Summer flew by with families reuniting, and friends hugging it out. With fall, comes the fall routines I know many of us were desperate for. So I don’t know about you – but I’m not ready to head inside. And, I’m also not ready for large gatherings or even hopping on a plane just yet. In a nutshell, the pandemic has offered me the opportunity to appreciate my home as a sanctuary, as well as a nest. I’m happier than ever in my space.
As these evenings take on a ‘red wine over white wine’ vibe – I still find myself heading outside with my book – the only difference being a few layers, a flashlight, and a cozy blanket. I’m watching the weather and planning a few backyard dinner parties – swapping out summer candles for colours that match the mums, mini pumpkins, and gourds. I love fall!
It seems the days of sweaty kitchen parties and jamming in as many friends as the house allowed has taken a backseat to smaller gatherings, deeper conversations… and carbs. Am I right? It’s pie season, and I’m even going to add ice cream to my enormous slice. Life is short!
I think we are all tired, and maybe there is a bit of post-traumatic stress happening all around us. (Hence the pie and ice cream.) The world has become so polarized, and it’s hard to make sense of it all. We have chosen to hang on to the leader who got us through some rough seas, so maybe we weren’t ready for more change. I’m okay with that.
I am also beyond grateful for the friendships that have kept me afloat through the highs and lows of this wacky, soul-testing period of time. I think many individuals and families have shifted to a quiet life… maybe for the foreseeable future. I’m just happy we can hug again.
As I plan this first fall backyard dinner, I know there will be something savoury and roasted, and local harvest veggies. Maybe the brisket recipe I’ve been dying to try? There will be enough scratchy blankets for everyone, and liquid encouragement to stay outside as long as humanly possible. There will be lots of laughter, and as I look around the table seeing familiar faces lit up by candlelight – I know there will always be love.
I read an article lately about the Japanese concept of ‘ikigai’ and how it stacks up to the concept of happiness. In Japan, there are many words that could loosely be translated back to ‘happy’ but Ikigai (and don’t ask me how to pronounce it) translates to “that which makes life worth living” or simply, 'having a meaningful purpose in life'. The article questioned whether happiness was too lofty a goal, and perhaps our constant striving for happiness was in itself, self-destructive.
I think a lot about purpose, and I love this definition: Purpose is waking up in the morning knowing you’re on the right path, regardless of what other people say.
When I was 39, I had everything I ever wanted – 3 great kids, and a successful knock-it-out-of-the-park career. I’d found purpose in my work with the homeless, and I was my own boss – but I still felt as if something was missing.
I burned through self-help books looking for answers, when I didn’t even know what the question was. But I knew I wanted to experience something radical to shake things up. That soul-seeking journey led me to California, where I checked in for 2 weeks at Chopra University – Deepak Chopra’s new-age whole health retreat. Can I just say, I had no idea what I was in for!
Two weeks of quiet introversion – and even a period of enforced greasy hair – gifted me the calm to realize I’d been living too fast, and I was consumed with checking off life's boxes. Chopra’s methodology taught me while I was so busy being overly productive and making sure I was pleasing everyone else, that I rarely ever checked in with myself. That alone was worth the price of admission.
We listen to opinions all day long – unconsciously, and consciously. People with good intentions want to tell us how we should do things, or how we should feel, think, and act. It’s scary to disagree or go in a different direction when you are a ‘people pleaser’.
While I was in California, I learned the biggest sense of purpose for me is connection. Once I started connecting to others more deeply, a few things happened. Judgement disappeared. And conversations had more meaning.
Some of the lessons I try to follow are:
If you want love from people… then love people. If you want more money… then help people make money. If you want more joy in life… then give joy to others.
The more we can give, while enjoying the process, the more we’re going to love our lives.
Last week I was awarded the Diamond Elite status by company Engel & Völkers. As we all know, 2020 was not the easiest workplace environment for anyone – so to be recognized for my real estate achievements during a global pandemic was rather nice. I sat in my sweats, eating a burger, as I watched my name and my beloved city of Halifax flash across the virtual ceremony’s screen – and I admit to feeling quite proud. It wasn’t so much about the sales and the glory, as the way I was able to help people find a place to call home in very turbulent times.
Living your true purpose – that’s where the happiness is. And helping others brings me joy. My family bring me joy. My dog brings me joy. This pandemic has been a life lesson that has challenged all of us. And it’s been hard to find purpose and meaning when touching your face is suddenly life threatening, but it’s just a very big pothole on this journey with my sidekick, ‘ikigai’.
My life is valuable and I am making an impact. Tell yourself that every once in a while.
