Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Up is down.

Lately, I've been realizing that there is absolutely nothing on television. You know the saying: fifty-million channels and nothing to watch. I spent my whole life relying on television for my entertainment. Now, I am happy to report that I have rediscovered my upstairs porch. Sitting up there feels like being a little girl in my own tree house. The Cherry, Spruce and Sumac trees are completely filled in now, and I can't see my neighbor's house at all. It is so private and quiet up there at night.

Down below is the Sakonnet River with Portsmouth on the far shore. Most spectacular of all are the sunsets. With this cooler, less humid weather we've been experiencing lately, sitting in my tree house is a dream. Instead of laying in the grass looking up at the clouds, I sit up high on my porch and watch them slowly float by. Last night, I saw one formation that looked like a huge troll doll. Remember those? It was very creepy, but hilarious. Then a new formation was created and for the first time, I realized that up can also be down.

While looking up at the beautiful cloud formations in multiple shades of blue, grey and white, I saw one that made me feel like I was high on a hill looking down at a secluded stretch of sandy beach that meandered along small mountains or large sand dunes with sea grass on top mirroring the shoreline. I must try to paint this image. It was glorious!  I almost forgot where I was.

I was looking up and down at the same time! It was truly magical. Unfortunately, I was afraid that if I ran downstairs to grab my camera, the sight would be gone, so I took what pictures I could with my phone. Of course, I don't have the hardware right now to download any pictures off my phone, so they are useless. Instead, I had to commit this unique and lovely image to memory.

Then the clouds cleared and the beautiful, bright half-moon shone in the peak of the pergola roof over the porch. It was so beautiful. I am truly blessed and grateful.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I loved my father very much, but I am having a hard time finding happy memories of him to share. I'm sure there were many, but only the embarrassing or angry ones come to mind.A psychic once told me he had a very difficult childhood. Living in the Providence Irish "hood", I'm not surprised. We learned recently that his mother was really his grandmother. He wasn't left on the doorstep after all like we were always told. I grew up thinking we didn't know that side of the family biologically, but now we know we were led astray. The people we got to know really were our blood family. I find that fact very comforting.

He was the bomber for Jimmy Stewart in WWII. I always admired him for being in the war with a celebrity. As far as I know, he was never injured and came home with an honorable discharge. My brothers have all the papers and certificates attesting to his military achievement. I am proud of his service.

He met my mother on Hampton Beach in New Hampshire when she was about nineteen and he was in his late twenties. My sister, Jeanne, has a beautiful picture of them on that beach. They were a really beautiful and happy-looking young couple. That picture always brings a smile to my face and to my heart. They had a lovely wedding at The Women's Club in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, and looked so handsome and beautiful. Jeanne gave us each a framed, blown-up picture from their wedding one Christmas. I treasure mine, as I'm sure all my siblings do theirs.

My father's favorite saying was, "Don't let them shut it off or take it away." That's how this "live in the moment" guy ran our family and trained us. We lived beyond our means, but we had things no other family had like a swimming pool: first above-ground; then in-ground. The pools were a wonderful way for us to be together as a family and bring our friends home.

Other family outings included day trips to Ashland State Park, when my mother packed a huge picnic lunch and we played by the pond, swimming and running around all day. In the early years, our parents took us to the drive-in movies. My father hated  indoor theater, so the drive-in was the only way my mother or any of us would get to see a movie with him. It was really fun. Most of the time, we fell asleep in the back of the station wagon before the movie was over.

There were several years we rented a house for a week on Rexhame Beach in Marshfield, MA, or "U Need A Week" cottage on a lake in New Hampshire. I have so many fond memories of those vacation weeks, picking blueberries, playing in the sand and waves, hanging indoors on rainy days playing with my "Colorforms", or swimming in the lake and having ice delivered for our "ice box" by the ice man. Many times, our grandparents, Gummy and Papa, joined us. Those were wonderful days. We still have silent, black & white, home movies of Rexhame Beach that make us laugh every time.

