Sunday, August 19, 2018

Shopping Styles

Buying a car demonstrated once again Rick's and my shopping style variations. He had done a dueling blog at

Our almost 20-year-old car was beginning to show its age and the canicule showed the need for air conditioning BIG TIME!

I contacted the dealer where we bought the old car, someone I trust based on our experiences and friends' experiences. I told him we were looking for four-doors and air-conditioning and anything but grey, black or white. He said he had a car.

It was was a 2011 Renault Modus, with four doors and air conditioning in excellent condition. It was a little more than we wanted to pay.

My reaction?

We'll take it and I got out my checkbook.

The only thing I didn't like was that it was grey, but hopefully we can find someone to decorate it. And dragging out the process to get a different color makes me shudder at the thought when we found one that met almost all our requirements.

Rick's approach would be to look at several cars, compare prices. He had checked about the model already so that reassured me that it was a good decision. The car dealer is trustworthy where another one might not be.

When we bought a couch, I walked into the store, saw the one I liked within the first two minutes. It didn't look like anything I had imagined but I could check "need new couch" off my to-do list and never have to think about it again. Had I not seen anything after a quick look I would have left and probably decided we really didn't need a new couch. I certainly would never, ever, ever gone from store to store to find a perfect couch. I'd strangle my much beloved Sherlock first.

We need new Venetian blinds. The one store I went to didn't carry them. I found out who sells them but have not been able to bring myself to go after them. At least there's a sushi place nearby that might make the trek bearable when we do go. But I worry that the new place won't have them which means two horrible experiences with no success.

When I furnished a flat in Geneva before Rick, I walked through IKEA and in under two hours had everything I needed. It was delivered. Within two days the flat was set up and I lived there 11 years without having to shop again.

I will admit where I lived (an area near the UN and NGOs so there were lots of turnover of tenants) people threw out great stuff that I sometimes confiscated. Like the red rug I wanted (but certainly not enough to ever enter a store for it) and within two days someone had thrown away exactly what I wanted. And there was a pretty tea set left in the basement that I took upstairs and used, but again, I would never have been willing to go shopping for it.

When I have to buy anything in a store, there are a couple of places that I go regularly and hope they haven't rearranged anything. I try and go straight to what I want and try not to look right or left. All that junk even in an expensive store depresses me. If I can't find what I want within 5 or 10 minutes, I rethink if I need it. Usually I walk out and never buy anything. If I do find it, I stop looking, pay and get out of the store as fast as I can without looking right and left.Whew! I can breath again.

I am more apt to buy something I see at the marché or if I pass a store window and something is on display. I remember one Saturday I needed new boots and after four stores, none had boots in my size, I went home and cried that I had wasted a valuable free afternoon shopping. My feet stayed wet until I saw a perfect pair at a marché. No way would I have gone into another shoe store just in case they might have what I wanted.

When I buy something I want to keep it until it dies. I don't want the latest model. Maybe I would be willing to upgrade say a tea kettle, it if could do amazing things like clean the whole house.

I can go months without wanting to buy anything. I have everything I need and want with maybe the exception of a dust ruffle for the bed in the snore room to hide the boxes under the bed. My first preference would be to get rid of the boxes.

Today when we were sitting at a café talking about shopping, my husband said something about the fun of the hunt?

Fun? Hunt? Shopping? These words together?

I don't think so.


Shopping is stealing from my precious time on this earth.

He wants to get things for our patio such as a fireplace and statues. We will go a ceramic factory outlet town in Spain. It's a pretty drive, a togetherness day. A chance for a nice lunch.

If he doesn't find what he wants, he can continue to hunt, but alone. I trust him to find something we will both be happy with.

Oh, and because I am frugal and don't buy unnecessary stuff, if things cost a little more than I planned, I will pay it. After all since we pay cash for everything we never pay interest. I think it balances. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Baked beans

Today I am making Boston Baked beans in my great grandmother's bean pot. It was later used by my grandmother and finally by my mother before it ended up in my hands. It is not just a meal but a journey through three centuries of personal, regional and national history.

