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!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How We Know That We Aren't Eating Enough Fast Food

During the spring soccer season that just ended (hip hip hooray!), I developed a system for dinner that did not necessitate us eating out every night. I was so good at it, as a matter of fact, that we realized how different our lives were when we didn't visit the drive-thru often.

~We've run out of napkins in our car.

~The kids have french fry withdrawal.

~I'm asked if I'm making Chalupas for dinner.

~We don't find straws on the floor of our van anymore.

~No more ketchup stains on my clothes.

~I can't find one chicken nugget in the van to reuse when the baby is hungry.

~I find myself daydreaming about that old "Burger King" commercial:

"Hold the pickles,
hold the lettuce.
Special orders
Don't upset us.
All we ask is
that you let us
serve it your way."

~The idea of going to McDonald's actually sounds appealing.

~The kids ask for their ice water in a plastic cup with a lid.

~We've run out of the extra little hot sauce packets that we store in the refrigerator.

~My baby's first words won't be "Would you like something to drink with that?"

~"Soft serve" now describes my tennis swing.

~I've forgotten the name of the freckled redheaded girl on the sign of the restaurant.

~My kids think that Panda Express is a train to the San Diego Zoo.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How to Finally Get Rid of Those Pesky Mice

This is why I rarely ever drink soda (although I did have a half a can of Dr. Pepper at the end of season soccer party--now that was a real reason to celebrate!). I wonder if this works for gophers, too.


How to Use Soft Drinks To Kill Mice and Rats

If you have a problem with mice or rats, one way to get rid of them is with soda pop.

Mice and rats lack the ability to burp. You can use this to your advantage. Simply pour Pepsi or Coke into a shallow dish, and place the dish near where the mice or rats are entering your home. The rodents will drink the sweet soft drink and later, when they can't burp, they will die.

Right next to walls usually works best for any type of bait or traps, as does under sinks, where they may like to hide out, or underneath your stove.

As the carbonation only lasts just so long, you will need to keep that in mind and refill your dish accordingly. Try putting a new dish down each night before bed.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Let's get one thing PERFECTLY clear. I am no fan of ANY artificial sweetener. I wrote an entire book about them called Sweet Deception. Unfortunately that book is currently out of print. I am getting the copyright back and will be reprinting it soon as it is the best book I have ever written and clearly documents the challenges with ALL artificial sweeteners, especially Splenda.

I am absolutely convinced that if you HAVE to drink soda, soda with sugar, even high fructose corn syrup, is safer for you than diet soda, but if you have been reading this newsletter for awhile you know that I don't believe anyone should be drinking soda. There is simply no excuse, none at all. It is one of the easiest and most important diet changes anyone can make.

However, soda provides some benefits. In fact, they have dozens of useful purposes, such as:

Cleaning your dirty toilet bowl
Removing rust spots from chrome
Getting gum out of your hair
Getting rid of skunk odor
Cleaning grout

According to some, you can even use it to shell hard-boiled eggs; if you soak hard boiled eggs in Coke, the shells will supposedly dissolve, eliminating the need to actually have to peel them.
If you are actually drinking soda as a beverage, you are putting your health at risk every time you do so. Drinking just one soda a day can increase your risk of being obese by an amazing
60 percent. And it will increase your risk of diabetes by 85 percent! Soda drinkers even have a higher throat cancer risk.

From a nutritional standpoint, soda has pretty much nothing to offer except bad news -- including the ridiculous new “healthy” sodas that have hit the stores recently. Some of the major components of a can of soda include:

Phosphoric Acid: This can interfere with your body's ability to use calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis or softening of your teeth and bones.

Sugar: It is a proven fact that sugar increases insulin levels, which can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, premature aging and many more negative side effects. Most sodas include over 100 percent of the RDA of sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup, the number one source of calories in the U.S.

Caffeine: Caffeinated drinks cause jitters, insomnia, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, elevated blood cholesterol levels, vitamin and mineral depletion, breast lumps, birth defects, and possibly some forms of cancer.

If you thought diet sodas might be a better option, think again. They are filled with unnatural, artificial chemicals, and are actually even worse the regular soda. There are over 92 different health side effects associated with aspartame (Equal) alone, including brain tumors, birth defects, diabetes, emotional disorders and epilepsy/seizures. On top of all that, they won’t even help you lose weight; in fact, they will double your risk of obesity by stimulating your appetite, increasing your carbohydrate cravings, and activating your body’s fat storage mechanisms.

Nutritionally speaking, soda is one of the main reasons why many people suffer health problems. Aside from the negative effects of the soda itself, drinking a lot of soda is likely to leave you with little appetite for vegetables, protein and other food that your body needs.

And remember that a glass of fresh clean water with a squeeze of lemon or lime makes a great soda alternative any day. It won’t, however, kill the rats in your kitchen. Soda is much better suited for that particular purpose.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Texas Tax Update

As I completed the "Notice of Protest" for our Texas property taxes, I realized that we are given an opportunity to contact the appraisal district first, so I did that.

The appraiser called me the next morning at 6:25 (HELLO! Can you say "two-hour time difference"?). Apparently, they couldn't care less how much our exact models are selling for, even though they have never comped with other similar homes. They just compare two-story brick structures with two-story brick structures (which describes almost every house in the state of Texas).

However, they didn't know that it was a rental (because people who live in Texas frequently receive their mail in another state). Since this is the case, our appraised value was automatically reduced by 5%, which would be $193,197 (not retroactive to the date of acquisition, by the way). But I hemmed and hawed about the decline in property values across the country, so, for the sole purpose of getting me off her back, she placed the value at $185,500, saving us over $400 a year from their previous appraised value of $203,365. She said that sales were strong in McKinney and that homes have not declined there as they have in other areas. Great.

At least our cash flow is safe---for now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Guess What's in the Garden?

We water our vegetable garden everyday. So far, we have enjoyed some strawberries and broccoli. We have tons of tomatoes, but nothing ripe yet. We hadn't had to deal with any serious critters. We found a few caterpillar-type bugs eating our broccoli leaves and strawberries.

My children had collected these destructive creatures and put them in open containers that were about 20 feet away from the plants. When I'd find an offending leaf-eating bug, I'd squish it immediately to ensure that it wouldn't return. I instructed my son to "get rid" of them when he found some, too.

He and I were out in the garden together one day, when he found one. Before I had an opportunity to stop him, he tossed the caterpillar unto the adjoining grass!! I explained that this just gives it a chance to return to eat more of our vegetables. We haven't had much of a problem since then.

But I walked out today to water and this is what I found!

Yep! That's what's left of a large broccoli plant sitting in a gopher hole. The gopher probably couldn't eat anymore because it had developed such a huge gas problem that it either exploded or got stuck in its tunnel.

This is what it looked like when I pulled it out.

Here is another one that we had harvested already. When I touched the plant it fell off it's roots. That means that the gopher was eating the stems from on top of the ground!

Why can't these pesky rodents eat the dreaded celery? So far, they're untouched. Once the word gets out that there's free food, I'm sure my entire garden will be wiped out in one night. The tomato plants are furthest from the entry access, so I hope that some of them ripen before they're gone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Real Estate Roller Coaster

Thanks to Mike for sending me this video. I don't know if it's accurate, but it sure is fun to watch. Hold on for a wild ride!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Love That Prop 13

Many decades ago, California voters passed the infamous Proposition 13. This legislation froze property taxes at the rate of the price at acquisition until there's a change in ownership (they rise for inflation, though). So, if you bought a house in 1990, you'd be paying a tax based on the purchase price at that time. However, if you remodel and add square footage, your district may reassess your property to current value--bummer.

I've come to the realization that the states we've invested in don't have their own versions of Prop 13. It's probably due to the fact that most of them don't have the appreciation rate that California used to have (and, most likely, will have again one day). So, if you bought a home in California for $400,000, and Prop 13 had not been approved, your tax payments would be based on the value of the home as it skyrocketed to oblivion. You, quite literally, could have been faced with watching your tax basis double within two years after your purchase. This alone could cause massive foreclosures and tax liens.

Why am spending my valuable space and your invaluable time talking about something that A) is as boring a subject as property taxes and B) most of you probably have known about for some time?

