Lossy Lossowitz

Mid May to Mid June is my loss trigger crunch time. I write about it every year because it’s a thing.  Mothers Day: May 12. Mom’s B-day: May 24th. Mom’s Deathiversary: June 6. Miles’s Birthday: June 8. Grads/dads, and end of the year events like karate belt tests and tween Instagram posts exacerbate the nostalgia and the milestones that matter to like 3 people in my life, one of whom is gone.

I miss my mom, but she drives me forward, always.

The investigation I’m doing with MILK Podcast: The Loss Season, is fueling me. I’ve done 8 interviews so far this season and have more episodes to come, every other week. I have so many questions about loss to ask.

My sister Lanie Kasdan Francis in one recording studio, and me in another

My sister Lanie Kasdan Francis in one recording studio, and me in another

I was able to interview my middle sister Lanie about her work as an oncologist and about how her life changed when my mom had cancer. Like MILK Caroline Schrank of Down to Earth Funerals, Lanie is able to discuss end of life with knowledge and compassion because she is not afraid to confront it. She has contributed so much to conversations around integrative oncology, patient and nurse advocacy, as well as writing her own rules in the medical world. She is an inspiring doctor, person, and sister, and I am super excited to share this interview soon. I’m thinking about how much our mom would appreciate us talking about how we parent and what we learned from her example. 

I love what I’m making right now, how I’m connecting with my communities, and how being a parent is challenging in a new way. The kids are more complex emotionally then ever, and there is that that loss of the mom I was — to babies, toddlers, elementary schoolers. I’m loving and treasuring my female friends, and finding ways to feel joy and pleasure despite the calamitous state of the world. 

I’m also thinking about success, and what that means to me in these times, at this age, with these concepts of loss in mind. I’m making this show, this season, the way I want to make it because I’m on a mission to understand how loss shapes this half of life as a parent. But I’m also trying to make a living, as my industries are changing and I’m here with the skills I’ve honed, wanting to create and earn. Especially with my kids having needs in new and surprising ways, that are different from the early, messy, desperate years of baby and toddlerhood. So I’m trying to grow this and make it better and collaborate and make a living doing it. Its a new challenge. I’m having to pivot and learn new skills.

I am aware of my talent and experience. Hungry for meaning and for some wins.    

I’m thinking about how I want to set examples for my children, teach them how to show up for people, to connect, to use their empathy and creativity to help and support.  I’m thinking about amplifying people where I can and watching them shine. Because my mom did this.

Brazitte Poole, JD, Duquesne Law School class of 2019

Brazitte Poole, JD, Duquesne Law School class of 2019

I’m thinking about Brazitte Poole, a wonderful woman from my hometown of Pittsburgh, that our family met three years ago when she applied for a scholarship we set up in my mom’s name. Brazitte graduated from Duquesne Law School last week on my mom’s birthday, and we can’t wait to see the good work she will do in this troubled world. Judi’s legacy lives on through women like Brazitte.

Heather laughing at me. I miss her laugh.

Heather laughing at me. I miss her laugh.

And of course, I’m thinking about Heather as we roll into summer, her favorite season. I miss her. It is so weird, and so confusing that she is not here. So I’ll keep trying to understand and appreciate what it really means to be here one minute and then gone the next. I’ll dance to Prince and other dumb songs with the other mom friends and laugh and cry and talk and remember. I will be there for her family and for my own.

Stay with me on the loss thing. It’s real.

 

 

MILK Podcast: The Loss Season

February and March are not my favorite months of the year under the best of circumstances.  But this February, I tragically lost my friend Heather to fucking cancer, and this March, not as tragically but still devastatingly, I lost my dear Uncle Izzy to old age. This was just after the October massacre at my hometown synagogue, “Tree of Life.” After all of these gut punches, I settled into a moment of intense … not just shock, not just anxiety, not just depression, but like, this dull, encompassing understanding of what it means to be this age and know that there are zero assurances.