I wish the bean pot could talk and tell me all the conversations that might have been held over the regular Saturday night dinners, where the beans were staple. I can imagine they might have mentioned:
  • The election of Grover Cleveland in 1892
  • The first World Series in 1903
  • The flu epidemic and the barn full of coffins down the street in 1918. The coffins disappeared all too fast.
  • The depression in 1929
  • My mother's elopement in 1940 
  • Pearl Harbor 1941
  • My Uncle Gordon's death and my birth 1942 
As a child I remember the discussion of world events and family plans as we eat the Saturday night beans. The pleasure knowing dessert was a blueberry pie made with blueberries my brother and I had picked that afternoon from the patch next to the house. Saturday night dinners were often followed by the family playing games that varied over the decades until I left home at 20.

Along with the bean pot I have a copy of my Grandmother's New England Yankee Cookbook published in 1939 by Coward McCann of New York. It says it is "An Anthology of INCOMPARABLE RECIPES FROM THE SIX NEW ENGLAND STATES and a Little Something about the People whose Traditions for Good Eating is herein permanently recorded BY IMOGENE WOLCOTT from the Files of Yankee Magazine and from Time-worn Recipes Books and many Gracious Contributors."

A bit of history is thrown in along with recipes using cornmeal, an early staple. There's a Boston style clam chowder recipe from the still existent Parker House where my brother was conceived.

Mrs. George W.P Babb of Roslindale, MA contributed her recipe for Cape Cod chicken and more important for dumplings, a recipe I've used often through the years.

There are recipes for brown bread, which I am tempted to make as well as Johnny Cake that goes back to the Puritans. There's a Johnnycake Lane in Chelsea, VT.

I think this fall, I will cook many more of the recipes, not just for the nostalgia, but because the food is plain good.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

What to do?

I have several friends of different nationalities living in the US and have or in the process of becoming US citizens. If they are going to stay forever in the US, this is a good idea.

However, their mates work for international companies which means they could be transferred outside the US borders, which represents the threat of severe economic damage to any American expat.

Do I warn them? Most are middle class. We are not talking about the rich.

1. If you have property in another country and sell it you will have to pay capital gains in the US and meet whatever tax obligations in the country where the property was located.

2. Anything you earn anywhere, any way is now US taxable

3. If you have any foreign accounts, you must report them on the FBAR or face huge penalties. Depending on the circumstances, the fines could exceed the balance many times over.

4. If you have a current bank account overseas and they find out you are American, the account could be closed. Check out FATCA

5.If you plan to retire to your original country or another country, your retirement income could be double taxed.

6. You will have great difficulty opening a bank account in another country. Many things like mortgages, car loans, life insurance and investments could be impossible to get.

7. Plan to spend a minimum of four figures for US tax return to make sure you are in compliance with all the changes that happen and carry huge fines if ignored.

Problems do vary from country to country. And problems can be retro-active. The new tax reform to encourage businesses to bring money back to the US also has affected small American overseas business owners because their tax obligation goes back to 1986. Many were using retained earnings for retirement only to find a large portion is now due to Uncle Sam.

So, if people want to go for their American nationality and they will live in the US forever, forever and forever, go for it. But if there is a chance you might end up living outside the US borders just be aware that it is financially dangerous.

But my dilemma remains. Do I but in and warn them or not?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


15 years ago at the Fête De St. Jean

Two giant saints were sitting to one side of the area where the crowd had gathered after being paraded around.

The children had entered the circle, singing and carrying faggots to add to the bonfire.

A flame had been carried from the top of the mountain Cangiou and used to start the bonfire, now merely embers.

People had sung and danced the Sardane.

The ball had yet to start.

In the distance I heard drums beating out an urgent message. 

They grew closer and closer and closer.

The drummers were followed by men and women shooting fireworks off their bodies as they danced.

The pace continued.

They entered the circle.

For twenty minutes they danced with fire.

I'd experienced my first correfoc (the fire runners).

Since then I've seen it many times, but it never stops thrilling me in every atom in my body.

Saturday night there will be a correfoc in Argelès. I can hardly wait.

Watch a video here

Wikipedia describes the correfoc as "
Correfocs (Catalan pronunciation: literally in English "fire-runs") are among the most striking features present in Catalan festivals. In the correfoc, a group of individuals will dress as devils and light fireworks - fixed on devil's pitchforks or strung above the route. Dancing to the sound of a rhythmic drum group, they set off their fireworks among crowds of spectators. The spectators that participate dress to protect themselves against small burns and attempt to get as close as possible to the devils, running with the fire. Other spectators will watch from "safe" distances, rapidly retreating as necessary."


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Women in Work

When my mother married in 1940, she was fired from her secretarial job. She was an incredible typist at 125 words a minute without errors. She bragged her shorthand was equally good.

