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.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

There's no day but today for the ACA

As I walk my dog and reflect on life's issues I think of songs and lyrics that I can tie to my blog post.  Today is the first day of enrollment for 2019 for those needing to enroll or reenroll in the ACA.  The enrollment period is November 1 - December 15, 2018.  Click here for more information or to enroll. This is for health insurance for those who otherwise would be unable to afford health care.  Since the implementation of the ACA in 2010, the Federal government has imposed a tax penalty if one did not enroll in health care.  This mandate has been eliminated by the current administration and this will be the first year that it is not mandatory to enroll in a health plan.   This administration is against the ACA mandate and does not support guaranteed health care as a right to all citizens.  As of today, I have not seen any government sponsored advertisements encouraging open enrollment.  The current administration speculates enrollment will fade away but if demand remains this can't happen.

Thus it is now optional to enroll in a healthcare plan.  Short term it may seem like a benefit to young millennial's who do not want to be burdened by the expense of medical insurance.  If however one does need insurance down the road it will be more difficult and expensive to enroll if a pre-existing condition develops.  According to Cigna  if you are currently enrolled in health insurance (effective since 2010) you cannot be denied coverage when applying for new or changed healthcare benefits.  Under newer plans for new enrollees, since the mandate was eliminated this may no longer be true.  

The song that came to my mind during my walk today is "There's No Day But Today" from the Broadway musical Rent.  In the musical as the character Mimi was inflicted with illness there was no day like this to live life to its fullest. If you are young and healthy there is no day like today to enroll and continue your health care benefits.  I encourage all readers to do their homework and enroll in a plan that will give you adequate coverage for now and into the future. There is no tomorrow without good health.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She works with buyers, sellers and some renters.  She enjoys blogging about things near and dear to her such as health and happiness.  Some of her favorite pastimes include walking her dog and attending Broadway musicals.  

There's only us, there's only this
Forget regret, or life is your's to miss
No other path, no other way
No day but today
There's only us, only tonight
We must let go to know what's right
No other road, No other way
No day but today
I can't control my destiny
I trust my soul, my only goal
Is just to be
There's only now, there's only here
Give in to love or live in fear
No other path, No other way
No day but today
There's only us, There's only this
Forget regret, or life is your's to miss
No other road, no other way 
No day but today
No day but today
(No day but today)
No day but today
(No day but today)
No day but today
(No day but today)
No day but today

Songwriters: Jonathan D. Larson
No Day But Today lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Time to Speak Up-This is no longer Mr. Roger's Neighborhood

I began this post last week and have updated it several times. I guess I have been reluctant to post it after watching the events against more liberal voices unfold over the past few weeks . Although I haven't been a victim directly we are all victims of hate. If we are afraid to speak up though we are in effect being complicit to that which we are afraid to speak out against.

I am scared to live in this country right now and it is not because of foreign terrorists or caravans of immigrants crossing our borders, it is because the president said he was a "Nationalist" at a recent campaign rally.  It is due to the rise of racism, hate and anti-semitism in the past few years. As a new update I am adding an article in today's NYT (Sat 11/3 about the rise of the white nationalist movement.

By Merriam Webster's definition a nationalist historically was someone who defended the national interest of one's country and wanted to maintain its independence, However since WWI and WWII it has taken on new meaning for dangerous ideologies. A "Nationalist" today is someone who supports the behavior of the far right extremists who are violent to anyone who they are xenophobic about.  

The president raises this fear every time he speaks or tweets. His base is reflected by the above image on the left that riled up the vitriolic hate in Charlottesville last year. The image on the right symbolizes freedom. I choose the right torch.

My fear elevated last week when Cesar Say, an avid Trump supporter, the pipe bomber  terrorized 14 more outspoken liberals, who have, in free speech disagreed with the views of this president by mailing each a package that fortunately never exploded. It reached an all time high when the Jewish community experienced the worst assault in US history as Robert Bowers elevated whistleblowing of antisemitism when he shot and killed eleven innocent people at at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.  The shooter chose this target as he blamed HIAS for bringing in immigrants to "kill his people".

We are living in dangerous times. The threats that seem to be causing the most damage are not global terrorism or those entering our country legally or illegally from other countries. Our biggest threat is divisiveness and in-grown hate caused by leadership who enjoy capitalizing on promoting xenophobia.  The people I am most afraid of look just like me. They can be my neighbors, co-workers or anyone sitting next to me on a bus. I wouldn't know by physical inspection.  I now live in constant unidentifiable fear.

In a prior blog, I wrote about the positive culture promoted by Fred Rogers and encourage you to read it. Ironically, the recent shooting incident took place in his neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. He was a conservative forward thinker who encouraged positive collaboration. If we can not work together we cannot survive as a country.

The election next Tuesday is extremely important. Without flipping the house there will be no system of checks and balances. There is no conversation period. The vitriolic and far right xenophobic policies of this president are able to spread and further divide us. Now is the time to speak up. I want to live in a place where I feel safe to write a blog and be able to pray at Shabbat services at my synagogue. I do not want to walk down my street in fear of being a victim to a neighbor who has a different perspective from me. Don't we all want the same? If you really do care about your country say and do something about it. Please make your voice heard and demand change. The election in November 6.

Wendy is a realtor in the Metrowest Boston area. The above post reflects her personal viewpoints only. If you would like to learn more about Wendy as a realtor please check out her website www.wendybcb.com.