Anne Notations

Monday, February 16, 2009

10 "P" things you may not know about me

There is an alphabet meme going around. You get a specific letter from a previous meme-er, then you write about 10 things that begin with that letter that mean something to you.

Mary had "S", and she gave me "P". Thanks, Mary! Here goes.

Parsimony. After a lifetime of recreational shopping (the great American pastime), we and many others are in fiscal-retrenchment mode due to a nationwide economic collapse. I have survived withdrawal from my retail addiction and am now enjoying the virtuous feeling that comes with pinching pennies. I've taken the bus (with my free employer-supplied pass) to work all week, we get our books from the library rather than Amazon or Borders, I make cheap and tasty meals in my two crockpots, and I whip out the ol' green Amex card so rarely it almost hurts to use it.

Pets. Love love love animals and birds. Starting at age 11, I (or my family) have owned the following dogs: Beau (beagle), Tammy (small golden mutt), Tasha (German shorthaired pointer), Heidi (GSHP), Kelly beagle), Bonnie (three-legged GSHP), and now Daisy (pit/beagle mutt). My brother and I owned a series of red-eared sliders, turtles named Tommy, Timmy, Terry, and Iggy – the last of which lived some 12 years. As a child, I had an orange canary named Chip and a parakeet named Sky. In recent years we've listened to the chattering of our parakeets Patty, Laurie, Blueberry, Chip, and Puff Birdie – who adores fresh parsley.

Perfume. While I am not the girly-girl princess type ("tomboy" is what my ilk used to be called), I enjoy wearing cologne and perfume. Not long after Michael and I began dating, he gave me a spray bottle of White Shoulders. It became my signature scent for decades. I have branched out in recent years. While I still wear my trusty White Shoulders occasionally, I mix it up day to day with Shi by Alfred Sung, Happy Heart by Clinique, J'Adore by Dior, Mediterranean by Elizabeth Arden, and Ralph Lauren Blue.

Pie crust is one of my proudest accomplishments. When we married, Michael praised his mother's pies to the sky. He may as well have thrown a gauntlet. I practiced endlessly and eventually perfected a shortening-based flaky crust. Everyone in my family would rather have one of my apple pies than a fancy cake.

Providence. I work in Providence. I went to college in Providence. I have written about Providence. I have lived most of my adult life in Providence (although not at present). Current recession aside, it's a beautiful college city located on Rhode Island's crown jewel, Narragansett Bay. It's crammed with historic architecture and is a magnet for artsy types, thanks to RISD and Trinity Rep. Come visit!

Pembroke. Until 1971, women applied to Pembroke College, men to Brown University. We had separate deans and admission offices, but all of our classes were together, we received the same Brown diplomas at graduation, and by 1970 our dorms were becoming coed. When I arrived in the fall of 1969, Pembrokers were stereotyped as prissy academic "grinds" by the Brown boys, possibly because it was harder to get in as a woman (Brown guys outnumbered us by more than 2 to 1 at the time). Let it be known that I did my best to personally dispel that stereotype – for better or worse! (Oy.) Our Pembroke dorms still had parietals – strictly enforced visiting hours for males, with sign-ins required at front desks. How quaint that seemed even one year later!

Peanut butter cups. Reese's. Best candy invention ever!

Panic disorder and its evil spawn, phobias. I had my first panic attack at age 18, driving west over the Braga Bridge in Fall River, Mass. I didn't know it was a panic attack; I just knew I suddenly felt awful, dizzy, about to pass out as I crested the bridge. Years went by until at age 24, on the same bridge, I had another panic attack. Thus was born my bridge phobia: bridges became sources of discomfort, and I began to avoid them. My panic disorder metastasized to include driving on interstate highways, flying, and skyscrapers. For some years in my mid 30s I suffered mild agoraphobia, panicking while talking to a friend on the sidewalk or having lunch in a restaurant with colleagues. Sometimes I had to leave meeting rooms to compose myself.

Panic disorder is an invisible handicap. Those of us who suffer from it (and often with its best friends "generalized anxiety disorder" and depression) exhaust ourselves trying to face down our fears or construct elaborate schemes to avoid our panic triggers. Yes, I took the bus to Indianapolis in 2005 rather than flying! Yes, I traveled old Route 6 from Little Compton to Providence and back every day in the mid 1980s.

Today, thanks to years of psychotherapy, desensitizing practice, and medications, I can and do drive on highways. Bridges and flying still bother me, but I can contemplate doing both without being overcome with heart palpitations and sweaty palms. I'm no longer agoraphobic. And I have made amazing friends via several online panic/anxiety support groups, some of whom I've spent time with in real life. These fellow travelers are smart, compassionate, generous, and loyal. I treasure their continued presence in my life.

Peonies and pansies. You can get drunk on the heady perfume and spectacular blossoms of peonies, one of my favorite garden perennials. See these from our previous home. The plant starts out as a cluster of tiny nubs in the soil in spring, and by June it's two to three feet high and nodding with enormous blossoms. Another flower, the pansy with its perky little face and disregard for cold temperatures, is special to me because when I was a preschooler, my mom and dad called me "Annsy Pansy."

Piano. Both my grandmother and my mother played all their lives. I began taking lessons when I was eight and continued through high school. I was quite good – but only in the blessed privacy of home, executing thrilling runs and crashing chords on Mom's antique upright. Beethoven's Sonata Pathétique was a favorite. In recital before strangers, I absolutely choked. "Pathétique" sounded pathetic. Now I play only during Advent, bringing the beloved handed-down sheet music and books out of storage. "Silver Bells" and its opening two-octave descending sequence fill me with Christmas spirit – and reassure me that I haven't lost my ability entirely.

Oh man. I've reached my limit of 10 "P" items. I wanted to include poetry, another passion of mine. Photography. Prayer. Peaches. Padawan. Pooh and Piglet. Pasta. Pearls. Pillows. Purses. Prenancy. The Pembroke Pandas (my college ice hockey team). Paregoric. Post-impressionism. Petersen's Ice Cream. Pet peeves. Perhaps (snort) I'll accumulate enough for another several "P" posts!

In the meantime, if you'd like me to tag you with a letter of your own, just leave a comment. It's fun.