Episode 43: Visiting with Jenny Pratt and her story “Nary a Squary”
ANNOUNCER 00:00 Raising women’s voices one story at a time. Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.
[music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]
JENETTE JURCZYK 00:28 Thank you for joining us here on The She Said Project Podcast. I’m your host Jenette Jurczyk, National Director of The She Said Project. What’s up K Ross?
KERRY ROSSOW 00:38 Kerry Rossow, Founder. You’re number one fan.
JENETTE 00:41 My number one fan?
KERRY 00:42 Yep. Number one fan. Groupie. Whatever you want to call it!
JENETTE 00:44 I’m so sorry. [Jenette laughs]
JENETTE 00:44 I’ve been girl-stalking you for a long time, Kerry Rossow. You’ve been in my head, in my dreams. Is that weird?
JENETTE 00:53 Well, I love what we do when we do what we do. Because we get to hang out with some really cool women. We get to share some really amazing stories. And we get to go places,
KERRY 01:04 Yeah! We’re going places, we’re going back to 1990.
JENETTE 01:08 Tell me about 1990.
KERRY 01:09 So this guest today is really special to me for lots of reasons. And I don’t even know if there’s… we’re gonna have to do Podcast 2.0, because there are so many points that I would love to talk about with her, but we met way back in 1990. (But we went to college when we were like five, so we’re not as old as that number makes it sound.) I don’t even know how to introduce this person. My sorority Big Sis, my basketball teammate, my college friend. She Said speaker. She Said director. Like, all the things, and then all the adjectives! All the wonderful things you can think of to describe someone… just insert them here, for JENNY MILLER PRATT! [fun big announcer voice]
JENETTE 01:46 You must be talking about Jenny Miller Pratt, who’s here on the lines with us today. Hi, Jenny.
JENNY PRATT 01:52 Hello, oh my goodness, I don’t know that I can live [Kerry laughs] up to that hype! That feels, that feels like you’re setting me up. But, [Kerry laughing] gosh, what an intro!
KERRY 02:00 I am a super big fan.
JENETTE 02:01 She is a super fan today of all the women! I will never forget the day that my phone rang, and Kerry said to me, and I remember exactly where I was standing. It was like a department store in New Jersey, I’m not kidding. And she’s like, “Hey, I’ve got this friend from college. She wants to know more about producing That’s What She Said.” And this was really 2020.
KERRY 02:19 Mm-hmm.
JENETTE 02:20 We were, you know, in the middle of a thing.
KERRY 02:23 Mm-hmm.
JENETTE 02:23 And I was super excited and super intrigued and then I got to meet Jenny Miller Pratt, and fall in love with her as well. It’s true.
KERRY 02:32 It’s pretty great.
JENNY 02:33 Feeling is definitely mutual. It’s like a little love fest going on here. I’m sure that happens on all of your podcasts, at least the ones I’ve listened to. So I’m trying not to gush. But you know, gushing will commence.
JENETTE JURCZYK 02:44 And we shall allow it. So 2020, when you and I met and we were talking about what is That’s What She Said and the work that we do with live events, it was a time when we were not doing live events. So we welcomed you into the She Said family because we shared a whole bunch of stories in a virtual format. We called it the The She Said Story Sharing Showcase, which I dare all of you to say five times fast.
JENNY MILLER 02:44 No thank you.
JENNY MILLER 02:47 And Jenny got to join us as a speaker from the comfort of her home in the St. Louis area and still share a personal story, which I really want to talk about because that story: heartwarming, very poignant and important about the people in her life, and also ridiculously funny. [Jenny laughs] All the things that we love in a good story.
JENNY MILLER 03:33 “Nary a Squary,” it was so fun. I mean, oh my goodness, I was excited to be a part of the virtual showcase and, you know, it was, it was such a process to get that story into a form that it could go into the world.
KERRY ROSSOW 03:46 Did you know right away where you were gonna go with your story? Or did you… did it take some prodding? And, did Jenette have to drag it out of you? Or did you know?
