Wednesday, November 30, 2016


"Can you explain this?" I asked the antique dealer after determining French would be the best language. I held out the framed whatever it was.

He was bald and pudgy. He wore his name ticket on a navy blue sweater and sported a big smile.

J and I were winding up our weekend adventure at an antique fair held in the Paul Klee Museum in Bern.

Inside the frame was a tribute to Delphine Chammartin née Berset who died 8 October, 1904 and her sister, Theodorette Berset, who died September 15 the same year.  The memorial was from the daughter and niece. It wasn't clear if they were one or two people, but the calligraphy was delicately beautiful.

Tiny wires were twisted into flowers with lightly-colored centers. Tiny petals were marked Maman and Tante.

"At the turn of the 20th century this was a common way to memorialized lost loved ones in the canton of Fribourg." He had others but none as pretty.

"Is 190 your best price?"

He smiled. "I could do 150," he said. I felt I was as good a bargainer as any I'd seen on the British antique shows.

Problem: He didn't take credit or debit cards. I didn't have enough francs nor Euros. 

J came to my rescue loaning me the money (she's been paid back) and I have a very unusual piece for my wall in ASM.

Most of all it meets two of my three criteria for buying something.
1. It's beautiful
2. It holds a memory

I don't care that it doesn't meet the third of usefulness.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

the bus ride

I was carry a poster of dinosaurs on the E bus into Geneva for the son of my "French Daughter" whom I was meeting for lunch.

The man across from me was trying to see it so I turned it around. He smiled.

Next to him was a man in a nice suit, raincoat, short blond hair in a perfect cut. He was talking to the older woman who sat next to me.

He was saying how much he liked President Regan. "He was a much better manager than say President Carter who micro managed everything."

He spoke with a perfect Swiss French accent but he carried a paper cup of coffee making me wonder if he were American. Carrying food and drink on the streets and on buses isn't all that common for the Swiss.

His knowledge of American politics was in-depth and so was his knowledge of the current French elections.

At Eaux Vives the woman started to get off, but her coat jacket string was caught between the seat and the wall. By the time she freed herself, the bus had moved on.

I couldn't resist. I asked the man's nationality. He was Swiss with an American wife. He asked if I was American and I said ex.

"Impots!" said another man.

"Les Banques," I said.

"Ah Fatca," the man said knowing how American expats are being shut out of financial services because of American pressure.

Then the subject switched to the dinosaurs and the exhibition at Palexpo. The man was planning to see one in Paris tomorrow.

Another woman joined the conversation.

The bus arrived at the destination five people who were no longer strangers got off the bus and went their separate ways. Who says bus rides are boring?

Monday, November 28, 2016



It is wonderful when things go smoothly in our lives.

but then some catastrophe strikes and we find ourselves struggling to get thru it.

Rick and I have made a video sharing a coping mechanism: journaling. It allows the journaler* a chance to unload any time, anywhere.

The video has hints to help those who have never journaled to get started and maybe even gives hints to those who already journal such as the No-Rule Rule.

A journal is a psychiatrist, clergyman, friend, relative at the other end of a pen or keyboard 24 hours a day.

Please listen to Journaling thru Crisis and pass it on to any person who is dealing with a problem or any support group that helps people deal with problems. 

*note: one doesn't need to have a crisis to journal.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


M, my Syrian friend and sister-of-choice, and I were on the Paris metro on the way to meet a group of her friends. Close to our stop there were greetings as other attendees got on and we walked to the hostess's flat together.

The friends meet monthly. They are all:
  • Syrian
  • Professional (doctors, pharmacists, engineers)
  • Represent three generations
The subject of this month's discussion was liberty: personal, economic, political.

I have only respect for the Syrians I have met over the last years. They are highly intelligent and highly educated. Equally my several trips to Damascus leaves me nothing but admiration for the Syrian history and culture.

As they talked, I thought that in many ways their lives were in a box where clothing and contact with the opposite sex were restricted. Fear of neighbor's opinions and family honor were important.

