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Goodbye Harrowed, Hello Halloween!

Fall got a late start, and sometimes it feels like the weather these days is reflecting the state of my home. Unpredictable, too hot, and, some days, just plain weird. And, like Mother Nature, this mama is playing catch up to bring my family into fall. Translated: we’re in a mad dash to get Halloween costumes together and throw up our motley assortment of decorations!

Let’s talk about Halloween. (Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to be an historical analysis about the day with religious or pagan descriptions. It also isn’t going to be a tirade against candy. I’ll leave that to the dental blogs.) Love it or hate it, Halloween is approaching, and, bear with me, I believe it offers A LOT for kids and grown-ups alike. I believe it can bring out the best in us. And, if you ignore Halloween, it can make you a bitter, seething adult. 

Halloween, for me, was an opportunity to forget everything: every emotional hang-up, every deadline looming, every thought I have and just focus on fun. The fun of assembling a costume you can’t wait to put on for a party you can’t wait to get to. The fun of thinking about how that character/object speaks and will I want to speak in an accent this Halloween to be fully thematic? The fun of getting candy (I’m partial to Twix), and ripping it open to eat the first one mid-trick-or-treating. The fun of making brain-shaped Jell-O and seeing my friends’ reactions to it. The fun of looking like someone else for a day. 

But I haven’t done any of that in a long time. I’ve focused on my kids and their fun. Between running Listed Treasures and being a mom I sometimes find Halloween to be a chore. Another thing I have to do. It seems I forgot about the brain Jell-O. I stopped celebrating Halloween for me

My neighbors have reclaimed their Halloween fun. They decorate like the ghost of Vincent Price is coming to town, and throw adult get togethers in the cul-de-sac with adult beverages and Halloween-themed snacks. We recap the trick-or-treating and costume making debacles, we tell our kids “No more candy!” while we sneak Reese’s ourselves, and, most importantly, we laugh. We laugh so much. And usually, I do it all in my regular, boring jeans and sweatshirt.

Before kids, I really went all out on my costume. I have a long history of extraordinary costumes, including dressing up as early career Britney Spears. I even performed a lip sync for a gymnastics gym full of kids! I also have a tradition of dressing up like the person that invited me to the party when I do go to a Halloween party.  It’s REALLY fun to see the looks on the hosts face when they see me in character as them! I act the part too!

I haven’t dressed up in a few years. It’s been a big enough task to get my kids into the costumes of their dreams. But this year, I’m reclaiming my right to have fun on Halloween. Don’t happy parents make happy kids? And if that’s not a saying I’m going to start saying it and make it one. 

This year, I’m going to dress up. I can’t tell you what my costume will be because it’ll probably be an eleventh hour effort. But I’m making the commitment! 

Let’s reclaim Halloween and have a real night of fun for ourselves. Come on and dress up, too. Tell me your costume–or send me a pic! Happy Halloween!

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Compassion for Hoarders

You might have been watching local news on Monday night like I was. There was a fire in Maryland and the victim was described as a possible hoarder. Instantly, I felt so protective of this woman, whose condition had been “outed” to her neighbors and friends. And, the tone the newscasters were taking made it worse, landing somewhere between derision and judgment. I was so angry– angry that in addition to recovering from fire-related injuries, she also faced certain public humiliation. I wondered, is this how we are meant to treat each other?

I go into people’s homes for a living. I choose to be be kind to my potential clients, and show them they can trust me with their belongings and memories. It upset me to think that these journalists hadn’t been educated about hoarding or were choosing not to be compassionate. It seemed they were reporting on it without knowing much about it.

For example, hoarders often feel isolated, and have no idea how prevalent their condition is. But according to research conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, compulsive hoarding affects approximately 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the U.S. It’s so common, and yet rarely do you even know someone is dealing with this condition as they keep it a secret.

Hoarding is a mental health condition that may require medical intervention. It can be a serious health and safety concern, and there are county services set up to help. Educate yourself on hoarding, and if you suspect someone you know may suffer from this condition seek assistance from the Fairfax Code of Compliance Office, 703-324-1300.

Thank you, Treasure Hunters, for continuing to make our community a kind one.

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Opening Doors, Expanding Hearts

Opening Doors, Expanding Hearts

We used to have very few Christmas traditions. With family scattered around the country, we used to spend Christmas morning bundled in the car en route to a celebration elsewhere. Since we moved closer to family in here in Virginia that all has changed. Frankly, we were unprepared for the feelings that would come when we found “home”.

We purchased our house on Dec 1st, three years ago, and rushed through some renovations, knowing we wanted to spend Christmas there. Moving is already hectic and stressful, but the deadline of Christmas felt even zanier. It was so chaotic, my husband wrapped a sheet around our tree and threw it in the moving van (we only lost a few ornaments!), and we began the journey to Virginia.  We moved in Christmas Eve, and to celebrate got a new puppy. The puppy belonged to one of my husband’s clients, and, while we knew adding a puppy to the mix of moving and renovations wouldn’t help matters, the puppy looked just like my beloved dog (whom I loved for 15 years). I knew he was meant to go on the journey to the new house with us.

There’s a moment when you’re moving when you begin to doubt. For me it came when the kids were crying for the old house, and I started to realize my fixer-upper needed more fixing than I thought, and that mortgage was so big, and I freaked out. I thought, “Why did we move? And on Christmas Eve? I barely know anyone here! The new puppy is peeing on the new floor! What have I done?!” There may have been expletives.

But then, the doorbell rang.

What now? To my happy surprise, it was a group of strolling carolers, serenading my stressed out family with “Dashing Through The Snow”. My shoulders eased, my heart softened. The next day, someone dressed up as Santa, and cruised the neighborhood in a firetruck. My kids were ecstatic! Then, neighbors invited us to their Christmas Day open house, where we met lots of new people. One of those new friends invited us to a cul-de-sac fire pit get-together for that evening. Together with our kids and new friends, we roasted marshmallows, drank hot chocolate and started to reflect on our crazy move. In just 24 hours we had moved, made friends, and started to experience Christmas in a totally different way. We knew we had hit the neighborhood jackpot and this was going to be the place of memories for our kids.  

I know most families have age-old holiday traditions, but we are actually in the process of trying to figure out what’s going to be special for us.  My kids have experienced so much change in their lives (we’ve moved four times in my oldest daughter’s eight years). Now that we are close to family, we’re spending Christmas mornings quietly, cozily, at home together.  We really enjoy the time together here.

It’s our turn now.

As the season gets closer, I think of that first day in our new house, and how our community opened its arms to us. I think of their smiles, joyful parties, and their caroling voices, and how each revived our spirits. Even the puppy seemed to respond to the community feeling and stopped peeing on the floor!

I want to give that feeling of community and welcome to someone else here in Virginia. That’s why this season I’m looking to you to help me to help others. I’m hoping you’ll tell me about which local charities are important to you on our Facebook page. I know most local groups can always use more volunteers and more awareness. So let’s all learn about each other’s favorite causes, and let’s all try to reach out and make someone else’s holiday sweet and merry.