Love In Common

Microjoys with Cyndie Spiegel

March 08, 2023 Frank Schaeffer, Ernie Gregg, and Erin Bagwell Season 1 Episode 4
Microjoys with Cyndie Spiegel
Love In Common
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Love In Common
Microjoys with Cyndie Spiegel
Mar 08, 2023 Season 1 Episode 4
Frank Schaeffer, Ernie Gregg, and Erin Bagwell

This week on “Love in Common” we get the privilege of chatting with Cyndie Spiegel, the author of “Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay.” 

During the episode, Frank shares what the secret is to having things in your life last, Ernie reflects on the power of the perfect color of coffee, and Erin aspires to reach Cyndie’s level of confidence and trust in the unknown. Take a listen.

Buy Cyndie’s Book Here! 

If today’s show resonated with you please pass it on to a friend, colleague or someone you care about. Want to reach out and share your story with us? Leave us a 60 second voice memo at for a chance to be featured on the show or use the hashtag #loveincommon on Instagram @loveincommonpod

Thanks for listening!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week on “Love in Common” we get the privilege of chatting with Cyndie Spiegel, the author of “Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay.” 

During the episode, Frank shares what the secret is to having things in your life last, Ernie reflects on the power of the perfect color of coffee, and Erin aspires to reach Cyndie’s level of confidence and trust in the unknown. Take a listen.

Buy Cyndie’s Book Here! 

If today’s show resonated with you please pass it on to a friend, colleague or someone you care about. Want to reach out and share your story with us? Leave us a 60 second voice memo at for a chance to be featured on the show or use the hashtag #loveincommon on Instagram @loveincommonpod

Thanks for listening!


this week on love in common we get the privilege of chatting with Cindy Spiegel the author of micro Joys finding hope


especially when life is not okay during the episode I share what the secret is to having things in your life last


Ernie reflects on the power of the perfect color of coffee and Aaron aspires to reaching Cindy's level of


confidence and Trust in the unknown take a listen


we live in a world driven by deadlines paychecks and political division but what happens during those moments in


between it's those small slices of exchange that make up a life moments with neighbors


Partners kids and caregivers come to the table with three very different life


experiences we are meeting each other where we are at and asking the big questions about how


to survive and thrive in those moments in between I'm Frank Schaefer I'm Ernie


Gregg and I'm Aaron Bagwell This is Love in common




thank you for coming to our podcast oh it's my pleasure thanks for having me


Ernie Frank meet my friend Cindy we go way way back in New York City world of


Entrepreneurship but we so this is so funny so we've never had a guest on the


podcast before so we've done about almost a dozen of these and it's just these conversations that we have from


all different points of our lives and our different perspectives and our Journeys and we're just storytelling


but Micro Joys I think is such a profound and interesting and fantastic


concept and it kept coming up in my head and I kept being like let's do an episode about it and I feel so excited


that we get to talk to the micro Joys originator herself the author of the book and this fabulous concept and I


want to read actually a little section of your book too is that okay yeah I'd love that okay


you say unlike our culture of instant Relentless toxic positivity micro Joys


require practice awareness and focus to take root in fact it was during the most


difficult time in my own adult life that I discovered the Revolutionary practice of observing micro Joys they helped me


to restore my own relationship with hope and joy once again


um and this idea that we can find pockets of joy in our everyday


you know routines if we're looking for them I think is so magical and I think as you know humans who've survived this


pandemic we were all grounded right in this intense place


um of having to really be aware of our lives so do you want to share with us a little bit about kind of I'd love to


know actually how your day is going and are there any micro Joys happening right now for you yeah I mean look at this


light coming through the window that's pretty special um having the opportunity to sit here


with you all that's a micro Joy like what a what a privilege you know uh I can I I feel like I now live


through the lens of micro Joy so I will never not have one especially when going through some of the most difficult times


yeah um I feel like anything that's not that is is there's nothing to complain


about you know there's good to be found even even now when things are difficult uh though I'm certainly not wanting to


call back in that experience in 2020 and 2021. the one thing I I wanted to say


about micro Joys is I think as much as I'd love to say I created this I didn't it's just a name that I call the sort of


being able to hone the ability to access Joy despite everything else that's happening so I think it's very easy to


look at the word and assume it just means small things that you find throughout the day like small joyful things and to me it's it's much larger


than that and it's much there's a lot more depth to it right because micro joints really ask that we


shift our mindset to one that allows us to receive even when we have nothing left to offer


so sometimes in that receiving right it's not about a tiny thing that we see it's about having the ability to access


a memory it's um about being able to call on a friend to sit


next to you it is yes seeing a rainbow outside of your window but it really is


the most important part of it to me is finding Joy despite all else you know life is going to happen it's about


having the ability to access Joy at the same time as we're accessing grief and


not trying to separate the two which is often the conversation around joy and


then we feel badly when we're in this play you know we feel badly because we want to be positive whatever that means


to whomever is hearing this um and what I've learned is that we just we


can't punish ourselves for going through what we are going through as part of our own Human Experience and so I would hate


for anyone to feel badly about grieving or feeling sad it's like this book to me is about


really holding both things at the same time you know and having a conversation about


that it's interesting because what you just said um fits very much with the


discussion that Aaron and Ernie and I have had in relationship to a loss Ernie


had earlier and we've been talking about the subject of grieving a lot


and you have just put into words something that we had talked about for a couple of hours in this podcast which


was getting away from this idea which by the way I love the way you put toxic positivity of having to just get over


something and move forward and we were talking about the fact no you don't get over anything and move forward what you


do is hold those two ideas at the same time and you talk a lot about Paradox in


your books which also happens to be something that is very much on our radar and we talk about all the time so I love


this and I would like you to talk to us a little bit about how you connect these


ideas of holding these two parts of our lives together and that itself being paradoxical and


