Ms. Faye

As with most of my clients, I have a tendency to get attached.  At 94, she carried herself in a very youthful manner and looked more like a 60-year-old with manicured nails, perfectly applied makeup and gorgeous white hair that was set every few days.

She and I had grown close while working together on her downsizing move to a retirement/continuing care community.  Ms. Faye turned out to be one of my biggest supporters, always making an appearance at one of my local speeches and having photos taken with me for her memory book.  She had outlived everyone, including a beloved husband that she often reminisced about, but she was determined to enjoy life solo.

Uncharacteristic for a woman of her era, she made the decision to sell her estate jewelry and travel extensively, because in her words, “When you’re gone, you’re gone.”

Unusual as she was bustling with energy and always had a smile on her face, I asked her one day over lunch what her secret was.  She paused for a moment to reflect and suddenly a wide smile, that matched her glowing complexion, emerged on her face.  “It’s really very simple.  Always look up and never look down.  And always choose close friends that are younger than you because they will keep you young in spirit — the older ones die and leave you.”

There it was in a nutshell — life according to Ms. Faye.  She said it with gusto through her red Estee Lauder lips.  It’s difficult to forget someone like Ms. Faye.  Her words were so simple but powerful, and were her secret to longevity.

Not long after our lunch together, Ms. Faye died quietly and unexpectedly during the night.  While she is no longer here, I still smile every time I think about her.  I think of this older woman who had lived through and seen so much, and I remember her words, “Always look up and never look down.”

I think it is important to spread stories as upbeat as this, especially when the news all around us seems all doom and gloom.  Some would think it is sad that she died, but she left this earth doing what she wanted, whenever she wanted, and how she wanted it.  In my eyes, not a bad passing at all.  Thanks for the smiles and new mantra, Ms. Faye.

Rest in heavenly peace.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising.  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation.

Surreal Observations

I am beginning to question whether or not I’ve been living under a rock, because some of my recent observations caught me off-guard.  Recently, I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few necessities before bad weather reached us later that day.  There I was, walking through the store with a pleasant demeanor and smile, but no one else was.  That was my first observation.

In the freezer section, a little boy was determined to not permit me to open the door I needed to get a frozen pizza.  His mother stood 2 feet away and watched as this 8-10 year old did everything possible to intentionally block my way.  He wasn’t being cute; he was doing it in a spiteful manner and mom did nothing to correct him or hurry him along.  I silently wondered to myself why this mother would not correct this boy.  The answer?  She never has, so why start now?  It was sad to see that.

People walked around like zombies.  Middle aged people and older were very rude, didn’t care if they were in your way, and certainly didn’t move to give you the right of way.  This happened less than a minute after the freezer incident.  I almost expect this from younger people, but certainly not the boomers.  Our parents taught us better than that.

Then, when I checked out with an armful of items, the cashier didn’t speak at all, not even to give me the total!  It felt for a moment that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong people.  Was it a full moon, or what?

As I walked out, an elderly male employee was sweeping the entrance and having a hard time bending down to adjust the carpet mats, so people wouldn’t slip.  My heart really went out to him.  He had to be 75 years old, and here he was still working, still stooping, and bless his heart, he was the only one who wished me a good day and gave me a huge smile.  I flashed him a huge smile right back and wished him a great day.

I’m a little disappointed in myself for allowing this experience with the zombies to have affected my personality.  I let it get the best of me and it turned me into a sour person.  I was even aware I was scowling at one point!

But in the midst of the dark there is always light, such as the elderly gentleman who, in spite of his pain, wholeheartedly greeted me with kindness and care.  His smile made me smile.  Then I remembered this:  make yourself familiar with angels, and behold them frequently in spirit, for without being seen, they are ever-present with you.  Well, sometimes they are seen!

© 2013 Julie Hall

What Have I Done to Deserve That?

Richard is 82 years old and not in good health.  He lives in the Midwest and called me asking for help with his possessions.  He was moving himself into a small private residence, since he can no longer care for himself.  From what I could tell, he is kind natured and soft spoken.  He told me about his many physical ailments such as diabetes, cancer, breathing problems, etc.  Richard was forthcoming, had his wits about him, and was very pragmatic about his limitations.  He told me he was “falling apart” and needed help.

One of the questions I ask people who call me for help is “Do you have any family that can lend a hand?”  Richard has two adult sons.  He said they never call, don’t care about him, and never showed any interest in him or his life.  As a highly decorated veteran who earned a Purple Heart in the Korean War, he lived a full life as a Marine, with many stories to tell.  He was there at the Battle of Chosin Resevoir — a brutal 17 day battle in freezing weather.  It was pretty clear to me that this man had endured the unthinkable, and even in his older age was still a tough Marine, but his voice held a fragility when it came to his sons.

