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. 

mallory kasdan

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.

peloton series MILK podcast

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.

peloton milk podcast mallory kasdan

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.

cycling mallory kasdan

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.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

I spent June and July working on a podcast project about preparing parents and kids socially and emotionally for the back to school transition. I loved working with Slate Studios and Target as the host of “Coffee and Crayons,” and I’m proud of the result. Check out the 3 episodes, including interviews with Amy Webb of “This Little Miggy Stayed Home,” Joy Cho of “Oh Joy,” and Morgan Neville, the director of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” here, or anywhere you get podcasts. We talk about inclusivity, creativity, and compassion, and how to infuse transitions like back to school with those components. Do let me know what you think! And please share, subscribe, and rate if you can.

Coffee and Crayons is an extension of my work with MILK, and I’m really excited about it. Even though the episodes are up and living in the world, and many kids have started school already, my family and I are still in the midst of our treasured summer vacation, hanging on tightly for the next few weeks until Labor Day.

Last week we went to Northern California for a cousin’s wedding and then on to Los Angeles to see my husband’s great uncle. This week, after picking up my daughter at overnight camp in New Hampshire, we are with my dad and sisters and kids in Maine. I’m writing from a screened in porch where the rain falls steadily and soothingly. 

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In California, we were super active in a short amount of time – driving and hustling to events surrounding the wedding of a terrific couple, Aaron and Jessica. My son M can be sensitive to his environment, and yanking him around a lot outside of his normal schedule can often end in tears (his and mine). But we had our very supportive and compassionate family surrounding us that weekend, and that made it totally lovely and adventurous instead of treacherous and overwhelming, as busy trips with him have often felt to me in the past. Also having one kid to give our attention to (our older daughter goes to overnight camp for a month every summer), allows the time to feel precious with our son. Plus, less sibling bickering.

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The experience of going to a wedding with my partner of 18 years (married for 14 this fall), was such an interesting one. Wedding are the ultimate in hope, and such slowed down, present, beautiful moments in time. I love the presence of love and choice in every moment. I love watching people dance. I love cake. I love weird speeches. Its just good stuff. I’ve said before, however, that a couple could really use a wedding like 6/7/8 years into a marriage, where speeches and celebratory words and dancing could do a world of good to a couple living in the thick of what marriage actually is.

And though I do love a good horah, the highlight of the California trip was seeing our Uncle Izzy (Isaac) in Los Angeles, who is my husband’s father’s brother, and the last surviving member of his generation at age 96. He and my kids began writing longhand letters to each other a few years ago, and the relationship between them has blossomed into something beautiful and poignant.

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He writes often, in his beautiful, careful hand, about his own childhood, our family history, and about sports and any other subject that might engage M and Z. I saw these letters as something very dear and very special, and decided to compile them into a photo book for him. To say that he appreciated the book is an understatement – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone more moved by a gift. Honestly, it made me want to find a child pen pal for every older person out there! So therapeutic and wonderful for all of us involved. 

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After returning home to repack our suitcases, we headed north to pick up our daughter at overnight camp and our foursome became whole once again. I always relish retrieving Z at her beloved camp, and seeing how her face and manner has changed in a month's time. She’s always tanner and older and more and less familiar at the same time. We all swayed, arms around each other, sang “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” loaded her stinky duffel bag into the car and headed to Maine, where we are now chilling for the next few days with my sisters, nephews and dad. 

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It has been a while since my sisters and all vacationed together with our families, but we are making it work! It's always evolving since we lost our mom five years ago, and I’m very grateful we are together in this beautiful spot, drinking gin and tonics, and remembering that we can be good to each other and that our kids can grow their own relationships. My last post was about the strength of friendship, but family too, is everything. 

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See you soon for more MILK action. 

LOVE/MARRIAGE

He always makes the coffee.

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

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

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

He still tells me stories from cab driving days.

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

2004 photos by Philippe Cheng

2004 photos by Philippe Cheng

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

He fights with strangers on Twitter about politics.

He learned to snowboard at age 40.

He loves the movie “Roadhouse.”

He has excellent hair. 

He is always up for family cuddle.

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

He leads the Seder.

He’ll probably help you move.