Uncle Izzy (Isaac) Benjamin, Los Angeles, CA 2018

Uncle Izzy (Isaac) Benjamin, Los Angeles, CA 2018

This led me into a kind of investigation of loss at a macro level. Because this kind of regular loss talk is happening amongst my peers. At some level, I do live with the constant underlying fear that something terrible will happen. And why is it that I’m kind of ok? How do I feel motivated to make things? It’s like I took a drug trip and learned something. It’s like I arrived somewhere, but in a Dorothy “No Place Like Home” kind of way.

Clearly, I’m in the midst of a moment. It’s midlife ish. It’s not a crisis, but there’s some urgency to it. It’s a loss thing. 

So it feels right to be launching this season of MILK Podcast, which I’m calling “The Loss Season.”  Yet I am living, and feeling life – from my MILKs, from my female friends, from my family, from my beloved neighborhood. All of these things, except the MILKs maybe, drive me crazy in as many ways as they give me pleasure, and they give me life.  I’m trying to look at loss as a positive in some ways, and have been exploring subjects and stories where loss can serve as a way to learn.

My first episode of Season 2 with writer Emily Rapp Black is up now. She lost her son at 2 years old to Tay Sachs disease, and she writes and speaks about it with such poise and passion, but is also frank and hilarious and cool as hell.  I’m editing a wonderful and informative show with  Chanel Reynolds, who put together a website turned book about getting your shit together so you aren’t caught completely off guard financially and legally if something untoward were to happen to you or your spouse. So smart and necessary! I talked to an incredible psychotherapist, Dr. Molly Millwood, about her work with mothers who struggle to maintain their marriages after kids – another form of loss to consider. I spoke to Caroline Schrank, owner of Down to Earth Funerals, about evolving from a career as an event planner and divorced mom of two to a funeral director exploring alternative ceremonies and serving those left behind.

Heather, my mom (as a frog), and Prince

Heather, my mom (as a frog), and Prince

I am so fulfilled creatively when I am meeting these women, and getting to share their stories and contributions. 

I’m also writing a book about loss – a kid’s book, and it’s hard. It’s really just very hard to get the tone right. I’ve done ten drafts and its still not there. But I’m plugging away at it because I think the way we talk to kids about loss and sadness and pain in general is not awesome. We need to give them space and truth to deal with the possibilities that things may not always be rosy. At Heather’s memorial service, my kids, and all of our friends’ kids, were so present and so empathetic and I was very moved by their ability to speak clearly and lovingly about Heather to her husband, daughter and parents. It showed me that children can handle emotions and pain, and that they are capable of exquisite love and support.

My kids have been working very hard this year, my daughter academically as she prepares for the rigorous NYC high school process and her Bat Mitzvah in the fall. My son is doing great in school and outside of school, but there have been some questions (mine, really) about what he can handle socially and emotionally. I am constantly, exhaustively, learning how to meet my kids where they are. I’m trying to be there with them as they navigate their worlds. My work life currently permits that, and I’m so damn grateful for it right now. I’m proud of them, and who they are.

There has been a lot of heaviness, this winter, but there has been beauty and laughter, too.  My female friends sustain me, with their text chains, conversations in real life, and women’s trips. I will never miss another one. 

Spring is here in Brooklyn, and those tough, grey months are behind me. But they will rest inside my heart always and shape how I move through this world. I won’t forget them. In the same way, I won’t forget the months of April and May in 2013 just before my mom died. That was the first major loss of my life, and it made me the mother and friend I am today.

Today is the first day of my kids’ spring break. As I type this, he is at his after school coding class, and she is volunteering at the library. Tomorrow night we will have a Seder. Today, my husband is making a brisket.

Life is sweet today. More soon, from my MILKs. 

 

MILK Podcast Holiday Gift Guide

We gathered some of our powerhouse guests from 2018 to put together a list of holiday gifts to give (or treat yourself to) in celebration of a year of inspiring, creative MILKs who are making art, helping us heal, and creating stronger communities. Cheers!

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WELLNESS AND HEALING

What Would Virginia Woolf Do: And Other Questions I Ask Myself as I Attempt to Age Without Apology

This funny and informative book by MILK Podcast guest Nina Lorez Collins grew out of her popular Facebook Group of the same name, where women – with strong opinions and humor – share their private selves with bravery and most of all, humor.

Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy

MILK Podcast guest Angela Garbes wrote this beautiful book based on an article she wrote for Seattle's alt-weekly, The Stranger, called “The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am.” The story became the publication’s most read piece in its twenty-four year history, and the inspiration for Like A Mother, an essential read for all new moms.

If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Reporter’s Notebook

Written by MILK Podcast guest and New York Times writer Katie Rosman, this memoir marries a daughter's quest to truly know her late mother, with a reporter’s attention to detail, humor, and pathos.

Modern Loss: Candid conversations about grief. Beginners welcome

Co-authored by MILK podcast guest Rebecca Soffer the Modern Loss book has been blurbed by everyone from Mindy Kaling to Stephen Colbert to Anna Sale. It is practical, surprising, and filled with the darkly humorous and tender details of death's inevitability.

And check out the Modern Loss community's Holiday Gift Guide for more thoughtful - and fun - holiday gift ideas.

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VOTING AND RESISTING

Vote Like a Mother

Rock your Vote Like a Mother shirt and buy a tote bag for a friend who wants to spread the word about this organization, founded by MILK Podcast guest Sara Berliner.

Vote Like a Mother sells ethically sustainable merch with a wink, benefits mom run organizations, and acts as a filter for activism.

Signs of Resistance

MILK Podcast Bonnie Siegler, who runs the award-winning design studio Eight and a Half, was voted one of the fifty most influential designers working today by Graphic Design USA. Her book is a visual history of protest in America, perfect for this holiday season.

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GIVING BACK

Consider donating to these female-founded start-ups and progressive causes championed by MILK Podcast guest Carley Roney: Power of Two, Project Entrepreneur, and Brooklyn Community Foundation, Motivote and Sister District.

Donate in a friend’s name to support the Higher Heights Foundation, co-founded by MILK Podcast guest Kimberly Peeler-Allen. Higher Heights is a national organization that builds the political power and leadership of Black women from the voting booth to elected office. Talk about getting the new year off to a good start!

MARRIAGE, PARENTING & TWEENS

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids

MILK Podcast guest Jancee Dunn's fabulous book is now out in paperback!

Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give

Another excellent book about marriage and parenting, MILK Podcast guest Ada Calhoun's book is out in paperback in time for the holidays.

TBH #2: 12 Before 13 and TBH #3: TBH, Too Much Drama

For the tweens on your list, or anyone who appreciates great YA, MILk Podcast guest Lisa Greenwald Rosenberg writes for tween girls and I love her books. Her new middle grade book, all told in text message, is the third in the TBH series, and due out in January. TBH #2: 12 Before 13, debuted this fall.

The Washington Post and the Stories We Need

I am grateful to the Washington Post for giving me the space to share my reflections on the Tree of Life Synagogue in the wake of the violence the community so close to my heart suffered.

The nostalgia around childhood is powerful. At 46, I can visualize my kindergarten cubby and rainbow-colored mat, feel the pebbly summer-camp road under my feet and hear the conspiratorial giggles of my friends gossiping in the girls’ room of my childhood synagogue.

Now that place is one of the most blood-soaked crime scenes in Jewish American history.

Some of the most visceral moments of my life revolve around Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill.

Read the full piece in the Washington Post.

It's Just Like Riding a Bike

I’m just back from a 7 day cycling trip in Tuscany, without the kids. It’s not an overstatement to say this situation was epic.   

The trip, “Tuscany by the Sea,” was organized by Back Roads, a cycling/travel company, and took us from Rome to Montalcino to Castaliglione della Pescaia and Ortebello, to Monte Argentario (among other spots) and back to Rome, and was incredible. The rolling hills, the sea views, the churches, the old men sitting on a benches in every town square, the pasta, the Brunello, the espresso, the wonderful guides who told us what to do (my favorite part – being told what to do) – it was such a joy to use my body, to enjoy my family, and mentally put aside all the brutality of recent events. Especially the past few weeks, watching the Kavanaugh heinousness like it was my job, and teetering on the edge of feeling like the result would produce a moment of redemption or healing for all women. But. Of course, we know how that went and honestly, the hits just keep coming and show no sign of stopping. I know that being able to escape the madness of the current political climate for a week was a total luxury, and to do it in ITALY OMG, but man, did it feel good to have a break. I totally unclenched. 

