Two Literary Agents Have My Manuscript


The morning I peed on a stick and got a positive result, I’d told at least 20 people by lunch time.  Defying decades of cultural compulsion to keep that shit a secret until you hear a heartbeat or get to 12 weeks, I blabbed to everyone.  Not because I was so sure my little embryo would go the distance, but because I wanted other people’s loving support and witness.

People screamed in joy with me.  One friend bought me a drumstick, nostalgic grammar school confection that I devoured in three bites because PREGNANT.

I’m not good with keeping things under wraps.  I suck at secrets, so PLEASE don’t tell me any.

For six days I’ve mumbled quickly or sent soundless emails to friends far away saying that two literary agents asked for my manuscript after I pitched it to them.

And I can hardly imagine a more exciting sentence I’ve ever written about my writing.

I pitched; they asked for a full; I sent it.

I’m in the perfect moment right now.  You get that right?  This is that moment before the blind date rings your bell and you can project onto him that he’s your perfect soul mate who will light your eternal flame and let you decorate ya’ll’s living room for the rest of your days.

It is the moment before you open the perfectly wrapped present that contains every fanciful dream you have about what’s inside. (Diamonds! The key to a new convertible! A platinum Costco card!)

This is the day you land the job interview for the job you’re sure you want.  It’s the morning of the race you hope to PR

It’s peeing on  a stick knowing full well you could get your period in two days.  Or miscarry in two weeks.  It’s saying yes to your co-worker with the weird teeth when she offers to set you up with her brother, the architect, who, you admit, looks pretty foxy in the picture on her Facebook page (his teeth = normal).

I also try not to think about it.  I know it will take them a while to get back to me because literary agents.  That’s fine by me.  Take your time, please.  I’m trying to learn my new job, and I’m getting tons of bang for my buck with my therapist these days: “Doctor, I keep dreaming about a door being slammed in my face.  What do you think that’s about?”

Yale-educated therapist: “Fear of rejection.”

Yes, my dreams are laced with vivid rejections scenarios, but when I’m awake?  I know this is the sweetest moment ever.

It can’t be wrong to root for your fetus.

This entry was posted on November 1, 2014. 24 Comments

I Didn’t Get What I Wanted

I knew exactly what I wanted: a brilliant, late-fall run on the lake. I may not be a Millennial but I nevertheless have a finely-honed sense of entitlement. I wanted that run. The time change is coming and in less than a week, I won’t be able to run home from work because it will be too dark and you know what happens to women who run alone in the dark, right? Ask Kitty Genovese.


It took less than four steps for me to determine this wasn’t going to be one of the runs that makes me feel like a bird in flight. This was going to be the run of a middle-aged woman who brought the wrong running bra and didn’t eat sufficient protein throughout the day.


At .7 miles, I made it to the lakefront path. There, I was greeted by an asshole headwind, cousin to the one Dorothy encountered back in Kansas.


So this run is complete suckage, I thought, digging deep for some acceptance. I reminded myself of the great spiritual principles, such as (1) no one owes me a sublime run just because I toil in an interior office all day long; (2) at least I have legs to run; (3) Mother Teresa never bitched about adverse conditions on the running path.


I wasn’t getting what I wanted.


Half a mile on the path, a freckle-faced teenager passed me on a skateboard. He looked like he’d just barely grown out of a chubby phase and it was taking all of his effort to remain stabilized on his skateboard. His outfit looked private schoolish: a navy, long-sleeved collar shirt and khaki pants. His forehead glistened with sweat from his considerable efforts.


I resisted the urge to suggest he wear a helmet instead of the maroon baseball hat. Really, I was just pissed he passed me. I don’t like to be passed, even if by kids less than half my age on wheels.


He bobbled off the board, and as I passed him, I saw a surprised look on his face. He didn’t seem to fully understand of the physics of skateboarding. I smiled at him and decided he looked like a younger version of my friend Robert’s son. I wanted him to master that skateboard. Now instead of a lecture on safety gear, I wanted to pull him aside and say, “I hope you always have that impish innocence about you. I hope your keep that goofy grin for the rest of your life. I hope you’re the fucking coolest kid in your class. If you’re not, then I hope you know your day is coming. Be a good guy and you’ll get to have plenty of sex.”