JENNY MILER 03:54 [laughs] It was, uh, I don’t know that there was much prodding it was the, the more prodding was about could you please just get this done? [Kerry hearty laugh] It’d be you know, what’s, what’s that story of you give the people that are the busiest to…
JENNY 04:07 ...ask them to do it. But it was one of those like, Oh, hey, you know, we really need to have this written down. [Kerry laughs] So I sat with my computer, and I sat I had the blank screen blues for a bit, but we were able to get it to a place I think that’s, that’s pretty relatable and fun. That was, that was important to me.
KERRY 04:07 Yep!
JENETTE 04:23 Absolutely. You got it out. You got it crafted and ready. And then we recorded it, via Zoom, as we did for our virtual series. So before we get into the nitty gritty of “Nary a Squary.” [ha ha] Let’s go ahead and play for our listeners the actual performance from The She Said Story Sharing Showing Showcase. So please welcome Jenny Miller Pratt from the 2020 virtual showcase, sharing her story, “Nary a Squary.”
(Original performance aired September 25, 2020 on The She Said Story Sharing Showcase)
JENNY 05:16 There’s no delicate way to say this, so I’m just going to say it. On November 3rd 2019 as a healthy 48 ½ year old woman, I nearly crapped my pants while walking the New York City Marathon. And we’re not talking like you’re almost finished and you suddenly need to go to the bathroom. It’s going to be okay. The finish line is right over there. No, I needed to poop the entire 26.2 miles. I can’t see you, I can tell you’re saying to yourself, but Jenny, why didn’t you just stop and go to the bathroom? Well, that my friends is an excellent question. It’s one I still think about 10 months later. And before I even go any further, I have to say my mom hates bathroom humor, and would be appalled that I’m actually sharing something so ridiculous with you, but it is what it is. And apparently today’s the day that I’m going to share this with my friends and all the strangers of the internet. [applause of other virtual speakers] So, thank you.
JENNY 06:04 So, why didn’t I stop? As I said, great question. See, I did stand in line for a row of porta-potties for about 90 minutes in the Runner’s Village. (And let’s not even get started on why would that be called a village?) As I was approaching the front of the line, I realized I needed to do more than I originally intended, and then I got into my porta-potty, looked to the side and there was no paper, not a single square, like nary a squary, if you will. I also realized in that moment, I had failed to follow one simple rule from my marathon running friend, Gina: bring your own toilet paper.
JENNY 06:55 So there I was, knowing there were many people still waiting in that ridiculous line and I needed to move this along. So I made the difficult decision that air drying was really the only thing I could do, which eliminated complete elimination as an option.
CHELA SANCHEZ 07:16 Oh, my God. [reaction from another virtual speaker]
JENNY 07:18 And then, during the race, yes, there were certainly porta-potties along the way, but, on the course, I was terrified to stop and sit down because I would either not be able to get back up—marathon, or there would be nary a squary. So I walked and I walked and I walked and I willed my innards into not becoming my outwards. [Chela laughs] And to be honest, it’s probably just a great metaphor for about how freaking crappy life can be. Because you know what, I didn’t really even want to be there in the first place. And I have evidence to prove that. On April 21 2014, a solid four and a half years before ‘Potty Gate,’ my Facebook status says, and I quote, and I did go back and verify, I’ve never ever aspired to run a marathon. However, if I was to ever aspire to such athleticism, I would want to run Boston.
JENNY 08:31 Mind you. This was the morning of the Boston Marathon, one year after the horrific bombing, and I was especially inspired by all the patriotism and energy surrounding the event. While I am known as Sporty Spice among my friends, running is not my jam. My friend Marlene piped in soon after with the “Let’s do it next year, you and me. Let’s do it.” “I mean, it’s not that far, right?”
JENNY 08:59 Um, yeah, it’s 26.2 miles. And like I said, never aspired to run anything, let alone a marathon. I mean, I’ve yet to find an affordable sports bra that would even allow me to consider being a runner.
JENNY 09:15 A few years later, my friend Vicki talked me into walking the mini marathon with her. The Mini is still 13.1 miles. Granted, I didn’t train, but even walking the Mini was pretty awful. However, Vicki loves an adventure and sometimes soon after we crossed the finish line, like even before we had our medals, she said, “I think we should do the Monumental Marathon next!” “NO! Absolutely not,” I said, hobbling to get my medal. I have zero interest in participating in an actual marathon—ever.