The reason for her firing was that her husband could now support her.

Growing up in the fifties and sixties, the only mothers who worked were divorced or widowed. Like my grandmother's generation, the rest made homemaking a full-time job including cookie baking, sewing clothes, cooking nutritious meals and keeping a neat house. It was a bit of a scandal that one of my mother's friends usually had a filled-basket ready to be ironed in the living room.

Women in my mother's circle had time to be Brownie or Campfire Girl leaders, play golf except on Wednesday afternoon and Saturdays when the course was left to the men, meet for bridge or whatever they felt like.

Betty Friedan not withstanding, many of the women were happy. Their lives were like they were supposed to be.

My mother was not one of the content. Freed from regular domestic chores by cleaning women and my grandmother, she ventured beyond the ordinary role.

In the early 40s she developed a toy business. She designed cloth dolls, cats and bean bags that were sold by direct mail through magazines like House Beautiful. She marshaled women around town to sew the toys together. My grandfather, a retired engineer, did the silk screening of the toys. When he died, she closed the business.

She sold Peggy Newton cosmetics when we lived in West Virginia. Coming back she ran the country club we belonged to rental program and acted often a wedding and event planner.

When my parents divorced, she started a women clothing business, operated on a party plan. She would go into Boston get samples and soon was doing so well she only had to work six months a year. It left her free to take us to school, be there when we were home, and participate in our activities as well as her own. She would put on fashion shows for organizations, but best of all, I had an incredible wardrobe. She felt I was a walking advertisement and who was I to argue.

She became a journalist by accident. The Boston newspapers were on strike. The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune saw a chance to capture a market, and advertised for a journalist. She wasn't but she applied anyway and got the job.

Waking the next morning she decided, she could never do it. Before she could say call to say she changed her mind, friends telephoned to congratulate her. Her joining the paper had been on the front page. She was a great reporter. Through her I was able to get a job as a cub reporter at 16, something I'd dreamed about since I was about eight. She wrote for several papers right up until her death at 71. It became her passion.

When I was growing up women did not have many choices: teacher, secretary, nurse, hair dresser, store clerk. There was factory work, but that was not an alternative for the range of a middle-class teenage girl. Besides, the goal was to get a husband who would support one and in return, he would receive a well-run house and happy children.

My mother was never trapped by the myth of the happy homemaker. She refused to accept its lies and its limits.

If I had problems with my mother on other levels, it was not for the role model of going for what you want...don't accept the limits--go over them, under them, around them, barrel through them. For a woman born in 1917 this was extraordinary.

Today women have unlimited choice but not without barriers. They also have increased pressures that women of my mother's generation never had.

Is it better? Worse? Perhaps it depends on the person.

My mother's last writing was a cookbook that was never published. It was begun as a newspaper column. I turned it into a blog. I think she would have been pleased.

Friday, August 10, 2018

2 anniversaries

Anniversary No. 1

Five years ago Rick and I exchanged vows in front of 40 friends from seven countries. It has been a wonderful five years, with the only problems external ones not between the two of us.

As part of the anniversary I reread our vows. We've lived up to them.

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 trust.
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. 

Anniversary No. 2

Perhaps this anniversary is not of the same scale, but this four-footed bit of fur has certainly changed our lives.

Today, Sherlock is 11 months old. We still adore him, although his biting a hole in the quilt in the photo that my grandmother made caused me to realize that I loved him for better or for worse, but could we keep the worse to a minimum.


Thursday, August 09, 2018

Less is more

New writers are often told "Less is more."

This afternoon I am reading The New Yorker on my bed.

Reading and reclining! A luxury.

An article referred to Pierre Bourdieu, a name and work I know slightly. I reach for my Kindle and round out my knowledge.

It has been a quiet day, ironing, chatting with friends, lunch at a walkable local restaurant where we eat frequently. A happy surprise was mac and cheese as a side dish (yum) with the menu du jour.

Sherlock, our beloved dog, is beginning to act normal After a vaccination, he had just wanted to sleep and to be left alone.

The canicule (heatwave) that has gripped Europe for weeks has broken.

The thunder booms, rolls, repeats. Rain hammers the skylight. A symphony. A fantasy from the middle of the canicule when I thought of thunder and snowstorms, pops into my mind. The snowstorm will come later. The water smell seeps in through the open patio door.

