Tickets for Sale!

Ticket sales are now live for Listen To Your Mother: Pittsburgh.

More information here.

Direct link to the ticketing site here.

Here are a couple of details you may wish to know: Tickets are $20 each. The seating is general admission, so if you want to sit in a big group, or sit close to the stage, you should get there early.

The show is Friday May 8, 8 p.m., at the Elsie Hillman Auditorium at the Kaufmann Center.

If you are coming from out of town, and want to get a hotel in the area of the show, please let me know. A block of rooms has been reserved at a nearby hotel at a special rate. I can get you the details.

The venue seats 350 people.

OMG. THE VENUE SEATS 350 PEOPLE.

Three-hundred fifty. People.

I am a veteran performer, I am. I have been on stage. I have stood at podiums and read poetry. I have presented at PodCamp.

But I am not sure I have ever been in front of 350 people. The majority of whom I won’t know.

So. Buy tickets. I’d like to tell my story to people I know (as well as a few strangers).

And to those who have already purchased tickets: THANK YOU. Thank you so much. It thrills me that you will share this event with me. It means more than I can say.

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If you have other questions, please let me know. If I don’t know the answer, I know who to ask!

Conversations with Michael and Flora

“Mama, whose that black bad guy?”
“What?” Thinking, are we about to have a talk about racism here?
“That black bad guy? He’s got buttons.”
I have no idea what my son is talking about.
“What show is he on? One of your TV shows?”
“No. He’s the big black man. He has lots of buttons.”
“Do you mean Cyborg?” From Teen Titans Go!
“No, Cyborg has guns. He just has buttons.”
It clicks. “Do you mean Darth Vader?”
“Yeah, Darth Vader. How does he kill people?”
Of course this is what he needs to know. “Well, he can use his mind to strangle people. And he’ll just straight up shoot you if he wants.”
Flora pipes up. “He’s got a light saber, too, Mom.”
“Right. The light saber.”
Michael: “What can that do?”
Flora: “It can cut you right in half!”

++

Michael to Flora, this morning in the kitchen: “Fora, Fora! Do you take naps at school?”
Flora, matter of factly: “Buddy, we’re too old to take naps.”
Me, making M’s lunch at the counter: “You’re never too old for naps!”

++

The radio is on in the car; I believe we were listening to Snacktime by the Bare Naked Ladies.

Michael, from the backseat: “Mommy, did you already have your birthday?”
“Yep, Michael, I already had my birthday this year.”
“Why didn’t you have a party?”
“I did have a little party, with some grown up friends.”
“When?”
“Do you remember the last time you slept over Bella and Tadone’s. Niece and Nephew where there?”
“Yes.”
“That’s when I had people over.”
Flora: “Who did you have over?”
“We had Annie and Stevo, whom you guys know from Cook Forest. And Aunt Jen, and —”
“Mommy! Turn off the radio!”
(I turn off the radio.) “What’s up, bud?”
“Nothing, I couldn’t hear you. Start over.”

M asleep -- the only time he is quiet.

The only time he is silent.

Have you had any interesting conversations with children lately?

Playing Favorites?

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Growing up (and, frankly, to this day), I always thought that my brother was my mother’s favorite. It wasn’t overt, it’s not like she gave him better desserts, or let him off the hook in terms of chores because he was a boy. Ultimately, even suspecting that Dr. Bro was her favorite didn’t hurt me or our relationship.

I never felt that my father had a favorite, although I think he enjoyed his two “daddy’s girls”. He liked to play the protector, the knight. He wanted to give Dr. Sis and I a healthy male role model to look up to — someone who was a breadwinner, who loved and respected our mother, a man who prioritized his marriage, and who pulled his weight around the house. He was tougher on my brother in terms of discipline because he wanted him to grow up to be a good man. (Well, done, Dad. I think it worked.)

I think maybe I was at times resentful of being the oldest child; I found certain things unfair. For example, I was the one testing the boundaries, and when I busted them — and boy howdy, did I know how to bust a boundary, especially as a teenager — I got well and appropriately punished. But I didn’t see the Dr. Bro get the same consequences. Which isn’t to say that he didn’t. I just didn’t see it.

And never mind Dr. Sis. Raising three children now, I get the baby-syndrome thing. When it comes to parenting Michael, I understand. I’m tired. Whatever works to get him to a) stop whining and b) go to sleep. I’m in.

I’m sure Dr. Bro and Dr. Sis have their own feelings about all of this, and I suspect that one of them is totally assured that he is the favorite child, forever and ever, amen. *ahem*

Author, Dr. Bro, Dr. Sis

I think we are 7, 5, and 3 in this picture.

++

On the way to school Monday morning, this story came on NPR, and the girls and I listened to it. (I am not sure how *closely* they listened to it.)

And yes, my first instinct was to stab the button to change the channel, but I overrode that instinct. I like riding in the car and talking about stuff with my children. It’s probably a captive audience type thing.

When the story was over, I asked Kate and Flora if they thought I had a favorite. They said no, they didn’t think I did. I asked if they felt I treated them differently. In the car, they said no. However, I know that Flora often feels the burden of being the oldest, and knowing that her father and I have higher expectations of her, than we do for her siblings (at this point). And I know that she struggles with that (as did I). And I also know that both girls think I spoil Michael rotten. Or at least let him get his way more often than they get their way.

They may not be wrong. (I’m tired, I said it.)

++

The mother of four adult children passed away. She had been a good wife and mother, and active in her church, at her job, and in her community. She was well-loved and well-regarded, and her funeral was very well attended.

Of course, all four of her children were there, all with their spouses and children. They celebrated her life. Over the course of the wake after the funeral, her oldest child finally couldn’t stand it anymore. At dinner that evening, he called all his siblings together, and said, “Now that mom’s gone, I just can’t hold it in anymore. I have to tell you all: She always told me I was her favorite.”

His brother and two sisters were shocked. “I don’t know why she would tell you that,” the older sister said. “She told me all the time that I was her favorite.”

“Yeah, well,” said the younger brother, and baby of the family. “She told me that all the time, too.”

The younger sister was nodding. “Yup. All the time. ‘Don’t tell the others,’ Mom would whisper while putting me to bed. ‘But you’re my absolute favorite.'”

++

Do I have a favorite? While I love all my children equally, I do sometimes think I have a favorite. Of course it varies from day to day and hour to hour. And the reason varies too. Michael has a special place in my heart for being the boy I get to raise; I love Kate’s complete enthusiasm — she may have been my favorite for a while Sunday while roller skating. She was utterly fearless, not afraid to look silly or fall down. She got out on that rink, and didn’t stop skating until we told her it was time to go. (Yesterday morning, Kate groaned, “I’m really sore.” I didn’t see her make it once around the rink without taking a spill. But that didn’t stop her.) I love Flora’s curiosity and growing sense of responsibility.

When we put the children to bed, we usually say to them, “You’re my favorite Flora.” And Kate, “You’re my favorite Kate.” Or I’ll tell Michael, “You’re my favorite little boy.” And it’s true.

They are my favorite.

M, Kate, Flora

How could I choose just one?

Who’s your favorite? I promise not to tell.

Announcement

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I have been dying to tell you this for a week. For more than a week! I got the email last Saturday at 10:30 pm.

They swore me to secrecy.

*ahem* Are you ready? Are you sitting down?

Are you free May 8?

I AM IN THE PITTSBURGH LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER SHOW!

Oh, it’s such a relief to be able to share that. Whew.

More details, and the cast list here. Aside from our director/producers, I’ve also met the lovely Britt Reints, who blogs at In Pursuit of Happiness. The show is Friday May 8. We are raising money for and awareness of the Woman’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

I do hope you will come see me read my essay. It’s not a story I’ve told publicly before.

I can’t wait to meet the rest of the cast, and hear their stories too.

