Tag Archives: aging

The Red Angel

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I need to tell you a story:   

Prologue: The other day, I sat in the lobby of my condo building waiting for Hubsey to pick me up at the front door. As I sat on the bench, I admired the beautiful Christmas decorations all around me. A team of dedicated volunteers take time out of their lives every year to do this, and it truly is spectacular…inviting and festive to all residents and visitors who come through the lobby.

Main character: An elderly woman I didn’t know was sitting beside me, and I commented on how beautiful everything looked. She harumphed and said, “I hate that red angel on the top of the tree.”

The lines in the woman’s face deepened as she glared at the angel and added, “They should have put a white one, or a gold one, but not that cheap looking thing! It ruins everything!”

Point of view: Now the tree had to be 15 feet high, so from where I was sitting I had to really squint to see the details of this monstrosity she was talking about. But what I saw was a beautiful angel in a red velvet dress trimmed with white fur, sporting a set of magical feathery white wings. She was beautiful and angelic as angels should be, and simply perfect for the treetop.

Motivation: I thought about this woman for the rest of the day…I’m still thinking about her. Why was she so unhappy with this red angel and how could it possibly “ruin everything” as she said. And while I know deep down it wasn’t about the angel at all, I can’t help but wonder  what made her see the little red angel in that particular way?

Perhaps her children don’t call at Christmas?
Perhaps she deals with pain every waking moment?
Perhaps her shoes were too tight?
Perhaps Santa has forgotten her too many times?
Perhaps she is lonely?
Perhaps her father was a nasty drunk every Christmas?
Perhaps all her old friends have died?
Perhaps she has outlived her money?
Perhaps the colour red makes her see red?
Perhaps she was simply constipated?

Epilogue: Whatever the reason, the fact remains that we see the world from where we sit…together with all our glory and carbuncles. And our view is distorted by the amount of baggage we choose to drag along behind us.  Life’s a bitch, there’s no doubt about that! It’s how we deal with the successes, failures and challenges that defines how we see life’s ever changing landscape.

Serendipity: Coincidentally, someone tweeted this picture recently, which I would like to share with you. I don’t know the tweeter, so I apologize if I am using the picture without permission, whoever you are. But it’s a great message and if I knew who the woman was that I met in the lobby, I would stick it under her door. It’s never too late to see the beautiful red angels in our lives.

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See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

 

 

 

 

 

Dem Bones, Dem Bones…

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13653755-yoga-position-funny-cartoon-and-vector-isolated-illustrationDo brittle bones drive you insane?
Does bending put your back in pain?
How are your hips, your neck, your knees?
Do you need help? Keep reading please…

(originally posted November 2012)

What now? Last year, I noticed that everything in my body was tightening up like the sticky lid on a honey jar.  The doggerel lyrics of that old song about how the toe bone’s connected to the foot bone and the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, etc., blasted away in my brain. A cruel reminder that I was coming of age.

All pain, no gain: Every morning, my stiff joints and rigid spine felt like they would crack wide open if I moved too quickly. Well, I wasn’t happy about this decrepit state of affairs. Yes I was Living with Lupus, but I was swimming and walking regularly, so what more could I possibly do and why wasn’t my exercise routine working?

Out of the blue: Then my doctor recommended yoga classes…which in itself was a refreshing thing for a doctor to do!  Thank goodness for our new younger female doctors who know how to think outside the pill-box. But seriously…could yoga really help me?

Well-kept secret: What is it about the word “yoga” that conjures up images of skinny contortionists in leggings, eating raw carrots and tree nuts…while standing on their heads? Think again! Yoga is becoming a serious contender for seniors – to improve strength, endurance, balance, joints and spine. In my experience, it’s nothing short of amazing.

Scaredy Pat: At first I was reluctant because it had been 25 years since I uttered the Ommmm mantra. I would make a fool of myself without a doubt, and I wasn’t even sure I could get down on the floor – or more importantly – get back up again. But fear notwithstanding, I strapped my new yoga mat over my shoulder and hit the yoga scene with my aching bony knees a knockin.’

A big relief!  Thankfully my yoga instructor was excellent and he modified each pose to the comfort level of the participants. It wasn’t pretty at first. I initially had to do some positions with the help of a chair and some poses were easier if I leaned against the wall, instead of getting down on the floor. But that was only in the beginning. There was a natural process from there to feeling stronger and eventually finding my way down to the mat.

Tempus fugit: Now here I am one year later, still attending yoga classes twice a week and loving every minute of it. And listen up!  The improvements to my knees, back and hips is nothing short of amazing. This is serious stuff! I still have some neck problems, but I’m working on that.  And although I will never perform advanced yoga postures, my progress to date is remarkable. But most remarkable of all is how good I feel and how much I look forward to every class…the postures, the deep breathing and the meditation.

The secret’s out: I simply wanted to tell you and pass it on. And do I recommend yoga to everyone out there who wants to slow down the aging process? Absolutely! And not just for flexing your arthritic joints, or lubricating your dried out vertebrae. Yoga also teaches us relaxation techniques and everyday coping skills for life  in general.

Things I learned: But before you run out and book your class – here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Do your homework: Start by researching the different kinds of yoga in your area…at community centres, YMCA or yoga studios. You may not be up to trying a “hot yoga” class where you sit in a 105 degrees Celsius room and sweat out the garlic from last night’s dinner. Instead, I suggest that you look for a yoga class with the words, ‘gentle’ or ‘beginners’ or ‘therapeutic’ or even ‘chair’ yoga if you have more serious disabilities.

2. Speak to the instructor: Before you book your classes, make sure the instructor is willing to modify the poses as you go along, to accommodate different levels of ability. Ask if you can attend  a trial class to see for yourself how that will work.

3. Choose the right class: While there are many places offering yoga for the 50+ crowd – as long as the instructor is open and accommodating, a beginner’s class for all ages should be fine. You might want to avoid the ersatz yoga classes – where the attendees are all lulu-lemoned-up and the focus is more about image than the practice of yoga principles. Use your good sense to sort out the fakes.

4. Don’t compete: Don’t worry about your abilities to keep up with the class, if others around you are more flexible. It’s not about who can twist themselves into the tightest knot, or do the most impressive downward dog while trying to locate their third eye. Push hard, but pay attention to your body and don’t go beyond the edge of your ability. Go at your own pace and I promise you – the benefits are awesome at any level.

5. Ignore the scale: Yoga classes are all about relaxation, stretching and toning. Your motivation should not be weight loss, but overall good health and healing from the inside out. This is the greatest gift from you to you.

6.  Be committed:  Try to go once or twice a week. But if a live class is not available to you, there are many level-appropriate DVD’s out there you can purchase. And while this is a viable option, nothing can replace the positive energy you get from a class of like-minded people and a qualified instructor.

7. Stick with it: Don’t get your yoga pants in a pretzel if you don’t get instant results. Be patient and committed, even on those days when you’d rather stay in your stretchy sweats and eat a tub of rocky road. And although you should feel results in 6-8 weeks, please give it a good year. I promise you a better, more flexible body, with less pain and a noticeably improved sense of well-being. Have I ever lied to you before?
(Okay maybe i-Lied once about being i-Crazy…but only that once.)

8. Be brave, be bold and be healthy: You may want to google “yoga for seniors” and read more about this important emerging trend. Yoga should be safe for everyone. However, if you have specific health issues, you may want to check with your doctor before beginning.

Final word: This has been my story. I know it’s easy to dismiss all the reasons why you need yoga. But all I can say to that is, blah, blah, blah! We boomers and zoomers need all the help we can get! Our aging bodies are going nowhere but down that long mudslide to perdition. (I’m just thankful wrinkles don’t hurt!) So get off your sorry excuse, stuff your chakras into your sports bra – and give it a try! You won’t ever be sorry you did.

This message brought to you by Pat,
Was dreamed up on her yoga mat,
For this, she doesn’t charge a fee,
‘Cause bloggers do it all for free.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @Pat Skene

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I’m Shrinking!

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This post is all about my size,
I’m shrinking right before my eyes,
So as I share my tale with you,
Prepare to shed a tear or two…

I’m definitely shrinking. It’s been a gradual process, but I think I got the first clue of my true adult size when I fell off my platform shoes in the 1970’s. But thankfully, along came the 80’s with 4″ pumps, big hair and monster shoulder pads. I’m not saying that I looked like a linebacker in drag, but I felt I could tackle the world in that decade. Then with the 90’s, came a more scaled down version of my mega-self, although I still sported the highest heels I could climb into. But all good things come to an end.

