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So much of our day-to-day activities involves rote behaviour.  Coffee, check.  Paper, check.  Email, check.  It is a robotron kind of mentality that keeps us moving forward.  Sad but true.

This past weekend was a wake up call for me to Snap Out of It!  I was confronted by my very own self and forced to face the realization that things were happening all around me, that time, that measurable yet sneaky thing, was slapping me on the shoulder, “How are you today, Ellen?  Been around a while?”  Well.  Now.

My very favorite daughter came home from North Carolina very early Saturday morning, about 3AM.  She went immediately to bed after checking in, got up at 6:30 to get her car inspected.  That’s my girl.  Actually that’s NOT my girl…I am far far from being slightly as disciplined as she.  But I love her attention to getting it done.

Once car inspections and a wee nap were over, off we went to sit outside Panera in Springfield.  We had lunch and talked details about things we needed to talk about.  And marvelled that we were sitting outside a Panera in Springfield.  Three months ago it was a dumpy Blockbusters, wasn’t it?  Left Panera and went to a bridal shop.

A bridal shop.

Me.  Her.  A bridal shop.  What is up with that?  She’s getting married?  I’m sorry; I do believe she is still three years old and discovering fireflies for the first time.  Married?  To that Brit guy?  Who says rawwwwnch instead of ranch when asking for salad dressing and wonders why no one understands.  I adore him.  He loves my Anna.  But marry her?

So to a bridal shop we went and she tried on a couple of dresses that vaguely smacked of her and Tina and Mandy dressing up in the good old days of innocent childhood.  She tried on a couple of others and oh-dear-heavens, look at you…you are a gorgeous young woman and you are a bride and I am so thrilled-happy-emotional that you are at a place in your life when your future really becomes your own.  So a simple dress becomes a gown that becomes the bride that marries her Dan.

Obviously that has some impact on me.  Every time I turn around there are changes in my world that smack me, often to my very core.  One has enlisted in the Marines.  One is getting married.  One works two jobs to pay medical bills from an ill-timed skate-boarding accident.  One is three and thinks his world revolves around Him!  Him!  Him!  My life.

Even work has its passages.  The office that has been my home for four years will be changing soon.  The view outside my window will no longer be the berm between us and Burke Centre Parkway but instead (if I squint), cherry trees and gentle light.  I embrace that.  It will give me new energy to charge into this next phase.  I may have to paint the joint myself, but I’ll be calling it ‘home base’ for at least the next year.  I hope that the people who drop in now to chat will find it possible to drop in there instead.  Better food choices, kids!  I swear!  Mondays are $5 burgers at Hard Times!

All of us have things coming up that involve time passing.  Last first days of school.  First first days of school.  New jobs.  New opportunities.  Time switching back.  Dark is early.  Cold is not the a/c.  Leaves will fall.  We can either run headlong, arms open wide, and grasp the change.  Or we can try to pretend  it isn’t happening to us.  The old ostrich move of head in the sand.

I now pronounce you man and wife.

Hell, I’m twelve aren’t I?  Or did I miss something?

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For the past seven years I’ve been dealing with a horrendous situation in my personal life that has threatened my sanity, my faith, my work, my very being.

My son is a drug addict.  He has been a drug addict for years now and no amount of rehab or jail time or therapy seems to get to the crux of the problem.  And I have been an enabler.  I’ve allowed him to live in my house, threaten his siblings, create havoc in a place that I am determined to be a place of peace.

Four days ago he sort of fell off of the planet.  I’m not surprised.  I’ve been watching THAT train hurtling down the track now for years and recognize all the signs.  I can’t blame medical doctors for prescribing medications for him that will once again open that gateway to hell.  Different doctors  prescribing oxycodone, meloxicam, nucenta.  Nucenta…where the information sheets says in very very bold letters:  Tell your doctor if you have ever abused or been dependent on alcohol, prescription medicines or street drugs.   No I cannot blame them if they aren’t getting the whole story.

Where is he?  I do not know.  He cannot come back here.  I cannot allow that any more.  I cannot put my other children in a precarious position because of the disease of another.  I cannot.

I love my son, my eldest child, the one that opened my heart to the joys of motherhood.  He has hurt me down to my core, to where I put my head down sometimes and just sob in frustration and fear.  I lay awake at night at times listening for the sound of his obnoxious car only to hear nothing at all.  I was on my deck yesterday afternoon at about 6PM working on the crossword puzzle.  My front doorbell rang.  No one rings my bell.  I actually expected to see the police at my door, and I was resigned to that.  Hysterically enough it was the Legion of Mary.  Yes, please, pray for us.

