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Home from NYC: A Love Letter to the Women in My Life

It’s Wednesday morning and I’m humming with happiness.

It’s probable that I should be exhausted and stressed out, but I’m not. Not at all.

I’m happy.

I feel full, and bursting with excitement about my life and about the days to come.

My trip to New York was absolutely dazzling.

On Sunday I stood in my friend Aidan’s living room and had the task of speaking to what was definitely the most impressive group of women I’ve ever stood before. And all I could think about was how I wouldn’t be standing there without every last one of them.

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I began by talking about my mother, my beautiful, glamorous force of a mother. And how when she disappeared from my life when I was eighteen it was as though the entire world had gone dark.

But how back then, I wasn’t yet aware of the incredible gift she’d left for me. The gift of knowing how to connect with others, of how to fill my life up with all the very best people possible. This wasn’t a lesson she ever sat down and taught me outright, rather it was something she showed me just by the way she lived, by the way she loved.

And over the last decade and a half I’ve followed in her footsteps, not replacing her (impossible), but filling my world with women like her. And on Sunday, standing in Aidan’s gorgeous living room, I looked around with tears in my eyes, unable to believe this gift she had left behind for me.

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(Aidan wrote me the most incredible love letter about the whole experience.)

The truth is that the last year has been a very difficult one. Having a second baby, giving birth and nursing a newborn into this world, trying to work and write and travel in the meantime…it’s all been exhausting and a little defeating. But being in New York, and being around all of these remarkable women was a wake-up call, a reminder of how flawed and vulnerable and beautiful and fucking strong we all are.

And how we’re much more so when we’re together.

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(With Kelle Hampton and Jessica Shyba.)

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The whole reason I was in NYC was because my book was nominated for a Books for a Better Life award in the inspirational memoir category, and when I told Aidan that I was coming she invited us to stay with her and insisted on hosting one of her inspiring Happier Hour salons, hence the Sunday brunch.

Aidan and I met several years ago, through the blogging world and book world, but only met in person for the first time last year when she graciously came out more than once to support my book. This past weekend we took our friendship to an entirely new level, entwining our families and our girls.

Vera is going to be talking about this trip for the rest of her life because of how much fun she had with Aidan’s three little girls.

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This was actually Veronica’s third trip to New York. The first time we took her was when she was just 6 weeks old. The second time was last year on my book tour. The truth is that NYC is a hard city to visit with a kid, let alone two, but this last visit couldn’t have been more fun. This was the first time that Vera was really able to take in the city, and she just ate it up.

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All weekend she kept saying, “Mama, I love New York City. I want to live here when I grow up and be a writer.”

You got it, kid. Do it. I’ll help you.

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As usual, we ran up and down and all across the city, meeting up with a hundred different friends.

On Saturday we went to the Museum of Natural History with Momma’sGoneCity and Kelly Bergin, two of my absolute favorite bloggers and Instagrammers, and now simply two of my favorite people.

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Sunday was the brunch at Aidan’s.

And Monday was the Books for a Better Life awards.

I didn’t have any expectations for this event really. I was so honored just have had my book nominated. Every single book up for an award was truly exceptional, the kind of books dredged up from deep places within people. The kind of books that offer service unto others, and are so often born out of challenging personal experiences.

Kelle Hampton’s Bloom was nominated, and she and I sipped spiked lemonade together at the cocktail reception and pinched each other, marveling over the fact that we were there at all. Both of our books were birthed out of the hardest things we’ve ever been through, and when we wrote them it was because we had to.

I think I can speak for Kelle when I say that I don’t think either of us ever envisioned all that would come with putting our books out there in the world. We just wrote because we didn’t know what else to do. So to find ourselves in dresses, sipping cocktails and surrounded by people who we  love and who love us, was just the most unexpected bonus to it all.

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(This selfie took three tries because I couldn’t stop giggling.)

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(With my beloved publicist Liz Keenan and my amazing editor Denise Roy.)

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(With Edward Ash-Milby, who is the reason my book is on a shelf at every Barnes & Noble.)

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(With my handsome date.)

Kelle and I didn’t win, but it was more than enough to just see our books up there. (And I think we’re both winners in a thousand ways anyway.)

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(Celebrating afterwards with my agent Wendy (who has become a second mom to me), Liz & Denise.)

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(And with Kelle and the enchanting Meg Thompson.)

It was a whirlwind trip, to say the least.

On our hellish trip home yesterday I just didn’t care that what was supposed to have been a seven-hour traveling day turned into a fourteen hour one. I didn’t care because it was utterly worth it. I would sit on a grounded airplane with two kids for three hours anytime for this kind of experience.

And all I could think, watching my girls yesterday, was that right this very minute I’m imparting to them the very same gift my mother gave me. And for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

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I also couldn’t do it without all of the incredible women in my life.

Thank you Aidan, Kelle, Jessica, Francesca, Channah, Valentina, Surbhi, Christina, Kelly, Meghan, Antonia, Caitlin, Meg, Denise, Liz, Wendy, Mary Elizabeth, Tre, Jami, Becky, Hilary, Kristine, Lindsay, Valerie, and Bryce.

