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. 

 

Live From The Wing Dumbo, It's Tue/Night

Last night was fantastic because 1.) I told a story live about one of the most treasured moments in my career 2.) I listened to other brilliant storytellers tell hilarious and poignant tales about their first jobs and 3.) I had a reason to wear my blush colored silk blouse in a mostly blush colored room. My whole evening was well lit, filled with excellent conversation, and today I'm still buzzing.

The live storytelling event was organized by Tue/Night, an on and offline community for women over 40, and is run by the awesomeness of Margit Detwiller, Adrianna Dufay, and Karen Gerwin. I've written several pieces for their weekly magazine, and I treasure the work they do supporting we Women of a Certain Age (props to Kim France's blog of that same name, which is another fave of mine). Tue/Night publishes an on-line issue each week, on, yes, Tuesday night, as well as a newsletter, and produces live events with a theme. Last night's theme was First Jobs.

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I told the story of working in book publishing as an assistant to a larger than life publicist, and getting the opportunity to go out on a book tour with RuPaul (yeh, that RuPaul) soon after arriving at that job. Many of my friends from that era, including Karen Gerwin of Tue/Night, are still in my life, and last night when I was reading and considering all that has happened since 1994 when I arrived in New York City to begin my adult life, I was so moved as I looked up from my notes and saw so many women from different phases of that life. Publishing friends, voice-over friends, kid school friends, neighborhood friends, MILK Podcast friends, and brand new friends, like the lovely woman who wrote her disseration about drag culture and RuPaul. Not to mention the other terrific live storytellers, Stacy London, Dee Poku, Robin Gelfenbien and Kimberly Peeler-Allen.

My story also involves reflection about my boss, Jennifer, who passed away tragically at the age I am now. This sad fact reminds me to strive, and to pursue what makes me happy, as we never know what is ahead. But as we push for ourselves in our careers, striving to succeed and find a purpose, we must also support those who are struggling to hold on. As I listened to Letitia "Tish" James, NYC's Public Advocate, talk about issues that plague women across this great city, I thought about how compassionate women like her are serving as elected officials because taking care of others is in their blood. It fills me with pride, that so many women have this attribute, but also with anger that we are not compensated equally for that caretaking work we do. And that there are not enough Tish James's, and that we need better female representation in leadership, especially for women of color. Higher Heights, the organization Kimberly Peeler-Allen runs, is working to change that, and it was terrific to hear from her.

So many feelings, all necessary ones, were spilling over as I listened, joy and laughter mixing with tears and empathy. As women, we know our strengths but also how much more there is to do. Because that is how we roll. We multi-task, even with our feelings.  Since joining the The Wing, a co-working space for women, I've recognized how important it is to network and connect with like minded people who want other women to succeed. The need for community is real, and I'm thrilled to be a part of this one.

Read my piece and the other "First Job" stories: here, and follow Tue/Night, Higher Heights, and the other storytellers who are all amazing. I loved being a part of this event. 

Beautiful photos are by Erika Hokanson of Tue/Night.

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How Mallory Kasdan, MILK Podcast Host, Spends her Sundays

(A Parody of the NYTimes column about the Sunday Routines of people, but also how I spent my Sunday)

Mallory Kasdan, 45, host of The MILK Podcast: Moms I’d Like to Know, interviews artist, author, and activist moms in her home studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn. On Sundays, she works, tries to get in a nap and do her taxes, and argues with her husband, Evan, over who will take Miles (7) to basketball and Zoe (11) to Barnes and Noble.

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TOO MUCH RED WINE I wake up groggy. It’s daylight savings so the only person who really knows what time it is my phone. I stay in bed until people start yelling from the living room.

NO SELF-CARE I do not meditate at my window with the sun streaming in. I did use the Headspace app for about six months last year, though. Just telling you. 

BREAKFAST Evan is making pancakes for the kids, which is a nice, Sunday-ish thing that he does happily and well.  I think about making a goop-y smoothie with kale, bananas, acai, and coconut oil for myself, but I don’t have any of those ingredients so instead I drink 3 cups of coffee with milk and sugar and then eat my son’s turkey bacon and pancakes off of his abandoned plate.

