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.

book club mallory kasdan.jpg

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. 

screentime kids.jpg

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.

milk podcast mallory kasdan with rona kobell journalist.jpg

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.

tutu instagram dumbo.jpg

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.

small business taxes.jpg

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.  

 

 

MILK Guest Post: Teens, Trauma and Grief with Journalist Rona Kobell

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting and student uprising for sensible gun control, a friend from high school, Rona Kobell, wrote a Facebook post about a brutal incident that happened to our classmate when we were 17 years old. I encouraged Rona to write more about the incident that upended our community, and was our first experience with traumatic violence and an unfathomable outcome. Rona and I worked together on the piece last week and talked a lot about where Karen Hurwitz would be today, and what might have happened if the boy who hurt our friend had access to an assault weapon. This collaboration is a re-connection with our once 17 year old selves, and Rona's words add a painful layer to understanding our own vulnerability as mothers.  -- Mallory

**Following the publication of Rona's piece here on MILKpodcast.com, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette published it in their March 3, 2018, edition.

In middle school, I knew a boy who was smart and talented but often very much in his own head. In high school, he got his hands on a weapon he never would have been allowed to bring to school, prepared his attack at the local library, and set out to do something terrible.

 

The weapon was a samurai sword. And he used it, along with a pair of nunchucks, to kill my friend. We lost one friend that day, instead of dozens, because it was a sword and not a gun, and because he went to her house instead of our school. We lost her because a boy was troubled, and obsessed with weapons, and he decided to kill a girl who had been nice to him.

 

It was 1989. She was 17 years old. And in our minds she still is, a curly-haired girl who loved the Rolling Stones and hoped to be a journalist. She never got to be more than our memories of her. He took that from her, from her family, and from us.

MILK podcast grief and guns rona kobell mallory kasdan.png

 

Taylor Allderdice’s class of 1990 mourned Karen Rachel Hurwitz. We went to her funeral, where the rabbi talked about a beautiful light so unfairly extinguished. We read newspaper stories about her killer, whose defense was that he was influenced by the movie A Clockwork Orange. And at the student newspaper we wrote our own stories, agonizing about what to say in conversations that have become familiar in my adult life as a newspaper reporter. We talked about mental illness and movie violence. But mostly, we mourned our friend. We didn’t think about our own safety. Her killer was not a threat to us. He hadn’t come for us. (He is now serving life in prison, a sentence upheld after a couple of re-trials.)

 

But what if he had? What if, instead of a sword, he had a gun? And what if, instead of going to Karen’s home, he had come to our school?

 

People will argue that guns aren’t the problem. It’s the mental state. But a sword can’t kill 17 students in five minutes. A knife can’t do that.

 

I don’t have answers, nor do I have anything particularly insightful to say on gun control that anyone with an Internet connection hasn’t seen a thousand times. But my classmates and I, unfortunately, have something else: We know what it feels like to lose someone, brutally and without warning, at a time when we are still figuring out who we are and will be. In that, we have something in common with the Stoneman students. We are no longer 17; we are in our 40s, seeing our own children off to the bus, hearing about their lockdown drills and about classmates plotting school walkouts. With good concealer, some Spanx, and regular hair maintenance, we can pretend not that much time has passed. Some of us even run a faster mile now than we did then.

 

But time has passed. There is a void at every reunion. More than that, we think of Karen all the time. We think of where we were when we found out, who told us, what we did. (For me, it was my French teacher, and I ran through the empty halls to the journalism room, looking for someone to tell me it wasn’t true.) And we think of her when we have babies of our own, when we win awards or get promotions, when we achieve milestones that she never got to experience. I think of her when I hear Mick Jagger yowl about getting no satisfaction, or when I see a red bathing suit like the one she used to wear to the beach. No matter what else her old classmates endure—bitter divorces, painful addictions, the deaths of our own parents—the day we found out she was murdered will always be one of the worst days of our lives.

 

Taylor Allderdice is not so different from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. Both are excellent public schools that celebrate their diversity and encourage social activism. Their motto is: "Be Positive, Be Passionate, Be Proud to be an Eagle!" Ours is “Know Something, Do Something, Be Something.” Our two most famous alumni are Jeff Goldblum and Wiz Khalifa. Today, portions of the country are still fighting about wedding cakes for gay couples. But in 1990, when two girls wanted to go to our prom together, our student body made sure they could. When I look the Stoneman kids, I see my own daughters, my high school friends, myself. I hear their stories—five of the 17 killed were Jewish—and I think of my own summers at Jewish camp, the long talks about standing up for those with no voice. I’d like to think we were that fierce. But I’m glad no one tested us.

