Get me outta here!

The Trust Fund Disease

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As many Americans head towards retirement, and the sandwich generation are taking care of kids, as well as their parents, we learn more about Trusts in all forms.  Estate trusts leave yearly income to relatives lucky enough to inherit it.  There are some things in life that are necessary and expensive and they shouldn’t require a trust fund to pay for them.  Of what am I speaking?

As a woman who has had endometriosis since I was 17 I’ve gone through 30 something doctors specifically for this disease.  I’ve traveled over states, and hundreds of miles to find the right answer, the right treatment, the right understanding.  There is no cure. Many treatments.  Good doctors few and far between.

The so called “specialists” who treat the disease with excision surgery are few and far between this great country.  There are several in New York City but they do not take health insurance. The costs for such a surgery average $20K and up.  There are many women who pay of pocket for such surgeries.  It’s normal with this disease to have several surgeries over the course of your lifetime.  Sometimes you can get your insurer to cover out of network costs but it’s appeal and lots of work to get there.  Nothing is certain but in network care most of the time. Private practice practitioners who will work out of a few different hospitals say that this is the case  because they take longer in surgery, do more, than those who do take health insurance and most insurers will not cover that.  Sadly, no doctor is perfect and those private docs make mistakes from time to time and repeat surgeries become necessary.  That’s right you pay out of pocket yet again.  No problem for the trust funders, but a problem for everyone else.  When you find the rare specialist who does take insurance and is known for excision as well as robotic surgery, which is now the preferred surgery method,  there are still out of pocket expenses.  Insurance doesn’t cover every medical charge, co-insurance can be as high as 20% so even after coverage, the patient is left with a five figure bill to pay on top of monthly premiums and deductibles.  This has got to change. Women’s health has long been the long lost cousin of medical research dollars.

If endometriosis were somehow a man’s disease, there would be 100 men on the floor of Congress waving bills for research funding to find a cure.  I find myself facing another, 6th, surgery at the end of this month, one I expect to be my last!  Doubling over randomly in the past year due to sudden groin pain while walking, standing, sitting and sometimes even at doctor appointments has led me to this decision.  I started a fundraising platform for my out of pocket expenses, including co-insurance, as I do not have a trust fund to cover the expenses myself.  Of course, I would be happy to donate any funds left after my own expenses to other women incurring the same situation.  Please go to http://www.gofundme.com/katvandu to donate directly.  I’m grateful.

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This I know to be true…Working in a Competitive Business World

Oprah exacts on “This I know to be true…” and it varies on the topic but the purpose is to speak the truth, or her truth and share with others her knowledge. As a licensed Real Estate Agent I have had the opportunity to meet many people across the financial divide over the past eight years. Some were struggling some were not. Dealing with the public is very different from being in a business to business scenario such as public relations consultant. In that role I’m dealing with business owners, agency personnel who need to get their message out to the world or a part of it. I’m frequently hired to help them make their message, be heard, seen, and increase recognition of their product, service, or brand in a positive way. Media relations, writing, messaging, content, social media and strategy, sometimes planning speaking opportunities too, are key parts to the work I do. I’m paid hourly or upfront in a retainer for monthly based work. I work from a distance most of the time, virtually or remote, and don’t meet my clients in person usually over the phone, Skype or other online conferencing.

As a Realtor I help people buy, sell, market their real estate properties in person. No money is transferred up front. When a home sells, the commission a Realtor gets is paid out of the proceed of the sale. No sale – no pay. You could spend weeks, even months promoting a property or helping people find that ideal home for themselves and they simply walk away from finishing the deal. Many reasons are attributable, but that is part of the job, that’s the truth. It’s not a job for everyone, it’s more competitive than you know, not just with another agency but with colleagues, other independent contractors in your own agency. Some agents are more truthful than others. I’m direct, No B.S. Some rely on volume and persistence in pursuing their next listing. I’m strategic and can get your home in the media at no additional cost – That’s ADDED Value to the buyer and seller. Most days are not like on Million Dollar Listing, especially the price points and commissions. Sometimes the rivalries can be similar but, there are more female agents.

