An Amazing Family (Re) Union

An Amazing Family (Re) Union

In February of 2021, I received a highly unanticipated text message on, the online DNA testing site. Someone who’d I had never met, or even heard of, sent me the following direct message:

I immediately looked at this person’s account information on to see what prompted this message as I had difficulty imagining why they would reach out to me. My initial impression raised my curiosity as they were listed as my first cousin:

This was interesting. We “likely share a set of grandparents.” But, my mind had already raced to the more logical conclusion, as the only family member I know that was in Panama at that time was my own father. He was there before I was born and I didn’t know if he was married at the time. If he did father a son there, I was very concerned about what impact it would have on him and on my mother, Sharon. So, for over a month, I did not tell anyone about this note or respond to Roy. I just contemplated it.

Eventually, I reached the conclusion that if it were me, and I was looking for my father, I would be hurt if someone just suppressed any helpful information. So I reached out to my older brother, Tommy, and told him what I knew so far. In the next several days, he learned the exact years that Dad was in Panama and that he’d actually met my mom after returning. With that information in hand, I decided to put the matter into my father’s hands.

After a visit with my mom and dad one day, I had my dad walk me out to my truck. I said, “Dad, I want to talk with you about something, but I don’t want to upset you.” He replied, “Son, nothing you say could upset me.” I smiled, “Okay, let’s see…”

After a brief description of the events and communications, he replied, “Well, it could be.” I told him that my brother was the only one who knew and any decision to move forward would be entirely his. Within a day or two, he called a Family Meeting. As a matter of context, I cannot ever recall him calling a Family Meeting before in my life. My brother and I met him and my mother at their house later that week and we went through everything we knew. My mom’s reaction was not entirely positive, as is understandable. She was under the impression that they were each other’s firsts when they married. But, she is a strong woman, and agreed with the emerging plan: I would reach out to Roy to determine what we should do next. So, I replied to Roy:

Roy reached out to me on iMessage and we began texting…lengthy texts…where we both expressed our amazement, caution, surprise, excitement, and concerns about the matter. Of particular note was a part of Roy’s message where he said that “…I asked if he knew the name of his father and all he knew was his first name ‘Layton or Leighton’ not sure of the spelling.” I replied that, “…based on the genetics, the timing, and the fact that my father’s name is Layton, I’d say you are my half-nephew. Quite a development.” He replied:

Roy informed me that his father, Jose, had submitted a sample to recently, but the results were not back. Roy would see them first as he set up the account for his father. He recommended that we wait until we had some more evidence because he didn’t want to give his father false hope. While we waited for the results, Roy and I began exchanging photos via iMessage. When I saw Jose, the family resemblance was immediately apparent. But we still held off in anticipation of the final results from

Cox Family: Layton, Tommy, Sharon, and Burke.
Jimenez Men: Jose Jr., Jose, Jose’s Stepfather, and Roy

We exchanged many more messages and I learned about Jose’s daughter, Aida, and that they had another brother, Gabriel, who had died from complications of Covid in 2020. Roy shared with me that he’d been communicating with his brother, Jose Jr., and his sister, Aida, and they all agreed they saw the family resemblance. We went back and forth with many, many messages of excitement and astonishment.

Per my arrangement with my father, I still kept the secret between this small group. On one visit with my father, I asked how he was feeling about the situation. He said he had talked with some some trusted people at his church and everyone was supportive and that he’d discussed it with a few others as well. I asked, “Who else?” He replied, “My sister Myra, granddaughter Alicia, brother-in-law Tom…” and the list kept going. I realized this secret was out of the bag and that with the pending results from, the communications between the families would soon outgrow the current channel between just Roy and me.

I added Tommy to the text message discussion and he, Roy, and I began texting even more. We shared so many pictures and thoughts about the situation. Frankly, we were all getting very excited about it and began referring to our families as one and stumbling through the relationships….it was so confusing at first! We would say “cousin” one time, then “brother”, then “nephew” as we were constantly trying to “do the math.” We learned that Jose had moved here in the nineties and had tried unsuccessfully to find his father and that the entire family was living in New York.

Then, on Sunday March 28th, I received this message from Roy with information from Jose’s account:

I quickly confirmed on my own account and, as Ron Burgundy might say, “Things escalated quickly.” Now, the Jimenez clan scheduled their own Family Meeting to tell Jose that they had located his father, alive and well in Alabama, and that he had two brothers as well. They shared a video of them showing the results to Jose and, now that he knew, information really started flowing fast. Dozens of pictures from both families were exchanged and everyone on both sides was frantically trying to figure out who everyone on the other side was.

Just about a week later, on Easter Sunday, April 4th, we shared the pictures and videos with my dad for the first time at a gathering at Tommy’s (and his wife Julie’s) house. For the first time, my dad was able to see his 59 year old son that he never realized he had. Of course, everyone on the Jimenez side kept asking about how it was going. We shared a video of my dad seeing all the evidence with them and also relayed that my mom was acclimating to the revelation. By the end of the day we received a message from Jose that he was looking forward to meeting us all when the pandemic permitted travel.

Now, we had to get more people involved. I set up a private Facebook group for the families and distant cousins began posting pictures and comments. Everyone was so sweet and welcoming on both sides of the family. The messages continued on Facebook and in an ever-expanding text message group. Before long, everyone was talking about meeting in person. Within a month, a plan had emerged for the Jimenez family to come to Alabama and visit with the Cox family the weekend of July 31st. So amazing, within 90 days of the first contact we had made plans for the first Family (Re) Union.

As the weekend approached over the next two months, we learned more and more about the families. Jose and my father had spoken on the phone several times and we had sent text messages, exchanged phone calls, and did FaceTime calls many times. It became clear to both families that we would enjoy our time together, but of course we were all still very nervous. A sixty-year old puzzle had been solved, but there was so much to communicate in the meantime. There were still sensitivities and occasionally private messages would be exchanged as each side addressed delicate topics.

By July, the trip was fully planned. Jose and his wife Aida would be coming to Alabama, arriving Friday, July 30th and departing on Monday, August 2nd. Joining them was their oldest son, Jose Jr., his wife Yvelisse, and their two children, Daniela and Vincent. Also coming were Jose and Aida’s daughter, also named Aida, and – of course – the instigator of the entire (Re) union, Roy. My daughter, Riley, also drove in for the trip from Missouri. For the first night, we decided to get the three brothers together with members of their family. We all met at The Club which overlooks Birmingham. Tommy’s wife, Julie, filmed the first encounter:

The Jimenez family arrives at The Club to meet the Cox family for the first time.

As the evening went on, we took many pictures as you can see below. By now, most of these faces should be familiar, but Jose’s wife, Aida, and Tommy’s wife, Julie, appear here for the first time.

We were having such fun, the three brothers and a few others decided to continue to (re) union at a local sports bar, The Hickory Tavern.

The next day, Tommy and Julie hosted an event at their house for Jose to meet my (and his) dad for the first time. I am sure everyone was a bit nervous, but after The Club and Hickory Tavern, we already felt like family by this point. The video from the first meeting:

The first meeting of Layton and Jose after nearly sixty years.

For this event, a much larger group was a present including children, cousins, and grandkids….

The next day, we weren’t entirely sure what to do. It was a pretty day though and we had leftover food from Saturday, so we decided to meet back up at Tommy and Julie’s house. This time everyone was fully relaxed and we all felt like one big happy family. And, on this day, the cornhole went to a new level.

My iPhone summarized the day by creating this video…

On Monday we met up at lunch once again as a family. Both Layton and Jose took a moment to speak and shared what a meaningful event the weekend had been for them both. Layton shared that the faith he holds so dear was only accentuated by the events of the weekend and learning he had a son and that their family shared the core value of his Christian faith: Love One Another. Jose remarked about the loss of his beloved son Gabriel and how he had felt so lost, but that he believed the Architect had placed a new family in his life to help fill that terrible void.

Needless to say, there were tears all around. But so much joy for everyone. For me, it has been such a privilege to meet this new family of mine and to be embraced in such a pure and loving way. I know I can speak for the entire group, on both sides of the family, that we all feel incredibly blessed to make this mutual discovery in time for Jose to meet Layton and Sharon. And, certainly, we are all in great anticipation for the first REUNION of this new mixed family.

