Thursday, April 23, 2015

LTYM-What They Don't Know

Listen To Your Mother in Detroit is in three days. Ahhhhhh! One minute you have so much time and the next it's all happening right now!

I eat, sleep and breathe Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) right now, so it surprises me when someone doesn't know what it is. But there are a few people that don't know...


They don't know that Listen To Your Mother is a live stage show.  Or that it involves brave women and men who get on stage and read essays about motherhood. Some of the women and men are professional writers, some aren't. Professional or not, experienced or not, these readers, these storytellers, share their experiences of motherhood.  They share the good, the hard, the incredibly painful, the hilarious, the sad, the realness of motherhood.  Listen To Your Mother gives motherhood a microphone.

They don't know that there are 39 cities across the country hosting LTYM shows this year. They don't know that it was started by a writer/blogger/mother/amazing,inspiring person, Ann Imig in Madison, Wisconsin five years ago.

People don't know that each city relies on local sponsors to support their show. Or that this is such a cool way for each city to have their own identity, their own flavor.  It's grassroots, it's local, it's personal. They don't know that each city picks a charity in their city where they will donate a portion of the ticket proceeds.

They don't know that many of the producers of the shows have never done anything like this before. And that they are learning about producing a show and learning to stretch outside their comfort zones and embrace their creativity and authenticity like never before. They don't know that all of the producers are putting these shows together while managing families and jobs and very full lives.

They don't know that producing LTYM and being a part of the cast is so much fun. It's a lot of work, but its' fun. 
It really can be exhausting. Lol.

People of all different backgrounds and experiences come together to share stories, to relate, to connect. It's pretty amazing--for the cast, the producers and the audience.

They don't know that the whole experience can change lives, inspire empathy and compassion and encourage authenticity and acceptance.  They don't know that LTYM feels like family.

But I hope they understand a little better now and find a show in a city near them, and go and hear all the stories and connect and laugh and cry and relate. I hope after hearing the stories they have a better understanding of themselves and their mothers and their friends.  





Here's a video from last year's Listen To Your Mother show in Detroit.


Listen To Your Mother Metro Detroit Advice From The 2014 Cast from Jumping With My Fingers Crossed on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cass Community Social Services & The Power of Stories




A couple weeks ago, I was asked to speak to my church about volunteering at Cass Community Social Services (CCSS). Inspired by my experiences at CCSS and my experiences with storytelling, I decided to not just give a speech, but to tell a story.  Here's my story I told about why CCSS means so much to me personally (and it's why I pushed so hard to have CCSS be the charity we donate part of our ticket proceeds to from Listen to Your Mother this year).



                           





                          ************* 


A few years ago, I fell in love with Cass Community Social Services and all the work they do in Detroit; I fell in love with the people that work there and the people that live there.  

My first trip to Cass Community Social Services was with a group from St. Paul's.  

We went down and painted apartments and planted gardens.  We got a tour of the Green Industries where they make mud mats from old tires.  We ate lunch with Cass clients.  We really got to know the place and each other.  We met the director of Cass, Reverand Faith Fowler and learned so much about Cass. 

We learned that they prepare and serve one million meals annually, that over 300 homeless  men, women and children stay in one of their shelters, transitional housing or permanent housing programs.  We learned how the Green Industries program employs over 70 adults and is designed to marry jobs with sustainability.

My daughter Lucy, who was 9 at the time, was even impressed.  I asked her what she thought about all of it and one of the things she said stuck with me, she said, "you know everyone has a back story."    It wasn't getting to paint with the grown ups or watching people put together the mats that stuck with her, it was the stories of some of the residents.

Since that visit, I have been back to Cass several times.  And I've had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with Reverend Fowler.  She talked about the book she has written called This Far by Faith: Twenty Years at Cass Community, it is quite wonderful and insightful.  She told me, she wrote it because people remember stories.  She said she could tell people facts and numbers about Cass and statistics about Detroit and homelessness and lack of jobs, but it's the stories that stick with people and impact them.

So today, I want to tell you a little bit about my backstory and part of the reason why going to Cass means so much to me and why I want to encourage people to give their time and money to Cass. And maybe make people think a little bit differently.  

