Latest Posts

Move Over School – Big Girl Job

What I love about journaling is that after a year (+) at work I come back to this, and it makes me chuckle.

She lives! (Mushu voice)

You know what’s a great feeling? Turning off your tv. You think it’s easy. Just press the button, but man that Netflix gets you with those couple of seconds till the next episode. I lazily fumble for my “lost” remote. Oh no where is it? I can’t find it. Whoops the next episode is playing…

Today marks week two at my new job. I basically wobbled home, eyes blinking, taking in the sunlight after emerging from the office. I’m better now. As you can see, I’m actually sitting down and writing instead of napping – productivity it’s a wonderful thing. Unless I think about the dinner I have yet to cook. I’m good though, I had some brownies! 

I’m trying to be better. Today I took a measured 30 minute nap after work and only went over a couple of minutes. I watch only one episode and only went over a couple of minutes into the second one. I plan on cooking tonight. Things are looking up!

Yes, I did it! I graduated with my Master’s of Architecture from UTSA, got a job from the career fair, relocated for said job, and am now in my first ever full-time big girl job! The next steps that follow are to study for those darn ARE’s.

I’m working with people my own age and am being led by a wonderful leader who’s been very patient with me. I’ve had many rejections from job applications that I can’t help but think this was all meant to happen. I know some people have faith in God’s plan and others do not. I see and hear the argument that both make, but I try to be optimistic. All I can say is if this was part of His plan, I thank Him. Although, to joke, I think it would’ve been a lot easier on my parents if I stayed home. My poor dad had to take almost two weeks off from work to move me across Texas.

A funny memory surfaces…

My dad was unloading the storage closest from my old apartment, mostly filled with random odds and ends (all for later use of course), in the blazing humid midday. I went out to join for a bit to direct him where to put this heavy, rather cumbersome looking box that was currently balancing on his shoulder. Very slowly he poked his head around the box and said in between puffs, “is it still too late to stay in San Antonio?” My mother and I burst into laughter. Dear old dad full of jokes!

Change is hard but it was worth it.     

Hello Old Friend

The reason for my absence? Masters of Architecture, first semester down! I took a three year break in between my undergrad and graduate school and let me tell you, people weren’t kidding when they said it was hard to get back in. I think I cried my way through the first semester of school.

I’m overexaggerating, but there was definitely at least one breakdown in that first month. We hit the ground running and I wasn’t used to the whole not sleeping thing. I had slept for three years and it was great!

This however, this is different, this is not homework, this is me. The soft clicks of the keyboard pairing nicely with the low drum of the airplane. Floating above who knows where, I’m headed to Vermont to see my sister for Christmas break. A Texas family going to the North for Christmas. Not the best idea.

There’s something about writing on an airplane. I could almost imagine myself a world traveler blogging about my adventures or a CEO writing notes before my big meeting in Europe. As I peer out the circular window to see the city lights below, sipping my coffee…

Actually, it’s more like:

I’m in Coach, with my computer screen half raised because there’s not enough room between me and the seat in front of me with a plastic water cup squeezed between my legs. Yup, that’s the real picture right there.

And now the person’s leaning back – great.

I’m happy though, my mothers beside me and I’m typing away. I have so much to say! I learned a lot this semester, made new friends, took a trip to Japan, more to come on that, tried and failed, tried and succeeded and made it out alive and stronger!

It was such a blessing to be able to go back to school. Compared to undergrad where memorization and taking tests takes up most of your non studio time, grad school is about learning why. It’s about asking questions, driven not by your teacher, but by you. It’s a time for honing in on your own architectural “theory.”

What drives and motivates you in your designs? The real basic question to ask yourself is, why do you want to become an architect? It’s a time of reflection and honesty. A question, I thought seemed simple at first, became weighted with memories and emotions. But the answer, once realized, is all the more meaningful once acquired.

Another Rejection To Motivate Me

How does that phrase go?

“If you want to make God laugh, make plans.”

Oh come on! How else is a non-spontaneous girl supposed to live! I have to make plans, write daily to do lists in my planner, stick to a strict sleep schedule, you get the picture.

Okay, I’m stalling from what I’m really here to say.

I didn’t get the job.

