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8.31.2007

Closed

This chapter is finally closed.

Let's not speak of it again.

8.29.2007

The Fat Lady Is Barely Humming

Okay, who wants to hold me? Seriously.

Who wants to hold me??

"The buyers have an issue with their loa*n." Those were my realtor's words yesterday.

I didn't even want to tell you because I know how dramatic and irrational you guys get. (Oh, wait. That's me.) But, since you're along for the ride (and what a ride it has been, eh? Please keep your arms and legs inside at all times.) I think it's only fair that I advise you that we are once again in official wait and see mode. Or as I like to call it, I'm Taking Up Cutting! mode.

What I'm sure I don't need to tell you:
  • I personally called the buyers' ag*nt (surprise! he sounds 16!) at 11:00 last night and blustered incoherently.
  • My hair is falling out in clumps.
  • I have hives.
  • I'm smacking myself in the head with a shovel every hour to see which feels worse - a head wound or selling a house in this market. (So far, the shovel feels like a gentle summer breeze.)

In other words, I'm losing it.

My realt*r had an hour long conversation with the buyers' ag*nt last night and he assured us - assured us - that we would hear from him by 10:00 this morning with signed loa*n docs. It is now 10:08.

And mommy is Googling Haldol.

8.24.2007

Choices

Six weeks ago Chris and I lay in bed one night going over and over the figures into the wee hours of the next morning.

We spoke of due dates, m*rtgage adjustments, market losses, credit card cash advances, liquidating retirement accounts, personal loans, listing times, price reductions. We mentally clung so tightly to the hope that we would be able to get an offer that would pay these m*rtgages and make us all whole again if we just pulled on all of our resources.

Extracting ourselves from that hope was physically painful that night.

That night we came to the realization that we would face f*reclosure if we didn't sell.

"We're running out of time" I said into the darkness.

My heart literally ached inside my chest. I couldn't believe that we were going to be "those people". I thought "those people" didn't pay their bills. I thought "those people" bought flat screen TV's and jet skis and black leather couches while they ignored their credit card bills. I thought "those people" were lazy. I thought "those people" were looking for a handout. I didn't know that those people are people who can have ten years of impeccable credit. That those people can have degrees. That those people can get up at the crack of dawn every morning and go to work. That those people can get up in the middle of the night and open bills, so that their spouse doesn't have to see them crying again.

I lay there that night six weeks ago and the sobs just came.

I had spent almost a year hoping beyond hope that hard work would get us the offer we needed on the house. And now, here we were. We had failed. I had failed. We were going to be those people.

Chris tried to reach out to me and I leaped up and ran to the bathroom where I sobbed with such intensity - such grief - that I shook uncontrollably. I saw everything, everything, Chris and I have worked so hard for being pulled out from under us like that. In just a handful of weeks' time.

It was the next morning that Chris saved us.

He woke me up. He sat very still at the end of the bed and I got the impression that he had been up for hours.

"This is what we're going to do" he started. His tone was unrecognizable. Calm and resolved.

From that moment, he and I put together a two-fold plan. We would walk away from the house and secure a new roof over our heads. Then we would attack the selling of our home with a fierceness. We would be relentless with out realt*r. We would be unstoppable with our m*rtgage companies. We would not take no for an answer (and we were told no plenty of times). We would offer creative s*lutions to the m*rtgage companies. We would write long letters appealing to their good nature. We would fill their inbox with our pleas.

We knew the numbers were against us. But, we would not go down without a fight.

Our fight made this morning's phone call all the sweeter. Everything has been approved. We close August 31, maybe sooner.

F*reclosure was set to begin September 1.

I'm going to take a nap now.

8.21.2007

80/20

Every day during the last two weeks of this escr*w process, I have assigned a ratio to the likelihood that this escr*w will actually close on August 31. It varies depending on the tone of the conversation with the m*rtgage companies.

On Friday when my imaginary friend, the sh*rt s*le speci*list, told me that the offer "looked good", I immediately called Chris and announced that the new figure was 60/40 in our favor. It was the first time anything felt in our favor since we listed the house almost a year ago.

