Sunday, October 30, 2016

300 hours

"300 hours until the election is over," my husband posted on Facebook, a few days ago. Countdown is much less.

300 hours seemed like forever then. 300 minutes also.

Will it never end?

I am so tired for the lies, the accusations, the blaming.

Both candidates can damage the US but in their own unique way. Mr. Arsenic and Ms Cyanide. Surely the US could have done better.

Although I consider voting a sacred duty, I am happy I can't vote for once in my life. I don't think I could check either box. A friend said she had her left hand to hold her right hand to vote because the candidate was so distasteful. It could have been the same with the other candidate.

300 hours, minutes, seconds--I just feel sad.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Winding down

Sigh.  We are preparing to leave Argelès for the next two and a half months. Before feeling sorry for us, one should remember why. We are heading home to Geneva, which we also adore.

And we have trips, business and pleasure planned for Berlin, Prague, Paris and Madrid.

Still I wanted a last café sit with a book and hot chocolate at La Noisette.

The doors open into the church. Two couples and a peek-a-poo, probably tourists were outside. Three went in, one stayed with the dog. When they came out, the single man went in.
The 13th century church has its own medieval beauty and a bit of goo-gaw overkill. Still I went in to enjoy the rainbow reflections from the stained glass and light a candle for my beloved late stepmom.
As my dad used to say, "If you want sympathy, try S in the dictionary."

Maybe I should look up G for greedy. I have such a wonderful life wanting to be many places at once, is OTT.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Charlie, I love you

No, I am not leaving Rick but I love Charlie Chat.

Our relationship began on Amex when I realized I had an expired card and no replacement.

Something between my telephone and their verification system were not in sync and I could not get thru to anything relating a human who could help.

Then I found Charlie on Live Chat. At first I thought he might be a computer, a very smart computer, and he did utter a lot of customer service friendly gobblygook (I've trained customer service people so I appreciate the attempt although sometimes I expect them to respond if "I say, I want to blow up your headquarters" with "we appreciate your attention to our firm").

He offered me a telephone line to call but stayed with me during "our chat."

The operator said the number wasn't in service.

He gave me another number to try.

The operator said the number wasn't in service.

I suspect it was the cross countries problem.

He gave me a third number.

It worked.

Charlie stayed with me until the problem was resolved.

I thanked him and wished him all easy calls for the rest of his shift.

He thanked me as a valued Amex customer.

He sent me a follow up message asking to me to "click here" for a customer response survey.

I did.

It didn't work.

I would have loved to praise Charlie Chat to the hilt.

There's a PS...

Today going thru some papers I came across my replacement card that I didn't realize was there.

I don't think I'll tell Charlie.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Xmas shopping done

My Christmas shopping is done--well almost. 

I need to buy things for my daughter, but I can only get them in Geneva and I suspect I will be able to wind that up in about 15 minutes because I know exactly where to go. When I am back there next month, I will do it ASAP so I won't have to enter a store the entire Christmas season.

Yesterday, I spent about multi-hours on Amazon--and no, not everyone is getting books. And I was able to find things I really believe the recipient will like.

It would have been faster if I wanted the gifts shipped to one address, but some things needed to be sent to Geneva and some to Argelès where we won't be here to receive them. Thank goodness for a friend who will take them in.

Accompanied by cups of tea, it went pretty smoothly despite an expired credit card and a couple of things that could not be shipped to Europe. Those will go to my daughter for forwarding.

Granted Argelès is already putting up Christmas decorations because one company covers the whole region.

I won't feel Christmasy until early December but there is no pressure now to do anything but enjoy each day and then enjoy the holiday season.

Ho, ho, ho!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Writing about grief is hard work


Witnessing real grief is easy. Turn on the news. An Iraqi father holds his dead daughter, a Pakistani refugee looks numb as she sits in a camp and tells of the hacking of her family and how she is the only survivor. 
Anyone who has seen FAHRENHEIT 9/11 remembers the mother of a dead soldier who goes to Washington, DC. A woman attacks her verbally. Then the mother walks toward the White House. Suddenly she bends over in a pain that permeates from the screen into every cell of the watcher.

An example of shown grief can be found in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. The lover holds a shirt against his body and we know it contains a memory, and we know he regrets not having the courage to go with his lover. The mother, devastated by her own grief, lets him take the clothing away without ever admitting she knows the true relationship between her son and the guest. The pain is there, but it is never spoken. The actions say more than any dialogue.

This pain is what a writer needs to capture, not just for the three-minute newscast but what happens the next day, week, month, however long the character stays with the story. The reader needs to know how the loss is internalized into the character.

This is where showing versus telling comes into play. Writing about grief is one of the hardest things to do because it is so easy to slip into sentimentality that dilutes the pain.

