Use Your Words (correctly)

Have you ever wanted to correct someone’s grammar, interject in the middle of an argument to let a friend (or worse, a co-worker!) know they’ve used the wrong word, or call someone to let them know there’s no apostrophe “s” after their last name (hey there – got your Christmas card, but…)? These are the things that plague me. Words (and grammar) are SO POWERFUL. We use them to soothe or we can use them to hurt. I write to describe a home to a potential buyer, and I choose my words carefully to make a point to my kids. The words we use, say or write, can make or break our point. And, a misplaced punctuation mark can change a sentence completely. A simple comma mistake turns this sentence into something entirely different: Let’s Eat Grandpa! Yikes! But, “Let’s eat, Grandpa!” is perfect when summoning a loved one to dinner as opposed to eating them.

From 1999-2000 I took a job as an assistant development director at a small private school in tony Atherton, CA. My job was to work with a committee of parents (who happened to be some of the biggest names in Silicon valley) to roll out a huge capital campaign. I had left my job in construction management to follow my heart, doing something I really loved – fundraising. I found myself in the enviable position of working alongside an incredibly smart, talented woman named Wendy with a knack for coaxing donors to open their wallets without asking and a penchant for choosing just the right words.

About midway through our first year working together, I submitted a writing piece to Wendy for her approval. She gave it back to me with a few notes and I returned it to her with a sticky note with one word; alright. Now, we all say this. A LOT. But, many do not know (or don’t care) – “alright” isn’t a word – it’s two words. Much like “a lot”, it has a space between words and I had either forgotten this, or had chosen to use my slang alright. Wendy pointed out (not too gently, as I recall) my inaccuracy and we had a very lively discussion on the subject for… the next year. She made her point clearly by opening her dictionary to show me. I will never forget that day – I can tell you what I was wearing, where I was sitting, and that I was crunching on a Snyder’s hard pretzel. It was a moment in time and an incredible lesson that I still carry with me about using the English language. Fast-forward 18 years, and that particular slang is used constantly via text, and every social platform you can think of. There’s even a show called “The Kids Are Alright” – which just kills me every time I see the commercial. Wendy is no doubt wagging her finger at the television.

From my own personal Webster’s Dictionary

This has been on my mind a lot recently as I have been proofreading my son’s college essays. I have never stopped correcting people on this subject because Wendy was right. If you want to make your point, you say it correctly. And, if you’re submitting something in writing – make sure it’s right! (As I write this, I am hoping my grammar in this post is all right!) See what I did there? One of my favorite traditions is receiving holiday cards and posting them on our kitchen cupboards. When I open a card with the last name printed incorrectly (there’s always a small handful!), I immediately take a photo of it and send it to my sisters – the other two grammar police in my squad. “Happy Holidays from the Smith’s!” earns you a spot on the lower cabinets out of our direct line of sight (the grammatical horror!). *This is a generic example! If you’re reading this and your last name is Smith – I am not talking about you!

A few years ago, I visited a client and spotted a plaque they had made affixed to a post in the backyard – their family name including an apostrophe “s” with the year their family had been established. Now if it had been their name with an apostrophe and the word “garden” below it – it would have indicated that it was their garden. No problem! While it hurt, there are times when you can say nothing. I did say a grammar prayer for them. Never give up hope.

Now that I have one child that’s gone through the college essay process, another one about to start his college prep journey, and a freshman-aged daughter that loves to write but isn’t so skilled in that area yet – I have whipped out my favorite book. The best people to ask about grammar, writing and punctuation are William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White – co-authors of the 1957 edition of “The Elements of Style”. The original was written as a class companion by Strunk when he was a professor at Cornell and it has been reprinted countless times and still holds up in today’s world. White wrote the introduction (for his old professor) and edited the book for a 1957 reprint. White wrote in the Introduction: “It was Will Strunk’s parvum opus, his attempt to cut the vast tangle of English rhetoric down to size and write its rules and principles on the head of a pin”. And that is indeed true. The book is a slim bible everyone should have – especially my high school-aged children.

