Friday, July 31, 2009

29 Woot WootFor our 29th anniversary Ron bought me a huge boquet of carnations. I can hear the gasps already from flower elitests....before you judge him, it's my request. I LOVE CARNATIONS. Please don't bring home roses. Oh, I'll take them with a kiss, place them in water and enjoy. But if you want to make my heart go pitter patter, bring carnations.

Here's a few facts from 29 years:

States visited: 20
Countries visited: 4
Cruises: 5
Trips to Hawaii: 3
No. of temples we've been to: 15
Trips to Lake Powell: 20-24
No. of children: 5+4=9
No. of grandchildren: 3

Gosh, we've been busy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Warning: this is way long, like Iliad-long, and there are no Spark notes.
Three years ago we had what I called the perfect storm: Ron invested in adding grading and paving to our business, and in doing so made a couple of mistakes, like $30-50,000 each mistakes. We can recoup from that. Then a contractor didn't pay us, we had to sue, ended up with pennies on the dollar, ended up being almost a $70,000 loss, no problem, it's going to be tight, but we can recover. Then there was another expense that came up. We had three things that hit all within a couple of months of each other. I was ready to move on to a new year and get those months behind me.

THEN...the next year rolls around and it seems like we just can't get on top of the bills again, every month is hard. A few personal trips we planned ('cause in the past if someone suggested something 4 months out - no problem, we're in.) barely panned out. By the end of the year I finally ran all the company reports to take a look at things financially. We were down 30%, no wonder I felt like it was a struggle all the time. Up to that point we had ten different years where we made so close to the same amount every year, Ron joked it was a fine oiled machine. We definitely had taken things for granted. But, whew, glad to know there was a reason for the tough times. 30% drop was alarming to me, so I started asking around to several other contractors we know "you guys slowing down?" Many of them would give me a look, "No, we can't keep up with it all/just added another crew..." SO, then I would get all down and out like we were the only losers that couldn't do well. BUT then after feeling sorry for myself for a couple of months I realized in conversations that some of them were just now working on projects we had complete 6 months before. DUH, we're the first in with the ground work and utilities, they're at the end of projects. Now the tide had turned, they were noticing the slowdown in work too. Whew, it's not just us.

NOW to this year/or year 3 in the story. Once the banking crisis hit, it was like a faucet was turned off. Did I mention that last summer we did two jobs and then the owners couldn't get financing - Yeah I did - Work gets slower and slower, projects get smaller and smaller, competition for bidding gets larger and larger. For the last year and a half Ron and I have had conversations about how to handle the slow down and the money, what's our worse-case scenario? For the record, Ron is Mr. Optimist. I'm the more the realist. We balance each other out. Not that I'm not positive or optimistic, but someone has to make a Plan B. and C. and D.

Earlier this year I really started pondering how bad was this going to get, and when will it turn around? I tried my best to understand CNBC, and all the other newscasters that scream at you to get your attention. I observed as I was driving around town. Do we need to be drastic or just hang in there? I was a mess. So I do what anyone does when they're a mess. I called my dad. He's very well-read in financial stuff and world news. He chats with me about various stuff. And regulations. And who started what with regulations and deregulations. I don't want the history, I just want my answer. You know dad, this is what I'm seeing: 1) The stimulus package is supposed to open up funding again. Great. I know several projects approved ready to go when the owner can get funding. BUT we do commercial work. 2) I drive around town and the commercial shopping centers only look half-full. Our neighbor is in commercial lease management, his centers are at 40% occupancy, he's worried. So....even if a bank is going to fund, you have to show something like 70% tenant commitments to the bank to get a loan. Who's going to get that when everything else in town is half empty? 3) we know several engineers and they're either going out of business or about to because they don't have any work. If they're not working - there's nothing coming down the pipes for us to do.

"So, dad, how long do I have to hang on??? If you tell me 6 months, I think I can do that, if you tell me longer, I don't know what we're going to do."

So my dad with his Texas drawl asks: How long after an engineer completes a project till it reaches your company to install? And I think, well, easy 6 months. Maybe more. it has to go through plans check, red lines, funding, out to bid, get awarded the bid, then permitting and start. 6-9 months.

"Well then, there's your answer. Watch the engineers, when they get busy, you're 6-9 months away from getting busy yourself."

I hang up stunned. Still in a mess. I know, he's right. BUT I didn't have time to think about it anymore because I had a stake welfare training meeting to get to...

I sat down in the chapel with all the leaders in the stake and to be honest, my mind was still back at my convo with my dad. All this stuff was running through my brain. I just wanted someone to tell me it will be back to normal and in what month. Less than 6? I can do less than 6.

The DVD started. My notes started. I'll share them, in case you haven't seen - and even if you have, your notes were probably different.

Elder Hales: Joyfully living w/in our means. Use resources wisely. Do not covet. Avoid debt, be content. Exercise faith in the Savior to do better and be better. Our ability to serve is increased/decreased by our self reliance. Change lifestyle & place of residence to live w/in your means. Be a good employee.

