Archive for March, 2011

Are you Ready?

March 28, 2011

Okay, I realize we’re still wearing winter coats and scraping the windows of our cars each morning.   But this is Michigan, and that means it can change from a frosty 27° to a balmy 75° in about 12 hours.  By starting now where you can, you will soon be able to enjoy a cold iced tea while relaxing in your favorite lawn chair while your neighbor is still trying to find the back of his garage.  Here are some suggestions to get your home prepared.

□     Check home-safety devises.

Replace batteries in smoke & carbon monoxide detectors

Recharge fire extinguishers

□     Deep clean.

Clean ceiling fans and light fixtures, replacing light bulbs as needed

Clean out the refrigerator and freezer of outdated food items and condiments

Clean, pack and store humidifiers

Deep-clean the carpeting

Clean and air out heavy winter bedding and clothing before storing

□     Maintain HVAC units.

Once the weather does break, turn off your heating system

Change air filters

Remove and clean the filters for your air conditioner and have your unit professionally serviced as needed

□     Think Summer.

Clean and install window screens

Bring out your patio furniture, cleaning and checking for wear or damage as you go

Clean your grill, filling the propane tanks or stocking up on charcoal and lighter fluid

□     Prepare your tools.

Cleaning out and organizing the garage or shed, moving winter equipment to the back, lawn mower and gardening tools to the front

Clean and sharpen trimmers, rakes and shovels

Service the lawn mower and fill gas tank

Hook up garden hoses and replace as needed

If applicable have your underground sprinkler system serviced

□     Walk around the house.

Check the roof for loose shingles that need repair

Clean out the gutters

Check for cracks in the foundation, driveway and sidewalks and repair as needed

Remove insulated covers from outdoor faucets

Clean winter debris from landscaping and foundation

Check lawn for any dead/damaged areas and reseed

□     Enjoy the changing season and warmer weather!

If You have Wings…Use Them!

March 17, 2011

It’s funny sometimes the lessons that nature can teach you.  Just watch some of the critters in your neighborhood sometime and you will be amazed.

A couple of weeks ago West Michigan was provided one of those rare early spring days where the sun was shining warmly and there was only a slight breeze.  I decided to eat my lunch at a local park and enjoy a few moments of quiet.  As I surveyed the area I looked out over the small pond taking notice of the large gathering of ducks huddled tightly in the one area of open water no longer covered with ice.  Since this is quite the hangout for the city duck population I quickly noticed several other smaller gatherings.

However I was particularly drawn to a quant group of four.  They busily made their way up the lawn and into the parking lot, rounding my vehicle in search of whatever morsel intrigues a duck these days.  Their self-guided tour eventually led them to the other side of my vehicle and a small ridge of now icy snow melt.

Surveying the obstacle before them, the first duck steadily climbed to the top and then proceeded down the other side in the most self-controlled, not to be outdone, Shaun White take some notes slide.  This duck was cool! 

The second duck could not see what lay on the other side of this ridge, but was able to surmise that his friend had indeed done so safely.  Duck #2 climbed to the top, confirmed the status of his cool friend and also slid down to the other side.  While his performance was not nearly so stylized or even controlled he did reach the bottom with all feathers and dignity still in tack.

Then it was time for duck #3.  Duck #3 struggled some to reach to top of the obstacle but after some exertion did manage to do so.  At this point duck #3 began to study the surroundings.  There was a little lean to the right, a lean to the left and slight tilt forward and then a whole lot of roll.  We’re talking tail feathers over beak, complete summersault, look-out below, crash landing spectacle.  Once this poor creature reached the bottom there was a great ruffling of feathers in an attempt to regain whatever shred of dignity remained.  It was a sight.

Now the remaining fourth duck could not see the sight that lay before from it’s vantage point.  The fourth duck only knew that 3 ducks had climbed up, disappeared and miraculously waited on the other side.  Duck #4 paused from a moment.  I could tell this was going to be good.  Suddenly with great grace, poise and ingenious thinking, duck #4 flapped its wings, took off into the air and gently landed in the middle of the other 3.  If a picture says a thousand words, the look on this duck’s face spoke volumes.

The obvious question raised (after laughing loudly of course) was did you forget?  We’re ducks!  We can fly!

How often do we forget our own abilities, skills or natural talents?  How often have we just simply followed the crowd, without thinking that there may be another way? 

Don’t forget the natural strengths and power you already possess.  We all have our own set of “wings”.  Use them!

What is an APR and What did it do to my Rate?

March 10, 2011

After discussing some options and various programs with your Loan Officer you reach a plan that works for your situation.  You are satisfied with your interest rate and then you are handed that one piece of paper that shows in large, bold-faced type a number that is not what you recall discussing and the words, “Annual Percentage Rate” next to it.  Where did this number come from?  Did my interest rate change?  What will this do to my payment?

If you know nothing else about home loans and borrowing money, you understand that there is a cost associated with the money you are borrowing, specifically your interest rate.  However when presented with a new percentage and the words Annual Percentage Rate (or APR) next to it, you are left with more questions than answers.  Let us explain.

The interest rate is the cost percentage used to calculate your monthly payment.  However, there are other fees and charges associated with the set-up and origination of a loan.  The APR takes these fees and charges into account and provides the consumer with an effective rate (or total cost) of their loan expressed as a percentage.  The intent of the APR is for consumers to be able to compare competing lenders and various loan programs.

Lenders are required by law to disclose the APR to the borrower within 3 days of applying for a mortgage loan. In late 2008 further regulations were passed (effective in 2010) stating that if the APR changed by more than .125% from this initial disclosure on the Good Faith Estimate (GFE), the lender must re-disclose this information to borrower and wait another three business days before closing the loan.

The APR does not change your interest rate; rather it clarifies the true cost of your loan.  It generally includes points, origination fees, mortgage insurance and document prep fees.  It is not however, how your payments are calculated.  Your payments are still based on the interest rate you discussed with your loan officer.  We hope this helps.

Agents of Change

March 4, 2011

On a personal level the word change can be defined as making a difference in the state or condition of someone or to substitute another state or condition.  To change is to make a significant difference so that a person is distinctly different from what they were.  Change is inevitable in life for all of us.  The defining moment however, is whether or not that change is positive. 

Sometimes it is specific person or group that initiates these transformations.  They are agents of change and possess such characteristics as being sensitive, realistic, flexible, tolerant, committed, influential, confident and passionate.  Allow us to introduce you to two agents of change.

Guiding Light Mission is located on Division Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, MI.  They provide emergency services by way of shelter and meals to anyone in need as well as overnight shelter to men.  Their long history dating back to 1929 has equipped them to provide social, physical, spiritual and intellectual needs to men in the community with the ultimate goal of allowing individuals to discover a new life in Christ. 

The START program (Spiritual Truth And Recovery Training) is a 4-6 month recovery program for men with an expectation of re-engagement into the community.  A recent example is the Recovery Runners, a group of men from the START program who are training for the River Bank Run In The Image run team.  Their stories of overcoming addictions and hardship are inspirational; and now they run to complete yet one more transformation. (You can see their personal stories here:  http://www.lifeonthestreet.org/LIVE-ON-THE-STREET/Recovery-Runners.aspx

In The Image is the other change agent in this story.  They are an organization that links gently used clothing, housewares, furniture and appliances with families in need in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Their history dates back to 1987 when a couple of individuals paid attention to the needs around them.  That same attention to detail has lead to the addition of In The Image’s SHOES program – Shoes Help Our Elementary Students.  Last year this program distributed almost 9,000 pairs of shoes to kids in Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Kentwood school districts.

Guiding Light Mission and In The Image continue to impact the community, offering people in need a hand up as agents of change.  The baton has been handed to the men running as part of the In The Image run team.  Besides running to overcome yet one more personal challenge they are running to raise awareness and funds for at-risk kids.    With every $10 raised, In The Image is able to purchase a brand new pair of shoes for an area student.  It is amazing what a simple pair of shoes can do.  Now it is your turn.  Get involved with a commitment to positively help more kids this year. 

Awareness Home Funding will be supporting a group of runners from our company who will be running for In The Image.  You can support In The Image directly by visiting http://active.com/donate/intheimage2011and donating what you feel lead to do.  Be an agent of change yourself.