Saturday, January 17, 2009

Crooks, Liars and Fools: The New Faces of America

Time for a more serious post. Well, certainly more serious than my last post about the shoes (although, truth be told, I am pretty darn serious about my shoes these days!). This post, however, is about personal responsibility and the state of mind of the American public. I was reading a story online the other day about a lawsuit brought by homeowners against Countrywide Home Loans. I couldn't decide who I was more disgusted with; Countrywide or the homeowners. It's pretty easy to be disgusted with Countrywide. They leave themselves wide open for contempt at every turn. They've engaged in everything from chumping their own employees out of overtime pay to making an astounding number of sub-prime loans which have most certainly contributed heavily to the current mortgage crisis our country is in. Oh, and Countrywide is also the company who made loans at extremely favorable rates to the likes of Senators Dodd and Conrad (both Democrats) and James Johnson and Franklin Raines (both former CEOs of Frannie Mae). Yeah...fine upstanding people running that place, NOT! Anywho, Countrywide is being sued by a couple who had been seeking a "loan modification" for their mortgage. You have to understand that, since this mortgage crisis and Countrywide's role in it have come to light, Countrywide's been telling anyone and everyone who will listen (particular those in Senate hearings) that they are working oh so hard to modify mortgages for their financially strapped customers to prevent foreclosures whenever possible. Well it seems that this couple in New Hampshire had worked with Countrywide for more than 8 months in an effort to have their loan modified before Countrywide finally flat out refused to adjust their interest rate. As a result, the couple lost their home to foreclosure because they couldn't catch up on their lapsed payments, etc., etc., etc. Since then, these homeowners filed a lawsuit against Countrywide alleging breach of faith, fraud, negligence and misrepresentation due to Countrywide's failure to make good on it's marketing, advertising and testimony before Congress in which Countrywide has repeatedly made assurances that they are "working hard to modify the mortgages of financially strapped borrowers caught up in the sub-prime meltdown". Attorneys for the lending giant are telling a different story, however. While those testifying on Capital Hill are painting themselves as benevolent lenders out to help the "financially strapped", their attorneys call such claims and assurances “mere commercial puffery.” Saying the modification offers are “only Countrywide’s vague advertisements,” Countrywide's attorneys are asking the court to throw out the lawsuit. That's just too funny to me. They're asking the court to ignore their own propaganda because they'd just as soon not be held to the standards they themselves have touted. Can you be anymore ballsy? Really? "Yes, Your Honor, we did say we would work with our clients but that was just to help our public image and to keep Congress off our asses. We didn't really mean it. Geez!"
Hell of a defense there, eh? No word yet on how that defense is working out for them. Wouldn't surprise me if they were successful with it though. That would just about fit the pattern our judicial system has engaged in these past couple of decades.

Okay, so Countrywide has shown itself, yet again, to be a lying, back-stabbing, shamelessly self-promoting corporate behemoth with absolutely no soul. What could the homeowners possibly have done to make me disgusted with them as well when compared to Countrywide's transgressions? Well I'll tell you. These people were in their early 30's when they bought this house. The husband is an electrician, the wife a stay at home mom to 2 kids (currently ages 2 and 5). This was their first home purchase. They got a first mortgage and an equity line of credit (to finish the upstairs on this "new" house) that totaled a little over $230,000. They claim that, since this was their first home purchase, they were "unfamiliar" with some aspects of the purchase and wound up with adjustable loans with interest rates that could climb as high as 12.8 percent on the first mortgage and 18 percent on the equity loan. I just gotta know...did they ever buy a car before? Did they have any credit cards? Do they have any credit history whatsoever because if they did, they should have had at least some inkling that perhaps signing paperwork that would commit them to almost a quarter of a million dollars worth of debt at an adjustable interest rate may not have been the smartest thing to do. And if they didn't know that, what in the hell were they doing even thinking about buying a house to begin with? This really burns my butt. People put themselves into financially irresponsible positions and want to blame everyone but themselves for it. Yeah, I'm real sorry they were lied to by Countrywide and I'm real sorry they ended up losing their home. But the lender is not the only one to blame in this tragedy. The homeowners bear much of the blame, too. But in this country, it's become acceptable to make excuses for one's own shortcomings. These people can say "we didn't know" or "Countrywide lied to us" or "we didn't understand" and people left and right will "there, there" them, pat them on the head and tell them it's not their fault. Well it is their fault. It's their fault if they entered into a legally binding contract by placing their signatures on a piece of paper without reading that paper thoroughly. Yeah, it's fairly boring reading and there's a lot of language in those contracts that can be confusing, but nevertheless, it's the borrowers' job to read the "fine print" before they sign on that dotted line.