You see, every time I go to Cass and meet one of the residents with a backstory that involves mental illness and/or addiction that led to homelessness, I think about my mother.  I think that resident could be my mother. For over half my life, my mother has suffered from both mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. She has pushed everyone away, refused help and even moved away. It is incredibly heartbreaking to try to help someone you love and they don't want it or can't accept it. It is especially hard when it is your parent because as many of you know...no matter how old we get, we need or we want our mothers.  I fear that my mother will end up homeless and looking for someone to help her.  And I can only hope that the community she lives in has a place like Cass with volunteers and programs to help her.  

I know first hand that life can be cruel and addiction can ruin people's lives. I watched a good mother suffer through years of an undiagnosed mental illness. I watched her change because of all of her self-medication and bad choices and fear and anger and paranoia.  I watched.  I begged with her to stop. I hired people to help. I yelled at doctors who were over-prescribing.  I worked with people from social services.  But sadly, soon we might be out of options.

I tell you this because I know some of us might make judgements about homeless people or people with addiction issues and wonder why their families aren’t doing anything or helping.  I want to tell you another side, the side of the story where the family is desperate to help and do something but nothing works.  I tell you this to show you it’s not just a city problem, people in safe upper middle class suburbs can end up alone and suffering and yes, homeless.

I tell you this because every time I go to Cass I think about my mother.  And I think about the stories of of the people at Cass and their backstories and their families. And I think that if I can't save or help my mother, maybe I can help someone else's. 


So, yeah, I love Cass Community Social Services and I am so grateful to be a member of a church that supports them.  I encourage, no I urge all of you to open your mind, open your heart and get involved with Cass Community Social Services.  Go hear their stories and make them a part of yours.


                       **************

Several people came up to me after the church service and told me about their own family members who struggle with addiction or mental illness. There were hugs, hand squeezes of solidarity and even a few tears. I felt lifted up by their connection and hopefully they felt the same.  There is power in sharing our stories.  There is power in vulnerabilty.  There is comfort in knowing we are not alone.

Click here to find out more about Cass Community Social Services.

Click here to buy Reverend Fowler's book.

Click here to find out more about Listen To Your Mother and here to buy tickets to hear stories and support Cass Community Social Services.

Here's a video from when a few members of this year's LTYM cast and a couple of my kids went to volunteer at Cass.


(Click here to watch the video.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Opening Day

It was opening day for the Youngblood boys this past weekend.  The day they look forward to all year, the day outdoor baseball begins.




All three of them had games this weekend.  There were 10 games in all.  There were victories and defeats and lots of pitching and catching and diving plays and pickles and smiles and high fives and "you'll get it next time"s. The boys loved it.

Wade is the official bat boy for JT's team
and he loves it so much. 





Opening day is a time to celebrate for most of the family. While I am happy for my boys, I don't feel quite the same way.  Opening day seems to shine a light on all my inadequacies and shortcomings as a mother/person.  


I imagine going to 10 baseball games in one weekend with three different children and three different teams while trying to make sure your fourth child who isn''t so crazy about baseball doesn't feel ignored and your two dogs don't tear up the house wouldn't seem like a big deal to an organized, totally together, well-balanced mother.  But I am none of those things.  I am the running late, forget the forms, always behind on the laundry, wishing she could be at everyone's everything, over sensitive, defensive, but trying hard mother.  

It's not just baseball...it's football season, basketball season, holidays and other hectic times of the year.  When I had babies and toddlers I didn't really picture what it would all look like when they got involved with sports and extra curricular activities.  I had no idea how busy it would all be.

There are some mother/people that thrive with schedules and family time management and I bow down to them. I am in awe of them and hope they remind me of practice times and color coordinate maps to the tournament for everyone on the team.  I appreciate all the help I can get. One mother/friend on one of the teams gave me a calendar for Christmas to help me plan better and I thought it was so great (I have yet to use it for family planning however).

I laugh about it, but it bugs me.  I mean what's wrong with me?  Why can't I get my shit together? The more frazzled I get about all of it, the more I seem to screw things up.  I was running late to the game yesterday morning and feeling guilty. And THEN I took a wrong turn to a place I've been going to for years, I dropped a new tablet and the screen shattered and I ran over a basketball.  And then I cried.  I worry that I'm getting worse as I get older and that I'm totally screwing up my kids.

