Neurosis of Writing a Book

bookIt has taken me six years to write a book: thinking it was done, then rip it apart, rewrite, add chapters, ferment in my PC for lengthy periods—just to go through the 360—many more times.  It has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Well, next to the many attempts to quit a cigarette habit…

One of the challenges of writing this book has been choosing to not talk about it, which has been really f’n hard because I talk a lot and this book is always on my mind—in the forefront of my brain or in the basement of my subconscious.  It’s become my dirty little secret, to tell you the truth.

Why a secret?

  1. If you tell someone you’re writing a book and you’ve never written one previously, they’ll give you that raised eyebrow look, “Yeah, right.” Honestly, I didn’t want to waste my nicotine infused breathe with, “Yes, I am,” raising my plucked brow and wine filled glass.
  2. I informed a few people, many years ago, I was writing a book; and they’d respond months later, “You haven’t finished that yet???” Ugh.  “Jesus. Who do you think I am? Mozart of the written word? Honestly, you don’t know how hard it is to write 89,000 words, police teenagers and work a 24/7 job—on commission only, and take care of my crazy cat.”  I just got tired of saying that, too.
  3. People want to know what it is about. “It’s the real estate version of Bourdain’s KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL.”  Fascinated, “Does it have recipes too?” O.M.G.
  4. When disclosing #3, my coworkers and clients feel uncomfortable—wondering if I am writing an exposé chapter about them. Or I hear, “I better be in your book!” Seriously? No, you’re not. Trust me.

Onset of the six year journey:

Like most newbie or wannabe agents, I read all of the books: HOW TO MAKE IT RICH IN REAL ESTATE, BECOME A FAT CAT $ELLING HOUSES and so on. Not one of the books actually took me through a deal—entirely.  Secondly, I could never find a book that didn’t have a glossed-over finish or nip-n-tuck billion dollar ending.  I desired to read a book that was real, the naked truth about this business of selling properties.  Never found it. So I wrote it.

There you have it: I’ve penned a real estate memoir, naked and unforgiving–multi-million dollar pads in NYC to $21,000 houses in CLE.  Knowing if it’s ever published, it’ll probably sabotage my career. With that, a few weeks ago, I started querying pimping my completed manuscript to NYC Literary Agents. (Yes, I’m an agent in need of an agent. Ironic. I sure wish I had hundreds of clients sending me house queries every week—that’d be a game changer, for sure.)  Anyway, I’ve had two requests to read the full manuscript, thus far. It’s a bit thrilling with a large dose of “nerve-racking and spirit-quelling metropolis,” Shelley-poetic. (Okay, that’s extreme)

And, who knows, I might be informed soon, “Revise and resubmit—in six more years.” I’m okay with that, too.  Such is the affliction of real estate and writing.

TIPS FOR NEW REALTORS

“I’ve been thinking about getting into real estate.” I hear this a lot. Over the years, I’ve helped, championed, and even mentored plenty of newbies in this biz.  It can be a good gig, at times.  Sometimes it’s not.  But it is always exciting.

Once a newbie receives their real estate license, I’m asked, “How do I become like you?” I laugh, at this, because it has taken years of personal and professional folly, near successes, slam-dunk deals, a lot of research and many closed doors and slipping through cracked windows to get where I am.   And I am not exactly a “top producer.”  Being a top dog with my name on signs, billboards, in magazines, isn’t really my thing anymore. Today, I am happy to see someone else in real estate make a splash with all of that.  Yeah, in the beginning, I used to get-off on being mentioned in the press and seeing my name on a sign and receiving all those fancy awards.  I was all about THE BRAND of me.  In your face, I’m your girl.  But just like interest rates, I’ve changed—realizing that form of blast branding isn’t for me nor does it deem beneficial for my clients. Eventually, all of that over-the-top splash seemed cheap and tacky, to me.  So I put a halt to it, and my business methodology evolved–tailored to fit my clients and me.  I like to fly under the radar, selling and renting and market consulting. As a wonderful result, I have attracted the kind-of clients who appreciate “under-the-radar,” and I am thankful for it.

There are plenty of seminars, blogs and books to help new agents thrive in this business: How to make a big name for yourself and become a millionaire. Self-branding is important to a degree, especially if you are new to this business; but there’s more—so much more if you want to endure—for the long haul. And let’s face it, the real estate climate is changing, particularly in the luxury market which has been declining over the past fifteen months in the US and shows no signs of swinging up, anytime soon.

