Thursday, August 7, 2008

I've Had the Time of My Life

It's been such a fun ride for me--writing this blog and getting to know some of you. I have no complaints and every bit of it has been a blast!

At this point in my life and in the growth of our family and business, I have no choice but to end the run of this blog. The great news is that, after over a year of steady increases, the company that we started from absolutely nothing (technically, it was less than nothing, but I digress) has become something. We've grown so far that we've changed the name of our business, maintain a large client base (which, hopefully, will become even bigger), and have a much wider array of products (thousands more, to be exact).

Not only that, I have other writing obligations now that will prove to be more fruitful than my "little journal," as someone once called it. I wrote here and on my previous blog because I didn't want those who've lost money in real estate to feel alone--plus, word groups are constantly forming in my head and usually have no where to go (which may have been for the best, now that I think about it). However, if I wanted my writing to become known, then my goal has been reached. I'd like to thank all of you for spreading the word about my blogs and for helping to keep me motivated to publish in this venue. Honestly, I wouldn't change a thing about my experience.

My family has always come first, and they still do. School will be starting soon, so I have to ensure that my schedule can accommodate my children's education and my tasks in our business. I have an excellent system set up now, but the test will begin after our activities start for the school year.

I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do and to have the amazing husband and children that I've been given during my short time on this earth. I hope that many of you feel the same about your lives and your vocations.

You may be hearing from me again. I look forward to meeting you one day or, at least, bumping into you in cyberspace once more. I have so much to tell you, but it will have to wait for another place and time. Since I haven't been able to edit all of the drafts that I've written for this blog, I may use them for my column in our local paper.

If you ever get out to Whine Country Temecula, please stop by. The kids and I will keep the whine chilling at the perfect temperature for you.

God bless!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Confessions of a Former TV Addict

Here is the column that I wrote for the August edition of The Temecula Bugle:

We fell in love with Wine Country Temecula the first time we drove through. We wanted acreage, but couldn’t find the right area—until our jaunt through the groves and vineyards.

It was 2003 and finding a home proved to be a race. Every time we wanted to make an offer, someone beat us to it. We finally purchased a house on the day that it was listed. It was so far out that there was no cable service. No high speed Internet. But, worse, no television! Satellite was out of the question for us. I knew that it was best for our family to leave the reception behind.

This was no small detail for me. Watching television was the best part of my childhood. How could I abandon it after so many (enjoyable) years?

My desire to move trumped my horror at giving up my addiction. Since I’d soon be forced to forgo my beloved set, my husband suggested that I stop cold turkey before we relocated. The thought alone sent me into uncontrollable shaking, sweating, and gnashing of teeth. The withdrawal symptoms caused a dizzying spin of flashbacks—Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, Partridge Family, Brady Bunch. It was hard, but I successfully kicked the habit before we moved.

That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. Sometimes, when I want to know what’s going on in the world, it would be easier to have a talking head tell me rather than read it myself. Or, when I hear about my old favorites like Survivor, American Idol, and CSI, I feel a slight longing to see them again.

However, between our daily routines, homeschooling, and running a business, we don’t have time for television. When we have an opportunity, our seven children enjoy watching DVD’s of old shows like Gunsmoke, The Waltons, Andy Griffith, and MacGyver.

Yet, when I’m in a hotel room, I grab the remote and dig right in. Unfortunately, the face of entertainment has changed so dramatically that I hardly recognize it. It’s not about diversion or information anymore. It’s about which network can be the most shocking. Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy most of what I’ve seen recently.

Choosing Wine Country over television was a decision I'll never regret.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Time, What's Become of You?

No time to post for a few days. I'll try to be back as soon as possible--maybe this weekend. Not sure. It's all good! Business has me hopping and my other writing obligations take priority. I have a few posts in draft form that I need to edit before I publish, so I'll try to get to it soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back in Time

Wouldn't it be great to go back and revisit some of the happiest times of your life (assuming that you've had good times)?

In 1996, we moved from the stadium area of San Diego to Sabre Springs, a north San Diego suburb near Poway. I started homeschooling that year. A friend of mine, who has never homeschooled, introduced me to a group in the Poway area. This started some of the best times in my life.

The women in this particular homeschooling group accepted me immediately, even though I didn't have a clue about anything: education, religion, politics, style, etc. They never preached to me, but just taught me by the examples that they lived on a daily basis. I was never judged, and no one ever gossiped about me when I wasn't around (I know this because I never heard a word of gossip from any of those women). Sometimes we would combine our activities with a group in Escondido. These women were of the same caliber as the ones in my area.

All of my children's friends were in this group, and no one ever felt excluded. Watching teenagers playing soccer with eight year olds--or even three-year-olds--was always entertaining. Everyone managed to have fun. Utopia it was not, but it was about as close as you can get. Happy, carefree, supportive, and united.

For the past several years, many of us have moved away. Most left for other states. It's sad, but that's how life is. You expect that what tied you together before will always be there. I'm blessed to be able to communicate and visit with our friends down south, who I still keep in close touch with today. It's not the same, but, as children grow and we age, we are all bound to change.

One of these dear friends, who relocated to another state, was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, she wanted to re-create our group for one afternoon. She invited nine of her friends in that area, who met every week at a park in Poway.

After a very crazy morning, I packed up six of my kids and made the hour drive to this get together. When I arrived, it was as though nothing had changed. Yes, the kids were significantly older, and many weren't there because they were starting lives of their own. However, our circle of conversations, the children playing soccer in the field, and the dads who came by to say hello to old friends, was nostalgic to me. I felt as though I had taken a time machine back to 1998. The sense of peace and happiness at being able to recapture a few hours of bygone years was overwhelming.

Thanks to a friend, who has embraced the present, yet had a vision of the past, we all felt a bit more content that day. This makes me wonder how many opportunities I have missed in connecting with those who were once special to me, but have quietly vanished over the years. In some cases, I don't think that the Christmas card is enough. Maybe I should pick up the phone or find those e-mail addresses for a quick hello that may evolve into a rekindling of old friendships.

Maybe you should do the same.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Picture Is Worth Thousands of Square Feet

I had told you about how commercial properties and developments keep popping up regardless of the state of the economy. If big corporations are behind all the building, I can understand how they can float the cost until a recovery takes place.

But what do you make of regular homeowners adding on and improving their homes now? I know the market will recover, but spending tons of money on a currently depreciating asset doesn't make sense to me unless you're sprucing it up to sell--especially if your cost basis is more than market value. It's not like the price of construction has dropped significantly out here. When we were asking for estimates for a garage conversion (that we never did), the quotes we received seemed to be just as expensive per square foot as it was two years ago.

Temecula has so many foreclosures now that it's mind boggling. Even in Whine Country. Yet, I've driven by homes with pools or other elaborate exterior landscaping being added. It's not too many, but today I saw the most ostentatious display.

On Avenida Lestonnac across the street from the only Catholic school in Temecula, a rather large construction project is taking place. The houses on this street are five years old or newer. This house was a beautiful, large Spanish-style estate, with a big separate guest house.

When I drove by a few weeks ago, it looked like they were tearing down the front portion of the home. I hadn't watched the progress before I saw it today. It appears that the homeowners are expanding the front of the house to extend about 30 feet wider and, maybe, 80-100 feet longer, almost to the guest house. Oh, and they're adding a second story to the bottom floor expansion. Here is one part of it:

Here is the other angle:

Those arches aren't all garages. The original separate guest house is behind the porta potty.