Someone asked me how I did it all, how did I get everyone everywhere they needed to be and I laughed my head off.  "Not well," I replied.

Last night after all the games had been played, we sat down to eat dinner together. Tim and I were almost falling asleep at the table, but the kids were still giddy and excited about the weekend. They were laughing and telling stories about their games. Lucy was chiming in with what she saw on the playgrounds and in the bleachers. 

They laughed about me running over the basketball with my minivan and even how mad I got about the shattered screen until I embarrassingly realized I was the one that had shattered it. I was worried that they were going to be scarred by my ineptitude at organization or my scattered way-of-life, but that wasn't the story they told.  At least not yet anyway.  



JT's team won the tournament and they got trophies.
Wade can't believe he got a trophy for being bat boy and he is haaaaaappppy.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pop Culture & What I Know For Sure

I have always loved television and movies and entertainment and celebrities.  Along with Amy and Heather, I consider TV as one of my best friends as a kid. Many of my memories growing up and milestones coincide with what television shows I was watching.  When I was very young and played house or Barbies, many of the story lines were ripped straight from One Life To Live or All My Children.  When my parents got divorced and my life became more unstable, the routine of watching my shows grounded me.  It was comforting knowing that Miss Ellie would always be there on Friday nights on Dallas or that Mrs. Garret took care of her girls on The Facts of Life (even when she couldn't be there, she sent her sister, remember?).

But it wasn't just TV, no, I loved everything about Hollywood.  I came of age at a time when Mary Hart and Entertainment Tonight were just getting big and People magazine's popularity exploded.  Over the years, I followed the lives of celebrities, went to the movies, watched the shows, bought the magazines and then eventually bookmarked all the web sites.

Not everyone thinks that's so cool.  In fact some people think it makes me simple-minded and ridiculous.  They think just because I enjoy a little celebrity dish, that I can't talk about politics or job sustainability or the stock market. Maybe that's why I have taken to calling myself a Pop Culuturalist over the years, because I wanted my love of celebrity and pop culture to be taken a little more seriously.

When I tell people that I am a fan of all things pop culture, there are some people that instantly change their expression from a "hi nice to talk with you" face to a "oh my god, please don't tell you me you are the reason the Kardashians exist, you are such a boob" face.  It's like people who say they prefer reading to watching TV and then look at you like they feel sorry for you.

I'm sure it doesn't help when I tell stories like the time I waited in line for Hulk Hogan's autograph in an airport in Indiana in 1990. Hogan wasn't at the height of any kind of fame at this point, it was post WWE mania and pre rise to reality show star.  He was sort of seen as "washed up" by some celebrity watchers.  But not to me.  To me he was the dude in that Rocky movie and a guy who had achieved so much pop culture success that they had made dolls of him.  So, yeah, I stood in line to get an autograph with two other men who obviously remembered Hulk in all his glory.  Unfortunately, right as I was about to talk to the big guy he had to leave to catch his plane. Or the time I told Ana Gasteyer that she was great in a movie that she wasn't in and told her she was wrong when she informed me it wasn't her (click here to hear the whole story on that one).

Stories like those make me sound a little nuts and simple.  I get that they are just people. I get that some of the celebrity watching has become a little overboard (I'm not a fan of TMZ).  BUT here's the what, I love pop culture and TV and movies and celebrities for the same reasons I did as a kid....the storytelling and the escapism and the pure fun of some of it.  It's fun to be a fan.  I don't make fun of people that are fans of sports and think that they can't have world views or can't talk politics. 

I am proud to be a fan of Hollywood and pop culture and the fact that I love that Victor and Nicki are remarried on Young and the Restless or that I could win a who knows all the words to the most sitcom theme songs from the past 30 years contest (wouldn't that be a fun?! If loving pop culture is wrong, I don't want to be right, I know that for sure this week.

Here's What Else I Know For Sure This Week:


  • Listen To Your Mother Metro Detroit is one week away!!!!!!!!!  If you live in Detroit, near Detroit or want to take a quick flight to Detroit, come to the show.  It's on Sunday, April 26th at 3 p.m. (doors open at 2 p.m.) at Saint Andrew's Hall.  And talk about some good storytelling, it's going to be amazing. Click here for details.
This is one of my favorite pics from one of our
  Listen To Your Mother Detroit rehearsals. 