“What did I do to deserve this treatment from my boys?  I worked hard all of my life to provide for them, and now they aren’t there for me.  What did I do wrong?”

Knowing I was in a position to help Richard, I did my best to assure him that the pitiful actions of his children are not of his doing.  They are adults now and have made a decision not to be present in his life.  One day they would live to regret it, as they sort through his possessions and find his Purple Heart, wishing they could ask questions about their father’s valor and what that great battle was really all about.  But by then, it would be too late; the heavy weight of guilt would be upon their shoulders.

I encouraged Richard to build a relationship with his only grandson, who seemed to at least have some interest in him and his life story.

There are times it becomes very clear to me that people cross our paths for just a few minutes, and in that short time, you can either make a difference or not!


Semper Fi, Richard.  May your journey be a peaceful one from this point forward.

© 2013 Julie Hall

My Favorite Quote

The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

— Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

I don’t think I could ever improve on President Roosevelt.  Allow it to be an inspiration to you in your life.  We are covered in dust and sweat, and we do try again and again to succeed.  If those attempts were to cease, we would end up living a life of regret.

Don’t let that happen!

Keep daring greatly!

© 2012 Julie Hall

What I Learned From An Old Cat

It seems we are all in relentless pursuit of happiness.  Maybe we have trouble finding it because we are so busy in the actual pursuit of it.  If you’ve ever watched a kitten chase its tail or a hamster on a wheel, that’s pretty much how I view society in general.  We are always racing to get somewhere, but if we are smart, we will learn to step off the track and breathe for a while before getting back on.  We need respite and renewal first.  Our old cat, Tommy, was the teacher for this one.

This past weekend, my family gathered around to watch a movie together.  Halfway through the movie, I looked over at my elderly father who was fast asleep, and most surprisingly, the cat crashed next to him.  Then the cat got up, stretched, and moved over to my daughter.

A true lap cat, Tommy is getting old, arthritic in his hips, getting thinner, and certainly not the fierce mouse hunter he once was.  He used to stalk his territory and control the mole population.  He used to leap in the air at falling leaves in autumn, and attack your leg as you were walking by.  Incredibly vocal, he will tell you exactly what he needs when he needs it.  But now, you could see youth was leaving him, yet he looked more contented than ever.

Here’s what went through my mind as I witnessed his contentment:

  1. Life is too short not to take cat naps.
  2. Happiness is found in simple things, like getting your back scratched.
  3. No worries if the work doesn’t get done this second.  It will get done eventually.
  4. Kick back and dream about catching a big mouse.
  5. He’s earned his rest.
  6. He loves and trusts unconditionally.

I know our furry friends do not have the worries that we humans have, but if we go through life aware of what’s around us, we can learn a lot from nature’s intelligence!

© 2012 Julie Hall

The Recipe For a Long, Happy Life

I met the elderly Chinese lady at one of my estate sales.  Instantly drawn to her vibrant complexion and a smile that seemed to guard a thousand secrets, the only hint she was “on age” was her white hair.  I commented on her flawless skin and a small-framed, young girl emerged out of nowhere.  “I am her great-grand daughter.  She doesn’t speak any English.”

My curiosity got the best of me, and I asked the young girl to ask her great-grandmother the secret to such beautiful skin.  The young girl turned and chatted with the woman, who promptly burst out in laughter.  Through the three-way translation, I learned that the elderly woman was 101 years old and didn’t look a day over 60!  Her secret was so simple; she said anyone can do it.

Rule #1:  Never deprive your body of any food it wants to eat.  If it wants cake, eat it.  “Don’t deprive, but be reasonable.  By depriving your body, it will get angry with you.  If it gets angry, it will not work well for you.  If you make it happy, it will treat you well.”

Rule #2:  Go out each day barefoot in the grass and walk around.  She said to feel the earth’s energy under your feet and draw it in.  Breathe deeply while doing it and you will feel invigorated.

I’ve always lived by Rule #1.  While it has gotten me a bit chubby, I am happy and thankfully, very healthy.  From an Italian household, I was never very good at saying no to carbs.

As for Rule #2, I highly recommend it, particularly in the morning dew.  It does feel good to walk around in the grass for a few minutes.  A type of meditation where your attention is completely focused on the sensations in your feet, it is relaxing to your mind as well.  Since our feet carry us through life, and they are crammed in shoes all day, it’s quite a treat for your feet!

I’ve always had some sort of magnetic attraction to the elderly as they are rich with experience.  Give these rules a try for a week and see if they don’t make a difference in how you feel.  I’m always happy to share what I learn along the way … now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a piece of chocolate cake in the fridge calling my name!

© 2012 Julie Hall

The Wallet

Last week, I wrote about the things people leave behind in estates.  This week, I want to share with you a special find that not only surprised the daughter when I presented it to her, but helped to heal an old, yet still open, wound.

Their dad had died over 30 years ago, and the daughter had shared with me how very special dad was, and how she could feel his presence while she was disassembling the family home.  While going through a pile of stuff the realtor moved aside to stage the home, I found dad’s wallet and knew I had to keep it for the daughter.

The moment I opened the wallet, I remember being greeted by a kind face on the driver’s license staring back at me.  The wallet was filled with oodles of photos of his children and grandchildren.  I instinctively knew he was someone special.  So when I handed it to his daughter at the completion of our job, you could see the joy in her face.  We had indeed found a treasure among the ruins of taking apart the home.  It had been particularly rough for her, so this was like the prize at the bottom of the box — that special slice of serendipity that plops on your lap when you least expect it.  I love it when that happens.

Little did I know when she called me the next day, she had discovered a special order to the photographs in dad’s wallet.  Her brother’s photo was the first one, and underneath were stacked photos of her, her mom, grandkids, etc.  Instead of being bothered by that, she said the most amazing thing.  Her brother had battled a substance abuse problem in his youth that caused upheaval in the family and I can only assume the same for his interpersonal relationships.  And while the sibling had long been clean and sober, dad never lived long enough to see the wonderful person his son turned out to be.

Even though dad had been gone over three decades, he still had a message of love to send to both of his children.  The message was loud and clear: At a time when a parent is pushed to the limit of love and understanding in dealing with a substance issue, he never gave up on believing in or loving his son.

Today, I understand that son is an incredible man who found his inner strength and now helps others do the same.  May the finding of this small, yet powerful item bring both children peace and emotional closure, knowing how much their father loved them!

Finding the Good in the Bad

It’s never an easy thing, searching for the positive when “you know what” is hitting the fan.  Lately, a lot of it is hitting the fan for everyone I know.  If it isn’t one thing, we get slapped down by another.  So the thought occurred to me, “Is this my karma, or someone else’s that’s been thrust on me for the sake of experience?”  I’m a great person!  Why is everything going wrong?

Maybe I am just along for the ride, and the purpose is for me to learn from these experiences and share them.  But it sure feels like the world has gone mad … a captain who abandons his cruise ship and passengers, a scary time economically, political and government issues that never seem to get resolved … an uncertain future.

So, how can we find the good in the bad?

I think acceptance of some of the bad is part of it.  Poop happens.  It’s how we handle it that separates the good people from the not-so-good people.  I also think having as good an outlook as possible is another big part of it.  Every generation has seen historic events that are less than stellar, whether a world war, the great depression, disease, famine, etc.

Another thought is spreading your inner light to those who have it rougher than you, and there are plenty of people who have it rougher.  If your light is bright, there is no better time than now to let it radiate to those around you.

As mom always said, “Julie, you need to take the negative and find a way to turn it around into a positive.” 

Recently, I found myself in a situation where I really wanted to verbally blast someone who I felt was incompetent.  I was so irate; I wanted to yell at them and give them a piece of my mind!  But instead, something came out of my mouth that shocked even me.  I simply looked at the person and said, “I don’t want to add to the problem or be a part of the problem.  I want to be part of the solution.”  When that left my mouth, I was suddenly empowered by my own words.

It must have been a higher power that planted those words in my mouth, because they saved me much aggravation and actually helped solve the problem.  I recommend trying it sometime!

© 2012 Julie Hall

How A Senior Party Changed Me Forever

I’d like to share a special memory from two years ago as we prepare for the new year ahead.

It was a spur-of-the-moment invitation from my 78 yr. old mother.   While visiting my parents out-of-state, Mom announced she bought me a ticket to their senior holiday dinner and dance party at the local clubhouse.  Knowing it would make them happy, I obliged, but wasn’t exactly ready to kick up my heels just yet.  How much fun could it really be?

