Mom's Got Her Thing Tonight

I’m lucky to know a variety of excellent women. It’s why I started MILK Podcast, for a chance to converse with and champion some of the passionate and fabulous ladies I come across.

Some of my most treasured women friends are ones I don’t see all that often: my gal pals from college, and they are a special little coven. We get together every few years for an unofficial reunion, and it is always the most replenishing and hilarious time. We drink wine, laugh constantly, tell stories about our kids and jobs, and of course, reminisce about who we were and what we wore while students at The University of Vermont. I always leave these weekends so inspired, so vibrant, with my heart so full. I remember things I had forgotten about younger versions of myself, and I’m moved by them, as if reconnecting with an old friend, and that friend is me.

friendship Mallory Kasdan MILK podcast.jpg

These women: Heather, Whitney, Aimee, Danielle, Lisa and Cressida, are unconditional supports. We live in different locations (urban/suburban/country/east coast/west coast), and aren’t all in touch on the daily, but our choices and values overlap. We share honestly and vividly about our fears and accomplishments. In one breath we feel 19, and like we live on the same dorm hall getting ready to go see Phish play in our student center cafeteria (which we did). In the next we are aware of the responsibilities that challenge the free spirits we all once were (how many types of insurance can one person/family have, just for example).

I came upon this piece on “The New Mid Life Crisis, Why and How It’s Hitting Gen X Women,” while researching an interview that I’m recording tomorrow with it's author Ada Calhoun. She also wrote a crisp and entertaining book of essays called  “Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give,” which I loved and highly recommend. This essay, however, is a bit bleak, -- full of research both scientific and anecdotal about why women in their forties, like me and my UVM girls, would or could be struggling physically and psychically in this mid life place. It is very much worth reading and discussing. 

Coming off of this weekend, however, where Whitney hosted us one night in her cozy home, and planned our meals and thought of everything, I felt so loved and tended to. The second night we stayed in a hotel and met up some other college friends, and it was pure silliness and reconnecting with that fun time freedom we all took for granted in our college days. Meanwhile back at the ranch, our awesome partners tended to our kids. 

friends MILK podcast Mallory Kasdan

Thinking back on our reunion and considering this piece today, I do not feel in crisis. Perhaps this is because I am privileged to have a partner who will watch my kids, and friends with the means to host a lovely dinner and split hotel rooms for a night. That is my pure luck in this life to be able to afford these luxuries.

But I wonder also if I am feeling less mid life crisis-y and more optimistic lately despite the constant drum of bad news and our dire seeming, violent world, because I’m feeling free to be myself, finally, at this mid life crisis prone age. Being with these old friends allows access to the previous selves inside of me that I’ve been able to embody or else retire. Conjuring them up is intense, but feels like a release when I can let them go.

“Self-care” is a phrase that annoys me for no good reason, but letting laughter and love wash over me, and spending face to face time with people dear to me, really felt that way. As moms, women, humans --  our many selves need care, and we deserve it.

Mid Life MILKs

Welcome to my new digital home. Here, you can meet the women of my MILK Podcast, and check out my children’s book ELLA. There’s also my other voice work, writing, and radio work for you to see and hear as well. 

MILK (Mom’s I’d Like to Know), started out as a list of writers and artists I admired, and morphed into a framework to connect with them. I’ve always loved radio, and creating a podcast in the context of my other interests and career just made sense. I see now too, that I have been seeking a community of sorts, and the permission to ask questions of others that I hold in my own heart. It’s also important for me to laugh and to find sisterhood in a world that can feel isolating and toxic.

Coming up on my 45th birthday this month, I’ve been focused on retaining memories, doing a lot of looking back at photos and journals and reconnecting with sides of myself I’ve felt distanced from since the kids. It's been sort of a mission, examining who the hell am I right now -- and how did I get here? An interesting thing that’s happened in the midst of this mid-life not really crisis, though, is that I see all of who I am as a positive, even if it means I’m not always appreciated or understood by everyone. To actually feel this way and mean it …. well, YAY being 45.

So. I’m proud of these conversations with my MILKs, and excited to see where this podcast, and the rest of my work will take me. I’m happy to have my output in one place, to be able to promote people I admire and share things I love. Through it, I hope to deepen connections and articulate my artistic contributions. There’s a lot I want to do, suddenly, and I want to make it all count.

