Listen to Your Mother Auditions, NW Indiana: a Few Wonderful Ideas (Part One)

In May 2011, I had the great honor of reading at the Listen to Your Mother show at the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso, Indiana. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I loved every minute of it. Now you have the opportunity to be part of the fun in 2012.

Auditions for the 2012 show have been announced. Auditions will be Sunday, March 11 (the show itself will be on May 10 at 7 pm) and both the show and the auditions will be held at the Memorial Opera House. The place is amazing and reason enough to go on its own. But if you audition, you’ll also get a chance to meet Steph who produces and directs the show. You’ll meet me, too, which I guarantee is more exciting for me than for you, but still. Exciting.

The show is a celebration of motherhood, but if you haven’t seen the show or been a part of it, you might not feel quite clear on what “celebration of motherhood” really means. Motherhood, after all, tends to be undercelebrated. Or maybe you totally understand the concept but you don’t have any idea where to start when it comes to thinking of a five-minute piece to read at an audition, let alone in front of an audience of millions (or hundreds . . . we’re not counting).

So I thought I’d use the wonderful pieces from last year’s show as points of inspiration for your own idea. Of course you’ll want to make it your piece from your heart about your own message of motherhood, but any of these premises would give you a great place to start. I’ll start with the first six and discuss the rest in a later post. (click images to view videos of the performances)

June Saavedra
© Beth Fletcher Photography

June Saavedra, “The Sacrifices Moms Make”

June took a basic theme of motherhood (sacrifice) and categorized the different ways that theme develops in the life of a mother (personal appearance, free time, sneezing with confidence, etc.). Interspersed throughout this catalog of sacrifice were anecdotes of specific examples of the various hilarious forms sacrifice takes. June tied it all together nicely with a conclusion that thoughtfully explained how all the sacrifice was completely worth it.



Heather Novak
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Heather Novak, “Reluctant Motherhood”
Heather did an amazing job of taking a before and after look at motherhood. She told us about the transformation that occurred on her way from “not interested in having kids” to “can’t imagine not being a mom.” She shuffled between hilarious and heartbreaking, and tossed in plenty of wisdom for good measure.





Meagan Francis
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Meagan Francis, “Peace Amid the Poop”

Meagan used the power of a single magnificent story to slay the audience with laughter. It was brutal and bloody and vengeful and hysterical. But that single story also delivered a seriously valuable lesson about the way a mother’s life (and expectations) change drastically in that the moments of peace become more rare, more difficult to achieve, and infinitely more precious.




© Beth Fletcher Photography

Adam Kellogg, “Mom’s Favorite”
I wrote this from the perspective of a child, and I took one overarching trait of my mom’s (the fact that despite there being six of us, she always had a way of making us each feel special) and talked about how that trait played out differently in the unique relationships my mom has with each one of us kids. And my family’s just kinda funny, so the humor was pretty much built in.




Lovelyn Palm
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Lovelyn Palm, “The Motherless”
Lovelyn just got on stage and ripped our hearts right out. The end.

(Okay, there was a bit more to it than that. Love kinda flipped the thought of motherhood inside out by telling us a story from the combined perspective of children who had no mother and from Love’s own heart, broken by the reality that she couldn’t give them everything they needed. Then she turned that idea on its head with the triumphant and compelling conclusion that she could be a mother to them with the moment she did have in their midst and that all women could serve as mothers in certain moments and opportunities when a child was in need of a mother’s love.)



Suzi Ryan
© Beth Fletcher Photography

Suzi Ryan, “While You Were Sleeping”

Like Meagan, Suzi used a single anecdote to capture a small sample of the essence of motherhood. What made this performance unique (and exasperatingly hilarious) was Suzi’s way of injecting her dry humor into elaborate descriptions of events that, in the moment, seem less than funny. Broken glasses. Running out of tape. Needing help taking the kids to their various appointments. Having her husband pick up food for dinner. Cutting the hair of the glasses breaker without the use of said glasses . . . okay, that is pretty hilarious on its own. The Seinfeldian (or Pekarian, if you prefer) hilarity was simply brilliant, but it all came from the events of an otherwise ordinary day as seen through Suzi’s extraordinarily witty and momentarily fuzzy perspective.


Dear Whatever Your Name Is

Hello, daughter of mine. Depending on when you eventually happen across this note to you, you might find the whole idea of this introduction a bit odd. (You might find me a bit odd, too, but you’ll get used to me.) But you see, there was a time when you weren’t here, and I want to tell you about some of the moments when I realized the days of you not being around were all but over.

See, if right now you think back as far as you can, you’ll remember something that happened before any of your other memories, the earliest memory you can reach. I hope it’s a memory that makes you smile (I love your smile, even though I’ve yet to see it). Whether it’s happy or sad, though, your earliest memory is special, because it’s the first moment in your life you and I can both discuss as informed participants. But before that, there was more. This stuff I’m talking about now? You don’t remember it, but you’re a part of it. So I want you to know. You had a beginning. And before you began, we were here.

There was a time when I wasn’t here. I don’t remember that. There was a time when I was a baby. Don’t recall that either. Then I was your age, and I can recall a couple things from that time. There was a time when Mommy and Daddy met, and I can tell you about that if you want. Some time later, we fell in love, and that’s a wonderful memory. Then we got married, and there are a few good stories about that . . . but at that time, you and your brothers were just wishes in secret little compartments in our hearts. Maybe this part of the story is boring to you.

Then Addison came along. After several years, Colin joined him. Four years later, a moment came along that I think you might find most interesting: I missed you.

