Friday, October 17, 2014

manifesto(ish)

I will admit to being a little "different" as a kid. I preferred to go antiquing; watch old movies and musicals; eat vegetables; read; and dress as literary or  historical figures for Halloween. Even today, I could read _A Tree Grows in Brooklyn_ or watch 'Little House" any day. Or sing show tunes. Or, if I were to have another child she would be Cordelia, a "perfectly elegant name" according to _Anne of Green Gables_. And, especially when I am sick, I want to watch " The Little Princess" or "Pollyanna."

Pollyanna. I had an antique "Glad Game" when I was younger and still, somewhat, play this game today. I am not a super perky person and can even be quite cynical and pouty. But I don't see the need to be unnecessarily so. Being negative and grumpy only makes things worse. I am quite tired of apologizing for my disposition.

I cannot deny that the last few years haven't been all rainbows and unicorns. I have made some missteps, had some unfortunate occurrences thrown at me, and am still struggling. But I do not spend every day wallowing in self pity. I have grown quite strong. realized value in good relationships, learned to count my blessings; and have attempted to find something good in every day.

In essence, I play the "Glad Game."

I try not to make this is a space where I spew hatred on those that have wronged me and there are some things and people I hold close to my heart. But, as the saying goes, "you catch more flies with honey." I simply have no use for negativity. I am all about sharing joy and love. Celebration, and encouragement. Empathy and support.

It's not a contest. My choosing happiness does not mean I don't care or that I am not hurting. I don't negate your feelings. I welcome everyone to join me in peace and harmony. It sure beats being miserable.

I am very thankful for things and people that sustain me. And I will not be dragged down by those that don't.

Just call me Pollyanna.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Church Alone?

I have resisted the urge not to post amusing stories about my wild child so that he a) doesn't hate me as a teen and b) the handful of you that read this don't stop because...well, we all know people don't often find funny stories about other people's kids funny. Sully makes me laugh constantly, but his antics yesterday...geez. Could. Not. Stop. Laughing.

As many kids do at his age -- for me it was Grease 2 -- he will watch the same movie over and over. This week it's Home Alone. He seems intrigued by the fact that lil Kevin McAllister can not only fight bad guys but also survive for days without any parental guidance. Hold that thought.

As many of you know, my former spouse and I disagree on many things. We are both, however, pretty reluctant churchgoers. He does a lot with his Methodist parish, but doesn't attend services. I'm a  recovering Catholic turned "Whiskeypalian." You know, rituals without guilt (thanks, Robin Williams). I am all about the pew aerobics; thees and thines; and, yes, we serve real wine. But, I also got dirty looks when I unknowingly walked in on a lesson about of the creation of the solar system and started singing the "Big Bang Theory" theme song. Anyway, you get the picture.

With that in mind, we all have enjoyed attending a few Presbyterian churches. Yep, the "frozen chosen." We have been to several events at a particular church but never a service. Our little Presbyterian knows the drill: kids are called to a brief sermon and then attend kids' church while parents get some quiet time. Right before going to the altar, Sully asked if we could go sit in the balcony. I whispered "next time" and ushered him to the front. After the sermon, he smiled as he whizzed by...following some little girls (as usual). After a longish service, I went back to the vestibule to pick up some information.

As I am putting papers into my bag, I hear a little voice say "Hi, Mommy. Where was kids' church?" I respond "uhh...didn't you go the room where I helped with Vacation Church School?" Nope. He didn't go at all. Instead, he walked up to the balcony and remained there for the entire service.

Aside from obvious safety concerns, I was both mortified and proud. My independent boy made a decision to do what he wanted in regard to church. And my little Kevin McAllister did so without fuss, as nobody stopped the service to complain about his behavior. And, holy heck, on the day before his first day of kindergarten and he is already cutting class!

So, don't hate me. I just had to share this funny little story. Happy Monday, y'all.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cross the Bridge

I've written before about my adoration of the Ravenel Bridge. Not only is it great exercise to walk 5 miles, but I also get to witness a beautiful sunrise every morning. It also has become my thinking place...or where I sometimes go to escape my thoughts. You may think I have always found this to be my happy spot. But you'd be wrong.

When I moved away at 17 -- unwillingly -- I always saw the Cooper River Bridges (bonus points if you pronounced "Cooper" correctly!) as a symbol of home. Growing up, I learned how my grandfather had worked on the Grace Memorial (aka "old bridge") and knew all too well that my mother became a 21-year-old widow with three small children when her late husband's tanker jackknifed at the base of the Silas Pearman (aka "new bridge"). I recall being homesick in college when I would see Hootie and the Blowfish's "Time" video, which featured the bridges.

