Room with a French View…

Mon Dieu, the South of France is exquisite! Join me for a quick peek at Claire & Sheila’s Excellent Adventure! Perhaps I’ll dispatch a few photos and not say much (What! Yes I’m tired after driving three hours today).

What an amazing trip my Maine friend of forty years and I have been having! We’re staying in a castle tonight, on our way from Sarlat to Provence. Drinking one or two glasses of red wine nightly has become a delightful habit. I’m looking forward to sipping Rose and wearing lighter clothing in Provence.


Chateau de Creissels in Millau, France

Sarlat, the heart of the Dordogne region, was magnifique. We stayed at the Lanterne, and were greeted by our wonderful hosts Jayne and Ian Holliday, Brits who wanted “to try something different.” The smiling, witty couple moved to France a year ago.


The arched front door at the Lanterne, built in 1503, welcomed us under an arch of roses.

Saved by history, the Dordogne villages we visited included Beynac (my favorite) — complete with a Game of Thrones castle — high atop a hill overlooking the Dordogne River.

Je me souviens, as they say in Quebec. French culture’s attention to beauty, relaxation, and food is indisputable. Uplifting. No matter what, a beautifully presented dejeuner and a glass of wine — or two — reminds me how grateful I am. For now, bon soir, mes amis!





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Wordplay Authors, My Daughter-in-law, and Ordinary Human Beings encourage Me…

Ok, chatting with Stephen King was pretty cool. His author presentation opening the Wordplay Book Festival in Minneapolis — of which my amazing daughter-in-law is the founding director — was super funny, smart, and humane. King’s fan base and reputation as the second wealthiest author on the planet  is astonishing (after J.K. Rowling, last I looked). But he’s an ordinary guy.


The king wore a Maine t-shirt. I wore my little black dress. Photo Credit: Kay Martin/taken before the performance of the Rock Bottom Remainders at the Wordplay book festival in Minneapolis. (what happened to his hand?)

Having owned the Oz Children’s Bookstore in Southwest Harbor, Maine, for fifteen years, I had met King before. When I told him Friday night that my son was born in Ellsworth, and had been driving the RBR around Minneapolis for  the past two days, he said, “Let’s go see this Mainer.”

I took meticulous notes at King’s Saturday morning talk, quotes and all, on my iPhone. Somehow I deleted them. What I remember most: King believes his writing can dispel anxieties, especially when it crosses over to the supernatural. It’s so subtle the reader may not recognize the transformation, but sure, it serves as an escape from the unease of real life. Guess the reader worries so much about the horror she’s immersed in, small worries disappear.

In a way, I’m glad I deleted my notes/quotes. This morning I met three more ordinary people, who haven’t amassed a fraction of King’s notoriety, but each contributed to my faith in humans.

First Conrad the Lyft driver : He picked me up at my Minneapolis hotel. We talked about Judaism, Conrad being super religious and me being super secular. Upon our arrival at the airport Conrad handed me a dollar bill, telling me it would be good luck for my trip. Also, he said, “You must do a mitzvah,” or help someone I meet, which I’ll be more than happy to do.

At the Minneapolis airport: Amanda, a beautiful young American woman, who works in the coffee industry, and lives in Lima, Peru, told me, “You must go to Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina in Florence! It’s to die for!” She encouraged me to travel more.

And what about the calm, efficient woman who waited on us at the French Meadow cafe for breakfast? She took care of every diner’s requests with a smile. I told her she was fantastic. Inspiring, really.

The waitperson, the business woman, the Lyft driver, and Stephen King encouraged me to rock on…Now I’m waiting for American Airlines to get our plane going to Philadelphia, from where I’ll board my flight to France.

Oh, and did I say that a really nice American Airlines employee helped me check in my suitcase, which I’m happy I did.

We made it. Packing up in our tiny Ibis Budget hotel room in Bordeaux, we’re heading to the Dordogne countryside. Onward for Claire & Sheila’s Excellent Adventure!!!




Posted in Fight wimpiness, It's only rock 'n' roll, Mount Desert Island/Maine, Old friends, The Rest of the World, Tucson Festival of Books/good books | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Helping Migrants Seeking Asylum

Enter the monastery. My shift was from noon to 3 p.m.; folding clothes would be my bag. The well-organized, super well-stocked free-clothing shop welcomed migrants already approved for political asylum: “Born to be UA Wildcat” onesies for newborns; jeans for every size and shape; colorful Southwestern tops and dresses; even size one sparkly boots for little ones on their way to Minnesota.

