Thursday, September 29, 2016


What is Patriotism?

What isn't Patriotism?

I was raised in a middle/upper middle class Republican New England community. My mother was in her 40s before she met anyone who voted for FDR. She thought McCarthy was saving America from Communism.

I was a Rainbow girl (Masonic organization for teenage girls) and through the bow it taught good American and Christian values.
  • Love (red)
  • Religion (orange) The Importance of religion in all its forms (based on love and forgiveness)
  • Nature (yellow) Its Importance in your daily life
  • Immortality (green) The understanding of death is a part of life
  • Fidelity (blue) Emphasis on being honest and reliable
  • Patriotism (indigo) Encouraging citizenship to your country
  • Service (violet) Service to others which bind all the colors together
I was picked to hold the office of Love, because I was short and would give a nice balance to the bow. I wanted to be Patriotism because I so believed in the US and the world history I'd been taught.

We had also been taught in civics how the local, state and national governments worked.

I pledged to the flag with the words "under God" once it been added each school morning and sang the The Star Spangle Banner with gusto if off key.

Only at university and subsequent travels and readings did I begin to learn that the history I'd been taught was only part of the story.

If the first patriots though it was okay to turn Boston Harbor into a teapot, later people who rebelled against injustices were considered traitors. A boss celebrated the shooting of the kids at Kent State as they protested the Vietnam war.

I've watched the negative part of the US as it bullies its way around the world, puts some 800 military basis around the world. It attacks other countries. If blacks have made advances they still don't have the privileges I had merely by accident of a white skin birth. The welfare of the planet is not as important as the welfare of the oligarchy.

I've watched the brain washing of the American public.

I see people go nuts over whether someone wears a flag pin or doesn't salute the flag, which really are only pieces of metal and cloth. They represent a myth and not buying into the myth is enough to send social media into convulsions.

Often if you ask people deeper questions about the US, they have no idea what is behind the symbols.

They will yell American soldiers died so a black football player should stand for the national anthem, but he is dishonoring them. They never think his black experience was far different from theirs. As for the soldiers, they don't fight congress when those same soldiers are denied benefits they so need after sacrificing their mental and physical health in illegal wars.

Patriotism is good if you know the story behind the symbol. Patriotism is good if you fight to make the country better for its citizens. Patriotism is best when each citizen does his or her part of live up to the myth...because the myth is wonderful.

Other wise it is just a word found under P in the dictionary.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cat politics

There is a subculture on rue de La Liberté, Argelès-sur-mer. The street is not that long, maybe 30 attached houses built from the Middle Ages. An SUV might have trouble keeping its mirrors if it tried to maneuver between the houses.

The subculture is that of cat life.
This cat does not participate that much in street activity but sits in the window and observes. We call her The Directoress. Sometimes if food is put out, she will hop down to eat but only if it suits her mood.

We call this cat Stripes. She is the dominant cat on the street and likes nothing better than to come into our house or any house. More than once we have found her sleeping on the bed in the snore room. 

She has her own cat door at her house, but I suspect that she doesn't like the limitation of one place. 

She's a climber. Often, we look up in the air we can see her perched on a balcony four floors up or even on an electric box watching pigeons. We have never figured out how she gets up there.
Stripes' brother stays more at home but will make an appearance one or twice a day. He goes as far as the café at the end of the street but then rushes home to slip thru the cat door.

The pink cat, as we think of him, is homeless, but one of the Mamies (an old woman who lives on the street) feeds him. The moment food is put out, Stripes is there and sometimes her brother. 

The other day this poor cat was in a fight and took refuge in the Mamie's house until he felt strong enough to face life on the street.

Unlike the other cats, he is not apt to come up to the humans that walk up and down the street.

Sometimes other cats from nearby streets wander by. Their presence is discouraged by the locals. We've been woken or startled by the furosity of the encouragement for the newcomer to move along. 

Immigration can be a problem even for the feline species.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Oxford lunch

We weren't in the city of Oxford. No university just our table.

Our lunch conversation about the Oxford comma over our Catalan rice and veggies were worthy of  Oxford dons over their tea and crumpets.

The Oxford Comma is about the only major disagreement between Rick and myself.

I was taught and believe a comma is a substitute for the word and...

Thus in the sentence I ate ice cream, hot fudge sauce and a cookie  it reads I ate ice cream and hot fudge sauce and a cookie.

If you use the Oxford comma it reads, I ate Ice cream, hot fudge sauce, and a cookie or I ate ice cream and hot fudge sauce and and a cookie. Sounds like stuttering my point of view.

Rick maintains the extra comma eliminates confusion. How confusing is hot fudge sauce and a cookie...really. Couldn't an idiot figure out it is the end of a series?

Since we are both writers he brought out his college grammar book and said, "If they say it isn't needed, I give up."

What happened?

It said that the comma is "often omitted." Back then, in the early 70s he was an Oxford comma fan and had written no.

To be fair they also added the extra comma is preferred.

So the verbal battle of the comma continues.

And as a result of the examples I have an overwhelming desire for a hot fudge sundae. I want to eat ice cream, hot fudge sauce, a cookie, a cherry and (no comma) whipped cream. 

Is anyone confused about the the cherry and whipped cream? 

Sunday, September 25, 2016


I have lived 27,010 days or approximately 648,240 hours.

What have I done with them?

In the beginning everything was done to and for me.

Eventually I had great accomplishments leading to autonomy, such as tying my shoe laces and learning to read thus opening the world to me.

