Friday, January 30, 2009

Nothing to read here

I am still sick. I had a fever last night. Consequently, I don't feel much like blogging today.

Fortunately, my latest post is up at Inspired Bliss - so you still have something to read today.

Hopefully I'll be feeling better by Monday. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Same Kind of Different as Me

Cover of Cover via Amazon
I just finished reading Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, and I was blown away. From the first page, the story captivated me. Both stories. You see, Ron and Denver started out in two very different places in their lives. And when their stories come together, truly amazing things start to happen.

This true story is a book that will challenge you to see people in a new way. It is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. And it will make you believe in miracles. I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks one person can't make a difference, to anyone whose life hasn't gone exactly the way they wanted it to, and to anyone who needs a faith lift. I promise you, you'll never be the same.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Movie Monday

This Movie Monday I want to talk about some really BAD movies I watched this weekend. We spent the whole weekend sick in bed, so we had plenty of movie-watching time. I highly recommend that you SKIP the following films.

The City of Ember - While very family-friendly, nothing much really happened in this movie. Right about the time I thought they were finally going to a have a good, rollicking adventure, the movie ended. It takes so much time setting up the background and introducing the characters that there's no time left for the interesting stuff. Also, a lot of things go totally unexplained. One character asks how the bugs and moles got so large, and then they just never tell you. Overall, I was bored.

The Invisible
- This is supposed to be a suspense/action movie, a race-against-the-clock sort of a deal. A teenager is going to die if they don't find him quickly enough. So why do they waste so much time doing almost nothing? Time drags on and on, and you just know in real life the kid would be dead. And then there's a sort of weird love story angle that never really pans out. I just kept yelling, "Come on!" Very hard to watch.

The Messengers - Who exactly are the messengers? They never tell you. This scary movie has its share of startle-you-out-of-your-seat moments, but other than that it's pretty lame. They never really explain how the bad guy doesn't happen to know he's the bad guy (until it's convenient to the plot for him to "remember"). The teenage girl is just stupid. I mean, I'd move into a tent in the back yard rather than go back into that house again. And if the ghosts were after the bad guy, why did they keep attacking the innocent family? Totally dumb movie.

The Game Plan - Another movie about a tough guy man's man who finds out he has a little daughter and by the end of the movie he's a cute, squishy, ballet-dancing, fingernail-painting fool. One or two cute scenes surrounded by hours of boredom.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Photo tag

Karmyn has tagged me with a photo meme. Here are the rules:
1.Go to your Picture Folder on your computer or wherever you store your pictures.

2.Go to the 6th Folder, then pick the 6th picture in that folder.

3.Post that picture on your blog and the story that goes along with the picture.

4.Tag 6 other peoples that you know or don’t know to do the same thing and leave a comment on their blog or an e-mail letting them know you chose them.

When I went to my sixth folder, I found nothing but more folders (yes, I am obsessive about organizing my photos). So I went to the sixth folder and then found the sixth picture there. Here it is:This is a picture of my oldest son looking out the open doorway on the end of our house. We have since installed a deck outside that door. Interesting side note: our neighbors' cat used to climb up that ladder to get into the house.

Now, since Karmyn thought this would be a good chance for me to share more China photos, I hate to disappoint, so here's a China pic for you:
We saw this on the sides of all the public trash cans on Mt. Tai. If anyone knows what the Chinese actually says, I'd love to know. I'm relatively sure it's not an invitation to live in the garbage can. But then, when you've got such a huge population, maybe this is free public housing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

LOST returns!

I have to say, in five years of LOST season premieres, last night's was my favorite. I think what I really liked about it was that for the first time we're really starting to get answers about the island and what's happening on it. I feel like we just got to the top of the first giant hill on a roller coaster, crested the top, and went speeding down into the part where all the fun happens.

Which is not to say there haven't been many important and memorable events so far. But I think by the time season six ends and we pull into the station, we will look back and say that the last two seasons are what really made the show great.

