Friday, October 30, 2009

A Job Well Done

Back in April I wrote about our town's Clean and Green Day. That day the members of the town's Conservation Commission, chaired by my husband Paul, and assisted by several our of grandchildren spent many hours cleaning up a 10-acre parcel of land that has been donated to the town. Once a nursery but dormant for many years, the property is being donated by an elderly lady who wishes it to be named for her late daughter as a tranquility garden.

A valuable gift to our town. Paul and his commission have continued to work on the property in preparation for a granite sign to be delivered soon and a dedication in Dr. Monica's honor sometime this fall.

In addition to the general clean up of years of leaves and overgrown brush, they have also installed a split-rail fence and spread gravel for a visitors parking area. Below are some photos I took of the progress of the project. The photo on the right was taken this last weekend after the fence project was finished.

Here are some photos of the clean up in April.

These were taken after the first phase of the fence was installed during the summer. What a difference!

And here are more from last weekend in all its fall glory!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Morning Thoughts

I woke early this morning thinking about the arrival of November. It's just next week. I can't believe this year has gone so quickly.

I have very mixed emotions about the months of November and December. On one hand they bring the holidays which are fun and hectic. Pam and Geoff host Thanksgiving Dinner. Christmas Eve is always here at our house. It's a crazy few hours that I totally enjoy.

And, of course, all the work with Adopt-A-Family culminates with Distribution Week in December. It's an exciting, exhausting, satisfying, emotional week which I am so happy to see come and go.

But what I really woke thinking about this morning was that November 14th is the 8th anniversary of my father's death. Who decided to call that an "anniversary?" It's eight years since he died. Eight years since that Wednesday morning when at 9 a.m. as I sat eating my breakfast my mother called screaming unintelligible words, and I knew exactly what had happened. It's not a moment you ever forget.

I had been to the gym that morning so I had to shower and then just threw on some clothes. Somehow I ended up in a bright yellow sweatshirt which I looked at as I sat in the undertaker's office that afternoon wondering What was I thinking? Obviously I wasn't thinking about my wardrobe as I dressed that morning, only of getting to my mother.

As I made the 30 minute drive to what was now my mother's condo, I kept saying This is too far, this is too far. I knew we'd have to move her closer as soon as possible. There was a police officer and a neighbor with her when I arrived. Dad had gone to sleep Tuesday night and never woke. Mom had a restless night so she had gone into the guest room sometime during the night. She woke at 6:30 and peeked in to see him still sleeping. She did again at 7:30 with the same result. At 9:00 when she went in again, she knew.

Paul was hunting in Canada that week with his cousin. We had cell phones back then but there was no service where he was. The hunting camp didn't have a telephone. I called Carolyn, his cousin's wife, to ask for help in reaching them. She called the local police who went to the camp and put a "Call Home" sign on the door. I remember standing in my mother's driveway that afternoon screaming into my phone "I need you! Come home!" They drove straight through and got home late that night.

By then I had already been to the funeral home and made all the decisions, alone. My mother was with me but in body only that day. I had never really discussed with my parents what their wishes were regarding their funerals. The wife of one of Paul's longtime friends is a funeral director so we went to Liz and she was a great help, but the decisions still had to be made and I did it basically alone. During that time I was fine and kept my composure as long as I had my mother to comfort. When I was alone, it was a different story.

My father was only 68. My parents were together for 52 years. Retired for a little more than 3 years, my folks were on their third RV. They traveled for 2-3 months at a time and had visited 45 of the lower 48 states. They had not made it to the West Coast yet. He still had places to go and things to see, but I am so thankful for the time they had.

That morning all that came to an end for my mother, and she entered a new chapter in her life. We had the funeral that weekend. In less than three weeks we were under contract to buy a condo 5 minutes away from us. Thankfully her condo sold quickly, too, and soon she was close. She was still driving and actually adjusted to her new life pretty well. But she was lonely.

In less than three years we sold that place, and she moved into an apartment in a retirement community also nearby. Again she adjusted pretty well. It wasn't quite like her own home but she's resilient, and I'm lucky that she is still somewhat independent.

Early last year she started talking about John, another resident in her complex. They had met through their cardplaying group. One day last summer I answered the door and there stood Mom with John. They were out for a Sunday ride, and she had directed him to my house without telling him where they were going. John stood in my doorway looking like a deer in the headlights. He was that concerned about meeting me. It was cute.

