Friday, July 31, 2015

still in the hospital

Writing on the iPad is not as easy as my keyboard, although I am use to switching from the American to the Swiss And back again.

The only reason I am still here is that I am still draining too much fluid. Dr. M says four to seven days is normal.

Still it will be nice to not have too little bottles attached to me, be back home and reunited with my laptop.

Monday, July 27, 2015


I'll be out of commission for a couple of days, or rather my laptop won't be coming with me to the hospital, so I probably won't post again until July 31 or Aug. 1.

I do have another blog which is my way to cope with a second round of breast cancer. Usually I keep the two separate.

I keep saying how lucky I am to be in the Swiss medical system. And how lucky I am to have such good friends and a husband.

Upward, onward...

Ah's a'comin' Dr. M. Get that scalpel ready.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Family cane lore

On my 60th birthday, Llara and I spent the weekend in Chamonix. We were sitting on a terrace with a plethora of pink geraniums along the railing. Below, a Coke-bottle green creek gurgled its way down the mountain.

An old woman struggled by with a cane. Her daughter, who I guessed was my age, helped her. They were chatting broken up by laughter.

"That could be us in thirty years," I said.

Then a thought hit me. "I'd love a cane. Imagine, I'm on a Geneva bus with my cane. A handsome young man comes on board. I can poke-poke-poke him in the butt. They'd never suspect a little old lady."

"MOTHER!!!!!" Llara turned it into a several-syllable word.

Every time I added to my future bad behavior Llara would inform me I was not to have a cane. "I don't know enough French to get you out of jail."

It became one of those family legends, not unlike urban legends, with my daughter always adding "NO CANE!!!!"

Today, in Evian, Rick and I spied beautiful canes in a store window. "Take a photo for Llara, please" I asked. Stupidly, I'd left my camera at home.

"Your reflection is in the way." He motioned for me to move.

Then in a moment of complete complicity he repositioned me so it looked as if my hand were on one of the canes.

I don't think he worries about my attacking young men. I have him and no cane is necessary.

Early Sunday morning

I woke to cat purr stereo. Clea was on my right, Babette on my left.

Outside an owl gave a last hoot before sleeping and a dove cooed.

Cool air came thru the window.

Happiness is  all of the above.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Thank you notes

As a child, thank you notes were a must for any gift received. My grandmother hovered over me, television was forbidden until they were written with the proper appreciation including for the annual Christmas gift of embroidered handkerchiefs that I would never use from an aunt somebody who I never remembered meeting, but suspected if I did she would be one of those old women who pinched my cheeks.

Still I tortured my daughter the same way trying to make her see that someone went out their way to think of her for gifts received.

Fast forward to the 1990s and early 2000s when I dated a lovely Swiss gentlemen. We had many formal dinners with his friends, usually four couples, place names at table, wonderful food and great conversation.

A thank you note was required, a bit old-fashioned I thought, but this time I was sincere when I mentioned this or that lovely detail provided by the welcoming hostess. I knew from having reciprocated with a dinner all that went into it.

Fast forward again to the present

My housemate J had sent a birthday present to a charming multi-lingual, multi-imagination five-year old.  A thank you note in a childish scrawl was returned. I could picture her mom standing over her, but I know from many visits that her mother's nagging on manners has paid off by comments the child had made when we played together. At this early age, thoughtfulness for others had been activated from her Mom's DNA.

Then today in the mail, I found two thank-you notes in a single envelope from two bright, well-behaved little boys.

I'd known their French father from when he was a bump, seen him grow up during regular visits and even lived almost a year within in his family in France.

He was always a bright, funny, imaginative, well-behaved little boy with a bit of acceptable devil in him and adorable. He became the same kind of adult with a lovely wife and with his sons are following in his footsteps.

The thanks was for the loan of our flat in Argelès where they could vacation near the sea.

I'm sure it wasn't the boys idea. But parents who teach gratefulness will raise appreciative kids. Appreciative kids become kinder adults, and the world certainly needs kind adults.

