Q: Can you share a bit about yourself, where you’ve lived, schooled, worked, and the moves you’ve made with your husband and son?
I was born in Wisconsin, so I’m actually a native of the Midwest. Growing up, my family lived in Wisconsin and Indiana, mostly, and for a short time in Colorado. I attended Indiana University for my undergraduate degree, and then attended law school at the University of Baltimore.
My husband, Tim, and I have known each other since high school and had a long-distance relationship through college until we could relocate to the same place for grad school. He started medical school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore when I started law school. His training took many more years than mine! Once I graduated, while he continued his education, I worked as an attorney drafting legislation for the U.S. Senate. After Tim finished his MD, PhD, and residency in radiation oncology, he was offered a position at Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in New York City. We moved to New York in August 2007, after about 12 years in Maryland.
Our son, Gavin, was born in 2010, and the years happily passed. I stopped working as an attorney to pursue a writing career (a childhood dream). Tim was promoted to vice chair of the radiation oncology department, and his cancer research lab became hugely successful in publishing one groundbreaking finding after another, particularly in the area of cancer immunotherapy.
I don’t think either of us expected to leave New York when we did, but Cleveland Clinic approached Tim to apply for a position as the director of a new immunotherapy/immune-oncology center. Professionally, it was an amazing opportunity for him, but we were very comfortable and well-established in New York. It was a hard decision, as New York had become “home.” After a lot of thought and discussion, though, we decided as a family to move to the Cleveland area.
Q: Would you tell us about your time with Executive Arrangements (EA), priorities in considering a relocation, and impression of Cleveland before and after your move?
Leaving New York was a huge change for us. None of us had ever been to Cleveland, and my only foray into Ohio had happened years ago, during a high school trip to Kings Island near Cincinnati. But, because Tim’s interview process was lengthy, we had the luxury of time to really research the Cleveland area and places we might like to live if we decided to go.
Executive Arrangements was very helpful during our “family visit” to the area. We were not at all familiar with the city of Cleveland, our EA guides spent a whole day showing us around – all the fabulous ethnic neighborhoods and restaurants, the theater district and cultural offerings, the city center, and the lakeshore. It was the first time my son had stood at the edge of one of the Great Lakes, and he was amazed at how enormous it was! The day confirmed for us that Cleveland was big and diverse enough to offer any of the “big city” kinds of things one might like to do!
Our second day with EA was spent in the suburbs, particularly in and around the town of Chagrin Falls. I grew up in small towns, and one of the things I missed in New York was a strong sense of community that villages and little towns provide. In my research, I looked for places to live that might have that close-knit feeling, places with great public schools and nice neighborhoods, but still close enough to the Cleveland Clinic that Tim’s commute would be easy.
The villages of Chagrin Falls and Bentleyville seemed to fit the profile of what we wanted in a place to live, and visiting those areas with EA confirmed it. EA was able to arrange a tour of the school our son would attend if we were to move there. They also arranged a lunch with several parents and residents of the town so that we could ask detailed questions about the area. On top of that, the business district in Chagrin Falls, with the waterfalls and public parks, was absolutely beautiful! So, in summary, EA was incredibly helpful in showing us all that the Cleveland area offered and in validating our choice of where we hoped to buy a house if we decided to move.
Q: Moving is a challenge in itself and to move during the pandemic must have been difficult especially as Gavin moved to a new school. Congratulations for making it through!
Our family visit to Ohio, facilitated by Executive Arrangements, was in late October 2019. By Thanksgiving, we knew that we would be moving to Ohio. We actually drove out to Ohio and bought a house the weekend after Thanksgiving, and we closed on it in January. Our actual move happened the first few days of March 2020. We arrived at the house on March 2, with the intention of enrolling Gavin in school that week and having him start on the following Monday, March 9. That part went smoothly. But, due to COVID, his school closed on Friday, March 13, and went all-virtual the following week. So, he had four days of in-person school in a brand-new place before everything turned upside-down.
Tim’s plans also went out the window. He had planned to take a few weeks off to move our household, then return to New York and work in his lab for another month or so before starting his job in Cleveland. COVID cases exploded in New York just after we left, and most labs and offices at MSK shut down, so he ended up staying in Ohio and working remotely until his start date at Cleveland Clinic.
