Monday, November 30, 2015

Quizzes

I love quizzes...always have, always will.

In my twenties a girlfriend and I took Cosmopolitan quizzes as soon as a new issue came out.

Now there are tons of quizzes on the internet. I don't care is they are a way to gather data on me or not. They're fun.

  • What movie star are you?
  • How intelligent are you?
  • What is your main personality trait?
  • Do you know your history?
  • Do you know your grammar?
  • Can you spell these words?

Well yesterday I took one to discover I am only 50% weird. I told Rick.

"Take it again," he said.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A touch of home


Thanksgiving is the only day I am ever homesick for the States. 

Well, not even the States. 

Reading, the town I grew up in and Boston where I lived as an adult. 

Not quite that either.

I am homesick for the emotional feeling of Thanksgiving. It was always my favorite holiday. The crisp air, the family, friends, the food and yes, the high school football games.


As a teenager it was the traditional Reading/Stoneham game. By then it was too cold for the black Bermuda shorts and red blazers worn for the earlier games leading up to the season finale.

Bundling was the way to go. 

Buy hot chocolate and shiver until it was time to go home sad or elated depending on the results to be greeted by my grandmother's roasting turkey and baking pies.




Years later, it was my daughter's high school Boston Latin against Boston English, a rivalry going back to the 1800s that was the Thanksgiving morning tradition. I stayed home where it was warm as she toddled off.

She played in the band. Her senior year I received a phone call as I was doing the cooking.  "MOM!!!!! EMERGENCY!!!"

My heart sank. Accident? Who was hurt? Anyone die?

No. 

The bus had left without several of the musicians, could I come, drive them to field. 

I did and later we had a discussion on what an emergency really was and that another social "emergency" could lead to a physical one inflicted by me.

Since 1990 I have lived on another continent where Thanksgiving isn't celebrated unless we create it. Last night we did just that enjoying the traditional meal at Marro among the wait staff that we see regularly and with friends, other expats. They do a wonderful recreation even if they are Swiss, French and Italian.

Outside the Bise chilled the evening. The full moon minus plus one all the good smells and sense of sharing carried the same emotions as all those other Thanksgivings long ago.

Back home, I checked. Reading and Latin won their games.

YES!!!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Five years in the taking


We've all heard about something being five years in the making.

Well for the last five years I've wanted to take photos of the annual tree trimming of the type of trees that I call paint-by-number because of the bark markings that seem to be a series of different oval and circles just waiting for color to be added.


Either I haven't had my camera when we've passed them in previous years, or by the time I went for my camera and returned, the trees were empty. These men move fast.

Today, as we drove by, my camera was in hand and on, but the traffic moved too fast. 

Rick went to the next turn around, went back, parked on the side of the road and took a whole series for me.

He did miss the cutter who was scratching his rear.

Now the trees will be barren until spring.

There is something very Myth of Sisyphus in the growth, trimming, growth, trimming, growth, trimming...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Manspread

"What is it about men..." I asked Rick when I looked at this surface "...that they spread everything out on any neat surface?"

My idea of surfaces is this.



Perfect to add a vase of flowers or maybe ONE, one sculpture. 

Every man I have ever shared space with comes home and empties his pockets on anything that is clear.

I suspected one gentleman of even going to the bank to make sure he had tons of change to spread it all thru out the house.

"Manspread," Rick said. He sat in a chair, spreading his legs. I guess it is a variation of my daughter dropping things all over the house and according to an anthropologist friend she was marking like her territory not unlike a dog peeing. 

I suppose clutter is better than peeing.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I can't trust you


I did not expect my husband to say, he didn't trust me. We do have such an open relationship thanks to our no pussyfooting rule.

Then he dropped very clean, very washed tissues on the table. 

He is on laundry duty. And I once again forgot to empty my jeans pockets. What can I say?

He's right. I can't be trusted with a tissue.



Monday, November 16, 2015

Christmas shopping almost done



 To be in a store anytime is awful, but to be in one during Christmas season is its own kind of hell.


Anyone who knows me, realizes that I am shopping phobic. Each moment in a store is stolen from my life. 

If I do have to enter a store I want to go where the product is directly, don't look right or left, grab it, pay for it and get the hell back to my real life. If it can't be done in 15 minutes, I don't need it.

There was one memorable exception. 

About 10 years ago I was in a Medieval French village with a Long Island friend. We'd stayed at a quaint and beautiful hotel lovingly converted from a 13th century jail with original wooden gargoyles. Keeping her out of the boutiques would have been cruel and she coerced me into buying a wonderful, original handmade sweater that I wear regularly while smiling at the memory. But that involved long chats about the history of the sweater and learning about the owner of the store nothing like wandering the aisles of a department store and then standing in line and have a cashier ring it up without any real human contact.

