Sunday, August 30, 2015

Into the closet

I am a neat freak. Everything has to be in its place BUT my closets are a disaster. It is as much as your life is worth to open a door.

I regularly straighten my closets and my drawers. However, within a couple of days I look for something and dig it out leaving a mess in my wake. I am also happiest when my closets are almost empty.

Today, in preparing to go back to Geneva for several months, I not only went thru the closet I threw out everything I wasn't wearing. Some of my clothes went back 30 years and I felt as if I were deserting them for new friends, but surgery and pounds need a new look which I've developed over the past farewell my ancient companions.

I showed my daughter the new improved closet. "It will stay neat for months now."

"Sure it will," she said. "You'll be in Geneva."

She's right.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Patriomonial Pride

"The locals are proud of their patriomonie," I said to Rick.

It's true the locals celebrate their history.

We were at the Hostalet café over looking La Place de la Republique and enjoying the breeze after a too-hot day when a truck full of chairs pulled up. We knew no dance was scheduled.

We weren't sure what was happening, but Rick helped local historian Jean-Marc set up the chairs.

Many locals showed up to listen to a talk and slide show about the archaeological findings in the area going back to BC times.

Any village this proud of a heritage is a place that I'm proud to spend time even if it isn't my patrimonie.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Culture loss

I've always loved satire and that included reading Mad Magazine as a kid. Granted not as literary as Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, but clever for its own time and place.

Copies have been infrequent since moving to Europe...such as one a decade, but Rick is a Mad Magazine fan, so my daughter goes out of her way to make sure she sends him copies and always brings one when she visits from the States.

I still admire it, BUT, because I've been gone so long, I don't recognize a lot of what they are satirizing. But they still have spy vs. spy and the fold out and there are some things I do understand.

I can live with that.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two gifts

Two people in the world make the best brownies. One is my housemate J and just the smell when the baking odors come up wafting up the stairs, makes Pavlov's dog saliva nothing in comparison to mine.

However, in Argelès we have a substitute--Catherine, The Brownie Lady. She is English and also offers a fine selection of savory tarts. Her stand on marché days is a must stop early on before she sells out of her wares.

I've often told her how much I love her crusts. We talked about how sometimes I baked leftover crust just to eat, although sometimes are rare because I seldom bake.

Yesterday, after our brownies were safely wrapped, she said, "I have a present for you."

She brought out a tinfoil packet. Inside were bits and pieces of baked crust. As I munched the crust, the doorbell rang. 

The pretty young blond from the florist down the street handed me this incredible flower arrangement. The card read from my recently rediscovered long-lost friends with whom we met up in Nice in April. They are the type of friends that even with decades in between there was no difference than had we met the day before. Well, maybe a few more pounds and a bit of gray in the hair, but the emotion was the same. 

I have to admit, my eyes were wet from happiness as I put the flowers in its place of honor.

One of the gifts was very small. One was spectacular and even that is an understatement. Both remind me of how lucky I am to know thoughtful, wonderful people.

Beach party

The sand was hot under our bare feet as we searched for the picnic party on Racou Plage.

Marina, my friend and language teacher waved us over to where students, former students and friends of students and former students, were seated on multi-colored towels.

We were from Japan, China, Switzerland, France and the US. Everyone had brought something.

As it grew dark, we had to leave because Rick had a phone interview thus missing the fireworks over the Med that we heard from our patio. As we walked to the car, the sand had cooled.

A fitting end to our shortened yet wonderful Argelès holiday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dumb, dumb, dumb

I woke at 3:30 by the itching of the bites from all the insects that find Rick and I delicious. He was not awake.

I decided to take my iPad into the snore room and listen to Max Keiser.

No matter how I stared at the screen I couldn't make out the percentage of space left. It was too dark and the symbol and letters could not be finger-enlarged.

Good God, not my eyesight going too?

Then I realised that instead of putting on my glasses that had been on the night table next to my bed, I had put on my dark glasses.

As soon as I took them off, the graphic and numbers were in perfect view.

Dumb, dumb, dumb!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Crescent safari

I am part of a 102 person group on Facebook With Flying Colours. Each week we take a colo(u)r and find items from our lives that fit the description such as:
  • Blue and white checks
  • Stripes
  • Orange and red
Sometimes when we get the week's assignment we wonder how we will ever fill it, but we do.

Orange crescents? Impossible, Rick and I thought, but between rain showers we strolled the almost deserted village to see what we would could find. 

As it turns out over 30 photos between the two of us although some were stretching it a bit. 