The clubhouse was nothing fancy — it was reminiscent of a church basement or school gym, devoid of color though there were a few decorations on the wall.   In front of the small bingo stage was the collapsible black sound system from the hired DJ, complete with a disco ball spinning crystal-like dots on the walls and a lighted 3 ft. Santa next to his unit.   The floor was exceptionally shiny, as if someone had spent hours buffing and polishing it to perfection, meant just for dancing.

With roughly 40 seniors present, dinner was served.  We all waited in line, cafeteria style, to be served our food – a very simple meal of roast beef, green beans and a roll with coffee or water.   Dessert would be homemade cakes from some of the neighborhood ladies.   Styrofoam plates in hand, we waited patiently as everyone got the same amount of food.

During our meal, the DJ came alive and it was obvious he loved his job.  The beat from Glen Miller’s  “In the Mood” was evident in my tapping feet, shoulder motions and bobbing head – was that me actually having fun?  Dare I say the fun was just beginning…

Mesmerized by the fantastic selection of 40’s and 50’s music and jazz beats that made you want to get up and bounce all over the dance floor, the seniors suddenly came alive, as if their simple meal had fueled their fire.  Some with canes, others with oxygen, still others like my mother afflicted with heart disease – it didn’t matter to them – they got up and started dancing like they were young again!!

Before my very eyes, the music became their magic. Transported back to the 1940’s, the hands of time literally spun backwards to return them to their prime in life.  No longer weak or frail, they would have easily danced their boomer children into a state of exhaustion.   This was their night and they proudly took ownership of it.

Over the course of the evening, I found myself looking closely at the old men’s weathered faces.  They didn’t look old to me anymore.   It was like watching an episode of Star Trek when they were brought back in time wearing their U.S. military uniforms and the ladies’ vibrant and shiny hair had curls and they had small waists, just like in the old movies.

But the most moving part of the evening was how they looked at each other.  Couples who had been married for 50-60 years still gazed upon each other with love and affection – I even caught a glimpse of an elderly man stroking his wife’s face while they danced. I had to fight the tears back because mom told me that lady was fighting an illness.  This, I thought, was true commitment.

They had survived the Great Depression and one of the world’s most devastating wars, and raising us!  These were people who simply did what needed to be done.  They are fiercely loyal, still loved America, and always had a strong work ethic.

For one night, for a few hours, they didn’t care about their diseases, ailments, aches and pains.  They only wanted to let their hair down and have a memorable time.  There I sat, a 48-year-old daughter, who found herself in love with each of them – for the way they laughed, for the way they did the “Twist,” for the way they treated each other with smiles galore and twirling about as if today were their last day on earth.

The thought crossed my mind, as it probably did theirs, that our time is indeed limited, for some more than others.  How is it they could dance and enjoy fellowship with such carefree smiles and attitude?  Because they love life and offered each other the best gift anyone could possible receive.  They gave the gift of simple joy.  The gave the gift of each other.

I found myself deeply moved by what I saw that evening.   Ours has become a world of convenience, and often inconvenience.  A place where people are always saying “What’s in it for me?” and a place where we don’t see as much care and concern for each other, as there was in our parents’ generation.

I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge visiting a strange place and time, who saw the light and got the meaning in just the few hours they allowed me to share with them. I feel so very honored to have witnessed such a gift.  Our seniors truly are our greatest asset, and we have much to learn from them.  All we need to do is open our eyes, ears and hearts.

© 2011 Julie Hall

Sometimes There is No Second Chance

We are mortal beings.  On a subconscious level, we all know our days are finite.  Why then don’t we appreciate more the people close to our hearts, and tell them each and every day that we love them?  Why do so many put it off and procrastinate?

I’ve had hundreds of clients dealing with past hurts, power struggles, estrangements, and unresolved issues.  Then someone dies suddenly; you can no longer converse with them in person once they leave this earthly plane.  It is then impossible to make things right and you carry that heaviness with you the rest of your life.

I didn’t know my mom was going to die so suddenly four weeks ago.  My parting words to my mother in this life were as we parted every day.  “Take care, mom.  I’ll see you soon.  I love you.”  But her response was what has given me peace, even though she passed 8 hours after this conversation.  She simply said, “I love you too.” and said it with conviction.

Though I am in a fog of grief right now, and dealing with a dear father who is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, I’ve seared into my mind those joyous last words between mother and daughter.  These words made me understand she always felt that way and clearly demonstrated the love between us.  What a beautiful gift I shall cherish the rest of my days.

Pick up your cell phone, and call a loved one you have been meaning to call for a while.  Call your mom or dad if you are fortunate enough to still have them, and say “I love you.”  Sometimes tomorrow never comes.

© 2011 Julie Hall