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Monday Musings: It’s a wrap!

12 May
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bernaba

The cast of Providence’s Listen To Your Mother 2014 (minus two), out on the town the week before the 2014 show.  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bernaba.

Listen To Your Mother has wrapped up its 2014 Providence show.

Being a part of its fabulous cast was an amazing, unique, very special experience and quite the Mother’s Day gift for me.

It’s hard to describe, really, one of those experiences that to understand, you kind of had to be there.

To meet as a group of people mostly unknown to each other just three weeks ago, and come away on Saturday night as a solid cast and now as friends, is in itself an experience. Seeing a show come together from individual stories into one complete  story now made up of many chapters is amazing to think about. Presenting a story about motherhood that is near and dear to your heart, on stage, to an audience of many unfamiliar faces, is the other half of that experience.

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The entire cast just before the show. Photo courtesy of producer Carla Molina.

It felt almost like a wedding: a whirlwind of preparation, anticipation and excitement, an exciting big event, and then it was over.

For now.

Who knows where this amazing, talented group of women will go next, where this experience and these new-found friendships will lead.

We are stronger and better for knowing each other and for having experienced this amazing event together. We’ll never be the same as we were before we met that first night in April.

I was touched by each and every story shared this year, and I can only imagine the untold stories about mothers and motherhood that are out there waiting to be shared with the world. I have always believed that motherhood is the hardest job you’ll ever love and that there are so many aspects of it that go unnoticed. I love that Listen To Your Mother is giving motherhood a microphone, as its tagline states.

To read more about Providence’s Listen To Your Mother, check out my article here.

I am sharing my story, “Twins” below. It’s a post I’d originally written on this blog just over a year ago, so you may have read the longer version of it then. For those who joined me on Saturday night, thank you. I was very blessed to have such a large fan club out there in the audience. For those who could not be there, you can read my story below, or watch it in the YouTube video here.

Sharing my story aloud on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Don Cowart

Sharing my story aloud on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Don Cowart

“Twins”
By Jennifer Cowart

Last April, my mom retired.
For 32 years she had worked for the same corporation. She was one of the only original members of the staff, and they had to create a “Thirty-Two Years of Service” award for her, since no one else had ever been with the company as long as she had.

Before she left, they held a party for her, and my husband and I were invited. My dad would be there too, and I couldn’t wait to attend and be able to help her celebrate.

What I did not expect however, was for that night to be such an eye-opener for me, such a look into my mom’s life as a young mother back in the early 1970′s 80′s.

As a mother, I am continually amazed by the perspective I gain into my parents’ years as young parents themselves. But that night, my perspective was a new one, as I put myself into my mom’s place as a young mother and I realized what hadn’t hit me until that moment: just how similar our stories were.

My mother graduated from a secretarial school after high school, prior to having children. She worked for two of the mayors of the city I now live in. When she had me, she left her job to become a stay-at-home mother, as many moms did then, and as many moms do today. At some point when we were little, she became “The Avon Lady,” a home-based business owner, circulating catalogs, taking orders, meeting with customers and delivering orders. I remember being a runner with my brother, jumping out of the car, running up to doors and leaving the catalogs in bags hanging on the door handles, as she drove from house to house.

Although I finished up a four year college program after high school, I too, left my job and took on a home-based business when my kids were born, my path mirroring my mother’s. Although slightly different along the way, we ultimately ended up in the same place. I had gone back to work teaching when my oldest was just nine weeks old and stayed there for two years, starting the new business when she was a year old. I kept my home-based business for eleven years through two more pregnancies. I had three children, rather than two, but I worked hard in between having babies and caring for toddlers and preschoolers. I took orders, filled orders, wrote newsletters, hosted meetings, taught classes, spoke at regional events and more, all while raising my children. It was very difficult, but it was very worthwhile and very much like what my mom had done with the two of us in tow, all those years ago.
One day my mother received a phone call. We were in elementary school. I was nine, my brother was seven. A friend asked her to cover her job for a number of months while she went out on maternity leave. As I listened to my mother tell the story during her retirement party, she relayed how surprised she was to get the call, and how she had not been looking to return to work.

“I set out conditions. I couldn’t leave before they were on the bus and I had to be home when they were getting off the bus. I needed school vacations and summers off and if they were sick, I couldn’t work,” she told a colleague that night.
No problem, they’d told her.

As I listened, I realized with amazement yet again, how similar our journeys as mothers were. When my third daughter was just three, and my middle was in preschool, I was volunteering at a school event for my oldest daughter, a third grader. At that event I was “discovered” taking photos by the editor of our local paper. She asked to see my photos, loved them, asked me if I could write (to which I said I could), and offered me a job as the education reporter, right there on the spot. I had not been out looking for a job and I had three very young children, two of whom were not even in school all day yet.

