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Storytelling, live literature, oral histories, whatever you want to call it. I’ve been completely hooked on this for a few years now.
I fell in love with the format immediately because it reminded me of hanging around my family when aunts, uncles and cousins would share hilarious stories from long ago. Like the time my cousin inadvertently caught a snake in his mouth or when my sister tried to fly.
All great stories that tightened the bonds of our family. A storytelling event is similar in that people tell true stories from their lives and they can be funny, poignant, in fact they can capture all of the emotions. And the beautiful part of it for me is the connectivity you feel with one another, whether it’s the person on stage or the stranger sharing a laugh next to you.
Not to get all warm and fuzzy, but I feel it tightens the bonds of humanity. At least for that moment, in that room.
The storytelling community is very robust in Chicago and I was really getting into it shortly before we left. A few months after we arrived in Portland, I was lucky enough to be introduced to the close-knit storytelling community here. I was infatuated with these artistic wonders and was inspired by their storytelling.
In October, I went to support one of these gems, named Lesley Harper, as she was storytelling at Tad’s Chicken n’ Dumplings. We were sitting at a table with other storytellers and when Martha Grover (who produces the show called Tad’s Talks) opened up the mic, a couple of them prodded me. It was peer pressure, I couldn’t say no.
So up I went, and told a story about my pet snake and the difficulties we had. Midway through the tale I began to wish I had chosen another story since I was before this Portland crowd of artsy, granola, tree-hugging animal lovers. There’s a tragic death in the story and when I got to that part I was hoping they didn’t whip out their pitchforks, or whatever it is mobs carry these days. But they laughed so it was all good. If you’re curious, here’s a link to the sordid tale.
After that night in October, Martha asked me to come back to share a story, which is what I did on Monday. It was my first real storytelling gig in Portland and I was stoked. I was also nervous. The place is 40 minutes from my house, and I knew no one in my neighborhood would venture to come with me, plus my husband is traveling in Europe. I was on my own.
That drive alone to Tad’s felt much longer than usual. I was sitting between a couple of my writer/storytelling friends, which was great especially because they understood that I didn’t feel much like talking and they let me be. None of that “You’ll do great!” or “Everything will be fine!” crap. They just let me sit and be. What a perfect gift.
All too soon Martha was introducing me. I couldn’t wait to get to the mic. It’s because once I’m there, my fears and insecurities melt away. The mic is in front and I’m just free to be me. It’s nice.
The audience was great, almost all storytelling ones are though, they’re rooting for you and you can see it in their smiles and head nods. You feel supported, you feel loved.
It’s crazy because now I’ve got two more storytelling gigs. My biggest audience yet is a performance on Feb. 3 at the Alberta Rose Theatre. (Tickets are on sale here.)
And I have another one in March that I’ll post more about later.
Naturally, I’m already worried about the Feb. 3 show and my nerves will only get worse as we get closer to the date. That is, until I open my eyes and I’m standing before the mic.
I didn’t expect to be in the picture and, clearly, Ethan was not a fan either.
Having fun making our Cub cakes.
Upon walking in I was greeted with this masterpiece of Christmas frosting. Who decorates 3-inch tall Christmas trees? Some rockstar mom, apparently.
This is a car on a racetrack. It represent the scouts' beloved pinewood derby.
The huge snowman cake won the top bid.
The wreath got third place and behind it were "deer droppings." Ew.
See my Cub cakes on my back-of-the-pantry paper plates and crumpled aluminum foil? Yeah, the cupcakes next to mine came with their own customized holiday display box. Pffft.
A bulls-eye with flaming arrows.
Each cupcake has two scouts sitting by the campfire. Ima let you marinate on that one...
Hands down my favorite. Zoom in so you can appreciate the details of each bald eagle.
You know that saying pride goes before a fall? Well that was me earlier this month. You should have seen me, I was so proud of myself.
The week had already been crazy and it was the day we were to go to Cub Scouts. The pack was having a bake sale. The instructions I received was for our scout to bake a treat with someone who doesn’t usually cook. I thought this was a cute way of hinting that dads should be in the kitchen with their sons, but with my husband’s work schedule it just wasn’t happening.
