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I’ve said for many years that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m big on celebrations, and from a spiritual perspective, Easter ranks #1, from a festive, decorating perspective – Christmas ranks #1. But for the core reason for the day – you gotta love Thanksgiving!

We have so much to be Thankful for and are so abundantly rich in so many ways!! In a year or two of personal struggles (not to mention this economy which has been a struggle, in some way or another, for almost EVERYONE) I can still say with absolute certainty that we have much to be Thankful for.

Of course I want to thank those of you who entrusted me with the sale of your home, or finding you a new home that you and your family can spend many happy years in. And thank you for your many referrals. At my 20th anniversary of being a licensed Real Estate professional – and just seven years in residential Real Estate – it was fun to see that “seven year itch” begin to bring me repeat business. Thank you!!

But I am going to shift gears here and focus on one of the things I am most Thankful for. Mt. Diablo.

Mt. Diablo? Why would I be thankful for a Mountain in our backyard? Because I grew up in the Midwest – outside Chicago (I remember telling someone as a kid, by mistake, that I was from the Middle East – I meant the Midwest!). We didn’t have Mountains. We didn’t even have hills. The greatest elevation gain we had was a rolling (man made) hill on the golf course. FLAT!!

I went to camp
in the Rocky Mountains as a kid. College and graduate school took me to the Cascade Mountains, and then I settled in to raise my family at the base of Mt. Diablo. Isn’t it so beautiful any time of year? Velvet green in the spring, golden brown in the fall – even white capped in snow in the winter. But most importantly, a Mountain we can visually enjoy and physically embrace.

Susy’s White Arrows.

As some of you know, I am blessed with a wonderful group of friends who I hike and “trail run” with a couple of times a week. I have to admit that while I had lived at the base of Mt. Diablo for almost 20 years, I didn’t get up on to the mountain until about five years ago when after several persistent invitations from my friend Susy, I finally got out to hike Mt. Diablo with her group.

Ranging from five to twenty five hikers at any given time, this group of friends (mostly woman – but not all) have become one of the things in my life I am most Thankful for. We call it “therapy at the right price!” We are out in the sun, rain and wilderness for 2+ hours a couple of times a week with friends; talking jobs, stresses, kids and everything in between. It’s a blessing!!

Susy is far more
athletic than I am – so she graciously marks her path with white arrows of Organic Flour – so if you are fast, slow, running, walking or hiking, we have a path to follow that Susy has plotted out for us. Thank YOU!!

And I’ve heard others out on the Mountain say “Oh, are you guys the ones who leave the white arrows? I’ve followed those arrows when I was lost!” It’s organic and washes away in the rain – but it’s so great in the moment to know that I don’t have to think about where we are going – just follow the White Arrows!

So on Sunday morning when I was reading the Contra Costa Times I was taken by Gary Bogue’s column addressing the Save Mount Diablo Foundation’s effort to raise the final $100,000 needed to purchase the Viera-North Peak Open Space. In the final week of the campaign, Gary has managed to raise about $70,000. In an effort to raise the remaining $30,444 needed, he has managed to get the Lesher Foundation to create a matching fund.

So let’s kick it up and write a check to “Save Mt. Diablo”. Any little bit matters – big or small. If you are Thankful for that towering Mountain that looks down upon us, drop off a check (made out to “Save Mt. Diablo”), for $20 or even just a few bucks.

I will be collecting these funds at my office (J. Rockcliff Realtors 15 Railroad Ave., Danville, in the back corner of the Trader Joe’s center). Or you can mail them directly to “Save Mt. Diablo – Friends of Gary” 1901 Olympic Blvd, #220, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

But do me a favor
and put in the memo “Susy’s White Arrows” – those who know will get a chuckle out of it :-) !!

Blessings to each of you at this most favorite holiday – Thanksgiving! Enjoy family and friends. If you are alone, give to others who are less fortunate than you, or take the offerings of those who are there to help you.

Thanksgiving is about saying Thank you. Thank you to each and everyone one of you for all you do to make this such a great place to live!!

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Thanksgiving MealWhat ever challenges we may have faced this year, we are fortunate to have one day every year to focus on thankfulness for what we do have – which for most of us is still plenty.

It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of the down economy, and other concerns, but browse through the International News section of the paper or check out Local Charities (Contra Cost Food Bank, Bay Area Crisis Nursery) websites and you’ll be reminded how blessed we are.

So, let’s put all that aside and think about what makes this such a quintessentially American Holiday; what we are blessed by and traditions!

Here are my Top 10 blessings of 2009, ala David Letterman.

10.  My business was considerably stronger this year – especially compared to 2007. 2008 was much better and 2009 was on the rise. We are going to rock in 2010!!

9. My clients and their transactions were fantastic this year, I loved them all.

8. I learned how to write a quick and wicked “Cancellation of Contract”. I did many more of those this year (short sales) than I’d done in my entire career!

7. There were no major earthquakes, hurricanes or floods. Ok, the Bay Bridge thing challenged us all – but it could have been much worse.

6. I sent two children off to college. Both taking entry level general education. One at a community college, one at a four year, out of state university. They are both in school and doing well – now that’s a blessing!

5. I didn’t have to put my house on the market. Instead, I was able to negotiate a kick @$$ loan modification with Wachovia – Woo Hoo!!

4. The average sales price in my office dropped from $1.4MM to $443,000 in the past three years – but I managed to keep my average sales price well over $1MM by focusing on what I do and know best. Thank you!!

3. I was able to keep my office (if I lost it I’d have to say “I’m in the Danville ‘Cubicle’ of J. Rockcliff Realtors”) – and in fact I got an office with a window! Looking onto the senior parking lot at San Ramon High, where I get to wave at my son everyday at 3:10 as he leaves school. All good!!

2. I finally launched by e-newsletter (thank you Steve, my tech guy) and that has given me a much closer connection to all of you!! I love hearing from you every two weeks. Thank you! And I believe this is why my business has stabilized and continues to grow (see #10).

~and my number 1 blessing for the year~

1. Number one blessing of the year is—of course, all of you!
My children, family, friends, clients, colleagues and acquaintances. I pinch myself often as to how blessed I am with the people who have chosen to spend some of their life with me. Thank you!!

And just for fun, I found this Thanksgiving ‘prayer':

Happy Thanksgiving“May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!” – Anonymous

Thanksgiving is steeped in tradition, from gathering for a turkey dinner at Mom’s house to football games on TV. Here are a few of my family traditions.

Because we lost our parents when we were young, my sisters and I don’t have that connective tissue (parents) that most families have. It seems every year we don’t make plans until about the week before so no one knows where they are going until mid November! So last week I found out I have 15 coming for dinner on Thursday!! Thirteen of whom are staying at my house (maybe it’s good I kept that monster house)!

I was NOT there!Our recipes are as old as Grandma Flo – but this year we’ve decided to bag the candied yams. They have yanked one too many fillings at the Thanksgiving table. I still set the Thanksgiving centerpiece with the bowling pin pilgrims my kids made in Third Grade at Alamo School.

And though I’ve been tempted, we have avoided taking advantage of the flocks of wild turkeys that have decided to make our neighborhood their home. Would that be legal? I think not – something about a shot gun in the neighborhood just feels wrong. Finally – we take advantage of the many hands gathered and whip together a few fleece blankets for babies and children at the Bay Area Crisis Nursery.

If you don’t have any traditions of your own, here are some traditions you can start this year. In my family, if we do it two years in a row, it’s a tradition – so know it’s never too late to start a tradition!

  • Cook a family favorite for the feast – even if it’s something very
  • Make a gratitude list to display and save.
  • Call faraway relatives who won’t recognize your voice.
  • Have each guest state what they are thankful for.
  • Play a family touch football game – so Kennedy-esque!
  • Start decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving
    – this is always my goal. Not always realized.
  • Finally, my special Thank You gift is a playlist of songs for Thanksgiving built around the theme of ‘Thanks’. Click on the link or copy and paste the URL into your browser. Enjoy your Holiday!

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