Saturday, March 27, 2010

Happy "WHEE DAY"

It's an
-->Extra Light post today - not too heavy, not too sweet.  It's a tale about Cindy Who, Greg Magoo and a brave, Gypsy King named Ferka.

Yesterday I had a General Liability insurance audit scheduled for 1:00 pm.  I try to plan my meetings in the afternoons, because I write from home in the mornings. 

See how clever I am - realizing its impossible to get you to read beyond this point without that opening statement.

Insurance audits are NOT a big deal. You get a postcard in the mail saying when they're coming.  When that day arrives, someone enters your office, looks at your quarterly reports, ask for a list of officers, a breakdown of staff, and then leaves.

Typically, this takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

Our last auditor was an adorable, real life version of Dr. Seuss's Cindy Lou Who.

Cute as a button!  She was perky, punctual and professional.

She compiled her numbers and skipped out the door in record breaking time.

Apparently audits are open for stylistic interpretation.

What worked for Cindy Lou Who didn't necessarily work for Mr. Greg Magoo. 

Mr. Magoo sent a hand written letter along with a follow up phone call - three months in advance of our appointment.  So that I would have the necessary paperwork in order, he gave a detailed list of his demands.

Quarterly reports were not "specific" enough for Mr. Magoo.  His breakdown requirements defied all logic. He was so meticulous that I thought it best if I hooked him up directly with our payroll specialist.

She compiled a 160 page report to appease Mr Magoo.

He called the day before the audit to reconfirm his impending arrival.

He explained his itinerary--reading line by line, the route generated by his portable GPS--then gave a verbal analysis of the variations of his mapquested route.

Being detail oriented, he included his time of departure, anticipated traffic delays, various scheduled stops along the way (including bathroom breaks) and estimated time of arrival.

He asked how much time we'd have together. I asked why we needed to be together at all. He had the necessary paperwork in his hands, why couldn't we complete the audit over the phone?

He explained the need to confirm that I was REAL and that the business was REAL and that ....(this is an exact quote)..."we weren't housing sheep in the back yard."

Clearly this was a socially inept man who needed, at the very least, a well qualified therapist and a pet. 

I returned home that evening and explained to my husband the antics of Mr. Magoo.

Somewhere towards the end of the first bottle of chardonnay, my husband came up with an idea that would shorten Mr. Magoo's stay.

HUSBAND: Explain to him that its "Whee Day" and you're anxious to get the celebration underway

ME:  What's Whee Day?

HUSBAND:  I don't know

At first, this statement appeared absurd. However, my husband is a man of very few words so when he suggests something as profound as this I listen.

Instead of counting sheep, I spent the night dreaming up "Whee Day" traditions.

I envisioned an elaborate celebration complete with balloons and refreshments.  I decided that "Whee Day" originated in Austria. I declared Miss Pegged, my coworker in crime, 100% Austrian and I, one quarter Austrian.

To confuse Mr. Magoo, and to freak him out just a bit, I thought it would be fun to dress in punked-out Gothic garb.

I highlighted my winter white face in black eyeliner, shadow, and brow pencil - then painted my lips a rich, royal red.

I dressed in layers of black, accented with a purple and black zebra scarf, and topped it off with teased, stiffly sprayed, spiked hair.

I was an Austrian Gothic Office Princess!

Halfway into form fitting fishnets, I remembered I had forgotten to inform Miss Pegged of my diabolical plan.

With 30 minutes to spare, I called the office to brief everyone on the order of the day.

Peg answered courtly, sounding uncharacteristically stiff.

ME:  Don't act alarmed by my attire

MISS PEGGED:   ...............

ME:  Everything okay?

MISS PEGGED:  Certainly

ME: Is he …....there?

MISS PEGGED:  That would be correct

Mr. Magoo arrived an hour ahead of schedule! He justified this by telling Peg the payroll specialist had failed to include all the necessary documents - something Mr. Magoo was unaware of until he opened the packet earlier that morning.

Mr. Magoo was holding Miss Pegged hostage, forcing her to pick up his slack.  Phone calls, emails, downloads, and faxes created a twisted paper trail that spewed across her desk into his lap.

I arrived just in the nick of time.

"HAPPY WHEEE DAY!"  I shouted.

 “It sure is!” replied my father, certain the day would include cake. 

Knowing Peg needed a quick escape - I reminded her about a bogus contract deadline and asked if she prepared all the necessary documents.

Sucked dry of sarcasm and mildly confused, she sheepishly confessed that she had not.

I ordered her to take a walk, adding “and don’t forget to come back!”

Peg grabbed her purse and darted out the door.

Mr. Magoo gallantly jumped to her defense but I silenced him by reverberating that it was Whee Day, and WE needed to wrap things up as quickly as possible so that WE could carry on with our festivities.

When the food delivery man arrived and I greeted him with an enthusiastic, “Happy Whee Day!"  he smiled and wished me a "Happy Whee Day” in return.

