Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 a year with boxes not resolutions.

I don't do resolutions, but I do do boxes each year.

Each box represents how I want to live my life. It's an ongoing process. When I succeed the boxes are filled at the end of the year. They can also be half filled, 25% filled etc.

My boxes -- not in order of importance:

I have not gone into ANY debt and I've saved. I will live under my income and have for at least the lat 25 years. FULL

Family and family of choice
I've tried to show how much I appreciate them, love them and will stand by them, accepting them as they are (kinda easy because they are so wonderful). I will treat them with respect. And we will have fun together. FULL

I've written books, blogs, haikus, emails, FB postings, news articles, short stories.  2015 will have no news stories because I've retired from this type of writing. I will continue to write, because frankly, I can't not write. FULL

I want to keep my carbon footprint down. Not as good in the past year. Because of Rick we now use paper towels, aluminum foil, cling film. We have a car, albeit (J and Rick notice albeit) one with good mileage. HALF FULL

I've tried to maintain my friends with consideration and caring. ALMOST FULL

I've tried to express my opinion in demonstrations, letters, blogs, FB, anyway possible to counter the terrible things going on in the world. Stand up for the things I believe in.  Effort FULL, SUCCESS EMPTY. 2015 try harder.

Keep learning by reading newspapers from different countries, watching programs from different countries, read books on subjects I don't know anything about, take a course. Try to develop new skills.  Explore, explore, explore. ABOUT 80% FULL

Reading for fun

An ongoing battle. I will always battle this one. 10-50% FULL depending.

Giving and receiving. FULL FULL

Overall holding my own. I do what I can to stay healthy. 90% FULL

Higher than I want. If junk is in the house I will eat it. Perhaps we need a safe for Rick's junk and only he has the combination. Age does not reduce vanity nor will I try. I accept I'm not as cute as I was at 20 but I want to look good or better for my age. 50% EMPTY

I can add or eliminate boxes as necessary. 

The idea they are ongoing means that when I don't do well one week, there's next week or next month.

Meet the new baron and baroness

Rick and I have proof now we've been elevated to a Baron and Baroness (see certificates) although our friends, who have those titles from countries better known than Sealand, are a bit skeptical.

Rick issued this announcement on your Facebook page.

"A ROYAL ANNOUNCEMENT -  Donna-Lane NELSON is now Baroness Donna-Lane Nelson, and I am now Baron Rick Adams. The honors were conferred upon us by the Sovereign Principality of Sealand ( You may now address us as Baron and Baroness, Lord Adams and Lady Nelson, or Rick and D-L, as you prefer. Bows and curtsies are not necessary but will certainly be appreciated."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

C batteries

 We needed batteries and went into the tabac

Usually I deal with the young woman who is always cheerful and helpful. We chat when she eats lunch at La Noisette and I'm there at the same time. Her mother works at the local grocery and is equally warm and cheerful.

This time the young woman was busy and I had to go to the grouchy owner.

I know I have a bad French accent, often having to use different words or repronouncing things until my words click with the listener's brains, but je voudrais deux c piles is not a profound statement needing analysis.

The grouch said she didn't have any.

We then asked for A.

She didn't have those.

Rick looked behind the counter.

They were there.

He pointed at them.

She grudgingly gave them to us.

She then explained that the letters A, AAA, C, etc. isn't how you order batteries. You ask for the tiny, tiny serial number on the back of the package.

I've been buying batteries in francophone countries for 24 years and four months by the letter designation.

The owner is full of s--t. Grouchy s--t at that.

Was it anti-Americanism, anti non-native Catalan or what?

There is another tabac in town.

The second sold us one C battery, saying the new order would be in next week. He said it with a smile. We could see there was no other. The store A dix bail had a C battery in stock.

We won't go back to the grouchy lady tabac. I will continue to chat with the young woman when we go to La Noisette.

As they say S--T Happens!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Something went right

See our new license plate.

Yesterday we discovered the front plate was missing.

We weren't sure how to get a new one.

First stop this morning was our insurance agent to ask about the process dur who told us:

1. Police
2. Car dealership in the business zone. He checked to see their hours during this holiday week, too.

The police woman was at first very formal, but I warmed her up. We ended up with a report that we could show any time we were stopped for only having one plate.

We then went to the car dealership but we weren't sure why. To get the original plate we had to go to the Marie.

The man took the keys and said sit.

We sat.

I scanned two celebrity magazines. Rick thumbed through one Paris Match.

