GG7 | Life Lessons

Life Lessons: Curiosity, Instinct And Taking Action With Elaine Soloway

GG7 | Life Lessons


We learn a lot of life lessons each day, if only we constantly pay attention to what serves us and what doesn’t. The value of curiosity lies in how it allows us to determine which things in life propel us forward and hold us back. Join Karen Pulver and her Goddesses as they converse with ultimate Goddess, the “Bad Grandma” herself, Elaine Soloway, an author, risk-taker, and ever-curious adventurer, as she talks about her journey and her continued journeying. Her mottoes – “be curious,” “trust your instinct,” and “don’t be afraid to make a change” – will leave you feeling like you, too, can take that leap. Let’s learn how to “follow up” on that curiosity we all have and take action.

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Life Lessons: Curiosity, Instinct And Taking Action With Elaine Soloway

There are many lessons that we learn. As a young child, we learn how to read, how to write and the proper ways of acting. As we grow up and we’re learning all of these lessons, we realize that those lessons are not what will work for us in society. What’s important are life lessons that we can learn from people who have lived a fulfilling and purposeful-driven life and who have been passionate and have leaped before they looked. Our guest is Elaine Soloway. She is a woman that we are going to learn from who has lived a very passionate, purposeful life. She continues to learn new things, learn new lessons in life. She’s going to share with us the many life lessons that she’s learned.

I’m so honored and grateful to have Elaine Soloway with us. Welcome to the show, Elaine.

Thank you so much for inviting me. I’m honored.

Elaine and I met through a friend. My girlfriend was going to a singing class here in Chicago at the Old Town School of Music. She called me and said that she met this amazing woman who was also an author of a book, The Division Street Princess. I was going through this book because you came to my house. You said, “To Karen, thank you for hosting the book group with my memoir. I look forward to your journey.” Now, you’re here. We’re both still journeying. I’ve met with you a few times, whether it be on Facebook or for coffee. I took a writing class. I was so inspired by you. I’m like, “I’m going to try this out.” I never went that far, but it’s okay. It’s always good to take and try new things.

That’s my philosophy.

We’re going to get into talking about that, but I want to read more about you. Elaine Soloway is a Chicago and the author of four books, The Division Street Princess, Bad Grandma and Other Chapters in A Life Lived Out Loud, Green Nails And Other Acts Of Rebellion: Life After Loss and She’s Not the Type. She has been published in Huff Post, Why I Choose To Get A Tattoo Instead Of A Face-Lift for My 80th Birthday and Next Avenue, 10 Ways to Be a Rebel After 80. Another essay appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, She’s My Ex-Husband: The True Story Behind “Transparent”. The Emmy award-winning television series Transparent was created by Elaine Soloway child, Jill, and inspired by their family. Follow Elaine on, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which by the way, if you are not already following, you must because her posts are not only inspiring but thought-provoking and real.

I appreciate following you. I wanted to ask you. I was in a hair salon before all this started, the COVID and staying at home. There was a woman there that was in the waiting area and she was sketching people’s pictures. She said to give donations if we wanted it. I had my pictures, my little phone picture that looks like me. She said, “What defines you? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” I said, “It’s my inner strength and ability to connect with others.” At that moment, I was thinking about relaunching Grateful Goddesses, which as I had mentioned to you years back that I did this group here in the city.

It was successful if I recall.

It was, about three years went by doing it. It was so much fun and great, then I had a health issue, which halted things, but I’m starting back up and I’m pivoting. Here we are. Thank you for joining us. I want to ask you because you have many roles. Let’s pretend I’m sketching your picture. Elaine, tell me what defines you.

I would think my philosophy of life it’s called leap before you look, which means I take action. I do not debate on yes, no, should I, shouldn’t, which has resulted in seventeen moves in my life and many jobs, but only two spouses, so that’s pretty good. Also a variety of lessons like I’ve continued piano, Spanish, swimming and there was of course tennis. You could put in there improv. Whatever struck my fancy, I would take a class, but then I would quickly drop out if it didn’t suit me. The one thing that defines me is my willingness to not be embarrassed because people will say, “You said,” and I say, “I changed my mind.” The willingness to change your mind is what defines me.

Elaine, have you always been that way? Do you remember when you were younger being that way?