Last fall they moved into a bigger apartment together. They were so happy. He had 4 children also nearby who were very attentive. They had lost their mother a couple years earlier, and they were totally accepting of my mother. Christmas Eve Mom and John were here with us and the rest of our family got to meet him. Christmas Day they had dinner with John's youngest daughter. Sometime in the night the day after Christmas, John woke, sat up, had a heart attack and died.

This time when my mother made the call it wasn't to me but to John's son. She called me in the morning with a simple "I lost my friend last night." For her it was almost as painful as losing my father. They had three short months together and he was gone. It was horrible watching my mother go through this again.

So as I laid there this morning thinking about my father and how much I miss him sometimes, I couldn't help but think of my mother and how hard these next few weeks are going to be for her. Life just isn't fair sometimes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Hope They Are Listening

Today's post might be a little boring (maybe they all are, I dunno) but sometimes I have to do some business.....or bidness as a friend used to say.

Chances are you have read recently about the bill before Congress to extend the First-Time Home Buyers Credit. Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this opportunity may be gone very soon.

The $8,000 tax credit is available for homes purchased on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009, and is equal to 10 percent of the home’s purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000.

Some people have said that stimulus money given out since the beginning of the year has caused problems in the economy. As a full-time Realtor for the last ten years, I can assure you that the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit has definitely been a success. Homebuyer interest and housing sales increased almost as soon the availability of this program became news. Today's lower prices and interest rates appeal to consumers, but it's been the tax credit that has attracted people to open houses and to homeownership. Demand from first-time homebuyers helped drive a 9.4% increase in sales of existing homes from August to September according to the National Association of Realtors, continuing a trend of increasing sales in five out of the last six months.

This tax incentive is a true tax credit. The $8,000 home buyer tax credit is tangible cash, not a deduction from taxable income. This is not a loan and does not have to be repaid as long as you live in the house for the next three years.

A ‘first-time home buyer’ is defined as someone who has not owned a home in the last three years. There are other restrictions in the qualifications such as income caps, and the home must be your principal residence.

I explain to people that this program has had a ‘trickle up’ effect. Home owners in the lower-priced market have been able to sell to buyers eligible for this credit which has given those sellers the opportunity to move up into more expensive homes. In my business in 2009, 40% of my transactions have involved buyers who qualify for and intend to apply for this credit. Some of those people were:

A woman in her mid-50’s getting back into home ownership after being divorced several years earlier. Her mortgage and condo fees were less than what she had been paying for rent.

A 42-year-old electrician who was buying his first home after having recovered from credit problems.

A young couple and their two-year-old daughter who have been living with extended family whose own home was facing foreclosure.

A couple in their late 50’s who had sold their home years earlier and planned to move South but who bought a two-family house with their son who has 4 children. The grandparents were already helping with the childcare so now three generations are living under one roof and will split the tax credit.

These are just four of many transactions I’ve been part of where the tax credit will be applied for. As the November 30th deadline looms I have seen a slump in my buyers’ activity. It’s close to being too late to enter into a sales agreement with any hope of closing by that date.

Uncertainty about the future of the credit will dampen consumer demand nationwide. There’s a strong lobby in Washington among realtors, lenders and builders urging Congress to extend this opportunity. The progress that has been made in the recovery of the real estate market could grind to a halt unless Congress acts now to extend the credit through 2010. Let’s hope they are listening!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Number You Have Reached is No Longer Affordable

It's been a long time since I looked at anything on my telephone bill except the Total Amount Due by line. I gave up the long distance part of the service long ago, and we just use our cell phones for long distance so I no longer have to check those calls to make sure they are legit.

I don't know if I've ever had a long distance call charge that wasn't legit but I always checked anyway. My mother, on the hand, has charges monthly for calls she swears she didn't make. She calls the telephone company, and they credit her. I think it's a little unlikely she has that many bogus calls but if they want to take them off her bill, I don't care.

So with only unlimited local calling on our home phone ($16.26) and automated voice mail ($6.95) plus the Inside Wire Maintenance, whatever that is, ($6.99) my "voice services" total is $30.20.

So how come my Total Amount Due is $42.28?!

There's another section of the bill called Total Taxes, Fees & Other Verizon Charges which totals $12.08. That's a 40% tax! Where am I? Sweden?

Let's go over these taxes, fees & other Verizon charges, shall we?

Federal Excise Tax ($ .89) An excise tax is a type of tax charged on goods produced within the country. It's often levied on the producer who passes it onto the consumer. Okay got that.

Rhode Island State & Local Tax ($2.62) This year's budget in Rhode Island had a $65,000,000 shortfall. What else is there to say?

Federal Universal Service Fee ($ .81) As I said I'm only making local calls certainly not universal calls but whatever. It's less than a buck.

911 State/County Charges ($1.00) This is the only charge in the bunch I really understand and have no problem with. When we need to dial 911, we certainly expect someone to be there.

Dual Party Relay Charge ($ .09) What??! Can't you picture a bunch of ad exec types sitting around a table bouncing ideas off each other trying to come up with the most vague term imaginable for yet another fee to add to our telephone bills? I figure the guy who came up with this "fee" got a big bonus.

School and Library Fund ($ .26) I'm certainly in favor of funding our schools and libraries, and I pay my property taxes faithfully every quarter. In the 29 years as a homeowner, I have never missed a payment, never been late. Isn't that in there? Is it really necessary to sneak another tax into our phone bills?

There it is, $12.08 for an additional seven fees and taxes I don't understand nor do I expect anyone at Verizon could explain adequately. I'm thinking it's time to give up the land line.

And don't even get me started on my cell phone bill.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Adopt-A-Family and FBLA

Have you missed me? It's been a whole week since my last post and I've missed being here. This was the longest I've gone without publishing a post since I began. I've written a couple in my head over the course of the week but they never made it to the keyboard.

I have been a little sick (just a cold, will everyone please stop asking if I've got swine flu?!) and I've been busy with Adopt-A-Family business and preparing for an event related to AAF.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to be one of three presenters of non-profit organizations to be featured at the FBLA State Leadership Conference which was attended by chapters from all over Rhode Island.

Over 150 high school students attended the event held at Johnson & Wales Inn in Seekonk.
Future Business Leaders of America is a association of students preparing for careers in business and business-related fields. Their mission is to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs.

Our granddaughter Katie, a senior, has been involved with her school's FBLA chapter since she started high school. Katie called me last Monday to ask whether I would be able to put together a booth about AAF at their leadership conference. She apologized for the late notice but said she had only found out the day before that she was expected to bring in three non-profit organizations for the Friday conference.

A little concerned about the short notice, I was honestly thrilled that Katie had asked and said I would be there. Over the course of the week, I exchanged several emails with Katie and her advisor. I was so impressed with her communication and leadership skills. It was a wonderful opportunity to see Katie in this light.

With help from Pam, Katie's mom, my stepdaughter and fellow blogger at Pam's Perspectives, I think we put together quite a nice presentation. We had photos, letters from past recipients and lots of handouts for the kids to take back to their chapters. Pam is also a longtime donor and volunteer so she knows as much about the program as I do.

We met with groups of students over the course of the morning to introduce them to our program. Always looking for new ways to increase their community service, the FBLA students were interested in learning how they can become involved as donors, volunteers and fundraisers. The students were eager to learn about AAF, and this was a great opportunity to introduce the program to a new generation of citizens to help us continue fulfilling our mission.

The morning presentations were followed by a luncheon and the induction of state leadership of FBLA including our own Katie who was sworn in as Vice President. It was a wonderful day and I was so glad to part of it for both Katie and AAF.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Home Alone

Paul has been away hunting with Rosey for four days. They should be home today, and both Lucy and I are ready for them to come home. I used to enjoy this time home alone more than I do now.

In addition to hunting, Paul takes a couple motorcycle trips a year so being alone is nothing new but as I get older, I enjoy it less. When he is away on the bike I worry. He calls daily which helps but I worry. And I am on pins and needles until I hear that bike drive into the driveway when I whisper a "thank you again, God" to whomever might be listening. I have traveled some without him, too, and I don't think he enjoys being home alone any more than I do.

My plans for most of this weekend were to keep Lucy company. She is quite despondent when both Paul and Rosey are away. I am apparently no fun. At least that's what her body language tells me. I am only good for someone to sit on first thing in the morning or cuddle up to at night. In between she mopes. Ever see a bouncy, energetic Jack Russell Terrier mope? It's quite sad.

I had an unexpectedly nice day yesterday. I read about a produce wholesaler in New Bedford with a gourmet shop open to the public. On Saturdays they have cooking demonstrations and food sampling. I emailed Gisele last night asking if she was interested in going. After a 4-mile walk on the bike path in the morning in preparation for the 'sampling,' we headed out.

