It Makes a Difference

I attended the funeral of a beloved aunt this week, meaning, that of my father’s family, there are now only two left: A young brother and his wife. At this stage of my life…and most of my friends agree…it seems as if loss gets a capital L. Loss becomes too regular a visitor. The phone rings and your response, before you answer, is, “Uh oh.” There’s a good chance it is not good news on the other end of the communication.

There’s a time in everyone’s life when we begin to try to rationalize the ‘circle of life’. I think it happened to me in my late 40’s, early 50’s. I think it’s the psyche’s way of preparing us for death, the great unknown. It’s the time when we have to acknowledge Death, that ever-present entity, successfully ignored until now. It’s when we have to accept that we will also die, that we cannot live forever. It is the loss of the philosophy of limitlessness. And it’s a sad day.

I can vaguely remember the days when I never thought of death at all, when I automatically thought everything would be okay. The only death I knew anything about, was that of other peoples’ pets (We didn’t have any). My first experience with death was the loss of my grandmother, whom I did not know, and the death of President Kennedy…which traumatized me. I was nine years old, and cried for weeks. It wasn’t a good way to get to know Death. It was as if it charged through the locked door, screaming, sensational.

Most of the time, Death tapping on our shoulder is done subtly, when on the news, we hear about the death of our parents’ favorite singer or actor, and we realize it and move on, never missing a beat. Then their parents pass on; but we’re usually very young, and it’s not a bulldozer that hits us. We stop and make sure our parents are okay, but it doesn’t alter our orbit. Later, when our parents’ older siblings die, we realize that Death is much closer, more real and scary. Death keeps creeping toward us, and then our parents go, and we’re next. It is us on the edge of the precipice. Gradually, we are forced to acknowledge Death. I started counting years ‘until’. Maybe Daddy will be here for five more years until he goes, maybe Mama has 8 more years. And now I count my own remaining years. Maybe I have 10. Maybe less. Until.

I’ve been to too many funerals in my life, and have been at the bedside of more friends and family members than I can bear. I have had those last visits, tactfully ignoring the angel of Death close by, trying and failing, to let that person know that they mattered, and how much. I’m not good at that part of the journey. I feel like they all left me, not really knowing how much I loved them; and maybe at that point, it doesn’t matter to them. I think the letting go on their part is an intricate process that gives them great peace, regardless.

The point of this post is this: How we behave in our life matters. The things we do and do not do, make a difference. How we treat one another matters. So back to the funeral of my aunt. This was a woman who spent much of her life serving others. Over the years I saw her at the front of the line when someone was in need. I saw her doing things for people in need, even when she was very busy with her own life, even when she didn’t feel great, and even when the person she helped wasn’t really very nice about it. She was a kind, caring, and gentle spirit.

It showed at her funeral. The chapel was filled with love; people there knew we had witnessed the passing of one of the souls whose leaving left the world worse off. In that room filled with over a hundred people, not one could remember a time when she raised her voice in anger or said a cross word to or about, anyone. It made for a bittersweet time of fellowship and farewell.

It occurred to me that when we are leaving the world, perhaps the greatest compliment of all would be that nobody could think of a single bad thing to say about you. Can you imagine that? It won’t happen at my funeral, I am convinced, because our generation are just not nice anymore. There’s a lot of bitterness and jealousy and outright hatred within which we live, and which wasn’t so prolific in our parents’ generation. That’s our cross to bear, and shame on us for it. Regardless, it does make a difference how you live your life, how you treat your fellow man. We have the capacity to love one another, to choose that over hatred. It’s a choice.

I have come to believe that some people are born without the ‘care’ gene, as I call it: No compassion. To them I would say this: If you are able to read this, it is not too late to think about what kind of difference you have made in your life, and what kind of feeling will prevail at your leaving. I think Aunt Mary Alice would have been proud of the sentiment surrounding her last moments on Earth. She wouldn’t have taken credit; she’s have given it to us. And I hope she knows that our lives are diminished by her leaving.