And as per my coping mechanism I start to write…

I’m giving myself one night of sadness but then we must move on! (Noted: I often like to talk in the third person, I feel like then it’s a group effort) You know those really successful people that have these amazing stories of rags to riches. It’s because they had motivation to change their lives, to create a better world for not only themselves but for others around them. It’s so INSPIRING! Since I’m a Catholic I also look up to non “Cradle Catholics,” the converts, the ones that chose Catholicism, some even going against their own families religion. They all have this HUNGER to learn and become the best person they can be. If I’m being honest, I’m always a little jealous of these people, which is terrible because most of the time their stories are really difficult to hear. I’m jealous of their ambition and drive, doubting myself and thinking I don’t have that.

Well of course not! You didn’t have a difficult childhood. And thank God for that.

You know what you do have though? This NO.

Another no that you can put into your box full of other no’s and use it as a MOTIVATOR. With each no this box gets BIGGER and when I stand on top of it I will reach heights I never thought possible!

It’s no rags to riches story, but I’m getting there. Keep those NO’s coming!!!

Okay, motivational moment over I hope my roommate doesn’t mind me taking one more cookie from her stash, or five…


Dora’s Tips to Financial Success: Part 2

Find Part 1 here!

I always love hearing about the times of the 10 cent ice creams and the 1 dollar movie theaters and this time was no different when Dora mentioned she had purchased her first house for only $12,000. As shocking as this amount was the story was a familiar one. When the homeowner asked for a $6,000 down payment, her husband said it was too much, but Dora had a different answer.  She said she could offer $5,000 cash on the spot, leaving her husband dumbfounded. This reminded me of my own mom and dad where his famous line is, “I just work and she does all the rest” meaning his grasp on the financial investments that take place in the household are little to none. I gave a knowing chuckle and let her continue…


Q: How did you get started on your first property?

After living in an apartment for 10 months they decided to buy their first house. After 10 years and having kids they wanted a larger space which allowed them to rent out their first home. Her next house was acquired through a wraparound mortgage, which at first seemed like a good idea. The listed price was $70,000 and the sellers existing mortgage was $20,000.

Throughout her story, I sat there nodding my head, occasionally jotting down some notes, but really I had no idea what she was talking about. So I had to do a bit of research to clear things up.

Wraparound mortgage (assumable mortgage and owner financing also apply)

In a conventional buying selling process the buyer would get a loan from the bank to help pay for the $70,000 (I’m ignoring the down payment). One of the main reasons a wraparound mortgage starts is because the buyer can’t get a loan from the bank for whatever reason (ex: poor credit). Combine that with a seller who is eager to move or is having a hard time selling in the current economy and you have a deal! The seller is now going to act like the bank and allow the buyer to pay in installments with interest. The way this benefits the seller is if they increase the buyer’s interest rate above their current mortgage with the bank. This increased interest rate will pay for their existing mortgage of 20,000 plus the rest of the 50,000.

negatives that arise:
Buyer – Not paying the installments, which puts the seller in a bind because they cannot pay their existing mortgage.
Seller – Has a “due on sale” clause which means if the bank finds out your trying to convey the title of your home to someone before your payments are complete they have the right to speed up the process and demand the rest of the full payment.

Of course there are more positives and negatives, and it seemed like someone always had a loophole to a negative situation, but the point is this wraparound mortgage option carries risk.

For Dora the risk came from the seller. He had an emergency with his house and ended up offering it to her for a cheaper price. A plus for her, but it showed her how brittle these agreements can be.

After her first property her longtime friend and husbands barber was looking to sell his shop. Because of her past experience with the wraparound she agreed to buy it only if it was financed through the bank.

Q: Have you ever had any trouble with renters? How did you deal with the troublesome ones?

There’s never a bad apple until there’s a worm. Or in Dora’s case a “snake.” She always has her renters pay the first, last, and the deposit fee.  One day she went to turn a check in and it bounced. She had to go through the district courts to kick her out and on top of that had to pay the officers who enforced it. Now she has a good lease from the city and a strict vetting process. She always calls her renters place of work to see how long they have worked there and where they currently live, among other questions.

“A lease, or rental agreement, is a document used for the use of space (commercial or residential) for a period of time in exchange for monthly rent. The terms of the contract are negotiable between the landlord and tenant and once signed by both parties the agreement is considered legally and mutually binding.”

Q: Do you have any secrets on how to find the best bargains for houses?

People always think about low income areas, but they forget about auctions.”
Stand your ground at auctions, she told me. She went to one by herself and offered up $19,000 for a house worth $30,000. Sold! However, when she went to the office to sign all the paperwork they tried to raise the price to $25,000. Sticking to her $19,000 she walked away. They had her wait for hours outside their office before calling her back in and selling it to her at her original bid price. She remembers how she was the only woman there by herself and tells me again the importance of holding yourself with confidence.

Q: What kind of loan do you prefer when buying your homes?

I had brought up several loans that I had heard of, but when she mentioned conventional loans I continued with my smiling and nodding. Back to the internet I went or to be more specific to Dave Ramsey.

Funny thing is apparently a conventional loan is the most popular mortgage option out there. For one it offers more flexibility to the buyer, but is also riskier because they are not insured by the federal government and is usually harder to qualify for one. “Instead, the loan is backed by private lenders, and its insurance is usually paid by the borrower.”

Government-backed loans include the VA, which are guaranteed by the Veterans Administration and FHA loans, back by the Federal Housing Administration. For these you usually have a down payment, a mortgage insurance premium (MIP), or a one-time funding fee.

“With a conventional loan, the lender is at risk if you default,” and if you do the lender has the right to sell your house through a short sale process or even a foreclosure. Because of the lenders risk you have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you put less than %20 down.

Risks aside there are many reasons why people choose conventional loans:

  • Low interest rates
  • Fast loan processing
  • Diverse down payment options, starting as low as 3% of the home’s sale price
  • Various term lengths on a fixed-rate mortgage, ranging from 10 to 30 years
  • Reduced private mortgage insurance (PMI)

This is as far as I’m diving into it but Dave Ramsey’s site continues to talk about:

  • What are the different types of conventional loans?
  • How you qualify for a conventional loan?
  • How to get a conventional loan you can afford?

Q: Do you buy your houses as is or after inspection?

Her go to option is “as is” but when you’re walking the house and you think your repairs are going to require a contractor which might outweigh the resale benefits then pass on it. The whole idea is not to have to get a loan and go through the bank. Pay as much as you can upfront with a lawyer. If you go through a bank they will require you to get an inspection which costs more money.


With her 7 residential and 1 commercial property Dora makes a year income of $150,000 with $30,000 worth of taxes. Now I don’t know about you but I could use that kind of money! So blessed to have been able to sit down with her and pick her brain. Thank you Dora!

Don’t give up!

The parents strike again! I got a fresh batch of newspaper clippings. One of them of course from the wonderful Kate Lopaze, from
5 Important questions to ask before starting a new job.

This one, however was too important not to share.

“Don’t quit” written by Chaplain (1st Lt.) Craig Peeples, in the Fort Bliss Bugle, talks about how to overcome the voice in your head telling you to quit. I’m not even going to try to talk over him. I’m writing this out, one to share with you, but also so that I will have it in the future to gather strength from.

“Let us not be weary in doing good – for at the proper time we will reap a harvest – if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“We have all struggled or failed at some point in our lives. We have all faced challenges or difficult times when we just felt like giving up. Even today, there may be some people who ask themselves “How can I keep going when I feel like giving up?” I’ve been there and I’ve asked that same question. What helped me and what will help you is surrounding yourself with positive people. Be around people who know what it takes to thrive and come out on top, especially during difficult times.

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer. Don’t ever be so quick to throw in the towel. You never know how close you are to that raise on your job, your spouse changing an attitude, your children becoming more respectful, or your health improving. Don’t give up… trust your engineer who is guiding your life.

Quitting is easy. But what most quitters fail to fully understand is that when they quit, they lose. When one quits, one loses everything one has worked for, prayed for, and believed in. To quit is to suffer.

When one quits, one suffers the shame and the embarrassment that goes along with quitting. However, God encourages us, along with all the people who support us, to “fight the good fight, to finish the race, to keep the faith. For in due time, with endurance, we shall inherit the present blessings of the life to come.” II Timothy 4:7-8

May we be encouraged by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Learning what “super-powerful women never do”

When I started living on my own my mom would mail me little snippets of newspaper clippings or magazine articles that usually had something to deal with either, business, money, design or religion. Always with a little note saying: “te quiero mucho mi muchachita chula, bonita, inteligente, athletica, y trajabadora.”

Her presence is everything, and never do I doubt in that moment that I’m not beautiful, smart, strong, and a hard worker.