Then when he got excited I ordered him to stop because "you'll jinx us, you fool!". As you've suspected, I am fun to live with.

Adding to that, the speci*list with the second m*rtgage - whom I have nicknamed Eyeore because I swear he's holding a stapler to the side of his head the entire time he's talking to me, he sounds so depressed - left me a message promising an answer by Wednesday and assuring us that it looked "favorable".

We spent the weekend feeling hopeful and then yesterday came. And my imaginary friend turned on me. After tracking her down through various voice mails, she finally returned my call. She was terse. She was negative. Worse, she told me she thought the investors would "have problems with our offer". I immediately emailed Chris at work. He emailed me back angrily. I responded exasperated. In the end we both had the same thing: an inbox full of two desperate people both arguing the same point with each other. Because no one else would listen.

I felt like a fool. A fool for ever thinking that we would be able to finagle our way out of this horrendous housing m*rket. A fool for getting a buyer and their family involved. Most of all, a fool for allowing myself to feel positive.

I broke the news to my re*ltor this morning. She sounded defeated. "We'll just wait and see" she sighed.

When I still hadn't heard from my imaginary friend at 10:00 tonight I assumed the worst.

Until a few minutes ago when I glanced at the phone's voicemail light.

*blink* *blink*

"Chris, did you check messages today?".

"No". He walked over and pushed the button.

"Hi, Chris and Lena. Good news. Your sh*rt s*le has been approved."

Chris stood in the kitchen and stared at me sitting on the couch.

"Oh my God" one of us said.

And then my husband's eyes filled with tears.

"No!" I cried, "It's not over! The second m*rtgage hasn't answered us yet!"

And they haven't. It's not over. But, tomorrow we will know. Tomorrow we will hear from the second m*rtgage. We have cleared the biggest hurdle and for that I am grateful. I will allow myself to feel happy about that tonight...and to wish with all my heart that the second approval comes tomorrow.

And then I will let him cry.

8.19.2007

You Know What I Did This Summer

Oh, internet. You're so cute when you're feisty.

In response to recent inquiry from my concerned - albeit a bit presumptuous - commenters and emailers, I present to you in handy Q&A form, The Anatomy of a BMW Purchase.

Q. Lena, how could you pile on more debt when you haven't sold your house??
A. It was pretty simple, actually. Although, it did require both hands and a flashlight.

Q. Why aren't you riding a bike?
A. The helmet made me look fat.

Q. After the way you've handled your finances, I can't believe your husband would buy you a BMW.
A. If you like what I've done with my money, you should see what I can do with a cherry stem.

Q. Are you really having problems with your money?
A. Or is my money having problems with me. I admit, you raise an interesting point.

Q. Why aren't you selling fruit at intersections?
A. My Jimmy Choos get stuck in the sidewalk cracks.

Q. Why a BMW? Why not something more practical?
A. It has four cup holders. Hello! Practical!

Q. Lena, are you learning nothing from your house-selling nightmare?
A. I did! I learned that there's so many other things you can be doing with your m*rtgage statement rather than paying it. Bo-ring.


True Mortgage Statement Confessions

Don't worry, internet. Life still sucks. Despite what apparently shiny six year old wheels suggest.

I certainly don't need to defend myself or explain my decisions. What I will tell you is that my new car was a fin*ncial decision Chris and I made months ago. A decision that would put us in a much better position on a monthly basis while still providing security and dependability.

I'll also tell you that I'm now working part-time and giving over my entire check to pay off our credit debt. And when Savannah starts Kindergarten next month, I plan on taking the time to get really creative with my next at home business.

(I'm thinking of doing children's parties as The Irritated Clown. It's an untapped market, don't you think?)

I shouldn't have to sit here and tear down my car and further expose my finances so that the internet can sit back and relax and breathe a sigh of relief that I'm not treating myself to something nice (why would I deserve that, after all?).

But, I am.

Not for the trolls with their anonymous email accounts. But, for the people who read me who I know are genuinely concerned over our situation. The people who email me their house-selling horror stories and are rooting me on. The people who I commiserate with off line. The people who deserve to know the finer details of my story because they care. To you, I say, thank you. Thank you for letting me celebrate my six year old little car. Thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt. Thank you for seeing through my silly self-deprecating act and knowing I'm not a complete moron.