mallory kasdan

Leading up to the trip, I had been training on a Peloton indoor bike, which my apartment building purchased back in January. I had never been one for indoor spinning in a gym – the few times I tried Soul Cycle I didn’t really get it, I was self conscious, it was too hard for me, or the instructors made me do a little too much woo-hooing for my taste. My sisters both got Pelotons last year, and particularly Lanie, the middle sister, became a spinning animal.  She talked about it all the time, she loved all the metrics, which wasn’t surprising given her type A tendencies. She rides every day, and eventually, I got on the one in my building’s basement, and just freaking went for it.

So it was likely some sisterly competition that got me into this unique home biking business, but I’m so glad it did! Peloton has re-introduced me to endorphins, to pushing myself cardiovascular-ly, and I’m seeing fitness results with efficiency and crazy convenience. Though I have a very strong yoga practice, I had been needing something to kick my butt a little, as I get older. Riding alone in my basement to fit and funny instructors live or on demand in a Manhattan studio, oddly, was something I hadn’t known I needed.

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The world can be so hard for all of us, and if you have the strength and good fortune to be able to exercise, then you are lucky as hell. I felt so happy being able to rock up those Tuscan hills on a real bike this past week, alongside my sisters, my husband, and my dad, and I’m grateful for all the miles I put in ahead of time to prepare.       

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Cycling is a metaphor, and on this trip I found myself looking through it as a lens for relationships, like my marriage. Evan and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary last week on one of these rides and slipped away from the group for a seaside lunch for two. Cycling has long been Evan’s passion, and on this trip we got to enjoy it together. It’s hard not to be so literal on the hills, valleys, difficulties of the climbs and euphoria of the vistas, in thinking about our life together and the joys and struggles we experience in the moment, and over the long haul. Again, I feel lucky to be able to make these connections.

peloton series MILK podcast

In that spirit, check out the MILK Podcast/Peloton mini series I recorded with the lovely Peloton instructor MILKs, Jenn Sherman and Christine D’Ercole.

peloton milk podcast mallory kasdan

Riding with them at home has been a fascinating experience, and getting to know them personally in these interviews just highlighted their talent and deep motivational vibes. They are both super inspiring, and I think the episodes are terrific. Jenn and Christine are wonderful women who motivate and lift up others, and getting to meet and interview them, especially just before this trip, has been a wonderfully bright light.

cycling mallory kasdan

And by the way, the day after we returned from Rome, I was right back in it, planning, food shopping, taking the younger to a car racing birthday party and managing a tween temper tantrum over packing her own lunch. So these wonderful experiences, they are over before we know it, and we’re back at the bottom of the hill, working our way up. I feel lucky for all of it.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

I spent June and July working on a podcast project about preparing parents and kids socially and emotionally for the back to school transition. I loved working with Slate Studios and Target as the host of “Coffee and Crayons,” and I’m proud of the result. Check out the 3 episodes, including interviews with Amy Webb of “This Little Miggy Stayed Home,” Joy Cho of “Oh Joy,” and Morgan Neville, the director of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” here, or anywhere you get podcasts. We talk about inclusivity, creativity, and compassion, and how to infuse transitions like back to school with those components. Do let me know what you think! And please share, subscribe, and rate if you can.

Coffee and Crayons is an extension of my work with MILK, and I’m really excited about it. Even though the episodes are up and living in the world, and many kids have started school already, my family and I are still in the midst of our treasured summer vacation, hanging on tightly for the next few weeks until Labor Day.

Last week we went to Northern California for a cousin’s wedding and then on to Los Angeles to see my husband’s great uncle. This week, after picking up my daughter at overnight camp in New Hampshire, we are with my dad and sisters and kids in Maine. I’m writing from a screened in porch where the rain falls steadily and soothingly. 

