Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Last Story

The first book I read to our son was a thick paged cardboard series made up of common images: dog, cat, ball, apple. It was white against black, and he loved it. The starkness against the shiny pitch, it kept his gaze. We first shared it on the night he was born. I kept on reading him to him, and then when his two brothers came along, I read to all three of them together. Every night of their lives since I first held them.

Some of our books were finished over a month, reading a chapter a night. The Boxcar Kids were a big hit. The one that really tried our patience but I was determined to get through it, was the Wizard of Oz. You'd be surprised just how different the book is from the Judy Garland movie we've all seen.

I always read to my kids, they'd cushion themselves around me, one would wrap himself around the top of my head, and we'd read a book before they'd go to bed.

It was an easy way to get them to fall asleep without a fight.

The stories we read were what made up our nights: a snack, a warm bath, pajamas, tooth brushing, and then under the blankets, pillows piled up and around, and headed for a good night story.

Then one night my 7th grade son went to bed. He went upstairs, shouted down to us that he was going to sleep.

"Sleep good, baby," I shouted back to him, thinking he was just that tired out. The next few nights, he did the same. I wasn't sure whether to ask him about it or not, so I didn't.

I was down to two around me for a story, but then the middle guy started to feel out of place without the older guy around, so he started going up to bed without a story, too.

That left me with our youngest.

"Hey," I asked him when he was leaning in under my arm one night at bedtime. "How do you feel about keeping on reading our stories, without your brothers?"

"I like it, mom. I was kind of feeling they were too old too. But I never said anything. But I don't understand how they can give up the stories just like that. You're such a good story reader to us."

"Do you think I should ask them why, honey?" I really wanted to know.

"No. They'll feel guilty. When it's your mom, you always feel like she'll cry about it."

"Yeah, you're right." I laughed at that part, because the truth is funny. I would probably cry if I asked them.

The older ones knew when it was time to be done with that part of our life together, the youngest one knew just where he still wanted to be.

Right now, I'm ready to read my nightly book. I don't read to any of them anymore. I'm here, under a blanket with a pillow behind me. And wishing I would have known that the last time I read to all of them, that I would have known, it was the last time.

* * * 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

On LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER MILWAUKEE and The National Grand Finale Season

I have always loved words, the stories they tell and the emotions they evoke. Writers have long been on the top of my list of life wizards—those who do what the rest of us cannot.

Only writers write, I’d think. And then I’d wish that I could do what they do.

Seven years ago, I learned that the start to anything that you want is to turn your face in that direction.

In 2011, I auditioned for the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Show in Madison, Wisconsin. I had never tried out for a cast before. I had never read my writing out loud before, and I had never imagined myself as someone up at a podium, behind a microphone.

But when I learned of Listen To Your Mother shows, I felt a pull. I knew that public speaking wasn’t something I did, and that to think of myself as being part of a show was the most outrageous endeavor I had ever put my mind to, but I didn’t know how not to try. My reaction was a lovesick yearning to tell my story. I drove the two hours to audition, with a printed copy of my story in the passenger seat next to me. I had taken my lifelong dream and set my face in its direction.

I did audition, and my story was chosen as one to be read on stage that year. What I didn’t know then is that on show day, while on the stage reading my words, that there would be a whisper behind the voice that the audience heard. I would be the only one hearing it in the undercurrent as I spoke, I am a writer I am a writer I am a writer.

As I drove home that night after the show, I smiled like a goose at my reflection in the window. I felt ridiculous, heady, but I finally said the words I had wished were mine my entire life: I am a writer.
I don’t talk about that day much, about my time on stage during the 2011 Madison show, but I write about it in my personal journals. I remind myself how it was that first step in belief of what I could offer that changed my life. Today, I can only say that I can’t imagine anything that has happened since without LTYM behind it.

This 2017 LTYM season will be our Grand Finale LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Show for Milwaukee. When I think of this being our final show in our city, my throat tightens. Emotion overwhelms me and I grow grateful all over again for all that LTYM has brought into my life. The stories I’ve heard, the women I’ve met, the relationships I’ve seen form between our cast members.

