Skype, voipcheap, email, blogs communication goes on.
Being the leaver is easier, because the leaver goes onto new things, albeit missing those left behind is real. Still there are new things to do see and feel and the daily reminders are not there.
But being the leavee, the hole the person left gapes wide and deep. One of my friends when I moved to Europe for the second time pretended I was in Rhode Island...That's is truly creative leaveedom. When my daughter gets on a plane no matter how long her stay-- a week to a year -- I come back to see the chair where she sat, the dishes she used, the DVDs we watched and I can feel her presence and it hurts that I cannot reach out to touch her (even if I've gained closet space).
Now that Mighty Mom is gone, I will not run into her at the post or at the Friday marché or see her daughter, Mighty Mouse, in her pink coat, the last in line marching into school. And that leaves one of those holes.
What being both leaver and leavee has taught me, is that time together with friends and family is precious, no cup of tea in tea room, conversation on a ride, accidental meeting, joke shared, story told, walk on the beach, meal eaten, movie talked about, writing shared, should ever be taken for granted. Sometimes just sitting in each other's company is enough. Each moment is something to savour.
So while I celebrate the new adventures the Mighty family are going to, permit me a tear, like the one on the cover of the notebook in the photograph. I can still think being a leavee is a bummer, even as I am grateful for all those who've enriched my life who are no longer in drop-in distance.
*Rose...this is a cover of a notebook I didn't buy last year during my "no-buy year" but when I saw it today I snatched it up. You'd have been proud of me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Something must be wrong with me

I don't want to be rich. I don't want a big car or even a small one. I don't want a huge house. I don't want a closet crammed full of clothes. I've never been motivated by money (saying that, I do want a colour-co-ordinated roof over my head, enough food, and enough money for an adventure or two). But I have all that.

I've only been really poor once in my life when my ex-and I were living in Stuttgart and his Army pay meant at the end of the month there might not be enough food. Still, since it was temporary it didn't bother me. It was a game to make do...my coffee pot doubled as an iron...macaroni and butter with pepper filled the stomach...walking worked when even a tram ticket cost too much... I would rather not be that poor again.

Since then I've always had enough to provide for myself and my daughter (before she was independent) with a few luxuries. I could have earned more money if I had chosen a different career path, but I wouldn't have enjoyed the work I did. And I won't say that money didn't play a part in some decisions. There was one time I did want to work for a certain charity, BUT the salary was less than my mortgage.

I've been lucky in that I've never worked for an organization that does harm to the world. I could have made more money in advertising than working for non-profits but there would have been more hours and products that I couldn't justify selling. However, if my daughter had needed to eat I would have had to compromise. Situational ethics and all that.

Although I wouldn't mind writing a book that sells millions of copies, I am happy that some people read my books. They haven't made me rich, and rich was never the reason I wrote anything. Maybe I am not ambitious enough. But the joy was in the process of doing and being read is the extra.

The reason for this blog was a conversation with a friend who said that Americans all believe that one day they can be rich and although the French wouldn't mind being rich, they neither expect it nor will they sacrifice certain things to be rich. Probably both premises are partially true and partially false.

What I want to be is content...content with the sun shining on the tile roofs, content with the yellow flowers in my vase (and outside if I didn't buy any), content to have a good writing day, content knowing I've a great kid and lovely friends, content that when the bise blows, I can stay inside...content to crawl back under the covers on a cold morning...

Content and rich aren't opposites.

Maybe it comes down to value systems. I just don't care to maximize my bank balance at certin costs. In fact, I seldom think of it all and maybe I should but then again I have more than enough and I am content. And maybe something is wrong with me but I can live with it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Decision

As I wrote I kept debating what I wanted for lunch: should I warm up the asparagus souffle or make burritos. The kitchen was spotless. I didn't feel like cooking.
The decision: go to La Noisette and have a sandwich, sit in the sun, talk to friends and neighbours as they walked by. And no, that is not my Coke. My Coke day will be the 28th back in Geneva, probably at Manana or maye Marros...to be continued.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thanks Sher

Glory! Glory! One of my favourite bloggers posted a recipe for bagels on her website.
Whenever I fly into the US, visions of Dunkin Donuts stores that sell bagels dance in my head. If I go straight to my destination and pass a Dunkin Donuts and if we don't stop a frisson of sadness goes through me.
Edward's in Geneva serves imitation bagels, hard little things that only whet the appetite for the real thing. No where can I get DD cinnamon/rasin ones, my favourite.
Then Sher posted a bagel recipe on her blog, albeit a regular bagel.
With a little imagination I adapted the recipe to a C/R one yesterday and it worked. All the joys of bread making came back.
In Europe the bread is so good, the need to make it is non-existent and now that I'm not working in a corporation there is no need to knead the bread to release frustations, but the feeling of dough being slapped back and forth and as the gluten is released changes from sticky to smooth, brought back good memories of regular Saturday bread making back.
And the result... Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I took half to an American friend down the street. I was greeted as a conquering heroine...and with a big smile when I refused some of her stash, knowing that I had my own stock at home.
As I write this I have taken the last bite of one and there's still one for tomorrow.
Thank you Sher. (Her blogsite, Four go on an adventure is listed below with other bloggers I appreciate)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Meet Envie

