My Weekend in Instagram Shots

It’s true. I’m a notorious procrastinator. But this time, I honestly wasn’t putting off my project. I simply could not figure out how to make time for it – or, more accurately, enough time for it. So what started out as a tight deadline turned into an insane one.

Thankfully, my mom and my husband took over kid duty so I could write and read and format and write some more. And so, while I’ve been working on this project for a few weeks, the last few days can be summed up like this:

Yeah, that’s coffee. I resorted to coffee, people. (Kind of. Does a white mocha count as coffee?) It made me shaky and tasted terrible, but it did get me past the Sunday afternoon nap impulse.

Oh, by the way, I know all this talk about “my project” and “a big deadline” is annoyingly vague. I can’t wait to tell you about what I’ve been working on, and as soon as I can, I will give you the whole lowdown! Pinky promise!!

Until then, pray for me as I face edits and submissions and more nap-less afternoons?

What big projects are YOU working on?

Mothers and Stages and Stories

LTYM stage photo

I overheard her tell someone that she didn’t like reading one particular line, that it was just so hard for her to say out loud. I could only imagine how difficult it was going to be for her, standing in front of hundreds of people and saying words that hurt her so deeply. But my new, brave friend was determined to tell her story.

When she walked up to the podium that night, I found myself doing something I haven’t done since my freshman year of high school. While this wasn’t a basketball game and she wasn’t shooting free throws, I found myself staring holes in the back of her head, sending all my positive thoughts her way and shouting (internally), “You can do it. You can do it. YOU. CAN. DO. THIS.”

Being a member of Kansas City’s Listen to Your Mother cast was an incredible honor and handed me so many gifts – including entry to an amazing team of women I never would have otherwise met.

Actually, despite the similarity I sensed between the show and a basketball game, “team” isn’t really the right word to describe this group of women. “Colleagues” or “cast-mates” wouldn’t be right, either. “Family” is more like it.

Listen to Your Mother is a a series of staged live readings about motherhood that took place in 32 cities this year. This was the second year for a Kansas City show. And while I submitted a piece on a whim – and at the last minute, as per usual – Listen to Your Mother (LTYM from here on out, if you don’t mind) is quite the production. As the FAQs explain, each show is auditioned, directed, produced, and rehearsed with professional production values, creating a well-crafted and memorable theatrical experience.

Still, I went into the whole thing with a no-big-deal attitude. I showed up to the first meeting late, and I took thank you notes to work on to our first reading. YOU GUYS. (Forgive me, LTYM friends?)

The short story about that first reading is that I didn’t write any thank you notes. But not because I suddenly remembered my manners (ironic given my choice of do-while-I’m-bored task, eh?). Let me tell you a bit of the longer version.

A few weeks after submitting my piece, auditioning and being told I had a place on the LTYM cast, I drove to the [gorgeous, in case you're wondering] home of one of the producers. I knew of Erin from somewhere – Blissdom? the Kansas City bloggers group on Facebook? the general blogosphere? I don’t know, but I do know that I’d heard about LTYM first from her, on Facebook. So, in the way of the internet and psuedo-familiarity, I felt like I knew her.

The other ladies – despite our get-to-know-you meeting a couple weeks earlier – were strangers to me.

While we waited for everyone to arrive, we milled around Erin’s basement, making small talk and giving the snacks (and beverages…and maybe each other?) the side eye. As I visited with some of the ladies, I thought two things.

First – I thought I was getting a handle on who my fellow cast-mates were. This woman is this type; that woman is that type. I’d probably be great friends with her; I obviously don’t have anything in common with her. And her? She totally intimidates me so I’ll just stay on this side of the room.

Second – I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so nervous to read their pieces.

Seriously, these women were so nervous! When we drew numbers for the order we’d read in, those with the lowest numbers were visibly shaken. When they realized we were expected to stand at the podium and read (instead of staying seated around our big table), others made it clear they weren’t excited about that.

Have they never given a presentation? Or been in a play? What is the big deal?

Then the reading began. And, all of a sudden, I understood. And I realized that all the things I thought I knew about these women from a few minutes of chit chat? It was all wrong. I was all wrong.

One by one, they walked up to that podium in our new friend’s basement – and they opened up their hearts and poured out their very souls. They had bled onto paper and now they were bleeding on that podium. Souls bared, hearts opened – and bonds immediately formed.

Also? Attitude (MINE.) changed.

The piece I submitted and eventually read aloud in our show was heartfelt but not heart-deep. I shared a small piece of my story, but these other women? They shared Their Stories.

Not to say that what they wrote and spoke about is the only part of their stories. But they shared big things, deep things, important things. They shared STORY.

And you know what happens when you share Story? When you open up your heart and stand soul-naked in front of a group of virtual strangers? You become a family.

The 13 other women who shared the LTYM stage with me last weekend told about loss, about love, about the ugly parts of motherhood and the beauty. They told their stories in ways that challenged me. They challenged me about making snap judgments, about thinking I knew “what kind of woman” someone was based on a comment or outfit or small-talk conversation. They challenged me on topics I’d never considered and some I had.

And most importantly for me, for now – they challenged me to tell my story.

Story. Gah. Why can I not escape this whole idea of STORY? It’s everywhere this year – and, honestly? I’m a little tired of it! I don’t want to tell My Story. I want to tell stories, yes. And then I want to be frustrated by the lack of connection with the people I refuse to trust with My Story.

I’m logical like that.

Am I saying that I have some deep, dark secret I’ve been holding out on you? Um, no. But do I have parts of me – big ones, deep ones, important ones – that I haven’t dared share? YES. And am I terrified to be completely real, despite my claim to be an authentic writer, one who writes about real life, someone who “keeps it real”?

Yep. Hypocrite and scaredy cat, party of one.

I don’t know what this all means – for me, for my writing, for this blog, for my new group of friends, those women I never would have met if I hadn’t decided to try out for Listen to Your Mother. I just know I can’t stop thinking about it. About story. Story. And those brave women who told theirs.

(Well, that and Ricky Martin and Tom Selleck and strange bus rides and Yoda and, ahem, pedicures gone awry. I think about these things, too, LTYM friends.)

Do you have a hard time sharing your “big” stories?

Childhood Dreams :: Link-Up #1

When I was in middle school, I had a diary. It had a lock on it and everything. I can’t tell you exactly what’s in it, because it was a victim of this summer’s Decluttering-a-palooza. (In other words, it’s hidden away in my cedar chest, which is currently located in my father-in-law’s shed.)

But one thing I remember from that little diary is a page where I wrote about what I imagined my life would look like a couple decades down the road. It’s funny. I saw myself, living in an city, mother to one little girl and alone. Why I would have imagined being a single mom back then, I have NO IDEA. My parents were – and still are – married, and divorce was never part of my fairy tale fantasies.

Yet that’s what I wrote about. That and a modern, urban apartment. And a legal career. Yep, I had it all.

Of course, that’s just one story I wrote for myself as a child. And thankfully most of it didn’t come true (although every now and then I wonder what it would’ve been like to go to law school…).

But lots of things I imagined for my future self as a child lingered longer: a big house with a wraparound porch, well-behaved children who adored me, a career where I helped people by using my creative skills (and was paid handsomely), a husband who still writes love letters and plans date nights and brings home flowers just because.

Oh, young Mary, how much you had to learn! (And, really, how much does Not-So-Young Mary have to learn?! After all, I’m the one writing this series!)

Yes, we all hold onto childhood dreams and hopes, plans, expectations that took root years – or even decades – ago. So as part of this month’s 31 Days of Giving Up on Fairy Tales, I’m asking for YOUR stories and reflections. This week? I’d love to read about how your real life compares to what you imagined as a child.

Write a post about childhood dreams, fairy tales and real life. Then link up here!

To follow my entire series, 31 Days of Giving Up on Fairy Tales, subscribe to this blog. (And when you do? You’ll get every post sent to your inbox AND a free ebook called Finding a Happier Ever After.)

Photo by burritoes

Resistance is futile.

“We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives.

There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

(The War of Art by Steven Pressfield)

Maybe I should revise my About page. I mean, it IS sorely out of date.

Or I could start that freelancing project.

Oh, I know, I haven’t checked Facebook in about 17 minutes. I probably need to make sure I haven’t missed anything big.

Did I tweet about my last post this morning? I’d better go schedule another one.

Does Twitter even bring traffic to my blog anyway? Let’s see what StatCounter says…

I forgot to get rice at the grocery story yesterday. Maybe I should go get a bag this afternoon.

Stop it! It’s time to work! Now! Just . . .

When does How I Met Your Mother come back on this fall?

Has Psych really been cancelled after the next season?

Oooh, look at that clever list about pop culture stuff.

And that collection of snarky pop culture GIFs!

And that blog post that she linked to. And that one . . . and that one . . .

Okay, enough. I need to get to work.

Maybe I should shower now?

I really need to go to the post office. {ugh.}

I’d probably be more creative if I read a chapter or two of that novel I got at the library.

Oh, I forgot! I need to fold laundry. . . nahhhhh.

————

You know you’ve renewed your commitment to a project, a goal, a dream when you find yourself facing Resistance. So says Steven Pressfield – and so says my life. I even resorted to emailing my friend yesterday and asking, “Is it procrastination if I do this first? I mean, it’s really important. I think. Is it? I DON’T EVEN KNOW.”

I wasn’t surprised at all when she replied with, “QUIT IT. GET TO WORK. NOW.”

Fair enough.

Still . . . it’s probably time I re-organized my bathroom cabinets . . .

————

How do you deal with the Resistance?

Photo by Jennifer Boyer. This post includes an affiliate link.

Write That Thing (and some announcements)

It doesn’t take much to make me cry. Happy tears, sad tears, scared tears, mad tears, moved tears, worried tears – it doesn’t matter the mood or the occasion. I am a crier.

As a result, I am rarely surprised to find myself crying and, honestly, I’m not even really embarrassed by it much anymore. It’s just who I am. Crying is my spiritual gift, people.

But a few weeks ago at Allume, I realized that something other than my normal neuroses might be at play when I found myself unable to stop the tears running down my face during a session about writing. My friend Annie talked to us about writing where you are, writing about what you’re going through right now – but doing it in a healthy, safe, appropriate way.

If you know Annie Downs, you know that she is hilarious – and her presentation was no exception. But while I laughed at every single one of her jokes, I also cried, nonstop, through the entire hour.

Early on in the session, Annie shared with us that when she began writing, she informed God that she would write anything for Him, but she would not write about her weight or about being single. Of course, God eventually compelled her to write about both of those things – like He does.

After telling us a bit about her journey, Annie finished her presentation by saying, “Write that thing. Talk about that thing.” As I wrote her words in my notebook, I swallowed a sob and wondered, What on earth is wrong with me?!?

I can’t tell you what my “thing” is. Not because I’m hiding it or because I’m too scared to talk about it. I really don’t know what it is! I don’t know WHY I was such a tear-soaked mess in Annie’s session. I don’t know what chord she was striking or why I can’t process it enough today to figure out what thing is messing me up.

What I suspect, though, is that my thing is not a topic that I don’t want to dig into or a personal experience I don’t want to share or a weakness I don’t want to reveal. I think my thing is actually a book.

See, I want to write a book. I do. I’ve even been brave enough to tell a few close friends that I am going to write a book . . . soon. But when I sat down with my friends at Squee this spring and actually set goals and dates to make that book happen? Something inside me froze.

I want to write a book. But I am terrified. That – I’m pretty sure that is my thing.

But Annie told me to talk about it, that thing. So I’m talking about it. (Okay, Annie? Sheesh. Quit telling me what to do.) I’m telling you. I want to write a book, and right now, this month, I’m trying to write a book.

Well, not a whole book. But I have officially begun writing a book proposal. (Okay, Holley? Stop yelling at me!)

BREATHE . . .

Now that it’s out, I’m going to ask you to help me. Keep me accountable. Ask me how it’s going. Don’t let me chicken out. Pray for me. Remind me that this really is a good idea. Please? Thank you, friends.

But, wait! There’s more! [I can’t help it. I cannot resist an opportunity to use my infomercial voice.]

I’ve got two announcements for you, and I think you’re going to like them.

Announcement #1: Starting tomorrow (Tuesday, November 13), I’m going to host a weekly chat on my Facebook page. Nothing deep, just a way for us to get to know each other better and have a little fun. Every Tuesday night at 8:00 pm CST, I’ll be on Facebook to talk with you all for about an hour. I’ll have questions prepared for us to discuss, but I’m open to your questions or topics as well. What would you like to talk about tomorrow night?

I hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be fun!

Announcement #2: In one month (Monday, December 17), I’m releasing a new ebook about the many surprises I found when I became a stay-at-home mom. Based on posts I’ve published here on the blog, it will be a funny and hopefully encouraging read for moms of all kinds. Whether you stay home, work from home, work full-time outside the home or something in between, you’ll find something you identify with (and, probably, can laugh at) in this book.

But the big news about the ebook is that it will be FREE to my subscribers! So if you’re here for the first time or maybe you just visit occasionally, today is the day you should hit that subscribe button up there. Let’s just make it official, eh? You click subscribe and poof! I’ll send you my ebook next month (plus, hello? every other post I publish at this place!).

Well, certainly that is enough excitement for one day. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this! Or, really, your thoughts on anything. What’s on your mind today?

That gorgeous print up above is for sale at my friend Dawn’s website. If my name is on on your Christmas list, please go check it out!