Move-in ready

House hunting is more avaricious than it was during the times my husband and I bought and sold our homes, the last experience about a decade ago. Now uncluttered, neutral, staged houses define “move-in ready.”

We bought places that had been lived in and we marketed our lived-in homes. We bought one house blanketed in avocado shag, wallpaper salvaged from a circus fun house, and panelled walls the hue of wet mud. It didn’t suit our taste but it suited us. We were ready to move in.

I suspect our buyers had similar head-scratching reactions to the homes we sold. In one instance, I will concede that pink wall–to-wall, indoor pond and basement mural of a giant ocean wave might not be for everyone. But they were ready and moved right in.

A house that looks like it was never lived in offers refreshed space, suggests new beginnings, but doesn’t answer the more important buyer question : Are THEY move-in ready?




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Reason # 33 Why Folks Don’t Write

There are many reasons folks don’t write. Lack of talent isn’t one of them. UN-writing is.

Writers share lessons about PRE-writing, RE-writing, FREE-writing and those are interesting; but UN-writing is tedious, a bit like unraveling a sweater. It is boring to describe and boring to do but it’s essential so that the next writing is free to be original.

It is an emptying that happens after a writing is finished, whether is’s a novel, doctoral dissertation, letter, investigative report, presentation, speech or any other format. Whilst it is happening, it’s good to do something else. Here are three possibilities:

  1. Write lists. This isn’t creating much content but it’s writing-ish, is easy, looks substantial and quiets the fingers.
  2. Do something  easy but different. Walk if you usually drive. Drive if you usually walk.
  3.  Do something easy you are good at doing. Watching TV. Running marathons (one at a time). Lip-syncing extremely cool music.

UN-writing will happen and you can’t force it. But, you can allow it.



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Open concept

The 1950s ranch home that witnessed the growing up of my two brothers and I was an open concept design decades before the term defined what a house should be.

The living room was for playing the piano or listening to Mom play the piano. It was for watching television. It was for playing the stereo. It was for sitting on a sofa. It was for looking out of two large picture windows to see who might be looking in at us while we did our living.

The dining room was open, too. Picture windows ran the full length of one wall. Its table-china-cabinet-buffet were big and left only a narrow walkway of space so we pretty much moved through it rather than occupy it, to get to the kitchen, where we looked out more windows as we walked to the back door. One of our three bedrooms had a door at each end so we walked through it, too.

Thus, we generally kept meeting up with each other and kept watching people outside watch us inside. I think each one of us would occasionally have liked less open concept and more private space but at least it can be noted we were ahead of our time.

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Power of people

It would be good if we made three distinctions so we don’t get mixed up when we create, receive, critique, share and respond to information.

Media is a collective word to describe tools that deliver information to people.

Format is a collective word to describe in what form information is delivered.

Ethics is a collective word to describe values that direct how people act and react.

Some examples of media are tweets, text, television, radio, blog, newpaper, cinema, books, ads, broadcasts, pamplets, theater, magazines, Webcast, presentarion, report, letter, facebook, Web sites, marketing material, press conference, sermon, speech, debate, among others.

Some examples of format are newscast, opinion, critique, observation, rebuttal, feature, alert, analysis, satire, monologue, commentary, rant, synthesis, elegy, travelogue, review, essay, song, poem, novel, memo, propoganda, ode, argument, screenplay, myth, epic, investigation, comedy, sitcom, announcement, among others.

Some examples of values are integrity, duty, fairness, responsibility, courtesy, honesty, kindness, loyalty, respect, generosity, courage, strength, humility, acceptance, discretion, dignity, justice, discernment, self-control, open-mindedness, ambition, perseverance, competition, prosperity, among others.

No media, no form of expression and no ethical value can be an enemy. Only we the people can do that.



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Observing Observation

Mark Twain  was onto something when he distinguished in an essay between travelers who observe and travelers who absorb. He didn’t have much patience with observers because their minds stayed where they were before their trip and their subsequent opinions about a new place, culture or atmosphere were boring, and just generally dumb.

He liked absorbers, though, because those folks allowed a new place, culture or atmosphere to shake them up and reveal something about themselves they didn’t know before their trip.

This presidential election seems dominated by observers who decided what to think long before the race unfolded, before the debates were held, before the voting began.

As a journalist, this makes me sad because it means my profession isn’t doing its job of providing the impartial context that welcomes readers to absorb what they observe, to consider the outcome of their choice, to travel to that new country our votes will take us.



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Counter productive

My uncle was a snug fit at the soda fountain of Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Elmhurst, IL because it was built in 1966 to maximize the number of customers who sat there to order ice cream. His manly frame was built for something more substantial.

He found a way to board a stool, with care, like a spacecraft’s tricky docking with the mother ship. He reached a hand to escort my petite auntie onto her stool and smiled his best uncle smile at me on the first day of my first summer job as a waitress.

My uniform with fruit-of-the-month corsage (strawberries) stopped itching. My feet didn’t pinch, much. I owned this. I was smooth. Passed menus resembling stone tablets. Narrated daily specials (strawberries figured prominantly). Set napkins and utensils. Flipped order pad. Took order. Something with strawberries. Fetched two waters.