Here is the full add-on. I had to drive up another street in order to get the whole project in one shot. I'm sure that, by the time we were done, the residents had our license plate number and the cops are on the way to question us now.

Not only is it two stories of more room than I've had in all of the homes I've owned put together, but it has a catwalk on the second floor (why? I don't know--it just looks like a floating hallway) encased on both sides by glass. Wow! It almost looks like a gaudy hotel.

This project completely eclipses the portion of the original structure that's still standing. So we had to drive by it, turn right at the next street, drive up the little hill, and take a picture from the back to show you the rest of the house. It starts just beyond the white fence. You can see the construction directly behind the roof of the house from this angle. (I'm not sure, but that may be only the guest house.)

So, what parts of the economy are thriving right now? Hmmm. Maybe the owner works for an oil company. Why he took up residence in Temecula across the street from a school, I'll never know.

And, by the way, the house next door (not pictured in my shots) is for sale. Remember how we talked about why anyone would want to sell in this market (I can't find the post--perhaps it was all in my head). Well, maybe, just maybe, the neighbors are having financial problems. Is it Rich Guy's fault? Heck no. But, if I were Struggling Guy, I'd want to hightail it out of there before the Motel 6 opens next door.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Deal of the Century

Well, maybe not the century, but definitely the decade.

We owned two just like it, one on the same street. The floor plan is wonderful, but the lot is the size of a postage stamp--literally (Z lot--meaning that eves from this house and one next door over lap with each other). The one we bought on this street was our very first rental. We paid $187,000 in 2000, including the upgrades, and sold it in 2005 for $385,000. The other one had an even smaller lot, but we bought it for $193,000 in 2000 and sold it in 2005 for $405,000. The other one was harder to sell because it was still occupied by tenants whose lease was about to expire. Too bad we spent our profit on rotten apartments.

The one on this street rented for between $1,695 and $1,795 (private with slightly bigger lot) and the other one $100 less. It's in a tiny gated community with a pool and playground directly in the heart of town right between elementary and middle schools--both within walking distance. Taxes were a low 1.03% and the HOA was $109 at the time it sold. HOA fees pay for front yard (not much of one) maintenance.

If I could, I'd snap this up in a heartbeat. It's probably too late already, as most in the neighborhood are listed for mid to high $200's.

Check it out:

42090 Calabria DR, TEMECULA, 92591, CA
Price $199,000

MLS #: H08090675
Year Built: 2000
House size: 1,985 sq. feet
Lot size: 3,484 sq. feet
Status: Active
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 3.00
TG#: 959A5
APN: 921790011
Pool: Y
Spa: Y
View: N
Area: 209 - Temecula-North
Type: Single Family Residence / Detached

Property Description
This great home located in the Sycamore Creek Gated Community, home shows light and bright, open floor plan, formal living room, formal dining room, kitchen with eating area, open to a large family room. All bedrooms on 2nd floor with an office area at the top of the stairs. Upstairs Laundry room, 2-car garage attached, long side driveway for extra parking. Located by the kids' park, guest parking, and community pool.

How Would You Like to Have This Job?

I think this is worse than the foreclosure auctioneer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Guess what my husband and I have been doing for the last few days. Focusing on our business? No.

Concerned about the bank situation.

If you're reading the mainstream media or any of the blog sites that like to elicit panic, you know that any bank that has real estate loans on its books is in danger of failing. The more they have, the worse off they are. Many analysts believe that other banks will fall very soon on the heels of the IndyMac disaster.

So, as you can imagine, I've been nervous~to put it lightly. Then I proceeded to get my husband worked up. While he waited to hear back from his contacts in the banking industry, I was begging him to go to our bank (one that should have been relatively safe) and withdraw all of our money. "What do we do with it once we take it out?" he asked. To which my researched and intelligent reply was, "I don't know." I thought that maybe we could put it all in a cashier's check, but then that has the potential of being worthless. I figured that he could hire a couple of armed guards, handcuff a suitcase to his wrist, and cash it all out. Then what? Which bank is safe?

My sister, the accountant, reviewed the 2008 first quarter financial records of four banks. Three of them did not look good. One of them was mine. She thought we should take our money out. But then what?

I spoke with my brother. He said that we should never worry if our accounts are FDIC insured and under $100K (haven't had to worry about that for the last year). He said he wouldn't even go near his bank if it failed. He'd just do business as usual. I think he puts way too much faith in the government. How do you perform transactions if your money is frozen for a number of days? FDIC had almost $53,000,000,000,000 in funds. The nations banks have over $4.4 trillion insured. You do the math. Not only that. FDIC just spent $7-8 billion bailing out IndyMac so far.

Work with me on this. Let's say I'm not so lucky as to have my bank fail next. That it fails, I don't know, let's say . . . tenth. And I'm at the end of the line. "Sorry, the previous customer just withdrew our last $100,000. There's no more left in the fund."

My husband spoke to both of his close contacts in the banking industry. They each told him, independently, that we should take no action. They told him that, if the FDIC runs out of money, we have a much bigger problem on our hands than trying to access our meager funds.

Now I'm worried that I'm not worrying about the right thing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Business News

You may have noticed that I didn't post much about business or real estate last week. I was teaching a class of fourth graders at Vacation Bible School. I hadn't been returning home with the kids until mid-afternoon (because we live in the boondocks), so I don't know much about what's going on in this world. I'll have to do some major catching up this week.

However, I do know what's going on in our business. Things are really hopping--even with my husband's two week vacation in June. We have fulfilled many orders and my husband has had appointments with very large potential customers. We have been reordering for many clients, and we have some P.O.'s being sent almost every week.

My husband has been considering phasing out some of our local souvenir items. These would be products that we developed in the earlier days before they were sold. They are the few items that we carry in inventory. The promotional products that we sell now are specially ordered and all items are sold before they're shipped, so we don't have to store anything or pay for it up front (except for the balance that's due from the customer).

Also, we are increasing our "minimums" on many products. Some of our smaller clients only order a few of something, like shirts embroidered with their logos. This is very time consuming and the profit is small. Now these clients will be told that the minimum they must order has been increased. If they want to follow through, that's great. If not, then it won't effect our bottom line. They will make the decision for themselves and we won't have turn them down. We enjoy working with them and hope that they will continue to do business with us.

As for our structure, we hired one son to develop our new web site after work. His full-time job is a web designer--go figure, he graduated with a liberal art's degree. My other son revamped the logo to our new business name by adding a very cool blurred background that matches the name. We're trying to incorporate it on to the web site, but there are some technical difficulties that I don't understand.

Once the web site is up and running, it will be so much easier to market our company. The site will be hooked in to a promotional products association that has access to thousands of products. Clients will be able to peruse these at their leisure. Since we don't want end users to stumble onto our site, parts of it have to be password protected.

We also begged hired my sister to work for us as our accountant. She is not only an accountant to several businesses and a professor of accounting at her local junior college, but she also teaches Quick Books, and has been helping us with ours for some time now. She has agreed to start in September because of her busy schedule.

It takes my husband many hours per month to keep our books in order, and, since he must balance to the penny (it's a good thing that the task doesn't fall to me!), it's very time consuming and takes his focus away from sales. There are other bookkeeping responsibilities that he needs to pass on, also.

He just informed me that our new system will work like this:

1) He'll take all orders and be the liaison with the client--I wont communicate with them at all. He's the face of the company--and a very handsome one at that (he reads my blog, so I was obligated to throw that in--Hi, Honey!).

