Sunday, May 31, 2015

I make no bones about selfies

I do not like selfies. People smirking at a camera are just not interesting. Even if there's some major tourist attraction behind them like an Eifel tower or a castle -- THEY ARE STILL BORING!!!!

Maybe I rant against the same old, same old, same old, same old, same old because imagination was a highly-prized value in my family. Don't do what everyone else does just because they do it.

Equally bad and boring are a group of people just smiling at a camera. During a family event when people are preparing food, someone is raising a glass, a child falls asleep on grampy's lap, that makes interesting photos, which tell a story of the event.

How many times have people been doing interesting things and everyone stops to line up to smile at a camera totally losing the feeling. In ten years unless labelled who would know if it was Christmas or Thanksgiving, Easter or just a get together.

I'd much rather see a photo of Mom putting stuffing in the turkey, or Auntie laying the top crust of the apple pie.

I do not claim to be a good photographer. But as a writer I want a photo that tells a story.

This little girl could have stopped and smiled at the camera. BOOOORRRRINNNG. Instead she has a big smile, her hand is fiddling with her hair. This would make a great exercise in a writing class: write ten minutes about this scene.

Crop the photo and it becomes more interesting because the expressions are clearer, the writing of the box tells a story. The main subjects of the little girl, the pig the box with the clown becomes almost a circle for the eye to follow. And it would be better without the woman standing behind even if she has the good taste to have the same red shoes I do.

 What if you cropped even more?

This may be a matter of taste. The focus is on the expressions. I like this one less than the one above it.

At the same fest with the little girl we saw a sculptor, a delightful man who loved his work. He had many samples that were not for sale. He was teaching others to work with clay as he worked.

The eye in the photo is drawn to the people at the table and I lost focus of the photo I wanted to take of the sculptor.

With cropping we can see his concentration on his work, better detail on how he is holding his knife. If he were looking at the camera, to me the photo would be another boring, smirking person.

But I also liked focusing on the piece he was working on and his hand. Too bad about the elbow. I could do another crop, but I would lose the ball of clay.

This was the front of the piece, but I prefer the photo I took cropped. The woman in the background spoils the story of the photo. I only wish his hand with the knife had been on it and then it would have been better.

It was hard to catch a group of Catalan singers in costume as they marched by. I just snapped and got this.

Then I tried cropping.

A little better. Two others in Catalan costumes. Shows the women's costumes a bit.

And although it is a bit fuzzy, what I love is the man's smile looking ahead.

I guess that's why I fight Rick every step of the way when he wants to take a photo of me standing, staring at the camera, in front of some monument with a smirk on my face.

Nor will I take him the same way. A few of favorite photos of him are:

Rick doesn't usually lay down on the sidewalk, but near the Dali museum in Figueras, Spain he was trying to get a special perspective of a statue for me, bringing back great memories of a special day.

He was laughing as he was cooking here NOT STARING AT THE CAMERA. The meal was great.

When we were in downtown Geneva, we saw the grass couches. Now a selfie would be him standing by it grinning into the camera. Instead he laid down on the couch making it a story photo and showing what the couches were meant to do.

I have a dinky little camera in a pretty pink. I am not a photographer with any in-depth technical knowledge. I hope I know the difference between interest and boring.

His first pancakes

A sexy woman's voice was coming from the kitchen as I was turning my hair natural red, thanks to Oréal 66.6 (no comments on the three sixes, please). "For fluffy pancakes . . ." she said with a breathy tone.


Rick and I alternate cooking, although he is still learning, and I've not only had decades of preparing food, I went to a chef's school for six months. everything he has attempted so far, has been good. Sunday morning breakfasts are one his designated meals.

He mentioned pancakes before we were up and still reading.

I said wonderful.

He said he didn't know how to make them.

", recipe pancakes." I put my novel aside and got up to search for the old clothes to wear while getting rid of my white and brown roots.

By the time I was once again a natural redhead, a breakfast of pancakes, bacon, juice and tea was set up on our patio, beautifully presented and delicious to eat.

So glad I married that man.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Good Witches

Loose translation: In Catalonia, witches in front of a door or window protects the house.

According to an artist in Ceret, witches aren't bad, but good. Position a picture of a witch or a witch doll at your front door and she'll protect your house, she said as we walked into her studio.

All her art work, paintings, sculpture and dolls had a witch theme.

