Monthly Archives: June 2011

grace is the messenger of love

it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of an ex-wife is must be in want of another ex-wife.  my f2fb #164 carole smith is the first ex-wife of my ex-husband stephen and i am the second ex-wife. 

when i first married stephen i was pregnant with joseph.  i became an insta-stepmother to carole and stephen’s children david and elisabeth.  carole had started a relationship with ann, and ann’s son adrian was a new sibling for david and elisabeth.  with stephen and carole sharing custody of david and elisabeth, i spent a lot of time in the car waiting to drop someone off or pick someone up.  and there was a lot of conflict as the parties negotiated expenses, holidays, and the usual he said she said moments.  

so i never got to know carole until all the kids grew up.  now we sometimes share holidays together.  we have to a great degree been brought together by grace.  not the grace of the lord, although there is the usual amount of that.  but the grace who is elisabeth’s daughter has with her birth healed many scratches and bruises.

so i looked forward to seeing carole for lunch because we have so much in common and so much we share in our deep abiding ambition that our children–david, elisabeth, joseph, eastman and carole’s partner’s son adrian–will be close and supportive family to each other.  it is as if grace has become the messenger of love.  when elisabeth posts a video of grace on facebook, we all comment and hit like.

this is a tile in carole's collection that is painted with a bird delivering a love note--the messenger of love

carole collects tiles, most of them from the nineteenth century.  she is such an expert that she can tell the manufacturer and the year it was made by the feel of the back of the tile.  these tiles were used on fireplaces, bathrooms, kitchens.

i don't know about you, but my kitchen tiles aren't particularly interesting

carole’s collection is so immense that it is housed in boxes and cd shelves.  she has bid on ebay (she thinks of it as voting) and scoured markets and shops.  i don’t understand the compulsion to collect anything but i appreciate her expertise. 

a greek god tile -- most of her collection is from the arts and crafts movement of the 19th century

when we first met, we were in a tense relation to one another–at lunch, we toasted our good fortune that we are now friends.

someone else’s new years resolution

it is very easy to let email, facebook, linkedin, skype, myspace, and twitter do the friendship work for you.  you exchange news, seek advice, share gossip.  and then when you make plans to get together, you wonder “when was the last time. . . ?”  and it’s been five years.  this is friendship pattern is especially true for people in theater.  they can have really intense relationships while they’re working on a show and then things continue computerliciously until the next show. 

stephanie hurovitz, f2fb friend #163, is a professional stage manager.  she was the manager for eastman’s last play, oh, just about five years ago.  when i asked her what she was passionate about, what she’d like to share with me, i never expected this.  it’s her secret superpower and one day the world will be threatened by a meteor (or aliens or maniacal psychopaths or the collapse of the imf) and only stephanie can save us. . . .

stephanie was excited about my new years resolution but she confessed to a resolution that she had recently abandoned:  to have thirty one dates before her thirty first birthday which is in february.  she’s so busy juggling work commitments that seemed difficult.  i understand why she gave up on it.  but she had already gone on sixteen dates and it’s only just now reaching the halfway point on the year. 

what if she readjusted the resolution so that she had to finish it by new years?  that’s just fifteen dates!

by the way, i turned out to be sooooooooo great at tap.  in face, i tap dance so fast you can’t even see my feet move!

the instructor, debra giunta of designdance, said i should consider the possibility of further lessons because tap dance is the easier for an old person to pick up as opposed to, say, ballet.  as i leafed through a catalogue for wheelchairs and walkers, i watched debra and stephanie work through some steps.

for my new years resolution, i am astonished by the faith and encouragement i’ve been receiving, as well as “chaperone” and logistics help.  i really appreciate everybody who opens up their homes, their tap dance lessons, their lives to me.  so i want to do everything to help stephanie with her resolution.  if you have anybody who would be a good candidate for mr. 16, mr. 17, mr. 18, etc., email their stats to me! 

i’m off to see the first ex-wife of my first and only ex-husband.  there’s a story about how grace, not facebook, brought us together!

on this f2fb friend’s diet, you can eat a pint of ice cream a day and still lose weight!

when i first made the new years eve resolution to meet every facebook friend i had (and at the time i had roughly 324), there was snow on the ground, my christmas tree was still up, and i weighed six pounds lighter.  there’s been a lot of planes, trains and automobiles since january first.  i feel like a python who has just swallowed the rabbit.

