Sunday, December 13, 2015


Late Fall, 1995
Bogie, Ling, Kerry and Bosco

I no longer send Christmas cards and because of that, each year I receive less and less.  I used to take pictures with my 35 mm camera and frame them in a holiday motif.  Thanks to my iPhone,  I seldom reach for a real camera. Photos are shared not printed and stored on a driver or uploaded to the mysterious "cloud."

The center of these cards were my children, until they reached a certain age and then my camera focused on odd or unusual sightings. It didn't matter if it had anything to do with the holidays, it was just something that stuck in my head.

One year I attended a party that included body painting. I had a large golden sun painted on my pre-cancer chest, while another guest had two giant blue eyes painted on her ass - one on each cheek. I used her photo, along with the caption, "Eye's wish you a Merry ChristmASS" as my Christmas card that year. It was tacky but my primary target was my Pennsylvania relatives, most of whom had an off-color sense of humor that I found endearing.

Another year the Naked Cowboy was my theme. Back then he was new to Time Square and was a semi-toned and tanned novelty.  I took so many pictures of him that he grew annoyed. I couldn't decide which one I liked better so I used both.

I have always enjoyed receiving newsletters that highlight a year in the life of a functional family.

Mine, although less traditional, is always colorful and therefore deserving of its own rant. Here is my very first, holiday newsletter.


Greetings Family and Friends,

It has been an astounding year jam-packed with tears, fears and laughter.

It began with Mark fracturing his ankle somewhere between the stroke of the new year and the dawn of the first day. It took another 24 hours to talk him into seeing a doctor at which point we discovered that he would need surgery and screws would be implanted. Nine months later those screws would be removed when his wound refused to heal.

In addition to his ankle fracture, our marriage fell apart and we filed for divorce on April Fools'. Our divorce was granted on August 17th - what would have been our 13th wedding anniversary. It was an amicable divorce and thanks to Marks generosity, I continue to live in my condo tucked beside a waterfall and enjoy the luxury of health insurance.

As I patiently wait for my darling daughter Ling to sprout her fairy wings, she announced that she has a boyfriend, who miraculously, we all adore. In addition to waitressing she has begun massage therapy school. At the tender age of 25, and with several colleges and career choices behind her, we are almost certain this one will stick. Despite her fluttering, we appreciate her goodness and joy of life, and wish we would have taken our time before choosing a career path.

Jackson, now 14, is a freshman at the high school and is aclemating very well. With his head planted in the clouds we are amazed at his ability to excel at school and sports, and still find his way home each day.

Somehow, during the course of a year, this happened... 



I'm not happy about it, but Jackson sure is. 

Mary continues to balances work and parenting and occasionally, when she makes time for herself, I get to step in as the adult in charge. The beauty of her love is evident in Jackson for he is a respectful, polite, compassionate young man who adores his mother and values his education, religion and family.

Thanks to the foresight and good fortune of my father, I have managed to corral the most important people in my life into one structure - a two family house - that is less than 5 miles from my home and across the street from my office. The addition of Pete, Ling's boyfriend, adds a much appreciated adult male energy as well as a daily infusion of music, thanks to a collection of instruments that he plays.

Work is fun. Play is fun. I am good at having fun.

So are these two...

Sasha and Lucy

I am grateful for the guidance and unconditional love of my family - both chosen and through birth, two and four legged, here and beyond. 

I am living alone for the first time in my life. There are times when I celebrate my independence and cherish my solitude. There are also times where I grow restless and fear I will die alone.

Despite all that has happened, or maybe because of it, I am surrounded by the love of those I respect and admire.  I continue to enjoy and appreciate good health.

My hope is that we all open our hearts, cultivate an atmosphere that is inclusive and tolerant of others, and that we infuse kindness and compassion into our thoughts and into everything we do. 

Wishing you all great joy, peace, comfort, and most of all.... LOVE. 

XO, MonkeyMe 

Three Sisters 
Norie, Shannon (confused by shoes) and Colleen

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Earrings

I am standing at the jewelry counter at Saks Fifth Avenue, visiting a pair of earrings. This is my third trip to Saks. These earrings are haunting me. 

There is a tall, fit, distinguished looking man standing just beyond my reach. He wants to surprise his girlfriend with a necklace, or maybe a bracelet and matching earrings.

“Is this a special occasion?” asks the sales associate.

Maybe she’s dying, I think.

He wants to surprise her with a gift when he takes her on vacation next week.

 “Where are you going?” asks the sales associate.

“Don’t say Paris,” I whisper. 

“Paris,” he says.

I consider slamming my head against the counterinstead, I text a friend.