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

On this Memorial Day, we come together to pay tribute to the courageous souls who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation.

As we enjoy the warmth of family gatherings and the joy of shared laughter, let us never forget the true significance of this day. We honor the heroes who selflessly paved the way for the freedoms we hold dear.

May their legacy inspire us to live with gratitude and uphold the values they fought so valiantly to protect!

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Does your portfolio support your retirement income needs?

Does your portfolio support your retirement income needs?

As retirement approaches, one of the biggest concerns for many people is generating income to cover living expenses. For those who have invested in growth and income stocks, it can be tempting to rely on the income generated by these stocks to meet their financial needs. However, as with any investment, there is always a degree of risk involved. If the stock market experiences a downturn, the income generated by these stocks may not be enough to cover living expenses. In this situation, retirees may be forced to sell equity positions in order to generate the income they need. This can be a risky strategy, as it can erode the principal value of their portfolio and leave them with less money to fund their retirement.

One alternative strategy that retirees may consider is moving some of their investments from growth and income stocks into a real estate investment trust (REIT). REITs are companies that own or finance income-producing real estate properties. They offer investors a way to invest in real estate without the hassle of owning and managing physical properties. Instead, investors purchase shares in a REIT, which represents a portion of the ownership in the underlying real estate assets.

There are several reasons why investing in a REIT can be a good strategy for retirees. First, REITs typically offer higher dividend yields than growth and income stocks. This means that retirees can generate a higher level of income from their investments without having to sell equity positions. In addition, REIT dividends are often more stable and predictable than the dividends paid by growth and income stocks. This can be particularly important for retirees who rely on a consistent stream of income to cover their living expenses.

Another advantage of investing in a REIT is that it can provide diversification benefits. Real estate is a different asset class than stocks, and it can provide a source of returns that is not correlated with the stock market. By investing in a REIT, retirees can reduce their exposure to stock market volatility and potentially reduce their overall portfolio risk.

Finally, investing in a REIT can provide retirees with exposure to the potential benefits of real estate ownership without the headaches of being a landlord. REITs are managed by professional management teams who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the properties. This means that investors can benefit from the potential appreciation of real estate without having to worry about managing tenants, repairs, and maintenance.

Investing in a REIT can be a good strategy for retirees who are looking for a stable source of income and diversification benefits. By moving some of their investments from growth and income stocks into a REIT, retirees can generate higher levels of income without having to sell equity positions. In addition, they can benefit from the stable and predictable dividends offered by REITs and the potential diversification benefits of investing in real estate. Overall, a REIT can be a valuable addition to a retiree’s investment portfolio.

Whether or not you support gun control, do not increase funding for the ATF; here’s why.

Whether or not you support gun control, do not increase funding for the ATF; here’s why.

I saw this article today that the current administration is seeking to make a radical increase in funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”).  This is a tragic mistake.

I led a proposal effort to win an important software development contract (over $100M) with this agency several years ago.  When we won, I spoke with the outgoing contractor who shared with me, “You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

In fact, we were the fifth consecutive contractor who got sideways with this agency during execution of the contract, where we were developing new software systems for their agents to manage cases, access investigatory information, and track firearms used during the commission of crimes.

I found the technical leadership at ATF to be the most incompetent, dishonest, and technically inept organization I worked with in over a decade providing critical consulting services with the federal government.

Any additional funding to this organization should be equated to setting hard-earned taxpayer dollars on fire.

Over a year of deceit, and bringing the full force of the Department of Justice legal minds to accuse my firm of failing to deliver on our promises, eventually resulted in an embarrassing settlement (the non-disclosure terms of which I do not remember so I will not provide details). This agreement protected their incompetence from becoming known but deprived their agents of an upgrade to key systems (the fifth failure in a row from as many contractors) sorely needed by their field agents.

The level of their incompetence was staggering.  The lack of principled leadership: embarrassing. The pettiness of their retaliatory efforts: mind boggling. And the corruption of their acquisitions team: disgusting.

The experience eventually drove me out of doing business with the federal government, becoming disillusioned that we could ever provide meaningful technology for the field agents who often put their lives at risk to perform dangerous and complex missions. I urge Congress to reject any material increase in funding to this agency until an independent investigation into the millions spent developing information technology systems there can be radically transformed.  

