Sunday, May 22, 2011

How Can She Be 12?

At Hannah's birthday celebration last night, I thought to myself, "How can she be 12?"

I look at my daughter and really see her. As I gaze at her and try to see her as the world sees her, I nearly gasp aloud at the young woman that she is becoming. Beyond the new physical curves of her maturing body, I see the strong, courageous and assertive spirit that will take her into a successful future. But, in my mind's eye, she is still that little peanut who lay on my chest so long ago. As I rocked her and she drifted into sleep, I would repeat the whispered mantra, "Stay little...stay little...stay little." Now that she's surpassed me in height, I must confess that I don't think that my pleas worked.

Last night, as I watched her goof around with her two dining companions, I couldn't help but wonder how we got to this place - this place that is 12 years old - so very fast. Inside, I choke on the knowledge that two-thirds of her layover with us has passed. As activities and friends consume more and more of her waking hours, I know that these last six years will zoom by in a blink of an eye. And, before I know it, we'll be celebrating her 18th birthday, and shortly after that, she'll be off to college. The thought of this future "missing her" brings me to my knees, and a sense of foreboding makes my heart constrict with the impending loss...and I almost forget to be in this moment, here. Right now.

I know in my head that looming separation and her pursuit of autonomy is a natural part of growing up - and away - from me. It doesn't mean that I have to like it.

For now, I still revel in the glimpses of a younger Hannah, such as her request for a Play-Doh set this birthday, and I am secretly delighted and grateful when she still needs me. Within the walls of our home, I am still called "Mommy," but I've noticed recently that I've "graduated" to either "Mom" or "Mother" when she's among her friends. When we're alone, my daughter is still the outwardly demonstrative child I've always known; quick with a hug or a casual "I love you" thrown back over her shoulder as she leaves for school. But out in the world, I sense the slightest bitter taste of her pulling away from me.

Friends have begun to warn me that this is "just the beginning." I am told frightening things like,"Oh, just you wait for the teen years!" To date, my response has been, "Every age so far has been my favorite." Just because she'll enter teen-dom next year, I don't have reason (yet) to believe that Hannah is suddenly going to morph into the anti-Christ. Through the years, she has only become more interesting, kinder, smarter, and funnier.

I can only foresee this trend continuing.

Happy Birthday, my 12-year old.
I (continue to) beseech you - "stay little."


Monday, May 9, 2011

Listen To Your Mother - The episode in which I am tired, but proud

The episode in which I am tired, but proud.

I have work to do this morning, but I’m ignoring it. Rather, I have chosen to bask in the after glow of yesterday’s Listen to Your Mother show. I find that I don’t want to leave that place just yet, but rather I am content to revel in the memories made before, during and after the show.

As a bit of background, I stumbled upon the LTYM website surfing the web, and I watched the video of the 2010 LTYM show. I was captivated by the woman that everyone calls, “Ding Dong;” a mom of chronic door-ringing children.

“Ding Dong” completely cracked me up, and I thought, “I bet I could do that.” I then discovered that auditions for the 2011 show were but a month away. I got down to business. I reread all of the pieces I’d ever written about motherhood. Should I submit a funny one or a serious one? I decided that I was more comfortable with the funny route, so I collected a bunch of snippets of conversations between my daughter and me about puberty. I smushed them around, sliced and diced, and made them into an essay that I felt rolled right along.

Despite a public speaking phobia, I auditioned and I was chosen to be one of the 13 Madison Mamas to read at the 2011 Listen to Your Mother show! I am so grateful to have shared this amazing experience with 13 beautiful, wonderful, generous, giving and loving women: Elizabeth Katt Reinders; Darcy Dederich; Suzy Grindrod; Jessie Loeb; Amy Miles; Stacie Rieder; Alexandra Rosas Schultze; Jennifer Rosen Heinz; Sara Santiago; Laura McNeill; Erika Wagner-Martin; Sara Ward-Cassidy and Ann Imig.

They have made me a better Mom and a better person. Because of this briefly shared time in our lives, they are my friends for life.

I was blessed to have my daughter, partner, her mom and my best friend sitting in the front row on show day. I could feel their smiles and their good wishes being sent my way, even though it was impossible to see them after the lights went down. But I knew they were there, and that’s all that mattered.

As I listened to the three amazing women speak before me, I concentrated on breathing and calmness. I could hear my heart racing and pounding within my chest, and kept chanting to myself, “It will be fine. It will be great. It will be……….over……..soon.” I mildly cursed my daughter for “making me” do this thing. I berated the directors for picking my piece. Yeah, it was a busy place in my head.

As I walked to the podium, I repeated the word “pre-pubescence, pre-pubescence” over and over again. It was the word that would make me stumble, and dang it, I did later misspeak it. But you know what? I nailed every other damn word in that essay, and I was so proud of myself. When the first laugh from the audience came, I was so grateful. I actually wanted to pause and say, “thank you.”

They laughed…and I laughed…and I thought, “I am actually doing this, and I am going to survive it.” Hey, I’m sitting down now, and they’re clapping. Holy crap! It’s over. Yea for MEEEEEEE!  

Hannah told me later that she was laughing so hard that she cried during my entire reading.  I was confused. “But honey, you’ve read it and heard it 100+ times?” She said, “But Mommy, you are so funny when you read it out loud!”

