Wednesday, January 23, 2013

write: a doe bay writer's workshop


Two and a half years after leaving the San Juan Islands with our five-week-old baby boy, we are going back for our first visit. And it is thanks to my friend and fellow writer Jennifer Beck Furber who has invited me to be a part of this new and awesome writers workshop on Orcas Island.



Doe Bay resort is a truly special place on Orcas Island. And Orcas Island is where my midwife and doula live. It's where we went for our birth class and where I went for all of my pregnancy check-ups. That is to say, it holds a very special place for me. I have vivid memories of sitting on the bench at Doe Bay with Bob, staring out into the water while Malcolm kicked inside of me. Wondering what our future would hold... wondering if we would ever get to come back. 

Back in October, Bob went to Nasheville for a bachelor party weekend to see the Bears play. That was his first weekend away as a dad. 

Though we are all traveling to the islands together (Bob, Malcolm and me,) the time at the writer's workshop is my own. Bob and Malcolm will be staying with Jenn's husband Luke and their three girls (Malcolm will love them!) while I enjoy my first weekend away as a mom... to BE a writer and be with other writers.

Bob got BBQ, beer and the Bears, and I get hot springs, writing and storytelling. I couldn't be more thrilled.

If you're a writer and long for a weekend away from it all... truly away from it all... to have some intimate time with your work, then this might be the workshop for you.

The group is limited to 25 and tickets go on sale HERE on January 25th. 

More info about the weekend here.

To learn more about the other participating artists:

Matt Logelin, New York Times Bestselling author of Two Kisses for Maddie

Daniel Blue, Lead singer and songwriter of Seattle's Motopony

Jennifer Beck Furber, Author of Baby by the Sea

Jesse Michener, photographer


The view from Doe Bay Resort (SERIOUSLY!)


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My new blog project is a grand experiment in failure


My last post generated a lot of interest. Getting all of that off my chest really made a huge difference for me. As I said in my post, 2013 would be about shunning perfection and embracing structure. Well, I'm posting to say that I have my structure.

It is a new blog experiment called

TODAY'S FAILURE: A failure a day keeps the lazy away

Or... Today's failure is tomorrow's success

I am calling it a grand experiment in embracing failure and I'm having a blast with it.

The basic idea is this... every day I attempt something with failure written all over it. This thing I attempt is intended to be something that will forward what I am already up to in life.

For example, I have been working on a new full-length play about a woman who becomes a magician's assistant. I've been thinking that it would behoove me to learn some magic myself and also perhaps even try my hand at performing. I haven't done this because the very thought terrifies me. And so was born a challenge for TODAY'S FAILURE:

LEARN ONE MAGIC TRICK AND PERFORM IT FOR 5 STRANGERS

I have learned the trick and today I will be performing it for 5 strangers.

I invite you to check out my new blog project and even join me. Why not?

Welcome to my grand experiment in embracing failure - TODAY'S FAILURE

P.S. As I am shunning perfection this year, the new blog is far from perfect. I have a lot more that I want to create. It's not nearly as pretty and polished as I would like. I haven't written an ABOUT page or the FAQ, yet. But, I'll get there. It's more important for me to jump into the project without waiting for it to be perfect first. So it's imperfect. Which is actually perfect, right?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why I will not be striving for perfection in 2013 or How to be flawed and happy


A not-so-perfect picture of me and my totally perfect son
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

I don't know about you, but I woke up this morning feeling like a butterfly with new wings, emerging from my cocoon refreshed, ready to take on a new year in all its glorious possibilities.

Lie.

COMPLETE LIE.

It was more like this...

I woke up this morning and delayed getting out from under the protection of my down comforter for as long as my bladder would allow.

The thought of starting 2013 was enough to cause major anxiety.

I was sensitive and irritable... a snapping turtle ready to chomp at anyone who got close.

I didn't feel like being positive and excited about a new year.

I didn't feel like even getting out of bed.

This didn't make sense to me.

I was not hungover.

I thoroughly enjoyed our New Year's Eve ice skating followed by a lovely meal and two kick ass margaritas with muddled pineapple and jalapeƱo. Yep. There was a kick.

Cuddled with Bobbie on the couch watching the ball drop while Malcolm slept soundly in the next room. Slept like a baby.

So why so crabby?

I should be A FREAKIN' ENDLESS FIELD OF GLORIOUS WILDFLOWERS

I should be a goddess of possibility floating through my day pinning perfect pictures of my perfect life to Pinterest.

I should really be an inspiring and blank space for creation

A powerful woman ready to take on this new year and make it her bitch.

I should at least be cheerful.

Right?

I have every (I so want to swear here) thing I need. Every. Thing. I want of nothing.

Except...

More.

Just more.

Always more.

More of me. More time. More money.