 

I grew up in Pittsburgh but now live outside of Baltimore. I know that, 20 minutes from me, students are surrounded by violence. They lose many Karens—not, perhaps, in the brutal manner that she was killed, but to altercations, accidents, domestic disputes, and sometimes police shootings. High school kids in Baltimore attend many funerals. They’ve been tested, too. Long before Stoneman, students in Baltimore pleaded for their lives, too. And they still are pleading.

 

Karen’s death inspired me to become a police reporter. As I wrote in our school paper just after she died, I wanted to understand why bad things happened to good people. The Hurwitzes are unquestionably good people. Linda Hurwitz, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, was the longtime director of the Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Her father, Dennis, a prominent plastic surgeon, has helped many children suffering from deformities.

 

I can remember the victims in every murder case I covered: Gracie, gunned down in a convenience-store robbery and survived by her husband and beloved three-legged dog; David, whose ex-wife shot him on Christmas Eve in a custody dispute; Tony, a rowdy fellow who had the misfortune of living on the same block as an armed, order-loving former police chief. An NRA spokesman said reporters enjoy covering shootings for the attention they bring; I’d return every byline to bring the victims back. Each felt personal; I’d come home from my shift and turn on Law and Order, to replace the bodies with fictional ones in my head so I could sleep, wishing the real detectives could wrap up cases like Jerry Orbach did.

 

Even after writing about dozens of victims—many of them good people who, like Karen, found themselves in a terrible circumstance—her death still hurt the most. Once, when Karen’s killer was in court for a re-trial, I stopped in for the proceedings, looking for something to help me understand. I found nothing. I’m no closer now to figuring out why bad things happen to good people. Covering more murders did not dull the blunt force of the first one I wrote about. Nothing ever will.

 

My classmates and I think about Karen’s light. But when a deranged man brings a gun into a school, we think about our own mortality. We don’t want to, but that’s where our minds go. In another time, with a different weapon, the lights so unfairly extinguished could well have been our own.

 

Rona Kobell lives north of Baltimore with her husband and two children. A former reporter for the Baltimore Sun and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, her recent work has appeared in Slate, Columbia Journalism Review, Modern Farmer, The Atlantic’s Citylab, Undark and the Washington Post.

 

LOVE/MARRIAGE

He always makes the coffee.

He once took the kids to Chuck E Cheese for a 10 am birthday party, hungover.

He fixes my computer, mixes my podcast, and backs up my data.

He goes food shopping, makes stew on a Sunday afternoon, and then cleans the kitchen. 

He still tells me stories from cab driving days.

He never makes a big deal about IKEA on a weekend or driving someone to the airport.

2004 photos by Philippe Cheng

2004 photos by Philippe Cheng

He laughs at my jokes and calls me out on my annoying.

He fights with strangers on Twitter about politics.

He learned to snowboard at age 40.

He loves the movie “Roadhouse.”

He has excellent hair. 

He is always up for family cuddle.

He deals with AAA when the kids leave the dome light on and the car battery dies.

He leads the Seder.

He’ll probably help you move.

He has more than one clear plastic bin of cables and cords.

He could use a few more pairs of dress pants

He’s generally chill, but don’t mess with his family.

He’s my guy.

Totems

I see my tween daughter from down the street, long hair flying, giant backpack hoisted, sheathed in my mom’s dark brown hooded winter puffer -- size XS. It always makes me catch my breath for a moment – seeing Z in that jacket.

When we divided Mom’s closet between the three sisters, there was plenty to go around. Our mom loved clothes. My middle sister took the full length fur coat, which was weird but made sort of sense. My youngest sister took the loud blazers and some of the evening wear. I’m the oldest. I took the nightgowns and some purses. We divided the charms on the necklace she wore everyday.

Some of Judi’s more flamboyant pieces I gave right away to Zoe, who was seven at the time, for dress up: like the light pink cardigan with a pink fur collar and rhinestone buttons, white jazz shoes (?) and plenty of high-heeled boots to totter around in when friends came over. 

parenting through grief Mallory Kasdan.jpg

I hung other things in Zoe’s closet gradually as she grew, mostly sweaters and long sleeve t-shirts.  Such happy/sad, private moments I have with myself every time Zoe walks out of her room in something of Judi’s. A lavender cashmere cardigan, a pair of dangling silver earrings, or a purse I had forgotten about that Zoe now sports so proudly.

