Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sunday Stealing

Unusual Music

1. A song that gives you goosebumps. "Tears Dry on Their Own" by Amy Winehouse. Damn, she was good.

2. A song you hated once but now love.
"Rocket Man." I used to think it was oblique and over played. Now it reminds me of the olden days.

3. Do you remember your first CD?
I'd already purchased it twice, and scratched it twice, on vinyl.

4. Has your music taste changed much since childhood?
I'm more open now. I used to dismiss Sinatra as a relic, like white gloves and rotary dial phones. Now I appreciate him as a singer (and actor). The man was a genius.

5. Favorite genre?

6. What’s a genre or style of music that you just don’t understand? Classical. It alternately bores and annoys me.

7. Do you have a process for listening to music, such as listening to the instruments more than words?
I love the sound of the vocals.

8. What’s your favorite thing about your favorite song? "September" never fails to lift my spirits.

9. Do you have a favorite decade for music?
The 1960s.

10. Can you play any instruments? No.

11. Do you remember your first favorite song?
It was a Halloween/witch song from Kindergarten. "Stirring and stirring and stirring my brew. Woo woo, woo, woo. Tip toe. Tip toe. Tip toe. BOO!"

12. What was the first concert you ever attended?
Bobby Sherman. I was still in grade school. He had fabulous hair and good teeth. Don't judge me.

I'm doing something wrong

Had an ugly exchange with my fellow condo board member on Thursday night. Literally yelling at one another in the parking lot before we each turned on our heels (me going in the front door and he through the back).

I can't stop thinking about it. It continues to bedevil me. It's disturbed my sleep. I've begun taking Valerian again, to calm down and relax and perhaps sleep better.

I don't know why I'm letting this disturb me so much. I have no doubts -- zero, zip, zilch -- that I was correct on both substance and style. I have no regrets about what I did or how I behaved.

So why do I keep replaying the exchange on a continuous loop? Why do I let this asshole have so much space in my head?

Something is wrong with me these days. Things get me down and keep me down longer than they used to.

I think perhaps it's gravity. What my friends are dealing with, what I'm dealing with, is more serious than the problems of days gone by. Where once we talked about being passed over for a promotion, we're talking about being forced into retirement because we're too old to hire. We used to worry about weight or acne or fertility, now we talk about heart disease, diabetes, brain injury and stroke.

Thinking of strokes ... after visiting his once vital, suddenly incapacitated father in the hospital, John F. Kennedy said to friends, "Old age is a shipwreck." He was so right. And, since none of us is getting any younger, I better buckle up, toughen up and figure out how to deal with this.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Ooh La La (2013)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) "Ooh la la" is defined as an interjection said when you think someone or something is "surprising, unusual or attractive." Looking back over this week, did you come across anything that deserves an "ooh la la?" On Friday, I was impressed by the dexterity the vet showed when clipping my cat Connie's nails. I cannot emphasize enough how vehemently she resists this procedure, but he was fast and sure. The man is a pro.

2) In this song, Britney Spears sings that she's eager to accompany you, even if you're not a millionaire. But let's say you suddenly become really rich. What's the first leisure trip you would take with your new funds? Who would you bring along? I would take the TCM Classic Cruise and bring my oldest friend with me. Days at sea, watching movies, and laughing together.

3) Britney is eager to dance with you, even if you don't wear designer clothes. Let's say you need to add a blouse (or shirt) to your wardrobe. Where's your go-to for clothes shopping? Lately it's ThredUp. It's a resale website, and it's great fun.

4) The video begins with Britney at the movies with her two young sons. Will you be seeing any family members this weekend? Nope.

5) This is a theme from the movie Smurfs 2. A Smurf is a little blue creature who lives in a mushroom-shaped house in the forest. Assuming that your home is not shaped like a mushroom and isn't in the forest, how would you describe your abode? (Mansion, ranch house, farm house, high-rise, igloo ...) It's a four story, brick, multi-unit building.

6) Britney admits to smoking and biting her nails. What bad habit do you wish you could break? I'm a slob.

7) In 2013, when this song was popular, Pope Benedict resigned. Thinking over your working life, have you been more nervous on your first day of a job, or the last one? In real time, it's probably the first day. But the more vivid memories are of the last ones. As messy and unorganized as I am in my personal life, I'm hyper responsible in my professional life. I am always uncomfortable with tasks I inevitably left undone when I left a job.

8) Also in 2013, golfer Phil Mickelson won the British Open. When did you most recently golf? I mini golfed back in 2016.

