Tag Archives: Listen to Your Mother


LTYM - Poster

LTYM poster at the entrance, as the audience arrived. 

LTYM - Ready, Set ...

Our words, waiting to be released into the world.

LTYM - Roses and quoteTwo dozen roses from The Husband (a.k.a. as my perfect guy) along with a lovely gift from the LTYM producers  ~ a framed quote from my essay, about love and differences and acceptance.
The meaning behind this at this particular time defies words right now. 

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” 
~ Muriel Rukeyser, “Käthe Kollwitz” 

Sometimes in this life, you have the kind of experience when you can physically feel yourself being transformed.

When your heart becomes lighter while simultaneously overflowing, spilling over the brim.

When your perspective and understanding becomes a kaleidoscope, shifting your view of yourself and your world.

When you can almost see your words in the air, and you take a leap and ride.

All of that and so much more was Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh 2016.

So much more. 

On Friday night, I stood on a stage and told more than 400 people the most personal story of my life.

I told them I was born without a uterus.

I told them I didn’t get my period.

I told them this is called Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome.

Here’s where I’d expected to write “and the room got completely quiet and still.” That’s not what happened.

Some people laughed.

They laughed.

Mind you, it wasn’t in a mean way, but nervously. Like when you laugh at an inappropriate time.

Onstage, I heard those laughs and for a moment I was terrified.

I thought, holy shit, what the fuck have I done?

And then I did the only thing I could do.

I told them how it felt, back then.

I told them about being 1 in 5,000 women with MRKH.

I told them about the shock, the tears, the denial, the wishing-away, the feelings of being like a freak, the hopelessness.

I told them all of this and how I thought all the plans I had for my life were over. I told them how I thought I was given MRKH because I would be a crappy mom and that maybe I was better off.

I told them about meeting someone who saw me for who I am. I told them about acceptance and being different and being loved despite those differences and the challenges that would lie ahead.

I told them about those challenges, about chemical pregnancies and depths of sadness.

I told them about the power and mystery of the science and faith that makes it possible to turn a handful of cells into two teenagers.

I told them this and the room got very, very still and quiet.

(Except for the knocking of my knees, which started about mid-way through my talk and which I was convinced could be heard echoing off the walls.)

I told them all this because Friday will be exactly 31 years since I learned I have MRKH and that’s a really long time to stay silent.

I told them this because I want — no, because I need — women and girls like the one in India who took her life because she couldn’t see a future post-MRKH to know she is seen and respected and loved.

After the show, many people came up to me, thanking me and letting me know of their similar journeys. A few moments before the show, our producers gathered our incredible, amazing cast together in the “green room” and told us that there would be someone out there who needed our words, our story.

Who needed to feel heard and to be seen.

Nearly 48 hours later, I am still running on the electricity that surged through the Lecture Hall on Friday night, powered by the incredible women onstage with me and the generosity and compassion from everyone in the audience. I’m so grateful for those who were part of this and the support from so many people in my life, here in Pittsburgh and those far away.

You know who you are. You know what you did to give me the courage and strength to do this.

You know.

When I say that Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh was — and is — a significant life event for me, I mean it like this:

I was one person before getting on that stage and a very different person after.

This isn’t hyperbole.  This is right up there with seeing our children for the first time and marrying The Husband.

It is a defining, specific moment. A life event in every sense.

There’s so much I still need to reflect, process, and write about from this experience.

So much more.

This is just the beginning.

LTYM Cast - Final Bow (2)


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Mothers Day 2015 - Be Brave

Less than 24 hours till showtime as I write this, and I’m still trying to find my brave.

Literally, that is.  Not figuratively.

I’m missing my Bravelet bracelet, pictured above on my wrist, and have been tearing the house apart searching for it.  I wanted to wear it tomorrow — and who knows, it may still turn up. I’m hopeful.

There’s another bracelet that’s missing.  I’m picturing a sapphire bracelet that belonged to my Mom-Mom. It would be perfect with my dress.  And, I like the idea of wearing something that once was hers or that she gave me as a gift. I do that often, actually.

I thought I found that one last night, but it was different than I remembered.

And it’s broken.

All this got me thinking about the tendency we have to seek out our brave in places where we’re not likely to find it.  We look for our brave everywhere except for the only place where it lives.

Within ourselves.

We know this, yet somehow it’s still easier to depend on things — clothes, makeup, food, a glass of wine to steel one’s nerves — to give us the confidence we think we lack.  And there’s no shortage of products that promise a quick fix.  Drink this, wear this, do this, try that, take these and you’ll be fabulous.

We fall for this so often.

We know these things prevent people from seeing our true selves.

That’s because there’s a vulnerability to being real and sharing who we really are inside.

Bravery can’t be bought, like a pair of Spanx that promises the confidence provided by an instant hourglass figure. It isn’t found in a bottle.

It’s within us, waiting to be set free.


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sunday salon/currently …

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Big week ahead!  Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh is Friday night and it’s pretty much all that’s on my mind. There’s some final show prep that I need to work on  — including writing a two-sentence introduction that should be easy, but this is proving to be THE HARDEST THING.

Yesterday the Tribune Review did a nice write-up about the event, including an interview with me.  That was fun to put on my PR director hat again. On Wednesday evening a few of us are going to HOT for Your Health, an event hosted by Women’s Health Conversations, one of our show’s sponsors. And then Friday is showtime!

I’m taking Friday as a vacation day from work and getting my hair, nails, and makeup professionally done (thanks to a generous gift card from my sister-in-law).  I am very, very low maintenance when it comes to this stuff;  I have the most basic of hairstyles and can go months without a haircut, I don’t know what it means to have one’s “roots showing” (my hair is its same natural color that it has always been), I can’t remember the last time I had a manicure (pretty sure we’re talking at least a decade and quite possibly much more, maybe even two), and the only makeup I wear is lipstick. This is just not my thing. It’s expensive and time-consuming and I usually can’t be bothered except for a special occasion — you know, like telling an audience of several hundred people about part of my life that I’ve never publicly discussed.


The Price of SilenceThis week I finished The Price of Silence: A Mother’s Perspective on Mental Illness by Liza Long. She writes candidly and honestly about the struggle of getting an accurate mental health diagnosis for her teenage son and her experiences navigating the mental health and judicial systems.  She addresses how stigma and fear are at the crux of our society’s ineptitude in caring for people with a mental illness. The book is sobering and well-researched. I’m planning a longer review in the next few days (ironically, May 2-8 happens to be National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week).

I’m trying to catch up on my many back issues of The New Yorker. One of the most fascinating articles was Gay Talese’s piece (“The Voyeur’s Motel”) in the April 11 issue  about a guy who purchased a motel for the soul purpose of spying on his guests and recording their sexual activities. It’s an unbelievable and fascinating read, and apparently a book is coming out this fall.  Another good one was “The Scold,” Nick Paumgarten’s profile of Mr. Money Moustache from the February 29, 2016 issue.


That’s about all for now. Hope you have a great week!

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telling it like it is

LTYM Trib articleLTYM Trib article 2

We’re less than a week out till Listen To Your Mother Pittsburgh, the live reading performance with 14 local writers (including yours truly) on Friday evening, May 6 at the Carnegie Lecture Hall.  Today’s edition of the Tribune-Review, one of Pittsburgh’s two newspapers, has a great article about Listen to Your Mother and why this show resonates with people.  I offer up a few thoughts on my own and a quote or two about telling one’s truth.

Something else that I’ve been remiss about sharing here on the blog: our producers put together fun Cast Spotlight pieces about all of us and the stories we bring to the show. I love what Stephanie says about my piece.

LTYM2016Headshots-63b8x12It’s incredible the way faith and science collide sometimes, and today’s cast spotlight’s story is the epitome of that collision. Mom of two, life-changer of thousands, Melissa Firman’s story shows the lengths some women are willing to go to become mothers. (Read the rest of the Cast Spotlight piece here.)

Having been through two rehearsals now, the show just gets better and better.  It’s such a strong group of women, with funny and sad and heartwarming stories. These are not your typical stories of motherhood because, really, there aren’t any.  If you’re able to be in Pittsburgh for Mother’s Day weekend, I’d love to have you in the audience.  Ticket info here.

I know. I’m promoting the freakin’ bejeebus out of this show and and probably annoying whatever friends I have left by doing so.  it’s a way for me to try and get closer to the magnitude of this experience and what it represents for me, personally.

It’s kind of like what someone (I forget who) told me before my wedding and which remains the piece of advice I give to every single person I know getting married.  This person told me to take a moment during the day to just stop and really look at everyone there.  Like, really look at them and absorb the full experience.

And I remember doing that and you know, whomever told me that was so right because that’s one of the most distinctive moments I remember from that day nearly 23 years ago. (If you’re reading this, thank you.)

For me, the show is more than the performance.  It’s more than the technicality of how motherhood happened for me.  It represents an evolution, a journey, an acceptance. And that is a huge, new thing for me to sit with and reflect on and get comfortable with.

I’m beyond grateful to those of you who are there by my side.



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Book Review: Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, edited by Ann Imig

Listen to Your MotherListen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now
edited by Ann Imig 
G.P. Putnam’s Sons 
246 pages 

Are you tired of me talking about Listen to Your Mother yet? Well … there may only be eight days left until our LTYM Pittsburgh show (you’ve gotten your tickets, right?but this will consume me for awhile. Being part of this show means so much to me. So very much. It’s an incredible honor and one of the bravest things I’ve done in my entire life. It’s a really big freaking deal to be included alongside so many talented voices.

In addition to being a live reading performance happening in 41 cities, Listen to Your Mother is also a book. In this anthology, Listen to Your Mother founder and national director Ann Imig has gathered some of the best stories since the show’s inception six years ago.  While there are some names you may recognize (authors Jennifer Weiner and Jenny Lawson are two notable ones), most contributors are everyday people who have a story to share about some aspect of motherhood. Just like the show itself.

And just like the show, this collection delivers every emotion — from heartbreaking to hilarious and everything in between. (The book jacket accurately describes the stories within as being “devastatingly funny, refreshingly edgy, and deeply thought-provoking.”)

I really enjoyed reading these essays, most of which are only a few pages long. I would have liked this even if I wasn’t in the show because, ironically, motherhood has been kicking my ass bigtime. These stories made me feel a little less alone and reassured that others understand the many challenges with this whole parenting craziness.

Included in this anthology is:
“Matryoshka Dolls” by Mary Jo Pehl
“What Matters Most” by Zach Wahls
“The Meat Grinder” by Jen Rubin
“It’s Always Bad News” by Marinka
“Felt Like Something” by Megan Stielstra (my review of Megan’s essay collection Once I Was Cool is here)
“A Year at the Lake” by Jenny Fiore
“The Broken Bowl” by Jennifer Ball
“No Betta Mama” by Tasneem Grace Tewogbola
“The Reach of a Small Moment” by Alexandra Rosas
“Becoming Invisible” by Lea Grover
“Motherhood Off the Beaten Path” by Margaret Smith
“The Job of Motherhood” by Wendi Aarons
“Not a Princess” by Vikki Reich
“Threads” by Stacey Conner
“She Knew It” by Natalie Cheung Hall
“Peanut Butter and Jelly” by Taya Dunn Johnson
“The Good-Bye App” by Kate St. Vincent Vogl
“More Than an Aunt, Less Than a Mom” by Jerry Mahoney
“The Confession Jar” by Jenny Forrester
“Unspeakable Sacrifice” by Angie Miller
“Shy” by Haddayr Copley-Woods
“Mothering You, My Son: In Six Chapters” by Ann Breidenbach
“What If” by Lisa Page Rosenberg
“Swimsuit Edition” by Jennifer Sutton
“The Cookie Jar” by Patty Chang Anker
“My Mother The Protector” by Eddy Jordan
“Cocktail Playdate Dropout” by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
“The Mother of All Fathers” by Robert Shaffron
“A Much Needed Slap in the Face” by Yoon Park
“Idiopathic” by Amy Wilson
“Nick’s Story” by Nadine C. Warner
“Prepare to Be Judged. And Possibly Stabbed.” by Jenny Lawson
“Monkey, Speak” by Robyn Rasberry
“The Wondering” by Greta Funk
“Be Happy, Have a Good Life, Remember Me” by Ann Stewart Zachwieja
“My Mom Fought the Nazis and Won” by Brian Lavendel
“I Want to Be a Nothing” by Jenifer Joy Madden
“Mother: A Multiplication Lesson” by Dana Maya
“All You Need is Lovey” by Katie Wise
“The Upside to Down” by Mery Smith
“Artichokes” by Kathy Curto
“Does Your Mom Play Drums?” by Michelle Cruz Gonzales
“Steam Power” by Helen Reese
“In Praise of the Other Mother” by Nancy David Kho
“Three Little Letters” by Lisa Allen
“The Tiny Bridge-Maker” by Jennifer Newcomb Marine
“Bottle Caps, Apple Trees, and Hope” by Sheila Quirke
“Pregnant Again” by Edward McCann
“Becoming Da Mommy” by M. Penny Mason
“Mothering Through the Storm” by Rebecca Anderson-Brown
“Waiting for My Kids to Wish Me a Happy Mother’s Day” by Meggan Sommerville
“The Children Ate My Gratitude” by Ann Imig
“Raised by Lesbians: On My Makeup-Free Mom, My Fashion-Challenged Moments, and Raising a Disney Daughter in a Feminist World” by Jennifer Weiner
“Orbit” by Ruth Pennebaker
“Leaps and Bounds” by Barbara Patrick
“Hummingbird: A Love Letter to the Mothers at Church” by Liz Joynt Sandberg

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sunday salon/ currently … to the limit

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“So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time ….” 

“Take It to the Limit” ~ Eagles  (written by Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Glenn Frey)

According to the reminder sent from the place that keeps our family Facebooking and blogging and YouTubing and Netflixing and Spotifying, we’ve been taking our allotted Internet consumption to the limit.  Give or take a few more bytes, bits or however one measures such things, and we’ll tumble over the edge of Way Too Much.

This happens every so often in our house — actually, it happens a lot, more often than is probably healthy.  A sign of modern times, perhaps, but also a sign to unplug, pull back, take a walk around the neighborhood, shoot a few hoops in the driveway, do some actual writing, talk, play a game, listen to the birds, read a book, cook some meals, clean the house.

OK, maybe not that last one.

This Is the Story of YouIt’s a gorgeous Sunday, one made for relaxing on the deck with a book. I’m eager to finish This Is the Story of You, my friend Beth Kephart’s gripping new novel set on the Jersey shore that we both love.  (If I can’t be there in person, Beth’s words can take me there.)

I started this a few nights ago and then, an hour after falling asleep I was awoken by a coughing fit. No matter what I did, I couldn’t stop. So I made myself a cup of tea and sat in the kitchen reading for another hour. If I didn’t have to go to work the next day I would have stayed up longer to finish it because right when I felt ready to go back to bed I hit one of the most dramatic points of the story.


Yesterday was a rehearsal for Pittsburgh’s Listen to Your Mother show, which is less than three weeks away (!!!!) and which you all know I’m in. If you’re able, I would love for you to come see the show. (Ticket information is here.)  Having heard these stories a second time, this is going to be something special that you won’t want to miss. It’s so, so good.

OK, I’ve been on here long enough for this beautiful day that seems to know no limits.


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sunday salon/currently … wishing for spring and channeling my inner leslie knope

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To borrow my friend Tiffany’s phrase, it’s been full on sloth mode for me this weekend.  I’ll blame it on the weather, which has been decidedly unspringlike. We woke up to snow Friday and Saturday morning, just enough to be a nuisance and to kill my poor daffodils.

Daffodils in snow 4-9-2016 - 2 Daffodils in snow 4-9-2016

Ugh, so depressing.

Aside from taking The Boy to an appointment, grocery shopping, and cooking dinner, I didn’t do much of anything yesterday. I’d planned to clean the house but only managed to wipe down the kitchen counter and table. Today’s adventure was a trip to Target, as The Girl needed some things for school. It snowed on the 10 minutes it took us to get there.  Of course it did.

At long last, I’ve finally started watching Parks and Recreation.  A lot of people have been telling me that I would like this show and they were right. The tipping point was this clip, which a coworker shared with me after I unknowingly was all Leslie Knope-fangirling about Joe Biden, who not only was visiting Pittsburgh this week, but who was speaking mere blocks from our office.

I’ve successfully gotten The Husband and The Girl into Parks and Rec, too (probably because they were annoyed at me laughing nonstop with my headphones on).  This was much-needed humor relief for all of us after yet another stressful week on the home front.

Hoping to finish Scorpion Tongues today.  I think I’ve gotten my reading mojo back.  Jane Mendelsohn has a new book out called Burning Down the House which I snagged a copy of from the library and I’m looking forward to starting this one.  I loved her debut novel I Was Amelia Earhart  and American Music (see my reviews here and here).

More Things I Loved Reading This Week …
Elizabeth Mosier announces and reflects on a new anthology, Fifty Women Over 50.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the music of John Prine. This piece in the New York Times (John Prine Endures, With a Half-Smile and a Song) explains why.

Still listening to a lot of Spotify, especially in the car. I’m a big fan of their Discover Weekly selections. Their algorithms are clearly under the impression that, musically, I’m back in 1977.  I’m loving Spotify because I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of artists who most people have been listening to for years.

I seem to have a bit of a consumption problem, though: when I discover someone I like, I need to download every note they’ve ever performed. Like, I need to have their entire oeuvre at my fingertips. Eventually some songs may be weeded out from my collection (I’ve deleted two in the course of writing this post) but only after I listen to them first. Similarly, I need to tell myself that just because I love a band or a particular artist, it’s really okay if I don’t like every single one of their songs. I mean, it’s not like their feelings will be hurt if I ax something from the rotation.

Next weekend is our second rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother.  (You’ve gotten your tickets, right? From what I understand, they’re going fast.)  I can’t wait to see these ladies again.  This is such a fantastic group. Our producers have been featuring profiles of the 2016 cast on the LTYM Pittsburgh website, which you can check out here.

Oh, and we got our official headshots back.  Here I am:


I usually hate most pictures of me, but I love this.  Photo was done by the lovely Ashley of Ashley Mikula Photography. She was great to work with for this.

Inspired by fellow Pittsburgh Blogger Alex’s #PghGBE post on Eat with Emily, I’m trying a new approach to meal planning. I’m creating a spreadsheet of dinners that meet with everyone’s approval in this house. As one might imagine, it’s a very short list. I’m also adding meals that I think might work for our family — things I’d like to try. The idea is that when I’m at a loss for dinner ideas, I can consult the list and add it to the menu lineup for that week. We’ll see how this goes.

That all being said, I should probably end this post and figure out what we’re having for dinner tonight ….

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