It's Just Like Riding a Bike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mothers of Reinvention and Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modern Loss in Jersey City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May Day

May and June are major months for parents of the school-age. There are class trips and gifts for everyone, dads, grads, end of year concerts and performances for every damn activity. As the mom (usually), you gotta show up, be celebratory, organized and sociable. It’s all so intense and condensed that you actually have to laugh at the absurdity à la Kimberly Harrington. (Her book is amazing and you should get it).

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Since I lost my mom, the period between Mother’s Day, her birthday (May 24), her deathiversary, (June 6), my son’s birthday (June 8), Father’s Day (June 15), and the end of school (June 20 something), shines a light on how surreal grief can be, about rituals and niceties versus how you, me, (everyone!) really feel. The seasonal calendar just does its thing -- flowers bloom and the sun finally shines after a seven month winter, and all I can remember is the anxiety, this time 5 years ago, of knowing that she was at the end.

And as we are often reminded, grief is not linear, and it is not clearly demarcated as to when it will flare. I’ve been good lately, trying to focus on my own family, to be more honest and explicit about my needs, less angry and more positive. I feel like I’m getting somewhere with my personal and professional goals. I’ve been trying to contribute and to not be devastated by the direction our country is taking.   

Still, I was anticipating this would be a tough Mother’s Day. I’m deep in the mommy content biz now because of MILK, and on May 1st it was like a Mom Bomb went off: MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER. Not quite in the same way I believe I have been exploring the nuances of motherhood through art, kvetching, honesty, and the comedy of it, but rather through any product or company that can corral the concept of birthing children into an excuse to buy this thing. Mother’s Day (and motherhood) always comes with a side of marketing, but especially now that I’m tuned in to those channels, those books, those movies, and especially those emails about how to make Mother’s Day perfect if you just buy that thing, contribute to this charity, read this book. Dude.

But, I made it. I am a mother and I don’t have a mother but I’m here today, at my desk. I feel relief that I am back to a normal day with no pressure on it to be anything, except Monday. It’s all just a little much, right?

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Speaking of moms, (yeah I know) I read The NY Times Styles reporter Katie Rosman’s memoir-ish about her mom, “If You Knew Suzy,” maybe a year ago, after I tried to get Katie interested in writing about my children’s book, ELLA for the paper. I realized she had also lost her young, healthy mother to cancer, and had written an investigation into her mother’s life, to try and gain some peace about her untimely death. I relate so much to the desire to uncover the how of someone’s life, there are no good answers to the why. Her book is wonderful, and I was so excited to have her in the studio. Her episode will be posted next week.

Reading Katie’s book inspired the current MILK episode interview with Roslyn (Roz) Neiman. I’ve talked to Roz and my mother’s other dear friends many times about Judi, my mom, in person when I go to Pittsburgh, on the phone, and on Facebook, but the formality of having Roz in the podcast studio felt like a new frame, to go back and try to fill in certain gaps about my mom’s life the way Katie did with her reporting.

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I love this episode with Roz, because it is my childhood. I get to re-hear a lot of the stories I know, and then hear for the first time some things I did not know about my mom as a friend, a support, an adult person and not just a mother I took for granted. Roz reminds me in the interview, how, at 14 years old, I was dumb enough to wear my mom’s brand new, super 1980’s mother of pearl hoop earrings (that she told me not to touch) into the store she owned at the time. She wrestled me to the ground to take them off of my ears. What an ass I was, but how funny that my mom pulled a professional wrestling move on me!

To paraphrase Katie, “you need to embody and remember the life, not only the circumstances of the death.” That’s what Roz’s interview feels like to me – an opportunity to embody and celebrate the life of my mom. It prepped me for that sad, incomplete feeling of Mother’s Day,  but connected me to the mom figures I still have, like Roz and my cousin Phyllis, and others from their community. It helped me focus and not be too sad, to think about Judi’s terrific life, how many Mother’s Days we had together, or random, regular days when I could call her and bullshit with her about things my kids did and think nothing of it.

Also, I bought a dress and some sunglasses for myself on Mother’s Day, which is shallow and right in the pocket of the marketing that told me I’m worth spending money on. But I think Judi would have approved, as would Roz. I’ll wear them to the last day of Hebrew school event or the karate belt test or the class trip to Coney Island, which I need to put in my calendar ASAP before I forget.   

