A Facebook memory.
My grandfather – the beautiful man wearing all black – sitting right next to Trotsky and you all wonder where I get my fierce as fuck from…
Here’s a little story – to accompany the photo of my grandfather with Trotsky – it’s the kind of story that can turn you into a believer.
She fell in love with him on the streets of Russia.
He traveled in a horse-drawn carriage; she had a window.
He sat in the carriage, she sat on the windowsill.
She would watch him; it’s easy to fall-in-love with someone from afar. You can daydream all you want. Imagine all you want. Close your eyes and drift off – drift away – all you want.
He was a Socialist, a Trotsky-ike; through & through & deep through. Politicized & activated. He left Russia & his horse-drawn carriage (right after Trotsky left). She stayed. She gave up the windowsill & the hope of ever seeing him again.
Years later, in Connecticut, her sister, Dora, brought home a man to meet the family; a Russian man. Dora was in-love; he, not so much, and Dora knew that. The door swung open to the apartment and there he stood; tall and lean and sexy and he was the man who Bessie watched every day in Russia from that windowsill. He took one look at her and said: You, I saw you every day. She took one look at him and said: You, I watched you every day.
My grandfather once said it took a moment – just one moment – for his heart to never be the same, to never recover.
Dora never married. As you can imagine, her heart cracked & crumbled; pieces.
On the day of Bessie & Samuel’s wedding, Bessie and Dora’s mother – my great grandmother – died in an accident shortly after the vows were exchanged.
As you can imagine, more heartache, more tears; more crumbled pieces. Bessie and Samuel never celebrated their actual wedding anniversary date; they celebrated the day they met at that apartment in Connecticut. They had five children, my mother the youngest, and they stayed married until Samuel died on 7/17/71.
He died as he lived – a man of profound passion and unwavering truth – and yes, a Socialist.
Bessie took care of Dora until Dora died; undoubtedly guilt played a big part, but so did love.
My grandmother told me to always do three things:
- Moist skin. Always, always use a moisturizer, gobs of it, and make sure at night that the moisturizer is a bit cold – keep one jar – moisturizer – refrigerated; that will keep the skin from wrinkling. Check.
- Love a little more; even if you think you’ve loved as much as you can, there’s some extra. Use it up. Love should be used up. Check.
- And never overcook the chicken. Rubber chickens don’t taste good no matter how much salt you add. Check.
I spent almost every weekend with my grandparents, they raised me good, they loved me plenty, they taught me to not be stingy with my heart.
So, my advice today: Do not hoard your heart; a heart – no matter how messy or cracked or frayed – is meant to be shared.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- It’s not just a holiday.
It’s about someone grand, fierce – yes, all mighty.
- It’s about making a ruckus.
- It’s about putting your life on the line so other folks can stand tall.
- It’s about giving a voice to the voiceless.
- It’s about dignity & respect & integrity & courage.
- It’s about decency.
- It’s about making waves and riding those fucking waves.
- It’s about brotherhood & sisterhood & and no, no, fuck no, not the blood kind.
And so today, while I’m honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., I’m also gonna honor every single extraordinary, stunning, courageous Black Man & Black Woman whose backs we stand on – and don’t kid yourself, we do stand on their strong, glorious magnificent backs. They didn’t just stand up from shackles & slavery for segregation & apartheid, for civil & human & women’s rights for their own good – they stood up so that we – each of us – could have those freedoms.
Freedom of choice, freedom of speech. Freedom.
- Look at Rosa Parks. Look at Frederick Douglas. Look at Medger Evans.
- Look at Nelson Mandela. Look at Harriet Tubman & Sojourner Truth & Jackie Robinson & Jesse Owens & Paul Robeson & Fanny Hamer & Shirley Chisholm & Angela Davis & Marion Wright Edelman.
Look at John Lewis.
Look at Elijah Cummings.
Look at Barack Obama & Michelle Obama.
Look at Colin Kaepernick.
Look at August Wilson.
Look at Aretha Franklin.
Look at James Baldwin.
Look at Carol Jenkins.
Look at Jamia Wilson.
Look at all the men & all the women whose music & songs & voices get us up on
Wear kindness today,
it goes with everything.
And the world is filled with so much goodness.
Even on the days when we are blindsided and crushed, flattened… even on the days when all we wanna do is curl up in bed and even on the days when loss seems to creep up and creep in and stay longer.
