STAGING FOR STAYING

Most of my friends don’t know what staging is.  Okay, some know now because I , an HGTV junkie, told them.  I watch HGTV .  What would you expect from a woman who, at age 10, used a black and white composition notebook to tape pictures from her mom’s HOUSE BEAUTIFUL magazine?

True, I’ve moved more than a lot of people I know, not all close friends.  But I am always amazed that people don’t realize that their environment affects them, even if they are not interested in “decorating.”  Really, why do you think so much money is spent on designing cereal boxes?  They influence how we feel, therefore, they influence our choice, even if you’re not a member of the visual mob squad like I am.  Sorry, just like Lady Ga Ga, I was just born that way.

This blog post was inspired by my long held conviction that we should live well where we are living and my last Sunday New York Times article on staging in the real estate section.

As reported in the article, sometimes staging can be so effective a seller decides to “buy” their own apartment and take it off the market.

Obviously, if you are not selling your apartment or house, not all staging tips will apply to you.  You are not going to remove all family photographs.  On the other hand, having too many surfaces – tables, bookshelves, pianos – cluttered with too many pictures of too many different sizes in too many different frames doesn’t work either.

So, here are 5 tips to stage to stay.

1, Try things – it’s not permanent.  I sometimes consult long distance with my daughter.  She’s in Miami.  I’m in Manhattan.  She’s chosen wonderful furniture for her first married apartment, but now it’s time to add the details and place

some of the wedding presents.   I suggested that she move the shiny stainless steel bar tool holder and shaker to the bottom of the bar cart and put her beautiful martini glasses on a tray (try a baking sheet first for effect).  She tried it and

agreed.  She doesn’t always, but she only lost 10 minutes, and nothing is permanent.

2.  If you’ve had the same window treatment for over 12 years, try something new.  Bed Bath and Beyond and Home Goods allow you to buy things more on the inexpensive side, and you can always return them.  Use Velcro to hold things

up so you can get the effect without doing anything permanent.

3.  Attack just one bookcase or table surface.  Remove everything and look at the objects critically.  Women don’t wear the same dress to every party or dinner.  Why should your bookcase look the same for 10 years?

4.  Declutter.  Look around your living room or dining room and take away 5 things.  Donate them or put them in a closet to be used for a future staging.  I bet, in 2 weeks, you’ll find another

items that could “party” someplace else.
5.  Move one or 2 pieces of furniture.  You don’t have to do a whole new floor plan. (Maybe later)  Sometimes, shifting a couch  just 2 feet opens up space.  Switch the chairs  that are on either side

of the table.

Small changes can sometimes have significant impact on a room.  Try it.  If you don’t like it, you can always change it back.  Happy staging.  Happy staying.

A CEO AT 4 YEARS OLD

The nation is obsessed with teaching test taking preparation, an easy, if unfair, way to evaluate and  then fire teachers, get more federal and state aid (please explain the logic of giving more aid to successful schools rather than to schools that need to improve) and, let us not forget the hidden demon, improve real estate values.

What the nation should be obsessed with is improving students’ executive functioning.  The “Brains CEO” which, among other things, involves the ability to categorized (see my post on junk drawers), sequence, and understand cause and effect (If I organize clothes before hand, I have time to finish breakfast or finish my book).

If schools aren’t doing this job, then parents must, but they are not.  In fact, everyone has to be the CEO of their own life.  Very few of us will actually get an MBA, and even the few of us who do, shouldn’t have to wait that long to get the needed skills.

Even successful parents seem to be oblivious to this need.  For starters, we just waste too much time.  According to a Boston marketing firm, the average American wastes 55 minutes a day looking for things they own – almost 14 days a year.  Look at any woman’s pocket book or look at a kid’s backpack (hence, the need for a School Doodle).

A real estate broker friend of mine was going to buy Clothes Doodles for clients who recently bought an apartment.  She wanted to show them the product and she referred them to the Doodle Noodle website (www.doodlenoodlestuff.com) .

One woman said she had a nanny.   She didn’t need it.  The other said she didn’t like to decide in advance what her child would wear.

Both parents totally missed out on a chance to develop their child’s executive functioning in a manner appropriate for a pre-school child.  Here’s an opportunity, even if it’s done with the nanny, to discuss weather events, days of the week, colors and have the child make decisions about what they were going to wear.  It was a missed opportunity to have the child be independent, get their clothes themselves and dress themselves as much as they were capable.

If it rained on Tuesday, rather than on Wednesday when it was predicted, the child could exercise further decision making skill by substituting the clothing.  The opportunity for language development is extensive.  We want to raise independent decision makers, not children who have nannies to do everything for them.

As an educator for over 30 years, I can tell you with assurance, I am not making too much of this.  This is where we should begin.

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BE REALLY PRO LIFE! STOP THE BULLETS. STOP THE KILLING.

I grew up in the Catskill Mountains where deer hunting was legal at restricted times.  While real or decorative “heads” are now on the wall of every HGTV design show, I saw the real thing in homes in the ‘60s.  Some people actually ate what they killed.  I spit out my first bite of venison – I was only 10.

I still don’t like it, but if you have been vetted to purchase a hunting rifle and ammunition, and have a hunting license, good hunting.

The National Rifle Association is insisting on maintaining people’s rights to buy guns and ammunition on line, even while the average person is losing their right to safely go themselves or take their family to the movies.

I don’t want to rehash the horrible news about the events that took place in Aurora, Colorado the other day.  But I do want to discuss some of the immediate and long term effects of this event, and what I think we need to do.

Sunday, we were out for a walk in Manhattan, and noticed that there were police officers in front of our local movie theater.  Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly have ordered them to be in front of every theater in New York City that is showing the new Batman film in reaction to the shootings in Aurora.  Is it mere symbolism, or is it a necessary precaution?

It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of Mayor Bloomberg.  However, in a column that appeared in today’s New York Daily News, he made some points about gun control  that I want to share them with you.  A leader in the fight to prevent guns,  purchased legally in other states, from reaching the streets of New York, he wrote that the vast majority of Americans, both Republicans and  Democrats and even a majority of NRA members now share that point of view.

He wants to strengthen the laws that require background checks when guns are sold at retail establishments.   To buy a gun on line, all one has to do is state that they are of legal age and that they are neither a convicted felon nor suffering from some mental instability that would make it unsafe for them to own a weapon.

OK, does that mean I can walk right out of the psych ward at Bellevue and order a gun on the internet?  Yes, it does.  Does that mean I can call an 800 number or e-mail somebody and meet a gun seller in a parking lot somewhere?  Yes, it does.  As Brian Rossen reported in February on NBC (a story which was repeated this week), it means just that.

I understand that the Second Amendment is somewhat vague on the right to bear arms, but what part of “a well regulated militia” includes the right of an individual to own a semi automatic 9mm Glock handgun.  It is time that The NRA realizes that it is no longer 1781 when the Second Amendment was enacted.  The right to bear arms must be tempered to consider the rights of all people to live their lives without the danger of a madman like James Holmes walking into a movie theater and changing our worlds forever.

Less than 2% of the population of the United States belongs to the NRA.  Michelle and Ann, if your husbands won’t stand up to the NRA, maybe you’ll have the guts to.  It could be your children.

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MANNIES?

I haven’t seen them on the streets yet (or maybe I thought they were dads), but according to a segment on The Today Show this morning, men are taking jobs as “Mannies.”  Are single moms seeking male care givers to replace the “father” figure in a child’s life?

I’m an educator, not a psychologist, but I don’t think men have done such a good job – need I mention priests, coaches, abusive bosses and general sexist attitudes that still permeate our society.  Yes, 37 years after Betty Friedan’s book, THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE, we have a 37 year old, pregnant, woman as CEO of a major Fortune 500 company.  But look at the national skeptics comments about whether she can be a mom and a CEO.  Where is the squawk about whether her husband can be an investment banker and a father?

Actually, thinking about it, maybe we should have more Mannies and Mr. Moms.  We need more female elected officials on the state and federal levels and more female Fortune 500 CEOs.  They couldn’t possibly be doing a worse job than the “guys” are doing now.

 

At 37 years of age, Marissa Mayer is the youngest person ever to be appointed  CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  But the news media is not focusing on that fact.  No, they are almost solely interested in the fact that she is going to give birth to a boy in October.

Granted that she will have to take some time off to give birth – how will this affect her work and life any more than it would a man’s.  Yes, if she is breast feeding, she will have to make time to nurse the baby or pump.  Have you ever counted how much time men spend in the bathroom?  I bet it equals out.

NEW YAHOO CEO
MARISSA MEYER

Watching so called “experts” and commentators on TV so worried about how she will be able to work at home on her maternity leave, you’d think they didn’t know that baby’s sleep a lot.

She is a CEO of a major Fortune 500 company at 37.  She knows how to manage, and she is not a poor single mother with very few resources.  She doesn’t have to clean, cook or shop.  She can afford a full time person to help with the baby.    The baby has a father (venture capitalist or not) who, except for breast feeding can do half or more of whatever she has to do.

Can we finally get over the sexism? ( America is the only Western country without paid maternity leave.)  I’d rather know (and so would a lot of other women) how she got to be a major player in a very male world.

HOW “BRAVE” IS YOUR DAUGHTER?

Second animated story with a fierce red head. (Is read hair the thing now?)  A teenage sword fighting, arrow slinging feudal princess is having trouble accepting the traditional princess role.

The Queen is portrayed as a woman who, while she does the expected crewel work, knows how to handle her brave strong dunce of a husband and insists her daughter, Merida, conform.   Merida seeks the help of a witch to change her mother with unpredictable consequences.

  A longer discussion than one might have expected ensued after watching this high end cartoon.  How strong is the need for teenagers to rebel against their parents to grow into their own person?   What message did “BRAVE” send to our daughters?  If you try to be too different, bad things can happen?

Caution – the 8 year old girls sitting behind us was scared by some of the scary bear scenes.  Every parent knows their child, but I’d be cautious about  bringing children below the age of 7.

Please tell me about what you think the movie is portraying about the role of girls and leave a comment.

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50% IN ONE YEAR? THERE’S GOT TO BE A CON HERE

Black and Hispanic students make up about 70% of the New York City school population of 3rd through 8thgrades.  Only 37.7% of the black studens passed the English test while 69% of white students did.  The scores for both groups are unacceptable.   If Bloomberg fires teachers and principals for lack of performance based on tests, then he should hold himself to the same standard.

REALLY MIKE?

STEP DOWN MIKE.  At least, hire an education, a true reformer, to improve our education system.  This is going to cost money.  An increase in funds can be meaningless, if it isn’t spent wisely.  Don’t spend more time prepping students for an exam. 
Improve educational strategy to teach in the first place.  Bloomberg, Walcott and the rest of New York City and State, take your blinders off.  When I looked at “Winners’” scores as reported in today’s New York Daily News, that showed increases from 31% to 50% in one year at both charter and public schools, lights flashed and alarms went off.   Same situation with the “Losers.”   Losses in percentage of students passing one of the state exams ranged from a low of 31% to a high of 50%   Rather than just reporting numbers, why doesn’t the news actually visit a school, interview teachers, administrators, parents and students to account for such dramatic – I say with some confidence – impossible shifts in scores.  Some schools were hit by a tsunami, while others were transported to the land of milk and honey.   The public, indeed, the nation has a right to know what’s up.