Category Archives: 99 Days of Summer Blogging

listen to your mother, the grand finale season


LTYM - Pre-Show Toast 2

Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh cast, pre-show toast. May 6, 2016. Photo credit: Ashley Mikula Photography.

If you followed any aspect of my experience with Listen to Your Mother this year, you know how much being in this show meant to me. I know that’s true for all my other castmates and I’m sure its the same for those who were in Pittsburgh’s inaugural show in 2015, and everyone who has been in a LTYM production throughout the country (and Canada, this year!) since the show’s inception.

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Today the announcement was made: this upcoming 2017 season of Listen to Your Mother will be the show’s last. In all cities.

As disappointing as it is to hear that the show is ending, it’s good to go out on a celebratory note. And Listen to Your Mother has so much to celebrate. More than 150 shows in 54 cities. Over $100,000 raised for nonprofits supporting women and families, in local communities across the country.  Two thousand (yes, 2,000) stories shared via video on YouTube, including mine as part of Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh 2016.

I know there are probably some of you who attended a LTYM show or watched a video or read a post and thought, “Hmm … maybe I could do that someday. Maybe next year. Maybe I have something to share.”

Or maybe you thought the opposite: that you could never do that, but you secretly wish you could.

Here’s the thing.  Sometimes this life presents us with opportunities that we think we’re incapable of doing.  Or, maybe we think we’re not ready right now.  I admit, I had some of those doubts as I wrote my story and even after I was selected for the show.  I questioned whether I was in a strong enough place to talk about this (the answer: yes).

Opportunities are ours for the taking. Sometimes they disappear.

There’s no room for maybes in this too short life.

You never know who needs to hear your story. If you feel you have a something to share, don’t wait. Auditions are usually held in late-winter/early spring. All you have to do is put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write what’s in your heart.  And if you don’t have a story to share, the same goes for attending a show, which can be just as life-changing. I guarantee you, something will resonate with you in each story you hear.

So, yes, while I’m sad that Listen to Your Mother is ending, I’m so very, very grateful to have been part of this extraordinary experience, for this opportunity that has inspired others in my life.  I’m so appreciative to our Pittsburgh producers, Jennifer, Stephanie, and Amanda for all their hard work in creating a wonderful show, one that has been recognized with a Best of the Burgh award (seriously, around here that is a BIG DEAL). I’m so glad this show has connected me with some of the bravest, most courageous and strongest women — strangers once, now treasured friends.

And especially, I’m thankful to Ann Imig, founder of Listen to Your Mother, for her vision and belief that motherhood deserved a microphone and in so doing, provided so many of us with the chance to share our stories with countless people throughout the world, knowing our experiences — and our lives — matter.

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Book Review: Like Family by Paolo Giordano (92/99)

Like Family

Like Family
by Paolo Giordano
translated by Anne Milano Appel, 2015
Viking / Pamela Dorman Books
146 pages

Like Family is one of those quiet novels, its lens focused on the nuances of married life and the erosion that can happen within a relationship. And it captures this dynamic brilliantly and succinctly in this 146-page novel, translated from Italian by Anne Milano Appel.

This is the story of a couple who hire a housekeeper during the wife’s difficult pregnancy; Mrs. A. (referred to affectionately as Babette) remains with the family as a nanny to their son until he is six.  During that time, she becomes their rock and (according to the publisher’s description), “the glue in their small household. She is the steady, maternal influence for both husband and wife, and their son, Emanuele, whom she protects from his parents’ expectations and disappointments.” When she is diagnosed with cancer, the couple is devastated.

Much of the story is told from some point in the future, a device that works well. The writing in this simple book is gorgeous.

“Mrs. A. was the only real witness of the enterprise we embarked on day after day, the sole observer of the bond that held us together, and when she talked about Renato, it was as if she wanted to suggest something that has to do with us, to pass along the instructions for a relationship that had been perfect and pure, albeit doomed and brief. In the long run, every love needs someone to witness and acknowledge it, to validate it, or it may turn out to be just a mirage. Without her gaze we felt at risk.” (pg. 17)

“But there are some conversations between people in love that, once you cross a certain threshold, inevitably draw you into their dark center.” (pg. 87)

“We live in anticipation, constantly waiting for something that will free us from the burden of the present, without taking into account new ones that will arise. If these really are our best years, I’m not satisfied with how we’re using them.” (pg. 87-88)

I loved Paolo Giordano’s previous book, The Solitude of Prime Numbers. As with that one, Like Family is one that will stay with me for some time.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #92 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

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Weekend Cooking: The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood

The Edible Woman

Margaret Atwood, one of literature’s most beloved and prolific authors, is best known for her books such as The Handmaid’s Tale (one of my all-time favorite novels) as well as her nonfiction and poetry and so many other works in various genres.

Not many people seem to know about her first novel, The Edible Woman, published in 1969 but written several years earlier. I certainly didn’t until I spotted this at the library and was immediately intrigued.

Set in the 1960s, Marian is a 20-year-old professional woman living in Toronto.  She’s gainfully employed at Seymour Surveys, a market research/advertising firm. Early in the novel, she becomes eligible for being vested with a pension. Her ruminations upon completing the paperwork gives readers who are familiar with Atwood’s work a glimpse into the themes she is brilliantly developing in The Edible Woman.

“Somewhere in front of me a self was waiting, pre-formed, a self who had worked during innumerable years for Seymour Surveys and was now receiving her reward. A pension. I foresaw a bleak room with a plug-in electric heater. Perhaps I would have a hearing aid, like one of my great-aunts who had never married. I would talk to myself; children would throw snow balls at me. I told myself not to be silly, the world would probably blow up between now and then; I reminded myself I could walk out of there the next day and get a different job if I wanted to, but that didn’t help. I thought of my signature going into a file and the file going into a cabinet and the cabinet being shut away in a vault somewhere and locked.” (pg. 15)

There’s so much in just this one paragraph:  a self was waiting, pre-formed … perhaps I would have a hearing aid, like one of my great-aunts who had never married … the world would probably blow up between now and then … being shut away in a vault somewhere and locked. 

The Edible Woman continues along this path. Atwood’s writing is sharp and purposeful –especially when she cleverly uses food metaphors.

“–my mind was at first as empty as though someone had scooped out the inside of my skull like a cantaloupe and left me only the rind to think with.” (pg. 86)

Food becomes even more dominant when Marian becomes engaged to Peter. What should be a happy time becomes worrisome when, soon after the engagement, Marian gradually begins losing the ability to eat. No one can figure out why.  (Clearly, this was in a time before everyone graduated from the Medical School of Google.)

But it doesn’t take a physician or a prescription to know that the real issue eating away at Marian is the fear of being devoured by another person and being consumed, losing her sense of self in the process.

Suffice it to say if The Handmaid’s Tale resonated with you, chances are you will appreciate The Edible Woman for its similar messages of feminism, relationship issues, women in the workforce, male hierarchy — and, yes, for its innovative and timeless way of using food to bring these issues into our consciousness.

The Edible Woman
by Margaret Atwood 
1998 (first published in 1969) 
310 pages 


Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.


99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #90 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

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the dystopian nonprofit (89/99)


I’m reading the new Jay McInerney novel in bed last night when I get to this passage.

Bright Precious Days - quote

Oh, where do I even fucking begin with this?

In Bright, Precious Days, main character Corrine Calloway is the Executive Director of a food bank.  (This would be a job she felt called to after working in a soup kitchen post-9/11 and for which she left her Wall Street stockbroker job.)

Now, then.  As someone with a 25 year career of working in nonprofit fundraising, let me assure you, dear reader, that summer sabbaticals on the beach in the Hamptons is most definitively not “one of the few perks” of the biz.  I mean, unless there’s some other bright, precious nonprofit sector out there. Maybe it exists on that newly-discovered Earth-like planet that The New York Times oddly felt compelled to deem breaking news this week, sending cell phones all over Earth abuzz.

But you’re intelligent life right here on Earth 1.0 and of course you know this is sheer ridiculousness.

I mean, what the fuck, McInerney?  In what universe does this occur?  Certainly not the one I’m working in. I can’t believe I went to work all summer. (h/t to my friend P. for that quip, via Facebook)

All the Executive Directors I know are working their asses off in the summer — in the office, not beachside, unless they happen to be WORKING while on vacation.  Not to mention the staff.

(Can you imagine the morale in that office, as their Executive Director is sunning herself on Long Island?)

I hate when authors do shit like this.  I really do.  And maybe I sound like I’m protesting too much, but I don’t care.  It perpetuates the myth that nonprofits are somehow easier environments than the corporate sector and that’s just entirely untrue.

Maybe I’m making too much of this and it’s just another example of how perfectly over the top this precious this novel is. I mean, there’s so much extravagance with this novel; a few pages earlier, there’s a bacchanalian-like restaurant scene — among many, many restaurant scenes — where the two diners order wine that costs several thousand dollars.

But I wish that McInerney had done his research or that his editor had caught this because it is inaccurate and presents a stereotypical and unfair picture of those working in the nonprofit sector.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #89 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.


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thursday randomness (88/99)

Sky - 8-25-2016

evening sky tonight, 8/25/2016

– Driving to work this morning, there were two cars ahead of me — one in the left lane and the other directly in front of me.  Left Lane Car’s license plate said INSANE2.  The other car had a Trump bumper sticker.  I found this rather amusing.

– We tend to listen to music (via The Husband’s Spotify playlist) while having breakfast, preparing last minute lunches, etc.  Yesterday was the first day of school and surprisingly, both kids didn’t give me too much of a hard time about taking their picture.  They refuse to pose together, of course, so we do individual shots.  As I’m doing this, Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” comes on, which was sort of ironic. And cool.

– I don’t want to jinx anything but so far, so good with the beginning of high school. Thank you God. I really couldn’t have handled a repeat of last year.

– I tried Iranian food today from Conflict Kitchen in Oakland and discovered that I like salad-e shirazi.

– A new school year means it’s time for me to sign up for new MOOCs that I likely won’t finish.  (I’m not alone; did you know only 9% of people who sign up for a free online course actually complete the whole thing?)  Anyway, I’ll be giving Modern and Contemporary Poetry a try again this fall along with Greek and Roman Mythology. Both offered online, free, through the University of Pennsylvania. (I certainly hope my deceased Mom-Mom has taken notice of this so she can tell all of her friends in heaven that her granddaughter is a student at Penn). I’m also doing a Latin course via a language program because The Girl is taking Latin this year and I always wanted to but probably wasn’t considered smart enough for, back in my high school.

– Out of nowhere, The Boy just initiated a discussion with me about feminism (“are you a feminist, Mom?” to which I answered with my oft-used sarcastic line that has gotten much use this week, “I’m sorry, are you new here?”). What followed was one of the longest, all-encompassing conversations we have ever had — about history, women’s rights, racism, literacy rates among men and women, how one’s feminist beliefs are formed and more. (I don’t know what the hell they’re teaching at that high school, but if this is any indication, my tax dollars are being well-spent.)

– Ten more of these 99 Days of Summer Blogging posts to go. I’m feeling like I’m just coasting at this point and it probably shows, but whatever. Just sayin’, don’t be surprised to see more of these types of posts.


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the back to school milkshake (87/99)


We’re officially back to school now, and because of such, The Girl needed some one-on-one time the other night in the form of a dinner out at Eat’n Park. A luxury splurge these days, but one made easier with a gift card on hand.

And a milkshake. *

* Rest assured, that concoction above is definitely not mine.  I’ve been given six months to try and improve my cholesterol and triglyceride levels with diet and exercise **, so milkshakes are definitively out of the question.

** More on that in another post.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #87 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project


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Come Join Us at The Book Bridge! (86/99)

2016-August-BookBridgeMy longtime book blogging friend Florinda — she of The 3R’s Blog — has launched a fun new project. It’s called The Book Bridge and it’s purpose is to connect people with the great reads that we were most excited about within the past month.

The first edition debuted last month and today, the August 2016 selections are available for your enjoyment.  I happen to have a recommended read included among this month’s picks but even if I didn’t, it’s well worth your while to check it out because there’s something for everyone — suggestions for science fiction, memoir,  recommendation, ,  You can find our latest picks here.

Happy reading!

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #86 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.


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