“Out From Under The Rug” Featuring Emily Cortez

Theme: “Out From Under The Rug”
Storyteller: Emily Cortez

In her early twenties, Emily Cortez felt her life was really starting to take off when she fell in love with an older man, missed some birth control pills, and suddenly found herself gaining weight and fighting back nausea. With multiple tests confirming her pregnancy, Emily knew she was not ready to be a mother. Going against her Catholic faith, she chose to abort her pregnancy. “Walking into the clinic, I was greeted outside by a middle-aged man holding a sign: ‘You’re going to hell!’” Later, a full range of emotions overtook her, including fear of being judged and a wavering between guilt and non-guilt. Ultimately, however, the experience transformed her: “My unplanned pregnancy helped shape the timid woman I was into the strong, vocal woman I am today. To that protestor who held that sign, I want you to know: I am like you—a person—a human with stories, moments and experiences that have shaped me but do not define me.”

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“Out From Under The Rug” featuring Britt Payne

Theme: “Out From Under The Rug”
Storyteller: Britt Payne

When Britt Payne discovered she was pregnant, she thought “everything would fall into place.” The opposite occurred. “I want the whole package,” the man said, “and you are not it.” Britt questioned everything. “Would I bring this little spirit into the world, knowing that its father would likely dip in and out, a sentence of a lifetime of heartache? Or would I have an abortion and set the spirit free? ” No easy answers, but in choosing to terminate her pregnancy, Britt ventured onto a path of self-love where she realized that she actually is the whole package.

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“Icing On The Cake” featuring Jacob Longoria

Theme: “Icing on the Cake”
Storyteller: Jacob Longoria

With both hilarity and sweetness, Jacob Longoria entertained the audience with a tale about how his 28th birthday went wildly awry. Fired, rejected by a sexy neighbor, and then physically assaulted, he was “bleeding like a 1970s pro-wrestler!” That night, however, everything changed. Spotting the girl of his dreams, Jacob boldly asked, “Are you a single lady by chance?” Indeed she was, and today, she’s his wife!

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“Icing On The Cake” featuring Alyssia Birnbaum

Theme: “Icing on the Cake”
Storyteller: Alyssa Birnbaum

When personal chef, and Mama’s Gotta Eat owner, Alyssia Birnbaum shared her experience of auditioning and participating in the NBC reality cooking show Food Fighters, we were clutching our sides in laughter. “Casting agents were clearly more interested in each person’s story rather than their food,” she recalled. “And I had a great story: Biracial infertile mom who adopts and wants more kids! When it was my turn, I laid it on thick!”

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“Icing On The Cake” featuring Valerie Stokes

Theme: “Icing on the Cake”
Storyteller: Valerie Stokes

Communications Professional Valerie Stokes’ heart-wrenching story of her twin daughters’ micro preemie birth had many in the audience shedding tears. And when her daughters came home after more than three months in the NICU, we all rejoiced right along with her. “Today, I’m grateful, because it’s one more day with my girls,” Valerie shared. “Every day with them is the icing on the cake.”

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“Icing On The Cake” featuring John Stanton

Theme: “Icing on the Cake”
Storyteller: John Stanton

Management consultant John Stanton’s wild tale of a Colorado-bound road trip with two of his sons enthralled the audience with both beauty and laughter. From “the breathtaking landscape of orange and yellow clouds against sunlit, rough mountains” to the tales of “cactus butt” or the moment John realized that he’d become exactly the dad his boys need, we were all in, relishing the ride.

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“Icing On The Cake” featuring Penelope Taylor

Theme: “Icing on the Cake”
Storyteller: Penelope Taylor

With her detailed descriptions of cakes and cupcakes galore, freelance writer Penny Taylor had many in the audience wishing for actual dessert! Spinning tales of her life’s ups and downs and the many sumptuous concoctions along the way, she concluded, “There’s something I will always insist on: There must be cake.”

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“Icing On The Cake” featuring Bill Holston

Theme: “Icing On The Cake”
Storyteller: Bill Holston

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Inc. Executive Director Bill Holston took the audience from the white sand beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama to the court rooms of Dallas, where he routinely helps survivors of torture who are seeking asylum. “There is no better feeling than knowing that I had a hand in saving someone’s life,” Bill said. His humility and commitment to others inspired us all.

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“Icing On The Cake” featuring Megan Mayo

Theme: “Icing On The Cake”
Storyteller: Megan Mayo

With heaping portions of sweetness and laughter, Megan Mayo kicked off the night perfectly. Her true tale of wrangling her toddler to help deliver her husband a semi-homemade birthday cake and surprise celebration resonated with every parent present. “Our finished cake didn’t resemble the picture on the box at all,” she lamented to loads of laughter.

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“Pulling Teeth” featuring Stan Cobb

Theme: “Pulling Teeth”
Storyteller: Stan Cobb

With a story that spanned decades, Stan Cobb — dentist, painter, pastor, professor, and cowboy — shared his challenging tale of starting over at age 42. “I was jumping off a cliff and taking three people with me,” he said. With a Texas twang that filled the performance hall, Stan tied up our evening perfectly by reminding us all, “it is the people in our lives that matter most.”

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