I’M SO EXCITED!!

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Random Thoughts: The 50 Shades of Grey Edition

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First, some disclaimers: I did not read 50 Shades of Grey, nor did I see the movie, and I have no intentions to do either. It’s not because I’m a cultured snob, either. The reviews are negative, and it seems many people are engaging in what is called “hate-reading” — a habit I don’t understand (ditto hate-watching — life’s too short, people). My understanding is the book is terribly written. I can’t read terribly written books.

I do not live a BDSM lifestyle, so my speculations about it are simply that: pure speculation.

++

My understanding is that the portrayal of the lifestyle in the books and movie isn’t BDSM, it’s straight up abusive: stalking, isolating, using drugs and alcohol to influence “consent”.

I think one of the biggest misrepresentations of the BDSM lifestyle that comes from this movie and/or book is this: The reluctance of the submissive.

From what I have gleaned from book and movie reviews, Anastasia Steele has a lot of misgivings about being Mr. Grey’s submissive.

We want to think that submissive people don’t really want to be THAT submissive. We are more willing to think that they feel demeaned or have doubts about submitting. And I don’t think that’s the case. A true submissive can only feel sexual excitement by submitting. That may be difficult to grasp for people who don’t understand BDSM. We think it has to be non-consensual — that the sub is being pressured to do it.

No, a sub freely chooses it. She (for the sake of brevity) submits because that is what is sexually exciting and fulfilling. She’s not doing it to heal her lover (as in the 50 Shades books) or because it’s a game the two are playing, and saying yes even when she wants to say no is her role.

I’m also pretty sure that dominants, as a rule, aren’t mean people or bullies. You don’t get to slap your wife or boyfriend around and claim it’s okay because you’re a dom. That’s not how that works. There’s a very specific sexual fulfillment that comes from being a dominant and having a willing submissive. It’s not an abusive relationship.

++

According an academic who has studied the books –how’s that for a career track? — (and now the movie), “[Ana] tells [Christian] she feels demeaned, debased, and abused, and he says, ‘Well, you need to embrace those feelings and deal with them the way a real submissive would.'” A real submissive wouldn’t feel demeaned or debased or abused by what her dom wants to do. This is the difference between actual consent and what is portrayed in 50 Shades.

++

I also think we are focused on the wrong fantasy. The media trope was that bored housewives were reading this, and taking it to their husbands or lovers to spice things up. However, the biggest purveyors of 50 Shades were women between the ages of 18 and 34.

I think the fantasy is two-fold: The ages old “savior” fantasy. “I will cure this damaged person through the power of my life-saving and unique love.” Which I think does end up happening in 50 Shades. And the Prince Charming fantasy, with a twist: “A young, rich, hot man will find me irresistible, and will do anything to be with me. In exchange for a few spankings, he will take me away from all this drudgery (i.e. work) and I will live in a palace for the rest of my life.”

So, arguably, 50 Shades of Grey is no more damaging than Disney princess movies, where a knight on a white horse rides in to save the day.

Oh, wait.

50 Shades of Grey cover

Are you a 50 Shades fan? Why or why not?

Incidentally, I have no bones with people who have read or seen (or want to read or see) 50 Shades of Grey and the series of books that follow. To each her/his own, seriously. I’m not judging you for reading or watching anything — or for practicing BDSM for that matter. As long as everything’s consensual, all right?

40 Days and 40 Nights, 2015 Edition

For years, Dan has tried to get me to do some kind of nightly meditation. For my anxiety. And for years, I have scoffed. I have whinged. I have said, “Just let me read in peace, that’s all I need to alleviate my anxiety. And wine!”

Well, for Lent this year — which, incidentally, isn’t 40 days and 40 nights, but more on that below — I’ve decided that I am going to do a nightly guided meditation. For my anxiety.

Dan wins.

Seriously, though: he brought home a meditation computer DVD recently. I talked to him to see if instead of a computer program, we could find the right app (that’s right, an app) that I could put on my Kindle.

I’m going to do it through Lent. For me, for my family, to help alleviate my anxiety (which really does seem to be getting worse), to bring some kind of mindfulness to my daily life.

M and Kate sleeping.

Think of the children.

++

A good friend of mine posted a CNN article on Facebook, and out of curiosity, of course, I clicked on it. The headline was “5 Myths about Lent, and One Surprising Fact“.

Here’s the thing: The “myths” weren’t myths at all. They were incorrect facts. For example, the 40 days thing. Lent is actually, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, 46 days. It’s not a myth that it’s 40 days, it’s not counting Sundays during Lent because they are not days of abstinence. The other “myth” that gave me pause was the belief that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days before he was crucified. That’s incorrect — according the Bible he went into the desert for 40 days prior to beginning his public ministry.

So what’s the difference between a myth and a wrong fact? Hm. I’ll have to meditate on that.

Doing anything for Lent?

Dogs I Have Known

Inky

Inky was a mutt. A medium-sized, long-haired, black-furred mutt. To this day, I couldn’t tell you what her makeup was. She had short legs and a long muzzle, and fur that was long and dark, dark everywhere. I don’t recall a spot of white on her.

She was the dog I grew up with. We got Inky after my brother was born. So at one point, my parents had me (a 2-year-old), an infant, and a puppy. And then about two years later, another infant (Dr. Sis)!

Inky was a good pup, and a good dog until she got older. She got snappy, and couldn’t handle the excitement of children running around the yard. When I was a teen, we gave Inky to my widow grandmother Olympia. She did well there — probably got a little fat. But it was a calmer situation for her.

She eventually lost most of her eyesight and mobility, and we had to put her down. I don’t remember being particularly sad about losing her.

Dudley

Dudley was a short-lived experience. We got him at the mall, an adorable and utterly spastic cocker spaniel. A year later, after two biting incidents, Dudley went to the Humane Society.

Dudley was named after my favorite ice cream parlor in Erie, PA.

Buddy

Dr. Sis was a bit of a roamer before she went to chiropractic college and then settled in North Carolina. I forget if she got Buddy in Myrtle Beach or in Florida. Nonetheless, she called with reports of inheriting a Boston terrier from friends who were leaving the area and couldn’t take him with them. I believe he started life as “Peanut”, but was soon renamed Buddy.

If you have ever known a Boston terrier, you know what they are like: enthusiastic, small, friendly. They think they are the biggest dogs on the block. They want to lick everything. They refuse to heel. They snort when they are awake, and snore when they sleep. They are so ugly they are cute — they look like they ran face-first into a shovel.

Buddy relaxing.

Look at that face!

Buddy was good for my sister. He was the first “grand”mammal — I think she got him before Dan and I were even dating let alone married. But Buddy was still very much part of the family when my own children were born. He was well-loved and well-walked on family vacations, that’s for sure!

Buddy and Michael

The youngest and the oldest. M at 9 months; Buddy has to be at least 16.

Buddy was the ring-bearer in my sister’s wedding, and then made one more trip to the family vacation at Seven Springs. My sister nursed him as much as she was able. He had a good life, full of love. I think he was 17 when we finally had to say goodbye.

Fortunately, my sister had gotten Buddy a Boston terrier buddy — Roxy, who was even more lick-y, enthusiastic, and friendly. So while Buddy can never be replaced, we have a good breed in our lives.

The Camping Dogs

We take trips to the woods a couple of times a year. In among all of our friends and our friends’ children, there are dogs: Grace, Ruby (RIP), and Otis. Grace is a mutt, friendly and a shameless beggar of treats. Ruby was the sweetest, most affectionate Doberman pincher I had ever met in my life, and she is missed. Otis is a Labradoodle, and he’s very much like a muppet come to life. I think Kate is in love with him.

Finn and Charlie

Finn and Charlie are our neighbor dogs. Charlie is a Jack Russell terrier mix, and the elder gentleman of the house. Finn is a big, giant golden retriever, and he is Kate’s only match in terms of outgoing personality.


These are the dogs in my life, past and present. Someday, there will be a future dog. But I’m not scooping its poop.

Random Thoughts: The What I’m Up To Edition

1. Books

I started The Book Thief, and I almost gave up on it after the first couple of chapters. I didn’t like the narrative style; it was much too jumpy. It evened out, so I’m glad I stuck in there. The book took me a long time to read. It’s just not a page-turner, although it turns out to be a lovely, if somewhat meandering story. And heartbreaking, as well. Some of the language is gorgeous, just certain turns of phrases struck my eye as very beautiful.

Flora has joined her “Battle of Books” team at the school, so she is reading a whole slew of young person fiction and non-fiction. I’m reading What Would Joey Do? by Jack Gantos along with her. I will be curious to see what she thinks of the book. It’s not very cheery. Joey is quite beset.

Author recommendation: Alex Marwood. Now she writes a page-turner! I burned through The Wicked Girls, and I’m currently embroiled in The Killer Next Door.

2. Television

On a whim, I started to watch Sons of Anarchy on Netflix. I found Season 1 very “meh”, but continued because Charlie Humnan is nice to look at, and Ron Perlman is an amazing actor who can do no wrong, as far as I’m concerned. However, Season 2 has been *amazing*. I’m not going to spoil anything, but it was like they needed a season just to get their legs under them.

I had my doubts as the first few episodes feature an overdose, a premature birth, burned prostitutes, child rape, and a castration (over the first two or three eps if I recall correctly). I didn’t know if I was going to be able to tough it out. But somewhere along the way, it turns into a fascinating character study. And I don’t just mean Jax and Tara and Clay and Opie and Tig. I mean: who is SAMCRO? Who is the town of Charming?

The other compelling things I am finding about SOA are the roles and weight given to the women characters. Katie Segal plays matriarch Gemma Teller, and boy-howdy—do not mess with mama. Tara, who is played by Maggie Siff, has a central part to play as well. The women aren’t bystanders; they move the action, a nice switch up from Breaking Bad, where the women characters came across as more passive — acted on rather than active.

3. Music

My obsession with the Afghan Whigs continues unabated. In order to offset Greg Dulli’s muscular, testosterone-fueled song writing, I put together a playlist on Spotify that I named The Muscular Estrogen Playlist. It’s all women, none of them wallflowers, musically or otherwise. Enjoy!

What are you up to these days?

The Persistence of Faith, Part Two

The priest at my Sunday mass was a visiting priest. He was also a combination of priest/stand-up comedian, which is notable because those were the two career choices Dan was trying to decide between when he was 10 years old.

His homily was successfully funny and engaging — and he started out by thanking parents for bringing young children, so he won me over from the start — and also inspired and moving. He captured the vitality of my faith.

Despite what some people may think, Catholicism isn’t dead or moribund. It’s a vital and living religion. It’s not a dull, dead set of rules that we are supposed to follow so we can go to heaven. It’s a journey, it’s an adventure. It’s alive!

God has plans to prosper us. He doesn’t want us to live in little tiny boxes, and not break rules, and not have pleasure in our lives. He wants to heal us, he wants to love us. And he wants us to show the world his healing and his love.

Listening to the priest talk, I had this feeling in my chest — this feeling of brightness and lightness. And THIS, this expansive feeling is the thing I wish I could share with everyone who wonders why I am Catholic. It’s so hard to put into words! If I could just reach into myself and put some of it into your hands, I feel like it would be clear.

It’s like that feeling one has — or that I had, anyway — when one meets the person they want to spend their life with. Sometimes, people ask, “How did you know?” And the response is, “You just know.” My whole internal calculus changed when I started dating Dan.

Something happened inside of me when I put myself back on the path that God wanted me to be on. It was quiet, but it was revelatory. I didn’t find my Catholicism constraining or restricting. I find living with my faith to be entirely freeing. It’s the same way I felt when I got married — I didn’t see my commitment to Dan as limiting to me. Instead, it freed me — it freed me to be the best person I could be.

Does that make sense?

And I guess that’s a major reason I take the children to church, even though it’s a pain sometimes. It’s the reason we are educating our children at a Catholic school. I don’t know what life is going to throw at them, and I don’t know that they will always be Catholic or religious at all. But if I can share with them what the priest was up there talking about — that God has plans to prosper us — then I will have done the best I could do.

The priest said something very interesting, again, somewhere near the beginning of his homily. “You can’t love something you don’t know.” I can’t depend on my children to just love God or love their faith because I tell them to. I have to teach them about it so that they can fall in love with it.

It took me a long time to be in love with my faith.

I had a lot to learn.

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Fifty Bands

Because I like lists — I like lists a lot — and I like music and I like Uncle Crappy, I decided this one was a good one to tackle. I thought it would be hard, but mostly, it just took time to find time to sit down and write it.

According to Uncle Crappy, who got this idea from GoonSquad Sarah on Facebook, “Sarah specified just a few rules: 1) Be sure to note your first concert. 2) Bands you’ve seen as openers or as part of festivals count, but try to come up with 50 headliners first. 3) Don’t worry about what order these are in — a stream-of-consciousness list is fine. And I’ll add one more: 4) Any additional notes you want to add are encouraged.”

1 Air Supply — This was my first concert. I went with my parents. I’m still embarrassed to have to say this is my first concert, but facts is facts.

2 John Cougar Mellencamp — Also attended with my parents.

3 Depeche Mode — NOW we’re talking. This was my very first, on-my-own concert. I went the summer I was 16, with my friend Carrie Anne. I DROVE TO PITTSBURGH — okay, Star Lake — ON MY OWN TO GO TO THIS CONCERT. I got a speeding ticket on my way home. My parents’ Acura was way too smooth.

4 Erasure
5 Pixies (2x) — Once opening for #6 (RIP Syria Mosque) and once when they played on the Station Square Amphitheater.

6 Love and Rockets
7 Black Keys (2x)
8 Eric Clapton
9 Wallflowers
10 BB King
11 Keb Mo’
12 Afghan Whigs
13 Jack White
14 Sarah and Tegan
15 fun.
16 Beck
17 Ben Folds Five
18 Ben Folds with PSO
19 Red Hot Chili Peppers (2x)
20 Jane’s Addiction (2x)
21 Pearl Jam (2x)
22 Smashing Pumpkins (2x)
23 Toad the Wet Sprocket
24 L7
25 Belly
26 Lumineers
27 Joseph Arthur

28 Rush — Dan goes to see Rush every time they are in Pittsburgh. One year, in the not too distant past, he texted me.
“I have a weird question for you.”
“Okay, shoot.”
“Will you go see Rush with me?”
“That is a weird question. Yes!”
Considering all the concerts I dragged him to, starting with Elliot Smith when we were dating, I owed it to him to see one of his all-time favorite bands. I’m glad I can say, “I’ve seen Rush.” Neil Peart is a *machine*.

29 B-52s
30 Grateful Dead
31 Spin Doctors
32 Psychedelic Furs
33 Rusted Root
34 New Invisible Joy
35 U2
36 Primus
37 Yo La Tengo
38 Billy Branch
39 Jonny Lang
40 Sheryl Crow
41 John Mayer
42 Old 97s
43 Fountains of Wayne
44 Crowded House
45 Tori Amos
46 Radiohead
47 Salena Catalina
48 Elliot Smith
49 Green Day
50 Ocean Blue

I could probably, with some time, add notes on all of these. Where, with whom (maybe), when. When I first saw Uncle Crappy’s post, I didn’t think I’d ever reach 50. But he was right, it’s really not that difficult. And I’m sure this isn’t all the bands I have seen live.

Got 50?

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— Afghan Whigs, photo credit Brad Searles

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