Lately I’ve been writing baby stuff over at austinavon.com.
I’ll be 19 weeks pregnant tomorrow and this is the first public blog post I’ve made about it. I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with the pregnancy. My business Advokate is booming, my job at the Shirt Factory is consuming, and it’s been difficult to find time to sit around and glow about the pregnancy between needing to make sure I’m eating enough protein and getting enough sleep in this crazy schedule. Advokate is my first baby and she’s a noisy one. It’s not been easy to find balance.
I feel guilty if I take time for myself instead of working. And I feel guilty if I don’t take care of myself, too, of course.
I’m certainly excited and happy about it all, but it’s been honestly more of an inconvenience – I have things that need to get done and taking care of myself and fussing over baby stuff doesn’t fit into that schedule of back-to-back meetings and long stretches of uninterrupted shoulder-hunched computer time.
Add it to pregnancy hormones and the advice of family and friends, life stress, family health and just too many obligations I’ve said yes to and I have had a full-on case of that thing I guess they call mommy guilt. Of course I’m taking prenatal vitamins, counting grams of protein, doing a bit of journaling, watching YouTube videos of cloth diaper changes, online baby-stuff shopping and some belly rubbing. I’ve had emotional moments here and there, hearing the heartbeat, seeing the first wiggly turtle-baby on an ultrasound, the doctor telling me he was a boy. I’m not cold-hearted.
But there have been plenty of occasions where I just think to myself, “I really don’t have time for this right now. I wish it was someday in the future when I had TIME.” My vision for pregnancy was always sunshine-filled days of floating around in a sundress, baking bread, tilling the compost and tending to the garden. Making dinner for my husband and folding baby clothes. Being filled with a joy like no other.
Not cramming a banana in my mouth on my way out the door to a meeting while I try to email from my phone to deal with emergencies from clients or Shirt Factory tenants after spending way too long trying to find pants that would still button and I still didn’t have time to pee yet this morning, crabbing in my head about how everyone else can just have this baby themselves if they like him so much and want to talk to my belly instead of to me and what the hell is with all these zits and fuzzy hair, where is this beautiful glow they tell you about and ah crap I forgot my water bottle and granola bar but now I’m late and my phone is beeping again shoot I have to make this call aaaaaaaaah.
But last night I felt the baby kick. And right now I can feel him bonking around in there!
I have felt some things – mistakable for stomach bubbles, but more like something is maybe shifting. Like if you poke your tongue in your cheek when you’re novocained out. A little disappointed that there wasn’t some oh-wow! first moment like people talk about. When I bend over to put on my socks or wipe on the toilet it feels like I’m squishing something. But last night we were laying in bed watching Mad Men on the laptop and I had my hands cupped around my belly under my shirt and OH WOW! No mistaking that! I think I squeak-gasped. And then I cried. Because it was a definite kick from my baby that only I felt. First contact.
All I’ve wanted to do since then is sit quietly and wait for it to happen again. Since, I’ve felt more that I now KNOW to be baby wiggles, but not as defined as that one last night. It’s pretty amazing. It’s the first time my baby has interacted with me and I’ve known it. “Hey Ma – POW! I’m here!” It’s incredible! And Cory can’t feel it yet. Nobody can but me. Because it’s MY baby! My baby and me. Our own little relationship – just us for now. It’s so strange to have this all to myself. That’s exactly what I was crabby about before; the feeling that other people had a relationship with the baby and I didn’t really have my own. But I do.
And it’s weird not to be able to share it with Cory. It’s the mother-son bond I didn’t know before. Yes, we’re a family and Cory and I are parents together and have known each other longer than we’ve known our baby. But this feeling of baby and me, it’s something all its own. Something I wanted to feel until now but didn’t, really. I’ve still got a crazy day ahead of me. Meeting, then right after that another meeting, and I should send these two proposals and have to get this website done and should probably return these emails so I’m caught up, then another meeting with a potential client but I’ll have to push the work a few weeks out if they hire me because I can’t cram another thing in, then a bigger meeting this evening, who knows when I’ll eat dinner and shoot I should pack some lunch because I’ll have to eat during a meeting if I’m going to eat at all.
But… I think I just got my glow on.
This is awesome.
You guys, I am SO excited about open house this year! I have all my prints lined up ready to go in their print racks and new TRASHION earrings (ones like my favorites that I always get complimented on!) for sale.
When I was a kid, I used to talk my friend Stacey into making popsicle stick crafts and painted rocks with me and then selling them along with lemonade at the end of the driveway. We’d spend so much time getting ready – not just creating our wares but also counting change for the change box, figuring out pricing, making lemonade to sell on the side (unfortunately the lemonade was our best-seller!) and talking all night about how great it was going to be.
The next morning we’d drag my grandmother’s metal table down to the end of the driveway on River Road and set up shop. After every sale we’d re-count the money, thrilled at the business we were doing! I think once we made eight dollars.
Getting ready for open house gives me that same thrill. I can’t wait to play store with you! I have the prints all packaged and ready to go, I bought new display racks from Etsy and these adorable little recycled paper Chines food containers and little glassine envelopes and pretty bright green Japanese Washi tape.
I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!
Yesterday I went to a celebration of life for Dr. Hasse K. Halley, who was tragically hit by a truck and killed on October 1. The attendance, organization and outpouring of the community was incredible. Many students and faculty from Woodstock, where I went to school, and Killington Mountain School, where she taught most recently, from her local Jewish community and beyond were in attendance, and had something to say. She touched so many lives and lived brightly, vibrantly, with purpose. I was happy to hear my husband say as we were leaving that some of the remembrances of Dr. Halley reminded him of me – he said, especially the part about signing her husband up for things she was volunteering for!
When she tap-danced on the table to get our attention that first day, I was laughing nervously along with the rest of the class — but I just thought she was the coolest and I wanted to be like her. Sitting in the high school gym in front of theatre director Harriet Worrell and her husband Chuck Worrell who was the football coach and taught me how to drive, I realized there were a lot of teachers I wanted to be like; who influence me to this day.
In the shower this morning, I thought about writing a letter to the school in case there’s ever a question of funding the arts programs at the school. I have a lot to say about the role they played in my life. Thinking of how each teacher influenced me, I realized that it shouldn’t take a tragedy to thank them. Here goes.
I told Mrs. Worrell yesterday, and I’ll say it here – I don’t know that I’d be able to talk to people without my theatre background. I have to fake confidence in meeting people for the first time, teaching workshops and at business networking events all the time and I just act like I’m on stage and it helps me get through it. I thought of it on the way home so I didn’t get to tell her this, but my first involvement with theatre was that she appointed me stage manager for the Nutcracker. I’m now co-managing a building of more than 70 artists and business owners and for four years chaired what grew to be a craft festival with 40 vendors and there
must be a correlation. Whether stage managing was something she believed I could do to spark a little confidence in a fuzzy-haired supershy kid, or she just thought I’d be good at managing, it laid the foundation for what I’m doing now. Also, I always say the word often with a soft T because she told me that’s the proper way to say it. Actually, I believe she might have told us we sounded uneducated if we said it with a hard T. And though I stopped drinking soda in recent years, I drank Diet Coke for a long time because that’s what kept her going during late rehearsals. That, and that she loves what she does.
I told Mr. Worrell this true fact: When I’m driving, every single time I turn, I hear him in my head barking in that football coach way, “AUSTIN! Do not accelerate through the apex of the turn!” I liked that he called me Austin. Made me feel that he liked me enough to refer to me the same way he did his players.
I want to tell my English teachers Mr. Steele, Mrs. Roof, Mrs. Beda (well, I did tell Mrs. Beda because I saw her yesterday!), and Dr. Halley that I was a staff writer for two years at the prestigious weekly paper The Chronicle here in Glens Falls and that they don’t hire just anybody there. And even now that I’ve left to pursue my own business, I still freelance for them here and there. One of the services I offer my clients is copy writing, as well. I have them to thank for it – for encouraging and refining my writing as well as introducing me to some fantastic literature; lines of which I still have memorized – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Whither thou goest, I will go… Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib’d in any one self place... The rosy fingers of dawn…
In poetry class with Mr. Mears I was with other students who were going through tumultuous teen years themselves, though I was so focused on my own angst I didn’t realize it until after I graduated and I looked through their poems with a less selfish eye. We all had our troubles.
I have reached out to my art teachers here and there, but Mrs. Johansen and for many years Mrs. Schulte-LaValley nurtured my creativity and gave me a safe haven in the art room. Today I have a studio in The Shirt Factory where I create mixed-media paintings and odd jewelry, and have more than 30 shows under my belt, many of which are solo shows. I have two more planned in the next five months and just was accepted into my first show in New York City. I sold a painting for $900 last week. I’m on the board of two arts organizations and was co-President for two years with one of them. My business cards say I’m an artist, and people see me that way. Not only was the high school art room my safe place to hide from the perils of high school; it also gave me identity and
an environment where I could be creative and express myself. Art was always something I was interested in, but in high school I learned how it could say things that I didn’t know how to express in other ways.
April Doherty – Doh – was not only a teacher but also my friend. Her teaching went beyond Chemistry to life lessons and belief structures that are now deeply a part of me. I remember her saying her father (I believe – could have been grandfather) just radiated love at the end of his life. I remember her saying the sweet thing about Fluorine and Lithium was that one was carrying around this extra electron and when the other took it they realized how attractive the other was and rushed into each others’ arms, which was a better love story than Romeo and Juliet. Most importantly, we would have lunch dates and I’d share my poetry with her and she’d take me very seriously. She helped me handle my Depression and realize I wasn’t the only one ever to feel that way. She, and Ms. Murray, and Ms. Smith, were my friends. They helped me through the roughest parts of adolescence.
I never really considered myself a science kid, but my religion (Katethysianism. I made it up) is deeply based in the science classes I took in high school. I’d stay late with Ms. Filiss in 8th grade and miss gym to ask her about black holes and space and life on other planets. Actually, no – I didn’t miss gym. I sucked at dodgeball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, running the mile and just about everything but hockey. Which I also kind of sucked at.
I’d have lunch with Ms. Murray and ask weird bio questions (If you cooked your leg, where does the blood go? Would it circulate back into your body or just go in the same direction? – Her answer was that you’d probably die of shock before you’d figure out what happened to the blood. But that didn’t answer my question about the circulatory system!). Though the math stuff crossed my eyes, I was fascinated with the space aspects in Physics with Mr. Brennan. The movie he showed us, ZOOM, is a cornerstone of Katethysianism. And what do I remember about Mr. Cullen? He had a skeleton in his room. What was its name? Otto or something?
Math wasn’t my thing but doing the problems correctly always felt good. And I had math teachers who cared about me as a person, too, and didn’t mind helping me a little extra, or writing back to me about my angsty doodles and noticing when there was something wrong, or asking me about art. Mr. MacLeod and Mrs. Kenison especially.
History always bored me a little but I really liked Mr. Bibby. Human Adventure with Mrs. Tarleton was a social science, and I learned about sleep, cycles and human development and that was fascinating to me. In Global Studies with Mrs. Stetson I tried sushi for the first time and now it’s one of my favorite foods. I hated memorizing where countries were, but the unit we did on population growth underlies everything I do – the garbage I make, the number of children I want to have, the way I interact with my community to try and make things better. Mr. Young taught us that the capital of Iowa was Des Moines, but more importantly, he taught us that it’s okay if you don’t remember something but never hestitate to look it up.
I remember the one time I had detention I filed sick notes with Mrs. Brown in the middle school office and I actually liked it. I went on to several clerical jobs and now with my business I have files of my own to keep track of.
Ms. Lemieux taught me in Life Skills how to measure dry ingredients, how to cook an omelet and how to make a pizza. I wish I did better at sewing. I want to tell Mrs. Satterthwaite that I’m in an all-girl a cappella group called The Skirts now. I know I was never super at singing, but I liked it a lot. Without the music practicum I took with her, I probably would be even worse at following along than I am now.
Then there’s the guidance office, and nurse’s office. I should have told Suzy Hallock-Bannigan when I saw her yesterday that I drink tea every single day now, and offer it when people come to my house. One of my good friends here in Glens Falls owns a loose leaf tea shop and tea is a big part of my life. I want to ask her what kind of tea she had in her office. It was so good, and tasted like a cup of “I understand.”
There’s so much more. French teachers, Tech Ed., field hockey coach Wendy Wannop, Hilda in the cafeteria, Mrs. Harpster, the custodial staff, and the teachers I didn’t name here that I should have… I realize now that high school is a tough time for everyone, and that the teachers know that too and are watching out for our best interests as people and not just grading us as students. They understood me more than I realized at the time, and laid the foundation for the life I live today.
Which is an awesome one.
I’m living in a house of my own in Glens Falls, Very Happily married in June 2010, co-managing The Shirt Factory where I have an art studio, running a business called Advokate that helps artists and small businesses self-promote via press releases, web design, graphic design, art career consultations and more. Advokate is coming up on its first anniversary on October 13 and our number one customer is the City of Glens Falls itself. I’m on the board of Art in the Public Eye and North Country Arts Center, sit on the programming committee for the Wood Theater and for five years organized NCAC’s Colors of Fall Art and Craft Festival. I was Co-President of NCAC for two years. I’ve put together a bunch of community events including a juried art show for my customer Adirondack Audio and Video which was perhaps the biggest one to date other than Colors of Fall and help out when I can with Irene’s Islands (I designed HelpKillington.com) and the Glens Falls Food Co-Op.
I’m so grateful for the faculty at Woodstock Union Middle and High School from 1993-1999. The things I’m doing with my life are a direct result of my middle and high school education, and there are many others like me who are doing well now because of those fantastic people. We are thriving because they cared. The world is a better place because of them.
I hope they know, and I hope Dr. Halley knew, that we are grateful. Thank you to Dr. Halley for being such an inspiration, for educating and for pushing! My heart goes out to her family for their great and untimely loss – but I’m sure I can speak for everybody who knew her even for a little while when I say that what we gained from having her in our lives is immeasurable. Her legacy is great. Our lives and the lives we will go on to touch are a tribute.
The meaning of life?
Basically, it’s this: Whether by “intelligent design” or pure chaos, it’s pretty magical that things bumped into each other and reacted the way they did so that the world we live in exists. Look at any living thing up close and it’s better made than anything Apple could crank out. Ever. It’s magical.
Magical and highly improbable, though if you take the vast span of time in either direction into consideration, sure – like monkeys in a room with typewriters eventually banging out a Shakespeare novel, I guess it was bound to happen SOMETIME.
What’s crazy is that it did happen. And sometime is now. And we’re a part of it. We’re the part that has the brain and sensory organs to pick it apart and go WHOA! Whatever made this stuff thought of everything! Oxygen, molecules, reproduction, fur, breathing, water, digestion, ozone, eyeballs, plate tectonics, photosynthesis, ecologic harmony. WHOA!
So what’s our job here?
To appreciate it. To look at the stuff and go WHOA! … And to respect it for the crazy miracle it is.
That’s my religion. The one I made up in high school. It’s called Katethysianism. And I was just feeling it this morning, sitting on my porch having tea and seeing the sun break through the clouds and wind rustling the trees, crows and squirrels in the yard – a moment of peace before a jam-packed day of focused work. It’s a great feeling, feeling loved like that. It’s not some quasi-Christian God feeling you’re not 100 percent sure of, or feel like you ought to believe in. It’s just there, as an undeniable truth.
It’s knowing, beyond the shadow of any doubt, and not because someone told you but because you KNOW it, that you’re loved. By loved I mean that you’re a part of this. And to know that your job is to be there breathing and looking and thinking. Otherwise you wouldn’t be! The insanely improbable circumstances that led to humankind’s existence – that led to MY existence specifically – and YOUR existence specifically – hey, take it for what it is. It’s magical. Your life is magical. Enjoy it. Appreciate it. Love it. That’s your job here; that’s your purpose.
Vermont flooding has made national news – on the front page of CNN right now, actually.
There’s a Facebook community called Vermont Flooding 2011 that had 2,000 users in a matter of hours, and rocketed up to 9,000 overnight. It’s now up to almost 15,000. My friend Lauren made a relief/information page specific to Killington and she, I and some other friends are co-administrating it. It was started an hour or so ago and is now up over 150 users.
This is big.
My parents’ road (aptly named River Road… Now “all river, no road”) off Route 4 had some of the worst damage in town. Route 4 right by the entrance to their road has been ripped to shreds. A house across from the little white church is just completely gone.
My parents had picked up my grandmother Nonnie and were trapped at their house – the swamp/river across the street was up over the street and there was a valley filled with water in the other direction. Ever cool, they spent the night playing Scrabble, lights powered by the generator. My dad the daredevil ventured out to check things out during the worst of it which rattled my mom, but they were fine. My mom said they get stranded all the time in the winter. They’re used to it.
Mom said her neighbors, the Hickory family, were joking that they had their own little Austin-Hickory (or is it Hickory-Austin?) island — My parents’ house is, fortunately, set up on a hill. I begged my parents to stay put. But my dad said he was voting himself off the island. The next day he went out on his motorcycle to buy smokes and extra gas for the generator. The waters receded and the Town Crew repaired Thundering Brook Road so they could go the roundabout way to get up on the mountain.
My old VT classmate Melina Coogan said it best in her Wilder Coast blog: Vermonters like myself who now live in other places- the Vermont diaspora, as we call ourselves- are left staring at the news and Facebook with disbelief, heartbroken, stunned. Wanting so much to go home.
Scattered through the country, heartstrings attached to VT, we are anxious. Restless. Heartbroken. It’s impossible to focus on your day-to-day life when there’s such damage in Vermont. No matter how far away we ran, it’s still home. These are places we frequented, we traveled every day. We were kids here. We never thought it could be destroyed. My sister said, “We know that all things, places and people change over time… But it’s absolutely catastrophic when it happens in one day.” So true.
It’s heartwarming how it’s brought that “Vermont diaspora” together, too. Townspeople and old classmates you might avoid in real life if you bumped into them on the street, not because you hate their guts but just to get out of that falsified “HI!!!! It’s SO good to SEE you!!!” awkward thing — we’re all connected now, asking how each others’ families are, sharing pictures, commenting on photos and genuinely wishing each other well. This broke barriers. Because we’re in this together. Our collective Vermont heart is broken. We only have each other to pull through this. People in our new cities and towns aren’t feeling this like we are.
