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.  



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


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.

friends with kids

Have you seen this movie yet? Jon Hamm and his sexy ass frat guy hotness? Awww yeah.

What? Erm. Sorry. Ok, yes. So this movie “Friends With Kids” takes place partially in a Brooklyn village neighboring mine and contains verbatim conversations I’ve overheard from my colleagues, the Brooklyn parent people. The supporting characters are exaggerated versions of folks in my world, so it’s funny, sad and cringe worthy because the behaviors are so familiar. The haggy and angry mothers bitching at the clueless or confused dads. The needy kids who don’t seem appealing because they aren’t yours. The judgment by the pre-breeder main characters of the have-breds and vice versa read like parenting blog comments come to life on screen.

The film is primarily about how people with (small) kids have a hard time keeping love and sex and even “like” in their lives after the invasion by the littles. How some couplings survive the stresses and remember why they wanted to do this, and how some simply cannot. And asks the question: can the disintegration of passion in a relationship with the addition of kids to the mix can be avoided with some type of creativity? Also, where do the kids fit into all of this? They will, after all, eventually be people someday as well.

Ironically, I wanted a break from the stresses of my own Brooklyn first world problems, so I went to see it in the middle of the day, alone. And I’ve been chewing it over ever since. The film really captures that it's difficult, impossible even, to understand what it’s like to have a family, until you do. And once you do, you can’t imagine choosing that prior life without them – even though you miss your old life desperately and kind of dread and often resent the overall scary responsibility of the day-to-day new family version. (And by “you” here I mean “me.”)

It also got me thinking about navigating friendships. Childhood friends, pre-kid friends, work friends, mommy/daddy friends, new couple friends, — so many complicated friendships emerge and disintegrate as we settle down and spread into a community.

I’ve always had a lot of friends and felt confident in my ability to nurture these relationships. It has been important to the idea of my best self that I’m a person who puts friendships first and is considerate of others’ feelings and needs. But with the complexities of small people who rely on me, demand my mental and physical short and long term focus, I’m finding certain friendship situations to be challenging.

It makes sense. We all have our own craziness going on. We are at the center of our own lives, obviously, and as empathetic as I want to be towards others, it’s my own crap I have to face when I have the time to confront it. It’s an obvious concept that everyone has some mania brewing on a given random day when you see them in an elevator. And yet, I forget.

So after a few confrontations with friends in the past few weeks, and feeling like I’ve disappointed others, I’m trying to figure out how to move through these yucky moments. I need my friends. And they need me. We are tied together by history and nostalgia and commitment, and we need to wrestle and fight to keep these bonds strong. Friends with older kids, younger kids, friends with no kids. We are all doing our best for each other.

we are all the same

The other day we were all at this kiddie enrichment place. Z takes ballet there and they have free “open play” in their beautiful gym facility, which we try and take advantage of in order to justify the silly money we pay for classes there. That means getting online weeks in advance to reserve spots for the two of them, and then getting up there by 9ish on a Saturday morning, something we are not fabulous at doing. I always swear I’ll get the diaper bag ready the night before. The same with getting Z ready for school during the week – packing her lunch and laying our her outfit before she goes to bed. Say I’m gonna. Don’t do.

I’m frenzied on these Saturday mornings — grabbing 4 different satchels and cramming snacks, Ziploc bagged sippy cups and ballet clothes into to each one of them, not eating or drinking a thing besides 3 cups of coffee, and feeling like a complete freak for not being able to get my act together by 9:00 am – given that I’ve been awake for hours. This whole ritual kind of sucks, and I would say 7 out 10 mornings E and I end up fighting about who is winning the most annoying spouse contest. But once we get to the place and the 80’s hits are pumping, the kids start frolicking and E goes out and gets coffees and bagels, all the hustle is worth it. Both kids get an activity before noon when we have to get back for M to lunch and nap, and then it’s the reward of chill time for the rest of us.

This Kiddie Club is a funny scene. It’s a posh crowd, and many of the kids have names that for some reason irk me, which I won’t name here in case you have also named your kid Schmoopie or Schmoopae, but let’s just say on a morning that I’m feeling cranky, the names and inevitable tantrums, plus the sing-songing voices of the parents can wear on a gal.

Which is what happened the other day. My irritation did not stay at home with the breakfast dishes, strewn about clothes and plastic toy chaos, but travelled with me to kiddie enrichment place. I truthfully don’t know exactly why E and I were publicly hissing at each other about who got to eat their bagel sandwich, getting napkins wet with coffee cups that still had coffee in them, and who was or wasn’t chasing M into the toilets over and over, but there we were. Certainly not our finest moment.

Seething, I sat down to eat my cold bagel sandwich, and a woman I had seen carrying a wild haired toddler while trying to corral a second child in and out of a coat, stroller, leotard, etc, came running up to me breathlessly, plunked a business card down on the table and said: “We have to hang out. We have the exact same life.”

Now this is certainly something I have fantasized about doing. Seeing another mom who looks or seems or sounds a certain way, it is tempting to want to be pals with this person. I have plenty of friends and acquaintances and people to talk to from all facets of my life – some parents and some not, but for me there is the lure of this person out there in the universe who is your momfriend soulmate, who is cool and honest and not weird and competitive, you have no baggage with and perhaps your kids are exactly the same age and on the same schedules?

We don’t like to think so, because it dilutes our coolness or our specialness, but we are all just archetypes acting out rituals that parents have been doing forever. Maybe we vary in socio-economic status and the modern trappings that go along with having families, but here in our Brooklyn village we do appear to have similar lives. We have struggles and victories that matter, that are not trite or surface. But we also have the same annoying conversations about where to eat lunch and who is going to take the boots to the shoemaker, and worry about how much time we let our toddlers play with our phones. Of course some of us have deeper problems and secrets, but on a Saturday morning at 10:10 am, we are mostly just trying to get though the day without losing our minds.

What had this woman seen or heard that gave her the chutzpah to want to connect with me in this way? I actually love that she noticed that we were probably being ridiculous, and that the whole idea of a kiddie enrichment place is kind of ridiculous, and that by laughing and noticing and reaching out, she was making her morning a little better.

My interest is piqued. I think I’ll call.

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.