Jul 22, 2009

In fact you haven't met anything cuter...ever

Originally uploaded by cheryl_lynn425.
She is absolutely the cutest thing in the world and that is why I take a million photos of her. Lexi and I, the dynamic duo, are about to head out and pick up my Dad. He's in town and is coming over for dinner and puppy greetings. It will be the first time Lexi and Dad have met. Woohoo! It's like a family reunion!

Jul 21, 2009

I swear we aren't smuggling babies

Yesterday Ross and I meant with a mortgage lender at Bank of America. IT. WAS. FRUSTRATING.

As Ross put it, a colonoscopy would have been less painful.

It started off like a doctor's appointment...waiting. Even though we had an appointment time. Do they do this because they can? There wasn't anyone else there; I didn't feel like all of Ausitn was out to get a loan. Sigh, but finally we were in the lender's office.

I had two folders full of financial paperwork. And apparently I still didn't have what we needed. In fairness, I was told to bring two years of our W-2's and could not find Ross' 2007 W-2's so I knew that one was off. But everything else that I was told to bring, I had. However there were things we needed that I was not told about and that was killer. I could have brought them; I have them. I have statements from my retirement plan, if only I was told I needed them. I can print bank statements, no problem. I must have looked as frustrated as I felt because at one point when the lender walked out of the room, Ross made a point to calm me down. (Did practically throwing my pen on the table when asked for yet ANOTHER document I wasn't told to bring give it away?)

However, when it was all said and done, it wasn't my paperwork issues that are holding us back. Here's the scoop - I have bukus of college loans. My mom is co-signed on the big ones with Sallie Mae and I pay those religiously each month. My federal student loans have only my name but my parents out of the kindness of their hearts pay them. But since my parents have no responsibility to those loans, their payments can't help my debt-income ratio. And since I make all the payments on the loans they do have responsibility for, that also can't help my debt-income ratio. Sad huh? I'm 110% grateful that Mom and Dad pay those federal loans, I just wish the bank would be half as appreciative as I am. And because of my crummy debt-income ratio, I can't be preapproved by myself (which was an idea we were toying with since we didn't know if we could get Ross' 2007 W-2's). So that's issue number one.

Issue number two - Ross has been depositing cash tips into our bank account. We can't have any cash deposits into our bank account that aren't documented someplace. This is to keep baby smugglers from buying homes. But we aren't baby smugglers! So because of the cash deposits, the bank won't take into consideration money in our checking account...which is basically half of what we have. And it even makes our savings account questionable because we transfer money from the "sketch-tastic" checking to our savings. We have to have 60 days of no undocumented cash deposits which also means any cash wedding gifts we can't deposit without a cumbersome gift form being submitted. We have 52 days left of "cleaning" our bank accounts.

As we got to the end of this meeting, we felt pretty darn beaten down. How frustrating to KNOW we can afford a house but for our bank not to believe us. And why weren't these things, like the cash deposits, told to us before? Why isn't that common knowledge? When we set up this appointment, why weren't we provided with more complete information? Perhaps all that would have been too easy?

The good news is Grama actually has Ross' W-2's in the Ross file she's kept all his life. So we'll be able to collect those and get him on the loan too. With his income added to mine, our debt-income ratio is fine and won't hold us back. We also have time to do 52 more days of bank account cleaning and still reach out closing goal. Also the lender said that while we can't count the income from two part-tme jobs (sucks) we can submit paperwork from Sam Bass Fire Dept. to help show how we're a young couple with goals and that Ross' time in school is paying off.

Anyways, I think its all going to be OK, but folks, I'll let you know, if you are looking to buy a house, get ready for these loan meetings. Maybe you should ask if a root canal would be an acceptable trade off...

Jul 16, 2009


I've been in a crabby, unpleasant funk since I got back to the office on Tuesday. (Really makes you want to keep reading doesn't it?)