In 2011, I had planted a seed when I auditioned, even though I had never auditioned before. In 2013, when I applied to produce LTYM in Milwaukee, I planted a second seed, even though I had never produced a show before. I look at my journal and see empty pages up ahead. I can go back and add to them as I see events unfold in my life, and I will go forward and complete these pages with the new opportunities that I have learned to recognize. My words since my first show with LTYM have grown, and I have along with them.

Before LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, I used to wait, watch, be patient, for everything to feel right, align, for opportunity to present itself. What I learned seven years ago with that first LTYM show, is that we are the opportunity.

We are the chance we’ve been waiting for.

Though this is Milwaukee’s last LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER SHOW, I know this is not the last of the stories that our past casts have told, nor that our 2017 show cast will tell.

We will keep writing our stories, we will find chances to share them and we will remember that it is in us where we find the key to unlock all the fierce and unforgettable moments that we have yet to share.

To our past LTYM casts and final 2017 cast: promise to return again and again to yourself and to drink in what you will absolutely continue to find. Plant your seeds and grow your vines, live in wonder of you and the moments in your life.

As LTYM producers and directors, we thank you. We have been privileged, humbled, and honored to have had a part in bringing your stories to our community. Thank you for your gift of time, and self.

**For tickets to see our final Listen To Your Mother Show Sunday May 7 in Milwaukee, please visit

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


We've got an incredible show set for our Milwaukee audience on Sunday, May 7, 3pm at Alverno College Wehr Hall.

This will be LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Milwaukee's final show and the stories you'll be hearing will be community building and heart soaring.

Come see for yourselves.

Click over to meet our fantastic LTYM Milwaukee 2017 cast!

**Tickets available online and at the door on the day of the show. Details Here.
* * *

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Complete video here

Today I had the opportunity to talk about LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER MILWAUKEE on Milwaukee's favorite morning show, The Morning Blend. Morning Blend has supported our LTYM shows since we first came to Milwaukee five years ago.
2017 marks our fifth season, as well as our final LTYM show for Milwaukee. We are overcome with gratitude and full hearts over what our city has shown us in support and love for sharing our lives through our stories.
Our show is Sunday, May 7, 3pm at Alverno College's Wehr Hall. Tickets are available online and at the door the day of the show.

We hope you don't miss this final chance to see LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER.
Bring those you love, or come alone: whichever way you arrive, you'll leave feeling part of something greater, that of community. One that is knit together through knowing about each other.
When we share our stories, something powerful happens: and you feel it from the your heart.
Come to our LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show on Sunday, May 7, and see what we mean.

**Ticket info. HERE

* * *

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Raising Award Winning Boys

Well, at least receiving an award for writing about raising boys.

You know, I believe that we're all moving on our parenting decisions with love, prayer, and fingers crossed that we are doing right by our children. I write about this a lot, and I always hope hope hope that I never sound like a know it all.

I've been at this parenting gig for 21 years now, two decades of experience spread across three children. To have my writing and heartfelt purpose of wanting to build community in what can be seasons of doubt that we are raising our children with what they need to find themselves in their own lives, is an honor I deeply appreciate.

Thank you, Parenting Media Association for recognizing my series on Metroparent, "Raising Boys", with a national silver award.

You'll keep me going at what is the greatest gift I've ever experienced: being the mother to my children.

"Parenting Media Association recognized your amazing work on your Raising Boys article last year with a silver award at their annual awards banquet. "
* * *

Monday, April 17, 2017

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER - Milwaukee: Our City's Final Show

For the past five years, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER - Milwaukee has had the honor of being a host city for the national live storytelling event celebrating the theme of motherhood.

Our city has been part of as many as 41 sister-cities that bring the stories of motherhood in all its beautiful diversity, to the ears of communities. Through sharing our stories, we have been heard, we have been healed, and our hearts have been held. Both as reader and as audience.