Please share the site and the podcast with anyone you think might dig.

Xoxo Mallory

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 42

Summer is dwindling and my birthday is nigh. It seems that a bit of reflection is in order.

So who the hell is 42? What’s her freaking deal?


42 is surprised at how young her doctors and lawyers and kids’ teachers and people in charge of things are.

42 is paying bills for more kinds of insurance than any one person or family should need.

42 is in the mirror, lines etched on her face and strands of “ashy blonde” at her hairline.

42 is overwhelmed by nostalgia when she hears Ace of Base in H & M. 42 is confused by fashion trends like high waisted acid washed jean shorts.

42 is disbelief that 20 years have passed since she came to NYC and started her big girl life. That small people rely on her to wipe their asses and pack their lunches.

42 is glazing over when Minecraft is being explained.

42 is a relief and a settling into something. There’s a relaxation that is new. Turns out 42 is OK at this Mallory thing.

Anger, sadness, spaciousness, joy, anxiety, irritation: a flavorful soup of emotions I keep in my mental fridge. I add to and it nourishes me. I feel it all and that ain’t changing. But 42 knows boundaries. She has the ability to let in the insecurity and the annoyances and the fears and sit with them and feel them, and then try to let them go.

42 can still party, though she’s hurting the next day. Also, 42 gets really red in the face when she jogs, and could give a shit.

42 lives deep in the bones of her memories and her old friends and conversations and jokes they made. 42 needs her loves – to laugh and to cry with. To try and be there for them like they have been there for her. A certain laughter or cadence of a conversation can take 42 right back to the good times at camp or Israel or Vermont or childhood in Pittsburgh.

42 knows a good one when she sees one.

42, I love you man.

lasts and likes

Yesterday was the last day of second grade. Z’s class watched the Smurfs and Jessie apparently. I know this because after pickup Z and her friend both tried to recount the plot of the Jessie episode and I had to tune them out. Hearing Jessie plots breathlessly rehashed by two seven year olds is actually worse then watching the show itself. But that’s fine. They learned things this year. Just not, you know, in the past two weeks.

So, it’s summer again and the seasons they go round and round, painted ponies and all that. It is pretty easy to get sucked into weeping and feeling panicked that this life is speeding by like one of those TV renovation shows where there’s a dump of a house and then suddenly everyone’s fixing it up in a 2 minute montage and then a backsplash and an accent wall and built ins and books arranged by color all emerge. We don’t see the bathroom breaks and the walks around the block and the lunches and the gossiping about the contractor. We only see the doing, edited down to barely anything.

But life isn’t really that. These milestones, these beginnings and ends, they have this heightened emotional quality, because we try and get a handle on things and highlight them because otherwise, what ARE we doing? Of course, we record them — the end of year performances, the moving up thingies, the last hugs with their teachers with our ubiquitous phones held up in front of us while we half watch the performances, distracted by the idea that we might not get the shot. Because if we don’t record, will we forget? Will we not feel the preciousness of the moment unless other people give us a thumbs up on Facebook? It almost like we think we CAN hold onto any of these fleeting moments if we only record and catalogue and share. Then at least there’s documentation. It’s something.

With all of this mad documenting though, the result can be a racing feeling, an anxious feeling, and sometimes an out of control feeling. It’s almost too much at times. Scary world + innocent kids doing adorable things = please god let this all go well for them. Or something like that – math isn’t really my thing.

What I’ve been doing to counteract my larger existential anxiety when things are moving too fast in this way is to try to stand there in it, in those lumpy throated moments when the kids perform a World Cup dance on a stage and I feel like I simply can’t bear the sweetness and the wonder of this fleeting innocence. Or when they lope around the park after school, I see them from behind scootering away from me and watch their once tiny bodies stretch into tall big kid bodies. I try to just be in it, to just go: wow, they are changing every second and I am changing too. I’m not 22, even though I feel that way sometimes.

Because of course I am older, not because people call me ma’am in American Apparel, but because we are just aging and that’s what we fucking have to do. No one can make it stop, and no one can really take care of us except ourselves. And this past year in particular has held a shift for me, as I truly let go of the need for someone to turn to in that role.

