Museum of Motherhood

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MamaBlogger365 – Still A MAY ZING 2011 by Amy Simon

Three Shows, Three Days, Two Cities, Three Venues – No Roadies

Amy Simon’s been kind enough to share her May journal entries with us – the travel! the shows! Mama Expo! and more! Want to find out more about her work? Visit ShesHistory.com and watch for part three next Sunday! (Missed part one? Click here!)

Tuesday, May 24th
Wake up all excited. SO excited. Shower, Pilates, forced some breakfast down and grab the suitcases, a latte, a cab and am on my way to Marymount Manhattan College on East 71st Street. It is almost 10AM and my cell rings. It is 7:00AM in L.A., and it is the 18-year old.

“Mom? I did not sleep – my throat hurts and I’m gonna kill the cat”.

She goes on for a while – I am not focusing as we are nearing the destination. “Honey, I can’t talk. Gargle with salt and warm water, make the ginger lemon honey drink. Feel better.”

I feel guilty as I pay the $10 fare. The helpful young gals at the reception desk have my badge and conference bag and I ask them if they know who the first woman to run for President was. As usual, no one knows – Geraldine Ferraro’s name is offered and I tell them a bit about the show and am escorted up to the room where I will be presenting.

It is a beautiful room. There is Joy Rose and six or so other women sitting in a circle. Their session before mine is still going on and it is the discussion of the ongoing activities and future of The Museum Of Motherhood.

“Come join us,” Joy invites me and I can hardly focus on what is a really interesting conversation about the goals and identity and branding of this fabulous museum. All I can think of is how long it will take me to set up the room. The session ends and I swing into action – setting up the projector, the laptop – the speakers… unpacking the suitcase and setting up the props and costumes.

A nice young college student helps me as does an old friend – Jessica – from my comedy days in NYC, who is also in Mamapalooza. A sociology professor from Hunter College arrives – she is a history buff and feminist and was told about the show. I greet her. A few other people show up and there is Joy right in the front row with her phone/camera and beautiful energy.

She introduces me, I take a deep breath and begin. I love doing the show. I love watching the audience become entertained and moved and engaged and surprised by all the information and stories. When I finish, they applaud loud and long and we have a Q&A where older women (pioneers) in the audience typically tell me of the gender discrimination they faced in their lives and brag of their accomplishments and I am once again reminded why I go to all this trouble.

But – no time for glory basking. Must turn the room over, so while Joy gets us lunch, I unplug, strike, and pack up, all the while trying to chat with the Hunter College professor who is blown away and keeps telling me what a wonderful teacher I am and that “your performance was an example of creative teaching at its best.” I am so moved. We talk about Sojourner Truth (who of course is in the show) and the power of theater. I feel like I always do after a performance of SHE’S HISTORY! So high. So so high. There is no drug like post performance.

Joy returns and we sit with her conference partner – Lynn – another fabulous female and we talk about how exhausted we are and how fabulous but ambitiously planned and amazingly executed the conference turned out to be.

A beautiful, colorfully-dressed woman comes in and Joy introduces us. She is Barbara Glickstein – one of the next presenters. (Barbara is an RN, MPH, MS, Co-Director of the Center for Health, Media and Policy at Hunter College, a public health nurse, broadcast journalist and global activist). Joy tells her about SHE’S HISTORY! and when asked which women are in my show (there are about 30), I hand her my playbill.

“Oh”, she says, perusing it. “Lucretia Mott. I know her great-great-great-granddaughter” and proceeds to tell me about the yardstick that Lucretia’s father – Thomas Coffin – used to measure cloth. I am now literally hyperventilating as I ask, “Does she live here?” And the next thing I know she promises to try and e-connect us.

Time to go – grab another cab back to the hotel where I return calls, check emails, and actually rest for the two hours until the next show. I refuel with the help of Starbucks and schlep schlep over to The Drilling Company Theater. It is 6PM. Lug lug up the two long flights and no one is in the theater. Yay!

I set up in silence, happy for the peace and focus. After a bit, I am joined by the owner, Hamilton Clancy, and two theater lovers bond. Then Joy and Lynn arrive with the wine and cheese. Sebastian – who is running the lights – arrives and we go over my opening cue. The audience is now squeezing into the teeny tiny lobby. Space in New York City is the ultimate commodity.

It is 6:40 and I am ready. We need to open the house. In my Bella Abzug costume, I grab the remote, which I use to run the show, and bolt for the tiny backstage room. Shut the door. This is the hard part now. Waiting. Waiting and hearing the audience milling and murmuring just on the other side of the door which I open a crack and sneak peeks as friends and family and colleagues make their way up the stairs to be greeted Joy and Lynne who offer wine and cheese. I love a well-fed, slightly buzzed audience.

