Anne Notations

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blessings 7-28-09

1. Discovering a little market in a low-income neighborhood on our way home from work with amazing produce prices (dark sweet cherries, .99/lb) and deals on meat and fish: fresh scallops $4.99/lb.

2. This song by Kelly Clarkson, performed live.

3. Being able to smile at life's ups and downs and round and rounds. Click image to read.

4. Heading to bed on time.... Good night!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blessings 7-27-09

1. Taking Kevin to the photo studio for his senior yearbook portrait this afternoon. His outfit: crisp white dress shirt, striped tie, navy blazer ... and madras shorts and flipflops.

2. The relief of a sea breeze at home on this very hot, muggy day.

3. Supper prepared a day ahead: homemade chicken salad and a tossed salad. Tortilla chips optional.

4. The people at my office who came by to welcome me back from vacation and stayed to talk for a while. They remind me why I love working where I do. And they remind me that most of us – not just poor pitiful me – have invisible challenges and rough patches in our personal lives. Hang in there, everyone!

5. Looking ahead to a poolside potluck reunion with my high school besties at the end of August.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blessings 7-26-09

1. The woman parishioner at St. Sebastian's who volunteered to lead us all in singing, in the absence of choir or organ at the 11:00 mass. Thank you, aptly named Joy with the lovely soprano voice.

2. My 16 year old son reading the Epistle and the Prayers of the Faithful from beside the altar. To have a teenaged son who volunteers without embarrassment to read Scripture at mass is truly a blessing.

3. The loaves and the fishes. This gospel about a miracle is alluring to the very young – look, Jesus made lots of food for a crowd! – and humbling for adults. When Father Hayman read it today, what I heard was: Do more than expected. Give more. Interrupt your own agenda to minister to those in need.

I'm not sure God intended Jesus to do these very literal things in his public life – heal cripples, cast out devils, produce food for 5,000 from five loaves of bread. Personally, I'm not comfortable assuming that Jesus did them to dazzle the people of Palestine with magic tricks in order to further his ministry. Rather I believe that at times love simply overflowed his heart. Jesus the man couldn't help himself – the power of the Divine within him burst forth and manifested in merciful, miraculous acts. Not: Look at me! But: I see you.

4. The hydrangea in our garden finally blooming bluer than blue.

5. Having an actual sit-down Sunday afternoon dinner, all four of us, before Michael left for his week in Connecticut.

Bye, honey. I love you. See you on Friday.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday afternoon roundup

I got a little derailed from my Blessings posts, but will resume. Meanwhile, I have been:

1) Vacationing. Two weeks' worth, here at home. The first week we had amazing weather, mostly sunny and clear but not too hot. I got a good tan (I know; tans are bad), slept late some days, decompressed from the spring crunch at work, and finished reading some books. I did find it weird and lonely to be home for two weeks without Michael. Even when we don't go away on vacation, we usually do some fun day-trips together. Next year.

2) Driving. On Wednesday I drove about an hour to Mystic, CT, to meet Internet friends Di and Don, from Ontario, who were visiting her mother in Connecticut. It was our first face-to-face meetup but, as I said to them over lunch, we've "known" each other for so long online, I really didn't feel any strangeness at all. They are lovely folks and I was so happy we could get together.

The latter is especially true because we all suffer from variants of anxiety disorder. Ten years ago, such a get-together would have been impossible or at least highly fraught. Last week Di bravely pushed through her crippling agoraphobia to come to CT and see her family. Ten years ago I would not have been driving on any highway whatsoever; it was one of the chief phobias caused by my panic disorder.

I used to creep along at 55 mph, max, due to my highway phobia.

So it is certainly a blessing that I drove, alone, on 95 South to Mystic, just as I can now drive to Boston and back, as I did for several concerts this past year. I took photos to document my drive this time, given the occasion – a mini-convention of people who battle anxiety!

3) Reading: Just read and enjoyed two novels by Dani Shapiro recommended by fellow bookworm Cheryl; am finishing Terrorist by John Updike, and took four more books out of the library this morning. Time to read is pure joy.

