For as avid of a reader and podcast listener as I am, I don’t listen to books very often. Audio books are hard for me to get into because I tend to listen and do at the same time, be it commuting, traveling, or working out (yes, I listen to podcasts while I run. Go ahead and giggle). And if something else grabs my attention, be it a neighborhood dog lunging for my apparently delicious tennis shoes or an announcement of a train delay, I can’t just trace back to where I was in an audio book like I can on paper.
However, when Macmillan Audio contacted me about the audio release of Ann Leary’s The Good House, I accepted their offer of a review copy. I did not regret it.
Leary’s novel about a middle-aged New England real estate professional is a darkly funny yet touching portrait of a woman and her community. Hildy Good is an alcoholic who is (sort of) in recovery, dealing with a slow business year and her fair share of interpersonal relationship problems. Her inner monologue skewers everything from townie weirdness to politically-correct educational methods to East Coast WASPiness with a wry sense of humor. Yet Hildy’s own vulnerabilities keep her brash observations from taking over the story. And as the novel delves into the literary worlds of mysteries and thrillers later in the story, Hildy’s voice is a constant–if unreliable–witness.
For how down-to-earth and practical Hildy is, she has a whimsical side. The undercurrent reference to her persecuted female predecessors, whether they are victims in the Salem witch trials or her misunderstood bipolar mother, puts an interesting twist on Hildy’s “mind reading” parlor tricks and her perceived second-class status as a recovering alcoholic. Continue reading »
By Kelly Quigley, REALTOR® Magazine
As the real estate market continues at a heated pace, it’s easy for work to consume all aspects of life. That’s why it’s more important than ever to set time aside for fun activities and quality time with family—after all, the strength of your family life is key to your professional success and personal happiness.
Al Mansell, 2005 president of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, chose “FamilyTime” as a central theme of his presidency to stress the importance for REALTORS® and those they serve to focus on the family. In keeping with that theme, here are three books that will help you make the most of every moment with your loved ones:
- Catch a Fish, Throw a Ball, Fly a Kite: 21 Timeless Skills Every Child Should Know (and Any Parent Can Teach!)
- The Organized Parent: 365 Simple Solutions to Managing Your Home, Your Time, and Your Family’s Life
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
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Parenting is harder than it looks, especially when it comes to teaching kids those activities that you never learned or haven’t quite mastered. Things like building a sand castle, spinning a yo-yo, or throwing a Frisbee. They’re skills author Jeffrey Lee says every parent can and should teach their kids, and luckily he’s providing guidance to make that job a lot easier. This light-hearted instructional book focuses on one skill per chapter, and tells you everything you need to know—complete with illustrations, safety tips, and jokes—to turn you into a fun, effective teacher. Lee shares experiences as a parent of two daughters, bringing entertaining perspective and first-hand knowledge to each skill. “This book is an invitation for you to act like a kid again,” Lee writes. “That’s an offer you can’t refuse.”
Tips From the Book:
- Know your kid. Hopes, dreams, and expectations can cloud your ability to see your kids for who they really are. To be a good teacher, you have to understand them without judging. Are they graceful or clumsy? Do they have a short attention span? How is their endurance? When you teach the kids in front of you—not the kids you wish they would be—you’ll save frustration and know when real progress is made.
- Have fun. If kids aren’t having fun, it’s hard to keep them engaged. Learning new skills is hard work, so it’s up to you to keep things light and fun. The first rule to doing this is to have fun yourself. If your attitude is grim and single-minded, don’t expect your kids to have much fun either.
- It’s not just about the end result. Adults sometimes focus too much on the end result. Kids, however, take pride in smaller achievements along the way. Remember that each step toward learning a new skill is a success in itself—as well as a chance to tell your kids how well they’re doing.
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After returning home from a tiresome day at work, who wants to wade through junk drawers looking for a child’s lost permission slip or spend the evening rounding up and washing the family’s laundry? This book is devoted to time savers and organizing tips to reduce stress at home and free up time that could be used for better things, like spending quality time with your family. From getting your closets and bathrooms in order to minimizing the chaos of the morning rush, you’ll find advice on making your daily tasks less work and your home life more peaceful. There are even tips to simplify vacation planning with kids, clothes shopping, and keeping track of bills.
Tips From the Book:
- Streamline your mornings. Busy families everywhere complain of not being able to leave the house on time in the morning. Instead of waking up earlier, take 15 minutes before you go to bed to get everything in order for the morning ahead. Have your children set the table for breakfast, lay out their school clothes, and take a bath—your morning and theirs will be less rushed.
- Create a laundry center. Set up a spot next to your washer and dryer where you can reach all of your cleaning supplies, treat stains, fold towels, and sort clothes. If you have the room, invest in a three-bin laundry sorter and have each family member deposit his or her laundry in the appropriate bin by a certain time, say 8 a.m., on designated laundry days.
- Have kids help with dinner. Let children explore their interests in the kitchen rather than forcing them to do a certain job. If they’d rather make the salad dressing than wash the lettuce, let them. The most important thing is that children help out with food preparation in the kitchen—and with chores, like clearing the table. It will save you time, and teach them responsibility and meal-planning skills.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families By Stephen R. Covey (Golden Books Adult Publishing, 1998)
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No family is perfect. But perfection shouldn’t be what you’re after. Rather, your goal should be to communicate well with family members, overcome challenges effectively, and build trust by keeping promises. That’s the main premise of this book, which looks at how to create a strong family bond in a turbulent world by adopting the seven habits. The title and the book is modeled after Covey’s popular The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, featuring the same seven habits. Each lesson is illustrated with stories from families and practical insights from the author. “Good families—even great families—are off track 90 percent of the time,” Covey writes. “The key is that they have a sense of determination. They know what the ‘track’ looks like. And they keep coming back to it time and time again.”
Tips From the Book:
- Understand your priorities. In the midst of work pressures, many people are blind to the real priority of family. But remember that your professional role is temporary; you will retire someday and be replaced, and the company will go on. Your role in your family will never end, nor will your influence. Family is perhaps the only permanent role in life.
- Learn together. In today’s world, the pace of life and the growth of technology are incredible. That’s why it’s so important for there to be a family tradition and culture that focuses on continual learning. You can learn together by practicing a new sport, reading books together about a family member’s hobby, or even teaching and singing campfire songs and on a car ride.
- Be forgiving. When you truly forgive, you can open the channels through which trust and unconditional love flow. You also remove a major obstacle that keeps others from changing. When you don’t forgive, you become a roadblock to change.
By Mariwyn Evans, REALTOR® Magazine
If you’re not heading up a top-performing real estate brokerage company, it’s probably because you didn’t listen close enough to your mother. At least that’s what Barbara Corcoran, founder and president of New York City’s The Corcoran Group. In Use What You’ve Got & Other Business Lessons I Learned from My Mom, (Putnam, $24.95) Corcoran combines humor and practical advice to show how she translated the life lessons of a struggling New Jersey childhood into real estate success.
Many of Corcoran’s 24 tips won’t come as startling news. Dressing well to impress clients, thinking creatively to solve a problem, and the value of setting up regular routines to increase productivity are all fairly standard tips from success gurus. But the author’s charming stories help make the points in a memorable way. For example, in advising practitioners to dress well, Corcoran relates her indecision of whether to use her first commission check–$340—to buy a new coat. She makes her decision after recalling her mother’s efforts to beautify her Jersey yard. After several failed attempts, her mother gives up on failing flowers and decides to paint the decorative rocks on her walk white. Just this little amount of freshening gets her a compliment from the neighborhood’s house-proud matron. With Mom’s success in mind, Corcoran buys a great coat at Bergdorf Goodman and never looks back.
Other lessons focus on:
- Hiring. Cut out deadwood early by telling new hires that have only 90 days to make their first sale.
- Motivating by making your business fun. Create a sense of fun by taking sales associates out of their normal routines and looking for offbeat outing ideas—such as a hit Roaring ‘20s party Corcoran hosted for her staff.
- Web marketing. Don’t develop your own software, except as a last resort. There’s almost certainly an off-the-shelf package that will fit your needs with just a little adaptation.
- Litigating. Look for an attorney to represent you who’s a great presenter. “Careful preparation and presentation of the facts is more important than the facts themselves,” says Corcoran.
The book also contains multiple tips lists, or lessons, on how to build your business. For example, to get more publicity and name recognition for your company, Corcoran suggests such tactics as publishing a statistical report of area sales under your company’s name, making presentations that have visual interest—and thus photo opportunities for media, and learning how to comment on already breaking stories to get your name in print. The book also includes a “Bonus Manual” of tips for salespeople. Again, these don’t contain much you haven’t heard before, but the concise numbered lists serve as good reminders of sales principles. Nevertheless, ideas such as practicing your presentation until it’s perfect and always sending a “thank you” note, even if you didn’ t get the business, are good reminders of tried and true principles. Perhaps most important, Corcoran emphasizes the need for getting out there and doing face-to-face selling. “Nothing really fun every happens at the office, and all the good ideas are on the outside.”
Use What You’ve Got is an easy read with short chapters and whimsical line drawings of Corcoran and her family. And while the ideas may not be new, they have the validity of being tested through Corcoran’s own experience and proved successful. Maybe after all, mother knew best.
By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine
Technology has made it impossible to leave your job behind. Work follows you everywhere; pagers beep, PDAs prompt, and e-mail connects us 24-7. The problem is especially acute for real estate professionals, who can easily fall into the trap of always being “on-call.”
It takes more than pawning your pager or tossing your laptop off a cliff to achieve a balanced life, says Gil Gordon, author of Turn It Off: How to Unplug from the Anytime, Anywhere Office, Without Disconnecting Your Career (Three Rivers Press, 2001. $12.00) Telecommuting and virtual office expert Gordon, whose work has been featured in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to USA Today, espouses a philosophy that is not so much anti-technology as pro-moderation. Rather than advocating total abstinence from technology, the book argues that individuals should recognize the effect it has on their lives and take steps to keep those effects under control.
Gordon’s thesis is simple–you have a fundamental right to allocate some portion of your week to work-free and work-limited zones. To regain some balance between home and work, Gordon suggests carving your week into three distinct categories and letting your clients and co-workers know when you’ll be accessible:
- On duty: This is the time you carry out the majority of your work. You are fully available, accessible, and willing and able to do your work.
- Off duty: The polar opposite of being on call. This is your “don’t call me; I’m busy having a life” time.
- Mid-duty range: The middle ground between these two extremes. You can make a deliberate decision about how accessible you will be on weekends or after hours.
Firmly establishing a set of ground rules that address your level of availability can keep technology from invading your life. If your office knows that you don’t check your e-mail on Sundays, for example, you won’t have to feel guilty about spending the afternoon with your family.
Turn It Off also gives you advice on how to communicate your plan without damaging your job or your client relationships. This is largely dependant on advance planning. Improvisation leaves you unprepared and less likely to make convincing arguments for your new schedule. You should know exactly what limits you wish to introduce and your reasons for introducing them. For instance, if long hours are stressing you out, then freeing up some time may actually improve your productivity.
Additionally, you should tailor conversations about your plan towards each individual. Some people prefer seeing a memo in writing before discussing important scheduling issues, others might prefer an informal conversation over a cup of coffee. Finally, always remember to keep your cool and listen to other people’s concerns. There’s a fine line between aggressiveness and assertiveness, but you can get your points across without alienating anyone.
The idea that everyone deserves some time to themselves may seem like a radical notion in today’s wired world. Ultimately, however, ignoring quality-of-life issues can have serious consequences including burn out and diminished productivity. Technology that allows you to stay in touch while you’re in the office, on the road, or working from home has been a tremendous boon to real estate professional. But nobody should have to be a slave to their cell phone. You don’t have tune out completely, but you shouldn’t ever forget that it has an off switch for a reason.