Thursday, September 29, 2011



Last fall, my husband Mark and I took our grandson Jackson on a day trip to Lime Rock Park, in Kent, Connecticut. Situated on 350 acres of rolling Berkshire Mountain foothills, it is one of the most picturesque road racing courses in the country. Because of its park setting, spectators are encouraged to tailgate along the grassy hillside. To me, this can only mean one thing - OUT DOOR DRINKING.  

What we didn't realize was that their pet policy had changed.  Above the entrance gate, in clear view, was a large sign that read "NO DOGS ALLOWED."  

Not your average shih-tzu, Miss Lucy is a race car fanatic and a frequent visitor at the Lime Rock track. 

Because we didn't want to disappoint Jackson (or piss off our shih-tzu), we did the only thing a bad grandparent could do - we hid Miss Lucy from view. 

Once safe inside, we set up our chairs, cooler and blanket in the back corner of the track - then popped open the back hatch of the mini cooper so that Lucy had a clear view of the race from the confines of the car.  

A few sips of chardonnay later, Miss Lucy was frolicking freely across the open fields.

"What if we get arrested," worried Jackson.
"We didn't break a law," I assured him.
"Yes we did."
"No, we disobeyed a sign - you can't get arrested for that."
"Yes you can," insisted Jackson.

At the wise age of 9, Jackson was clearly in the right.

"Okay then, we'll tell them she's not a dog."
"Not a dog?" questioned Jackson.
"Yes, she's not a dog.  She's a wild animal that scurries around picnic baskets looking for scraps."
"What kind of a wild animal is that?" asked Jackson
"She's a squabbit - half squirrel, half rabbit."

Blatant disregard for the truth, or an exercise in pure imagination?

"There's no such thing," insisted Jackson.
"How do you know?"
"Because its impossible,"
"Anything is possible Jackson"
"But, how could that happen?"

Clearly this kid is too inquisitive for his own good.

"Maybe a squirrel went for a ride on a rabbits back and things got carried away." 
"What do you mean?" asked Jackson. 

Knowing it's not a grandmothers job to explain the birds and the bees, I kept it clean.

"Well, everyone knows rabbits multiply quickly.  Maybe it was dark out, or maybe he didn't eat his carrots and had poor vision."

See, this is a lesson in good nutrition.

"Ya, or maybe he had too much to drink," added Jackson as he nodded at my half empty bottle of wine.

Our day at Lime Rock came and went, and I'm happy to report that nobody got arrested.

This fall, I have the honored pleasure of picking Jackson up from school on days when his Mom needs my help.  Yesterday, I could hardly wait for the bell to ring.

"Jackson, quick, get in the car," I insisted.
"Whats up?" asked Jackson.

"I saw a squabbit!"
"WHAT," said Jackson
"AND ... I have proof."

I explained to Jackson that several days ago, Miss Pegged (my coworker in crime) complained about a large black rat running from the office building across the street, to our office.  Today I saw it, and it's not a rat - it's a squabbit.

"That's impossible," insisted Jackson
"I told you nothing is impossible."

The proof is in the picture.  He's got the face of a squirrel and the body of a rabbit.

"That's a squirrel without a tail," insisted Jackson.

"I thought so to, until I watched him.  He hops like a rabbit and he digs and scurries for food like a squirrel."

We spent the rest of the afternoon researching squabbits online.  The evidence is out there.

According to some really smart freshman at John Hopkins university...

Rabbits and squirrels share 80% of their DNA.  To put this into perspective, humans share 99% of the DNA with chimpanzees, and 33% with Daffodils (yes, like the flowers.)  Just because one species shares a majority of their DNA with another does not mean they are reproductively compatible.  In fact, what makes a species a species is the concept that a group of individuals are reproductively isolated from other groups of individuals.  Rabbits belong to the order of “Lagomorpha,” while squirrels “Rodentia.”  Humans, squirrels, and rabbits all differ on the taxonomic level of order.  So one can loosely infer that the crossbreeding of rabbits and squirrels is as likely as the cross breeding between human and squirrels, which would be frightening. 

