In the week leading up to Thanksgiving Day the newspapers and web sites have had many articles and posts on being thankful or being grateful. I’d like to share with you one written by Nancy Haught and published in the November 17th edition of The Oregonian:

Gratitude is as essential to Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie. Around simple or elaborately set tables Thursday, people will reflect — even briefly — on what they are grateful for. Even in a year when many have struggled to find work, pay bills and shelter their families.

But whether it takes the form of a prayer, a poem or personal reflections, gratitude can do more than elevate a holiday feast. Psychologists say it’s a personal trait that can be cultivated and may improve our lives all year long.

Thanksgiving, with its focus on a shared meal, connects gratitude to food, says Laura Engle, who leads seminars on food and faith at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in Milwaukee. A holiday dinner — whether it’s traditional, trendy, vegetarian or vegan — aims to be rich, beautiful and satisfying. “Food connects us to nature, creativity and a sense of home,” Engle says, and those connections evoke feelings of gratitude, whether or not one is religious or spiritual.

Evidence of the value of gratitude is mounting, thanks to the work of Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, who studies what ancient philosophers considered an essential human virtue. “Gratitude is a sustainable approach to life”, Emmons wrote. “It is choosing to focus on blessings rather than burdens, gifts rather than curses, and people report that it transforms their lives.”

In his work, Emmons asks people to keep gratitude journals, regularly recording what they’re grateful for receiving. He reports that those who do were more likely to make progress toward their personal goals. His research suggests that gratitude contributes to improved moods, heart rhythms and sleep patterns; fewer headaches and colds; increased work performance, alertness, determination and energy. It leads to empathy and compassion, what he calls “the awareness of the need to reciprocate.”

The challenge to gratitude, says Donald Altman, a psychotherapist in West Linn and a former Buddhist monk, is to move beyond appreciation of material things and the human tendency to take too much for granted. “We get amnesia,” he says. “We forget all that we have available to us daily — a roof over our heads, warmth, clothing to shelter us from the weather, the sunlight that nourishes not just us but plants and makes food available.” It’s also problematic to focus only on material things — a new car, a particular house, even a paycheck. Altman has worked with clients going through divorce, loss of a home, a job, even custody of their children.

“It’s easy to feel gratitude when things are going great,” he says. “But the real challenge is to feel gratitude for even the most difficult things in our lives. I work with people in difficult circumstances. When they’re able to find gratitude for even the hard things, they feel like a weight is lifted from their lives.”

One woman Altman counseled found that in a time of multiple losses, she recognized and became grateful for her personal strength, her ability to set aside temporarily her determination to be self-sufficient and to accept help from others. “When she lost material things in her life, she learned to appreciate the person that she was,” Altman says.

Gratitude is, after all, a point of perspective. Studies have found that people who concentrated on everyday hassles and obstacles were not as focused, optimistic or energetic as those who worked at being grateful, Altman says. “Gratitude is a way of finding joy and overcoming emptiness. Looking at what your life is missing is a very discouraging place to be.”

Altman, whose most recent book is titled “One Minute Mindfulness” (New World Library, 200 pages, $14.95), uses the acronym GLAD to help people sharpen their gratitude skills. At the end of every day, he asks them to write down one thing they’re grateful for, one thing they learned, one thing they accomplished and one thing that delighted them. “I see all these things linked to gratitude,” he says, “like facets on a diamond.” Then, he continues, read back through your lists — often.

“The human brain is not wired to spend a lot of time remembering good things, but it’s like Velcro for negativity,” he says. “Working on gratitude is a way of rewiring your brain, of paying attention to the good.” It takes time and practice, he says, but an occasion like Thanksgiving is “a teachable moment.”

Half Empty or Half Full?

We’ve made it through almost a full week since we turned the clocks back an hour last weekend. How do you feel about it? By now most people are used to the change, and have accepted the fact that sun sets earlier in the day than it did last week. Still, there are a few diehards out there who keep grumbling about “hating to give up daylight savings time”, or “hating to see it getting dark so fast”.  You know a few people like that, don’t you? I suspect they’re the same folks who have a problem with almost anything that changes.

