Stankavich Saga

Stories of the Stankavich family of Hillsboro, Oregon, USA

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Changing Lives Through Education

As many of my readers may know, my wife Marissa is from the Philippines.  One inter-cultural marriage fact that I learned early on is that when you marry a Filipina, you also marry her family.  Some may see that as a negative, but I don’t, not at all.  I look at it as a direct opportunity to dramatically change lives for the better. 

One thing I made very clear to Marissa from very early in our relationship was that although I was happy to help her family and expected that to be a part of our relationship, I was not interested in subsidizing their lifestyle.  I don’t need more dependents than I already have.  So we agreed on a set of guidelines for assistance.  We help with infrastructure, education, and medical emergencies, but not ongoing living expenses or entertainment.

sherylWe have chosen to focus our primary efforts on education, particularly when that education can lead to a high paying job abroad.  While it would be good and admirable to work toward improvement within the Philippines, poverty and unemployment are so endemic that it’s very difficult to find opportunities to move up without going abroad.

Our first project was sending younger sister Sheryl to nursing school.  We have been paying her educational and living expenses for a few years now.  She will graduate in May of this year.  And yes, guys, she’s still single. Hard to believe, but true.

IMG_2318Now we are looking forward to who we can help next.  We have decided to focus on our brother-in-law Reggie.  He is married to Marissa’s younger sister Moneera.  He and Moneera live in Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, which is in Northern Luzon.  They met in college as they were completing degrees in Education.  Reggie now teaches English and Social Studies at a private high school.

Reggie is well educated, speaks good English, and is generally a very capable guy.  But his salary is around $150 per month.  He and Moneera can’t afford to live on their own, so they live with and support his elderly parents.  They now have two children, so with his parents there are a total of six mouths to feed and a household to maintain, all on only $150 per month. 

moneera-familyReggie is unable to afford a car or even a motorcycle, so he either walks or rides a bicycle to work.  They have no medical insurance, so if anybody gets sick, they have to ask for help from relatives in the US to be able to go to the doctor.  They have enough to buy groceries, LP gas for cooking, and basic household supplies and that’s about it.  Family members in the US help out when they can, but in this difficult economy we usually don’t have much to spare.

Although there are other jobs he could potentially get, the pay wouldn’t be that much higher, and the additional cost of living would quite probably exceed any gains.  The only way to make a significant improvement is to work abroad.

reggie-field The good news is that there is unfilled demand for teachers in the US, particularly math, science, and special education.  As you might imagine, the challenges of special education often scare off or discourage local candidates. As a result, those positions are difficult to fill.

Marissa and I have met several Filipinos who have obtained employment visas to come to the US for teaching jobs.  We thought that might be an opportunity for Reggie, so we started asking around.  According to the teachers we talked to, the biggest demand is for special education.  We asked Reggie if he was interested in taking on the challenges of teaching special needs kids.  He is very willing to do so, and looks forward to the opportunity.

One of the Filipino teachers that we met was kind enough to tell us what qualifications are required and offered to put in a good word with his employers when they start hiring for next school year.  There are several ways to meet the required qualifications – an undergraduate concentration, a postgraduate certificate, or a Master’s degree.  As Reggie has already finished his undergraduate degree and did not pursue that concentration, the best course for him will be the certificate program.  The Master’s degree would be nice, but it would take quite a bit longer and isn’t required from what we can tell.

We’re still researching the cost.  At this point my estimate is $800-1000 for tuition and $400 for room and board.  Then he’ll have maybe $500 in visa related expenses and $800 or so in travel costs once he gets a job and the visa.  All in all, I estimate that the total cost will be between $2500 and $3000.  That’s a pretty big chunk for Marissa and I to come up with, but when I look at the impact that it will have on his life, it’s worth it.  If he can get even $30K per year in the US, he will be able to support his parents and save to bring over Moneera and his children.

If you found Reggie and Moneera’s story inspiring and would like to help them, please use the donate button below.  They would very much appreciate it.  Even a small amount will have a big impact. 





The Sad Squirrel

Rochelle drew these animal pictures for a recent homework assignment.  Mom and I thought the squirrel was dead, but she said no, it’s a sad squirrel.  I definitely agree that it looks pretty sad, but for some reason, I just crack up laughing every time I look at it.  I don’t understand why, but that’s what happens. 

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Rochelle Is Off To A Great Start In Kindergarten

Oldest daughter Rochelle received her first achievement award at Kindergarten this week for the momentous accomplishment of writing her name without tracing over an outline.  Hopefully it’s the first step toward a distinguished academic career 🙂

Why mikestankavich.com And stankavich.com?

