Saturday, September 28, 2013

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

A slight change in the order of Charles Dickens’ famous quote in A Tale of Two Cities
suits the situation.

Today my little sister would have turned 61, had not grim cancer spirited her away.
Today my nephew Eric celebrated with near friends and family the beginning of
his and Sara’s wedding weekend.

We are a sum of all that we have seen and experienced: formed by an 
accumulation of the events that we have lived, both sad and happy.

May there always be joyous moments to compensate for the sorrowful, 
the best of times to outweigh the worst of times.

Thank you Sara and Eric 
– we can now remember the date with gladness to temper the sadness.

Friday, September 20, 2013


“Dear Petite Cougar and Lady Leopard,

I am so sorry to hear of your disappointment… yes, the female friends
tend to be a bit better about taking the necessary steps to re-affirm

Perhaps you will allow me – if ever so temporarily – to wish you both

May today’s sorrows become tomorrow’s joys – after all you do have a
gorgeous lake and comfortable quarters to live in.

Traveling Tracey”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Love and Loss

As newborns we have no way of measuring, in spite of great strides in medicine, machines and psychiatry, what, if any, feelings we have.

As young children – my vast recollections – we are happy as long as our basic necessities are met and we feel loved.

Life continues usually without a ripple through those preadolescent years: most memories are positive, family occasions and events, even the past’s “daily” remembrances are usually without sorrow.

As teenagers we feel pretty invincible and most are lucky enough to know no great loss: tragedies at this age usually involve not getting the date you wanted, or the grade, or the friends. We are pretty self-centered: this is perhaps a good thing as it shelters us from the realities of many lives.

I was particularly privileged in that my first great loss, that of a favorite aunt, happened at age 32: I was married, had a child, both my parents were still alive as well as all my siblings: many, including my own children, are not so protected.

Much has been written about which losses are worst so I won’t delve into that, it is all personal in any case as well as being dependent upon one’s own set of criteria: age, type of relationship, type of death, etc.

One loss, however, that has been difficult for me, is that of my little sister, Pat, a year ago today.  To watch someone you love die slowly of cancer is never pleasant, but when it is someone younger than yourself, it just adds to the ache.

However, and this is where the love comes in: she was loved by many and is still remembered. This helps mitigate the pain: what better goal to aspire to, than that of being remembered with love; of having a smile cross the face of those who think of you; of being important enough to those left behind that they think of you with positivity. One’s life has not been in vain, if even one person misses you and remembers you with fondness: we should all be so lucky!

So, little sis, RIP you still live on in the hearts of those who loved you.

Love is timeless
L’Amour est intemporel
Liebe ist Zeitlos

Patricia J. Aitken, 1956 - 4

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The power of one

Or a totally different story

This one has absolutely nothing to be with contributing only goodness to society, but rather is about words and how enormous the change is when one swaps one letter for another.

I amused myself whilst driving home the other day – and couldn’t find anything for X until I looked in a dictionary: the others are as they came.

ace   / age
ban  / bun
can / con
den / din
eat / ear
far / fir
get / got or goat / gout
hat /hot
ice / ire
jab / job
kiln / kilt
lamb /limb
mate / mute
never / newer
ode /ore
Pack / pick
quack / quick
rest /rust
son / sun
trap / trip
udder / under
vane / vine
wham / whim
xeno /xero (both are not words, but rather prefixes, but that’s all even the dictionary could come up with).
yen / yon
zap / zip

They say “what a difference a day makes”, I say “what a difference a letter can make”.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The aftermath

It had been just about two months since my last tea and scone “fix” so when I proposed trying to fit in an outing to the Théière qui Rit or Laughing Teapot (15, Rue de la Cite, Geneva 1204, Switzerland 022 310 36 40) my housemate was more than happy to schedule it with me.

I inevitably have the “petite folie” (little madness), which is a pot of their chosen tea accompanied by a scone, butter, jam and cream. As good as in Cornwall? Perhaps not, but certainly the best that Geneva has to offer in this niche.

You know the saying “Veni, vidi, vici” ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). Below is the aftermath. And, yes, lunch will be light!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Paucis verbis

Or how the mind wanders.

