A House I Loved, 2 of 3 of 5 (Holly Hill Avenue), @1982-1984

Triumph Spitfire Mark IV - 1972. Pimento Red w...
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(This is the house I will refer to as the “Divorce House”, since after my parents bought it, they got a divorce.)
Life is incredible. My parents finally bought a house! I remember absolutely nothing about any house-hunting because Mom & Dad did it without us kids. Holly Hill was almost exactly the same as the house where I grew up on Bahama Avenue, except that it had a huge backyard and a wierd enclosure for the trash cans and it had no neighbors across the street due to a junior high school being located there.
In this house, everything was so clean and new! I remember being so excited to wake up early in the morning to make pancakes on the stove that had a built-in GRIDDLE! A built-in griddle! And if I wanted to make bacon on it, there was a little drain for the grease that I could remove and clean out! This is the house where my little brother had his own room because he was the BOY. He was such a sweet little boy and I was always so excited to spend time with him in his room and clean it up for him. He’s been pretty spoiled for a lot of his life, stemming from being such a cute little boy. (Hmm, wha’ happened? Now he’s an oaf on a motorbike.)
Speaking of motorbikes, when we moved into this house, there were posters in the garage of scary motorcycles. The folks who lived there before us must’ve been really scary. Not so fond memories of this house overall, except that I lived in it during a time of incredible awakening, always having to pretend I didn’t know what was going on with my parents, always feeling protective of my brother and sister with regard to that divorce and the subsequent shuffling around of us going between the parents for custody.
The most prevalent memories are: AC/DC record-playing on my stereo competing with flute practice, the wall heaters, the huge overgrown, grossly neglected backyard, the flasher at the schoolyard around the corner (Southgate Elementary School), rollerskating, bike-riding, daddy long-legs “attacking” me in the stall shower, and our little Pekinese dog running away yet again, only to be chewed up by a big dog which resulted in our little Abel having to wear a clown-collar after the vet’s visit.
This is also where Dad had his little Triumph Spitfire, which he had to get rid of after my parents split up. It really wasn’t a practical car anyway for a dad with 3 kids. I’d have to share the front seat with my annoying kid sister while little Jimmy the Cutie got the so-called “backseat” all to himself.
To this day, I still have dreams of this house too. It’s mostly about that huge, wasted backyard that was allowed to be overgrown from neglect after my parents split up.
In my dreams, it is a beautiful, well-kept oasis…

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The House I Loved, 1 of 3 of 5 (Bahama Avenue), @1976-1982

From Stadium Installation, Victor Sloan

(Not every home I grew up in I loved, thus the “1 of 3 of 5” in the title. )
As a child, I grew up with parents who were perpetual renters. When I was little, my sister and I grew up on Bahama Avenue and my brother was born a few years later. I remember so many random things from that house and the neighborhood. I remember picking up my brother from the babysitter after school when I was about 8 years old, back in the days when you could actually trust an 8-year old to babysit, like in the days of the Little Rascals. I feel tremendous guilt about that period of time because I’d always plunk my baby brother into the crib so that I could go out and play. (Well, I was EIGHT, for crying out loud. What do you expect?)
The landlord’s name as I recall was “Orestes Ortega”. Please don’t ask why I remember this. Maybe it’s because he was similar to Jose Canseco, who I learned about later in life. I remember our landlord as a hard-working muscle man, which is probably why I remember him! In fact, as I embark upon this series of posts about the homes that surrounded me while I matured, I will likely be a bit random about my thoughts. Nostalgia, here. Bear with me! 
Random thoughts about the house on Bahama Avenue: There was a brick wall with a hole in it for mail. Once, there was a “croaking” creature in there probably placed by a neighbor boy. (Yes, only a boy would do something that juvenile, I believed.) I remember trying with all my might to reach it but I was too little to reach. I remember the huge palm tree in front of the tiny house. I remember rollerskating and skinning every shoulder and knee I had. I remember also going across the grass in my rollerskates only to find my front rollerskates wheels at the head of a dead rodent once. I remember the boy across the street chasing me around with a dead bird in his outstretched hand and when he couldn’t catch me, he tossed the bird into my hair, where it stuck until I shook like a mad-woman for it to fall out. I remember washing my hair in the sink that afternoon and hearing my parents talk about one of their friend’s daughters who started washing her hair every night when she had a boyfriend. (“Gross!” I thought. “Not that yukky boy across the street!”) It was too embarassing for me to admit that I let a boy toss a dead bird into my hair…
There was an old couple who lived down the street with the most beautifully perfect garden I’d ever seen. The flowers were so perfect, always. I remember another old man who helped take us to ballet lessons. I remember the mean old neighbor lady who almost hit me with her car when I was riding my bike down the sidewalk, only to have her stomp to our front door and insist that I not ride on the sidewalk anymore and ride in the street instead. (Um, contrary to what my parents told me!) I remember an older kid down the street named Michael McGee — we would always sing “Michael McGee, he drinks pee!” I remember being in the backyard of that house digging in the dirt for those little jeweled plastic beads that someone left there. I found a little black bead which struck me as odd until I squeezed it and it turned out to be a newly squished potato bug and not a beautiful bead after all.
The school I attended from kindergarten to 3rd grade at Lorin Eden Elementary School was wonderful. I remember being the first kid to find a mushroom on the field when the class went mushroom hunting. I remember the teacher Mrs. Vassar who was always concerned about whether or not I ate breakfast. I remember our little Pekinese dog who would always run away when the gate was open, only to end up with the kids in the entire neighborhood chasing after the little buggar. (A BOY dog, by the way.)
This house and the surrounding memories still haunt me these days, in the dreams I have at night. I dream about the house on a warm, quiet summer day when I hear a lone airplane overhead. I dream about the home when I’m stressed, wanting to escape to more carefree days. I remember those days moreso when I look at my nieces or when my brother gives me grief.
I loved being a child.
Do you have fond memories of a house in which you grew up that you can share?

