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Ode to My Husband

“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” Judy Garland

As we approach 20 years of marriage I want to tell you all how wonderful my husband is…First, I can’t believe it has been almost 20 years. We met on Yahoo, while I was working in the Museum and he worked at the Lab. We chatted in a chat room often, and ironically enough we basically were doing what young people do now, typing to each other everyday…kind of recapping our day to each other. We then moved on to emailing, and finally started talking on the phone. By the time we were talking on the phone, I was living in San Francisco. We finally met at the clipper ships, and each of us had a gift for each other. I had a wizard for him, since his name online was “Merlin” (the wizard in Camelot). My online name was Contessa Grigia, which just mean Countess Gray. He purchased a giant black teddy bear that was in a giant red gift bag.

We met at 10am, because we wanted to make sure we would get the most out of our day, and just in case we didn’t like each other, we wouldn’t waste our day. We had a great time, we not only laughed, but we talked, about everything and anything. We even went to the grocery store and made spaghetti together. I never had so much fun on my first date!

We met in person in the month of March, and we were married in September. We were married at my church in San Francisco, and I moved to Oakland. We always loved taking long country rides in the Toyota. Sometimes we were quiet during the ride, and sometimes we would not stop talking there was never a point when we forced each other to talk or be quiet, we just let it happen. We rode our bikes all over Berkeley, and took long walks through the Oakland hills. We got our geek on when we created websites together, and we even had web rings, which really geeky people will remember.  We won all kinds of awards for our websites too. We purchased codes that we had on our website, available for people. We worked on 3D puzzles together that would take up our whole dining room table.  The whole time we would go in and out of talking and being quiet, just concentrating.

Since his parents lived right across the street we would go to their house every Sunday for dinner. We would all watch “Funny Videos”, and when 9PM would roll around we would go home, and the perfume of faux orange would be hang in the air. To this day the smell of that flower reminds me of walking home from across the street. We had so many wonderful dinners and conversations at that old house.

We had our first child, Sergio. His name was the one that Roberto always longed for, and Sergio was the name of the nemesis of Cesarina when she worked with the Ferrari family. He was the meaner kid that always gave Cesarina a hard time. After she waxed the floor, he slide through the fresh wax and screwed up the whole hallway. She had to start all over again. Roberto and I had a two reference books that we called “owners manuals”, when something was questionable we would ask “Where is the owners manual?” We would take our giant stroller down to College Avenue and collect beanie babies for Sergio. We went a little crazy with that whole collection. I mean really, it’s almost embarrassing. It was just so much fun at the time.

Roberto lost his father, and it was the first time he ever lost someone so close to him. I had to make the phone call to him to come home from work. It was a tough time for him and his mother, but they handled it was dignity and grace.

Roberto and I renovated our house in anticipation for our second child, we hired an architect, and interviewed several construction people. We finally got all the permits and finalized our decisions for the house, and then I was too pregnant for renovation. We had to wait until Sabrina was a little older. We decided it would have been too much dust for a little baby. Finally, it came time to start the house, and it was a HUGE deal. Not only were we building on, but also digging out the basement to make it larger. We were going from 1100 to 3500 square feet. Everyday, we had to clean up with the kids, and get ready for the next day. It was exhausting for both of us. Roberto was the finisher for the house. He built all the crown molding in the house. He had the tool made, and then he milled each and every piece of molding that went into the house. He cut every sheet of hand painted paper for the ceiling, and even fired me when I couldn’t hold still while holding the paper. He replaced me with a cardboard box on top of a ladder. LOL! True story!

Those country drives were marriage savers, and Roberto would encourage me to go to the movies with my girlfriends. He would stop at antique stores that were on our way to obscure places. We would take our chances, and take our time. He would be outside sometime pushing the stroller, and I would go in the stores.

We have had tough times too, just like everyone else. Cesarina was never easy to get along with, and would often try to start problems between the two of us. She got cancer, and we took care of her. Then we had my dad come live with us for 10 months, and he was an instigator too. I mean with parents, reconstruction, and everything else…we are married for life!

Marriage is hard work, it’s compromise when you want your own way. It is understanding when the other needs your compassion. Everyday, he kissed me before we say “good night”, every morning for the last 20 years we kiss before someone leaves. Even when we have been pissed off with each other, we always end our evening with a kiss. It was part of our contract that we had with each other before we ever got married. Part of our contract was never ever say “I will divorce you.” Neither of us have ever said the word to each other. Part of our agreement was Never say the word unless we are really going to end our marriage.

My husband is the hardest working man I have ever known. Willing to do whatever it takes to get things done. It may be loud at times, but after he it’s off his chest he doesn’t bring it up again. We never hold our past against each other either. What has happened, has happened, we can’t change it, why linger over something that can’t be changed? It’s been a wonderful 20 years, and I hope we have another 20 years together. A destination winery, with all of our other dreams unfolding as well. We have one child that is in college, and one is a senior in high school. Our children are wonderful human beings, and I am ever so grateful that we found each other and created such loving children.

Thank you Roberto for making my life so much better with you being a part of it! I love you, and am so gad we stated “talking” to each other so long ago! We’ve been through so much…2 children, 2 renovations, 6 dogs, 25 goats, 100 chickens, 27 ducks, 3 miniature donkeys, 2 cows, 30 scooters, 3 trains,  7 apartment complexes, 5 websites, 100’s of pieces of art, and one giant ass move! Plus, all our new adventures and a destination winery.

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If man owns land,

If man owns land, the land owns him. Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is resounding to me! Owning property is work, and owning rental property is even more work and responsibility. My husband and I have owned and sold many pieces of property. It is a big job.

When you have renters you are responsible for the safety and comfort of your tenant. When they call at 3AM, and the air conditioner isn’t working, you have to answer the phone. It’s not easy, plus you are going to have to pay bills, repairs, and property taxes. As much as people want the rent to be cheap, you are going to have to figure out a profit margin that makes you happy. You’ll have to have money for an emergency, like a leaky roof, heater, or goddess forbid anything more serious.

Flipping each apartment complex was something that I never really imagined doing. I really enjoyed refurbishing the units. Finding the right tiles, carpet, appliances, light fixtures, and paint for each room was fun for me. I also liked interviewing the possible tenants.

One time, when we owned our complex in Oakland, a guy came in right before I had to pick up the kids. I was happy that he showed up for his appointment, but he was bananas. He told me that he was an ambassador of another country, and he even showed me his identification. He told me he loved the place and wanted to offer me cash above the asking rent. Are you kidding me? No, I told him, I have to check your references. He proceeded to get down on the carpet, and started making carpet angels. I asked him, What are you doing? He said…I love this place, I am not leaving. I told him…Sir, I am going to have to ask you to leave. I have an appointment that I need to get to really soon. If you don’t get up off the carpet, I am going to have to call the police. He finally got his butt up off the carpet, and headed out the door.

I have so many stories of from my property rental days. My advice to anyone that is wanting to start buying rental property is “Do your research, and understand that you are not operating a charity, there is a small profit margin if you do it right.”

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Cesarina XVI

One of the things I told Cesarina was that she was unforgettable. She told me over the years she should have gotten an Oscar for all the things she has been though, and the government of the United States should thank her for contributing so much money to help  it run. We had good times, we had bad times, but we had time together, and maybe that is the lesson in all the lessons I had learned. Family is family, you take them the way you get them. We are all flawed, imperfect human beings that want to be loved by other human beings. We are granted time in this realm for a short period of time. We all may as well make the most of it. Drink fine wine, and listen to those that have something to teach. We may not know in the moment that they are teaching us, that is why we have to listen.

She made me promise to never forget to treat my daughter in law more fair. I promised her, I will treat her more fair, and I will remember that she is another member of the family. I believe Cesarina would be proud of all that we have accomplished! I learned so much about cooking Italian food, real estate, and the real value of family. Thank you, Cesarina, you may have given me so much more than you will ever know. There is a part of you that lives on in your son, and your grandchildren.

It’s never too late for that Oscar! 😉

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Finally Done

San Marcos Creek Villa is done, and here are the results of all our hard work…

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Life Update

Sorry, I’ve been such a bad blogger. Life has had me spinning in many different directions. My niece came all the way from Indpls., Indiana to come visit us in California. She is off to college, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. What a wonderful young lady she has become. Since she is wanting to study interior design, I thought it might help her to see what it takes to design a space.

We are about to open our 5,000 square foot house, and make it available to vacationers that are going to stay in Paso Robles, California. Organizing, what we are going to keep in the house, and what is going to go. We opted to get rid of the existing carpet, and the existing furniture. The carpet is neutral color, and we kept the walls white.

 

I decided to go with a bright, yet calming color for the dining room. The living room, I went with two conversation areas. Each couch makes out to a bed. I still need to take down some of the valence pieces that are in the house. I also need to wash all the bedding, then make the beds. Tomorrow is finishing up the list of items that are still needed to complete this project.

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7 Steps to Buying Rental Property

So, you want to buy rental property. It’s a great investment! What are the steps to buy rental property? My mother in law used to tell me that her father told her…”The roots of the tree are the most important part of the tree. If it is not planted in the soil, it can not thrive. People need property too, and if you invest in land you are inviting in your family.” It sounds better in Italian!

(1) Do your research. Look at Realtor.com, and find what is available in your area. If you are just starting out, a duplex of four flex is a great first rental property.

(2) Know your budget, alright you have looked online, now what? Once you know your budget, you can narrow down what you are going to view. I like to look at the BIG picture, knowing all the rentals allows you to dream big. You’re going to get there!

(3) Now, find a realtor. You don’t have to go with the first one you meet. This is a personal choice that is your choice! I prefer Sothebys, but ask some friends to refer you to someone. If you don’t like that person, you can tell them you want someone else. If you go with a person you don’t like, you’re going to be miserable. This is a big investment, so it should be enjoyable. The agent is suppose to work for YOU! If the agent takes you to the places you want to see, this is a great realtor!

(4) Look at the roof and heater/air.  The two biggest expenses are the roof and the heater/air conditioner. If there is something wrong with the foundation, run away from the house. How old is the roof? Do the shingles look good, is there a sag in the roofing material? How is the heater/air conditioner? When was it serviced? Where is the filter? When was it changed? Other things to look for…Don’t focus on how ugly the place is, cosmetic aspects can get changed, paint, carpet, fixtures, etc, can all get changed!

(5) Don’t get emotional about the rental. Lets say you like this one…Ok, now you are going to need to check the rental market in the neighborhood. What are the average rents in the area? What kind of changes are you going to have to make to get that kind of rent? How much money are you willing to put into it? If it’s in your budget, no roof or air/heater issues, good return on investment. It is time to make an offer. Start off the lowest you can offer that is fair. You can always go up, you won’t be able to go lower. Try to detach from the property, it’s a house. Now, it’s time to make an offer.

(6) Do a professional inspection and a termite inspection.

(7) Be patient while you wait to see if your offer has been accepted. If it has, you are one step closer to having your dream.