The energy is electric. I am pacing in circles when I spot the framed poster on the wall. It is a quote by Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I am immediately moved to tears. This quote closes the show. It is a sign. Grabbing my Flip, and with an emotional commentary, I shoot the sign.

It is show time. Joy has done the intro. “They are all ready for you,” she says. I enter the theater, click my remote for the first musical cue (“Que sera sera”) and here we go. The place is packed. I do my thing and I love it. They seem to love it, too. As I perform I spot all sorts of people. My sister; my former acting teacher who is helping me develop the show; my friend Jimmy from Long Island who taught me how to French kiss when I was fifteen; my old boyfriend and his lovely girlfriend.

I take my bow – make my speech thanking everyone for coming and explain how I have to turn the theater over immediately to the next show. With the help of my friend Doug, we strike my stuff and minutes later I am outside with a glass of wine enjoying my friends and sister and so so so happy.

Wednesday, May 25th
Wake up still so so so so happy and craving pancakes. Grab some and another cab and hightail over to the conference. It is the last day and the only day for me to attend any sessions. It was so hard to pick and choose but I chose Elena Skoko. Here is the description.

Memoirs of a Singing Birth. Singer and artist Elena Skoko shares her life and discoveries on the path to motherhood that takes her from Croatia to Rome, from Rome to Bali in search of the perfect birth.

Memoirs of a Singing Birth is a story of a personal quest for natural birth that ends up in a rural village in the heart of the island of Gods with the help of ‘guerrilla midwife’, Ibu Robin Lim. While giving birth, this rock ‘n’ roll woman sang!

Her path to motherhood is exotic, adventurous, unusual, but also witty and deeply emotional. This is a story that will leave a trace in your heart, changing your perception of birth forever, whether you’re expecting children or not.

Memoirs of a Singing Birth is also a personal research of contemporary and forgotten birth practices. You will find out how the author and newborn mother succeeds to overcome the labor pains by using her voice, a practice much easier than one can imagine. The e-book describes in detail and with photos the practice of lotus birth. But most of all, this is a magic love story about a woman, a man and their child. Memoirs of a Singing Birth is published on Smashwords.

She sat behind a desk in a classroom and mesmerized me with her story, her singing and especially the bit about eating placenta. She shared the session with writer/performer Anna Fishbeyn who – like me – has a one-woman show, “Sex In Mommyville”. Here is HER description:

“Sex in Mommyville.” Anna Fishbeyn will perform an excerpt from her show, and discuss the challenges mothers face in maintaining “healthy” sex lives. “Sex in Mommyville” is a feminist comedy-drama about a neurotic, guilt-ridden, health-conscious, sex-starved Manhattan mom trying to please her high-maintenance children, her lawyer-husband Zeus, and her Russian parents who live upstairs. Add to this mixture failed sex attempts and an article for Bitch Magazine raging against myopic, media-engendered stereotypes and double standards, and you’ve got a fearless portrayal of modern motherhood caught between Feminism and Bridalplasty! SexInMommyville.com

I was SO worried when she began as she was dressed very sexy in a short skirt, fishnet stockings and high heels. But she totally blew me and everyone else away with her brilliant take on contemporary motherhood and society’s objectifying and devaluing women. I wish I could see the WHOLE show, which she is doing in July at Manhattan Repertory Theatre.

The next session was with keynote speaker Dr. Phyllis Chesler.
Author of 13 books, feminist, activist and blogger, Phyllis has been active in the women and mother’s movement her entire adult life. This is her third M.O.M. Conference.

Mothers On Trial. This is the 25th anniversary edition of the book with eight new chapters. It is still the first and only book of its kind, a book that looks at how women mother, what happens when good enough mothers are custodially challenged – often by very violent husbands and fathers who prevail more often than not, and whose cause is often assisted by the court system itself. The book documents the heroism and connectedness of mothers, even under tortuous siege.

Also this new edition includes chapters which look at legal trends (1986-2011), legal torture, a new chapter about Fathers’ Supremacists groups, an updated international custody chapter, two new chapters about court-enabled incest, a new introduction, a new resources section, and a new closing chapter interview with a leading Manhattan divorce lawyer: “What To Expect When You’re Expecting a Divorce.”

What can I say? She was brilliant, articulate, passionate, funny, honest, angry and an adoring grandmother! I could relate so much and felt so validated and supported, as I believe all the mothers in the room felt. As I have learned from performing “Cheerios In My Underwear,” my play about motherhood, there is something so wonderful about being a in a room with people who are going through the same struggle. Maternally and culturally nourished, I went on the next – and last – session of the day.

