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Kirsten Palladino

LGBT, News

Georgia Governor to Veto Anti-LGBT Bill

Breaking-News-Out-Of-GA

 

Gov. Nathan Deal said he will veto the “religious liberty” bill that placed the rights of anti-LGBT people above LGBT citizens in Georgia.

The measure “doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people,” the governor said Monday.

“Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it would allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment,” he said.

Continued on equallywed.com

featured, healing, recovery

Thanksgiving through the years: an attempt at gratitude after a loss

thanksgiving

Every year, Thanksgiving gets a little sadder for me. All holidays do. I was born into a small family—a mother who is an only child, a father whose only sibling lives in another state, and one brother. Growing up in Athens, Ga., was a lesson in Spartan familial ties and my brother—older by 18 months—and I were fiercely close (sometimes we fought like angry rams but there was nothing we wouldn’t do for each other).

20131128-121708.jpg George and I became even closer after our parents divorced when I was 8, but there was so much we didn’t know how to talk to each other about: my mother’s increased nightly consumption of glass jugs of Carlo Rossi merlot and incessant sucking on menthol cigarettes; her live-in boyfriend freshly sprung from the county jail who filled our apartment with billowing clouds of marijuana smoke; the Playboy my dad awkwardly bought for my 10-year-old brother at the airport on our first Christmas trip without all four of us together (OK, maybe that was just awkward for me); the sexual assault I endured from a family friend; the chronic gang rapes I survived in high school (which started on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 28, in 1992 and ended in December 1993); and the strain of going back and forth between two parents’ houses, knowing somewhere deep down that we were loved, but the parental watchtower we desperately needed was sorely absent.

During this tumultuous period, George and I clung more to our friends than we did to each other, growing further apart after high school when I came out as a lesbian (he had married a devout Billy Graham follower and his slight societal discomfort with homosexuality leapt into a new dimension of hate when fueled by his then-pregnant wife’s disdain for me bringing my girlfriend around their expected child).

But we reunited, George and me. I wrote him a letter after a year of not speaking telling him that I missed him terribly. And so he called me. And that was it. We’ve been thick as thieves ever since. It really helped that he finally got a divorce. He called me a week before Thanksgiving in 2004 to tell me he and his wife were splitting up—their two children would stay with her and he had to move out over the holiday.

I trucked on down to Florida where he was living, and we spent Thanksgiving moving what little he was allowed to take from their condo into his new apartment. Then we went to Denny’s, one of the few eating establishments open to a couple of college-aged kids in soccer shorts and T-shirts, and had our Thanksgiving dinner—a cheese-and-veggie omelet for me, and Moons Over My Hammy for him.

George’s life was maddeningly heartbreaking after the split. His wife moved the children to Georgia, and he drove the 6-hour trip every other weekend to be with them. But he was a dedicated father and didn’t miss a legally afforded opportunity to see his son and daughter. We spent most of our Thanksgivings together when he was in town, especially with the children. Our grandmother gathered us up at a French restaurant outside of Atlanta to spend the day together, but in the blurry midst of laughter and turkey, there was always a layer of regret and pain, whether it was because we were choosing to be with my mom’s side of the family and not my dad’s, or because my mom couldn’t go too long without saying something wildly inappropriate, or because we knew George was going to have to return his children in just a few short hours. There was always something unsavory under the surface that no one quite knew how to handle, but we stuck together because what other choice is there than to cling to the family you have, no matter how wacky?

We were going about this turn-style life with pleasantries mixed with oddness when out of the blue, my father suffered a massive heart attack on Oct. 3, 2008. He was 61. My father was my biggest cheerleader, never had a harsh word to say about anyone, was loved by so many, took fairly good care of himself and poof, he was gone. George called me to tell me. My chest caved in where my heart once was whole. Broken and in disbelief, my fiancé Maria, drove me to my hometown, to my father and stepmother’s home. All I remember about that day after we arrived is crumbling into my brother’s arms when he stepped out of his cherry red SUV from his longer road trip. He held me so strongly against his chest, and I still feel his arms around me. It is my mental safe place.

The following month, Maria and I decided to put on Thanksgiving for several of our family members, including my brother and my stepmother, who has since become my true mother, a jewel of a human being. Despite having lost our dad almost two months prior, we came together from a place of love and the onset of peace at this Thanksgiving. As hard as it was for me to get through even one sentence without crying, I still found an immense sense of strength from our togetherness.