I appreciate your interest and your respectful curiosity. To those who are simply being judgmental, I say bite my cookie.

No, I'm not rinsing out my baggies and no, I'm not driving a Yugo. But, I am doing something far far worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it.

Me On a Budget

Happy now?

8.16.2007

Just When You Thought I Had Realized That You Don't Want To Hear About My House Anymore

I've let myself hope so hard about the future that when I walked outside this morning I thought I saw a BMW in my driveway. Chris thought it might make 30 a little easier. It does. As a matter of fact 30 is so easy so far that I don't think she's wearing panties anymore.

As an added bonus, I've found that it's less difficult to feel hopeful about your future when you wouldn't mind living in your car.

8.13.2007

It's Exhausting Being Right All the Time

Have you heard? Not everyone had an awesome time at BlogHer. A thousand women in one place and not every single person had the time of their life (I can't not think of Dirty Dancing when I say "time of my life", can you?).

I'm not going to link to anyone's complaints in particular because everyone is entitled to voice their feelings in their own space without someone calling them out. But, I will say that Lindsay summed up her opinion nicely here.

Here's the thing: I agree with those people.

I don't disbelieve for a minute that they arrived at BlogHer fully intending on having a great time with their internet friends. Instead, they realized that maybe they didn't have as many friends as they thought. In fact, maybe they weren't their friends at all. They were ready for a weekend of basking in the glory of their internet-ness and instead found themselves wandering the banquet room with their plate of food looking for a table of familiar, or even welcoming, faces and thought "My God. I paid money to go back to high school".

On my panel at BlogHer (which, by the way, was like blogging in real time -- except a little unnerving when I was trying to make a point and saw a sea of confused faces staring back at me and wanted to ask Jory "Um, can I save my argument to drafts and come back later?") I asserted that the blogosphere can feel like high school.

Catherine argued that blogging is not like high school, as there is no active exclusion. My response to that was that blogging only feels like high school to those who are left out.

But, it's not just the blogosphere or BlogHer conventions, is it? It is a fact of life. I can't tell you how many baby showers, Passion parties, Pampered Chef parties, Creative Memories get-togethers I have been to where I spent a perfectly nice Saturday afternoon balancing a paper plate on my knees filled with wieners on a toothpick wishing I could disappear between the couch cushions.

Did it mean that there was something wrong with the party? Did it mean the other women hated me? Did it mean there was something wrong with me?

No, because for every bad social experience there's a great one I rocked. (And I have the tattoos and Polaroids to prove it.)

I think the difference with BlogHer is that we expect the convention to be a physical manifestation of our blog. We expect to get the same warm fuzzy ego strokes we get in the comfort of our own little blog home. When you're writing on your blog, you're on stage. And I admit it is difficult to step off of that stage. It's difficult to leave the accolades of your inbox and walk into a crowd of 1,000 people and expect to feel the same comfort level.

For some, it is good old fashioned shyness and insecurity. Which mixes with a large group of women like oil and water.

For others, I think it is just the realization that our little corners of the internet universe do not translate to real life the way we expect them to.

And for the rest, I think it's a matter of leaving the ego at home.

Life may sometimes feel like high school, but the good news is that we're big girls now.

Now, the real question: Am I just saying this because I happened to have a great time?

No.

I could have written about how one blogger said to me in my own room during my own party "Cheeky Lotus? Never heard of you. What big bloggers are here?". I could tell you about the blogger who pretended to return a pencil in a lame attempt to escape a conversation with me. I could tell you about last year's BlogHer, which was not so much fun.

But, I'm not. If 30 has taught me anything, it's not to take myself too seriously. Because I had a bag full of cheeseburgers and hilarious friends around me. And I suggest next year, you do the same.

8.10.2007

How My Dyson Was Ruined and Other Tales of My Wild 30th

Wouldn't it be hilarious if I woke up on my birthday to the sounds of Chris quickly moving around downstairs and snuggled into the covers while thinking "I really don't want breakfast this early, but I'll need to act happy when he serves me" and then Chris appeared at the foot of the bed a few minutes later and announced "We have a huge problem"?

It turns out, I really am an ant and the universe is an 8-year-old boy with a magnifying glass.

Our entire downstairs is flooded. As soon as you hit the landing - *SQUISH*. All of our bath towels are spread out across the brand new carpet attempting to absorb the water free-flowing from the busted water heater.

As Chris rattled off who needed to be called and what had to be done, all I heard was "wait for plumber" "sop up water" and "carpet ruined". I stared past Chris out the window and thought "This is not how I'm spending my thirtieth birthday, right?".

When I turned 29, I had elaborate plans to turn 30 on an island with a cocktail in my hand. Now, I stood in the kitchen of our rental property while Chris explained how best to squeeze out the towels so that they'll dry quicker in the dryer.

You know what I did, right? I think I've cried more in the past year than my entire life. I just said "But, I'm thirty today" and the tears flowed. Chris' face crumpled in realization. He hugged me and said "I am so so sorry".

It's not his fault, of course, that there's a flood. Or that our house didn't sell quicker. Or that none of my pants fit. Or that I'm not on an island with a cocktail. But, to Chris, it is. To Chris, it's his job to keep everyone happy. And shuffling around on towels does not a happy birthday make.

So, he did what any superhero husband does and announced "You are not doing a single dish!". Then, he put his keys down, rolled up his sleeves of his dress shirt, and cleaned the kitchen. I think I'll keep him.

By midday, the house was filled with people - insurance adjusters, plumbers, water restoration - a surprise party!

The owner of this house also came over.

Now, when we applied to lease this house, the owners were adamant that they did not want any animals. Of any kind. Since we were in love with the house, I pleaded with them to allow us to have our "cat". The cat, of course, is actually made up of two cats. Once the owners agreed to The Cat (and an extra grand), we didn't think it would ever be an issue. One of our cats, Jack, is outside all day long. We never see him until dinnertime. And the other is my huge ever present orange cat, Oliver, who spends his day trying to wear me.

As soon as the owner arrived, Oliver raced by, so it was official: Oliver was The Cat.

That is, until Jack decided that this was the day - the first in five years - that he wanted to stand in front of the sliding glass door and stare into the house. All day.

Of course he did. Why wouldn't he?

So, yes. I spent my 30th shuffling around on towels. And, yes, I will continue to spend the rest of this week and all of next without carpet downstairs, hot water, and missing half of the ceiling. While shooing away my confused cat.

Perhaps I should have been a bit more specific when I wished to spend my birthday surrounded by water.

Oh, universe. Don't stop being you.

8.08.2007

30

Dear 20 year old Lena,

You know that guy that you can't stop thinking about? The rich one with the big lifted truck and all the toys? The one you're only dating because all the girls love him and all the guys want to be him? The one who exploits you and you continue to take it? Yeah, that one. You're better than that, Lena. You're beautiful and smart and worth so much more than the crumbs he sends your way. Don't waste another minute on this loser.

Also? Seeking revenge on his truck is fine if you must, but please leave before the police arrive.

You are too close to getting your degree to drop out of college now! When your dad says to you "Don't worry about credit debt. It will always be there" completely ignore him. This will be the worst advice you've ever received. Next to your stylist convincing you to perm your bangs. Stay in school, Lena. Don't take that second job. You'll regret it deeply the day you turn 30 and are still only 12 units shy.

Love,
30

****
Dear 21 Year Old Lena,

You met someone. Things are moving too fast. He's talking about marriage and what your babies will look like. You fight and make up again and again. This relationship just feels too familiar. He looks good on paper, so you can't figure out why he makes you feel like you can't breathe.

You're confiding in your friend at work. He gives you advice and urges you to hang in there. You feel so confused.

Do you know why? Because you're in love with your friend.

Love,
30

****
Dear 22 Year Old Lena,

Take that promotion. You deserve it. Stop trying to be humble. Oh, and insist upon a whole lot more money. You'll find out later that they would have given you double.