I still can't remember that handkerchief-sending aunt, but unlike when I was little, I sincerely appreciate that she took the time to select something and send it to me in a way I didn't then.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

accepting new info

It has been frustrating that so many homeland Americans do not understand the plight of expats.

Terms like traitor, tax cheat may be some of the nicer words used against us.

Of course, if the homelanders never faced the problem, they don't realise that the US is only industrialized country to collect taxes on a citizen's world wide income for life and to be considered American for taxation you have to be:
  • born there even if you only spent a day
  • born of a US parent anywhere in the world other than the US and may or may not ever stepped on US soil
  • hold a green card but no longer live in the US
What they also don't realize in the wake of trying to collect unpaid taxes (much less than imagined) they've bullied banks into becoming their spies until most banks simply shut any American out of any banking services. For once I don't blame the banks which have spent billions trying to comply. The draconian punishments are not worth Americans' accounts.

However being shut out of ordinary banking activities leaves anyone with a hint of the stars and stripes in their blood and living outside the US unable to function financially merely because they were born in a place where they no longer live.

Countless articles have been written about ungrateful citizens without the writer taking the time to ascertain the full story.

One such article was written by Stephen  Richard Levine.

Several people wrote him telling him the other side of the story. Often when we've done that the author has refused to consider that what we are saying just might have some merit. A few have hurled even more invectives.

Levine, on the other hand, graciously published some of our letters without compromising some of his points to which he is entitled.

He took his true fact, but it with our true fact and came out with the truth.

Thank you Stephen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No logo

I only realised that my logo antipathy went back to my childhood when Rick and I were chatting last night about our childhoods.

I was eight. We lived on 14 acres of land which gave me plenty of space to pretend I was a cowgirl.

I loved cowboys on television. (We were among the first families in Reading to have one). Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Sky King, The Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy were my heroes. I even had a black Hopalong outfit.

I remember wishing his name wasn't on the vest but then I pretended he had a club and went along with it.

I was a third grader at the Lowell Street School which had four rooms for four grades.

It had no cafeteria, served disgusting warm milk delivered each day but great cookies at snack time.

My mother picked me up for lunch.

I wanted to stay and eat at the school. The idea of having PNB sandwiches and maybe an apple, eating with my friends then going out to play seemed wonderful.

After begging and begging she agreed and bought me a Hopalong Cassidy lunch box. I had wanted, a plain one. I know she thought that I would love it, so I never told her. However, I never used it either, forgoing the chance to eat at school rather than carry a lunch box with a name on it and rather than hurt my mother's feelings.

From Wikipedia...
Hopalong Cassidy or Hop-along Cassidy is a fictional cowboy hero created in 1904 by the author Clarence E. Mulford, who wrote a series of popular short stories and many novels based on the character.
In his early writings, Mulford portrayed the character as rude, dangerous, and rough-talking. From 1935, the character—as played by movie actor William Boyd in films adapted from Mulford's books—was transformed into a clean-cut hero. Sixty-six popular films appeared, only a few of which relied on Mulford's stories. Mulford later revised and republished his works to be more consistent with the character's screen persona.

As portrayed on the screen, white-haired Bill "Hopalong" Cassidy was usually clad strikingly in black (including his hat, an exception to the western film stereotype that only villains wore black hats). He was reserved and well spoken, with a sense of fair play. He was often called upon to intercede when dishonest characters took advantage of honest citizens. "Hoppy" and his white horse, Topper, usually traveled through the west with two companions—one young and trouble-prone with a weakness for damsels in distress, the other older, comically awkward and outspoken.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The 14th was a big day

  • The 14th of July was the French National Day.
  • The 14th I had my gall bladder out.
  • The 14th I learned I DIDN'T have cancer of the gall bladder
  • The 14th I became one of the 8 plaintiffs to sue the US government over FATCA

For those that don't know the US has bullied banks all over the world into reporting all American accounts under threat of huge penalties and being shut out of international markets.

The banks found it easier to shut the Americans out of all financial services. The number of closed accounts is growing every day all over the world for expats.

Imagine not being able to bank because of where you born.

I never thought I'd be involved in a law suit. Not my thing, but the punishment of innocents was too great.