Pronounced ON-VIE, an eight-week old Jack Russell that I met as I meandered along the river. NO, SHE IS NOT MINE!!!
Admitedly this is about the 15th shot of her, but the only one of a complete puppy. The rest are of her ears, shoulder, tail, side as she ran from one discovery to another...a ball of mud with grass that could be tossed in the air, a blade of grass that moved, a leaf that blew by. And we can't forget a stone.
Of course, she'll never replace in my heart my favourite Jack Russell, Phoenix, owned by a former colleague. I've doggy sat for him but not recently.
Phoenix is one bright dog. When on a walk, and he's had enough he'll plunk himself down in front of a bus stop. And if you give him his choice he just may lead you to MacDos or the doggie toy store. Once right after coming back from a holiday in France, he decided to lead his owner to the train station and directly to the quai for French trains.
While I was still working, Phoenix sometimes visited at lunch. My team and I kept tennis balls (he knew where they were) and we would break our routine for a quick game of catch.
Envie has an mistress that loves her and understands that Jack Russells need lots of attention and exercise.
As for the name, it means envy and I will admit falling prey to a bit of envy of having a puppy...but when the Tramantane was blowing last night and I didn't have to make myriad trips outside to train a puppy, the envy went down to the memory of the pleasure of sharing other peoples' pets.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


"When I was a girl, I used to have to go the square and get water for our home,"The 86-year old woman writer spoke to the crowd gathered at the Argeles movie theatre to see a documentary, Quatres Femmes des Roussilion, a documentary filmed over thirty years before. Four women, including this writer who was already a teacher spoke of their individual lives as a shepherd, a driver of a car that took local children down the mountain to school, a young Parisian that wanted a simple life living off the land, a farmer and the women before us who participated in the project. All lived in the mountains in tiny villages. Their lives were hard, but there was a contentment. All had a thick Catalan accent and sometimes it was hard to follow what they were saying.

This event was just once of the many activities, most free, that are the result of community organization in the town. There are movies, forums and buffet for International Woman's Day. There is a class in calligraphy. The last parade of the Carnival will kick off at 21:00 to be followed by a ball.

The woman talked about her life as a teacher and writer. She had been offered payment by the mairie to come, but she refused saying she had enough money, she was just happy to share with others.

"Although I stand before you looking old, my head is as young as in the film," she said before launching into the importance of saving the planet, community sharing, etc. Then she mentioned progress. "When I was a young girl, I used to go to the fountain in the square to get water for my home. Now I go to the supermarket and see people carry bottle weather even though the water in our homes are certified as good drinking water. They add to the pollution of the planet with the plastic bottles, and spend money they don't need to spend. This is progress." Her eyes sparkled as the crowd applauded madly.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I woke exhausted

To my reader who asked if I dreamed, remembered dreams and were things detailed.

I woke exhausted and still hadn't made my flight to Italy. Ooops that was part of a dream. I wasn't going to Italy today. In the dream, I drove to the airport descending the hill from the Corsier Post. It was hard to drive, because the pedals were tiny little squares and I was wearing big clunky boots* which covered both the break and gas peddles.

Instead of turning left for the airport I turned right to stop at my college chum Maggie's ** house. It was huge with billowy white furnitue and windows all around. Her mother, who was chunky, wore the type of apron that the little Catalan ladies in Argeles wear and had short brown hair, came in interrupting us and leaving a publicity magazine on the counter top. Maggie was annoyed but didn't say anything.

As I turned around I heard a rip and my navy blue skirt *** had a tear, not in the seam, but in the fabric. I told Maggie I would buy a new one. In fact I would get an entire new wardrobe in Italy.

I realised I was running really late and still hadn't gotten any money and gave my daughter Llara who suddenly appeared a credit card so she could get a cash advance from a hotel near the airport and I would meet her there. Meanwhile I dumped all my clothes from my suitcase, which was a long navy blue bag with brown leather edging, the kind you take to play tennis or exercise in the gym, and Maggie helped me fill it with chocolate, not good Swiss chocalate but junk candy like Necco wafers and Smarties, but I thought how pretty all the wrappers looked.

I glanced at my watch 8 a.m. and the flight was due to leave at 9. I grabbed a shuttle (it appeared out of nowhere) and ended up at the hotel where my daughter was getting my money. I asked a Salvador Dali moustached bartender who was wiping glasses pointing to the right if he could call me a shuttle to get to the airport. He said it was already there. Llara hadn't had time to get the money, but I took the credit card and said it was okay, I could do it in Italy. It was now 8:10 as I ran for the shuttle I felt panicky that I would never make it through security in time for my flight.

It was at that point I woke, still panicking about making the flight and wondering what I was doing in my PJs all warm and toasty in bed.

Possible explanations for some of the details. For the rest, don't look to Freud or any other shrink. Chock it up to me.

*My new camera has tiny buttons that resembled the pedals and it is easy to push two at the same time.

**Maggie lives in the US. I have been meaning to write her. I have never met her mother

***The blue skirt was part of a suit bought in Maine in 1993 and retired in 2004. I did slit a black skirt the same way on a business trip in London.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Two signs of spring

This is one of the main roads into Argeles. Most of the year the river is dry, but now between rains and melting snows, it is flooded. It is surprising how many cars come through

Mimosa is everywhere.


The last time I coloured my hair was before I went to the States for Christmas. I have several neighbours with beautiful silver white hair. At one time in my youth, I bleached my hair white (the roots grew before I left the beauty saloon, so it didn't last long, but I loved the white hair for the 32 seconds it was rootless). Wigs were in at the time so I bought a white wig.

I am also tired for colouring my hair.

"Don't do it," some friends said, including one of the white haired lovelies. It will make you look older, a knitting granny...(I've knitted for years and have taken it up again recently).

"We know you as the red head," others said.

"Think of how many clothes you have that are perfect with your hair," was another comment.

Low and behold as time passed, my roots were silver. IN THE FRONT...The back was dark. I knew if my hair grew out I would look like a genetically challenged skunk, the front half of my head white and the back half dark...

I've redyed my hair and only my avatar in this blog has the look I would love to have...