I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with belief in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another--an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of meta-physical or philosophical reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or hell. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayers and so on. Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit--such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others.
Have a new place to blog. It's an anonymous site for blended families. I LOVE it and all the new friends/support I have found there. It's a place I can write about the things I cannot write about here :)
SO.... I have been absent here for a few weeks.
But I would like some advice from my blogger friends. I am trying to organize a Step mom retreat for some women on there. Here are my requirements-
Within five to six hours drive North, South, or West of Canton, Ohio A place with one of the following atmospheres
Beach (a lake is good. Not Cleveland- looking for something different) River city Mountains/Hills/Cabins Culture- plays, shopping, art Spa
Anna's sick this week with a respiratory illness complete with swollen tonsils, fever, and laryngitis (how pathetic sounding is a two year old with a raspy whining cry.) This has caused her to cough herself into getting sick all over me and herself about 5 times, multiple loads of laundry, and my needing to sleep with her every night to keep her from crying herself into getting sick again. Oh-and that term,"sleep" is a bit exaggerated. I wouldn't exactly call it that. More like doze off, in between jolting awake to grab for the wastebasket every time she coughs.
Needless to say my brief moments unattached to an ill toddler are not spent thinking up bright and witty blog posts. Hopefully life will be back to normal next week :)
Back in June I served on a committee for the Until The Violence Stops Festival. It was quite the learning process for me. For instance, I learned that I am in fact, better at planning an event and inspiring people to volunteer their services for a good cause than I would have previously thought. Unfortunately, I only learned this after FIRST learning that I suck at committee work- ie asking people for money, and convincing people to organize events on their own. As an actor I am just so much better at cold readings than cold calling.
The result was that I ended up planning my own event just because I didn't want to continue to go to committee meetings with nothing to show for my home county. I did it with the help of SEVERAL generous people/organizations: The Players Guild Theatre including:
Technical Director and fellow KSU alum Craig Betz Sound genius Scott Sutton (who single-handedly turned the PG into a concert hall) Artistic Manager Tricia Ostertag, who, along with her husband Stephen, Carrie Alexander Spina and myself performed monologues.
But wait- there's more!
We wouldn't have had more than my three family members in the audience were it not for the fans of the amazing Spider Lilies band. I owe them big, especially my old friend/bass player Stacie and lead singer/Domestic Violence Project staff member Theresa for arranging for the band to donate their performance. Theresa also hooked me up with Angela Paul - art therapist extraordinaire who's display of her own work as well as victim's art added a deeply beautiful element to our event.
Also helpful were my UUCGC church friends who donated to the festival, including Karen, who also works at the Domestic Violence Project in Canton, spoke at the event and arranged for Rape Crisis to speak as well.
Whew! Oh- and lastly I must give the biggest plug to Deb Lemire, of Queen Bee Productions, who introduced me to Eve Ensler, first figuratively and later literally. Over the past several years Deb continues to inspire and challenge me to step outside my comfort zone, whether it's sitting around discussing Vaginas, or telling me, "You CAN do THIS" over and over regarding the festival.
Now here's the interesting part. In recent posts I mentioned I have a play to write about Nellie Zimmerman. I read her biography and was all set to do my research when I had the urge instead to write something else. So I wrote another monologue, this one about a domestic violence counselor, who came by her profession by living in the trenches as a child. I had just finished it when I received an email from Charla, another Domestic Violence Project staff member. She mentioned that Karen (thanks!) had recommended I perform for Take Back the Night and asked if I would be available.
So I said yes, and told Charla that, quite ironically, I had just written a new monologue that would be perfect for the event. She mentioned that there will be men there who are trying to re-educate themselves to stop being abusers. I told her in this monologue the father/abuser makes an attempt to turn his life around and the main character finds a level of forgiveness for him. KISMET.
When I told my husband about it he said, "Someone keeps calling you [once again literally and figuratively] to do this. Good thing you have your theatre/writing/and life experience [ie crappy adolescence and adulthood up til recently] to draw on. Perhaps this is what you're meant to do."