When I’m writing, I ask myself often, what would Strunk and White say? This book was thrust upon me in 6th grade by the most memorable of all teachers I have ever encountered – Ann Esselstyn. Her claim to fame was that Carl Sandburg was her relative and she cared about the ladies of her class never ending a sentence with a preposition (this is argued among many!). From a very lengthy song about every preposition out there, (aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, around, at, as…and on alphabetically until the last available letter in the alphabet) to a terrific and often recalled sentence about “i” before “e” exceptions: “Neither leisurely foreigner seized either package of counterfeit money on the weird heights of Raleigh”. It worked. 36 years later – I still remember most things she taught us. Thanks Mrs. Esselstyn! I use what I learned then as a tool to catapult my business. It gives me a sales advantage because I write interesting remarks for my listings and have the ability to color a picture with words for my clients when shopping for a home. When I speak at my networking group or in a meeting in the office, I’m confident of my use of the English language. I’m always trying to improve my writing skills, but with little helpers like The Elements of Style, teachers and co-workers that also love language, I have a leg up. There are a ton of great books out there including a more updated version of the original Elements book, but there’s something about my yellowed copy that really makes me smile. Check out Amazon for lots of fun books!

“It is an old observation, that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules.”

William Strunk Jr.

When I left my job at that private school in June of 2000 to have my first child, Wendy presented me with what would become one of my most cherished treasures. It’s huge and clunky, and it’s been to 4 houses and made it to Dallas and back to Seattle. It’s an enormous unabridged second edition Webster’s Dictionary (it’s okay that there’s an apostrophe there!). The note Wendy took the time to write inside is so special. I really appreciate the things she taught me and I always think of her when I correct my daughter’s texts with: “It’s all right Lil!”.


Just a little something to send you on your way in your new adventure, so you will never be at a loss for (and always manage to choose) the right WORDS. With much appreciation for your lively, vivacious and encouraging words and in friendship,


Real Estate: The Report 2019

Published by the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® program, “The Report: State of Luxury 2019” analyzes the latest trends and data provided by leading influencers from The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, Wealth-X, Unique Homes and in-the-field real estate specialists. Want a hard copy of this report? Comment below and I’ll send you one! You can also follow my Facebook page for real estate news on the daily!

This annual report includes the following:

  • Luxury in Review 2018 – A look at four key trends driving the market
  • Landmark listings
  • Annual “Power Markets” List
  • Luxury Buyer Markets
  • Luxury Seller Markets
  • Domestic Spotlight: A review of what’s happening in 12 marketplaces across four different categories.
  • Global Spotlights: Canada, Mexico and six new ultra-wealthy meccas
  • Luxury by the Numbers

Refresh Yourself

Since joining Coldwell Banker Bain in September of 2018 I have been enjoying watching the company work feverishly to refresh their look and feel. It’s no small undertaking. While I joined a newer branch of the company that already had a fresh logo and market focus under the name of Global Luxury, that didn’t count me out from using the familiar blue and red logo that has been the gold standard in the industry for 100+ years. All this refreshing got me thinking about my own reinvention the last few years. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have put together a YouTube video, changed my hair color and just ran with it? Personal reinvention is more than a new look. It’s a new perspective, a persistent and intentional way of living and a keen eye on positivity. I don’t always have all those elements – but when I do, I love my new look. Read on for more!

Our new logo revealed at our Unleashed event includes more than just a fresh look. The company has redesigned all the agent assets as well as releasing a terrific new campaign. (see the video below!)

We inspire people to imagine their best life and empower them to make it a reality.

Coldwell Banker Bain

The quote above from our new campaign could also be my personal mantra. For most of my married life, I lacked my own personal identity. I was a wife and mom but I didn’t even have my own credit card or personal bank account – everything was linked up with someone else. As we married girls know – even our last name isn’t our own. I lacked a real sense of who I was – constantly morphing into what I thought my husband needed me to be or some form of super-mom that I was making up in my head for my kids. While I had a great career and a lot of friends, I still felt really dependent on what others were looking to me to be. I needed a refresh.

Divorce can offer a swift kick in the pants when it comes to reinvention – but that’s not the only way! Sometimes a new job or career is the answer and sometimes it takes a whole new way of living your life. It could be an attitude adjustment, a new routine, a hobby you make into a passion or moving to a new home. There are endless ways to refresh and reinvent yourself and one of the greatest gifts life gives us, is the opportunity to change. I decided to try them all and see if I could create an algorithm for my own brand refresh.