I’m a decent baker, but I don’t do it often. I’m more of a from-the-box girl. Anyway, I was getting all ready to whip up some box cupcakes and noticed out of the four ingredients on the box, I was missing one: vegetable oil.
I swung by unannounced at a friend’s house because she makes everything from scratch. Like EVERYTHING, and it’s always delicious. That’s why I find myself going grocery shopping in her cupboard, thankfully she’s not easily annoyed. (Now that I read that I should probably write her a thank you note or buy her a gift card or some such.)
Anyway, I had all my ingredients and put my 3-year-old down for a nap. Logan loves to bake and so we had a blast in the kitchen. After the cupcakes were in the oven, I started dinner while Logan did his homework.
I tell you, I felt like I was on top of it. Usually as a mom I’m scrambling not to drown, but at this moment I felt like Supermom. Napping toddler? Check. Baking? Check. Homework? Check. Dinner? Yup, check.
Fast-forward a couple hours and Ethan’s awake, dinner is simmering and we’re getting ready to decorate these cupcakes. The main colors for scouts is blue and gold and I bought yellow cake mix and made blue icing. Now, by “made” I mean used cancer-causing artificial flavoring in a tub of buttercream frosting. The three of us had much fun and I thought I was being all clever by calling them “Cub cakes.”
When we walked into the scout meeting, Logan and I stopped dead in our tracks. We were greeted by a table of intricately decorated homemade treats. First were the cupcakes that had 3-inch-tall frosting Christmas trees on top, then came a gigantic sparkly snowman, a wreath, and that was just the holiday theme section. The second section’s theme was scouting and where my “Cub cakes” were to go. There was a bulls-eye cake with two flaming arrows, cupcakes where each one was a scene of scouts by the fire. My favorite were bald eagle cupcakes. The feathers were coconut shavings, the neck almond slivers and the beak was a cashew. I mean it was as if Pinterest had barfed all over these bake sale tables.
And then there were my globby, unnatural blue-colored Cub cakes. On a paper plate, hastily wrapped in aluminium foil.
What DIY-evil has descended upon the childhood bake sale? Is nothing sacred?
Ethan and I went for a quick walk to my car and I confessed to him.
“Man Ethan, I didn’t know the baked goods were going to be like that. Those treats look pretty awesome and our Cub cakes look terrible in comparison.”
“No it doesn’t mama, our cupcakes are wonderful,” he smiled.
Out of the mouths of babes.
“You’re right Ethan, our Cub cakes are spectacular.” They say parents raise kids, but I believe that kids also raise us.
Soon, though came the voting. Each scout group, called a den, had to inspect all of the desserts and choose the favorite. I was fine knowing that I was comfortably in last place. The first-place prize was a funfetti box cake. No big loss for me.
The dad running the meeting announced that next up was the bidding. Bidding!??! There’s going to be bidding!??! Who in their right mind would ever bid on my blue globs? The highest bidder paid $20 for the large snowman cake. I started thinking about how embarrassing it’ll be to have to pick my blue Cub cakes up from the bake sale table.
The meeting ended and Logan, Ethan and I slowly trotted to the tables. I looked at my bid sheet. Low and behold someone had bid a dollar. A whole dollar for a dozen Cub cakes!!! I was ecstatic!
“Why are you happy? You only got one bid?” Logan asked me.
“That’s fine, we only need one!”
I sauntered out to our car, one kid in each hand, Cub cake free.
I’m writing this post as a member of the Netflix Stream Team and have been compensated for it, but as always all opinions are my own.
Can you believe that Christmas is just a week away? The Christmas cards are flowing in, the house is as decorated as it’s gonna get and I’ve bought a whopping two presents.
Oftentimes at Christmas, I find myself imitating an ostrich. Sticking my head in the sand, almost willing it all not to come. I love the Christmas holiday, but some of the prep beforehand has lost its sparkle.
Call me a Grinch, a Scrooge, the Grand Bahumbug, whatever, I generally don’t get into the Christmas spirit until about Dec. 20. Any time before that my heart is three-times smaller than the average Joe. I think it starts shrinking right after Thanksgiving. The only exceptions is that I consistently go overboard with the Christmas tree, always demanding a real tree every year and this year when we deocorated, I even busted out OnDemand’s Yulelog, with classical Christmas carols.