2) The orders will come directly to me with the artwork. I'll place them with our suppliers and follow through until they are fulfilled on or before the deadline (again, that's why I am the "Order Fulfillment Department"). If I have any questions for the client, I will submit them to my husband and he will contact the customer. On it's face, this appears to be a needless step, and we have been eliminating it so far. However, this keeps my husband in the loop and, more importantly, doesn't make the client feel like they've been "handed off" and are no longer valuable just because we've made the sale.

3) All invoices will be paid by our accountant, my sister. If a purchase order doesn't match up with the invoice, she'll notice and call us. My husband doesn't have to spend his time inputting this information or making payments. She will also be paying all the bills for the company through our bank online. It's a perfect system of checks and balances for us at this point in time.

The best news is that our sales have increased every month! We have the infrastructure now to accommodate many more customers. We want to make sure that our service is always top-notch and the clients are happy.

So increasing our client base is our number one goal.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yet Another Advantage to Living in Whine Country

We've lived out in the "country" for five years now. I have to say that, so far, this is the worst year for summer bugs. Winter is nice because there are few crawling critters and flies. When the temperature goes up, though, we have enough bugs to make an entomologist jealous.

I have had ants and spiders crawl up my arms and legs--or on my bed and in my nose. I woke up choking on a little spider once. We have bugs so small that they fit through the tiny squares in the window screens. Every month seems to bring it's own set of different species.

This is the year of the spiders. Lots and lots of spiders. Big spiders, little spiders. Most of all, this is the year of the Black Widow.

I started noticing them in the beginning of the month when my husband and oldest boys were in Rome (of course!). The webs are three dimensional, haphazard looking, and very, very sticky.

The first one I saw was suspended on a web off of a front porch slat. I was calling the dogs late at night and noticed it. I couldn't give it a hit it with my slipper because it would have just pushed it away. So, the brilliant person that I am when put on the spot, I ran inside and grabbed two fly swatters. The idea was to slam Ms. Widow between them. I'm not afraid of spiders like some people I know (there is a certain creepy factor, though), but I didn't want to risk a Black Widow flying down my shirt and biting me while I was the only adult here with the children.

As soon as one swatter touched the super sticky web, it shook the trap and scared the spider up under the porch rail. The next day, I took a stick and tried to scare it out, but I didn't find it. When my husband returned, I told him that, if he looked out the window at night, he'd see a Black Widow on the porch. Right on schedule, she came out and my husband introduced her to the bottom of his shoe.

Since then, I've spotted the very obvious web between the mailboxes, in several places in the garage, inside the backyard toy box, near the hoses, in the garden, between the trees, and just about everywhere--except inside the house. That's because every other type of spider is sharing our quarters. They're after the ants and other myriad of bugs.

I think my worst experience here with a spider was when I was entering my lav and I noticed that a large one was hanging on a web descending directly down to the toilet. If I had sat down a second earlier, it would have landed on my head! I killed it, but now I check for hanging attackers every time I visit my little hiding place commode.

I know that one day, I just won't worry about it anymore. I don't know when, though, because I still check the toilet for snakes. You see, when I was about seven years old, the media reported extensively on a woman who found a snake in her toilet. It came up from the sewer. Police, fire, media, and helicopters were dispatched to her house. So I still look for them inside the bowl--just in case. It's been 36 years.

I wonder if I'll remember to check for spiders when I'm 79.

UPDATE #1: OK, you may not believe this, but, directly after writing the post above, I walked into my bedroom. I thought it might be nice, on such a beautiful evening, to open the window and get some cool air. When I pulled up the blinds, I found a spider suspended in front of the exterior of the glass, spinning a web. My children, who were playing outside at the time, were called over for this science class. The spider couldn't care less that we were making noise around it, as it seemed in a hurry to complete it's trap (it must have been dinner time). Very cool.

Here, see for yourselves:

UPDATE #2: Yesterday, my husband had to clean the exterior of the mailbox by wiping away the webs and spiders. Thinking it was safe, he pulled out the mail and started to scan for checks personal letters. From the corner of his eye, he noticed something moving on his shirt. It was a huge black spider. Unfortunately, we'll never know if it was a Black Widow, as the corpse is unidentifiable.

Today, it was my turn to pick up the mail. I stopped the car and sent my son out (only because he loves to get the mail and not because I didn't want to stick my hand in the spider hovel mailbox). He brought the mail inside the car just in time to have a brown spider scamper out. That's two executions in the same amount of days.

When will the carnage end?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Where Did You Put My Underwear?

Here is a copy of my column in the July edition of the The Murrieta Bugle:

How difficult is it to sort, fold, and properly distribute the laundry? Evidently, in my household of nine, it's impossible.

I'm more than happy to wash several giant loads of laundry every other day. When it comes out of the dryer, it's stacked sky high on our couch. For a day and a half (longer on weekends), we're constantly shifting the clothes from one side to the other so we can make room to sit.

Before it's time to do laundry again, I have some of the boys fold. They don't fight with each other about who's doing the most work anymore. They grew tired of losing privileges. Now they debate because one likes to sort it before they fold, while the other firmly believes that it's more efficient to sort after. When they ask my opinion, my response is, "I don't care how you do it, just fold the laundry and put it away." It helps to add, "In a minute, I'm going to set the timer." That usually inspires them to miraculously compromise on the spot.

Distributing the newly folded laundry properly, however, is a concept that continues to elude them. How hard could it be to differentiate my older daughter's clothing from the baby's? One wears big pink clothes and the other small pink ones. Never fail, the baby's pile will include a shirt big enough to cover her knees.

I've been given the boys' undergarments and they get mine (which, to clarify, look nothing like theirs). My husband doesn't fit into the size 10 shirts that show up on the bed, and his supposed dress socks are so small that they'd cut off his circulation. My older son finds size 7 pants in his stack and my teenager frequently asks the boys, "Where did you put my underwear?"

But recently, I discovered the strangest mix-up ever. With wet hands, I blindly reached into the cupboard under my kitchen sink, where I keep stacks of fresh towels. Instead of a white fluffy cloth, I pulled out a pair of my teenager's underwear! Bending to peer inside, I discovered his unmentionables piled over his socks on top of my otherwise clean towels. "I found them!" I shouted, stifling a chuckle.

Look for my column next month in both the Temecula and Murrieta editions.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Here's Your Chance

For the past few months, I've noticed a large vineyard on Rancho California Road that seemed to be a bit neglected. The vines are growing quite nicely, but the acreage is marred by weeds and tall grass.

Today, the property was lined with "Private Auction" signs along its frontage, and one giant sign on the corner. So, of course, I rushed home and looked it up.

Here is your chance to own your very own producing vineyard. I find it interesting that, in the "Harvest Information", it reports 2004-2005 "retail value" production of over $8,600,000, but there is no expense information of how much it costs to make all that wine.

By the way, the pictures on the auction site look nothing like the real property (surprise!). I guess that's why an inspection is always wise before forking over your 10% down after the 7% commission fees are tacked on to the sale price.

Oh, and, if you'd like some property out here, you may want to compare the cost of a "producing vineyard" with that of just plain land.

Friday, July 4, 2008

No Whining Today

As much as celebrating the 4th of July is a great tradition for this country, it's a shame that we need a reminder to appreciate that which we so frequently take for granted.