I laid out conditions: I would not work full time. I needed summers and vacations off and if they were sick, I couldn’t work. I had to be able to put them on the bus and take them off the bus, drop them off at preschool and pick them up at preschool. I also needed to be able to take them all with me any time I had to cover a story when they weren’t at school and there was no one home to take care of them.
No problem, the editor told me.

My mom never left her temporary job. As the years went on, she worked longer days, taking less time off, because we were older. As my children have gotten older I too, have taken on a bigger work load, working longer, fuller days and weeks when I can.

My mother proved to be a valuable asset to the company because of her strong work ethic, her honesty and her Type A personality. She moved up. She went to college for twelve years, earning an associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s degree, ranking first in her class at Providence College when I was pregnant with my first daughter in 1999.
I’ll never forget watching her carry the flag into the graduation ceremony, leaning over the railing to see her better. I was 28 and she was 52. I was so proud of her. A woman next to me asked if we were twins.
“No,” I answered. “That’s my mother!”

But I realize now, that although we are not twins, our stories and journeys as mothers are similar. They’ll obviously never be exactly the same, but our core values are the same, our goals as mothers, career women and our work ethic are the same. I can only hope that our paths will continue to be similar as I have learned so much about the type of mother that I insist on being, from her. I know now more than ever, that so many reasons I am the way I am both at home and at work are because of the way she was as a mother and an employee, and because of the things she held dear to her heart.

Us.

Playing in Providence with the cast of Listen to Your Mother 2014

Playing in Providence with the cast of Listen to Your Mother 2014. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bernaba.

A special cake to celebrate a successful show.

A special cake to celebrate a successful show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Musings: These are our daughters

5 May

UPDATE: At the time when I typed this last Friday evening, not much had been shared about this topic, hence my being inspired to write the post. However, in the past day or so, more attention has been given to it. I considered taking it down but have opted to leave it as is, in order to continue to draw more attention to the seriousness of the issue.

***

“The number of girls and young women who are reported missing after being taken from a school in northeastern Nigeria continues to climb.”

Terry Rupar, Washington Post blog

 

Yours and mine.

Mine and yours.

Two hundred of them. More than that. Maybe almost three hundred. No one knows for sure.

No one knows for sure???

Hundreds and hundreds of school girls aged 15-18 go missing from a school in northern Nigeria on April 14 during exams and the Nigerian president spoke about the horror of it for the FIRST TIME on Thursday.

Thursday??

As in May 1st?

But at least he spoke about it.

Where is the outrage?
Where are the constant headlines? The media camped out waiting for news? Remember the birth of the royal baby months ago? The media was CAMPED OUT before the baby’s due date had even arrived.

Where are they now?
Is ANYONE out there? Oprah? Ellen? Obamas? Princes and princesses? Kings and queens? ANYONE?

Someone gets hired or fired on a national sports team and we hear ALL ABOUT IT for days and days and weeks. What they said. How they felt. What everyone felt. The tweets, posts, selfies and updates.

Hundreds of girls attempting to get an education are missing for weeks after a violent kidnapping at gunpoint.

Crickets.

Nada. Nothing. Eerie silence.

Why?

These are our daughters.

Yours and mine.

Mine and yours.

In our country we send our military out for all kinds of things, but not this. We send help and aid, we give advice and commentary all the time.

Not this time. And yet, I keep waiting and wondering when it’s going to explode into a media frenzy.

Every single day when I send my daughters off to school I tell them I love them and every single day I worry that it’s the last time I’ll see them. An accident, a bomb, a tornado, a school shooter…..a kidnapper. ANYTHING can happen.

These parents and the siblings of these girls are living out my worst fear and no one is doing anything.

So I am. I’m outraged. I’m talking about it. I’m worried for them. I’m praying for them.

These are OUR daughters.

Yours and mine.

Mine and yours.

They could be.

And if they were, you’d want someone to do something, to say something. To offer help. To send help and aid.

These are our daughters.

Yours and mine.

Mine and yours.

DO something.

I care.

I care.

For more information about the missing Nigerian girls, see the links below:

Washington Post 5/2

CNN 5/2

USA Today  5/2

My Soup for You blog 5/3

 

Extra Extra! Exciting news to share!

17 Apr
The curtain goes up May 10 for Listen to Your Mother 2014!

The curtain goes up May 10 for Listen to Your Mother 2014!

