Monday, September 29, 2008

You can't take it with you, but apperently that's not an issue...Just place your order from the great beyond.

Identity theft is an insidious noxious act.

Though much can be said about an individual by looking at their credit history, a person is so much more than their credit score and their identifying stats. If only the thieves that steel peoples identities could keep that in mind. The havoc created by a person stealing such personal information is almost unimaginable. For the most part the burden is placed on the individual to safe guard their own credit information. The three credit reporting agencies will put a temporary fraud alert on your account for up to 90 days...but you have to remember to call back when the 90 days are up to put the alert back on. Once criminals start using your identity the real fun starts. Even if the agencies have your account blocked due to identity theft, if credit is issued fraudulently by institutions that don't check your report, you have to document and support each claim as to why you aren't responsible. Each incident then needs to be reported to your local law enforcement office as well. While you are disputing the fraud your credit is going down the toilette...and it can take years to clear it up.

It is depressing business navigating the whole rigmarole. At some point most people have to give their private information (name, social security number, telephone number, address, even mother's maiden name)to secure loans, mortgages, credit, etc. It is not possible to protect yourself completely from this terrible crime. There are steps to reduce the likely hood of becoming a victim, but the reality is that your bank has your information, (unless your one of those people who keep your life savings in a mattress) your mortgage lender has it (if you own your own home) along with various credit institutions servicing a car loan or credit cards.

After being contacted by my mortgage lender, I received the special pleasure of being informed that there was a possibility that both my identity and that of my deceased husband may have been stolen and sold by an employee. So now the fun begins.

My mortgage company trying to mitigate the fallout over the actions of their miscreant employee, offered a free credit monitoring service for 2 years. I signed up right away not even giving a thought that my husbands name was still technically on the mortgage. (Due to the fees and paperwork involved I hadn't bothered to inform them of his passing.) This turned out to be a twisted blessing in disguise. His name being listed first on the account made him the initial target for the identity theft.

Ten days after I had received notification from the mortgage company, I received in 1 day over 15 phone calls from online insurance sites, online degree programs, along with local car dealerships informing me that they were calling in response to my husbands interest in these various products and services. It was jarring to continuously receive calls from these people telling me they had received e mail from my husband regarding his interest in xy or z. I was so irate over these impersonations. How dare these people try to steel services from people in his name and impugn his credit. And the phone calls were just like rubbing salt in a wound. I woke up every morning thinking I wonder how many times I am going to have to say "My husband's dead." today. So after rushing off copies of his death certificate and social security number to all 3 Credit Reporting Agencies to officially declare him dead I think I can finally put this, as well as my husband to rest (again).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

When they bought the ticket they knew (or should have known) what they were getting into. I say let them CRASH!

I am so incensed, I just needed to have a cathartic rant on the topic of this economic crisis... Am I alone in my thinking?

Why do we need a rescue plan? Because collectively, as a society we acted like idiots. The masses ruined it for those that acted responsibly. Now the government is trying to act like a parent stepping in to rescue its citizens in distress. The mortgage crisis came about from people’s arrogance that they DESERVED to have the house, car, boat, new bathroom, second home, etc. regardless of whether it was something they they could realistically afford. What happened to renting an apartment, working hard, and saving to put down 10-20 % on a home, car, home improvement project? I have absolutely NO sympathy for those who took out those crazy mortgages for houses they truthfully couldn’t afford and are now facing foreclosure. It is not your right as an American to own your own home. These people gambled and lost, and are now whining to be rescued.

For those that have lost there jobs and are having trouble paying their mortgage, I feel for them, but the reality folks, is that bad things happen to good people. Part of making good responsible financial decisions involves some planning for situations like lost jobs, deaths, etc. by keeping a cushion of money to land on. Except for those on food stamps, and in our bottom economic strata, ANYONE can choose to live within their means. By doing so you may not be able to keep up with the neighbor next door, but you do get piece of mind knowing that you and yours are taken care of. You would think, that would be more important then keeping up with the Joneses. If the housing market is over inflated and you can’t afford to buy, then don’t, rent.

Then I hear story after story from people that are whining about how they have been taken advantage of by their mortgage company. “Why would they have said we could afford the loan if it wasn’t in my best interest?” While I will admit there are predatory people in the mortgage industry, in the end it is an individual’s responsibility to be actively involved and critically evaluate whether a service/ product is in their best interest. If they aren’t capable of making these decisions, then they should have a friend or family member who is, help them out in that regard. Mortgage lenders offer choices, and just because they say you’re technically approved for certain loans doesn’t mean you should choose them. People who don't understand that the mortgage lenders are looking to make the most money possible off them are hopelessly naive. You don't get something for nothing. I am sure this is a bitter pill to swallow for many but why shouldn't they have to whether the consequences of their own stupidity?