Details show grief. They show how the character is changed by the tragedy whatever it is. Is there rage, a shutdown of emotion, fear, denial or acceptance – all the normal stages according to the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross? The stages make fertile ground for a writer.

We don’t want to tritely run our character through the stages showing a situation for each stage. Having different characters caught in different stages can set up conflict that adds to the drama of your work. A sister who refused to think about her dead brother, a mother who accepts his death because it released him from the pain of AIDS, his father’s anger that his son was gay can all illustrate grief over the same death.

Recovery from grief is not a timed event. A woman that twenty years later is still massaging everything her ex-husband said and did when he walked out is frozen in her grief but is in a different situation from a woman when cleaning the attic comes across some photos from her first marriage that triggers the rage she felt when her husband left her despite having a happy life since then. The way the grief is handled by each tells more about the character than if you said one was depressive and the other optimistic or whatever seemed appropriate.

A writer friend had to kill off a beloved character to develop another. She cried as she wrote the funeral, but she said that it helped write the pain of the fictional person. When I read what she had written, I knew she’d nailed it, despite having the good fortune of never having lost anyone close to her.


1. “Remorse is not nothing. Grief is not useless. It changes the heart of a people. It cautions them to think better, to think in new ways, before they are once again tempted to bomb and beat a people into submission, into ‘freedom.’ It makes them new – and eventually the society with them. One person at a time finally learns to feel. It’s called ‘soul.’

2. Mawmaw goes to the Vietnam War Memorial wall to see her grandson’s name. The memorial is a long black wall with all the names of the soldiers killed arranged chronologically. She was too short to reach it, so someone gets a stepladder so the old woman can climb.

“Mawmaw reaches toward the name and slowly struggles up the next step, holding her dress tight against her. She touches the name, running her hand over it, stroking it tentatively, affectionately like feeling a cat’s back. Her chin wobbles, and after a moment, she backs down the ladder silently.”
Bobbie Anne Mason IN COUNTRY

3. “That night in the hotel room, I looked at myself in the mirror for a long time but I didn’t shave off my beard or cut my hair. I kept thinking about Sean under the frozen ground and I had a crushed feeling in my stomach. I decided when my time came I wanted to be burned. I didn’t want to be down there under the ice.”
Michael Connelly THE POET

4. “I’d close my eyes more tightly or increase the flow of the faucet or turn up the radio. I didn’t let myself admit that the only way I might see you, again, was in that last moment when you would be back to gather your footsteps like an armful of brilliant dessert flowers, a consolation prize, you would present to me in return for losing you forever.

5. After great pain, a formal feeling comes
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?
The Feet, mechanical, go round
Of Ground, or Air,
or Ought A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone

This is the Hour of Lead
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons recollect the Snow
First-Chill-then Stupor-then the letting go


1. Set a timer for ten minutes. Pick up a pen and paper and write until the timer goes off starting with the sentence “I never hurt so much as when…”

2. List all the things that happen a week after a funeral, ordinary, related and unrelated.

3. Describe what happens when a man aged 35 goes back to work after his three days of leave for his wife's death in a car accident.

4. Write 50 words describing the reaction of a mother as she listens to a doctor tell her that her child has cancer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


This year we will have been in nine countries including the two where we live. Whenever we go to a new city or place within a city such a museum, we try and find a magnet for us and a mug for my daughter's collection.

We are not souvenir collectors: no ash trays, cloths, clothes, plates or do dads that have to take up space. However, the magnets do not encroach on the room we have.

Placement varies but I did laugh at Rick's putting Teddy Roosevelt next to our Swedish Bull Moose.

Our next two stops are Berlin and Prague.

Magnet and mug shops here we come.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Marriage job appraisal

At work we get job appraisals.

How about a marriage appraisal, to be filled out and signed by each party on the anniversary date.

They could have boxes to check.
  • Exceeds requirements
  • Meets requirements
  • Needs improvement
  • Poor
Then a section for comments under each category.

Categories could be:
  • House maintenance
  • Financial management
  • Affection
  • Truthfulness
  • Sexual accommodation
Each category would have a comments section.

Goals for the coming year would be the final section.

Both spouse would sign.

Just an idea.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


When I worked for DCU, one of my nicknames was Bitty Bladder. As a member of the High Five, the top five managers, I often excused myself for the ladies room.

I can claim to be a toilet expert from the most luxurious Japanese toilet that not only washes you with warm water, I suspect makes sushi if you put the right ingredients to the basic French toilet with the place to put your feet and angle.

I've been in rest stop toilets, behind a tree when there are no toilets, etc.

Thus I was surprised at the condition of the JFK toilets. While waiting for my flight to Europe, I needed to use four.

All smelled of urine.

Two had metal plates hanging from the side panels.

The door handles on two did not fasten properly.

The flusher on one did not work and was loose on another.

JFK is said to be a world class airport.

Not according to their ladies rooms.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


They say a house is not a home.