I don’t often post on Thursdays, but I have such exciting news to share that I just couldn’t wait for a regular posting day to share it!

I know that I mentioned in a previous post that I’d gone a bit out of my comfort zone and auditioned for a local performance, something I never could’ve imagined doing before.

Well, I received notification just the other day that I’d been accepted as a cast member for the show!

Exciting right?

The show I auditioned for is Listen To Your Mother 2014, Providence. It’s a monologue show designed to “Give Motherhood a Microphone.” It’s taking place all over the country as well as in Providence, in 32 states to be exact, and it’s just in time for Mother’s Day!

You can find out more about the show by clicking on the link above, and if you’re local to the Providence area and would like to see the show, here’s the link for tickets. A portion of each ticket in Providence goes towards The Tomorrow Fund!

I hope to see you at the show!

Bonus Post: Remembering the mothers of Newtown

12 May
We will never forget.

We will never forget.

As we celebrate this Mother’s Day, let’s take a moment to remember those who are grieving on this day. Specifically, let’s take a moment today to send strength to those mothers in Newtown, Connecticut who are facing their first of a lifetime of Mother’s Day without their babies, those taken so tragically out of their lives this past December.

While we hug our children and spend the day with our loved ones, let’s remember how lucky we are,  never forget the victims of Newtown, and those that were left behind.

The Mother of all Inspiration

14 May

A long time ago I worked as a waitress in an ice cream shop. I did it for years. I loved ice cream, I loved my job. I had ice cream on my break during almost every shift. I’d have hot fudge banana sundaes or chocolate chip cookie sandwich sundaes (all in place of a “real meal” of course.)  My boss came to my wedding and gave me hot fudge sundae glasses, a scoop, and hot fudge topping as my gift. I still have them (well all except the hot fudge topping). I ate ice cream all the time.

And then I didn’t.

For a while after leaving that job to marry and pursue a teaching job, I couldn’t even look at ice cream. I couldn’t look at banana sundaes or banana splits or chocolate chip cookie hot fudge anything. I was so done with ice cream.

And then I wasn’t.

One day, it just came back to me, and now although I still don’t love ice cream all the time, and I eat it nowhere near as much as I did during those four or five years, I do love myself a good hot fudge banana sundae every once in a while.

Why do I tell you all this, you ask? (I know, you were saying that in your head, saying. “Where the heck is she going with this story??”)

I tell you this because this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day, I was inspired to do something I hadn’t wanted to do in a long time: paper crafting. As many people know, I worked in direct sales as a Stampin’ Up! consultant for eleven years. I was a stamper even before I worked for them, even as a kid. I loved rubber stamping, scrapbooking, paper crafting. For more than a decade I was immersed in anything to do with paper, ink, ribbon, and stamps.

And then I wasn’t.

Last August I was dropped for having insufficient sales (and really just insufficient time to devote to the job) and for the first time in eleven years I wasn’t a Stampin’ Up! consultant anymore.

I was inspired to make four photo cards for Mother’s Day, paper crafting for the first time in a long time.

I didn’t miss it. I didn’t even think about it, other than to worry and wonder: will I ever want to pick up a stamp to make something again? I worked with the kids at Christmas time on our cards, a card Elizabeth had designed, but I wasn’t *feeling it* the way I used to. It just wasn’t there. I had lots of “stuff” for stamping and scrapbooking in my office, still, and scrapbooking was on the list of “things to do when all my kids were in school all day” but so was blogging, so I got one of the two checked off that list, but I just had no desire to even go into the crafting room or to make one. single. thing.

And then it happened.

The week leading up to Mother’s Day I got an email from CVS boasting 2 for 1 photo cards just in time for Mother’s Day. The deal was pay $1.99 for one card and get another for free. My very first thought was, “I could MAKE that same card for free.”

There it was: my inspiration to make a card for the first time in almost a year. I went down to my office, printed out photos to make four Mother’s Day cards (saving myself $4.00 at CVS) and found some pretty card stock and designer paper. And then I went to town. I printed and I cut and I scored and I designed and I layered and I did all the things that I used to spend hours doing before. I was on a roll.

The cards were done, but I wasn’t. There was still more I could create with my scraps.

I finished the four photo cards and I had paper and ribbon and designer paper left over. There was just enough to make a matching gift to go with each card: book marks. So I got busy all over again, cutting strips and lengths of ribbon and punching holes and at the end I had four gorgeous cards with four coordinating book marks and very little waste to throw away. I loved the projects and I couldn’t wait to give them to my family members on Mother’s Day. It was just like it’d been for eleven years of Mother’s Days when I was with Stampin’ Up.

