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NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams – Watch Now

NBCNightlyNews2

Our Listen to Your Mother story was bumped from the national broadcast *sniff*, but did make the front page of NBCNews.com. They did a great job highlighting the entire Chicago cast.

Watch the entire profile here.

The kids had fun seeing their Nana on screen, but seemed more interested in watching the ads that appeared before the actual interview.  Yes, Geico is more compelling than…listening to their mother.

*Sigh*

5

Listen To Your Mother – The Final Bow?

Communicate – Latin: to make common

Communicate – Latin: to make common

My kids – even my daughter – barely know what a dress is, let alone what I look like in one.  So when I descended the stairs last Sunday hours before my Listen to Your Mother performance, the reactions were decidedly mixed:

Nick: Inspired.  “Oooh, that’s a dress for twirling!  Twirl, Nana!  Twirl!”
Gabe: Indignant.  “Why do you have that dress on?!”
Olivia:  Intense: “Yeah! Yeah….Nana…Yeah!”

Lori was in the final stages of clearing breakfast when Olivia, with her enthusiastic clapping at my outfit, knocked over a ceramic cup which shattered in that way that happens when you absolutely, positively have to be out the door – like 5 minutes ago.  Calculating the pros and cons of leaving Lori to do clean up (definitely con…like, stony-silence-sleep-on-the-couch con) versus driving like a maniac to avoid being late for rehearsal (still a con…but Melissa and Tracey seemed reasonable enough), I opted for the she-devil I knew and squatted on the floor – in my pretty Spring dress – to pick up the shards that eluded the broom.

“Where are you going, Nana,” Nick asked as I brushed the last bits into the garbage.

“I’m going to tell stories about our family.”

“Can I come?”

I had thought about taking the kids – making this family story a family affair – for about 5 seconds.  Then I remembered every disastrous outing we’d ever taken.  Why, just the day before we had fished Nick out of Lake Michigan when he chased after a Frisbee and then just disappeared below the waves behind the Planetarium.  All we could see was his Diego rescue pack floating towards the sand.

“When you are older, kiddo.” And less accident-prone.

“Will you tell us a story when you come home?”

“Of course, I will, sweetheart. I will always have stories to share with you.”

The story I shared on Sunday was one I have told before – how we started our family and the many ups and downs that define the adoption process.  But what amazes and humbles me each time is what happens after the story, when what begins as one-to-many becomes one-to-one:

“I really enjoyed your story.  I was adopted…”
“My brother and sister-in-law and going through the process.  I had no idea…”
“I placed a baby for adoption 30 years ago. I never heard the other side…”

Every time we say, “let me tell you what happened to me” we invite others to do the same, whether it is on a stage before an audience of strangers or in a coffee shop with a close friend.  We create a common place – a sacred space – to connect and share the experiences that make us all so very human.

Like joy
And sorrow
And love.

There is always love.

Listen to Your Mother was a labor of love, and most fitting for Mother’s Day.  Thank you to Ann Imig, Melisa Wells, Tracey Becker, and the talented women I shared the stage with on Sunday. And of course, to my family, without whom I would have no stories to tell…well, not interesting ones anyway.

We created something magical last weekend, and I most grateful to have been a part of it.

Photo credit: Sabrina Luster Persico

* An interview with Ann Imig, the founder of Listen to Your Mother, along with interviews with the Chicago cast – including myself – will be on NBC Nightly News with Brian WilliamsFriday 5/10 (Yes, that’s today) at 5:30 CDT/6:30 EDT.

*All of  the stories will be available on YouTube this summer.

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Be Transformed This Sunday

No turning back now...

No turning back now…5/5 @ 2pm. Yipes!

Walking into the 1st rehearsal of Listen to Your Mother was like being invited to the cool kids table in high school.  These were longtime bloggers and established performers – many of whom already knew one another and regularly hung out together at girlie Girls Nights Out which I have heard of, but have never participated in.

And then there was me.

I made small but awkward talk with my fellow participants as I self-consciously sat on my hands to hide nails that were bitten to the quick.  I am an anxious writer and that week, I had written a lot.

These women were a clique – not mean girls by any stretch – but smart, sassy ladies who finished each others’ sentences and laughed easily at oft-told, and oft-online, jokes.  I was painfully aware how different I was – my life, my opinions, heck, even my hair.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the podium, as each woman walked up to share her story.  I stopped obsessing about feeling so “different”.

Instead, I felt connected.

The vague assumptions I had made about their experiences and their thoughts were replaced by the details that make up a life.  As word upon word filled the room, tears streamed down my face, some from laughter, some from sorrow, all from truth.

