Friday, March 31, 2017

lost dog

He was Benji-cute and lay on the floor in front the bank's receptionist desk. I thought he was with the woman who was talking with the receptionist.

As we sat nearby waiting for our bank manager, the pup came up to us. The woman, who I thought was the owner, left.

The receptionist came over and checked the dog's license. He had wandered in, she said.

Rick and I so want a dog. We travel too much but we still dream of one (never at 10 at night when its raining).

We check rescue sites. I would love another chin. He would be happy with a Cavalier King Charles. The two breeds are from the same ancestor.

I certainly wouldn't have minded that pooch.

Another customer offered to take him to the place where the owner could be contacted.

He followed the customer out, tail wagging confident that all would be well. I hope he was right.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Something is wonderful about French marchés, when vendors set up their merchandise outside. Areglès marchés are Wednesday and Saturday mornings and are spread over three streets, a square and the church court.

Everything imaginable is for sale from clothing, pocketbooks, makeup, jewelry to flowers, cheeses, fish, meat, seasonable vegetables. There are local dishes ready to reheat for lunch.

We get to know the vendors such as the spice man...I love the idea of having a spice man.

Or there's Catherine, the brownie lady, who makes the second best brownies in the world. My former housemate makes the best.

And the sausage and cheese vendors, never mind Joël, the olive dealer, who could win a gold medal for flirting along with his wide selection of olives and tapenades.

There is Nadia, who sings in the gospel choir, with her funky clothing. More than once I given in to a fun outfit.

I can't forget the goat cheese from the goat farm. The cheese they make with nettles is especially good. We take visitors, especially children, to the farm.

The marchés are set up by several cafés and tea rooms. In good weather, sitting outside is great for people watching. On colder days, being inside with purchases in your basket next to you, works just as well with a hot cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

And this is when your friends walk by for a catch up on personal news. Some sit for a minute that melts into a half an hour or more. There are marchés when it is one person and day that ten or more of us gather.

As the church bell strikes noon, the crowd thins out. There is the clatter of racks being folded and stored in trucks.

The street cleaners come by and the marché is a memory until the next one.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

no phones there

We mourn those we loved and who died. Time goes by and a lid covers the hole of that loss.

But then something triggers a memory. We see something that we would like to share with that person and that lid is set ajar.

It happened to me today with a New York Times article on gospel singer Kirk Franklin.

My friend of 40 years, Barbara Hagaman, gone over two years, was in the Argelès Gospel Choir. I know the idea of a French gospel is strange, but they were good, really good even if their English pronunciation was a bit strange.

Barbara loved the choir passionately, but hated the gospel of Franklin. She put up with it to sing the songs she loved.

My immediate reaction, when I saw the article, was to hop out of bed and walk down the street and show her. Only she's not there. There is a plaque in the local cemetery where her ashes were scattered.

She's not there either.

I can't reach her by phone, email, snail mail or Facebook. The only place I can find her is in my heart.

A musical tribute by the gospel choir leader Alain Martin captures her spirit and the place she loved.

Monday, March 27, 2017

fly swatter(s)

The fly swatter moral of clutter
When we were cleaning out under the sink we found two fly swatters. Rick wanted to keep them both.

1. He has a 99% kill ratio of flies with his hands.
2. If it's a wasp or bee than use a magazine or newspaper if you can't swipe them outside.

I wanted to throw out both. He wanted to keep both and finally said, "I'll take it to the nest."


The nest is the studio two doors down where I lived for many years before marrying Rick. Is 18 square meters.

My goal was to only have things in it that were useful, beautiful or sentimental. My other goal was to make it possible for my daughter to divest herself of all my possessions, waiting, of course, until I died, in one morning. Paper work will take her much longer.

Thus I had five paper clips (all I ever needed) in animal shapes. I never needed them all but they amused me so I kept the extra three.

My dustpan was painted by an artist so every time I swept the floor, I could admire the color and design making cleaning a little less drudgery.