I really want to go into more detail, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. Just know that it's not too late: you can still go rent or buy the first four seasons. I'm telling you, this is one of the greatest shows that has ever been or is likely to be.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A picture's worth a thousand words

Does this freak anyone else out???

This is very taxing

Yesterday morning, we sold one of our four rental units. And we sold it for about 50% more than we paid for it. Not bad.

Unfortunately, most of that will go to pay capital gains taxes. We don't know for sure how much the federal tax will be. The new administration promised to raise it to at least 20%. Yes, we who make WAY WAY less than $250,000 a year (even with this sale) will have a tax increase. At least that's what we've been promised.

The good news is we won't have to pay that for a year. So we can stick it in an interest-bearing account. And then, of course, pay tax on the interest as well.

I'm sorry. This time of year we get our copy of Tax Cut and start working on our tax return. And every year I get more and more annoyed. The only thing worse than having to pay all these taxes is having to put in so much WORK to do it. And now I have to do this year's taxes at the same time so I can estimate how much money to put aside.

I'm probably going to be in a very bad mood come April 15.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Tax Edition

Last night's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition took place in Quincy Township, PA, which is only five minutes up the road from us. I actually saw a friend of ours from church on there. The company he works for was hired to haul away the trash from the demolition.

Normally I don't watch that show, but it was kind of cool to hear all those central PA accents. The bad part was that I started thinking about this poor family's financial situation and I just got scared for them.

See, in PA we have taxes - lots of them. There are the state taxes, the local taxes, and the township taxes. And some of those are based on property value. I started to wonder how these people, who clearly have almost no money, are going to afford the taxes for their amazing new house. And will they have to pay federal income tax on the value of all the stuff they were given? Like that new car?

And then there are the utility bills. These people had no heat or air conditioning before. Now they have both, which is wonderful, but I don't know if they've thought about the utility bills. Last month at our rental house, which is vacant, we left a little portable heater running in the basement to keep the pipes from freezing. Nothing else in the house was on. The electric bill was $90.

I've heard before of people who got these makeovers losing their house because they couldn't afford the taxes. Does anyone know if ABC cares? I mean, if they got the crowd of 4000 people to each give one dollar to the family, that would cover at least some of the taxes. Do they bother? Do they even check the family's finances to see if they can afford the bills they'll have?

I hope I don't see this family in the local paper a year from now. Or an ad announcing a tax sale on their lovely new house.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why I will one day be a good grandmother

Last week it was too much water, this week it was too little. Our other tenant called last evening and said they had no water. So we spent the evening running to the store and then sitting at her house while Hubby fixed the water.

This couple has a new baby, only two months old, and what a doll he is! I held him for the longest time and he just grinned and gurgled at me. My favorite thing was that I could hand him back to his mom when he got fussy. Yeah, I don't miss the infant days. A lot of women might have gotten baby fever from being that close to a sweet little bundle like him, but not me! I just kept thinking better her than me!

Somebody asked the other day if we were going to try for a girl (one of the most annoying questions in the world, by the way). My standard answer is that if someone else wants to be pregnant this time, I'll be happy to try for a girl. I'm going to add to that. She also has to arrive sometime after her fifth birthday. I'm not exactly fond of the toddler years, either.

I think one day I'll make a really good grandmother. When I can cuddle and love on the babies and then hand them back to their mothers. That sounds good to me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Book review - Field of Blood

I just finished reading Field of Blood by Eric Wilson, and let me tell you, the worst thing about it is that it ENDS and I have to wait until next summer to read the second book in the series!

Having always been partial to vampire stories, I eagerly dove into Wilson's tale of a group of undead who arise from the Akeldama, the very place where Judas hung himself. These are not the "good" vampires of most recent literature, but evil monsters, terrifying in their calculated treachery. I didn't know when I started how a vampire novel could also be a Christian novel, but Wilson creates a world where everything that happens is logical, reasonable - and horrifying.

Not only is the story engaging, but Wilson's writing is beautiful, the descriptions and dialog bringing you so completely into the world he's created that you almost feel like you've been there. The character of Gina is wonderfully complex and totally believable. And there are certain events in the novel that will literally make you gasp out loud.

If you like ghost stories and horror tales, or epic battles between good and evil, I highly recommend Field of Blood. I can't wait to sink my teeth into the second volume in this series.

Friday, January 09, 2009

You named your baby WHAT?

I saw a flurry of talk on Twitter yesterday about strange baby names given by celebrities to their poor unsuspecting offspring. I don't think Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O'Connell's names for their twin daughters are all that odd - Dolly and Charlie. At least those are real names that other people have named their children in the past. But some of these others...

As someone who grew up with a strange name (yes, in the '70s and '80s it was nearly impossible to find another Jana), let me tell you what these poor children are in for. First, if they have one of those names with thirty letters, they will have to learn to spell it. For me, that wasn't so much an issue. Then, for the rest of their lives they will have to spell it for other people. Can you imagine?

I knew someone (not a celebrity) who gave her daughter the first name Sarajane. For the rest of this little girl's life, she's going to have to say this: "It's Sarajane, all one word, no H." Why would you do this to your child?

Then there are the laugh-invoking names. "Hi, my name is Pilot." Say what? This kid is going to grow up with a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. Don't think Dweezil and Moon Unit didn't hold a long grudge against their parents, either.

I've really grown to love my name since becoming an adult. It's still relatively unique, and even though I go through the spelling thing every time, at least it's short.

So, what's the wackiest name you've ever heard someone give their child?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Water everywhere

As I was making dinner last night, I got a call from our tenant who lives an hour away. Her basement was flooded. So we packed up the kids and headed out, stopping for subs on the way.

Sure enough, she had about an inch of water, as did the adjoining house. That's right, the adjoining house which is now under contract, to be closed on in two weeks. We just found out Monday that the sump pump there was broken. But the buyer didn't want us to fix it. Guess what? We had to. There's now a new sump pump, and we have a fan running to dry out the basement.

On the way home, we dropped off an eviction warning at another tenant's house. Rent is due before the 5th and we don't have it yet. Normally, I'd call and find out why not, but these people have a bad record with us and I've had it. They can pay up or get out.

We got home at 12:30 a.m. Just another fun day in the life of a landlord!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Good to be home

Yes, we made it back home. The day after we got here, we went to my grandmother's for Christmas and didn't get home until Saturday night. And I've been trying to recover from the whole trip ever since. Do you realize I was away from home more than a month?

We had an interesting last week in China. First Hubby got sick, then I got it. I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. We went to the pharmacy, where I was given a Chinese herbal remedy. It actually worked really well, but I still didn't feel totally better until after we got home.

Our final day in Beijing just happened to be the coldest day they've had in 57 years - only 14 during the day, and the wind was blowing about 40-50 mph. To say it was cold would be like saying the surface of the sun is a little warm. I couldn't feel my fingers after a while. But, loyal readers, I will brave any extremity for a chance to see new things, and here is what I saw that day:This is the Temple of Heaven, the place where the emperors came to offer sacrifices for a good harvest. This is some of the interior. It's hard to get a good picture because you can't go inside. You can see all the brilliant colors, though. The whole place had been refurbished in 2005, so it was very vibrant.
Then, after warming up inside for the most of the afternoon, we ventured out to see the Olympic park area. And if I had thought it was cold that afternoon, it was like a sauna compared to after the sun went down. It was worth it though, to see everything lit up at night.
Pretty cool, huh? They had hundreds of Christmas trees lining the plaza between the two buildings, which really made for a spectacular sight.

And so, we are home once again. It was the trip of a lifetime and even though I missed home terribly, I'm so very glad I went!