Immediately the criticisms started. All American expats are wealthy scum avoiding their responsibilities.

A study conducted by the Democrats Abroad and cited by Republican Overseas said those most affected were middle class, noting that 68% of checking accounts and 40.4% of savings accounts closed due to FATCA had balances of less than $10,000. Hmmm doesn't seem that wealthy to me. Hard to buy an airplane with only ten thousand.

Many have been forced into giving up their American nationality to have ordinary lives.

Some homelanders say, "When you are in trouble, the US won't come and save you." Well, they don't anyway. US citizens in Yemen and Somalia have been saved by other countries and weren't charged as they would have been had the US tried to get them out.

The image is the expats live tax free. Often our local taxes are higher than the US ones.

We are under constant threat of penalties if we don't do this or that. We report our money to a crime agency implying that by living overseas we are criminals.

Now Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Rob Portman (R-OH) have proposed a bipartisan tax reform plan that will reduce taxation of overseas profits on corporations? US corporations are people. If they are not required to pay taxes on overseas income why should two-legged, walking-talking people be required to do so?

Yup, the 14th was a big day for me.

Color joy

"Cow. Pallentrie."

This was my first day out since surgery. I'd just eaten gazpacho at Marro and we were driving home the long way thru the vineyards.

Rick was confused but then I added, "Pink and Green."

I'm part of a wonderful FB group started by a wonderfully creative woman, Karrie.

"Surrounded by colours this group selects a colour/combination of colours each week & posts their varied , eclectic photos of the things they've found . Designed to make you LOOK & appreciate the colours surrounding us . Tinting out lives with joy ........" 

It all started with one yellow photo. We quickly ran thru all the basic colors and we are now on combinations. This week is pink and green.

Rick understood immediately and turned the car toward the cow.


Friday, July 17, 2015

My kingdom for a grape Popsickle

"Grape Popsicle," I said. I hadn't had one for years. It was hot. I was in the hospital waiting surgery.

Rick was keeping me company. I still had on my street clothes.

"Don't they have them here?" he asked.

I honestly didn't know because it was the first time I'd had a grape Popsicle urge since I moved to Switzerland in 1990 (and probably long before) so I hadn't looked.

We talked about the ice cream man who came around the neighborhood, ringing his bell. My brother and I would stop what ever we were playing and con my mother or grandmother for whatever a Popsicle, ice cream sandwich or cone would cost. It worked more than it didn't.

Rick went on a Popsicle safari and found a whole bunch of types at Migros. He brought me a strawberry juice Popsicle.

Boy was it good.

When a friend is more than a friend

J and I have been thru a lot in the 11 odd years I've shared her home.

There were the bad times:
  • The death of her mom and my beloved stepmom
  • The death of her sister 
  • The death of my best friend of 53 years
  • The death of Munchkin, the cat
  • Three breast cancers
  • Misc. eye surgeries, broken bones and sprained ankles
  • Emergency trips to the hospital
We've also been thru wonderful times
  • Celebrations for little things
  • Celebrations for middle things
  • Celebrations for big things
  • Our adventures to places like Insel Poel and Malta and many more places
  • Staying in everything from a no-star hotel to a château
  • The mountains
  • Hen night
  • DVDs
  • Movies
  • Concerts for all types of music
  • Holidays
  • Proving two women could share a kitchen
  • Discovering buying a cooked Thanksgiving turkey was easier than doing your own and going to Marro for the meal was the best of all
  • Early morning conversations
  • Mid day conversations
  • Late night conversations
  • Food
  • Sinning at McDos
  • Running to France for Chinese food as a last minute decision
  • Jumping on a train for an adventure with no thought of a destination
  • Photos of electric boxes (with more planned)
  • The good memories list is endless
She never wanted daughters, I never wanted sons, but we ended up with what we each wanted yet we forged a relationship with the other's offsprings.

Sharing friends. Can you have too many wonderful people in your life? I don't think so.

There is a problem with terminology. Eskimos have many words for snow. English only one. English only has one word for friend that fails to define depth. I could list a lot for J...including fellow survivor, family of choice, sister of choice, partner in silliness-laughter-sadness... just keep adding words.