(here’s where it gets interesting)

All of these have a probability of next to impossible. Yet, natural selection runs on the chemical and biological impossibilities.  It preserves the mutations that are beneficial and increase fitness and builds on sometimes seemingly impossible events and unimaginable mutations.  In this way natural selection may be the most creative and innovative force in the entire natural world.  Life occurred out of a probability of next to impossible.  

To say that Jackson is excited about this recent discovery is an understatement.  His mind and his imagination are on fire.

"Everything we see and experience arose from impossibilities Jackson.  So, to those who say that a squirrel and a rabbit will never create a squabbit, I say I know what I saw and we have just proved them wrong."

"You're right Nanny," said Jackson, with a gleam in his eyes that would make any grandparent proud,  "NOTHING is impossible."

(in case you can't see the little red strip across the bottom - squirrel morphed pictures courtesy of

Squabbit video 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just say NO

Because I drive my husband to the train in the morning, he wakes me at 6:30 am by gently stroking my arm and asking, "You awake Dear?"  To which I reply, "NO, no I'm not."  

I do this early rise and drive because it's a super long commute for him, 1 hour 45 minutes - one way.  Car to train, train to subway, subway to pathway, and shuffle-ball-chain from pathway to office.

My commute is 7 minutes and 3 traffic lights long. Clearly, I have commuter guilt.

We have the same conversation every morning. "Still awake?" he asks as I drive 45 miles an hour across back country roads - both hands grasping the wheel and eyes in a vacant stare.

He will complain that traffic light number two is too long, and I will remind him that it gives us more time to be together.

I demand four kisses before he exits the car.  I don't care who's watching.  I wait until he turns back, smiles and waves, then disappears up the stairs. It's a post 9/11 thing. You never know for certain if you'll see each other again. Besides, I love watching his ass climb those stairs.

Today, he surprises me by asking if I am going to write.  I tell him I have nothing to write about.

"You could write about the dog therapist you spoke to yesterday," he suggests.

Yes, I suppose I could.  Or... I could write about the eel that swam up the Chinese man's penis during a spa treatment.

I posted a link to the story for my campmates in a private facebook thread.  Their bizarre, quirky comments have been my main source of entertainment.

What's that you say?  Just say NO to an EEL IN PENIS story?

Okay, but if this post is "DULL", send your negative comments to my husband:


Sunday was Greenwich's annual dog show (slash) festival, Puttin' on the Dog, which benefits the local Adopt-A-Dog agency.  Here they showcase pets that are up for adoption and you can also enter your pet in a host of contests that range from tail wagging to costume extravaganzas.

I used to enter the dogs in all sorts costume contests but after a string of losses and an embarrassing rant on YouTube, I've permanently banned myself from participating.

My main objective this year was to get a first hand look at a litter of orphaned, alien looking foxes that had been nursed by a fox-terrier.

Aren't they adorable!  My daughter had her heart set on adopting one, and I was pleased to inform her that these "wild animals" were headed to a local zoo.

The event also featured vendors that included, pet groomers, animal masseuses, canine nutritionist and a "doggy therapist."

After explaining Mylo's "issues" to the therapist, he suggested that I bring him down for a one on one.

"But he's extremely fearful of dogs outside of his immediate family.  He'll bark obsessively and try to bite them,"  I explained.

"Even better," he answered, "I'll see him at his worst."

Fifteen minutes later, surrounded by dogs that ranged in size from a Great Dane to a Pomeranian, Mylo was living his worst nightmare.

Therapist: "What do you do when he tries to bite or barks?"
Me: "I pick him up."
Therapist: "What about his behavior makes you want to pick him up?"
Me: "Well, its clear to me that he is afraid, so if I pick him up he feels superior to the other dogs."
Therapist: "So, you're rewarding him for his poor behavior..."

Can he NOT see the "ENABLER" sign hanging above my head? 

Therapist: "Don't take this the wrong way lady, but the problem isn't the dog, its the dogs owner."

I was asked to hand over the leash, which I did with hesitation.  This time, in his expert hands, when Mylo barked he was yanked and yelled at.

"BAD DOG, BAD DOG!" he screamed so loud anyone within 50 yards was frightened.

So much for dog whisper, this guy was a dog berater (can't believe that's not a word).

Every time Mylo barked, he yanked and yelled at him. And every time he yanked and yelled Mylo cringed, looking up at me with tears in the eye as if to say, "make the bad man stop."

