Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Where have I been, you ask?

Where have I been, you ask?  How come you don’t hear from me anymore?  Truthfully I am not sure what has come over me.  I don’t know why I have lost interest in you.  Like the Oprah Winfrey Show, somewhere along the line I just hit my limit and now I have no feelings about you one way or another.    I believe that this is a positive thing ~ it means that I am absolutely living in the moment. Not looking to rehash the past, not looking to dream about the future.  Just looking around at now and trying to decide if tonight is more of a beer or chocolate evening. Lying on my HUGE California King (I can hear it in my head the way Arnold S. would say it) I am in my own version of a perfectly contented living heaven. Egyptian cotton sheets, goose down pillows on a tempurpedic mattress overrated?  Never! What I do know is that I am learning about myself (at midlife) at warp speed.  The process is heavy, time consuming and overshadows all other things right now.  The gravity of time has finally taken its tablet and chisel to my brain and I’m afraid friend there is no turning back.  I can’t turn back to the days of idleness and mindless chatter about everything under the sun….back to the days of gossip and shallow endeavors that used to include decorating, entertaining and shopping among other things.  I’m here and you’re there; the divide cannot be traversed.  I am not interested in your life any longer…and honestly, I am not sorry about this fact.  I’m avoiding you because, how do I say this to you? How do I say this to each and every one of you? You cannot keep my attention anymore. After nearly 25 years of marriage, I seriously don’t want to talk about men ~ not for even one more second! (I don’t want to talk about mine and I am even less interested in talking about yours!) and after more than two decades of parenting, I am not interested in talking about my kids either.  I don’t want to hear about yours either.  So what does this leave us?  Where does this leave us?  I know where it leaves me.  I am engrossed in my loves: hanging out with my family, reading, writing, listening to music, meditation, real estate investing, gardening, cooking, antique hunting, baking (and eating) cakes and dreaming of the day when my boat will set sail on a more leisurely course.  I see the veins on the backs of my hands bulging more, I see that my hair is getting thinner and I feel the sting in my feet for a least an hour (every night) after I elevate them.  I know where I am headed and the path is clearer than ever. I know I cannot change the past nor can I dictate the future.  My life is right here and right now and what I have learned about me at the half way point is that I am my own best friend and when it comes to my time, I don’t like to share.
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When a Grandma Passes. By Lisa Thielen-Ekanger

                                                                    When a Grandma Passes.
            Recently, the Grandma of a friend of mine passed away and I was immediately transported back to the week when my beloved Grandma left my life.  Grandmas do pass away every day and I think we all like to tell ourselves that they had lived a long and fruitful life, and that they will be missed just like all other loved ones who have passed.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Grandmas are so much more to a family than we are willing to openly admit.  A special corner of the heart is reserved for them because they raised the ones who raised us.  They hold both keys of wisdom and mystery because they loved us as much as our parents, but from an arm’s length distance which made their words more monumental, their winks more warm. Grandma, our connection was strong and true; we didn’t need words to understand our place in each other’s lives.  This quiet mutual devotion guided me in ways I still have yet to discover.  The pain of the loss of you is a deep burning sensation beneath the tears ~ in fact ~ tears just seem false to me and somehow I cannot allow them to be.  Grandma, your provenance is important, quite possibly the most important part of any grown child’s mental health.  You were the beautiful baby girl of two doting parents (and Granddaughter) of the people I never met, my ancestors.  You grew up in a different and mysterious time and your path in this world was an important one because the things you witnessed and the relationships you built were the glue of love.  Through your actions you helped build a strong community, you advocated for the unfortunate and underserved and you triumphed through the difficulties and challenges that life handed you. Grandma, like a different petal of the same rose you weathered life’s harsh storms before me as did your Grandmother before you.  Let us not forget that you were someone’s baby, someone’s best friend, someone’s lover, someone’s student, someone’s mentor, someone’s saving grace, somebody’s guiding light and a family’s everything. By the very virtue that you earned the title Grandma makes you an incredible success. Every hour of everyday a grandma passes away on this earth.  Every hour of every day and new Grandma is born as she receives the news that her first grandchild has arrived. I make a pledge to appreciate all Grandmas that are still here with us contributing that magical matriarchy ~ next time I meet up with someone else’s Grandma, I will honor her in memory of you and know that I will be completely blessed if my path leads me to hold the same title someday.
~Written By: Lisa Ekanger
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Your Facebook Profile Photo Says About You

What Your Facebook Profile Photo Says About You

Avatar for Brian Moylan Brian Moylan
Choosing a Facebook profile photo is very serious business. It's the visual that will greet high school acquaintances, jealous exes, and your parents' friends when they search you out. The image you project is entirely determined by your photo choice. While people think that the photo they choose is some sort of individual statement, they're usually wrong. Here are the 10 most misguided approaches that people take when picking out a profile photo. Each sends out all sorts of information that the person may not have intended. And while there are some sub-genres and lesser known variations, most of the pictures on the social networking behemoth fall into one of these categories.

The Portrait

How to Spot It: A clear photo of the subject from the waist (or higher) up and includes the entire face.
What It Says About You: That you are a normal, well-adjusted adult who is confident in your appearance. Basically, you're pretty boring. However, if it is a headshot, author photo, or other promotional material, it means you are a narcissistic careerist. If it is a self portrait, you are slightly annoying. If the photo is of you in your bathing suit, you are probably hot and insecure.