Trust your instincts. Share on X

I was not always that way. I’m not sure when it started, but I can tell you when my life changed drastically. In about 1969, my spouse at the time, the trajectory of our marriage was I married when I was 24. For my age, it wasn’t young. We got married, we moved to the North Side, then my spouse got drafted. We were in Massachusetts. I had my first child then came back, lived on the Near South Side in Prairie Shores. My spouse was a physician. We moved to Glenview because that’s where all Jewish families go. By that time, I had two kids.

When I was in Glenview, I realized that I was fish out of water. Even though everybody was like me, Jewish, middle-class with little kids, I was very unhappy there. I would be taking buses back to the city because when we live in Prairie Shores, I loved living around there in a more diverse area. Fortunately, my spouse decided to change careers, the same specialties. He went to the University of Illinois Medical School to take a new specialty. I had read about this community called South Commons. It was on the near Southside, the 28th and Michigan, whose object was to integrate people of races, ages, incomes in a variety of housing styles. It was on 30 acres. Interestingly enough, it was developed by Dan Levin who developed the East Bank Club. Dan has been in my life for a long time. When we got there, we unpacked that when there was a community center in the center of South Commons and I went there and there was all this livelihood going on. Classes and people and diverse and excitement. Within a month, I was editor of the community newspaper, a producer of the musical theater and head of the tenants’ organization.

You were like Marcia Brady signing up for every club.

I changed from an unhappy housewife who always felt that I wasn’t in the right place, to this very much community activist. That started the change in me and I’m still the same person. I remember I wrote an essay called How Would Your 30-Year-Old Self Feel About Your 80-Year-Old Self? I realized that my 30-year-old self would be very happy because I turned out to be continuing to do the thing things I was doing. Some of my friends were very unhappy when I posed that question because things did not turn out the way they want it. I have to say that and I say this often. South Commons was the thing that changed my life the most.

It’s interesting that you had that question, your 30-something asking your 80-something. I was actually to ask you, myself and the featured goddesses that you’ll meet, we’re all in our 50s. I was going to say, what would you tell your 50-year-old Elaine right now?

I was born in ‘38. In ‘88, I was already in business. I was in public relations. I was working for Mayor Jane Byrne maybe by then. What happened was when I was in South Commons, the University of Illinois at Chicago started a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning. I was encouraged by Dan Levin and Ezra Gordon, the architect there to enroll in the class. I thought urban was the most beautiful word I had ever heard. I got a degree in Urban Planning and from then, I went to work for the PR person for South Commons. I had started a PR career with them. At one point, I worked for Jane Byrne in the press office.

Looking back at yourself at 50, would you give any advice to yourself then? Looking back, would you say you’re on the right path?

I would say trust your instincts. Don’t be afraid to make a change because you can always go back. The change might be better on the other side, but you’ll never know if you do it. I have friends who are static that will not make the change even though it’s something exciting for them. It’s so important and it’s not a risk because when you lived to even 50 years, you have enough information in your mental portfolio to know what strengths you have. Being afraid to move is very dangerous, especially for women. You have to be willing to jump and if it doesn’t work out, you can always change.

I had my anniversary with my husband. We have three young adults that are finding themselves in the world. I noticed that your first spouse that you were married for 30 years and I was thinking because you’re coming on the show, that things suddenly changed.

June 19th, besides being Juneteenth, was our anniversary. Even though we’ve been divorced for many years, she called me to wish me a happy anniversary. That will tell you that we have a great relationship and we’re still parents of our children. What happened was we divorced because we weren’t happy, but it wasn’t an angry divorce. It was a sad divorce. Neither one of us was happy. We divorced in the ‘90s. I was single for about six years and then remarried in 1998. I was with my second spouse until 2012 when he passed away. In 2011, my first spouse, who I still remain friends with, came out as transgender, which meant that she wanted to be living her life as a woman. She had had this feeling all of her life but was shamed into not telling anybody. She had been in a therapy group and was encouraged to come out to the children. My child made a television show about it.

GG7 | Life Lessons
Life Lessons: Leap before you look.


This happened after you divorced.

After the divorce and in my second marriage. Everyone asks me did I know? I had no idea. She kept the secret.