Shortly there after, a guard arrived unexpectedly. When I greeted him "Happy Whee Day!" he smiled, awkwardly offered me a handshake, told me I looked great, and then "Happy Whee Day-ed" me back.   

Whee Day, was a BIG day!

Mr. Magoo, intrigued by the popularity of Whee Day, asked that I tell him more about our Austrian holiday. 

And so....I told him about the legend of King Ferka - a powerful gypsy King that ruled Austria back in the late eighteen hundreds.

Ferka disobeyed the gypsy code of superstition by walking in the woods after dusk AND by keeping silver coins in his pockets. 

Late one night, during the height of a full moon, Ferka set off for a walk on the wild side.  

The night was crisp and clear. As he continued along his path, he savored the scents of nature - the smell of the hickory trees swaying in the wind and the wisps of campfire embers. 

With open palms, he stretched out his arms and watched in delight as moon beams caught the gleam of his silver trinkets.

Suddenly, the woods became deathly quiet.  Something was awry... 

A haunting howl permeated the air.  The gypsy King was acutely aware of the creature that generated this deafening sound.  It was that of  … a werewolf!!!

Without adieu, King Ferka serpentined his way back towards his castle but his path was suddenly blocked by the shadow of his inner fear. 

There before him, hunched on hind legs, was a slobbering werewolf.

Ferka, fearing his sudden demise, reached into his pocket and pulled out his silver coins.  As the werewolf lunged towards him, Ferka plunged the metal deep into his chest.

A haunting yelp followed by an earth shaking thump.

There, in shadow of the moonlight, with silver lodged in the center of his seething heart, a werewolf lay silently on the ground.

The abominable creature now gone, the people of Austria were free to roam the country side at night.

A magnificent celebration  full of merriment, music and fine food followed.

Peg enters, stage left....

ME: You’re back!

MISS PEGGED:  I remembered

MAGOO: But why do they call it Whee Day?

ME: No one knows for sure

MAGOO:  What???

ME: Peg’s great great grandmother, a direct descendant of King Ferka says it’s the squealing sound the King made as he ran for his life.

MAGOO:  What????!!!

ME:  Sad, but true

MAGOO: Are there a lot of Austrians in Greenwich?

ME: All my friends are Austrian

MAGOO: I had no idea

Mr. Magoo had one, final question. Could we recommend a decent place to eat?

I pointed to a nice Austrian (Italian) deli right across the street, and told him he'd better hurry if he was going to make the 1:30 cut off time for the Whee Day lunch special.

With total belief and gratitude, Mr. Magoo wished us all a “HAPPY WHEEE DAY” before heading on his merry way.

Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy

photo's courtesy of Google image 
 King Ferka fantasy inspired by skyatdusk

Mr. Magoo and Cindy Lou Who visual,
daily support and comic relief
courtesy of Peg Curcio 
aka "Miss Pegged"

Mr. Magoo cartoon courtesy of youtube

Wednesday, March 24, 2010



I’m wearing a fuzzy-soft, flat-topped, handmade, wool hat woven in rich, rusty earth tones and deep teal blues.  It doesn’t itch the way most wool hats do.  I’ve rolled up the sides to expose the bottom of my ears and I’ve pulled down the front so it sits at the crest of my brow. 

It’s a gift from my dear friend Pinky.  We met at Burning Man last year.  I liked her immediately because she read me before she knew me.

She sent it to me from her home in California along with a box of goodies – bright tights, a pouch of Bert's Bees products, a butterfly and 2 bottles of wine – one sporting a green monkey label. 
She collects hordes of useless things and then magically transforms them into treasures.  
Pinky is loud and bold and oh so bright!  The life of everyone's party - she'll feed you, emotionally and physically, slap you sideways and then spit you out.  
Rhinestone rimed glasses, stiff sprouted skirt on top of a frilly petticoat, veiled fairy hair, funky boots, and free flying boobs - Miss Pinky’s got it goin’ on!

Jelly Jessikali sent me West Coast CD’s - a collection of her favorite tunes.  Songs we danced to while getting to know each other during our first “Tu Tu Wednesday” at Burning Man.   
Her music accompanied me on my solo trip to Paris this year.  With her melody piped tightly into my ears, we twirled our way to the Louvre, two stepped in the shadow of Notre-Dame and sashayed our way down the Champs Elysee.   
I can still visualize her whimsical ways as she pixie pranced across the playa, pausing long enough to pose, primp and then continue in her private victory tour…   
Adorned white fluff, cowboy boots, teal rib socks and rainbow self made shade... Jelly girl makes me sing!  

I receive surprise post cards from a tremendously talented friend who lives outside of Portland.  Handmade cards depicting a green monkey involved in a variety of merriment and mischief.  I am also the proud owner of a homegrown Green Monkey T-shirt, ears and bright fuzzy tail.  The sender of this compilation of love is one half of The Silver Couple, a wildly entertaining twosome that danced their way into my heart at Burning Man.
Devilish and down right darling, in 'take me home' ruby boots, crimson cape and tickle me back, black... Sarah's flashy and sinfully sassy! 