This is Milwaukee's final year hosting LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER. As excited as we are about introducing our 11 Milwaukee community voices, we are also weighing the significance of this show being our last show in our city.

The time feels right to move forward with other projects, but this doesn't make our 5th anniversary LTYM show any less important.

We hope you come hear our final cast, Milwaukee, we promise you an afternoon of stories that will set your heart soaring with the possibility in all of us.
SEE YOU SUNDAY MAY 7, 3PM, at Alverno College's Wehr Hall.

Performance and ticket information can be found on the main LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER site here.

We love you, Milwaukee storytellers, and our dear Milwaukee audience!
* * *

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Shhh... Please Don't Tell Me That I Wasn't Sharing His Load

I've read of people who believe they are Jesus Christ. I was never one of that mindset, but I will tell you that I once believed that I helped Jesus Christ.

I blame the way we Colombians do things. A lot of things that we do to the moon and back, and Easter -- well, the way we did Easter growing up I can't help but say to Americans, you haven't done Easter until you've dragged a broom across your back in the kitchen and told yourself you were helping our Lord carry the world's sins with Him. 

Easter Sunday in America is baskets, jelly beans, foil wrapped eggs, and egg hunts. It's also a day of chomp-the-ears-off-the-chocolate-bunny while you listen to the story of spiritual rebirth. But Easter for me, from age three and up, sure--it was about black jelly beans, dyed eggs, and 12-inch tall bunnies made of chocolate. But there was something else you don't know about Easter and me.
Ever since I first turned the pages to my picture bible and saw Jesus dragging the wooden cross made heavy with the weight of the world's sins, I was so overcome with the visual of what the world had put upon beautiful Jesus, that I had to be part of his rescue team. On Easter Sunday morning, I'd burst through the kitchen door and run to open the kitchen closet.

It was Easter Sunday! Yeah, yeah, I know there were Easter baskets to get to but where was our broom?? I needed to get to our broom!
Oh, my family taught me to respect Good Friday up right. We kept that day solemn, quiet, in observance from noon until three o'clock, with no TV, no radio. Good Friday is not a sad time, but a time of hushed anticipation for those like the kind of little girl that I was: in love with the heart ache of penance and humility. Walking the Stations of the Cross, kneeling before each Passion of Christ one by one, reading and hearing of Jesus’ arduous climb to His final stop on Mount Calvary — words here cannot do justice to the mystical experience that was for me.

When Easter morning finally came, I would wrap myself in a flat sheet and tie an oversize belt around my waist. I would put on my older sisters’ long brunette wigs and drag my feet, and then hunched back, across the kitchen floor, bearing the broom on my bent spine.

No one stopped me. My family would come into the kitchen and get their cereal bowls and juice glasses, moving around my slouched figure. 

My reenactments were no parody. My scene was complete with wiping the sweat off my brow, and stopping to catch my breath and ease my burden. This was work, but I could not have felt more blessed that to be in the coveted role of Jesus.

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts...,” so Shakespeare tells us. But I would go on to say, “And one man in his time plays many parts, but none felt more honored than a child imagining taking on — just for a martyred few seconds across a small kitchen floor — Jesus’ pain.”

Yes, Americans do have Easter Sunday baskets filled with candy and shredded plastic green grass. But for me, a little girl able to pretend on one soul stirring day a year, that she was carrying even an ounce of back breaking weight in her beloved Jesus’ name, well, really... bitten off chocolate bunny ears and foil wrapped eggs paled in comparison.
Hold on, Jesus, hold on, I'm coming as soon as I find where my Abuelita put the broom away last night, because I love you.
* * * 

Friday, April 14, 2017

How To Write Your Child a Poem

It's an odd thing, when a feeling overtakes you. When an idea fills your head and you can't say no to it, but you have no gift, no talent, no experience, in the thing your heart pounds at you to do.

I want to write my child a poem. Something so different and away from the 50,000 essays I've written to him already. I want to write him a poem that he can hold in his hand and fold and unfold to read over again and then again while he one day rocks away in his chair, *this close* to almost forgetting what his mother used to look like.

