Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Hahvahd yahd

My late friend Barbara said I spoke French with a Boston accent. 

Even today if I meet an American they immediately say "You're from Boston." It is true -- in 26.5 years I still have an Ahnt not an ant, a cah not a car, etc.

I will never pahk my cah in Hahvahd yahd even when I am in Boston. If you look at the photo you can see it is a grassy area and I'm sure the Hahvahd police would arrest any drivah ruining the grass.

Imagine my pleasure this morning when reading Lucifer's Banker the writer Bradley Birkenfeld said "A real Boston accent is like having a swagger: you either have it or you don't."

I've a real accent and I guess, by definition, a swagger.

I can live with that.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ebook vs. paper

Let me first explain that I'm a reading addict. Living in French speaking Switzerland and France, English books are not as easy to come by as in an Anglophone country (although there wasn't a bookstore within 20 miles of my stepmom in Florida).

Geneva does have an excellent English library and a good, but expensive, English department in a downtown bookstore. A few English books are at the train station and sometimes used books are available usually tripped upon at a marché.

Yes, I do read French, but it is a different pleasure.

Where we are in the South of France, a late friend used to have an English bookstores. Now a tearoom has an unofficial English book exchange but 50 do not replace the 500 she had.

These solutions are limited if I want a certain book.

Here's a breakdown of Ebook and paper book advantages and disadvantages from my point of view

E-book advantages
1. Any book can be bought at any time and delivered immediately.
2. When traveling hundreds of books do not take up any space in the suitcase
3. It's lightweight
4. Highlighting advantages without looking for a highlighter
5. A lighted screen to see in the middle of the night without disturbing my husband
6. A big book is lighter to hold over long periods
7. Changeable size of type face when one misplaces glasses
8. Increases the sales of my novels www.donnalanenelson.com

E-book disadvantages
1. Not as easy to move back and forth within the text.
2. Needs to be recharged
3. Can break down
4. Does not last as long as paper. Think of all the technology you used to use
5. Harder to share (as an author I should be happy, but there's something wonderful about reading a book given to you by a friend, especially if s/he made notes)

Paper book advantages
1. Emotional...feel, smell
2. Doesn't run out of power (although I did accidentally wash a friend's book)
3. Is easy to share with friends or recycle
4. Much easy to flip thru, especially when making a buying decision.
5. More colorful.
6. Can last for centuries
7. Easier to arrange in book cases or topics.

Paper book disadvantages
1. Takes up room
2. Harder to locate a special book

Saying all that I still prefer paper.

Having a Kindle does not mean that I can't delight in seeing a street vendor and in looking thru his collection come across a treasure I can't wait to read.

Liking paper doesn't mean if I see a book review in The New Yorker I have to order it and wait. I can be reading it in minutes with an e-book.

In other words, e-book or paper doesn't have to be an either/or.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My poor husband

Ever notice when one thing goes wrong, it starts a chain reaction.

No, our car didn't fall into our pool because we don't have a pool, but if we did, I'm sure our car would be there.

My poor husband was trying to finished up a newsletter for our business. It is a new project and the hyperlinks did not want to stay linked and were hyperly disappearing.

He was also trying to write but the word processing kept defaulting to another type from China. He finally located it and it has now gone to software heaven.

Then the TV set stopped working. Last night we watched Lion in Winter on a DVD instead, no tragedy.

A phone call to SFR found a service man who spoke some English. I used French, he responded in English and bless his heart, he spoke slowly. Most technicians go from 10 words a minute to 160.
I have enough trouble in techie English, but he was able to help and will send us a new something or other. I am not sure his French wouldn't have better than his English, but he tried and was so patient.

The TV worked EXCEPT we had to hand press for channel changes. OK our news stations start at 260 which is what we wanted. Lovely. Click, click, click, click, click 260 times.

We settled in to watch. The TV flipped back to Channel 2. Click, click, click 260 times again. The set obviously didn't like Trump news and went back to Channel 2. We decided to watch Super Nanny which the TV must have approved of because it stayed on the station.

