Risk Factors

The Listen To Your Mother Austin cast had our first table read yesterday.  I walked away feeling warm and hopeful, and really fortunate to have my mother, and to have my son.

Listen To Your Mother Austin 2015 cast.

Listen To Your Mother Austin 2015 cast.

When I sent in my original essay to start my LYTM audition process, I didn’t have expectations.  I didn’t even tell anyone until I’d secured an actual audition.  Almost anyone.  I got my most difficult audience out of the way before I had even heard back from the LYTM producers:  my mom.

My mom isn’t a difficult audience because she is a critic–quite the contrary.  She’s my biggest fan.  But, she was my most difficult audience because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to read the piece to her aloud without crying.  I didn’t either.  I think I got three paragraphs in before I started meeping, and had to choke out the last four because…my mom.

Still, I managed.  I read it aloud to her because she deserved to hear it before anyone else, and because if the essay had any success at all, it was down to her.  No Mom, No Essay.

Then, I took the piece to audition.  I made it most of the way through before I started to cry.

See, I love my parents–most of us do.  I don’t think I am any special case when it comes to that, but I do think my mom is a special case when it comes to being a mother.  Is she perfect?  No.  Are any of us?  Uh-uh.  But in her humanity, she took everything she had good in her, and used it for me.  She took everything dark in her, and shoved it down as deep as it would go, and did her best to keep it from me.  She absolutely did the very best she could, and you can’t ask for more than that.

I am one of those people who worries, “What if this is the last time I see Joe?”  Every morning when I drop off my son at school, I watch him walk away and think, “If this was it…”  Then I pull myself up short and turn on Sports Radio because that is a terrible way to start a morning.  But that concern colors my interactions with the people I love.  If this was the last conversation, did I leave it with your total assurance that beyond all of the minutiae of life, I love you?

I wanted to read the essay to my mom because if the piece wasn’t selected for audition, or if the audition didn’t go well, or if I got cast, but something terrible happened before I could perform it for her, I wanted her to have heard it first. I believe in eulogizing the living.  It doesn’t do the dead a lick of good.

My son wandered up while I was reading it to her, and he leaned against me.  Maybe one of the greatest gifts I can give him is to let him see my willingness to be vulnerably in love with his extended family.  Love exposes us more than any other emotion.  I want him to know that the exposure is worth the risk.

At the cast read, I was first in the line of order.  No relaxing into it.  Just feet first.  Cold water.  A room full of peers, some of whom are six rungs up the ladder from where I want to be.  What was coming?  Judgment?  Critique?  What?  Extreme vulnerability is what.  But my mom is worth the risk, so I jumped in.

I made it all the way to the last paragraph before my nerves shook the tears out of me.  That’s a win!  And there was no judgment.  Just appreciation.

We went in a circle, each woman reading out of her vulnerability because the risk was worth it.  Each story came from a tender place, an honest place, and a hopeful place.  Each story was about how the risk of love is worth the vulnerability of exposure, whether it is love for a mother, a child, a friend, or for yourself.

In part of my essay, I talk about how my mother’s unwavering faith in my ability has meant that even when I know I can’t win at something (like any sport, ever), I can still enjoy the process of losing.  I’m not embarrassed, or afraid of failing–I don’t like it, but I don’t let not liking it keep me from trying.  And that’s all my mother in me.  That is 100% because of her.

I hope if you’re near Austin, you’ll come out to the show.  I’d like you to get to hear me say the words out loud, and let you get a look at my mom, who will be in the audience.  I’d like her to hear your applause because the audience is really for her.  I’m just the voice getting to tell you what a fantastic mother she is.

Buy tickets here.

No More Wire Hangers!

Robyn and I have been dancing in place, trying to hold it together long enough to wait for pre-order links before showing you the cover of Mommie Diarist.  Well, we have them, and HERE IT IS!


Motherhood makes you crazy. There is no function of life that will make you more certifiably insane.  Whether you are crazy in love, crazy busy, or just being driven up the wall, there is no insanity more worthwhile.  Mommie Diarist is about the good, the bad, and the boldfaced.  It is a collection of honest essays about the hardest and best job in the world.

