Responding to Critical Feedback on Your Blog

Love this post from the daily post.

The Daily Post

In an ideal world, every post you publish on your blog would be received with immediate, authentic admiration. The comments would flood in: “So well written!” “Best thing I’ve read all year!” “Wait, is this David Sedaris’ secret blog?”

Not sure how to get feedback to begin with? Our weekly Community Pool posts are designed as a forum to seek out others’ advice, and you’ll always have a supportive cohort of bloggers to turn to in our Blogging U. courses. You might also consider giving a blogging event a try.

In the real world, the stuff we put out there is read by people with different temperaments and tastes, who might each react to the same words in a startlingly different manner. And some of them might not be 100% sure that what you wrote is great, well stated, or even factually correct — and they might tell you that

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Thank you to the New York Times! You do care.

A few months back I wrote that I was getting home delivery of the New York Times even though I did not want it. I also accused the New York Times of not hearing me.

I TAKE IT BACK. Once I sent my blog post via email in August to the publisher- the unwanted papers stopped.

Yay, I felt heard and cared about. In this age of text only conversations this is no small thing.

Thank you New York Times. A happy digital subscriber-one day I may want the actual paper again, till then, thanks for listening.



Nancy of Fancy Nancy’s Good Things

Customers (we really don’t ) Care

This is really for anyone who has wrestled with a “customer care” situation that made you want to tear your hair out.


After Mark died, there were so many activities and actions that needed my attention. It’s so odd, how difficult it is to unravel even the most organized life when that life ends, I was glad I was able to go on autopilot for while, he set me up pretty well for which I am thankful everyday. When Mark died just under two years ago I was in zombie-land

One task I took care of right away was convert our New York Times home delivery subscription to all digital. I did not want the actual papers because that involved a series of tasks above and beyond the reading of the paper.

Mark always read the paper: he picked it up from the curb and when he was done it, he tied it up and took the neatly stacked New York Times to the curb for recycling.

Even the seemingly simple things turned out to be fraught with complications due in part to the fog of loss in which I was shrouded.

For one, I could not figure out the garbage schedule. The way it is designed is confusing. Little circle to indicate one kind of pickup, highlighted squares for another and then asterisks regarding holidays and Mondays or something. I was quietly feeling quite deranged back then.

Reading anything at all was beyond me, I was just wrung out and stunned from Mark’s death, even though I knew it was coming it was like a house fell on me.

Mark liked to cut articles out from the Times and send to friends and family or leave them on the kitchen counter for me with a little drawing and note. My favorite thing was when he would read me an article and we would talk about it.

That was over now and it was time to make a change.

Thanks to the internets, it was easy to make the change to digital.

Checked off that box on the To DO list.

Or so I thought.

Some things are just out of our control though we, as humans, like to think we can control everything.

We can’t control a thing. Not the weather not the post office. We can control our attitudes and how we view what happens to us. That’s really it.

In a recent very moving gut -wrenching piece in the New York Times called “Afterlife”, the father finds himself holding onto the junk mail that comes addressed to his son who died at the young age of 21.

I could relate to the feeling, the wanting to keep the connection going even if it meant receiving unwanted junk mail.

Here is a challenge for you. If you are on a list try to get off, even If you are dead you can never end your relationship with insurance companies, AARP, catalog subscriptions, credit card offers, non-profits and political parties looking for donations, anyone you ever gave money to or whom you thought you might.

No. Not. Ever.

My favorite is the Viking River cruise offers to my mother and father in law. Most recently my mother-in-law, Dora who died two years ago at age 93, was offered a great deal on a brand new Mercedes Benz, trouble is she didn’t drive.

Then there are the: “Get this before it’s too late! It’s the deal of lifetime offers,” Um-er it’s too late guys. But this problem is part of a larger problem of digitizing and depersonalization of communications to the point that no one is listening to anyone.

It seems all our posting on Facebook and Twitter are then translated into marketing opportunities because of what we view, what we click and who we follow. Does anybody really know what time it is?

My email and phone call exchanges with The New York Times Customer Care department is a perfect example of how no one is really listening to anyone, anymore.

While customer service representatives are quite polite and eager and some actually help us immensely and I want to acknowledge them. Some are not charged with any real power they look at a computer screen and tell us how wrong we are in making our requests. Having been in marketing and gone to B-School I know one of the basic tenets of “delighting” customers is to put a good tag line and title on something and people will believe you care even if you may not or cannot.