My first attempts late last night were of lines that rhymed.

You are my sun
When you're with me
we laugh, there is fun

You can say this is bad, because it's... bad.

You can also watch me delete and delete the words I set down, and then watch me, more determined than ever, to tell my son what it's meant to me to have spent his childhood with him.

Do I begin by confessing my regret that I didn't write down every bit of dialogue we shared?
Would he understand what I mean when I tell him that I'd give up just about anything for a slow afternoon watching him crawl on a blanket in the yard again?
Or how I had to cover my mouth, so taken with him at 11 months old, when he reached up from my lap and tried to hold my eye in his hand.

I try to remember our first memories together and I can't focus, because images fly faster than words, and all I see is toothless grins, drooling smiles, eyes that stare without blinking into mine, and his little hand, opening and closing as he reaches for my cheek.

I close my eyes, and push for words that match the lump that grows in my throat when I see his beautiful face in front of me.

I sit to write and one word surfaces first, again and again.

heart heart heart heart heart

Tonight, I decide that me writing a poem would never be able to explain the love I have for him. I just don't have that capacity.

What is the result of tonight's work is instead, a map.

A map with him at the center and the roads that all lead back to him.

How do you write your child a poem?

You draw him your heart.
* * *

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Today It's Your Birthday!

It's almost 11:39 p.m., the time of the night that you were born -- it was so close to midnight that it made the Dr. feel generous enough to give me an extra day in the hospital.

Woohoo! And yes, I took it.

I'm on a quick break from crepe paper streaming the stair railing, kitchen lights, and your bedroom door to write this post to you on your birthday.

It's no secret that you are my favorite third child, and when I'm alone with you, you become even more my favorite child in that moment. *see how tricky your mom is? you're all my favorite

Anyway, I am on the internet to wish you the happiest of birthdays today, Auggie. You have made me unbelievably happy since the minute I knew you'd be born, and every day that you've been in my life, I still haven't gotten used to the craziest luckiest reality that you are here.

Just to look at you is to see how you are so much of everything that is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Happy birthday to my kind, generous, sweet, and compassionate child. You were born into a house that always felt a little bit empty, until you came and filled it.

I love you, my baby.

Happy birthday to you!

**I know you already know what your presents are because you picked them out, so thanks for acting surprised anyway. You're the best.

* * *

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Senior by Birth

I've got my burgundy microfleece draped across my lap and tucked in behind my knees. My slippers are on over my favorite orange knee highs and I'm slowly blowing on and sipping my half-caff.

Straight leaded caffeine has become too much for me. Keeps me up and all jiggly legged along with a bit of SOB palpitations (I can be an SOB as it is but this time it begins in my lungs) has got me at 'think I'll do half caff.'

So far, less octane is working. I don't feel so edgy and prone to tears over the slightest kindness.

Anyway, one morning last week as I ripped open that day's mail--because it's come to that: I look forward to daily mail and talking about the weather. I look forward to the daily mail now, especially our community newsletter. Unfolding the month's events, I licked the tip of my fine-point Sharpie, just like my  mother used to do, and I began to circle, circle, circle, and then double-circle all my plans for the coming month.

Grinning and congratulating myself on how I was not going to miss a can't miss event again, I soon envisioned myself and gave in to misty-eyed gasps.

Though my plans for the next 30 days were a thing of beauty of not missing anything, I'll tell you, but what I saw in that moment before me amid my mug of half-caff and alongside my Sharpie were the circles of my life. These events that I am counting down the days to only reflect what I've suspected since I first had a sense of self:

That I was born a senior citizen with an AARP card in the back pocket of my diaper fold.

Author readings.
Gathering to compare measured rainfall for the month.
Bird sighting notes meeting.
Donuts in church hall.
Annual marsh walk at the nature center.

Ancient activities for what I thought was a modern woman.

Yes, the calendar staring back at me was a masterpiece, but it was also the essence of 89-year-olds. My daily to-do list was filled with dessert tidbits, but it might as well have been called "How to Stay Active as an Octogenerian."   

