listen to your mother

#MicroblogMondays: Snow Day

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We have a snow day today, that rare event in the South.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another tomorrow since we had more sleet than snow.  It wasn’t the best snow event.  The models had originally forecasted us to have at least 5 inches of snow, but as the event unfolded the dreaded warm nose infiltrated, and we ended up with sleet and maybe 1/2 inch to 1 inch of snow on Saturday.  At least it is pretty.  We had something similar happen last year and we ended up with freezing rain and power outages, so this is a definite improvement even though it isn’t fun to play in.  We love snow, so we hope this isn’t our only winter weather event of the season.   I know, I know. If we love snow that much, we should move to a more receptive climate.

 

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Today I also posted the audition information for our 5th and final Listen to Your Mother:Raleigh-Durham show. It is bittersweet. I know we will have another wonderful show, and we will meet amazing people sharing their stories, but it makes me sad it is our final show under this name.  I do like the symmetry of our last year being our 5th year, though.

So I implore you, if there is a show near you, please consider submitting or auditioning.  It is a magical experience, and I have been honored to be part of it. You can find a list of participating cities and submission/audition info here.

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Plans in Pencil

This was the post I read for the 2016 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show last week.  Can’t believe the show is over already!

Last week on the way home from school, my son, my sweet 6-year-old, my baby told me he had a girlfriend.  This girlfriend is an older woman, having turned 8.

He broke this news to me by telling me that he and this girl, Rose, were going to get married (what????), they would work as a veterinarian (her) and a doctor (him), and that Rose was afraid of having babies cut out of her. He then asked me if he had been cut out of me.

Deep breaths.

I had no labor and delivery with him myself, vaginal or otherwise.  My son was the result of gestational surrogacy. I was able to sit back and observe calmly while our surrogate delivered him. If you believe that sentence, well, I have a few other things I can sell you.

It was time. It was time to have the talk with him about how he came to be.  We hadn’t intended on keeping it a secret – absolutely not at all – but sometimes there isn’t a simple opening or Hallmark card for this type of conversation.  We had blown it up in our minds to take on epic qualities; how would he react?

Later that evening, we brought up the topic again. I gently told him – trying to use simple language – that he had not been in my belly because it didn’t work and that another, wonderful woman had carried him for us. We waited for his reaction.

“Oh, OK, “ he replied. “Can I have ice cream now?”

I asked him how he felt about this information.  He placed his still baby-soft hand on my stomach. “Mommy, are you still broken?”

Broken.  Yes, I am still broken. My reproductive organs don’t work and never will. My son is our miracle child, made possible by the kindness of a stranger who carried him.

I never wanted only one child. I grew up as an only child. I didn’t have a miserable childhood, but I felt lonely, and I was envious of my friends with siblings. Maybe I would have been more socially competent with a sibling. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone in the world. Maybe I would be a different person. The possibilities of what might have been are endless.

While I have one child, I also have five frozen siblings for him. Siblings isn’t quite the correct word.  We have five frozen embryos, five bits of potential. In the infertility community, we call them frosties, or my personal favorite, “totsicles.” It is amazing to have any embryos to freeze, and I have five after a horrible IVF cycle in which it seemed I’d be fortunate to create any embryos. These are embryos created from barely 31-year-old me and gave us our son. Our only son.

I’m very close to 39 now.

We receive the bill for cryopreservation of our embryos annually. We don’t talk about it but pay it automatically every year. Our other options are to destroy them, to donate or adopt them out to other families or to allow them to be used for research. We can’t do any of that. Yet.

We always wanted more than one child, but circumstances made that difficult.  Having a second child would require a major financial outlay as well as significant changes in our lives. Are we too old for that? Are we too old for bottles and nightly feedings? For daycare costs? For potty training? For all the energy and money infancy and toddlerhood require?  And what about my career and increasing responsibility? What about the child we already have and his needs, his future?

I’d like to say we could swing it, but I FEEL tired. I AM tired. We are in a groove, and our sweet boy is more independent every day.

We know the answer, but we keep kicking the can further down the road.

When I let myself think about it, I get angry. I feel like I was robbed of choices when it came to family building and the choices we did have were difficult and came with heavy implications.  There is a part of me that still simmers with resentment and anger: WHY US? WHY did this have to be our reality?

Very few of us realize the lives we hoped to have. Regardless of what our dreams were, reality slaps us in the face.  We are obligated nothing, and our notion of control is an illusion. I need to bottle my resentment and anger, my caustic bitterness, and put it away.  Yes, we were dealt a shitty hand reproductively, but what can you do? We did what we could. We rolled the dice and won once. Nothing guarantees we would win again.

I have one son, and he is wonderful. He is sweet, bright, energetic, and sentimental. He is exhausting, argumentative, and stubborn. He is everything I wished and hoped for and so much more.

Instead of lingering on what I can’t change, I need to focus on what I do have. My son tells me he and his future wife plan to name my future grandchild “Sprinkle”. I smile. It’s nice to have plans, but I have learned it is wise to plan in pencil.

Listen to Your Mother 2016!

Thrilled to announce that Marty and I will again be bringing Listen to Your Mother to the Raleigh-Durham area in 2016!  That show will be our 4th, and this year, Listen to Your Mother expands to 41 cities, including one in Canada!

Marty and I met for coffee last week to start planning, and we’re going to do a few things differently for the 4th year.  Shake things up a bit.  It will be fun!

Here’s the official announcement for 2016.

If you are in NC, information about the submission process will come out in January.  If you are outside NC, please look and see if there is a show close to you.  It’s been amazing being part of Listen to Your Mother, and I cannot recommend it enough.

#MicroblogMondays: Listen to Your Mother

  

It is hard to believe, but this is show week for Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham. We have tech rehearsal on Wednesday and our shows are Thursday and Friday.