For example at the New York Times, customer care is just a nice phrase for “not going to help you, because I am completely powerless to do so, but doing it ever so nicely and hopefully not misspelled.”

Here’s what happened to me with the New York Times and my digital subscription. I sent this information to The Haggler Column in The New York Times a few weeks ago hoping for help, but none has arrived just yet. Maybe he is on vacation right now, it is August in New York. Read: Empty city.

On May 1, 2014 I started receiving daily home delivery of the NY Times again even though I had cancelled home delivery about 18 month before, switching to digital only.

At first I thought it was a promotion because of the launch of Times Premiere and when I didn’t sign up for it the promo would end.

Then I thought the delivery person must have an extra paper and is giving one to me.

When the papers continued I then started my campaign to stop delivery of the actual physical newspaper and below the following email “dialogue” with the New York Times Customer Care department. (NYTCCD)

After much to-ing and fro-ing the NYTCC D response to me was that I cannot stop delivery of the paper because I am not Elaine Kottler, the account holder.

My guess is: there was an input error when Elaine Kottler became a subscriber and may live on the same named Road in another town, for sure she does not live on my street even thought the Customer care rep told me to go down the block and look for her. (Really?)

It has been suggested to me that I might not want to look a gift horse in the mouth i.e. a free daily paper which is the upside,  however the serious downside is I cannot stop or pause it when I go on vacation and don’t want the paper piling up on my lawn.

As a widow you tend to want less work and added activities. Especially if your guy was anything like my husband. Mark was one of those guys who did everything and it’s like losing both arms when you lose a guy like that you love and adore.

I don’t want to have to tie it up and bring it to the curb.

Of course the good news is that the New York Times is great for using to wash the windows of my car, and if I spill a quantity of water, the New York Times soaks it right up. I am sure there are a million and one uses, perhaps you have some ideas dear reader.

Since I get the paper  tend to pay more attention to what is going on in the world with it front and center every morning. Extra  bonus are the great plastic bags I use when I take Clinton on his morning walks they are a perfect size and tie up very easily.

Still I would like to have control over the account. Not being able to pause the paper when I go away for a few days really bugs me. I tried giving the paper to my neighbor every morning but he didn’t want it either and when I go away I want to avoid the paper pile up that says. “Burglars stop here, no one is home!”

This email exchange went to the Haggler again today


I made numerous calls and actually received more emails to a different address. I am sure you get the point.


I appreciate any help you may be able to give me in this.

My best regards,

Nancy Mindes (not Elaine Kottler)

My account number for MY account –





Elaine Kottler  account number YOU SENT ME  for this account is xxxxxx9





From: Customercare <>

Subject: Your New York Times Inquiry

Date: June 15, 2014 7:20:42 AM EDT


Reply-To: Customercare <>

You have your information wrong.

There is no Elaine Kottler here

There is a XXXX Road in Roslyn NY too

Your records are wrong , please fix error.

Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 11, 2014, at 3:36 PM, Customercare <> wrote:

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting

In response to your inquiry, our records show that you have the same address as a Home Delivery subscriber. The Home Delivery account has Monday-Sunday service. This account is under Elaine Kottler. The account number for this account is XXXXXX95.

You can also visit our website at to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at or call us at 1-800-591-9233 from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us.


Christina Gorman
Online Customer Care
The New York Times

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, T

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, we are unable to make any changes to the account for Elaine Kottler because you are not the account holder. If you have any other questions or concerns please contact us at the phone number below. We apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced. .

You can also visit our website at to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at or call us at 1-800-NYTIMES (1-800-698-4637) from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us and we thank you for your feedback.


William Hurt

Online Customer Care

The New York Times

> Subject: Re: Your New York Times Inquiry

Dear Kirsten Kirkland,

It’s official I asked my letter carrier if there is an Elaine Kottler (letter carrier being an employee of the US government) and she said no there is no one and never has been anyone named Elaine Kottler on Blankety Road in Rockville Centre, NY. You at the NYTimes Customer Care need to find the record for this person and get it worked out. I am assuming she is paying for the paper I have been receiving.

there it a Anytown Named Road in every town in USA. I looked in the Nassau County phone book, the actual book everyone else throws out and there was No Elaine Kottler.


Nancy Mindes

Dear Nancy Mindes,

Thank you for contacting us. In response to your inquiry, our records indicate there is a home delivery account going to the address 5 Anytown Road. The account is under a Kottler. If you have neighbors that have the same address or know someone, they have an active account. 

