Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Looking for a warm Christmas message? Then don't read this

It's Christmas eve and I'm exhausted.

I have decorated inside and out. 

I have shopped and shopped and then wondered if I forgot anyone. 

I have spent too much money. I have shrugged when my husband said it wasn't enough and then laughed when he blanched at the resulting register receipt. (What can I say, he's a generous guy :) 

I have wrapped and wrapped. And wrapped some more. 

I have vacuumed needles. I have hosted dinner. I have washed dishes.  

I have arranged sitters for the dogs and had them groomed (the dogs, not the sitters) so they won't stink up my in-law's house. 

I have negotiated schedules and commiserated with others who also have too many places to be in too little time. 

And I still feel like I haven't done enough.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Fight for a Wonder-full Life

Today is Friday. It's Advent, the time leading up to Christmas. A time of waiting. Anticipation.

This is a lovely time of year. Carols. Christmas lights. Parties. Gifts. Food. Time with friends and family. Timeless movies like It's a Wonderful Life.

The "most wonderful time of the year," right?

Christmas can be a wonderful time of joy, of giving and receiving good things. But, sometimes, it is not so wonderful. Sometimes, it is a time of sadness, of loss.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dear Mom - Halloween is fun, don't be a jerk

There are a bunch of people out there who want to suck the fun out of everything. Especially Halloween.

Some people want to ignore Halloween all together, or maybe worse, hand out religious tracts instead of candy. I'm not sure what they're trying to prove, but if they're trying to show love, that really isn't the way to do it.

Other people suck  the fun out of Halloween by being uber obsessive about it. They start months in advance planning complicated and expensive costumes for the whole family, and get whacked out if everyone isn't onboard because they might not win the contest.

Both of those are kind of scary and the opposite of fun.

Back in my day, (here I go sounding old) my religiously conservative family saw no problem dressing up for Halloween and going Trick or Treating. My parents didn't lecture us about Druids or create some faux alternative holiday.They also never told us what to wear or obsessed about winning any contests. We didn't plan much or spend much money. They just let my brother and me enjoy it for what it was:

An opportunity to dress up and have fun.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I Am Enough

What would you do if Oprah called and asked you to go on her network? To talk to millions of people as an authority on something, as a go-to person, as a professional expert?

I've often said I'm not an expert on anything. I just dabble at things. I know a little bit about a lot of things. But an 'expert'? Nope, you must be thinking of someone else.

I'm not even very consistent at the one thing I'm supposed to be good at: Writing.

Earlier this week, my husband sent me this message:

"Only one blog in September, and (horrors!) a big fat goose egg in October. You writing under a psuedonym???????"

Uh, no, I told him. I haven't been writing under any nym. I haven't been writing at all. Goose egg is right.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

glow it all a way

Twenty-one years ago, September 4th was the Saturday before Labor Day.

It was hotter than the hinges on the gates of hell.

I know, because on 4 September 1993, I was wearing a long sleeved dress that weighed 30 pounds and that is something you remember.

When I put it on, the dress weighed 20 pounds. The extra 10 was sweat.

Wait, no, Southern women don't sweat. What's the saying? "Horses sweat, men perspire, ladies glow."

Ten pounds is a lot of glow.

And my, how I did. Glow, that is...

Throwing the Bouquet at St Stephens Episcopal Church

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Food: my darling clementine

The best clementines come from Spain, where all of the fruit is amazing. 

So says my Spanish daughter. 

I am sure it is true. But those clementines will not be here until Christmas. We must wait to confirm her truth.  

This clementine is here now, a small sweet wallop of flavor imported from Peru. 

For all the trouble it takes to get it here, it is amazingly easy to eat. 

Usually I have eaten one before I even notice, the simplicity of eating lost in a preoccupation with something else - reading, checking Facebook, talking, watching TV. I reach for another, the first having barely registered. 

But today, I decided to be intentional about my little clementine. 
Woman with an Orange, Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

To all the theater men I've loved before

Theater and men.

They go together for me like shrimp and grits, like wine and cheese, like Baby Jane and Blanche. I even met my husband through the theater.

So indulge me while I take a trip down Theater Memory Lane.

Today, in honor of Throw Back Thursday, I want to acknowledge just a few of the exceptional men I have had the privilege to know and love because of theater.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

putting on my perspectacles

As a blogger, I am really slack. I haven't written a post since August 6. Today is August 20. That is slack.

As a writer, I am really slack. After publishing my first memoir, in January the day before I turned 50 (nothing like waiting until the last minute), I have been "working" on a novel. So far that consists of an outline, a synopsis, and a bajillion pages of notes. It's an important story. My synopsis moves people to tears. I need to finish it. It scares me to death. Slack.

As a mentor, I am really slack. I mentor a young girl at a local elementary school. My meetings with her don't start until September, so I'm not slack with her. Yet. But I also mentor a writing colleague and friend. I love her but I haven't seen in nearly a month. That's slack.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

my husband made me cry in the driveway

It started out a normal morning.

It was Monday, the first day back to work after a week of vacation. The alarm clock rang far too early. We were tired. How can you be tired after a week of relaxing on a houseboat? I don't know, but we were.

We fell back into our routine as soon as our feet hit the floor. Dogs outside, start coffee, shower, dress, breakfast, goodbye kiss, out the door.