The man came back, gave us the keys and a bill of 20 Euros.

We had a new front plate.

Rick is still shaking his head at getting a license plate from a car dealer.

I don't care...after the passed week, simple is good. Things going right is even better.

"You have to upate your blog"

Or "I have to update my blog" is becoming family code for another broken item. A couple of days ago on my blog Snap, Crash, Pop I listed all that had gone wrong or ended up in pieces. A few hours later I had to add to the list.

Rick told me as I woke up this morning, that I had one less champagne glass. About 8-10 years ago at a vide grenier I'd found 15 glasses including six of those champagne glasses for 9 Euros. As for the demitasse cup that bit the floor, we'd found that set at another vide grenier for 10 euros.

And for the ice bowl I'm making, shown in the photo above, this is the second one. The first had slipped into the sink as I was adding the rim decorations. The bowl is for a New Year's Eve fete and will have dip in the middle and parsley around it and shrimp draped on top. That is, if it doesn't break. No time for ice bowl 3.

Or maybe it would just be safer to hide under the bed where neither of us can do any more damage to anything.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"I won't sell it to you"

The we-buy-junk-and-sell-antiques dealer on 14, rue de juillet, told us he wouldn't sell the piggy bank (see above) to us if we would break it when filled. 

I had asked if we HAD to break it to get the money out. I wouldn't have bought if that were the case.

Fortunately the porker had a hidden opening, so he is now home safe and already had change in.

I've always saved change. Some years it mounts up to a $1,000 or more and is great for special purchases.

At one time I had a huge plastic Coca-cola bank where all my change went.

I changed countries before I could fill it up, but about $250 in dimes, pennies and nickles were in the bottom 15% of the bank.

Nice thing about piggy banks...there are no charges for different services.

For once I loved a telephone

Even with my disdain of telephones, landlines and mobiles (especially when people ignore people to talk on their phones), they were a godsend when we were at the Barcelona airport trying to find out why the Barcelona police would not let my daughter in the country.

We used them to talk to the embassy, change travel arrangements and co-ordinate with my housemate who was helping with hotel arrangements and giving us strength.

My gratitude extends for this day and this emergency. Any desire to use the phone or any phone other than for minimum communications does not exist.

Skype me, email, talk to me face to face, write a letter, a fax, send a smoke signal.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

We thought it was lost

"Did you get the package?" My wonderful mother-in-law asked when we called her Christmas day.

We hadn't.

The French mail system has been privatized and since then the new delivery people have been great in getting stuff in a mail box, just not a mail box that carries any relation to the address.

However, when we went to the "nest" the studio on the top floor of the building next door and the address she uses, we found the box under the publicity stack that our neighbour had put to one side.

At 91 my mother-in-law, belle-mère (pretty mother in French which doesn't lend itself to mother-in-law jokes) creates wonderful quilts and even teaches other.

This will truly be a treasure.

snap, crash, pop

No it is not Rice Krispies. And I did mean crash not crackle.

For the past month it has been a series of mini disasters when it comes to things.

Things are things and have relatively little importance other than annoyance.

The stars must be in a bad alignment.

We've had over the last month:
  • no heat
  • no hot water
  • no electricity
  • a broken off license plate on the car
  • a broken picture frame
  • a broken Russian magnet
  • a broken dish
  • a broken tea pot
  • computer programs not loading
  • doorbells need replacing (2 houses)
  • a new usb key that didn't work
  • TV remotes are temperamental
  • TV finicky transmission
  • Missing mail of a gift (since found)
Most of these were/can be/will be solved.

However, there is a pure joy when turn on a light switch and the lights come on.

I hope those stars realign themselves soon.

Three hours after first posting

Add one wineglass and one demitasse to the destruction total.

We salvaged Christmas

Once Llara was safe, we were still whipped so we decided Christmas would be changed to Saturday. Our good friends had fed us Christmas Eve and Day. We would have been incapable of preparing anything holidayish much less getting it together to be a host and hostess.

We will entertain one couple on Saturday, one later in the month. Meanwhile we put up the tree late Christmas day with the ornaments Llara and I made when she was three and the "animals." It felt right.

 The village boulangerie was amusingly decorated and not only was there a bûche de noël left, it was CHOCOLATE!!!

 Christmas trees lined the main street of the village each with a unique set of decoration.

Saturday morning we took our tea and presents and opened them under the warmth of the covers while the house heated up.
And my wonderful husband gave me another present when he made the bed (not that he made it because he often does) but that he turned our red blanket into a giant candy can. Creativity is a greater gift than any material thing.