Growing up in the 50s in New England, I too lived in a box, a bigger box maybe the size of a moving crate, but modesty, decorum with the opposite sex and what the neighbors thought were all considerations, not for family honor but for my own reputation.

Some lived in cities, some in small towns.

The youngest, a pharmacist, still lived with her mother in Paris. However, she has the same restrictions in France as she would have had in Syria. She made the statement if she wants liberty she will have to marry.

That produced guffaws from every older, married woman.

Another woman said that when she was growing up even her studies were controlled. She added as a mother, she understands her parents more.

What all the women said, that they were Daddy Girls, and their father's encouraged them in their studies, even with the social restrictions. Was this the reason they were all professionals? That could be the subject of a Ph.D thesis.

The talk was mostly in Arabic and I was getting French and English summaries. I wish I could have understood it all.

At all times I am aware that all the countries I have lived in are not going thru a civil war with friends and family dying as part of a proxy war as well as the civil.

How did I feel as M and I headed back to the metro?


Wednesday, November 23, 2016


As an expat the only time I am homesick is Thanksgiving. My memories are of high school football games in bitter cold and a wonderful meal cooked by my grandmother and later by my father and stepmom with tons of aunts and uncles around. We didn't have family strife. Ideal, really.

I still check and see who won the Reading/Stoneham and the Boston Latin/English football games. If I can get a bit of the Macy's Day parade on an international news station I tune in.

On some Thanksgivings I have spent in Europe there was nothing. It was just an ordinary day, although one of my coworkers had her mother bake a pumpkin pie for me one year.

The last few years friends and family have gathered at a nearby restaurant that does a dinner as good as my grandmother did.

And I give thanks for all that I have.

On the other hand I am aware of the history behind Thanksgiving, which was reinforced by this essay from Robert Jensen.

“Are you the guy who hates Thanksgiving?”

The man posing that question on my voicemail continued with a sharply critical comment about one of the essays I have written in recent years about the holocaust-denial that is at the heart of that U.S. holiday. My first reaction was not to argue but to amend: “I don’t hate Thanksgiving—I just think it’s appropriate to critique a celebration that obscures the reality of the European conquest of the Americas.”

That description is accurate, at one level—my rejection of Thanksgiving is more intellectual than emotional, a political decision to reject that distortion of history. Whatever the actual details of the 1621 celebration involving Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians (and there is ongoing debate about various factual claims), Thanksgiving is one way the dominant culture minimizes or denies the larger historical context of Europeans’ genocidal campaign against indigenous people to acquire the land base of the United States. Without that genocide, there is no United States. For the victors’ descendants to take a day off to give thanks without acknowledging that seems, well, just a bit sociopathic."

The attacks on the Indians aren't over. Today water cannons were turned on the Indians in North Dakota defending their sacred land against a pipeline in freezing temperatures. I wonder if the government would ever allow a pipeline thru Arlington National Cemetery?

Jensen also wrote, "And whatever one’s personal relationship to the holiday, the political question remains: Why is it “normal” in the United States to celebrate a holiday that is based on a profound distortion of history?" 

This year, I will still celebrate and give thanks with my friends and husband. It does not mean that I celebrate the horrendous actions of the settlers or the government today and yesteryear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Travelled out

The teddy bear suitcase is easy to identify coming off a carousel
and it has seen lots of carousels. 
The design makes a husband not want to borrow it.

Deep in my mother's psyche was the belief if you went two towns away from Reading, MA you fell off the edge of the earth. Even Boston, 12 miles away, was out of the question.

I fantasized about travel from the day I knew what it was.

As an adult I've lived in Germany, France and Switzerland where I am now a citizen. I've traveled to many other parts of the US, Europe and to the Middle East.

My passion is history, and poking around places I've read about feeds that passion. I've asked that, instead of a party for my 75th birthday, we visit the abbey where Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart are buried. It will be like meeting them personally.

Last year travel, because of chemo, was house to hospital treatments.

