Sunday, December 5, 2010

What do you believe in?

A few years ago, my oldest asked what we believed in. This is one of those questions for the non-committal-not-religious mom that causes paralysis. It’s similar to the paralysis that I assume occurs with the ‘Where do babies come from?’ for the sexually-repressed-told-she’d-catch-on-fire-for-masturbating mom. However, it’s impossible to answer a question of faith with a stork philosophy. It’s just not that easy.

What do we believe in? This kind of thing had come up once before when she was pretty small. Her sister was an infant. We were in the car and she started talking about what she’d heard about the second coming. I shared my thoughts about my belief in the unlikelihood of this occurrence. We discussed it for a moment and then I was able to steer the conversation to the question of whether she’d like to listen to Willie Nelson or Bob Dylan for the rest of the drive. She chose Willie and we moved on.

She was in first grade at public school when the question of religion came back into play. Her friends had asked her what church she went to. I could tell she needed to have an answer. We decided to attend the Unitarian Church a couple of times. I have several friends that are active there. It’s diverse and focused on social justice. They have an arts program. They meditate. However, laziness set in and we eventually opted to sleep in on Sunday mornings. Our church tended to be the Saturday night potluck or late night movie church of hanging out. But going to the Unitarian Church those few times gave her an answer to give her peers and that’s all she needed at the time. This same question of belief has continued to pop up here and there. My youngest girl doesn’t really ask but she listens when discussion leads that way. I’ve tried to answer the question of religious faith to the best of my ability and allow both my girls to have an open door to make their own choices about God. I look for ways to be both open minded and socially acceptable. One way I found was to latch on to a line off a tolerance commercial and regurgitate “I believe in all journeys to God”. This is mostly true but I also believe that some folks may not have a journey that leads to God. That is an unpopular sentiment in the south.

In looking for a path to communicate faith to my children without leading them into either religion or atheism, I’ve had to examine my own belief system. When asked what we believed in, I didn’t really have an answer I could give myself much less my daughters. I believe in the unknown and that leads toward faith but I also believe in evolution and that leads toward science. I find myself ultimately believing in people and their ability to do good things. I tend to admire the person who is overcoming an obstacle or showing an ability to affect positive change. I don’t give that credit to God. I leave that to the person who is doing the hard work. Their strength may be coming from God but I think that’s their business. As far as I’m concerned, I like to throw a high five to the person breaking the sweat. They can throw their high fives wherever they want. I’m open to the possibility of that strength coming from God. Iris DeMent has a great song called “Let the Mystery Be”. That song pretty much sums it up for me. Look her up on the internet. She’s awesome.

As for my own faith-based activities: I fall into prayer when I need or want something. I pray when I don’t know what else to do. My prayer isn’t a request to God specifically but a general request to the universe. My request almost always includes clarity. “I am ready for clarity. I am ready for clarity. I am ready for clarity.” It’s basically an admission of I don’t know what the hell I’m doing most of the time. “I’ve got a little room for clarity, Universe. Share that clarity.” There have been times when the prayer has been full of greed. Such as but not limited to “I’d really like an acting job” or “Boyfriend, now, please.” One time when I was focused on the mantra “Game-changing acting job”, I got three auditions in one week. Two of them were for television and one for film. I didn’t get callbacks for any of those but I went to bed every night and woke up every morning for about two weeks saying “Game-changing acting job”. I suppose I should have continued the prayer but at the end of a day of single motherhood and work and house and yard, it just sort of dropped off. When my dogs were lost, I prayed for their return. That was a pretty teary-eyed and desperate prayer. Facebook actually helped with locating our dogs. I thanked Facebook and our specific Facebook friend, gladly for that blessing.

Someone recently told me that I am a clearing for hope. It was suggested that I can find myself living in hope for things instead of living in the action of things. This may be true but I rarely feel inactive. I may sit in hope, like a period of gestation. I don’t necessarily see this as a negative aspect about my personality although it could be if I sat still long enough. I think that hope or faith is active in and of itself. It allows just a fragment of mystery to exist. It allows the belief that everything is going to turn out just as it’s supposed to and that it will be good.

This hope affords me the luxury of answering my children when they ask what we believe in. I tell them that we all have to decide what we believe in as we move through our lives. As for me, I now answer, without a doubt, “I believe in you. I believe in your ability to do great things. I believe in your ability to be kind and loving. I believe in you.” That’s what I believe in. Who knows what they will find as they grow up but I have absolute faith it will be good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Where's that open door?

I rearrange furniture when I’m stressed or about to start my period. Probably too much information but there’s something about rearranging furniture that is comforting to me. I think that I hold hope in the possibility of rearranging my life with this furniture. If I move the television maybe I will unlock some door to my ultimate creativity and success. I know. It doesn’t really work that way but I still think it might. One day I’ll move the sofa and some unimaginable revelation within the universe will shine its light on me. I’ll get a big deal film gig. I’ll find true love. I’ll lose 20 pounds. Something.

Tonight, I rearranged the furniture. The girls made maps on scrap paper where they thought things would go after I reestablished the room. I took the television out. My oldest found this to be almost unbearable. Now don’t think I’m opposed to television. Each girl has a television with a DVD player in their room and there are times I insist they go watch a movie. We don’t have cable, though. You can blame that rude Hannah Montana for that one. I don’t have the energy to monitor what they watch and the Disney Channel is full of a bunch of rude tarts. That’s just my opinion. Anyhow, television isn’t that sexy without cable but that’s how it is around here. I moved the television from the living room into my room and moved a big magnificent piece of art to the living room. The oldest said she didn’t know anyone who didn’t have a television in the living room and she didn’t think we could even call it the living room anymore. I argued that we couldn’t call it the TV room anymore but we could certainly call it the living room. She thinks I’m half nerd half superhero. I like it like that. The youngest was too focused on where she thought our guitars should go and didn’t care two flips about the television.

My ex-husband and his new wife are selling the house that I moved into when I got married. It’s the house that I had my children in. It’s the house I got married in. It’s the house I got engaged in. It’s the house that I left. Everything is completely fine with my ex and his wife. We are all on good terms. In fact, we are all very good friends. The house thing is hard for me though. I didn’t really like it when the new wife moved in but I really don’t like the thought of this house leaving the family. I look at this house as the house I expected to grow old in. The new wife, whom I’ll refer to as the step wife from here on out, did not love the house like I did. By the way, step wife is a title my oldest came up with. “If she’s our step mom, can she be your step wife?” Works for me. Anyhow, I saw only potential in the house. She saw the dilapidated reality. They moved. She’s been doing the lion share of getting it ready to put on the market. I still had things stored there that I hadn’t taken with me. A few days ago, these things were waiting for me on my front porch. My step wife had called to let me know she’d brought them over. She’s kind of a saint that way. There was a trunk full of my baby clothes, Girl Scout uniforms, cheerleading uniforms, softball uniforms, baby dolls and baby blankets. There was a box of china dolls that I’d gotten in elementary school and a box of play china. There was also a box of negatives and pictures from my time in this house. The birth of my oldest child was especially documented. The step wife asked me if there was anything else I wanted. I want the dining room table. She said that it wasn’t a problem and wanted to make sure that I knew it was a little wonky. I told her I did know. I didn’t tell her that I actually picked out that table with my ex-husband because it was a little wonky and therefore cheap but made out of really solid walnut. I didn’t tell her that he had proposed to me at that table and the oldest had taken her first steps there. I didn’t tell her that my youngest blew out her birthday candle on her very first birthday on that table. I didn’t tell her that a man with leopard dyed hair, a guest at my wedding, had helped me serve my wedding cake from that table because my ex had left me there to do this task alone. I didn’t tell her that I’d stacked my belongings on and around that table when it was time for me to go. I just told her that, yes, I knew it was a little wonky and that I would love to have it.

As I was rearranging furniture tonight, I wondered why I felt the need to readjust, to open an unknown door. I know I’m trying to find a place for that old Girl Scout uniform somewhere in this new life. That’s obvious. I know I’m making room for the table. What I don’t know is what door will open next. Maybe if I move the piano…

Thursday, September 30, 2010

These are the days.