Running with the Trends

I love white kitchens. Well, to an extent. I like white cabinets and appliances, and no tile backsplash. Why? Because I can add color to my kitchen with paint…which I can change when I darn well please. Right now I have white countertops too, which I will soon change to an off white (with veins of brown) granite or quartz. It’s a lot of white, folks. But I also have color on my walls, which helps, and cherry hardwood on the floor. In other words, it looks fabulous. And nobody EVER comments on the whiteness of my kitchen. Why is that? Because of my DECOR.

I just read an article about ‘mistakes’ people make in the kitchen, and the FIRST one was “White Kitchen”. I was incensed. Well maybe not INCENSED, but definitely my anarchy vibe kicked in. I’ve never liked following the herd: I am a leader, a first born, a trail blazer. So, if I WANT a white kitchen, I’m gonna HAVE one, and I don’t really care what the authors, who probably can’t cook ANYWAY, think about it. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen some really awful white kitchens, but that’s because THOSE kitchen never met a soapy cleaning cloth and warm water. White needs to be kept clean; but who doesn’t clean their kitchen?? Don’t answer that.

The new white appliances are quite snappy looking, very sleek and modern, and some of them will soon reside in my kitchen, replacing the older ones I currently love. I dread replacing my refrigerator, because my refrigerator works, has for years, and the new one soon to join my family will be disposable. That’s just how it goes with appliances these days. But man, they look good while they DO work. Like some people.

The bottom line for me, being a real estate agent, is this: Avoid trends. You know, black granite and cherry cabinets used to be all the rage, didn’t they? Now they age a kitchen. Nobody wants black granite now, even WITH sparkles…which are now blasé, by the way. So nobody can dodge the age thing; at some point you just have to upgrade. But French Country will age out; country farm will age out; open shelving will age out; factory will age out; barn DOORS will age out (don’t get verklempt on me here). So if you are wealthy and can change out your kitchen with the trends, go for it. But otherwise, make your foundation solid centrist, and decorate around it. I have tuscan colors in my kitchen, through paint colors and art, and decorative items that kick it up a notch. But these things can can also go away when I want a change, or the real estate winds dictate one. As in…PURPLE might become a great kitchen paint color. No it won’t. I’m REALLY kidding. No purple kitchens. I might have to list that sucker.

Meanwhile, my white cabinets and appliances remain solidly in place, looking great, clean and shiny, waiting for everything else to be swept away. So don’t buy into the idea that white kitchens are bad. They are not. They are beautiful. Just use the white as your canvas, and for goodness sake, keep it clean.

Now, here’s a warning for you: COLORED appliances are coming back. I know. I saw a red…RED!…refrigerator the other day, I think in HGTV magazine. Here’s an idea: Buy a red KitchenAid mixer and let the refrigerator NOT be red. Come to think of it, it’ll probably have to be replaced in two years when riding refrigerators come out. Just never say you weren’t warned.

Mark my words here: One day there will be a robot refrigerator that will bring your snacks, beer, iced tea, whatever, TO YOU. Remember me when it hits the market. As for me: I’m waiting for a robot salad maker. That’s what I need.

That’s it. Don’t feel bad about your white kitchen. It’s fabulous. Trust me.

The Value of Experience

Around here, we dump thousands of new real estate agents into the market each year. Many agencies have a school for the purpose of (making money) making new agents. And each one of the new agents will solicit your business, eventually. Many of them are going to be fantastic agents, too, one day. And many of them will not. But just today I had yet another reason to be mindful of the value of experience.

