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!!!!

Once More, with Feeling

One of the accomplishments I am most proud of this year was co-producing Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham. It was a whirlwind of planning, logistics, casting, obtaining sponsorships and enticing press, but it came together beautifully, and it was powerful seeing our cast bond and come together as well as watch the audience’s emotional response to the cast’s powerful stories about motherhood.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce that Marty and I will bring Listen to Your Mother to the Triangle again in 2014!

The 2014 season expands to 32 cities, and I am awed again to be part of such a wonderful group of women.

We have no details yet about a show date, venue, or audition details – the official announcement only came out today! I am certain we will have more details about our show after the holidays.

In the meantime, if you are in NC, start looking over pieces to submit. If our are outside NC, please see if a city close to you is on the list! Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, St. Louis, Spokane and Chicago, to name a few, are some of the participating cities. I’d love to have my friends from all over the country participate!

Congrats to the 2014 cities! I know it will be another amazing series of shows.

If Your Child is Born but You aren’t the One Giving Birth, is it Still Your Birth Story?

PAIL’s Monthly Theme for October is about your birth story. Technically, we have one, but I wasn’t the one giving birth.  I wrote about our surrogacy birth experience a couple of years ago.

I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to birth stories because I can’t really participate. Get a group of women together who have children and you can be certain that at some point the topic will come up and the story swapping will begin. What can I offer? “Oh, my surrogate pushed for 5 minutes and almost didn’t have time to get an epidural!” Yeah, that’s a bit of a conversation stopper.

Women bond over their birth stories. It’s the female version of a war story. And I get why they are important. I do. Birth is an amazing, beautiful, terrifying experience and the end result is literally life changing. It’s just that after spending 4 years being mute during discussions of pregnancy symptoms, delicious babies and birth stories as well as dreading baby showers, I was looking forward to being in the club. And I am, sort of. I failed to realize there was another level of membership, of initiation, and I can’t join. I am silent again. You don’t realize how much the discussion of motherhood revolves around the physical aspects until you are unable to participate, to contribute.

Contribute. Maybe that’s what bothers me. I am unable to contribute to the larger narrative of pregnancy and birth that is unique to the female experience. Does that negate my experience? Make me less of a member? Perpetually a junior member of the club Mother?

But then again, 4 years out from my son’s birth, I am wiser. I’ve realized over the passage of time and (sometimes painful) experience that there are always clubs to which we cannot belong. There are new clubs I didn’t realize existed until recently and clubs to which I belong that others may envy.

So ladies, I do not begrudge you your birth stories. You earned them. My story may be a bit more unconventional with me hyperventilating in a chair and wishing for a Valium, but that’s OK. The end result was the same.

Of Strawberries and Microphones

Berry picker

Berry picker

Last weekend, Daniel and I went to a local farm and picked strawberries.  It was a blustery day, very unusual for May in North Carolina.  Daniel was so excited. Honestly, so was I. I’m not sure I’d ever picked my own berries before, and we’re fortunate to have several farms in the area that allow you to do so.

I quickly schooled Daniel on how to identify ripe berries vs unripe ones.  That explanation mostly worked.  I was left holding the pail as my super-fast little boy’s fingers nimbly plucked berries from the vine.  He might have picked a few green berries by mistake, and he definitely ate more than a few berries as he picked them. I gave up preventing him from eating them and tried to keep him from putting half-eaten berries in our bucket.

It only 20 minutes, we had a huge bucket filled with strawberries for which we paid only $10. Daniel tried to carry the heavy bucket to our car but after he left a trail of berries in his wake, I convinced him to let me carry the bucket.

I used some of the berries in daycare lunches for the week but was at a loss at what to do with the remaining strawberries before they went bad because I knew Daniel would want to go pick berries again and soon.  As I was prepping for the Listen to Your Mother cast party last Wednesday, I was inspired to bring along the remaining berries.  They had been picked by Daniel and he had more or less listened to my instructions, so it seemed right to have them at the party, like a little token from him.


Listen to Your Mother. Y’all.  I don’t even know where to begin or how to find the words. The cast was amazing and read flawlessly. It was so gratifying to hear the audience laugh at the parts that made us laugh and cry at the parts that devastated us. Our sold-out (!) audience was very into the show, and it felt like we were performing for family and friends. OK, many of us were, but there was an intimacy in the hall, and it was possible to connect one on one – a glance here, a smile there – with the audience.

I am so damn proud of us and the show we put on.  That these 14 women and 1 man were able to swallow their fears, doubts and anxieties and bare their souls. To be brave, to use the word of the night. It’s one thing to write something, publish it and walk away. It’s another to stand up in front of a crowd and read it, exposing the most vulnerable parts of you.

But this cast did it and knocked it out of the damn park.

Mingling with my pride is a wee bit of sadness. It’s like the day after Christmas, when you have the let down after weeks of euphoria and anticipation. I can’t believe the show is over and that 14 people came to mean so much to me in such a short period of time.  But we’ve converted our FB group to an alumni group, and I hope that we can continue to stay in touch.  I can’t imagine any of us would turn turn away the possibility of more friends.

There are pictures to come and the full video will be on YouTube in a few weeks, but for now, check out show photographer Jess Rotenberg’s post on the show with a few gorgeous pictures.

Too often motherhood is portrayed in the media as black and white: you’re either good, perfect and saintly or bad, selfish and neglectful. In reality, though, we know that motherhood is complicated. Mothers are complicated. It’s not and we are not black and white. There are many, many, many shades of gray and I am honored that we were able to give a microphone to these amazing women and man so that they could tell their stories.

Beautiful flowers from the cast after the show

Beautiful flowers from the cast after the show

Presenting Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham

Today’s the day.  At half-past-7 (imagine that in a pretentious British accent), 14 brave women and 1 intrepid man will file onto the stage at Kenan Hall on the campus of William Peace University, take their sits and the inaugural Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham will begin. For the next hour and a half, the audience will be treated to original readings on motherhood:  the  highs, the lows, the hysterical, the wistful, the sweet.  Tears of mirth as well as sadness may flow. And then, it will be over.

Somehow, it has become May, and it’s time for our show.  It truly seems like only a few weeks ago when Marty and I were trying to find a location and then holding auditions.  It seemed like we had plenty of time before the show, but the day has come.

We’re ready. There are a few show-day hiccups however: one cast member is in the ER for pain and shortness of breath, and I sound like a 3-pack-a-day smoker thanks to allergies (hopefully) or a poorly-timed cold (hopefully not). But the show will go on, and it is going to be so awesome.

We’re sold out, y’all. Sold out. We hoped we would sell out, but actually seeing the ticket site say zero tickets remaining gave us chills.

And our cast rocks. Despite only getting together a handful of times, the 15 of us plowed through forming, ignored storming, and quickly progressed to norming and as of tonight, performing. They are exchanging emails and offering each other hugs and advice, and swapping stories.

I learned in Performance Leadership that the quickest way to build trust and intimacy is to share something about yourself, to show that you are human; that’s what each of us have done in our pieces.  Baring our souls has allowed us to gel, and I’ve never felt so close to so many former strangers in such a quick period of time.  Everyone one of us is grateful for the opportunity to be in the show and keep thanking me and Marty while we keep thanking them. It’s their stories that make this first-ever show in Raleigh-Durham possible.

I have a new dress. I have new jewelry. I have a new haircut. And most importantly, I have new shapewear.

Of course, none of that is important. We could read in burlap sacks and it wouldn’t alter the impact of our words.

Spare a moment to whisper “break a leg” at 7:30 PM EST if you can.  I can’t wait.

A Rant on Reproductive “Rights” and Horrible Daycares

I’ve read a few stories the past few days that are horrific.  They make me sick to my stomach and want to cry.  They also force me to conclude that there is not only a war against women (not that I was a doubter) but also that there is true disdain for being a poor woman.

I wonder if the right, the so-called conservatives or family-values brigade, realizes how contradictory its positions are.  Don’t have sex until marriage (the 1900s called and they want their values back), but if  you do and get pregnant, you better keep it.  If you are pregnant, that 8-celled embryo has more rights than you, but don’t expect us to help if the child you dutifully birth needs Head Start to prepare for school.  If you expect to get government assistance (AKA welfare) to subsist, you have to work; where and in what conditions you put those kids we begged you to have isn’t our concern.

Sure, I’m likely generalizing quite a bit and being a bit inflammatory, but honestly, I’m shocked and appalled at what is going on in this country lately when it comes to reproductive rights and then the lack of policies to help care for children from the self-named “family values party.”

Look, people are going to have sex.  They’ve had sex for hundreds of millions of years, and your declaration that sex outside of marriage (a fairly recent invention) is immoral isn’t making a difference.  Women want to have sex responsibly and be in charge of their own reproductive outcomes and seek contraception, yet there is a war on that.  Women get pregnant (because they didn’t have access to contraception) and decide to seek a legal (remember that fact?) abortion.  Unfortunately, for lower income women, it may be difficult to obtain one in the legally-allowed time frame due to cost.  As a result, they may have to seek one at type like Gosnell’s.  Do you think a woman wants to have a partial-birth abortion?  Do you really think a woman wakes up one day and says, “you know, I’m tired of this whole pregnancy thing. Think I’ll get a partial-birth abortion.” The woman who settles on a place like this clinic is desperate and poor.  She can’t afford earlier procedures or better conditions and puts her life in the hands of this so-called doctor.  It’s NOT a whim.

Let’s say the woman decides to have the baby and parent it.  That’s wonderful, right? Except for the fact that she will need to work to support her family and/or obtain any government assistance.  She has to do something with the child, right? Decent, regulated child care can be difficult to obtain at best and unaffordable at worst.  Do you think this mother wants to leave her beloved child in a situation that might cause unease? That might seem unsafe? Daycare is expensive.  Good daycare is VERY expensive.  How can you demand a mother work to receive any assistance, yet make it impossible for her to find decent care for her child?  And then when tragedy happens, you cluck that this is what happens when mothers enter the workforce, conveniently ignoring the fact that you have contributed to this Scylla and Charybdis.

You might be wondering what dog I have in this fight.  I admit that I am privileged.  I own it.  Jimmy and I are fortunate to be able to afford the best daycare for our son and any other services he might need. We have the ability to shop around and evaluate excellent facilities according to our whims. I’ve never worried how we were going to support our family.  Never worried about the toll an extra mouth to feed might take. Never had to fight for any type of contraception (and I write that with great irony given my particular conditions).  Hell, we were able to pay a lot of money to have a baby.  Conservatives, we are your people! Except for the fact that I loathe injustice.  I loathe children not being able to get a fair shake in life. I loathe children being placed in unsafe conditions due to a lack of government intervention.  I loathe women being treated as lower-class citizens.  I loathe feeling like my gender is denied intelligence in some political circles. And I also loathe being told what to do with my own body. And overall, I loathe unfairness.

I wonder what it says about a country that values upholding the right of its citizens to own guns–even guns that could almost be weapons of mass destruction–over valuing and caring for its youngest citizens. As Cohn’s article points out, government subsidy of childcare could have huge returns as far as reduced prison, health and special education costs and increased economic contributions.   To me, it seems a no-brainer. What am I missing?

After Newtown, I lost a friend on Twitter after I tweeted that the Republicans cared more about embryos and potential than actual children since they were reluctant to enact gun control measures.  I understand she was offended, but I stand by that sentiment, and nothing I have read has altered my stance.

The explanation often given is to let the free market decide.  Capitalism will decide. I don’t think so. When I was in high school and learning about different types of economic systems, my teacher pointed out that capitalism without restraints can be very harsh.  Capitalism is the “honey badger” of economic systems.  Unsafe conditions or too-low wages? Capitalism don’t care.  Read The Jungle and then tell me government intervention is  unnecessary. The programs FDR put in place and similar social programs were necessary to blunt the sharpness of Capitalism. Yet too many politicians seek to dismantle them. Why care for the elderly?  Why allow our citizens to feel like their country rewards them for any service? Hell, just let us die and then bulldoze over us to build the next monstrosity to profit (for a few!) Capitalism demands.

I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m furious that anyone, let alone any woman, any mother, regardless of financial status has to justify any decision she makes.  Has to jump through hoops to make pertinent decisions for herself, her body and her children or future children. Has to believe she has no other option than to go to a cut-rate abortion provider who doesn’t even clean up after prior procedures. Has to put her precious child in a situation that feels not quite right in order to earn money.

We live in the richest, most free country in the world, yet we’re content to let religion and dogma prevent us from doing what is ethical and what is right. Am I wrong to be bothered by that?


Almost Show Time

A month from now, it will all be over.  All the meetings and Facebook conversations.  The tweets.  The texts.  The sponsor soliciting.  Celebrating when your cold call gets a positive response.  Gnashing your teeth in frustration when you are turned down by a potential sponsor or charity who doesn’t get what you are trying to do.

A month from now, these 15 women and men who were brought together due to their heart-felt pieces on motherhood, camaraderie formed, confidences shared, enthusiasm evident, will disperse.

For Raleigh-Durham’s Listen to Your Mother show will be over.

I remember in January as Marty and I bounced venue and charity ideas off of each other, how much time it seemed like we had.  Suddenly it was time for auditions and building our cast and our show.  And now, here we are in the last few–very few—weeks before our show.  It’s time to shift our mindset to publicity, to ensuring we have a full house for our show.  It feels like there are a thousand balls in the air that we are juggling for the show in addition to our “normal” lives of working, parenting and living.  We’re at the detail stage right now: designing ads, posters, programs; thinking of cast gifts; finding an after-party location.

It’s been difficult for me to be as engaged with the process as I would like since work has been crazy just when I need to contribute the most.  I hate feeling like I’m not pulling my weight.

Sometimes my mindset shifts to my old theater days in terms of thinking of the production: need to do this, tech rehearsal, costumes, etc. But then it dawns on me how special our show is, how remarkable it is to be part of the Listen to Your Mother organization.

Our cast is comprised of real women and men with real stories.  These aren’t scripted lines.  They come from the heart.  They are their reality.  The darkest moments.  The highest highs. Painful histories.  Worries.  Doubts.  Appreciation.  Love. Side-splitting humor   I feel honored that Marty and I have been given the opportunity to help bring these stories and these wonderful voices to a wider audience.  I take a step back and am awed and so proud to be able to do this for our community.

Tickets are on sale.  I’ve added a feed of the latest posts on our LTYM site to my sidebar (it’s a bit wonky).  Right now we’re posting cast profiles and posts on our gracious sponsors.  I’d love it if you’d click over and get to know the amazing man and women who will be reading on May 8.

Listen to Your Mother Raleigh-Durham: Location Update!

Awesome news!  We have a venue!  The Listen to Your Mother Raleigh-Durham show location will be at Kenan Auditorium on William Peace University’s campus May 8, 2013 at 7:30 PM.

I am so relieved to have a location for our show, and it looks like it will be perfect.  Having a place, date and time makes our show so real!  Marty and I agreed that we are going to keep our scope small for our first year of putting on a Listen to Your Mother show so we can learn the ins and outs and not become overwhelmed, but I promise you the show will be no less meaningful and awesome.

Stay tuned for audition information that will be announced next week!  We also are getting close to announcing our chosen charity.

If you aren’t in the Raleigh-Durham area, I urge you to check the other participating cities for audition dates and performance information.  You do not have to be a blogger to participate.

Thank you for your support.  I’m a little in shock that we will be having our show in less than 4 months, but it is SO exciting.

My 2013 Hobby: Listen to Your Mother is Coming to Raleigh!

Back in the day, I was theater nerd.  I started acting in community theater at the age of 8 and soon joined a children’s theater group and school theater, acting in plays and musicals throughout high school and college.  I even considered making it my major but decided against it because I like to eat and buy clothes off of eBay.

I haven’t done anything theater-related in a LONG time, but I missed it.  I didn’t miss the behind-the-scenes drama and diva behavior (actors and actresses can be intense y’all), but I missed the camaraderie of a group of people coming together, sacrificing evenings and weekends to create something and let’s be honest: there’s nothing quite like the high of performing.

We have a vibrant theater scene in the Triangle, and I had thought a tiny bit about trying to get involved when something serendipitous happened.

Have you heard of Listen to Your Mother? No?  Well, let me tell you all about it.  Listen to Your Mother (LYTM) is the brainchild of Ann Imig and is a series of readings by local writers across the nation to celebrate mothering and Mother’s Day.  Selected communities create a show that is entirely produced, directed and performed by those in their community.

Last year I watched the chatter on Twitter around the 2012 shows.  I wanted a show in my area!  Fortunately, many others felt the same way.  When the call for applications for 2013 opened, the Triangle bloggers mobilized, expressing interest and participation in whatever way needed.  Marty (@Canape), a fellow blogger, and I agreed to fill out the application and submit it.

Almost 2 weeks ago, we received word that our application for the Raleigh-Durham area had been accepted.  We were jubilant but couldn’t tell a soul until the formal announcement.  Torture!

Today the formal announcement was released, and the floodgates opened.  Marty and I are honored and so very excited to be bringing Listen to Your Mother to Raleigh-Durham in 2013.

We don’t have many details firmed up yet, but stay tuned!  We will be announcing audition and performance dates soon.

On a personal level, I am so proud to do this.  I mentioned a few times this year that I was floundering a bit, trying to expand beyond my comfort zone and figure out what I want to do.  Bringing Listen to Your Mother to the area is the perfect challenge and opportunity for me, and it will require me to exercise muscles that have been dormant for a long time. It is the perfect marriage of theater, writing and motherhood, all subjects dear to me.

I welcome this challenge and hope you all come along for the ride.