The most wonderful part of the exercise is how we see things we would never have noticed otherwise.

Besides meeting our mission, it was a fun date.

Friendship and circles

I think shared friendships are like concentric circles in wonderful colors.

I had an email from my housemate J raving about her evening with Marina, Yousef, Sally, Paul and D. 

The group included Syrians, Swiss, Americans and Brits. Table seating had some language considerations with Arabic, French, English and Italian. Only one attendee spoke all four, the others spoke two or three.

Marina was my friend and neighbor when I lived near the airport. She later moved to Paris but visited me in J's house where she became J's friend too.

Sally (and husband Paul) were J's friends, but became mine after lots of shared meals. 

Marina met S&P when she spent Christmas at J's house only J wasn't there. 

Yousef is the new kid on the block as Marina's husband. D is another neighbor, new to the group.

Thru Marina I've met her friends and family in Damascus both there and in Geneva. J has come to know some of Marina's Syrian friends as well.

I think I missed a wonderful evening, but I'm happy

Every new layer of friendship expands the rainbow of our lives.


It isn't just that Bartavelle has wonderful food where we ate last night.

They do. Each plate is a work of art and each mouthful is a culinary delight.

Stephanie and Thibault, the couple who run this small Argelès-sur-mer restaurant are more than chefs. They are passionate about what they do.

We asked Stephanie where she gets her ideas for the desserts, like the one above. She brought out her idea book with sketches and notes, fascinating in itself.

Can't wait for our next meal there.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spoon or cream?

Or both?
Mini-mosquitoes are munching on Rick. I've bites on my legs and arms, my forehead and cheek. They are a breed that sneak up on you and don't have the buzzing sound that gives one a swatting chance of escape by pummeling them into another existence.

Thus we are scratching in tandem. There are two itch reducers that seem to working. One is the cream that my housemate J introduced to me. I've only seen Fenistil in Switzerland, but fortunately have two tubes with me.

The other is to dip a spoon into hot water and hold it on the bite. They (the great they that says a lot about everything) that it breaks down the protein in the bite. The problem with the spoon is it burns.

Still a few seconds discomfort for relief is more than worth it. 

As for which is better...I really don't know. Relief is relief.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Math and open mindedness

On Facebook someone posted that 4+5 =9 but so did 3+6.

So does 7+2, 8+1, 10-1, 109-100, and there are millions of other ways to reach 9.

In other words there is more than one way to do things.

Open mindedness helps in problem solving and there can be more than one way to come to the right answer.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wild pancackes reborn

Over the last decade or so RB2, and I often went to a creperie in the mountains about a 15 minute drive up a mountain.

It was terraced between cork and olive trees with a brook trickling down the mountain early in the season, but a rock panorama later in the summer when the sun had dried up the water.

Alas, the restaurant closed.

However, RB2 found a new restaurant just a few feet from the other. It is a shack really with tables and views of the mountains that are almost as delicious as the food.

Equally intriguing were the animals, a cat from a neighbor who tested his chances of a treat from the diners, geese and chickens, and a cat-dog standoff.

So it wasn't the wild pancakes we were used to but good chicken, shrimp and salads.

And how can it not be wonderful to eat good food in magic surroundings with people I love?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stopping to look

We'd walked up to see the giant sundial at the rest stop on the French autoroute between Genea and Southern France. On each trip we try and find something new to discover, not a hard thing to do.

On the stroll back to the restaurant we saw a cross that looked like it might be some kind of war memorial.

Instead it was a grave  of a man who had died 100 years and one day before. The plaque was almost a poem saying how he had wasted his young life and blessed his parents. It implied he'd killed himself which would explain why he wasn't buried in a traditional cemetery.

The story must be so much in depth than those few lines.

Rick and I are becoming professional pokers. In each of our pokes we stumble on something interesting. But then again, I've had lots of practice with J too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

See, see what it is like

Poetic justice?

It may be silly but whenever Rick, J, S, S or Llara fly, I'm mentally in the cockpit with the pilot making sure they are kept safe. After all I do have one simulator flight experience so I'm sure I am of great help at least at a psychic level.

When they are on the ground, I love a call so I know I can go off duty because they are safe.

Rick, however, did have the tendency to call or text me almost to the "I put my left foot forward," "I sat in a chair." "I'm at the gate."

Anyone who knows me, knows I despise all telephones. Fb me, email me, Skype me BUT don't call except for emergencies, or "I'm on the ground" or "I arrived."

His phone went off. A message from Llara, "I'm on the ground in Dublin."