The joyfulness these ladies give freely, stays with me, and feeds me, all year long. 
I’m indoors now, there is no need for me to wear my wonderful new hat other than it makes me feel good - as does the post cards and the CD’s… simple, handmade tangible treasures that, to me, are truly priceless.  A constant reminder that I am surrounded by a colorful troupe of spirited, free loving, friends and I am truly grateful.  


Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy

photo's courtesy of playa magic

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Write On

I’m learning, ever so slowly, how to focus on my inner urge - that vibe that tells me when I’m close to something important, something big.

It arouses my senses. I hear the thump of my heart - feel the pressure of its pulse on my skin. Sometimes it’s a slow, low, heavy vibe that sits in the base of my throat. Other times it races to the point where I’m dizzy - my palms sweat and my body shakes.

It flows to me and through me. It’s become my own personal guidance system. It defies logic; I sense that it is something greater than me.

It’s almost as though…do I dare say it, it aligns me with my life’s true purpose - not that I know what THAT is, not yet - but I know I’m on the right path.

More often than not, this means to do what scares me. Not impulsive dare devil stunts, (although I’ve done my far share of those) but to challenge myself by engaging in things I fear I am incapable of doing.

To the top of my blog, on the right hand side, under the picture of the green monkey I write, “...this is my first step in believing in myself.” Prior to becoming a blogger, my fear of failing made it almost impossible for me to share anything I wrote.

I knew writing was important to me, evident by the fact that I’ve kept my last 3 high school English assignment from 1977 – a story about apathy in school students, desegregating through busing, and the correlation between hyperactivity and sugar. I have no idea if I chose these subjects or if they were handed to me, but even though I received an A for all 3 assignments, I still didn’t have the confidence to continue writing.

The more I write the more at peace I am with myself, and the less I judge myself. The more I write the more I am able to focus on a moment.  There appears to be a valuable lesson in each of my experiences and interactions; whether they are exciting, mundane, good, bad, or indifferent. I just need to calm myself enough to watch and to listen.

Of course, there is still this internal counter pull that challenges me. For example, I just dropped a sock in the toilet, what is THAT supposed to mean? I was high on thought (a new favorite phrase of mine) and not focused on my actions. Okay, I had to dip my hand into a toilet that had not been cleaned in a week – but the sock was dirty, on its way to be washed – it simply jumped ahead of me. Its more humorous than infuriating, don’t you think?

I’m learning to listen to how I feel, instead of worrying about what people feel about me. I have no control over others, only of myself. I’m learning how to align and balance myself before reacting in conversation or behavior. How DID that make you feel Shannon, when the crossing cop blew his whistle and hollered “STOP LADY!” Embarrassed, infuriated, outraged - really, why?

I’m also learning how to laugh at myself. I am highly entertained by my inner dialog and can often be seen laughing out loud - for no apparent, external reason. Some might assume I’m insane, taken a fast track course to the wild side, again….they are in charge of their own thoughts, I’m taking charge of  mine.

Regardless of the little annoyances that occasionally surround me; I sense that the big stuff, the collective consciousness, is whirling independently all around me - enticing me to creatively align myself with it.

I used to think my business could not thrive without me yet its doing rather well now that I’ve stopped trying to micromanage the unmanageable. There are lots of super capable people in this world and they too are following their own path. Not only did I find them, I have aligned myself with them. Some of them are coworkers, others are neighbors and friends. On top of all that my key support system, my family, has jumped on board. It’s as though our souls knew and gravitated toward each other way before we agreed to be on this earth.

Sometimes my mind gets in the way. If I think about things too hard, for too long, it stifles me. The fear of what if, or if only, ONLY creates caution and confusion. I now mindfully expect things to work out. I no longer live in a state of doom and gloom. I’ve even been known to jump, impulsively, when it feels right and I typically do so with my eyes shut – leaping in without thoroughly researching or planning for negative variables.

The first time I did this was when I made the decision to go to Burning Man. WHAT….attend a hippy fest, free-for-all in the desert? This was so NOT my idea of fun. Even so, I knew it was supposed to go and I knew my son was guiding me.

Instead of an artsy dysfunctional rumpus, littered with raves and drug induced fornication (not that there is anything wrong with that), I found healing and soul and heart. I found peace. I found forgiveness. I stopped clinging to my guilt – as though it was all I had left of my son.

The more I let go, the more I grew, and the more I wrote.

My most recent example of letting go is when I took part in a National Legislative Institute in Washington, DC.- a forum that focused on suicide prevention in adolescents, college students, elderly, and military personnel. I joined representatives from all over the country, with one thing in common - we all lost someone we love to suicide.

I felt totally out of my comfort zone. I don’t like to follow, nor do I like to be told what to do – instead I prefer to find my own path. Once again, I was scared and when I’m scared all I want to do is make myself smaller.