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In California, we were super active in a short amount of time – driving and hustling to events surrounding the wedding of a terrific couple, Aaron and Jessica. My son M can be sensitive to his environment, and yanking him around a lot outside of his normal schedule can often end in tears (his and mine). But we had our very supportive and compassionate family surrounding us that weekend, and that made it totally lovely and adventurous instead of treacherous and overwhelming, as busy trips with him have often felt to me in the past. Also having one kid to give our attention to (our older daughter goes to overnight camp for a month every summer), allows the time to feel precious with our son. Plus, less sibling bickering.

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The experience of going to a wedding with my partner of 18 years (married for 14 this fall), was such an interesting one. Wedding are the ultimate in hope, and such slowed down, present, beautiful moments in time. I love the presence of love and choice in every moment. I love watching people dance. I love cake. I love weird speeches. Its just good stuff. I’ve said before, however, that a couple could really use a wedding like 6/7/8 years into a marriage, where speeches and celebratory words and dancing could do a world of good to a couple living in the thick of what marriage actually is.

And though I do love a good horah, the highlight of the California trip was seeing our Uncle Izzy (Isaac) in Los Angeles, who is my husband’s father’s brother, and the last surviving member of his generation at age 96. He and my kids began writing longhand letters to each other a few years ago, and the relationship between them has blossomed into something beautiful and poignant.

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He writes often, in his beautiful, careful hand, about his own childhood, our family history, and about sports and any other subject that might engage M and Z. I saw these letters as something very dear and very special, and decided to compile them into a photo book for him. To say that he appreciated the book is an understatement – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone more moved by a gift. Honestly, it made me want to find a child pen pal for every older person out there! So therapeutic and wonderful for all of us involved. 

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After returning home to repack our suitcases, we headed north to pick up our daughter at overnight camp and our foursome became whole once again. I always relish retrieving Z at her beloved camp, and seeing how her face and manner has changed in a month's time. She’s always tanner and older and more and less familiar at the same time. We all swayed, arms around each other, sang “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” loaded her stinky duffel bag into the car and headed to Maine, where we are now chilling for the next few days with my sisters, nephews and dad. 

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It has been a while since my sisters and all vacationed together with our families, but we are making it work! It's always evolving since we lost our mom five years ago, and I’m very grateful we are together in this beautiful spot, drinking gin and tonics, and remembering that we can be good to each other and that our kids can grow their own relationships. My last post was about the strength of friendship, but family too, is everything. 

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See you soon for more MILK action. 

To Life! And to Female Friends

I’m writing from a hotel room in San Francisco, where I’ve been awake since 4:50 am. I’m here for a long weekend to see my friend Rayna’s daughter, Lily, celebrate her Bat Mitzvah. Rayna is a friend I met when I was 19, during the year we spent living together in Jerusalem. She and I have had a lot of adventures together. We backpacked in Europe, saw Phish on a mountain in Vermont, and spent many early 20’s weekends visiting each other in Boston and New York. She watched me finish the NYC marathon. We’ve spent Jewish holidays together with our parents. We drove across the country, camping in California, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. We danced at each other’s weddings and signed each other’s ketubahs. We hiked in Lake Tahoe with our kids. We see each other in NY and in the Bay Area whenever possible. We don’t talk every day or every week, but we are there physically there for each other.

I’m excited for her family's celebratory milestone, one that is familiar and cultural and important in the story of our friendship. Rayna and I met at an age when we were discovering who we were as women and as Jews, and now we navigate life as working mothers, wives, and members of our own chosen communities – different from the ones we grew up in, but also infused in many of our parents’ values.

Being with my own tween daughter alone on this trip at this moment feels important, like I’m giving our relationship its own weight at such an interesting time in her development. I love introducing her to my old friends, like my friend Danielle whom we saw last night with her daughter. It may sound obvious, but the fact that Zoe is a full flown human making her way in the world with her own personality and opinions continues to fill me with pride. I want to model for her that female friendships are everything, and how much my old friends mean to me. They have shaped me, and continue to do so.

Also this month, my dear friend Rachel is moving away. She is a true sister to me, and has been there for ALL of it since we met at that same formative age of 19 – for the fun, the struggles, the constant processing, the shopping, the advice, the editing, and the listening. Our friendship is evolving, and we are at the phase in life where we have to be confident in the time and energy we make for each other. I will miss having her so close to me physically, but I know this is an exciting moment for her family, and I know that transitions are what strengthen. Trying to be cool here, but the thought of her not in NYC is completely nauseating.