This fall we started a marathon travel itinerary business and personal.
  • Boston
  • Montreal
  • Up State NY
  • Long Island
  • Geneva (home base)
  • Argeles-sur-mer France
  • Berlin
  • Prague
  • Paris 
Rick also had business trips to Paris, Bordeaux and Valencia. He is going to Dallas next month.

He posts photos of beds he has slept in on personal and business travel. He is up to 18 down from 30 the year before I had cancer where we both stayed home.

This weekend my friend and I are going on one of adventures to Germany

I've loved everyone and everything I've seen. I will love this weekend.

None of the above is a complaint. I have been lucky to do it all, but I am traveled out.

I want to be in my home, with my own things, and a trip means a walk to the local boulangerie for fresh baked bread or taking the 75 steps to the movie theatre.  I want to write on my desk and not have to ask for a WiFi code. I want my clothes in one place.

Time to decorate for Christmas, bake cookies to put in my cookie jar. 

Time to settle in and write, write, write.

As I said, I'm traveled out. I am zeroing in on my inner homebodyness.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Good or evil

Rick and I just made the E Bus going home after or weekend in Paris with our two suitcases.

There is a well for suitcases with a seat next to it, but a little girl, no more than five sat there.

She was adorable with brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. Two bow barrettes were on the top of her head. She wore a pink winter jacket.  Her father had her move next to him so we would be able to use the well.

Next to her was another passenger and on the top of a T-formation of the seats was a rather good looking man, mid thirties maybe. If I were putting a description in a novel, I would write he had a kind face with a few smile lines. He did something with his phone and handed it  over the other passenger to the little girl.

She beamed as she saw whatever it was.

As the stops rolled by they exchanged the phone back and forth over the other passenger as he showed her more and more and she continued to smile. Her father was busy on his own phone.

The father and daughter's stop came and they got off after she returned the phone.

The man's eyes had never left the little girl as she got off the bus. He waved to her than sat back in his seat when they were out of sight.

I would like to think he was a kindly uncle or a man who just loved children.

But both Rick and I had the same thought.


I so hope we are wrong.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Rick and I adore chocolate--nice dark chocolate.

Switzerland has wonderful chocolate. Although we do buy the mass manufactured chocolate, our favorite chocolate in the entire world is from a store in downtown Geneva. Auer's has been a family business since 1939.

Sometimes we buy just two pieces, save them for bedtime and even though they are small, take small bites, savoring the flavor. This is not chocolate to shove in your mouth piece after piece. It is a delicacy. It's a wonderful way to end a day.

Walking by yesterday, I saw an advent calendar in the window. Each date was to hold one chocolate.

I could not stop myself.

I went in.

The shop has a tantalizing smell of chocolate. It has an old-fashioned feel of originality and of quality that only a firm built on the passion for chocolate can create.

The sales people always smile as they package the chocolate to order. Celebrities who go to Geneva, make it a point to stop and shop.

For the next 15 minutes, the sales girl and I picked out 24 black chocolates. She described each one, praline, salt, pistachio, walnut, double chocolate, caramel, etc. There were squares, balls, a checkerboard and one with chocolate spikes.  Another was decorated with gold leaf. Her gloved hand placed each one in paper and inserted it in a date box. The sales clerk suggested a champagne chocolate for Christmas Eve.

Then she lovingly wrapped the entire package. It is a gift for Rick and I from me. Each night, we will open the box for the correct date until the 24th. And then there will be that champagne chocolate.

Rick and I as a newish couple are still building our Christmas traditions. We can save the boxes and next year go buy another 24 chocolates, although I suspect during the year, we may find more than one reason to go into the store.

Monday, November 14, 2016



Writing day scheduled.

Then a text "May I call you?"

It was from the couple who are neighbors in Argelès, musicians and more. We seldom see them in Switzerland where we all live.

They wanted to come to Geneva. Did we have time?

Rick banged out a story making his deadline before their arrival giving him breathing space to savor the time together. I fine-tuned two chapters of Murder in Edinburgh.

