All posts by JanneZack

I grew up in Memphis TN, got a bit tired of humidity, so moved to New Mexico for College and then to Utah with a job change. I began working with an Architect there, and decided to change careers. I moved back to Memphis to apprentice in the Residential Home Design field. Now, almost 18 years later, I design custom homes which are built all over the United States. I LOVE what I do.

A Gentle Giant has Passed

Ralph R. Jones Sr.

Ralph Rayburn Jones, Sr.,  84, of Germantown, TN passed from this life and into the presence of the Lord Jesus on November 2, 2021, after a short illness.  He was preceded in death by his parents, Richard Anderson and Lillian Jones, brother Gerald Glen Jones, all of Pontotoc, MS, his first wife, Caroline Frances (Stewart) Jones of Longview TX,  as well as his sweet granddaughter, Jessica Louise Jones and his grandson, USMC Sgt. Garrett Anderson Misener. 

He leaves behind his lovely bride, Peggy Jones, of fifty-one years.  He was a dedicated father to six children: Karen (Marcus) Russell, Ralph Jr. (Joey) (Anne) Jones, Ray (Marilyn) Jones, Jannette (Daniel) Zaccagnino, James (Rita) Jones, and John Jones; along with twelve surviving grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

He was well known in the home building industry in the Midsouth for over 60 years as the “designer of award-winning homes since 1964” and was referred to by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as “the man of 10,000 plans” through his company, Ralph Jones Home Plans.

Ralph loved to write stories of country life from back in the day. He has been published in many smalltown periodicals including the Pontotoc Progress Newspaper, Tom Bigbee Newsletter and several national magazines such as Reminisce and Country Days. He also enjoyed drawing “Cousin Cornpone” cartoons which were sure to elicit a groan or a giggle from his friends and family.

Ralph gave his life to the Lord as a young man at the First Baptist Church of Pontotoc, MS, and was instrumental in bringing several people to the lord throughout his life, including his best friend from College, Bill Morris.  Ralph most recently was a member of Bellevue Baptist Church and enjoyed serving as an ordained deacon in several churches.  He participated in many church and volunteer ministries throughout the years. 

In his early years, he led the music in small churches throughout northwest Mississippi.  He spent more than 20 years portraying a Magi in the Singing Christmas Tree and a Pharisee in the Memphis Passion Play at Bellevue. He was the Captain of the Bellevue Banner Bearers, participated in the Adult Handbell Choir, sang bass in the adult choir and the “Him Singers”, played the part of “Big Toe” in the beloved children’s musical (which is the name Dr. Rogers called him from that point forward).  He volunteered in the church nursery holding the precious bed babies and “humming” them to sleep with his reverberating bass voice when they were inconsolable. He loved “walking security” at the church with his retired police buddies. He participated in, and designed the logo for, the R.O.M.E.O. Club (Retired Old Men Eating Out).  He also loved being a greyhound bus driver for several churches for 40 or more years taking chilcren, youth and adults to camps, mission trips and choir tours. He truly had the gift of service. 

Ralph in his younger years (collage age)
Kindergarten
Wowza!

Cleaning my life of narcissists!

Quote from the TV show Ted Lasso (Apple TV) Season 1; Episode 8

Ted Lasso is in a bar dealing with his boss’s Ex husband, who is berating his position, making fun of him and making a laughing stock of his Ex Wife.  Ted challenges him to a dart match where the winner gets either banned from the Owner’s Box (for the Ex Husband if Ted wins) or is allowed to make the starting roster for the last two games (if Ted loses). 

“You know, Rupert (ex husband), guys have underestimated me my entire life, and for years I never understood why; it used to really bother me. But then, one day I was driving my little boy to school and I saw this quite by Walt Whitman, it ws painted on the wall there. It said, “Be Curious, not judgmental.”  I like that.

So, I get back in my car and I’m driving to work and all of a sudden it hits me: All them fellas that used to belittle me not a single one of them were curious. You know they thought they had everything all figured out and so they judged everything and they judged everyone, and I realized that their underestimating me, who I was had nothing to do with it. Because if they were curious, they would have asked questions, you know?  Questions like have you played a lot of darts, Ted? Which I would have answered, “yes, Sir.  Every Sunday afternoon at the sports bar with my father from age ten til I was 16 when he passed away.”  Barbeque Sauce (a word he just randomly says before he hits a bullseye with the dart).” 

I have recently been dealing with a narcissist with part of my job. He thinks that he can make me feel badly about the office building he was renting by saying nasty things and making empty threats.  He has been a tenant for the better part of four years. He has continuously made off remarks, or direct complaints about the condition of the building I manage, but not broken things, just digs about the fact that he doesn’t like the condition of things. A few examples:  The toilets don’t flush well.  The building is “not professional” because we allowed a squirrel to chew its way into the 2nd floor cornice. Our keys don’t always unlock our doors. Our handicap ramp can not be up to code because a handicapped individual accidentally drove off of it and hurt himself. This person, who was continually complaining about non-issues, or perceived issues, and who was “embarrassed” when his franchise leadership came to observe his office, I just had to laugh.  He had dressed up and made his employees dress up (office casual) the day the franchise corporation visited his offices because had they secretly shown up, he would have been caught with his pants down. His normal attire consisted of the following:  Wrinkled cargo shorts, a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the tails untucked, ragged penny-loafers without socks.  His office workers wore sweat pants, cargo shorts and/or yoga pants daily.  His office manager has been seen multiple times with a pink t-shirt with a glittery purple unicorn on the front.  It appeared that it came from the little girls’ department at Walmart as it was extremely small and tight and not at all appropriate for office apparel.  All the while, he complains about how unprofessional the building is. 

Now, I will be the first to admit that the building needs help. It was built in 1987 and has the original entry hall parquet wood flooring, the same stick-on vinyl tyles in the common areas and has only been repainted one time since the building was built. The cabinetry in the kitchenettes and bathroom is well worn, but due to the fact that everything works, albeit the toilets do flush slowly compared to modern toilets most of us have in our homes today, they all still work. We have a janitor who cleans weekly, but there isn’t much she can do to stained and scared walls and floors where people have abused the building in the past. The owner of the building simply refuses to fix anything unless it is actually broken. Then he repairs things, as opposed to replacing them. But, that is his prerogative, and I can’t do anything about it other than make requests.

You must keep in mind that this particular narcissistic tenant did view the building prior to moving into his suite four years ago.  He came multiple times to look, measure and observe the conditions. He brought his whole staff to see the potential new office, well, the staff he had at the time. (He has since had a 100% turnover of staff.)  He chose this building knowing what it looked like, and accepting it AS IS, WHERE IS.  We had just placed brand new carpet in the suite he selected, but the walls hadn’t been painted. He accepted the office as is because he had employees who wanted to pick their own paint colors, so we allowed him to paint the rooms whatever color they wanted. Then, corporate came in and noticed a pink room, a purple room, a blue room, etc., and made him repaint the entire office to be in line with corporate colors. Then one day he asked me to write him a letter telling him that we denied him permission to have any signage on the property due to the fact that we are a PUD office complex that does not allow for signage, therefore, no one can have a sign.  He needed this to prove to his corporation that signs were not allowed. Apparently this is something he failed to do prior to selecting this location, again, he is not flawless, yet he believes himself to be.

When the Squirrel dug a hole in our cornice at the second floor level, I noticed it almost immediately, although I had been working from home due to the fact that my Mother-in-law currently lives with me and it is just easier if I can stay at home as much as possible, though in my office working, I’m here in the event anything happens. I’m able to feed her lunch and do other things as needed, but otherwise, I’m able to work. My management of this office building is strictly voluntary. My father owns the building and he is getting up in years as well, therefore, when the squirrel hole appeared, I knew that meant I would have a squirrel problem in the attic and I needed to take care of that as there are wires and heating ducts that squirrels love to chew on and uncover so as to make things a mess up there. So, I began making calls to handymen to see if I could get someone to come and fix this cornice and block up the space to keep the squirrel out. It took seven bids (each would take at least a week, as they would tell me on a Monday that they would come look on Wednesday or Friday, etc, then come the next Monday when I hadn’t heard from them, I would call them again to find out what was up.  I had excuse after excuse from I forgot, or I couldn’t get out, to it was raining, etc. so when I finally found a man who could do the work (for $750.00 to fix about 24” of board and repaint it to match the building), I jumped on it.  It just took about six weeks to actually find someone who would 1) give me an actual bid and 2) promise to do the work.  He fixed it in good order and was paid and all was well. 

The next week, the narcissist calls me to tell me that the squirrel has mad his way down into the walls of his office and has died there, the stench is outrageously bad!  He apparently doesn’t understand how two-story buildings are constructed!  There are not one but 3 plates that run around the entire exterior wall system that runs from roof to ground, and there is no way a squirrel could have come down from the attic to stink up his office.  A mouse or rat or some other small vermin could have come through a crack in the wall, but this squirrel could not have come down the walls.  Also, we had extremely dense insulation in the exterior walls and the walls dividing each suite from the common areas.  It is so dense in fact that when you try to drive a long nail into it in order to hang a picture, it tends to bounce out of the wall and go no further once it penetrates the sheetrock.  A squirrel is not getting through that either. So, this guy is just a nut-job!

The stench he was experiencing was soon discovered by another tenant in the office.  It seems the lady across the hall noticed what had happened early in the week and when I called her to ask if she smelled anything amiss, she told me what had happened.  We had given permission to this narcissist to have a refrigerator out in an alcove in the common areas near the restrooms on the first floor. He had promised to bring in a brand new stainless steel refrigerator, but instead, he kept that for himself, moved his old fridge into his garage and brought the older garage fridge to the office.  It had remnants of duct tape on the outside and it truly looked like a piece of trash.  Apparently one of his sweat-house workers (he crammed 14 employees into a place only meant to hold 6 maximum) didn’t like the nasty things that were spoiled in the fridge. So on a Monday morning, when she arrived and started to put her food into the fridge, she was overwhelmed with disgust at the other items in the fridge, so she cleaned it out.  She threw all the bad foods out into a trash bin right beside the fridge.  She spent considerable time cleaning out the bad things and wiping up spills for the benefit of all who used the fridge, then she went on about her work.  By Friday, the food in the trash can was extremely ripe. This is the day he complained about the dead animal in the office.  When I told him they couldn’t do that any more and that if they cleaned out the fridge, they had to take the trash to the curb and place it into the dumpster there, they started doing that, but not replacing the trash can liner, therefore, that week’s trash they produced all went into the trash can without a liner. He was called to task many times over this problem as he doesn’t care, this is beneath him! 

His people were really inconsiderate most days. At one point they rented a second suite so that they could spread out a little and the traffic between the two suites was incredible. I could see on the cameras he begged me to install his employees leaving dirty dishes on the counters, cups in the sink, coming to the fridge and looking inside and looking at everyone else’s food, but not placing any food inside the fridge themselves.  I saw them dancing and singing and milling about doing nothing but wasting time. Yet he was oblivious that his employees could be anything but angels. They talked so loud everyone in the building could hear their conversations. They would walk outside for smoke breaks and talk together or talk on their phones so loudly that from the second floor I could hear their conversations.  They accused me of eaves dropping, however, it was impossible NOT to hear their conversations. I asked him on many occasions to have them not congregate near the building as we could hear their conversations and this could possibly divulge his client’s private information, yet he accused me yet again of eaves dropping.

For four years I endured this crap from him and his inconsiderate employees.  When I finally decided to charge him for damages to a suite that I had originally thought was clean, then discovered later it was not, I confronted him about it. He said he had cleaned the carpets. He lied. He did not clean the carpets. He said he had repaired the walls, they looked like a kid with the chicken pox wearing a smattering of calamine lotion, all splotched over their body.  He had left part of his security system in the office, so every time anyone came to look at the suite or the janitor tried to clean it, or I dropped off paper goods for the restrooms, it set off the alarm. He must have been in constant peril due to the sheer number of false alarms.

One other thing he balked about was the utility bills he was being assessed.  He had begged me to average the bills so that his rent could be the exact same each month, therefore, I did. The average from the year before, however, was based on 4 people in his suite, each person with a computer and a desk.  They were mainly ladies, who ran cool, therefore, the HV/AC was not placed on high demand as a rule except in the hottest of days in the summer. However, when you cram 14 people into 1000 sq. ft. with 2 monitors each, plus desk and floor lamps, each desk having their own coffee pots and humidifiers, and fish tanks, etc., you tend to use up a lot of extra power. One of the offices used so much power that they kept blowing fuses in the electrical panel.  They had several power strips at each desk with every plug used.  Don’t get me wrong I also have power strips, but they have things like pencil sharpeners, label makers, phone chargers, etc., plugged into them.  I plug things that are used only occasionally into these strips, they were using each of the plugs full time, this was blowing the fuses.  He wanted this problem fixed, but refused to remove the extra items, so I called an electrician to fix the problem.  Because he couldn’t come immediately, the narcissist said he had a friend who did this for a living, and he could come today, now in fact.  It was a HUGE mistake that I allowed this to happen because I don’t know if he was a licensed electrician or not and I could have placed the building and the owner into a bad situation, but worse than that, I was now forever “beholding” to this narcissist because he had helped ME out with a problem.  He didn’t help ME out. He caused the problem and he had it fixed as probably it should have been without me even being in the middle of the situation, but nonetheless, his narcissism made me feel small that I had allowed such a problem to exist.

When I finally realized he was using me to fuel his narcissistic needs, I stopped. I stopped bowing to his every whiny whim. I started ignoring the comments he would make that had nothing to do with me, or the upkeep of the building that was beyond my control.  He finally quit sending his complaints and this made him mad that he was not getting his narcissistic supply from me. When I finally mentioned that he was going to have to pay for the damages he did to the suite he had vacated (due to Covid), he told me “if we can’t work this out, consider this my notice to move out as of March 31, 2021.”  Hallelujah!  I was thrilled.  I wrote back, “I accept your March 31, 2021 date as your official move-out date, though it is not exactly 90-day’s notice as is stated in your lease, however, to make it even more palatable for you, you can select any date between January 31st – March 31st as your move out date without any penalties, just let me know what your final date will be.” I wanted him to be gone so badly. I couldn’t stand his abuse any longer. I had caught him in several lies which is when I realized I was dealing with a narcissist.  I just wanted him gone, so the thought of putting up with him for an additional month, had I pushed the 90-day’s notice business, would have been unbearable.

As the day approached, his last day, I received an email stating that he needed more time (he had scheduled movers – i.e. his employees for the weekend of Easter.  They all balked, I’m sure, so he wanted to get one more week to move out).  I told him that I had already scheduled workers for the next week as I had already scheduled the carpets to be cleaned on the Tuesday following Easter. Speaking of which, I had told him NOT to schedule carpet cleaning due to the fact that he didn’t use competent carpet cleaners as proven by the condition he left the formerly vacated suite, of which he lied saying they had cleaned, but turns out it was his cousin who both tried to clean the carpets and who attempted to patch the walls, making a mess of both, and failing to even vacuum the carpets, much less actually clean them.  But anyway, I asked him not once, but twice to NOT clean the carpets that I would take the cleaning out of his security deposit. BUT, because he asked, and because I am nice, I provided the name of my carpet cleaning company for his FUTURE use. Yet, even though I told him twice in writing not to clean the carpets, he called my guy anyway, lied to him about where he had gotten his name from, and scheduled the cleaning on the last Friday of his tenancy (April 9th). He wasn’t all the way moved out on the 9th. Luckily I had also scheduled my carpet guy to clean a different suite across the hall at the same time, so he started with her suite so that the narcissist could finish getting all his desks out of the office and vacuum it. He was still moving stuff when my guy started spraying the stain lifting solution on the carpets and baseboards. He left a bunch of double-stick tape on the carpet in one of the offices that was used to try to keep a vinyl chair pad from creeping (listen to me people, carpet has a nap. It creeps. Tape will not keep it from creeping in the direction of the carpet nap.  Just fix it from time to time. Life is hard, be and adult)!  So, we will attempt to get the tape out of the carpet, but we will have to use a razor blade to do so, which hopefully will not show too much.  This was new carpet when he moved in and I’d hate to replace it now.

But, after all of this, his damages were over $600 more than his security deposit. So I sent him a bill as his lease states that your damages are the ACTUAL damages and are not limited to the deposit you place as security.  He cried so I acquiesced a little bit by cutting one of the fees in half, saving him $455, but he still balked.  He demanded that I release him with his entire security deposit being used, but release him from the balance of the damages.  He wanted it in writing TODAY so that he could go on with his life and business without this hanging over his head.

Am I going to release him of his final $145.00?  Absolutely not!  I will NOT give him the satisfaction of having won.  I have bowed more than enough and after all, he damaged all the items on the list I provided to him. He actually owes for 100% of the damages, and I didn’t have to reduce the painting by 50%, but to try to play nice, I did. He refuses to budge one inch, therefore, I will NOT release him in writing.  I may even send him a bunch of “past due” invoices for his debt.  I doubt seriously I will ever receive it, but I could be nasty about it.  For now, I’ll just not respond so that I will have no reason to ever talk to him again for the rest of my life.

