Saturday, January 7, 2017

INSIDE VOICE: Podcast Episode 38: Because 2017 Needs Reality Denial

My Christmas lights aren't coming down.

The tree is up and the ornaments still sit on its branches.

I am not going gently into this new year, and what helps me cling to the beauty of the season of this past holiday, shall remain. Times that brought light, magic, mirth.

Shared laughter. Oh my God, shared laughter.

Jennifer Scharf has put together a special edition holiday podcast from her series INSIDE VOICE. In this episode, funny women tell their funny holiday stories. If you want to stave off the year for awhile with me, give it a listen.

You'll like what you hear, and that begins with Jennifer's expert and stress-destroying vocal silkiness.

I hope to see you there, giving her podcast a listen. You'll recognize me, I'm the one wearing the wreath around her neck.

Adds timbre to my voice.

INSIDE VOICE: Podcast 38:Holiday Edition


Thursday, January 5, 2017


LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER MILWAUKEE is entering its final season. We will hold our fifth anniversary show on May 7, 2017, at Alverno College's Wehr Hall.

We are excited about the stories we will bring to Milwaukee's audience and trust me, you don't want to miss this last chance to see a LTYM show. Our shows are happening in 32 cities nationwide, and they are an experience in witnessing what looks to be ordinary lives are anything but, when told through the eyes of motherhood.

What we need is you in our audience. What we need for our show to happen, is YOU TO TELL YOUR STORY.

So get your stories ready because Milwaukee LTYM is excited to announce that we are now open for auditions for our Grand Finale Listen To Your Mother Show!

Auditions for our Grand Finale show are BY APPOINTMENT ONLY Saturday, January 28 at the East Side Library in Milwaukee, and Saturday, February 4, at the East Side Library in Milwaukee.

We will not be able to accommodate anyone without a scheduled audition time so please contact us for your time slot by emailing ltymmil at gmail dot com.

If you’re wondering what to audition with, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER MILWAUKEE is looking for a 3 to 5 minutes in length, original and non-fiction piece of what motherhood means to you.

We don’t look for tributes or “eulogies” but something that represents the diverse and expanse of motherhood – as long as motherhood is the focus of the piece. We welcome submissions from everyone, and you don’t have to be a mother, a parent, or a woman, to audition. We just want to hear what motherhood means to you.

For an idea of the pieces that work with a LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER SHOW, please view our LTYM youtube channel. There, you’ll find essays, poetry, prose on the heavy and the light on the theme of motherhood. As Ann Imig, creator and national director perfectly puts it, “LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER features live readings by local writers on the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood in celebration of Mother’s Day.”

What we hope you share with us is what motherhood means to you.

You don’t need to have stage or public speaking experience.

You do not need to be a professional writer.

You just need to have a story that is yours to tell.

Here’s an easy checklist on what LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER MILWAUKEE looks for when considering a piece for our shows:

*Motherhood is the star focus of your piece.
*Your story must be true, yours, and original. No fiction, please.
*Your piece cannot be longer than 5 minutes when read aloud, and shorter is better.
*Poetry is welcome!
*Your piece should not be memorized for this show. All scripts will be read on show day from a show binder.

If you’re *this close* to deciding whether to audition or not,  let us offer you some encouragement by watching the LTYM youtube channel. But please believe us, we want to hear your story!

Whether you decide to audition or not, be sure not to miss this final season of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER SHOWS.

Reserve your audition slot online by emailing the Milwaukee LTYM production team at ltymmil at gmail dot com.

And if telling a story isn’t your thing, but you happen to know someone who is perfect for this amazing opportunity, please share this audition information with them.

Follow us here for LTYM Milwaukee updates on our 2016 season, to include our local charity announcement, cast announcements, our wonderful sponsors, and details on our venue!

Come share your story with us, Milwaukee, and come Sunday, May 7, to our Grand Finale Show to hear your community’s stories!

Listen To Your Mother – a national series of original live readings shared locally on stages and globally via social media.”

Save the date! Sunday, May 7, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER MILWAUKEE’s Grand Finale Show!

We hope to see you there!

Your Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee Team,

Jen, Rochelle, and Alexandra
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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year Resolution #1: Swear Off WebMD

I swear this mole wasn't there when I went to bed last night.

I saw a small round brown spot on Auggie's back the other day. He was sitting at the table shirtless after his shower, a sight I know well since he gave up clothes at age two, and I noticed this dark, chocolate like syrupy dash. Almost like someone had started a comma on his back and decided on a semi colon instead.
Picture it? Please take a moment, and do, because you will see what I saw: irregular in shape. To those of us who take our whispered 3 a.m. health anxieties to our internet best friend WebMD, your stomach just dropped.
Because irregular in shape. On your kid's back. Where once before there was only the silken velvety blanket of unmarred skin.
Did I look at his back and think, Hmm. Freckle.?


I gulped in air, choked on my spit, then almost split my ribs open jumping over the kitchen stool to get to google so I could type in while grabbing water for my nervous cough:


And then, just to be sure, I entered "child" twice. So WebMD would understand the gravity.