You know I never saw it coming. As a matter of fact I so enjoy exchanging energy and rehearsing with others that I don't even like to be IN monologue shows. However, I will get around to Nellie, but the since the subject keeps finding me...
I am compiling a monologue play of a vast array of women's issues. The characters will represent the stories of all the women that I have known and loved (including little ole' me) who have personally experienced each of them. As my husband says, "Unfortunately, you went through so much yourself that you don't need to do much research."
Sad, but true ;) However, as the enlightened Maya Angelou says, "I wouldn't give nothing for my journey now."
Hope to see lots of you at
Take Back the Night Tuesday October 16th, 2007 First Christian Church, Edgewood Campus Heritage Room
This week I've been insanely busy with very needy terribly two year old at my heels. Not much time to post as Anna is only interested in playing with me, watching Sesame Street WITH me (that's fun since I've seen most of them the first time round with the boys.) She wants as well as deserves much of my attention these days. Yesterday she napped for all of one hour (there's the only chance to shower in my day) and refused to sleep last night without me -she normally sleeps very well, but judging from her musical tummy last night she wasn't feeling well :( So in between Anna/housemaker duties I've been writing monologues for the women's issues play I'm writing. After being asked to write and perform another monologue (this time for Take Back The Night in a few weeks) I decided I'm being pushed, called, and directed this-a-way right now. More news on that next week!
Til then here's an amusing little diddy I came across while searching for spiritual retreats today:
With fall comes nostalgia for me. I'm not sure why. As a child fall meant back to school, allergy attacks, closing the family pool, no more reading Stephen King til 3 am, and an alarm clock. But it also meant back to school shopping (we only got new clothes a few times a year when I was growing up) and a fresh start. Maybe the boys would like me that year. Maybe the girls would want to be my friend. Maybe I would have a really cool teacher again like I did in first and second grades (that didn't happen again until SIXTH grade!) And there was usually a play, theatre classes at the Players Guild...
As an adult Fall meant two of the best acting roles of my life- Laura in Glass Menagerie, Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker. The former was the only play I did directed by a teacher of mine who has since passed away. I performed it with 2 wonderful friends and my mother. The latter was my introduction to the Kent Stark Theatre, which ended up a pivotal part of my future. Six months after that show I got divorced. The following Fall I did TWO plays at once - something I would never have been able to pull off while married. They were The Grapes of Wrath (with my oldest son Tanner and...Independence (fitting title for that year ;) The Fall after that I was enrolled in KSU returning for my BA. Going back to school was so rewarding it added new layers of nostalgia.
Ironically, Fall also housed one of the worst moments for my family. My brother was paralyzed by a drunk driver the fall of 1980. But I think the shock of that experience makes it disappear from my fall nostalgia because it comes to mind more factually, sort of an incidental afterthought, compared to my other fall memories.
Maybe I hold onto to fall because the early fall of 1980 was the last time my family was normal. That's another post ;)
So back to this post. It is fall. And I like fall. It calms me and I drink it in.
I couldn't wait for fall this year. After a summer with bored unappreciative kids lying around the house watching TV, forcing me to demand they go outside and enjoy the summer, I couldn't WAIT for school to start. Last spring the kids kept a calendar marking off the days until summer vacation. Then in the summer I turned it into a "Days til school starts" calendar.
The satisfaction as they loudly protested my calendar? Priceless!
So school starts (no these aren't all MY children- that's Tanner's best friend Ben and Adri's best friend Ashlee.) Now I have an hour or two to myself between Anna sleeping til 8, and when she naps in the afternoon. With the older kids at school no one runs in and out the door letting it SLAM! And no one argues with their little brother til he yells and wakes up the baby. No one raids the pantry and fridge all day so that when I go to make a cake one day I find my frosting has been contaminated with two fingers dipped in, the lid reattached and placed ever so inconspicuously back into place in the pantry.
So I should be ecstatic, yes? Hmmmm.... not quite. Instead this fall hasn't quite kicked into that comforting soothing concoction I usually experience. This fall I have been struggling to find my gratitude. And for me, that's an unacceptable place to find myself.
And so begins my introspection...
