Author Archives: Geneva Murphy

Homebuying 101

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A year ago I decided to purchase a house that would also be an income property. By choice, I haven’t owned a home in 17 years, so this is a big deal. I wanted something that could be converted to a duplex; an AirBnB; casita; or garage apartments. This combination would pay my mortgage giving me a break on monthly expenses. The end game was supplementing my retirement fund. Due to two multi-million dollar projected developments, my choice location was Eastside SA. It’s still very economically depressed, yet the City is focused on revitalization. These two developments will definitely supplement their focus. In September St. Phillip’s Community College Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts Department just had their first successful international student exchange program with partner institution Lycee Guillaume Tirel Culinary School in Paris. UIW School of Optometry is also very nearby not far from Biblio Tech East & Menger Creek Linear Park. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that Ft. Sam Houston Walters Gate is located just across the interstate. Lots of great activity is happening in the neighborhood!

Prior to moving to San Antonio I had a dream of creating affordable housing for single parents. I had every detail perfectly planned out. During my years of being a single parent, housing was the largest expense for me & I understand the benefits of having safe, secure environments for my own children. I realize there are programs that offer subsidies for housing, yet I wanted to be a source from a real estate perspective. Housing subsidies alone won’t make a difference. Housing subsidies coupled with case management; life skill classes; community referrals; access to medical care; & the opportunity to gain an education is the answer. After transferring from Dallas to San Antonio, I’ve had the extreme honor of working with not only amazing Case Management Specialists & Program Supervisors within my own organization, but our local Continuum of Care; the City; County & neighborhood officials who have their fingers on the pulse of at risk homeless & homelessness. It’s stirred my 2006 dream of being a solution. I’ve had opportunities unlike any I’ve ever had before. Maybe it’s because of my laser focus, but I truly believe God guided my steps through every door.

My home buying journey began by rebuilding my credit score. While still living in Dallas I inquired about purchasing an RV. I could park, live & travel while embracing my minimalist lifestyle. The problem was that while I embraced living debt free, other than rental history, I had no credit references. I contacted a Dave Ramsey loan affiliate & he offered advice. At first I was appalled, but after hearing his explanation, it completely made perfect sense. He advised me to establish a credit card. I hadn’t utilized a credit card in over 25 years & of course I balked at his suggestion. He explained when students take a course to learn something new, they’re graded on their participation & then issued a test. Using a credit card was exactly the same logic. I complied & I’m extremely thankful. Of course I pay my credit card balance off each month or even bi-weekly, but it helped me to have substantial credit ratings. To think an RV purchase spurred my course in Credit 101! Whatever it takes right?

Building credit was no easy feat, but with true grit & perseverance, I succeeded. Having to practice short term sacrifice & delayed gratification is something not everyone is willing to do. I know. I lived the opposite of this for most of my life. Now society encourages & promotes a “you only live once” mentality. YOLO is how homeowners get to where they are desolate in need of subsidized housing & other non-cash benefits. During a recent conversation with my very young, very financial savvy home security representative, he could not believe a recent incident where an entire household had a credit score of less than 425, yet are approved & were going to buy a house. The rep was appalled at their financial decisions of $600+/mon. car notes & overindulgent lifestyle choices. Knowing they wouldn’t be able to sustain home ownership, he suggested they continue renting! He & his co-workers experience this situation on a daily basis.

In November, Bexar County has 449 foreclosures hitting auction. The list is published monthly. On average that’s over 5,388 homes per year lost because something else was more important than paying a mortgage or taxes. Only about 8% of those foreclosures were due to non payment of taxes. After going through the extensive process I can’t imagine how the people from the security reps example were approved for a house purchase. After reviewing my Contract Disclosure (CD), I now understand that a lender gains immediate profits from performing the mortgage process, so no big deal if a buyer can’t sustain it. Through foreclosure they’ll get paid quicker than 20-30 years. What a dreadful business practice!! And how sad that trusting people are being set up to fail. Where’s the respect & corporate responsibility? The foreclosure list is only the part that is accurately measured, however you can drive through some neighborhoods & notice homes in drastic disrepair & a plethora of code violations. Trees growing through walls; roofs caving in; porch columns collapsed; trash filled, overgrown yards; horrific foundation issues; & that’s just naming a few. I’m not talking about senior citizens who have to choose between buying their meds & using their HVAC. Home ownership encompasses maintenance. That factor is quickly neglected. Some homes on the foreclosure list or in neighborhoods haven’t had the mortgage paid in 5-10 years. I’ve personally viewed several of these & while they’re sincerely crumbling around the owner, it’s the only thing being neglected. I’m all about living life to the fullest, but I’m also thankful & going to be responsible for what God has blessed & entrusted me with. Whoa!! I didn’t purposely intend to climb on that soapbox, but……. it’s been an integral, very eye opening part of my homebuying journey.

Anyway…… my home search has been extremely interesting to say the least. Aside from dilapidated, crumbling, hoarded, urine soaked, scary properties, I’ve met interesting sellers. In one contract, two weeks before closing, the seller refused my offer over having to pay for 1/2 of the foundation repair prior to closing. Two weeks after terminating the contract they contacted my realtor apologizing for rejecting it. They realized it was the best offer they had received & it was a terrible mistake to not accept it. They sold the house for $21,000 less than I wanted to pay & because of that sale, housing comps in the area quickly reduced. This made it difficult for other sellers who were willing to negotiate. And……worse than that……the new buyer didn’t repair the grossly damaged foundation, but converted it into rental property. That was in July & it’s still not rented. I’m waiting to see it collapse! Or… since it’s now less valuable, maybe I should offer to buy it? Hmmmmmm!

