Sunday, May 1, 2016

Today is LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER MILWAUKEE Show Day!



After I read in the Madison cast for LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, I knew I had to apply to bring LTYM to Milwaukee. Reading my words before an audience that day had me thinking of so much more that I had never envisioned for myself. That day six years ago forever altered the way I see who I am.

I wanted to be able to provide for others what LTYM had for me. I applied to bring LTYM to Milwaukee and when Milwaukee was given the show, I was thrilled.

And then I put my head in my hands.

How was I going to do this?
I've never done anything like this before.
What.Was.I.Thinking

I had never acted so strongly on an impulse in my life, but I knew that LTYM was a once in a lifetime chance to be part of something that would change my life and the lives of others: the ones reading, the ones producing, the ones in the audience, the sponsors, the families, so many relationships would become part of a community effort like LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER.

LTYM has grown to become my passion. We are four years running with LTYM in Milwaukee, and each year, I grow and learn. I think, I accomplish, I dig deep, and I am always in awe of what commitment to a community project like LTYM is able to do.

Over 100 producers and directors across North America, and now Canada have each taken their leap of faith into producing a LTYM show. Our casts across our cities this year number almost 500 readers.

Four years ago, when I asked myself what I had gotten myself into, I never thought this side of it: a labor of love, passion, relentless commitment and a tower of satisfaction built on the combined work of belief in our LTYM mission: To celebrate and validate the role of motherhood by giving it a microphone, in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor.

We empower through opportunity and we extend that support through financial contribution to local nonprofits by donating a portion of our show's ticket sales to support families in need. In total, our nationwide shows have raised over $80,000.00 to donate to non profit organizations.

Our 11 local storytellers today are fantastic!

We will be so proud of them and for them, when Milwaukee hears them today.

I am grateful to my co-producers Jennifer Gaskell and Rochelle Fritsch. Jenny is the inner workings of our show and Rochelle is the experienced voice who knows exactly how to move forward in any situation.

They have both made LTYM Milwaukee a beautifully crafted production.

We are thankful for our LTYM Alumni and their annual support of our shows.

We also are fortunate, to the MOON AND BACK, for our spouses and children and family and friends who sell tickets, stuff programs, escort our audience to their seats and unpack unload and carry and so much more that they do, because they know these shows are important to us.

And our most grateful than you to the founder and creator of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, Ann Imig. You've given thousands of women a moment to feel how much they contribute to our communities.

Our national team of Deb Rox, Melisa Wells, Stephanie Precourt, and Taya Johnson mentor us with support and wisdom, we are grateful for your encouragement and guidance.

And more than anything, thank you to our audience who come to see and hear. Thank you for giving your time to listen to the experience of motherhood.

Tickets for our show today are available at the door. We take the stage at 3PM at Alverno College's Pitman Theatre.

***

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Parenting, Panic, and the Boredom That Never Came


Twenty years ago at a summer work get-together, a woman made an announcement in the middle of our circle of lawn chairs. She had just had a baby, and I watched her get up from her chair, sweating glass of hard lemonade in her hand, without clearing her throat she stood and said, "I am so freakin' bored with this staying at home business that I cannot wait for my six weeks to end!"

Glasses clinked all around, and I, I pushed my chair a leeeeeeeeeeetle bit out of the circle because my reaction was this:

This is so hard
I can't be bored in between the panic and terror of keeping my baby alive
I want to cry because I'm not bored

I never took to parenting like that, with my feet hitting the floor. It's been so hard for me, all of it, from the first second of the labor and delivery through bringing them home and seeing that I was the ultimate guard at the gate of life and death for them.

My kids couldn't do anything without me. The weight, the fear, the responsibility, I would cry in between blow-out diaper changes, screaming baby baths (from both of us), health-mandated stroller walks, and trembling moments that I had not secured my infants into their baby bucket Graco car seat the way the free clinic at the police station had shown me.

I was a wreck. I prayed for boredom. Boredom would mean that I had this. When would it come? That feeling of being on automatic pilot and looking around for something to do. Because, for me, there was never not anything to do. Piles of laundry there, dishes spilling out of the dish rack, a refrigerator filled with expired foods but empty of fresh and healthy.