All the years of not knowing what to do with me, my poor mother, I remember how she would pull me out to the dance floor at family weddings, telling me I was young, I had to learn how to have a good time, how to make hay while the sun was shining, when I was perfectly thrilled to sit and chuckle at the youngsters and their new dance steps while I stirred my cake frosting into my more white than dark coffee and watched the sugar melt away in swirls.

That poor woman. What she needed then was The Parent's Guide to the Tao of Ancient Children.

I can't be the only one born 89, so someone please, for the love of all the confused parents that my mother must have been, someone get on that book.

Raising Your Ancient Children.

Could there be a more earnest undertaking?

Detach yourself from the seeming successes
and failures of your children
By doing so you become able
to be one with them at all times
You do not live your life
through your children
Therefore they are free
to find their own true fulfillment. *

Even if it is at the annual hot cider and tree sap gathering.

Bus leaves the senior center at 9 on Tuesday.

*William Martin The Parent's Tao Te Ching 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dia Internacional De La Mujer

"I had to find a cobbler to make my shoes with no heel to get caught in the bricks of the street. They did not make shoes for women who worked: only heels or leather sandals. That was all you could have."

"There was a special tailor, he would make pockets inside my dresses because the stores only sold dresses for women. Nothing for women who worked. He made me small jackets to wear over my dresses, and in them, I could have my pockets."

"A woman could not go alone into a café. I made my own money, for food for my family, but I could not go in to sit to have a coffee on my way home after work."

"I learned to give the little boys in the street five cents, ten cents, to ride with me in the taxi cab. Women could not drive alone with a man, but with a child with me, I would go where I needed to go and the child with me was able to come to town. The children would line up and wait for me in the morning, knowing I would need one of them with me to ride."
"When credit cards first began, a woman without a husband could not have one. A woman needed her husband to open her line of credit for her. I went to the Vice President of the bank, and told him I had been working three jobs in support of six children, and that with his signature, I could get a card. I promised him I would sign anything he wanted to show that I would pay this bill first. He signed for me, and I was given my own card."
These are my mother's stories. I share them today for her and for all that women before me have endured with lack of freedom and independence, being treated as less than a man and stopped from doing what a man could do without thought. For my mother, who would get up every morning and once again make her way through the inequality and injustice of life as a woman. For her, for her mother, and her mother's mother, I honor them and thank them for their example of perseverance, fight, and pride, in being a woman.
These are my mother's stories, and I am in accordance with her.
Women find a way to do what they need to do and keep on improvising, devising, inventing, and making it happen until the world catches up to them.
One day, may our world evolve enough to open space for us to be where we ought to be. But until then, I celebrate my mother, and the women of the world, on this day set aside for recognition of the women of the world, International Women's Day.  
* * *

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Only Love Today: Release Day!

“Sometimes your children just need you to listen, validate, support and to just be yourself around them. Simply be the kid in them, the kid you so dearly love.”

Last month, we had a string of grey, misty, sunless days.

Then on Friday, the clouds broke.

I had been sitting in my kitchen when I felt the sun warm my back and went to open the front door and looked up to see a clear blue sky. I stood and took in the view. It was much more than a break in the weather, the sun that day served as a reminder that under the cloud-filled skies, the sun was still there.

I had forgotten that the last ten days. Just like on the days that seem filled with failures, my failures, the sunshine of all the good that is in me is still there. I need to remember that I can draw it out and that it's never too late to reset the day no matter the start.

I do this a lot, slide back, inch out a little, then slide back again. Doing the work on my own with my short memory made it even shorter because of negative self talk, is truthfully lost on too many days.

Today I celebrate and am grateful for the release of "Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Love," by Rachel Macy Stafford, the bestselling author of "Hands Free Mama" and "Hands Free Life." 

I met Rachel years ago and I have turned to her many times in my personal life because she helps me remember that all of us are better than the criticism we too frequently heap on our own broken backs.