Rick was going to make pizza but discovered for once in our married life there was no tomato sauce. When we were in Geneva we went to the American store and had bought some Campbell's Tomato soup for nostalgia reasons.

He turned out a pretty good pizza with a little imagination.

One thing did go all right...the village carnival. We donned wigs and joined the crowd for the parade. Considering how the rest of the day had gone it was a wonder we didn't get trampled by a marching band.
For those that believe in astrology hope the stars are in a better alignment tomorrow.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Going thru Grenoble on the trip from Geneva to Argelès-sur-mer is a bug-a-boo at best.

Rick, who knows my sense of direction is as good as a person blindfolded and spun around 30 times, showed more faith than any husband should, agreed when I suggested the Valance exit.

We both thought it would be the next phase of the French autoroute.


We drove for kilometers and kilometers thru beautiful deserted country with mountains.

We came to a village with a huge church almost cathedral size.

Then more mountains.

Realizing that when we finally found an autoroute food choices would be limited we thought IF we found a town we should eat.

Voiron, a town of 20,000 appeared and we chose Les Archers, with its bowman's theme. The lamb was great and Rick enjoyed his linguini pesto.

We did find the autoroute.

We did get home at about the same time as if we had gone the right way, but it wouldn't have been half the fun.

Friday, February 24, 2017


It is not true that when I became Swiss, I had to swear to eat lots of chocolate. But if I had, it would be no different from what I consume daily.

I've become a chocolate snob wanting a  percentage of cocoa in my chocolate bought in any pre-made bars. Never something like a Snickers or Mars bar, yuck will cross my lips. The best chocolates are handmade, Chocolate is not to be shoved into one's mouth piece, after piece, but to be savored, with maybe a one- piece treat after lunch, before bed or when a taste treat is needed.

When Rick and I were "lost" on the way to Argèles, we found ourselves in Voiron, a town of about 20,000 people south of Grenoble, He spied the La Maison Bonnat, a chocolatier.

I was intrigued by the beautiful tea pots and dishes in the window. The doorway had a beautiful mosaic entrance.

Going inside was like entering a time machine. My jeans and sweatshirt should have been magically replaced by a dress of La Belle Epoque to match the decoration which was perfect right up to the rose-colored molded ceiling.

The fragrance of chocolate did nothing to help us decide on what to buy. With great willpower, we limited ourselves to a mini-chocolate cake and ten pieces of black chocolate to be savored later.

Chocolate has been made by the Bonnat family since 1884. Their website
tells not only about the history of the store, but the history of chocolate from 1528 when Hernàn Cortès introduced it to the Spanish court. At one time it was even used for medicinal purposes when it was mixed with honey. I bet no child had to be begged to take his medicine.

The clerk, lovingly wrapped our purchases. As we left, she asked if we wanted to sample a piece.

"Mais, oui."

On a silver tray we chose between bite-size black chocolate squares. Rick chose a honey-filled and I selected a strawberry-filled.

Outside we let them slowly melt in our mouth. They coated our taste buds with chocolate for a while after.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


At a certain age one should be beyond tests. Depending on the country there's a time when SATs, A or O levels, Bac etc. should be t part of a stressed memory.

Now Facebook comes along with all kinds of tests. Some say they are just to get information for advertising.

However, I can't pass up a challenge when I see words like, "90% of the people can't get half right," go unanswered.

I do know all the grammar questions, and the US history questions.

Country capitals? A snap. And so forth.

I feel smart although I deliberately avoid any FB tests that include math. Why humiliate myself?

Then there are the personality tests. The one I took yesterday proved I was 100% OCD, something my husband and daughter would agree with, but then my husband took it and he was 100% OCD too and he is the least OCD person I know. We decided that we were just observant.

I was a serious student who wanted to see an A or A+. Even a medical exam I want to pass to pass as much as to prove I'm healthy.

At least with FB tests, I don't have to get my parents to sign the report.

Monday, February 20, 2017


"Did you order sushi?" My Geneva landlady, who lives upstairs, stood at our door.

