Friday, June 30, 2017

Minimalist

I seldom use paper clips since it almost all my paperwork is on the computer BUT when I do I have four special paper clips...and only four. I don't need more.

I love to keep my possessions to a bare minimum and that includes office clutter.

I love mundane things not to be mundane.

I've had these clips for at least 10 years.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Hill


When I was in Mrs. Jones's Kindergarten at age four, there was a playground with a huge hill. We had trikes that we could ride down the hill. For weeks I was afraid, but one day I tried it and then, because it was so much fun, did it again and again whenever it was my turn each day.

As an adult passing the house where the kindergarten had been, I stopped to look at the scary hill. It was only a gentle slope.

That hill is a metaphor for my life. When faced with a new project, fear is followed by discovery that I can do it and satisfaction at completion.

Right now I am facing a big, big hill. I am writing a creative non-fiction work about abortion prior to Roe v. Wade making it legal.

As I organize and reorganize all of it, ideas of how to structure the book, are beginning to form. My subject folders and to-do lists are growing. I've even been able to write three chapters while I continue to search.

BUT...

...every time I find information I've been seeking, ten more pieces pop up. The hill is becoming a mountainette.

This is a much harder climb than my novels. www.donnalanenelson.com ever were, much harder than all the journalistic writing I've done.






The book will be called Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, based on methods used by women to self-abort before abortion was legal.

The goal is to send it to those who want to change the laws to show that making abortion illegal will only increase the deaths of mothers along with babies. Abortion will never be stopped. Women who want abortions, will find a way.

So much better to offer birth control alternatives before there is a need.

As for that hill...I've my climbing equipment and ready to continue.



Joy


"I've got color back," my friend said on the telephone.

This was pure joy for me and even more for her. I call her my Fruit Loop in a bowl of Cherrios friend, taking it from someone else's description. She is one of the most original people I know and most of my friends are very creative in many different ways.

She has been thru an incredible medical journey including recovering from cancer only to need brain surgery six weeks ago. In both cases she grabbed every moment of joy possible which was possible to find without negating the frightening problems she faced.

She is an artist making three-dimensional gift cards that are impossible to throw out. She started a Facebook group called Flying colours where ever week the theme changes and 142 amateur photographers post pictures. Themes have been colours, combination of colours, shadows, metals, furniture...

Her friends were thrilled to hear she came thru her recent surgery unscathed--until shortly after she lost the ability to see anything but shades of grey. Her doctors did not give optimistic odds on her regaining her ability to see colours that she loved.

She faced it like she had faced all her other challenges accepting the fear and determined to make the best of it.

Yesterday she went to run out her door. She thought it was open.

It wasn't.

She hit her head and was knocked to the floor.

When she sat up she saw colour...

We celebrated last night with other friends and pizza and unlimited joy for her.



 





Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Alzheimer's

The doctor's office was stark with about 30 hard chairs. Paris Match, L'Express and other magazines were on one of the side tables.

A middle-aged couple were the only other patients waiting.

A couple, probably in their late sixties walked in. She was over weight and had a paisley printed cane.

He greeted the other couple as old friends. Then he came over to me and took my hand in both of his.

"Heureux de faire votre connaissance," he said, looking deep into my eyes.

"Merci. I'm pleased to meet you too," I said in French thinking it strange. I know people greet each other when they enter a waiting room but in a genera "bonjour" kind of way but not much more.

He took a seat next to his wife.

She dropped her cane.

He reached down and picked it up then pretended it was a riffle and shot at several targets (not at me or the other couple) around the room.

"Calme toi!"  his wife ordered. 

He put down the cane.

"Au moins, il n'est pas chargé," I said hoping to lighten the situation. Of course my imagination thought of a rifle that was a gun. 

"Il a Alzheimer's," she explained. 

Before I could respond the doctor called me. 

Walking home, I thought of the better-for-worse-in-sickness-and-in-health part of their wedding vows. I wondered what he had been like as a young man. She has so much on her shoulders. 

It would be nice to rap up this blog with some wise conclusion, but like the couple's situation, there is none.
 



Monday, June 26, 2017

NSA


Dear NSA...

It's been a long time since I've written but I figure you've kept track of us without me saying anything.

I was reminded of the long reach of just about everyone in this day and age, when we were visiting friends in Paris.

When we turned on our laptops it registered the address we were at.

They say you can see and hear us through our computers. I suppose my ultimate revenge would be to sing all day long. An ear can only stand so much pain.

Of course we know how much we are exposed to advertisers too. Rick looked at an ad for a Triumph Spitfire and within hours other Spitfire ads were winking at him from the keyboard. What do you think? Should we get one or not?

How about a puppy? A rescue dog? I am sure our conversations about that is getting boring.

In any case because we will be leaving the house without our phones, I wanted to let you know we will be heading to the doctor's around 2 for a normal check up. Sorry there are no cameras in ASM so we will be off grid for a short time.

You can listen in to my phone interview at 6 but if it doesn't take too long, than we'll be heading up to L'Hostalet for something cool afterwards.

If you want to do something else later and take a break, we will probably watch another episode of West Wing Season 3 and dream that Martin Sheen is really our president. Have you noticed that the problems they discussed a decade or so ago are still on the agenda today?

Not sure if we will make love tonight, but we could leave the webcam on if you want to resell photos as wrinkly porn.

Guess that is all for now.

I will try and do better in writing.

Love,
DL

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Layla

Baby birds outside Layla's window in Damascus

"When are you coming to Damascus?" Layla voice is strong thru the telephone. I am sitting in her niece's (my sister of choice) flat in Puteaux, just outside of La Defense in Paris.

It is hot. We've just had a breakfast, half Syrian with its yogurt and olive oil, half French with its croissants.

"When it is calmer." Her niece has told me before handing me the phone that Layla has said bombs were going off not too far from her.

Layla's voice bring back so many memories. I met her when she visited her niece  who at the time lived across the hall from me in Geneva. This was the in the 1990s.

I stayed with her every time I went to Damascus. She showed me her favorite parts of the city, herded me across terrifying traffic, took me with her to visit her friends. She roamed the country with her niece, her other niece and me. We saw Aleppo when it was beautiful, the lost cities and the ancient city of Ebla, a ruin from 3000 BC.

There were 17,000 cuneiform tablets translated by an Italian professor, I later met him in Rome while researching a novel I cannot write because the plot is about a peaceful Syria.

Even more I remember the days sitting in her living room with other friends, many of whom I came to know when they had visited Geneva. We sipped mate laced with cardamon thru silver spoon/straws and nibbled seeds and talked and talked and...

The women spoke in English to me as much as possible, lapsing into Arabic sometimes, than providing me with a summary. Our lives have been very different and yet at the same time there were so many things we had in common as women.

Layla's niece put on the speaker phone. Layla went to Arabic with her niece translating for us both when necessary.

I would love to be in her living room again.

Even more I would love the bombs to stop.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Macron

I was sitting inside a Dassault business jet eating a dark chocolate offered by the attendant, dressed in the black and red sheath that most of the Dassault female employees were wearing at the Paris Air Show.

David, an engineer and weekend pilot, was explaining the features of it and like models, such as a bedroom for the CEO, chairs that turn into beds, a shower.

The seats were leather and screens for wifi and other entertainment were available. Everything a person could want. Likewise, the plane could be adapted to whatever needs the buyer wanted including decor.

"Regardez, par la fenêtre!" the attendant cried.

We did.

There was the French president, Macron checking out the plane we had looked at a few minutes before. What was astounding was the small security detail and the fact that we had had been allowed anywhere near the area when the head of state was expected.

"Est-ce-que Bridgette est la?" the attendant asked. We saw no sign of his pretty blond wife.

I wouldn't mind Rick getting me one of those planes for my birthday. It would be so much easier to have it parked in Geneva or Perpignan just waiting for our next trip. No security lines. No worry about making the airport on time. A bed to sleep in for our longer hauls.

I am not expecting it though.



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Early arrival

Getting to the train or plane early has been an obsession with me since I worked for a company that insisted every possible second be booked and if you missed a flight, you paid for the extra charges.

Too many times I have arrived at the departure gate, my high heels in hand, panting from my OJ-run thru the airport corridors.

