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7.30.2007

In Escrow! Hold me.

I actually wrote this during a BlogHer session this weekend, but never got around to finishing it with all the constant squeeing going on around me at the conference. Which I'll write about later, because I've discovered I'm quite squeeable.

Anyway.

I have known all weekend that we are officially in escrow. We sold our house.

I've been afraid to type the words. I still am. Without going into too much detail I'll just say that a lot of things still have to fall into place for this escrow to actually close in 30 days.

I am afraid to be hopeful when I just recently came to terms with the fact that an ugly ending seemed inevitable.

But, I will pretend. I will pretend that the beautiful sold sign outside of my house represents an end to this nightmare. I will pretend that we escaped. I will pretend that I am celebrating.

Because it feels so damn good.

7.24.2007

Offer!

We have two offers! TWO! OFFERS!

Both offers have their issues, but this is still very very good news.

I almost want to feel hopeful.

please
please
please

7.20.2007

Leaving

My friend said to me last night "Oh, you must be so glad to get out of there. I bet you were completely packed in a day."

The truth is, I have not even made a dent in our packing and we move tomorrow. All week I keep asking myself why I haven't been in a mad happy dash clearing out of this house. When she said that last night though (and why wouldn't she? can you even imagine what my friends have had to listen to?) I realized why every picture is still on the wall. Why every book is still on the shelf. Why every decorative towel continues to be folded all model-homey style.

Clearing the decorations off the tops of the kitchen cabinets, that my mom and I spent all day methodically placing, means we failed. Rolling up the beautiful throw rugs means our plan didn't work. Removing Chris' artwork from the walls means we're giving up. Throwing away all the scented candles says it's over.

Packing is admitting defeat.

I'm not ready to give up. But, I know I have to. And it's breaking my heart.

This is the sidewalk where my daughter learned to ride her bike. This is the entryway where Chris and I danced on our anniversary. These are the stairs I collapsed on when my father sobbed out the words "They found spots on my liver". This is the kitchen where friends gathered laughing while I made cocktails and Chris entertained with stories. This is the yard where the kids ran with the dog while we ate BBQ and talked and drank into the night.

This is the living room where our families exchanged gifts and ate and laughed and bonded every year.

This is the bedroom where I said prayers with my daughter every night. Where she learned to read.

This is the office where I opened the email that told me someone was willing to pay me to write.

This is the closet where I hid to relish the sheer joy of validation.

This is the bedroom where we end every day in each other's arms.


This is my home. It's more than these walls. It has held my life. And it's hard to close the door.

7.19.2007

Let's Call It SlapHer. Then I'll Be Less Nervous.

So. Let's talk about it. That thing over there to the right. Something about me and words that are scheduled to come out of my mouth at some conference thingy in Chicago next week.

Here's the thing: I have no idea what I'm going to say on this Momosphere panel. (Lisa Stone says "What delightful news!")

I'm hoping it will be like last year where the moderator keeps the conversation moving along with probing questions and offers ideas. Which would be a good thing. I can be stimulated. (Especially since I'll be sitting next to Catherine and Chris and the girl love abounds.) What I am certain will be a bad thing is if the panel turns out to be something like: someone shouts a topic and then I'm pointed at and told to "Go!". I will cry, I am certain of it.

So, I turn to you, my dear wonderful internet friends. Whether you're attending BlogHer or not, I'm dying to hear your opinion on these topics which will undoubtedly be addressed on the "Momosphere" panel.

Identity Privacy

  • Do you use your kids' names on your blog? How do you feel about bloggers who use their first and last name? (You love them. You want to kiss them.)
  • How do you feel about using your children's photos on your blog?
  • For you, when a blogger holds back (names, faces, details), does that take away from their blog?

