Monday, December 1, 2014

Reel Life (ha!)

Photo credit: Hunter Curry.  A nice representation of my weird struggle; also a still from some of the footage that has been making things...'difficult.'
For the past, oh, 15 years or so, I've been wanting to put together a reel.  Not in that "hmm, someday I'd like to..." sense, but in the active, "I'm doing this now" sense.  And yet...and yet there is always SOMETHING.  At first, it was simply a matter of obtaining footage.  Then my focus shifted slightly, and I needed different footage.  Then, it became a technology issue.  Formats have changed so rapidly over the years that by the time I had collated everything, the formats were incompatible with the hardware.  Then, it became all about the software.  These days, it is usually something comical, like "sorry, your version of final cut pro isn't compatible with the fancy schmancy new format this feature was shot in, so you need to upgrade.  But oh, you need to increase your RAM, and by the way, you have to upgrade your OS first.  And did I mention that this will render your encoding software obsolete?  And how about we throw in some hardware malfunctions while we're at it, and now you don't have access to decent quality versions of any of the footage you do have...Great! now that you've done all that, hey look-this codec isn't editable, so you need that encoding software. Oh look!  switching to premiere is now cheaper than upgrading final cut!  Now you get to migrate the entire project...Rinse, repeat..." (don't worry, that wasn't really supposed to make sense.  It's not a literal list of what happened.  That would be so very much longer...)
Anyway, between technical glitches, endless bouts of waiting on footage, life changes, format/program/hardware changes and general craziness...well, I have nothing to show for all of that work.

So, I've had enough.  I'm tired of the endless drama that has constantly delayed getting even a tiny glimpse of my work together, and I want to try to be more proactive about my career, and so I have done the unthinkable.  I have taken those bits of terribly degraded footage, those copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy bits of blurry motion and smushed a few of them together and didn't even bother to tweak it so the titles don't blur.  It's messy.  It's unprofessional.  It doesn't land anywhere near my standards, but it is fun, and it is at least something I can share with my friends.

Don't worry, I am still working on getting an actual, substantial, truly well done reel...but in the meantime, here is my cobbled-together-with-chewing-gum-and-a-prayer sizzle reel (focused on my action work, which - as I learned during the process of making this - I have depressingly little footage of).  Take it as it were; at least I had fun editing it to the music.  Enjoy.



Kat Stroot Sizzle Reel from Kat Stroot on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, despite everything, we have so very much to be thankful for.  And as a miraculous little reminder, this morning I finally got a clean, sharable video from the kids' silks performance back in August. It reminds me how very grateful I am to have found the opportunities, and perhaps more importantly, the communities here that I have, how much we have been embraced, and how much we have all been able to grow, even in those moments where you think for sure there is no way you'll make it through.  For the fact that we have been able to find adventure instead of adversity, and for the fact that we continue to strive to do so, and to listen and learn how to do so.  And for what it's worth, sometimes reminders like this video pop up to show us our forward momentum when we can't necessarily feel it ourselves. (It feels like an ancient relic compared to their current abilities.  And I'm sure that in another few months, where they are today will seem so distant...)

With that, I am so pleased to finally be able to share this with you. We were so incredibly proud of these kids.  They created and performed this piece under my minimal direction - they even chose the music and choreographed it.  They had only one single tech run before the show, and this was their first time doing silks in front of an audience...but despite the strangeness and the jitters, they managed to pull of a great little show- and, actually, especially the fact that those jitters caused many timing issues/mistakes and yet they kept it together and made it all the way through with giant smiles??  That's the good stuff, folks.
Do what you love for the sake of doing it.  It won't always be perfect, and sometimes you'll get stuck on your head during that somersault you've never missed ever, but there will always be sparks of joy, and always a new journey.


Once There Was a Hushpuppy from Kat Stroot on Vimeo.

The title, by the way, is also the title of the music:  Once There Was a Hushpuppy, from Beasts of the Southern Wild. A beautiful, magical, poignant piece (that is one of only two movies both of my kids actually like,) which spoke to every member of my family in a deep and effecting way. Thank you, Lucy.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Once Upon A Death

Mom left this for me to find after she was gone.
Last night, my mama visited me in my dream.

I don't mean I got some divine message from her or anything, but last night my dream was of an old wooden house, filled to the brim with activity - kids, family, chaos, lost socks...The place seemed new, and perhaps unfamiliar, but we were settling into it with the intention of letting it become a safe place for us.  And mom was there, too - it was a dream beautiful in its banality, we were just spending time together, like a family trip home for vacation.  With one notable exception: we all fully acknowledged that mom was dead, but that just added to how wonderful this brief time we had together was.  I think we knew it was just a day or so, and it seemed implicit that this would happen every so often, these visits... It was so surprisingly nice to get to talk to her about how hard this year has been, and how much we miss her...the same old comfort from mother's counsel that I could always count on.  No drama, just an acknowledgment of "Man this sucks.  It's really hard.  I'm so glad I have you to talk to about all of this." Plus jokes and laughter, and...it was just such a nice visit.

Up until today, I have been able to explain away my forgetfulness, my wistfulness, my loneliness, my tears. "My mom just died." But now there are only a few hours left wherein her abscence is "novel." Moments in the turning of the seasons that I have not previously experienced without her. Starting in mere hours, the time will begin to overlap. I will have experienced this moment in the cycle of time without her once already... Just last night, the darkness fell without her on an October 26th for the very first time. But tonight, the darkness will fall on an October 27th for the second time.

And somehow I find this one even harder to fathom.

The first year was somehow built into the event of death; you lose someone, part of your heart goes with them, and you spend a year mourning in an emotional darkness. 
But what do we do now, at the advent of the second year? 
Another trip around the sun without mother? This is no longer the fresh wound, understandably bleeding. This is now the old injury that doesn't fully heal, aching under gray skies, no longer obvious to passers by. A silent, private pain, devastating, but to the outside eye, invisible.

Mom's amazing laugh
I am used to invisible pain, though. All through my teenage years, I struggled with a chronic pain disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.  While it is (thankfully) mostly in remission now, I learned a lot from my experiences with it. One of the hardest things I learned was that sometimes, the things that hurt the most are the very things you need to do in order to continue on as a whole being.  Giving in to the pain can lead to atrophy and eventually the loss of the limb...or worse, it can spread and consume your entire body.

And so I find inspiration here.  I know that hiding from this pain won't help me find a path through it, and I know that the world at large isn't going to hold my hand while I try to find my feet, and so I dive into it on my own in the dark, quiet nights when my family is safely sleeping.  I write, I sing, I imagine, I explore, I cry...

Earlier this year, I performed an aerial silks piece that I created in honor of my mother, about the experience of losing her.  I haven't shared it because it was underrehearsed and not at all up to my own standards, but last night's dream really drove home that she would be saddened by my decision not to share it, and if I really want to honor her as I meant to, I should put it out there anyway.

So this is for you, Mom:

This song hit me square in the gut last fall as we prepared for your departure. Everything about it spoke directly to how I felt.  And though I knew we were heading towards goodbye, I knew that I would never stop wanting you back.  That there will always be a huge place for you in my heart. It spoke to the little kid in me that will always be looking for you out the window, waiting for you to come home.  It was very clearly written about a lost lover, but that didn't matter, the sense of loss and longing at the point of departure, the calm acceptance that this was happening even if we didn't want it to, the sense of strength in the face of huge change, and the preservation of the love...it all hit so close to home.  The chorus became my wish for you to have an easy, peaceful death, and no more promises became my way of releasing you from feeling like you were letting us down by leaving too soon.  And never loving again was simply never getting over this loss.  The song became the anthem of that time for me, and helped me, hugely, to grieve.

"The sky looks pissed
the wind talks back
my bones are shifting in my skin
and you my love are gone.

my room feels wrong
the bed won't fit
I cannot seem to operate
and you, my love, are gone

So glide away on soapy heels
and promise not to promise anymore
and if you come around again
then I will take, 
then I will take the chain from off the door.

I'll never say
I'll never love
but I don't say a lot of things
and you my love are gone.