I had told Llara I wanted this to be a memorable Christmas. It was but not in the way we planned. Still I am so proud of my daughter on how she handled the situation and I have nothing but deep gratitude to Julia and Rick for their support and love and maybe, these people in my life are the best Christmas present of all.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas from hell

We never saw it coming.

Llara, Rick and I after a wonderful 48 hours in Dublin together before heading for Barcelona to spend Christmas together in Argelès. It would be the first Christmas with my daughter after too many missed years.

Debarking we lined up for customs.

Rick went through first.

Llara second.

They shuttled her off to one side. Neither customs persons spoke English or French. Neither Spanish or Catalan are my languages.

After being cleared I started to go back with Llara. I was stopped until I did a baby motion, pointed to myself and then Llara. The customs man nodded.

We waited and waited and waited. Finally someone came to explain in limited English she was not to be allowed in the country.


After Llara finished her degree in Scotland she spent time with me in Switzerland. The goals were to spend some time seeing friends and things around Europe...this would be her last free time until she found work and retirement that a block of freedom would exist.

Then between surgery for my broken face, my commitment ceremony, she decided to stay until September when she would return to Boston to look for a job and get on with her life.

We thought she was limited to 90 days in Switzerland at a time so she kept going to France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and other places to meet the requirement. It was her chance to play tourist around Europe.

All these trips did not involve going through border crossings taken down because of the Schengen treaty so there were no stamps in her passport.

For those that don't know the Schengen Area operates very much like a single state for international travel purposes with external border controls for travellers entering and exiting the area, and common visas, but with no internal border controls. It currently consists of 26 European countries covering a population of 400+ million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres.

In Zurich the border police told her that she had violated the Schengen agreement agreement and the 90 days covered all Schengen countries. It didn't matter if she was out of Switzerland. She had to be out of Schengen.

We paid the 500 CHF (US$609) fine.

What we didn't realize she'd been forbidden to reenter any Schengen country until fall 2016.

The police came

The police in Barcelona took her away. I wasn't allowed to go with her.

The US Embassy

Rick couldn't get on the airport wifi. We were trying to conserve his phone battery. Information was able to give us the consulate's phone number. We did reach them. They could do nothing but contact the police and try and locate her and get a status report.

They found her and called us back. 

They said she was to be sent back to Dublin then onto to the US. However, they would not send her directly to the US even if she paid. They said it was the law.

Llara finally was allowed to sms us.

Rick and I changed her ticket home on the 30th to the 24th. Despite taking 45 minutes, United was helpful. We found a ticket for the next day, the 24th.

Julia was working on getting her a hotel in Dublin for the night of the 23rd near the airport and seeing what Switzerland could do which turned out to be nothing.

All was arranged.  She was to fly out of Barcelona at 21h to Dublin, stay the Radisson Blu and then to the US the next day.

I still wanted to see her, hug her. I wanted her to have her suitcase which we had been lugging around.

I love my daughter...her suitcase for a week was double the size of mine for a month. In fairness she did have presents and things I'd asked for like canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce.

We walked what seemed like miles to the police station where they told us she would be, only she was only she wasn't. She was at another station which meant a 15 minute bus ride to the other side of the airport.

We finally connected with the right police, one of three in the area, that we had to talk to before getting the right one.

Language was still a problem. I know it is Spain, but border people should be multi-lingual everywhere. I could have done something in three languages neither of them Spanish nor Catalan.

And than thank God, I found a policeman with fluent French. He was very, very, helpful. About the only person who acted sorry for the situation and didn't have a permanent growl as part of his vocabulary. Perhaps it helped because he spent a lot of time in Collioure, next to Argelès and realised that he was separating a mother and daughter at Christmas for a glitch.

Situation as of 14:22 five hours after Llara tried to enter Spain

I was given permission to see her.

She would be brought from her holding cell but only so far or it would be considered she was in Spain.

We would have 5 minutes.

I could give her her suitcase.

I was told to wait 5 mins. then 5 mins. then 5 mins. then ...

Finally I was led through a hallway, up an elevator and told to sit.

She was brought to me

A guard bustled up and told us she couldn't have her luggage because it had entered Spain. Of course it had since baggage was on the other side of entry customs. Had we not picked up the case it would have been destroyed.

She was allowed a tooth brush, the sandwich I'd bought for her and bottle of water. She had not been fed, but food had been promised. She was able to take a couple of books.