Yesterday, I received the annual "Important Appraisal Information Enclosed" from the district for our house in McKinney, Texas. We bought the home in 2004 for around $174,000 (it's buried somewhere in my old blog, but I can't remember the exact amount right now). We bought in Texas knowing quite well that, out of the 50 states, it had one of the lowest appreciation rates at the time. We didn't care because we wanted cash flow. This house flows, but very little--I covered that story already, too, I think. But Texas takes it upon itself to reassess every year and pretend that real estate actually appreciates at a higher rate than it does.

Just six months ago, identical homes in the neighborhood were selling for as little as $150,000. It wasn't a surprise to us because the market is so bad here in California. I wondered how far they would fall and hoped that it wouldn't be lower than what we owed on it (something like $130,000). Our tenant renewed their lease and we receive the checks like clockwork every month from our PM, so I really haven't paid the property any mind, except for the hail on the roof, which I have not heard back about (yes, I just sent him another e-mail).

The reassessment form that I received states that the proposed 2008 value of the property is $203,365. Now, while I'm thrilled that the county feels my house has appreciated, I tend to live in the real world. I have an option to protest their overvaluation, which I intend to do, but I thought it might be helpful for me to do a bit of research first.

I went on, which sometimes is not based in reality. Either their assessments are too low or too high. It had the property value at $273,000. NEXT! offers a "What's Your Home Worth?" link, but it uses comps from the last 18 months and, if you want recent sales, you have to be contacted by the dreaded RE agent. However, from sales as long as six months ago, it appears that it values the home at $193,000.

By now I'm feeling as though I'm in the Twilight Zone. How could the market in Texas have recovered and appreciated so quickly? So, I search the MLS on McKinney is a very nice, new, up and coming area. Some of the homes are pricey and well built--and then there's ours. Three words. Fox and Jacobs. Need I say more?

Talk about your vanilla home. Fox and Jacobs (Centex Homes) built the largest houses in our area with the least amount of investment ever. We knew this going in and were happy to be spending less on a rental. It has a warranty, so we aren't worried about the major systems collapsing. The house is around 3700 square feet, but it doesn't comp with any similar homes in McKinney, except for the identical ones in that specific development. When I go to, I can tell by the names of the subdivision and streets, and by the picture, if it's a comparable property to our rental. At this moment, there are two for sale: one is $179,000 and the other is $205,000. I don't know much else about the properties and am not motivated to call the agents to find out. It would be helpful to know if they're REO's, how long they've been listed, and, of course, the real and accurate comps.

I will complete the form regardless. I want the county to research it and let me know what they find. Hey, if the home is really worth what I paid or more, fantastic. But, if not, I don't want to be losing what little cash flow we have there because the tax rate is inaccurate and inflated.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What Can We Learn from His Mistakes?

This story about a man defaulting on nine rental properties is a classic example of what not to do when buying investment properties.

I think the number one lesson is never, ever, ever buy negative amortization loans. NEVER. They didn't even make sense to me during the buying frenzies. These loans allow you to pay less than the full amount of interest every month. Whatever you don't pay is tacked on to the principal amount. They are used when you are betting on a quick and large appreciation, which is never a guarantee when you buy real estate. Due to the neg-am loans, this man can't even hold on to a house with 40% down.

If you read between the lines of the article, you'll also notice that he was buying in areas that could never break even or cash flow. We looked at Palm Springs long before 2006, and it didn't make sense as a solid investment back then. Yet, he's buying there at the height of the market. For him to use $800,000 to buy nine houses, while placing 10-40% down on each, tells me that he was investing in very expensive properties. If there was never any hope of recouping his payments and expenses with the rent, he had no business buying there, unless he was made of money to float the houses during good times and bad.

I'm glad that he's maintaining a positive attitude because he will be able to find many good things to come out of his losses. But the whole, "I knew the market was going to go soft" makes no sense to me. I think he's trying to minimize his score on the stupid scale by stating this, but it only makes him look more like a fool. Why would he buy properties with loans based on their anticipated appreciation value in a soft market? The only answer is that he thought the prices were headed north.

As for missing the little "nuances" of the market that indicated a decline because he was too busy at work, how about the headlines blaring, "HOUSING DOWNTURN" or "FORECLOSURE RATES INCREASING AT RECORD LEVELS"?

Thomas Aquinas College, Class of 2008

We had the most memorable weekend in Ventura County at my son's graduation. It was fabulous! We had a hotel on the sands of the beach,
which was free (thanks to the AMX points that we've been saving up), along with the hot breakfasts everyday. Mother's Day brunch was positively over the top.