We have freedoms that so few other countries enjoy. My dad, who served in the Army-Air Force in WWII, would wake me every morning and tell me to be grateful that I have the privilege to live in the United States of America. He was born here, raised in another country, and fought for our freedom. He had a unique perspective.

Even so, do we find much to whine about today? Yes, at times. Our dependence on foreign oil is one of them. Our current economy is another. And there's, oh, so much more.

Yet, as Americans, we have the choice to worship when, where, and Who we want. We may run any business we wish under our system of free enterprise. We may join any occupation that we enjoy (or, in too many cases, don't). We may marry freely to whomever we choose. We have adequate food, water, and sewer systems. We travel quickly and easily from place to place. These are some of the activities that we take for granted everyday, while many others in this world don't have access to any of the things that I listed above.

However, our freedom comes at a price. I, like others, reap the benefits of the sacrifice of many. Our military personnel, who voluntarily prepare and fight to keep our land safe and democratic, do so out of love for and loyalty to our country. The friends of mine who serve in the US Armed Forces are some of the most intelligent and courageous people I know. They are proud to defend our country. Today, I thank them for their service and for what it means to me personally. I was a Navy wife for the first five years of our marriage. I learned, first hand, what it takes to ensure that our troops operate at their optimum level. And it ain't easy.

For many reasons, we are truly blessed to be able to call ourselves Americans and to live in the land of the free. Happy Independence Day!.

Thanks to MB for sending me this poem:

It is the Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

By: Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, United States Marine Corps

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Texas Roof

Update: As of the end of today, my insurance company didn't return either of my calls.

I've told you about the possible roof damage to our rental in Texas due to earlier hail storms.

After my property manager said that he would have a roofer check it out, I never heard back from him. So I e-mailed him twice more. This was the response that I finally received:

Dear Carol,

I am sorry no one got back to you regarding your roofing request. K**** is no longer with our company and he did not leave this as an open item so no one was working on it. We will be glad to send out a roofer to look at the roof on 509 and will let you know of the findings.

(Signed by the owner of the company.)

Well, I'd say it's not the best news to wake up to. Today, the owner called my husband to say that the tenant was concerned about the damage (whatever!), so they sent out a roofing contractor and the entire roof must be replaced. OK, so that's even worse than losing your PM.

The investor who bought two homes on the same street from us had e-mailed me that his PM sent out a contractor who said that both roofs need to be replaced. The estimate on his roofs is $3,875 for each one.

Hold on one second! $3,875?! Now, that's a lot of money, but roofs in California go for a bit more than that--like $30,000. How could a roof on a 3,600 sf two-story home cost less than $4K to replace? Composition shingles aren't even that cheap. Maybe they just slap some tar down and throw rocks on top of the house or something.

Tomorrow, I get the pleasant task of filing a claim with our Texas insurance company. I have to coordinate a claims adjuster to visit the property with the someone from the PM's office.

Oh, joy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

They're Not Extensions

"Your hair is getting so long!"

I hear that at least once a day from my friends. I guess it is long, but I haven't really noticed. The people who I know now have never seen me with hair too far below my shoulders, so the current length must be a shock to them.

My local friends all have great hair. I can't think of one who changes their style. They look good all the time and take great pains in getting their hair cut to look exactly the same as always. I think this keeps them looking young, no? Hair's the same, never age. Isn't that the adage?

Then there's me. In all my forty-something years, I still can't decide how to wear my hair. In general, when I'm pregnant or have a new baby, I don't want my hair in the way, so I'll cut it on the short side. Now that the baby isn't as much of a baby as she was before, and, the last time I checked, I wasn't pregnant, it seems easy to just let it grow. I do trim it myself every now and then when I feel that it could use a certain shape or when it doesn't cooperate during my two minute stylings. I think it's been a while.

I don't pay attention to the wavy/curly hair that reaches down to my mid-back until I walk out on a windy day (we have plenty of those out here). That's when I notice that I no longer can see because all the stuff in the back has flipped over to the front, and it's a bit of mass confusion. A sight to behold, I'm sure.

Maybe it's time for a little snip snip, but I think I'll wait until my hair is registered as a lethal weapon in the next wind storm.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Multi-Family Foreclosure

Sorry, folks, but I couldn't remember when I posted last or what I posted about. I was shocked when I logged on to find that I hadn't updated my blog since Wednesday. Too long! I haven't looked at my site meter in months.

I have a bunch of material (really, I do) but don't have the time to put it up lately. I want to update you about where our business is going, but that will have to wait for another time. Until then, I want to share marketing material that came in the mail last week. I would just go ahead and provide a link to this ad, but you have to join to see the details of the listings. I'm going to punch it out real quick, so if you see any glaring typos, do tell.

Maryland Manor Townhomes
4600 West Maryland Avenue
Glendale, AZ 85301
(Lender Owned)
32 Units
Proforma NOI $270,389

Cushman & Wakefield has been exclusively retained to market the above referenced property on behalf of an out of state lending institution. The property was recently foreclosed on and is in various stages of construction completion. The current owner has expressed a willingness to consider providing seller financing to a qualified buyer.

Maryland Manor Townhomes was built to home builder specifications and possesses spacious units averaging 1,344 square feet. All units have attached two-car garages as well as full size washer and dryer hookups. The property is in a quality infill location and is within close proximity to numerous employment opportunities, entertainment, shopping, and schools.

This is an excellent value add (sic) opportunity for an investor to finish construction on this property and either rent or sell the finished units.

My Commentary

Puhleeeeze!! At that price, the CAP rate is only 8.4%. However, from the pictures it shows, it will need a large investment from the buyer before the units can be sold or leased. In this market, especially in Arizona, it makes no sense to try to get full price for a foreclosed incompleted multi-family dwelling.

Thirty of the units are 1300-1400 sf. We had apartments that were over 1200 sf. I can tell you that the make readies will kill your bottom line. Between the carpet and paint alone, even on a year lease, much less with the skips, we felt as though we couldn't keep up. If you try to clean the disgusting messes out of the carpets, this chases away the better qualified renters.

Sell the finished units? Ha. To whom? They show comps of $164,000 (1317 sf) to $395,000 (1851 sf), while the sales price is $100,000/unit. But we have no idea what date the sales were and how much others are going for in the area. Plus, by the time the project is completed, who knows how much they'll be worth. AZ was hit hard.

Bottom line: When I see "value added" in a marketing flier (no matter how thick and shiny), I run for the hills. That's a death knoll, if ever I heard one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Do Fingerprints Count As Confidential Information?

We reorganized the office last weekend. We were able to throw out catalogs and other unnecessary items, and shift desks. When I cleaned off a desk and shelves, which my husband wasn't using, for my own personal space, he decided that he liked it better and moved in. No problem. I just cleared off the desk he had occupied, so that I could finally have someplace to put my ever burgeoning workload (right now I work on a tiny desk in the common area of the house). It turned out so nice that he started to eye it again. Too late. I had already set up shop there.

To keep the kids occupied while we were knee deep in 2007 promotional products catalogs, we asked them to shred a large stack of papers. They have been shredding for years now and are experts in the field. However, we had more than I had thought and it ended up making a humongous mess (after cleaning up, I'm still finding it all over the house). Here is a portion of it:

After a few hours, they pooped out. I took over until the machine decided it was done, too. After big shredding episodes, I like to dispose of every item as I need to rather then piling it on top of the machine. However, my husband failed to receive that memo. It's a pain to do a few pages at a time because we unplug the shredder for safety reasons. So, for one piece of paper, we'd have to plug in the machine, turn it on, shred, turn it off, and unplug it again. (But this takes much less time than the hours devoted to stacks and stacks of documents.) And, once someone puts an item on top of the shredder, it just keeps piling up.