Honey, eat something. I know that you're madly in love with this new man in your life, but a size 0? That's just crazy. Stop trying to control your fear of inadequacy by abusing your body. He's not going anywhere. He loves you. Now eat a sandwich.

Also, all that hair you hate? You will KILL to have even half of it back in about 8 years.

Love,
30

****
Dear 23 Year Old Lena,

You're making the best decision of your life. You're marrying your best friend and you won't regret it for a minute. (Except that he's totally just pretending that he puts his clothes in the hamper. He does not. They are invisible to him once they leave his body.)

You're going to blame yourself that your dad won't walk you down the aisle. Don't. Those are his selfish issues and not yours. Know that what is making you feel shame now will give you pride later. You are giving yourself away because you are no one else's to give.

Can we talk about your skin? It's like butter. And it's firm. And your butt? My god, stop complaining about it. You have no idea.

Love,
30

****
Dear 24 Year Old Lena,

Repeat after me: I can do this.

I know there is a tiny helpless baby in your arms who seems to have endless gas, but you don't need to have all the answers right now. Your love is enough. I know you think it isn't, but I promise. It is.

She doesn't need you to be perfect, Lena. She just needs you to be there.

Love,
30

P.S. Feeding her formula will not kill her. Get your sobbing self off the kitchen floor.

****
Dear 25 Year Old Lena,

How much did you pay for that purse?? Bring it back. Right now. Come here, so I can slap you.

All that money you're making? Yeah, how about you stop talking about it and spending it and put it in a little thing called a savings account? I know! Crazy concept!

I can't even talk to you right now, 25 Year Old Lena. I'm still bitter.

Coupon Clipping,
30

****
Dear 26 Year Old Lena,

You know that house you're thinking of buying? Yeah. Don't.

Now, can we talk about your body? You've never looked better. You're doing yoga and kickboxing. You're healthy and hot and firm. You skin and hair are beautiful.

Why are you still so unhappy with it?

Listen carefully: it is okay to be happy with your body. It is okay to acknowledge that you're beautiful. Stop worrying that people won't like you if you like yourself.

Also, the money. Why are you still partying like it's your birthday? Learn, woman!

Love,
30

P.S. Love the hair. Don't change a thing. Tell Chris that if he wanted a brunette, he should have married one. You'll never get the right shade of blond again.

****
Dear 27 Year Old Lena,

Oh, where do I even begin? I want to go back in time and hug you.

There are no words in a simple blog post to convey the true transformation you will undergo this year. You will lay at your father's side as he dies. You will see and feel pain that is so unnatural. You will try to protect your mother. You will try to give your family peace. You will dig deep and find strength you never knew you possessed.

Your spirit will be broken this year. I wish I could tell you that you will ever be whole again.

Love,
30

****
Dear 28 Year Old Lena,

You'll start getting paid to write this year. Stop downplaying it. Celebrate.

Love,
30

P.S. Stop with the artichoke dip.

****
Dear 29 Year Old Lena,

You'll need to suspend your idealism this year. Follow your gut. You will know that you should take the first offer you get on the house. You will know it in your bones and you need to speak up. You will be the only person in the room who senses what is ahead.

This is your last year at home with your daughter. Get off the computer. Go hug her.

Oh, and that stylist you just found that you're so excited about? Run.

Love,
30

P.S. I warned you about the artichoke dip, didn't I?

8.06.2007

I Don't Own You, But I Love You

The view from our new house.


My New View...in more ways than one.


Every morning I pull back the curtains and open the windows and breathe in the ocean air. I go downstairs and pour a cup of coffee and wander into the backyard with the cats where we rub our backs across the patio. I take a deep breath and reflect upon how much I love this house and this town and this view. Then I go back inside and call our realtor, where I spend the next two hours making her tell me this will all end well.

It will be nice when my morning is missing one of these rituals.

Remember when I was sad and panicky about Savannah starting Kindergarten? It is amazing how spending 16 hours a day on the phone, unpacking, and working while trying to keep a five year old entertained will suddenly make you very comfortable with the whole "being away from you" idea.

While I know I'll still cry the day she actually lets go of my hand and crosses over that threshold where kids can be mean and words can seem scary, I'm confident that Savannah and I are both more than ready for this change. She is so ready to play with other kids and do homework and feel productive. And I am so ready to let go of the guilt.

The guilt. The guilt that during our last month together before she starts school, I have spent half of it on the phone and the other half thinking about how I should be on the phone.

The effects of the housing market crash have been so far-reaching that I cannot even begin to tell you the ways in which it has affected us. Our friendships, our marriage, our family, our parenting, have all paid the price.

I am ready for this to be over.

I am ready for this escrow to close, so that we can all put it behind us and start down our new paths. I am ready to have my life back.

August 27 is our closing date. The day after our seven year anniversary. I don't think I need to tell you what I asked for.

8.01.2007

10 Things About BlogHer You Won't Read Anywhere Else


1. When you are an hour away from LAX for your Chicago flight and you're stuck in traffic and running out of gas and not one, but two (!), gas stations are "closed for repairs", even though you've never seen anything like that before in your life, and Yvonne calls you from the airport to tell you that it took her an hour to even get through security and "ARE YOU GOING TO MISS THE PLANE?" you will start crying and so will she.

2. Hating to fly + running through an airport + no deodorant = you smell like your own personal petting zoo when you arrive in Chicago.

3. Entering the W Hotel lobby at 12:00 midnight pretty much guarantees that the party has started without you. Your life may be threatened by Jes for being sober. You may witness Schnozz doing the Running Man. And you and Izzy will likely remove your shirts within an hour of saying "Hi" to each other.



4. When you show up to the convention center the next morning, they will not have your name tag. Because you are super important. You will need to handwrite your own name on a blank tag. And since you have the handwriting of a 7 year old, you will spend the entire weekend watching people squint and stare at your chest before asking "Who are you?". To which you respond "Dooce". Of course.


5. Before you speak on the "Momosphere" panel, you will be convinced that when the email said there would be "a speakers' lounge with beverages" they did not mean Sprite. Sadly, you will be mistaken.



6. You may have actually done some speaking on the panel. You won't be sure. Your ponytails were pulled pretty tight. Also, Catherine was using a lot of big words. (Does anyone know if there is a podcast out there of this panel? It's for my mother. Seriously. Please hurry, she's starting to Google.)



7. When Amy Sedaris is at a cocktail party, you might want to, you know, GO MEET HER. Rather than have cocktail straw races with 40 of your closest friends on the other side of the room. (I'll die wondering what my major malfunction was that night.)

8. When you show up to a Real Simple party uninvited and are welcomed and told to grab any tame tag, don't believe them. It's a trap. Once you and your friends eat their filet mignon and drink their wine, be prepared to be scolded like a five-year-old and told that "you're free to take your conversation outside!" by an obviously very uptight assistant during her boss' speech. Since you've had a few drinks, you may or may not look around at your table of friends (Yvonne, Lindsay, Kathy, Kim, and Jes) and ask loudly "Do you know who they are?".


It will all be worth it though, since Lindsay will respond to everything the rest of the night, "Well, that's real simple!".

9. When you lean over to Yvonne during the closing session and whisper "Let's have a party in our room", you won't know it yet, but you, Y, Kathy, Rachel, and Lindsay are about to mastermind the most rocktastic BlogHer partay ever to be experienced. So kickass will it be that it will take W security to shut it down.

If you will...

7-11 booze and bean dip: $84.00
25 McDonald's hamburgers and fries: $32.00
2 Excedrin for the morning: $2.00

McDonald's Bag Hats: awesomeness



Even the realization that you served 40 bloggers bean dip and then invited them to sit on your pillow won't dampen your spirits.

10. However, after three days of your girlfriends, it will feel like you've been away from these faces for way too long.


BlogHer will give you a warm afterglow as you lift off from Chicago. It will feel like it went too quickly, but once you realize that you're heading home to your heart, it won't be a moment too soon.

**I'm pretty sure I've linked everyone whose pictures I used. If I didn't, please send me an email so that I can mail you cookies.

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