So much goodness.
I am so fucking blessed to have this grand amazing gig where I get to lift folks and champion folks and invite friends/folks to teach and write and share their stories. I am so amazingly fortunate to work side by side with the magnificent David Paul Kirkpatrick and the Goddess known as Debra Engle and the bad-ass angels known as Mariah and Vanessa and Rodrigo and Christian and all the folks – all – who make Story Summit Writer’s School magical.
On days that feel so scary and fear-filled and crazy-ass, there is beauty.
I have said it once and I will say it a million times: we are not here on this Earth to master suffering, we are here to master love.
Thank you all for being in my life.
You are all a gracious plenty.
Today’s Sunday SHErmom:
Marriage is hard and messy.
Two humans – a man and a woman, or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman – come together to this thing called love & matrimony with baggage. Plenty of baggage. For me, I schlepped many valises into my marriage house. I was 38 years old, had many many one night stands – many nameless one night stands – and a few long term relationships. I met Ken and my heart burst wide open and seven months later I was walking down an aisle – well, a ‘restaurant’ aisle – in a Carmen Marc Valvo sexy as all get out backless wedding dress popping Xanax because I was pure fuck-show petrified. I had no idea what I was doing. None. I loved the dress & the shoes & the ring we picked out and… I loved adored swooned over the guy standing at the end of the aisle, the restaurant aisle, waiting for me, but marriage… whoa whoa whoa Nelly.
Two humans under one roof forever.
Back then, all I knew: we were sharing a closet & a couple of dressers and a one-bedroom on the Upper West Side and he was a vegetarian & into recycling and I loved meat & couldn’t separate plastic from paper. He liked beer and I loved wine; he liked smoking joints and I loved smoking cigarettes. He was one joint a day guy. I was a two-pack a day girl. He loved hiking & the outdoors & oohing & aahing nature and I loved Barneys NY and Bergdorf’s and Henri Bendel’s and MoMA and being on a couch curled up with a good book. Thankfully, we both loved sex but truthfully – the two of us – complete opposites.
I inherited my mother’s opera length pearls along with her stubbornness and I walked out on Ken at least six times over 28 years. A couple of times were due to menopause & emotional and hormonal breakdowns. I spent a couple of nights at a Hampton Inn off the side of a road and one or two nights at a swanky hotel – watching reruns and old movies and hanging at the groovy bar & chit-chatting on the phone with my girlfriends who were convincing me to stay and make it work. But, that’s a whole book and I won’t bore you with that now.
But love won.
And it won big.
My feisty sexy man wasn’t gonna let me go so fast.
Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. It takes courage & brave & guts & grit and passion and yes, a fire to keep it burning. You gotta add a lot of logs when the heat is dying down and keep stoking it. My guy is the best guy human creature I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and sleeping with and sharing my life with. He calls me out of my bullshit and holds me tight when I’m shaking from fear. He inspires me and encourages me and roots me on and believes in me like crazy-ass wild. Marriage is hard. Love is hard. Working at this shit day in & day out is hard. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. In 28 years, I learned to fight like a motherfucker for the folks I love & cherish and have their back no matter what. In 28 years I’ve learned to let go of the riff-raff. In 28 years I learned to stand up & speak up & stand tall for the folks who mean the world to me. In 28 years I learned to love better and be kinder and be more generous and hold someone tight when they’re scared to death and mostly I learned that imperfection is all out crazy-ass sexy.
And here’s the very best lesson I learned: sometimes when you’re in someone’s arms and the only sound you hear – the only sound – is the sound of your heart’s beating & you start swaying just a little bit – that’s just like dancing.
Thank you for indulging me.
You all make me swoon; thank you for teaching me something groovy & necessary every single day.