This is sad, but ultimately good. I think maybe I’m a better parent to my kids now that I’ve internalized that control really is an illusion, that I can only do so much, and that luck will play a huge role in all of it. We can only try as hard as we can and love as much as we can and the rest is sort of not even up to us. Being as present as possible seems the only salve for feeling out of control.

Last year at this time, things really were spinning off of their axis. I really did feel like parts of my body were in danger of falling off. I was so tormented about every bit of life moving forward without my mom. Everything felt painful and impossible.

And now I cry a little less easily, and there is an acceptance now that I am the parent – to myself and to these other two people — one of two adults in this house taking care of business. They need me and I need them and this is what this is — all this is. Of course it’s still sad that I don’t have my mom to witness Z’s punk song she performed onstage, or M shuffling down the hall every time he has to pee with his pants around his ankles because he just can’t figure out the order, but it will be ok. And not just because I take the videos and pictures and share them with my friends, but also because these things really happen every minute and I notice them and I feel them and then we move on.


My daughter’s recent birthday has ignited my memory of being her age. Her intonations, tics and tricks are so familiar to me. The pouting, the scary emotions that overpower her sometimes, her otherwise infectious enthusiasm and mostly good nature that result from a happy home and mostly good natured parents who try their best. I remember trying all on all of those moods and attitudes I see her working through myself, like outfits, or hats.

Besides being my daughter, Zoe is this dimension of my own childhood self, just as I, as a mother, am a dimension of my mom’s mothering self.

I have my baby book that my mom made. The title on the cover is “Your Baby Age 0 – 7.” I look at it a lot lately, in sadness and in wonder, because the idea of the book is such a contradiction to what I thought was her lack of sentimentality in later years. It’s filled with details about my lost teeth, my doctor’s visits, my first words, and upbeat descriptions about each of my birthday parties. I was glancing through it yesterday, looking at a photograph of my mom at 26 holding me in the front seat of the car coming home from the hospital, searching her eyes for clues about what it felt like to be her, holding me in her arms. Ready for the adventure and not knowing what the future would bring.

And today, as I look through pictures of myself bringing Zoe home from the hospital on my computer, with my hopeful and much less worried looking eyes, I simply can’t believe Zoe is the age I was when I was no longer my mom’s baby. This loop of life, moving through it sometimes seems truly miraculous.

Seven was also the age I turned when my youngest sister was born. I remember what our house on Linden Lane felt like physically, the light in the downstairs hall and the smell of concrete and Tide in the basement and how the house was changing. Rules, once rigid, were becoming less so. I imagine my mom was tired, maybe overwhelmed? Sugar cereal, once outlawed, began creeping in.

The office with the yellow, brown and green wallpaper was peeled down and painted, yellow I think it was. Or pink? There was a gilder. A slide. A changing table. We were intrigued, but after a bit, bored and ready for the next thing. Nine months seemed an interminable amount of time to wait.

I remember going to the hospital at the end of the summer to meet her, and it all seeming unreal to me, how tiny my sister was, and like, where the hell did she even come from? I remember we got to go to Sea World with my dad the week right after she came. I know it happened because there’s a picture of Lanie and I on my dad’s lap holding twin Shamus, pink faced and white-blonde haired. And I remember too that it was my birthday five days after Lex was born, and I was extremely pre-occupied with what I would get when we returned from Sea World. Because that’s seven.


I’ve been listening to this Taylor Swift song on repeat.


Listening to “22” is a four minute jolt of infectious auto-tuney happy earnestness which bleeds into intense nostalgic yearning. The soundtrack to trying on outfits while wearing a clay facemask. Sitting shotgun driving to get frozen yogurt. Laying out at the pool and not worrying someone will make you get them a graham cracker.

It’s pretty sweet to go inward in that particular way a pop song can free you from your present, even if that present is not exactly unpleasant and you’re cool with where you are in your life. Plus, I get a tiny thrill listening to it on my phone on the train between some skinny hot girl with librarian glasses and a tough thug with his legs spread maximally.

Factors that contribute to happiness in your 20’s are sharply different than those that please you in your 40’s according to an interesting article my husband pointed out to me while constantly reading his iPad. It’s about what motivates you at those specific times of life.