In June it will be five years.

The nightgowns are what are most important to me, still. I slip on my mom's nightgowns and I feel …  like a mom. Zoe and her brother snuggle with me in our king sized bed, under the covers, propped up on pillows. We watch “This Is Us,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” shows with a nostalgia component. I wish I could talk to my mom about these shows, or watch with her. But me and the kids, we’re cozy. I like holding them next to me, in her nightgowns.

Anyone who has lost a person has had to contend with the stillness of things left behind. Recently, though, I feel strongly that given time, these items can have a rich and almost kinetic power. They have waited, patiently, and respectfully, and now they are ready to live again.

My sisters and I can refer to the clothes and know exactly what the other is trying to convey. I wore the red shiny trenchcoat to vote for Hillary in the primary. Youngest will wear a loud blazer, with gold buttons, uncharacteristic of her regular style, to lead a conference. Middle will wear pantyhose under her doctor dresses, which is weird but we get it.

We are all moving forward in our adult lives now without my mom, and we manifest her, every day. My younger sister is an advocate and policy maker for under served communities, just like my mom. My middle sister is an oncologist and forward thinker about alternative cancer care, inspired by our mom’s disease and her shortened life.

mothering after loss mallory kasdan.jpg

I take notice of the memories and the stories, and document how the clothes connect us. Since Zoe is the sole female grandchild, or the one most interested in fashion, she is the one to embody most of these totems, at least for now. She understands this inherently, and it squeezes at my heart that she does. She gets it. 

Zoe shines bright. She can argue like no one I’ve ever seen, except for Judi. Like her grandma, Zoe has charisma. She also has many pairs of size 5, brightly colored, slightly worn flats, which she will be wearing all spring long.

MILK is Filling Me Up

We are living in crazy ass times, obviously. The tireless outrages of a reckless and racist Administration, sickening abuses exposed every damn day by men in every field, and the isolation of our own minds and anxieties as we sort through the data, trying to put one foot in front of the other. Plus tending to our relationships and families with normal stuff like groceries and viruses and parent teacher conferences and marriage. It’s a lot to manage.  

I cope by laughing with friends on text and sometimes in real life, hugging and squishing my kids as much as they will allow, and with my clichéd, beloved yoga. And MILK, this podcast I’ve been building, has been giving me life in these dark days since just before #prezvoldemort came to reign.

During each interview I record and edit, I learn something new and nuanced about motherhood, about ambition, about creativity, and about how damn competent we are as moms and humans.  I love meeting people I’ve admired from afar, and getting to spend that time in the studio with accomplished authors, activists, and artists is so fulfilling.

me and  MILK episode 3  Novelist Amy Shearn

me and MILK episode 3 Novelist Amy Shearn

It’s also exciting that my audience is growing, and more people are listening. One of the best things about technology is the ease with which content can be now be created and shared. It’s thrilling to record and get these conversations out to you guys right away. The sharing is easy, and the way I hope to grow it further.

When I interviewed Manoush Zomorodi, from the WNYC “Podcast Note to Self” back in October, she asked me if I knew the “other” podcasting mom in our school. No, I did not know Sally Hubbard of “Women Killing It,” but that was easy to remedy. Sally and I had a lunch, made a plan to be on each other’s podcasts, and this week you can hear Sally on MILK HERE.

Sally’s podcast, “Women Killing It,” is Sally interviewing women who are rock stars in their careers, asking them how they got there, and what they do to adapt and grow. An attorney, journalist, expert networker, and all around cool chick, Sally is smart, accomplished and busy as hell and she still makes an episode each week. It is instructive and motivating! Please listen to her interview of me on Women Killing It HERE, and share if you like it.     

Sally, and Manoush, and all of the MILKs so far, have shown me that we need to help each other and build each other up, us women. It’s what we do best, and we do many things well.

I know this little show I make in my apartment isn’t changing things for most, and that most of my guests come from a privileged place, relatively. Most of my guests believe that satisfaction in life and work is attainable because their basic needs are met – and this is not lost on me. But I find it stirring that there are so many stories and people to listen to and learn from, and that when I feel like I’m paralyzed with worry about the state of this planet, I can look to neighbors and friends and friends of friends to see how other women find strength.