Sister Beck: Organize teach & inspire sisters. *great quote on relief* education/money/social/ and emotional well-being. improve skills: home industries, accounting/bookkeeping.

Bishop Burton: basic welfare principles. Seek out the poor. Promote personal..?. Sustain life - not lifestyle. Downsize where necessary. Provide commodities before cash.

Stake leaders remarks: What can we do to help our members receive personal revelation and raise spirituality in individual members? More temple attendance - esp. if out of work. Utilize prayer roll. Use General Conf. talks for inspiration. Keep commandments, pray, ask for revelation D&C 20:47. Have gratitude and serve. Plan for your future. Read Book of Mormon for greater spirituality. NO dispair, depression or giving up. The scriptures say, 'And it came to pass' - not 'and it came to stay'. Be where you're supposed to be, do what you're supposed to do, and allow the Lord to bless you.

What a fantastic 90 minutes. And now I at least know, this won't be over in 6 months. The church wouldn't go to all the trouble of this DVD and asking all stakes in the U.S. to have training meetings if this was a temporary situation. And in a strange way, relief. This just wasn't my situation, others must be having the same conversations at their homes. It's time to hunker down and trim expenses to get through.

Some areas of the country have hurricanes, some flooding, some tornadoes, or forest fires. I decided an economic storm was sweeping through our area. Much like tornadoes and wildfires, it can devastate a home to ashes and leave the one next door standing fully intact. That's how I've felt this year. As we sat down to look at the refinancing paperwork, I ran another company report. I knew it was worse. I struggle every day of every week. Always twice as many bills as income. I now have reoccurring nightmares of the voices that call everyday wondering when Invoice #...will be paid. That part is not fun. restless, sleepless nights. So the income for the company this time was even more dismal. Six months into the year, we're down another 40%. Yep, that's right - doing quick math, we're down over 70% from a 'normal' year. And we're only half-way done.

So we looked at the options. IF the company did the same amount of work the 2nd half of the year, yeah, we probably could work out this refinancing. BUT what if it continues to slide down? What if we go from steady, low dollar jobs, to a job then a few weeks of nothing before another job. If that happens, there's no way we could sustain the household expenditures. By the time you do the payment, property taxes, HOA, utilities, that is a rather large chunk of change. Honestly, Ron & I could live on much, much less than that monthly figure.

Is it wise right now to spend that much on our personal lives? Would it affect being able to pay our employees? Are we throwing good money after bad? Are we prolonging the inevitable? When will we go back to normal? Will we be sorry? Are we making the right decision?

So, when all along we thought we were refinancing and staying put, we decided to not keep the house. We're trying to keep the business going and must reduce our expenses. anyone who might be reading this (you're still reading this?), if you didn't know we were moving, I'm sorry. It really happened so fast, and we were incredibly busy. I didn't tell many people. It took a couple of weeks to figure out what/where everything would go, then it took a couple of weeks to pack and move it. So so exhausting. and hot. and humid. What do you do with the household items of a 4,000 sq ft house? It almost all fits in a 40 foot tractor trailer. We're just storing everything for now. The office is moved to Matt & Ashley's extra room. The food storage is in Jenn & Jordan's extra room. And we are in Bekah & David's extra room. The storage for the company is in another tractor trailer and a few other locations.

I was ready to rent something else. Ron is just certain some out-of-town jobs will come through, so why rent if he has to work out of state? So the compromise was hang out at Bekah's for a little bit. 6 month limit. If nothing pans out by then, we need our own place, our own stuff.

THE END of the epic post
I don't know that we will ever go back to 'normal'. We will adjust to a new normal. I'm very optimistic for the future. We truly believe we just need to make adjustments for about 2-5 years. I don't have all the answers or details for my next year, but I know without a doubt that the future will be wonderful. There will be other houses, other grandchildren, other church callings. We will be blessed beyond our ability to comprehend. Is the worse over? Probably not. Will we be sorry we made this decision? Maybe, but I don't think so.

I struggled on whether I should write about all this. My family knows what's going on. Do other people really need to? Could it help others? Will they think we are just frivolous lousy business people? and personally morally bankrupt? To those I would say: we're doing the best we can. Our vehicles are paid for, we don't have credit card debt. Those nice vacation trips in the past - paid in cash or we didn't go. What about provident living, you should have 6 month's expenses in a savings acct? From experience, it helps in year one, continued to help in year two, but when you get half-way into year three, it's gone. Then I was worried about my kids. I hope they are not embarrassed. I don't know what they will face in their life, but I know there will be challenges. Whatever they are, I certainly hope we are examples to them of how to put a smile on your face and move forward with faith. This storm will pass. We have years ahead of us full of fun and excitement.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Birthday

Declaration of Independence
[Adopted in Congress 4 July 1776]

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government...