Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Don't Understand This Weepiness Over High School Graduation

This whole week on the internet, there have been posts, Facebook updates, pinterested pinterests on the woeful parent saying good-bye and good luck to their child moving on from his days at home. Life beyond the four walls you've given them, and their turn to leave our two arms that have held them for so long. There are new beginnings on the wide horizon! And always, these posts end in "hold me" "tears" and "where did my baby go??" Sometimes, they use an interrobang.

I don't get it.

So your child is ready to spread his wings, this is a good thing, right? I mean, this is evidence that we've been successful, no failure to launch at this house! All of us had that as our goal.

The first time our son mowed the lawn at this house, he looked like this:

And now he looks like this:

When we moved into our house, our dark-haired boy looked like this:

And this past Christmas, in front of the very same fireplace, we had someone who looked like this:

 He stands above me now

when I once could hold him, the entire whole of him, with one arm.

The boy who has always talked of airplanes, flying, of someday being a pilot so much that every year at every fair, the first ride he would run to would be this one:

is now getting his dream with an Air Force ROTC scholarship.

Sappiness, nostalgia, poignancy, bittersweet, the march of time. What are people getting verklempt about? You mean going from this?

To this?

Is that it?

There's a trick to it all, you know. Pretend the days last forever. Go about your way and when his almost 6 foot frame reminds you of the months ticking down until he starts the life you hoped and dreamed for him, find that smile -- practice it in front of a mirror so that you look borderline lunatic. Do it, keep on doing it, until you convince everyone around you.

It's all good. Because it is all good.

If, as I've heard, tears and a lump in your throat that you can't swallow away show up on graduation day, remember it's just part of the beautiful messiness of life, of moments too big to contain, of a world that's been so good to us, why wouldn't there be tears from the joy and excitement?

Looking at these pictures doesn't bother me. Really. They're photos of my life, our life, together. Packed with love that is more than four letters powerful. Of time spent with my son that feels like he's been with me since my own life began. This boy lives in my body, my bones, my heart.

These pictures show you something, but not everything. How does an image capture love, pride, inspiration and gratitude that I have for the days shared with him? *insert interrobang* There's no painful heartbreak, just surreal disbelief of such a good life.

And I'm going to be fine.

That's another trick I've learned to maneuver through these days looming with high school graduation now too real to ignore, my 24-hour mantra, I'm going to be fine.

I love you, my boy. I am so proud when I hear people say as I walk past, "That's Alec's mom."

I think these came to the wrong house.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Things I'll Never Get Used To

As old as I am, which is old enough to remember life without google, there are some things I will never get used to. Even if I live until the time of being able to be beamed up somewhere, I still will act like a fool when I walk into a spider web.

I'll also scream and lose my mind if a bee flies into my car while I'm driving.

Come to think of it, there's a lot of things I will never be able to be cool around.

Like gnats flying into my eyeballs while I ride my bike.

Feeling something crawling on my chest and peeking into my T shirt to see an earwig wave hello with his antennae.

The feeling of sweat riverlets running down the back of my leg when I stand up from a hot, sticky car seat.

Polishing off a 25cent glass of lemonade from a kids' stand to find dead ants floating at the bottom.

Mosquitoes that purposely fly into my ear.

The smell of port-a-potties. It smells new every time.

Accidentally missing a step when you walk down stairs. (arms especially flail for this one)

Pruning the shrubs when a mama bird decides she needs to fly into my face to let me know she lives there with her babies. (good for two heart attacks)

A mouse crawling out from a heat vent in your car while you're driving on the freeway. Yes, this has happened to my neighbor.

Seeing dirt move as you plant flowers and a few seconds go by as your brain translates the sight that it's worms. (but there is a long moment of reality disconnect)

How a squirrel sits and pretends they're going to wait until you drive past to cross the street but no, SURPRISE WE'LL JUST GO IN FRONT OF YOUR CAR NOW.

Picking up a potato and your fingers expect firm but instead you get soft and pretty much, vomitus when your hand sinks in.

That first sip of milk that's gone sour but you keep drinking because your taste buds haven't caught up yet. ::shudder::

On a family outing, smelling poop, blaming all the kids, inspecting their shoes, you get in the car and the smell persists and you go on round two of blaming the kids and you step on the gas pedal but your foot slips because it is your shoe that is covered in fresh dog poop.