So glide away on soapy heels
and promise not to promise anymore
and if you come around again 
then I will take the chain from off the door.

Then I will take
then I will take
then I will take
the chain
from off
the door."

I took that song and used it to create this piece.  I was going for a disjointed feel, where things seem backwards and upside down, at odd angles, and things that should be beautiful seem somehow awkward...all while looking skyward in search of something that is missing.

Unfortunately the video didn't come out very well.  It's dark, and all of the shape work I did in the fabric at the start is totally lost, and because it is in closeup a lot of the vertical dimensions I was playing with don't translate, so I consider this a poor documentation of it on top of feeling like it wasn't the homage you deserved...So it is only with the understanding that this is just a first step, and I will be holding you in my heart in everything that I do that I am putting this out into the world now. It may be flawed, but it is for you, mama, with so much love.


Maybe the chain is on the door to that old wooden house in my dream.  Maybe, every so often, you can come around again, and I will take - I will always take - that chain from off the door.

Love always,
Kate


A first UnMothered mothers' day.

NOTE:  I originally wrote this piece on Mother's Day, 2014.  I ended up not publishing it, because I felt it was more appropriate as a commemoration of this day, the first anniversary... so I have scheduled this to publish without my deliberate intervention on October 27, 2014, as I have no idea where I will be, emotionally or physically, six months from this writing.

*   *   *

The best term I have yet found to describe what today feels like came, unexpectedly, from my elementary school violin teacher, thanks to the wonders of Facebook.  She shared an article in which the author described feeling "UnMothered" following the passing of her own mom, as opposed to being "motherless"-and I could very much relate to the emotional journey she described as I thought about my dance with grief over these past weeks. Months. The yet unexplored years...

I feel that October 27, the day my mama let go, will become in my heart "unmothering day"...the day we-my sister and I-said goodbye and moved into a realm where we exist without her physical presence. Not motherless, we still have the love and experience we gained from her, and always will-but we don't now. So while we were fortunate enough to have a wonderful, loving mother, we don't still have her in the present, making us, indeed, UnMothered. We don't have her there to wipe our faces (as Mike Rowe's mom reportedly still tries to do, in his lovely tribute to her this morning) or to call up to straighten out a bit of family lore or ask for advice on how best to complete some task, but we still-and will forever-still have all the lessons she taught us about being good people, and caring for ourselves and our loved ones fully, and how to occasionally embarrass ourselves in the name of living life. We will never be motherless. She will always be our mom. 

But today, for the first time on this day set aside for honoring moms, we are UnMothered.

I breathe in the absence, and then let it go, and breathe in the abundance I have, and try to balance my grief with my gratefulness. 

She gave me so much, and what's more, she taught me how to appreciate it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Not Asking

Last night, for whatever reason, I couldn't sleep, and I decided to try doing some work recording voice overs...I couldn't focus on that, either, and ended up recording an improvised song in the middle of the night.  I more or less intentionally left it ambiguous, but in my gut it feels very much about grief, and I post it here, flaws, hokey garage band processing (because my adobe audition wouldn't cooperate) and all, in memory of my mother.  She wouldn't care much about the weak spots, and would probably leave some comment about how I used to sing improvised operas non stop as a kid, and try to remember the lyrics to the "where's my purse" song she inspired me to sing as a four year old.

Miss you, Mama.

Friday, September 19, 2014

This week in immersive learning: Water & Fire

Cadence created this out of a box of recyclables and some masking tape.  She says she's not sure what it is called, but it is a form of mass transportation and it has a built - in telescope.
In addition to the (quite usual but still) ridiculous amount of reading that has taken place this week, we've had the great fortune to spend a great deal of time out-of-doors this week.

Cadence has reread several boxcar children books, tackled a few new novels, and threw in a few non-fiction books (mostly about small fuzzy animals) this week.  Hazel has been improving her reading and writing skills at an incredible rate lately, consistently sounding out words and continuing her months-old habit of passing the time by trying to guess how random words are spelled.  She will sit quietly by herself contemplating it until she thinks she might have it right, and then approach the nearest grown up (or even sometimes Cadence) and ask, for example, "Is this how you spell heart?  H-E-A-R-T, heart?"  (The fact that she has self generated this spelling-bee-style amuses me very much.)

Anyhow, she is now capable of reading well enough to identify certain words on a page, and can sound out simple words like it was no big deal, but staunchly refuses to try reading any book - even easy reading books like Dog is Hot - if they aren't board books.  I think it is simply anxiety - they seem more grown up and therefore more difficult, and she is afraid to purposefully set out to read one of them.  She would much rather catch herself reading them by accident.

Personally, I find her writing almost more impressive than her reading.  Her penmanship is pretty derned remarkable for a 4-year old, and her understanding of word groupings has skyrocketed overnight.

Hazel wrote a letter to Papa, and wrote "Hazel to Papa" on the back. She pointed out a mistaken squiggle after the 'to', and said the heart means "with love".
Cadence still struggles a little in her writing, and it relates back to a quirk we noticed when she was first learning how to read...she found it much easier, at the outset, to read her books upside down.  Though she rarely does so these days, I do still notice her flipping a book over to interpret a particularly difficult word here or there.  It's because of this that I don't find it all that surprising that she still defaults to writing her letters (and numbers) backwards and/or upside down.  Usually gently pointing out the error is more than enough for her to go back and correct it without any issues, but we are still working on consistently writing them with the correct orientation the first time.

To this end we have been doing more writing stuff at home.  Cadence has been labeling stuff all over the house, (because taping the paper to the thing makes writing down the name of the thing ridiculously fun) and has written in her diary (which I don't read) and several letters this week.  I also asked her to write a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and she produced a fun little page long story called The Hunt.  It's about our cat, Puy, going hunting because she was hungry, catching some squirrels, and feeling good after eating them. She even specified that while Puy lived happily ever after, the squirrels...well, they'd been eaten.

Cadence working on a puzzle.  She was pretty upset with me for introducing her to such a frustrating endeavor.
Around all of that, we had some pretty fun outdoor adventures, too.  At our settled exploration with the 4-H club, the weather was just right for some good river stomping.  A whole gaggle of kids ranging from roughly 1 to roughly 10 worked together to find as many clam shells as they could in & around the shoreline.  By the time the bucket owner's mom called her home and the endeavor was ended, they had filled the thing about halfway - and it wasn't a small bucket. After most everyone else had left, these three found walking sticks and went for a wet, in-the-water 'hike'.

One of the older kids caught some fish with a bucket and brought it over to show the younger kids 

Shell gatherers at work

close up of the shells after they dumped them out of the bucket

Adventurin'!

Also this week, we attended a block party and got to meet a ton of local families.  The neighborhood kids all bonded in the bounce-house while the grown ups chatted around tables full of homemade goodies, and once the sun went down (and the truck took the bounce house away) everyone gathered for a little bon fire in the street.  Someone broke out some sparklers and small fireworks, and the kids had a blast exploring the brief, volatile nature of the flames.

Hazel manages to look serene even while bouncing.

Callie Bounces! and Cadence does her best not to land on her new friend...

fireworks

Not bad for a week that also saw the first illness of the new academic year - a nasty head cold that hit hard and fast, which the kids have pretty much beaten at this point, but my poor asthmatic lungs always take weeks to recover following respiratory bugs.

Here's to another busy week!
Pyrotechnics








Tuesday, September 16, 2014

We question our existence, our anger, our everything

So many poetic words burn through her head as she frantically looses the flood of feeling that she expertly dodges during the torrent of the day, but now the gates are down and the raging force is free, leaving her staring into oblivion without an understanding of the power of her words, her fingers fly across the keyboard but can't touch even a drop of the depth of the feeling that was dwelling in the hollow of her chest just moments ago when she let the sound keen, the faraway unimaginable depths momentarily connected to a sticky spot in her lungs where breath wasn't yet born but was destined to  carry the weight of connection, rejection, heartache, love and wonder, and yet even that is but a drop of the arch of what IS and there is no way her fingers can even begin to trace the line left behind by the shadow of the thing that she is chasing, but she isn't chasing anything, just feeling, just trying to stop doing and just be, just being, just living, just breathing just...