So, here’s eight things I’ve learned over the last seventeen years—in bad and hot markets—and not included within the pages the those know-how real estate books:

BE HONEST

If you don’t know something, say, “I don’t know. But I’ll find out,” and find out. So many people in sales don’t like to admit that they don’t know something, so they spin bullshit. We hear enough BS in this biz.  And most clients are not idiots so don’t bullshit them.  When you are honest, saying you do not know, they actually trust you more.  And when you finally “find out,” delivering the goods to them you become credible.

DON’T PLAY THE BLAME GAME

When others in your deal are not pulling their weight or f’in up, never blame them or bitch about them to your client. NEVER.  I don’t care if the agent you’re co-brokering with lied or if the attorney and the mortgage lender is a moron or if the relocation company hasn’t signed the contract yet or even if the management company is slacking with the board approval, NEVER pass the blame onto another.  Your client does not need to hear about who screwed-up.   Be a leader and drive the deal home.  Find-out how you can help that other professional do their job and do it for them if you have to.  I don’t want you ever to think or say, “But that’s not my job.”  It is your job.  It is your job to manage the process of buying, selling and renting your client a property.  If you have to blame another, then you are not very good at your job.

BE ACCOUNTABLE

You’d think this would be a given, but it isn’t. If you tell someone you will do something or send the information in twenty-four hours. Do it. Even if you don’t have all of the data within that twenty-four hour time limit, still contact them and inform them that you are still working on it. And if you made an error, admit it and correct it.

VALUE OTHERS

You need to have the mentality that no one is beneath you.  Not the door man, the porter, the secretary, the taxi driver or the busboy who is refilling your client’s water at lunch and so on.  Show everyone respect and value them. Having an entitlement mentality is not attractive nor will it get you very far in business or in life.  Years ago, I was working for a real estate developer from Los Angeles. I wasn’t the only broker with whom she was working with. After we closed the deal, “Do you know why I chose to go with you, Heather?” I didn’t.  She informed me that I was the only broker who was nice to the cab drivers.

BE DISCREET

In NYC we’re privy to our clients’ salaries, investment portfolios, bank accounts, years of tax returns.  Keep your mouth shut, even if you’re amazed by their wealth or lack of it.  And if your client is a celebrity or a well-known 1%, never tell anyone about their deal or that you are or have worked for them.  That’s just self-serving—to make you, the agent, feel important.  If the press calls you asking if so-and-so purchased 123 Main Street, don’t return the call.  And after the deal is closed and you’ve received the commission and the confidentiality agreement you signed is void, still don’t disclose any information to anyone. Even if your client is not on the Forbes list or a movie star, never discuss their finances or personal information with anyone.  Finally, do not drop the name of a current or past client, with another client. True discretion will get you very far in this world of real estate. Trust me.

YOUR CLIENT IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

That’s right.  Once you start becoming chummy-chummy with your client, you’ve tarnished your mystique of real estate expertise.  You are no longer viewed as a practiced professional when you start disclosing details of your personal dramas—wayward husband, financial woes and so on.  IT IS IMPORTANT TO REPEAT:  Once you start being that open with your clients, like they’re your best friend, you are no longer seen as “Tour de Force in Real Estate,” in their eyes.  Tell your best friend your woes, not your clients.  Be an expert, not a pal.

SEND A NOTE OF WOW

If someone has gone above their duty to help you with a deal, find out who that person’s boss is and send them a note or email of “Wow and appreciation.” I have done such for porters, building contractors, management company secretaries, receptionists and others who have gone above and beyond, including agents who are my competitors.  A little note of praise goes a long way…It’s just good business and people should be recognized for their big and small acts of kindness and professionalism.

