Tag Archives: Marriage

Painting Pittsburgh

by Kate

Saturday was the seventh annual Lawrenceville Artists’ Studio Tour in my neighborhood.

The Studio Tour is a great chance to walk down familiar streets and open doors into houses full of painters, potters, metalworkers, sculptors, and weavers. Of course this is precisely the point of the tour. It is amazing to realize the vitality of the art community living and working in Lawrenceville. It is also fascinating to see what these people are doing with the spaces they inhabit. I particularly wanted Casey to see the studio of the painter Ron Donoughe. The space is worth seeing- his studio takes up the entire second floor of a huge brick building on Butler Street. A tightly winding staircase opens into a space full of scaffolding and light. The air feels alive with history.

Layers of wallpaper from the past hundred years are preserved next to exposed brick.

I think it is a beautiful studio.

I wanted Casey to see the space, but I also really wanted him to see the paintings.

I love them.

They are strong and striking and capture the past and present Pittsburgh so powerfully.

I am glad his work is out there.

Actually I am glad to know that he is working right here, around the corner from me, only a couple blocks away.

I am grateful to Ron Donoughe and the artists of Lawrenceville for welcoming the public in for an intimate glimpse of studio space and creative process.

I am also grateful to my long suffering husband for reluctantly accompanying me on my artistic adventure. He would like me to document the fact that he does, indeed “do things like this” with me. Here he is, looking artistically glum.

I am pretty sure his reluctance was due in part to the fact that after the Studio Tour, the rest of the day included hauling me and my harp to play for a wedding reception, taking care of the baby, then waiting until I applied false eyelashes and finally picking up the baby in one arm and a drum in the other and playing Drum Solo for me at a bellydance show that night. The solo actually turned into more of a duet with Olympia, but that’s another story. Casey is an amazing husband, is what I am trying to say.

If you are interested in seeing more of the work of Ron Donoughe- and you should be, because it is great stuff- check out his website here:


And don’t forget that history and mystery and beauty and great art are often just around the corner.

Letter to my Brother Rob

by Mary

In the days of childhood, the sky was the limit for our games. Ever the builder, Rob lead us troops (ie) Pat, Raph and I on a hang glider making kick. We used old black plastic and sticks to create homemade gliders that we tested out off our barns roof into the manure pile. Needless to say, this project panned out to be a dangerous disaster, but many other games of self innovation followed suite, generally either set in midwood or in one of Robert’s many elaborate tree houses. Often times we could be spotted with knives, hatchets, and wearing our full indian costumes that my mother made for each of her middle children.

Later on, these games were taken over by the game of basketball, which once again Rob choose and excelled at. Hundreds of hours were spent in the parking lot with a band of brothers, myself, and an orange ball. By high school there were no more imaginative games. In the summer we kids could be found at Rung Hollow swimming. What fun it was to plunge off the barge rope into the cool lake! Winter time provided my family the opportunity to watch my brother’s basketball games.  It was a gift for the household to be able to watch Rob develop as an athlete and to follow his teams ups and downs on long cold Wisconsin winter nights.

As the chronicle of our childhood and teenage years dissipated, Rob became a rambling man. His adventures initially took him south, and than on to Texas where he became a philosophical, two-stepping carpenter. For as long as my memory serves me, he always has had the ability to express logic to me in a way that presented sensibility (depending on my mood). It is no wonder that contingent to his wanderings, Rob applied himself to studying Philosophy and Theology. Of Robert’s theological musings, my favorite has been when he shares insights on the subject of virtue. Upon the quest to obtain knowledge on this principle, my brother packed his black nissan truck and moved to Steubenville Ohio. While studying at the University of Steubenville, he came upon virtue in the form of human flesh…Nicole Naugle.

Nicole is a devout and virtuous women. She has a carefree laugh and honest sincerity. Soon she and Rob will be embarking on the adventure of life as husband and wife.

As a virtual expression of sisterly sentiment, I would like to continue this post with some pictures that depict my brother Robert James Slattery.

Robert: A true chivalrous desperado in desperate need of a haircut.

Behind my fears and insecurities, I always knew that my big brother would protect me from getting hurt. He has always been able to extend a hand to help me up when I am down, or use it to protect me. He has man-handled my arab/shetland pony when she would buck me off faster than I could blink, and taken care of business to an Etrick victim:) 😦

P.S. I am going to tag on the addition of saying that I totally brought the genius of Wranglers into this household, he totally copies me by wearing wranglers, and doesn’t even know it!

Super sweet, super caring, that’s my big bro.

Rob and I do have our battles-we still fight over Mom.


Fortunately, he has found a good woman who exhibits similar qualities to that of my mother.

I have this theory that siblings who are closest in age fight the most and also the most protective of one another. That’s certainly the case with us two. One thing of more of a trivial nature is the disdain I feel towards some horrid shirts that he likes to wear. He really truly sincerely thinks that this worse- than -awful dream shirt, for a 80 year old retiree on a golf coarse in Florida, is GREAT. I should add that he has been wearing it since he was an 18 year old with peroxide blonde hair. Yikes!http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-sf2p/v334/91/114/506091306/n506091306_1226391_7996.jpg?dl=1

I can’t produce a blog post on my brother without mentioning that he has a lot more people then his little sister valuing his company. Rob is a natural leader and has a plethora of friends. As a matter of fact, for the last 2 remaining weeks of his life as an unmarried man, he had 2 friends fly to Wisconsin to spend time with him, followed by a drive to Texas with a slew of guys to farther celebrate his time as a bachelor. The way I put it to my sister Kate was ” gosh, it’s like he is dying of cancer of something…the way those guys are hovering around him!”
Leave it to that popular brother of mine.


Dear Brother Of Mine,
Though the world is a harsh place, and it is especially difficult on men trying to live in this world as a catholic spouse, father and provider, I have no doubt that you will whether all Wisconsin and Worldly storms, and be victorious as a the man and provider God calling you to be. Just get out in the storm and fight with VIRTUE!


Love forever,
your stubborn little sister,



This morning is cold with the threat of snow, though the grass is greener after a thunderstorm last night. Hail fell from the sky rattling and clattering onto city streets and battering the rush hour traffic as I watched from the window of a cafe. It looked like a sky full of ice-hens had laid frozen eggs in the clouds and the whole eerie enchanted crop had fallen to earth. I wonder how my gambled patch of early greens fared through the hailstorm and cold snap. I take comfort in the parable of the Biblical sower, who seemed to have classic farmer style disastrous luck what with all the brambles and rocky ground and weeds choking out most of his crop. I can’t possibly do worse than that with my garden this year.

On mornings such as these it is clear that spring still has a tenuous grip upon the world. I am grateful for the radiator hissing and humming beside me, pulsating with the kind of heat that comforts the soul of a girl raised with a roaring wood stove. I remember visiting friends with forced air and baseboard heating in the midst of a Wisconsin winter and shivering, wondering where the warmth came from and why there wasn’t more of it. It gave me a strangely lonely sensation.

On the topic of parables, I have been thinking about wood stoves lately, and love, and marriage. I recently read a piece by my good friend at Little Bird Songs discussing the thrill of romance and the roaring flames of passion vs the lasting hearth fire of domesticity and marriage. I was struck by the image of the hearth fire. My parents, after 32 years of marriage and 9 children, are very much in love. I often attribute this to the fact that after marrying they moved to an old farmhouse with five foster kids, then began to produce nine children of their own. As a result they have not had a chance to tire of each other in any way, and in a sense have maintained a perpetual honeymoon delight in each others company. However, after reading about the hearth fire and considering the matter, I began to think about my mother kindling the stove. Every morning from early fall to late spring my mother, who is not a morning person, wakes up to a cold house, bundles up in a thick robe, and heads downstairs in the dark to search for the dull embers buried under the ashes of the previous night. She gathers twisted paper and dry wood and begins to carefully rebuild the fire. Sometimes the wood is wet and the house remains cold and gloomy for hours, and sometimes the fire leaps brightly almost at once, but all winter long that fire provides heat and warmth to our entire household, and every single morning it must be rebuilt.

The parable of kindling is important to me, as someone fairly newlywed, because it reminds me that it takes work to blow life into sleeping embers and sustain the fire and thrills of marriage. It also inspires me as an artist to remember that to begin again each day is essential, and also that to begin each day is possible.

Dancing with my baby.


I thought that I would have to stop dancing after I had children. I didn’t begin dancing seriously till my mid twenties, after my mother told me to stop bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have dance lessons as a child and just take some classes. She grew up on a farm too, she told me, and she didn’t start dancing till college. I remember watching her point her toes and stretch on the living room floor in the midst of children, and I used to play dress up with her old ballet slippers and Spanish gypsy costumes as a little girl. I was fascinated by her stories of dancing Wade in the Water in a long white dress with a parasol in a modern dance production directed by a seminarian inspired by the Alvin Ailey company.

Realizing that my mom didn’t begin dancing till college helped inspire me to begin dancing at the advanced age of 26. On the other hand, it was clear to me as the oldest of nine kids on a ridgetop far from town that dance class was not going to be a part of my mom’s life again any time soon. She was completely at peace with that fact, and I know that the dance and theatre and basketball and teaching she did before getting married helped make her so joyful and at peace with her vocation as a mother. I assumed that my life would follow the same pattern in a way- I would have my adventures, then begin the adventure of married life and children, without dance class.

I took as many dance classes as I could in the years before I married, trying to learn as much as possible before I had to stop. After moving to Pittsburgh as a newlywed newly pregnant and newly exhausted bride, my husband pushed me to get up off the couch where I was lying in a crumpled heap of self pity and just take a dance class. I returned from class with a renewed level of energy, hope, and joyfulness. Going to class every week helped me settle into this city, into my body, into my marriage.

Just as I was surprised to find myself living in a city, I was surprised to find myself dancing more after becoming a wife and mother. I began teaching in my second trimester, and taught till two weeks before Olympia was born. There is a Turkish restaurant and performance space down the hill and around the corner five minutes from my house, where I have been able to work with incredible women teaching, studying, and performing bellydance. I am so grateful to be involved in a dance community that welcomes and supports women as mothers.

I have begun to realize that we all have different paths, and that right now it is possible for me to be a mother and a wife and a dancer. We’ll see what happens if I have nine kids, but I’m not moving to the farm any time soon. In the meantime I’ll be at dance class, half the time crossing the floor with a baby in my arms.

Loretta and Joe


On my way back from the library this morning I saw Loretta and Joe, a couple in their 80’s who are frequently walking arm and arm through the neighborhood. Today is soft and cool, with wet black boughs against a grey sky and the promise of more rain soon to soften the soil. Loretta and Joe wore windbreakers in shades of purple- his softer, hers brighter- and he carried a dapper black and white umbrella. Her arm was in his, and he steadied her as they made their way. They live at the top of the hill at Canterbury Place, a beautiful building that marries a hundred year old Episcopal Home and former orphanage with modern architecture and a sky high floor of glass walls with gas fireplaces and a spectacular view of the downtown.

Every other week I bundle the baby into her sling and halfway run up the hill, since I am almost late, to teach Gentle Stretch at Canterbury Place. There are a wide range of residents, some with Alzheimers and some in need of intensive care, but I teach a group of genteel elderly persons who are always thrilled to see me, mostly because I come bearing the baby. We spend half an hour reaching for the ceiling and swimming through invisible waves, rolling our shoulders and pointing our toes. After six months the regulars are surprisingly limber, which goes to show that it is never to late to stretch ourselves, but the real draw is clearly Olympia. She has been coming since she was a month old, and now on the cusp of a year, on the verge of walking, she is able to wave and coo and holler to express her delight in the roomful of adoring grandparents.

Loretta and Joe joined the group just after Christmas. They are white haired, lean, and have come to resemble each other in the way that long married couples often do. They are the only couple in the class, and so I have watched them closely. Loretta is blind in one blue eye, and at first she seemed vulnerable and confused. Joe is protective, one arm curved around her often, both eyes on her and ready to offer an explanation or a brief smile. Lately she is smiling more, and as the snow thaws and the spring slowly softens the edges of the world I have seen them walking together more and more. Joe told me that they used to walk all over the city- once taking an afternoon and covering twenty miles in one day. As the days lengthen, they plan to slowly lengthen their walks through this neighborhood.

Watching Loretta and Joe disappear down the hill , her hand on his arm and his body protecting hers, it is clear that the fact that they are still twined together is what strengthens them both, allowing them to stretch and explore the beauty of this world, even as their frailty increases. I am so grateful for my old people, and they way that they have taught me to stretch my conceptions of aging, marriage, and living.