This is the problem with narcissists. They are lonely cusses (I would like to use a much stronger word here, but I don’t want to have my words shunned by the community).  He has caused me such anguish over the past four years, I consider it to be mental abuse.  It hurts as much as if he were punching me, though he never laid a hand on me. The mental anguish I took home, generally on a Friday when he would bother to send me his rants via email or text (or worse yet over the weekend), so that my entire weekend I would ruminate over his comments not wanting to respond outside of office hours as this gives him even more power the next time he wants to torture me. I am so tired of his narcissist abuse that I cut him off.  I literally pushed him out of the building and I am thrilled that he is finally all the way out. The bad news is that he is in the building next door, but he has been told not to park in my lot, nor place signage on the building or his former office door as to his new location. I do not want anything to do with his new location.  He has the power to place his new address on his website and with his corporation so that people can find him and nowhere in our contract did it give him permission to place a forwarding address sign on the building, so each one will be removed.

I have had the locks changed, so he no longer has access to the building unless the front door is unlocked. I’ve encouraged the lady who works across the hall from his former office to leave the exterior door locked as much as possible when she is there on the first floor alone for her own peace of mind. I have also locked his former suite with new locks so that he can not enter there either. I would not put it past him to send one of his employees to come do something stupid. I may stop ruminating about this narcissist eventually, it will take some time and if anything will help, having this entire story out of my head and out there for anyone to read will help me heal from his abuse. No one should have to put up with a narcissist!  It is very hard to recognize them up front, they are all smiles and charming.  Beware lest you fall into their trap, it is like quicksand!  It is difficult to get out, but so rewarding when you do. It would be better, however, if you were never trapped in the first place!  Good luck with that!  

The Cross of Iron – La Cruz de Ferro

My brother recently visited the Cross of Iron, which is along the pilgrimage route of El Camino de Santiago in Leon, Spain. His wife had wanted to do this for years and they had an opportunity to go there, spend 26 days walking the Camino (part of an 800 km route). This pilgrimage, the “Camino de Santiago,” is the third most visited Holy places on the globe third to Jerusalem and Rome. My brother is a scholar, for lack of a better word. When he decided to take this trip I am sure he did much research to find out The who, what, where, when and why of it all. He is also spiritual, I’ll not get into that here, as it would take years to tell the whole, but suffice it to say, he respected the pilgrimage, though he does not hold to modern church traditions. He and his wife read about the Cruz de Ferro and packed small items to leave there at the food of that monument.

A brief history of this monument: The place where it is located is the highest point for miles around. The pole was placed here at least 1500 years ago. Tradesmen would use this place, which is also located practically under the Milky Way (stars), as a guidance point as they traveled from Europe, through France and Spain on down to Portugal. At some point, (and please forgive me for not knowing the entire story, I am attempting to be brief and my brother took 30 minutes to tell me these things, so I will leave a lot out), the Roman Catholic Church wanted to build a great cathedral to Saint James, the brother of John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. In order to build it, they needed stones, so, since people made this pilgrimage to visit the bones of St. James (who was beheaded by Herod the Great), they were instructed to bring stones with them to be used in building the great Cathedral. The church set up locations where these stones could be deposited, in lieu of carrying the stone all the way due to the weight (and the lack of modern transportation 1500 years ago). Years before the pilgrimage began, this place had been used and the pole had been erected here on the highest point in the area so that it would guide travelers. Once the pilgrimage began, a cross was placed on top of this pole.

Now, in modern times, people visit this Cruz de Ferro (Cross of Iron) to lay something down, usually stones as was an already established custom, but also lay down emotional stones, such as bad habits, or heart ache over passed love ones, or ill family or friends, or abuse that had occurred in their lives. The types of burdens that have been laid there are as many as those who have ever visited.

My brother and his wife, knowing this, took things with them. His wife took a stone and wrote on it the names of her family. She took a piece of paper with a prayer for her mother who was gravely ill and also a childhood necklace her mother had given her and she laid them on this huge mound of stones at the foot of this Iron Cross. My brother took a small stone he had gathered from near the Atlantic Ocean, a smooth “pocket stone”. He placed it there. He also took a dog tag with a photo of my son etched on one side and my son’s name and birth/death dates on the other side depicting how my son, a Sergeant in the US Marines, who was Killed in Action in 2010. His death, still is raw in all our hearts. He thought that he had lost this dog tag. I had given it to him almost 10 years ago and he dropped it into his duffle bag (quick travel kit) that he uses regularly for quick informal trips, but it had slipped under the floor of the duffle bag (that piece of cardboard covered in plastic that rests on the bottom of the duffle bag to help stiffen it up and keep its shape). The dog tag had slipped under the cardboard and was hidden from him. He knew he didn’t lose it, but he just didn’t remember where he had put it. But, knowing that he was about to go on an international trip, knowing he would fly (which was seldom for him), he decided to totally empty his bag to make sure he didn’t have any pocket knives (we collect, don’t judge me), or other “contraband” knowing that TSA is very picky and customs is even more so. He found some weird items, but above all, he found this dog tag. This was no trivial item to him. We all felt tremendous loss when my son died. He had missed the dog tag over the years, but it was simply not ready to be found yet. Here again, I won’t go into my belief about “circumstances” vs “the sovereignty of God”, but I believe it stayed hidden for such a time as this.

Anyway, he was thrilled to find it, and my brother, who HATES necklaces and never wears them, immediately put the dog tag around his neck for this trip.

As they got up before dawn on one of their 26 days of walking (mind you, he’s almost 60 years old at this time), to get to La Cruz de Ferro at sunrise, as it turned out, there was a HUGE cloud hugging the top of this 4900 ft high mountain. It is what it is, clouds happen and they couldn’t delay their journey. The walked to the Iron Cross and the cloud had lifted enough for them to see the top. His wife went up first and laid her items at the foot of the cross, said her peace, her prayers, then came back down the hill.

When she returned, my brother went up. He had his stone to lay there, as a token of thanks to this hugely spiritual place where thousands had traveled for 1500 years or more. They say that travelers on this pilgrimage will ask 2 questions of you as they pass. The first, why are you doing this? (Many walk simply for exercise, others it is a spiritual pilgrimage, or often penance for their sins.) The second is “Have you had your Camino Cry yet?” It is said that no matter why you came, that the magnitude of the holiness, or perhaps through viewing the emotions of those around you if you aren’t particularly spiritual, will make you realize the magnitude of the Holiness of what you are actually doing, causing you, too, to cry at some point. The cathedral(s) are truly magnificent, of which I have to take my brother’s word on the subject as I have not witnessed it . . . Yet, but I plan to and believe what my brother tells me.

So as he took his stone to deposit it at the bottom of this pole with a small Iron Cross at the top, he wanted to leave the stone without placing it specifically, but to toss it and let it fall where it may to be forever there with the history of this place. Then, because the pole was full of other momentous left there by others, he looked up high to find a nail. He rotated around the pole a bit and found a nice high nail to place the dog tags where it would hopefully hang for a long time and be undeserved by other pilgrims. There, on this worldwide platform, he laid my son’s memory down. The memory and dog tag is no longer lost, well, not lost without memory of where it is any longer. It is lost to my brother now as he no longer has it, but my brother laid it down, lost it, so that it, too, could stand as a reminder. It’s not lost, he doesn’t have it, but he knows where, exactly, it is.

Our town and state as well as the United States as a whole and the State of New Mexico, town of Belen, have all honored my son for his willing sacrifice for laying his life down for us all, but now, all pilgrims who travel down El Camino de Santiago, who come across La Cruz de Ferro along the way, will also know of his sacrifice.

La Cruz de Ferro is a place to lay down burdens. Even though I have never been there, and quite possibly may never go, my heart feels that it is attached to that dog tag which is attached to the Iron Cross and my burden is officially lighter. The story of this place, actually called “The Cross of Iron standing beneath the Dancing Stars” (Milky Way constellation) by tradesmen 3000 years ago, now a destination along a pilgrimage for the past 1500 years, is now an incredible gift for me from my brother, placing my son’s image there so that the world may know of his sacrifice.

Whether or not the bones in the cathedral of Santiago are actually St. James’ or some other martyr from Christendom, doesn’t matter. The fact that someone gave his life for his faith is not lost on me and my son. My son LITERALLY gave his life for his friends, family and country as well as world-wide Christendom. He believed in his cause, not due to patriotism alone, but he felt Called of God to serve as a Marine. He made sure his men knew that and on the day he died, he literally traded places with another man, not knowing what was ahead, but he changed places and ten steps later, he was dead and the man he had changed places with was a live. Did he know this? I don’t think so, but that man is alive today because of what my son did. My son’s squad is here today because of his sacrifice. As a result of this bomb, other bombs were found and defused which saved more lives.

When I got that news, the day he died, my first question was this: “Why my son”. I heard God immediately answer: “Why NOT your son?” If a choice had to be made for someone to die that night, who am I to think my son is invincible? If not my son, who? If I could have chosen someone to die that day, who would I have chosen? Knowing the spiritual status of his men, I would have had to choose my own son because the others were not ready to die. They weren’t right with with God through Jesus Christ. As I saw how other Gold Star Mothers fell apart when we met at Camp LeJeune for a memorial of our fallen sons and daughters, I couldn’t imagine placing that burden on the others whose Marines came home safely. I consider myself a strong person spiritually, but I was shaken to the core and my whole belief system changed in that moment. I didn’t lose my faith, however, if you think about the story of the “Grinch that Stole Christmas, his heart grew 10 times that day”, my heard was enlarged so much that I can’t imagine getting to that great depth by any other means than having my son’s life taken. My son died for ME! To help ME grow spiritually. For me to realize just how much more God is than the tiny box I had placed Him in.

Now, with my son’s dog tag hanging on La Cruz de Ferro in Spain, all the pilgrims will be able to see him and MAYBE, just maybe they will look him up online and see some of these articles attributed to his legacy. His name is US Marine Sergeant Garrett A. Misener KIA 2010-Dec-27 Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

If you don’t understand the Sovereignty of God, please take some time to discover it. It is undeniable.

Oh, Brother

We simply didn’t know. We noticed odd behavior but we just thought he was going through a “thing”.

My brother-in-law (BIL) for years has been acting odd, well, not quite odd, more like bizarre! We live in TN, he in CA. He was a nice enough guy and we had lots of great interaction, meals, conversations, etc. For the first 9-10 years of my marriage to his brother, but in the past 4-5 years, he had become, for lack of a better word, a jerk. I’ll give you some examples.

About 5 years ago when returning to the parking lot after work and discovered that a car parked beside him had side-swiped him. He knew this because the red car left red paint on his silver car, and the red car had a dent in the bumper where he could tell it was THAT car that did this. He was VERY proud of his Malibu. He proceed to open his trunk, take out a baseball bat, and beat the everlasting daylights out of the other car. He was fired. (Remember 20/20 hindsight.)

He had said often how much he hated his job, but as a man in his 50’s, it is hard to find a job sometimes these days. He put out his resume’. He sent it to every company within the state of CA for ANY job opening, whether he was trained for it or now. He wasn’t getting any interviews. My hubby, who is in the world of everything HR asked him to send the resume to him for review. He sent it. YIKES! It was awful. It was full of narcissism (I have NEVER given less than 120% effort; EVERY time I have left a job, they have needed to hire 2 people to take MY place, etc.). The cover letter was awful! It didn’t reference any particular company, it even started off with “Good Morning/Afternoon” to make sure the correct greeting was there depending on the time of day the resume’ was being read. I am NOT a corporate person, I’ve never had a reason to write a Resume’ but I have just in case, but as untrained for the corporate world as I am, I knew this Resume’ was terrible. It was if it was written by a child. (Remember 20/20 hindsight.)

My husband’s family is quite large with many Aunts and Uncles and consequently lots and lots of cousins. Whenever we return to CA to visit Mother-in-law & BIL, we always plan an evening together with some of the Aunts/Uncles/Cousins. Not all can come, but this one particular time about 4 years ago, my BIL and his spouse said they’d cook if we’d come to their house, so many of the extended family showed up, about 20 people. As we began to arrive, we all were gathering in the Breakfast room so that we could talk to the cooks as well as each other. It was a great time. Since it had been so long since one of these gatherings, we were all showing one another pictures from our phones of kids, grand-kids and pets. We were passing around the phones and everyone was laughing and talking, even showing pics to the cooks. At one point BIL had had enough! He didn’t like us visiting with each other and he didn’t want to see OUR pictures, he wanted this to be HIS dinner party, so he took my hubby’s phone (expensive iPhone) and threw it in the trash can with the clippings from the food (the cores, skins, etc. GROSS). The hubby was NOT happy. He thought his brother was just being a jerk, so he took BIL’s phone and threw it into the trash to see how HE liked it. My hubby, of course took it out, wiped it off and avoided letting his brother touch it again. The BIL took his out, wiped his off and we thought all was well, all happy, phones ok. But NO! BIL went to his stereo to put some music on (Barbara Streisand, Kenny G, Whitney Houston, Michael Buble, etc.). We thought this was ok, though not our favorite selections, still nice dinner music when played low and beyond our own conversations because we were excited to catch up, not sit, sip wine and listen to BIL’s music selections. He had apparently brought the remote control into the kitchen because the louder we got, talking and laughing (mind you, all in the presence of BIL so that he could also hear what we were saying) he would turn up the stereo. It finally got to “11” (AKA: VERY LOUD) we all found ourselves having to yell to be heard. One of the Aunties spoke up to BIL and asked him to turn it down so we could chat, so he did. Over the next 20 minutes or so, the music got louder and louder until we once again had to yell over it. My hubby, BIL’s older brother, finally told him to turn it down, or HE would turn it down for him. I don’t remember what exactly happened, whether BIL or my hubby turned the music down, but it went down and once we sat down to dinner, it was at a decent level so we could hear it, but could still talk over it. We didn’t come over there to listen to dinner music, we came to catch up. We didn’t realize that the terms of the dinner required NOT talking and only listening to music. Thus, we thought BIL was being a jerk. (Remember 20/20 hindsight).

At random dinners and visits since then, when we would eat out, he would do inappropriate things, like talk down to the servers, or get mad (out loud) at others around us at a restaurant. He once flew to TN to hear my daughter play at “Memphis in May” with her band. It’s an honor to be invited to play there, so he flew in just for that and was here for only a day and a half. It’s an outdoor festival full of booze. Most people around us were talking and laughing loudly right in front of the stage where she was performing, it’s a come and go – walk-around event. He got furious that people would DARE to talk while she was singing! He over reacted, but I should have been peeved too, since it was my own daughter playing, but he was just a little over the top. (Remember 20/20 hindsight).

He was divorced about 2 years ago and he moved back in with MIL. He never really unpacked anything. He added his bed to one of her bedrooms, but didn’t remove the other furnishings, he just pushed them into the corner of the room. He brought several shirts/t-shirts and 2-3 pairs of shorts. 1 pair of shoes, and only a couple of his personal belongings. The garage, on the other hand was FULL of about 31 boxes of CDs, 15 boxes of DVDs and a bunch of boxes from his failed business attempts since losing his jobs. He was now a licensed Real Estate Agent and a Solar Panel salesman, but none of those ventures worked out.

Most recently, we visited CA to visit MIL and BIL and the entire family back toward the beginning of May 2019. BIL had a very set routine. He would wake up at some point, proceed to the kitchen to make pots of Chinese Green Tea. He would drink anywhere from 5 – 10 cups of tea each morning. He is sure to let you know that he puts nothing in the tea, no sugar, no cream, nothing! Just pure tea. It cleanses your liver, you know. Then, around 10:30 – 11:30 he will make a huge meal, generally a frozen dinner from Costco intended for an entire family of 4-6 people, and eat the entire pan of food. What I saw him eat was a frozen box with 6 “Crab Stuffed Salmon” In a metal tray. He turned on the oven, cooked it, and then proceeded to eat the entire pan. We knew MIL hadn’t been eating well, and I thought he would at least offer her a 4-year-old size portion of the salmon. But nope, he ate the entire family size pan, no side dishes, and a bottle of wine. It was not even noon, but he drank an entire bottle of wine. At dinner time, he didn’t have any food, but didn’t want to miss the bottle of wine. He had also started a strange behavior. As a non-drinker, I thought it was bad to mix drinks with beer, but apparently wine and beer pair perfectly together, because after his 2nd bottle of wine for the day, he would proceed to drink beer.