Ads on Blogs

  • How do you feel about this recent wave of blogger advertising? Do you think bloggers should have the right to be paid for your readership? Or does it make you feel used? Do you feel a distance from a blog you used to be attached to because they now have many ads?
  • Do you think ads add credibility to a blog's voice?
  • Most importantly (to me), do you think ads change the writing on a blog?
Social Politics of Blogging
  • Is there a hierarchy in blogging? Do you feel obligated to align yourself with a "group"? Do you ever feel like blogging has lost its sense of community?
  • Do you feel like the blogosphere has been divided by numbers? (Comments, traffic, links, etc)
Self-Promotion
  • How do you feel about bloggers linking to their other various gigs? (Read about me here and here and here and here!) Does that turn you off to that writer? Or are you happy to follow?

These are just a few of the topics that have been buzzing around the interweb lately. And, frankly, that have been buzzing around my brain. So, please, give me your opinions.

**Cross-posted to my Club Mom blog because #4 is awesome.

7.18.2007

I Made $100,000 In M*rtgage Payments and All I Got Was This Rotten T-Shirt

I called the stylist last night and told her off. Told her voice mail off, anyway. The mullet made me do it. I think it's giving me special powers.

It is not like me at all to voice my anger like that, but last night after I washed my hair and tried to style it I wanted to punch someone. It really is such a ridiculous haircut that there is no rhyme or reason to it. It's not even like it's a bad haircut - its just like no haircut. As if someone had to cut gum out of my hair. I look like an angry 5-year-old's doll.

So, I ranted, hung up, put my hair in ponies (lord help us all), and went back to packing.

We move to our new house this weekend.

The positive thinker in me was convinced that we would get an offer as soon as we signed a lease on another house. The positive thinker in me hoped that by simply relaxing, our house would sell. (Like when infertile adopting couples get pregnant! They LOVE it when you point that out! Now I know why.)

The Secret told me that if I packed up my crap and focused on a better life, then I would attract a buyer. The secret told me that the key was to align my thoughts and actions.

And yet:
Aaaaand:

Nothin.

The Secret is a dirty lie. It's no better than that duplicitous Victoria.

We have relaxed. We have moved on. Our house continues to sit.

To say that I'm starting to feel shock that we're actually in this position and that I'm writing about it on the internet is an understatement. This wasn't supposed to happen. We had hopes and dreams when we bought this house. We had pride. We had plans. We had security. Now, we have a noose around our necks.

There have been three showings this week, with another one today. I pray that we find the right buyer. Someone who is genuine. Someone who will offer us full price. Someone who can close escrow within a month.

Someone who can blend my "business party".

7.16.2007

The Good News Is I Can Start Letting Savannah Hold My Cigarettes

There's no easy way to say this, so I'm going to have to just come right out with it. I know that this will shock some of you. You may not be able to read the entire post. There may be some tears.

I have a mullet.

Not just like a "haha when you part your hair that way it does sort of look mullet-y", but an honest-to-Nascar "business in the front party in the back" mullet.

File this under OMG! I HAVE A MULLET!

I asked to have my BANGS TRIMMED.

I have not been able to find a decent stylist since we moved here four years ago. I would hop from referral to referral never very pleased with the results. I have naturally curly hair which I often straighten. So, I need to have some layers in the front, but BUT (!) I need them to be long and blendable since I also wear my hair curly and need the waves to flow together.

No one seems to be able to handle this.

That is, until our cruise this year. When, on a whim, I got THE BEST HAIRCUT IN HISTORY OF HAIRCUTS.

When we returned home from Mexico, I was high on my beautiful layers and once again intoxicated with hope that I could find a stylist to recreate the magic that the middle-aged bald gay man had on the ship. The only thing I had to go on was that he was Vidal Sassoon certified and told me I needed an "A frame" cut.

So, a couple months ago I set out to find someone Vidal Sassoon certified who knew what the heck an "A frame" cut was. That's when Robin came into the picture. Robin - big loud obnoxious Born Again Robin who I hope dies in a fire - insisted she knew exactly what type of cut I needed. The result wasn't half bad - it was cute enough - so I considered it a minor success.