Then their faces appeared in our doorway window. YES!

Because it was a beautiful day we took them for a walk along the lake. First stop The Little Mermaid.
Today she was ignoring the two ducks nearby.

The weather made me grateful for my hat and mittens, but I loved the tingle of the chill on my cheeks. Also, I am still celebrating the strength of being able to walk distances. I loved the surprise of seeing good friends.

We continued, passing mansions and a horse farm until we came to the grass beach. On a hot summer day it is like the Argelès beach, wall-to-wall people. Today we were alone to enjoy the mountains and France on the other side. The water was so clear we could see each mark on the stones below the surface.
Because both Rick and our friend are airplane buffs, we went inland just a bit to see commemoration stone and plaque to one of the first Swiss flights in 1911 that landed in Collonge-Bellerive where we were.

The next stop was a restaurant. In the summer ice cream sales are heavy. Today no one was there except for the employees. Hot chocolate all around warmed our insides.

Chalk up another special memory with special people.

Sometimes I shiver in pure joy for my life.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


The flight from Prague to Geneva was short. 

Because I'm slightly claustrophobic, my middle seat assignment left me a ill-at-ease. 

A woman about my age plunked herself down penning me in.

The hostess dropped off a goodie and she handed me hers before we spoke a word.

Not sure of the language I said, "Merci, danke, thank you, děkuji, shukran."

Her face lit up. "Shukran? You speak Arabic?" She asked in French,

"Only a few words: mahaba, chai, shurkran, awfwan, key fac, (spelling is a guess) and I wouldn't understand the answer. Hibibbi and I know I have to be selective on whom I say that to."

She laughed. 

We talked for the rest of the flight which seemed to last only a few minutes. 

She had been born in Egypt with a French mother. She had lived in Lebanon, escaping the war for France and Czech where she also lived for years.  Like mine, her first husband was a disaster her second great except for his news addition. We talked about our kids.

The plane landed.

We didn't just say good bye. We hugged.

I hadn't felt penned in at all. Serendipity!

Mamby Bamby

"Suck it up," my husband said, when he read the following.

"The University of Michigan offered traumatized students coloring books and Play-Doh to calm them. (Kindergarten???)

"Cornell University held a campus-wide “cry-in,” with officials handing out tissues and hot chocolate. (elite Ivy League ???)

"Tufts University offered its devastated students arts and crafts sessions. (summer camp ???).

"Professors canceled classes and/or exams because students asked or because instructors were too distraught to teach."

I wanted to believe it was a joke. Only it wasn't

I couldn't and can't stand Trump. I felt the same about Hillery. I called them Mr. Arsenic and Ms Cyanide. I thought/think both were/are bad for the US and for the world.

What concerns me is that the next generation is so weak that they can't stand even a slight bump in their world view. There have been reports that some college students want warnings of class reading material that might upset them, for example guaranteeing more ignorance.

Let them live for a year where:
  • Bombs and drones are a daily way of life
  • There is not enough food or water
  • There are no schools
  • Drought is ruining food supply
  • They spend all day in a field picking tomatoes for a few cents
  • They are hunched over a sewing machine for a few cents
  • They have no plumbing
  • Home is shack
  • etc.
Then if they still feel the result of a US election upsets them to a point they can't function, give them Play-Doh.


Saturday, November 12, 2016


The American election is over, thank God. If I never see another pundit mouthing lies, I will be happy.

As a Swiss I can turn to our next vote scheduled for Nov. 27.

I have my ballot that I can mail or turn in at the polling place.

The Swiss vote on things that are left to the government in other places.

I've read the positions in the booklets and looked at the stance of the five major parties and 12+ minor ones.

I need to vote on the future of nuclear plants in my country.

I need to vote on possible Sunday openings in the Canton. At the current time stores are closed on Sundays except for gas stations, the airport and train station.

I love that about Switzerland. Downtime.

When I first arrived there was a snack bar near my office that closed for lunch.