TWO MINUTES FOR MISCONDUCT I break up a fight the kids are having over charger positioning and threaten them a bunch of times with taking away their devices “for the rest of the day!”

To make up for yelling, I force affection on them with kissing and squishing. I attempt to get them and Evan back into my bed for full family cuddle. It usually works. 

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NEGOTIATION Evan and I try to figure out who will do which activity with which kid and who will get some alone time to work out or go food shopping alone. It is a familiar dance.

PODCAST PREP The kids have Hebrew school from 10 AM – 12PM, and I have a guest coming over for an interview at 10, which of course was planned way in advance, since she’s is a mom with her own weekend negotiation process.

Evan showers while I clean the dishes and encourage, cajole, and threaten Miles and Zoe to get dressed and out the door. Everyone leaves, and the next ten minutes are excellent, peaceful minutes.

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I shower and dress in my MILK uniform: jeans, denim shirt, bun in my hair, hoop earrings and clogs. My guest, Rona Kobell, a high school friend and journalist I’ve reconnected with over Facebook, arrives and we kibbitz for a few minutes. Evan comes back from dropping the kids and helps set up the microphones and sets levels, which is nice of him. He’s a sound guy, which is lucky for me. We jump into my home studio.

MOM JEANS In the interview, we talk a little about mom stuff, just because we have so many other subjects to cover, like high school, gun violence, grief, nostalgia, sex, Aziz Ansari, racism, empathy, privilege, and her reporting. But we show each other pictures of our kids and partners and think super fondly of them because they are not around. This is when, I’ve found, as a mother, you love them the most.

FILM SET NEIGHBORHOOD I take a walk around the neighborhood with Rona and point out all the bizarre things that happen in Dumbo on a Sunday, like photo shoots with ladies in tutus laying on the cobblestones, bakeries where a box of mini petit-fours cost $15, and the crazy amount of selfie sticks on Washington Street. I wonder how I can harness these Instagrammers who clog my street and convince them to follow me.

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Rona gets a Lyft, and I walk by a few parks and see people with their kids and am secretly happy that I’m not them because it looks cold and boring. I head home.

LAZY LUNCH Everyone is home from Hebrew school and eating their various meals. I’m lazy so I eat some hardboiled eggs, some cheese, an apple and a banana – no dishes to do! I make some tea and take it into my woman cave and shut the door, and hope no one will knock on it. Evan takes Miles to basketball and I have no idea what inappropriate show Zoe is watching on her ipad. I decide not to worry – she reads a lot, so what could go wrong?

TAXES/NAP I sit in my office and put together my receipts for taxes. It sucks. I hate it. I come close to finishing, and then I tackle the to-be-filed file, the source of endless fights between me and Evan. I end up throwing away a lot of paper, feel high from the purging, and decide that I’m gonna throw everyone’s clutter away in this house. I’m serious.

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I start to get really tired. Daylight Savings, amiright?

I get in bed and take a really long nap. It’s awesome. All the years my kids were too young to occupy themselves… those were the years I cared what they were doing every minute, when I needed them to be at a museum or a show or an event every weekend. I have paid for these weekend naps and I am cashing in.

FITSPO I force myself to put on work-out clothes. Exercising is like writing. I love having done it, but I obsess over when I’m going to do it and I often wait until the very last minute to get it done. Our building just bought a Peleton, so I go down to our basement and do a really hard ride to classic rock, and I’m relieved no one can see how red and crazy I look.  The teachers are gorgeous and fierce and bang on the handlebars and say “Ungh” in a way that’s simultaneously sexy and athletic. I wonder if they take naps.

Evan is home from Fairway, where he got his podcast listening and food shopping alone time (don’t feel bad for him, yesterday he was on a bike ride from 8 am – 4:30 pm).  He makes the kids put away the groceries. They whine. I force them to shower. They whine more. I pour wine. 

