Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day getaway

Anson and I left the kids with family and headed up to Forks, WA Saturday morning. We had a nice drive enjoying the beauty of Washington state. Our main reason for the trip was to take pictures for a calendar that I'm working on. So when we saw a photo opportunity, we would pull over and take some pictures. There were a lot that we missed because there was nowhere to pull over, and we still had to make it to Forks before the sun went down to get a few pictures there are well. We pulled off the main road and walked down a pathway into tall, mossy trees. Anson and I wished we had more time to go explore because it really was beautiful and not something you see everyday.

We got to Forks and found that most of the hotels had no vacancy's. We ended up in a smelly, old motel room that had a double bed and single bed that Anson and I pushed together. The mint on the table was half unwrapped and there were crumbs of something left on the table as well.

After we checked in, we went down to Rialto Beach, watched the sun set and took some great pictures. It was really nice to be with Anson. It reminded me of when Anson and I first got together after his mission and talked as we watched the sun set in Pacific City on the Oregon Coast.

Later that night we went to a
Chinese restaurant there in town and the food there was delicious!

Anson gave it a thumbs up.

The service was great, the atmosphere was nice
and it was very inexpensive.

The next morning we drove around and took pictures of "Bella's and The Cullen's homes" and other places on the map you can get at the chamber.

Then on our drive home,
we stopped at a Ruby beach which was beautiful too.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good news!

All the photographs/prints Anson and
I made for the twilight store in Forks, WA
sold this week! It's SO exciting!
I got my first check the other day and hope there
are many more to come. Does that make me a professional now?! :)
We had some more work printed up yesterday
because they sold out! It's still unbelievable to me.
Anson and I will head up to Forks again this weekend
so that I can take more pictures of the area.
It is such a beautiful place.
This time we will be leaving the kids here with family.
We were pretty rushed last time and impatient because
they were with us. We'll be able to take our own sweet time
this time and take in everything the Olympic Peninsula has to offer.

Other great things have been happening at school and with my work!
Earlier this week I found out that 2 of my photographs and
a project that I made in Typography will be in my school's
art publication! I guess last years publication
won national awards, so I'm pretty
excited to be included.

Also, this morning before class started,
my Typography teacher said she was
thinking about me and
wanted to know if I was in
the Graphic Design program.
She said she was really impressed with my work
and wanted to know where I had come from.
I told her that I had only started school this
last fall. Anyway, it turns out that she is my advisor.

I think I'm finally getting a hang of what's
expected in my 2 Dimensional Design class
and am enjoying the assignments now.
I'll post a few pictures of what
I've been working on a little later.

It's all very good news and lots of fun for me now,
I'm just dreading the day I will have to take a math class.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We got scammed... but we are soaring with the eagles