No need for an ironing board. The barrier between the kitchen and dining area with a towel served as well. Just the right height. One less thing to own and store.

I had everything I needed and no extra.

Well, maybe a little extra. I collected unusual pens (5) like the engraved silver one with a green plume below. I kept two regular felt tips one in my purse and one in my desk. One pencil. One pencil sharpener. No more.

And there is still a coat and jacket that can be gotten rid of hanging in the armoire.

I love my husband dearly but he had a tendency to put things in the nest like an attic.

The nest was too small for the two of us. We rent a flat two doors down that is much larger but it came furnished. We bought all the furniture (it has to do with French rental laws) and much of the stuff we don't need. I want to go thru the flat and touch each item with a stay or go verdict. Hopefully more go. And then get the nest back to its earlier freedom from clutter.

And I am happy to keep one fly swatter downstairs. None in the nest. I didn't need one int he 20 odd years I used the nest, it probably won't be needed now. If the one downstairs doesn't get used by Sept. it is going out even if it is a nice color.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Glazed eyes

Rick's eyes glazed over as I tried to explain that
  1. I needed the bag to put the tree decorations in.
  2. The tree needed to be down before I could wash the floor.
  3. I didn't want to take a shower before washing the floor.
  4. I was showering later because we were eating out before my doctor's appointment and I wanted to be as clean as possible.
I don't get out of bed in the morning without a plan in order about showering, dressing, getting breakfast and my to do list firmly planted in my head. It's not just a plan. It's a map, but not carved in stone. If I'm in the shower and he says, "Want breakfast at La Noistte?" my plans for porridge with blueberries, cinnamon and bananas in the grey two-handled bowl along with the tangerine, tea and cranberry juice carried to the living room on my Bayeux tapestry can be put aside.

Thus we decided to wait until tomorrow to take down the tree and wash the floor.

He gets the same glazed look when I explain about undressing by the hamper or never putting a dish in the sink because it saves the extra step of putting them where they will end up. If I walk by something that belongs in the room I am heading, I take it and put it away.

He says he still loves me. I suspect he does because he pointed out some of the things he does. It is a good thing neither of us is perfect and even better that we have a sense of humor.

He said last night "I amused him." hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Friday, March 24, 2017


The French word poubelle sounds so beautiful. It means trash can.

Not so pretty.

When Llara was a teenager, we would make soupe la poubelle Friday nights, which sounded far prettier than garbage soup. It was broth, onions, all the week's leftovers and a touch of cream. Usually it was delicious, but it was never the same twice because the ingredients and quantities were never the same.

I wish we were more organized now to do the same, but we aren't.

We are organized in our garbage however.

In Geneva compose is put into the building's compost bins and picked up. Trash is taken to the various containers which separate bottles, paper, Nespresso type coffee container cups. There is usually a place for donations.

In Argelès, we have compost (brown) and paper/bottle (yellow). The bins are emptied on alternate days.

Big stuff is taken to déchetterrie. Admittance is by residence card, available with proof such as an electrical bill. There it is sorted into minute detail.

With my love of not having anything extra, responsible disposal and donations are easy.

And that's pretty as the sound of the word poubelle---po - belle.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Friendship bonds

Friendships build slowly with shared experiences and sometimes with misunderstandings.

There is a friendship I treasure, albeit an unlikely one. In politics my views are blacker than coal and hers whiter than Clorox bleached linen. Strangely we share the same basic values, it is the paths to reach those destinations that differ. We are good enough friends that we can express our differences, probably each hoping to sway the other as we know there's not a snowball's chance in a very, very, very hot place of doing so.

It doesn't matter.

Our friendship spans two continents and coming up to two decades. We only met because of a business connection and a dinner. We finished the business quickly and went on to do what women do best--bond.

Over the years there have been visits to each other's homes and more memory blocks laid.

Only on our last visit did I learn how a misunderstanding could have put an end to our budding friendship instead of being a building block

She was staying in my nest in the south of France. It's a tiny studio.