Without that, you’re just burning more taxpayer funds.

Visualizing New Developments with Virtual Reality

Visualizing New Developments with Virtual Reality

Our partner company, Christopher Architecture & Interiors, has recently helped us develop virtual reality tours of some of the projects we are developing. It is hard to mimic their impact by viewing them in a browser, but when using a Meta Quest 2 VR Headset, you can really feel the scope and dimension of the project in a way that traditional renderings do not provide. If you’re in Birmingham, Alabama sometime, you are welcome to drop by our offices and try it for yourself. For a less immersive look, here are a few of the VR experiences developed so far for our Alta Hotel and Residences project in Vestavia Hills, Alabama:

Inside VR tour of the Alta property (Note the controls on the bottom left to switch through different areas of the hotel)
Outside VR tour of the Alta property (Note the controls on the bottom left to switch through different outside areas of the property)

For some context, you can view the current plans for the project here.

Made money in tech? Why you should consider putting some into a REIT

Made money in tech? Why you should consider putting some into a REIT

According to US News and World Report, the #1 best job in America is a software developer. It joins three other tech jobs in the top ten list for 2023. Over time, these jobs lead to executive responsibility and, often, equity participation in technology companies.

These highly profitable ventures often lead technology professionals to believe that they have the “magic solution” to making money and they commit their capital to other technology ventures. Often these are with friends or past colleagues.

Forget that 9 out of 10 tech startups fail. Fully 75% of venture-backed tech startups fail as well. These are companies that have been vetted by the best minds in the industry, giving consideration to market, marketing, team composition, tech challenges, financing, operations, and legal issues.

But successful technology executives often imagine they can read the tea leaves better than a lay person and put their capital resources into tech that they understand. Most of them will lose money. That is an empirical fact.

Looking at investment allocation trends, middle income investors (< $471K net worth) tend to have most of their investment in retirement accounts and securities, with less than 8% in real estate (excluding their personal residence). Upper income ($471K – $10.3M) adjust the composition to as much as 25% of their portfolio. The ultra rich ($10.3M+) often see real estate exceed 40% of their investment portfolio.

Real estate does not often offer the hockey-stick growth that a tech startup can achieve. But, it also rarely goes to zero, which many of those 90% failed startups do.

A REIT (a Real Estate Investment Trust) offers a great way for a tech executive to diversify some of their capital out of the market. REITs are managed investments that provide a completely passive way for an investor to gain the benefit of real estate ownership without the hassles of becoming a landlord.

When considering a REIT investment, you should consider the vertical niche the REIT prioritizes, the fees assessed by the management company of the REIT, and the past performance of the REIT as related to its plan for the future.

Regardless, any successful tech executive should model what the wealthy and uber-wealthy practice in their portfolios and add more real estate to provide a firm foundation to their portfolios as uncertain market conditions approach.

What’s Going on With REITs? An Investors Guide

What’s Going on With REITs? An Investors Guide

Chris Hill writes about a podcast between Motley Fool analyst Deidre Woollard and Motley Fool contributor Matt Frankel covering a lot of great information about REITs including:

  • How REITs differ from stocks.
  • Publicly traded REITs vs. private REITs.
  • One office REIT that’s evolving.
  • Ways to spot a yield trap.
  • REITs benefiting from e-commerce trends.

Check out the article here, it also contains an embedded recording of the podcast.

Quick Look: Investors Optimistic about Retail REITs on Black Friday

Quick Look: Investors Optimistic about Retail REITs on Black Friday

I’m not entirely sure what the takeaway is from this article, but it’s interesting that investors are pushing up retail REITs as we head into the holiday season. Kevin Vandenboss writes in this article from Yahoo Finance that REITs with retail tenants mostly traded higher even as early reports were that the holiday shopping season was off to a slower-than-normal start.

REITs give everyday investors the chance to own and profit from a slice of U.S. real estate. Here’s how they work

REITs give everyday investors the chance to own and profit from a slice of U.S. real estate. Here’s how they work

In Fortune online, Tanza Loundenback, CFP answers the question of “What are REITs? How to invest in a real estate investment trust this year” as she looks into what REITs are, how they work, investment strategies and taxation implications in this article.