The Far and Away

How to Spot It: The subject is so far from the camera that you can discern there is a person in the frame, but can't pick out any details of his face or appearance.
What It Says About You: You are a private person who doesn't want any old gawker knowing what the hell you look like. You are probably slightly shy and reserved until people get to know you. Either that or you got fat or had a botched Lasik surgery and you don't want the mean girls from college knowing about your gut/lazy eye.

The Up Close and Impersonal

How to Spot It: The subject is so close to the camera that you can only see part of her face or appearance.
What It Says About You: You want people to think that you don't want to be recognized on Facebook, but you really do and you mask that in pseudo artiness. You had an imperfection when you were younger (lazy eye, acne, stutter, irredeemably bad haircut) and still haven't gotten over being teased. Now you're the kind of person who is alone at parties not because you're shy, but because once people talk to you, they get annoyed.

The Scrapbook Photo

How to Spot It: A picture of the subject when he was in his childhood, whether a candid shot or a school picture he made his mother dig out of a box in her attic.
What It Says About You: You are the type of person who thinks that everything in the past is better than it is now. You still listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, and love the same things you did back in high school/college, and you'll probably never change. You haven't amounted to much, and you looked much better as a child.

The Pet Show

How to Spot It: A photo of the subject's pet, usually without the subject.
What It Says About You: It depends on what kind of animal it is. Cat: You are a woman without a boyfriend. Dog: You are a gay without a boyfriend or Michael Vick. Snake: You are a teenage boy or death metal devotee. Fish: You watch too much The Real World. Dolphin: You have a tramp stamp. Gerbil or Hamster: You are Richard Gere. Unicorn: You are awesome. Rabbit: Who has rabbits as pets? You are a freak!

Family Photo

How to Spot It: A photo of the subject's children and/or baby usually without the subject.
What It Says About You: The only thing you have accomplished in your adult life is having children. You used to be fun and fabulous and have lots of friends, but now all you can talk about is play dates, potty training, and Dora the Explorer. But don't worry, being a mother/father is the most important job there is. No really. We mean that. Yup, totally.

The Wedding Photo

How to Spot It: Man, woman, dress, tux—you know, the usual. Even if it's a gay wedding, you know a wedding picture when you see it.
What It Says About You: You want everyone to think that you are a grown-up. You have settled down to a life of calm normalcy and Family Guy reruns. You're not playing the field and slutting it up anymore. No, you are married! Also, you are entirely defined by your relationship and don't have any friends of your own anymore. You probably spent too much on the ceremony and your mother-in-law hates you.

The Pop Culture Reference

How to Spot It: This comes in many forms: a picture of a fictional character, concert, a movie poster, a book cover, reality star, musical act, or a celebrity. Basically it is anyone who is not the subject. Even if done ironically, it's all the same.
What It Says About You: You have no personality of your own. You define yourself (and others) completely by their entertainment choices, whether they be television, music, sci-fi, literary, or otherwise. Talking to you like reading a list of movie quotes from an IMDb page and you are full of useless knowledge on your favorite subjects. You own at least two T-shirts with stupid slogans on them.

The Art Portfolio

How to Spot It: A photo that somehow tries to be artistic and usually fails. This can contain the subject or not. It is often in black and white.
What It Says About You: You tell people that you are an actor, writer, photographer, or artist, but you are really a waiter, blogger, bartender, Whole Foods checkout person, or trust fund baby. Unless you have a trust fund, you will probably never make more per year than the cost of the liberal arts college you attended. You are also at risk for herpes.

The Party Picture

How to Spot It: The subject, often with someone else, clearly at a party. She may be holding a drink, drinking a drink, smoking a bong, holding a joint, playing beer pong, dancing on a banquette, or giving duck lips and gang signs.
What It Says About You: You are young and stupid and will be fired from at least one job for something you posted on Facebook. You are susceptible to peer pressure and have used a bathroom stall for something other than peeing at least three times in the past year. You will one day regret this picture and replace it with a wedding picture, and then pictures of your children.
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gift from the Sea A. Lindbergh

Channeled Whelk
But his shell — it is simple; it is bare, it is beautiful. Small, only the size of my thumb, its architecture is perfect, down to the finest detail. Its shape, swelling like a pear in the center, winds in a gentle spiral to the pointed apex. Its color, dull gold, is whitened by a wash of salt from the sea. Each whorl, each faint knob, each criss-cross vein in its egg-shell texture, is as clearly defined as on the day of creation. My eye follows with delight the outer circumference of that diminutive winding staircase up which this tenant used to travel.
My shell is not like this, I think. How untidy it has become! Blurred with moss, knobby with barnacles, its shape is hardly recognizable any more. Surely, it had a shape once. It has a shape still in my mind. What is the shape of my life?
Moon Shell
We are all, in the last analysis, alone. And this basic state of solitude is not something we have any choice about. It is, as the poet Rilke says, "not something that one can take or leave. We are solitary. We may delude ourselves and act as though this were not so. That is all. But how much better it is to realize that we are so, yes, even to begin by assuming it. Naturally," he goes on to say, "we will turn giddy."
Naturally. How one hates to think of oneself as alone. How one avoids it. It seems to imply rejection or unpopularity. An early wallflower panic still clings to the world. One will be left, one fears, sitting in a straight-backed chair alone, while the popular girls are already chosen and spinning around the dance floor with their hot-palmed partners. We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends and movies should fail, there is still the radio or the television to fill up the void. Women, who used to complain of loneliness, need never be alone any more. We can do our housework with soap-opera heroes at our side. Even day-dreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.
We all wish to be loved alone. "Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me," runs the old popular song. Perhaps, as Auden says in his poem, this is a fundamental error in mankind. For the error bred in the bone/Of each woman and each man/Craves what it cannot have./Not universal love/But to be loved alone.
Is it such a sin? In discussing this verse with an Indian philosopher, I had an illuminating answer: "It is all right to wish to be loved alone," he said, "mutuality is the essence of love. There cannot be others in mutuality. It is only in the time sense that it is wrong. It is when we desire continuity of being loved alone that we go wrong." For not only do we insist on believing romantically in the "one-and-only" — the one-and-only love, the one-and-only mate, the one-and-only mother, the one-and-only security — we wiish the "one-and-only" to be permanent, ever-present and continuous. The desire for continuity of being-loved-alone seems to me "the error bred in the bone" of man. For there is no "one-and-only," as a friend of mine once said in a similar discussion, "there are just one-and-only moments."
Oyster Bed
Yes, I believe the oyster shell is a good one to express the middle years of marriage. It suggests the struggle of life itself. They oyster has fought to have that place on the rock to which it has fitted itself perfectly and to which it clings tenaciously. So most couples in the growing years of marriage struggle to achieve a place in the world. It is a physical and material battle first of all, for a home, for children, for a place in their particular society... In these years one recognizes the truth of Saint-Exupery's line: "Love does not consist in gazing at each other (one perfect sunrise gazing at another!) but in looking outward together in the same direction." For, in fact, man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction; they are working outward. (Observe the steady encroachment of the oyster bed over the rock.) Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base. (Try and pry an oyster loose from its ledge!)...
I am very fond of the oyster shell. It is humble and awkward and ugly. it is slate-colored and unsymmetrical. Its form is not primarily beautiful but functional...
But is it the permanent symbol of marriage? Should it — any more than the double-sunrise shell — last forever? The tide of life recedes. The house, with its bulging sleeping porches and sheds, begins little by little to empty. The children go away to school and then to marriage and lives of their own... What is one to do — die of atrophy in an outstripped form? Or move on to another form, other experiences?
Intermittency — an impossible lesson for human beings to learn. How can one learn to live through the ebb-tides of one's existence? How can one learn to take the trough of the wave? It is easier to understand here on the beach, where the breathlessly still ebb tides reveal another life below the level which mortals usually reach. In this crystalline moment of suspense, one has a sudden revelation of the secret kingdom at the bottom of the sea. Here in the shallow flats one finds, wading through warm ripples, great horse conchs pivoting on a leg; white sand dollars, marble medallions engraved in the mud; and myriads of bright-colored cochina-clams, glistening in the foam, their shells opening and shutting like butterflies' wings. So beautiful is the still hour of the sea's withdrawal, as beautiful as the sea's return when the encroaching waves pound up the beach, pressing to reach those dark rumpled chains of seaweed which mark the last high tide.
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


The Joy of Delusion

Published: May 7, 2006
What would have happened if, at the end of "Casablanca," Ingrid Bergman had stayed with Humphrey Bogart in Morocco, rather than boarding the plane to Lisbon with her Nazi-fighting husband? Would she have regretted it? Or did she end up lamenting the decision she did make? According to Daniel Gilbert, odds are that either decision would have made her equally happy in the long run.

Christopher Serra


By Daniel Gilbert.
277 pp. Illustrated. Alfred A. Knopf. $24.95.
If this sounds like an odd question for a professor of psychology at Harvard to ask in a serious book about cognitive science, there are dozens more where that came from. Is it really possible that Christopher Reeve believed himself in some ways better off after he became a quadriplegic, or that Lance Armstrong is glad to have had cancer, or that cancer patients in general tend to be more optimistic about the future than healthy people? (Answers: yes, yes and yes.)
Which raises another question: If people who we think should be unhappy are not, is it also possible that some people are happy and don't know it? (Clinically speaking, yes. There is a syndrome called alexithymia in which a person experiences the same physiological response associated with an emotion as a normal person, as recorded by an M.R.I. scan, but is unaware of having the emotion.)
Gilbert is an influential researcher in happiness studies, an interdisciplinary field that has attracted psychologists, economists and other empirically minded researchers, not to mention a lot of interested students. (As The Boston Globe recently reported, a course on "positive psychology" taught by one of Gilbert's colleagues is the most popular course at Harvard.) But from the acknowledgments page forward, it's clear Gilbert also fancies himself a comedian. Uh-oh, cringe alert: an academic who cracks wise. But Gilbert's elbow-in-the-ribs social-science humor is actually funny, at least some of the time. "When we have an experience . . . on successive occasions, we quickly begin to adapt to it, and the experience yields less pleasure each time," he writes. "Psychologists calls this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage."
But underneath the goofball brilliance, Gilbert has a serious argument to make about why human beings are forever wrongly predicting what will make them happy. Because of logic-processing errors our brains tend to make, we don't want the things that would make us happy — and the things that we want (more money, say, or a bigger house or a fancier car) won't make us happy.
Happiness is a subjective emotional state, so when you and I say that we are "extremely happy" we may mean completely different things. Most people would find the idea of being a conjoined twin to be a horrible fate. You couldn't possibly be happy in that condition, right? Then how come conjoined twins rate themselves as happy as nonconjoined people, Gilbert asks. Is that because they don't know what "real" happiness is? Or are you wrong to think that you couldn't be happy as a conjoined twin?
Not knowing what makes other people happy is one thing. But shouldn't we be able to figure out what will make ourselves happy? No, Gilbert argues, for the same reasons we can't imagine accurately how happy we would be as a conjoined twin. For one thing, we change across time; the person you are when you are imagining what it would be like to have that fancy new car is not the person you will be when you actually have that fancy new car.
"Teenagers get tattoos because they are confident that DEATH ROCKS will always be an appealing motto," he writes. "Smokers who have just finished a cigarette are confident for at least five minutes that they can quit and that their resolve will not diminish with the nicotine in their bloodstreams." For another, as Gilbert shows through a series of logic games and diagrams meant to dupe the reader (they worked on me), we misperceive reality — as philosophers since Kant have recognized — and then use those misperceptions to build a mistaken view of the future.
Events that we anticipate will give us joy make us less happy than we think; things that fill us with dread will make us less unhappy, for less long, than we anticipate. As evidence, Gilbert cites studies showing that a large majority of people who endure major trauma (wars, car accidents, rapes) in their lives will return successfully to their pre-trauma emotional state — and that many of them will report that they ended up happier than they were before the trauma. It's as though we're equipped with a hedonic thermostat that is constantly resetting us back to our emotional baseline.
Scott Stossel is managing editor of The Atlantic Monthly.
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Am A Failure by Alyssa Gregory