And at the end of each one I thought, “I had no idea…”

These women came into such sharp focus that I was humbled by the vision.  Call it rapture, call it enlightenment or just too much caffeine and too little sleep. I basked in the wonder of knowing that I was infinitesimally small and yet part of something so large, and so grand that I am yet to comprehend it.

That is the power of storytelling.

On Sunday, this group of talented women will take the stage.  They have opened my eyes, transformed my life, and yes, made me laugh along the way.

Will I see you there?

These are more than stories about motherhood.
These are words that define who We are.

For we are more than the sum of our stories.
We are the word
Becoming.

############

PS: I love scifi with every fiber of my being.  Though Babylon 5 left the airways eons ago, these words from “The Paragon of Animals” have stayed with me. Enjoy.

The Universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.
The language is not Narn or Human or Centauri or Gaim or Minbari.

It speaks in the language of hope. It speaks in the language of trust.
It speaks in the language of strength, and the language of compassion.
It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.
But always it is the same voice.

It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us.
And the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born.
It is the small, still voice that says we are One.

No matter the blood, no matter the skin,
No matter the world, no matter the star,
We are One.
No matter the pain, no matter the darkness,
No matter the loss, no matter the fear.
We are One.

Here, gathered together in common cause
We agree to recognize this singular truth and this singular rule:
That we must be kind to one another.

Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us,
And each voice lost diminishes us.
We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation,
The fire that will light the way to a better future.

We are One.

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Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This

LTYM-logo

Over the weekend, I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother, a national series of live readings in celebration of Mother’s Day.

It was not my best.

I got lost finding the venue (“Siri, you suck!”), then stood in the rain until the doors opened as I chugged Gatorade and aspirin after a night of muscle spasms and projectile vomit courtesy food poisoning from the previous night’s Chinese New Year dinner. Oh, and all of that lovely stomach bile?  Fan-Freakin-Tastic for my fried vocal cords which were already on strike thanks to an ill-timed RA flare that made me sound like a cross between a veteran chain smoker and pre-pubescent boy.

So before I even walked into the room, I had written the audition off.  Chalked it up to an experience as I planned the rest of the day. OK, so this afternoon, I’ll pick Nick up from his birthday party…Gabe needs a haircut…Olivia needs hair…maybe we should take the kids swimming to burn off some energy…

“NADINE…come on in.”

Be here now. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and remembered the words of Paula Killen, my first storytelling coach who had put me on this path.

Every story is a gift.”

Yeah…30 seconds into this piece and it was clear that this gift needed to be returned. I was stinking up the place with tried-and-true laugh lines that were bombing, and my blistering pace brazenly ignored pesky little things like punctuation and “moments.”  My inner critic was having a field day: Hey, are they scowling at you? Of course they are!  You’re terrible!!!!  Wait, did she just check her watch? 2 more pages to go… What were you thinking?  Just get through this already and let these nice women get on with their day…

 Around the 4th time my voice cracked, I had an epiphany.

My story was a gift – to myself.

The last few months with Nick had been challenging. He reveled in dancing on the last of my last nerves as we stumbled through the minefield of six-on-the-way-to-seven.  He was doing the two-step-one-step dance with us – two little steps backwards (“Nick, why would you climb on top of the car and slide down the windshield?  How is that a good choice?”), then one giant step forward (“Nick, you turned off the stove, took the eggs out, put them on everyone’s plate and made the toast?  Um, wow!!).

On his two-step days, I wondered I was really cut out for this whole motherhood thing. I was really bad at it – critical, sarcastic, impatient, dismissive…Where was that bottomless well of patience, understanding and unconditional love?  Oh right, I drained it yesterday when he used the shower head to spray the entire bathroom, floor to ceiling, and adjoining bedroom with water because he wanted to see how far the water would travel…while he was singing. (“Party people in the HOUSE tonight!  Everybody just have a GOOD TIME!”)

The story I had chosen was a chance to remember how much I love this kid, no matter what.

Well, it turns out that the gods were smiling on me that day because I was invited to join the cast of this year’s LTYM.  It’s an amazing group of women and I am truly honored – and shocked – to be in such great company.

Here are the details:

Sunday, May 5, 2013
2pm
The Athenaeum Theatre
2936 N Southport Ave., Chicago

Last year tickets sold out in a week. No pressure, right?

More information (including ticket purchase) will be posted here.

Hope to see you there!

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A Little Piece About Peaceful Learning

Summertime…and the learning is peaceful…

We had a lovely time at the Custer’s Last Stand Festival of the Arts this weekend, even though the “Arts” part was your standard street faire fare of patchouli, woven bracelets, and shapeless, vaguely ethnic, sun dresses.

I think I even saw a painting or 2 of Dawn of Aquarius style sunrises with human silhouettes…and dolphins.

Sunday was HOT.  But the kids did better than expected for the 3 hours that we wandered thru Evanston’s multicultural melting pot.  I thought we blended in quite nicely, though one woman complained to us that the unwashed masses from Chicago were slowly ruining the event…before we revealed that we were part of this migration north.

She practically choked on the self-important foot she had thrust so far into her mouth.

General Custer himself made an appearance, even though I mistook him for Tweetie Bird in a Civil War uniform.  Gabe mistook him for a yellow-headed freak of nature which sent him screaming down the cobblestone path as fast as his 2-year-old legs could carry him.  That poor actor in his poorly ventilated suit tried to make nice with now-terrified Gabe – waving, doing a little jig – but Gabe would have none of it.  Once he was safely in Lori’s arms, he shook his fists and shouted, “NO NO NO!!!  DON’T DO THAT!!!!

He’s had the same reaction to the porcelain dog at his grandma’s house.

I think we need to get him out more.

He settled down once we reached the stage area, though we had to wait 20 minutes for MC Blackfoot to wrap up him polemic about the inaccurate portrayal of Native Americans in the media before we got to the actual performance.

Seriously dude?  This is Evanston.  You’re preaching to the converted.

The performance itself was nice – an audience participation Peace Dance that our kids refused to join.  It always surprises me that we’ve raised sideline kids.  They’re content to watch, but god forbid they should be in the spotlight, even if it’s with a group of soooo Evanston Race-for-the-Cure, March-Against-Racism, Insert-Cause-Here T-shirt clad families.

Then again, we’re not Wiggle Worm folk.

We’re the ones rolling our eyes in the back row wondering when the backwards Alphabet Song – turn your back to the audience ha ha HA – will finally end.  We’ve become less cynical now that we have children, but it’s telling that a silent Comic Bookstore Guy “duh” accompanies most of Nick’s responses.

“Sweetie, get your shoes.  We’re ready to go.”
“They’re sneakers….(duh!)

It’s something we’re working on.

The highlight for Nick was a life-size Super Mario Brothers Tennis EXTRAVAGANZA (read: one big ad for the Nintendo Game – Play real tennis!  Play fake tennis!  Go home and demand that your parents buy you this game RIGHT NOW!)

He played for a good 20 minutes, though when it was time to go I had to football-hold him out of the game room since he refused to put the Nintendo 3DS after 3 5-minute warnings.  At some point, he will be too big, and I will be too decrepit, to do this.  I think he knows this, and is just biding his time.

There has to be a better way to extract him from these things.

Once we got home, I thought the fair would become just another faded family memory from the summer of 2012.  But instead, Nick and Gabe recreated their own Native American/Pentecostal/White Party version using the mini trampoline as their stage and singing into plastic yard stakes – pointy side down, of course.

“The World is Spirit!  Spirit is the World!  Everybody has Spirit in your Soul!”  Nick sang at the top of his lungs while Gabe did some sort of Ninja Sword dance with the stake.  Oddly enough, the non-stop reggaeton bass from the apartment building next door only enhanced the experience.  At the end of the concert, Nick captured a firefly between his hands and walked over to me, Lori and Olivia as we swung gently in the hammock.

“This is a Peace Fly,” he said, lowering his voice to a reverent whisper.  “We have to set it free to spread peace.”

“Happy Birthday,” Gabe added randomly, though equally reverent.

We watched the firefly take off from Nick’s hands.

Passive, maybe.
Receptive, definitely.

They really do take everything in.

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Do Not Try This At Home…Well, OK Fine.

Gabe on the left…Nick on the right…in their dreams!

On this near-record, near-summer day, it’s hard to recall that just a month ago, Chicago had hail.

Yes, freakin’ hail.

But that didn’t stop us from going to Navy Pier for some mid-week entertainment.

We’d had a non-stop 5am-5pm work frenzy kinda day. Production meetings, proposals, editing sessions – you name it, we did it – put out fires, shakes some trees, and shake out some tree fires.  By the time we dragged ourselves to 5:30 kid pickup, we were exhausted.  The weather was unseasonably crappy and the kids were predictably crabby.  We were tempted to plop them in front of Magic School Bus, pick up some $5 “cheese and sausage” (uh-huh) pizza, and call it a night.

But we didn’t.

Instead, we grabbed McDonald’s – a step up from Little Caesars, no? – and headed down to the Cirque Shanghai preview, courtesy Lori’s ridiculously well-connected sister. This girl has the hookup.

