Anne Notations

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blessings 7-1-09

1. The sea.

2. Smell of the sea: brine, faint diesel fuel, seaweed.

3. Breeze off the sea, gliding its soft skin over mine.

4. Color of the sea: deep blue, pine, tea, white-riffled, steel.

5. Sound of the sea: shushing waves, seagulls' barks and mews, boat horn, sailboat-race cannon.

6. The sea, the sea, the sea.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Blessings 6-30-09

1. Evenings on the beach, just wandering, watching, smiling at other walkers.

2. Night sounds outside our house: crickets chirruping. The shushhh of gentle waves on the nearby shore. The crazy mockingbird atop a street light that sings his heart out in the wee, dark hours.

3. Big fat juicy blueberries.

4. Mary next door emerging with a cheery wave in her purple pants set, red knee-highs, red patent pumps, and red straw hat – hot to trot with her Red Hat Society friends.

5. The evocative names of my new Yankee candles: Island Spa, Beach Walk, Evening Air.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Blessings 6-29-09

1. The perfect spinach calzone from Picasso's Pizza.

2. My first ATM card. "Wow, look. Free money!"

3. Being able to read the New York Times Magazine on the Web.

4. My husband, who gets up and walks the dog on weekends, leaving me to sleep luxuriously late.

5. The way our neighborhood goes all out for the 4th of July.

Friends share wisdom and smiles

Timely, thoughtful quotes and comments I've received recently:

1. Posted by Deirdre on Facebook

“A great deal of chaos in the world occurs because people don't appreciate themselves. Having never developed sympathy or gentleness toward themselves, they cannot experience harmony or peace within themselves, and therefore, what they project to others is also inharmonious and confused. Instead of appreciating our lives, we often take our existence for granted or we find it depressing and burdensome. …

“Certainly we should take our lives seriously, but that doesn't mean driving ourselves to the brink of disaster by complaining about our problems or holding a grudge against the world. We have to accept personal responsibility for uplifting our lives."

– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, The Sanity We Are Born With

2. Psalm written by Neil, a rabbi

G-d Almighty please help me to help myself and to get the help I need, to appreciate what You've given me, and to serve you for real. Help me remember that I must be for myself, must love myself, need to work on that. You haven't taken me this far to abandon me now - I know. There is no reason to give up hope.

If only I could see myself more the way others see me. If only I could see the good that I put forth for others while questioning myself. Sometimes it's hard to pray. I pray through my pain. I pray through my writing. I pray through my essence.

3. From a blog entry by Frances, whose mother is very ill

I have to realize not only that this is what life is and that food doesn't solve it, but that This Is What Life Is. Parents age, and they die. … Separations occur. I suffer from depression, food and nicotine addiction. I have talents. All of these things require day-to-day responsibility and acceptance. And none of them are the end of the world. At worst, they mean periods of great grieving -- but my life will probably move on if I'm not hit by a truck or something. There will still be lilacs each spring, Neapolitan mastiff puppies, yogurt, naps.

4. Posted by Cathy on Facebook:

"Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word 'happy' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness." – Carl Jung

To end on a light note...

5. From a circulating email forwarded by Cheryl

A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's work. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.

The girl replied, "I'm drawing God."

"But no one knows what God looks like," the teacher said.

Without missing a beat or looking up, the girl replied, "They will in a minute."

Thanks, friends!

Blessings 6-28-09

1. Sunshine! – after weeks and weeks of clouds, rain, and fog. And the very cool air show down the bay. Please look here.

2. Two old men with canes sitting on a bench at the beach, earnestly discussing the late Michael Jackson's issues with young boys. "He finally had to stop because he ran out of money to pay them off."

3. Our teen son's reasonable response to the dreaded Tough Talk we had with him last night.

4. Spectacular clouds, lightning bolts in the distance – the full complement of summer sky phenomena in a single day.

5. Tux the neighborhood cat believing he was invisible in a neighbor's garden.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blessings 6-27-09

1. My fortune from Thursday night's Chinese supper.

2. Heady, heavy honeysuckle scent from the wild shrubbery down our street.

3. White lifeguard chair on an empty beach; gray water, gray sky, gray gull.

4. Caroline sharing her Cheerios with Daisy: "Oops, I dropped another one."

5. 8 pm, from our front porch: Lightning veins sparking across the western sky; red sun peeking out from under a skirt of roiling clouds.

6. Last night's dreams welling up as my eyes begin to close.

I was going to limit each Blessings post to five items, but why hold back when a day is rich in small pleasures?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blessings 6/26/09

1. Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream. The best.

2. Memories of dancing to "Thriller" in the living room of our house in Little Compton with my stepdaughter and her best friend.

3. Having Peter over for Chinese food and extra helpings of laughter.

4. The tremolo of a train whistle from across the bay on our first non-rainy night in a week; crescent moon hanging low over Buttonwoods.