What a find! I'm torn between saying I wish it was closer (about an hour's drive) and saying it's a good thing it's not because I'd be there every week. Let me just say it wasn't the cheapest place I've ever shopped but that's to be expected of anything that calls itself gourmet. Gisele and I basically ate our way through prepared dishes of salads, meat entrees, pastas, chowder, cheeses, dips and dessert all made with ingredients they were selling. We must have spent nearly two hours sampling and looking through the various spices, cheeses, pastas, sauces, oils, vinegars, preserves, fruits and vegetables. Serious sensory overload for me! I wanted it all. We finally decided we better go because we were starting our third pass through some of the dishes, and I think people were beginning to stare at us.

New Bedford is a waterfront city and during the nineteenth century it was one of the most important whaling ports in the world. Like many cities it has seen better days but it's still filled with beautiful old homes built by sea captains some in various stages of restoration. After we left the gourmet shop we rode through downtown looking for a place to have a quiet drink. We were lucky enough to find Cork Wine and Tapas Bar. Set in a restored granite building overlooking New Bedford's harbor, the cute and friendly young bartender told us it was built in 1837 supposedly for $1727. What a neat little place. The menu was interesting enough that I think I will take Paul back for dinner sometime soon.

I was pleased to see Caipirinha on their specialty drink menu and Gisele and I each ordered one. Caipirinha is a drink of fresh limes muddled with sugar added to cachaca, a liquor made from fermented sugar cane produced mostly in Brazil. It's a drink I discovered in Mexico several years ago and don't often see locally. It's also an ass-kicker as cachaca is generally between 38% and 80% alcohol by volume. But it's so good!

This morning I woke to a dark and dreary rainy day. A good day to stay in and catch up on a few things. Hope you are having a great weekend!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Come On In!

Do you have a GPS or Navigational System in your car? You know, one of those gadgets that are either onboard your car when you buy it or an after market device you add like a Garmin or TomTom.

If you do, does it have a HOME button or setting? Do you have your home address in there? Yes?

Next question--do you have an automatic garage door opener on your house? With the remote clipped to the sun visor in your car? Yes?

Okay, so if someone steals your car then sets your GPS to HOME it will direct them to your house. And when they get to your house, assuming you're not home 'cause you're stuck at the mall where your car was stolen from, if they press the button on your garage door opener, they can drive right into the garage, right?

That's what I thought. Even if your interior door between the garage and the house is locked, they have time to find a way to get into your house.

You have 1) given them an automatic route to your house and 2) given them a key to get inside.

Just thought you might like to know, because THEY know.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'd Rather Take a Trip Than........

I love to travel. Anyone who has been with me over these last few months probably got that idea. Paul and I have been fortunate enough (worked hard enough) to be able to take some pretty nice vacations. Most of our trips are not about relaxing, however. We're not big beach people. I'm a redhead who gets a sunburn from the bathroom light while putting on my mascara. Paul likes to be moving so sitting on a beach only holds his interest for a short time. We're not big on cruises either for the same reason, we like to move. We prefer to fly somewhere and then drive and explore.

Until 2001 most of our travels were in the States, the lower 48 specifically. We still haven't been to Hawaii (it's on the list) but we did visit Alaska in 2001. I won a trip for two to Russia and converted it to Alaska. (They are close) Seriously, I won it. I'd never won anything of any value before in my life. It was the grand prize at the 2000 RI Realtors Statewide Convention. I had no interest in seeing Russia at that time. Paul would have gone but I won it and we weren't going there. The prize had a cash value which we used towards two weeks in Alaska. We did a week on land and then a cruise. A wonderful trip that I would recommend to anyone.

The week after winning the trip to Russia, I won a trip for two to Los Angeles. Again, seriously, I won it. It was a reception for the grand opening of a new Marriott Hotel in Providence. One of those deals where you drop your business card in a bowl. I was at the reception as my friend Gisele's guest. When we dropped our cards into the bowl we made a pact..."if you win, you have to take me," never expecting either would win. The trip included airfare and 3 nights in a fancy Marriott in LA. It was some famous location where they'd filmed some movies. I forget the name. Gisele and I extended the stay to a week and had a great time. What a fun week that was!

The only vacations Paul and I have ever taken where we spent most of the time on a beach were in Mexico. I lost my father in November 2001 and Paul's dad passed away in January 2002. So those few months were particularly difficult. In late winter I called our travel agent and said you have to find us a place to go to relax. She asked if we wanted an all-inclusive resort. I didn't care. My exact words to her were: I want a hotel with a pool AND a beach. I want to be able to walk to the beach from my room. I don't want to have to take a bus, a taxi, a donkey, nothing. I want to be able to walk back to my room from the beach if I want to use my own bathroom. And the only decision I want to make is whether I want red wine or white with my lunch. And, oh yeah, make sure the bars have top-shelf liquor. I don't want Jose's Vodka. Bless her heart, Donna sent us to the Rui Palace in Playa del Carmen where they actually have palm trees for the pale face right on the edge of the beach! We went back four winters in a row, we loved it so much.