I hate what he’s done to this family:  The polarization of all of us.  The sense of anger and fear and mistrust that reigns here now.  He has hurt me, us, and we will be dealing with that forever.  No, you cannot come home and continue to damage all of us along with yourself.  I am sorry.  When you are able to take control back then, and only then, will we readdress the situation.

What’s love got to do with it?  Absolutely everything.

For twenty years or so I have had a waxing-waning fear of flying.  Only my family and a very few close seatmates on a couple of flights know this.  (I said I was sorry when I grabbed your hand and sobbed into your soldier, 21A.  Sheesh, get over it!)

I am not sure how it started, why it peaked about ten years ago, and has slowly just settled into major Lamaze breathing for most of the flight at this point.  It could be that I was flying frequently with all of my children and that caused me maternal concern.  The fact that my incredible bat-like hearing heard every shift, thrust, bolt-shredding-off-the-engine causing my overstoked imagine to play havoc with my sanity.  Could be that I’m just a claustrophobic wimp.

My often mentioned brother-in-law, Johnny D, has silently suffered this malaise as well, and like me is in a much better place.  That did not stop the two of us from going absolutely WILD reading about the teen-ager whose plane blew up in mid-air, and she, attached to her row of seats, spun silently (except for the amazing screaming that John and I would have done) down two miles to land in some disgustingly infested swamp in the Amazon only to survive on her own for ten days before being rescued.  THAT my friends, caused a frenzy of emails and fantastical discussions between John and I as we discussed what we would do in that situation.  Most of my suppositions ended with my heart attack on the way down.

That brings me to the fact that tomorrow, one minute before noon, I’m going to be screaming down the runway at Reagan to be propelled into the sky to head to Orlando for my first RE/MAX International convention.  I’m kind of excited.  It is going to be a really neat experience, and I am sure that I am going to come away with some terrific stuff to bring back to my fellow Career Counselors.  I’m looking forward to listening to some of the industry’s top teams discuss how they built, grew and honed those teams into the mega-forces they are now.  Meeting with my cohorts in recruiting and dscussing what works best…learning from the best.  It is going to be a great few days.

Socially I am selfishly delighted as I get four days of ‘Ellen Time’…meaning I am only Mom when I call in every day.  I get to sleep in my own bed and have my own bathroom…and someone even to make that bed for me.  I’ll pick up my own towels; I’m nice like that!  There will be lots of time to relax and socialize, brainstorm, laugh.  I am secure knowing that my family is well taken care of by my mini-Me, Anna, and that the sun will continue to warm the grounds, gradually melting the snow and allowing for spring to show itself in its cacophony of colors and sounds.  I’ll check the forecast from poolside!

I’m leaving, on a jet plane.  Oh, babe, I can’t wait hate to go.

I find myself at a period in time that forces me to look backwards and forwards and while the look backwards feels like a blink of an eye and the forward glance feels far-reaching; the opposite is true.  More of my life is behind me than in front.  I’m not sure when or how or why that happened.  Or why I didn’t really think about it until now, but it is so.

Seven years ago I was a successful Realtor.  I was making “Big Bank” as my son would call it.  I was married.  I had four beautiful healthy children, a growing retirement account.  You know:  Life was Good.  I had finished my sixth marathon and had three more to do before I got to this point.  Running was what I did; regular thirty five plus mile weeks.  I could eat and drink literally anything and my metabolism did whatever it does.

But life really wasn’t good.  I was working incessantly.  There were cracks in my personal life that hadn’t been patched in so long that they became crevasses and I found myself divorced.  My four healthy children suffered because of life’s changes and the penalty we all paid for that will last forever in both physical and emotional scars.

Suddenly the ‘big bank’ didn’t seem worth it.  I couldn’t quite summon the energy to show houses or even care.  Running, my salvation for so many years, disappeared.  Couldn’t focus.  Couldn’t get myself to force myself up the hill.  (Note to Realtors:  If you are dealing with a runner, do not let her buy a house that sits at the bottom of a hill.  She will curse you for years.)  The incredible ability to eat, however, remained.  And over the past five years I have managed to plonk on about thirty pounds.  It has been a swell(ing) experience.