Thanks for listening! And please share the MILK.

MILKs Killing It

Sally Hubbard, Creator and Host of "Women Killing It Podcast," is in the MILK Studio.

Through podcast interviews and real-life storytelling, Sally’s mission is to create a movement of women celebrating successes and inspiring one another. Sally attended NYU Law School and later became an investigative journalist, striving to uncover just how do successful women do it?

Sally Hubbard podcast Mallory Kasdan MILK Podcast.png

Inspired by stories of shattering the proverbial “glass ceiling,” Sally looks to reveal a playbook for how women can kill it in their careers.

We talk, at the tail end of 2017, about the reckoning of male sexual assaulters and harassers, how to keep up the good fight as an activist, and how flexibility in the workplace (and listening to Millennials!) is good for all of us.

Check out our MILK Podcast: Moms I'd Like to Know interview on iTunes.

And go here to listen to Sally interview me on Women Killing It.

NEW YEAR SNOW DAY BRAIN DUMP

Intention

Hygge

Cleanse

Branding

Fitness

Carbs

Growth

Audience Engagement

Resist

#AmWriting

HIIT

Nuclear Annihilation

Connection

Authenticity

Anti-Aging Serum

Baseball Signup

Fencing?

Date Night

Cardi B

Papadapalous

Dubious Russians

Venmo

Change passwords

Identity Theft

Why do I have one pair of socks?

Dentist/Orthodontist/Dermotologist/Gastrointerologist

Psychiatrist?

Facialist

Psychic

Life Coach

Trainer

Tutor

Therapist

Self Help

Self Care

Workshop

Read That Thing in The Atlantic

Mindful

Meditation

F$%K/Marry/Kill

Cured

Fixed

Nope

Byyyeeeeee

Transforming

Written by MILK Podcast guest, Nicole Alifante

It’s hard to write about personal transformation when you’re in the middle of one but here goes.  We undergo many transformations in our lives.  Most of mine were by choice. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a professional actress and so I wrote a story for myself based on a traditional narrative. I moved to NYC, I pounded pavement and I made a living as an actress.

When I was 35, my husband and I decided that we would make a baby and so I transformed into a mother. I wrote a story for myself that was based on my own family history. I focused on my child and all things domestic. The artist met the mother and the reality of my life ensued. That transformation was initially harsh and continues to morph as the years go by.

My current state of transformation is born from a narrative that I did not write but one that I am a character in.  I am working toward becoming an anti-racist. I was never consciously racist and I’ve learned that I am not white but rather someone who has come to be called “white” through a long and institutionalized series of cynical choices and policies that built and defines this country. Let me be clear, I benefit from my whiteness every day. Living here in America that means I have three options. I can see black and brown folks as less than myself and actively perpetuate oppression against them. Second, I can acknowledge that black and brown people are presently oppressed as they were hundreds of years ago but in different forms, be sensitive to it yet still do nothing. Or finally, I can refuse to live any longer in a caste system that was not created by me but handed down to me and try to do something about it. I’ve chosen the latter. It’s the ultimate rabbit hole and it’s deep.

With the horror of our current POTUS shaking me to the core: “The wall”, “The travel ban”, “Mexicans are rapists”, “Black people have nothing to lose”, “Law and order”,  “I can shoot someone on 5th avenue and my people will still vote for me”, I began to research the ugly chunk of American history that was never taught to me in my 16 years of schooling (redlining, unfair taxation, housing covenants, criminalization of poverty, etc) and was awakened out of my deep, white sleep.    

I keep hearing Mr. Garner’s voice, “ I can’t breathe.” These days I feel a loss of oxygen with every unarmed black person shot down in the street -- equivalent to modern lynching. This is and always has been America’s existential crisis. Race is a social construct created so “white” people can maintain power, wealth, property and cling to an archaic definition of American identity. It is only with the lesser “others” that “white” can truly exist. What if those others were equal? Then who are we?    

I’m not trying to save people of color. I’d like to think that in my newfound activism, I can help make life better for black and brown Americans through policy change and education but I will be saving myself as well. I want to live in this country if it’s honest. I want to sing the national anthem, say the pledge or vote in a place where not only are “all men created equal” but are also treated as equals. I want the black teenager selling drugs to have the same punishment as the white kid; community service, rehab and a second chance. I want black mothers to know that their sons are safe on the street, like my son. I want reparations, in whatever form, for those oppressed peoples who have endured terrorism on our soil and continue to on a daily basis.

