Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sanders learns the ASM ropes

Petite Cougar: I want you guys to show Sanders, the Bern Bear, the house. Scoob. CUT THAT OUT!!!

Shamrock: I like to swim here.

Sanders: Are there any salmon in the water?

Shamrock: There's and excellent fish merchant around the corner, but I don't go there since I learned he sells (shudder) lobsters.

Scooby II: They call the kitchen, the soul of their house.

Honey Bunny: This is the patio. I hope this year they plant some carrots.

Sanders: So how is it really here?

Piggy Bank: Quite good. They feed me always after they go shopping.

Sanders: I think I'll stay.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

S day


Another sunny day, but we soldiered on with
  • S--
  • Sightseeing
  • Safari, photo
  • Sculptures
  • Statues
  • Sushi

We brought the sushi home and Rick put on Japanese music as I ate it.

The greatest thing about today?

It was life as NORMAL!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Darn...the sun is shining

It always happens to us. We want rain and it is sunny.

Last year we went to Andorra for a writing week. 

We thought it would be rainy. We imagined pots and pots of tea in a cozy flat as we hammered out our stories on the computer to the beat of raindrops on the windows. 

Instead every day was beautiful and much too beautiful too stay in. Yes we did enjoy the beautiful mountains, a game of golf, eating on terraces, all fun, but we came home with little progress on our books.

Now we have a similar problem. They predicted 90% chance of rain today, the first in the four-day Easter holiday.

What happened? 

Darn, only a sprinkle followed by sun.

We are leaving Geneva on Wednesday for a few weeks. We need a good rainy day before we go and it doesn't look like it is going to happen.


I'm working on a video, Journaling thru Crisis. We shot the La Sirene, a mermaid statue on the lake on a beautiful day for the opening of the video. As part of the story board I need a contrasting storm, although my good friend has a photo she will let me use with the statue covered in ice.

Sunday they say there's a 100% chance. I hope they are right, but only long enough so we can get our footage. 

After that the sun can come out for everyone's Easter.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pen care and feeding

I love pens.

Nope, no cheapy ball points or throw aways for me. Even as minimalist, having more than one beautiful pen makes my heart sing.

I have a silver fountain pen with a beautiful green plume bought at a silent auction with benefit going to development work in third world countries, a set of hand-made wooden calligraphy pens found at the artisinal summer marché in Argelès, and two special felt tips, one green, one pink, soothing colors.

Despite all this my handwriting is less than wonderful and much of what I write is on a keyboard BUT there is something about holding a lovely pen that makes even addressing an envelope or jotting down a grocery list a sensual experience.

I always write my thank you notes or sympathy messages with one of the special pens depending on who or what or why. Using the pen is more personal than an email or Facebook message or even a typed letter.

When Rick and I were married almost a year ago, Corsier, the commune where we exchanged vows, gave us the pen we used to sign the register. It is pictured above, a Caran d'arche, for me the Ferrari of pens. Holding it, inking out letters, writing flash fiction with a friend is different from any other pen I have ever used. The weight is special and the tip allows my letters to have a better form.

Then it ran out of ink and I couldn't get it to write. I took it to a specialty store where they explained I had put the new cartridge in wrong. Oooops.

They also told me that ink can dry in almost invisible flakes. The remedy is to soak it over night in water and a cap full of vinegar.

So, the pen is sitting in its bath on top of the piano waiting for the next important missive that it will be called on to write...

Tomorrow maybe it will produce a haiku or a flash fiction piece...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bisous de ASM

I received a thinking-of-you card from my favorite Argelès (AMS) Mamie complete with hand drawn flowers and a note.

She is only a year or two older, but our lives have been totally different except for producing daughters.

She's spent most of her life in ASM and the area. I've lived in four countries. Her career was raising her family, mine was professional, but I don't say this in a superior way. She has wisdom that exceeds mine-her education is of the heart and soul. I am still working on wise.