So this is for you J. Thank you for being who you are and walking thru life.

Another reason I adore my husband

It wasn't that he brought me flowers while I was in the hospital, although I really, really appreciated looking at them.

It was because he noticed that five of the six women in the ward had flowers. One did not. He gave her flowers too so she wouldn't be the only one without flowers by her bedside.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ironing and Ancient Rome

What has ironing got to do with Ancient Rome?

Yes, I do iron. I just like the way the clothes feel better and that includes pajamas. Although many people won't believe it, I iron Rick's clothes too because I want him to enjoy the same feeling.

I never claimed to be a good ironer and if there's a wrinkle left, it isn't all that important.

However, when I iron I put something interesting to watch on the tv or my iPad. Today it was BBC-Life and Death in Herculaneum. The ancient city suffered the same fate at Pompeii. The ruins show how sophisticated the cuisine was, how slaves became citizens and much, much more. The program lasted as long as the ironing pile.

I often listen to documentaries when I cook as well, with the iPad propped on the counter top just far enough way to be safe from spills.

Multitasking is a way of life, I guess.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

UBS is not a foreign bank

One of the many annoying things about FATCA is that they refer to expats having accounts in "FOREIGN BANKS".

Excuse me.

Excuse me!


When I can walk down the street to do my banking at UBS, Raiffeisen or the Post, that is a LOCAL BANK."

For me, Chase, Wells Fargo, CitiBank are foreign banks. I can't have accounts there even if I wanted to because I don't have a US address. I can't have an account there because I'm no longer an American citizen because I had to make a choice between having a bank account in a local bank (read: where I live, work, play, sleep, eat, vote etc.) or be American. Not a choice anyone should have to make.

Lake walk

My housemate and I took an early morning lake walk before the heat of the day arrived. 

Ducks were swimming in pairs. One lady duck was giving her partner an ear full of something that must have displeased her. Her quacks echoed across the water.

The mother of another pair gave one of her teenage children a fish she'd caught.

We watched a school of fish swim by in the clear, clear water. Fortunately for them, they were no where near where they would have been considered breakfast by the birds.

A man was way out in the lake paddling. 

At the end of the dock one man was fishing, and kid was diving into the water next to the sign that said no diving off the dock.

Not many boats were out that early.

A gull perched on a post and seemed in not hurry to go anywhere at all.

The dock was in full flower. 

And as if the scene was the opening of a movie, we had the background music as a man played on his homemade flute.

I am blessed to live within a few minutes walk. Each time I do I feel as if I've had a holiday.

My housemate did a dueling blog

Saturday, July 11, 2015

49T again

I've blogged before about the family tradition of the 49T license plate.

My father had the original given to him by a governor of Massachusetts in the 1950s. When he moved to Florida, I inherited the plate.

He applied for 49T in Florida: he was given it.  He owned a big maroon Caddy. I had a little maroon Spitfire. Parked side by side with the same number plate it looked like a ship with its life boat.

When my daughter moved to Virginia, she applied for the same number, making it three members of the family who had driven cars with the same plate. (By that point I was in Europe and deliberately carless.)

Llara is back in Massachusetts and when she applied for 49T she found it was taken. She's trying for 49T CH. CH is the country code for Switzerland.

My wonderful nephew, who helped me so much during my equally wonderful stepmom's final illness, cleaned out her house. He asked me if I wanted my parents' license plate.

It may not be an ordinary family heirloom but it holds so many memories, that I treasure it.


Welcome to the earth.

What a wonderful display at La Maternitè in the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG): the sky with stars--but much more.

Every few minutes a name appears.

It is a welcome to a new baby of that name that was born recently at the hospital.

What a wonderful reminder of a new life with all its hopes and chances is here.

It's not exactly writer's block

It's not exactly writer's block, but I can't seem to get back to polishing my novel Murder in Edinburgh

I'm able to write emails, blogs and work on a book with my ex-boss. Thus, I can't complain about complete writer's block, although I would like to.

I know between the surgery on Tuesday and the FATCA lawsuit to be filed on the same day there's a lot on my mind. 

