Friday, November 21, 2008

Albin Halloween

Well, it looks like Evie has given up blogging, but I thought these were super cute and so I wanted to post a pic or two of their Halloween costumes. They did a family costume which I think is adorable!

So as you can see (hopefully), Jill was Yoda and apparently the inspiration for the idea. Ha, the whole family wanted her to be Yoda and they would be the other Star Wars characters.
Luke was Luke Skywalker (how appropriate!), Claire was Princess Leia, Kate was a Jedi Knight and John (look closely he is blending into the night) is Darth Vader. Isn't that adorable? Gotta love it.

The Joys of Real Estate

So, we have one renter who has been a bit of a pain in the @*! We had not gotten his rent check this past month so I sent him an email which in retrospect came off harsher than I intended. But this was day 4 of the month and we had still not gotten his check. I was just trying to remind him, but it did come off as pretty "pay up or move out!" which as my brother has wisely pointed out isn't in ours or his best interest - Thanks, Jay!

In any case, during this email exchange which I would like to point out I made sure to let our renter know I was just reminding him not threatening him, said renter told us he would be moving out by end of January. Oy vey! Okay, I am not Jewish, but seriously - bad timing for us to have to rent out in the middle of the winter. And keep in mind, he has a lease until July 1.

So I wrote the renter yesterday and was telling him I was going to start showing the place and would be coming by to get pictures for my flier and then he tells me that they won't be moving afterall by end of January and it looks more like end of April. Yay! He also said he will be able to give me two months' notice so let's hope that actually happens :-).

I have to admit when people ask me what I do since currently I don't have a job, I am a bit at a loss for words. And I have been found to go into great detail about how I quit my job b/c of this this and that and blah blah blah which NO ONE cares about. They are just asking the polite question. So I think now - until I am officially consulting - I am just going to tell them I run our real estate investment business. Doesn't that sound pretty cool and more important than it really is?

Also, it looks like my sweet brother Jay has lined up a 10 week consulting job for me starting at the end of January. Yay! So I am pretty excited about that as well and of course hoping when they see how great I am they will extend me - we'll see :-).

Different Styles

Andy is so funny. Today we had a follow-up appt for his deviated septum and I am in such amusement by his interaction at the doctor which I guess somewhat typifies the way he is in life...

Andy has a bajillion questions for the doctor and he tends to imagine 'issues' and bring all of those up to the doctor. I on the other hand probably don't bring up things I should bring up. I am the patient who keeps the doctor on schedule. It is just so funny to watch Andy interact b/c it is so different than me!

"So should my sense of smell have gotten a lot better, b/c it didn't. Also, I breathe better but I thought it would be more dramatic. Oh, can you tell if there is something in my nose still b/c I think I still feel something..." All legitimate questions, but sometimes I can tell he is just thinking up things to ask :-)! Basically the doctor was like, well I could enlargen your nostrils, but I don't really think that is necessary unless you are experiencing discomfert. Isn't that funny? If I weren't there, Andy would probably be like - tell me more about this enlargening my nostrils... :-)

Honestly, that is what the doctor is for and why there is a post exam. And Andy picked this guy because he has such a good bedside manner. Oh, another funny thing Andy does is he always tells people how great they are when they do something for him and that he will refer people to them. So he did that with the doctor too :-). No wonder he is so good at sales! He is such a people person!

We were at another doctor last week and Andy had to have some blood drawn and you should have seen him work it with the nurse about how he really needed a baby needle. Ha! My husband who can run a marathon without training and hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim with not one complaint, has to have a baby needle. And then when they put the baby needle in, he makes the loudest noise. Trust me, it's a little embarrassing :-). He also did the bajillion questions/imagining illnesses with this doctor too. He was asked if he experienced any pain in this one area and Andy was like - well, four months ago I think I had some pain... Ha!

Pretty cute ;-).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Andy's 34!

Yesterday was Andy's 34th birthday - so he is back to being my same age again :-). I don't know why, but I like him being my same age rather than a year younger!

Since we had his birthday party on Friday and Tuesday was a work day, I just cooked him a yummy dinner and gave him his gifts. I went a bit overkill on the gifts - especially considering that I am not working, but they were mostly things he needed and his birthday was an excuse to get him it.

I bought him three really nice dress shirts and corresponding ties in my attempt to dress up his warddrobe. I had given him one in the morning so he could wear it to work and he has a big meeting today with his new team and he had called me during the day asking if I could get him another of those shirts so he would have it for the meeting he had the next day - little did he know!

I also got him a nice pair of dress brown shoes so he has nice brown shoes to wear to work. So see - necessities :-). He also got quite a bit of reading material. I bought him four books. Three management books (which he had asked for) and one fun book so maybe he will let me read in bed :-).

The one fun gift was Guitar Hero World Edition which is a video game that comes with a guitar, drumset, and microphone. Basically you are scored on how well you play the songs. Guess what we did last night until we went to bed? That's right. Hope I haven't created a monster!

I have a blister on my thumb from gripping the drumsticks way too hard. This game might be hazardous to my health!

So most of my gifts were to help him in his new job as a Sales Manager for HP/EDS. He really liked them and we will just go really skimpy on Christmas gifts for each other :-). I have such a great husband. He is so greatful for everything I do for him which just makes me want to do more.

Of course, I would like to get this ping pong table out of the house right about now :-).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Save the Planet

I know we are way behind the times in doing this, but a month or two ago I finally got a recycle bin and we are now recyclers :-). I think everyone agrees that we are the stewards of our planet and should take care of it.

That said, though, I sometimes wonder how the left usurped the conservation cause. I actually kind of find it amusing to think that my parents are probably the 'greenest' people out there simply because they do not waste anything. They would laugh in your face about recycling probably, but they probably generate less trash than anyone who does recycle. They reuse aluminum foil, save the containers that things come in to store leftovers rather than buy tupperware, have appliances that are 20 years old, keep computers and cars for years, aren't on their 5th ipod - they don't even have one, they wear clothes for years... In fact, the thing that probably makes them the greenest is the fact that they don't consume like most people do because they buy one thing and use it for its entire useful life. And if it breaks, they don't throw it away, they fix it.

They don't waste any food. I was visiting and literally there was like a half serving of vegetables left and I went to throw it away and my mom was like - "Sharon, that is so wasteful. That is a serving that Daddy will eat tomorrow." They never leave the light on when leaving a room - not because there is any great cause out there, but because it is the non-wasteful thing to do.

Of course it is great that everyone is more conscious about how what they do affects the world we live in, but sometimes I think we need to just learn not to be wasteful and not always get the newest thing out there, but continue to due with what we already have. Seems like that is good for both our bank account and our environment.

Ping Pong Party

Andy's birthday is this Tuesday and since next weekend we are headed out of town for the Thanksgiving cruise, and Saturday we have the Margarita Ball, we had his birthday party this Friday.

Andy really wanted a ping pong party. Everyone who came told us what level of player they were (A,B,C, or D) with A being the best and D being the worst. We then paired the A players with the D players and the B players with C players for partners and played tournament style.

We had a lot of fun and Andy's team even won! Of course, we also had ice cream cake - Andy's favorite.

Now, I am cleaning up :-). Almost done!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Millionaire Real Estate Investors

Most people know that we own rentals. We are up to three units, two properties now. Jay, my brother, is a big investor and owns several properties. He is a natural entrepreneur. When he was a kid we were in Sunday School/primary and they had us draw pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I drew myself in a lab coat holding a beaker in each hand b/c I wanted to be a scientist. My brother drew himself with a bag in each hand with a dollar sign on each bag and when the teacher asked him what he wanted to be, he told her - "I want to be rich!" Seriously, he was like 8. How funny or maybe scary is that?

I imagine that we are into rentals because my dad was. He wasn't super into them but he owned two duplexes which paid for our education - private schools and college. Pretty good deal.

In any case, my friend Karen lent me this book the Millionaire Real Estate Investor by the guy who founded Keller-Williams and I am so excited. I am not very far into it, but he claims to tell you how to end up actually making a million by investing in property. His strategy is to 1) think a million, 2) buy a million worth of investment property (personal house does not count), 3) own a million (have a million equity in your investment properties) and 4) earn a million. Now I feel that steps 1,2 & 3 are very doable. Afterall, you just buy rentals which is doing #2 where others are helping you to reach #3. But I have no idea how to go from #3 to #4 so I am hoping the book tells us how. Honestly, my number 1 goal for our rentals to this point has been for them to help us to be able to educate our as of now non-existent children since I think I really want to send them to a private Christian school, but this book has me thinking that it might be a good strategy to accomplish even more.

I would love for Andy to be able to retire early. And I feel like this is something that is very doable while I am a stay at home mom. And I feel like this is a great time to take advantage of deals that might come our way since some people will be looking to sell, right? In any case, I am probably over excited, but I am excited!

Addison Bond Defeated!

I called Bob last night to find out the results of the election on the Addison Bond. After Tues night the bond had been defeated by 3 votes, but there were provisional ballots that still needed to be counted. Well, after counting them, the bond is now defeated by 15 votes! 15 votes out of 5,000 or so votes. Wow. It is really cool to feel like I made a difference. Seriously without me walking around getting the word out with our fliers, I bet the bond would have passed. And I put up my sign on the street and talked to our neighbors and other signs popped up as well!

And to everyone who says their vote doesn't matter - this is just one example of how it really does. And it really does affect people's lives. Because this bond was defeated, each resident of Addison will not have several hundred dollars in increased property taxes. And the businesses won't have what I imagine to be up to a thousand increase in their property taxes. Sure we won't have an expanded flight museum or an expanded theatre, but honestly I don't think anyone will miss them...

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Election

Of course, anyone who knows us knows that we were disappointed in this year's election, but we also think there were some good things to come out of it... I think it's really great for all Americans, but especially minority Americans to see that this is truly the land of opportunity for all races, creeds, etc... How can you argue with that? I really hope this helps African Americans to stop feeling that people have it out for them and realize that we really are a country where merit means more than anything. I also think rightly or wrongly, Obama's election will help with our perception abroad. So we are trying to look at the bright side.

On the not so bright side, I am devastated for all the unborn children out there who will continue to not have a voice. And I honestly don't understand how any Christian could vote Democratic when 1 million lives per year are on the line. It is funny, for some reason if someone isn't Christian, I give them more of a pass for voting for Obama. I guess I just believe "with knowledge, comes responsibility". I also understand that there is more than 1 issue on the table, but I don't see how any issue trumps 1 million lives annually. I just don't. I truly believe this is the slavery issue of our day and like back then, people are too cowardly to stand up and defend those who have no voice. These same people who are Christian and don't fight for the lives of the unborn, would have sat silent as slavery continued ...

So, I know many people find me obnoxious about the issue, but as the saying goes, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." And I am glad that people know where we stand...

I am also very worried for the economy and our nation in general. Everyone seems to think Obama will govern from the middle, but even the media is now saying, we have no idea. Of course we don't. He had never done anything before for us to know.

I am also a bit happy McCain did not win. I really would have hated having a supposed Republican passing socialist legislation such as his proposed negotiating down the principle of mortgages of those who can't pay. I only wish a true conservative had been on ticket - someone like Ron Paul who truly believes less government is good for every American. I also believe Republicans deserved to lose because they behaved like Democrats for the past eight years. I hope the party retools and comes out better and sincerely hope we don't end up with two liberal parties...

Some day I hope people realize that individuals do better than the government at running their lives and that the more responsibility they give the government, they less freedom and opportunity they have. I also wish more voters owned a small business so they could see how government impedes those businesses from succeeding and as a result from creating more jobs for you and me.

Now for a quote from Thomas Jefferson:
"A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labour the bread which it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities."
--Thomas Jefferson

Meeting the neighbors

This weekend we had our neighborhood block party. It is pretty funny because the neighborhood block party ends up being us all meeting at a bbq restaurant and eating together. But, hey, it works!

It was really nice to actually meet the people on our street. They were super friendly and I like feeling like part of a neighborhood. I think I had to drag Andy there a bit and he wanted to leave a bit early, but he was a trooper and stuck it out for me. I guess there is a reason none of the single guys showed up!

I was surprised at how many singles we have on our street. Definitely the neighborhood make-up seems to be singles of all ages and older couples. In fact, we don't have one family. Isn't that interesting? It's not that surprising really since the schools aren't very good, but I still found it interesting.

We went trick or treating at Jason and Robyn's with Caroline and I saw the benefits of living in suburbia where everyone else has kids around your age. It was really fun. People were sitting out on the front lawn while kids came by and everyone seemed to at least know of each other. Left me thinking, this is why everyone moves to suburbia. :-)

Movin on Up

As most of you know, Andy has been up for promotion but we have been waiting for the 'official' news. First, he was asked to manage the Dell account, but we were going to have to move to Austin. We were definitely willing to do it although a bit reluctantly because Verizon wasn't going to pay much in relocation. Then, as luck would have it, a reorg occurred and that same Director wanted Andy for a position in Dallas on the HP/EDS account. That account has had plenty of issues, but it is also a top 5 account for Verizon with something like $150 million in revenue.

I am really proud of him. He definitely deserves this and will make a great manager.

Monday, November 3, 2008

First came love, then came marriage, then came...

a baby, right? That's what is supposed to come next. I know that we have only been trying for the last 6 months and Andy was gone for 2 of those months for work trips during the 'fertile' week so I guess it's only 4 months...

But the impatient person that I am is a bit frustrated... I know it's crazy but I always thought I would get pregnant right away. I mean come on - my sister has four kids, my grandmother had two and that's with my grandfather having been told he would never be able to have kids b/c of his low sperm count and of course my mom had three without even trying... So I am little perplexed at us not getting pregnant - especially considering the very convenient tests we now have which tell us when we are ovulating.

So we are going to the doctor tomorrow to just get checked out to make sure there isn't something obvious getting in our way. :-) We will see if he has any words of wisdom!

The Sykes went to Washington

So we had a really nice visit to DC. It was so great to see Aaron, Bety and Shin. Dinner there reminded me why I was such good friends with all of them in college. Conversation was so easy and had depth. I really miss being able to hang out with those guys on a daily basis.

We went to Mount Vernon the next day and it was great. Seriously, one of the best museum/historical things I have done. The house was really interesting but honestly the George Washington exhibit is what I found to be so great. They really have done an amazing job at helping you to feel like you get to know the man and doing an appropriate homage to him. It reminded me of how one great man can really make such a difference. It also made me a bit sad to think that we don't really have many of those around nowadays. He sacrificed his whole life for our country. And I wonder what would have happened if he hadn't.

The next day, we were going to go to the Smithsonians, but unfortunately there were several issues with Andy's work and he had to go work. So I went to the Holocaust museum by myself and spent the entire afternoon there. That too was really an amazing experience and it is truly just shocking that something like that could have happened so recently. I honestly cannot believe that people did not stand up for what was right and I wonder what is going on in our world today that we are complacently allowing to happen by being indifferent and not standing up for what is right. It was a good reminder that apathy and indifference can be as dangerous and evil as actually being the perpetrator.

I really liked this quote which was on the final wall as you exited the exhibit:

" When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."

- Pastor Martin Niemöller