A police woman did speak minimum English. Her boss's boss looked at each item I wanted to leave. He growled his ascent for each item and said no to most. He suggested we take the suitcase to Ryan Air for the night's flight.

We were allowed to hug before they took her back to her cell.

Other factors

Llara had a return ticket to show she didn't intend to stay in Schengen.

They provided her with a lawyer late in the day and an interpreter. He said as the daughter of a Schengen national we should appeal and get the restriction lifter.

Christmas Eve morning Argelès 8ish

"You won't believe this," Rick said as I got out of the shower where I'd pictured my daughter boarding a US-bound plane for Boston.

The Spanish police hadn't put her on the plane. Lost were the tickets and the hotel costs. Cost isn't the issue but it added to the aggravation. Fortunately we had not put the suitcase on the airplane that the police were supposed to put her on.

We had no idea where she was at that moment. The SMS, saying she hadn't been flown out, had come in around midnight while we slept and she wasn't responding to emails, sms, or voice mail.

Another call to the embassy to see if they could locate her. The same woman, who was as helpful this time as she was last, said she would try and track her down. Although it was now Christmas Eve day and the consulate would be closing, she went to work on our problem. 

When the embassy woman called back, she told me my daughter was still in a holding cell but her phone had run down. At some point they would let her call me on the police phone. The embassy woman had already verified all our phone numbers. There was nothing to do but wait.

Situation Christmas Eve Day morning

Llara finally recharged her phone on her computer which was also almost out of power. She had been allowed to keep what had been her carry-on and the few things taken from the suitcase. About 10 she was able to contact us.

They'd found a flight for her on the 26th to Dublin. At that point she would have to spend Christmas eve and day in a cell rather than the wonderful one we had planned. We later found out they had used Rick charge card without authorization and just had Ryan air bill the card that had paid for Llara's original ticket. Tickets that weren't used.

Around noon she contacted us again. She was in the terminal waiting for a plane. Some policewoman had kept trying to get her a flight out that day and succeeded--not easy the day before Christmas. She had her passport back.

She'd been released to fly to London (not like Dublin that they claimed was the only place they could send her legally, and something denied by the Swiss border police that Julia had contacted to see if there was anything to be done on the Swiss end. There wasn't) and onto Boston after spending the night in a sheetless cell.


If border police treat people like us, normal middle class citizens, that way how do they treat others? I can imagine the immigrants taken in the US by ICE and locked up for days, weeks, months with no access to the outside and no one to help them and no legal rights.

If we hadn't been there to help, if there wasn't money for her ticket, what would have happened to her? 

We know if we hadn't picked up her luggage it would have been destroyed.

If the consulate hadn't called what would have happened?

Radisson Blu Dublin backed off the charge. It is not about the money but unnecessary aggravation caused by a series of errors.

If we'd known she'd had been banned we would have stayed in Dublin.

Current situation

What is written above, is about half of what happened.

Llara is back in Boston and will head to VA and try and salvage her holiday with a good friend.

Rick and I moved Christmas to Saturday, but did the things with friends that had been pre-planned.

We will appeal the ban.

More on the subject

Rick's blog on the situation. He was wonderful throughout. His love and support on all occasions is why I love him.

Julia's blog should be up sometime on the 26th.  Her help and support were incredible which is why I love her as a dear, dear friend.

Llara's handling of it all makes me so proud of her.

As horrible as this Christmas was at the same time, my friends and family are a gift beyond measure.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A really traumatic 24

hours thanks to Barcelona customs and Swiss authorities.

More to come once we are 100% sure it is all sorted.

Christmas will not be spent with my daughter.

The best news is everyone is okay.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Email relief

One of the great advantages of having retired from reporting on Canadian credit unions, is email...or less of it.

It was not abnormal to get at least 50 pieces of email a day and sometimes it was releases, Google alerts from any country with a credit union that would have made a news paper, professional associations that might be doing something that would be interesting to my clients.

Today there were 10 emails in my box, all from friends. 

That's email to love.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

It is the shortest day of the year.

According to astronomers with an explanation too complicated to explain it is also the shortest day in the history of the world.

It is also the day that sun begins to come back, the wheel of life starts its cycle once more.

A new year not to be wasted.

More taxi encounters of the third kind

One of the great things about riding in taxis is delving into the drivers lives and personality. I've added three to my collection.

Taxi No. 1. Mary O
House to Westport Train Station

"I was warm in my house. It's nippy this morning. I'm glad I didn't shave my legs."

