Friday, January 31, 2014


Mamies are the old women in Argelès, usually Catalan, who have been here all their lives and have been friends from the cradle.

They sit outside their houses on the street and chat, watch their grandchildren, snap beans. Or sometimes they meet at benches.

They usually wear house dresses and aprons. Fashion passed them by.

Each year there are less of them. I suspect now some are younger than I am.

Most have little formal education, but their wisdom makes up for it. I never thought that we had a lot in common although we have all raised families. It doesn't make me feel superior, but I did think my world view having done extensive travel and theirs which may be limited to Catalonia is different.

Still I was surprised when Lydia and I were writing and one of the Mamies was in the tea room. She and I often talk, usually about what she is knitting or my handwork projects when I find her sitting outside her house.

Her grey hair is in a ponytail. Her dress is like all Mamies except for the bright pink and grey sweater.  I complimented her on her sweater.

"It's 40 years old," she told me.

We said it looked new, which it did.

We weren't surprised she was in the tearoom. What came next was the surprise.

"You know I write every day." She mentioned her journal. "Sometimes I take a picture of the mountains, or something I see. I write about that." 

Just like Lydia and I.

Hugs vs. Kisses

I didn't come from a huggy-kissy family except for crisis time. Somehow having a crisis just to get a hug doesn't make much sense unless you're a drama queen, which I'm not.

As an adult I ran into a family and a friend that was very huggy and I loved it. A hello hug, a good bye hug, a have a good day hug, sorry it was a sh-t day hug, a tell me about it hug, thanks for the cuppa, a hug for hug's sake...any reason for hugs worked. Men-women, women-women, young-old, same-age it doesn't matter.

Fast forward to moves to France and Switzerland the two cheek (right/left France) and three cheek (right/left/right Switzerland) countries not just in place of hugs but in place of hand shakes. Men even will kiss if they are in the same family or exceptional friends. I like that too.

But I miss hugs although Son No. 2 and Rick give great hug, the kind you can snuggle into.

Yesterday I met with a very talented young writer/artist from the UK who now lives here. We did the two kiss thing but perhaps because I'm heading back to Switzerland I almost did the third kiss. It usually takes me a couple of days to do the kiss-switch when I change countries.

We talked about the kiss cheeks.

"No hugs," she said with a note of sadness in her voice.

"I miss hugs," I said.

We had our drinks, our talk, a few laughs, a good catch up on our lives and left the tearoom. As we started to saying good bye we leaned forward to begin the kiss cheek routine.

A second later we had a good hug. Felt great for me. I hope it felt great for her.

Woman in prayer

Place:                 La Noisette
Items:                 Pen, notebook, Moccachino (thanks Llara for introducing me to them)
People:               Lydia and myself
Assignment:      Write about a woman in prayer

Marie-Claude's knees hurt as she knelt in the centuries-old church. She glanced at her watch. Seven and a half minutes to go..."Hail Mary full of . . ." don't let my mind wander "...full of grace..."

A man walked down the aisle . ..  "blessed art thou . . ." He looked like Jean-Paul, her non-dearly departed husband ". . .among women . . ." Where was she? . . . "The Lord is with  . . . "

Damn. She thinks, damn doesn't belong in the middle of her rosary. ". . . Where was she again? Oh yes, ". . .thee. And blessed be the fruit of thy womb . . ." Jesus. Not Jesus as in "blessed be the fruit of thy womb, Jesus" but in Jesus she had a cramp in her leg and it hurt like hell.

She refused to stand and walk on the leg. Her penance for hating Jean-Paul and for hastening his death was to go go church every day and say 15 minutes of rosary.

"Holy Mary, Mother . . ." Damn that leg hurt. Probably Jean-Paul, buried outside the church was cursing her ". . .Mother of God. Pray for us sinners . . ."

Marie-Claude looked at her watch. Time was up. Tomorrow, same time, same place.

She limped from the church.

'Ey Professeur

When I rediscovered Rick after 24 years of not seeing him in Geneva's Starbucks he was very, very corporate looking:
  • Short hair
  • Suit/Tie
  • Contact lenses
  • Clean shaven
When he was still in Texas, he asked what I thought if he grew a beard. I thought it would be wonderful.

He has beautiful graying hair on its way to being silver. I asked what he thought about letting it grow. "You'll look more like a French intellectual," I said while thinking silver fox.

He did. Then he stopped wearing contacts except when he was playing golf. His eyes lost the red and their beautiful grey stood out.

The suits went for jeans, sweaters and scarves. Altogether much better than the corporate look, although he was accused of looking like a hippie when he went back to Texas.

Last night we were with my French/French teacher and her Italian husband having an apéro in a local bar.

A man who had many too many glasses looked at Rick, "'Ey Professeur," he mumbled.

