Personal accounts weave tapestry of motherhood
“I look at it almost like a quilt: each individual square can be so beautiful on its own, but when you step back from looking at it, you see that the whole picture is equally as dramatic.”
That is how Laura Rossi Totten views Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) Providence, a live production of local women writers reading original stories about motherhood at the Providence Public Library Auditorium May 4 at 2 p.m. “Each of these woman stand alone and move us all, and then together give us goose bumps. It’s so unique and powerful.”
Along with Warwick resident Carla Molina, Rossi Totten is co-directing and co-producing the show, as well as starring in it. While they didn’t give too much away about what they plan to present, they are eager to take the stage to share their most intimate, and often comical, tales with 12 other online bloggers from throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
“Some stories are about personal experiences as a mother, others are about their experiences with their own mother, and we even have some poetry,” Molina said. “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll remember things about your own life and your own children, and it’s an opportunity to sit there and say, ‘I know what these people are talking about.’ It’s also a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day.”
The national series was created two years ago by Wisconsin mom-blogger, Ann Imig. While only two cities participated last year, 24 cities across the country are slated to celebrate Mother’s Day 2013, which is May 12, with LTYM performances. The shows will be filmed and later aired online via the national LTYM YouTube channel.
Every production is directed, produced and performed by local communities, for local communities. Rossi Totten and Molina are thrilled to be part of the national series, as the May 4 show marks the first ever performance in Rhode Island, and the inaugural show for Providence.
“We’re the only New England show,” said Rossi Totten. “It’s amazing.”
Molina, who is from New Jersey but has lived in Warwick for seven years with her husband and two daughters (the oldest is 5, while the youngest is 3), got the idea to take part in the show last fall when she visited the LTYM website at ListenToYourMotherShow.com. She noticed they were searching for applicants to bring the show to more cities, and reached out to Rossi Totten for help.
Together, they completed an application and were delighted that Providence was selected for a live show. They then held auditions in March and chose the women who shared the most riveting stories.
“The moment they began telling their stories, we were hanging on every word,” Rossi Totten said. “They really stood out like stars.”
Molina agreed, noting the “very talented” roster they’ve assembled. She said hearing what they had to say was humbling.
“Once we began doing the auditions, we were completely floored at how open and honest everyone was,” Molina said. “They were sharing very personal, beautiful things with us. It’s an honor to be working with them and to know that we can be a vehicle for these women to share their stories.”
Warwick resident Lauren Jordan is one of the women Rossi Totten and Molina chose as a cast member, as Jordan’s journey through motherhood has been unique: originally from Massachusetts, Jordan and her husband of nine years adopted a baby boy from Ethiopia on Christmas Day 2009.
While the adoption process took about two years, she and her husband traveled to Ethiopia and stayed there for a week before bringing home their son, who will turn 4 next month.
“It was an amazingly emotional journey,” she said. “I feel very blessed to have been able to go there so I can give him a frame of reference and provide him with information. And to be able to come home on Christmas is really a miracle.”
She also views the opportunity to participate in the show as a gift, especially around Mother’s Day.
“Hearing from other moms lets us know we’re not alone,” Jordan said. “All moms can relate to these stories.”
It should be no surprise that Jordan plans to do a reading about adoption for the show. She feels “really lucky” to have the chance to give adoption a voice.
“With adoption, everyone always says, ‘oh, he’s so lucky to have you,’” she said. “I feel a bit of a cringe because he’s not lucky to have us; we’re lucky to have him.”
The piece she’ll be reading is from “Don’t Lick the Trash Can,” her cleverly titled blog. As a new mom, she noticed she frequently said some “ridiculous” but necessary things to her son. During a trip to the doctor’s office when he was a squirmy 18-month-old, she did just that.
“I was trying to keep him from touching everything and I could hear myself saying, ‘don’t lick the trash can,’” she said, noting that she’d eventually like to turn her blog into a book. “I think a lot of parents relate to it.”
Molina will also be reading a piece from her own personal blog, “All of Me Now.” Her work has appeared on Latina.com, SpanglishBaby, BuyHer and Vida Vibrante, and she is looking into launching another blog, “Petit Rhody,” which will highlight local businesses in the Ocean State that she and her husband often bring their daughters.
“It’s my way of paying it forward to local businesses that really embrace families,” she said.
Rossi Totten, a Jamestown resident who has more than 20 years in the book publishing industry and also operates her own agency, will be reading a piece in the form of a letter. A mother of 10-year-old twins (one girl and one boy), she still finds time to manage her blog, “My So-Called Sensory Life,” which was named a “Top 25 Most Inspiring Families Blog” by Circle of Moms and a 2010 Babble Top 40 Nominated Mom Blog.
She is also looking forward to the show and can’t wait to share it with the audience.
“There are so many opportunities around us to learn and grow,” Rossi Totten said.
“It’s a feeling of sisterhood that’s incredibly energizing, inspiring, and really validating. We may be in different places in our lives with our children, but we all share something in our journey as mothers. To know that we’re not alone and to feel a connection to other women and have this community is incredible.”
The women are hopeful the show becomes a tradition in Rhode Island.
“We’re already thinking about next year’s show,” Rossi Totten said. “I encourage everyone to come out and ‘Listen To Your Mother.”
To purchase tickets to the show, visit LTYMProvidence.brownpapertickets.com. A portion of ticket proceeds will be donated to the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative. Also, the women of LTYM Providence are grateful for local sponsors for making the production possible, including Rhody Mamas, Rejuvaderm, Haute Tags, Egan Images, Tong Collection and Ian Travis Barnard Photography to name a few.