Shake Off the “Woogies”

Lately I’ve been noticing more and more people with lower spirits than normal and what seems like ever-growing obstacles in their lives.  In my industry, I have colleagues in a wide variety of occupations and I will ask them how the economy is affecting them or their business.  Across the board, most everyone is not necessarily complaining, but weary and concerned.  Rightfully so.

I am no different, as things have an effect on me too.  That’s usually about the time I go to my garden to renew my spirit, give thanks for everything I have, talk to the veggies and to my late parents.  It usually makes me feel better.  No one really knows this, but sometimes I go to my garden just to let out a few tears and decompress.  It is a normal and healthy release for all the unknowns we are living through.  We need to place the emphasis on “living through,” meaning, this will pass and we will do our best to find ways to deal with it all.

When my daughter was a toddler, she often fell because she ran everywhere like the road runner.  There was no typical walking, just running.  She would start to whimper, which quickly escalated to a full-blown cry, from skinned knees or hands, or the jolt of suddenly becoming horizontal.  Wanting to raise an independent daughter, I would go to her side, comfort her with my words and a motherly hug or pat, then encourage her to get right back up and “shake off the woogies.”

I remember the phrase exactly; “you’re okay … look … you’re fine, just a little scratch, no problem.  You just have to get up and shake off the woogies.  Let’s get up and shake them off so they’ll go away.”  It worked like a charm.  She stood upright, shook her little body, and went on with life.

Don’t ask me where my brain picked up that silly phrase, but it made sense then and it makes sense now, to learn to shake off the woogies in our own lives.  The “woogies” mean different things to different people, but the one thing we need to remember is to always get up and do what we can to shake them off.  It’s not as simple as cleaning a toddler’s skinned knee anymore, as our maturity has brought far greater challenges, but if you are creative, you can find a way to shake them off.

I highly recommend growing a garden.

©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.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

“Dear Dad” (part 2)

Part 2

Here are the words a daughter used to encourage her father to face fears of dementia.  You can also watch as Julie reads her letter for her father:

Dear Dad,

I love you and mom more than you could ever know.  We don’t say it every day, but it is always there, always in our hearts.  I was just thinking how odd it must be for you to be seeing multiple doctors, because you never did care for them much, but as you say, “the body is starting to wear out.” 

I recall a conversation you and I had recently at your dining room table one morning.  You told me “not to get old.”  Well dad, I really want to get old; may God bless me with a long and fruitful life.  I have so much to do, so much to learn, and so much to give back.  Mostly, I have much to live for — a beautiful family, where I would love to see my daughter grow and flourish, and see her children find their way into this world.  I want to grow old by my husband’s side — wrinkles, aches, and all.  I can see myself as a frumpy old lady in my garden, talking to the birds and an old cat.

In a world where money and material possessions are priorities, I learned at a young age that those things are great to have, but do not bring happiness or guarantee anything good.  It’s all about the relationships we build and sustain that are important.  I believe that when we leave this place, we take only what we have accrued during our lifetime: important lessons, love for family and friends, good times.

Dad, you confided in me that your memory is not what it used to be and that it has you worried.  It is very important to share this with Dr. Jones so he can give you the appropriate tests to rule out certain causes.  I am a little concerned about your memory, because you are concerned.  There are many reasons why memory can become foggy, and many of the reasons are fixable. 

Mom said you cancelled your doctor appointment, but how can you nip this in the bud if you keep cancelling appointments?  If the shoe were on the other foot, and it was me, mom, or brother, wouldn’t you encourage us to get to the bottom of it?  Of course you would.  You would say you cannot run from this sort of thing and to hit it straight on, and you would be right.  We come from a long line of strong, tenacious people.  Empower yourself, dad, and get the facts so you don’t have to worry.

Please also consider that you have a wife and two children who adore you and want you around for a very long time.  While we have no control over how much time we have in this life, we do have control over the decisions we make, and this would be a good one … to see the doctor and get tests done so they can help you with your memory.  Making good decisions is something you always taught us.  Did you think I wasn’t listening all these years?  I have been.

If I have upset you, that certainly was not my intent.  My words came from a place and concern and love for both you and for mom.  Think about this before you cancel any more appointments.  You have always practiced and preached the very principles of Dale Carnegie, and we learned that from you.  I’ll be the first to admit I am not crazy about doctors, but you might be able to head off some memory issues if you find out what is causing them.

As a child growing up, you would always say to me, “Just give it some thought, Julie, and you will come to the right conclusion.”  You probably thought I never listened, but if that were the case, how did I end up this smart? <grin>  Give it some thought, Dad.  Do it for you, for Mom, for us.  Do it because you deserve to know.  If it’s nothing, then it would have been worry for no reason.  If it is something then we will face it all together.  That’s what family is for.

Per la famiglia (To family)!  Ti amo (I love you)!


©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.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

“Dear Dad”

Part 1

There comes a time in everyone’s lives where you either face the demon or you don’t.  Not one to shy away from much, including a nasty demon who was helping himself to my father, something simply had to be done.

I knew long before anyone else in the family that dad was exhibiting signs of dementia.  When I brought it up to my mom and sibling back in 2006, they thought I was nuts … only, I wasn’t.  It was the one time I wished I was wrong.  It wasn’t long before dad knew something was wrong too.  One day he confided in me that he was worried because his once sharp memory was “fading fast and he couldn’t remember things anymore.”

I encouraged dad to see his family doctor for testing, but he never did or he cancelled appointments.  Mom didn’t push the issue, despite my sweet badgering, because as I was to learn later on, she was afraid.  So afraid to uncover the truth that it seemed to paralyze her, and she was a strong woman.

The letter I will share with you is a very personal demonstration of love between my father and myself, and how I saw things as they were rudely unfolding and trying to blacken our world.  Not knowing what to do, or even how to begin doing it, I looked deep inside to find the right kind of solution because I felt damn helpless.  All my life I could solve any problem, help anyone, come up with solutions.  But I couldn’t beat this … not with all the tenacity in the world!

Of everything that I had heard about dementia, how could anything ever be right again?  It was that quiet inner voice that won my attention and I tried to reach my father through the love I had for him.  “Love conquers all,” they say, and if that is true, my words would touch my father’s soul.  That is exactly what I intended.  If I couldn’t help him fight and win, the least I could do was offer love and hold him up.

I just found this special letter in a box among my mother’s “keepsakes” from her estate; she kept it for a reason.  If you know anyone who can benefit from it, please pass it along, because it worked.  It reached both mom and dad and we all faced this demon together.  Being the front guy facing this enemy is the single, most frightening experience of my life.  There was no sword big enough, nor shield large enough to protect from its talons.  But there is always love …

Part 2 … coming next week

©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.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at

The Estate Medium

Give me a little while in an estate – any estate – and I will tell you more about that loved one’s life than most people who knew them.  Walking into an estate, sight unseen for the first time, can be compared to an artist starting on a new canvas.  We wipe the mental slate clean from the last estate and clear ourselves before going in to “receive” thoughts, feelings, and even a certain energy about the home and the people who lived there.  One can sense many things immediately, if they are open to it.

In my career, I have handled the estates of young and old alike: the mentally ill, the lost souls, those who end their own lives, the hoarders, the estranged, those with dementia, eating disorders, chronic disease, those who died rich, and those who died poor.  While these are all very different, I have come to the conclusion that in the end, we are all pretty much the same regardless of the situation that led to the eventual demise.

I went into an estate last week where someone ended their life.  This is not common, but I see it a few times each year.  The feeling is always the same once I have entered the home.  I walk in and instantly feel a wall of despair.  It is a profound sense of sadness.  As I walk through the home, I will see other signs that something wasn’t quite right; either the home is too clean (as in OCD clean) or I see hoarding tendencies.  Often scattered around in the strangest places, I will see liquor bottles coupled with a multitude of prescription bottles; you know what a dangerous combination this is.  I look at what their hobbies and interests were, which will reveal much about them.  And sometimes I can see conflict in their lives just by observing what was in their home.  Was it mental illness, untreated depression, drugs, etc?  We’ll never know.  It is not unusual to sense that at one time, they were a very bright light.

If we are in the home for any length of time, would you believe me if I told you that my staff and I begin to cry, or that we are filled with sorrow we don’t understand?  It’s as if we can feel what they felt.  We can feel that they were “stuck” in a dark place even though they had much to offer.  A very sad situation indeed.  We always end up praying for that person (for everyone, really), lifting lovely thoughts and words hoping that they have found peace at last, and that we are there to help the family begin to heal by handling the estate for them.

On the flip side, we can also sense lives and homes that are buoyant, colorful, joyful, and productive.  These homes are filled with light, usually lovers of animals and nature, and hobbies such as volunteering, bird watching, and gardening.  In these homes, we usually just feel a stillness that has no heaviness to it.  And in some cases, we start singing and are lighthearted while working in the estate.  We don’t always understand why the environment affects us and our feelings.

Two completely different experiences, and everything you can imagine in between.

I believe there’s a way we can incorporate a conscious change into our lives and homes, so we can positively shift the energy we carry with us, for it remains long after we are gone, and deeply affects our loved ones left behind.

©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.

The Reflection

Everyone needs to renew and restore their spirit every now and again, especially in such a hurried society.  Some people go away to the country or the beach where they find solitude and solace as a remedy for feeling overwhelmed and worn out.  It is a good thing to do so.  But do we really journey inside ourselves and heal what’s in there?  I’m willing to stick my neck out and say I don’t necessarily think so.

Today I exited my home and approached my car in the driveway.  On top of the driver’s side mirror was a kooky little bird behaving in the strangest manner.  It was completely enamored with its reflection in the mirror.  Its little feet danced and it bobbed its head like crazy, joyous that it found an amiable friend … one that looks just like it!  It was so preoccupied with its reflection that it was not deterred by my presence only 3 feet away.  The next thing you know, the little bird side-stepped along the rim of the driver’s side mirror until he was completely upside down, flapping its wings and having a wonderful time looking at its new friend.

Don’t you wish we could greet ourselves each day in the mirror just like this?


Everything is relative.  The little bird does not have the advanced intellect to realize it was him in the reflection, yet he was a free spirit having the time of its life.  When we, the highest created intellect on earth, look in the mirror, we don’t see who we really are or even like the reflection we see.  We are too self-critical.  So many of us really don’t want to go there, but we need to, in order to restore ourselves and make peace with the person inside.

I’ve been pretty hard on myself lately.  The fat fairy keeps visiting me (the wench!), and middle age has settled in, not to mention all that comes with that fact.  When I saw that little bird who was so happy to see itself, I thought, “Why can’t we all be more like that?”

Nature has always been amazing to observe.  It teaches us lessons if we pay attention.  Because of that looney little bird, I will look at myself with more enthusiasm from now on.  How could you not smile when you witness something like that … a tiny creature with a Herculean spirit.  An important lesson for us all.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

“I Never Saw it Coming!”

A client of mine knew he faced a hellacious task ahead of him — cleaning out the parental home of lifelong collectors.  Some people call it collecting; others like myself call it pseudo-hoarding.  After an initial consultation, and explaining the process of disassembling the estate, he was completely on-board with emptying the house.  I promised I could undo 40 years of heavy “collecting” in 56 hours.

He assured me the family had already chosen the items they wanted to keep, and we even gave his sibling a few extra days to go through it.  My instructions were clear; please make your selections and remove the items because once I am in the home, it would be best to remain away until our work is done.  The client was very understanding of this and we scheduled the work.

On a personal level, I know it can be emotionally draining to go through this process of sorting through and selecting items from mom and dad’s home, who are now deceased.  I have always believed this is part of the grieving process.  But there is a fine line where it can quickly turn to hoarding, and it becomes clear a child can’t let go for numerous reasons.  I have long preached that memories are not found in things, but in the precious relationships we build along the way.  Sadly, most people do not get this concept.

Long story short, one sibling could not stay away from the home, and could not stop filling their vehicle each day.  Things were missing that were slated for auction; so much that we had to all but cancel the auctioneer!  My client was most baffled by his sibling’s actions.  “I don’t understand why they are doing this!  I have been very clear with them to stay away, and they assured me they didn’t want much.  I don’t get it.  I NEVER saw this coming!  Why are they doing this?”

The explanation was simple:  She could not properly digest that mom and dad were gone, and as a close second to having them there (which is no longer possible), she took their possessions.  I also see many children who never made amends or rectified any pending issues prior to a parent passing away.  This leaves a tremendous weight on their shoulders that they don’t know how to deal with.  The problem now became that this sibling took so much, there was no room in their own home to enjoy.  Don’t look now, but they just continued the pattern of being a heavy collector, I mean … hoarder.

It is easy for me to critique what I see because I am on the outside looking in.  I know the sibling who took so much will be miserable with all this stuff.  They won’t be able to move around their own house, which forces them to make decisions to let go of some items when they are not thinking clearly, probably causing marital strife also.

Bottom line: Just when you think you can predict a family member’s actions, you can’t!  We all handle infirmity, death, and grief differently.  In this case, there was one sibling who was in serious emotional turmoil and could benefit from grief counseling — and I mean that most sincerely, as it helped me greatly.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Don’t Mess with My Mojo

Twinkies are soon to be a thing of the past.  How could they do that to us carb-aholics who suffer from a permanent sweet tooth and require the perfect comfort food?  I can hear mom say, “All good things must come to an end,” but seriously, Twinkies?  There goes a special taste from my childhood, along with a few cholesterol points.  Sometimes I wish everyone would leave well enough alone.  It’s true that we become creatures of habit and enjoy things our way.  Then one day we wake up, and someone has messed with our mojo – again.

The same is true for the different chapters in our lives.  One day, if we’re lucky, we find the love of our life, then a baby or two arrive, along with mounting responsibilities.  Our children grow in the blink of an eye; we start to age.  Suddenly, our parents get old, sick, and pass away.  So much of this we learn as we move through it.  There is great joy, there is great sorrow, and there is everything in between.  Just when we understand how to handle it, life throws us a new experience and it all changes again.

I think much of life is about our ability to adapt and accrue wisdom, painful as it may be.

So too, when I am handling an estate where a loved one has recently become ill or died, it is important to remember that each of us bears the scars of loneliness, frustration, pain, depression/anxiety, grief, worry, etc.  This is why I go the distance to always treat my clients as if they are family, because I understand their pain.  Their mojo will never be the same, and if I can shed a little bit of light and direction at that given moment and alleviate some of their heaviness, I have lived a good day.

The bottom line is I can live without the Twinkies, but I can’t live without my nearest and dearest very well.  I need to get over the fact that people and circumstances will mess with my mojo, with or without my permission.

I just looked outside my window at the backyard to see the many squirrels eating the bird seed that has fallen to the ground.  Out of the blue, a large bird of prey swooped low and plucked an unsuspecting squirrel who suddenly found himself air-bound.  Man, did someone mess with his mojo.  All things considered, I’m doing okay … comparatively speaking.

© 2013 Julie Hall

The Crossroads

I just lost my dad.  One minute, he was talking, walking, and shopping with me; the next day he was someone I didn’t know.  Overnight, his dementia had taken hold and he was lost to us.  I’ll never know if it was a new prescription that pushed him over the edge, or someone stealing his wallet at his assisted living center (which held his lucky $20 bill from his Navy days in the 1950s).  I’ll never know the answer and I’ll never gather enough facts to know.  This doesn’t exactly bring me peace.

Was it part of God’s plan to take this wonderful, kind man that everyone loved so quickly?  Had God heard my prayers for mercy as I saw him headed down the slippery slope of decline?  For days in the hospital, I sat talking to dad.  Even though he was unresponsive and incapable of our usual communication, I could see that parts of “dad” were still there.  The doctors were not forthcoming with information and it was a constant struggle to get the facts and the truth — two things my tenacity was going to attain.  I watched for days as the prognosis grew worse, until finally I lifted a prayer begging for answers … any kind of answers.

The neurologist came into dad’s room and he was, quite literally, heaven-sent.  He answered all of my questions to the best of his ability.  He told me dad was not coming back and I needed to make a decision as dad’s healthcare power of attorney.  An infection had started to brew and they wanted to know if we should treat it or not.  Fortunately, one of the greatest blessings in all of this is that mom and dad left detailed living wills/advanced directives, spelling out what they wanted and what they didn’t.

There was no way dad wanted to live like this, and his living will guided us to the final decision that allowed him to die a natural death as he requested.  As my sibling said, “It was the hardest, easiest decision to make, because dad had told us what he wanted.”  We honored his wishes, as hard as it was.  Imagine the level of guilt we would have to bear the remainder of our lives, had dad not gone to the trouble to have this for us, guiding us through a very dark and sorrowful time.

Moving him to Hospice House was the best decision.  Dad was so peaceful there.  I am convinced the nurses and CNAs had angel’s wings under their scrubs; yet another blessing during this time of crisis.  I stayed with dad in hospice for two days.  I talked non-stop (aided greatly by the constant flow of caffeine), I sang to him “Amazing Grace” and other songs he loved.  I asked for forgiveness for the times I wasn’t the best kid or short on patience, and I reminded him of all the great family memories.  I thanked him for instilling in us kids the morals and values that have carried us so far.  I asked him to watch over my family, give mom a big hug, and touch the stars for me.  It is hard to carry on a solo conversation.