BECOME DIVERSIFIED

Don’t become blinded by the bubble you work in.  The real estate WORLD is so much bigger than the 4 mile radius you call your “niche” of suburbia.   Know what’s out there. Study different markets, not just market reports, but economies and history and cultures. Pay that relocation referral, for the corporate employee who is relocating to the US from Shanghai.  You’ll learn valuable information that will help you in the future.   If an opportunity arises, that’s different from your day-to-day routine, embrace it, even if it costs you a bit of money.  In addition to selling homes in Cleveland with septic systems and swank condos in NYC, I have consulted on real estate projects in China and Western Africa.  Have those projects deemed a big paycheck to me? Not really.  But I know so much more today because I was “open” and threw myself completely into something that wasn’t part of my typical “farming.”  Being diversified, in many aspects of this business, is going to set you apart.  It definitely has for me.  (Will being DIVERSIFIED lead me next to Dubai? Who knows…but it is a thrill to know that’s an option.)

In conclusion: Your brand, dear agents, should not just be limited to your logo, your head-shot, your super long e-signature line with multiple links showcasing how great you are or even the “look” of your website or your flashy clothes. Your brand, more importantly,  is how you conduct business without advertising it to the masses.  This is an exciting profession if you allow it and have the courage weather the storms.

Traveling to Italy, Sola.

 

 florence street.jpg

It’s been at least a decade since I have taken a vacation.  I am sure this void of an individually motivated holiday is common amongst most parents who are driven by commerce in order to provide for others.  It is how we live and we often find comfort in the fact that we sacrifice for those who need us; our devotion for their successes becomes more important than our own, including our personal needs and desires.   We put others before ourselves. I know I always have with my children and my clients and certain men in my life. Period; it’s just how I am wired. So during the last twelve years, I weathered the storm of responsibility, seeing a light once I turned forty-four years-old:  I would travel to Italy, once my children were adults, and I’d go there alone.  It was always Italy, my light.

I am an American who was raised German. Not one bit of Italian heritage is in my DNA. As to why Italy has called to me for so long, I cannot say.  I know my off-the-boat German grandmother had nothing nice to say about Italy or Italians when I was growing-up, well into my adulthood.  However, as much as she was and still remains to be one of the most influential people in my life, I have never let her disdain for that culture influence the beauty of my “light.” And possibly somewhere way, way back in my German blood, there’s an unrecorded German Uncle who was retained by King Odoacer circa AD 476 as a mercenary to enhance the Roman Army. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch…

All I know is that Italian influences in architecture has always sung to me in the USA, especially in my real estate excursions in Manhattan. And so many, many years ago, I wanted to know why. Why do I hear music when I see classical variations in Italian workmanship?  I have studied and obsessed over balustrades, terra-cotta tiling, pilasters, loggias, limestone, marble, sandstone, and so on. And one day I told myself, at forty-four years- old, I would view the originals—the real thing. It was my goal.

I reached my goal a few weeks ago, and it was not as I had envisioned, over the last decade.  Yes, I saw beautiful and majestic pillars and forms of art in the buildings I downloaded with my eyes, centuries old.  But, as I was walking the streets of Florence, you’d think I’d hear romantic arias via that soundtrack of my mind looking and finally witnessing “originals.”  But, I didn’t.  No Puccini, no Verdi, like in New York.  All I could hear was Jon Bon Jovi.  That’s right. Jon f’in Bon Jovi.

“Oh, if there’s one thing I hang onto
It gets me through the night
I ain’t gonna do what I don’t want to
I’m gonna live my life.”

“Shining like a diamond, rolling with the dice
Standing on the ledge, show the wind how to fly…”

“This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted
No silent prayer for the faith-departed
I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd
You’re gonna hear my voice
When I shout it out loud

It’s my life
It’s now or never
I ain’t gonna live forever
I just want to live while I’m alive.”

Yeah, I am losing some serious street-cred admitting that when I was walking cobblestone streets admiring century old structures in Italy,  I was hearing Bon Jovi via the i-pod in my mind. Very American, I do know.  And not at all aligned with my highly-trained classical music persona.  And my God, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni is probably laughing at me or with me from his tomb.  But, it is what it is. The truth: I was empowered, as I traveled through Italy, sola. Bon Jovi in tow.

Finally, it was all about me, for once in my life.  And it was wonderful.

Florence was my first city. It was beautiful and a disappointment. I was turned-off by its showiness, cater-to-tourists, Times Square display. It seemed cheap, to me, disrespectful. I did my best to travel off the beaten path, and I was successful at times.  I didn’t eat at any place that offered an English translation for the menu. I walked through non-desirable areas, ridden with graffiti to find the true Florentine-vibe.  I took Vespa lessons and drove far beyond the limits of Florence.  My Vespa tour of those Chianti hills was by far my highlight of the area, and I don’t even like Chianti.  I met so many cool and different people on that Vespa tour of eight hours.  Looking back now I probably should have shaved a day from my time in Florence.