We are good, even when impatient, we are loving, even when frustrated, we seek to do better, even when we fall short.

We can be both at the same time and remembering that is what will save us from giving up hope on what we want for our families, ourselves, our lives.

If you go to Target today (go ahead, you can find a reason) you will see Rachel featured on Target's big screen today. Today is the release day of her work of heart, "Only Love Today."

Pick up a copy and see for yourself why I am writing about her book today. On the simplest level, I believe in her words because we all know that our days are anything but smooth sailing. We need a friend who is always there, we needs words of truth and encouragement and sometimes we need them quick and fast, and pretty much every 24 hrs.

I want the best for my children, in their happiness and in their discovery of who they are, but I don't want to lose my mind over it. I want my family to have happy memories from their life with me, but I don't want to forget myself in the process.

“Only Love Today” can be a go-to inspiration, so keep it close by, in your bag, your purse, your night stand, your glove compartment, your coffee table, like I do. Keep it close to help you when have that feeling of being alone without anyone understanding or appreciating the work you do to find a center in your home.

If a quiet gentle reminder to live undistracted, heart led, is what you seek, pick up "Only Love Today." If you want to learn how to take an ordinary moment, and breathing magic into it with intent, you'll find it in "Only Love Today."

Only Love Today -----  is clarity when you're conflicted.

Only Love Today ----  is unity when you're divided.

Only Love Today ----- is faith when you're uncertain.
Only Love Today ---- is a reset button directing you back to what matters most.
Thank you, Rachel, for "Only Love Today." We can do what we hope, when we have friends to walk with us along the way.
* * *

Monday, February 20, 2017

No President's Day For You!

No President's Day for You. Because you're not nice.

You know who else wasn't nice? Your inspiration, P7. He called himself the “direct representative of the common man” too.

He was not 70 years old like you, but instead 67. He packed double pistols, and toted them. I'll even let you call him a double pistol packing insane dude who could almost be standing right in front of you today.

Are we talking about P45 or P7? I forget, one seems to be the tarnation reincarnation of one of the worst presidents our country has ever known.

Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson was the 7th president of the United States. He was called Old Hickory not for his craggly face as one would think, but because he'd beat you about the face and chest with his hickory cane, getting a good blow in on your spine too if you ever disagreed with him or he set a not- a- likin' to you.

Here's where else the similarities between these two get goose-bumpy: they were both - gasp- 6’2″. Though our modern recreation of Old Hickory states that his “doctor” using the quotes that our current POTUS likes so much, puts him at "236" pounds, the original Old Hickory was a frightening 140 pounds.

140 pounds of chihuahua weight frenzy.

P7's I- don’t- give- a- shit life began at age 12, when he joined a local militia and quickly became a prisoner of war for the British. When ordered to polish a British General’s boots, he told the requesting officer that he’d shine his boots the day the officer got to know a donkey biblically. The Brit General slashed an X on the young Jackson’s face with his sword, and Jackson again issued the invitation, “Go to your beast, sir.”

Hoooooooooooooly crap, what a mouth.

His mother and father were both dead by the time he was 14, and being an orphan meant he was dirt poor–and yet he grew up to be the 7th president of the United States. He often bragged about how he was a self made man, no help from others, with only himself to count on. He taught himself country lawyerin’ Matlock style, and thus began his political career.

The very first assassination attempt on a U.S. President was against Jackson, when an unemployed painter aimed a pistol at Jackson and misfired. Jackson whipped out his hickory cane and proceeded to beat the poor idiot of a man about the head so severely that members of congress had to pull Jackson off.

No gentrified country leader, Andrew “The Mob” Jackson had many organizational “ties.” He set a group of his “friends” (actually PIRATES) to defend New Orleans. The British attackers totally freaked at the undiplomacy of it all that they ran yelping away with their tails between their legs, not knowing what to do without the customary honor and decorum of a political leader.

Jackson was in over 103 duels in his life, fighting with someone almost DAILY.

The most famous run-in was for shooting a man who looked at his wife, Rachel. Oh, and Rachel? Whoo boy, he married her while she was still married to another man. I don't want to be sued since I know bloggers get sued so I won't say something about what I heard about someone being still married while getting married, I just won't say it. Even if many people are...

Old Hickory held his Presidential ball on the White House lawn, and invited the entire nation– because remember? He called himself “the president of the people.” His wife wasn't there, she stayed in a hotel away from the White House instead. Are these deja vus only freaking me out?? The White House was trashed inside and out, and Mrs. Jackson was nowhere in sight.

Jackson was the only President to leave office with the country in the black and the entire national debt paid off by strong arming other countries into paying back every cent they had ever borrowed from the US and for saying the US would be made a fool of NO MORE.

Like I said, it's not just me who sees the similarities between P7 and P45. P45 has chosen Jackson as his idol/inspiration. It is Jackson's portrait that he's chosen to hang square in front of his line of vision in the oval office.

To guide, inspire, and sing to while he looks up, We did it ourrrrrrrrrrrrr waaaaaaaaaaaaaay.
* * *

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We All Just Want To Be Seen

photo Carrie Stuckmann
We tell our stories to find out who we are.
We tell our stories to remember who we've been.
We tell our stories to say we are here.
This past Saturday, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Milwaukee gathered for the first time to meet as the 2017 cast of this year's show. 11 of us heard our stories for the first time, and we took in how our stories work together.
Our stories work together: as we sat around the meeting room table, an incredible serendipity began to rise. Every one of the 11 people in the room was a stranger. How is it that these 11 lives of people who do not know each other, so different and apart, make sense enough to fit in with the 10 stories shared before and the ones that came after?
It's because we are together in this life.

As hard as it is to believe right now, with the heartbreaking divide in this country that doesn't look like it can heal, what LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Milwaukee created yesterday, was evidence.
Proof and evidence, that was seen, felt, and heard, on the way we have the capacity to hold each other in our lives. We join our experiences and even though we don't know each other, we feel that we do because of our stories.
We share our stories and we see the cracked couch where you nursed your baby who is now leaving for college. We see you as you were when you were four years old and you hear that your mother has fallen. Tell us how you as a mother of five, work to find 28 hours in a day that has only 24, and we are breathless right along with you.
We are there, alongside you, and we are alive. What we crave when we share our stories, is to be seen. To not disappear without someone knowing that we were here, and this sense of presence is what we need when we sit down and write our stories.
We want to be seen, and we are seen when we speak, and we are seen when we are in the audience and hear someone at the podium speak a story where we finally feel understood. Our lives don't feel so separate and alone anymore. Stories connect us and have us looking to each other: when we listen and when we know you when you know us.
Please come to our LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Show on Sunday, May 7, at Alverno College's Wehr Theatre.
Come take in the stories that are a hand held out to you and you, taking that hand and saying that we see each other.
No one is invisible when they are seen through someone else's story and when they are heard with the words they share.
I have a long list why I need you to be there on May 7, but let's say this:
I don't want to forget that the love we have for each other as human beings is something that will appear, when we do.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I'm Sorry, I Thought ALL Children Had a Right

Due to realistic word counts, I could only cover one reason why Betsy DeVos cannot be confirmed as Trump's choice for Secretary of Education.

How's that for bluntness?

But it's one reason that comes with an unacceptable cost to our children with special needs/disabilities. It's her incredible stance on educational opportunity and resources for ALL children, which is this: "Eh. Let the schools decide who they want to take. Or not."

Do you know how frightening this is for families who have fought for education's necessity and place for their special needs children since their lives began?? It's pretty damn breakdown close to tears scared.

Thank you, Scary Mommy for taking the bold step of not hiding behind silence, and allowing me to speak out on what is at stake to all of our country's children, if Betsy DeVos is confirmed into Trump's cabinet.

"My husband tells me I'm going to give myself a heart attack. But I can't help it. I'm breathing hard, I'm sweating and my heart IS pounding. I'm scared... [read more here]"
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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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