The bridges were so much a part of me that I literally wept at the thought of them being replaced. I was okay with the idea of an alternative with the construction of the Mark Clark Expressway, but I still wanted the option of going over the spans and smelling the pluff mud. Or the paper mill(!). I thought the new bridge to be ugly and, most of all, found the concept of change uncomfortable.

Maybe it is selective memory, but I don't recall when I decided to give the bridge a chance. Was it on a trip to my beloved Sullivan's Island? Or the lovely waterfront park underneath? Or maybe I was just swayed by the pedestrian walkway? I may never remember what it was that allowed me to fall in love with the bridge. I am just happy I gave in to to resistance and have gained so much pleasure from the experience.

As I have alluded to in this space, the last few years have not been easy. I am at a point now where there is a lot at stake and some major decisions will need to be made. I may fear the unknown, but at least I know that change may lead to something even better. And, though the view may be different, home is still where the heart is.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lesson From My Own Little Yogi

“You can always take child’s pose.”

I have heard those words spoken so many times in yoga class but have never heeded. I always think of yoga as part of my fitness regimen and, although it goes against so much of the non-competitive yoga credo, I always seem to push through my (physical and emotional) pain.

This past Saturday, I found myself in my beloved Winston-Salem with my “wild child.” A new studio in my former neighborhood was offering community yoga and kirtan. Sullivan has been to yoga many times and has a strong interest in music (instruments especially) so we opted to go. I was a little concerned, however, because he just started a new daycare program in advance of kindergarten starting next month. He is busier during the day and has no nap. Add a lot of other issues brewing in our family and you have one discombobulated five-year-old.

Sullivan started out well, but I told him he could go sit on the bench outside if he got tired. About halfway through the class he whispered that he was done. Instead of leaving, I suggested he lie his head down on the blanket and rest. He very quietly and respectfully complied. Side note – love that kid!
At the end of class, the teacher commended Sullivan. At first, I was apologetic. After all, he petered out quickly. But he didn’t interrupt anyone’s practice and was quite social with some friends who had also attended. We left before the kirtan got fully underway and I tried my hardest to stay in my zen state.

It wasn’t until the next day, however, that I learned quite a lesson from this yoga class. Sullivan – of his own accord -- proceeded to show his dad how to sit in lotus. He then did a beautiful down dog and standing split. What I didn’t realize the day prior is that Sullivan had not taken a long, early savasana. Instead, he had absorbed most everything. He was not only reverent but also observant. He took it all in and applied it later…when he needed it.

I then understood what my yoga teachers have been trying to tell me. I don’t always need to push myself to the limit. Sometimes being contemplative and strategic is a much better option. So today, I am taking a break. I went to the beach, spent time enjoying things I love, read, and rested. I hope this makes me rejuvenated for all the things I need to accomplish. I don’t need to be on the go all the time, as that may not help me be successful in the long run.


Sometimes I just need to take child’s pose. Namaste y'all.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I still don't shop at Hobby Lobby

I realize that my POV on this issue may not be popular amoung my friends -- neither the more liberal nor conservative -- as my lawless libertarian beliefs rarely are. But, as usual, I feel the need to write them out as a way to process.

Unless you've been under a rock, you are likely aware there was a weighty decision leveraged by SCOTUS regarding Hobby Lobby's desire to not cover certain medications and procedures for their employees. "Conservatives" laud this as a victory, while "liberals" act like it's the end of the world.

First, let me say there is often a difference between my personal beliefs and what I believe should be legislated. I tend to believe that people should be able to do as they please, as long as nobody is being hurt. Why do we continue to lock up people for prostitution and pot possession? I don't partake, but I don't have a problem with people doing either. Abortion? I am personally against. So I won't have one. Simple as that.

The way I look at this decision, it is very similar to a few years ago when it was decided that the Boy Scouts of America organization was within their rights to exclude gay members. Now everyone knows I am a big-time straight ally. I have very strong beliefs about equal rights for the LBGTQ community and have done numerous things to push for those rights. But, if BSA members feel differently, who am I to tell them who to accept? Legislation will not change people's minds. I can guarantee you, however, I have VOCIFEROUSLY made a point NOT to support them, their causes, or their events. Don't agree with Hobby Lobby? Don't shop there. Don't work there. Same for Chick-fil-a or any other company whose policies are not in line with yours. I am happy to live in a country where I have the right to choose.

I personally see this as a victory. Right now, there are companies operating in states that do not yet recognize same sex marriage but extend those benefits to their employees. Because they are private companies, they can! So, I don't see this as much as a religious or conservative argument, rather it is a proclamation that private industry can decide their own policies just as they decide their hours, dress code, or what snacks to have in the break room. I'm personally glad I can eat a cupcake or bag of chips without government intrusion!