The author of the article, Heidi Grant Halvorson, who is on the cusp of 40, writes:

“Happiness becomes less the high-energy, totally-psyched experience of a teenager partying while his parents are out of town, and more the peaceful, relaxing experience of an overworked mom who’s been dreaming of that hot bath all day. The latter isn’t less “happy” than the former — it’s a different way of understanding what happiness is.

Social psychologists describe this change as a consequence of a gradual shifting from promotion motivation — seeing our goals in terms of what we can gain, or how we can end up better off, to prevention motivation — seeing our goals in terms of avoiding loss and keeping things running smoothly. Everyone, of course, has both motivations. But the relative amounts of each differ from person to person, and can shift with experience as we age.”

I suspect that the place of calm and complacency the author is writing from reflects that she is NOT having a midlife crisis, feeling the need to challenge herself physically by juice cleansing or running a marathon. Or becoming depressed and thinking a drastic career or spousal change will be the answer, or having another kid. This writer, in a vague, non-type A personality kind of way, seems to have what so many of my contemporaries are striving for: some peace and contentment for five minutes. It can be enough that everyone is healthy and safe and playing Junior Monopoly on Saturday nights. So good for her! This is great news and I appreciate the reminder that not everyone is out there being groovy all the time and that as parents we are occasionally allowed to breathe a sigh of relief that things are dull and unremarkable.

I listened to Terry Gross interview Greta Gerwig, 20 something actress and co-writer of “Frances Ha,” where Greta is talking about the moment, shown so beautifully in the film, where a person is a post collegiate mess a bit too long to be charming, and how some people seem to move more gracefully into adulthood than others. This film was excellent at probing that side of being youngish and flailing around, and how murky the experience of driving your life forward can feel. I loved it because it showed a character who couldn’t not be who she was, until she found her unique path, which most of us eventually do.

I guess these pieces of art, this pop song and this film, are two halves of a whole. The Taylor Swift song paints a condensed and uncomplicated version of events, feeling free and happy because things are in front of you and who knows where the night will take you? And the film, “Frances Ha,” is a more lengthy, more intellectual take on this exciting and awkward time of life, more probing, more squeamish and more mortifying in its execution. Both young, female protagonists are searching for answers, hoping vaguely for the future and trying to find the joy in the journey.

I do love when a study in a magazine validates a feeling I’ve been having, which is that getting older, raising kids while watching parents age, and feeling overwhelmed with responsibility at times, can and does have its moments of relaxation and self acceptance, where your happiness can be found in staring into space and listening/watching/saying/doing whatever you want.

We need to congratulate ourselves for the work we’ve done to get to this boring-ish place.

Cue Taylor Swift, and whoever the hell else I want to listen to.

blah blah blah

It’s funny, but not funny. How when things are moving along for me creatively, finally starting to coalesce, when I have some linkage between the hundreds of tabs open in my brain, and I’m about to sit down to tap into those ideas and stories blending and blooming like food coloring in the bathtub, that’s when another crazy fucking tragedy explodes and I’m paralyzed looking at my news feed with an open mouth and tearing eyes.

This feeling: this creeping, seeping, horribleness. It keeps HAPPENING.

This is my 40th year. And things have gotten way adult. The last six months have begat one situation after another, a whole assortment of hurt from every category: Crazy Storms. Gun Violence. A sick parent. And now, an act of terrorism that feels, in its intense personal carnage, like a massive, evil, kick in the kidneys. Because it could happen to any of us, anywhere we go, and we kind of forgot about that for a bit didn’t we?

First I try not to look at the images and read the stories. Then I indulge. And then, I don’t know how to be normal for a few days. I can’t explain these tragic things to myself, why this person, how that person, what if that person ….. so I just smother it out by literally inhaling the innocence of my kids, breathing them in as we cuddle and play and dance to Beyonce.

I have my version of prayer and meditation when things are tough. I have my people I turn to for guidance and to crack open my thoughts: writers and comedians and people I love and all of that helps me grow and laugh and think.

But I am really scared. Times just seem so chaotic. I never know what news my New York Times alert app thing will alert me to when I get off of the train.

I want normalcy. I want my struggles to be about doing best by my loved ones and being happy and productive. But it seems that this fear and this sort of “what now?” is our reality. What will be the next scary thing? How will we adjust to the next one?