For Christmas presents I usually buy during the year based on things people said in passing, so I never, ever have to enter a store in December. 

Didn't work out so well this year and I realized that it was mid- November. YIKES!!!!!

However last night, on-line in less than an hour I completed 95% of my shopping and today I see everything has been shipped. 

There are a couple of things I still have to get for my daughter from a Swiss grocery store and one thing for Rick that I can't buy on line. The places for purchases are within a few minutes walk so only a half hour max should be involved. And it will still be done before Thanksgiving, which although not celebrated here, we celebrate with American friends and friends of American friends.

I'm no Scrooge. I like to listen to what people say they might like and get it for them.

We don't go in for Christmas Bling, thank God. A well-chosen small thing is much better. 

My daughter can be excited about the Kinder Eggs with the toys inside and banned from the US (where small toys are considered dangerous but guns aren't), and I love getting a new English Cryptoquote workbook. I do admit that I am a nightmare to buy for because I have more than I need or want.

Christmas for me really starts with the winter solstice when some evergreen however small comes into the house. It is nice to see the decorations, the lights around the city. Seeing friends is often the best part, sharing a meal, etc., music, laughter. A call to my kid tops it all off, although it is best when she is with me, but that isn't always possible. That's Christmas for me.

I do love Christmas if it doesn't involve shopping in a store. So beginning in December I will say
  • Merry Christmas to my Christian friends
  • Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends
  • Joyeux Noël to my French friends
  • Feliz Navidad to my Spanish friends
  • Frohe Weihnachten to my German
  • Veselé Vánoce to my Czech
  • Happy Holidays to those who are of no known religion but will have time off
May the time with your family and friends be joyous.








Sunday, November 15, 2015

liar liar



This blog covers many aspects of the life of an ex-American expat author who had to renounce to be able to live a normal financial life in Europe. I battle regularly against FATCA which is destroying so many expat lives. Subscribe to be notified of future posts by clicking in the top right corner.

The temptation to throw my iPad across the room as I listened to the statement of the spokesperson for the US House Ways and Means Committee on the BBC broadcast about the damage being done to 8.7 expat Americans, accidental Americans and Green card holders was almost irresistible. 

What stopped me? 

I am too cheap to buy a new one.

Here's what she said:

"The US treasury has worked tirelessly to address many of the problems and most have been resolved. All you have to do is to look at how many countries have agreed to the law and how many financial institutions have signed it onto the law."

Was she nuts, ignorant or a liar?

The broadcast went on to tell Fabian's story, an Accidental American who had the misfortune to be  born in California and didn't even know he was American. He pointed out he lived and worked in France and didn't even speak English.

However for his bank and other French banks the fact he was born in the US is enough to shut him out of the system. He has no way to pay his bills.

To renounce he must have a SS number and that can take months. He will also have to file five years of back taxes to a country where he hasn't been for decades, which requires the help of expensive accountants with special knowledge. Then he will have to spend $2,350 for his freedom from a country that claims to be the land of the free. Of course this can take months or even years and in the meantime...no banking ability.

Jane,who lived in France for years, did know she was American but didn't expect a bank screen to flash in red NO AMERICANS. 

Meanwhile because of the unique US citizen-based taxation she is double taxed on her small pension and like Fabian will need to spend a large part of her income to free herself.

She said about her need to renounce to survive financially, "I am proud of being American: it is what I am when I look in the mirror and if it weren’t for FATCA I’d never do this. It is breaking me in half." 
She used the word "extortionist" to describe what the US was doing to her.

If these were the only two stories that would be one thing, but this scenario is being enacted all over the world because of FATCA.

As for the second big lie....

The other big lie told by the Way and Means spokesperson was about how happily everyone is signing on and complying.

Of course the banks are complying. They face up to 30% seizure of their assets and being shut out of the international markets if they don't.  

No one has asked the banks around the world how happy they are to be spending billions to be in compliance with the bully US.

Liar, ignorant or nuts? I say all three.






Friday, November 13, 2015

Your wife is an idiot


Both Rick and I sometimes do dumb things even though we consider ourselves fairly intelligent. Too bad we aren't professors, so we could make ourselves into the cliché of absent-minded ones.

We also have a no pussyfooting rule where we bring up topics of things we've done wrong, are worrying or might be a cause for concern. We also have a we-do-not-discuss list that most of the dumb things that grows with each day.

Rick often starts with the phrase "Your husband is an idiot" when he has forgotten something.

However this morning, he asked "What is a brush doing in the pitcher?" 

I looked. "Your wife is an idiot."