A friend at the time told me that I would learn about planning out my time and become more efficient at home if I worked part-time. So I applied at a garden center. It was 15 minutes from my house and I went in, filled out an application (no online 20 years ago... knotty-veined hands up if you remember applying for a job in person), and believe it or not I WAS HIRED before I put the cap back on their pen.

I could begin right away because they needed workers during the day. My mother was thrilled to watch our (hers and mine, as she saw it) new baby, and on a morning later that week, I went in to work at a warm, domed indoor garden center.

It was easy to get used to the meditative sounds of automatic sprinklers turning on at intervals. Every time I heard the soft hiss of spray, I breathed out sweet relaxation. The mist together with the sun-warmed air was a free oxygen facial. I liked it, I liked this job. Bonus would be a paycheck and I felt pretty damn good that day.

After I put in my four hour shift, I drove home, smiling. Happy. Feeling good. Parking the car and running up the stairs back home, I unlocked the door to a baby wailing for me. How long was he crying like that, so hard? I could see the lie on my mother's face despite her answer of, "He just started." His eyes were too puffy, too red, for "just now." To calm him down took a block of time. And soon it would be 4:00 and we had to eat, and the baths and laundry and groceries and mail and all of it had to be done. And I couldn't. It was too much.

My mother told me we would adjust, we could try again.

But I knew, no. I was already breathless in anticipation of another afternoon like this tomorrow. I called the garden center and told them I had made a mistake.

Next year might be better for me. They told me they'd keep my application on file.

That was 20 years ago. I never went back.

The boredom I wished for? It's never come.

I would blame myself for not being able to get a hang of this parenting thing. Wondering why some could do what I couldn't do. My therapist at the time told me to I could ask myself that question until I was blue in the face because the only answer that mattered is that I needed to do what kept me from losing my mind.

Since then, I've worked from home and have taken jobs with hours in the evening or weekends so my spouse can be home with our three. This is what helped me keep a grip on the spinning planet that surrounds me.

I know now that my personality is one where this role of mothering threw me into high alert. I've been hanging from the ceiling ever since that 1-2-3 push and this is my way. I can't scale back and I can't ohmmm my way into serene sighs. I'm a panter, a rabbit's-rate heart beater. I know that I'm fortunate that I've been able to patch together jobs enough to allow me to contribute. I know how lucky I am.

But realizing how statistically many women can't do what I'm able to do with snatching part time hours here and there, doesn't erase the negative self talk of thinking that not working is a reflection of inability or lack of competence.

I am proud of all of us, all that we do while mothering: the ones who work and take care of home and children. The ones who handle all that running a home requires. I am proud of all of us, because we get 24 hours and somehow we do 36 hours worth of work inside that timeframe.

We are amazing. And we need to look away from the scenarios that threaten to tell us otherwise. We are doing what is not easy. In the 20 years of parenting, I have not mastered anything. The boredom I sought, thinking it would show I had this thing figured out, has yet to show up at my door.

Every morning I wake up, and I know, today will be nothing like the one before, and the only boredom I've felt was this past summer when we rented Noah.

And it was then that I understood that woman from the party years ago. Because though I didn't have a hard lemonade in my hand I did have a Miller, and I felt that compulsion she must have had to confess the irrepressible. I stood up from my Costco lounger and without warning, had an announcement of my own to make:

"Jesus Mary Joseph I am so freakin' bored with this snake-slinging while trapped on a boat that I cannot wait for these two hours to end!"

I get you, Ms. Hard Lemonade. I get you.



* * *

Monday, April 25, 2016

Maybe... Splurge on That Babysitter


I have collections of the once upon a time thought of as perfect examples of child-rearing. Not just two or three sets but shelves of volumes numbered I-X of vintage parenting books filled with Teach-You-A-Lesson-Today- Child. Stories that will make you sh*t your pants with fright if you're a kid. Enticing illustrations set you up, and then before you know it you're assaulted with the 1950's era finger wagging if you do this, my child, you might just lose an eye or finger or be lost forever on a nature trail.

Though the titles were couched in "Suzy's Sunday" or "Johny Makes Jam" these stories might as well all been called "Here's What Will Happen To You If'n You Don't Behave."

I showcase these volumes front and center in the kid’s reading room downstairs. They’re harmless fun and give us all a good laugh.