Then I met a seller that refused me access during our option period. That’s the 10 day period a buyer has to schedule the appraisal & inspections to determine lender required repairs for further contract negotiations. Except for the electrician, I couldn’t do any of that. And she wanted to rent the workshop back from me to store her things because she wasn’t going to be packed within the 30 days of our contract. Contracts are costly & except for earnest money, other funds are non-refundable. Home inspections are $495-$545 depending on square footage. Termite inspections are $95-$125. Appraisals are $500. When a contract was terminated, all my expenditures were flushed down the toilet, so to speak. However… terminating this contract was a blessing. Since then I’ve learned a few tricks to saving money while determining how motivated a seller truly is. I’ve walked away from several who weren’t. It’s definitely a gamble.

Back to my lovely finds…..those pesky knob & tube electrical issues. Mortgage lenders won’t accept this & it has to be replaced before closing. What about renovating the house from top to bottom without doing foundation repair? The obviously disguised repairs show a tell tale sign within a couple of weeks, so please fix the foundation. At least change out a fuse box? Most insurance companies won’t issue coverage on homes with fuse boxes. Please replace with a breaker box!! My favorite, of course, other than the extremely creative ways to vent a water heater, is popcorn ceilings. Reading listings on how everything was replaced & is 100% updated cracks me up when the first thing I see is popcorn ceilings. There’s a kazillion ways to reno them without scraping!! Please update into the 21st century if you’re going to show pride in your work!! The list goes on. Oh…..I forgot the color coordination or bathrooms off the kitchen. What??

My greatest pet peeve is hearing, “it’s just an old house & it’s going to have problems.” That may be fine for your dollar, but not mine. When I hear that, I automatically begin factoring in my repair costs over the next few years. No thanks!! I’ll pass!!

So many tiny details fell into place during this contract. At one point it looked very bleak & uncertain the seller would continue in the process. Then….. within a couple of hours after coming to terms with walking away from yet another property, the seller actually contacted my realtor & told her she really wanted to sell me her house. She complained that her agent wasn’t aggressively negotiating on her behalf & she wanted to assure us that she was on board. Literally a couple of hours.

Then….. the alley. My alley is a crime. I park under a carport off the alley & for 3 years I’ve contacted everyone possible to fix what happened during a gas line maintenance project that left craters. No one would assume responsibility. Within weeks of moving I notice a road grader & some backhoes in my alley. At first I almost panicked, but then I got excited! Then someone shared the flyer they received stating the project would take 9 mos. What? I’ve seen stretches of highways completed in 9 mos. & this is just a short 1 block alley. Also…..during this time we’ve had a rainy monsoon season. Picture my normal mud pit after treacherous rain & a road grader. The reason this is disconcerting to me is the alley is the best place to position a U-Haul. Now it was virtually impossible. But……. I spoke to the contractor & he informed me they were only grading & applying base. No asphalt or concrete & they’d be done in 3 more days. Happy dance!! And…. one evening after a very long arduous day at work, I pulled in my alley to find an enormous pile of base right in front of my parking spot. Instead of me having to park in the front on the street, the construction owner motioned for me to wait. He himself literally jumped on the backhoe & moved enough base for me to park. Now I have a smooth, fully driveable alley perfect for the U-Haul. So many tiny miracles. Extreme Godly favor.

Perseverance of a chasing a dream has become a reality. My realtor is probably ecstatic! I stated for quite some time leading up to this journey that before I begin this process I should probably go across the border & purchase Xanax & Valium in bulk quantities for my realtor or any contractor that works with me. I know properties. I know building & renovating. I know development & property values. Over the past 3 years I’ve learned from my amazingly brilliant neighbors about navigating around San Antonio development. I’m an extremely opinionated choleric who just happens to be a perfectionist. All those qualities are detrimental to any relationship, but especially when coupled with the stress of home buying. I am soooooo not the drama mama & up to just days before my closing the drama was ridiculous. We were working out finite details literally within a couple of hours of closing. If my dream weren’t so big & my emotional intelligence wasn’t rooted in the peace of God, I would’ve already walked away; settled for a tiny condo with a pool & forgotten about it all. However…….texts like this that my BBVA Compass Bank mortgage lender sent me as we were tying up some last minute loose ends make it all worthwhile,

“You have been the best customer/friend I have ever worked with … let me know how I can help. Have a happy Sunday.”

My journey has carried me from the Eastside to the Westside & all points in between. Where is my beauty?? Denver Heights. Exactly where I wanted to be in the first place. She’s in between both of the multi-million dollar developments! Who knew?? She’s a 1940’s cottage that was moved from Austin over 20 yrs ago by the city of San Antonio to my street. Being located on a quarter acre allows ample room for expansion & is currently being operated as an AirBnB. What? The seller’s favorite memory of Europe is Lake Geneva in Switzerland. She’s completely remodeled with only a few tweaks (for now) that was lender required. Of course exterior was a lipstick reno, but nothing new siding won’t fix. They just re-leveled the foundation; roof is new; HVAC is new; are replacing beams affected by termite damage; of course treating for termites; & conceding cash for the rest of the few problems. When any of my friends saw pics of it, their first words were, “It totally looks like you!”