Some of my readers with sharp eyes may have noticed that I post on both stankavich.com and mikestankavich.com. If you did happen to notice, you may have wondered why I have two blogs with essentially the same domain name.  My intent is to write about topics of personal interest, promote my consulting services, and promote future products on mikestankavich.com.  I intend for stankavich.com to be shared with other family members as a place to talk about family events and funny/interesting things that my kids do. I don’t intend to promote any products or services on stankavich.com.

So today, I am posting a video of my oldest daughter’s kindergarten achievement award on http://stankavich.com, and I am posting a review of Dave Navarro’s 7 Steps To Playing A Much Bigger Game on http://mikestankavich.com.  I hope you enjoy your visit to whichever blog interests you.  Of course you’re always welcome to read both 🙂

Short Sale Auction for my Previous Home

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It’s finally time to just make it go away.  I’ve had this house on the market since July 2007 and haven’t received even one offer. 

This all started back in 2007 when my family and I decided to rebuild and move into our rental property, as I explained in Housing Bubble Hits Home for the Stankavich Family blog post a few months back.  The construction project made sense based on the property values back in 2006, but we all know things have changed since then.

We didn’t get in a hurry to sell because we still needed a place to live.  So we didn’t get very aggressive on the pricing.  As a result we ended up trailing the market all the way down to where we are today.  After we had to drop the price below the amount owed, I just waited out the project to finish our new home, and now that that’s done, I need to get the best reasonable offer that I can and get it in front of the lenders.  There is absolutely no way that I can afford both house payments – I’m completely tapped out from the overruns on the construction project.

I’ve been working with Dianne Yake from Easy Street Real Estate.  This is the first time that either she or I have tried an auction, but we feel confident that we have prepared well, but we don’t really know what to expect.  It should prove to be interesting.  I found Richard Geller’s Mortgage Relief Formula website and ebook very helpful in learning more about short sales and auctions.  We are pretty much following his recipe for our auction format. 

I’ve got a website up at https://www.kwyk.net/bp for pre-registration.  I’ll be adding code today to allow bids to be placed online and for registered bidders to be able to review the bidding history.  If the website proves to be useful, I’ll pretty it up and extend it into a customizable service offering for others to use for their short sale auctions. 

I’ll continue to blog about the auction and the short sale approval process.  If you’re interested in hearing more about how this goes, you can subscribe to receive future posts by RSS feed or email

Blog suffers near-death experience

Moving

OK, so I moved.  Is that an excuse?  Well maybe.  Trying to manage a full time job, two kids, moving, and keeping a long-time consulting client happy dealt my newly formed blogging habit a severe setback.  But I’m happy to announce that recovery is in now in progress.  Things still may be slow

Photo by lisaandalec

for another week or two as I focus on getting a short sale done on my old house.  We are happy with our new house, and I’m surely happy to have FIOS.

I have several post ideas and some new websites to bring up over the next few weeks.  I plan to blog about the short sale, my killer new home network, and whatever else comes to mind. As soon as the new webs are up I’ll post some links. 

Last but not least, I’m now on Twitter as @MikeStankavich and on Facebook.  Feel free to look me up and drop a follow or friend request my way.

Rochelle’s 4 year old imagination works overtime

rochelle_storyteller Is Rochelle a four year old phenomenon of children’s literature, or just a kid with a vivid imagination?  Probably the latter, but either way, you may enjoy the stories and poems that she composed for her mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Poem for Mommy

By Rochelle Stankavich

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Dandelions are yellow

Tulips are pink

Daffodils are black

Rainbow sugars are sweet

And so are you

Love you, Mommy!

 

The Happy and Sad Party

By Rochelle Stankavich

There was once a little girl. Her name was Tracy. It’s Tracy’s sleepover party. The best part for her is making new friends and making music. The instrument that she likes to play is her drum. She has lots of books too. Her mom’s real name is Angthra and her big sister’s name is Thruta. Someone spoiled the party.  It was Tracy’s little sister. She opened the water and spilled it and that’s not good because it made a big mess. Then everybody went home without presents. They did not even taste the cake that Tracy’s mom baked. There was no sleepover party.

The End

 

Jack the Snake

By Rochelle Stankavich

There was once a scared boy. His name was Wayne. Twinkle was not scared. Wayne was scared of Jack the Snake. Twinkle got an idea. She said, “I know, I know, I know!  Jack can put on a helmet and ride a bicycle.” Wayne said, “That’s not a great idea.” Twinkle said,” I have another idea; we can feed Jack the Snake when he is hungry.” Wayne said, “I give up; maybe it will be okay.”  “Let’s try it”, says Twinkle. Wayne said, “Okay”.  Twinkle got a basket of food. They threw the food to Jack the Snake and he ate it all. “The food was yummy,” said Jack and he said thank you. Jack the Snake said, “Now I can go play with a balloon. He bounced and bounced until he flew away in the air. Jack the Snake said, “Help!  I need to get down.  Please help! You need to help me down before I go far, far away.” Twinkle and Wayne used pogo sticks to reach Jack. Twinkle caught Jack but she needed more weight, so she yelled to Wayne for help. Then Wayne reached them but they spun around and around until they get down safely. Jack said, “That was a fun ride.” Then Jack looked to see what was going up in the air, it was the balloon. “Oh, no!  How will we get the balloon now,” said Twinkle.  Jack the Snake had an idea; maybe we can use the zippy scooter that bounces. So they rode their zippy bouncy scooter and they zipped and zoomed to catch the balloon.