Mirror, mirror: My diminishing condition went into overdrive when I retired from banking several years ago. Since then, a strange thing has been happening to my reflection in the mirror. I have progressively become smaller, shorter, lighter and significantly more…comfortable.

A good dressing down: The first thing I did after retirement was give away all my business suits; designer suits, power suits and tailored suits that made me look like the rest of my corporate comrades patrolling the concrete jungle. This was a major stage in my shrinking process. When I stopped wearing suit jackets, I thought I looked minimized and almost vulnerable. I was definitely more compact as I entered the shrink-age.

Hair today, gone tomorrow: With my new pared-down look, my daughter suggested that I go all the way and get a funky new haircut. She said that while my old ‘do’ didn’t exactly scream “I love Elvis”, he had not quite left the building. I have always been a white-knuckled makeover subject and I headed for the salon, feeling as comfortable as a twelve-hour ponytail.

Like phoenix rising: When I emerged from the chopping-chair, I found myself sporting a short spiky new look, not unlike that of the porcelain cockatoo sitting on my kitchen counter. And there was no doubt that my head had shrunk! However, my daughter assured me that I looked thoroughly modern and we had lunch to celebrate another important stage of my arrivement into retirement. Next, I was going for the big one. Shoes!

Heavenly bliss: I eagerly set out to explore life beyond stilettos – and maybe even find shoes that didn’t burn the soles of my feet, or pinch my toes into a pointed vise. Like a woman possessed, I searched until I found the Holy Grail of comfortable shoes. I discovered cushioned soles, marshmallow foot beds and lightweight walkers with attitude. I bought them all! Flat comfortable rubber-soled beauties that gave me more satisfaction than an itch in a box of sandpaper.

Melt down: The downside of this orgasmic moment of chiropodist bliss happened when I noticed I was much closer to the ground in my new shoes. Once again…I was wilting. Now, inches shorter without my height-boosting pumps, I was without a doubt – taking up less airspace. Friends looked at me rather strangely, as they continually struggled to adjust their eye level. “Didn’t you used to be tall,” they said.

No gobbledygook: Even my everyday language has been shrinking down. Power phrases like “organizational infrastructure, strategic inflection points and transformational leadership,” no longer roll off my tongue. There’s something refreshing about speaking clearly, without the need to fight your way through the fog index.

Scaling down: So over the years and during this metamorphosis, I have been shrinking steadily into a more compact and petite exterior. And even now, as I continue to wend my way from foxy to functional – I’ve developed a new and unfortunate intolerance to wheat, dairy and sugar. Consequently, even my bathroom scale has taken a sharp left turn into the skinny zone.

When will it stop? On top of everything else, my doctor tells me my spine is compressing, my dentist tells me my gums are receding, my hairdresser tells me my hair is thinning, and my younger (and always shorter) sister now thinks we’re the same height…delusional woman!

Final word: As an addendum to my shrunken condition, there are even more indignities to endure. According to the gravitational gurus, as we age – gravity will cause the tips of our noses to droop, our ears to elongate, our eyelids to fall, our jowls to flap, and our boobs and scrotum to sag. And while I’m thankful I don’t have the whole scrotum thing to deal with (although some may disagree), I do have all of the other aforementioned body parts. Get the picture? I hope not!

So here I sit in baggy pants,
To write this post for boomerrantz,
I vow to do the things I must,
And blog until I’m blogger dust…

Pat Skene


More Fortunate…Indeed!

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 Too much good fortune can make you smug and unaware…
                                                                                                       
Rachel Lyman Field 

What’s up with me? I’m in a serious blogger mood for a change, so bear with me through my rant du jour.  Although my post is new, the subject matter is an old irritant and recent events have stirred up the rantz in my pantz. So I have to flap them around in the cyber-breezes for a good airing out. Here goes…

What’s bugging me? I’m very happy to live in a country that participates in so many fundraising events. But a few days ago, Toronto’s dumb-ass anti-media mayor made a rare public appearance at a downtown event – a World Partnership Walk to end global poverty. When asked by the shocked media why he chose to attend, he said that he wanted to help those less fortunate.  And in a later interview, he said he wanted to help  those who aren’t as well off as we are. Ugh! This has always been an offensive expression to me and it is used all the time.

A matter of need:  Good fortune might be about luck at winning the lottery. But if we think ourselves more fortunate than others because we are materially well off or prosperous, do we also consider ourselves supremely favoured and separate from the great unwashed?  Does it elevate us to the heights of being better than those poor unfortunates who need our help? Being in need is not a matter of being ‘fortunate’ or ‘unfortunate’, but a matter of circumstance. 

Us and them syndrome: Even when I visit schools I hear the same term being used by our children – “We are doing this to help children less fortunate than we are,” they say with pride. And with all good intentions in mind, this separation of thought is not a healthy path to global thinking. Perhaps our division from “those people” provides a first line of defense against our ever having to share that destiny.   

Giving thanks: As Canadians, we all have a lot to be thankful for and no one likes to think of themselves in a needful situation. But circumstances can change quickly in life and events both controllable and uncontrollable can catapult us into a place of need. The thing to remember is that we are all in this big lifeboat together. And our joint mission (should we choose to accept it) is to help each other find our way.

Helping hands: In the end, we are none of us more “fortunate” than the other. Our situations may vary and some of us may need more help than others. But in the overall scheme of life’s purpose – our fortunes, our net worth and our affluence, have nothing to do with who we truly are as human beings. But how we share our lives and help those in need has everything to do with it.

Final word: So could we please stop using the expression “helping those less fortunate” and simply say we are:
– helping someone in need? Yes!
– helping the homeless? Absolutely!
– helping the poor? You got it!
– helping to feed the hungry? Without a doubt!
– helping to eradicate world poverty? Right on!

But don’t be as arrogant as that buffoon we call the mayor of Toronto and consider yourself more fortunate because of it.

Now’s here a poem I wrote many years ago to bring it home:

The Fugitive  

The faceless man trudges on
In clothes of tattered rags,
His bloodshot eyes reflect his way of life,
He walks the beaten path each day
Not knowing why he died,
Dark memories of living and of strife.

Once upon a time
He was a man of many dreams,
The hours in a day went far too fast,
But fruitless were his efforts
And soundless were his words,
For much too soon his future had all passed.

Don’t scoff or scorn or ridicule
Unless your life is pure,
Of selfishness and vanity and sin,
For who’s to say the road you walk
But for a touch in time,
Is not the path of where this man has been?

Pat Skene  

 

As the Condo Turns…

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This condo life’s the life for me,
But I have issues…you will see,
With old farts on a condo board,
Who make suite owners feel ignored…

Opening Scene: If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember that we recently Downsized and moved to our first condo. It’s been nearly two years since we took that giant step into this community-type living arrangement. And we’ve met a whole gaggle of cotton-heads – all waddling into The Scary World of Aging along with us. So at least we have that in common, which is necessary when you live in a complex chock-a-block with wrinkled has-beens.

Cast of Characters: Oh get a grip! I’m not trying to bust your blogroll with that last comment. But when people age, the world at large tends to think of older people as just that – old people. But we all used to be something else in the world, before we got to retire and enjoy the good life here in this adult lifestyle complex. We represent every walk of life in various eras gone by, and now we get to be free agents. And that’s a wonderful thing.

Lifetime Performances: Old corporate dogs never die – they resurface on condo boards! Sometimes these retired pinstriped suits love to continue on in positions of power after getting the golden handshake. Consequently, some choose condo board positions to exercise the old school ‘mushroom style of management’ that was in business vogue back in the good old days. And now many condo residents suffer the ill effects of these fungus management techniques.

Great Actors: In my professed limited experience, I have found condo boards only pretend to be open for suggestions. But deep inside their cold little grinchy-hearts, they don’t like change, they discourage communication, they isolate potential status-quo-shakers, and they prefer an autocratic system of control. There’s no doubt these board members (mostly male) like to rule with a bony arthritic fist! And preferably in a locked room away from the rest of the annoying pesky suite owners.

Change the Scenery: I realize it will take time for the old guard to move on and allow the newer residents to sit in the power seats. It’s a trust issue as well. And they definitely have done many good things to date. But there’s more to modern-day condo living than bridge games, jigsaw puzzles and an anal-retentive book of rules. This isn’t an old folks home. And it’s not a place where dusty doilies go to die. We need new blood to make this a community for everyone to enjoy; not just the long time residents who hold on to ‘the way it’s always been’ with a death grip.

Happy Ending: But saying all that, I still love living here. Condo life is definitely the right life for Hubsey and me at this stage of our lives. Some of the rules are dumb-ass stupid, and we may not feel part of the decision process yet, but I know someday that will change. I need to be patient and it will come.

12 Things I’ve Learned About Condo Living

1. You can’t always get your own way.

2. You can enjoy the snow without shovelling it.

3. You can’t play your music or TV too loud.

4. You can feel safe and secure.

5. You can’t renovate without condo approval.

6. You can go swimming in the winter.

7. You can’t have deliveries outside approved hours.

8. You can always find someone to talk to.

9. You can’t expect to know why decisions are made.

10. You can expect to be frustrated when decisions are made.

11. You can’t wash the outside of your windows when they’re dirty.

12. You can ignore the politics and enjoy the simple life.

So all in all, this is a new lifestyle in progress. Stay tuned for the next episode of…As the Condo Turns.

So that’s my rant – that’s all she wrote,
What if they read my blogging note?
While condo rules may well restrict me,
At least those old farts can’t evict me…

Pat Skene

Head Games

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I rant therefore I amBloggers Anonymous

Silver & Gold Spring Issue

  
           BOOMERRANTZ in Print


“Pat’s Boomerrantz” is now appearing in Silver and Gold magazine. My first column Arriving Naked is in the new spring issue. It can be viewed online by clicking on the magazine cover to the left…page 38. It’s all about, “Is there freedom after 55?” You’ll need to zoom in to read the text.

 

So with that news out of the way,
I have a few more things to say,
About this ‘Freedom 55’,
And all that mumbo-jumbo jive…

Hard-wired: Moving out of our fifties into the Scary World of Aging is about dealing with change and shifting gears with as much grace as we can muster. And nothing’s easy, because that’s life. In today’s troubled world, these worn out freedom 55 ideas about retirement have had their day. But like a manchurian candidate, we’re well programmed and continue to recite the marketing mantra.

All sizzle: So what’s it all about – our obsession with this freedom by 55 thing? This thing that we measure ourselves by? This thing we use to determine our success and failure? It’s simply a clever marketing slogan dreamed up in a corporate boardroom to make lots of money! Marketing is all about head games. It’s about re-wiring our brains, so our hearts and wallets will follow…like lemmings to the investment pool.

Clean sweep: So let’s keep it real people. Life isn’t a TV commercial. It’s time to stop the race toward this artificially inseminated perception of middle age. It’s time to pop the freedom 55 myth like a nasty zit. It’s time to sweep all these worn out notions into the dusty archives – along with moldy marketing slogans and other antiquated words like foolscap, hearken and slacks.

Enough said: Freedom is where it’s always been; right here, right now, everyday for those of us fortunate enough to live in a free world. So that being said…let’s get on with it.

So all these rantz inside my pantz,
Are music for my freedom dance,
Sometimes I need to shake it out,
That’s what this blog is all about!

Pat Skene

A Blemish in My Garments

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The first year after I retired,
I felt renewed and so inspired,
Then housework soaked my spongy brain,
And made me go a bit insane…

The year I left my busy working life to run free in the pastures of retirement, I was overwhelmed with an anxious energy to do everything I had missed out on in my life. I had no bucket list back then, just a longing to fill a whole bunch of empty spaces.

But that kind of desperate enthusiasm scrambled my brain and caused a few synapses to misfire. As it was happening, I wrote an article about my experience, which was published in several newspapers. The letters to the editor led me to believe I was not alone in my irrational behaviour.

It’s been nearly 14 years since I wrote that article. Keep in mind that I was in a quixotic state of divine domesticity. I have since reestablished my raison d’être and properly restored my sanity. Here’s my story…
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At Last, I’ve Found the Kitchen by Pat Skene

Toronto Star – 1998

“Success in housekeeping adds credit to the woman of intellect, and lustre to a woman’s accomplishments. No matter how talented a woman may be, or how useful in the church or society, if she is an indifferent housekeeper it is fatal to her influence, a foil to her brilliance and a blemish in her garments.”
THE HOME COOK BOOK, Toronto Rose Publishing Company, 1877

“Give her a wide berth,” I heard my husband whisper to my daughter, as I breezed through the kitchen to check on the contents of my new slow cooker.

“Mom bought a crock-pot?” she said, as she lurched backwards to get out of my way and slammed into my new rack of stainless steel cookware. “Where did those come from?” she complained, holding the side of her head.

Breathless, my husband continued as though I were not in the room. “And that’s not all. She has two boxes of mason jars in the basement. She wants to ‘do
down’ dill pickles and tomato relish. She’s been out everyday driving around the country roads, scouring the farms for fresh produce.”

“Geez, she’s even wearing an apron,” was all my daughter could say, as they stood in silence watching me with their eyes locked on my every move.

Poor things, this was all so sudden. It started very innocently really, when I bought a new dust mop and ironing board cover. I felt so harmoniously domestic after ironing my tea towels, that it spurred me on to clean behind the refrigerator and try out that new miracle floor cleaner I ordered from a home shopping catalogue.

This uncharacteristic burst of domesticity appeared suddenly in the first year of my retirement from corporate life. After many decades of being an exhausted working mother to my daughter and often-distracted partner to my husband, I left the rat race to preserve my energy, my health and to pursue my passion for
writing.

Like many working mothers, I still sported all the guilty baggage that busy parents usually bear well into their golden years. I worried about the scars my daughter had carved into her childhood, from deprivation of home cooked meals and the long-term effects of latchkey after-shock.

Instead, she managed to survive with professional parents who adored her and she became independent and self-sufficient at a very early age. In other
words, my baby grew up while I wasn’t looking and in spite of my lack of domesticity.

My husband banned me from the kitchen a long time ago, when he witnessed me teaching my daughter how to make a Christmas Meat Pie. He threatened to get a court order to stop me from teaching her how to cook.

So there I was, with my adult daughter and retired husband – ready to do the wife and mother thing – and all they could do was stare at me all goggle-eyed like kitchen road kill caught in the scent of my boneless rump roast.

As my family continued to tread softly around me with suspicions that it was just more Menopause Madness, I continued on my domestic journey. I washed the linens in logical color combinations, organized our kitchen shelves, cleaned out closets and dusted every piece of bric a brac I could find. All this, while my stuffed green peppers bubbled deliciously in my new state-of-the-art crock-pot.

I approached my household responsibilities with the same appetite as I did my career. I savored the goodness of field-ripened tomatoes and the emotional harmony that flowed from a clean, organized home. Simplicity in a world of complications seemed to take on a rhythm of its own.

Unfortunately, while I harvested these revelations along with my bounty of summer vegetables, my family suffered future shock from my sudden coming in and out of the broom closet.

Was I morphing through a type of corporate decompression chamber? Maybe. I’d come to accept that I couldn’t rewind all the days I wasted away, the days I took for granted, the working weekends, the conferences, the cold dinners and the baby-sitters. But I needed to believe that it wasn’t too late to start paying attention to the things that mattered most and to some things that never seemed to matter at all.

I busied myself with long neglected writing projects and I enjoyed being a friend to my daughter, not to mention a new and improved partner to my husband. And in between the exciting chapters on my word processor and the scary experiments in my food processor, I might even try my hand at making Christmas gifts this year, if it doesn’t push my family over the edge. (September 1998)
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So read the quote above in blue,
And tell me, what’s a gal to do?
That ‘blemish in her garments’ threat,
Is something I cannot forget…

Pat Skene

10 Tips for Mucking Out the Memories

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Yard Sale CartoonThe sequel to my Downsize This post.

So after that grisly marriage-blasting, nerve pinching experience of selling our big-ass house and downsizing our worldly attachments – here we are a year later happily ensconced in our condo. Thankfully, I no longer see that goggle-eyed, crazed woman staring back in the mirror.

Our little storage locker is chock-full of Christmas decorations, photo albums and fishing gear. Nothing else. It’s amazing how we boiled it all down to the bones and survived the madness. Do I miss the rest? Sometimes, but mostly there’s an incredible sense of relief; a simple freedom in de-cluttering our lives.

Top 10 things I learned:                              

  1. Make a Floor Plan: We measured each piece of furniture and made cut-outs so we could move them around on the floor plan like a doll house. This was a great way to see what furniture would be the best fit in our new place. Warning: not recommended for sissies. Big screen TV’s and well-loved recliners may not be condo-worthy.

  2. Test the size of your locker: Measure your locker and make an outline on the floor, like they do for dead bodies. After much pushing, pulling and pouting, we stacked the things we couldn’t part with in this space – like a precarious block of Lego’s. If it didn’t fit, it didn’t get on the moving truck. Proceed with caution: can be deadly to relationships.

  3. No storage wars!Sometimes when the pushing, pulling and pouting didn’t work and we reached an impasse on what to keep, we were tempted to cheat and rent an off-site storage locker. Fortunately, our daughter arrived in full swat-gear to talk us down from the ledge. When it’s stored, it gets ignored!

  4. Beware of auction houses! The two companies we used were shockingly dishonest by controlling bids to fall within their highest commission parameters – and by directing some sales to their friends – or to their spouses for resale in their own shops. Make a detailed list before you give them anything. Then kiss your assets good-bye.

  5. Check your collectables:  We checked sculptures, paintings, carvings, china, etc., for signatures and markings – and tried to determine the value by checking the internet. A sort-of-do-it-ourselves ‘Antiques Road Show.’ The money’s in the details; the devil’s in the dark.

  6. Get a long closing date would have given us time to sell more stuff online. As it was, we were pressured into hustling our belongings out the door, like unwanted houseguests. Remember the Rule of Three: a minimum of 3 months for closings and a maximum of 3 nights for visitors. Don’t get them confused!

  7. Have a yard sale: This was a great way to recycle. We priced to sell, grouped similar items together and the bargain-pickers were lined up around the block. We sold everything! The boxes of “Free Stuff” we put at the end of the drive was a big hit. They took that too and saved us a trip to the dump. My garage runneth empty; my fanny-pack runneth full…of coins.

  8. Hawk your stuff:  I made a list of everything I had for sale and emailed or handed it out to everyone I could. Friends, relatives, real estate contacts, trades people, the new buyers etc. I sold lots of stuff this way. Be bold. You’ve gotta tell to make it sell.

  9. Book donations: Parting with books wasn’t easy. But a targeted donation can help to ease the pain of separation anxiety. For example, I donated several boxes of children’s books to a local Ronald MacDonald House, and a collection of creative writing books to my high-school teacher-niece, who made a special library for herself and her students. ‘Tis a far far better thing I do…than I have ever done hoarding my books.

  10. Think Charities: These were great places to donate clothing and household goods. Many agencies picked up right at my door. Recycling and consignment shops were also good options, but they had lots of restrictions on what they would take. A bit of homework was needed, but worth the effort. So when in doubt, don’t throw it out.

Final word: While mucking out the memories was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, the memories themselves are surprisingly alive and kicking up dust bunnies. The good news is – I love that a lot of our stuff has been recycled to someone out there. The bad news is – I hate that a lot of our stuff has been recycled to someone out there. It all depends on the day.                                            

Now as I sit and write this rhyme,
I look back on those days in time,
Remembering how we were stressed,
And acting like two fools possessed.

So here’s the moral to my tale;
Don’t put your big-ass-house for sale!
Stay where you are until you’re dead,
The kids can muck it out instead.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

Check out my children’s books at www.pressheretostartpublishing.com

Scary World of Aging

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As I flap around in my post-retirement years, I’m not happy about getting older. But when I consider the deathly alternative, I tend to buckle up and dig in. 

Brave new world: Last year Hubsey and I sold our home and moved into our first condo. Why we’re still married after going through the grueling experience of downsizing hell, is something of a mystery. We had so much stuff – all his old junk and my priceless collectables.  Well, we lived to tell the tale and now enjoy the comforts of our beautiful condo – despite being surrounded by a gaggle of cotton heads, dictatorial condo boards and antiquated rules. After decades in the corporate jungle, I’ve seen enough office politics to strangle a condor. So I plan to ruffle some of those dusty old condo-condor feathers. Old farts in corporate boardrooms and old farts on condo boards are all the same to me. To be continued so stay tuned…   

Scary stuff! This mysterious aging process can be almost as frightening as buying a new bathing suit. And besides the whole emotional gridlock of downsizing – how do I handle my husband losing his driver’s license due to a stroke? How do I cope with chronic illness, old bones and the shocking reality of my white hair? And what do I do when I discover Blackbeard’s whiskers popping out on my chin – or other unsuspecting body parts? And do I accept or reject the irresistible lure and blissful come-hither comfort of wearing granny panties and orthopedic shoes? Read the rest of this entry

Make it Personal

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Although I must admit we had a good agent, most real estate people are not known for their imaginations. They follow a routine set of cookie-cutter steps to sell houses.  There’s a lot about every home that remains hidden from view. So it’s up to us – the sellers – to take charge and bring these special features into focus.

In my Post – It’s Time to Sell – I talked about painting a picture for my prospective buyers by writing a list of things I liked about my home. I wanted people to picture themselves there, enjoying the good life.

I placed a stack of these personal letters beside the real estate feature sheets, for buyers to take away. I made it short, easy to read, with lots of white space and all on one page. It was a big hit with buyers and proved to be the single most important selling tool we had toward getting multiple prospects and a quick sale. 

Good luck with selling your home. If you try this selling technique, remember to make it brief, be truthful and appeal to the emotionl side of buying a house – by drawing from your gut.     Read the rest of this entry

It’s Time to Sell

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Okay, so we made the decision to downsize and sell our home over a cup of tea one morning. The time was right. The house was too big, the kids were too far, the drive was too long and life was too short. So a condo near the kids was the answer. We toasted our good judgment with an extra spoon of brown sugar on our oatmeal. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

Pushy kids: Our daughter had pushed for this decision for a while, but we dug our heels in until we were stuck in the muck. And now it was time to muck it out; all 4200 square feet of house, 2 garages, Hubsey’s workshop and furnace room – every inch chock full of dusty memories. We had lots of de-mucking to do to squeeze into a condo.

But I digress – first step – SELL OUR BIG-ASS HOUSE.  I’m happy to report that we hired an excellent real estate agent that we trusted, and our home sold in one week! Here’s my take on selling tips that matter. 

The 6 things NO real estate agent will tell you:

1…Use your head. While you need to de-clutter and make your rooms appear spacious and appealing, don’t remove all your family photos and personal mementos. Who thought up that asinine trend anyway? Any prospective buyers who can’t picture themselves in your home because your family photos are on the mantle, are too stupid to buy the house in the first place. Don’t get pushed around by the so-called professionals in the field.

2…Forget expensive staging.This home is yours to sell and you don’t need someone else’s stuff to do that. Another real estate ruse. You know what needs to be done. Do minor repairs and spruce up the place with a touch of paint. For a few hundred dollars, you can add lots of light coloured accents to give the rooms a clean fresh feel; like crisp white bedding, fresh flowers, soft cream sofa pillows, comfy throws – and breezy white sheer curtains on an open window. And don’t forget to spa-up your bathroom with stacks of fluffy white towels, scented candles and fancy soaps.

3…Air it out. Agents find it hard to tell you that your house smells. Open windows long before a showing and burn a Lampe Berger if you have one. They work wonders. Buyers shouldn’t have to wonder if the lingering aromas are from the corned beef and cabbage you had for dinner or a dead body between the walls. But don’t overdo the air-fresheners.  People may think you’re trying to hide something.

4…Write a personal letter. Word-paint a picture for your buyers by writing a list of things you love about your home. Be creative and appeal to the emotions. This personal touch had a HUGE impact on creating multiple buyer interest in our home – and the resulting quick sale. Place a stack of these letters beside the real estate feature sheets. See my Post – Make it Personal  for an example of what I did.

5…Get help from St. Joseph. Now for something totally nuts! But I did it anyway. This is how it works; you purchase a small statue of St. Joseph and you bury him upside down in the yard, just below the surface. (Stay with me on this.) Place him near the For Sale sign and watch the buyers flock to your home. P.S…in my case, nothing happened after a few days, so I poured a pitcher of icy water on the burial spot to shake & wake him up. My house sold 3 days later…so you decide.        

6…No Open House showings. In my opinion, if someone wants to see your house, they should damn well make an appointment. Why should you allow every Tom, Dick and burglar to walk around and case the joint? Don’t fall for it! They’re a waste of time and a security threat. Agents like to use your home as an advertising platform for new business, and to make you feel like they’re earning their commission – which is another issue altogether. You deserve respect in your own home and as such, scheduled appointments with appropriate lead time is only fair – and the safe thing to do.       

Last word: Now top it all off with some classical music and a plate of bite-sized store-bought cookies on the counter and you’re good to go. (Bite-sized because you don’t want crumbs all over your house.) You should leave during the showings to give your prospective buyers privacy to look around – without you breathing down their cheque books. And make sure you get a minimum of 3 months for your closing date. You’re going to need it for the next step…mucking out the memories.

Happy Sales from Pat Skene