A couple of hours before he passed, he gave me a great gift.  He opened his eyes and locked onto mine.  He hadn’t done that in a week.  Giving dad the biggest smile that I could through the tears, I told him that I was right there with him and that I was okay (he always worried about me).  I was sad but okay and was going to be okay.  I told him “I love you” as I had at least 100 times that day.  For a man whose brain could no longer function and who lost his powers of speech, what he did next was a very special gift.  Eyes locked on mine, his lips mouthed the words, “I love you” right back.  In human terms, that was impossible, but not to me.  That was a parting miracle and one I will never forget.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.  It is a sorrowful time for me and my family, but dad always said, “Life is for the living,” and mom always said, “This too shall pass.”  I think they were both right, as always.

© 2012 Julie Hall

This Part of Life Doesn’t Come With An Instruction Manual

I fell to pieces last night … literally an unrecognizable, weepy being frozen in my bathroom.  My husband heard my sobs over his ever-increasing TV volume and shoot ’em up Army movie, so I must have really let it all hang out.  To his credit and excellent nature, he came to comfort me without saying a word, understanding the pain inflicted on this lovely family.

I always thought I was incredibly strong, but when the realization hits that you are helpless against a loved one’s disease, there is no pain quite like it.

My dad is battling Alzheimer’s and he is losing.  I can see it now and the heartbreak is almost more than I can bear.  He answers the door when the telephone rings, pushes buttons on the telephone to lower the volume on the TV, and just fell last week and broke his nose.  There’s more, but I won’t bore you.  Dad is still exceptionally conversational and cares for himself very well.  He’ll talk on virtually any topic, but politics and gardening seem to be his favorites.

Recently, for what seemed like an eternity but only took a few seconds in reality, he forgot that I was his daughter.  Then a moment later, he caught himself.  That is the first time that ever happened.  I somehow managed to keep a poker face only through the grace of God, I’m sure, then managed to walk out to my car where I promptly called my brother and let it all hang out again.

I am not complaining.  I am hurting.  I hurt for dad who never deserved this horrid affliction.  I hurt for him because he is in the stage where he knows something is amiss; it seems like a hellish limbo to me.  Truth be known, I hurt for all the people out there that have this disease, and for all of us that are dealing with it on a daily basis.  “It must be the work of the devil,” I told my husband.  “He must be in such a lonely place.”

On the one hand, I praise the doctors for knowing as much as they do and helping as much as they can.  On the other hand, I curse them because they don’t know enough.  My mom made her exit from life rapidly, and I am seeing what a blessing that was.

As with anything negative, it is the wise who will turn it into something positive.  Because of this life experience, I can now add another dimension to my work as The Estate Lady: assisting my clients who are also dealing with this same issue.  I can most definitely relate, and now I can comfort them too.  It has long been said that in comforting others, you also will be comforted.  I certainly hope so.  I feel another book coming on.  I’m open to title suggestions ….

© 2012 Julie Hall

We Have a Choice When We Come to a Crossroads

There’s nothing easy about letting go.  Or feeling like we have no control.  Or even having to face the truth about ourselves or a particular situation.  So many questions unanswered … and so many more that come flooding in.  It leaves our heads spinning.

It seems these days, we all have a burden of some sort to carry.  I have witnessed this through the families I work with, and even in my own personal life with an elderly parent who is ill.  I often feel a bit stuck when I arrive at that “crossroad” and I am sure many of you feel the same way.  Whatever the situation, we have choices we have to make and not always under optimal conditions.  But we CAN do it, and do it well, even under the most stressful of times.  We have to do it, because failure is NOT an option.  We’ve come too far to let that happen.

It took me almost 50 years to realize there are many things we have no control over.  What other people do to themselves or impose on us, illnesses that defy explanation, why bad things happen to good people, etc.  And sometimes the answers just don’t come when we want them to arrive.

Mom used to call me “superwoman” and that was an appropriate title at the time.  But somewhere along the line, I ran out of gas.  Sound familiar?  Much as I hate to admit it, I simply got tired, and I allowed life to wear me out … for awhile.  Now I see too many people count on us, from our spouses to our kids, even our pets look to us!

The bottom line is that WE should be counting on our “selves.”  We possess the inner strength to confidently choose a direction.

Standing at the edge of a precipice, someone from behind pushed me and I fell.  I had two choices.  Continue to fall or learn to fly.  I flew well.

Won’t you join me?

© 2012 Julie Hall