4) Gardening: The sugar-snap pea harvest is dwindling to an end, and the first several cherry-sized orange tomatoes ripened this week – sweet as sugar. Thanks to the rainiest July on record here, the gardens are lush and towering. Heavy rains break the stems of my roses frequently, but I just cut the blossoms and bring them inside for the kitchen counter.

5) Taking photographs. There have been so many splendid evening skies – not necessarily sunsets, although a few of those, too. Impressive cloud formations... stark contrasts of white against black or steel gray ... clouds reflected on the surface of the waves.

6) Riding my bike! Short rides around the area are all I can manage right now, but it feels great to glide along and see the sights from a bike seat.

7) Cooking. I made gazpacho yesterday, and we can smell the rich aroma of a Browned-Butter Banana-Chocolate Bundt Cake in the oven at the moment. I stumbled upon a great food blog, Bunny's Warm Oven, and copied a bunch of recipes from it. Lime-cilantro chicken is in our near future, too.

8. Eating: fresh cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, blueberries in abundance. This is the best time of year for my favorite fruits.

9. Worrying about my Aunt Jo, who has cancer and just fell and broke a leg. My brother and I had planned to visit her yesterday, but her fall put the kibosh on that trip for now. She is our last close relative in that generation. My maternal grandfather's cousin (second cousin, I think: my mom's generation) just died out in Colorado last month. My grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and other deceased relatives live so vividly in my memories and dreams, I sometimes feel as if I can feel or hear them. Whether it's an actual presence of their [soul/energy/plug in your own term] or just the imparted glow of memory, I am strengthened by knowing they love me.

10. Being invited to dinner with friends tonight at a swanky country club. Not something we get to do often! Time to get out of the shorts and tank and sneakers and into something feminine for a change.

I loved watching this little girl doing a happy dance/prance on the rocks at the beach. Click on the photo to see it larger:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blessings 7-20-09

1. Kevin rushing in the front door breathless yesterday evening, cupping in his hands a tiny nestling, all soft feathers and bug eyes and wide-open mouth, that he'd found on the walking path. The two of us consulting the Internet, then locating the cries of its probable parents in a grove of lilacs and trumpet vines, and restoring baby bird to a secure perch in high branches inside a shallow Rubbermaid container.

2. Hoping that the parents will, as promised by the Audubon Society's Web site, continue to care for said nestling when they recognize its hungry voice.

Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. – Matthew 10

3. Last night's spectacular skies just before and during sunset.

4. The blue neon star on our chimney.

5. A muggy summer day to be lazy, to read a novel, to get take-out Chinese food for supper.

Blessings 7-19-09

1. Being able to drive to Boston, and back again. (’Twas not always thus.)

2. Cozy concert venues like the House of Blues (above) and Paradise in Boston, and Lupo's in Providence.

3. Jack White's new band The Dead Weather.

4. Jack White playing guitar or drums, and singing.

5. Not being "too old" for rock and roll ... or funky green soda and hamburgers with Peter at a brew-pub in Boston.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Blessings 7-17-09

1. The song "Summer Breeze" -- lyrics more poignant than ever.

2. Giving the parakeets' cage a thorough cleaning. They actually sound happier.

3. Caroline from 6:30 til 4: on the prowl, on sunflower patrol, on the go, on the beach, on her Dora the Explorer plastic chair, in the baby pool on the sidewalk. On! And then: the deepest sleep at naptime.

4. A last bittersweet Friday visit from Andrés, who leaves early Sunday morning for (fingers crossed) a new job and a new life in Ohio. I already miss him but am proud of his guts.

5. A shower (ahhhh) and then a glass of white wine with an ice cube on a sultry Friday night.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blessings 7-16-09

1. The glint of golden hairs on a tanned arm.

2. Every Thursday: 5 cents off per gallon of gas at Lukoil on West Shore Road. ($2.48 a gallon today.) There were lines, but everyone was polite and patient.

3. Several dozen giant spools of thread in rainbow hues next to a sewing machine at the dry-cleaners.

4. The Amanda and Oliver Pig books by Jean Van Leeuwen with charming illustrations by Ann Schweninger: favorites of Melinda and Kevin, and now Caroline.

