For the last three years in Raleigh, Listen to Your Mother has been filling up seats and selling out shows for its live readings of essays on motherhood.
Part of a network of Listen to Your Mother shows across the country, the Raleigh version is led by two local moms and writers - Marty Long and KeAnne Hoeg. Together and with others, they've found talented writers with stories to tell - about themselves as mothers; their own mothers; or the moms who have played big roles in their lives.
The stories are funny and silly, touching and heartbreaking, but they all have one thing in common: They tell the truth about motherhood from the the rainbow days to the tear-stained moments.
This season's show is 7:30 p.m., May 4, at Jones Auditorium on the campus of Meredith College. The show will feature the short essays from 11 North Carolina moms. You'll "laugh, cry and whisper, 'Me too' as you listen to these amazing stories," writes the show's organizers on the LTYM website.
I had a chance to meet up with two of the writers who will be featured - Kati Gardner, the Raleigh mom of two young girls and young adult author, and Katie Gailes, the mom of two grown kids - her daughter and the nephew she raised - and grandma to one. Gailes of Holly Springs has a lot of hats. They include entrepreneurship coach with Katie Gailes & Assoc., director of entrepreneurship at Wake Tech, founder of the Holly Springs Writers Guild and an author.
Gardner, who moved to Raleigh from Atlanta a few years ago, had heard about the show from a friend, who was on last year's cast. Gailes stumbled on it while searching for new opportunities. For both, submitting their essay for consideration was a leap of faith. "My daughter had challenged me to take some of the advice I'd given to her to stretch yourself," Gailes said.
Both are long-time writers with stories to tell. Gailes has everything from poems to business articles under her belt. Gardner, a former middle school teacher, remembers the tween romance stories she pounded out on the broken typewriter her mom gave her years ago.
Gailes' piece, titled "White Potatoes and Demons," is about a gift her own mother gave her. "My story is about how my mother gave me the relationship I currently enjoy with my daughter," she tells me. "We have a wonderful relationship."
Gardner takes a more humorous spin - telling the story of the massive tantrum of her then three-year-old at a Gymboree store. It's called "Gymboree Happened." While it would be easy for most moms to just pick up their child and carry her out, Gardner can't. As a child, her leg was amputated as she was treated for cancer.
"Once I got home that night, it was funny," she said. "But in the throes of it, it was not fun."
Gardner's experience as a mom with a disability is weaved through her story ... and in her writing for young adults where characters have a disability just like they also might have blond hair or brown eyes. "I had to take an extra step in thinking how I was going to raise these children," she tells me.
For both, the experience being part of this year's cast has been inspirational and supportive. Gardner lost her own mother as the cast prepared for the show. "They've done everything," said Gardner, circling the wagons to support her as she mourns.
"It's very emotional," Gailes said. "You get to hear other mom's stories and every single story is one you can relate to. ... Mothering is a very complex role. It's a big job. It's art and science. It's intuition and advice. Because we do it, we lose sight of the significance because we are too busy doing it."
I highly recommend these shows - a lot of laughs, some cries and more emotions. Tickets are on sale now and they will likely sell out. They're $20 each. More information on Listen to Your Mother - Raleigh's website.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.