FAMILY DINS Evan and I make dinner – hamburgers, roasted potatoes, broccoli rabe with garlic. It's one of the only meals everyone will eat. We all sit together without devices. After one kid has a fit that I cut her hamburger and the other wants me to cut his hamburger, the kids and Evan watch half of a Harry Potter movie while I clean the dishes. Then I stare at my phone for a bit, encourage, cajole and threaten the kids to get in their pajamas and brush their teeth, and Evan and I get into bed and watch High Maintenance and Homeland. 

I take my Zoloft and call it a Sunday.  

 

 

ELLA!

My children’s book. ELLA, came out 3 years ago next month. I'm proud the book that made me an author still has a life, and that there are new readers aging into the story every year. ELLAs are everywhere, and OMG I simply love to meet them!

This weekend I was lucky to participate in two very different storytelling events. The first was at neighborhood bookstore Books Are Magic in Carroll Gardens. I’m in there a lot with my kids and they happily stock ELLA, which makes me happy in return. When longtime standby BookCourt closed suddenly last year just after Trump was elected, it seemed like the last straw in an impossibly horrendous moment for my country and more locally, my book-obsessed community. But Books are Magic came along and filled that void, and now it feels like its always been there. Trump … well, that’s a different book. 

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BAM’s book buyer Abby Rauscher asked me to come in on Friday morning to speak to some local second graders about writing fiction and creating parody. I was thrilled to meet these awesome kids. The best part about writing and making art is the human connection that comes from sharing that art. When I get to talk to kids about their own writing and illustrations, their ideas and inspirations, it is the most energizing and connected feeling I can describe. Children are so honest, so earnest, and so damn imaginative and funny. It truly inspires me to dig deeper to create more.  

We talked about the process of making a book, from coming up with an idea, to shaping it with an editor, to handing the words over to an illustrator for his/her interpretation. We talked about printing, publishing and writer's block. We discussed parody, Eloise at the Plaza, and how The Local Hotel makes sense as a home for ELLA in 2017, and what it means to update something. It was wonderful fun, and the children walked out, holding hands with their partners clutching their ELLA bookmarks. 

Sunday morning was another event, wonderfully planned by new friend and fellow Brooklyn mom, Dara Fleischer, who works in events for Saks Fifth Avenue. She asked me to come to their newish downtown store in the Brookfield Place mall to read ELLA and host a cupcake decorating session provided by the fabulous Sprinkles cupcakes. It was amazing. I sat in a beautiful millennial pink chair, reading to the kids and surrounded by the most incredible women’s footwear. The lighting was wonderful, the coffee was flowing, and the staff at Saks was incredibly welcoming to all. I felt like Barbra Streisand! My kids were even impressed. 

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I met a bunch of ELLAs, a bunch of MILKs, and some dads too. We filled in Marcos Chin’s coloring pages, I signed books sold by Books Are Magic, and watched kids decorate and tear into some seriously gorgeous cupcakes. There were beautiful silver sparkly Saks purses as giveaways, which my son insisted on handing out to every child.

So thank you to Books Are Magic, and to Teresa Ward, Kristin Smith, Kaitlin Brown and Dara Fleischer at Saks, and Aiyana Coker from Sprinkles Cupcakes. It really was an excellent weekend for me, for ELLA, and for books and community.  And cupcakes.

why you need to know Amy Shearn: writer, editor, teacher, mom

She's smart, she's hilarious, and man, is she ever a MILK. She's Amy Shearn: novelist, non-fiction writer, editor, teacher, social mediatrix, mother, and the third guest on the MILK Podcast

Amy and I met when my children's book came out last year, and "liked" each other's posts on Facebook a lot before I took her fiction writing class at The Sackett Street Writers Workshop in the spring. 

Then, we liked each other for real. She is inspiring in the amount she manages to get done in a day, and I loved talking to her. Check out our interview here, and if you like it, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

talking with yoga instructor Amanda Harding on my MILK podcast

This woman is one of my teachers and a major MILK. Amanda Harding, owner of Prema Yoga in Brooklyn is a graceful and beautiful person. 

I know it's cliche to want to know more about your yoga teacher (or therapist!) but I think our talk should be interesting to many. 

We discuss the importance of the mundane, how to create ritual, some of her ideas for stimulating activism in one's community, and coping with anxiety. She's a wonderful mom and person. 