Hmmm. I would say that the transition from corporate to intellectual is complete.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bathroom wars

I am not as neurotic in The Warren as I was in The Nest where every bluebird on my dishes had to be aligned and the space between my copper bowls had to be the same. (in my defense, I didn't foister my OCD habits on guests, but when they left everything went back to my normal)  I don't want Rick to be afraid to touch anything, but I still can't help wanting things arranged a certain way.  Thus when he leaves the shower curtain like this
 I do this.
 And when he leaves the towel on the towel warmer like this.
I do this. 

I feel better when things are aligned and neat. He always has a right to buy a book on How to Cure OCD and present it to me for Valentines Day.

On the other hand I love that he rearranges our wonderful new red blanket in a different way almost every day. His imagination is only surpassed by his patience with my idiosyncrasies. I can only use the "I'm a writer, therefore I have a right to be a bit weird" so many times. Of course, he's a writer too, so I'm duty bound to match him in patience and understanding.
And to top it off, this is the arrangement of the shower curtain Rick did the morning after he read the this blog.

I like it. And then today after I showers I found this...

I'm so glad I married him.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Faux amis

Although in most cases if an anglophone can't think of the French word, if they take an English word and give it a French pronunciation, they have a fighting chance to be right. When it doesn't it is called a faux amis, a false friend.

In most business transactions with Rick, I am the official translator which works more often than it doesn't.

Today we picked up the new old car and went through the usual downpour of paperwork. I swear the world would have more forests if the French did not require ten copies of innumerable forms for even the most routine transaction. 

I half expect to have to show my electrical bill and identity card to buy bread.

"Ici, votre tampon," Remi, the man who sold us the car said as he pointed to a square on the form. Besides owning the garage, he is also the landlord of one of our good friends. I trust him.

Rick does pick up some French. He heard the word tampon.

"I thought you were past that," he whispered as Remi went to the printer in the other room to make yet more copies.

"It's a stamp I said." I should have thought to tell him the business would need one, because almost everything needs to be stamped. One might get metacarpal syndrome from stamp, stamp, stamping each official paper.

We now will use our wheelbarrow to roll the papers down to the Mairie where the car will be registered to us, but tomorrow morning bright and early Rick will need to order a stamp with the following information on it.

1. The company's name
2. The company's address
3. Telephone numbers
4. Registration number for the company

We are hoping either the Mairie will accept the papers without the stamp (ha) or the stamp will not take months to get here. We do have 15 days to accomplish all this. If we miss the deadline then the car will have to have another control (inspection).

A tampon wasn't what he thought it was, but he has another vocabulary word.

Different Strokes

They say opposite attracts. Rick and I've proved it.

His papers for the last few months

My papers since the turn of the century.

No right or wrong...just different. Viva la difference.

Pete Seeger 1919-2014

Thank you for all the years of listening to your music.

Thank you for
Where have all the flowers gone
Turn, turn, turn
If I had a hammer
The Weavers
Every song you wrote
Every song you sang

Less thanks for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" because my brother played it over and over and over and over in 1962 until I thought I would go crazy...but the French version "Le lion est mort ce soir" by Pow Wow made me appreciate it again.

Thanks for standing up for what you believed.

Thank you for fighting for clean water.

Thank you for being an ethical model.

Thank you for believing the world could be better than it was.

Thank you for being.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Three photos just because

I had to wonder why they left one branch. 
Is there a story? 
Did the trimmer fall? 
Did the saw give out?
Was dinner ready?

All the branches that provided shade now are resting at the bottom of the tree.

Why shouldn't trash bag holders be bright, colourful and fun?

Fleas x2

It was a spur of a moment decision when Rick said, "Let's go to the dog show in Perpignan."

The entrance sign said no dogs allowed pictorally, which was ignored by the dogs that were pouring in the entrance. You can't have a dog show without dogs, and they obviously couldn't deceiver the sign.

Fortunately there were no Japanese chin or Pomski puppies for sale. The puppy desire ran high as we walked the aisles.

I tried so hard to get a picture of this dog's fluffy butt, but she kept turning around--maybe hoping for a biscuit or posing because she thought she was so beautiful, which she was.

However Rick captured the rear shot. I also suspect the dogs were all so squeaky clean fleas were in short supply. Catch his blog on the same events. 

Having nothing to do with dogs with or without fleas was the candy vendor...guess who, and she doesn't have red hair, gave into licorice.

When we left flea hall we walked across the street to a huge flea market. I saw a turtle neck for 1 Euro. I'd blown 5 Euros on one the day before.

Films, Forums, Festivals

I'm filmed, forumed and festivaled out but in a good sense.

This weekend was the 17th Festival de Cinema Maghreb si proche, which features work from film makers, photographers and writers from the Middle East. Much of the work this year dealt with racism.