JENNY 09:59 Little did I know during either of those conversations that in August 2018, my never ever get sick, hates potty talk, amazing mom would go from diagnosis to death in 60 hours from stage IV colon cancer, or that just five months later, in January 2019, my super strong, mountain of a dad would be diagnosed with stage III esophageal cancer. My life’s work has been about helping people. And here I was not able to do anything other than sit by my mom’s side, literally, from diagnosis to her death, and then sit and worry about my dad and his incredible life from a four hour flight away. So, I did the only thing I know how to do. I decided to figure out a way I could help people.
JENNY 11:05 The best way I could do that was to sign up for a team that was fundraising for, you guessed it, a marathon. And not just any marathon, the New York City Marathon. Despite my well established zero interest in taking on a marathon, I decided this type of physically monumental challenge would hopefully be something I could do alongside my dad, during what had to have been the hardest physical fight of his life. If he was hurting, I would hurt too. And, I would rally my friends to help me raise $5,000 for the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.
JENNY 11:47 I’m sad to say my dad died pretty suddenly in May 2019, just four months after his diagnosis, and before any of my really hard training even got started. But I had donors invested, cancer patients to help, and Bev and Don didn’t raise a quitter, so I got after it. In addition to bring your own TP, my friend Gina also said, if you can get to at least 20 miles in your training, you can totally finish a marathon. I set my sights and reached 21 miles three weeks before the race. And so on November 3, 2019 as a healthy 48 1/2 year old woman with a list of donors written down my arm who had helped me nearly double my fundraising goal, I found myself in the runners village for the start of the 49th annual New York City Marathon.
JENNY 12:47 I did finish the race. And no, I was really prepared. Thanks to nary a squary, I was still hobbling at the end. It took me about two hours longer than I anticipated, which means I was on the course for more than eight hours. Yeah, I held it for about 10 hours when it was all said and done. It was awful. And it was pretty magical. Now while I still have you, please let me take a second to offer a sincere apology to the small deli near Central Park that graciously allowed me to use the bathroom after the race. Let’s just say it was rough. I mean, there’s got to be a fuzzy security cam picture of me behind the counter that says, “Do not let her in here again.” [laughs]
JENNY 13:45 And finally hear me say, I don’t ever want to do another marathon… like ever. But if I did, I would want to do Boston. And I would bring my own toilet paper.
JENETTE 14:00 So, Jenny, you shared a load there. [laughter]
JENNY 14:07 Let’s get all those puns out. Shall we? [Kerry and Jenette laughing]
JENETTE 14:10 Seriously, it was a very poignant story about a big time in your life. [laughs] Kerry!
KERRY 14:10 Sorry, sorry!
JENETTE 14:12 ...but, but the most important thing is you…
JENNY 14:20 That’s just crappy! [Kerry continues to laugh]
JENETTE 14:24 We’re going back to 1990 here people…
KERRY 14:26 I’m sorry. Sorry.
JENETTE JURCZYK 14:27
With the inside jokes… You ran a marathon. So tell us about your decision to take that on.
JENNY PRATT 14:36
Well, there’s a couple of things to just remind everyone: a. I did not run I walked. So I finished a marathon, but never have I ever—like if we were playing Never Have I Ever, I never have I ever wanted to participate in a marathon. Never on my bucket list. Never something that I was like, oh man, I… someday I really wish I I can’t be a marathoner. No, eww! I mean, that’s a long drive. I don’t want to.. gross!
JENETTE JURCZYK 15:06
“Let’s get out of the car and walk those miles.” No.
JENNY PRATT 15:09
Right? [laughs] I know. So, when all of this crazy crap happened, there you go. All of this crazy stuff happened with my family, and when my dad was diagnosed, and I knew that he was going to have surgery, you had rounds of chemo and rounds of radiation that were happening at the same time. I’m a problem solver. I want to fix things. And there was literally nothing I could do, except just be on the other side of the phone. Right. And when I say that, I took this on just sort of as a fluke, it really was one of those things that I was like, well, really, the only thing I can do is raise money. I’m decent at that and if my dad is going to be struggling to recover, at least I can be struggling with something as well. It felt like something that was tangible that I could check off the box and have a goal and have something to work toward and raise some awareness and raise some money at the same time.