My home is full with 2 teens, a ten year old, a two year old, and a husband who is very busy with his day job and starting his own business in the evening. In the next month or so we plan on adding a puppy to the mix. As I go through my day picking up after everyone sometimes it feels like though everyone contributes to the mess, no one helps with their part of the house work. And when I ask for help I am met with disgruntled commentary. When I voice my feelings about this everyone gets defensive.
Sometimes, I resort to the tactics of mine enemy. I know (just as well as my kids know mine) precisely what guilty mom buttons to push. I end up feeling like the biggest martyr/nag and doing stuff angrily and loudly on my own rather than ask. I check out and shut down. And when Mama's not happy...NOBODY'S happy.
So I have been reflecting some more on what might be bothering me. And here's a BIG one (no pun intended.) I'm still 25 pounds over my ideal weight. In fairness I was ten over when I got pregnant with Anna. But...ten? Big whoop. Twenty-five? Not so cute. Not just chubby. OVERWEIGHT. I have not had the motivation and will power to stop eating desert and work out. Or I do work out every day for months and because I still over eat nothing comes off. OR I eat healthier but then find it hard to get into an exercise routine. I lose and regain the same 5 pounds over and over again. What's up with that?I have been here before. I have been here after each pregnancy. With Tanner I lost it all plus ten by the time he was 8 months old. With Noah I didn't until he was two...AND I got divorced. At the time I blamed my weight problems on my inability to flourish in my relationship. But now? I have a fantastic relationship. I struggle with relating to the kids sometimes (never trust a parent who says they understand adolescents) but I LOVE being married to my husband, and nurturing Anna.
But I yell at my kids. Not like regular pick up your toys stuff. YELL. Cuss. Give them plenty of ammo for their future tell- all book about their mom and her "trucker with a sailor's thesaurus" expletive repertory. The kids are rude, unmotivated, act entitled, and ungrateful. They snap back at us which creates a cyclical discourse of anger and tension. Anna now says "Gosh!" under her breath when corrected, or an unenthusiastic, "K." when I tell her to stop doing things. This she picked up from her siblings.
Where's it all coming from?
I realize now that I used to take care of and nurture everyone, starting with me. And now it all goes to little Anna- who deserves it by the way. But there has to be a reason I keep giving my all to her while I neglect everyone else including me. Where am I? Who am I? How the heck did I get here???
Well...it took me over five years, one heartbreak I thought would kill me, and some illnesses that could have...to get here. I now have a wonderful marriage,a degree, a baby, a complete family life. And some days I still work on appreciating all of it.
So this fall....rather than savoring the season I find myself romanticizing my single days. I don't have much time to myself anymore. And I miss the independence, solitude, and self esteem I had then. When I was single I was engaged with the world instead of sitting at home with a 20 month old cleaning, doing laundry and dishes all day and and cooking and dishes again all evening. When I was single I was so young and free and thin and beautiful!
(Ummm... AND lonely, AND exhausted, AND wondering if I'd ever know romance again, AND afraid of going bankrupt to finish my degree. However my mind is very adept at playing down that part when I am in the throes of romanticizing!)
So while I'm romanticizing away of my glory days as an independent-single-working-mom- college student-actress, who could drink wine, sing and dance all night long
Anna comes up to me and says, "Up...hug pweeze mom-mom." She struggles to traverse onto the couch into my lap and hugs me like she never wants to let go. I remember what it was like to not see my kids (five and two when I divorced) for up to a week at a time.
Later an exhausted Rick rubs my back and asks, "How was your day? Did you work on your novel or play today?" I remember when no one really cared if my back hurt or if I was working on a creative venture.
The next morning before school Adri melts into my arms for the first real hug we've exchanged in months. Tears flow. I wonder what would have become of her without me in her life.
Recently Noah asked Tanner to do the dishes with him without me asking them. TWICE. I think of the times they gave me a back rub and Tanner took pride in his ability to get the knots out of my shoulders.
I know I need this and this is where I belong. Undoubtedly this phase of my life -saved it. If I hadn't rested the past year I might have just collapsed!