A friend of mine called her post-divorce/raising small kids years, “the dark ages”. It’s seems like struggle is the word of the day, every day. Still, it’s good. It’s good mainly because it could be a lot worse. I suppose it’s boring not to struggle. We all sit with our worries and try to make the best of it. Yesterday and today have been challenging for me. There’s no time to mow the yard. There’s no time to mop the floor. There’s no time for mindless television watching in a clean house with all work done and chores complete. There’s not enough money to pay every bill on time. The girls don’t want to go to bed, they don’t want to get up. They don’t want to eat this, they don’t want to drink that. It’s a constant negotiation. It’s exhausting. I don’t have time to take a walk. Still, it’s good because it could be a lot worse. I was driving home from taking my daughters to school today and tried to save a dog. I couldn’t convince this dog to get in my car. He was a collie and beautiful. Well, he would have been beautiful had he been groomed. He was very matted and appeared to be blind. He was limping. At first, I drove past him with voices in my head of people I never want to listen to saying that I couldn’t stop and help this dog. “What business do you have bringing another animal home? How will you afford the vet bill? How could you help a blind limping animal? What if this filthy animal hates children, cats and other dogs? What if this dog has rabies and bites you?”
Well, I couldn’t help this dog because I couldn’t catch him. Running after a strange animal through the backyards of strangers was clearly not going to be successful. I let it go. I walked back to my car and drove home. It made me feel very sad that I could not help this dog.
I go home, I shower and head to my 10am appointment. I actually had two 10am appointments because I am scattered. But they were both at the same place, making it silly but doable. While driving down Edgewood Avenue, I notice a man on the sidewalk staggering very dramatically. Then he falls flat on the pavement and doesn’t get up. The driver of the car in front of me seems to also see this. We both turn our cars around. We roll down our windows and ask if the other has seen this man fall down. This other driver is another woman and we park our vehicles and go to see what has happened. This man is pretty incoherent and apparently drunk. He is bleeding from the head wound he got from hitting the pavement. It turns out the other person who stopped to help, Renee, works with mentally ill patients at Peninsula. She’s able to soothe this man and call 911 at the same time. My job seems to be keeping this man from falling into oncoming traffic as he has made his way back onto his feet and veers from the sidewalk to the street and into people’s yards, holding on to light poles along the way. We can’t seem to get him to sit down. We find out from this man that he was just discharged from St. Mary’s Hospital. Somehow he has made his way across Broadway. He’s trying to get to his house, which is several blocks away. People pass by. Men in trucks who don’t stop but they stare. Another car pulls over with two women. They stay in their car but they stay until the situation is under control making sure that we have things handled with this bloody man. A woman comes out from her house to check on us. She has hand sanitizer. I can’t help but notice that no men stop to help. In fact, one man is sitting on his porch while the injured man is lying in his yard with Renee trying to soothe him and me providing a buffer from this man and the street. The man sitting on his porch gets up and goes inside. He goes inside while two women and a bleeding stumbling incoherent man are in his front yard. The police arrive. The ambulance arrives. We leave.
Even though my life seems to sit in the midst of struggle and I can’t quite see how to change it. I am very grateful for it. I’m grateful I’m not a matted limping blind animal. I’m glad I’m not drunk and stumbling down the sidewalk. I’m especially glad that I’m not a man who leaves his porch to lock his door.
I really hope someone was able to help that dog today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September and the moon.

As seen in the September issue of 180.

School is in. A friend with a brand new kindergartener posted on Facebook that “There is a 5am as well as a 5pm.”. This was a revelation but not the good sort. As a parent with school age children, it is shocking to realize that getting multiple persons up in the morning (and this includes yourself) requires an obscenely early start. You know it’s going to be hard but you don’t really get it until you are doing it. It’s just not the same as pre-school. The ‘big’ school has such things as homework and projects and tardy slips. You should not be holding a Pop Tart when you arrive and neither should your child. I set my alarm for 5:30 generally. It depends on how the night before goes. Sometimes it is earlier. I have to be completely battle ready when I rouse the troops. They are usually not pleased. We are two weeks in and have been on time so far. I did hear one story of a tardy child escorted into his room by his dad and he received “Oh look class, little Tommy’s Dad has brought Tommy to school late.” It’s harsh people. These elementary school teachers have no time to mess with it. A mom friend of mine recently confessed she was scared of her daughter’s kindergarten teacher last year. She didn’t realize it until the anxiety crept in as this school year approached. So I get up extra early to mentally prepare myself for the clothing, food, toothpaste, hair-brushing campaign that must be successful for us to arrive without incident. Or at least, without Mommy being called out for the whole tardy business and my girls with matching shoes on their feet. I play a little Madeleine Peyroux in the mornings or some Joni Mitchell or Corrine Bailey Rae. It’s as gentle as I can go to set the mood as I usher them from dreamland to you-have-to-get-out-of-your-cozy-bed now land. Sometimes I confess that I do play Beck. This morning I rewarded the first girl done with breakfast a trip to the backyard to look at the full moon lingering in the sky. This is what is good about the morning when the air is just a bit crisp. Of course, the girl finishing last also got to go. The unfortunate thing was that we had to leave that moon for school. Such is life.

Sometimes you have to leave the moon.

At the beginning of the school year there is a flurry of activity that centers around volunteers. I don’t mean the Tennessee Volunteers, I mean who will do traffic duty. Usually each class has a Room Parent. At our school, it’s all moms. However, I do know of at least two dads in kindergarten this year that are breaking rank to volunteer in the classroom. It’s like they are charging the Red Rover line. I think it’s about time for that. We have a Mothers Day Tea and a Fathers Day lunch at our school. The mothers prepare both. Red Rover, Red Rover, won’t you come over?

My youngest is in kindergarten. She’s very cute and happy about it. Tomorrow she gets to go through the cafeteria line for the first time. We’ve gone over the menu and I’ve reiterated that the fish wedge is just like a fish stick except it is a triangle. We’ve talked about this a lot. The cafeteria causes the littlest girl some amount of stress because she is a picky eater. She likes white and yellowish foods. No vegetables. No fruits. Very little protein and only if it’s breaded. This causes mom and big sis some amount of stress because we are eaters of all things. We both try to encourage the littlest one but she holds her ground. She won’t even eat brownies. Forget about broccoli.

The biggest is in the 4th grade, which shares a hallway with the 5th grade. She’s an upperclassman. This is evident in the snarky greeting I get after school each day. The days of her joyously hugging me in the afternoon are over. It takes her about 30 minutes before she feels like “talking about it”, meaning school. She declared to her grandmother that the 4th grade would be the “Year of Fashion”. Oh no. I was in a meeting with another mom earlier today who was telling me about her 5th grade son who just got his heart broken by his girlfriend from the 4th grade. I don’t think my girl is interested in boys yet. This is my hope since I was a late bloomer. I feel like I’m entering the days of payback. These are murky waters. These are dangerous times.

September represents school but it also represents birthdays for our family. Both girls were born in September. The school/birthday combo represents growing up more this year than before. It’s good but it’s noticed. I always tell them the story of their birth and we look at baby pictures and our lovely dear friend Peggy (Magpies Bakery) makes them super special cakes. Along with their dad, their stepmom, family and friends we party all month long. It’s a wonderful month but it’s also the path to their growing up. I am glad they still want to hold hands sometimes. I remember my friend Heather holding hands with her mother in the mall when we were in high school. Her mother was British. I took that to be the reason for such strange behavior. Maybe that’s how they do things across the pond. I had never seen such PDA with mothers and daughters who are practically grown. I think of that moment a lot now that my girls are getting bigger. I wonder what I can do that will keep their little hands in mine even when they are big hands. I guess I’ll just cross my fingers and show them the moon as often as I can. September is a big deal.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

puppets, drums, ridin' and cryin'

We arrived home from vacation at roughly 2am. The kids didn’t go to sleep in the car until well after midnight. Emma Jean tried. She has this habit of sleep bitching. It’s kind of like sleep terrors…except it’s bitching. So while Lucy Maye and Squirrel are plotting a world take over with the DS, occasionally EJ would wake up in a terrible bitch session. It would already be in play in her dream cycle. This would lead the older kids to criticize her and then she’d really get going. At some point it would turn truly sad and the littlest kid (Emma Jean) would be left holding her arms out and crying “Mommy”. Mommy, that’s me, sat shotgun and two seats forward trying to console her and tell her to please be quiet and go back to sleep at the same time. At some point, Squirrel (the next to littlest) got a headache that was like a hole in his head. The oldest kid Liam, Squirrel’s brother, was trying to keep it together by staring at everyone. The center of the group, Lucy Maye, who now has a nickname of 20 Questions, would just make definitive statements about how things were driving her crazy. I finally declared that next one to talk had to give me five dollars. That worked for a while. I turned to Preston with the immortal question, “How did the Brady Bunch do this?” He said that they never went on any road trips except Hawaii. Now, granted, we aren’t a blended family. But we are good friends and tend to tribe up on occasion. I have a fantasy about this art colony where these very eclectic adults (including Preston and hopefully me) with these very eclectic kids get together for months at a time to do their thing and the kids all work it out and have a great time and the parents are productive and artistically brilliant and we all work all day and then make great dinners and catch fireflies and get written up in the New Yorker for be cool Southern. The trip to the beach was sort of that. At least we kept the condo clean. No art was made but there was some computer work, sketch work and discussions about future projects and so forth. Shannon and her nephew (who’s a teenager – wow) were there for the first part of the week and we were all getting our groove on with a staircase of an age range. Waking up to a marsh of Cape Fear was quite extraordinary. I could also stare at the ocean for hours or, truth be told, days. The girls were more interested in the pool. Lucy Maye’s breaststroke improved and Emma Jean gained some much needed confidence. There was some fishing and some shopping and some unrequited turtle hatching watching. We had fun. We had experiences.