To prepare for this event, I focused on the only elements I felt I could control – my wardrobe. I analyzed what was current, what was practical, and what was professional. Armed with perky pumps, a form fitting suit, a photo of my son, a folder of information, and fierce determination - I pranced up and down Capitol Hill, meeting with Senate representatives, Congressman and their aides.

I told them how I was grieving for one, but there are now hundreds of thousands I now mourn for.

We made a great team and I was proud to be part of the Connecticut delegation. I returned home feeling very proud of myself and also feeling very powerful, after experiencing "we the people" for the first time, first hand.

In the end, my feet were sore, my suit was tight, but my endeavors left me riding high.

I must tell you that the main reason I went to Washington was not to educate, enlighten or instruct - it was to align myself with Esmeralda.

I was introduced to Esmeralda by way of a New York Times article. It was forwarded to me by my daughter in law Mary – my son’s fiancé. The article portrayed a woman who had experienced my deepest, darkest fear - the loss of  two children. One from SIDs (sudden infant death syndrome), the other from suicide.

As much as her reality scared me, I felt an inner urge to connect with her. Together we set off to Washington and more importantly reignited a parallel path of enlightenment.

I’m not certain where it will take us, but I know we are a powerful force and we will both shine. To quote Esmeralda, "suicide picked the wrong mother(s) to mess with!"

Four days after returning from Washington, a massive storm hit our coastal community. Heavy winds and rain created a vortex of chaos and confusion. The Governor declared a state of emergency, schools were closed, 90% of the town was without power and we were powerless, and I thought...yep, I get it....I know who's really in charge!

Once again, “we the people” reacted. Some got involved, others selfishly bitched and stomped their feet, and others hid.

My inner urge pulled me into action. Even though I was scared, with great intention I challenged my physical and emotional obstacles.  I watched as my deliberate, direction of thought created a positive reaction. A combustion of The Power of Now and The Power of Positive Thinking.

I came out of the storm with a deep appreciative for what surrounds me - knowing that first there is thought, then thought form, then reality.

It's 70 degrees today and sunny. The breeze is calm, the water has receded. I'm relaxing, reflecting and wondering - with fond and heightened expectations - what will tomorrow bring.

Where ever it takes me, I'll know I created it, and I will continue to write on…

photo's courtesy of Google Images

Sunday, March 21, 2010

We Need To Talk

An Open Conversation About Suicide

“We need to talk”



"Heavy, but okay... I’m listening”

“Good ...did you know that the brain is an organ, just like the liver, kidneys, or gall bladder, AND if a vital organ get sick, and is left untreated, it can result in death.”

“Okay, that makes”

“Well, mental illness is a disease of the brain - 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia. By 2020, behavioral health disorders will surpass all physical disease.”

“Okay, I’m still listening…tell me more”

“Stigma and lack of understanding are the main reasons mental illness remains a topic we avoid. People suffering from this illness fear people will think they’re weak, or crazy, or both!"

“I don’t feel that way”

“Good ... something as simple as engaging in conversation has a major impact in reducing the stigma. The more people hear that you’re open, aware and listening, the more hope we give to people living with mental illness."

"Alcoholism, drug addiction, HIV and AIDS are medical conditions that were previously associated with a weakness or character flaws. Today, they are widely recognized as medical diseases and are openly discussed.”

“I remember when cancer was only referred to as the BIG C.”

“EXACTLY! Breast cancer is a perfect example of a medical illness that went unspoken for years...but today, thanks to breast cancer advocates, millions of dollars have been raised to aid in research, support programs and awareness."

“What are the risk factors to suicide?”

“These might sound pretty random but they include:

• alcohol or drug abuse, especially when combined with depression.

• genetic predisposition which includes a family history of suicide, suicide attempts, depression or other  psychiatric illness.

• post-traumatic stress disorders or some other form of anxiety disorder.

• bulimia or anorexia

• personality disorders

• childhood trauma or abuse

• chronic physical pain, and major physical illness

“Is that the same as warning signs?"

“No – warning signs put someone in immediate danger. It’s important to be aware of the signs so I’ll list some of them:

• Ideation - thinking, talking or wishing about suicide

• Substance use or abuse - also increased use or change in substance

• Purposelessness and hopelessness

• Extreme, irrational rage

• Withdrawal  - from family, friends, work, school, activities, hobbies

• Anxiety - restlessness, irritability, agitation

• Recklessness - high risk-taking behavior

• Mood disturbance - dramatic changes in mood

It’s important to remember that a suicidal person urgently needs to see a doctor or mental health professional. Remember…their brain is sick and they need help, just as a person who is suffering from any other serious illness would need help.”

“If someone is feeling depressed does that mean they might kill myself?”

"Are you feeling depressed?"

"Sometimes, but its not a big deal"

“Hey, I'm here for you and I will do everything I can to help.  Each person experiences depression in their own way. One person might sleep a lot, another not enough. Some people don’t eat and others overeat. Depression is a common but serious medical condition.  It can be overwhelming and interfere with your ability to function, but it doesn’t have to be terminal.