Feeling the wet of  a toilet seat in the middle of the night.

I will be 89 years old and that one will still have me jumping up like I've got the thigh power of Conan the Barbarian.

Oh, wait, how could I forget the psychological scarring of the summer of 1979 when a band of rogue pigeons bird doodied on my GeeYourHairSmellsTerrific topknot.  I was walking home from my job, still over a mile away from any fresh water availability. But I learned a lesson that day: never touch fresh bird poop. Best to let it encrust into papier-mache unless you want to walk home not only with a crown of bird shit on your head but also with what looks like white-out abuse on your fingertips.

photo credit: Caucas'">Caucas'
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Those Sticks with Some Yarn Make a Pretty Nice Gun

My husband and I once walked this planet as part of the species known as the Smug Parent-To-Be.

Oh, we were so smug and all-knowing. We wielded The Family Edict on just how things would be in our house. Our children would always act in love and no games involving weapons would be allowed. Our children would only know the ways of peace, brotherly love, and a gentle regard for family members.

We trusted in the belief that if you raise a child to hug every tree and walk this earth with a spirit of communal living, you were guaranteed a home where birds, butterflies, even Cat Stevens himself would come knocking on your door, wanting a ride on your peace train.

Armed with this Family Peace Mission Statement, we started our family. That first baby was so sweet, we had another. Our hearts burst with joy at seeing our two little ones laugh and love each other in our Garden of Eden, that–what the heck–we threw in a third.

Soon, our babies become little children and we introduced them to only non-combative toys. No swords, sabers, guns or weapons. We parented with a get-down-on-the-floor engaged style, and interacted with a capital I.

One day while they played, we heard Pow! Pow! I shot you.

Come again? What did you say? We don’t shoot people, remember?

Yeah we do and I shot him. Pow. Now I shot you too.

Now the other one says, No you can’t shoot me because I shot you before.

They shot each other before? and OMG HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON UNDER MY ROOF? Then the baby on my lap pops his drooly forefinger out of his mouth and points it at his brothers screeching BANGBANGBANG.

And giggles.

What just happened?

The first time my children saw guns at the toy store they asked me what they were and so I told them. Oh. Those? Those are blow dryers.

When they asked for the Thousand Bucket o’Soldiers like the one in Toy Story, I didn't buy it. But my mother did. Then I had to stay up until 3 a.m. snipping off a thousand one-millimeter guns off the ends of tiny soldier arms with my hair-cutting shears. The aftermath on the kitchen floor, littered with the microscopic machine guns of Operation De-Weaponization, looked like something from Gulliver’s Travels.

The truth is this: Children are fascinated by weapons. They will chew their morning toast into a Saturday Night Special, slap two sticks in the backyard together with a broken rubber band or take the $100 Lego Creation kit you got them for Christmas and build a Winchester out of it.

They will call it their Alien Weapon, Protector, Guard’s Tool, King’s Friend, Village Scarer, Bad Man Chaser, Good Guy Maker, Dragon Getter, Contest Winner, and anything else they can think of but they will not call it a gun.

Because you told them guns were bad, and we don’t play with guns.

But you never said they couldn’t pull a blow dryer on their brother.
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Monday, May 19, 2014

How To Get Your Teen To Clean

Last Saturday day, I made my 18-year-old son clean his room. I say Saturday day because that's how long it took. The two of us worked together, side by side, because misery loves company and I'm not a fan of cleaning, myself. I sequestered myself to do the boys' bathroom which looked like a meth lab, and my teen son worked on his bedroom, which looked like the pilot episode for World's Youngest Hoarders.

We began not bright and early -- second cup of coffee o'clock would be more accurate. My goal was to not have to kick clothes out of the way with my foot to make a path past his front door and to accomplish this without me needing a whip and a chair. And no threats. Because what is a threat anyway but just an upside down bribe.

I wanted to get his room clean because I had just read an article about how disorganization can cause stress for teens. What I wanted for my son was for his room to be a sanctuary of retreat, a haven of zen where he would look forward to spending time at the end of the day, and not like his brain had a compound fracture at the sight of it. Long story short, mission accomplished and here's how we did it, minute by longest minute on earth, minute:

9:03 a.m.
I walk past the room. It looks pretty bad. I didn't think it would be this bad.

