Category Archives: Listen To Your Mother

LTYM Paean

Listen to Your Mother Chicago was over two weeks ago, and the national program ended this past weekend.

I find myself struggling to put into words all that this experience meant, from auditioning a year ago (read all about that here), to not making it, to seeing the show last year, to redoubling my efforts this year, to auditioning again, making the cast, rehearsing, and finally putting on this show on May 7.

The only words I feel are close to adequate are “life-changing.” Anything beyond that is like trying to paint the wind.

I wish I were a composer or a painter or a sculptor because it all seems too big for the words I have right now. Or maybe I just need to grow my words, using time and distance to nurture and tend to them.

Someday, the words will come.

For now, I have tremendous gratitude and awe. My thanks to Ann Imig, founder of LTYM, to Tracey Becker and Melisa Wells for cradling the Chicago baby and for providing a home for our stories, to my castmates and new friends who walked this journey with me, to all the storytellers in the last few years for blazing a safe, beautiful trail, and to everyone who listened to these stories.

I also have a sweet new LTYM coffee mug.

Until my words catch up with my heart, I leave you with a few pictures, which were taken by the amazing Brandi Lee of Balee Images.

It’s OK to Say You’re a Mother

The first piece of advice I got when I moved my career into the arts was “Don’t tell people you’re a mother.”  You’ll be considered one giant, boring, mockable stereotype. You won’t be considered for as many projects. It will be assumed that motherhood is your entire frame of reference.

I know this is not everyone’s experience, but I have bumped up against a lot of that — not only in the arts, but in the writing world, and in life.

As a culture, we laud motherhood. We narrow our eyes at mothering.

We are so much more than that one part of our lives, but nothing else we are is as all-encompassing,  rewarding, demanding, scary, promising, heartbreaking, joyful, or fraught as being mothers.

For those of us who gaze at our maternal navels, it’s the push-pull of it all. The messaging – internal and external – about motherhood is replete with contradictions. And if we spend too much time trying to sort it out (after all, the stakes are pretty high) the message is that we’re self-absorbed, that we’ve turned parenting into a gross religion.

In a desperate attempt to understand what is baseline normal (Psych! No such thing!), it can get competitive, or, worse, lonely. Too often in the writing world, motherhood is infantilized and considered a cute niche. We’re called “mommy bloggers” for heaven’s sake, a term that while not necessarily insulting, does not feel overburdened with respect.

That’s where Listen to Your Mother swoops in to save the day with a holy “Yes! Me, too!”

We’ve sloughed off the memes about yoga pants and chardonnay, and we’ve gotten raw and real about motherhood.

LTYM offers up personal stories about motherhood read by the authors. Our stories are our hearts laid bare. What is shared is real, tender, strong, heartbreaking, and hilarious. No one shies away from diving into the depths of motherhood, where we can be afraid and strong, direct and arch, vulnerable and impenetrable.

If there is a golden thread that runs through it all, it seems to me that we are cracked open and then put back together over and over again by motherhood. Being put back together isn’t the same as being made whole, though. Often there are rough places and beautiful fissures held together by sheer will and love.

This past Sunday, we had our final rehearsal for the Chicago show. I was honored to again hear the stories that reached in and stripped me completely and the stories that wrapped around me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. The stories that made me laugh and cry. The stories of our feet of clay and shoulders of steel. I don’t cry easily, but I cried the tears of being overwhelmed and the tears of being emptied – the tears of motherhood.

The stories are beautiful, belonging to the storytellers and gifted to the rest of us. I hope you will give this gift to yourself and to your loved ones.

And you will want to shout to the world, “I’m a mother*, too!”

For more information about Listen to Your Mother, or to purchase tickets, please click here.

*or “I’m a mother-figure!” or “I have a mother!” or simply “Hooray!”

Monopoly, pivot, pivot!

“For Pete’s sake, Eunice, cheer up.”

We were not much of a board game family growing up. Oh, occasionally we’d pull out Pictionary or Scrabble, but more often than not, “family down time” was for individual pursuits, most likely all of us reading somewhere in the same house. Board games were usually like this:

 

Didn’t stop us from trying every six months or so. Almost always on vacation. Almost always not worth it.