A home is where one feels safe physically and emotionally. It doesn't mean that everything is perfect.

A home can be anywhere from a studio to a château.

My first favorite "home" was a condo 394 The Riverway in Boston. I lived their five years with my daughter and one year with an exchange student. It was my first "only mine" home and every minute in it made me feel good.

Although the company flat in Môtiers, Switzerland was ugly, it was a refuge from a hard working situation. The culture change from US to Switzerland was not as great as from city to bucolic. I fell in love with the countryside.
The third home I had was the 11 years at the Francois Lehman, Grand Saconnex complex or the international ghetto because so many people worked at the alphabet UN organizations in walking distance. I made not only friends, but developed family of choice members, wrote books.

There was something special about sitting at the kitchen table on a Sunday morning, a cup of hot chocolate and watching now fall on the château across the street.

This week I had a revelation about a "home" that surprised me. It applies not just to the people I am visiting, but to those that I know in other places.

The next step up from home was my discovery. The word is life. A life is embedded in a home. It has nothing to do with the furniture, art but everything to do with memories, good and bad.Some of the people I know have been in their homes more than 50 years. That's a lot of memories. That's a lot of life.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


I make no secret of my hatred of telephones including landlines.

When I am with people I want to talk to them, not have them buried in those disgusting little rectangles.

There is a term for people being on the telephone while with other people phubbing.


However, I had to laugh the other night.

Llara, Rick and I were in the living room of our B&B in Montreal.

Each of us were on our laptops.

Llara and Rick were doing work stuff, I was writing.

Probably not all that different. It just seemed that way.

Friday, October 14, 2016

37 v 37

"It's 37° today," my husband said.

We were at my mother-in-law's in Upstate New York.

Wonderful. I pounded out of bed, took a delightful hot shower, put on jeans and a long sleeve shirt.

About two months ago we knew the temperature would be 37°.

I was not happy.

We were in Argelès, France and the heat was sucked out of me. If I had the energy for a shower, I wanted it on cool to cold.

Why the difference. We are talking Fahrenheit vs. Centigrade.
  • 37°F=98°C
  • 37°C=2.7°F
Bring on the brrrrrr......

Monday, October 10, 2016

dissecting pledge

There have been many postings on Facebook about the Pledge of Allegiance being mandatory in schools. Pledges are fine if people including children know what they are pledging. Let's look at the Pledge of Allegiance.

Here's a bit of its history
  • Written by Colonel George Balch in 1887.
  • Revised by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister,  revised it in 1892
  • Adopted by Congress in 1942
  • Amended with the words "under God" in 1954 on Flag Day has more of the history including debates, why word changes were made and challenges.

If one is going to do something as serious as make a pledge to a nation of 323 million people, they should know what they are promising and why.

Let's analyze it
I pledge allegiance
  • A pledge is a serious promise
  • Allegiance is loyalty to a group, person, country
If you believe that promises are serious and if you believe loyalty is important saying it is a commitment.

To the flag of the United States of America

A flag is a piece of cloth of various shapes and colors. 
  • Flags can be patriotic symbols
  • Flags often have military associations based on their use going back to ancient times
  • Flags were often heraldic in nature helping soldiers find their leaders
  • National flags were more or less derived from ship flags which helped identify the country of origin of a ship
And to the Republic for which it stands
Merriam Webster defines a Republic as:
"a (1) :  a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president  

"(2) :  a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government b (1) :  a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law (2) :  a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

Much has been written that the US is now an oligarchy which Merriam Webster defines as
  • "a country, business, etc., that is controlled by a small group of people
  • : the people that control a country, business, etc.
  • : government or control by a small group of people"
 When we are looking at things like Citizens United, the bought and paid for congress maybe the wording should be changes to "and to the oligarchy for which it stands."

One nation indivisible 
Technically the US is one nation comprised of many different demographical groups. When a person makes a pledge to the US do they know:
  • All the states, the capitals, the products, the problems, the strengths
  • The makeup of their government including the names of the major office holders
  • How local, state and national governments function
  • The foreign policy of the country and why including the other countries point of view
The last item is especially important because part of the pledge means giving approval to good and bad activities. It could mean sacrificing one's life.

Under God
These words were added supposedly in reaction to Communism. Does that mean atheists, Muslims, Hindus, etc. cannot promise their loyalty to the US?

With liberty and justice for all
 What a wonderful concept, but the US falls far short here.

Judges who get kickbacks for sending people to prison, trials where evidence that would free the plaintiff is held back by the court, police forces threatening witnesses into perjury, etc. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Being a citizen is serious.

It implies a deep commitment to the country one lives in.

Pledging loyalty to a country is a good thing, but unless one understands all the implications, mouthing the words of the pledge is mere gobblygook.