This is yet another reason I happily don't fall in the typical conservative/Republican or liberal/Democrat mold. It pains me to hear people say they want prayer in school but they really mean Christian prayer. Or people can talk about my right to birth control and abortion, but I can't defend myself by owning a gun.

Enough political talk for today. Carry on.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Breaking the silence

Sullivan is a writer. Those words both made me proud and stung at the same time. I have always been a writer. It’s how I process. Many people say I should’ve made it my career. But I fear my passion being stifled. That’s a lie. I am my own worst critic. I don’t want to fail. But I do recognize this gift I have passed along to my child. And I know my failures. Sullivan thinks I’m a superhero. Batgirl. The pink Power Ranger. A writer. A dancer. When I get down, I need to be doing those things. But I have not been writing. Nor have I been dancing. And it is to my detriment. So, here goes…

I won’t go into all the failures of our marriage out of respect for my former spouse (and best friend) and my child. Let’s just say it got ugly. I did things I’m not proud of. It cost me a lot…financially, emotionally, physically. But, in the end, we all realized family comes first. Sullivan is penultimate and his needs come first. So, we are doing our best to get along. It’s a struggle, but worth the fight.

Throughout our marriage – and in our lives before it – was a common theme. Both my ex and I march to the beat of a different drummer, so to speak, from our families. The difference is that his family accepts it. Mine does not. I never did things the same. The right way. Different church. Different political beliefs. Different style. Different interests. Hence, wrong. I was always an outcast. Shunned. Even our marriage was not accepted. I wanted so much for Sullivan to have his blood relatives in his life that I sacrificed. Maybe even my marriage. I was always close to my family…I even practically raised my nephew. Yet, I never quite fit in.
Fast forward a few years (yes, I’m intentionally leaving out loads of bs) and I am getting divorced. It is not taken lightly. There has been no intimacy…virtually no relationship for years. In hindsight, I see a lot of it is due to the strained relationship with my family. I want to be close. But not too close. Spouse wants to be far away. We fight. We all lose. Constant battle. Mostly with myself. In the end, divorce proceedings begin. It’s contentious. All on different sides. All out for ourselves. We all lose sight of what’s important.
After all the struggle – in bizarre fashion – ex and I grow closer. Maybe a better relationship than when we were married. We work it out. We’re all happy with the strange modern family relationship. We all move on. Or so we think…until…

In a nutshell, my family is suing us for visitation. I. Shit. You. Not. I – writer or no writer – can’t bring myself to hash out details here. But the basis is that they are not happy with the amount of time they get to see my child. I get it. The kid rocks. But, who doesn’t have people they want to see more often? Heck, can I sue my ex so that I still get invites to all the parties I attended when we were together? Can I sue friends who live far away to come visit? Can I force a hot guy to hang out with me? Can I sue the government for deploying a loved one? Can I demand that I pick the college for the nephew I cared for as a baby?

My family just basically doesn’t agree with how we do things. I work a frivolous job. We eloped. We divorced. I had sex outside of marriage. I’m not a Republican. We go to art shows. I practice yoga. We don’t believe you have to see your family every day…or that family only means blood relatives. We are not horrible people. Or bad parents. Just different. And, despite our struggles as a couple, on the same page with regard to how to raise our child.

Consider this. Can I countersue? My family should get out more. Attend cultural events. Be involved in the community. Eat better. Exercise. Dress differently. Change careers. And religions.  Meet me for my sunrise walk or yoga. Preposterous? So is this lawsuit.

The attorney is so perplexed he even blogged about it. He says the law is on our side. Unless they prove that our child is not being cared for properly – that we are unfit – they have no rights. They didn’t even suggest that in their pleading. Yet, a judge did not dismiss. The attorney did say I gave a very compelling argument and missed my calling (go me!) but we still didn’t win. So, as it stands we are being forced to comply with the judge’s request for discovery. Lots of money. And time. And effort. We are requesting they drop the suit. If they lose – which our attorney believes – they will have to pay our fees, which continue to rack up daily. It will also likely be a year before trial. And we have ceased contact in the meantime.

The worst part for me – that we are all losers. They say they are doing this for Sullivan. But how is that possible? If they win, we either risk not fulfilling a court order or losing precious time with our child for their selfish desires. If they lose, they will never see any of us again. Family is not blood relations. What they have done is unforgivable. They threw us under the proverbial bus. My mother – who admittedly lied to police, as well as legal and mental health professionals to supposedly protect me – has lost all credibility and sympathy in my eyes.