Check it out on iTunes and Stitcher

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My son is 5 years old with humongous eyes and a way of processing information that is unique to him. His developing brain is a fascinating thing to watch.

He loves the subway, as do many kids like Miles, but what’s fantastic about riding the train with him is how his struggles to interpret social cues often seem to bring out the very best in people. He has given me a chance to reclaim what can be the dreary experience of 20 + years of riding the train, because he is so excited to simply be there, look at the map, to discuss which trains are local and which are express, where the F train begins and ends and where you can pick up the G.

The unspoken NYC Subway etiquette famously does not encourage smiling, eye contact or direct engagement, but to Miles it is just a giant grouping of people going places. He asks the questions many of us wonder as we make up stories in our heads about people while touching limbs and sharing air. His little voice as he asks aloud about his fellow passengers, or regurgitates something that happened to him earlier in the day is pure. I have seen countless charming and surprising interactions between Miles and even the most intimidating characters on the train.

Last week, after the first day of Kindergarden in a new school, where he had fallen in the park and opened up an old boo-boo, we were riding home. It was a hot day and he hadn’t eaten his lunch in the overwhelming swirl of new sensations of the first day. On the train he had calmed down but was working it out in full voice how I cleaned the blood from his knee on the playground and applied a band-aid. While he went over it for the second or third time, a middle-aged, kind of tough looking dude with an earring and a cycling cap across the train was smiling and nodding encouragingly at Miles.

Miles: What’s your name

Man : Victor

Miles: Which stop is yours?

Victor: Jay Street

Miles: Is that your home? Or are you going to work?

Victor: I’m going home.

Miles: Today was my first day of Kindergarden. I fell and hurt my leg.

Victor: I fall all the time Miles. You’re gonna be all right my man.

M: OK. (and with my prompting) Have a nice day Victor.

That’s nothing to most people in most normal places, but in New York we don’t do these little captive chats most of the time unless there’s a reason for it. I actually live for these moments, because to me it is evidence of some larger spirit, or kindness, or curiosity or energy that binds us all together. You can try to squelch it, put it in your giant purse, make a tough face and pretend you’re not watching or listening. But it is always there. And sometimes it can take a child who isn’t familiar with social graces, or is too inquisitive to care to wake us to the fact that we are all perfect beings who seem to be on our way somewhere, but actually, we have already arrived.

Children, with their needs and wants can tax and worry us so much that we forget to see the wonder in their eyes, the amazing in their brains, the beauty in their difference.

lice lice lady

There are certain things you don’t know about. Until you do. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll suddenly know way too much about said subject. You’ll seek out info, talk to everyone, see all the sides of the thing, and really just sink those teeth of yours into the meat of the issue. You’ll go there.

This week, that thing was lice. Totally, awesomely, sexy-ass lice.

Apparently, lice is the dirty (not so) secret of the school aged kid. And because young kids are mostly grubby little scumbags who never have any idea what’s happening to them, it’s clearly a much bigger deal and rite of passage for their parents.

They found it in school last Friday, where people from a lice checking company are contracted to come and pick thru the kids’ heads four times a year. Z didn’t even get sent home, because it was “just an egg.” It’s a Department of Health/Department of Education rule that teachers don’t have to send kids home with the eggs – just the live lice. Seriously, that is a stupid fucked up rule. Those eggs hatch into lice! I know I was only a B – student in biology but come on now.

But here’s the fun news – in New York City you can just call someone on the phone like you’re calling the deli for OJ and tampons and within hours, someone will come to your house, apply shampoo and special conditioners and comb the lice out of your kid’s hair. I was laughing with a friend about how our contemporaries used to call people’s pagers (remember life before cel phones?) to get pot delivery people to come over, and now we’re calling lice ladies. Business idea I would have appreciated in this particular instance: “Hits and Nits.”

Turns out, most of the women who do this for a living are observant Jews, so getting lice on Shabbos eve was not a great situation. I was freaking. I had already thrown everything in the washing machine and began my ten hour laundry marathon for the night and was convinced we were all infested. But Brenda, this nice Jewish lady who owns the company and sounded like one of my mom’s friends, talked me down and told me she could have somewhere there in about an hour and a half. A lice lady pimp.

