Polly Mae Tolonen


This is written by Expressing Motherhood Co-Creator/Director Lindsay Kavet.

Living in Los Angeles I am surrounded by people pursuing their creative passions. In my 20’s I was a starving actress. Great diet BTW. At 25 I stopped going on auditions and began returning to behind the camera where I was most comfortable.

I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful friend when I was 22 doing extra work for a show called Opposite Sex.

Polly Mae Tolonen a beautiful young woman pursuing acting. Polly had the longest legs ever and an incredible gift for listening and making everyone feel special. She was also a gifted actrress.



Polly and I came from similar backgrounds and unknowingly I made her my chosen family. She was my soul sister. I would show up to watch her perform and people would run backstage and tell Polly, “your sister is here.” We looked alike.


Ironically we had a little tiff over the peach dress since we both had this dress in different colors and both wanted to wear it to our friends wedding. We should have just both worn it and danced and drank the night away, well we did that part 🙂

Polly continued acting when most women have given up, packed their bags and moved back to where they came from. She continued doing live theatre around LA. She is the one who recommended the first theatre we ever debuted “Expressing Motherhood” at.

Polly over at my house when I was pregnant with my first.



She died one month before our first show on May 1st, 2008. She died in a car accident on the 101 North going to a catering gig. She stopped traffic that night. Literally. No one else was hurt.


Polly, Producing partner Jessica, me and some other friends having brunch and talking about books.


Ironically, in January 2008, 4 months before her death, I began emailing news heads and producers saying that we need to do more to lower the amount of lives lost in car accidents. I would end everyone email with the sentence fortunately I do not know anyone who has died in a car accident yet.

I started a blog about car accidents but due to my other time commitments I have yet to devote my time to it, but it lies very close to my heart as I’m frightened by the amount of people who die in car and find it ridiculous we accept it as OK.

Anyways, Polly was a true friend and a fun creative companion. I was always doing photo shoots with her. A few months before she died we walked from my neighborhood and went to Hollywood Blvd. with my boy in the stroller and she let me snap pictures of her I thought I could use for Expressing Motherhood.


When she died I thought a lot of things obviously and ridiculously or not I thought, who will play dress up with me now? She was true to her craft. A real artist.

We begin every show with the song “Sara” by Fleetwood Mac in memory of Polly. Our muse and my big city soul sister.

When that song plays I’m always backstage in the blue lighting dancing thinking of her and putting things in perspective.

Polly walking back to her studio after a wonderful afternoon of walking Hollywood Blvd. and taking pictures.

Sara Lind

Sara Lind is a mom raising her daughter, along with her husband, in Chicago. She’s a former lawyer turned stay-at-home mom turned writer turned….she’s not sure what next!

After twenty minutes of stories, songs and cuddling, Adeline, my 20-month-old daughter, is almost ready to take a nap. I’ve already tried to leave twice but her cries of “Mommy! Mommy!” lured me back. This time I think I can make it out the door. I give her one more kiss on the nose and tell her, “Time to take a nap now. Bye bye!”



“Bye bye, mama!”


I slip out the door and close it behind me. Miraculously, she doesn’t cry. I tiptoe out to the living room, sink into the couch and listen on the monitor as she talks to herself. After a few minutes, she starts to quiet down and I feel the tension release. I open my computer. I have two hours, if I’m lucky. It’s time to get to work.



I don’t know what other stay-at-home moms do during naptime. They probably clean the house and do the dishes and prepare awesome crafts to do with their perfect children. Maybe they nap or read a book or watch a TV show. Hell, they probably put green masks on their face and cucumbers on their eyes and give themselves pedicures. (With the cucumbers on their eyes? I don’t know. It’s all so confusing.) That’s not me, though. Since I started blogging and writing seriously over a year ago, I’ve spent almost every naptime (and a few hours each night) working.


I’m writing new posts, catching up on responding to comments, updating Facebook and Twitter, and keeping the blog as a whole running smoothly. I’m also working on my photography and trying to write a novel. I have a lot on my plate. I’m overtired because I never go to bed early enough. And yet, with all that, it’s not enough time. That’s the technical stuff, the writing it down and getting it out. The creative stuff is more pervasive than that.



When Adeline and I go to the park, I push her on the swings and watch her go down the slide. I try to be present with her as much as possible. But I’m often not. I’m thinking about the next post I want to write. Or I’m working through a scene in my novel. Or I’m wondering why my story wasn’t accepted or I didn’t get very many comments. Sometimes, to be honest, I’m just beating myself up. Creativity be damned.


This life I’ve chosen is a constant struggle for me. I struggle to find the time to be creative while still being present with my daughter. I struggle against societal pressure telling me to get a productive/high-paying job. I struggle against my inner demons telling me that I’m not good enough and I should just give up. I struggle against my feelings that the time I spend writing makes me less of a mother.


I struggle because I’m not getting enough sleep and yet I never feel like I’m doing enough. A thousand words are jumbled in my brain, begging to be let out. I know, in the most visceral way it’s possible to know something, that I’ll never get to my beautiful and life-altering work until I get through all this other stuff that’s in there. I just need to write it all down. And that takes time. Time that I simply do not have.



How do I find time for creativity? I fit it in during naps and I sneak moments while she’s playing when I can let my mind wander. It sounds simple, but that’s far from the truth. I don’t have an easy answer for other moms — or anyone else for that matter — trying to fit it in. It will probably be a struggle. I can only say that, for me at least, the struggle has been worth it. Keep fighting.


Creativity…on hold….on purpose?

I have talked to  many moms over the years as I’ve been putting on Expressing Motherhood who tell me they just can only give so much time right now to their creative endeavors. They are currently finding that they want to give more time to their kids. A lot of these moms are smart and have promising projects they are working on but find the call of motherhood  beckons them.

I find that I vacillate like that as well.

A lot of time I fill my well with creativity and then I need to step back and focus on my family. It’s such a fine balance. This show brings me immense joy because it allows me that. But once again I feel like I need to focus on mis ninos.

How about you?

Hey at least I feel like a tortured artist, right? 😉

I love this song “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae and have played it at our show before. Because mamas, we are really walking on that aren’t we?  What a cool video to boot, I hadn’t watched it until now. Listening to music after the kids have gone to sleep always re-connects me to my creative  self.



Krista Knott

Krista Knott lives in Los Angeles with her better half, their two small children, and one orange cat. Currently, she works as the Managing Editor ofThe Bright Side Project and she keeps a personal blog called my life as i see it where she blatantly ignores capital letters, grammar, and proper punctuation. (Yes, she is a mom who blogs. I know.) She realizes as she gets older that she is becoming her mother and it makes her happy. Krista will be performing in our upcoming Expressing Motherhood show here in LA next month.
since i was a small child, i have had a recurring dream. i am underwater in the ocean, in about three to four feet of water. i sense the waves coming and i lay my stomach against the sand with my arms and legs stretched out. as the currents come in, i dig my hands into the sand and hold on as the water moves across my back and massages my hair. sometimes, if i concentrate hard enough, i can breathe underwater by carefully inhaling only the oxygen molecules through my pursed lips. (do not attempt this in real life. i’m no scientist, but i’m pretty sure you’ll choke.) as i got older, i came to the understanding that this dream is a metaphor for my connection with my creative subconscious. (thank you, tattered copy of dream analysis from 1975!) and that my ability to stay underwater, breathing, exists in direct correlation to how much i nurtur her, my creativity.

i have always been a writer. my first journal, at age six, was filled with some amazing creative spelling and the beginnings of numerous short stories that always had something to do with a dog saving a baby. curious, considering i never owned a dog, but there it is. at one time, i also used to fancy myself an actress. sort of took it for granted that it would happen at some point, that i would “make it.” even redefined my definition of “make it” to mean “get paid to work. even if no one knows my name.” i spent two nights a week at acting class because that was where i felt the most free. because it was where i actually did the work of acting. it was my gym. and i loved working out.

my first feature audition landed me one small role in an independent film (pre-babies) and i was Taft-Hartley’d and became SAG-eligible. i tasted success in the back of my throat and my feet felt like down pillows. i hated myself in the film and think it is some of my weakest work but i’m sure that’s somehow related to the self-deprecating narcissism of every artist and is quite annoying to hear. ironically, what i feel was my worst work was also the peak of my career.
when my daughter was six months old, i brought her with me to an audition. sat in a room full of other people looking at me with disdain and feigned optimism that perhaps they were inspired by my refusal to lay down my dream just because i had a child. i felt buoyed with hope and fierce with maternal pride and ambition. it didn’t last long. truth was, i was sweating in the summer heat with my extra 40 lbs of baby weight and clothes that didn’t quite fit and the audition was a non-speaking role in a pizza commercial. living the dream!
once home, i emailed my manager and agent and let them go.
i still write. i will always write. i look at my children and i feel like slaying dragons and curling up into a fetal position. i want to write letters to strangers and cut my arms open and let the letters bleed themselves all over blank pages and i think that maybe painters have a better understanding of love, all that blending and mixing of colors and textures. i have come to the conclusion that the only way i can be a good mother and partner is to allow myself the freedom to be creative, to actually pursure creativity. that i am a writer and that i am less of a person if my only creative outlet is cutting food into shapes for lunch. that i owe it to my family to be the fullest version of myself. that it is my duty to grab handfuls of sand, lay my body out flat, and breathe.

Juliet Johnson

Juliet Johnson is a writer, blogger and a farmer, she lives near Burbank, CA and has chickens and a horse. Her kids are; Nathan 12, Emma 10, and Lilly 5 and Bruce, her 27 yearold step-son. She describes herself as, “Mom and Amish – Momish. In this big city.” How was I creative pre-kids: Very hard to remember pre-kids, by the way. I’m 46, been a mom for 12 years now. I was always a writer. I’ve written since I was 13. I wrote short stories, ran a small theater company back in Maryland, where we performed my short plays every Sunday; in LA worked as an assistant to director and two producers after college, and spent most of that time watching people and writing about them, got burned out of LA and went back to MD and took a nanny job and job at a horse farm, and the space and green empty land gave me room to write screenplays, more short stories, and essays, and begin publishing them in lit mags. Then took job in LA as a writer’s assistant, finally figuring out I should be in the writer’s offices, not on set. And then got pregnant, and that was my last job. (except for freelance writing gigs of course.) My dad was a big influence on me – he’s a director and created a bunch of 70’s and 80’s sci fi shows (like Bionic Woman), and growing up around the fertile fun atmosphere of the movie set definitely colored my world, my humor and my writing.
ImageHow am I creative post-kids: After kids, my life just exploded. I thought I felt stuff, but after kids, you just leak out love (and yelling). It’s just like being blown over by a steamroller. I started writing essays about the kids, because I was with them all the time, and they were my closest available subjects. And they were so intricate, and hilarious, and I felt like all other moms were just faking it, being organized and professional about mothering, while I felt all destroyed and vulnerable and amazing and in exactly the right place. No one talked in any raw way about mothering, so I wrote my essays and found only a few quirky sites I liked, like Imperfect Parent, to publish on. Eventually I had enough essays for a whole book, and in 2008 I published “Somebody’s Always Hungry,” a book of essays on motherhood.http://www.somebodysalwayshungry.com  I’ve done readings of my book at mommy groups. I also have a mom blog for the last few years – I post about once a week http://www.somebodysalwayshungry.blogspot.com – I also blogged professionally for a few sites – I was Safari Mom for Haydenburri Lane, and I was the Mom About the House for Hometips.com. I also wrote about 500 articles for Ehow.com, while one of my babies napped in a basket by my desk. I also get occasional jobs developing with a producer – I developed a teen show called “Brandi’s World” with a SF producer, I developed a show called “Dream Machine” with a guy out of Chicago (never got produced), I met a producer at a gymnastics class in Montrose and we’ve worked at developing some motherhood shows with nothing produced yet (on my website, there is a short video about “Earth Mother,” one of the shows.)
ImageWhen/how do I find the time:I steal my time. I write, like right now, at midnight. I write when the kids are watching a movie. I write when there’s a pizza in the oven and kids are playing happily. I steal it. My 5 year old (the caboose) is about to start kindergarten, so now I will have mornings to write or avoid writing while crying. It’s the saddest thing, the growing up.
ImageHow has my creativity changed: I have had many years to develop my strong voice. I’m not saying it’s a great voice, but it’s definitely me and beyond me, how it comes through. So I am a solid-ish me that I like, it’s entertaining, most of the time. I like myself so much better since having kids – I think that’s the biggest change creatively. Once your body has been completely distorted by pregnancy, and then rearranged afterwards, and then your soul is expanded into three other people AND yourself – you kind of have a sense of whimsy. At least, that’s how I feel. Relaxed (occasionally), and definitly funny. Life is funny. Ridiculous. And so so important, and warm. Because these kids just explode you, and take no prisoners. It’s all or nothing.

JJ Keith

JJ Keith is a Los Angeles based mom of two who will be performing in our upcoming show next month here in LA. She originally posted this on her own blog, it’s about the frustration of trying to write with two young kids.

Death Knells of Double Tall Caramel Macchiato.

Doing anything with two toddlers is like walking in ten feet of snow, barefoot, underwater, in 125 degree heat while it’s hailing. Did I mention uphill? And it’s a really steep hill. So running errands with my three-year-old daughter and my one-and-a-half-year-old son is not my favorite thing to do. Every bump in the sidewalk is a potential calamity and every shop door a terrifying barrier. While out and about I struggle to not accost passers by and demand, “DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THIS IS? STOP LOOKING SO CAREFREE AND RUBBING IT IN MY FACE!”

But because I had no choice I took my kids with me to do a string of errands, all of which were on one street so at least we were able to walk from store to store. After navigating four shops with two kids and one false-alarm-potty-emergency, we schlepped to Starbucks to pick up a double tall caramel macchiato, a treat for me to sip when I put the kids down for their naps and could finally get to my writing. As we entered Starbucks my daughter cut in front of my son’s stroller, blocking me from entering the store. “No coffee. I don’t like coffee,” she asserted. Not content to let the point rest there, she continued in her meandering but utterly charming three-year-old style: “You’re not being nice. It isn’t fair. Swiper no swiping. No coffee. I like coffee cake. We have a coffee table. I hit my head and they you say, ‘oh no’ to me and I say, ‘watch out, there’s a bear!’ I’m a princess and you’re a kingdom and he’s a jaguar. Rwar rwar!”

But I wanted that double tall caramel macchiato so I picked my kid up with one arm and pushed the stroller through the doorway with the other. Once my daughter was placated with promises of chocolate milk and coffee cake, I had a moment in line to scope out the store for writers, a dangerous thing to do if you’re a stay-at-home mother hustling to write every moment her children are sleeping. The problem is that I don’t make enough money writing to pay for childcare and thus don’t have the time to write enough to make the money to pay for childcare. I hate that this is how the world works, but despite the inherent frustrations, I love being a stay-at-home mother, or at least I do when I’m not running errands.

As I waited to order, I set my eyes on a man by the condiment bar working in MS Word. I pinned him as a creative type who had time to waste before getting down to working on his assignments, all of which were surely well-renumerated. I glared at him as my children squirmed and whined, and felt such a flood of envy that if I had been pricked with a pin at that moment I would not have bled, but oozed vitriol. As the man gazed out the window and let his document evaporate into a screensaver, I fantasized about grabbing him by the lapels of his finely hewn natural fiber jacket and demanding the business card of his agent. Or better, just pushing him out of the way and filling his screen with words, good ones, probably better than his. I wanted that man to offer to watch my kids while I wrote something huge and spiraling, something that would hurt to read. Then I wanted him to apologize for taking my job, as if there’s some finite amount of work for writers and everyone who has an assignment screwed me over to get it.

But instead I ordered my double tall caramel macchiato, picked it up from the bar, then set out for my car with the kids in tow. The whole way home I thought about the coffee I would drink, the words I would write and the way I would feel completely like myself as I did so. I convinced myself that an hour and a half is enough time to write. Since becoming a mother, I have tended to my writing like a daytime campfire — something I don’t need just yet, but when the night falls I’ll throw everything I’ve got on it until flames lick the sky. As much as I savor the buttery rolls and slippery hair of my babies, I am looking forward to the time when I can be a mother, but also something else.

When we finally got home, I parked my double tall caramel macchiato on the dining room table while I got my kids situated. As I tended to my son, my daughter peed in the bushes and — consequently — her shoes. While I was washing the pee off her feet, my son climbed on the table and sent my coffee tumbling to its death. It’s almost as if he didn’t realize that I’d conflated that cup of coffee with the writing career that I can’t seem to grasp when I already have a kid in each hand.

As my coffee bled out on the floor, I dropped to my knees and cried, at first because I wanted that coffee so badly, but then because I was crying over coffee. After a moment of hideous self-pity, I got myself together, and mopped the coffee up so I could get to work.

Anna Bocci West

Anna Bocci West is a Los Angeles mom to two children. She will be performing in our upcoming LA show next month.

It hasn’t been easy to stay creative since becoming a mom.  So much of my life is dominated by my kids’ lives and schedules that when I do have free time, I rarely feel very creative.  But I’ve learned that I can’t ignore that part of myself.  As much as I adore my kids, they don’t fulfill that part of me. And without it, I’m not my best self.

I am an actress, which you would think is a very creatively fulfilling line of work.  But the truth is, since having kids, most of my work has been in television commercials. It’s a great job with good pay and a lot of free time.  So perfect “mom job”, right?  But creatively fulfilling? Not exactly.  It’s usually a one or two-day shoot where we stick to the copy and do our best to sell someone’s product.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I wrote, produced and starred in a short film which we took on the film festival circuit, receiving various awards for our work. I was so happy to be creating my own story and to be in charge of the outcome for once.

It really stuck with me that I need to take more control of the free time that I do have, and to create opportunities for myself that satisfy me creatively.  So I’m trying to do more of that.

About a year ago, I decided to begin exploring my passion for Interior Design.  I’ve done some residential jobs and some “television designing”, which has been really fun.

In order to figure out how seriously I want to take it, I’ve started taking classes at Otis School of Design. I don’t know if I can juggle both careers, and I’m not willing to give up acting just yet. But regardless, I’m focusing on a different part of my creative self six hours a week (usually at night or on Sunday afternoons), and that feels good. I’m even learning to draw!  No more stick figures when I’m drawing with my kids. 🙂

So that’s me.

80% Anna West, mother of Owen and Winslow.

20% Anna Bocci, creative chick who’s just looking for an outlet.

I feel very lucky.  🙂

Susan Sheu

Below is our first creative mom that we will be featuring, the first of many we hope! Susan Sheu has performed in our show here in LA before and will be again this Fall. She’s a mother to two children.  

When my first child was two years old, I took a weekend writing workshop with a Famous Writer.  My father had died several years earlier, and trying to process the grief gave rise to the germ of a family memoir.  I’d been writing on and off since before my daughter was born, although not in a systematic way, just bursts of memories I recorded while stealing time away from my real job (as a graduate student in public health).

But ever since my daughter was born, the desire to write a book burned brighter than ever.  Having given birth to a new generation, I discovered that being a parent gave me new insight into the story I had been trying to write about my parents.  When I wasn’t too tired, I’d write in short, intense bursts in the middle of the night, inspired by something that had occurred to me during the day while schlepping my daughter around to the park and Mommy and Me classes.  It was the best I could do at the time, and what flowed from my brain through my fingertips into the computer felt true and raw and necessary.

In the writers workshop the Famous Writer held up my densely packed personal essay after my fellow writers had read it and said,

“This is what happens when you don’t allow yourself to write very often.”

I was caught off-guard, but I didn’t take offense.  I could tell by her substantive critiques that she viewed what I’d written as decent material.  She meant not only that I would need to carve out more time to write but also that there is no shortcut to a fully formed piece of writing or any piece of art.

My daughter is almost ten years old now, and I wish I could say that I’ve completed my book; it sold well; I have a killer literary agent and a contract for my next book.  That is not the case.  Nearly seven years ago, I gave birth to a baby boy, and he has proven as great a source of inspiration to write and distraction from writing as his older sister is.  As John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

But I have been working as much as I can, reading, taking part in writers groups, classes, and workshops when time permits, and I have written and performed pieces in writers’ shows in Los Angeles (including Expressing Motherhood).  Some of the best classes I’ve taken have been with the writers Samantha Dunn, Amy Friedman, and Hope Edelman at the UCLA Writers Program.  When I am a quivering shell of an LA person who’s been driving too much to write, I drive to LACMA or the Getty or go see performances by the friends I’ve made who are actors and writers.



I’m happy to report that I am writing this from my first writers’ residency (some people call it a writers colony, but that sounds too much like nudist colony for me).  I’m at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts along with a group of other writers, visual artists, and composers who are in residence for anywhere from one week to one month.  It’s beautiful, quiet, and inspiring, and someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning. My kids are with my husband and my mom back in LA, and we FaceTime once a day.  I wouldn’t have been ready for a residency a few years ago, but I am now.  And I believe that the book that’s nearing completion now is better than the one I would have written several years ago, when I was a younger mother full of piss and vinegar.