The following March, my mother withdrew further into her incomprehensible cycle of sheer meanness, and announced that she wasn’t coming to my wedding in June 2009. Lest you think it had anything to do with my sexuality, you’re wrong. That’s probably the thing she likes most about me: I’m different, which gives her more fodder for church gossip. And I’m pretty sure she had a crush on Maria. Anyway, that Thanksgiving, Maria and I were welcomed with open arms by her family, chowing down on a Southern feast, but my heart ached knowing that my mom didn’t want anything to do with me and the only one who might be able to make me feel better about it—to remind me that I was a wanted child—was my father, who I could only hope was somewhere better than this earth.

By the time Thanksgiving 2010 rolled around, I was a massive woman, waddling like a mother duck because I was carrying twin boys. My grandmother insisted Maria and I come to Thanksgiving at the French restaurant and see my mother. “Only if my stepmom can come too,” I responded. I positioned her between us at the table, and we made it through with only the occasional odd remark from my bio mom whom I hadn’t conversed with in more than a year and a half. My brother had gone to his new girlfriend’s family Thanksgiving, and I wished hard that he could be there to slice the palpable tension with some of his gut-busting humor.

By Thanksgiving 2011, my mother and I were working harder toward mending our relationship, and we again met at the French restaurant, where my stepfather, grandmother, Maria, George, his children, his girlfriend, Maria and our children all gathered at a large table and focused all our energy on the children while George and I whispered little jokes under our breath about our nutty family when we walked to the bountiful carving stations of duck and turkey (not to be confused with turducken). George and I could crack each other up with just a look, and his jokes lessened the burden on almost all that was wrong with my family.

He was so perfectly uncle-like with Maria’s and my sons. This was their first Thanksgiving, and they, especially baby B, had melted in George’s arms like butter on a hot sweet potato. Baby B looks just like George did as a toddler, and their bond was apparent not just to me, but to the entire family. I’ve always known that I wanted to marry a woman and have children with a woman, and I’ve known all along that our children would thrive with two moms and no father. But I believe very strongly in having a dependable and loving male figure in my children’s lives. Watching George with our boys on Thanksgiving Day reassured me that even though we didn’t have my dad around, we had George. And I remember the distinct feeling of comfort that George would be around as my sons became men, demonstrating how to be a successful and generous man, just as he was. A man we all loved to be around, a man that didn’t seem to have one enemy—even his ex-girlfriends all seem to flutter at the mere mention of his name.
But the universe had other plans for George.

Last Thanksgiving, my brother stayed home alone with what he thought was a horrible stomach flu. He sent me a cheerful text, not wanting me to worry. The morning after, he called an ambulance because he knew something was terribly wrong. A day later, he was put into a 9-week medicinally induced coma. He never came out of the hospital, and 14 weeks later after all those ups and downs, surgery after surgery, tears shed and a few rare smiles, my brave, sweet brother passed peacefully in the night.

It is heartbreakingly difficult this Thanksgiving, a holiday we always tried to spend together. But I am working hard on feeling gratitude in the midst of my grief 9 months after George’s passing.

So on this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for two beautiful, tender and silly boys I’m blessed to call mine, a crazy-smart wife who caters to almost all my crazy whims, a stepmother who has gracefully and lovingly stepped into the role of motherhood for me when mine has fully abandoned me after threatening to kill me the day George died, a few precious rock star friends who keep me sane and make me feel special, a loving aunt and uncle who have taken me under their wing, and my own life for I am truly thankful to just be alive. It’s a heavy-hearted way of expressing my gratitude, I know. But some years just aren’t lighthearted, glistening with candy-puffed rainbows. But I hope and pray that 2014 is that way–for all of us still lucky to be here. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

cocktails, travel

Cocktail Class: Preserved Pimm’s Punch – VIDEO

preserved-pimms-punch-cocktail-how-to-videoThis Preserved Pimm’s Punch video made by Graham Case, mixologist of Blackberry Farm, caught my attention when researching the locale of Kelly Clarkson’s recent wedding. The Tennessee farm is at the top of my list of places in the South that I have yet to travel to, but plan on making my way there soonest.

The punch cocktail looks delicious, and the addition of Champagne at the end punches up the celebratory factor. I love that Case also explains the preservation process to get a summer favorite transitioned into fall.

Want to do more with your Pimm’s?

Try these Pimm’s recipes from ViewLondon.UK

Traditional Pimm’s No.1
Take one slice of orange, lemon, apple, cucumber per person and one sprig of mint and add to two parts lemonade to one part Pimm’s.

Turbo Pimm’s No.1
As above but five parts lemonade, two parts Pimm’s, one part gin.

English Passion Pimm’s No. 6
Take a shaker 2/3 full of ice and add 50 ml of Pimm’s No.6, 25 ml of Zubrowka vodka, flesh and juice of a passion fruit and a dash of sugar syrup. Shake well and strain into a tumbler full of ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint and two short straws.

