Keeping it Real is Going to Bed


I have been writing this blog for longer than I ever thought I would. It was started out of a need for some escape from the stresses of life. It was fun to suspend my own reality, watch reality TV, and write about it. Many opportunities came my way because of this blog, and I will always look back at this work with pride. I was honest, funny, harsh, opinionated, and fair.

I met a lot of interesting people along the way. By interesting, of course I mean mentally unstable. Reality television is a crazy world and after having a front row seat for many years, I am writing to share that after much consideration, and with the blessing of my new editor, this will be my last Keeping it Real blog. I am putting this baby to bed and walking away from the madness.

Watching hours of reality TV a week is exhausting. Having to then write about it, can occasionally be soul crushing. I have been praised and attacked endlessly. I have been invited to fabulous parties, and received death threats. I have made lifelong friendships with reality stars, and alienated others. I have attended weddings and interventions. It has been a fascinating ride.

I have been wanting to end this blog for months. I felt the last season of Real Housewives of New York City was perfect reality TV. I loved every second and wish I had ended this blog with that season. I kept going however and started blogging New Jersey and Atlanta. Oy vey. A few weeks in and I’m sucked back into the hole. I tried to blog both shows this week, but simply couldn’t do it.

For the trolls who will spin this in their own ridiculous way, good luck with that. It is mind boggling how many people hide behind their computers and spread hate. I use my real picture, and real name, and stand by my words. I’ve made mistakes along the way, apologized when needed, and moved on. I have never been as invested as some would like to think I am, because it is just TV.

Yesterday I met with my editor to let him know I decided it was time to end this blog. He was supportive, and actually quite happy because reality TV is strange and often doesn’t quite fit in with the Journal. I also spoke to my son who gave me permission to walk away from something so successful if it meant it would bring peace into my life. It has been a big decision and I have not taken it lightly.

I am a writer. A talented and successful writer. My Keeping the Faith blog is a piece of my heart and a love letter to my son. I will continue to write that blog with a new sense of joy and purpose. I will contribute more to The Jewish Journal, and I will watch reality television because I want to, not because I have to. It is a big decision, but I am walking away with absolutely no regrets.

It was fun, until it wasn’t, and so a new chapter begins. To the millions of people who came to The Jewish Journal to read Keeping it Real, I thank you. Thank you for not only reading, but for inviting me into your homes and engaging in a dialogue. I appreciate you. To the haters, you’ll find someone else to pester from the shadows, so I hope for their sake you remember to take your meds.

To my liver, you are a champion and I thank you for the sacrifices you made to this blog. As you all know,  I love a cocktail and my enjoyment of shots grew with the popularity of this blog. That is how Jose Cuervo actually became my boyfriend. Occasionally we would invite in a certain Grey Goose and have a threesome, which was magical. My liver is exhausted and looking forward to the break.

This is the first Friday in a long time I am going into Shabbat with actual peace and quiet. I’ve been on this rollercoaster for 9 years and I’m tired. I will still watch these shows on occasion, because let’s face it they are as addictive as crack. I won’t however engage in drama or read blogs. I may tweet as I watch to stay connected with you, so on behalf of me, Jose, and my liver, thank you for keeping it real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship Goals


I am blessed to have wonderful friendships. People I care about in profound ways, who have become family. Some I’ve known for decades, and others for a short time, but they are all people I love, admire, respect, value, and depend on. They are an eclectic group and truly matter to me. They know who they are, and what they mean to me. This blog is about one woman in particular, who will be beside me for the rest of my life. I am blessed by my friendship with Gamble Breaux.

I met Gamble online about three years ago. She read my blog and sent me an email. We started corresponding, and a friendship began. In the beginning I was dealing with cancer, and Gamble was going through some stress at work. For some reason we found each other and without having met in person, became a support system to each other. I was sad, and sick, and Gamble saved me. With no hesitation, reservation, or exaggeration, I can tell you she swept into my life and saved me.

We had been writing for a few months when Gamble got engaged and was planning her wedding. I had been through surgery, was feeling nervous, and had lost my way a little bit, but Gamble would not let me feel sorry for myself and insisted I come to her wedding. It was a big decision not only because I was dealing with medical stuff, but because I live in Los Angeles and Gamble lives in Melbourne, Australia. It was a long way to travel and I wasn’t sure I could make the trip, but Gamble was.