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A Women’s Conference?

apes later - Help, please! Who made this?
Image by Bettina Tizzy via Flickr

I have to admit, I have NEVER been to a “women’s conference” of anything.  Probably a subconscious fear of being isolated, perhaps even vilified as representing all the cavemen of the world.  I drove my new wife recently to a three hour seminar she attended with a dear friend about “how to understand men”.  That’s probably as close as I’ve ever gotten to a “women’s conference”.  I sat at Starbucks and people watched over a Chai latte while I imagined all the horrible things they were learning about all of us knuckle-draggers.  This was in San Francisco no less!   
That all changed this week.  Here I am at my ripe middle age, still pushing the envelope and trying out new things.  I attended a Women’s Conference of REALTORS State conference in San Diego.  Despite all my fears, trepidation and reservations, I bit the bullet and went along with Anna, who is the President Elect for our local chapter.  In selfless show of support, off we went to sunny Southern California. 
Now before all my male friends and colleagues think that I may have sold out to the other gender, don’t knock it until you try it!  First, there were perhaps five men in the room of what I would estimate to be a crowd of maybe 250 women.  Ratios like that are hard to find, yes gentlemen?  It reminded me of my buddies who took Women’s Health in college for more than obvious reasons.  So here I was, in a ballroom full of professional women and what was the opening presentation about?  Gender communication.  And of course, I was seated at a table in front, feeling 500 eyes or so looking forward, and imagining they must be looking at me for every reaction to each comment made by the presenter.  (Ok, I’m not really that paranoid nor narcissistic, but the thought did cross my mind every so often during the presentation.) 
Anyhow, the presentation was terrific and spot on.  I had a boss and mentor who used to insist that I attend conferences outside my personal expertise (I was an organizational development guy, so he would send me to an engineering conference, for example).  So, being at this conference was the ultimate example of what he taught me…I was as far out of my “expertise” as I could possibly get attending this conference! 
Enough joking around.  The people I met at this conference were impressive, caring, professionals who want to be the best at what they do.  I learned a lot about leadership, service and excellence.  We made friends with REALTORS from all over the state, and can now assist OUR clients who are relocating by connecting them to a qualified professional anywhere in California.  The real estate industry in California is in good hands with these women at the helm. 

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A Sweet-Talking Colleague and Having a Man Around

Little Donkey's Ass

Being part of a small boutique brokerage, we often find ourselves enjoying the solitude from a big mammoth system that dictates what we should do, how we should do things and when we should do them.
The flip side: It can be a bit lonely.
Even though my husband and I are perfect business partners (except when his ass-ness factor hits high volume), we also enjoy commiserating with colleagues outside of our own office, including from afar.
This afternoon we returned from a Women’s Council of REALTORS (WCR) conference in San Diego. (Remember, we have REALTOR colleagues from southern California in case any of our bay area residents want to move outta this place!) I’ve always steered clear of joining organizations that are gender-specific, partisan-specific, ethnic-specific, etc. — but over the years I’ve relaxed a bit. Idealism only gets a human being so far.
I guess I just want to brag about the fact that I had a hot stud with me. He was the perfect seller of raffle tickets to the ladies in the room, the perfect person to be next to me in a tuxedo, the perfect person to carry all the heavy luggage, the perfect person to chat with the other poor husbands that were dragged along to the event. (Oh! But wait! He’s a member of WCR now too!)
And about that sweet-talking colleague? Fellow REALTOR Ms. Lu Jayo courted me for many months as a plan to entice me into WCR leadership and I am now the President-Elect of the chapter (www.wcrtc.org). I wondered why this nice lady often wanted to come all the way out to my city through rain and traffic just to chat over coffee with me!
Looking  back, I see that one of the distinct differences between my husband’s courtship of me and Lu’s courtship of me is that Lu asked me to get involved. My husband simply said “I’ll be there at 8” as if I had nothing better to do but twiddle my thumbs to see him!
So yes, men and women are very different. We know that. Just let me marvel at it, okay?