We were ready. But the building was quiet today, not like last Friday when I dropped off clothing for the newcomers. “We’re expecting 400 more people tonight,” one woman said then. We had seen people arriving in large Department of Homeland Security buses as we strolled by on our way to a movie at the Loft Cinema.


One of Tucson’s most historic buildings, a few blocks away  from us on Country Club Road

“There are only 70 people here, with 25 more expected later,” the same woman said today.

So I quietly folded a giant bag of new unisex t-shirts. Apparently, the sorting room emptied out prior to Easter. Not anymore. Crates stacked high, marked with their contents, await the next influx of migrants. Human beings who have somehow made it from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador. Places no longer hospitable to them.

Here, three meals a day await them in the immaculate comedor (dining room).

I say “Hola” and smile at everyone I pass.   IMG_2186

This home away from home exudes kindness. Formerly occupied by a few elderly nuns, it welcomes all. Spanish-speaking volunteers accompany a mother and her two children, each carrying a donated new pillow for dreaming sweet dreams.

Last week I felt heartened watching so many smiling kids as they blazed around the monastery yard on toy vehicles and tiny bikes. Going fast. Weaving between fruit trees. Trying out their new world.

I wonder what the family’s next stop in our scary country will offer?

I wish them well.


Waiting for the next batch of kids



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From spring to summer, from one to two grandchildren, from Mount Desert Island to Tucson, from book to book, from old friend to new. Turning from one part of my life to another, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

One constant has been my love of nature. Humming when I’m in it, hearing birds, being quiet, stunned by new blossoms exploding in color. At age 10 — not realizing how much I would later revere flowers — I unraveled newspaper from Easter plants arriving at my father’s florist shop. No doubt that’s how that reverence began. But I didn’t know it then.

Nor could I have ever imagined leaving New England for Tucson, Arizona.

This morning’s nature walk took me to the Douglas Spring trail. Surprised last week by a  slowly crawling gila monster and a fast-hopping Jack Rabbit, this week it was all about the flowers.


Ocotillo: ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.

It’s a glorious day. Humming, I walk along the desert path. It’s a glorious feeling to have lived in two very different parts of the country. Ocean and desert swirl around the years.


Prickly Pear of an unusual color


Palo Verde tree in bloom, pink pentstemon in front

Desert grasses may surprise my New England friends. Baby lupine are prolific today (sorry about the photo, but see the leaves?).

IMG_2171         babylupine


Two Saguaro friends

A young couple spots my hat and stops me on the trail. “Oh, we loved Thurston’s. We were there in September!”

“I’ll be there this summer,” I smile and tell them.

“Lucky you,” the woman replies.

“I know, it’s my other home,” I say.IMG_2181  I’m always turning back again. 

Posted in Baby Boomers, Mount Desert Island/Maine, Nature Girl, Old friends | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Nogales Entrepreneurs/No National Emergency, part II

Perhaps my visiting Maine pal, former University of Maine prof Phyllis Brazee and I got  too silly, smiling near the needless razor-wired border wall, thrusting Nogales, Arizona, into a war zone.


Phyl Brazee, professor of life

Phyl wanted to see our quiet border town, fifty miles from Tucson. Our field trip included a delicious lunch on the Mexican side at La Roca, followed by a short stroll to the secret border crossing known to Nogales locals.


Festive La Roca in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico

An unexpected line greeted us. Seeming to be the only gringos queuing up, I asked a few people, “Habla Ingles?”

“Why the long line? Is it a Friday afternoon thing?” One young woman spoke poquito Ingles and said she didn’t know. We waited patiently. Most of our compadres did, too.

A nearly toothless man carrying a broom appeared next to us, leading a nicely dressed man into the line ahead of us. The interloper handed him 20 pesos. No one balked at the affront to traditional line protocol.

Tasting success, the scruffy entrepreneur identified us as senior citizens. Directing us to the front of the line, I knew that  the sign “Sentro” didn’t mean senior (I tried that before and was rebuffed by the border agent), but it was the Mexican version of Global Entry.

Another prospective entrepreneur appeared, weaving crosses and hearts out of palm fronds. No one whisked out their wallets.

Here’s a good one, I thought, when a cheerful father and daughter arrived with a guitar. They planted themselves farther up the line. I couldn’t see how they made out.