The drive home was mostly uneventful except for navigating the young’uns. Honestly, at that age, I can’t imagine making an eight-hour drive like that. They were really pretty darn good. We stopped a little after midnight and switched positions. I traded with Liam and moved Emma Jean into that seat with me. She still had night bitching. She woke up with a start asking where her eye patch was. She had received it at Scalawag Camp where she got certified as a Pirate. I told her it was in the luggage. She then frantically began looking around. It was somewhat birdlike. I asked her what was up and she said she was looking for the dang luggage. I told her it was in the back. She essentially told me off and then I coaxed her back to sleep. Only 71 more miles to go….

Today, we all still woke up early. It’s a curse. I started cleaning out the basement and cussing the growing grass. The girls lazed around in their own rooms, content with movies and our grateful animals all around. Our youngest dog keeps staring at us with a big panting grin. It was all good. Later in the day, their dad came by to fetch them. He’s been away from them for 10 days and I think that’s the longest that they haven’t seen each other. He brought Lucy Maye’s drum kit and a puppet theatre from the house that he’s selling. I’ve mentioned this house before because I lived there for over 10 years and really love this house. Having these things here is good but there’s just not room for them. I rearranged the basement, moved a full sized bed down there, moved a twin bed into EJ’s room and am still trying to fit it all in. I’ve had somewhat of a collapse today. I’ve been away from my nest for about 2 ½ weeks now. It would have been good to watch Pride and Prejudice on a continual loop today, while drinking bourbon and sleeping. But, alas, it is not to be. I’m trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and produce some reorganization magic. I ended up crying for about 2 hours straight while conjuring this impossible magic. I’m still staring at the puppet theatre. I’m also staring at about 60 stuffed animals that need to go to Goodwill. My problem is that I still have all of my childhood stuffed animals at my Grannie’s house in her attic. I refused to give them away. I’m having a hard time mentally prying all the cuties out of my house because of guilt. I guess I’ll just bag them and put them in the basement. John also brought a bunch of pictures that he thinks the girls will want when they are older. He’s right. I think they will want them. Trouble is that a lot of them are photos that I had framed for him as presents. It’s kind of weird to have these given back to me. I know it would be difficult for him to be moving pictures of he and his ex-wife to his new house with his new wife, but I’m not sure what to do with them. It’s just weird to have these things from my past sitting in my living room and they have no place where they go. There’s a wedding picture. There’s a picture of John and I when I was about 9 months pregnant with Lucy Maye on our front porch. There’s birth photo’s of Emma Jean that I already have copies of. Where do these things go? Where am I going to put that puppet theatre? Howie came by to help me move the bed. He made me feel better. He said that if all of this was in his living room, he’d cry too. I was openly crying at some point while he was here. I still don’t know what corner to tuck it all in to but at least I know I’m not ridiculous for being overwhelmed by it.

The puppet theatre is really freaking cool. There is that. After all.

from 180 Magazine, August

Organize Chaos

I have largely ignored this worldwide serial experiment known as summer.

I’m addicted to working. Not only do I work a day job but I’m also a compulsive theatre geek. I’ve spent my entire adult life leaving work to do evening rehearsals and performances. Sometimes I make a little money. Mostly it keeps me sane and it’s generally not been about the cash. Now that I have a couple of small people in my entourage, I make choices based on my sanity, their wellbeing and my earnings. I was determined to live the life of summer this year for all our sakes. The last two summers I got off work at 5pm and rehearsals began at 7pm. The girls enjoy going to rehearsal and they also enjoy the potpourri of friends that come over to play while I’m working on obtaining that mind-blowing performance. It’s not torture for them that I do theatre but a lot gets sacrificed. There’s a facebook group called “I can’t, I have rehearsal.” It’s a support group because theatre is all consuming. When you aren’t in rehearsal, you are rehearsing at home. When you aren’t rehearsing at rehearsal or at home, you could be building a set or worrying about rehearsal. You generally don’t see music or go to the movies. You don’t go swimming or go on vacation. Sometimes you take on the characteristics of your character. You do the show. You never clock out. It’s pretty glorious but it doesn’t leave room for anything else. This year, I’m breaking up with summer theatre for summer time. This summer is being treated like my imagination imagines summer. We have gone to the lake. We have gone to the pool. We have gone to the movies. We are going on a vacation that is not determined by my rehearsal schedule. Revolutionary.

My day job is flexible. I spend a lot of time on my computer and I can do that at 6am or 11pm. I also meet with folks and have appointments but I’m not at a desk from 8 to 5 like I was in summers’ previous. I am in the working world of contract labor. This is somewhat terrifying, but it’s where I’m at right now and I’ve decided to embrace the positive. I have flexibility. I may not have benefits but I have flexibility.

I’ve had a lot of interaction this past year with 3 other families working in the contract labor arena. None of us want to have our kids in summer daycare, either because of the cost or just because it’s summer, dang it, and the kids should sleep late. For me, it’s a combination of the two. Through some discussion, we came up with a plan to benefit the workaday needs of productivity (aka money earning) and the needs of summer. We have been passing our kids around. We plan on four days a week for four hours a day. Each of the four families takes a day. The benefit is that the adults get some time to work uninterrupted (Mommy, I need a drink! I hate this drink! She hit me!). The kids get some peer interaction, hopefully don’t strangle their siblings and don’t die of boredom watching their moms and dads work from home. We have been calling it the Summer Camp Co-op. It is our attempt to organize the chaos. So far the outlook is positive although fluid. Currently we are in the third week and we’ve only had all the kids together once and that was at the initial potluck, which, I might add, included bows and arrows. The key to the success of the fluidity is that this group is pretty clued into one another. Our types of work are compatible so when something comes up or changes, no one gets uptight about it. It just moves on to the next day or we switch days or go to the pool. Initially, I thought it would have more rigid boundaries. We would submit lesson plans and make copies of insurance cards and have a craft fee. But it’s more like a series of organized play dates. There was one day that included a downtown bike ride and some printmaking. While this madness was going on, I was at a meeting. One of my colleagues asked where the girls were and I told him about our camp and he declared he wanted to go to camp too. I think that’s been one of the hardest things. I really enjoy these other families and I dig their offspring. We came together because of similar interests and the compatibility of our kids. It’s often hard for me to drop the girls off and go do work. Every time I linger at the doorway as my kids disappear into a room unknown waiting for their adventure to begin.

This summer makes me grateful. I am taking pictures every day that I don’t lose or forget my camera. I’m calling it ‘Curating Summer’, because this summer is a choice. It’s happening just by choosing to let it go. Everyday is a surprise. Every lightning bug has been a gift, every sunset a miracle and every morning a gentle rise. We have not hurried through our days.

The school year starts soon. My youngest enters kindergarten and my oldest will be in the fourth grade. Both girls will be under the same roof and my workdays become longer as the days grow shorter. When summer started, I was panicked about how to organize these summer days. Now I dread them being organized for me. My living room will no longer be a chaotic ocean of cast off flip flops and wet bathing suits. The library becomes a requirement, not a luxury. We will wake before the sun and wear backpacks and computer bags instead of sunscreen.

We will remember this summer. I have pictures to prove it happened. It’s happening now. I hope I can find my camera.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

for recreation and amusement

I'm on deep cleaning frenzy today. As I was cleaning up my jelly cupboard, I took a look at the picture postcard that hangs above. It's for the Chameleon Springs Hotel that was in Mammoth Cave Kentucky. My great great grandparents owned it. The thing that struck me was the byline on the postcard ~ "The Place for Recreation and Amusement". Sometimes I think about writing a mission statement for myself. The mission of the life of Amy is to ... and so on. I've thought more and more about specifying a mission or a purpose for myself. This would essentially be a tool for decision making. When asked about something I can consider if it would fall in with my mission statement. In it I will include the words of my ancestors ~ "for recreation and amusement".

We went to Kentucky in mid-June. It was pretty alright considering that we opened Christmas presents and only got to stay for two days. I'd like to figure out how to stay longer but a visit with my family isn't really a vacation and I'm committed to taking vacations at this point in my life. I'd like to go and spend some time at Mammoth Cave. That could be a vacation and vacations promote recreation and amusement. We did have fun in Kentucky even during our short stay. The girls have specific things they like to do at each family members house and they did all those things. It was Africa hot when we were there so we didn't spend much time outside. My dad and stepmom have 92 acres so it's always nice to roam the woods. We did not do that this time. We looked at this world through windows and air conditioning. I am always struck by the change in landscape from East Tennessee to South Central Kentucky. There are some hills there but it's pretty flat overall. Although I was raised in Kentucky and still consider myself a Kentuckian, I have lived in Knoxville more of my life. Driving on the parkway to my dad's, the lack of mountains on the horizon was noticeable. It was a cloudy day and the world looked different. The Queen Ann's Lace on the side of the road was thick and the cedar trees felt like elderly men and women. Something about it felt ancient for me. Nostalgia, I suppose.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I posted on facebook a few weeks ago that it was time to get back into my skinny clothes. Now the skinny clothes are not really that skinny. In fact, I just want all my clothes to fit. So the skinny clothes comment was a public statement about getting a handle on it, not a love handle, so that my clothes fit they way they are supposed to. It's essentially about not overeating. I tend to be excessive with food. I don't just eat because I'm hungry. I will eat out of boredom. I will eat emotionally. I will eat because something looks good and deserves to be eaten. Universally, food is a form of community. Last night the girls and I went to a blackberry party. It was great. We spent the first hour picking wild blackberries at Seven Islands. I haven't ever picked wild blackberries and neither have the girls. The blackberry patch was fairly treacherous. The best part for me was listening to the girls proclaim over and over again that they'd found Blackberry Heaven! or Blackberry World! when they'd come across a juicy patch of ripe fruit. That was awesome. Then there was a big potluck as the hostess turned everyone's blackberries into pie. It was really wonderful...and based around food. I didn't overindulge but I did eat things that I shouldn't have. I'm not 'dieting' but I am trying to stick to foods that make me feel good. This means that I shouldn't eat sugar, dairy or gluten. I can really tell a difference when I'm not eating these things or when I'm only eating a tiny bit of them. Yesterday was not a good day to skip sugar, dairy or gluten so I didn't. With today being spent at my Mom's for the Fourth of July, I imagine it will be much of the same. Tomorrow, back to treating myself right, I suppose. I really want to wear that dress...and be able to sit down in it.

I am going to take a solo semi-working vacation at the end of the month. I'm excited about it. Last year, I took two short solo trips and it was really good for me. I am just now getting to the place, as a parent, where I don't feel guilty for being away from my daughters to do something fun. I'm also going to the beach with them when I get back so they'll get their fun. As a person, as a woman, as an artist, I'm starting to get to the point where I'm having tunnel vision. It's time to see some new things and spend a little time with people in a different environment. I'm heading to NYC and I'm going to look at a couple of venues to do some theatre showcases, I've got a meeting for my day job, and I'm going to see some dear friends. I've got some computer work to do but it will be refreshing to do it in a different coffeehouse in a different city. I'm going to find some music and hopefully some ideas. I've also been invited to spend a few of those days traveling to Newport RI with a fella. This will be relaxing. This will all be good.

Sitting here in Knoxville, I'm feeling a bit crusty, cranky. I got out of a relationship back in January. It flared back up for about a week in May and I still find myself purging it from my system. I had a dream last night that I was marrying this guy. We were on some ranch and the wedding coordinator kept taking me and the guests to different wedding spots. It was the day of the wedding. Every place we were taken to was a dry cracked barren piece of earth. I'm hoofing around in some ridiculous wedding dress with guests trailing along and none of it was lovely. I called this guy who was waiting in a barn or something, to ask if he'd like to just call it off. He said yes and then told me that he'd brought me a coconut cake. I told him to keep his cake because I already had my own cake. It was very strange and I woke up annoyed. I woke up annoyed and immediately said to myself that I need to plant my love in fertile soil. I think this must be a line from a song or something. It sounds cheesy but it works.

Speaking of fertile soil, I've got more cucumbers than Carter had little liver pills. (I have no idea what that means but my grandmother always says it). There's this patch of my yard where my garden is, and everything grows there. It's where I planted the ball and burlap Christmas tree from 2008 and there's a rogue pumpkin patch rising up. It's a crazy fertile patch of earth. I should probably start meditating there to soak up the good energy.

It's time to get dressed and head to my mother's for Hot Dogs and German Chocolate cake. The sun's shining and it's not supposed to be blazing hot.

Happy Independence Day, friends. Here's to freedom.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

turtles and songs...

I had a great time at Hippie Jack's with the Naughty Knots, the Black Lillies, Jay Clark, Jimmie Davis and entourage. I got to be in the entourage and that's fun. It rained a bunch but in a real refreshing way. I'm always grateful to Sarah for thinking to include me. I had told someone at the Farmers' Market on Saturday that I needed an emotional rain to settle things back down for me. This little 24 hour trip provided some emotional and physical rain. It was a bit of alkaline. I got to meet some really nice folks and hang a bit with some good friends and sleep in the Lilith Fair tent with Sarah and Griffin. I got to mostly be quiet and sit still. I got to stand in a field in the pitch black with a friend and watch lightning bugs. I got to eat a big breakfast made by women who know how to make it and fellas who made biscuits in a dutch oven. I got to listen to my friends sing and play music.
I get home in the late afternoon and it's time for mixing a little business with pleasure. Brian Wagner is awesome for agreeing to do a biscuit art photo for the art show. We don't have any photography so it'll be good to add it to the mix. I do have to make the biscuits and am going to go ahead and make dinner for us. It'll be fun and easy. I get back from camping and head to the store to get the biscuit stuff for him to shoot. I go to the very close Food City and drive around the back. Low and behold there's a big turtle right there in harms way. I get pretty mad and sad when I see a squashed turtle on the road and this looks to be a potentially bad situation. I stop the car and direct the light flow of traffic around the turtle and call Howie. Howie is a great neighbor and friend and he came right over to the back lot. Of course, he is not as excitable as me and recommended we call animal control. They say they are going to contact the wildlife people but they don't know when someone will come by. In the meantime, I surround the turtle with shopping carts and call a new friend who is a wildlife kind of professional of some sort. He tries to shame me into to picking up the turtle by it's tail or some irrational nonsense. He refused to come to the back lot at the Food City and I did not try to handle this turtle. After hanging up with new lame friend, a lady gets out of her truck with her son and states that she's from South Florida and her dad was an Alligator Relocation Specialist and laughs a little bit at our blank stares. She shows us her gold chain with her gold alligator pendant and lets us know this is actually an Alligator Snapping Turtle (which are endangered) and she can handle it for us. Miracle of miracles. Fabulous. She wraps the turtle up and carefully takes him back to the creek. Howie and I rejoice in our good fortune. Who in the world could have predicted the daughter of an Alligator Relocation Specialist would show up behind the Food City in North Knoxville?
The world is a gift and sometimes someone or something comes along with just what you need. Like a music festival. Like a the daughter of an Alligator Relocation Specialist. Like lightning bugs after the rain.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mayday...all day long

My life is a choice I’ve made. I think that I have spent some considerable time moving along with the perception that things happen to me. I don’t mean this in a way that I am a perpetual victim but that I sometimes assume that I am just floating in a sea of change without recognizing that I am the vehicle of this change. I keep complaining about transition. When will I get out of transition? Wah wah, wah wah wah, wah wah, wah wah. It’s like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Boring. When I break it down, I am mostly the changer, the vehicle of change. There are times that I can’t take credit for it and have to admit that something has happened beyond my control to create change. But mostly, I happen to things. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes this is bad. I’m not patient which is a problem. I have barreled through many things just for the sole purpose of getting to the other side. There’s this constant journey that I’ve been missing in order to get to the destination.

I’m in a place now where I will suddenly stop, like freeze tag, and try to assess my surroundings. I do emotional and practical assessments. Am I okay? Am I freaking out about anything? Are my daughters okay? Do I have time to mow the yard? Do I have enough money? Do I have to go to the grocery store again? Am I okay? Am I freaking out about anything? Are my daughters okay? Do I have to do laundry again? Am I okay? I suppose I have to do this because I’m moving so fast that I just don’t know how I am. I am barreling through but I’ve learned enough to at least do the assessment. I’m trying to do a better job of not having to ask these questions. I’m trying to work on the offensive instead of the defensive. I should just know how I am instead of asking how I am.

It’s interesting being a parent. I try to be a lot braver and calmer than I tried to be before I set these girls on earth. For example, I really try not to be afraid of snakes. We have lots of snakes in our backyard because we have a creek and we are cool like that. I could probably go out and find a couple of snakes right now, people. However, I’m terrified of snakes and will only act cool if the girls are around and sometimes there’s no cool available. I freaked out last summer when I wrapped my dear little irreplaceable fingers around a snake hiding under weed cloth. I made it into the house a good 30 seconds before the girls. Lucy Maye was furious and yelled at me. She yelled, “You’ve lived longer than us!” I had totally left them outside to fend for themselves as I ran into the house screaming. She still doesn’t find it amusing and rolls her eyes at me if I try to tell it like a funny story. I try to be okay with snakes around the girls because I don’t want them to inherit my fears, the residuals of my karma. I also just want them to think I’m cool and fearless. It’s disconcerting when there is no cool available. I try to keep the cool on tap like a Superhero Mom should.

In addition to trying to be cool with snakes, I try to be more Zen and brave about loss. I think this started during the divorce from their father. There was lots of talk about how everything is okay even though it’s different than what we’d expected. I do believe that but sometimes things just suck. It’s really hard to look your kids in their eyeballs and say “This just f-in’ sucks.” It’s almost impossible to fall apart when you are the mom. It can happen and those moms usually end up on the news. I only want to be on the news for a film premiere or a lottery win.

I’ve been talking Lucy Maye off the ledge a lot lately. Their dad and his wife have bought a house. It’s good but they are selling the old house that the girls came home to when they were born. Lucy Maye is very sentimental. Emma Jean doesn’t really care. Their stepmom was apologizing to them for not having their rooms set up the other day and Emma Jean told her to just get some waffles. Honestly, Emma Jean really just wants waffles and she doesn’t care where she eats them. She is easier this way. Lucy Maye will mourn every chip of paint. She and I are sitting in the same boat with that, except I have to be all Zen about it. This is because I am Superhero Mom. This house about to go on market was my dream house. I got engaged, married, and had babies in this house. I gardened and planned new bathrooms and an outdoor shower in this house. I dreamed of kitchen renovation and half moon shutters in this house. I watched both daughters take first steps in this house and I grieved my neighbor in this house. I left this house when I left my husband. I left all the potential that I just couldn’t make happen. I fretted as his new wife moved in and I asked him not to paint the naturally distressed front door. Even with my leaving, it still felt like my house. Now it’s going to be sold and I can’t be the one to buy it. I have to be careful about my loss. I can only tell Lucy Maye that it’s okay and we should welcome change no matter how hard it is to be in transition. My dog is buried in that yard.

The pre-school that belonged to my ex-husband’s family for more than 30 years closed on May 21. The actual building burned down last year and they’ve been in a temporary location ever since. It was just too much to try to rebuild or buy or lease and renovate so they’ve closed it. Lucy Maye wept a lot as we left for the last time. There goes her little school and all I can say is that it will be okay. It will be okay. Emma Jean didn’t miss a beat and just made sure I had phone numbers for all her friend’s moms. She’s resilient and is really looking forward to kindergarten anyway. The new wife has been running the pre-school because the former in-laws both had health problems. She essentially moved to town last year on a tsunami that hit her with in-laws with major health problems, a burned school, two little girls and me. She should have done some research before she signed the deal but I’m glad she didn’t. I like her. I got the new wife, whom I fondly referred to as my stepwife, a bottle of wine for the closing reception/school play, which was the day before the last day. I gave it to her and she said that I didn’t have to do that and I said that it was better her than me and she might as well have the wine. We high-fived. I went to a party. She went home with my family. Thursday is the night the girls spend at their dads. Everything turns out okay.

In my younger days, I embraced the idea that my life would eventually settle down. I’d check off this list and be able to relax into adulthood. I didn’t believe it when the old folks told me that youth was actually simpler. Now I know they were right. When I was young I just didn’t have the skills to see it that way. I looked to the future as a place of serenity and success. Maybe that success is the wisdom to know that it all comes out in the wash. You just have to make the best choices you can. Of course, I still make choices I know won’t work out. I am an optimist with a bad track record. I tend to believe people and I tend to think that the best-case scenario could happen. The best-case scenario does actually happen to some people and I’m standing in line for that. I keep getting back up on the horse for the best-case scenario.

May has been a little rough. I’m coming up on my 13th wedding anniversary. It’s still the anniversary of my wedding even though I’m not married any more. My ex-husband always sends me a sweet text on this day. I picture him hiding in the closet or something. I really don’t think that’s the case. My stepwife is cool and I can’t imagine that even in the most grandiose of imaginations, she could be jealous of me. This anniversary is something to celebrate if for no other reason than it’s an example of my belief in the best-case scenario. Of course, I have a bad track record. It has been May all month long.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grow Simple

As seen in the May 2010 issue of 180 Magazine...

I’ve got two daughters and we planted a garden this year. My oldest wanted to plant cucumbers and begonias. My youngest wanted macaroni and cheese. We settled on a mix of vegetables. We also planted flowers. Fortunately, pink flowers replaced the planting of pasta.

The need to plant has become more prevalent among folks I know. I think that both a growing awareness of sustainability and the high cost of decent produce play a part in the increasing number of gardens found in the back yards of neighbors this year. For my family, it’s a way to do something together that has positive impact on the way we live. I made the break and canceled cable after this long gray winter. There’s no way Hannah Montana is better for us than growing a garden and I’m tired of distractions as simple and effective as television. Since we couldn’t plant macaroni and cheese, I’m hoping to entice my youngest into eating a more varied selection of foods. My grandmother always had a garden when I was growing up. When I visited there was work to be done and it culminated in dinner. There were beehives for a while and this meant dessert. It was the non-fast food experience and I always looked forward to it.

My house is anticipating the start of farmers’ market season. The success and popularity of our local farmers’ markets is on the rise. Knox County has 4 active markets as listed with the state’s agriculture department on the Pick Tennessee Products website. There are several more in surrounding counties. Many local farmers that are selling goods at the various markets are also selling CSA’s. Community Supported Agriculture is essentially a weekly food subscription. With a CSA, you get a basket from the farmer full of what they’ve got. You don’t order a specific number of any certain vegetables. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. I got to snag a friend’s CSA when she was out of town last summer. You might get a bundle of vegetables you would have overlooked when making your own choices. It can challenge your palate and your culinary knowledge. It’s fun to rise to the occasion. I used everything in the basket. I thought about signing up for a CSA this year but we are growing a garden and I’m going to be optimistic about our fierce skills.

The farmers’ market we most frequent is the Market Square Farmers’ Market. In its 7th year of existence and with roughly 60 vendors during peak season, this market was voted 5th in the nation by Local Harvest, a national website dedicated to finding farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area. Last year I worked the Glowing Body/Magpies booth and it was a celebration of community. Of course we sold energy circles, cupcakes and what not, but the market is a social hub and there was always lots of news. Friends and friends of friends were stopping by to discuss produce and baked goods, parties, art, politics and the weather. My daughters actively played a part in the social scene. We were strategically placed in front of the fountains and the girls would wear bathing suits and go back and forth from our tent to the fountains finally ending in a Tomato Head lunch frenzy. They would each be given $5 to pick out produce for us to take home. There were times that they just wanted a treat instead. They became fans of the turtle lady, collecting several different clay turtles over the summer. We came home with all kinds of things, even a puppy. True story. I’m a sucker. Our downtown has had a visible resurrection over the past decade and the Market Square Farmers’ Market has definitely been an active participant in the vibrancy of community and lure of downtown residents.

Charlotte Tolley, Director of the Market Square Farmers’ Market, has been catalyst for the downtown market since its inception. She is also the first person to bring EBT/SNAP benefits to a seasonal farmers’ market, with a central location for vendors, in the state of Tennessee. EBT/SNAP is known to the general public as food stamps. In the day and age where film and television (Food, Inc., Fast Food Nation and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution) are slowly educating the public on the dangers of what basically inedible foods can do to your body and our planet, it’s refreshing to know that government assisted food buying can be done on a local level. Charlotte also serves as a board member on the Knoxville Knox County Food Policy Council and this council supports urban chickens. On May 7th, Remedy Coffeehouse in the Old City will be showing Mad City Chickens about urban life with backyard chickens. The Knoxville Urban Hen Coalition is teaming up with Three Rivers Market and the Parkridge Community Garden to screen Mad City Chickens as part of the effort to educate Knoxville on keeping hens in the city, and to build support for a proposed ordinance to allow domesticated chickens. No roosters allowed. If this ordinance passes, we are so getting chickens at our house.

It feels like there’s a movement in Knoxville to simplify and thereby improve the way we live. I’ve wondered if it’s just the company I keep that makes me feel this way. I’ve come to the conclusion that it has more to do with the economic climate. It’s forcing us to view spending as optional or rather to spend on ways we can be more self-sufficient. This is carrying over into the concept of impact, footprint, and what essentially makes us good world citizens. UT grad student Katie Reis has based her thesis on a concept she developed called Urban Land Scouts. Katie created badges that can be earned by being good stewards of the city landscape. Her thesis includes urban nature walks, seed swaps and compost discussions. It’s exciting and the badges are ridiculously cute.

I’ve been working to change my perception of what urban living means. We’ve got a sweet little house in a somewhat cramped but charming neighborhood. I sometimes daydream about having lots of land and a farmhouse and livestock and a big garden. I interrupt my daydream to remind myself that I actually have this in city limits. So far our livestock is domestic: dogs, cats, fish and a frog. We also have non-domestics in the backyard. I’ve seen two species of garden snakes, a variety of spiders, bats, and many birds. A heron visited the neck of our creek a few times last year. Hopefully we’ll be adding some hens to the mix before too long. That’s going to be hilarious. I don’t know if these things simplify our lives but it definitely improves the way we live.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

yesterday's pigtails...

On Wednesday, I think I noticed everything. Everything had been brushed with a highlighter like lines in a play.

I’ve been trying to take a walk every morning. Yes, it would be nice to be ten pounds slimmer for bathing suit season but really it’s more for my mood and productivity. I walk about two miles and then I’ve been swinging on our swing set in the back yard. I listen to Pandora and generally have it on R&B funk. I find this extremely helpful with my day overall.

On Wednesday’s walk, Pandora and I started out with James Brown and then hit a good number of songs from The Big Chill. Notably, this was my first love’s ‘theme’ album with his senior year classmates. I never got exactly why these 17-year old kids were fascinated with The Big Chill but I was only 15 and accepted the fate of a Sophomore dating a Senior. I just didn’t get it. I did appreciate the break from Hank Jr., when The Big Chill would have its turn in the tape deck. Welcome to rural Kentucky.

Listening to those songs made me feel a bit melancholy. It’s been 21 years since that boy. First love and after shocks, and The Big Chill or how I began Wednesday and where does it go from here?

Disclaimer: I really do not like to be labeled.

However, I am labeled as a single mom. That’s cool. I own it. I don’t feel weird about being single. My marriage wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t what either of us needed. I feel much better being single than I do having been married. So I’m the single mom and it’s easier than it was before. Okay, okay, okay.

I do and have done a lot of work that is put in front of people. For this reason, a gal who I’m currently working with, nominated me for some top singles thing for the rag she works for. She made it clear that it was not a matchmaking thing and that it would be a good way to have a profile in a popular local magazine and I could promote some of this work with it. Fair enough. It still makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like being labeled and there seems to be some stigma associated as being labeled single. Being publicly single, is just a bit weird. I do need all the help I can get with these freelance projects and all press is good press so I agreed to do it.

Wednesday I have my picture made as a top single. Yep. I meet the photographer and art director at the appointed time and we head to the Sunsphere to take some shots with a nice background. All is going well. No one is around and it’s a comfortable shoot. All good. I turn around and there’s my ex-husband. Just what you want to happen at a print shoot for top singles. He’s with his best friend. Just a point of interest ~ his best friend used to own this magazine and my ex started it for him. I dodge the question about what I’m doing and start blabbing about anything to change the subject about why I have this makeup on and why I’m in a dress and not the typical overalls or skirt and t-shirt. As they get into the elevator, I’m asked the question again. I’m a bad liar. I tell it. The elevator door shuts to two a-holes smirking. I had to eat a chilidog after that.

Later that day, I had an event to start some buzz about the biscuit festival. It was going well but I had to catch up with my daughters who had a play date with a friend and her daughter. They were kicking up dust on Market Square. I make my way out the door and run into my divorce attorney. I really like her but it was just the kind of day that made me think of her as my divorce attorney and not just some awesome gal.

I head to meet my girls, their friends and my friends. All good. My friend’s neighbor is with her and he has a little baby about a year old. Everyone’s having fun. I feel exhausted. It’s just been a lot of a day. Downtown is happening and folks are wandering up and we are all being introduced at different times. At one particular moment, I’m sitting by the single dad neighbor who also happens to share my last name. We are being introduced and it sounds like I’m married to this Hubbard man who I just met. I have never had that experience before. Even when I was married, I didn’t take my ex-husband’s name.

It was an interesting sensation. For a brief second, in the eyes of this stranger that was learning our names, I was a part of something and I didn’t have to give up something else.

This morning I woke up to find both girls had made their way into my bed. One of the cats is curled up on my pillow biting my head. I rouse the village, feed everyone, and take the girls to school. In my youngest’s classroom, they are giving away the pets. The school is closing next month and homes are being sought. I’m easily suckered into taking this creepy quick algae eating fish and 7 snails. They can live with our frog and male Beta fish. Easy.

I get home and release the additions to the aquarium, find Pandora and walk.

I’m still in yesterday’s pigtails.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

a gift...

Electric wires play across the blue gray sky and slowly a smiling moon moves them from their position of focus. The sun sets into a deeper sky of blue with highlights of pink and orange losing ground. A banjo from Canada whispers and howls as this smile of a moon rises. The banjo yells 'lost and lonely' and I feel self conscious and invisible at the same time. The sun has warmed the ground but the air takes a chill as I watch this smile through the trees, high up and alone, a companion.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

a few funny things...

Lucy Maye had a friend spend the night on Friday. When we got home I overheard Lucy Maye say "Hey Katherine! Lets find my computer and we can make a power point about what we want to do."

I caught Emma Jean shouting "I want a Toy Boy!" out her window. This means she's probably been listening to Christina Aguilera on my iphone again. I'm going to have to hide the iphone.

We went to a cookout but it got kind of late and the smallest one was going to crash so we left before we actually ate. We stopped at this tiny tastee freeze kind of place in Corryton and became surrounded by some pee wee league of some sort and their daddies. Katherine started talking about her uncle who had to move out of Tennessee because our state wouldn't let him marry his boyfriend. I'm always up for that sort of conversation with a 9 year old but in the interest of our safety, I had to ask her if we could talk about this later.

Shrek 3 has a version of "Live and Let Die". The song happens when they are ushering the body of the Frog King off into the ocean. Emma Jean has been singing it to our dog Virginia for a couple of days now.

We are going to plant a garden today and Lucy Maye only wants cucumbers and Begonia's. Emma Jean wants macaroni and cheese.

Other highlights included listening to Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle play the Square on Friday and Sarah with the lovely ladies of the Naughty Knots play on Saturday. I'm a big fan. The art was great at the market as well. I found a jewelry maker that I'm going to stalk until I can afford him. His name is Randy Armstrong. I also got to read a little this weekend and am going to garden today. I've done some cooking the way I like to cook. It hasn't been the defensive sort of cooking that's usually done in a rush.

It's been nice just to have time this weekend to do nothing but pay attention.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


There are three plastic pirates that sit on my window sill. They sit there with three Mexican Jesus candles from the international food section at the grocery. My other window sill has a seltzer bottle, a tiny old glass milk bottle with a start of Christmas cactus in it, another Mexican Jesus candle and two pomegranates. They are the windows in my kitchen. These small items are significant to me. The three pirates are from my 40th birthday cake. The cake was actually a whole lot of cupcakes that had different things on each cupcake ~ pirates, ladybugs, letters that made up “Happy Birthday Amy” and things like “pretty”. I kept the pirates and they feel kind of like protection. They are very handsome and angry looking. When I was on the road, the same kind of Mexican Jesus candles were scattered across our work tables in the mobile kitchen. They were cheap and traveled well and lasted a long time. They also didn't smell and confuse the smell of food with the smell of perfume. I've liked these candles since that time but only for the kitchen. There's something about these candles that make me feel lucky, blessed. The seltzer bottle is pretty and from the yoga studio. The tiny milk bottle came from somewhere at my old house. It reminds me of that farmhouse and how much I loved it and the good things about it. The Christmas cactus reminds me of my great grandmother. Both my dad and my grandmother have huge Christmas cactus that came from her. This start did not. The pomegranates are drying. I bought them before Christmastime. My stepmother had some dried pomegranates a few years back and I thought they were something very exotic. I had never paid attention to an actual pomegranate before. They sit on my window sill and remind me almost anything can be bought anywhere if you know what to look for. I think that's good and bad. I can't tell if they are drying or rotting but I don't have fruit flies.