If you’re suffering from depression, there are things you can do to help improve the way you feel including lifestyle choices, antidepressant medication, holistic and western medicine, yoga and meditation, and talk therapy - but it’s important that you don’t ignore it.”

“I know someone who killed themselves and I still don’t understand.”

“60% of the population knows someone who completed suicide.  It’s hard to make sense of it if you haven’t been there yourself. Good, kind, loving, sensitive, creative, intelligent people crippled by the physical pain of their mental illness, dive into a state of hopelessness that defies all logic.”

“Its been in the news a lot lately - former "Growing Pains" actor 41-year-old Andrew Koenig, 40-year-old fashion designer Alexander McQueen and Michael Blosil the teenage son of singer Marie Osmond all took their lives within weeks of each other.”

“It’s an epidemic. More people die by suicide then accidents, homicide and war combined. Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years and is the second leading cause of death among college students. Six deaths by suicide took place at Cornell University in the past three months." 

"I had no idea how wide spread it was."

"You're not alone.  That's why we needed to talk."

If you or someone you know is feeling 
desperate, alone or hopeless 
call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 
at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone
in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

A film called ‘My Suicide – A Self Inflicted Comedy’ is due to be released in the fall of 2010. It will bring the realities of suicide, sex, cyber bullying, drugs, money and all the stresses that bombard teenagers, bravely into focus.

Although I don’t agree with a lot of the stereotypes the movie conveys, it creates an open dialogue and this is critical to reducing the stigma.

Issues of medical illnesses and suicide face huge obstacles in funding, support and awareness, but progress is being made, and YOU can help.

Let’s keep talking about it. With awareness, education, and treatment, suicide can be prevented.

Reach out, speak out, hold on.

Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy

Stats and Facts on suicide and suicide prevention were compiled from:

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
SAVE - Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
National World Health Organization

photo's courtesy of:
Goggle Images
My Suicide - A Self Inflicted Comedy
Shannon Kennedy

I was grieving for one, 
but there are hundreds of thousands I now mourn for.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Watching my fathers’ daily decline has been difficult.

Parkinson's disease demands courage beyond words.
I used to get angry with him when he'd ask me to button his pants or help him put on his vest, but we've moved far beyond that now.

Maltie, his home care aid from Trinidad, stepped into our lives just as my coping skills were spiraling out of control. It took some adjusting on all our parts, but she has evolved into so much more than an aid.  She has become my confidant, my counselor and most recently, my comedic relief.

My father will tell you that she’s too bossy and constantly reprimands her for trying to help him.

Because the only guidance I ever gave her was "don't baby him," Maltie quickly adapted a tough - drill sergeant approach.

Watching them bicker is a lot like watching an episode of the Honeymooners. Because of this, I often refer to my father as "Ralph" and Maltie as "Alice."

My father, unable to grasp the name Maltie, calls her "Doggie" and Maltie, with her rich Trinidadian accent calls my father "Rauja" her pronunciation of his middle name Roger.

During these past few months I have been studying Malties accent and will often imitate her heavy-handed tone and island expressions. This makes her laugh. It makes Dad laugh too.

Caring for the elderly is not an easy task. Maltie performs her duties with dignity and ease. Despite her dominant demeanor, she never belittles him or allows him to feel sorry for himself.

Because Dad takes an anti anxiety pill before going to bed, Medicare requires him to see a psychiatrist on an annual basis.

On our way into see the "head shrink" at the local hospital; we stop at the axillary gift shop were they had a rack full of children’s costumes hanging just outside the entrance.

One in particular catches my eye. A puffy red and black polka dot lady bug costume complete with matching wings, a bonnet and antennas.

I pick it up, hold it against Dad's frail frame and say, "PERFECT, let's get it!"

Dad's eyes open wide.

"You'll look great as a lady bug" I add.

"I don't know Shawnin,” says Maltie, “I really wanted him to be a laaamb."

We continue on down the hallway, debating which would suit him better. This is our way of warming him up before seeing the doctor. Typically Dad will not talk to the psychiatrist; all he'll do is stare at his sneakers, drool, and when he's had enough, yawn.

The doctor informed me that there is an unspoken awareness among the elderly - that  psychiatrists often recommend nursing homes as ideal living environments and therefore, most fear and or loath him, and will resist any sort of help.

Today’s visit is no different. My father sits expressionless, slumped over in his chair.

"How are things going Mr. Kennedy?" asks his doctor.

No reply.

"Is there anything I can do to help you. Anything at all?" prods his doctor.

Maltie and I look at each other and shake our heads.

"Dad’s going to be a lady bug for Halloween, isn't that right Maltie," I announce.

"Yes, but I want him to be a laaamb," adds Maltie.

Without hesitation, the doctor bends down as low as he can go in an attempt to make eye contact with my father and gently states, “that sounds great Mr. Kennedy."

When my attempt at humor fails to stir a reaction in him I add, "Is it okay if he wears his costume now or should I make him wait until Halloween?"