I guess there are more happy memories than I first remembered. My father was an unhappy man in his heart; angry, but incredibly intelligent. He never graduated high school, but loved to lecture us when he got drunk. He was an alcoholic, and life with him was not easy to say the least. But, he was a loving man. He loved babies. He couldn't get enough of them. When after thirteen pregnancies and twelve children, my parents stopped having them, he got tremendous pleasure from the next generation, "Give me that baby!", he'd growl and sit with it on his chest contentedly for hours. He'd smile and watch television, while each baby slept on his chest happily.

He did the best he could with what he had. He was a hard worker. He always had more than one job. He was a "live hard; die young" kinda guy. He died of a burst heart aneurysm in his sleep at age fifty-seven, a year after my brother, Paul, died from viral meningitis. His heart broke when Paul died, and I believe that was the beginning of his end. As the oldest, I was the substitute father when Dad wasn't around. A lot was expected of me, and I learned early on to be a parent. My father learned by doing, and so do I. He took risks, and taught us to do the same. Only in taking risks does one learn and grow. But he took chances as well. He lived unsafely, and had lots to prove to the world. I loved him, but I also hated him. Hate is a very strong word. I didn't hate him, I just resented his extreme behavior and he made me very angry. His drunken behavior was embarrassing, and I resented that too. But he was a sad man. My heart aches for him.

I had a dream a year or so after he died. He came into my bedroom, leaned against the radiator with arms folded across his chest looking very sad, shaking his head back and forth and said, "I really fucked up." I took this to mean in his life. But, I believe in life after death. I believe he has been reborn in my nephew, Michael. Michael is doing very well now. He is married, owns his own home and seems very happy. Knowing Mike is happy, makes me believe my father is finally happy. That fact makes me happy.

I love you Dad. Thanks for everything. I learned a lot from you and I really appreciate it. I hope you are happy now. I have to believe you are.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

You're never too old to really live.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a movie of hope and dreams. It's a feel-good movie that demonstrates life doesn't end when we get older. Characters are challenged to follow their hearts and defy familial and social expectations. Others decide it's a great time to begin a whole new life...in India.

The story reminds us that change can be a good thing, and that making the best of a bad situation really is the preferably choice. For one, returning to India means fulfilling a life-long search for love and redemption. It is a heartwarming story full of great lines. Dev Patel's character as the young hotel manager says it best, "Everything will turn out fine in the end. If everything is not fine; it's not the end!"

The scenes in India made me realize that I am not interested in going there anytime soon. I don't know how that country really is, but the streets were crowded, noisy and chaotic. One character just could not adjust and had to get out. I don't know if I'd be like her if I were faced with living in that environment for the rest of my days. But the remaining characters found comfort and purpose amidst the chaos, and those discoveries made for a well-rounded, very sweet film. Larry and I both liked it very much. I don't consider it necessarily a "big screen" movie, so nothing would be lost by watching it through Pay-Per-View or Netflicks on the small screen. Do see it, though, if you haven't already. It will make you smile and feel good when you walk out of the theater.

One of the fun parts of seeing this movie for me was going to the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, RI. This building has been around for over one hundred seventy years and has been a theater for over ninety of those years. Walking into the foyer was like returning to the movie theaters of my childhood: old buildings with one screen in a huge room full of comfy seats. By the end of the movie, I didn't even smell the mustiness anymore that so insulted my nose when we first sat down. I felt like we were sitting in Grandma's attic. It was charming.

There was only one preview of the soon-to-be-released movie, Moonrise Kingdom, shot in Rhode Island, specifically here in Tiverton and on Prudence Island off of Bristol. The rest were commercials about Newport and the America's Cup Race coming back here on June 23rd. We also learned that Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has designed a complete renovation of this building; combining its historic features with a contemporary twist. I don't know the plan for this renovation or the timeframe, but if it happens, it will give a new facelift to an already wonderful old gal.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Another "road less travelled".