Her most recent clipping was, “Eight things that super-powerful women never do” written by Kate Lopaze, a journalist for the

My mom always sends me clippings that are perfectly timed for my life. As it just so happens I am currently looking to be a “badass, powerful woman,” as Ms. Lopaze puts it. She points out women’s natural hesitancies in the business world and gets straight to the point.

  1. They don’t downplay their achievements

She talks about how women feel it’s “braggy” to talk about their successes, but can be very helpful, especially in job interviews or when raising negotiations.

Noted: I think instead of discussing my successes with my co-workers, anytime my boss walks by I’ll just blurt out a recent achievement… (I think I need to work on this one)

  1. They don’t avoid confrontation

Women tend to shy away from confrontation thinking it rude or aggressive “…but debate can be healthy—and someone else isn’t necessarily right simply because they’re saying it in public.”

Noted: A great leader is someone who takes the advice of their colleagues, admits their mistakes, and is transparent with their workers, allowing them to see what areas he/she is struggling with so they can offer up their help. If they can’t take it then that’s their problem! All in a “professionally appropriate way,” Ms. Lopaze makes sure to point out.

  1. They don’t trash others to get ahead

“Power comes from succeeding – not from stepping on other people.”

Noted: Precisely! There are so many ways to succeed as well. We can lean on each other, ask for help, and especially lend a hand to others. Oftentimes we think, oh I went through this hardship so now they have to as well, but the most important lesson of “power” is that underneath we understand it to mean “servant.” We should be aiming for positions of power to better serve the people, to be a servant leader.

  1. They don’t let criticism derail them

The most important part is not to let one criticism define you. “Powerful people, learn what they can, make adjustments, and move on.”

Noted: It’s hard not to take criticism personally especially when you put your best into a project, but I remind myself to take a step back and look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective or from the critic’s perspective and see what they see. It’s also never a bad idea to cool down with a bowl of ice cream… that usually helps!


  1. They don’t let abusive behavior go unchecked

She addresses, that sometimes women feel like a “snitch or weak-looking victim” if they act to confront such issues. Trust your gut. It’s up to you to change your circumstances.

Noted: Communication is such a critical factor in life. Here’s a challenge: if you see an issue starting to form, before it becomes a huge problem and explodes, talk to the person. Resolve those nagging feelings in the back of your mind.

  1. They don’t internalize mistakes as personal failings

“Work fails are not necessarily personal fails.”

Noted: I find this extremely important for myself because it helps me not hold on to things past their expiration date. Identify the problem, realizing it’s only a work problem, fix the problem, and start fresh. Let it go. You’re not failing as a person just in a very singular project at work.

  1. They don’t fear failure

Time and time again you hear that leaders appreciate failures more than wins. Further reiterated by Ms. Lopaze, “it’s a chance to regroup, rethink, and be better.”

Noted: Failure is such a great teacher. When you fail who can deny the embarrassment that accompanies it, but that’s what makes sure you will never do it again, and thank God for that!

  1. They don’t let self-doubt run the show

In times of your self-doubt don’t forget you have the skills and knowledge to succeed, and if you don’t, learn. Work hard and learn your material. Always give yourself a fighting chance, never allowing the thoughts, “what if I’m wrong/not talented enough/not prepared?” to creep in.

Noted: The best way to describe this is as someone who doesn’t like jumping off of high places into water. Don’t peek. A look from the top can be deceiving. Just run straight out and off the edge. Sure it will be terrifying, but you eliminated the doubt.


What a treasure trove of knowledge and ideas! Giving The Job Network a quick scroll, especially through Kate Lopaze’s articles, I can tell I will have a lot to keep me entertained.

Thanks Mom for the article!




Clocking Out For The Last Time

You know how in the movies you always see the fired person leaving work with their cardboard box and plant walking out the entrance or with the elevator doors shutting on them with a slow zoom coming up on their face?

That was me, except I wasn’t fired thank goodness, which made it much more pleasant. It was an internship and my time had expired. Such a weird feeling to become attached to something, have it become habit, then have to change it the very next day. I had been there a little over a year. Now, tomorrow I will not see my boss in the morning, I will not say good morning to my office mates or see the acquaintances I’ve made. It’s sad, but we move on right? I’m experiencing what everybody calls, “the closing of a chapter.” Now I must flip to a new page and write something wonderfully imaginative! Of course there will be guidelines to follow like, go to grad school, go to work, but I hope I can fit something interesting in-between those.

