Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bail Out; Try Cop Out

I am actually happy that the $700 billion bail out plan failed in congress.

I am by no means a financial expert, but if a company drives itself into the ground because it was led by people who made really stupid, greed driven decisions they don't deserve money from me. And is it really in their best interest to save consumers who made really stupid decisions to get into ARM’s and houses that they couldn't afford? Shouldn't these banks and consumers get the message that there are consequences for making poor decisions?

We live in a society devoid of moral restraint. That’s why we are in this mess. Society says if you want it, go get it right this second. Oh wait, you don't have the money, that's ok, just borrow more. It seems some people have forgotten the word "NO."

The fault of the current situation is the government using ridiculous excuses to pressure banks into shady lending, banks for using greed to obtain mortgages they knew would never pan out, and the ignorant and not so ignorant individuals who went out to buy what they couldn't afford.

Instead of spending $700 billion in taxpayer money to banks who need to be out of business, why not change the rules. How about doing away with smoke and mirrors accounting practices? Why did executives in these failed banks walk (or run) away with millions of dollars in severance and pension packages? Where did that money come from? Why aren't these executives being investigated? Enron was a witch hunt, why aren't these bank crooks sharing cells with the Enron folks? I think the truth of the matter is some politicians and these executives are too tangled up in their, "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." tactics.

I am fed up with our president, politicians from BOTH parties (but not ALL), and the media using fear mongering to incite panic. How out of touch are our politicians, many seem only to care about their own power. They think the American people are too stupid to make decisions for ourselves. I believe their 18% approval rating speaks for itself. This mess proves more and more that congress needs term limits to be more effective. Maybe if they weren't so obsessed with gaining higher power and bigger egos they would actually be more concerned about the people they represent.

The system is broken. You don't put a band aid on a broken leg, you fix it. Throwing money at the problem will not fix it. It will just show the greedy corporations and individuals that if they screw up someone will save their sorry butts too.
How about some accountability?
There are many who pay their bills on time and live below their means, if they can do it, you can too.
If you seriously screw up on the job you get fired.
If you do something stupid you suffer the consequences.
How about not giving loans out to everyone?
How about thinking with your brains instead of your emotions?
How about doing your jobs?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Day in the Life..

6:00am - Out of bed, so glad I took my shower last night.  Feel like I have a huge hangover which is ironic since I haven't had anything alcoholic to drink since 2005.

7:00am - Out the door for the 30 minute drive to church.

7:30am - Choir practice for 8:15 service.  When I got there today, there were only 3 other people.  I looked around nervously thinking, "and today is the day my voice picks to be scratchy, I can't project this morning."

8:15am - Service starts. We ended up with a total of 9 voices.  Thanks to our miraculous sound board (and awesome sound guy; the love of my life) we sound double that.

9:45am - Sunday School.  There is only one other person there so we discussed the hurricane and financial situation until 2 other couples showed up.

12:00pm - Went to visit my mother for her birthday.  Played with my sister's psychotic cat for a while.

2:00pm - Took mom out for lunch, didn't embarrass her by telling the restaurant it was her birthday.

4:45pm - Back to church to get new music for 8:15 choir.  Choir practice was from 4-5pm last year but they decided to switch to 4:45 - 5:45pm because they thought no one was involved with junior high confirmation at 5pm.  Guess who agreed this summer to help out with confirmation this year?

5:00pm - Over to the other building for confirmation class.  Got assigned 5 lovely 12 & 13 year old girls to guide this year.

6:15pm - Confirmation ends.  Run back over to sanctuary for last 15 minutes of  ladies choir which sings next Sunday and then we are done for the fall.  Discover the fuse keeps blowing in the sanctuary so the air isn't working well.

6:30pm - First meeting of hand bell choir.  Haven't played since I was about 10 and have forgotten all I learned then. (I have slept many times in the last 20 years) Remember that I can read treble clef if I squint and remember cute little elementary music cues of "Every Good Boy Does Fine" and "F.A.C.E" (alto is my primary clef) The entire group impresses the director with how quick we picked it all up.

8:30pm - Back home exhausted.  Joyous kitty to greet us at the door.

Next Sunday, rinse and repeat minus birthday stuff. 

I enjoy participating where I can.  A few years ago I admit I was nervous about joining the choir because I would be the youngest by far.  But I soon realized that getting to know people across a wide range of ages is good for the soul and got over my silly notions.  It's a bit sad that for a church our sizes we only had 9 people singing this morning. 

Helping out with junior high was a likewise daunting task.  I haven't been around kids that age since, well, I was a kid.  I used to work with kids all the time but have realized over time that I don't relate well anymore.  We were asked by the coordinator to become guides because they wanted "hip, young couples" who aren't junior high parents, to help.  I felt led outside of my comfort zone to accept the role.  And it's nice to know that someone thinks we are "hip" and "young" though to 13 year olds, I'm sure we seem ancient.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Strange Obsessions

I have found that cats can provide an infinite source of entertainment. Our Chu is no exception.

Among her other Siamese quirks, she has some strange obsessions:

She absolutely loves scotch tape. If she hears us pick up the tape dispenser she comes running from what ever sleepy spot she is in and starts hovering. She will not leave us alone until we tear off a piece and attach it to her in some hard to reach spot where she takes on the challenge of removing it. If we tear off a sticker, or the like, she thinks it's tape as well.

If we start using the printer, she will climb up the desk, try to stick her head in to watch the printer head. She will even swipe at it.

If the answering machine starts going, she will climb up the shelf to find out where the voice is coming from.

When I leave a tote bag on the floor she will climb in on top of whatever happens to be there and make herself comfy.

She has been known to climb on top of the TV to swipe at people on TV. Apparently she doesn't like John Stewart? She will also knock off the Wii sensor bar to bat at.

While cleaning out the kitchen I removed all the drawers in a stack to clean, guess who made herself right at home way back in the corner?

She loves chasing pens and pencils, she has a collection behind the bathroom door. My architectural supplies would routinely go missing in college.

When bringing in groceries, she bolted out the front door, she never does this since she is afraid of cars and noises in the hallway.

Holiday Edition:
When we bring in the Christmas tree, she goes batty. While taking it through to the porch to put it in the base, she bolted out the door and through the bars of our patio, something she never does.

She has been known to find a perch in the Christmas tree.

I just wanted to remember these things since she is older and won't be with us forever.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weathering the Storm

(This may be a pretty boring read but first and foremost, this is my journal and I am trying to keep a record for memories sake.)

The storm has passed and we are all in one piece. I haven't been through a storm like this since 1983's Hurricane Alicia but I was much further north during that storm and only a child. My memories from that storm were sitting around the dark living room silently staring around at each other with wide eyes while listening to that eerie whistling sound and occasional loud thumps. After the storm had passed we had a hurricane picnic party with some neighbor friends. The lantern got out of control and my father had to run outside in the rain to put it out. During the party our power came back on.

This time, I slept before the worst of the storm came through but got up once the winds started howling. I sat on the couch and alternately listened to the newscast and the fierce gusts. Some of the gusts were a bit frightening at times and definitely a sound you don't soon forget. Because of the alignment of our particular apartment and the design of surrounding apartments we were fairly sheltered from any flying debris. Our 2 large windows face east and during the first part of the storm the winds came out of the north, during the back end of the storm the winds came out of the southwest. Our front door opens to a covered hallway and we were able to take peeks out to see what was happening during.

We have actually made it through without losing power. Reports are nearly 4 million people in the area are without power except for downtown and the medical center. We are a few miles west of downtown and seem to be an electrical island of sorts. The high rise hotel and restaurants next door are without power but we are still going strong. Reports are people could be without power for weeks. Our complex and the one across the street were a ghost town before the storm but I guess word spread that we have power and the parking lots are now packed. We currently live at one of the hottest addresses in town.

The city also had one of the 3 large water pumping stations go down and as a result we have lost water pressure. They have asked everyone to boil water before drinking in case of contamination. Due to the loss of water pressure we have been flushing our toilet using water from the swimming pool. LOL (update) The station has since been brought back online this evening but we will have to wait until tomorrow for officials to test the water. We are still told to conserve water for the time being. In anticipation we filled every spare container with water so we have days worth of drinking water. We also cleaned out and filled our bath tub with water for washing up. I was forced to take a standing sponge bath tonight but if that is the most horrible thing I have to deal with, I am truly blessed.

Damage on the property was limited to a few shutters, signs, and shingles being pulled off, most wooden fences blown down and a few trees uprooted. We walked around the beautiful tree lined streets of the neighboring subdivision and saw many trees down, limbs broken and foam insulation from new construction all over the streets. They don't have power.

My grandmother lives down the street from us in a high rise. They don't have power and the various building functions are electrical. When the power went out the exterior locks all stopped working so security had to chain the doors to keep them from blowing open. The elevators were running off of a generator but the windows of the party room on the roof all shattered and water ran down the elevator shafts and fried them. Lots of elderly people live there and were forced to climb down 17 stories worth of stairs. She is staying with us for the night; she has plate glass windows in her apartment that don't open so there is no air circulation in there. My aunt who lives in Brenham is coming to pick her up tomorrow.

My parents live about 40 miles north of us and fared far worse but still didn't experience anything disastrous. They are without power but luckily never lost water pressure. They didn't sleep much as they listened to the howling wind and various thuds and crashes going on around them. Sometime during the night they heard a crash on the roof as a limb from the huge tree fell on it. When my father heard that he got up and moved his truck out of the driveway and onto the street. Right afterward a massive branch fell down where his truck had been. They will have to cut that tree down now because almost all of the branches have been snapped off. A tree in the backyard snapped about 2 feet from the ground and their fence partially blew down. Their neighborhood has many trees snapped and and branches everywhere. All of the places with huge, beautiful trees are seeing the same thing.

Clean up around the city is underway. Virtually all windows on one side of the Chase Tower were blown out but it seems downtown was lucky because that seems to be the biggest damage there.

Our city is under a mandatory curfew from 9 pm to 6 am until next Saturday. We are going to have to defy the curfew later this week since we teach a class in Spring (30 minutes north of Houston) and our class doesn't end until 8:45pm.

The island and coastal communities have been devastated. Many people didn't heed the evacuation orders and called for emergency rescue during the worst of the storm. The emergency workers weren't able to go out for them due to the risks. It's sad, but when a huge storm is headed straight for the community, common sense should prevail. What is more important, material possessions or life? My prayers are with everyone who is dealing with the worst right now. Brandon and I and our family are all very blessed to come through unhurt and with utilities intact. God is good.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Go Away Murphy!!

..you aren't welcome here.

One year ago, today we paid cash for our 2002 Honda Civic. We were (and still are) quite proud that we accomplished this. Today we found out that the alternator needs replacing. Happy Anniversary!! Not significant news right? Well, if there is a hurricane heading this way, maybe. We decided to wait and see what this storm does before paying the $500 it would take to fix it. It would be just our luck that we have them fix it and the car is totaled in the storm. A few weeks before my car was stolen 5 years ago I spent some major cash on routine repairs. In the spirit of looking at the bright side of things, at least we have a repair bill for a paid for car rather than a bill for a car that we still owe money on. And we have our emergency fund, Murphy repellent, if you will, in place in anticipation of such events.

We are not in an evacuation zone for Hurricane Ike, but I am getting a kick out of our neighbors to the far north and west freaking out because they think they need to drive to Canada to get out of danger. The local news is sensationalizing everything. I'm just sorry that I don't have cable and can't watch Jim Cantore freaking out on the island. Remember, it isn't a hurricane until some news anchor is out there flopping around in a puddle like a fish out of water.

We went over to make sure my grandmother's plants were all picked up so my uncle wouldn't have to deal with them when he picks her up on his way home from work later. I was happy to see that her storm shutters were already installed on her windows. (One less thing for us to do)

Then we ventured to the grocery store to get a few more canned items in case we are out of power for a significant time. It was packed! It brought back horrible fond memories of days working Thanksgiving and Super Bowl rush. I wish I thought to bring my camera with me. The most hilarious was the amount of wine that was off the shelves. Must have the necessities, right? We were also right behind a couple of younger women who had a cart full of junk food. They nervously discussed the amount it would all cost and how much they had (over $100) They ended up having to give back half the cart. They gave back food and I noticed the 24 pack of beer remained. I thought, "please give back the beer, you don't need the beer." Finally after giving back more food they decided to give back the beer. Renewed hope for humanity.

Now, we wait. During the last storm threat 3 years ago I cleaned the place from top to bottom because I had nothing else to do. And because I figured if we were out of power for days I would rather be in a clean place then messy. Brandon plans to work uninterrupted tomorrow since they have a new Japanese store that is supposed to go online Monday.

Good, bad, or otherwise, I know that God knows what he is doing and we are in His hands. God bless everyone who is impacted by this storm.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Next Step

Brandon has been tested and we know there are infertility issues with him. His doctor suggested trying IUI and after consultation with my doctor she suggested the same thing. So before consulting a reproductive endocrinologist, my general fertility has to be checked first. Months ago I submitted CD3 blood tests and my levels were normal. Today I was subjected to a hysterosalpingogram or HSG. (say that 5 times fast) I was not looking forward to it. A similar procedure was attempted several years ago and they were not able to complete it.

A HSG is a test where they thread a catheter with a small balloon on the end into the uterus then push dye through to see if there are any abnormalities in the uterus and fallopian tubes while using fluoroscopy (continuous x-ray) to capture images.

Many share horror stories but few share their not so horrible stories. Mine was not too bad. I was not able to take any prophylactic pain reliever because I am not supposed to take aspirin, ibuprofen, or Aleve due to intestinal problems. The prep for the test was not a big deal, no different than a pap smear and I didn't feel any discomfort. The doctor performing the test was very kind in that he explained everything he was doing and announced before he went to the next step. Once he started pushing the dye through I began to feel bad cramps. The nurse was very supportive telling me to breath deeply and squeeze her hand if I needed to. Just when I was thinking I couldn't endure the cramps the test was over. The test was so quick because I had no blockages, everything appears to be normal. Good news. I have been experiencing cramping since but nothing I can't handle without pain medications.

Now the next step is getting a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist. We have plenty of questions including, will IUI be effective with male factor infertility or is it a waste of time? How much will the cost be? My doctor said a single cycle would cost $300 but I know the costs can vary depending on use of ultrasound and the like. We are very close to being out of debt. Our insurance does not pay for ANY infertility treatment so we will have to wait until we are out of debt and can save the money for it.

This process has been far more exhausting then I ever anticipated and we haven't gotten very far yet. It is emotionally draining which leads to physical exhaustion. We have so many options to consider, what we will and won't do. Even if we don't understand it all, God is in control. Whatever happens, whether we have biological children, if we are able to adopt, or if we have no children, will be to the glory of God. We can't possibly know and understand the plans He has for us yet, and even though it is hard sometimes, we have to trust in Him.