More accomplishments.

Because

Well

It's just never enough.

Here's what I realized...

Today on the first day of the new year... I already felt behind. 

And I when I pinpointed that, it occurred to me that I feel this way most of the time.

I feel behind. Behind others. Behind my own desires. Just behind.

The catch-up game is the game of my life. Every day. Playing catch up with the pictures in my head. With my ideal version of myself. With the life I think I should be living.

YUCK!

BLECK!

PFFFFFT!

The life I think I should be living is much more fabulous and prolific than the one I actually live. The life I think I should be living is found somewhere between a perfectly edited Pinterest feed and a movie but not in reality. And it only serves to make me feel inferior and to create anxiety. I am its anxiety puppet.

As a result, nothing I do is enough to make me feel like I'm ahead. Or at least caught up.

Last year I finished a first draft of a new full-length play. Yeah! But, no. Because all I see are all the plays and screenplays I didn't write. And this ideal woman I'm chasing has already won a Tony and an Oscar, okay?

Last year I had two readings of two separate full-lengths at Chicago Dramatists.... but... they were readings. Not productions. Uh, you can't win a Tony with a reading.

Last year we moved from Chicago to L.A. (!)

We transitioned Malcolm to a new city to his big boy bed to no longer nursing to falling asleep without Mommy (you have no idea how big that one was) to starting pre-pre-school three times a week to just being a freaking awesome kid. But...

I didn't finish scrapbooking his baby book. Because I should at least be able to do that. And if I don't, what does that mean? Will Malcolm's childhood cease to exist? All those moments I failed to document. All those memories, gone. !!!! Verdict? I suck.

I didn't organize any of the millions of pictures I took over the course of the year into pretty picture books or even digital albums and now they will just languish in my Facebook Timeline, caption less.

I never even once took Malcolm to toddler yoga. (Because that's something I should be doing, right?)

We didn't go camping, either. (All good parents obviously take their kids camping.)

I lost 15 lbs. (Woo hoo!) But I gained it back. (Oh.)

Fail.

I didn't write a new book. I didn't sell a million copies of the one book I do have published. I didn't exercise. I didn't get up early enough. I watched too much TV. I ate too much crap. I was a total disorganized mess of a human being.

Loser.

Lou

Zer.

Loo loo loo loo loo

zerrrrrrrr

Bob had enough of my using him as a punching bag this morning. It's so much easier focusing on his faults than my own. And isn't that a bonus of marriage?

HA. NO.

It's mean. I was being mean. And simply setting up a smoke screen so that I didn't have to deal with my own poop. I lashed out at Bob so that I did not have to deal with my own disappointments and fears about the new year.

Here's the thing.

I am so ridiculously far from perfect. And this morning I couldn't stand how ridiculously far from perfect I actually am.

I have a lifetime of evidence for failed promises to myself. And I can't fool myself into believing that THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT, DAMN IT.

It won't.

No, don't try to convince me. I'm not having a pity party here. Just being honest.

It won't be different.

I will promise things and those things will fall by the way side as I struggle to just brush my teeth or shave my legs. Seriously folks, if I shave my legs, it's a good day.

I marvel at the people who do it all.

I am in complete awe of the women who have full-time careers and three kids and perfect skin and shaped arms and clean homes and beautiful blogs and amazing sex lives and make cookies from scratch and who are happy on no-carb diets and make time for themselves and go see live music and live theatre and donate their time and volunteer and build furniture and take long walks in the woods who commune with nature and write and/or read poetry and win prizes with long names and see all the Oscar nominated movies and have the quick wit and self-deprecating humor of Tiny Fey who are generous and wonderful mothers/daughters/sisters/friends/human beings who always write thank you notes and manage to shower every day and are always in a good mood and always say the right thing and have matching throw pillows and several thousand followers on Pinterest and don't shove their clothes into their closet but fold them perfectly and place them in an organized fashion in a drawer that glides with the greatest of ease and who would never wear socks with holes or let their roots show and who have lovely well-behaved children...

OKAY... clearly that person doesn't exist. And if she does... if YOU are that person...please for the love of god, don't tell me that's how I should be. Or it's easy. It's just easy being that awesome, right?

Here's what's easy...

Letting

It

Go

Because I'm so clearly not that person.

And I don't need to be.

No, I don't. I really don't.

The last thing I want to do in 2013 is try, yet another year, to be that person.

If I did, I would fail.

Why would I want to do that to myself? Again?

Why not just acknowledge that it is a challenge for me to freakin shave my armpits, let alone my legs.

That I struggle to even write one blog post anymore?

That I am overwhelmed all the time. All the time!