We will be homeless soon because of a very untrustworthy man who knows better, but that's ok. Really we wont be homeless, because the market is full of great homes to move into on a moments notice, but I thought the "homeless" thing added a bit of drama which is always fun. Read on.
Most of you know that we owned a music instrument store for several years. We had a great time running it and Angela and I got to spend a lot of really fun time together. This was good because we are best friends, which helps when you are married. That heaven wasn't without it's evils though as we lost many thousands of dollars to people who purposely wrote us bad checks, broke in and stole guitars in the middle of the night, employee theft, shoplifters, people not making payments on their in-house credit etc. The real problem came when I started renting instruments. The plan was to offer the instruments at a low enough price so that any family could afford to have their child in band or orchestra. Where the other Vancouver stores charges $19 to $180 per month for instruments, we rented the same exact instruments for $9 to $59 per month AND allowed every cent to go toward the purchase price that was NOT overly inflated. Well, most of those instruments went home with the families and we never saw them or the payments again despite my efforts to collect. There went another $10,000.
So, after I got into my doctoral program it was obvious that I wasn't going to be able to own a store like that and be successful in my program, so the store had to go away. And away it went.
This was OK by me, because the store started to feel like a ball and chain toward the end, so we were happy to be done with that experience. Live and learn.
During the time we had the store we got duped into a bad loan by a calculating bank loan officer that had the refi game down to a science and could soak every dollar out of a homeowner to his advantage, so he lied to us and did it in a way that was so slick that we never saw it coming. We have only refinanced twice in our lives, and he did this a dozen or more times a month, so it is no wonder that he was better at that whole game than we were. Live and learn.
We didn't really like our home, so we decided to put it on the market and get into a much nicer, newer home. This was just as the market was beginning it's free fall due to... you guessed it, dishonest people within the banks and government who hurt millions of people in order to make millions of $$$. We had a deal on the house and were excited to move.
We found a home offered by Creative Lease Options, which also happens to be called Alternative Home Solutions that was within the school district and it was only a couple of years old, so we decided to get that one as long as we could lease for now and have the option to buy as soon as I was out of school. This would also ensure that we didn't own a home that we were upside down in as the economy was really falling fast at that time or even if we just don't like the home and want to find a new one. The guy that made the contract with us was agreeable and happened to be a member of a religion that is known for having trustworthy members, so that put us at ease. I thought it was weird that he wanted us to sign the papers for the home in a hurry at a Sheri's restaurant rather than at their office or at a title company or lawyers office. He also wanted our $5,000 deposit that would go toward the purchase price of the home if we decided to buy it in a cashiers check made out to him and not his company. He was late to sign papers at Sheri's and we were forced to gloss over the contract once he arrived as fast as we could to get back to our boys who were home alone. He was in a huge rush too and seemed anxious, and actually left before we did, leaving us to pay for his drink. Whatever. I thought the lease would be fine since he and I spoke on the phone several times regarding the important parts of the lease terms.
After we got home we moved right into the new home. It is a great home for us. Lots of bedrooms and bathrooms and a 2 car garage. After we settled in I got a chance to take an hour to read over the lease since half of our appliances didn't work, there was problems with the drywall, and the garage door opener was installed wrong. I was amazed to read that I was responsible for all repairs to the home. Whaaaaat? What kind of lease is that? Basically, the landlord will pay for nothing. That stinks. I got him to pay to have the hot water heater fixed after comlaining a lot, but he wouldn't fix anything else, so I put a new dishwasher in but I refused to pay for the washing machine to be replaced because it was just an old piece of garbage. I also found out as I read further, which upset me, that the $5,000 deposit was non-refundable. I about flipped out, which for me means raising my eyebrows and coming up with a logical argument for why I should get a refund on that deposit if I decided not to buy the home.
I spoke with Courtney, the man who did the really bad deal with us, and he refused to make any concessions whatsoever. He wouldn't budge. I kind of thought that was a dirty trick to bury that in the contract and not tell me in our conversations "Hey, by the way, unlike any lease we have ever heard of, the deposit of $5,000 is gone once you sign the papers, even if you move out next month." He told me that I am bound to the contract we signed. I could have been dishonest and simply moved out, leaving him to pay mortgage on an overpriced house without a renter. That surely would have cost him since nobody would move into this home for that amount of money while rent prices were plummeting. The house within a month or two was overpriced in everyway. He would have been hemorrhaging money, but that is just not right, even if he did pull a fast one on me. So, I upheld my part of the contract and paid our rent grudgingly. I asked several times for Courtney to renegotiate the contract because the contract we signed was a great deal for him, but a terrible deal for us, and the honorable thing to do would be to redo the contract in a way where we both are happy with it and I am not under pressure to sign at a table at Sheri's. He wanted nothing to do with it and then informed me that they would no longer accepts checks and that I needed to pay rent directly to their account with cash. I thought that was a bit ridiculous, but so far he has been nothing but ridiculous. Live and learn.
The other day a man comes and knocks on our door with papers that say he is the real owner of the home, and not Courtney. He asks if I have been paying rent to Courtney, and I had. Apparently Courtney had a contract with this guy who was the real owner of the home, and Courtney was supposed to be paying the mortgage for the man with the money we had been giving him all along. Rather than paying the mortgage, he started pocketing the rent money each month. I think that is called stealing last time I checked. The real owner said that the house is being foreclosed and every time he spoke with Courtney for the several months prior, he said Courtney said he would be taking care of the mortgage payments and getting caught up. He didn't pay the mortgage and just kept taking our money, and even had the marbles to increase our rent by 3% last month when he had no intention of paying the mortgage. Not only did he increase our rent amount, but after we paid the cash to his account, he sent us a note saying we had not been paying our rent. It's a good thing that we kept the bank reciepts because the real owner needed those receipts to catch Courtney in his own web of deciet. After Courtney was cornered with the evidence against him he simply walked away from the home deal with over $15,000 in cash leaving the owner of the home and myself with a mess.
I got ahold of Courtney and he told me that he was done with the house. It wasn't benefiting him enough so he decided to just keep my rent payments, not pay the guy's mortgage, and allow it to go into foreclosure while we are living there wihout telling us that we would be homeless soon. I think that classifies as a lie. He also told us that the real owner is the one who cause the whole mess because he didnt pay one property tax payment before Courtney wrote a contract with him. That would be bearing false witness because that is a lie too. Of course there are two sides to every story, and three in this case, and this story is from my perspective.
The real owner now has ruined credit, no equity, and my family is out a total of $9,200 because $400 from each month of rent was supposed to go off the purchase price of the home in addition to the $5,000 deposit. That is a large amount when we are both full time students.
So, here we are, with less than a month to live in this house. We have no place to move to yet, because our other home that we own is too small for us and we are still trying to sell it after four deals have fallen through at the last second because of ... bank financing, which was due to the heightened bank restrictions which was a result of the greed of people.
I have three awesome boys and a beautiful wife who have never done anything wrong to anyone. They are paying for another man's greed. I think they have paid enough up to this point, but it just adds insult to injury when things like this happen.
I have not aired our set backs out publicly until now because I think mostly they are due to my ignorance of the malicious intentions of others, and that only adds to the negative vibe of the world. I like to place my attention on the more honorable things of creation and not dwell on the things that I have no control over like this. My mother used to say, "Anson, why cry over spilt milk?" It is against my philosophy and only creates dissonance within me and my home. If I were to really internalize these things I would be dead. I know this because before I discovered meditation I was nearly dead from stress and internalizing my problems. This is my exception because, for my own benefit, I need to tell you that even though there are so many people that are willing to do the wrong thing out of greed and selfishness, there are still honorable people out there who are trustworthy and would not hurt anyone intentionally for any reason. These are people I would entrust my life to. I bet you can name more than a few of these types of people that rise above the smog of dishonorable actions. Tim Root, Blaine Snider, Mike Turley, Bronson Utter, Mom Service, Mom and Dad Corier, Angela, my sons, Maryann Birkel, my other brothers and sisters, many people from my church, my bishopric, and the list goes on and on and on. Look how awesome it is that I have a list that is so long I cant even begin to write them all.
With all of that being said, I cannot feel bad even with all of the scamming that I have fallen victim to, because I have a freind who puts my hardships into proper perspective. This man has endured more scamming than I will ever endure, was offered basically more money than I will ever see in a lifetime if he would go against what he knew to be right, passed up all of that so he could serve others without getting anything in return. He didnt want tuition reimbursement, a stipend, or even room and board for implementing the talents and knowledge he had to save the lives of others. He eventually ended up being brutally beaten, tortured, and murdered because of the greed and selfishness of others. In losing his life, he saved mine. That is not why I love Him though. I love Him because he is my brother and the one whom I love to serve. There is just something special about Him. If I can be like Him, my goals are goals worth reaching for, even thhough I have a LONG way to go. All other goals are unimportant. When I am with Him, I have no reason to fret about anything. When you soar with eagles you cant grovel with the turkeys. All of the people I just mentioned including my brother Jesus the Christ are eagles. I love the eagles in my life and I want to thank them personally for being that light of hope in a world that sometimes seems shady. That is what I have learned as I have lived.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pizza Buffet