In some ways, I have never felt so worthless or hopeless. In hindsight, I see that so much of what has transpired the last few years has been due to my family. They want to “help” as they see fit…and as long as I do things exactly according to their plans. They said their goal was for Sullivan to be happy and healthy. He is. I have never intentionally kept him from them. We just don’t do things their way. We are just busy living our lives the way we see fit. As a family.

So, goodbye hopeless and worthless. As the shirt Sullivan gave me says, I rock. I am Batgirl. I am the pink Power Ranger. I am Mommy. We are a family. Sullivan is happy. Healthy. A joy. A writer. A dancer. And so am I.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Flower for Tony

Apologies ahead of time for the stream of consciousness, but that's how I roll...

I have been tied up with a bunch of things and, although Sullivan turned 5 a few weeks ago, I have yet to sit down and write out his birth story. Since we are super excited to attend the Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns show at the Halsey on Thursday, however, some aspects were on my mind. So, here goes:

Lyndon and I attended an opening at our friend Andrea's store/gallery, the now-defunct Plum, on April 21, 2009. We spoke with Karen Ann Myers, then the director of Redux, telling her would likely miss her next show that opened exactly one month from that day. Sullivan was due May 9 and we didn't think it possible. We then went to dinner at D'Allessandro's, a Philly-style pizza joint that I adore. The next morning, I woke with what I thought was indigestion from the calzone. Not hardly. I am known to have a high tolerance for pain, but I thought I at least would know when I was in labor. Ha. Sullivan was born just hours after leaving an art opening :)

At 3 weeks, he was taken in a carrier to my beloved Drayton Hall. The same week he went on his inaugural visit to the Halsey. And, at one day shy of a month old, he went to that show at Redux after all. The beautiful and talented Karen Ann Myers was there to greet him...and seemed very pleased that we brought a baby. In a sling. To a quite loud art opening. She instantly became an artistic fairy godmother to Sullivan. I have never been particularly close to her but, especially now that she is a deputy director of the Halsey, it has been fun to follow her career and show her how much Sullivan has grown from that initial meeting.

Fast forward a few years. I am back in Charleston and still enjoy art openings. I have also found other things I love, including walking the Ravenel Bridge. It has become a great place to reflect and meditate...and just enjoy the beauty of Charleston. A few weeks ago, I noticed this:


It is certainly a beautiful lily, but I questioned the placement. Was it graffiti? Part of a project? Was it even legal? I then learned the reason behind it. And it floored me.

Karen Ann Myers came to Charleston for many reasons...the art community, the atmosphere, etc. But her partner was a fellow artist and educator here. They created a beautiful life together that many would envy. He painted an entire series of "Flowers for Karen" and lilies were her favorite. They walked the bridge at sunset, which became the subject of many of his paintings. Maybe they also saw the bridge as a place of enlightenment and peace. And one day, he jumped to his death from the very spot where Karen has painted a lily.

When I learned of all this, so many emotions were stirred. Quite simply, it is always difficult to read about anyone taking their life so suddenly. So young. So sad. What were the reasons? I may never know and it's really not my place to question or judge. I don't know Karen well, but have always felt connected to her. I hurt for her. What she must be going through just breaks my heart.

I have also been a strong supporter of mental health initiatives for as long as I can remember. My confirmation saint, Dymphna, is even the patroness of those who suffer from mental and emotional disorders. I have long fought for the stigma to be lifted...for people to take care of their mental and emotional well-being just as they would a physical ailment. For people to stop hiding their scripts and whispering when making appointments with their therapist. For people to stop judging and comparing themselves to a strange concept of "normal." Was Tony suffering? Was he afraid to seek help? Did he try to just "feel better" and "get over it?" Did people tell him he had a great life and had nothing to worry about? I may never know and, again, it's not my place to question. It just hurts to see so many people losing their lives this way. There are all sorts of campaigns to end drunk driving, gun violence, etc. Why do we view suicide differently...as if it's the person's fault? Just makes me even more passionate...a story for another day.

Lastly, learning the reasoning behind the lily made me think about my own life. The last few years have not been kind to me. I have struggled more than not. Thankfully, I have a great support system and have learned that self-care is not extravagant or indulgent. It is necessary. I have had times where I have felt extremely low, but I have developed ways of dealing with them. Looking at art. Smelling flowers. Getting outside. Walking the bridge. I am so thankful that Karen decided to honor Tony in such an amazing way. Turning something that could be so ugly and scary into a beautiful memorial for others to enjoy and reflect.

Rest in peace, Tony Csavas. And thank you, Karen, for the beautiful "Flower for Tony." May it bring peace to others so that your beloved did not die in vain.