The End

 

The Bee that Could Not Fly

By Rochelle Stankavich

Once there was a bee that could not fly. His mom could fly. His daddy was a gladiator. His mom said, “You go outside, go on, don’t be shy.”

“I am a little shy, I don’t want to go out and play.”

But his mom put on his jacket, and said, “Now go out and play. You have to run and run and run until you get your exercise.”

“I’m tired; I want to go inside now,” he said.  “I got a good exercise.” After he got his exercise now he can fly.

The End

 

I Am a Hungry Bee

By Rochelle Stankavich

Now you should listen with me.

Long ago there was a bee. The bee was hungry. The hungry bee looked around hoping to find some food. She sniffed around and she smelled a yummy food. She thought it was a hamburger, and it was. She munched it and she said, “Ummm. I’m not hungry anymore. I’m going to tell my mommy that there is a hamburger in my tummy.”  She raced to the house and she could fly. But she got a hiccup and that made her fall down. She cried and cried and cried until her mom rushed to her. “You cranky little bee!  Why are you not careful?  Go inside and play with your computer.” The little bee said, “Will that make me feel better?” Her mommy said, “Yes, it may.” She went inside and played with her computer. Then she said, “Mommy, I’m hungry again; I want some bread.” And her mommy gave her a peanut butter and honey sandwich.

The End

The housing bubble hits home for the Stankavich family

Our home 2004Our story begins just before the peak of the housing boom.  I had dollar signs in my eyes just like everybody else, and I had some equity in the house I was (and still am) living in. So I refinanced, took cash out, and bought a duplex. Sure, it needed a little work, and the rents were really low, but I was confident I could quickly turn it around.

West side of the duplex East side of the duplex

The infamous oak treeThree weeks after I closed on the duplex, the giant oak tree in the yard fell right across the front of the building.  Fortunately the tenants heard the tree splitting down the middle and got out before it fell, so nobody was hurt.  And I had planned to remodel, so not having to work around tenants was a plus.  I just hadn’t planned to remodel in such dramatic fashion.Tree down on the duplexTree covers entire structure

Damage after tree removedFortunately, I had insurance on the property.  The insurance settlement was fairly hassle free.  But then when I started investigating my options on rebuilding the damaged unit to have more bedrooms, I found that the property was not actually zoned multi-family. According to the city my only option was to rebuild the structure as it was before it was damaged.

As we dealt with the tree fall, we got to know the neighbors and the neighborhood and liked what we saw.  And I studied the zoning ordinances for the duplex property and found that an Accessory Dwelling Unit, or what most people call an in-law apartment was allowed.

DemolitionRemaining structure

FramingSo we hit on the idea of keeping the undamaged duplex unit as an in-law apartment for my parents and rebuilding the damaged unit to be our primary residence.  I moved my parents in with me a couple of years ago, and our situation was less than ideal for them – their bedroom and living room are in a converted garage, and they are using Exteriorthe laundry room for their kitchen. Rebuilding with an in-law apartment for them would provide them with much nicer living quarters.

It seems like every step of the construction process has involved some sort of struggle.  Design took a while because we had to meet zoning requirements and accommodate the existing structure.  Then when we got all that New interiordone, it took nearly three months to get a construction loan.  At least we got it done before the credit crisis really hit.

Then when we were done with framing, the inspectors found several issues that required rework.  15 months of delays and challenges later, we’re almost there.

Moving will be bittersweet – we have a wonderful view and nice surroundings where we’re at now.  And selling has proved to be particularly challenging.  We started getting ready to sell in early 2007.  Everything was finally ready to go in July.   We listed for top Existing home 2007dollar figuring we weren’t in a hurry to move as the other house wasn’t done yet.  We have ended up chasing the market down from 569,000 to 459,900, and it still hasn’t sold.  The problem is that we owe 456,000, so we can’t really afford to lower the price any more.  I think that after we move into the new house I’ll just drop the price anyway and pursue a short sale. If by The viewany chance you know somebody looking for a nice rural property west of Portland, Oregon, please please send them to http://www.johnlscott.com/93181 🙂

This has definitely been a learning experience, and it has been a tough financial hit.  I had hoped to come out with no debt other than the first mortgage on the new property, but now A sunrisewe’ll be at least 100,000 away from that.  I’ll definitely be working hard to pay debt for the next few years.  But I know that I’m not the only one.  This economy is hurting nearly everyone.  I am confident that with some  hard work and willingness to avoid excess spending we’ll be able to recover before too long.