Sherlock who quivers at fireworks, stands at the patio door staring at the sky. No sign of fear, just curiosity. I melt, not from heat, but my love for his six kilos of doggyness.

My husband is writing in the other room. Sooner or later I will write, too. I straighten a painting on the bedroom wall.

Nothing earth shaking has happened. Nothing has been added to our household. But I'm drowning in contentment at the slowness and richness of the nothingness. The less is more.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018


For years, with its origins in my daughter's childhood, we've been playing with our stuffed animals, photographing stories that we make up as the pop up in our imaginations. We even married Petite Cougar to Slap, the Canadian beaver with cake, champagne and human guests.

Over the years my friends have taken part. My former housemate took Scooby Sr to the mountains for example and made sure he was photographed with the wooden St. Bernards at a restaurant.

Once we had Sherlock, a real dog, the adventures became less.

We drove all night from Geneva and arrived at Argelès at 5 in the morning. When I walked through the kitchen I noticed two of our animals were on the toaster. We confirmed all the animals were missing.

Hmmmm...must have been our plant waterer and good friend.

We started a hunt.

Slap, the beaver, was communicating with Canadian maple syrup. Maybe he wanted a touch of home.

Petite Cougar was being sick. I hope she's not pregnant again.

Honey Bunny was in the rainbow basket, two of the other rabbits were standing on the bed post.

Shamrock, our transgender Bostonian lobster, was stuck in a candle.

We searched and searched and couldn't find Scooby II and Giggles. I was wondering if our plant waterer was holding them for ransom.

Exhausted we flopped into bed and looked up. Giggles and Scoob 2 were the two animals that got into the most trouble. There they were -- on the chandelier.

Any friend who can do this is more than a friend. She is a treasure, May we always be playful no matter how old we become.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Helen Dunmore

When I was working on my masters in creative writing at Glamorgan University in Wales, Helen Dunmore was one of the eight readers.

She wasn't mine, but I was able to benefit from her criticism.

The way the program worked we would spend all Saturday critiquing each others' writing as a group, the four fiction writers and the four poets. We each had our own reader who was also critiquing all our work in those long, sometimes painful sessions.

In addition, one at a time, we would go with our own reader for an in-depth analysis of what we had produced since the last session.

Mornings, Helen would breeze into the room, her long blond hair flying.

It is fairly easy to notice something that is glaringly bad writing. Helen had the talent to pick out the phrase that was almost there. She could diagnose a hairline crack in a plot better than any bone surgeon could find a break that an X-ray had trouble seeing.

When she made a comment, I listened. My work was better because of her. Her observations carried over into my other writing.

This was before she won the Orange Prize in 1996.

For some reason I never read her work until I saw Birdcage Walk at the English library in Geneva. They talk about books you can't put down, and this was one. She drew me into the lives of the characters and the period. When my husband spoke to me, I had to cross a couple of centuries to answer.

Now, I need to order The Siege, about a family trying to survive in Leningrad in WWII.

Helen was supposed to give a workshop at the Geneva Writers Group. Sadly, the cancer that would kill her at 64 was too advanced to allow it. Even though, I've published 11 novels since then, I knew I would still have benefited from her wisdom.

And it would have been lovely to see her breeze into the Press Club where the sessions held, her long blond hair, flying around her face.

Her other works are:

Thursday, August 02, 2018


As soon as I entered the Montreux Jazz Cafe, I saw her, my former Syria neighbor, now a doctor in Paris and author of books. We held our arms for the cheek kiss wasn't enough. It had been a year since we had seen each other in person.

William, the waiter, was between us. He held out his arms for a hug and we did.

And then it was my friend's time and me to hug.

We were with another friend and my husband and for the next two hours we played catch up in a way you can only do face-to-face despite things lik email, Facebook and Skype.

She and I had lived across the hall from each other for several years, sharing keys, meals, guest, worries, hopes, frustrations. Never did I come home from a trip that my refrigerator wasn't stocked and vice versa. I may have had the better deal with her Mideastern assortment of goodies.

She gave me her family and a knowledge and appreciation of her country far beyond what any tourist could discover. Some day, when things are quieter, I want to go back to see them. Until then, I am so grateful they've survived. If hours of worry would guarantee their safety, it would explain why they are still alive, only I know I am not that powerful. If I were the war would have been over years ago.