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

He could use a few more pairs of dress pants

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

He’s my guy.

day after

This past Sunday was the NYC marathon. Feeling a bit on edge because of the election, I took the kids to cheer on some runner friends with homemade signs, and to high five strangers. I knew the kids would love watching people of all shapes, sizes and colors running through our imperfect but diverse city. The music, the energy of the crowds, the volunteers and inspiring people blazing past. And they loved it, and it buoyed me and it made me hopeful, and gave me the feeling I crave, that one I’m addicted to living here – the one where I absorb the stories, the connections, the pathos and the beauty of so many backgrounds rubbing up against each other. Sunday was really a great day.

Monday, my ten year old and I went to the Hillary’s Brooklyn Field Office to make some calls. We had a script and we called Hillary supporters in Florida to encourage them to vote, ask them if they knew where to go. Zoe was a star, everyone looked over and smiled at her sweet voice and her determination. She was so proud of herself for volunteering and I felt righteous and right on and like a good mom. Monday was also a really great day.

Online, late Monday night, obsessing over the people of Pantsuit Nation, the secret Facebook group where people felt safe to discuss Hillary. The mostly women and men sharing and lifting each other up, telling their stories of overcoming adversity gave me a similar feeling to the marathon, and the fact that I was again seeking out that metaphor was not lost on me. Emotionally building up to a victory for Hillary after the cumulative horror of this terrible election season, trying not to let my doubt seep in. Like all of us, I was looking around to reinforce my own values.

Tuesday we went to vote at the community center in a housing project adjacent to our neighborhood. After the kids helped me fill out the ballot and scan it in, got their stickers and fist bumped the other Hillary supporters, they wanted to play in the complex’s playground, where we had never played before. They met a bunch of kids and played tag happily for a few hours while I posted pictures of us in our “I’m With Her” buttons and pantsuits. I spoke to a friendly mom named Nikki about her neighborhood school and ours. We talked about article that came out in The New York Times this year about school re-zoning in our neighboring, yet very different socio-economic communities and about her experiences living in the housing project. Her daughter’s name is Chloe, and my daughter’s name is Zoe.

I left the playground feeling pretty good. I’m not gonna say smug, because I don’t think I am, but I felt something along the lines of: We’re ok. I can reach outside of myself and talk to people who aren’t exactly like me. I have empathy and compassion and want to understand people, and my kids hopefully do too. I felt hopeful that Tuesday would be a really good day as well.

Obviously today we know that is not the case. Today, Wednesday, I feel sick and sad and numbed to the concept that Hillary lost last night, and that the majority of our country chose fear and hate over love and hope. I’m embarrassed that I live in such a bubble that I am so shocked today. Thinking back over the past few days, the cautious optimism I felt and the personalized self congratulation I allowed for helping to elect a woman, talking her up to my kids, “liking” and loving every inclusive and inspiring post I read on the Pantsuit Nation, thinking we were ok because my kids can play with other kids in a playgound. I feel so bad today, and so stupid and so angry, and so foolish. I’m just here, soaking in it.

I was mostly honest with the kids this morning. I told them that bad things happen. That we will be ok and they are safe. That we will need to fight for those more vulnerable than themselves. I will teach them to speak out, as I have, and to be a good person and a good New Yorker and a good American. I won’t tell them to be afraid, even though I am.

Today we grieve and tomorrow we figure out how to move forward.

pantsuits

My mom, Judi, died in 2013 from lymphoma. She was 67. In her eulogy, I talked about her well meaning, but occasionally forceful practicality and how it could bump up against my more emotional responses to life.

“Buy a suit” was one of those bits of advice she threw out when I directly asked for her thoughts on what kind of life I should pursue. That phrase came up a few times, at various career and identity crossroads in my 20’s and 30’s.

When I graduated from college with an English Literature degree and a vague concept of careers in publishing and media, Mom took me to Benetton in Pittsburgh, and she bought me a navy blue wool pantsuit. I left shortly afterwards for New York City.

I remember being aware, brand new to it, how the city was a giant theater with actors moving through life in their daily performances. I was struggling to figure out what part I would play. What would I wear in that role? Would I be a television production assistant with a walkie-talkie? Would I work in publishing? Advertising? Radio? Which costume would fit me best?

At 22, I was trying to figure out how to live a creative adjacent life and how that would manifest. Mom wanted to help, but had her own way of working though a puzzle. She could offer her credit card and advice on how to look like the person who was interviewing for a job, but not much more then that. And selfishly, I wanted more.

It used to annoy me that she’d say something so simplistic like “Buy a suit.” I felt frustrated with her inability to understand what I was asking: “I’m afraid of the future. I don’t know how to make things happen. I don’t necessarily know what my strengths are. Can you remind me?”

