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Monday Morning Coffee

3/9/2020

March is typically known as the start of the real estate season, and the numbers proved it.  Mortgage rates dipped down to year-long lows last week, which continued to motivate home buyers.  New purchase mortgage application submissions increased 6.0% from last week and refinance application submissions dropped 1.0%, for a composite increase of 1.5%.  MBA senior vice president and chief economist, Mike Frantantoni commented, "purchase volume remained strong, supported by low rates and the increased pace of construction over the past few months.  With housing supply at low levels, new inventory is a positive development for prospective home buyers."


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After losing her husband to cancer, this newlywed is spreading his message: Love Heals

Cancer eats away not only at a patient; it slowly gnaws away at their loved ones as well. Amid the parched throats, joint aches, poor appetites, and weak and fragile bodies, the fear of death looms large all the time. It was during a moment like this, in January 2018, that Nitesh Prajapat, who was battling last stage colorectal cancer, and his wife Dimple Parmar, decided they would dedicate the rest of their life to serve people and help people struggling with cancer and their families.

"Nitesh's last wish was to give hope to everyone around him, especially the countless people who are diagnosed with cancer every day. They fight this deadly disease, and often many lack the courage and resources. Through our organisation we wanted to give them a shout out: you are not alone, we are with you," says Dimple, 28.

The duo graduated from IIM Calcutta. The eldest among his siblings, Nitesh was the sole earning member of the family, and was working hard to improve his family's condition. While completing his MBA in 2016, he met Dimple.  The couple interacted over course work, bonded over startup and entrepreneurial dreams, and fell in love. In June 2016, a routine health checkup led to the discovery that Nitesh had Stage 3 colorectal cancer. He was broken, but managed to rise above the initial shock, and, with his family's support, started treatment. He approached his health condition in a logical manner, believing there was a solution to every problem. 

"Like any MBA student, he listed his short-term and long-term goals, organised funding details, on-going academic requirements, treatment options, and diet plan using Excel sheets," Dimple recalls. 

From 2016, when Nitesh was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer, the duo spent sleepless nights trying to study different ways of defeating this dreaded disease. From understanding the nature of cancer and how it can multiply and foster in one's body to allopathic medications and holistic treatments, including dietary changes, yoga, meditation, pranic healings, and naturopathy, Dimple and Nitesh charted out a list on "do's and don'ts" for cancer.    The duo wanted to share information and give back to the society, to people who had helped them through this difficult journey with financial and logistic support, by crowdfunding and through their IIT-IIM-Calcutta alumni networks. 

"By January 2018, Nitesh was in pain, but there was no suffering. There was so much love and happiness in him; he wanted to give all this support back to the society that unconditionally helped him. And we decided to start Love Heals Cancer," Dimple shares.

They soon started Love Heals Cancer, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation. Nitesh, 28, himself oversaw the workings of the website in the initial days in January 2018. The organisation was founded with a clear objective of increasing awareness about cancer and its prevention along with helping patients get through the journey with someone always by their side. Dimple, who understands the pain and suffering that family members and caregivers go through, also extends support to them as well.

After his death in March, 2018, Dimple continued to work on his dream. Today, she runs the organisation with volunteer groups across metro cities in India. "We don't charge anything and never intend to. We just want to help those in need and spread their stories around the world for they are the true fighters among us," says Dimple, an IIM-Calcutta alumnus. Over the past year, Dimple has reached out to over 1,000 cancer patients and families across the globe, and provided them counselling services.

Monday Morning Coffee

2/10/2020
 


We are seeing some mild corrections to the market - price growth is definitely slowing. Prices are now up 4.9% the past year, versus a 6.0% gain the year before.  After many years of rapid home price appreciation, many markets are starting to slow down.  

However, hot markets like the suburbs of Austin and San Antonio can still expect to see a slight uptick in home prices - just not the explosive increase we have seen in recent years.  Economists like FreddieMac predict U.S. housing prices will continue to rise, albeit more slowly, throughout 2020-21. "House price growth will continue to decelerate through 2021 with annual rates of 3.2%, 2.8% and 2.1% in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively."

Bottom Line:  If you have the ability and desire to buy a home now, don't let a fear of recession or falling prices keep you undecided. Economists expect home values, as well as rent prices, to continue rising. So you could end up paying more the longer you wait.  If you are thinking of selling, you should expect to make a profit, although you may receive fewer offers as potential homebuyers are priced out of a rising market.

    

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.
~ Winston Churchill


Back when he was alive, I watched Billy Graham being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on television. Oprah told him that in her childhood home, she used to watch him preach on a little black and white TV while sitting on a linoleum floor.

She went on to the tell viewers that, in his lifetime, Billy has preached to twenty-million people around the world, not to mention the countless numbers who have heard him whenever his crusades are broadcast. When she asked if he got nervous before facing a crowd, Billy replied humbly,

"No, I don't get nervous before crowds, but I did today before I was going to meet with you."

Oprah's show is broadcast to twenty-million people every day. She is comfortable with famous stars and celebrities but seemed in awe of Dr. Billy Graham.

When the interview ended, she told the audience, "You don't often see this on my show, but we're going to pray." Then she asked Billy to close in prayer. The camera panned the studio audience as they bowed their heads and closed their eyes just like in one of his crusades.

Oprah sang the first line from the song that is his hallmark "Just as I am, without a plea," misreading the line and singing off'-key, but her voice was full of emotion and almost cracked.

When Billy stood up after the show, instead of hugging her guest, Oprah's usual custom, she went over and just nestled against him. Billy wrapped his arm around her and pulled her under his shoulder. She stood in his fatherly embrace with a look of sheer contentment.

I once read the book "Nestle, Don't Wrestle" by Corrie Ten Boom. The power of nestling was evident on the TV screen that day. Billy Graham was not the least bit condemning, distant, or hesitant to embrace a public personality who may not fit the evangelistic mold. His grace and courage are sometimes stunning.

Billy complimented Oprah when asked what he was most thankful for; he said, "Salvation given to us in Jesus Christ" then added, "and the way you have made people all over this country aware of the power of being grateful."

When asked his secret of love, being married fifty-four years to the same person, he said, "Ruth and I are happily incompatible."

How unexpected. We would all live more comfortably with everybody around us if we would find the strength in being grateful and happily incompatible.

Let's take the things that set us apart, that make us different, that cause us to disagree, and make them an occasion to compliment each other and be thankful for each other. Let us be big enough to be smaller than our neighbor, spouse, friends, and strangers.

~ James Walters

2020 Forecast: 4 Housing Market Trends We LOVE (And you will, too!)

2/5/2020
   
Valentine's Day is the "Hallmark" of February, and at first blush, housing market trends don't sound that exciting, let alone romantic.  But wait! This forecast for 2020 helps you answer those really big questions like -  

- Is it a good time to buy (is it a buyer's market)?  
- Am I going to make a profit if I sell?
- Should I build a new home?  
- Am I going to pay too much for a starter home?  

If you've had any of these questions recently, read on to see how our forecast for the 2020 real estate market will help you decide.

Affordability will improve.  
We are seeing some mild corrections to the market - price growth is definitely slowing. Prices are now up 4.9% the past year, versus a 6.0% gain the year before.  After many years of rapid home price appreciation, many markets are starting to slow down.  

However, hot markets like the suburbs of Austin and San Antonio can still expect to see a slight uptick in home prices - just not the explosive increase we have seen in recent years.  Economists like FreddieMac predict U.S. housing prices will continue to rise, albeit more slowly, throughout 2020-21. "House price growth will continue to decelerate through 2021 with annual rates of 3.2%, 2.8% and 2.1% in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively."

Bottom Line:  If you have the ability and desire to buy a home now, don't let a fear of recession or falling prices keep you undecided. Economists expect home values, as well as rent prices, to continue rising. So you could end up paying more the longer you wait.  If you are thinking of selling, you should expect to make a profit, although you may receive fewer offers as potential homebuyers are priced out of a rising market.

New Home Construction is on the Rise.
As we saw 4th quarter 2019, home builders continued to concentrate their efforts to provide more affordable homes.  Inventory for homes priced less than $300,000 expanded for the first time since February 2019. Additional supply at the lower end of the market pushed Austin sales to record-breaking levels while also supporting an increase in San Antonio's sales volume (Texas A&M Real Estate Center, 2020 Market Report).