Around forty-five minutes passed pleasantly. I noticed an engaging older-than-us Mexican woman. Her name was Consuela, which means consolation in Latin. She wore a large cross around her neck and pretty purple flats. We smiled at each other.

“Yo tengo un nieto; se llama es Foss,” I proudly announced, the one Spanish sentence I had memorized from a class I took. She didn’t seem to get my sentence but we managed to understand our three names, communicating with hand signs and more smiles. As we inched closer to the crossing, I clasped her hand.

In Nogales, Arizona, Consuela walked down the opposite side of the street with a younger woman, perhaps her daughter. We waved and smiled at each other a few times. On either side of the border, we could be friends.





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No Crisis at the Nogales Border

I will not watch the make-believe president rant tonight about a make-believe border crisis. I will not believe his outrageous lies about rapists, murderers, and terrorists entering the United States from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, into Nogales, Arizona. I will not support sending the military to install razor wire on the useless border wall.

I do not like trump here or there. I do not like him anywhere.



Recently installed razor wire on the existing border wall between Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico

We live 50 miles from the border. The only border crisis I recognize is how much I spend  fixing my teeth (maybe it’s because my mother put chocolate syrup in my milk to get me to drink it).

Today I drive an hour for my appointment in Nogales, Mexico. I park in a Burger King  lot in Nogales, Arizona, and walk across the street to the other Nogales.

In Mexico, the usual street vendors implore me to buy blankets or silver or anything to make a few pesos. “No, gracias,” I say, and they leave me alone.

I see no caravan refugees. I see no trace of the U.S. military. I see no “bad hombres” anywhere.


Around 200 feet from the US border in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico

As I wait for my appointment in the Dental Laser waiting room a few young folks come in, but most patients are older Americans. I wonder how many subscribe to the rapist, murderer, terrorist lies they hear on Fox News?

Here are the fine people I meet in Nogales.


Lupita, the able bilingual dental assistant who works with Dr. Sanchez, the crown specialist at Dental Laser

Dr. Sanchez discovers that I have a bone infection under a dental bridge that’s been bothering me for a few months (a Tucson dentist didn’t find the infection). Superior (non-criminal) Mexican dental care costs about a third as much as it does in Tucson, and it’s more high-tech.

Following my appointment I head over to La Roca, my favorite Mexican restaurant. It’s old-fashioned, with traditional white-jacketed older male waiters. Their chile rellenos are the best anywhere. I can’t turn down a yummy mini-margarita.


Next week I’ll return to La Roca and Dental Laser.

This week Lupita tells me of a border crossing down the street from the restaurant. “Most Americans don’t know about it,” she says. Second in line behind a teenager, I walk back into the U.S., onto Nogales, Arizona’s main street.

Thanks Lupita. I’m glad to know you here or there.




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Immigration Insanity, and one Saudi woman

Isn’t it ironic that more people were stopped at our northern border (91), entering the United States from Canada (October to March, 2018) for their “terrorist” leanings, than at our southern border (6)? Guess that doesn’t matter. Brown-skinned people are the ones our fake president and his minions fear most.

Is Trump getting what he wants by clamoring for his stupid wall? The immigration process into the U.S. is being held up for almost everyone. “Government shutdown cancels 43,000 immigration hearings, including 1,000 in Arizona,” reports Tucson’s Sentinal. 


Paul Ingram/

What about the forgotten children separated from their parents and held in cages on our Southern border? Anything to stop more brown people from entering our lily-white (NOT) communities?

I like Canada, although their country consists of mostly white folks. Who doesn’t? More than once I’ve received treatment at their socialist medical facilities. Yippee, I say, the more socialist-caring-for-people opportunities the better.

I’m impressed with Canada’s quick offer of asylum to Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, an 18-year-old Saudi woman, who snuck away from a family vacation in Kuwait. After announcing her atheism to her family she feared certain death. And don’t forget, Saudi Arabia is our good friend.

I’m more impressed with this young Saudi woman, who gave up everything she knew for a new life in cold Toronto. Ok, she must have had a credit card. She came from a well-off Saudi family, which won’t negate difficulties adjusting to a new culture. So far, her successful asylum is a feel-good story. We need more.

May we all find the courage to speak the truth in 2019!

Posted in Bopping Around Tucson, Fight wimpiness, For Love of History, Politics, The Rest of the World, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments