Saturday, February 9, 2019

How to Best Prepare for End of Life Choices

A few years ago when my Mom passed away the Hesed Committee (a support group within my Synagogue) gave me a book called "Happier Endings" by Erica Brown.   The premise in the book was the various ways individuals and cultures tackle and prepare for the end of life. The author's interest grew from her own experiences with family members who had gone through difficult times including surviving the holocaust and a cousin who took her life unexpectedly.  This author wanted to get an understanding of what drove some people to react how they did as the inevitable approached.

It was mentioned that those with a sudden death are short changed and not given the opportunity to do the things they had hoped for and paradoxically those with long ailments may have the time but not the stamina.  As I read the book I personally explored the experience I had with my parents and another close family member.  While my Dad had longer drawn out health issues he was a trooper with a strong will to live and do what he could up until the last moments.  Likewise my Mom who was stricken with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer was in full control of her ending and settling her personal estate up until her very end.  She wanted to be and was basically in full control of all her decisions up until the last days.

From this experience I have started to think about and build my own framework for these difficult choices with my husband.  It is important to be sure you have a long term health plan in place.  Additionally financial and estate planning are musts.  A living will may be a good tool to start.  If you have a lot of stuff it, I recommend learning how to declutter and donate.  A few good books on this topic include The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. by Maria Kondo. 

A new book by Katy Butler is coming out on February 19 that addresses how to prepare for a good end of life.  There is an overview of “The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life,” in today's Wall Street Journal.  What I take away from reading this article and the books above are that we all will face difficult decisions down the road.    The best choices are made when there is time for research and evaluating best options.  When decisions must be made because a crisis hits things can be rushed, emotional and often there less good options available.  I always heard that "an informed decision is a good decision".  We want to make our personal journeys  meaningful and the least disruptive to those we love.

As an SRES realtor I am trained and enjoy reading about opportunities to better serve my more senior clients.  As a volunteer producer of theater events we often can rehearse, plan and script a how but a good outcome requires planning and preparation.  I am always available for a quick conversation or the opportunity to work with clients and their families who may be contemplating a transition.  Feel free to check out my website at  or to send me an email or contact preferences.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Super Bowl or Souper Bowl?

In a few days I look forward to hosting our annual Super Bowl party.  This is always one of my favorite times to entertain.  We invite friends and family (the ones you would select to be your friends if randomly met) to join us for a chili,  munchies, drink and watching the game.

We started this tradition years ago in our first home, after purchasing our a big TV(at the time it was a 36" console).  We have since upgraded to a much larger flat screen TV.  This in combination of sampling tempting appetizer type foods in all the local supermarkets inspired us to host a Super Bowl party when our kids were young.  We since have hosted parties over the past 20 plus years.  

As a foodie I thought it would be fun to have a party where we could eat delicious munchies and not have a main meal.  As the tradition evolved and the winters got colder I introduced a great vegetarian chili recipe as the main staple.  I make a huge Vat of chili to eat during the game and it is a big hit.  This is basically all I prepare and I then invite  each guest to bring either an appetizer, beverages, side dishes or desserts that work around my soup. One guest brings an amazing home made pizza.  

If you have a real football crowd it can be fun to set up a football pool for the game. Then guests may have a vested interest in the scores during the end of each quarter or the game.  Here are some tips on setting up a pool.  

Set up is easy as we have a smorgesbord of food spread on our dining room table and kitchen island.  We invite guests to arrive about 30 minutes prior to kickoff.  Most eat during this time and intermittently during slow game times.  Depending on how the game is going we hold desserts until after the half time show.  

One word of caution is that the game is never over until it is over.  A few years back guests left after halftime thinking we were losing but as you may recall this turned around in the last seconds of the game.  