KERRY ROSSOW 16:12
Wow, what was the feedback after you did it? Do you feel it was like yep, we saw that coming? Or did you feel people were surprised by the story? Or you already asked everybody for money, so they all knew that? [laughs]
JENNY PRATT 16:25
Well, here’s the crazy thing. So we have a holiday party, on the regs, second Saturday of December. So feel free to come to The Lou and we’ll see you at our house. But this year in this kind of post pandemic, end-20,-21, our 2020 holiday party we pivoted in did online, it was super fun. We can talk about that another time. But in 2021, we had a holiday party, again in person, fully vaccinated, you know, all the things, smaller crowd than normal, was sitting in our living room, which is where I filmed the online showcase, and I have my New York City Marathon metal hanging in the living room, because a. it’s super cool, but b. it’s like, I I did that—like I want people to see it.
KERRY 17:14 Right!
JENNY 17:14 And, there were a couple of ladies who were there—it was it was sort of a seventh grade dance situation, all the men were in the kitchen, all the ladies were in the living room, but a couple of the ladies who were there are runners, they get up at five in the morning and run, which sounds like torture to me, like that’s punishment. And so we were having this whole conversation about running and fitness and this and that and I said something about “well, I mean, hanging right there is my New York City Marathon medal.” [laughs] And when I tell you that they both looked at me and were like, wait, what? [Jenette and Kerry reactionary laughter] Because when you look at me, no one looks at me and says, “she’s for sure a marathoner,” like, [Kerry laughing] “that lady right there, 100% does marathons.” No. That’s not…
JENETTE 17:57 Jenny, you crossed that finish line, right? You are officially a marathoner.
JENNY 18:02 But I did cross the finish line. So I am a marathoner. But I am one of those people that if you look, when you meet me in person, you don’t go “wow, she’s totally a runner,” because I’m not. I am… I’m a problem solver. And so I was able to solve a problem by raising some money to help with cancer research.
JENETTE 18:17 Well, I’d like to say what a beautiful tribute that choice was to honor your parents and that year of struggle for you. And you found an outlet and made it possible for other people who are suffering to be more aware, raise more funds. Congratulations on that. But even though it was for a very serious cause, and serious reason, can we just talk for just a minute about how unprepared you were for the moment? You didn’t listen to your friend’s advice?
JENNY 18:48 To be honest, I was super prepared for everything else. I’d done all this training. I was really excited. I knew for sure I was going to be fine. But you’re right. I didn’t take Gina’s advice. And I just thought I would go it alone and, listen to your friends, people. But the bottom line is, listen to your friends.
KERRY 19:08 Yep. Poop Prep is important.
JENNY 19:09 Possibly the most important part.
JENETTE 19:33 Mm-hmm. Indeed.
KERRY 19:38 Hashtag never forget.
JENETTE 19:15 Why races have to start that early in the morning, I don’t know. So Jenny, you said you’re a problem solver and, uh, you joined our family because you wanted to share your story. But you also wanted to empower other women to share their stories as well. Let’s just talk for a moment about how you spent 2021 into 2022 and became the very first That’s What She Said producer, outside of Illinois and produced That’s What She Said St. Louis. Can we just applaud you for a second, like woohoo?
KERRY ROSSOW 19:48 [whoop whoop!]
JENNY PRATT 19:48 It was a great time. It was amazing.
JENETTE 19:52 We’ll have to edit in some applause and some serious cheering right here. [cheesy applause sound effect - cuts off abruptly]
JENETTE 19:58 Sound bytes!
KERRY 19:58 It was so amazing, I gotta tell you. So, like I said, I’ve known Jenny since 1990, and it, all the emotions happened that night and I’ll let Jenny tell about the surprise and the experience. But something that I kept thinking that night was, this sums up everything I love about Pratt, she is always your number one hype gal, she is, she is hyping everybody up, she’s always finding ways to make people, even when you don’t feel it, she’s the one that’s in your face, like “you can do it, you can do it. This is great. You totally got this.” And then seeing her that night and creating the beauty of that night and shining the light on others was really, really impressive.