It is now a many weekend, many city affair and this weekend was the Argelès turn.

Friday night a sociologist presented the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Abelmalek Sayed and the film La Sociologie est us sport de combat. They went into the culture and attitudes of the French, the immigrants, the blending of the society.

Above is the Amadou Gaye, a poet, guitarist, photographer whose photos from the 100,000 person march from Marseilles to Paris against racism were hanging on the walls. He recounted his experiences. The movement of the Beur, who were comfortable neither with their Algerian parents or their French friends. In reality they were Third Culture Kids, like my heroine Annie. The session dealt with many aspects of racisim in the past and today.

Révolution Zendh delved into an Algerian journalist who is researching revolts fromthe 8th and 9th centuries. The lead actor Fehti Ghares was present throughout the festival.

C'étair mieux demain has a woman with a handicapped son trying to cope with personal problems during a revolution.

Tarzan, Don Quichotte et moi -- A search for Cervantès in a section of Algers with the same name.

Les jours d'avant -- A man and a woman, who knew of each other more than actually know each other during their teenagers in the 1990s remember those years. The contrast between then and now in Algeria shows the seeds of the violence to come.

The films and forums triggered a waterfall of things to think about taking me away from my ultra comfortable existence. It gave me a chance to see other places that I may not get a chance to visit.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Water sports

"You can't get me out of bed," Rick said. He had not so much a smirk as the look of confidence of a person who outweighed me by about 60 pounds of which much was muscle.

I did a few token pushes. Some out of the box thinking was required.

I keep a glass of water on the nightstand.


It's amazing how a wet t-shirt will encourage someone to get out of bed to change it. No force required.

Now it was my turn to be smug as I did a last toilet run for the night.

When I walked down the three stairs to the living room Rick was sitting on the couch. He was smiling. I'd hoped it was because of his dry new t-shirt. His hands were not visible.

Oh oh!

"Let me see your hands," I said.

Still smiling he held up both his hands.

I advanced toward the couch.

As fast as the Lone Ranger, the Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or all the cowboys of my childhood, he pulled a pistol from his sweat pants.

Bang, bang, bang or rather spirt, spirt, spirt.

The Maxine posting on Facebook fits my philosophy... I don't know how to act my age and if it means being stuffy and not being tempted to pour a glass of water on my husband on the right occasion then I don't want to learn.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Café sitting as a life style

There's nothing like a good café sit to make a good day better.

The café de fountain has been where Lydia and I have been writing together several times a week is pictured above. The plastic protects us from wind and there's an outdoor heater. Under new management it is not the most popular café in town which helps us concentrate when we write. Not too much chatter. They do serve lunch: steak or duck but we don't eat there. Our drink choices are green tea or hot chocolate.

The main street features three cafés, also a good gathering spot. On this windy Monday, almost no one was taking advantage of the sun. And one was closed. From about April on, every seat will be filled whether people are sipping espresso or Banyuls.

And this is a my home away from home and usually impossible to walk by without finding a friend. When I was only in The Nest and had written in isolation all day I'd mosey down and have a cup of tea and read, although seldom did a finish a chapter before a friend appeared. Now that I'm spending most of my time in the warren with Rick, there's less isolation, but the need for a sweet and a cup of tea or moccochino does arrive regularly.

And we can't forget their English breakfasts or Patricia's good lunch. Patricia did the catering for both my 70th birthday and Rick's and my commitment ceremony...any chance to eat her food is a pleasure.

To paraphrase an old advert...a day without a café is a day without sunshine (even in the rain)

Blog on blogging

Blogging is cheaper than going to a psychiatrist. As frustrations seep through your fingers onto the keyboard, a certain sense of peace arrives.

Mine started as a well-why-not? and wouldn’t it be a good way to warm up for the day’s writing.

My blog helped me deal with--and at times even enjoy--my cancer, although not having had the experience would have be preferable. Rick is trying to turn it into a Kindle book that we will offer at no or minimal cost with any proceeds to go to the cancer research. We are about 40% close to finishing, but we’ve so many other deadlines to take care off, that this is taking a back seat.

Blogging is also a way to share the good things with friends who are not nearby. The only downside, is that when you tell them something they say, “Oh, I read that on your blog.” Makes me more of a listener to them than a talker at them.

Blogs can lead to an ahhhhh moment. About an hour after I posted my Happy Birthday (below) blog, a friend (with one of the most soothing speaking voices ever) saw me at the marché “Your daughter is really beautiful,” she said. 

Then there are people who when I say or do something say, “Put this on your blog” or “Have I a blog for you.”

My housemate  and husband both blog. It keeps me in touch whether or not we are in the same place. In fact I can be in the same house with one or the other and check their blogs with a sense of disappointment when they haven’t written anything.