The biggest change, however, happened when I looked at my life and realized that while I loved the money, really liked the cool cars and Bob Fletcher, it just wasn’t quite measuring up to what I needed, what Ellen Ing’s Life needed. 

So I quit.  I went in to Charlie to give him notice.  And he, silly man, asked me to stay on in a wholly different world, the recruiting world.  So here I am now; in a new phase that I actually sorta thrive on.

Three years later I am still here driving a ‘hot little used Honda’.  Bob Fletcher hasn’t given up on me; I still get cards on a regular basis.  I live.  I love.  I am.

Running is again becoming important.  EIC (if you don’t know, don’t ask) is something I’ve come to terms with.  Those thirty pounds?  Well half of them are still there.  I’m trying to lose the jello look and take on the lean fit look that I fuzzily remember.  I fit into clothes again that I’ve kept in my closet.  I’ve got a half marathon and a ten miler in my life in the next two months.

And I’m happy.  The balance is back in my life.  When I laugh I feel it.  I feel the joy.

Every day I meet with people and encourage them to change their lives.  I tell them that they will improve their business and that if you utilize the tools we offer, they will be able to work smarter, not harder.  And it isn’t a sales pitch.  I miss meeting with clients and seeing the ‘sale’ take place and their happiness at finding their new home.  But as I said to someone just yesterday, I am doing the same thing that  I loved seven years ago.  I am just it in a different arena but with the same feeling of satisfaction when someone makes a choice to change their lives, to play on a different, level field.  And to grow and flourish.  As Macrina says, ideas are grown here. 

So I am in the midst of life’s changes.  It is a good life.

Waaaay back when, like before this blog…there was an incredibly perfect spring.  (For those caring, it was this spring….2009).  The temperatures didn’t vary too much….not too high…not too low….the rain was worshipped at exactly the right time…just enough, oh thank you. 

I am really not good about my gardening.  I pretend/want to be…but seriously…whatever happens, well it just sort of happens.

But this spring I had noticed just how incredibly RIPE the roses looked to be on my trellis (trust me…sounds better than it is).  They looked like it was going to be The Most Beautiful Season ever.  And just when those roses looked like they were going to peak….a horrendous rain and wind storm showed up.  My roses, my beautiful roses, crumbled into tears of petals at the mere touch.

I tried not to be too bitter.  I tried to tell people that if only that storm hadn’t come through…oh the sights, the scents we would have shared….wafting through the neighborhood.  With every young Lethario in the area, (OK.  OK.  So that part isn’t true, just my imagination) begging me for the favour of a bud or two to woo the heart of their desire.

Shattered.  My fantasy.  Kit and Kaboodle.  Blown to the four corners of the world.

December.  I go back to their corner of my garden and ask them to not spear me in the back as I trim them back for the coming winter.  Please, oh please, not the aughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….thorn in the back.

Underneath the wildly out of control shoots that happen, that suck all the lfe from the life vein of the plant…..there are littler branches.  They do not need cutting back.  They are the lifeblood.  The future of my roses.  On those little branches, this December eve before ‘the first snow’ of the season (I’ll get to that, if it ever happens, in a later post); the most beautiful gifts of nature.  Tender sweet blooms of pink and rose. 

Unfurling their beauty in the winter slant of morning sun.

I am thankful for those December roses.  They remind me that although winter is definitively ahead, that the spring time flood of flowers is just a matter of time.

They also remind me to slow down…take a look around…see what really does need pruning now and what I should wait for to see how it does in the springl.  And of course, not to forget to take a moment and smell the flowers.  When roses are cold their abundant scent is not as clear.  Like all things worth waiting for, it takes a little bit of time to warm them up so that they are able to release their sweet, sweet scent of the promise of another glorious spring.

I’m looking around my life, pruning where I need to…watering and tending as it may call for….and just so glad that the potential of new is there…right outside my door.  And even if the storm does take it down next spring, right on the cusp of its’ glorious bloom; that I know the bloom is there.  In December.  When everyone else went inside.

Where are you?  Do you need pruning?  Do you have suckers that take all the lifeblood out of you?  Is it time for you to cast them off?  Do you see a blooming springtime? 

I stayed out to watch.  And oh my goodness.  It was so worth it.  Even in December.  Glorious, glorious roses.