Witches, however,  have had a bad rap through history with thousands and thousands being burned in the Middle Ages. Usually they were old women or those who practiced healing. 

Witchcraft is having a comeback through the practice of the Wiccan religion. 

My university friend who is visiting was so entranced with one of the dolls, was tempted to buy one. She didn't give in, only out of the room-in-suitcase issue.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I know it is silly

This plant was here when we moved in two years ago. 

More than once it looked totally dead.

Then it came alive again and again, although it seems strange part of it looks dead.

I can't bring myself to throw it out, as long as it fights for its life. I think the flowers are saying "thank you."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

50-49 vote, US Senate says climate change not caused by humans

Last January, the US senate voted that climate change was not caused by humans.

Maybe they should vote that the sky is green. 

Here's another suggestion for a vote.

The planet is square.

Or gravity doesn't exist.

We all know that a vote makes reality go away.

Grief and understanding

Years ago I worked with a woman, who I thought of as much older, although she was younger by a couple
of decades than I am now.

She was thin to the point of being haggard and she was in mourning, deep mourning, for her son who was killed in a car crash well over a year before.

Despite her pain, I found that she loved pinks, especially dusty rose shades, a sharp contrast to the idea of black and gray sad colors.

What I didn't understand at the time was that she couldn't seem to get over it. Other people had lost loved ones and moved on.

I would listen to my co-worker talk about her son with what I hoped I was a sympathetic ear. Probably today I would have much more empathy, but I'm not sure if she would have been able to tell the difference in what I was feeling.

I understand grief better now than before.

Since then, I've lost people I've loved, but not my child, who although she in her forties, is still my child,  the person I adore unconditionally. When my daughter was a baby, I doubted if I could have survived her loss. Now I don't know and I don't want to know one way or the other.

Friends, who have lost people they love and almost everyone I know has and as I age the losses mount, handle grief in different ways. Sometimes I find the worse the relationship, the harder the loss.

When I lost my adored father, it hurt, but we had nothing left unsaid between us. Bouncing back is the wrong phrase but acceptance came quickly and the sadness was put away. Even 33 years later there are things I'd like to tell him, and some I don't. I'm grateful I never had to tell him I gave up my nationality and took another, even though he had done the same thing.

I expected it to be easier to lose my mother, where everything was left unsaid. Someone told me it would be harder. I didn't believe them, but they were right.  It took ten years to let in the good memories.

With my beloved stepmom, the fact she was at peace left me grateful. I'd lost her twice. Once as her mind faded and once when her body followed.

Losing a good friend last year has been hard, although she would be angry at being mourned. It is more of the loss of sharing this or that along with appreciation that her death was so sudde.

I will lose other people I love, people who have been important me. That I understand grief better now than I did those many decades ago, is not really a consolation.

I don't want to get good at grief. 

Next challenge not much help

The next step on the 52 week savings challenge isn't much help. It is to buy diapers and wipes in bulk.

Well I'm not going to have/adopt a baby to need diapers full stop. I also used cloth diapers with my daughter even though they were hard to find.

As for wipes don't use them.

I will admit since being married to Rick, I've started using clink film, paper towels and aluminum foil. Would rather not, but the dishes I used in the nest for storage didn't require anything to seal them, but in the warren they do.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A trick

Ange:                     Scoob said to stay here until the others come. I'm lonely but I'll wait.

Petite Cougar: Where's Ange.

Scoob:                She said she had errands. We should go on without her.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Decisions, decisions

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of Murder in Edinburgh, Etc.

Now the real work begins, of the polishing, deleting, adding, rewriting.

Rick and I are heading to Andorra in early June where we will only work on our fiction. My goal was to have the MIEE first draft done in time for the trip.

However, I'm itching to get to the book.

I'd also promised myself when I finished the first draft of MIEE, I would start to market Murder in Ely, out this month. This involves social media, writing to independent bookstores, etc.

I've a third research project on a renunciation article I'm working on.

Both of these are tedious.

Then there's preparing The Nest, my studio, where my college friends will spend the next few days. 

What I really want to do is work on the rewrite.

I know the marketing is important.

Final decision?

One computer game then start polishing.

Today is a holiday?

"Enjoy the holiday," my housemate Skyped me.

Holiday? Holiday?

Okay it's Memorial Day in the US. What is it in France or Switzerland.

Aha. Pentecôte or Whit Monday to anglophones.

Now that I no longer work in a office holidays just kind of float by. No more looking forward to three- day or even four-day weekends.