Everything seemed normal.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bossy Is as Bossy Does - Reposted from

I am honored to be a guest blogger this week on

I know what you're thinking:
Wow, what better website for Cindi to blog on than one about being bossy!
But, seriously....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

everyday miracles: birthin' babies

In my family, the women tend to be ahead of the curve. We plan things in advance, even for other people (which sometimes gets us into trouble). And we never ever like to be late for anything.

So it should have been no surprise that a baby girl joining this family might choose to preempt her own baby shower by arriving beforehand, like little Miss Bailey Catherine did yesterday: 

Friday, July 11, 2014

everyday miracles: the power of a mother's words

As a writer, I have always known the power of words. But it wasn't until I became a mother that I truly understood the ability of words to transform lives.

Because children listen to their mothers.

Often it doesn't seem like it. When you are a mom, you say a lot of things on any given day. Sometimes you have to say things over and over and over again before anything happens. It seems futile. You wonder if they are even hearing you.

Take, for example, asking your child to complete a chore. It usually starts as a request:

"Honey, please don't forget to put your cereal bowl in the dishwasher."

Then there's the gentle reminder:

"Um, sweetie, you left your bowl on the table again...."

Followed by the passive/aggressive reminder:

"Hello, where are you going? I'm pretty sure I asked you to put your bowl in the dishwasher."

Soon it becomes a clipped, tense mantra:

"You. Table. Bowl. Pick it up pick it up pick it up Pick It Up!"

Followed closely by yelling and The Look:

Thursday, July 03, 2014

coming out of the closet

Well, it finally happened.

Just when it seemed I couldn't be more of a freak than I already was, I went and made myself freakier.

I came out of the closet and crossed to the other side of the fence.

The pantry closet and the farmyard fence, that is.

I am a...(duh duh DUH!)...Vegan.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Screw Brasil, Come to Argentina!

Is anyone as sick of soccer as I am?

Then leave Brasil behind and join me in Argentina!

I have nothing against Brasil. Actually, I would love to go there, especially to visit my Brasilian daugher (hey, Lara! ). But not to see futbol. I'm more the artsy type.

Theater is my bag. And right now, I am immersed in Argentine drama.

Evita started out as the show I wasn't going to do. I love acting but it hasn't been a priority for me in quite awhile. Theater takes dedication and commitment. It takes a lot of time. Time that I want to spend on writing my next book.

So when the director called, I said No. 

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

new york state of mind

In May, I had the awesome privilege of talking to - not one, but two! - live audiences about my daughter.

As a cast member of the inaugural Listen To Your Mother Charleston, I stood with fourteen other authors to read stories about mothering. Our stories melded to create something bigger than the sum of its parts, a delightfully rich and nutty Southern literary motherhood pie. 

My slice of the pie? Sharing a story about raising a daughter, of course. About how she challenges me, about how she sees me as a powerful woman, and about how she helps me see myself as a powerful woman. It was this writing/performing mother's dream job.

The best part of my life is being a mom to this amazing child. My relationship with her is one of my favorite things to write about. 

Because she has changed me for the better.

Friday, May 30, 2014

the poet seeketh: God in an Iceland subway station

I'm having a crisis of faith.

Ok, maybe "crisis" is a too strong a term.

But it seems the older I get, the more questions I have.

The more things I experience, the more I wonder about the veracity of long-held beliefs.

The more people I encounter, the more I doubt my entrenched opinions.

The more I learn, the more I see that few things in life are as black-and-white or cut-and-dry as I used to think.

And the more I listen instead of talk, the more I realize just how little I actually know.

Friday, May 09, 2014

my three moms

Once upon a time there was a little girl who had three moms.

She had a daddy, too. Her daddy was young and handsome and worked a lot to support his little girl.

Her mom, the one who gave birth to her, was young and beautiful, too. She reminded the girl of Jackie O, with her fashion sense and coiffed hair and shy smile.

But her mom was sick a lot. As a matter of fact, it was a miracle the little girl and her mother both survived her birth. That's how sick she was. Only no one knew until it was almost too late.

And that's where her other moms came in.

Friday, May 02, 2014

stories, snow queens, and marines: the power of family love

I came a little late to the Frozen party.

I don't do trends well. To me they're like roller coasters. With roller coasters, I want either to be smack in front of everyone else with my hands in the air and my hair flying like crazy, or I want to bounce along in the back watching everyone else act like idiots. 

When it comes to trends, I want to be ahead of the curve (alone) or bringing up the rear (alone - I suppose that is my trend).  If something seems uber cool and everyone is talking about it and singing it and creating personal parody videos of it, I tend to ignore it. At least until the the hubbub dies down. 

And that's why I finally sat down to watch Frozen... last weekend.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

doing math with the heart

Math is not my strong suit. Lucky for me, some of the best things in life - heart things - defy mathematical logic.

Copyright © 2013

I'm good enough at math to help my 6th grader with her 8th grade algebra. I can make correct change without a calculator. I can figure out a 40% discount in my head. But in college, I flunked calculus and changed my major to English because - let's be honest -  I just didn't care that much about math.

But sometimes being bad at math can be a good thing for the heart.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

learning to listen: confession of a hypocrite

I'm a big ol' hypocrite. Like, the mother of hypocrites.

Sometimes I say one thing and do another. Sometimes I am a proponent of something in public, but in private I have a hard time measuring up to my own standard.

For example, I tell everyone they should recycle. We have recycle bins in our garage. We even carry off the recycle bins ourselves, since we don't have recycle pickup at our house. 