9:21 a.m.
Spend quiet time over cereal, talking to son, follow him back upstairs after breakfast.

9:32 a.m.
Act surprised at the condition of the room, "Oh my gosh! Wow. Look at this. Looks like things got out of hand. And the bathroom! Well, we'd better get busy, if we wait until we feel like it then we'll never feel like it." (This I know my son relates to because, apple, tree)

9:37 a.m.
Son mmhhmms, then wanders into room and plops on bed to listen to music to get him ready for the day. I rubber glove up and begin with the toilet seat in the boys' bathroom.

9:49 a.m.
Time for son's music to have done its day prepping. I tell him so.

9:57 a.m.
Son with music still on ears, that's okay, I can deal. I'll just shout and point. His first job is to make the bed. I extend my index finger toward the rumpled sheets and hope he sees the possibility of a miracle is in his hands.

10:03 a.m.
Mission underway, he sees the vision, too, and Houston we have lift off! While he grabs the blankets scattered around the bed frame, I tackle the bathtub with something deceptively called Soft Scrub which still makes me scrub hard. I leave him with the job of the bed, and a pat on the back to prove team work.

10:05 a.m.
He stops mid blanket toss and runs downstairs for a fruit roll-up break. I don't say a word and ask him to save me a quarter inch.

10:09 a.m.
I wait four minutes and then I call downstairs, "FRUIT ROLL-UP BREAK OVER!" Some mumbling and muttering but he bounds back upstairs two steps at a time. Needs to rest on bed to let "sugar enter his blood stream."

10:39 a.m.
Blood sugar is stabilized and he works on making the bed. I'm still working on floor in boys' bathroom. We are humming along.

11:00 a.m.
Teen son notices it's 11:00 and tells me his body is used to lunch at this time because of school schedule. He runs downstairs and has 18 chicken tenders, 4 glasses of apple juice, 1 Arizona iced tea, and a bowl of raspberries, still frozen. He has to rest on sofa, he tells me his stomach "sloshes" when he moves.

11:45 a.m.
I let him digest lunch and then call son back upstairs to finish work. He begins to hang up shirts from the floor but then tells me can't be done without hangers. I tell him where to find hangers. He says he'll work for as long as the hangers hold out.

12:15 p.m.
I find every single hanger in the house and all the shirts are hung. He needs rest. He flops on bed, closes eyes, gets much needed "rest."

12:40 p.m.
I jostle him after a long half hour and tell him time to start folding pants. I offer to help him fold after I see it looks like he gave all of his jeans in the closet spiral perms.

1:10 p.m.
Shirts are hung, pants are folded, clothes are off the floor and away from the front door and we are no longer in violation of fire codes! We now begin with the paper piles on the floor. He determines with a finger snap that anything he needs he already has and so papers are all put in recycling!! and !!! Go, return to whence you came, paper bits! You will live again!

1:27 p.m.
He asks for a break since he has spent the whole weekend on cleaning. He is allowed a break until I finish the laundry downstairs. He tells me I'm the best.

1:43 p.m.
His break is over and his interest is waning. I promise a movie tomorrow.

2:06 p.m.
He is growing weary. I ask him if he likes his iPod and would like to keep it. (will hold off on the big guns of his phone for the most dire of moments)

2:31 p.m.
He shouts down to me that he is tired of working working working. I remind him that I'm tired of cooking cooking cooking, maybe I'll stop. He gets the picture.

2:50 p.m.
Laundry is folded and next load is started. I run back upstairs. We begin anew. "This way, child, this way," I teach him the order of the sock folding phoenix. Every single freakin' sock has a mate! Huzzah!

2:56 p.m.
T shirts get shoved in drawer (that's okay to me) underwear is shoved in drawer (again I don't care) and socks are tossed into closet drawer. It looks good.

3:09 p.m.
Books are picked up from floor and put back on book shelves. We reminisce about his Treasury of Classics collection and how much he loved The Invisible Man. He tells me that if he were invisible he could leave and not come back to finish. I tell him that is true. He could indeed be gone but the mess would still be here because the principle of Invisibility doesn't apply to the mess in the room.

3:17 p.m.
Fruit roll-up break.

3:48 p.m.
I ask him to hold me up while I dust his ceiling fan. He is a great working partner.

