Thursday, August 31, 2017


It is a different way of doing things.

Rick needed an MRI or Er E M as they call it in France. He's fine.

Before he was to get the Er E M he needed a shot, but the shot had to be bought from the pharmacy and then taken to the radiology center. The pharmacy needed to call the radiology center to get the information..

Because he didn't have an "ordance" or prescription, rather than have him pay for it (had we been on the French health system it would have been almost free), the pharmacist said get the ordance when we had the Er E M.

We did.

Today we walked in handed over the ordance and paid.

The pharmacist printed out the brown and white form that is used everywhere in France for all medical things, stapled it to the ordance and handed it to us for our Swiss insurance. He still hasn't reached his deductible but just in case he does in the last four months of the year, it will be a very,very, very small percentage of what it would cost in the U.S. As he said, in the U.S. he wouldn't have done it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Argelès-sur-mer is near the Spanish border and if one makes the mistake of asking the older residents if they are French, the reaction will be a sneer. They are Catalan. Across the border, there is a movement among the Catalans to separate from Spain.

The region has gone back and forth between Spain and France and certain warring counts for centuries. The people however have always been Catalan, they say.

The area was not happy when Paris decided to combine three departments into one and even with voting the new name Occitania did not make the locals happy. Occitania had its own language and its own culture unlike Catalonia with its Catalan language.

Yesterday we noticed new street sign going up under the old ones in the village with the old names of the streets along with the Catalan flag. The legend is that the four red stripes represent the blood of an interloper who tried to take over from some count of other. After the count's son killed him, he dipped his fingers in the blood of the dead man and wiped them on his yellow flag.

True or not, it makes a good story and reinforces the local's cultural identity as much as the Sardane dance is, which is performed at the drop of a bagpipe note.
Maybe this may not be that different than the southerns who revel in their historic past. The blood of ancestors flow in their descendants.

To a certain degree, despite giving up my American nationality and becoming a proud Swiss, part of my identity comes from my New England Yankee roots, celebrated in baked beans and a sense of strength and honor instilled by my grandmother.

Outside our flat on rue de la Liberté we fly a Catalan flag and a Geneva Canton flag. Even if my husband is American, it would be hard to add that at the moment with any sense of pride for reasons that go beyond Trump. But proud or not, where we come from will be part of us, no matter how many other cultural layers we build.

I can eat baked beans, fondue, escalivada, listen to alpine horns and stumble thru the Sardane dance and it has all become part of my identity. It doesn't matter if I speak French or English with the R missing in many words.

Maybe our flags in front of the house are the same as the new street signs. A proclamation of who we are. Just lets not go to war over it.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Smart phone

"Let me get this straight," the man behind the counter said. He had to be in his late twenties at most. "You want a telephone for your wife's coffin."

"Yes that way I can still talk to her." The customer was middle-aged and rather good looking.

"First time anyone has asked." The salesman went on line and tapped into the computer. "Hmm, we do have after death plans."

"How much?" The customer asked.

The salesman scrolled down his screen before answering. "That depends. There are three plans for heaven, hell and purgatory."

"A Catholic plan?" the man asked.

"No it covers all religions." He stared at the screen. "And non religious too. No explanations."

"Probably a way to market the plans," the customer said and the salesman nodded.

"Heaven is unlimited calling at 15 Euros each month. That covers all continents. Purgatory is 30 Euros a month and you have 20 hours each month. You can choose three continents and there are time of day limitations."

The man frowned. "What if my wife is in hell. I don't think she is, overall she wasn't that bad, but just in case."

The salesman looked a bit embarrassed. He didn't like to get into personal situations. "One call a month and to only a destination of your choosing."


The salesman consulted his screen. "1,000 Euros each month."

"She better not be in hell," the customer said.

The salesman took out several models. "She won't need a case in heaven, but we recommend one for purgatory and hell. You know how it is."

"And a charger?" the customer asked.

The salesman explained it was a complete package.

"How do I get it to her?"

"Just put it in the coffin."

"We buried her a month ago."

"I suppose you could dig her up." The salesman looked thoughtful. "Or dig a hole next to the grave. I suppose the phone would have to touch the coffin."