The doctor hesitates for just a moment before offering his professional opinion, “I think its okay if you start wearing it now Mr. Kennedy."

With half a grin my father replies “good.”

Eventually, Dad loosens up.

"How are you feeling otherwise Mr. Kennedy?"

"Okay," he sighs.

The doctor goes on to advocate Exelon and Aricept, two medications he believes will slow down the onset of alzheimer’s or dementia. Because my fathers’ future will most certainly include a wheelchair and a feeding tub, I’m not convinced that he wouldn’t be better off if his mental clarity deteriorates.

Do you ever see anything that doesn't make sense?” asks the doctor.

Dad is quick to answer “NO.”

The doctor continues, "Sometimes people see scary things, things that don't make sense."

"I was in Jersey the other day" admits Dad.

"Jersey, why Jersey?” I question.

The doctor leans in and quietly tells me, "they don't have any control over where they go.”

"Why didn't you take ME" asks Maltie.

"Were you watching the Giants again?" I ask

"Why else would I be in Jersey" says Dad.

"I thought you were going to take me to Florida" insists Maltie

Once gain, the doctor leaned in - this time telling Maltie, “they don't have any control over where they go."

"We're going to Florida don't you worry Doggie!" insists Dad.
"As long as you don't get married" I add.

“I'm not getting married”

"Then why are you two always holding hands"

"We're not holding hands, she's helping me balance."

"Are you having problems balancing Mr. Kennedy?”

Dad admitted he was having problems with his balance.  That it makes him feel unsure of himself and he doesn't like that.

"And I don't want the bag" Dad protests.

"What bag?” asks the doctor.

“Oh, Lord, Father” Maltie whines, “not THAT again!”

Shortly after seeing his younger brother Frank with a colostomy bag, Dad developed an unrealistic fixation on "The BAG"

"You don't need The Bag" challenges Maltie, "you do pee pee all the time."

The doctor patiently tries to reassure him that not being able to urinate is cause for "The Bag" but no reasoning seems to help - not from the urologist, his general practitioner, or from his psychiatrist.

Out of utter frustration I ask, "What color bag do you want?"

"Get him a red one" says Maltie

"No - he doesn't like red"

"Okay, then get him a green one"

"You can carry it around with you and everyone will admire how sharp you look with your bag" I tell him. "You can put your wallet and keys in it if you want to."

Dad will go nowhere without his wallet and keys. If his pants don't have pockets he'll tuck them into his sock.

When our group session is over, Dad turns to me and says, "I like him, he's very GI."

We didn't stop for the ladybug costume as we exited the hospital.

"Stand up straight Rauja. Come on, come on can walk to the car, don’t be getting all lazy on me."

For a man who was once a great high school athlete and then went on to complete over 100 marathons - the last at the age of 72, he accepts his circumstances with dignity and pride.

I know his days of walking are limited, so for now it is reassuring to watch him fight back with a slow, deliberate shuffle.

In the mist of the daily struggles we all endure as a result of his disease, we find humor.  And with that humor comes a remarkable gift - a memory.

Today, it was the memory of a day we all went to the hospital and looked at Halloween costumes. The day we conned the doctor into thinking we were nuttier than most.

Perhaps we are.


Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy

Saturday, March 13, 2010


"Perfection is not possible, but shocking is still on the table."   Jennifer Johnson


Amy Winehouse has a song called "F" Me Pumps. I love that song. I love shoes - but sadly, my need for comfort trumps my love of PUMP.

Boots are the exception to the rule. I’ll wear them regardless of how uncomfortable they are. I'll wear them until I bleed. Oddly, my ultra pointy, steel tipped, PINK cowboy boots are the most comfortable, and my favorite. Sadly, there are only so many places you can wear pink cowboy boots.

Sunday, I will be heading to Washington, D.C. - without my boots. I will be marching up and down Capitol Hill, my way of keeping a promise I made to my son - to tell the world that he lived, to show and tell his goodness and his pain.

After agreeing to take part in the conference hosted by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I was informed of the "dress code."

I knew my Lycra sweat pants were out of order, but it never occurred to me that I'd need to wear a SUIT.

Back when I deliberately changed the focus of my security company from corporate to residential, I tossed out all my stiff, stuffy suits. So not me, so not what I wanted to pretend to be.

Somehow, one of the suits eluded me - a black, sleeveless dress and waist cropped jacket by Garfield Marks. Not only do I not remember buying it, but apparently I never wore it – evident by the original tags still dangle from both the dress and the jacket.

And where exactly did I think I was going when I bought this mystery suit? As a rule, I hate to shop and will only do so if I’m going somewhere and then, I’ll wait until the last minute. I must have thought I was going to a funeral. Someone must have rallied.

It's been awhile since I looked at a woman’s suit, or focused on women who wear them - so I have no idea what is in style. Do suit styles change?

My number one concern is my mystery suits shoulder pads. They are not over the top - 80's style pads, but they are undeniably there and their purpose remains unclear. Are they for protection, or a visual attempt to balance out the width of my hips?