I wish I had, but we didn't. I told her no.

"Good, after I sent him away, I thought maybe I had sent your dinner away."

She went upstairs to her guests who weren't eating sushi either.

We have great landlords.

I have always preferred apartment living. When my landlady plays the piano, it is not a disturbance but a concert.

For 11 years I lived in what I called the international ghetto because so many of the residence worked at the alphabet UN agencies and NGOs within walking distance of the complex. It was a transient group because of transfers to other countries.

As a single working woman, I relished living alone, but at the same time, did not like isolation. Thus when anyone moved in I would take them flowers and invite them for coffee. In most cases this led to friendships and memories.

Years later I'm in touch with the Czech family. They used to have bread sent in with the diplomatic pouch and when I went home for lunch and to walk my dogs, there would be half a loaf on my door.

The Indian family I still see. Their daughter used to visit me every night to watch The Weakest Link. She is now a medical student in Edinburgh.

Timmy belonged to an English couple. I'd cat sit. He insisted on going out every night, all night. In the morning I would go right outside the lobby, jiggle my keys and he would keep running. The couple retired back to the UK, but have a place in Argelès not far from me. We even manage to be there at the same time sometimes.

My Syrian neighbor became more than a friend, but a family member of choice. She introduced me to her family, her country and her culture, enriching my life beyond measure.

In Argelès the houses touch. Built from the 17th century it is impossible not to know your neighbors because it is necessary to walk by them. Little-by-little friendships have developed.

Yup, neighbors are good things to have whether it a discussion on sushi delivery, an apèro or just a smile and a ça va as we pass.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

shoe etiquette

As a kid, we never took off our shoes when we came into the house unless they were wet.

Only when I moved to Europe and was invited to dinner at the home of a professor and his wife, did I run into the convention. They lived on the third floor and all the shoes were left in the communal hall. The rabbit his wife cooked was delicious.

My housemate had a no shoe policy with slippers offered, but she wasn't fanatic with guests or residents. It was preferred.

Curious about who and where people routinely removed their shoes in a house, I took an unofficial survey on Facebook

Anything close to a scientific study of human habits and cultural foot-covering habits is purely coincidental.

Here are some of the answers by country.

Note: I am writing this in socks.


From a friend I knew when she lived in Switzerland: " Off, nationality...well, both US & Canadian... With many years of European living.... Guests can do as they please but in Canada most guests remove them automatically."


From my former exchange student and friend: She grew up in Croatian when it was Yugoslavia but has lived most of her adult life in The Netherlands, so she weighed in twice. "Off, and slippers on. Croatian," and  "The whole day ON. Dutch!"

Note: some people who responded are dual nationals or have their interests in more than one country.


From a former colleague. I have a wonderful memory of us releasing helium balloons and making wishes as each balloon disappeared. "I always have taken my shoes off. Just wear socks in the house. I go through socks like crazy."


From a new friend: "Birkenstocks stay on; other shoes usually come off. It's a matter of comfort. Guests keep their shoes on, or not, whatever they are comfortable with. At my kids' (in the UK and France), shoes come off."

From a friend who is also placed in the UK section: "I prefer to go bare footed. I would like house guests to do the same but would never dream of asking them to."
From friend in France but American: "I wear my slippers, my guests wear their shoes - cold tiled floors! Prefer being labeled as Me." 

From a French friend and writing mate: "I take my shoes off. My guests keep theirs on. I would feel rude asking them to take them off. Maybe also because I have slippery stairs. And cat paw prints everywhere!" Note. And they are beautiful cats who are bare-pawed.


From a new friend: "I take my shoes off at every opportunity I hate wearing them ... as soon as I walk in the door at home... sometimes at work 😱 love being barefoot 👣"

From my former exchange student and friend: "The whole day ON. Dutch!" 
 But she grew up in Croatian so she weighed in twice. "Off, and slippers on. Croatian."


From a writer friend: "People walk in their stockinged feet."

