The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

I have an announcement to make.

Last Wednesday I shared with you that my semi-anonymous blogging cover had been blown and I was struggling with what to do about it.

On the one hand, I was very uncomfortable with the notion of my kids’ friends reading my blog. I definitely don’t want to have to censor myself, but I also don’t want to be responsible for teaching children about things like the most cost effective way to remove butt hair.

The other issue I’ve wrestled with for several years is how to write from the heart without getting my family ostracized by our community. We live in the quite provincial suburbs of Atlanta…a place where women call their vaginas their “down there” (while pointing at it and making the same face I make when I find a headless chipmunk on my back porch).

I mean, what if the good Christian mothers of my daughter’s scout troop discover my writing and conclude I’m unfit to lead their girls on an outing to the nursing home? Or what if my son’s preschool teachers don’t invite me for animal show-and-tell because they’re afraid I’ll say something inappropriate? Or worse, what if people treat my kids differently because of my opinions or drinking habits or odd hobbies?

I have to be honest with you, I was leaning toward something drastic like closing up shop per my motto: when the going gets tough, get drunk and cry.

But then I went to The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio last weekend.

And three very Erma-esque things happened:

1.) I was surrounded by my tribe of humor writers who embraced me, energized me, and gave me wonderful support, encouragement, and advice.

    Tricia, Nicole, Iris, and Ernie at our “Last Supper” of EBWW. (Photo credit: Kristen)


2.) I had the incredible fortune of hearing a number of inspirational keynote speakers like Dr. Gina Barreca, Adriana Trigiani, Connie Schultz, Ilene Beckerman, and Alan Zweibel who all resonated the same universal message: tell your truth without fear.

Iris with author Adriana Trigiani at her book signing Friday night.


“Don’t be afraid of what anyone thinks of your writing, EVER.” ~Adriana Trigiani


3.) And a first-time commenter named Kristen wrote this to me:


In July of 2011 my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, since then our lives have been turned upside down. Some days I don’t know whether I am coming or going. He underwent a stem cell transplant in February 2012 at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the kids and I spent many, many hours at his bedside.

It was during this time of relentless hours spent trolling the internet that I saw a post my friend shared on Facebook. “DIY Feminine Hygiene Tips” was the heading, of course this sparked my curiosity, who wouldn’t have to see what this article consisted of?

I have to tell you that I laughed so loud that the nurses came in to see what was so funny, and I believe your blog now holds a spot on their board in the stem cell transplant unit. I do believe you have some faithful followers there as well.

The whole point to this story is to share with you the epiphany that you brought to me on that day. My 13 year old daughter started crying and said Mom, I haven’t seen you laugh in a long time. You, it was you Iris, that brought me back from the underworld. From that day on I vowed to smile every day and laugh at least once (which you so often help me do).

So I will SELFISHLY say D is my final answer. I can appreciate your predicament and completely understand if you should decide against it, I will follow you no matter where your jokes take me. You are my prozac!


Sorry – I know you like when I give you a tissue alert.

I swear I have read Kristen’s comment at least 50 times in the past 72 hours. I shared it with my friend Janet (Muffintop Mommy) while we were sitting next to each other in a stand-up comedy workshop and we were both blotting mascara off our cleavage. (No offense to the dude juggling mewling kittens and chainsaws, but we weren’t crying because of you.)

This comment perfectly illustrates another gem I heard this weekend at EBWW:

“Writing comedy is the greatest spiritual gift you can give to anybody anytime.” ~ Adriana Trigiani

I am so deeply humbled by the outpouring of love and support you – my regular readers –  gave me with your comments last week. My cup truly runneth over.

So instead of shutting down my blog and/or starting over anonymously, I think I’ll try a different approach.

“Bad girls are the only ones with stories to tell.” ~ Gina Barreca

Hello. My name is Leslie Jeanne Marinelli and I am a writer.

Leslie with EBWW roommate Nicole of By Word of Mouth Musings.


  1. Read this – it is such a moving post. I’m so glad you went to the Erma conference and heard “tell the truth”! Love this, love your blog, love your little goatee. (-:

  2. LOVE IT.

    When I started blogging, I toyed with the idea of going anonymous, too. I decided against it because I knew that if I felt anonymous, I might be *too* honest. Anyway, you’ve got a new follower in me!

    • Fabulous! Pleased to meetcha! Yes, being *too* honest can really get us into hot water. I’m going to have to learn how to speak my truth without being too harsh. It will definitely be a steep learning curve. Wish me luck! :)

  3. OMG PHEW!!!! Ado just shared this on her fb and I kinda freaked out. The blogosphere simply would never be the same without you Iris…er Leslie. :) Bring on the ass hair and vagina jokes!!!!

    • Hahaha! Aye-aye, cap’n! I couldn’t imagine blogging any other way! :) Thank you for the support, January. It’s so nice to feel like I’d be missed.

  4. Go you, Iris! Er, I mean Leslie!!

    That comment? Seriously, how good can it get?

    Yes, yes you are a writer and a brilliant one at that.

  5. Hey, Leslie – I met you at the Erma, while you were dancing like nobody was watching in front of your webcam. I am glad you had your epiphany at the Erma – that conference changes lives. You go and OWN your writer title, you earned it, and no one can take it from you. Never let that writer’s voice be silenced.

    • Hey Kathy! Of course – we sat together that night at dinner too! I hope you were able to enjoy the rest of your Erma weekend without worrying about your son too much. That sure was a pickle for you. So hard to be a mom away from home, isn’t it?!

      Thank you for the support and the sweet comment! Hope to see you in 2014.

  6. LeslieIris–You inspire me! You rock! So glad you are staying!

  7. Wait, what??? I always thought that was your real name! I’m shocked. Seriously. And now I feel really stupid because upon Googling Bearded Iris I see that it’s actually a KIND of iris. P.S. I’m educated and feel like a total ass. I just thought an iris was an iris. Anyhoo – I’m proud of you. I haven’t used my last name on my blog and haven’t named my husband. But I did tell my boss about it yesterday so now I have to wait until he gets bored of it to talk about my obsession with boobs.

    • …or not, it might get you a raise!

      Girl, it is SO freeing to be out of that writer’s closet. I can’t even begin to tell you what a relief it is. (aaaahhhhhh)

      And yes, a bearded iris is a flower…a very showy, lascivious thing! Raaarrrr! Get some for your garden. No maintenance!

  8. I’m so glad you are staying as I type through my tears from reading Kirsten’s comment about laughing out loud in the hospital.
    You are a beautiful person Leslie.
    from the other side of the world (nothing exotic, just Australia) Karen

  9. Spent and energized by this post. It really is true that it’s the people who are touched and helped that make all the foolishness worth it. What a wonderful weekend, and what a stunning rebirth.

    Welcome to the World, LJM.

  10. Fabulous to have met you, looking forward to getting to know you, the unmasked you!

  11. Writing. Writing.Writing.

    I will always write, even if people in town whisper about the depression and suicide history in the family that I write about.

    I will always write, even though neighbors across the street nod toward me when they see me, the one who has written about “growing up in a very sad way.”

    I will always write because if someone feels happier, or more included, or less lost alone on this planet because of something I’ve written: What higher honor could there possibly be?

    I already spend my days talking to myself so what’s the big leap, right?


    I love writing, I love being a humor blogger, I love having a place where I can lay the truth out about living with depression and surviving through it, and knowing that people have been helped because of my words.

    I am a very, very lucky woman who lives a blessed blogging life.

    And while it hurts that people in my small town whisper and nod as I walk past, rather than ask me about a post…what can you do.

    There are those who Whisper, and those that Befriend.

    I want to be that B word.

  12. As I told you when I first started reading your blog, I’m certain I will see you on tv someday. You really do have the gift of making people laugh, and who doesn’t need to laugh! I’m actually a pastor’s wife and a hospice nurse and I NEED to be able to laugh at your audacity! You are able to say things I don’t dare, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think them!

    • Haha! It’s true – you’ve been saying that forever, and I sure do appreciate the vote of confidence! For a pastor’s wife and a hospice nurse to enjoy coming here, I can’t be all that bad. I need to remember that when I start to get down on myself. Thank you for being here with me Susan!

  13. Leslie/Iris – Love your work. And so pleased you are finally getting the recognition you deserve. Your writing is hilarious, creative and utterly engaging – and therapeutic.

  14. I love everything about this, and especially the part that the EBWW played in it. What a great testimony to the energy and spirit of that event! Have a blast in your new writerly incarnation.

    • Thank you Kyran! So nice for you to stop by. I’ve heard such awesome things about you and your session at EBWW and wish our paths had crossed while we were both there. Next time!! :)

  15. Hallelujah!! Sooooooooo glad you are sticking around!! I couldn’t put an eloquent messate together to beg you to stay, so I’m glad someone could & did! Looking forward to more fun & shenanigans with the Beard/Marinelli clan :)

  16. Barbara Falconer Newhall

    April 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Hello Bearded Iris!
    I found your blog because I was looking for pictures of bearded irises in order to identify the (rather lascivious looking) parts of a bearded iris I’m photographing for my blog.

    I began writing about my kids for an actual newspaper back in the 1980s. I was a lone voice at the time, but since then mommy blogging has taken off. Interestingly, I stopped writing about my kids right when they were hitting puberty. It wasn’t working; their friends could read.

    But now they’re totally grown up and I’m back to writing about them. And my newspaper is giving me permission to reprint the old columns. My kids love reading about themselves as kids, and they’re OK with me writing about them as adults.

    But I do think that writing about them as teens would have been tricky. As for writing about yourself during this time period — I think you can do it, but you probably will have to edit yourself heavily for the time being. And that’s OK. You’ll get your full voice back later.

    Good luck. Come visit me and let me know what you think. And check out my — erotic — bearded irises. Barbara FN

  17. A brilliant, moving watershed post. I sense big things for you (or did my home planet just explode?).

    You writer you.

    • Oh Mike – thank you so much. Very high praise from the likes of you. Gosh, I hope your home planet did not just explode, or else there are going to be big chunks of Kryptonite falling to Earth any minute now. DUCK AND COVER, man!

  18. What a wonderful message to receive from a reader! You are one in a million and we are so blessed to have you

  19. Hi Oh-So-Bearded-Iris — You inspired me to write about my actual irises, and I’ve included a link to your site in my post. I hope some people find their way to you. Here’s the link to my piece about you:

    Cheers! BFN

  20. Ooops. I meant to write this comment to let you know my iris post will appear on Tuesday, May 8. Sorry, I’m bleary-eyed. Too much web surfing today.

  21. Andrew D'Cuzzin

    May 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    No! Don’t stop. As for the kids’ friends – it may not be too late to just deny it’s you. For one thing, Iris has a goatee in her picture, and you don’t have one. So it’s not you.

  22. This kind of awesome. Good for you! :-)

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