Friday, June 14, 2019

Due Diligence and References Please .........Childcare, Petcare and Eldercare

As a realtor and service provider I build my business totally on referrals.   I meet and spend a significant amount of time building a network of trusted service providers and find that the quality of those I refer to are a reflection on me.  I am writing this blog to share my perspective on carrying out this same process for hiring for your personal and domestic needs.  


I am a strong believer in referrals and would not leave anything or anyone I care about with an unknown stranger.   This goes for hiring for both business and personal care.  I also believe you generally get what you pay for and there are certain things that are worth the extra price.  

Often times one needs outside assistance to help with care for childcare, eldercare or pet care.   There was an issue with one company, Care.Com not vetting providers as detailed in the WSJ recently click here.  The company was liable for misdemeanors caused by their providers.  They had left vetting up to the individuals hiring the caretaker although customers paid this company thinking they were doing the screening.   Care.com is redoing their business model.  (of note, at time of this blog I heard a new ad for care.com on xm radio saying they do all the vetting of hires for clients but I would still recommend doing your own due diligence....keep reading)

Before leaving a loved person or pet please do your own due diligence.  You may be able to get personal references for similiar care needs from neighbors and friends for child and pet care.  

It gets more complex with Elder Care as there may be varying levels of physical and health considerations.  Depending on the situation it may be worthwhile to speak with a Gerontologist or someone who can help you find the best type of help for the dependants care.  

I recently went to a talk about this sponsored by Mature Caregivers They provide a wide array of services for this genre including Care, Management, Dementia Care, and advising on in-home vs care facilities.   Situations can change on a dime and plans must allow flexibility to adapt to these changing needs.  A fluidity factor should be part of the consideration when looking at long term care planning.  

Once you have found a caretaker there are transition steps that will need to be addressed whether it is long term or even a quick overnight stint to allow continuity of base level caring.  

I recommend developing a set of questions and define what the proper protocol standards should be to care for your dependent.  Make a list of all the tasks you normally undertake and the normal schedule of things such as feedings, walkings, hygiene habit etc.  Leave a checklist with the care provider and do a short term test run before leaving the dependent for a longer time period.  For example, when my Mom was ill we needed a care provider in her home and I stayed home for the first day to see how she did. I then started to leave for longer stretches of time.  

For pets,  there are many apps such as Rover to hire a dog sitter.  How do you trust leaving a pet with someone on an app?    I think it is important to have your pet meet the person first to see how they react to each other.  Dogs are smart and often a good judge of character.   A recent news report has a few suggestions on how to vet dog walkers, click here.  I personally would rather find a dog walker who is reputable by getting personal referrals from friends and neighbors.   There are apps such as NextDoor.com where you can get references from nearby neighbors and people you know.  (Of note,  my dog lets me know who she is comfortable with and I alter who I leave her with if my primary dog-watcher is tied up.)  

On a closing note,  one can never be too safe so do your homework.  Do periodic follow-up once the care provider starts.  Don't be afraid to ask for references.   It may be advisable to request a CORI check.  (I have had to have one done on me for volunteering at a local school).  Making a bad choice can often create a fragile situation for both the intended dependent and future care needs.

Be participatory in the care, even when you are not present.  You need to have the provider realize he/she needs to be held accountable at all times your dependent is in their care. Suggestions may include checking in on the phone and asking neighbors to keep an eye out for unexpected visitors or noise.    It is always better to be safe and precautious.  

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has an SRES and current is the primary caretaker of her dog, Delilah.  She was the primary caretaker for her Mom and has served as a caretaker for her Dad and In-Laws through health and life transitions.  She loves to help people and often provides helpful suggestions for each stage of the life cycle.     

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Travel Tips to Enjoy a "Family Vacation" Locally and Beyond

Just last week I went on an amazing mother daughter trip to Hawaii with my two grown daughters.  It was one of the most wonderful times I have ever had and I am forever thankful to my youngest daughter who invited me to join her with my other daughter in celebration of an award she earned from her job. 

 As I reflect on the week I think one of the most special things was the opportunity to share uninterrupted quality time with my daughters.  We live in different states and it is a rare treat for the three of us to be together. We are fortunate to have many of the same interests and vacation expectations. Ahead of time,  we planned an itinerary of things we wanted to do. We all had similar food tastes which was also a big factor in our plans as we literally ate our way through Hawaii between the beach, shopping and exercising.  Full disclosure however,  I was a bit less daring than they were when bike riding down Mt. Halekalia ( full disclosure I rode the brakes most of the way down) or snorkeling at Molakino. 

On the front page of today's Boston Globe was an article about the drama and challenges confronting the typical large Family Vacation.  I have seen many examples of the behavior mentioned through the years both during large group trips to a destiny or when vacationers have visited my beach house.  See my blog from last summer on how to host a perfect vacation visit.  I have learned to plan ahead for the most diverse personalities and to best minimize many of the challenges in this article.  Once an occasion stress I have learned to mediate this through yoga, meditation,  walking my dog and alone time.   Equally important is to give each person with me during travels some quiet time. 

Well intentioned we all have goals and expectations of how to spend and share our free time.  Free time is at a premium these days and different priorities can be understandable to each party involved.  I think the key is to recognize each person's personality traits and expectations ahead of the trip.  Perhaps the first time a group travels together it is the most challenging as no one knows each others quirks but after this it is definitely in everyones best interest to discuss and outline things ahead of the next trip.

Here are my top suggestions for a successful venture:

1) Identify to expectations and special needs of each party traveling before departure.  

2) Have each party member list places/thing they want to see and do and work out a mutually agreeable schedule for things that require planning ahead/reservations.  Make a schedule around this for everyone interested with exact times/transportation etc.  If the group is large be sure to make dinner reservations in advance.  Cross check Open Table and Yelp for recommendations on restaurants.  Yelp and Trip Advisor are also great for itinerary planning.  In addition you can research ahead of time to plan your itinerary and download City specific guides in areas where you may not have wifi.   Use Waze to get around if renting a car..  This a great GPS app. 

3) Agree that those who want to be included have to be up and ready to go when needed or can agree to meet up later/make their own plans.  Remember not everyone has to do the same things all the time and sometimes it is good to break off for a few hours.  

4) Figure out a ways to share common situations. 
-Set up a group form of communication, group iPhone chat, whatsapp, fb messenger or whatever works best to be able to reach each other when split off.  
-Pool/share/divide expenses at the end of the trip so money doesn't become the focus at each itinerary stop.  There is a great app called Splitwise that does the work for you.
-Set up a shared photo album on your phones as surely you will take lots of photos. 

5) be willing to compromise occasionally as the purpose of the trip is to bond and have fun.

Smile and enjoy your time together. Quality time is precious and free time is earned.  

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  In her free time she loves to travel, walk her dog, blog, exercise and spend time with family.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A Good Book, A Good Brew, My Love of Reading and a Podcast

I grew up in a house of books.  My Mom loved to read novels and human interest memoirs.  My Dad loved history and had a vast collection of non-fiction and reference type books in our home.  We were raised to respect books as our best friend.

We were taught to never bend a page or write in the margin.   My Dad would never allow us to move a book from his library bookshelf unless it was put back in the exact spot and measured to be an inch away from the ledge in perfect alignment with the other books.   It was culture shock when I started college and saw my fellow classmates highlighting text books.  

As children, my Mom would regularly bring us to the public library to take out children's books.   She was a teacher and thus we were encouraged to read beyond our years.  Once I learned to read I was eager to jump ahead a few grades in my reading selections.  By the end of first grade I often challenged my teachers to allow me to go to a more advanced section of the school library (4th grade level books).  

As I progressed through the years I was reading adult fiction and beyond by junior high. My Dad said I gravitated towards the "trash" books as I loved Harold Robbins and Sydney Sheldon.  One favorite that stands out is "A Stone for Danny Fisher" by Harold Robbins.

I didn't enjoy non-fiction at that age because I associated this with reading text books or the stress of my Dad's book placement perfection. I wanted to be free to choose books that I wanted to read and perhaps this limited my progression in enjoying fine literature and history while I progressed through high school and college.  At that stage in life this book genre was work for me.  I wanted to find myself as I read.

Growing into adulthood, however, I have come to expand my reading interests.  Seeing more of the world as an adult has increased my curiosity to a wider range of cultures and peoples.  I have come to learn that non-fiction and historic novels teach me more about the real world and have helped to expand my horizons beyond where I physically live.  My book wishlist has grown to include many  historic novels, memoirs and personal development books.  

I now acknowledge the deep influences my parents have had on my life and my reading habits and am excited to share more about this on a new podcast where I am the guest speaker. 


I hope you will enjoy listening to this as much as I do.   Please let me know and perhaps we can meet at Starbucks for coffee sometime to discuss the podcast and recent books we have read.  



Wendy is a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Needham. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, walking her dog and theater.  She is often reading at her local Starbucks in Needham or Mashpee Commons during the summer months.  


  

Monday, May 13, 2019

Veteran's Advocacy and Benefits Association

I am proud to have just joined VABA and look forward to helping Military and Veteran families who may need help with a home search on the Cape or Metrowest area. I have a network of affiliated services to help in all aspects of a home sale and/or purchase in both areas and am always looking to build a wider referral base.  

I just received this lovely welcome letter that I am sharing.  For more information on the resources VABA provides check their website  VABA
*********************************************************************************
Welcome to America’s fastest growing Veteran and Military Family Resource.
The VABA (Veteran’s Advocacy and Benefits Association) fights for, serves and connects valuable resources with our Veterans and Military families. We are dedicated to making sure Veterans get the help they need - when they need it.
We are 100% member-driven and member-powered. Our members are Veterans, Military Families, Businesses, Groups, Organizations and Grateful Americans.
Together we are building a community of support so that no Heroes are left behind.
As a Business Member, we encourage you to display the Accredited Member Badge on your website. It is a great way to show our community that you are part of the solution and a Veteran Supporter. Your badge is attached to this email.
Thanks for joining The VABA

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Happy Mothers Day and a Tribute to My Matriarchal Role Models

Recently I was going through some old family photos and was inspired to reflect on the matriarchal side of my family in honor of Mother's Day.  I thought I would write a bit about memories I have of these special women who have influenced my life.  As of today I can say as far as I am aware I am the oldest living female on this family tree branch.   (disclaimer-I am only referring to relatives with direct bloodlines to me).  
             from left to right,  my Mom Audrey, Al, Elaine, Sara Ring, Great grandparents Peter and Rachel Piltch 

My great grandmother Rachel came to this country with my grandmother Sara, who was her only child in the early 1920's to escape the pogroms in Kiev.  Sara was born in 1912.  Rachel's husband, Peter Piltch came several years ahead to set up life in the states and be able to sponsor them.  Legend has it that my grandmother and great-grandmother had to hide in the forest with aid of a non-Jewish family until they could escape to the U.S. once they received money to travel. They both entered the country through Ellis Island and to commemorate this we have a plaque dedicated to Rachel.  Rachel lived to be over 100 years old and received a letter from President Gerald Ford when she reached this milestone.

Sara was an only child and married my Grandfather, Al Ring also known as Abraham, who was born in 1911.  Al fell in love with Sara after seeing her photo and they were married at a young age.  They had two daughters, my Aunt Elaine Ring(Wolpe) and my Mom, Audrey Ring (Stearns).  My grandparents were very forward thinking and my Mom said they were always the role model family influencing choices their friends would make.  For example, my grandparents were one of the first to buy a television set but once they did my Mom's friends family's followed. Sara was pretty liberal, unusual for her generation, and allowed her daughters as first generation Americans to live assimilated and modern American lifestyles.   They were encouraged to go to college and have careers.  They both became independent thinkers and amazing women in their own rights while building beautiful families.  

As a child I was extremely close with my Grandmother and Great-grandmother.  I would spend weekends at their house in Cambridge where Rachel lived with Al and Sarah until she was close to her late 90s and then had to move to the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale.   Rachel was very sharp and warned me about boys before I left for college.  She told me to watch out for the ones who said they wanted to come back to my room to study.  She said they may really want to do more than study.  She was in her 90s at the time of this advise but knew what was going on. 


My grandmother Sara was very involved in B'nai B'rith and other civic organizations. I always remember seeing T'zdakah boxes around her house to raise money for charity.  In fact I have kept and still use one of her boxes today to donate. Both she and Rachel were very progressive for their ages and adapted well to American life.  

Sara was a great cook and baker.  Although she brought many  recipes from her homeland she mastered the all American dessert and made the BEST apple pie I ever tasted.  To this day I am  in search of one that is comparable but so far have not had much luck.    (I have even tried to recreate it using her rolling pin and recipe).  

My Aunt had four boys and my Mom, a girl (me) and a son.  Since my Aunt never had a girl, she treated me as her surrogate daughter whenever she came to visit our family from Philadelphia.  She  taught me many of the finer things in life including a love of reading, cooking, travel, jewelry,  bargain hunting for designer clothing,  and enjoying casino visits.  She was also very involved in local civic organizations and had a voice to be listened too. In many ways she was a large role model and influence on many of the things I enjoy today.

My Mom was an amazing person and role model.  She lived a less exotic lifestyle than her sister, was very civic minded and enjoyed the basics of life.  She was always happy and  instilled in me the love of volunteering and helping people.  As such, she was very involved in Humanitarian and Educational organizations throughout my young life and continued this with when she moved to Florida in the early 2000's. She worked as an educator when we were young, was an entrepreneur with my Dad starting a few different business ventures and was always involved in local Jewish life.  My Dad also described her as "the eternal optimist" and a "woman of valor".  Towards the end of my Dad's life she became his primary caretaker and did everything to make his last years comfortable. At the end of her life she did her best to be independent and take care of herself as well.  As her health succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer she was stellar and became a role model of how to be positive and in full control.  She taught me a lot as I became her primary care taker in her final days.  

We are now onto the next generation and my three kids have grown up and fled the nest.   As we celebrate Mother's Day it is a joy to remember the achievements and roles those who came before me played in my life and to see the influence they have played in raising my own family.  I am very proud of the persons each of my kids have become.   Perhaps sometime in the future, they will become parents and then I would be able to share more on this common journey we all share of Motherhood.  Wishing all my readers a Happy Mother's Day.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She loves to read, blog, walk her dog Delilah, cook and travel.  She looks forward to spending vacation time with her family, who are all dispersed from her nest as the summer approaches and will share some special photos on Instagram.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Are You the Primary Care Taker for Your Pet

Pets are an important part of our lives.  As a pet owner I admit I love my dog more than most humans (family aside) and she hold a special place in my heart.  Reciprocally happy pets love their humans.  

It is common for a pet to have one primary human that they look up to for their care and comfort. For an unexplained reason beyond my control this have been my role since we got our Havanese dog, Delilah when she was a puppy almost eleven years ago this coming June.  I know this because she follows me around the house and watches every move I make when with her.  I also know this because she feels most comfortable walking and doing what she needs to do when I walk her.  I sometimes feel that she saves all of her "stuff" for when I get home and walk her.

As a primary caretaker there are important responsibilities when a person or a pet depends on you.  Included in my routines are providing food and shelter, grooming, teethbrushing, veterinarian visits and walking.  As such I thought I would share some articles regarding pet safety.  Last month I blogged about making your home pet friendly and awhile back I wrote about Pet Safety.

In this blog post I will update a few recent articles I have read with ideas on how to be a better primary caretaker of your dog.   In today's NYT click here is an article that shares tips on how to be an advocate for your pet and approach a veterinarian visit by preparing 5 recommended questions.  Ideally it is always good to be prepared for the visit ahead of time with any concerns you may have.    

I recently had my dog's teeth cleaned under anesthesia after much debate and fear.  Plaque is a leading cause of heart disease and since she was still in very good shape it was recommended to do the procedure once while she was strong.  She had severe plaque and a few teeth that needed attention.  It was a nerve racking day for me but fortunately went well.   I routinely brush her teeth and the vet actually said although she had 2 small teeth pulled her gums and teeth were in excellent shape.   In follow up I researched pet teeth care to keep up her dental health and reduce the chance of plaque coming back.  I am sharing an article from the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) here.  

My favorite time of day is when I come home and walk Delilah.  This gives me time to detox from a busy day, spend some quality bonding time and get fresh air.   It is always important to be safe when walking your pet and here is an article with some safety tips for your ventures.  Of note,  on a separate note visibility is important and I do have a side business selling light up dog leashes (click here to learn more).  As a matter of fact, the sun is about to come out now and I am going to do just that after I publish this post.  Have a great night!!

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham covering Metrowest Boston and the Lower Cape.  She loves to blog about things near and dear to her including her Havanese Delilah.  She recently started sharing short videos of her walks around the local area with Delilah to highlight her market area.  You can see these by following her on Instagram or Facebook

Monday, April 15, 2019

Pass over the clutter and spring cleaning

As the spring holiday of Passover approaches I always try to clean my home in anticipation of hosting a seder dinner.  I got a jump start on my adrenal by helping a family member move to a new apartment in New York, a few weeks ago and this was my primary inspiration to this blog.  My next motivation came as I started cleaning my kitchen and found the March issue of Prevention Magazine under piles of mail.  One article that popped out was How to Declutter Your Home, One Room at a Time.  In this article are simple steps to declutter your home and simplify your life.   There are 26 small steps suggested to do one day at a time.   

As I approached the move in New York,  I had a sudden clutter attack when I entered a room full of "stuff".  Although I try to keep accumulated things under control in my own home, this was not the case in this apartment.  I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that could be passed over (and thrown out) and the importance of getting rid of things as one goes along.  After an intense attack session we managed to clear the room out in under 10 hours.  See the photos below.  

We need to get in the habit of getting rid of clutter.  Each time you buy a new clothing garment, for example, ask yourself ....is there an older one you will no longer wear? If yes give it away.  After you use a toiletry item, throw it out or after you finish reading a magazine recycle it.  Clean up as you go.  Do your laundry weekly so it doesn’t pile up to 90 plus pounds.  Get rid of the junk and clutter as it can grow beyond control.  If you move frequently (millennials- learn to go with the minimalist lifestyle as it is much easier to pick up and go).  


BEFORE PHOTO
AFTER PHOTO


If you are feeling the declutter vibes there are many great articles and books on this subject.  One author who has inspired me is Gretchen Rubin who wrote The Happiness Project .  She has a new book out  Outer Order, Inner Calm which definitely goes into depth about simplifying life to be calmer.  Perhaps you now feel inspired to get a jump start on a cleaning project.  If you don't know where to begin you can always hire a professional (I have a network for referrals) but it just takes drive and small steps.   You will feel much better as you shed the excess.  I wish you a happy and clutter free start to spring holidays and a simplified summer.


Wendy is a realtor at Coldwell Banker Needham who loves to read, write, walk her dog and work towards a simpler lifestyle.   You can visit her blog at www.wendybcb.com.  


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Happy Home, Happy Pet



After a long day there is nothing as welcoming as a happy and excited dog to greet you.   The second I open the front door my dog, Delilah is the first one to run to the door and greet me.  This is always the highlight of my day.  

Today is National Pet Day and a great reminder that having a pet may have a major impact on one's real estate choices.  There is an interesting article in Realtor Magazine this week, highlighting the importance pets play in our lives and how today's home seekers  are searching for property options that welcome pets and also have nearby amenities.  

My main take away was that when you seek a property as a pet owner there will be new criteria in the final decision.  I recommend making a list of all the factors that will be major influencers.   As we all worked hard to find ideal environments to possibly raise a family it is now as common to find an ideal environment to have a pet.  

If you are buying a single family home be sure there will be safe spaces for your pet to roam and rest.  If you are looking at multi-owner buildings you will want to see ones that are pet friendly.  Easy ability to get the pet outside for walks will be critical (thinking high rise elevator building may be tough).  Check the Condo association rules to be sure pets are allowed in the by-laws.  This is very important and do your due diligence.  I have heard of stories where one heard a pet was welcome only to later find it went against the Condo Association Rules.  If you are renting also be sure the place allows pets.  Learn the local area to be sure there are safe places to walk, near by dog parks and reputable veterinarians nearby.  