Ross is on his way home and we're going to counseling tonight. I'd like to be in a happy frame of mind for the evening, as well as in general. So here is my list of everything that ROCKS right now (and consider me constantly knocking on a very large piece of wood).
  • We're healthy. No unusual prescriptions needed, no dietary issues, just healthy.
  • Busy at the office means job security. I might be swamped but it definitely means my position is useful and has ample work to go with it. In a shaky economy, job security is a pretty sweet deal. I think I definitely have that.
  • Ross is beginning his firefighting career. And since he's beginning it as a part-timer, I get to gradually adapt to the new schedule. He's happy about the new job; I'm happy about the new job. Our bank account is happy about the new job.
  • We won't be rushed through tonight's dinner. The crockpot wasn't totally plugged in so dinner isn't ready yet but at least we can take our time and eat after counseling instead of stuffing our faces in 5 minutes before.
  • Doing a little work on my Boston vacation means more PTO for house hunting. And with Ross' new firefighting schedule, my ability to take PTO will be imperative. Whew! Glad I can!
  • Lexi gets cuter by the day. I'm not really sure how but she does.
  • This margarita I'm drinking is delicious.
  • Nikki is not going to Galveston tomorrow which means Pool Fridays are back! We'll sit by the pool, sip frozen beverages and debate husbands, work and the meaning of life.
  • My wedding dress has four inches of wiggle room built into it. I really hope I don't need a full four inches but I am glad I don't need to starve myself for the next three months. I can enjoy all the delicious Boston food and pre-wedding parties and so long as I maintain my current weight, life is good.
  • My mom has a beautiful outfit for my wedding. She's going to look great.
  • The house I am lusting after is still on the market. YES!
  • With Ross' new firefighting gig and the $8k tax credit, we might be able to pay of my car and his loans even sooner. Woohoo!
  • Jess is taking me to Cape Cod while I'm in MA.
  • On the same note, I leave for MA in 8 days. WOOHOO!
  • Kevin is living in a house for the next semester and we can play musical puppies when Lexi and I go to Houston in August to shop for Grandma's dress to the wedding. Which means Kevin gets to remember puppy responsibilities first hand.
AND ROSS IS HOME! I'm happier.

Jul 15, 2009

They call me the fireman, that's my name

Originally uploaded by cheryl_lynn425.

He's been hired part time by the Sam Bass Fire Department where he's been volunteering.

In dirty details he's on their paid reserve list meaning he's picking up shifts when full-time guys need days off. From the response of the fire house this is many more days than not. And he has Saturdays free which is about to make him a very popular man.

We're both super excited that he's "livin' the dream." He feels good; I feel good. It's a feel good kinda day.


Jul 13, 2009

July Showers

July showers bring lovely wedding flowers...and gifts!

This past weekend Brenda and Bryanna hosted my bridal shower. It was fantastic! They decorated with orange Japanese lanterns, made finger foods, planned fun games and invited all my favorite family. They did a great job and were the perfect friends/family to hostess.

Some of the super wonderful gifts we received included champagne toasting flutes, wedding scrapbook, stemless wine glasses, Partini, digital video camera, fancy schmancy sheets, everything we ever needed for the guest bathroom, beautiful mother-of-pearl serving tray and a full set of silicon bakeware.

I'm back in Austin now and juggling laundry, grocery shopping, mortgage pre approval, thank you notes, etc so I've got to run. But here's a photo Bry took of Melissa and me at the shower.

Jul 7, 2009

Best Girl Scout Thing EVER

Besides cookies. I know you love cookies. Probably Thin Mints, possibly Caramel Delights.

But besides cookies, what is your absolute favorite thing about Girl Scouts?

Mine was summer camp. Holy cow, summer sleepaway camp was the coolest. I got to go really far away from Mom and Dad, ride horses, learn sign language and make lots of noise at the dinner table. Can't say I was real into the swim lessons...I never could learn how to dive. I hung out in level 3 for all 5 summers I think. And anyways I always took a buddy which made it even better. Oh and I got mail from Mom, Dad and Grandma. Yeah, camp basically rocked.

Then when I was a little older and cheerleading replaced Girl Scout camp and nerd camp replaced cheerleading, I was totally ready to be out on my own. No worries. I could pack a suitcase and learned how to wash clothes in the sink when you were down to your last pair of shorts. I could take on the world with just a cabin and a buddy. Sweet.

Now as a Girl Scout staff person, its that independent living I promote. And its great. But I'll be honest, when I was a kid, it totally wasn't about learning to take care of myself. It was about running away to camp with my BFF of the year and playing all day with no parents to tell me to clean my room. (Somehow chores were way more fun when a spunky college girl named "Tigger" was telling you to do them and you got to do them with your BFF.)