He took two steps. A second message "Do you want anything?"

Answer "just you," I told him.

He did and took two more steps toward the bathroom.

Another message. "Going for coffee."

Maybe not the poetic justice that Pope was talking about but a bit of see what is likedom that makes me chortle.

We both do it

We were getting close to Avignon.

Hour five of an eight hour trip.

I suddenly couldn't remember putting in the plug part of my laptop. This is something I do each trip...passport? not sure? Special scarf I wanted to bring? probably still in the closet in Geneva.

Almost 99 times out of a 100 I haven't forgotten it whatever it is.

"Rick, could you pull in the rest stop, I want to check something?" I asked. I told him the entire story.

He pulled over. Yes the cord was there. He didn't chide me, because he's been known to do that himself.

The fact that we operate out of four places will work as an excuse. In fact, I'll accept any excuse he comes up with if he excepts mine.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tabuli love

I smelled chopped parsley as I woke from my nap. I wandered into the kitchen where my former neighbor, friend and sister-of choice was chopping away to make tabuli.  Tabuli is more than is memories of wonderful meals in Geneva, Paris and Damascus. 

We don't see each other enough as much my fault as her schedule but there she was in our Geneva Kitchen where we could catch up. I've always thought of a kitchen as the heart of a house and the heart was beating well. 

She wasn't alone. J, my housemate, was there and her new husband and mine were also there. English, Arabic and even a bit of French sprinkled our conversations. Although the men being there was new, it brought up memories of J, M and myself making a Christmas dinner proving once and for all that women can share a kitchen with no problems.

The men had a chance to get know each other as they bbq'ed. I was so relieved to discover how much I liked her new husband. In principle I always accept the partner of anyone I care about, but there is a difference between acceptance and joy that the couple found each other.

We feasted late into the night.

As meaningful as the meal, a new memory was created as she shared the very professional DVD of her wedding, which I missed because I was too chicken to go to Damascus. Seeing the faces of friends and family-of-choice was another wonderful part of a wonderful day.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Guest FATCA blog

This is from Daniel Kuettel, a fellow plaintiff 
suing the IRS over FATCA

For my birthday, I wish for an American diaspora-friendly America. Normally, this shouldn't be something that one would wish for, one would think, since it shouldn't be necessary. Why would a nation not support its own kind?

Yes, today is my birthday. Normally, I don't broadcast this, but today is different and it's not the storm outside, nor that I'm 43.
Today, the DOJ blamed Rand Paul and 5 other plaintiffs, along with myself, for being FATCA victims. Yet, it's not our fault, nor the fault of my ten year old daughter. She just wants to have a local kiddie account like any other kid, just like how her one year old brother already has one. Yet, the DOJ feels that it can't catch terrorists unless it threatens her, but not my son, with cruel and unusual punishment. «maximum penalty to $100,000... assists law enforcement and the IRS in identifying... Terrorism»
Excuse me, but she is only 10 years old! My family resides under the jurisdiction of Swiss law enforcement. We don't live in America. Switzerland is a peaceful nation with limited crime and low corruption. It's law enforcement is perfectly capable of preventing crime, and it doesn't threaten innocent little local children about "terrorism" for having local kiddie accounts. So, why is my daughter subject to such treatment and not my son? Because of citizenship status discrimination, given that my son is not a US citizen. 
He was born after I had to renounce US citizenship due to discrimination to refinance my mortgage. Is that fair?
Neither my spouse nor myself are US citizens. We don't live in America and we comply with local laws. So, why does the DOJ state that the US government would harm our child simply because she is a US citizen who is not allowed to renounce, if her Swiss citizen parents living in Switzerland do not yield to the foreign threats of a foreign regime?
"The reporting requirement would be hers, and any harm to the account is a detriment to her... the Kuettel family’s reluctance to comply with the FBAR requirements"» 
I could go on, but it's my birthday. Americans deserve better than this!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I never tire of beauty

There's a reason I take many pictures off the balcony over looking the lake.  It is always beautiful.

 The low cloud hovers in a way that makes the Jura look suspended.

 The day before the clouds looked like snow on the Jura.
I often miss the sunsets because we are doing other things.

In winter the snow may hide the lake and mountains but leave a confectionate sugar in the back garden.

No matter what else is happening a glance off the balcony brings me a sense of peace.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

If you want to make God laugh...

Tell him your plans...

