stories

#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

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.

***

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.

 

Week in My Life 2012: Tuesday

 

We have a joke around the office that Tuesdays suck except it’s not really a joke.  They tend to suck.  Maybe it’s because you feel a false sense of well-being because it’s not Monday.  Maybe it’s because it’s still not far enough into the week to for you not to be depressed that it’s not closer to the weekend.  Whatever the reason, crappy stuff tends to happen often on Tuesdays both at work and at home because Tuesday also happens to be garbage night.  This Tuesday was no exception.  I’ve decided to focus on what happens after 5pm because tricky Tuesday threw me a curve at work in that my scheduled 4-hour meeting ended up going an extra hour, so there was nothing from work to document except for the screaming in my head.

Traffic was horrible on the way to pick up Daniel, so I rolled into the parking lot right at 6pm, setting us up for a rushed evening.  In contrast to Monday’s ridiculously short nap, I was thrilled to discover Daniel had a good nap.  Since we were already behind, hopefully his nap would buy us a little time and it seemed to because he was in a great mood on the way home.

Happy Daniel on the ride home

 

Since he was a baby, Daniel has loved to try to change the stoplight from red to green by blowing on it.  Nowadays he likes to command me to “blow the light, Mommy.”  Here we are both trying to change the light.

I wonder what the other drivers think.

 

When we arrive home, Daniel makes a beeline for the leaves in the front yard because he wants to catch a squirrel.  Good luck with that.

Where’d the squirrel go?

 

Since we’re so much later getting home than usual, Jimmy has beaten us home and already taken out the garbage.  One odious task done!  Surely that means the rest of the night will be smooth sailing!  I’ve posted before about how we try to prepare a multi-day meal once a week and this week’s is to be jambalaya.  Only we hadn’t made it yet because we didn’t make it to the store on Sunday, meaning we grocery shopped yesterday, resulting in the sub-par Chinese for dinner Monday night.  Since we needed to do a bit of meal prep, we fed Daniel separately and began to prep.  I cooked hot sausage while sous chefs Jimmy and Daniel cut vegetables.

Maybe a show on the Food Network is in our future?

The evening is passing by in a haze of domestic tranquility.  We’re prepping jambalaya while Daniel proceeds from his dinner to his fruit course, while a Thomas DVD gently blares in the background.  It’s almost time to get Daniel ready from bed, and I’m patting myself on the back over how smoothly everything has gone.  Then disaster strikes.  I discover we are missing a key ingredient for the jambalaya.  Jimmy has to go to the store to get it, leaving me to handle the bedtime routine with the 3-year-old who insists on doing everything for himself except when he decides he doesn’t want to and moves at a glacial speed unless it is something he wants to do or the very opposite of what you asked him to do.

Don’t even think of suggesting pajamas other than Thomas ones right now.

 

Fifteen minutes and one trip to the potty later, we are ready to read books!  I like to add in seasonal books to our story time and right now, our books are a mix of Halloween and Fall. Daniel LOVES to go “Wooooooooooo” like a ghost right in your face.  He is also into rhyming and jokes.  Tonight’s gem was “That’s not toast; it’s a ghost!” Happily, Jimmy returns in time to read a story too.

Books and a foot

 

 

 

After we tuck in Daniel, Jimmy keeps an ear out for little feet scampering from the bed to the door while I cook.  Daniel usually requires 3 or 4 retucks before he goes asleep.  Much to my chagrin, I discover that I’ve messed up the order of some of the ingredients for the jambalaya, requiring me to pick out some of the vegetables I’ve put into the pot.  This delays dinner again.  Ah tricky Tuesday, you strike again! Hungry and frustrated, Jimmy and I empty the dishwasher and exchange barbs before we realize how silly we are being and apologize.

Dinner is finally ready to be eaten around 10pm.  So much for a simpler evening!

Worth the wait I suppose

Lord, What Fools These Parents Be!

He smiles!!

He smiles!!

Daniel here. I am now 8 weeks old, and I suppose things are going well. My favorite books are A Tale of Two Cities and War and Peace…ha ha!!! Just kidding. Actually, I much prefer Moo, Baa, La La La! Mommy reads it to me and makes such funny sounds. It is quite amusing!

Things in my house had been going along swimmingly, and I could see the smugness on my parents’ faces that they thought they had me figured out. I interpreted that as a challenge and decided to shake things up. Instead of eating every three hours, I decided to eat only 2 ounces every two hours. Oh, and let’s not forget the “fussiness” I developed during feedings. I chuckled as I saw Mommy almost pulling her hair out to figure out what was going on. As the piece de resistance, I began staying up after my 7 am bottle instead of going back to sleep. Poor Mommy! I could see these dark smudges under her eyes, and I felt a bit bad about keeping her up, so I threw her a bone after a few days of this new behavior and started cooing and grinning at her. She seemed to like that a lot.

Daniel humors mommy on his play mat

Daniel humors mommy on his play mat

Speaking of expressions, Mommy and Daddy like to get right in my face and make these weird faces and sounds. It is so amusing that it makes me smile and laugh. Really-how could I not smile and laugh when they are making these ridiculous faces at me! The parents really, really like those expressions, so I like to make them happy. Nothing like a full grin and coo while they change a stinky diaper!

Sometimes in the afternoons Mommy will put me on a mat with dangling…things. I think they are animals, but I’m not completely convinced. Mommy seems to want me to do something with the dangling things, so I’ll humor her by not crying and coo for a few minutes before melting down. Maybe one day I’ll understand what to do.

I've got your chin, daddy!

I've got your chin, daddy!

This week Mommy and Daddy started a bedtime routine for me. They change me into my sleep attire (a t-shirt and swaddle), help me say goodnight to the house, and read stories to me in the rocking chair in my room. Typically three-four stories. It’s nice. I fuss a bit, but I settle down. I like to hear them read to me.

I overheard Mommy refer to me as the “Tiny Dictator” in the last few days, and I like that. It seems appropriate. They dance to my bidding, and it amuses me.

I think I’ll keep them.