Monday, February 20, 2012

Not Closed…Just Moved

I've moved my blogging platform to Wordpress. Please visit which will direct you to the new site and allow you to follow me! Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The V Day Gauntlet

Ken always scoffed at the idea of Valentine's Day. A Hallmark Holiday, he'd call it. But the truth is, he just didn't believe it should be relegated to one day a year. He was always presenting me or surprising me with beautiful cards he designed and filled with sweet nothings. I have collected some of them, but haven't had the wherewithal to centralize all of them. A task for 'someday'.

I have to say my subconscious did a superb job and constantly making me forget it was the Day of Lovers. When I got to work this morning, I held the elevator for a stranger I saw rounding the corner. When I exited the elevator on my floor she said, "Happy Valentine's Day." It was sort of puzzling to me (maybe it was a better hair day than I thought?), but as the day wore on and I received Valentine's greetings from people I actually knew I realized today was a recognized day of love--ideally and selfishly not from the one person I'd love it be from--and there was no denying it.

It seems when you love or have loved as much as I have, there is a wake of sorts that washes up on you--sometimes when you're not expecting it or even wanting it. Of course, not wanting love is ludicrous. We all want it. We're not always ready for it. I'm becoming an expert at not being ready for feelings I'm not ready for. As I left the office this afternoon, it was like a replay of leaving work the first day I returned to work after Ken died. The elevator ride and walk to the car was a shocking realization that my emotions were about to explode. After they did the ride home was quiet. I realized it on Lake Shore Drive. No music. No talking (I talk to myself a lot--or, really, I do "scenes"). Nothing. Quiet. Solemn.

When I got home I went to my computer and pulled last year's blog from Valentine's Day. It was dedicated to him, and it's the only comment he ever made on my blog, though he was a reader of it as long as he was able. It's as special as it is difficult to have words he wrote frozen in time and accessible whenever I feel the urge to connect with him or punish myself. His words are so present and sweet. So very him.

Love comes at you. You can't always predict from where or when it will happen. And it won't always be from a desired source. But if you're as lucky as I am, it comes from all around. Friends and loved ones reaching out and loving me. And that reminder was confirmed when I opened my front door and found a box of chocolate covered strawberries, courtesy of my LA family, with a sweet note.

The box of goodies came with explicit instructions--which I followed to the letter:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Book in a Day


"The Rules of Inheritance" was released on February 2. I woke up that morning to an email from, letting me know the book had been delivered to my Kindle. Up and out of bed with the excitement of a toddler on Christmas morning, I grabbed my iPad and curled up in a chair in the living room and devoured the first section while sipping the day's first cup of coffee. But it didn't stop there. It couldn't. I was riveted; compelled to keep reading. I couldn't put it down. My friend--the author--Claire Bidwell Smith's first book was a first book for me too: it was the first book read from cover to cover in one sitting. It consumed me.

I knew some of the stories from meeting Claire, when she was our hospice grief counselor who made weekly visits to north side apartment as part of the hospice services afforded to my partner Ken, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. On her visits, during many of our talks we asked her about where the book was in terms of getting published. It was exciting and terribly impressive--particularly to aspiring writers like Ken and I. He was as thrilled for her as I was. In fact, the whole family really got into the act.

The book itself is a sensual read about her experience of having both parents diagnosed with cancer within months each other when she was fourteen. Her mother died when she 18 and her father when she was 25. A lot of loss for an only child to deal with. Her easy writing style in the book is unconventional--more like reading a personal diary in some ways than anything else. And most importantly, I felt like she was talking to me. I could hear her gentle serene voice reading the words aloud in my head.

So much has happened since those visits last spring. She and her family relocated to LA just a week or so before Ken died. And through the darkness that ensued, Claire and I remained in touch, even having the opportunity to meet for drinks later in the summer--to check in with each other. Emails and texts followed. And as a faithful reader of her blog, I was kept in constant touch with what was going on in her exciting pre-publication life.

Within the framework of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance), Bidwell Smith weaves a lattice of vignettes from her life, not chronologically but by these stages that serve to envelope you and take on this journey with her. With no shroud or subterfuge, Claire tells her story poetically in some parts, and with stark honesty in others. It was a true emotional roller coaster. There were parts where I openly wept for her and what she was going through, other times I wept selfishly without abandon for myself, what I've lost because she was saying rings that I'd said or felt during my husband's illness. And other times, I didn't know who I was weeping for.

I don't know if I ever would have heard of Claire's book had I never known her or experienced loss and subsequent grief as I did, but that's how life works, I suppose. When someone special like Claire comes into your life, you know your better for it. I know I am. Her book helped me to release some feelings I wasn't sure I still had, and I'm so grateful for that.

If you have ever experienced loss and grief, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. Yes, I'm a little jaded because we're friends, but that didn't mitigate what a well-written memoir it is.

I encourage Chicagoans to go to her book signing event at Women and Children First Books on March 1. You can see her other events on her website, or check out my review (and several others) on

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Quick Hit: A Favorite Thing

I haven't had a chance to sit down and blog this past week, though--as always--I have continued making notes on things that strike my fancy, and that I think would make for a good blog. Until I have time to sit down and write something more substantial (the wheels are already turning), I wanted to share this photo. I was on my way out the other day and happened to check to the mail as passed. I pulled out an official-looking envelope that was addressed to Ken, and looked like tax information. A bummer on both counts. Getting "official" mail for Ken can be painful; somehow a heartless reminder. My heart fell as I got mired in my loss, then after my hand fished around in the mailbox a little more, it came up with this:


Just the words "Uncle Ron" handwritten on the envelope set my chin quivering--if only for a few seconds. It had chased away the sullen feelings the first piece of mail had brought on--and then some! It made my day and, since then, my week. It has occurred to me every day, and I love it--and the sender! (Coincidentally, today is his twelfth birthday.) I did send a card, though a day late, I'm afraid.

Sending handwritten cards is a practice I used to do more often, and this sweet note is a reminder I need to pick up the pace again. There is nothing like getting a surprise note from someone you love. Nothing.