Well that was true when our plans were a quiet summer with friends in Argelès with friends, beach time, a bit of exploration.
  • What did we get?
  • A mammogram
  • A biopsy
  • A Pet sccan
  • An MRI
  • A sonargram
  • A stone-packed gall bladder that doctors thought were cancer but wasn't. At least it's gone.
  • A mastectomy
  • Physio
This will be followed by chemo and radiation in case a cell escaped starting next month

Now in between this there has been much good.
  • A good trip back to Geneva
  • Time with Swiss-based friends
  • A trip to Yvoire
  • A trip to Evian and a street art festival
  • Great meals at misc. restaurants
  • Walks along the lake
  • Several good books
  • A new laptop which has all the letters (I wore the letters off the old one)
  • An incredible house concert by young musicians
  • Standing up against FATCA 
  • A birthday party for me
  • A birthday party for J
  • Celebration of our 2nd commitment ceremony anniversary
  • Amusement  by Cléa and Babette, the house cats
  • Working with my exboss on his memoires
  • A final edit for Murder in Schwyz, due out next year
  • Many color safaris for photos for with Flying Colors, a Facebook page with friends
  • Knowledge my kid will be here
  • Despite the cancer meeting wonderful nurses and doctors and having interesting experiences in an incredibly good
You will notice that the good list is so much better than the bad. Also each of the good experiences lasted a lot longer than the other stuff. So even if the original plans didn't work out, the summer hasn't been wasted at all.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I almost didn't read

Anita Diamant's Good Harbor.

Who needs to read about breast cancer treatments when one is living thru them?

But my love of her writing won out and I'm so glad.

First it was like a trip back to my beloved Massachusetts North Shore. In the forward she mentioned my home town Reading.  Lanesville, which the source of the second half of my name, Bearskin Neck (photo) and other places that were regular haunts of my childhood filled the pages.

More important was the theme of friendship.

Lesson learned: Never judge a book by the snippets on the back cover.

Monday, August 10, 2015

It just gets better

Three years ago I had an email "I'm in Geneva, do you want a cup of coffee."

I'd not heard from this person who I hadn't had an affair with when we met 37 years before but I wanted to. It wasn't the time. We remained professional colleagues and lived our lives. We had had no contact for 14 years.

We agreed to meet at Starbucks. I recognized him from the back. I took him to the Café du Soleil, the oldest café in Geneva for fondue.

The coupe de foudre hit us as strongly this time as it had in Missouri a lifetime before only now it was the time.

On August 10, 2013 we held out commitment ceremony attended by 40+ people from seven countries.

Wedded bliss is a cliché but in our case it is a reality.

The Spider

We'd noticed a spider web attached from the mirror to the side of the car but kept forgetting to wipe it away.

As we were driving, I noticed a small brown spider hanging on as it tossed and turned in the wind,

At a traffic light, it skedaddled behind the mirror.

I was curious about spiders so I checked Wikipedia who said. "Male spiders identify themselves by a variety of complex courtship rituals to avoid being eaten by the females. Males of most species survive a few matings, limited mainly by their short life spans. Females weave silk egg-cases, each of which may contain hundreds of eggs. Females of many species care for their young, for example by carrying them around or by sharing food with them. A minority of species are social, building communal webs that may house anywhere from a few to 50,000 individuals. Social behavior ranges from precarious toleration, as in the widow spiders, to co-operative hunting and food-sharing... spiders live for at most two years."

Now some people are terrified of spiders including my brother, who looks far too burly to be scared of anything.

I'm neutral but I wish I could have asked if that spider had a friend named Charlotte. 

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Seasonal confusion

Rick came back from shopping told me to get my camera and go out on the balcony.

Today it is in the low 90s but the cloud hanging on the top of the Jura resembled blessed snow.

Looking to the left, a tree that is usually green had already put on its fall clothing, perhaps in hopes for a break from the heat.

In all cases, it gave me hope that the summer heat would soon be a thing of the past.

One more chapter

My mother, grandmother, father were all bathroom readers. As was my ex-husband who would respond, "one more chapter" if I were to knock on the door during his tenure inside.

It is a habit I haven't lost either.

Bathroom reading by nature needs to be shorter or one risks strange marks on the back of legs.

Magazines serve the short time frame but so do short stories and short story anthologies. In fact Reader's Digest copies are always in the downstairs toilet.

Probably flash fiction anthologies would work too.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Don't play with your food

That was what my mother used to say. However, when we had lunch today these crackers led to this...

W: One club

N: One heart

E: Pass

S:One spade

W: Pass

N: Two diamonds

E: Pass

S: Three no

Pass, pass, pass, pass

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

A little mole

 Look carefully to see a mole hiding from the scarey humans.