You can also visit our website at to receive information on your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please follow the instructions to register if you have not done so already.

If there is anything else we can do to help you, please e-mail us at or call us at 1-800-NYTIMES (1-800-698-4637) from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (ET).

Your satisfaction is very important to us and we thank you for your feedback.


Kirsten Kirkland
Online Customer Care
The New York Times

> Date Sent: 06/11/2014 14:51

> To:

> Cc:

> Subject: RE: Please tell the driver to stop!


Dear Customer Care,

I have called about this 4 times and sent an email to no avail.

This is now my eleventh try.

I am receiving the NYTimes daily and on weekends seemingly in an effort to get me to request home delivery again and I have asked your customer care representatives repeatedly that the driver STOP delivering to my address PLEASE.

Am a paid digital subscriber and very happy with that and do not want the paper on a daily basis-even for free.

Am not sure how to get the point across except to perhaps stand on the lawn at 5 a.m. and wait for the driver to come and then tell her to stop! Or perhaps put up a giant SIGN?


Please make sure I am not being charged for this unwanted service for the past month and please stop delivering the NY Times to my home.


Maybe if we would just look up from our computer screens, our smartphones and tablets for a moment and pay attention to what is being said, caring about what matters to the person in front of us, we would keep connections going and help each other when it matters. Meanwhile I am all set for the weekend. Thank you Elaine Kottler where ever you are.

After Loss Don’t Skip Steps


Judi, a psychic I have known for about 30 years, recently told me my Life Purpose was to share my experiences as a wife who became a widow.

At first this felt heavy. I thought, “In some cultures I would be relegated to wearing black clothes in perpetuity,” however being a native New Yorker the majority of my wardrobe is black so no big deal there. It’s the other part, the being the Widow, with a capital “W” that means being in mourning forever.

This being a widow thing is very tricky. It’s been less than two years and I still miss Mark, and I have had to work on myself, my broken heart everyday to get through this. I make a daily choice to be open, grateful and loving especially when I want to feel sorry for myself.

I lived half of my life with Mark. He will always be in my heart. Most times I want him to walk through the door. Often I feel like he is guiding me, some days more than others, I know his energy is there, it’s like a whisper like in the Kundalini yoga chant, SA TA NA MA.

In life Mark was subtle about things.  He did not make big noises he disliked showing off. Mark did things well and quietly on this side so he would not be loud and noisy on the other side.

Oddly, when I gave up the constant longing to have him come back, I could sense him much more. He would come to me in my dreams which until he died, I never remembered. Giving up the longing the wishing, the begging and bargaining to get him back took a lot of work on my part. The truth is I am unable to let go of Mark. He’s my guy, always and forever even though he told me to find another one. Perhaps one day I will but I have realized I cannot skip steps. I must find me all over again first. Who am I now without Mark? He was very specific. He said, “Be happy” The question for me now is what does that mean?

To say I am an expert at this would be untrue but if what I write here helps you that is a good thing. Mark died less than two years ago and it took me a while to scrape myself up off the floor. I have to keep going but the big question is how?

When Mark first died, I wanted to do the same because I wanted to be with him. But that passed. When I went to a bereavement group I discovered that the way I felt, others felt the same way. Being understood does help. It is important to take the time to grieve and go through the mourning. There are no shortcuts and it is okay to be sad for as long as you need to. It’s when it turns to complete depression and you become unable to function, that is a danger sign. Pay attention to how you are

A daily cry is cleansing. Yes, I do have a daily cry. Right after Mark died I couldn’t cry. I felt as if I was a block of frozen peas. I felt nothing except stunned.

People commented on how “calm” and “collected” I was. While I am not one for public displays of tears,  I couldn’t have cried if I wanted to, I was frozen solid.

In my bereavement group we looked at what are commonly known as “grief triggers” and to find ways to avoid them. For some people this may work but I think it is just kicking the can down the road.

My point of view is different. I come down on the side of running right at the grief. That by facing the intense sorrow I can go on for another moment, and then another and another. This is not an easy thing to do. What I discovered was the deeper I stepped into the places that hurt, my heart heals just a teeny  bit. I sought the tears. I sought the hurt and pain of missing Mark. I remember how lucky having been married to Mark. How blessed to be  in  a family that cares about me. How fortunate to have many loving friends. And to have my beautiful dog Clinton by my side, he makes me go out and take long walks.