Mary O was not only cheerful but a cheerleader for the wonderful village of Westport Mayo Ireland. She had her doubts about the new statue in the center. "It claims to be a man on a horse, but it doesn't look like any man on a horse, I've ever seen." Still her tone was one of it being more than okay for a place where she loves living.

Taxi No. 2 Wayne
BnB to Dublin Airport Arrivals

Wayne explained how the taxi system in Dublin works with each driver owning their own car but
belonging to a cooperative and how the rides are divided up. He also is a member of the credit union and how easy it is to get loans. With almost every town and parish having credit unions and my writing about credit unions for the past 20 years, we could share a lot of information. He told me a couple of things that I had written about.

When he found out we would be going to the airport at (gulp) 4 am on the 23rd, he called the dispatcher and arranged for us to be picked.

The Greek islands are a wonderful place to visit, he told us. Rick and I have added that to our travel list.


Taxi No.3 James
Dublin Airport to BnB

Rick:    How are you this morning?
James:  What are you a doctor?

We didn't follow up much. Llara and I were too busy catching up on her flight, her family (my ex-side of the family) our adventure in Westport, etc. 

The best Christmas present

Scene: Dublin airport Arrivals

Observations: Rick notices that pilots long black bag contains golf clubs. (He can spot a course, club or golf ball at about two miles.)

Sign: The best Christmas present is about to walk through these doors.

Reunion 1: An Irish family, husband, grandpa, four kids including a baby on the shoulders of the father are waiting for for their family now living in Florida.

The doors open and the Florida family comes out. One is a child of three pulling a suitcase. She sees her cousins, screams, drops the case and runs as fast as she can to the waiting arms. A KLM stewardess picks up the case and takes it to the family.

Reunion 2: The doors open and Llara comes out and sees Rick waving Scooby.

We hug. I cry.

"Is there something you want to tell me?" she asks.

"I'm pregnant," I say.

She knows it isn't true. 

We pass Santa and she agrees to pose with him with the eye rolling that is so much a part of our family communication.

Christmas has begun. The best present has arrived.


My mother's face

Another essay I found while cleaning emails.

Twenty-eight young sepia faces stared at me from a composite photo. It had been sent to celebrate my 60th birthday by a friend with whom I’d shared secrets for at least three-quarters of my life. 

On it was a Post-it. “My uncle is in the top row, can you find your mother? It’s the fifth grade class at Highland Street School.”

A quick calculation put the year at 1927, two years before the Great Depression. Some of those boys with the jagged haircuts would fight in World War II. One women would be crippled in the 1953 polio epidemic and spend the rest of her life in an iron lung.  Another would have a son, my classmate, who would die in Vietnam. One ended up an alcoholic. 

I don’t know which face belonged to which future, but I’d heard enough stories from my mother about her school chums to know hard lives awaited them. But in the photographer-conscious smiles none of those young faces showed any fear.

In the middle of the second row from the bottom was my mother. I knew my grandmother had made the dress my mother wore, because, I’d heard stories that my grandmother made all her clothes. My mother coveted store-bought clothes, but her first off-the-rack dress was in junior high, two years away. 

And I also knew that my mother had been driven to school that day in a Black Ford. My grandparents were the first people in town to have a car, and my grandmother was known as "The Lady with the Ford."


I had never seen pictures of my mother as a child, but I still recognized her. The face was my face and my daughter’s face. To double check I took the sheet across the hall to my Syrian neighbor. “Can you pick out my mother?” I asked.

Without hesitation Marina touched the woman I’d identified. “She looks like the Kid.” 

Both my daughter and Marina are in their thirties. Because Marina was my friend first, she thinks of us as contemporaries and my daughter as “The Kid” or “The Brat” both names, which I use with greater love than the words imply.

Afterwards I went home and put the photo on a shelf. My mother’s eyes followed me. I thought about the face shared by three generations of women. I wondered how many other women through the years looked like us. The genes had to be strong to keep reappearing.

Would we have recognized, Elizabeth, our first known relative who died in Maine in 1636? 

Did our face wait for a soldier to come home from one of Oliver Cromwell’s battles? 

Did it witness the carnage at the Battle of Hastings or watch a pagan solstice at Stonehenge?   
I want to know more about them, ask them questions about their lives.

I saw nothing of the bitterness and anger that would mark my mother’s face in years to come in that ten-year old girl staring at me. 