How can we forget the greedy financial institutions that were willing to lend the money out despite the credit risk? When did financial institutions get into the practice of gambling, with no money to back up their bets? On that note, I understand that SOMETHING needs to be done regarding the resulting economic crisis that has come to pass. However, I am very dubious about the Bail Out plan presently proposed. I would rather see the financial institutions who helped bring about this whole mess suffer the natural consequences of their stupidity and greed. Jobs would be lost, credit would freeze up, and many innocent people would suffer and though that would be unfortunate, with far reaching effects, I just can’t see why the mortgage and banking industry should receive a get out of jail card and not suffer the consequences of their bad choices.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Project Morning Person is a total bust!!

I have come to the conclusion that one should not try to mess with Mother Nature. At least not to the extent that I did while trying to change myself into a morning person. The results after just a few days were promising. Unfortunately, they were short lived. I did start going to sleep before midnight at first, but bedtime started to slowly slide later and later over the weeks. Still getting up very early, I have been so exhausted some days, that I end up taking a nap for a couple hours in the middle of the day. It's ironic that I started this whole thing because I felt like I was missing too much of the day.

I can't help but draw a parallel between what I did to myself and when one diets. At first the weight is look and feel good....but slowly old habits and ways return and all the weight returns plus 5 or 10 more. Crazy that trying to change oneself for the better should end up having such a negative end result. Perhaps the fatal flaw in my plan was having a specific idea of what should be a normal night of sleep. Trying to achieve this ideal, like trying to reach a certain dress size, is less important than trying to figure out what my body needs to function at its best.

Well my body tells me it doesn't like to get up in
the early morning hours. If nothing else I have discovered that I should never get up before 6am, and after 6, only if it's an emergency. I can force myself to get up by 7 for work, or to help the kids get off to school when necessary. And 8 is the earliest I would voluntarily wake up. In an ideal world I would sleep till 9 or 10am and start my day. Perhaps moving to a new time zone, CST or MST would help...But I know my internal clock would just shift accordingly... You just can't trick Mother Nature. I night owl I seem destined to be.

Maybe I just need one of these.

The Flattua bed is supported by a single beam attached to the wall, creating a neat effect that looks like your bed is floating on air.

Then I would sleep as peacefully as this guy is meditating.

The Quantum Sleeper should give anyone piece of are instantly ready for any crisis or emergency. Though I find no mention of drinking water storage capabilities.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Duck season!...No.... Rabbit season! Actually it's TICK season!

Oh how I hate these little buggers. I studied all about the many species of ticks while earning my Vet Tech degree, and these little suckers are truly disgusting.

The American Dog tick (Dermacentor Variabilis) is everywhere, and each year I have to make the choice whether or not to put down poison to keep the kids from being covered in them. This year I gambled and decided not to go the poison route. My oldest has lucked out...Apparently her body chemistry was not attractive to them and she had no tick incidents this year. My youngest on the other hand has had 5 bites from dog ticks and 3 bites from deer ticks this year. Luckily I have found them all within a handful of hours but those deer tick nymphs are SMALL!!! More than 1 out of every 2 Deer ticks in this area have Lyme disease, so I have been pulling my hair out (and poor Dana's, looking for ticks) all summer long. Short of dipping her in DEET there is nothing I can do but do a full body inspection EVERY TIME she comes back inside. It makes me want to move to the South West....but then I would just worry about scorpions and rattle snakes.

Threats to small children abound in my least according to the local news. It seems that besides my children being besieged by ticks, I need to keep a watch out for groundhogs, rabid foxes,and such. Those these reports are from a year ago, but are typical of reports from year to year.

I wonder if a whale or dolphin can get rabies? Would they experience the typical hydrophobia? Maybe that's why they are always beaching themselves. What a bad horror film that could make.....A terrorist purposefully infecting pods of whales that start crushing our ships as they try to throw themselves out of the water onto the boats.

Clearly I need to get out more.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I did it and learned a lot along the way

Over the years computers and I have have had a very tumultuous and complicated relationship. I started out back in the day, dead set against them. They were always something I hated to love and loved to hate. I was a committed technophobe, even using a manual typewriter through out high school, though I finally did get an electric one for college. It was the early 90s and computers were mostly being used to store information, run specific programs, to analyze data, and such. However, they started to creep into my everyday life. By the time I graduated from college, even libraries were replacing their card catalogs with computers, (boo hoo) and there was this phenomenon called the world wide web, that my husband kept talking about.

I remember one late afternoon in 1996, when he decided to show me how it all worked. I listened dubiously as he explained to me the concept of web pages, and started typing in random addresses to see what popped up. There were no real search engines like google so it was just sort of hit or miss. We tried many different addresses but time and time again, after waiting minutes for the page to down load,(the joys of dial up) it would more often then not, say
page under construction. We kept at it for an hour or so, Peter getting more and more frustrated as my curiosity faded and my feelings confirmed regarding the limits of a computer's usefulness. Other than running certain software programs, creating word documents, and playing computer games like Doom, I thought that a computer amounted to a very large and expensive paper weight.

Peter remained committed to his technophillic nature and I got to reap the benefits of his ever expanding knowledge of all things computer. The computer became an essential part of my life. Running spread sheets, researching, shopping, paying bills, playing games, keeping in touch with those I care about and love are just a few of the ways computers became an integral part of my day. It would be hard to think of life without them.

Peter had always been the one to install the latest programs or hardware. He maintained it, kept it virus free, defragmented it, added memory, etc. I knew nothing of these things and was gratefully oblivious. If a window popped up while I was using it, asking me a question, I would call Peter at work to make sure it was OK to click on it. I certainly didn't want to cause a problem. I suppose I am starting to sound like a nit wit, but my computer illiteracy was merely a result of a devision of labor. I was completely in charge of our finances, running of the house, all things kids, most of the yard maintenance, etc. so I was perfectly happy to leave the area of computers to him.

But then he got sick. And dealing with the computer alone was not something I knew how to do. While Peter was receiving treatment in Texas, I had to transport our computer there and set it up with DSL. And when we got back home I became obsessed with getting the computer hooked back up and running. Amongst the chaos of my family's return home, the arrival of my husband's parents and siblings, and the setting up hospice care, I had to set up the computer and have it up and running. In my mind if I could do this one last thing without him, then the girls and I would somehow be OK. Over the 8 months he had been sick, I had run the entire show. The computer was the last thing I had depended on him for. On the 8th of August, we flew back from Houston on a private Jet loaned to us by the owner of the Sonics. Two friends of the family were driving back our car full of our belongings, including the computer, and weren't scheduled to arrive till the 10th.

I felt if I could just get the computer up and running without him, then maybe there was hope of a life after Peter. If I could just get it running, then maybe everything might eventually be OK. Late afternoon on the 10th, with my very confused in laws looking on, I spent what felt like 2 hours on the phone with a very patient rep from Adelphia helping me plug cords in the proper places and getting my computer back on line. After, I went into the bedroom where Peter lay.
I wanted for him to know that I would be OK. I whispered into his ear that I had done it. I had gotten the computer running.

I needed him to know that although it was NOT OK for him to be leaving us, that it would somehow be OK, even if I couldn't yet see how. I would not crumple up and die. Life would go on. I would go on....without him. He knew the significance of what I had accomplished and what I was really saying.

I was saying goodbye.

He died 8 hours later in my arms.

In these past 2 years, I have been delighted to discover that regarding computers, I wasn't as much of a dunce as I thought I was. I must have picked up a lot from Peter over the years without knowing it. And after getting over my fear of irreparably damaging the computer I've spent hours opening up tabs rooting around and becoming more and more familiar with my computer. It helps a lot that everything is SO menu driven and intuitive. And of course there is that wonderful world wide web of information at my fingertips, so I can usually find out what I don't know. Last year after my computer became infected with a virus I learned how to put it in safe mode and manually deleted the infected files. Is it something that would have taken Peter 20 minutes to do? Yes. Did it take me 8 hours? Absolutely. But I did it and learned a lot along the way.

Hopefully, when my time comes I will be able to say the same about my life.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ready or not time marches on.

Ahh the first day back at school. One glorious year when both children will be in the same school, on the same bus. I can't believe I have a 1st grader and a 5th grader. Where has the time gone?
I still remember only yesterday when they looked like...


On the left Dana at 3 months and on the right Sienna at the same age!

What little troll dolls they were. And if you spun them around real quick, their hair would stick straight out just like the dolls from our youth. Remember these guys?