There is a time for everything; now is the time of year to not only give to others, but to give to yourself as well.  Sometimes I think we forget that.

In between decking the halls and flocking to malls, making sure you’ve made a list and checked it twice, singing “Jingle Bells” in every possible rendition, and finding yourself frustrated with the crowds and traffic and (yes, you can say it) the greed you see, we have forgotten to do one very special thing for ourselves … reflect.  There’s only so much one human being can do, and we humans have a tendency to go on auto-pilot during the holidays.

The New Year marks a happy time for most people, because we get to “start all over again.”  What we should be doing is skimming back through 2013.

Facing whatever the year held for us is important: the pain, the struggles, the tears, and the worries.  But let us also not forget the joy, the strength, and the obstacles we overcame.  Some people are afraid to look back.  It isn’t healthy to stay there very long, but it is ok to compare it to where you are now.  You’ve come a long way and you should be proud of yourself.

It was a rough year for many people.  If we take the time to look back, even for a few uninterrupted and peaceful moments, we can see that the past is indeed past; yet we are moving forward at what feels like warp speed.  It is in reflecting that we can also see how we’ve had an effect on people’s lives or how they’ve affected ours.  It is a time to envision how we could have done things better, and feel good about the positive things that have transpired.  It is about personal growth when it comes to the bad stuff we went through.

This personal reflection shows us how strong we became as we battled the indescribable pain of losing a loved one, losing a job, or even sometimes, our sense of “self.”  It is also in that reflection that we should remember those far less fortunate than ourselves — to put things into perspective and realize we are not as bad off as we may think or feel.

It isn’t about loss.  It’s about gain.

Now you can move forward teaching others because you have an experience you didn’t have before.  If everyone had a better attitude, if everyone took the time to reflect on themselves, if everyone learned to forgive themselves and others, the world would be a much better place.  But since neither you nor I can control the world, all we can do is work on our little corner of it.  Our job is not to solve the problems of the universe.  It’s just to be the best that we can be at who we are and what we do (and the word “perfection” does exist when it comes to that).

Imagine a world where everyone tried to be their best.  Now that’s worth reflecting on!

©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

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

The Violin

The unexpected grandeur was almost more than I could handle.  I have never felt my spirit soar quite like this, having explored the entire interior of Alaska this month.  Being in the midst of such untouched beauty is exactly what the doctor ordered to renew my soul after losing so much personally last year.

Part of the trip was a luxury cruise, and like most cruises, one has a tendency to get a bit lazy eating way too much.  It did not surprise me that my teenage daughter went in one direction, and hubby and I went in another.  There was a small lounge on our way back to the cabin that had hourly entertainment, and it was there that my ears instantly lead me to, almost as if I had to go listen.  From a distance I could hear the delicate but soulful draw of the bow against the violin, an instrument I have always had an affection for.  In the wrong hands, this instrument can make your head hurt and create cringes as powerful as nails on a chalkboard.  In the right hands, it will bring the listener to tears.

The group was originally from the Philippines, with one on the violin and another on classical guitar.  What drew me to their sound was the perfection of what I heard, and “perfection” is not a word I use easily.  Having studied classical music for most of my childhood and adolescence, I knew a pro when I heard them.  The violin is a temperamental instrument, so when you found someone who could make it sing, it was always worth listening.

During their short break, the violin sat by itself on the polished black baby grand.  Alone, it was a pretty thing, but it was just an inanimate object that sat there waiting for its owner.  It was powerless without him.  The gentleman dressed in black returned, picked up the violin, and nestled it under his chin, drawing his bow in preparation to play.

From the moment that bow met with the strings, I knew that this wooden instrument was more a part of him than his own arm.  He had clearly dedicated his life to the pursuit of beautiful music and had a love affair with this violin, rarely seen.  It was not a matter of commanding the violin to do what he wanted; it was a matter of letting his spirit invade it and the two becoming one.  He played classics from all eras, including some easy listening, some classical, some love songs.  My eyes never left his upper torso, witnessing how much love he had for the sound they created together, and how his body moved with the violin, bringing it to life.  The violin was only too happy to perform.

Corny as it sounds, when he started playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I just lost it and the tears came.  Never had I heard such clarity, felt such powerful emotion and admiration … on a cruise ship for that matter!  His talent was wasted here in the middle of the North Pacific, or so I thought before realizing how much pleasure he brought to those who were listening.

I don’t know his name, this stranger who brought me to tears.  Perhaps it was the breathtaking scenery of ice capped mountains, icebergs, and glaciers that had already touched me.  what I do know is how rare it is to find someone who has dedicated themselves to one thing, in the quest of being the best they can be.  Clearly, he had a calling and a gift, but we all do whether we realize it or not.  The time has come to look within ourselves to uncover our gifts so that we can move forward in our lives, touching others with our gifts.  I believe this is the purpose of our lives.

Whoever he is, he will never know the positive impact he had on me.  I can only hope someone will discover him and get him on a stage where he can touch many more!

©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.

Venturing Outside “The Box”

There’s a place we all retreat to that is as comfortable as our favorite pair of old blue jeans.  We have a tendency to stay inside our box so we feel we are in a protected territory, comforted and safe from the world out there.  It is a place that, while not very adventurous, virtually assures us an existence of simplicity and familiarity; there is nothing wrong with that if it’s what we choose.

This was my year to go outside of my nice, comfy box and I knew it would take much self-talk to get it done.  Deep down, I love the idea of adventure, but end up being a weenie … kind of like the canary who dreams of being an eagle.  Numerous internal conversations between the many Julies that exist inside me said it was time to do things I had never done before … to go beyond my comfort zone.

I decided it was time for a little adventure.  Maybe it’s time to feel alive again.  Maybe it’s just a mid-life crisis.  Maybe it’s because I had a lovely, but very cautious upbringing and felt the need to break out of the mold just a little bit.  So here’s what I did:

I kayaked among Orcas in 1,200 feet of pristine water, admiring ancient forests from the ice age and bald eagles soaring overhead, as my paddles gently cut through the water.  Not a sound to be heard except me and nature.  Even seals popped up in curiosity.  I should have worn a diaper, but I was so awestruck, I didn’t even feel nervous.


Always afraid of heights, I encouraged myself to get on a tiny “bubble” helicopter and see glaciers and mountains from a different point of view.  Even though the pilot didn’t look old enough to drive, I really pushed myself to enjoy the adventure and it was exhilarating!  Truth be told, I was happy to have my feet on the ground again, but would have denied myself this beauty had I not gone high in the sky.  Here are some images of that flight.



Look at the gorgeous blue glacier lake on the white snow from 5,000 feet up.  It looks like Tide detergent on a white sheet!


I trekked the top of a glacier, hearing crunches and crackling of ice with every step I took.  Some steps looked as if I was walking on water as you could see running water under the clear icy surface.  They say some of these pockets are several hundred feet deep and I certainly didn’t want to end up in one of them.  But, how many times will I ever get to walk on a glacier?  That is what fueled my feet to go further.


To see a gathering of humpback whales working together to feed was an incredible and incomparable experience.  They say it is rare to see this, but we saw it several times.  I was lucky enough to catch a photo, with my husband holding onto me in the back of a rocky boat and me hanging over the edge to get the photo.  I was the only one to get it too, because I was willing to go over the edge, with a little help from hubby.  How awesome is this?


We ventured farther into Denali than most.  To see this vast, protected land with wild animals and ecosystems that work in sync with each other was really a sight to behold.  Thank God for the people who conserve such places.  Mt. McKinley (Denali) is breathtaking!


I did not go on the world’s biggest zip line.  OK, so I chickened out on that one, but I figured, “Why tempt fate with a dinky metal cable?”  No matter how much self-talk I engaged in, the answer was always “NO way!”

I am blessed!  Blessed that I was able to have these experiences, blessed with wonderful family and friends, blessed in many aspects.  Ultimately, the ability to go outside our comfort zone is a very personal decision.  All I kept asking myself during this trip was, “What if I hadn’t done these things?”  Look at what I would have missed!

So here I sit in the comfort of my office sharing this with you.  I can honestly say I didn’t miss riding the biggest zip line in the world.  Now that I can live with!

©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.

Entrepreneurs: If I Can Do It, You Can Too

If I only knew then, what I know now …

Twenty three years ago, I had this crazy idea while sitting at my corporate desk, that if I was going to work this hard for them, I might as well work that hard for myself.  I also thought, “Julie, how can you even think of this?  You must be off your rocker to consider leaving the reliability of a paycheck and benefits.”  Like a lightning bolt from the sky, an intense thought grabbed hold of this young woman at the exuberant age of 27 and it never let go.  People say this is the first sign you are an entrepreneur.

