Happy Birthday to an Angel

Glamorous Edith Michelson-page-001God planted one of his angels on a chilly Saturday November 19 morning in Wichita Falls, Texas. She grew up dirt poor, mischevious, resourceful–and was a promising athlete until a blood infection settled into her hip at the age of 14, which left her periodically crippled much of her life.

Edith Putnam Michelson was a beautiful woman with a 1000-watt smile. She also had a rocking sense of humor and loved nothing more than a well-planned–and sometimes spontaneous–practical joke.

Edith Michelson

Edith Putnam Michelson

She threw great parties, was a classic flirt, danced through hip pain, and sometimes fell into very deep and dark depressions.

These were tough times for our Angel–and which baffled my sister Gayle, our dad and me. It was usually a sense of betrayal that brought her down and made her wish she could just run away. Gayle and I have quietly discussed this over the years, and I think we would both agree that while her periodic depression was certainly a treateable disease, there was also much truth and history that might have triggered these episodes.

And little of it had anything to do with any of us.

It was more the perils of growing up in a very poor and divorced family in the depths of the Great Depression. And being abandoned by her mother at the sweet and changing age of 13. It as a secret she hid–and buried–for much of her life.

A brilliant survivor, she moved with her sister to California after World War II and even managed to attend a business college in the Los Angeles area. A few years after the war, she married Lt. Robert Michelson, a dashing Army Air Corps pilot, and the two of them brought forth Gayle Michelson Dreisbach and me (in reverse order).

But none of what I’ve shared show evidence of Edith Putnam Michelson being an Angel.

She was a healer

.Friends and family knew that her touch could lessen pain–and often asked for her help. Since her slow death in 2006, I have often wanted to feel her hand on my brow, my arm. Just one more time. And to hear her soothing angel voice.

She had a heart the size of Texas

and several times during my childhood tried to adopt children in danger of abandonment. She initiated drives to gather decent school clothing for children in need and allowed an assortment of orphans into our home including a baby possum, kittens, a goat, chickens and birds. As well as five needy little children at one time.  She hated suffering and did these things with neither government nor church support.

She just did these things…because. Because that’s just who she was.

I could probably write a book about this beautiful and big-hearted woman who rose from dust of the Depression to becoming a Who’s Who Among American Women.  But mostly I want to share a birthday wish to a brilliant woman who has the love and admiration of her husband, two daughters, six grandsons and many friends on both sides of existence.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Roberta Murphy 



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Life, Change and Personal Power

Life can change quickly. Personal power helps.

Life, Change, Personal Power

Tony Robbins

Last night, we returned from Anthony Robbins 4-day “Unleash the Power Within” event in Dallas. I had attended with two of my sons–Scott and Mark–and was open to whatever learning, changes and friendships I might absorb and make.

The event delivered on all fronts.

As we drove home from the San Diego airport hungry for dinner, we stopped off at Jimbo’s Market and picked up some organic lettuce, brocolli and a bottle of refrigerated Udo’s Oil. Normally, we would have grabbed a bag of fish tacos or some other fast food and vanquished hunger pangs quickly. This time, we concocted a crisp green lettuce, tomato, brocolli and black bean salad topped with Udo’s Oil blended with fresh garlic, lemon, a dash of Furikake, sea salt and pepper. Oh–and we added a little portion of smoked salmon.

I also drank about 64 ounces of water during the journey home. (Another unusual behavior).

I awoke early this morning, did some breathing exercises and decided it feels good to be in an alkaline state. My batteries feel charged and something feels different as I start this day.  It’s not yet 7 a.m. (I was up at 5) and I am going through notes from the UPW event. Here is a random assortment:

  • Limited experiences create a limited life.
  • Change the way you think and change your life in a snap.
  • The only limits in life are those we impose on ourselves.
  • Rejection breeds obsession.
  • Quality of life is quality of emotions.
  • The only thing keeping me from what I want is the story I keep telling myself about why I can’t have it. It’s the story that screws us up.
  • Change is never a mattter of ability. It is always a matter of motivation.
  • The past does not equal the future–unless you live there.
  • It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is determined.
  • Life will always pay what you ask of it. ASK and you will receive.
  • You are your rituals.
  • Conditioning is how I get myself to follow through.
  • Dance with your fears. Engage them.
  • Change your state, change your life. Wherever focus goes, energy follows.
  • Want to change your life? Change who you spend time with.
  • Good is the enemy of great.
  • Complexity is the enemy of execution.
  • You can’t manage something you can’t measure (or as I’ve heard don’t expect what you can’t inspect).
  • Demand more of yourself than anyone can possibly imagine. Compete with the best you can be.
  • Think: “Victory is near!” anytime you are feeling down.
  • Raise your standards, change your life.
  • All beliefs carry with them consequences.
  • Interrupt someone’s patterns and you change the person.
  • You get what you tolerate.
  • Does God grow? The start of the Bible is different from the end.
  • Success leaves clues. Study the sucessful. Sow the same seeds, reap same rewards. (Maybe)

These are some note snippets taken during the four day event–which I would highly recommend to just aboout anyone. This morning, thanks to the experience, I have vowed to afford little time to those things that are beyond my control and contribution.

I can help feed the hungry, I can share kindness, I can write. I cannot change those bent on terrorism, the drug cartels–or someone who has no desire to change for the better. Henceforth, I’ll have less or time-limited focus on news (will still vote!), will avoid political/religious/social arguments with others, and will cease bitching about weather, traffic and the price of oil.

Thanks for the encouragement, Tim Hurja. You made a difference.

Life is good. I want to make it better. –Roberta Murphy






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Luxury Home Digest a Top Travel Blog?

by Roberta Murphy

Imagine my surprise this morning when we were notified that Luxury Home Digest had been named a top travel blog in the world–albeit #87 on the list!

Though we’ve written plenty about luxury homes, luxury destinations and favored hotels, more recently we’ve warned about travel to Mexico and Egypt because of political issues and potential dangers to travelers in these locations. And advising our readers to consider travel closer to home–at least until things calm down.

Regardless, here are some interesting travel blogs to consider: Continue reading

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Are You Being Tracked by Google?

by Roberta Murphy

Tracked by Google

Tracked by Google

Lately, have been thinking about the fact that I am tracked by Google almost everywhere I go–as long as my cell phone or tablet is with me.

To the left, you can see results from an amazing program I discovered yesterday at Junkee, and mental wheels are turning. Panic hasn’t set in, but that’s probably because I’m a law-abiding citizen and really don’t have anything to hide. But still….

Like most of you, my cell phone is rarely far from me–unless I happen to drive off and accidentally leave it at home.  And that’s a panic-inducing event. But to have Google tracking steps and stops in my own home (just zoom in!) or where I wander on Sunday hikes? Something short of panic might be my feeling of unease–and uncertainty.

The intrusiveness of not only Google, but the NSA, IRS, the HCA and other three-lettered government agencies is beginning to chafe at our collective psyches. And with new apps and programs, we can see what may be going on behind the scenes–and sometimes dish it out ourselves (or so we think).

I use a little program called YesWare that tracks my outgoing email. It supposedly allows me to see when an email is opened by the recipient. That may be true, but what is more interesting is that a local Carlsbad, CA email might show it being opened in Manassas, VA,  Germany, Amsterdam, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world. I have changed email passwords to no avail.

It it the NSA? Foreign hackers? A buggy program?

These things are a concern and raise alarm bells about fundamental rights to privacy. On the other hand, if I were kidnapped with my phone I would be tracked by Google and could be easily found.

Email is another story.



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The Luxury of Morphing into a Tree

A forest fed with cremated bodies.Instead of a cemetery with headstones, imagine a forest full of lush and beautiful trees with birds twittering above…and all fed by the ashes of our relatives. Imagine the power of just one tree.

I am personally not offended and have often suggested to sons and family that my eventual remains be fed to the tomato or kale plants in a garden somewhere.

This cremation idea from Urbanios has really caught my imagination, though–and just consider the possibilities of a lush green forest with monuments (perhaps) that tell a little about the tree and its benefactor:

“Here lies Roberta Murphy, who now feeds this perennial tree rather than the tomato plants she imagined. She loved her family, parrots, dogs, that alluring garden..and of course, her erratic writing habits.”

Apparently, one’s remains can be deposited into a biodegradable container which also contains a pine seed (or other tree seed). This container can then be planted, where the ashes will help nourish the seedling and eventual tree. Just imagine the possibilities and longevity if a redwood seed were included! That’s what I want.