Post to Twitter
I fail all the time. Every single day. I make mistakes, say the wrong thing, lose my patience, take wrong turns, make bad choices, procrastinate, say yes when I should say no, say no when I should say yes, give too much, give too little, and the list goes on and on.
No matter how hard I push myself to be perfect, I still fail at something, every single day. Some of my failures are big; some are small. But every single day, there is a misstep. So, I am a failure.
You know what? You are a failure, too. You may be just like me, a Type-A, do-it-all-and-do-it-all-well, self-imposed perfectionist kind of person, or you may be a part of the laid-back, relaxed club, but I can guarantee that you fail every single day, just like I do.
We are human; we fail. There is nothing we can do about it.
Unless we use failure to our advantage.
Think about it. Being a failure is not as miserable and defeating as it sounds. Failure means to be unsuccessful at something (NOT everything). And heck yeah, I’m unsuccessful at a lot of things. But almost every time I fail, I learn something. I learn how to compromise despite my stubbornness, bite my tongue when it’s best not to say anything, work productively in time chunks instead of goofing off from overwhelm, and do things the right way after I’ve messed them up the first time.
Failure is humbling. It can knock us down when we start to get overconfident, and make us more appreciative of what we already have.
Failure can also be a very powerful motivator. If we’re not worried about failure, we may not be as willing to work so hard, dream so big or take that chance.  Without the risk of failure, we become complacent.
So, yes, I will proudly admit to being a failure. Because to me, being a failure means I’m human. I’m learning, striving to be better and motivated to succeed. Failure is empowering. I am proud to say I’m a failure, even though I’m a Type-A, do-it-all-and-do-it-all-well, self-imposed perfectionist kind of person. Because failure makes me better.
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Should you trade up?

May buying advice: Should you wait to trade up?

With home prices falling, now may seem like a bad time to sell your home and buy another, but it all depends on where you are.

By Melinda Fulmer of MSN Real Estate
May buying advice: Should you wait to trade up? (© Burle/Triolo Productions/Jupiterimages)
© Burle/Triolo Productions/Jupiterimages
With home prices still falling across most of the country, you might think it's a horrible time to trade up.
And you could be wrong, says Stan Humphries, chief economist for real-estate search site Zillow.com. In this installment of Buying Advice, Humphries will examine why you might have more to gain from selling your house and buying a fancier one. (Bing: What house-hunting mistakes do potential buyers make?)
We'll check out the latest housing stats, a cool new tool and some of the markets with the best prospects. We'll also share a tip on how to house-hunt more effectively.
Trade up or wait it out?
You're outgrowing your house, but its value is still falling. Does that mean you should forget about a move? Not necessarily, Humphries says. What's crucial is the rate of decline in your area versus the area where you are looking.
What's your home worth?
"If you're trading homes in a declining market, it's not the absolute decline in home values that you need to focus on, it's the relative difference between the two homes you're moving between," Humphries says.
He cites a couple of examples in Seattle and Philadelphia, assuming a 5% decline in both of these markets in the next year, to prove his point.
  • In Seattle, for instance, a family who owned a three-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot townhouse with no yard could sell for $439,950 and purchase a five-bedroom home with a large yard in nearby Bellevue for $519,000. Selling and buying now would mean a 1.3% hit over the next year, in loss of equity and higher selling cost and commission, versus that 5% decline in values.
  • The owner of this 728-square-foot Philadelphia row home could sell her dwelling and move to this palatial-by-comparison, four-bedroom Springfield, Pa., home for $239,900. The buyer would lose $2,151, including $856 in higher selling costs and commissions, or 1% of the value of the new home by acting now versus waiting for the 5% decline.
Slide show:  Don't fall for staging: Look behind the bling
Of course, both of these examples assume an equal decline in both neighborhoods — something of a long shot. They also don't consider the cost of financing, a point that could push some folks off the fence.
"Financing costs will undoubtedly be higher in a year than they are now," Humphries says.
Article continues below
Charming older homes for under $400,000
Date:4/16/2011Duration: 004:000Video By: TODAY
April 16: TODAY real estate expert Barbara Corcoran takes a look at homes around the country that have a vintage edge at an affordable price.
Home sales snapshot
Existing-home sales increased 3.7% in March, to 5.1 million from 4.92 million in February, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Sounds good, but that's still 6.3% below March 2010, when the homebuyer tax credit was still in effect.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, sees it as the start of a real but slightly unstable recovery, given that existing-home sales have risen in six of the past eight months.
"With rising jobs and excellent affordability conditions, we project moderate improvements into 2012, but not every month will show a gain — primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage," he says.
The NAR's Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed but not closed, showed a 5.1% gain in March, but still fell 11.4% below the same period last year. Overall, the NAR projects a 1.8% drop in the median price of U.S. existing homes, steeper than the 1% it had predicted in March.
What will you find out there in the market? This year, it's not first-time buyers leading the pack; it's repeat buyers, rich folks and investors looking to snap up bargains.
  • All-cash sales accounted for a record 35% of total sales.
  • Investors accounted for 22% of all purchases.
And the bargains are there: The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $159,600 in March, down 5.9% from March 2010.
Read:  Buyers' and sellers' worst enemies? Themselves
Help your agent help you
Want to make your home search that much less frustrating? Think smaller, says Eddie Bernard, a real-state agent from Encino, Calif.
If you are casting too wide a net for that perfect home, you're not going to know enough about neighborhoods or property values to know when something comes up that's a real value.
Home affordability calculator
"You won't be ready to pull the trigger," he says.
Meanwhile, another buyer who's more familiar with the types of homes on the market and recent comparable sales will know a bargain when he sees it and will jump in with a quick offer.
Bernard recommends driving through all of the neighborhoods you are interested in first, to see if you can narrow your focus. Do some online research on schools and amenities.
Should you give your agent your wish list for that new home? Sure, Bernard says, but keep in mind your tastes may change once you see what's on the market.
Read:  How real-estate agents sell their homes for more
"It's like dating or courtship," he says. You might think you want a Tudor-style home and then fall in love with Spanish stucco.
"In my experience, what people end up buying is often different than what they had been wishing for."
Drive a hard bargain
Want to know if that last offer you made should be your final one?
Real-estate website Trulia recently released its Home Offer Report to give potential buyers information on the price reductions that are happening in each ZIP code.
By clicking on an interactive map, you can see the average days before a price reduction in that area between March 2010 and this year, the average first reduction and the probability of a second reduction based on similar discounts in the area. It's not a substitute for agent knowledge of local comps, and it's culled from the latest information, but it might make you feel better about holding your ground or embolden you to raise your offer.
The best and brightest
Here are Local Market Monitor's picks for the markets with the rosiest outlook over the next year. Did your city make the list?
  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale, Calif. (Silicon Valley): With recent job growth of twice the national average, a 2% home-price increase in the last 12 months and a good outlook for the high-tech sector, home prices in this area are expected to increase 4% in the next year and more quickly after that.
  2. Pittsburgh: Population had been slowly declining in this market for a decade but has stabilized as migration into the city increased in recent years. Job growth is well above the national average, and home prices increased 2% in the last 12 months and are expected to increase 2% in the next year.
  3. Bethesda-Frederick, Md.: Government-related jobs stabilize this market, which had a mild recession. Job growth is now twice the national average, and home prices were up 1% in the last 12 months. LMM expects a 2% home-price increase next year, and 3% to 4% after that.
  4. Oklahoma City: Despite a sharp recession, job growth is now well above the national average, population growth has been strong and home prices have bottomed out. Home prices should remain flat over the next year, with increases of 3% to 4% after that.
  5. San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.: Although the recession was deep in this market, the recovery has been strong, with job growth running at twice the national average. Home prices have bottomed out. LMM expects a modest increase in prices next year and 4% increases after that.
Remember: Your questions are welcome. We'd love to answer them in future installments of this column. Please submit them in the comments section below or on MSN Real Estate's Facebook page, or email them to refdback@microsoft.com. Please keep in mind that short questions with the broadest range of interest have the highest chance of being answered.
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Play Hard. Love Harder

