Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Moth GrandSLAMpionship Milwaukee

The Moth, founded in 1997, is a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. “New York’s hottest and hippest literary ticket.” -The Wall Street Journal

I am thrilled to compete in The Moth's GrandSLAM in Milwaukee on January 31, 2014.

Theme: Fish Out of Water
Friday, January 31st
Hosted by:
Christy Hall Watson

Stories by:
The Top Ten StorySLAM champs of the year

Turner Hall Ballroom
1040 N. 4th St.
6:00pm Doors Open
7:00pm Stories Begin
1040 N. 4th St.

The Milwaukee GrandSLAM Championship I The Moth presents the GrandSLAM, a battle of wits and words – fierce, hilarious, heartbreaking and all points between. Listen as ten StorySLAM champs tell tales of childish behavior, adventurous risks, shameful manners, and more. 

The Moth is dedicated to finding intriguing people to tell inspired stories. At The Moth StorySLAM, those people find us. On this night, using words as weapons, they compete to determine The Moth’s Milwaukee GrandSLAM Story Champion. 

Tickets available here and at the Pabst Box Office
Media sponsor: Wisconsin Public Radio
*Fingers crossed, send good vibes, wish me luck! Either way, crowned champ or not, I win because I love the chance to tell a story! Hope to see you there!
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Dream Shaman

photo credit: be_khe via photopin cc

As a little girl, one of the very first things I had to do when I woke up was to find my grandmother and tell her my dreams from the night.

Within her mind, my Abuela held the Field Guide to Dream Interpretation. She had it all up here.

My Abuela knew it all; the meaning behind the color of the dress you wore in your dream, or whether your hair was loose or pulled tight. You’d present the facts, she’d pose a few key questions back, and there you’d have it: what your subconscious was trying to tell you.

I’m lucky enough to still remember some of her interpretations and now it’s my children who come to the breakfast table and in between spoonfuls of Frosted Flakes, tell me about the mouse in their dream that tried to come in through the wall behind their bed.

I always begin with the first line of action: Information-Gathering.

Scene:   Breakfast table, children all around

Me: How'd you guys sleep last night? Any good dreams?

17 year old: Yeah. Good one. Mouse. Trying to get me.

Me: OMG. Was it a white mouse or a grey mouse? Or … BLACK?? This is important!

17 year old: ::slurp glorp:: ummmmmm …. black. no, wait. Grey.

Me: Never kid about the color!! Especially black!! Are you sure it was grey??? Are you SURE?

17 year old: ::guzzle swallow:: yup. Grey.

Me: For sure it was a mouse? Not a rat?

17 year old: ::gulp chew:: a mouse. For sure. Mouse.

Me: Was it scratching at the wall or did it come through the wall?

17 year old: ::crunch munch:: I could only hear him. But he was trying to get through. Definitely trying to get through.

Me: Oh my gosh. Trying to get through?? But he didn’t, right?

17 year old: ::smack lick:: nope. Never got through. But I could hear him.

Me: Were you scared? Do you remember feeling scared?

17 year old: ::pouring more juice:: oh. yeah. Scared for sure. My heart was pounding. I tried to call for you because I was so scared, I mouthed MOOOOOM! but nothing came out, I had no voice.

Me: You had no voice?? And you tried to call me? Oh my dear lord. This is worse than what I thought it would be!

17 year old: ::wiping mouth to go:: yeah. I remember feeling, I only wanted you, mom. Well, gotta go to school now.

Me: No. No. NO. Wait. Don’t you get it? YOU tried to call ME. It wasn’t about the mouse at all it was about you feeling you can’t reach me. That I don’t help you, that I’m not around. Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry. Let’s do something this weekend, okay? Just me and you. A movie? You want some new jeans? Let’s go have lunch, and then go to Best Buy. You want that new Call of Duty game, right?

17 year old: ::gets up to go:: Sounds good, mom. I love you. This Saturday, me and you. Gotta go now or I’ll be late. Can’t wait for this weekend.

My 17 year old kisses me good-bye and leaves. I smile, grateful that he remembers enough from his subconscious to share it with me.

I see him leave the kitchen but what I don’t get to see is him, passing his 15-year-old brother in the hallway. On the way out, he whispers to him, “Sorry. I was kinda foggy this morning so I pulled the silent *screaming for her* in my dream one today. I know you called that one last night, but you’ll have to use something else. How about the one where you look for her in every room of the house, but she’s not there?”

The brothers nod and highfive. The 15-year-old brother then walks into the kitchen, he says, "Oh. MOM. I was hoping you'd be here, I had an awful dream last night...  it was the one where I looked all over the house for you, but couldn't find you... it was AWFUL... all I remember feeling is I just couldn't find you..."

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Parenting 101, Thanks to the Movies

Last week, I went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with my teen son. What he saw and came away with, left my heart racing with the question, Had I done him right?

My epiphany here, via Purple Clover: What Walter Mitty Taught Me About Parenting.

*As always, I am grateful for your support of my writing elsewhere. You are my encouragement.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Listen To Your Mother Show Comes to Milwaukee!

Niki Darlin' from our 2013 LTYM cast

The Listen To Your Mother Show is coming to Milwaukee for its 2nd annual show!

The year 2014 brings 32 cities to Listen To Your Mother nationwide in a celebration of Mother’s Day. Milwaukee auditions are now open for our April 27, 2014 show at Alverno College’s Wehr Hall. We invite you to submit your piece for LTYM/Milwaukee as we seek the poignant, the bittersweet, the funny, the visceral, the timeless, all the real moments that make up what the word mothering means to you.

You don’t have to be a mother, you just need to bring your 5-minute original story, on the theme of motherhood.

Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee seeks a diverse group of readers for our collective live presentation. We are looking for people of all ages, gender, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Whether you are a mother or aren’t, we encourage you to share your story, by appointment only  (details below) and present your original 5-minute piece.

*Auditions will be held at the Bay Shore Center Community Room at Bay Shore Mall, from 9:00AM to 7:00PM, on Saturday, February 22, or from 9:00AM to 7PM on Sunday, February 23.

To audition, here’s what you need to know:
  1. Auditions are by appointment only (see details below). Time slots available are as listed above at Bayshore Center Community Room 5800 N. Bayshore Dr., Glendale, Wisc.
  2. Please arrive ready to read, with three copies of a 3 to 5 minute prepared original work, on an aspect of motherhood.
  3. Take a deep breath and tell yourself, yours is a story that needs to be heard.
To schedule an audition, or if you have questions or comments, please email ltymmil (at) gmail (dot) com or call 414-939-LTYM (5896).

--Want to know more about the type of  material we’re looking for?  See what a LTYM show is like on our LTYM youtube channel. We have over 500 videos for viewing on our Listen To Your Mother Youtube channel.
--If you’re talking yourself out of doing this because you’ve never done it before, read this encouraging post by LTYM-Spokane Producer/Director Stacey: A word on stage fright and storytelling. (Check back here often for show updates and cast announcements.)

We can’t wait to hear your amazing words, so come, speak your story OUT LOUD. Listen To Your Mother Shows, changing lives, building communities, and giving motherhood a stage. Don’t miss this chance to be part of something powerful.

We hope to hear from you!

Questions?? Leave them in the comments.

*For LTYM updates remember to like us on Facebook and follow @LTYMshow on Twitter. You may also want to subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.

Thank you for helping LTYM Give Motherhood A Microphone!

Jennifer Gaskell  and Alexandra Rosas ~ Listen To Your Mother/Milwaukee

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Blogging Bucket Lists - Getting on Huffington Post

I have a three-year-old Post-it note taped to the cabinets above my kitchen's pens pencils papers area. On it are sites that mentors have told me are good places to have my writing published. "Get yourself on Huffington Post," is something that was said to me more than once. And so, "Get yourself on Huffington Post" became an item on my blogging bucket list.

You know what's a good feeling? Checking off one of those items, especially when it's a big one.

I am thrilled to be published on Huffington Post . You can read it here .