f2fb friend #162 sandy kolkey and i are roughly the same age.  we first became friends because his son zak and my son eastman were in class together.  somehow, i have grown older (and wider) and sandy hasn’t.  his wife lisa once suggested to me that she hates him because he can eat a pint of ice cream every night while watching the evening news and he still doesn’t gain weight.

when he suggested that i drive out to the soccer fields to play, i figured i’d get some evercise and find out how he keeps it together.  he said there were usually about five guys who played on each team and that natural attrition would eventually result in an invitation for this girl to join in the fun.  but when i arrived, i was a bit surprised at the playing field.

i have never played soccer and i didn’t get to play on sandy’s team.  i coached boys’ soccer for nine years, first for my son joseph’s teams and then for eastman’s.  i thought i was being a good mom even though i don’t think i taught them any particular skill — i think the most important thing they learned is that every game must have orange slices for refreshment at the half time and a snack afterwards.  my skill base is so abysmal that i didn’t understand offsides until three years into my tenure–i can hardly imagine what the referees thought of my responses when they would call my players on that charge. 

in any event, sandy’s theory is that his passion for physical exercise is because of his father.  sandy is now three years older than the age his father was when he died of pancreatic cancer.  my biological father justin (f2fb friend #30) is still alive but my adoptive father donald patrick suffered two heart attacks while i was a child.  i was with him when both occured.  i have sometimes wondered if that has made me prone to thinking of my anxiety as a heart attack issue. 

sandy is a world traveler and he said i will love mumbai in particular.  he had this sage advice to offer me:

i told sandy i had a three hour drive in front of me and he said he envied me this year.  that he wants to do something like this resolution i’m doing.  i didn’t realize that i’d be having taking tap dancing next with a woman who is on her own personal new years eve resolution and i would talk her out of quitting. . . .

the front stoop moment

after f2fb friend #160 johnny bladez said goodnight, i prepared for bed and glanced out of the bedroom window to see that he sat on the front stoop, smoking a cigarette.  we had had some laughs and the two parties had been fun, but we had also talked a lot about the different challenges he was and is facing.  bad friends, bad relationships, bad choices, bad options.  i wondered if keeping him company would help and then realized, no, we all have to have the time to sit on a front stoop, smoke a cigarette and sort things out in our head.

i have made no secret of my early life.  being adopted when i was three.  a schizophrenic mother.  leaving home.  living on the streets (not very successfully).  foster placements.  juvie detention.  dropping out of high school.  bad friends, bad relationships, bad choices, bad options. 

but somewhere along the line i had the sitting down on the front stoop.  i’m not sure if i smoked a cigarette.  and i had said all that i had to say about that moment to johnny. 

a facebook friend joan asked me about that front stoop moment for me.  because i did turn things around.  i went to college.  then law school.  got married.  had kids–neither of whom has shown up on the police blotter, i’m happy to say.  it was no idle question for her.  joan works with native american children in north dakota who are at risk.

i sent her a three hundred page autobiography last night.  she read it last night.  while i puttered about the house.  while i looked outside the window again and knew that johnny was walking home.  while i slept and while i woke up to go bike riding with f2fb friend #161 lee padgitt. 

lee is in rotary with me.  we are both fifty years old and we’re realizing that we’ve made the choices, we’ve done what we can with our options.  we’re pretty settled that we’ve done pretty all right.  and we’re treating ourselves a little at the midcentury mark:  i’m meeting my friends and lee is spending a lot of time riding his bike.  he and his wife have three children who are still at home, but soon he will have long bike rides to take. . .

my friend joan read the book and sent me a note that read in part. . .” It was painful for me to read and yet I couldn’t stop reading it~It’s perfect and horrible and humbling.  I’m honored that you would allow me to share your pain and I urge you to get it published.  I beg you to have it published.” 

i would like to believe that my front stoop moment could help anybody else.  and i hope that my jumping out on this year long adventure will help anybody else.  but mostly me.

lee and i rode through the botanic gardens and then we had to high five on life and say goodbye!

lee often rides in the botanic gardens and showed me beautiful flowers, like these alliums.

johnny bladez takes me to a party!

the first thing i admired about johnny bladez is his tattoo.  last night, i learned that the second thing i admire is how much he endures. 