Sure, things have changed, but they ALWAYS change when summer gives way to fall, and fall gives way to winter. The leaves give up their green and change to yellow, red, or brown; then they fall off. The temperature gets colder, and we put away the short-sleeved shirts and bring out the winter coats (don’t forget about the winter clothing drive- see the October 30th post).  You can’t change these things from happening, but you certainly can take charge of the way you respond to them.

It’s the old half-empty vs. half-full question: the facts are the same, but how you react to them is a choice that’s up to you. When you go to work, or when you go to a party, you’ll be surrounded by different kinds of people. Who are the ones that you like to talk to, and like to be with? The ones who are always complaining and who never have a nice thing to say about anyone? Of course not! You like to be around people who are friendly, happy, full of hope and confidence. Why? Because spending time with negative people tends to make you more negative, too- it’s contagious. Spending time with positive people is contagious as well- you tend to be more upbeat yourself when you’re around other people who are upbeat.

So on those cold nights when you have to take the dog for a walk or put out the trash, take a bit of time to look up at the sky. You’ll tend to see a lot more stars on cold, crisp nights than you see on a warm, hazy summer nights. Look- there’s Orion, and there’s the Big Dipper- constellations you learned back when you were a kid. Do you remember how great it felt the first time you learned how to find Polaris, the North Star?  Try finding it tomorrow night, just to see if you can still do it. Don’t worry, though- this is an “open book” exam, so if you can’t find it in the sky, go back in and Google it. And the next time you hear someone complaining about how soon it gets dark now that we’re back on Standard Time, tell them to lighten up- in just 6 weeks the days will start getting longer again.

Armistice Day

Before there was a “Veterans’ Day” there was an Armisitice Day that was always celebrated on November 11th. If you’re under a certain age, you may never have heard the word, “armistice”.

An “armistice” refers to an agreement between parties who are at war to end the fighting, i.e., a truce.  An armistice can be temporary (for example, to end the fighting during the holy days) or it can be permanent (as the beginning of peace negotiations). When people now talk about “the armistice” they usually mean the agreement between Germany and the Allies to end World War I on the western front. This agreement was signed at 5 a.m. on the morning of November 11th, 1918, and went into effect 6 hours later at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. This had been the Great War, the War to End All Wars, and thus the decision to honor World War I veterans every November 11thafter that.

I’m told that between World War I and World War II many of the great department stores would dim their lights at 11:00 a.m. on November 11th, and that all of the shoppers would stop their shopping and remain wherever they were for a minute of silence in remembrance of those who died in the War. Of course, the Great War didn’t end all wars; in fact, it was the excuse that led Adolf Hitler to begin the second World War. Just a few years after that war ended, Americans were fighting once again, this time in Korea.

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower  signed legislation that changed the name of the November 11th holiday to “Veterans’ Day” in order to honor all American veterans and not just those who served in World War I. In 1968, the Uniforms Holiday Bill legislation was passed, creating four 3-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans’ Day on specific Mondays. However, many states disagreed with the change and continued to observe Veterans’ Day on November 11th. As a result, in September 1975 President Gerald Ford signed a law which changed the celebration of Veterans’ Day to November 11th.

Tomorrow, November 11th, take a break in your day and spend a little time thinking about all of the men and women who served in our wars. Think of the sacrifices that they made, the hardships they endured, the joy that they shared when they returned home, as well as the joy and sadness that their families experienced. How about setting the alarm on your cell phone to go off exactly at 11 a.m., and stopping everything that you’re doing to have a full minute of silent reflection?

Words from Andy Rooney

Posted on November 6, 2011 by Rumson Fair Haven Home

Andy Rooney died this weekend at the age of 92. He was known for the homespun advice he gave us on CBS from 1978 until 2011, but he also was an actor in almost 300 films, spoke out forcefully against elder abuse and was an expert on the Civil War. He probably was best known to most Americans for always speaking his mind on his weekly segment on 60 Minutes, “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney”. He sometimes got into trouble because of his thoughts, but his homespun comments were right on the mark most of the time. Here are just a few of them:

“Being kind is more important than being right”

“To ignore the facts does not change the facts”

“Everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile”

“It’s those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular”

“When you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere”

“Under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved”

“No matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with”.

Whether you loved him or hated him, please share your feelings with us in the “Comments” section. Thanks!

-Leonard “Len” Dunikoski, SRES

Seniors Real Estate Specialist

Posted in Real Estate, Jersey shore | Tagged “Rumson”, “SRES”, “Real estate agent”, “Andy Rooney” | 3 Comments | Edit


“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible.”


Caring, risking, dreaming, expecting- how simple they sound. Yet you and I know that there are lots of people who don’t care, don’t risk, don’t dream and don’t expect much. They’re not the people you want to surround yourself with, because we know that attitudes are contagious. Instead, surround yourself with others who care and dream at least as much as you do and you’ll discover a synergy that makes each of you a little better. Better yet, look for someone who is neither positive nor negative, and use your optimistic attitude to help them see some of the good things that life has to offer.



The highest courage is to dare to be yourself in the face of adversity.

Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience,

and truth over popularity… these are the choices that measure your life.

Travel the path of integrity without looking back,

for there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

–          Lucinda Bassett, “Life Without Limits”

I really like these two sentences, and I try to live my life this way. I’ll always give you the truth: the pros- and cons- of any situation.  In turn, I’ll assume that you’re telling me the truth until proven otherwise. But once you lie to me I’ll never be able to fully trust you again. If I’m your real estate advisor, you need to trust me and I need to trust you.

Good people can see things differently and still respect each other. I’d rather you courteously disagree with me than pretend that you agree. Maybe you have a perspective that I didn’t think of; you might be able to change my mind.

What are you looking for in a realtor? The top thing on your list should be integrity. A great smile, a firm handshake, a cleverness with words and successful salesmanship all don’t mean a thing if you don’t have integrity.

Leonard “Len” Dunikoski, SRES
Seniors Real Estate Specialist
Realtor Associate
Diane Turton Realtors – Rumson Office
8 West River Road
Rumson, NJ 07760

Givers and Takers
Posted on October 5, 2011 by Rumson Fair Haven Home

There are two kinds of people in the world:
Givers and takers.

The takers eat better, but
The givers sleep better.

Posted on September 28, 2011 by Rumson Fair Haven Home

The Fair Have borough council is working on a new version of the town’s tree ordinance, which restricts a property owner’s right to cut trees on his/her own private property. It used to be that a man’s home was his castle. I the remember the public speaking course I took at Rutgers many years ago, and being impressed after reading William Pitt (Pitt the Elder) who put it so well: “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail – its roof might shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – but the King of England cannot enter.”

So today let’s spend a little time thinking about the poem written by New Brunswick native Joyce Kilmer:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Bless This House
Posted on September 13, 2011 by Rumson Fair Haven Home

Since this site is about Home, it’s fitting that our first meditation should be the words from the song, “Bless This House”. I remember hearing it often when I was growing up in the 1950s. After the lyrics there’s a web link that lets you see and hear Perry Como singing the song.

Bless this house, oh Lord we pray,
Make it safe by night and day.

Bless these walls so firm and stout,
Keeping want and trouble out.

Bless the roof and chimneys tall,
Let Thy peace lie overall.

Bless this door that it may prove,
Ever open to joy and love.

Bless these windows shining bright,
Letting in God’s Heavenly light.

Bless the hearth, ablazing there,
With smoke ascending like a prayer!

Bless the folk who dwell within,
Keep them pure and free from sin.

Bless us all that we may be,
Fit, oh Lord, to dwell with Thee.

Bless us all that one day we may dwell,
Oh Lord, with Thee!

Words and music by Helen Taylor and Mary H. Morgan ( a.k.a. Brahe ), 1927

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