Anne Notations

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Late summer sky

Sunsets are one reason I don't mind the days getting shorter. The colors appear more vivid in the clearer skies of autumn and winter.

One of our great pleasures when we lived on a hillside overlooking the Sakonnet River in the 1980s was viewing nature's amazing evening displays from our picture window. Now we're in another house by a bay, facing west over water. I took this photo about 20 minutes ago from our front porch. Moments of such ephemeral beauty are good for the soul.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My sweeties

Yes, I have a cute granddaughter and a cute ol' husband. (Even with house paint all over his T-shirt.) Caroline is 21 months old, running all over the place, and talking in sentences. "Nana go outside? Go for walk?" "Daisy is doggie." "Smell flowers!" We continue to spend Wednesdays together, and she adores our new home with the beach so close and wildflowers across the road.

So what if she gave all of us a helluva head cold this week? Nana, Poppop, Aunt Melinda, and Uncle Kevin love us some toddler smiles.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Recent events have put a horrific crimp in our fiscal plans (not to mention an apparent black hole in our bank accounts). In a not unrelated development, I have felt personally stressed beyond the reach of primal scream therapy.

I've been trying to cope with things out of my control by simplifying aspects of my life that I can control. I've unsubscribed from Usenet groups and mailing lists - too much information, too much noise. I've come to enjoy not having a mini television in the kitchen, as we did in the previous house. (Amazingly, I can live without watching the evening news as I cook dinner!) I'm aspiring to achieve a composed, calm approach to my daily commute to work and back. Rule number one: Stop caring about other drivers' progress relative to mine. So what if the nitwit in the Beemer gets to Providence two minutes faster than I do? Rule number two: Stop listening to obnoxious local talk shows that get me screaming at the car radio; instead, put on a nice CD and chill.

In order to move into this house, we had to get rid of a ton of possessions. At first it was painful (oh no, my Pitiful Pearl doll from 1958! Nana's quilt squares that no one ever stitched together!). Then, after a while it felt good. Now that we're living here, it feels great. While this is no Bauhaus, our wooden surfaces are free of knickknacks, and I've pared down the dinnerware and china by at least half. (Here is a wonderful quote from a decluttering blog that has helped me come to terms with "re-homing" family hand-me-downs: "Realize that disposing of an object does not in any way reflect on your respect and love for the person who gave it to you, or who owned it before. If we don't ever dispose of things from our past, we leave no room in our spaces for the present and the future.")

In order not to re-clutter our home, and to stanch the flow out of our savings, I've vowed not to buy anything we don't genuinely need. This is not as easy as it sounds. From mid-20th century on, we Americans have been raised in the universal religion of materialism, inspired by the gospel according to Madison Avenue. Very few of us are immune. We buy. Then we want. Then we buy more. Mark Morford, a columnist for, said it very well: "It is ... the American way. We are not the slightest bit trained to care about waste, excess, the mindless accumulation of needless things. The notion of simplifying, of saying no, of intentionally and mindfully choosing to keep ourselves free of all the superfluous crap that's hurled at us by a product-drunk culture is so far from our junktastic ideology it is ... nearly unthinkable."

I'm getting better at saying no. My new mantra is ENOUGH. When we need something, I'll buy it - or take it out of the library. The credit card stays in my wallet, thanks.

We've plenty of stuff.
It's time to get tough.
Feeling down? Feeling rough?
Don't buy! Shout ENOUGH!

First steps: I've been plodding through my inbox, unsubscribing from all the commercial spam I agreed to receive over the years. If I can't see all those fabulous "deals," I won't jump at them. Lands End: Bye bye, baby. Hasta la vista. It's been swell. I never bought your cards anyway.

This Zen site is my new favorite hangout. I'm hopping off the materialism merry-go-round; it was making me dizzy. I've had - you guessed it - enough!

P.S. to my dear family and friends: From this day forward, if you ever feel moved to give me a gift, please give flowers - they are frivolous and I love them, or fresh fruit, or something you've baked. Better yet, give a gift to the charity of your choice and then tell me about it. I now more fully understand my grandmother's and mother's disclaimers that they truly did not need or want anything besides a homemade card.

Colin Powell, won't you run?

When earlier today I read Gen. Colin Powell's sensible, smart, reasoned words (from an interview in GQ), I could have wept that he decided some time ago against ever running for president. What I mean is words like these:

"Let’s show the world a face of openness and what a democratic system can do. That’s why I want to see Guantánamo closed. It’s so harmful to what we stand for. ...Yes, there are a few dangerous nuts in Brooklyn and New Jersey who want to blow up Kennedy Airport and Fort Dix ... and we must deal with them. But come on, this is not a threat to our survival! The only thing that can really destroy us is us. We shouldn’t ... use fear for political purposes.

"We should remember what [America's] image was, back after World War II. It was the image of a generous country that sought not to impose its will on other countries or even to impose its values. But it showed the way, and it helped other countries, and it opened its doors to people — visitors and refugees and immigrants.

"That’s the image we have to portray to the rest of the world: kind, generous, a nation of nations, touched by every nation, and we touch every nation in return...."

Anne sez: I want a person in the Oval Office who can think this way about complex issues, say these inspiring (but never empty) true things. I dare any hawk to accuse Colin Powell of being a wimp or a panderer. Bush and Cheney would be lucky to have a fraction of Powell's integrity and courage. And so would our nation.