This guy knew he was going to have to push hard if he was going to get me to sign up for his sessions.

Therapist: "Look Ma'am, I know what I'm talking about.  I've been doing this for 30 years.  Now listen to me close.  I'm only going to tell you this once, unless you buy my book, then you can read it as much as you want ."

Me: "And I'm only going to tell YOU once... do NOT call me Ma'am!"

Therapist:  "LADY, If you went to China and tried to order a hot dog do you think you'd get it?"

Me: "Yes"

Therapist: "NO, NO you wouldn't and do you know why? I'll tell you why...because you don't speak their language."

Me: "But I do speak some Chinese"

Therapist: "Never mind that Lady, LISTEN to me.  Its like Mylo is an alien that just landed."

Me: "Have you seen the baby foxes - they look like aliens."

Therapist: "You're NOT payin' attention Lady.  Mylo doesn't understand you, its like you're talking Chinese."

Me: "What is it about you and the Chinese? Just so you know, my shih-tzu's commands are in Chinese."

Therapist: "Shih-tzu!  Those dogs can be nasty!  Talk about biters and barkers!"

(Clearly, this is the part where I lose my mind, and yet, I am able to recite by a line from 1975.  One that my sisters now x-husband said to my then boyfriend when he commented about their shiht-tzu's smooched in face.)

Me: "Not only is my shiht-tzu well behaved, she baths regularly and knows who her parents are.  Can you say the same?"

More Me: "You Sir should also know that my daughter is half Chinese and her father is 100% Chinese and I take offense to your constant Asian references."

Too Much Me: "Do you hear me making fun of people with Long Island accents? NO.  Or men who think their handlebar mustache looks cool? NO."

Me Trying To Get Back on Point:  "No, I won't sign up for your newsletter.  Nor will I sign up for your classes.  And guess what, I'm not buying your book!"

With Mylo safe in my arms I ended my rant with...

"You wouldn't be so careless with your Asian comments if you knew about the poor Chinese man who had an eel swim up his penis!"

"Wake up da Monkey" photo courtesy of

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's Wrong With Me???

Jeff Koons sculpture outside Brant Art Study at Greenwich Polo Club

It was the last match of the season at the Greenwich Polo Club.  The home team, White Birch, was disguised as "St. Regis" the sponsor for Saturday's match.  With the top ranked (and super sexy) player, Mariano Aquerre absent, it didn't promise to be an exciting one.

The well dressed crowd was uncharacteristically packed with A list celebrities that included Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Jessica Hart, Ralph Lauren model Nacho Figueras, and fresh off fashion week designers, Valentino and Jason Wu.

 A Ralph Lauren Look-a-Like, Peter Brandt, Jessica Hart, Valentino, and Nacho Figueras
photo courtesy of Getty Images

Despite their "fashion status," after an initial once over, I grew bored, especially since their super-sized fan base, along with a swarm of security, threatened to change the carefree, laid-back atmosphere of the day.

"Can't wait to see which one of them is first to use the porto-pottys," I thought, knowing the Clicquot was free flowing and that this was the only way of legally relieving yourself.

Our fun began even before we arrived.  To get there we crammed 4 adults (one being freakishly tall), 2 kids, and 2 dogs into a 4 door sedan - our way of conserving energy not to mention cutting the overall cost (at $40.00 per carload) by a third.

Oblivious to the grandeur surrounding the match, and underdressed in "casual picnic attire," my husband Mark, our friend Jay, his son Zoc, daughter-in-law Mary, and grandson Jackson, were please to snag the last slice of front row turf.  After lining up our lawn chairs, and tray tables, I popped open the first bottle of bottom of the barrel champagne and smiled.

Before I had a chance to sit down I remembered that, in my rush to grab a prime spot, I failed to collect an untimely dollop, courtesy of our rat terrier, Mylo.  With the support of Mary, and with mascots Mylo and Lucy in tow, we set out to collect the evidence.

Despite our good, half-hearted intensions, we came up empty handed.   On our way back, we walked along the front lawn - past the packed grandstand and lines of colorful blankets and mismatched lawn chairs.  We walked past a slew of security guards, body guards, and off duty police officers.   We walked past camera crews and photographers.  We walked until we were stopped by a non-cordial police officer.

"Lady, your dog (pointing at Miss Lucy) needs to be on a leash."

The formality of his tone caught me off guard.

"Oh don't mind her," I replied, "she's better behaved then I am."

"I'm only going to tell you this once Ma'am, you either put your dog on a leash or I'll have you removed."

Removed? Really?  Removed from polo? And did he just call me Ma'am?

"I spotted some kids smoking crack behind the porto-pottys, if you hurry you can still catch them,"  I replied.

Oddly, my snarky charm wasn't working.

His demand would have been easy to ignore had I not been escorted back to my seat.

Not only didn't I bring a leash, Miss Lucy wasn't even wearing a collar.

I understand that even 5 lb dogs need to be stay off the field during the match, but I assure you that Miss Lucy is astutely versed in polo etiquette.  Not only will she not cross the designated white line -  she typically sits under our lawn chairs, either to avoid the danger of oncoming animals 100 times her size, or to hide from the flock of children that naturally gravitate towards her.

exhibit A

In a pinch, I grabbed the chiffon scarf off my hat, and loosely tied it around Lucy's neck - leaving a long trail that would serve as a leash.  I did my best to assure Lucy that this was a Valentino prompted fashion statement and not a restraining method, but she was not amused.  To punish me, she removed herself from our pack and sat with a family behind us who had thoughtfully brought a houndstooth, wool blanket to shield her from plummeting temperatures.

Despite this drastic change of events,  a radio call was placed and officer number two arrived.  They strategically positioned themselves in direct line with my view of the score board.  At that point, instead of pouting, I poured myself a bowl of wine and pointed my camera lens at them.  I now have 64 photo's of officer Dumb and Dumber, on dog duty.

Determined not to let them spoil my day, I chanted "let it go"repeated.  To my surprise, I was able to make it through the match without embarrassing myself - until that is, shortly after the closing ceremonies.

I can't remember what Jackson, Mark, Zoc, or Jay were doing at the time, but Mary and I were packing up when I was given a strong directive.

"Lady, time for YOU to go"

No longer capable of logical thinking, I shot back, "Can you NOT see what I'm doing? Am I sitting on my ass? NO, no, I'm not.  I'm cleaning up and packing up!"

Not too bad considering my Irish temper.  No bad words (unless you count ass) or rude gestures.  Until... I punctuated it with, "Why do you have to be such a DICK!"

"Did you just call me a DICK?" questioned officer Dumber.

"How do I know your name isn't Richard?" I replied (yes, I know... that makes no sense)

His retort was belligerent, "I wouldn't have to be such a DICK if you weren't such an ASSHOLE!"

Did one of Greenwich's finest just call me an asshole?

I dropped my bag of recyclables, stomped up to him, and stood within an inch of his poorly shaven face.

Remembering I had a grandson close by, and knowing I could go 4 minutes without blinking, I said NOTHING.

"Are you trying to intimidate me?" asked Officer Dumber.

"What would make you think I'm trying to intimidate you?" I asked. "You're the one with the taser and the gun. You're the one with all the power. I'm just trying to get a good look at your badge number."

Luckily, my husband knows me well enough NOT to get involved.  Had he tried to reel me in with a "lets go honey" or a "that's enough now dear" I would have responded like a rabid dog.

Before I was offered a free ride in the police car, a sensible officer approached us and announced, "Okay girls lets break this up."

It was exactly what I needed - a slap of humor - the one thing that snaps me out of rage.

Fortunately, my grandson was focused on his football and was not witness to my "Shannonigans."

I am not proud of my behavior.  I realize I do not take direction or criticism well. This is whats wrong with Shannon.

However, my initial point was well made, my dog really is better behaved.


Is it just me, or do you Lady's of a certain age cringe every time someone calls you "Ma'am"?

For the record, the proper use of the word Ma'am:

Pronunciation:  'mam,
Function: after "yes" as in "yes, Ma'am"
Function noun: MADAM i.e. LADY used without a name as a form of respectful or polite address to a woman.