I knew he’d pass me again so I stayed to the right.   I considered resuming my complaints about the state of my lungs and the gale-force winds, but before I could really amp up my bitching, he swooshed past me. This time, however, his hat fell off about three yards past me. He didn’t seem to realize at first.


Without breaking stride, I bent and grabbed the bill of his hat and ten strides later passed it to him like a baton. He gave me what I imagine is his signature big goofy grin. Oh gee, lady, thanks for grabbing my hat, huh huh huh.


The next two miles felt marginally better physically, and infinitely better mentally. Something about my connection with that kid and his hat changed everything inside me.


I didn’t get what I wanted.


I got what I needed.


Help! My Daughter’s In A Friendship Triangle

Before my daughter started school, I prayed (literally, said prayers) that she would find her way socially with ease and joy.  “Please let her be like her father– easy-going, adaptable, friendly, confident.”  When I got really desperate, I begged God to spare her the dark sides of my personality and keep her from being too insecure, desperate, dramatic, histrionic, low self-esteemy.

I was pleased when my prayers were answered and she seemed to be “in the flow” socially and found a great group of friends.  Actually, she found two best friends, darling little girls who share her abiding love of coloring and exercising executive leadership skills. 

Two.  There’s two of them.  And you know what that means, right?

My daughter’s in a friendship triangle.  Kindergarteners, ya’ll.   Already I’m having to navigate my daughter (and myself) through the gauntlet of a threesome.  Someone’s always left out.  When it’s my kid, we spend the ride home talking about how unfair it is that she’s stuck with me while her two other friends are together, having great adventures WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER.  When my kid is on the upside of the friendship seesaw, I breath a tenuous sigh of relief.  Because it’s only a matter of time before she’s crying again.  Left out again.

Friendship’s hard, ya’ll.

It’s been massively triggering.  It brings up every relic of my own friendship triangles, a configuration I carried into my 30’s.  It’s been an opportunity to look back at my own past, relive some hurts and ultimately heal.  I like to think that revisiting my own friendship struggles will help my daughter work through her own feelings.  I found that engraved into my cells is the exhausting experience of trying to keep up with two other friends.  Trying to be sure I’m still “in.”  Scrambling, chasing, clawing at every opportunity to keep a toehold in the relationship.

I don’t want this for either of my kids.  I realize there is no way to spare them their own experiences, but God, I sure want to.  How much is it going to suck when one day she comes home with a heartbreak over a friendship’s end?  It’s going to happen.  Even when it’s for the best, it hurts in a way that’s as deep as death and as immediate as a broken bone.

But then again, it’s the failed friendships that taught me what I most value in friends: humor, emotional availability, loyalty, honesty.

When the day comes that either of my kids arrives at the Heartbreak Hotel– Friendship Edition, I’m going to hand them this book.  It’s written by women who survived and thrived through the vicissitudes of relationships with friends.  These authors survived and so will my kids.


Order the book: My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends by clicking here.

Sick of Hearing Myself Say “No Thanks, I’m Fine”


By 9:10 AM I’d already turned down an offer for water, one for breakfast, one for an extra napkin and one for company on my five-block walk to work.  Pretty curious behavior for someone who purportedly wants capital M more out of life.

If I can’t even accept a fistful of napkins from a friend, how exactly do I expect to take in the big ticket items? (An agent, a publisher, a pension, a Disney vacation)

I watched myself systematically and reflexively say “no, no, I’m fine” repeatedly yesterday.  It was the same “no” that keeps me from accepting hot tea from the lady who trims my hair or my neighbor’s offer to watch the kids while I make dinner when Jeff’s out of town.  It’s my knee-jerk, my go-to, my happy place.  This “no” broadcasts to the world my essential and subconscious mission statement: I’m not a person who can take in unbidden offers of kindness, help or pleasure; I’ve got everything taken care of thankyouverymuch.