I’m not totally sure why I am writing this, other than I intend to email this post to husband and sons so that they insure that my remains are nourishing something more substantial than a tomato plant. How about a redwood?

Care to join me in my forest?

by Roberta Murphy

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The Luxury of Breathing

Dust mites on mattressMy Dad Bob Michelson struggled with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). He, more than almost anyone I know, understood the luxury of breathing.

But so do others. Especially those with allergies to dust mites.

Long ago, I was holding an open house for a lovely pool home in a gated San Marcos, CA neighborhood. Mid-afternoon, a tall German man walked in and placed a small hygrometer on the dining room table and proceeded to preview the home. Unable to restrain curiosity, I inquired about the purpose of the meter, which was measuring humidity levels.

The gentleman replied in a thick dialect that he had sold his home on the beach in Del Mar because he is allergic to dust mites, who require humidity levels above 70 percent in order to survive. He explained they absorb moisture through their exoskeletons and that is the reason these pests thrive in humid conditions. He went on to say that it is the feces from dust mites (which float around the air) that can be so toxic to those with allergies to dust mites as there is no convenient way to avoid breathing their crap.

And the lower humidity levels in San Marcos explained why this wealthy German was looking to relocate to this more arid and inland city in San Diego County.

After this encounter I immediately purchased my own hygrometer at the local Radio Shack and almost simultaneously called my parents in ever-humid Houston, Texas to share this dust mite revelation. There, humidity levels are regularly above 80 percent which just might have explained my dad’s deteriorating COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) condition.

My folks also ended up moving to San Marcos a few months later, where my father’s condition improved enough for him to live another 8-plus years. He thrived during our fire seasons, when humidity levels drop into the single digits and we ended up purchasing a $200 dehumidifier for the winter season when we occasionally receive rain and have some overcast conditions. This portable machine kept humidity levels low and additionally helped filter the air.

Earlier this week, I received a call from a dear friend who is also battling COPD and was complaining about the congestion that seemed to accompany the recent rains. I shared with her the story of our German client, the hygrometer–and the dehumidifier, which she purchased from Amazon while we were still on the phone.

Of course, mattresses, pillows and mattress pads can also hold human humidity and it is wise to have covers that repel dust mites.

For anyone who struggles with COPD or other breathing issues, I continue to champion dry air, dehumidifiers, protective coverings and the use of a hygrometer to measure indoor (and even outdoor) humidity levels.

Let those mites die of dehydration!



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Obamacare and Mortgages

Obamacare and Mortgages

Obamacare and Mortgages

by Roberta Murphy

This blog is supposed to be about luxury, but lately I’ve been wondering about other things: Like, will health insurance costs become a consideration in qualifying for a mortgage or refinance?

Currently, health care costs are not a real consideration when lenders are considering one’s ability to pay for a mortgage.

Was this another unintended consequence of Obamacare and the Affordable Healthcare Act? We have several clients whose health care costs have gone from $300-$400 per month to well over $1000–and even far more.

Health insurance costs are not a qualifying factor when qualifying a buyer for a mortgage–even when health care coverage may exceed current rent and mortgage levels. Credit card bills, however, can make or break a mortgage deal–even if payments are half or less of one’s rent or current mortgage payment.

Just a consideration, but if a mortgage or refinance is in the works this year, you might consider pulling the trigger and get a mortgage with a rate we might not see again in this lifetime.  And this might especially be true if you have experienced a sharp spike in your health insurance costs. We are advising clients to buy or refinance before mortgage companies realize that these premiums are likely to be fixed costs, just as pressing as any credit card payments.

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The Luxury of Forgiving

I’m not sure why the luxury of forgiving pulls so strongly at me this morning, but perhaps it has to do with a beautiful story shared by Gena Riede that got me thinking.

ForgivingIt’s an account of a woman distracted by three dogs who becomes confused about her place in line at a Starbucks drive-through.  She apparently cut off another woman, who proceeded to scream obscenities at her in obvious anger and frustration.  The woman with dogs backed up and let her in–and what follows is a true revelation and reminder that forgiving and empathy can make our road in life a little less bumpy for all.


It’s all about letting go. The act of forgiving can be one of the most liberating things we do–and very often, the best place to start is with ourselves. Consider the magic of truly feeling these words:

I am forgiven.