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.  

 

 

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?

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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.

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.

CONTEXT: Thinking ABOUT RACIAL INEQUALITY

In Episode 22 of the MILK Podcast, I talk to Singer/Songwriter/Actress Nicole Alifante. She has recently become woke to our culture's broken systems of racial inequality and injustice, and has been working at a local level to listen, understand her part, and to help make change. I asked her for some suggestions of things she's read and listened to, for a starting point for further conversation and action. This is obviously the very tiny tip of the the iceberg.

Books:

The Color Of Law by Richard Rothstein

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Incarceration Nations by Baz Dreisinger

Magazine Pieces

The Case For Reparations

Donald Trump, The First White President

Podcasts:

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These first two episodes (and I’m sure the 12 other ones after it) are really amazing in understanding where to start. 

Nicole Alifante on MILK Podcast

Werk It

Two weeks ago I packed up some cute outfits and took my little show on the road to the Werk It Women’s Podcast Festival, produced by WNYC Studios. I wanted to learn more about how I could take my podcast MILK: Mom’s I’d Like to Know, to another level. I also was excited to fly on an airplane without my kids.

The conference was heaven. It evoked that feeling you get when you know everyone in a room understands you (and your radio nerdness). The feeling that you can be open, listen and learn without interruption and distractions from family and work. The feeling where the world is burning all around you, but you have some hopeful ideas about how you can help said world and are in the right spot to do so.  

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Every woman I met at Werk It was doing something interesting: for the environment, for people of color, for feminism. I heard from professionals and newbies about the craft of telling stories, and their struggles getting those stories into the world. I heard how Anna Sale built her reporting into a career at WNYC, and then I saw her in the elevator going for a run at 6 am West Coast time because she’s a mom and was awake anyway. I heard from Note to Self’s Manoush Zomorodi and Happier’s Gretchen Rubin, also two big time MILKs with podcast and book platforms, about how to engage audiences creatively. I heard Kara Swisher of Recode Decode and TV Producer Ilene Chaiken in conversation about The L-Word coming back (!), and being a gay executive in TV now and then.

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I heard from funny and wise hosts like Lisa Chow, of Start Up, Lauren Ober from The Big Listen, Starlee Kine of The Mystery Show and Esther Perel of Where Should We Begin. I heard an excellent panel called “Don’t Point,” about the line between reporting on and gawking at those who have different experiences.

I met other podcasters like Katie Ward, host and producer of The Enthusiasm Enthusiast, who is smart and wonderful and interviews women about feminism and activism. I listened to creative/business people like Jenna Weiss-Berman, who produces podcasts I love, like Women of The Hour and Finding Richard Simmons, and built an independent podcast production company in Brooklyn. I was mentored privately by Eleanor Kagan of Buzzfeed, and was able to interview Manoush Zomorodi for The MILK Podcast. I watched hilarious actors I admire, like Alia Shawkat, Niecy Nash, Lena Waithe and Jessica Williams, perform flawlessly produced live shows at the beautiful and historic ACE Hotel Theater, that made me laugh out loud in real life. 

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On the last day of the conference, I sat at an organic place near the hotel where I happily ate all of my meals. I ate an acai bowl (so LA), and thought about how nice it was to have a break from thinking about my kid’s schedule for a few days, or planning what they were eating for lunch. The Harvey Weinstein story was breaking, because of two female NY Times journalists who were steadfast and smart and badass and finally told this story that reporters have been trying to lock for decades. I read the account breathlessly and with disgust, thinking "YES, they got this one!" and of course, felt such terrible pain for the women who were hurt. That was just the beginning of the story, and more was to come, but like other moments since the election last year when a sexual assaulter took the highest office in this country, I felt something stirring.  Anger at this toxic, sick person and the evil culture that enabled him and others of his ilk, but also solidarity and pride for the helping to surge the tsunami of women's voices. I felt it in the air all week at the conference as we women shared, plotted and supported, and now, two weeks later, back at my computer writing and editing and planning this week’s MILK interviews, I feel more committed and hopeful that we are talking about things we used to bury. Calling out. Asking questions. Telling stories. People will hear our voices. We will make sure of it.