Storytelling as a Salve

For a while now (November 2016 perhaps?) this country has been a difficult place to be. And this summer, politics has reached a crisis level. The news is very very very difficult to contend with. Daily, gruesome cruelty towards people trying to enter this country, and the near constant gun violence, due to the fear, racism and the misogyny of those who support this administration, have been a terrible, dull, drumbeat. For a person like me, a woman who lives in a very comfortable world for the most part, this is such a heartbreaking and confusing time to be an American. I’m very anxious, like so many are, about where we are careening with this dangerous administration at the helm. It can be hard to just keep doing your regular thing, doing your best to parent and work and live with joy. I say this as a reminder to myself, when things I’m doing or thinking about seem futile and self-serving. It’s really just hard sometimes to exist in both places. My life is actually good and lucky right now, and yet more people are openly suffering and struggling than I’ve ever been aware of.

There is no snappy thing to say here, no immediate answers, other than that I am doing what I can to make sense of this moment. We have lost our way, but we all have to keep going, listening, learning the truths, amplifying the good, and hopefully we will get through this terrible time. 

This connects to my work on MILK. Though I’m taking a selective look at loss, through the guests and ideas and stories that are available to me, I’ve realized the transformational power of writing and talking through pain and grief, and creating narratives that are ours. The last several episodes of MILK have focused on storytelling and how writing or telling another person about your loss can help not only you, but offer a salve to others.

An organization like The Moth, a revered, powerful live storytelling organization, is run by artistic director Catherine Burns, and does such wonderful work. I was so happy to talk with her about working in a  space where she can coax healing stories out of people, and watch them transform a live crowd, and later, offer those stories more widely to people listening intimately to The Moth’s amazing podcast. Catherine has been through her own losses and shares her beautiful, optimistic take on her community and the joy she takes in her job.   

Molly Rosen Guy is a writer/editor/teacher/ who is using Instagram as a forum to write about her father’s illness and death, the end of her marriage and of her very popular wedding business. She is unflinching in her sharing, and tells the truths that she needs to tell. I loved talking to her about books, leading workshops, her own writing, about mothering two daughters, and about her dad, Robert. She is working on a memoir about him, and I look forward to reading it.

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Nadine Haruni has taken her experiences and used them to write books that help kids deal with transition and loss.  Her Freeda the Frog books help families deal with divorce, with blending families, moving houses and schools, and losing a loved one or pet. Nadine had always wanted to write books for kids, and worked hard to do so while practicing law full time, and raising two children after her divorce. She’s a force!

 

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Speaking of loss, I left my little boy in New Hampshire last weekend at overnight camp with his sister, who is there for her 5th year. It is the weirdest feeling, knowing that your kids exist in the world without you. This too, is of course a type of loss – from the time they are born, every phase and stage that helps them find their independence and move away from us is truly that. I miss them, but know the experiences away from us are important for us and them.

So, I’m connecting dots with this Loss Season and the other work I’m doing. Having the kids out of sight for the few weeks is helping me to do that.  Kids are distracting! But, we can learn so much from them! I recently hosted a new, wonderful podcast series called “How to Raise a Parent.” It’s a branded project from Slate Studios and Dairy Pure. I interview experts about how we can get back in touch with the purity and innocence of our own childhood, and what we can learn from our kids in the process. I got to work with my kids on some of the promos for the podcast, you can hear one here: 

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It was a blast and I’m proud of the series. You can see and hear the podcast here:

 Also, In case you missed it, my episode of ZigZag Podcast with Manoush Zomorodi ties together a lot of the topics I’m thinking on, and interviewing MILKs about this summer. The episode is about commodifying motherhood and what success means to me, the loss of certain media industries and how I’m personally pivoting. Its very open and honest and it made me think and make connections.

 Yours, in loss, love, success, honesty and parenting.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

I spent June and July working on a podcast project about preparing parents and kids socially and emotionally for the back to school transition. I loved working with Slate Studios and Target as the host of “Coffee and Crayons,” and I’m proud of the result. Check out the 3 episodes, including interviews with Amy Webb of “This Little Miggy Stayed Home,” Joy Cho of “Oh Joy,” and Morgan Neville, the director of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” here, or anywhere you get podcasts. We talk about inclusivity, creativity, and compassion, and how to infuse transitions like back to school with those components. Do let me know what you think! And please share, subscribe, and rate if you can.

Coffee and Crayons is an extension of my work with MILK, and I’m really excited about it. Even though the episodes are up and living in the world, and many kids have started school already, my family and I are still in the midst of our treasured summer vacation, hanging on tightly for the next few weeks until Labor Day.

Last week we went to Northern California for a cousin’s wedding and then on to Los Angeles to see my husband’s great uncle. This week, after picking up my daughter at overnight camp in New Hampshire, we are with my dad and sisters and kids in Maine. I’m writing from a screened in porch where the rain falls steadily and soothingly. 

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In California, we were super active in a short amount of time – driving and hustling to events surrounding the wedding of a terrific couple, Aaron and Jessica. My son M can be sensitive to his environment, and yanking him around a lot outside of his normal schedule can often end in tears (his and mine). But we had our very supportive and compassionate family surrounding us that weekend, and that made it totally lovely and adventurous instead of treacherous and overwhelming, as busy trips with him have often felt to me in the past. Also having one kid to give our attention to (our older daughter goes to overnight camp for a month every summer), allows the time to feel precious with our son. Plus, less sibling bickering.