Still, when I saw this ash tray at a restaurant in Collonge-Bellerive, it was almost like it was nagging me. It also made me a bit sorry I didn't smoke and have almost no friends that come to smoke in my home. 

I wouldn't steal it from the restaurant so the nag stays in the next town.

I have a variety of other projects.
  • Get my short stories into Kindle
  • Put Wise Words on Writing into Kindle and/or try to market it to a publisher
  • Polish Triple Decker and start submitting it to publishers
I start each day with the best intentions. I could say 
appointments get in the way
  • heat wipes me out
  • I play too many computer games
  • I'd prefer to listen to Max Keiser
I went back to a newsletter that I'd written in July 2005 on how deal with it.

Why is it so easy to give advice but so hard to take your own?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Goldilocks, the NSA and the three bears

ONCE upon a time there was an NSA agent named Goldilocks. She worked for the NSA, who were worried about the Bear family, who lived in a cottage in the wood.

The NSA watched the Bear family conversations on the Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear's webcam. They also tapped their cell phones. NSA was convinced that all their chatter about a football ticket for a TX. vs. OK football game that cost $4.00 and Papa Bear was planning to buy was really code for a planned terrorist attack.

They were especially worried when Baby Bear ordered a copy of The
Anarchist Cookbook from Amazon. Even if he was writing a paper for school on the period of the 60s, they thought that this showed the Bears were ready to act. They also thought Baby Bear needed to use spell check.

When the NSA read in the Bears' emails that the family planned to visit Mama Bear's mother and spend the afternoon, they sent in Agent Goldilocks to check out  the cottage for any other evidence such as some of the material listed in the cookbook.

Agent Goldilocks was really tired as she drove to the Bears' cottage. She'd had a hot date the night before. Still using GPS she drove into the woods where the Bears had their cottage.

The door was open and Goldilocks went directly into the kitchen.

The Bears hadn't bothered to clean up after lunch. She was hungry because she hadn't had time for breakfast.

Papa Bear's chicken tikka was much too spicy. Mama Bear had added too much yoghurt and it was too
cool, but Baby Bear's tikka was just right. Although she meant to eat only a couple of mouthfuls, she gulped the whole thing down.

She went into the living room and their she started going thru the three desks.

Papa Bear had a big desk crammed full of football souvenirs. She didn't bother with a computer, and she waved to her boss, who might be peeking thru the webcam.

Mama Bear's desk had recipes, knitting books, an iPad. Baby Bear's desk had a laptop with all kinds of games on it. She played a couple of games before she realized that maybe her boss could see her.

Goldilocks went to check out the bedroom. "Perverted," she thought when she found they all slept in the same bed, but if Baby Bear slept in the same room, it might explain why Mama and Papa Bear had separate beds.

After looking thru the closets, under the mattress and thru the dresser, Goldilocks was so tired that she thought she might take a nap. The Bears weren't due back for hours.

She set the alarm on her mobile and flopped on Papa Bear's bed but his mattress was rock hard. Mama Bear's Bed was so soft she had to climb out but Baby Bear's was so comfortable that she fell asleep immediately.

What she didn't know was that Mama Bear had meant to take some photos to her family, the old fashioned paper kind so they could be scanned and shared with other relatives.

"Whose car is that?" Baby Bear asked as they parked in front of the house.

"The door is open," Papa Bear said, "and some ate some of my food."

"And mine," Mama Bear said.

"They ate all of mine," Baby Bear said.

In the living room, Papa Bear noticed that his football ticket collection wasn't as he left it. Mama Bear saw someone had been copying her gazpacho recipe and Baby Bear saw that there was a computer game he never played on his screen.

They went into the bedroom and they woke Goldilocks who ran out of the house and drove home.

Her boss telephoned her. He was furious because she bungled the assignment. She was demoted. But the Bear family lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

A man and his dog

At the lake we saw a little dog run across the dock, jump down to a low rock, dive in and swim to the beach. His master walked along the dock with him holding his leash.

The pup shook himself off and repeated the performance.