As is so typical in Geneva, people move on. Geographically, it is no longer possible to drop in on each other, BUT, our friendship to the level of family of choice, has stayed as strong.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tourist Tuesday

Tourist Tuesday wasn't our idea but that of our friends Tracy and Alan. They found an interesting place to go once a week.

 A voodoo ceremony

Stealing their idea, we started this week with a visit to the Musée d'ethnographie in Geneva. The featured exhibition was African religions which brought out the similarities and differences in not just the three major religions (Christianity, Islam and Jewish) but the many tribal practices.

The permanent collection brought us in touch with customs from all over the world.

There are 40 museums in Geneva alone so we have a good number of choices.

Outside Geneva, we want to do the Swiss Museum of Transportation  in Lucerne which also includes the Hans Erni collection

That will probably require a BnB and turn into Wandering Wednesday.

We plan to do those two museums in October when we won't have Sherlock with us along with The Charlie Chaplain museum

We may also find places to walk and poke on Tuesdays as well.

So much to look forward to.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Writer's block

From the middle 80s until the beginning of this year, I poo pooed the idea of writer's block. During that time I produced over 15 novels (11 published), a collection of short, publication in various literary magazines and anthologies and a smattering of poetry.

Stories were careening through my head.

When I was working on a novel, David, Leah, Peter, Liz, Diana, Annie, Roger and many others were living with me, telling me what they would and wouldn't do no matter what I typed into the computer. I would ignore them, do it my way, press the delete button and then do it they way they wanted.

For my masters in creative writing from the University of Glamorgan in Wales, I wrote two, not one novel (The Card and Running from the Puppet Master) as well as my thesis on John Irving. This was on top of a full-time job.

While I was going thru chemo I ghost wrote a book about a man who stole several million dollars and with the help of my husband produced a video Journaling Through Crisis.

I spent last year researching and writing Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles about the horrors of abortion prior to Roe v. Wade that I self published. With the help of my daughter we are sending it free to Supreme Court Justices and anyone who is promoting anti-abortion legislation. The book proves that making abortion illegal will never stop it anymore than Prohibition stopped the making and drinking of alcohol.

Have I run out of words?

Are there only so many words in my head that can come out?

Where are all my characters?

I can still do blogs and FB messages. Emails.

I've started and stopped a new novel and two short stories. I've set myself a goal to have a short story accepted by the New Yorker, but to accomplish that, I have to write one and send it if only to have it rejected.

The rest of my life is good. Maybe I need to be tortured like so many great writers, but if that is the price, I would rather have my happy life...until I sit down to the computer, turn on the computer but instead of prose, I turn to news, games, Facebook, email.

I hope this will pass.

And to all those who I felt weren't trying hard enough to get over writer's block, I am so, so sorry!

Sunday, July 29, 2018



I walked into the American church and went directly to the English Library nestled in the bottom right hand corner.
It had been almost nine months since I'd been there. One of the volunteers with whom I've had endless discussions was on duty.

I'd been in Geneva at least a year before someone told me about the library. Before then my 2-3 books a week reading habit in those pre-Kindle days had been fed by a friend who had a used book store in Southern France. This was not necessarily convenient, and although Payot had an excellent English book session, the prices were extremely high.

The library with its 10,000+ books gave me a feeling of security that I would never run out of reading matter.

The only change I noted was the new arrivals fiction and non-fiction had been switched. I was


Libraries had been part of my childhood. The Reading Public Library's children's room had a great choice including the twins series, about a boy and a girl from different countries. Now I realize the stereotypes, but then they only whetted my desire to travel.

As for the library, it was converted into a town hall and my fifth grade Highland School holds many more books. I look at my classroom in the lower right hand corner and think what a better use. I did not like my fifth grade teacher although she was good, just cold.

I did graduate to the adult library, my university library where I spent hours studying in the carrels, and the Boston Public Library for research. When my ex and I were stationed in Möhringen, Germany, Kelley Barracks had a good library. I was on a Taylor Caldwell reading kick then. Only in checking with Wikipedia, did I realize that she was a conservative, but a conservative back then could probably be deemed center to center left today.

When I lived in Roxbury Crossing, the Parker Hill Branch of the BPL was a must go every Thursday to pick up the weeks reading. The librarian and I became friends although we have lost track of each other over the decades.

My daughter began a part-time job at the Brookline Library at 16 and worked there when she was in the States part time until her mid twenties. I would pick her up at shifts end. One birthday, she and the staff had hidden my present in the shelves with clues under different Dewey Decimal Numbers.