If you are thinking of hosting a party below are some suggestions:

70 plus recipes from Delish

Big Game recipes from All Recipes

How to host ideas from Good Housekeeping

Lastly most important recommendation I can make is to just go with the flow.  All you need is a tv, some floor space to sit and some easy to prepare food and drinks.  As a Boston fan we are lucky to host when it is our home team.  Although even when it is not our team it is still fun and guests tend to spend more time mingling and schmoozing around the food.  

Wendy is a realtor at Coldwell Banker Needham and will not be working during the Super Bowl 2019.  If you need help with real estate please contact her before or after the game.  She enjoys entertaining and is hoping for a NE Patriot win this weekend.  Please feel free to share your favorite Super Bowl recipes and ideas in the comment section.  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

What is the real art of making a deal?

We have had a government shutdown for close to 20 days already.  Depending on whose perspective you are are aligned with there is blame on the other side.  The real question though is what is this accomplishing?  What are the real costs and consequences as by products of this shutdown?  Does stubbornness make a solution that will truly benefit either party?  

I do not profess to be able to answer these questions in a resolute way.  From my perspective the shutdown blame is due to the stubbornness and unwilliingness to truly negotiate by the perpetrator who originally took responsibility for the shutdown.  Although I cannot answer how to resolve this with the particular parties involved I can suggest ways to negotiate without hitting a wall for those who are a bit more tactful.  

I recently finished reading a book called Crucial Conversations and learned many valuable skills that are important in every day life, business and community.  A key take away is why people need to negotiate and disagree in the first place.  Most of us have a set of perceptions of our own comfort zone.  When we fear that this is being infringed upon we put a protective shield around ourselves.  We become charged up in self defense which creates more tension.  We may argue or say the wrong things.  This is not productive.  

If we want to be able to have a conversation with others we need to break down this cycle.  We become stubborn if someone disagrees with our perspective because we don't want to feel embarrassed.  We may argue because we want to protect our individual beliefs. We need to be able to sit back and take a breath. I just came across a great meditation exercise called how to be mindful in an argument. Click here.

Xenophobia is created by propaganda and lies to stoke fear. This has become a method of message delivery to divide rather than unite our country since the most recent inauguration.  If people are taught to believe that people unlike them are a threat to their safety and jobs they will act reactively.   The crisis at the wall is being used as a propaganda tool to stoke these fears.  One side will only settle at a price that will steeply hurt many others to save face.  There is no conversation or plan to settle this.  

A few days ago I was in line at Starbucks with a man wearing a MAGA hat.  Normally we would be on total opposite sides of the spectrum.  I decided to ask him if he was truly happy with the government shutdown and how our president was handling things.  (please note I do not capitalize this particular president).  He shared why he still believed in this president and I responsively shared my concerns.  I mentioned the book Crucial Conversations and told him I felt much of this countries divisiveness would be solved if people actually talked to each other.  He and I chatted a bit more and in the end he asked for the name of the book and said he would like to read it.  I don't know if I changed his perceptions but perhaps I opened him up to more conversation.  This is what we all need.  

The real art of the deal is being able to come to the table and talk through critical issues until there are some steps towards resolution.  This can then be followed up with a more detailed action plan.  It is time to take a time out from the vicious rhetoric and figure out how to run this country and end this government shutdown in a way that is safe and will benefit all citizens.    For those not involved in politics the skills I learned from this book can be used in everyday life to better communicate and resolve smaller issues before they become bigger.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She enjoys thinking outside the box and working to help make the world a better place.  In her free time she does yoga, walks her dog and is often found reading at a local coffee shop.  If you see her at Starbucks be sure to say hello.  

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Community at its best and a Happy Paco Reunion

For most of us New Year's Eve 2018 was a special night of celebration to usher in the New Year.  For a local friend who had out of town company this evening was not. Paco, a Shepard Mix dog was visiting with his master for a New Years Eve event when something triggered him to run out the door.  The dog who lived on Nantucket was not used to the roads and smells of the Metro-west suburb of Needham where he was visiting.  It was soon reported that he may be lost.

