Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Social networking for business purposes?

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a business presentation for a couple of hours at our local community college. The title was, "Formula for Success". In these trying times, I thought it might be interesting, so I went. Appraisers are notorious loners when it comes to stuff like this (due not a little to our drastic rise and fall of our current popularity based on the most recent valuations we've submitted, and how high/low they were compared to the desired figure...), but I try to break that mold as often as possible. So, I donned the business suit from the back of the closet......and off I marched.

The presentation was surprisingly well done! In depth enough to be informative, without being so in-depth that they lost the audience. Lots of action, crowd participation, all the elements that are important. I was impressed!

The topic(s) surrounded how to improve your business at ANY time, which is even more important in times of economic challenges. Basically, putting yourself in the shoes of your customers/clients and seeing what THEY see. Does the business do things to attract your business? Or are you just there because there is no other option? Is the signage neat and clear? How is customer service? What does this business offer that is different from their competitors? Would you become a repeat customer? What else can we offer? And finally, how can it be attracting new customers?

Some of the topics didn't apply to me, as the appraisal business can be contentious by sheer nature. Strict federal guidelines limit who we can share certain information with and how the influence on the final opinion of value is prohibited. It goes on and on and on.......really. My ethics manual is several hundred pages long and is updated every two years. Its really crucial stuff to those of us that value the profession, but few people are aware of this side of my industry. That's okay........honestly. I mean, let's face it. The reason I hire a licensed electrician to do electrical work on my home is because I expect him/her to know the current electrical codes so I don't have to.......right? Appraisers SHOULD be the same way. Part of what I'm paid for is to know the federal regulations necessary to my profession.

But with that said, sometimes things like "customer service" aren't easy with an appraisal business. I can't advertise and say, "10% off all appraisals with a value over $400,000 this week". It would be a severe ethical violation. And I'm not always going to give the property owner the value they were hoping for. Period. And I can't call that property owner and say, "Let's just do a drive-by appraisal, because your house is a real dump on the inside, but the outside looks pretty good!" Those decisions are made by the lenders and others......not the appraiser. So..........customer service is different with my business.

And then they got to the topic of social networking. The speaker encouraged everyone to join Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. and network their business! Hmmmmmmmm.......Once again, the speaker had some valid points. If you run a motel. Or a travel business. Or a bookstore. But I'm not sure how to embrace my ethical regulations, while supposedly marketing through social networking. Particularly since there are strict regulations that prohibit a property owner walking into a bank and saying, "I want to apply for a mortgage and I want this specific appraiser that I met on MySpace to appraise my house." No can do there. The borrower can't select the appraiser.

So........I don't know. I gotta think about this. If I can meet potential lenders this way, okay.....? I think? Are lenders out there on Twitter looking for appraisers? Seems kinda odd to me. Any thoughts?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Success.......the second time around!

Jennica earned enough quarters finally to get her new "Fancy Nancy" book. Wahoo! More evidence of getting the whole idea of positive behavior= positive consequences. Is that "logic" we see blossoming?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The lack of science in an overabundance of opinions

In the past month, I've noticed increasing media attention on the issue of vaccine safety--a subject already beaten pretty hard. With Jennica's neuro-developmental issues, I've done a LOT of reading about the topic, and on both sides of the issue. I feel like I've made myself pretty well-informed, but also realize that its an emotional issue and haven't felt totally confident in expressing my own opinions on this blog. Suffice it to say that, with Jennica's genetic history, I do not feel that she should have been vaccinated on the schedule that the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends. Vaccinated? Yes......but at a much slower rate that would have allowed for a better measurement of response. Instead, we now know that her body does not have the full ability to remove toxins at a rate that allows her body to keep up with the dose of mercury contained (as a preservative) in many vaccines. Is that part of the reason for her SPD? We'll never know.......but it would be interesting to know if her biological relatives also have toxic loads that their bodies remove sluggishly. Those are answers that might be important to her as she moves toward adulthood, and could affect the decisions she makes in the future for her own children!

In any case, I recently ran across an article written by Jim Carrey. He manages to present the information in a straightforward manner, and allows for both sides of the issue to maintain their dignity. Rather than arguing the whole thing for the next however-many years, I wish we could all sit down and approach it with as much logic as he has. Read......think........weigh......debate........and respect. Hats off to Jim Carrey! I'm not a big fan of his acting, but give a loud "Bravo!" for his efforts here:


With Jennica's blossoming communication, we're suddenly getting some very funny moments. Last weekend, I was in the bathroom fixing my hair and overheard some muttered bickering between the girls. I'm not sure what started it, but it suddenly got loud rather quickly when Jen suddenly shrieked, "Tiersten, STOP THAT!!! Or I'll turn you into a toad!!!"

Tiersten cracked up laughing, which diffused the whole situation. But it was still really funny! Apparently, Jen is under the impression that she CAN turn someone into a toad, which adds to the humor.

And then on Monday morning, she wandered into our bedroom as I was coming out of the shower. She has the most sincere way of expressing her affections, and that morning, she looked at me with complete adoration and said, "Mommy, I looooove you!" As I prepared to respond, she added, "......but I really don't like it when you're naked! Put some clothes on!" And with that, she turned around and slammed the door.

Alright-y! Thank you for sharing that, Jen! :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Time to get a little more serious....sniff sniff sniff

I went back to the naturopath today, after 6 weeks of Vitamin B12 shots every five days, MASSIVE doses of Vitamin D, and trying to limit intake of dairy and cane sugar. Things didn't go real well. My B12 is climbing, but very slowly, and is still several hundred points below a minimal level of normal. My levels of D are also climbing, but also far too slowly for satisfaction.

So........in other words, I've been busted. I have not been near as diligent as I need to be with the dietary changes, and it shows. As long as I'm continuing to consume substances that my body fights (allergens...in my case, dairy & cane sugar), the antibodies will remain at very high levels in my blood, and the nutrients that my body needs to function properly will not be absorbed. I might as well just throw the shots and the vitamin supplements down the drain. My body is too busy fighting the allergic substances to be able to heal itself.

Honestly........I'm rather bummed, despite knowing that I've done it to myself. This is not going to be as simple as swallowing a daily pill and I'm "cured." I witness the positive impacts of the STRICT dietary changes on Jennica, but I don't have the self-control to follow the same rules? In some ways, its much easier to be a child on a dietary system. Jennica eats what we send with her, or put in front of her. She doesn't have the freedom to hop in the Durango and run down to Subway to grab a quick lunch, with cheese on the sandwich, and a cookie (or two). But thats a lousy excuse. I'm going to have to "buck up" or live with the joint pain and other effects of deficiencies, and then live with the long-term effects of what it will eventually do to my bones and internal systems.

Choices choices choices. My doctor, who also follows a very strict diet for totally different health reasons, fully admits to the difficulties of following it day-after-day once the novelty wears off. She literally claims to have dreams about eating M & Ms. Funny........unless you live it. She also claims that she can "taste" them in the morning when she wakes up. A cruel joke that her brain plays on her! And rather scary.........when a handful of M & M's would land her in a hospital.

So....I think I'm looking for a Dairy & Sugar Addicts Anonymous Club. "Hello......My name is Beth. I'm addicted AND BADLY ALLERGIC to ALL substances derived from the milk of ALL animals, and sugar cane." Step 1?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Welcome, Christine!!

I loved my suburban from the day we bought it. But considering that we put an average of over 2,000 miles per month on our primary vehicle, the miles on it were climbing higher than we really liked. So about two months ago, I casually mentioned to Mike that, perhaps, we should consider our options.

So.....consider we did. It turned out that our suburban, even with the high miles, was a desirable vehicle to some dealers. So, we ended up with a 2008 LOADED Dodge Durango with super-low miles and every option imaginable. Even better......we walked away with cash in our pocket. While I'm sure that we're going to miss the extra cargo room in the rear at times, the seating comfort is actually very similar, even with all six of us on board.

Mike very quickly nicknamed the new rig "Christine", as we keep finding more things that "she" does on her own. She auto-dims the headlights to oncoming traffic and auto-brightens them again after the vehicle passes. The front and second-row seats are all heated. The side mirrors adjust and re-adjust each time you shift into reverse. There is a rear back-up camera on the console (not a bad thing with a new teen driver in the family). The driver's seat is memory-coded, along with the heat settings based on which key unlocks the rig. The moon-roof has this cool little wind-blocker thingy that pops up. Even the rear hatch is power-opening AND power-closing at the touch of a button. The radio and DVD system is all touch screen......which we still haven't totally mastered........but I did manage to figure out how to load a photo of the kids on the little screen. Yep.....Christine fits. Creeeeeepyyyy.

Its always fun having a new vehicle. I still hate to give up the emotional attachment that I had to my suburban, but maybe I can grow to love Christine.

Even a new photo of Mike!!!!

Michael--When today is just a memory, I'll still be loving you! :)

Jennica & Friends

Jennica had a BLAST at her party today! Here they all are......hanging out. Jennica in front, with the back row from left-to-right: Tiersten, Patsy, Katie, & Isabelle. What a great group of girls!

Messing around with formatting

I decided it was time to make some changes here! Let me know what you think of the new layout!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


After midnight........and I CAN'T SLEEP!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. But I found this quote:

"Not being able to sleep is terrible. You have the misery of having partied all night.....without the satisfaction." Lynn Johnston

I have a bottle of Vanilla Vodka in the kitchen, but no cream soda. And maybe a bottle of rum, but no strawberries to make anything worthwhile. And a blender would wake up the whole house anyway. Hmmmm.........I think I'm outta luck. There will be no midnight margaritas for me tonight. Perhaps I shall go stare at the ceiling some more. Or wake up Mike. There is nothing more annoying than being wide awake with a soundly sleeping husband beside you.

One thing is guaranteed........I will be soundly asleep and very tired when its time to get up in the morning!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Birthdays birthdays everywhere......

Photos of Tiersten(in red) bowling with friends (Hannah, Madeline, & Emmerson) at her 6th birthday party. And Jennica on her new bike.

The girls' birthdays being only 6 days apart usually makes for some chaos around here. We've always combined parties in the past, but they are now old enough that we are trying to really separate their birthdays a bit, to treat them like the individuals that they are. Let's face it........if their birthdays were 2 months apart, they would have separate parties, right? Why don't they deserve the same treatment, even though their birthdays fall within one week?

With that said, I think the hardest part to this year has been accomodating Jennica's diet so that she could fully participate. The day-to-day stuff we've got down........but the special occasions are still a pain. GFCF cupcakes with GFCF frosting.......coconut milk ice cream that has to be purchased at a store an hour away......Bottom line, it all just takes a little planning. And, once again, the benefits of sticking to the diet regime have been so overwhelmingly beneficial that we don't hesitate. But it does take planning!'

So, last night, I made another batch of cupcakes for Round 2. She's demolished the coconut milk chocolate ice cream that we had bought for her to have at Tiersten's party, so she's going to be without that today. I will pick some more up tomorrow when we run to Olympia for occupational therapy, so she can have it this weekend for her "kid party."

Its hard to believe that they are 5 & 6! Where has the time gone?

Monday, April 13, 2009

A moment of peace......

As I stated yesterday, today I had a HUGE stack of inspections. I promised myself a year or two ago that I would NEVER inspect more than 5 properties in one day EVER again. I've been breaking that rule a lot lately, and it makes for some confusion if I'm not really organized. In any case, despite so many places to be today, I actually buzzed through them in record time and I'm back at the office with 45 minutes or so left to "burn" before I have to pick up kids. I'm sure that I could find something to do to get a jump on tomorrow's due dates, but NAH........I'm going to update my blog instead. :)

In the past few weeks, I haven't said too much about Jennica's progress. We've finally fallen into a routine of sorts, and she completes 5 minutes of vision therapy 5 days/week and 10 minutes of auditory therapy 5 days/week--both here at home. On top of that, we still attend occupational therapy in Olympia once per week. The vision therapy is by far the toughest to stay motivated with. Probably because we're also seeing the least benefit there. The auditory therapy is having some really amazing results and we're seeing some serious progress. Some "Wahoo!" moments lately are as follows:

1) We were in a big building recently with both girls and they were racing around like maniacs and yelling to make the place echo. Jennica suddenly sat down and said, "Tiersten, we have GOT to settle down!" Mike and I both almost fell over in shock. This is a HUGE step for a sensory-seeking child. The ability to "sense" that her behavior is out of control is an improvement all by itself. The ability to verbalize it to her sister and know that sitting down is going to help her regain control is a HUGE improvement. Wahoo!

2) The girls have one of those little battery-powered Barbie jeeps, but Jen has always flatly refused to drive it more than very short distances. Even that took a ton of cajoling and chatting with her. Last weekend, we got it out after several months parked in the garage and, much to our amazement, she piled in the driver's seat and took off across the lawn. And didn't stop!!! She confidently zipped all over the place! With education, we now are able to understand that the reason that she didn't like to drive it before was that the "motor planning" (or praxis) prevented her from feeling like she could do multiple things at once, which is what is required for driving. The visual input of where she wants to go.......the steering........stepping on the gas pedal.......stepping on the brake as needed......shifting........It was all too much. But her motor planning has come SO FAR since last November that she obviously feels far more comfortable tackling this type of activity. Wahoo!

3) She's consistently dressing herself! Typical to a sensory-seeking child, she often has her shoes on the wrong feet and her shirt backwards (try it......can't you "feel" your feet better if you put your shoes on the wrong feet? Can't you feel the tag itching you on the chin? You and I have learned that its uncomfortable, but she still prefers to FEEL rather than to not feel.) Just glad to have her tackling multi-step sequential tasks ON HER OWN. Of course, sometimes her clothing choices are a little odd. I'm trying to just go with the flow. We'll teach her later that polka dotted shirts don't usually go with flowered pants.

4) The auditory therapy is making a HUGE difference in how she's responding and interacting with the world of NOISE. I take my own hearing so much for granted, that I never realized until now, how much we use our sense of hearing. Watching Jen progress through TEACHING her brain and her ears to communicate has been a fascinating process so far. For the first time in her life, she is turning instantly to the source of sounds. (I didn't realize before how much she was using her EYES to determine the source of sounds. Now its obvious.) She is beginning to shut out conversations that are not directed at her!! Another HUGE step, and a crucial one for functioning in every day life!!! And lastly, she is verbally telling us that things are uncomfortable. Last night, she walked up to me in the family room while I was vaccuuming, with her hands crammed over her ears, and yelled, "ARE YOU ALMOST DONE??!!!???" No lying on the floor screaming. No running to her room and slamming the door! Wahoo!

5) And lastly, she's verbal verbal verbal. She's always been considered to be developmentally on target for speech, so I didn't realize how much her speech would change with progress. But now........we're getting much less whining and squawking at us, and a whole lot more chatter. When Mike was wrestling with the girls the other night, she even stood up and said, "You're out of order!!" (We'll work on the mouthy-ness later.) Before, if she was ready to quit wrestling, she would have cried, or whined, or started hitting. Now.......its WORDS!!! Words are the key to normal functioning and coping skills!!! If she can explain whats upsetting her, we can help her find solutions. Wahoo!!!

So on with the gluten-free casein-free peanut-free egg-free life. Our naturopath tried a bizarre voodoo healing technique for the egg allergy, but it doesn't seem to have worked. We let her have a GFCF cupcake on Saturday with eggs in it, and peeled her off the ceiling through part of Sunday. Living without eggs is not a big deal anyway. She'll live. She doesn't like eggs by themselves anyway. Its just the ingredient factor that we hate to lose with eggs (such as in cupcakes).

Just nice to see some really solid results. Wahoo!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The cons of self-employment

Today was Easter. I wouldn't really say that it rained. It poured. Sideways. And the wind blew. The Easter bunny hid his loot indoors. Smart rabbit. My daughters wore their new sleeveless spring dresses to church. If I were a nice Mom, I would have let them wear them with rubber boots to get from the sidewalk to the front door. Instead, they wore their cute little white shoes and got wet. Hey......Its EASTER darnit. And they're girls. They need to learn sooner in life rather than later that you sometimes make sacrifices for fashion. :)

Anyway.....I worked all day. In other words, that last post about how many balls I can keep in the air? I'm pretty much sucking at it. In my defense, Tiersten's birthday was Thursday, which meant a kid party and a family party yesterday. And all the planning that goes with keeping the house tidy, cakes, food, a gluten-free food for Jennica that she can "party" with.....blah blah blah. And Jennica actually went to a birthday party of a friend yesterday, which also meant sending her to the party with her own food, GFCF cupcakes, etc. and explaining to the Mom why Jennica couldn't eat their food. (A HUGE thank you to Louise for not even batting an eyelash when I presented her with a wrapped gift for Brooke, and a handful of tupperware containers containing Jen's lunch and treats. Louise is a nurse and she totally "got it"!!! This is not really a "comfortable" thing to do, so I am VERY appreciative of her great attitude!!) And then, of course, we dyed Easter eggs yesterday and folded about 90 loads of laundry, as we somehow got behind on that this week and it threatens to overtake the house when that happens.....

So.......today, I was at my computer completing appraisals. Happy Easter! Bah Humbug! But.......it is one of the trade-offs of self-employment that I have to accept. There are a ton of pros and I've benefitted hugely. But, boy, I know how to whine when the cons get me down. I had simply had a report or two last week take longer than anticipated, and that was enough to put me two reports behind today. When you're a self-employed "lone ranger", its hard to tell the client, "I'm SO sorry, but we've fired that employee and your report will be delivered ASAP." And the excuses of, "I had family commitments," only go so far and you can only use that excuse once in awhile. If you want to be considered an appraiser that is highly-respected in the field, you have to stand by your deadlines.

I'm not caught up.......until tomorrow morning. I have a STACK of appraisal inspections tomorrow. Its good to be employed........its good to be employed........its good to be employed.........right?

Jennica's birthday is this Wednesday, we've got two track meets, and heaven-only-knows-what-else. This week, I'm sure, will prove to be another busy one.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

NOW what??!!???

The photo is a pretty accurate depiction of what MY desk looks like right now. Due to a number of things, I'm suddenly buried in work again. Not that things ever got really slow......but its like someone unleashed a flood. So I think I'm going to find out very quickly....just how many balls can I keep in the air at once?