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Worked the Polls

I worked the polls yesterday for my voting area: 6AM – 8:30PM.  I had already voted in Early Voting (such a fantastic program) so I was really there to help other people vote.  It was a fantastic experience.

When I arrived, I thought I was volunteering for the shift but found out that in Texas, they pay you for your work in the polls.  I suppose it parallels Jury Duty – another not always fun but super important civic duty.

If you have ever even considered the idea – please give it a try.

This is the link for applying in Harris County: Apply Here.

Beautiful Motivation

Yesterday was the end of the soccer season. As I was sitting in the stadium, I looked up to a beautiful view.  The clouds were circling around the sun in a slow spiraling dance.  The picture does not do it justice but I can remember it clearly.  If I was a poet, I would be able to describe it but as it is I will just consider it beautiful motivation.

As I looked up into the sky, I remembered how great my life is and that if I want to be healthy – I just need to decide to do it.  There are so many other things that are outside my control that I have no reason not to make this one happen.

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Clouds lining the sun

So, I woke up this morning and I completed a run.  It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty but I got there and moved.  I can so I should.

Was I “sub-prime”?

One of my goals is to practice writing on themes that I think I might be interested in writing professionally.  Obviously my blog is very much personal exploration.

Article one is Mortgage Market Securitization.  While completing my MBA, we spent considerable time discussing the Global Economic Crisis – the causes and the effects.  Mortgage Market Securitization is considered to be part of the cause and is definitely one of the reasons the crisis spread throughout the market so thoroughly.

As we studied, I realized my first home purchase was tied to the cause of the crisis.

In 2001, I moved to a new job, a new city.  I had always been told that a house was a cornerstone of wealth.  This was 2001, so my new employer provided a great moving package that included a real estate agent to help me choose an apartment or a house.  The agent gave me the number of a mortgage broker and told me to call them and ask how much house I could afford.  I called, gave them a small amount of data and they told me I could buy a house worth 4 times my annual income with no down payment.  It seemed like a deal to me.  My parents were surprised that a young twenty something could get such terms but it seemed like a deal to them too.  They were proud that my credit was so great.

Of course, little did we know that I was just part of a larger developing phenomenon.  The mortgage broker I called was in the business of securing as many mortgages as he could.  Regardless of the risk, the mortgage broker knew they could sell my mortgage for some cash value to a securitizing firm.  The mortgage broker’s pay was tied to getting my signature on the mortgage paperwork.  There was little to no penalty to that broker if I later defaulted on the loan.  The broker made his cash as soon as the mortgage was sold to the securitizing firm.

My worry started immediately after I signed the papers. The broker looked at me and said: “This is fantastic for you. You know we could never have agreed to this if you had a car loan. You are at your limit.” Uh-oh. Youthful mistake: I had assumed the experienced professionals were looking out for me and wouldn’t let me get in over my head. Thank goodness for roommates to help cover bills and for part time work!

For those that do not know, “sub prime” is a term used for mortgages qualified for securitization during late 90s, early 00s after the federal government loosened mortgage standards in an attempt to increase home ownership.  The loosened standards involved the percent of income to house purchase and amount of down payment. So, based on the statement from the broker – yep, I was “sub-prime”.

No worries felt at the mortgage broker who quickly sold my mortgage to the securitizing firm.  No worries felt at the securitizing firm either.  They looked at the numbers on my mortgage and categorized my mortgage and bundled it with other similar mortgages into tranches.  Tranch is French for slice so my little mortgage was a small part of a big slice of mortgage debt that the securitizing firm then sold to investors looking for a percentage return (the percent increased as risk increased).  Investors received a portion of my payment based on whatever security package they purchased.

My story ended well, I moved again and sold that house by the end of 2003. Of course, I spent 2 years on a tight budget with revolving roommates and working odd extra jobs to make ends meet but I was able to get out of the loan before everything crashed.  For many people, both home owners and investors, the story did not end well.  Defaulted loans caused loss of homes and for some investors loss of retirement savings. Even now, culturally, we collectively still feel the anger at the banks, the brokers and securitizing firms, that made money while the individuals on both sides of the mortgage meltdown suffered.

Personally, I learned two valuable lessons: “question and double check the professionals” and “yes, something too good to be true is often not true”.

The Benefits of Exercise

This is more for me than for anyone else.  Real Appeal Session 2 was about “The Power Couple: Exercise and Nutrition”.  As part of the program, we received a book that goes over each session.  In that book, the following are all listed as reasons to exercise and keep moving.  If I ever need motivation, I just need to think back to this list!

  • Exercise causes you to lose more body fat, especially visceral fat, the deep belly fat that’s particularly harmful to health.
  • Exercise raises your metabolic rate.
  • Exercise lifts your mood, even before the pounds come off.  It is a natural depression fighter.
  • Exercise helps to trim inches even before the scale might move.
  • Exercise increases your endurance so you can keep up with your kids.
  • Regular exercise reduces the risk of cancer.
  • Regular exercise cuts the risk for heart disease.
  • Regular exercise reduces the risk of for type II diabetes and helps reverse pre-diabetes.
  • Regular exercise cuts the risk for osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease.
  • Exercise helps the body avoid colds.

Real Appeal

A few months ago, my husband and I started up with a program called Real Appeal.  We have weekly meetings with a coach and can schedule one-on-one’s as needed.  It has been really good.  The mailer from our insurance came at just the right time – we were looking for a change and this gave us that little bit of extra momentum.

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This is my first check-in photo.  I intend for some of that extra fluff to be removed from my body.  On a general level, I like my body but I know that I can be a bit more streamlined.

As of right now, it is all about the food log and keeping track of what we are eating.  I already see some trends and some “empty calories” that need to be removed or reduced.  For one – no more opening wine bottles inside the house – unless we have company.  I always feel like I need to finish the bottle (not same day!) within a few days. At 120 calories a glass and really no nutritional content, the habit has to change!

The Journey Begins

GOT Concert PictureThanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

I am tempted to start with “Day One – The Journey Begins” but that is so not true.  My journey with my weight started more than 30 years ago.  I cannot remember when I first realized I was a chubby kid.  I know that by 4th grade, I was already avoiding full length photos.

This is why I have to change now.  Instead of enjoying the feelings from remembering a great time with my husband, I look at my picture and think how big I have gotten.  I know I can be healthier.  I will not allow myself to go above 185.  This is the line in the sand.