“He’s perfect,” I tell her. 

“I’m about to get a mammogram,” she replies. 

In solidarity, I lean forward and press my foobs against the sterile, glass countertop.

I leave them long enough to create two symmetrical, 425 cc oval shaped imprints.

“Is there a price limit?” asks the sales associate.
“Nooooo,” his voice echoes.

Swiftly, I shift left, straddling the view of my favorite Italian designers newest collection.

The sales associate shifts right, and with eyes fixated on mine, dips below the counter, unlocks the casement door that is directly in line with my crotch, and removes a tray of gracefully displayed precious stones set in luscious, hand engraved gold.

I cannot bare witness to what unfolds next. In defeat, I retreat to the sanctity and solitude of my home. 

It is Thursday, the day Dora cleans my house. I open the door and reflect on how fortunate I am to have someone clean for me. In addition to the standard service, every so often, when the mood strikes her, she changes and IRONS my bed sheets. Today is that day and this feels extra sweet.

I go to my closet and there, in my hamper of dirty clothes, on top of my dirty sheets, is a pair of men’s cotton briefs. 

It’s been six months and seventeen days since I’ve shared my hamper with a man.
It’s been six months and seventeen days since I’ve gained 50% more closet space.
It’s been six months and seventeen days since he left me behind.

From the beginning
I knew meeting could only
End in parting, yet
I ignored the coming dawn
And I gave myself to you.

                                                                             Japanese poet Fujiwara no Teika

I live in a river of change. I no longer resist change.

It was a crisp, early autumn evening when I accompanied George to Lincoln Center for a searing performance of New York City Ballet’s ‘Balanchine Black and White.’ 

There is newness to his touch, a freshness to his kiss. I awaken to the warmth of his body next to mine. But our hearts are not aligned.

I will buy my own jewelry.

I will vacation solo.

A woman who has never been wounded can never heal.

Now that I am broken, I can blossom.

xo, MonkeyME

Saturday, October 24, 2015

More About the Blindfold

A continuation of  Me as Mrs. Robinson

"I have scars," she said.
"Me too," he said.

And then he showed her his scar. A tiny, sliver of a scar just above his right eye.

"Dangerous spot," she said.
"I know," he said.

And then she showed him her scars--massive battle wounds across both breasts and her stomach, a chemo port scar, and numerous skin cancer scars across her forehead, neck, arms, and legs.

But before she showed him her scars, she blindfolded him. And then, just in case he peaked, she lowered the lights.

She placed a bottle of well-chilled, California chardonnay on her lips and sucked hard. And then she poured some down his throat. And then she turned up the funk.

Now... she was ready.

He was attentive. He was eager. And when she finally turned off her brain, she was present.

It was invigorating and it was powerful. But best of all, it was casual.

I am learning how to live on my own for the first time in my life.

I am learning how to have casual relationships with men, and sustainable relationships with women.

I kept his socks--black, ironman, crew length socks. I wear them sometimes when I'm feeling frisky. I like feeling frisky.

I only reached out to him once since our adventure and I was sober when I did it.

"Incase you're feeling weird about me being older, you should know I am the same age as Madonna," she said.

When I confessed this to my daughter she said he probably didn't feel weird about it until I brought it up. In hindsight, I'm certain she is right.

He showed me a picture of his post Burning Man haircut. Gone was his man bun. Gone were those wild, rockstar, playa dust, fussed dreads.

Gone was my wolf cub crush.

I am putting dating on hold while I focus on pleasing me. This is challenging for a women who craves male attention.

I still see George Clooney from time to time when he's not off doing whatever it is famous people do. He is attentive, and patient, and fun. He is casual.

A friend of mine is dying. After a 12 year battle with breast cancer, she is in the final days of her life. Her husband is by her side. She is letting go and he is clinging to her every breath. It is heartbreaking to witness and yet, I can't help but marvel at their love. It is a love that is complete, and pure, and so good. It is a love that will last beyond her death.

When I'm done with casual, I want that kind of love.

xo, MonkeyME

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Me as Mrs. Robinson

The Graduate (1967)

Benjamin: Wood?
Mrs. Robinson: What?
Benjamin: Wood or wire? They have both.
[Offering Mrs. Robinson a coat hanger]

Burning Man (2015)

Wolf: Wood? 
Monkey: What? 
Wolf: Wooden or fur paddle? We have both.
[Offering Monkey Me a spanking]

Life is unpredictable. Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned a "Mrs. Robinson" scenario on what would be my 12th year at Burning Man, and my first burn as a single woman.

