If you want to make a difference, do this.

Last summer, I experienced a rare night of comfy couch-sitting and connected conversation. I say rare because have you met my three wonderful children?

It was shortly after the videos from the Listen To Your Mother show were released on YouTube, and I invited the Charleston cast members to my house to watch them together. 

We'd heard these stories many times. I'd heard them first, in the auditions. The selected cast had heard them at rehearsals. We'd heard them again on show day, as we waited backstage for our individual turns at the microphone, under the lights, before the packed-house audience. But there was something even more powerful about watching them together in such a relaxed setting with wine and snacks and the kids upstairs in bed.

It took us at least three hours to watch about an hour's worth of videos. We kept hitting pause, talking, sharing and connecting between each one. We openly talked about our relationships with our children and our parents. We talked about cancer and survival. We talked about all the ways we feel uncertain, and wise.

I felt wrapped up in the blanket of love and energy that filled the room that night. 

I woke up the next morning feeling more lifted than I'd felt in a while. Happy. Joyous. This kind of social gathering is by far my favorite, and it sustained me for days afterward. 

I've said it a million times before. It's worth repeating. Stories do that. Sharing our stories has that effect on people. Stories have an immeasurable power to bring us together. It depends, of course, on the motive in telling those stories. But if the intention is to give voice to our experiences, and to create connection, it will happen. 

So if you're seeking connection, please, tell us your story.

If you want to make a difference, tell us your story. (tweet that)

And, listen to others when they tell theirs. 

•••

I'm happy to be the Director and Producer of the Charleston production of Listen To Your Mother again this year. Auditions are being scheduled now. To learn more visit listentoyourmothershow.com/charleston

Many thanks to 2014 Charleston cast member Anna Hartman for snapping the photos in this blog post. 

To watch my reading in last year's show click here, or press play below. It's called "Ready", and it's the story of how the motherhood journey has changed me and what it has taught me. 

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Love and (the business of) marriage

I turned onto East Bay Street, made a few quick turns and secured a lucky parking spot on a cobblestone street. I dialed Shawn. "I found a parking spot and there's another one right behind me, are you close?"

We stayed on the phone as I navigated: turn there, now turn again... I see you, do you see me?

I watched his headlights, feeling a hint of excitement as they got closer. Success. Have you ever tried to park downtown, anywhere? It felt like a sign. A cosmic "Go Team!"

He parked and we met each other on the sidewalk. No umbrellas. It was raining, so I started to run. We made our way around the corner to the coffee shop. Some people ahead of us were entering the shop very slowly, standing in the doorway, looking around, checking out the place. As politely as we could, we pushed our way in.

We found a booth and set down our stuff. Then, we walked up to the register and scanned the big chalkboard. A few minutes later, with two candy cane mochas in hand (it was a few days after Christmas, after all) we slid into our seats. I looked at my husband of 14.5 years, and I realized I was blushing.

"This feels like a first date," I said. 

"That's good," he said.

We were doing something that, for us, was a bit out of the ordinary. Arriving in separate cars. A weeknight date, at a coffee shop. We'd scheduled this date to synchronize our calendars, to plan, and to be more proactive about the year ahead.

We have a lot going on. Already, 2015 is pretty full. But this year, we wanted to be less surprised by the things that happen over and over. Like birthdays, our anniversary and holidays. I'm all about living in the moment, but I'm growing weary of always being like, Oh crap! Christmas is here! 

Could we approach 2015 with more intention? That was the goal.

So, we opened the calendar to started at the end of 2015 and planned backwards. We blocked out time for work commitments, vacations, and a monthly date night, and we included alerts to remind us to start thinking about and preparing for upcoming events in advance. 

Our intention is not to live and die by the plan. We know that circumstances, at any time, can change. Instead, we wanted to look at the year ahead, as a whole. If we are blessed with every single day of 2015, we wanted to take a moment to envision how we'd like to spend those days. Days that will turn into months. Months that will fade into another year gone by. 

But already, it's difficult not to get sucked up, sucked in, and consumed by all of the comings and goings. His travel schedule. My busy Listen To Your Mother season. Taking care of three little people. Two in elementary school. One barely out of diapers. 

In all things, we strive to be 50/50. But that math doesn't always work. The give and take is not always perfectly divided.

How do two people build one life? 

(click to Tweet)

That's the question that we sit with. The one we've asked ourselves, and each other, many times over the years. It's a hard question. And an important one.

There is so much more to it than syncing calendars. 

It requires mutual respect—respect for who our partner is, what he or she has to offer, what he or she cares about and values. 

It requires both people being willing to communicate. Communication is one of our biggest challenges. Many times, we discover that we want the same thing, but we're arguing because we're speaking different languages. Makes. Me. Crazy. But, no matter what, in calmer moments, we are willing to sit down and have a conversation. We've never stopped being willing to try. 

It requires each person getting clear about what they want and need, and being brave enough, and vulnerable enough, to communicate what they want and need. 

And, it requires listening. (I'm working on this).

It requires compromise, a willingness to meet in the middle, and an understanding that sometimes, there is no middle. (see above about pushing against the 50/50). But, this compromise doesn't have to be a limiting, soul-killing kind of settling. The process of merging ideals can be messy, chaotic and ugly at times, but it can also be beautiful, even liberating. 

It requires understanding that marriage, and running a household, and managing careers and managing children, is a lot like a business. With deadlines, bottom-lines, and "it's nothing personal" logistics. 

And, here's a big one: It requires both people wanting to stay married. If both people want that, there's always a way. 

Finally, and especially, it requires the simple things. Like coffee dates. 

Coffee dates that feel like a first date.

•••

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