Both of us are creative. The front of her house is decorated, not by store bought decorations but by things she's made herself. We both knit, but she knows how to crochet, nothing I've ever mastered.

She was so happy to tell me that the 13th century church at the end of the street had a Thursday mass in English even though we communicate in French--her accent is Catalan, mine is American.

When we left ASM a couple of months ago for Geneva and final radiation treatments, she instructed Rick to take care of me.

In the card she sent her love to both of us.

We will see her soon. Inshallah.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Books, fire engines and silver dots

10th Geneva Writers Group Conference
March 18-20
  • 200+ writers from 11 countries at last look
  • 9+ instructors, panelists
  • 4 work shop choices from a larger selection on almost every aspect of writing
  • Incredible synergy
  • Passion for craft
Writing can be lonely even if my husband is a writer and we share our work, problems and successes. Thus being surrounded by 200 other writers in various stages of their writing careers was one of a list of joys I felt being at the conference. There were so many little moments
  • A hug from an old friend
  • A quick conversation with a new one
  • A "click" moment when someone said something that increased understanding
  • Discovery of something new
  • Rediscovery of something old
  • A sense of sharing 
  • Shared passions
Even though I'm a published writer I hope I am always trying to improve my craft.  My workshop leaders were dynamic although their presentation styles were different. It was content that counted and it counted big time. I wanted to rush to my computer after each one and write, write, write.

The book store sold books by attendees and instructors. There was a wide selection of genres showing the diversity of the people at the conference.

It was a bit of a shock to show up Sunday morning at Webster University where the conference was being held to see fire engines. Although it wasn't a problem,  one attendee said that seeing the "hunky firemen" was an extra added plus to the conference.

We had two dinner meals with the tables decorated with silver dots. Another attendee and I started playing with them, turning them into hearts squares, stars, stick figures. My husband donated his dots. Now that's a good conversational ice breaker.

 I love pain surpris. Each layer of sandwiches is different... A perfect ending to a perfect conference.

Oxford comma battle

My husband and I have only two areas of contention. Not bad for being together going on four years.

The garbage can under the sink and the Oxford comma.
I collect compost in a cute little can on top of the counter and throw it out immediately. He has this ugly, space taking thing that is under the sink and the top opens each time you open the door forcing me to look at and smell garbage. Our cans, bottles, papers are stored separately for easier disposal. We are agreed there.

Now for the Oxford comma.  He's pro and I'm ante.
What is a comma for when used in a series? It is a replacement for the word and.
"By remembering that the listing comma is a substitute for the word and, writers can avoid error by mentally replacing each comma in a list of adjectives with the word and."
Try, whenever you see the comma before the word and, read it aloud and say and for the comma and see how it sounds. 

  1. Jane, Bill, and Joan went shopping.
  2. Jane, Bill and-and Joan went shopping
Who knows, you might like the and-and or you might want to get help for stuttering. 

As for the garbage under the sink. He is going to the states next month. I will borrow an axe from a neighbor while he is in the States later in April. It will feel good to destroy that bloody can.
Never again will I be faced with looking at or smelling garbage when I am reaching for a sponge, laundry detergent, etc.

As for the comma, I will read his stuff and stutter along with the ,and or and-and.
I do love him more than garbage and comma issues.

Friday, March 18, 2016

fuzzy wuzzy

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy was he?

I admit it. 

I'm vain. 

One of the hardest things for me about chemo was being bald. Harder than feeling so weak that walking across the room was a challenge. 

Granted I have two lovely wigs which are prettier than my own hair. 

Not having to blow dry my hair did have its advantages, and I tried to think of it as a silver lining, albeit a tarnished silver one.

People tell me my hair will grow back better than before, but still the image of one friend whose hair did not grow back haunted my 3 a.m. nightmares.