I want to bring on my featured goddesses. I wanted to surprise you with them. We’ve had discussions because the Grateful Goddess group that I’m trying to bring back and relaunch is so difficult now because we’re in a different place. These girls I met, I don’t know them that well but I met them here. I met them here and there and I met them for coffee before turning this into a show, thinking that we would start this group here in the city and then things changed. I’m getting to know them, they’re getting to know me. It’s been a fun journey. It’s been great. We were talking. We’re all in our 50s. We have kids. We have similar yet different backgrounds. When you listen to our first episode to get to know us, that for sure will tell you a bit more about us, but they have questions for you. Let’s start. We’re starting with Dena.

We are very curious to hear more about your tattoo.

This one I got these when I was 80 and it’s a tattoo of a seahorse because I finally learned how to swim. That was a lifetime goal. When I finally learned how to swim, I got a tattoo of a seahorse. This I got when I was 60 and it’s my two children’s names. I happen to love tattoos. It also adds to my badass character.

Will you get more?

I would love to. I was going to do it but the pandemic hit, but I’m still going to try. I’m going to have an artist who is willing to do it because, at my age, they worry about thin skin and all that. This one, he agreed to do this when I was 80. I’ll work on that.

We discovered when we were talking that Dena has one too.

I did it in my 40s, not as a young thing as well.

You don’t exhibit it, Dena?

Don't dwell on ageism. Share on X

No. In a bathing suit, you’ll see it.

What was the reason you got it?

I was with four or five girlfriends in Vegas. We all remembered it. We all did initials. Our kids’ initials and husbands. That was the inspiration. They all got theirs on the wrists.

Those are just initials?

It’s in a star with the initials. The first husband and I were so excited. I’m like, “Look what I did. It’s your name and this and that.” He was like, “Loser.”

What I wanted to share about Dena is that her first husband passed away. She is also a widow, but she’s remarried and has a wonderful husband, also the same name as my husband.

His initial is not on me though.

That’s why I never had my spouse’s names. It was too dangerous.

Alyssa, you’re up next.

GG7 | Life Lessons
Life Lessons: Don’t be afraid to make a change. It could be better on the other side, but you’ll never know if you don’t do it


I have to tell you. I love your philosophy of leaping before you look partly because it’s like the polar opposite of the way I live my life. I look forwards and behind me, and then look again and then maybe one day.

You make a pro and con lists and then you ask everybody their advice.

I’m guilty as charged. That’s what I do. What I want to ask is one of your published works is called Bad Grandma and Other Chapters in a Life Lived Out Loud which is an amazing title. I’m wondering, people may have different interpretations of what it means to live a life out loud. I was so curious and wanted to know what you mean by that idea.

My children have a television show called Transparent and there is a mother in Transparent and there are actions in Transparent that mirror my life. If you watch Transparent, it’s about a spouse who comes out as transgender, another spouse who has dementia with my second husband. You have to watch it. I’m trying very much on gender so that I don’t miss gender life for a spouse. I do not call my first spouse he or my husband. That’s one thing I’ve learned. My second husband passed away in 2012 and he had an illness called frontal temporal degeneration. In the show, Shelly’s played a version of me. Taller and a little more Jewish. She had a husband who had dementia. A lot of the episodes is that such as Bad Grandma are in the show. That was my living out loud. If you’ve watched five seasons of Transparent, you’ll see a lot of my life in there.

You mean living it almost publicly out loud, but it seems like this leaping before you look could also be interpreted as life out loud, meaning in a more metaphorical sense. Like living out loud could be growing and evolving and trying new things. I wasn’t sure which.

The original was the TV show, but there’s nothing shy about my life. I write I publish, and I’m on Facebook. I’m mostly Facebook, some Twitter and Instagram. I love social media. I’m out there now. Thank you.

Thank you.

I love your story. It is so inspiring and it’s like that curiosity in life.

I’m very curious and that is something that people pointed out. That’s important to be curious, but also to follow up on it. You can be curious and then never do any research on it or take a step towards it. Curiosity is something we can do as we age, if we’re in a wheelchair or on a walker or anything, just be curious.

Taking the classes. That’s your part of your research, like learning. As you’re doing all these different things, it’s like all these like different personas. You were saying, you started a community activist persona and you were a director and all of these different roles. You also talk about ageism and how that’s so prevalent in society. Owning who you are and what your age represents, but at the same time, being open with it and owning yourself. I’m curious about your thoughts on that.