But here’s the deal.  I actually was thirsty that day when Anna was cutting my hair, but I couldn’t take her up on the offer for hot tea.  And when my friend offered to buy me a yogurt parfait for breakfast? I was fucking starving– I’d just been to spin class.  But I thought, no, I have a Clif bar in my purse so … so … I’ll just say no and watch her eat.  When my neighbor offered to watch the kids so I could put my cauliflower concoction in the oven, it would have been so much better to say yes.  Had I said yes, the kids and I would have had dinner before 7:30 PM, before the epic meltdowns, before the power struggles over who has to wear a pull-up to bed, before I resorted to sneak-eating ice cream in the downstairs bathroom.

It would have been so much better to say yes.

I gave “yes” a spin today.  I let someone hold the gym door open for me while I swiveled my double BOB stroller through it.  I’ve done that move 50 times and never accepted help.  It took three seconds out of this guy’s life to help me out.  I said yes.  I didn’t die.  I simply got through the door without trying to half-heave the stroller and 85 lbs of my own flesh & blood through a three-foot opening.

After that, I decided I’d accept any offers to receive for the next two hours.  Lucky for this old creature of habit, none were lobbed my way.  But, I’m putting “yes” on notice: I’m coming to get you.  I’m coming to grab you with my own sticky paws.  I’m going to hold you up to the light and examine you from every single angle.  In a few months, I’m going to be all Yes! to napkins! Yes! to babysitting! Yes! to free scalding hot beverages!

Yes! to help and pleasure and kindness and attention.

Because the price of “no thanks, I’m fine” is too high to ignore.

This entry was posted on September 17, 2014. 35 Comments

On Setting a Ceiling and a Personal Record (“PR”)

I’m fond of posing rhetorical questions to myself.  Lately, my favorite: Who put this ceiling up?  By ceiling, I mean limitations, and I’ve got an answer to my question.




On August 11, 2005, I ran a 5K race really fucking fast.  Blazing speed, huffing lungs, endorphin rush– the whole damn deal.  The race was a charity event for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and because we lawyers are fucking hilarious it was called “Race Judicata.” FN 1.  On the way home from the race, my boyfriend summer fling broke up with me with the piercing line: “You’re not The One.”

I took it exactly as you’d expect.  I hurled my favorite Tag fruit bowl on the floor and cabbed it to my best friend’s house where I slept cried on her guest bed all night long.  The next morning at work I kept my door shut and informed my secretary that I was not accepting visitors.  I was busy waiting for my therapist to call me and tell me it would be okay.

In my grief, I checked my official time for the race. 24:44 (7:57 minutes per mile), a PR.

My time was a small consolation for the heartache.  “At least I ran faster than I ever had before.”

It was fun to set a PR.  I was 32– single (suddenly), childless and fast.  I was sure I’d never beat that time.  How could I possibly?

Every year I would see the sign-up sheets for the annual Race Judicata, and I’d sneer.  As much as I loved my PR, I didn’t like the memory of my post-race dump.  I swore I’d never run that blasted race again.

And while I am a woman of high integrity who keeps her word 99% of the time, I retracted here.  When folks from my office organized a group to run this year’s race, I relented.  After all, my story had a happy ending– I met and married someone exceedingly better for me than Race Dumper, and we have two beautiful children.  I was done with the ghosts of Race Judicata past.

“Sign me up,” I cried, fist to the air.

It wasn’t in my plan to set a PR.  Impossible.  For God’s sake, I’m 41, I’ve got a 10-inch scar on my lower abdomen from my children’s births, and breasts that are still nursing.  The last thing I need is a PR.

Maybe it was the perfectly ripe banana I ate right before the race.  Or the Amy’s enchiladas frozen entrée I ate for lunch.  Maybe it was the breeze off the Lake that evening or the fact that I wanted to go home and eat dinner with my family.  I don’t know, but I did it: I PR’ed the goddamned Race Judicata, clocking in at 24:37.  Not by much, obviously.  Though, I’d argue that 7 seconds is significant in a wide range of important contexts.