johnny used to work at the coffeeshop but a couple of years ago he left the job and we lost touch in the way that you do sometimes with facebook friends.  a few “you gotta look at this video” posts don’t communicate the big stuff.

like that he got shot.  and nearly killed in an alley outside his friend’s house.  the gun was aimed first at his head–the shooter was young and the gun misfired, hitting johnny in the knee.  johnny managed to run halfway down the block before falling and that’s when he took two more hits.  the shooter is doing twelve years in the big house.  johnny was told he would never walk again.  but johnny endures.

he seems much older than his twenty two years.  we played a game of pool, laughed about stuff and he told me the story of how he ended up with the tattoo while his mother, a reservist, was stationed in iraq.

after the game–i scratched the white ball while trying a trick shot on the eight–we walked over to f2fb friend #154 louise berner-holmberg’s house for a party to introduce people to her free health care clinic.  i like when this project brings people together.  after the party, louise (a.k.a. woo), johnny and i walked over to a second party.  it was a good night for johnny because he works two jobs–one at a park district, the other at a restaurant–and he was kicking back!

our hostess greeted us warmly and then i noticed that two times the flash on her camera (held at hip level) went off.  i thought there was some sort of malfunction.  but i was later told that this is a security measure.  if something later were reported stolen or missing, the hostess would have a visual record of everyone who had entered the home. 

woo is going for the "french waiter carrying key lime pie in complete seriousness" but johnny can't quite hide his smile!

 johnny bladez (f2fb #160) walked woo and i home.  i want so much for him to succeed in life and i think he’s endured quite enough trouble so far. 


facebook is sometimes a little incestuous and so is this post

yesterday, i went to a concert performed by f2fb #158 david yonan, who is a protege of elizabeth stein.  it was wonderful, he’s really talented, and i learned a lot afterwards about violins, their construction, and music.  i hadn’t realized that sometime during the concert the two hundred thousand dollar violin david borrowed for the concert occasionally had gone out of key. i just thought it was modern classical stuff.  you know, like mahler goes wild.

then i went out with f2fb friend #159 richard gordon.  he’s the sort that if the impossibly handsome and debonair louis jourdan was not available, mr. gordon could step in. 

louis jourdan or richard gordon, you pick!

how do i know richard?  well, he’s the ex-husband of elizabeth stein.  david yonan’s mentor.  i was supposed to have lunch with elizabeth (AND get a violin lesson because she’s a stradivarius dealer) but she cancelled.  how do i know elizabeth?  uh, actually, she went out with my ex-husband stephen.  may still be going out with him.  and i’m sure i don’t know the half of it.  and really, it’s none of my business.  except to say that she has three men i know who are in love with her:  my ex, david, and richard.

i met richard at the union league club in chicago.  i was very late because most of the traffic lights on the way were down because of a storm.  but he was forgiving. 

richard was once a member of the university club too.  but the courtship of stephen and elizabeth largely took place in the university club and i think richard feels the desire to put some distance to that.

chicago has a lot of private clubs.  like every other big town.  but after one drink at the union league club (sorry, no pics or film, they would have tackled me), he proposed a different sort of club. 

a smoke-easy.

during prohibition there were speakeasies in which one could purchase illicit alcohol.  this club allowed for illicit smoking. 

i can't hold a beer and blow smoke rings at the same time

the joint was managed by a dude in a tom ford suit, white polyester shirt, and velvet ralph lauren evening slippers.  he picked out a smooth, sweet davidoff cigar for me.   no socks.  of course.  i chatted with a young man who is taking divinity classes at yale and wants to be a priest but has a predilection for smoking and johnny walker black.  i asked him about women but he says he doesn’t like women of his generation because they don’t concentrate on the important things in life.  i don’t either, so i would suggest to him the carthusian monasteries.  they at least have great food and wine.  and no women.  i then asked him about the vow of poverty.  not into it.  and not every priest is.

richard, a.k.a. louis jourdan, was a witty bon vivant.  i really had to tear myself away–but he folded me into a cab and told me i was welcome to see him anytime.  i appreciate that.  this morning, i have as a souvenir of our time together a box of matches advertising the Iwan Ries Lounge and a hacker’s cough. 

the place has been around for five generations but i understand the recent heir does not want to continue the business!