Some people never get any of that. Still I wanted him back.

Another thing I learned in bereavement group was about his “stuff” Some of the women in the group said, “Get rid of his clothes right away they will remind you of him.”

I am pretty sure they were sorry later. My way of looking at his belongings was “please remind me of him,” and  I spent many hours sitting on the floor of his closet in tears.

While this may sound a bit dramatic, I felt a connection to him and to the memories that went along with each article of clothing. The grey chalk stripe suit from Barney’s reminded me of the day we went to Barney’s big warehouse sale. I could see his handsome face, his shiny black hair and how good he looked in that suit. On the shelf above my head, his perfectly polished black Frye dress boots, his well worn jeans with the ripped knee, the nearly threadbare Maverick denim jacket he used as a pillow on the cross-country trip he took in his tan Volkswagen square-back, his freshly washed hoodies that he wore to warm up after roller skating.

How could I let them go?

One day after a year had passed I donated some of his best suits, blazers, dress pants and shirts to a charity that helps men get interview ready. Mark’s suits were like new because he was very particular, bordering on fussy, about his clothes. Mark’s impeccably good-looking suits would help someone to possibly get the job they wanted and in some way Mark’s generosity and kindness would live on.

One item Mark’s soft, green terry cloth bathrobe that I bought him for his birthday so many years ago is a cherished possession. I wear it as my own, softened to just the right degree of cozy comfort, his spicy vanilla scent still lingers ever so slightly so that I can catch a gentle whiff of him.

When I was in the frozen food state, I thought, “Something has to be done about this, it just cannot be healthy to live this way” I was concerned I would get sick if I didn’t start to release the pain in some way. This widow thing was not easy.

I began watching movies. I couldn’t sleep anyway, I didn’t want to. Sleeping was too sad, without Mark.  I settled into my cozy couch with my soft, fleecy, blanket armed with a box of tissues and a glass of chardonnay. My best buddy Clinton my big sweet gentle, handsome,  brown rescue dog was at my feet. I flicked on the television. I started my search for just the right film to begin the big defrost. My gut told me that if I could start to cry, I would eventually be okay. Here are just a few that were good for a cry.

It started with “The Notebook” with Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, James Garner and Gena Rowlands. One night I turned to STARZ romance and I hit pay dirt: the ultimate tear-jerker, chick flick, heart-breaking love story. I could not believe my good fortune. Corny,yes. Trite, for sure but it helped. From there, I began my daily, nightly search for movies to help me mourn, to be as miserable and tearful as possible. The movies made me face what my life as it is now, sad, tearful feeling a little lost. They were also transporting.

Next up was “Hope Springs” with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Mark and I had our struggles in our marriage and like the couple in the movie we overcame them.    When Tommy Lee Jones plays Al Green’s version of “Let’s Stay Together”, I fall to pieces, crying loudly.

Loved it! I downloaded the song from  iTunes so I could access that sadness again and let it rip when I need to. Music is on the grief trigger hit list so I made it my business to create a playlist that would get me started. I just had to make sure I wasn’t driving or I would have to pull over. Now, when I hear a song that helps me to get access to my grief I add it to my playlist. Movies and music: a perfect combination for getting through the sorrow and finding a way to little moments of happiness again.

“Love Actually” starring Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy Liam Neeson that has many moments in it for a good cry, especially the closing scene over-dubbed with the Beach Boys, “God Only Knows What I’d be Without You” The song went on my playlist.

Here’s what I have learned. Don’t skip steps. Get help with the grief and the mourning. If you think you can do it alone, you cannot. Find help, that really helps you.  I practice yoga, I meditate and often cry my way through to feeling okay again. When I meditate I can connect with Mark and let him know I am okay. And I am in a community of people I care about who knew Mark and know me.

I went to two rounds of a bereavement group, worked with a bereavement counselor on the phone and met with the same therapist that Mark and I went to when we hit some rough patches along the way. Seeing our shrink from years ago has been a real gift for me mostly because she knew him and I could talk about him once a week for 50 minutes non-stop if I needed to, how else was I going to move through this?

Mark was relatively young, handsome, vibrant, never sick and then diagnosed with a nasty cancer and now dead.

No amount of anything is preparation for that. But the sun will come out tomorrow. I might as well be ready for it.

Love and light to you. Nancy



Look for the quiet

Look for the quiet


It seems as if everyday I start out by saying, “I am going to write a blog post today. One blog post would be good. Five would be excellent. “ But I have shut myself up for some reason.   Time has come today  to let it go and get writing again. I think all that singing “Let it go, let it go!” May have helped. I now think I am Elsa with a new hot dress because, “the cold doesn’t bother me anyway.”


Once I get going I am a pretty fast writer, sometimes amusing or touching or something even complain-y.


It’s the getting started. I put a variety of mental and physical obstacles in my way and then on top of that I have so many distractions and reasons for not sitting my butt down onto my Balance Ball

Then by the time I  decided get to it I am too drained to do anything but play around with Facebook or post tweets from other blogs, and the New York Times online, that I then call “doing something” when I know it only sort-of is doing something.


Today is perfect. Sunday July 6, for a change, there are no leaf blowers-no lawnmowers-the endless noises that drive me back indoors –just yet.


Today I can sit on my screen porch with Clinton and write this. Is this the day I un-stick myself from whatever it was that was stopping me? I sure hope so because my blog could use a refresh and my memoir is gathering virtual dust waiting for me to get moving again.

And there is this: I am going to something called Wordcamp in August in Brooklyn and I would love to add some new posts to my personal blog so that I have something to talk about when I find someone to talk to about whatever it is I am going to learn.  After re-reading mine I couldn’t help but notice that the writing classes I have taken have helped some.  But in writing (as in life) practice make perfect practice and it’s time to up my game.  I was accepted to a Writing Yoga retreat when I submitted work I completed in my Advanced Memoir class. Only trouble is I haven’t gone near it in a while.

The memoir is about Mark and me and everytime I go to write something I end up like the Diane Keaton character in “Somethings Gotta Give” when she wrote her smash hit play – crying all over her laptop. Difference is her guy was still alive, mine is dead-she gets another chance. Mine with him are only in my dreams. But the thing is I gotta do it. Something’s gotta give for me too. I can only find the quiet in my life when I write down how it was with Mark and me. We had many adventures and sometimes life was like riding the Cyclone in Coney Island. But I would do it all again if I could. The only way I can is to write it all down.

So here I am on my porch. On a day when it is quiet. Warming myself back up to writing again.  My brother told me recently the only way you are a writer is if you write something without caring if someone reads it. At the time I couldn’t decide if that was helpful or not but it sure got me moving.

One thing we need more of in our busy, noisy message-ladednworld is bit of quiet space and places for reflection.

I am most grateful that is happening on my screen porch today.

This is my warm –up.


Enjoy your day. Love. N














The Big Egg Hunt NYC


#TheBigEggHuntNY, Faberge Eggs painted by over 200 artists and hidden around NYC, Spring 2014, public art #TheBigEggHuntNY, Faberge Eggs painted by over 200 artists and hidden around NYC, Spring 2014, public art #TheBigEggHuntNY, Faberge Eggs painted by over 200 artists and hidden around NYC, Spring 2014, public art #TheBigEggHuntNY, Faberge Eggs painted by over 200 artists and hidden around NYC, Spring 2014, public art Reminiscent of the summer of 2000 when The Cow Parade hit the streets of NYC—we were huge fans, having set out on the mission to find all the cows and photograph ourselves with our favorites, pre-social media era, just for our own pleasure…imagine that!— this April the city has kicked off The Big Egg Hunt NY with close to 300 eggs “hidden” around town that Fabergé commissioned artists, designers, and architects to paint, or create their own, all in the name of charity. The participants are an impressive bunch, from artists such as Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel , to architects Zaha Hadid and Morphosis , to graphic designer Debbie Millman , fashion designers including Cynthia Rowley and Diane Von Furstenberg, and, of course, street artists: Dain , Cost , Faus t and plenty more. Unlike the cows at the beginning of the century, the eggs can be tracked via

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People are funny.


Was so excited when I turned the page on my wall calendar to March and saw that daylight savings time begins on Sunday March 9th.

For those of us in the east for whom it has been a long, cold lonely winter I thought, “good news daylight savings time is coming!”
Days will be longer, brighter, more people outside and less gray days.

I thought when I mentioned this on one of my daily walks with Clinton that others would be happy to hear this news.
After hearing so much complaining about the dreary days we have had I was excited to share the good news. Longer days ahead. Time to celebrate we made it through.
To my surprise first words for several were I met were these ,”oh that means we lose an hour of sleep ugh.”

Hey, I thought look at the trade. One lost hour of sleep, one season of brighter days ahead. Funny, my yogi friends all got it even those with small children who are already sleep deprived, they saw the gift of the coming season of light.

Thank goodness.0

Here comes the SUN.

Lady Mary Crawley and me


I never thought I would see the day when I have something in common with a member of the British aristocracy. The PBS hit series, Downton Abbey season 3 finale changed all that for me.  SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVE NEVER WATCHED STOP HERE.

Last season when Lady Mary Crawley’s  (Michelle Dockery) beloved (handsome, charming) husband Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens)  was killed in a car crash just when things were going so well- -I, along with millions of other viewers was knocked off my comfy sofa and spilled my biscuits and tea.

At the close of season 3 I had recently been cast in a new role in my life: Widow.  I was rooting for Lady Mary and Matthew to live happily ever after so that I could live vicariously through them and cry my eyes out at what I missed and then “boom” Lady Mary becomes a widow too.

I burst into tears and wailed,  “Oh no, not Matthew and “oh no, I miss Mark”. Matthew is a fictional character, I cried for him like I do over Mark.   

It took Matthew and Lady Mary six years of running the obstacle course of life to get married. The newlywed Crawley’s had one year of wedded bliss and the happy birth of her infant son George.  Matthew will never see his son grow up to be a man. A careless automobile accident took his life, (along with Dan Stevens desire to go work in film and on other projects)

Mark and I were married for 26 years and it took us under 3 years to get married. Like the Crawley’s who lived under the same roof at Downtown-before they were married, we lived together in a floor-through apartment in Park Slope before we got married.

Lady Mary and Matthew had a big wedding ceremony and party at Downton-Mark and I got married in a castle- like synagogue in Park Slope built around the same time that Downtown is set in. We had an intimate family dinner on Prospect Park West then we rushed off. to Shea Stadium to the 1986 World Series to catch the end of the 7th game when the Mets beat the Boston Red Sox sharing a box with Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley and the Mets’ wives.

Both Lady Mary and I wore off white instead of pure white.  I had been married before and Lady Mary did have that Turkish incident that despoiled her purity so to speak.

In the two-hour 4th season premiere of Downtown Abbey- Lady Mary is a young widow who has lost her true love or as Lord Grantham says, “When there is a great love and great loss it takes a great effort to recover. “

“I hear you your Lordship,” I said aloud. Tissue-box in hand. The episode had just started and I was already crying.  Lady Mary is in the Widows club – the one no one wants to be in.

Now, Lady Mary and I are like sisters we are in the same “hood” know as “the widow-hood”.  I really feel her pain. Though she is a fictional character, in an English soap opera, younger than me,  residing in the early part of the 20th century in a country estate; I know I could sit down with Lady Mary at tea-time and we would be kindred spirits.

Widows “get” other widows. We know that time only ‘sort of’ heals the loss of a husband or wife. And grief is tricky there really isn’t a right way or time limit on how long you may be sad and miss the one you love. 

When season 4 opens for Lady Mary, only 6 months time has passed since Matthew was so abruptly ripped from her life just as they are (finally!) getting started, she is grief-stricken and mostly non-functional.

At 6 months the reality of loss hit me hard: Mark is not coming back, not walking through the door again. Absurd that I thought he might. There were moments I expected him to walk into the room like when the President was re-elected. I even jumped up and called out to him. But he didn’t show up.  I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at myself or cry right then so I did both.

In our modern American culture 6 months is just the time some people drop away from your life. Even though you might be barely ready to crawl, someone has to take care of the day to day running of the household.

(Luckily, my hubby set me up so I had a clue what was going on.  And, I have an amazing family and dear friends. )

Even so, this is where it is Advantage: Lady Mary.

In Lady Mary’s world her family lives at Downton Abbey and others are there with great regularity.  Even her desperately bereaved mother-in-law and fellow widow,  Isobel Crawley, ( Penelope Wilton) is nearby and is ever so slowly starting to join the family again even in her sorrow and her disapproval of Lady Mary’s moving forward.

In Lady Mary’s world, there is a large and organized household staff to take care of the details of her life.  Lady Mary does not find herself plodding through reams of paperwork, having to do the laundry, remember to feed herself something healthy and try to get some sleep at a time of great confusion and even misery.

Thankfully there is, I have hired a “rabbit” or two to come and help me with organizing tasks too difficult for me to handle alone.

Lady Mary is sad and in shock. She had a life ahead of her with beloved. It is all she can do to sip tea from her breakfast tray and let her ladies maid Anna (Joanna Froggatt) dress her, “Only the black please,” and fix her hair.

How many times have I said to myself, “I would love to have a ladies maid right about now, she could help me pick out the best Spanx for my outfit, zip up my dress and help me with the clasp on a necklace.”  Mark used to help me with the latter two.

And how about Mrs. Patmore, (Lesley Nichol) and her kitchen staff. I do not love cooking and doing the dishes without Mark.   Mark was one of those rare men who liked to cook with me then do the dishes and even clean the floors with the Swiffer wet jet. I was spoiled. 

A friend once said, “Mark does all that? That’s better than foreplay!”

The great debate swirling around Lady Mary is whether it is time to get on with it.

Sir Paul McCartney described the English way of dealing with death after John Lennon was murdered, “Buck up man, stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on.”

Easy to say;  very hard to do.  When you lose someone you love a spouse, a partner, the love of your life how do you “carry on” when all your hopes and dreams have died?

Lady Mary has a beautiful son. She is lucky that she has him- a gift from her beloved Matthew that she can raise him if she chooses, to have his kindness and values.  And yet she feels so sorry for herself that she calls him “poor little orphan” when in fact he has a large  loving family, a fortune he is heir to and a mother who is not quite ready to step forward and love him.  Lucky for her, she has a full-time nanny, except as it turns out she is a mean, nasty woman who ultimately gets the boot. A replacement will be found I am sure of this.

I just hope Lady Mary doesn’t make the mistake of getting involved too early on in a relationship she is not ready for. Widows have a hard time making well thought out clear decisions, quite often unsuitable suitors do come along who may not have your best interests at heart. And it seems they will be lining up.
Lady Mary is rich, young, beautiful and vulnerable and there are men out there who want to gain her affections to get their hands on her fortune.

Here’ s where I have the edge:  in Lady Mary’s world there are no bereavement groups, grief counselors or therapists, no yoga classes or meditation groups to help her find her way, express her grief and just be able to live into the sorrow.  Just by doing all those things I can get dressed, put on my lipstick and go outside and find the joy in life.

For Lady Mary her biggest ally and supporter is her grandmother, the Countess Dowager Violet (Dame Maggie Smith) and it could be her widower brother in law Tom (Allan Leech) if he would give up the idea that he doesn’t belong and count his lucky stars he got to move upstairs and join the family.

I am rooting for Lady Mary to find her way, though I am pretty sure there is going to be a lot of drama along the way.  There are more stories upstairs and down and you need a score-card to keep track of who is whom.

So stay tuned and I will keep my tissue box handy.

For a complete episode recap of Downton Abbey’s season premiere check out what my friend Diane Clehane has to say at



Love on four legs

English: George Clooney at the 2009 Venice Fil...
English: George Clooney at the 2009 Venice Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On our daily morning walks Clinton and I often meet people who “gush” over my beautiful boy. One day it was like this: the baby with his strawberry blonde curls and saucer blue eyes sees us as we approach his house. Mom is unloading the SUV they just drove up and yet takes a moment when she sees how her baby wiggles and giggles with delight at the sight of Clinton.
Clinton my auburn-haired sleek golden eyed chocolate lab-pointer hybrid rescue dog is not just the “George Clooney” of dogs in looks, he is sweet, gentle and loves people.

The baby now held in his mother’s arms is reaching reaching his tiny white hands for Clinton- his face leaning spilling over his mothers’ arms. My gentle boy turns him self so that the baby can stroke his velvet ears.

The baby squeals with delight. Clinton lies down and mom lets the baby stroke Clinton’s soft fur for a few moments.

Clinton is ready to press on with his walk and mom and baby have a busy day ahead.

As we start to leave, the baby, disappointed, starts to cry and we promise to come back another day.

That is is the gift of my beautiful Clinton we meet people everywhere we go. He is handsome and well mannered and when loneliness comes creeping in – when I am missing Mark- Clinton comes to me and with a poke of his wet brown nose, a paw that says “lets go”- we have another adventure making new friends.


Dance as if no one is watching you.

There is something about dance. There is a natural pull by us humans to want to move, to shake and shimmy our bodies.  Perhaps it is because in moving to music we connect to spirit or to that time we floated freely in our mother’s womb tethered to her yet free to move, grow and kick without censoring or feeling self-conscious. Whatever it is there is something so freeing about getting up and shaking your booty as often as possible .

Dance led me to Mark. He could Hustle, Slop and Lindy Hop and was a great freestyle dancer and in me he found a partner on the floor and on skates. At Ballroom and partner dancing we excelled. We even took lessons but that is a story for another day.

There was a part of me that dreamed of another kind of dancing and that was performance dance. As a child I studied Modern Dance with a student of the great Jose Limon which I excelled at,  but had a failed year long attempt at ballet at the Andre Eglevesky School of Dance. It was humiliating being demoted to the younger class because I was so awkward. I was built strong and slender and looked as if I might be a dancer but had flexibility problems even as a child. In retrospect,  I think I wanted to take ballet so I could get a tutu in a bright color with sequins on it.

When I would go to the Ballet or to a Broadway musical or the Joyce Theater I would often be moved to tears by what I was witnessing and wished that it was me up there that I had the talent, the gift to dance like they did.

When I turned 50 I wanted to dance again. Dissatisfied with the offerings at the gym I enrolled in classes at Silva Dance one very long treacherous flight up in an old building just next to the Long Island Railroad Station in Rockville Centre.

Mark was all for this latest adventure because any kind of movement  was a way for me to relieve stress and help address my constant flexibility issues and it also kept me in good shape for skating with him.

I started with an Adult Ballet class, an adult Hip-Hop class and a Modern Dance class.  What I was doing in Ballet again I thought? I wasn’t any better at 50.

I was awkward and stiff. I dropped the Ballet class and chose another.


Theater Jazz with a tall stunning, curly-haired redhead by the name of Piper Arpan. Piper was destined for much bigger things than teaching at this little studio and she taught us each of the audition dances she had to perform for the parts on Broadway that she was going after. ( and one day actually got)

What a challenge she gave us.  I was probably the least proficient in the class at anything we did.

But being in Piper’s class it somehow didn’t matter. She never judged, she helped.  She taught, she patiently broke it down so that even I could eventually get some piece of the very difficult moves we did to numbers like “Billy Joel’s Big shot from Movin Out”, and “All that Jazz from Chicago” along with some moves she had to do when she auditioned for the Radio City Rockettes.

As a Theater Jazz dancer, I was a level just above pretty stinky and I was okay with that, except that I did have acting ability and Piper taught us that dancing is not just about the moves it’s about the heart and soul you put into it and part of that is acting.

My first recital (yes I did more than one) comes at holiday time, Piper choreographed our number, “Please come home for Christmas.”

I wrote down every single move, every single count, bought the CD, transferred the song to tape so I could stop and start it and at home played the song over and over and over again while I practiced my moves, trying to get the count, get it out of my head and into my body.

Mark heard that number by Bon Jovi a thousand and one times as I danced around the living room.  He even walked around singing it as I kept practicing and playing the song, stopping and restarting. We laughed about it– a lot. And I am pretty sure he was hoping this would all be over soon so that we could listen to a different song.

It’s important to note that the Theater Jazz class was considered an elite class (what was I doing there?) and our numbers were much anticipated. I practiced and practiced. I just didn’t want to mess it all up and let everyone down. We were 3 adults and the rest of the class was teenagers.

Meanwhile Mark was both encouraging and amused by it all. His wife at age 50 is in just a few short weeks will be in a dance a recital

It was surreal. But he went with it.

The night of the holiday show arrives and Mark comes to watch his 50 year old wife dance her first recital since she was 8 years old. Mark even brings his best friend Steve to witness what I hope is not a complete disaster.  There we sat all dressed in our holiday costumes. We were wearing (thankfully) black jazz pants, black tops, jazz shoes and Santa hats.

Slimming and forgiving.

Before the show begins Piper gives us  a pep-talk, which as it turns out is excellent advice not just for a dance recital but for life and worth remembering.

“Don’t worry if you mess up, no one but you knows what your are supposed to be doing, just keep going, don’t crash, stay in character and smile. Do your best to end together.”

It was over in a flash and I think I did okay. I went left when everyone went right one time,  but I heard what Piper said and at the end when everyone clapped I caught Mark and Steve out the corner of my eye, “Two thumbs up” and a big smile flashed across Mark’s face.

When we left Mark (who was never one to hand out fake compliments) said, “You were pretty good. All that practice paid off and your enthusiasm showed,  it looked like you were having a great time.”

I was honey, Thanks. I really was.

Who could ask for anything more?