Sunday, February 24, 2008

Happy birthday to me

This was a whirlwind birthday weekend. Doug and I left about 4:30 Friday night, driving to the Ft. Worth area for the weekend. Doug bought a glass class for my birthday, which we took together, to learn about working with powders and "paint by light." Jody Walker, a nationally renown glass artist, taught the class. The two-day class was very intensive, and while we didn't come out with any finished pieces, we came out with about 19 test tiles and a new way to think about glass. Now I just need to find some time and get after it.

Last night we celebrated my birthday by first meeting my sister Chris and her husband Mark, for drinks. We actually had a great time chatting. It's the first time ever that I didn't feel like the little brat sister. Maybe because it was just two couples and not the family dynamic. I wish we could have stayed longer, but Doug and I had dinner reservations.

We went to Bob's Steak and Chop House. This has been named one of the top steak places in the nation and it didn't disappoint. Man, that was some of the best ribeye I've eaten. And for as good as the steak was, I was blown away by their carrots. I know it sounds weird, but that was a damn good carrot. The server said the carrots were marinated in cinnamon and orange juice. I believe it. I told Doug I thought it tasted like Christmas. To round out dinner, we had a Napa cab from one of my favorite wineries, Silver Oak. The dinner was outstanding!

The glass class finished about 2 p.m. today and we headed home, exhausted. After two days being the only guy in a class of eight women, Doug is out having a beer and getting some much needed testosterone time. I'm home, checking email and watching Gladiator on high-def. Tomorrow we'll be back in the grind.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Who's fault is the defaulting?

I'm watching a little bit of the Democratic debate last night, since it was in Austin. Obama is giving his opening remarks and mentions that he met with a couple in San Antonio whose house is getting foreclosed on because of predatory lending practices. WTF? "Did you hear that?" I asked Doug. He said he tuned out as soon as Hillary started her remarks. I replayed the comment. Predatory lenders.

Let me get this right. You have poor credit. You decide to buy a house that you can't really afford. You decide to take out an adjustable rate mortgage that is really low when you take it out, so you can make those house payments, but the rates will go up. Now that they have gone up, it's the lenders fault that you can't make the payments? Get real.

I know this is a rough situation. And yes, it is partially the fault of lender. They qualified risky applicants. They probably also did a huge sales job. Still, the borrower has responsibility in this as well.

Recently we were talking to some mortgage companies about refinancing our home loan. One of Doug's work friends recently refinanced his home and got a 5% rate; he thought we could do the same and it would cost us less than $1,000. Save 2% on mortgage, why not?

Calling around, the rates were up to 5.75%. And while it would only cost us $750 out of pocket, the rest of costs would be rolled up in our loan. The actual cost would have been about $2,500. Even with the monthly savings, it would take us 24 months to break even on this. We were hoping to move to a different house by then. We decided not to go forward and instead take the cost and put it straight to our principle. Any other savings, we'd use to fix up the place. The refi just didn't make financial sense.

Of course, the lenders made it sound good. Get a lower rate and pay only $750. This way you are paying less interest and more principle each month. They do try to sell it. They make it sound good and put a shine on it. But is that predatory lending?

It is up to the borrower to know what he/she is getting into. When we bought our house, they qualified us for way more than I would have expected. However, we opted to go with something much smaller, something we could afford on one income, and after the tech crash, that has served us well. I don't know if we could have kept a more expensive house. They also offered all sorts of mortgages that sounded great, but we weren't buying. No ARMs for us. We wanted a 30-year fixed. And we got what we wanted.

I call banks and lending institutions a lot of unflattering things, but predatory is not one of them. When it comes to your money, you have the say and you have the right to agree to the terms or walk away. Get smart when it comes to your money and don't fall into this victimization trap just because you won't take the time and effort to become educated on money. It's not predatory lending just because you didn't know what you were doing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Head shot

I had a photo shoot today. I'm going to be one of forty women featured in a Go Red spread for the American Heart Association in the May issue of Austin Woman Magazine. In general, I hate getting my photo taken, and was dreading it. However, the photographer, Korey Howell, did an awesome job! She made me feel comfortable, helped me pick my outfits and made sure I looked my best. I was completely at ease and had fun. I would totally recommend her to anyone.

In addition to the Go Red photo, Korey also did a professional head shot for me. Doug said he prefers the red photo, but I like them both.


Seems like I'm going through the same old stuff that I did last spring, whether there will be a teaching spot for me next year. Without going into all the details, let's just say it's not looking good and I'm just frustrated to the hilt. Yesterday, on the way home, I was wondering why I put myself through this again.

Then I remembered why -- the students. I've got a great group of students this semester. Actually, every semester I have a great students. I just have to remember to focus on that and forget about the rest of the b.s. Of course, that's easier said than done...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Democracy in action

Texans have spoken loud and clear. We have selected a winning license plate. According to the Statesman, the selection won't be official until later this week. I actually think this was the best design and voted for it myself.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lights, Camera, Heart Ball!

Last night was the annual Heart Ball for the American Heart Association. The theme this year was the Hearts of Hollywood, with a 1940s supper club look and feel to the party. As communication chair, I developed the branding and positioning for the Ball. We've been working on the Ball since May, so everyone was glad it finally arrived and went well.

I didn't get the final count, so I don't know how much we raised. There was both a live and a silent auction, dinner and dancing. There were lots of things to bid on, so my bowl didn't go for much -- just $60 and a friend bought it. I think my highlight of the evening was watching a film a student made, and hearing everyone comment after. The student brought her mother from Port Arthur, Texas and you could tell how proud her mother was of her. Once of my friends said she thought I got a tv station to produce it. That made the student and her mother smile.

Below are photos of us as we were about to leave the house. Isn't Doug handsome in his tux?

Here's me in my dress. Isn't it great? I got a lot of compliments on it.

Amy, my hairdresser, did my hair in a 1940s style updo. I'm always afraid that my hair will fall, but Amy made sure it didn't.

Doug and I did get our photo taken together by a professional photographer, so if we like it, we'll buy it and post it. Some of my students were volunteers and they took photos as well. I hope at least one of Doug and I together looks good and I can post it.

Friday, February 08, 2008


I'm going to be covering SXSW (South by Southwest, for those who aren't in the know) this year. In exchange for writing about a half dozen stories for a Web site, I'll be receiving a press pass. I'm pretty excited. I had thought about buying a badge for the Interactive part of the festival, but was wondering if I could justify it. Now I can go to everything, including the film and music.

Tomorrow is the Heart Ball for the American Heart Association. We've been working on this since the summer, so I'm glad it's finally coming together. Doug picked up his tux yesterday. I didn't see it, but he said it looks sharp. I've got appointments to get my hair, nails and make-up done.

Busy week with school, but it's going well. I'm loving this 70-degree weather we're having.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Baby you can drive my car

We came out of Lone Star Kolache this morning, ready for a drive. Allegra was in the driver's seat and Dante was in the passenger's seat. Guess they thought they should drive and we should sit in the back.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I want belly rubs!

Allegra can't wait for Doug to return from Canada today. She wants him to give her belly rubs.