Box seats to the White Sox?  Check.
Reservations and complimentary drinks at Zed 451?  Check.
Tea with the First Lady?  Ahem.  Still waiting.

What is normally a 20-minute jaunt took 2 hours because apparently, Chicagoans had completely forgetten how to drive during inclement weather.  Not unlike Atlanta or DC when it snows.  (Ahhh!  The skies have opened!  Just stop the car!  Anywhere!  Anywhere! The National Guard will find us. Won’t they…)  By the time we pulled into the parking lot, Nick was out cold, drool trailing from the side of his mouth down his shoulder strap; Gabe had sucked his fingers so hard they were more café than mahogany; and Olivia has a diaper that smelled so foul I swear something had crawled into the car seat with her and died.

They were clearly ready for a 2-hour show.

The production crew had thankfully put up the side walls of the outdoor pavilion, so it wasn’t crazy cold – out there, on the lake, in the storm – but I had grabbed the emergency blanket at the last minute, thank goodness.  We tried – in vain – to pump up the excitement as we dragged the small, tired butts to their seats.

“So Awwwwesommmmme!!!!  Right?!  Hollah-back yo!…How cool is this?! Out on a school night!! –”

“I’m tired.”  Nick whined.

“I tired.” Gabe echoed.

“It’s cold.”

“I tired.” Gabe did not have the echo thing down yet.

Olivia made it about 20 minutes into the show before her brain decided that she simply lacked the cognitive functions to make sense of anything she was seeing.  So she fell asleep.  Nick and Gabe, on the other hand, were transfixed.

It could have been the music – a smash-cut amalgam of Black Sabbath guitar, ancient Chinese secret bamboo flutes, and booty-skankin’ Ke$ha with the occasional Loretta Lynn detour.  But I bet it was the death-defying stunts in glam rock costumes that held their attention.

I liked Cirque Shanghai for the same reason that Lori and I watched Jackass: The Movie.  For every pig-eating-an-apple-from-some-guy’s-bum, which is stoooopid, there was a segment that celebrated the limits of the human body.  Yes, if you really push yourself, you can make it through a corridor of Taser guns.  It’s very La Mancha, dreaming the impossible – and sometimes in incredibly poor taste – dream.

Perhaps Nick and Gabe would not have thought to balance several chairs on top of one another then climb to the top.  Now they will.  They probably wouldn’t have come up with walking backwards on the outside of a rotating cage while blindfolded…but at least now they know it’s possible.  Granted, during each over-the-top stunt, I was calculating how quickly we could get to the ER since I already knew they would be trying these things at home.  Plus, their beloved – but childless – aunt leaned over each time and said “I bet you could do that in your backyard”, finally stopping after I shushed her during the young-woman-riding-a-unicycle- on-top-of-a-twirling-umbrella-held-by-another-unicyclist sequence.

(They did, of course, try to recreate some of the stunts at home, which usually involved Nick telling Gabe to “Just sit here” – on his ATV – and “don’t move,” followed by him scaling a tree, positioning himself 7 feet above said ATV, fully prepared to jump, while holding a hula hoop, and me shouting from the kitchen window, “NOT THE BEST IDEA!”)

The grand finale was a full-on primary-color-motorcycles-revving-in-a-metal-cage Voltron homage, complete with “Mega thrusters are go!” fist pumps and stirring brass section accompaniment.  You could have driven a semi-truck through Gabe’s and Nick’s open mouths.

“How’d they do that?”

“Well, Nick.  If you look closely, you’ll see that they are just riding behind one another in a line – a line that happens to make a figure 8 across the sphere’s interior.  The neon tail lights create the illusion that their paths are simultaneous – which they aren’t, just linear. And of course, the speed of their bikes is creating enough centrifugal force to keep them from falling when they go upside down.”

That’s what I thought, but it was such a lame teaching moment answer for such a spectacular performance that I went instead with the “practice makes perfect” meme.

“They spent a lot of time rehearsing so they could do it right.”

“Cooooool.”

“Yah, coooool.”  So Gabe did understand the echo pattern.

After the show, we eventually made it back to the car, the kids amusing themselves by opening and closing their hand-held fans while Joyce made small talk with Every. Single. Person. We. Passed.  Olivia got a fan too, and the boys promised that they would take care of it until she was old enough to open it herself.

Right….

“That was GREAT, Nana!”  Nick said, as he buckled his younger brother in.

“I’m glad you liked it, buddy.  What was your favorite part?”

“Motorcycles!”  Gabe piped in.

“Oh yeah, the motorcycles.”  Nick now echoed.  “Can I get one?”

“When you’re 18.”

“How about a giant cage?”

“When you join the circus.”