A Chicago author writes about her journey as caregiver and widow

Soloway pages x image

Elaine Soloway's latest book, Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss is a charmingly honest, witty collection of essays depicting her journey as caregiver, and ultimately widow, to husband Tommy, who was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease in early 2009. Soloway's compassion and positive outlook inspire readers to see that every big change is just the beginning of a new adventure.

Soloway, who lives in Chicago, has also written the memoir The Division Street Princess, the novel She's Not The Type, and is a contributor to the anthology, Ask Me About My Divorce. For 30 years, she has worked as a public relations consultant and also writes the blogs "The Rookie Widow," "The Rookie Caregiver," and "Too Old To Talk Tech." In addition to developing her own essays, she is a writing coach and a tech tutor. 

Soloway opened up to JUF News about her motivations for writing her book and blog series and about what's next for her.

JUF News: What made you decide to start blogging about your experiences as a caregiver and widow?

Elaine Soloway: I did it as therapy for myself. At first I was just writing updates to family and friends, and then I decided to try a blog. Once I was convinced that it was not only going to be helpful for myself, but that it was also going to be helpful for other people... After [Tommy] passed away, I realized it was a way of keeping him alive. The book itself is dedicated to him, and it captured his life. 

Was there a target audience for this book? 

Even though the target audience is people my age, who are a caregivers or widows-and there are a lot of people like that-I'm hoping it appeals to anyone who leads a single life, to show that you can fashion a life the way you want to. Part of my audience is [a Jewish audience] and there are many chapters where I allude to my Jewish background, but you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this book.

What do you want your readers to take away from this book and from your experiences?

We have little control over what happens to us in life. Here I am in the middle of a happy marriage, and my husband gets diagnosed with a terrible disease that's only going to get worse. I had no control over it, but I did have control over how I handled it. I never resented it or blamed Tommy. There are many things in life we can't control, but we can control our attitude. We have to learn to understand and trust ourselves. Be true to yourself and accept advice that is useful, but if it doesn't feel right to you, have the courage to follow your own advice. If you make mistakes you can fix it.

What do you think makes your perspective on being a caregiver and widow unique?

I was very compassionate and very calm. Everyone has their own way of caregiving, but I found once Tommy was diagnosed, once we knew what he had, and I realized that he couldn't help anything he was saying or doing, I became very compassionate. Once I became compassionate, it got better. I tend to be a pretty patient person, but writing about it is what saved me-getting my frustrations out on paper and not on him.

How has your perspective on life and widowhood changed as a result of writing this book?

[Moving to California] is a possibility. Both my daughters live in Los Angeles and I'm very close with them. By writing a book, I have a new respect for myself and what I can accomplish, so moving no longer seems like a big deal... Why not try a new adventure? There will definitely be a new book in it!  

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