Friday, November 30, 2018

Four women

Some people put Facebook down, but it also gives moments of great enjoyment.

I posted this last night. It is at the core of what I believe and how I try and live my life. Even in bad times, it is what gives me the strength to get to the other side.

I had responses from three women who wrote:

*Perfectly said!! 
*  yes!

This is where Facebook comes in. I would say all of us are well educated, about the same age, give or take, have had many opportunities in our lives. I doubt if any of us have reached this stage in life's adventure without some major setbacks.

The first is from my cousin. Our mothers were probably two of all the sisters-in-law who saw eye-to-eye and not quite the same as the others. As cousins we spent very little time together. We even missed another cousin's wedding since we were giving birth to our daughters in different hospitals. Yet, we are family, and spent a wonderful time together on a boat sailing the canal du midi.

The second is high school friend. We weren't particularly close or particularly distant in high school. We were just students.

On Facebook we show that there are major differences in our political opinions and a few on religious. We treat these with respect. There are other areas where we agree. She posts things daily that makes me smile.  An animal posting almost always brings a like.

The third is a woman I met at my husband's high school reunion. She and I are probably closest politically. Like me, she has spent enough time in Europe to understand things I write about on a gut level that can only be done when living similar lives. This is not a put-down to anyone that hasn't done what we've done. I can imagine lives other people have lived which are so different from mine, but not on the same gut level.

Here are four women, including myself, who live thousands of miles apart. There are interlocking rings on some core beliefs and some equally divergent ones. We can come to together via the digital age in way we never would have even ten years ago.

I have a fantasy. Maybe by a Samantha-like nose twitch we could all be in the same living room for a tea party. I see it as cozy with some loved artwork on the walls, books and a window overlooking a garden. Flowers would decorate the table. Besides little cupcakes, there would be mini sandwiches. Coffee would be offered as alternative.

None of us live there. The geography is unknown. Since it is my fantasy I will put whatever I want in it.

We might talk about politics and religion explaining without fear why we think as we do. We would also talk about the people and things we love. And mostly as we passed the baby cupcakes, we would share a warmth as women, privileged women overall, who are open and caring.

Even without the tea party, thank you Facebook for the mix of these contacts.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


The old man (although he may have been younger than I am) had the sweetest face. He patted Sherlock. Then he asked "What religion are you?"

I was tempted to say pagan, but Unitarian slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it. He then proceeded to tell me what his was, why it was for me and as I made my escape, handed me a pamphlet. I waited till we were out of sight to ditch it.

I hate what missionaries do how they attack others identities to supposedly bring the word of whatever deity they represent be it The Christian God, Allah, the Great Turtle in the Sky, etc. Usually they back is up with some ancient document.

In a way it is if they came into my home, looked around and told me everything in it was wrong and they had this book that would make it better.  Rude, arrogant and well meaning.

There are two missionary ladies who stop regularly. Sometimes we have a cup of tea. We don't discuss religion any more. I won't accept their Bible and when they asked me about my worries of the afterlife. I say I have none. Now we talk about other things. It is pleasant. Maybe they are still hoping to save my soul, but if they can't a cuppa will do.

One of my anthropologist friends who spent years with the Lobi tribe in Africa felt the same way as I do. Missionaries were arrogant and came bungling into a society that worked well without them. She pointed out they were very unsuccessful because they were a non-alcohol group and no one had any success unless you shared a beer. There was one who did and he did get a better reaction than the non-beer drinkers. He didn't make conversions but there was a rather pleasant sharing.

And there was that stupid kid who died bringing the word of his god to people who didn't want it. They shot him with an arrow not a method I would recommend to rid one's self of the dreaded lectures.

I am happy for anyone who finds a religion that enriches their life. Just leave me alone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


A friend is at the U.S. Embassy in Bern renouncing her U.S. nationality. Her entire family will soon be ex-Americans.

Her doing it brings back my own memories of my day.