I've been minding my journey lately. Something about it has become more noticeable. I was thinking that it's just the new year and we pay attention because we expect a shift. This is different. This isn't an ordinary shift. This is a formation of rock moving, a sea change, a blue moon.

In January I went to Tallahassee and made a short film. The film was directed by a gal, Jaye, who used to come to Actors Co-op shows when she was in high school. She was also the student of a successful filmmaker friend of mine, Paul, when at UT. Now she's a grad student at FSU and made a 12 minute film and cast me in the role of the mother. The film is set during the missile crisis with Cuba in the early 1960's. I feel like it's going to turn out to be good. I had a talk with someone last fall about how I need to do a mom role and some period work. This fell in my lap and I'm really grateful for it. The universe heard me. While in Tallahassee, I made friends with the man playing my husband. We had important conversations about spirituality, boyfriends, and shifts. He has affected my life and we talk often and support each other and tell each other secrets and essentially whoop it up on the phone. Every time we talk I feel the better for it and am infused with an energy I didn't have before. He is like citrus. He is in my tribe. If I had a villa in Italy, I would fly him there whenever he wanted.

I came home from Florida wondering about my acting career and other life sort of things. Sometimes I feel a deer in the headlights. I feel almost immobile. I am not a still person so when these things happen to me, it's a little terrifying. I wonder if I'm sinking. Then I think maybe I should just let myself be still and it'll pass. I don't have the answer for that but it only lasts a little while, a couple of hours, a day or two, not long. I wonder if after all that has been placed in my picnic basket over the last few years if I might just be a tiny bit depressed. Not that it wouldn't be understandable but I just can't really make time for depression. If I didn't have the girls maybe I would just lie down on my couch for a few weeks and be still but all I can spare is a couple of hours and a weekend here and there. Sometimes I burst into tears. I did that in the car on the way home tonight. It was dark and the girls didn't see. All of the sudden tears just popped out of my eyes and I found my face twisted and my breath struggling to be quiet. Then it passed. I can only guess that it's a physical way of releasing stress. It's a part of the journey.

So I get back from Tallahassee thinking about acting and Paul has released “Gina, an Actress, age 29” to a film site called The Auteurs. Check it out. I think you can still watch it for free. Paul's about to unleash his genius on a feature and I want to be able to help with that, not as an actor but as a friend. Right before I left for Tallahassee, Clarence Brown Theatre asked me to do a play called “Speech and Debate” and I'm in rehearsals for that now. I've been given a short film and a paying theatre gig recently. My most successful screen time has essentially be re-released. I've also had two auditions for television and a feature film audition just this month. This feels good, natural. Thank you universe for hearing me.

Louisiana has been popping up like a Jack in the Box. My mom got Emma Jean the CD of “Princess and the Frog” for Christmas. The soundtrack was done by Randy Newman and it's good and set in New Orleans. The girls and I listen to it in the car everyday. Every single day. This prompted us to celebrate Mardi Gras by attending a party at KMA with a cajun band. I left a King Cake for them on Fat Tuesday while I went off to rehearsal with a second King Cake to share with my cast. One of the television shows and the feature are both being shot in Louisiana. I hope I get both these jobs. It could happen. I have a feeling I could use a little Louisiana.

“Speech and Debate” is a pretty interesting play. I play a teacher and a reporter and these ladies bookend the play. I find it thematically very interesting and the college students playing the kids are very unique and enjoyable. The director and I seem to be on parallel paths. We divorced at the same time. We've run our own theatre companies that have been very similar in content. He wants to do this play that a friend of mine recently recommended that I do so I'm going to read it and we may just frickin' do it. We share the same favorite poem. There are other things too. He may be in my tribe. I can't tell yet. I feel completely at ease around him. Not with the same unabashed affection that I have for Thomas but in a way that's easy. I can talk to him or invite him to things and not think twice about it. It's just the kind of feeling where you don't have to try to be someone's friend. You are just their friend.

I have a couple of other new friends that have moved out of the shadows. It's all keeping my cup full, tethering me to the ground. One writes me funny and poignant emails and calls on occasion to goof off on the phone. He posts Zen meditation techniques. Another talked to me about the meaning of life today as defined by the dictionary ~ to have a purpose. I questioned my purpose and he said that it might just be to love. When my brain was sending flashes of what my purpose could be my daughters were the brightest flash, then theatre and friends and offering things to my community and that's all love. But I don't know. Now I'm on a mission to create my statement of purpose. Maybe I'll form a focus group.

Speaking of love, a bunch of women I know sure do love Jesus. I am lucky enough to have 6 best friends from elementary school. We all went to the beach last year to celebrate the acceptance of 40 years on planet earth. One of these gals has had a really hard time of it. Two of her three children and her husband have pretty serious diabetes. It hit her last week that she doesn't believe in God. My thought is that she does believe in God, she's just pissed off and has lost her faith in God. I've vocalized that through email since I can't be at their scripture/prayer/where's Jesus meeting on Friday night. I don't know if I'd be the best person to be at this meeting but I'd go if I could. That's because I love these women and no matter what I would hold their hands and walk through fire if that's where they needed to go to get to the other side of whatever they needed to get through. I'm the odd gal out on the religious front and would probably bring the Tao with me instead of the Bible. They love me anyway. I'm the only Democrat. That's how it is with me and these women. There have been thousands of emails exchanged in this group over the past couple of years. We are bread and butter. We raised each other and now we raise each other up.

Another very dear friend of mine has just accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She sent a facebook message out to about 10 of us and she was worried that we'd be upset with her, that our friendship with her would suffer because she got filled up with the Holy Spirit. It's been funny to read the email responses. “It's okay as long as you don't start listening to Amy Grant.” “Will you still allow me to worship false idols?” "Jesus needs some cool friends." Everyone has been supportive and my friend is bathing in the love of her heathen friends and in the love of her newly discovered belief in Christianity.

It's interesting to find myself immersed in these emails regarding God from my women folk. It's interesting to have these new friends that make me question coincidence and simplicity and purpose. It's interesting to have acting gigs.

I went into my kitchen tonight and realized I'd left a window open from the day that teased us with warm air. I go to pull it down and move it slowly so as not to upset the pirates and I notice that I have made a shrine to my life. I have made an alter that includes tokens of my past, present and future. The windows also include the view to our creek and my neighbor's house and last year's Christmas tree and where the garden will be this summer. I think that God is not too far away from these windows of my life and neither is the purpose to love and the Zen thought to act simply and my ambition to be a good actor and my ladies that love Jesus.

I tell the pirates good night and thank them for their support.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Amy as herself

January 19 – 25, 2010

Things I notice at the Airports
1. Fine an alternative to the “suit shoes” for fellas. Black loafers and brown loafers with or without tassels are a senseless use of fashion. Some other kind of shoe must be worn. Even some interesting stitching could help this boring, yet offensive, use of footwear. White tennis shoes should also only be worn in the gym.
2. The black leather jacket is out. Yet, I wore mine. Not nearly as many black leather jackets as when I flew to NYC last January or to Austin last February.
3. Airports are peaceful. Folks speak quietly and they pretty much only speak to each other or to their cell phones. However this is not necessarily the case at the Orlando International Airport, which is incredibly confusing. Tons of families going to and fro. Folks arriving are excited with happy kids. Folks leaving have mouse ears and are quiet and testy. Orlando is the most active airport I've ever been in.