Work wise, I’m deep in a new podcast project that is launching in August, and I’ve been busy learning about how wonderful it is to collaborate with a team and have some professional level support behind me. MILK has been a little off schedule for the past few weeks with other MILKs’ summer situations and getting my own family transitioned into summer, but I’m excited about two upcoming interviews next week with an author and an activist, and also to share the groovy parenting podcast I’ve been working on with Slate Studios in very early August.

But right now, while my girl sleeps in, I gonna drink this coffee while looking over the foggy, romantic, pastel hued city of San Francisco, and do some plank poses so I can lift my friend Rayna, and her daughter Lily, high above in a chair when we dance the Horah tomorrow night.  L’Chaim.

 

This week was Bananas. Yay or Nay?

Schools Out!

Kids work at a lemonade stand to benefit migrant children separated from their parents at our borders. Yay.

Some jackass dude starts yelling at them about permits. Nay.

Lovely random woman stands up for my kids at the lemonade stand. Yay!

Inspired by women, especially women of color, in government after upset in NY Primary. Yay!

Supreme Court. Nay/Despair.

Proud of these kids. They got a lesson in civics and a lesson in kind bystanders stepping in to defend them.

Proud of these kids. They got a lesson in civics and a lesson in kind bystanders stepping in to defend them.

Resting podcast listening face on the last day of school.

 

Interview kids and parents for cool new podcast project at the playground. Yay.

Collaborate with like-minded people. Find more women writers, thinkers and doers to work with. Yay!

Help organize super local action in my community. Yay.

Newsroom shooting in Baltimore. Jesus.

Feel more pride for women beautifully resisting our governments hateful policies. Yay.

Be aware of privilege. Every day.  

Communicate with people intentionally and thoughtfully. Yay.

Trump takes prank phone call on Air Force One. Unreal.

Anxiety that there are no real adults running things. True.

Be the adults and use our voices. We must.   

Mothers of Reinvention and Connection

The last few weeks have been intense, but in a positive way. After May, and the schpilkes it tends to bring (Google it – it’s a good Yiddish word to know), June has felt sunny and busy and productive and present tense. Not just a time to get through, but a time to be IN. How are you, people asked, like today at my younger one’s field day, and my answer is  “CONNECTED.” I feel, and I hesitate to even write this down for fear of the evil eye, that at the moment, all areas of my life are overlapping in a very affirming Venn Diagram kind of way.  

I was interviewed last week for the “Spawned” podcast with Liz Gumbinner and Kristen Chase from Cool Mom Picks.  I’ve long admired their site, blog, and podcast, and not just because Liz and Kristen are funny and excellent talkers who you feel like you’ve known forever, but also because they offer practical and useful advice about what to read, what to try, what to cook, and what’s happening in the world of parenting. They cut through the noise – whether it’s a tech issue, a parenting fail or win, or a great idea for teacher’s gifts, they are an excellent resource and always seem to know what’s up. I had a terrific time being interviewed, and it’s instructive for me to hear what seasoned pros bring to a medium (podcasting) I’m working on myself. 

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The episode is called Mothers of Reinvention, and it was really cool to talk about the ways we've shaped our careers around our families. In talking about my "reinventions," from book publishing to voiceover work to children’s book writing to podcasting, I realized that so many of the MILKs I’ve been attracted to are authors because of that initial book publicist living inside me. Just this month, there are two MILKs with new hardcover titles out, and two with paperbacks. I know how much work it takes to write a book, and though their subject matter is all very different (Essays on marriage, juicy contemporary fiction, middle grade fiction and essays about women and ambition), I am so happy for all of these friends.

My interview on Spawned also helped me realize that years of hanging around actors, musicians, audio people and other creative hustlers really opened me up to questions about how people get from point A to point B, gave me confidence to try things that were non-linear, like podcasting, and how the people I've met in my work travels are all a part of this journey.