I have long since forgiven her for trying to annul my marriage and take my daughter away from me. 

Finally out of the bad times have come good memories of sitting and treating ourselves to smoked sausage and strawberries as we played Scrabble, buying clothes and eating baked stuffed lobster at the Oat & Anchor. 

I use her good ways to build my relationship with my daughter, and I have enough friends who have promised to hit me if I copy the bad. It has worked. When my daughter comes we laugh, tell stories and secrets.

My daughter, who shows no interest in making me a grandmother, still won’t be the last owner of this face. My brother’s daughter is the face’s newest owner, sharing the chubby cheeks and the high forehead. She will probably lead a more conventional life than my daughter and continue our genetics to future generations.

As I climb into bed, my mother still looks at me as she did when I was little. Only this night she won’t read The Bobbsey Twins or Thornton W. Burgess to me. 

For the first time since she died over 14 years before, I want to call her and say, “Guess what I have,” but I know there are no phones there. 

I realise that my friend, a half a world away, has given me a far greater gift than an old photograph for my birthday. She has given me a new past, one that was always there. 

I just didn’t’ know it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


 Another essay found.

“Five continents? There are seven,” my best friend of thirty years said. We were sitting in her Boston bedroom. Although I’ve lived in Europe for over a dozen years, we’ve been able to maintain a close friendship. Nevertheless, from time to time we bump heads on our different experiences and our different chosen cultures, each of us digging into stances that waste both our times and energies.

Oops, here’s another landmine, I thought. Still, I went on. “In Europe they teach five,” I said.

            She looked at me. “Name them.”

            “Er, the Americas, Eurasia...” My assurance vaporized with the steam of the tea we were drinking. How did others classify the continents? I had no idea.

            “In Germany they teach five,” my daughter said. She’d done most of her university degree in Mannheim and a 13th year of high school in Munich.

            “That’s only one country’s point of view,” my friend snapped.

            Before taking too strong a stance, I decided to take a survey by emailing my friends, colleagues and neighbors back in Geneva. One of the advantages of working for a small international organization with coworkers representing 47 different nationalities is that it is easy to check out different perspectives.
The next morning I ran to my email to see if anyone had answered. My inbox was full.

            “Goooooooodmoooooooorningamerriiiiikkaaaa,” my Romanian colleague wrote. “Europe, Asia, South America, North America, Australia. The others are ice thingies.”

            Okay, I thought. I was wrong about the Americas being grouped as a single continent. I then opened the email from my Ukrainian coworker. “Six,” he said. He grouped North and South America as one, but added one of my Romanian friend’s “ice thingies,” Antarctica. 
            When I was first living in Europe, he had taught me to look beyond my beliefs. An ardent Democrat, I resisted going for his jugular when he claimed that “Reagan was one of America’s greatest presidents.” Only after he explained, that he felt that it was Reagan’s Star Wars that helped break up the Soviet Union giving sovereignty to his country, did I look at that particular president from my co-worker’s point of view. The ability to see the other side, I still haven’t mastered, but am closer, thanks to him.

            “Five,” my Syrian neighbor, who works for the World Council of Churches, wrote. “Of course,” she added, “with all the new countries what I learned in geography has changed. What about subcontinents like India?” I’d never thought of India being a subcontinent and I didn’t want to get into it either.

            “FIVE,” was the opinion of my Swiss German colleague. The” naturally” was implied by the capital letters.

My Swiss-French colleague, who is the secretary to our secretary general, showed her normal political acumen that our boss so appreciates. “I learned five,” and then she cited the source. However, detail person that she is, she checked another source that claimed seven.

            My Brit buddy, a person with a degree in psychology, came up with her usual response. “You need to define your terms. Is a continent an unbroken landmass…?” Then with her usual sense of humor she added, “We got rid of your continent and all those gum chewers centuries ago.” She never named a number.

            Suddenly, I saw the silliness in the situation. Puny mankind could count and define these land masses as they want. It changes nothing. I then imagined how we who live for only a few decades, try to control by naming and counting what has existed for millions and millions of years. I pictured two Alps talking. “What’s your name now?” one mountain would ask the Matterhorn.

            “Some call me the Matterhorn, some Zermatt, among other things, ” the Alp would reply.

            I closed my email. My friend and I are meeting my daughter for lunch, three friends, despite differences in age, chosen life styles, professions, or belief in number of continents. We will order good food, share memories, plan the upcoming holiday, which is why I am in the States. The rest is detail, unimportant in our lives.