Saturday, February 18, 2017


I have come to the conclusion that whatever Republicans do, Republicans think is okay...but the same thing done by the Democrats is not okay.  

And whatever Democrats do, Democrats think is okay...but the same thing done by the Republicans. 
They all must think we are stupid not to notice. 

A pox on both their houses until they think of the good of America and not their party.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Christmas? Now?

Merry Christmas!

In February?

Why not.

Between travel and flu my former housemate, Rick and I never celebrated the holiday.

Thus last night was really the first chance to get together. We did goodies, champagne and a present exchange.

I was thrilled with my tiny, key ring flashlight and Rick is more than content with his battery recharger

My housemate has one more gift coming. I've ordered it three times and each time there have been delivery problems. This last order will arrive at a friend's house in Southern France so that I can pick up and take back to Geneva.

Then it may be Christmas in March, April, May...

This is a dueling blog with my former housemate http://viewsfromeverywhere.blogspot.ch/2017/02/christmas-in-february-or.html

Sunday, February 12, 2017


I've often joked that Geneva, Genf, Genève, grey, gris and grau all start with G for a good reason.

Some winters are days and days of dull, gray skies.

Rick and I drove into the city on one of those days when gray was everywhere.

The Jet d'eau blended into the water and sky making it almost invisible. The opposite shore of the lake was as muted as a piece of cloth left to fade in the sun for months and months.

Then we pulled up to the car in the photo at a light.
Suddenly the world seemed bright again.

It was the only car anywhere that we could see that wasn't as dull as the day.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all cars could be happy colors, we thought.

Or have original art on them.

Think of all the work for artists. A car owner would be a patron for budding Michelangelos.

I wonder if all cars were beautiful and cheerful would there be less accidents because people wouldn't be as tense as they are when surrounded by dullness.

Maybe there would be less car thefts because each car could be individual making it easier for a police to find a car that wasn't like hundreds of thousands of others.

When stuck in traffic, there would be something more interesting to look at instead of plain car doors and side mirrors. If not alone, the painting on a car could be something new to discuss such as, "What do you think the artist meant when he painted that rainbow?" Or, "What an incredible reflection that artist did of the mountains in the lake."

And when someone forgets where they parked in a garage and there are dozens of cars the same make as theirs, having an original piece of  art on the doors would make it easier to locate.

For those that can't afford the Porsches, the Ferraris, there would be the status of having an original painting on your car. Even older models would be a source of pride.

So, one of you artists out there, think about it. Maybe start your own studio to beautify the cars in your area.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Prior to the 2016 election, no matter where in Europe Rick and I were, someone would approach us and ask us about Trump.

It happened almost daily sitting in numerous cafés in France, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Czech. Or sometimes it was asked in a store or even waiting for a bus.

We would joke when we were out and about how soon would someone recognize our American accents and come up and say, "Excuse me, what do you think about Trump?" 

Their opinions usually made the anti-Trumpers seem like Trump-lovers.

Sitting in the Toulouse airport about to fly to the states in early October, we thought we had missed a day of Trump questions.


The waiter asked THE QUESTION at the same time he presented the bill.

After the election we thought it was over.

Wrong again.

On the Paris Metro a very good looking man, dark hair curling over his collar and eyes a woman could fall into, asked in very accented English, "What do you think about Trump?"

Then tonight in the Hôpital de Genève (HUG) after I had every part of my body prodded to be ruled  healthy, a nurse asked where we were from. 

I explained, raised in Boston, but Swiss. My husband was from New York State.

She got that gleam in her eye that we had not seen for a few days. No, I thought, not here.

"What do you think about Trump?" she asked.

My AR-15

I make no secret of my fear of open-carry states. I don't worry about terrorists when I am in the States I worry about Americans with guns. When they talk about letting students carry guns into classrooms at the U of Austin, I shudder. No child of mine would be allowed to enter such a place. But then again I know if I had a child of college age there are so many universities in Europe that are free or low cost I also would send my child there rather than saddling them with lifelong debt, but that's another blog.

When I received an email offering like this, I literally started shaking thinking of the possibilities for disaster.

