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 www.geneve.com/en/see-do/museums/ so we have a good number of choices.

Outside Geneva, we want to do the Swiss Museum of Transportation www.verkehrshaus.ch/  in Lucerne which also includes the Hans Erni collection www.verkehrshaus.ch/en/museum/hans-erni-museum.

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 www.chaplinsworld.com/en

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) http://donnalanenelson.com/, 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, TSR.ch, NHK, RT, Democracynow.org, 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. http://history.uconn.edu/taking-the-trade-biographies

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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Staying Awake

Decades ago my daughter and I were going to drive from a friend's house in Syracuse NY to Waltham MA. Before I left, I called my roommate to let her know we were about to take to the road. She also spoke to my daughter.

Once in the car, my daughter started to chatter. Although she was a talkative three-year old, it had never been to that degree. 

She recited nursery rhymes. At the 25th "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" I suggested she might want to nap. The blather went on and on and on. Only when we stopped for lunch did the constant talk stop BUT only until we were on the road.

Any of my suggestions to listen to music or try and imagine stories to ourselves went unheeded.

Some six hours later we pulled up in front of our apartment. I staggered out of the car, my head spinning. "I don't know what got into her?" I said to my roommate and explained Llara's constant talk. At this point she not saying a word.

"Oh, Oh." My housemate said. "I told her to keep you awake."

"And I did a good job," my daughter said. "I talked the whole way."

Fast forward many decades.

My husband and daughter were leaving in the middle of the night to go to Toulouse to fly on to the US. My husband had been working all day and into the time he was about to leave.

"Make sure he stays awake," I told my daughter. 

When I woke several hours later I had a Facebook message from my kid. "Rick never wants to hear twinkle twinkle little star again."

Monday, July 09, 2018


I love my dog Sherlock...


Last night he tested that love. Within seconds he chewed the quilt my grandmother had made lovingly, removing part of the center.

My grandmother died in 1969. The quilt has traveled the world with me.

The quilt had a rainbow pattern made of nine piece squares alternating light and dark patterns within solid colors. The center was a black dog made from a dress I had before I was in Kindergarten. Much
of it was done when she could no longer see.

I'd just had the quilt repaired having picked out fabric carefully with the help of my mother-in-law.

It was in the second bedroom, which we call the snore room.

I am not into possessions. I want to own as little as possible, but this was more than a possession. It was a reflection of the most important woman in my life.

My husband, said and did all the right things. He did the masculine thing and wanted to fix it and called his mother to see what fabric she might have. He reassured me it would be better. And he hugged me. He told me we could make it even better.

I know we will find the red and orange fabric. I still have a little of the patterned fabric left over from the earlier repair and I am sure if my mother-in-law doesn't have what we need, we can find it in France or Switzerland.

I will sketch out how it should be done and take it the fabulous retouch guy that has done so many repairs and projects for us.

Sherlock was yelled at as he has never been yelled at before. Today, he has resorted to his normal good behavior and we are correcting his slight transgressions in the normal way.

I tell myself it is only a quilt. I tell myself, once again my husband has proved what a loving friend he is (although I wish it wasn't necessary). With all the terrible things in this world, I am safe even if my quilt wasn't.

I still love my dog.