Now, that she’s gone, of course I get it. Nobody actually knows what they are doing and we all have a limited amount of control. Parents especially, are fudging that confidence. So Mom was trying to teach me to fake it, because that’s what gets you the opportunities: the showing up, feeling good in your suit, and looking people in the eye. The rest is how your treat people, and how you use your perspective and your character to connect with others and learn from them.

My mom was fantastic. She worked as a teacher and reading specialist after marrying my dad at 21 and supporting him while he was in medical school. She stopped working to take care of my sisters and I, and then later, became an advocate for women and children through a local women’s organization. In her mid 50’s, she fulfilled a lifelong dream and went to law school. She worked as a public defender before she got sick.

I see my mom, her friends, and the women of her generation, in Hillary’s suits. Those caftan style jackets, the mandarin collars, those confident jewel tones. I see my mom in Hillary’s incredible steely gaze and in her warmth. In her paradoxes. In her ability to compromise. I see my mom when I watch Hill withstand certain men and their egos and their sexism, and still manage to stay cool.

There have been so many times I’ve wanted Mom’s take on this election. When I voted in the primary, I wore Mom’s raincoat and felt her with me. When I saw Hill accept the nomination in Brooklyn in May, Mom was in the room, giving a fist pump to her pro-feminist/humanist remarks and fabulous white pantsuit. I felt a pang when Hillary hugged her poised and accomplished daughter onstage, proud and beaming in her own navy blue suit.

What you wear is, as RuPaul says, your drag. It’s your stay at home mom drag, your businesswoman drag, or your President of the United States drag.

I’ve given away most of my suits, but I will pull one out next Tuesday in honor of my mom, and I will rock that shit.

no brags

We are all complicit in shouting our truths on social media at full volume and thinking that it’s fine. I’ve played along for years – turning my mommy freelance boredom and procrastination problems toward my need to connect with others and to zone out by going deep down the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram rabbit holes. I put effort towards my online self for sure, sharing my writing projects and weirdo observations and, of course, pictures of my family and I doing picturesque things.

But lately, I’m at an oversaturation point. I’ve been having this confusing existential feeling that if I don’t post a picture or say something cute about what I’m doing, then it’s almost like it didn’t happen.

New channels create new customs, but really, WTF? Ten years ago, did you show your vacation pictures to this many people? When did 673 people have to know that you went apple picking in the fall, sledding in the winter, to Disney in the spring and to the beach in the summer? Can you imagine being in your lobby at work and shouting to everyone waiting for the elevator what you were listening to on your headphones? How is this now considered okay?

I know for sure that my departed Jewish Bubbies would be mortified with all of this straight-up bragging.

Yes, people have always figured out a way to boast, even before Instagram and Facebook. But Jews, given our history of persecution and knowing that usually we were the most hated people in the room at any given time, knew to try and keep it humble and not talk brazenly about any good fortune we might be experiencing in front of our neighbors and in front of God.

There is, however, this sneaky loophole called “Kaynahora.” It’s Yiddish (duh), and translates very loosely to “knock on wood.” The thinking went that by saying the phrase following any brag (usually about children or grandchildren and followed inexplicitly by spitting) that you would be are safe from the wrath of the Evil Eye because God will protect you. Nice, right?

So are we just kaynahoring all over social media by occasionally remembering to say that we are #blessed, or alluding to it by only showing the photogenic moments, assuming that we are somehow safe from the world’s many evil eyes? Can we just not help ourselves because we feel so much pressure to keep up with our FB friends, who may or may not be our actual friends?

Given the number of terrible things that happen to people everywhere, everyday, every minute – natural and manmade disasters, illnesses and accidents, things that ironically the internet makes us more aware of and more anxious about than ever before – I don’t think we have any business bragging about SQUAT. We should be knocking on all kinds of woods and looking around for any possible protection.

And yet we all do it because we are numb, bored and scared of empty space. We create these curated lifestyle magazines online, taking cues from the celebs we follow. We want to capture moments from our lives, for ourselves and maybe our friends from high school, but we want them to be the best ones with the filter that makes them even better, the flattering ones of our asses, the Christmas card-worthy ones.

Why hasn’t all of the information we absorb and disseminate made us more humble rather than less? My guess is that the constant noiseless noise online is making everyone shout louder to drown each other out and therefore not letting us see and hear what we are really doing to each other.

I know it makes me sound old to fret about it, but I do think fondly about time BSM (Before Social Media). It was a quaint era when we weren’t constantly making out with our phones. We looked up when our partners called our names. We walked in a straight line from our house to the subway without doing the texting loll to one side thingy people do now. We slept better, and we were more present. Maybe we got less done, but we did more with less.

I know we’ll get through this giant transition together, just like my great-grandmas and grandmas and mom got through living life and raising kids with their own technology challenges. (Radio? Television? Faxing?) Maybe it will soon regulate or at least feel normal again to talk so much and promote so much and share so much, but, for me, I’m thinking that I need less discussion and chatter and talk of myself and more of something concrete and real that doesn’t leave me feeling so empty.

Maybe someone (my son or daughter, Kaynohora) will create an app to protect us all from our own online hubris.

(originally written as “Kaynahora, Dudes: Why I Knock On Wood Before Bragging Online” and published by Tue/Night on October 27, 2015)

disneyfied

We just returned from 5 days in Disney World. I did not hate it and I did not love it, but details of the trip will certainly remain seared in my memory for life. Not to be dramatic, but it was one of the most rigorous things we have done as a family to date, which I guess says a lot about how we like to vacation. I think it means we like to relax.

Thinking back on the trip, I visualize undulating seas and lines of people going in and out of focus as I put one foot in front of the other and try to move forward. My path is clogged with epic strollers and adult scooters for those not able to make their way around the park on foot. People are walking with turkey legs in hand. I had heard about this, and now I was seeing it in real life. I recall completely separate stages of the lining up process: 1.) Preparing to get in line based on which lines are shortest, 2.) Lining up to get into the lines, and then 3.) Waiting on the lines. This is after spending quite a bit of money to make sure we were maximizing our time by “fastpassing” and using other special Disney magic™ made possible by VISA/Mastercard/American Express.

At the end of each day, sitting on the crisply made beds of our lovely hotel room (it really was quite pleasant), with our bath towels folded into Mickey shaped heads, the four of us would collapse by 9 pm from the sheer effort of planning, navigating and trying to maximize fun while thousands of others did the same. We thought perhaps because we live in New York and walk a lot and are kind of pushy and can sometimes get a lot done in a day that somehow we would be winning in that environment. Not so much. We were amateurs who did our best and followed a very well researched plan, but still everywhere you looked were people, very nice people who totally meant well, but who nonetheless would beat you down.

However. However. However. The kids had a blast, and there were epic moments while I watched their eyes widen and their smiles “light up” (so Disney of me). The first night we arrived and the four of us went on this Seven Dwarves themed roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom that was just scary enough to excite the little one, but steep enough in the dark to impress the big one. Careening down a hill in the dark that came out into this massive bejeweled room with Dopey, Sneezy, Cranky, et al, our little unit tucked into two tiny cars screaming at the top of our lungs with our arms in the air?! Amazing. It feels pretty great to scream that loud under any circumstances, but knowing your kids are having the same rush you are is doubly cool.

Of course, the fearless 8 year old became obsessed with big crazy roller coasters, which Evan and I had to trade off riding with her. We were both exhilarated and yet nauseated. It ain’t pretty to see a 50ish guy and or 40th gal trying to walk a straight path after being jerked around on Space Mountain or taken upside down on the Aerosmith’s coaster while “Love in an Elevator” blasts. Oy, our inner ears.

The 4 year old, a “sensory seeker” who can get overwhelmed with too much stimulation, had a pretty good time but also had two epic meltdowns when his small purple backpack was taken from him and searched by security guys. On day 4 of the trip, when he was lying on the ground (creepily clean but still) just inside the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we all just let him lie there for a while and freak out. And no one around us cared. Not a soul. Because the flip side to how overwhelming it can be to have that many families and people in one place is that no one bats an eyelash when your kid goes loco. No one cares. Disney may be a tad cheesy and maybe people don’t know who Lou Reed and Laurie Andersen are like they all do at Fairway in Redhook, but it is a safe, warm place with kids of all kinds and ages and ZERO JUDGEMENT. And that is a vacation in some ways for sure.

Along those lines, the sharpest contrast between Brooklyn and Disney was that no one I noticed visiting the park was irritated having to wait for any of these things, and most people were overjoyed to be there and to talk to us on the monorail and in the lobby of the hotel and at the restaurants. No one was shouting at each other, no one expected any more then they were getting. No one was pulling rank as far as I could tell. No one was looking around surreptitiously to make sure they were ok, and really no one was looking at their phones every second.