But sometimes we don't take the bins off for weeks at a time. The bins get full. Then they get overflowing. When they get overflowing, I get lazy.

And the recyclables go in the trash. Hypocrite. 

Another example: I'm in this great show called Listen To Your Mother that is produced across the country to honor Mother's Day. This is the inaugural show in Charleston (SC) and I'm thrilled to be part of an amazing cast

I'm excited and nervous about being in the show, about hearing everyone's stories, about reading one of my own stories aloud before an audience for the first time.

And I love the theme: "Listen to your mother." I mean, who can argue with that?

Well, turns out, I can. I don't listen to my mother very well.

See? I'm a hypocrite in the 1st degree. A black-belt hypocrite.

It isn't my mom's fault really. She is a great woman. She's beautiful, resilient, relentless. She's talented and loving and giving. She taught me how to cook and how to sew, how to serve with gratitude and how to love without reservation. All she ever wanted to be was a great mom, and she is.

She's a powerful woman of strong faith, strong convictions, strong mind and body. I once wrote she would have made a great pioneer. And actually, I suppose she has been. She's faced many life-threatening, life-crushing, life-sucking circumstances and survived with her body, soul and spirit intact.

So why do I have such trouble listening to her?!?

I love my mom. She loves me. But sometimes we don't like each other. We don't always see eye-to-eye on things. And sometimes we just plain don't understand each other.

Especially now that our mediator is gone.

That was my dad. From the time I was a teenager, my dad ran interference between me and my mom. He loved us both, knew us both. She was his soul mate, I was his little girl.

And I was a lot like him - quiet and bookish, an introvert with a penchant for puns. I had no problem listening to him. Not that he talked that much. He and I could sit outside at night and look at the stars for hours on end without saying a word. I felt he got me.

My mom, however, doesn't like sitting still for long. She's an extrovert who needs to be around people, to talk, to move, to do stuff. All that talking and moving and doing and being around people wears me out. We sometimes have a hard time getting each other.

So through my turbulent teens and young adulthood, when my mom and I had trouble communicating, my dad would stand in the gap. He didn't take sides. He listened to both of us and tried to help us understand each other. It was as if we spoke different languages and he was our interpreter.

He was my father first of all, so if I got mouthy or disrespectful, he clamped down hard. But there were times when he saw my point and asked my mom to be more reasonable. Somehow the three of us came through each confrontation successfully without too many scars.

Then the unthinkable happened. He left us.

It was sudden. One morning, he and I were in the hospital corridor after his first stroke, looking out the window, him telling me what he could see and me explaining what was missing in his vision. Then I was home, fielding a phone call that he'd had another massive stroke and was in a coma.

That visit in the hospital was the last time he ever spoke to me.

His body lived for another 16 months. But his mind and his spirit were gone.

And so was his voice of reason.

It was a hard 16 months caring for a strong man who had become a mere shell.

It was a hard 16 months watching the woman we both loved slowly being crushed by the weight of responsibility and fear and loss, watching her power go out.

Somehow, through the grace of God, we made it through that time. Somehow we made it through his death. Somehow we made it through the aftermath.

And then it was time to build a new reality without him. The empty place he left was epic.

Communication was the hardest. My mom needed love, needed support, needed someone to lean on. And I didn't know how to do that. I was grieving. I was selfish. And I was scared.

How was I supposed to communicate with the woman who gave birth to me without my father?

The first five years were the worst. Yes. Five years. Some griefs are heavier than others. And even when you're grieving, life doesn't stop. No, it keeps slinging things at you, stacking bricks on top of bricks, knocking the wind out of you just as you start breathing again. That platitude "God never gives us more than we can handle"? Not scriptural, not true, not anything but BS.

So what happened five years after death that made a difference?


Five years to the date of my father's death, on 27 December 2001, I gave birth to my daughter. She was named after her grandmother. She had my red hair and my dad's grey-green eyes.

My daughter redeemed a tragic day just by being born.

I prayed that her birth would help break the shell of grief that surrounded my mother. I prayed that my mother's love for this tiny namesake, this daughter of her daughter, would rekindle her power. And I prayed that somehow God would use this child to create a new normal in the relationship between my mother and me.

That was twelve years ago.

My daughter is now big and smart. She is a kind person but she is also a force. Sometimes she gets mouthy. Sometimes we don't see eye-to-eye. Sometimes we don't understand each other. And sometimes we even need a mediator to help us interpret what the other is trying to say.

Deja vu.

At 70, my mother is still a powerful woman, a force to be reckoned with. And my prayer was answered.  She and I have a new, better relationship. We still don't agree on everything. We have different styles, different ideas, different worldviews. I hate talking on the phone. She wishes I would call more than once a week. When we talk, we don't always understand each other.

But we both try to listen better to each other.

I still find it difficult. I still argue. I still misunderstand. I still take offense even when no offense is meant.

I know sometimes she thinks I'm not listening at all. But even when I act like I'm not, I am.

And don't tell her this, but in my heart of hearts (as much as it kills me to admit it), I'm betting she's right.

Monday, April 07, 2014

who's my tribe? an exercise

I've been reading a lot lately about tribes. Not the Native American kind (I have one but we lost touch over the past few generations), but the kind that I belong to as a writer.

