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.