1. The guard yelling at me that I couldn't bring my purse into the embassy
2. Of paying 5 CHF to leave the purse at a nearby bakery
3. Of crying
4. Of vomiting afterwards

It produced two very different emotions: a tremendous sadness and greater relief. I could now have a bank account and lead a normal financial life. No longer would I worry which new act in Congress would threaten me with huge fines that would ruin me financially if I didn't discover this or that form that had to be filled out.

I often compared renunciation to a divorce.

American expats when they are together most often talk about renunciation, not because we are anti-American but because we live outside our birth country and we want to do simple things like have a bank account, be able to get a loan, save for retirement and even make an investment, none of which we can do thanks to FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act). The U.S. decided that expats were all rich and most were
1. Money launderers
2. Tax evaders
3. Sex traffickers
4. Drug dealers

I never chose any of the above as a profession. I don't even know any of the above among my expat friends.

When I appeared before Congress in April 2017, along with others, we were told that was what expats were to our faces. One of us was a U.S. Veteran. He had brought his old uniform to the hearing and it was in front of him as he faced the panel of congress people.

Worse, we weren't paying U.S. taxes so they bullied banks, investment houses, insurance companies, pension funds of reporting all American expat clients or face huge penalties. The result was the organizations simply closed American accounts. The U.S. and Eritrea are the only two countries on the planet that requires U.S. Citizens and Green card holders to pay taxes on everything they earn world wide. This also is the case with children born in the U.S. but never live there or only lived there for a short time.

Don't talk to me about anchor babies. Any parent that has a child for an American passport and the child will not live there for the rest of his or her life is cursing that child with financial hell.

Because of FATCA people found themselves suddenly having to pay off mortgages or unable to have their paychecks deposited, their debit and credit cards cancelled. This was true all over the world.

Their alternatives were to return to the States, or if they had a second nationality, to renounce. This is what my friend and her family chose. Her husband had already lost many opportunities for good jobs simply because he was American and the companies were too afraid of the consequences of employing an American.

I wish her a smooth renunciation. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Vacation photos

A former vendor and boss (at different times) from Massachusetts is taking the most fantastic photos as he travels around Europe.

There is no selfies of him grinning while a famous something or other is in the background.

His are of quill pens in a store window, an interesting doorway, graffiti which is a painting of a masked woman done on a wall.  One would never see these "at home." And maybe things that people don't notice while they are looking at the traditional sites.

The photo above is mine, but only an example of a museum window in Basel (a more traditional of mine is below). His are so much better. I can almost hear the street noises, smell the food cooking, experience the place, the hidden side of being a tourist. The colors make my eyes happy.

He sees things that many would walk by. Because he doesn't, I feel I've been on holiday with him. each morning I check my Facebook feed hoping he's published something new.

He has not lost his imagination, something I always valued in him.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Spoiled or Pampered

"He's not spoiled, he's pampered." This was how my daughter described Sherlock, our melange (mixture of Yorkie, griffon and who knows what) dog.

Today he slipped over the line to spoiled.

My husband prepared our usual Sunday breakfast, making a serving of eggs for our dog. Those went into the dog dish along with his croquettes. 

Sherlock ate a few than came to sit by me with his "I'm starving" look.

We ignored him until we finished.

"Maybe he thinks ours are better than his."

I went to his dish and with a spoon pretended to eat some.


I then wondered if I put his dish on the table, would he eat. 

He looked at the dish, he looked at me.

We really didn't care if he ate or not, but were curious how his beady little mind worked.

"Try a spoon," my husband said.

He ate not only the eggs but the croquettes from the spoon.


This will not be repeated soon.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Gay friends

Years ago, a very, very close friend came out to me. My reaction was so what. She was my friend.

She asked me to meet her new girl friend.

Over hummus and tabuli, my friend's friend asked..."What would you do if your daughter told you she was in love with another woman?"

"As long as her lover was good to her it would be okay."

I thought about it... "They same thing as if she were in love with black as long as she was good to my daughter. It would be ok."

Then it dawned on me. What I wouldn't be good with was if my daughter were in love with a black, lesbian who abused her. Or any one that was abusive.