4:01 p.m.
He decides he wants to make salsa. Which sounds like such a stereotype but we make salsa. Instead of tomatoes we use carrots and it's delicious. We also use potato chips to dip instead of corn chips and that's pretty delicious too.

4:31 p.m.
I ask him to carry vacuum cleaner upstairs and I suck up the dust from the rug.

4:42 p.m.
The room looks great, he only has the top of his desk to clear up. He falls on his bed and tells me how he never has fun. I tell him I can clear his desk for him -- all he needs to do is run downstairs and get me a plastic bag. He stands up and starts to work.

4:52 p.m.
He tells me he has to send an important text.

4:57 p.m.
He is still sending important text. I think Moses was faster pounding out the commandments, I ask "Are you chiseling it out on flint stone?"

5:13 p.m.
I bury an iTunes card in the midst of the desk mess the same way I used to bury dimes and quarters in the sandbox for him when he was five and I'd say, "Just think what else could be in there! Let's get digging!" When he finds the card he holds it up excited and looks exactly the way he did in the park 12 years ago. "Let's keep digging!," I say.

5:32 p.m.
Voila! The desk top is in neat piles and the room could hold a yoga class from the free space vibes. Breathe in breathe out we now have a sanctuary. He smiles and asks, "Doesn't it look like there's more room in here?" We stand back and admire. High five because it looks SO gooooooood. The oxygen of the declutter cannot be underestimated.

What's the most important thing I learned here? Don't be afraid to go all Look at me, Look at me, I'm the captain, I'm the captain on himBecause, obviously, they may be the ones making the mess up on deck, but we're still the ones that know how to steer that ship.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

10 Breathtaking Moments in My Life

Throughout this post, I will be as accurate as I can about the people involved, the description of the event, and the words that were spoken. I'm posting these here not because I like to brag but because when I remember these humbling moments I am in awe with the beauty that has been in my life. I  knew I needed to record something as ethereal as this, because I was afraid that I would forget their fleeting perfection... and that would feel like losing my diamond ring.  

Life can sometimes knock the wind out of you but it can just the same, bring you back.

--One night when Alec was about three or four, just as his lashes were fluttering with near sleep, he grabbed my hand and said, "Mommy, take my hand, I want you to come to my dreams with me."

--After college, one of my first jobs was at a weight loss clinic. A woman came in, struggling with her slow progress and in tears. I knelt in front of her and told her what counted was being aware and looking at how much she had not given into rather than how much weight she had lost -- that was what was important. She looked up at me startled and said, "I wish I could ask for you every time..."

--I was a waitress and short order cook at a burger/beer place while in college. On certain weekends, a young dad would come in with his two little girls and one little boy. I never knew their names and they never knew mine. They would sit quietly and always order the same thing off the menu: hot dogs with no bun, and a side of sliced potatoes. One day, the quiet little boy spoke to me through a mouth spilling with food, "This is the only place we tell our dad we'll go when he has us because you're here. You make good hot dogs, ma'am."

--During my senior year in college, I was having a hard time in a statistics class. I met with a tutor weekly and I checked in with my professor almost every other day. I spent hours every night just to keep up. At the end of the school year, I barely squeaked out with a B- after 10,000 hours of work. As I left the class for the last time, the professor said to me, "If I could give A's for most effort, it would be to you."

--Last summer, I had gone for a walk with my middle boy, who is a pensive young man who weighs his words. We were walking for an hour when I asked him if he wanted to go back home now. He answered no, that he wanted to just keep talking.

--When I was single, I lived in a modest apartment complex that also was home to a few elderly tenants. There was an older man in the apartments and I would see him take an early morning walk at the same time that I would leave for work. He would see me in my cranberry colored Toyota and wave, I would wave back. For the years that I lived there, I would find a basket of candy for every holiday on my car. I never knew who the baskets were from. One morning I came out of my building to see the old man who walked waiting for me by my car. He told me that he was moving and that the baskets had been from him. "I just want to say good bye to you," he said, and then he began to cry and touched my cheek before he walked away.

--One night I had been crying over what I saw as me not being the kind of mother that one of my children needed me to be. My sister was visiting and heard me say that my boy would fare better with a different type of mother. In a firm voice she said to me, "There is NO one better for him than you. You are exactly what he needs from a mother." She said it with such conviction that I stopped mid-sob and to this day, I believe her.