  • I suck at VEDA.  But I did make a video this week and it involves Patti LaBelle.

(Click here to watch the video.)


  • Lucy and I have discovered a new/old show on Netflix, Gilmore Girls.  We just finished the first season last night and we LOVE it.  It's a great mother/daughter show and the first season was totally appropriate viewing for a 10 or 11-year-old girl in my opinion (and I'm pretty conservative-ish).


  • My trip to Southfork, the ranch from the TV show Dallas, was one of my most favorite total freak out pop culture fan moments ever.

(Click here to watch the video.)


  • The weather is finally getting a little bit warmer and sunnier here and it is EVERYTHING!!!!



  • I am loving the new web site The Mid.  It is full of great parenting stuff and so much pop culture from the 1980s and 90s fun!  Check it out- http://www.themid.com.


  • I love these Blank on Blank videos--they animate interviews with celebrities.  Here's a new one about one of my favorite celebrities who I would totally stand in line to meet...Dolly Parton.


What do YOU know for sure this week?  Share what you know here in the comments or over on my Facebook page.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Get It

The other night I was sifting through the garbage at almost midnight.

I looked everywhere and I couldn't find it.  I emptied cabinets and drawers, went through pockets and my purse, but couldn't find it. I couldn't find JT's ADHD medication, his very expensive and incredibly hard to get medication. That's why I was sifting through garbage, gagging from the smells and grossness of our trash. I was like Steve Martin in the movie Parenthood going through the garbage to find his kid's retainer mixed with a little Shirley MacLain in Terms of Endearment I'll do anything for my kid kind of intensity.  

JT needed his meds and I was going to find them dammit!  

After a while, Tim peeked his head out the door near the garage and said, "Stop looking honey, I found it."

Turns out, the pill bottle was in the cabinet where I keep some art supplies which is right next to the cabinet with all the medicines.  

"I think it's kind of ironic that our child's ADHD medicine was misplaced by his mother who is a little ADHD-y and we found it in her art supplies," Tim said smiling.

It is ironic.  

Since JT was diagnosed with ADHD, I have become so much more self aware about my own ADHD-y-ness. I haven't been diagnosed by a professional yet. I called a doctor and left a message, but never called back because duh, I got distracted. The fact that I might have some sort of ADHD isn't a surprise to me. I've read articles, taken online tests and just sort of had a gut feeling for forever.  BUT talking with my child's doctor and watching my child be tested and analyzed and finally diagnosed has really opened my eyes to some of my own patterns.

The more I learn, the more I feel like I deserve some sort of award for not being a drug addict.  Seriously, my genetic map leads straight to a land of unbalance and self-medication if untreated or undiagnosed. I've watched other members of my family struggle with addiction. I get it. Actually statistics state that 15 percent of adults with ADHD are addicts of drugs or alcohol, that's triple the rate of people without ADHD.

But I do indeed self-medicate my ADHD-y-ness. I run. Running is my drug, it saves me. I started running to try to lose baby weight after JT was born. Now I run to keep my brain balanced and to feel calmer.  I can tell if I haven't run for a few days--I feel more anxious and I lose stuff (like JT's medicine) and I'm even more sensitive and emotional than normal.

This whole my kid has ADHD and I think I do too moment has made me a more compassionate person. I accept and understand myself more which makes me feel the same way about JT. I get it when he feels overwhelmed or distracted or when he needs to just get his energy out and calm his brain down.  I get it.

I get it and I tell him that I do. 

ADHD for us isn't a horrible thing. I refuse to let it be the road map to addiction for him or me. Instead we will find ways to manage it through medication or running or both.  We will talk about it.  We will bitch about it.  We will read about it.  We will accept it. We will embrace the good parts of it like being risk takers and riding the good side of impulsivity and sensitivity   We will run and jump rope and be active.  We will not be ashamed. 

I will fight for my kid to feel normal and healthy. I will give him medicine if that is what works for him. I will go on runs with him or go to his classroom in the middle of the day and make him jump rope. I will meet with his teachers and take him to the doctor.  I will try to get organized and manage my own ADHD-y-ness so that I won't mess up or lose shit. But if I do, I will search for it anywhere and everywhere, even if that means sifting through the garbage at midnight.

