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My Grandma: The Fat Police

July 4, 2012

My grandma isn’t your typical grandma.  In fact, we joke that my aunt’s ex-husband’s dad’s partner is a better grandma than my grandma.  He gets down on the floor and plays with the kids, he makes freezer jam, pie, etc.  As for my grandma, it’s, “Hello, grandchildren.”  The rest of the visit consists of uncomfortable political conversations, Grandma taking unflattering pictures of us (usually mid-chew), and comments about everyone’s weight.  It has only gotten worse with age and has become a source of amusement for me.  My dad, however; has just suddenly caught on to her rudeness and has given everyone permission to call her on it.

She’s 87 so there’s not much point in trying to change her now.  During our last dinner together, I said I never salt my food and she said, “That’s good for your blood pressure.”  I thought, “Here it comes ……”  She said, “But so would losing some weight.  Has your doctor ever told you you need to lose weight?”

My dad blurted out, “That is frickin’ rude!”  She said, “I won’t be around much longer to tell the truth……”  He snapped, “It’s not truthful.  It’s just frickin’ rude!”  She apologized and after my dad left the room, she said, “He sure has been grumpy with me lately.  Is he feeling OK?”  I said, “I think he’s just being protective, Grandma.  Yes, I’m aware I need to lose weight.  It’s rather obvious.”

When my sister hit puberty, my grandma said, “I see you’ve gained some weight.”  It’s normal for girls to gain weight at that age.

After my third son was born, we had a potluck and I went to another room to feed him.  By the time I finally got around to eating dinner, she asked me, “Are those seconds or thirds?”

On Thanksgiving she asked me, “You’re not pregnant, are you?”  I actually had a miscarriage two weeks before that, so I allowed my eyes to well up with tears.  She looked horrified and said, “Oh.  I had two miscarriages. It was awful!”  My mom felt terrible for me, but I laughed about it later.  There was no better way to put Grandma’s foot in her mouth.

On Memorial Day, we went to the cemetary to visit our deceased loved ones.  Even during this moment, she poked my skinny son’s tummy and asked him, “How did your tummy get so big?  Is it from eating too much food?”  He is not the least bit fat.

She showed us pictures from a vacation in New Zealand, remarking how my cousin’s husband has gained a lot of weight.

She asked my husband, “Is that your spare tire?  Is that a heart attack belly?  I hear men with big bellies are more likely to have heart attacks.”  He told her, “It’s not my spare tire.  It’s my main tire.” 

The day my aunt had a baby, my grandma told her, “I see you still have your tummy.”  She had eight kids, but I guess she forgot how your tummy doesn’t immediately disappear.  My sister said, “I would have told her I see she still has her hairy wart.”  I’ve never seen my aunt laugh so hard.

My mom just about exploded when she talked about a mutual friend and my grandma asked, “Is he still ugly?”

My dad invited her over for the 4th.  I am eagerly anticipating all of the funny (to me) comments and some witty comebacks.  I’m kind of torn between eating nothing in front of her or pigging out so I can giggle about it later.  At our last big gathering, I made multiple comments about how starving I was and begged for dessert 5 minutes after dinner.  She protested loudly.  Hahahahaha!!!!  She’s humor impaired and didn’t catch on when I was grinning mischieviously.  Honestly, I would rather hear about how fat I am than listen to her talk about how wonderful Obama is and how awful Bush was.  In fact, I think I will change the subject to my weight myself when she does.  “So, Grandma.  Have you noticed how fat I am?”

So, tell me about your family. 


My Timetable

July 1, 2012

Don’t you love those lessons in life that you have to learn repeatedly?  I feel like I have made a lot of extra stress for myself by deciding that once we were out of debt and had $3,000 in our savings account, we could finally apply for a home loan.  Part of this was my fear ruling me – what if our landlord doesn’t allow us to live here anymore?  Then we better hurry up and buy a place, especially if we have to change school districts.

My trials have made me an overanalyzer.  I used to be more adventurous and just worried about things as they came along.  I would like to recapture that quality I once had, which could be a downfall too, but I need more of a balance.  I developed a case of insomnia last week because I couldn’t stop thinking about the unlimited unknowns:

1.  What if my kids have to change school districts in the middle of the year?

2.  What if the bank doesn’t approve us for as much as they thought they could?

3.  What if we get kicked out of here before we have a chance to buy?  Then what?  Our savings would be blown on first, last, and deposit for another rental.

4.  What if the house we buy needs a new roof or furnace sooner than we think and we can’t afford it?

5.  What if my kids are miserable at their new school?  We can’t just turn around and sell the house.  It has to appreciate in value.

6.  Would I feel horrible later if we didn’t move by my parents?

7.  Would we regret it if we moved by my parents?  Would the kids take advantage of Grandma and Grandpa’s kindness?  Would we still want to be in that neighborhood after they’re gone?

8.  What if we keep paying for inspections just to discover the VA won’t approve the house?

9.  What if it costs way more to heat our new house than we thought?

10.  When can we have our last child?  If we have a higher payment, can we afford that?  What if something goes wrong?

11.  Could my husband afford the payments if I died?

12.  How hard would it be to sell the house later if we needed to?

I think I’ve been more anxious because of the bad start we had with that lender and realtor, but I like our new realtor and I need to just chill and get preapproved with someone – stop thinking about whether they can get us the absolutely best deal on the way we finally find the house we want to make an offer on.  If we get preapproved, that doesn’t mean we have to make an offer on something this week.  It will be good just to know what is possible and then we can make a decision from there.  My husband feels rushed because he doesn’t want the interest rates to go up.  The problem is, there are multiple bids and people are offering over the asking price, so that isn’t going to get us a house for the price we need anyway.  I keep thinking there will be a better opportunity later this summer or even fall.  Most likely, we applied too soon because of my timetable instead of asking Heavenly Father what was meant to be. 

OK, so what if we do get kicked out of here?  Then we’ll deal with it and maybe that will somehow lead to better things.  We’ll pack, look for a place, and if we don’t find anything we’ll put everything in storage.  I think we know a couple people who would take us in temporarily or might benefit from rent paid to them or our skills.  I lived out of a duffle bag for two weeks in Texas.  I went to Austria at the age of 15 for 5 weeks without my family and without having met my host family.  I took some leaps of faith that turned out great and have given me the best memories. 

I’m going to take back my sense of adventure and encourage my kids to be the same way.  I’m going to be open to whatever options Heavenly Father offers us and when I know the Spirit is giving us the answer, I’m not going to look back.  I’m thinking about my aunt again who just took things as they came.  She managed to work things out, even from her wheelchair.  I miss her so much. 

House Search Update

June 12, 2012

We found a realtor we like.  She isn’t pushy at all and she’s very patient.  She understands that it’s going to be a longer process for us.  She also has a great sense of humor and thinks it’s hilarious when I talk about putting something ridiculous in our offer like, “The shopping cart stays!”

So there’s this fixer in our neighborhood and we can’t get in to see it because the bank has to replace the deadbolt.  There’s a tree growing too close to the house that will need to be removed, the outside needs to be painted, a window has a board on it because a homeless person broke in, and they left a shopping cart in the beautiful, overgrown backyard.

We are prepared to live in an ugly, but functional house.  In fact, we welcome the idea because my husband is super handy and we could probably turn around and sell the place for $100,000 more.  The windows need to be replaced, we would need new appliances, the paint is in bad shape, the floors need to be refinished or replaced, etc.  We’re hoping that it’s possible to do the VA loan.  Now if the bank would just make it possible to see the inside, that would be great!

We call it “the dreamy house”.

We also looked at a short sale that reeks of smoke.  The owner keeps coming back to steal light fixtures, rose bushes, etc.  My parents went for a walk in the neighborhood and saw him doing it.  I’m betting he snags the air conditioner next.

We still haven’t fully settled on a lender and for some reason I don’t feel like it’s quite time to go through the full application process.  Maybe there’s a lower interest rate ahead or a great opportunity in our future.  Exciting to think about, but I’m nervous!  I feel like there is something for us here, but then we’re taking a risk that we might have to change school districts in the middle of the year.

A Bad Assumption

May 18, 2012

I’m learning a hard lesson right now.  We have started looking for a home and because so many friends have used this one realtor, naturally he must be really great at his job, right?  Or do these people just think he must be trustworthy because he’s Mormon? 

A friend of mine now regrets referring me to this realtor and lender because of the way they pressured my husband and I this weekend.  She never had issues because she and her husband have a pretty high income, so the search isn’t as difficult and if they’re a little picky, these guys know it’s going to pay off big in the end.

As for my husband and I, we don’t make that much money and we are going to have to search harder for the right place and right price.  Perhaps it won’t be worth a long, hard search to him.

So after he showed us exactly one house on Saturday night, after he was an hour late, he proceeded to ignore our concerns about the house and anything we didn’t like about it, trying to convince us it was the only house we would see for that price in that area, and that we could afford the payment that came out to be $200 higher than our lender lead us to believe. 

I looked around at the off white and yellow appliances, considered our modest savings account, and knew it would only take a couple of incidents to cause us to turn to our credit card again.  That dishwasher would be toast if it wasn’t already.  How long until my van breaks down?  How long until my husband’s truck needs new tires?  Those cost over $1,000.  The windows were obviously in need of being replaced too, but our realtor told us the price was firm.  The house wasn’t worth it with all of the problems that came with it.  His solution wasn’t to ask them to come down in price.  He asked us, “Where can you cut your spending?”  I don’t know how we could cut it more. 

We wanted to see a short sale about two minutes away and he blew it off.  We had come all that way and waited for him for an hour.  Couldn’t he have humored us?  I told him before we made any offers, we needed to hear back from the lender and needed an explanation as to how he arrived at the estimated payment.  He never did answer the question, but he did send us some charts and graphs to show us why it makes sense to buy over renting.  That’s not what we asked for.  To add insult to injury, he brought my mom into it.  “If your mom got sick, think of how much money you would save on gas if you lived close to her.”

Before we even entered the house, the realtor asked if we had been praying about it.  Prayer is good, but I found the question inappropriate and not professional.  In my profession, I don’t ask people to pray about whether I’m the right choice.  I tell them my price and policies and let them decide however they choose to. 

I was even more shocked to hear that a mutal friend used this realtor and they had to go around him to negotiate the price because he wouldn’t do it.  They contacted the seller themselves and got $20,000 knocked off.  How ridiculous that he even got paid for that transaction.

So now we’re trying to figure out how to let him down gently without causing any controversy among our mutual friends who think he’s great at what he does.  Maybe he is best as a listing agent where the focus is on getting as high a price as possible.  My parents have a friend who is an agent, but we don’t want additional awkwardness.  If someone is going to rub us the wrong way, we would rather it be someone we have no personal connection to. 

I spent my Mother’s Day emotionally drained because the two of them called us past 11pm so they could both try to convince us to make an offer on the house.  They insisted our payment would be equal to our rent when we factor in the tax deduction.  I beg to differ.  I told them it wouldn’t make a difference until tax time and that we would only have deductions for half the year.  They suggested we change our withholdings, but that wasn’t going to produce anywhere near that amount either.

I’m told there really are some good realtors out there.  I hope we can find one.  I don’t know how much of this I can take.


Thoughts On Trayvon

April 8, 2012

The more I read about the death of Trayvon Martin, the more upset I feel.  It was such an avoidable tragedy and I feel like people are using his death to promote their political views.  It almost seems like some people want another riot, specifically the media.  I also feel like if you speak up about this as a public figure, you are also obligated to speak up when additional wrongs are added to the situation, like placing a bounty on Zimmerman’s head.  I think President Obama should condemn that behavior and am still hoping he will.

I grew up in the Seattle area and as a child, I didn’t know racism existed.  All I knew was that I loved our black neighbors across the street.  We had water fights, BBQ’s, and when they had one of their baby boys, I told his mom with no shame that I loved the feel of his hair.  It was different than mine.  I was maybe 8 years old and was overjoyed to meet him.  Moving away from our friends was one of the hardest things for me.  They still live on that street and I keep hoping that there will be an affordable house we can buy there someday.  How I would love for my kids to get to know them!

I didn’t know racism existed until a class in school.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I wanted to cry.  Why would a human being treat another human being that way?  Years later as I was walking to school with a neighbor girl, another girl wanted to walk with us.  I didn’t know her very well, but my neighbor said, “Come on, let’s walk ahead of her.”  I had no idea why she said that, but it was mean.  I told her, “No, you can walk ahead by yourself.”  It didn’t occur to me then that maybe it was because she was black, but my mom thought her parents were racist and had taught her to behave that way.  Whatever her reason was, I never tolerated being cruel to anyone and I lost a lot of respect for the girl I had played with for years.

I don’t know what it’s like to be black.  One of my dearest friends tells me stories about how she never learned to swim because she wasn’t allowed in the pool when she was a kid.  I forget sometimes that it wasn’t that long ago in our history that African Americans were treated that way.  She has encountered racism more times than she can count and people have even said to her, “But Martin Luther King came and fixed all of that.”  She still runs into situations where it is obvious to her that a potential employer is racist.  I wondered how can you tell the difference between a person not liking your personality or perhaps not liking you for another bogus reason, but I take her word for it when she says she knows it when it happens.  She and her colleagues were repeatedly passed up for promotions when they had more seniority.

So I was thinking about what it was like to be Trayvon Martin and the things said about him.  How many times was he mistreated because of the color of his skin or stereotypes that young black males wearing certain clothing are thugs?  I think I would start to feel pretty angry and if I were approached on a dark, rainy night by some random guy, I would probably feel threatened.  If he did punch George Zimmerman and beat his head on the ground, maybe he felt like it was to defend himself?  Was he too scared to say, “Hey, sir.  I’m just visiting so and so.”?

According to reports, there had been a lot of burglaries in George Zimmerman’s neighborhood and the perpetrators were described as black.  Based on the full 911 call, Zimmerman was calling due to Trayvon’s behavior and it didn’t sound like he was moving from Point A to Point B.  I can understand finding the behavior suspicious, but it frustrates me to no end that he didn’t just call the police and let them do their job.  I also know the frustration of not catching criminals and the police only being able to do so much, but there is a reason they are cops and we aren’t!  They are recognized as authority figures.  A person on a neighborhood watch is not.  One doesn’t know the difference between a guy trying to protect his neighborhood and someone who wants to hurt you.  If that were to happen to me, I might wonder if the guy were going to rape me or something and I don’t think I would respond too kindly either.

I understand the anger that Zimmerman wasn’t arrested.  I think he caused the situation and should at the very least be charged with manslaughter, but I also know it can take a while to build a case before a person is arrested.  It angers me though that it was automatically assumed Zimmerman is racist.  I don’t know.  Maybe he is.  But I suspect what happened that night was a combination of fear and bad judgment.

Whatever happens, I’m afraid it’s going to cause another riot that results in innocent people being assaulted and murdered, but without question, once again it will be because of the color of their skin.  This of course is counterproductive when it comes to trying to improve race relations.

We are all brothers and sisters.  I wish everyone knew that.  I wish everyone could have their preconceived notions about others erased and we could all wake up one day feeling like innocent children again.

Dear Chase

April 4, 2012

Dear JPMorgan Chase:

Years ago I banked with Washington Mutual and I automatically became your customer when they went under.  Due to medical bills and the trials of the economy, we found it necessary to use our credit card to survive.  Our interest rate was about 9%.  We paid on time every single month and always more than the minimum.  Suddenly we got a letter from you saying our interest rate would be going up to 14%.  Wow, what a kind thing to do to all of your customers, I bet most of which were already suffering.  I called and asked why.  There was no reason.  I said I had been offered a balance transfer deal and if you couldn’t keep my interest rate where it was, I was going to take it.

Your representative said indifferently, “You gotta do what you gotta do.”

That was maybe three years ago.  My balance was about $10,000 and it took us this long to pay off our card.  I’m not very good at math, so how much do you think you lost in interest because I transferred my balance?  Probably a couple thousand.  I had a 0% introductory for a year and then about 9% after that.

Yesterday when I made a deposit at your bank, the teller said I was eligible for a credit card.  Of course I said no because I gotta do what I gotta do, right?

Really, the only reason I haven’t switched banks too is because I’ve had my account number pretty much my whole life and I don’t want the hassle, but keep in mind that I will do it if I receive that kind of treatment again.  Wells Fargo is begging me for my business.  Seriously, they won’t stop calling and bugging me and have even offered me $50 to switch.

As for credit cards, you will never see another penny from me.



Giving Your Wife An “Allowance”

March 25, 2012

I have met a surprising number of women who tell me their husbands give them an “allowance”.  This really rubs me the wrong way and ranks right up there with husbands “babysitting” their children.

To me an allowance is something you give your children as you teach them to be responsible with money, not something you give your wife.  To hear a woman say she can’t do x because her husband hasn’t given her her allowance yet gives the impression that she doesn’t have access to their account.  How is that an equal partnership?

I think it makes perfect sense that one spouse does the bills and balances the checkbook based on their strengths and weaknesses, but that shouldn’t mean that they have total control over the money.  In my marriage, I do the bills and keep track of how much we’re spending.  It’s easier than having separate accounts and my husband was more than happy to let me have the responsibility because he would accidentally reverse numbers.  At times he will spend more than he should and a friend asked why don’t I just give him cash and cut up his debit card.

Because he is not a child and I am not his mother!  If he were a compulsive spender and driving us into bankruptcy, then maybe that would be in order, but this is a matter of him not realizing how the little things add up quite quickly.  We are able to get on the same page and I don’t want to feel like a control freak.  We made an agreement to look over our budget together once a week so neither of us is in the dark.  If he oversleeps, I don’t wake him up either because once again, I am not his mother.  The same friend said I should be more bossy with him.  I didn’t get married so I could dominate someone.  I expect him to be responsible for himself and yes, I will leave for church whether he’s ready or not.  I did that last week and this morning he decided to get up on his own because he felt bad about it.  I have no interest in being a nag.

We have a discussion about it and our financial goals.  If we want to save x amount of money, then neither of us can eat out more than x amount of times per month.  I think each of us having a set amount of cash for fun is a great idea to help us budget, but I am against anything that creates a double standard and makes either one of us the child.

It really shocked me to hear a friend say, “I’ll have to pay you later because my husband hasn’t given me my allowance yet and I don’t have the checkbook.”  It could be she is very forgetful and doesn’t trust herself to keep track of what she’s spending, but please, don’t use the word “allowance”!

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