JENETTE 20:37 Can you share with our audience a little bit about the women who were in your show and your process leading up to your big night?
JENNY 20:42 Absolutely. Thank you, both of you for those kind words. It was it was definitely a highlight one that you know, we all have those highlight reels. And that show was definitely a highlight for me and will be a part of my personal story for the rest of my days. The opportunity to bring such an important, gosh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Just, you know, women are so important. We are just doing so many important things. And the women who were in our show, I feel like were, were not ladies that anyone else would have a chance to meet. I loved that we were able to highlight your neighbors and our friends and, and just have them share things from their lives that were so relatable. It was, it was just such a treasure.
JENETTE 21:36 The stories were not only relatable, they were fascinating and interesting and inspiring and some tragic. And you know, we all sat there. Every She Said show, we laugh together, and we cry together, and there were definitely tears and laughter that night. This is early March 2022, when She Said graced the stage in St. Louis, Missouri, directed by Jenny Miller Pratt. So you’re as She Said alum, now you’re a She Said director. What do you see in the future of She Said St. Louis?
JENNY 22:08 We will definitely be back for our next show. We’ve already planned for March 4, 2023. So we hope that all of the podcast listeners will mark that Saturday in their calendar and plan to be in The Lou. We are also excited to be rolling out That’s What Teens Say in the fall. (We don’t have that date scheduled just yet.) But all of the feedback in St. Louis was so positive and we were in a beautiful hall called the Sheldon and the Sheldon seats about 700 people, and I sure didn’t see very many open seats. It sounds sort of braggadocious—it’s a little braggy to me, feels a little braggy. But to say, I can honestly say that the, the event that we created was exactly what was in my brain when Kerry and I were sitting in my living room talking about it in 2020. You know, there were a lot of people in St. Louis that we were having conversations with, that couldn’t quite figure out what we were doing. So I’m thrilled that we have a YouTube now that can say like, “This is what we’re doing.”
JENETTE 23:11 Right? You need that proof of concept!
JENNY 23:13 Exactly! But what, what we put on the stage and the experience that we created that night is exactly what has been, you know, in my brain from the very beginning. And I’m just super proud of that. And the the women are just incredible. So I hope everyone will take a take a minute and listen and view them on the YouTube and I’m, I’m hopeful that you’ll get to meet some of them on this podcast in the future as well.
JENETTE 23:42 Agreed. We definitely want to welcome some of the women who were on stage in That’s What She Said St. Louis, to join us here on the podcast. This is where we want to share the stories from the communities that launch That’s What She Said as we grow. We can’t wait to see what happens in St. Louis, with the community that you are building. And we’re so proud of you, Jenny Pratt, and thank you for being in the She Said family. Thank you for joining us on the podcast. Thank you for sharing your story, because it’s so important. Women got something to say and we’re here to give them a microphone. Right, Kerry?
KERRY 24:16 That’s right.
JENETTE 24:18 Okay,
KERRY 24:18 The sisterhood—we just high fived
JENETTE 24:20 I’m just gonna say, you can’t see that…
KERRY 24:21 You can’t see that at home but we high fived
JENETTE JURCZYK 24:22 We just high fived in the studio—for sure. But we want to thank all of our listeners. Join us each and every week as we welcome women who have appeared on stage in That’s What She Said here on The She Said Project Podcast.
KERRY 24:35 Over and out.
[music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]
ANNOUNCER 24:40 Thank you for listening to the She Said Project Podcast in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in the podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows, go to shesaidproject.com. This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management, empowering women to live their best lives.
[music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme playout]
Jenny Miller Pratt appeared in the 2020 Virtual She Said Story Sharing Showcase, before becoming a That's What She Said Producer in St. Louis, MO. In her story, "Nary a Squary," she shares her marathon effort to honor her parents, in spite of her sticky situation.
The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at shesaidproject.com.