--Every day, my youngest child tells me I have to exercise 30 minutes, never start smoking and to not text while I drive because, "I need you to be here with me for more things."

--I had just finished reading a story to my middle child that I had written about my grandmother. When I was through, I looked up at him to see what he thought. He said nothing but his eyes were wide and shiny with tears.

--When my mother passed away, I was the one who took care of her papers and putting her writing and notes in order and sending them on to my brothers and sisters. I was flipping through her notebooks when I was stopped by the sight of my name in the pages. In an entry written in Spanish from 30 years ago, she had written, "... you are stubborn like your father and will not listen to anyone. You remain cold and I promise to do the same. But I went to see you today and when I looked into your eyes, those dark eyes of yours that are so beautiful and endless... and it was the same as with your father, I forgive you everything."

Breathe your days in deep, there are so many moments that give us oxygen.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How I Write

photo credit: ad551 via photopin cc
A few months ago, I began to see invitations in my inbox to join a blog hop called, My Writing Process. My knee jerk response was to send an email back, and so I did,  “Thank you. I'm flattered, but no. Not able to. I have no writing process. But thank you for thinking that I do!” These invitations keep coming into my inbox, people who see me as someone who has a way to do things. And me, right away, making clear what only I can possibly know, that I don't.

But I'm on the internet. I'm on websites other than my own. I'm in several anthologies. I help to put on a show called Listen To Your Mother and I have toured as a main stage storyteller with the nationally acclaimed, The Moth.

Even when confronted with this evidence that attests that I do, I do write, I somewhere, somehow, say that I don't. Why do I sign myself off and am not even able to consider the word, 'writer'.
If  the measuring stick I hold is someone who gets paid for their words, than I do. I have been paid.
If to be a writer means people have sought you, that's true then, too.
If it's necessary to be published in tangible pages, than I have. 
What is it I think I need to have for me to say that I do write, and I am a writer, and that there is a process.

A mental picture and a physical space of my own, I think. But I don't have either. I use a keyboard attached to a monitor that doubles as a family TV that I turn on when my kids go to bed at night. There it is. My writing space. I have my notebooks, in my purse, my bag, my car, my lunch bag, my back pocket, my glove compartment, my kitchen counter, my coffee table, on top of my piano. That's my writing process. A manila folder where I keep torn out scraps of paper where I've scribbled ideas that I know will disappear with my day if I wait until the right place and time to write.

There never is a right time and place for me. I set no time aside, like writing sites advise me to. There is only the moment when it strikes, and I write at stop lights, or when waiting for my children, or in the middle of slicing vegetables for dinner. The thoughts that come into my head on their own, I can't explain the trigger, but I never say no to them. I worry about the order and assembling the pieces later. Later, but for the time being, this is my writing process. I never say no to the words, and when I sit quietly after saying yes, pulling everything together from what once was a scattering of ideas that resemble a murmuration of starlings before they swell together, it's the closest I have ever been to time both standing still and disappearing. 

This is my "How I Write". And to the people who think of me as being able to enlighten or inspire, I want to say thank you for encouraging me. I am, as I said before, humbled.
We are, writers. Especially when we don't see it ourselves.

In this blog tour of My Writing Process, we are to choose someone and invite them to post on their writing process. Please consider this post here my public invitation to you. Tell us your way of getting the words down and turning them into something...  and let me know of it, so I can stop by and encourage you, in whatever way that you work, that it does, indeed, make you a writer.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Five Years, Listen To Your Mother!

On Mother's Day today, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER celebrates its 5th anniversary. I celebrate four years of having Listen To Your Mother in my life. I wonder if Ann Imig, the National Director and founder, ever gets used to hearing how LTYM changes lives -- but this is exactly what LTYM did for me.
In May of 2011, I found my voice when I auditioned and was cast for the Madison Listen To Your Mother Show. By saying I found my voice, I mean that the words discovering me would be better. I never even knew I had something to say until I stood behind the podium on Mother's Day, four years ago, and the words flowed as if I had been in solitary confinement for the past 50 years.
I'm a story teller now, because of LTYM Madison. Because of Ann Imig and what she began five years ago in Madison, my life has become one of challenge and rewriting the script that I thought was my life. My world now is one of possibilities and I have gone from feeling alone to feeling held up by love, support, and connection.
Motherhood is defined as anyone who takes a nurturing or caring role in someone's life. This is why I wish you, Ann Imig, and the nationwide movement that you've begun with Listen To Your Mother, a Happy Mother's Day. You have been pivotal in my life, in how my children see me, and in how I have come to see myself. These are priceless gifts, and I am so grateful.
I want to say thank you, as weak as the words sound, but Thank You, for everything. For the honor of being part of Listen To Your Mother, and for the opportunity you've given me to be involved with LTYM. My life has become something I only envisioned for others.
Happy 5th Listen To Your Mother! So many lives changed, so many voices encouraged, so many readers who took that step and flew. Thank you, from the audiences, readers and production teams.  LTYM has inspired transformations!