So where are we going next? We are taking a cruise on the Danube River from Hungary through Austria to Germany. I have always wanted to do this. It's a much smaller ship than ocean ships, of course, with only 150 passengers. They stop in cities and towns along the way and you are able to just walk off the ship. We are going on Viking River Cruises.

They kept sending me brochures with what looked like great prices so I booked one. Without really discussing it with Paul, by the way. We are going next July to celebrate his birthday. It's sort of a birthday present so I didn't have to ask him, right? Actually we tried to talk about it but everything was so crazy busy and the deadline to take advantage of these prices was looming and there was no time, so I just did it! It's a long way off but it's always fun to have something to look forward to. In the meantime, I'll be getting together information about things to do and see.

I would rather take a trip than.....just about anything!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Wonders of Nature

I was wandering around the yard today with my new camera looking for something interesting to shoot. I happened to notice these odd looking buds on the magnolia my mother-in-law gave me about 20 years ago. It's one of my most favorite plants in the yard and today it took on a whole new look for me. I've never noticed these before and was fascinated by what they look like.

A baby bird just hatched?

This looks like a bug.....

My all-out favorite.....

"I'm watching you!"

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Keyboard of Bloggers?

You've probably heard phrases like a pod of whales, a herd of elephants, a pride of lions, a colony of ants, a swarm of bees and a gaggle of geese. In some cases these phrases have developed from the appearance of the animals they refer to.

Recently I ran across a listing of some animal-related phrases. Here are some that I found most interesting.

A scold of bluejays
A chain of bobolinks
An army of caterpillars
A clutter of cats
A gulp of cormorants
A rumination of cows
A wiliness of coyotes
A scuttle of crabs
A float of crocodiles
A paddling of ducks
A convocation of eagles
A conflagration of fireflies
A business of flies
A skulk of foxes
A totter of giraffes
A glister of goldfinches
A flight of goshawks
A siege of herons
A bloat of hippopotami
A howl of hounds
A romp of otters
An ostentation of peacocks
A vise of pitbulls
A prickle of porcupines
A mask of raccoons
A battery of rams
A rhumba of rattlesnakes
A ruination of rodents
A squabble of seagulls
A shiver of sharks
A venom of spiders
A scurry of squirrels
A swoop of swallows
A knot of toads
A hover of trout
A nest of wasps
A gatling of woodpeckers

And then there were a few about groupings of people, like

A drift of fishermen
A number of statisticians
A colony of bacteriologists
A plague of epidemiologists
A stalk of foresters
A blast of hunters

Which brings me to my question.....what would you call a group of bloggers?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Adopt-A-Family Program

I've been promising to write something about the Adopt-A-Family program that I help run locally. Rather than recount everything here, I thought I'd send you all over for a visit to a new blog which is also going to serve as a website for our organization.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

So go here.

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!

Some of you might have noticed I haven't been here much in the last week or so. As I wrote in an email to a friend this morning, my life has just not been my own lately.

I have been working pretty much 7 days a week. I'm not really complaining (well, maybe a little) because in real estate you just have to be available when the clients are. I have been putting some deals together but it's been pretty hectic.

And last Monday night I started an 8-week class of continuing education which will give me the rest of the hours I need for next year's licensing. But I ask you What was I thinking when I signed up for this class? It's eight Monday nights from 6-9 p.m. and it's during one of the busiest times of the year for me. This is the last night class I will take if I have a choice. It's Title Searching which is actually pretty interesting but it's also a bit dry because it's mostly legal stuff. I'm just getting too old for a night class. Makes for a very long day.

And I am gearing up for this year's Adopt-A-Family program. I haven't blogged about that much yet although I mentioned a little about it here and here. I want to tell you more about who we are and what we do and I promise I will soon. It's a wonderful program that I am very proud to be part of.

I'll get back here real soon with all the details and let you know how we are progressing this year. In the meantime, hope everyone is enjoying the beauty of fall. It's going to be a gorgeous leaf-peeping season here in the Northeast!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Highbush Cranberry--October

You can see the leaves are beginning to look a little sparse as they begin to fall. The days have begun to be noticeably shorter. The weather is getting much cooler. Fall is definitely in the air!

To see the changes, go to June, July, August and September.

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