Then. Yesterday happened.

I returned to Robin and asked that she please "just trim my bangs". I explained to her that my cut was already flat and that I wanted to just give it a little more fullness around my face.

Please learn from this. Do NOT ever say "fullness around my face" unless you mean "can you please make me look like an angry panda".





Robin grabbed a huge chunk of my hair, lifted it above my head, and CHOP.

FOUR INCHES fell to the ground.

I gasped. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING??"

Robin immediately started rattling off about "L.A." and how "everybody wears their hair like this there" and "this cut is so now" and "don't you trust me?".

"This is not at all what I asked for!" I cried.

She started fussing with it and putting a bunch of product in it and the more she fussed, the fuller the top of my hair got and the flatter the bottom of my hair got until finally all I saw was Joe Dirt.

I literally grabbed her hand and ordered her to put the scissors down before I drove them into her thigh. Then she asked me, accusingly, "Don't you ever wear ponytails?".

What. The. Hell. Ponies?? I wanted my BANGS TRIMMED.

File this under OMG! I HAVE A MULLET!
Lena does not like the baby horses on her head.

I can't wait to see you all at BlogHer. I'll be the one wearing the Confederate flag and bragging about how big my trailer is. You can call me Lena Jo.

So, let this message help put your problems into perspective. Let the lesson fill your empty ungrateful soul. I hope you take the time to hug your kids a little tighter. Laugh a little longer. Love a little deeper.

And kiss the ground that you have lived another day WITHOUT A MULLET.

****
You know who else does not have a mullet? Sarah from In the Trenches of Mommyhood. But, she does know her 80's movies. You rock, Sarah. ...But, not as hard as I do obviously.

7.12.2007

But, I Got the Rose Bushes. I Definitely Got the Rose Bushes.*

Can someone please punch me in the face? Just knock me out. Please?

A house down the street just went into contract. It is smaller than us. It is listed higher than us. And it went into escrow yesterday.

This is baffling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we don't think these buyers even looked at our house. Our house backs to huge mature trees and a slope. Their house backs to a busy street. Our house is over 3000 square feet. Theirs is 2800. Our house is decorated with goddamn Eddie Bauer paint and Pottery Barn furniture. I guarantee the woman who decorated that house shops at Dress Barn. Granted, they have wood floors (and maybe the buyers have the same obsession Amy does with wood floors), but are they really worth paying an extra $10,000 and sacrificing 200 square feet?

My throbbing and confused head says no.

When I called Chris at work and shared the news of this sale, he started cackling so apoplectically it sounded like his head may pop right off and roll around his office. I told him I was driving past the other house at that very moment.

Me: "It has rose bushes in the front."

Chris: "So?"

Me: "Well, we don't have rose bushes."

Chris: "No. We have a two hundred dollar Crepe Myrtle in full bloom."

Me: "True. Guess who it's listed with."

Chris: "Keller Williams."

Me: "Bastards."

Of course it is listed with Keller Williams. Awhile back when I showed pictures of my house and asked your opinion on improvements you thought I should make because it hadn't sold after being listed for five weeks (HA! We were such infants then!), I received about 20 emails all saying the same thing.

List with Keller Williams.

It seemed like each of you had a personal story of someone in our situation who dropped their realt*r, re-listed with Keller Williams and was sold by the time the new sign went in. I have no idea why this is the case. Is it because they favor only each other's listings within their own br*kerage? Are they like a little enclave - their own mini market? I'm starting to think so. And I hate them. And I am starting to obsess about being listed with them.

Keller Williams is like the head cheerleader.

Anyway, I started writing this post yesterday before this little development and it was actually to tell you some good news.

We're packing!