When I took over the task this weekend, I noticed that not everything designated for the confetti maker had personal information on it. I like to shred items with confidential business trademark data, bank statements, or the thousands of credit card applications and checks that we receive. However, as I became entranced by the monotony of my motions, it took me a while to realize that I was shredding shiny fliers that come in bills and other mailings.

I shook off my daze and asked my husband if he had placed these items to be shred. He said that he had. I guess he considers a fingerprint to be confidential personal information. I tried to weed out what didn't need to be there, but, unfortunately, the machine died before I had a chance to ask it's forgiveness. It had overheated--probably in it's anger at having to consume that in which no thief would ever be interested. The next morning, after I had cajoled and convinced it that only the most important intelligence remained, it finally cooled down enough for me to finish.

Order reigns supreme again in our work area! To ensure that it stays that way, I placed a sign on the shredder that reads: "Do Not Place Items Here. Shred Immediately!" I think that will do the trick . . .

. . . until the sign mysteriously falls into the jaws of death and a flier for a free gift from the credit card company shows up in its place.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reward for Being Responsible

We see and read much of the plight of homeowners who are experiencing foreclosure. For most, we now know that it's due to rising interest rates and unmanageable new payments. We've been told about rotting pools, abandoned pets, homeless children, and vandalized properties, and bankrupt lenders.

In some areas the foreclosure rate is estimated to be as high as 40-50%. When I drive through some neighborhoods, it's downright depressing. I've already talked about how obvious many of the foreclosed homes are. I think of the families who have been displaced and the havoc this has wreaked on the country's economic status.

But, what about the owners on those streets who didn't fall into the greed trap? Who didn't obtain second mortgages or houses too big to afford?

It's estimated that 30% of homeowners own their properties outright. Even considering the rising prices of goods, these people may have no problem weathering this storm. They've done the right thing their entire lives--paid their bills in full on time, resisted the temptation to buy large depreciable items, lived below their means, provided necessities for their families. Those who pay their rents on time also must suffer from the actions of others.

What's their reward for living responsible lives?

Lower property values, higher rents (in some areas), eviction due to a landlord's default, unsightly views of foreclosed homes, vacant streets, loss of neighborhood friends, criminal activity in previously safe areas.

Those who live a life accountable to their income must be relieved that they will not be experiencing the plight of those who didn't. However, they also may wonder, "Was it worth it to work so hard and sacrifice in order to pay my obligations?"

We all know the answer to that one.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Homeschoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comfort

Thanks to MB for this article.

*SONNY SCOTT: Homeschoolers threaten our cultural comfort *


Daily Journal

You see them at the grocery, or in a discount store.

It's a big family by today's standards - "just like stair steps," as the old folks say. Freshly scrubbed boys with neatly trimmed hair and girls with braids, in clean but unfashionable clothes follow mom through the store as she fills her no-frills shopping list.

There's no begging for gimcracks, no fretting, and no threats from mom. The older watch the younger, freeing mom to go peacefully about her task.

You are looking at some of the estimated 2 million children being homeschooled in the U.S., and the number is growing. Their reputation for academic achievement has caused colleges to begin aggressively recruiting them. Savings to the taxpayers in instructional costs are conservatively estimated at $4 billion, and some place the figure as high as $9 billion. When you consider that these families pay taxes to support public schools, but demand nothing from them, it seems quite a deal for the public.

Homeschooling parents are usually better educated than the norm, and are more likely to attend worship services. Their motives are many and varied. Some fear contagion from the anti-clericalism, coarse speech, suggestive behavior and hedonistic values that characterize secular schools. Others are concerned for their children's safety. Some want their children to be challenged beyond the minimal competencies of the public schools. Concern for a theistic world view largely permeates the movement.

Indications are that homeschooling is working well for the kids, and the parents are pleased with their choice, but the practice is coming under increasing suspicion, and even official attack, as in California.

Why do we hate (or at least distrust) these people so much?

Methinks American middle-class people are uncomfortable around the home-schooled for the same reason the alcoholic is uneasy around the teetotaler.

Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar's be, but they draw the line at their children. Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return.

Just as the jealous Chaldeans schemed to bring the wrath of the king upon the Hebrew eunuchs, we are happy to sic the state's bureaucrats on these "trouble makers." heir implicit rejection of America's most venerated idol, Materialism,(a.k.a. "Individualism") spurs us to heat the furnace and feed the lions.

Young families must make the decision: Will junior go to day care and day school, or will mom stay home and raise him? The rationalizations begin. "A family just can't make it on one income." (Our parents did.) "It just costs so much to raise a child nowadays." (Yeah, if you buy brand-name clothing, pre-prepared food, join every club and activity, and spend half the cost of a house on the daughter's wedding, it does.)And so, the decision is made. We give up the bulk of our waking hours with our children, as well as the formation of their minds, philosophies, and attitudes, to strangers. We compensate by getting a boat to take them to the river, a van to carry them to Little League, a 2,800-square-foot house, an ATV, a zero-turn Cub Cadet, and a fund to finance a brand-name college education. And most significantly, we claim "our right" to pursue a career for our own "self-fulfillment."

Deep down, however, we know that our generation has eaten its seed corn. We lack the discipline and the vision to deny ourselves in the hope of something enduring and worthy for our posterity. We are tired from working extra jobs, and the looming depression threatens our 401k's. Credit cards are nearly maxed, and it costs a $100 to fuel the Suburban. Now the kid is raising hell again, demanding the latest Play Station as his price for doing his school work ... and there goes that modest young woman in the home-made dress with her four bright-eyed, well-behaved homeschooled children in tow. Wouldn't you just love to wipe that serene look right off her smug face?

Is it any wonder we hate her so?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hats Off to Single Working Parents

For the past 11 days, I've been a single working mom.

No, it's not what you think. I'm not permanently single. My husband took our two oldest sons to Rome for their respective graduations. A few years ago, when he was working for a Catholic non-profit agency, he organized a trip to Rome. Unfortunately for me that year, he also went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a couple of cruises, and other work-related travel.

By the time the Rome trip came around, I asked him not to go. Selfish? Yes. Necessary? Yes. He readily agreed that he had spent too much time away from the family that year already, and backed out of the trip. Ever since then, he's been itching to go. So, for the past two years, he's been planning to take our sons.

With a frequent flier ticket for one and a travel contact who allowed them to hook into a Rome trip for a group from another state, it was as economical as we could make it. So off they went.

I was more than happy to take over the business completely for this short time AND to watch over my now shrinking brood--I was left with five, ages 20 months to 11 years. My husband spent many days (and nights) trying to get the business to a place where I would just need to "manage" it for a week and a half. Needless to say, he ran out of time. Prior to their departure, he and the boys spent the night close to LAX. He sent my oldest son off on a different flight, then spent so much time putting everything that I needed to know in writing (pertinent phone numbers, dates, schedules, etc.) that he and my other son missed their flight.

None of us knew that they lock international gates one hour before departure. They arrived 50 minutes before and didn't have to check anything in. However, the airline (I don't want to say which one, cough--Delta--cough) couldn't care less. They also didn't flinch when my husband told them that his other son would be in Rome waiting for them. He and the other two passengers who arrived in time, but late, were out of luck.