Sometimes I really hate Pinterest. No, not just Pinterest. Facebook, Twitter, the whole freakin' internet. Because it makes it way too easy to compare myself to everyone else's amazing lives. But there I go looking for a scapegoat when really it's me. I'm the one that allows myself to get sucked into comparing when I know very well there is no cheese down that tunnel.

No one else does this, I know. I'm unique that way.

But, no one esle is you. No one else is me.

Accomplishments don't make the person. And they don't equal happiness.

The "Why Bother" trap

Here's another thing I discovered today. I regularly fall into the "Why Bother" trap.

It's like if I can't be the person on the cover of YOGA Magazine then why bother even going to one class? I don't even try. Like if I can't commit to being an expert at something, why bother.

That's the stupidest thing I've ever acknowledged about myself. Well, maybe not. But it's pretty crazy. And all it does is prevent me from taking action. I let "Why Bother" rule me way too much. And it's true... it does seem that it's going to be impossible to accomplish everything I am out to accomplish.

It's why I haven't been blogging. I see other people's more amazing more popular blogs and think, well... mine will never be like that. And I don't have the time right now to write the internet's most profound, moving and life-changing blog post ever, so what's the point?

HA! Fool!

I'm starting to think that perhaps my 2013 could be about BEING OKAY WITH ORDINARY.

Does that sound like a sell-out?

I don't mean it to.

It's like this... AIM for extraordinary. And don't beat yourself up if you miss.

Ordinary is okay.

Writing one new play a year is really okay, Steph.

Being a dedicated stay-at-home mom and writer with A MESSY HOUSE is okay.

Yes, yes, yes... I would prefer it to be clean. Hell, yes. So I'm either going to have to pony up the cash for a regular cleaning lady or I'm going to have to be okay with a messy house. Because pretending that the new year is magically going to make me suddenly capable of being able to parent well, partner well, write well and often, eat well AND have a clean house is just more lying to myself. Or magical thinking. It's not reality. And it won't work.

Being profoundly related to my limitations and setting up structure around that to support what I'm up to... that's what will work.

Just maybe it is okay to be who I am and NOT strive for perfection.

I'm not saying that I don't have things I'm out to accomplish. I'm just saying that I'm so tired of trying to live up to an ideal I will never achieve. I'm tired of the failure cycle. I'm tired of chasing accomplishments in service of happiness. I'm tired of comparing myself to what looks like perfection and then diving head first into a shame spiral.

And that's why instead of having 2013 be about MORE and BETTER and PERFECT, I am declaring the theme of my 2013 to be

STRUCTURE & POETRY

And I am in love with that.

LOVE IT!

It totally inspires me.

Structure

I've been living without any routine and it hasn't been working for me. So I'm putting structures in place that will help me fulfill my commitments.

Here are a couple of examples:

1. Every morning I will be getting up at 5 AM to write until Malcolm wakes up.
2. Every Thursday evening I will be seeing a play and Bob will have bonding time with Malcolm.
3. Every Sunday morning we will go for a hike as a family.

Just those three things will greatly transform my life. If I stick to them.

What will have me stick to them this year as opposed to years past?

I don't know. But I think I know what won't work... declaring failure at the first slip-up.

Poetry

This means reading poetry, yes. Writing poetry, perhaps. Yes. But it's more than that. Much bigger.

It means inviting poetry into my life.
Being in nature. Communing.
Allowing my brain to be filled with beauty.
To sit in silence. To reflect on the world around.
To stare at my son's face... his cheeks alone for minutes, hours.
To allow room for wonder.
Sentiments never before expressed.
Brain actually thinking on its own as opposed to repeating things said or thought or overheard. Creation. In conversation.

Poetry. In my life. In my marriage. My partnership. With Bob. A man I've been with for twelve years. Or more? Long enough to lose track.
Long enough that it seems impossible to create newness.
And this is where poetry.
Listening in a new way. Listening with the ears of someone who hasn't heard any of it before.
Who is learning to hear and cherishing every sound.
Love's long unexplored corners. Corners of ourselves created or discovered.
Being reborn in each other's arms. Tingling skin. Warmth of breath on neck. Fingers touching and sending sparks. Sparks, imagine. After twelve years.

This means being willing to shock the hell out of myself.
Being willing to not know every fucking thing already.
Gazing without fear into fear.
And allowing it to exist, but not interfere.
Having the courage to be flawed. And having more courage to allow others to see my flaws.
Being flawed. Sharing my flaws courageously.

That's freedom. That's how to be free. And happy.

Happiness is not achieved by being an accomplishment junkie or having perfection envy.

It is achieved by going for it and being okay with failure. But really fucking going for it. And being willing to look like a goddamn mess in the process.

That's what I think, at least, on the evening of this first day of the New Year after two glasses of red wine.

What do you think? I'd love to hear.

Thanks for your thoughts, dear readers.

And happy happy new year.