The cards played out just right. After a week of flirtation, I returned to camp and found him waiting for me. The moon was full. We had all just witnessed the ritualistic burning of the Man - a sixty foot wooden statue that is the heart, fuel, and focus of the event. And with it went my long list of insecurities, fears, and regrets (all involving men) that I literally nailed to the base of the man, directly aligned with his crotch.  

There were so many reasons why I shouldn't have. For starters, the obvious; I was older than his mother and he was younger than my daughter. 

But there were even more reasons why I should have. Most enticing... that swagger. That hip, cool, Mick Jagger swagger. And those tone, taunt abs. 

[ummm, ummm, ummm...] 

There were undeniable signs from the universe. First, his name - Wolf. My very first boyfriend's name was Wolf - Peter Wolf. And then there was his date of birth - August 17th - my wedding anniversary and coincidentally, the date of my divorce.  

My campmates, all acting as my voice of reason, were in complete agreement; age is irrelevant. 

Because I am an adult, I set rules.  And because he is barely an adult, he agreed.

Monkey: I'm going to play funk. I'm going to blindfold you. And I'm going to write about it.

He set one of his own.

Wolf: I'm keeping your socks.

And then there was my unsolicited advice.

Monkey: Stop with the tattoos. Thirty years from now, your idea of what's 'hip and cool' will change. 

Even more prolific Monkey advice...

Monkey: Thirty years from now, the only thing you'll still love is music and blow jobs. You might not even love fucking because your back might ache or your knees might be shot. But you're always going to love blow jobs. So make certain the woman of your dreams worships your cock.

Memories of that delicious evening will arouse me way beyond menopause.

I am certain I rocked his world.

It felt like a reward for enduring years of rejection from a man who was focused on women other than me. Fantasies mostly. Fantasies about younger women, surgically-enhanced, voluptuous...

It felt like a reward for the rejection I was force-fed in the aftershock of my fifty-something-and-single-again-life. 

Forty-something guy: "We can be lovers, but there can be no love, you are too old."
Fifty-something guy: "I found someone better, someone younger."

And then there was George Clooney"How old do you want to be today?" 

And he would say 23, or 22, or 21. And I would be one year his junior.  It felt like our imagination manifested itself. To me, Wolf was the reincarnation of my twenty-something George Clooney.

I returned home with a sense of empowerment that I have never felt before. I now blow right by the dismissive, fifty-something, hedge-fund puppet masters without giving a second glance. Too old, too stuffy, too ...

It was, hands down, my best Burn EVER. I love my campmates. I love how the event continues to challenge me and enrich my life. I love how Burning Man gives you exactly what you need, even if that includes a delicious, twenty-something, playa playmate.

xo, MonkeyME

at Polo, post Burning Man Wolf infusion

[I choose wood]

Sunday, May 31, 2015

For The Birds

Every year, around Mother's day, orioles appear. They are magnificient. If I'm lucky, they will nest in an old birch tree that is rooted just beyond my deck. 

May is a difficult month and the birds comfort me. May is all about Mother's Day and Memorial Day. Memorial Day is the holiday that coincided with the death of my son in 2002.

This Memorial Day, I received a call from David. David is Tinder date number #3. David and I had been canoodling since February of this year. David and I did fun things together. David liked electronic dance music, bar food, and New Orleans. David introduced me to his family, friends and coworkers. I liked David's family, friends, and coworkers. David was well respected by his peers and appeared to be a kind, nurturing father to his three daughters.

David, despite his uncanny resemblance to a toucan, was the perfect Mr. Right Now.

Until he dumped me, on Memorial Day, for "someone better."

David did this knowing it was the anniversary of my son's death. In David's well rehearsed break-up speech, he insisted on telling me how wonderful she made him feel.

And I couldn't help but wonder... how long have I been attracted to selfish men? 

Two weeks before Memorial Day, my soon-to-be-X-husband agreed to stay at my home and watch our dogs while I went to Newport with Toucan David. I came home to find his idiot brother, perched in a lawn chair in the driveway, eating pizza and drinking beer. There was no sign of my soon-to-be-X-husband and the house was trashed.

When I told my idiot, soon-to-be-X-brother-in-law, to leave and he refused, I picked up the garden hose that he had just used to wash his Porsche, and hosed him down. When he yelled in protest, I aimed for his mouth. It was like one of those carnival games, where you aim your water pistol at the clowns mouth.

When I offered to wash the inside of his Porsche, he agreed to leave. The next day, I changed my locks and had an alarm system installed.

On Memorial Day, I set out for a walk and spotted a dead barn sparrow stuck in a glue trap along the neighboring carport rafters where they nest.

I first noticed the traps a few weeks back, but thought they were cardboard cut-outs set to discourage the sparrows from nesting. What a horrific death that must have been (I will not post that picture).

Earlier in May, I was told that the swallows swooped one of the building owners who is handicapped and uses a motorized scooter to get from his car to the building.

I have to assume he approved, if not initiated the trapping, and I find it ironic that a physically disabled person would subject an animal to such barbaric restraints.

On Memorial Day, I called PETA and learned that barn swallows are protected under the "Migratory Bird Act of 1918" and that it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure, or destroy them, their nest, or their eggs.

On Memorial Day, I watched the on-call building maintenance man remove the glue traps.

On Memorial Day, I waited for a call, text, or email from my soon-to-be-X-husband. Thinking surely he would reach out knowing how difficult this day is for me - how difficult this day was for US.

The call never came. But the awakening did.

On Memorial Day, I realized that I have been attracted to selfish men for a very long time.

I have always admired the barn swallows. They are loyal. They are fearless. They are resilient.

And so am I.

xo, Monkey Me 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I am alone, blissfully alone. My home is filled with fresh cut flowers - gifts to myself. I write from an empty, oversized bed. It is plush, and cozy, and lovely here.

My bedroom is my favorite room in the house. It is spacious, and whimsical, and oh so inspiring. Tall ceilings and a spiral staircase lead to an open loft accentuated in skylights. This is my creative space. My sewing machine is here and mounds and mounds of faux fur. And fabric that stretches and bounces and sparkles. And paintbrushes and paints, and books on painting, and sketching, and etching. And beads! Tiny, grains of honed, semi-precious stones. And baubles that only make sense to me.

In front of me is a deck dotted in pansies, and tulips, and ivy, and all things spring. I have a new, turquoise blue, patio umbrella. My old one was brown. Now, no matter what the forecast, I am guaranteed a brilliant, blue sky.

Just beyond my deck is a willowy old riverbed and thanks to April showers, it is fed, at full force, by a magnificent waterfall - a steady source of relaxation and rejuvenation.

For the first time in my life I am without a man - without my father, without my son, and without a husband.

I am untethered.

I am fueled by three little words... I am done

From the moment I released those words, nothing else mattered. Not what he did or didn't do, not the pain, or the disappointment, or the rage, or the regrets.

I am no longer the victim. I am the victor.

There are a few things missing. Things that had nothing to do with me. Things that were gently used - golf clubs, tennis rackets, guitars, mounds of baseball caps and unscuffed sneakers.

Weird stuff is missing too. Gone are all the secrets, those dirty little secrets.

I gave away my television and the desktop computer that was the catalyst for much of our demise. My noise of choice is now music. Today it's a funky, jazz, techno beat that syncs with the sizzle of a gentle rain.

I am focused on me - on me being healthy and happy.

I like pulp in fresh squeezed orange juice.
I like lime green vases bursting with white hydrangeas.
I like wearing bedroom slippers.
I like who I choose to spend time with.
I like where I live.
I like what I do.
I really like my new, turquoise blue umbrella.

I like me.

xo, MonkeyME

Monday, February 9, 2015

Clown Down

"There is nothing special about dying. We all do it. It's how we live that counts."

Caught in a Hope Floats moment, what I told my Tinder date after delivering the crib note version of my cancer crusade and witnessing his pathetic, clown down face.

The End

I am dating again. Which means that my on again, off again, marriage has reached it's final chapter.

It took me a long time to get to this point but in the end, I made the choice to let it go and it is a relief. I no longer feel hurt, disappointed, or angry. I don't blame anyone, especially not myself. We are now at the beginning of a civil separation which I am certain will lead to a happy divorce.

And because I am impatient, I leaped back into the dating pool. Date number one made me cry. Date number two got a black eye.


From the get go Radish (not his real name) was cocky, overbearing, and dismissive - ego based qualities that I typically loath, but in my raw, newly single state, found appealing.

Physically, he is mildly attractive with a big bear stance, HUGE paws, and warm eyes.

In his mind he is successful, strong, sexy... a player and a great catch.

In my mind, he is highly amusing, uncouth, and ambitious.

I was surprised when he asked me to dinner because of our significant age difference (he is 10 years my junior). When I questioned him about it he said, with a broken Central European accent,"This not problem for me. This problem for you?"

Typically, my choice of men would be one that is totally smitten by me. A man that I could control and manipulate. This cantankerous, cocky man, would be a challenge.

We had numerous arguments (via text) and two breakups in the days leading up to our date.

The first came when he sent me a scandalous selfie taken in a public locker-room and the second when I engaged my PI side and searched public court documents to determine if his wife was aware of his pending divorce (she is).