I know this is what it felt like for my parents too, as they went through scary times and tried to keep us safe and relatively free from suffering. And I guess that’s the true shift, because now I know they can’t make anything better. And I am in charge of making sure my small underlings are ok and protected by pretending its all going to be ok. I have been passed that particular torch.

I know this feeling will pass, soften, minimize. But the fear/anxiety/anger/sadness combo — it comes on hard, fast, and lately, all too frequently.

this is 40 this is not funny

I sat down for our date night movie expecting a respite from the mental sludge I find myself struggling under lately. Said sludge is thick, opaque and a mishmash of Important Big Things: family illness, school shootings, Republicans, hurricanes and Not As Important Smaller Things: I look tired, I want people to read my mind, my hair looks bad. Also, I am tired and my hair looks bad.

Stuff came up for me this summer just before turning 40, so I was hoping Judd Apatow and Company would get at some of those emotions in a funny and relevant way with his film “This is 40.” Being married for eight years, having young kids and retiring aged parents, being somewhat settled on paper but still feeling restless – I’ve found this time of life to be complex and compelling, fascinating and terrifying. A middle place, as its been called. I’m a parent but sometimes wish I could still be a child. I yearn for freedom and want less responsibility but realize I will only have to take on more as the years pass because of my choices and situation.

At 40, I think I have the components of what I want in life but find myself searching, and often feeling disappointed. I have been hearing many variations on the mid-life crisis theme in my own world: several friends questioning their sexuality, for example, one member of a couple becoming an extreme exercise fanatic, yet another losing a ton of weight and getting weird. I’ve heard amazing things: marathons run, television shows produced, books published. And terrible things: Cancer — every minute it seems.

So back to the movie. How was this not funny? What a hilarious time of life right?

Yes, I nudged my husband at many moments that were scripted straight from our morning and evening routines, and laughed a few times at some of the mostly mean spirited jokes and the mocking therapy speak. But it was more of a bitter laugh than a belly laugh. These people were kind of awful. And strangely, every time Apatow had an opportunity for humor he let it end on a thud with something really dark or depressing. There was so much screaming at each other (mom and dad, daughter and daughter, daughter and mom, mom and daughter’s friend, daughter’s friend’s mom and mom) that at least 3 or 4 people walked out of our screening. They couldn’t take it.

People are criticizing “This Is 40” because of the clueless White People Problems of this family. They have money and groovy Hollywood jobs that allow them lots of free time for workouts — cool offices and boutiques with neon signs and ironic employees with mustaches. They drive fancy cars, go to a lovely private school, have personal trainers and houses too large for their needs.

It is hard to feel bad for them as they “struggle” with money, when the implication is that it will all be fine. I think this is mostly a distraction from the examination of a family and its values that could have had resonance. The beautiful house and great stylist Debbie (Leslie Mann) has for her perfect Cali-boho mom look is Hollywood movie crap that won’t trust an audience to deal with real emotions and problems without gloss. It is a missed opportunity to actually examine some of the ways people live beyond their means in order to “keep up”, just as I think Debbie’s focus on her (very beautiful, bordering on perfect) looks do not do any service to the issue of women aging gracefully. Lying about her age in the doctor’s office? That’s just stupid. Who is she, my Grandma Jeannie? And all the supposed jokes about sagging breasts and hemorrhoids and gynecologists and no feeling “down there.” True, yes, but funny? Nope, not funny.

(And by the way, where the hell is the couple from “Knocked Up” and the kid? How about a mention of their whereabouts perhaps? Are they on an ashram in India or is that the next prequel/sequel?)

I think this movie really tried. Tried to be meaningful and honest by examining mid life and being in the middle place and blaming your parents and ultimately forgiving them. Trying not to be a hag (wife) or be checked out on the IPad playing Scrabble (husband) and being grateful for what you have (children, everyone in the movie). It wanted to say something about our culture’s bi-polar desires for indulgence and then self-improvement without wanting to do any really difficult, sustaining work.

And it’s bothering me because if this movie was marketed as a comedy as the trailer for it falsely did, then it at least should have been entertaining and better edited. Either that, or be a freaking documentary, with some normal looking people and the actual dullness of real life. I’m annoyed that if the tone decided upon by the director and editor was to be mostly insufferable for 2 plus hours, that that fact should have been plainly stated in the brochure: WARNING: THIS MOVIE IS NOT FUNNY. NOT WORTH IT FOR YOUR VERY RARE DATE NIGHTS.