So now, we’ll have to wait and see whether this was a one-time thing or whether or not this will be the thing that gets me “back on the wagon” with paper crafting. I know I won’t have the pressure of always having to make and prep things for classes and parties, but instead I can wait for the inspiration to strike me, just like it did last week, when I received the mother of all inspiration, just in time for Mother’s Day.

Bookmarks and cards, all finished.

The four cards.

Happy Mother’s Week Day 5: Mom’s Black Bottom Squares

11 May

My mom’s Black Bottom Squares were just as I’d remembered them.

You may remember back in March, when I posted about Bakerella’s Black Bottom Cupcakes. I talked about how they reminded me of my mom’s Black Bottom brownies that I remembered having a long time ago, and remembered loving. When my mom saw the Bakerella recipe she too, thought it was similar to her Black Bottom squares recipe and she passed that recipe along to me. It took me a while to have a chance to make them, but last weekend I did get that chance.

I had never made these squares before, but they were just as I remembered them, dark chocolate and delicious. I prefer them served cold because of the cream cheese. This recipe also made me want to bake some Cream Cheese Swirl or Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies too, so that’s on my list of things to do next. I kept wanting to swirl these as well, but the recipe didn’t say to, so I didn’t do it!

Here is the recipe, which my mom put a note on: “from North Kingstown Newcomers Cookbook 1979,” so when I said it reminded me of something I’d had a long time ago, that explains it. These have been around for a while in our family. The recipe is credited to Jean Bolles in the cookbook itself.

Today’s recipe will complete my gifts to you for Mother’s Week, just in time for Mother’s Day on Sunday. If you are a mom enjoy, enjoy, enjoy your day on Sunday and if you are lucky enough to be able to spend the day with your mom, be sure to enjoy every minute!

Thanks for today’s recipe Mom!

BLACK BOTTOMS

This recipe is completed in two steps: the chocolate layer and the cream cheese layer.

INGREDIENTS

For the chocolate:

1 cup water

1/3 cup oil

1 Tbsp. vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cups cocoa

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

For the cream cheese:

1 egg

1 eight ounce package of cream cheese

1/3 sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 six ounce pkg. chocolate chips

Before they bake…this is where I realllllly wanted to swirl that cream cheese, but I did not. Next time though, I might just do it!

DIRECTIONS

Combine water, cocoa, oil, vinegar, vanilla, flour, 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Pour into a well-greased 9×13 inch pan and sprinkle with a six ounce package of chocolate chips.

Beat together egg, cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 tsp. salt.

Spoon over chocolate chips and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Mother’s Week Day 4: Blueberry Cake

10 May

This cookbook has literally hundreds of recipes using blueberries.

As you know, we’re celebrating moms all week long here on The Whole Bag of Chips! Today we’re celebrating with a recipe I tried recently and immediately knew it’d be perfect for the week leading up to Mother’s Day. It’s from a cookbook we received from my parents back in 1999 when they visited Maine.

On this one particular day last month, I was in the mood for *something* but I didn’t know what. I didn’t want something chocolate, which is a little unusual, and I was scanning all the cookbooks and recipes I had until I found something that struck my fancy. I’ve used this cookbook a couple of times for muffins and crisps, but I had not done this cake before. It calls for fresh blueberries but I only had a bag of frozen, which increased the baking time but other than that, worked out great.

Caroline wanted to help me so I put her to the task of making the topping for the bread, which was listed as optional, but not to me!

This would be perfect for a brunch, a dessert for a hostess or just to have with a cup of coffee or tea. It was delicious and I’d make it again. So far I have not found a recipe in this cookbook that I would not make again! They’ve all been good.

Enjoy this recipe and enjoy the last couple of days of Mother’s Week!

Caroline was in charge of the topping, and she did a fabulous job!

INGREDIENTS

Blueberry Cake from “The Maine Wild Blueberry Cookbook”

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup margarine (I used butter)

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups blueberries (I used a pack of frozen which increased our cook time by about another 20-30 minutes.)

This made a delicious dessert on a cold, rainy day!

DIRECTIONS

Mix dry ingredients together.

Cream margarine and sugar.

Beat in egg.

Stir in milk and add dry ingredients.

Add vanilla and berries.

Bake in greased 11×7 pan at 375 for 40 minutes. (Or til knife inserted into center comes out clean.)

Thumbs up for blueberry cake!

Topping:

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. cinn

1/4 cup margarine (I used butter)

Mix to coarse crumbs and sprinkle over top before baking.