You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2011.

Tuesday was the six month mark since I sent out my samples to the agents I met at the Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam. Of those five, I got three rejections, one remarkably personal and complimentary and two standard form letters. There was one woman who simply refused to respond, despite two separate follow-up inquiries. And then there’s the last, my holdout, and favorite of the bunch.

She’s the one who, according to online lore, takes an awful long time to get back to queries. The agency website says to resubmit after six months, so that is what I did late Tuesday night, six months to the day since I sent my original, with a friendly, “I know you’re really busy, but …” letter.

No word yet, but now I’m more nervous than ever. As tedious as all these months of waiting are, at least they hold hope. That whisper of hope is always there, simmering below the surface: this is gonna be The One, she’s gonna ask to read the entire manuscript and then love it and then sign up to represent me and then sell the book to a major publishing house — oooh, maybe there’ll be a bidding war and a six-figure advance, and then it’s interviews and New York Times bestseller lists and book signings and then, oh yeah, someone is obviously gonna want to make it into a big Hollywood production, and then ….

Or at least the beginning part: She’ll like it enough to ask to read the rest! That’s all I really want at this point — for something to read the whole damn thing.

If this doesn’t pan out, then I’ll have to take a long hard look at my work and possibly revamp the beginning, which is of course the hardest part to change.  If someone asked me to rework ten or twenty pages in the middle, I could do it in a flash. But the opening sentences are just so so hard. But I’m afraid it’s falling a little flat and that it takes too long for me to really get my groove. Oh, I don’t know, hopefully this won’t be an issue at all. Hopefully, I’ll get that positive response and then, and then, and then …. You know the rest.

Back to the house renovations.  I’ve gotta be honest about that “before” picture I posted last week of the exterior of our house: it really never looked that bad. It was quite lovely in fact. In that photo, the shutters had already been removed, leaving behind dusty shadows around the windows, all the porch furniture and flowers and door wreath were missing, and, to top it off, it was gray and overcast outside.  Sort of like the personal makeover pics that show women with no make-up, greasy hair and a scowl on their faces.  If that’s the standard we use, then I’m a makeover candidate every single morning (scowl included — I’m not much for mornings).

But anyway, that photo was definitely for exaggerated effect.  Progress is moving along in other areas as well. Here are some photos of the rear of the house (compare to these from a few weeks ago):

Boy, our neighbors must be pleased

And the side:

The porch is almost done (one more week) but the guys have spent most of their time and energy working on the inside lately.  The dry wallers came over the weekend so now the rooms are actually taking shape.

The bathroom:

Corner window over bathtub

Site of future shower


As yet uncluttered!

And the brand new and super fabulous bay window in our bedroom:

More soon, I hope!

I feel like I’ve spent the better part of 2011 complaining about the weather. First, it was the endless snow, waking up every Friday morning to an additional twelve inches of white stuff covering our world. Then it was the endless rain, day upon day of spring spent running from one destination to another, head down and umbrella up, puddles of mud blocking your way. And now, inevitably, it’s July in Cleveland, with its requisite 90 degrees and humidity so thick you start sweating the second you get out of the shower.

I’ve wondered if maybe I’m just getting old, like now I’m grumpy and can’t tolerate what we once thought normal.  But then I listen to the local meteorologists and am strangely comforted by the fact that we do indeed keep breaking new records. We all know this past winter was an extreme case, as evidenced by the five snow days.  I think I had five snow days in my entire young life. They were so rare I can remember them still: One in second or third grade spent in the yard of our Swiss neighbors, the Zuberbeulers (could that really have been their name?) building snow forts and having epic snowball fights. Another (which might have been a cold day, not an actual snow day) in eleventh grade the day before winter vacation that surely wrecked havoc on the teachers’ gradebooks since many papers were due and many tests were scheduled that could hardly be repeated two weeks later. And this year … five. The state legislature actually changed the law in January to increase the allotted days from three to five. So you don’t need me to tell you that this winter was unusually awful.

And then on the first day of May, all the news contained the delightful little fact that we had accumulated more inches of rain in April than in any previous month on record. And then yesterday was the hottest day in sixteen years, since another 98-degree day in July of 1995 (which I spent in the even hotter city of Houston, Texas).

I’m relieved when I hear these reports because I feel vindicated, like at least it’s not me. At least the weather really is as bad as it feels. And I’m not the guy climbing up ladders to install windows or paint the exterior of houses, working six or seven days a week to make up for the lost jobs of springtime.  Nor am I the child (i.e. Braedan) off at camp with the distinct privilege of horseback riding for an hour each day, which  requires wearing jeans and a helmet. So I really shouldn’t complain. But I still do.