Play Hard. Love Harder

Mooresville football improves on, off field with coach’s new approach
They gather in the end zone after every football game. And whether they’ve won or lost, the ritual plays out pretty much the same.
Mooresville football coach Hal Capps (standing left, with glasses) shares a postgame moment with his team. After going 0-11 last year, the Blue Devils are 5-3 in Capps’ first season with the Blue Devils.
Just as the idle chatter is about to stop, seconds before Mooresville High’s first-year coach, Hal Capps, addresses his team, one player will holler out, “We love you, Coach.”
Then, you hear it again … and again … and again. It comes from points all around a circle that has gotten bigger and bigger each week and includes not just players, but fans, parents, friends.
“Love you, Coach.”
“Love you, Coach.”
“Love you, Coach.”
Capps’ reply is always the same: “I love you guys, too,” he says at the beginning of every postgame address.
Then comes the time for the teachable moments …
The game ball
Hal Capps displays the game ball he gives out after every Mooresville game. The ball was given to him by a wheelchair-bound student more than a decade ago.
The teachable moments, at least during postgame gatherings, always involve the game ball. Capps will hold the ball, almost identical to the one he was given more than a decade ago, and he’ll praise, critique, discipline, hug, encourage.
The players have heard the story about the ball, about how it was given to Capps by Josh Cranfill, then a student at Western Alamance when Capps coached there. Cranfill was born with a disability that required him to use a wheelchair and a special device to speak.
One day, Cranfill showed up at the Western Alamance locker room before a game and told Capps’ players how fortunate they were to be able to play. He told them to cherish their opportunities because not all people get the same chances.
Cranfill became a fixture at Capps’ practices and part of the team, moving his wheelchair on the sidelines with the team during games, continuing to encourage the players and support the coaching staff. Some nights, he’d address the team before a game or at halftime, always with a poignant, passionate message that seemed to strike just the right chord.
Then, one Friday night at a road game, Cranfill was told wheelchairs weren’t allowed on the sidelines.
“The next day, we took care of that problem,” Capps said. “I hired Josh as an assistant coach. They can’t keep my coaches off the sidelines.”
“Coach” Cranfill showed up to practice a few days later and delivered a ball to Capps, a token of appreciation for a man whose influence was obviously evolving beyond just young men wearing football uniforms. On the ball, Cranfill had written inspirational words: Purpose. Heart. Faith. Believe. Respect. Passion. Perseverance. Love.
The football field as a classroom
So it’s Friday, Oct. 15, and Capps holds onto the ball and talks. His team has just finished a grueling five-game stretch that included two-time defending Class 3A state champion West Rowan (8-0), 4A state title contender Mallard Creek (8-0), Vance (5-3), West Charlotte (6-2) and Hopewell (6-2).
The first three ended in demoralizing losses. The last two were inspirational upset victories, including an impressive 19-3 win against Hopewell.
But the talk, at least initially, isn’t about the stars of the game: Charles Wilkes, who led a relentless defensive line; cornerback Wesley Hamilton, who gets more impressive each week and made a one-handed interception, tight-roped his way to keeping his balance and then raced to a 60-yard touchdown return; and backup Dee Tomlin, who waited patiently for his chance to play and then rushed for more than 100 yards.
Those players, and many more, would get the pats on the back and hugs and handshakes that they were due.
But the first order of business had nothing to do with the final score; it was about reinforcing what Capps and his staff have been saying since the first day of practice.
“First off, I love you guys, too, and I’m proud of you,” he said.
Then, Capps asked three players to stand amidst the ever-growing circle.
The players, all key starters, had been suspended for two-and-a-half games but, for the first time since the three-game losing streak began, were all in uniform against Hopewell.
Capps asked them to apologize to their teammates, parents and fans.
Then, he made eye contact with each of the three players and said, “I love you. I’m not ever going to give up on you. Never. Now, quit making stupid decisions.”
As the players sat down, something unusual happened.
Parents applauded.
A winning tradition
Before Capps’ first day on the job with the Blue Devils, his belief system, routines and rituals already were steadfast.
Rule No. 1: Love and respect your teammates. Rule No. 2: Make sure your actions would make your school and community proud. And Rule No. 3: No individual is more important than the team.
“Coach says long after we’re done playing at Mooresville High and long after he and the coaches are done coaching at Mooresville High, there’s still going to be a school here and a team here,” quarterback Patrick O’Brien said. “He asks us, ‘How are they going to look back at this time in Mooresville history? How will we be remembered?’”
Capps’ rules served him well at Western Alamance, where he averaged nearly 10 wins per season during an 18-year stint and went to four consecutive 3A state title games, winning the championship in 2007.
“Attitude will reflect success,” Capps said, not concerning himself with the fact he’d inherited a team that went 0-11 in 2009. “Not just in wins and losses, but in life. We had to change some attitudes.”
Capps paid special attention to his players’ demeanor, trying to make sure they weren’t hanging their heads after mistakes or blaming teammates when things went wrong. The first three games of the Capps Era were magical – two lopsided wins by a combined 83-0, then an impressive victory against talented Alexander Central.
“Those first three weeks, we learned how to win,” Capps said.
Then came the grueling stretch, where three consecutive losses had Capps wondering if his players would revert to the habits of the 0-11 team or fight through the adversity.
Even though his Western Alamance teams had gone 168-69 in his 18 seasons, adversity was present. There were the first three seasons – his first three as a head coach – that served as a bridge connecting Capps’ obvious coaching knowledge to personal beliefs, such as his faith.
In his first three years, Capps’ teams went 2-8, 2-8 and 2-8.
What was missing?
There was talent, knowledgeable coaches and support from school administrators.
Keys to success
Capps had faith that he could turn things around. He sought advice from top coaches. He prayed. He prayed some more. Then, it dawned on him.
“All along, it was all about my faith,” Capps said. “I wasn’t sharing who I was with the players. I wasn’t being true to myself.”
Capps isn’t about to suggest God favors his teams on Friday nights. But he said he’s a better coach because he isn’t trying to hide his beliefs and who he is.
“As soon as I wasn’t afraid to share my faith with my players, things changed,” Capps said. “Everything changed.”
At the end of Mooresville practices, Capps does what most coaches do and huddles his team for a recap of the day and a glimpse into the next day’s practice or game.
He summarizes his feelings, and then he veers off the coachspeak path and becomes unique: He asks his players if any of them have specific prayer requests and tells them he’s praying for each one of them every day.
Instantly, a half-dozen hands shoot up.
“I always was nervous about sharing my faith,” offensive lineman Josh Holbrooks said. “Until Coach came.”
Dozens of players chime in, agreeing with Holbrooks.
They agree that faith is important but that the most important thing is that Capps is true to his beliefs and allows them all to be true to their own, even if they aren’t the same as his.
At the end of practice each day, and after every game, the scene plays out. On Friday nights, it involves more than just the team, though. It involves members of the community.
Hands are placed on shoulders, heads bow, and Capps stands in the midst of them all, giving thanks, whether his team has won or lost.

Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Arnold and Maria: They way they were ~ Divorce Boomer Style~

What gives? Are we a nation now of Howzabouta Second Chancers, even for those who seem to have gotten a pretty good ride the first time around?
Truth is, they can't help their birth years. There is a national predilection of boomers to demand midlife happiness, even if it means they chuck a good portion of the first part of their sort-of eternally vowed adulthood.
When asked six months ago by the Pew Research Center, baby boomers even proved to be less enthusiastic about staying in an unhappy union than the adult children they passed their values on to -- by a 66% to 54% margin.
In fact, so predictable are boomers on this topic that, in a study done seven years ago, Xenia Montenegro, senior research adviser for the AARP, looked so hard at divorce in people over 50, she darn near "Nostradamused" that Shriver and Schwarzenegger, et. al, were headed for a split.
On Tuesday, she said boomers "are leading the way in rethinking of how we get older, just like they led the sexual revolution."
But which of the boomers are at risk? Let us be specific.
1) The college-educated-but-married-younger-and-in-the-1970s crowd
The Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project published reports in the last year showing that the college-educated are more likely to grow weary of their life partner than those with a high school education.
Also, people who marry young are more likely to divorce. And, oddly enough, while those who got married in the 1950s outlasted those in 1960s and those folks outlasted those who married in the 1980s, those who married in the 1970s had the hardest time getting to their 15th anniversary.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver split
2) The marginally unhappy couples who wanted happy kids
Montenegro, the author of the AARP's "The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond," said these couples have waited nicely until their kids were out of the house, saw an opportunity to separate and "have their me time."
3) Especially true for the couples in 2) that include Superwomen whose lives turned out differently than they were brought up to think they would be
Women initiated two-thirds of the divorces in Montenegro's study. Baby boomer women realize how different they are from their mothers and how much longer they are going to live and that they can support themselves. They felt more free to look after their own happiness.
"Even their children want their parents to be happy," Montenegro said. "It's a redefinition of retirement," she said, with the caveat that lower-income groups can less afford to seek divorces and are less able to weather divorces in separate households in financially difficult times.
4) The what-happened couple
Sandra Bonfiglio, a divorce attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said she's seen those who are anxious "to reconnect but had trouble doing it. They have nothing in common by then and can't find each other."
The surprise for those couples, she said, is that -- while it should be easy when there are no custody issues and for couples with two incomes, no real money issues -- "divorce is never easy."
5) The really old people
A marriage therapist in Hyannis, Massachusetts, told the story Tuesday about an old New Yorker cartoon depicting an extremely elderly couple seeking a divorce. The judge asks, "Why now?" The old woman answered: "We wanted to wait until the children died."
The therapist laughed at the joke and said, in reference to boomers that, maybe, there wasn't anything new here.
But there is. According to the Office for National Statistics, the rate of divorce is dropping in every age group, except the over-60s.
6) And there are the trophy hunters
Don't ask us to quantify or explain the need for a trophy wife. Life is just complicated sometimes.
Which brings us back to Shriver and Schwarzenegger.
Stuart Bloom, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Laguna Beach, California, warned not to think of those two as representative of an entire movement of baby boomer masses yearning to breathe free.
"They are unique," Bloom said. "Their circumstances, as individuals and a couple, are unlike anyone else's."
And yet Bloom said he worked his way through graduate school and an internship at the University of Southern California by being a waiter at the famous Café Figaro in Los Angeles. He often waited on Schwarzenegger in 1977 around the time of his breakthrough debut in "Pumping Iron."
"He was very kind to me," Bloom said, which unexpectedly prompted this remark: "People are people, and in this marriage, feelings are feelings. That is what is not different in this separation and that should be respected."
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Royal Honeymoon: Dont Compare Your Insides to Other Peoples Outsides!

The Royal Wedding

Will and Kate’s royal honeymoon: Prepare to be jealous

By Piper Weiss, Yahoo! Shine staffWed, May 11, 2011 5:46 PM GMT+00:00If there was ever a time to abuse their power, it's on their royal honeymoon. Kate and William can go anywhere in the world now that they're newlyweds and they've chosen North Island: a small, isolated archipelago in the Seychelles owned by a guy named Farhad Vladi. "Yes, we rented the island to the British royal family," Vladi told a Hamburg newspaper. "Prince William and his Kate are spending their honeymoon there. But you will understand that we are not saying anything further."
Click for more images of William and Kate's honeymoon spot
Actually, he's already said enough. You'd think after brokering deals with Diana Ross and the Shah of Iran, Vladi would know how to keep a secret. Now that he's shared, we don't feel so bad poring over the details of their destination love-nest. Here are some factoids William is probably reading in his Frommer's right now.
  • North Island is about 600 acres and it's surrounded by cliffs and coconut trees.
  • There are more tortoises than people on the island. Some are as old as 150.
  • It's only a boat-ride away from Kate and Will's vacation destination in 2007. They reportedly patched up their relationship at Desroches Island Resort, another luxury escape, which they checked into as "Martin and Rosemary Middleton."
  • Other celebrities who have vacationed here include Roger Moore (aka James Bond) and Posh and Becks.
  • P&B chose the location for their getaway in 2009, because "the security makes it like a spy base," a source told the Press Association. Since when do spy bases have thatched roofs?
  • There are 11 villas that overlook the beach on North Island
  • Each villa has a plunge pool
  • And a butler type...not that that's anything new for William.
  • It's an ethically conscious resort. Here's an example of what that means: the villas are set back from the beach to provide enough distance that they don't disorient the tortoises that lay their eggs in the sand.
  • That also means you can watch tortoises give birth as you lounge by the ocean. Talk about entertainment.
  • Guests receive a 20 minute massage upon arrival to "ease" them into island life, according to the North Island website. I'd love to meet the person who's having trouble relaxing.
  • A movie called "Thunderbirds" was shot there . Bill Paxton is in it, case you're wondering.
  • The bar and restaurant in the villa is built on an upturned tree.
  • An ecologist who lives on the island offers nature tours for guests. He has a good job.
  • The gallery attached to this post will make you relaxed at first and then outraged at the fact that only royalty, ecologists and giant turtles get to enjoy this island.
  • Back in the '70s, the island was only inhabited by rats and cats.
  • That sounds a lot like most New York City apartments. Maybe there's hope for us yet.
For the best of Yahoo!'s coverage, visit the royal wedding home page.
Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Appraise, Insure, and Sell Your Collectibles