You know it’s the right house when you pull up to meet the notary to sign closing paperwork & the owner tells you she’s been walking inside the house & around the yard praying blessings over it & you. Then… you hug each other to say thank you & good bye only to have the seller pray the most heartfelt prayers of blessings over you & allows you to pray for her. I honestly believe that moment was more poignant than signing my documents. God is truly in the details, has walked each step before/beside me & I can’t thank Him enough. I’m also incredibly beyond grateful for my family; work family & dearest friends who have prayed for me along the journey. So much so that one of my work family members texted me during the middle of my closing. God connects us by His Holy Spirit & it’s been so prevalent. Then the notary texts that she was praying for me & the house because I couldn’t get the heat to come on. Again….. very grateful.

She’s my first, but most assuredly won’t be my last. And…… I’m buying an RV or creating a container home to park in the back of the lot for me to live in. Full circle!

Let me introduce you to #ClarkCottage! My AirBnB that will also double as student housing!

Blessings,

g

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

#Clark Cottage

607 Clark Ave, San Antonio, TX 78210

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Seasons

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything & I realized just how much I miss writing!  In my real world, I’m a grant writer, so writing is overwhelming sometimes.  This is different. There’s just something about sharing your passion, goals & dreams while encouraging others to do the same, that soothes the soul.

For many, many years I’ve dreamed of helping single parents navigate through difficult areas of this season in their lives.  Having been a single parent, now empty-nester, I’ve made so many mistakes, I couldn’t even list them. Helping others learn how to not make those same mistakes has become my platform. I was a Singles Director at my church for many years & this was one of the most rewarding seasons ever.  We walked through several painful experiences together while continually encouraging & supporting each other.

I’ve always wanted to have investment property or a business of some sort & in 2006 I got an idea that soon became a burning desire.  I wanted to develop a single parent community providing affordable housing, which is generally one of the most important factors of a family’s survival. This community would feature a daycare, which is yet another dire need. Onsite resource services such as case management; community referrals; job skills training; & education would also be components within the community. What seemed like a lifetime ago is coming into focus.  In 2015 I moved from Dallas to San Antonio.  I fell in love with SA during my early years from 2006-2009 of being a Corporate Trainer.  When I traveled here, I seriously felt home.  I loved everything about the City & spent all my spare time exploring its culture. When I decided to move from Dallas, I cast a very wide net for a Grant Writer position.  This would be a new learning curve for me.  I was a grants analyst & had only corrected or helped re-write grant applications for 6 years.  But…. in my past,  I was never a Corporate Trainer  either.  I had been a nurse since 1979, so…. when I wanted change, I learned, adapted, & changed.   As an empty nester,  I could’ve moved anywhere in the US, but kinda wanted a place on the beach!  None of those doors opened, so…. I searched for my next favorite thing…. culture. I applied for a position in with the BGC in NY.  NY!  Then…. I happened to search one more time within my organization & state to discover there was a job in San Antonio.  What? From being a divisional employee for 10 years,  first as a Corporate Trainer, then Grants/Program Analyst, I was familiar with all their programs; knew some of the staff; was familiar with the area & I had my fav restaurants already!  LOL!  Once I accepted the position, I began looking for a place to live. Other than those people from work, I knew a total of 3 people in SA. I put the word out to network with them toward finding a place to live. I was currently in a lease that still had 7 months left, so my tiny budget & with paying 2 leases was going to allow me to practically live in a closet!  Through a friend of a friend, I located a small duplex.  The only information I had to go by were a few pics sent from the landlord & a direct message from said friend of fei8end verifying my landlords were truly genuine people. Talk about stepping out in faith!  This was a giant, blind leap! As I packed for the move, I purged things that had moved with me since my divorce in 1994.  I know that was a painful confession, but…. we all have things we hang on to.  I despise clutter & loathe the thought of hoarding anything. While I was no where near that status, this was my chance to truly embrace the minimalist season I now wanted. Why would I pack up my cheering suit from the 70’s again?  My move would be in 2 phases, as I wanted to leave some things for my daughter to use until our lease was up.  I had my tiny U-Haul truck loaded up, put my car on a tow dolly & headed, sight unseen, toward my new destination. I’ll never forget my first day as a new resident driving into San Antonio. As I rounded the corner of the interstate, & when seeing the entire downtown view, I cried. I’m seriously very emotional right now even recapturing that feeling. I had that reaction about the Dallas Downtown Skyline sometimes, but this was very different. This was a completely new season in my life & except for staying within the same organization for my job, the slate was clean.

My very small place was 5 minutes from my new job & I quickly fell in love with my neighborhood. I began to realize I had common visions with many of them. This past year one of my very talented, brilliantly amazing, single parent neighbors wanted to have brunch to discuss some of her goals.  As I sat across the table from her listening to her plans, I had a surreal moment.  Every word she described were the exact words that had been spoken by myself years before regarding single parent communities.  Down to the life skills classes.  It was almost as if I zoned out of the conversation & heard myself explain these things during past conversations.  I immediately knew what it was. At that moment in time, God was reminding me that even though nothing in the natural had materialized regarding my goals/dreams, He knew they were still much alive.  I was reminded of this scripture:

2 Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.

 3 This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.

If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.