Anyway, the kind folks at Netflix are always in the Christmas spirit. They’re incredibly kind to their Stream Team members and tis the season, they’ve gifted me the opportunity to give one of my readers a free, year long subscription to Netflix!
There are plenty of ways to enter. You can leave a comment about what you love or hate about the holidays, follow me on Twitter or Instagram, visit my Facebook page or subscribe to my blog. If you already follow me, you can Tweet “I want to win a free Netflix subscription from @sheswrite #StreamTeam,” leave a comment on my Facebook page or one of my Instagram posts.
You can enter as many times as you please and I will announce the winner on Christmas Day.
Do you remember that children’s book, Are You My Mother? It’s where a bird goes around asking a kitten, a cow, a dog and others if they are its mother.
I feel like I’m that little bird when it comes to the spate of black men being killed. With each Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin or Amadou Diallo, I’m asking: Are you my Emmett Till?
Which one of you will be the one who opens all of America’s eyes to the ugliness of systemic racism? Till was a 14-year-old Chicago kid who was lynched in Mississippi. The year was 1955 and his mom had an open casket funeral so the world could see his mangled body. An all-white jury did not convict the two men charged with the crime, though one of them admitted to the killing years later. Till’s horrible death was one of the major catalysts of the Civil Rights movement.
Honestly, I thought Trayvon Martin was going to be the catalyst to fight the modern-day effects of institutional racism that was forewarned in the historic 1967 Kerner Commission report. But apparently a wanna-be cop gunning down a 17-year-old with a hoodie and Skittles wasn’t enough to incite nationwide change. I recognize that gains were made and without a doubt Trayvon Martin did not die in vain.
But I wanted more. My country needs more.
When Michael Brown was killed, I watched as the nation divided largely along color lines and saw the truths of their own personal experiences. Communities that have found police officers to be helpful and heroic saw Brown’s death one way, and communities that have found officers to be rude bullies had a different take.
I also watched a militarized police force violate the rights of my fellow Americans. And things shifted. I started to see more white people protesting in Ferguson, Mo. and around the country in support of Ferguson. I started to hope that this time could be different.
Then the Michael Brown grand jury decision came and the difference was apparent. There were no longer mostly black people protesting with die-ins, marches and rallies. The protesters were white, black, Hispanic, Asian, all kinds of ethnicities. My hopes were buoyed.
Next came the grand jury decision on Eric Garner, who died after an officer put him in a chokehold. It was clear, Americans of every hue were outraged. The protests stretched from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. My hope for improving America’s race relations grew.
We can’t have substantial change unless people from all backgrounds demand it. When the world saw Emmett Till’s body after he had been beaten, shot, tied to a cotton gin fan and tossed in the Tallahatchie River, many said, whoa, this isn’t the America I want. This ends now. It was like seeing is believing.
Is listening to Eric Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe!” enough to make us say, this isn’t the America I want?
Is the disturbing videotape of Garner’s chokehold going to be the equivalent of Till’s open casket for my generation? Will it be another case of seeing is believing? I don’t want to wait to find out. I shouldn’t have to wait for the “perfect victim” to galvanize this country. I just want all of this to end.
I am glad about the Ferguson Commission, the new federal guidelines on racial profiling, and the Dec. 13 march in Washington but it’s not enough. We have whole communities that rightfully distrust the police, neighborhoods where the entire system has failed its citizens. I believe most cops are good cops, but we all know it only takes a few bad apples. And our justice system is fatally flawed.
Our country needs all of us to chip in. Every day in your life you can push for change. I don’t have enough room to list all the examples here, but educate yourself on what subtle, modern day racism looks like because its damage is real. If you can see it, you’re better equipped to fight it. When someone else points out racism, don’t immediately dismiss them as being too sensitive or playing a race card. Let’s listen to each other. Teach your children by showing them the actions of an open mind. Keep marching, keep protesting, keep tweeting #CrimingWhileWhite #AliveWhileBlack, please don’t give up. Keep demanding for a better America.
Do it for the Emmett Tills. The Rumain Brisbons, Prince Joneses and Jonathan Ferrells.
Give truth to Eric Garner’s words: This ends now.