Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A few words

I received an email this morning from a trusted financial planner here in Asheville. It sums up the current financial climate perfectly:

"How much more news can we stand?

Wall St. met Washington St. today in an historic clash that will be documented and debated for years. What seemed to be a timely, yet emergency situation, The House of Representatives chaotically and in front of the entire student body wet their pants.
I am not passing judgment on the passage or non passage of the House Bill titled, “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008”, I am referring to the process.

To get into the what, when, why and how this entire situation came about would take much longer than you want to read. Yet there are a few important items that need to be highlighted so we can move on into tomorrow.

1. Credit markets are locked.
You have heard me talk about this before. The inability for banks, insurance companies, securities owners, corporations of any kind, to loan money or trade existing assets is non existent. This is bad because the “float” that most businesses in America operate on has been restricted so much so that as receivables get pushed out past 30 days to 45, or 60 days, the “float” (excess money to pay operating costs, like payroll, power bills, taxes) goes away and businesses borrow money in very short term loans… one day to 10 days. This credit is now gone because banks are holding securities that they usually would sell for cash to make these loans but can’t due to no money available to purchase or sell securities.

2. The markets are spooked.
At the end of 2006 financial stocks represented about 27% of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The idea that these businesses operate using money as their natural resource is not novel, yet when money is not available, they have nothing to make transactions with. Imagine Progress Energy without electricity, or McDonald’s without beef, or Disney without animation… a steady, affordable supply of money keeps banks in business. So the markets are screaming, “Without money, we have no transactions, no matter what the value of things are, therefore we will sell everything we can, and create cash any way we can… even though we are taking big losses.” Until money comes back into the markets, share prices are going lower.

3. Bank consolidation.
Banks are being forced to merge due to points 1 and 2 plus several other factors. The past 5 years have been wildly optimistic regarding construction and development, and the optimism was funded by banks, big and small. Now that money supply has been removed, the real estate is still there, the note to pay the loan is still there, but the buyer is gone. Surely the buyer is gone because he or she can’t get credit to buy. This has created a terrible circle of hot potato, and unfortunately the bank will be served last because they are ones who extended the credit in the first place. Banks have been forced to pull together their respective balance sheets, take huge write-offs, and hope that a synergy with another institution can buy them enough time to remain solvent. These short term marriages are kinda like marrying your ex mother-in-law; you’ve been in the same family at sometime, but for sure you’ve been competitors. Long term, these arrangements are probably going to reorganize into separate financial institutions in better days. The Wachovia and Citigroup merger fits into this category. On Friday Wachovia reported as having $63 billion in book value, which would translate into a $30 share price with 2.16 billion shares outstanding. On Monday Citi and the FDIC says it is worth $2 billion. After reading the Citigroup conference call notes this evening, I am still not sure how the arrangement is going to work, but I do know how much equity was lost, and it is painful. I am not sure if the statistic is still true, but in 2005, Wachovia was the most widely held stock by North Carolinians… the loss of equity to our state today is epic, and will be felt by other institutions who held the blue chip security as collateral.

Before the markets in the US open, Asia and Europe will likely weigh in on the events of the day. I clearly recall the crash of 1987 when we took 500 points off in one day and it was a much larger percentage than today’s 777 point fall. I also remember the fall of October 1997, September 1998, January 2000, and September 2001. The current market is most likely in store for more short term redemptions, so caution is paramount. The last day of the quarter will be ugly, even if the market rebounds for the day.

So should Congress go back to the closet, get a pair of clean pants and pass some legislation? Yes. It is in their court now. Wall St. gave them the ball, and they are in control. I have read and highlighted all 106 pages of the bill this evening, and it is not very complicated or bogged down with special provisions… it is very understandable to someone who has knowledge of markets and securities. I am not certain how another bill will get passed or if this one will see minor adjustments, but since Washington is now involved, we as taxpayers and investors need them to act."

So get on the horn. Contact your Congressman and make this change happen. Here is how you can send them an email:
http://www.congress.org/congressorg/directory/congdir.tt

Monday, September 29, 2008

LLS mit David Hasselhoff



I am heading to the YL banquet in a bit. But I had to stop what I was doing and place this on my blog because it made me laugh with embarrassment at David Hasselhoff. Enjoy!

Baby-Splosion

I have about 20 friends right now that are about to have babies in the next few months. I know that many of you out there have kids that are just reaching the toddler/preschool/actual school age that have made it through the first year on the cheap. And I mean REAL cheap.

I wanted to pass along a few tips.
1) go visit babycheapskate.com at least once a week. Whenever you need to buy diapers, formula, toys or clothes for yourself or friends. Especially around November, the blog author gives you the heads up on the best deals on presents for your kids or other peoples kids!

2) some things are just pure crap. Don't buy it. Don't register for it. My girlfriend Hannah took me, Natalie Knauer and Ellen Troyer with her to babiesrus to help her register. The three of us all found different things valuable and "necessary" in the first year. We got to help Hannah wade through if she needed a pacifier keeper or not.

3) Diapers. You go through a lot of them. After the first 6-8 weeks, I switched from Pampers Swaddlers all day to generic store brand diapers during the day and name brand at night. If this is your first baby, you might think that you want them to always be in the best things money can buy. Your money can buy a lot of diapers. A lot of expensive diapers. To hold poop and pee. My experience has been that Walgreen's premium diapers and Wal-Mart's White Cloud diapers are A LOT like Pampers. I really love the Walgreens store brand diapers. And, if you register online with Walgreens, you get coupons in your inbox.
I was able to double up savings because I had to get Asher some Pull-Ups for bedtime. I had a Huggies coupon, they were on sale (thanks Baby Cheapskate) AND I had get $5 off your $20 purchase. I ended up getting my diapers for FREE after I bought Lucy two packs of store brand diapers at the same time. Maybe you are not convinced?

Pampers: Size 4 $12.79
Walgreens: Size 4 $5.59

Hmmm. I think that Lucy can handle store brand diapers since I go through a pack a week. After four weeks, I have saved $29.16. After a year? $349.92. It doesn't seem like much per week, but it adds up to real money after a year. Also, about once a month; Walgreens has BOGO on their diapers. So I end up saving even more than that.

What about you? How have you saved money in the past on things that you already HAVE to spend money on for your kids?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quote of the Day


Asher just headed out the basement door into the garage saying,

"I gotta go to work Mommy."
"Where are you going?"

"Ummm. Just going to the high school."

How much can my heart melt?

Les Miserables

This week, the Broadway musical Les Miserables has come back into my life because of a musical number that our YL staff and leaders are putting together for our banquet on Monday.

Matt was talking to me about a particular song and I knew it right away because well...I have seen the musical many times and LOVE IT.

But it has spurred another memory. On Saturday mornings my dad would start the "house cleaning brigade" and the musical soundtrack included the entire Broadway cast recordings of Les Miserable AND Phantom of the Opera.

All that has to happen is for me to hear the opening notes from either musical and I am ready to get whipped into a cleaning frenzy of picking up fuzz from the stairs to avoiding the scary man puppet in the living room.

Just a taste to get you ready for house cleaning tomorrow morning:

Just marvelous

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dear Unsorted Mail

One of my favorite blogs is Unsorted Mail. More for the ideas that it plants in my head than actual content because they have taken the summer pretty much off from posting. Here is what was developed in my mind from this morning:

Dear Political Candidates for President,
Stop believing so much in yourselves and your power to fix the economy. Here is the West Wing boxed set. Please watch before you get sworn into office.

Dear Woman Who Just Left Yoga Class and Walked Into the Steam Room Butt-Naked,
Continuing to do yoga poses including sitting cross-legged across from me? Yeah, that was awkward.

Dear Custom Made Bunk Beds that require mattresses more expensive than bunk beds from Pottery Barn,
Thanks but no thanks.

Dear Wiener Dog who continues to poop the entire length of your body night after night in my room even though you go out to poop at midnight,
ever heard of the term shish-ka-bob?


Love,
Leslie

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Go On Up to the Mountain of Mercy

Here is a little video of Asher singing Beautiful Scandalous Night while shutting Lucy in the closet. Enjoy! video

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gas in Asheville

Is this going on in other places across the country or just in our fair city?
I sat in my car for an hour to get gas. Tempers were flaring all around me and I was MAJOR stressed about picking the kids up from school on time. I got in line at 12. At 1pm, I pulled up to the pump and was moving quickly to get out of there. I almost cried when I thought about all of the time that I sat in the line and I wasn't going to be able to get any gas because of the time. But thankfully, I pulled it off. But seriously...what is happening?

Shout Out

If you haven't downloaded iTunes 8.0 yet...go do it now.
Over the weekend, I discovered the genius of the Genius setting in iTunes 8 and I love it passionately. For example? I have been loving the song Mr. Brightside by the Killers for running. I clicked on the song, then clicked on the Genius button and a whole playlist was created from my library of music of like minded songs. I decided to give it a listen while running today and I pumped out 4 miles in 32 minutes. 8 minute miles people. Not nearly as fast as I was in college, but for a 30-year old mom...I'll take it.

Mr. Brightside-The Killers
Don't Look Back in Anger-Oasis
Dare You to Move -Switchfoot
Lovesong -The Cure
Bigger Than My Body-John Mayer
We're Going to Be Friends-The White Stripes
Hurt-Nine Inch Nails
Ocean Breathes Salty-Modest Mouse
Blister In The Sun -Violent Femmes
Don't Speak- No Doubt
Laid -James
Born to Run-Bruce Springsteen
Don't Panic-Coldplay
Buddy Holly-Weezer
Caring Is Creepy-The Shins
Elevation-U2
Someday-The Strokes

Pretty much, awesomeness after awesomeness.
Check it out.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Something to Make You Stop And Think

NY Times Article

Check the date on the byline
:)

Weekend Wrap-Up




Videos of the weekend will follow at some point when I stop being quarantined.
Why am I quarantined?
Because I came down with Strep Throat at some point early in the morning on Saturday. I managed to pull through for the weekend, but not before I exposed everyone around me to strep.
I know there is a collective groan coming up from the crowd. I feel terrible about it, especially if Robin comes down with it being 36 weeks pregnant. At this point, I am just crossing my fingers that the old adage about your immune system being the strongest it could be when you are pregnant is true.
We had a great weekend, it was so fun to be with Robin and all my favorite girlfriends in one place. I hate that I got so sick because it meant that I missed out on enjoying Windy Gap during one of the prettiest weekends of the year. Yesterday morning, I left camp, came home and then went straight to Urgent Care. I felt terrible, couldn't swallow without severe pain and felt feverish.
Our family practitioner was on duty there (Dr. Robert Fields), thankfully and he did a strep test and it came back positive.

Best part of the weekend? Shot of Penicillian in the butt. That was one of the worst pains I have experienced in a long time. He gave me a prescription for Dog Roids (Prednisone) and I feel so much better today. Of course, Matt is frustrated since this could not have come at a worse time for him with the area's banquet being only a week away.

If you are the praying type, please feel free to lift us up during this time. It's a little tense at our house today...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Get Excited


The amazing Robin Plemmons and I are doing program this weekend at Windy Gap for women's weekend. Videos, pictures and more will be coming after Friday.

There is room on the weekend, if you are interested get in touch with the Wayne County YL office in Goldsboro, NC. Look it up. Let Google work for you!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hoping and Wishing and Praying

We have had two different showings on our house since Saturday that have given me a combined 8 minutes prep time before they were in my house.

On Thursday, I had to turn down a showing because they gave me five minutes heads up and both my kids just laid down for their naps. They were both sick and I just couldn't make magic happen.

On Saturday, the listing service called and asked if they could walk through my house in five minutes. My friend Caroline was over and so she helped me pick up blocks and other toys and then she scooted out to go to work. The agent thought that was me leaving the house and so they came right in. It was like a scene from a movie. The door handle opening, me flipping on the light and escaping to my basement to tidy up down there while they walked around upstairs. As soon as I heard their feet on the stairs, I walked out through the garage with all of laundry in tow!

Today, another agent called...gave me TWO minutes heads up and just went ahead and rang the doorbell since it was obvious I was still in the house straightening up. I got to chat while trying to not look like a woman losing her mind and shoo my kids out the door as they simultaneously are trying to grab everything that I am cleaning up.

Turns out, both parties are interested in the house!
Please pray that something happens this week. I am about to keel over with trying to keep my house clean while all of these people are springing showings on me!

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Picture of the Week

After I loaded up my pictures from my camera yesterday, I was motivated to take some pictures outside with the kids.
Here is a little sampling:




We need a Bunk Mate

Our good friend Ben Johnson has moved back into our house and we are trying to figure out a good sleeping solution.

One possibility that we are looking at is BUNK BEDS! Yes, bunk beds for a 21 year-old and a 3 year-old. Who wouldn't want to be Asher's roomate?

Anybody have some bunk beds in storage somewhere?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Picture of the Week

I have been waking up early (thanks to Asher) and deciding to not go back to bed. But instead let Matt be in charge and I have been going running at the lake that is a few minutes from our house. It has been great to be outside, by myself at the start of my day. The other morning, I pulled into the parking lot and I looked over my shoulder to see this sight:


Thankfully, I happened to have my camera in the car in order to capture the moment. Click on the picture to get all of the details.

How is it possible that I don't want to get up and run every single morning at Beaver Lake? I have no idea.
Also, how is it possible that our house won't sell even though it is exactly four minutes away from our house? My mind is baffled.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Escape Artist

I am going to follow up my previous post with another one that shows you just what a terror I was a child because my children are following in my footsteps, yet at much earlier ages.

Matt and I were out of town with Young Life on Friday night and the amazing Amy Noll (a freshman at UNCA ) babysat our kids for the overnight.

I told her that Asher likes to get up early and we give him a bowl of cereal and turn on the TV until we are ready to get up. Yes, that is how we handle the mornings around here.

So I gave her the go-ahead to do likewise. She took me up on it when Asher woke up at 6am on Saturday morning after studying astronomy until 2am. She gave him cereal, the Backyardigans and headed back to bed.

She woke up at 7am hearing a strange voice in the house; our neighbor Pat was bringing Asher back over after he decided to hang out with her and Ray (her husband) at 6:45 on SATURDAY MORNING. Oh and yes, she was IN MY HOUSE.

Turns out, he just up and left the house all by his lonesome and wandered over there for a little family time with the Allmans.

Wanna guess what is more awkward than that? Nothing.
My 18-year old babysitter being asleep while my 70-year old neighbor brings my three-year old back to my house.
Fantastic.
Once again...paybacks are well; you know what they are.

Sharpie This, Sharpie That


The other day I was bus putting up tomatoes in the freezer and Lucy started playing a game with me. She was grabbing barrettes from her drawer and bringing them to me one by one. She was so sweet holding it out and being so pleased each time I said "Thank you!"
Then, I was getting distracted putting tomatoes into the freezer bags and didn't notice that she was gone for an extended period. The next time I saw her, she came dancing into the kitchen proudly holding an uncapped black Sharpie Marker.

(I know exactly what my mom is thinking and yes, paybacks are a B**CH!
)

I quickly snatched it out of her little hand and began the frantic search for where the Sharpie had been used to "draw peeeople." A quick glance around the house and I didn't see any damage. I narrowly escaped having to repaint my living room.

I went to pick up our babysitter, came back home and was giving her the rundown when I noticed that Lucy had "drawn peeeople" all over the dining room table.

Fantastic.
I grabbed a Magic Eraser and in a few minutes my table was back to new. Except that the Magic Eraser also removed the top layer on my table. So now I have dull spots on my table. Better than Sharpie right?

BTW: Lucy still has Sharpie behind her ear. I can't manage to get back there long enough to scrub it off!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Sexism is SOOO Deep

Here is Jon Stewart's take on the Sarah Pehlin pick:



I'm just saying, maybe we all need to start watching the Daily Show for our news?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

One more reason I love my Mac

This week I was using my MacBook and noticed that my battery life was dropping off like crazy!
It went from holding a 3.5 hour charge to 30 minutes. I have to say, I was a bit panic-stricken. I mean, who wants to buy a new battery?
I just checked the Apple website and they already knew there was a potential problem with my battery and had a SOFTWARE fix for it. Not a new, environment damaging battery. But software that restored my battery back to its typical life of 3.5 hours, all in 8 minutes. Counting downloading, opening, installing and restarting my computer.

Do I miss a Windows machine? Never.

A. Mac. Is. Worth. Every. Expensive. Penny.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dear Walt Disney Corporation;

I wanted write you a note to let you know about how much I appreciate your industry.
You are brilliant! Your brilliance has invaded nearly every part of my life in the past three years and I am grateful. Where would I be without The Wiggles, HigglyTown Heroes, Handy Many and let's not forget about Emily Yeung.

But I have a bone to pick with you. I really WANT my child to love the films that I loved growing up and so I have dutifully bought into your dreamland of a corporation and this summer we have added 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, Cars and Peter Pan to our video collection. Just those four movies cost me $80. I am sure that is just a drop in the bucket to you. Really. I know it.

But $80 spent on movies seems a bit excessive and this is why. I don't need, nor do I want to EVER see the "extra scenes" from 101 Dalmatians. I can hardly watch the movie, or even have it on in the background let alone watch someone TALK ABOUT MAKING THE MOVIE from 40 years ago or so. I can say the same thing about Jungle Book, Peter Pan and Cars. But, there is a serious form of mom guilt that doesn't allow me to simply toss the spare DVD's of information straight into the garbage. Why? Because there must be some sort of value there that I don't see but one day-MY CHILD MIGHT and then I have to explain the rules of life about how if we don't use things, we get rid of them rather than letting them just capture dust in our house.

But on the off chance that this might be the very thing that would scar my child for life keeps the DVD's in their cases and in my house. I mean, who knows? Asher might want to be a cartoonist and watch the full 90 minutes of covereage on on the making of Peter Pan and I will have dashed his dreams just because I hate (almost as a rule) the "extra footage" that drives the cost of DVD's through the roof.

Just think about it. If they didn't include this "extra value" along with the "extra packaging" and "extra production cost" don't you think that these very same Disney movies would actually cost me what they are worth? $10. Which is what they used to cost on VHS.

Let's return to the good 'ole days of disney-what d'ya say? Since my copy of Jungle Book is already scratched and you forced me to buy a video that we won't ever watch...wanna call it even and give me a new copy? Or replace my copy of Mary Poppins that I bought before "extra footage" was tacked on and the sound quality stinks?

How about you just stop ripping off the people that are your very biggest fans and then maybe-just maybe we can love you again.

A New Day


Today I dropped the kids off at their nursery school.
It a sweet little place in a church and the ladies that run it; they mean well. It isn't an academic environment by any stretch of the imagination. But it is social and they do arts and crafts and generally have a good time there.

This morning, Lucy got moved out of the "toddler" room to the 2-year-old room. Because she is talking "too much" for the toddlers.

Can you see me smiling?

It is a hilarious problem to have, two children that incessantly communicate to me. It also exhausts the ears. They didn't have school last week and I was very glad to get to drop them off this morning in their new classes. Asher is now in the three's and Lucy is in the two's. Just four months ago, Asher was still in the two's. It is crazy that she is catching up with him so quickly.

The sweetest moment of the morning was when I picked them up, Asher's teacher said that Asher heard Lucy talking in the class next door. He turned to the teacher and said, "That's my Lucy girl. Where is my little Lucy girl?" And he left the room to go find her.

There are times when I love my kids so much my heart might burst.