I will say that I think we were incredibly fortunate to move when we did and end up where we did. Last spring, Gavin’s new school (Chagrin Falls Intermediate School) immediately activated its emergency remote school plan and transitioned all students to online learning within three days. Over the summer, the school upgraded technology and planned for indefinite remote learning, but it also planned for students to return (in case that became possible) by implementing COVID safety precautions and procedures. The school has worked with its staff and county boards of health, and has followed COVID science closely, which is fabulous. We have been so pleased by how the school district has handled such a novel, scary, and continually evolving situation.
Gavin started school this year in a hybrid model – in-person, masked and socially distanced, every morning, and classes from home, taught live online, every afternoon. He loved that schedule, especially having lunch at home and a nice break before his afternoon classes! In November, his school went back to all-day in-person, and it has remained that way since. He is doing very well academically and socially, and he is usually smiling when he gets off the bus and removes his mask, so I take that as a good sign!
Q: What do you enjoy most about living in Cleveland, Chagrin Falls and your neighborhood?
Because of COVID, we’ve been limited in what we’ve been able to do since we moved. We’ve driven around a lot, trying to get to know the area and what will eventually be available. This area is absolutely charming. I especially love Fireside Book Shop, the indie bookstore in Chagrin Falls, and the many other cute shops in the downtown district. But, we’ve been very cautious and have tried to stick close to home as much as work and school allow. Tim has gotten to know lots of people at work, as his position requires collaboration with many departments at Cleveland Clinic.
On the home front, we have met all of our neighbors, and we got to know them over the summer. They are lovely people! (I planted a huge heirloom tomato garden in pots on the deck last summer, which turned out better than I hoped. It turned out that our neighbors on both sides love tomatoes, and I had plenty to share!) Our subdivision also maintains a very active Facebook page, so I’ve been able to connect with other parents there, which is great for future play dates! Socializing seems very much to be in a holding pattern right now, but we are looking forward to vaccines becoming widely available and things going back to normal.
Q: Books and eBooks have become dear friends during these times. How cool to have you, a NYT bestselling author, in Cleveland! Can you tell us a bit about your three books and are you working on anything at the moment?
My three books (collectively the “Mill River series“), are set in the fictional small town of Mill River, Vermont. The first, The Mill River Recluse, introduces the town and one of its oldest and most mysterious residents, Mary McAllister. Mary suffers from agoraphobia and is rarely seen, but she holds a secret that will affect the lives of everyone in Mill River. The two books that follow, The Mill River Redemption and The Promise of Home, build upon the town and characters from the first novel while introducing new characters and plotlines.
As you might imagine, this last year hasn’t been very conducive to writing. However, I am working, slowly but surely, on my next books. I have two novels in progress at the moment – both unrelated to the Mill River series, but stories that I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I do plan on writing more Mill River books, though, and I have the fourth in the series outlined and ready to start writing as soon as I finish the two I have going!
Q: And, because everyone enjoys recommendations, would you share your favorite restaurants, books, bookstores, shows you are streaming?
I don’t watch much TV, but I recently binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton (who hasn’t??)! I am also a huge Star Trek fan and have watched all available episodes of Picard and Star Trek Discovery.
Books: Fireside Books in Chagrin Falls is the most wonderful place! I have never lived in a town with an indie bookstore, and I get a little happy feeling every time I drive by it!
In my current to-read pile: Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts, Every Now and Then, by Lesley Kagen, and Metazoa, by Peter Godfrey-Smith. I’ve also started reading a lot of poetry by Mary Oliver.
Restaurants : We have not tried a lot of places in the city, simply out of caution due to COVID, and I love to cook, so I do that most nights. But, the following offer great carryout and are close to home:
Greek: Simply Greek (Solon)
Vietnamese: Bowl of Pho (Woodmere)
Indian: Taste of Kerala (Woodmere)
Sandwiches: Dave’s Cosmic Subs (Chagrin Falls)
Chinese: Hunan Solon (Solon – they have an authentic Chinese menu, which is hard to find!)
Pizza and ribs: Augie’s Pizza & Ribs (Chagrin Falls)
Lunch/brunch/baked goods: Lemon Falls Café (Chagrin Falls)
As you can tell, we love ethnic food of all kinds! We can’t wait to explore all the great eateries Cleveland has to offer.
Q: In closing, what is a silver lining you’ve experienced during COVID-19 either professionally or personally?
I would say that personally, COVID has given me a greater appreciation for everything in my life – family, friends, and my home, health, and livelihood. I am so thankful for what I have – most of all that my family and close friends are healthy and safe. Technology has made keeping in touch easier during the pandemic, but eventually being able to hug someone again without worry, and to see people laugh and smile (and not just their eyes above a mask) will be extraordinarily special.