Film Shoot
I like it. I like movies. It's not the same actor high for me that theatre is. It's a completely different way of working. Sometimes it's really boring and sometimes it's really difficult. It's not very freeing. It's extremely specific and subtle. I like it.
During rehearsal on Wednesday, I had a horrible caffeine headache so I was kind of crabby. I hope everyone else just thought I was being quiet. I had rehearsal with the whole family on Wednesday. There's two sons, a husband and me. The boys are very cute. Phinneas plays Miles. He's 13 and very wise. His mom is an author and he's pretty cultured and witty. He also wore a “I heart Hot Moms” shirt to set one day. He's the only other person, besides myself, that I've seen wear that $5 Target shirt. It was just as creepy and hilarious on him as I feel it is on me. Royce plays Danny. He's 8 and so cute it's ridiculous. Both his parents were here with him although not at the same time. He also had a sitter here. His older brother, who is 11, premiered a film in Atlanta on Sunday so both parents were in Atlanta for that. His sitter is a gal I know from Knoxville ~ Quinn. She is a talented actor/singer but I know her in a costumer capacity. She costumed me for this historical film for the East Tennessee History Center. It's funny how small the world is. Royce's family are pretty interesting. They live in this planned community that is very much like a commune. Everyone has their own living space and then they have a group space where they all have a few meals together each week. Royce's dad teaches theatre education in schools and through the Alliance in Atlanta. His mom is also an actor. They went to Costa Rica last year for vacation where they worked on a cocoa bean farm. The guy who plays my husband, Thomas, is hilarious. I really adore him. He's very funny and we bonded as soon as we got on set. We didn't really bond at rehearsal although it was nothing bad. He likes to do a lot of improvisation. Unplanned improvisation makes me uncomfortable. I feel pressured to be witty or poignant with improv like that. I crave more structure. If it's planned improv with the director and for a specific purpose, I can go along with it and do fine. But during rehearsal, Thomas (playing Jim) really got into improving scenes that just aren't in the script. Mostly I just looked at him and sat down until he was done or I got the nervous giggles. But when we got on set (and I didn't have a caffeine headache) I decided instantly that he was a BFF. And it helped that he cut out the spontaneous improv. He told me some stories about his cross dressing improv shows and we played on our phones. I think he's a very good actor. He processes through improv and that's cool. I just don't have much experience with that.
Shooting went well. The first day, I kept having to serve these bbq porkchops and eat instant mashed potatoes. It got really gross. During the second scene we shot on that same day, we had to eat corn. Yuck. The crew are all FSU film students and it rarely, if ever, felt like we were shooting a student film. Nobody paid much attention to continuity and that drove me crazy. I also had to do my own makeup/hair but it got done. I think Jaye's script is good. She's really specific and would sometimes over explain but at least she knows exactly what she wants.
I got to wear some really ugly clothes ~ bright yellow house wife dress from the late 50's and this polyester green dress. I'm excited about it. It was very housewifey.
It was interesting to be in a hotel room all alone for 6 days/nights. I'm not used to being alone. I always missed my home and would wake up thinking of my daughters but it was also liberating. I got to watch/listen to and do whatever I wanted in the room. It was only me. I haven't had that experience since before the girls were born.
The weather was alright. There were a couple of pretty days but it rained as much as the sun shined. One day we had tornado warnings and it was pretty gloomy and scary outside. Before I left Knoxville, Lucy Maye said to cross our fingers that there wouldn't be any hurricanes or tornados. I told her that no way would there be anything like that and I'd be home before she knew it. Then there was a tornado warning and I imagined how difficult it would be for Lucy Maye if I actually did die in a tornado while in FL since she had fretted about it. I worried about Emma Jean not remembering me. Then I started thinking about other natural disasters and acts of God that would keep me from my children. I should have never read The Road.

Heading Home
My cab driver is from Nigeria. He tells me he arrived here in 1974, before I was born. I can't help but correct him and admit I was actually 5 years old. In Nigeria, he had been accepted to Law School but his father felt that the job of a lawyer is to turn truths to lies and refused to let him go. The father instead offered to send the cab driver to Britain, the Soviet Union or the US for a master's degree. He was accepted to some schools in the Soviet Union but their was a language barrier. Long story short, he attended the University of Wisconsin and got into Medical School but couldn't afford to go and because he wasn't a US citizen, he couldn't get financial aid. Money is gross. He and his wife now have 5 children, the oldest two have Pharmacy degrees, the middle child is a financier in DC and the youngest 2 children (a he twin and a she twin) are still in college. I wanted to ride around all day in the cab with this man. I wanted to meet his wife and his kids. I bet they throw down a great supper table.
I arrive at the airport and I am in a terminal with a gaggle of middle school students on their way to DC for 4 days. I go through security with a group of girls all dressed in velour jumpsuits and Ugg boots. They are thrilled and have contagious giggling. Only I don't catch it. It's too early for giggles and velour. I go to the bathroom and they are there and they are so loud. I kept reminding myself that I was once a teenage girl. I once giggled.
As I wait, seated, for my prop engine plane to arrive, one of the chaperones ask if I want to go with them. I admitted that in the bathroom, surrounded by the vivacious young women, I wondered how I would survive my own daughters when they reach that giggling awkward age. She answered that I would because my mother survived it and that she was currently surviving it. I watched the chaperones, most parents and some teachers, take a big breath before getting on to their charter flight to DC. I was just a little excited for them and I was relieved for the obvious lack of giggling. It left the room like air from a balloon.
The gentlemen behind me makes calls. He's a lawyer and he's calling clients for directions. He's calling his office to instruct his employees to do a reconstruction from a car accident. I think of the Nigerian cab driver and his fathers opinion. This lawyer behind me could be turning truths to lies but he speaks so kindly to people on the phone. It really strikes me how nice he is in asking his employees for the reconstruction. I hope he's a good lawyer because his voice is so friendly and kind.
The lady sitting next to me is clearly talking to a man she is dating. I can tell it's new. I overhear her asking the man to give her some reassurance because she's feeling like she needs it. As the conversation continues, she also giggles. It's coquettish. She talks about buying chocolate as her splurge. It's not sexy but flirty, childish. I can tell that whatever reassurance this man just gave her still leaves her uncomfortable. I want to tell her that she should never ask a man for reassurance. But then I would have to admit that I'd been eavesdropping and really what do I know about relationships. I have this feeling that the man on the other end of the line isn't in it to win it. She reads the sign posted right in front of us, “There is not a lavatory on board this aircraft. Please use the restroom before boarding. Thank you.” Then there's a pause and she says something about already taking care of that part and then another pause, giggling and the explanation that she doesn't know why she read that to him. Doomed.
My flight from Tallahassee is late and I miss my connecting flight in Orlando. I'll only be behind a couple of hours so it's no big deal. The flight to Charlotte is uneventful. At the Charlotte airport, the service everywhere I go is wonderful. Even in the public bathroom there is an attendant. She wipes the seat down before each person enters the stall. She has a buffet of mouthwash, tampons and breath mints right beside a huge tip jar. All the service people that I see are black folks. It makes me wonder what Charlotte is like outside the airport. I have a perfectly delightful time with people being so nice to me. The Starbucks ladies call me both “Sugar” and “Honey”.
During the flight from Charlotte to Knoxville, I sit next to Gary. He's the first person I've really spoken with on any of these airplane rides. He's going to Knoxville on business. He's staying in Cedar Bluff. I tell him about Taste of Thai, Bakers Peters, Che Guevara, Sitar and then tell him he should really stay downtown and brag on that for awhile. Then I get to brag on how close we are to the mountains and to Hot Springs. I say that Knoxville is unsuspecting in all it has to offer.
I'm really glad to come home.

Well, my suitcase is still in Charlotte. Vince picks me up and we go get my car and pick up my girls. I am relieved to see them. It's like I've been thirsty and they are huge glasses of water. I'm really glad to be home. We go to Earth Fare to eat pizza and I lock my keys in the car along with my phone. Meanwhile my luggage arrives and I miss the call. At around 7:30, we are on our way home and my luggage is on it's way to my house and I'm no longer a movie star. I'm just a mom making her way to tomorrow. We get home, do homework and I check the mail. I have a W9 from MGM but I haven't done the MGM work since 2005. It gives me a little hope that a residual check didn't get to me but I'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out. Surprise actor money? Maybe.

This morning was its usual nightmare of waking up so early that it's painful. The girls are grumpy and needy and want me to dress them from head to toe. Then they want to watch a video and don't eat their breakfast and I have to turn the TV off and they freak out. I take out the garbage and brush their hair. We are on our way. Fortunately, the music fromPrincess and the Frog was written by Randy Newman and we listen to that on the drive. We jam out to Momma Odie on our way to school. It's good. On Tuesdays, I take Emma Jean through the drive thru at Starbucks after we drop Lucy Maye off and she gets a chocolate milk. It's a special little date for just she and I. She loves doing it. Oddly enough, one of the Starbucks employees has just seen the historical film at the East Tennessee History Museum, the one Quinn costumed, and tells me I was the best one in it. To my recollection, I may have been the only one in it. I'll gladly take the compliment though. I haven't showered today. I'm wearing a bandana on my head and have pop tart on my shirt but that compliment kinda makes me feel like a movie star.

The world is a very strange and wonderful place.