In Argelès sometimes we can tell a three-day weekend by increased tourists wandering the streets. In Geneva, if we don't leave the house the holiday can sneak by unnoticed.

When I worked for Interskill, we were given ten holidays and we could take them whenever our clients had holidays so someone with a lot of German clients might not show up when those of us with English clients did or vice versa.

And then there's Mother's Day. There was one point my daughter and I had living or loving connections with the UK, Switzerland, France, Germany and the US.
  • UK Fourth Sunday in Lent
  • Germany, US Second Sunday in May
  • France Last Sunday in May
  • Switzerland Might or might not be moved if it falls on the same day as Pentecôte.
I suggested that my daughter give her beloved mother a present on each one of the dates. She wasn't impressed. This year however, she apologized for missing Mother's Day entirely and wished me a happy one. Only it wasn't any of the ones above.

In a way I miss the anticipation of a holiday, but then again, the way we work, we can declare any day we want as a holiday...and do!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Touching history again

Driving Geneva-Argelés via autoroute can be pretty routine even with regular stops for a bite to eat, potty and a leg-stretch. Many of the stops have good restaurants, places to picnic and of course, shops to buy snacks and souvenirs.

Rick and I decided, to get off for one of our breaks and investigate Nîmes as a change. As history buffs, we were well rewarded.

Although people have lived in the region since prehistoric times Nîmes was also a Roman colony from about 28 BC on with about 60,000 residents. Much of the construction still exists today including its arena. Today, it is still used, although I have little desire to witness a bullfight.

"I can't believe something 20 centuries old, is still standing," he said.

We admired the different sculptures, like this part of a fountain above.

We're told we were told old to ride the carousel.

Admired the posters but not the reason.

Ate ice cream that we watched made from the fruits and cream that we selected (mine were bananas, mangoes and vanilla cream).

Wandered through a marché.

The Visigoths who overthrew the Romans, did not leave as much of a mark on the city and they in turn were overthrown by the Muslims in 725 A.D. with another turnover power a couple of decades later followed by this or that invasion until today, when it is a peaceful city.

Nîmes is close enough to Argelès for either a day trip or an overnighter so we can take more time and check out the museums, explore what's left of the ancient gates and just revel in the combination of past and present.

Friday, May 22, 2015

4:44 a.m. phone call

Our first night back in Argelès, the land line rang at 4:44 a.m.

By the time we realized what it was and Rick had staggered to pick it up, no one was there.

Middle of the night phone calls usually signal a problem.

It was a little before nine in Texas where his daughter and grand kids live, a little before eleven in New York where his mom lives and in Boston where my daughter lives.

We checked emails and Facebook to see if there were any messages.


We fell back into restless sleep.

The next day we checked with all our loved ones.

No, they hadn't call. Yes, everything was fine.

Our second night back in Argelès, the land line rang at 4:44 a.m.

I made it to the phone. No one was there.

"Maybe," Rick said, "It was the alarm."

Our last morning in Argelés we were planning to leave before six. His smart phone, my dumb phone had both been set. He also had set the land line.

He thinks he has deactivated it.

We'll know tomorrow at 4:44 a.m.

All keyboards are not the same

(American, French and Swiss keyboards in descending order)

My mother never gave me a choice about learning to type. "Do it or be grounded," she said the summer between my sophomore and junior years. "If you can type you'll never go hungry."

Thus before I could do summer fun things, I practiced ghjf, ghjf and jfhg for hours along with the other combination of letters, until I was a good typist. She was right. More than once typing has provided me a salary and it was easy to go from typing to word processing.

Like most people who grew up in the US, I thought keyboards the world over were the same.


I moved to Toulouse. The keyboard I used there was a French one. Where did the W go? It is where the Z should be and vice versa. I also had my own DEC Rainbow PC with an American keyboard. On any day, I was switching between the two.

Then I went to work in Switzerland. Easy, I thought.  I already know the French keyboard.


Granted there were minor differences. For example on the French you need to use the Caps to get the numbers, but not on the Swiss. Some punctuation is reversed.

I had a Swiss keyboard at work. I'd bought a French Mac to save several hundred francs for my Geneva apartment and I used the DEC rainbow at my gentleman friend's home on weekends.  It meant in one day I could be writing on any three keyboards never mind the compatibility problems.

Where was that M again????

Finally, I ended up with Swiss keyboards at all three places, saving me the hour or so of adjustment when I switched from one to another. I was a happy typist, although I no longer had a ready-made excuse for typos.