Or the female head of a house of prostitution
Or the female head of household : wife

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's Right with Me

My writing resurrection is fueled by a recent post from Deborah Windham @ Dr. Deb A Fabulous Radical Life where she questioned, "What is Right with Me?"

"I am ART"- Deborah Windham 

Burning Man is different every year and as I always say, you get what you need, not necessarily what you want.  

In preparation for this "Rites of Passage" themed Burn - in addition to art projects, costuming, Temple projects, and endurance training - I began reading a book called The Sedona Method, which is teaching me how to honor my emotions and release them - not allowing myself to be defined by them.  My goal each year is to grow and heal.  This is my 9th year attending Burning Man.  How far I've progressed is debatable at best.  

When I first arrived, I was a grieving mother.  I was here to punish myself for not preventing my son's death. My transformation began at the Temple in 2003, when a stranger shook my hand and assertively stated, "It's NOT your fault." That stranger turned out to be David Best, the artist who built the Temple.  

For the next 7 years I was glued to the Temple.  Not just during the burn, but all year long.  

Burning Man is where I feel closest to my son.  Here, my inner voice is his and I trust his words.  Last year, he told me to leave the Temple, to stop remembering the way he died and to focus on the way he deliberately lived.  That the more I reached beyond my self imposed boundaries - insecurities that have haunted me since I was a very young girl - the more I would free him and myself.  We are one.  He also told me to look at the people I have attracted into my life.  That there are lessons to learn from each of them.  

My immediate reaction was to focus on the people that were NOT in my life - lovers, friends, campmates - people who rejected me.  

Number one on my list was a man I camped with for 3 or 4 years. His name was Mike. During our time on the playa he fed me a great deal of attention. He was smart and funny and powerful in his default world, but here, he was a toy for me to play with. I allowed him to chase me, to lust over me.  I even tricked him into thinking he loved me.  In truth, he had no idea who I was.  

(I realize how calculated this sounds but) At the time, all I understood was that he fed my insecurities.  What I craved from my burn was male attention and he was safe.  I wasn't attracted to him and I knew he would never try to overpower me.  I was in control and control is powerful, and power was my drug.  

Back home, I was 7 years into a monogamous relationship - my first EVER - and even though I had given myself permission to stray on the playa, I felt stronger staying true to a bond I made with a man that I felt safe enough to love.  

In 2008, with less than a week to go before the burn, Mike emailed me to say that due to work, he would not be attending Burning Man and that I could not camp with his friends. And then... he disappeared. I had already shipped my camping supplies and I was traveling solo. I was devastated.  

It never occurred to me not to go. Instead, I headed into the burn kicking and screaming. "FUCK IT...I'll camp solo. FUCK HIM, FUCK EVERYONE. I don't need anyone!"  But I knew myself well enough to know that there was a strong chance that I'd shut myself off from everyone and everything. Or worse, that I'd project myself as a victim - something I avoided all my life, even after the death of my son.  

I put an ad on the social network Tribe, asking if anyone needed a "drama free" (HA!) campmate.  A man from B.E.D (Bureau of Erotic Discourse) was the first to contact me.  He was kind and generous, but I didn't feel a connection to him or to the camp.  

The next person to contact me was a woman from New Mexico named DustBunny.  She explained that she was a virgin burner and would be arriving on the Green Tortoise Bus.  She had also recently met another "newbie" on Tribe named Lazy Boy.  Lazy Boy had befriended a silver couple from Portland.  The fact that none of us knew each other, that we were all "orphans," was oddly comforting.  

We made friends with a couple that camped next to us and we all formed a unique bond. Each year, more orphans found their way into the camp and deep, interpersonal connections flourished.

There was a major shift in our camp this year and I fought it hard. Some wanted an open door policy - inviting more and more people that they'd met online or at a regional Burn, and others wanted to keep the invite to friends so that we'd maintain a more intimate setting. Eventually, feelings were hurt and the camp split. And my guilt came back with a vengeance.

Yes, I am opinionated, and at times controlling and bossy. I've never had a problem admitting my flaws. I also understand that the subset of wanting to control is the built-in opposing force of wanting to be controlled. And when we allow ourselves to be controlled we no longer take responsibility for our shortcomings, our failures, and our negative feelings. 

