Thursday, March 31, 2016

Listen To Your Mother- My Preparation

I love stories. I love writing stories. I love telling stories. I love listening to stories.

I passionately believe in the power of stories to connect people and heal people and spread compassion and understanding and love.

That's why I am so excited/proud/privileged/honored to be a part of Listen To Your Mother and bringing it to Detroit.

Listen To Your Mother is a live stage show that happens once a year. (It's a national show that  will take place live in 41 cities this year.) It's where men and women read their stories about motherhood. Stories of wonderful mothers, complicated mothers, being a mother, wanting to be a mother, stepmothers, losing mothers, finding mothers and so many mother stories.

It's so simple, but so powerful. 

It's kind of ironic that I would coproduce a show dedicated to mothers. I've spent most of my life running from/dealing with/coping/trying to understand/forgiving/setting boundaries with/taking care of/running from my own mother. 

My mother was an amazing, energetic, quirky, crafty, artistic, loving woman in the beginning. But then life and genes and bad luck and bad doctors and a bad divorce and bad decisions changed her. Mental issues, alcohol and a nasty addiction to opiates didn't help either. 

When I was a kid all I wanted was to get my mom back. I wanted her to be happy again. I wanted her to love me. When I was a teenager I wanted the same things, but I also wanted to be free. And then I was sort of. She moved away when I was 17 and my life did get a little better. I grew up a lot and found my voice. Except I still wanted her to love me and I worried about her. In my early 20s I fell in love and got married. 

When I became a mother myself, I longed for a mother of my own, but I was also pissed. Looking at my own little babies all sweet and innocent, I got angrier than I'd been in years wondering how in the hell she could have done all the things she did to us. 

Becoming a mother made me worry more. I still worried about her but I also worried that I would become her. However, as my children get older my compassion for my mother grows (daily). With so much stacked against her, it breaks my heart. (Not enough to visit her more or call her on a regular basis, but enough to definetly make me sad and feel weirdly guilty for previous resentment and anger.)

Over the years I've sought out mothering from my friends' mothers, step-mothers, ex-step-mothers, a mother-in-law, older sister/mother figures, aunts, mentors, sweet older ladies at church and volunteers at the League of Women Voters.

I still worry I will become my mother. I've got demons, for sure.  But since I got involved with Listen To Your Mother and told my story and heard stories about so many different mother experiences, I feel stronger and free-er. I feel connected and understood--by castmembers who feel like family, and even audience members that have reached out and shared their story. I am inspired by the strength of the men and women I've met. 

Looking back maybe it's not so ironic that I coproduce a storytelling show about motherhood. Maybe it makes perfect sense. Maybe trying to understand my own mother and my own mothering and seeking out all the mothers has prepared me well. Maybe it has gutted me enough, made me vulnerable enough, made me wonder enough and be open to knowing that there are so many kinds of motherhood and personhood and definitions of it all....maybe all of that made coproducing Listen To Your Mother just make sense.

Maybe I've been preparing for this my whole's me performing on stage in a my elementary school talent show in 1982 and me performing on stage at my first Listen To Your Mother show in 2014.

For more information on this year's Listen To Your Mother show in Detroit click here.

The show is on Sunday, May 1, at 3 p.m., at St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit. Click here to buy tickets. It's going to be a great show!

Here are a few videos from previous LTYM shows in Detroit:

(Click here to watch the video)

(Click here to watch the video.)

(Click here to watch the video.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Tradition Jackpot--Going Big

This past weekend was full of Easter and eggs and family and games and traditions and laughter. When I married into this family I sort of hit the tradition jackpot. They have a lot of traditions. And they always go big on holidays and special occasions--lots of people, lots of tradition, lots of food and lots of love.

This family doesn't just host a Good Friday breakfast...they host a party with crafts and food and games. It's the kind of party everyone shows up for. Grandkids come back from college to paint eggs and help the younger cousins. The grown-up siblings get involved and help their mom and dad and paint eggs and joke around. 

Cousin Rachel came home from MSU to help out and have fun.

Look at those big kids in the corner having fun!

Awww, Michael and his mom.

Some of the girls, looking so grown up. 
Cousins (big and small) and uncles playing a rough and tumble game of basketball on the tiny tykes hoop is always fun to watch.

Traditions aren't just about food and crafts with this family,they also always involve games. And you better come to compete because the leader of the games, Grandma, takes it all pretty seriously.
Here's Grandma giving the kids the rules of the game.

All the kids take it pretty seriously, but also have so much fun.

There's always a guy that puts a lampshade, um or a bucket, on his head at the party, right? Yeah, Wade is that guy.

New game, new rules and Grandma is telling them
how it's going to be...

This may be my favorite picture from any family party ever.

I told you, Grandma takes it seriously. Lol. 

The annual egg toss. It was a pretty cold day so the kids were worried that would mess things up for them. JT and Micheal won for the second year in a row. Wade and Rachel came in second place and was so excited. 

Do other families do this? I mean because mine didn't. I have some very nice memories with my family when I was little, and visiting my grandma and grandpa was wonderful. BUT we didn't go this big. 

When I first joined this family, to be very honest I was a little overwhelmed. I felt pressure to be a certain way, act a certain way and I might have been a tiny bit resentful of all the big-ness. But I was young and didn't see the bigger picture. I was used to being alone-ish. I was adjusting to being married and being a parent. But almost 18 years later, boy do I get it. 

I get that these family traditions are about love and legacy. They are about showing up. They are about supporting each other and all the life that is happening to all of us. They are about remembering to laugh and have fun when all that life is happening to all of us. They are about staying connected to each other. They are about honoring the past and looking forward to the future. 

This past Sunday was Easter and we were back doing it big and the grandparents' house. Easter baskets, Easter ham, desserts, egg hunt and more basketball. And you better believe Grandma was back running the show. 

The girls were showing Grandma some fun apps for her new iPhone.

The weather was warmer thank goodness.

I've learned so much from this family about going big, showing up, always supporting each other and staying connected. And having fun.

Friday, March 25, 2016

High School- It's No John Hughes Movie Anymore

I sat in the auditorium and daydreamed about a million different things and making up stories about the people that sat around me. The assistant principal was talking, and talking and talking, about schedules and credits. My eyelids were getting heavy. I started to doodle just to stay awake. This sounds like a scene straight out of my junior year in 1990, but it wasn't. Nope. It was my own kid's parent information night at the high school he's going to attend in a few months. Um, what the hell? Time is fucking crazy.

And here's the crazier part....high school sounds way more intense than it was 25 years ago. Is it? I don't know. But when I would phase in and out of my daydreams, all I heard was "college," "resumes," "college," "GPA matters," "college," "be prepared," "college." Woah. The picture they were painting was no John Hughes movie.

Listen, this isn't a post about the evils of Common Core and testing and argh, the government takeover of our schools. It's just a simple post of an unprepared mom who kind of dug the John Hughes scene. My kid is an over-achiever who is really smart. He'll be fine. It's just feels so strange to me. And I kind of feel like I wouldn't have graduated in this type of high school.

I mean I was the kid in remedial math in freshman year with the kids that smoked in the bathroom and broke into cars on their lunchbreak. We were rocking out to Scorpions and Def Leopard and wearing acid-washed jeans. I worried if my flats matched my belt and if my bangs were high enough. We bummed rides with kids that were lucky enough to have cars and we cruised up and down the one main street in our town. There was the occasional John Hughes-esque house party or field party. I don't remember thinking about or talking about college until the end of junior year, but more like the winter of our senior year.

Not sure if my parents went to an information meeting before my high school or not. But if they did I truly don't think college would have been mentioned 4,356 times. It was a different world then and that's cool. But even if there was one, my parents might not have gone to the meeting at all. They were immersed in their own situation...messy divorce, my mother was troubled, I was troubled. Maybe I related to those John Hughes movies so much because I was the suburban weirdo with a screwed up home life just looking to find my group and fit in and have some control over my own life. 

My kid is lucky he's well prepared for this new high school experience. He's lucky to be going to a really well-respected, safe suburban school. I'm grateful.

Who knows maybe it's just what happens with each generation. Maybe there was a parent information night when I was a freshman in 1989 and my mom was like "um, this is no Beach Blanket Bingo." Maybe this is just what happens to all parents, all people.

Halfway through the information night, my eyes welled up with tears--not because I am sad that my kid is getting older, but more like it's all just surreal. I mean I remember sitting in high school and all the feelings and thinking all the time is going to go on forever because duh. Woah, the other night it all just hit me....time and life and how fast it all goes and how weird it all is. All I know completely for sure right now is that is completely crazy that I have a kid that will be in high school in the fall.

If you love John Hughes watch this:

  (Click here to watch the video.) 

Here's what else I know for sure:

  • I was sad to hear about Gary Shandling passing away. But I loved this scene someone posted on Twitter as a tribute.
  (Click here to watch the video.)

  • We love our dogs.
Every morning Rufus helps wake Lucy up. 

  • The show "Lost" is stupid. Tim has been obsessed with binge watching ALL the seasons of "Lost." It's like it's all he can think of and it annoys me and I have no time for it. LOL. He's finishing up the last episode right now while I type this. Thank god. Here's a hilarious clip from the movie This Is 40 when the daughter gets obsessed with "Lost" and the dad has no time for it. It's funny. I relate to all of it, even when she makes fun of "Mad Men." Only watch it if you don't care about finding out how "Lost" ends.
(Click here to watch the video.)