You weren’t here, if by here you mean this planet, this world, this house. But I felt you here in my heart. I felt like you were on your way, but I hadn’t met you yet. And this not meeting you? I was not really okay with that, because I love you quite a lot. I like having you around. Anyway, this moment when I knew that I missed you and couldn’t wait to meet you, that was my earliest memory of you.

Your mother kind of thought I was crazy, and I should tell you, she was kind of right. But she was also very interested in meeting you, too. Then, one sweet Saturday, we found out you were coming. Babies have a way of sneaking into this world so no one can see them, but when their parents find out? We get very excited and happy and silly. When we found out, we were very surprised, super happy, and as thrilled as we’ve ever been. I really love this memory, and I hope you like it.

Before babies are born, there are nurses and doctors and the most fascinating little machines that can help us check on how you’re doing. They showed us you when you were too tiny even to recognize. They showed us your heart not long after it started beating. And, just a week before I wrote this note to you, they told us some of the most exciting news of all . . . you’re a GIRL.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Duh, Dad, I’m a girl. But our hearts got a little bigger and a little fuller when we learned this about you. Not because girls are better than boys or definitively different than boys, but because we knew you a little better. We knew we were picking out a name for a girl and clothes for a girl and toys and accessories and room colors for a girl. But not just any girl. YOU. And you are special. You are ours. You are the only you there is.

I’m writing to you now to tell you that however I am now that you’re reading this, I used to be different. Daughters have a way of transforming their fathers, I’m told. Maybe because I knew, from the moment I heard who you were, that I would do anything I could to please you, to protect you, to provide for you, and to make sure you grew up to be the girl, the woman God designed you to be. A discovery like that doesn’t leave a man in the same condition he woke up in that morning.

There is a part of my heart now, little girl, that is dedicated only to you. From that moment I knew I had to meet you, to that morning this week when I first felt you kick, to this day when you can finally read and start to understand these words . . . and on into forever, my heart is yours. I want you to know that now and remember it on the days I’m being a jerk.

I love you. Someday I’ll meet you and help name you, but those are the later memories. Those are the details that fall into place as they come. My earliest memory of you is loving you and wishing you were here in my arms. That will never change. Any time you need to know that you are special, you are treasured, and you are loved, I’ll be here to tell you and show you exactly that.

Now, what to call you . . .

How to Shovel Snow without Dying


Nobody wants to shovel snow, and everyone’s going to die, so this post might qualify as the least useful thing ever written. But if you have to shovel snow and don’t feel like dying quite yet, here are the tips I’ve found help kill both birds with one stone . . . without actually killing any birds . . . or using stones . . . okay, forget the metaphor; here’s how to shovel snow without dying:

Do NOT Bundle Up

The big temptation when preparing to shovel snow is to layer up with long underwear, sweat pants, snow pants, three layers of socks, boots, five t-shirts, a thermal, a fleece, a sweatshirt, a sweater, two coats, a scarf, a ski mask, a toque, a third coat with a hood, ear muffs, and all the gloves in the house. Well, no, the big temptation is to put off shoveling until early May (which isn’t the worst plan in the world), but the moderately large temptation is to bundle up. Don’t.

You’re going to be shoveling snow, dude. That’s a workout. Working out makes you heat up and soak all your hot furnace of undergarments and overcoats with the bittersweet nectar of perspiration. Which is gross. Layers also restrict your movement, which makes you work harder, which, in this wearable hothouse you’ve created for yourself, could kill you.

Cover your skin to avoid frostbite. Coat over a t-shirt, jeans, boots, gloves, and a hat work for me. Notice how I’m not dead?

Spray Your Shovel

This is a must. WD-40, you got that? Spray your shovel with WD-40 to keep the heavy, murderous snow from sticking to the blade, forcing you to do extra work, and trying to kill you with every scoop. I promise you, this will add 600 years to your life. Give or take. It will also save you from doing about 600 pounds of extra snow-removal work (that’s not really an exaggeration . . . I may have understated it).

Shovel Uphill

When you’re shoveling your driveway, your standard inclination might be to use gravity to your benefit. Move the snow down the hill as you shovel, save yourself some work. Your back has a message for you: Stop it, jerkface!

When you shovel downhill, your placing the shovel a few feet in front of (and several inches below) your feet. This means you are bending over even more than shoveling would otherwise require. You don’t want to bend over more when shoveling. It hurts your back. You know when your back will stop hurting if you keep shoveling like that? When you’re dead. That is counterproductive.

Instead, shovel uphill. You will have to bend less, which will make the shoveling (and the not dying) easier.

Move Your Feet

Some people might think you look goofy, but I don’t mind looking goofy (I apologize if the shock of this kills you; you not dying was the purpose of this post; I really hope it hasn’t backfired). I don’t mind you looking goofy, either, as long as you’re breathing. Where was I? Oh, yes. Goofiness. I like to use my momentum to make shoveling a bit easier. I shovel from the middle of my drive out to the sides, and take a bit of a run/shuffle approach toward the snow. I get one or two steps in before my shovel hits the snow, I drive through the line of powder I’m hoping to clear (this is not a drug reference), and then, with the momentum of a few steps, I send the snow in my shovel on its merry way into the yard. Then I turn toward the other side of the driveway, flip the shovel in my hands, and get a shuffling start toward the next heap.

Basically, it looks like I’m running back and forth across my driveway, like a modified shuttle run from the Presidential Physical Fitness tests back in grade school. It’s a nice little workout. Not too stressful. Won’t kill you. And in the winter, shoveling snow is often the only workout I get. I find that it helps alleviate the stress on my arms and back while also allowing me to stretch my legs a bit. It also speeds up the shoveling without shortening your life.

Okay, do with this as you will. I don’t have the right to tell you how to shovel or whether or not to die, but that’s so funny because I think I just did. You’re welcome.