Before Sunday I didn’t care much about covered bridges. Just like cows and maple syrup, it was just one of those Vermonty things on all the postcards and junk T-shirts and mugs. They’re pretty, but whatever, they’re for the tourists, not me. But when I saw the Bartonville video, I felt like I had just seen a person die. It wrenched my guts and I thought I might puke. The loss of the history… of one of those things that makes Vermont itself – there aren’t even words.
Mostly it’s just been awe. Still, it’s numbing to look at these photos of the destruction. It’s like we’re in some crazy alternate universe and you can just see THIS building and THAT road and THIS house and THAT pass in what they’d look like after the apocalypse and it’s … awesome. Awe-some, not like totally excellent. But just insane to see. Wild. Addicting to look and see what crazy photo is next. What can top the previous one? What’s happening now?
The White Cottage and Woodstock Farmer’s Market just about completely underwater. Simon Pearce flooded. A river coming down the mountain where there’s not supposed to be a river, and taking out a house and Route 4, gushing down River Road. The roads cracked, destroyed and in some places just completely gone. A riverbed where there once was a road. The Back Behind Saloon sign floating. The Mill Mall parking lot flooded. The trailer park by my high school. The pictures are just amazing. You run out of things to say in your comments. Just “Oh my God.” Over and over.
Then it seeps in that this is real.
And you get a chin wobble and a few tears – but only for a quick second, before your brain goes back to boggle-ville, just not able to wrap itself around it… And you need to see more pictures to actually try and force yourself to realize that it’s for real. It’s happening right now and it’s real life. Things will never be the same. If you went to visit your folks right now you couldn’t.
It reminds me of this passage from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parent and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab: the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone! Nelson’s Column had gone! and there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry! From now on Nelson’s Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him.
He tried again: America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it, He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every “Bogart” movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock.
McDonald’s, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger.
He passed out.”
It’s a lot like that. Every time you think of something else, hear about another business or home or road’s damage, it hits you again that this is actually happening. It’s too big to grasp as a whole, but these little bits of it are what poke their way through the brain-boggle and kick you in the gut.
What’s actually pretty cool about this is that VT’s true nature shines through.
My mom said that the Town Crew, headed by Kenny Merrill, slept over at the Town Garage before the storm hit so they’d be prepared, and called everyone they know who operates equipment (in VT, loads of people have plow trucks and stuff) and coordinated the rebuilding efforts. Mom’s words: “He’s a freaking hero.” They’ve now got something like 40 dump trucks of stone and gravel by the library to put the river back where it’s supposed to be. Everyone’s working together – like when they built the elementary school’s playground Kid’s Kingdom – regular people showed up with their hammer or saw and put the thing together.
Mom says today it’s like Town Meeting Day with the whole town out and about, surveying the damage, talking with each other, helping each other out. People open up their homes to one another.
One of my sister’s old classmates is venturing to Killington from Burlington with a backpack full of batteries and whatever else people need. He’s going to go as far as he can by car and then go on foot, he says. His dad was in Rutland when the hurricane hit and bought a dirtbike to ride home to Killington, he says.
My dad decided to go check on his customers, road closures be damned. He rode his motorcycle up to Cascades Lodge to see how they were doing. What a guy.
Vermont, you beautiful crazy thing. You’ll get through this. You’re rocking out, helping one another and fixing up the damage. My mom said: “Vermonters are a hardy bunch, here. Taking care of ourselves and taking care of our own.”
In the meantime, it’s similar to the way I felt when 9/11 happened. Like I needed to be right by a radio or TV or online sharing the experience with everyone I could. Hard to talk about anything else or DO anything else because it just seems insignificant. Regardless of my parents’ carefree attitude, I’m freaking out over here. It’s really hard to concentrate on my work or to step away from Facebook and Vermont news.
VT, we’re all thinking of you and wishing we were there to share the experience and to help.
It’s hard to be on the outside. We send love, solidarity, and whatever aid we are able to give.
How to help?
Text FOODNOW to 52000 to donate $10 to Vermont Foodbank. The Foodbank will turn each donation into $60 for families in need.
To specifically help the Town of Killington, write a check out to Town of Killington and mail to Killington Town Manager, Attn: Relief, 2076 River Road, Killington, VT 05751
Come kiss THE FLOW good-bye – this is the last viewing of the most beautiful show on earth.
Did you see it already? Come show Kate your support and wish it well on its journey and see if there are any prints you’d like before they get scattered around or tucked away into the messy studio. **GOAT DUCK PRINTS WILL BE AVAILABLE!**
Did you miss it? Here’s your last chance to see this show! You NEED to see this show. I’m not kidding. It’s a Very Important show in the history of Kate Austin-Avon’s art career and life, and not your typical art show. It’s postmodern. Or Expressionist. Or New Age. Or autobiographical. Or something.
I was looking at the scars on my ankle yesterday and thinking about how 15-year-old me didn’t ever think she was making scars that would be on 28-year-old me: A business owner, community figure, homeowner, sometimes activist, artist, wife. I could just pinch her. But she didn’t know it would pass. That it was just an era – a piece of the whole instead of the entire picture; the few awful teen years of an entire life.
She didn’t know that her (albeit angsty and overdramatic compared to the pain other people have felt) suffering would someday be the dark to hold up to the light so the light shone brighter.
That she’d grow her wings back and turn into me.
I was thinking this morning about how I owe a fat thank-you to all the people along the way who saved my life. My parents, sister, grandparents, people in Killington — adults who opened up to tell me I wasn’t alone, teachers, friends, my high school love, mental health workers, authors, poets, the upperclassmen at Hartwick who took me under their wing, and later, Cory and his family – and Glens Falls for being an open receptacle for all my gushing.
Where would I be otherwise?
Everything was a step leading to this. Everyone who either directly stopped me from self-harm by holding my wrists and calling toll-free hotlines and holding the phone to my face until I broke down exhausted, gently cradled a piece of my broken heart until it stopped bleeding or gave me a bouquet of favors and compliments is a piece of this, the Kate Austin-Avon story. It’s a great story. It’s a story of early slashes and later triumphs. Of coming out of depression and soaring. Not even flying, man. Freaking soaring!
I remember meditation sessions as a teen and young adult, imagining breathing in clean white light that dissolved the darkness with every exhale. It used to creep back in. When I think of my life now, it’s bursting with that white light.
Looking around at everything I have my fingers in these days I’ve been thinking what if I actually went through with it as a teenager? The world would certainly not be the same. Maybe Glens Falls would probably still be awesome, but there’d be something kind of major here missing: Me. Not to make myself bigger than I am, but when I walk into the Shirt Factory and can see ten things I’ve created for artists and small businesses from just standing in one spot, or when I spout off all the boards and committees I’m on or list some of my great customers, it makes me glad to be where I am today. Glad to be alive. PROUD to be alive.
And grateful to be helping people and helping the community and doing what I always wanted to do: Save the world! I’m doing it. Not like Superman from some terrible villain, but as a person who by trying to live each day idealistically and optimistically and actively and deliberately, hopefully triggers others to follow suit and be more caring and loving and helpful to other people and to the environment. To make the world a better place than it would be if we weren’t in it. I really feel like I’m doing that – each day thinking, how can I do this better.
I wish for this same downward-then-upward swoop for everyone. I don’t think you can really appreciate what it’s like to have confidence and hope and happiness (yeah, I said HAPPINESS!) unless you’ve felt despair and sadness – not that I wish awfulness on anyone, but I just don’t think you ever feel the importance of feeling worthy unless you’ve felt worthless, horrible and empty — how amazing the sunshine on your face from the other side of it feels! When you are a person who feels deeply, you don’t only feel the dark deeply but you also feel the light deeply! It’s glorious! Take heart, sufferers… the sunshine exists. You will find your way to it. Maybe I’m being too honest out in public, letting my guts hang out like this. But I write this publicly, loudly, in hopes that somebody feeling down will see this and feel hopeful. That others’ wings will start twitching and bust out.
Not like every day is easy. It’s not easy. But it has no meaning unless you’ve had to work for it.
I’m loving every second up here.
Thank you all.
Everything that could possibly go wrong did.
I Facebooked that they should rename Murphy’s Law for me in honor of the tribulations I suffered getting the show together. Like 12 trips to the printer’s and each time the prints weren’t ready yet – he’d had some kind of Murphy’s Law happen to him, whether it was a freakish ink shortage or paper delivery issue. Miscommunication about the glass I needed – 2 pieces instead of 4, and then one measured a bit short by accident. The gallery owner having the busiest week of his life and when I went in the day before the show to check out the space, the previous show was still up, and a previous event’s equipment hadn’t yet been picked up. My own busy life getting in the way so I was framing things last-minute. My sister had another thing to go to that same day and wasn’t sure if she was coming. Just one thing after another. At noon on Friday I felt like yelling at the sky, “DIDN’T HURT! WHAT ELSE YOU GOT?”
Thursday was my most stressful day. Screamed in the car. Screamed in the kitchen. Friday I knew I could devote pretty much the entire day to work on the show – before we had a wedding to go to, that is. So “pretty much the entire day” meant four straight hours of “I don’t care if I eat, if I’ve cut my fingers twice, if I’m sweating in the studio – no time to chew on something or get an official band-aid or open a window. This show MUST GO ON.” Anyone I talked to on Thursday or Friday got the mile-a-minute frantic lowdown of all the craziness and how I didn’t have time to do whatever it was they were asking me to do.