I don’t dwell on ageism because I don’t feel it affects me. I’m very honest about my age because I feel that women especially are their own worst enemies when they refuse to tell their age. What is that saying if I say that is denigrating your age if you refuse to tell anyone. I have always been very open about my age. I don’t know if you’re from Chicago, but Mary Schmitz wrote a column when I was 72 about me that said my age is my hook. It was something about starting my PR business. Now, I feel the same way that it is my hook again because somehow people have this vision of people my age being like their old Bubbies or something. I’m not that different many people like my friends. I’m also fortunate that I’m in good physical shape. That helps a lot. The only problem I have and it is a problem is that I’m very short. I’m 4’9” at the last height. I refuse to get my height taken anymore. That happens when you’re aging. If there was anything I wish I could do and I can’t, is to be taller. I refuse to wear high heels anymore.

All of us has to have someone who needs us, whose heart gladdens when we come into a room – even if it’s a pet. Share on X

You have a good presence. I always say that about people. It is all about your presence.

Where are you three located? Are you all in Chicago? I’m more curious about you. Everybody’s a city person. That’s good.

Dena taught my 25-year-old son in preschool. I keep saying that, but look at Elaine. She’s giving us advice about age. You should own it. You taught him. You look the same. Elaine, I wanted to ask you. I was reading Bad Grandma and you have visitors and you talk to them quite a bit. Your late husband, Tommy, who, by the way, that romance sounds beautiful. How he was easy and everything, but he comes to check on you. Is that what happens or is that what you wrote?

The reason that I do that because I’ve done that with my parents and I did do a lot with Tommy and I’m assuming I’ll do it with my brother. I don’t think that we should forget people who died. When I write these about Tommy being there, it’s very easy because I can conjure him in my mind. It’s like he’s there. I don’t want dead people to leave. If you write about it, you can. It’s very easy to do that. It’s an easy way to write an essay to imagine. I have one where I have my father’s sitting at the pool watching me swim, wondering why I have to use all these devices when he could swim at the Y. I have another one with my mother saying, “You’re cooking. You don’t cook well.” Tommy is always being loving. What it does is it brings them back into my life. My readers love those because the idea that you can resurrect a person is very fulfilling and it’s easy because they do appear. You hear their voice, you see where they’re sitting and I have to do another one of those. I love those. I want to do with my brother. My brother passed away.

I remember you told me he was very sick.

It’s time to bring him back. It took me a while to think about that, but now he can come back and we can have a good conversation.

Is it in the writing that they come back? I know you said something about talking to yourself and you’re walking or while you were at home, you talk to them.

Here’s another thing I do, which I find that it has helped my memory. I say a prayer every morning before I leave the house and my prayer is like a column or bed. It’s got different sections in it. It’s got people, everyone that I am grateful for in my life. It’s got physicians, it’s got people I know, it’s got, my doorman. It’s a good product. It takes me fifteen minutes and I’ve memorized it over the years, which has helped my memory but you can’t interrupt me because if you interrupt me and I lose one thread, then the whole thing falls apart. I talk to my brother and Tommy in those. I see them. My brother always said, “Love you more,” when he said goodbye and Tommy.

I’ve been doing this spiritual path and I believe in past lives. I do believe that your soul’s plan or different souls that are meant to be in your life and educate you in whatever way. Whether someone wants to believe it or not, it’s such a beautiful way of thinking that in each life you’re learning whatever lessons you need to learn so that you can become a better person when your soul starts over in the next life. Those lessons come back to you and you become a perfect soul. As you’re saying that, it’s a beautiful notion whether you believe it or not, that you believe, that you’re remembering the spirit of them. Whether you believe in spirits or past lives or not, it’s like you are keeping that spirit alive all the time. We all have voices in our heads. You can’t get rid of them. All the advice that we get all the time is in our heads.

