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first review Apologies for the capital letters. And for the exclamation points. I am not really an all-caps-and-exclamation-points kind of gal.

Not until yesterday.

Yesterday was a really big day for me. An important one. And I can't stop smiling.

I race to write these words for fear that something or someone will come along and strip me of my smiles, my current glee. And maybe this is not a healthy way to see things, or feel things, but so be it.

So I race to write these words. For you. For me.

I arrived home after an appointment yesterday afternoon and there was a package waiting for me. From HarperCollins. I knew just what it was. My body started to shake a bit. My hands clammed up. (Sexy, I know.)

Toddler helped me open it. And there it was. A finished copy of Life After Yes.

And I am biased, oh so biased, but my first reaction?

Gorgeous.

I sat there for a while. On the couch with my firstborn. She snuggled into my side, exquisitely oblivious, as I sat there, flipping, rereading my own words. After a while, I got up and walked into my study, my cluttered haven. Still clutching my book, my book, I sat down at my desk, my big Yuppie Pottery Barn desk, to check my email.

And there it was. An email from my publicist. And I knew something was up. Because I looked at the subject line and, at first, all I could see was all caps and exclamation points. It read:

FIRST REVIEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And it's a RAVE!!!!!!!!!

And so. Still clutching my book, I clicked and opened. And I read the following Booklist review:

What could have been a ho-hum story of a golden girl’s engagement to an equally golden boy is tempered and hardened by the specter of 9/11. Quinn is the beautiful, smart, successful young lawyer; daughter of smart, successful, wealthy parents; living a fiction-perfect life as a junior partner in a major law firm; and engaged to Sage, an equally blessed investment banker. All is according to plan until a September morning when her father meets his broker for breakfast at the top of the World Trade Center. Life shatters, but of course life goes on. In her grief, Quinn questions and tests the love and loyalty of everyone, and acts out in ways that others are willing to tolerate, for a while. Finally, she becomes aware of the grief and burdens that others bear, and finds and accepts the flaws in herself and others that her previous self would not have. First-novelist Rowley creates credible characters and situations with sharp dialogue and apt descriptions, and wisely lets a personal perspective embody the story of a national disaster.

And then. Then I reread these words. Over and over. And then I called my publicist and said something like, "They didn't say anything mean! It is good, right?" She giggled and confirmed that, yes, it was good. Then she told me to call my Husband.

And so I did. He didn't answer. So I called Mom. Got her voicemail. Then I tried Sister C. She picked up. I read her the review. And I can't remember what she said, but her words were stuffed with genuine excitement and emotion. She asked me to forward her the review. And I did. Later, she told me that she read the review out loud to her baby. I'm not sure why, but hearing this, envisioning this moment, was magic.

Finally, I got Mom on the phone. I read her the review. Again, her words are a blur. But one word I remember and clear as day is proud. She said she is proud of me. This made my day even though my day was already made. And Mom and I had this amazing and short-lived exchange.

"Mom, it's not just that it's a good review, but the reviewer got it. The reviewer understood what I was trying to do."

It feels so good to be gotten.

Truth be told, I wish that Mom had been able to hand the phone over to Dad. I don't know, but I think he would have muttered something impossibly vague and loving into the receiver. Good going, Maidy-Bunks.

And later. I read the review, my very first book review, to my man. He suffocated me with a hug. And trapped there, in his strong arms, I felt happy. And then we went out, strolled the streets of our neighborhood. We walked through our new home which is near completion.

At dinner, we toasted new beginnings.

And now. Now I am sitting on the Fudgsicle-stained carpet in my living room amid a sea of puzzle pieces and sippy cups. Still smiling. Toddler is off at school. And Baby putters around me. The television blares in the background. Sunshine shimmies through the window. A new day, a good day, beckons.

And I write this now, these words, for reasons not yet clear to me. I write these words, to memorialize a moment that is big and pure and good. And fleeting. Because I know better. I know that nothing in life is all sunshine and smiles and sippy cups. I know that it is a matter of time before a rough review comes in and those doubts, deep and dark, resurface. I know that the strength I feel now is ephemeral. I know that someone will say something - and soon - about me or my work that will make me crumple and cry. I know these things. Because I know myself.

But. For now. There are smiles. There are capital letters. There are exclamation points.

And now. I will publish this. And get on with my Friday. I will play with a little girl dressed in pink monkey pajamas. I will tickle her until she squeals. I will chase her into the kitchen and back. I will meow like a kitty and bark like a dog. I will read her a book or four.

Next to her, next to this, I will keep smiling.

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  • How much do you care about reviews (of your work, of your relationships, of your life)?
  • Do you think we ever stop caring about our parents' approval and praise?
  • Do you ever have amazing moments or days where you can't stop smiling, but are also aware of how fleeting those smiles are?

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