This metamorphosis is lonely. It’s complex. I’m learning a new language, I’m humbling myself, I am asking many stupid but necessary questions and I listen, a lot, to people of color. I’m not able to really look at people in my life right now and discuss this with them. I’m like an undercover agent, the best kind of liar and most days I feel like a dormant volcano.

When you start to read and pay attention, you learn that this country, and its sacred capitalism, was built on the oppression of black and indigenous human beings. It’s a violent, hypocritical place and it’s all documented. The surprise for me was that it was a historical problem and it’s still happening now. The oppression of black and brown people started here in the 1600’s, racism was born out of that oppression and it’s currently running like a well-oiled machine.

The facts are not open for interpretation, which is why it’s not taught to us. Our educators spoon feed the Martin Luther King story in elementary school, slavery and civil rights movement in middle school and high school and the white washing is accomplished. The “good” whites shake their heads at the scars history has left on the black community but only a select few of us come to understand that it’s not a dark psychology born of slavery that keeps blacks down but America’s very laws and policies that are in play and that mutate each generation like a new form of cancer. Slavery has turned to mass incarceration. I wonder now where our new passion for “white nationalism” will lead us?

We have dehumanized people of color, left them bankrupt, angry and afraid but the irony is that we American folks who have come to be known, for purely insidious reasons, as “white” are dehumanized as well. We are property too. We are born criminals without having to spend time in prison. Our entitlement cuts our soul to pieces because all that we have is due to the fact that “others” are purposely made to have not.

In a construct of such inequity the “boot straps” model is a demented illusion. I won’t allow my son to bear this burden. It’s not a burden that even touches the daily cross that American people of color have to bear but it’s profoundly heavy once you are hip to it.

An acting career comes and goes and your children eventually forge their own lives, but the desire to undo racism seeps into your being and takes hold of your psyche forever. This process changes the context of every decision you’ve ever made as a “white” person. A black woman transforming to an actress or a mother will face obstacles that I will never know and that shouldn’t be.  I may not see any real remedies in my lifetime but how many black mothers and fathers left this earth not knowing if their children would ever be unchained? I try to keep in mind that this version of myself is fighting with the hope that our sons and daughters’ America will one day truly be free.

Hear more from Nicole on MILK podcast.

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. 

books are magic brooklyn author mallory kasdan ella

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. 

saks downtown event author mallory kasdan ella eloise parody nyc

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.

Evaluation

My son has “stuff.” Stuff that allows him to be in a special program in an (awesome) public school. Stuff that creates exceptional behaviors and skills in some areas, like intelligence, memory, reading and writing, and deficiencies in others, like processing language and understanding social cues. Some stuff I worry about, and some stuff I don’t.

Today and yesterday from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm, I sat in a room while a brilliant woman tested him and made conclusions about how his brain works. It was fascinating and exhausting, definitely for me, and most likely also for Miles. The neuropsychologist, who I’m obsessed with, was excited and animated. She clearly relishes her intense job of detailing and understanding children’s complex, beautiful brains. She knows A LOT. I think I might love her. 

My son has it much better than so many. First of all, he has me, and I am a stone cold killer when it comes to protecting him and his sister. I believe in him with all of my Mallory-ness, and I’m obsessive about getting him what he needs to learn and to be safe and happy. I won’t be able to always arrange things for him in this way, and right now it is seductive to think that I can.

Then there’s the fact that he is a kind, soulful and hilarious guy. He doesn’t always know that he’s being hilarious, but he is seriously interesting, and all that know him agree that he is a deep dude with a lot of panache. 

And the fact that he has this stuff: this language processing stuff, this executive functioning stuff, this attention stuff, this social cues stuff, well, it has just been super eye opening for me as a parent and as a person living in this world, just how many people have stuff. How many kids I grew up with had stuff.

I truly don’t know what is normal anymore. I don’t think I even like normal. 

For a while now I have been struggling with the language to write about my son’s stuff. I have been trying so hard to articulate this stuff, because it’s important for me to be to be able to understand him. Certainly, I will continue to struggle with my own stuff in order to communicate on his behalf, as he gets better at communicating and advocating for himself.