  • My kids were just babies. Maybe that's why I can't wrap my head around the fact that my oldest will be in high school. And pictures like this from my throwback Thursday post on Instagram. Oh my god, they were so cute.

What do YOU know for sure right now? Tell me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Power of Hi-What I Learned In PreSchool

Working in a preschool has taught me so much And empathy and patience and mindfulness and so much more.

I'm not exagerrating when I tell you that it's truly made me a better person. I actually think it's not a terrible idea for all of us to spend a little time in a preschool (whether you have kids or not). The pace isn't for everyone and neither is the mess. But the smiles, the sweetness, the simple ways they love, the things they get so excited about, the's all amazing and hopeful and life affirming. Watching the kids work out their issues with each other and helping to faciliate it is also pretty cool. No joke. 

There's so much I want to say about preschool and how much I love it and have learned from being an assistant teacher. So, I'm going to share a few of my stories from preschool here on my blog over the next couple months. 

Here is a story about how we communicate. How smiles and eye contact and kindness all more than ever. 

In the preschool that I work in there are several children that don’t speak English. When I first started, I couldn’t imagine how in the world this was going to work. I mean how were these kids going to understand and know the routine and be able to participate and feel safe and happy? One little boy speaks Turkish and just turned 3 when he started school. On the first day of school his mom dropped him off and waved good-bye. He cried, and cried and cried. Even as we sang our very jolly welcome songs and told the kids that it was play time, he cried.  

I walked over to him and looked him in the eye and smiled. I got down on my knees and took his hand in mine. “Hi,” I said. “It’s going to be okay.” I kept smiling. I kept holding his hand. We walked through the routines and transitions together. I stayed by his side that whole first day. And actually every day for the first week. But then he came in one day, waved to his mom and walked over to me and took my hand and said “hi.” Then he started to play alongside other kids in the classroom.

That “hi” was huge. With that “hi” I knew a connection was made.   

Over the last few months, this little boy has made friends, had fun and learned a little more English. Every time he is uncertain or overwhelmed or frustrated with not being able to find the words, he looks at me with that same frightened face he had on the first morning of school. And just like that morning, I walk over to him, look him in the eye, smile and say “hi” and then I tell him “it’s going to be okay.”

I share this story because I think it’s about how communication isn’t just all the talking we do. And boy, there's a whole lot of talking going on in the world. But I'm not so sure there's a whole lot of connecting. Working with these kids in preschool has taught me the power of eye contact and smiling and being calm and truly connecting. And the power of "hi."

Love this song. Not so preschool-y and kind of somber but hopeful too, and just what I'm feeling about some stuff right now.

(click here to watch the video)

I've always loved this classic song. I try to do this everyday....

(click here to watch the video)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spring & What I Know For Sure

Spring is coming and we're psyched. We are ready for flowers and green grass and blue skies and birds chirping and Easter-y stuff and hope and change and good stuff.

After making it through the hell that is Daylight Savings Time, we are enjoying it being light outside later. Now we just need it to be a little bit warmer and greener and we'll be all good.

Bring it spring, I know for sure right now that we are ready for you.

Here's what else I know for sure right now:

  • I want to start a revolution at a PTA meeting. Or anywhere. I was watching Field of Dreams the other day and I love the scene where Annie gets fired up for freedom of speech and the Constitution at a PTA meeting. Remember the scene? Well, with the way things are going in the world and politics, I may be doing this somewhere soon. Lol. "Who's for the Bill of Rights?!"
(click here to watch the video)

  • I love Detroit so much and am so proud to be bringing Listen To Your Mother (a storytelling show) back to Detroit on May 1. Click here to buy tickets.

  • This is one of the best responses to Donald Trump I've read, it's from the guy behind Humans of New York. Click here to read it.

  • I love Nora Ephron and will be watching this documentary on HBO.

(Click here to watch the video.)

  • Parenting is a lot of work, but like the wise words of Kelly Corrigan "this is it, this is the grand adventure." I've posted this video before and I probably will again, because I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Watch it and go hug your kid or your friend or anyone.

  (click here to watch the video)

What do YOU know for sure this week?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Listen To Your Mother 2016--It's Still Awesome

This year has been weird. I'm working a lot. Like so much my head is spinning. It's good, I'm adjusting to some of it. I love that I have several different jobs. Tim and I have talked about him doing more around the house. We've come up with a plan for the older kids to help out with the chores too.  I'm sort of getting into a groove, I think.