However great it was to be at the beach (even though it was cold and overcast, for the most part) we spent most of our time on the beautiful campus of Thomas Aquinas College, in Santa Paula, where my son has been in pursuit of higher education for the last four years. He and the other students loved it there so much that most of them were reluctant to leave it for good.

The whole weekend was a whirlwind and we enjoyed every minute of it. Mama E was right. I did need a whole box of tissue--mostly because I had the worst cold of the year. It put a slight damper on the festivities for me, but nothing could keep me away from my son's college graduation. Now that the weekend is over, I feel fine. Of course, the worst of my virus had to fall on the most busy days of the weekend.

Graduation day started with a Mass, mostly in Latin, celebrated by George Cardinal Pell from Sydney, Australia, who also gave the commencement address. Here he is after the closing procession:
Then the culmination of four long years arrived. The graduation ceremony was long (even with only 84 graduates, the biggest class yet), as most tend to be, but we didn't mind it this time because we were waiting for that one name to be called. As we, his friends, and family cheered, my son strode up to the stage to receive his hood and genuine degree that is actually signed right there by the president of the university.

And now I'd like to present the graduate in his cap and gown:
Yes, handsome, I know!

Friday, May 9, 2008

In the Blink of an Eye

Our son is graduating from college this weekend. It's so hard to believe! I have piles of memories from his childhood, yet it feels as though I turned my back for just a second and he grew from a baby to a man--in the blink of an eye.

I was buying cards for his graduating friends. I hadn't planned on getting my son a card. We have so much more than that in store for his celebration (I'll tell you about it later). But, as I reached for a funny greeting for one of the other men, my hand brushed a card that said, "To a Wonderful Son on His Graduation" (I don't suppose they have any that say, "To a Deadbeat Son").

I picked it up to peruse it's rhythmic phrases . . . and started to cry. At Target. In the middle of the card isle. Darn, I hate it when I do that! Luckily, these cards were down low, so I was on my haunches bent over. I contained myself before I was back in the upright position.

Yes, of course I'm proud of my son. I know first hand how much work is involved in the accomplishment of earning one's college degree. This college, in particular, has rigorous academic requirements. All seniors must submit a thesis paper and defend it before they're allowed to graduate--for their bachelor's degree.

I've read the titles of these papers in past newsletters and, honest to goodness, I have no idea what any of the seniors are talking about. Some were written in Latin or Greek. I asked my son to please write a thesis with a title that I can understand.

In March, he handed me his finished product and said, "Here, Mom, I thought you'd want to read this." Oh . . . great . . . thanks, honey! I was afraid to look. I glanced down, with one eye closed, and was pleased to read, "What Is A Man's Worth? An investigation into Kant's Claim that Men Are Ends in Themselves." I read it over and over until I got it. YES!

I opened up the spiral bound paper and landed on page five (of 23). This is what I read:

Kant makes it clear that the one acting should not have any inclination at all towards the object of action, whether that inclination is irrational or rational. He says, "Now, an action done from duty must altogether exclude the influence of inclination and therewith every object of the will." Thus, Kant thinks that, in order for one to be acting strictly according to duty, there can be no inclination of any kind towards the object of the action.

Do you think I would have understood this any better if I had read the first four pages? I don't think so. What joker taught him how to write like this anyway? Darn it! I think I just found one disadvantage to homeschooling. You can't blame the teacher! How is it humanly possible to write "inclination" four times in one short paragraph? He must have earned a higher grade for displaying that little talent. I guess the board that heard his defense was impressed enough to pass him.

Needless to say, my husband and I are extraordinarily proud of our son. Being that we were just 21 when he was born, we all grew up together--and my son doesn't seem to be too scarred from the experience, either. We feel so blessed to continue to be an important part of his life. Watching him graduate is the best Mother's Day present that he can possibly give me.

For all you moms out there--I hope that your Mother's Day is equally as rewarding. You deserve it!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Deja Vu--Crime Rate Increases to Two

You are not going to believe this---and, this time, I don't have any pictures to prove it. I carry my little camera everywhere, but I downloaded pictures to my PC today and charged the camera for this weekend, so it wasn't with me. But I had a serious episode of deja vu about 30 minutes ago.