Normally, we would stay in the house with MIL but since BIL was staying in the spare bedroom, we were now staying in a hotel about a mile from MIL’s house. No big deal, my hubby gets lots of free rooms because of all his travel throughout the year, so it’s usually free, or very inexpensive for most trips. So we would come to MIL’s house around 10 in the morning, take her places, offer BIL to come along, but mostly he declined, which was a bit of a relief as he was FILTHY. It appeared he hadn’t showered in months! He smelled awful and his shirt was very stained, as if he had been under a car working on something and the oil had dripped on him a lot, but no, he was just dirty. Therefore, we wouldn’t let him go with us unless he showered and put on clean clothes. Which he did one day while we were there. We also asked him to move his car to one side or the other of the driveway so that we could park beside him off the street. He moved over ONE day, but then he was back in then center of the driveway the next day. So, as we came and left throughout the week, we would notice a different number of beer bottles sitting around the den. The day we arrived, there were 4 empties. After 2 bottles of wine, I thought this was a lot, but also thought, this could be a few day’s of empties, so didn’t think much of it. BUT, the next day when we arrived, the bottles were gone. During the next day, we took MIL out to dinner and shopping, etc. When we came back late that night, just before she went to bed, I counted 19 empties! To some of you, that may not sound like a lot, but to me, I can’t drink 19 of anything, or everything all added up together (Coffee, Tea, Milk, Water, etc.) in one day! I couldn’t believe anyone could drink that much beer in one day. Again, we thought he was just being a jerk, I don’t have a job, I don’t care, I’m not going to shower, It’s my life, leave me alone! (Remember 20/20 hindsight.)

We really thought something was wrong with him by this time, if nothing else he was depressed and he needed to get back into the work life as he was only 57 at this time and there is a long time between then and retirement. We suggested having him see a doctor, but he maintained that there was nothing wrong. His Ex had begged him to see a doctor because his insurance was going to run out at the end of 2018, but he didn’t. He needed to, 20/20 hindsight.

My hubby and I discussed how to get him to see a doctor for some sort of evaluation. We believed him to be drunk about 24 hours a day and he was totally introverted. He would walk about 2 hours per day in the afternoon, but had a routine of napping as well. He was very locked into his routine. He would take MIL to the grocery store on Saturday, but one day when his car wouldn’t start, he couldn’t problem solve to deduce why it wouldn’t start. At least the neighbors suggested AAA to come look at it (MIL used to work for AAA and the family had always used it, now I do too). So he called AAA to find out it was his battery, they replaced it and it was paid for. But he wasn’t concerned about it in the least, even though Shopping Saturday for MIL had come and gone and she had no food. This was when we decided in the very near future we needed to bring MIL to TN so that we could make sure she had the things (food + necessities) she needed. He apparently didn’t care for her at all. They lived in a small home with a pool. Each week the pool guy had to come because he wouldn’t do the pool tests and scooping of debris. They had to hire out the lawn mowing (which could have been done with one of those non-motorized push mowers because it is such a tiny lawn, because BIL wouldn’t do that. It made me angry because he’s a grown man, and was not paying rent, the least he should be doing were the lawn and the pool, not to mention that they had a house cleaner come each week to clean the inside of the house because he is filthy and everything he touched got dirty. (Remember 20/20 hindsight.)

We returned to TN and decided that we needed to do something about BIL, but just what we didn’t know, but for sure, we needed to bring MIL to TN to stay with us, if not forever, for at least a few months until we got BIL some help. We were lost, though. A grown man won’t get help, but yet needs something, just what, we didn’t know. So, in July, MIL came to “visit” us. After about a month of being with us, she came to me and asked if it was ok if she just stayed forever with us. Of course, she could. I knew this would be difficult, but she was all alone in CA, even though her son was there, they didn’t talk, he couldn’t have a conversation, so they were both all alone, and I think both a bit depressed. MIL is 82 and has mild dementia, but otherwise can do some cooking and takes care of herself just fine, so I thought being here was the best thing. So in July, the hubby flew to CA and brought her back with him.

Fast forward to October 2019 . . . To be continued . . . . . . . . .

Wow! God is incomprehensible!

So, I do this Miracle Morning thing. I started a long time ago (2016) and got derailed late last year and earlier this year due to a bunch of trips and life falling apart. I just got out of the habit because of a schedule that was all over the place. SO, I willingly am deciding to get it going again because I’m happier when this part of my life is in order.

So, on my new day #5, (October 11, 2019) this is how it all went down. I come up to The Fuzzy Kilt to meditate, read, journal, etc. I like to read some scriptures and meditate on God for a while. I also listen to podcasts and was currently listening to the book via YouTube called Crazy Love by Frances Chan. I just listened to the forward/preface of that book and he talked about before we come to God and start asking for a lot of things, we should first come before God, and before we say a word, we should stand in AWE before God and just worship his magnitude. Nothing programmed, no music, no effort, just reflect on how awesome God is.

I love nature. When I look at anything in nature I wonder how in the world anyone can believe in something like the Big Bang Theory because there is simply no way what I see in nature could have simply just happened by accident. The different trees I see through my windows. Flowers and the intricacies there, bugs, bees, birds, how did they turn out so different, yet all perfectly individual.

As I began to meditate today considering the magnificence of God and the insignificance of humans, and more importantly, my own insignificance, I tried to dumb God’s mind down to my own mind to try to get a glimpse into the mind of God using my own stupid head. This is how this line of thinking came about.

Yesterday I heard something along the line of if our minds were the size of a soda can and God’s mind was a great and mighty river, by scooping up 12 oz of water into my can is like me trying to understand the mind of God. If I can only understand 12 oz of God’s mind and there is so much more out there to understand, I am really not even capable to understand much of God.

THIS IS HOW I IMAGINE God TO BE:

How insignificant are we as humans to God? We are like ants wandering around yet we THINK we have important work to do. We go here and there carrying our burdens; through what appears to us as a mighty rushing river, running through vast lands; a problem to be forded. Turns out, on God’s side of seeing this scenario, is only a trickle of run-off water after a gentle rain, cutting a tiny track along its way, totally insignificant to God: unnoticeable one would think, but not.

It blows my mind to think how God actually orchestrates all these intricate yet insignificant “streams” or circumstances, to meander in and out, under and through, and around our lives specifically to affect my life. God designs these events just for me as an individual all to lead, guide and push me in a particular direction, FOR MY OWN GOOD.

How many of us humans would dare to fathom doing that to, or for, one tiny specific ant? Would we divert his path to save his life? Would we even think that by sending a single drop of water, we could not only change his path, but improve his life, (though, to him, it might feel like a catastrophe).

Yet, this is how much God loves us, that He is willing to come down to our level, to level the playing field, and do supernatural things that alter the course of our lives to somehow make our lives better.

Then, He does the same for every human alive, like six billion chess games being played simultaneously. I can’t even fathom the mind of God and its vast capacity for these things, yet He loves ME! A nobody from nowhere! He loves me as an individual. He knows how many hairs are on my head (and probably how many I’ve lost since time began for me. He knows my name. While my name may be written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life”, he doesn’t need it for reference if He wants to chat with me. (The main problem here, is that I rarely have much time to spend with HIM!). He’s the maker of the entire universe. There are billions of galaxies, maybe more, probably a lot more, just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. He chooses to move in my life, to gently (or sometimes forcibly) guide me in the direction he wants me to travel. Most of the time I go kicking and screaming, but he still guides me. He guides all my friends, he guides all human beings. Yet we still think we are as smart as God; or at least we ACT like we think we are as smart as God.

Realizing just how much God does, and just how much I am incapable of doing, I wonder to myself Why in the world would I ever try to play God? God is incredible. WHY does he choose to interact with me? I think this is where the phrase came from, when a preacher will say something like, “This message is for each and every one of you.” Use it is intended for us all, but it is also intended JUST FOR ME! If there were no one else on earth, God would have come just for me! How can this be? That the God of the universe has time for everyone AND time for just ME? WOW!

Landlords VS. Pets

Are you a landlord and do you LIKE having pets in your units? If not, and if you have a “NO PET” policy, you may want to read this post.

I am a landlord, I don’t want pets in my units.  The main reason for this is because I know what pets do to a house, I have pets!  I had been told by what I thought were reliable sources that if you have a “NO PET POLICY” you simply won’t have to allow pets in your house. Then I heard a question about Service Animals.  A way was suggested to get around having to have these animals in your units was to simply change their policy to read “NO ANIMALS POLICY.”

Then, one day, while reading Facebook, one of my daughters posted that she wanted a puppy.  She lives in New York City and most of the places she has lived have all had strict “NO PET” policies.  She was planning a move, but I told her that finding an apartment that would allow a pet would be next to impossible and reminded her that she couldn’t afford to pay extra just because she wanted a pet.  (I suggested that she become a dog-sitter on the weekends so that she could get lots of puppy time, but NOT own a pet.)

But then, one of her friends commented on the post:  “You can just write off to one of those websites that will give you a certificate stating that you have an Emotional Support Dog and any Landlord will be required to allow the pet to live with you.

This freaked me out as a landlord!

So, at that time I began to do extensive research on the topic.

This is what I have learned (so far) and I’ll try to be brief, though, if you’ve read any of my posts, you know they aren’t.  Sorry.

SERVICE ANIMALS:

  • Service Animals are trained to do specific tasks for a disabled individual.  The disability may be physical or mental. (Seeing Eye Dogs, Hearing Dogs, etc.)
  • Sometimes a Service Animal might be a Miniature Horse, but Service Animals are not Cats, Ferrets, Monkeys, etc.
  • These animals often cost between $17,000 and $22,000 EACH!
  • These animals are NOT pets, they are considered by the ADA and HUD as “Necessary Medical Equipment”
  • Service Animals are allowed to go anywhere the public is allowed to go:  Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Hospitals, etc.  However, they are not allowed to go where the general public is not allowed to go, such as in a restaurant’s kitchen…unless the disabled person WORKS there.

LANDLORDS and SERVICE ANIMALS:

  • Landlords are allowed to ask ONLY 2 questions when presented with a prospective tenant who says they have a Service Animal
    • Is this a Service Animal? (yes or no)
    • What TASK has this animal been trained to do for you?
  • You may NOT ask “what disability do you have requiring you to have a Service animal!  That is personal medical information that does not have to be disclosed to you.
  • You may NOT charge extra rent or extra “security deposits” for the animal.
  • These animals do not have any type of ID or License other than regular shots/vaccinations from the vet.
  • You can not discriminate because of the breed of the dog even if your insurance company has said they don’t want “viscous breeds” in your rent house, such as Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers, etc.  Each animal must be judged on a case by case basis.  Remember these animals have had roughly $20,000 worth of training.  Do you think they are going to attack you? Really?
  • You CAN, however, require that the tenant PAY for any damages to your unit caused by the Animal (or the tenant).
  • You CAN evict a tenant IF their animal becomes a nuisance:
    • excessive barking which annoys the neighbors repeatedly; or
    • the dog attacks other animals in your complex (for example, you allow up to 20 lb animals, but this is an 80 lb German Shepherd who attacks other animals)
    • the handler/owner does not keep the animal under control when in public areas or does not clean up after the animal or follow the pet policy you have in place (allows the pet to poop on the playground rather than in a pet friendly area)

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS (Assistance Animals)

These are NOT SERVICE ANIMALS (ESAs).  These are, many times, formerly a pet that has been promoted to the position of Emotional Support Animal.  These animals are prescribed by a Medical Professional, Mental Health Professional or Social Worker. Many people with conditions such as PTSD, Epilepsy, or Autism may find the help of an Emotional Support Animal to be a great comfort and a calming effect when their emotions get out of control.

  • An ESA is NOT trained to do specific tasks for the individual and these animals may even be rescued animals from an animal shelter.
  • Many ESAs are generally regular pets that have been promoted to an ESA position because of their owner’s current mental or physical condition
  • To have an ESA, the tenant’s physician or social worker will write a prescription for the animal.  This is only good for Housing and Airplanes.
  • An individual may have more than one ESA, but will have a prescription for each.
  • An ESA does not have to be a dog, it may be a cat, snake, etc.
  • If you have “PET or ANIMAL” policies for your rental units, the owner of the ESA is required to follow these policies, such as no animals in the pool area, this animal is not allowed to go into the pool area (Service Animals, on the other hand,  are allowed to go anywhere their owner is allowed to go).  ESA can go outside in approved areas (if you have pet zones) and inside the house and anywhere else pets are allowed to go on your property.
  • You may NOT charge an extra security deposit for the animal(s)
  • You may NOT charge extra rent for the animal(s)
  • You MAY charge the tenant for all damages
  • You MAY evict if the animal becomes a nuisance to other neighbors, or threatens other tenants/workers.You may also evict this tenant if they can not control their animal(s)

AS A LANDLORD, WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN FACED WITH THESE ANIMALS: 

If someone wishes to have a Service Animals or ESA move into one of your unit, they must do the following:

  1. For both types of animals, the tenant must make a  written request of you requesting “Reasonable Accommodations” for their animal to be allowed to live in the unit, (be it a Service Animal or ESA).
  2. For a Service Animal, ask only the 2 questions listed above, write the answers down on your tenant’s application and file with your records.
  3. For an ESA, you should require a copy of the tenant’s “prescription” provided to them by their health care provider or social worker.

NOTES:  

  • When you ask for a copy of their “Emotional Support Animal Prescription” and if they have no idea what you are talking about, chances are, this is NOT an ESA, it’s the family pet and THIS person is probably “impersonating a disabled person”, which is a crime!
  • There are websites that WILL let you fill out a questionnaire online to help determine whether or not you might need an emotional support animal.  If the answers you provide see to be worthy, for a FEE, a mental health worker will call you and interview you.  If they believe you could benefit from an ESA, they will give you a letter.  While this may be perfectly legal to do, and landlords will need to allow the animal to live in their unit even though they don’t normally allow pets, ask yourself this, is this person getting the mental health care that they really need?  No!  BUT, you better not discriminate if they have this letter because if it really is legit, you wouldn’t want a discrimination law suit brought against you by the ADA or HUD. Better safe than sorry in this case.

THE GOOD NEWS:  

All of your other rental criteria for tenants should be met apart from the animal issue.  If they don’t make enough money, they don’t qualify.  If they have terrible credit, or have a criminal background that is undesirable, you are not obligated to rent to this candidate.  Your rental unit criteria needs to be written so that you can give the tenant a letter stating the reason for their tenancy denial.  You must treat all tenant applicants equally, so make sure you are following the rules you set forth.  The animal should NOT be any part of this denial, or you’ll still get sued.

Stay tuned for other posts about your written criteria for tenants if you don’t have these already established. 

 

Copyright:  Janne Zaccagnino

 

What do Michael Jordan, Itzhak Pearlman and Real Estate Investing have in common?

Michael Jordan – Itzhak Perlman – Real Estate Investing?

I’d be willing to bet that you never thought you’d see those two names in the same sentence, much less the same article about Real Estate Investing, right?

Welcome to my brain!

Michael Jordan: Arguably the best basketball player of all time.

Itzhak Perlman: A polio victim who became a world famous violinist.

These two men are great examples of how a person can excel if they put their mind to it.  But, what does this have to do with Real Estate Investing?   As property investors, our goal is to make money, possibly quit our day job, but just like becoming a world famous violinist or the world’s best basketball player, you can’t do this flippantly. A little effort may make you a little money, but EXTREME effort could make you an ALL-STAR in the Investment game.

How do you get really good?  You must ‘tune up’ your brain and learn the rules.  You must ‘exercise your brain’ so that every time you shoot that real estate basketball deal toward the hoop, it swishes! (He shoots, HE SCORES!)

STEPS TO BECOMING A REAL ESTATE  INVESTING ALL-STAR:

  1. Attend meetings, every meeting and go to seminars.  You can visit the National Real Estate Investors Association website to see if there is a local REIA club in your area.  If there is, this is the BEST place to learn how to become a REIA All-Star.  (www.NationalREIA.com)  My local REIA group is the Memphis Investors Group:  http://www.memphisinvestorsgroup.com
  2. Take notes. Just like in school, write them down, then review them later.
  3. Study the notes you’ve taken, organize them into investment categories (landlording, finding good tenants, wholesaling, insurance, bookkeeping, taxes, etc.) and then study some more.
  4. Write down questions you have, you can put these in your phone or on a note card, and ask an expert at the next Friday Luncheon or MIG meeting.
  5. Never stop reading great books about real estate investing strategies but don’t neglect to also learn about running your business.
  6. REMEMBER: Being a real estate investor is a business, so don’t neglect learning how to run a business (if you’ve never run a business before).  In the real estate investing businesses, records, file organization and bookkeeping are extremely important especially if an auditor comes calling.
  7. PRACTICING FUNDAMENTALS is the only way to get good, really good, at this sport.

I’m sure that Jordan has shot about 10-million free-throws in his lifetime. Perlman has probably played violin concertos until he could play them backwards and blindfolded…all from memory. You need to do this with your career in real estate investing.

In order to be great at Real Estate Investing, you need to develop a certain muscle group, mainly your brain and logic; you need an education.  I’m not telling you to go back to college, though you could, but a great place to get started with your education is at MIG meetings.

Next, get creative.  Take what you’ve learned from the masters and add to that your own style, your own ideas and create something unique, your own brand.

The next step is to DO.  Once you get the education, you must begin to stretch your wings and take some steps into your dream.  Shoot that basketball toward the hoop.  Draw that bow across those strings.  Will it swish the first time? Will you be a virtuoso immediately?  Nope.  BUT, the only way to get better is to practice.  Dr. Sinichi Suzuki, the inventor of the Suzuki Violin Method (which teaches 3-year-olds to play the violin) says the old adage “Practice makes Perfect” is incorrect.  He says, “Perfect Practice plus 100 repetitions makes perfect.” 

  • Start small: Beginning on an elementary level is ok.  We all start somewhere.
  • Get advice to do it right: Talk to your professionals, take “lessons” if you will, talk to the coach and run the drills.
  • Negotiate and Close the deal: Take yourself off the bench and play in the game
  • Make the money: Win the game.
  • Repeat 100 times. Perfect practice plus 100 repetitions makes you money. (Wash.    Repeat).

Expand the muscles of your brain, just like an athlete or musician who has honed their skills, don’t take what you do lightly, but then again, it isn’t rocket science.  Study, learn and apply (do) what you have been taught.

 

Always pass on what you have learned.  Do or do not.  There is no try.  ~ Yoda

Happy Investing!

Copyright: Janne Zaccagnino

Slush Fund for Landlords

“Help, my rental unit has an expensive problem and I don’t have the cash to get it fixed!!!”

NOTE:  These notes and figures were created in the Memphis TN market in 2016 and may need to be adjusted for your housing market and the year.

Does this sound like you? Are you a new landlord?  Have you run into this situation with your rental units or your own personal house (or car, or lawn mower)?

We all face this.  There is a time when some expensive repairs are required for things we own, but we don’t have the money to fix the problem.  Somehow we figure it out, we borrow the money, we use a credit card and then slowly but surely we dig our way out of debt, but isn’t there a better way? Going into debt is awfully hard on your blood pressure, and paying it back leads to strife and money problems, as well as arguments with your spouse, not to mention sleepless nights.  What can you do to make your financial life easier with regards to your rental units that are supposed to be making you rich but instead, it often feels like all you do is pour money into them over and over again?

The answer is SIMPLE: a “Slush Fund”.  Your money gurus have better names for this, but it is nothing more than a savings account set aside strictly for repairs of your rental units.  We all know that these expenses will arise (at the least opportune moment, like December 20th) and when they do, it causes extreme stress especially if we aren’t prepared to take care of the problem quickly.  We fret and fuss and yell, but none of that fixes the problem and often leads to sleeping on the couch.

 

HOW TO CREATE A SLUSH FUND:

 

This is hard to do during a cash flow cricis, so if you are reading this now and you don’t have a cash crunch problem at the moment, NOW is the time to start your Slush Fund.

  1. Open a NEW Slush Fund Account – either at a local bank or online, but make it a separate account from any account you currently have. This will help keep you from accidentally spending it, you will access it on purpose for a specific reason in the future.
  2. Now begin funding your Slush Fund. How much of your cash flow can you afford to live without right now?  If you say, none, you are in trouble!  If you only own a couple of rent houses, chances are, you have a day job, so put 100% of your cash flow into your Slush Fund to fund it quickly.  If you use your cash flow as income, you’ll have to reduce your spending to afford to put some of your cash flow into your Slush Fund. Set aside a particular amount each month and set a total goal.  Make a decision, deposit the money as soon as you receive it, not at the end of the month when the money will suddenly not be there anymore. PAY YOUR SLUSH FUND FIRST.

HOW MUCH DO I NEED IN MY SLUSH FUND?

This is probably the million dollar question.  There are no easy answers here, but this is how I would evaluate it.  I will run through a recent example to try to give some guidance, but ultimately only you know your own properties.  My friends who own a bunch of units in Midtown which could be upwards of 100 years old may need more cash per unit, however, they are typically smaller units, so the numbers may still work out in the end.  My units are newly constructed single family houses, so their maintenance, at least for the first 10 years should be minimal other than “tenant damage.”

EXAMPLE:  You own a rent house, maybe 10-15 years old with no major maintenance issues.  The HV/AC is in decent shape.  The electrical systems are all up to par.  The roof and carpets are all great.  All the appliances work…for now.

How much do you need in a slush fund for this ONE house?

What is the worst case scenario?  Tenant moves in and does great for 6 months straight, then one of them gets laid off at work.  They’ve trashed the carpets (kids and Kool-aid) and because of the “getting laid off” they fight, the husband damages a few doors because he was mad.  Because mom and dad are fighting, the toddler opens the dishwasher and stands on the door to reach the cookies…now the dishwasher door won’t close all the way, but they use it anyway and the leak damages the kitchen floors.  Now, because they have no job and know they can’t pay rent, they move out in the middle of the night taking with them the stove, all the ceiling fans and leave you holding the bag for this month’s rent.  They of course don’t leave you the keys, but DO leave you a semi-trailer amount of crap and a broken down swing set and trampoline in the back yard.

How much will this cost to repair and get ready to rent again?  I know this does not happen every time you have a tenant move out, at least I hope not, but let’s explore some possible costs.

Carpet Replacement             $1000

Dishwasher                    $500

Plumber Labor               $300

Vinyl in Kitchen              $800

2 new Doors                   $60

Carpenter Labor            $300

Locksmith                     (you have extra locks, so you change out the locks yourself)

“Got Junk”                    $500

Paint                              $1500 (they had painted all rooms a funky color)

Past-Due  Rent             $950 (or actual rent amount past due from tenants)

Lost Rent                       $950 or more (clean up time and finding new tenant)

TOTAL REPAIRS             $6,860.00

These numbers may be off a little, but many MIG members with real life experience can tell you their actual numbers, some are true horror stories.  Recently I had to rehab a house after 8 years of the same tenant.  He had the NERVE to call me and tell me that it was all “clean” for his move-out inspection.  The total cost of the rehab was $4,500 not counting lost rent.  His $775 Security Deposit barely covered his past-due late fees much less the rehab on the building. He actually threatened to “take us to the court house” to try to get his $775 back, luckily we took pictures and have receipts. He didn’t try.

  • We replaced all the carpets and had to paint the entire interior.
  • We had to replace the HV/AC unit, (he didn’t tell us it wasn’t working… but it was fried), not that he was responsible for this, but it would have been nice to know.
  • The disposal didn’t work and the kitchen sink was totally clogged, therefore the dishwasher couldn’t drain.
  • He had apparently let sodas or beers “spew” in the great room so there was sticky goo on 2 of the 4 walls and no attempt had been made to dab up the spills, therefore, there were at least 3 hard, dried, sticky beverage “disks” stuck to the carpets.
  • There was also a strange green stain on the carpets, like a green sharpie had lived under the sofa, bleeding its green blood onto the carpet until it finally died a slow and agonizing death.
  • He had, at some point, overflowed the toilet and water got onto the carpets. At the time I offered him a cleaning option which included him doing the cleaning, (we don’t pay for overflowed toilets) and he opted to clean it by renting a machine.  When he moved out, the entire master bedroom had black mold all over the carpets.
  • He had smoked so much (in the non-smoking unit) that the windows were brown and had to be scraped clean with a razor blade!
  • One bedroom’s closet had staples in the drywall, about 10,000 staples where posters or something had been affixed to the walls. There were torn corners of posters left and the painter charged us extra to remove all these staples.
  • There was also extreme mowing required because he moved out on June 1st, but had not mowed the yard once that spring/summer.
  • One exterior light was busted, had to replace it.
  • One window was broken
  • I had to re-key all the door locks as his room-mate wouldn’t return her keys.

If you add the lost rent to my $4,500, the total was now up to $6,050.  BUT, he lived there for 8 years, so $756.25 per year (or about $63 per month) would be needed for my Slush Fund to fully fund itself for this unit if this is a fair assessment of what could happen on any given rent house.  But if he had done this much damage in one year and moved out, I would be severely lacking in funds if $756 was all I had in my Slush Fund.

So in answer to the question, “How much Slush Fund” do I need for THIS house, the answer is $6,000 or more per house…depending on how many you own, but we’ll get to this later.  Ideally you should have this on hand on day one.  Hopefully every tenant doesn’t leave your house this bad (The bathroom walls alone; what DIED IN THERE!?!) but to save yourself a lot of stress and strife between you and your spouse/partner, you need to be prepared.

One way to fund your Slush Fund would be to set aside this much money as you buy the property.  You know there will be closing costs, taxes, insurance, there will also be needed repairs and rehabs.  COUNT THE COST and set aside this money immediately, the entire $6000 if you can, then you are good to go no matter what happens as a general rule.

But you tell me, I have 5 rental units, or 20, or 50.  How much Slush Fund do I need?  Do I just multiply $6,000 times the number of rental units?  Twenty rent houses times $6,000 is $120,000!  You could probably buy a few more rent houses for that amount of money!  The question here is; how often do you need to rehab a house?  Does every house need major renovations every time you change tenants?  And, do all your tenants move out at the same time?  The answer to both of these is, ‘no’.   If you have been at MIG for long, you’ll know that getting good tenants by having a great screening process in place helps many times, just not always.  Most tenants wants their security deposit back, so they will try to keep the unit well and clean it before they leave.  Some landlords teach their tenants well and treat them fairly, so the tenant tends to want to keep the unit better. But some tenants will never understand what “clean” is, therefore will never be able to accomplish clean.

So, if you don’t have a lot of money to start with, you already own a bunch of rent houses and don’t have a Slush Fund, set a goal, $100 per month, or $500 per month.  As stated above, use 100% of your cash flow if you only own a few properties and you still have a day-job so that you can fully fund your Slush Fund quickly and then live with peace of mind, once fully funded, you can begin to use your cash flow to acquire more properties, or go on vacation, but until you have a fully funded Slush Fund, don’t spend your cash flow.

Think about this, though; if you have 10 houses, you probably don’t need 10-times $6,000 ($60 grand).  They won’t all need renovations at the same time.  Also, there will be varying degrees of rehab required for individual units depending on the tenant.  So, my suggestion is to save about 3-5 times your ideal “per house” Slush Fund and keep it in the special savings account.  Then when you need to rehab one house, use some of the money ONLY if you can’t fund the rehab from your regular operating expenses account (this is actually the goal, to have a rehab line item in your normal budget).  An easy clean up rehab (maid service, lawn mowing, carpet cleaning, touch-up paint) can generally be absorbed with regular funds, but one bad tenant may require additional funds from your Slush Fund.  IF, at that point, you dip into your Slush Fund, your deposits to the Slush Fund need to be started back (or increased monthly) to re-fund it to get it back up to your total target (Ex. 5 x $6000 = $30,000 – Slush Fund Goal for someone who may own up to about 10 houses).  If you use $5,000 out of your Slush Fund, then repay yourself over the next year ($416.66 monthly) or 2 years ($208.33 monthly) to fully re-fund your Slush Fund.  If you always keep this Slush Fund funded, you should never have the stress of not having enough money, or having to find a loan, or maxing out your credit card and you’ll get all the cool horror stories without all the stress.  If you own 140 houses, like some in our group, you should keep a slush fund for huge emergencies, but your business plan and annual budget should have a percentage set aside for rehabbing your properties.  If you have 140 units, you have probably been at this game long enough to know exactly what you will spend in any given year for rehabs.  But for you new investors, be SURE to count the cost before you invest every penny you have into your property and then don’t have more when things go bad.

 

Copyright: Janne Zaccagnino

 

 

Michael Jordan & Itzhak Perlman

keep-calm-and-play-on-bb-hoop

I’d be willing to bet that you never thought you’d see those two names in the same sentence, much less the same article about real estate investing, right?  Welcome to my brain!

Michael Jordan: Arguably the best basketball player of all time.

Itzhak Perlman: A polio victim who became a world famous violinist. 

These two men are great examples of how a person can excel if they put their mind to it.  But, does a famous basketball player and a virtuoso violinist have to do with Real Estate Investing?   As property investors, our goal is to make money, maybe lots of money so that we can possibly quit our day job, but just like becoming a world famous violinist or the world’s best basketball player, you can’t do this flippantly. A little effort may make you a little money, but EXTREME effort could make you an ALL-STAR in the Investment game.

How do you get really good?  You must ‘tune up’ your brain and learn the rules.  You must ‘exercise your brain’ so that every time you shoot that real estate basketball deal toward the hoop, it swishes! (He shoots, HE SCORES!)

STEPS TO BECOMING A REAL ESTATE ALL STAR:

  1. Join a Real Estate Investors Group.  In Memphis, the best one is the Memphis Investors Group (MIG).
  2. Attend meetings, every meeting and go to seminars sponsored by the group or national seminars.
  3. Take notes. Just like in school, go to meetings prepared, bring a notebook, take good notes.  Later, at home, re-write them and review them.
  4. Study the notes you’ve taken, organize them into investment categories (landlording, finding good tenants, wholesaling, insurance, bookkeeping, taxes, etc.) and then study some more.
  5. Write down questions you have, you can put these in your phone or on a note card, and ask an expert at the next monthly meeting or call up one of the professionals in a related field.
  6. Read GREAT BOOKS about Real Estate Investment strategies.  Read with a grain of salt, not all states have the same laws.
  7. REMEMBER: Being a real estate investor is a business, so don’t neglect learning how to run a business (if you’ve never run a business before).  In the real estate investing businesses, record keeping, file organization and bookkeeping are extremely important especially if an auditor comes calling.
  8. Landlording is a subcategory unto itself.  There are lots of rules, but this only makes you a great landlord.  Write down your rules and stick to them.
  9. PRACTICING FUNDAMENTALS is the only way to get good, really good, at this sport.

I’m sure that Jordan has shot about 10-million free-throws in his lifetime. Perlman has probably played violin concertos until he could play them backwards and blindfolded…all from memory. You need to do this with your career in real estate investing.

In order to be great at Real Estate Investing, you need to develop a certain muscle group, mainly your brain and logic; you need an education.  I’m not telling you to go back to college, though you could, but a great place to get started with your education is at your local Real Estate Investors Association Group.

Next, get creative.  Take what you’ve learned from the masters and add to that your own style, your own ideas and create something unique, your own brand.

The next step is to DO.  Once you get the education, you must begin to stretch your wings and take some steps into your dream.  Shoot that basketball toward the hoop.  Draw that bow across those strings.  Will it swish the first time? Will you be a virtuoso immediately?  Nope.  BUT, the only way to get better is to practice.  Dr. Sinichi Suzuki, the inventor of the Suzuki Violin Method (which teaches 3-year-olds to play the violin) says the old adage “Practice makes Perfect” is incorrect.  He says, “Perfect Practice plus 100 repetitions makes perfect.” 

 

  • Start small: Beginning on an elementary level is ok.  We all start somewhere.
  • Get advice to do it right: Talk to your professionals, take “lessons” if you will, talk to the coach and run the drills.
  • Negotiate and Close the deal: Take yourself off the bench and play in the game.
  • Make the money: Win the game.
  • Repeat 100 times. Perfect practice plus 100 repetitions makes you money. (Wash.   Rinse.  Repeat).

Expand the muscles of your brain, just like an athlete or musician who has honed their skills, don’t take what you do lightly, but then again, it isn’t rocket science.  Study, learn and apply (do) what you have been taught.

Always pass on what you have learned.  Do or do not.  There is no try.  ~ Yoda

 

Happy Investing!

The Red Room

by Ralph Jones

When I first came to Memphis in 1959 my first employment was with Wallace E. Johnson, Home Builders.  My position was assistant to the foreman, Mr. Robert Herring, in Winchester Heights Subdivision on Knight Arnold Road.  Robert was an excellent teacher and an excellent builder.  There were 409 lots in the subdivision and we built 408 of them, the only one that we did not build was built by another builder (and he built it entirely of concrete blocks).  The builder found out quickly that it would almost rain inside the house because of the humidity in the area, consequently he did not build any more concrete block houses.

The houses we built were 900 to 1200 square foot homes, on grade concrete slab, 3 bedrooms, one bath, all siding with just a handful of brick on the front for looks, and there was only one model with a single carport, the others had a gravel parking space..  The driveways were all gravel, the front yard was spot sodded with nothing planted in the rear yard.  It did have a 2” tree in the center of the front yard, which I laughed at when we planted them; however, I drove back through the neighborhood recently and those skinny little trees are about 24” through now and much taller than the house.

These were not sub-standard houses; just small and low cost.  All were Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured houses; the down payment was only 3% and the notes were in the $50-$60 per/month range.

If you bought a house before it had been painted inside or outside you got to pick your colors.  Inside we were using a flat, oil based, wall paint; good paint, but it sure had a strong aroma.  The largest plan, with the carport, was our model house on the main street and the middle front bedroom was painted red with white trim.  Now when I say it was painted red, I don’t mean just red, it was red, red, red, with a capital “R” and a capital “D”.  It looked like red velvet on the walls, beautiful is not a big enough word for its color.  None of the other colors gave us any trouble; however, there was one big drawback to the red color; the walls could not be touched with anything.  If you put your hand on the wall it left a smudge.  If your shirt rubbed against it there was a streak remaining, not that it was not still red; but you could see every smudge mark and it changed the texture from flat red velvet to shinny red in that area.  Well, it did not take long for us to realize that the customers were not going to accept this; we must repaint these red rooms.  The frustrating part was that another coat of the red would not adhere to the other.  It simply ran off the wall, onto the base boards, and the floor.  We finally discovered that the only way to cover the red with the same color, or any other color, was to shellac the walls first, then reapply the new coat of paint.  What a mess we had until we figured all this out!  The sales contract was changed to address this situation and the red rooms became a thing of the past.

There are some pretty room colors around today, I just hope they don’t pose the problems this red paint invoked.