The article lists eleven great Pet friendly cities but excludes my home state.  As a pet owner and resident of Massachusetts I can vouch for this being a great state for pets.  I wrote a blog post about making your home pet friendly almost 2 years ago and it is still quite relevant.  Click here.     If you don't already own a pet they do make great additions to your life and I could go on and on about this subject.  All I can say is I love my dog and get super excited when clients are dog owners.  Feel free to reach out to me with any dog related questions.    In addition, I set up a small online business to sell light up dog leashes because my neighborhood has limited street lighting.  (on another featured facebook page called Bella Cose)

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She loves dogs, travel and blogging.  For more info visit her website at www.wendybcb.com.

Of noteI recently started posting short videos called Wendy and Delilah to highlight areas of my real estate market place while we walk around metro west and Cape Cod. These are featured on my real estate facebook page @wendybcb or on youtube at wsbornstein.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Home Inspection Process Explained

I have had a few first time buyers ask me if they need a home inspection.  My answer will always be yes. Even if money is no object and unless the property is a tear down, I believe every buyer should require a home inspection before signing the Purchase and Sale agreement.   When making an offer all buyers should be informed of their right to request an inspection.  An inspection is to recommended to protect the rights of a buyer and to allow the buyer to be well informed of their prospective purchase.  Inspections should be made for new as well as existing properties.    The inspector is hired by the buyer and the report should be totally independent of the seller.  

In this post I will explain the basics and give some helpful links.   Click here for Massachusetts consumer guidelines.  


What is involved? 

A home inspection is defined as an objective visual examination of the structure and systems of a home by an impartial, neutral third party not related to the buyer or seller. In layman’s terms, it shows you what’s wrong with the property you want to buy or sell and if it is serious enough to prevent a sale.

The three main points of the inspection include evaluating the physical condition of the home, including structure, construction and mechanical systems; identify items that need to be repaired or replaced; and estimating the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure, and finishes.

Basically, a home inspection is to inform the buyer of any readily visible major defects in the mechanical and structural components, and to disclose any significant health or safety issues by an independent agent who is not representative of the seller.  Particularly in new construction the buyer wants to be sure all the wiring and finishing cables, systems are in fact complete.   

Systems that are seasonally inoperable (swamp coolers, air conditioning, furnaces) may not be turned on during the inspection.  Additional items that may be included are Radon testing and if requested the buyer can hire specialists to look at Mold, Asbestos and Lead if suspected.  If items are raised of concern the buyer may be able to use this information to negotiate the final purchase price.  


(Of note, an inspector cannot report on defects that are not visible. For instance, defects hidden behind finished walls, beneath carpeting, behind storage items and in inaccessible areas, and even those that have been intentionally concealed.)  


How Do I Find an Inspector?
To hire an inspector, get recommendations from your Realtor, or from friends and family. You want to be sure your inspector is state certified.  Attached is a list of State Certified inspectors in Massachusetts.   When interviewing inspectors, be sure to ask for references and any memberships in professional associations. 

What should the buyer doing during the inspection?
It’s a good idea to be present during the inspection for a couple of reasons: First, you can ask the inspector questions during the inspection. Also, the inspector will have the opportunity to point out areas of potential trouble, which will mean more to you if you see it with your own eyes than read it in the inspector’s report later. Many inspectors also will offer maintenance tips as the inspection progresses.  I always suggest bringing a notebook and taking notes as the inspector points things out as they offer great suggestions for home maintenance and future ideas for improvements you may want to do once you own the property.


How Much Does it Cost and How Long Will it Take?
Remember that a thorough, accurate home inspection takes time. The last thing you want to do is to try to hurry the inspector along. The inspector’s most important priority is accuracy, and accuracy takes time. The chances of mistakes and missed conditions are much more likely the more the inspector rushes through. A typical timeframe should be about two to five hours depending on the size and age of the house.   

The cost will vary but be somewhere in the $200-$800 range depending on size.  There may be an additional cost for Radon or other special items.  

If you really want to learn even more about home inspections  I recommend reading a book called The Best Home Inspection Guide by Daniele L' Ami.  (After writing this blog Jim Morrison, Boston Globe corespondent  wrote a very good follow-up on How to Hire an Inspector in an article in this week's real estate section , April 10, 2019)

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham and also works on the Lower Cape.  If you would like to learn more about buying or selling a home please visit her at www.wendybcb.com.






Sunday, March 17, 2019

My Personal Journey Through Bookland

When my friend, Kevin Walsh emailed me to share his latest project "Why I Read Non-Fiction" , a podcast interviewing guests about non-fiction books I was intrigued.  When he followed up to see if I would like to be a guest I was humbled.   I replied back to express interest,  Then he followed up with a phone call and after a brief conversation I was hooked.  After I said yes, he sent me a short questionnaire to prepare for the podcast.   Since this point my brain and ideas began flowing.  

How many of us have family photos of that special moment when you or your child are at either a family or memorable sporting event?  Sure these moments had a role in developing who we are today but let me ask another question, how many of us have taken photos of a child reading a book?  I know I have a few somewhere of our oldest son reading "Good Night Moon" as he started his love for reading at a young age and used to carry this with him everywhere. ( not sure I can find the photo or would post it here).  As we tend to take photos of our kids participation in extracurricular activities shouldn't reading be front and foremost in their development?

To prepare for the podcast, I began a journey through my relationship with books and the impact they have had on my life.  When I was a child,  my Dad always said a good book should be treated like your best friend.  He said to always respect and take utmost care of a book. Writing or bending a page would be equal to defacing a human body with a tattoo to my Dad.  I was shocked in college to see students writing in text books.  

As I began this journey in my head, I started to recollect the many books I read growing up.  Full disclosure, in my formative years I was less enthusiastic about non-fiction than I am today.  As a child of a history teacher (my Dad was as avid Jewish and American historian),  I lived in a home with 24/7 oral history lessons and was thus more drawn to fiction as my escape.  My memory is not as detailed as I hoped so I posted this quest on a Facebook group I am part of to see what non-fiction and fiction books were memorable to my high school classmates.  I also went through my book shelves to  revisit the books I had collected through the years.  

I grew up in a house of books,  When my parents passed away about 3-6 years ago,  my brother and I had the job of cleaning their estate in Florida.  My Dad had accumulated a vast collection of primarily non-fiction books totally over 10,000 spread throughout an 1800 sq ft condo.  Books were on shelves, stacked next to shelves, buried in boxes, under beds and furniture and literally in any empty spot.  

Due to space and costliness it would not be feasible to keep the entire collection that was housed in Florida or move it North where we both live.   I could not go through the process of an estate sale, however,  without doing the Marie Kondo approach to cleaning.  I had to literally go through and look at each book before either deciding to keep it, sell or donate it.  

Donate: We tried to donate as much as feasible but were turned down by many a museum or non-profit who either lacked space or funding to pay for shipping.   We donated a collection of books to the St. Petersburg Florida Holocaust Museum as we felt these would be shared and put to good use.     
Sell: There were many typical Barnes & Nobles type books that we sold to a local storefront for a fixed amount per book due to the size and volume.   Some coffee table and nicer books we sold as part of an actual estate sale.     
Keep: As I went through the books I put together my own collection that I would ship home, as did my brother and my son.  There were certain collections we agreed to keep in the family to pass on to future generations.  Then there were the random books of interest.  We ended up keeping at most about a tenth of the collection between the three of us.  

Many of the books I chose to keep were books that were cherished by my parents or would fill a void of the lessons my Dad shared orally while I was young and now yearn to learn more about as an adult. I ended up keeping many of the Jewish history books of periods I didn't recall paying attention to.  The same goes to many of his U.S. History collection.   It took me close to 18 months to go through the collection and I did box many to go through now at home. 

As I have begun to morph my own collection and reflect on their significance I would write and go on for hours.  I think the main revelation that has emerged in my mind is the wealth of knowledge and ideas that books provide us.  Each book I have kept has important relevance to my life.  I learn bits and pieces about human nature and key values in each one that I read that I believe reflect who I am as a person.  As an adult now,  many of the newer non-fiction books span the history of my lifetime.  Reading these allows me to learn what others experienced in contrast to my more limited perspective in a suburban middle class community.  

