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(photos by Amy Konieczka Photography)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved stories – to read them, to tell them, to share them, to soak them up like the last bit of sauce in a delicious bowl of shrimp scampi, to store them up and keep them close for days that just need a good story.  So, several years ago, when I first heard about Listen To Your Mother, my storyteller’s heart skipped a beat.  A stage, both literal and figurative, for stories about motherhood?  I.AM.IN!

Unfortunately, in the early years, none of the Listen To Your Mother shows were even in my time zone.    Last year, I flirted with the idea of auditioning for the show in Little Rock.   I almost sent an email for sign-ups but at the last minute realized that life was too chaotic to commit to making three drives to Little Rock in three months. When they made the announcement about the 2015 show cities, I saw Baton Rouge on the list and I was almost giddy.  Baton Rouge is only four hours from my house.  Surely, I could make it that distance for practices and the performance.

The initial Baton Rouge post was November 10th, 2014.  My mother was still in the nursing home after her fall in September; she was not speaking to me yet again.  I decided since I was disowned I might as well audition for a show about motherhood – I’m sure that makes sense to someone somewhere.  Forget that fact that my life was even crazier than it was the year before; forget the fact that I had no idea what in the world I was going to submit; I just focused on the fact that I was passionate about wanting to audition.

I stalked the website and finally, finally, finally, audition details were released on January 12th, my niece Emmie’s birthday.  Since November, my mother had been released from the nursing facility and returned to her house with my ninety-year-old grandfather as her “caregiver” (side note – no one in the universe save my mother and  my grandfather thought that was a good idea) which lasted two weeks.  In those two weeks, mom made a trip to the emergency room and then the next weekend fell repeatedly and was admitted back to the hospital.  She was released from the hospital back again to the skilled nursing facility where her health and her mental status deteriorated rapidly.  At the end of December, we moved her to the facility where Steve works and realized that she probably wasn’t going to recover enough from this event to even go to an Assisted Living facility.  By the time audition details were released, I had signed papers confirming that mom was only to receive comfort care.

When I saw the LTYM Baton Rouge details, I talked to Steve about the lunacy of auditioning for a show when everything was so up in the air with mom.  He encouraged me to at least try.  So, that Friday, the 16th of January, around 2:00 p.m., I emailed Meghan, the director of the show asking if I could possibly set up an audition.  She replied back that I was crazy to drive that far three times for rehearsals and the show (not really, she just wanted to make sure I knew what was involved).  I told her that I really wanted to try this and she offered to let me Skype my interview.  I said “sign me up”.  Seven hours after I sent that email, my mom died peacefully.

I spent the next couple of weeks helping to plan her funeral and trying to get her estate set up and the probate process started (friends, that is a long story for another day).

My audition was set for 11:00 a.m. on February 7th.  I woke up that morning just before dawn with nothing to read for the audition.  I considered emailing Meghan and cancelling.  But two very different stories, based on two encounters with my mom and one with the girls in the van on the way to school, were swirling around in my head and I thought I could make one of them work.  I sat down at the computer and started to type and somehow, someway, the two stories melded together into one that I wanted to share.  I finished about 9:30 and shared it with Steve.  He cried and said it was his favorite of anything I’d ever written.

So, I auditioned.  And I waited. and waited. and waited. wasn’t that long.  I waited two days and then the email from Meghan was in my inbox and I was scared to open it.   The email started out thanking me for auditioning and reminding me that the show was about more than individual stories, it was about how those stories wove together to make a larger tapestry.  Right then I knew I didn’t get a spot.  My heart dropped.  I read the next line that said CONGRATULATIONS!  And, possibly for the first time ever, I was speechless.  And terrified.

Somehow, the next few weeks passed quickly and in March, we had our first group practice.  IT.WAS.AMAZING!  Meeting the other eleven women in the show and hearing their stories – I can’t even explain it.  Just know that being a part of this group of storytellers changed me forever.

Unfortunately, sadness has mixed equally with joy this year and on April 16th, two days before our second rehearsal, my grandmother died (If you’re keeping track, yes, that was exactly three months to the day after my mother died)   I wondered if I would be able to read my story on stage so close to Mother’s Day.  Then, I realized that what better way to celebrate their memories than to share my story and honestly, it helped to distract me a little (or  a lot).ListenToYourMotherCast

So, on May 3rd at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge with my husband and my daughters and my sister and my brother-in-law and my nieces sitting in the audience, I took the stage with eleven other incredibly gifted mothers, and read my piece called Labels (click here if you’d like to read it)

I will never be the same.  I did something that day that was for me.  Even though my piece was about being a mother and a daughter, I read it for me, not for my mom and not for Gracie and not for Abigail.  I did it to share my story and if you never listen to anything I’ve ever said or will say, listen to this:  share.your.story.

“Mother!” she yells, her frustration with me all too apparent in her tone. Sitting in the overstuffed leather chair across from her bed, I turn my head slightly so that I’m out of her line of sight and roll my eyes.

“DON’T ROLL YOUR EYES AT ME!” oops. I sigh that exasperated, exhausted sigh of mothers everywhere. You know the one – the one reserved for toddlers and tweens who refuse to listen, the one reserved for the night before science fair projects are due when glue and poster board and cranky fifth graders all collide to make you rethink this entire parenting gig. It’s a sigh I have perfected over the last decade.

Luckily, her anger with me is fleeting

“Mother!” she yells again. “Where is Terry? Where is my brother?”

“I don’t know”, I answer.

Here’s the thing. I do know where Terry is. Terry died four years ago. Telling her won’t help. She’ll just ask again next week, tomorrow, in an hour. Here’s the other thing – she’s not my daughter; I’m not her mother. In fact, it’s just the opposite. She is seventy years old and I am her daughter. At least once upon a time I was.

My relationship with my mother has always been difficult at its best, ridiculous at its worst. Her lifelong struggle with depression and her insatiable desire to prove her worth to everyone made for an, at times, interesting childhood. Because she couldn’t let others see her faults, she turned to me as her confidante. Because she couldn’t admit any type of failure, my brother, sister, and I could not fail either. Perfection was expected. The perfect daughter. A label that I have strived to earn my entire life. A label that I have never, ever come close to achieving. There are times when I have wondered if I was ever even a good daughter, a decent daughter, a passable daughter. My mother loves me – this I know on some guttural level, but practically, I always wonder, would she love me more if I was a “better daughter”? The mantle of daughter is a difficult one for me to wear.

Over the last year, my mother’s health has taken an atmospheric decline. Between the infections and the falls and the grave injuries, dementia has wrapped its heartbreaking vines around her. Subtle at first, noticeable only to those who know her well, it has been a roller coaster. In the last year, she has disowned me twice, called me names, begged for me to help her, cried because I’m there for her, cried because I’m not there for her, called me screaming in the middle of the night to rescue her from the doctors. I have been an evil villain, a saint, a caregiver, a withholder of kindness, a fool, a genius. I have been labeled more things than a Roget’s Thesaurus. Scratch that roller coaster analogy. This last year has been a hurricane. Now, my mother is in long term care in a nice private room at the nursing home where my husband works. It is the best possible scenario for a difficult situation. And, now, for reasons unknown to me, my label is mother. Oddly enough, this feels easier and truer than daughter. I wonder about labels, about who we call what. Sister, brother, wife, daughter, mother, friend….

“Mommy?” asks Abigail from the back seat of our van. Abigail is eight years old. She is also extremely precocious. This is just a euphemism for you never know what in the world will come out of her mouth.

“Mommy, why did you name me Abigail? Why didn’t you call me Faith or Hope or maybe Holy Spirit? “

I choke on my diet dr. pepper and try not to run the car off the road. Her sister, Gracie, always my deadpan child says, “Holy Spirit? Holy Spirit? Now, that would have been awesome. Then when you were born, Aunt Dianne could have posted on Facebook, let’s all welcome little Holy Spirit into the world.” And I am laughing and Gracie is laughing. And Abigail?

“Welll….”, Abigail says, “It doesn’t matter anyway. As soon as I’m eighteen, I’m legally changing my name to Stephanie Einstein.”

And there it is….labels don’t matter to Abigail. She is Abigail or Holy Spirit or Stephanie Einstein. I am mother or daughter or sister or friend. I am caretaker or villain or saint. The labels don’t matter – the love between us does.

We are back in my mom’s room at the nursing home. It’s time to leave for the evening, so Abigail is pushing her wheelchair out to the nurses’ station and I am walking ahead.

“HEY!” My mother calls. I stop and turn around. She grabs my hand and pulls it to her face.

“Hey!” She whispers, “You are a good mommy.”

I lean down and kiss the top of her head as tears fill my eyes. “And you are a good daughter.”

She smiles a small, lopsided smile and somehow these labels work and I love her and she loves me.

It was the last conversation we ever had. Within days, she was non-responsive and within a week she was gone – all the labels of all the years reduced to nothing but the love and those last sweet words, “you are a good mommy.”


Last night, I had dinner with one of my favorite people in the world.  Becky and I have been friends for over a decade.   Whenever we get together, there is always so much to talk about; our lives have followed very similar courses.  We worked for the same company when we met, we got married within a few months of each other, each our our first child within weeks of each other, and you guessed it, had our second child within months of each other too!  Now, we go to the same church, volunteer on Wednesday nights, and still work in the same industry.  So, there is never a lack of conversational subjects. 

Becky is also a blogger and like me, she hasn’t blogged in a while.  We were talking about the need to “catch up” on our blogs. I haven’t blogged in months and months.  I have this big post talking about all the things we’ve done and all the things that have happened since last October when I last wrote.  It’s massively long and it’s taking me hours to try and find the pictures that I want to go with it.   I thought about that post when I got home last night and decided I didn’t want to finish it – too much time has passed and too many things have happened to try and cram them all in a post just for the sake of “catching up” feels overwhelming and pointless.

So, I’ve decided to pick up where I am now and go forward and maybe fill in the gaps as I go.



I’m the first to admit that quite often, I take on too much.  Last Friday was one of those times.  I volunteer every other week for an hour to read with a small group of fifth graders at a school across town.  Truthfully, it is one of my favorite things to do.  The students I work with are amazing, the books are great, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a really easy volunteering gig – I just have to read a book every two weeks and show up and talk.  I have to be there at 7:30 a.m. which is actually good because it doesn’t really interfere with my work schedule.  If it started at 10:00 a.m., I can almost guarantee that any day I volunteered we’d have server crash or a program bug at work.  Anyway, back to last Friday.  The day also happened to be the quarterly teacher breakfast at the girls’ school.  Again, for me, it’s a perfect volunteer opportunity – I get to cook and show the incredible teachers just a little bit of my appreciation.  So, I signed up to make two dishes for the breakfast – my lemon blueberry breakfast bake and these muffins.

Now, common sense would tell you that if I had to have my baked goods to school by 7:00 a.m and then be downtown at the other school by 7:30 a.m. that I would have at least baked one thing the night before.. You would be assuming that I have common sense.  I don’t.  So, I got up early and tried to bake.  I made it through the blueberry bake quickly, but these muffins were more labor and time intensive than I’d originally thought.  So, they were still in the oven baking when I left and I asked Steve to pull them out when they finished.  Then, once I got home from volunteering, I added the glaze.  I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to share them with the teachers at the breakfast, but Abigail LOVED them and had one for breakfast for several days, so I guess it wasn’t a complete loss!

Honestly, the recipe isn’t difficult and it really doesn’t take too long – if there hadn’t been so much going on, I would have said it was fairly quick and very easy!. Here’s the recipe so you can try it for yourself.  I found the recipe at TidyMom.  Check out here site – she’s got some other yummy recipes, too!


For the Muffins

  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature


  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse of sea salt
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 1/3 cup of whole buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups of pure pumpkin puree  (you’ll have a little left over or not if your husband kindly cleans the kitchen before you get home from volunteering and tosses the extra pumpkin – luckily you’ll have 27 other cans of pumpkin in the pantry
  • 1 cup of packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • For the Glaze
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of half & half
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons of pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 12 standard muffin cups with cupcake papers (I found the cute Chevron ones at Publix!)
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla and the pumpkin.
  5. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With the mixer on low, add the pumpkin mixture, then the flour mixture.  Beat on medium speed to combine
  6. Pour 1/3 of a cup of the batter into the muffin liners.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let the muffins cool for about ten minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.  Put the powdered sugar in a bowl, and slowly whisk in milk and vanilla until there are no lumps. Continue to whisk while adding the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and melted butter until smooth.
  8. Place a layer of wax or parchment paper under the cooling rack. Dip the muffin crowns into the glaze, place the muffins back onto the cooling rack and allow the glaze to harden.  You can dip them again if you’d like to get a little extra glaze on the muffins, but I found that one dip was plenty!


In the dark, Steve reaches across our bed for my hand and says softly, “I don’t want to scare you but there is a bat on the other side of the dresser.”  Because my mind can’t quite process the events of the last few days, I think he is talking about a live bat.  My first thought is, “Why the heck are you telling me this?  Why aren’t you already out of the bed and getting it out of our house?”  Then I remember.  He’s talking about the aluminum baseball bat, not a live one.  The one he wants me to use to protect myself and the girls.  I tend to be the over-reactor in our family; few things ruffle Steve.  In our fifteen years together, not once has he ever coached me on protecting myself or suggested that I have a weapon of any kind.  The comment about the bat tells me that my fear is not my imagination; it is real and I have to face it.

The back story on this is somewhat long and torrid.  I have made some huge mistakes and I fear that my hubris has brought this fear into my house, into our lives, into my children’s lives.  About eighteen months ago, my mother hired a handyman.  I have had some misgivings about this from the beginning.  She found the handy man, not by calling a reputable company or even through a friend of a friend, but by hiring the man who came to change her flat tire.  Since then, he has followed her from Louisiana to Florida and has gone from being her handyman to her full-time caregiver.  From the start, it was been a volatile relationship with repeated fights, multiple “I quits!  You’re fired!” with periods of relative calm in between.  The caregiver has issues with alcohol and would show up drunk at mom’s house, one time even taking her car without permission in the middle of the night (I would call this stealing but my mother doesn’t agree with me on that point).  I would occasionally think that I should say something but honestly, I was busy and my mother is an adult; I should have listened to that little nagging voice in my head.

This year, my mother has been in the hospital four times.  After the third time, our family moved mom to a rehabilitation facility to help her get some therapy to get some strength back.  It was a categorical disaster.  Mom didn’t want to be there and the caregiver enabled all of her concerns.  The whole thing ended with him checking her out of the facility after five days instead of the minimum of three weeks that she needed to be there.  I was furious and I let the caregiver know.   We were communicating by texts which proceeded to get increasingly ugly.  So, I did what any over-the-age-of-twelve person would do in a no-win situation.  I blocked his number on my phone and told my mom that he behaved inappropriately and that while she was welcome to visit me any time I wasn’t going to have any interaction with the caregiver.  I didn’t give her the specifics of what had happened.  I know what you’re thinking and trust me, I’m thinking it too.  I am an idiot.  But, truthfully, there wasn’t much that I could do – my mother is an adult and who she chooses to have in her life is exactly that – her choice.

On September 13th, Mom fell outside her house and was gravely injured.  She has spent the last six weeks in the hospital and in a rehabilitation facility while she tries to heal.  I have had to see the caregiver on several occasions.  I have not spoken to him.  I have chosen instead to completely ignore him.  I have also done as much research as possible and learned some disturbing things about this man that is my mother’s caregiver.  My mother has reprimanded me for being rude; I have stood my ground.  He has continued to make veiled threats about me and my family on Facebook (“don’t you hate when you have to be nice to people when you really want to throw a brick at them?”  “some people’s children are b**ches”)  ***Note:  If you want to make veiled threats about someone, please have the sense to learn how to manage your Facebook privacy settings.  Also, writing them down in texts probably isn’t a good idea either****

Tuesday morning was horrible.  I went to visit my mom and the caregiver was there and I continued my ignoring act and he finally walked out of the room and my mom again reprimanded me for my behavior.   Later, as the caregiver was leaving the facility, he just glared at me – gone was the sad, injured persona that he puts on for my mother.

Tuesday night was the pivotal plot point in this story.  The caregiver posted another derogatory note on Facebook, again veiled so that unless you knew what happened earlier in the day, you couldn’t be certain who it was about.  I am tired, my friends.  Six weeks of worry about my mother and dealing with this man have worn on me.  I read the post and the tears just started and I couldn’t stop them.  Steve, from across the room, asked what was wrong.  And for the first time, I realized what it was.  I am scared – what can the caregiver do to me?  To my family?  To my babies?  The veiled threat on Tuesday night implied violence if you read it one way.  What have I done?  Pretending to be tough by simply ignoring him and making my feelings know to anyone who will listen.  Have I antagonized a monster?  At this point, if this were a play, the notes would say “Our hero enters stage right”.

Because that is what exactly happened.  Steve took my fear and my worry and he took action.  One look at my face and he immediately called my mother and told her what was happening.  Then, he called the caregiver and told him in no uncertain terms that if he continued to harass me in any way, he would be calling the police.  The caregiver hung up on him, removed the offending post, changed his cell phone number, closed his Facebook account, and called my mother and told her that he quit. Steve held my hand, whispered calming words, and told me about the bat.

On Wednesday, I was home alone with Gracie and the caregiver drove by our house (a place he has absolutely no need to be near) , stopped in the road, and turned and stared in my living room window.  He did this not once, but twice.  Anger and fear immediately began a vicious war in my chest.  I’m sad to say that fear won.  After I dropped the girls at choir, I went immediately to our sheriff’s sub-station and explained everything.  The deputy said what I already knew – the caregiver hasn’t broken any laws – he’s skirting them and trying to intimidate me.  But, the deputy said they will make extra patrols around our street and if at any time I feel scared, he told me to immediately call 911.

An hour later, I drove past my mom’s house and the caregiver’s truck was parked there.  Again, some place that he had no reason to be.  My mom is still in the rehab facility and he has supposedly quit working for her.  Steve and I each drove by a few more times over the next few hours and the truck was still there.  We called my mom and she asked us to call the sheriff.  So, after living here for twenty years and never having to call the police, I called them twice within four hours.  About the same person.  A deputy met Steve at my mom’s house and the went inside and there was no sign of the caregiver.  Apparently, parking the truck there is just another intimidation factor.

I have thought seriously about posting this story.  Obviously, since you’re reading it, I decided to brave it.  The truth is that there are times when the story behind your fear must remain hidden from the world – times when your very safety depends on that.  This is not one of those times. I do not have the weapons of intimidation in my arsenal; and making veiled threats on Facebook isn’t my style; neither is using language that I find offensive.  I do have a weapon though – my weapon is my story, my words, and what I know to be true.   I will not cower in silence; I will not hide my fear inside my house, afraid to live my life.  I am aware that what happens after I post this may cost me my relationship with both my mother and my grandfather, since they still refuse to fully believe my fears.  But, I will not hide.  I am surrounded by love that gives me strength.  That, and I have my bat for protection!