Word Wednesday: Downtown

down-town:  the main business section of a city.

Ask me where I’m from, and I’ll say, “Chicago”. And being from Chicago, “downtown” should be downtown Chicago.

“From Chicago” is the answer I give to someone who has no idea where Orland Park is…because really…I’m from Orland Park.

And the truth is…in “downtown Chicago” I’m as much a tourist as someone visiting from Detroit or Boston or King of Prussia the suburban town outside of Philadelphia. I too enjoy visiting downtown Chicago…

but downtown Chicago isn’t “my downtown.”

I’m drawn to the “downtown” of smaller towns, Chicago suburbs’ downtowns. Those parts of town that were there from the town’s beginning. Those areas near the train, a couple of blocks with the older storefront buildings with apartments up top. The streets with little shops, restaurants, and businesses and the neighborhoods of homes that surround them. Those are “my downtowns.”

Orland Park, the town I’m from doesn’t really have a downtown. Through intentional development, it’s sort of being created. But Orland Park does have Beacon Ave.

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The block of antique and consignment stores…vintage salt and pepper shakers, antique tablecloths and mid-century glassware…treasures abound on Beacon Avenue.

Beacon Avenue is also home to my favorite building, the old Orland State Bank Building.

I love that building. I remember the apartment my brother lived in on the top floor of the building…long after it was a bank and before it became Kay’s Old Orland Marketplace. It was a great apartment and the rooftop was the perfect place to lay out in the sun.  The old Orland State Bank building is Orland’s downtown to me.

Lemont has a downtown…

I live in Lockport now…it has a downtown.  A stroll down State St and downtown Lockport will keep you happily busy for an afternoon or evening. The Gaylord Building, Betsy’s Yarn and Tea Shop, Embers…I’m still learning “my downtown“.

Tinley Park, Mokena, and Frankfort have vibrant small town downtowns..and LaGrange’s has such a popular bustling downtown they built a parking garage to accommodate its daily visitors.

Chicago is a beautiful city, with an incredible downtown and if you’ve never been or don’t go very often, you should. It really is an incredible city.

But my downtowns? You won’t find The Bean in my downtowns, can’t see the matinee of Hamilton, or see Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte or take an elevator to the top of the second tallest building in the United States either…but “my downtowns” are pretty cool places to be. Restaurants, shops, and awesome architecture can be found in each…art, live theatre, and summers full of fairs and festivals too. Downtown in suburban towns have so much to offer. 

Turns out, as beautiful and popular a real estate destination downtown Chicago is, most buyers still choose the suburbs. Downtown in suburban towns is a real estate destination too and offers a myriad of possibilities to call home.

If you’re looking for a place in the city, I know some great agents…but if you’re thinking home is in or around “my downtowns,” give me a holler…the Amy Curtis Group would love to show them off to you!

Downtown.

Word Wednesday: Local, Be Local

Local

Lo-cal

Adjective.

  1. Pertaining to, a city, town or small district rather than an entire state or country.

Local

When I was a kid, we went to Nagel’s gas station. We’d pull up to the pump. Our pulling up to the pump prompted the ringing of a bell that went off in Nagel’s garage. And Mr. Nagel would come out of the garage reaching for the rag from his pocket wiping the grease from his hands as he approached our car. Mr. Nagel would “fill ‘er up”.  He’d clean the windshield and some days check the oil. But every time we stopped at Nagel’s, Mr. Nagel would visit with our family.  He knew us by name, and we knew him. We knew his sons too because we all went to school together. He knew our car…maybe because he’d checked and changed the oil so many times…and he always knew how to fix it. When my dad would tell Mr. Nagel about some weird noise it was making, or some tug or pull my dad would try to explain, or a smell coming from the hood…Mr. Nagel knew what to do. Getting gas at Nagel’s wasn’t just getting gas…it was a thing…a visit…a something more than a car’s  “fill ‘er up”.

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Local

Nagel’s gas station was local. A local business, a local feeling. I remember lots of local in Orland Park…

Mr. Ed’s grocery store, Hawkins, Orland State Bank, and  Kosnar’s Drugs.

Places I remember going to when I was a kid. Places where the shop owners recognized us, knew us and we knew them, places where we shopped and visited and connected.

What was local is mostly memories.  Local is harder today. With rent prices and start-up costs, competition and risk it’s hard to start a local business. And for those small local businesses, because of the competition of big box stores chains, and online businesses, it’s hard for the small local business to stay in business.  

You don’t find it everywhere, but it still exists,  it’s still possible…the feeling those businesses of my memories evoked…

Some might call it good customer service but it’s more than that. It’s more than friendly, prompt service. It’s local.

Local is why in a pinch we might have stopped somewhere to put $5 worth of gas in the gas tank but only went to Nagel’s to “fill ‘er up”. Because stopping at Nagel’s was more than getting gas. And today, you might not come across it as often as used to…but you know local when you feel it…

Julie at Bob Davis’ office who calls me to remind me my car insurance is coming due but we stay on the phone and catch up some. Julie’s local.

Dr. Vaishnav, best pediatrician ever. Hated when my kids were sick but I loved seeing her…being with Dr. Vaishnav always made my sick kids feel better, made me feel good too. Dr. Vaishnav’s local.

Thimbles in Lockport where they don’t just sell fabric but visit and dive deep into whatever project you’re working on. Thimbles is local.

Jamie Corso of Tri-K Builders, he’s a great builder and cares as much about his customers as he does the houses he builds. Jamie’s local.

Even Starbucks is local when Cindy is working. Cindy can make a morning more pleasant, give a good start to a morning quicker than the drive-through line moves. 

It’s the feeling of familiarity and knowing someone cares. It’s comfort and mutual regard, friendly, trustworthy and personal.  Where the transaction allows the opportunity for connection.

It’s where your gas tank isn’t just filled, but you’re filled too. It’s a mutual feeling…it’s local.

Listing properties, showing houses selling real estate, that’s what we do. But if the Amy Curtis Group strives to be anything, we strive to be that kind of local.

If we can be of help with anything we’re happy to do it. Give us a holler…we’re local.

P.S. I called Dan Nagel yesterday.  Dan owns Nagel’s Auto Service in Orland Park. Called him with an odd request…I asked him if he had a photo of his dad and the gas station. Dan knew who I was, and he sent me the photo. Warms my heart that Nagel’s is still around…warms it even more that they’re still local.

Continue reading “Word Wednesday: Local, Be Local”

2017 Year in Review

2017 Year in Review
I like being a real estate agent. I like the work. And it’s nice to like your job…it makes the whole idea of working more pleasurable. Earning a living doing something you enjoy so you can do your life…it’s a good thing.

 

But it’s not the best thing…

The best thing is moments.

Those moments that feel like gifts. The moments too precious to think of as work…the precious real-life moments that are a privilege to be present in…

 

2017 had moments…

 

Rita was sure she was ready to downsize…Larry? Not so much. Larry liked his set up in his man cave basement. His fish tank, the pool table, his makeshift home office, his recliner and big screen tv…he was comfortable. And he liked the familiarity of where he’d lived for twenty plus years…the grocery store, the best place to get this or that, it all worked for him. But Rita wanted to get closer to the grandkids and Larry was grudgingly willing to consider it.

 

We started looking at properties, we’d already been through a few. It was the day we saw a little house in Lockport and Larry was taking a look around…and I asked him… “What do you think?” and Larry said…”I could see myself here.” To be there and see the look on his face, to sense in that moment he began letting go of his man cave and began looking forward to a home near the grandkids…

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That was a moment.

 

Debbie’s husband Joe passed away earlier in the year. The house they had built together was too much to keep up with alone.  When we found Debbie the perfect townhouse on our first time out, Debbie said, “I know Joe is helping me do this.” To be there with her at a moment of both holding on and moving on…

 

That was a moment.

 

When I  unlocked the door to the adorable house on Olive and Janet and I walked in and I turned and looked at her. She had tears in her eyes. It was right there on her face  “Oh my gosh can I do this? Oh my gosh am I really going to do this? Oh my, I love this house.” And it happened with me standing right there…

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That was a moment.

 

There was a moment when Fran and Tony found the house they were looking for which wasn’t so much a house they were looking for as it was a piece of property with a house on it. And we found it.

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There was a moment when Gary said he was putting a new roof on the house but he really wanted the new buyer to pick out the color.

 

There was a moment when Chris was face timing with his mom in Ohio during the final walk-through of his and Robyn’s new home.

 

There were lots and lots of moments with my niece Lisa and her husband Rick while we searched and found and had to find again their perfect forever home.

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And when Mary Ann and I were standing in her kitchen and she’s telling me she can’t believe she’s doing it but she’s moving to Arizona and her face reflected both the fear and excitement in doing such a thing…that was a moment.  Later when she asks me my size and then gives me her beautiful plaid Christmas coat and tells me it will make her happy knowing I will love that coat as much as she did…that was a moment with a cherry on top.

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My daughter Joanna is an Account Supervisor with a marketing firm in the city and these last few months she’s been helping me organize and improve the work we do. And wow have we gotten some stuff done…new logo, new website, improved processes. It’s exciting knowing what’s been good is going to be even better. But it’s our Saturday status work sessions…working together, being together… so many moments.

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Some years are better than others. Some years I’m in the top 5 in production in my office, some years I barely make it in the top 10…sometimes my business is up and sometimes it’s down. But every year I am grateful for a job that I love…and grateful most of all…for the folks that have given me the privilege of being present in…the moments.

 

2017 was no different…2017 had moments.

 

Word Wednesday: Porch

Porch

-noun

An exterior appendage to a building forming a covered approach or vestibule to a doorway.

Porch.

Most of the houses I’ve lived in have had porches…

My house has a porch, a small one. I have a chair out there with a pillow on it. In the summer or fall, there’s a pot or two of dying flowers on my porch. I’m never on my porch so mostly it belongs to the postman and the wasps. The postman’s on my porch every day; the mailbox is just outside the front door and since he’s only there briefly each day, the wasps freely build and dwell around their nest on my porch without disturbance.

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The house we had in Charlotte NC had a big front porch and our house in Orland Park had a porch too. The potted flowers on those porches faired a little better because there was a hose nearby but I didn’t spend much time on those porches either. Those porches were mostly the place for holiday decorations and posing for Halloween and the first day of school photographs.

 

 

Each porch an appendage to my house.

Porch.

When I think of a porch it isn’t the porch of any house I’ve lived in that first comes to mind. What pops into my head is the porch on my Aunt Rita’s house.

Summer sleepovers at Aunt Rita’s with my cousins in Bridgeport and memories of the porch…

The porch is where we sat with the small brown paper bags of candy we bought at Priscilla’s. We tore through our Razzles and Mary Janes and candy cigarettes and buttons and plotted our next move.

The porch is where we learned to play cat’s cradle. It’s where we rested from drawing our sidewalk chalk art creations.

The porch is where we waited for our turns at hopscotch and jump rope and bottle caps and foursquare.

The porch is where we spent our days.

It’s where we spent our evenings too.

 

 

IMG_5660.JPGWe went in for supper but when we were done we went back to the porch…and looking up and down across the block we’d know who was still eating and who was done and who could play some more, because returning to their porches for more fun after supper is what all the kids did.

 

 

The porch is where we assembled for games of “colored eggs” each of us waiting anxiously for the wolf to choose our color ready to leap off the steps and bolt down the block without getting tagged.

The porch is where we played and laughed and sweat and argued, made up and played and laughed and sweat some more.

Porch.

I treasure the Halloween and the first day of school photos of my kids on our porches over the years, and I’ve enjoyed decorating those porches for the holidays. And even though I don’t sit on it,  I like the chair and pillow that’s on my porch now.  And yes, my flowers die, but I still enjoy planting them. I like the porches I’ve had and the one I have now.

 

But I loved the porch on Aunt Rita’s house. The porch that defied definition. During those summers in the city Aunt Rita’s porch wasn’t an appendage. It wasn’t a covered approach to a vestibule or doorway. It was a whole world and home to rich memories of my childhood.

It was summer fun. It was games and penny candy. It was sweat and laughter.

It was…a porch.

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Word Wednesday: Pets

Pet(s)

noun

any domesticated or tamed animal that is kept as a companion and cared for affectionately.

 

Do you have pets?

I do.