The walk to the lake is down a shaded stone path. We try and get down there every night for at least a short time either for a walk or just to enjoy the beauty.

Last night a movement caught my eye. At first we thought it was a mouse but it turned out to be a mole of some undetermined species.

We watched him/her hide in the leaves after failing to find a hole in the wall.

The poor thing must have been terrified and we moved on.

S/he was gone when we went back.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Toilet Paper debate

Should the toilet paper be put on the roll so it tears off from the top or bottom?

Many people debate this.

Frankly I don't give a damn either way, but both my housemate and husband are from the toppers.

I care more that when I'm on the toilet, there is paper in reach, but because they do care I do put it their way.

In the hospital I used the end of the roll, grabbed a new one and put it on without thinking. It tore from the bottom. I went bac to bed, had my operation and the next time I used the toilet someone had changed it.

Neither my housemate or husband had been there so was it the woman in the next bed, one of her guests, a nurser or the cleaners?

This will remain one of life's mysteries.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Pen lover

Almost identical to the pen I bought in a WOCCU silent auction. My plume is deep green.

I learned to print in first grade in Reading MA. Half way thru the year, I transferred to a private school in Bluefield WV. There I was expected to write cursive without mistakes on ink drops. Infractions brought a sharp hit on the wrist with all too-ready ruler.

Back in Reading for third grade I was forced to regress to printing with letters spread over two light blue lines on yellow paper. Fourth grade brought cursive writing again and fifth grade a variation on what we learned the year before.

It is little wonder that my handwriting is so bad that when I lived in Germany my father returned a letter asking me what I'd written. I couldn't read it.

Yet, I adore pens. They are one of the few things I'm willing to collect. Oh yes, there is the one felt-tip in a lovely lavender for everyday use such as grocery list. I don't own any ball points nor do I want to, but I'll crack for a beautiful pen.

I've a set of calligraphy wooden pens with different nibs, a glass pen and the pen given to us by the Corsier Village. We used it to sign our wedding documents.

I write almost everything by computer at a speed -- and readability -- impossible to achieve with a pen. But somethings will always be pen written such as thank you notes where I will take time to draw each letter.

I will use a pen along with a special notebook when I meet with a friend in a café to do free writes. Writing slows down but the emotional surge of seeing letters, words, sentences, paragraphs form on the page is different than using the computer.

I'll transfer any of these stories to the computer. Handwriting doesn't allow for cut and paste, name changes and all the other edits that improve the quality of the content of the writing, but a computer will never have the same sensuality of a pen, a beautiful pen, a pen that carries memories of how it was acquired.

Absurdity Part I


Sven Carlson was born in Sweden but when he was 12 he moved to the US because his father had a professorship at Harvard. He went to Harvard and graduated from Harvard medical school. He decided to stay in the U.S. and set up a medical practice in Lincoln, MA with three other gynecologists.

Regina Schmitz grew up in Germany and studied anthropology at Tübingen University. She did a junior year abroad going to Boston University. Because of her interests and a special program she continued there thru her doctorate.

Friends introduced her to Sven Carlson. They married and had a son whom they named Thomas because the name worked in all three countries. thomas was American by birth and Swedish and German thru his parents.

The couple took American nationality. The family seldom went back to their home countries. Their families were either in the U.S. or died and they had put down new roots.

However, Germany and Sweden decided to drop the Residence Based Tax System (RBTS) and go to a Citizen Based Tax System (CBTS). Thus every cent the couple earned was taxed in all three countries although neither received any services from either Sweden or Germany, never went there, never intended to go there, but it was declared their patriotic duty

Their son had never been to either Sweden or Germany. He had not been registered as either German or Swedish, but like the U.S. both countries declared Sven a citizen of their respective countries. Thus for his entire life Sven must pay taxes on every cent he earns in all three countries because he was the child of citizens of those countries.

Jason and Angie MacKenzie lived in Japan for a year. He worked for a Japanese electronics company and they wanted him to spent time in Japan to better understand the corporate culture. While they were there, their daughter Tiffany was born. When the family returned to the U.S. the company kept their visa open. Japan at one time had RBTS but decided like the U.S. to tax anyone who had a visa even if they were no longer in Japan.

The Carlsons and the MacKenzies are not real people. And Japan, Sweden and Germany practice a RBTS. Sweden and German do not automatically troll for additional citizens whose connection to their country is tenuous.

Does this sound absurd to anyone but me?

Now read Absurdity Part II what happened to Thomas and Tiffany.