Love is hard enough to find. Let's treasure it when we find it.


I remembered this long-ago event after reading about Emily Scheck.

The story is below and can be found at

After being initially told that her eligibility was in question, a gay cross-country runner at Canisius College who was disowned by her parents will be allowed to keep donations raised for her through a GoFundMe page and maintain her eligibility, the school announced on Friday.

Emily Scheck — a sophomore cross-country runner at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York — was disowned from her family in August after her mom found a picture of her with her girlfriend on social media.

Scheck’s mom told her that it was disgusting, gave her an ultimatum: Either come home from school and receive therapy or be cut out of the family completely.

Scheck didn’t want to leave school, as she had already moved in and was training with the cross-country team for the upcoming season, and wanted nothing to do with conversion therapy.
So one day soon after, Scheck came home and found her car had been packed up with all of her belongings from her parents’ house. Her father drove to Canisus College to load up her car and take the license plates off — as her parents were paying for the car insurance.

They told her to never talk to them or her siblings again.

Scheck was left with just $20 to her name. She didn’t have a meal plan, money for tuition or textbooks, or car insurance. She was suddenly alone.

“At the start it was definitely tough,” Scheck told Outsports. “I was lucky to be in preseason the first couple of weeks because coach could get us meals in the dining hall … We’ve had a lot of meals together.”

The GoFundMe Page

Scheck brought her problems to the coaching staff, who told her that they would try to help her out in any way that they could.

Yet months later, coach Nate Huckle and the school were still struggling to figure out how to help her financially. While she was on a partial athletic scholarship, it was nowhere near enough to cover everything.

So, seeing that she was still struggling, Scheck’s friends took matters into their own hands. Her roommate started a GoFundMe page explaining her situation, and set a goal to raise $5,000.

“Any amount of money will help her to buy groceries, finance to finish school, or cover insurance. Help her focus on school instead of working to make ends meet,” Scheck’s friend, Grace Hausladen, wrote on the GoFundMe page. “No one thought that her coming out would have such a drastic effect. This should not be happening in today’s society. Help her feel accepted. Help her feel like herself.”
Within just nine days, the page had raised nearly $26,000.

The NCAA cried foul

Soon after the page took off, Scheck was contacted by a NCAA compliance officer.

According to NCAA rules, “a student-athlete may not use his or her name, picture or athletics reputation to solicit funds through a personal online profile or crowdfunding site, except as permitted by NCAA legislation.” In order for a school to assist a student-athlete with a fundraiser, it must be able to prove that a “significant life event” occurred.

The compliance staff at Canisius College — which self-reported the violation to the NCAA last week — determined that the GoFundMe page violated NCAA rules, and informed Scheck that she needed to shut down the page and return all of the money if she wanted to keep her eligibility. If not, she would have to leave the team.

The school did tell Scheck that they would work with both her and the NCAA to try to find a solution, but there was no telling how long that would take to sort out.

“It would run the risk of it not even happening,” Scheck told Outsports. “There was no confirmation that we would even have our eligibility reinstated, or that I would get any financial help. There was no security.”

Because of the page, and the NCAA’s ruling that found the page was in violation of its rules, both Scheck and Hausladen left the running program at Casisius earlier this week.

Yet after spending the past week re-evaluating the situation, the NCAA reversed it’s ruling. It had found enough proof that she had experienced a “significant life event,” and will allow Scheck to receive the money and still keep her eligibility, it announced on Friday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Good wishes

It's that time of year again when I get so tired of people who get their knickers in a twist about saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.
There are many religions and many of them  celebrate holidays at this time of year. 

I have decided on my Facebook page, I will wish my many friends who are of a different nationalities and religions the appropriate greeting in their own languages.