Someday I’ll look at my Diamond Elite award plaque, and I’ll forget about the gallons of hand sanitizer and smiling through a mask, and just think about how lucky I was to have a purpose.
There was a time, not too long ago, when buying a home was like a romantic courtship. Buyers could enjoy falling in love, numerous candlelit dinner dates, and plenty of time to get to know one another before making a commitment. This current market has changed all that – with today’s buyers experiencing more of a speed dating type of romance. Whirlwind would be an understatement!
In a normal real estate climate, homeowners would look at an average of ten houses before making a purchase – but what happens when the inventory is so low you have ten suitors bidding on ‘the one’. The key is to have all of your ducks in a row, so you can go in with the cleanest offer possible. Working with a mortgage broker is extremely beneficial. Many online ‘pre-approvals’ can be misleading, much like a dating site where everyone posts a Photoshopped picture of themselves from 20 years ago. The harsh reality can be alarming.
And, everyone remembers ‘the one that got away’. That first heartbreak or break up can be devastating, but you (hopefully) learned from your mistake and moved on. If you allowed your heart to do the thinking instead of your head – the charm of the 1000 sq. ft. bungalow could have worn off when the twins and a dog came along. Your REALTOR is there to dust you off and offer advice akin to, ‘Stop wallowing and get back out there’. And, to remind you to focus on your original list of must-haves and deal breakers. Did you offer because the home was Mr. Right, or Mr. Right Now?
Your Realtor should also be like your best friend. I won’t be the Realtor who says, ‘They were never right for you’ AFTER the breakup. My job is to steer buyers in the right direction, right from the beginning – with a clear mind, and a strategy for finding the house of your dreams. Watching a buyer fall for the ‘hot’ downtown condo with the rooftop party room is never easy, when their original ‘must-haves’ were the best school district and a big backyard.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is also blind as a bat sometimes. But where would we be without love? February may be the shortest month, but it’s also the perfect time to put yourself out there. You’ll be staying at home alone on a Friday night watching Netflix in your rental apartment – forever – if you don’t make an effort. And, whether you are looking to get in, or out of a relationship, choose a real estate advisor who will be there for you – every bumpy, rose petaled step of the way.
Well, here we are, the Monday-est Monday of all time! I doubt there has ever been this much enthusiasm for a fresh start. I for one am ready to embrace this shiny new year, although I’m hanging on to some of the nice impressions 2020 left on me – like the comfort of knowing my home, my nest, was the safest place for us to be. The 'year we will never forget', now in my rear-view mirror, was a reminder of why I do what I do.
Some of our oldest, fondest, and most ingrained memories begin at home. The rituals of bed making and table setting. Sunday evening roasts and Kraft boxed pizza kit night. I watched The Queen’s Gambit over the holidays and flashed back to playing chess with my dad before school. We’d sit at the pine kitchen table, the smells of my mother’s incredible cooking filling the air with warmth and love. That pine table sits in my dining room now, and there’s nothing I love more than seeing my flock gathered around it. If only I could remember how to play chess.
We lived in a number of houses growing up, and they were all 'homes'. Nesting is the difference between a house and a home. Nesting is an instinct that adds comfort and evokes feelings – sometimes tangible, like smells or music – or sometimes intangibles that drift under the surface, until a randomly disconnected event suddenly takes us back to a long-forgotten place. A familiar pull on the heartstrings, and we are led back into the safety of the nest, or to the barn where I rode as a girl, with its apple orchard out back. I see a box of Cap’n Crunch and I'm watching Saturday morning cartoons on our 2-channel TV, constantly adjusting the rabbit ears to get the picture just right. (I'm that old.) One of our homes had a pair of his-and-her Gremlin hatchbacks in the driveway. How could anyone forget the ugliest cars ever made... and we had two of them!
Residential real estate is driven by emotion. Ultimately, value is determined by what the buyer will pay. Buyers fall in love with the hopes and dreams of a space, a neighbourhood, a future to fill with memories.
Selling is about letting go of the physical space, while keeping the memories and experiences exactly as they were. Your home is your story. We won’t all love the same book, just as we don’t love the same cars – and we don’t all see houses with the same vision. The hardest thing I ask sellers to do when preparing to list, is to pack away their ‘stuff’ – always with a gentle reminder that another chapter of their story awaits.
With this new year barely hatched, I already know this much: I will never forget my dad’s English breakfast complete with mandatory blood pudding. Ew. And, my mom ironing our sheets is something I take with me to bed every night when I snuggle into my wrinkled but cozy percale.