Also, the people who work there are crazy nice. From the moment our feet touched the ground in Orlando, it was all helpful, dutiful, and kind people who talked us through lines and got us from place to place and smiled and helped.

So all that was a truly a break from NYC, where everyone is always on the lookout for the best and things seem to always be at the breaking point much of the time. That can also be very tiring. I think it’s important to step out of whatever grind you live in. It was freeing to go somewhere where no one was concerned how cool something is, and no one talked once about how small batch something is or how they found out about it a year ago before everyone else did. It can really tiring to always have things under the microscope, when almost everyone you know is discerning and ironic and in some kind of way angling for something or another. Ambition is great, and I want to be around smart and sharp people. But its good to have a break for all of that striving. One thing I really realized on this trip how New Yorkers including myself might be a bit addicted to struggle. It makes us feel alive.

And what’s funny? Evan and I were struggling in the Disney environment. It was hard for us to slow down and wait and just be like everyone else waiting in line for Disney crap our kids would soon lose or forget about. How funny is that?

So, my review is mixed. I’m glad Disney happened. Man was it expensive but I learned a lot for the next time, and now my kids will have these memories forever. And yet, I don’t need to go back for a very long time, possibly ever.

Coming back into nasty, cold, harsh and un-customer friendly JFK Airport, the chaos of getting a car service outside the airport, and arriving home to our scaffolding heavy, rutted cobblestone street-ed Brooklyn themed version of Disney, where the boiler had gone out and we all slept together on the pullout couch bed, also felt like an adventure and was weirdly fun. It’s pretty lucky to go away but it’s usually better to come home.

space

There is some. Finally. My heart has been constricted for so long that it feels rather foreign to have air around my thoughts. Grief is a lot of work and takes up a great deal of space. But some has been cleared.

This last month was an emotional sprint towards the one-year anniversary of mom’s death. There were still firsts to get through – Mother’s Day, her birthday, and several memorials. Heading towards this finish — which really isn’t a finish of course, but is more like the beginning of a life without, was quite challenging. May was tough – Mother’s Day in particular was almost physically draining, and I only got through it with wine and yoga and cuddling my family. I was so grateful for the friends who have also lost their mothers, who shared how much they missed them, and how difficult Mother’s Day was for them, too. I felt acutely part of a club, this sad but supportive little club of motherless daughters.

I sat through a memorial that a national women’s organization put together in her honor. Her hometown chapter named a children’s playroom at Family Court for her, because she spent much of the time she was president of this organization advocating for children and families. It was a real honor, but not easy to watch a slideshow set to that inspirational/sad Desiree song – the “you gotta be” one. Mom smiling wide at a podium, marching in protests, and meeting government officials on behalf of this organization – seeing these images of was a reminder of her accomplishments, but also how much she had left to do when she died.

Her birthday on May 24th was another rough one, because I was literally reliving that time last year when she was alive, deteriorating, and yet still able to call me after receiving the peonies and bright orange scarf I sent. It made me sad, thinking about those tokens I now have back in my possession, the scarves, the gifts, the clothes and jewelry divided up. So I took some breaths and wore the orange scarf all that week in her honor.

Then I was back in Pittsburgh for the unveiling, which is done within a year after a Jewish death. It’s a simple ceremony at the gravesite, where a Rabbi says some psalms, the immediate mourners say the Kaddish, or mourning prayer, and the face of the gravestone is revealed. And then there it was. Her name on a piece of granite. Her dates. Mother, Wife, Grandmother and Friend. I placed a purple rock on the top of the gravestone for Miles and Zoe, as Jewish custom dictates. It was a perfect June day, just as her funeral had been almost a year before. The sun and the breeze filtered through the trees as we put arms around each other and cried again for mom. And then we had brunch.

That weekend of the unveiling was intense, but when it was over and we returned home to Brooklyn I felt hugely relieved and … spacious. I felt like I possessed this certain kind of acceptance and understanding that had been out of reach until that moment. It’s vague and new age-y but I felt I had arrived at a destination, in my heart. And that I was going to be okay, no matter what swirled around me from that point on. I hadn’t believed it until then.