Paradox not seen as a way station between two certainties but actually the way things are in themselves Paradox is


the way things are it isn't a way station that was my thought but it came to me very


uh you know vividly from reading the book um and by the way I read every word and


my only frustration was that the PDF did not allow me to highlight oh no because I was going to


be very clever and scroll through your book and quote it back to you and now an end screening thing has been taken


away from me well I'm really sorry to hear that you want to put those ideas together because I love this idea of a


paradox combined with holding these two things of grieving plus also at the same


time the micro joys um I think we owe you a copy of the book


like an actual copy of the book when it comes out but


oh hard copy right right what I would say about that is you know and I talked about this in the beginning of the book about how we


really have to get used to the gray space most of life is not black and it's not white you know it's everything in


between and that to me is where the Paradox lies it's like most


nothing is there are very few absolutes right there are very few things in life


that are there's just one way for it to be true or one truth and I don't think that our culture likes


that I think that's not easy for us right we want an answer we want there we want someone to teach us the way


um we want there to be one answer and what I realized over the past few


years and I think I'd always known it but really living through the past few years and then writing this book


in real time became it just became really clear how much Paradox there was


you know how one essay I thought one way and then writing another essay a week later I felt differently and I was very


mindful of not wanting to edit that out because I think that's just our lives right there isn't I I kept can I swear


can I just say what yeah okay good um you know I was saying about we don't have kids so understand that our cats


are our kids and so um we were talking about our kitten this morning and I said she's a


nightmare but she's also really cute you know it's like both things can be true like you know she's absolutely a


nightmare and she's cute some people might say the same about their children but we're also very cute but can be


difficult and I just think if we we can find a lightness to things when we hold


both things when we hold all things I almost don't want to say both because it sounds like they're in opposition you


know it's all things we just leave room for all things and when I do that it allows me to move through my own life


with a bit more likeness and a lot more grace because I'm not expecting one thing to


be true I'm like no that's true and so is this one thing I'm gonna add one


thing in the and then I'm gonna quit pretending I'm a host and just be the conversation here for people who are


listening to this podcast I need to tell you something you probably haven't read uh Cindy's book


micro Joys yet um and and I hope that's ahead of you but when Cindy's talking about


this this Paradox of finding these moments of joy and life


alongside grieving you need to know that the context of this is a her being


diagnosed with breast cancer a mother who passed away a murder of a


close relative and a number of other things and I only add that because I just want people to


understand as they hear this whole conversation that the context of you talking about finding micro Joy within


life as we grieve is not some theoretical idea to you


um I hope you don't mind me setting it up that way no please I think that's really helpful to hear and it's


interesting you say that because I think a big part of writing this book for me I wrote a book in 2018 called the


year of positive thinking and when 2020 happened and that book is sold hundreds of thousands yeah there it is very cute


it's Square it's fun it's all things good about the world and when 2020 happened


I could not lean into anything I said in that book not because it wasn't true everything in


that book is true it's beautiful but to me Micro Joyce is the evolution of that right A year of positive


thinking is like you know I want to change my mindset I want to have things that I can lean into every day but when the hits the fan


I knew that that wasn't what I could lean into I couldn't be in that space and then I felt guilty because I


couldn't be in that space because here I am I've written this book about it and so shouldn't I be able to lean into


everything that I shared with others and the truth was I couldn't and nobody planned on a global plague either


correct correct yeah and that's the other piece of it right is all of this happened during a pandemic you know you


you mentioned Frank that my nephew was murdered he was 32 at the time and we could have 10 people at his service my


own husband couldn't go to my nephew's service because we needed for my brother who's that you know that was his dad


like it all of it just everything about bat time I think


obviously we couldn't have forecasted it but it was so much worse than anything I'd ever experienced as an adult and the


pithiness and the you know well-meaning quotes and things they were not going to


cut it when the hit the fan you know and at that point I just remember feeling like I didn't


know who I was anymore because I walked through life being a fairly positive person you know sarcastic but positive


and I couldn't do it and so it really sort of all of the things that you mentioned


happened in a 10 month span of time yeah you know we were in a global pandemic my nephew was killed my mom passed away my


49 year old brother went into cardiac arrest and spent two months in the ICU he came home I was diagnosed with breast


cancer it was one thing after the other and that sort of compound loss is not uncommon yes so there are


moments in our lives and I certainly don't wish this on anyone but what I've come to learn is that it's not uncommon


where we go through these things and it feels like it just keeps raining down on us and so


for me as I move through each day I would I was formulating different ideas and


different thoughts around it and with perspective I realized that


there needed to be a lot more depth and a lot more Nuance to how I walk through the rest of my life can I ask you a


question and then I know that I've been talking Ernie you have to tell me to shut up and get in here and say Aaron


I'm so sorry but it's just having literally got up at three in the morning and then I read the whole book in one piece oh my God like I've been so primed


for our you already for our discussion you know and then they told


me you have a heart out at 1 15 and I'm getting my questions in even if it looks like I'm being an sorry Frank I


have to just say one thing and that is um I was so interested as as a writer of


you saying well I wrote this in my last book but now I have learned something new you


know people ask me because I've been writing now for almost 40 years and people will say to me they'll quote something back a book that's 30 years


old and they will say you know and basically I'm not being facetious when I say well I meant it at the time


correct but you know I'm 70 now I'm not the young dad that wrote this book 30 years ago uh and so I was so interested


to see you even between two books as far as months and days ago are fairly close


together yeah having said that and I just I just like the rest of your book so much better because you had mentioned


that in your introductory remarks and I thought oh I kind of trust this person now because I'm seeing something that


off my own experience I know is true and she's saying it right up front so okay I'm really ready to listen to the rest


of this I like that so much thank you thank you for saying that you know part of that gray space that I mentioned I


think is about Evolution and giving people not just ourselves but giving others the opportunity to evolve right


exactly you know we have a culture right now that wants to call everyone on their and there's only one way and you


said this thing in 1987 and those things may be true but I do think that we all


have to show each other enough Grace to allow us to evolve yes and I think when


you do anything that's permanent right any any sort of art whether it's film or you know you have a podcast or you write


once those things are out in the world you can't take them back yeah all you can do is stand in them and stand for


them and do say exactly what you said was I meant it at the time yeah and we have to get comfortable accepting that


from others but at the moment we're pretty divisive and we're not in a space where we want to accept that from others


and I think that's a hard place to be yeah I want to get like post receipts I want to get post cancellations I want to


this okay so this book comes at a time for me when


you know I'm not trying to read like self-help things I'm not trying to read like you know this is the way that you


do these things whatever but looking at the last three years I was 42 when we


went into a global meltdown uh you know my kid my uh


exchange student got evacuated early from Switzer by Switzerland to go home


because of this pandemic yeah one and a half years of lockdown losing 15 people


coming out of that hosting again with a you know a school situation that wasn't ideal yeah losing my two best friends of


28 years within three months of each other


let me tell you that the first time I started crying when I was reading this book was when you talked about coffee


the exact color that you like it um


micro Joy oh my God talk about just like owning the space to just say no please give me


this cup of coffee that I want to drink it's the one thing that I'm gonna have today let me please just get this one


thing and you know it was it was your friends noticing that that is exactly


what you needed and that was all you needed yeah to put you to rights and ah


you know to make these connections again with people for people to see you to to get


through this thing I'm I'm for I've I've accepted that I'm firmly in middle age now yeah you know and so I I have had


just body blows for the last couple years and so to hold those things


you know it's not it's not two things in two different hands it really is one thing that I'm holding with both hands


it's all of it so I'm I'm I'm so grateful


that you put a name to just allowing the grief allowing this


morning allowing this beautiful morning your Rainbow coming in through your window all of it


Take It All In take it all so thank you Cindy no thank you for


sharing that uh I am sorry for what you've gone through thank you it's just


garbage like there's no two ways about it it's just garbage and it's shitty and I'm sorry


um with that said it brings me deep joy to hear you talk about that


essay because I remember writing that essay and sitting in a cafe


and not having anything to write and so I started writing about the coffee and I remember sending it to my editor and I


was like this is a dumb essay but can you read it and she's like oh no this is


not a dumb asset like and so hearing you say that it just brings me back to that moment of


being so unsure of why I was sharing this much detail about the color of my


coffee and now recognizing that you read that and saw what you did in it and how you


get it you got I didn't get when I was writing that essay while I was writing it but somehow you were able to mirror


back to me why I wrote that essay so I thank you for that I told Aaron in your in the specificity of your stories I


found myself so clearly in so many of these stories that were very very much about your experience it was I felt I


felt it so thank you for thank you for naming the coffee


Frank talked about earlier erlson I can't Dairy anymore you know middle age since writing that book I


wrote so much about dairy in this book anymore as I read essays I'm like


there's the happen half again there's the happen I can't even hop it anymore so life has changed and that perfect


color of coffee has shifted and it's gotten slightly grayer but it's still good it's still good


thank you


I felt the same about the White Walls by the way if you see my studio behind me you'll notice and my only quibble with


you maybe in the whole book was you didn't have to apologize to people with awful White Walls and beige walls and


say still invite me for dinner I think that that's a function of our cancel culture you didn't want to be canceled


by the beige wall people you know you didn't need to apologize for that and said I feel I have all I have white


white walls my husband is a photographer that's what we did deal with it she doesn't want the eggshell Army coming


after I don't know


yeah but I mean I was thinking to myself now there's a generational difference between the old 70 year old and and the


younger writers because to me you know you think you're at middle age I'd like you know you're you're like you and


Ernie are young I keep thinking oh gee at 40. um but in any place I'm saying to myself


you know tough deal with it I've got white well I'm not apologizing for any there are no trigger warnings in my


books it's a you know Aaron read something I sent her that I was working on it the way she told me to cut


something is she said a thousand women's Brains just exploded when they read that line and so then I cut it


but I didn't leave it in and then apologize right right right but what talk to me about the generational


divider like you feel you need to apologize set things up yeah so let me


be clear that I was not apologizing for my white walls I was apologizing to the people who uh might be offended by my


hating beige balls yeah see but there's where it was for them and that's okay right different is good we don't all


want to have the same opinions I know I I don't know how many I mean how many people are gonna see this but I wish you


would see Frank right now with his arms across she's clearly very angry about uh


that comment and I'm sorry to my friends who works I


don't want to hurt their feelings I mean I like that you're apologizing for the apology exactly yeah yeah it's gonna go


down a terrible Rabbit Hole I'm done I'm done you also had but I will say you also had colorful statement walls and


floral wallpapers correct as well so yeah all of it there's walls for everybody here okay


I have a question I have a question for Cindy okay


um Cindy so one of the things that I wrote this in my review of the book was I feel like


ah it was such a like a savoring experience the book is a micro joint


itself to be able to read these chapters and go through and I'm just curious um as an aspiring writer


you know how do you process and write and live through this trauma and then


find the space to be so Clairvoyant about it like I was so in awe of your


ability to process the grief and the trauma that you went through


um each essay feels so intentional feels so grounded feels like you wrote it a


thousand times like I can't figure out like how you were in this emotional place and able to produce such a clear


piece of art oh my goodness thank you for that thank you uh what's the question


tell me about your writing process tell me about experiencing the grief and then wanting to write about it is there space


in between are you writing emotionally are you going back and are you a big editor like tell me more about that the


art process yeah I'm not an I'm not a big editor I'm a writer and I said this in the book I capture everything


um I capture if you want to know exactly the color of my chai or cup of coffee I can find a picture of it for you I


capture everything I have 27 000 images in my phone of things that no one would take pictures of but they are what


really helped me to go back and remember a moment I'm very visual so I was able to when I was writing that


book I mean how do you think of I just remember sort of setting up to write the book right there's the


proposal and you're like here's this thing I can do and then actually getting a book deal after it went to auction and


going how am I gonna what stories what essays am I going to


write about and so it just it became very much about what am I


feeling in this moment what is connecting to me in this moment as someone who has spent the last two and a


half years inward even after people started going out we moved to New Jersey and you know life has been quite


different which I know Aaron you can relate to I had a lot of time to think and I had a


lot of time to process but that doesn't mean I'm over anything right that just means that each of these


essays were not highly edited they went through the editing process of course but they were not highly edited and that


I would sit down and I would write all of my thoughts down I would send them over to my Editor to sort of grammatically make things right to


change a word here or there but they are as um


as they were originally written for the most part and I think it was just having the space to sit and write and the quiet


to sit and write and also the physical space you know I talked about living in New York City where there's constant


noise all the time I don't know of another time in my life that I've ever had such quiet as I have over these past


few years like being able to sit in this wide open space and just look at my cats


or look at a plant or just do nothing and having that space has allowed me to


write anything that comes to mind and that's what I did but particularly the


story about crying in New York it's a thing oh yeah ask any New Yorker yeah I


had actually talked to my friend who lived in New York about that and he mentioned that before I read the book about walking around crying and I'm like


well isn't there anywhere you can go it costs money to be alone in New York


yeah no no no you're just gonna just yeah correct you cry you might put on glasses if you have them available and


generally we all notice but but look away it's like it does it costs money right it's like just leave it a


person alone they're in their stuff every now and again you slip them a tissue if it doesn't stop but otherwise you just stay in your bubble yeah giving


people privacy in a public place yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah but here I have the privacy in a private place which you


know I didn't know with that but when you have that it allows you to think differently and be the world differently


with a lot more perspective hey let me jump in with something that's


going to change the subject slightly um let me tell you a little bit about this podcast and it's Genesis because I


having read your book uh really made me kind of look at what we're doing on this podcast from the


micro Joy's point of view and it's a much better fit than it should be in the sense that you know we're not really


interviewing you here we're we're including you in this conversation because um


um let me see let me give you the shortest version possible but I think it'll spark something


um I'm a writer I've had my ups and downs some best sellers some books that have tanked I've had all kinds of


different career changes uh Etc I come from an Evangelical fundamentalist background which I left


and my father was a very famous Evangelical leader that's a whole other story and out of that has come a lot of


stuff I've done and seven or eight years ago Ernie and I teamed up and he became my producer for a podcast and also a lot


of public stuff I do he handles you know on my Facebook stuff and every there's a lot going on in my life that


I've collected like baggage and so Ernie sort of my producer manager best friend whatever


then I started doing a podcast and in the context of that met Aaron through somebody she knew in New York when I was


launching a book and I became a huge fan of her films and I've been a filmmaker myself and


we've talked back and forth the three of us uh when I've interviewed Aaron and also


just done things together and I was on a panel launching her film in New York City and all kinds of crazy connections


anyway long story short one of us and I literally don't know who came up with this idea but somebody said listen


you're 70 years old and a father of three grown children and and five


grandchildren and You Do child care every day for the three grandchildren across the street Aaron's a young mom


trying to figure out postpartum depression and how to move from there Ernie is a gay man married to rock who's


a pastor in a Progressive Church you guys have three points of view and


three life experiences that are really different but you all agree on one thing and I'm not being uh cute here you all


believe in micro Joys and in finding connection through relationships wherever you find them and so we've been


doing this this relatively new podcast I guess we recorded 10 or 12 15 hours or so Aaron we're trusting Aaron with


editing it because she's a wonderful Storyteller filmmaker we totally trust her so she's our producer and boss


Aaron's the boss we're all sort of equal guests in this and I just think the fit with your view of Life forget the book


for a minute but your the way you see life is exactly the way it's the in it's


the same intersection that a middle-aged gay guy an old white male who grew up in a


fundamentalist cult basically and left it a young mom who experienced postpartum and is fighting the everyday


thing of like hey I finally got a babysitter from my husband doing this so we can do another podcast that part of


her life she's in the striving how do you fit it together part of life but we don't really talk about those things we


talk about the intersection where we all really live which is not the differences


it's these crazy similarities correct so


um that's what we do that's what we talk about and our discussions go to all kind of crazy directions and we have


different points of view on different things but there's a tremendous kind of cohesiveness to it I just thought that


you as a human being um whose book I just read and so I know you a little bit would find that concept


itself quite interesting I do and thank you for inviting me into your conversation yeah uh for anyone who


can't see me I'm a black Jew I'm a biracial black Jew so somehow bonus you got you got more of a perspective yes um


I have found in a lot of the work that I do around Community overall and also being who I am in the world and and


growing up how I did yeah we are often more alike than we are different there


are many things about if you look at the screen there are many things about us that are physically different right but


I think at the core of most human beings there are a lot of commonalities and I think of


we all want to be seen right we all want to be loved we all want to be seen like you can say no but I I do believe that


that is true of all of us or most of us um and I think the more that we can


perceive the world looking for connection the less likely we are to


separate ourselves from others and their experience and the less likely we are to


other people that are different than us so when I walk through the world there's a


certain assumption that most people I come in contact with are


going to have some similarity to me regardless of what they look like whether they are living in a home or


they're not living in a home whether they work at the cafe or they don't work at the cafe whether you own you know a


company or you don't like I just assume that we are more similar than not and what that has allowed me to do is be


comfortable in rooms that I'm not sure I should be comfortable in you know where what we're outwardly it's


like what the hell is she doing there how is she having that conversation but the truth is I just assume that we're


more alike than not and so there's a certain comfort and familiarity that I feel with perfect strangers and I think


that that mindset has allowed me to connect to people very easily and has allowed me to


move through the world in a way that is accepting of most things


I loved that um essay you wrote about your neighbor who Leonard Leonard yep


who was he was homeless is that correct or he was kind of living in a um he had a stuff in the storage unit


was kind of Meandering it was so interesting because I loved that essay for so many reasons when I was a new mom


in Brooklyn I remember just like feeling like a ghost walking the streets like the same streets every day all day


um and seeing um homeless people and like feeling a real connection to them because we're


just among the story like we're just living in the streets of New York and I'm just seeing the same people over and


over again um and I found like a real attachment to people who are just in the neighborhood


which I think as New Yorkers you do um but I also loved I'm a little bit


more standoffish I think in my you know openness to strangers of like


wanting to talk to them or wanting to know Leonard's story and I thought what a gorgeous gift to really think about


like it's okay to talk to a stranger because I feel like we're so conditioned you know to stay in our lane and don't


talk to your neighbors and be you know I think especially also as women like is it safe you know I I that's a layer that


goes through my brain you know can I have this conversation um but to just like really enjoy the essay


the conversation the story it's like oh yeah like we can we can loosen it up a little it's okay I love that thank you


and the one thing I'll say about Leonard and by the way that's not his real name but it is very close uh the one thing


we'll say about Leonard is I saw my family and Leonard I grew up poor I grew up with nothing I I don't think


to me someone who is experiencing homelessness is not that different than


I am they don't have a place to live right now full stop that's it like sure there were what other experiences there


but when I saw Leonard I saw like an uncle you know I saw folks that I grew up with


it he didn't seem so separate from me yeah um


and again I think that's the lens I walk through the world with I just I don't


see people it's not that I don't see what's right in front of me of course I do um but I just don't think we are as


separate as we think and obviously if I didn't feel safe regardless of if I saw an uncle and him or not I wouldn't have


stopped to you know to speak to him yeah so safety first okay um but I really did see family and Leonard like listen he's


this guy that's there every day like at some point there needs to be an acknowledgment and I don't understand


folks that can continue to walk by people day in and day out and none have a conversation because to me there's a


lack of Humanity in that


can I ask you a question uh yeah just on on because you brought this up about you


could have been an uncle um and then I have a very similar story about somebody I struck up


a friendship with who was homeless and was always begging from me on the upper west side when I was living there but


um if I forget to come back to that maybe Ernie or Aaron will remind me to tell my little story because it fits well with


yours but I have a question first something I haven't read your other book because I only got this one and I went


online looked it through because I was so curious to see what you had grown Beyond okay I'm gonna check this out


but um I guess what I wanted to do is is ask


you more about your family because you say you're you're Jewish and black I'm


presuming your mom was Jewish yes and you describe your father as a kind


of a hard driving hard drinking guy um please forgive me if I'm putting words


in your mouth this is why I wish I could have highlighted the book uh but sort of um working working guy


et cetera et cetera I want to know their story a little bit because and now I'm interested in you and I'm interested in


where you come from and and and by the way I'm a memoirist and I've written my story and I'm always a kind of I'll let


I'll say anything so I I delve in on family stuff and religion and beliefs in


ways that are uncool and intrusive so I'm being very impressive I want to know


how how your Jewish Mama hooked up with this guy yeah I want to know all about it I


want the very details to the extent that you'll give me the story yeah yeah


Emily I mean as you can see but also like that you know my dad what


the hell does that mean I saw that I did talk about her a lot in the book didn't I much more than you talked about him


yeah well it's interesting because what I was just gonna say about that was my dad if you think about one I wrote this


book my mom had just passed away nine months before I started writing this book my dad passed away when I was 28.


so there's been a lot more distance yeah and there's this great graphic and I'm going to come back to talking about my


family but there's a great graphic that I saw that is very resonant right now and it's a


graphic that shows a black hole of grief and it says this is your grief um and then this is there's a name for


this and I don't know it but it's a it's a circle of and it says this is your grief and


then there's a circle around it and says this is your life and essentially the outside the life piece gets bigger and


bigger and bigger the hole in the center which is your Greek doesn't get smaller it stays the same but your life grows


around it um and I think about that when


when you mentioned that I talk about my mom a lot more than I talk about my dad it's not because my dad didn't matter


it's just so much his love life has happened since he passed away you know where for my mom it was still so new


it's still right now so new um my mom grew up in a middle class


Jewish household Second Generation and it was absolutely not okay that she was


dating somebody who was black was dating somebody who was poor it was absolutely not okay I actually don't know much of


my mom's family what kind of Jewish household I mean we're talking about range from Orthodox all the way through


reform and reform secular who were they yeah yeah well I couldn't tell you too much about them because I don't know


them Frank I literally know my grandparents um a little bit about my aunt and that's


it because we didn't grow up with them and my grandparents died by the time I was eight years old so the access that I had


to my mom's family um is very little very little like we celebrated High holidays together and


you know my mom was left with all the silver that we would celebrate Passover with but there's so little for me to dig


into and at some point that'll be another book like do you still do any of that did any of that survive into your


adult chosen life any of what any of the Jewish tradition of celebrating anything or doing yeah yeah so we put up I put up


a pink Christmas tree and I light a menorah because then like this is not my holiday anyway so if I'm gonna have a tree it's going to be pink but I will


light a menorah I actually am hoping to get to Israel this year and to Africa


next year because you know at this point in my life I want to like as you ask me


these questions I'm like I can tell you about my parents but I can't tell you beyond them and you've been to India so you've done that I have I have yeah I've


been I've been all around the world but I haven't been to Israel I haven't been to Africa that's where my people are


from and I particularly after my mom passed away have felt such a calling


to go home whatever that means right because I think when you lose both of your parents and I may or may not get


emotional but in losing my mom I felt a need to find myself in a different way because I'd already


lost my dad you know well he's not lost neither is my mom she's not lost she's dead um


but I have felt this real calling to go back and put those pieces together


because you know I mean it wasn't even legal for my parents to be together when they got together


and so the idea that my mom my mom went out with my dad on a dare he was this


country bumpkin who was up north visiting his sister from North Carolina and you know my mom is like a


self-described fat Jewish girl from New Jersey who was bribed into going out with my dad was bribed or it was like a


dare she went out with my dad and they spent the rest of their lives together on and off now you mentioned that my dad


was hard driving he was definitely not hard driving he was hard drinking but he was very easy well I was not I was


trying to avoid saying hard drinking because that's okay coming you said that too I was being more reticent I was


apologizing yeah don't do that we talked about that Frank we talked about that in the beginning


you will no the interesting thing about my dad even though I didn't talk a lot


about him I am him in so many ways this man could make something out of nothing


and I talked about that in the one essay about him in the book and that he saw things that weren't there


we had so lit like we had a lot but we also didn't have a lot compared to a lot of other people it's just nobody around


us did so it didn't seem like there was such contrast but my dad would like


he had this ability to see things that were not physically


there to be seen it's I don't know if I mentioned the pink toilet in the India


I was mortified as a teenager to come home one day and see a big toilet and


the alleyway of our house with a plant inside of it people come here with a toilet outside


and I remember my mom my mom really nurtured these things she loved this stuff or the terrarium under the porch


with McDonald's toys I was like what on Earth are you doing this is not what people's parents do


he would build things like we somehow my mom somehow was able to pull up pull together enough money to get like an


above ground pool in our rented houses backyard and my my mom was a big lady so


she wanted to get in and out of the pool and she needed steps on the pool so instead of buying steps my dad took


milk crates and layered them like Steps going onto the pool and then poured


concrete into them bizarre but in hindsight I was like but


that worked yeah Charlie got in and out of that pool like a champ it's like these are the kinds of things that we


grew up with yeah or and my brothers and I like again I feel so lucky to have had


my dad as my dad in this lifetime because I'm like this doesn't even make sense like most people wouldn't get


it um what else did he just did so many things like that or again he was from the south


my dad had an eighth grade education I'm not somewhere between Fifth and eighth grade he said eighth grade but my aunt


said fifth grade but nonetheless they're used to barbecuing in the South and instead of just getting a grill my


dad built one in like into the side of the house you should not do that you should not do


that for safety reasons you shouldn't do it made the best damn chicken in that Grill ever so it's like there was this


weird he wasn't even a weird guy he was a very beloved guy but he just saw things that


nobody else did and created things out of nothing in really magical ways and my


mom always nurtured that like as the kids we were horrified like we just did


not like this we were so embarrassed and so ashamed and we were like why is he riding a bicycle why doesn't he


have a car everybody else's parents have cars and here's my dad like rolling up on like a 1960s bicycle in 1998.


but he had a the dynamic between the two of them how she just nurtured that she would tell


them that everything was great and that we had no creativity because we couldn't see it and and my mom was always the one


my mom's a serious one right she was the mama bear she my my mom put us before


everyone and uh she pulled no punches Shelly was highly sarcastic but she was


also very direct and very honest and the two of them were so very different anything that really needed to get taken


care of got taken care of by my mom you know anything that was fun and light that was my dad I would never go to my


father and have a serious conversation I I don't I I wouldn't even know what to say to him and I don't think he'd know


what to say to me so the way that we all loved each other was very different the way my Dad loved me and the way that I


loved my mom one was much more I think about my relationship with my mom it was very


um we were always going toe-to-toe with each other you know I was the only girl I was her only daughter I was a grown-up


like I was always arguing with my mom and there were what four of you four four of us and and your brothers are


older or younger I'm sorry if they're all older I'm the youngest and I'm the only girl and I have three older brothers and how did they all do or are


you the the big achiever go off to school and get post graduate everything yeah yeah my brothers have all served


time in jail um they chose a very diff and I'm very close to my brothers and they're doing


okay now thankfully but we you know my oldest brother is nine years older than


than I am I speak to him every single day we grew up going through very separate


in many ways we have different childhoods you know my parents were on drugs at one point my dad was an


alcoholic being nine years younger I didn't get the brunt of that but they did


um you know and so we grew up differently and and all of us were troubled in


different ways but I I was very clear that I was going to go somewhere and I think from a very young


age I also knew that education was going to be my outlet when you said we were all when we were all troubled in certain


ways how did that manifest in you oh God I was sneaking out of the house I


was honestly it stopped by the time I was 13 but there was like the age between like 12 and 13 or I'd say 12 and


13 and a half was my mom was really concerned about what I was going to turn into sure and who I was going to be in


the world and by that time were your older brother's already in trouble oh yeah yeah they had been from probably


their own teenage years yeah yeah they had been and you know these were black boys in the


80s and 90s sure their lived experience was very different


um than mine was and the where we grew up was really under resourced I


don't think anything was expected of them and my mom even when she struggled with


addiction held us to a very high standard you know she never she wasn't


um she wasn't a mom who wasn't around she was always there and she but I think


there's something to be said for what you s what you do versus what you say yeah by the time I was a little bit


older my mom was saying what she was doing my brothers didn't necessarily get


that same security and you know I also had a mom who told


me from a very young age how smart I was and how capable I was and how I


shouldn't you know she sat me down almost as long as I could remember she talked about race you know she as best


she could she just said some people aren't going to like you because of the color of your skin that's their problem not yours don't ever forget that


you're not like giving the same kind of advice not advice but yeah to my brother to your brothers I mean she's telling


them they were smart too uh when they were yeah I mean


I think they also show different behaviors there was without question there's a running joke in our house


that's like Cindy you know your mommy's favorite and I would tell them I was gonna ask are you the favorite well I apparently yes but I would tell my mom


I'm like Mom you can just say it like at this point I'm in my 40s like everybody knows I'm the favorite she's like that's


not true everyone is my favorite one last detailed question and then I'll


bow out here but such an interesting story did you find that given the problems your brothers were having yeah


the background you came from your compunction to strive anyway that now in


looking back in retrospect as a 40 year old yeah do you think you wasted some


time looking back at over achieving in the sense that


um you know you've done a lot fashion industry and now you're doing this and you're an organizer and you're doing all


this stuff at a certain point have you gotten to the stage of your life which by the way I have speaking for myself kind of


looking back and saying what the hell were you trying to prove and why did you spend so much time


seeking either affirmation from other people or doing this one extra thing


like from my perspective now you know I have to really be pushed to do anything


that I don't really feel compelled to do that wasn't always the case I went through a big period of striving in


various Industries sometimes successfully sometimes not but as I look back I think I was trying to prove I can


get beyond that fundamentalist upbringing and maybe my Father's son but see me for myself I had other agendas


besides what I was sort of doing and I wonder if you know


you're such an achiever I just wonder how you look back now or if you're still in the midst of the push you know pushing forward


to not be in that state of mind at this point or or do you see that because you've made a huge leap out of a


background into a completely different kind of a life I'm curious about that


so what's interesting is I don't feel like I ever I don't look back and


think who were you trying to prove anything to I know exactly who I was trying to prove something to myself and my mom yeah okay essentially I felt like


I was and I said this I think in the book I I realized over these last few years how


much I was doing in an effort to make her proud so that my mom knew that


everything that she accepted in her life losing her family like so much


um was for a reason and that I was to show for that regardless of what my brothers did yes I needed her to know


that some good came out of that so I and I


always knew that like it was never a question to me I never


felt Frank like I had to prove anything to anyone because I grew up with a mother that told me I didn't like


one of Shelley's famous lines was like you don't know these anything yeah and I believed that I


didn't owe them anything but I did feel internally like I owed her everything which is why it's been so challenging


these last few years because and I appreciate that you keep calling me 40 but I'm 45 now Frank and as a 45 year


old there's this weird sort of saying well who am I when my mom's not here sure I


knew how to do things to make her proud but I don't know what those things like


now there's this sense of but what do I want so I have no regrets looking back about


why did I spend so much time doing that I think I'm proud of everything that I've done and I didn't


I didn't take a lot of along the way because I don't think I


felt like I needed to do you feel your mom saw enough of what you've achieved so that you feel


Vindicated as in you that part of your life came out the way you were hoping because it seems to me yeah that she


would have seen you see some amazing things and she'd lived to see that and I guess was in her you know I won't say


right mind but was able to really take oh yeah instance of it and she wasn't her right mind my mom was in her right


mind up until about three days before she it's like she would not let go sew and her dad her damn mind right


um but yeah no she she was very proud my mom was she saw everything and I I


believe and you'll know this from the book I think she still sees everything sure um somehow I


yeah and and there was almost a point where I'm sure I could have stopped proving anything right I've proven


myself she already knew how successful I was yeah um but at that point you don't stop you


just keep going right and so the last few years it's like where am I going um like now that I don't have to keep going


to prove anything where am I going um so she did see that she did see that and now I'm in this place of figuring


out where it is that I want to go for me I'm finding that middle age how are you


finding after this you know we're the same age and so I'm wondering you know your experience of having come out of


the pandemic and you know just kind of the last three years that we've just kind of written off and yeah there's no


there's no real connection to the Before Time you know I feel very disconnected sometimes yeah especially after all this


loss you know finding that way forward finding the reason for doing any of


these things yeah you know one foot in front of the other yeah that's all I can


do you know when I think about the before times or before I live through the hardest things I didn't just know


what to do next I don't have that inner knowing anymore I'm like what is the next right thing I'm like all I can do


is put one foot in front of the next and make good choices and stay in alignment with my Integrity but I have no big


plans someone asked me the other day they're like oh what's on the horizon for the next nine months to a year I was like I have no idea my hope is


to wake up tomorrow um there's a little bit of a starting over in some ways obviously with


everything we've done up until this point but there is a little bit of a feeling like everything is brand new


again yeah and I don't have an answer as to how excited I am are we excited about


that are we excited that we have maybe a fresh start I don't know I don't want to believe yes this is good


news I don't need more bad news you know this is good it's good I think for a moments where


it's good and moments where you're like I really miss knowing who I was small things right it's all of it sometimes


it's great and sometimes it's not I want to read a Cindy I hate to cut you


off but I have to read you to you because this is like a perfect quote for this moment um in this conversation


Ernie um from page 178 you write the ground beneath me has shifted beyond my own comprehension but in glimpses I


remember who I was and so I lean in I sit I feel I talk I ball I walk I keep


walking and I wait until the past me the past and present me finds a bridge


until I am firmly rooted once again until the next time that I'm not and the process starts anew


that idea of like you finding a bridge to your past self I feel like is so


relatable you know I think what Ernie was saying before about and I texted you this or dm'd you on


Instagram like I felt like you were in my brain there I had this moment like at a swim class with my kids where I like


looked in the mirror and I didn't recognize myself at all and it was so scary because I was like who is this frazzled like


you know chubby mom woman who's like has no makeup on and didn't look in the mirror today and you know I feel like


it's there is something kind of unsettling and I guess I can only speak from my own experience of feeling so


confident in your identity and then having it shatter and then being like what the do I do now and how do I


move forward and I love this idea that you painted of the bridge of like


being patient and letting things come and looking back a little


you know but it is so scary to be on the horizon and to have no idea what you're doing yeah I the thing is Aaron I don't


even know if it's scary for me I am not afraid


I just don't know and I've gotten comfortable in the not knowing I don't


need to know you know yeah no actually I don't know I feel a lot you don't you know yeah I'm not


afraid I'm not afraid I just don't know and I'm okay with that


I I trust my instincts I trust my Integrity I trust my intuition


so I'm not afraid of any of it I just don't have answers and coming from a


place where I was so confident in everything I did and I just knew every next step or I felt like I did there is


a strange disconnect from that because I look back and I'm like


was I so naive that I really thought I knew what was going on around me there was almost a night a naivete to who I


was yeah that today is washed away and I'm like this is me naked and so I don't


know what's gonna happen next I'm not afraid of whatever it is but I just don't know what it is


yeah that's it no not fear just uncertainty I love that I aspire to be


in that place of comfort in the discomfort I'm not there yet waves


I'm gonna jump in for a second here because it brings up something that um that I want to share from a different


perspective of a little further down the track in terms of age and looking back at these very questions which I've


experienced every facet of what you've just talked about and also Aaron at different times


and you know how you were saying that your work in this book


um was unedited pretty much raw you send it to your your your editor a few things


changed here and there but it's pretty much what you wrote and they're in very short pieces relative to what you expect


in normal chapter to be it's almost you're kind of with you in that moment then you put this little piece of pulse


kind of at the end a little consideration so forth I like that the form very much but um


it seems to me you know speaking from my perspective that as I look back at my


life in terms of what really wound up making sense at the time and still does today there's a huge difference it's


like moving beyond something you've said in a book well similarly it's like what made sense at the time


what made sense then that still makes sense now and then you're down to a very few number of things oh interesting and


my perspective has been this and it's funny because as I understand it um you don't have children no children cats


Ernie does not have children Aaron's in the middle of having kids I got Jeannie pregnant when we were 17 and 18 53 years


we're still together and in love and that's a whole different kind of story so


where's the intersection where we all when we hit 70 where I'm at are going to find certain things true and if I can


say hey from my perspective on the trail let me hand something back to you


the things that last are based on elements in our life that


are non-negotiable because of love the your husband


Ernie and rock Aaron and her children and husband or the love of say writing


it's not all just relationship love when you are privileged to have things


in your life that are non-negotiable based not on gain or greed or fame but


love whenever you are faithful to those things you will have no regrets about them


everything else will go away take it from me so all the little triumphs all


the things that you think are driven so if I if you were asking me for your advice which you're not but if you were


um and Aaron or whomever or Ernie I would just say from my perspective


um understand that if you want things to make sense in the long term


then always make sure you are faithful to those things that are non-negotiable based on what you actually love yeah


and that's why sometimes your best writing was the easiest and you think there must be something wrong with this it was too easy


how did I write this whole novel just one chapter after another and it's still my best piece of work


you know and since then it's taken so much more work to do something it was too easy well it's because it was


actually the most loving it was based most on the love of the actual being in


that moment of writing and really loving it and it and and I think the same thing about relationships so


I don't have to figure out what I'm doing this afternoon because I'll be picking Nora up my eight-year-old granddaughter my youngest of my


grandchildren it's a non-negotiable obligation so from three till six will be very


simple for me it isn't what do I feel like doing who do I want to be what shall I write next not do I feel like


doing this and to your point Cindy not even do I enjoy it yeah all the time but


it's non-negotiable right and so it's very clear to me I happen to now know


from the perspective of a 70 year old that when I look back on how I spent that part of my afternoon even if I'm


pissed off because I'd rather be doing something else right now which is not usually the case I will still be glad I


stuck with the non-negotiable love-based obligation yeah and that's all I would


say and it applies to art or cats or husbands or lovers or writing or filming


coffee coffee hey no kidding your whole thing on going into that store that


sells spices is like yes in Boston I totally love that essay yeah thank you


that's about it that would be the only thing I would say to everybody president and to myself


and I have to give myself this little talk once in a while yeah in terms of use of time and energy and that is just


stop for a minute what's the most important thing in this room right now it's my wife sitting


across from me at The Breakfast Table that's non-negotiable that's a whole lifetime


it has nothing to do with what should I do next this is the non-negotiable immovable piece without which I am


nothing and if I trade this for any of that I'd myself up to the point of total


self-destruction that would be me and I feel the same thing about getting up and writing if I'm writing a project


it has to be about actually loving writing it can't be about well what next step does this door open for me and I


just think that's the most basic thing I've learned about living in 70 years that's it right there


well if I'm going to be honest I'm going to just put in a little asterisk on there I don't have biological children but I have my exchange kids that I would


bleed for I love those guys so much and that was something that I


didn't count on in my life so anyway honesty and you know yeah and my husband


um who I love and we just had our 19th anniversary so I love him very very very


much um that living in honesty and living in


that love bit I I really didn't understand that until a couple years ago


and not to trivialize this but I felt the same Cindy about you talking about coffee the right color the spice store


and it was like this woman's writing lives because she loves something


um that's what lives in your book that's the best parts of your book is what you love best we're not talking scale here a


big or little yeah yeah I get that what I wrote down I sit here and take notes


whenever I'm in conversations for thanks to stick but what I wrote down is it is


this in homage to love there's almost a question like there are certain things that I


think are so pivotal and so important to remember I put that question is this in


homage to love I put that next to the reminder that this too shall pass meaning there are


certain things that we can remind ourselves of over and over again and I am so grateful to you Frank for saying


that because it's not a perspective I would have thought about but it's true right there is this sense


of now I just want to go forward asking myself for everything that I do is this in homage to love and again it's not


about the scale of love right like if you look at all the essays in the book or just my lived experience


there there is a love to it and when there is a love when we do anything in homage to love


there is an Essence in that and there are details in that and there's truth in that and there is integrity in that and


you never have to fight your way through it yes those things actually come quite easy


it doesn't mean that there's no difficulty within it but those decisions ultimately are pretty easy to make and


so I love sort of walking away from this discussion having that simple reminder


of like is this an homage to love because to me it's also is this in


is this in alignment with my Integrity is another way of saying that right like


if you walk in love and I hate to say like that because come on if you walk in love but


but if you walk in that it does make life a little easier to


hold on to and I think that's in your book yeah and that is the essence of the


book and I before we're done because I know you have a heart out I want to pay you the highest compliment that I know how to pay okay and I'm being serious


from the heart and that is I have five grandchildren and I want to give them


each a copy of your book yeah and that's the highest compliment that


as one human to another I ever pay and I don't do that but my 14 year old Lucy needs to read


this book because you know what the her iPhone is trying to kill her and so strong


and they all at different stages and I want my grandchildren


to read your book that's the most I can do for a book that's if I really care about something


now you're talking to the most basic me and I really want to share that with you and I will get the meet you copy and


they will read it God willing um right and going into this book going into this book I I actually I had that


feeling Cindy where I was like all right okay here we go tell me how to live my


life and then by the end I wrote my little review uh that says I laughed and cried out loud multiple times throughout


I now count Cindy as a friend and I'm excited to tell her that when I ever meet her so I'm so grateful for this


book and I I am happy to call you my friend now because at the end I was laughing and crying with you so I really


appreciate you Cindy you are the best ever we love this book I mean if those


weren't the best um oh reasons to go out and buy 100 copies I wrote this in my review on Goodreads I


said I'm going to buy a stack of them I'm gonna give them out as housewarming gifts I'm going to give them out as neighbors I mean this is like what Oprah


would call like her secret stash that you can just give because it's so Universal I think Marie kondo like


watched the out like you've got enough to build off this book like this is it sister


um we only have a couple more minutes where can people find you what do you want to plug how could we our love and


common family support you oh thank you thank you all before I get into where you can plug me


um thank you all for saying that this is still very early the book doesn't come out for another six weeks and so you're


one of the first ones I'm having a conversation with and a discussion with and this has been so beautiful and so


heartwarming but also honest um and thank you for just sharing your


thoughts with me because one of my hopes with this book is that I'm not telling anybody else how to live


I'm like I'm not qualified to tell anybody else how to live so thank you for reminding me that sometimes in


sharing our own lived experiences and details it finds a bridge to the people who need it so truly thank you thank you


for saying that um anyone can find me on Instagram you can join dear groness women if you're


35. um you can find me on LinkedIn I'm just kidding I don't even know how to


use LinkedIn just find me online


Instagram yeah yeah I'm on Instagram and my website yep


and by micro Joyce for everyone 10 copies 10 copies you have to buy it yeah correct and can


I just say look at this sticker so cute oh it's great sticker I need a


sticker how do we get a sticker that's the screenshot right there isn't that ridiculous I mean you might know


somebody who has the stickers all you got to do that all right all right everybody else has to buy five


copies and then tell me they didn't tell me your seat but for you all like thank you perfect thank you thank you so much


I thank you please stay in touch please stay connected goodbye everyone thank you


thank you have a beautiful day this has been a Frank Schaefer Ernie


Greg and Aaron Bagwell production music by Sal mastercola if you have enjoyed


the podcast be sure to rate review And subscribe and most of all share with a friend colleague or someone you care


about and if you have ideas for future episodes please don't hesitate to reach out all the links we discussed are in


the show notes until next time foreign

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