I decided to go on a fact finding excursion to the local mall (where I purchased the suit in question) to investigate the latest ultra conservative, fashion frenzy.

I went directly to the Petite section, the only alliance I had ever known, and was abruptly told I needed to “move on.” I tried three different sized before I humbly admitted I was better suited in an averagely proportioned department.

Pads were everywhere - softly sculptured, well rounded, minimalistic, shoulder pads!

Now that I knew I didn’t have to invest in a suit, I focused on the proper pumps.

I headed toward the last name brand, semi comfortable shoes I had purchased – Donald Pliner. An attractive, 30 something salesman informed me that “Pliners are not what they used to be.”

Typically, the first thing I notice about a shoe salesman is his shoes, but in this case I couldn't get beyond his wispy, chocolate brown hair, and slate blue eyes. 

I am a women who does not like to be sold or told anything, and yet, I believed him.

He eagerly introduced me to Attilio Giusti Leombruni, an Italian designer who specialized in style and comfort. My initial reaction was FUNKY! Slender, gun metal thin buckle strap across a glossy, patent leather toe with a 2 ¼ inch stacked heel and a elasticized top line. YUMMY!

I watched in wonder as kinky shoe man raised the pump to the point just below his nose, in hailed deeply, inserted his palm into the soft fold of the frame - demonstrating the flex of its construction, and then exhaled as he marveled at the padding of its sole.

I was sold.

When he emerged with my size (7 1/2) , my size plus a half size (8), and a mysterious orange box, I could barely contain myself. “Whats in the other box?” I asked. “Not yet” he told me.

Seconds after I slipped them on, I knew, I was in love with these funky, fuck me pumps.

After confirming that I’d take the size 8's with a “pad” inserted inline with the ball of the foot - I begged, “okay, now show me what’s in box number 3.”

Same shoe - minus the heel.  Same gun metal thin buckles, strapped across a glossy patent leather toe - only in a bold, brazen, pumpkin orange.

I looked up long enough to connect with the delight of Mr. Kinky, who I now realized was sporting an orange tie. “Orange is all the rage!” he assured me.

“I’ll take them” I said, and quickly handed him my card.

I’ve hidden the orange flats in the back of my closet – behind luggage and failed handbags. I’m not hiding them from my husband; I’m hiding them from myself. I need to see if these Capitol Hill Pumps will take me where I want to go with minimal pain before I commit to the orange flats.

To prepare myself for my upcoming journey, I have broken them in at the office, at home and even, when walking the dog. As a precautionary measure, I’ve packed bandaids, liquid skin and a cream labeled “Blister Elixer.” For extra protection I’ve tossed in some “spot pillows” and “cushy comfort sweet spot inserts.”

Apparently, I’m not the only one struggling with pain free fashion footwear.  Damn, we’ve come a long way since Dr. Scholl’s!

Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy



Friday, March 12, 2010

FLAT is where its AT

I was recently invited to take part in the "Flat Stanley Project."   For those of you that are out of the elementary school loop, the project is based on a 30 year old children’s book by Jeff Brown. In it, Stanley Lambchop is (((squashed))) by his classrooms bulletin board and his parents react by folding him up and mailing him off to visit friends in California.

What a twisted concept! Somehow it not only caught on, but it took on a life of its own. There are now millions of Flat Stanley traveling to faraway places - meeting fascinating people along the way.

Most recently, Stanleys been photographed at a black tie affair at the Whitehouse (an "invited" guest) with the Obamas by his side, at the halfpipe with Shaun White during the Vancouver Olympics, and high flat-fiving Reggie Bush at the Super Bowl.

YEP, all the places I'll never go. This little man has got it going on!

My Flat Stanley was waiting for me when I returned from a trip to Paris. My initial reaction was to photoshop him into my pictures - but that would have been cheating, right?  If he had arrived ten days earlier our time together could have been educational, besides I was flying solo - it would have been nice to have a companion in the Grand City of Lights.

Together we could have meandered our way through the streets of Saint Germain, tapped our toes to the murky melody at the Rue Des Lombards jazz clubs, and sipped a 40 euro cocktail at the Four Seasons George V hotel bar. He could have joined me for a Friday night stroll at the Louvre, helped me maneuver my way through the metro, and push passed the tourists at The Pantéon.

Instead, he was left behind - sprawled out naked on my kitchen counter, patiently waiting for me to bring him to life.

Together we engaged in a week of mundane tasks – shoveling snow, overcoming overflowing work obstacles, and attending family functions. I buckled him in and chauffeured him to all my favorite haunts - the nail salon, the hardware store, I even took him to therapy. It was interesting to see people’s reaction to Stanley, and to how I interacted with Stanley. Some were noticeably uncomfortable, others were mildly entertained, and a few joined in the fun.

During my time with Stanley I rediscovered the joy of color, and was reminded that the world of Make Believe beats mindless television viewing - hands down.  I made him clothes and tiny little props. I photographed him, videotaped him, wrote about him and then, reluctantly, I returned him.