I have two thoughts about that. One, I believe that sometimes we meet a stranger, woman, man, person and fall immediately in love. I believe that we did know that person in a previous life that they were maybe my child, my mother because how does that happen that you meet somebody and there’s an instantaneous relationship? I’ve been thinking about this a lot because people have been saying to me, “Does it bother you that you’re older and one day you’re going to die and everything’s over?” I said, “First of all, you think differently about dying when you’re my age and when you’re 40.” By my age, you’re almost ready. Not that I want to die, but I’ve had an amazing life, but also from a biological-chemistry thing. When we die, we go into the Earth. Supposedly we were born from tadpoles or wherever evolution has started.

GG7 | Life Lessons
Bad Grandma and Other Chapters In A Life Lived Out Loud

We could evolve into another person a million years from now. Do we know that this is 2020? Who knows what year it is? I don’t worry about death. I do believe that we have known each other. Life is so unpredictable. That’s why I do believe that one should move on desires because of those who expect that. I did learn a lesson. No more taking the dog and a heavy box at the same time.

There’s so much going on now. We can’t finish this discussion without mentioning being inside sheltering in place, COVID and the social injustices that are coming to the forefront. We’ve discussed as a group what can we do? What are the new things we’re learning? We want to pick your brain on multiple things going on.

I’ll talk about social injustice. I’ve been involved in that for a long time. I had an event with Dahleen Glanton who is a columnist with The Chicago Tribune. It was called What Black Women Want White Women to Know. I hosted that event in my building. It was very interesting, but I had read about a dozen books by black authors and about racism and wanted to share it with a lot of other people. Since then and now with Zoom, I’m one of these people who love Zoom. I started an anti-racism book group and we’re on our fourth book. Our first book was Hood Feminism. The second was The Color of Water. A third was Just Mercy. For our fourth reading The Warmth of Other Suns.

My group has grown from about 6 to 25 and I felt that I didn’t understand the black experience so I read all those books. Until you read what black people experienced, you cannot appreciate their life and their anger and disappointment. That’s what I’m doing. Every morning that I do when I get up, I read The Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, Washington Post, New York times, and also The Guardian, Vanity Fair and other newspapers online. I flip through them and find articles that are interesting to me and I post them on Facebook. All of you should find me on Facebook. If I find it interesting, I post the entire article because so many people can’t get past the paywall. They’re usually on politics, gender, women whatever interest me. It could be a wide variety of things. That is my contribution also, making sure people know all these stories and these great journalists. That’s that part. Karen, what was the other part?

We’re also on that journey too. For white women, we’ve talked about educating white fragility and that journey that we don’t realize and educating ourselves. The other part of the question was about 2020 and what’s happening in our world now. With COVID and being inside, I know Doris is new. I asked you, what are you doing to keep busy? Are you swimming? You can’t swim. You said, “I’m walking my dog four or five times a day.” I don’t want to get political, but there’s something big going on in our country politically.

I wrote an essay called Six Things I Learned About Myself While Sheltering in Place. It starts with getting the dog as the best thing I could have done. It also talks about that I affirm it and I liked being home. I love Zoom meetings. I don’t want to get dressed up. I haven’t had makeup on. I am now wearing a bra so that I can give you that. I’ve gone three months without it and I’m wearing makeup. I love being at home. I watch TV with my lunch and dinner. I get out because I have a dog.

You were going to get political.

Yes. I’m horrified at this administration. It makes me sad and angry. I’m angrier at the Republicans for not stopping Trump because they have it in their power to do it. What he’s doing now is completely avoiding the dangers of COVID. Already people in his administration have gotten ill and making his followers be there and to sign a waiver, which is admitting that there’s a possibility. I’ve lived long enough to go through a lot of presidents and it’s nothing new.

I became a US citizen. I’m from Canada. I’m a dual citizen. I get to vote now. My kids can vote. I’ve been here for years, but I never put a lot of thought into politics because I was Canadian for so long. Finally, when I became a US citizen, the first thing I did was make a Thanksgiving dinner. All these years, I had never done that. My kids were raised American. They’re like, “Mom, make a Turkey already.” Now, I can vote. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s new to me getting into politics. I’m learning a lot too in that area. I was curious. I know you post a lot about that. You’re educating me so much.

I’ve already applied for my mail-in ballot and vote that board. It’s crucial.