There are some rules I follow in blogging. I don’t want to reveal anything too personal without checking with the person. Photos of people who don’t want them posted are a no-no.

On the other hand there are blogs I love such as (not a complete list of those that I check regularly) and those blog as well. Take a peek...  It may be inactive now, but some of the ideas of kid raising are great.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happy Birthday Llara

I promised my daughter I’d make no comments about writhing in pain so many years ago today. She’d only reply, “Mother, I don’t do guilt trips.” I'm glad she doesn't.

When I brought her into the world, I had no idea of the adventures we’d go through. 

I hadn’t heard the comment before she was born that “having a child is like watching your heart walk outside your body.” 

It is true--so very, very true.

When I held that eight pounds of humanity in my arms for the first time, I felt totally incompetent to bring her to adulthood. I did promise I’d follow the Kahil Gibran method (see at the end). 

I think I succeeded more than I failed or at least did not repeat the over protective not letting go that my mother foisted on me. I made mistakes, many, but they were better mistakes than I was raised with.

I did not know at the time she was born, I would not be raising her in a traditional family, which I was denied and I wanted desperately for my child. As a single mother I was lucky that many others helped. Sometimes my daughter felt overwhelmed by the “committee”, but their advice made her life easier in ways she will probably never understand.

We had scary times: late night runs to the hospital, days of IV feedings. We had fun times, wrestling, EMC (early morning cuddles), ice cream runs, picnics on the rug, toasting marshmallows in a candle when the electricity was off. There were serious talks sitting on the floor in the hallway of our Riverway condo.

Like all families we have our traditional stories like the time she stepped in the pizza brought back from a takeout and after we had to go through pockets and cushions to find the change to pay for it—at that time an accompanying bottle of Coke was out of our price range. We ate around her footprint.

Sometimes she was angry at me and vice versa, but they were few and far between. I only feel we had three bad years of her total years on this planet -- when she was 5, 13 and 35. The 35 was my fault (she loves hearing that and said after I admitted my mistakes, “It was a stage I hoped you’d grow out of.”)

There were more times that I can count when I was so proud of her that I could barely contain the feeling. She was often braver than I was. Her words of wisdom helped me when my father died and when I left the US terrified of my future.

There were far fewer times I didn’t understand what she was doing or why, but I always had the confidence in her no matter what she would eventually find the way that was best for her.

She is very much her own person: kind, loving, funny, stubborn (or determined), generous, loyal. Tell her a secret and it will never, never be repeated (I’ve tried more than once to pry information out of her because I’m nosy to no success. I get more information from a rug.).

I am guilty not just of loving my daughter – I like her. To quote Bob Franke, “It’s not the thing I did best, but she’s the best thing I did.”

So to the daughter that was better than the best fantasy I could have imagined of being a mother...


On Children
Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
for even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sad love songs and toasty towels

One of the saddest love songs is Neil Diamond’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore” (lyrics at the end of the blog along with his youtube duet with Barbara Streisand)

What triggered the thought?

Each morning when I go into shower, Rick has put my towel and robe on the towel warming rack extending a toasty shower into a toasting drying time.

Naturally I do the same for him.

If he forgets one morning, or I do, it won’t mean the end of our relationship. More likely it meant I got up well before he did or vice versa.

A new bride posted on Facebook she’d married her best friend.

Friendships have always been important to me. I work hard to maintain the people who are important to me, although I may not toast their towels. I want to do small things, considerate things, that say, “you’re important to me,” “I care about your well being,” “I want to make you laugh,” “I want to listen when you’re down.” I don’t do it so they will do it for me, but they do.

Friendship is not a quid pro quo, it’s an I’m-there-when-you-need-me-for-the-fun-and-the-non-fun-times. Time and energy does not allow for hundreds of friends like this, but a few good ones are invaluable and need to be treasured.

I’m lucky that Rick had been added to my friend list with or without toasted towels. May we never need to sing you don’t bring me flowers. Or other ways of showing caring...

You don't toast my towels
You don't play me love songs etc.

Here's the original song that I hope everyone who reads this never has to apply to the people in their lives.

You Don't Bring Me Flowers
You don't sing me love songs
You hardly talk to me anymore
When you come through the door
At the end of the day
I remember when
You couldn't wait to love me
Used to hate to leave me
Now after lovin' me late at night
When it's good for you
And you're feeling alright
Well you just roll over
And you turn out the light
And You Don't Bring Me Flowers anymore

It used to be so natural
To talk about forever
But 'used to be's' don't count anymore
They just lay on the floor
'Til we sweep them away

And baby, I remember
All the things you taught me
I learned how to laugh
And I learned how to cry
Well I learned how to love
Even learned how to lie
You'd think I could learn
How to tell you goodbye
'Cause You Don't Bring Me Flowers anymore