I was checking recent Facebook postings, one of which concerned an article from The Economist about how the elderly (meaning me?!) could improve their cognitive skills by playing video games. Of course I had to see which video games so that led to opening the link and reading the article (

Many of you know that whilst reading anything online one also tends to see other postings (think YouTube).

In the side bar under “recent activity” was  Pax vobiscum. Having always kind of regretted that I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn Latin, I clicked on it just to see. Turned out to be an article (also from The Economist) about sexism in gaming. But the title didn’t mean anything to me so had to go to the translator. Pax vobiscum means peace be with you (now why the author chose that as the title to an article about sexism in gaming is beyond my finite mind – perhaps trying to be more erudite, something I have long since avoided.)

I now knew the meaning to that Latin phrase, but then noticed that the word preceding it in the dictionary, was Paucis verbis… or “in a few words”.

Time to reign in my meanderings or this could go on all day and more than a few words will have been written.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The power of one

Amazing Grace

A chain of events… hearing the song, much loved by many, remarking upon it, my housemate asked if I knew the story, then loaned me the DVD.

It took two nights to watch it, but as the cover said: an unforgettable true story.

The examples of Livingstone, Florence Nightingale, William Wilberforce (my train of thought was geared towards Great Britain after the movie, which influenced the names that came to mind) and many others, show the power of one.

We often think that we are not important enough, not in the public eye, don’t have sufficient funds, etc. – all excuses: those whom we come to know as “great” are often simple individuals with a passion; a passion that guides their every waking moment; one that leads them to assemble others to their thoughts, to promote laws or improvements through sheer tenacity: Livingstone and his explorations of Africa; Florence Nightingale probably never realized the industry of nurses that followed in her wake, although she founded the first school of nursing upon her return from the Crimean War. And William Wilberforce, the main character in the movie, persevered for 26 years before seeing the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 come to pass, dying just 3 days later.

We read of them in history books, but during their lifetimes they knew more despair and trouble than glory.

So it is also with many whose names were never even entered into a history book. And here is where we can shine: have you ever thought that just by smiling at one person early in your day, that maybe they smiled at others, who in turn smiled at yet others, leaving perhaps a wake of happiness in otherwise sorrowful lives. By just speaking one kind word, you may have lightened someone else's load, making it possible for them to carry on. We probably will none of us be known for extraordinary feats, our histories will remain untold and unwritten, but oh how sad should we not have done what we could.

It takes many drops to fill a lake, yet a lake is just a collection of drops; it takes many feathers to stuff a pillow, yet a pillow is just a collection of feathers; it takes many people to make a city, yet a city is just a collection of people – and the list is unending. Imagine the things that could change, the lives that could be improved if we all, as just one, extended ourselves in any positive direction!

Even the lowly dandelion changes its world one blade at a time.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Under 100

Or how to count the unimportant

Today is a slow day: I awoke at 4:30 (thanks to trying to hydrate more yesterday) but was able to fall back asleep and lo and behold it was 8:00 before I pulled myself out of my dreams. Went over to the restaurant that carries bread and the Sunday paper for both items: she too had not awakened normally and was busy trying to wake herself up enough to help the few customers dragging themselves out into the much cooler and wetter day.

By the time coffee was drunk (approx.. 100 drops), bread was eaten (approx.. 100 crumbs) and paper read (fortunately only half that 100 pages) – my landlord popped down and we both groaned that it was already 10:00 and nothing yet done – not that Sunday’s are particularly meant for accomplishing things – aren’t we supposed to relax?

Took a quick walk in the 100 drops of rain and didn’t get totally soaked: not counting the 100s of trees shrouded in fog, nor the 100s of drops on the leaves.

Lunch = good – nothing 100 about it though.

Where the 100 was really productive: I have cross-checked 100 of the clients payments against their mailing list and added e-mails where necessary; I have cleared my inbox down to below 100; I have finished a photo album of under 100 pages (which is taking over 100 minutes to upload – the connection in the flat not being high caliber to put it mildly) and now intend to watch 100 minutes of TV, or DVD, or read 100 pages of my current book.

All in all, the day was 100% successful!