This is our third year producing it, and each year the time before the show seems to go faster and faster. I swear it seems like we were accepting submissions and scheduling auditions only yesterday.

We have a great cast and a diverse, incredibly moving set of essays. Watching the cast come together and bond is always one of my favorite parts of this process.  I talk a lot about what an honor it is to facilitate these wonderful women’s access to a stage and audience to share their stories, but it truly is. These are ordinary women, ordinary in the way we all are, but with stories to share, stories we all have.

I always find myself singing. “Another Op’nin’, Another Show'” this time of year. Listen to Your Mother isn’t exactly a show like what is meant in the song, but it feels right.

So cross your fingers and send us good wishes later this week. Our Thursday show is sold our and Friday close to it. And another Listen to Your Mother year will come to a close.

Then out o’ the hat it’s that big first night
The overture is about to start
You cross your fingers and hold your heart,
It’s curtain time and away we go!
Another op’nin’,
Just another Op’nin of another show

Submissions Open for 2015 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham

It begins!

I am pleased to announce that Marty and I are now accepting submissions for the 2015 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show! I know you have stories to share, and I’d love to hear them all. Please consider submitting or passing along the information to your book clubs, neighborhood groups, church groups and school pages or lists.  We are looking for diverse voices to share their stories, and remember you do not need to be a mother or a woman to submit.  The submission deadline is January 31, 2015. You can find more information here, and if you’re curious about what the show is about, check out the videos from the 2014 show.

If you are outside of NC, I encourage you to find a city close to you and submit.  There are shows in 39 cities this year.  I was delighted that Arch Mama was in the St. Louis show last year, and I’d love for you to participate!

Listen to Your Mother 2015

I am thrilled to announce that Marty and I will be producing the 2015 season and third season of Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham. Now that we are in our third year, I feel like true veterans. And I cannot wait to see what submissions we receive and how the show takes shape. We are more curators than producers.

I’m not a trite person, but truly, participating in Listen to Your Mother has changed my life. It has given me a long-desired theater outlet. It has enabled me to meet wonderful people. It has allowed for amazing stories to be told, and I am so proud of helping those stories find a platform. This year, nationally, we have 39 cities participating!

A few days ago, The Atlantic published this story on the psychology of storytelling. I could not agree more. If you are in the Triangle area or, hell, in NC, please consider submitting an essay. If you live in a different state, please consider submitting an essay to those productions. I had one friend participate in a different city last year, and I was so proud. But I know you all have wonderful stories to share. Please consider sharing them. Email me if you have questions.

Sooooooo proud to again co-produce the show for 2015!!!!

What’s Your Story?

Lately, everywhere I go, everything I read, emphasizes the importance of storytelling.  It shows up in articles and blogs I read online. It even shows up at a data conference I attended in a session on visualizing data and using it to tell a story for stakeholders.  Dashboards used to be the buzzword; now storytelling is on the rise.  Headlines encouraging you to tell your story, share your story, tell the story.

The question is whether storytelling as a concept, as a tool, is truly on the rise or if I’m just more attuned to it.

It’s more likely that I am experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, the experience of encountering a new concept or thing everywhere after you learn about it.  I could call it by its more prosaic name of “frequency illusion,” but I think Baader-Meinhof is jazzier.

Storytelling.  I used to think of stories and the telling of them as something for children. It certainly wasn’t something adults do (we call that “blogging” or marketing if you’re in business). Stories are something we outgrow as we move from board books to novels with longer, more complicated plots. Stories are instructive, tools for molding behavior and character.

Ever since the spring and our two Listen to Your Mother productions, I’ve been thinking a lot about stories and storytelling. It’s likely because we had two cast members this year who work with stories, their structure, their form, their history, and their power. And I began to see our production as an important part of the storytelling process, giving our local readers – adults all – an opportunity to share their stories, to have the audience learn from them, and to learn from each other.  I found myself learning lessons from each one: the futility of control, respecting myself as worth a place at the table, learning from our children, flipping roles with our parents. I learned from them and internalized those lessons as I hope Daniel learns from the stories we read him.

It turns out that storytelling isn’t so childish after all. One of the most profound books I read this year was Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive Mass Extinction by Annalee Newitz.  In it, Newitz explore prior extinction events (spoiler alert: there have been many); the rise of humans; and finally, what we might face in the future.  The “Remember” part of the title refers to storytelling and how it is not merely something fun to do around the fire or at a party but is in fact a powerful survival tactic and evolutionary development. As Newitz writes, “Over the past million years, humans bred themselves to be the ultimate survivors, capable of both exploring the world and adapting to it by sharing stories about what we found there.”

And this:

It could be that one small group of H. sapiens developed a genetic mutation that led to experiments with cultural expression. Then, the capacity to do it spread via mating between groups because storytelling and symbolic thought were invaluable survival skills for a species that regularly encountered unfamiliar environments. Using language and stories, one group could explain to another how to hunt the local animals and which plants were safe to eat.

And this:

…people could figure out how to adapt to a place before arriving there—just by hearing stories from their comrades. Symbolic thought is what allowed us to thrive in environments far from warm, coastal Africa, where we began. It was the perfect evolutionary development for a species whose body propelled us easily into new places. Indeed, one might argue that the farther we wandered, the more we evolved our skills as storytellers.

Storytelling saved lives and may have even assisted in our evolution. I can’t think of many things more powerful than that.

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Speaking of stories, this week the videos from the 30+ 2014 Listen to Your Mother shows became available on YouTube.  Here’s the link to the main LTYM channel with all the shows. And here’s the link to the Raleigh-Durham videos. And because I’m not above a little shameless self-promotion, here’s the link to MY reading 😉

I promise that you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll learn. Enjoy.