We’re so happy with the collection, that we’re already working on Volume 2.

Order from Amazon at this link, or from Barnes & Noble here.

The book features essays from Virginia Woodruff, Emily Reese, Dona Hightower Perkins, Gina Curvin, Sheila Rosenberg, Susan Olson, Jackie Hennessey, Nanci Rathbun, Sharon Laidlaw-Almaguer, Kristin Vanderhey Shaw, and yours truly, Robyn Rasberry and Lane Buckman.

Personally, I could identify with something in every essay I read.  I know you’ll find something that touches you.

Random Thoughts!

Tickets are on sale for Listen To Your Mother Austin!

There are two shows on April 25, one at 3pm, and one at 7pm.  Of course, I will be at both, telling you about how awesome my mother is.

This past weekend, we drove up to Oklahoma City.  On the way, we did a lot of talking, and Mom mentioned something that had happened when I was in elementary school, and I was amazed at how she had managed to normalize what was a tense situation.  See, when I was in early elementary school, my bus driver took me for an extra long ride.  He skipped my stop, dropped off all the other kids, and kind of drove off with me.

My recollection was of being out joyriding in the school bus.  My mother’s recollection was of having herds of people out looking for me, preparing to call the police, but finding the bus driver’s father first.  The bus driver’s father found the bus, me inside, and got me back to my mother.  My father paid a visit to the bus driver’s house.

I never knew it was more than me just getting to go a few extra miles down the road.  Way to go Lane’s Parents!  This meant I was never afraid to get on the school bus (with a different driver.)  I just had extra instruction about what to do if my bus driver ever missed my stop again.

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How about this shot of my mother, my grandmother and me, visiting one of the old plantations in Eufala, Alabama?  Wasn’t I dainty?  I remember how much I loved those shoes.

I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by strong women, who valued education, and made sure I had a good one–bus drivers be damned.  There are millions of girls who are not so fortunate, and some of them end up involved in prostitution, trafficking, and addiction.  The good news is that there are groups like Magdalene and Thistle Farms.  I encourage you to check them out and support them by buying their awesome products, or adding them to your list of charities.

The Pain of Beauty

Is there anything in [a writer’s] life more painful than getting back those first editorial notes?  I’ve been through the process enough to know that it is the psychic equivalent of getting a bikini wax from a very angry, poorly trained woman.  Each time I’ve gotten those notes, it’s looked something like, “We love your manuscript!  Now change everything,” and is accompanied by a two page list of everything I liked and the words, “This needs to go.”

Okay.  That’s an exaggeration, but that’s how it feels.  However it feels, it sure is smooth when it’s done.  I’d go further with this metaphor, but my father reads this blog.  I just got new notes the other day and I sat and looked at them for a long time wondering how I will ever be able to accomplish all the changes.  I haven’t figured that out, yet, but I will in my allotted time.  Not now, though.  Right now, I have art to finish for one book, art to keep working on for another, and I have Irene Ferris’ upcoming novel to read–and send notes for the first round of edits.  (Irene, I’ll try to be a very happy, poorly trained waxer!)

I would love to write more here tonight, but I do need to go get cracking on that artwork.

I need to take a class on drawing fingers.  I wonder when I could fit that in?

Lady at Lunch

I work in a very diverse neighborhood, so I have a multitude of choices at lunchtime. This works out well because I love trying new food. The downside is how exhausting it can be to work up the nerve to walk into a restaurant where no one speaks your language fluently, where you can’t read the menu, and where you may not be sure of what you’ve ordered even after you’ve eaten it.

I thought I was ordering a simple lunch combo at one place, and ended up with the entire left hand side of a menu sitting in front of me. Food just kept coming!

Whenever I think about that, I think again about how brave people are to uproot themselves and their families, move across the world, and start new lives in places where no one speaks their language fluently, they can’t read the menus, and not even the television can communicate information effectively. That takes a lot of hope and faith in community.

I put some faith in Travelocity today, and booked one of their “super secret” hotel deals. I’ll let you know how that turns out.