Castle Florence.jpg

My number one destination was Northern Italy: Piedmont, Alba.

Back story: In addition to my craving of architectural beauty and splendor, I am a HUGE connoisseur of food and wine. Back in October 2009, I had met a man from London and his agent in Greenwich Village at an Italian restaurant, owned by my friend from Montenegro.  We sat near the fireplace to negotiate a deal for my listing on the fifth floor of Palazzo Chupi.  The buyer from London ordered a 1978 Barbaresco for our negotiations.  So there I was, negotiating the biggest sale of my life at the time–$11million—cash.  And that damn wine haunted me. I was seduced by a grape called Nebbiolo, from that moment on.  So, Piedmont has been a part of my “light” since that night of 2009.

After I had pre-orchestrated my time in Florence and then Alba, I realized I had miscalculated my AirBnB accommodations with no place to stay on 23 October.  So I opened up my Northern Italy map book to find a place half-way, near the sea.  Water has always soothed me. And I have always lived near water for most of my adult life. So the coastal town of Genova, seemed ideal, to me.Genoa Port.jpg

Loggia Genoa.jpg

Genoa was a pleasant surprise.  Even though it was raining most of my time there, I was chasing-the-dragon by elements of pure architectural wonderment. I traveled alley ways that weren’t necessarily deemed safe—full of prostitutes, drug traffickers, and other not-so admirable individuals. And, this was exactly where I wanted to dine, authentically. I had one of my best meals via a dark alley in Genova. Sea Bass and Squid Ravioli, and then Stuffed Anchovies. Genoa was the only city where I actually stayed at a hotel.  After my grastromic dream-meal, I decided to stop by my hotel bar for an after dinner digestif of Pernod and cup of coffee (not very Italian, I do know).  I met three people at that bar. 3 different people.  And to my utter shock, a man, who captivated my mind. Yep, I know it is a cliché: American woman meets a man in Italy.

Sea Bass Ravioli.jpg

But, he wasn’t really that dark haired, well-dressed Italian dream, I have encountered previously or those fine men in print and film. He dressed like an American—jeans, t-shirt, flannel shirt, and actually looked more American than Italian. I am not usually attracted to American looking men. I like and usually only release my mind to Europeans, and at times Middle-Easterns or South Americans.

To be honest, I thought he was gay. So I was open, going on and on about my life, and my Italian adventure, not thinking I would ever correspond with him again. Plus, his eyes are the same as mine, hazel, and we are both 44, permitting easy banter for me.  About an hour later, he proved not to be gay. Yep.  And I will not to go into to all the details of that proof, but I learned something from him. I learned what a strong man is. I learned the man I need in my life actually exists, even if it was a brief encounter near The Ligurian Sea. If I never see him again, I will be forever grateful to him for the time we spent together and the messages and calls since that time.  He showed me, I am worthy and he showed me honor is real in a man.

Alba Truffle.jpg

Alba Herbs.jpgApartment in Alba.jpgThe next morning I left for Alba. Oh. My. God.  Alba is magical.  I don’t want to tell you to go there because I don’t want it to EVER to become like those cater-to-tourists places. But, I restored my soul in Alba. Those scars over the years disappeared. I found a love in Alba—me. I cooked with white truffles, alone in my apartment, every night. Eggs—OMG, the eggs in Italy are supreme.  Gnocchi, veal, I cooked it for me, while drinking a bottle(s) of Barolo I can’t even afford in the US, lunch and dinner. I wrote—poetry and diary moments, and unfortunately I worked on a deal in NYC, while I was there. But hey, it was still MAGICAL, for me. Additionally, the Cleveland Indians were in the midst of the World Series, too.  I lit a candle the first night I was there for my hometown natives and they won. I didn’t light a candle the second night and they lost. Interesting.  And yes, I don’t really like American baseball, just like I don’t like Chianti.  So I guess, it just wasn’t meant to be a CHAMPIONSHIP… Furthermore, when I ventured alone in Alba, I was a bit sad, to tell you the truth.  I wished I had someone to share it with. It is so romantic and should not be experienced alone. I realized during this time, I am ready for love. Real love. That’s what Italy gave me, outside of food, wine, and architectural wonderment.  I am ready for love and I am restored, empowered to give and receive like I have never been able to in my past. Finally, I realized some things about my profession—well, there’s more and it isn’t confined to just deals in the USA…

I am ready for an international adventure. That’s for sure.