These are mine. Henry and Vivian…I love them.

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Did you know that an estimated 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States?  Approximately 44% of all households in the US have a dog and 35% have a cat. (Source: American Pet Products Association 2015-2016 APPA)

More cats and dogs live in the United States than any country in the world. I love Henry and Vivian, just as the 3 in 5 Americans who own pets love theirs.  Americans have pet love.

With all that American pet love you wouldn’t think having  pets would ever be an issue…”cuz hey…we love our pets.”

But it is.

Having pets is an issue when you’re selling your home.

Turns out American pet love doesn’t run deep with prospective home buyers.

And while there are all sorts of statistics on pet ownership, there are no hard statistics on pets impact on home values…you’re just going to have to take my word for it. And what I can tell you comes from years of experience and common sense.

A buyer’s perception of the value of a property isn’t going to increase with the evidence of pets. Most buyers are going to consider the presence of pets derogatorily.

Best, kindest, least impactful thing I’ve ever heard a buyer say about pets in the house?

“This house is so clean I’d never guess they had a dog.”

And what does that mean? It means that if they had to guess, they’d guess a house with a dog would be less clean than one without one.

Pets are a hindrance, not a help to the sale of a home. They may decrease not boost the value of your home.

So what’s a seller to do??

In a nutshell…

Make those beloved pets disappear…as well as you literally and figuratively can.

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Some practical suggestions:

Replace any stained or smelly carpet or be prepared for an offer that reflects the buyer’s assumption that they will be replacing the carpet.

Don’t leave pets at home for showings.

Stow away bowls and leashes.

Consider asking a friend or pet loving family member to foster your pets while your home is on the market.

None of this sounds easy does it?? Because it isn’t.

That’s why the most practical suggestion I offer is this…

Accept that pets add an extra layer of pain in the butt when it comes to selling your home and possible bite in the butt when it comes to value…but remember pet love. Remember how much you love your pets, remember how much joy and good juju they bring into your home…prospective home buyers’ pet love doesn’t run deep…but yours still can.

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Pets.

 

 

 

 

Word Wednesday: Turkey

Turkey.

Thanksgiving 2007.

Greg and Lisa, (my brother-in-law and sister) are hosting…as they most often do.

The usual suspects are gathered.

Like every Thanksgiving, there’s an extra someone joining us.

In 2007 that extra someone was Greg’s friend since childhood…Richie.

Thanksgiving 2007 was like nearly every other Thanksgiving…

The long tables stretching from the dining room into the living room…the mustard colored tablecloths neatly pressed, table set and homemade place tags set at each plate.

 

Thanksgiving dinner was delicious as it always is.

 

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And we had our grab bag as we always do…

Thanksgiving 2007 was like every other wonderful Thanksgiving except…

It was when most everyone had gone home and there were just nine of us…sitting around the kitchen table…

Extra someone Richie says…

“Let’s play…who you are, to me.”

Who you are to me?

Maybe we agreed because we thought it was a game…but it wasn’t a game at all.

Who you are to me.

Who you are to me is each person present taking a turn as the “who” and the others gathered tell the who…” who you are…to me.”

There was something about looking across the table and seeing the people I’ve sat across the table from on countless occasions, the people I share nearly every Thanksgiving with and looking at them with the eyes of “who you are to me”…I saw each of them differently, saw their uniqueness, felt the importance of them and my love for them more deeply.

We all did.

It felt a bit strange…and you could almost see and feel the falling away from our collective protective armor…

I love my brother-in-law dearly but I don’t tell him so all the time. And I sure as heck hadn’t given much thought to who he was to me…let alone tell him. But on that night I did. We all did…We all told each other…who you are to me…

And it was squirmy and uncomfortable…there were nervous laughs and tearful answers but we gave into it. We all let ourselves be vulnerably naked and showed one another our hearts. There were words of appreciation and love…I don’t remember all of the words spoken but I can remember and feel vividly…the love.

It’s a Thanksgiving I’ll never forget.

Turkey.

There’s an expression…” talking turkey” and I’d heard it before but wasn’t sure what it meant, so I googled it. On the World Wide Words website this is what it had to say about “talking turkey”:

“…it meant to speak agreeably or to say pleasant things, nowadays it usually refers to speaking frankly, discussing hard facts or getting down to serious business.”

World Wide Words says the definition of ‘talking turkey” has changed over the years…gone from speaking agreeably to speaking frankly and getting down to serious business…

I think it’s both.

“Who you are to me” was just one Thanksgiving. It stands out in my memory because it was the Thanksgiving we ate turkey, and later around the kitchen table, vulnerably showed our hearts to one another…and on that one Thanksgiving night…we talked turkey.

Talking turkey should happen more often…

We don’t much get down to the serious business of letting people know who they are to us, how much they mean to us, the importance of their presence in our lives…

Our most important, deep, serious business and yet we spend more time with one another, speak with one another mostly of shallow. Why do we close ourselves off from so much good stuff? Why do we pick the safety of our hearts silence over the love and connection that comes when we let our hearts speak?

We really should try to talk more turkey.

It’s squirmy and uncomfortable to talk turkey…it means the armor comes off…it means being vulnerably naked and showing our hearts…but it is our most important business…it’s the good stuff.

Let’s talk turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends…

Turkey.

 

 

 

 

Amnesia

I’m in a little writing group. We met on Wednesday. And when we meet our group starts with a 10-minute free write, where you just put pen to paper and keep writing til the timer goes off.

Anyway, on Wednesday the prompt is about amnesia. Because it’s free write it’s not great writing, not even good writing…just writing what comes to mind. And writing on Wednesday about amnesia elicits this…

“And what of our identity? What state of amnesia do we exist in? Do we know ourselves beyond names and roles? Do we remember the little girls we were…would they know the women we’ve become? Does amnesia keep us from our true selves?”

So that’s Wednesday and on Thursday it’s still rolling around in my mind. And I remember the book “You Are A Badass”…that book makes the point that there’s no becoming a badass, you just are. By being you.

And then I start thinking about my own struggles with all of the same. 54 years old and I still struggle. Can I do this? Should I try that? Am I good enough? Smart enough? What will others think?

I’ve learned enough and know enough now to know I don’t need anything more…I don’t need another class, I don’t need to read one more thing, do one more thing, ask one more person…I am not inadequate. The only thing I need to do is remember who I am. Remember that I have gifts of greatness, remember that I am a badass. My own kind of badass.

I once knew this. But…amnesia.

Before I knew the rules and roles, before I learned what normal was supposed to be, before I was shushed, before I got the glasses I thought made me ugly…I was just me. And every fundamental gift I have now I already had then. It was in there.

Before I thought I wasn’t good enough…I knew that I was.

And in moments of doubt, I would do well to run towards the girl that knew…I need only dive deeper, remember and find more of her, embrace her…because she’s the badass.

And all of this has been bobbling around in my head…

Maybe much of self-doubt is amnesia. Forgetting what we at some point knew and believed about ourselves. Back when we didn’t even think about shit. Back when we just were…before amnesia.

In moments of self-doubt…moments when we’re not sure of what to do…or how to do it…maybe we just need to snap out of the amnesia…and find her. Remember her. Not doubt her. Empower her. She’s got this.

For a while now I’ve kept this photo in the pocket of my bullet journal…pulled it out yesterday…hadn’t thought of it as such…but she’s my reminder.

Feels uncomfortable to write this…seems a little weird…but truth is, I am. She was too…she didn’t worry about that as much as I do. She was a badass. I am a badass.

You are too…

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Word Wednesday…Comfort

com.fort

noun

  1. a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint
  2. the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings grief or distress

verb

  1. ease the grief of; console

 

When I get home at the end of the day, the first thing I do is go to my closet, take off my shoes and put my slippers on.  I take out my hoop earrings and hear the clank of the lid of the ceramic box as I return the earrings where I keep them…the earrings off and those slippers on announces…I’m home.

With the taking out my earrings and the slipping off my shoes I slip off the outside world and the day…the to-dos, those that got done and those that didn’t. I’m home and it feels so good.

My seat on the couch is easy to spot…the cushion’s sagged from my daily weight. But sinking into my spot feels like a restoring embrace. And when I peer out the big picture window or rest my feet on the worn leather hassock…I smile inside.

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The aroma of a Yankee candle and the flickering light of its flame, my old dusty bookcases with my favorite books lining the shelves. My flower pot full of pens that sit on the end table with one random notebook or another. The light pouring across the dining room in the late afternoon…

Henry’s nails tapping on the kitchen floor as he makes his way to the back door…the annoying bang of the screen door announcing each’s arrival home…

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Each sight, smell, and touch of home is my comfort.

And it’s not that my world or life outside the door of my house is one of so much pain or constraint…it’s just that most everything about home feels as good as my slippers at the end of the day. Ease and freedom…the place that consoles…comfort. Home.

When buyers shop houses they shop features…bedrooms, baths, lot sizes and floor plans, casual great rooms or formal living areas, a finished basement, a three-car garage. When they find “the one” they know it.

Sometimes the house has all the things on their feature list, but more often it doesn’t. But still, it’s “the one”…

It’s that something that evokes “I could see myself here.”

Figuring out where the couch will go, finding the bedroom closet where the slippers will be kept, imagining the dog and everyone else in the kitchen…

That’s not the articulation of features…it’s the language of comfort.

It’s a knowing that this place, this house is and will be…comfort. Home.

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Word Wednesday…Kitchen

 

kitch-en

noun

  1. a room or area where food is prepared and cooked.

 

My mom painted the kitchen cabinets an antique red. She painted them decades before there was HGTV, decades before Martha Stewart was a household name. I can still see the counters…the blue swirly countertops with a stainless steel edge. And the wallpaper with the red and blue to pick up the colors of both those antique red cabinets and the swirly blue counters. I don’t think the kitchen would have made a Pinterest board, but it was her kitchen.

It was a little kitchen with just enough room for the small round maple table.

And the meals that woman prepared in that little kitchen. Beef roasts, tuna casseroles, out of this world soups, loaves of crusty bread, vegetables and salads. Delicious meals, all of them.

 

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And each night at dinner time she’d set out the placemats and light the candles. And we’d share a meal and our day with one another.

 

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I loved that kitchen. Loved those antique red cabinets and the ahead of her time woman that painted them. The aroma of each night’s deliciousness, the candlelight, and its comforting ambiance, and the good company in that kitchen, the days and the meals shared make for the fondest of memories.

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I see lots of kitchens. I often have to break the news to my seller clients that buyers will perceive their little kitchens as cramped and outdated. Buyers want big open kitchens, islands with stools and appliances in stainless steel. So we work on the “outdates” and with some tweaks and staging we update as realistically as makes sense.

But I see those cramped little-outdated kitchens, their Formica counters, the wallpaper…and I think about the meals that may have been prepared, and wonder the day’s stories told, wonder if they lit candles at dinnertime too. I think about the sights and aromas and good company and memories those kitchens hold.

In real estate, “kitchen” is about updating and appliances, counter space and cabinets. And I know the value of and appreciate the beauty of an updated well-appointed kitchen. But in real life, a kitchen is one you make your own… kitchen is the people and the meals and the day’s stories shared. A kitchen is the memories made.

What’s Your Word For 2017?

Have you seen the “What’s your word for 2017?” posts and articles?

The thought is choosing one or two words for the year can help you focus your energy and goals on a specific theme.

I’m going with it.

After much deliberation and consideration of many fine inspiring words, I’ve chosen mine: 

Carole King

Carole King are my theme words for 2017 and they are my hope and wish for others as well.

You’re going to have to hang with me for a bit, because the only way this is going to make any sense is to tell you a story…

When I was a little girl I knew all the words to every song on Carole King’s album Tapestry…every song, every word…from the album’s biggest hit “I Feel the Earth Move” to the less popular “Tapestry” and “Smackwater Jack”. I loved that album, and would sing  along with Carole’s easy to sing along with alto voice. To nine-year old me Carole King  was all that was hip and earthy and cool. I loved her, I wanted to be Carole King.

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It was 1971,  I got a Panasonic cassette player/recorder with microphone for Christmas. I remember the day I took my tape recorder and blank cassettes up to my bedroom. I put my Tapestry album on the record player, popped a blank cassette in the Panasonic and pressed record. As Carole sang into my ears, I sang my heart out into that microphone. Our recording session didn’t end until we finished every song, sides one and two. And I thought and believed with each belted note…I am Carole. Yes…I was Carole King…until I played it back and learned quite quickly and certainly with just a few flat off-key notes…I wasn’t Carole at all.

Fast forward forty-four years to January 2016. I’m in New York for a real estate conference and my real estate soul sisters and I score tickets to Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

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Beautiful is a  fabulous, move you to tears, dance in your seat, if you ever get a chance to see it you must, show. Really…it’s that good.

What struck me the most was that I had loved Carole King all my life and never knew her story. I didn’t know that she was an incredibly talented and successful songwriter. As Carol Klein she wrote some of the biggest hits of a generation. “The Locomotion”, “One Fine Day”,“Up on the Roof”, “Go Away Little Girl”…yep, all those songs and more were written by Carole King. She didn’t perform back then, she wouldn’t sing, she didn’t believe she had talent enough to be a singer. She was a songwriter…and a good one.

Her personal life hit a big bump. And what came out of that bump was  Carole King. The Carole King of “Tapestry” the Carole King I loved and knew.

In the play it’s a visual and musical transformation…Carol Klein in her skirts and sweater sets and perfectly tight curled hair writing hit after hit…always refusing to sing but watching others take those hits to number one..and then…the last scene…a dimly lit  Carnegie Hall…a spotlight on the piano in the center of the stage…And with a flowing maxi dress on, and her curly hair now left untamed…she sits at the bench and begins to play…and it’s her song she’s playing and it’s her voice singing… “You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face” …and bam, it’s Carole King…and damn, it is beautiful!  Curtain falls. There’s a standing O. My real estate soul sisters and I??  There’s not a dry eye among us.

I saw the play nearly a year ago, and have thought of it and Carole King often…even up until today…and I realize, the reason it’s stuck with me, the reason I think of the play and Carole often is…all these years later…I still want to be Carole King.

No, I’m not setting out to begin a musical career, Carnegie Hall isn’t in my future. I’m not after fame or fortune and it’s not to be the cool, super hip, earthy chick that nine-year old me wanted to be. No, it’s none of those things.

It’s that… I’m Carol Klein the songwriter. I am a good and decent person. I’m good at the things I’m good at, I take pride in my work. I’m okay with who I am.  I’ve no fewer “hits” of success in my life than Carol Klein had in hers… it’s all good. But it’s not Carole King. If I’m honest with myself…really, really honest, I have to admit, I hang on to fear to keep life successfully safe. Carol Klein did too…at least for a while.  Carol Klein was an accomplished songwriter but she was afraid to sing…afraid she didn’t have the talent to do more than she had already successfully done.  And then she hit a big bump in life. And when she found herself in the bump, she didn’t shrink, she didn’t retreat, she threw caution to the wind, let her hair blow back, was true to herself, found her voice, her words, her music, she sang, became Carole King and gave the world Tapestry.

And me? Though it’s a fresh start this first day of a new year, this first day of 2017, it  is for me a bump…I’m sure  I am not all  I might be and I am afraid of just about everything…failure, rejection, embarrassment, racism, Donald Trump, post-truth, global warming…you name it and I’m afraid of it. But in choosing Carole King as my words for 2017, I am wondering with hope and determination  what might be on the other side of this bump and all that I am afraid of. I’d like to find out. I’d like to see what “tapestry” I might have in me.

That’s the story…and that’s why Carole King are my words for 2017…and they are my wish for you in the new year too.

So here’s to making something good of life’s bumps, here’s to throwing caution to the wind, forging ahead in spite of fear, here’s to letting your hair blow back, here’s to finding voices and being true…here’s to finding the Carole in you! It’s gonna be beautiful.

Happy New Year!

 

P.S. I erased mine and Carole’s recording session moments after playing it back on that fateful day in 1971…the Panasonic tape recorder and cassette are long gone…but in the spirit of this post and as my first attempt at demonstrating my commitment to the endeavor of plowing through fear I share this concrete evidence…though I may know all the words, when it comes to singing, I am no Carole King. But in being brave enough to share it, there’s no denying there’s a glimmer of her in me…#iamcarole