But now the storm has come through and cooled things down a good twenty degrees, so it’s out to sit on the front porch swings with my sweetie(s) to enjoy a cool summer evening.

Well, that was quite a homecoming. As I pulled up to the house yesterday afternoon, I was on the phone with my sister-in-law hearing all the details from her fabulous swimming experience and suddenly I started squealing, “Oh my god, I LOVE my house! I LOVE MY HOUSE!”

She said, “Go, get off the phone, enjoy it.”

Sooooooo … remember this place?

Now this place:

Love, love, love it.

While we’re here jumping off the dock and dodging seaweed in the lake, my sister-in-law Sarah has flown to Boston for this weekend’s Swim Across America event. She and her brother are part of a team that will swim a total of 22 miles in the Boston Harbor to raise money for cancer research.

Sarah happens to be a stellar athlete, good at every sport she attempts so I have no doubt she’ll do fabulously at this as well, especially in her hometown. Her brother has participated for a bunch of years, sometimes in Austin’s honor, and I’m certain it will be enormous fun on top of the enormous physical challenge. If you want to support Sarah in her efforts, visit her fundraising page here. The funds go to the Dana Farber clinic for survivors of childhood cancer.

Turns out that this year, another swimmer is participating for Austin: a girl (well, once a girl, now a college graduate) who I used to babysit for in Cambridge when I was a college student myself is also swimming, motivated by Austin’s story.

So, here’s wishing for good weather and calm seas. Good luck, Jono. Good luck, Susannah. And good luck, Aunt Sarah,

We’ve been in Chautauqua for the past ten days. Each day I think I’ll go brrow my dad’s laptop and dash out a quick update but somehow my days are filled and by the time the kids are tucked into their bunks at night, I am done. Mark was here for 4th of July weekend and then it’s been a steady stream of my girlfriends and their children. At one point, we had seven kids in the house, all younger than Braedan. Between waterskiing and tubing, running and biking, shopping for, preparing and cleaning up after the never-ending mealtimes, we are all plenty busy … and plenty tired.

The kids are at such a better age for a trip like this without Daddy. They’ve got friends to entertain them day and night and, with Gram and Gramp right next door, there is always someone willing to go fishing off the dock or give an extra push on the swing. It’s really been quite nice and, according to Mark, we are very lucky to not be home since the painters are going full force, resulting in the entire house’s worth of windows being covered with plastic (not so nice when it’s 90-plus degrees out … and no, those hundred-year-old houses do not have air conditioning!). 

But I am super excited to go home and see firsthand the progress that’s been made. The pictures Mark texts me at the end of each day are pretty fabulous. The painting should be done by week’s end and I promise that as soon as I’ve seen it in person, I’ll post photos here.

But for now, I’ll fall asleep yet again with the waves crashing outside my window and I’ll have my morning cup of coffee out on the porch and then the kids and I will plan another day of chock full of relaxing.


Thank you for the many, many comments pouring in on this subject.  It is always good to hear from parents who’ve struggled with the same issue, both to borrow your techniques and to hear how dramatically your kids have improved as time’s gone on.  In fact, there are some people I’m stunned to hear were shy as children (i.e., one of Heights High’s shining stars of stage).

I agree that this is a phase and that he will improve as he gets older. And indeed, he already has: his second year at preschool was much more successful than his first. And this definitely seems to be a mommy-problem because he is much more likely to interact with kids and adults when I’m not around. But when I’m an option, it’s all me, all the time, which is perhaps why I find it so frustrating. I almost feel like I’m a bad influence on him because my presence allows him to revert back to his babyish, withdrawn self!

I do need to remember to gently encourage interaction without pushing him too hard. I like the idea of just having him wave at people or look at them when they greet him, even if he doesn’t respond verbally. And I also agree with the observation some of you made that it must be hard for him to speak up when Braedan is so verbose. Braedan befriends anyone, chatting with our waitress or telling our life story (or his version of it — yikes!) to the cashier at the grocery store. He answers for his little brother (“Oh, he’s four and a half,”) before Austin could ever have the chance to open his mouth. I find myself saying to Braedan, “He can talk, honey” and Braedan looks at me like I haven’t been paying attention and says, “Yeah, but he doesn’t like to, Mom. Du-uh.”

And, of course, I have to remember that Austin’s behavior isn’t about me (another of parenthood’s most difficult things: laying aside the Mommy Ego). It’s not about me showing off to the world what a special and bright child I have. It’s about letting him grow up in a way that he feels safe and supported. It’s also about pushing and helping him grow and expand beyond the boundaries he’d choose for himself, but still in a way that he feels safe and supported.

So, we move forward, one day at a time, one word, one friend, one wave at a time.

July 2011


July 2011