If Huffington Post is on your bucket list, you can send them your submission in an email at and include the following:

Email with “Blog Submission from Your Name” in the subject line
1.) Your submission of 500-1000 words.  Put the text of your post into the body of the email. No documents or PDFs.
2.) Images with captions. Huffington Post loves images. Everything should be in the same email as an attached JPG. You need to own or secure the rights to use the images and give photo credit and a caption to accompany each image.
3.) Your head shot
4.) Your bio A brief paragraph of who you are and your accomplishments.

Everything should be sent in one email. HuffPo doesn't accept piece meal submissions.

Per Huffington Post: "Huffington Post looks for submissions that are intelligent, well-written and rooted in personal opinion or experience."

Good luck, and keep trying if you don't hear back the first time. Luck favors the numbers.
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Friday, January 17, 2014

How To Twitter

I was at the library with the 11 year old getting him books for a school project, How to Build a Diorama of Jamestown with 10 Popsicle Sticks, when I saw “How to Twitter” right there on the how-to-do-it shelf.

300 pages of how to do twitter.

I have been unaware that you do twitter. I was logging on and tweeting “I want 18 McGriddles for breakfast. #FoodChat! “

Turns out, you're supposed to “twitter with purpose.” I put the book on top of the “Dioaramas Your Teacher Will Love!” and checked it out.

Once home, it was impossible to decide what chapter gave me the most glee. Was it the Find Your Purpose on Twitter chapter. Or maybe, the Find Your Twitter Voice. But then there's Find Your Twitter Handle. But the most essential chapter is Chapter 4's checklist: How To Know You're Ready: Casting Your First Tweet. But first, you MUST answer the ultimate of twitcisions: How Do You Want To Sound On Twitter.

I was stunned. I'm to have a conscientious awareness of a twitter presence?

After you Find Out Why You Want To Say It (Chapter 7) and Find Out How You're Going To Say It (Chapter 4.5) you'll have the keys to the twitter world. You can then start *twittering.* Would that be like tweeting while quivering? I think so, because once you tweet you can find your... wait for it... flock.

To gather any birds you've had your eye on, follow this advice, “Want to start twittering with your flock, begin with this smooth pick up line: "What you just said is smart." *from the book's cheatsheet of what to say on twitter.

As they explain, flattery lures. They'll follow you back IF you tell them they're smart and have chosen your twitter background wisely (Chapter 2: Your twitter essence).

Here are some suggested beginning tweets: or “Get your tweet wet!” (they said it, not me):

--Hello there, twitter! I'm reading Twitter for Dummies! (I can't stand behind this. It's just cruel to throw someone to the dogs of twitter. I shudder to think what would happen to the poor virgin tweeter in some of those twitter neighborhoods if they throw this out as their first tweet. 200 therapy sessions and countless eye twitches later, never shall they utter the word twitter.)

--Just finished a breakfast of juice and eggs! Off to work! (how can you resist?)

--Wondering whether we'll get that much needed rain this summer. (Really. Reduced to talking about the weather.)

--What are you doing? (this one comes highly recommended by the authors for a *high engagement factor*)

--What are you wearing? (this just became more pervey than anything else)

If you want to dive right in and find that flock, then don't waste time on banality. Start tweeting facts on aardvarks if you just want aardvark lover followers. Talk about the length of the African aardvark's snout versus the Australian aardvark's snout and you have found your tweeple.

By the end of the book, the authors promise you'll be twittering four times a day in no time. So, "Quit your twitcrastination! (they are killing me) and become someone with twinfluence! Get on there and tweet -- it's the only way the twitterverse will ever call you one of the twitterati!"

Enchanting to read, yes, but the Real World of Twitter? Nope. Nary a nod to the things we see out there, the twittercides, the subtweets, the claims of twitter joke stealing. No tutorial on what to do with your feelings after you've been unfollowed or not followed back or blocked. Where's the section on if you wander into neighborhoods where a manual RT gets you blocked or a favorite but not a RT is the equivalent of crushing on you but not wanting to be seen in public with you. Is the sting of an ignored DM covered?

And what's this? No mention of the simple fun of the ### HashTag? #stupidbook #toldmenuthin'

Still, a quaint read. And now I'm ready to move on to the next thing I just found out I've been doing wrong -

Facebook for Dummies.