Now I have fuzz on my head. Not a lot, but fuzz nevertheless. Rick can call me Fuzzy even if it is too early to worry about an increased household budget item for shampoo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A victory

When I lived in Massachusetts going to the Department of Motor Vehicles was torture. I am convinced no employee was allowed to serve (a loose term) customers until they had mastered growling, frowning and turning their backs.

Over the last three years, Rick and I have gone thru the maze of both Swiss and French bureaucracy. With the exception of getting married, most of it has not been pretty.

My husband Rick was coming up to the one year deadline for getting a Swiss driver's license. Until now he had been using his Texas one.  Going on line there was contrary advice from having to take a first aid course to driving lessons.

We decided the best way to find out was to go into the lion's den and find out what he needed.

It was so long since I got my Geneva permis, I was of little help. My first license was from Neuchâtel and when I moved to and without a car and great public transportation it was almost ten years before I went to exchange it.

The man behind the counter, who was Hollywood handsome, looked at it, then at me. "You are a liddle beet late," he said with an accent as adorable as his smile. I resisted saying, "Only nine years."
He gave me the permis.

We headed for the office yesterday.

The first thing we noticed -- no line.

The young man behind the counter was smiling.

We had Rick's old license, the form and a photo.

"The license is less than three years old. We need a history or you will be considered a new driver, which means lessons and higher insurance rates."

We looked confused.

"Don't worry. It is all on line."

We went home, looked it up, printed the information and headed back today.

Another young man, equally smiley took everything. A few taps on the computer and he said, "Go sit over there. It will take about five minutes."

Sure enough in five minutes he had his shiny plastic credit card size permis from a woman who had even a bigger smile than the two young men. Her warmth almost came over the counter. We paid our 150CHF. It is good until he turns 70 when it will still be good if he passes a physical every two years.

None of those employees could ever have worked for the Mass Dept. of Motor Vehicles.

It is also a testimony that bureaucracy can be efficient and pleasant.

What a concept.

Rick is now becoming a real Swiss resident with all the cards for insurance, driving, etc.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sneaking in Research

As a writer when I read, I often am aware of the techniques used by the author of whatever book I'm involved in.

As a mystery writer who uses history as part of each book, I know that no matter how much I loved the research, no matter how much I want to share what I found, there is always a no-no.

What is that?

Using the research out of the joy of finding even though it detracts from the story. The last thing a writer wants is for a reader to feel they have to read this or that fact so the author won't feel research time was wasted or is showing off the knowledge.

Right now I'm reading The Dandelion Years, which is a story within a story. The historical part is about Bletchley Park, the UK decoding centre during WWII.

I had never heard of it, so the trusty iPad came out. Nothing like researching some else's research on a lazy Saturday morning.

Yup it was a real place. And then I saw how the author snuck in a bit of her research without it being apparent.

She has a couple who both work at Bletchley Park meet on a train when the man is doing a crossword puzzle. The woman offers to help.

Aha!!!! Seems some of the recruits for Bletchley Park were winners of crossword puzzle contest organized by a newspaper at the government's request.

The author doesn't use the contest, but I can imagine her sitting at her laptop and thinking, "Aha, that's a skill the decoders needed. I can use it in a different way," and she puts her characters on the train and whips out the crossword.

As writers strange things, often inexplicable, trigger what we write. And I have no idea if my theory about how the author really decided to add that scene on the train was correct or not, but I am betting it is.

I do know that even when as writers we don't explain something, the result of the research adds depth because there is a certain truth behind it.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The worse toys

 Rick grabbed my arm and twisted it then looked at my chest. "Nope," he said.
He wasn't being violent. I can hear all those who think we have a fairy tale relationship issue a sigh of relief.

We'd been chatting in bed over tea and I admitted that even though it went against my feminist side, I had bought Llara a Growing up Skipper Doll when she was in second grade.

That was the doll when you twisted its arm, it grew boobs. The doll could be returned to kid status by a reverse twist. I showed him a demonstration video.