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The experience of going to a wedding with my partner of 18 years (married for 14 this fall), was such an interesting one. Wedding are the ultimate in hope, and such slowed down, present, beautiful moments in time. I love the presence of love and choice in every moment. I love watching people dance. I love cake. I love weird speeches. Its just good stuff. I’ve said before, however, that a couple could really use a wedding like 6/7/8 years into a marriage, where speeches and celebratory words and dancing could do a world of good to a couple living in the thick of what marriage actually is.

And though I do love a good horah, the highlight of the California trip was seeing our Uncle Izzy (Isaac) in Los Angeles, who is my husband’s father’s brother, and the last surviving member of his generation at age 96. He and my kids began writing longhand letters to each other a few years ago, and the relationship between them has blossomed into something beautiful and poignant.

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He writes often, in his beautiful, careful hand, about his own childhood, our family history, and about sports and any other subject that might engage M and Z. I saw these letters as something very dear and very special, and decided to compile them into a photo book for him. To say that he appreciated the book is an understatement – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone more moved by a gift. Honestly, it made me want to find a child pen pal for every older person out there! So therapeutic and wonderful for all of us involved. 

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After returning home to repack our suitcases, we headed north to pick up our daughter at overnight camp and our foursome became whole once again. I always relish retrieving Z at her beloved camp, and seeing how her face and manner has changed in a month's time. She’s always tanner and older and more and less familiar at the same time. We all swayed, arms around each other, sang “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” loaded her stinky duffel bag into the car and headed to Maine, where we are now chilling for the next few days with my sisters, nephews and dad. 

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It has been a while since my sisters and all vacationed together with our families, but we are making it work! It's always evolving since we lost our mom five years ago, and I’m very grateful we are together in this beautiful spot, drinking gin and tonics, and remembering that we can be good to each other and that our kids can grow their own relationships. My last post was about the strength of friendship, but family too, is everything. 

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See you soon for more MILK action. 

MILK is Filling Me Up

We are living in crazy ass times, obviously. The tireless outrages of a reckless and racist Administration, sickening abuses exposed every damn day by men in every field, and the isolation of our own minds and anxieties as we sort through the data, trying to put one foot in front of the other. Plus tending to our relationships and families with normal stuff like groceries and viruses and parent teacher conferences and marriage. It’s a lot to manage.  

I cope by laughing with friends on text and sometimes in real life, hugging and squishing my kids as much as they will allow, and with my clichéd, beloved yoga. And MILK, this podcast I’ve been building, has been giving me life in these dark days since just before #prezvoldemort came to reign.

During each interview I record and edit, I learn something new and nuanced about motherhood, about ambition, about creativity, and about how damn competent we are as moms and humans.  I love meeting people I’ve admired from afar, and getting to spend that time in the studio with accomplished authors, activists, and artists is so fulfilling.

me and  MILK episode 3  Novelist Amy Shearn

me and MILK episode 3 Novelist Amy Shearn

It’s also exciting that my audience is growing, and more people are listening. One of the best things about technology is the ease with which content can be now be created and shared. It’s thrilling to record and get these conversations out to you guys right away. The sharing is easy, and the way I hope to grow it further.

When I interviewed Manoush Zomorodi, from the WNYC “Podcast Note to Self” back in October, she asked me if I knew the “other” podcasting mom in our school. No, I did not know Sally Hubbard of “Women Killing It,” but that was easy to remedy. Sally and I had a lunch, made a plan to be on each other’s podcasts, and this week you can hear Sally on MILK HERE.

Sally’s podcast, “Women Killing It,” is Sally interviewing women who are rock stars in their careers, asking them how they got there, and what they do to adapt and grow. An attorney, journalist, expert networker, and all around cool chick, Sally is smart, accomplished and busy as hell and she still makes an episode each week. It is instructive and motivating! Please listen to her interview of me on Women Killing It HERE, and share if you like it.     

Sally, and Manoush, and all of the MILKs so far, have shown me that we need to help each other and build each other up, us women. It’s what we do best, and we do many things well.

I know this little show I make in my apartment isn’t changing things for most, and that most of my guests come from a privileged place, relatively. Most of my guests believe that satisfaction in life and work is attainable because their basic needs are met – and this is not lost on me. But I find it stirring that there are so many stories and people to listen to and learn from, and that when I feel like I’m paralyzed with worry about the state of this planet, I can look to neighbors and friends and friends of friends to see how other women find strength.

Thanks for listening! And please share the MILK.

MILKs Killing It

Sally Hubbard, Creator and Host of "Women Killing It Podcast," is in the MILK Studio.

Through podcast interviews and real-life storytelling, Sally’s mission is to create a movement of women celebrating successes and inspiring one another. Sally attended NYU Law School and later became an investigative journalist, striving to uncover just how do successful women do it?

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Inspired by stories of shattering the proverbial “glass ceiling,” Sally looks to reveal a playbook for how women can kill it in their careers.

We talk, at the tail end of 2017, about the reckoning of male sexual assaulters and harassers, how to keep up the good fight as an activist, and how flexibility in the workplace (and listening to Millennials!) is good for all of us.

Check out our MILK Podcast: Moms I'd Like to Know interview on iTunes.

And go here to listen to Sally interview me on Women Killing It.