An evening of searching did not bring success and the owner immediately contacted the local authorities and began an intense search.  Posters were plastered all over Needham and surrounding towns.  Animal shelters and local authorities were contacted.  Social media sights including the Needham facebook group and Next Door were notified.   The news went viral amongst residents of Needham, Dover, Sherborn and Medfield and other surrounding areas.  All were aware and keeping an eye open for a sighting of Paco.  Paco is a larger dog of about 70 pounds and over the course of the next several days sightings were reported on the Needham/Dover border and then progressing to the Dover/Medfield side of town.   Numerous people reported possible sightings in the woods at night and backyards in the daytime.  

The owner said that Paco would be scared and may run further if he heard his name.  Tips were shared on how best to approach him if sighted and it was recommended to immediately call the owner.  He was driving around non-stop on adrenoline only since last Monday night.  (During the course of the search I did my own research on what to do if a dog is missing.  The first thing to do is put up posters and notify all local authorities.  I concurred that the owner was following the appropriate protocols and found a great article on search advice dependent on the type and size of the dog.)

Neighbors and friends constantly posted updates across all social media sights and this was very helpful in the search.  Given we live in and near wooded areas there are several wild animals around and rustling could ofter be heard by other predators.  Fortunately Paco is a large enough dog to challenge them, we all hoped.   As I read a recent article about it now being coyote mating season I was very nervous, personally.  

After 5 very long days Paco was found alive and well today in Medfield.  A few family members drove to Medfield to hang posters around a neighborhood and when they returned to their truck Paco was sitting next to it and looked at them as if to say "what took so long.".   All were soaking wet from the rain but more so from tears of happiness.  Owner and Paco were reunited and I am sure now they will have a very happy 2019.  

I learned a lot about the importance of our community this week.  It was amazing to see all the love and support that came out in search of Paco.   As I watch the news each day and see all the divisiveness in the media it has been such a welcome experience to see how great people can be and how we can all come together for the things that really are important.  To me a dog is man's best friend and they bring us such comfort.  The love of our local community has been very inspiring.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She is huge dog lover and enjoys writing and sharing inspirational stories particularly involving the local community where she lives.  

Friday, December 21, 2018

'Tis the Season...To Be Stressed Out? (Some easy tips and recommended reading)

What causes holiday stress? This should be the happiest time of year right?  We have friends and family coming to call, lots of parties,  the exchanging of thanks through gifts and just general jocularity? Maybe though these are the very things that cause stress, says Sandy Bailey, family and human development specialist at Montana State University Extension Service.

"The hustle and bustle of getting ready for family and friends can cause us to feel rushed and overwhelmed," she says. Unrealistic expectations, extra chores, money woes and changes in schedules can create holiday anxiety.
Bailey defines stress as “the pressure from the outside that makes us tense on the inside. It is the response to real or perceived demands placed on us, even in so-called positive situations like the holidays.” 

I take this to mean that to reduce stress I need to feel like I am in control of the stimuli around me.  This enables me to better focus on the things I need to do. I would like to share a few tips I follow when I need to get my mind back in the right place.  

1-take a breather whether it be a coffee break ( I often enjoy a grande darkroast coffee at Starbucks for a quick get away where I can sit back and regroup)

2-keep up your exercise routine.  Even if it is a quick run or yoga/breathing exercise I block this time on my calendar.

3-think about a favorite food you like, then find the recipe and plan a meal around it.

4-while you are shopping for others take care of yourself too.  If I see something I really like (if on sale)  I will always take advantage when I can.  
5- go to a movie, this is a cheap way to take a little staycation and transport your mind for a few hours of freedom.  Yesterday I saw Mary Poppins Returns and it brought me back to my happy childhood memories. 

If none of these help, I also recommend two great books I just finished.  First The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson gave me insight into not worrying about how everyone perceives me.   Whatever you say or think is important and you deserve to have the respect of anyone who would challenge and make you uncomfortable.  Second is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny.  This book taught me that most areas of stress are caused by fear of the unknown reaction.  If you can understand the fears in both you and your guests, you may better approach the start of conversations that otherwise may cause confrontation.  I found both of these books have given me new tools to deal with my outside fear triggers.  

