Jul 15, 2014

The funnies: LTYM, Boston, 2014

It's not always easy to laugh freely. Daily annoyances, over-the-limit personal baggage and the sheer grind of Life, can preempt the handiest of smiles and reserve them instead for self-identified 'perfect' moments, which are invariably few and far between. So to tease them out of people, can be a Herculean task.

My friend Radha recently commented that in her opinion, humor writing is the hardest. (She's a terrific writer: she should know). I'm in a flash fiction writing group myself, and can attest to the ease with which poignant, insightful words can flow from the thoughtful minds of articulate people. But to couch said insights in witticism is a task requiring delicacy and self-knowledge in an alchemic ratio. It's easy to raise laughs by poking fun at others, easier still to tear down institutions and thoughts that are commonly accepted to be shallow or trite. But to poke fun at yourself with grace, to decry social standards that you might live by with compassionate honesty, challenge the very stances that you claim to own and do so OFF the soap-box and without foam-mouthed dogma...are acts of courage and wisdom that touch me.

This post is about speakers at the Boston 'Listen to your mother' (LTYM) event who seemed cut from this kind of cloth.  I've written about some of the more gut wrenching talks - the ones that helped 'take back' the trite stereotypes about motherhood. The funny ladies I speak of here stayed true to that theme too: each of them spoke about aspects of motherhood that we all might have experienced (or will in future) but with insights brought out with subtlety through their wry humor. From a daughters first tentative reach for her budding sexual power to a young boy's thoughtful act in a boisterous day; from an imaginary take-down of motherhood stereotypes to open confession of white lies....these ladies nailed the defining moments wherein laughter rests cheek-by-jowl with respect. I'm glad to have made their acquaintance - and even friendship - by performing with them. (Here's my talk, in case you missed it before but I'm certainly not one of the witty ones)

The thinking girls thong
Tina Drakakis unfailingly leads her readers to unexpected insights with her wicked wit. Her blog candidly discusses her teen leaving home and her handling of it as well as her personal tussles with having faith in adolescents who take their time figuring themselves out. She's quickly becoming my guide to grounded parenting (though our tussles with the tween years is still a-ways off). In her LTYM talk she makes her tween-daughter pop into life as vividly as the loaded, shifting role of the parent. Between laughs, she gently brings home some key points about awakening sexuality and the inevitable detente that must be negotiated by emotionally affected parents. A must watch for those of you with tween/teen daughters. Really. And make the dads watch too.
Her talk: Thinking girls thong
 Her blog: http://tinadrakakis.com/

The back to school serenity prayer
In between popping open chilled beers and mouthing down-home witticisms, Janet Frongillo sneaks in emotion-laced insights and social commentary that sticks with you long after your (many) burbles of laughter have died away. Her talk is ostensibly about the ruckus of a summer spent with a gaggle of rambunctious little boys and their charming, entertaining and hilariously entertaining antics. Yet her attentive appreciation of the small gestures and almost-missed traits of her little humans, are sobering. This funny, earthy mom who seldom pulls her punches, is almost all heart. Don't tell her you know though: it would ruin her reputation with herself. :-)
Her blog: http://muffintopmommy.com/
Her book:  Mommy Mixology: a cocktail for every calamity

No more mom!
That Liz O'Donell is a powerhouse is apparent from any web search. 'Overachiever' would be an apt term if it wasn't marginally insulting given her mandate of furthering feminism while holding down the 'mom' job. I'm sure she'd argue that it's not 'over' anything for a woman to achieve what seems to be everything. In addition to helping run a company, she writes a leading blog for women and through her book, is a well-respected authority on women in the workplace in modern USA. She's also loving, kind and very funny when she chooses to be. In her talk, she 'takes back' the word 'mom' and everything it stands for with a tongue-in-cheek rebellion that everyone will want to join. Are you with her? I promise you will be.
Her talkNo more mom!
Her blog: http://helloladies.com/
Her bookMogul, mom and maid

Motherhood is a web of lies
Joanna Weiss is a well known Boston Globe columnist but her humorous takes on the deceit implicit in parenting are what every parent knows in their heart but probably hasn't admitted quite as honestly. I'm not sure the two are connected but I for one, came clean on the Tooth Fairy issue with our 7 year old soon after I heard her talk. Be warned: she might nudge you towards that pesky little thing called accountability (dammit, Joanna!).
Her talk: Motherhood is a web of lies
Her blog: http://joannaweiss.net/
Her book: Milkshake

Next up: about the small things
Oyon-isms, 7+, July 2014:
As I scoop and discard the third fish in his aquarium that unexpectedly died:
Oyon (hesitantly): This is kind of bad to say, but when my fish die I don't feel so bad.
Me: That's okay. You don't really get to bond with fish like you do with a cuddly pet. You're not happy it died though, are you?
Oyon: Of course not! But if they die after a month, that's still like, a really long life, right?
Me: Depends on the species. Some can live for years so a month is.....well, short.
Oyon (looking a bit chastened): Oh. Can I have some screen-time today Mammam, even though it's not Wednesday?
Me (tried to adjust to this rapid change of direction): Why?
Oyon (with an odd expression): I'm going to make some gravestones in Minecraft. You know, for all my fish.
Me: But who'll see it?
Oyon: Pigs, zombie creepers, cows.......Me.
Me (giving him my phone and a hug): Set the timer for 10 minutes. Well done.

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