Here are some other truths to being a Realtor:

  1. Recommend and Referrals. Referrals are part of the business. Past happy clients are the best reference.  If Your Relatives, Close friends, Don’t Recommend You, They Undermine Your business. When there are 200 agents to choose from within a 35 mile radius, you are either helping to grow your relatives business or you are hurting it. You basically are saying ” I want this other person to get money, not you, my relative.” Would you do this to your own/sister or brother? Not okay. Referrals and other methods can be used if there’s a personality conflict.
  2. Familiarity Breeds Contempt. Your lifelong Neighbor chooses another agent to sell their home. This hurts. Happens for many reasons, such as: “Well, I know the other agent they live next to my sister.” The other agent doesn’t have a family history with your neighbor, and that may be why the other agent got the job. Sometimes, neighbors may like you, but they don’t want you to know all their finances. Also, the other agent persistently reaches out to them giving them falsehoods about the industry, other agents, and lying to them about the probable sale price of the home. Unethical-Yes. Is that against Realtor ethics -Yes. Happens too often.
  3. Marketing Matters. There are MLS systems throughout the country but if you know how to market off MLS you have a leg up. If you can write, pitch the media on your new listing, or the history of the area a home happens to be in – score more points in servicing your clients. Writing, copy on the listing matters as do photographs. Getting your home into the media, online, print, etc, gets my buyers more value in the home they are looking, certainly gets the seller more eyes looking at it, AND is part of my customer service. Paying for ads that people don’t act on isn’t always winning.
  4. Pricing Matters. I’ve managed $50 million plus at my first job out of college working as a Network Negotiator on a very large account – Proctor and Gamble at what was one of the largest advertising agencies in the world – DMB&B. I never lost $5 of their money and increased their ad values along the way. I can analyze current inventory and price a home correctly. It is up to the owner in the end to agree or not agree. But, if a home doesn’t get offers in 3 months of being listed and the home shows well, no other major obstacles, it is the price.
  5. Be A Professional.  You will need to get along with all kinds of people. If you are not a people person, it’s not the business for you.  Being ethical and following your own integrity is part of any business professional out there-whether you work for yourself or someone else. If your gut is bothered by what you see, hear, speak up and tell the truth. Passive aggressive behavior doesn’t happen in the business world as much as the personal. But, if your business is with the consumer directly prepare to be direct and confront communication traps head on.  Let it go and move forward. Just don’t forget.

Every Step I Take…

(Hiking the Akinase Ridge in the Mohave Desert in Utah, I huffed and puffed as I climbed 1200 feet up into the ridge but Nothing happened to my knees or joints. Oh, yeah, I did get some big blisters.  Blah!)01a3f2a534a25b7925ea667eb0b3c3ef31dfe113fc

August 30, 2016 I went to the ocean to enjoy the last weekend of August at one of the best beaches I know.  I’ve done it dozens and dozens and dozens of times over my life.  I’ve cut my feet on shells, razor clams and the like to no big concern.  This time while exiting the rough water, there were five feet waves and rip tides due to the Tropical Storm down south, I was feeling hesitant.  No one really swims at the ocean, you body surf or bob up and down in the waves just off shore.  I’ve walked, jogged and ran over sand many times over my life with no consequence.  This time however, I was left stupefied by the Popping sound heard coming from my left knee.  Was that my knee I said out loud?  What was that?  Like a champagne cork but no bubbly to be seen.  I stood staring at my knee and turned left just to get walloped by an incoming wave.  That wave knocked me over!

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A woman nearby came running over to me and asked if I was okay?  No, I said.  I heard my knee pop and was afraid to move.  Her daughter was bobbing up and down in the waves happily and carefree. She said ice it when I get home. I did get out of the water and another beach goer said to me, “I saw what happened are you okay?”  No, I heard my left knee pop but I can walk on it and there’s no pain.  “Use ice a lot,” said the stranger.  It felt weird but I could walk on it.  Took all my beach gear and went back across the wide sand to my car.  No, happy hour and last band of the summer for me!

The next day my knee was blown up swollen and couldn’t walk on it or bend it.  Ugh!! What followed was even worse. I couldn’t find a doctor, Orthopedist who took my New York Health Market insurance plan.  Or, the doctor did but was on vacation or booked.  I ended up at the ER the next day.  With an x-ray it confirmed moderate swelling.Really?  I had no bones broken and the ER doctor pulled my calf and bent my leg and pulled on it.  He thought my ligaments were strong. However, I told him of the Wiggly feeling I had and screamed when I felt my knee going sideways.  I left with gifts!  Crutches and the Immobilizer!  So, I left in a wheelchair with crutches and a brace that will  not let my knee bend!knee-sprain

Hence immobilizer.  They said the POP was most likely a Meniscus tear and several internet searches yielded the same conclusion.  Just got an MRI today and I have a visit with Orthopedist this Friday so will find out the results then. Until then, every step I take, is planned, short and careful.  Do you know how many steps it is back and forth in your bedroom to get ready in the morning for the day?  Seriously, more than I ever gave a thought to.

 

 

 

The Final Week of CSA Veggies

Well it’s hard to believe but four weeks went by quickly for my free CSA (Community Share Agricultural Project) veggies!  These are all certified organic and were sooo good!  But, for a household of two more than I could eat.  I did get to share with neighbors, work colleagues and that was great to introduce others into the organic vegetable trend.

The best part of the last two weeks were the cantaloupe and watermelon!  So good, sweet and fresh.

If you ever get the chance to try organic vegetables through a food share like this or just from a local farm do it.  You will not regret it.  I even got to try veggies I normally would never buy such as Fennel which tastes like licorice, Japanese Peppers – not hot at all, and of course to have more of my favorites beets, eggplants, lettuce and scallions.  Thanks again to Sang Lee Farms for offering this experience and the Southold Public Library for their monthly raffle.

I WON A FREE 4 Week CSA (what’s a CSA?)

After 8 years of entering a monthly giveaway at my local library (for a $1) I won a four week CSA share.  What’s that?  It’s a veggie share at an organic vegetable farm near where I live.  #SangLeeFarms in Cutchogue, New York is the place to go for fresh #organic veggies.  From June through November they offer a choice pick of veggies, some herbs, and some fruit – cantaloupe and watermelon.  Why was I excited?  Well, to begin with I love fresh veggies and the cost.  If I paid for such a privilege it’s $30-$4o per week or $120 per month.  Now, for those who only buy organic you’d be surprised at the size of these veggies.

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So what did I get?  For week one it was two corn, a bunch of scallions or green onions, a bunch of celery, a head of romaine lettuce, a bunch of beets, a white eggplant, tomatoes – heirloom, and something called a bitter melon which is not a melon but a vegetable, and a pint of cherry and grape tomatoes.week one bitter melon csa

Week two was a monsoon!  And, amidst the lightening strikes and torrential downpours, I didn’t take photos.  😦  But fear not I did pick up the veggies and made my way home through flooded streets.  Once inside my home and putting my veggies away I heard my cell phone have an annoying warning signal like you hear on your TV.  It was a tornado warning!  What? Where the heck was I living?  Somewhere in the tropics?  No, just part of New York state – huh?  Truly crazy weather this summer but when it yields great produce isn’t it worth it.  Next time, week three and four.  I know you can’t wait.  But, I did pan fry some grape tomatoes and zucchini from week two.  Aren’t they pretty?

csa stirfry action

 

The Little Tree, a Christmas Story

One day in early December a little girl set out to buy a Christmas tree. She wanted her family to have it for Christmas night. This was a special time in their home where they would decorate the tree together as a family. This year her mom had become ill and the family was not doing all the things they normally did at this time of year including buying a live tree. Sara, the little girl, went out to a few of the tree farms that set up shop during December to sell trees in her town. Trees For U was her first stop. Sara saw many trees but the price tags were expensive. $30, $40, $50 for a tree! Sara had only $10 to spend on this Christmas tree. She walked onto the next tree farm. XMAS TREES, said the sign at the entrance. She saw some smaller trees but their prices were high too. One of the workers on the tree farm came over to her to ask if she was lost. “No”, said Sara, I am looking to buy a tree.” “Great”, said Greg whose name was sewn onto the front of his jacket. “But, I only have ten dollars with me, said Sara, can I buy a tree for ten dollars?” Greg said, “That’s going to be tough. Why are you alone here, doesn’t your family want a tree too?” Sara looked down at the ground and began to feel sad. She told Greg how her mom had been sick this year and the family, her Dad and older brother were not doing the things they normally did at Christmastime. No one was decorating the house or the lawn. No one was playing Christmas music either. She used to dance around the dining room table to all the fun Christmas songs. So she said she decided to make everyone happy by going out on her own to buy the Christmas tree. “It will be a nice surprise”, said Greg. Sara smiled. He took Sara over to what he called a special row of trees. He said every tree in this row was $10. There were signs here that said the trees were much more, in fact, one tree had a $40 price tag on it. “Oh that was yesterday, today is a sale so choose one, and I will help you bring it home,” he said. Sara chose one quite a bit taller than herself but by adult standards it was still a small tree. Greg got Sam, another worker to load the tree onto a truck and he took Sara back to her house with the tree.

“How old are you?” Greg asked. “Eight”, said Sara.
When they arrived at her home her older brother Jim and mother were home and answered the door. At first they did not know what to think. After all, no one had considered buying a tree this year. “Sara, what have you done?” asked her brother Jim who looked surprised. Her mother, who was wearing a bathrobe, looked quite pale, thanked Sam, and offered him some additional money for the tree. “Oh no”, he said, “Sara paid for the tree.”
Sara’s mom helped her children and husband decorate the small tree that night. It brought a smile to everyone to see Sara’s mom helping in the decorating. Sara’s dad and brother could not believe little Sara had shown such independence in finding a tree on her own. “Sara, thank you for caring about everyone so much that you wanted to do this, but please promise me”, her father said, “that you will not go off alone again without me, your mother or brother.” Sara promised. After Christmas, they planted the tree in yard. The next year the tree was even bigger and they needed a tall ladder to put decorations and lights on. People all over the neighborhood got to admire the little tree that Sara had gotten for her family just the year before.christmas tree

THE END.

The Peace Walk – Utah Version

Base of snow canyon from Red Mountain Resort On the way up - Petrified Sanddunes, Snow Canyon National Park

When the stress of your day has gotten to you, fifteen minutes walking outside or if you must inside, can lower your blood pressure and give you a whole new perspective.  My offering is both physical and mental – take a walk.   I try to get out and walk about 2 miles four times a week.  Recently I got to travel to Utah, #RedMountain Resort and Snow Canyon National Park.  A lovely place to take a walk.  I walked from a mile to four miles a day out there.  Sometimes, hiking up petrified sand dunes.  Like stepping stones or paving stones in many ways. You should try it sometime. I call it the peace walk. First written four years ago.

We begin slowly, putting comfortable clothes on, sneakers or walking shoes,

We then migrate to the outdoors.  Gently flex your feet, stretch your calves and feel the tension ease.

We put one foot in front of the other and before you know it we are walking.  Bright sunshine welcomes us.

Breathing takes over where tension had locked.  Easy on the eyes, sights of nature bring us forward,

Birds are flying overhead, the wind is strong but warm, and the gentle waterway is near.

Deer can be seen on the lawns of homes as you pass them by, the pine trees bend in approval back and forth.

Finally we reach the waters edge, minnows still know how to swim, and already I am lighter in spirit and frame of mind.

The land across the water is straight ahead, the wind ripples the water as you gaze forward, breathing calmly.

Peacefully walking, you must try it sometime…