  • I will wish those whose religion I don’t know happy holidays (this includes my Arabic friends who will have time off during the period and will use it as a holiday—so many businesses close in Switzerland between Christmas eve and Jan. 2 and it is not part of the minimum 4 week guaranteed vacation).  
  • I will say Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends 
  • Joyeux Noël will be sent to my French friends
  •  Feliz Navidad is for my Spanish friends
  •  Frohe Weihnachten works for my German friends
  • Veselé Vánoce to my Czech, although each year they laugh at my pronunciation. 
  • And Merry Christmas of course to my Christian friends 
  • To my pagan friends I'll send Samhain, Yule and Solstice greetings. Most societies have some celebration around this time of year and the Christians borrowed from the pagan tradition for Christmas.
  • Etc.
The point is to share good wishes and to come together rather than build walls. How narrow my life would be without so many people from so many places in my life. And whatever people say to me that brings good cheer, thank you, shukran, danke, merci, gracias and and and...

Sunday, November 11, 2018


 My daughter and I were visiting my stepmom in Florida. A Glenn Miller song played  on the radio. "This is the music of your life," the announcer said.

"Not my life," my daughter, who was 14 at the time, said.

Glenn Miller was my parents' time.

I don't have a music period. Dating and marrying a musician who was into jazz and classic meant that I missed some of the contemporary music of my teen years. He was also in an Army Band in Germany, with top notch musicians...many went on to leading orchestras and bands.

Later, after my divorce, I caught up with the music of my teenage years. When I moved to Europe, I started listening to French music as well.

The music of my life is truly the music of my life and of other lives as well.

Thus when Rick suggested going to a concert by an orchestra that played Glenn Miller, I was all for it, even if I had done it maybe a decade before. Another couple joined us. One word says it.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Writer's Block and Abortion

After finishing Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, a look at the history of abortion before Roe v. Wade,  including information about:
  • The first abortion trial in the US in the 1700s
  • Stories of women who had abortions
  • Stories of people who lost loved ones because of botched abortions
  • Good abortionists
  • Bad abortionists
  • Fighters for birth control
  • Fighters for legalizing abortion
  • People and groups that helped women get safe abortions
  • Legal cases
  • Interviews
  • Documentaries  
  • A 12 page time table 
I spent the next few months unable to write anything but blogs and emails. I joked that I was really named Donna Quixote in my crusade to show that abortion will never be stopped just like prohibition was a failure to stop the production and drinking of alcohol.

With the help of my daughter, we sent the book to those who would want to overturn the right of abortion. We will continue to do so.

However, after living with this project for almost a year, I was totally drained. I tried rereading a newsletter/blog I had written years ago on Writer's Block 

It didn't help.

My supportive husband pointed out that we had a very active social life during the summer. It was hot. Still, it was the first time in decades that words were not waiting to flow out of my brain into the computer for stories. The people who peppered my imagination all seemed to be away on holiday and didn't even send postcards.

I might start something, but quickly switched to Facebook, emails, games.

Then it came back. A talk with publisher may have been the trigger or not.

My first goal was to bring out an unpublished work Triple Deckers, about a Boston Irish Catholic family whose life is turned upside down by the Iraq War. I had written it many years ago. Going over it, I saw where it needed to be polished, rewritten or left alone.

It was like the pump in my grandfather's garden. To get it to flow, we had to prime it with a cup of water.

I gave it to Rick to read. He can be a hard critic, but he told me it was the best thing I've written. He also mentioned there were still typos.

I am into a new novel, Day Care about four single but very different women whose daughters are all at the same day care and the support they give each other.

Words are once again waking me up, challenging me to remember them as I walk down the street, and most importantly going from my fingers onto the keyboard.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Not buying it

 The Nest.

When I worked for the Digital Credit Union, I drove an old Ford Escort. Living in Boston, having an expensive car was stupid both from theft and dent potential. My fellow staff members chided me, and once my boss asked if he gave me a raise, would I buy a "decent" car. I said no, but he could give me the raise.

He didn't.

Not just because I was a single mother, did I refuse to participate in consumerism. I like nice things. I like pretty things. But there's a limit. I didn't want any debt.