Anybody can search out tax records and recent sales; after all, that information is all over the internet. So it can look very simple to price a home to list. But there are SO many more data points to consider in listing a home in particular, but also in buying. These events are far more complicated than it might appear on the face of them, and worthy of attention.. There are SCORES of Q&D (quick and dirty) companies out there trying to convince you that buying and selling a home is an instantaneous proposition that you shouldn’t have to put effort or thought into, and these organizations are proliferating BECAUSE…they make money off of your lack of knowledge of how things work. I use a whole toolkit of data points in order to list a home, each one being less than impressive on its own, but a powerful influencer when coupled with the rest of the data points. This process can end up putting thousands of dollars into your pocket that you might otherwise hand over to the Q&D organizations. I mean, they wouldn’t be popping out of the woodwork if you were the one benefiting, would they? Just know that a big purchase or sale SHOULD take some effort on your part…unless you’re okay giving your money away for lack of effort.

But I digress. Back to experience: Pricing your home for sale can result in thousands of dollars of loss to you, or thousands of dollars of benefit to you. Which would you prefer?

OR…stay with me now…The wrong price can make your home LANGUISH on the market for months while others go on the market and get sold, go on the market and get sold! You have to know what data points to gather in order to find the sweet spot between a reasonable time on the market AND a profit for your sellers. And people, that takes experience.

Real estate is LOCAL. Local doesn’t mean ‘your town’. It can mean your PART of the SUBDIVISION. And it is the experienced agents who will know that, because we’ve watched the market for YEARS. And by the way, if you are a buyer, we can protect your purchase before you buy, by not putting you in a stagnant area, or a declining one. Again, the value of experience.

So don’t assume that older agents who don’t necessarily look like they just left college won’t do a great job for you. I promise you, the seasoned agents will have YOUR back. And our expertise and experience will make your transaction easier and smarter. And by the way: the technology that’s so important today? We invented it.

Radon in Drinking Water, ETC.

“There is currently no federally-enforced drinking water standard for radon. EPA has proposed to regulate radon in drinking water from community water suppliers (water systems that serve 25 or more year-round residents). EPA does not regulate private wells.” From an EPA publication, Basic Information about Radon in Drinking Water

“As uranium breaks down, radon gas forms…” From and EPA publication, Basic Information about Radon in Drinking Water

So. This is the new real estate hot button. We went through mold and radon gas panics; now we have radon and other ‘contaminants’ in drinking water. What we need to know is that this is a newly raised issue, and frankly there are no real stats to which to refer, in some cases. IN THE MEANTIME…If you are on a water system supplied by a reservoir, for example (open to the air system), the EPA says the radon gas will evaporate long before it reaches you. It is well water that’s the real concern, according to research, and relax; not all well water has radon in it. The EPA seeks to determine a limit, and it will be based on what amount could evaporate into your home and create a number above the ‘radon in air’ limit, if I read correctly. The only thing that worries me is that the EPA is seeking to determine a limit. But that’s just me.

Uranium in water has also bubbled up as an issue. By the way, radon and uranium are typically present to some extent in soil and air, and therefore often in water too. We live with many, many elements that are deemed harmful, every day. But some of these rock borne contaminants have established contamination limits (meaning ‘some’ is okay; it has to be because we live on a rock), but the limits are high, relatively: “The EPA has estimated that the additional lifetime cancer risk associated with drinking water that contains 30 ug/L (the MCL for uranium) is about 1 person in 10,000 who drinks two liters of uranium-contaminated water a day for 70 years.  Bathing and showering with water that contains uranium is not a health concern.” From a publication by Western Upper Peninsula Public Health Department, citing the EPA regulation. By the way, MCL is maximum contamination limit, and I added the underline.

I don’t drink 2 liters of water a day.

But these two contaminants are not poisons; they are either the result of decay, or actually DO decay, releasing energy that can burn/damage human tissue, if present in large enough concentrations, over a long period of time. What you need to know is that unless you have your water tested, you won’t know what’s there or how much, and once you have numbers you will need to investigate for yourself how or whether you want to remediate. And remember that the EPA do not regulate private wells.

In the meantime, don’t panic. Do your homework! Remediation…just the word, brings dollar signs to the forefront. But you will shortly be asked, if I know my business and I do, to choose whether or not to have your water tested for these elements, and it will cost you. Be ready.

Neighborhood Covenants

I know. Some of you think those are dirty words. But let me try to mitigate, because I see this all the time: Someone moves in and suddenly starts screaming about rules, which were in place WAY before that person moved in.

Covenants are for the purpose of protecting your property value…mostly from the influence of others who would destroy it. Imagine you buy a gorgeous $500,000 home in a community where there are no ‘restrictive covenants’ (I know, wouldn’t happen but bear with me). Then your new neighbor comes in and puts a pig pen next to your master bedroom. Then imagine that your new neighbor couldn’t give a hoot whether or not you like the smell. And imagine you say, “Well you are not supposed to build anything this close to the property line!” Then he says, “There’s nothing saying I can’t put my pig pen RIGHT HERE.”

Now try to 1) live there in peace; or 2) sell the house. Call me when either one happens.

Are you following me?

Imagine you live in a town home with assigned parking and your new neighbor has five cars, two of which he always parks in your spaces. Imagine that there are no covenants, no HOA. What are you going to do? Let me help you. You’re going to park in the next closest parking spot that’s not assigned, even if it is a quarter mile away…the distance you have to carry your groceries. With a broken leg.

Imagine you have a neighbor who works on race cars at night after he gets home from work, and does it until after midnight. Imagine you have to get up early after listening to race car engines roar all night. OR, imagine your neighbor paints his house neon orange while you are trying to sell you house. It happens!

The key is: Trying to sell your house. Covenants are often called “protective covenants” because they actually are designed to protect your property value.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has his or her own opinion of what landscaping looks like. And what a good exterior paint color would be, or what constitutes a ‘pet’. Because giving peoples’ opinions free rein would result in out and out war, we have covenants. Now: If you are a nonconformist, then you are probably going to buy a property with plenty of privacy and acreage, and that’s okay. If you are a nonconformist, you don’t want anyone telling you how to live your life (I get that comment a LOT). I know that right now, this minute, you don’t live in a community with covenants. I also know that someone starting a pig farm next door to your property will NOT go over well with you. And, I also know there’s not a thing you can do about it.

But for the rest of us, believe me, covenants and a strong HOA board to enforce them, are critical. Why? Because most people don’t care whether you like the smell of animal poop; most people don’t care whether or not your leg is broken and they’ve taken your parking space. Most people don’t care a hoot about your property value, nor, in many cases, their own.

What I’m saying is this: Protective covenants are necessary because you need to know what’s going to be happening in the community where you just sent a half a million dollars, if you would like to get that back someday with a bit of equity growth. Most people do.

An HOA governing board is made up of community members, with oversight, usually, by a management company. These people are not paid. They have to deal with a thousand complaints because…everybody has their own idea of…everything. You get the idea. And, most residents pay their dues on time, every time. But some people don’t. That means they are riding on your payment of fees. That’s why the HOA has an attorney; that’s why there are late fees. I’m thinking when it’s time for the road to be paved, you’d like everyone to pay their share of the cost. If you don’t have an HOA, you might have to pay their cost.

An entry monument to your neighborhood has to be cared for by someone, and the HOA pays for that out of the dues you pay. Why? If you try to sell your home and potential buyers see weeds and dead plants at the entry, guess what they do? Right! Keep driving.

It’s about property value. Yours! But all other things aside, if you ARE moving into a community with covenants, READ THEM BEFORE YOU BUY. That way, if you want to raise pigs, you won’t end up losing your property over it, or paying fines or having your home foreclosed on (and yes, that can happen).

If you buy a property with protective covenants and you have not read them, then you have no business complaining when you get fined for breaking those covenants. Just be sure you do your due diligence. That way you will HAVE good neighbors, and maybe more importantly you will BE a good neighbor.

Covenants are available in the tax website, listed as deed restrictions, covenants, restrictive covenants, protective covenants….there are a lot of names for them. So when you plan to buy a home, find them, or ask me, your agent, to get them for you. Know what the HOA dues are, and what the covenants say. Then you’re good to go!

First Time SELLERS

I’ve written many posts for or about first time BUYERS, but not for first time SELLERS. That’s unfortunate, because these sellers need good solid advice too. Let’s get started:

  1. People are not going to go through your closets, but they ARE going to open them to see how big that SPACE is. Do you have to organize? No, but it’s a good idea, because a mess there will implant the idea into the mind of the buyer that you approach home maintenance the same way: As long as its hidden it’s okay to ignore it.
  2. When it comes to the yard, knee high weeds and animal waste will turn a buyer away before they ever get out of the car. Mow the grass and clean up after your pets, BECAUSE, the buyers will assume you don’t care about the home and therefore have not maintained it.
  3. Clean is relative. So here is a money making rule of thumb. Clean BETTER than you ever have. Disarray and clutter make buyers think you don’t care about your home, and they they think you..yep..approach home maintenance the same way.
  4. PLEASE clean the carpet. It probably needs it anyway, and dirty carpet is a sign that, you guessed it, you don’t care about the house and therefore have not maintained it. Better yet, replace it if it’s in bad shape.
  5. Repairs: If you agree to do them, you are expected to have repairs done in a workmanlike manner. That’ means: Don’t hire Dad. It means: Hire a professional! And provide invoices/contact info. Realtors, it’s a good idea to schedule a followup inspection too, because ‘workmanlike’ is in the mind of the payer. Seller, do NOT skimp on repairs if you want to sell your home and NOT breach the repair agreement part of the contract. Do that and you could end up paying the buyer back EVERYTHING they spent during due diligence. Just do it right.

Listen, seller, all of this advice will help you get top dollar for your property, and it’s not rocket science here. Could you go with one of these companies you keep hearing about in ads? Yep, and they will low-ball the heck out of the offer for all of the things I mentioned. And for repairs, they’re not going to give you a chance to do them; they are just going to take more money off of their offer to get them done…guess what…PROFESSIONALLY.

Think about it this way. You wouldn’t buy a car with bald and/or missing tires, scratched up paint, a cargo area full of trash and animal waste, would you? No, unless you are buying it for scrap metal. Well the cost of a car is a FRACTION of what a buyer is offering for your house. Just do the right thing and do things right. If you do not, expect a lower offer to be the rule of the day.

Many times the buyer will provide plenty of due diligence money to pay for any repairs that are requested. So? What’s the problem?

By the way, don’t shut down power until you know you’re closing.

Undying Principles

We real estate agents have a saying: “Everybody has a family member who is a Realtor”. Another one: “There’s a real estate agent on every corner”. Seems like both are true, doesn’t it? And yet real estate companies pump out classes of new, fully charged Provisional Brokers every week, it seems. These agents come out of their classes rushing to take the state exam, go forth and get rich. They are told they can be doing really well in a very short time if they just work the process. And they believe it. Then they pay for the special ‘extra’ classes that give another level of insight. That’s a good thing; but they do this while they are working and gaining experience. All of the classes in the world won’t make you a good agent. Working your business will. Many new agents seek seasoned agents to find out the ‘secret’ to success. And seasoned agents are usually willing to share some insights.

The truth about real estate is that you have to grow roots. It’s that simple. You may have a great sphere of influence, and some of them might want to buy or sell a house, but once you run through them, if you’re not careful you can become disillusioned very quickly; because you’re going to have to wait a while before they come back around. IF they come back around. Whether or not they do come back is up to you and HOW you do business, not THAT you do business. Anyone can sell a house, but it’s HOW you sell it that makes the difference, that makes your clients remember you next time around.

There’s no secret. You just have to find the undying principles and work them diligently and relentlessly. Here’s what I see: There are some larger-than-life agents who hit the social scene, post their info EVERYWHERE, hang out at the hot spots and get noticed. But those don’t usually last. They get married, settle down, burn out, get divorced. Think about names you knew who were once great and now not so much. There are a lot of them. The ones who DO make it big are the ones who dug down to the foundation of business, put in the hours to figure out which of the tools stay in the box and which ones don’t. And then they tossed out the bad tools and never touched them again.

Great real estate agents are like corporations. The great ones are the ones who are diligent, who work the process relentlessly, who do a few foundational things: Deliver great service, care about your clients, and do the right things. And most of the best ones are not sparklers either. They are pretty normal folks who just work hard and deliver great service.

Listen, I’ve heard how ‘real estate has changed’ because of i-buyers or millennials or technology. I watched one company practically invite the seasoned agents to leave because, we were told, the millennial will BE the buyers. That was a bungled mess, by the way. No: The way real estate service is DELIVERED has changed, but the underlying principles are the same. Deliver great service, care about your clients, do the right things. Let me give you some examples.

I sold real estate to a client I have yet to lay eyes on. We did almost everything by email and text, with a few phone conversations mixed in. If I had tried to nail this man down to a sit-down at a table, he would have bolted. He had NO time for chit-chat. I adjusted the way I did business with this client; it was what he needed. But he knows me and his family know me, and they come back over and over. Why? Because HOW I cared for him and his family was key. That I knew what I was doing was key. I still delivered great service, I still cared, and I got him closed like greased lighting. But I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Have no clue what he looks like.

I helped a really nice young man buy his first home (I do that a lot), and this young man did not have a checkbook. He did everything electronically. Did I make him run out and get checks? NO! I helped him through the process. The WAY things are delivered has changed, but not the principles.

You can’t skimp on knowledge. You have to know the rules, the law, what is ethical and what is not. You should have a stable, working knowledge of technology. I happen to have cut my teeth on technology, so I can intuit my way through most programs and databases and I actually LIKE technology. But you don’t have to be a tech wizard; you just have to know basics and use them. Remember this: No company ever became great by using the fleeing jackrabbit style of tech tools. You don’t need a new one every month. Nobody can ACTUALLY use all of them. I probably use ten. Maybe more; I haven’t counted. But I use them all the time. Not each one is used every day, but there are some programs I ALWAYS use, some apps I ALWAYS share with clients, some programs to which I ALWAYS give my clients access. Some I routinely use to reach out to my contacts, some are for my organization. Find the precious few you can love to use, and them use them relentlessly. Forget the others. If you spread yourself too thin, it will show. If you throw a different system at your client every month, they will begin to think you have no direction. And I don’t know any agent, actual working agent, who uses every single new program tossed out there. It’s just not necessary.

What is necessary is to know what is changing out there and work with that system. The days of digging in your heels and refusing to get on board are over. You HAVE to stay relevant. I hear people say, “I’m too old for that.” I would only ask that you not stereotype me that way. I’m NOT too old for that (and neither are you; that’s a cop out), and I intend to stay on top of my game. You should too, by the way, on the road to greatness.

Never be afraid of technology. There’s nothing you can do that will destroy the Earth. There are ways to correct errors and after all, we are not born knowing these programs. Let go of the fear and just get busy. Find the ones that work for you and use them relentlessly. Diligently. Show up and work. New agents often feel pressured to be a superstar, because they are taught they can be in short order. Well, that doesn’t happen. You have to plant yourself, grow roots, feed the budding business. It takes time and effort. I’ve seen so many agents come and go because they got disillusioned by having completely unrealistic expectations. Real estate is not easy. It is not fast money. It takes TIME, a lot of it, and forget being off on weekends or even evenings.

When you become a big shot, you can put a message on your voice mail that says, “I don’t take calls after 7 pm”; but folks, that’s not serving your client well. Sometimes clients NEED to talk to you about something after 7. Take the call. If it’s a waste of time, THEN put if off until morning. Deliver greatness. It will bring your clients back to you. Will you be using the same database? Probably not. But your SERVICE and knowledge of the business will still be solid.