She kicked me in the ass and would not allow me to miss it, so in an attempt to be brave, I agreed to go. I was going to fly to the other side of the world, to the wedding of a woman I had never met before. I got the blessing of my son and my oncologist, and I was going. I have never done something so spontaneous, but I felt inspired and supported by Gamble, so it was happening. From the moment I met Gamble in person and we embraced, it made sense. We were bashert.

I don’t know how it happened, but our connection was instant and our friendship goes deep. We spent five days together celebrating her wedding, then I went back to Australia to celebrate her son’s 21st birthday. When I was nominated for Blog of the Year by the LA Press Club, she came to LA to be my date to the awards ceremony. Then when my son was moving out, she came back to LA to hold my hand and wipe my tears. She is one of my best friends and I love her.

She eases my sorrow. She makes me feel better. She makes me laugh. She gives me clarity. She believes in me. She nurtures our friendship. She is like a sister to me. There is no time of day that I could not call her and she would not pick up the phone. She is my knight in shining armor and my hero. She is the kind of friend everyone deserves to a have. Thank you for always making things better Gamble. I love you very much. You are the kind of blessing that comes from keeping the faith.

 

 

I Love You Rob Eshman


It was announced today that Rob Eshman is stepping down from his post as editor-in-chief and publisher of the Jewish Journal. When I read the news my heart paused, then I sighed, then I was sad for me, then I was happy for him, then I stared at the picture accompanying the announcement and thought about how much I love this wonderful man, and will miss him as my boss.

Important to note that my remarkable Rabbi, Naomi Levy, is married to Rob and I love her just as much, so there is no shame in professing my love for this great man. As I begin my ninth year as a writer at the Jewish Journal, I owe everything to Rob. He not only heard my voice through my writing, but fought for others to hear it, even when some wanted me to be quiet. I have built a wonderful life as a writer and I will forever be grateful to the man who started it all for me.

Rob Eshman is my hero for a lot of reasons. He loves his family in a way that makes me believe in love. He comments on my writing in a way that makes me want to do better. He inspires me to be a more informed Jew. He makes me laugh, and think, and hope, and pray. I am a better writer for having worked alongside him and will forever been honored to have been taken under his wing.

To the divine Rob Eshman, you are amazing and I am happy for you. I wish you nothing but good things on your new adventure. I look forward to buying your cookbook and seeing you in temple. You are a wonderful journalist, an exceptional human being, and I love you. Always have, and always will. Mazel Tov Mr. Eshman. Be happy, be safe, and always keep the faith.

 

 

L.A.’s newest rookie transplant: Elaine Soloway


Next time you move cross-country to Los Angeles, do it the Elaine Soloway way. (The SoloWay?) Pack whatever you can into flat-rate Priority Mail boxes from the post office and mail them over a period of six months. Get a place on airbnb.com in a hip L.A. neighborhood, close to shops, restaurants and the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv comedy theater that reminds one of their connections to Chicago’s Annoyance Theater. Don’t bother with the expense and hassle of a car; use your own two feet, a public transit pass, Uber and Lyft. Arrive in L.A. on a Friday, and find community by Saturday morning at Temple Israel of Hollywood’s weekly Torah study. Live close enough to your daughter and grandsons to be in their lives regularly, but never underfoot. And don’t worry about that bookstore reading of your new book, “Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: A Life After Loss” … you may be new in town, but it will be standing room only.

“Be sure to mention my age,” the petite 76-year-old writer/blogger, PR and social media consultant urged me. “I don’t ever want people to see their age as a deterrent.” After one conversation with Soloway, there’s no chance you will.

After a lifetime in Chicago, Soloway uprooted herself to be closer to her daughter, Jill Soloway — the creator of the wildly popular Amazon dramedy “Transparent”— and two grandsons. Those of us who are familiar (or obsessed) with the show already know the Pfeffeman family, and that Shelly, the matriarch (played by Judith Light), endures two major life shifts: her first husband comes out as transgender and her second one suffers from a debilitating illness. 

Although “Transparent” is a work of fiction, it has some biographical elements. When the show won best television series,  comedy, at the Golden Globes, Jill Soloway thanked “my own ‘trans parent,’ my Moppa,” referring to Elaine’s first husband, who came out as transgender. And, as Elaine’s second husband, Tommy, fought a little-known dementia called frontotemporal degeneration, she was his primary caregiver. As she watched her strong, independent husband’s decline, becoming someone who was unable to speak and who needed round-the-clock care, Soloway wrote about it in her blog, The Rookie Caregiver, which, after Tommy’s passing, became The Rookie Widow. Those two blogs served as foundation for “Green Nails,” which brings the author’s book total to three (in addition to “Green Nails,” she’s written a memoir, “The Division Street Princess,” which started as a blog, and a novel, “She’s Not the Type”). She also contributes to the blog Never Too Old to Talk Tech — Soloway used to work at the Apple store in Chicago and helps people learn how to use their tech devices. Some Internet digging reveals some additional blogging efforts, including Soloway Stories, and a professional website, elainesolowayconsulting.com, offering services in public relations, coaching and technology.

Shortly after the book reading, Soloway launched another blog, The Rookie Transplant, chronicling her experiences as a newbie making her way as she always has — independently, taking L.A.’s roads less traveled, specifically, bipedal locomotion and public transit over the expense (and convenience, some might argue) of a car. One recent Facebook post chronicled her trip to the Apple Store: “My visit to Mecca at the Grove. Took the 780 from Hollywood and Vine. 30 minutes.”

“Because I walked so much in Chicago, I walk here.” She explained how she has mapped her neighborhood by walking it, using trips to Ralphs or to the bank as an excuse for what she calls “functional exercise.” When she’s not on foot, she’s on a bus, watching the landscape go by and listening to people’s conversations. “You miss the world if you’re in a car.” 

While her most recent move happened after Tommy’s death, Soloway has been charting her own path for decades. At 51, yearning to learn more about Jewish life, tradition and Hebrew, she organized her own course of adult bat mitzvah study, performing the traditional bat mitzvah tasks and planning her own party. At 60, “to proclaim a new me … an audacious me,” according to her blog account, she got a tattoo on her left biceps — “a wildly-colored, 5-inch picture of a chubby heart, musical notes, rays of sun and roses, intersected by banners bearing the names of my two cheeky daughters, Faith and Jill.”

Soloway also doesn’t let mortality get in the way of regularly conversing with those who have passed on — primarily her husband Tommy and her parents — using them as characters in her essays and blog posts. One recent post was about her deceased mother wanting the new iPad. “It’s all a way into conversation,” Soloway observes. “The main thing about people who die is that we shouldn’t forget them — this way, they’ll never fade away.”

As someone who had been in Los Angeles only a few months, Soloway had expected 10 people to show up at Skylight Books in support of “Green Nails,” but the reading drew more than 60, including a few from the “Transparent” crew, among them actor Lawrence Pressman, who played Shelly’s ailing husband, Ed. Although her daughter’s network undoubtedly was responsible for a few of the folks in the room, the packed house had more than a little to do with the auteur herself, a master marketer who expanded her skill set as technology developed, incorporating her insatiable curiosity for computers into decades of solid public relations and marketing experience. 

“I love pens and spiral notebooks, but I also love the mystery of computers,” she said. “Social media saved my PR business; I hated calling people on the phone to pitch, but by following journalists on Twitter and sharing columns with them, I built relationships. These days, you have to know all the bloggers.” When it came to the book, she again blended classic and modern methods: running a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to get the book made, mailing personal notes to backers, and sending promotional postcards about book readings to ensure her message reached everyone. 

Now the septuagenarian Soloway is looking ahead and hoping for companionship. “I’ve been widowed for two years; I am interested in meeting a man my age who is seeking a companion, not marriage. He should be healthy and able to drive — at night would be a bonus. But, at the top of this list is: He should make me laugh.” Until that man comes along, Soloway is counting her blessings for the Los Angeles friends and family who have made her feel at home.

“This crowd is funny as hell, and it’s wonderful to laugh,” Soloway said. “I’m so grateful for this brand-new adventure.”

Esther D. Kustanowitz was once a carless rookie transplant to L.A. Now she blogs at myurbankvetch.com and writes about social media and communications at her professional site, EstherK.com.

Virtual, viral fundraising brings real donations


Hoping to raise money for a three-day bike ride over Labor Day to benefit the Jewish environmental organization Hazon, Ariela Pelaia turned to her blog.

Pelaia, 26, thought she could find donors by raffling off books on her personal Web site, “>Facebook.com and

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