Why I am on their emailing list I have no idea. I won't be building my own gun.

Friday, February 10, 2017

MRI noises

As part of my regular physicals I was given an IRM or MRI depending on whether you speak French or English.

No problem. Th technician was sweet and relieved she could explain things to me in French.

No problem either to not budge.

"Une sieste," I joked.

"Bonne nuit," she said.

I should have noticed her lots-of-luck smile.

I closed my eyes.

Pop pop pop pop
gra gra gra grala

Those two sounds were repeated with various numbers of pops matched with the same number of gras always with  la at the end..

Then silence

An amplified guitar string sounded with a background of
hokey hokey hokey.

I have no idea how long it went on.


Tap tap tap
grach grach grach 

Again the numbers of taps varied to six with matching grach sounds. Later they melded.


Ompah,ompah, ompah, Ompah,ompah,
 ompah, Ompah,ompah, ompah, 
Ompah,ompah, ompah

I imagined tuba players


Hoover, hoover, hoover, Hoover, hoover, hoover, Hoover, 
hoover, hoover, Hoover, hoover, hoover

This went on for what seemed like hours as I imagined clean carpets created by women in dresses and an apron pushing a Hoover Leave it to Beaver Style.


The technician came in to release me. She didn't ask how I slept.

I have a clean, complete brain.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Time to vote

What do the Swiss do on Sundays?

They vote.

Or at least they do four times a year on all sorts of issues that most people in the world never have a chance to vote directly on.

I just filled out my ballot to be mailed this afternoon. Had I missed the Feb. 9th mailing deadline, I could drop my ballot at the local polling place, the elementary school on Sunday.

The package includes:
  • A form to be signed and includes a birth date
  • A booklet detailing the philosophy of each item and the proposed text
  • Listings of how each party believes. In the photo above this is one of two pages filled with the different parties opinions
  • An envelope to be sealed with the ballot
  • A verification form
The prepaid envelope is the same one used to mail the voting information.

There were three items:
  • Should there be a simplified naturalization process for third generation residents under 25
  • Money for roads
  • Taxation of companies
It takes me several hours to vote. I use a number of methods to come to a decision:

1. Posters
As a PR person I am aware of how manipulative they can be. But still it is a start.

2. Newspaper articles

3. The ballot informational booklets (probably some of the most boring French possible)

4. The opinion of the many parties as shown in posters throughout Switzerland.

Even all these methods can leave me unsure. For example if the far right parties agree and the center and left parties agree but the two groups disagree, I will normally go left. But every now and then the right an left agree. This sends me back to more research.

I never miss a vote. Although Switzerland was the first country to advocate for votes for women it was also the last in 1991, because each canton made its own decision. The first time women voted in any canton was 1971.

Susan B. Anthony and the Pankhursts made tremendous personal sacrifices for my gender.

Today when I voted on the easing of naturalization for the young, road funding and company taxation issues, as always I thanked them. There work inspired women in other countries to fight to become full citizens.

For me as a naturalized citizen voting, after careful study, is my way of thanking the Swiss government.

Monday, February 06, 2017

First flat

Hölderlinplatz Stuttgart, where I first lived as a new bride and army wife. 
The only good thing about it was the bakery on the ground floor.

The screams came from next door. It was my first morning in Germany and my now ex husband had left for the base where he was in the 7th army band.

He had rented a room in an apartment. It had two single beds that doubled as couches, a table with four chairs and an armoire.

The kitchen was to be shared with the other occupants. Perhaps kitchen was an overstatement.

We would buy an electric coil and hotplate. The sink only had cold water. Our ledge would be our fridge.

There were no bathing facilities. I mastered heating water and washing as I would have done a century earlier.

The toilet, also shared, constantly was blocked because the landlord insisted we use newspaper and not toilet paper.

The man sounded more and more threatening. I had come from the States, where sheltered by my mother was an understatement.

I was desperately in love so I was up for everything, but would there be a murder next door? I was to start German classes the next week, but I wouldn't be able to talk to the police unless they spoke English.

