Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Who'd have thunk it as my mother used to say

I like to think I'm observant. Didn't I notice the brindled boxer running in the river bed holding a log in his mouth, an obvious treasure?

And don't I notice new plants or flowers on the street?

Or someone who has lost of gained weight?

Or changed their hair?

Then how chagrined should I be after 20 years to FINALLY realize that spices are in brown-topped jars and herbs in green tops?

Big time shame.

Rick pointed it out to me. 

It's good to be humbled every now and then.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Is it me or is the world nuts?

Rick and I were both writing...he was at the desk, I was curled up on the couch with my laptop where a laptop should be -- on my lap.

He started reading from a keyword list that the NSA uses for domestic spying printed in the following www.businessinsider.com/nsa-prism-keywords-for-domestic-spying-2013-6

I guess if I mention Rick lived in Texas, has a daughter Alicia, my old baby sister Janet I could be flagged.

Then when I send a mystery ms. using the word keyhole or stakeout, boy am I suspicious. I should warn my editor. He lives in Canada so he might really be suspicious.

I can't talk about a credit card, mention my friend in Amherst, not to mention I might have watched Rachel on MSNBC without being considered dangerous.

And I guess I can no longer refer to Stephanie who owns my favourite restaurant Bartevelle either, but I refuse to give up eating there.

Good thing I don't know any Bubbas, being a northerner and all, but I do mention tools in my latest novel when someone was trying to remove a tracking device and when I write some clients about a firewall problem. I wonder if I should snail mail the manuscript corrections rather than have my publisher send it by email.

I can't sweep anymore (I bet Rick won't consider this a reason not to) and I guess Rick and I have to throw out the leftover quiche in the frigo (which is a word still not on the list).

As for animals, I'll have to give up gorilla and seal. Does that mean I can't even watch animal videos without being pegged as a terrorist?

More words that will not slip out of my fingers onto the keyboard are government, hate, speedbump, illuminati, president, cocaine, and that really dangerous beyond all dangerous words freedom.

Good thing we don't have a basement where I live in France, but I'm worried about the house in Geneva and will I ever eat froglegs again? I mean froglegs are a delicacy in France. Ooops I used that word twice.

How real is it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bamford allegedly is behind the list and he looks pretty authentic.

Is it me or is the world nuts?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A triple whammy day


Whammy No. 1

The sky was dark blue, the air brisk as we walked around the village buying meat at the butcher's (Les cubes, plus petit " had to be repeated several times before the beef was cut almost small enough), Jean-Pierre and Babette's for fresh bay leaves (although we could have picked them by the river) and veggies, one bakery for a cake and another for bread.

Rick, who is progressing as a cook, wanted to try his hand at beef barley soup. His chopping talents would do Jamie Oliver proud.

The soup was really good. I can't wait for his next experiment.

Whammy No. 2

I've missed The Chase, an ITV game show, which I can't get on my French TV. Julia and I used to watch it in Switzerland, trying to get as many answers as possible. We both fill holes in each other's general knowledge, so if we could convince the producers we were Siamese twins, we might do quite well. I'm not holding out much hope considering our different heights and looks.

Rick was fiddling with the computer and was able to stream The Chase's Christmas show with the four chasers dressed as Rudolph, an Elf, the Grinch and Frosty Knickers as a fairy plum princess. I only hope J watched it too. I do miss our nightly attempts at brilliance.

He is always doing small things like that, which are really so big to me.

Whammy No. 3

Today would have been my father, Jimmy's 100th birthday. I could imagine my tiny grandmother giving birth in her Nova Scotia lighthouse as my many aunts and uncles were shooed out of the way.

I wanted to celebrate his life, and Rick, who lost his father, Charlie, last year wanted to remember his dad too. We bought a three-chocolate cake, candles and champagne and set the out for dessert for a Jimmy/Charlie Remembrance Day.


As we were finishing lunch, the champagne cork exploded out of the bottle. We looked at each other. Neither of us had touched it. It was as if one or both fathers were encouraging us to get on with it.

And so we did.

We shared stories about the two men who were so important in our lives. Rick talked about how his Dad never spoke ill of others, how he drove him to golf tournaments, his basking in his father's pride when he won a major tournament.

I remembered my Dad showing me the reindeer footprints in the snow on the roof over the porch, how he drove six hours to rescue me at a difficult time, and how when he was in intensive care in Florida, he had bragged about his executive daughter who rode in helicopters to the nurses.

We are grateful to these two men who helped shaped us into the adults we are today and our memories only half fill the holes they have left in our lives. We wish we could tell them again how important they were to us even if they knew.

If they were to meet now, I'm sure they'd be on the golf course very quickly discussing their kids, being proud of some things, skaking their heads over other things we've done.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The accidental creche or creches

I've never been a creche person as in put one out at Christmas, but I've always been fascinated by the varieties...everything from tacky to worthy of a museum.

After helping a friend move a bureau -- okay Rick helped while the wife and I had a cup of tea -- we were ambling back when we came across an exhibition of creches.  One of the joys of Argeles as tiny as it is, one never knows what one might stumble across while doing mundane chores.

This nativity scene was all popcorn. I did see the dangers such as the time my German Shepherd thought the gingerbread house I'd worked so hard to make with Llara was delicious...

 The all crystal creche figures were truly the most beautiful of the 50 odd crechés on display.

 The designer of this creche must have a lovely walk on the beach before putting it together.

And for pleasure, all these wine corks meant a lot of empty wine bottles. Another was done with champagne corks.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Yes the world is indeed small

The small world cliché holds true. I no sooner had posted a photo of the building in Stuttgart (second floor American, First European last three windows to the left) on facebook and I had a message from one of my "friends".

This friend, whom I've never met but co-wrote an anthology with and exchanged an unbelievable number of emails with, was one of a on-line writing group that goes back at least ten years.

The group met through the International Womens Writers Group on line and are from many different countries. In the beginning it was all about writing, but now we share our problems, illnesses, families and successes. They are there to offer a word of encouragement, hen needed and a "well done", "I'm sorry," "have you tried..." They are as real to me as the friends I meet for coffee.

Her message was, "you are kidding me. That's Olgastrasse. I lived there in the blue house!"

We probably weren't there at the same time. I was a new bride in the early 60s.  

I won't repeat the cliché about the size of the planet we inhabit. I don't have to. It has been proven true once again.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

She WOULD have blogged if she could have

My mother was a journalist and a talented writer. Had she been alive today she would have become a blogger.

Even in retirement she had regular newspaper columns such as Stove Stories and Going like 60.

When I took out my Christmas ornaments I found this column (have no idea why it was there, but it may say something about my filing and organizational systems or lack thereof.)

I thought I'd give Dorothy Sargent Boudreau her first blog. If  I ever find the rest of her writing I'd be tempted to blog those too.


It's just six days away and I'll have mixed emotions on Mother's Day as both mother and daughter.

In the latter role, the 1970 observance found me in tears. It was too soon after my mother's death and I had months to go before accepting this with any degree of equanimity. Now, after all these 18 years, I can look back at the happy time, the sad times and sift through the memories and hold on to those I cherish most.

I expect both my children and one of my two grandchildren (Kimmie-B the 9-week old) to be here this Mother's Day. Nineteen-year-old Llara, still in Munich, is expected stateside in July. I'll be counting the days until there's a definite date for her return.

I'm sure we'll talk about my mother, "Dar" as she was called by her grandchildren, their friends and mine.

My son, no doubt, will recount the cupcake tale once more. And he'll admit to feeling guilty, even now 35 years after the incident.

J. in a fit of frustration and only 4 at the time, had bitten his grandmother because she couldn't believe his 11-year-old sister devoured his last chocolate-sauced cupcake.

Daughter Donna will remember the steady flow of letters Dar wrote to her after she eloped with her high school sweethears and lived in Stuttgart for two years. I think mother was a frustrated novelist, for she wrote effortlessly filled with nuggets of news interspersed with love and humor.

As for me, I may just ask J. to bring the only tape we have with mother's voice.

Some 10 years ago he played it for me most reluctantly.

"You'll only cry, mother," He said at the time.

I insisted that I wouldn't and with great emotional control, I didn't. He was teary-eyed.

I've just finished finalizing Sunday's plans with Donna. I didn't mention the tape, but she mentioned a memory.

You'll have Dar's cupcakes and chocolate sauce for dessert?" she asked.

Of course, I will.

Not a Christmas letter but a memory of the year

If someone asked me about 2013, I’d say it had been a wonderful year, yet looking back there were some earthshattering events.