They had to wait 24 hours before their trip began, so they missed an entire day in Assisi--as in St. Francis of Assisi. However, they soon caught up with the group and had a wonderful time. They broke away for the last two days and went out on their own.

My oldest son is still touring Europe. He doesn't have any definite plans, but is e-mailing me regularly. He also has a cell phone with a European Sim card.

Anyway, with that explanation, I've been a single working mom. I don't recommend it. I have a new appreciation for those who never get a break. I had a sitter a few times, but that didn't provide me with nearly enough time to do what I needed to do. The physical exhaustion was the worst for me. I think I spent 3/4 of the day cleaning up--breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between. My teenage son usually handles many chores during the day when he's home. My husband takes over after dinner. The kids were a great help and really super, but there are just some things that they are not old enough to handle--like hauling the giant kitchen trash bag out to the cans. They were able to pull the wheeled trash cans up the driveway and out to the street, though.

It's been scorching hot here and we soon noticed that parts of the lawn were dying. Since I don't know how to adjust these sprinklers (I was a pro at our other house), my 11 year old and I were forced to spend time watering by hand--he the front, and I the back. The lawn is now overgrown and it pains me (and my neighbors, I'm sure) to see it. However, none of us here know how to operate the ride on. That'll be my son's first duty when he returns. I'm sure he's aching to get back to start his chores again.

For the business, I carried my cell phone and my husband's. We have the toll free office number forwarded to my husband's cell phone. I only answered it when it was quiet. Other calls, I returned as soon as it was safe to lock myself in another room. The most fun I had was personally interacting with our local suppliers (I usually handle the out of area suppliers by phone or e-mail). They're really awesome at what they do.

Under normal circumstances, I like to keep my contact with customers at a minimum because my husband is the sales contact. However, I had so many orders that I did visit a few of them, and call and e-mail others. I accomplished so much this week. The best part was collecting the checks and having to go to the bank several days in a row. There are still some outstanding invoices out there because I wasn't sure what my husband was charging for some items and I didn't know how to complete the invoice on Quick Books. I just told the retailers that they'd be receiving their invoices soon.

I received a call from a lone retail customer. We now exclusively deal in a wholesale, or bulk, capacity. However, she had contacted my husband many months ago and now wanted a last-minute Father's Day present for her dad. I happened to have what she needed in stock, and was able to deliver it and pick up the check before Father's Day. It was very profitable for us, and came out of the blue. However, on this order, I had to come up with an invoice, since I would not drop off the items without payment. My husband had left me a few blank ones in case of emergency. I didn't want it to look hokey with my messy handwriting, so I actually typed out everything in a Word document, cut and pasted it on the invoice, and photocopied it. Luckily, my husband had numbered it already. All he needs to do now is input all the information from my invoice to the one his computer that he'll need for his records.

I was also given the contract for T-shirts for a Vacation Bible School at a local parish. I'd like to say that it was my expert sales technique that sold them on our company, but A) I don't have a sales technique, and B) I was referred by a friend. I did, however, with a bit of help from my husband in Rome, compute our costs, give them an estimate (and small discount), order the shirts, and send in the artwork. They want them completed by July 1, but I think they'll be done this week. Cool!

As for Purchase Orders, I usually send them electronically to my suppliers after my husband completes them because he knows exactly what the customer ordered. Since I'm in Order Fulfillment, I track the P.O.'s and art approval from that moment until the products are delivered. I did place many orders and reorders with our local suppliers last week, but we do so much business with them that all I had to do was send them an e-mail, call them, or tell them what I needed in person. These orders will be tracked by the invoices we receive from the supplier. Now that I think about it, I don't even know if my husband will need P.O.'s for them. Just one more question to ask him when he recovers from his jet lag.

During these past 11 days, I realized that there's still so much for me to learn in our business, but I also discovered that I can do it myself~if I have to.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can't Blame Him

I'm extremely busy this week and have many work-related duties outside the home. Since I'm dealing mostly with suppliers, I've been able to take the children with me. I also had to drop off some orders.

One was at a school, so I thought that I'd take the kids so they could see what one looks like. I walked into the administrative offices and had to stifle my gasp. It was beautiful and resembled a doctor's office. My how things have changed! The kids, however, were not impressed. But the school was very impressed with the GIANT graduation banner that they ordered.

Anyway, I didn't think I'd have time to post again until next week (yes, we are that busy--yippee!). However, in perusing the headlines tonight while the kids watched a segment of Adam-12 on DVD, I saw this article. It's about a man who becomes violent when a guy cuts in front of him at the Costco gas line.

OK, I can totally see where Crowbar Guy is coming from. I was just starting to wonder A) Why is the Costco gas station always packed now--regardless of the time of day? and B) Where do all of these people come from and don't any of them have jobs (okay, that's more like B and C, but I thought I'd slip the second part in)?

I haven't been keeping up with the gas prices lately (what's the point, right?), but Costco now must be significantly cheaper than the other stations. My friend told me that we weren't supposed to buy gas on Mondays, but I didn't get that memo, either. Doesn't matter. I think people camp out at Costco until they open the next morning. There are no slow times there now. Gosh, how much can gas be when it's still well over $4 there?

As much as I can empathize with Crowbar Guy's frustration at someone cutting in front of him, I have a teeny weeny confession to make. When we first joined Costco, I was pulling into the station, watching all the long lines, when I noticed an opening in a front pump. No one in that line seemed to be interested in occupying the space, so I was more than happy to do it. I didn't notice if I received any dirty looks that day. Once I realized how the system worked there, I now patiently await my turn--even when the baby is screaming her head off.

Oh, by the way, I drive real slow now, too. Twelve-seater vans aren't known for their economical mileage. Just another reason for someone to drive around me and give me the one-finger wave. I smile and wave back, too--but I use all of my fingers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How HUD’s Mortgage Policy Fed The Crisis

Put down your fork. Here's an article that you don't want to read while you're eating. It really made me sick.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Who Benefits From Class Actions?


But you probably already knew the answer to that one. No offense to my many legitimate attorney friends.

It seems that almost every week we receive a notice of a class action, of which someone in my family is fortunate enough to be in the "class." It seems that the lawyers are working overtime to find something to sue big corporations for. Whether it be cell phone service, automobile defects, insurance, homeowners' associations, computer companies, etc.--they've all been sued and we have become proud owners of the $.19 check when all is said and done. Once we were pleasantly surprised with a 10% discount for merchandise at a store that was sued.

Last week, I received a letter in my third grade son's name. The return address was the familiar "Class Action Litigation". This time it was against our health insurance company for not covering specific services. I found this odd since A) 99% of the services were for the baby and me, not my son, and B) they were covered according to the terms of my insurance (I'm particular about these things).

However, some law office found lackeys who agreed to be the ever important "Class Representatives." Therefore, I now have an opportunity to get reimbursed for services that I paid for out of pocket. OK. If my insurance company wants to settle and pay me in the process, that's fine with me, as long as they know that I didn't ask for it.

So, how much will the attorneys be awarded if this settlement is approved at the next hearing? Let me quote the pertinent clauses of the material that was sent to me. You won't need a magnifying glass to read my type:

"The Settlement has an estimated value of between $249 and $264 million . . . Class Counsel will apply to the Court for an award of attorneys' fees based on a percentage of the Settlement not to exceed 2.5 times their unreimbursed fees based on hourly rates, known as the 'lodestar' . . . Excluding fees and expenses that were previously paid to Class Counsel . . . total lodestar in the case is approximately $30,700,000 and the total expenses and costs are approximately $1,715,000."