I had heard from other moms I know about this one famous woman named Abigail, an Orthodox woman in Boro Park Brooklyn who is such the maven of lice ladies that she had a New Yorker profile written about her. Honestly, you cannot make this stuff up.

I was sad to miss the opportunity to meet any person who had been profiled in the New Yorker, but I needed action that night, and as I mentioned, it was Shabbos.

So Brenda sent us the lovely Svetlana, a tired, middle-aged, Russian bleached blonde who made her way over around 8:30 PM with her rollie suitcase full of magnifier lamps, combs, shampoos, lotions and oils. She had been working since 8:30 AM that morning, when she helped diagnose the many cases at my daughter’s school. Since then she had been to three people’s homes and combed out several heads. That woman needed a glass of wine, which I gave her after she checked us all, treated and combed Z’s hair section by section, and told us how to proceed with treatment over the next week. She even gave Z a little present – a compact mirror with a winking lady on it.

None of us had gotten lice, or eggs, besides Z, which meant we caught it early and were pretty lucky. Svetlana was awesomely Russian and blase and I totally love her. I tipped her ass off. She drained her wine, told us she’d be back Sunday morning at 8 am, rollie suitcased out the door, and went home in a car service to get a well deserved good night’s sleep. Because the next day she had to go to work “in the salon.” That’s where she works when she’s not combing lice out of school children.

So one thing to take away here is that you never really know what people are doing on the side. And its probably best that way.

mommy wars: humorless parents are the worst kind

I remember going on preschool tours for my daughter and watching some parents jotting down notes and asking earnest questions about educational philosophy and why they should choose XYZ Brooklyn Private Preschool over other expensive and coveted XYZ Brooklyn Private Preschool. And the conversation then devolving into this: will there be people helping to wipe their kids’ asses when they go to the bathroom? Will the school provide wipes? Will the wipes be organic?

Meanwhile, my husband and I were cracking up at the three- and four-year-olds picking their boogers and wiping them on each other, and the banter that ensued between the kids as they did so. We kept looking around at all these tightly wound parents wondering why others weren’t smiling or seeming to not find this all a bit absurd and hilarious? How could people even focus on asking their boring and tedious questions while little Ascher was pouring glue all over little Ava’s gluten-free sunbutter sandwich?

I’m not engaged in a traditional mommy war, but sometimes I do feel like I am fighting a (one-sided) war with humorless mommies (and daddies). When it comes to parenting, you just can’t have enough of a sense of humor. There are way too many moments ripe for parody. And, frankly, if you can’t laugh at the ridiculousness of life with kids and the situations you end up finding yourself in, then you’re not someone I want to chat with at the sandbox.

I mean ugh, is there anything worse than trying to converse with a totally humorless parent? One who isn’t merely competitive or boring, but someone who just doesn’t get the banality and absurdity of it all? And, yet, these people are everywhere! I know life is all about context and about trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. And maybe these glum and dour folks are going through a divorce or illness and can’t fake it that day. I realize I should be more compassionate towards them – maybe they just don’t want to share a chuckle with me, the Random Mom Smiling in the Corner. But, honestly, having kids is too hard and too intense not try to find some levity.

Last weekend, a friend of mine organized a music festival with several bands, headlined by a lovely kiddie singer-songwriter who teaches classes around our parts. Rain happened, so the music fest moved indoors. Singer-songwriter sent email to large list of parents announcing venue change, in a lyrical, poetic and sweet verse. It actually rhymed and was as charming as musician’s public persona. Seconds later, singer-songwriter sent another email to same large list of parents, this one intended instead for members of his band, lamenting the change of venue and using the f word and a few other non-kid friendly intonations.