Remy, our computer guru at work, came smiling into my office. He had hearing problems, was good looking and always walked with a spring in his step. "I've wonderful news," he said. "I can get you an American keyboard."

I didn't want to hurt his feelings so, I thanked him nicely and explained, I'd just co-ordinated all three of my computers, bought him a coffee and sent him on his way.

Now Rick is facing the change from American to French with some trepidation. I really want him to know it isn't that hard--not as hard as babying his geriatric laptop.

My laptop also could use replacement. At the moment the a, s, d, e, c, n keys are worn away. I'll probably buy it in Switzerland, not because it has a Swiss keyboard, but because I trust Marino, my computer guy there, to totally co-ordinate the old with the new.

Of course, the NSA will probably still be able to see me through the webcam. I wonder what keyboards they use.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ice cream while you wait

The idea of ice cream as we wandered around the ancient city of Nimes, France seemed like a good idea.

Then we saw this stand. Customers choose their fruit, type of cream, maybe nuts, cookies or candy.
The fruit is put on an ice round plate and chopped into tiny, tiny pits. The cream is added and as it freezes is mixed in.

I choose mangos, strawberries, vanilla cream. 

At the end it is flattened and rolled into tiny cigar shapes, put into a cup.

Voilà ice cream as you wait.

Note: Rick has a duelling blog with video.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Directionally challenged

I admit to be number and math challenged but I'm also directionally challenged. Lefts and rights can be confusing as are north, south, east, west unless I have my compass that has a Robert Frost poem engraved on it.

Conversation with Rick as we watched the sunset.

Rick: What direction is across the lake?

Me: France.

Rick: No, direction. Like on a compass.

Me: France is South, so south.

Rick: It's east or west.

Me: I want to call a friend or use a joker.

Zimbabwe: Why I love Geneva

Growing up in Reading, MA there wasn't much chance to meet "foreigners". Oh yes, the fire chief of Reading, England visited. Each year there was one exchange student. And there was the Belgian war bride.

That was it.

Foreigner almost meant coming from New Hampshire or Maine in my household.

That Geneva is about 49% foreign provides a much more open exchange.

Today, while waiting for the bus, the woman next to me and I started chatting. All my family is infected with the disease of talking to strangers no matter where.

She was from Zimbabwe and said this cool Genevan day was like there winter. We talked about English being the main language, but the tribal dialects and who could understand whom. 

The bus came all too quickly.

Moments shared like this is reason 35,690,11 why I love living here and another reason I love being a Third Culture Adult.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A tale of two weddings

Wedding 1

Place:        Argelès-sur-mer, France
Date:         10 August 2013
Guests:      40+ from three continents and seven countries
Language:  English

Wedding 2

Place:         Corsier Port, Switzerland
Date:           18 May 2015
Guests:        two witnesses, everyone from the same household
Language:   French**

My witnesses and bridegroom (and friend) before we left for the mairie, where two women with gentle voices read poetry along with the civil regulations.

The pen we used to sign the register and a wedding gift from the commune.

We had lunch at Marro (usual) with champagne from the manager (unusual) and a wedding cake (unusual).

A surprise reception by my wonderful housemate, catered by Son No. 2 with friends and neighbors. Not easy to pull off under our noses, literally.

In retrospect, Son No. 2, cooking for an alleged dinner elsewhere, he and his mother making arrangements in German that made no sense, which I figured was my lousy German or she was trying to improve his, his mother being both happy and upset that he was called to substitute teach and so caring about the time he would be home and her picking him up afterwards, being told to leave the gate open when Rick and I went on our evening walk, should have told me something was up.

I'm dense.

It didn't.

Some of the food included: Zucchini/courgette gaspacho, baked cheese with garden rosemary, fig/aubergine/eggplant in a honey/basil/cream sauce plus much, much more. Son No. 2 made sure the food was defined in both American and English.

In lieu of a wedding cake, J's to-die-for brownies, but with a photo a wedding cake. Gotta get that framed. The brownies won't survive long.

The flowers the mairie gave us will last a few days. Our marriage and love will last our lifetimes.

To my housemate and Son No. 2 thank you for being.

**I told Rick that he had promised in French at the mairie to feed me black chocolate several times a day, never leave a dirty dish in the sink, and make the bed daily and quickly. He didn't quite believe me that it was in the ceremony.