This is from my play “Saints & Hysterics” and posted for my mother, Leni, who died 17 years ago today.

WOMAN

It was the night of the summer solstice, a total eclipse of the full moon the night my mother died. As they wheeled her calmly to intensive care, she was scribbling notes on a yellow pad, things to be said that the ventilator would not allow.

“I found a picture for you Mama in an antique store.” I said, trying to cheer her in her naked state. “It’s a picture of Jesus and Mary.”
Grabbing her pad she writes, “Is it autographed?”

“No, but it will be.” I think to myself and I know reads my thought.
That was the last I heard from her, her final missive.

A shadow creeps over the moon as her trinity gathers around her.
We are laughing and telling funny stories while she floats in her semi-coma, saying good by to a world she’d grown so fond of. My brother asks if she can hear us and she squeezes his hand. Three times this query; three times this response.
Then her systems start to shut down, one by one. She doesn’t smell of lilies but of honeysuckle, the sweet and sickly fragrance of summer nights and death.

One celestial body now completely obscures the other.

I walk out into the darkness to gaze at the mystical moon and smoke.
I light chains of cigarettes and Hail Mary’s, watch my prayers and smoke rise up, as soon my mother will. Tears fall like heavy water from my eyes, I understand her TV tears from many years ago and what she meant about her moment for this was mine. I wait for the slow-motion sword of sorrow to pierce my heart and make it bleed. I think of Mary, the Mother of God, and ask for a moment of her time to thank her for the life of my mother, Mother of my life. I pray that she will guide her journey home and ask for her grace to guide me. I give her back.

A sliver of light creeps out from the moon.
Crushing out the embers of my final cigarette— it is time.

The staff is hesitant to let us all in, “Only two at a time, those are the rules.”
But we are the children of Leni and there are no rules. Three souls came through her into this life, three will see her safely out.
Soft sound of heart monitor.
My brother takes her right hand; my sister takes the left.
I cradle the halo of her head and I whisper in her ear—
Deep into her soul as she has done so many times to mine.
Our Lady speaks along with her, quietly audible.
“It’s okay, Pinky, all will be well.
Flatline. Silence. Beat. Lights shift.

I see my mother’s hands in the veins of my own; hear her blood, coursing through them.
I know she is my backbone with her ever-present echo.

OUR LADY
Shoulders back, stomach in, head up straight.

WOMAN
I slip off the jacket from an old 33. It starts with a rumba, and we dance.
And all is well. All is very well.

How real estate and transition braid in life.

Everyone talks about the real estate market and how it’s changed. Well of course it’s changed, that is the constant, just like in life. In fact, for most home buyers and sellers the decision is driven by change: the first home changes us from a state of renting life to owning one. We “move up” as we create partnerships or to welcome the baby, reduce, downsize, divorce, change jobs. Very few people in the real estate market are purely looking for more closet space; they are enacting change in their lives. I see the real estate transaction as a moment of human transition, with all the emotions, excitement and nerves that go with the territory.
My clients who buy and sell as a business are more financially engaged than emotionally, but they are active in creating financial gain, putting more change in their pockets.
Today’s market is in a state of accelerated transition and much like politics, it works better for some than for others. There will never be a better time to buy a home in our lifetime with prices reduced, interest rates historically low and so many homes to choose from. Change is never easy, but it always brings growth and usually a multitude of blessings. The question is, are you ready to make these circumstances work for you?

On the fourth day of each month, or sometimes on the sixth, I bake a pie.
Coring apples, I contemplate what these 30 days have given me. Peeling away the skins, I leave behind what is no longer needed. Thin slices of joy and heartache, I toss them in a bowl with sugar and lemon juice and wonder who might receive this simple gesture. Who do I know that needs a bit of kindness or a nice surprise? Who’s shown up and left my life a little sweeter? This process makes me calm and smiley.
The recipe I know by heart, but the spices change a bit with every person, every pie. I roll out the dough and press it into the waiting pan, an empty space to be filled. I fill the raw and waiting crust with the gooey mixture, topping it with pats of butter. As I lay the top crust over the mound of glistening fruit and pinch the edges together, all the love I have is sealed inside; the penance of Eve. I run a paring knife across the arch to gently slit the skin and brush on heavy cream. Then into the oven goes the Pie of Love and I wait for the smell of cinnamon, cardamom, and lemony apples to fill my home and bring the memory of my brother’s face. One of the few things he asked of me while he was on this earth was, “Hey Trace, when are you gonna make me one of your pies?” Now. Now I bake your favorite dish with all the love I can, and I deliver it to grateful friends, to family and neighbors, to lovers…haven’t given one to a stranger yet, perhaps because I want the pie tin back, but I probably should.
July will be my final pie, at least my final apple pie, as the year of grief comes to a close. But I might make pecan, I make a wicked chocolate pecan.
Thanks, Steve, for showing me so much about the simplicity of love. As you would say “It’s been a slice”.

After years of slow unraveling, my husband lost his mind and walked away from life, ours and his own. But that’s not the story here; that one will best be told on stage where the truths and dramas of real life belong.

Like so many others, a 180° turn: full-time actress/director/playwright & part-time Realtor® to the total opposite. and the real estate market was flipping right along side me in a synchronized (sink-or) swim. Raising two sons solo, I struggled with balance— three schedules, the mess to clean up and my sense of artistic and spiritual equilibrium. Yet in the space of radical change there is always a moment of clarity, where truth and possibility exist in equal measure.

Always been a fiercely independent woman; made my own money, strong of opinion, highly capable, blah, blah, blah. With all the inherent complexities of gender differences, I’ve always adored men. Hey, some of my best friends are…men, but I never knew I’d depended on so many of them to be and do so many things. It was only in the quiet of my overly hectic life that I discovered the peaceful ways my life had changed without one, constantly at hand or under foot.

I heard it when my friend, Jim, and I loaded kids, axe and rope into the Jeep and drove to the mountains to cut down our Christmas trees. We set off in different directions, Jim with a chainsaw, I with a handsaw, in search of the season’s perfect symbol.I was feeling pretty bad ass at the end of the day, proud of my tree and my Paul Bunyan skills and as we were tying our beautiful evergreens to the roof of his car, I heard it coming from my mouth: that tone. As we tossed the twine back and forth across the trees and the roof rack Jim and I were talking to each other with a sound I remembered like a school bell from my childhood; familiar but no longer a part of my life. That tone which carries the implied idiocy that comes when people have been together for a long time. Jim has been married to my dear friend Mary as long as I had been married to X, though theirs is a delightful partnership. I stopped myself and didn’t say a word the whole way home as I contemplated how far I’d come, how far I had to go. But that tone… it was so… strangled, I swore I never wanted to hear it in myself again. I would have to let go of all expectations, to unlearn in order to be open once more.

Human beings are in a state of constant change, some are quite profound. Occasionally a simple state of flux is turned into a drama when a simple bitch would do, but these are not big things. Big things are the things that rock us to the core and break us open. They ring in our ears, silence us and demand that we change. They bring us completely into the present, willing to surrender the heart once again. There is no other choice.
Oh, and X? He eventually regained consciousness and is off climbing mountains.
And so am I.

There are always leaders and followers, those who take the leap first. We in the real estate industry, and the economic recovery itself, are being lead by a wave of first time home buyers who are critical in the jump start of our market. And with those firsts comes a wave that benefits all price points.

When first time home buyers purchase entry level homes, the entry-level homeowners are able to sell and move-up to mid-level homes, while those sellers sell and ultimately purchase homes in higher priced or luxury arenas. It’s a kind of “trickle up” process that could catapult our market to rebound.

Let’s look at the good news from the National Association of Realtors and the numbers of existing home sales for March: Nationally, prices rose from February to March by 4.2 percent which is much higher than the typical 1.8 percent seasonal increase between those two months.

Housing inventory at the end of March fell 1.6 percent to 3.74 million existing homes available for sale which represents a 9.8 month supply at the current sales pace.

The share of lower priced home sales have trended up, indicating a return of many first-time buyers. Sales in the upper price ranges remain stalled but there are two reasons for this. First, jumbo loans still are difficult to obtain right now—though that may change in the second and third quarters thanks to the government’s work to restore this—and second, now that first time home buyers are once again entering the market.

Another interesting note, the Mortgage Bankers Association this week released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending April 17. The index showed an increase of 5.3 percent from the previous week and that was a 76.9 percent increase compared with the same week a year ago. Yes, 76.9, that’s not a typo.

Whatever you think about what our government is doing to revive our economy, it seems some of the early work like the first time home buyer tax credit is working. Earlier this week Inman News reported that the preliminary numbers from the IRS suggest 1.4 million taxpayers will claim the federal first-time home buyer tax credit on their 2008 tax returns, meaning the program is likely to meet or exceed the 2 million target set by lawmakers before it ends November 30, 2009.

Finally and I think this is probably most notable, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that prices have fallen back into line with what the typical household can afford to pay in most of the U.S. The report showed that home prices are dubbed “fairly” valued in 202 of the 330 markets studied. That means the average price level is within a band 14% above or below the historical norm. Twenty-one markets are “overvalued” or between 14% and 34% above the norm. And 106 markets are considered “undervalued” or more than 14% below the norm. Take a look at this graph which showcases where we were in the early part of the decade as compared to today:

Wondering how the drop in property value a positive thing? Though the ride was nice in the big real estate boom of the early 2000s, we couldn’t sustain those types of record appreciation levels without eliminating certain consumer niches, including first time home buyers. Now that levels are back within range, the first time home buyers are able to reenter the market.

It’s just a matter of time before we weed through the remaining banked owned inventory and we should begin to see prices stabilize. Once we see that, the remaining areas of the market should begin to see an upswing, too.

First steps are memorable. Is it time for you to take one?

More soon…

Tracy

Time, contrary to our illusions, cannot be managed. Just as thoughts cannot be controlled. They exist and can be given into or released. Multi-tasking REALTOR/Playwright/mother of sons, I experience the lack of time’s inability to let me impose my will on it daily, or should I say moment-by-moment? Time needs to be traced, like a finger on rainy glass, moving molecules to create a new pattern. This means you must put your finger to the glass, you must engage with the surface and what lies wet upon it.
I say I wish I had more time to spend with my kids… but if it doesn’t contain engagement, it is merely a measure of moments in shared space while trying to ‘manage’ time; usually in the car, on the phone, transporting, with thoughts elsewhere. Is that what I want? What I really want is for them to see me, to give me a glimmer of who they are and perhaps move the molecules of who they will become.
In art school I was taught to look, to see, to run it through my soul and let that come out on paper. Tracing paper allows one to lay something transparent over that which is real and with a number 2 pencil re-create it with some measure of accuracy. I think that’s what we do with good intention to time.
As a REALTOR I’m asked about “time to buy, time to sell”. And the answer is always maybe. Depending on your needs, but especially upon your perception. Those who’ve been able to see time clearly are the ones who recognize a moment. They buy. T
hese ‘time managers’ see appreciation and beauty where others see danger; investing of themselves, their time and their hard earned money in neighborhoods which become the jewels of the city. These are the artists. Creative ones who live life in a moment, tracing time. Engaged.