So when my children ask to play a game –always when I’m feeling complete eviscerated by life, always when I’m exhausted, and always Monopoly – I groan.

Inwardly, I mean, because I usually say, “Ok.” If I’m lucky, I can put it off until some unspecified “later” – they always claim it, though. On rare days, they forget they asked me and get caught up in other things. That right there is the magic of parenting.

Usually, though, we play and it’s tedious and we practice counting (when they’re little) and strategy (when they’re big) and still there are winners and losers. I love the bonding time, I don’t like that I have to roll dice or gather play money or keep someone from chewing on little plastic pieces to get to the good stuff – the little life lessons, the small moments, the catching my kid trying to steal money from the bank. That kind of good stuff.

And sometimes there’s no good stuff. There is only the game and indulging the kids in a lot of what they want to do.

Board games. Bored games. BORED games.

When my husband and I were dating, he pulled out a board game – perhaps trivial pursuit, but I can’t be sure– and I honestly thought it was going to end our relationship because I thought I would die from the tedium of it.

Board games are the equivalent of square dancing: structured, rule-based, and involving at least one person stomping every few minutes.

Fun fact #1: We had three weeks of square dancing in 6th grade gym class.

Fun fact #2: I was one hell of a square dancer in 6th grade gym class.

Fun fact #3: I’m not proud of fun fact #2, but it’s a source of endless amusement for pretty much everyone but me.

I have yet to see a board game bring out the best in anyone, except for perhaps for latent competitive streaks and/or the best pout. (Mine is the best pout, btw.)

And this is the sort of thought that tickles at my mind when I’m not busy trying to work or be a better human or help my fellow Earth travelers. Banal thoughts like: Ddoes it mean something that I don’t like board games? Do I suck? Am I overthinking this? Am I completely un-fun? All of these can and will, of course, be answered by reading online comments on any article about parenting.

Because I lead a very interesting life, I’ve had conversations with people about board games, during which I tend to mention that they’re not my favorite activity. This usually prompts the listener to chime in “I LOVE BOARD GAMES!” (And it’s always Monopoly.) And they seem honestly troubled that I don’t. So, I go back to safer topics like circumcision or politics.

SORRY!

You know who doesn’t get tied up in knots about things like that? J.K. Rowling. She really cuts through the crap. Or she just gets rid of it by flinging it at appropriate targets.  I like that about her. I think we’d get along brilliantly. I hope she’s an introvert. Then we could hang out,  have meaningful conversations, not play board games, and trade good books every once in awhile.

Or, better, we could do this:

Pivot with me now:

There was a time I carried my Franklin Planner around with me. I don’t anymore, mostly because people kept thinking it was a bible and wanting to pray with me while I was trying to schedule things like dental appointments and leg shaving, which felt awfully sacrilegious. Also, I don’t carry a Bible around with me.

I still use my Franklin Planner for day-to-day stuff; however, for creative/writing scheduling, I am still using my Bullet Journal.

Maybe by 2018 I’ll consolidate everything into one BuJo (Look at me with the lingo). I will never convert to an electronic calendar system completely. DH and I coordinate that way, but that’s for the benefit of on-the-go scheduling, a sort of “who is able to do this other thing with the kids?” convenience. I’m not a technophobe, but I’m also the type of person who puts post-it notes on her phone. Like literally. Not the virtual kind. And this is not a bad thing.

Pivot again –  something to chew on that’s not bite-sized or petite.

Pivot! (We’re dancing here, folks!) “Any work of art quickly reveals itself to be a linked system of problems

Pivot just because this makes me laugh:

Unrelated: I like Chekhov quite a lot. 

Last pivot:

This past weekend, I had my first rehearsal for LYTM, and I am excited to be getting to the next phase of it all.  I will write more about that later this week, but I hope you will catch one of the many LTYM shows across the country in the next few weeks. Check it out and see if you can find a show in your neck of the woods.

(Do woods have necks?)