As far as I'm concerned, Countrywide and this couple define what is wrong with America today. An evil corporate giant on one side; lazy, whining Americans on the other. It's almost laughable how we wonder why the world thinks Americans are bloated and stupid with our own sense of entitlement and greed. I'm afraid there's a reason for that belief. It's because we are.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wonder if my insurance covers "fetish therapy"?

I finished the last of my Christmas returns yesterday. I only had 4 things that needed to be returned, it just took me this long to get around to finishing them. The last thing was a pair of jeans for Jacob. He needed to exchange them for a different size. So after I bribed the boys with lunch at Olive Garden yesterday afternoon (they had early release time from school), we headed on over to JC Penney to do the big exchange. Well 'lo and behold, Penney's was having a sale. A fairly good sale, too. Not only did Jake get his jeans exchanged, but he also came out of there with 2 more t-shirts. Kaleb also got a pair of jeans. They both probably would have gotten more, but they kind of ran out of "Mom time" and decided they were done. Teenagers. I swear. But anywho, since we were in separate cars, they went their way and I went...well, I kept shopping. You know, my dearly beloved told me once that he thought I had a shoe fetish. I told him he was crazy. Turns out, he was most probably right. I didn't start out in the shoe section at Penney's. I just sort of ended up there. (And found two totally awesome sweaters along the way!). The shoes, though. Well. What can I say? I saw these first:
Lovely brown. I needed them. I'm not sure why I needed them, since I do already have, oh I don't know, at least 4 other pairs of brown heels. But that's not really the point, now is it? The point is, these shoes called to me. And when I answered them (because I always try to answer shoes when they call to me - it is the polite thing to do!), I found that they were on sale for under TWENTY DOLLARS. Hel-looooo! Like I could turn my back on that, right? So I scooped them up, held them to my bosom and declared them mine. And that's when my eyes saw these:Yeah. The exact same shoe, only in black! How many times have you been in your closet, looking for the perfect pair of shoes to wear and have picked up one pair only to wish you had them in a different color? Happens all the time, right? I can't tell you the times I've wished I had this one particular pair of shoes in black instead of brown (and I even bought the black first and then returned them and bought the brown at a later date - don't ask - it was a weird time for me). But with this pair of shoes, I have an opportunity to avoid the agony of wrong color purchase - I can just purchase them in both colors 'cause the price is so outrageously good. So that's what I did. I brought both pairs home with me and I love them so. Aren't they fan-tabulous?
Well. The good times weren't over yet. After I left JC Penney, I decided to mosey on down to Belk to see what I could see. Again, I didn't start out in the shoe section. But that's where I ended up. Check these out:
Gasp! Aren't they just WOW! I mean really. WOW! And they were on sale, too. I think they were about $22 bucks. To tell you the truth, I don't really remember what they cost - I was in the throes of boot euphoria and once I saw the 70% off sign, I just shut my eyes and swooned. All this ecstatic emotion over these three pairs of shoes has led me to the realization that Randey may have been onto something when he called my love of shoes a "fetish". Well, that and the fact that I actually bought THREE FLIPPIN' PAIRS OF SHOES FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON IN ONE DAY! The good news? Calling it a "fetish" means it's, technically speaking, a "mental disorder" and therefore, I'm not responsible. Right? Yes. Yes indeed. That is right.
In other news, when I downloaded the pictures of my beautiful new shoes, I found these pictures from Christmas on my camera as well. This one is Maddy, my oldest granddaughter, sitting in Starbucks. Doesn't she look like a proper young lady here? She's such a great kid.
These next two pictures are of Nick, Kaleb and Jacob at Penn Square Mall in Oklahoma City.
Now check out Nick's face once he realized I had my camera out. lol
And this is a favorite. You knew it would happen one day: cash is no longer any good. Read this sign:
Reckon I can write 'em a check for a gift card? Or maybe I can use a stolen credit card and just buy a whole bunch of 'em and shop 'til I drop. Guess anything's possible. All I know is, they don't want no stinkin' CASH anymore. Yer money ain't no good here, folks! Kind of scary, isn't it?
That's about it for today! Hope everyone is having a wonderful FRIDAY!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gran Torino and WW Question Answered