Yesterday I received an email from my dear friend Steve. My sister and I met Steve one year while attending Burning Man. Steve is the epitome of a free thinker - wild, adventurous, and passionate about his beliefs. Steve was writing to tell me, and a group of his friends, about his time with “Flat Ryan.”  His flat friend was mailed to him by my sisters, son’s school.

Steve embraced this project with incredible kindness. His adventures are so compelling and uplifting that I want to share them with you. Flat Ryan's journeys reflect Steve’s true heart and showcases his genuine, sincere, and abundant love for the island and the people of Hawaii.

Although I have not experienced the magnitude of fascinating people and places that Stanley has encountered, my journeys have allowed me to define and fine tune my character judgment. I am impressed and deeply humbled by the integrity of those of you I am honored to call my friend.

Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy

click on the FLAT RYAN IN HAWAII link to be whisked away to the wonders of Hawaii

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Give me an "F"

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No, this is not me singing "Fish Cheer," or flipping someone off, this is an honest look at what it’s like to be Fifty.  See how I try to lure you in.  I'm tricky that way.  Don't worry, the first thing I did was increase the font size.  You shouldn't have to "strain" to read.


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My hair stylist, a crazy styleless, 60 something German women, suggested I try honey as a night time facial moisturizer. I woke the next morning to the cat, licking the side of my face. The other side was stuck to my pillow case.

I should know better than to own a cat. I've seen Gray Gardens - the musical, the documentary AND the HBO special. Gray Gardens shows you just how easy it is to go from a sought after socialite, to a crazy ass cat lady. A cat will suck away your need for human interaction. A dog would never do that.  If it weren’t for my ying-yang balance of cat and dog, I might never leave the house.

I go for weekly manicures because I love the free massage. If I’m lucky, my masseuse will wear deodorant and his fingers will be long enough so that they almost touch the rise of my breasts.

I tried Botox for the furrows above and between my eyes. The result - my eyes drooped, I looked exhausted, and my 2 skin cancer forehead scars became more pronounced.  Botox instantly transforming me into a tired, expressionless, beaten up, old woman – I’ll be damned if I’ll pay money for that!

My ass used to be my no#1 physical asset.  Now it’s my ankles, or more appropriately, my lack of cankles.

My love of spanx has replaced my longing for thongs.

Forget about finding jeans that make my ass look good. Finding jeans that don’t create “muffin top” is now my top priority.

The thought of wearing elastic waist jeans is repulsive yet I have no problem wearing sweat pants.

I have not walked away from my husband, naked, for almost 7 years. I now do this adorable, back stepping glide – my dark side version of a moon walk.

I took my car in for servicing the other day. Even with the seat warmer set on “0” the temperature was way too hot. The technician explained that my fuse had blown and the seat warmer no longer worked.  I told him that was impossible. He told me to ask my gynecologist for a second opinion.

My daughter will whip out the “M” word anytime our conversations turn heated. “You’re so emotional now that you’re menopausal” she’ll tell me.  My reply, “hey, I’m still fertile and I’ll prove it if I have to.” The visual alone is enough to silence her.

I long for the days when strangers referred to me as “MISS.” Being called “Maam” makes me want to start slapping people.

To celebrate my 50th birthday I did a wine induced cartwheel. Half way through, I felt a snap – apparently this is the sound discs make when they snap out of place. Sadly, my cartwheel days are over.

My oasis of a bedroom was instantly transformed into a hospital room when my zero gravity, relax the back, chair arrived.

I am being hounded, bullied and pressured into joining this sick, twisted, frail gang called "AARP." 
I developed a brief crush on my chiropractor when he convinced me I’d be able to run pain free. He lied. We broke up. I walked away.

Sipping wine in bed has replaced bar hoping.

I go to more funerals than weddings.

I have a friend who has a trampoline. I can no longer jump on her trampoline without wetting myself.

I keep my elbow glued to my waist when I wave and if anyone needs some extra skin, I’ve got 6 folds on the back of each elbow.

My vision decline is synced perfectly with the growth of my ears. I'm told I look better, now that I'm older, with short hair.  I now try to keep my hair short enough so that I look "better" but long enough to cover my monkey ears.

I recently took my 86 year old father to see the movie “Avatar.” In an attempt to get as close to the theater entrance as possible, I outmaneuvered a twenty year old for a pristine parking space.  Not only was she not sympathetic to the sight of my father hobbling - one hand on his cane the other hooked onto my arm - she called me an “old cow.”  Afterwards, I asked my father if he liked the movie.   “It was okay” he answered.   “What was your favorite part?” I questioned.  His reply, “Hearing that girl call you an Old Cow!”

I’ve figured out a solution to my fifty year old woes (and no, it doesn’t involve Preparation H).  I’ve decided to have fun with it -  to flaunt it, to laugh out loud - especially at myself.



CLICK ON "OKAY, this time I mean it..."GIVE ME AN F"  
For all of you 50 something's - remember when we were too young to go to Woodstock? 

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison