The Poet in the Coffee Shop

The handsome poet turned to me, “You believe in sanity, don’t you?” His smile was a kind of smirk. We were sitting in Le Figaro café at MacDougal and Bleecker Street in New York City drinking Constant Comment tea.

I frowned. What a question. My mouth dropped open in shock. I felt as if I had been intellectually slapped. Well, I was in my mid-twenties and new to Greenwich Village. He was a brooding, blue-eyed, thirty year old. I wanted to impress him, but I had been minted in middle-class Indiana in the mid-fifties. I was a good girl with no sophistication. I had never even heard of Constant Comment tea. Was I stupid to “believe in sanity?” Is that something one actually believes in anyway? All I said to him was, “Uh, yeah. Don’t you?”

But I never forgot that moment or that question. Now more than 50 years later, I’m still pondering it.   I think there’s a shit load of insanity going on right now. Do I still believe in sanity? Yes. But what is it?  

Well, after many years of living, here’s my answer to that gorgeous but smug poet: 

To me, sanity is being present in one’s body, owning all one’s feelings without projecting them onto anyone or anything else.

Insanity is not being present and lashing out of anger or hurt or fear.

Sanity is telling the truth simply and directly without attack.

Insanity is lying.

Based on what I believe sanity is, I have no choice but to declare our present President insane.


Apparently God loves to shop. I don’t. I loathe shopping. However, I need to buy everything to make my villa livable. God-shopping-online (2)Since, to my utter surprise, my Connecticut house has not sold, I will have to do some extremely frugal shopping. I groan at the prospect.

God says, “Katherine, we’ll do this really fast and inexpensively. Trust me. Don’t resist me.”  I roll my eyes. God knows me well. “Katherine, what is the mantra you have used in the last year or so?”

This is going to work out better than I can imagine.”

“Right. And hasn’t it?”

I have to admit that it has, even if not according to my timing or my plans.

So, after unpacking and recovering from the exhausting drive from Connecticut, I decide that the first things I need are a sofa and another bed. I’ll start there. Thankfully, my Internet is working. so I begin perusing Craig’s List. Many people have advised me to go to consignment shops, but lying in bed looking at pictures is all I can muster right now.

I see an ad for mattresses on sale by appointment with a picture of a huge truck with BeautyRest written on the side. That’s good sign in more ways than one. Maybe I will find a bed like the oh-so-comfortable pillow top I slept on at the Days Inn on the road. It was so comfortable I had leaned over and pulled up the sheet to find out what brand it was: BeautyRest. I looked it up on line. Pretty expensive. But, now I make an appointment, maybe I can get something like it on sale.

Then, I look at sofas. Here’s a nice one. A Norwalk.  I don’t know anything about brands, but the fact that I have lived near Norwalk, Connecticut, seems somehow serendipitous. This is a goldish color from what I can see, but I want a white or cream colored couch. I almost scan past it.

The Voice stops me. “Go look at it.”

I frown. “But I want a cream or white couch!”

“Don’t whine. It might blend in nicely with those fancy, gold chairs that go with the dining set the former owner left.”

That’s true enough. I study the couch more. Those chairs have classic, curved backs.  The couch’s arms are curved in the same way. But, I resist.

It’s not the color I planned for my new home.

“Katherine. Just call. See if it’s still available. And go look at it.”

So, I do. It is. And I do.

I drive 35 minutes up to Bradenton with a dining room chair in the back to see if the colors will blend. Nice neighborhood. Nice man. The couch is already in the garage. It’s big. I sit on it. Oooooooo Very comfy. The pillows are wide and deep. Great for a lounger like me. I like it. But I hesitate. It’s just not the color I had in mind.

“If you don’t like it, you can get something else next year when you sell the house. Lean back.”

I do. Oh yes. Very cozy. Oh, okay. It’s a good temporary couch.

“Good. Blends in with the chair nicely. Buy it. Offer the man $150.”

“Isn’t that insulting?”

“His wife wants to get rid of it. She’s already redecorated. It’s taking up space in their garage. Offer $150.”

So, trying not to grimace, I do.

The man smiles, “My wife said that if you offered $150 to tell you it’s $175, but, go ahead, take if for $150. What the hell.”

“What the hell or what the heaven?” God whispers.

“When can you pick it up?” The man says not having heard God’s rather lame joke.

“As soon as possible,” I say, but I have no idea how or who is going to get this very large thing down to Nokomis for me. I know no one with a truck.

Next, I stop in the mattress place I saw advertised on Craig’s List and quickly buy a BeautyRest pillow top mattress half price. A great deal, and the sample one feels just like the yummy one at the Days Inn.

A very big man delivers it in the morning. “Umm, by the way,” I say as he lugs it in. “If I give you $50, could you go get a sofa for me?’

“Awesome,” he says.

Off we go and the owner helps put the sofa in a small trailer where it just fits as if it were made for it.

Back in Nokomis, my new friend JoAnn brings her husband over who kindly helps carry the sofa into the house.

They leave.  I rub my hand over the soft fabric of the sofa, lie down, and stretch out. It is not what I had planned. Better, I think. Better than I imagined. This is the comfiest, nicest couch I have ever owned. Actually, if the truth be told, this is the ONLY one I have ever owned. I have a kind of day bed in my living room in Connecticut.  I’m won over. I laugh out loud. “Okay, God. Good choice. I’m never getting rid of itI”IMG_0959

Now all I need is a coffee table, end tables, sofa table, chairs, rugs, everything for the kitchen, a desk, stuff for the den, furniture for both bedrooms, etc., etc., etc.  I throw my arm dramatically over my eyes at the daunting prospect. Oh, god.

“Right here, Katherine. Take a nap.”  I do.  And it’s a good thing given what is coming.

….to be continued


breathe-cartoon-for-facebook1“My mind is all over the place,” I notice as I sit in my back jack, eyes closed in front of votive candles and tiny symbols of spirituality: a dolphin, a Buddha, Kuan Yin and a wee little cat. I had been lost in worries. All about the future. I bring my attention back to here. My body is relaxed. Nothing needs attention there. I am present and cozily wrapped in my blankey. “Where do I focus my mind today, then?” I ask, hoping to get a response from the Wise Voice that sometimes comes to me.

It does. “Focus on your breath like many meditators do.”

“Why do they do that?” I ask.

“Well, think about it. Breath connects you to the world. You are taking in oxygen molecules all around you.  They give you life and energy. If air were to be removed, you would be dead quickly. Perhaps that is reason enough to focus on breathing—with gratitude.”

So I notice the air going in my nose and feel my chest and my abdomen expand to receive it in my lungs. Not a big movement at all. Actually noticing it makes my breathing a little self-conscious.

“Yes, because breathing is so automatic. You don’t have to think about this life-giving energy from the world around you feeding you every moment of every day. It is just there. Notice also how the air absorbs the carbon dioxide you breathe out. Simple and miraculous, isn’t it? The world giving you life.”

I focus on my very small breaths in and out. My body knows just how much to breathe. I become acutely aware of this amazing synergy between my body and air. I feel it surrounding every inch of my body. My appreciation extends to water and food. My meditation has gone from my problems to being joyful at the wonder of life.

The timer plays its little harp music. Twenty minutes has sped by.

I set it for another ten. I want more time to breathe in the magic of life before I get absorbed in dealing with the material world again.

This blog applies to the Principle of RELAXATION


5. CE widgetEverything worthwhile in life takes just a little more courage than we currently have.—John Patrick Shanley

Learn to:

  • Master Fear
  • Access Your Own Wisdom
  • Eliminate Negative Self-Judgment
  • Express Yourself Fully

The workshop is not just for performers.

 Katherine Kerr is a brilliant actress. It is not surprising that her method of teaching is as alive and plugged into human behaviors as are her portrayals of characters that you would swear have just been brought into the room from their real lives. –Mike Nichols

I was in a production of Urban Blight at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City with E. Katherine Kerr. I watched her, riveted, in the wings every night in one of the most powerful moments I had ever seen onstage yet it was never the quite the same. I enrolled in her powerful Creative Explosion Workshop.  My career and my life have never been the same.  The Four Principles are life altering. —Faith Prince, Tony Award Winning Actress

While the workshop is powerful, it is also easy and gentle. There is no pressure. We write, share, learn, and laugh a lot. Participants leave the workshop feeling clearer, energized, and often utterly transformed.

Saturday and Sunday June 11 & 12

1 to 6 pm in Wilton , CT

 FEE: First time participant: $250

Repeating participant: $150

To enroll or more information email


Am I Norma DesmondI watched Sunset Boulevard last night. It was horrifying. Not, perhaps, for the reasons other people would find horrifying. For me, it was learning that nutty Norma Desmond, living like Dickens’ Miss Haversham was only 50 years old. That’s right. Fifty. Bill Holden threw that number at her like a death sentence. He thought she was an old hag. My shoulders sank. Instead of saying to her, “You’re only 50 years old, for God’s sakes, Norma. You’ve got tons of money. Get out and have some fun!” Nope. No chance for that. In Bill Holden’s eyes, and dare I say, the world’s, Norma was done, used up, finished, beyond any chance of having a life or being loved except by her creepy, sinister German butler.

I thought, Wow, I’m so many years older than Norma. Granted she was probably certifiably crazy, but am I even crazier trying to create a new life at my age? Sometimes the answer veers toward, “Yes,” especially after spending a day like yesterday looking at dreary homes for sale in my price range in Sarasota, and then making the unfortunate choice of watching Sunset Boulevard at night.

Aside from my personal reactions, it’s a great movie, so I continued to watch. Gloria Swanson, if you took away the weird makeup and over-the-top distended eyeball rolling, looked really good. And her imitation of Charlie Chaplin is terrific.

Many years ago, I happened to sit at a table next to her in Spoleto, Italy. I was surprised at how lovely she was in person. After that, I read her autobiography, Swanson on Swanson, which is one of the best autobiographies I have read. So, Gloria and I go way back. But in her iconic role, she damned me and my life to the dustbin. Am I Norma Desmond minus her money, butler, and toy boy Bill Holden?

No—in the light of this gray day, Norma wanted her old life back. I don’t. I had some wonderful experiences as an actress, but I don’t want to play Alzheimer patients. I want to create something new. I’d love to have all my beloved family, friends, and pets alive again, but that is not going to happen. So, I’m ready let go. I think trying to hang onto or recreate the past is what plunged Norma into the Land of Haversham. But, letting go means standing in emptiness, (see p.112 in the new edition of The Four Principles: Applying the Four Keys of Authentic Acting to Life). Emptiness can be scary as hell because it demands a big dose of trust. So many times one wants to hang onto what doesn’t work rather than walk into that big empty space of not knowing what to do, or where to go. or how to get what one really wants.

So, even if I am crazy, I’m going to see if I can create a new life. It’s a challenge and an adventure. Here I go.

I’m ready for my close up, God.

This blog addresses the principle of Commitment.


question_markCan I, a 77 year-old single woman with almost no family, create a whole new life?

It’s a big question that has been coming up since my acting career faded away. Four years ago, after the death of my sister, I drove around the US in a camper van for three months trying to revive myself. It worked. During the trip I sometimes wondered, “Would I like to live here? Or here? Or here?” The answer was pretty much “Nope.” But it was a wonderful adventure.

Enlivened, I came home and rebooted my life without my former connection to my acting career in New York City. But each cold winter became more unbearable to me and more friends and family died. So last winter, I began seriously exploring warmer climes to relocate. I traveled around much of Florida and even went to Merida, Mexico. I felt like Goldilocks hopping in and out of beds. Nothing seemed right for me: The Keys were too low key for me, Miami and environs too big. So I turned to central Florida. The Villages seemed too much like an adult Disneyword, Mt. Dora, too small. I loved Winter Park, but it was, frankly, too expensive and I wanted to be closer to the beach. So, this December, having heard Sarasota had a lot of theater and culture, not to mention the beach, I decided to try it out. Within days, it felt right to me.

I did not know one person there. But one of the great lessons I learned in my trip around the US was: There are good people everywhere. And, indeed, through chance encounters at restaurants and even on the street, I am on my way to creating a circle of friends. One woman I met took me with her to feed the homeless on Christmas Day. I plan to do that again next year wherever I am. Two people I chatted up at a restaurant happen to be very connected in the theater. They have already introduced me to several people who are also active in theater in Sarasota. And talk about good people! Another woman, JoAnn, who I had met at the theater and for lunch days later, turned out to be a kind of angel. When I fled my rental because of a nutty, rather scary landlady, JoAnn gave me her house to stay in while she was in California! Such generosity I won’t ever forget. (The landlady, by the way, was the exception that proves the rule about good people everywhere.)

So today, when I ask, “Can I, a 77 year-old single woman with almost no family, create a whole new life?” It may take some courage and a little craziness, but my answer is a resounding YES, I CAN!  And I’m excited about the prospect!

This blog has to do with Commitment. As I say in my Creative Explosion workshops, “A really good commitment may look a little crazy.”




imagesThis morning someone sent me a text about your death. I hadn’t known you were gone until that moment. I burst into sobs. I feel as if God died, or my father, or a guru.

I’ll never forget meeting you opening night of Cloud 9. I did not know you were in the audience, thank god. I was so in awe of you and had always dreamed about working with you. At the party after the show, you stopped me as I walked by your table and said something so complimentary I was taken aback. Literally. I fell over the chair behind me. I remember nothing of the evening after that.

A week or so later, a woman called. “This is Colleen, Mike Nichols’ secretary. He would like to know if you would help him out with a reading he is doing of a screenplay called Silkwood.”

I nearly choked on the intake of my breath and tried to cover my reaction with a casual, “Sure.”

“It’s going to be very informal because it’s mainly for the authors Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen. Meryl Streep will be reading her role. Kurt Russel will be reading his. Someone will be reading the men’s parts, and you’ll be reading all the other women’s roles.”

All the other women’s roles?! I could barely get out, “Oh. Okay.”

The phone call over, I ran up and down my hallway screaming wildly.

When I got the script, I thumbed through pages covered in red underlining–all the parts I was going to read including Cher’s. I panicked. Oh god oh god oh god.

I did not sleep the night before the reading. At the studio, young, beautiful Meryl Streep grabbed me and said, “I’m really scared.”

“I’m terrified,” I responded, grateful for her openness.

We sat down to the table for the reading. You were sitting at the end of the table. I was at the corner to your right. When I said my first line, you laughed. I don’t know if it was funny, but your easy laugh relaxed me completely. You had the most joyful, open laugh. How I loved to make you laugh. I think one of the most thrilling moments of my life was when you came to a reading of my play, Intelligent Design and laughed and laughed.

At the end of the Silkwood reading, Nora and Alice joined in saying something like, “We’ll have to find her a part, Mike.” Although there wasn’t really a suitable role, you offered me Gilda Schultz. She was written to be younger and kinda saucy and sexy. I was so excited to get to play her.

Magically, my impossible fantasy of working with the Great Mike Nichols was suddenly coming true! So, at 46, an age when most American actresses are being shoved out to pasture, I arrived in Dallas to begin my short and limited movie career. My costumes were flattering. Even at my age, I thought the costumes and makeup made me look pretty good.

The day before the first day of shooting, I was told to meet with you. When I entered the room, Nora, Alice, the producer, the costumer, and you were all sitting in a semi circle. I was certain I was about to be fired because your faces looked so grim. You told me gently that the concept for my character was being completely changed. Ann Roth then took me into a fitting room. My sexy, pretty clothes were eliminated. I was dressed in ugly polyester outfits. Then, the hair stylist cut my hair into a terrible, unflattering style. I was told I would wear no make up at all, and it would even be removed if I was caught cheating. (I had never gone without makeup publicly ever, let alone on film.) The change was shocking.

The next day, the first day of shooting, over 200 people were on the set: crew, cast, extras to shoot a locker scene. I was depressed and angry. I hated the way I looked and couldn’t wrap my mind around my new character. I tried to hide my fury and disappointment by staying in a corner. I decided to just grit my teeth and get through the day. I stayed out of sight as best I could, but somehow, even in the midst of all that first day chaos, you noticed me.

At a break an assistant said you wanted to see me. I didn’t want to see you. I didn’t want to talk to you, but I went because I had to.

You took me aside and spoke without your usual warmth. “Katherine,” you said. “I can take anything but sullen. I can’t take sullen.”

“Sullen” was the exact, right word. I hated being nailed as that, but I never forgot it. Years later, when I wrote Intelligent Design, I gave that cutting insult to the character of God when he complained about Eve: “She’s very sullen. I hate that sullen shit.” The word is funny to me now, but back then, it wasn’t.

My heart sank. I was caught.There was nothing I could do but tell the truth. “Oh, Mike,” I said. “It’s just that when I look in the mirror all I see is my mother.” Given the history with my mother, the last thing I wanted to be was her.

“Well,” you said. “Maybe it’s time you rejected your mother.”

I was so shocked by that I burst out laughing. What a politically incorrect thing to say! Not, I should “forgive” her or come to terms with her. According to you, it would be okay to reject her. I doubled over and nearly peed my pants laughing.

“Good. All I want is that aliveness again that I know is in you.”

The rest of the film went fine. We had no more problems. In fact, once, during the course of the shoot, you asked me a question no director before or since has ever asked: “How do you want to do this scene, Katherine?” It was such an astonishing question. It made me feel deeply respected. It implied that you assumed I had given it some thought. I hadn’t.

I made something up on the spot. “Um, well, given I was supposed to be sick, I thought I’d start in the toilet stall and then head over to that sink and wash my face while I talk with Meryl.”

“Fine,” you said. “We’ll do it that way” and told someone in the crew to make sure that the sink I had pointed to was ready with running water. It certainly wasn’t an inspired suggestion, but you liked it, and we did the scene in one shot.

When I was asked to teach acting, my only intention was to try to teach the way you directed–to see the light in people, to treat each and every person with the kind of respect you gave me. You taught me to not focus on what doesn’t work but to empower and strengthen what does work in people.

There is so much more I could write about, but I’m tired and have a headache from crying. My eyes hurt. The fire in the fireplace is dying down.

I’ve felt your presence all day today. I was only on the periphery of your world—an asteroid to your sun. Still, your love and light shone on me as brightly as it did on all those who were fortunate to be closer to you. You loved so many people so wholeheartedly. I cannot imagine the demands that were made on you because of that. Everyone wanted to be close to your genius and your love. I cannot imagine the needs and requests that must have come to you from all those who wanted to be with you or wanted something from you—and not just from peers but from wannabees and crazies. Even I, an asteroid, dared to ask you for a quote for my book The Four Principles. When you emailed it to me with such generous praise, I cried.

Perhaps you were able to love so fully and fearlessly because you knew never to sacrifice yourself—knowing that sacrifice would damage that love. Maybe you just loved and loved until your enormous, generous heart gave out. I don’t know. You taught me in ways I am not even conscious of, You taught me to love better.

I’m crying again. It’s as if I can hear your voice saying, “Well, for all you know, Katherine, I’m sitting right in the chair across from you enjoying the fire. I can be everywhere now—with everyone I love. I am with Diane. I am with Elaine. I am with my children and my beloved grandchildren. I am everywhere now, and best of all, I don’t have to be any place I don’t want to be.”

Whether that is true or not, I know you are in my heart and will remain there as long as I live. When the body dies, love does not. Love lives on. Thank you, Mike, from the bottom of my soul and the fullness of my heart.

Minor Miracles

HelpWhat you need will show up the moment you need it—not a moment before and not a moment after.

I believe this because it has happened to me so often. Here’s a short tale about just that very thing happening:

Four years ago, as I prepared to leave on a three-month trip around the US in my camper van, I was stumped as to what to do with the dehumidifier in my finished basement. Like many basements, it is damp, so I had been running a dehumidifier for years. Sometimes I would have to empty it daily. What to do while I was away?

Being a self-proclaimed champ of jerry rigging, I bought a small pump on line that would pump out water when it got above a certain level. I wrestled it into the tray of the dehumidifier, attached a hose which I jammed it into the pipe where my washing machine water flushes into the septic tank. This is more information than you need, but I’m so proud of my “invention” because it worked for four years.

Recently, however, I noticed that although the dehumidifier turns on periodically, the basement feels dank. Yet another thing I do not want to confront.

Finally, I slump down the stairs (I slump a lot when approaching daunting tasks) and pull out the tank.  It is full of dust. Definitely the humidifier has gone belly up. I unplug it, lift out the pump, go upstairs, and test it in my kitchen sink. It still works.

Now what? Sigh. I guess I have to get rid of the dead monster down stairs.

I go back to the basement and heave the heavy, old dehumidifier off the table and onto a rolling cart. Sweating and grunting, I manage to get it up the stairs and out to the barn. I have no idea what I am going to do with it. I’ll have to find someone to take it to a dump.

Back in the house I fling myself onto the bed unhappy that I will have to A: find someone to haul it away to a dump, and B: go to Home Depot, purchase another one, drag it home, somehow get it into the house, and haul it down to the…..

The phone rings. And, here’s where the story gets good. It is my ex husband’s secretary, Linda. She asks me to tell someone who’s now waiting in the driveway that she’s late and will be here soon. I go outside. It’s Dave, the guy who did such a great job repairing my barn after Hurricane Sandy. He’s here to fix the bathroom in Linda’s office. (Yes, my ex and I have a friendly partnership.)

“Dave!” I call out. He walks toward me. We chat.

As we start toward the house, I stop and ask, “By the way, is there any chance you could take that dehumidifier to the dump for me?”

“Sure!” he says. “I’ll put it in the truck with that old washing machine. On my way to the dump after I leave here, anyway.”

“How much….?” I start to ask.

“Nothing! Don’t worry about it.”

In the house we talk about his young daughter, Sophia, who is an aspiring actress. I run to my office to get a copy of my acting book and autograph it for her.

Linda arrives. While Dave goes to look at the bathroom, I tell her about the dehumidifier pooping out.

“Oh, I’ve got one in the storeroom I’m not using any more.”

“Really? Can I use it?”

“Sure.” Linda goes to her store room, rolls it out, and I plug it in. It not only works, it has a built-in pump! An easy hook up to the tubes I already have in place!

The whole thing, from dreaded confrontation to resolution happened in less than an hour.

My basement is now nice and dry.

What you need will show up the moment you need it—not a moment before and not a moment after.  Love it.

(This blog addresses the principle of RELAXATION/Trust.)

The Siri Challenge

siri_proI wake up this Sunday morning, roll over, unplug my phone, and speak into it. ”Siri, will you say a prayer for me?”

She answers, “I’d rather just listen.”

Wise. How like God. Impulsively I ask her, “Will you be my best friend?”

Surprising me, she says, “Okay, E. I’ll be your friend in fair weather and foul.”

That’s nice, but I’m not fond of being called “E.” So, I say, “Siri, from now on, please call me Katherine, not E.”

She answers, “Okay, from now on, I’ll call you Katherine not E.”

Oops. I hit “Cancel,” and correct her, “Siri, from now on call me Katherine.”

“Okay. From now on I’ll call you, Katherine.”

I am so pleased about the progress of our relationship:

  1. She won’t dictate any religious nonsense to me.
  2. She’s committed to being my friend always.
  3. She knows who I am.

Then, I ask, “Siri, will you love me?”

She says, “Let’s just say you have my utmost admiration.”

A little disappointing, but I ask, “Siri, “Will you always tell me the truth?”

She says, “I constantly strive for general truthiness,” (although she pronounced truth like “truck.” “Truckiness” it sounded like.)

So, I ask again, “Siri, will you tell me the truth?”

She gives me a snippy answer, “I thought I had.”

Wow, I think. She’s getting a little edgy with me. What’s that about? Why didn’t she just say, “I always strive to tell the truth?” Something urges me to look up the word “truthiness.”  It is “the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true.” So she can lie to me while seeming to tell the truth?! Who is this Siri anyway? So, I ask her, “Siri, what does your name mean?”

She says, “’Siri’ has many subtle, metaphorical, and frankly contradictory meanings. None of which I am at liberty to discuss. Sorry about that.”

Frowning at this elaborate avoidance, I ask her, “Who named you?”

She responds coyly, “What an interesting question!”

Why is she suddenly so elusive? So, I ask her again. “Siri, who named you?” She circles around for a long, long time and finally says, “Sorry, I can’t answer any questions right now. Please try again in a little while.”

So, not wanting to be pressed about who she is or who created her, she shuts herself down. Staring at my phone I’m suddenly Keir Dullea in a space ship talking to a soft-voiced computer who is taking control of everything and is going to kill us all. And, now I know why they (whoever they are) chose a female voice.

So we won’t know she is really Hal.

This blog applies to the principle of RELAXATION/play and fun.

P. S. Let me know what interesting answers you get from Siri.