I don't want to write just for fun. I write for fun and satisfaction, true. But I also want to be read. I want to write about things that matter to other people, things they want to read. I want to influence people, make them think, make them laugh, make change in the world. To me, that is success. 

So I've been doing some soul searching, some reading, some serious research. How can I become more successful as a writer?

Seems the first step is to identify and build my platform by figuring out who my tribe is. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

why I am not a Christian writer

I love being a writer. I feel lucky to have this freedom. But being an artist of any kind can be challenging. 

Being an artist is a satisfying way to live, but it usually isn't a great way to make a living. Depending on your field, it can be expensive buying supplies. It can be lonely, unless you're in a band or a play. It can be daunting, depending on an audience to appreciate what you do. And it can be scary, since so much of our art comes directly from who we are as human beings.

It's hard to make good art without being vulnerable, without splitting yourself open and letting others see who you really are. You can play it safe and let people assume that you have a certain kind of perfection. Or you can drop the facade and be real.

That kind of raw vulnerability is one of the most challenging aspects of being an artist for me. Especially when it comes to being a writer and a Christian, with all the variations of interpretation and expression that go along with that.  Because invariably, as soon as you admit you're an artist AND a Christian, someone is going to come along and show you how you got it all wrong.

My Christian faith happens to be a big part of who I am. It is one of the things that inspires my writing. It naturally colors my perceptions and perspective. It provides a framework for my experiences. It infuses my writing with optimism and grace. 

A weird thing happens as soon as you say you're a Christian and a writer, especially on the Christian end of the stick. All of a sudden the dynamics change and you get stuck in a box. The "Christian Writer" box.  

Once you get put in that box, there are certain assumptions made about you and your writing. Everything you write has to somehow point people to God through Jesus, preferably in an obvious, straight-forward manner. All of your work should deal with nasty "real-life" situations as cleanly as possible so that no one is actually tempted to sin.  All issues raised must be satisfied by prayer, reading the Bible, holding hands and singing Kum-Ba-Yah. The ending should be pat, with all evil doers either redeemed or dead, everyone smiling, and all questions answered. It obviously should be sold in a Christian bookstore, or at least in the Christian section of a secular bookstore.

And it goes without saying that, even though none of us are perfect, you must live beyond reproach or your books will be pulled immediately and pitched into the burn pile along with works by other reprobates like Anne Lamott and Donald Miller.

Okay, I know that is an oversimplification. I don't have a (huge) problem with Christian writers or Christian writing. 


I think there is a huge difference between being "a Christian writer" and being "a writer who is also a Christian." Just like there is a difference between Christian films and films about content that happens to be relevant to the Christian community and to human beings as a whole. These two are, unfortunately, usually not equal. (For more information, see my friend Nathan Fleming's viral post, What's Wrong with Christian Filmmaking?

So let me declare: I am not a Christian writer. I am a writer who happens to be a Christian, just the way I happen to be white and female and redheaded. It is part of who I am, but it isn't ALL there is.

At this point anything I have written could safely be carried in the average Christian bookstore. My worldview is Christian because that is my belief system. I have what I would term a relationship with God. The things I write tend to be uplifting and encouraging. I tend not to use profanity or write about the gritty side of life. I go to church. I have a nice family. I'm a nice person. 

Why do I feel the need to delineate?

The first reason is the big "J" word. Not Jesus. Actually, the anti-Jesus J-word: Judgement.

I had two big fears that kept me from writing for a long time: 1) that I might be judged as not a good writer, and 2) that I might be judged by my other Christians.

I've sort of gotten over #1. I've had enough feedback to know that certain people like my style, certain people don't, and that I'm ok either way. There are lots of flavors in the world, and the worst thing I could do is try to be rainbow-flavored trying to appeal to everyone. I need to be true to my flavor. 

But #2 is a bugger. And apparently I'm not alone or clueless in having this fear.

Earlier this year I had a conversation with a friend who is a priest. He is very supportive, commenting on my Facebook page and liking my writing, even the posts about boobs and girly stuff. We're both a little eccentric and there are things we don't see eye-to-eye on, but we have mutual respect and that's a good thing. 

During our conversation, he congratulated me on going public and getting my writing out there on my blog. I confessed that one of the biggest hold-backs for me was the fear of what church people would think of what I wrote. 

What if they thought it wasn't "Christian enough"? What if, based on my writing or my thoughts, they became convinced I wasn't even a Christian, aka "No one who is a real Christian would think/say/believe/promote that."  

(For example, I almost didn't use the word "lucky" in the first sentence because in my head I heard Sister Christian chant, "Cindi, there is no such thing as lucky. You are blessed!" )

He nodded. "We Christians are a tough audience, quick to crucify our own. I don't blame you for being skittish, but try not to think about it too much." 

Basically, he said, do what you do and leave the rest to God. 

Which brings me to my second reason - Audience. 

There are a ton of Christian authors. They write what they feel called to write. Or what makes them money. Western Christians have deep pockets, and they love to spend their money on Christian stuff. So if you are a Christian author who has a way with words and a great marketing strategy, you can make a killing. 

That's not my gig.

I'm not very good at writing to a template or writing to please or writing to comply with someone else's set of beliefs. I don't enjoy being safe or predictable or pat. And I don't enjoy preaching to the choir.

I want to reach a broader audience. I don't want to lose a reader who might not normally read a "Christian" writer. I might have something to say that speaks to them 
where they are.

I want my fellow believers to read me too, but I don't want my first thought to be "does this sound Christian enough"?

I don't want to censor myself in the fear that someone else might read it and based on their particular flavor of Christianity deem me apostate or heretical or any of those other religiously-excluding words.

I enjoy sharing all the quirky thoughts and feelings and experiences I have without hesitation. When I write, I always want my thoughts to be:

Is this well written?

Is this honest? Is this helpful?

Is this meaningful?

Is this challenging and compelling and entertaining at the same time?

Is this something that another human being - regardless of belief or creed or culture - can read, enjoy, learn from?

And, most of all, am I being authentic to who I am, to who I feel called to be, without fear of reprisal?

If I can honestly answer all of the questions Yes, then I am satisfied that it is ready for public consumption. At that point, because of my faith, I do exactly what my friend the Padre advised me to do at that point. 

Don't think about it too much, and leave it to God. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

growing up a mermaid

Recently Abigail Green over at Abby Off The Record was posed a question by her 7 year old son:

"Mom, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

It's a natural question but one that can be hard to answer, especially when 1) you can't remember, or 2) you're still disappointed that you aren't what you wanted to become!

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?

When I was young, a lot of little 7 year old girls dreamed about being a princess or a ballerina or a fairy.

Not me.

I dreamed about being a mermaid.

In the 1970s, my family took annual vacations to Florida. Back then, there was no Disney World or Harry Potter World, no Universal Studios or Wet'n'Wild. We visited the original attractions that featured tutu'd waterskiers and dolphin (porpoise) shows, glass bottomed boats and pressed wax souvenirs. It was all awesome, and I thank my parents for giving us such wonderful experiences.

But there was one very special place my parents took me that changed my life forever.

Weeki Wachee Springs: Home of the live mermaid show.

Even though I couldn't swim a lick, couldn't hold my breath for more than 10 seconds and refused to put my face underwater, I wanted to be a mermaid.

They moved like poetry. They were magical, like fairies under water. They were lyrical and beautiful and strong. They were the mythical made real.

Although I have moved on - fear of water kept me from ever seriously thinking of strapping on a tail and jumping down into a long, inescapable tunnel - I still love my Weeki Wachee mermaids.

About 13 years ago, on a trip to the Gulf Coast to visit friends, I told my husband, "We have to go to Weeki Wachee."

"What the heck is a weekiwachee?" he asked.

Stunned, I replied, "Only the home of the most amazing underwater show of all time - live mermaids! I haven't been since I was little but you have to take me."

He rolled his eyes and speculated that the same women from the 1970s were probably still working there, but he steered the car down I-10/Hwy 301 until we found US-19 and the Weeki Wachee entrance I remembered from childhood.

The park was looking a little peaked, more than a little worn around the edges. But the mermaids were still there. And to our pleasant surprise, there were mermaids of various ages, sizes and abilities.

In addition to putting on several shows a day, the mermaids were working very hard to bring the park into the 21st century. They had added a rustic water park with slides and a swimming area, taking advantage of the cold, crystal-clear fresh water spring. They were sprucing up the costumes and the shows, training new mermaids from all over the world, and making necessary renovations.

We gave them a donation, thanked them for the entertainment, and promised to spread the word. After that trip, my husband told everyone he knew about Weeki Wachee. I was thrilled that he enjoyed it so much, and that he was helping me spread the news. 

And it surprised me how few people had heard of Weeki Wachee. It's been around since the late 1940s, but since the advent of the Interstate system, few people travel down the back roads that run by the attraction. And the small, vintage amusement parks just don't have the marketing budgets to vie with the Disney Worlds and Universal Studios.  

But Weeki Wachee will always have a special place in my heart. We have taken several more trips to the west coast of Florida in the past ten years, and every time we make a beeline to my favorite spot. Our daughter has been several times, and last trip we even took one of her friends. It was an amazing treat for all of us.

I hadn't thought about mermaids or Weeki Wachee in a while. Then yesterday, I learned something amazing. 

My Weeki Wachee mermaids are coming to the SC Aquarium in Charleston!  In April 2014, the Great Tank will have not only sharks and sea turtles and amber jacks and volunteer divers, it will have!

It is such a brilliant publicity move, I wish I had thought of it myself. Gotta hand it to these savvy mermaids: Don't just sit on US-19 and wait for the people to come to Weeki Wachee - take Weeki Wachee to the people!

While getting ready for bed last night, I turned to my husband, "Oh! Oh! Oh! Guess - just guess! - who is coming to the SC Aquarium?!?"

A grin spread across his face. "Mermaids...mermaids are coming, that's who!"

I love that man. 

Some people might think it's a little silly for a 50 year old woman to be so ga-ga over mermaids, over trained swimmers wearing fake tails. Especially since, despite my childhood dream, I'll never be one. 

Truth is, I don't want to be a mermaid now. I'm not sure I ever really did. 

I think what I really wanted to be when I grew up was to be like a mermaid: Beautiful. Strong. Mystical. Unpredictable. Free. 

In my own way, I've achieved that. Not by donning a tail and performing underwater, but by creating my own fantastical stories, by becoming different characters on a stage, by tapping into the supernatural current that fuels my imagination.  

No matter how "grown up" I might be, I still grin at the thought of seeing my beloved mermaids swimming in the salty water of the South Carolina lowcountry. 

In my mind, I'll be swimming right beside them. 

Read more about the Weeki Wachee Mermaid visit to the SC Aquarium here and buy your tickets here

Friday, March 21, 2014

here comes the sun and the bluebird of happiness

I'm so excited! We're in Wedding mode in our family, and few things will make you as crazy busy and as crazy happy as helping two amazing people get ready to say "I do."

Especially when the bride is your cousin, sister, girlfriend and sweetest cutie-patootie all rolled up into one

My cousin Dawn and I grew up together. I was nine when she was born. I couldn't decide whether to sister her or mother her. I guess I did a little of both.

Through the years we shared homes, shared family, shared secrets and laughter and tears. We were kids together. Then we were roommates. We went through seasons of separation like sisters will, but we always came back together.

And now she is about to be married. To join forces with a man she loves dearly. They knew each other in high school but have spent the past four years rediscovering who they were and who they are. And figuring out who they want to be.

We never expected it would take this long to attend her wedding. She's beautiful, smart, witty, talented, a catch. But sometimes crap happens. Life and the people in it throw you curve balls. Things don't happen like or when you expect.

A long time ago, my mother gave me a glass figurine, a bluebird of happiness. Shortly after, I met the man who eventually became my husband. A few years later, I passed the figurine on to Dawn when she felt ready to find "the one" and settle down.

Apparently it was a one-use-only bluebird. Nothing good happened.

Many years later, after traveling several roads and then graduating from chiropractic school, Dawn moved back to Charleston and stayed with us for a while. Via friends, she found out her old school chum Eric was in town, too. They connected on Facebook. They decided to meet up. They both love hockey, so what could be a chummier place to meet than at a hockey game? Pretty innocuous, right?

They're the only two people I know who went to a hockey game and fell in love. (I'm sure there are lots of others in colder climates, but this is the south....)

A few years and a lot of water went by. Then finally it happened. They decided to get married.

Last November, Dawn told me she was planning to get married in March. Outside. Hmm...

Even though we are in the south and on the coast, March is a very unpredictable month weather-wise. I raised the obvious questions: what if it's cold? what if it rains? what if.....?

Dawn looked at me very matter-of-fact. "Everything will be perfect for my wedding. It will be sunny and 72 degrees. God and I have this all worked out, don't worry."

I wasn't sold, but I sighed and shut up. What was the point in arguing? Like the rest of the women in our family, when Dawn makes up her mind about something, that's it, end of story.

The past few weeks have been very sketchy - temperatures in the 30s, wind, lots of rain. Up to this past Wednesday in fact. Then, lo and behold, the clouds cleared and the sun came out and the temperature started going up! I think I literally said "Hallelujah."

I immediately texted Dawn. Yes, she knew the sun was out, she had already gone outside and twirled around in thanksgiving. Sounded like a good idea.

I went outside in my backyard to feel the warmth on my face. Just as I walked on to the porch, I saw a flash of blue fly by. I stopped.

There was a brilliant bluebird sitting on my fence.

All I could think was, "Took you long enough!"

Guess there are some things you can't rush, some things worth waiting on. Like family. And partners. And spring. And of course, that darn bluebird of happiness.

Welcome, my friend. Let's go have a wedding.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

ready to play the role of a lifetime

I have terrible stage fright. The kind accompanied by butterflies, nausea, diarrhea, amnesia, cold sweat, self doubt, blindness, shortness of breath, and beet-red flushing of the neck.

It isn't funny.

Unless, of course, you know me well enough to know that I have been performing in public in one forum or another most of my life. That makes it pretty funny.
Annie at Charleston Music Hall - Richard Futch, Cindi Carver-Futch, Caroline Hamrick (c)2012 Gamil Awad
I became a church pianist at the age of 12. Yes, 12. I chose hymns, played them, and led the congregation. I was terrified, but there was no one else to do it. I have continued to play piano and lead worship in churches across the state, from small Protestant congregations (12+) to great Catholic cathedrals.

I played the saxophone in high school and college. Tenor and the great deep baritone sax. Marching band, symphonic concerts, pep band, jazz band, solo and ensemble competitions. I did it all. I even performed in the opening day parade of the 1982 World Fair.

I have been an actor, starring in church Christmas programs in my early teens, working with community theater after college, and performing with various professional troupes in my 20s. I even performed a one-woman show at the Gibbes Museum of Art, portraying the 18th century artist Henrietta Johnston. I was so convincing the children in attendance asked if I was a ghost.

You would think after all this performing, the stage fright would resolve itself. Or, you would think that with such debilitating stage fright I would never step foot in front of an audience again. I wish it was that easy. But while the stage fright doesn't go away, I just can't seem to stay off the stage.

And here I go again.

In May, I will once again tread the boards at the Footlight Players on Queen Street, this time as a member of the inaugural cast of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: CHARLESTON.

So what is LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, other than a phrase you've unwisely tried to ignore your whole life?

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER (LTYM), the brainchild of blogger Ann Imig, began in 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin. Now a national program, LTYM productions will be mounted in 32 cities across the US in 2014. Each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities for local communities, and each production donates a percentage of ticket proceeds to a local charity.

The LTYM shows feature live readings by local writers on "the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood" in celebration of Mother’s Day. While the show is performed live in each community, all readings are recorded and available on the LTYM website and YouTube channel for the entire world to enjoy.

Yikes. The world is a big audience.