 P.S.  DO NOT GO TO ALBA, DEAR READER. DO NOT GO THERE…I WANT TO KEEP IT MAGICAL.  A SECRET FOR ME ALONE. DO NOT GO TO ALBA!

ON BEING (A NEW) AMERICAN 2016

Flag2016 is a leap year, just as it was in 1776. So on this snowy leap year morn’ I attended my friend’s Oath Ceremony to become an American Citizen.  Her journey to reach this point has taken her a decade. And it is not for me to elaborate on how hard this crossing to red-white-and-blue has been for her, because that is her story to tell when she is ready; but as I sat in the Federal Courthouse witnessing my friend and so many others smile with such genuineness and pride, I became absolutely elated for each and every one of them.  I wondered about all of their journeys to this point and the legacy they will build here, now that they are all American.  I truly want them to succeed here in the United States of America.

Today’s humbling event washed over me, like it was erasing all of that mumbo-jumbo pertaining to the upcoming presidential election—political opinions, passionate praises and bashings and loose hypocrisy voiced by “experts” and the nearly proficient, especially on social media. All of that just didn’t seem as important as to what I had witnessed today.

The Federal Judge’s final message was a poem and it was perfect.  I do hope it sang true and loud for all of my new countrymen as I did to me:

“My Creed”

I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can,
I seek opportunity … not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
Humbled and dulled by having the
State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build.
To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life
To the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment
To the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
Nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect.
Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, with God’s help, I have done
All this is what it means
To be an American.

 

ILLUMINATION, A Letter for MY SON

SamEIGHTEEN YEARS AGO, your story of life started out very traditional, just as I had envisioned it before you and Grace became my children.  Your father and I brought you home to a little brick bungalow that I had lovingly maintained. I was a full-time mother to you and your big sister. I was so happy and thanked God every day for my little family and our little house and our dog, Huck.  It was therapeutic for me to create, have and cherish what I had never had—a traditional family. I never yearned for anything else. We were so content and you were my new-found music.  Then, when you were three years-old, the white-picket-fence-life started to deteriorate, board by board, even though I kept trying to repair it—gluing it with everything I had in me.  I tried to fix that damn fence for years, Sammy J, and in my way I am still trying to today. But that “traditional” wasn’t working in our favor, so we became a family of three, a Trinity.

Over the years I know it hasn’t been ideal that your mom also tried to be “the man,” in your life.  Actually, I now realize that it was probably extremely embarrassing for you, even though I thought I was doing the “man-thing” quite well. (I will refrain from writing here my not-so shining attempts.)  But hey, at least we ate a lot of meat and guacamole like “real men,” while watching football on television (even though I still can’t explain that game). And I do believe because of our male bonding movie nights you’re now an excellent driver—via watching the entire franchises of Fast & Furious, James Bond and other films. And maybe I should include those romantic movies you watched with me and Grace, all of which cultivated you as an excellent suitor and perfect gentleman. Okay, maybe I’ll stop there—Fast & Furious, it shall and only be…remembered. You are a fine driver, my son.

On those unexplained books in our home:  Presidents, Inventors, Businessmen, Economists, World Scholars, Scientists, Peacemakers and then some, I read every one of them for you. I wanted to know how they became “men,” and “leaders” because I wanted to raise you like one of them, even though picket-fence-traditional was no longer part of our family DNA.  I didn’t care if they were republican, democrat, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist or whatever.  They were all just men who did something with their lives, to me.  I just wanted to know how someone like Barack Obama graduated from Harvard, became a good husband, good father and then the forty-fourth president of the United States without a “traditional” father (or mother) who raised him.  I didn’t really find a single solution or sure-thing recipe over the years, reading the lives of all of those successful and great men. But I did I find some comfort that some of their journeys weren’t exactly easy or traditional; and after downloading all of their lives, I did find traits of you in every one of those books and I have tried to foster those characteristics of steadfastness, honesty, discipline and the honor I see in you. (By the way, because it is your eighteenth year, you’re now the owner of 107 biographies, mostly first editions)

