The Songs That Made Me

This month Rolling Stone has been asking recording artists for lists of the Music That Made Them.

Nancy Davis Kho of the blog Midlife Mixtape: For the Years Between Being Hip and Breaking One asked some of her friends if we might contribute our own lists of the songs that made US, super-cool mom bloggers that we are.

Here, in the order of their appearance as crucial songs in my life, are some of the Songs That Made Me:

Bad Bad Leroy BrownBAD, BAD LEROY BROWN (Jim Croce, 1973)

One of my earliest memories is being three or four years old, sitting in the backseat of our enormous Chevrolet, and hearing my parents sing along to this song on the radio. They absolutely loved it. I absolutely loved it. Brown was bad, sure, but I wasn’t worried about him hiding under my bed or anything. I mean, he couldn’t have been that bad, since the song was so catchy. My favorite part about the song was that there was the word “damn” in it, and my dad would just belt that part right out. In non-sung contexts, I knew that that was not a nice word.  In this song, however, it was apparently entirely acceptable. This is how I first learned of the transgressive powers of music.

Must be SantaMUST BE SANTA (Mitch Miller, 1961)

Another earliest memory. We spent every Christmas Eve at my Nana’s house, where all my incredibly cool and not-much-older aunts and uncles lived (my mother is the oldest of an eight-child brood). Christmas Eve was the most exciting night of the year, of course, and Mitch Miller and the Gang’s Holiday Sing Along was always on the hi-fi. My grandparents sang along to every song. They are both gone now but we still sing “Must Be Santa” at our family Christmas party every year. And it must be the Mitch Miller version. It’s never Christmas in my heart until I hear that sound of approximately 250 men singing in unison.

Run Joey RunRUN JOEY RUN (David Geddes, 1975)

Thank goodness for Google, or I would never have found this song. I didn’t know the title or the artist, and I’m pretty sure I never did. However I still know every word of the song by heart:

Please Daddy don’t!/ It wasn’t his fault!/ He means so much to me!/ Please Daddy don’t!/ We’re gonna get mar-ried… (sound of gunshot)

Someday, when it occurs to one of my children to ask me what life was like before the Internet and the Xbox, what children possibly did with all that time, I will explain that I spent about 75% of my after-school hours in grade school acting out this song in my friend Heather’s bedroom. It’s about a girl who takes a bullet for the boyfriend who just knocked her up. Sometimes Heather would be Julie and I’d be Joey; sometimes I’d be Julie and she’d be Daddy. My death scenes were amazing.

I miss songs like this. I liked when songs had a plot. Songs like this are why I’m always changing the radio from Hits One Now! or whatever to 70s on 7 whenever the kids aren’t looking.

imgres-5OUT HERE ON MY OWN (Irene Cara, 1980)

Okay this is just the best song ever and that is enough reason for it to be on anyone’s list. But this is the song that I sang over and over into the mirror. This is the song that spoke my personal junior-high truth of not fitting in, of making one’s way, of being afraid and doing it anyway. (How did Lesley Gore KNOW?)

This is the song that I totally sounded JUST like Irene Cara when I sang it. This is the song that I sang when I auditioned for Carnegie-Mellon’s theater department to begin my stellar career.

I didn’t get in.

BorderlineBORDERLINE (Madonna, 1984)

Speaking of knowing my inner thoughts to a spooky degree! Madonna, how did you know that my first boyfriend (freshman year of high school) kept on pushing my love over the borderline?

(I don’t know what that means now, but I sure understood it deeply back then.)

This song is amazing because it’s fast and slow at the same time.  Madonna is sad and empowered at the same time. I believe this is the best vocal Madonna has ever laid down.

This is the song that made all the high school girls dance in a circle. Who needed boys? Not us.

Dancin' in the DarkDANCING IN THE DARK (Bruce Springsteen, 1984)

Okay, maybe there was one boy I needed. At the time I thought it was the boy at my birthday party who gave me the BORN IN THE USA album. Hard as it is to believe now, I had never heard of Bruce Springsteen until then. But as soon as I saw The Boss pull a then-unknown Courteney Cox up out of the audience to dance with him in the “Dancing in the Dark” video, I had a new boyfriend, and his name was Bruce.