Determined to let him lead, when he chose a sushi restaurant that I had dined at the night before with my daughter, I said nothing.

Uber escorted, I arrived fashionably late and visibly nervous in new, black stretch straight-legged jeans, an elegant cashmere sweater, and kick-ass Tory Burch boots. Not knowing what his idea of dress-to-impress might be, and half expecting a sea of gold chains across an over-exposed, bushy chest,  I was pleasantly surprised by his classic, conservative attire.

He immediately took charge, ordering a boat load of sushi (an actual three foot long boat full of food) and I passively drank what he ordered (a blood orange margarita).

Avoiding the squid and focused on the tuna, I ate not out of hunger but to steady my nerves and tequila infused sea legs.

On the advice of my daughter, I avoided conversations involving my three failed marriages or my three rounds of cancer and instead let him expose his underbelly.

And so he talked and I listened. But mostly we laughed. We laughed about the simplicities of everyday life. We laughed about ourselves and the comical situations we had wiggled our way into. We laughed until we were the only patrons in the restaurant and the staff grew impatient. We laughed until he leaned over our corner table for four, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "We can be lovers but there can be no love. You are too old."

This is when the laughter stopped. This is when I broke into tears. Not just a few, well-timed teardrops, but I openly sobbed. Because my white cloth table napkin was not absorbent, it took me two trips to the ladies room to compose myself enough to leave the restaurant.

Our effort to salvage the evening with "dance" failed when JHouse, the local "disco," was empty. Instead he drove erratically to the harsh, repetitive beat of Polish house music while I rambled on, and on, and on, about my cancer.

By the time he dropped off me at my front door, we agreed never to see each other again.

This is why people take a self-imposed, time-out between relationships. This is why women give up on men all together. This is painful.

Because you can't keep a good clown down, I got home and immediate reactivated my Tinder account. Determined to find a man who did not think I was "too old," I skimmed through countless profiles while my eyes were still swollen from tears.

Silly Shannon...

After tweaking my five, put-your-best-face-forward photo's, I was convinced that this Shannon was not "too old" for anyone between the ages of 46 to 60.

Like fishing in a well-stocked trout pond, my late night Tinder trolling sparked several bites. The first was Johnny Manicotti (not his real name), a fit, stable (by his own definition), 52 year old, newly divorced bachelor currently residing in North Carolina but visiting family less than a mile away.

PERFECT - no strings and no time for tears.

His best-face-forward picture was of a trim, well-toned, topless man, lounging on a sun-drenched beach chair, so I suggested our first date be a walk at the beach.

After juggling the complexities of our desperately single schedules, we agreed to meet the next day at 10:00 am.

I armed myself with a double layer of down, sensible, waterproof boots, shades to conceal my still swollen eyes, faux fur hat, gloves, and my 95 pound Bernese Mountain dog.

He, avoiding the advice of his mother, arrived underdressed in pearl white sneakers, a light-weight wool baseball jacket, bare head and hands.

I offered him my hat, a desperate attempt to avoid the glare of his newly dyed (scalp still stained), pitch black, deeply receding clown hair, but he declined my offer.

So, with the wind at our faces, we set out for an uncomfortable stroll on the beach.

Winter weekends at the beach are all about the dog. Dogs off leash. Dogs of all sizes. So if you say, "you like dogs," you'd better mean it.

After a quick recount of my failed marriages and my cancer crusade, we coincidentally bumped into Boris (not his real name) - my faithful, freakishly tall friend.

"Look, there are the other two dogs from my Tinder photo, and LOOK, there is my friend Boris!" I jubilantly announced.

Johnny, who is no fool, was cordial but not amused.

It became apparent that Johnny's idea of "likes dogs" was from a distance, when he found himself surrounded by a menagerie of furry's that included a cluster of Bernese Mountain dogs who insisted on sitting on his feet and burrowing themselves between his legs (typical Berner behavior), and he was visibly shaken.

And then, as if the date wasn't awkward enough, corralled in a cluster of canines who, like a school of sharks, sensed his fear, Johnny tripped on a ripple of wet sand and fell forward.

Boris, reacting with the instinct of a prize fighter, extending both arms in an attempt to steady Johnny but instead, Boris's left hand connected with Johnny's right eye.

Later at Starbucks, it wasn't until his second trip to the mens room (nerves or enlarged prostate?) that he noticed his visible bruise.

Later that day I received a text from Johnny stating, "Mom thinks you abused me, LOL."

This time, I didn't bite. Besides, Mom was right.

xo, Monkey ME

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison