Why God Invented Realtors

Realtors have different roles in different states.  In New York State they are not allowed to write contracts – that is for the lawyers.  In other states, like California, Florida, Realtors do write contracts and money goes into escrow.  Regardless of which state you are in Realtors help people buy and sell real estate but they do so much more.  They help in a crisis, make people happy and sad, and they protect a home like its their own.

On the right path

On the right path

Realtors help people choose a home that maybe just a season, such as a summer rental but they can hold fond memories for a lifetime.  They hold peoples hands and allay their fears of choosing wrong.  They listen to sad financial or family tales that have affected the buyer, renter, seller in setting their choices.  Realtors become friends.

Front 2

Their dream home can be small, large or some where in between.  Everyone has a different dream home.  Sometimes it’s a first home, sometimes it’s a second home.  Sometimes it’s a retirement home.  Some people choose quickly, Realtors like those people best.  Some people take years to decide on a particular home, Realtors like those people least.

Confidante, business person, friend, one who helps fulfills the dream of buying a home -All these terms apply to Realtors.  Some clients are repeaters and others you never see again.  They all have meaning, not just financial, because each deal is a learning experience.

Dream Home

Dream Home


Get Organized! Feng Shui (fung-schwaay)

Feng Shui image balanceNow that Mercury is retrograde this is a perfect time to tidy up.  Review and revisit.  Feng Shui is the Chinese art of organizing a home for the right energy flow.  We all want good flow and balance is important too.  I took a free seminar at a YWCA several years back and then was placing mirrors and matches on different bureaus and desks for better flow in my home.
Recently, I met a woman who is a professional organizer and also certified in Feng Shui.  Debra Riva has been certified in Feng Shui for eleven years and a Professional Organizer for 20.  Prior to that she was an executive assistant. So I asked her what it was like to be both a professional organizer and Feng Shui certified.

KV: How did you get acquainted with Feng Shui and Organizing?
DR: I had been an executive assistant at Loews and was always helping in organizing something for years.  After spending many years in the corporate world I took my talents and skills and created my own organizing business called The Art of Order, transforming chaos.  I called everyone I knew and through word of mouth got my first clients.
KV: Are you certified in Feng Shui?  Is there a professional association for organizers?
DR: Yes.  When Feng Shui was becoming popular here in the late 90’s and early 2000’s I realized it was  a perfect match with my organizing work and I made a decision to educate myself and I got certified in the two year program at Long Island Feng Shui Institute in Oyster Bay, NY in 2004.

Feng Shui bedroomFeng-shui-bedroom-1024x759KV:  What’s it like working with clients?  Do you focus on a particular room or the whole house?

RV: It depends on what my clients’ needs are.  It can be one room or the entire home, or an office or a basement.  I ask the clients what their needs are.  Very often people have way too many material things than they really need and become overwhelmed with clutter.  I co-create with them to have a space this is supportive of how they are and what they want to achieve. One particularly memorable client was a hoarder. 

KV: That must have been difficult.  What did you do to help her?

DR: I hired an assistant to help me and we filled then removed dozens of garbage bags from her apartment in New York City.  If she didn’t clean it up she was going to be dispossessed. My assistant then became her caretaker for four years.  Frequently, there is mental or physical health issues that are part of the hoarding situation.

KV: These days as you wind down your working life what’s ideal for you in working with clients?

DR: Working virtually has made working with people at a distance very easy. They send me a floor plan, layout of the room or rooms and then I can email them back how to position furnishings, what colors to use.  I helped a man in Germany some years back and he just reached out to me again for help with something else.  I’ll be traveling to Germany in the fall too to see him and the space.

Thank you Debra Riva Debras photofor answering my questions.  If anyone has more questions about organizing or Feng Shui you can contact the National Association of Professional Organizers or NAPO, and  or, The International Feng Shui Guild, or IFSG.  Mercury turns direct again on June 12 so we all have some time to De-clutter and re-balance.  Namaste.

A Day at the Museum

A Museum Can Bring the World to You.


#Rodin’s Garden in Paris is amazing that you can touch and feel the many carved pieces he made hundreds of years ago in a museum, once a house and garden where Rodin actually lived.

Above, I stand below his full size The Thinker – a smaller version can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as well as many other sculptures.  On my most recent birthday a few weeks ago I visited the Met as it is called, to take in the permanent exhibits as well as current ones, which are only visiting for a time.  My visits are few and far between but the Met is by far my favorite museum because I can travel around the world inside and still be close to home. On this most recent visit I went to Egypt, Greece, Africa, Asia, Japan, and parts of America all within 3 hours time. They have 3 restaurants to choose from inside and the food is good, the views of Central Park, wonderful.

Entrance to Temple statuesarcophagus

My all time favorite place at the Met is the Egyptian section.  They have real temples pieces  taken from the actual Pyramids famous outside of Cairo in valleys where archeologists dug decades ago. You can see a sarcophagus or two but no real mummies are there. So many paintings and artifacts that if you were to only stay in this section it could easily take hours to see all the pieces one by one. But, it’s a lot easier and less hot than actually traveling to Egypt.  I’ve been to the British Museum in London as well and if you like Egyptian artifacts they have them nearly on top of each other there including the actual Ramses Head and the Rosetta Stone.

As one section of Asia was being reassembled for a new exhibition on China: Through the Looking Glass and had part of the exhibit closed, I explored the American Wing which I really hadn’t paid much attention to before.  Louis Comfort Tiffany has several windows he made on display – Priceless, as most museum pieces are and absolutely gorgeous in person.

Tiffany windowsTiffany grapes close upOn my visit to Japan I saw many examples of Jade dating back two or more centuries old.  No pictures in that section are allowed.  Leave it to the Japanese to glam up a deer. The example below is taxidermy and then ornately decorated with glass balls and crystal balls.  Gives me some ideas to deal with the abundant deer population on eastern Long Island.

Blinged out deerWherever you are, or want to go, there is a museum near you, where you can explore many cultures, artifacts and learn more about other countries history as well as our own even if you can’t travel outside of the country.  A Stay-cation at a museum can be a great getaway and renew your interests near and far.

I’m planning my next excursion soon.

An Illustrated Life

3 pigs and Wolf                            Dog and Fish

The wonderment of children is easy to see when they read a book or have it read to them.  That wonderment is shared and admired by the writers and illustrators of children’s literature. I am a great admirer of the children’s picture book genre and have been a member of SCBWI or Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The following is the first of what I hope are many interview style Blogs about interesting people who I’ve met through the course of following my many interests from arts to science.  This first is of an illustrator, graphic artist, who has done illustrations for chapter books, and pictures books alike.

Roberta Rivera is an illustrator.  She spent her life dedicated to this fine art.  In fact she has a BFA, Bachelor of Fine Arts from Kansas City Art Institute.  I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I majored in Drama and pursued the Arts.  Just as prolific as Meryl Streep one would hope. The life of an artist is not always smooth, self doubt is common as is lack of steady work. Roberta is married and lives on Long Island but her professional pursuits take her into New York City and the boroughs for work, classes and art exhibitions.  Right now through May 30 there is an  exhibition of her work and other illustrators showing at the Poe Center For the Arts in the Bronx, NY call 718-365-5545 for more information.

Here were the questions I asked her and her answers:

KV: How long have you been doing illustrations?

RR: I’ve been illustrating most of my life.  Even as a child I had a pencil, brush or marker in my hand and was scribbling away. My parents would encourage me to enter art contests.  I would go to the public library in my home town in Connecticut and pour over children’s picture books and read chapter books and middle grade. Professionally now for 20 years.

KV: When did you know that illustrating or drawing was a talent you had?

RR: My drive to be an illustrator/artist stemmed from wanting to keep up with my older sisters.  They were and still are marvelous artists. It was probably when I was in 6th or 7th grade when my sister Leigh came home from art school, with her portfolio to show my family.  She had a picture book dummy called “Friends” which I kept until my nephew went off to college and then I gave it to him.  I passed the magic on.  I’ve done odd jobs and had a decorative art business along the way to pay the bills.

KV: If you could do anything for a living what would it be if not an illustrator?

RR: Zumba instructor!  No, just joking. I would like to try animation.

KV: Who are some of your favorite children’s picture book authors and illustrators?

RR: I’ll go with the classics Beatrix Potter, Wanda Gag, Maurice Sendak, Virginia Lee Burton, Robert McCloskey and Ernest Shepard.

KV: Who is Ernest Shepard?

RR: He is the original illustrator of Winnie the Pooh he’s on top of my list of favorite classic illustrators. I was told by an art director last November that my work reminded her of Ernest Shepard.  What a compliment! She wanted to see more of it.

KV: If you could travel anywhere in the world with all expenses paid, where would you go?

RR: Another trick question! There are so many beautiful and exotic places but why not the Fiji Islands.  After this rough winter I sure could use a vacation.

Thank you Roberta!  We all could use a vacation after this winter!

(Thank you to Roberta Rivera.  To find out more about Roberta’s work please go to her website and see more wonderful illustrations like the ones on this Blog – http://www.robertariveraart.com )

Hal and his pack

Vacation All I Ever Wanted…

The Go Go’s, that female rock/pop group of the 80’s had a song called, “Vacation”.  The title of this Blog post is a line from the song dedicated to that thought, it’s all I ever wanted!  It’s been several years since I’ve taken a proper vacation of a week away from home.  I’ve done the stay-cation  a few times in the past several years.  You know, getting away from home but not that far, within an hour somewhere you can get away. I’ve done pet sitting, house sitting, in the journey to “get away”.  Lovely cats they were.  I believe only one out of the three are still alive.  Sigh. The ugly winter is over, I can move around freely now.  It’s time for a getaway!  Oh, the places I could go?  If only the price was affordable.  Looking back on some fun vacations over the past 20 years.

Far Away Getaways

Far Away Getaways

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Tropical Vacation

Tropical Vacation

Back to the Future

BTTHEfuturecell phone slideBack in 1998 I worked at Duracell on rechargeables. I was what they called an HPC – High Powered Chick. I allowed them to call me a chick only then. The rechargeables I worked on were cell phone batteries. Didn’t know they made them? Yes I know, and part of the reason that division closed later in 1998. Duracell was trying to be the Number 3 company for replacement batteries. They were thinking ahead to a time when cell phones, or, your mobile (oh – how many meetings were there to determine cell or mobile??) phone was going to be an everyday part of most peoples lives.  The same way that replacement alkaline batteries are for our electronic devices.  Cell phones could cost upwards of $700 then, not a small investment.  Most people didn’t have one in 1998. Motorola and Qualcomm were the leaders in the U.S. with their StarTac and Faser phone a la Star Trek – the thinnest flip phone to use CDMA their digital frequency we take for granted today. Sprint was the leading telecom to utilize the digital frequency and the two companies made great partners and a great product. You couldn’t upgrade to get a new free phone for a two year contract then.

Hmm? Forward to 2015.
Guess what, after years of upgrading to a new phone for free or very little in investment, usually under $100 depending on the phone you choose, we have to buy them! If not buy them then lease them for a year or two. Lease? What?
iPhone or Samsung, or Sharp (Yes, Sharp), LG or T-Mobile to AT&T to Sprint. Get the time machine I want to go back!

I want to go back to five years ago and see what made the mobile phone industry rewind to another time.  Yes, you can still get a phone that will text too for under $40 to buy and a similarly low monthly fee. But, if you want a SmartPhone, basically a hand held computer in another form, then you must pay upwards of $200 for the phone and a high monthly price.

And, all those games, promotions we see now, Europe and Asia had those gimmicks back in the late 90’s. Their landlines are not as good as ours, so citizens embraced mobile over there, long before we had the notion.  I used to have to examine all the offerings and relate it to how American’s would be interested and write analysis of it and present ideas at meetings.  At the time, I thought, only teenagers are going to be interested in games and other promotions. What adult is going to spend their day on gaming on a mobile phone? Oh, how we have changed as a nation because of our little hand held devices.  Be kind, rewind.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tweets

Twitter logo twitterpic

Social media has been a craze now for several years.  I first opened my Twitter account in 2009 against my will.  I thought “Oh No, here’s another tech trend that may or may not last.” When I saw journalists using it for story ideas and reaching out to contacts that’s when I thought it was legit.  Then I liked it. I realized I could follow all the news outlets, entertainment, corporate entities, C level execs and friends and get the overall news of the morning in five minutes. For a news junkie like myself this was great!  I used to read the front page of the Wall Street Journal to get an overview of the news but now, I can online.  Two years ago I felt compelled to write an article on Twitter for Newsday’s Part 2 section which is published on Saturday’s and was geared toward seniors.  So I wrote why it’s a good idea to use Twitter – To #Twitter or Not to Twitter that was the question.  I got some positive responses from seniors in my own town about how they now understood it a bit better. So, why not present to a room of seniors and others on the merits of using Twitter for communication, information sharing and helping you in a crisis?

Having been a substitute teacher for elementary kids, I know I like teaching. Having an M.A. in Marketing Communication and over twenty years of practice I know I create strategies and have ideas for messaging that have helped companies, C level executives and the entrepreneur move their businesses forward and get them publicity.  So why not teach adults and seniors?

I created a program via the old Powerpoint and have presented at half a dozen libraries thus far.  I have more scheduled. Having had close to 100 audience members I’ve gotten a thrill of helping mostly seniors who attend understand the tech social media phenomenon and why it’s good for them to use.  It is another form of communication.  140 characters make it SMS text or Short Message Service. This is important to know as the old Beeper’s used 160 characters or less and allowed mostly doctors, executives get messages when other forms of communication were not possible.  In fact, texting, or tweeting can get your message out even when you don’t have a signal – it will hold the message and send when you do have a signal.  I teach them to keep important numbers, emails, people’s addresses on a piece of paper too.  Paper doesn’t lose internet connections.  Paper doesn’t lose electricity.  Technology has greatly advanced our way of communicating but only when the wireless or electric is working.

In 140 characters you can share information, connect with like minded people, companies, around the world.  Every minute brings new tweets, information and connections with family and friends. And, if you are without electricity and limited signal on your cell or tablet, you can actually tweet out to targeted people add a  # to make sure your words or emphasized and trend to get attention.  Who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks? I’ve learned that I can take my marketing and communications skills and teach what I know to willing and interested adults who in turn have learned more about communicating.  I’ve discovered I can create new avenues for my career and in turn help others.