Maximum Voltage Pimm’s No.6
Take a shaker 2/3 full of ice, 50 ml of Pimms No.6, 25 ml of  Zubrowka vodka (it offers an herbal taste) and 25 ml of Cointreau. Shake well and strain into a highball full of ice. Fill with soda water and garnish with mint. If mixing your own Pimm’s sounds too much like hard work, head to one of the many pubs and bars in London which serve up Pimm’s with a healthy dose of fruit, ice and garnished with a sprig of mint.

WATCH MIXOLOGIST GRAHAM CASE TEACH US HOW TO MAKE A PROPER PRESERVED PIMM’S PUNCH


featured, happiness, healing, twinspiration

Deep in the earth

I’ve finally realized as of late what really makes me happy in between crying jags over my lost brother is to have my fingers sunk deep in the earth or rapidly slicing something bright and green on my bamboo chopping block. What better combo is there then but gardening and cooking? It couldn’t have come at a better time, this realization: My mother-in-law, wife and I are in a serious weight-loss challenge (the first person to drop 20 pounds wins two $20 gift certificates to the store of her choice).

For Earth Day (but really for our own personal slice of happy home on earth), my wife and I spent the weekend judiciously selecting plants for planting, and then I turned around and made all sorts of fun (and surprisingly delicious) vegetarian meals.

On Sunday afternoon, my trusty helper and I got started.

kid-gardening

OK, truthfully, that was snapped during Leo’s nap and Mama’s quickie trip back to the gardening store for more potting soil. But we did plot out how exactly we’d rule our yard during this rare one-on-one time.

Once all four of us were properly suited up in our lesiure yard clothes, diapers were changed and the laborious snack routine finalized, we got started laying out all our plants, from the veggies we’ll hang our next three grocery bill bets on to the fig tree that might one day be our bread and butter to the citronella plant that will save Mama and Leo’s sensitive skin in the summertime from all those crazy skeeters who don’t have any use for Rocco’s and my German blood.

rosemary

Perhaps the most exciting plant for me is the rosemary bush, which takes me straight to heaven in a single whiff. I’ve no idea why though perhaps it’s the idyllic childhood I longed for–one wrapped up in homemade pasta sauces, filets and pastries instead of the tastes of Hamburger Helper and Kool-Aid still sourly burning the tongue attached to the latch-key kid I wish I weren’t. I think perhaps that’s what has me hell bent on providing my children with a true farm-to-table childhood, and I am thankful my wife feels the same way. She grew up privileged with a lemon tree always ripening for lemonade and limoncello in her grandparent’s backyard, a loving mother and doting grandmother cracking and cackling away at some feast in the kitchen for a dozen or more for there were always people wanting to come by and welcomed when they did.

 bell-pepper-bud-gardening

We planted among other things green bell peppers (pictured above), golden bell peppers and yippee-kai-yay jalapenos to spice up our salads. My love already has a healthy lettuce garden donating handfuls of greenery to our bowls almost nightly.

gardening-buddy

My son, forever dubbed “meatball” because he ate far more than his fair share in the twin beds he and and his brother took up residence in while in utero, aims the hose at whatever interests him. As soon as my hands entered the soil to get dirty and happy, I no longer had access to the camera. And that made me happy, too, since it was another step from removing myself from technology. Though I’m sad I haven’t got the proof of our joyful gardening afternoon, except this fabulous Celeste fig tree we potted, just in case we move, in which we’ve invested probably too many hopes and dreams.

celeste-fig-tree

However, I did go veggie crazy starting last week, preparing all sorts of scrumptious vegetarian delights (who knew barley made an excellent substitute for risotto?), and I bought an enormous collection of Swiss chard. I’m admittedly a Swiss chard virgin, and I didn’t really even know what I was looking for as I scanned the veggie section at my local grocery store. And before you nutty shop-local-or-you-get-the-stink-eye folks get up in arms, know that I must shop only in places that offer me and my twin toddlers a double-seated grocery cart. 

kale-leaf-knife

Today I skipped working during my sons’ nap for a chance to enjoy myself in the kitchen instead, slicing off the leaves of Swiss chard and prepping them for our vegetarian burritos tonight.

chard-rolled-sliced

I took full academic pleasure in learning how to slice Swiss chard, which, if you don’t know, you cut the leaf as close to the rib vein running down the middle, roll the leaf into a tight cigar and slice it from there.

vegetarian-burritos-black-beans-corn-slow-cooker

After my concoction of corn, black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes and Mexican seasoning simmered in the slow cooker for a hefty 4 hours, I chucked in the chard for 20 more minutes to let it wilt enough to be delicate to chomp through. I added the mixture to warmed wheat tortillas, heaped on the all-important sour cream, cilantro from our herb garden and some salsa verde and called it a night.

That’s what made me happy today. What about you?

the vivid life

I will not disappoint you, Henry David Thoreau

image

 

I’m trying to de-clutter my life, but it’s hard. One 360-degree glance around our home, and I see that it is filled with endless amounts of baby gear that I want to hold on to should we try for a third; books upon books ranging from topics of art, literature, cooking, romance, mystery, pregnancy, weddings, mythology and heaps of fiction; Leo and Rocco’s insane amount of toys that they adore; Maria’s art supplies and computer equipment from her 15-year career as a graphic designer and web developer; Barley, a sweet, devoted English creme golden retriever rescued from an Alabama harem where he served as chief stud; our aging crank of a cat who would probably prefer somewhere calmer rather than our home which, for him, has been turned into a race track as he is forced to burn kitty rubber to run away from Rocco’s sticky fingers and bouts of maniacal laughter as he chases him; an abundance of an eclectic mix of modern and antique furniture that Maria and I have acquired through our own purchases, but also inherited from grandparents who’ve passed; along with photographic time capsules of the life we’ve so richly enjoyed and of our dearest loved ones.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.  ~Confucius

My sense of what is “mine” in this world is heightened right now because Maria and I are moving George’s belongings out of his girlfriend’s condo today. Two days ago, we visited his  5×10 storage unit, and it was hauntingly sparse, mainly noticeable were the treasures he’d gathered from my father’s belongings after we lost him 4-and-a-half years ago, as well as all of his soccer memorabilia from his champion days as the star goalie of our high school soccer team. Try as I might, I couldn’t help but let out a little helpless gasp of hurt when gazing upon his small pile. After 36 years of life, this is what his life had been whittled down to in tangible belongings. But George wanted it that way. He was a real minimalist.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  ~Leonardo DaVinci

I’ve already spent a few hours at his girlfriend’s house just a week after he died so I could go sit in his closet and lovingly select some of the shirts I remember him wearing and have them made into a quilt. My stepmother did this for me with some of my dad’s shirts, having a small lap quilt made out of my father’s plaid and chambray button downs, with a thick navy border, and now his namesake, my son Rocco Bruce, sleeps with it every night. He insists on bringing it downstairs every morning, along with his owl madras quilt made just for him by his Mema, and his monkey dog, a stuffed animal that Maria insists is a monkey but we all know it’s a dog. Alongside George’s regularly worn shirts, he also had his lettermen’s jacket with all his prized patches from playing Varsity soccer, along with his yellow goalie shirt and his purple-and-black (so 90s) goalkeep shirt. His soccer coach, Greg Huberty, gave us all such a better memory in his eulogy at George’s funeral of how amazing George was on the field and protecting his goal. They called him “the terminator” and he saved almost every goal that was launched his way.

I spent some time going through George’s top dresser drawer, where he saved every important piece of paper. There wasn’t much because of his minimalism, but what he did hold onto touched me to my core: George had carefully preserved every single tangible item from my wedding, down to the menu and the cocktail napkins we served that read, “Eat. Drink. Get married. Kirsten and Maria. June 13, 2009” Equally heart-wrenching was the discovery of Tyler and Sarah’s baby teeth and the artwork they’d given to him over the years, with little love notes to their daddy.

George held onto what mattered to him and shed what didn’t. Thoreau’s wisdom is what George lived. His accounts were few, his relationships simple, his belongings minimal.

I have more social media and email accounts than I can remember, a few of my relationships are horribly complicated, and sometimes I worry I’m a beginner hoarder (not really, but deep down the fear is undeniable).

There’s no way I can (or shall I say desire to) live as simply as George or as Thoreau might be directing us all to, but I am trying to reduce what I have, buy less, close some email and social media accounts, continue to disengage with people who only bring about misery, concentrate on only what matters, and let all the needless frittering over silly, meaningless matters fall to the wayside.

The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

 

featured, relationships, the vivid life

Maintaining a marriage (a celebration of nine years together)

kirsten-and-maria

Nine years ago today, Maria and I became girlfriend and girlfriend. We’d been dating for about a month before she asked me to be hers. There was a fluttering feeling of little wings going crazy in my tummy as I tucked my chin ever so slightly and replied “yes” with a delighted grin on my face. Since that perfect moment, Maria and I have lived a jam-packed life loaded with all the extra toppings–some we ordered, some were extra, and some we wanted to send back. But we’ve taken it all and enjoyed almost every moment. I definitely haven’t been a perfect partner along the way, sometimes dipping down very low on the contribution ladder when it came to being the most romantic or giving. And I’ve had to learn a lot about compromise, more so in expecting it rather than me just compromising all of my own beliefs because I thought it had to be that way to keep a good relationship going. To be fair, Maria didn’t know when I was doing this. She just thought she had lucked up finding a woman who happened to believe everything she believed. In our nine years, I have come out more strongly in the last few years as more of my own person, owning who I am and what I think.

Along the way, I’ve also had to learn a lot about relationships in general. I didn’t have a fear of commitment, per se. I just took off when the going got rough. What was the point if we couldn’t get along every second? Those were my thoughts in my 20s. I didn’t know how to effectively discuss my feelings of agitation or to let Maria know she’d hurt me without acting out in a passive-aggressive way.

When we got married in 2009, my grandmother, who’d divorced her first husband before marrying my Papa, said with a very loving tone: “Good luck in your marriage, Kirsten. You haven’t had any good examples of a marriage actually working out. Everyone in your family has gotten a divorce, including me.”

And she was mostly right with the exception of my father’s third marriage, which lasted 17 years until his death, to my stepmother, Clare. They loved each other in abundance every day, and hardly ever disagreed. Theirs was a love affair I want to emulate.

But I also married a passionate Italian who possesses the confidence to get her feelings across and yet let me know that she loves me in abundance. Maria has taught me so much about what it is to maintain a relationship, to keep ours going. It’s not just about loving each other. We’ve got that down pat. It’s also about allowing ourselves to take time to fume over something that’s got one of us in a tizzy, to talk it over, and for our hearts to know that we can give it our all at all times because we know that the other one isn’t going anywhere. We must tend to the garden that is our relationship in order to have it continually bloom, and that we mustn’t abandon it or else weeds will grow.

As we’ve grown older and (hopefully) wiser, I feel like we’ve also grown with each other, like roots of two different plants, intertwined deep within the earth, and I love knowing that we’re together through anything life throws our way (and it has thrown some major curve balls).

I love Maria in abundance not just during our happy times, of which there are countless, but during the hard times as well. And you’re not going to be together for nine or more years without a difficult time coming at you hard at some point in your relationship. But I’ve learned that you have to work hard at making it feel easy, that when the going gets rough, you don’t just throw in the cards.

Happiness in a relationship, I’ve come to know, very much depends on what you’re willing to do once the honeymoon period is over. Because I’ve learned how to do the work–and so has Maria–I feel like we’re reaping those benefits tenfold now, and we’re riding high on a fluffy yet sturdy

Photo: Our Labor of Love

healing, quotes, twinspiration

Happiness in a glass

elderflower-cocktail

My wife and I have deep discussions about our passions all of the time and how we can best pursue them whilst changing our twin toddlers’ diapers, tempering temper tantrums (we have not mastered this new activity), maneuvering the constantly mounting piles of laundry (hey, at least it’s clean laundry), maintaining our tidy home, grocery shopping for the insanely huge and rapidly changing appetites of our 2-year-old sons, and somewhere along the way, fitting in sleep (which has been newly interrupted by one of our son’s curious fascination with screaming himself hoarse for no apparent reason like clockwork at 3:41 a.m.).

What are our passions? We’re artists who love to create, and we thrive on serving the under-served, which is why we launched Equally Wed, an online magazine covering gay and lesbian weddings. And we’re currently raising funds to launch Equally Family, an online resource for LGBTQ parents.

But we have to get outside sometimes, too, especially with the approach of warmer weather. Maria and I both love working outdoors, her building and me, well, not so much working but I’m willing to hammer a few nails if the end result is that I can relax on a deck with a cocktail in my hand, taking in the greenery amidst the wafting scent of freshly cut mint from my drink, Kindle in hand and my children nicely taking turns on our little toddler playground we just installed for their birthday.

It’s not necessarily the effect of alcohol in my system that brings me happiness. It’s the concoction of the cocktail: the art of slicing the cucumbers, the snipping of the fresh mint, the expert popping of the champagne cork, the adding of crushed ice (oh, how I love crushed ice), the pouring of bubbly, the layering of thinly sliced crisp cucumber and  aromatic mint, and topped with St-Germain, a delightful elderflower liqueur that instantly brings to mind bicycling in the Alps, a lung-clearing air-fresh exercise for the body and soul. It is the enjoyment of the process that delivers me from any dull or dark thoughts that might be looming around in my brain. That’s how I find happiness in a glass.

Photo: Zested