"Tomorrow we celebrate our 5th annual LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Madison. When 12 of us took the stage four years ago, we had no idea that this show would turn into a nationwide phenomenon..."
~Ann Imig, National Director/Creator Listen To Your Mother Shows  
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Thursday, May 8, 2014

An Abundance of All That Is Good

Driving my youngest child home after he's had a full day of school is better than winning any lottery could ever be. I settle our black van in the school pick up line early so I'm one of the first cars he sees, and then along with my mid-afternoon coffee and a book dog-eared to the page from the day before, I wait.

I spot his curly head run for our car, and the way his backpack bounces against every disc in his spine makes me cringe with sympathetic pain. His eyes never leave mine once he's locked into my gaze, and when he's almost at the car, I push the button to open the automatic sliding doors. He falls in like he just made it onto a lifting helicopter.

The backpack is flung in first, followed by his all-legs body lunging across the middle seat. With his head tossed back against the headrest, he exhales a big sigh. His sets the stage, his first words are always the same, "What a day."

And then he sits up, animated, he buckles his seatbelt, and the words pick up pace as he realizes how much he has to tell me. The unbelievable events, the surprise twists, the triumphs, the challenges, the happenings of his day in his 5th grade classroom that YOU WILL NEVER GUESS BUT GO AHEAD TRY, MOM, TRY!

He dares me to see if I know who held the court at foursquare at lunch, to guess who finished the math quiz first! And then, who do you think forgot their homework again!

I guess, and most times, I'm right... and the short ride home is over way too quickly. We pull into our garage, and the chattering stops. He scoots out of his seat and runs into the house, not able to wait one minute more until he can peel his school uniform off and ball it onto the living room sofa. He opens the refrigerator and rummages for a snack, our conversation from the ride home already left echoing in the car.

Except for me, his voice lilts in my head like the first chirping of birds after a much too long winter. I replay all he's told me because I never want to forget the sound of him, still so bell-like and clear, and young.

My children are what make Mother's Day what it is for me -- a time for me to celebrate this role of my life. I need no more than the gifts I already gloriously have, that of their love as they greet me with the enthusiastic retelling of their day. What more could there be, than how this child of mine saves and gathers his words, until the time of when he sees me again.
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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Something Smells Like Pee: Classy Observations

I am dedicated to humor: finding it, reading it, celebrating it, sharing it. A few years ago I found a website passionate about providing a platform for women and their humorous writing, it was FunnynotSlutty. From that day on, I have followed one of the talented top writers there, Blythe Jewell.

An example of how funny she is? Click here and see what I mean: "Five-Year-Olds Just Don't Get the 80s"

Blythe Jewell has just released her first book, Something Smells Like Pee, and as the title promises... it is full of the things in life that with a sense of humor, can make us laugh instead of cry. Reading her poems, musings, thoughts, are like spending time with that treasure of a friend you hope to never lose.

Learn To Merge
You want to Merge?
Why yes, of course.
Here, let me just ease back.
Why don't you merge?
Can you not see
I've left room on the track.
Okay, I guess
You've changed your mind
and want to come in
from behind
So, I speed up
But you do, too...
and cut in the goddamned line.
I'm forced to slam
upon my brakes
so hard my coffee flies
Now my car's a total mess
and I'm fit to be tied.
I honk, but you
do not respond
My temper starts to burn.
I honk again
Because if not
however will you learn?
*you'll have to order the book to see what comes next! *TEASER!*

Something Smells Like Pee is 91 pages of poetry and illustrations by Blythe that reflect on the sometimes unbelievable ridiculous of life, which is also its beauty. Whatever Blythe does, she does it well, and leaves me with a smile for the rest of my day. Along with the comfort that maybe I'm not that odd in my thoughts -- and that my coolness factor hasn't seen the last of its days yet.