Why do I do this?
Because I am a WebMD alarmist. Because years ago I believed their promise of being "an online publisher of news and information pertaining to human health and well-being." Ha, to me they have been anything but a disburser of information that led to health and well being. Why would I inform myself first and then panic last when it's much easier to panic first, and panic last? What's the use of assuming the tiny map of Madagascar on my son's shoulder blade is nothing when I can WebMD myself into a loss of 5 lbs from a liquid stomach instead?  That's the whole ugly mess right there.

I should know by now that WebMD does not teach a gentle lesson—its target audience is not the breathe relax breathe relax population. WebMD knows me better than I know myself. I am not the one who wants to know statistic probability. Because the numbers 1 in 13,000,000 chance means the Number 1 lands squarely in my house when it's given out.
I love the internet, at times, and googling is great, sometimes. Like when I'm looking for when a movie starts, or checking on the third round of renewals on a book I'm reading from the library. I depend on the internet but I do not want to lose my mind to the internet. So I have to break my online Doctor dependence—I want to go back to the land of let's ask the real life Doctor. I mean, what more proof do I need of this then when my kid starts coming to me, holding out a scratched finger, asking me to “Google it, Mama—it could be worse than a paper cut!”

I’m going to start listening to what my instincts are telling me, because WebMD never tells me anything good. They don't enter information that begins with, “Pshaw. You worry wart. It’s gonna be fine! No need for big toe amputation—just check for a pebble stuck in your shoe.”

WebMD must go from my life. Because unless I want my the days ahead of me imaginarily cut short because of a sensitive ingrown toenail, WebMD serves me no good. Everything I read, I remember, and this “oh my god!” with each twinge of pain I feel is going to kill me. And until the day WebMD begins with balanced coverage, say listing possible causes of back pain as “Bad Mattress” alongside “Spinal Degeneration”, I must stay off.

The voice I want to hear in my head from now on is not, “Heeeeeere’s your death!” but the reasonable one that says, “Take it easy, let’s see what time the Doctor's office opens tomorrow.”

I here, today in the first week of the year 2017, resolve to swear off WebMD. Not going on to that site is the only road back to a less anxious state in 2017. (as if 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 is going to be smooth sailing as it is *coughtrumpcough*)

I swear off all internet diagnoses. Promise.
Right after I find out about this new onset of upper right foot tenderness.
Oh, crap, it says here, "see lymph node nodule."
ETA: Auggie's mole: Upon the laying of hands on my precious child, my fingers slid across the fearsome spot, which was actually sloppy chocolate chip mixing during breakfast making on my part. xo  
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Friday, December 30, 2016

Today was My Mother's Birthday

There are pictures of me with my children, an unusual thing since it's mothers who take the pictures of their children and are seldom seen in the frame. The only reason I have a record of me learning how to mother these babies of mine, is because my mother was there to photograph it.

She would push me into the picture, "Get in, get in, or you will never see yourself with them." And with her 110 instamatic, she would click away, taking no less than three in case I had my eyes closed, or was looking away, or didn't like one of them.

I never knew what she was doing, but she did. She was freezing time. She knew then how fleeting our days are with our children being small. I didn't know that yet, I was drowning in two children less than two years apart, to even catch sight of shore.

But she knew, and she knew that one day, I would look at these photos of me, beaming while holding my baby up to the camera, and I would relive that time of uncertainty mixed with joy.

I miss my mother. She passed away three years ago, and when I look at pictures of me with my babies from then, both mother and child just starting with new lives, I know that I have these photos because of her.

I don't think I can make that point enough, that any pictures I have of me with my children when they were fresh, so young, are because of my mother.

Of course, I miss her voice, it grew tougher toward the end of her hospice care, but there was a rhythm to it when she said my name, that even writing about it now is impossible without a lump in my throat.

I miss her voice, I miss the way she knew me longer than anyone, I miss how to her, my children were the most beautiful creatures she had ever seen.

I took this photo here, calling out to my son and my mother, three weeks before she passed away. "Mama," I waved to her, "get in closer to Auggie." But she kept waving back to me instead. "Mi'ja," I remember her saying, "take a picture, so we have it."

I took three, in case there was one she didn't like.

The thing is, each one turned out just as beautiful as the other.

Happy birthday, mama, I miss you. 

Happy birthday always.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

One Last Look: Top Posts of 2016

It's good to see where you've been, so you know you can find your way back there again.

This year has left me tired. So tried, worn out, fatigued, and for awhile after November 8, I was beginning to get scared I wouldn't be able to find how to be creative again.

I was listening to the radio one morning, a show on Truman Capote, and the host casually dropped how Capote had "lost the art." I stopped what I was doing, and stood still. Without looking in the mirror, I knew my face said what I thought: the fear that this was happening to me too. That I couldn't write the way I used to.

I came downstairs, and sat down. I was going to try, after six weeks of doubt that was growing more powerful and convincing, I was going to try to write. The first post in almost wo months slowly began to take shape. It didn't pour out, there was labor, but also eventual delivery.

That post was "When the Mirror Isn't You" and it received over 20,000 views.