Argelès has an excellent library and media center. I should take out more French books. I will plead laziness in reading French, although if it is fascinating, I will devour the book.

Only in writing this, did I realize how important libraries have been to me. I'm already looking forward to the Geneva Library's book sale this fall and their sandwiches and baked goods that are on sale. I hope they have egg salad sandwiches with coriander, and whoever usually makes that chocolate cake to die for, does it again.

And oh yes, there will be hundreds and hundreds books for low prices.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

2017, 2018

What a difference a year makes.

I celebrated my 75th birthday at the tomb/abbey of Eleanor of Aquitaine. We were in a luxury hotel and we had a gourmet meal. The trip was the culmination of long-time desire to see where Eleanor had lived, kinda personal intro to this strong woman.

I celebrated my 76th birthday in Argelès-sur-mer. The meal was ice cream at La Noisette and a big Mac (my request on the way back from Rick's dentist appointment. Whenever my former housemate and I went to McDos, we called it "sinning.")

Very different. But they were also the same, because I was with my beloved husband, we laughed, talked, held hands, kissed, smiled living the moment to the fullest. They were the same because I was extremely happy both birthdays.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Love is a blueberry muffin

I am so lucky that small thoughtful things are ways of showing love. My daughter arrived in France with Dunkin Donuts blueberry muffins, which she knows I adore. My husband came back from the states with two blueberry muffins. Small acts are one way of saying "I care."

Monday, July 23, 2018


Facebook is alive with opinions on the right, left, and so far out on both side I am not sure they are from this planet.

I too have strong opinions. But I feel my examination of many news sources from several countries give me a perspective that others may not have. It doesn't make me superior, just informed about different sides of the same story. And I don't  look at all the sources the same day. What I listen to and read depends on the stories that are circulating.

CNN, BBC, Sky, Al Jazeera, i24(Israeli) France 24, TF1,, NHK, RT,, Bloomberg, ITV, The Empire Files

Print (read on Internet)
Washington Post, The New Yorker, Drudge Report, Common Dreams, The Guardian, The Independent, le Monde, TDG, China Times, Intercept

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


I have just finished another 35 letters to Pro-life groups to accompany my book Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles. I don't know if it will make any difference, but making abortion illegal will not make any difference to a woman who wants and needs one. What makes a difference is -- will she die?

What bothered me was the number of men who head these groups. I am not saying that men do not have the right to care about the issue, but they will never know the fear of an unwanted pregnancy in their own bodies and having to decide bad choices--even when it is their wife, sister, mother or girl friend.

From now on I will be sending the book to people who speak out on abortion as they appear on my radar.

I will also be preparing a press release.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Unintended consequences

"Je t'aime," the note accompanying the six red roses red delivered by my favorite florist read.

Although there was no signature, I was sure they were from my loving husband, who is visiting his daughter and grand kids in Texas.

I put them in a vase on his night stand where I could see them last thing at night and first in the morning.

What I didn't count on was Sherlock's reaction.

When I went to bed, the pup jumped up in the middle, did a double take when he saw the flowers and froze. Then he moved stealthily toward the night stand growling with each paw placement.

He stopped and stood there trembling.

There's a phrase, "Turned tail and ran" and that was just what he did.

I followed him and carried him back into the bedroom. He looked at the flowers and trembled.

I spoke as soothingly as possible and stroked one rose. He retreated as much as possible in my other arm.

Slowly, with soothing tones, I brought the flower closer to him. His nose twitched.

It took about five minutes to convince him that the flowers were not a danger. This morning he was asleep on my husband's pillow a few inches from the frightening flowers.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The universe

We never know when or what something simple will lead to.

The Universe in Action 1

Last weekend we went to a lovely wedding.

I told my husband if I had not given up my nationality, we wouldn't be there. He looked confused until I explained.

Because I was a renounced American, when I die, it would complicate my daughter's inheritance, which is certainly not substantial, but still I did not see why she should be punished because of FATCA, the law that makes the financial lives of American expats a hell and which was the reason I had to renounce if I wanted to continue to live in Europe.

I therefore suggested I pay for Llara's grad school, but it had to be in Europe where it was a fraction of the cost and therefore affordable. Unlike the belief of many homelanders, expats aren't always rich and I definitely fall into the non-rich category.

She went to Napier in Edinburgh.