Saturday, September 7, 2013


In my quest for new doormats, I decided to drive to Sion, VS and check out the various stores there (had only been once this year so deemed it time for another trip)
Upon arrival I parked under one of the department stores, then, instead of simply looking there, thought I’d take a walk through Old Town.

As has happened to me many a time: unforeseen, unplanned and unknowingly, I happened across a major event: Friday’s Market in the Old Town with more than 85 stands along the main road and several secondary side streets – larger even than the other market that I am most familiar with – i.e. Argelès-sur-Mer.

My camera was in the car so let me try and give you the flavor without pictures to assist. Those above I took later once I had returned to my car.

Local gardeners with their array of vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs – all glowing with that just-from-the-garden freshness; stands of sausages with a variety for everyone; others with cheeses – again local and with herbs for every palate, or plain; wooden toys; several jewelry stands – all again made by artisans in the craft; knitted items – including a couple of ladies carding the wool as they explained the process; the usual street musician or two; stands, coffee shops and restaurants too numerous to mention – all with their own specialties (as we were close to noon and in the Valais, there was many a stand-up stall with the local wines on display and already being drunk); a pastry stall; Asian takeaway, Raclette by the portion; and my personal favorite (I had the choice of two separate vendors too), the tapenade, dried tomatoes in oil, capers of several varieties as well as olives – again in at least 6 different flavors and sweet garlic cloves stands. Such luck – an added treat.

On the way back to the mountains I did take pictures of the surrounding peaks.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Emptiness – blessed emptiness

For 32 years my home has been the residence, not only of a family of four, then a family of three, but also various returning adult children (I like to say that my kids are on bungee cords)

Now, for the first time, my oldest son has recuperated all (well almost all anyway – one small cupboard’s worth can be deemed nothing) his belongings; the younger one has been gone for 21 months (mostly, but even the odd nights spent here have dwindled to the rare ones – o.k. the cellar room still has a bunch of stuff, but that is the room that I dedicated to him and someday he will bring it into order as well); and, my house mate’s daughter returned to the USA this week as well after spending eight months with us.

This is not to say that none of them will return, nor that they won't be welcomed with open arms, but when, and if, they do so, it will now be with the status of “guest”:

Entertaining and
Talents or Tonics

I am finally going to be able to attack the attic and turn it into a guest suite: after all, if my sister and brother-in-law can contemplate a total house renovation (and we’re talking take-it-down-to-the-studs renovation here), I can surely pull together two rooms. The old carpet has been replaced by wooden flooring so now the rest needs to happen.

It was fun for the first 32 years – it will be fun for the next ones!

One rule: advance notice – and after a season of plenitude when it comes to guests, I am very tempted to limit them now to once a month!

Then again, everyone who has been here, has been lovely so even if the turnover became a bit hectic, it wouldn’t surprise me if that loan rule bites the dust quickly. The advance warning remains (and by that I don't mean 24 hours, but rather a month or so).

P.S. The empty cupboards are not meant to be filled, but three shelves already hold accumulated linens.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The importance of potions and lotions…

Or: the main point isn’t the contents

As a child growing up, I was a tomboy: always out and about, never stopping except to read. We not only didn’t have the money, but potions and lotions weren’t as readily available: we had not yet bought into the thought that we could change our faces, skin etc. with something applied.

We only even had sun screen for those very long days at the beach – once a year, one week.

As a teenager and young adult, the need for such totally escaped me – I continued to hike, play basketball and run around without a thought to my personal “beauty”. Imagine my shock when I went to boarding school to only be told that one should shave one’s legs etc. I was in a boarding school composed mainly of the children of professionals and I had just returned from the carefree environment of Hawaii.

The first time I gave it much thought at all was when my German sister-in-law told me (aged 26 by then) that I should start applying lotion to my face if I wanted to still have good skin at 50. I did, haphazardly. I mean my own mother still had great skin, no wrinkles, no gray hair – and it was such a fiddle to have to remember morning and evening.

Through the years I have been very off and on with the application of potions and lotions, but there are a few products that I have enjoyed.  I have a tendency to give my family and friends those that are more expensive as birthday and Christmas presents – but some of them think that it’s a hint that their whatever isn’t good enough: not true, just I always wanted to get them – they tend to be pricey – so thought that others would also appreciate receiving such. 