This post dedicated in respectful memory to those who died in the attacks on 9/11/01.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Read this book

Since we've settled in, this has been a summer for reading. Being down here at the beach, with our old clutter gone, I have felt both the freedom and the need to dive into books.

On a whim in July I checked out a hardcover novel from our old branch library in Providence; the jacket copy lured me in. The book was A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight, and it followed the life of Moinette, a mixed-race slave girl in 1812 Louisiana, a time of change for white people (English-speakers increasingly were arriving in the French-speaking territory) and not so much change for black slaves in the South. Straight's language was both dreamy and stark, Moinette's life was often picaresque (but never easy), and both the era and the characters seemed to breathe with verité in my imagination. That being said, the book is almost unrelentingly sad, and for that reason I would give it only a 3.5 out of 5. It is really hard on readers to turn page after anxious page and find yet another setback, although Moinette herself remained self-possessed and proud to the end.

What a cool black author, I thought. I need to read some more by her. I went to Amazon to check out Straight's other books and was surprised to read, in a review, that she is white; moreover, she is known for her audacious fiction that gets inside the heads of people of color and renders them authentically for their times and places in history.

Next up: Straight's 1993 much-praised debut novel, I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots. Its main character, Marietta Cook, is the Amazonesque and "blue-black" granddaughter of a former slave, growing up in the Gullah-speaking coastal plantation lands of mid-20th-century South Carolina, near Charleston. Marietta endures loss and degradation, but her fierce spirit frees her from near-servitude and condescension as she raises her twin boys alone. Actually, "alone" is not correct, because when Marietta finally lowers her guard out of necessity, she is aided by a small community of neighbors in her Charleston apartment house. These beautifully drawn characters embody the "it takes a village" adage, and hope begins to shine into the life of Marietta and her tall, precocious boys.

I won't say any more. Just this: It has been nearly three days since I finished Sorrow's Kitchen, and Marietta Cook seems to have taken a long-term lease in my brain. She is a powerfully drawn and memorable character. Please head to the library and meet her.

As for me, I'm on to Mark Haddon's most recent novel, A Spot of Bother, and then two more by Straight. On a parallel track, I am making my way slowly through Ken Dornstein's memoir of his brother David, The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky. I knew both David and Ken a little when they were at Brown. I was alone at my office in late December the day after Pan Am 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, and took the phone call informing us that David had died in that terrorist holocaust. I'm not ready to share my thoughts on Ken's book yet, but I may be when I finish reading it.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Maybe try the balance beam

I love me a small local newspaper. The police log in today's issue of the Warwick Beacon includes this report:

[Name redacted], 21, ... was stopped for doing 50 in a 25 mph zone and for swerving between lanes. Sgt. Bradford Connor said (she) failed a field sobriety test even after she told Connor, “I used to be a gymnast. I can do a cartwheel if you’d like me to.” Connor said he asked her to not do a cartwheel and attempt the heel-to-toe test. She was charged with DWI after she registered a .170 and a .169 blood alcohol level.

Monday, September 03, 2007


So, I hurt my knee on the beach recently, maybe from picking up litter (all that unaccustomed bending, swiveling, and so on). I waited for it to get better. By last Thursday, the knee was really hurting. At lunchtime I limped down Charlesfield Street to move my car before the meter-checker slapped a parking ticket on it, only to lose the race by ... 44 seconds (see time stamp). FORTY-FOUR FREAKIN SECONDS!!! I was pissed. I swore, I scowled at the ticket. I moved my car. I summoned the spirit of Yogi Berra yet again and howled, "I know it's correct, but it ain't right!" Michael calmly advised that we pay the $15 fine and fuggedaboutit. I paid, but I won't forget. Next time I see Officer M.S. Landi, I have a few choice words for him!

By Friday my knee was a mess. I was crying from pain by the time I walked from my car to the office. At lunchtime (no ticket, woot!) I drove over to Rhode Island Hospital's ER and dragged myself to the intake desk, begging to see an orthopedist.

A cheerful young orderly rolled me in a wheelchair to the examining room, and after manipulating my patella in ways that brought tears to my eyes, a doctor advised me that I apparently had sprained my knee. He gave me a referral to the nearest orthopedic practice, along with directions to double my Aleve intake, stay off the knee, and use a brace if possible.

Poor me! Poor knee!

I spent the weekend lounging around and ruining my GI tract with gargantuan doses of Aleve. The increased dose did, however, ease my knee pain considerably. By this morning, Labor Day, crazy with cabin fever, I volunteered to drive the kids and one friend to the Wrentham Outlets for some last-minute school bargains, provided I could park near the few stores I planned to hobble into. It was a fool's errand. Approximately a million people were at the outlets. I cruised for nearly a half-hour, attempting to find a parking place that wasn't a half-mile walk from the shops. Twice I was cut off by jerks who zoomed into just-vacated parking spaces I had been watching. I stopped to tell one of the jerks that he was a jerk. He said, "Awww, too bad."

Finally, I scrawled a note (above) and put it prominently in my front window, and parked in the ample handicapped area across from the Nautica store. I went in with Kevin, bought him a pair of nice khakis for $24.99, went back out, and found.... this:

I love how the cop crossed out the $50 fine and wrote in $150.00.

I hope Kevin gets some good wear out of his $175 khaki pants.

Maybe this week will get better.