A fine mushroom hunting adventure

Numerous request from my wife and an article in the local paper inspired us to plan a family mushroom hunt.  I have also been wanting to check out the nearest mountain in the coast range, which is the highest point in the county

After a few missed turns and locked gates, we found ourselves at the entrance to a huge block of land owned by Stimson Lumber.  Turns out that it was only supposed to be open for deer hunting, but the site security said it was OK for us to go touring around, and even though no forest products were supposed to be removed, it would be acceptable for us to pick some mushrooms for our own use. 

IMG_3821So off we went into the timberlands.  About eight miles in, we saw a likely spot.  We pulled off the road, unloaded the family, and went wandering through the forest looking for yellow treasures.  It was a beautiful spot, but after stumbling over brush and downed tree limbs for a few minutes, Rochelle said “Mom, this adventure is very tiring!”  We finally found two small chanterelles and a few puffballs, but there wasn’t much else.  After a few more minutes, we decided to go ahead and drive up the mountain.

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About 15 miles later, we found ourselves at another locked gate about 1/2 a mile below the peak.  Since the kiddos were tired and everybody wanted to go home, I decided to forgo walking up to the top.

 

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The view was great, but the clear cut in the foreground reminded us that the timber company manages their land for lumber, not appearance.

 

 

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  The tiring adventure proved to be too much for Rochelle.  Despite the rough roads, she fell asleep even before she finished eating her snack!

 

 

 

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Chantelle was still awake and enjoying the adventure.  But as we drove back down the mountain, she soon fell asleep as well.

 

 

 

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About half way back to the entrance to the timberlands, Marissa said “why don’t we try one more time”.  So we pulled off, leaving the kids sleeping in the car with Grandma to keep an eye on them.  After about five minutes of wandering back into the trees, she hit the jackpot. 

 

     

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After we got back home, we cleaned up our bounty.  We ended up with at least ten pounds of beautiful golden chanterelles.  It was the perfect outcome for a most enjoyable family adventure, and quite a haul for first-time mushroom hunters.

 

In remembrance of Brian Lloyd – employer, mentor, friend

Brian Lloyd May 2008

Brian Lloyd May 2008(click photo for The Columbian obituary)

I was saddened to hear that my former employer, mentor and friend Brian Lloyd recently passed away. I’d like to share a remembrance that I wrote for him.

I first met Brian shortly after he founded T.H.I.S. Computer Solution, Inc. when I responded to an employment ad in March 1992. That was early in the boom years for PC usage in businesses. Apparently he saw something in me that he liked, and hired me on the spot. I quickly learned that Brian was completely different than any employer that I previously worked for. He was very demanding and very focused on meeting and exceeding customer expectations. And if he thought that you were not meeting either his expectations or the customer’s expectations, he would let you know about it in no uncertain terms. Although some were intimidated by his blunt, no bull style, I found it refreshing to always know exactly where I stood and if I was meeting expectations or not. Thanks to Brian’s incredible sales skills, THIS quickly grew. My skills grew along with the business, which Brian was quick to recognize with generous raises. My income more than doubled during the time that I was with THIS.

And as I got to know Brian and Roz, it became apparent to me that Brian truly cared about his employees and his customers. And he never asked his employees to do something that he would not do himself. He was always generous with both his time and his resources. When he bought a new car in 1995, he gave me his old Toyota Celica, which I drove for several years. And when I went through a divorce, Brian lent me some money to allow me to settle with my ex-wife.

In 1998, I left THIS to go into business with a friend. Although I didn’t see a lot of Brian and Roz after I left, Brian was kind enough to attend my wedding when I remarried in 1999. And I was privileged to provide him with a reference when he was looking for employment in Phoenix.

My business didn’t work out, but my experience working for Brian and a placement as a contractor at intel while at THIS led directly to my current position as a senior programmer/analyst at Intel, where I have been for the last 10 years.

One of my favorite memories of Brian was when somebody found an old advertisement from when he was running a Toyota dealership in Australia. The ad had Brian’s mug inside a heart shaped frame and the tagline called him Big Hearted Brian. I recall that he was kind of embarrassed by it, but the fact is, the label fit. Brian really did have a big heart. I will always remember him as a key influence in both personal and my professional life. I learned so much from him about meeting commitments, providing quality customer service, and generally being more effective in life.

I know that Roz and David will miss him, and so will I.