"Why?" I asked.

The woman stared at me. "Our employees need to eat."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Life marker

It was 1967 and a hot June day.

I was finishing my senior year in Lowell College (now University). My college prof needed a ride home to Cambridge which was a bit beyond Reading where I lived. We talked about a lot of things including Chaucer, his son, my future plans and life in general on the ride into the city.

I dropped him off at his flat and then proceeded to get lost in Boston. Still not sure how I crossed the Charles River without noticing it.

The windows of my oversized Ford were open leaving it still hot. The radio was playing. Than I heard a song I'd never heard before.

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she's half crazy
But that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you've always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind. 

The words and melody touched me. It was years before I heard it again. By then I knew and loved Cohen's music.

Fast forward to July 4, 2013.

Another hot day followed by a warm, warm night in Montreux, Switzerland.

Stravinsky Hall was packed. We found a place to sit on the floor at the back. My friend Julia had hurt her foot and couldn't stand. We weren't about to give up seeing Cohen no matter what.

He sang for almost three hours. Each time there was a break he skipped off the stage. He said he wanted to outdo Springsteen's performance time in Geneva shortly before. Cohen won the time battle.

Listening to him sing "Suzanne" I was transported back decades to a hot day.

When someone 82 dies, one shouldn't be surprised. Still it hit me in the stomach. Whenever the world loses a cultural icon there is sadness.

My husband brought up his Hallelujah and we held each other, our own tribute.

A great talent has skipped out of our lives leaving his mark.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

cabin crew

I owe all airline cabin crew a big apology.

I had always thought of them as glorified waiters and waitresses.

Then I sat thru a conference about cabin crew training.

Waitresses don’t have to worry about saving lives, handling emergencies—medical and otherwise.

Even when I was younger, I am not sure I would have been able to jump thru the rigorous hoops that a cabin attendant must do before they can walk up and down those narrow aisles.

So cabin crews all over the world, thank you for your professionalism.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

5 weeks

We (my husband and I) have been traveling a little more than five weeks. We’ve been in:
  • Boston
  • Montreal
  • Endicott NY
  • Long Island
  • Berlin
  • Prague
Seeing my daughter and Rick’s family 

Family is everything and being separated by an ocean is the price of my chosen life. The distance makes time with them more precious.

Seeing friends 
People whom I would love to see more of but the geographical divide makes it impossible. I repeat, it makes time with them more precious.

And it was so much more 

Eating the very last of corn on the cob of the season. European corn is a poor second to fresh off the stalk.

Having American cider and fresh baked donuts in Upstate New York

Showing Rick part of his country’s history in Lexington and Salem.

A spontaneous reading of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere with a good friend at the Lexington battle ground. We alternated stanzas.

Visiting with a good friend on Long Island and creating more memories.

Visiting Teddy Roosevelt’s home.

Flying upstairs in the Airbus 380. Loved that we had an extra storage space against the wall.

Meeting many of Rick’s professional contacts in Berlin.

Attending sessions and an exhibition in Berlin. I love putting my toe nail back into the workplace. Toe nail not whole toe.

Going to a German beer hall bringing up good memories for when I lived in Stuttgart. Eating ein paar Wurst and hot potato salad along with a dark beer. I used to love ordering a Dunkel Dinkellacker for the way the words rolled of my tongue. The band in Lederhosen and Dirdnls, however, played mostly pop music with a couple of join-arms-and-sway-left and right numbers.

German hotel breakfasts.

Visiting the castle and its in-depth overview of Czech history.

Having more museums than we could possibly see to choose from

Discovering the beautiful old buildings in Prague.

Finding the level of English in Prague.

Sleeping at friends and having both a modern chain hotel with a suite and a 14th century four-star hotel with the original beams.

Arriving back in Geneva.

Two nights ago I slept under my duvet. Outside it was a cool November night it was cozy. I fell asleep to good memories.  


I am so lucky that travel or home are not an either/or, I can have both.