I think the Murphy’s Law bit of the past few days is just payback for all the lucky things in my life. Especially the lucky thing that is called Cory The SuperHusband. He was right alongside me, framing, running around, measuring, packaging. You know how people say they wished they could clone themselves to get more done? Cory’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to that. And I couldn’t have done it without him. I’ll gladly suffer a few mishaps and some stress if that’s how my being married to him balances out in the karma arena.
So we toiled. We somehow, magically, banged out framing an entire show – that’s 25 pieces, less the eight canvas ones – in only a few hours. We went to the wedding. We had a great time.
Saturday morning I popped out of bed like it was my birthday and I was eight years old. Saturday was MY day. It was going to be fantastic! (Turns out that feeling was right on.) So we zoomed to the studio and finished framing. We finally had the prints! We had the glass in all the right quantities and size! The gallery was a blank slate – the owner and some friends had labored into the wee hours of the morning to get it ready for me! My parents and in-laws were taking care of the hors d’oeuvres! My sister was coming! We framed everything in time! All that had gone wrong was fixed. My support system came through for me, all in shining armor. The previous days’ stresses were completely relieved.
We hung the show like we were in the army. If they ever hang up art in the army. Drill Sargent Kate. Colonel Cory. We measured and somehow I could do math in my head for the first time ever. Must be time pressure does that to you. We hung it up and I did dances of joy – it was beautiful. It was better than I could have imagined. We came home and I made labels and showered and got ready. Went back and wham-bam got it together. My parents and in-laws came through with refreshments (phew!). My sister helped me hang directional signs around the mazelike Shirt Factory. It was all up and done by EXACTLY 4:45 p.m., leaving us 15 minutes of calm. I had a glass of wine. I looked around at my first-ever solo gallery show (!!!) all framed and hung and looking absolutely perfect and beautiful, and at my family there in place looking absolutely perfect and beautiful and beams of sunshine leapt from my heart and filled the room. Basically.
Carol Barrett was the first to arrive. Then some Shirt Factory people. And more people. And more people. And nobody seemed to stay very long, but they all thoughtfully looked at each piece and asked me about the process or had a favorite to point out to me. Every time somebody new walked through that door it was like opening a big thoughtful Christmas present as a kid. That feeling of “Oh! AND this one too! I can’t believe it! How did you know I was hoping to get it? I already have so much, I can’t believe there’s more! Yay!”
I want to say that about 100 people came to the show. One wave would go out and I’d feel a little sad but within five minutes a whole new wave would come in. There were at least four or five waves, where there’d be 20-plus people there all at the same time. It was a flood of family, friends, and the Glens Falls community, which I’ve always found to be supportive, but I was especially excited to have that support all in one day. It was long and my feet hurt and back ached (I must have terrible posture to not be able to stand up for more than two hours at a time – flip flops didn’t help) but I didn’t get to talk to all the people who were there. It was amazingly gratifying, all the folks who arranged their day to be able to come by and show their support and maybe buy something. For me! For Kate! Better than a birthday. Not only are people glad I was born, but they’re stopping in to see where I am in my life.
And I needed that. Because this show – THE FLOW – it was about a lot. Much of my work is play. It’s fun. I make a mess and whatever I see in it comes out of the mess and it’s just fun. But behind that is this: My life philosophy, my religion (Katethysianism. I made it up.), my outlook – that’s all wrapped up in this artwork. My gratitude for Glens Falls as the opportunity to reinvent myself and come in new – that comes through in the artwork that I’ve cut up and re-used as something new. My childhood and long-ago memories are showcased and that’s about my desire to preserve every little thing and not let it go. My photos of the process of painting are about enjoying the journey rather than focusing on the destination. And there’s humor. And there’s experimentation. There’s letting go, there’s holding on, there’s taking something you hated and changing the way you look at it so you accept that it’s a piece of the whole – a part of what makes it great. It’s all there.
THE FLOW is titled for this scene from Six Feet Under (more so 2:56 through 3:45 than anything). Like I said in the press release, I feel this way without drugs – feel the flow. Also, it’s named for this Andrea Gibson poem, Water Drips Through Stone. (Better if you just listen – that video is distracting.) The line goes “Your heart is that water, your art is that water, YOU are that water, now FLOW.” Changing the world no matter how small you are – because you don’t back down. You find a way to make your point.
And people came to see it. To mark this moment in my life and to look at the things I made to see something that might speak to them.
I have one painting that’s got my one-hit-wonder Dive, pasted on a fridge. It’s called Fame. My grandmother Mimi pointed it out to me and said, “That’s my fridge!” My incredibly talented cousin Mackenzie St. Onge was selected to be one of 70 top hockey players at this USA Hockey Camp. Mimi said we didn’t get our art skills or sports knack from her – but what we did get from her, and from her children, was encouragement from a young age to believe that we could do whatever we set our minds to! No kidding, either. The first words Mimi ever spoke to us were about being beautiful, talented, and being able to do anything we set our minds to. A loving and supportive family and community can do a lot for a person.
I sold prints. I sold a lot of prints. I made enough to recoup almost half of what I laid out for the show. I never know where to set my expectations. Had I sold nothing, I would have shrugged and said ah well, I’m not in it for the money and now I’m broker than broke and nobody likes my art. Had I sold a large piece, I would have clicked my heels in the air and rolled around in the dough like Scrooge McDuck. So this is an even balance. I’m happy. I feel grateful and affirmed, like this is something I should keep doing. And maybe I will sell more – the show is up through the end of June!
It will be open for the June Arts Open House on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for Art in the Public Eye’s Third Thursday Art Walk on Thursday, June 16, from 5 to 8 p.m.
As it finally quieted down around 9 p.m., Cory (ever-helpful!) packed up the food and I helped him some and walked my parents to their car to say good-bye. At the loading dock entrance to the Shirt Factory, I started pointing out the business cards, posters, postcards, commissioned piece of artwork and flyers I designed for tenants and other clients and realized I could stand in one place in that lobby and scanning, see – no exaggeration – TEN different pieces Advokate or Kate Austin-Avon Art had created – and been paid for! What an amazing place Glens Falls is to love me so much. I love it back.
After it all, Cory whimpering and tired (pictured at left, mid-whimper, tablecloth in hand!), I took some pictures of the show for Facebook and for this post. Hugged him in the middle of the gallery and blew a kiss to the room. It was a wonderful night.
P.S. Did you see this article on me by The Free George? Such thoughtful questions!
P.P.S. I was interviewed by Ed Bartholomew for his Look TV show Beyond The Headlines. It will be on Channel 8 (locally) tonight at 8 and 8:30 p.m., Tuesday at 8 and 11 p.m. and Wednesday at 8 and 11 p.m.
but just then the goddess cried no
the goddess cried no
water drips through stone
now listen close
your heart is that water
your art is that water
you are that water now flow
your heart is that water
your art is that water
you are that water now flow
and for the first time in years the woman rose
and she rose
and she rose ’til her hips stretched the skyline
and her lips kissed the stars
and her hands held the sun ‘til it lit
the caverns of her heart
and then she fell
and raindrops down upon the earth
she showered the rives
and the oceans
her breath was the motion of the tide
she purified the soil
she birthed the storm that split the dam
then sprung a dancing spring that drown
every thing that didn’t sing
and then she
swallowed up the lies
she vaporized the greed
she was the water that spawned the flowers
that brought the bombs
to their knees
she was the wave
that revived the human heart
she was the part of us
A while back, I wrote a blog post about a national company that shall remain nameless. It was a fishy situation the way they went about getting me to join their organization. What I felt to be hardcore sneaky sales tactics and a bait-and-switch, offering something for free and then launching a weighty sales pitch for something costing quite a bit of money for what seemed to me like empty benefits. Looking it up online I saw I wasn’t the only one. I didn’t like it, I thought it was fishy and dishonest and underhanded, and I called it a scam and urged folks to steer clear.
The reason the company remains nameless? I was contacted today by a lawyer and asked to take it down. That I would be sued for it. Because the word scam is not covered under the first amendment. It’s not something you can say. Especially if Google picks it up.
I’ve never felt more hog-tied in my life. I want to fight back against the man, but not at this expense. I’ve looked around the internet and I’m seeing that they are accomplishing their goal – blog posts on this subject have been taken down left and right. I feel muscled out of my own opinion. Me versus corporation. The law loves the corporation. Not the little guy. I don’t have the money to fight this. I no longer have the freedom to use my words to fight it. If anyone in the comments names the organization I have to delete it. I have an agreement that I will “refrain from making defamatory comments” about them.
This isn’t a defamatory comment. It’s me writing about feeling helpless. The only small thing I can do, other than refuse the free membership they wanted to give me — at least, the only thing I can do without sacrificing my livelihood and getting into a load of legal fees.
This isn’t a post about that company. It’s a post about the law that makes it possible for lawyers to call up little people like me and tell them what they can and can’t say. Now, I understand how devastating it would be if I had a crummy online reputation. But I can’t help but think that there’s a way (short of lawsuits!) to control that reputation if you are really a good and honest company.
The internet is not a free place, people. You can’t speak your mind when it uses a hot-word like scam.
America is not the land of the free.
It’s the land of big business. And that just really makes me sad.