Then it goes on to explain that it's the least they should get considering that they worked really hard for seven years at a risk due to the contingency basis. Let's see, $30M divided by 7. Hmmm. That would be over $4M a year. Yeah, I'd work for free for seven years, if I thought I may get that much at the end.

So, what do the Class Representatives receive for being used for a total of seven years? "Class Counsel also intend (emphasis added) to apply to the Court for an incentive award for the Class Representatives" (because if they paid them directly, they'd go to jail, like this guy--but that's just a small detail). It appears that there are three representatives, each will be requested to receive an amount not to exceed . . . . $1,000,000? No. $500,000? Um, no. $100,000? Not quite. Try $60,000. Let's see, $60K divided by 7. That would be a little more than $8,000 per year.

Doesn't seem fair, considering that without these folks the lawyers would have received nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Outside My Kitchen Window

I woke up early this morning and did the first thing that I do every morning after I leave my bedroom. I moseyed up to my kitchen window to take in the peaceful view. Today I noticed, through an opening in the wall of trees at our property line, that there were people on the other side taking pictures. I thought it was rather odd to be posing for photos at 6:00 in the morning on an empty field. Then it hit me.

So I grabbed my camera and ran outside just in time to catch a hot air balloon inflate from almost nothing. Here is a 2 minute and 41 second super close-up video of hot air being pumped into a giant piece of fabric. Only click if you need a meditative break. The video below this one is more interesting.

This video is 2 minutes and 19 seconds of the final inflation and take-off. I've been treated to this view many times in the five years that we've been here, but never this close and from the very beginning. As I've mentioned before, we also had a hot air balloon land on our property, while we watched it jump the fence (because they were afraid of our dogs) and deflate next to our house. There must be a clause on our title called "HAB Easement", which explains that hot air balloons may do what they want, when they feel like it, wherever they please. That's fine with me.

If you don't have the time or the interest in watching the videos (can't blame you there), here are some stills that you can quickly peruse.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I thought I'd seen it all--and then I read this article yesterday. It's Buy One Get One free on steroids.

Just to synopsize, this developer in San Diego (who I've never heard of, by the way) is generously offering a $400,000 house for free with the purchase of a $1,600,000 home. Where do I start?

First and foremost, he's never going to sell those $1.6M houses anyway. And the $400,000 "row homes" will not be worth near that much in a few months, if they can even appraise for that already.

Secondly, why doesn't he just take $400,000 off the top of the expensive houses that he's desperately trying to unload? Well, it's probably because he's trying to rid himself of the expense of carrying the taxes, insurance, utilities, upkeep, etc. on the smaller homes. He also knows that the "luxury" houses won't sell for $1.2M, either--but it sounds so much better to get two houses than it does to have a 25% price cut. And, if he's already sold some at higher prices, he won't get as much grief from the current owners if the appraisals will still comp. A quick perusal of the web site tells me that this may be a motivating factor because it appears that five of the nine lots have been sold. When? Probably long ago and he's struggling by carrying the other four.

This builder seems to be spread thin. Hopefully, for the current homeowners, he won't be filing for bankruptcy any time soon.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Differences Between Boys and Girls

My column was published in The Bugle last week. Our ad is printed right below it and we've received calls already! It looks great. I'm just so thankful that we have a fabulous graphic designer and that I'm able to work with a publisher as nice and patient as Nancy Knight.

Here it is:

My husband and I have five boys and two girls—in that order. Needless to say, we were shocked and afraid when we found that our sixth would be the first girl. I was afraid because I could raise a boy with my eyes closed. The activity and predictability in behavior was comforting to me.

Although they are all different, boys have some universal mannerism. They love guns. They enjoy playing outside with rocks, sticks, and mud. They bounce off the walls after dinner. The headlock is a favorite maneuver to perform on a brother. No animal is too gross to pick up—and kiss! Jokes about farts and poop will always result in raucous laughter, especially at the dinner table. Anything pink is forbidden.

Then our daughter came along. Now that she’s four, she loves weapons. She is fond of rocks, sticks, and mud. She isn’t afraid on any animal. And she’s the one starting the jokes that have to do with bodily functions.

But she does it all in a ballerina dress and shimmering shoes. Pink reigns the supreme color in our house. Her most favorite activity is playing tea party. She corrals the boys to join her. They usually don’t mind if I bribe them with real tea and some snacks. She loves to play with dolls, as did her brothers before her. But she doesn’t rip off their heads and bang the bodies together in mock war.

It’s not just all about hair bands and shoes for her. She’s also very caring and loving—when she’s not screaming at her brothers like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”. She’ll remember when someone had an ache or pain and ask how they’re feeling. Although caring in their own ways, the boys seem oblivious to any need besides their own.

She mothers them all, even when they don’t want more than one. It doesn’t help that my oldest son has nicknamed her “Princess”. She believes that she really is one. Teaching her manners has been much harder than it was the boys. She likes to bark orders at people and expect that they will instantly perform for her. We all just look at her and wait until her feelings are hurt from the stares. She’s a girl. It doesn’t take much to send her a message.

She lets us know how she feels by expressing herself verbally, even if no one is listening. She will talk to herself about an upsetting situation until she feels better. In the morning, we all know where to find her when we roll out of bed—because she likes to sing while she’s sitting on the potty.

Yes, having girls has made our lives very joyful and entertaining—and our boys complete our contentment in ways too numerous to count.

Monday, June 2, 2008

My 5-Year ARM New Rate

A while back, I told you about my 5-year ARM, which is set to adjust this summer. I explained how I would request a "freeze", which was all the rage with the mainstream media a few months ago. And how it all ended.

On Friday, we received a letter from PHH/AMX with "information about pertinent changes to your monthly mortgage payment and interest rate." I didn't expect our payment to rise significantly, but I was still nervous about discovering how much the new one would be.

I skimmed the current rate information and formula for calculating my new rate (which I already knew) and skipped down to the new principal and interest payment. What do you know?! Our new payment is a penny less than our old one!! This will be locked in for one year (adjusting annually).

Our old rate was 4.75%. The index used for the new rate is the one-year T-bill weekly average, which is 1.94%. The margin used is 2.75%. I need to add the 1.94 and the 2.75 to get my new interest rate. This equals 4.69%. Although it's not explained in the letter, my loan docs specify that the result of adding the two will be rounded to the nearest one-eighth of one percentage point. That's why the new rate is the same as the old. Of course, if the index had been just a tad lower, my new rate would have been rounded to 4.5%--lower than my old rate.

Maybe, if other mortgages start to adjust in the same way (although many of them are based on different indices), this will do more for leveling off the real estate market than anything else. The bottom line is that the worst hit areas need to get rid of their inventory. One way to do that is to have lots of people buy foreclosures, but the prices may need to drop significantly more for this to happen. Another way is to stop the flow of properties into the market. If other mortgage adjustments don't increase as much as they were a year ago, then the rate of foreclosures will decline tremendously. Only time will tell.

As for us, we couldn't be happier that 1) our payment is less (even if it's just $.01) than last year, and 2) we didn't have to refinance for it to happen. I've been doing a little jig all weekend!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Just So You Know . . .