This is the closest I ever came to true screaming fangirl adoration. Look at that tush in those jeans.

When that picture was taken, Bruce Springsteen’s tush was 35 years old.

God I’m old.

Sister ChristianSISTER CHRISTIAN (Night Ranger, 1983)

I took piano lessons every week from age 8 to age 17.

I can still read music, kind of. The rest of it is totally gone.

Except for one thing.

To this day, I can sit down at any piano and play the intro to Sister Christian. Like I MEAN IT.


Keep reading! Go check out The Songs That Made:

I Miss You When I Blink

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Butterfly Confessions

Good Day, Regular People



The Flying Chalupa

Elizabeth McGuire

Elleroy Was Here

Midlife Mixtape

Up Popped a Fox

I thought my kids had outgrown LEGOs. I was wrong.

Once upon a time, my two sons– like most children their ages– were truly LEGO-obsessed. Once upon a time, their Christmas lists were all LEGO. Their birthday parties were LEGO-themed. I, who am no baker, even made a LEGO cake.

lego cake

I probably didn’t need to point out the “not a baker” part, based on the photo.

But now that my boys are 10 and 12, the LEGO play seemed sadly in our past. The LEGOs are still in their bedrooms and our playroom, in their gaily colored bins, but they’d been collecting dust lately. Certainly my 12-year-old was too big for them; he’s now far more interested in ESPN and Instagram. And since the 10-year-old looks to his elder for all his behavioral cues, he wasn’t bothering with them either.

At the Mom 2.0 conference, I collected all kinds of take-home goodies for the kids, from selfie sticks to singing toothbrushes. But when I got home, guess what got the most oohs and aahs as I removed it from my wheelie suitcase?


The LEGO Classic set. 221 pieces to make anything you want. The set came with “ideas,” but no one needed them.


They just sat right down and started creating. My 7 and 10-year-olds, that is. Surely their tweenaged brother wouldn’t join them…


or would he?

legos 1

An hour later– an hour of blissful shared play without a single raised voice, without one disagreement requiring my desperate intervention– their works were completed.


“I’m still not really done,” my sixth-grader said. “I’ll come back and do more later.”

I thought my kids were done with LEGOs. But all I had to do was put the box on the table. Just leave them there for my kids to discover, like their kindergarten teachers used to do with the toys they’d put out on the little tables before opening the classroom doors in the morning. And my kids’ re-lit imaginations did the rest.

Here’s my younger two proudly showing off their LEGO creations.

“It’s a portal,” indeed. My kids got to go back to a land we’d almost forgotten– a land of creative play without screens, without likes or tags, without competition. Look how much we’d been missing.

I received the LEGOs in this post as an attendee at the Mom 2.0 conference. I blogged about them because I wanted to. All opinions expressed are my own. 

My hyperlinks don’t seem to be working, so if you’re interested in my “how to throw a kick-ass LEGO birthday party” post of yore, it’s here:


join Listen To Your Mother: NYC at Barnes & Noble on Friday May 8th!

LTYM May 8th FB







If you’re in the NYC area, please join me this Friday night at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble (82nd and Broadway) for a free reading and signing event to celebrate the new anthology LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, as part of The Museum of Motherhood’s “Art of Motherhood” reading series.

I’m so proud to have been included in this anthology, which makes a wonderful Mother’s Day gift (hint hint).

I’ll be there with fellow contributors Barbara Patrick, Patty Chang Anker, and Kathy Curto to read our essays and talk a little bit about the writing process in general, and this anthology in particular. It will be a fabulous (and free!) event. Hope you can join us!

Find out more about the event here:

If you can’t join us on May 8th, but would still like to have your purchase of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER (or any other book!) benefit The Museum of Motherhood, log on to from May 6-10th and use Bookfair ID#11455805.