Archive for September, 2006

Ode to Diana

I was a junior in high school when my mother told us she was pregnant again. I had, at the time, four sisters and a brother (I’m the eldest), and that was more family than anyone in my high school class had. It was a little odd. Nobody else in my circle of friends could really remember very well the last time their own mother had been pregnant. And there were some mixed feelings, even in the family.

Maybe Mom knew the sex of the child – this was back when it was much easier not to know – but if she did, she never told. It was a girl – #5, last of seven siblings. On September 25, Diana was born. I was 17. Before her first birthday, I was at BYU. Before her second birthday, I was in Hungary. I got married when she was 5. How much relationship can you have with someone that you’ve seen for less than three months – over a period of four years – since she learned to talk?

But Diana and I had something a little different. When I was gone for two years to Eastern Europe, my folks would point to my picture and ask Diana, “who is this?” and she’d say, “Kwis”. Then she’d say, “Kwis play ball?” (I did play a lot of basketball). I spent a lot of time with her when I was home, and we just got on well together. There was something about her.

It wasn’t just that she was cute – though she definitely was – but she had a way of lifting my spirits that was different from any of my other siblings. When Jeanette and I were back in D.C. doing an internship the first year we were married, I ate breakfast with her a lot. It was a great way to start the day. She always spent time with older people, which was natural, considering that all her sisters were much older than she. She had her fights and her problems with my brothers and sisters; she wasn’t perfect. But we never had any, because I wasn’t there. We never fought. The minutes we had, we cherished.

She grew up in Virginia, and Jeanette and I raised our faily in Utah. We saw each other rarely until Mom and Dad moved the family to Utah in 2002. Diana was, to put it mildly, not happy about it. She wasn’t the same as other teenagers, and she knew it. She never just “dated”, she told me. Her brothers and sisters were all married. She wanted to be married, too. She was always a little older than her peers. I loved spending time with her here. We had her in our home for Christmas morning, the most wonderful time of the year. Alexander, our oldest, is just seven years younger than Diana, and he’s never had a big sister. He loved it. All our kids loved it. She was wonderful.

Diana worked for me for a few months when I was just getting started in the mortgage business. She was my secret weapon. She types a mile a minute, faster than anyone I ever saw. I’d make calls during the day, then she’d come home from school and come over to the office in Draper and put all the information into the computer, print out the package and get it our FedEx. She made friends immediately, all of them much older than she was, but she was always doing that. She’s one of the friendliest people on earth. By the second month of our working together, I was #1 in the company. I was never out of the top 2 any month after that. Diana wasn’t the only reason, but she was a big reason.

A couple of years later she met Ben Edgell. I have to ask Ben’s forgiveness, because I was a little cool toward him when Diana introduced him. Two reasons for this, one of them totally irrational: 1) nobody was ever going to be good enough for my littlest sister, and 2) he was a Virginian and bent on remaining so. That meant no more sleepovers with our kids, no more having Diana type up my stuff. Back to seeing her once a year or so. I hated the thought of it.

But Ben was the right man, and he’s proved it. There are great depths in him. He loves my sister more than I do, and I didn’t think that was possible. I’m grateful to him for the care he takes of her. I’m proud that he’s my brother. And if we don’t see each other very often any more, the time we do have is good, and I’ll take it.

A couple weeks ago my sisters Melanie and Elizabeth (and my sister Catherine’s husband Scott) ran with me in a 5k in Draper. I called Diana when we were done and told her I wished she’d been able to run with us. We don’t talk a lot, but we do talk, here and there, when it’s important. We keep the connection. We’ll always have it.

Life has a way of going on merrily whether we like it or not. This year, my littlest sister turned 21, and I didn’t call her on her birthday. I don’t think I’ve missed calling on her birthday in many, many years. I’m sorry, D. I won’t miss again. Please don’t think it wasn’t important, that you’re not important. You are. This is my penance and my apology. Please forgive me.

Happy Birthday, little D. I love you, forever and ever.

Sometimes We Can’t Blog, Sorry.

Stuff happens.