He hadn't heard about it until that moment.

"It doesn't work on humans," I told him. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Train chats

One of the things I love the most about train travel is the chance to meet interesting people. Over the years I've found:
  1. An economist
  2. A Chinese student whom I'm still in touch with
  3. An acrobat from Ringling Brothers
  4. A Jewish survivor who was hidden in WWII
  5. A woman who had a specialized jam factory
  6. A nun in lay clothing
  7. Many, many more
This trip a young Asian couple got on Fribourg. We began talking. 
They are refugees.

I asked them what they liked about being here.

"We have human rights," the man said and told how he was afraid to talk with friends and family back home be phone or computer. "The police come," he said.

We exchanged examples of politeness. He said back home he could look equals in the eye, but with superiors his eyes must be downcast.

When we arrived in Bern we folded our hands in prayer position and bowed, a sign of respect they probably for Rick's and my age, and us for their courage.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Radioactive dates

I have had to go from Geneva to Bern six times: One consultation, five radiation treatments. It is about 1.5 hours away on the highway, but the train is far nicer because we can read, snooze, relax. We catch the 9:12.

The scenery is beautiful.

Rick calls them our radioactive dates because we get a chance to explore the city as if we were on a date before I'm nuked.

When we arrived on Tuesday a good band was playing Ave Maria and then the William Tell

And we visited a museum, had a nice lunch before heading to the hospital.

As always we were on photo safari wherever we go.

Back at the train station we had only a few minutes to catch the train or wait an hour so we couldn't buy one of the great pretzels that are nothing like the kind the supermarkets sell. Next week hopefully on our next radioactive date.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Good bye Dr. M.

I said good bye to my surgeon, the woman who operated on my right breast twice.

She is a beautiful woman, not in the Hollywood glamour sense. Her blond hair, blue eyes and balanced features might make movie town status if she bothered with make up but even without it there is a still a beauty.

What makes her truly beautiful is when she walks into a room she brings with her a sense of calm. The same calm is shown whether bringing good or bad news.

This appointment is one of good news. All my signs, my scar are good.  I won't need to see her again even if I have one breast that still could be chopped off. Neither of us wants that. Better to greet in the street or over a cup of coffee.

I am also saying good bye, because she is leaving HUG and La Maternié where I have received such wonderful care, physically and emotionally and will still have follow up check ups.

She is going to start a new breast cancer clinic in a private hospital, a challenge and change is looking forward to after ten years with HUG.

She explains that she could only do that because of Swiss law. Now the obligatory insurance can be used at public or private hospitals rather than just the public. The public ones like HUG are world class teaching hospitals and many of the private hospitals are also good but before the legal change the required insurance was much more expensive.

"I didn't want to only treat the rich," she said. She wanted to be available to anyone who would need her. "Money isn't that important to me."

I thank her for her care, for her patience when I didn't like what she told me and for everything.

We hug at HUG.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

I seek revenge

Anyone who knows me knows I hate telephones: smart, dumb or land.

Anything I can do with a phone I can do with a computer and/or a camera.

Email me, Skype me, snail mail, Facebook me.

Until recently, I would put on my dumb phone every six months or so OR when I was about to meet someone and/or was late or lost. I seldom gave out my number and if I did I wanted the person to swear that the number would be used only in an emergency, such as the end of the world.

However, since we moved and I've had cancer, we don't have a landline and I need to have a phone so different doctors can get in touch with me. I also leave it open in case my former housemate who broke her arm needs help.

The phone rings now several times a day. It even rang at 4:10 in the morning.

Is it a doctor?


Is it my former housemate?


It is Sunrise always with the same message.

Surf abroad for
less with full 
control of your
data packages  
from CHF 9.90
now available 
for activation at

And it goes on and on with costs.