We signed a lease on a house near Laguna Beach. The new house is five minutes from Chris' new job in Newport Beach. The new house is two minutes from Savannah's new school. The new house is in a beautiful neighborhood without a single shopping cart to be seen. In fact, every yard in the city seems to be professionally landscaped. Foliage forethought! Yesterday, when Chris and I went by there to peek in the windows for the nineteenth time, people were actually outside watering their lawns and washing their cars and their children were riding bikes.

It's like people actually enjoy living there.

Did I also mention that there's a clubhouse? With a pool? And gym? And tennis courts? Did I mention that we're within walking distance to movies and restaurants? Oh, right. Also, a little thing called THE OCEAN!

What's that, you say? What about our house we haven't sold and our ticking time bomb of a m*rtgage? Well, don't you know how to kill a buzz.

Combined, our newly adjusted m*rtgage payment plus our new monthly rent amount are such a ridiculous number that writing that first check this week felt like someone kicked me in the face.

Now, before you kids think that we're rolling in the proverbial dough over here, I have two words for you: yard sale.

That's what we did last weekend. And you know what? People are serious about yard sales. We opened our garage door at 6:00 am to find a small crowd standing expectantly on our driveway. So eager they were to try and offer me ten bucks for an entire bin of Gymboree clothes and quarters for BRAND NEW SHOES. Oh, how we debated. In Spanish.

One guy was so obsessed with the lawn chairs we were sitting on that he couldn't stop staring at them until we finally removed ourselves from them and let him pay us $17 for both. (Shhh. They were from Big Lots. Score!)

It was so damn successful and demoralizing all at once - the perfect sadomasochistic combination.

Lastly, file the following news under Things That Are Way More Important Than Lena's House, Except To Lena: Julia is pregnant with twins and the genetic testing showed yesterday that they are both normal! (And in my opinion, also girls.) I have been reading Julia throughout all of her thirteen pregnancies and I could not be more thrilled for her. I actually took a break from crying for myself last night to cry for her. I know. I'm a giver.

*Whoever knows what movie this references gets a huge shout out from me tomorrow for being so awesome.

7.03.2007

Home Is Where the Hard Is

I'm literally bawling over here at your comments, you guys. If you were all in my kitchen right now, it would be Cheddar Bunnies and ice cream for everyone! (I may be broke, but I know how to throw a party.)

This week has been a test run for the rest of my life. After four years of being together every day, Chris started his new job yesterday and, get this, they won't let me come with him! I know, very weird.

Then my mother decided that with Savannah starting Kindergarten next month, she would make this week Grandma Summer Camp and so Savannah is gone all week.

In other words, I'M ALL ALONE!

(If you're an intruder, I have a very large and protective dog.)



(She's obviously dangerous; she takes down dinosaurs.)

So far this week I've been busying myself with moving type errands, which wouldn't be so bad were it not for the fact that I've had to wrestle Chris' rustic Jeep all around town. I graciously insisted that my Tahoe would be a better vehicle in which for him to commute to work. Little did I know that it would be a thousand degrees this week in southern Calif*rnia.

And here's a little known fact if you've known me less than ten minutes: I'm allergic to the sun. As in, I get blistering rashes all over my face if the sun touches it for more than a few minutes. So, I'm sure you can imagine what a stellar move it was to try to drive a roofless car in the desert. I looked like I had some sort of spastic disorder with the waving of the arms and the bobbing of the head trying to dodge the sun. Which, by the way, doesn't work because, well, the sun is sort of big.

Here's another little known fact: Your lettuce will blow out of the back of the Jeep and so will your US magazine. Even if they're buckled in a seat belt. Good. To. Know.

Aaaand I still am the unhappy owner of one unsellable house.

So, there you have it. Today's status is "Screwed". Hopefully to be upgraded tomorrow to "Confused".

The worst part is I'm doing all of this without having Chris' cute head in my peripheral vision anymore. I can't be expected to just quit his presence cold-turkey.

I need to transition.