Stay tuned.

*If you'd like to see how to use twitter in a way that doesn't enhance your social media presence, follow @gdrpempress  -- twitterversely known to do all the don'ts.   

**Also this, if you want to write your own book on twitter, just add -twit- before any word, and Voila! You got yourself a book.
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014



When Katherine Stone, creator and founder of PostPartum Progress, the world's most widely read blog on post partum depression and perinatal mood disorders, sent me an email asking me if I'd contribute a post as part of her website's Warrior Mom Leadership Team, it was surreal.

I have been following Katherine and her work, advocating on the behalf of mothers with perinatal mood disorders, for over four years now. She has asked me to write my story with post partum depression and anxiety, in the hopes that those who search for her site, find someone there with a story of making it through something that feels like it will never end. Post partum depression is temporary, and with professional help, treatable.

My post is here, and it's on Hope, one of the most beautifully life saving words I know.

Thank you for reading.

Postpartum Progress is the most widely-read blog on postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety/OCD, postpartum psychosis, depression during pregnancy and other mental illnesses related to childbirth. Please join us. We get it. We've been there ourselves.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Google Search Lessons

It's a miracle I didn't break my neck jumping over the chairs from the kitchen to get to the family computer this past weekend when I heard littlest clanking out on the keyboard and shouting out, "Mom?! How do you spell Poseidon?" As I'm about to answer, I hear him begin to tap keys and spell out loud, "P - U - S ... " I was in the kitchen stirring spaghetti and just like that, he was about to open the door to every perv in the world to come up to my little boy saying, "I'LL TELL YOU!"

I had been baptized by the internet fire years, ago, and I've got a WARNING! DO NOT GOOGLE! list taped to my forehead about what is off limits for a google search when it comes to kids doing homework. My two oldest are teens, and thanks to the iron fist of experience, I can share this compilation with you.

I remember my son’s fifth grade nutrition project where his assignment was to create a hot lunch menu. Just Google it honey, I told him. See what other hot lunches are out there. My sweet baby typed in “hot lunch” and SHAZAAM if Ice-T’s wife doesn’t pop up carrying her hot biscuits up on a lunch tray. Click out! Click out now! I shouted but it was too late, his retinas burned to the age of a 30 year old along with once dormant parts of his brain now awakened.

Google Search Lesson #1: NEVER GOOGLE anything with the word HOT in it.

Two years later, the second son is working on a book report for Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. The final step was to find cover art for his paper, so we Google *Mice and Men* And we get just that: but with a switch to a tiny word, you know, Mice in Men.

Searching for the word shape is another one that will do you in. My third son was working on a math paper regarding ::shapes::

Google Search Lesson #2: Never Google anything shape-related: big, large, small, floppy, little, fat. They're all bad shapes when people are in them. Naked.

Our internet world has become so perverse that seeking information on cuttlefish results in an emergency visit to the family therapist.

Anyway, my NEVER GOOGLE list for you here. Keep it handy. Why find out for yourself?

[Cut and Paste]

  • flash drive
  • nerds
  • rugged
  • hairy
  • girl
  • fire
  • hunger
  • farm boy
  • Goya
  • exciting
  • peeps
  • hand exercises
  • tiger
  • strange
  • shackles
  • natural
  • lumberjack
  • farmhand
  • good
This list will keep your children’s souls safe, but keep it to yourself. You know human nature, the kids find this list and they’ll sell copies of it at school for a quarter.

Now, please, don’t google human nature without me there to supervise. I’ll be able to hear your screams six states away.
* * *

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Middle Age, Our Hair, and Why Do People Care?

It's such a hot button. Women, long hair, and their age. People begin to ask a woman once she turns forty, "So, you'll be getting your haircut soon, right? You really can't keep it long once you, you know, get older." Long hair on older women, it bothers a certain few. But why? My opinion, wear it the way you feel suits you. And for your own reasons.

My post on Purple Clover today, Women, their Long Hair... and why do people care?

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bad at Resolutions or Bad Resolutions?