In 2020, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) expects single-family housing starts to total one million, the highest level since 2007. And NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicts the average price of new construction will decline slightly as builders shift to building smaller, more affordable homes.

"Low resale inventory and generally healthy economic conditions - including the longest economic expansion in American history - have lifted builder sentiment," wrote NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz in "Eye on Housing," the organization's blog.

Bottom Line:  New builds will still not catch up with demand this year, but Austin and San Antonio are hot markets.  The competition for a smaller supply of homes could drive up prices.  If you're looking to buy a starter home, be prepared to compete for the best listings. Start your search early, and if you're up against a deadline (like a new baby), build in plenty of time to find the right home. 

Mortgage Rates Will Remain Low.
Freddie Mac's Chief Economist Sam Khater, along with many other economists, look to a strong labor market and government support for the continued low interest rates.  "Mortgage rates are expected to settle below 4% for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in 2020, which is a tad higher than the second half of 2019 but still very supportive of a continued rise in purchase demand," says Khater.  

While recent rates have seen a slight uptick -  a 25 basis points increase since September 2019, and a little over 4% as recent as November 2018- there has been virtually no dip in home purchases, and with the diminishing fear of recession, rates have supported the expectation that home sales will only continue to rise.  

Bottom Line: Many real estate professionals are expecting an early home buying season, especially with today's low mortgage rates.  Act soon to prequalify and lock in a low mortgage rate. Remember, these are predictions, and an unforeseen economic factor or shift in supply and demand can influence these rates.  A low rate now will save you a ton today and in the long run. 

A New Market of Home Buyers Will Emerge
"Millennials" and participation in the "gig economy" are influencing the housing market in a few ways.  First, Millennials are expected to account for more than half of all mortgages this year, outnumbering Generation X and Baby Boomers combined. Most from this generation are now in their 30s, so it's natural to look to homeownership in this stage of life.

"Family changes tend to drive home-buying decisions," explains Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "Millennials are going to be active in the housing market not just because they're just at the age when they're thinking about becoming first-time home buyers, but they're also in the age range when they're having kids."

Second, a 2018 Gallup study found that 36% of US workers participate in the "gig economy" and work multiple jobs.  Gig workers may work full time and drive for a ride-sharing service on the side, other gig workers may work multiple freelance positions. This fits well with the millennial generation, who are looking for flexible jobs and flexible housing - something that offers the convenience of urban living but fits their growing family.   
 
Bottom Line:  When looking into buying a home in the coming months, get pre-approved for mortgage financing first. If you earn your money in a nontraditional way, you'll need bank statements to show income.  Also, mortgage pre-approval helps you stand out from other buyers and shows the seller you are serious and have already started the financing process.

Monday Morning Coffee

2/3/2020
 

Dear %Salutation%:

Last week, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) voted to leave the Federal benchmark interest rate unchanged, signaling mortgage rates will likely continue to stay historically low.  US construction spending tracks total spending on public and private construction projects.  In November, construction spending increased 0.6% month-over-month at an annual rate of $1.32 trillion.  Residential construction specifically increased 1.9%.  Higher buyer demand will likely continue to trigger new home construction activity, especially with many markets grappling with limited for-sale inventory.

    
At around one o'clock on January 2nd, 2007, 50-year old construction worker Wesley Autrey was waiting for a subway train with his two daughters, aged 4 and 6.

All of a sudden, he noticed a man - 20-year old Cameron Hollopeter, collapse into a seizure and fall to the ground.  Wesley immediately ran over to help him, alongside two women. With their help, Cameron could stand up again, but he couldn't fully regain his balance and was stumbling around. Still dizzy and disoriented, he fell down onto the tracks between two rails. At that moment, Wesley saw the subway train lights - the train had finally arrived, and it was headed straight towards Cameron.

Without hesitation, he leaped down onto the tracks and onto Cameron, covering him with his body and pushing him down into the gap between the rails. The train couldn't stop in time, and rolled over them so close some grease got on Wesley's hat.

People on the platform were screaming, along with Wesley's 2 daughters. The train finally managed to stop after 5 of its cars had rolled over the men. After the train stopped, there was a momentary silence, interrupted only by the crying of Wesley's daughters. Wesley yelled out that both men were okay, and told people to make sure his daughters know that their father is fine and will be back with them soon.

After 20 minutes of waiting, subway workers came and helped the men back up onto the platform. Cameron was taken to the hospital. He had only suffered bumps and bruises, nothing serious. Wesley, however, didn't want any medical help, assuring people that he was okay. He went to see Cameron at the hospital and then headed to work as usual. Wesley was very humble about the incident and didn't see himself as a hero at all. To him, his actions seemed perfectly natural and not anything to make a big fuss about.

Monday Morning Coffee 2020!

1/6/2020
 


Online real estate database Zillow forecasts good times in the housing market in 2020, as healthy consumer confidence, job creation, and wage growth are "a recipe for continued economic growth, not a recession."

Evidence of that consumer confidence was found in FNMA's Home Purchase Sentiment Index, up 2.7 points to 91.5 in November and 5.3 points ahead of its strong read in 2018.

Additional support for the sentiment of a strong market in 2020 is RealPage's analysis of the latest data, revealing that we should get major relief for the housing supply shortage, since residential building permits hit a 12-year high in October, notching an annual rate of 1.46 million units.

    

"Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties." - Helen Keller.

She was homeless just one year ago. But, after packing up and leaving Detroit so she could start a new life in northern Michigan, this 31-year old woman now has confirmation that she's in the right place.

Danielle Franzoni moved to Alpena and settled into a homeless shelter to stay sober-after struggling with an opioid addition. Now a waitress, a generous tip is helping her build on her dreams after reaching two-years sober.

According to The Alpena News, Franzoni was working her Sunday shift at the waterfront Thunder Bay River Restaurant, when two regulars gave her the surprise of a lifetime, leaving a tip that made her burst into tears.

The total amount of the bill before the unexpected tip was just $23.33, yet the pair gifted her more than two thousand dollars more.

The handwritten note on the the receipt read: Danielle... Happy New Year... '2020' Tip Challenge.

Franzoni told The Alpena News she was shocked, "They don't know where I've come from, they don't know how hard it's been. They're really just doing this out of the kindness of their heart."

When asked what she plans to do with the money, the mother of three who just moved into a new house, explained that she'll use some of it to obtain the last piece of the puzzle on her road to recovery-a driver's license, something she hasn't had for ten years.

With the bulk of the money going into a savings account, Franzoni will "build a future because of this."

"My kids have a future," she told WXYZ. "It's a big deal. It's a really big deal."

Franzoni didn't waste any time paying it forward, too. She went out to dinner that same day to celebrate, and joined the #2020TipChallenge by leaving a $20.20 tip for her server.

She reportedly hopes to one day open a sobriety house for women and children to show others facing similar struggles that change is possible with the right support.

- Jessica Acree

Monday Morning Coffee - Christmas Kindness

12/9/2019
 

It comes as a surprise to most homeowners, but statistically, December can prove to be one of the strongest months of the year to place a home on the market.

Yes, Spring is widely known as the best time to sell a home, but the holidays have some advantages too. Buyers are more sincere in December, meaning home buyers do not typically look at homes in December unless they are truly buying a home.

If you have a choice and want to wait for Spring, that is understandable, but if you need to place your home for sale in December, do not feel you are at a disadvantage  because statistics show December to be one of the most successful months of the year to sell a home.

    

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." - Norman Vincent Peale

The separation took place in the month of August; the father/husband had frozen every penny she had. This created problems she had never faced before - severe poverty. She was living in a house her parents had obtained for her, working as a temporary at any job she could get, but the idea of buying gifts for her children for Christmas seemed to be strictly an idea.

While driving to work one morning she heard on the radio an advertisement for 'Christmas at Autoworld'. This place was built as a teaching amusement park - inside. The theme was the automobile industry since it was located in the heart of Flint, Michigan. Unfortunately, it was failing; therefore, the city was offering the residents one last chance to experience the fun before it closed its doors - FOR FREE!

There was no cost to be admitted or ride on the rides, but food was not free. She decided that since she didn't have two pennies to rub together for Christmas, her boys would have the 'Christmas' experience at Autoworld. Her boys were her life, her loves.

So, on the night of the big 'free' event, it was snowing, very cold, but the very spirit of Christmas was in the air. A true Michigan Christmas. She bundled them up in their winter outerwear put them and the umbrella stroller into the old car she had purchased for $1,200 and headed to 'Autoworld!' The night was definitely COLD, but she parked as close to the entrance as she could.

As she was putting her baby into the umbrella stroller with her twins at her side, a horse drawn carriage pulled up behind her car and the driver asked her if she wanted a ride. She politely declined (wishing she could have since it was a perfect night to do so) stating that she didn't have any money. She proceeded to walk the snowy sidewalk with the stroller and her twins to the entrance.

The experience inside was thrilling for her boys. Of course, they would get hungry as the whole environment smelled like cotton candy, popcorn, hotdogs, pizza, and every other type of food a vendor could serve. She reached into her wallet to see what money she had. She determined she had enough for two slices of pizza and one soft drink. They all sat down at a table and shared their dinner; she ate nothing, her children always came first.

After spending a couple of hours the children were getting tired, the facility was getting ready to close and it was getting near bed time for them. She gathered them up, bundled them up and headed outside. At the curb in front of the main entrance there was the horse drawn carriage looking like it was waiting for Cinderella. The driver said, 'You wait right there, don't move I will be right back. Don't leave.' The young mother was shocked but did just that, waited. Her boys loved looking at the horse.

A few minutes later the carriage appeared back in front of them. The driver got down from his seat and said, 'Get in.' The Mother said, 'I don't have any money for a ride.' The driver told her he was all done for the night and she was his last passengers... there was no charge. He told her he was just going to give her and her boys a ride around the parking lot to her car. Her boys were thrilled to say the least.

He helped her and her precious cargo into the carriage covered them up with warm woolen blankets (just like in the movies) and off they went. After they made a U-turn, he turned to her and asked her, 'Would you like to see the city by way of horse drawn carriage?' This is what she wanted to do all along. Of course, she said yes, and her boys were ecstatic!

Throughout the whole ride she and the driver had been talking about her situation and that her Christmas wish was to get a permanent job enabling her to support her boys. The driver, now known as Harold, pulled up behind her car after a grand tour of the city, halted the horse, parked, and lifted one by one her children down out of the carriage. Then, like Santa taking Mrs. Claus's hand, he helped her out of the carriage only in his hand was a $20 bill folded up.

His eyes were filled with tears and said it isn't much but buy these beautiful boys something for under the tree from Santa and my Christmas wish for you is that I hope you receive that job.

One week later I received a job offer that was to start in January, it lasted for ten years. My 'Carriage Santa' came to visit me there several times.

Yes, this is my story. My twins are now 27 and my 'baby' in the umbrella stroller is now 25. They are all grown up and very successful and my 'Carriage Santa - Harold' has now passed away but God sent him to me for a reason. I have always tried to pass along the goodness he showed me, a complete stranger, whenever I can.

I truly believe in the love that 'Santa' stands for; therefore, I believe in Santa. God is Love, Santa is Love and I believe in never giving up, there is always hope.

Merry Christmas.
~ Denise Berth


Monday Morning Coffee

12/2/2019
 


Seasonal activity seems to have returned to the real estate market. In a normal real estate market the 4th quarter of each year experiences fewer buyers looking at homes and thus fewer homes sold. However during the past few years the 4th quarter has been unusually busy, even to the point that we hardly noticed the seasonal change.

This year however, we see the seasonal decrease in the market that has been amiss during the past several years. Despite this noticeable decrease, the statistics for the 4th quarter of 2019 should show strong results.

Low interest rates and a consistent creation of new home inventory should finish another positive year in the housing market.

    

A Christmas Story: For the Man Who Hated Christmas

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it - overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma - the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids - all kids. He so enjoyed coaching little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was his gift from me.

Mike's smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition - one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The white envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children - ignoring their new toys - would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the small, white envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children had for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down that special envelope.

Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

By Nancy W. Gavin

- Editor's Note: This true story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman's Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine's "My Most Moving Holiday Tradition" contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it. The story inspired a family from Atlanta, Georgia to start The White Envelope Project and Giving101, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of giving.

   

Monday Morning Coffee - Happy Thanksgiving

11/25/2019
 


Seasonal activity seems to have returned to the real estate market. In a normal real estate market the 4th quarter of each year experiences fewer buyers looking at homes and thus fewer homes sold. However during the past few years the 4th quarter has been unusually busy, even to the point that we hardly noticed the seasonal change.

This year however, we see the seasonal decrease in the market that has been amiss during the past several years. Despite this noticeable decrease, the statistics for the 4th quarter of 2019 should show strong results.

Low interest rates and a consistent creation of new home inventory should finish another positive year in the housing market.

    
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
-Albert
Einstein

The 26-year-old mother stared down at her son who was dying of terminal leukemia. Although her heart was filled with sadness, she also had a strong feeling of determination. Like any parent she wanted her son to grow up and fulfill all his dreams. Now that was no longer possible. The leukemia would see to that.

But, she still wanted her son's dreams to come true. She took her son's hand and asked, "Billy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grew up? Did you ever dream and wish what you would do with your life? "

Mommy, I always wanted to be a fireman when I grew up."

Mom smiled back and said, "Let's see if we can make your wish come true."

Later that day she went with "Make a Wish" to her local fire department in Phoenix, Arizona, where they met Fireman Bob, who had a heart as big as Phoenix.

They explained her son's final wish and asked if it might be possible to give the six year old a ride around the block on a fire engine.

Fireman Bob said, "Look, we can do better than that. If you'll have your son ready at seven o'clock Wednesday morning, we'll make him an honorary fireman for the whole day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards!

And if you'll give us his sizes, we'll get a real fire uniform for him, with a real fire hat-not a toy one, but one with the emblem of the Phoenix Fire Department on it, a yellow slicker like we wear and rubber boots. They're all manufactured right here in Phoenix, so we can get them fast."

Three days later Fireman Bob picked up Billy, dressed him in his fire uniform and escorted him from his hospital bed to the waiting hook and ladder truck. Billy got to sit on the back of the truck and help steer it back to the fire station. He was in heaven.

There were three fire calls in Phoenix that day and Billy got to go out on all three calls. He rode in the different fire engines, the paramedic's van, and even the fire chief's car. He was also videotaped for the local news program.

Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, so deeply touched Billy that he lived three months longer than any doctor thought possible.

One night all of his vital signs began to drop dramatically and the head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept that no one should die alone, began to call the family members to the hospital. Then she remembered the day Billy had spent as a fireman, so she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform to the hospital to be with Billy as he made his transition.

The chief replied, "We can do better than that. We'll be there in five minutes. Will you please do me a favor? When you hear the sirens screaming and see the lights flashing, will you announce over the PA system that there is not a fire? It's just the fire department coming to see one of its finest members one more time. And will you open the window to his room?

About five minutes later a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital, extended its ladder up to Billy's third floor open window and 5 firefighters climbed up the ladder into Billy's room.

With his mother's permission, they hugged him and held him and told him how much they loved him. With his dying breath, Billy looked up at the fire chief and said, "Chief, am I really a fireman now?" "Yes, Billy, you are a fireman now," the chief said.

With those words, Billy smiled and closed his eyes one last time. He passed away later that evening.

This is the story of the very first child helped by the "Make a Wish" Foundation", now making a wish come true every 34 minutes.

When
life-changing wishes are granted, a wish effect occurs. The wish allows children battling critical illnesses to build the hope and strength they need to fight harder and see the impossible become possible. Research shows wishes can give these children a higher chance of survival. And, it's why health professionals often use a wish as part of their treatment plan, because wishes can build compliance with care and potentially give their patients a better chance of reducing time spent in the hospital. There is nothing more powerful than a child's wish - that's the wish effect.
~ From the "Make a Wish" Foundation Web Site.


    

Monday Morning Coffee

11/18/2019
 

Last week, we saw mortgage rates trending slightly lower, continuing to hover near year-long lows.  The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) weekly mortgage application survey reacted with an increase in both new purchase and refinance mortgage applications.  Both the consumer price index and core CPI increased.  Retail sales are also up.

For the week ending 11/8, new purchase application submissions increased 5.0% and refinance application submissions increased 13.0% for a composite increase of 9.6%.  Lower mortgage rates continue to move the mortgage market.  The MBA's associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, Joel Kan predicted, "with rates still in the 4% range, we continue to expect to see moderate growth in refinance activity in the final weeks of 2020."

    

One morning, when Ray Mohler Jr. was 4 years old, he woke up with pain in both of his hips. The pain brought Mohler to the hospital. "I was there for eight hours and scared. And when I got to go home, I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that there were kids who were going to have to stay there."

Mohler's birthday just happens to be on Christmas Eve. And that Christmas, thinking of the children who were left behind at the hospital, Mohler chose to donate half of all his birthday and Christmas presents to them.

Soon after, Mohler, with the help of his family, founded the Little Saint Nick Foundation. Its mission is to make hospitals more kid-friendly for the young patients. With more than 500,000 gift bags, toys, movies and electronics donated to children in hospitals across the country in the last 13 years, Mohler's foundation is still going strong.

In addition, Mohler has inspired other kids to take action as well. Thirteen-year-old Agha Haider was home with a broken leg "binge watching" TV and saw a show on Nickelodeon featuring Mohler and the Little Saint Nick Foundation. Haider was captivated seeing how one kid had made a difference for so many. He emailed the foundation to see how he could get involved. Haider and Mohler eventually started corresponding.

Last month, at a St. Louis hospital, the results of Mohler and Haider's joint efforts paid off. More than one hundred volunteers helped to pack 300 gift bags, filled with gifts like stuffed animals and coloring books, that were later distributed at two local children's hospitals.

Monday Morning Coffee - Happy Veteran's Day

11/11/2019
 


For the week ending 11/1, new purchase applications declined 3.0% and refinance applications increased 2.0% for a composite decrease of 0.1%.  A limited amount of homes for sale continues to create a competitive market, especially for first-time home buyers.  Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said, "Amidst persistent supply constraints in the entry-level price range, there's evidence that high-end home buyers are more active this fall."

    

My grandfather told only one story about his years in the Army. He served in the 10th Mountain Division fighting the Nazis in the Italian Alps. The only evidence of those years I knew of was a frayed backpack and skis he kept, but there was more.

When I was 13 or so, my father and I sat with my grandfather in his den. I asked him about a small painting of a rocky peak capped with snow he had made with strokes of blue, gray and white years ago. My grandfather looked at it for a moment.

He said, "I remember this kid, a private. We were being shelled by artillery, but they were shooting too high. We could hear the rounds pass just over our heads and hit the mountain somewhere behind us. It shook the ground. There was this kid crouched across from me. As the rounds went over, I could see the color leave his face, and when they exploded behind us, I could see it come back. Up there on that mountain. That kid's face, dying and coming back to life, over and over. I'll never forget it."

I learned, later, that he had made the painting while he recovered from his wounds in a hospital at the end of the war.

I looked at my father, who was leaning so far forward I thought he might fall out of his chair. His eyes were wide and, for a moment, he looked younger than I. He had never served in the military but was a writer, and storytelling was what he had devoted his life to.

I didn't realize he'd been waiting since 1945 for a single story about the war from his father. My grandfather never told another.

On Memorial Day we remember veterans we have lost, but Veterans Day is to celebrate those who live. There should be no difference between those of us who have seen combat and those who volunteered in peacetime, active-duty members and reservists, 20-year careers and two-year enlistments. These are all Americans who, for a time, invested their lives in service to our nation and have become direct participants securing our independence.

There are 22 million veterans living in America today, civilians again, mowing their lawns and waiting in lines.

In the six years since I left the Marines, what always strikes me is a veteran's enduring attachment to their unit, their clear memory of places and comrades, the stunning drama of their missions or unique situational comedy of their labors. Most of these stories are never heard, because no one ever asks for them.

We mention sacrifice on days like this, but sacrifice likely isn't the thing a veteran will recall. It will be the stories. It's these tales that make military experience comprehensible to those who never serve in this way. What if today - instead of thanking a veteran for their service and then passing by - you take a moment to ask them for a story? We've all got one to tell.
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