An honest take on life and parenthood

Yes, I can.

on July 21, 2014
Listen To Your Mother celebration cake from LaSalle Bakery.

Listen To Your Mother celebration cake from LaSalle Bakery.

I have often thought to myself, “I can’t do that.”

Sometimes while thinking it, I toed the end of a high diving board into a swimming pool. Or considered making a beautiful but intimidating meal. Or wanted to visit a country on the other side of the world.

If I am honest with myself, the scariest things are usually the things that make me feel most vulnerable.

Since I decided to transition into a writing career, I knew that reading my work aloud would eventually become part of the deal. But just thinking about it turned my knees wobbly.

Writers like to work things out alone, and be left to string together thoughts and words in the safety and privacy of their minds. Public speaking is not always our strong suit.

Our work is an expression of ourselves, so when we put it out there, we fear rejection and judgment of that bare inner self.

As a writer, you are usually shielded by a screen or a physical page, which creates a protective barrier between you and your reader. If you read the work to a live audience, you strip away that layer and have to step forward into complete vulnerability.

So yeah, wobbly knees.

Like many people, my personal history with public speaking is not pretty.

When I was 15, I went away to a nerd camp called the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. I loved it. However, at one point, we had to make presentations to our classmates. As a group, we totaled about 150 high school students from around the state. When it was my turn, I went up to the front of the auditorium, looked up from the podium, and completely froze. My mouth moved, but I was unable to speak a single word. I finally gave up and left the podium without completing the exercise, my face on fire with embarrassment.

Later in college and graduate school, I often stayed silent in classes, afraid to open my mouth for fear of saying something stupid and embarrassing myself.

By the third and final year of graduate school, I finally came out of my shell and felt more comfortable commenting and asking questions in class, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet.

After finishing my Master’s degrees, I moved to New York. I took a writing class at the New School in Manhattan. My professor, Sue Shapiro, encouraged us to read our personal essays aloud and receive criticism and feedback from classmates. I would psych myself up in the days before class and then end up sitting there, mute and paralyzed with fear. I never read my work aloud.

Over ten years passed. Last summer, after encouragement from my nearest and dearest, I decided to commit to writing, in spite of the fact that I knew that reading live would eventually come with the territory.

In March of this year, my friend, Jenn, emailed me with information on auditions for a show called Listen To Your Mother Providence. She simply said, “Wendy, you should audition for the Providence show! I think you’d be great.”

As a reflex, I thought, “I can’t do this.”

Then I said to myself, “You know what? It’s time to put on your big girl panties. Let’s do this.”

I worked and worked on a piece, jumped in the car, and auditioned.

I waited.

After hearing nothing for several weeks, I concluded that I had not made the cut. Until I received an email confirming that I had.


Although it was scary, I knew that I had moved the bar intentionally, and that I was ready for this next step.

The 2014 Cast of Listen To Your Mother Providence. I am in the middle, wearing a dark jacket and khakis.

The 2014 Cast of Listen To Your Mother Providence. I am in the middle, wearing a dark jacket and khakis.

On May 10th of this year, I joined 12 other talented women and read my writing to a live audience of over 100 people in the RISD Auditorium in Providence.

My knees wobbled, but they never buckled. The experience ended up being far more fun than terrifying. When I finished, I felt exhilarated and proud. Best of all, I created instant connections with other writers who also stepped forward to reveal their most vulnerable and true selves.

If you know me personally, I hope that you enjoy hanging out with me in the YouTube video clip here, which lasts about 5 minutes. It is the second clip, titled “Friendship.” In it, I read my post from March 5th of this year, originally titled “In the Company of Friends,” which talks about the ways that friendship changes after entering motherhood.

If you do not know me, I hope you check it out to get a better sense of the person behind the blog.

I also encourage you to check out the other recordings on the YouTube page from my fellow storytellers. The stories are all original and vivid, and guaranteed to make you both smile and wipe away a few tears.

Listen To Your Mother took place in 32 cities this year, and will likely spread to more cities next year. I feel so honored to be a part of this national movement to “give motherhood a microphone.”

We all have a story about motherhood. If you have one, I would encourage you to put on paper and audition next spring to share your story with the world. You don’t have to be a writer or a mom – or even a woman! Several men have appeared in shows and made original contributions as well.

So keep your eyes open for next year’s auditions in your closest city. It is a marvelous experience, and may even help you conquer your wobbly knees once and for all.

* * * * * * *
For more information on Listen to Your Mother, check out the main page:

5 responses to “Yes, I can.

  1. Well said Wendy! I love this post so true. Hope you are well! XO


  2. jgroeber says:

    Such inspiration!


  3. You ROCKED it! I am so honored to have been cast with you ❤


  4. Sarah B says:

    You CAN and you DID! Bravo! What a great piece!!


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