It's January, the New Year, what else do people talk about except for "D'ja make any New Year resolutions?" Some of us have pages written, others a top ten, and the truly focused have *The One.*

I've tried it all, the litany of itemized things that I resolve I must do and change about my life, my Top Ten of how this is the year I get my act together resolution list, and also the hallelujah angel chorus of The One The Only If I Just Do This One Resolution... Success.Is.Mine.

I've never seen a list of my New Year Resolutions through. Ever. I've tried a life coach to help me through them, she just made me crabby. I've tried an accountability group for resolutions, they just grew into a braggity crew. Then, this year, it dawned on me. I began muttering Resolutions = Bad, until the realization hit me, because yes, at this late stage in my life, with age comes wisdom. It's not the act of setting resolutions that's bad, it's the resolution itself that may be wrong.

I mean, if I want to feel successful at resolution setting, then let's set some resolutions I stand a chance at achieving.

--I could resolve to limit my donut intake to one a day. It may take willpower, but I can do that.

--I could resolve to commit to taking at least three showers a week. This will entail setting the alarm a bit earlier Monday Wednesday Friday and stepping into a cold shower stall, but resolutions require effort, don't they?

--How about active movement for 30 minutes straight -- no break in between -- every single day. I'm going to say yes, and not even think about it.

--Not making my clothes into pajamas. This one twists my arm, but what the heck, okay let's go for it.

--Being realistic about how long it will take to get somewhere. I can no longer live in the place of magical thinking. Travel time is real, yo, and there is no time travel machine. Even though it's 2014, we still don't live like The Jetsons.

--Take on the very much need-to-take seriously resolution of getting rid of things. The things in the closet, the things in the shoe shelves, the things in the T shirt and shorts drawers. I will never wear or fit into these things again. I have to look into the mirror and say, "It's not about size it's about shifting." Being the same wedding day weight doesn't mean being the same wedding day body. Hurry up and donate those business power suits before they become vintage and then you'll never get rid of them.

--I'm no dummy, growth requires change, and it wouldn't be growth without pain, and it wouldn't be a resolution without said pain, and here's where I bleed: go through your books. Ouch, I know. But again, the world is changing and books may be what I love but the world is marching digitally download on. So you've got to go through the stacks and donate. Libraries are getting choosy, Family Sharing Centers are beyond holding capacity for donations, and Half Price Books told me they're going to start charging me for bringing in my bags of stuff since I complained about the $3.00 they gave me for four canvas bags of books. Get a box of tissues while you cry your eyes out and start packing up your babies.

--Go to bed before midnight. You just now saw the face of the old boyfriend who keeps trying to friend you every three months on Facebook. The one who is still partying hard and who under interests lists Women! complete with exclamation mark. He doesn't sleep, he says so, and you saw what that does. ::shivers:: Go To Bed.

--Resolve to be nice to your kids and let them do more iPad.

--Eat the tangerines I bring home. Right now, I'm just like Wendi Aarons, I buy the bag, I keep them on the counter to shrivel for a week, and then I throw them out. Then I go to the store and buy another bag for the week. But this year, I'm going to eat AAAAAAALLLLL THE TANGERINES.

--Be optimistic. Yes, it goes against my woe is me and I Knew It nature, but would it kill me to look on the bright side? I'm ready for this one.

I think I can make these resolutions work.

Hey, was that me looking on the bright side just now? Already working. I tell ya, it's all in the resolution.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

She Lived By Her Own Rules

December 30 was my mother's birthday. I thought of her that day and the things that I miss the most, now that she's gone. She was a rich source of stories, never doing anything in a small way and always having no problem with asking for exactly what she wanted. The only rules my mother lived by were her own, like in this video, "The One Year Latin Haircut Rule."

The video here, recorded last May with The Listen To Your Mother Show Milwaukee, paints a picture so perfectly of what life was like being my mother's daughter. She was able to see this footage, and I can't tell you the pleasure it gave me to see her cover her mouth and giggle like she was 8 years old instead of 88. "I'm crazy, no?"

Mama, you were crazy good. I miss you.

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