The Ongoing Saga of MB and JC Penney Custom Decorating

The Ongoing Saga of MB and JC Penney Custom Decorating

3 years ago I had JC Penney Custom Decorating make the draperies for my new house.  I was skeptical, not having shopped at JC Penney since I was a kid. But they did a great job.  So when it was time to replace my window treatments, I called them again.

It didn’t go so well this time.  To put it mildly.

The early problems were garden variety, but enough that I should have heard the foreboding music.  The web site scheduled me for a consultation date that the decorator couldn’t actually make.  During the appointment that was finally scheduled, the decorator — who has been awesome through all of this — got an absurd run-around on the phone trying to set me up on the JPC credit card.

It was clear to me that this system had problems.  But I had no idea at that point how incredibly bad those problems would become.

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What If Postcards Told the Whole Story?

What If Postcards Told the Whole Story?

Somewhere in Las Vegas tonight, there is a stage with a trophy with my name on it, that I am not there to claim.  

    After 11 years in the business, I am being inducted into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame.  It’s one of those achievement awards that RE/MAX agents work a lifetime to attain.  I hadn’t been tracking my production closely, and I honestly thought I was a good two years away from achieving it.  But the lovely people at RE/MAX International surprised me with the news last month.

    And of course I’m sharing the news with you, because I’m excited about it.  And because it’s what we agents are supposed to do.

    But I’m also a little nervous about it.  Here’s why:


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It's My Anniversary!

Ten years ago this month, I became a real estate agent.  

It was a mid-life career change. I had spent my entire adult life, up to that point, as a speaker and writer, talking about the meaning of love.  I still “loved” that work (pardon the pun), but the strain of the constant travel was getting to be too much.  I didn’t want to travel any more.  But I still wanted to help people, to do something to make their lives better.

Denver has always been special to me, and I was helping people find homes even when I wasn’t getting paid for it.  So selling real estate fit the bill perfectly.

Over the past few days I’ve been reminiscing about the past decade.  If you’ll indulge me, I thought I’d share just a few of those memories with you:

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MB in the news: I'm an expert on the Blue Parrot restaurant

MB in the news: I'm an expert on the Blue Parrot restaurant


 When I was a kid, families (especially Italian families like mine) came from all over the state for the Blue Parrot's authentic Italian fare and down-home atmosphere.  My grandfather loved the place.  So did I.  But now, Louisville has been experiencing a bit of a "restaurant renaissance", and the competition along Main Street is getting tougher.  The Blue Parrot isn't a fancy, upscale restaurant.  It's a family owned spaghetti joint.  The decor from a 1980's remodel is getting a little stale.  So they're sprucing up the place, restoring the "feel" of its heyday in the mid 20th century."


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Colorado History -- First Hand, Bonacci Style

And now for something completely different: a little bit of Colorado history.

It all started a few years ago when I was down in Walsenburg (in southern Colorado) for my uncle's funeral.  While I was down there I started thinking about my grandparents, who also lived in Walsenburg. Curious, I googled their names.  MUCH to my astonishment, I stumbled over the transcripts of two very detailed interviews with my grandparents.

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I'm Rich, I'm Rich!

I have super, super good news. I have inherited 2.5 million dollars!

I know what you're thinking. she probably just got one of those random email from somebody in Ghana telling her she's inherited money from the late somebody or other. But no, I'm not that gullible. I didn't just get a random email from somebody in Ghana. I got a phone call from somebody in Ghana. Several phone calls, actually. And then a few emails, but they referenced our phone conversations.

So that's way more legitimate, right?

Here's what happened. This guy died. I didn't know the deceased, I've never heard of the deceased, but apparently he died in a car accident along with his wife and daughter, who were his beneficiaries. He had no relatives, as he was an orphan who made his way to Ghana in 1975. Therefore, they have concluded that I am his next of kin, since we share the same nationality and the same last name. His name was Steven Beth's Corner.


I have to admit, this last part confused me a little bit. My last name isn't "Corner" or "Beth's Corner." If it were, my name would be "Mary Beth's Corner."

