How the artistic director of the Moth spends her Sundays


“We invite people from all walks of life to come and tell a 10-minute story,” said Catherine Burns, artistic and executive director of the Moth, renowned for its storytelling series. After debuting in a New York living room 25 years ago, the Moth has expanded into live and touring shows, television, educational programs, radio and podcasts. A typical storytelling event, Ms. Burns said, may feature an astronaut, a former KGB prisoner and a dental hygienist. “I meet the craziest and most wonderful variety of people in this job.”

In April, the Moth, a non-profit organization, released its fourth book, “How to Tell a Story.” Although Ms. Burns enjoys spending her time with books, she often has to adjust to reading stories in between listening to them. “People are eager to share their lives,” she said. “We have a hotline where people can call and talk for three minutes to tell their story. In a normal month, 500 people can call.

Ms Burns, 53, lives with her husband, Joshua Polenberg, 50, a senior executive at Pfizer, their son, Harold, 12, and a parrot, Hamilton, in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

INTROVERTED CUPBOARD I recently moved – we were those people who bought a house during the pandemic – so I reestablished my routine or reset it. I wake up on my own between 5:30 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. My husband and my son will sleep until 9 a.m. My job is very social, but I’m actually an introvert. I need my solitude.

CHIEF I’m going downstairs for my first cup of coffee. My husband has some kind of fancy made in the jar the night before. I pour what’s left of the ice into a glass and the dark wood. I’m not particular about my coffee; I’m about my tea. I make a combination of two tea bags, Earl Gray and green tea with a cinnamon stick, which I drink from a nice green mug with the word Chief on it. It’s a club for women executives in the city. Then I sit down and meditate for 15 minutes.

DIFFERENT WORLDS I go downstairs to get the New York Times, then I go up to my office/guest room, sit on my couch and read. I love reading. It plunges me into different worlds, ones I could never inhabit in real life. I am a naturally curious person. I read a poem every morning, which centers me. I am currently reading “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities”, by Chen Chen, and “Shine Bright”, a memoir by Danyel Smith, who has already told us about it, and I hope to be able to find something something that will work in his new book.

RUN AND REMEMBER I started running in 2019. I lost 85 lbs. Since moving, I discovered Highland Park, which is about two miles from my home. I will run between five and eight miles. I walked through the Evergreens, a beautiful old cemetery. You’re not allowed to run in the cemetery, so I’m brisk walking from one entrance to the other. I am someone who is obsessed with city stories. The women who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire are buried there. I put flowers on their graves to let them know someone remembers their story.

FAMILY BRUNCH I’m back at 9am. If my boys aren’t up on their own, Hamilton starts chirping and will be their weekend wake-up call. I usually cook, but on Sundays my husband makes these delicious pumpkin pancakes. I’ll make bacon and we’ll all have brunch. There’s also a place in our neighborhood called Love, Nelly that makes homemade empanadas, which we go to sometimes.

GAMES We play games to limit Harold’s phone and computer time. He is very fond of chess or board games Splendor and Azul. We also do puzzles, which can be soothing. We recently went from 500 pieces to 1000. I don’t like ones that only have one color, like blue. This is my idea of ​​hell. We just bought one that has images of 1980s music; it’s nostalgic and entertains me and my husband. And another which is old books. It’s fun to explain what these things are to our son.

MULTIPURPOSE ROOM If I’m hungry, I’ll make myself a mushroom and spinach omelet and maybe some pre-cooked shrimp. It’s one of my little indulgences. Since the pandemic, I’ve been recording our show, The Moth Radio Hour, from home. One of my Sunday projects is to turn my laundry room into a recording studio because it has no windows.

TEMPORARY EXCAVATIONS I really like gardening because we now have a yard and a roof terrace, which was a lifelong dream. So far I have tomatoes, kale and strawberries. I’m still experimenting to see what will grow. One day I may pass this on to the next owner. It’s part of the beauty of New York. We are only in these places temporarily.

NEWSCAST I’ll try to catch up on some emails so I can start the week with a clean slate. I receive over 70 email newsletters per month. I constantly try to get rid of it because it’s too much. Then I subscribe to more. I can not help myself. It’s curiosity. Three stars are The Marginalian by Maria Popova, The Pause by On Being Studios and the hilarious Here for It by R. Eric Thomas.

SUNDAY BURGER During the pandemic, we created Burger Sunday Nights. Josh and Harold have them on a bun; I put mine in a salad. Then we all go to the family TV room. We’ve watched all of “Star Wars” and just started the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. And we love “American Ninja Warrior,” which isn’t branded to me, but it’s such an inspiration, especially for women. By losing weight, I really got in touch with my inner athlete.

MOTHER SON Josh usually leaves us at 7:30 am to play video games online with his friends, so Harold and I will watch some Japanese anime, including YouTube videos, especially Lily Hevesh, who goes through Hevesh5 – she makes these creations breathtaking dominoes – and Mark Rober, an engineer. We love the videos where he catches package thieves or scammers. It’s nice that Harold still wants to share them with me because I know it’s going to end at some point.

BATH, DROP THE BOOK Around 8:30 Harold goes up to his room to read, I take a bath. This house had a big tub, and I got into the delicious habit of taking a 20-minute bath at night. It relaxes me. I’m going to listen to some meditation and light some candles. Like everyone else, I drank too much during the pandemic. A bath helps me not want that glass of wine. Then I put on my pajamas and go to bed with a novel. I am currently reading “Sea of ​​Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel. Josh will play for hours and go to bed after me. I read until I dropped the book; it’s usually around 9:30.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Catherine Burns on Instagram @thecatherineburns or on Twitter @burnzieny.

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