From that day to now, I feel compelled to share with every person who is reading this: if I had the chance to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.  It was the right decision, made me wise beyond my years, and honestly comes with zero regret.  However, it was not an easy road.  In fact, there was no road at all in my chosen field.  I found myself at an instant crossroad before I took my first step.  Do I move forward into the abyss not knowing what I am doing and make a road for others to follow one day? Or should I turn around and stay in a job I didn’t care for but had a steady paycheck.  As it turned out, I discovered I am an excellent bulldozer and I paved the way to what I was meant to do.  The really great news: if I can do it, you can too.

One of the first lessons you learn as an entrepreneur is that while a multitude of resources are available to you, ultimately you are on your own.  What an isolating feeling.  You learn quickly what you are made of.  It takes great strength and stamina to fulfill your dream, not to mention the patience and support of those closest to you.  More than that, it takes tenacity of spirit, a positive mindset when you feel like crumbling and crying (and yes, that will happen), and the ability to get back up when you were just knocked down.

As a mother, when my daughter was learning to walk and she stumbled and fell, I would encourage her to get right back up immediately, brush herself off, and go on to her next adventure.  So too, is the unpredictable life of an entrepreneur.  Get right back up, and no matter what, keep moving forward.  Throughout the years, there nave been many times I felt like the hamster that runs on that wheel with lots of vigor, but never really gets anywhere.  Looking back I actually was going somewhere, but the holding patterns and plateaus are very frustrating.  Yet they are part of our growth.

People venture out as entrepreneurs for many different reason.  Some receive a strong calling, perhaps an invention in their mind or a service which will bring relief to the consumer.  Others feel they are better off building their own business; still others thrive on the satisfaction they receive on the road to success.  For me, it was all of the above.

What I wouldn’t have given back then to have the experience and valuable knowledge I possess today!  Next week, I’ll share the most important lessons I have learned in building a successful business.  Please don’t miss this knowledge for yourself or someone you know.

©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 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

There is Much to be Grateful For

I’m thankful for things I never thought about before.  It could be the economy that has us more thankful for what we do have, or in my case, losing one beloved parent and in the process of losing the other that makes me see things differently than I used to.

I walk outside for a fresh breath and see a perfect sky and the gorgeous leaves this time of year.  How could anything be wrong when you see something that beautiful?  I don’t yell at my teen as much as I used to.  She supported me during a time of tremendous loss and has spoken words of wisdom when she sees me folded over in tears, due to my father’s illness.  How could anything be wrong when you’re surrounded by something so beautiful?

I’m not as impatient as  I used to be, and I’m thankful for that too.  And even though I have always thought of myself as a kind person, I am even more so now, because the world needs as much light and kindness as possible.

We all have worries, fears, and thoughts we shouldn’t have.  It is a sign of the times.  I walked to the backyard and was greeted by a family of 9 deer who did not run when I got within 15 feet of them.  Instead, the timid deer allowed me to slowly approach, and I crouched down only to observe how graceful they all were.  How they all remained together to stay safe, warm, and graze.  Their big eyes and ears were always on the alert, but they were inquisitive as well.  The mother had an injured leg (not life threatening), and she was slower than the rest, but they never left her behind.  They stayed together like family should.

It was a “God” moment.  Just me and God and his incredible creatures.  In that snippet of time, all my worries and troubles were gone.  All was right and my mind was “in the moment.”  So that’s what it feels like not to have any worries, I thought to myself.  I need to do this more often.  And so I shall.

My mom used to say you can see things from any angle you choose; you can be mad or glad, happy or sad.  It’s all in how you look at things.  I’ll start thinking more like that too.

I’m finally beginning to get the picture.  Fifty years into this thing called life, I finally get it.  Be appreciative.  Tell people how you feel.  Fix your wrongs.  Treat others well.  Do the right thing.  It all goes back to everything we learned in kindergarten; only somewhere along the way, life got in the way and we may have forgotten.

Let this be a reminder to us all to be more “in the moment” with an appreciative heart, as we enter this holiday season and a new year.

© 2012 Julie Hall

Live a Life That Matters

(Source unknown)

Ready or not, someday it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.

All the things you collected, whether treasures or baubles, will pass on to someone else.

Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.  It will not matter what you owned or what you owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will disappear.  So too, your hopes, dreams, plans, and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that seemed so important will fade away.  It won’t matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived.

It won’t matter if you were beautiful or brilliant, and your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter?  How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built.

Not what you got, but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success, but your significance.

It is not what you learned, but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, or sacrifice, that empowered, enriched, and encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence, but your character.

It will not matter how many people you knew, but how many people will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those that loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.  It is a matter of choice.