I woke each morning with tears. Even my dreams were focused on knowing I had hurt people, and that people I loved were angry with me. My son was angry with me when he died. 

I spent several weeks honoring and releasing my emotions - over and over again.  In the middle of all this, the rejection of Mike resurfaced. Why did he dump me? What was the catalyst? And why can't I let it go?  

I knew the rejection would churn and grow during the burn if I didn't focus on it so... I made a giant, seven foot tall, voodoo doll and named him Mike.  

To eliminate any confusion, I gave him a name tag that read, "MY NAME IS MIKE, I'M FROM BOSTON AND I HAVE ISSUES" (Mike lives in Boston and his playa name is "Issue").  I stuffed him with tears, emails, and garments he had gifted me. For extra flavor, I added a few things from a former employee who was suing me. I took my time making him. I even made giant pins that you could stick into him.  

I could feel the shift begin even before he was complete.

I blogged about him and then I started taking him places. Wherever we went, Mike made people smile.  

With two weeks to go before the burn, I shipped him to a campmate in Southern California who agreed to have him sit shotgun on his 14 hour journey from Southern California to Black Rock City, Nevada.  Mike's ticket was one-way.  He would burn along with the Man. 

Because they shared the same default world first name, I emailed my friend who split from our camp this year so that he understood who Mike was.  He had patiently listened to me vent about Mike for the past 3 years, and understood my quest for inner peace.  His email reply was light and uplifting, "...I just want us all to be happy, whatever that means for each of us." 

Due to the untimely east coast hurricane, Mike beat me to the playa.  Oh the irony!  He celebrated Fat Tuesday without me, dined on gumbo and danced it up with campmates old and new.  

I arrived drained to a level I had not felt since my first year, and immediately sensed a bombardment of disapproval.  Not from my campmates, but from a part of the new camp that had formed after our split.  They were camping close to us, and I knew their Mike was the catalyst.  

Despite knowing the true identity of Mike, he led them to believe that my voodoo doll was made in his image - as if this was my way of punishing him.  

All I could feel was negativity swirling at me.  It was suffocating.  

Even before receiving validation, my gut wrenching reaction was to deny and defend.  When I sat with that, and focused on it, I realized that feeling condemned, unjustly, was another reoccurring theme in my life.  Something I had willingly attached myself to since I was a very young age.  And then, like a tidal wave, it hit me... "MIKE" was not one man.  Mike was every man who had ever abandoned or abused me.  

Starting with my father, who left when I was 2. 
And then my stepbrother, who molested me when I was 7. 
And then my boyfriend, who told me I would have to have sex with him or he'd dump me, and then when I did, he dumped me. 
And onto the man I was too afraid to love, who toyed with me, sexually, for more years than I care to admit.  

But the deepest pain of all came from my son.  

How could you abandon me? (so many tears)  My first born, my only son.  

I never allowed myself to feel anything negative about him choosing death.  I understood it was a brain disease, that he was not thinking logically.  I defended him in death just as I did in life.  

I was finally ready to acknowledge, honor and release the true source of my inner pain and in doing so,  to my great surprise, my need for male attention dissipated.   

I began dressing for me.  I felt good about me.  I was silly and spontaneous without being seductive.  

And then, remembering my sons guidance, I looked around me... 

Every one of my campmates is joyous, loving, kind and generous.  All are accepting, forgiving, open and nurturing - each in their own unique way.  There is no need to defend myself - my true intensions mirror their own.  

These are the people I have attracted into my life.   

(deep....deep breath) 

I AM learning.  I AM growing.  I am finally finding peace within myself.  

And that is what's right with me.  



2011 Burning Man Art Theme - Rites of Passage 

There are moments of crisis and frisson in our lives which inform us that we've somehow crossed an inner threshold and are changed.  Thus moving from one state of being into an unknown other obliges us to face our innermost insecurities, and it requires faith, a willingness to leap off the ladder of ordered existence.  Our them this year invites participants to join with others in creating rites of passage. 

Breathtaking time lapsed video shot Saturday night at Burning Man.  Enjoy! 

Burning Man 2011: Rites of Passage - Burn Night Timelapse from Grant Kaye on Vimeo.

Stay tuned for a lighthearted answer to WHAT HAPPENED TO MIKE? 

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison