Friday, July 25, 2008

Gone too soon

I think this guy "got it." If you haven't been fortunate enough to hear him speak or read his book, it is worth the time and will make you stop and think about your life. My prayers go out to his family.

Do you want to be a "Tigger" or an "Eeyore?" You decide........

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Forever at last

Three years ago, a sibling group entered our foster care system. They were placed with a foster family for what was supposed to be a period of about three months, and just now..........three long years later..........they are finally transitioning to their "forever family." This lengthy term in foster care is becoming increasingly rare, as there are now laws in place that try to prevent children from languishing without permanency. However, the path for these particular children has had many twists and turns, and it has taken time to resolve the issues.

I have the utmost admiration for these particular foster parents, who have resolutely endured tremendous challenges and have remained steadfast in their commitment that their home would be the only stepping stone between these kids and their permanent home. For a time, it even looked like these children might be returned to their past-abusive home, and the foster family was facing the unbelievable task of helping to prepare them to transition back. Somehow, they remained patient in believing that justice would prevail. While I would have been raging wildly at the social workers, this family swallowed their frustration and focused on day-to-day life. When the kids left briefly to an adoptive placement, this family welcomed them back with open arms when it all fell apart.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have known these children. They can be incredibly demanding of attention, fight amongst each other like cats and dogs, and drive you to the brink of insanity. They have each struggled with deep depression, have huge trust issues, and are the definition of "needy." But there is a certain courage about them, too, that makes my daily challenges seem so small in comparison. They've faced abuse and rejection that no human being should ever have to endure, and still have the strength to get out of bed and face each day.

And now.......they're starting all over again. In a new place far away. With new people that they don't know. A new home. A new school. A new bedroom. A new yard. A new neighborhood. And they're told that this is "forever." There is no home to go back to on the weekend, or at the end of the summer, or after Christmas, or any other time. This IS home. In all of its unfamiliar glory. I'm sure they will be allowed to visit and talk to their foster family, but their foster home is no longer "home."

There is a saying about giving your children the two most important things in life--One is roots, the other is wings. I wish these children the utmost successes in life. I hope that they've grown roots to build on, and I hope they know that we're all cheering for them to FLY.........

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My secret is out...

My secret is apparently now out in the open. This was such a huge secret that even I didn't know about it! Nobody had thought to let me know before, so I can be eternally grateful to the emails I have been receiving for informing me. You see...........I have erectile dysfunction. The email gurus of the world are kindly offering me Viagra and/or Cialis at heavily-discounted prices so that I may resolve this issue. Isn't that great??!!??

All humor aside, where in the heck do these companies get our email addresses? I could understand it if I had submitted an online questionnaire regarding this medical issue. Or, perhaps, even if I was surfing the internet looking for discounted prescriptions for ED. But I have done neither. Furthermore, I am a woman and my first name (obviously female) is part of my email address! I just wouldn't consider myself a "marketing target" for erectile dysfunction products. And yet, day after day after day, I delete them from my junk-mailbox. Along with a huge variety of other sexually-related prescriptions, products, etc., to which I have never searched for, considered purchasing, or frankly, even knew existed.

My "delete" finger works very well, so I don't really consider these emails offensive. More of an inconvenience, I simply delete them away. But they baffle me somewhat. If this is targeted marketing........well............somebody needs to narrow their target.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Only three kids for a week

Yesterday, we took Grant to Camp Bethel for a week of Junior High Camp. He always seems so shy and quiet. Its kind of hard to drive away and feel like he's actually going to have a good time. However, each year he keeps asking to go back and always claims to enjoy himself, so go figure. I just keep trying to remind myself that he is 13, and that his life is HIS journey. It's not fair to compare his camp adventures to my own, where I looked forward to it all year, couldn't wait to go back, and could barely be bothered unload my gear from the car before running off to be with the friends that I had missed for months.

Yesterday was also Dane's 15th birthday, so we left the girls with friends when we ran Grant to camp, and took Dane golfing on the way home. He REALLY likes to golf, but doesn't often get to play a full round, so this was a treat for him. He didn't play real well yesterday, and had to grudgingly laugh at his own frustration which was only making his game go that much worse. Welcome to golf, Dane!! :) He's grown so much in the last year or two that its almost unreal. He towers over me now, and just rolls his eyes at me when I make a point of reaching up to pat him on the head.

And lastly, the girls had a GREAT time with our friends. Brandi and Brittany not only painted their nails, but also did an intricate miniature stamping thing on each nail, which the girls thought was terrific. They got to pick out which stamps they wanted to use for each nail, and what colors, and they were completely in seventh heaven. We do "girly" things at home sometimes and paint nails, but I don't think I would have the patience for the intricacy involved in this little design process. I can't even believe that Jennica would hold still for it all, but she was all decked out and enjoying it to the max. Too funny!!

So this week will be a little quieter with one less kid at home. It already doesn't feel quite right...but I hope Grant has a GREAT time!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Riding the rollercoaster...

Coming to the end of this week, I'm mentally exhausted. Despite the financial turmoil that the news seems to delight in reporting, I'm still very busy with appraisals. I've put a lot of effort into being very versatile for exactly this type of market, and it seems to be paying off. While conventional lending has slowed somewhat, FHA is booming. While real estate purchases are lagging a bit, my private work has increased dramatically. I'm grateful that I can shift my workload into other areas and that I have the tools to make the transition effortlessly. With a huge plug to A La Mode/Aurora, my software provider, they keep the behind-the-scenes invoicing and accounting simple so that I can focus on valuations without losing track of the financial end of my business. They are the most expensive software option for appraisers like myself............and worth every single penny.

With all of this said, the weak economy takes a toll on my mental state some days. With fewer properties selling, my selection of recent comparable sales is much smaller than it was 12 months ago. With properties that are unique to begin with, I feel like I'm sometimes pounding a square peg into a round hole just to come up with three comparable sales that barely define "comparable". I don't blame the lenders when they call and ask, "Is this the best you've got?" I sometimes find myself apologizing for the lack of good data, as if I could go out and create better sales.

And then things happen like the IndyMac Bank failure last Friday, which creates deepening concern for other lenders and consumers alike. IndyMac appears to have been deep into fraudulent practices, and most appraisers can tell you that fraud has become a common practice in the mortgage business. We find ourselves voraciously defending the lenders we find to be ethical, while at the same time hoping that the fraudulent ones go bust. When appraisers chat together, the "David vs. Goliath" conversations are common. Which big lender will be the next to fall?

Over the past three years, I've cultivated wonderful friendships with other appraisers across the nation. When I feel like I'm losing my perspective, they're always there to make me realize that appraisers, as a group, are all deranged. Its a career requirement. If you don't enter the field deranged..........just give it a year or two.

And so we sit and continue to type, report after report after report. We watch the news along with the rest of the nation, and watch the stock market rise and fall with the most recent financial news. Just like a roller coaster, its too late to get off, so we might as well enjoy the ride. Let's just hope that there are still appraisals to do at the end.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Re-discovering golf

Prior to our daughters entering our lives, golf was a regular part of our lives. As small children are not real understanding about the concept of staying out of the way of swinging clubs and flying little white balls.........we've taken several years sabbatical. Suddenly, we seem to have jumped back into it with a vengeance.

As a whole, Mike plays extremely well. Disgustingly well, to be honest. He introduced me to golf, and I try to remember when I get frustrated that someday I'm going to get even by sticking him on a horse in front of a large group of people, and instantly try to get him to feel a "diagonal" or a "lead". (Any idiot can SIT on a horse........but it takes some time in the saddle before you begin to FEEL the horse. Golf is not the same.....You don't really get much of a learning period before you approach your first tee box feeling (and looking) like a completely uncoordinated fool in front of all the folks hanging out in the clubhouse.)

So, despite the fact that I'm still pretty green at golf, we've been getting out and having a good time. I was going to wait a few months to upgrade my clubs, but Mike begged me to buy new ones. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) I sunk a chunk of cash into a really great set of hybrids that I'm loving. Even the boys are getting out with us and playing a bit. They participated in a two-day junior's clinic a few weeks ago and picked up some great tips. Dane is itching to get his hands on Mike's new Cleveland driver. :)

Sometimes, I wonder at how easily I find myself slipping into obsessive hobbies/sports. I blame it on my history with horses, as the only way to truly be competitive with horses is to totally absorb yourself in them. I find that with golf it would be very easy for me to own virtually every contraption, tool, etc. that goes with the sport, and I can easily justify it to myself! Similar to horse sports, where it doesn't take very long and you own a gazillion bits, boots, pads, and a whole host of other horse-y contraptions. Fascinating or bizarre? I'm not sure......

But one thing is for least I don't have to feed my golf clubs twice each day. Or vaccinate them. Or buy them a truck and trailer. I can even throw them in the corner for months on end and they'll still be there. Perhaps a little dusty.........but no worse for the neglect. :)

A weekend of sunshine!

Mike and I ran away this past weekend with just our two girls! To sunny Eastern Oregon where Mike grew up. VERY warm.......VERY dry........and lots of sagebrush. A big change from the dampness and mold of Western Washington.

It never ceases to amaze this Western Washington native how you can actually see into the distance over there. And see through the trees, where they exist at all. I'm much more accustomed to very dense green stuff EVERYWHERE. I find it comforting.........Mike finds it a tad claustrophobic at times. I feel a bit "unsheltered" in Eastern Oregon, while he loves the wide open spaces. :)

In any case, it was nice to get away for a few days and see his family! The rain pelted our windshield just north of Portland, so we were welcomed home from sunshine by the normal rainforest weather.