Tag Archives: Huntsville

Words for Graduation


In 7th grade, my English teacher asked us to learn a poem by Edgar Guest called “Myself’ followed by Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”.  We, typical middle schoolers, rolled our eyes as we read the verses we were to recite – in class – without notes or prompts, never really understanding why we needed commit any of these thoughts to memory.  Why does it matter?

Years later, when newscasters and politicians read from teleprompters and most people spout out their beliefs at random, the value of words get lost.  We have words all around us on screens, billboards, books, television, magazines.  Students get lists every week to define, use in a sentence and commit to memory long enough for the weekly quiz and then there is always a new list.  The old words are rarely seen again; words like harangue and admonish.  Words that just get digested into the next big batch to float out into the air.  Words are everywhere.  Words are a dime a dozen.

Until now, at 42, I look at my nephew graduating from high school and approaching college.  I glance at my oldest daughter, who this graduate held, with his chunky baby hands, and giggled at his, “new baby cousin.”  Wasn’t that just a year ago?  No, more like 14 years ago.  That young man has strong, sinewy hands now.  Hands that play guitar like one of the greats; hands that will accept a diploma in about three days from today.  And that “new baby cousin” will be in a cap and gown before I know it, walking across a stage and out of our house on her way into the wide world.

Times like this make you question every word you’ve ever uttered.

Did they hear me when I told them to be careful of strangers?  Not to leave her glass unattended?  Not to go along with the crowd?

Did they hear me when I told them I loved them, that they were smart, that they had divine purpose from God himself that they must decipher and carry out?

Or did the words fade into the universe only to be drawn back again years later if and when something big happens?  Those vibrations never go away but sometimes are only felt when we pay attention to them again…

What words would I say today to my graduate?  What would I want him to remember?  Do I have to speak them or will a hug do just fine; render the same message:  I love you.  You’re a great kid.  You are growing into something fine and wonderful, someone who will change the world as long as you don’t let the world change you…

And, from the deep darkness of 7th grade that I forgot so long ago, comes the following –

If you can keep your head when all about you 

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, 

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Yes, words matter.  Memorization helped me remember helpful thoughts when life gets too tough and my own words fail me. Graduates, if you can survive, keep the faith, persevere, not put yourself on a pedestal and not waste your life, then you will have done more than most men on this Earth.  What you do from here is just the beginning.  What you do from here is a new start.

If you like where you’re headed: KEEP GOING!!  If you don’t: CHANGE!  The whole wide world is ahead of you.  And, as many of you were reminded every day at Blossomwood Elementary School: “Go out and make it a great day – or not.  The choice is yours…”


Backyard neighbors with Leroy Pope’s estate…

Backyard neighbors with Leroy Pope’s estate…

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Leroy Pope Mansion in Huntsville, Alabama, for the purpose of marketing it for sale.  The home was in the same family for generations and was later  granted to University of Alabama in Huntsville for use as the University President’s home.  The experience was an incredible walk through history.

The then-owner told us of her family’s escapades on the property’s sprawling grounds, approximately 6 acres in the very core of the city.  Horseback riding on the back lawn, cool summer breezes on one of many porches, the groundskeeper’s “boxwood hospital” on the property were a few stories I remember vividly.  The “boxwood hospital” was populated with boxwood shrubs as tall as any person I’ve ever met and as wide as an automobile… The plants would be transplanted to this area when they began to touch so that the leaves could fill back in wherever touching had caused the leaves to wither and die.  Full boxwoods would then be transplanted again throughout the property.  Fascinating.

My favorite experience of the entire period during which we marketed and sold this unparalleled property was all of the visits to the “widow’s walk”,  a dramatic name for a viewing area at the top of the home.  Up, up, up through the attic and into the absolute tippy top of the roofline one can see – literally- a 270 to 360 degree view of Huntsville, depending on the season.  True to form, Leroy Pope picked the highest point of his “city” and built his home where he could view every square inch of it.

Other properties were later built around the Pope Mansion, development occurred on the mountain east of it and small cities began nearby.  One of Pope’s former friends even built a house in front of it, stretching the ceiling heights to 16 feet in a spiteful attempt to block the city founder’s view.  Today, 200+ years later, that house is still well known as the “Spite House.”

So today, when I visit another unique downtown house built downhill of the north of the Pope Mansion’s front portico, I imagine a girl on a horse in a warm summer breeze, looking down the ivy covered hillside at a cozy Twickenham cottage being built on Eustis Street.  I wonder, did she still call the street “Maiden Lane” as it had been called in the past?  Did the ancestors of the red foxes of Twickenham roam the land then as they do today?  Oh, to be able to travel back in time to have a glimpse of times gone by…!

I look up the hillside in the backyard and see the home on the hill built by Huntsville’s first owner.  It’s a quiet view of history that is full of mystery, fun and nostalgia.  The backyard is visible from these photos for 418 Eustis, that quaint Twickenham cottage to Pope’s north.  It has been lovingly renovated only steps from the historic Courthouse Square.  Enjoy!





Summer in Huntsville


Summertime brings with it so many wonderful events here in the Tennessee Valley.  Here are just a few summer offerings that make us happy in Huntsville…

1.  Enjoying time on the Tennessee River, the Flint River, Guntersville Lake, Wheeler Lake or Tim’s Ford.  This includes crawfish boils at Ditto Landing and attending church at Guntersville’s Church on the Lake…


2. Summer Concerts in Big Spring International Park.  Every Monday night, the dock of the Huntsville Museum of Art hosts a different local band.  Picnics, folding chairs and dancing under the stars are enjoyed by young and old citizens alike.  Now thru mid-August.  http://www.artshuntsville.org/our-programs/concerts-in-the-park

Reunion photo concert in the park

3.  Graduations and dance recitals at the VBC.  Rarely a day goes by from late May through mid June that you won’t see little kids in tap shoes and sequins running to the Concert Hall along with graduates in caps and gowns taking pictures by Thrasher Fountain.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/iceman66/5535991778/

4.  Neighborhood pools-  Most areas offer a selection of neighborhood pools that become the summer hangouts and social areas through the summer months.  For a base membership fee plus an annual dues collection, these neighborhood pools organize swim meets, social events on holidays and swimming lessons for little ones.  Some even feature tennis courts as well.

5.  Green Street Market and other Farmer’s Markets around town: Thursday nights have become wonderful “farm to table” nights in downtown Huntsville with the creation of the “Green Street Market” nights.  Local vendors offer fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh flowers, culinary dishes, gluten free fare and more.  Artwork, herbs, bath products and farm fresh eggs are staples for GSM as well!  It has become so popular that South Huntsville has started their own Farmer’s Market and other neighborhoods are following suit.  http://www.greenestreetmarket.com/See all of the latest and greatest events coming up on http://www.ourvalleyevents.com

For all of the upcoming Summer events, be sure to check out www.ourvalleyevents.com.  You’ll see why we are Happy in Huntsville, especially in the summertime!

To Everything, There is a Season


I was saddened to hear of the passing of Ira Jones, an active Huntsvillian and good friend of my family.  Mr. Jones was active in the scientific community at Marshall Space Flight Center but made a name in my mind for his work with Historic Huntsville Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving historic structures in North Alabama as well as owning and operating one of the southeast’s oldest continuously operating hardware stores, Harrison Brothers, on Southside Square.  

Mr. Jones and his wife, Billie, were also in a love affair with their historic home, Quietdale, located off of Meridian Street near Lee High School.  Built by the family of Madison County’s high sheriff, Quietdale has witnessed much of the history of Huntsville, standing from the eras of cotton farming to the space industry.

One of the things the Mr. Jones loved most was a 100+ year old field of daffodils on the property.  They don’t
know how the daffodils originated but speculated that there was once a nursery or greenhouse on the property.  That’s one of the joys of living in an historic home- discovering hidden treasures over the years and investigating how or where that gem originated. Today, one day after his funeral, I saw this article on About.com. How appropriate to remember the Jones family and to highlight everything in its season. From death comes life, and the daffodils of Quietdale are blooming.


Fall colors and Maple Hill



Sunday, October 15, 2012 was the annual Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll in historic Maple Hill Cemetery, located between the Twickenham and Blossomwood areas of Huntsville. Hundreds of people gathered at the cemetery to view the beautiful fall foliage and were greeted by local Huntsvillians dressed up as famous historical figures buried at Maple Hill. Mollie Teal, LeRoy Pope, Gov. Bibb and others could be found throughout the grounds, weaving their wonderful tales for the benefit of the Huntsville Pilgrimage Association. According to their website, the Huntsville Pilgrimage Association states that Maple Hill was “established in 1818 when the city of Huntsville purchased two acres of land from Leroy Pope. Maple Hill Cemetery now extends almost 100 acres and houses the graves of many historic and political figures. Located in the heart of downtown Huntsville, from Wells Avenue south to McClung Avenue, it includes more than 80,000 graves. More than 350 grave markers have been restored to date thanks to proceeds from the annual Pilgrimage Home Tour and the generous donations of community and school groups and individuals.” If the number of cars lining the downtown and Blossomwood neighborhood streets (even in the rain),was an indication of the success of the event, this year’s stroll may be the best one yet! Huntsville is full of so many areas like Maple Hill that are opened to the public that our citizens feel a kinship to the land, the trees and the history of Huntsville. I love to drive by this cemetery everday, as strange as that sounds, because it reminds me of my loved ones lost who are buried there beneath the spectacularly beautiful and majestic hundred year old trees in the valley of Monte Sano. Fall and Spring are the most beautiful seasons in Maple Hill. The pink and white dogwoods bloom in April and it really does make you realize that all that was seemingly dead will rise again, just like those wonderful trees.


The fact that Huntsvillians have found a way to preserve the history found in this grand old place and that Huntsvillians care enough about their area that they will brave a rainy day to join others in this Cemetery Stroll is a big reason that I am happy in Huntsville. The foliage doesn’t hurt, either… 🙂

Tell me about healthcare reform and the 3.8% tax on home sales…?


Many clients have contacted me regarding the healthcare reform act, scheduled to begin in 2013, and a provision within it regarding a 3.8% tax on some real estate transactions.

The following is a link from the National Association of REALTORS, regarding scenarios and implications to homeowners or real estate investors.


Also from NAR:
Top 10 Things You Need To Know About the 3.8% Tax

1) When you add up all of your income from every possible source, and that total is less than $200,000 ($250,000 on a joint tax return), you will NOT be subject to this tax.

2) The 3.8% tax will NEVER be collected as a tax on real estate of any type, so you’ll NEVER pay this tax at the time that you purchase a home or other investment property.

3) You’ll NEVER pay this tax at settlement when you sell your home or investment property. Any capital gain you realize at settlement is just one component of that year’s gross income.

4) If you sell your principal residence, you will still receive the full benefit of the $250,000 (single tax return)/$500,000 (married filing joint tax return) exclusion on the sale of that home. If your capital gain isthese amounts, then you will include any gain above these amounts as income on your Form 1040 tax return. Even then, if your total income (including this taxable portion of gain on your residence) is less than the $200,000/$250,000 amounts, you will NOT pay this tax. If your total income is more than these amounts, a formula will protect some portion of your investment.

5) The tax applies to other types of investment income, not just real estate. If your income is more than the $200,000/$250,000 amount, then the tax formula will be applied to capital gains, interest income, dividend income and net rents (i.e., rents after expenses).

6) The tax goes into effect in 2013. If you have investment income in 2013, you won’t pay the 3.8% tax until you file your 2013 Form 1040 tax return in 2014. The 3.8% tax for any later year will be paid in the following calendar year when the tax returns are filed.

7) In any particular year, if you have NO income from capital gains, rents, interest or dividends, you’ll NEVER pay this tax, even if you have millions of dollars of other types of income.

8) The formula that determines the amount of 3.8% tax due will ALWAYS protect $200,000 ($250,000 on a joint return) of your income from any burden of the 3.8% tax. For example, if you are single and have a total of $201,000 income, the 3.8% tax would NEVER be imposed on more than $1000.

9) It’s true that investment income from rents on an investment property could be subject to the 3.8% tax. BUT: The only rental income that would be included in your gross income and therefore possibly subject to the tax is net rental income: gross rents minus expenses like depreciation, interest, property tax, maintenance and utilities.

10) The tax was enacted along with the health care legislation in 2010. It was added to the package just hours before the final vote and without review. NAR strongly opposed the tax at the time, and remains hopeful that it will not go into effect. The tax will no doubt be debated during the upcoming tax reform debates in 2013.