9) Random question -- On what part of your body was the last itch you scratched? The inside of my left ankle.

C is for "comorbidity"

Learn more about it here
Books sometimes find me, entering my life just when I need them. Such is the case of A Common Struggle by Patrick Kennedy. Published in 2015, I picked it up for free at our local library book sale in 2016. Where it's languished in my TBR pile ever since. Why did I start reading it now? The reason is astonishingly superficial: it's just over 400 pages long. I recently finished The President Is Missing, which is massive and took me for freaking ever, and I wanted something shorter. No, really. That's why I grabbed it.

Patrick Kennedy -- son of Ted, nephew of Jack and Bobby -- is bipolar and an addict. He is very frank about this. The reason why he called his memoir A Common Struggle is that he maintains mental illness and addiction are something we all face, in way one or another. His family's money, fame and power haven't insulated them. And that, if his readers think about their family and circle of friends, they likely know someone who has struggled with these issues, as well. I am certain he is right about that premise.

This book has introduced me to a problem I never considered before: comorbidity. It's a medical term for having two conditions simultaneously. Frequently the treatment of one complicates the treatment of the other. In Patrick's case, it was the havoc his antidepressants played with his addiction. Introducing comorbidity has me thinking about myself and the people in my life differently.

For example, me. I have both spinal stenosis and kidney stones. When I take an NSAID for one, is it masking the pain of the other? How do I really know, how can my doctor really know, how I'm doing?

My oldest friend is being treated for heart disease and bipolar disorder.

John is dealing with heart disease and diabetes.

Henry is living with depression as well as the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury.

This book is making me more patient with the "patients" in my life. Meds they take for one condition and enable them to function in their daily lives could actually be masking or even impeding the healing in another area. I must remember that everyone, including the doctors, are doing the best they can within this challenging paradigm.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Him, too

I love this picture of Connie and Reynaldo. It shows how comfortable they are with one another, what good friends they are. And so I feel much better about leaving them alone, knowing they will keep one another company.

Yet it shows Connie bright eyed and alert, and Reynaldo asleep. My little beige demon, my skinny wildman, sleeps more and more. More and more often. More and more soundly.

He's 15 years old. That's the equivalent of a 75 year old human.

He still enjoys food and he's mad about cuddles. He gets bored if I sleep too long and knocks things over to get my attention. And, at least twice a day that I witness, he chases Connie around. So he's not in any distress today.

But I can see it. He's fading.

Just like with John, it hurts me to see this.

Things hit me harder these days, and stay with me longer. I don't know why I can't shake the blues.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

I hate this so much.

For his birthday, John and I were going to the Cub game on Saturday, July 13. Now we aren’t. He’s still too ill, still too weak, and afraid that he’ll become woozy in the crush of 40,000 fans. He no longer likes to travel far from home and is skipping all Chicago’s summer street fairs. This news makes me sad, because it’s so not John.

He is battling heart failure, and it has diminished him. John was once on the cutting edge. He was the one who was bored with the latest trend before I even heard about it. He was out every weekend. He was the charismatic one, always making new friends from different generations, different walks of life. He was curious about everything.

That's not who he is anymore. 

•  Technology makes him angry. He doesn't do Facebook or Twitter -- which isn't a good thing for an advertising copywriter whose clients use social media.

•  He hates Uber and Lyft because they mean fewer cabs on the street ... and his phone won't accept apps. 

•  He needs glasses but he won't wear them. At dinner, he'll ask the waitress if they serve what he wants, rather than looking at the menu. At museums, he stares at the exhibit for a moment but doesn't read the cards ... because he can't see them.

*  He doesn't get his hair cut anymore. He wears it pulled back into a little gray ponytail.  

•  He can't move. I am, literally, a foot shorter than he is. I'm fat and out of shape. And John can't keep up with me when we walk up the street.

•  He complains about new people. For silly things, like one of his neighbors has a dog. And he hates crowds.

His doctors wanted him to get a pacemaker in 2009, but he refused then. A decade later and they're not talking about it anymore. His new cardiologist put him on Entresto, and hopes that will enhance his heart's ability to pump blood without any device implementation. 

I'm afraid that 13 years of battling heart disease has made him old. I'm afraid he's running out of time. I'm afraid I'm watching my friend die.

He is 64. I am not ready to say goodbye to him.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Stealing


1. Are you a happy person? More often than not.

2. What is happiness for you?
Happiness is in the moment. The way my cat Reynaldo curls his paws, or watching Anthony Rizzo swing for the fences, or eating Raisinettes in the dark from a movie seat.