7.02.2007

My So-Called Life

The house situation is coming to a point where a lot of dirty words are getting thrown around. Words I cannot even bring myself to type.

The reason why I haven't been writing is because, quite frankly, I've been too busy gaping in awe at my life right now. How could it possibly be coming to this? That is what Chris and I have spent the last week asking ourselves.

I wrote this last week late one night while I sat hunched and defeated over unpaid bills.
"It's like we have hairy ferocious beasts pacing and growling behind us. I can feel their hot breath on my neck. I can hear their growls building. And with every potential buyer who chooses another property, their growls grow louder. They come closer.

And now I'm starting to feel their claws. I feel them grazing the back of my neck with gentle swipes. I sense their hunger.

And I'm afraid to turn around."
It is SO DIFFICULT to write about this process because it is horribly embarrassing and humiliating. Anyone who knows me know that my whole self-deprecating shtick is a big fat sham and I'm actually very arrogant and self-absorbed and judgmental and proud. (But, I hug my friends and cry a lot and make a mean cosmopolitan, so it all balances out in the end.)

I spent the last few days considering whether I should just take a break from writing until all of this unpleasantness blows over. But, then I realized: this is a blog about my life and, well, life isn't always pretty now is it?

So, I decided that the only way to diffuse the humiliation of it all is to lay it out there - tell the whole story of how we ended up in this nightmare.

In doing so, I hope to help people. I hope to scream from the freaking mountaintop "don't do what we did!". In the end, I hope to get some clarity.

Here is our story:

Five years ago, while living in the Bay Area, Chris and I went from living in an 800 square foot apartment with $30,000 in credit debt to making more money than we ever thought possible. Chris got an executive level position buying land for a Fortune 100 homebuilder and I had just left banking and launched my corporate gift business. My first client was, of course, Chris' employer.

Not only was Chris making a decent salary, but he was also making bonuses that made our heads spin. At the same time I was getting orders by the hundreds for my gift baskets before I had even named my business.

We literally had more money than we knew what to do with. There were so many zeroes in all of our accounts that we were convinced we could spend and spend and still be set for life.

We were so wrong.

Mistake #1: We didn't immediately invest.
While we had big plans for stocks and money market accounts and CD's, in the end we blew our money on furniture and clothes and cars - things that bring zero security to your life.

At the same time we were looking to invest our stash of cash in real estate, the market went completely berserk in northern Calif*rnia. Houses were being sold within 24 hours of being listed. People were camping out for days in front of homebuilders' trailers to buy houses from a sketch (no models were even built). And they were buying them with cash. We had friends who were selling their modest little suburban houses and becoming instant millionaires.

The idea of involving ourselves in a bidding war frightened us into moving to southern Calif*rnia where the competition was less fierce.

Mistake #2 - We bought at the right time, but in the wrong place.
Without giving away too much detail about what city we live in, I'll say that our original plan was to live near the coast once we moved down here. We were priced out of most coastal areas and ended up settling on an inland city that was known for being quaint and charming despite its proximity to a lot of crappy surrounding cities. Plus, we were told it was up and coming!

(Excuse me while I check the front door for that line of buyers again. Oops! Still haven't made their way here yet!)

Anyway.

Now, I'm not blaming anyone - I know that Chris didn't have a crystal ball when he insisted enthusiastically that we should buy a house here. I can only speak for myself. I can tell you that I knew we shouldn't invest here. I knew that we should not sacrifice environment for square footage. But, I was hopeful that it was a good financial move. Even though my gut told me different.

Mistake #3 - We got an adjustable equity line of credit.
Two years after buying this house, we had a nice big juicy amount of equity. Chris and I were both self-employed at that point and work had slowed down. There were no new clients and no more bonuses. Our credit card balances had crept up. We were starting to feel pinched.
But, we have equity! No problem! We won't be like those ignorant people and over extend ourselves. Oh, no. We'll just take a teensy bit out.

