• On the 3rd Anniversary of My Dad’s Death

    It’s been three years since my dad’s death and as I reflect on our relationship I wanted to share three things he taught me.  These weren’t lessons discussed between us, they are behaviors he displayed with consistency, that over the span of my life have become part of who I am.

    1.  Be a confidant.  When someone tells you a secret, you keep it FOREVER.  No excuses.  When I told my dad something in confidence I use to say, “please don’t share this with anyone”.  He never did and I stopped asking the question because I knew he would never compromise the trust I had in him.  This simple promise allowed us to talk about most everything.

    2.  Give sound advice.  Advice shouldn’t be flimsy or only given with agreement to the one asking for it.  If someone asks for your advice, give it to them straight.  My Dad always gave the best advice.  He backed it up by never wavering and used his own experience to give it a back bone.  I may not have always taken his advice but it was always noted and taken into consideration.

    3.   Say ‘I love you’ to your kids.  Without fail, my dad would end a conversation or text with some form of ‘I love you’.  And it wasn’t a obligatory ‘I love you’.  It was a statement made to ensure I knew he LOVED ME.  Say it to your kids, I have it’s probably the phrase most used in our household.

    Aren’t these great lessons?  Simple but very impactful.

    I was honored to write his obituary

  • My 2018 Goals

    Happy New Years!  Four days into the New Year and it’s already crazy busy.  We moved Killion to Chico and Dylan is spending 16 days in New York City.  Jon is back to his weekly travel schedule and I’m trying to plan out my blog posts, client game plans and figuring out the best way to manage my time.  I developed a system two weeks ago and so far so good.  I’ll share that in another post.

    Last week I put together my goals for 2018 and shared them in my weekly newsletter.  If you’d like to subscribe, follow this link and you’ll receive a weekly email every Friday afternoon.

    I have five goals I’d like to tackle this year. I chose them because I know if I accomplish them I’ll be a better person for it. Each create their own little challenge; facing a fear, examining my decisions and finding solutions I may not initially enjoy.  I also made sure they pair well with my Value System, adding to my life and not taking away.

    Here they are:

    Go Solo More

    I have a personal bucket list to explore small towns of Northern California. Most are day trips and all are doable except one tiny, little thing. It scares me to do things by myself. I like having alone time at home but the idea of venturing out solo makes me very uncomfortable. I imagine myself getting lost, wandering the street aimlessly, a loner without a friend, haha. There’s more truth in that sentence than I’d like to admit!  So, I’m resolved to make this a priority for 2018, to hit the road and just move forward.

    Explore More

    This goes hand in hand with Go Solo More but there’s more to exploring that venturing out.  I want to explore meditation, self care, contribution and meaningful relationships.  It’s a lot but there’s something that feels meaningful about this goal.

    Find My Giggle

    When my dad passed away, almost three years ago, I lost my lightness. Jon would describe it as, I laid down on the couch and never got up. A daze, a fog, or whatever your term for it is, I’m trying to get out of it. I’ve definitely made strides and what I noticed most is I’ve lost my giggle. I realized it when I watched an animal video and I got to giggling so much my stomach hurt, like cramping up type of laughing. I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed like that since he passed. I have no idea how to work on this goal but I’m sure there’s a solution out there.

    Get More Sleep

    I know I don’t function well if I don’t get a solid night’s sleep. I toss and turn a lot and it’s rare that I just sleep soundly through the night. I’ve been dabbling with meditation before bed and my goal is to make it a priority before bed.  It seems to help with relaxing my mind prior to bed, which is really important because at the end of the day I’m already thinking of tomorrow and the next day :-/

    Be More Brave

    Speak up, guard my value system, learn to say no.  These may not typically be categorized as being brave, but for me speaking up and saying no don’t come naturally.  I get passionate about things, sure.  But I don’t always say what I’m really thinking or feeling and I often hold it in until it’s just a little too late.  Being Brave to me means not compromising myself for someone else’s feelings, opinions or comfort.

    Do you have goals for the New Year?  I’d love to know what they are!

    Cover photo: Photo by Vincent Guth onUnsplash

  • A Walk Around Chicago, a picture tour

    Chicago in March might not be the time most people decide to visit the Windy City, but Killion’s (my daughter) volleyball team played in a tournament there and so I went.  We scored an Airbnb in an area called South Loop.  Our location was central to the tournament, restaurants and parks. Although there wasn’t a lot of time for tourist activities I had three hours to spare on our last day.  So, I took a walk down Michigan Ave to Millennium Park.  Here’s what I saw…

    Chicago walk-21My first stop was to grab a cup of coffee and a donut at Dunkin Donuts on the corner of S. Michigan and 16th Ave.

    Chicago walk-23If you have a smartphone check out Statue Stories!  It’s easy to use, just swipe your phone on a tag near the statue and you’ll receive a call back from a “famous person” telling you a bit of history.