Early on my wonderful nephew managed after years of trying to get my beloved stepmom into a Veterans Nursing home. She was as sweet as ever even when she wasn’t sure who I was or where I was. Her lovingness was shown in how her neighbours visited her constantly.

There was the relief that each morning we wouldn’t be in a new crisis and that she was safe. She was promptly named the nursing home sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.
However, she felt enough was enough and finished her voyage away from us.
We found a Catholic priest in Geneva who read between my lines to give her an eulogy that captured the feeling of an extraordinary woman leading an ordinary life as my daughter and I cried.

On a sunny late winter day my housemate called me into her bedroom to reveal a second round of breast cancer. After surgery, she suffered with two weeks of my driving until she could take the wheel and then was off to the US as if nothing had happened. Out and back to normal so fast that it seems like a nightmare dreamed eons ago. 

Our thankfulness of the Swiss health system knows no bounds. We hope in 2014 not to need it. I don't care if the hospital's initials are a hug.


As my love and I decided how to blend our lives, we ruled out Oxford (although it would have been fun, living in three countries would have been a bit over the top). He stepped out on his own and hasn’t regretted it. His move to this side of the ocean was the right one for both of us. Watching his adjustment to language, food and customs has been fun plus admiration on how well he’s doing it.

My daughter arrived from Scotland complete with Haggis for Bobby Burns night complete with the three of us (Llara, Julia and I) trying to read his poetry with or without the right accent.  Having her close by was a gift beyond measure, but without being able to find work, she knew she’d have to return to the States, at least with a Masters in hand to add to her many years of experience.

Our fun with her Scooby made some friends wonder about our sanity, but I loved one woman who asked “What’s with the animals?” Watching Llara via Skype open the book of the adventures created by Julia was fun in itself.

There were wonderful trips to the chalet with Rick, Julia and Llara at different times. The beauty of the Alps can heal even the saddest heart and can give waves of joy to anyone merely content.

Trips to Milan, Amsterdam, London, Oxford, Zurich, Montreux, Bern, Einsiedeln and Paris popped up during the year between greves on the French train system in our Geneva/Argelès commute.

Concerts with Garou, Cohen and Dylan presented very different styles of performing. Cohen was the greatest just going on and on and one. Garou, well, Garou will always be Garou. Dylan? 

Nice to have seen the legend, although my housemate's fall leaving the Arena could have been avoided. She did more than her share of damage to her ankle this year.

A planned trip to Canada to cover a conference was bounced over to my wonderful business partner. He had come for a meeting at home in Geneva. I remember seeing him enter the yard. The next thing I knew Rick was next to my hospital bed. No one ever found out why I fainted, but I broke my face.

The anesthesiologist sang happy birthday to me as they rolled me into surgery for a metal plate fastened by six screws in my cheek. Any of the fears for sight problems and nerve damage came to nothing. The worst part was not blowing my nose for three months, so thanks to Facebook we had an intercontinental nose blow on the day I returned to normalcy, it too has faded into memories, sub category unneeded.

Between my business partner and I we put out 48 issues of www.cunewswire.com each with between 25-50 stories covering all aspects of something we believe strongly in -- the co-operative as a business model. Most of it was fun, although self imposed deadlines wore heavy some days. It is a piece of work I'm proud of as I'm proud of my partner. It is nice to work with a writer of his talent and not to mention his technical knowledge far exceeding mine.

Murder in Paris was published, Murder on Insel Poel was accepted and worked its way through production at my publisher's, Murder in Ely was finished and sent off to the editor (awaiting higher up approval) and Murder in Schwyz begun. 

Notice the photo of the skeleton. That was taken by my talented housemate. The skeleton was discovered in our 13th century church during a renovation. We'll pretend it was found in Paris.

Despite all these murders, I'm not violent. Really. Really.


Then there was the wonderful week of Rick’s and my ceremony in Argelès. Friends from all over the world congregated for party after party and our commitment to each other. Each day with him is better and better.

Reading back over the events of the year it sounds as if we bounced from tragedy to tragedy, but with the love and support of friends and family, with the warmth of all the people in my life, family and family of choice, I remember being happy as memories of the worry fade. Hard to explain. Just let's say 2013 reminded me almost every minute of the day how very, very lucky I am in all aspects of my life.