Momma Love: How the Mother Half Lives by author and photographer Ali Smith. Societies need healthy mothers in order to survive, but they rarely know how to take care of mothers’ needs properly. Momma Love looks at the varying degrees of support that women receive from partners, lawmakers, employers and each other.

Photographer Ali Smith shares photographs and the very personal stories of her subjects. The mothers depicted range from famous actors to a survivor of incest who is struggling to put the shattered pieces of her self back together so that she may parent her son well. Through the anecdotal evidence revealed in these women’s stories, greater truths about the way mothers are living and are treated in western society are revealed.

I loved getting to know Ali – who, like me – spent many years in the sexist, ego-driven, male dominated often morally bankrupt music business. She was in a band; I worked in promotion. She gave me a signed copy of her wonderful first book “Laws of the Bandit Queens -Words To Live by from 35 of Today’s Most Revolutionary Women”. What a cool book filled with some of the women I portray in my show and whom she interviewed including Geraldine Ferraro, Pat Schroeder and Alice Walker! Ali showed us a presentation of her upcoming project Momma Love – about motherhood.

It all ended too soon and exhausted but totally inspired and emotionally overwhelmed – but in a good way – I hugged and kissed all the fabulous females I met and bonded with and hit the hot and crowded streets of Manhattan.

Thursday, May 26th
I chilled. I just chilled. The whole damned day. Ahhhhhh.

About Amy Simon and She’s History: Using theater, history, multi-media, lots of audience interaction, treats, and good old-fashioned story telling, She’s History! is chock full of stories, scenes and revelations; true tales of fabulous females, then and now. Going back and forth from the past to the present, poignantly and comically (her trademark) our Modern Mom, Amy Simon, finds the funny as she struggles with raising girls in today’s challenging world. Visit She’sHistory.com to learn more!

MamaBlogger365 needs you! Tell us how you’re re-framing motherhood and help the Museum of Motherhood secure a permanent home in 2011!

MamaBlogger365 – Brain Drain by Jennifer Flaten

Summer vacation is here.

On the last day of school, the kids came home with packets and worksheets on various subjects.

As always, their teachers are worried about summer brain drain. They know that kids will lose momentum over the summer and often fall back or behind unless they keep up with their work.

I am well armed to protect my kids from summer brain drain. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for myself.

Even though we’re only on the fourth day of summer vacation, I can feel my motivation to sit in front of the keyboard packing its bags and heading out for a nice long vacation at the beach.

So far, I have done nothing, writing-wise. Unless, you count grocery lists and thank you cards.

I am busy with errands, chores, breaking up squabbles over whose turn it next and well, sitting outside in the sunshine reading a book or if I am feeling really ambitious, tending the garden.

You know what I really like — sitting there doing nothing; but I also know that I can’t continue to do that. I do have deadlines and I really do want to accomplish something this summer (besides a nice tan).

I know, I know I have to stop procrastinating, although it is really a step in the right direction that I actually sat down and wrote this blog post.

Bio: Jennifer Flaten is a Wisconsin-based writer with three small children who understands the delicate balance between home and work. She knows having a healthy, happy family is a priority, and with that in mind, she has a special interest in health, family and technology. Her works have been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and at various online journals.

MamaBlogger365 needs you! Tell us how you’re re-framing motherhood and help the Museum of Motherhood secure a permanent home in 2011!

Photo credit: Lazy Days by Jon Luty

MamaBlogger365 – Sometimes, You Just Need a Hug from Mom by Kim Jennings

Sometimes, my son gets “hurt feelings” – especially when he doesn’t get his way.

No, you can’t play three hours of video games today.
No, we can’t play mini golf in the pouring rain.
No, we can’t eat pizza for dinner every night of the week.

The mini-tantrum ensues; the crying stops eventually. I don’t feel badly about it, and after the little tantrum, a little reality/fact check does the trick.

It’s good to be healthy/play/get exercise/read a book, and *just* playing video games isn’t doing that.
Mini golf sounds like fun until you’re freezing cold and soaking wet. But definitely some other time…
You’ll get sick of pizza eventually. Plus, you need variety of good foods to be healthy, and *just * eating pizza isn’t doing that.

He came home from school recently sounding *really* upset – and I try to stay out of these fits of temper so as not to undermine whatever my dear husband has been doing to handle the situation since the pick-up. I poke my head upstairs, ask him what’s going on, and usually walk away knowing things are well in hand.

This time, the surface story was “we didn’t get to play as long as I wanted after school.” The rest of the story was “my best friend didn’t want to play with me today.”

And so it begins… the day-to-day drama of school age relationships. If I recall correctly, there aren’t many – if any – facts that can soothe this kind of hurt?