© 2012 Julie Hall

A Lesson in Humility

Oh, how we all wish we had more money!  Most of us are watching our money more closely, using coupons, and buying at good sales.  There are some who spend in a thrifty manner and some who buy at high retail.  Think for a moment, how blessed we are to hat least have money to buy the things we need.  For the purpose of this blog, let us forget about the things we want, and concentrate on what we need.

My daughter and I spent time this weekend in a large homeless shelter that serves breakfast to about 250 homeless men.  We were the new volunteers, and initially felt a bit awkward in this new environment.  I think we also arrived with a “preconceived” notion of what to expect.  Visions of dirty people from the street lying around, passed out from drugs and alcohol, filled my head.  I silently wondered why so many of them were there and why they couldn’t get their lives together.  Still, I wanted to give back and help instill in my daughter a sense of community and an understanding that not everyone is as fortunate.

About 20 volunteers buzzed around, each having a special job “behind the counter” setting up the food, juice, cups, trays, etc.  I immediately sensed a hesitation for people to cross that line and be out front where the homeless people were getting lined up for breakfast.  This hesitation, whether on a conscious or subconscious level, added to my trepidation about going out there and serving coffee among them — with my very attractive daughter in a room full of homeless men.  This was concerning to me, but they needed two volunteers, and since no one came forth, it seemed life was pointing the way for us to do it.  So, off we went to our new adventure.  My teenage daughter and I went out there and served coffee and water to these men.

I expected these men not to maintain eye contact and was forewarned of this possibility.  I expected them to take the food and coffee and run.  I expected them to look down on us because we were “rich” to them.  I expected bad attitudes and resentment.  I expected my daughter to be creeped out and never want to return.

Boy, was I wrong.  I suddenly found myself choked by both my own toxic thoughts, as well as humility that smacked me in the head.  I was instantly humbled by their genuine “Thank you” and “We appreciate what you do for us.”  I also heard “God bless you” and “Have a nice day.”  Sure, I heard a few grumbles and complaints, but such is human nature.  Not only was I forced to eat a piece of humble pie at that moment, but much like the Grinch, I could feel my heart grow three times as large.

And a miracle occurred as well.  My teenage daughter, who is a good girl but rather “prickly” at times, smiled from ear to ear at an older man who told her to stay sweet.  She told him, “Have a nice day. Sir!”  I hadn’t seen her that animated and involved in a long time.  And miracle #2?  She can’t wait to go back!  Wonders never cease.

© 2012 Julie Hall

Sometimes Life’s an Oxymoron

A potential client sat in her parent’s affluent home asking my opinion as to how we should handle the dissolution of the property.  In this case, I recommended a combination of auction and donation because it was not suitable for a good estate sale.  Imagine my shock when she basically refused the very idea of donation.  This was foreign to me.  With so many out there in need, and her being financially blessed, I just couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want the towels, linens, kitchen items, and clothing donated.  I left the home not knowing what to make of it.  This appeared to be a picture of an uncharitable heart … hold that thought.

On Christmas Eve, our family went to a candlelight service.  Feeling a little blue because mom passed away and everything feeling weird without her, my father, family and I went to the service in hopes it would lift our Christmas spirit. 

A small boy no older than 4 years old was wheeled in front of me.  There, in a wheelchair that looked like something from outer space with every gadget and gismo attached, was this very tiny child with the most angelic face I had ever seen.  He was beautiful with his blonde hair and blue eyes and looked like “Tiny Tim” from A Christmas Carol

He was completely helpless and dependent on his parents.  The child could not move any of his limbs and stared up at the ceiling.  He never made a sound.  Finally, his father unbelted him from his lifeline and picked him up.  The boy was as limp as a ragdoll and showed no sign of life other than his eyes being open. 

At first, dad held him on his lap and he repeatedly kissed the boy on the forehead.  Then mom held him and she would rub his hair playfully, talk to him and kiss his cheeks.  Their faces and eyes held the most amazing peace.  I thought to myself, Now, that’s love.  What an amazing example of love, compassion, and acceptance.

When you witness something as beautiful as that, and then meet other people who seem to have so much but are not willing to share any, it’s a little difficult to understand human nature. 

I did not hear the minister’s message on Christmas Eve, because I was so engrossed in observing this family with their boy.  When I realized I missed the bulk of the service, I just smiled to myself, knowing the message I had received was much more powerful —  and a tender reminder that we have so much to be thankful for. 

© 2012 Julie Hall