For four years you screamed & chanted LOCK HER UP, for four years you turned your back on children and friends and family being massacred by gun violence in schools, in places of worship, at nightclubs, in shopping malls; for four years you did nothing – nothing – when Black men and Black women were murdered right before your eyes in cold blood by men who believed their badge made them supreme. You demanded Colin Kaepernick be strung by his balls for kneeling for justice all while you knelt on Sundays pretending to love thy neighbor. You threatened and bullied, disgraced, and demeaned. For four fucking years you stood by and supported anti-semitic homophobic racist misogynist men and yes, women carrying flags of hate. “Jews will not replace us.” Fine people on both sides. Fuck you. You stood on the sidelines when lives were threatened. “We’re coming for you.” You said nothing when one of your own had her life threatened by thugs. You did nothing when something was necessary. “Let’s have trial by combat.” Your passion for stripping long-held rights – fought for and earned – only matches your passion for indecency and destruction. And now you want unity, you want us to put all this vile shit behind us, you want us to turn the other cheek and let bygones be… you want calm and peace and gee it’s only what, nine more days… you wanna break bread and shake hands and forget that we’re in the middle of a horrific pandemic where touching is deadly. “MyBodyMyChoice” Fuck you. You refuse to wear masks but white hoods are still very much in fashion. Unity? You want unity? You instilled fear and hate and incited violence and you did nothing; you stood with a man who will not give one shit about you in 10 days. He will do to you what you did to the people murdered on January 6th – he will turn away from you.
The definition: being joined as a whole.
A condition of harmony.
Do not ask for unity when you stood with a domestic terrorist who pretended to be a president as we watched our house ransacked and desecrated, human feces spread on the walls of the chamber, urine sprayed on the floors.
Terrorism – homegrown terrorism – took hold on the floor of the United States Capitol incited and encouraged and inflamed by one man who urged folks on to create a horror show for Americans.
Mind your own hate.
Facebook wants to know what’s on my mind: love is on my mind. Good love kind love unconditional love sexy love generous love reciprocal love straight up no bullshit love; kindness is on my mind – kindness that multiplies, kindness that gets worn and accessorized, and kindness that is yes, flaunted because kindness is so fucking sexy. Wear it. Flaunt it. Goodness is on my mind. Goodness with a hefty side of generosity. Because goodness is like kindness, it is way better than nice. Nice is rooted in pleasing others, a bit of fear happening in nice. So, if you could move the dial to kind. But what’s really on my mind today, this day, this late afternoon… is empathy, compassion, lifting others, and when I say lifting others I mean to shine a light on the folks who spend their days championing & lifting – as a dear #BuddhaFull friend said to me the other day: we ALL – ALL – need to be seen. Those who lift get tired, those who carry the weight of the world need to rest, those who are always giving need to be on the receiving end, those who give the shirt off their back might very well be shivering right this minute… empathy, compassion, generosity… thoughtfulness…on these days when darkness comes early when hate makes room at the table, when cruelty struts the runway, when fear takes up residency, let us be the folks who offer up hearts filled with glitter to those who desperately need a spike of beauty, to those whose ‘fierce as fuck & mighty’ chip need re-charging, to those who need a shoulder and a hand. Let us be those humans who offer up goodie bags to friends and co-workers and neighbors and lovers who feel the weight of fear and worry – the relentless drumbeat of racism and sexism and homophobia and anti-semitism – right now.
Today, I offer you up love, so much fucking love, and I am grateful – wholly grateful – that it comes back a million fold.
Let us make sure that none of us deflate or deplete our lives. Let us breathe life into each other.
Many of you know about iken, myKen through me, my eyes, my words. What you may not see or feel or witness is his gorgeous pounding luscious delicious sexy heart. It is such a grand heart, filled to the brim with goodness & generosity & a deep love for what is right.
He has witnessed so much in his 80 years beginning with the sadness & pain & humiliation of his mother at the hands of her husband, his father. He – Ken – wanted so badly to help her, save her often; to be the hero, the superman/guy/kid, the kid who came in and swept his mom away from all the bad nasty, cruel moments. But very often he would just hide, or cower, he was, after all, a little tiny boy. But as he told me one day, “I was glad that I wanted to save her, help her when he was mean… I was glad I even thought that way.” He did, once, get in the middle and the push he got and the fall he took is what he mostly remembers. He swore & promised himself that he would never be like his dad, and I can tell you straight up that he has kept that promise ten-fold. He sure did. He learned who he didn’t want to be through his dad’s example. He chose to be the opposite of that. He cultivated a deep & glorious admiration for women & girls. He is a champion for all & everything women-centric. He even helped create a ballet company in NYC – New York Theatre Ballet – (many, many years ago) with his delightful & brilliant ex-wife (she was a ballerina) for underprivileged boys & girls – and homeless kids – so they could learn the beauty & power of dance. That’s who he is. He is a true blue friend and mentor. He raised many folks up in the film business & he did it without even realizing it. He just, you know, showed up with a desire to make the best films and wanted all the folks he worked with to be oh so proud of the work they were doing. Mentoring came as an accident. Truthfully, it’s not really his thing, but he’s just so fucking good at it, you hardly even know he’s given you an opportunity that will change your life forever. He’s a grand cheerleader. He’s subtle and loves watching folks rise up. Boy, does he love watching folks rise up – it brings him immense joy. He hasn’t always been the very best guy or the best human or the best husband (I am number 3 after all) and he can be as imperfect as the next imperfectly perfect creature. He’s not always good with money, but what he lacks in funds he makes up for in kindness & goodness. He despises injustice, any and all kinds of injustice. He’s a silent activist, but an activist all the same. He is a gardener, a nester, a home builder, a fire maker, and yes, a retired cameraman. He has made some gorgeous films in his lifetime and I know he has tremendous pride for being able to have done that.
He has lived and worn his life well.
So today is his day, his 80th year on this planet, I will make sure that it is filled with beauty, kindness, love, good food, massive kisses, much appreciation, and my personal favorite: a wish for 80 more.
It’s on days like this when I know – I just fucking know – that forever isn’t long enough, but hey a girl can dream, and I am convinced – thoroughly convinced – that I possess some very sexy & powerful magic.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for loving & appreciating myKen iKen.
It means the world to me.
What I know:
Do not underestimate the sheer magnificent power of Black Women.
In 1968 Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress; we stand on her shoulders. Here is a list of other Black women – leaders – whose magnificent & audacious shoulders we stand up on –
- Vel Phillips
- Pamela Carter
- Vikki Buckley
- Denise Nappier
- Karen Freeman-Wilson
- Jennette Bradley
- Velda Jones Potter
- Sandra Kennedy
- Jennifer Carroll
- Kamala Harris
- Jenean Hampton
- Sheila Oliver
- Barbara Jordan
- Fannie Mae Hamer
We will soon be standing on Kamala Harris’ shoulders.
We are now standing on Stacey Abrams glorious strong fierce as all-mighty fuck shoulders.
These women have shown us time and time again the power of determination, the beauty of standing up and standing for; they have shown us decency in the face of defamation and indecency, they have demonstrated courage in the face of racial abuse and horrific injustice, they have shown us grace in the face of gratuitous vulgarity, and they have shown us dignity through their actions and words and courage and brave and impeccable strength.
This week is iKen Week.
MyKen, iKen – OurKen – is turning 80 on Thursday and I wanna spend this week celebrating him the best way I know how: loving him through words. So, please, bear with me while I share some good love about a good man who stole my heart and has kept it warm & beating for 28 years.
MyKen had a slew of women – amazing sexy gorgeous dynamic women – before he met me. I, fortunately, am his last girl – third time’s a charm – and yes, I say that with absolute conviction. 100%.
But, truth be told, he had some very groovy and wonderful women
along the way.
I’m a firm believer that each one of us is made from the pieces of others; the humans in our lives who stop in. Share some meals. A bottle or two or three of wine or whiskey. Share a bed or two; a night or longer. Some stay, some hightail it out of here, some hang around and leave and come back and hang out and leave and come back. Some love us good but not enough. Some love us the only way they know-how and it doesn’t fill the glass. Some can’t love at all. Some folks teach us, through not loving us, to love ourselves better, more, mightier. Some folks leave stains that take years & years to remove, bleach, fade, disappear into the fabric.
MyKen has made some good choices in his life; some of the women he chose made him a kinder man. A more thoughtful man, a more generous man in all ways. The ones who were good women taught him something; left him something; added to the beauty of him.
At a memorial a few years ago for a fallen cameraman, a co-conspirator in the film business; a fabulous human who died way too young and unexpectedly, Ken was chatting with an old girlfriend, someone he loved very much years & years ago, someone I knew about and heard about and liked plenty because of the way he talked about her; a relationship that went sour and left them both sad; she’s a real sassy human, fierce & mighty and still beautiful.
I walked over to them, while they were catching up, and while I had the chance, the opportunity to butt in, I said to her: Thank you so much for contributing to the goodness of Ken.
We hugged. I was so very grateful, hugely grateful, to meet one of the women who made him a better man.
