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Happy Father's Day!

by Desi Sowers

Dad

He never looks for praises
He’s never one to boast
He just goes on quietly working
For those he loves the most
His dreams are seldom spoken
His wants are very few
And most of the time his worries
Will go unspoken too
He’s there…a firm foundation
Through all our storms of life
A sturdy hand to hold to
In times of stress and strife
A true friend we can turn to
When times are good or bad
One of our greatest blessings,
The man that we call Dad

Juggling real estate responsibilities with carpools, school schedules and extra-curricular activities can be challenging.  But it is possible to do so successfully.  While a career in real estate offers flexibility that can’t be found in other industries, it is still demanding with you being on call 24/7. It is important to find a balance between work and life that enables you to enjoy both. Time management is the key to finding the balance that works for you.  Here are some strategies to help:

  1. IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITIES - Make a list of what is most important in your life. Divide the list into categories such as business, family, health, and spirit.  Then think about how much time and energy you spend on each of these areas.  Try to write down what percentage of your time is being used for each.  If you find that the majority of your time and energy is going to one area, that means the others are likely suffering.
  2. ORGANIZE YOUR PHYSICAL WORK SPACE - A cluttered work space can be detrimental to decision making. Set your work space up to promote focus, especially if you work from home.  Make sure you have a dedicated space for your work that is separate from your personal living space. 
  3. CREATE MORE THAN ONE TO DO LIST - Three different types of  to do lists will help keep you organized.  The first should be what you need to do TODAY.  The second should be what needs to be done THIS WEEK. Finally, you should have a master to do list of things that are coming in the future. When a task comes at you, you can plug it into whichever list is appropriate.  Make sure to include family activities in your list as well so that you don’t have conflicts.
  4. UNPLUG AND UNWIND - Sometimes you need to unplug from technology to work at a deeper level.  You will be amazed at how much you can get done when you slow down and let your creative juices flow.  Set aside an hour here and there during your week to break away from email, social networks and texting.
  5. PLAN AHEAD - Take time at the end of each day to look ahead at what is in store for tomorrow. Tie up loose ends so you can make a clear break while transitioning from your work life to your personal life.   It is in your best interest to control your own time and how you use it rather than letting clients dictate it.

The truth is, nobody can do it all.  When you allow yourself to become overwhelmed with tasks and to do lists, everyone suffers; your clients, your family, and especially you.  Finding your work-life balance is the most important step you will take toward finding success and fulfillment in all areas of your life.

A Brief History of Easter Eggs

by Desi Sowers

When you think of Easter, certain things come to mind. This Christian holiday evokes thoughts of sunny spring days, rebirth, bunnies and eggs.  Decorated eggs, egg rolling and egg hunts have all become a vital part of the Easter celebration as we know it today. Yet the custom of painting hard-boiled eggs during spring time pre-dates Christianity. In many cultures around the world, the egg is a symbol of new life, fertility and rebirth. For thousands of years, Iranians and others have decorated eggs on Nowruz, the Iranian New Year that falls on the spring equinox.

Many people believe that the Easter has pagan roots.  While Christians celebrate it as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, during ancient times in Europe pagans revered the Spring Equinox as the return of the sun God — a rebirth of light and an emergence from the lean winter. Venerable Bede, an English monk who wrote the first history of Christianity in England, argued that the word Easter is derived from the goddess Eostre.  English and Germanic cultures believed Eostre to be a pagan fertility goddess, but there is no evidence of her outside of Bede’s writings.  In fact, in most other languages, the word for Easter (Pascua in Spanish and Pasques in French for example) derives from the Greek and Latin “Pascha” or “Pasch” for Passover.

The painting of Easter eggs is a beloved tradition, especially among the people of the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches who dye eggs red to symbolize the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.   The priest blesses the eggs at the end of the Easter service and distributes them to the congregants. The hard shell of the egg represents the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell symbolizes Jesus rising from the dead.

Fun and games with Easter eggs have become popular ways to celebrate the holiday over the years. Hiding eggs outdoors provides a fun activity for children as they search for them and fill their baskets on Easter morning. The Easter egg roll represents a re-enactment of rolling away the stone from the front of Jesus’ tomb. The White House Easter Egg Roll is an annual event held on the lawn of the President’s residence on the Monday after Easter. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

by Desi Sowers

Celebrating Love!

Just hearing or seeing the date, February 14th, conjures images of hearts and flowers in our minds. Valentine’s Day.  A “holiday” named for St. Valentine.  A day set aside each year to celebrate love.  But how did Valentine’s Day begin?  And who is St. Valentine?

Have you ever wondered how Valentine’s Day got its name?  While it is believed that the name came from a saint, the origins of how it became attached to a day to celebrate love are a bit of a mystery. One legend claims that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome.  When the Emperor during that time decided that single men made superior soldiers than those with wives and children, he outlawed marriage for young men.  Valentine felt this was unjust, so he defied the Emperor and continued to secretly perform marriages for young lovers.  Another story contends that Valentine may have sent the first “valentine” letter while imprisoned in a Roman prison.  He allegedly fell in love with a young girl, possibly the jailer’s daughter, who visited him during his confinement.  It is said that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine”, an expression that is still used today.  While we may never know the true story about St. Valentine, the common theme throughout these stories is that he was sympathetic, heroic, and most significant…a romantic figure.

The origins of Valentine’s Day began with a pagan festival during the month of February. By the end of the 5th century, February 14th was declared Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius. It wasn’t until much later that the day became associated with love.  During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in England and France that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the date should be celebrated as a day of romance. While Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400.  The oldest known Valentine known of was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  It is also believed that King Henry V hired a writer to compose a Valentine note to a woman he admired.

It is believed that people began exchanging hand-made Valentine’s in America in the early 1700s.  By 1840, a woman named Esther Howland was selling the first mass- produced Valentines in America. Known as “the Mother of the Valentine”, she created elaborate cards using real lace, ribbons and colorful paper. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, and estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making it the second largest card sending holiday behind Christmas.

You are the HEART of our business. Thank you for your continued loyalty and support.

The True Meaning of Christmas and Fun Traditions!

by Desi Sowers

 

“But I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come ‘round…as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.”

Charles Dickens

 

 

The True Meaning of Christmas

Per Wikipedia, the "true meaning of Christmas" is a phrase with a long history in American pop culture. It first appears in the mid-19th century, and is often given vaguely religious overtones, suggesting that the "true meaning of Christmas" is the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. But in pop culture usage, overt religious references are mostly avoided, and the "true meaning" is taken to be a sort of introspective and benevolent attitude as opposed to the commercialization of Christmas which has been lamented since at least the 1850s. The poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (1822) helped popularize the tradition of exchanging gifts, and seasonal Christmas shopping began to assume economic importance. An early expression of this sentiment using the phrase of "the true meaning" is found in The American magazine, vol. 28 (1889):

"to give up one's very self — to think only of others — how to bring the greatest happiness to others — that is the true meaning of Christmas".

The phrase is especially associated with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843), in which an old miser is taught the true meaning of Christmas by three ghostly visitors who review his past and foretell his future.

The topic was taken up by satirists such as Stan Freberg and Tom Leher during the 1950s and eventually by the influential TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, first aired in 1965 and repeated every year since. The phrase and the associated moral became used as a theme in numerous Christmas films since the 1960s.

 

As you gather with family and friends to celebrate this year, take time to think about the origins of some of the traditions of Christmas.

  • Santa Claus – his story begins in the 4th century with St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra (an area in modern day Turkey). St. Nicholas was known to be a generous man especially devoted to children. Because he was so kind and benevolent, rumors began that he could perform miracles.  He became the patron saint of Russia and was known for his red cape and flowing, white beard. He has his own feast day that is celebrated on December 6…a day of gift giving and charity. The story of St. Nicholas was passed down through generations and his name transformed over time. The Dutch called him Sinterklaas. Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes. This tradition traveled to America with Dutch colonists and here the Anglican name of Santa Claus emerged.
  • Christmas Trees – the decorating of fir trees originated in 16th century Germany where trees would be adorned with apples, roses, candies and colored paper.  The Christmas tree was brought to England by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, from his native Germany.  The first Christmas trees in America were introduced by Pennsylvania Germans and became popular by the middle of the 19th century.
  • Mistletoe – mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They held the plant in high esteem because it had no roots, yet remained green throughout the winter season.  The ancient Celts thought that the plant had magical healing powers. It was also seen as a symbol of peace and it was said that when enemies met under mistletoe, they would lay down their weapons and embrace. Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, the goddess of love. This is perhaps where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began.  It is thought that those who kiss under the mistletoe have the promise of happiness and good luck in the year to come.
  • The Christmas Wreath – The Christmas wreath is another tradition that has been around for a long time.  The first wreaths were created from fresh evergreens. Because they are green year round they were the obvious choice for winter months.  The word “wreath” is derived from an English word meaning “to twist”, such as in a circle.  Some believe that initially wreathes were hung on doors in Ancient Rome to represent victory.  The circle shape with no beginning or end represents eternity or life never ending.

While celebrating with these ancient traditions and with your own family traditions this year, may you be surrounded by peace and joy. 

The Season of Giving

by Desi Sowers

The holidays are a time for togetherness and fun.  Whether you are decorating the Christmas tree or gathering around the Menorah or simply celebrating the joy of the season, spirits are high and love is in the air.  But unfortunately, the holiday season is not fun for everyone. For some people, it brings with it financial strain, stress and loneliness.  This is the time of year when those less fortunate need comfort and assistance more than ever.  Here are a few ideas of how you can make this a season of giving and compassion for those in need. (click links for more information)

  • Angel Tree Sponsors. Each year, sponsors ranging from neighborhood associations to private companies volunteer to place Angel Trees in high-traffic areas within their community, organization or office. Many sponsors provide a tree as an added donation along with promotional materials to inform their community, members or staff of the program along with confidential information about the children, who will benefit from their generosity. The sponsoring organization also serves as a collection point for the gifts, and provides secure storage until a volunteer from The Salvation Army can collect the gifts for distribution along with food and meals to help needy families enjoy the holiday season.  Click on the link for other opportunities through the Salvation Army.
  • Radford Elf Shelf is a 100% volunteer organization whose mission is to offer dignified Christmas assistance to low income families in Radford in the form of gifts for children newborn-18 years of age and food vouchers for any income eligible families.  Click on the link to see how you can help. How to Help
  • The Dwelling Place Food Bank is 100% volunteer operated. Volunteers are needed each morning seven days a week (10am-11:30pm) to collect food from local merchants. Volunteers are also needed to distribute to the general public on Wednesday evenings.  In all, there are over 25 volunteer posts that need to be filled each week to effectively operate the food bank.
  • Toys for Tots Southwest Virginia Location a personal favorite! The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens. The principal Toys for Tots activity which takes place each year is the collection and distribution of toys in the communities in which a Marine Corps Reserve Unit is located.  In communities without a Reserve Unit, the campaign can be conducted by a Marine Corps League Detachment or group of men and women, generally veteran Marines, authorized by Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to conduct a local Toys for Tots campaign. 

No matter how you find a way to GIVE during the holidays, bringing joy and comfort to others is the best gift of all! 

Merry Christmas from Desi Sowers!

New Home New Traditions

by Desi Sowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this is your first holiday in your new home, it is a perfect time to start some new traditions!  When you move, you don’t leave everything behind.  You bring your belongings and your memories and yes, your traditions.  But a fresh start in an unfamiliar house is just the inspiration you need to begin unique traditions that will make that house feel like your home.

Check out these fun ideas for creating new traditions:

  • Take and annual family photo. Choose a theme or a pose that you can recreate every year.  Label the photos with the date and create a photo book or framed collage with them.  It will be so much fun for your family to see how everyone changes through the years. Creative Family Photo Ideas
  • Incorporate a cultural tradition.  No matter what holiday you celebrate, you will find a cultural tradition to go with it.  Make it a family activity to research your heritage and make new discoveries about how your ancestors celebrated.  Multi-Cultural Holiday Celebrations

     
  • Gratitude. Sometimes we take all that we have for granted. A wonderful way to experience the holiday spirit is to express gratitude.  This can be a fun and meaningful activity for the whole family.  Go outdoors and find a branch to use to hold your “leaves of gratitude”. Cut leaves out of colorful paper and each day have family members write something they are grateful for on a leaf. Then hang the leaves on the “tree” to create a beautiful reminder of all that is right with your world!  Gratitude Tree

If you are still in search of the perfect house to make your new home, contact

Desi Sowers for all your real estate needs! Happy Holidays!

How to Have a Stress-less Holiday Season

by Desi Sowers

Dear Stress…I’m Breaking Up with You!

  1. Don’t Strive for Perfection – Put down the Martha Stewart magazine and focus on what is important.  What is the point of having perfect decorations, meals and gifts if you are not enjoying yourself? Martha has a full staff to help her decorate, bake and shop.  Stop killing yourself trying to create and image of a perfect holiday and let yourself EXPERIENCE the season. Pick and choose what you want to do.  Baking with your kids, decorating the tree…whatever makes you happy.  You don’t enjoy entertaining guests? Then don’t do it. Keep it simple and enjoy! Easy and Elegant Christmas Decor

 

  1. Shop Online – Avoid traffic, parking garages and crowded malls by doing your shopping online.  If a trip to the mall during the holiday season is something you look forward to, then by all means, go for it! But if fighting the crowds is not your thing, then put on some comfy pjs, fix yourself a cup of hot cocoa and shop until you drop…only you won’t actually drop because you won’t be so tired!  Shopping online will also save you a lot of time which you can use for RELAXING. Check out this site for unique gifts: Uncommon Goods

 

  1. Delegate Responsibilities – Who said you have to do it all yourself?  If you have older children, have them decorate the tree. If you have guests coming over, make it a pot luck…you provide the main course and have them bring side dishes and desserts. Have your spouse pick up what you need from the grocery store on the way home from work. With everyone chipping in, chores and events won’t feel so overwhelming.

 

  1. Find Ways to Save Time – Here are some ideas for saving time during the holiday season:
  • Don’t be afraid to say NO. Stop wasting time on activities you don’t want to do. Learn to Say No
  • Purchase pre-printed holiday cards and envelopes.
  • Keep your decorations simple.
  • Make a list of what you need at the store so that you can complete your shopping in one trip.

 

  1. Be Compassionate – The joy that comes from doing something kind for others may be all you need to relieve the stress that accompanies the holiday season. 

 

Take care of yourself and stress LESS!

Thinking about buying or selling your home this holiday season? Contact Desi Sowers at 540.320.1328 or desi@desisowers.com. 

 

How it all started - Costumes Pumpkins and Candy, oh my!

by Desi Sowers

Halloween conjures images of costumed children going house to house offering the question “trick or treat”? But it is so much more than that. It has become such a popular holiday that it is second only to Christmas as the top grossing holiday in America. Halloween has a rich history and hasn’t always been the holiday that it is today.

Evolving from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, modern Halloween has become less about real ghosts and goblins and more about costumes and candy. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and also believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead.  Over the past thousand years the holiday has transitioned from a somber pagan ritual to a day of merriment, costumes, parades and sweet treats for children and adults.  While trick or treaters venture out for one night on October 31st, a whole season of Halloween activities celebrate the fearful fun of Halloween.  Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, haunted houses and hayrides can all be found starting in late September and running through the first of November.

Here are a few fun facts you may not have known about Halloween:

  • The first jack o lanterns were made from turnips.
  • Fifty percent of kids prefer to receive chocolate candy for Halloween, compared with 24% who prefer non-chocolate candy and 10% who preferred gum.
  • The largest pumpkin ever measured was grown by Norm Craven, who broke the world record     in 1993 with a 836 lb. pumpkin.
  • Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to placate spirits who roamed the streets at Samhain, a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year.
  • Halloween is thought to have originated around 4000 B.C., which means Halloween has been around for over 6,000 years.

Halloween Happenings in Blacksburg

Wishing you a happy and safe Halloween!

Desi Sowers Your New River Valley Realtor

Memorial Day An American Holiday!

by Desi Sowers

Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.

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