I didn't lose the art, whew, but I came close. Scared enough to learn that nothing begets nothing.
I have to write now, I will always have to write, and to turn to my old posts to witness evidence that I can do what I once did before.

It's good to see what you've done so you know you can do it again.

Thank you for your friendship now, and in the past. Thank you for reading and sharing your time with me.

And thank you for making these posts the top viewed posts of 2016.

1.) When The Mirror Isn't You
I wrote this as I thought of what kept me going after the election this year. It was the love that my preschool children have for me.

"But they can't tell because they don't see me with the tired eyes of time, of so many years spent on this earth. Their eyes, barely over a thousand days old.

I look from where I am, standing feet above them. I see eyes as clear as a winter night looking up to me. They shout over each other.

"Did you have marshmallows in your oatmeal today?"

"Did you remember to wear the same color socks again?"

"I hope your mom packed you a brownie today, like mine."

2.) Why Old Moms Tell New Moms To Enjoy Them While You Can
When I noticed how often I had to stop myself from telling the new moms I know to enjoy this challenging, crazy-making season of life known as early parenthood, I knew I had to write about what I was trying to say: it's not permanent even though it feels like it is.

M"y son and I lived a co-existence, one rightly filled with highs and lows. It was hard to tell where I left off and he began. At three years old, when I would ask him what he wanted for lunch, he'd answer, “What mama have!” I was submerged in motherhood during those days - loving him so, and at the same time, falling apart with the fear that things would always be this consuming."

3.) That One Time I Was Nature Mom
Don't lie. I know you tried it to: to be dye free, preservative free, plastic free, oh the heck with it, I just had to put their sandwich in a baggie once in a while.

"All natural, all chemical free, all healthy and wise and 100 percent in earnest.

Souvenirs of when I was Natural Mom. Natural mom , the one who wouldn't buy anything unless it had the word natural written all over the natural container in soybean-based ink at least five times. Seven if you count the back."

4.) To Remind Yourself To Breathe
When my second child graduated from high school, I hadn't had the time to steel myself, I was still reeling from the first child that had left for college the year before. With this one, I almost forgot to breathe the last day he walked out of the high school doors.

"You know what would help me with today? A new language. One that isn't slowed by the clumsy work of taking that which leaves us breathless and us, trying to give it volume."

5.) When Language is a Piece of You
What's happened, what is happening across our land? Why do we feel the things we value disappearing? I am devastated by it, but I can't give in to despair. I have to keep on voicing my protest, and so do you. It's the only way that we keep from disappearing.

"We can't lie about what we feel in our hearts. Our language is more than what we speak with our tongues. It's what we say from our souls. And I will forever have Spanish at the core, as the heat and the spark, as the bridge across the distance of where I came from."

6.) If Only Cher Had My Son
When I am blessed by the stars to see my children's hearts in action, I think about the things I did right along the way. The way my youngest has shown me patience, love, encouragement, you know, he listened to me somewhere in the time we've had together.

"Cher can't do math. It's hard for her when people give her a phone number and they go too fast. Our house number has eight digits in it, I keep it written down on a piece of paper in my purse inside pocket so when I go to the post office to pick up my mail, I can give the clerk the first two numbers in the right order."

7.) It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
This post was part of a blog hop, and the stories here from my friends are exactly the kind that leave you breathless from laughter. If you get the chance, click over and read a few.

"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 one day, a woman asked me if I could ever babysit."

8.) 7 Date Night Ideas That Failed Us
I fell for it. The magazines that promised they'd deliver on ways to spice up my life. All they left us with was tired, and falling asleep in front of Ancient Aliens.

"We have been married 20 years, and we are so due for a date night that we'd need six months at a monk's retreat to silence these buzzing brains from trying to balance life. With this not-dating guilt in mind, I decided to give Date Night a try after an article I saw as I flipped through a magazine while waiting to get my prescription for dry eye syndrome."

9.) Hello It's Me I Was Wondering If You Could Keep Adele From Being Happy
I am happy for Adele's successes, I am. But I'm not gonna lie: I could use a cathartic mournful ballad or two. I had no choice but to write her physician a letter, requesting cooperation.

"Have you seen Adele’s blog posts of late? Her most recent entry contains complete sentences ending with two and sometimes three exclamation points. Gone are the mournful, longing ellipses fragment of posts from 2011."

10.) I Never Make Decorating Mistakes
This one's easy, because I don't decorate. But when I saw a kitchen table that reached out to me, filling my heart and mind with visions of all five of us carving pumpkins around the table, I had to beg borrow find a way, to get that table into our kitchen.

"How hard can it be to not spend money?
Well, four minutes into the store visit and I was already love sick. My first furniture heartbreak and it was over not being able to think about leaving the store without what was in the first showroom. A dark, rich, reclaimed barn wood kitchen table with two black benches (how freakin' Laura Ingalls cute) alongside instead of clumsy chairs that were too hard for kids to push in. I wanted that table so much my neck was starting to itch."

I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I found life through writing them.

Here's to 2017, please know that together, we're going to make it.

Happy New Year, friends.

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