As stated before I read mostly fiction in my younger days.  At that point I was surrounded by a generation of relatives who tended to dwell more in the past and I was ready to progress towards newer ideas.  Perhaps reading non-fiction I felt would keep me less relevant in a rapidly changing world of the 60s and 70s.  I now know this was the wrong perspective.  

Each one of us has a story to tell.  I often volunteer at the local Council of Aging and want to converse when seniors share their history.   Sadly of late,  even at funerals I listen and learn so much about a person during the eulogy.  Reading non-fiction is a vital piece of the human puzzle.  I particularly enjoy reading memoirs and historic fiction these days and look forward to reading whenever I can.  To me reading is like taking a vacation in my head where I can be transported into new worlds and ideas beyond the day to day routines.  I will go into a bookstore or log on to my kindle app to buy a bookclub book, only to find myself discovering many other books I also end up buying.  The more I read the more I quest to learn more about human nature.  

I am thankful for Kevin's invitation and the opportunity to be allowed to go back through my memory bank of books.    For my podcast interview I have spent the last week reflecting on the many books I have read and compiled a list of new non-fiction books I want to read.  This process has been a wonderful exercise for me and I liken it to revisiting my favorite vacation spots and planning my next ones.  The list keeps growing and thus I am glad summer is approaching.   My favorite summer routine is to read on the beach at Cape Cod.  

I am excited to be part of the new pod-cast and to listen to other avid readers share their viewpoints on reading non-fiction.  I will update this blog with information on how you can also listen to the podcast when it is available.

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham.  She loves to help and meet new people.  As mentioned above she is an avid reader.  She also loves the arts and travel.   She hopes you will listen to the podcast and visit her website to learn more about her services.    www.wendybcb.com

Monday, March 4, 2019

How to Best Prepare for End of Life Choices Part 2

In my prior blog of February 9 about best preparing for End of Life  choices, I wrote about fulfilling the last days of one's life.  I am now supplementing this with Part 2.  Once we are gone how do we wish to be remembered?  Where do we want our final resting place to be?  It has always been tradition to have a funeral and a burial along one's religion's customs but as trends change so does this.

My ancestors, and similarly as did many cultures, had burials in the local cemetery where they lived or on the property they owned.  Many immigrant communities who came to the US  acquired cemeteries with sections for their families.  Nowadays we are a much more mobile society.  My parents and grandparents are buried together in the Baker Street cemetery in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. This was where many other relatives who belonged to the same synagogues or local community would be interred.  

As I have traveled to other countries I have found it fascinating to visit old Jewish cemeteries   Often once thriving communities left behind memorials with remnants of their society only to be later abandoned as demographics change. I now see this happening where I grew up.  Many of the cemeteries where my parents generation buried their predecessors are now abandoned or less frequented by new departures as the communities migrate away.

When I pass chances are I may retire in another state or that my descendants (Three out of three of my offspring live out of state now) will settle far away.  Would it make sense for me to be buried near my parents or somewhere where my kids may only reside for a temporary portion of their lives?  

                

Saturday's  WSJ discussed the idea of free form funerals.  Perhaps the less traditional options may make more sense.  One option may be to be buried at sea.  Our society is much more mobile and in-flux these days.  Deep roots that expanded multi-generations are becoming a pase`.  This trend is illustrated in a recent novel I just finished by John Grisham, The Reckoning, where a family land right becomes disputed and (spoiler alert) eventually disseminated.  

A living will may be the best framework to formalize where and how you want to end your legacy.   Of course it is always recommended to consult a legal professional before signing any legal document.   As a realtor I can provide some guidance with real property decisions but leave the ultimate resting place choice to my clients and their families.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has her SRES and often shares insight into the changing dynamics of the marketplace and needs of the more senior and baby boomer population.  She enjoys helping clients buy and sell property with as minimal emotional transitioning as possible.  For more information check her website at www.wendybcb.com.

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 www.wendybcb.com  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.