 It occurred to me during my long walk the other day, how easily negative thinking can take hold. I can be upbeat and happy one day; down and depressed the very next day. Sometimes these darker feelings take a few days to build before I realize I'm caught in their net. I'm not a psycho, I"m just in a life transition with no clear path foward. It's ok. I'm just trying to relax into it and see where it leads.

These feelings surface as a result of old internal scars I carry, just like everyone else. The scars result from emotional and psychological injuries experienced, one at a time, over the course of my life. During my youth, I barely acknowledged my injuries: sloughing them off trying to be the "tough Yankee", just like my grandmother. "Don't cry", "Don't be a baby", "Toughen up", "Shake it off".

As I grew older, I began to question the validity of this philosophy. I didn't see my grandmother as a particularly happy person, but I decided long ago that I would be. I also realized that every choice I made in life fell into two categories: will it make me happy or miserable? If the latter, I tried to choose differently. I had a child alone because his father was a miserable person: very nice, but very unhappy and angry. I asked him to marry me because it was expected. When he said, "No", I was very relieved. I really didn't want to marry him.

I bought a house alone, with the help of a generous benefactor friend who I repaid over time, because I didn't believe I would meet someone in time to buy one with a husband. I had a house in mind, and the timing was right, so I just jumped in with both feet, like  I usually do with risk. The house I wanted in Newton was not the house I ended up buying because the owner wouldn't sell it to me for the price I wanted to pay. I was much happier with the house I bought in Natick anyway. It was a great choice, and now my sister is enjoying it. It became an heirloom I didn't expect.

I know I am a different type of person from anyone else in my family. Acquaintances think being different means creating a role-model image for others to follow; breaking the ice so others can see a new path as being possible. I agree with these ideas, but being different is also very painful and lonely. There are positives and negatives to any life choice. Achieving balance with these swings is very important to being happy, but developing a tough skin is even better protection. The problem is that I had an easier time with sloughing off criticism or humor at my expense years ago. I have a much harder time doing that now.

I spent much of my life fighting for whatever I wanted. I have high expectations of myself and others. Larry thinks this is the source of many of my problems. He's right to a certain extent. Having expectations only leads to disappointment. Some philosophers say one should strive to have no expectations of anyone or anything; therein lies true happiness. Once again, I think a balance between these two extremes needs to be struck. How can one move forward without some expectation of a positive result of one's actions?

Sometimes I feel like a flower being choked out by the weeds. But, regardless of the amount of weeds that grow up around me, I strive to bloom brightly nonetheless; grow taller than those who try to choke or suffocate me. In so doing, I become stronger and brighter, but those efforts are not achieved without their own kind of pain. My mother used to say, "You can't be beautiful without a little pain" (or something to that affect). And then there's always, "No pain; no gain".

I don't believe in the power of pain. I believe if things are meant to be, they should be painlessly acquired. I have experienced this painless happiness many times, so I know "I'm not just blowin' smoke out my ass." My mother-in-law above all else taught me the power of our minds. She had a condition called, Conversion Disorder. I witnessed the power of the dark side on her when her condition caused medical symptoms that fooled even the professionals. But watching her pain also made me realize this power could be harnessed toward the Light. Following this latter path is much more difficult, but I have to believe it will be much more fulfilling as well. This is the road I travel. Hope I see you along the way.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Getting Back to Normal

I have been feeling a little crappy this week. Maybe this feeling is "apres-trip let-down". I'm not sure. My stomach feels so full. I feel sluggish and tired. I miss the lake, but I am very happy to be back home again. The sea air is so light and refreshing. It is perfumed with wild roses and honeysuckle. I just can't breathe it enough.

I looked at a picture Larry took of me and my friend, Judy, the day I drove her back to Charlotte, NC to catch her flight back home to Vero Beach, FL.She stayed with us for a week at the lakehouse. It was also the day before we headed back north. Looking at it felt like the first time I really saw how fat I've gotten. I was a little shocked. I'ver never had baggy knees. Geez. I have been exercising, but down south, I ate and drank to "beat the band". I gained back what little I had lost, but I feel much bigger.