It’s not risk when you have enough information in your mental portfolio to know what strengths you have. Share on X

What you said about Republicans getting in line behind him and not calling him out, to me is the biggest atrocity. The vindication of the two Supreme Court decisions. I don’t even judge if someone’s Republican or Democrat anymore. It’s whether you support Trump or not. It’s such a different line and the human nature of it all to support someone that you don’t think has good intentions or is of sound mind and don’t call them out, you made the biggest atrocity. It resonated so strongly.

You have to follow Elaine because you have to read. You post a summary and now I know why because you go through it. I didn’t realize that.

I was happy with the LGBTQ decision because not only do I have an ex who I’m very friendly with who is transgender, but I have one daughter who’s got one child who is non-binary and another daughter who is a lesbian. We have a rainbow in my family. It’s very important that the law was passed.

I want to end with your top advice and what I saw was number one is to journal.

Yes, I still do that, but I do it in Spanish. Did I tell you that?


There were three things that I’ve always wanted to do for as long as I remember. One was to learn how to swim, two were to speak Spanish and the third was to play the piano. I can do all of those now very poorly. No one is allowed to watch me. I swim in a four-foot-deep pool back and forth, but I couldn’t lift my head to breathe and hence the tattoo. I can play Rodgers and Hart on my keyboard and I can understand and speak some Spanish. To keep up the Spanish, I write my journal in Spanish. Of course, I have to look up many words, but I could get by.

Is the piano in the closet?

No, not anymore.

You also said take a class, either something new or something you relate to. Use a timer for your tasks, like chores. I did that, which was life-changing because it was laundry, which I hate. I said, “I’m going to do this for 30 minutes.” I got it all done. Become a morning person, which I am. Are you guys morning people? No? You actually get up at 4:00 AM.

GG7 | Life Lessons
Life Lessons: It is important to be curious, but even more so to follow up on that curiosity.


I go to bed at 8:00.

Make sure to prepare for the day ahead the night before. This is in your essay. I took notes. You said, “Take a walk and talk to yourself.” Do you guys do this? I put my earbuds in because I’m still a little embarrassed if without them. I pretend like I’m on the phone. The next one is to express appreciation like a written thank you note. Thank you so much, Elaine, for joining us on the show. You are the ultimate goddess to us. We learned so much from you. Thank you.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it. It was great meeting all of you.

That was great. Thank you so much.

We’re going to start our favorite things portion, which is at the end of each show, Elaine, I thought this was nice because instead of thinking negative things, the things that make us happy that bring us joy, it’s important to focus on. It doesn’t have to be an object. Although we’re discovering some great products that we love. It has to be stuff you love. Who would like to start with our favorite things? Dena is first. It’s like the show and tell for adults.

This is a fragrance. It is from a company called Le Labo and this scent is Neroli 36. They’re natural. They handpick their flowers and things to put in here. I love it that they’ll recycle so I can bring it back. They’ll refill this for me. They have different kinds of sizes but what I love most about it is on our anniversary, my husband bought it for me and it has on our anniversary and his name here on a personal label. I love it because I don’t know about you, but I always picked my fragrances based on what I liked, the way it smelled for me. I liked that he picked something that he likes the way it smells. It’s totally lovely as well. It works for both of us, but I thought it was sweet that he picked something that to him smelled nice. When we go out on dates, I wear this. I love it.


I have these antique cameras. There’s a bunch of them. I have them all over my house. These are very old. Most of them were my dad’s. Just as a hobby, but he’s an avid photographer. Every holiday, probably for some of you too, was family slide shows and the reels of the slides. Photography, albums and travel. These were all in his pictures from his travel, we’re always a big part of him. He passed away years ago. I went to my parents’ home after my dad had passed away and was helping my mom pulling some things. We came across this giant box of all of these amazing antique cameras. I said, “I’m taking these,” and they came home to Chicago with me. Looking around here, you can’t see them all, but I’ve got a bunch and he’s always back here. They remind me of him and make me happy. I’m not much of a photographer. Everything I do is on an iPhone. These antique ones are special.

I know you’ve talked about your dad before with the picture that you brought. That’s beautiful. Rachel or Elaine?