Note: Trying bangs is not the best choice for attempting reinvention. Trust me. (photo from 2013)

7 Refresh Tips For Any Good Personal Reinvention

  1. Follow your heart. We all know when it’s time to call it. Don’t procrastinate. As Yogi Berra said: “When you see a fork in the road, take it.”
  2. Re-prioritize. I made a new list of priorities and I put myself on top. This was one of the most important things I did! The order was now: ME, KIDS, CAREER and then, my romantic relationship. Note: I had trouble with this last one because I fell in love with a great guy shortly after divorcing. I did put him first in many ways (old habits die hard!), but it backfired immediately and I had to go back to the drawing board and take a good look at myself. Rachael 2.0 was born and this time I didn’t falter! I said no to everything (and everyone) that didn’t fit into my refresh plan. And we stuck together- with a new understanding of both of our priorities.
  3. Pursue what you love and go full speed ahead. I had been building a career in real estate for years as a project manager in commercial real estate. Along the way, I got sidetracked – to earn an advanced degree in project management, start a non-profit, even sell men’s clothing (very successfully!) when my husband lost his job. Sometimes life gets in the way of our brand refresh, but when you see the train slowing down just enough – hop on. I finally got my real estate license, but I regret waiting so long!
  4. Stop with the FOMO! Anyone who knows me will agree… I really had a bad case of “fear of missing out”. I’d be exhausted, or not really into the group of people or even the activity in question – and I’d still say yes. I was following along and not really doing anything about making me – well, ME. I finally put that to bed and with it came an entirely new realization about the company you keep and how you spend your time! (More on that in a different blog post!)
  5. Get your affairs in order. I talked about this in my post It’s Tax Time… Part of a rebrand is looking under all the rocks! I gained complete control of what my life was going to look like, and that made it invigorating to refresh! From business to my personal life – I rebooted the whole thing.
  6. For a career refresh: Hitch yourself with a company that you respect and trust. From the day I got my real estate license, I was so proud of where I worked. I surrounded myself with the best in the business and accelerated my career in less time than I could have if I had gone someplace where the splits were better but I would have had no guidance. By going someplace with amazing marketing, brand exposure and a family-like atmosphere, my trajectory doubled. When the company was sold in August – I was devastated. I set out to find that same feeling I had had the last few years but took my time exploring my options. I knew that wherever I went next, it had to align with the personal brand I had built and had to have a support system that seemed like a family. (I found it at CB Bain!) I always tell my kids: Remember that your last name is the same as mine. And that’s true of where you work too. Make sure as you come out of your old shell, you’re surrounded by a good name to walk with you as you introduce the new you!
  7. Make a HAPPINESS PLAN. I never did that before, but now I sit down daily and tweak it to fit any changes that have come about. This is different than a business plan. These are personal goals that might include how you want to act towards others, spend your time, work with others or be perceived. Refreshing for me is a mindset. An action plan for interacting with personal and professional relationships and setting myself on the path to feeling serenity and gratitude daily. I also use a great planner called commit30. It’s a fun way to put down your goals.

2018 was a breakout year for my career and my life. I feel like I am finally refreshed! I have independence, emotional stability, serenity and happiness. I have learned to say no, and I have learned to say yes! This is the last year I’ll have all 3 of my kids together, and I’m savoring these next few months of being a foursome at home. What do you do to refresh or reinvent yourself for the next version of YOU? I did it by using some of the steps above and Coldwell Banker Bain did it below. And their refresh aligned with mine ~ so we must be doing something right!

Happy Everything!
Coldwell Banker Bain – What Can You Imagine?

2 Must-Read Books and 4 to Grow On…

The Laurel girls have spoken and they are recommending a few more goodies for you! Don’t forget to check the Goodreads block right here on my blog for all of the books I’m in to or recommend right now. Share some of your favorites too! I love hearing about great books! Have teenagers? Make sure and check out my sister’s blog Dreaming in Typeface for tons of Young Adult selections (and follow her because she’s an actual writer!).

Anthony Doerr grew up in Cleveland and was in my sister’s class at our brother school University School. His beautiful writing and the fact that he’s a homeboy – make this a must-read for fans of great fiction. Oh, it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015 too . Enjoy!

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

This book is the epitome of my childhood. Fun to read and relatable! It’s pretty spot-on to the lifestyle I remember growing up in Shaker Heights and it’s an entertaining story.  Next up – it will be a Hulu series starring Reese Witherspoon.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Get it here

Here’s a few more the Laurel girls have pulled from their lists of favorites:

  • “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff (recommended by Ellie)
  • “Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann (recommended by Ellie)
  • “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” by Kathleen Rooney (Recommended by Ginna)
  • “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League” by Jeff Hobbs (recommended by Sarah)

Powered by

Up ↑