I think I've been a little depressed, and that long road trip always makes both of us very tired for days afterwards. But I also noticed that "stinkin' thinkin'" started creeping back into my head again. I made an appointment with my trainer, Eric, and went to the gym yesterday. It felt good to see everyone there again. I was tired but did my weights with him, and thirty minutes on the cross-trainer. I was sweaty when I left and felt better. But, my mind wasn't clear yet.

This morning I decided to catch up with my neighborhood and went for a two-hour walk around a huge country block. The rain finally stopped and the day is glorious. The perfumed air, the blue sky full of sweeping and wispy white clouds; the birds and, of course my horse friends. Along the way, I also ran into  a chipmunk, chickens and a handsome rooster. A dying butterfly was struggling on the side of the road. She made me feel a little sad, but she was so beautiful.

I plugged in my music and I was off. It felt really good to walk here again. This is my favorite walking place. Everything here feels lighter than at the lake. For one thing, we're not in total woods, and the neighborhood is more open. The salt air is refreshing, and the temperature is cooler. The sky is more open with fewer trees around, and I just feel lighter as a result of being in it.

I stopped to smell the roses many times along my route. This is early summer (unofficially), and so many lovely flowers are in bloom. The colors everywhere are just spectacular, and walking by so many bodies of water is such a blessing. I love living by the water. I pretty much always have: New Pond in Norwood, MA, Charles River in Newton, MA, aquaduct in Albuquerque, NM; crick in Shreveport, LA. The only place I did not live close to water was in Lexington, MA. But, there, I had Wilson Farm. Wilson's has THE best produce around, and I could walk to it from my house. It was great.

Here in Tiverton, RI we have farms everywhere. On the way back from my walk, I picked up a quart of fresh-picked-today strawberries. I didn't have money or anything to leave a note, so I have to stop by on my way to Peckham's Greenhouse for porch plants to leave money in the "honor" can. I love the "honor system" around here. I also read in the local paper, The Sakonnet Times, that Young's Farm down the road a piece in Little Compton is open. I need fresh veggies and fruit badly.

Yes, it's that time of year when fresh food is everywhere. This is one of my favorite aspects of living in Tiverton. We are surrounded by fresh food in summer. I got fresh-picked strawberries in SC, now I can have even more in RI. This "snow-bird" lifestyle definitely has it's plusses: extended spring and summer seasons. I love that!

When I got home after the walk with my strawberries, I realized my head is in a much better place. I am back to working on burning those calories, and am watching what I eat again. I drink less alcohol here too: less empty calories to contend with. It's all good. Time to get out to buy those porch plants.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"You can't have my heart"

This latest rendition of a beloved fairy tale is no children's story.  Snow White and the Huntsman is definitely for us big kids. I couldn't wait to see Charlize Theron as the wicked queen, and she sure didn't disappoint. She was pure evil, and so good at it.

Kristen Stewart did a wonderful job as her nemisis, Snow White. I haven't seen all the The Twilight Saga movies, so I cannot attest to Ms. Stewart's talent. But, I was very impressed with her portrayal in this incredibly exciting movie. She was believable and powerful. There was only one scene in the movie where I didn't understand how she went from being rescued in one outfit to magically wearing a hooded coat the next. But I let it go to continue enjoying this extraordinary tale.

At one point, the action was so good, I found myself biting my knuckles waiting to see what would happen next. The special effects were wonderful and exciting. I LOVED the troll scene.  Chris Hemsworth was very hot as the Huntsman. I read in People Magazine that he worked out hard to master this role. I can see why. It was exhilarating to watch him battle demons and the dark soldiers.

The dark forest was so scary. Tree branches turned into snakes and nasty creatures were everywhere.
Watching Snow White crawl and run through all this dark evil was mesmerizing.

When you go see this movie, try to find Bob Hoskins. I had to check the credits to make sure my guess was correct. Excellent makeup.

The costumes were awesome and Florence +The Machine's final song was beautiful. All in all, this is an A+++ movie, that Larry and I both highly recommend. Get a babysitter, though. Now I want to see Julie Roberts' portrayal of the Queen.