We're having overnight guests who should be arriving any minute (hence, the editing on this post is gonna stink!). I had to run out to Costco and Trader Joe's. I bought chicken for dinner and other perishables at Costco and ran over for a quick trip to TJ's. I sped through the store and got to the check out in record time. It was finally my turn, but as I approached the cashier, she started screaming, "Look! Look! Look!" and faced the parking lot.

I couldn't believe it. As I turned my gaze outside, I saw a deputy pull his gun out of its holster and command someone to get out of the car. You have got to be kidding me! I honestly thought it was a joke.

Even worse!! Three of the eight cruisers were parked directly behind my van. Snap! The cashier was freaking out, and all I can think is, "How am I going to get out and get my chicken into the fridge before it spoils?"

You know, if I'm trying to evade the cops, I wouldn't pull into a Trader Joe's parking lot. They are notoriously small. So, as the guy is sitting in his car, debating his exit strategy, he must have realized that he wasn't going anywhere. If he had just turned left instead of right, he would have been in the mall parking lot, with way more options for his getaway. He surrendered quickly and they had the cuffs on him in no time (of course, they got some practice just last week!).

I told the cashier that they will need to move so that I can get my chicken home. She said she'd give me five dollars if I walked up to a deputy and said, "Excuse me, you need to move your cars because I have chicken in my van." No problemo.

With the suspect under arrest and in the cruiser, I was hoping that they'd be pulling out as I approached. It just wasn't so. They were searching the perp's car. As I ran my basket through the maze of police cars on the way to my van, I didn't realize that they were arresting a women about five feet from my rear doors. So, I walked up the the group of deputies and said, "Excuse me, but I really have to go."

A very nice gentleman said that they'd move their cars in no time. I loaded up the van with my purchases and moved the basket out of the way. They hadn't budged. So, I walked back up to the group of officers and said, "Just let me know when you move your cars because I've got some perishable chicken and I have to get home." He told me to give them two more minutes, but they moved after about 30 seconds.

As I climbed into my van, I resisted the temptation to return to the store and collect my five bucks.

How Not to Support Yourself Through College

I received my bachelor's degree from San Diego State University. I used to refer to it as the party capital of the USA.

I didn't intend to graduate from SDSU. I was attending the private University of San Diego, until we married after my freshman year, and my dad cut me off. No sweat. I went to the junior college near our apartment for my sophomore year, and then transferred to State for my junior and senior years. At that time, there were 35,000 students. I lived off campus with my husband, and, in the summer before my senior year, had our first child. I never participated in any of the activities on campus, by choice. I had other priorities.

Watching my son for the past four years has shown me how to live the college experience. He has never missed an opportunity presented to him, whether it be a dance, dinner at a professor's house, a trip to the beach, playing in sports, going to the movies, or just hanging out. He has lived, and loved, every moment of it. All the while getting straight A's. He's also made friends for a lifetime. Too bad he wasn't old enough to show me how to do it when it was my turn. Heck, I just wanted my degree so that I could get a good job. I think I missed the point to an extent.

Something tells me, though, that my living the college experience at San Diego State would have been vastly different than what my son has encountered at his little private Catholic college. He did it right. These students did it stupid. This was a drug ring that not only impacted the SDSU community, but the junior college (Mesa) that I attended, also.

My son taught piano, worked on campus, telecommuted for the company that he will be working for after graduation, and taught an online class to help support himself through school. He also worked every summer and Christmas break. That's how to make money for college. He spent every last penny that he'd been saving his entire life, but it was well worth it. Now he can make some money after he starts his full-time job. If those SDSU students were making a good living selling drugs, why bother with the hassle of completing their education? Except for the fact that most of their customers were probably other students like themselves.

Those arrested included a student who was about to receive a criminal justice degree and another who was to receive a master’s degree in homeland security.

“A sad commentary is that when one of these individuals was arrested, they inquired as (to) whether or not his arrest and incarceration would have an effect on him becoming a federal law enforcement officer . . .”

An advertised sale on cocaine from someone seeking a masters in homeland security and another in criminal justice? Puhleeeze! They deserve an "F" in business and a long prison term just for being such idiots.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Back By Popular Demand . . .

. . . anonymous comments may be submitted for moderation again. Only those that are relevant, useful, and logical will be published.