Not only would I never, never, never ever think about considering that maybe I might increase my usage I want to find the SUNRISE CEO and interrupt his day several times each day. I want to call him in the middle of the night.  I want to find the marketing person behind this message, the IT guy and track them down, sneak up behind them perhaps in a restaurant or maybe even when they are making love and have one of those bullhorns and  scream... "Leave me alone you B-s--r-d."

My former housemate will heal. Soon I will not be going to doctor appointments in the same way I used to go restaurants several times a week. I will shut the phone off and put it in the drawer hopefully not to look at it for months.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Picnic at Onex

We had a mission Friday -- get an Attestation d'Habitation for the bank in the off-chance the bank will give him a bank account. Under FATCA most Americans are persona non-grata at banks. This bank will at least look at the paper work. We'd already left tons of it with them.

It doesn't matter that Rick had many documents to prove that he lives where he lives from the Canton and he has a signed lease. We still needed to go to the Cantonal Office in Onex for the Attestation d'Habitation. Only that form would do.

While Rick parked the car, I got a number (in fact two in case he took longer) but it was the wrong window. He wasn't Swiss, although that wasn't clear on the take-a-number sign. I should have known that the line was too small and things moved too quickly.

Our next number had almost 30 people before us.

Lunch time grew closer. I grew hungrier. The options outside the building for food were non-existent and we also knew after our wait was over lunchtime service would be long over.

Rick spied some vending machines and went on mission. He came back with the good news we could get hot paninis. We chose ham, mozzarella and pesto.

He also reported the time of heating had been increased from two to four minutes with the number four pasted over the two. Timing was not a problem. We still had 24 people ahead of us at that point.

My hero. He brought back our lunch and we declared it a happy picnic which helped pass the time while number after number was called before ours.

We finished, we read a bit more as we would have had we been picnicking in the was better than an outdoor picnic because it was pouring outside.

Finally it was our turn, a pleasant man generated the form in less than a couple of minures, we paid him the 25CHF and we headed home not hungry. 

Whether he will be given a bank account after that three-hour experience is still unknown.

I have doubts that I would select this place to picnic again, but it was kinda fun. They say when life gives you lemons make lemonade but I prefer the slogan, If you have a long wait, make a picnic.

Thursday, March 03, 2016


Years ago I was at my Swiss accountants. All he wanted to do was talk about Monica and Bill.

Eventually we did get around to my taxes.

Today I had three doctor's appointments.

No matter how often I tell someone I am only Swiss, the minute I open my mouth in French or English, they assume I am American. I have not lost 48 years of Bostonian accent in either language.

However, today I had three appointments with three different doctors from three different specialties. One was a Serbian/Swiss, one was Macedonian and the third was French/Swiss.

I was there for a review of my lady parts, bones and general insides.

And the main topic of discussion was not my lady parts, bones or general insides.

What was?

Clue: the photo.

There was clear worry  that he might be president. What did I think. They were not reassured when I said "Yes, I do think it is possible."

"What is wrong with your country?" came up at some point from all three.

I left the US in 1990. For a long time I could explain the US to Europeans and to a certain degree now I can explain Europeans to Americans. Now I can only do the later.

I do not understand the country of my birth. All I could say, "Ce n'est pas ma faute. Je ne suis plus americane. It isn't my fault. I'm no longer American.


In this crazy American election year all the candidates seem to be one or more of these categories:
  • Psychopath
  • Ignoramus
  • Religious Fanatic
  • Elderly
  • War Monger
  • Financial Terrorist
  • Liar
  • Ego-maniac
  • Owned by the corporations
I was surprised to pass this graffiti in Bern Switzerland. It seemed sooooo 2012. There was no graffiti for any current candidate. Now was there any reason in this Swiss German city.

Rick seemed confused about the 31...was it just 31 people who were for Obama?


31 is the telephone code for the canton.

I doubt if there will many supporters for any of those that want to occupy the White House.

At least, since I no longer have the right to vote, I won't have to decide between the most horrible choices. But I do fear for the world being stuck with whoever wins.