3. What do you think is the color of happiness?
Pantone 294, aka Cubbie blue.

4. Can money buy happiness?
Money can buy freedom from worrying about money.

5. Is happiness a state of mind?
That's a little superficial. Some people struggle with depression, and which is real and serious and not something they can choose their way out of.

6. What are three things that make you happy?
Books and cats and the Cubs.

7. Does having a pet make you happy?

8. When was the happiest time of your childhood?
This is a particularly fond memory: When I was 7, my parents surprised me by taking me and my oldest friend to see the Beatles' HELP! at a drive-in. I was riding my bike and the three of them pulled up in an unfamiliar car, a blue station wagon. My dad had swapped cars with a coworker so we could have the back of the wagon to bounce around in when we screamed and cried over The Lads. It was an uncharacteristically thoughtful gesture on my dad's part.

9. Can you be happy if you are rich?
Of course.

10. Do you think happiness lies within you or does it depend on other people and external things?
Yes. I mean, your happiness is ultimately your own responsibility. But it's ridiculous to ignore all the outside factors that influence us and our well being every day.

11. Are single people happy?
No. Every day it's a battle not to take my own miserable, single life. I apologize for breathing and using air better used by married people.

12, What is the effect that animals/pets have on people to make them feel happy?
As I answer these questions, my cat Connie is in my lap, so let's use her as an example. First of all, I love how affectionate she is. Her purr is audible and every now and again she rubs her head up against my arm. Second, I love how clear and bright her eyes are. When I first brought her home, she had an infection that left her with a perpetually runny nose and cloudy, light sensitive eyes. It brings me joy to see how healthy she now is. And sometimes she's very funny. The mesh bag that I once used for washing my lingerie is in the middle of the kitchen. Connie somehow decided it is her mortal enemy. She battles it and then proudly parades around with it. Thank God she's keeping me safe from that mesh bag!

13.  Can you be happy if you are poor?
I don't think so, because I would be worried about paying my bills.

14.  What is there to be happy about in today’s world?
We live in America, where we still have a free press. That should inspire joy, especially on Sunday morning when we have both the Sunday papers and long-format shows like Meet the Press, Face the Nation and This Week to inform us.

15.  How happy are you compared with your friends.
"Compare and despair." Words of wisdom to live by. Happiness is not a sport.

A movie about TV

The Cub game wasn't going well. I didn't feel like doing housework. So Saturday afternoon I ran to the movies. I'm very glad I did.

Imagine if Johnny Carson had been a British woman. Talented, witty, excellent. A little soulless, a little out of step. On top too long, slipping and in danger of being replaced.

To add diversity and relevance to her staff, she hires a young Indian woman. She means the young woman to be a mere token, but the new writer turns out to be much more than that.

Mindy Kaling wrote and costars in this workplace comedy. Her character is impressively imperfect, and therefore likeable and relatable.

Emma Thompson is amazing. I do believe she can do anything. I loved her in Dead Again. I loved her in Love, Actually. I even loved her as Nanny G on Cheers. She's like Meryl Streep, only with a little less technique on display.

Is this a great movie? No. Is it an entertaining way to spend an afternoon? Absolutely.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Venus in Blue Jeans (1962)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) Like the dream girl described in this song, Sam is wearing jeans as she composes this Saturday 9. Is there a lot of denim in your wardrobe? It's my go-to. Every day.

2) Jimmy Clanton likens this girl to the Venus de Milo, the ancient Greek sculpture made of marble and now on display at the Louvre. Is there any marble in your home? Not even aggies or cat's eyes.

3) He refers to his girl as "Mona Lisa with a pony tail." The Mona Lisa is also at the Louvre. What's the last museum you visited? I began Christmas Day with a visit to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Does that count? 

4) This girl is so awesome, she's the 8th Wonder of the World! Without looking it up, could you name the other 7? Nope

5) Jimmy Clanton spent his entire professional life behind a microphone. After he quit selling records, he began spinning them as a DJ. Do you consider the sound of your voice one of your better qualities? No. I hate my voice.

6) At age 80, Mr. Clanton still performs. He averaged an appearance/month in 2018. Some of his fans were surprised that he has let his pompadour go completely white. Do you color your hair? No. (My stylist colors it for me.)