It will not be delayed. – Habakkuk 2:2-3

 I left that brunch in awe of what happened.  My neighbor’s words completely resonated within my heart.  I finally understood…. this season, right now,  was the future time. 17426391_10212265805710847_7975877978584076201_nWhat seems like years in the making is unfolding. That’s always the case, right? Fast forward…. During a County meeting we were discussing landlord incentives & because of my questions, I was encouraged by my local Continuum of Care to apply for funding that assists with property acquisition; rehab; & some tax abatement. My dream of having properties for single parents; senior citizens; homeless students; Veterans & those who need a hand up is happening.  I’ve had the privilege of talking to our Mayor, Councilman & other City/County department staff that want the same thing.  I’m working with a bright, energetic, knowledgeable, sassy Realtor who shares a passion for housing female parolees re-entering society.  Who knew?  I’m locating income properties that offer multiple units for long term rentals (LTR-1) & short term rental (STR-1) unit I’ll host through AirBnB. I’ve found the perfect location that offers at least 3 LTR units; 1 STR unit; & living space for me!  Score!  My intent is to offer properties to the very same organizations I work with on a regular basis. I will be a solution rather than a sounding board. My season from always living on the edge of possibly requiring assistance to providing it was happening.

If I can give one piece of advice it would be to never lose sight of the dream that burns your soul. From my Bible School days, the definition of soul includes your mind, will & emotions. Does your dream encompass these? My dream consumes them all. Here’s a constant thought process I have going on all the time. In my driving time or when I’m going to sleep, I’m purposely thinking about my home ownership & upcoming rehab venture! Using green glue & possibly cork panels as soundproofing materials for walls & this cool Iso-Step® rubber floor underlayment for soundproofing 2nd story floors. I can use Indow Window Inserts to preserve energy & provide sound barriers for my windows. What’s the best color of neutral paint to use? Do I want half brick flooring in the kitchens or use it as an accent wall behind the stove? Unless wood flooring is available, what color ceramic plank tiles do I use throughout the rest of the house? How will I enclose a patio to make a master bedroom & convert the laundry room as my new master bathroom because it already has a huge closet? What will my exterior paint & trim choices be? Should I develop a signature color palette to use throughout the City? Metal roof is my ultimate choice! Out of the apartment space available, do I construct 3 efficiency loft style apartments & 1 true apartment style units or 5 efficiencies? Is it R-4 or R-6 zoning for this property? To avoid purchasing separate laundry equipment for each unit, I’ll be relocating the current large shed to the other end of the apartment unit to serve as a common laundry room space.  Also by moving that shed, I will have either additional parking space or more back yard space for my pups. How can I incorporate earthen construction in my rehab process? Between the 2, which spare bedroom will be the living room for the AirBnB?  I’ll create a mini-kitchenette from an existing clothes closet so there’s only the need to remove the closet door & design the space. Done! It’s already drawn out!  I can rehab the bathroom using cool subway & black/white mosaic or that amazing vintage fleur-de-lis type tile. Then comes the entire conversation regarding the yard!  Landscaping is my thing, so…. the new style of using non-climb farm animal fencing panels are my fav now! The panels must be the smallest diameter as not to allow my tiny Chi-Chi to escape through them. Creating a food-not-lawns type concept is a must, so which property strip is the best for my fruit trees? I have Meyer Lemon; Mission Fig; Avocado; & some type of citrus tree.  I planted the seeds in a pot at work & can’t remember if it’s grapefruit or mandarin!  I only follow xeriscaping guidelines, so I can go crazy with my drought resistant plants & get vouchers from our water provider for doing so. Do I think the City would allow me to use part of their utility access land as a spot for my movable chicken coop?  As you can see this one property has my thoughts & minds captive! Then I research additional investment properties & the rehab conversation for them begins.  My determined will forces me to knock on enough funding doors that someone will grasp the depth of what I’m referring to & see how it fits into all the neighborhood stabilization/revitalization plans. Emotionally…. I can’t tell you how excited I get envisioning myself driving in the driveway of my newly rehabbed complex knowing how many people this will help & how much this contributes to the affordable housing dilemma.  More so, the realization of how my decision to transfer to a new job allowed me to bring all the puzzle pieces of my dream together. The vision was plain. Submitting to & watching God orchestrate this plan, in His time, has been an amazing experience.

Why list all these crazy thoughts? Any dream requires many layers of trial & error.  Hours of decisions; changes; planning; disappointment; tears; setbacks; delays; & starting over.  It’s completely worth it. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. Cliche, but true. One of my favorite sayings is, ”I never promised you it would be easy. I do promise you it will be worth it.” Always remember…. Goals in stone.  Plans in sand.

You know what’s funny?  A week after I accepted the job in SA, the NY BGC contacted me & offered me the position. They were willing to offer relocation incentives & wanted to know when I could start!  One week. Timing is everything.  My destiny was set & the new season of my life was unfolding.  And what about the beach? Padre Island South Beach is only 2 hrs away & I love weekend trips there!  Who knows…. maybe a vacation property is in my future!

I attempt to practice being a student & read articles daily to provide insight, wisdom, instruction & guidance.  #3 of this article validates my plan is right on course.

What dream stirs your soul?  What season of life are you preparing for? I pray you find solace & encouragement in knowing it is possible, regardless of what you see in front of you right now. God will either give you a dream or give you to a dream, so determine which it is & act on it. I can’t wait to hear about your success!

Blessings,

g

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90 days later!

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I began the AIP (Auto Immune Protocol) diet in January & my original intention was to only follow it for 2 weeks until our Greatest Loser Weight Loss Challenge at work ended. After the 2 weeks, I extended it for a month. It’s suggested to follow the plan exclusively for 90 days as an elimination process identifying triggers that exacerbate auto immune symptoms. In my case it was excruciating neuromuscular pain from fibromyalgia & osteoarthritis unrelieved by any measure I attempted. I never thought I’d ever make it for 90 days! 

I can honestly say that 90 days later I’m ever so grateful for the challenge & sacrifice of well loved foods. I feel so much better, have lost weight, have increased my energy & activity related endurance levels. I still have to respect knee pain, but am not limited because of constant neuromuscular pain. 

People asked how I could possibly resist some of my favorite foods & my response was easy. When people have peanut or other allergies that cause untoward reactions,  they live their lives purposely & consciously avoiding those triggers. My pain was so intense I wanted to have lab tests & X-rays performed to determine what the culprit was. Those who know me well knew this was extreme because I avoid this at all cost. Constant, continuous, unrelenting pain is my allergic reaction! For years, as a nurse, I took care of patients who had diabetes, renal, cardiovascular, or other disease processes & couldn’t understand how they could be so non-compliant with diet & exercise. I would be instantly irate when they nonchalently responded, ”everyone has a vice & eating or smoking is mine.” Or, ”everyone has to die, so I’m going to eat what I want, take extra insulin or my doctor can just prescribe a stronger blood pressure pill.” Really?? Really. They were consciously aware of what made their disease progress quicker, were already experiencing debilitating side effects & refused to take control of it because of simple pleasures. In my case, simple pleasures were stealing quality of life from me & I couldn’t allow it any longer. 

Most of our lives we’ve heard the saying, ”We are what we eat.” During my childhood we raised all our own vegetables; had abundant access to fruits & berries; raised cows, pigs, & chickens for meat, dairy & eggs; plus we dried corn for grits, cornmeal & even made our own hominy. We also fished & hunted! Veggies & farm animals were raised & grown as organically natural as possible, then canned or cooked without additives or preservatives. My parents used wild herbs such as sassafras root, mullen tea, pine needles, & other natural sources for medicinal purposes. We lived off the grid before it was popular! Later in life, choices of fast food, preserved everything & foods severely lacking any nutritional value were my daily diet. Even after giving up fast foods & being careful to stay away from preservative laden foods, I developed systemic pain. 

For many, many years the only dairy products I consumed were cream for my coffee, kefir & yogurt. When I ate cereal I only used soy milk.  After watching the documentary,  Food, Inc., I boycotted soy bean products because of Monsanto. I began drinking rice milk then converted to almond milk. My pain was confined only to arthritic joint pain manageable with large doses of daily Naproxen Sodium. What was healthy about this picture? Once I was introduced to the fermentation evolution, I began making my own yogurt & kefir to use in my daily smoothies. I tried making them with almond or coconut milk & never got the consistency I liked, so I purchased an amazing ultra processed, lactose free, extra calcium dairy milk. My yogurt & kefir was very delicious. What could be wrong with that? I would’ve never related my increase in pain to this had I not participated in the AIP diet. Also….for many, many years I never considered myself having an intolerance to gluten. When someone mentioned gluten intolerance I automatically assumed it was digestive related, such as Celiac disease, & knew this wasn’t my problem. Ignorance wasn’t bliss on my part regarding gluten effects.  Once I learned, through my fermentation education, that the gut is as important as the brain & plays a mirrored correlating role in our health, I realized gluten affects us in different ways. I never ate much bread, but had recently been consuming a fabulous, healthy brand maybe once or twice weekly. Then….. although I was careful not to comsume a bunch of carbs, without readily having the label to review, gluten is mixed in many common foods we aren’t aware of.

90 days later has helped me realize I love AIP & while I may introduce some foods back in, I intend to continue this practice as a lifestyle. I’m allergic to excruciating pain, lack of energy, & limited mobility! If you experience any auto immune disease related symptoms, I strongly recommend you read this article & begin the AIP diet. 

Life is just what me make it & I was making myself sicker. 

Blessings, 

g

Amelia- Her first year!

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One yr ago to date I brought a sad, terrified, withdrawn, unhealthy dog home with me.  48- 72 hrs prior she’d been rescued from one of the most horrific puppy mill busts in Tx. Left in the hands of someone paid to take care of them, 63 dogs were found in a 90° building, standing in pools of green stagnant water to keep cool,  filthy & coated in mud & feces.  They had actually resorted to eating each others feces for ultimate survival.

From that hell hole she was taken to the HSNT Fort Worth Shelter. I had posted on FB about being ready to adopt a dog & I particularly wanted a small Yorkie. Melissa Kitchen, Patron Animal Saint of Trinity Loft(PASOTL), sent me the link on Thurs about the bust & then went with me on Fri to find my Yorkie. After realizing my Nav was taking me to the wrong shelter, we course corrected & made it to FW.  Even though I had called  earlier, the shelter staff said they weren’t completely ready  & were still bringing dogs out. We looked the shelter over. No Yorkie!  Melissa had gone before me & said there may be something I like! Of course I had to talk to every dog in every cage, so by the time I got to the last room, last cage…….there she was. Cowered down & turning completely away from me,  I found the only Yorkie there! Our wrong directions was actually the perfect time delay necessary in allowing them time to bring her out!  I wanted to hold her, but she was petrified. We took her out & she smelled so bad I almost couldn’t hold her. She was the one!! We put her down for me to complete adoption paperwork & were amazed at her curiosity. It was like watching a blind person receive sight. She took in every second, especially the outdoors view.  I knew immediately what to name her. She needed a strong, determined name representing how she has survived & would still overcome many challenges. From that moment she was chipped & in the next couple of days, spayed.   She then would be released to me!!  What a whirlwind she must have felt like being in. Caged, abandoned, rescued, transported, chipped & all these people!!

On the drive home, Melissa read the instructions they gave me about owning a puppy mill dog. In tears we discussed what torment these animals were subjected to. They wouldn’t be familiar with grass, sunlight or kind human interaction. This broke my heart & I knew she had to be shown grace, mercy, patience, but most of all love!

On Monday 6.1.12 I picked her up. Groggy from surgery, I put her in the front seat & headed to Dallas. The first thing I had to do was scrub her! The shelter was overwhelmed with the number of dogs they received & they only had time to do the tests necessary to adopt dogs out. Her skin was horrible & I seriously thought I was going to use the entire pack of Q-tips on her ears.  Her mouth was equally as disgusting! Yuck!! She was emotionally & physically exhausted so once clean,  I just left her alone. She slept on a nice, soft, comfy bed without moving for almost 24°.

Her journey has been amazing! I’ve been there for many first time experiences. Grass, soft bedding, natural organic & even raw food diets.  She was seriously convinced the leash would kill her, but quickly realized it was her ticket to long outdoor walks! Living in a loft meant getting used to the elevator. I began noticing her obsessive behavior while waiting for it! She memorized the sound of the dings & knew the doors were about to open!  She developed a routine & immediately adapted to her environment! She made instant friends!! Tuxedo & Jasper were her wrestling buds, BJ was her sprinter, who’s human, Wendy, brought her back upstairs one day because she got on the elevator all by herself!! Leo was the lovey, who lived next door & always wanted to give her kisses! Star was bigger, but super sweet & Porterhouse was the sweetheart who’s human, Chris, helped chase her around the entire parking lot late one night  bc she got off leash. They were precious  & I enjoyed watching their interaction every day.

The most difficult challenge  I’ve faced was her digestive system. It took 9 months to regulate! I think their extreme survival skills caused her to develop something! Her diet is strict! She only eats Organix Small Bites by Castor & Pollux.  No human food except for occasional spoon of eggs & her 1 slice of bacon every evening. She loves bacon!!    She takes chondrointin  chews every day bc she has popping hips due to hip dysplasia. I think she has arthritis like me!!

When we moved from our Dallas Design District loft to a house, she spent several weeks exploring every room, nook & cranny bc the house was over double the size of the loft!! I’ve learned she is afraid the dark when put outside by herself,  loathes rain & snow! She never experienced change of seasons so these were new for her. June bugs were weird little creatures that she quickly determined weren’t necessary to befriend!

The human interaction & trust factor is ongoing. While she won’t let me pick her up, she freely gives me kisses & is at the side of my bed very early every morning  encouraging me to get up!! I wanted a snuggle bunny, but that will take more time!! Unless she’s Aced! That’s another adventure Lilli & I experimented with!!

She’s  passive aggressive towards Lilli, but not so much Kaelleb. She’s never minded Bryce or Russell, but Summer isn’t as popular! A walk causes an immediate attitude adjustment & the word T- R- E- A- T makes her come home if she’s exploring the neighborhood too long! She goes to Cosmepawlogy for  grooming faithfully & loves to ride in the car. She eats her morning food only if she’s in the same room within close proximity to me.

This year has been about introducing her to a culture of humans who truly love & take care of their animals. Assimilating her to weather changes,  day vs night, cats & bugs, & of those 2…..she likes neither!

Puppy mill rescues are extremely challenging, but the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing anything & everything you do for them is greatly appreciated far outweighs any challenge.

As I write this, she is outside in her yard enjoying what she so deserves……FREEDOM!!

Amelia Murphy is a survivor & here’s to the next phase of our journey together! Find your pet at a shelter or rescue facility & begin enjoying what love they can bring!

Blessings,

g

Before you judge…….

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In reading this article, it hits very close to home.  I  grew up with a sister who experienced a mental breakdown in 1975. She was in the 11th. grade & I was in the 10th.  She was “slow” & had failed a couple of times.   The “system” was not perfect. Instead of special education classes, she was judged as being slow, taken advantage of by the guys & yet, she was my best friend.  After the nervous breakdown occurred, we experienced violent behavior patterns on & off for years. She was passive aggressive primarily towards my father. My mother was her idol & what mom said was gospel. She would fight anyone over mom & did many times. I remember having to wear a certain hairstyle for quite a while because during a fight, she pulled a patch of my hair out the size of a silver dollar. I was not the fighting kind & hated fighting because I didn’t like the pain of it!  Yes I was a chicken, but……there are other ways to resolve conflict other than fighting!  She almost killed my dad once because he wanted to cut down a certain tree in the yard & my mom didn’t want to.  She attacked him from behind while he was using the power saw & all I thought about was seeing both of them sliced to shreds.  You hear how extremely strong people are when they are mentally compromised & I can say from experience, this is the truth.  For many years, we lived in fear.  When she was controlled medically, things went well.  You knew immediately when those medication levels were off.

She was admitted many, many times to the local state psychiatric hospital. She endured shock therapy, drugs, work therapy, etc. It wasn’t until my mother admitted her to a habilitation center did she improve.  Therapy was based not only on medication, but  behavior & rewarded as such.  It was an answer to prayer.

I attempted to let her live with me in 1995 after my mom died. This was a grave mistake. I was a single mom working 3 jobs & the stress of adding another adult with a decreased mentality was a challenge I shouldn’t have embraced. She has slight obsessive compulsive disorder so  if 1 scoop of clothes detergent worked, she would use several. Instead of 1 cap of Murphy’s oil soap to mop the hardwood floors, half a bottle worked better. I had a schedule of activities, but it wasn’t structured enough for her.  She got off her meds & became violent again. When a situation escalated, I knew to call the cops, but they fused to intervene. When I asked for their names & badge numbers they listened. I calmly explained I had been through this familiar cycle since 1975 & when she caused harm to myself or my son, I would be sure to include them in the law suit against the City Police Department. They accompanied her to the local psychiatric hospital, who had no beds. A very angry, volatile  sister came home with me. I made an emergency appointment with a psychiatric doctor I worked with on a regular basis at local hospital.  He was a God send. The saddest sight was to see the cops come for her after the appointment & ask me if she needed hand cuffs. In her right mind stage, you wouldn’t find a more loving, giving human. I explained she would be no harm to them & please don’t cuff her. They accompanied her to a psychiatric hospital elsewhere in the state that had a bed. Meds were adjusted & she went back into a group home environment.

I personally know the agony families face who have a challenged loved one. I guided her in public of what to say, what not to say, how to act etc., to prevent judgmental attitudes. Finally I’ll never forget when I finally realized I had to let her be her. If people judged, it was their problem. I love her dearly, want the best for her & seriously know she lives a great life. She now resides in a supervised independent living environment & is doing well. She has taken on the role of being passive to me. She has learned technology, has a cell phone, computer, game systems etc.

She has recently met her son for the first time in 36 years. She got pregnant & married when I was 17. She had a baby boy, who was immediately adopted by my brother. Until recently he never knew his crazy aunt was his  mother & his mom/dad were actually his aunt/uncle. I can’t say I agreed with that decision, but my mom & family thought it was best for her then. While she is glad to have met him & reconnect with my brother, she continues to insist I come visit her. Passivity!

When I hear about a child acting out in school, I have to ask what is truly going on? I quickly question the home environment, current diagnosis, lifestyle changes such as divorce, death, etc. We are quick to judge the child has bad behavior, but need to seriously search the root. If the root is just being spoiled, that is another scenario!!

I watched as my parents denied my sisters problem. Had they intervened sooner, I would like to believe things would have been different. This breakdown created a horrible wedge between my parents, division, partiality & dysfunction. Many people said I was the reason she had problems because I was the social butterfly, smart, intelligent, & daddy’s girl. Her diagnosis was slightly mild mental retardation due to anoxia at birth or oxygen deprivation. Bi-polar, manic-depressive, etc. are other terms we’ve heard. Denial delays treatment & resolve.

We can judge what recently happened in Connecticut, as well as, other acts of violence. Several times I caught myself wanting to pray for Adam’s mother out of empathy,  but remembered……he killed her.

Pray for the families who have lost loved ones. Please read this article, pray for people in your neighborhood, schools, churches, & friends who bear the burden of a “special” child.
And please, please judge not!

Blessings,
g

I support Hobby Lobby

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I’m re-posting a letter below  from what I believe is an amazing company, Hobby Lobby.  I’ve shopped at Hobby Lobby for more years than I would like to admit to!  I admire their values & pray for their victory in this ridiculous government matter.

The main thing to consider is that this is just the beginning!

Blessings to this phenomenal company,

g

******************************************************************************

A Letter from Hobby Lobby Stores CEO

By David Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn’t much bigger than most people’s living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God’s word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation’s largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states. Our
children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run Hobby Lobby together, as a family.

ImageWe’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I’ve always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God’s laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week’s biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God’s grace that Hobby Lobby
has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We’ve not only added jobs in a weak economy, we’ve raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.

But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government health care mandate says that our family business MUST provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the
week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one. If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million PER DAY in government
fines.

Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that’s raised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It’s not right. I know people will say we ought to follow the rules; that it’s the same for everybody. But that’s not true. The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of
convenience or cost. But it won’t exempt them for reasons of religious belief.

So, Hobby Lobby and my family are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, we filed a lawsuit today, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. We don’t like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice. We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit.

My family has lived the American dream. We want to continue growing our company and providing great jobs for thousands of employees, but the government is going to make that much more difficult. The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law. I say that’s a choice no American and no American business should have to make. The government cannot force you to follow laws that go against your
fundamental religious belief. They have exempted thousands of companies but will not except Christian organizations including the Catholic church.

Since you will not see this covered in any of the liberal media, pass this on to all your contacts.

Sincerely,
David Green, CEO and Founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.

We are America

Gallery

Measurements…

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There are many ways to measure success.  Materialistic measures are most visibly noticed.  We’ve seen, however, this is not an accurate measurement. Unless you know that the person is debt free, pays cash for said materialistic pleasures, lives a complimentary lifestyle portraying character & integrity……this measurement is merely a mirage. 

Reading has become one of my favorite pastimes & early in my TEAM LIFE System Book of the Month years, a great book came down that, to date, I normally have in my trunk.  The book? Critical Choices, authored by Dan Castro  – a fellow Texan.  This book  portrays choices men & women made against all odds.  Many of  their choices & creations we continue to enjoy.  We travel in airplanes that are not supposed to exist & they just landed on Mars!! We drive Eco-friendly,  flex-fueled or electric cars that were laughed at! Many enjoy gadgets preposterous to most cultures & etc. Hotels are built into the atmosphere, or out of ice.   Talk about successful accomplishments!  Another book of the month that depicts how people pushed through tremendous odds is Dance Until It Rains by author Vic Johnson.  As you read, each chapter personally resonates  within you .  

A more common measurement many of us endure on a regular basis are naysayers or critics.  I gauge business ventures on leadership & only surround myself with the best of the best.  Why should I consider the number of critics as a measurement?  Hope.  Yes, that’s right, hope.  A critic surfaces when you challenge their belief & will be your best cheerleader.  They have to be right regardless of  what you can prove. It’s all about them! In the moment, their fury & their hurtful or unnecessary words never sound cheerful or welcome.  In the end, when you win, not only did hope in yourself prevail, but there is hope for them.  Our worst critics may be family, friends, acquaintances or people you’ve just met. We all have them & lets face it….they’ve been around for eons.  Jesus could do nothing in His own home town.  He mentioned to the disciples to shake the dust off their feet & walk away from certain circumstances.  There is also a scripture that warns us not to give that which is holy to dogs or cast our pearls before swine.  People didn’t receive or respect Jesus. They are not always going to receive or respect us regardless if we offer Christianity or business opportunities.  Don’t take it personal, but continue to walk in what you feel is worthwhile.  Attacks generally don’t happen to people who aren’t attempting to make a difference.  Kudos to you! 

I like this quote concerning criticism: 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

There are a few amazing books I would suggest for you to adopt for personal victories;  Resolved: 13 Resolutions for life by Orrin Woodward, Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, & The Compassionate Samurai by the late Brian Klemmer.  I truly believe once you obtain a personal victory & silence inner criticism, limiting beliefs, or self sabotage, you can endure any external sources.  

People may never exhibit the courage to do what you do.  Even if it’s just barely tolerance in the beginning, love them anyway.   Measure your success, not so much in the number of critics you accrue, but the number you offer hope to in the end.  

Blessings, 

To escape criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing”   –Elbert Hubbard

g

Winning-vs-finishing

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In light of the Olympics taking place right now in London, our morning devotions were centered around a very familiar passage of scripture.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

-1Tim 4:7

ImageMany times the end result focuses on whether or not we win or lose.  Olympians train for years in hopes to receive a gold medal. They are not celebrating a piece of gold valued around $10,000.  They celebrate what years of preparation has done in them as individuals, for their team & their country. They would never trade that for anything!

In life, each of us have fought good fights, although they may have seemed pretty bad at the time!  We have finished a particular course & in no way does this measure whether or not we won.  Finishing a race or course, regardless of the difficulty endured, speaks volumes of us as individuals.

We can look around & see how many people have not finished any course.  Let’s face it…..America is filled with “given-ups” not grown-ups.  Once we endure a struggle, trial or test, we look back & realize it helped define how strong we truly are.  Win or lose, not giving in or giving up is the most important trait to possess.

Keeping the faith is not as easy as it sounds.  I’ve got amazing friends who have endured traumatic experiences & have completely relinquished faith.  Not just relinquished faith in God, but faith in people/humanity, trust, Christianity,  & worst of all….themselves.  This truly grieves my heart.

I want to take a moment to congratulate you the Olympians for their extraordinary accomplishments.  Mostly I want to congratulate you for fighting when you feel like you don’t have another punch left, finishing when you feel like quitting every day, & keeping your faith in people who love you, a God who will never leave you & most of all…..the phenomenal person you are. I love the picture used in this blog. The London Bridge represents what happens when you finish your race.  You gain wisdom, sometimes born of pain, & strength.  You can bridge the gap & pass the torch to someone who is experiencing their own fight or battle.  Run, finish & keep the focus on what your victory can portray for others.

We may not always win, but we can always finish.

Blessings,

g

Miracle from the Aurora, CO incident.

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This totally validates the scripture that says God knits our bones while we were in our mother’s womb! Such a beautiful testimony to the creative miracle of God & how He truly knows our days.
Blessings,
g

celtic straits

(Updates follow article)

Four years ago today, I posted a blog about my emergency room “miracle experience” after the Aurora Theater shooting. The post went viral, and created some controversy. Does God really do miracles? Why for one person and not another? Does a good God even exist?

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I saw the miracle with my own eyes. Thank you to those who have asked me to repost this story for a reminder: God is still at work.


July 23, 2012

At Columbine High School, I have seen this before. But not up close.  As a church pastor in Denver, I have worked as a chaplain alongside several police and fire departments. I was privileged to counsel parents just hours after the Columbine shootings. However, in this new tragedy at the Aurora Theater Dark Night shooting, one of the victims was a 22-year-old…

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