Be sure to get plenty of rest and eat well. Too much junk food causes sugar highs and can cause an imbalance.  Keep your plans flexible.  Remember real life is constantly moving and nothing has to be set in concrete.    

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham. She enjoys thinking outside the box and the ability to incorporate each of the above suggestions in to her daily life. She hopes you will find them useful as tools as you move towards 2019.  

Friday, December 14, 2018

A QuickGuide to a Healthy Happy and Fit New You in 2019

Are you constantly being bombarded with tempting foods and drinks this holiday season?  Are you too busy to keep up your exercise routine.  How about planning ahead by buying a few healthy tools you can incorporate into a healthy you after the first of the year.   I just got a Fitbit and an Instant pot and am excited to use both as I kick off 2019.  These are great gift ideas if you want to give a year of health to your loved ones.  For other suggestions check out NY Times writer Melissa Clark's many favorite tools including the Instant Pot.  In the interim though here are some tips to manage through this holiday season.

How about making a New Year’s resolution before the New Year?   How can you maintain your weight if constantly surrounded by your favorite high-calorie goodies and holiday drinks? Of note, the average American gains five to ten pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  Read on for some tips on how not to become a statistic.

Dieting is near impossible this time of year, thus your goal should be to maintain not reduce your current weight.  Plan and assemble several quick, healthy meals that can be readily available for reheating to avoid relying on high-fat fast food when your days become chaotic.

Avoid attending a holiday party on an empty stomach. If you plan to drink cocktails be sure to have some food first as the side effects of alcohol are felt much more quickly and can lead to overeating and over-drinking. If you do drink alcohol, it is recommended to drink one glass of water before each glass of an alcoholic beverage.

If attending a party,  offer to bring a favorite healthy treat to be assured there will be at least one "safe" item available to snack on. Stand far away from buffets so you're not tempted to nibble constantly.  When selecting hors d'oeuvres choose the ones that contain whole grains and/or legumes while staying away from the high fat, high sugar options. Instead of totally cutting out high-calorie favorite holiday dishes, take a small portion of each and load up on healthier options like vegetables, fruits and breads.
Remember to continue your regular exercise program through the holidays as best as possible.  Even if this means extra long walks with your dog or doing a 15 minute yoga routine this is the key to maintaining good health and alleviating holiday stress.

Lastly be sure to get enough sleep and be mindful of spreading germs. Wash your hands frequently and be avoid sharing drinking glasses or utensils amongst friends.  

As the year wraps up I hope you will make the most of these tips to enjoy a happy, healthy season and launch a newer version of this self as you approach the new year.  

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She enjoys blogging about things near and dear to her lifestyle.  You can check out her Pinterest page to learn more about recipes she is trying with her new instant pot.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Here's to a little gratitude!!

Sometime last November I read an article in the Huffington Post about the importance of teaching gratitude to children.  I often think about this concept and wish to share a few thoughts as the Thanksgiving Holiday approaches. 

The article referenced above teaches us that those who are able to express gratitude for what they have, seem to possess a much more positive outlook on life.   In a recent article in Prevention Magazine author Jennifer King Lindley connects the positive affects of gratitude with the benefits of long term health.  She terms it Vitamin G.  This mindset can then be carried into one's daily life to think and work better.  

According to a study at Berkeley University  in November 2010 

Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. Research on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. ... We spend so much time watching things—movies, computer screens, sports—but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.

I read Eckart Tolle's book, The Power of Now about 15 years ago and it had a huge impact on me.  Back then, the concept of mindfulness training was relatively new.  At the time I was pretty wound up and definitely high strung.   As I read, I began incorporating concepts of the book into dealing with a difficult family situation.   I found this helped ease much of my stress and as a result I learned how to shift my attitude to become better focused in the present. 

For those who embrace yoga, often, part of the routine includes taking a moment to give thanks for the opportunity to practice.  At the conclusion of class, my instructor always suggests "taking this wonderful yoga feeling into the rest of the day."  The feeling of gratitude is incorporated into this practice.  It allows me a time to cleanse my thoughts and kick start a positive framework to begin each new day.  Even if you don't do yoga, little things like taking a walk or meditating for a few minutes allow positive thoughts of gratitude to flow through your head to create a much better mindset.   For some it is a great idea to keep a journal of things you around you that create positivity.  This creates a framework for expressing gratitude.  

Yesterday I was hit with this theme again when I saw this months cover on The Oprah Magazine titled "How Gratitude Shifts Your Attitude".    I believe that we would be much happier as a country if we all looked for the positive in our lives.  Those who dwell in the past often hold anger and need to let it go.  This negativity can be damaging and inhibit one's ability to focus on what is important today.  It's the little things that bring brightness to ourselves that deserve gratitude.   We all face life's challenges but if we are able to appreciate the good it is easier to work through the bad stuff.  

As we approach the holiday this week,  think about the things you are thankful for and how to better shape your attitude by embracing a bit more gratitude.   

Wishing you and your family's a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She  is thankful for the opportunity to help others through work and as a volunteer in her community.  

Tips to make your home welcoming for holiday guests ( and safe for your pet)

The holidays are approaching and you may soon open your house to welcome guests.  I love entertaining and find this time of year especially fun. My goal is to always have my home be a warm and welcoming environment with the hope that guests will enjoy their time and want to return for future visits.  To accomplish,  however I have learned that the secret to successfully entertaining requires planning and preparation ahead of arrival time.  

Generally in anticipation I clean and stock my house.  I like to have areas that are clutter free and welcoming.  If visitors are staying overnight prepare the guest rooms: ie:  beds made and arrange places to put personal belongings.  In addition, stock the bathrooms with toiletries and clean towels.  If my kids are coming home,  I have my washer and dryer ready to throw in their suitcase filled laundry loads.  

Its always good to have plenty of the basics on hand in the kitchen.  My list includes fruit,  cheese, eggs, English muffins, always ice cream and other easy snack foods.   For fluids I stock bottled water, coffee and wine.  There is always something everyone will like.  

When hosting there may be parts of your house that are open for guests as well as areas to keep off limits.  Don't be afraid to set boundaries but clearly mark off the areas you consider private.  I suggest giving guests a tour if its their first visit and showing them the areas that they are welcomed to be.  If necessary, guide them where to best park their car.  

If your home has any dietary restrictions please tell your guests in advance.  For example,  we keep Kosher so I always remind visitors that we do not allow non-kosher foods in our home.  Likewise if a visitor is on a special diet, as a hostess I want to be informed ahead of time to be sure I have food they can eat.  

Pet owners should always inform visitors ahead of time.  Let them know of acceptable behaviors and treats that are permitable for your pet.  Warn them of dangers such as chocolate and not being let outside.  One of my neighbors had let their dog out off leash during a holiday dinner a few years ago, only to be attacked by a coyote.  A guest of ours last year gave my dog, chocolate and we had to call pet control to induce vomiting.  There are not things you want to deal with.  In today's NYT is an article that outlines pet safety  recommendation during the holidays.  

The holidays are a time to have fun and enjoy family and friends.  Keep in mind that conversations should be inclusive and welcoming.  This is an opportunity to share stories and traditions with those you love and don't see often enough.  Under the current political climate it is important to be aware of your guest list.   If you are hosting anyone with extreme political or social views that may make others feel awkward you may want to set conversation parameters.  Real Simple Magazine put together a suggested list of conversation starters to keep everyone on track.   

Hosting is an honor and privilege.  I am always thankful when people want to come to our home and always do my best to make them feel welcomed. I hope my suggestions will make your holiday time special and your guests feel like there is no place like your home.  Happy Holidays!!