Or so I thought.

Our house has a big kid in it, a teenager. He babysits for his younger brothers. One of these vintage books has a story in it about Joey, the little boy you see pictured above. Joey has a behavior problem, as children do.

Joey likes to sneak around and satisfy his curiosity when no ones around.

I found out one night that my oldest son used to read about Joey to my then sweet baby four-year-old-boy at the beginning of each babysitting session, like this:
Teen BrotherslashBabysitter: "One day, when Joey’s mom was gone and his big brother was in charge, Joey sneaked away and did sneaky things without telling his brother. That’s not a safe thing to do, is it? Do you know what happened to Joey?” [At this point, my heart seizes as I imagine my wide-eyed four-year-old baby chewing his fingernails to the nub when his brother gets to this part.]

Teen Continues: “Well, here’s what happened to Joey.”

And my teen babysitter presses THIS picture into my baby's face. Then he adds:

Teen: "That's not jelly on Joey, either."
---

Free is free when it doesn't cost you anything. Free is expensive when it comes with therapy bills for a little boy who would hide the jars of raspberry jam in the cupboard because the sight of them had him out cold on the kitchen floor. Suddenly the $8 an hour for a non-free babysitter didn't seem so outrageous.

I could've used that cautionary tale on free babysitting in my vintage collection.

* * *

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Faith and Belief: It Doesn't Make You a Fool - Submit Your Work to BlogHer



Six years ago, I submitted my writing to a call put out by BlogHer, the world's largest social media conference for women. I didn't think if I would win or not, what I had decided one morning was that if I didn't believe in my work, who would.

So with a deep breath, I submitted a story on life as a blogger, and then told myself to not think of it again.

I opened an email two months later at 7 a.m. telling me that my entry was chosen as one of ten submissions to be read aloud at the BlogHer Conference in San Diego. I remember screaming and shouting in front of the computer, "I did it, I did it!" There was no one around, but one person to hear it: me.

There had been 1700 entries, and what I had sent in was a combination of timing, relevancy, and something else: belief.

I wouldn't have read in front of the world's largest social media conference for women if I had not believed in my work.

That was six years ago. Since then, I have been chosen as VOTY (a voice of the year) four years running. But it was belief that got eyes on my work.

This year, I am taking another step forward: I have submitted a photo to a category of visual images, again with a call for work from BlogHer.

I have never done this before, I am not a photographer, I do not even dabble in photography and can't say that I've ever been in a community class. But I sent in a photo of my mother because I have belief that this moment captured has a story in its image. I have sent it in and I will not think about it again.

Except to hope.

I want YOU to have the same belief in your work. BlogHer has officially announced its call for submissions and published its nomination guidelines along with a deadline date of MAY 8 for this year's competition.

Believe in yourself, send in your work.

Send it in and know that you've done the most important part: saying yes to faith and belief.

And this does not make you a fool. It makes you a believer in yourself.

CLICK HERE FOR BLOGHER 2016 ENTRY SUBMISSION INFORMATION

* * * 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Blog Hop: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time



Every day of my life could start with, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

But today, I'll limit my story to something that is safe if my kids find it online.

It's time for another long-awaited and much yearned for on my end, blog hop, hosted by the creative master storyteller, Nancy Davis Kho of Midlife Mixtape.

Our theme: “It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time.”

***

Even when there's a few bills in my wallet, it's still never enough to cover all my needs. I like money.

My desire for money was solid by the time I was five years old. I think it was then that I began with my first thoughts of the day being how could I make some money today. I didn't want a pile of hundred dollar bills to swim through, I just wanted two dimes and a nickel: enough for a candy shopping spree at the corner grocery store.


I would think about money at breakfast, during school, at lunch, and again back home from school. At age 10-11-12, my chances of any money were slim.

But then I turned 13, and a woman who worked with my mother and had a baby asked if I. Could. Ever. Babysit.

Oh my precious jesus, YES. YES, I could ever babysit.
 
But my mother was wary:
 
Would there be other people home at the time?
 
Was a drifter uncle ever known to drop by?
 
Were there double locks on the doors?

How far away was the house from a police station?

While my mother was busy casing the joint, I was mentally spending the $1.25 per hour they'd be paying me.