He must have realized instantly his mistake because moments later yet another sheepish email came in apologizing profusely. And then, on cue, email from outraged parent who demands to be taken off the email list. But who happened to REPLY ALL in order to publicly shame poor lovely singer/songwriter/teacher. Does this music teacher use that mouth with his students? How dare he! Do you know who I AM!? TAKE ME OFF THIS LIST! And then, of course, the lovers and protectors of singer-songwriter step in to his defense. People make mistakes! All along, all these people, replying all. Really funny stuff, but mostly because who on earth would be so humorless as to think a grown man who plays music for a living might curse in the presence of his band? How do these people make it though their days?

Life is totally ludicrous and terrifying random. Today I saw a very old friend who told me a bit awkwardly that he had lost his wife to leukemia two years ago. And another old friend got in touch recently and caught me up ­– he has completely lost his sight due to a rare disease. What do I feel in these moments of hearing of others’ extreme pain and loss? I just feel force of life, so scary, so painful, but also so overwhelmingly wonderful, just tearing at me. And I look at my kids, and all kids, and they are so pure and so alive and so freaking funny. So that’s how I cope and make it through the day. Whenever possible, I laugh.

who needs a backyard? a city girl speaks out

We live happily in the city – Brooklyn, to be exact – but whenever we head out of town into the great expanse of lawns, big-ass grills, backyards and double garages connected to the house (!), my husband and I get disoriented by our attraction to suburban life.

We start doing calculations to justify our existence in the crowded and expensive place where we reside:

Urban lifestyle = ten options of capoeira lessons for kids + late night delivery of Vietnamese food +/- the possibility of witnessing crazy and beautiful moments constantly = having your own damn swing set and not having to negotiate the politics of one tire swing in the park with John and Jane Public and their kids Jade and Jude + good public school options for all – a certain soul = Suburbs.

It’s a special form of calculus we do.

We’ve tossed the city vs. suburbs debate around at home and on road trips to visit family and friends in their houses with more than four rooms. It’s not as bad a dilemma for us as its torturous sister discussion: private vs. public schoolbut you can definitely drive yourself mad trying to figure out if you’re doing the best by your kids rather than holding on to something because you’re selfish.

So why do we like it here in the city? The convenience of having small kids in a densely populated place keeps us sane, for one. We’re talking play dates with other kids in our building in the dead of winter, a 24-hour deli on the corner and a superintendant that saves us the convenience of calling for a repairperson every time something goes haywire. We have neighbors and friends just outside the door to watch the kids if we need them. There is always something cool to check out with the kids – a concert, a museum, even just a walk down the street can be entertaining.

However, as our kids get older, and certainly when summer arrives and the playgrounds are roasting and our city pools have intimidating rules, I see obvious benefits of living in the ’burbs – camping in the backyard, grilling on the patio and of being that much closer to hiking, biking and beaching. I get lifestyle envy for sure.

We often meet people who are happy they made the leap an hour or two out of town, but are almost uniformly wistful about missing the energy and the randomness of the city. Most seem to have a complex about leaving it behind. I understand how they must feel. Everything about having kids is a trade off and deciding what’s best for each family is absolutely dependent upon each one’s unique priorities.

I understand the convenience of having everything for your own family be your own. I get sparkling supermarkets with wide aisles. And I totally get wanting to be around grumpy and opinionated people breathing all over you on the street. I know you can expose your kids to many wonderful things when you live outside of a city.

But I think I’m kind of screwed because I am addicted to city life. I like feeling hyper-aware and on my toes. I love how the highest achievers co-exist here amongst the regular Joes, and the spirit that courses through the city’s veins. It’s grotesque, hilarious, inspiring and overwhelming all at once, and that vibration or energy, or whatever you want to call it, keeps me from being complacent. Not to mention the constant visual, aural and oral stimulation. (Though some of the smells I could do without.)

And I must be insane, but I want my kids to grow up with all that energy in their lives, and have the understanding that there is always something inspirational to look for every day. But also that there are problems and people who are helpless and lost, and that they exist right next to you on the train or in the next neighborhood over.

I do hope I still feel this energized about my home in five years when my kids are older and new challenges arise. We shall see. But, for now, I will enjoy simply visiting our friends and family in the ’burbs, trying to envision my very urban husband pushing a lawnmower or me driving a minivan to Costco. I’ve accepted that the grass is probably greener in the suburbs, but my heart – and family – belong to the city.