The screaming stopped.

There was a knock on the door.

 I huddled in a chair.

Another knock.

Then a voice said something I didn't understand. It was gentle in comparison to the yelling.

Since my door wasn't locked I opened it to see a very large German couple, both over six feet.

I started to cry.

The man spoke softly, but I didn't understand.

Somehow he realised I was an anglophone and he switched to English.

He hadn't planned to murder his wife, he said. He was an actor and they were rehearsing for an audition.

Regina and Günther became friends. We went for walks together. They were as poor as we were so even an ice cream cone would be a treat.

Our move to a full apartment came a couple of months later. Rick 1 (I'm married to Rick 2) and I came home early. We decided to take a nap.

We woke when we heard someone in the room to see a flashlight's beam. Our landlord was going thru our armoire.

It took us a week to find another flat. I reveled in the locked doors, the tiny fridge, stove, and a bathtub and shower.


Saturday, February 04, 2017

Rabbit, Rabbit

"Darn?" I said Tuesday morning.

"What?" Rick asked.
"I forgot to say rabbit-rabbit."

He gave me one of those looks that tells me he is waiting in hopes he can be made to understand.

"If I say it the first thing of the first of the month, it will bring good luck that month," I said.

He nodded but the wanting more information look was still there.

I am not a superstitious person, but I still like the tradition. And I can not find any correlation between my luck and my saying "rabbit rabbit" but I still like to do it...when I remember.

I first heard of it from Joan, the secretary at Prospector Research Services, my first professional job in the 1960s.

Because of Rick, I did some research. The tradition seems to be found mainly in Britain and North America. The first known mention is in 1909 Notes and Queries, a publication from 1849 covering folklore, history, etc. primarily for academics.

There are other theories, such as it being more effective if said in front of a chimney, and there is a link to fertility.

It appeared in fiction in 1922 in Robert Lynd's Solomon in all his Glory and Trixie Beldon's The Mystery of the Emeralds. Although I had loved the series as a child, this publication appeared in 1962 after I had outgrown her.
"Trixie Belden awoke slowly, with the sound of a summer rain beating against her window. She half-opened her eyes, stretched her arms above her head, and then, catching sight of a large sign tied to the foot of her bed, yelled out, `Rabbit! Rabbit!´ She bounced out of bed and ran out of her room and down the hall. `I’ve finally done it!` she cried [...] `Well, ever since I was Bobby’s age I’ve been trying to remember to say Rabbit! Rabbit!’ and make a wish just before going to sleep on the last night of the month. If you say it again in the morning, before you’ve said another word, your wish comes true.` Trixie laughed."
NPP reported on the tradition. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=248041250
in 2013.

Rabbits and rabbit feet are considered lucky, but not to the rabbit that sacrificed the foot. In some places in the UK a white rabbit near an ill person was a portent of death.

It was rumored that Franklin Delano Roosevelt followed the tradition. If it was good enough for him, it is good enough to me...If only I can remember Mar. 1.


Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Every now and then a lesson on life hits you in the face.

For years when we drove by the statue in the photo, I thought I wanted to take a photo, but the lights would change and we needed to be someplace soon.

Today we found ourselves on foot one block away. We had time before we were to meet friends, so we headed for the statue.

I took the photo I'd been waiting too long for. Then I walked to the other side and found something surprising.
The sculpture was more than graceful swirls. There was a woman's face.

As we walked away, we saw a connection to the divisiveness of today's world. People will scream and scream on a certain point, and they may be right for as much as they see.

After all, I saw a sculpture with swirls that attracted me. If someone had asked I would have said, "There's an interesting round sculpture." Had I taken the photo from the car, I would never have seen the other aspect.

But how many people will look at the entire statue? The other parts of the issue?

It doesn't matter if it is Trump, Russia, Brexit, abortion, refugees. The cliché "there's more to it than meets the eye" holds true.

When I get locked into a point of view I hope I have the good sense to look beyond my beliefs to see what I missed, because there's always something more.