We were spending a few days in my Nest. Thirty-one years ago, I paid $18,000 cash or a small studio/loft to retire in. It was my 45th birthday and I wasn't sure what retirement I'd have. (Later because I did not need a car for 20 years, I was able to pay cash for a second studio as income rental from the savings.)

With the help of a French friend, I found my retirement studio loft in a French village on the Med. I lovingly furnished it making sure I had everything I needed. Nothing went into it that wasn't useful, beautiful and/or had a memory.

I could live there for $600 a month. I still could today. Fortunately, I don't have to.

My office in the Warren where I live with my wonderful husband.

Marrying five years ago, the studio was too small, so we rented a flat two doors down. We furnished from depot-ventes and recycle places at low prices but everything in it we love.

My husband, an American, still has the, I want to replace the this or that. My response is always NO! We have one that works. He mentioned today getting a different fridge for the Nest. Small fridges have bad freezers. We don't need the freezer. I buy food from the local merchants daily. They are a few minutes walk away. There is a good freezer in our other flat, but often we put stuff in it and leave it too long to use. Throwing out edible food bothers me. We could do without a freezer, I think, except for ice cream and his loving of frosty glasses.

I have everything I need and more. What I want is to have no debt (I do), peace of mind, time to do the things I love with people I love and none of those have anything to do with buying anything. Like a nice bowl of ice cream while snuggling with my husband and watching something interesting without a worry in the world about our finances.

Sunday, November 04, 2018


As a Swiss, I am proud of our train system, which has beautiful cars, a good on-time record and the possibility of being able to get anywhere in the country almost hourly.

Today, we went to Figueras for a four-hour train trip to Madrid. The seats were some of the most comfortable I've seen on any train, bus or plane. The leg room exceeded airline economy and some airline business class. There was so much, I had a bit of trouble reaching the foot rest.

We no longer settled in our seats and a hostess wanted to know if we wanted coffee and offered a newspaper with apologies it was only in Spanish.

A movie, a Japanese Manga, played on the overhead screen.

We left on time, we arrived on time.

At the Figueres train station, they did put our baggage through an x-ray machine. Our shoes and belts stayed on our bodies.

Had we flown, which would have been more costly, we would have had to arrive at the airport two hours early. The flight would first have taken us to Paris which is the wrong direction. We would have missed the scenery.

Probably one of the most enjoyable train rides ever.

I still love Swiss trains, too.

Thursday, November 01, 2018


There is a saying, "There but for the grace of God, go I."

Every time I think of the Caravan heading to the US, the refugees fleeing war in too many countries, the people where bombs fall all too often, where water is miles away and may not be clean, where food is never enough if any at all, I know how lucky I am.
  • By accident of birth, I was safe in the US during WWII.
  • I grew up at a time when myriad opportunities were open to women.
  • I received an excellent education thru to a masters in US and the UK.
  • My daughter was born healthy and what problems she did have were curable because of affordable health insurance and availability.
  • I fulfilled my dream of living in Europe.
  • I became the writer I always wanted to be.
  • I've been able to travel to most of the places I've wanted to go. 
  • Some jobs were fulfilling.
  • I had a chance to run my own business.
  • I am not rich, but I have enough. 
  • Top quality medical care has always been there when I've needed it.
  • Late in life, I found my soul mate.
  • Switzerland accepted me as a citizen.
This does not mean I haven't had problems: 
  • As an army wife, there was food insecurity at the end of the month BUT it was always temporary by days at the most.
  • A divorce was painful.
  • Some jobs only put money in the bank to survive and caused stress.
  • I've had cancer twice.
My problems are first world problems. I have to remember when dirty dishes in the sink annoy me, or a piece of furniture has clutter on it, I am safe, warm, well-fed, well loved. I am not walking hundreds of miles or crossing the sea in a make-shift boat to an unknown future that I hope is better than the fear and deprivation I've been living under but may mean different but equally bad challenges. 

I am unbelievably lucky, but more by an accident of birth than anything I've done. Had I been born elsewhere in a different time, I too, could be one of the desperate ones. I only wish that all the refugees, all the people fighting to get to safety, have a chance, too.