Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We are one with nature

This blog is totally different than any I have posted.  I have spent my last week in reflection and greater observation of the world around me after attending a weekend at the Kripaly Center for Yoga and Mindfullness.  One of my goals in attending was to have a weekend to clear my head of all the craziness around us.  I encouraged my husband to also attend as I felt we both needed an opportunity to learn more about yoga and meditation.  I do yoga regularly and think the mind/body connection is vital to our survival.  I will share my experience below.
Last Sunday morning my husband and I journeyed close to 120 miles for a two day yoga retreat with 16 members of my synagogue at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, located in the serene and tranquil Berkshire Mountains of Stockbridge Mass.  The drive itself gave us a chance to separate from the busy lives we lead and metaphorically represented the space needed to transition to a quieter place. 

The first official program many of us participated in was Yoga Dance.  As someone who is very self-conscience and sometimes too aware I found this exercise particularly challenging at first.  The premise of the class was to encourage each participant to get outside of his/her personal space.  By being able to freely express one’s self through dance and movement one can learn to be moved by the breath.  I admit I was tempted to leave after the first 10 minutes but then my breath and the flow overcame me.  I suddenly felt able to let myself move freely and embrace the flow.  By the end of the class I felt much more at ease. 

Next we had a group lunch and then an optional program entitled Deep Unwind for Body and Mind.  This class further explored R&R techniques through a series of breathing exercises, mild meditation and journalizing our free flowing ideas.  As the afternoon progressed we were invited to participate in various levels of yoga classes which were followed by a private group dinner.  As dinner concluded our Rabbi shared a reading from Psalm 104 and historic perspective on Judaism’s relationship to nature.  Many of our holidays are related to the seasons and the importance of specific crops.  Many of our rituals express gratitude for the gifts from nature of the food we eat.   He specifically spoke about wine and bread as a symbolic food in our traditional meals.  The blessings we recite over both are a small sampling of how we nurture and utilize nature to feed and sustain us.  The significance of bread throughout our practice is fascinating and ties into many of our traditions today.  (I am limited on words or could add much more). 

Following dinner we had a program on Meditation and Mindfulness.    The group leader Bhavani asked each of us for our ideas on what meditation was.  She shared interesting visual and background perspectives from her 30 years of leading meditation practices.  Through guided exercises we were introduced into a method of meditation that allowed us to slow down physically and get to into a space where we could meditate. After completing this session I thought began to think how we could embrace this ideology into our daily lives.   We should each take time to slow down and breath and allow ourselves to think.  Maybe this would give each of us a little time to act with reason instead of just being reactive to the stimuli surrounding us.  We gathered after this program for tea and conversation.  As we got to know each member of our group we began to develop deeper bonds and spirituality  together through heightened awareness of our common interests.

On the second day those who were adventurous attended an early Gentle yoga class(6:30am) and then proceeded to breakfast.  Breakfast hour is silent at Kripalu.  Embracing silence was an amazing opportunity to observe the environment around us. Although we didn’t speak we still sat primarily as a group and were able to communicate through our eyes and facial expressions. 

Following we had Shacharit, this was a form of group gathering.  We formed a circle where we shared morning prayers and personal readings reflecting our relationship with nature.  The CEO of the Kripalu Center joined us during this service.  She shared that she grew up in an ultraorthodox community that was very judge-mental.  She appreciated our ability as a Temple group to share our openness or how valuable this was to the mission of the mission of the Kripalu Center and its integration of Eastern/Western values. 

We were invited to further explore our oneness with nature as our group participated in a group hike around the wooded 400 acres of the Kripalu complex later that morning.  We were given Snowshoes and hiked along the Shadowbrook and surrounding terrain. During the hike we had opportunity for silent meditation and observance, thus continuing the theme of our being one with nature.  As our group leaders shared we are all part of the same eco-nature system.  The quality of our air is created by the breath and a nature of the trees surrounding us. 