There she roomed with a fellow student, a bright and funny Greek women, who I got to know on trips to visit my daughter and later Rick met her when we spent a month in Edinburgh.

Thus, when the roommate was planning on getting married to a Frenchman, she invited us all to the wedding. Llara flew to France and we drove to Tillac, a beautiful little village west of Toulouse.

Thus my renunciation led to a wonderful day in a medieval church with a reception at a château and a chance to see a friend (whom we would never have known had I stayed American) launched into a new chapter of her life.

The Universe in Action 2

The man I refer to as the brother I would have loved to have has a son who is about to enter university.

The boy would not be here if his father had not bought a copier/printer in the Netherlands during the summer of 1990. To test it, he copied the want ads from the International Herald Tribune. Looking at them, he saw something of interest in Switzerland. Since he was Swiss, he thought he would apply.

He got the job and he and I ended up sharing the company apartment. I suggested we go to Argelès for a few days, where I had a studio.

He ended up buying a house there.

Next door, was his future wife and together they produced the young man who is about to enter university.

So maybe today I will buy a carrot from Chez Elisabeth, talk to a man in line who will introduce me to his wife and we will become friends and...and...and...It does open the possibility of a new adventure by just doing ordinary things.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

1st Abortion Trial

From Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, a book about abortion before Roe v. Wade. We can't go back.

A Pre-Revolution Abortion and Trial

Today Pomfret CT is a post card of a New England town with churches, wooden houses, Robert Frost-type stonewalls and ivy-covered brick buildings. In autumn, leaves turn brilliant red and gold. The 40+ square miles covered by Pomfret lacks a town center as such. A graveyard, going back centuries, has the thin stone tombstones typical of Puritan times. Some are askew.
The population in 2014 was about 4,100 people. Selectmen, the New England version of an elected town counsel with equal voting rights, govern Pomfret as they have through the centuries.

Probably most residents today, would not guess that in 1745, 34 years after the village was incorporated and took its name from Lincolnshire, England, it was the scene of one of the first reported and prosecuted abortions in the new world. The University of Connecticut has published trial documents, which is why the information exists today.

As more people immigrated and the new settlers reproduced: growth was constant.

Although settlers found the class system more equal than the societies they had left, life was difficult. There were still poor whites, indentured servants, prostitutes and tenant farmers in comparison to those that garnered more prestige such as ministers, doctors, lawyers and landowners of various degrees of wealth.

Those living in New England faced a rugged climate and topography.

Religion was strict. There were churches that considered an organ too liberal and dancing dangerous. These limitations seeped into the general population influencing daily life. Celebrations did not include the too-Catholic Christmas.

Farmers represented about 90% of the people living in the colonies, although fishing, trapping, tobacco, blacksmithing, ship building etc. were also practiced trades.

In Pomfret, because of its land-bound location and climate, things like commercial fishing, shipbuilding and even tobacco growing were not viable livelihoods. Much farming was subsistence.

One of The First Abortion Trials in The New World
Sarah Grosvenor was lived all her life in Pomfret. By standards of the time, her family was well off. They owned farmland: her father was one of the first selectmen, elected as a village leader, in 1714.

There is no record of how Mary and Leicester Grosevenor felt when their daughter Sarah was born in 1723. They already had one daughter, two-year-old Zerviah. Were the couple disappointed that she wasn’t a boy? I could find no records of other children nor of Mary having miscarriages.

We know little of Sarah’s childhood but at 19 she found herself pregnant by a man eight years her senior.
·       Were they in love?
·       Did she seduce him?
·       Did he seduce her?
·       Was it mutual desire?
·       Did they make love once or many times?
·       Where did they make love?

One of the frustrations with old records, that the many questions they raise have no answer.
We do know his name was Amasa Sessions. Amasa is a Biblical name rather uncommon even in those times. In various documents he was described as “corpulent,” “capable” and “honest.”

In July 1742, sister Zerviah noticed Sarah was acting unwell. She suspected that her sister might be pregnant, but when she asked repeatedly, Sarah denied it each time.

The girls’ mother, Mary, was so concerned about her daughter that she asked a neighbor, Doctor John Hallowell, to look at her. Dr. Hallowell told the family Sarah was not pregnant.

For reasons that are unclear in existing documentation, Dr. Hallowell took her to another house, where Amasa Sessions visited the girl. When she returned home, she confessed she was, indeed, pregnant.