However, the rest period is over. I earned it. I needed it. But now it's time to get serious and lose 30 pounds so I can look like this again. (Yep I know I said only fifteen to pre-pregnancy and 25 to ideal...but I'm goin' for it!)
It's time to work on engaging myself with the rest of the world again. It's time for creativity before I go CRAZY! I have never in my life gone FIVE years without doing a play. If I don't get back to it soon, I never will again.
Alas there's no theatre that interests me right now.
So... I am writing a play. It's about a deaf blind woman who was institutionalized in an insane asylum when her father passed away. She stayed there for NINETEEN years until she was in her seventies. A deaf advocate found her then and fought for her release. She then went on to attend college, work with deaf and sight impaired teens, and traveled the state lecturing. If that doesn't encourage us more able bodied folks, then I don't know what can!
An online friend asked for inspirational words this week. So while I looked up my favorites for her I thought they'd fit right in here.
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." ~Eleanor Roosevelt
"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them." ~Louisa May Alcott
"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well." ~Diane Ackerman
"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable." ~ Sydney J. Harris
"And yet dreams require sacrifices. The more magnificent the dream, the more one had to be willing to give up in order to own it." ~Lorraine Heath
"There are always two choices, two paths to take. One is easy. And it's only reward is that it's easy."! ~Unknown
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart." ~Helen Keller
"There's a time for departure even when there's no certain place to go." ~Tennessee Williams
"Don't search for the answers which would not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them...live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, LIVE your way to the answer." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last month I had a wonderful weekend in the Steel City with my (then) soon to be thirteen year old son. We went for the Three Rivers Art Festival which I stumbled upon it a few years ago and have wanted to take the kids ever since. So when Stratford, Ontario proved too expensive a trip for Tanner's 13th birthday, I decided to try for Pittsburgh. That same weekend also had a Pirates game and the US Open on top of the festival. Let's just say we won't make that mistake again. The hotels were mostly booked and very over priced.
Originally I wanted to stay in the city so we could walk everywhere, but the only available hotel was the Sheraton at Station Square across the river. I was very pleased once we got there though. This was our view. You don't get this from a city hotel. I had told Tanner we couldn't get a river view to surprise him when we showed up. My plan was to wait til he opened the curtains to see the river, but the desk clerk gave it away when she reviewed the accommodations upon check in. Oh well, he was still excited.
So much so that he occupied himself with the camera while I was getting ready for lunch.
We had lunch at Station Square at Joe's Crabshack.
Then realizing it wasn't far on foot we decided to walk across one of the many bridges over to the city.
The first thing we went to was an incredibly cool performance art group called Swoon. Tanner was antsy to leave because there was a magician performing a block or so away (we are from magician stock after all.) But once Swoon started we were transfixed! They were so good we went to watch it the next day as well. There were free shows all weekend so that made up for some of the outrageously priced hotel.
This lovely young swoon fan has a possible future as a performer herself!
We went to the magician after it was over. He was HORRIBLE. Maybe he was good for really little kids. He had a rabbit. That was the extent of his ability I think.
Maybe he could get a job here! Or help free the tiny server trapped under all the corks- can you find him???
We walked around a little, then went to the free concert Friday night and discovered a new young blues artist named Jackie Greene. He was phenomenal. I was reminded of the last time I went to see Ricki Lee Jones when a then unknown Lyle Lovvett was opening for her. I became as big a fan of Lyle's that night as I was of Ricki already. We'll see what becomes of this Jackie, but I truly think you'll be hearing more of him than from just little ole' me:) He has many obvious influences from Bob Dylan to Billy Joel to Tom Petty. He did an amazing rendition of "Messin' With the Kid" which was very appropriate given he's about 20. My favorite song was "Tell Me Mama" which unfortunately I would need to buy to put on here. But I have the cd if anyone cares to borrow it! For now you can listen to a few other videos by clicking below.
We got lost walking back to Station Square from downtown, and were saved by a nice couple who were walking back that way themselves. They escorted us across the correct bridge. I must say the folks in Pittsburgh were very friendly, and we felt safe strolling the streets after dark.
We went back to Joe's for a late night chocolate milkshake.