My friend was taking a shower. "Don't touch anything in the fridge," I called as I ran out.

She wondered if she done anything wrong? Did I think she would steal food?

All was clear to her when I returned with croissants fresh from the oven from the bakery around the corner and some local fruit for breakfast. I hadn't wanted her to eat when a local feast awaited.

The degree of the misunderstanding was revealed years later and we laughed. Just another building block in a friendship.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Confetti is forever

Two years ago we rode the little yellow bus/train in the Argelès Carnival where we gaily threw confetti at the crowds and was thrown at in equal numbers.

Our hair was multi colored as we walked home and although we divested ourselves of what we thought was all of the confetti for the next year we would find bits and pieces in pockets, gloves, etc.

Some of it even went to Switzerland with us.

This year we again went on the little yellow bus/train and again came home covered. Even the animals were not exempt.

And every day since we have find a piece or two of confetti somewhere in the flat.

Also, we have found a bit of confetti in a wall. We will keep checking it to see how long it will stay.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Single mom

My goal was to raise my daughter in a normal family with a mother and father.

It was not to be and I found myself with an infant of a few weeks--a single mom.

In high school, my world history teacher said that children of single moms would be delinquents. Although a quiet student, I told him I was not a delinquent and my mother was a single mom. For all the problems I had with my mom, lack of love and guidance were not two of them.

Unlike many single moms I knew my father and stepmom were there if I needed them.

I ended up living for many years with a man and a woman who became as much family as if they were blood relatives.

They provided a balance.

My daughter was known to say, "Don't you think you should check with Bill and Susie to see if you are being too strict?" She never thought I wasn't strict enough.

Sometimes Llara felt overwhelmed by "the committee" which also include Susie's parents.

From my point of view however, since parenting is the ultimate on-the-job training, they were there for me to double check when I was unsure. And it gave her more people to love and be loved by.
I was also lucky that as a professional and having three salaries thanks to the co-living arrangement, I did not struggle as much financially as many single mom did.

But mostly it was the emotional support and the fun we had together.

If my world history professor were still alive I would show him the strong, independent, socially responsible loving woman my daughter became--no where near a delinquent.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

budget cruelty

When my beloved step mom was younger than I am now, I asked her to come and live with me in Switzerland. She refused, because she didn't want to leave her home and friends to live in a strange county. She understood that I could not care for her in her old age in the same way from a different continent.

As the years passed her body stayed strong but her mind did not. I could not move to Florida to be with her but even with limited resources (not everyone in Switzerland is rich)  a part time caretaker was arranged until we could find a place for her in a Veterans home. She had served in the navy in WWII.

Thru out her life she was a good citizen, working as a school secretary, voting, paying taxes, participating in her community. Never were the children from her husband's (my father) marriage "his" but we were "ours" along with her two. I was the only surviving child.

On days the caretaker couldn't come, my mom had meals on wheels. It served not only to provide food, but a check she was alive.

There are those elderly that do not have even the limited backup my step mom did. Meals on wheels is a lifeline.

It is hard to believe that any administration that would want to cut this service to its citizens but there is.

Cruelty is the only word I can think of.

Norma Boudreau
She was an exceptional woman who benefited from meals-on-wheels.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

FATCA again

The bank service rep was apologetic as she tried to explain FATCA to us and was relieved when I told her how involved I was in fighting it.

Rick and I have two accounts. We had already signed forms: he was American and was tax compliant: I was not American and had no US tax obligations.

Never the less, under FATCA my financial information, which should be personal, will be transferred to the US. The choice would be not to have a joint account with my husband which does not meet other financial needs we have.

Despite that, the bank needed verification. AGAIN!

The service rep was young, beautiful and charming. She explained how she'd spent hundreds of hours learning about FATCA, she said, in courses and thru e-learning. I think of all the banks in the world that have had to train their people and the huge productive waste that only cost banks money which were passed onto their clients that have nothing to do with the US.

The IRS assumes all expats are rich tax cheats. Rick and I are neither Rich nor tax cheats.