The best part of the day to me was listening to and observing the audience members as they filtered out of the Barrymore Theatre. The lobby was ALIVE with the energy of smiling women, crying women, women hugging women. The women, young and old, of all shapes and sizes, they shared their stories with friends, and family, and yes, with strangers. Many took our hands and said, “Thank you.” They thanked us for being brave and for telling our stories.

For a few minutes, I felt like a Rock Star.

And in an ironic twist of karma coming around to slap my face, I hear from across the room, “Hey, there’s the “Puberty Woman.” Oh dear, “Ding Dong” sounded so much cuter.

I had a cape on my back…one that unfortunately said, “Puberty Woman,” but it’s a cape nonetheless. And, damn it, that’s all that matters.

P.S. Deb Nies’ make-up yesterday – Elizabeth Katt Reinders. (Thank you for making my eyes “pop,” in a good way!)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Listen to Your Mother in Madison, Barrymore Theatre 5/8 3pm

 Listen to Your Mother - Barrymore Theatre 3pm May 8th, 2011

The Episode in Which I am BRAVE!

"The important and only vital question is, how much greater, finer, am I than I was yesterday? Have I fulfilled my possibilities, made the most of my potentialities?" — Edward Weston

I can truly say that I am indeed "greater, finer" than I was yesterday. I have fulfilled my possibilities and made the most of my potentialities.

You see, I am a writer/reader for Listen to Your Mother. Sounds simple, but not really. This exercise is an incredible leap of bravery for me, as I am deathly afraid of public speaking.

Last night was the second read-through for the Listen to Your Mother show. I enjoyed hearing the other 12 women's stories even more than I had at the first listening session.

Perhaps the first time, I was so nervous about reading my own piece that I found it hard to concentrate closely on what others were saying. While I am humbled by the other writers/readers in this amazing group of women, I have also finally realized that I belong there, too. I didn’t always believe it.

When I first thought about writing something and auditioning for LTYM, I felt a bit inadequate and pessimistic about attempting something that was foreign to me.

It took my 11-year old daughter – a budding actress who is comfortable speaking to 500 people from the stage – to convince me to try out for LTYM. Believe me, she pushed and pulled me kicking and screaming to sign up for an audition. She told me that it would be “good for me,” and that I would “grow.” I could tell that she relished being able to turn my own pithy words of encouragement back on me like a knife of the sharpest blade.

Upon initially meet someone, you don’t know their history or their own personal story. Sure, we freely hand out labels like parade candy, but they are usually wrong or at best, incomplete. My little background story is that I have a major phobia of reading anything in public. I have hated it since Middle School, when I would spend entire class periods dreading being called upon to read anything aloud from a textbook.

When I did have to read aloud, my face would flush, my voice would quaver, and I would stumble over words…words that I knew, but my anxiety caused me to trip over my tongue. It. Was. Horrible.

Since then, I have avoided public speaking like the plague. Until now. You see, I had to audition. I had to back up those words of encouragement that I so freely dispense to my child. I had to put my money where my mouth is, which is constantly open, divvying out unsolicited advice. If I didn’t audition, she would see me as a fraud; someone who didn’t take her own damn advice. So I told her my concerns, and she said, “Mommy, you can do it. Really. You can. Pretend like you’re talking to me.”

Ok, right. So, I auditioned.  Wow, I was so nervous. During the audition, I felt the old face flushing, and then the voice quiver reared its ugly head, and I thought, “Oh boy, this is so over.” And, then, as I began to read my piece on puberty, Ann and Darcy (LTYM head honchos) laughed. (Not at me, as I suspected might happen.) And, as I read some more, they laughed some more, and I thought, “Hannah’s right. I can get through this,” and I did.

After I walked out, I thought I’d seriously blown it. Why would you want someone who fumbled over her words and was obviously mentally tormented about public speaking. I returned home, and told Hannah, “I did terrible. I know that I didn’t get in.” She gave me a hug and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. You tried, and that’s all that matters.” (Who is the parent now?)

Time passed. I’d already written the entire thing off in my mind. And, then I received Ann's email inviting me to perform. I was SHOCKED. My darling daughter, not so much. I think she said, “I knew it!”

The first read-through was hard for me, especially that damn word “prepubescent,” which kills me every time. Actually, it was hard because these other people were strangers, and I had to read in front of them. Then, I felt the love and acceptance and understanding in that group of beautiful women, and I started to relax. Last night, the 2nd read-through was even easier for me. Everyone was so supportive and I feel like they have become my extended family.

Lest you think this is the end of my rant, it’s not. Last week, my daughter asked to show me a bulletin board in the hallway outside of her classroom. I joined her in front of these pictures of a lot of famous people. It was a wall of heroes created by she and her classmates. There on that wall, next to a picture of President Obama and Lance Armstrong, was a picture of ME!

After I was able to speak again and I’d wiped my tears, I asked her, “Why am I up there on this wall?” She looked at me like I was a bit touched in the head (you know how teens can do that), and she said, “Because I knew you were afraid to speak in public, but you overcame your fear, and you just did it.”

Please come see "Listen to Your Mother." You'll laugh. You'll cry. And most importantly, you will be changed forever.

And, if I don’t pass out, and my voice doesn’t quaver and I nail “prepubescent,” please give me a high five!