The third time his master went in with him and together they played in the water, the dog swimming away and then coming back to give his master a kiss.

A lovely little scene at the end of a charged day.

Why orange

My friend Karrie has started a daily color photographie thing on FB. Yesterday's was orange.

I wasn't sure I'd find much orange so I did a household orange search and found a carrot, a skin cream and a German verb book. Then we went around Geneva on an Orange Safari and found tons and tons of orange umbrellas, clothing, awnings, equipment. There was even a beautiful car at the airport.

But we also noticed was that so many Swiss companies use Orange as their logo color including
  • Hornbacher
  • Le Matin
  • Coop
  • Migros
  • TPG
  • Fust
And although Easyjet isn't a Swiss company it's colors fill the Swiss skies several times a day.

I looked up the psychology of orange and found A summary: The color orange radiates 
  • warmth
  • happiness
  • emotional strength
  • optimism
  • rejuvenation
  • spontaneity
  • positive outlook
  • social communication
  • appetite stimulation
  • assimilation of new ideas
Despite all those wonderful attributes the orange on the verb book cover hasn't increased my German verb ability. Perhaps if I opened it from time to time...

Monday, July 06, 2015


Before the day became too hot, we decided to walk to the lake. It was a little after 7:00.

"Look, a squirrel," Rick said.


"Where the branch is shaking." He posed his camera to where the squirrel was disappearing thru the branches making a shot impossible.

"Nuts," Rick said, not realizing the pun.

(photo from Google images)

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The more things change...

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Man seems to fight about stupid things. Probably going back to the caveman who may have argued that some gods said skin the mammoth from the top down and others thought that the mammoth should be skinned from the back end to the head.

Take this paragraph from  talking about a deep theological dispute throughout the Middle Ages, which occasionally lead to violence and condemnations of heresy. 

"In the year 1053, Roman Catholic churches were closed in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople and their unleavened consecrated bread was trampled upon in the streets. One Byzantine church leader denounced the used of unleavened bread, writing “'you call bread panis; we call it artos. This is from airoel, to raise, signifies a something elevated, lifted up, being raised and warmed by the ferment and salt; the azym, on the other hand, is lifeless as a stone or baked clay, fit only to symbolize affliction and suffering.'”

Religious intolerance has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths over the centuries and not just Muslims against Christians, but Christians against Christians.

And think all the arguments about what is modest or not.

At the beach the other day with half-clad people, I wished I could plunk Jean Calvin down in the middle. If he weren't already dead, he'd have had a heart attack at the lack of modesty. His narrow mindedness made dancing, music and almost anything beautiful a sin. Yet he would probably love the modesty of the Burka.

Today, especially in America people fight about Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas and other nonsense. They fight about the treatment of a piece of cloth not knowing everything behind it. There is still a lot of my god is better than your god so do as my god says or else.

Man seems to get his knickers in a twist, as the Brits say, about things that a few years later have no meaning.

Something to think about when one gets up a soap box.

Big Fish Little Fish

Dear NSA...

Wikileaks just published that you were spying on 29 Brazilian politicians including their president. And earlier, even though you got caught once spying on Angela Merkel, it was revealed that you also were spying on her over the Greek negotiations.

I know you are spying on millions of people all over the world, mostly little fish, but which do you find more effective? Us little fish or those big fish?


Bakery joys

We were invited to a house concert and pot luck and the invitation came after the stores were closed. So the best thing was to go to a wonderful bakery to take a dessert.
 They have a decorated cow out front.

 They use wood to fire their ovens.
 And it is all mouth watering.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Color safari

It started with my friend Karrie, who someone described as a Fruit Loop in a bowl of Cheerios, which she should take as a complement. Her zest for life, her imagination, her creativity make her a special person.

She just started a color day for photos first by putting on Facebook yellow pictures and invited friends to do the same. The next day was blue then brown. Because I was packing to go home to Geneva, I looked through existing photos and came up with the right color photos.

Today Rick and I left early to do the errands, but it was also a safari to come up with white photos. It was lovely and cool by the lake.

Thank you Karrie for being such a lovely Fruit Loop. What fun tracking down colors.