At age 13, I had a young but quickly growing fashion addiction. This season, I needed sailor pants. A thin-rib sailor top would be next. Sandal platforms, of course, and with the dollars left over: a chiffon neck scarf. I needed this lady to like me and like me often.
 

The week I was set to babysit, my mother's friend called home to talk to me.
 
Lady: Have you watched children before?

Me: As the oldest of four, absolutely.

Lady: Are you able to change a diaper?

Me: In my sleep.

Lady: If our child cries, will you hold him until we get home?

Me: See these biceps? Only way to get these is holding children for the past decade.

Lady: Are you ok with the family dog?

Me: ….................................


Lady: Are you OK with a dog?

Me: ..............................


I couldn't answer. It's not that I don't like dogs - spoken in present tense - it's that they scare me out of my mind. They pick up some kind of scent from me that takes them back to a prehistoric state and it commands: terrorize, bark, jump, growl, crouch and growl, surprise attack and growl.


Lady: Hello? Are you OKAY with a dog?


Me: Yes.

I lied. I said yes I am Ok with dogs because dollar signs made it seem like a good idea at the time. I still cannot believe that for money I would say yes to being in an enclosure with a dog. The woman was astute enough to pick up on my chicken liver ESP and told me she'd put the dog outside before I got there.
 
He would be outside.

Ok, with this accommodation I would be able to honor my commitment, and on a Friday night at 6:30 PM, I was hired to watch her two year old. The woman came to pick me up after work and rushed me inside. She wrote down some things I had to do, along with a phone number, and then, she put her red-headed baby in a playpen and flew out the door to meet her husband.

She clicked the front door shut behind her and left. And it was me and her baby. He was definitely the easiest baby I had ever watched for money. Also the only baby. This was going to be so great.


Her son was in the playpen, content to stare at me and chew on his fingers. I was fine staring back at him from the sofa in front of him. She was supposed to be back home by 10, there were only 3.5 more hours left of something I did for free at home, staring at walls.

This could be all right. 


By the end of five minutes, I heard the click click click of toenails across a kitchen floor and coming in my direction.

I jumped up and grabbed the baby and began to move to the front door, walking backwards. Five seconds into the toenail tapping, the family dog was not outside but standing four yards in front of me. He lifted his jaw and began to bark, shaking drool all around like a sprinkler. Then he started with heavy breathing and head twitches and ran toward me and the only thing I could do with the adrenaline that had worked up inside me was jump on top of the end table in the corner with a baby in my arms.


“Get outta here!” I yelled and screamed at the dog. “Get outta here! You're supposed to be outside!”

Because dogs can understand human words.

I'm getting nothing. Like nothing even remotely close to comprehension from this dog.

 
The thing about babysitting is it's a job where you're the only one doing it. There is no one to help out or jump in if things don't work out. When you babysit, it's just you, and someone less capable than you.

And even if they're less capable than you, it doesn't diminish how VERY IMPORTANT this less competent person is to the person paying you to watch them.


I had to do something else to save us from this damn dog.


I talked to the beast.

I threw a pack of cigarettes left on the table at him.

I focused all my mental energy on having that dog jump through the window and run away.

I stood and screamed like an audience from a madhouse.


I just got stupid.
 

And I stayed stupid for the next three hours.


At the end of the night, the Dad is the one to walk in first, let's call him “Dan.” The first thing Dan sees is me sitting, legs tucked up, leaning against a wall on the end table with a sleeping baby in my arms and a family dog barking at some moon that no one sees. Dan does nothing more than look at me.

He calls his dog, he grabs him by the collar, he puts him in the yard. His wife enters, just steps behind Dan, and takes her baby from my arms. Dan is back inside and drives me home.

 
My only thoughts driving home, I did a lousy job.

Dan's only thoughts driving home, GD is there not a decent babysitter This unknown kid babysitter seemed like a good idea at the time.

The couple never called me back for more care. I went through that sailor fashion season without sailor pants top shoes and kerchief. But this whole experience raised some very good questions about me and how much I was willing to do for money. It put my financial pursuits in perspective.
 
 

You know what seemed like a good idea at the time after that?
Goodwill. I decided that the Goodwill fashion scene was a good idea for me.

 
* * *
For more tales of truth, on "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time," be sure to visit the funny funny people on this blog hop:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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