Anson and I went out to lunch last week. We like to go eat at new places at least once a week that we've never been to before. We wanted a pizza buffet and had a coupon for a place called, Pied Piper Pizza. We decided that since we eat out A LOT together (usually while the kids are in school) we could give a quick review on the places we have been to. I really wanted our first amateur review to be a positive one, but instead, this first review of ours is for Pied Piper Pizza in Orchards.

It was an interesting experience from the moment we walked in to say the least. The place looked and felt like Boss Hogs bar called the Boar's Nest and a truck stop collided. The carpet was soiled and worn with garbage scattered throughout. The tables, chairs and booths were falling apart with ripped vinyl and trim missing. There were meals from previous lunch goers still on tables ( at least I think the meals were from lunch: they looked pretty old and crusty) and the decor looked like it was thrown up on the wall by a person who got their decorating inspiration from Napoleon Dynamite. The customer service was ridiculous less like service and more like you were being helped by a sibling who hates your guts. The woman ringing us up was complaining that the other worker, who just happened to be her mother, wasn't doing her job and she had to go do it herself. I believe her exact words were "She is driving me crazy."
The price for the buffet with a refillable soda: $13!!!!!!!!!!! Daaaaaaaaang! Good thing we had a two for one coupon, or this crusty lunch would have set us back about what a trip to Chuck E. Cheese for the whole family would cost.

We finally got our plates (styrofoam), and started with the salad bar. The salad wasn't bad, they had lots of toppings and it all looked very fresh. We were pleased with that. I am a pizza lover and looked over the pizzas. They were all meat, so I waited because I am vegetarian. The lady ringing us up while complaining about her mother said more pizzas were being made. I finished my salad and went back to the pizza bar...still no pizza. I refilled my lemonade, sat back down and waited a little longer. I went back again and still no meatless pizza. The older lady who was the mother was very nice and asked if I was looking for something in particular. I told her and she said, "Oh I can make you some cheese pizza" and asked if I liked garlic. So about 10 more minutes pass and she signals Anson that it was ready. I got to the pizza bar and found cheesy bread sticks! What the heck? Breadsticks are NOT pizza, especially $13 pizza! I took a couple bread sticks, took a few pictures and left.

Mmmm, cheeeesy sticks! Actually they were gross.

Anson and I probably wont be returning anytime soon, if ever.

Maybe its a great place to sing the latest "KarEoke" version of Hooked on Phonics Greatest Hits. Bon Appetit!