I wish I could say none of those days were sad, but it isn’t true. One doesn’t live that long without loss and at least 1,000 days, well over three years over time I mourned the death of my marriage, my dad, Mardy, Barbara, my stepmom and others. 

The pain wasn’t constant, sometimes it came in fleeting moments when I wished there was something I could tell or show them something.

On the other hand, the wonderful things those I lost brought into my life far outweighed the sad days.

Even if I had to fight through university, those days left me alive intellectually.

Then there were the years spent at work. Most left me neutral (dry cleaners to pay for college, IEC to have a salary). And there were those jobs I could hardly wait to get to such as Polaroid and Digital Credit Unions).

Only two jobs did I hate. One was for a stamp company and that lasted only about three months. My first job in Switzerland took from my life for a total of 812 days but at the same time it gave me my residence permit and I made some lifelong friends. Can’t call those days wasted at all. The bad made the good better.

And there have been times of illness such as the normal measles, mumps and flu. There was too much time spent recovering from cancer, but even that wasn’t wasted thanks to my husband who did everything for me including briefing me on the end of Midsomer Murders when I fell asleep half way thru.

How many years have I spent writing?

No idea. It doesn't matter. Even when fighting over a word, a sentence I loved doing it.

I cannot measure in time the pleasure spent:

  • Curled up with a book
  • Watching a play, movie, TV show, ballet
  • Being with friends
  • Having a daughter
  • Discovering marriage could be not just a good but a great thing
  • Walking allowing me time to observe
  • Discovering a flower in a sidewalk and other beauty surprises
  • Sharing with others

 The list could go on, and on, and on, and…

Much of the reason my life has been so good is an accident of my birth in a good time, good place to good people.

If I lived another 3,650 days, not that I’m predicting my death for 25 Sept. 2026, how would I use them?

Hopefully, I would use them the same way I used the days in the past to savor the moments I’ve been given. It is a gift too precious to waste.


Friday, September 23, 2016

No Pollyanna

I am no Pollyanna even though I regularly post on Facebook the things that make me happy. There's so much. I have a wonderful husband and live in two wonderful places: Southern France and Switzerland. I am surrounded by such beauty and do so much that I love each day.

However, I am realistic to know there is much wrong. Here's my 10-item wish list for today.

1. No cop shoots an unarmed black man.
2. No cop gets shot.
3. No drones kill civilians anywhere in the world.
4. Israel does nothing to the Palestinians.
5. Palestine's story gets out to the world.
6. By some miracle a really good candidate for US president comes forth and has a chance (okay, I never said my wish list was realistic.)
7.  No pipeline bursts.
8. No railroad cars explode.
9. All veterans get the help they need.
11. All my Syrian friends will stay alive.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Relishing relish

The first time I tasted Eva's relish, I was two days into my first job. She had made it over the weekend and brought in a jar to share with her coworkers. She had put it on crackers. 

I wanted to steal the jar, but didn't think it would be good for my career to become a thief my first week of my professional career.

Because I'd raved about the relish, the next day she brought me a complete jar. 

I was thrilled when my ex-husband didn't like it, but that was his pattern--dislike whatever I did.

That was fine with me. I could have it all.

Fast forward several years, a divorce and a daughter. Eva had become my baby sitter and I shared a house with her daughter. We still loved the relish which she supplied us with each fall.

Then she had a heart attack. As her daughter and I were in the waiting room of the ICU, we both had the same thought -- no one has the relish recipe. 

Of course, we cared more about her recovery. 


That fall and every fall for as long as I lived in the US we made the relish together, banishing our men. My daughter considered it a right of passage when she was allowed into the relish making.

A coworker of Eva's daughter, who looked much like Queen Elizabeth I,  begged to be included in the making. We said yes. We were a coven of women with our bubbling cauldron.

Since moving to Europe I've made the relish only twice--once with a coworker and once this year, today, the date of an autumn equinox.

I asked a French friend who has spent decades in the US if she'd like to join me. She has missed sweet relish (brands bought in supermarkets) since returning to Europe and joked, that she always thought it grew on trees and had no idea how to make it. 

At nine and a little more she rang my bell. 

I was ready.

Yesterday I had brought the canning jars, onions, cukes, turmeric from my spice dealer, extra sugar and vinegar.

I remembered not to use aluminum.

I set my friend to work peeling the cukes. The recipe called for ten but we cut the quantity back by 1/5. All numbers quoted are the full recipe.

We processed them in my food processor, although Eva used her old-fashioned meat grinder. I had no idea where to find one thus the substitution. A girl has to improvise when a girl has to improvise.

We then added 4 tablespoons of salt and let it drain for two hours.
Taking 10 large onions, we used Eva's trick of holding a piece of bread in our mouths to reduce tearing as we cut, chopped and ran the onions  thru the food processor.

The pieces should all be fine.

We boiled the empty jars for 15 minutes.

In a separate pan we mixed:
  • 6 cups vinegar
  • 1 cup flour dissolved into vinegar
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 4 TBSP turmeric
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water

We boiled it for five minutes. After the cukes had been salted for two hours we added that and the onions to the liquid mixture and boiled for  ten minutes stirring often.

We ladled the mixture into the boiled jars and put them in water to boil for ten minutes.

When finished we sealed the jars...that is until we have some hamburgers, hot dogs, crackers, bread, etc. 

It's autumn. Next fall pie.