And his second wife, the one before me – his last wife, Diana, is such an amazing human – she founded the New York Theater Ballet Company – and get this: she was named one of the 10 Humanitarian Heroines: Women-over 50 in 2018, the very same year I was named one of 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women’s eNews.
The worst thing you can tell a human who is suffering from depression and fear is ‘to get over it.’ We don’t get over depression or fear, we go through it. And most likely we will go through it the rest of our lives and hey, while I have you, depression is very much a disease and not a yearly seasonal cold. Please, understand that folks who suffer from depression, get down in the dirt with fear, they wrestle that dirt, and this shit is painful. This shit can have you in a head lock, this shit keeps humans from living their life full-on some days. This shit can keep you bed. So, please, right now folks are scared and worried and fear is a constant companion. Be kind, pay attention, reach out. Fill a bucket with LOVE and leave it on their porch. Make them know they’re loved as best you can.I love you all.
I think this is mighty extraordinary. Our refrigerator died on December 29th – up and died. Suffice it to say that there was crap in that refrigerator from 1998. I was thin in 1998, I had bushy eyebrows and wore heels. I shopped at BarneysNY and travelled first class to LA.And as we – iKen & I – cleaned out the refrigerator because, no, Lowes would not haul it away with all that shit in it, it really truly deeply dawned on me that I DON’T NEED MUCH. I do not need much now, in 2021. And truth be told: I never needed much. I wanted much. I craved much. Much meant that I was important. But that’s a whole other thing: need vs. want. It dawned on me that back in those days, the thin heeled sexy hail a cab days, I believed that life was mighty easy. But life really wasn’t easy. It was faux easy. And it dawned on me as I was asking Ken what the actual fuck was in a jar that coulda been pickles or maybe pickled salsa or maybe even some kinda jam….that life – a good life, a lived life, a life worth sharing – is all about cleaning up messes. The ones we make, the ones left to us, the ones that get in our way, the ones that others toss in our path, the ones that are self inflicted and the ones that we create for attention.We cleaned out the entire refrigerator and freezer except for two jars that seemed to be crazy-fucking-glued to the shelves. Seriously stuck. At 2:30, on the dot, today – New Years Day – Lowes pick up & delivery came – two big strong men who were going to haul away the old and bring in the new and hook up the new one and Ken and the two guys fidgeted with the water line and pulled out the old one. And oh my fucking god, what a fucking mess under the fridge, years worth of messy hiding in corners and underneath and one of the guys, all masked up & gloved up – taking full COVID precaution – pulled the two jars off the shelf as if they were crumbs. BAM. Whoa, I said. Whoa, he said, and then he said: we are wasteful people. Whoa, I thought, while the lump in my throat gathered steam. So many have so little, he said. And with that BOOM. On New Years Day, 2021, as if an Angel, albeit a big sturdy angel, came to my house to remind me that I have all that I need and less is so much more and generosity is what makes a life great and kindness is contagious and love makes the world go round and… don’t be fucking wasteful.Do not waste a moment – not one – on folks who break your heart, on situations that cause you unnecessary pain, on humans who make you go through fucking hoops, on crap you don’t need, on people who don’t love you.Don’t waste a moment waiting for that text, that call, that email to validate you.I’m here to tell you – on New Years Day – that we are all fucking stunning awesome creatures, magnificent. Messy and gooey and fucked-up and magnificent.Don’t waste one moment believing that you’re not extraordinary.I love you all.
2020 was a year that kicked our asses so let’s make 2021 the year we kick ass – kick ass not kiss ass; let’s stand tall & stand up brave, let’s fulfill the dreams that we tucked away out of fear and self-doubt and shake them out and bring them to fruition – they need to be born; let’s bring others joy and buckets of courage – two wonderful accessories to wear every day; let’s not take shit from anyone. No shit from anyone. Let’s speak our truth and wear our scars like stardust. Let’s hold tight to each other – making sure that when darkness comes we are holding each other’s hand and have each other’s back. Let’s love better, be kinder, be more generous. Let’s share the goodie bag. Let us champion and support and nurture each other’s dreams and adventures and hearts.
Let’s shine the fuck up & illuminate as many humans as we can so that they too can be seen and heard and shine.
Let us be the light.
I love you all.
I wish you all a gracious plenty.