I had a conversation with a lovely new agent who has ‘it’. She’s bright, funny, driven and fun. She knows the law, the rules, the ethics. But she felt bad because she wasn’t blazing a trail. I had to remind her about roots. I had to tell her that I see the glow of a star in her. And I had to let her know she has permission to grow roots, but that she should work her business while doing so. She says she wants to be great one day; but she already is. She shows up, she works hard, she does business, and she does it relentlessly and diligently. She’s got it!

My Opinion about Madeliene McCann

I watched the Netflix documentary, of course. And I was as heartbroken this week as I was when it all happened. But I’m a decade older now, and a decade wiser, and this time around, I was stuck by something that really didn’t register in 2007. And that’s the absolute wretchedness of the human heart. By the way I didn’t make that up. It’s Biblical. Human hearts are wicked.

And it goes on still.

Different countries have different cultural norms and mores as you know. And the parents were at dinner…ALL of the parents…while their kids slept. Well that’s often what was done in those days, in their country, because there weren’t as many sickos running. So in their world, you didn’t have to ‘helicoptor’, and they did check on the kids, sharing that responsibility.

Maddie’s parents were devastated and they spent thousands of dollars and hours, trying to find their little girl. The WHOLE WORLD was heartbroken for them and desperate to help them and support them. For a while. And then true human nature reared its pathetic, ugly head. It seemed like the whole world turned on them and tried desperately to make THEM guilty of the murder of their child. Unbelievable.

Articles about the documentary talk about ‘secrecy’ among the group traveling with the McCanns, as though that is certain proof of guilt on the part of the parents. Well, pay attention out there: If you open your MOUTH about a crime, you will very likely be thrown in jail yourself, because some smooth-brain is going to label you as guilty. And then the circus begins. I don’t BLAME them for keeping quiet, ESPECIALLY to the media.

It reminded me of the Amanda Knox trial, and how she was vilified and imprisoned, for something they never proved, something she did not do. There’s a phenomenon called ‘groupthink’ wherein the group trying to solve a problem find a ‘possible’ solution…A possible solution…and rush that way like the Keystone Cops, eliminating all other possibilities…and in this case allowing the ACTUAL perpetrators to escape. Never to be apprehended, by the way. Savvy and educated leaders force a group to continue investigating until they come up with scenario 2 and 3, and following up on them, so that this doesn’t happen. Because most of the time, groupthink is inaccurate and it mimics electricity: it takes the path of least resistance.

Yes…you have to consider that the problem centers around those closest to the victim. If it DID, you find actual evidence. ACTUAL evidence, not someone’s OPINION of it.

Some will say that the police did the best they could, given their small force and inexperience in cases like this. Well that’s just not good enough. ASK FOR HELP. And ask for a lot of it! This is the 21st century, for crying out loud! But wretched human nature insinuates itself, egos rear up to fight for power and attention; and the case is lost RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT. Right then.

People, there is great evil in the world with regard to our children. The days of ‘free range parenting’ are over. There are people out there who view children, even babies, as commodities, a product they can sell for a lot of money. And they stalk the families and wait until you are not paying attention. The kidnappers can grab a child and be gone in mere seconds! This Netflix documentary talks about it, and about the ‘dark web’ where the purchase and sale of kids is ASTOUNDING. I suspect this is what happened to Maddie…and that breaks my heart. But I believe now, and will always believe, that the kidnappers could have been found, if not for human error, male egos and media interference in the investigation.

The great driving force in the condemnation of Maddie’s parents were the media, who were all too willing to be manipulated by the so-called investigators of this kidnapping. I was embarrassed to be human when I watched this documentary. What is WRONG with people?? I can’t imagine the added trauma these parents experienced as a result of the attack on them, and I pray to Almighty God that this doesn’t happen to them again as a result of this documentary, as I pray that Maddie will be found one day.

What is also frightening about this whole event is the reminder of how easily human beings are manipulated, and how ready human beings are to jump to conclusions. Why? Wretched hearts and a lack of ability to think things through. Those accused do NOT have to prove their innocence. It is up to the investigators to PROVE GUILT, and in the absence of PROOF, anyone continuously vilifying the accused should be held legally and financially accountable.

And that’s my opinion. Which in the grand scheme means nothing.

In Defense of the Stem

There’s a disturbing trend going on: Stemless wine glasses! I gasp.

The purpose of the stem is manifold, but chief among them is that it keeps your hot little hands from heating the wine! You know that wine should be served at the right temperature, right? If you heat it up, the flavor changes! It does! And since wine should actually be sipped rather than guzzled, time in glass could certainly give your hot little hands time to change the flavor (gasp again) of the wine.

Think how much harder it is to swirl the wine without a stem! Why, I can imagine the spills and overthrows without effort! Swirling helps to aerate the wine, which is a good thing, so you really must do it. You just must.

Nothing serves to aerate your wine in a sexy and spill-less way better than the stem. In your hot little hands, the stem lets you swirl and tilt during conversation, in a way you just can’t pull off without it, and you don’t heat the wine, remember. Think about it: lean against the column and tilt the glass offhandedly (right) and just be cool while you chat. Can’t do that without a stem.

Now, nothing says you can’t guzzle your wine, or even tilt the bottle right up to your lips if you like. The world will keep right on going if you do. And I’m no connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I rarely drink wine unless I am having dinner with friends; and it doesn’t even have to be a great dinner. It’s the friends who count. Then, I enjoy red wine, mostly, and I can’t recite the provenance or sulfur content blah blah blah. I just like red wine, preferably Pinot Noir. And…okay, I’ll admit I’ve had wine from a plastic cup! Gasp again! You gotta do what you gotta do. But nothing…and I mean nothing…beats a beautiful wine glass, with thin glass rim, larger bowl than opening, and elegant stem. Nothing.

In other words, without the stem, wine glasses just aren’t cool.

Choosing Colors when you Plan to Sell Your Home

One of the best updates for your home when you are planning to sell, is paint. Nothing creates quite the immediate impact as fresh paint throughout the home inside OR out. But it can go terribly wrong. I have shown properties where the colors throughout the house might as well have been clanging cymbals. The colors made no sense, and in fact created an extremely negative experience for my buyers. And the homes didn’t sell until they were painted, by the way. The goal for sellers is to make the home inviting and interesting, not dreadful.

Did you know there are ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ colors? If you don’t, take some time to investigate the concept. The fastest way to set up a subconscious frown in the mind of a buyer is to mix the two. If you have a brown roof, don’t paint the exterior of the home light blue, for example. Imagine a blue room with a gold/orange accent wall. Terrible! In the picture below you see a vibrant color combination, using a warm, Tuscan theme. The color scheme isn’t for everyone, but it works in a kitchen where pretty much everything else is white.

Another good idea is to start with a neutral and use decor to create contrast.

Martha Stewart once said that you should imagine your colors as if you are looking through the space, seeing all rooms in series. The colors should be complimentary, should not clash. They don’t have to match, but they do have to harmonize.

If you’re starting with a new home, you will most likely have the builder grade monotone throughout the home, and that’s fine if it is what you like; however most people choose to customize their homes with respect to wall color. Your home is the heart of your life and it should make you feel joyful, warm, safe. Color can do that, but choose a theme…mine is Tuscan. Yours might be The Beach. You get the idea.

However you choose to decorate, remember that when you sell, you want to appeal to the buyer. So be sure…whether you choose a cool or warm palate…that you keep to the same family. That way everything in the ‘background’ of the buyer’s subconscious experience flows and feels continuous. Remember that much of marketing is psychological. So don’t shock your potential buyers with disharmonious paint colors. One negative seed can grow into a complete rejection of an otherwise great property.