7) In 1962, when this song was popular, Americans were reading about 5-year-old First Daughter, Caroline Kennedy, and her pony, Macaroni. Tell us about a pet you had when you were very young. Tommy. He was a wonderful cat. Mostly white, with one black ear and a black tail. We were great pals. We went everywhere together.

When I was about 5 myself (like Caroline), Tommy got sick right before Christmas. The vet called, and told my mom he had chronic kidney disease, would never be well, and she should consider putting him down.

My mom was a very mild-mannered woman, but I still remember her yelling into the phone. "Give me some pills or something. Tommy is coming home for Christmas!" She just couldn't bear to ruin my Christmas by telling me Tommy was gone forever. 

Well, Mom and Tommy and I showed him! Tommy lived another 14 years.

8) Decades later, Caroline Kennedy was the first woman to serve as US Ambassador to Japan. Have you ever been to Asia? Nope

9) Random question: When talking among themselves, who do you think is more open and honest about sex -- men or women? Women.


That felt gooood

Tonight I gabbed on the phone with my oldest friend, and we laughed ... and laughed. About silly things. It felt good.

I've been feeling isolated lately. By worry and hurt. John ... Henry and Reg ... Book Mama ... things are hitting me harder and staying with me longer these days. I can't shake the blues.

Instead of marinating in my unhappiness, I reached out. I'm so glad I did. Getting her advice about Henry and Reg made me feel better, and the laughter lifted the veil a bit.

Monday, June 17, 2019

For Book Mama

One of my first ever blogging buddies was Book Mama. I don't know how she found these musings, but she became a regular reader/commenter here and I started following her adventures. She was such a warm, funny woman. So passionate about so many things! She embodied "midwestern nice" at its best.

She's the only blogging buddy I've ever met in real life. When she, her mom ("Snowbird") and  kids visited Chicago, we all had lunch together in the cafeteria of my office building. They were just as authentic and comfortable as I'd hoped they'd be. Whenever I pass the table by the window where we all sat, I think of that day and smile.

Today I received an IM from Book Mama's mama and she shared the devastating news. "We lost her." This woman, this mother, this wife and daughter died from a sudden brain aneurysm. She was only in her 40s.

 I post these roses in memory of a woman who:

•  Was so proud of all her children, and just saw her oldest learn to drive and graduate from high school. That poor young man, going into this new chapter of his life without her.

•  Encouraged her girls to follow their hearts and interests. When one of her daughters became Hamilton obsessed, Book Mama not only brought her to Chicago to see the show, she waited at the stage door so she could take her girl's picture with her favorite Schuyler Sister.

•  After decades together was still romantically in love with her husband. As a barren spinster, I so enjoyed hearing that!

•  Had a conscience. She was committed to things, from car seat safety to the choir to Postcards for Voters.

•  Was enthusiastic! Whether it was her planning her summer reads or applying the Konmari method to her home, Book Mama threw herself into what she doing today and was looking forward to tomorrow.

My heart will miss her heart. When she brought her girls downtown for Hamilton, she asked me where she could find Napoleon and his people. She wanted her children to have a face, and a story, to help them better understand homelessness. And she had a $20 tucked away to share with Napoleon, Caleb and Randi. Because that's who she was.

Rose photo courtesy of Pixomar at

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sunday Stealing



    Last beverage:
I swallowed my morning meds with skimmed milk

    Last phone call:
Kathleen. I'm doing a freelance job for her. 

    Last text message:
My nephew, rhapsodizing about Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs played the Dodgers last night in Los Angeles, and Rizz gave us our Hollywood ending: a game-winning homer in the 9th.

    Last song you listened to:
"Let's Groove" by Earth, Wind and Fire

    Last time you cried:
Watching the end of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid about three weeks ago. I've seen that movie at least 25 times -- I can recite it! --  and never cried before. I realize these were really tears shed for my old boss, who'd just died. I admired that man so much.


    Been cheated on:
    Kissed someone and regretted it:

    Lost someone special: Yes
    Been depressed:
    Drunk hard liquor:
    Lost glasses/contacts:


    Last time you saw your mother:
She was in the hospital, delusional and angry. I don't like thinking about it.
    Have you ever talked to a person named Tom:
    Most visited Webpages:
Email, Facebook, this blog, Goodreads and Farmville

    Will you be celebrating Fathers day? Nope. My dad, grandfather and godfather are all gone.
    When did you first realize you were an adult?
When I was setting up the kitchen of my first-ever apartment. This place was mine. All the decisions were mine. It was exhilarating and scary. I was 19.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: I Learned from You (2007) ... Because it's Father's Day weekend. 