Randey and I had a little mini-date night yesterday. I say "mini" because we went to the early show and then picked up sandwiches from Subway on the way home so it really didn't seem too much like a real date. But hey - I'll take what I can get. Anywho, we went to see Clint Eastwood's latest movie, Gran Torino. We both were very moved by this movie. Heck, I think everyone in the theater was. It's basically the story of how a man, totally disconnected from any real human emotion, finds friendship and feeling almost against his will. It depicted a man incredibly alone and lonely, and determined to remain that way, until he finds himself interacting with his neighbors, people he never even wanted to know. This movie contains just about every single racial slur I've ever heard and many I hadn't. But the movie isn't so much about race as about the human condition. Do any of you know someone who has fostered a certain persona, who has learned to hide behind an unemotional mask, who has become so disgusted and confused by a world he or she is unable to grasp that they have just quit trying to interact with it? If so, you'll recognize that person in Walt, the Clint Eastwood character. I sure did. Watching Walt was like watching...well, it's not important that I share who the character reminded me of. It just speaks about the movie and Clint Eastwood's acting ability that the character seemed so real to me. Again, Randey and I were very moved by this movie and give it a firm thumbs up.
Now on to something else. Yesterday, I talked about Weight Watchers and, via e-mail traffic, got into a discussion about reaching my goal weight and then possibly taking it further. You see, when I spoke with my team leader the day that I decided 149 was the end of the road for me, she very clearly stated that I needed to be sure because if I went 2 pounds over that or 2 pounds under that (after having maintained that weight for 6 weeks and being declared a LifeTime Member, at which point I would no longer have to pay to attend the meetings), they would have to charge me again. Someone in an e-mail told me I must have heard her wrong, but I distinctly remember my team leader saying the reason I needed to be sure was because some people just picked the high end of their weight range as their goal, but then continued to try and lose weight, which was against WW rules. So today I called WW for clarification. I spoke with a very nice woman who told me that I could most certainly continue to lose weight after obtaining my goal, as long as I didn't go below the minimum set forth in the WW guidelines. I told her what my team leader had said and she told me that wasn't the first time she'd heard that so she put me on hold in order to investigate further. I must have been on hold for something like 10 minutes, but when she finally came back on the line, she told me that yes, I was only obligated to pay again (once I became a LifeTime Member) if I went 2 pounds above my goal. She went on to say that my Weight Watcher goal and my Personal goal were two different things and that many people did indeed choose the higher end of their range as their WW goal while still aiming for something lower as their Personal goal. So thank you, Mary, for discussing this issue with me and giving me the impetus to seek clarification from WW. I was worried sick about having to stay so rigidly within that range. I'm almost tempted to work on losing another few pounds just to see what reaction I get from my team leader. I've really enjoyed her help and encouragement with my weight loss, but am kind of flummoxed by her almost adversarial reaction to my decision to declare that particular number as my goal weight. She's been so happy about every other "victory" that her response to this sort of came out of left field. Oh well, we'll additional weight loss may never come up so there's no point in worrying about it just yet, eh? And regardless of this one little issue, I am still thrilled silly with WW and what it's done for me.
Guess I'd better run. My boys get out of school early today and I've invited them to join me for lunch at Olive Garden. I'm all excited! I'm kind of taking bets with myself on how fast they'll try to ditch me after the lunch is over, though. Teenagers....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

About the Weight Watchers Thing...