I worked with some great people and had a wonderful boss, who will forever be a role model to me. Everyday she was a show of strength, determination, and confidence and as I leave I walk a little taller trying my best to be a woman of such caliber. I owe everyone I worked with a million thanks and a million hugs. You will not be forgotten!

So at the end of my day, as papers made their way into the shredder and my last few bites of chocolate cake were eaten, I noticed the voices starting to fade around me. It was time to go. I gathered up my belongings, clocking out for the last time, walked out the glass double doors and…

(YES I did the slow walk with the last look back; it was my movie scene time!)

… I slowly turned back to the building, arms beginning to feel the weight of my stuffed box, wind whipping my hair and dress all around me and wished it one last farewell.

(there was actually no wind)

Thank you and goodbye SAWS till next time!

My Peculiar Obsession With Bathroom Designs

I saw some amazing bathroom designs this weekend. What did you do?

I’m not trying to sound fancy and say I walked around with designers all day and saw million dollar home bathroom designs, more like, picture this…

Out with my friends for a meal, I politely excuse myself to the restroom. Do I need to use the restroom? Nope, I’m just curious! I walk in, stop, and take in the area. That’s it, although I do make sure to get a good hand washing in for good measure, have to test out that water flow! You can tell a lot about a restaurants culture by the care of their bathrooms. I consider a restaurants bathroom like a person’s “baggage” or “dirty laundry.” We try to hide it, are ashamed of it, hope that no one notices, and even though you insist it doesn’t define you, it’s all people care about. Yes, obviously the actual food quality, service, and ambiance are important but, this post is about my obsession with BATHROOMS!  It’s true though! Your bathroom time subconsciously affects your entire restaurant experience.

I’m glad to admit this peculiarity didn’t just originate with me, but with my family. It started with my dad and his childhood teaching of “always wash your hands before you eat” and my mother’s love for design. Things escalated when she found out I was also into design and had someone to share in her excitement. She would say, “make sure you check out the pictures on the wall,” or “did you see all the pennies on the floor?” This eventually just rolled into a family joke at restaurants, “hey did you check out the bathroom, it’s a nice bathroom.”

My favorite restrooms are the ones where it’s unisex because I never leave pondering if the men’s room is designed differently. The single bathrooms are a close second because I can take pictures and stare as long as I want without anybody walking in.

I wrote this because I realized, maybe…

Am I odd? (which may very well be true)

OR does anybody out there have a similar story where they focus on peculiar items in design? I’d love to hear!

While this post was oddly about bathrooms, it’s a good lesson to learn that while you might not think an insignificant space will affect your design it will, however, impact the user experience and it is what designers should care most about. I’ve said my peace.

The Gap Year: And The Growth In-between

“I’ve been here before… As I circle around to another year I get a sense of deja vu. I’ve done this before. Around the same time last year, I was staring at my computer, fidgeting, pacing, and struggling to write out my letter of intent for Grad school, but where I once felt rushed and uncertain I now feel confident and resolved.”

These are words I had written to myself a couple of months ago while I was applying to my masters of architecture. I find myself reflecting on them, as after 3 years my first year of grad school nears. It seemed to me like everyone I knew from school had already gone and graduated.

“I am terribly behind.”

It took me a while to realize that my pace, while maybe slower than others, was no less worthy or significant.  In my heart I knew I was not ready and it was in that true knowing and following of my own path that provided me with peace. When you compare your successes instead of using others as a motivator it can be a heavy weight. I have recently been told to focus on BEING rather than DOING. Growth is important, but let’s not climb just to sit at the top and look down on everyone.

Who are you? Who do you want to be as a human?

I am ready. This is the most important lesson I’ve learnt during my three years. Patience in oneself. There is such pressure to go through life in the fast lane while the people in the slow lane get glared and honked at. I had to shift my focus from “the years I’ve lost” to the years I’ve gained. Will I be a genius in grad school because I’ve become more mature? Oh, I make myself laugh! No, definitely not, (fine I’ll throw a maybe in there) but I realize I don’t have to be and even more so the answer is not entirely up to me.

…because, let me hear it, shout it in your room!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”   -Philippians 4:13