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) This song is a duet by the father/daughter team, Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus. Is your family musically inclined? Not remotely! I don't play an instrument, and neither did my parents nor either of my sisters.
2) This song is about life lessons. Who has been a major influence on your life? Cousin Rose. Our relationship is different now than it was when I was 16 and she was 25, and her influence has naturally waned. But when I was a girl and a young teen, she was a wonderful role model and my biggest supporter.
3) Miley's given name is "Destiny." Her nickname as a baby was "Smiley," which is where Miley came from. What's something that can always be depended upon to make you smile? Not a "what" but a "who." My favorite most Cub, Anthony Rizzo. On and off the field, his work ethic and joie de vivre delight me. Not only did he recently get his 500th homerun, last month, he raised $1.8 million with his annual Cook Off for Cancer. He played host and emcee, while his teammates either acted as grillmasters or waiters. All the proceeds go to the battle against pediatric cancer. Oh yeah, and he made it to TMZ! The story was really no big deal, but it amuses me that Rizz haunting McDonald's in the pre-dawn hours is a national story.
Anthony @ the 2018 Cook Off. Since his wedding in December, he's more likely to wear a jacket at off-the-field appearances. My boy is growing up! (Photo from The Chicago Tribune)

4) Miley's father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, has 5 children in addition to Miley (6 in all). Are you the oldest, the middle or the youngest sibling? Or are you an only child? I'm a middle child. My older sister is a year ahead of me, my kid sister is 8 years behind me. When I asked my mom if we were planned, she just laughed and said "no sane person" would space her kids that way.
5) Sam's own father often traveled for business, and always remembered to bring her the little complimentary soaps, shampoos or body lotion he got from the hotel. Tell us about an inexpensive but treasured souvenir from a trip you've taken. My little pins from this year's TCM Classic Film Festival.
6) Back when Sam was in high school, it was her father who gave her driving lessons. Are you patient when teaching someone something new? I try to be. I don't know that I'm altogether successful.
7) Sam's father is easy to buy for: every year he wants a new pair of loafers, so every year for Father's Day she gives him a DSW gift card. Is there anyone on your gift list that you find it easy to buy for? My oldest friend. First of all, she needs everything. Plus, she has a great many passions: cats, Star Trek, The Godfather, The Beatles ...
8) For family barbecues, Sam's dad dons his "Kiss the Chef" apron and mans the Weber. What's the last thing you cooked on the grill? A salmon filet on my little George Foreman grill.
9) Sam's father satisfies his afternoon sugar craving with an almost endless stream of Butter Rum Lifesavers. When you crave a snack, do you usually reach for something sweet or salty? Depends on the day.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Seen while looking out the window

I wasn't going to work out today at lunchtime. I have a good book, I was hungry, I had a few bucks in my wallet ... I thought maybe a slice of gooey pizza, devoured in a booth while enjoying my book, was in order.

I looked out the window to check the weather and saw an old lady with a cane. She looked so vulnerable, trying to make her way toward Michigan Avenue in the crush of people. I decided I never want to be her, and that I should work toward preventing it.

So I stretched and I pedaled. And tonight, when I got home, I iced my back. I have to respect that I have spinal stenosis and behave like a responsible adult when it comes to managing it.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

Thursday, June 13, 2019

I miss romance

No "restless flames" for me or my buds
As I get older, my friends' problems become more health related than romantic. For a worrier like me, this is especially, well, worrisome.

My oldest friend had "an outpatient procedure" related to her bladder. For the last three years, she's suffered from incontinence. Not a few drops when she sneezed or coughed. This was a real problem. Plus she's been struggling with repeat UTIs. So she was glad to have the procedure, even though now she "hurts like hell" and will be walking like John Wayne for a while. I know there's a second step, a second procedure, recommended, but she doesn't seem to want to discuss it. Lately our emails have been frothy affairs, which is fine. She battles depression and if she wants to keep it light, we shall.

My friend John is ill. The good news is that he's being treated at Northwestern, recently ranked one of the top 10 cardiology programs in the nation. The bad news is that he's 63 (64 next month) and has suffered from congenital heart disease for a decade now. Since March, he's taken a turn for the worse. He can't breathe and he tires easily. Also, he continues to lose weight. John says he has no interest in food since being diagnosed as diabetic back in 2016.