Then I remembered. On my speaking web site (, there is a section on the home page called "Mary Beth's Corner," where I post random tidbits that I think might be interesting to readers. Either by some massive coincidence an orphan named Steven Beth's Corner has died with his family and my unfortunately worded home page has hampered their search for the legitimate heir (perhaps the elderly Mrs. Edna Beth's Corner in central Ohio), or somebody with a particularly low IQ is attempting to scam me.

Do you think this means I don't get the money?

I'm Back!!

Ooh, I knew I’d been away from the blog for a while, but I just checked it and saw that it’s been two months!! I’m sorry about that!! And no, my absence had nothing to do with the nosediving economy. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. I’ve actually been very busy serving my clients. Well, plus I took a few trips. Four, to be exact. I went to Alaska for the first time, which was awesome. I also went to San Francisco with my siblings for “Bonaccipalooza” – a two-day celebration of my brother’s 40th birthday with a Halloween birthday party, go-cart racing and lots of “Rock Band” on the Xbox. That was even more awesome.

So at any rate I’m back in town, back on track and ready to talk about the good (yes, good!) things happening in the Denver real estate market!

In the mean time, here are a few shots from "Bonaccipalooza."

[caption id="attachment_329" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Bonaccipalooza!!"]Bonaccipalooza!![/caption] [caption id="attachment_330" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Go-Cart Racing"]Go-Cart Racing[/caption] [caption id="attachment_331" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Family Band"]Family Band[/caption]

A Blog that Writes Itself?

I was reading Realtor magazine last night, and I saw an interesting little piece. Apparently there is a new service available to Realtors. There is a company -- I don't remember the name -- that will, for $399 a year, set up a blog for you. But wait -- there's more! Not only do they do the initial set-up. They also provide content! Yes, using "ghostwriters", they will provide daily posts to the blog -- newsy little real estate tidbits, apparently. The actual blog owner can chime in periodically if he or she so desires. But his or her actual participation is optional.

Okay, so call me crazy. Isn't the whole idea of a blog that the blogger gets to communicate with the readers (and sometimes vice versa)? I thought the point of this exercise is supposed to be that you get to know me, not my hired ghostwriters.

I know I don't post here as often as I'd like. But at least when I do, you can be sure that it's actually me, not some recent college grad from Schenectady working in a cubicle.

A similar pet peeve involves "canned" newsletters that are available to realtors and other professionals. I guess they serve a purpose, keeping agents in touch with their clients while (hopefully) providing useful information. But if I'm going to send a newsletter to my clients (which I hope to do in the near future) I want to write it myself. I couldn't send out some pre-packaged product and try to pass it off as my own, even if I wanted to. For better or for worse, my own voice comes through in my writing. It would take about two sentences for my clients to say "She didn't write this!"

I post my own signs. I negotiate my own deals. And I write my own blog.

Just so you know . . .

MB's Client Appreciation Picnic was a smash success!!

On Sunday, September 16, I held my first annual Client Appreciation Picnic and Softball Tournament at Writer's Vista Park in Centennial. It was so much fun!! The weather was great, except for about ten minutes of driving rain which God apparently put there to remind us all of the importance of a good roof. (The Park Shelter Designers of the City of Littleton apparently need such a reminder, because the shelter they designed was virtually useless for protection from even the mildest of elements.)

The softball game was a nail biter. I -- who had not swung a bat since 5th grade -- actually made a run. Although it only happened because the pitcher took pity on me and didn't throw me out at first base, which he easily could and should have done. In the end, I believe buyers defeated sellers, although nobody is sure of the exact score.

The food, catered by Lou Ann Bauer, was wonderful. My homemade sangria was a hit. And we held an award ceremony for the most important guests -- the wonderful men and women I call my clients and my friends, the people who have made this work so rewarding and so much fun for me.

So check out the pictures and come join us next year!

No More "Wop Burger" at The Blue Parrot

I'm annoyed.

I've been eating at The Blue Parrot in Louisville (a very cute little town north of Denver that is rapidly becoming a suburb) since I was a little kid. Other peoples' little kids have been eating there since 1919, when Michael and Emira Colacci decided to open a restaurant to serve spaghetti to their fellow Italian coal miners. Their family runs the place to this day. My grandfather, being Italian, a former coal miner and a former bar owner, loved The Blue Parrot.