Every now and then, I've been logging on to a couple of the blogs that had promoted me in the past. I've even mentioned them in my prior posts.

However, it's getting harder and harder for me to support them. And, no, I'm not providing links. It boils down to one challenge that I have with both. Vulgarity. Let's get this straight. I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to crude language. I just don't expect to find it in some places. One would be on the blogs that I link to. When I read the work of other writers, I don't expect to get hit with foul and sexual language out of the blue. It ruins the whole experience for me. I mean, if I link to some of the real estate bubble blogs, I know that I'll encounter some rough language--that's one of the many reasons I rarely go on.

Basically, one blog spent an entire week quoting people who gave way too much information about their or other's sexual experiences. For those who are interested in that sort of thing, don't they have web sites devoted to that? Can't people be interesting, funny, and popular without being crude? They must not think so.

The other blog is posted by a young guy who dabbles in real estate and ebiz. I was interested in reading about how his businesses were doing, so I'd log on once every three or four weeks. The other day, he explained what he thought of the new Indiana Jones movie. My oldest son had just seen it and said it was horrible. He was really disappointed. Well, the blogger didn't like it, either, but he was more upset at the babies who were in the theater with him (can't blame him there--really annoying for me, too).

However, in describing his frustration with the situation, he was vulgar. It came out of nowhere and really surprised me, as I had not seen him do this before. His blog is off my list. Maybe he's trying to wrangle a higher reader count by doing what many of the popular bloggers do out there.

But let's analyze this for just one little second. He owns a few internet-based businesses. He wants people to buy his products. Does he think that letting the f-bomb slip is going to help his professional image? I wouldn't buy anything from him. There are so many well-written blogs out there that don't stoop to antics in their attempt to attract people. Would I resort to offensive posts to get more attention?

Not me. I won't sell out for anything.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Great Price!! This One Won't Last Long!

Time to check in to see what's happening with our favorite Whine Country bank-owned property:

Price: $899,900

MLS #: T08008157
Year Built: 1990
House size: 3,772 sq. feet
Lot size: 101,059 sq. feet
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 4.00
TG#: 930F5
APN: 924290025
Pool: N
View: N
Area: 216 - Mesa Grande/Bella Vista/Me
Type: Single Family Residence / Detached

Property Description

• Custom Built
• Ceiling Fan
• Driveway
• Direct Garage Access
• Horse Property Unimproved
• Home Warranty Plan
In Foreclosure
• Landscaped
• Main Floor Bedroom
• Main Floor Master Bedroom
• Skylights
Additional Property Information
Fireplace: Y
Garage: 4
Yard: Y
Fence: Brick Wall
Floors: ceramic tile, hardwood, marble, wall-to-wall carpet
Living Room: Y
Laundry Room: individual
Master Bedroom: Y
Walk-in Closets: Y
Roof type: Spanish clay tile
HS District: TEM

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First Business Ad

Having as many children as I do, I've experienced many "firsts" in life: first tooth, step, haircut, doctor visit, day of school, etc. In June, we will have another first--this time it's with my writing and our promotional products business.

The local Temecula publication, The Bugle, will publish the first Whine Country Chronicles column written by yours truly entitled, "The Difference Between Boys and Girls." It's an original short article that I haven't published on my blog yet (but will do so after it comes out). Since the byline will have my name on it, with a short bio at the end (which will not contain the name of our company, per the newspaper's policy), I thought we could make our advertising dollars stretch further by placing an ad adjacent to my column--our first ever. Up until now, our business has been growing by word of mouth and cold calls.

So a couple of weeks ago, I had our graphics person design a black and white ad that will be published in the June edition with my article. Initially, I wanted to have my name on the ad so that readers will make the association, but A) my husband is the initial sales contact for our business, not me, and B) I couldn't find a good place to slip it in. I felt that the ad stood on its own. It's very well done.

When I sent it to the publisher, she was kind enough to ask me if she could place my name in the ad for me. It's a jpeg file, but she's able to insert a box "on" it, so I told her to go for it. I think it'll look fine, and I trust the publisher's vision in this matter, but I am worried that it may make the ad too busy. I asked her to include my husband's name, also, so that clients will expect to speak with him.

The column that I wrote doesn't refer to the business in any way. My husband and I debated this point in detail. He felt that it may be a good idea to write an article about juggling business and babies. Initially, I drafted one that did just that, but it didn't work. It's important that our business always maintain a level of professionalism. If I relay a funny account of my children interfering with my work activities, it may send the wrong message to our customers. We operate a first-rate promotional products company, not an amateurish attempt at running a business. If someone reading the column isn't familiar with what it's like to work from home, the article could be misinterpreted, our reputation could suffer, and we may, unwarrantedly, lose business.

Therefore, I chose to introduce myself and my family in a way that would interest readers enough to call our company because they feel that they know me on a personal level, and, therefore, can trust me. Once contacted, we'll prove to the customer that we deliver the best product and the lowest price in the fastest time.

I'm most comfortable with this approach because it only requires that I be the real, honest me--and that's what I do best!

Friday, May 23, 2008

You May Be Wondering . . .

You may be wondering why you haven't heard much from me this week. Oh, you aren't? Well, I'll tell you anyway.

Because our business is growing every month, my husband really needed me to help out more regularly. Since the school year is winding down for the kids, I blindly said, "Sure, why not? It'll be fun." I used to research products for his customers, but it was more efficient for him to do so because he is familiar with exactly what the client is looking for. I can research general items and produce a list of presentations for him to review (for example, he may want a "sun package" for a hotel gift shop), but that was the extent of it. So, we found that he was still doing a majority of the tasks that he tried to pass on to me.

Now I am officially known as the Order Fulfillment Department. And, indeed, I have a very important job. Once my husband sends a supplier the purchase order, he gives it to me. From that moment on, I'm responsible for fulfilling the order (hence, the name of the newly developed department). So, through e-mails and phone calls, I request graphics from our designer, approve art, liaison with the customer (although, my husband still does this more than I do), bug suppliers throughout the production process, track the shipments, and ensure that my husband has what the client ordered before he personally delivers it. This prevents details from slipping through the cracks (like not realizing that a virtual proof had not yet been delivered, or that an order is on hold pending payment). You know, I really like what I'm doing.

My new duties better free up my husband to do what he does best--sell. However, I no longer have time to compose (which doesn't take much) or edit (which can sometimes take hours) my posts. So the blog must suffer for the sake of our income.

There was so much that I wanted to tell you this week, but didn't have the time. For instance, we solved our little gopher-in-the-vegetable-garden problem. Well, technically, "we" isn't an accurate term. One (or more) of my dogs solved it. Unfortunately, the dog's solution didn't do a whole lot of good for my garden (one heaping mess). We have a short fence around the plot, but the dogs were never interested in hopping it--until they noticed a furry creature devouring our broccoli. I woke up one morning to a large hole in the garden, a few trampled vegetables, a broccoli plant strewn onto the grass, and a dog covered with little yellow broccoli florets. I scolded the dog and she hasn't been in there since--maybe because she scared away (or ate) the gopher.

Then I wanted to jump on the computer and tell you about this freakish weather we're having in Southern California--tornadoes, hail, fierce thunder and lightning. But you'll have to look it up yourself on the news sites.

I'll have to save our other adventures for a different time. I hope to have an opportunity to post next week, but, if I don't, it's only because we happened to pick the right business this time--and that's not such a bad thing!