From the day you were born, I knew you were an old-fashioned, compassionate soul and you have this wondrous-way of never judging others.  It is not lost on me today as to why your crew buddies refer to you as “Pops.” You’re a natural paternal-figure for many—helping them with schoolwork, never wanting another to fail, taking your less fortunate “band of brothers” out for pizza, gladly sleeping on the floor so a buddy can have good night’s rest on the bed, giving your money to someone who needed it more than you, and now as a senior in high school you still look after everyone in your sphere of youth, allowing them have it easy and a little fun. And although I am incredibly proud of you for being so grown-up throughout your life; it has pulled at my heart because I just wanted you to have some fun—be carefree, like a kid should. And I truly understand this nurturing-way of yours is your fun, as well.  It’s been my Catch-22 in raising you.

On My Word to You:  I know I have disappointed you and your sister many times because I have said, “I need just a little more time” to fix a financial crisis or cure the errors of our past or buy you a gift or whatever you may need or want.  And my “little more time” often turns into a year. I know that’s tough on a kid because waiting for anything in life is a week and possibly a month—at most, not a year (or two or ten).  I beat myself up for this, time and time again. I wish I could’ve fixed things instantly for you.  Thank you for always being patient with me.  When time permits, I desire more than anything that you will not focus on those long struggles of “a little more time” but rather that I have delivered, and always will, in the end. Of those many delayed “deliver” moments in our lives, and there have been some HUGE “delivers,”  today there’s one, which might seem small, that I never want you to forget:  When we lived on Charney Road in University Heights I had prepped you and Grace for our big move out East by having all of us watch Little Manhattan. The boy in the movie owned a really cool scooter. I asked you if you’d like one and you said “Yes, Mom.” And I said, “Okay, buddy. I’m going to buy you one just like it when we move to New York.”  Well, once out East things got rather tough, not at all according to our “Big Apple Plan.” It was hard to make ends meet at times, as you are well aware, and has become the Ring Cycle of our lives. In typical Sam-fashion you never asked me about the scooter I had told you I was going to purchase for you. You’d never do that, even though I knew you had envisioned sailing the sidewalks in Hoboken and NYC on that scooter long after I gave my word to you. And then one day, over a year later: “Buddy, get ready. We’re going to the City.”

We took the ferry across the Hudson and I held your hand during that long hike over to the Upper Eastside. Finally, we arrived at the bike shop. I told you to pick out a scooter, like the one in the movie. You were surprised and excited, to say the least.  Eager to take that scooter for a sail, as the proprietor was counting my cash of nearly $400, your eyes kept looking at me, the scooter and then to the counted twenties on the counter. You asked me to bend down and you whispered, “Mom, can we afford this? I really don’t NEED it.” And that my son is a small spark of your “greatness;” your gift and not taught in all of those books read by your mother. I just answered you with conviction and teary-eyed, “Yes, and you DO NEED this scooter.” Oh Sam, watching you sail-up York Avenue that day on your beautiful scooter, so proud and carefree at nine years-old, is one of the winning moments in my life, for many reasons. You owned that moment and deserved it. Weather permitting, you sailed on that scooter for years—with your “band of brothers,” to school, helping us carry groceries on its handle bars, you’d pick-up pizzas from Benny Tudino’s in Hoboken and on a few rare occasions we used the scooter to balance furniture we found on tree-lawns and pushed those treasures home with ease. You had the family wheels back then and definitely put them to very good use and had fun!  (One of my better investments, for sure)  And today, you’ve way outgrown that scooter; but I do hope it is a living metaphor you will carry with you throughout your life. I am certain that you are going to continue to sail into manhood with purpose, my son, owning it, enjoying it and doing great things…in time.

I LOVE YOU, SAM. Always, Mom

PS. Please do try to have MUCH fun in your journey, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Letters

N ParkThis past Friday I picked-up keys for a buyer who is currently in Asia.  As I walked through the home she and her husband had just purchased, I noticed the loveliest note left on the kitchen counter for my client from the sellers.  It touched my heart because it was simple, handwritten and above all thoughtful; and because I am fond of writing letters and little notes, too.