As many of you know, I started with Weight Watchers back in May of 2008. When I started, I weighed 205.2 pounds and was wearing size 18 clothes. Yowza, right? I never really thought WW would work and, in fact, told myself that I would stick with it, come hell or high water, for 4 months before I quit, just so I could say that I had "tried everything" to lose weight. I was pretty convinced that it would be a very unproductive 4 months. I was wrong. Almost immediately, the weight started coming off. A pound or two a week, but it was coming off. After the first month, I thought I would be perfectly thrilled if I could just get to maybe 165 pounds again. I wasn't sure if I could do it, but it didn't seem completely unattainable. Well heck...things kept working, I kept losing and before I knew it, I was at 165 pounds. Who'd a thunk?? At that point, I really started to pay attention. I got on the Weight Watchers website and looked up the "healthy weight" parameters for my height and my age. I think it told me I should be between 144 and 150, depending on whether I counted my height as 5'4" or 5'5" (technically, I'm 5'4 1/2"). So I put my goal at 140 (always looking to over-achieve, you know). Well, the closer I got to that, the harder it seemed to be. Not one to make myself suffer unnecessarily (all thoughts about over-achieving notwithstanding), I changed my goal to 144. Eh, what was 4 pounds, right? Okay, so I continued to plug along and then the holidays hit...Halloween, Thanksgiving, blah, blah, blah. Suddenly, 144 just wasn't going to work anymore. I panicked. I got down to 148.8 and that seemed to be as far down as my body wanted to go. Bummer. For over three weeks, I stayed within 2 ounces of that weight. I just couldn't seem to get below it. Finally, in frustration, I told my team leader at WW that I had had enough. I was declaring myself done. And actually, I was pretty happy with being right at 149. I was wearing size 8 jeans, size medium shirts...I was smaller than I'd been since Randey and I had gotten married. I thought I was okay saying enough is enough. My team leader, however, seemed shocked and more than a little bit dismayed by my decision. After discussing it with her, I actually felt like I had failed at something! What the heck? I know she didn't mean to make me feel that way, but from the reaction she had, I couldn't help but feel like I had given up on something, that I had failed.'s been more than 4 weeks now and while I've gotten down another pound, I'm still maintaining between 147 and 149. Maybe I could have worked harder and longer and lost a few more pounds. Maybe I should have done that, I don't know. I still feel like I've kind of failed at something and I'm not really sure why that is because I also know that I've succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I, Kari Hayes, lost 57 pounds! Woo-hoo!!! So I didn't lose 65 pounds, like I had hoped to do at one point. So I didn't get down to a size 4 (like Marie Osmond says she did using NutriSystem). Big deal. Right? Right???? Am I happy with my size and weight now? Yes, a part of me is. Am I wondering if I didn't sell myself short because of some extra holiday eating? Yeah, I guess maybe I am. Does wondering that make me want to turn to a box of Godiva and drown my fears and uncertainties in its chocolate-y depths? Uhhhhhh, no. I'm a practitioner in the ways of the Weight Watcher! I don't feel the need to solve my problems with food anymore. I'd rather surf the net or walk the block! And I'd rather be sitting here wondering if my size 8 butt could get smaller than sitting here believing that my size 18 butt can't. Regardless of any small measure of angst I'm feeling today about my size, I can guarantee you that it's nothing compared to the heartache I felt about it before I joined Weight Watchers. It was good to do something about it. It was good to learn that I could.
For anyone thinking or wondering if they can actually do something about their weight, I urge you to try...I obviously recommend WW, but I know it's not the only thing out there that works. It's just the thing that works for me and it's given me a whole new outlook on life. Give yourself a chance to feel better about yourself, too, if that's what you need. I got the nerve and the urge to check out a Weight Watchers meeting thanks in no small part to a fellow blogger (you know who you are!) who first shared her WW experience with me. If I can pass that along to anybody else out there, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always happy to talk about the difficulties and the joys of weight loss!! My absolute only regret is that I didn't do this sooner. Remember, there's no better time than NOW to get started!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pretty Baby

Look at this picture Jodie took of Kara. I stole it off Jodie's blog. Isn't it great? Jodie's doing very well with her new camera isn't she? And look at Kara's new tooth. You can just see it there on her bottom row. Isn't this baby just perfect in every way???

Christmas Pics Part Deux

Here's some more of our holiday pictures. This first one is Maddy Moose. Check out her bed-head. lol My three sons (Nick, Kaleb and Jacob) all lined up on the couch Christmas morning.
Nick and Kara, checking something out. The look on Kara's face just makes me smile.
But this look really cracks me up. She was fascinated by this little Snow White baby doll. She pressed her little face right up to the package to try and get a closer look at it.
Here's Kara and Jodie, working on unwrapping something. Just look at Jodie's hair...should anyone really have hair that looks that good first thing in the morning?? lol
This is Kara with the Elmo doll Nick and Jodie got her. She LOVED it. I've never seen one so young get so excited over a toy.
Now check out the look she's giving Jacob.
This is a favorite of mine: Maddy wearing her Harry Potter glasses (and her Harry Potter Time-Turner necklace). She was opening up the last of her gifts while Sydney the Wonder Dog supervised.
Maddy loves Texas so Randey and I had to get her this shirt when we saw it.
This is Maddy crawling up under the tree to dig the presents out Christmas morning.
This is me with the Darth Vader statue Nick and Jodie got me. Way too cool. Love it. (And what granny wouldn't, eh?)
This picture cracks me up...Kaleb and Jacob, first thing in the morning. Not looking too spry, are they?
They started perking up the more gifts they got to open.
Kaleb's "big" gift this year was a GPS system for his car. That boy could get lost in his own backyard so this was a darn good gift for him. Jake asked for an X-Box 360. I had no intention of getting him one of those...Kaleb already has one and so does Randey. How many 360s should live in one household, I ask you? Apparently three, because Randey thought getting Jake one was a primo idea. And, I have to say, Jake was sure surprised. He really didn't think we'd go for that particular wish. I told him he really had his father to thank (or to blame, depending on your point of view. lol).
Here's Sydney the Wonder Dog supervising Randey's gift opening technique.
Finally, Desiree', Russell and Skye arrived, laden with gifts!
Here's Skye, opening her Batman toy from Nick. Nick thinks every child should have superhero toys. lolAnd here's Skye opening one of her barbies. She was so thrilled with everything she got. It was just precious to watch her excitement.
And finally, here's Sydney the Wonder Dog enjoying his Christmas dog biscuit. (How cute is this little guy????)
Okay - I guess that's enough with the holiday pictures, eh? I can't wait to scrapbook about this holiday. It was special like no other one has ever been.
Tomorrow we'll talk Weight Watchers. Yee-haw!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Merriest of Merry Times

I'm about over my "fit" of this morning. I'm still disgusted by what passes for "news" in this world, but I'm working through my feelings of anger and frustration. That's my New Year's work really hard at not popping a blood vessel over the abject stupidity of so-called "journalists". Yeah...looks like I may need to work a little harder at that, eh? promised, here's some of our holiday pictures. This first one is from Thanksgiving. I only show it because it's me, in an apron, smiling. It bears posting, believe me. This is not a common sight, nor do I really ever expect it to be. Since I've joined Weight Watchers, I'm learning more and more about how to cook, but it's still not my greatest joy in life, that's for sure. Here's my three gorgeous granddaughters together. That's Skye on the left, Maddy Moose in the center with Kara on her lap. God, I love these three girls.
Here's Moose again, showing off her candy cane striped socks. She's such a character...born to put on a show.
This was taken Christmas Eve. Everyone was playing Skip-Bo. That's Skye smiling at us, Maddy concentrating and Russell (Skye's daddy), discussing Kaleb's next move.
Here's Moose again, showing us the gift she was going to open on Christmas Eve.
This is me with the three beauties again.
That's Jake opening his gift, while Nick (holding Kara) looks on, as does Randey there on the right.
This is Jodie opening her gift. There's a story behind those pajamas. Jodie loves gingerbread men - always has, as far as I know. She also calls Kara "Monkey" (yeah, well, most of us do...she kind of acts like a little monkey sometimes. lol). When Randey and I saw these pajamas at Target, he insisted that Jodie had to have them. They're sock-monkeys shaped like gingerbread men. The look on Jodie's face says it all. lol But she was a great sport and wore them that night.
Here's Kaleb, holding his Christmas Eve present.
Here's Nick, helping Kara open her gift.
This is Randey, holding up his present.
Here's Skye, showing off her Thomas rug (she loves trains). That's Russell sitting behind her.
Here's Skye, helping Kaleb open his gift.
And here's Skye, helping me open my gift.
And now here's Skye, helping Randey open his gift. Skye really loved unwrapping things (and she was pretty darn good at it, too!).
What holiday is complete without brothers wresting, right? This is Nick, showing Kaleb some brotherly love.And here's Maddy, acting like she was going to scratch Nick's face off in an effort to get him off of Kaleb. It didn't work. Nick just kept showing that love.
Here's Sydney the Wonder Dog...exhausted from all the Christmas Eve festivities.
Here's both trees and a big portion of the presents for everyone to unwrap Christmas Day.
This Christmas was, without a doubt, the greatest Christmas I can ever remember having. It was just perfect. And it would have been just as perfect without all those presents (although I think we all got some pretty cool stuff!!). Just having all the kids there and the 3 granddaughters was wonderful. Getting the group picture was fantastic, going shopping with Jodie was tons of fun, holding Kara for the first time, watching all three girls interact and enjoy each other....the whole entire thing was beyond perfect. Speaking of perfect, let me share this picture of Nick (he "adjusted" my computer so that this was my desktop background. lol).
That's my baby, in all his military glory. I can't begin to express how proud I am of this kid, really. I know what went into him earning those medals he wears on his chest. I know how much he's grown as a man and as a member of the greatest defenders of freedom on the planet. And I know what an all-around great person he is. (Do I sound like a mutha who's proud of her son? lol)
And finally, let me end with this little gem. It's my senior picture from high school. Talk about a blast from the past. I came across this a day or so ago when I was getting some things moved around in the guest room. I just started a page on Facebook to reconnect with some friends from high school so running across this picture just seemed fated. Check out the hair and the serious expression. Eeeeck!! LOL
Okay, that's probably enough pictures for now. Don't worry. I've got tons more to bore you with later (although no more of me in my youth, thankyouverymuch!). Happy January, everyone!!