I remember Girl Scouts being all about FUN. Riding in town parades, first campouts in the backyard, field trips to the beauty parlour, growing crystals in baby food jars. FUN and FRIENDS. And I still kinda stay in touch with a few of those girls (thank you Facebook). They were definitely among my closest friends through high school. Lisa Smith and I went to high school dances in the same group; Nicole Stallings and I visted each other at our part time jobs and her mom made my prom jewelry. Renee Howard and I went to high school football games together and I think she dated one of my friends.

But I digress. Back to what is Girl Scouts about. Girl Scouts is also about teaching girls whatever skills they need to succeed and making sure they have fun doing it. Back when the org was founded that might have been baking and sewing. Now it's public speaking and computer literacy. It's all about helping girls be the best they can be and often that means building self esteem and confidence so girls have the guts to say no to drugs, teenage sex and other potentially destructive behaviors. In a word: leadership.

So here's the dilly of a pickle: Girl Scouts is about leadership, fun and friends too. All these things are critical to the success of the organization and girls...who after all, are our entire mission and reason for being at Girl Scouts. But how do we convey these things all at once?

Leadership is serious and evokes images of Hillary Clinton, Queen Elizabeth and Michelle Obama (yes, I am clearly a polisci nerd). For some it brings to mind feminist which seems to have a dirty, negative connotation. Even if by feminist all you mean is independent capable gal, somehow it connotates a man-hating, anti-baking, bra-burning hippie. And for an organization best know for sweet cookie sales, that hippie image doesn't really vibe. But for corporate big-wigs who see chick leaders as the next generation of their CEOs and VPs, leadership sounds awesome. And they will donate to awesome, which as the Girl Scouts, is what we're counting on. So yeah, leadership is tricky.

Fun is, well, fun. Water guns, barbies, playing make-believe, singing along with Miley Cyrus, horseback riding. Jamming as many girls as there are seatbelts into a mini-van and driving to the nearest theme park for a day of roller coasters, sunburns and ice cream. Girls love it. Awesome; we want to give them what they love. But we have to find educational value in it; we're not just a party planning organization. Fortunately finding the education is easier than you might think. Troop leaders help girls set goals to go to the theme park, earn the money to pay their admission, plan the trip and pack a first aid kit to stuff under the passenger seat in the mini-van. It's kinda hard though to present yourself as a serious, relevant and necessary organization when your bottomline is fun. So back to leadership we go when we're talking to donors.

Friends...honestly, maybe not the most difficult of messages. Business tycoons call it networking; girls call it BFFs. Either way, the general appreciate for interpersonal relationships is there. Whew, at least one of these is easy.

Many paragraphs of rambling later I pose these questions: How does Girl Scouts effectively show both its BEST THINGS EVER: fun and leadership? How do we attract girls, parents and donors with one Web site? Potentially one newsletter?

If you are a comm person you are probably screaming "You have to target your audiences! Fun smiley pictures on pink backgrounds for girls and clean corporate leader-y images for donors! Come on Cheryl!!" And I totally hear ya. But I don't have the funds for two sets of materials so too bad so sad. That's life. It's called a "nonprofit" for a reason and we've got to get creative to get the most bang for our buck on every marketing material we make.

And finally, I don't want you to finish reading this post and think I must totally hate my job because I just rambled about the challenge of it for a full entry. Freak that I am, in some ways, this is exactly what I like about my job. Maybe I'll be the genius who will figure it out. And if I'm not and someone else is, God willing, I will be lucky enough to learn how they did it. I'll be a better comm person for it and Girl Scouts will help even more girls learn how fun it is to be (secretly) taught leadership skills under the HOT HOT HOT Texas sun of a spunky, funky, wicked-cool Girl Scout camp.

And I hope they all move past level 3 of swimming lessons. I hear diving isn't nearly as scary as I think it is...

Jul 4, 2009

Oprah says

tug o war
Originally uploaded by cheryl_lynn425.
Oprah and her guest moms on Friday said that its hard to "do it all." The moms all confessed to being unhappy when they tried to be the perfect mom, wife and career woman.

So I've decided if I have to give something up when I have kids, its gonna be housework. I can't exactly pay someone to have my job; I don't want to pay someone to raise my kids and I'd prefer to keep my (soon-to-be) husband. Housework though - sweeping, laundry, cleaning toilets - I can totally live without those things.

Yeah, I won't do it all. I'll let someone else do the chores.