I feel so much gratitude towards friends and teachers and people who have been with me throughout this difficult year, bestowing kindness and reading my pieces and making chit chat and asking my how I’m doing. It has all been a part of this particular journey I’m now on, and each interaction and intersection of humanity has been a step on the ladder towards it. I was so happy to be able to honor my mom with friends in my home last week, for the final and most personal of all the memorials, to accept people’s kindness and offerings and music and warmth. We had an unforgettable small service and mini concert for Judi from my friends Jamie and Erin, where I was able to accept love and say thank you to my community. And to let mom go a little bit more, but with the reverence she deserved.

It must be the benefit of all of the therapy, the writing, the going inward and the good support I have. Because I feel so much less angry about losing her than I used to. A huge relief! I feel grateful to the people who get how to be and less pissed at the people who don’t. And I truly feel lucky to be the emotional person I am, and not burdened by it because right now it feels like something of a gift.

I will continue to wrestle with missing her. I will still be sad and have to shake my head at some of the continued fall-out from her loss. But I will be ok. I’m not just repeating it, hoping it will stick. I believe it.

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.

fun on a stick

Nothing says sexy like a man and wife holding black leather satchels and twin Muji umbrellas, walking into a Toyota dealer to test drive a Prius wagon.

It’s like the opening to an urban legend told round the fireplace where the couple gets kidnapped, or the beginning of an embarrassing joke your uncle tells at Passover – just add a rabbi and some lightbulbs.

But for me and Evan, it was Thursday.

11th Avenue in Manhattan, roughly between 48th Street and 55th Streets is a bizarre corridor, where a slew of car dealerships occupy giant showrooms within walking distance. There’s also Larry Flynt’s Hustler club, some gross delis, and the studio where “The Daily Show” is taped. It’s a creepy and random area, especially on the dreariest, Marchiest day fathomable. But a good place to go look at cars if yours dies, mostly because you can take the subway there. Also, if you hang out on 11th Avenue long enough it feels like you are on drugs.

Oh, the fun we had, strolling in and out of dealers, waiting interminably while car salesmen said indecipherable things to us, then driving up the Westside Highway and back down West End Avenue in several vehicles. It took 7 hours. We ate no meals. We drank coffee and ate almonds and bananas instead, not wanting to pause in this disorienting experience of entering a building, talking to a guy, then waiting and driving and waiting and peeing and waiting. It felt like we were running a marathon of boringness. We talked to guys named Joey. We talked to guys named Darnell. We talked to guys named Chang. We admired waterfalls in the Range Rover area. We watched salesmen circle the floor like lions, and receptionist ladies with clickety-clackety nails flutter behind counters. We saw fake plants, fake marble, and real fish tanks. Our sinuses experienced new heights of air freshening.

At one point we walked into Nissan to compare a Murano to a Rogue, and a Scenario to a Sierra, or perhaps it was a CZX 65 to a ZW 3.14. A very shifty Latina man with the loudest “rhumba” ring tone I’ve ever heard hustled us over to a “pre-owned” version of the car we were looking for, and then promptly trotted off. As we sat in the smoke encrusted car from 2009 wondering where the hell he had gone, he reappeared with a signed head shot of Liza Minelli from 1990. “That car belonged to her assistant!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “She used to do errands for her in that car. Only 300 miles on there!” We tried to imagine what would make him think that Liza Minelli’s dry cleaning would interest us. We wondered if he had different head shots for different people – and did we look like Liza fans?

And then we decided it best to go.

There was Johnny, the spiky haired knuckle dragger with the spray tan and giant diamond earring at Chevy/Jeep/Chrysler. He wove us through the most enormous lot filled with cars being parked and repaired, and then couldn’t find that damn Chevy Equinox. He swore it was just there! It was like his white whale SUV. After almost getting hit by a minivan (never!), we thought it best to go.

When you get married, it’s the best you’ll ever look — all fancy and fabulous and glamorous and fun party party. But so much of being married is doing really boring adult shit in ugly and depressing places. Signing forms and figuring out numbers and making sure the dishwasher gets unloaded. And I think, I hope, if you’re still laughing and trying to figure out how to recover conversationally when a 22 year old sales guy is sitting in the backseat while you are trying to merge, tells you that he flipped his own SUV at 5 am after drinking and falling asleep at the wheel, well, I think you’re good. You’re still having some kind of an adventure, finding the funny in the terribly dull and weird. As mind numbing an adventure it is – you’re in it together. And it’s strangely awesome.

So, technically, you’re a boring yuppie with your stupid raincoats.

But still totally sexy.