Children should not be allowed to recite the pledge until they have a knowledge of their country's history, government, policies etc. They are too young to know what they are doing. If they are to become productive, responsible citizens they need this understanding.

When they have the knowledge and perhaps after an indepth exam than they can be allowed to make the pledge and the first time should be a ceremonial much like a First Communion or a wedding.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Exceptional moments

There are events in everyone's life that are unforgettable. I am not talking the biggies like births, weddings, deaths, graduations, but little things that happen completely unexpectedly and whenever something triggers the memory it is impossible not to smile.

Memory 1

Llara, who was 17 at the time, and I were traveling from Köln to Toulouse by train. We were the only two people in the compartment.

Just as we pulled out of Köln a young woman, long brown hair and a beautiful brown suede coat walked by our compartment. A few minutes later she returned and asked if she could join us.

She was traveling to Strasbourg where her mother was ill. We ended up in a three-way discussion that linked our lives as women of three different generations and two countries.

When the train pulled in Strasbourg and she gathered her things she smiled, "I chose you two because you looked interesting," she said.

We were so glad she did.

Memory 2

Part of my 45th high school reunion was a tour of the school itself. A junior had volunteered to show we old folks around.

I was standing next to Dottie B. "Remember how they always said, 'Don't run in the halls?'"

We exchanged a look.

Then we ran pell mell down the corridor.

Memory 3

Yesterday I was with Rick and a friend of decades in Lexington at the old North Bridge where the shot heard around the world was heard. When we went to the visitors center we saw a little book "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Longfellow.

In school I had to memorize it and I still can recite the opening "Listen my children and you shall here..."

My friend picked it up and automatically we decided to read it allow alternating stanzas, although he did two in a row while I searched for my glasses.

There are other memories like this of course, so many little treasures of life.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Locked out

Rick and I usually go out together. That we have one clicker is not a problem. EXCEPT today.

I was off to sushi and a catch up with J. on our lives.

He was off to get a certified copy of our marriage license for yet more paperwork, mail some stuff and a kebob. He would be back first: thus he had the clicker and the remote to open the rolloden (shutters) that covered our windows and door.

After almost catching up, J. pulled up to the gate. We are never at a loss for subjects.

I called Rick.

No answer. Reception is not always wonderful so not a surprise. J tried to email him but still that gate stayed shut.

I decided to use the old-fashioned intercom approach. I got out of the car went as close to the gate as possible and called in "dulcet" tones if one was deaf and under a pillow:


The gate opened.

J. drove off.

I went to our front door. The rolloden was still down. Hmmm

No one was in the little house and none of the upstairs doors were unlocked.

Then a truck pulled in. They were looking for someone whose name I didn't recognize.

Well someone had to be in the house because gates don't open automatically.

I knocked.

Sue Ellen was still there and had let me in.

Rick finally showed up. He had taken to wandering down town.

Then the house alarm sounded. We don't have a code.

Security showed up. We convinced them we weren't burglars.

I remember the good old days when I put a key in a lock and doors opened and life went on.


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Little Johnny

To say I was devastated when my ex husband left shortly after my daughter's birth, would be an understatement.

Women friends who were part of our couple society forgot me for events. Some were afraid perhaps I would steal their husbands, and in a couple of cases, their husbands had been more than happy to fix things around my house including my desires. Needless to say, I refused.

Weekends were the worst. If I were not without adult company, the person who did visit had been deserted by her husband (she was better off with out the jerk). Her bitterness did nothing to help me feel better.

In August, I decided to try a singles night. The daughter of one my co-workers was going to baby sit and stay the weekend.

I almost chickened out before entering the hall and again after entering. People stood around holding drinks trying to looking interesting and interested. 

After taking a deep breath, I started talking to people. I hadn't been single since high school, twelve years before.

With a few minutes, a man glomed onto me. He was probably ten years older than I was, not bad looking, good build. He bought me a drink and we sat at a table for two.

He talked and talked and talked and talked and  . . .

He said nothing interesting.

I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but I couldn't think of way to escape and meet anyone else. I didn't even want to meet anyone else. Lonely weekends were looking pretty good if this was the alternative.

The talk moved to the idea that he would like to take me to bed.

"I'm sorry." I looked at my watch. "My baby sitter can only stay until ten."

He offered alternatives including going home with me.

"My attorney says being seen with a man is a bad idea until the divorce."

This he understood as he gazed around the room probably looking for some one else. Then he took my hand in both of his.

"I want you to remember one thing."

I tilted my head.

"On a hot August night Little Johnny liked you."

I drove home. The baby sitter stayed the weekend and it was the beginning of a long friendship. We played games, took a drive, played with the baby. Best weekend I'd had for over a year.

Some five decades later I wonder what happened to Little Johnny, if he is even alive. Did he meet a Little Janie?

And a part of me resents that he was right. I did remember that on a hot August night Little Johnny liked me.