So when I said we should leave Puteaux at 8 to get our train from Gare de Lyon, Rick didn't think anything of it.

It is our tradition to eat breakfast at the Montreux Jazz Café, which used to be Le Train Bleu brasserie. Le Train Bleu restaurant is still there.

I was still worried about making the 10:07 train, when Rick said, "But the train doesn't leave until noon. It was the train coming up that left at 10."

Now even for me, being that early is bit OTT.

"I just that it was you being you," he said to my question about why didn't he question me.

We arrived at the station by 8:30.

"Let's see if we can get an earlier train."

We could.

We had a lovely breakfast, had time to buy sandwiches for lunch and did make a 10 am train.

Next time I will check the tickets more carefully, but I still want to allow plenty of time for any mishaps.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

away

We are heading to the Paris airshow and visiting with family of choice members. Will be back blogging late next week.

Friday, June 16, 2017

30 years

For almost thirty years I've been saying, I should go to the Fortress de Salses which is close to Argelès-sur-mer every time I passed it, which was often. Today was the day. One word...

Incredible!

Built at the order or Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain and costing about 20% of their wealth, it is high tech for the 15th century. It took by 500 worker six and a half years. Contrast that with Boston's Big Dig to put an elevated bridge underground sixteen years with modern equipment and many more workers.

How was it high tech? Partially because architect Lopez worked with Arab experts to make the walls thicker and deeper than any other fortress of its time. Ventilation allowed for shooting of fire arrows without killing the archers. The ability to fire cannonballs thru out meant that the fort was protected on all sides.

There was an almost modern sewer system, about one toilet for every 15 men stationed. The waste was treated with charcoal before flushed out to sea.

Rain water was trapped by slanted walk ways. Combined with underground springs water for all needs including cleanliness was never an issue.

A dumb waiter brought food to the dining room (and storage area of food was enough to outlast a multi-week siege) and there was a sink to wash one's hand before dinner.

I marveled at the original doors of iron and wood.
The tour was mainly in English, but the guide would repeat things in German and Spanish for the couples whose English was weak.

Remind me not to wait 30 years to see other things that trip my interest.










Thursday, June 15, 2017

Random thoughts

Random thoughts while reading in bed.

I really like the Show and Tell Fiction piece in the New Yorker.

I should count how many times the church bell rings at seven, but I don't think of it until it has been ringing for a while.

When I was little I thought of our front hall as the beach and the parlor (extra living room) as the Atlantic and I would wade in the imaginary water. Sometimes I would roll around on the rug and pretend the waves were coming in.

The huge hill at my kindergarten turned out to be only a slight slope when I was a teenager.

I wonder if congress will take mass shootings any more seriously now that some of them have been a victim.

I heard, but can't verify that the congressman hit voted against gun restrictions for mentally ill. I can't help think poetic justice, but feel badly I think that.

So glad my kid is still here.

Looking forward to Paris. Not sure what I should take for the awards dinner outfit.

Must remember to email my landlord about watering their flowers.

Should I wash the spread today.

If I get up now I will get some good writing time.





 


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Love is

Love is...

I don't want to get schmaltzy or anything, but I don't think love is great proclamations or the buying of expensive jewelry.

I think it is the every day little acts of consideration and warmth...such as...

Bringing a cup of tea in the morning before your lover gets up. I use the word lover because my husband is also my lover and a best male friend. Female friends are different than male friends and viva la difference.

Making sure the towel warmer is on.
Leaving a heart on a bed you've made.

My dad could never say "I love you" although he would reply "me too" when I said I loved him. However, I knew he loved me when he gave me his green stuff from a baked stuff lobster which he adored as much as I did if not more.

I know my daughter loves me when she comes carrying blueberry muffins from Dunkin' Donuts or sends a cryptoquote book things I can't get in Switzerland or France. 

I try and reciprocate with the towel warmer and bringing my husband a treat. I want to make sure he is comfortable with whatever we are doing.  I will send my daughter Irn bru every so often when she's been having a difficult period at work or the weather is horrible. 

Not big stuff, little stuff. 