This year, my hints worked and for my birthday I got potions and lotions from both sons and one girlfriend (of a son that is).

And have discovered the real reason for such: now when I clean my face at night or apply the day lotion in the morning, I think of A; when I wash or shower, using one of my favorite Occitane products, S; when I apply the hand lotion or use the lavender soap, the other S (yep both boys names start with S). 

My lotions and potions remind me daily of the joy of being surrounded by loving people And, as such, are worth every penny they spent!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Time: the long and the short of it.

Today on what would have been the first of my 39 wedding anniversaries, (there are three every year as we married in Geneva at City Hall, in California church and civil and in Germany, church), I have a special thought for time and how it affects us.

Due to various upheavals in my life, I relate to memories of periods of time perhaps more knowingly than many.

Even if I don’t personally remember the event (and there are none of the older generation to remember it either – now that’s weird feeling), I was born in the state of Washington, USA.
At 9 months (again hearsay, but I have seen various documents over the years that lead me to believe that it is true) my parents and I moved to California – staying the first few months with my mother’s younger sister (my home was a cardboard box under the kitchen table – and then people wonder why I turned out the way I have!).

Of our first proper home, I remember only the dog tied to the cloth’s line outside the kitchen door and a vague memory of the living room. When I was 5 something we moved to the house I was to remember best – in Glendale at the foot of hills, which would later be covered with other housing developments: then it was just plain old hills, hills into which our cats regularly disappeared as there were many coyotes. Here we were neighbors with two other little girls, with whom we have kept in touch over the years. Imagine being able to say that you have known someone for 60 years and not have that person be a family member!

Just before I turned 14 we were off to a three-year adventure in Hawaii. Upon our return I landed in a boarding academy as my mother was sure that they weren’t going to be staying long where they were: she didn’t want to have me have to divide my last two years of high school into different places, but  - probably the more important factor – there was also no Algebra II at the high school near them. I loved boarding school, but when it came time to go to university, I chose the one nearer my parents (yes they had moved just three months later), so again a change and new friends. On the spur of the moment, and at the last minute, I decided to apply for a year abroad at the end of that first year. I was accepted and at 19 came to Europe for the first time: I loved it. Back in the USA for another year, I again returned to France for my senior year. Then back to the USA for a teaching credential and MA (unfinished as I didn’t think my subject for a thesis was valid  - although accepted – nor did I chose to do 3 more units of French when I already had too many). This bothered my mother the entire rest of her life, but didn’t have any impact on my life other than to lead me back to Europe when I couldn’t find a job teaching French.

So 40 years ago I met the man who was to become my husband. 13 years ago he passed away.

Where have the years gone? Such memories, yet all those memories just serve as a basis for who I became and who I am still becoming.

Now the days seem to fly faster (a trick that I wish I could slow down) and the hours are precious.  It was a shock to realize that this past June 3rd that my younger son had lived half his life without his father.

Our reference to time changes, not only with the passing of it, but also depending upon hundreds of other factors throughout the day. Is it sunny and warm? We might take time to walk in the park or along the lake, thus slowing the minutes.  Are we stuck in traffic and late to an important meeting? Time seems unending. Have we met with friends or family for a meal, party, special event? Time disappears in seconds.

A river that can never be stopped, but whose drops – every one – are precious!

Speaking of time: how long has the mountain below stood and watched life in its neighborhood? A lot longer than any of us will ever be alive. It puts things into perspective doesn’t it?

Mont Blanc in France

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A beautiful Sunday

Or the downside of being self-employed.

Woke up to one of those glorious end-of-summer days where the heat is still present, the skies a bit hazy, but a light breeze to mitigate the whole.

It would have been lovely to have been able to simply wander down to the lake or take a long walk: as it was, I finally had the documents I needed to work on my client’s bookkeeping.

I did break the task by indulging in a lovely lunch with my youngest son, so, together with the drive in and out during which I could enjoy the beauty of the day, not feeling totally deprived.. In fact, feeling very virtuous, which is never a bad thing.

And, let it be said, that one of the upsides of working for oneself is taking off on that odd Tuesday or Wednesday, saving the work for a rainy Sunday: just too bad that today wasn’t one of those.