So it made sense, last week, that I was invited to attend a women’s collective through two other MILKs, Amanda Harding and Alessandra Olanow. We gathered at Alex’s beautiful home to pool resources, with the idea that what one awesome creative woman can bring to the table, another might need and so on.  It was inspiring and freeing to admit that many of us, working alone on projects and businesses, need community too. As Amanda, a wonderful person who works so hard as a teacher to create a community that gives back, always says, making connections is what it's all about. And Alessandra is such a talented illustrator – check out her work here.

Books by MILKs Ada Calhoun, Julia Fiero, Lisa Greenwald, Liz Wallace & Hana Schank

Books by MILKs Ada Calhoun, Julia Fiero, Lisa Greenwald, Liz Wallace & Hana Schank

On the mommy side, last week was my little one's 8th birthday, which then brings me back to MILK, and to this week’s episode with Journalist Angela Garbes. Angela is a journalist based in Seattle, and her wonderful book is called “Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy.” I hadn’t read about or thought much about pregnancy and new motherhood in a very long while, as most of my MILKs have been more mature moms, but her book is fascinating, super well researched and feminist AF. I was grateful for the opportunity to talk to Angela about how different paths bring us to the same powerful, and vulnerable spaces as mothers, and how we can truly listen and support each other’s stories and choices.

Angela’s interview came at an interesting moment personally, as things tend to do these days. I loved having the opportunity to reflect on my son's birth story, and reconnect with that side of myself – remembering what my body is capable of and celebrating not just his life, but also my life as his and his sister’s mother. Motherhood, as commonplace as it is, is truly miraculous, and it is worth pausing to remind ourselves of this simple fact. 

So it’s full circle with the MILK connections right now, and it all feels lovely.  Happy summer!

Modern Loss in Jersey City

Last night I talked about death in front of strangers and met some fresh MILKs.

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I traveled to Jersey City’s Word Bookstore on a lovely summer evening. Musicians played on the car free street. Kids rode bikes, adults drank cold white wine at outdoor cafes, and a lovely crowd gathered in the bookstore to hear from Rebecca Soffer, co-author of Modern Loss, and four other storytellers, including myself.  Rebecca has been traveling the country since the book came out in January (listen to her MILK Podcast interview here), inviting people to share their own surprising stories about grief and loss.

At the event, I met Caroline Waxler, Sehreen Noor Ali, and Nicole Savini. They each told terrific 6 word memoirs stories about loss, faith, dementia and cancer, but also about how Denzel Washington impressed a Catholic priest more than he should have, how Joan Rivers killed giving her estranged sister’s eulogy, and how a mother struggles to talk to her daughter about the death of a grandparent. These women all spoke with emotion about their late parents, and their combined vulnerability, bravery and empathy are exactly what make The Modern Loss movement so damn special.

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I told a story about something that happened after I lost my mom, involving social media, miscommunication, and how grief can bring out the worst in people. The incident, which still lives with me, taught me a lot about trust and how to treat people. It hardened me in some ways, and kept me an empathetic listener, in others.

Reflecting on the five-year anniversary of Judi’s death, coming up next week, I know that I have grown in ways she would be proud. It has not been easy, but I am working on my family relationships. I am trying to raise good humans with my partner, and in my work, I am promoting voices and creating stories that I believe have meaning. I am trying to find the balance, and emulate my mother’s life by living mine with joy, awareness, and compassion.   

Mallory Kasdan, Rebecca Soffer, Nicole Savini, Sehreen Noor Ali, and Caroline Waxler

Mallory Kasdan, Rebecca Soffer, Nicole Savini, Sehreen Noor Ali, and Caroline Waxler

But back to Jersey City. It’s these events, books, and support systems that can help us get to a safe enough place with grief.  And to know that we can live again, we can morph after a loss and still be ok. We share our experiences, and we encourage others to do so, and it makes us better. A middle aged man last night had just lost his brother and niece, and wandered in from the street because he saw the Modern Loss sign outside the bookstore. He shared his own 6 word memoir with us, and we thanked him for doing so. With all of the terrible noise, cynicism and hatred in our culture right now, what a gift to have a few hours to sit with others, listen, cry, clap, laugh and support. Thanks so much Rebecca for letting me be a part of it.