5. Reading light summer page-turners. Bemused that the same crime-novel author who could write a clunker like this – "We turned off the highway and headed into the rural." – could also toss off a neat description like this one: "A dozen police cars were angled in front of [the] clinic, all pointing in various directions like darts thrown by a drunk."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blessings 7-15-09

1. It's true that you don't forget how to ride a bike.

2. The little dingie-bell I installed on my bike handlebars. The merry "ch-ching" sound brings me back to the sidewalks of Elmhurst, Ill., where I first learned to ride a two-wheeler.

3. Getting up earlier. As I feel more relaxed with each vacation day, I sleep better and wake up at normal times.

4. Downloading The Dead Weather's first album, Horehound, from iTunes. Anticipating seeing them in Boston this weekend.

5. Being told by a passerby as I chatted with her from our front porch yesterday that I couldn't possibly be old enough to have a child in college. Bless her!
*Thanks, Dad, for the good-skin gene.*

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blessings 7-14-09

1. Sunshine on my shoulders.
If I had a day that I could give you
I'd give to you a day just like today

2. My right hand aching from using my extension grabber to fill four garbage bags with beach litter.

3. Reading one whole novel; starting a second.

4. Making plans to visit an elderly relative and some Internet friends next week.

5. Three six-inch pots of snapdragons at 99 cents each, now planted out front.

Bonus: The hands in the photo belong to Jack White.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blessings 7-13-09

1. Discovering that sunflowers have grown unnoticed – perhaps from feeder seed scattered by birds last winter and spring? – among the weeds and lilies across the street.

2. Walking Daisy on the beach first thing in the morning when everything smells fresh.

3. Getting my ancient Italian 5-speed bike repaired. It's back home tonight, somewhat rusty on the fenders but in working order and with new tires. Tomorrow I will ride!

4. The way I feel like a different person – energized, light, springy – when I wear my favorite sneakers. Which I will do more often this summer, instead of sliding into flip-flops all the time.

5. The first local butter-and-sugar corn on the cob. Not quite at peak sweetness yet, but still a treat at supper tonight.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blessings 7-12-09

1. Thirty-four years ago, Michael and I faced the Rev. Donald Finley at the front of the austere Mattapoisett Congregational Church in my Massachusetts hometown and exchanged "I do's." This morning we exchanged anniversary cards, one of which included a fart joke.

2. Reading in the New York Times Magazine about whales that seem to seek connection with humans.

3. Taking my old, 5-speed granny bike to be tuned up by a local repair man. Buying a wicker basket to hang from the front handlebars.

4. Freshly shampooed hair drying outside in a warm breeze.

5. Two weeks of leisure stretching before me like the yellow brick road: no deadlines, just a stack of library books and the promise of good weather.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Blessings 7-11-09

1. Post-dinner naps in the recliner.

2. Surrendering to the "garden flag" thing.

3. Caroline playing in her new, tiny inflatable kiddie pool wearing just her undies, in yesterday's warm sunshine.

4. Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch.

5. Perennials on steroids. This year's rains have yielded humungous hedges of plants that last year stood only 3' to 4' high.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Blessings 7-08-09

1. One more day until I start my vacation.

2. Gas prices coming down 7 cents since last week.

3. Big, fat Crayola crayons on my desk, waiting for Caroline's visit this Friday.

4. The weeknight freedom of sprawling across our queen-sized bed; the weekend joy of sharing it with Michael.

5. Living in a state small and connected enough that my library card works in any Rhode Island city or town.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Blessings 7-7-09

1. Friends who understand, and friends who help me understand.

2. The way flowers look even brighter on a rainy day.

3. Homemade chicken salad, prepared the night before.

4. Clipping articles from the Providence and Warwick newspapers for Michael to read when he comes home on weekends.

5. Picking out favorite board books as a gift for a friend's baby that will be delivered tomorrow. (The baby, not the books.)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Blessings 7-6-09

1. Two working women out for lunch at a brick-walled bistro: Melinda and me.

2. Praying at the beach jetty one evening last week; seeing (suddenly! instantly!) a fragment of rainbow in the sky. Hi, Mom.

3. Discovering Curtis Salgado when his blues song "Twenty Years of B.B. King" drifts over from a neighbor's July 4 cookout.