“Maybe he was in a bad mood?”
“Maybe he didn’t want to play at all?” (Turns out, he was playing… with someone else.)
“Maybe he things will be better tomorrow…?” Time heals, I suppose.

I am just grateful that I am around for these moments, though I really don’t like to see him hurting. It’s just one little drama of the day. And he just needed a hug from mom, and a whole lot of “let’s take some deep breaths” and “everything’s going to be okay” kind of talk. Not facts. Talking at him was not going to make him feel better. He just needed someone to be there for him through the hurt.

And he’s only 6! I hope this is good practice for whatever’s going to come… and I hope it ramps up slowly…

Bio: Sitting still has never been easy for acoustic/indie/folk singer-songwriter Kim Jennings. A singer, piano and guitar player for years, the songwriting bug only bit her in 2007. Not three years later, Kim released her debut CD “My Own True North,” co-founded the indie record label “Birch Beer Records” with fellow singer-songwriter Dan Cloutier, and launched the We Support Local Music blog along with the “I Support Local Music in Massachusetts” Facebook page.

Named to Metronome Magazine’s Top 20 Hit List for 2010, and voted Best Female Vocalist in the 2010 Worcester Music Awards, Jennings keeps a busy schedule, performing as often as she can and running her record label. Not bad, considering that in her “free time” she’s also a full-time working soccer mom.

Keep up with Kim Jennings and her musical projects at
, www.birchbeerrecords.com, and www.we-support-local-music.com.

MamaBlogger365 needs you! Tell us how you’re re-framing motherhood and help the Museum of Motherhood secure a permanent home in 2011!

Photo credit: Young Boy by Peter Griffin

MamaBlogger365 – On Memory and Motherhood by *Dr Mama* Amber Kinser

This post is about memory. About how critical it is to understanding family life, about how “wrong” it is, about how it differs so sharply from family member to family member. I use to put great stock in my recollections of my childhood. I used to recite narratives about what happened and what people said and who was responsible and even why people did what they did, as if I had any access whatsoever to the why’s of other people’s actions, especially as a child. I used to tell these tales with fair confidence. They were true because I remembered them. But I don’t do that so much anymore. Even when I’m explaining moments from my past to my therapist, I usually mention something about a grain of salt and not quite a grain of faith in my recollections. I don’t know if it’s feeling more and more like a grownup, or if it’s my exposure to my own kids’ narratives that occasion me to tell my tales with reservation, but I’m learning that family memories are a peculiar thing.

One of the harsh realities of mothering, I think, is that our children use this peculiarity of memory as a significant guiding force in how they understand who they are and who we are and the choices we made that shaped their lives, even though none of our memories may be particularly “accurate” and few of them in synch with each others’ memories. Our kids remember shared events differently than we do; sometimes these differences are stunningly absolute. And yet their narratives of these events are what will guide their lives; not the “accuracy” of the details or how well their version meshes with ours.

I remember falling asleep exhausted as I read picture books to my daughter, and wondering as I garbled the words in semi-consciousness whether she’d recall that we went through stacks of library books each summer, or that I lost consciousness halfway through them. The answer, as it turns out, is she seems to remember neither. My son mentioned recently that we always say we’re going to get him a bike from his birthday in June and then never do. I reminded him that it is HE who says he wants a bike in April and May practically every year, and then by June he’s decided he wants something else. I suspect that his version of being annually denied the bike is the one that will stick in his narratives. My daughter remembers walking home many times in the dark from karate class while in junior high; she actually walked home once, at dusk. My son says we always say we’re going to go camping and never do. I say we did go camping, him and his sister and me, quite a lot, in fact; but now his two weeks at summer camp knocks out 40% of his summer break given his year-round school, and he’s in no mood for more camping and I’m in no mood for cajoling unwilling participants at the campground, I’ll tell you that.

In a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned one my father’s evening rants, which included storming down the hallway, flicking on the light, shouting “and another thing!” and scolding us about that other thing, to be followed by another thing, and another thing, in sequence. My sister read this post and swears that this script was performed by my mother, not my father, and confirmed this with our other sister. I have distinct memories of fearing my dad’s hallway rants so that’s the recollection that sticks for me, but I don’t make much ado about narrative accuracy any more. I do fear though, the more profound ways in which my children’s narratives of their lives with me implicate me in ways that go beyond picture book and birthday bicycle memories, venture into “you never” and “you always memories,” and move wholly out of synch with the memories I thought I was shaping for them. How our children narrate their lives is an element of mothering over which we finally have no control.

And letting go of the desire for it is one the greatest challenges of motherhood for me.

BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.

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Photo credit: Antique Garlic by Shari Weinsheimer

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