This is the first time I used the juicer since we moved. I made carrot, apple, coriander, juice for breakfast. I had not noticed the cleaning brush in the pitcher when I set it up. The juice was great. 

I am not sure that the brush added any vitamins though.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Do you want to pick up the toilet?

My late friend Mardy, with whom I shared so much for 53 years, had a knack for decorating. Having little money, first as a student and then working with the handicapped, her apartments would have made a great feature in any leading home decorating magazine as beautiful creations filled with warmth and coziness.

How did she do it?

She picked up stuff that people had thrown out and refinished it if necessary. She had an eye on how to make the unloved, loved.

Thus when I moved to Geneva with very few furnishings, I bought the basics from Ikea. I lived near the UN agencies with its transient populations and when people moved, they jettisoned great furniture, working appliances, paintings etc. I remembered Mardy's cozy flats.

I wanted a red rug. Within a week, a red rug was in the pick-up pile. Likewise I found window boxes, which I painted and stenciled. A chair was recovered.

My Czech neighbors at first were shocked at my habits until Anja saw a clothes rack that would be perfect for their home in Prague. She was too shy to get it, but I brought it up in the elevator. They soon joined me in checking out the pick-up pile.

Now with Rick and I looking for a new apartment and all our possessions in Southern France where they will stay, we will be facing setting up a new home that we want it to be that...a home filled with memories.

Yes, we will check out Ikea, and yes we will check out the charity stores, but today he learned about the other way to make a house/flat a home.

Today is big trash pick-up day and as we left the house, I saw the laundry basket in a pretty blue. "Do we want that?" I asked

He did a double take. I explained. No, he didn't want it.

A few minutes later he pointed to my right. "Should we pick up the toilet?" he asked.


He'll get with the program once we find a place. For the fun of it we drove around. There wasn't that much to be had and we aren't ready. But he did brake for a baby foot. It is a start to his conversion of making a home with the memory of the hunt.







Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Insanity

With 60 million refugees in the world, child poverty on the rise, climate change, wars all over the world, civilians being droned in many places, I can only shake my head on the crazy Americans fall for the bread and circuses of a red cup and imaginary war on Christianity.

The war exists in their minds.

To a certain extent they want to inflict their religion on others and to me they are as bad as the Sharia law that they fear. And of course as all bread and circuses the worry about a cup decoration keeps their minds off the real dangers they face under things like TPP, overpriced health care no real wage increases since the 60s, the list goes on and on.

The same people seem not to realise the history of Christmas is an update of pagan holidays. 

Many religions and societies thru out time have a rebirth celebration. It comes from the seasons of planting and harvesting, which means the difference between life and death. It does not come from a red cup.

Christmas can be a wonderful time of sharing. It can also be a time of over-consumerism where people go into more debt to buy things that they don't need at prices they can't afford. At the same time I love the public decorations (although not in October), the get togethers, bringing a real tree into the house, the time off from normal life. I like trying to find a great present for those I love and it doesn't have to be expensive. My daughter wants menthol tissues, socks and movenpick coffee from Switzerland. I love she sends me cryptoquote puzzles and something with a penguin.

Insanity number two is whether one says Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. There are two holidays within a week so Happy Holidays works as well.




I will wish my Christian friends Merry Christmas. I will wish those whose religion I don’t know happy holidays (this includes my Arabic friends who will have time off during the period and will use it as a holiday—so many businesses close here in Switzerland between Christmas Eve and Jan. 2 and it is not part of our 4-6 week guaranteed vacation).   

I will say Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends. Joyeux Noël to my French friends, Feliz Navidad to my Spanish friends, Frohe Weihnachten to my German, Veselé Vánoce to my Czech, although each year they laugh at my pronunciation. 

Sadly, so many people have asked me why there is even an issue of Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays. When I explain they shake their heads and see it as another of America’s totally un-understandable issues when there are so many problems in the country. At the same time I feel blessed to live in such a multi-cultural, multi national environment where religion is personal.

The point is to share good wishes and to come together rather than build walls. 

People who follow the teaching of Christ may or may not be Christians, but giving and loving not just in December is far more important than a red cup or how one wishes good things. That is neither bread or a circus.





Oops is one of those words that no one wants to hear. I had an oops moment this week.

My soon-to-be former housemate J and I were enjoying a DVD and popcorn night. She had promised to drive me back to the studio where Rick and I are ensconced.

Then I realised:
  • I didn't have a key
  • I didn't have the remote for the gate
  • I didn't have a key for the gate
  • I didn't have a key for the door
  • I didn't have Rick's phone number and I doubt he would have it on
I explained the problem to J. Of course, I could go back to my old bed, but my husband might worry if he woke in the middle of the night and I wasn't there.

Quick thinker, J is came up with the solution. 