    Chicago walk-14

    Chicago walk-29

    Chicago walk-28

    Chicago walk-15

    Chicago walk-16

    Chicago walk-7

    Agora Art Installation – Grant Park

    Chicago walk-8

    Agora Art Installation – Grant Park

    Chicago walk-18

    Crown Fountain – Millennium Park

    Chicago walk-22

    Chicago walk-26Millineal Park

    Chicago walk-25

    All photos shot on iphone 6

  • A Walk Around Carmel By The Sea

    Cross and Elm is over four years old but I just recently started sharing my posts publicly.  Prior to a month ago I would blog and just let it sit there.  I blogged about our travel, teaching myself to cook, and about our home.  In all I have about 40 posts I published from 2012 – 2016.  Nice people in the WordPress world would like a post here and there, but I was pretty nervous about having a personal blog.  I’m clearly over the nerves part!

    Today’s post is from that time.  Two years ago Jon and I went on a mini vacation to Carmel.  We rented an adorable room and spent an afternoon on a walking tour with CarmelWalks.  Kelly was our guide for a two-hour tour, which was filled with history about the area, architecture lessons and secret alleyways that connect one street to another.  If you are in the area I highly recommend this tour.

    Here are a few photos from the walk:

    Cypress Inn

    Harrison Memorial Library

    The Start of a Secret Alley

    Cottage of Sweets

    Sade’s Cocktails

    Sweet Architecture

    updated: 12/27/17

  • Creating A Value System

    Some people, when they become adults realize they are a bit lost.  Due to an infinite number of combinations of how they were raised, experiences during childhood, and relationships with others a foundation was built that as an adult becomes unstable.  It was likely always unstable, but when we are adults we, most of us at least, become reliant on what we know.  And what we know isn’t always good for us.

    This was me in so many ways. I didn’t have my own value system in place and it affected all of my relationships, made me unnecessarily sensitive to criticism, and kept me from finding peace within myself.  Not having a solid foundation ultimately caused bad financial choices, poor parenting decisions and my relationships suffered, including my marriage.  The way I reacted when something happened (or didn’t happen the way I wanted it to) was impulsive and often chaotic.

    Even though this was my behavior, deep down I knew I didn’t like acting this way and I also recognized I wasn’t taking responsibility for my behavior.  The later is what kept me in this ugly cycle so owning my actions and issues was a priority.  Five years ago my life completely changed when I made a conscious decision to BE the person I wanted to be.

    Two things helped me find my way; My therapist and The Minimalistswho talk openly about their own integrity, character and values.  Therapy helped me deal with me; my hang ups, how I viewed myself, and how to define my own value (to myself and others).  The Minimalists have a game plan that I emulated to create my own value system.

    Despite the infinite number of ways my foundation was created as a child, I have the power to rewrite how I operate which will greatly improve how I live my life.  I work on this daily and daily I get my ass kicked by old habits and bad self-talk…but going over my values (below) help me move forward in the exact way I know will bring balance in my life.

    So, here is my value statement

    Fundamental values

    Fundamental Values are the most important ways I live my life.  These are what everything else is built from.  Think of them as buckets you fill up that create balance.  Note: yours may be totally different, I happen to find these (from The Minimalist) to align with my way of thinking, however the description of each is my own.

    1. Relationships | Making JZN a priority, cultivating positive friendships and family relationships with 1:1 time.
    2. Creativity | Expressing myself via my work, looking objectively at tasks to ensure 80/20 they allow creativity.
    3. Growth | Learning different perspectives, ensuring my work (social media) doesn’t equate to an imaginary self value, and continue to elevate self awareness.
    4. Contribution | Ensuring my monies, work and words are contributing to a greater good than myself and my own personal/material wants.
    5. Health | Making it a priority by scheduling time for exercise, self care, meditation

    Core values

    Core values are specific things that fill up the fundamental values buckets.  Without core values I don’t have actionable ways to live my life the way I want to.  I choose ten core values that I know will bring me incredible satisfaction when accomplished.

    1. Promotion of others
    2. Meditation
    3. Time with my kids
    4. Financial freedom (zero debt & retirement)
    5. Emotional relationship with JZN
    6. Contractual obligations
    7. Scheduling my time and sticking to it 90% of the time
    8. Self Care
    9. Sleep
    10. Therapy

    Minor values

    Minor values are experiences/things I find joy in but if they didn’t happen or weren’t in my life I’m not out of sorts.  They seem a bit silly written down but I really enjoy my morning coffee in a room only lit by candles.

    My morning cup of coffee
    Waking up slowly | Lighting candles in the morning / no lights
    My home

    Imaginary values

    Imaginary values are perceived as valuable but in reality are in direct conflict with my fundamental values.  For instance, I do want a big fat three diamond anniversary ring.  If I received one for Christmas I would be giddy…but that purchase is in conflict with how I want to spend money (read Growth under Fundamental Values).

    Diamond ring
    Fast cars
    Personal social media (non business related work)…you know the rabbit hole :-/

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and thank you for supporting me and this blog <3

    Photo by Austin Johnson on Unsplash


  • Financial Series | Private Money Lending

    Money talk…eww. It’s a taboo subject, one that makes people anxious and nervous.  It definitely makes me anxious and so that’s why I’m talking about it here on the blog.  I feel as I dive deeper into the subject it becomes less intimidating and my confidence around it grows.  So, maybe if you’re in the same boat our upcoming Financial Series will help you too.

    Today I’m playing it safe and sharing information on private money lending. Luckily, my amazing, beautiful friend, Angela Vannucci, is laying it out for us. She works for a commercial lending company, Blackburne & Sons, and wrote today’s post.  Pass along this info, there are many people who are interested in this type of investment but don’t know where to start.

    Learn and enjoy!


    Almost 15 years ago (yikes!), I walked out of college and into the private-money business at Blackburne & Sons Realty Capital Corporation. At that time, I had no idea what I was getting into and only knew a smidge about real estate, let alone what private-money lending was about. People may equate private-money lending as a type of crowd-funding, which is a term that gets thrown around quite often these days. After reading this blog however, I am hopeful you may have a better understanding of private-money lending and how you may want to participate in a deal or two as a piece of your retirement portfolio. 

    Private money lending can be simplified as someone (or a business) needing a loan, and a private person/entity loaning them the funds. Of course, there is much more to it than that but if I had to give one sentence to describe it, that would be it. There are different ways to lend money but in the case of Blackburne & Sons’ business model, we vet borrowers who need a loan, complete the necessary due diligence and then put together a group of private investors who will lend to the borrower, at reasonable rates and terms. At Blackburne & Sons, those rates can be anywhere between 7.9% to 14.9%, fixed rate for the first 5-years, with no prepayment penalty (which is huge for borrowers who just need private-money for the short-term).  

    Why is there such a thing as private-money lending? Private-lending exists to fund loans when conventional lenders, i.e. banks and credit unions will not. There could be a number of reasons why a conventional lender will turn down a deal. Whatever the reasons may be, a bank turn-down allows us private-money lenders to swoop in on qualified borrowers and offer yields of 7% to 14% to our investors. A few reasons why banks and credit unions may pass on a deal… (1) does not meet minimum credit score, (2) insufficient income, (3) property-type/condition and/or (4) not enough cash or equity into a deal, i.e. loan-to-value (LTV) too high. There could be some other reasons but I think these four sum up the majority of reasons that I hear about.  

    I cannot speak for other private-money lending firms, but the beauty of Blackburne & Sons is that we can underwrite and approve a deal based on the three C’s; Capacity to pay, Credit and Collateral. If the borrower meets two of the three C’s then we can usually structure a deal that meets the needs of the borrower and provide a reasonable return to the investors. It is a beautiful example of supply and demand. The trick is finding a balance between a reasonable rate for the borrower and a reasonable risk for the lender.  

    For example, if a borrower is purchasing an industrial property for $1MM, and is seeking a $650,000 loan (which is a 65% loan-to-value), but his credit is 620, he could be denied at his local bank for an approval. BUT… this same borrower could come to Blackburne & Sons where we may issue an approval based on a valid letter of explanation on the less than perfect credit, if the LTV is reasonable and the borrower’s income can support the loan.   

    Above is a very short version on how private-money lenders can help borrowers, but what if you are an investor and are curious to know if this is the right investment vehicle for you? Well it all comes down to your personal risk tolerance. Private-money lending is risky! While almost all investments have a level of risk, private-money lending comes with a higher level of risk. Therefore, if you are a conservative investor, then this is not for you. But… if you are more open to taking a risk, then read on.  

    The beauty of real estate private-money lending is that your security is the real estate. If a borrower defaults, Blackburne & Sons (on the investors behalf, which would be you) would commence collections for non-payment, up to and including completing the foreclosure. Once a foreclosure is completed and title is transferred into the name of the investor(s), investor(s) can then decide whether to hold, lease and/or sell depending on the situation, market and/or property type or condition.  

    With risk there is reward, right? Investors who choose to lend in the private-money world can earn between 7% and 14% return on their money. Full disclosure… a return is never guaranteed and a loss of principal is possible. However, with diversification of a private-money portfolio, I have personally seen our investors earn a very reasonable return over the course of their investment history with us. The key is finding your personal lending preferences and not putting all your eggs into one basket.  For example, some investors only choose to lend in California, while others will only lend to borrowers with a certain credit score. And, then other investors will only consider a loan that will yield 12% or above. Or, we have one investors that invests $5,000 to $10,000 in each, and every, deal. It really all comes down to your personal investment strategy and preference. My recommendation to any investor I speak with that may be on the fence of investing is… if you have any doubts at all, do not invest. I probably lose many investors with that line, but I am ok with that. I’d 100% rather sell my deals out slower with investors who are comfortable with the risk, then sell a deal quickly with investors who are not or unsure. That thought process and company culture is why I think Blackburne & Sons has survived for the last 37 years and I am proud to do my part.  

    This article just touches on the very basics of private-money lending for borrower and investors (lenders), but please stay tuned! Happy to continue to pass along more information on specific topics that will break down the individual pieces in the future. In the meantime, please feel free to check out our website at www.blackburneandsons.com for more information on who we are and what we do.