Sunday, July 30, 2017


I've been accused of always being happy. Not totally true. The people who say this haven't been around at the times when I'm down.

People look at me when I say much of my cancer was fun. I certainly wasn't talking about the weakness after chemo, but the wonderful nursing staff that made each session like a ladies tea party or how it cemented my new husband's and my relationship. (Still would have preferred to miss it, but then again, I wouldn't have met some wonderful people and confirmed that I married the right guy.)

I usually can make the best of any situation, even if rising to the occasion does get tiring. With a new problem there's the "Oh Shit Factor" of knowing what has to be dealt with than searching for anything from "This is Okay Factor" to "If This Hadn't Happened, I Would Have Missed Out On (fill in the blank) Factor.

One of my thrilling experiences was interviewing Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland,  former head of High Commission for Refugees and a personal heroine of mine. When I asked her how she could still be optimistic after walking thru bodies in Rwanda, she put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye and in her wonderful Irish brogue said, "My dear, I find the glass always a quarter full."

And then there was the day that my writing wasn't going well and several small annoyances marched across my screen. My housemate at the time heard me muttering.

"Stand up," she ordered. "Turn around and keep your eyes shut."

I obeyed. I kept my back to the computer for several minutes.

"Now turn around."

I did. What I saw was not my computer, but the window above it. The sky was bright blue and contrasted to the spring green of the tree outside. Beautiful!

I managed to keep my calm for the rest of the day. She and I took a break at a nearby restaurant and at night we had popcorn and a DVD, the annoyances a thing of the past.

A friend on Facebook published the photo at the top and said she thought of me. It is a perfect example of how point of view makes such a difference. There is a lesson besides the words themselves. Sometimes we need look from a different direction to see what is good.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Meeting Eleanor II

July 24th was the day.

As a child, whose mother consider going two towns away the end of the earth, I could only dream about seeing the things I'd read about.

As an adult, my geographic area has  expanded from a few miles outside my hometown to wherever I want to travel. Thus I feel I've "met" Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor,  Mary Stuart, Henry VIII, William the Conqueror and other historical figures because I've stood at their tombs.

I've touched Collette's tomb with a stone and keep the stone near my computer in The Nest (my studio) as well as the burial places of many other writers.

I've "heard" the guns at Lexington and Manasses and imagined the carnage at Culloden. The vibes of history transcend the centuries to today.

Today, though I "met" one of my heroines, Eleanor or Aliénor d'Aquitaine.

The weather is several degrees below the predicted heat, and my husband loaned me his jeans jacket. I had brought nothing warm enough. The ground as we walked to the visitor's center was wet. Bird sang in the trees.

"C'est en français," the woman who sold me the tickets for the abbey tour. I told her I understand
French much better than I speak it, Merci dieu. The guide, a blonde who knew her history backwards, forwards, up, down and around shared details of how the Abbey of Fontevraud came to be and then...then...then we were there.

Ahead of me were the tombs. It seemed forever to walk the distance to where Eleanor had once been put to rest. Her bones were later removed, but she had been there.

She was reading a book. I suppose it was meant to be a prayer book, but with her love of literature and music, a book of poetry may have been more appropriate.

I felt a little smug when I could answer who else was buried there, Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted and Isabella, King John's wife, although I flubbed the latter. I should have known.
I am not sure how Eleanor would have felt about spending eternity next to Henry II. His keeping her prisoner for years might not have endeared her any more than his famous love affair with Rosamond.
Still being close to her favorite son Richard should have pleased her.

The centuries have dulled the colors of the clothes the royalty were wearing on their tombs. Her belt was a pretty blue, and Henry still had his boots and spurs. Part of Eleanor's crown was broken.

The rest of the abbey was fascinating. The hotel where we are staying was once part of the leper hospital. A wall separated the nuns from the monks. The success of the abbey was correlated to its wealthy patrons and the economic times. Napoleon turned it into a prison. Walls today that are just white stone were once covered in religious paintings.

Today it is restored and a UNESCO heritage site. And today, I was so lucky to once again touch history.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Meeting Eleanor I

Eleanor of Aquitaine fascinated me from university days. Married to Louis VII of France, then Henry II of England, mother or Richard the Lion Hearted and John who sign the Magna Carta. Owner of he Aquitaine in France.

After reading another biography of her and seeing Stephane Bern's television program on her life and rewatching Katherine Hepburn's portrayal of her in Lion in Winter for the umpty umpth time, I decided on trying to visit places where she'd been, excluding her crusade to the Holy Land.

What better excuse than my 75th birthday.

This morning we drove thru miles of sunflowers and cornfields to arrive at Fontevraud, where she was buried although her bones have long since disappeared. Still I will be where she was, can imagine what it was like in the 1100s when she helped rule England and part of today's France.

In a way it is like meeting her personally.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The book

Week of July 17th
I’m still undecided how to present Norma McCorvey/Jane Roe in my work-in-progress Coat Hangars and Knitting Needles. For three days I worked on the Hardtalk, Tim Sebastian interview. I had created an almost word-for-word transcript but because this creative non-fiction, I needed to add my reactions, including Sebastian’s atypical kindness to McCorvey.

There are many other videos on the internet featuring McCorvey. Since this isn’t an academic book, I wonder how many I should use. I am leading toward one of the sections being “The Quest for the Real Jane Roe” or something like that.

I’ve moved onto a Nightline story. I will never like the listening and relistening, the watching and rewatching, but accuracy is important.

I know next week will not be productive as we are going on holiday to celebrate my birthday and then home to Geneva where we have bills, appointments and people we want to see, not to mention celebrating the Swiss National Day. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017


I'm a cow (cranky old woman) not this cute, fuzzy representative of bovines.


I'm tired and cranky about human kind, the people who get their knickers in a twist when others don't agree them.

Some of the things I'm tired of.

Cops should not shoot or torture black people. A bullet in the back is NOT self defense.

Cops should not be shot either unless it is self defense.

People who immediately label another person such as liberal, neo con, redneck, etc. without considering anything that might be positive in their arguments.

Guns  killing people.

The US killing people in other countries. Other countries killing people. Killing.

Ignoring pollution and climate change.

Greedy bosses exploiting their workers.


Religious fanatics.


If a soldier fights for his country his handicaps from that service should be taken care of rather than blathering about gratitude.

Dirty water in Flint.

People who get so wrapped up in symbols they overlook the real issues.

The list could go on and on but we are leaving for holiday tomorrow. Maybe getting away from the news will reduce the C in my COW status.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


You can have your Sudoku. I have my Cryptoquotes.

Back in the 70s, in my first professional job, Chris, another member of our team and I would do the Cryptoquote in the Boston Traveler during a break.

For years now my daughter has sent me cryptoquote puzzle books that I keep in the bathroom. Her latest has over 300 and today I finished the 78th. This particular one gives three hints, although I solve many without help.

Some are easy. If they give a writer of the saying names like George or William are easy to guess. Anything with "it is," "that," a single letter, or like the "dbc'ee" in the sample above, I am on my way.

There are also cryptoquotes on line which have the advantage that you don't have to erase or write over your mistakes.

They say puzzles delay dementia. Doesn't matter. I do this for fun.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Walking back from the Auberge where we ate lunch, thru the gardens a bird trilled his opinion of the world.

The day before as I walked back from l'Hostalet thru the Place de la Republique, I heard Bach drifting down from a window. Hearing music from the music school in the old marie building is normal, but this was a third floor flat. I sat and listened for a few minutes.

So many sounds make up my days.
  • The whine of the garbage trucks, followed by the thump of the emptied cans being put down.
  • The church bells, especially at seven when they toll far more than the hour.
  • Rick's soft morning snores
  • A suitcase being pulled over the rough street
  • A mosquito or fly
  • Rick's shuffle as he walks to the bathroom
  • The ding of the oven, stove stop or microwave when 
  • Jean-Marc giving his tour and talking about the architecture of our street outside my window
  • The mushy whish of the dishwasher or washing machine
  • The dull tap tap tap of computer keys
  • An occasional car engine
  • Water running (sink, shower, toilet)
  • Footsteps upstairs
  • Voices in a variety of languages
What I don't often hear, is the sound of total silence. Even in the country or the woods, there can be the rustle of trees, the wind whispering.

The one time I heard total silence was in Iceland, miles from nowhere when I was heading for the small house where I would spend the night. There was a beauty to it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

7 chapters

Week of July 10, 2017

With every book wrote, I always have reached a point, that I felt that I hadn’t made any progress. This was true this week for Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, my creative non-fiction book about abortions in the US prior to 1973.

I spent most of the week transcribing two movies by Dorothy Fadiman:
Both films reaffirmed my belief that nothing, nothing, nothing will ever stop abortions. 

When I hear the number of beds kept in major city hospitals for women who came in daily with botched abortions-20-30-and I multiplied it by the number of hospitals and the number of cities around the US, the numbers made me want to cry. I can only imagine the number of abortions that happened on top of those that went bad. I heard the statistic from more than doctors in different cities.

It’s frustrating that there is no way to know the number of illegal abortions that happened in any given year or decade for that matter of fact. Neither the woman nor the abortionist would report the statistics. I keep looking for statistics, but I get different estimates, but all are too many.

When Dr. Boyd said he performed thousands and Jane, a group of women who provided abortions said they had performed tens of thousands I know that--to use the cliché--the tip of the iceberg.

More and more I wonder why the Pro-lifers think changing the law will change the number of abortions. I don’t doubt their sincerity. I understand wanting to save babies’ lives. One woman in a film kept talking about how wonderful it was to hold her baby. I felt that way when my daughter, a wanted child, was born, although I did feel sorry for her because I didn’t have the slightest idea how to be a mother. We both survived me.

Not all mothers want their babies. Not all mothers protect and love their babies.

I think of friends who were adopted. And adoption is a valid alternative to abortion. Some had loving parents. In a few cases their lives were nightmares caused by the adopted parents.

The pro-lifers seem to simplify what is a not simple.

From the film I did get more wordage for the back cover. “There has always been abortion on demand. Wealthy women will find a place, perhaps in another country. Poor women will resort to back alleys. And if not there they will do-it-themselves."

I rearranged the information in When Abortions were Illegal. From a documentary point of view, breaking down the stories and mixing them worked well, but for print, I decided to put all the material from each of the people together for better story telling. I added a bit of information about Fadiman.

In From Danger to Dignity, I decided on a different approach—a series of quotes that people can scan read.

In both I found subject matter and peoples' names where I planned more research: Dr. Boyd, Lawrence Lader, Arlene Carmen and Howard Moody. Rev. Moody was behind the Clergy Counselling Service that helped women all over America. I’d read about him. I read material by him, and seeing his kind face and his sincerity makes me want to work harder.

The section on Sherry Finkbine, the woman who fought to have her baby aborted when she learned she’d been taking Thalidomine, had to go to Sweden.The fetus was serverly damaged. When she returned to the States, her living children needed FBI protection to walk to school because pro-lifers theatened to tear them limb by limb. I still would like to trace her down for an interview but if I can't this will give much information I need.

I also learned about Jane and Society for Humane Abortion organizations I didn’t know existed but it merits a chapter. If abortion is made illegal these organizations will spring up again.

When New York was about to pass an abortion reform law, the vote was tied. One brave politician (usually an oxymoron) sacrificed his politican career by changing his vote from no to yes. He may have saved hundreds of lives.

I am now listening to If These Walls Could Talk a full-length film covering 40 years in one house with the stories related to abortion.

I have a file for each chapter I want to write with notes as I come across material. When I finish a draft chapter, I transfer it to a book file. I was slightly reassured when I saw there are seven draft chapters done, that I am making progress, not just as fast as I want. That won't change.