Clamping Down on Brown Lawns

It's easy to tell a foreclosed property in Temecula--at least in the developments. Brown lawns. Beautiful streets with well maintained properties are broken up by the obvious REO.

In Whine Country, the houses that I know to be foreclosures seem to be well taken care of. Maybe because the banks know that these are much larger assets. The one that I've highlighted here twice has it's sprinklers on every time I pass by (you can even see in the picture that the sprinklers have just run). Maybe they're broken, but the grass sure looks great!

Now, the city council wants to do something about those deadbeat lenders who allow the homes to slide into disrepair. Or maybe it's the previous owners who played jingle mail with their keys and just left. It doesn't matter because it uglies up the neighborhoods.

Yes, brown grass is a sign that no one is there. But so are the foreclosure notices taped to the windows. Heck, if I see a "For Sale" sign now, I just assume it's vacant. After all, who would voluntarily sell their property right now? If your house is on the market, I think I can safely predict that you're either out or on your way.

Some may feel that this is their opportunity to buy the house of their dreams. In order to do this, they have to sell the house of not their dreams. They certainly don't want to be mistaken for people who default on their loans. But, if you are buying and selling right now, isn't it the same in a low market as in a high market? Paying more, but getting more. When things are smoking, though, you sell your house in a day instead of a year. So, if you are also selling, isn't it better to wait to buy in a less sluggish market than to do it when the prices are low? Therefore, I think I can safely assume that the majority of properties for sale are distressed properties.

Under this proposed Temecula law, owners of foreclosed homes would have to register with the city and hire someone to oversee their properties. With that extra expense on banks, maybe they'll be willing to negotiate more in order to unload the asset. Maybe that'll more quickly decrease the inventory out here. Maybe prices will start to level off sooner than expected. Maybe the appreciation will begin again before we know it. Maybe I have a chance of making back some of the money we lost.

Maybe I'm just dreaming.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Another Benefit to Living in Whine Country

On Saturday we sponsored a monthly event at our house (after the three soccer games, that is). With all the people involved, it always runs so smoothly and everyone has a great time.

I noticed that this weekend, we had a couple of flies coming in as the doors opened and closed. I looked over at one point and our front door was wide open, so I had to ask someone to close it. In the winter months, we don't have an issue with flies. As a matter of fact, I rarely see one when it's cold.

After everyone left, we had to get the swatter out and kill a few flies, but it wasn't a big deal. It was fun for the boys as they learned to hit the flies without leaving a mess on the windows and walls--and to clean them up so the baby doesn't eat them later.

It was an exhausting week, and I just wasn't able to get out of bed on Sunday. We had to make it to 9:00 Mass. I usually rise between 6:00 and 7:00. Yesterday, I slowly rolled off the mattress at 7:25. YIKES! I needed to hurry to get myself and my kids fed and dressed so we could take off.

I slugged my way to the kitchen, eager to brew my half decaf cup of coffee. Unfortunately, the coffee was further off than I could have imagined. My kitchen window, slider, and walls were covered with flies. Covered with black, buzzing, annoying insects.

By the time the first child ventured out to the repeated dinging of the fly swatter and sounds of water washing the wriggling bug down the drain (I don't take any chances of having them resurrect in my trash can), I had killed well over 40 flies--and didn't make a dent in the population.

By now, it's almost 8:00--no one had eaten, no one was dressed, and, worst of all, I hadn't even started the coffee. When my husband finally strolled out after his shower, he couldn't believe how the flies had multiplied overnight, and he started to attack. I had to ask him to leave it alone and just focus on getting the kids ready.

We made it to Mass on time, came home for a few minutes, and then left for a party in San Diego (BTW, I've never been in one place with so many people who have read my blog--very humbling, to say the least! Thanks, everyone, for being so gracious.) When we got home after dark, it was time to start round two. I thought we had gotten most of them. But I'm late posting today because--you guessed it--I'm still swatting. Next time a fly decides to deliver at the Whine Country Hospital, I may just have to move out for a few days.

I'd better get back to cleaning the windows and scrubbing the walls.

Friday, May 2, 2008

You Found Me!

I'll be here bright and early Monday morning--May 5 is Cinco de Mayo. I probably won't have a post about it, but it's a good way to remember to log on here instead of the old place.

Have a great weekend!