Like this one.

This one where I said over and over (to myself), “Your PR days are over.  You’re middle-aged.  Your’re a mother.  You’re probably closer to an artificial hip than a PR.”

Folks, none of that was true.  None of the bullshitty, limiting things I said to myself about this 5K race were accurate.  My C-section scars and my unevenly shaped breasts didn’t keep me from besting my 32-year-old self’s best time.

Absolutely nothing physical keeps me from reaching any finish line I choose.  It’s the thoughts, each one a brick creating a ceiling above my head that requires me to crouch and stoop and, more importantly, hides the limitless sky from view.

So, who put up the ceiling?

I did.

FN1: Race judicata is a play on words.  It refers to the legal principle “res judicata,” which shares its pronunciation with “race judicata” and is Latin for “a matter already judged.”   In both civil law and common law legal systems, a case in which there has been a final judgment and is no longer subject to appeal; and the legal doctrine bars (or precludes) continued litigation of a case on same issues between the same parties. In this latter usage, the term is synonymous with “preclusion”.  In the case of res judicata, the matter cannot be raised again, either in the same court or in a different court. A court will use res judicata to deny reconsideration of a matter.

See how hilarious the law is?

WAKE UP! You’ve got to go get the kids and file your expense report!  Get Going!

The Ice Bucket Challenge Meets Body Image Issues



I made the mistake of showing my kids a few of the ice bucket challenges on my Facebook page.  Next thing  I knew, the kids were spending hours in the bathtub pouring water on themselves.  With their clothes on.  Actually, Sadie talked Simon into standing in the tub and while she poured water on him.  When he said it was his turn to pour the water, she said, “Nah, I don’t really want to get wet.”  Then, she poured more water on Simon.

Ad infinitum.

Eventually, I got tagged.  We took the party outside and filled a bucket full of ice and water. (Sorry, Africa, I’m an asshole.)  Sadie put on her raincoat and boots and asked a neighbor to help lift the bucket.  Jeff had me practice my spiel about ALS in a dry run. (Ha! Get it?)

Then, show time!

The ice, it was so cold. My daughter, her laugh was so bubbly. The neighbors, they so gamely joined us.

All good, right? We raised the money.  We went out of our comfort zone. We taught the kids about why raising money and awareness for causes is a valuable use of our time.

Then, I watched the video.

Like a giant eraser smudging out all the joy, all I could see was my stomach.  I zeroed in on my muffin top like a shipwrecked sailer spotting land.  I could no longer hear my daughter’s infectious giggles or remember the thrill of having my breath taken away by the deluge of cold water on my head.  Suddenly, this was no longer about anything except for a strip of my body between my breasts and my hips.

F*ck you, body image issues.

Seriously.  I’ve got them and hate them.  And I’m 41 years old.  I’m supposed to be too busy, too feminist and too enlightened to do this. To fall into an obsession about how my body got this way, what I should do about it, and why didn’t anyone tell me things had gotten so … so … muffiny?

I want to get back to the joy of the afternoon.  I want to crawl back on my hands and knees across the hot pavement of shame and be in that space of time before I saw myself and formed a judgment.

In the 18 hours since Jeff showed me the video, I’ve vacillated between two poles.

Pole one: I wish I had done the challenge standing up, not slumped in a stadium fold-up chair, so my stomach wouldn’t be so smooshed.  I wish that I had just let my kids do the challenge and stayed out of the picture.  I wish that all the desserts I’ve eaten in the past four years had been eaten by someone else.  These wishes roll up into the meta-wish that the circumstances (my body) were different, or at least looked different.

Pole two: I wish I could just accept my 41-year-old body just as it is.  It’s the same body that can run 8-minute miles for six miles.  It’s the same body that housed two small children for nine months.  I wish that when I saw the video I zeroed in on the love between me and Sadie or the look on Jeff’s face when it was his turn.  These wishes roll up into a meta-wish that I didn’t need anything to be different for me to feel okay.

Whether I like it or not, I have a touch of body dysmorphia.  I don’t really know what I look like.  When I was 110 pounds, I remember crying to someone about feeling fat.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  Because I was.  Still, it felt pretty real.  Then and now.

So until this passes, I pray to be too busy parenting or writing or doing my job to spend too much time thinking about me and that strip of my body.   Everytime I look down and see it, I smile and say, “Hi.”  I’ve no idea why I am doing that, except it sounds so much more pleasant then, “Who let you in here? Get the f*ck out!”

I call that making peace until I can reach Pole two.


When We Bury Our Mothers


And so it begins.

We book our last-minute flights that leave at ungodly hours, requiring transfers through Atlanta or Detroit.  We return to the churches where we last stood in matching bridesmaid dresses, clutching multi-colored bouquets and smiling with our arms around each other.  Back then, we were exhausted from staying up too late after the rehearsal dinner.  The lives we returned to after the wedding were the uncomplicated (though we didn’t know it then) lives of single, childless women at the beginning of their careers.  We had car payments, transitional boyfriends, portions of our graduate degrees, fabulous highlights.  We didn’t have birth plans or mini-vans.

We return full of sorrow, having slammed against the awful reality we vaguely knew was waiting for us in the far away One Day.

We return to bury one of our mothers.

My own mother is alive and well, recovering from jetlag from a well-deserved summer trip.  My father is too, having survived his first-ever trip to Europe as a septuagenarian.  I’m proud as hell of them for saying yes to the invitation to travel to Spain—for scouring Dallas for the best (but still cute) walking shoes and greeting a new experience with an open-wide yes-ness that took them thousands of miles from their comfort zones, which typically include rounds of iced tea at Corner Bakery and breakfast at a local diner with friends.

They are tired, but alive, still hurtling through new, pleasurable experiences.  I’ll see them in October, and we’ll let my daughter boss us all around, most likely marching us straight to the American Girl Doll store.  We’ll eat too much dessert, they’ll spoil my kids rotten with cookies for breakfast, and we’ll sock away new memories.

But not all my friends can say that.

Some of them have been unable to for years.  As I sit here on a plane to Texas where I’m headed to help a dear friend say goodbye to her mother, smooshed between a hygienically-challenged French citizen and a sweet old lady with a gigantic eye mask, I think, “Oh my God, it has begun.”

This new era’s actually been threatening for a few years.  My friends’ parents have had health scares, close calls, bad doctors’ visits, scans revealing ominous spots on vital organs.  It’s always gut-wrenching to watch someone grapple with a sick parent.  It’s devastating to be the one with the imperiled parent.

Today is the first day I will bear witness, as an adult and as a mother, to a friend’s final goodbye to her mother.  When my own mother’s mother died, I remember the women from my mother’s sorority and grammar school who showed up.  One sweet, tearful woman (Helen?)  surprised my mom at the funeral.  When they embraced, Helen kept saying, “Oh, Erin, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”

I thought that sounded so strange.  It wasn’t like my mom was doing some once-in-a-life-time trick, like jumping from a high diving board into a little bucket.  Helen’s words made what was happening at that cemetery in Baton Rouge sound so exciting. So not-to-be-missed.  Like a circus trick.  A stunt.  A show-for-the-ages.

But here’s what I now understand.  The daughter who buries a beloved mother is jumping from a high diving board into a little bucket.  The bucket is a new world where the daughter no longer has a mother.  She now has a grieving father to support and a new identity as a woman whose mother no longer walks the Earth.  Soon, she’ll have closets to empty, clothes to donate, insurance forms to file, and Christmases and grandparents’ days to get through without her mother.

Jumping from a high dive into a little bucket is fitting metaphor after all.

In my back-and-forth text exchanges with my friend about funeral arrangements and travel plans, she thanked me profusely for coming.  I typed out “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”  Then I erased it.  It still sounded so strange.  Too happy.  Too celebratory. Too jaunty.

Then, I typed it again.

Because it’s true.  I wouldn’t miss the chance to bear witness to her crossing over to her life.  The one without her mother.

Because it has begun.



This entry was posted on August 16, 2014. 22 Comments