As soon as I heard about the local production, I knew I wanted to audition. I have a mom. I am a mom. I am also a writer and have some stories that I think are worth sharing. I was confident going into my audition. After all, this isn't my first rodeo. My last role was just two years ago, when I played the worst mother figure imaginable, Miss Hannigan in Annie.

But here's the big difference: this time, I am not going to be a character in a play. I can't hide behind an accent or a costume piece, toy with an instrument or a bit of staging. I can't razzle-dazzle them by belting out a song. I can't be the comic relief or play the straight against another actor.

The person on that stage? It will be me, Cindi Carver-Futch. And the lines? They will be my story. If the audience doesn't laugh, doesn't cry, doesn't applaud, there will be no one else to look to but me. I can't blame the dramatist or the lyricist, the choreographer or the director.

I should be scared out of my wits.

Maybe on May 4th I will be. But right now I am not worried. And I don't think I will be then, either. Because for the first time in my life, for better or for worse, I will stand in front of an audience in the role I was born to play.


There's not another person in the universe who can play me like I can. I think I'll do ok.

Monday, March 17, 2014

shamrocks and sock glue: some lessons from Irish dance

There are only two kinds of people in the world, The Irish and those who wish they were. - Irish proverb

Today is St. Patrick's Day, when everyone pretends to be Irish. Across the US, Irish-wannabees celebrate by wearing green, eating corned beef, drinking Guinness, and kicking up their heels.

While St Patrick's Day is a celebration of Ireland, Patrick wasn't Irish. As a boy, he was kidnapped from Britain and taken to Ireland as a slave. After escaping back home, he chose to return to Ireland as a missionary. He evangelized the island for Christianity and became the patron saint of Ireland. It didn't make much sense, but even Patrick couldn't stay away from Ireland.

The Irish themselves don't wear green on St Patrick's day. They don't eat corned beef and cabbage, either. But the Irish are definitely known for drinking Guinness and dancing the jig, and that is not confined to St Patrick's Day.

Our younger daughter is an Irish dancer. Although our Irish blood has become thin over the years, Ireland has my heart and I was thrilled when MM developed a passion for dancing the reel and jig.

The first time she saw Irish dancing, she looked at me with passion flaring in her eyes and said, "Mom, I HAVE to do this!" That was four years ago. At 8, she was late to the game. Most kids start when they're 3 or 4. But age should never keep you from doing what you love. Especially when you have red hair and an Irish-sounding name like Mary-Margaret.

Irish dance gets a lot of publicity at St. Patrick's Day, but it is a year-round sport. It takes an amazing amount of athleticism, grace and endurance to compete in Irish dance. We spend many weekends throughout the year taking our daughter to competitions known as feis (“feysh”) in our region and through the US. School breaks are spent at Irish dance camps honing skills and preparing for the Oireachtas (“o-rock-tas” or regional competition).

Irish dance is intensive work. But it is also fun, beautiful, and very rewarding. In three years of following our daughter around for parades and competitions and performances, I have picked up a few things that I think are helpful in general life.

Looking Good is Important
As much as I disliked it at first, to be competitive in Irish dance you have to look good. It’s not exactly Toddler’s and Tiaras, but it does mean buying the curly wigs, makeup, spray tans, expensive dresses, expensive shoes…..

Ok, it sounds similar, but truth is, if you want to win, you have to look good. Success in dance and in life often requires having the best tools and training you can afford, even if you have to sacrifice something else.

On the other hand, Bobbi Brown could personally do your feis makeup and you could wear a $5000 dress hand embroidered by blind Irish nuns - if you don’t dance well and dance hard, you and your priceless dress will go home disappointed. 

“Cute Don’t Last, You Better Learn How to Dance”
Even though looking good is important, very few people can successfully coast through life on looks alone. Everyone needs to learn to do something well, to take pride in a job well done, to contribute to the greater good.

One day my daughter used the phrase “cute don’t last, you better learn how to dance.” I laughed and asked her where she learned that. She explained her Irish dance teacher told them that all the time - people might be impressed by cuteness when you’re young, but you’d better work hard and learn the steps because one day “cute” would be gone. Yep, ‘nuff said.

Sock Glue
Irish dancers wear a bubbly white sock known as a poodle sock. At my daughter's first competition, she lost points when her poodle socks fell. Then I learned about something called sock glue. It is literally a glue you roll on a dancer's legs to keep socks (and points) in place. At her second competition, my daughter's socks stayed put all day.

I don’t know why they don’t sell this stuff in department stores! Have a wayward bra strap? Roll on a little sock glue and that strap will stray no more. Stretchy boots losing their grip? Use some sock glue. Need to stop your blouse from flashing unsuspecting co-workers? Sock glue, baby! We now have two bottles - one in my daughter's dance bag and one in my dressing table. Seriously, if I can figure out how to market sock glue to Macy’s, I will retire early.

Never Quit
Irish dance isn't just about what you do on stage. It's about all the preparation you do beforehand, about all of the performances and classes and stretching. It's as much about conditioning the mind as conditioning the body.

At competitions, a dancer has to have her game face on from before she lines up to go on stage until after she is out of the sight of the judges. This requires discipline and self assurance that goes back months or years before a dancer gets on stage. It means you look, act, and feel like a winner when you’re standing in line-up, when you and another dancer collide, when you slip and fall on stage, when the music is disrupted, when someone in the audience is talking, and when you just don’t feel like dancing. You don’t give up on yourself before you start, while you’re dancing, or after the scores come out. Good advice for work, marriage, family, etc.