The incessant whine of the leaf blower has been a constant reminder these past few weeks that fall is definitively upon us.  What I find interesting about it, however, is the different psychologies in leaf collection.  Some people, and I’m using my lovely neighborhood of Hunt Valley as a fertile test site, see a leaf fall and rush out the door in their pink bathrobes to swoosh it off of their lawn.  You know the lawn.  The immaculate one that obviously has never experienced crabgrass in its life.

Then there are the weekly rakers.  Every weekend they are out there blowing their leaves into piles and challenging child labor laws with the Forced Family Fun of leaf bagging.  Oh the joy on those teenaged faces, spending such quality time with the folks.

Then there is me.  I sit around sullenly watching the leaves turn their glorious shades of ‘see ya in the spring’, and do their death dance down onto my not-quite-immaculate lawn.  Day in and day out I do this.  Why, in heaven’s name, would I go out there and rake each day/week just to have to RE-rake a few days later?  Raking is meant to be a once-a-year thing…not an entire autumn’s worth.

When you let the leaves fall and gather and shift in the breeze, you can go out there and scuff them across the sidewalk just as you did in New London, collecting for UNICEF on those chilly fall nights.  If the lawns and sidewalks are cleaned obsessively, what sort of childhood memories does that evoke down the road?  The leaves have to dry a bit before making their way to the composter….when the wind blows at night you need to hear the crackle and rustle as they blow across the yard (Sorry, Mr. Lin!), giving way to nights of dreams colored by the subliminal sounds.

Greyson was watching the leaves the other day.  He asked his dad about them.  Daniel’s explanation was poignantly beautiful.  He picked up Greyson and held him up high…described him as a leaf, hanging on the vine and shivering in the wind.  He swirled him about and downward onto the floor, telling him how the leaf falls, becomes part of the earth again.  But in the springtime….he flew Greyson back over his head…the leaves come back, ready to tell Greyson more stories with their sounds.

Leaves.  Like everything we do it is a personal thing.  Raking.  Blowing.  Obsessing.  Whatever floats your boat.  I like my big leaf  covered lawn.  It fits ME…who I am.  I want the dream-filled night conjured up by the song of the wind and the leaves.

I read on Charlie’s blog about REALTOR Magazine’s Top 100 companies list for 2008.  I love that issue.  It really gives a snapshot on who’s doing what and where and with whom.

I will be the first to admit that my math skills suck are not as strong as some others.  But when one has a SHARP EL-1750PII calculator, I can handle the basic division that I’m about to illustrate.  Not to mention that the magazine did it for me…but I had to double-check, due to the swoon that occured when I first saw the numbers.

Let’s start off with a little chart, shall we?  One put out by REALTOR magazine (and from where I snatched today’s title):

 

0907_top100chart

Those are some pretty intimidating numbers, overall.  Of course, since I am me and all about RE/MAX Allegiance, I had to do the big comparison of our nearest local competitor in those statistics.  That would, of course, be Long and Foster.  They are number three this year.  That is a great impressive number….especially when you look at number one as being the NRT uber company.  (Personally, I’m not sure that NRT belongs in this as it is a bit misleading, but I digress).

Long and Foster, a big company here in the mid-Atlantic region, has 217 offices with 13,849 associates.  They did a whopping $25,582,300,000 in business last year.  Them’s a lot of pennies!  With their 13,849 associates that works out to an average sales volume of $1,847,200 per associate.

RE/MAX Allegiance, the #1 selling RE/MAX Brokerage in the world, has twenty eight (28) offices and 800 associates.  We did $3,159,200,000 in sales volume.  THAT averages out to $3,948,900 per associate.  That is right. 

RE/MAX Allegiance associates exceeded Long and Foster’s associates by more than double. 

In transaction sides, Long and Foster had 71,903 total sides.  Great number!  I hope that contracts were emailed instead of printed, that is a lot of trees in paper!  That 71,903 sides divided by the 13,849 assocites works out (using my trusty SHARP), to 5.192 transactions per associate.  I’m being nice here; REALTOR magazine rounded down to five (5).

RE/MAX Allegiance had 9,551 sides.  That number, divided by our 800 associates works out (one more shout out to SHARP), to 11.939 transactions per associate.  REALTOR magazine, in this case, rounded up to twelve (12).

Outstanding agents; outstanding results is more than twice the number of transaction.  RE/MAX Allegiance.  Wow.

The average commission in this area is what….say $12,000?  Times seven (7).  How much more money would you have made? 

 How much? 

Wow.

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