If Sarah had not been forthcoming with her sister, I am sure she did not rush to tell her parents that they might be grandparents. Although there is no record of any conversations, of her parents’ reactions, I can imagine they were not that different from any parent today who finds an unmarried daughter pregnant.

Zerviah was upset that her sister had not told her before, but Sarah had said she’d been “taking the trade” the popular phrase of the time for using herbs to bring on a woman’s period, a common practice when an unwanted pregnancy was suspected.

Unlike today, there seems be no societal arguments about when life begins. Communications took days, weeks, months by letter and horseback or ship, not seconds on the internet.

The mores of the time considered bringing on a woman’s late period with different plants before the baby quickened, not an abortion.

Marriage would not have been an impossible alternative for Sarah and Amasa: they were of a similar class. Session never denied he was the father. He was reported to have visited Sarah several times during the early part of her pregnancy willingly.

Amasa was the third son of Joanna and Nathaniel Sessions. The Sessions ran a tavern out of their house and because the father was involved in village politics, the fortunes of the family must have benefited from meetings held there, perhaps the way President Trump’s company benefits from other politicians staying at his Washington, D.C. hotel. That he was not overjoyed at being a father is a guess based on his reported conversations with John Hallowell.

Amasa expressed his fear that his parents would make the young couple’s lives difficult should they marry, but I could find no explanation of why he thought that.

However, with persuasion, Sarah and Amasa decided to marry and stop any attempt to get rid of the baby, something Sarah was said to be ambivalent about.

Despite that decision, two weeks passed. No banns were announced. Zerviah saw Amasa giving Sarah more herbs to “finish” what had been started. We don’t have any idea of which herbs they were, but they did not work.

The assumption abortion was only after the baby quickened, when the mother feels the baby moving sometime around the fourth month. Until then the loss of a baby was a miscarriage whether it happened naturally or with help. Missing periods could be corrected by bringing the body back into balance using various herbs. Sarah was in her fourth month when the baby quickened making the removal of the fetus an abortion not a balancing of her menses.

According to her friend Abigail Nightingale’s testimony at a trial three years later, Sarah had told she had felt the baby move for about a fortnight when abortion attempts were begun.

Much feminine medical care was general knowledge shared by women. A number of plants that can lead to abortion (abortifacient) were available and were considered effective.

Juniper to create savin, pennyroyal and seneca snakeroot were among the popular plants “to restore balance” and all grew in the Pomfret region. If a book of abortifacient herbs was available to women in Colonial times, I have not been able to locate it.

When the pregnancy continued, Dr. Hallowell surgically removed the fetus, but it took him two attempts over two days. The surgery took place at Sarah’s 30-year-old cousin’s Hannah’s house. Sarah told her friend Abigail that Dr. Hallowell put instruments on the bed and tried to remove the baby.

At one point, Sarah fainted. Zerviah brought cold water into the room to revive her.

Amasa hid out at Mr. Waldo’s the local tavern during the procedures.

Sarah went home that night, but did not miscarry for another two days. The fetus, which fell into a chamber pot, appeared damaged, was wrapped in cloth and buried near the house.

Within ten days, Sarah sickened most likely from infection caused by dirty instruments. This was well before the importance of cleanliness was discovered. Her family called in two other doctors who were unable to save her. 

She died 14 September 1742. Court records show testimony by Dr. Hallowell that he said he was responsible for her death.

Why there was no official court action for three years is not explained. Not until 1 November 1745, did two county magistrates issue calls for Amasa, Hallowell, Hannah and Zerviah. Hallowell’s depositions were delayed. He was in a debtor’s prison in Connecticut.

The Inferior Court heard depositions which still existent today.

Hallowell was found guilty of murder. Amasa, Hannah and Zerviah were named as accessories to the crime.

It still wasn’t over.

The Superior Court, in September 1746, charged Amasa and Hallowell, for destroying Sarah and her unborn child. Although a verdict was issued 18 November 1746, a technicality caused the case to be dismissed.

It wasn’t until March 1747 when the king’s attorney tried again. Amasa was released. Hallowell was sentenced to the gallows and lashes on 20 March 1747. He disappeared before either part of the sentence could be carried out.

Amasa married, raised ten children supported by his farm. He seems to have suffered no stigma from his connection with Sarah, served in the militia and died in 1799.

He and Sarah are buried within 25 feet of one another, ironic that they were separated in life.