Also since 1919, there has been an item on the menu called the Wop Burger. I never thought anything of it. After all, the Colaccis were Wops. We were Wops. So there was a Wop Burger. Made perfect sense to me.

Apparently, it didn't make sense to one James Gambino, who apparently moved here from New York and found the Wop Burger offensive. (The name, not the burger itself. As far as I know.) He confronted the Colaccis and demanded that the name be changed.

Joe Colacci, age 90, instructed the next generation of Colaccis to leave the Wop Burger alone and "show him the door" if he complained again.

Not content with the door, Gambino complained to the National Italian American Federation in Washington DC, who wrote the Colaccis a letter "informing" these Italian Americans, whose family has served Italian Americans for nearly 90 years, that "Wop" is an offensive term to Italian Americans.

Not to this Italian American, it's not.

I've been a Wop my entire life. It's never been an offensive term in my world. My grandfather Dante Bonacci, who came from Italy to Colorado via Ellis Island in 1913, used the word all the time. We were Wops. I know the word was initially intended to be insulting (it stood for "with out papers", implying Italian immigrants were here illegally). But the Italians I knew embraced it and made it a term of endearment. And that's how I grew up. I was an adult before I knew there had ever been negative connotations associated with the word.

The Colaccis were holding firm to the Wop Burger, until the Boulder County School District called. The district buys sauce from the Colaccis for their lunch program. They informed Richard Colacci that the district is proud of its stance on ethnic equity, and that the Wop Burger just wasn't kosher (my word, not theirs) in their world. They asked him to rename the item. They didn't flat-out threaten to stop ordering the sauce, but the implication was there.

And so the Wop Burger is now the Italian Burger.

And that makes me kind of sad.

Think twice before pulling equity out of your home

I know, I know. You hear all of those commercials. “Consolidate your debt.” “Refinance to one low payment.” And even “Your house is your bank.” It all seems so easy. Refinance your home and all of your “debt” goes away.

But I see the other side. People come to me because it’s time to sell their homes, and I’m the one who has to tell them that they probably can’t sell it for enough money to cover what they owe on the mortgage.

I really hate it when that happens.

But how does it happen? In many of these cases, people actually owe more than the initial purchase price they paid for the home. That’s because at some point they refinanced the property, the appraisal showed that the property had “appreciated”, and the mortgage company gave them the difference in cash in exchange for a loan based on the new appraised “value” of the home. In other cases, the homes’ owners have taken out a second mortgage or a line of credit on the property, also based on its appraised value.

Problem is, homes don’t always sell for their appraised value. Appraisals often tend to run on the high side of what a home is really worth. Plus, in this market and many others, values on some properties are slipping slightly. Plus it costs money to sell a home. Put it all together, and people frequently find that they’re “in” their homes for more than they can get “out.” In other words, there’s a good chance they’re going to have to show up at the closing table with cash in hand.

The situation gets even worse when you combine low equity with an adjustable rate loan. As interest rates rise, monthly payments go up. Many people find that they can no longer afford their mortgage. But when they go to sell, they find that they can’t sell the home for as much as they owe. So they can’t afford to sell and they can’t afford to stay.

The next step is foreclosure.

This is when people tell me “I have to sell it for $xxx price.” Believe me, I’d love to sell it for $xxx price. The problem is those darned buyers. They really don’t care how much the sellers owe. All they care about is the market value of the property. They (unfortunately) aren’t going to pay more just because they want to help the sellers pay off the mortgage.

I understand that some people make a conscious business decision to pull equity out of one property in order to invest the money elsewhere. That’s called “leveraging.” They’re putting the money to work for them to make more money. That’s a lot different than using the money to pay off credit cards or travel to the Bahamas. They’re taking the same risk, especially if they leave little or no equity in the first property. But at least they’re using the money to make money.

I also understand that sometimes people pull equity out of their homes because they have to – to pay medical bills or take time off to care for a sick loved one or whatever. In that case, thank God the money is there – and know that the downside is that it may be harder to sell the house down the line.

Different people have different philosophies regarding the equity in their home. Some work hard to pay their homes off as quickly as possible. Others like to pull equity back out to invest elsewhere and grow their net worth. Neither approach is right or wrong.

But leaving little or no equity in a property can be very dangerous to your financial health.