4. This quote from Michael Jackson's memoir, Dangerous:
Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasion, when I am dancing, I have felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists. I become the stars and the moon. I become the lover and the beloved. I become the victor and the vanquished. I become the master and the slave. I become the singer and the song. I become the knower and the known. I keep on dancing and then, it is the eternal dance of creation. The creator and the creation merge into one wholeness of joy. I keep on dancing...until there is only...the dance.

5. A long holiday weekend featuring:
• Granddaughter Caroline's first fireworks, watched in her jammies from our upper deck
• An all-American supper here with good friends from Providence, featuring hamburgers, Saugy's hot dogs, my potato salad, and Melinda's flag cake (decorated with blueberries and strawberries on a field of whipped cream).
• The first weekend of glorious weather we've had in months. It made my heart sing.
• Three days and three nights of Michael being home.
• Families and couples and neighbors and everyone from miles around, it seemed, coming to Oakland Beach, strolling the bike/walking path, buying clamcakes at Iggy's, setting off a zillion firecrackers and rockets, and being mellow and friendly.
• Our Take a Photo on July 4 group on Facebook. (This was the followup to the very successful Take a Photo from Your Porch on June 1. Stay tuned for Take a Photo on August 1.)

Now I'm going to include some photos to make up for omitting my blessings blogs this past weekend. Click on any photo to see it larger.

Thursday, 7/2: A lightning/thunder mashup a block away startles Daisy!

Caroline, our "flower girl," exploring my gardens in her waterproof boots. (7/3)

Orange daylilies are now in full bloom.

A splendid July 4. i thank you God for most this amazing day …

Three cheers for the red, white, and blue. And for prescription sunglasses so I can actually see this day in all its glory.

Evening moonrise, Oakland Beach (7/4)

People linger, savoring the cool clear air.

A young couple snuggles dreamily on the beach jetty as the sun sets.

Our house in its July 4 finery, seen from the bike path; Michael on porch.

Day is done; the flag waves on.

I absolutely love this photo Michael took at the beach during our walk on Sunday. (7/5)

What's going on here?

It's Daisy's preferred position on the second-story deck, looking out toward the bay. (7/5)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Beautiful boy

Watch this live (not lip-synched) performance by the Jackson 5 on Merv Griffin in 1974, when Michael was a vibrant young black man of 16. He is James Brown ("ha!"), Fred Astaire, Stevie Wonder; beguiler of audiences; consummate showman. Knowing now that he was gravely mistreated by his father to produce such performances makes me sad, but it doesn't diminish the joy of seeing a bright talent ascendant. You literally cannot take your eyes off him.

It will be one week tomorrow since Michael Jackson died, and until today I have passed somewhat lightly over the news, alternating in my comments between casual snark and obligatory praise for the man's talent. To be honest, he looked so terrible in recent years, I wasn't surprised to learn of his sudden death. He had ceased being a performer and instead become, in my mind, a loony scarecrow living an unthinkably odd life.

Why, tonight, do I suddenly care? Why am I sitting here watching Michael Jackson music videos on YouTube and feeling myself clench in ... what, grief? For ... a freak? Am I crying at this very moment for his glorious youth? For mine?

Perhaps I've read too many debunkings of the child molestation charges; read evidence of the tortured, lonely existence of a closeted gay man-child; read a short but soul-shaking commentary by columnist Andrew Sullivan that begins, "There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child."

How could I have forgotten my immersion, in the early 1980s, in Jackson's seminal solo work on his breakout albums Off the Wall and Thriller? The giddy abandonment of dancing around our living room with my then-teenaged stepdaughter to "Billie Jean" and "Beat It"? The rush of watching him, live on the MTV awards show, glide into his patented moon walk?

A long, fantastically choreographed video of Jackson's song "Smooth Criminal."

I can't help but think that, despite the comfort of his three children and the adulation of fans around the world, Michael Jackson's gentle soul was as tortured in the last decade as the poor flesh of his catastrophically carved face.

This evening on the Web, I've revisited the Michael Jackson who entranced me 25 years ago. That's how I choose to remember him: young, lean, on fire, alight with androgynous sexuality, lifting his gorgeous alto-soprano in song, whirling in an explosion of vitality. Rest in peace, beautiful boy.