The man nodded. "I really miss her. She never wanted a phone, any phone. Used computers all day long, but phones? Went into a fury if anyone called her. Said she'd have one over her dead body. I want to follow her last wish."

Friday, August 25, 2017

Otis ate Normandy

Not only do our summer friends arrive from many countries, they bring their dogs with them to Argelès-sur-mer.

One of our favorite couples have traveled with Roscoe, a cute bundle of fluff with an easy-going disposition. 

He is great friends with Rossi, another summer dog who lives with another favorite couple.

This year however, Roscoe has a step-brother, a cocker spaniel puppy, named Otis. He is beautiful copper color, although his adult coat has yet to come in.

Otis is a bit on the rambunctious side. He is the first of the three to nose my pocketbook for the doggie treats I usually carry.

After he dismembered one of Rossi's toys, he gained the nickname Otis Shredding.

As usual during the summer there are get togethers at various homes. One included children and there was a wooden puzzle with big colored pieces of the departments of France for them to play with.

The party was great, everyone enjoyed the food and sangria, but it was reported the next day that sometime during the night, Otis ate Normandy.

We suspect next summer Otis will be calmer as he matures. If not there are many other departments to tickle his taste buds.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles

Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles is a work in progress about abortion in the US prior to Roe v. Wade. It is an attempt to show people who want to make abortion illegal that it will not stop abortions, but will force women back to the butchers.

I am also documenting the writing of the book including the reasons I never accomplish as much as I want as I balance life against work.

July 31-August 20
We go to Geneva for the Swiss National Day then meet up with a high school friend who is in Zurich for only a few days.
Then we head for Austria where we stay in a bubble, a plastic igloo type construction
on a roof top in the Alps. The bubble holds two beds with violet duvets. There is a space-ship type airlock that has to be unzipped, then zipped before we can enter the bubble. We pretend we are on the Enterprise.
The owners invite us for dinner and we sit outside and talk late into the night when we climb into the bubble and fall asleep looking at the stars.

The next day we head for Liechtenstein and a four-star hotel. It is part three of our four-part honeymoon. The goal is to visit the four principalities. We've already gone to Andorra and Monaco. Rick has told the hotel it is our honeymoon and we find rose petals on the bed in the shape of a heart.
From the terrace we can see the castle occupied by the Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein.
Needless to say my writing is nonexistent.
We head back to Argelès. Our summer friends are here from Ireland, England, Switzerland, Denmark and Canada. We meet up with them at night behind the hotel l’Hostalet where our friends and owner Mattieu and Jonathan offer a variety of wines, beers, juices and teas on the terrace under the trees. Mattieu makes tapenade, some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Different people wander in and out and the conversation covers every imaginable topic.
During the day we are caught up in chores and it seems I can’t get to the laptop as early as I want. When I do I am bogged down. I want a timeline for everything I can find on abortion thru the centuries. I go thru my sources and create it, taking notes on what I want to follow up on. Tedious work.
Every time I think I’ve finished, I find more things to add. However, all the listings prove that abortion on demand has always existed and always will. The question is how safe not if.
At the moment the timeline covers 13 pages with 4,061 words.
As a reward to myself for slogging through the dates, I decide to write a chapter on Madame Restell, who was a leading abortionist in the late 1800s. She franchised her operation and was in and out of jail. I have over 31 pages of notes from many sources.
It takes me four days to produce the five-page first draft. Tomorrow I will do the second.
Rick and I have both decided on a social moratorium to get our writing done. 
I read about writers who sit down in the morning and just write for X number of hours and pages. 
How do they do it?

Monday, August 21, 2017

West Wing

Living overseas there are American television series I've missed seeing such as Northern Exposure which never made it over. Although many of the detective shows are shown on French TV and are dubbed or in vo (version original). West Wing was not one of the series to cross the Atlantic.

Over a decade ago, when I was visiting in Boston, my host and I made it a point to watch West Wing which was run nightly on a cable station. I loved it.

A few years back I found season 5 at the American Library Book Sale in Geneva but never got around to watching it until this year.

Rick and I often opt for DVDs or Netflix at night. We watched them back-to-back and then ordered the complete series and started from the beginning. We are now within two episodes of the end.

We both came to the same conclusion.

The issues haven't changed at all since the series were made: health care, tax reform, etc.

If anything politics are more horrible now with the politicians thinking of party over people much more of the time..

What I would give for Jeb to be my president and CJ the press secretary.

Following the campaign with Vinick (Alan Alda) and Santos (Jimmy Smits) I would like either to be my president because they did several things that were right when it would have been easier to lie.

How sad that the most decent American politicians seem to be are the ones Hollywood creates. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017


We just went to Perpignan to see Dunkirk.

If you like watching planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling withplanes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed, planes shot down, ships filling with water, after being bombed you will love this movie.

If you like a movie with characters who are real and not just faces and sometimes faces with masks, don't bother.

Dunkirk with its rich history could have been a fantastic story. But planes being shot down and ships filling with water after being bombed wiped out any hope of a story.

(I did tell my husband I enjoy even movies I don't like because it is always interesting to determine what went wrong or right.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who was IM

It is not often one can find what a complete stranger was doing on a certain place, date and time 13 years, five months and one day ago.

I received a wonderful book about Eleanor of Aquitaine for my birthday, one of the most entertaining ones, I've ever read. At page 132 I discovered the ACCESS slip for a Continental Airlines (merged with United since 2012).

I was intrigued.  As a person who loves history and not just the big events but the social and cultural mores of other times, this was a tiny bit of history.

What I know is that an Iain Murray should have and probably did board a plane on 14 March 2004 around 7 p.m. for a 7:35. Murray would have walked thru gate 14 (no photos available on Google images)  of Gate 14 of Washington-Reagan Airport.

The plane landed at Houston-Bush airport at or around 9:50 p.m. after covering 1,208 miles. I could find nothing about that flight being delayed, crashed etc.

It is a safe assumption that Murray had the book with him either to read on the plane or to give to someone. The book is not typical flight reading that is more the best seller or business advice genres. Either he or the potential recipient of the book had to have been history buffs.

I wondered if I could locate Murray. It is a common name.

Wikipedia has three
None seemed possible.

Yandex (I don't use Goggle, only search engines that do not report to the NSA. duckduckgo is another)

An Iain Murray, a Scot and at a University, would have been much too young to be on a flight in 2004.

There were pastors, businessmen, scientists and ordinary people who popped up on Yandex and Facebook but none close enough for me to follow up. Twitter produced a Labour MP who seems to like history, but nothing to indicate that he might have been in the US in March 2004. Certainly not enough to ask him.

I guess I will never find my Iain Murray, although he isn't really mine. He might not even be alive.
If he is I would like to thank him for a morning of pleasure doing research (and offering an excuse not to make the bed, unload the dishwasher, review some French and work on my book.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Anti Tourist

I understand the anti-tourism reactions in some of European larger cities such as Barcelona. I don't care how beautiful it is a city I will never go to under any circumstances because of its high pickpocket rate so it can't be anti-me.

Still living in a small village along the Med, Argelès-sur-mer grows 10X, 20x or more during the summer. The sand at the beach is hidden by blankets, restaurants are full and even walking down the street, especially during the Wednesday and Saturday marchés can feel like swimming in an overly fertile school of fish.

On the other hand, these people are the life blood or money blood of the area. Events of all kinds flourish from huge dragon parades to lessons to learn the local Sardane dance. Then there are the Tuesday night village street dances with different types of music each week.

We look forward to the regular summer people who come from many countries and have become friends.

So for two months, the crowds are worth it.

We are lucky as a tourist because we don't have children. We can travel off season, a summer place when it is chilly winter for example.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Off Grid

No news from CNN, BBC, I24 France 24, Al Jazeera, RT

No Facebook

No email

No phone (mobile). We answered our landline.

My husband and I decided to have Off Grid Saturdays.


When we stayed in the Bubble in Austria, there was no working wifi. We survived.

What did we do?

Had a good café sit with friends at the marché.



I went thru all my old photos, throwing many out and dividing them between the ones I'd keep, the family ones going to my daughter when I see her in Scotland next month, and a few to scan.

We had a lovely dinner with friends on a balcony and waiting for the promised shooting stars.



This morning we learned of the hatred in Virginia. North Korea is still a problem. Sides hurl epithets of liberal and conservative as if they were subhuman. Brexit is causing headaches. Nothing we can do anything about.

I can hardly wait until next Saturday when we are off grid again.

Friday, August 11, 2017


One things I love about Facebook is reading about ongoing stories by friends -- one has been the story of  Titi, a little bird who came into the life of a friend.

He was someone I met almost thirty years ago. He visited me with one our mutual friends when I lived in the tiny village of Môtiers, Switzerland. We had no other connection until we became FB friends.

He lives in Paris and found poor Titi, a baby. Taking it home, he nursed her into adulthood.

She flourished. He posted her progress. Then came the day he was due to release her.

Titi was happy in her greater space, but the idea of living outside full time? Not when she had comfortable accommodations with my friend.

Will she continue to return home? Maybe when she meets the love of her life, she may decide to build a conventional nest. Meanwhile my friend seems happy to have her around.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Four years ago today we were rushing around preparing for our Commitment Ceremony. Forty people from seven countries were invited. It had been a week of festivities with friends flying in from different continents leading to special dinners and precious time together.

My dress was ready, made by my late friend Barbara  and my friend Marina rushed to the florist to pick up my  floral headdress.

Llara, Julia, Marina and I walked the couple of blocks to decorate the hall. Patricia was busy preparing the food.

Rick and I had written our vows.

Then it was there.

We exchanged our vows, led by Father Robbert, and aided by my daughter, ate very well, danced to "Love is better the second time around" chatted with our friends.

Like all newly formed couples we weren't sure what would happen next.

What did has amazed me. I am happier than I have ever been in my life and I've been happy most of my life.

Our problems were external such as living permission, a birth certificate issued with a wrong date, filling out tons of paperwork.

We were tested with my cancer which only made our couple stronger.

We learned to humor each other, talk things out, negotiate. Mostly we have had fun in little and big things. Watching a DVD at the end of the day or a romantic evening in Liechtenstein, trips to exotic places or walking to the tearoom around the corner.

Once we were able to clear away certain legal idiosyncrasies of three countries' legal systems, we had a legal ceremony (In many European countries only the ceremony at city hall is legally valid) on May 17, 2015. This time there were two guests, our witnesses, as much family as is possible without blood connection. A lunch at restaurant nearby included champagne.

What a surprise my friend had for us that night. Friends and neighbors came into celebrate with us.

The legal ceremony may keep the authorities happy, a good thing.

What really counts for me was four years ago when I shared my heart and soul with a wonderful man.

Today I reread our vows. They have been lived up to.

Donna-Lane's Vows
Rick …
I cannot give you my heart today for you already have it. You came back into my life when it was full and you made it even fuller.
I know you’ve made tremendous changes so we can blend out lives and every day in every way I promise that I will make you glad you did.
I want to encourage you in your great strengths: your kindness, your lovingness, your creativity, your warmth.
I will be there for you when dark clouds cross our horizons and together we will find the sun even on the blackest days.
I loved you, I love you, I will love you.

Rick's Vows
Donna-Lane ...

You are my soul mate, my life partner. I believe I have loved you from the day I met you. We have been given a unique second chance to be together.
And I intend to devote the rest of my life to making you happy.
You did not need me in your life. You have an abundance of people who love you, and whom you love.
You have welcomed me into that very special circle and I will do everything I can to be worthy of your turst.
I want to bring you joy and laughter.
I want brush away tears, to comfort you in sorrow. I promise to support you in your aspirations, challenge you to be the person you want to be, and to honor and respect your individuality with my whole heart and soul.
Je t’aime ma chérie, je t’aime.

Monday, August 07, 2017


I have friends with beautiful homes. I am so grateful they are theirs. I am happy they are happy.

I must be lazy.

I don't want the work of a big house. I don't want to mow lawns or worry if the gardener will show up. I like when there's a problem, I call the landlord.

Saying the having a home is important to me.  But the smaller (to meet our needs) the better. And filled only with essentials, beauty  and memories is also the better.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

last Saturday on the grid

"What do you think...?"
When my husband starts any sentence the next words will be interesting.

We were eating breakfast on a terrace in the view of the castle residence of the Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein.

The night before we'd been in Austria sleeping in a bubble on a roof top.

We'd eaten with the family and had a wonderful conversation filled with laughter and understanding even though we were multi-national (Swiss, American, Austrian and Scottish).

By the time we climbed into the bubble and tried to check email, the WiFi wasn't working. There were no bars on Rick's smart phone. I only have a dumb phone and seldom know where it is.

The next morning we said our good byes and went on to our Liechtenstein hotel when we reconnected with the world.

"Oh my God, the Mooch was fired." We almost said this simultaneously. "We've only been out of touch 24 hours."

I should explain, we do not use our cell phones t hat much because of the thick walls where we live in Geneva and Argelès.  We are constantly on the internet for pleasure, business and writing. We are news junkies, checking either on the internet, television stations and newspapers from all over the world. And then there is Facebook where we follow new and old friends, participate in a photographic group, deal with FATCA issues and more.

"What do I think about what?" I asked. I finished my pear juice.

"Going off grid a day a week?" he said.


Then I thought about it. It sounded peaceful. "Okay."

So we set up some rules.

Off grid is:
  • No television
  • No internet
  • Our landline can stay on.
  • Midnight Friday night to Midnight Saturday night. This was chosen because Saturday we have the marché where we meet up with friends for coffee, followed by a lunch usually purchased on the marché.
  • We can use the laptop for writing.
  • No smart or dumb phones 
  • It's okay to set the alarm for midnight Saturday, but better not to.
Next Saturday when we are back in Argelès from Geneva will be the first time.

Our last Saturday on grid. 

Friday, August 04, 2017

A love story

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a robot lawn mower named Günther, who worked at a very nice hotel in the Austrian Alps. His job was to once a day mow the grass on top of the roof that overhung the reception area.

He was diligent in his duties, going up and down, up and down, although sometimes just for fun he would cut diagonally across the roof, although he felt guilty. When he docked, he felt good about his work, but he was lonely. There was no one to talk to not even a gardener. There were lots of flowers on the hotel grounds, but none on the roof. 

The grassy roof opened onto a patio that had a glass door. He thought there was a guest room because he could see maids making up beds and people coming with suitcases and leaving with suitcases.

Sometimes guests sat on the patio. He tried to cut the grass when they were there. He invented moves to entertain them including going in circles. Mostly they didn't notice, but every now and then they did. One woman thought it adorable, but the man with her wondered if Günther were broken.

Then one day he looked into the room. Going back and forth over the rug was the most beautiful black and gray vac robot.

He felt what the French call Coupe de Foudre, love at first sight.

He undocked, but by the time he reached the edge of the patio, she'd been taken away.

Regina had noticed Günther too. Unlike him, she had other cleaning robots to talk to. When she was back at the robot closet, she told the other robots. One had seen him, but thought he was a showoff.
Another said he cut down grass, which was destructive.

For the next few days, Regina was taken to other rooms, but then she was assigned the room with the patio and the grass roof top.

Günther felt Regina's presence. He dedocked and rolled over to the patio doors, which were closed.
The two robots moved back and forth with the glass door between them, frustrating to both.

A week went by before Regina was back in the room, but this time the patio door was open.

"Let's run away," Günther said. All he knew he had to be with her. The door to the room was open and the pair started down the hall. They were too far from their docking stations and they had to stop outside room 45.

A maid noticed them. "What are you doing here?" She took them both back to their docking stations.

Günther, although exhausted from lack of connection to his docking station, slept as he recharged. He dreamed he and Regina would be together someday, somehow. He would make it happen.

He just didn't know how.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The bubble

"Look at this," Rick said. He was planning Part III of our four-part honeymoon visiting the four European principalities. We'd already done Andorra and Monaco. Now it was time for Liechtenstein.

I went to his computer. It was a BnB that was in a bubble.

"Let's do it," I said.

"Even though it's in Austria?" he asked. I nodded.

The drive thru the Austrian Alps, was full of ohh and ahhhhhh moments. Despite getting lost, we arrived to find champagne waiting for us. Rick had mentioned honeymoon, so this was a special and thoughtful treat.

We climbed up the stairs to the bubble which has a double entry to keep it inflated.

Inside the two beds were beautifully made up. Conveniences like tea and coffee making equipment, a tiny fridge were available. Yes, it was tiny, but we had all we needed.

In fact we had more than we needed.

The host, hostess and their daughters were charming. Although this isn't typical we ended up eating with them, their youngest having made a Thai meal for her visiting older sister and there was a surplus of food. We met the family pets although Blackie preferred to wander off.

One in bed, we could see the stars. Sunset was beautiful and in the morning, we watched the trees dance in the wind before going down to breakfast.

Our host said when there is snow, it is like being in an igloo, although a bit warmer.

We hadn't expected breakfast but in the morning we came downstairs to find a table with just about everything one could want. And there were the little touch, like a decorated strawberry and a mint leaf on the sweet butter.

Then it was time to go onto Liechtenstein. The next night we were in a four-star hotel, that was wonderful, but nothing will ever be as special as this truly unique experience with these creative people.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Writing of

I am documenting the process of writing a creative non-fiction book called Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles about abortion in the US before Roe v. Wade. Part of the process is to document the progress or non progress along the way. I hope that other writers who live with distractions will be able to identify.

Week of July 24
My birthday. I didn’t want a party. I wanted to visit Abbey Fontevraud, where Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II and Richard the Lionhearted are buried or rather their tombs are the central point in abbey. As a history buff whenever I visit the graves of a person I’ve read about or read their works, it is like a personal introduction.

I know their bones were desecrated during the French Revolution, but it is still is an emotional/intellectual exercise of the past coming together with the present. In a way it is not unlike the research I am doing this book.

The hotel is part of the abbey, the former leper hospital. I describe the style as Medieval Modern. The architect was able to make it both ultra modern and keep the Medieval feel with things like shutters, candles and wood.

The drive is almost eight hours as is the later drive from Fontevraud back to our Geneva home. My husband and I seldom lack things to talk about, we play music and I do tend to fall asleep. We joke that if I can’t sleep some night he should take me for a ride in the car like they do with teething babies.

In our silent spells I mull over the next chapter I want to tackle. Over the next couple of weeks, chance to transcribe some of the Norma McCorvey interviews will be slim.

I have copies of many articles and video of interviews on documentaries about and with Sherri Finkbine, the Miss Sherri of the Phoenix, Arizona Romper Room. She took 36 Thalidomide just before it became aware of its connections to malformed infants. Her fight for an abortion resulted in the FBI having to protect her family. A trip to Sweden was the only way she could obtain the abortion.

In between sightseeing and travel, I write the chapter, first in my head and then onto computer. I see a recent story by Karina Bland with an email. I contact her and ask if Sherri is still alive. She is and promises to forward my email to her. By now Sherri must be 82.

Sissy Spacek stared in a movie about the abortion in a movie called A Private Matter. The entire film is on youtube and I listen to it. I know screen writing can manipulate the truth, but almost everything in it matches what Sherri has said in different interviews picked up in print or on documentaries where she is interviewed. Of course, the scenes of cooking breakfast probably aren’t accurate as to what the family ate but that is not important to the story.

What delighted me was that she has written children’s books to help youngsters deal with bullying, gun violence and abuse.

When I unpack in Geneva, I can’t find my blue flowered notebook. Since I started the project whenever I find a name that I want to follow up on, I jot it down. My husband is shocked, because I almost never put anything on paper preferring to keep everything on laptop, saving to my hard drive, my USB key shaped like a pig and Dropbox. To recreate it will be impossible.

I’ve lost at least a week’s work if not more. I hope as I research/write the things I remember other names and incidents will come to me.

Two days later he holds up the notebook. 

We are going away again for a couple of days and more work time lost, but life time gained.