Do Your Best and Cause No Harm
Irish dance is competitive and the dancers work very hard to get to the top.  At competitions there are multiple dancers on a stage at a time. Because they all have different choreography, it is difficult to know where one dancer is going to high kick and another is going to leap. They do their best to keep their steps and maneuver around each other. Even then, collisions and mishaps are part of the game. Usually they are accidental. Sometimes, unfortunately, they are not. The quickest way to get banned from competition is to sabotage a competitor. Just remember “cute don’t last…” and don’t do it. Ever.

Do What Moves You, Even If It Doesn't Make Sense
We have very little Irish heritage. Yet our daughter loves Irish dance and we are totally committed to her success. We've become a part of this Irish dance family and love it.  And we have found out we aren't alone in celebrating a heritage that isn't ours.

We have met dancers and families from all walks of life and cultures – African, Asian, Latino, Dutch, etc. And not one of us has had to take an Irish DNA test to see if we qualified to be a part of this family. We just accept each other where we are. Whether we are Irish or not, we celebrate the dance.

And to that we say "Rince Gaelach go Brach" - Irish Dance Forever!

Friday, March 14, 2014

happy Pi day

Today is Pi Day. You know, "pi" as in the Greek number  π = 3.141592(etc), the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Celebrated in certain circles (haha) on March 14th, as in "3.14"

Next year, will be even MORE exciting, because it will be 3.14.15. Just imagine how excited everyone was in 1592.

I'm not big in math or Greek. But I respect the pi. Pi is powerful

And yummy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

the he(art) of the matter with Will Smith

How do we define "artist"? Who is an artist? Why do artists do what we do? And does it matter how we do it?

Regardless of the medium we use, be it paint or performance or prose, in the end I believe it comes down to one thing. 

It comes down to heart. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

it isn't as bad as you think

I'm an optimist. And a worrier. Which means I'm always positive that something is going to go wrong. 

I'm trying to change. Honest, I am. Because there is no point to worrying. It's a killer.

Even our mixed-up culture is trying to drive that point home with all those "Keep Calm" signs. My favorite one ties in Douglas Adams' motto "Don't Panic" from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

In the movie, one sure way to keep from panicking is to always remember your towel. Because everyone knows towels do come in handy.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

school for strays

One of the most amazing joys of being a parent has to be the conversations you get to have with your kids. 

You never know what they're going to come up with next. A lot of times it's just silly - fart sounds, milk snorting, knock-knock jokes and gibberish. 

But sometimes they say things that give you a glimpse of what's going on in their heads. And in the world. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

this IS 50

I turned 50 a few weeks ago. And boy, do I feel better!

Seriously, I do. I have always love love loved my birthdays. I prefer for them to last somewhere between a week and a month. I am not normally high maintenance, but I expect the entire world to notice when it is my birthday. 

I couldn't wait to turn 30. I relished turning 40. But this year was different. There was something about 50 that scared me. 

Friday, February 07, 2014

"leaving the shallows" available on amazon kindle

As some of you know, I am in the process of publishing my first book. While I am working on a novel, this first book is a collection of articles I previously published on my skirt! national blog.

Now that that forum is closed (as of November 2013 - why anyone would give up millions of hits on free content I'll never know!), I have been encouraged by several people to publish a collection of my writings. 

I was further spurred on during a writer's teleconference where the leader inspired us - in the words of Nike - to just do it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

this is NOT 40

Have you seen the movie "This is 40"?

If you haven't, good for you. If you have, please let me know. When I figure out how to get that 134 minutes of my life back, I'll let you know so you can apply, too.

I watched it because I was on the cusp of turning 50. I was curious what Hollywood (via Judd Apatow) had to say about what it was like to turn 40.

Turns out, not much.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

things I take for granted: a review of "Gimme Shelter"

Every living being has certain basic needs for survival. Food. Water.  Air. Warmth. Shelter. Take away even one of these basic things and a living organism won't survive for long. 

Many of us - I dare say anyone reading this post - can go through our entire lives without ever worrying about any of these things. We take them for granted.  Because we don't have to worry about the basics, we are free to pursue other things like education, wealth, entertainment, passion, fulfillment, etc. 

In the movie "Gimme Shelter," Agnes "Apple" Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) has the barest minimum of her basic needs. Taken away as a child from her drug-addicted mother (Rosario Dawson), Apple has spent most of her childhood in the system, being shuffled between mental institutions and multiple foster shelters, even enduring sexual abuse from the ones entrusted with her care. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

turn down your stereo(types): the kids are listening

As parents and teachers, we think we know everything about kids. We have our adult language and our adult conversations that don't include them, and we think we are adept at carrying all of this on in their presence without detection. 

When they were small, we could spell things out when we didn't want them to understand what we were saying. We could mouth sentences over their heads, gesticulate behind their backs, hide presents in the closet, and have the tough conversations after they went to bed. We always assumed they didn't catch on. 

Well, guess what? They did. Even when they were small.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

hand gestures while driving: one finger or two?

I have a magic finger that I use in traffic. I had never done this until I met my husband. I saw him do it one day as we approached an intersection, and marveled at the power wielded by one little finger. I decided to start using my finger, too.

No, not that finger. Get your mind out of the gutter. The only power "that" finger has is to offend people and make them want to run you off the side of the road.