She used Skype, Facebook and email to explain the situation. He was on the computer, they arranged a drop off time and the oops melted into nothingness.

Monday, November 09, 2015

He's out of the pantry


My husband Rick has come out of the pantry (not out of the closet).

To say before we got together three years ago that he was a finicky eater is like comparing a dust bunny to the universe.

When we met at a conference decades ago in Missouri, he looked shocked when I order catfish. 

However, he has changed out of necessity and I take credit. I come from a family where meals were of major importance partially to share our doings but also to discuss food. I love to eat and with one or two exceptions will try anything.

He not only learned to try new things, likes some more than many, but decided it wasn't fair for me to make all our obligatory sit-down-and-share-lunches together.

He has learned to go on line, find recipes and produce some good meals. He has also learned to improvise with what is in the pantry. 

Today's luscious lunch, along with my husband, was out of the pantry.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Branch metaphor

It has to be a metaphor for something.

Two dogs: black and white

One branch

Shared pleasure?

Co-operation?

Teamwork

Just plain happiness on a beautiful November day?





Friday, November 06, 2015

The search begins

 Scenes of where we started our flat search.




We have started the search for a flat in the city of Geneva itself. It has been wonderful for years to be in the country, but for the future, my love of city life is calling louder.

For one thing, we will no longer need a car. After decades of being carless and then having one for a couple of years, it would be nicer to not need one. We will probably leave the car we have in France and when it dies, it won't be replaced. We did pay 2500 Euros for it and has served us well, but it is, well, still a car and thus an annoyance.

I prefer to have everything within footstep range of all the things I want and need: the pharmacy, the grocery, the post, the movies, museums without wasting time getting into a car and driving. Makes going out at night easier as well.

And like Boston, Geneva has many green spots, the lake is still in easy access and if it isn't around the corner a quick hop on the tram and we are there.

Our search will be hampered by the number of places vs. the larger number of flat seekers.

Today, we looked at a small place in Carouge, one of the neighborhoods where I would love. It has been settled since the middle ages but was built up starting in January 1786 By the King of Sardonia Victor Amadeus III. That I had a dog named Amadeus does add to the connection.

Carouge is also a bit bohemian, a bit funky. There are theatres and museums, green spaces, a marché.

The flat we saw has about five other people looking at it. It was a bit too small for our needs so we won't go thru the application process where the owner will survey all the applicants and pick one. Also an immediate move is a bit more than I can face.

But it does give Rick a chance to understand the process.

We are not locked into Carouge, there are two of three other neighborhoods that appeal to us. Wherever we settle, and there is no rush, because we are happy and cozy in our studio for the moment, we will be happy. It is just the way we are. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Views



We are so lucky, Rick and I agreed this morning.

We are installed in our new studio until we find a larger apartment in the city. Looking out our door we were struck with the greenery and the beautiful large fall leaves. If we just pop up the stairs there's the lake and Jura.

The views from the balcony in my soon to be former housemate's (but not former friend) balcony were spectacular each season.



Then from my nest were village rooftops. Often there was a rust-colored cat that sat just daring any bird to make an offering to his breakfast.


And in the warren we have our patio outside the bedroom window.


What wonderful ways to start our days.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Two writers and grammar




"Fewer," my husband said to my comment, "There are less cars on the road." We were on the tail end of rush hour and on the way to the hospital for my fourth chemo treatment. More than once we were halted.

I once envied Marge Percy being married to another writer, but I don't now because I am able to list being a writer/journalist as just two more of Rick's wonderful attributes. 

"Cars is a count noun. You use fewer with count nouns."

However, traffic is now a count noun so there is less traffic. One does not say, "I saw one traffic, two traffics." At least I don't any more because I'm married to a grammar-happy writer.

This is not a complaint, but a pleasure.






 .




.. 

Monday, November 02, 2015

It is your fault


My husband never accuses me of anything, so when he said, "It's your fault," I was a bit taken back. It was early morning and we were still in bed. We'd been planning the day.

"What?"

"You worked for the IEC. You failed to solve the plug problem."

I did work for the International Electrotechnical Commission which writes electrical safety standards. I used to joke in the morning when I went to work that "I am making the world safe for electricity." They do wonderful work in standardizing electrical safety in almost every product imaginable EXCEPT plugs.

There were just too many vested interests and no country was willing to change all its electrical outlets much less every country.

Meanwhile we are always looking for adapters between our French, Swiss and American plugs. And there is nothing like that moment of panic when we arrive back in Switzerland or France to discover we don't have the right adapter for our computers.

Thus one of the stops today was to pick up adapters so all our appliances would work in our new flat.

I don't think he really blamed me for not solving the plug problem.