I'm happy to offer Something Smells Like Pee here as a giveaway.

In part, true, because I'm a big fan of this author, but also because good work needs to be recognized and put OUT THERE -- Blythe's writing here, is indeed, clever, smart, subdued, and entertainment like this shouldn't go unnoticed.

Congrats, Blythe, you have a winner of a collection here.

Please leave your name in comments to be entered in the giveaway of Something Smells Like Pee, and order your copy here so you don't have to wait.

Good luck, everyone!
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Sunday, May 4, 2014

ICYMI - Best of the Internet

Fun discoveries on the internet this week:

--Like this site: Astronomy Picture of the Day. A picture a day of our universe. Holds me in awe and my children, even more. Click and see.

--This one blows my mind: different kinds of rainy day music from rainymood . com. Really. I work best to nature's sounds, like rain, and with this, I can choose heavy, light, sporadic: SO COOL.

--A free download from sarahselecky . com on the ten most common mistakes short fiction writers make when they submit their work. Sign up and read this guide before you send your story out. I subscribe to sarah's free newsletter that includes a daily writing prompt... I get a lot of writing ideas from it.

That's the best of the best. I wish you a good week, with some fun, some production, and some just do nothing moments in it.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Story Warriors

What a sight -- our awe inspiring cast
Milwaukee celebrated its 2nd annual Listen To Your Mother Show on Sunday, April 27. We shared a stage with ten unique community voices, brought together through the spirit of motherhood. Not all of our stories were of sunshiny days and blissful times, but all of our stories were a capture of human spirit.

It takes strength and a belief that your words matter, to stand on stage. Something that many of our readers have never done before. Some of our cast readers have never even written before and LTYM is the first time they've put their thoughts to paper... determined to speak them before an audience and to be heard.

Throughout my life, I have been quiet. I didn't start out this self conscious. When I was  little, I laughed raucously when it felt good and loud and freeing to do so. I said the things that came to my mind when they came to my mind and I remember asking the questions that I wanted answered. But then I started school and children poked fun at my accent, my name, the way my hair curled and the kind of lunches my Abuela would pack for me. I learned that if I was quiet, I'd escape notice. And so I did, I was as invisible as I could make myself. But with every year that passed, I felt stories -- my words -- welling up inside and I was running out of room from holding them in. I began writing them down, first on the inside blank back of coloring books, and later on the half empty notebooks left over at school year's end.

The urge to be heard and share what is my life has never left me... it's why I have read for Listen To Your Mother Shows, and why I now help produce and direct LTYM shows in Milwaukee. I want to be part of the movement that gives our life stories a safe place to be spoken and be received.

Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee alone has thus far in two years time, helped 24 women share their story, with a podium, under lights, and out into the world via microphone. And there are 32 cities across America, right now, giving motherhood a voice in celebration of Mother's Day.

It has been a privilege to be part of this empowering process that gives motherhood a microphone. I have worked with and gotten to know some of the finest people I would have never known otherwise.

Through hearing live LTYM shows and watching the videos of other cities and their shows, I see how each of our voices is valuable. The best asset a community can have is support, and a community needs all of its voices. Voices to help us with life's pressures and doubts just by being there to say, "You're not alone." Even on any bad days, if we know we have been heard and that someone has listened, then we become a part of something larger than only ourselves.

Strength and character, that's what  a Listen To Your Mother Story Warrior is. How I love each and every one of you LTYM readers across America. And I thank the creator and national director, Ann Imig, for what she has brought into the lives of over 500 LTYM readers and 80 LTYM producers/directors.

I am so proud of you, Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee cast of 2014:

Linda Dindzans
Nancy Ellen Martin
Sini Mulloy
Lane Pierce
Mandy Reilly

I also want to say that you are stronger than you ever imagined, and your day of sharing your story, makes you part of the LTYM family forever.

**special thanks and appreciation to Milwaukee LTYM co-producer Jennifer Gaskell.

If you'd like to learn more about LTYM, please click here.

"Listen To Your Mother is a series of live staged readings in 32 cities nationwide in celebration of Mother’s Day. The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors."

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