But the real problem with this movie is a lack of true goodness in this couple you are supposed to care about and that my husband and I would want to hang out with on a double date. I wouldn’t want to have dinner with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters, because I know they’d be talking shit on us after the date. But I would like to know who her dermatologist is and who does her hair and fashion styling and how she buys all those workout clothes and pays the decorator and the housekeeper without knowing there isn’t money in the bank.

So maybe this is the point of the film. Distractions are good because they keep us from getting at the thing that’s difficult: life’s a bitch and then you turn 40 and then eventually, after a not so hilarious doctor’s office montage set to cool music by Fiona Apple and Ryan Adams, you die.

9/11 makes me feel vulnerable as a mom

My daughter started kindergarten this past week, but its me that’s gone back to school, and it’s 1977.

I watched Z. get ready for her first day, clutching her new purple quilted pencil case, and it shocked me how the memories flooded in. Suddenly, I’m four going on five, getting ready for my end of summer birthday. I’m wearing a paisley dress I obsessed over, the feel of the banana seat bicycle I first learned to ride beneath my bum. I remember how I looked myself dead in the eye in my parents’ full-length mirror, singing songs from day camp into a brush, mimicking how I saw older girls and women behave. I see Z. do dances in front of her shows on TV, hear her using intonations that I can tell she’s heard from other, likely older girls – the not so cute “Mommmmmm (MAH!)” and that’s “dis(GUST)ing!” I distinctly remember hearing my own voice say phrases like that – thinking I sounded so cool and mature.

I am enjoying my daughter more than I ever have. She is bursting with energy and excitement. Every day is filled with discovery and hilarious conversations. It hurts my heart to watch her growing up and away from me, but I feel so close to her right now, as I remember what it felt like to be her age. I have scattered memories of early childhood but Kindergarten is the moment true memory is sparked. I vividly recall my teacher, Mrs. Lockett. My white fluffy bathmat with pink, blue and yellow flecks that I took naps on. Having an accident at school and having a little plastic bin with extra clothes to change back into. The way strep throat felt.

Last night I was reading Where the Sidewalk Ends to Z. I was reliving my own confusion at some of the things I didn’t understand in those dark and subversive poems – trying to wrap my head around Shel Silverstein’s crazy and specific universe. And as we read and she melted into me, I kept swallowing the lump of pride and sadness and purity of experience. It’s the same way I felt as she shyly sat down at her Kindergarten table last week. It was like watching a really manipulative television commercial for Life Insurance, one with indie music and the mom watching the kid walk into her first day of school with backpack on both shoulders from behind – only it was actually happening.

I’ve also been thinking about how I felt a few weeks ago during the run up to Hurricane Irene. We live right in the evacuation zone in Brooklyn and had to make a decision the day before about whether to leave our building prior to the storm in case we lost power. We have another kid who is just a baby, and it felt a little too risky to stay in place, so we schlepped our pack-n-play and air mattresses and crap over to my brother in laws, also in Brooklyn but on higher ground. There I spent the night restlessly obsessing that a tree would crash through the window and kill us all.

I had many emotions during the 24 hours of the storm: fear, annoyance at the inconvenience, dread of the unknown. But I think the most poignant part of the experience was that I didn’t want to have to be the adult making the decisions about how to protect my completely helpless children. I didn’t want to be making copies of our important documents and sealing them in a Ziploc. I didn’t want to scour the stores for D batteries. I wanted to be the kid listening to what someone else told me to do.

Today is 9/11, so of course it is a moment to recognize ourselves as vulnerable souls trying to move forward through the scary and unforeseen things that continue to plague us. I am 39 years old and I have all the trappings of an adult, but sometimes I wish I could cuddle into my own mom and she could just tell me the right thing to do. Of course I now know, she had no idea what she was doing, either, when she read to me and tried to teach me how to behave in the world.

Millions before us have had children, raised them and let them go. But if you take a second to think about how scary and random life can be, it can bring you back to feeling like a five-year-old, standing on the steps of your big new school, clutching your purple quilted pencil case.