Then we hung out at Station Square til about midnight before crashing for the night. It was a party/ family atmosphere. There were people hanging out on patio bars , and families hanging out right next to them in the courtyard.
The next morning we slept in
We ate an early lunch at Bar Louis on the deck with a view of the river. There were some kayak races going on at the time.
Tanner thought he looked cool in my specs.
But he wasn't pleased with his well done (ie burnt) burger. I liked it though.
However, after hanging around me all these years he has learned to refuse to be unhappy when having such a lovely trip.
We had an ice cream cone while enjoying Swoon again.
Then strolled through the theatre district where I found these ballet socks for Anna. We were missing her big time by then. She LOVES them and wears them all the time.
Part of the festival included a bunch of buildings painted by a local artist with glow in the dark paint . They lit up at night. This was the only one we found though.
Finally came the event that was the whole reason I picked THAT weekend regardless of the US Open and Pirates game that had the hotel rates jacked up. Ricki Lee Jones was playing Saturday night at one of the Festivals free concerts and I am a lifelong fan. I first saw her in concert when I was only a year older than Tanner, so it seemed fitting he should include her in one of his first concerts.
I was a little concerned when she came out dressed like this for her sound check.
I'm sure artists are used to the audience not being there to watch them in their comfy clothes, no make-up and hair preserved in a net! But she wasn't at all self-conscious and played an old favorite ( I can't remember now- think it was "Weasel" from her first album.)
Then laughing she said,"Thanks, for coming to our sound check!" And walked off.
The opening band (Sohio) was mediocre. They had a sort of whiny pop sound, every song sounded the same and they seemed annoyed with the audience's lack of enthusiam.Note to Sohio-sarcastic remarks by the band about how bad an audience we are will not win us over.
I think they were also peeved that Ricki's sound check took a while and cut into their playing time. But...ummm... we were there to see HER. So once again, getting annoyed at us for politely watching them while waiting to see her didn't win us over either.
The guitarist looked like Ashton Kutcher. Well actually more like his character on "That 70's Show." Cute but awkward.
The lead singer looked kinda like someone I used to date. DG and my good friend Wilkie can attest to that. He was better dressed but was kind of whiny and rude so perhaps that's where the resemblence was!
Then Ricki was back. She was fabulous! Beautiful too.
Much better than the last time I saw her in 92 or so. She was gracious and spiritual and her jazz/funk/fusion/rock really reflected that.
She seemed to be in an amazing place in life. Plus we got there super early, it was general seating and you set up your own chairs. We were in the front row! I can't tell you how much more enjoyable free outdoor concerts are for artists who are no longer in the limelight. I am a bigger fan of Ricki's than ever.
On our stroll back to the room we came across this fountain. Tanner had a blast there. The kids were so much fun to watch as they played and ran through the water. Tanner played in it avoiding getting wet for awhile, then finally couldn't resist. Luckily it was our last stop before heading back across the bridge to the hotel.
Then it was back to Station Square til midnight. Really, one of my favorite things we did was just hang out at Station Square in that courtyard every night til midnight. I don't think it was there the last time I visited that end of town.
A man stopped and gave his balloon hat to Tanner. We watched kids play in the fountain.
A young mexican couple danced a salsa then a slow song.
We climbed up to the observation deck and took some pics
including this one of us.
It was lovely.
Pittsburgh has really built quite a nice family oriented atmosphere. You wouldn't think so because of all the places that serve alcohol and seat right on the courtyard (all chains like Joe's Crabshack, Bar Louies, and the Hard Rock Cafe) but though there were people drinking and hanging out on their patios, families were sitting, playing, walking around there too in front of the fountain. It was a safe, festive, charming atmosphere.
This was by far one of my favorite trips ever. But the best part? Spending two whole days alone with Tanner. That's not only a first, but at his age who knows how many more chances I 'll have. I did tell him maybe we could go to Stratford for the Shakespeare festival when he turns 18. He said smiled and said, "Oh I don't know mom...I might just be too cool to go by then." I said, "Too cool for Stratford, Shakespeare or me?" He just laughed and said, "Naw...I'll go ;) "