The doctors had wanted to implant a pacemaker 10 years ago, when he was first diagnosed. He refused. He expected them to insist on one now, but in 2019, they're not so sure a device is still the right course of treatment for him. He made it through his first round of tests, which resulted in his meds being adjusted. Next up is an angiogram.

He needs to improve his diet ... and incorporate exercise into his day ... and begin taking immunizations for shingles, flu and pneumonia more seriously ... When he was telling me all this, I wanted to scream. FUCK TO THE YES, YOU HAVE TO DO THOSE THINGS! I love him. I can't imagine my life without him. How can he be so cavalier with his life? I am working hard to not let him see how frustrated and frightened I am.

Henry and Reg are exhausting.  Henry, who nearly died last October after a terrible traffic accident, complains that Reg treats him "like a child," wants to keep him dependent, and is more and more impatient and short tempered with each passing day. I can see where all of that could be true. But, with Henry's traumatic brain injury, maybe it's not true. That's the challenge: I have to listen and support him and treat him like an equal, never knowing if what he's saying to me is truth or fantasy.

His husband, Reg, takes to social media to bitch and moan about their lives. According to him, Henry can be unreasonable and temperamental and requires constant attention. Is this accurate? I don't know, but I believe it feels true to Reg. That's not what disturbs me.

It's that he seems to need to use GoFundMe and Facebook to reach a big audience for his two shows a day of martyrdom. I have told Reg, more than once, that when Henry inevitably finds these posts he will consider them a massive betrayal and invasion of his privacy. Reg says, "I don't care. I can't care," meaning he needs this outlet for his stress and pain.

"Read about TBI!" he keeps telling me. You think I haven't?

When I do my Reg-required TBI reading, I see again and again that both the patient and caregiver should be in counseling. Neither of them is. Henry doesn't go because there's nothing wrong with him. He denies he ever had a brain injury. The problem is everyone who treats him "like a child." Reg isn't in counseling because he doesn't "have time."

I know how they each must be struggling. I appreciate how far Henry has come in his recovery, and accept that, if this is our new normal, I will adapt because I love him.

But I do not belong in their marriage. What I am about to say is ugly but it's true: sometimes I dread their calls and messages.

Can you see why I miss the good old days when my late night phone calls centered around, "Why doesn't he looooove me?"

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

1. What are you currently reading 

A Common Struggle by Patrick J. Kennedy. The Kennedy family maintains a hold on our national imagination in part, I believe, because they are just that -- a family. They are us, only more so. Our strengths and weaknesses are theirs, only theirs are magnified. All of this is on display in Patrick Kennedy's very brave book.

The youngest child of Ted and Joan Kennedy, Patrick had two parents with mental health and addiction issues. Like many families, the Kennedys found these issues embarrassing and painful and would have preferred not to shine a spotlight on them. But the spotlight was always there. In a particularly chilling passage, near the beginning of the book, Patrick describes his early sessions with a shrink. He was a teenager, confused by his parents' divorce, yet afraid to discuss the more painful aspects with his psychiatrist because it felt too private and too embarrassing. Then he walked into a bookstore, browsed the "Kennedy section" and saw that just about anyone had access to tales about his mother's drinking and his father's infidelities.

Mental illness and addiction are "a common struggle" because we all know someone who suffers from depression, addiction, or anxiety. Bi-polar Patrick shares his story, and offers up solutions, to encourage dialog on this important topic. While well written, it's not an easy read because there's real pain on every page. I applaud him for this book.

2. What did you recently finish reading? 
The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Part of the fun of this book -- and it is paranoid, scary, wacky fun -- is in stumbling upon similarities between William Jefferson Clinton and fictional POTUS Jonathon Lincoln Duncan. Both grew up poor. Both went to law school and married the smartest girl in class. Both had one, perfect daughter. Both became Southern governors and then ascended to the Presidency. Both felt they unjustly faced impeachment. I smiled a lot as I read those passages.

As an author, Bill Clinton improves this book. He has always been good at taking the complex and making it relatable. (Or, as Barack Obama said in 2012, he should be "Secretary of Explaining Stuff.") Cyber terrorism and hacking are brought to life here in a way that will give you chills. You get what's at stake here. And, after reading this book, you'll be pissed by how sanguine the current (real life) Administration seems in the face of Russian meddling.

I'm sure the plotting was all Patterson, and it was tight. The suspense built to a satisfying reveal that made complete sense. However, there were passages that were unnecessarily lurid and breathless, and they reminded me why I quit reading Patterson/Alex Cross back in the 1990s.

3.  What will you read next?  
Something lighter, that's for sure.