By forgiving ourselves, which may the hardest thing we ever do, we are then freed to forgive others and perhaps understand our purpose in life a little better. I regret I did not spending more time with my parents while they were alive. I regret so many omissions (far more in number than my comissions) and wish there could be re-dos for so many lost opportunities.  But it feel so good to take a deep, meditative breath and say, “I am forgiven…I am.”

The forgiving of self and others allows me to see life through a clearer lens and peer more deeply and with more understanding into the pain and joys of others–and my own.  And if you read the beautiful story above, you’ll understand why I am going to look for the opportunity some day soon to pay someone’s way–or just do something that makes a difference in another’s outlook.



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The Luxury of Wine on Tap

Wine on TapHaven’t heard of wine on tap? If so, you’re not alone. The concept is still foreign to the average beverage connoisseur.

In fact, if most people were to walk into their favorite bar or restaurant and notice their wine was being served through a tube, they would do a double-take. However, an increasing number of luxury restaurants and bars across the U.S. are jumping on the trend, and for good reason: Wine on tap is eco-friendly, cost-effective, and maintains the flavor and integrity of the wine to a pitch-perfect degree.

Four Essential Elements of Serving Excellent Wine on Tap

If you’re considering this trend, keep the following elements in mind:

1. Storage Temperature

The storage temperature of your kegged wine should be about 55 degrees fahrenheit, with a minimum temperature of 40 degrees F and a maximum up 75 degrees F. Since the keg is less susceptible to variations in temperature and the high volume of the liquid can withstand temperature fluctuations, the range here is a bit larger than the range for traditionally stored wine. The same storage temperature applies for both red and white wines.

2. Serving Temperature

There’s a pretty major difference between the serving temperature of white wine on tap versus red. Reds can be served at temperatures ranging from 55 to 65 degrees fahrenheit. For wine wines, aim for a chilly 40 to 45 degrees fahrenheit.

3. Gas Type

Although you can use either nitrogen or argon for wine on tap, most people recommend nitrogen. The ideal blend is about 75% nitrogen and 25% carbon dioxide, and it also happens to be readily available. Guinness, a staple in many restaurants and bars, uses this blend too.

4. Equipment

A high-grade stainless steel dispenser (304 or better) is imperative, since a lower grade will taint the flavor of the wine. Fortunately, since stainless steel is an increasingly popular choice from fermentation to storage, finding the right dispenser for your wine on tap is easier than ever. For your tubing, consider Barriermaster Flavourlock, which prevents oxygen permeation and therefore changes in flavor.

Meg Northrup is a writer and wine connoisseur who works for Micromatic.com, a leader in the wine on tap trend

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Jumbo Loans Boosting 2013 Luxury Home Sales

Jumbo Mortgages

Luxury Home

Jumbo Loans are Back with a Bang to Fuel the Luxury Real Estate Market

by Selena Cowell
Is the luxury real estate market on the mend? Home sales and prices are gradually rising in those places where the wealthy would like to plant their mailboxes–such as Chicago’s North Shore, the San Francisco Bay area, the haute Hamptons and the Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla areas near San Diego.

According to recent reports,  national sales of properties in the  $75,000 and $1 million range are up by 38.7%  compared to a year ago. Meanwhile,  properties priced over $million are up by 25.7%, according to the National Association of Realtors. The good news is that the luxury real estate market is being driven by another resurgence–the jumbo mortgage loan.

These loans are typically over $417,000, the usual limit for qualifying by agencies like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Jumbo mortgage loans are gradually coming back to the market after they all but disappeared in the wake of the credit crisis of 2008. Although most lenders had stopped making new jumbo loans, they’re back in the market again.

Presently, the credit markets are comparatively stable and the lenders who lend such big loans to the most efficient homebuyers now see that jumbos are one of the most profitable ways of making money with the low cost deposits. The secondary market investors are starting to regain their taste for the high-yielding loans. The jumbo mortgage loans are being offered at interest rates that are barely higher than those offered by the conventional mortgage loans.

If you’re about to take out a jumbo mortgage loan, you should first calculate ‘mortgage how much can I borrow‘ before striking the final deal. The jumbo mortgage market might fare better than the overall mortgage market throughout 2013.

If income and/or assets are no barrier, you should have no diffiulty in finding mortgage loans up to $10 million-or more.

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