After lunch we had one last structured session with a talk led by Michah Mortali.  Michah lead a conversation with the Rabbi on the Eastern Western Perspectives on the Spiritual Benefits of Nature.  With a powerful introduction Michah shared  an area he has been studying coined by author Robert Louv titled  “NatureDeficit Disorder”.   He put up a slide showing common causes of this disorder.  Many of its symptoms of correlated with our day to day lives.  As highlighted there are numerous negative consequences to human development the more we fall victim to our jobs, city lives, computer screens and all things that take us away from the outdoors.  For thousands of centuries our development and adaptability to the environment was based on our survival needs.  In many ways we have tools that enable us to be removed from the land in our daily lives.  Rabbi Perkins complemented this perspective by sharing Psalm 23 The Lord is My Shepard.  This prayer is one of many that ties Judaism and our worship to the importance of nature and the earth we walk on.  He also shared a few other examples of prayers that tie our faith to nature.  The more we sit at a desk and have the world brought to us the less we are able to assure our physical sustainability to survive the natural instincts we were born with.  This heightened much our awareness to the importance of being able to step back and look at how we can improve our daily routines to better embrace nature.   I took this to mean that we as individuals needs to better understand our soul and our space.  Then we can use this strength to forge ahead to better build relationships with our community and then the community with the larger world. 

In our hour of free time before we wrapped up to leave,  I exited through the gift shop as my son would say is the tourist thing to do and bought a meditation dvd and a beaded yogi bracelet.  I plan to wear the bracelet to remind me to sit back and think about the breathing techniques I learned through the program.

As we came to the end of our program the Rabbi suggested we go outside again to have closing remarks.  As a group we formed a friendship circle and were given one last opportunity for a closing blessing.  We were encouraged to go around the circle and share our final reflections on our experience. What came to my mind my Dad when I was young as he always asked me if I thanked him for the breath of life.  I had always taken this question for granted and today as we were all together as one, as a community and ready to journey back to the other end of the Mass Turnpike my answer was yes.  I think we arrived to Kripalu as individuals but left with a new sense of community.  Although I speak for myself I believe each member of our group left feeling a much stronger connection with our faith, our spiritualism and appreciation for the world surrounding us.  My prayer for the group is that we are able to transcend what we learned and experience it with those around us.  It is with much gratitude to our group organizers that we were able to participate in this program at the Kripalu and hope that we can return again next year. 
One week later as I reflect on the program I am trying to spend more time each day thinking vs just reacting to stimuli around me.     I used to log on to my social media real time and am now trying to significantly cut back and segment my day to leave my phone and toys out of sight.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham and truly loves helping people. 

Pet Safety when traveling and at home

According to the North American Pet Insurance Survey over 68% of Americans own pets and this translates into over 85 million families.   A large number of these owners have a dog or cat who they enjoy traveling with.  These pets typically are considered a family member and thus usually are treated as a vibrant part of the nuclear family dynamic.

As a dog owner I was horrified to hear of two separate incidents last week with United Airlines concerning pet travel.  In the first a flight attendant forced a passenger to put her 9 month old puppy in the overhead storage cabinet on a flight going from Houston to New York.  Although if it were me I would have asked to speak with the pilot or would have gotten off the flight, I am not writing to pass judgement on the passenger but to point out the inherent dangers of pet travel.  On the second incident a German Shepard was accidentally flown to Japan instead of its domestic destination of I believe Akron Ohio.

I have put together some travel tips for those planning to travel with a pet.  The Wall Street Journal had a useful article today with many suggestions if you must fly although ultimately recommends making alternative arrangements if you are traveling somewhere short term as travel puts unnecessary stress on a pet.

Below are some useful websites to check before planning your next trip with your pet list of airline, hotel and other accommodations for traveling with a pet PetBook- before you go by plane, train or automobile, advise on documentation and what you will need to know wide range of health and safety tips to consider for all steps in preparing for safe travel - insight into how to prepare for an emergency before and during travel -article on pet safety during an emergence evacuation

Of course, common sense should prevail. After you travel with your pet you will be at your destiny whether it be a new home for you due to a relocation, a hotel. or  you are a guest at someone else's home.  I wrote a blog post about having a pet safe home about a year ago and have some other articles below.   Safety is key and you want to be proactive to be sure you are vetting a safe environment.  

Pet Safety Guide

Sharing Your Home with a Pet

How to Make Your Home Design Pet Friendly

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham and enjoys writing about issues near and dear to her heart.  She advocates for pet safety and her own pet fits this bill.  She runs a small side business selling light up dog leashes to improve pet visibility (Bella Cose .  For more blog posts or real estate information please visit her blog at

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Care giving and protecting your loved ones

Although I am not a financial planner or an elder care attorney I have been focusing much of my real estate practice on how to help protect our loved ones.  I became the primary caretaker for my Mom after she was my Dad's until he predeceased her a few years ago. As such I had a lot of "on the job training"  dealing with many end of life decisions for both my parents.  I was actively involved while they were at the end of their lives through the downsizing and selling of their home.  Since earning my SRES about a year ago I have been working hard to build a network of people to work with to allow me to share my knowledge and expertise to help others who, likewise,  may be confronting similar situations.

If you have a loved one who is aging it is good to have a conversation and figure out the best long term plan for their living situation while they are able to participate in the conversation.
In Saturday's Wall Street Journal there was a great article on how to reduce to costs of being a caregiver.  Often times this role is thrust upon you without any preplanning.  It may be difficult to alter the situation you are confronting when this happens as you need to deal with a full plate at the moment.

Additionally, when one is instantly thrown into the role of caregiver he/she may not know the daily routine of their new dependent.  One little tweak can throw someone off balance and create uncircumstancial havoc.  We had this issue when my father in law was on dialysis.  He was transported to a Dialysis Center 4 weekday mornings.  After several months of this routine the center decided to move him to the afternoon. This threw him off kilter and made it difficult for him to eat with his peers and engage with his familiar surroundings.  It ultimately led to his health decline and had tragic consequences.  Change is difficult for older people.

Another overlooked problem may be the medication situation of an elder.  Often there is a dependancy on medications that can be overlooked if rushed to a hospital.  We had this situation when my father was in the hospital and they changed his medications without informing us.  A certain medicine he needed was not given and he developed ICU psychosis.  Because he had family advocates this was eventually corrected.    It is important to have a complete list of all up to date medications particularly if someone is living on their own.  See here

I have started a networking group called Next Steps and work with a team that includes an elder care attorney,  a home health care aide, a family mediator, a move consultant, a financial planner, insurance provider and myself as a realtor.  Our team is continually growing to accommodate the needs of the clients we service.  Although my focus initially was seniors who are downsizing we also help clients are all stages of their life cycle.  Therefore the goal is to help people navigate the process and plan for the future before it becomes the present.

A few key features we are sharing to promote our groups' marketing efforts are below:


a L.O.C.A.L. team of professionals

Life is a Journey.   Do you know your Next Steps? 

Whether you are seeking your first apartment, buying a starter home, financial or estate planning, confronting family challenges, thinking about retiring or in need of help with Senior Care for a loved one….

we have a team of dedicated specialists to help you and your family navigate each step along the way. 

We are a group of professionals specializing in various disciplines to serve and help with each phase of life related to the things you acquire and the things you divest along the way.  Our basic approach is simple, we are here to:

Observe and
Consult on
Acquisitions and
Liquidations related to personal property and related life transitions


The purpose of my group and efforts to become an SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) are to help share expertise in an area near and dear to my heart.  It was a great honor to be able to spend quality time with my parents during their last years.  I was able to help them feel whole and navigate their end of life with dignity and meaning.  Isn't this what we all want for our loved ones?

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham and recently jointly started marketing Coldwell Banker Needham-Your Cape Cod Connection.  If you need any advice on buying, selling or investing in the Metrowest or lower Cape please feel free to contact her at