Now, that "teensy bit" of a lo*n is what stands in the way of us selling this house. The payment has adjusted in the wake of us not being able to sell and the new payment amount is truly horrifying. I guarantee it is more than what 99% of you are paying right now. Horrifying. Truly.

Mistake #4 - We didn't react fast enough when we saw the market tanking.
Here is the clincher: combined, Chris and I have 20 years experience in real est*te. Twenty years. We saw all the signs, yet we still didn't move fast enough to avoid this downturn in the market that has dropped prices by an unprecedented 25% and is still dropping.

First, homebuilders started coming to the area in droves. They absolutely saturated our city. That was our first sign.

Second, resale houses were starting to sit on the market longer.

Third, our neighborhood started to show signs of distress. That is when we finally listed.

When we moved here, every yard was pristine. Every house was cared for and loved. People washed their cars on the weekends and mowed their lawns and played with their kids in the front yard.

And yet, I step outside my house today and I don't see the neighborhood we bought in three years ago. There are million dollar estates right around the corner and yet weeds are growing in some of their yards. F*reclosure signs adorn two neglected former beauties and our realt*r assures us there will be more to follow.

I drive down our street now and I see dead grass. One house has sheets on the windows. I see a sea of "For Sale" signs. When we bought our house, our neighborhood was one of the most sought after in the city. Houses were snatched up as soon as they went up for sale.

Now, a shopping cart has been abandoned on someone's porch for the last three months.

A part of me is sad to see my neighborhood become so neglected. A part of me fears that our little house filled with so many happy memories will become just another victim of this market's steady decline. That someone will move in who doesn't care. That my bougainvillea will die, that our lawns will go untrimmed, that Savannah's growth chart will be painted over.

Or worse, that no one will move in at all.

But, the larger part of me has been feeling panicky lately. Panicky that we have been listed for so many months without a reasonable offer. Panicky that we have lowered our price to such a point that we will be coming in with a lot of cash. Panicky that Chris started his new job today and has a three hour commute.

Panicky that after years of having stability and money in the bank, we're losing it all at the exact time Savannah needs it most: her first year of school.

That brings me to today.

We're done panicking.

Chris and I have decided that we can't wait on other people anymore to make our decisions. We've decided that what is most important is that Savannah is in a good school close to home and that we live near Chris' source of income. We are done waiting on other people. We are done waiting to be rewarded for doing the right thing. DONE DONE DONE.

So, we're moving out.

This is our life and we've worked so hard to have excellent credit and make good money and have a nice home and we have always been responsible in our lives. Yes, we made a few mistakes in our decision-making. But, how long do we have to go on paying for them??

We visited family last weekend and received some excellent advice from my uncle. He said "You're going to pay for this one way or another. You just need to decide how you want to pay."

Are we going to pay with our marriage? With our sanity? With our emotional and spiritual well-being? Or just our finances?

We picked our poison. And I'll tell you, that poison is a lot sweeter when you're living on the coast five minutes from your husband's work.

Now that we're looking at it this way, we feel empowered again. This is in our hands. We need to move forward with what is best for our family and if the house sells and everything works out perfect, great. But, if it doesn't and we spend years paying for it, fine. At least we have made the damn decision.

We're trying to offer a s*ttlement to the bank now, which I know they won't accept. Ironically, this is what I did in my career in banking and I know for a fact that m*rtgage companies like to see you hurting before they're willing to hurt.

They're supposed to give me an answer tomorrow. If they deny that, then we'll continue to try to sh*rt sell. We're priced so under market now, it's ridiculous. If we can't sell at this price, then I believe our house is haunted.

I don't know how our story is going to end. But, I know that whatever happens Chris and I can look in the mirror and know that we did everything we could to play by the rules, that we did everything we could to protect our good name.

That we did everything we could to protect our family.

I'm turning around and staring down the ferocious beasts ...and I'm giving them the finger.

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