With your essays talking to dead people in spirits and the name of the show being Transparent, I was in a witchy mood when I was getting ready for this. I feel like I’m wearing like my witchy blouse and I’m wearing my snake. I don’t know if you can tell. I talk about this designer, it’s a vintage designer Whiting & Davis. They use old gunmetal from World War II to make beautiful jewelry and purses. I love that. In also in honor of you, I brought my two favorite pens because you’re talking about your pens, your writing instrument and I love pens. I have Sharpie and Martha Mae. It’s the most beautiful office supply store in the city, Martha Mae in Andersonville. She sells fine papers.

Don’t tell me about that because I’ll have to go. I love those kinds of stores.

They’re the premium of all office supply stores.

Even when I write, I diagram. I have pictures. It’s a grid paper. I almost write everything.

I’ll show you my pen that I use. This is a pen that I like, which is a Pilot fountain pen. Here’s my journal in Spanish. That’s not my favorite thing. My favorite thing is this little animal on the floor. I know you were looking for, but yes, Doris. I have to say that Doris is the favorite thing in my life. My children live in LA and Boston. My grandchildren are with them. Doris, I adopted her in July 2019. I’ve had dogs before, but I had them with Tommy. This is the first dog I’ve had myself. That was a leap because Chicago winters, having a dog, as I told you, I fell. She has brought so much to my life in terms of companionship, of giving me excuses to go outdoors. Something else that I have realized is that she needs me. I feel that all of us have to have someone who needs us. If you have a spouse or a friend like that, that’s marvelous. Doris needs me. That’s why I love her. I love her being in my life and we sleep in the same bed. When her foot touches my foot, it’s heaven. I’m content.

I was so glad to hear that when I said, “Are you swimming?” You said, “No, I’m walking a dog.” I have a favorite thing. You inspired me to show this. My featured goddesses know that I like to journal. I have brought upstairs from my bedroom my journals. I’ve written in my five-minute journal because it takes literally five minutes, but I found my very first one. It was in the back of the drawer that I haven’t looked at for the longest time. I read that you go back and read. I got this journal when I was ten. Every page is filled and I wanted to read one to you because it’s hysterical. It was in 1977. I was eleven years old, “February 9th. Dear Diary, I feel so bad that I can’t even right it down. I feel stupid like I’m going to cry. I feel that I’ve done something bad. Do you know what I did that was so bad? I looked at my sister’s diary and she’s mad at me right now. I’m out of my room and righting this down. I feel like I’m going to cry and I’m going to die. I have to go to bed now, so bye.” I write, “PS, I’m crying now. I want to show my mom this, but she’ll probably tell me to go to bed. Love, Karen.” It’s so funny to read how you were.

This is a little later in 1989, “I wonder as I write what this book is, it is a part of me, a large part, my life, my thoughts, my feelings, my touch. What am I? I am a person, a part of a whole, a piece to a puzzle, a word and a phrase. I think a lot. I’m learning so much each minute. I always wonder about myself, but I understand more almost like I am slowly, carefully being told the answers. There is so much more I want to know, but I know now that I’m going to find out.”

That’s wonderful. You’re a philosophical side. That was very dramatic.

I have a boyfriend, breakups, I love this one and then that one. It was so much fun reading through all the journals. That’s what you inspired me to do.

It’s interesting to go back a year. I go back a year and I want to see, and I say to that young woman there, “Don’t do that. It’s not going to turn out well for you.” I love journaling.

Karen, you were asking about who you were and you were trying to figure out your identity back then, and you started this whole episode with a question about Elaine and what’s your identity and talking about your own.

I’ve always wondered about my calling and I don’t know if this is it, but this feels right. It’s great to learn from you, Elaine, and continue to learn with you guys on this journey. Thank you for sharing your favorite things. Thank you so much again.

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About Elaine Soloway

GG7 | Life Lessons

Elaine Soloway is a Chicagoan, and the author of four books: The Division Street Princess, Bad Grandma and Other Chapters in a Life Lived Out Loud, Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss, and She’s Not The Type. She has recently been published in HuffPost -“Why I Got A Tattoo Instead of a Facelift For My 80th Birthday” and Next Ave –“How To Be A Rebel After 80”. Another essay appeared in Harpers Bazaar — “She’s My Ex-Husband: The True Story Behind ‘Transparent'”. The Emmy Award-winning television series ‘Transparent’ was created by Elaine Soloway’s child Jill and inspired by their family. Follow Elaine on, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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