We were on the radio – internet radio at www.grapevineradio.com – last Friday for an hour being interviewed by the very intelligent and engaging Geoff Beckstrom. A copy of that interview will be available next week – or you can listen to it on Friday at 3pm by going to the link and clicking on “listen live”. That was really fun.

Bonds are under a little pressure right now simply because nobody can believe that they have gotten as high as they have. For a day, 5.75% was PAR on the 30-year fixed mortgage (that’s the lowest rate you can get before you have to pay extra to get it). We haven’t seen that in a year. Meanwhile the Fed continues to do nothing, which might be a good thing, but more and more emphasis is being placed on economic reports that are, quite candidly, not very good. This could mean a rate cut from the Fed before the end of the year, and I’m predicting that it will happen. When it does, we could get the middle 5%s back for fixed rates, something I really didn’t think we’d see for another 10 years.

The National Association of Realtors put out their year-over-year statistics for home sales and that featured a decline in the median price of a sold house for the first time in 10 years. Note: this means nothing whatever about the price of your house. It might be going up or down; the national statistics don’t tell you.

But the foregoing two paragraphs do mean a couple of things. One, if you’re waiting to buy a house, stop. Now is the time. Two, if you’ve got a variable rate, get off that wagon. Fixed rates are better than variables right now and that’s a situation that can’t continue forever. You need to take advantage. Call us at 787-2162 or email us and we’ll talk.

Philly Fed Spikes Bonds

Bonds have rallied enormously, punching through the 4.70 support level, after the Philadelphia Fed talked about the stalling economy. We’re putting the Potty Post to bed right now, and I have an article in there about refinancing to lower rates, but that article might be a little soft now in light of what’s happened today. If you’re on an ARM, or your rate is 6.5 or higher you should call me. 801-310-3407.

This is Why I Blog

I was going to respond to this comment in the comments section, but since I doubt that anyone reads them much, and this was such a good comment, I wanted to deal with it here in the light. This is in response to the Super Bowl post of last week, where I asked about how to create an offseason in the business world.

Tod Hansmann said…

Well, personally speaking, my plan is to start a few simple startups, grow the ones that survive, expand on them quickly, and sell them to a bigger company. Take my 6.7 Million dollars and retire, taking the rest of my life to do amazing things one normally wouldn’t get paid for (like teaching high school kids why they’re bored all day).

There are other routes to the same, but they usually involve resources I don’t have. I think in the end, though, you just need to arrange priorities. Everybody needs to do SOMEthing, and to be honest, I would prefer to be productive rather than what most sports players do in their off season lives. In that regard, I think you and I may have a slight advantage. Now if only our salaries compared.

By which I think he meant “if only our salaries compared to football players’ salaries”, and not “if only they compared to each other”. In that case, I would point out just in passing (this is not why I reposted his comment) that our salaries dwarf the salaries of nearly everyone that plays football. There are some NFL guys that play that make more than we do, but almost nobody else does, even in the profesional ranks. There are lots of other football leagues and most of those guys don’t make anything to speak of. But I digress.

I have a good friend who lives in Boston. He’s a high-powered mergers and acquisitions attorney there, which means he’s reached a level of his profession almost nobody gets to. He’s worked very hard to get there, far harder than I have worked. This is expected, and in fact required. If you are going to make partner at one of the top firms in the country, you are going to arrive at work at 7 and go home, if you go home, also at 7 or possibly later. And you’re going to do this every day, with the exception of Sundays. Some Sundays. Needless to say, this is very hard on families, so the bulk of these up-and-coming attorneys don’t have any families to speak of.

My friend does. He has four children (might be 5, can’t remember for sure), and a wife that loves him, and whom he loves. He holds down an extremely demanding job for his church. I don’t know how he does it. He chalks it up to the Grace of God. That works for me. But he’s put a lot of his own blood into that grace. He was the lead negotiator for the sale of the Boston Red Sox, and for the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He worked on the deal to get the Montreal Expos into Washington D.C. There have been some incredible successes. He takes almost no time off to celebrate them.

When he got to Boston, he had an interview with one of the partners at the firm, a man of the same faith my friend is. My friend asked this man if it were possible to do it all, to make partner, keep volunteering for the church – a thing that is far more extensive and time-consuming in his church than most careers are in the secular world – and have a family that grows together and learns to love one another. And this man said emphatically that yes, it was possible to do it all. But then he paused, thought for a moment, and said, “but I don’t know anyone that has done it.”

I tell this story by way of comment on what Tod mentioned above. I like the idea – I have had it myself – of starting several small companies, growing the best of them, selling them, and retiring. I read a lot of Inc. magazine because it tells these stories. But my experience is that 1) you can’t stop once you start and 2) the number of small companies that make it at all is very small, so one might have to start a dozen of them to get one that survives and 3) the number that make it to $6.7 million is so tiny that one might have to start a hundred to get one that makes it that big. I also know that since it’s impossible to tell just from the idea whether the company will make it, a tremendous amount of time and energy has to be invested in EACH company to give each a chance to make it big. And I know that for nearly everyone, there isn’t that much time or energy. I’ve started three companies, and been involved in the start of four others. My current company threatens to drown me, but is surviving and improving as I improve. Only one of the other six is still around. It struggles mightily. These startups have consumed the last 20 years of my life. No retirement in sight. I do not believe myself to be atypical in this regard.

So I discover that I have to take the rest of my life to “do amazing things” right now. I don’t have any other life. This is the only one I’ve got. My experience is that most of the amazing things one does one gets no pay for. Certainly the loans where I have performed the largest number of miracles have paid the least to the bank account. I do not get paid for working for either Chamber of Commerce, or for the political party I volunteer at, or for the church, or for the Rotary Club. I will not get paid to go to Master Gardener School (I got accepted! Hooray!). I do not get paid to hold my daughter’s hand while she falls asleep. At least, I do not get money for these things. But offeasons are not created by money. All sports leagues have them. Virtually no sports leagues are paid leagues. There are thousands of champions crowned every fall in football and only one of them is the champ of the NFL.

Creating an offseason cannot mean sucking all the amazing things out of life in the now, for the hope that the future will bring…what? Tod talks about teaching school. School has an offseason. The offseason is not created by the massive salaries of the people that teach, and it certainly isn’t created by the students, but they enjoy the offseason and look forward to the championship game more than the teachers do. There has to be something else, some other way. I don’t want to stop playing the game. I just don’t want to play it every day for 40 years, then try to stop like turning off a faucet. That’s not going to work. It practically never works, despite the financial services ads on CNBC.

I know why Tod thinks this plan will work, and knowing him, he’s probably correct that it will. But it doesn’t meet my definition of an offseason. I’m looking for a way to play hard, win, and celebrate, taking some time before one has to go hit it again. Could be a long season, like the NBA. Could be short one, like college football. But it has to be a repeating – or repeatable – cycle. There has to be a way.

In Which We Win the Super Bowl

Haven’t had ten seconds this week to blog, but that huge deal I wrote about last time has finally almost completely come to pass, and we have won the Super Bowl. The new season, of course, has already begun, so it’s exactly the problem I posted about, to which I continue not to have a solution.

Right in the middle of the Super Bowl, though, there was another game going on that was just as critical to the clients playing in it, and I need to hand out an award or two. So. To everyone on the funding line at 1st National Lending, thank you. You came through in fine style when the chips were down. Ray, as always, carried the ball in crunch time. It is impossible to overstate the quality of his performance every loan, every day. Jared over at Jim Duncan Realty went above and beyond the call of duty several times for me, rare enough in any service provider, but all but unheard of in a Realtor. Thank you.

My top award, though, goes to Charity Title, which performed a miracle of small but oh, so important magnitude in transferring the cash literally in the final seconds to win the game. Connie, I don’t know your last name, but you are my Favorite Person on Earth Aside from Those Related to Me. God bless you.

I could go on. There are some negative awards to hand out as well, including a huge raspberry to Definitive Appraisal for botching every single part of the loan process assigned to them. But on the whole, I’m happy and the client is happy. Can’t ask for better than that.

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