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Flowers

Sitting behind L'Hostalet sipping tea and munching Catherine's savory tarts, we watched the vendors and customers at the marché. They gave us much inspiration for my writing friend and I to do our ten minute exercises creating a flash fiction piece. The only drawback was we know too many people to chat with. And people come first. But we did get one piece written. Here it is unedited.


GINA spent at least 10 minutes trying to decide to buy flowers. She left the marché stand, selected cheese and tomatoes from Jean and Pierre's stalls.

The desire for flowers was too strong. She went back. Lilies were four euros, a mixed bouquet five, and a single rose three.

"Is it a gift?" the vendor asked.

"Yes." It was a gift for herself.

He put the flowers in a transparent film, took yellow and orange ribbons and made a bow near the bottom of the stems. He used a small knife to run down the ends, creating curly cues.

Gina's other errands were mundane, although the smell of fresh bread from the oven made the bakery smell heavenly. The butcher was able to sell her a cheap piece of mutton, that she knew she could stew into tenderness

Back home she put the flowers in a vase on the kitchen table, but then moved them to the living room.

As she prepared the stew, she changed her mind and returned the flowers to the kitchen table. She found herself smiling every time she saw them as she moved from table to counter to stove in preparing the lamb stew.

The kitchen door opened. Thomas stormed in. "What are those?"

"Lilies."

"How much did you pay for them?"

She told him.

"God damn waste of money." He went into the living room slamming the doors behind him.

She looked at the flowers and a wave of sadness swept over her not at the waste of money on flowers but the waste that was her marriage.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday morning

As I head out to buy a croissant, the neighborhood cat, decides to visit.
Laurent sets up La Noisette for the day.

The church bells have rung for its 7 o'clock mass.

Mille et Une has set out its local goodies. One woman has drunk her coffee.

Elisabeth and her son Daniel among their veggies and fruits. Their cheeses are great too.
The streets are still deserted. Many stores will stay closed for Monday. 

One man is out for his fresh breakfast bread. I love the sign where the owners denying their bread is not baked by them and gives the address of their oven. It is important whether it is industrial bread or done by locals.

The street cleaner heads back to the garage.

Came home for the end of the fresh fruit salad after yesterday's picnic and the smushed Dunkin' Donuts blueberry muffin loving carried from Boston by my daughter.

Life is good, very good.








Sunday, June 11, 2017

2 Conversations

Within one day I had two conversations that I found were real head shakers.

Conversation 1.

Rick and I were walking to the car to go to the bio store to pick up tahini for our picnic Sunday. As we passed the movie theatre, two little girls went shooting down the slope and into the street on bikes. They didn't look. Granted it is not a heavily trafficked street, but had a car been coming, the little blond in the lead would have been hit.

The local priest was coming our way. He is young, good looking. I said in French that maybe since he was going in the same direction as the girls he might tell them that it was dangerous to ride into a street without looking.

His reply?

He couldn't do that. He was a priest.

Conversation 2

The library is the building in the right hand corner of the photo. Tables and chairs had been set outside. In the library was a chorale group. This was the big music weekend in France and the concert was free.

As they finished singing Cohen's Hallelujah, I spied one of the mamies Mamies are the old women of the village (although some may be younger than I am.) They've spent their entire lives here and do have some kind of wisdom but are far from worldly.

I greeted her. She pointed to three Arab women in long skirts and hijabs which led to a tirade on how they should dress like other French if they want to live here. Our village has quite a few Arabs, and I try and greet them in "mahaba" to show my acceptance. If they want to continue in Arabic, we need to switch to French.

I was surprised by the mamie's vehemence.

"If you were in their country, would you dress like them?" I was hoping to plant a seed of tolerance.

She looked at me as if I were crazy.

"Of course not, I'm a good Catholic."

Our future conversations will have to do with the antics of the neighborhood cats, the weather, the flowers that are blooming on the street. None of the flowers will be tolerance blossoms.

I


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles



May 8, 2017

What I accomplished or didn't during my second week of trying to write this book on abortion before 1973 in the United States. Maybe other writers can sympathize with the distractions that can slow down one's work.


Flying back to France from Boston, our plane is late landing in Paris.

“No running,” my husband said. He had run for a tram in, last November and fell. His hand still hurts. Also he has helicopter tendencies with me that would do any helicopter mom proud. I don't mind.

We make it thru short custom and security lines He does a final sprint to the gate, points me out to the staff, as I huff and puff my way by the gates.

We make the plane—just. Our luggage stays in Paris.

We pick up the car in Toulouse and drive to our home, a village on the Mediterranean going back to the time of Charlemagne.

Jet lag hits, like it has never hit before. Working is complicated by lack of luggage, the need to buy a new stove top and installation problems. Granted our electricity doesn’t go back to the Middle Ages when the house was built, but sometimes it seems the case. The installer keeps saying “dangerous, dangerous.”

We track our luggage on the internet.

We try and work, but the feeling of being underwater continues. Sleep is at a premium.

Our village is the type where we can walk to everything, including 76 steps to the movie theatre, Stores, cafés, doctors. Everything we need is close. When I buy the fresh-baked bread at the boulangerie, a five-minute walk from the house, I can be gone all day as I run into this and that person. On this walk, I see a couple we know and are summer people, have made a quick hop over the Channel for a few days.

Despite Rick’s writing deadlines and my desire to delve into my abortion project, we put people first. A cup of coffee and catch-up is a must. A non-coffee drinker, I consumer espresso which restores a bit of coherence. It ebbs and flows.

The internet tells me that most of my ordered research books are in process of being sent. Others are on my Kindle.

I have found a book. Abortion Counseling and Social Change from Illegal Act to Medical Practice: The Story of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (Paperback) by Howard Moody, Arlene Carmen, the CCS founders. However, the book costs over $1,000. I wonder if I can track a copy.

I start to read When Abortion was a Crime: Women, Medicine and Law in the United States on my Kindle. It is slow going, not because it is difficult reading, but every few pages there are things to research. And I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough. I need to follow up on:
·       Sarah Grosvenor who had an abortion in Pomfret CT in 1745.
·       Ann Trow, Madame Restell, a woman who died wealthy from her abortion business in the 1800s.
I send emails to:
·       The Motherless documentary producers
·       PA ACLU
·       Judson Memorial Church where Moody began the CCS.
·       First Presbyterian Church

I reorganize my files. Unlike writing a novel this comes in bits and pieces and keeping track as well as keeping sources straight are more of a challenge.

A woman from New York has sent me several leads to where I might be able to find women who had abortions pre-1973.

As jet lag slowly ebbs, I prepare for work in week 3.

Friday, June 09, 2017

The purple squirrel

My daughter was complaining she was having trouble finding the purple squirrel. Neither Rick or I understood until she explained as an HR Person it was a future employee with an impossible combination of skills to find.

As I write this, she is at Dublin airport waiting for the next leg to visit us for nine days.

On Tuesday we went to Spain with Swedish friends Rolf and Eva for lunch.

"Wouldn't it be nice if we could find a purple squirrel for Llara?" Rick asked.

After lunch he and Rolf headed for a toy store on a squirrel hunt, although they did spend more time in the drone and model section. No luck.

On the drive back was stopped at woodworker's atelier, filled with hand-carved toys, baskets, furniture and more. As Eva and I puttered around, I noticed Rick and Rolf smiling and talking animatedly.

They had found a carving board with the outline of a squirrel burned into the wood.

"We can paint it purple," Rick said.

"I can give you paint if you don't have any," Eva, who is an artist, said.

We stopped at their house and went into her studio. She took dabs of blue, red and white, put them on a piece of paper, dropped the paper in a plastic bag and handed me a brush.

Once home, I painted the squirrel.

I know she will be surprised.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Writing life


I can be slow at times.

I just realized how much of a writing life I follow.

This week I gave a writing work shop on character develop to a group of beginning writers who were so responsive. I used to give workshops regularly, but hadn't for a while. It was fun preparing the workbooks and sharing what I know. Their responses were often brilliant and always interesting.

As always I am engrossed in the book I am working on, but this time it is a real challenge because it is creative non-fiction, Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles. I wake in the middle of the night, my mind full of lists to check, research and words.

All spring I've been looking at my work that isn't published, editing it to make it stronger (it always can be better) and trying to find a new publisher.