But my groove doesn't have a lot of time to make dinners, work out, do laundry, watch TV (gulp, never thought I would not have time to watch TV!) or feel very organized. I was starting to get worried that my groove didn't have space or time for Listen To Your Mother. I thought maybe I wouldn't be able to give it as much attention because well, you know time. I thought I would care less, feel less. 

BUT I WAS WRONG! I definitely don't have the time I want to devote to parts of planning it, but the caring and the feeling? Oh I have time for that. 

This past Sunday, we met with almost the whole cast for the first time. We had a table read (doesn't that sound so L.A.?).  

Not to sound corny or like lyrics to an ancient Madonna song but it felt like the very first time, again. Because here's the what, everyone's story is different and sharing stories is energizing and electrifying.

I love getting the room together and watching the cast read their stories for the first time and cry and laugh and connect. It's kind of magic.  
Angela and I are at the head of the table,
you know producing and stuff. 

I'm so proud to be a part of a show that creates a space for people to share their stories. A space for people to inspire each other, comfort each other and support each other. A space where I get to work with my friends and highlight all their amazing talents (like my buddy Liane Maxwell who took these amazing photos and head shots of our cast).

Women and mothers and storytelling and being creative and brave and...ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!

Even though I am working more than ever in my life and I haven't figured out how to juggle work and deadlines and teenagers and practices and kindergarten projects and date nights with my husband (HA! yeah right!) and my dog guilt and returning emails and well, everything and still get more than three hours of sleep at night, I feel more energized than I have in a long time.

This is fun! 

What am I doing? Table surfing, duh.
Click here to buy tickets to the show on May 1 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit.

Click here to buy a ticket package from one of our ahhhhhhmazing sponsors Hansons Running Shop.

Click here to read about how awesome St. Andrews Hall is.

Click here to learn more about Listen To Your Mother.

Watch a highlight video from the Listen To Your Mother show last year:

LTYM 2015 from Jumping With My Fingers Crossed on Vimeo.

A couple weeks ago,  some of the Listen To Your Mother cast members from our 2014 and 2015 show got together and had brunch. It was so awesome to see everyone. They had some advice for our new cast and I thought it would be fun to share it here:

Welcome To the LTYM Family 2016.... from Jumping With My Fingers Crossed on Vimeo.

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Dog and What I Know For Sure

Facebook reminded me yesterday that it was three years ago on that day that we got our puppy Cosi

When we first got married, Tim and I got a puppy. We named him Al. Al was a great puppy and a great dog. After Al died, I grieved him like a human. I would be sweeping the kitchen enjoying a quiet moment while the kids napped and all of a sudden I would be overcome with grief and I would be crying. It was rough and I swore to never, ever, ever get another dog. And I didn't, until I did. Three years ago, the kids and Tim convinced me to get another puppy.

Around the time we went to pick up our new puppy, I happened to be obsessed with Les Miserables. I had just seen the movie and the kids and I had listened to the entire soundtrack from the play over and over and over. So, naturally I wanted to name the puppy after a character from the movie. We named our puppy Cossette and decided to call her Cosi.  As we rode home I played a special song from the Les Miserables soundtrack that talked about Valjean taking care of Cosette and sang it loudly and pointed to our new puppy Cosette. Because duh, I'm overly dramatic and ridiculous.

In the beginning, I'm going to be honest Cosi was no Al and I wasn't so into her. She seemed un-trainable and nervous and obsessed with food and she licked too much and she was SO MUCH WORK.

But slowly Cosi grew on me. She was so patient with the kids, especially JT. She was anxious around the so many people, except JT, and me. I not only grew to like her, I grew to love her.

It's crazy how much I love my dog. I really never saw this coming, never, ever, ever. But I know for sure that I love my weirdo, anxious, lovable dog Cosi.

(And then I got ANOTHER dog. What?! lol. Rufus is a whole other story.)

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

  • It feels like spring here and we LOVE it. Wade was so excited to find out that he still remembered how to ride his bike.

  • This is funny. Who knew, nature is good for us? lol.

(Click here to watch the video.)

  • This is heartbreaking. It's a powerful, disturbing video about the Flint water crisis.

  • I sort of love Kate Hudson. I follow her on Instagram and want to buy her new book.

  • Bikes are cool. I took this picture of JT and a couple of his friends the other day and it looked like they were straight out of the Goonies or E.T. I love that riding bikes is still cool.

  • Talking and watching politics is making me anxious. So, I'm not watching as much or talking about it as much. I feel happier. I voted in my primary, I'm active in my community, I'm informed...I'm just not watching all the debates and reading all the Twitter posts and listening to all the hotheads on all sides. The general election is a long way from now, I need to pace myself.

What do YOU know for sure right now? Tell me.
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