5. Bringing out my cheerful Vera Bradley fabric handbags for the summer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blessings 6-25-09

1. Zany ads on craigslist, like this one:
organic free range fire wood (providence)
Date: 2009-06-24, 2:03PM EDT

Organic, free range, cage free, humanely harvested, fire wood. Mostly kiln dried eastern white pine (some mahogany). I will fill your pick up bed at my loading dock. Will provide you with THE BEST fire pit/bonfire/campfire known to man.

2. Michelle Kwan skating the freestyle of her life in 2002 to "Fields of Gold," sung by the lovely, late, lamented Eva Cassidy.

3. Heart-to-heart mother-daughter talks on the commute home from work.

4. A surprise goody box in today's mail, from Cheryl. <3

5. Granddaughter Caroline's crayon drawing of "kids pulling leaves off trees."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blessings 6-24-09

1. Never getting tired of hearing "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts.

2. White Citrus body cream from Bath & Body Works.

3. Reading about day-spa packages online. Ahhhh.

4. My girl Queen Latifah, gorgeous woman of all entertainment trades.

5. Sweet black cherries.

Blessings 6/23/09

1. Comforting hum of the washer and dryer as Kevin does four loads of his laundry.

2. My morning shake: One can vanilla SlimFast, one soft banana, a few frozen raspberries, some ice; whirled in the blender. Yum.

3. Michael's nightly phone call; Melinda waving frantically as we chat - "I want to talk to Pop!"

4. A special prayer written and shared by an Internet friend.

5. Daisy's soft, ruffly snores from beside my bed every night.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blessings 6/22/09

I'm going to take a page from the wonderful Helen Jane’s blog. Since her first baby was born last year, she has kept her posts very short, calling them “Grace in Small Things” – a much better title than “Blessings,” but my zeal for online poaching extends only so far before I embarrass myself.

The idea of accenting the positive in my life is an appealing one. My first efforts may be awkward, but that's because the gears are rusty; the mechanism grinds a bit as I get it started and heading uphill. I think I can. I think I can.


1. Sons Kevin and Andrés whooping and hollering in their hoarse, deep man-voices while watching soccer on TV yesterday.

2. Freshly laundered Lands End sheets on the bed.

3. My reliable, smooth-running Hyundai Santa Fe.

4. The Sunday Providence Journal – even the inserts, especially the Target ads.

5. An eensy weensy auburn spider sitting smug and treacherous in its web between two front-porch pillars.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Last night’s lamentation

The past several years of finance-related stress, and the major changes in our family life this spring, seem to have caught up with me. My face looks melted and old, the eyelids droopy. I spend my weekends in a state of torpor, sleeping until ungodly hours (10:30, 11:45), eating “bad” foods until I'm stuffed, inert; watching TV or hanging out on the Internet for hours. At night I am too agitated to sleep. My mind races as I lie in bed and attempt to get comfortable. Whether I'm alone, or Michael is sleeping beside me – it makes no difference; the insomnia is persistent.

Here is what I wrote last evening while waiting for Michael and Melinda to get home from Providence. I was as depressed as I can recall in recent months, briefly in tears.

My soul is hollow. My heart despairs. My life – so enviable – feels empty, wanting.

I crave connection with the divine, but I shy from church, from sustained prayer. I sense that each of us is alone in the universe, trapped in a tangle of neurons inside a bony skull. I am frightened. How lonely life is!

I have children; my children are not me. I have a husband; he is not me. I have friends, but I have not had or made time for them in my life.

I loathe my physical self; I am shamed and burdened by my fat, my age, my ugliness. I objectively dislike and disappoint myself. I am poisoned by selfishness and self-centeredness. I wish to cease being lazy, duplicitous, cynical, suspicious, and shallow.

Fatigue at times overwhelms me; it did so today. I can’t exert myself. I sate myself with too much unhealthy food and then neglect my family. Tonight I let Kevin down: I had said I would make his favorite pasta with sautéed garlic shrimp, but I had no energy or desire to do it. Michael is getting take-out food, and I am near tears because I failed. I wanted to this for Kevin, and I could not.

Could not. Would not? I’m afraid to answer that.

How discouraged and angry I feel!

God, I am helpless and humble before you. Give me the will and strength to assess my desires, passions, weaknesses, and whatever integrity I may possess so that I may take steps toward becoming whole. I wish to be loving, selfless. To eschew gluttony and sloth. To find my way to you through your son, who feels distant and unknowable.

Help me to have energy and motivation. Help me to hope.

I need to take some vacation time and unwind. What I'd love is to get away to a spa for a week and begin purifying my body, detoxing from sugar and fat, and strengthening my muscles so that I can bear the weight of exercise on my arthritic joints. That's way too expensive, though.

Also I would love to make a spiritual retreat at one of the numerous monasteries and retreat houses around New England. Right now I can't leave the kids at home alone, even though this option is quite affordable. Michael hasn't earned vacation time yet at his new job, so I'm on duty here at home.

Nevertheless. I am attempting to take baby steps in ways that are do-able: a purifying liquid fast for a few days, an eating and exercise plan, earlier bedtimes on weeknights, to-do lists both at home and at work to help me stick to schedules and cross off jobs as I complete them.