 

 

16 Comments

  1. wonderful post; congrats big time; i love your blog!

    Comment by Esther Bradley-Detally on March 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm

  2. Claire-
    I’ve been meaning to write to you ever since I finished your book last week, but life caught up with me and this is the first time I’ve had a chance to sit down and try to articulate my feelings about your book.

    I first heard about your memoir from Kelle’s shout out on her blog. I ordered within a few minutes after reading your post and immediately read a few of your archived posts. I’m raising two of my nieces after they lost both of their parents at ages 9 and 13. I’ve tried to find anything I can that can help me understand their loss, talked to therapists, etc., but it was your book that really hit home to me about their grief (and my own for that matter). I’ve found myself approaching them both with a little more patience and trying harder to let all of our kids feel my love.

    Our situation is very complicated and I struggle to find peace and acceptance of our new life. I sincerely thank you for your book and blog as it has brought a least a little bit of clarity in our fog of grief.

    Congratulatioins on your nomination and thanks again. You rock.

    Peg

    Comment by Peg on March 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

  3. Thanks, Esther!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on March 13, 2013 at 9:14 pm

  4. Peg, that was an amazing comment to read. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I’m so glad to hear that I was able to help in some small way.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on March 13, 2013 at 9:15 pm

  5. This is so lovely, Claire. Thanks for being courageous enough to write your story and share it with the world. All the praise is so well-deserved. Crying tears of happiness for you and Kelle.

    Comment by Melissa on March 13, 2013 at 10:21 pm

  6. I am so pleased that you have a wide and supportive realm of women friends. I’m not surprised, as you are prepared to put your own vulnerabilities on the line, on the public record, to be the first to admit imperfections. Women network and support, men bluff and bluster. Oh well, I suppose it is good to know that there is still a lot of room for human development.
    Your photo with Greg has him looking less than relaxed, well perhaps startled, maybe terrified. Whatever his talents, he’s not a poser.

    Comment by Paul Tredgett on March 14, 2013 at 12:14 am

  7. I need to start reading your posts before I put on my make-up because I always get a little (or a lot) teary.

    Comment by Meg G on March 14, 2013 at 7:30 am

  8. So lovely to see you dearest. You are such a shining light. xo

    Comment by Bryce on March 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

  9. Claire, I emailed you as a fellow mama of 2 girls a few weeks back. You replied with the sweetest note. Thanks!!

    Again, this resonates with me in what you said near the top: the truth is, this has been the hardest year. This adding-a-second-child thing has really thrown me. It’s been much harder than I imagined it would be. Complicating matters, we’ll be moving cross-country as soon as we can sell our house. It’s overwhelming to say the least.

    Anyway, thanks for being so relate-able. And for sharing posts like this, showing the world that you can do stuff, big stuff, even when you have little kids. It’s refreshing for me. I still feel mired, for the most part. My girls are nearly 4, and 10 months old. We’ll get there.

    Also – random – love your green & beige printed dress in the top photos! Super cute. Congratulations on your book’s nomination!

    Comment by Jen in MN on March 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm

  10. Thanks for the dissection, Paul.

    Comment by Greg on March 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm

  11. Hi Claire, I, too, just finished your book (Kindle version) and even though we have lived very different lives (that’s what makes this world a better place), you did help me with what is expected during grief and what is normal (for lack of a better word). I unexpectedly lost my, what we thought, healthy 73 year old dad to brain cancer. Start to finish was 44 days. His brain cancer robbed us of allowing the “last” conversation. The cancer came on so fericiously my dad never understood what was happening and was unable to communicate. I have so much to work through on what we experienced in 44 days. Your book helped me. Thank you.

    Comment by Susan on March 15, 2013 at 6:48 am

  12. Caire – it was so so wonderful to see you and so wonderful to celebrate you! You’re an inspiration! love!

    Comment by antonia on March 16, 2013 at 7:39 am

  13. [...] to know how I’m feeling about my mom right now? Claire Bidwell Smith can tell you better than I can. [...]

    Pingback by A Mother’s Gift | mother hunger on March 21, 2013 at 7:22 am

  14. Wow, you said it better than I can. I lost my mom in June and have found myself wanting to surround myself with people like her, and striving to do/be the things I admire about her. With my loss being so recent, I’m not quite able to look at my situation with such positivity and gratitude, but I’m going to get there. Thank you for sharing!

    Comment by Ashley on March 21, 2013 at 7:27 am

  15. I love that you have found all of these wonderful women in your life but more importantly, they also have you. You have become “an important person” to all of those people and I’m not surprised. So glad you had a great time in New York. As always, love all the pics!

    Comment by Hallie Sawyer on March 22, 2013 at 9:37 pm

  16. [...] this spring when I was the guest of one of Aidan’s Happier Hour [...]

    Pingback by Claire Bidwell Smith » Happier Hours = Happier Lives on June 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm

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