Listen To Your Mother: They Vanished, I Spoke.

It was a moment I held in my soul for a few years now.

I have watched my friend Ann Imig grow this extraordinary, beautiful gift of a show - Listen to Your Mother – from the moment it first took roots on a dark, misty evening in Ojai, California a few years ago, as a collection of gifted writers, women with a story to tell, shared their hearts – until now. Each time I was asked if I wanted to share my own words, I declined to raise my hand, stand up and be heard.

Call it nerves.

Call it jitters.

Or simply call it what it was: fear.

Fear that my story, my words, my heart, wouldn’t measure up, wouldn’t resonate, wouldn’t do Listen to Your Mother justice.

But sometimes you have to look fear in the face and leap.

Listen To Your Mother - Danielle SmithSo, I did. Listen to Your Mother is a show that, with Ann’s approval, and the amazing, hard work of local production teams, comes to cities all over the country – from San Francisco to Chicago to Kansas City, to yes, St. Louis. So, I took a deep breath and I tried out.

And I was accepted.

I joined a magnificent cast of women – all of their stories touched me in some way. It was remarkable to hear the audience’s response after our TWO shows. Women AND men cried, they laughed, they LISTENED and they celebrated motherhood with us.

This was my story: VANISHED.

Thank you for LISTENING.

 

Listen To Your Mother: My Journey From the Audience To The Stage

Listen To Your MotherI sat in the dark, in the mist and I listened.

To tales of motherhood.

To the heartache, to the loss, to the joy, to the triumph.

I listened as each women, each friend, stood in front of us baring their souls, sharing their hearts.

It was the very beginning of my friend Ann Imig’s dream to give mothers a voice.  It happened in the hills of Ojai, California in October, 2010.  A group of women Ann had invited to share their words at the close of an intimate gathering.  Words written, tales scripted, as many defined how motherhood has shaped them, how it continues to do so, how their own mother’s fingers still tickle their spine with both inspiration and criticism.

I sat and listened…a captive, and weeping member of the audience of what was truly the ‘soft run’ for what eventually be known as the nationwide tour:

Listen To Your Mother.

 

Listen To Your MotherAnn’s goal then and her goal now has always been to give Mother’s Day a microphone…. a great big beautiful microphone that allows mothers from cities all across the country to stand on a stage and share their own words – their own thoughts about motherhood.

On that October evening, I bore witness to the beginning, but will confess to being too afraid to add my voice, my writing, to this extraordinary collection of women. Similarly, I sat, alternately wiping tears and stifling belly laughs at a Listen To Your Mother reunion this past Fall…. again, rooted to the audience, still unwilling to put my writing under the motherhood microscope.

I was content to listen.

But tomorrow, nearly two and a half years after Ann first shared her vision – I am adding my voice to the mix.  I smile as I type this. Like that first time, I have sat in an audience, enraptured by the stories these women will share. I have listened. They are extraordinary. But this time, one thing will be different: my name will be called as well.  And it will be right.

St. Louis is one of 24 cities around the country proudly hosting Listen To Your Mother.  All shows are held sometime close to Mother’s Day…. since, as Ann believes, ( said in this NBC Nightly News segment) this day ‘deserves more than brunch’.  If you don’t already have your tickets for the show – we have just a few left – and there are two shows… one in the morning at 10am and one in the afternoon at 2pm!

I’ll be looking for you.

 

I’m All About Business: Catch the Show on Sunday 2/17 at 9am

DanielleSmith_OfficeAbout five years ago I made a nerve-wracking, crazy, wacky, life-changing, amazing, decision: to start my own business.

It hasn’t been easy.  There is a distinct decrease in the amount of sleep I have had in the last 60 months. There was a financial slope to climb: meaning – for a time, I wasn’t making any money.  This whole process required sacrifice, not just from me, but from my family.  Sometimes the plans were firmly in place and sometimes life and business felt like I had boarded a white-water-raft and forgotten both a paddle and a helmet.  But the adrenaline has kept me going. The joy has pushed me forward.  The small successes coupled with the passion for what I do have served to lift me up and motivate me to drive on. And so has the support from both my friends (old and new) and the three people who live in this home with me – two small and one big.

You know what I have found?  There is a distinct increase in my ‘happy’.

I do what I do because I love it.  The failures make me stronger, though it doesn’t always feel that way as I’m living those moments.

DanielleSmith_Interview_all_about_businessI started with a blog, right here at ExtraordinaryMommy, but now it is so much more.

I was asked to join three other wonderful businessmen from right here in the St. Louis: David Strom, a professional IT writer and speaker, John E Smith from the Strategic Learner and Bert Purdy from the Intentional Employee to share our stories on local business show, All About Business.

We did interviews, a press conference and a roundtable discussion about the state of blogging and social media.  You can see the show this Sunday, February 17th  at 9am on ABC30 locally.  I will be able to share the broadcast after it airs. Additionally, the show will feature Tom Mee, the Director of the St. Louis Cardinals and Angela Ortmann, of STLWineGirl fame.

If you get a chance to watch, I would love to know what you think.  I’m grateful to All About Business, specifically host and producer, Amanda Aschinger, for taking the time with me… it was a delight to spend time with David, John and Bert and to share my story.

Stan Musial: Heaven’s Outfielder, Our ‘Man’

Delaney 6 softball Stan MusialSix

The number is sacred here in St Louis.

Six

It’s the number my daughter wears on her Softball uniform; her soccer jersey too.

Six

It’s the reason why I dragged my son and his sister downtown on a 30-degree day in late January to witness a Memorial to “the Man” who has made that number famous throughout the Midwest.

Stan Musial’s #6 was retired after the 1963 baseball season, his last for the St. Louis Cardinals where he played his entire 22 year career.  He was my Grandpa’s favorite player, my Dad’s other hero, a man that I heard story after story about, and now, 50 years later, my daughter knows so much about him, she requests the number from her Softball Coach.  Think about that, a half century after “Stan the Man” played his final game, an 8-year old girl knows to ask for his number.  Welcome to St. Louis!  Welcome to a city that understands how lucky we were to have Stan Musial as a part of our community for the past 70 plus years.

So, Mr. Musial, now that you’ve entered Baseball Heaven, this is a thank you note from a fan.  A fan, who never saw you play in person, but appreciates all that you’ve done for my family, my team, my city, my country.

Thank you for the thrills you gave my Grandfathers who witnessed you lead their team (now, my team) to 3 World Championships.  Say “hi” to both of them for us all down here on earth too.  We miss them.

Thank you for staying with the Cardinals for your entire career, so that my Dad could see you play as a kid.  I can only imagine the experience of a Father and Son going to a game together and watching the greatest player to ever wear the Cardinal uniform.  I’ve heard the stories, and admittedly, I’m jealous.  I hoped I might be able to share similar experiences with my son, but that hope decided to join the Angels on Earth, whereas only the Angels in Heaven could take you from our daily lives.

Thank you for serving our country, taking a year out of your baseball life, in your sports prime.  You, both of my Grandpas and many, many others like you defended freedom against the bad guys of your time.

Thank you for making the entire country take note that baseball is played in cities not named New York and Boston.  St. Louis is dead center, middle of the country, just like you liked your fastballs which you turned around for 3,630 hits, a National League record when you last picked up a bat.  St. Louis is easy to lose on a map.  We don’t have a Green Monster like that on Yawkey Way in Beantown nor the Green Monsters (Billions of them) like that in the high rise Office Buildings on Wall Street or that fund the Yankee Roster.  Our color is Red.  Thank you for leaving your Northeastern home and becoming one of us.

Thank you for the example you set for others that followed your career, that you can be married for 72 years to the same woman, believe in a higher power, be flawed of course, but set about as good as example of what it’s like to be a better person, than most, if not all, who perform in the public eye.  Thank you for being a role model to my Dad and many others of his generation.  You positively affected more than just the scoreboard.  You made us all better people.

Thank you for granting an interview request and autograph to this one time Sports Journalist many years ago.  I was fortunate to interview some amazing people during my very brief 3-year Sportscaster career.  And, I can say, with no hesitation that my most fond memory was at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.  You and your buddy, Jack Buck, sat down with me to conduct an interview.  I was as nervous as a Rookie in his first At Bat.  There I was, interviewing the man who I grew up listening to…and THE MAN that I grew up hearing about.  I’ve only asked for two autographs in my life.  Both were from you:  one on a baseball for my Dad, the other on a baseball for my Grandpa.  You, of course, signed and personalized both.  I cannot thank you enough for that kind gesture.

Stan Musial Statue Wedding PictureThank you for taking part in introducing me to my first love.  The year was 1978.  I was getting ready to enter thru the Busch Stadium Gates for the first time when my Dad walked me to THE STATUE, as it’s known in St. Louis.  It’s of course a statue of you.  This is where he first told me all about you.  With tears in his eyes, he said “Jeff, you should have seen him play.  There will never be another like him.”   And, sure enough, there hasn’t been.   You were a big reason why my Dad loves the game of baseball.  And, thus, you are a big reason why I love the game.  And, continuing, you are a big reason why my kids love the game.  The inscription on your statue quoting former MLB Commissioner, Ford C. Frick, says it all, “here stands baseball’s perfect warrior, here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”

And, lastly, thank you for allowing the City of St. Louis to mourn and celebrate your life this past week.  You did not consider us strangers and we considered you a part of our family.  Thank you for allowing me to introduce you to my wife on our wedding night.  Thank you for allowing me to share your life with my little ones this past weekend.  My son says to me, “Dad, how did Stan the Man have the same amount of hits on the road and at home? Did he do that on purpose? I mean, Dad 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road is pretty cool.” My daughter responded for me, “Cooper, he was THE MAN. He always did the right thing.  Always!”

And, so we leave your Statue where the three of us say our Final Good Bye.  We’re off to the Sporting Goods store to order their uniforms for the upcoming season.  My little girl walks up to the register where the clerk says, “Alright, what number do you want young lady?”  She turns her head towards a replica 1944 Cardinal’s jersey hanging on the wall, turns back to the clerk and says …

“Sir, I’d like

6

Thank you Stan the Man.”

Sincerely,

A St. Louisan, a Cardinal Fan, and a Dad

Jeff Smith is a Dad first, Coach second.  A former Sportscaster and Play-by-Play Announcer, he lives to give his kids the true spirit of sports and a strong foundation as truly good people.  No matter what his career path, his priority has always been clear: his family.  This site has been lucky enough to have him writing his regular Daddy Diary since its inception.

To connect with Jeff, find him on Twitter.

For more of his incredible writing… read on:

iRule, iThink
Courage, Size 6: Lessons from the Sidelines
The True Rules of Soccer and Life
The Road to U.S. Citizenship: An American Perspective
A Coaching Philosophy to Live By

My Heart Is Aching, But Heaven Is One Star Brighter

It always happens.

The morning after.

You wake after a night of crying, a day of loss, and you have one moment…one beautiful, solitary moment when everything is right in the world.  Because THAT is the moment before the moment when reality crashes into you like a semi truck in the wrong lane speeding at you in a nightmare.

And you are suddenly awake and without air.

It is close to impossible to breathe because you remember.  And of all things you know in the world at that moment – you don’t want to remember.

My friend Gina died on Monday.

I started to write about her yesterday, but found myself at such a loss.

My heart physically hurts.  When I found out, I was, in fact, unable to breathe. My poor small girl was sitting next to me and ran for my husband.  She told him I couldn’t breathe.  And she was right.  I doubled over, barely able to say her name.  But, that was all he needed to hear.

Gina had cancer.  It took less than a year to steal her away from everyone who loved her.

For 36 hours, I’ve been struggling to find the right words to describe my friend – to tell you about her, to explain why this loss is so tragic.  And, I can’t seem to find them. Any death of someone so young is a tremendous loss, I know.

Gina was special. Dare I say extraordinary….

How do I describe the most selfless person I know? How do I explain the multitude of ways she made me better, or how she never missed an opportunity to encourage me, tell me she loved me or supported what I was doing? How do I begin to recount the dozens of organizations she helped, the people she inspired, the lives she touched? This is a woman who donated her time and talents to the Pujols Foundation multiple times a year, for free, because she felt called to do so.  She photographed Proms and special events, even traveling with them to the Dominican Republic.

“How can I help you?”  I can’t be the only person who heard Gina say those words over and over again – no expectation of anything in return. To call her a ‘giver’ doesn’t do her justice.  Giving was simply part of her nature, a portion of her soul.  I came across this article I wrote about her three years ago – she has always been extraordinary.

Gina was a mother, a sister, a friend, a woman of faith, a defender of those in need, a fighter, a brilliant, talented photographer and someone I can honestly say made me better.

I wandered my house today… Gina is present in nearly every room.  She has been taking photographs of my family for years.  She started before Cooper was born. If you have received a Christmas card from us in the last 5 or 6 years (with the exception of this year) our smiles had Gina’s fingerprints all over them.


She had a special way with my small people…. treating them with such kindness, as though time with them was a gift.  So for Ms. Gina?  They always gave their best smiles, their goofiest silly faces, their biggest jumps, their best ‘leaf throwing’, their biggest hugs.  And she never missed an opportunity to tell me how much she adored them.  If we made a lunch date?  She *wanted* them to come…..

You know… Gina is the photographer who took our ‘stolen photo’ that ended up in Prague, right?  (up there in the middle of that first collage?) We laughed about it even when we talked last week.

When. We. Talked. Last. Week.

This is one of the things that is comforting me right now.  I didn’t see her, as I’d hoped.  But we talked, we laughed…. she sounded like she was in such good spirits, though she did tell me she was heading to Tulsa because her situation had worsened. I guess I didn’t want to believe what ‘worse’ really meant.

I still have the texts on my phone she sent during a trivia night in her honor (she was too sick to attend)…. I’ve been looking back at the messages she sent me on Facebook.  Even faced with such an extreme challenge, her faith and will to fight never waivered.  She was fighting for her life…. fighting for her family.

She leaves behind a lot of people who loved her – including a daughter and son, both who considered her their best friend.  If that doesn’t mean something special, I don’t know what does.

You were a treasure, my friend.

When I last wrote about Gina, it inspired poetry from a stranger.  That’s the kind of soul stirring she motivated.

She was THAT good.

I am better for having known this beautiful soul.  I will always miss her.

Dear Taylor Swift… A Thank You.

 

Dear Taylor,

I need to thank you.  Not simply for the gift of your music.  But for the magic wrapped in the moments you gave me on the night of your concert here in St. Louis.  Sure, you are talented….. I never doubted that.  But what I didn’t know was how I would feel as I watched you through the eyes of my sweet girl. I cried at her awe, at the beauty of watching her wide brown eyes, her open-mouth, her sweet up-turned freckled nose.  I knew these were seconds I wouldn’t get back.

She just turned seven.  This was her first concert.  Thank you for knowing and understanding the faith I and hundreds of other moms put in you that night.  Your language was pure.  You walked the line between sassy and mature – never veering into territory that would cause me to cover my girl’s ears.  Thank you for being the kind of role model I can point to with pride…  a talented young woman with spunk and sass….  who’s heart is clearly as beautiful as her face.  Your mom must be so intensely proud of you. Heck, I was proud of you…. and you know how close we are.

 

You know how we experienced you?  Holding hands… drinking lemonade….. singing along to your songs.  She giggled.  She marveled at the stage and the size of the trucks used to move you and your crew from one city to the next..  She asked 724 questions.

She trusted me.

She trusted me to know the songs, to lift her when she needed to be lifted, to hold her as she fell asleep in my lap as you sang your final song.

It was magic.

Thank you.  My Taylor Swift concert experience *might* have been better than hers.

Love,

A Grateful Mom.

 

A special thank you to our friend Karla Shaffer and her daughter, Avery (a good friend from school) for allowing me to use the featured picture of Taylor – they had fantastic seats and their pictures of the night were amazing!


 

Operation Give Thanks

If you have spent any time around here, you know a favorite cause of mine is Operation Shower – a non profit that provides amazing baby showers and baby-showers-in-a-box for expectant military moms-to-be…. who are, most often, experiencing their pregnancies alone while their husbands are deployed…

As a non-profit that exists almost solely based on donations,  the brilliant minds behind Operation Shower have devised a plan….  Operation Give Thanks.  Watch….

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