#158 david yonan and the failure rebound

the stench of failure still hung over me when i woke up in ohio yesterday morning at seven.  i couldn’t stop replaying the conversation in my head:  my friend saying “you had to have known you were going to fail.  you just aren’t going to be able to meet every facebook friend you have.” 

that’s sort of true.  i figured somebody would go to jail or flee the country or maybe take part in a space expedition.  but i wasn’t expecting my friend’s analysis of WHY i would fail. 

“not everybody is willing to see you.  in particular, i happen to know three people who are dead set against it.”

“not at all?”  i asked.

“not at all.”

“then how are they my friends?”

which was sort of what i asked myself.  in order to get back to chicago to see f2fb friend #158 david yonan’s concert at the music institute of chicago at three o’clock i would need to leave oberlin, ohio by seven.  much as i adore the partita in d-minor by j.s. bach (uh, actually i had never heard of it) and ilya levinson’s elegy–crossing the bridge (ditto), the drive was daunting.  particularly if there was no point to it. 

still, i was intrigued.  i had never actually met david.  he was JUST a facebook friend, but he had invited me to his concert.  so i dragged my ass out of bed, made for starbucks, drove one hour in a circle around oberlin because i screwed up the directions for how to get on the turnpike, and then set sail for the music institute of chicago, nichols hall in evanston.  i made it with fifteen minutes to spare.  i might have smelled pretty bad.  and, yes, that was ketchup on my dress because i can’t eat and drive more than ninety miles per hour.

afterwards, david was so nice as to invite me to lunch.  at four o’clock.  what can i say?  he’s a cosmopolitan guy. 

i told him about some of my concerns about failure, about this project.  i told him also about my f2fb friend #157 todd stiles who perserveres in his quest to become a doctor even when he–as i–gets a case of the heebie jeebies.  david took a long term approach to it all.  he told me that nothing is impossible if you break it down into little bits.  and nothing worth doing does not at first seem impossible.  

then i had to ask him–how does he make it sound like there’s fifteen violins going on all at once?

you can learn more about the day’s events and david’s participation at

there are so many ways to fail and so many ways to succeed

i hate mapquest.  i loathe it.  sure, it gets me where i’m supposed to go but its projections of how long it will take me are wildly optimistic and seem to include some wormholes in the spacetime continuum (exit 49a off  1-70 take a soft right into the previous hour and out fifty miles ahead of yourself).  i headed out of chicago at seven thirty a.m. aiming for columbus, ohio.  it was going to take me a mere five and a half hours.  it was the second time this year that i’ve been on this road to see f2fb friend #157 todd stiles.

i had recently been stung by some comments from a facebook friend who said roughly the following “i’ve talked to some of our mutual facebook friends who say your project annoys them and they will not see you this year”  i don’t see these mutual friends all that often and one of the side effects of this new years resolution to meet all my facebook friends is that i’m getting to know people i call friends a little better.  i respect boundaries.  if someone doesn’t want to make a video, sure.  if someone says i just want to get together with friends but i don’t want you to blog about it, okay (see friend #88).  if someone cancels and reschedules, sure. 

and that last had been the case with todd–

todd is in medical school and has faced many obstacles, not the least of which was everybody telling him “you look too exhausted to take the exam” on the morning i was last supposed to see him, for an exam that was critical to his success.  so he ended up cancelling the exam.  it’s set him back a bit but he is someone who just can’t quit.  he’s just stubborn enough, just ornery enough, just positive enough–i think we should all start calling him dr. todd now because it’s just a matter of time.  specifically a year, i believe, before he will graduate.

he is the first in his immediate family to graduate from college and the only one in his extended family to try medical school.  and medical school has dragged him from ohio to antigua, and from working at a pharmaceutical warehouse to get tuition money to long nights reviewing textbooks and lecture notes. 

we went to the short north neighborhood of columbus and whiled away a few hours while we caught up.  we had known each other when he was studying in chicago and then drifted apart when he moved first to champaign, then to ohio, and then to antiqua and back to ohio.  we realized we have a lot of the same issues with anxiety and self-doubt. 

todd was so sweet–when it came time for me to say goodbye, he pulled out of his backpack a printout of instructions on how to get to oberlin, ohio.  “you’ll be fine once you get on warren street,”  he said.  he overestimated.  i drove around for about a half hour before i found i-71 north and moved north into a thunderstorm.  the clouds did not lift me up and deposit me gently into oberlin but rather, slowed my progress.

todd and i in front of a mural of american gothic on north high street


so part of the reason i missed the ramp to the interstate was that i was crying–dr. todd told me that even if i run into obstacles, even if i run up against negativity, even if i run up against outright failure, just pick up, dust yourself off, and get back on the highway to success.  in my case, it requires a few illegal u-turns on columbus streets, but i’m aiming to oberlin and beyond. . . .

chris treiber introduces me to his first love

some facebook friends are just that–facebook friends.  some are people you’re close to emotionally and you keep in touch with videos and pictures and snappy movie quotations.  but some facebook friends are with you every day. . .

i see chris treiber every day.  he works in winnetka at the community house where i lift weights and run on the treadmill.  the weight room is in the lower level and i have a brief anxiety attack about going down into the basement to lift.  that has never left me and i’m not sure why.  so i only lift weights a few times a week. 

chris has to go to the weight room every day, training people–a lot of his clients are people who are recovering from injuries.  he said about this project that he wanted to introduce me to his first love.  the mystery was compelling:

i declined to try the tree.  interestingly, this house where chris grew up was built by his grandfather and chris’ mom still lives in it.

chris grew up in this house and climbed on the garage so that he could glimpse his first love

chris grew up when kids didn’t have “organized sports” — you just went out and played.  but chris now trains kids at basketball camp on the side.  he taught me to do a layup.  i’m not going to be recruited by uconn but i did okay.

think about the friends you see every day.  should you spend more time with them?  i’m about to head out to ohio to see a friend i haven’t seen in three years.  without facebook, i think that friendship would have withered and died.


i didn’t know f2fb # patrick nugent very well.  he was a suit, somebody who came to meetings with his colleague f2fb #37 steve rahn at the institute for continuing legal education.  they could also be referred to as “we teach lawyers stuff they didn’t get in law school”.  i had, with a partner todd parkhurst, started a company called perfectly legal productions.  we could have referred to ourselves as “people who want to put on plays about lawyers and maybe teach them something” .   . . . match made in heaven.  but in business, you wear a suit, you wear a poker face, you act professional.  i never knew steve rahn had lost his son in a bike accident.  i never knew patrick was a fun guy.  i just knew we did business.

and i didn’t know how very perspicacious patrick is.  he had read the blogs and had a pretty good idea of who i am.

he wanted to interview me for iicle’s television station–it’s a youtube channel IICLEtv.  did he warn me?  of course not, because he knew i’d get hives, come up with a great excuse to cancel, or i’d end up being so overwrought that i’d freeze on camera.  instead, he told me to wear comfortable shoes (totally putting me off the track) and when i walked into the iicle offices, the receptionist knew who i was and was ushering me into a conference room.  less than thirty seconds later, microphones in place, i was playing like i was a guest on THE VIEW.  no fears, not a moment for panic, didn’t even think about where my inhaler and my ativan were.

and then he had another surprise.  every person who lives in a city underutilizes the best they’ve got.  how many new yorkers go up to the observation deck of the empire state?  how many los angelenos go to the getty museum?  and me?  i’ve never been on this damn thing:

and then we went to the rooftop restaurant of the wit hotel.  twenty eight floors up.  patrick knows damn well i’m scared of heights.  it’s just one of the panoply of fears.  but since i had no warning i could only marvel:

it was early but the empty tables were reserved so alas, we didn't get to stay!

then onward to the trump tower where we were joined by mike nowak who works at iicle and hosts his own gardening show on public radio.  mike and patrick first met when they had a theater company together in chicago.  mike is still hoping to produce a play he’s written about dummy hoy, the first deaf player in major league baseball.

the trump has lots and lots of staff members who are far too cool for me–but they lowered their standards and let us sit down.

patrick has a bet with his wife that he can visit every rooftop restaurant and bar in the city this summer. i believe he is as determined as i am to complete my f2fb project!

the afternoon was so wonderful that i got a weird flutter in my chest.  not a heart attack.  not a panic attack.  but the flutter one gets as one is about to get teary eyed with gratitude.  this morning i had woke up thinking “i’m having lunch with a suit”  — but when i said goodbye to mike and patrick, i realized i was saying goodbye to friends!