THE scene from Parenthood:


(Click here to watch the clip.)

THE Shirley MacLaine scene from Terms of Endearment:


(Click here to watch the clip.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Storytelling Season

This time of year is busy and crazy and also my absolute favorite.  I am in the middle of my storytelling season and my heart is bursting with gratitude and inspiration and so much god damn love.
Truth! (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

As a producer of Listen To Your Mother Metro Detroit, I get to bond with a cast of storytellers that are brave and funny and full of life and all kinds of amazing.  
My coproducer Angela Amman and I running our first rehearsal.


I also get to meet businesses that sponsor our show that have their own stories to tell.  The woman in Detroit who pitched her idea for a bra shop, got the funding and went after her dream.  The therapists who help kids with special needs and their families, kids and families who bring me to tears with their strength and resolve and love.


Euro-Peds from Jumping With My Fingers Crossed on Vimeo.

The show is less than two weeks away, on April 26 at Saint Andrew's Hall in Detroit.  It is going to be phenomenal. (Click here for tickets.)



As a freelance video editor I get to create videos for nonprofit organizations like Charlottes' Wings.  I get to meet women who came together to make a difference in the lives of children suffering from illness and families who are grieving after losing a child.  I get to meet  and talk with children in the hospital and their parents and their caregivers.  
These men were playing beautiful music in the lobby of Children's Hospital when I was there. Music is healing and comforting.

The video will be shown at the benefit which is on April 25th (yup, the day before my LTYM show!). I will post it on my blog after the benefit.

I am blessed and honored and grateful that I get to help tell all the stories and help provide a platform for people to share their stories.  I am humbled and blown away by what people go through, what people survive, what people remember, what people hold onto, what people want to share.

And of course I'm still telling the stories of my own family on my blog, vlog and other places.  I was recently asked to share my love story on the lifestyle blog, The Best of this Life.  It was fun to look back at the past 17 years of my relationship with Tim.
(Click here to read the story.)

This season, this month of April, is also a busy time on my YouTube channel because I participate in VEDA (vlog everyday in April).  This month I haven't been quite as everyday as I'd like, but I'm hoping to end the month strong with stories everyday on my channel. Check out it out...


(Click here to watch the video.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Kids & Technology & What I Know For Sure



I am not a super huge fan of technology when it comes to my kids.  Sure we have gadgets and video game systems, but I generally think technology just causes fights and makes them zombies. Some of my kids like the gadgets more than others and they all have limits.  

BUT sometimes technology isn't all bad when it comes to my kids. Like when I find them snuggled together watching or playing on the gadgets.



I think the key might be to have less gadgets than kids, and they have to share. That wasn't really our plan, but it seems to be working out nicely so far.


Even though I haven't figured out all the bad, zombie-inducing parts of technology, it's not all bad, I know that for sure this week.


Here's what else I know for sure this week:


  • This song will make you want to dance. So, watch it and daaaaaaance right now.




  • We are fans for life.  The boys went to a Detroit Pistons game a couple weeks ago and came home with this poster, the same poster Tim had in his room when he was a kid. Love it!



  • I suck at VEDA (Vlog Every Day in April), but I vow to return with a video making vengeance this weekend.  Here's one of the vlogs I made about what makes my marriage/relationship/love story going strong (and it's my mother-in-law's vlog debut!).


(Click here to watch the video.)






  • I know that I am still loving Empire and that I can't stop watching Real Housewives, I can't and I love it.



  • Even though we didn't go anywhere or do much of anything, I really don't want spring break to end.  


What do YOU know for sure this week? Tell me in the comments here or over on my Facebook page.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Not The Beachiest, But The Best

It may not be the most glamorous or the sunniest or the the beachiest of spring breaks, BUT it is pretty damn great.  I love all my kids being together and being with them, it is truly one of my favorite things in the world.  And having Tim home with us this week? Sure we'd have fun on a beach together, but we are also having fun at home together too.
Watching opening day with our annual picnic on the living room floor to celebrate. Go Tigers!

The picnic turned into an indoor wiffle ball game.




A family game of basketball that some of us took pretty seriously.



Skipping rocks in the stream with cousin Molly.


I LOVE museums!!! And Detrtoit.








My favorite.