Please send me some good thoughts or prayers, whatever comes naturally to you. I am resolving to do my best. Yes, I need to be tolerant and kind with myself, but I also need to achieve some modest goals relating to my mental and physical health.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Family. Faith. Flowers.

Thoughts on Michael's new job in Connecticut

Despite being grateful for a second income, I'm still petulant about the enforced weeklong separations. One night early last week, I felt so adrift and lonely in our big queen bed by myself, I was near tears. Last night I had an obviously symbolic dream in which the kids and I kept losing sight of Michael at a big fair or festival... We'd spot him striding off into a field away from us and start yelling for him, but he wouldn't hear us; it was scary and frustrating.

The weekends are all the more vivid. Sometime between 7:30 and 9 pm on Fridays, I hear the crunch of gravel as Michael's car slides into the driveway, then his steps on the porch, and then he's in the door and home. We all shift gears instantly into "normal."

I give him a hard time when he says things like, "I need to take a few six-packs of this seltzer home [to Connecticut] with me on Sunday." Um, excuse me. Home??? I don't think so!

Thoughts during Mass today; Kevin and I were lectors

Holy Trinity Sunday. Mass is always an hour, at the least, and I am almost never bored. Sitting to one side of the altar sharpens my focus on every little part of the liturgy, every response and prayer.

I was startled this morning when Kevin nudged me during Fr. Hayman's homily and whispered, "See, that's what I was talking about - budget priorities!" Um what? Oh. Kevin had been reading the newspaper yesterday and was outraged that the neighboring city of Cranston is cutting things like special-ed teachers from its school budget but keeping expensive sports like hockey. Hockey, dear to Kevin's own heart. We had quite a discussion about it. "Mom, are you kidding? Why would I ever believe they should keep hockey instead of providing the best education for all students?!"

Anyway, I wasn't startled about being nudged; I was astonished that my teenaged son was following every word of Father's sermon about being stewards of all members of God's family, especially those in need. One of the many things I enjoy about going to Mass is seeing Kevin – our daydreamer, our academic underachiever, our intense debater and dissident, our wise guy – participate fully and willingly in the rituals of his faith. At 16 he has a well-considered personal theology and commitment, and one that he is happy to defend in discussions with his friends.

The other thing at Mass.... I sometimes look around at the carvings of saints and the large crucifix and the icon of the Blessed Mother and the tonsured priest in his robes, the whole nine yards of human-manufactured organized religion (and what religion is more organized than the RC Church?), and I think: What the heck? How did I, did we, get sucked into this? Are we really discussing seriously the corporeal manifestation of God (any god) on Earth in history? Can we actually be nodding our heads as Father speaks about a God who has a personal, familial relationship with each and every human being? I feel as if I have a foot in two worlds – the world of daily life, of skepticism and reason and clinical respect for sheer scientific knowledge; and that other world of mystery, the unknowable, the subjective, all framed with dogged ritual and honeycombed with exegesis.

It's too much to figure out, so I go back to the basics, to the simplest bottom line in my consideration of something unimaginably larger than our minds can encompass: the "why" question. I've said it before and I keep returning to it: Mankind has gotten pretty good at describing WHAT the universe is; it's making progress on HOW the whole thing works (I do love physicists); and there is beginning to be some consensus on WHEN it originated. But I get stuck on the "WHY" of it all – and don't even try heading me off with some scientific hoo-ha about "we don't need to know why". Listen, professor: I need to know why. At this time i my life, practicing (appreciate the aptness of that verb, please) a faith is my way of taking a run at the "why" of it all. Puny and comical, no doubt; but aren't most of our endeavors.

So, I recite the Creed and say the Our Father and sing the Lamb of God with all those good people facing me in the pews. I receive the body and blood of Christ (not literally, sacramentally! Father Randall insisted; I'm still trying to understand the fine distinction) and I kneel next to my fascinating, frustrating son; I watch the Indian-American alto in our choir kneel on the marble floor beside her chair, a black mantilla covering her hair, and am touched by her piety, her humility.

What are we all doing here in church on a beautiful June day? I can't speak for anyone but myself. I'm knocking on a door, hoping against hope that Someone is home.

Thoughts on gardening in June

Smell of warm dirt. Dear small snake in the back yard, looped over my hand. Blossoms on the sugar-snap pea vines morphing into tiny green pods.

Yellow rose buds on the breathless verge of opening. Astonishing blood-maroon irises with black buds. Moving perennials around in the gardens. Spending all the drizzly Friday morning potting plants for the patio and front porch as Caroline pottered around the yard in her rubber boots and raincoat, unfazed by the weather, fascinated by everything, chomping sprigs of garden parsley and thyme. Ornamental feathered grasses bowing with the wind. The first yellow daylily; the resurrection and multiplication of last year's Asian lilies.

Sunshine, tank tops, rubber flip-flops, Miracle Gro tomato food, a new makeshift bird bath. This is the month we live for.