FATCA, the alleged solution, is an agreement signed with the majority of countries that all banks have to report all US citizen accounts to the IRS. Failure can result in a 30% of asset penalty and being shut out of the international financial market. The US is bully that can carry out the threat. Reciprocity, which is part of most of the agreements, is not happening.

Although I am not a big fan of the big banks, I feel sorry for them as well as sorry that as group they did not tell where the US to go.

This is the third time I've had to verify my US non-connection. The first was to explain why I sent $300 to my daughter in the States. The second was to preserve my life insurance. The implied threat was to be dropped as a client.

When I renounced I felt I had a choice between being American and having a normal financial life. I did not think my birth nationality would continue to make my life difficult.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Death by Facebook

"Oh, no. Jules died." Rick said. We were both writing at our desks.

It was as if I'd been hit in the stomach although I never met her or her husband Stuart.

I knew her and her husband only thru Facebook. We are on With Flying Colours, a Facebook photographic group which posts photos with a different color theme each week.

He has a weird sense of humor in his postings and in his comments. He also posted regular updates on his wife's cancer treatments.

She was diagnosed in 2011. The couple has been fighting this disease for six years when the doctors predicted only three. In his blog, Stuart wrote, 'Jules said to me “Look…, the one thing about all of this is that we won’t be able to live long and enjoy our old age together.” So we decided to have our old age together NOW !!'

We saw thru his Facebook postings when things were terrible and when there were glimmers of hope. We saw when he lost it posting the word "cancer" over and over.

The one thing that came thru was the couple's love.

In another series of Facebook postings from Australia, earlier this year Kai died of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) cancer. He was just a few weeks short of his fourth birthday. His mother posted each step of the family's trauma, when hope was raised and when it was dashed. Pictures of this beautiful little boy were heart wrenching.

She did it to raise awareness for disease research and received support in messages from all over the world.

Local Australian papers picked up the story.

Kai was taken home to die in his parents arms.

I never met this family either, but I cried too when his death was posted. As a mother, I cannot  imagine what it would be like to lose my child.

Some might say that these things should stay private. I say not if it helps the survivors, not if wishes from strangers helps give them strength to do what needs to be done.

From losing people I love and have known personally, I know no matter what, there is that terrible moment when after all that has to be done is done, the loneliness and the realization that one can never hear the voice, feel their arms, share a laugh again. One only has the memories to bring us thru the pain.

To Stuart and to Kai's mom, I can do nothing but wish them strength and courage to carry on.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Dear NSA, CIA...

I haven't written for a long time because I figure you can monitor me thru my laptop. Why should I take the trouble to tell you what you already know.

You must have missed me for about 12 days because I left my laptop at home while I was traveling. I only have a dumb phone which I usually can't find and didn't take with me either although that wouldn't have been much help to you.

When I came back from holiday, I discovered from the news that CIA can watch me thru the TV. There was the rumor about microwaves being able to monitor me, but I don't believe that.

By now you know that we are awaiting a new decoder for our TV. Maybe you assumed that was why there was no activity when we were away.

Once the TV is plugged in again, I think my husband and I will make love. We hope that a couple of wrinklies doing it on the couch in front of the TV will gross you out.

Best wishes,
D-L Nelson

P.S. NSA---how do you like my hair now that it has grown out?

La La Land

The night after the Oscars, we walked the 76 steps to our local movie theatre to see La La Land in version originale.

We were a few minutes late and ironically Moonlight was on the screen. It was only a trailer.

Sometimes when so many people rave about a movie it is impossible not to be disappointed. Expectations are too high to be realized and this was the case.

The opening dance scene was intriguing but gratuitous. I wanted to know how they filmed it and how motorists disturbed by the filming felt.

I remember none of the songs.

If I could come up with one word for the movie's acting, singing, dancing and plotting it would be "adequate" and am happy I paid 5 Euros and no more.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Intermittent postings

I will be traveling until March 12 and not sure how much posting time I will be doing. Please, please check in with me in mid March.