Bah Humbug

Shannon Kernaghan Humbug-Insta-web-post Bah Humbug Humor

Coronavirus isn’t the only Grinch to steal Christmas. My brother Timothy, three years older, decided to play Scrooge and deliver the deets on Santa Claus.

Tim chose a quiet moment. We stood together on a street corner in front of our school, waiting for a break in traffic before crossing. With festive glee, Tim updated me on the truth about St. Nick and his Xmas elves.

No need to go “aww” in sympathy because I don’t recall feeling devastated.

Come on, an aging man in a red suit who visits once a year and trades cool gifts for room-temperature milk and a few Dad’s cookies? Even at age six, I sensed some implausibility. Also, I sensed that a lone worker, despite his alleged jolliness, couldn’t possibly slip down a gazillion chimneys during one night of the year.

Anyone that efficient would already be off the North Pole gig and working with Elon Musk at SpaceX.

And after a gazillion glasses of milk with an equal number of sugary cookies, we’d have one lactose-intolerant elder on our hands, complete with hyperglycemia.

As for those tireless flying reindeer, my six-year-old attitude towards anything invisible was generally, “No way, show me!” Due to my cynical roots, I refused to memorize the names of Santa’s reindeer. Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph. That’s all I got.

That cynicism included boycotting the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” When forced to sing during our school Christmas extravaganzas, I lip-synced the words. I was a prepubescent forerunner to Mariah Carey and Milli Vanilli.

My early cynicism has company – political correctness is part of this tinsel-draped picture. Retailers shiver, and not from the crisp air or Covid-19 restrictions currently placed on their stores. They’re also nervous to say “Merry Christmas” to consumers like me. Instead, many play it safe and proclaim this phase of candy canes and crèches as the “12 Days of Giving.”

Am I insulting both Christians and abbreviation-phobes alike by writing “Xmas” in my quest for brevity? Suddenly I’m as nervous as my neighborhood retailers.

Regardless of varying beliefs and traditions observed around the globe, I’ve grown to cherish the season. I’m no humbug because I’ll embrace every excuse to make merry with friends and family – when I’m legally allowed to do any embracing. Either way, I plan to reminisce about the year’s adventures and highlights. At least the highlights feel like adventures after a few cups of eggnog. Perhaps it’s the lactose talking.

I plan to cuddle up with my sweetheart to enjoy the movies that represent some of my own festive traditions – A Charlie Brown Christmas, the 1951 version of Christmas Carol and Christmas Vacation with its wacky Griswolds.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Human Rights Day, Bodhi Day, Yule or Kwanzaa, deck your halls and let the spirit of the season bring peace and generosity to your hearts and chimneys.

Turns out my darling brother has edged lower on the scale of Xmas Grinches – in 2020, Covid-19 takes the humbug fruitcake.

Hey Tim, can we talk for a minute? There’s something I’d like to share with you about the Easter Bunny. You might want something stronger than eggnog.

Audio version song
Soft Feeling

My Relation to Jaws

Shannon Kernaghan Bait-twit My Relation to Jaws Adventure Covid-19 Family  Steven Spielberg jaws carl gottlieb

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” That’s one of my favorite lines from the blockbuster movie Jaws. I’ve borrowed these words several times throughout my life.

I smile when I flip through photos in my copy of The Jaws Log written by Carl Gottlieb. a book based on the making of the movie. Considering the ongoing popularity of Jaws, released to theaters in 1975, I’m not the only fan.

What delights me as much as watching the film again (yes, I own the DVD) is the reminder that creativity has no expiration date. People keep talking and writing about Jaws. Today I read an online article on UPROXX. Writer Mike Ryan interviewed Carl recently about the film’s current relevance.

Wait . . .  a comparison to covid-19? Why not. In Jaws, Amity Island residents were angry that the beach was closed for 24 hours, even though people had died. And despite the lingering threat – much like coronavirus – those same people insisted on returning to the beach and into the water. Read the full story here:

Carl is the ideal person to make this comparison – he was hired by director Steven Spielberg as a screenwriter for Jaws, and Carl also played the role of Harry Meadows while working with a cast of brilliant people.

Back to my smiling: Carl Gottlieb is not only a talented screenwriter, actor, director and comedian but he’s also my second cousin. He connects me even more tightly to the delight I experience when I watch this movie again and again.

The Jaws popularity continues. In 2021 a musical will premiere about the challenges of filming this 70s classic. Better yet, the production is created from Carl’s memoir The Jaws Log, the very book I’m enjoying today.

This time top billing won’t go to the great white shark who chased people flailing and screaming out of the water. Limelight shines on the mechanical shark nicknamed Bruce, which is also the name of the musical.

I feel proud to link with this legacy, even if by a thimbleful of blood. Wait . . . I shouldn’t use ‘blood’ when referring to sharks, mechanical or otherwise.

Rock on, Carl! And may our own expiration dates be equally enduring.

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The Toilet That “FLUSHED” Our Deal!

Shannon Kernaghan Real-Estate-bees_hive-5 The Toilet That "FLUSHED" Our Deal! How To Real Estate Risk Sales  selling your home how-to home selling strategies

One of the most eye-opening business ventures I ever took was to sell real estate. I met the most interesting people in the most intimate of places – their homes. To them, their homes were castles, even when they were more (ahem) hovel than mansion.

 Here’s an example of the mansion/hovel experience: One evening I went on a house hunt with friends who were looking for their first home. We viewed several properties that I found for them. The last house was one they discovered during a drive so earlier I’d set up an appointment with the listing agent.

After a few steps inside I whispered, “Stop! Let’s put our shoes back on before we go any further – my socks are wet!” This was NOT my friends’ dream home, but the place was such a disaster that curiosity pulled us into every room.

The house reeked of cooking grease and assorted body odors. There must have been a sale on green paint because all walls were covered with a moldy shade (maybe it wasn’t paint!). And talk about dim – no light fixture held more than a 40-watt bulb.

The homeowner was a voracious knitter because our first sight in the living room was a mountain of wool and a rainbow of sweaters draped over every couch and surface. One large lump was either a wool-covered coffee table or a sleeping dog.

The “trophy room” was the kitchen, which the three of us scanned in silence: the stovetop was covered with charred food, black and hardened into volcanic structures. And I’ve never seen so many dirty dishes piled window-high in the sink and across the counters. My friends stifled giggles behind their hands, refusing my eye contact and raised eyebrows.

The homeowner popped her head into the kitchen: “Any questions for me?” she asked.

“No, I think we’re good. But didn’t your agent mention we were coming tonight?” I asked.

She nodded yes, looking perplexed by my question. We had to leave before the giggling turned into full-on hysteria.

See? One person’s castle is another person’s . . . dump.

Beauty is in the eye of the potato?

Every buyer enters your home with critical eyes. While the average homeowner is proud to present a clean, well-maintained property, there are exceptions and I saw plenty of them.

My husband Paul, also an agent, listed a young couple’s home. We anticipated dozens of buyers and browsers to visit our inaugural open house. After setting up our yard signs, we walked inside to find a sink of dirty dishes topped off by a leaking tap. A quick walkthrough yielded a half-eaten pizza on the counter, an unmade bed and several burned out light bulbs in the basement.

The owners headed out the door as the first punctual prospects walked in. “Wait!” I called out. There was no time to ask why they left such a mess, or why they’d filled a bowl with potatoes and placed it as a centerpiece on the dining room table. There was only time to slip on a friendly smile (and hope I’d remembered my deodorant.)

The owners arrived home moments after the open house ended and asked, “How many offers did you write?” We explained that our marketing would be more effective if they tidied up a little more and did a few quick-fix projects. We arrived at least 30 minutes early before subsequent showings and once washed the dishes ourselves.

The home sold, but I wish I’d asked about those potatoes that were still on the table when we presented the offer.

Bury, Don’t Freeze!

A co-worker in our office told us about a home he showed twice to a woman. The woman returned to the basement but this time she opened the freezer, since it was included in the purchase price.

Our agent friend was upstairs with the homeowner. That’s when they heard a loud shriek and the freezer lid slam, followed by hysterical laughter. When they raced downstairs, our friend found out why the woman had shrieked: the freezer was empty except for the twisted frozen bodies of a cat and dog! The owner explained how both of his elderly pets had died during the winter and that he was waiting until spring, to bury them at his cottage when the ground thawed.

There’s only a brief window to make an impression on purchasers – always make it a great one, preferably one with shrieks of joy, not surprise!

The Royal Flush

During another showing, the homeowner had recently renovated his bathroom. The result was beautiful – coordinating tiles and wallpaper, granite countertops and tropical greenery. But. He’d overlooked the toilet during renovations.

That toilet was all our buyer could see. Instead of focusing on the updated décor, he kept flushing and muttering “damned noisy toilet!” That damned noisy toilet resulted in no sale. The owner refused to change it and the purchaser refused to start “mucking around with plumbing,” even if WE paid for the work out of our commission. We’ll always remember the toilet that “flushed” our deal!

Shannon Kernaghan Real-Estate-Bees-400 The Toilet That "FLUSHED" Our Deal! How To Real Estate Risk Sales  selling your home how-to home selling strategies

KFC Meets Feng Shui

“Subject to parent’s approval” was our least favorite clause when writing an offer on a home. Why? Because it’s tough to appease the opinions of several personalities, all with different ages and tastes and varied levels of real estate savvy.

We’d spend countless hours showing the property and writing a contract with the buyer only to cancel the deal because a parent didn’t agree.

Once we sold a home to a couple subject to the man’s father’s approval. The father wasn’t available to view the home until the next day. When the three of them arrived, the father immediately pulled out a small cloth bag from his pocket. Then we followed him to the outside steps where he gave that bag a shake and dumped the contents onto the landing. Chicken bones scattered and created an interesting design.

The older man looked at his son and shook his head. “No good,” he said.

Huh? The purchaser looked at us, shrugged, and said “sorry” before quickly slipping on his leavin’ loafers. My husband wanted to yell out, “Next time we spend an afternoon selling you a home, bring your chicken bones with you!”

Back to the Castle Syndrome

We listed the house of a sweet elderly couple who bought a condo and had to say good-bye to their family home. They loved their castle – they’d raised their children in it and proudly maintained their house and yard through the years.

When Paul and I showed up for their first open house, we were anxious for them to leave so we could welcome keen buyers. Both of them were dressed nicely and I watched him kneel to tie his wife’s shoelaces.

“Aw, cute,” I thought, “helping with her shoes . . . and now they’re ready to go.” Nope. They sat there and looked up at me.

Paul chimed in: “So where are you off to for the next two hours? Looks like a beautiful day to–”

“Going?” he said. “Nowhere. We’re staying here in case you have any questions.”

Gulp. Paul politely explained that it’s always better if homeowners aren’t present during an open house. That way, buyers feel free to voice their concerns and aren’t afraid to insult the nearby owners.

“If people can speak freely,” Paul continued, “we can better overcome their objections and we often get an offer the same day.”

No logical explanation worked. Our sweet old couple didn’t budge from their couch for the next two hours. Spoiler alert: no offers that afternoon.

On another day, a family of new Canadians arrived for a scheduled showing. When the tour was over, our helpful homeowner followed them to the front door. “What do you think of my house?” he asked.

“It’s very nice, but we’re looking for one with a dining room.”

“DINING ROOM! From where you come from you eat on dirt floors and HERE you want a dining room?”

Again, no offer that day.

We did eventually sell their “castle” and everyone was happy. How much did we enjoy working with this old couple? Enough to name our next cats after them!

Don’t Nickel and Dime

After holding our first open house, we generated interest from a motivated family. Besides a wonderful full-price offer, all they asked for were two old kitchen appliances and a carved coat hook in the front hallway.

When our homeowners scanned the offer together, the woman grabbed a pen from my hand, ready to accept. She and her partner were both ecstatic . . . until the woman spotted the coat hook.

“What? Our coat hook? There’s no way I’m gonna part with that!” she announced, slamming down the pen. I looked at Paul and he looked at me. Is this really happening?

Based on her reaction, we assumed this was a pricey antique or a relic passed down over four generations. Nope. It was a tchotchke they picked up for $35 at a garage sale the previous summer.

Paul kept his voice friendly: “Let’s talk about this. You want to risk a counteroffer over . . . [he paused for effect] a $35 ornament?” Paul and I routinely worked much harder on our contracts and negotiated details that were truly significant – price, possession dates, renovations and more.

“But if the purchasers are having a smidgen of second thoughts,” I added, “and we return with a counter offer, you realize they can walk away and get their deposit back, right?”

She stared at us, unmoved.

“Seriously,” I tried again, “this is a great contract. If we lose it, the next offer could be for much less money or with major conditions you can’t accept.” Silence. “Pleeease don’t give them a chance to walk!” Now I sounded screechy!

Eventually we convinced the more level-headed partner to reason with her in the next room. Thirty minutes later we sighed with relief and phoned the buyer’s agent with the good news. Phew!

FYI Our homeowners could have avoided this near-debacle simply by removing their coat hook before the first showing or open house. And don’t assume because an object or piece of equipment is attached to the wall or bolted to floor that buyers won’t ask for it in their offer.

Why open the door – literally – to bungled negotiations or hard feelings?

Shannon Kernaghan Priv-Sale-display-full-e1592324905658 The Toilet That "FLUSHED" Our Deal! How To Real Estate Risk Sales  selling your home how-to home selling strategies

. . . excerpts from How to Sell Your Home Privately

You’re thinking of selling your home privately, but you don’t know how to begin. And you’re scared – to open your door to strangers, make costly mistakes and risk legal issues. If you have the time, energy and motivation, real estate expert Shannon Kernaghan can help you undertake this challenge and save you thousands in commission.

Gathered from years of practical experience, her down-to-earth selling strategies will lead you bravely and painlessly through the process. For the increasing number of homeowners who want to take the plunge and sell privately, this innovative book is an essential tool!

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music credits

Spring Migration by The Great White North Sound Society
Komorebi by Futuremono
Sacred lotus by Patino
Remember September by Freedom Trail Studio
Song of Sadhana by Jesse Gallagher
Dream Lagoon by Chris Haugen