What drew me to becoming a Realtor was helping people find their story, which is the true art of nesting. This year, more than any other, I am putting my Nesting Instincts to work – for myself and my family, for my clients, and hopefully for all those still searching for a place to call home.
Happy this year!
If you have been too busy working (or binge watching The Crown) to keep up with all the news unfolding in the United States – and no, I am not talking about the dismantling of the Donald – you may have missed the drama surrounding the 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and what went down before the tree went up.
No one needs to be reminded that this year has been weird, and really rough for so many. But even the annual Rockefeller tree couldn’t escape the wrath of 2020.
The nearly 100-foot Nordic Spruce arrived in downtown Manhattan, supine in the backseat of a flatbed, and immediately faced criticism, and less-than-stellar reviews. Who looks good after a long road trip? ‘Haggard’ was the word critics favoured – a bit harsh, all things considered.
And, as if things weren’t bad enough at 30 Rock, a worker involved in transporting the Christmas tree found a tiny owl nestled in the tree’s sparse branches – its big eyes making front page news, maybe because even the press were sick of reading about the election.
At first perceived to be a baby, ‘Rocky’ (short for Rockefeller) was later identified as an adult male Saw-whet, one of the smallest owl species in the Northeast. Apparently the owl saw the spruce as the fullest, most beautiful tree on the forest block – certainly nurturing and safe enough to call home. The little guy held fast through the felling, the trek into the city, and even the stop-and-go Manhattan gridlock. Imagine that much stress on a little creature.
As for Rocky's home – the much maligned spruce headed to the spa and had a little work done. Her big reveal silenced the critics! The transformation from frumpy on the flatbed - to holding her starry head high was nothing short of a holiday miracle. Good for her! Did you know the majority of the Rockefeller evergreens get ‘hair’ extensions? Actual branches are woven in to give the appearance of a fuller, more attractive tree. Add thousands of twinkling lights in a flattering ‘candlelit’ wattage, and all the negativity was quickly forgotten. She was a true holiday beauty, inside and out – extremely worthy of her place on the pavement.
Is there a point to this little tale? I think so. Maybe the 2020 Rockefeller tree is putting some closure on this difficult year, reminding me of a few important lessons:
Home is where you feel cozy and warm and loved and safe. And, while is not for others to judge, curb appeal is important. It not only makes your investment look ‘appealing’ it gives you a sense of pride. As someone who spent yesterday putting up the holiday décor, I can attest to how every bulb lifted my spirits.
The tree reminded me that there is beauty everywhere. You just have to open your heart to see it.
One man’s kindling is another man’s habitat. Be more thoughtful about even the smallest bits of our planet. It is meant to be shared and cared for. The good news is, Rocky was rescued, hydrated, fed, and released back into the wild. I hope he has found another home, and is busy feathering his new nest. If Rocky's journey touched your heart, maybe consider a donation to our local Hope for Wildlife . They deal with wayward characters like Rocky on a daily basis.
All it takes is a little love and kindness (and proper lighting) to spruce up someone’s self-esteem. Maybe tell someone they look rested and beautiful, especially if they really look a wee bit 'haggard' after work, home-schooling, or holiday shopping.
And... believe. In something.
Happy almost December! I’m heading out to find our tree an owl ornament. It will be an annual reminder of Rocky and what will likely be my most gratitude-filled Christmas, ever.
When I say, 'I've been around the block a few times' I mean it in the most positive way. I happen to love my block, and my life as a mom, partner, dog owner, and Realtor. So when it dawned on me that this was my twenty-year anniversary as a Realtor, I was truly shocked. Wasn't it just yesterday I was wearing corduroy jumpers and teaching school? Apparently not. One of my babies has a full beard!
It goes without saying that 2020 has not been what any of us expected – and I don't want to dwell on anything other than how lucky I feel to have a home, and to be in one of the busier business sectors during this crazy time. But, I knew it was time to change things up when I looked at my old work photos and noticed that dress no longer fits, and what the heck was going on with my hair? But who has time to get all that together in the busiest real estate market of all time.
So welcome to my new and ever-evolving website. There are still a few kinks to work out as I go along, but at least I don't have blonde tips! And, for those who recall my old mail-dropped newsletter, I vow to try and keep writing in this space, because I love it, and I love the feedback – even if licking a stamp seems like something you'd see in an episode of The Partridge Family. (How's that for a bird-themed segue into my Nesting Instincts brand and my sweet new logo!?)
Change is good. If we can get the Donald, Melania and their drapes out of the White House, we can accomplish many great things. We just need to do it with kindness and an awareness of others. But more on that later. I have to fly... I have out-of-town birds looking for a nest.