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Moving From the City to the East Bay

Monterey Blvd., San Francisco

In 2003, I made the decision to move from a beautiful 1929 house in the Westwood Highlands area of San Francisco to a condo a few blocks from Mom in the east bay. I bought the little one-bedroom condo within walking distance to home-cooked meals, even though Mom spoiled me and always brought food to me. At the time, I also owned a restaurant not far from my condo, so it was a quick ride for lunch or dinner there.
My reasons for moving to the east bay were very clear at the time. One, I owned a restaurant nearby and 2) Mom was close.
Shortly after buying my condo, I became restless and sought to regain the kind of living I had while I was in the City. Plus, I needed incentive to work harder and figured a larger mortgage payment would do the trick. So, one Sunday afternoon I went online and searched for available homes in the ONLY neighborhood where I wanted to live: Prospect Hill.
There were several homes on the market at that time, in the summer of 2004:
1) A little house with a white picket fence that I refer to as “The Grandma House”.
2) A huge monster of a house that I referred to as “The Asylum”.
3) The listing that didn’t say the house had a view.
YES! My dream house. And it was built in the 1920’s just like the beautiful Westwood Highlands home where I had lived in San Francisco for nearly all of my adult life!
I’ve known of a LOT of people who’ve chosen to move to the east bay from San Francisco or the Peninsula due to a change in lifestyle and/or because of the affordability factor being higher than the “415” or “650”.
My reasons for moving were for family and business and I’m glad I did it. Life has been really good to me and I have so many reasons to be grateful…

“He Said, She Said”: Too Many Cars for the Garage

Merging two adult households is a challenge.  We have been working to consolidate, streamline and simplify our lives as we sift through the “treasures” collected along the way.  Our most recent endeavor in the name of our simplification efforts is putting one of our regular vehicles up for sale.  We all know how attached one can become to a vehicle, so deciding which of the machines would be put on the market resulted in an interesting discussion.

"He Said" From the Cave and "She Said" From the Throne

He Said:  “It makes no sense to have three cars when we really only drive one of them and the other two sit.  Time to send one away.”
She Said:  “If you tick me off, I’ll need to drive one of the other cars. Which one should we sell?”
He Said:  “Well, my FJ Cruiser is the newest, so we need to keep that one (my caveman vehicle), don’t you think? So that means either the Mercedes or the Volvo needs to go.  Since those cars are your babies (obviously she has WAY better taste than I do), you’ll have to decide which one we part with.”
She Said:  “Oh sure, put the onus on me to decide.  Let’s both figure this out together, Caveman.”
He Said:  (Carefully choosing his words)  “Ummm, ok.”
She Said:  “Well?” (arms folded like a scolding Mom)
He Said:  “Let’s work our way through this.  The FJ is the newest.  The Volvo is by far the most practical, since it is four door and all that good stuff.  The Benz is the least practical (and therefore the most fun, of course). 

She Said: “I love my Volvo! It’s square, solid, trustworthy, reliable, all the great things I love in a man! But the Benz has heated seats for the winter and a convertible for the summer. Plus, you just bought and installed a hard-top rack for the Benz. So, because you invested in that hard-top rack, the Benz we keep.”

He Said: “That doesn’t sound like a good reason to keep the Benz.”
She Said: “Then let’s sell your FJ Cruiser.
(One more reason to sell the FJ: There’s no illuminated mirror on the passenger-side sun-visor.)

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What the Feng Shui Lady Said About Our House

(Update: Our Feng Shui Lady has indicated a preference to be referred to as a  “Feng Shui/Design Consultant”. Changing the subject line would be counter to our personalities. However, we offer the courtesy of the public correction regardless.)
A Feng Shui Consultation for Anna’s and Greg’s home:
“When called to Anna’s and Greg’s home, I first studied the floor plan of the home and did some offsite balancing and clearing. Entering their courtyard and home for the first time, the energy felt good, which is usually not the case when energy is stagnant, or blocked. After a complete walk through of the home (exterior/interior), superimposing the Bagua on the property, we then went through each area making physical adjustments, enhancements, and minor cures as needed, and notes for additional work to be done.
“In contrast to most places in need of Feng Shui, only minor changes were implemented, with the exception of the downstairs area in need of some work. The version of ceremony performed was simplified but as always powerful, with Sacred Blessings, Mantras, Tibetan Bells, Tibetan Prayer Wheel, and other items. Intentions were set and activated in each area of the Bagua corresponding to each area of the life situations to be supported and sustained. After this ceremonial aspect of Feng Shui, the positive shift is usually felt immediately.”
Feng Shui, which literally means Wind and Water, is the ancient Art and Science that balances, enhances, and directs energy flow in a harmonious way, to promote well being and enhance every aspect of the life situations.
The Bagua the basis of Feng Shui, is the eight sided symbol derived from and with the trigrams of the I- Ching arranged in an octagon. Superimposed upon a space, it is a compass and core tool for analysis for all of the life situations: Career, Knowledge, Family, Wealth, Fame, Relationships, Creativity, Benefactors, and Health.
Feng Shui Consultation includes an exterior and interior analysis of the space or environment, incorporating the principles of interior design and architectural integrity. Balance of chi is accomplished with implementation of spatial concepts, balance and placement, colors, the five elements of fire, earth, metal, water, wood, and enhancements, adjustments, cures, to create harmony of Yin and Yang. Other aspects are taken into account as well, such as the occupants personal energy, the environmental and building energy, compass directions, and much more depending on the type of Feng Shui applied.
Feng Shui Ceremony is a powerful aspect working on an energetic, transcendental, and quantum physics level.
This can be a very comprehensive process or simplified as desired. This intuitive practice of ceremony and use of ancient, sacred Mantras and other tools, aligns the space with Universal Life Force Energy. The space or environment is balanced to clear negative energy and to harness the flow of harmonious and positive Chi. Activated with pure intentions and cures (placement of crystals and other items as needed), and Blessed, each area of the Bagua is activated to support the areas of one’s life, as intention manifests into reality.
Lynda Catlin ASID, CID, BA
Catlin Design
Lafayette, CA
925 937-0133

Who Was in Our House Last Year?

Last year we had lots of reasons to celebrate and fix up/clean the house. Here are the companies we used:

Romo Pressure Washing: 510-867-6918 (Rudy pressure-washed the house, did some painting and made sure our windows were sparkly clean too, including our favorite room in the house, shown in the photo.)

Direct Sales Floors: (They did our kitchen floor for us in WHITE so I’d know when the floor is dirty!) www.DSFCarpetOneCastroValley.com Ask for Joe Willits at 510-538-5000 ext. 154
MC Housecleaning Services: Maribel Lozano, mc_gardening@yahoo.com, 510-582-1543, cell: 925-493-0756 (This father-daughter and mother-daughter team cleaned our house both before and after our big home wedding party last summer!)
Martin Avalos Gardening: 510-881-0524, 510-909-2499 (Martin spruced up our front courtyard which was where our wedding ceremony took place!)

Schafer Construction: 510-568-7200 (They replaced our bathroom window to clear glass so we finally have a view — from the INSIDE, that is. They also installed more shelving in the garage to store the guy-stuff Greg moved in.)
Spa Surgeon: Leonard Allen, spasurgeon@netzero.com, 510-207-5176. Leonard maintains our hot tub! It’s freezing cold this time of year but a nice retreat during the milder summer months…
Catlin Design: www.LyndaCatlinDesign.com, 925-937-0133 (Lynda feng shui’d our house on December 30th, in time for us to get a head-start on the new year…)
What do you need done at your home?

Treading Water—You are Not Alone

Every social or business event I attend recently has one thing in common:  people discussing their home mortgage situation.  It used to be that folks would talk about their latest stock picks.  Now, “yeah, I’d like to refinance, but I have no equity!” or “my mortgage just adjusted and my payment went up X hundreds of dollars per month.”  Many people are feeling trapped.   If you are underwater on your house please seek expert help from a Certified Distressed Property Expert about your options.  There are lots of options!  Nothing is more stressful than worrying about ensuring a good roof over your family’s head.   But you don’t have to try to address this stress alone.  If we learn anything from this most recent financial meltdown, it is that we should be knowledgeable about what our options are and fully informed before making long term financial decisions.   Please learn about your options before you make a long term financial decision.  We would be happy to discuss these issues confidentially with you!

One Neighborhood, 3 Different Sales Approaches

The business partner/hubby and I previewed properties in an exclusive country club gated community this week and witnessed three very different sales styles from each sales associate. Our notes of the different developers’ sales agents:
Developer #1: Nobody was in the sales office during their publicized business hours.
Developer #2: A somewhat casually dressed agent whose properties were not illuminated.
Developer #3: A very engaging agent whose properties were ALL illuminated and she was very professionally dressed. She made sure to take part in a very active dialog with us about the neighborhood and its surrounding features.
We’re not buyers, but when we represent buyers for this neighborhood, who do you suppose WE would prefer to work with?