The next moment showed me that love is not earned but given for free. I plunked the supersize water glass with such a show of fake competence, it tsunami-ed  onto my uncle’s lap, a lap so tightly tucked under the counter, escape was futile.

He didn’t glance down. He didn’t flinch. His uncle smile didn’t dim.

Not one bit.


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Writer, actor, producer and director Garry Marshall passed away and took with him one precious example of entertainment’s best quality: sentimentality.

He was sheepish about the sentimentality of Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Pretty Woman, Princess Diaries, Laverne & Shirley, among others but he was not apologetic.

Why is it that sweet, sappy, naive, gentle, kind behaviors in art are perceived less valuable than harsh, skeptical, slick, angry and mean behaviors in music, books, television and film? Why is sentimentality maligned? It seems a perfectly nice emotion.

If art imitates life, and a good number of smart people believe it does, there is plenty of room for those sentimental moments of wonder, foolish hope and happy endings.

Alas, without Mr. Marshall, they will be a little harder to find.





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Reader ready

Recently somebody knocked on my condo door and I opened it to a woman carrying a plate of cupcakes. Bakery momentarily distracted me from noticing that the rest of her did not convey generosity of spirit. If frowns were clothing, I’d say she was dressed to the nines. Mine was not the locale for her book group meeting so I redirected her and her confections to the correct address.

I wanted to join her. I like to talk about books and I like cupcakes but she did not seem open to suggestion. I might conjecture, and I did, that she was not much open to any notion coming from anywhere except her own predispositions.

This is a quizzical stance for a reader because:

A book group might talk formally about the text’s themes. A book group might talk about the structure wherein elements combine. A book group might psychoanalyze to plumb the author’s subconscious. A book group might talk about archetypes to unearth universal villains, heroes, braggarts, damsels in distress and so on. A book group might talk about each reader’s reaction to the book. A book group might deconstruct the book to pretty much deprive it of meaning, or talk about its message through the lens of feminism, or Marxism, or some social theory.

But one thing  readers in book groups DON’T do is ignore suggestions from other readers that might be contrary to their own, might suggest a different way of understanding.

Why else do we read?


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I understand that Hillary Clinton doesn’t appeal to some folks but I wonder about the reasons.

If it’s because she has become familiar to a citizenry that assumes change means new and different, that’s dumb. Change accrues over time.

If it’s because she is female, that’s dumb. Many countries are governed by women with no ill effect.

If it’s because she failed to rage publicly at her husband after his actions suggested betrayal, that’s dumb. A relationship is not subject to judgment by outsiders.

If it’s because voters don’t like the notion they should vote according to gender, that’s dumb. Gender is a defining element of every person.

If it’s because she represents the struggle for women’s rights that occurred before some voters reached adulthood, that’s dumb. The history of struggle is timeless. Our legacy.

If it’s because she is a generation older than many voters and talks like it, that’s dumb. Age discrimination prejudices every human. We all age.

If it’s because she knows our political climate and culture and functions within it, that’s dumb. Until somebody comes up with something better, it’s all we’ve got.

If it’s because she is less qualified than other candidates, that is a smart reason.

I do not know who I will support but I know when we vote FOR a presidential candidate, we vote AGAINST other candidates. Logical. When somebody wins, somebody else loses.

When a candidate loses, it’s only fair that it be for the right reason.


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Well seated

Sofas are the most transient among furnishings. Some sturdy stuff has followed me since leaving home, mostly items of solid wood that refuse to die. Not sofas. I’ve had ’em and replaced them like takeout containers that endure only as long as useful.

Not long. But each one held an occupant of import.

The herculon monolith my parents bought on sale at Sears, Roebuck & Co. was stunned to find itself in the Victorian parlor of my first home. But on its itchy cushions our newborn son showed off his lifelong ability to make people laugh.

There was a pair of green checkered loveseats in the new suburban home where we moved. They were like chubby-cheeked cherubs and looked ridiculous. But my Mom visited on Friday afternoons and crocheted little pretties as she sat there pretending she was a country gal.

When the chevron pink sleeper sofa and loveseat combo arrived, I was pleased to have sofas akin to the current style: like teased hair and outlandish should pads. They were very feminine in an aggressive way and nobody sat on them. But my mother-in-law adored sleeping on the pull-out bed and I was delighted she was delighted.

The good sense to buy classic inspired purchase of a navy blue sectional that dominated the living room like a shoreline. Too big of course. But our son’s friends fit on it like the parliment of a small country. They hid behind it, made forts of its cushions, generally recycled it for their own joy.

Leather was the subsequent choice and whatever possessed us to install a grey-brown double recliner with a table in its tummy is beyond me. This elephant in the room, however, was the place I recovered from surgery, my husband recovered from surgery and our son recovered from surgery. Not all at once of course but it was a good sofa.

We next selected a brown leather sofa and loveseat that was overstuffed and looked like a daddy bear with his well-fed cub. This set was favored by my aging Dad who sunk into it and told stories. It was his favorite color, brown, which tells you a lot about my Dad.

We bought a cream leather set with sexy legs to stage the home we sold when we moved to our Chicago condo-home. Nobody sat on it. Strangers seemed to like it.

We stuck with leather. Carmel this time in our city abode. This is a succinct set. Two loveseats scaled down to fit the space. To date, guests talk to each other there. They can’t do much else.



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