Note: For additional suggestions on  How To Be a Perfect House Guest see an earlier blog.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.   If you are are thinking about a move or know anyone who is she would love to help.  

Friday, November 9, 2018

Ode to our Troops, Thank you to Our Vets and Theater for All Ages

Before I begin this post,  I want to say thank you to our Veteran's.  This coming Monday we will be celebrating Veteran's Day across the country.  Last night I had the great privilege of attending the Heatherwood Follies which was produced to coincide with this celebration, as a musical revue performed by members of the an independent senior living residence on Cape Cod.  Invited by a cousin who was making her theatrical debut at around age 70,  it was an invitation I found hard to refuse.  I fortunately arrived early as there was not an empty seat in the house.  

Although I did not know what to expect,  I found this to be quite an enjoyable event.  The musical revue was put together by fellow resident Dorothy Strauss, who began her career as a dancer at age 5 and performed professionally throughout her life.  She ran the Cape Cod Conservatory Dance Program from 1994-retirement in 2009. She has put together a "follies' show for this community for the past 4 years and had a wide range of participants ranging from singers, dancers, musicians and even a bit of stand-up comedy in a program piece called "Laughter is the Best Medicine.".  (See video below for the laughter part)

Dorothy spent many years performing for the USO Troops and tied this into the closing number of the show when she had the ensemble sing songs from each branch of the armed services including the Air Force, Army, Marine Corp, and Navy.  She invited members of each group in the audience to stand up and be recognized.  All audience members were gleefully singing and shared a sense of pride and Patriotism in a very positive light.  

The show was quite impressive.  As someone who has been involved with community theater much of my adult life it was such a heartwarming opportunity to experience the level of comrade that was built by this production.  It was great to give each stage member a moment to shine in front of an audience.  This age group often has a lot to say but aren't always recognized.  They proudly shared their talents and had a unique opportunity to be a part of a venue amongst peers.   A few, in particular had great voices and sang well known Broadway show tunes from South Pacific and The Music Man.  One gentlemen sang an old tune from the days of Al Jolson.   

Perhaps the biggest thing I got out of the show was the importance of community theater for all age groups.   The show was close to two hours long but moved constantly.  My cousin had been rehearsing since August.  I spoke to a few other participants after the show and they all said this was one of the best things they had done since moving to this residence.   They looked forward with pride to their weekly rehearsals and were so excited to be a part of the "Follies".  My cousin had a huge grin throughout the show and it made my drive down to see it SO worthwhile.  

Please listen to the video below and remember to thank those who served before us to bring us the freedoms we cherish today. Happy Veteran's Day.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham and also works on the lower Cape.  She has her SRES and enjoys working with this age group to help them with downsizing and finding property for the next phase of their search.  For more info click here

Thursday, November 8, 2018

How to find your "hygge" space

Let's face it, we all need a place where we can chill out.  Do you have a space where you can where your pj's or old sweatpants to be comfortable and not care how you look?   It is recommended to have a separate area outside of your sleeping space, where you can relax, read and just get peace after a busy day.  The loft area in my home is my favorite room.  Just located outside my bedroom there is a comfortable sofa and soft lighting.  I often spend my wake time reading there before I retire to sleep.   There is no tv or social media and I can get away from all the hype for a wind down.

Spaces like this are becoming a popular trend for today's homeowners.  A recent article in Realtor Magazine cites the benefits of this feature.  It is a good idea to have a space where you can be cozy and comfortable with your family members or closest friends and not have to worry about entertaining outside guests.  In Danish terms this concept can be defined as hygge which may explain why Danes are considered the happiest people in the world.

To create your own "hygge" space Spruce gives readers some decorating ideas for your existing home.  If you need further suggestions on how to stage a space or are considering a new place to call home,  please check out my website.

Wendy is a Realtor based in Needham and she also works on the Lower Cape Cod.  If you would like more information on Cape properties click here.