My free writing sessions with a writing mate have fallen off because of her schedule, although a couple of time, I've done it on my own. There's nothing like sitting in a café with a cup of tea or hot chocolate, spying something, anything and writing for ten minutes without stopping. Whenever I do, my other writing is always better. I compare it to pouring water into a pump to get it flowing.
In January I was part of a panel discussion with two other writers at the American Library in Paris and did a reading in Geneva later in the winter.

Maybe it is the feeling that I'm never making the progress I want to that I doubted my writer's life.

I must remember the times I walked to work, plotting what I would write after spending the day earning a living in work that was underwhelming. So...I must celebrate the life I have now and never stop appreciating it.

Yesterday, I was talking with another writer about a project she has with a non writer and an artist to create a story set in the 1800s. It sounds exciting.

Anyone who sees me whinging has my full permission to give me a swift kick.



Tuesday, June 06, 2017

A loss

Helen Dunmore
1952-2017

I learned of Helen's death on Facebook. Her birth and death dates were posted by Lynne Reese, one of my seven "cohorts" in my Masters in Creative Writing program(me) at Glamorgan University, Pontypridd, Wales and a poet whose work I adored.

The program had four aspiring poets and four hopeful novelists who spent eight weekends at the university over a two-year period, plus a writing retreat week at the retirement home of former prime minister David Lloyd George. In between we were sent home to write and write and write. 

The poets were expected to produce a publishable collection of poetry, the fiction writers a novel. All of us needed to write an academic thesis on an author or poet.

My novel, The Card, was later published in the US and Germany. My thesis was on John Irving.

Each weekend started on Friday night with a published writer, talking about their work. The rest of the weekend was critiquing. Each one of us had a reader/mentor whom we worked worth one-on-one. They scrutinized each word we produced.

Besides our grueling sessions with our mentors, we spent the rest of the time in a group critiquing session with the other cohorts and the other mentors, except for the one in session with their own person which might run an hour or more. Examining each other's work closely taught us much about writing as the writing-rewriting process itself.

Helen was one of the mentors, although not mine. She had not yet won the Orange Prize, for A Spell of Winter, the first given. The Orange Prize was awarded only to women writers, who were too often overlooked for the Man Booker Prize. She was long listed for that in 2010 for The Betrayal. Over the years she picked up many other prizes for her work.

We bemoaned in one cafeteria session (the refractory's food was terrible) that women's subjects were not taken as seriously as men's. It is true in all the arts. Mary Cassatt's and Camille Claudel's domestic paintings and sculptures were never given the consideration that male artists of the period were. Poet Erica Jung made a similar comment: "When Random House's Modern Library imprint issued a list this past summer of the best novels in English published during the twentieth century, surely I was not alone in noticing that only nine books written by women were among the designees."

As both a poet and novelist, Helen's comments during those long critiquing session were invaluable.  She'd push her long blond hair out of her eyes, hold the manuscript in her hand, mention the page number and paragraph and give her opinion. Our eyes would follow. Heads would nod.

When I was the target of  Helen's comments, I never felt attacked. She had a way about her delivery, that made me think, "Of course, why didn't I write it that way?" If she asked about motivation or back stories, order or any other part of the work, I knew she had honed in on a weakness and that her motivation was only to make the work stronger.

Last year she was supposed to come to the Geneva Writers Group as one of the master teachers and then had to cancel. I was disappointed because I would have loved to have seen her again, but more disappointed because the other writers would not get a chance to benefit from her writing wisdom.

Her novels and poetry rest a tribute to her talent, and for readers to enjoy.

 




When Random House's Modern Library imprint issued a list this past summer of the best novels in English published during the twentieth century, surely I was not alone in noticing that only nine books written by women were among the designees. The list created controversy–as lists are meant to do. - See more at: http://www.ericajong.com/articles/nation9812.htm#sthash.EPXJq3Oj.dpuf
When Random House's Modern Library imprint issued a list this past summer of the best novels in English published during the twentieth century, surely I was not alone in noticing that only nine books written by women were among the designees. The list created controversy–as lists are meant to do. - See more at: http://www.ericajong.com/articles/nation9812.htm#sthash.EPXJq3Oj.dpuf