How to Appraise, Insure, and Sell Your Collectibles
Start your research on the Web, but be sure to have an expert look at it, too.
By Kimberly Lankford, Kiplinger.com

How to Appraise, Insure, and Sell Your Collectibles - Start your research on the Web, but be sure to have an expert look at it, too. - By Kimberly Lankford, Kiplinger.com

Everyone dreams of finding a priceless antique in their attic. But how do you determine whether your treasure is a valuable heirloom or something better suited for donation to Goodwill?

Look for unusual markings or details on the object, then search for more information online. Check auction results at eBay and specialty auction houses for actual sales (not wishful-thinking asking prices), and look up the item at a Web site that offers guidance on prices for antiques, such as Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide 2011.

If you think that your item is valuable, take it to an expert who can examine it to evaluate its condition and verify its authenticity. "You can't trust the descriptions on eBay," says Terry Kovel. "It's not that people are dishonest, but they're just not that knowledgeable" – and fakes can easily be mistaken for the real thing.

You can also seek out the opinion of vendors at local flea markets and antiques shows who sell similar items, or find an established antiques shop with a good reputation. But never rely solely on an appraisal from someone who wants to buy your item – he or she could lowball the price to get you to sell the item for a song.

Many auction houses offer free appraisals in hopes of snagging a future commission, says Rudy Franchi, of PosterAppraisal.com, a veteran appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. You can also find appraisers through the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America or the International Society of Appraisers.

Resources for sellers. If you sell the item to a dealer, you'll typically get 50% to 70% of the retail price. You may do better at an auction house, which usually takes a 15% to 25% cut. And if you consign several valuable items to an auction house, you may be able to negotiate a lower commission, says Kovel.

When deciding where to sell your items, consider how to target potential buyers and the cost of delivering items to them. Kovel is following her own advice as she downsizes her possessions following the death of her husband and coauthor, Ralph, a few years ago.

Kovel says she is selling local art through a local auction house, where it may generate more interest and fetch a higher price. But for other art and antiques, she tries to attract a broader audience by listing her pieces with auction houses that have live auctions as well as a Web presence. "The auctions are listed on Artfact or LiveAuctioneers, so you can get them online from anywhere in the world," she says. For heavy items, such as furniture, Kovel relies on local dealers to reduce shipping costs.

In general, the toys that were popular with kids become valuable 30 years later, when those kids grow up and have enough disposable income to buy a piece of their childhood. For example, action figures and other boys' toys are hot right now. But if you're hoping to sell your vintage baseball card collection, you're out of luck because problems with fakes have sunk sports memorabilia prices. If you think you have a rare card that's in excellent condition, professional authentication is a must. You can get your baseball cards graded by Professional Sports Authenticators or by Beckett Grading Services.

Insuring your stuff. If you decide not to sell, you may want to insure your treasure. Most homeowners policies cover antiques and collections just like any other possession – subject to normal deductible and coverage limitations. Your policy may cover only the depreciated value, not the replacement cost – and that can make a big difference with something like antique furniture, which can appreciate with age. Coverage for some items, such as jewelry, is typically limited to a total of $2,000 to $3,000 unless you buy separate coverage for each item. Although items may be covered for fire damage or theft under your general policy, they may not be covered for breakage or theft from a location other than your home.

Buying special coverage for certain valuable items eliminates the deductible and adds coverage for breakage, loss or theft if the object disappears when you take it on a road trip. Scheduled items are insured for their appraised value – the cost to buy the item retail. Plus, some specialty insurers, such as Fireman's Fund and Chubb, may increase the insured value by up to 50% beyond those limits if the value has increased. The cost to cover a piece of art can range from 9 cents to 20 cents per $100 of insured value; coverage for jewelry tends to cost more. Consider buying special coverage for individual items worth $10,000 or more. Or get blanket coverage for an entire fine art collection. You may get a discount if you have a home security system.

Part of your object's value is linked to its history, or provenance. Keep detailed records of when you purchased or inherited it, its value at the time, and any other information. Then keep those records, along with photographs of the item, in a safe location, such as in a safe-deposit box at your local bank.

Reprinted with permission. All Contents ©2011 The Kiplinger Washington Editors. www.kiplinger.com.

Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!