In the era of social media and texting where a quickly typed “Happy Birthday” or “Thank You” has become the norm, it’s tough to remember that a handwritten note is special and brings a bit more cheer to a person’s day.  And quite honestly, most of us don’t take the time to actually write a letter when email is so much quicker.

Today's Etiquette

My fondness for writing letters happened when I was in junior high school.  Somewhere I picked-up a little blue book published in 1941 titled, “Today’s Etiquette,” written by Lillian Eichler.  Now at forty-three I can honestly write that it has been my foundation for everything—from calling customs, weddings, setting a table, hosting a dinner party, courtship and betrothal, and most importantly social correspondence.

Ms. Eichler writes: “Letter-writing is first of all a gift. But it is an art to be cultivated and developed.”

Over the years, I’ve been cultivating and nurturing the art-form of letters and have attempted to incorporate it via this social-media, texting and email era.  I will write a note for a friend’s birthday, take a photo of the finished letter and then post it on their personal facebook wall, tag via instagram or email it to them.  Of course I do not do this for all of my social media “friends,” but I do try to craft a handwritten note for those I am close to.

“…it must be gracious, and warm with the touch of your personality,” per Ms. Eichler.  I also like to blend something that is part of the letter receiver’s personality, too.

Examples:

Artist friends of mine closed their beloved gallery this past March. It was a sad night and I wanted to write them a message that was uplifting (posted it on instagram and gave them a hard copy).

Breakneck Gallery
Breakneck Gallery

A past customer and a man who became a close friend was not in the country for his 55th birthday, so I crafted this gem and emailed him a photo of it. For many years he has “eaten, drank and dined to just live,” over time through dating I introduced him to “living to appreciate food, wine, cocktails and dining–the cherished ceremony,” listing all of the places we shared over the past year together.

Anthony
Anthony Stony Smith’s 55th

A birthday note for my friend from high school, who is a woman of faith and a cancer survivor, that I posted on her facebook wall.

Denise's Birthday
Denise’s Birthday

A thank you/Mother’s Day note written to friend’s mother.

This one I actually mailed via US Post!

Thank you for Midge
Thank you for Midge

So please take the time to radiate cheerfulness with a handwritten note or letter to another and remember: 

“Correspondence is talk on upon paper, and like all talk it reveals your personality…”

 Pg 62

Cleveland’s Coe Château

Originally published in The Society Guide by HL BISE

“I was reminded of something—an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

13303 Lakeshore Exterior

At the turn of the twentieth century Cleveland’s elite started building grand retreats, secured behind gallant masonry and wrought-iron gates in a village just six miles east of downtown on the shore of Lake Erie. It’s known as Bratenahl. Today, a few of those mansions, located in the area just shy of one square mile, still stand—reminiscent of a bygone era reserved only for those of privilege, wealth and sophistication.

One such lakefront estate is 13303 Lakeshore Boulevard constructed in 1923. Ralph M. Coe, the only son of Lord Mortimer Coe, who was an eminent figure in Cleveland’s prosperous iron trade, commissioned architect James Montgomery Hamilton (MEADE & HAMILTON) to design a summer home in the French Normandy style.  Hamilton, an MIT graduate, spent a few years in Europe post his degree honing his skills for his American nouveau riche clients’ fascination with French architecture.

13303 Lakeshore Interior 2

The châteauesque property was constructed with stone, stucco and brick with a steep slate-tiled roof and copper gutters. The nearly ten thousand square feet interior is more majestic with stone archways, marble columns, leaded glass windows, an elevator, six ornate fireplaces, nineteen rooms including nine bedrooms, ten bathrooms and an indoor pool.  Additionally the esteemed estate hosts an outdoor pool, 210 feet of lake-frontage, multiple terraces and patios, lush gardens and a heated garage. Over the past ninety years, the property has changed ownership, with each owner taking great pride in honoring the integrity of the home’s history with modern upgrades—such as gourmet kitchen, central air, heated flooring, security and audio systems, and much more for a 21st century lifestyle.

13303 Lakeshore Interior 1

The 1923 Coe Château, located at 13303 Lakeshore Boulevard in Bratenahl, is currently being offered for sale by Keller Williams Greater Cleveland West.