Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Widow's Walk

What do you say to a woman who has lost the love of her life? What do you say to a woman who is a widow at 39, with two young children to support? You say, "I'm sorry."

But what do you say to a woman who has lost the love of her life, is a widow at 39, and has two young children to support when she submits her blog for review on a site that consistently and with rapacious glee eviscerates hum-drum blogs with scathing commentary?

You say, "I'm sorry," and you dig in to the review even though all you want to do is give Sandi a big hug and then call your nearest and dearest and tell them you love them because life can be short and sharp.

When I saw that my blog to review this week was A Widow for One Year, I choked. Jesus, I said. This one is going to gut me. And I was right. I sat down and read this blog from start to finish. I'm not going to lie to protect Sandi's feelings -- I didn't read the entire thing because the writing was fantastic. It's not. It's raw and unvarnished and personal and sometimes inelegant. But the feeling in the writing, the story of what's happened to Sandi and her family, is, for me, impossible to turn away from. It's engrossing, and heartbreaking, and, unfortunately, more common than I knew.

This is an intensely personal blog that has far-reaching potential. The author has already been profiled in a local paper, and she's writing a book about her experiences. Sandi writes frequently and decently, and she comes across as forthright, ballsy, opinionated, and brave. And she's not afraid to get mad, to cry, to laugh. It's a blog where I care more about the author and her experiences than I do about grammar and engaging narrative and succinct phrasing.

But. Could it be better? Yes. And because she asked for it, here's my advice.

Get a new blog design. Stat. This one is boring, tired, and bland. You have important things to say. You'll be heard more clearly if you provide a little visual interest. Find something clean and engaging with some personality. I also think you really need a blog with some tabs for extra pages. All blogs need an "About" page, but yours especially could benefit. People should have the opportunity to read your story outright. Move those 25 items in the sidebar to that "About" page, too. There's no need for it in the sidebar; it's clutter. Also, it would be great to link a page with resources for pancreatic cancer research, support sites, etc.

What I really like is that you offer up these glimpses of your life with John and your life without John, there's holding on and moving on. These are meaningful, heartbreaking, instructive, and often inspiring. But there's some filler here, too. I hesitate to tell you to get rid of the filler because there's more to you than this grief, this experience of loss, and I like knowing that you, like me, hate the New Kids (maybe they should now be the Approaching Middle Age Losers Who've Peaked and Are Kidding Themselves). But beware of posting just to post.

As to your writing, it's solid if not always evocative or lyrical. But I feel like you have bigger things to worry about, so it didn't matter all that much to me, honestly. I know you can do better at crafting solid posts, but a part of me wonders if that's even the point. This is, after all, a release for you and a place where you can document and detail this year of widowhood (and hopefully further years). I know it's more therapeutic than artistic, at this point. If you're hoping to transcend that barrier, dust off that English degree and get a little more creative, a little more colorful, a little more polished. Right now, though, I understand that putting the thoughts out there is more important than putting them out there wrapped in pretty packaging.

For the design, you get the dreaded

For the writing, you get

For the content, which is meaningful, important, life-changing, gut-wrenching, brave, insightful, soul-baring, ballsy, compassionate, championing, nurturing, and universal, you get


  1. This is a perfect review, and you were the perfect reviewer for this blog. I hope she follows your advice, because you are so right on. And, this blog could be so much more powerful if it were showcased better and cleaned up more.

  2. As much as I'd like to lighten the mood, I can't shake the post Calamity described (correctly) as "engrossing".

    I feel like I have barbed-wire under my skin.

  3. THIS template.


    1) Get rid of the colored text, it is very difficult to read.

    2) Re-order the sidebar as follows: about you, archives, recent posts, pics, links.

    3) Quit quadruple spacing your posts, or whatever it is that you're doing.

    4) No more angelina jolie, PLEASE.

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  5. In one post, titled 'Guilty Pleasure', she references Skeletor, scourge of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

    If we can drop the dead husband/poor widow act for just a minute, let's also keep in mind that this reference alone should earn and hold a reader's adoration.

    ~ Driz

  6. Even though I have been reviewed-- I don't comment here. I feel like I have to for the first time now.

    Damn, wiping my tears off my face at work was not something I expected today. I got that lump in my chest, and like Calamity, got that urge to call my loved ones.

    I have a lot of admiration for you Sandi. Your bravery in sharing your life is to be commended-- and I thought Calamity's review was right on.

    Thank you for sharing. I feel confident in saying that there are quite a few people, like me, who are sending you strength and peace from afar.

  7. I have absolutely nothing to add to this.

  8. Thanks for the review. I was well aware that my template sucked. I've just been to busy/lazy to do anything about it. Maybe it's time I did

  9. I read this blog yesterday after Love Bites posted this week's reviews (victims). I loved the way she writes in that it's just honest and obvious. She does something I can't seem to teach myself, and that's saying something without trying too hard to dress it up.

    I knew the template and sidebar would get her.

    That spacing thing. Sometimes it was fine, but on some posts you could drive a truck between paragraphs.

    That, along with the huge signature quote at the bottom of each page drove me batty. I kept thinking it was a post.

    It's definitely a blog I'll read again.

  10. I looked at this last night and thought, 'shit this is a hell to review for someone'.

    Calamity nailed it.

    Blog looks a bit crap, writing is good, not great, but none of that matters a shite because of the story she's telling.

    I had to stop reading it because it made me feel like a dirty moaning git.

    Please take that as a compliment & the vesy best of luck to you Sandi.

  11. Oh, Calamity. I. Fucking. Love. You.

  12. For quite a while, I've been reading another blogger who is also a pancreatic cancer widow and a mother of two (twins). I'm not sure if I can handle reading another one, but I am sure going to try. The parts I've read so far give such a real glimpse into Sandi and her life.

    I fourth or fifth the call for a new template. And if possible, a graphic personalized to you, rather than just any free template would be more powerful.

    Please please please move the 25 things in the sidebar into a post and link to it if you want, rather than as it is. It doesn't need to take up your entire sidebar.


Grow a pair.