Happy Imperfect YOU!

Here's to joy and freedom in the new year... whether or not you have time to shave your legs (or face) or even shower.

-Steph

P.S. If you're willing, please share your favorite poems or poetry in the comments... or ways you invite poetry into your life. Thanks!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How to know when to declare bankruptcy

This morning Bob said to me, "You know, if we had declared bankruptcy earlier we could have stayed in our house at least six months longer."

I responded, "Yeah. Maybe. There are a million if only's. Oh well."

Two things about that...

1. It has been four years and we are still replaying our every move like a chess game that just won't quit. 

If only...

If only we had declared bankruptcy before falling into pre-foreclosure, then we might have had a chance to save the house.

If only we had listed the house at the price we paid for it right away, we would have found a buyer immediately, thus avoiding the need for a short sale and subsequent bankruptcy.

If only we hadn't dumped all of our savings into a renovation.

If only we had never bought the house.

That's where the "if only" chain of  thought always ends. If only we had never bought the house. Well, I shouldn't say it ends there. It pauses there. And hangs for a beat.

Then I usually go to:

"Yeah, but... I loved the house. We got to live there for the time that we did. And while we did, we loved the heck out of it."

So... why do we keep torturing ourselves with "what ifs" still four years later? Perhaps we feel that if we can play the right moves, we won't repeat the mistakes in our future. To me, it always feels futile. I mean, who knows how events would have unfolded if we had never bought the house. We might have been reckless in some other way that could have devastated our finances.

The lessons we learned from our brush with foreclosure are the lessons that make us savvier today. We didn't know that then. And we didn't even know that we didn't know that.

We're smarter now BECAUSE of everything that went down.

2. Bob has a point about the Bankruptcy

Bob first bought up bankruptcy protection when we were about to miss our first mortgage payment. He wanted to look into it then.

I did not.

He was thinking of it as a business decision. It's called bankruptcy protection for a reason. He wanted to protect our assets; I wanted to be a good girl.

I saw bankruptcy as a shameful failure and one that should be avoided at all costs. I was unwilling to consider that it was a viable choice. I was unwilling to consider that we might eventually be forced declare bankruptcy. I had fixed my mind on salvation. We will get out of this mess. Somehow. We won't have to declare bankruptcy.

Well... I was wrong.

We avoided foreclosure, but ended up short selling our home and losing everything in the process. And we found ourselves cowering under the protection of Chapter 7. We no longer had any assets to protect. What we were protecting now was our future. See, we were worried that the bank would wait for us to get back on our feet and then come after us for the difference from the short sale.

Had I been willing to give up my judgements about Bankruptcy, we might still have our house today. And if we had been able to hold onto it, we would have a major asset in today's rebounding housing market.

I don't allow myself to think about that very often because it's neither here nor there. I really am "oh well" about it. Because we are where we are. We are back on our feet. We're not homeowners. We're still in debt. But we are much better off than we have been for many years.

I'm focused on creating our future, not rewriting our past. 

That's not to say that I don't occasionally find myself daydreaming and playing that alternate reality game. The "what would our life look like today if we never lost the house" game. But I quickly see the danger in that and shut it down.

How can you learn from us?

First. Do NOT do this:

Do not fool yourself into believing that everything will be okay so you don't even need to become familiar with the B-word.

That's what I did. And I regret it.

So, what to do?

Learn. Investigate. Interview the B-Word and learn about all of its many complexities.

Learn about the different types of bankruptcy protection and determine which would be right for you. There's Chapter 7 (what we filed because at that point we didn't have any assets,) Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13...

Learn about how it will impact your credit. Try to determine if it is worth it.

The more you learn now, the better. Try to separate your feelings about bankruptcy. I would suggest looking at it from a matter-of-fact business decision. Try to view this as a potential business decision. Subtract the emotion from the fact-finding.

You could even set up a meeting to talk to a bankruptcy attorney just to better understand your options. I wasn't even willing to do that because I really believed the worst couldn't happen. Then it did. And it was too late to salvage our assets. You don't have to make my mistake.

Ground yourself in reality as early in the process as possible.

And remember, just because you're talking about Bankruptcy, doesn't mean you're surrendering to it.

I'm not advocating running for the cover of Bankruptcy before trying anything and everything else. I'm just saying that you don't want to wait until it's too late. Until you really are left with nothing.

It's a very tricky and emotional thing. I completely understand that. And I don't have an answer to the question, When should I declare Bankruptcy?

And if I did claim to have an answer to that question, you shouldn't listen because I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I am not an attorney. I am just a writer who wishes she hadn't been so afraid of failing.

Bankruptcy exists for a reason.

Just like short sales exist for a reason. Sometimes things don't go as planned. These are things to help mitigate the losses.

We didn't want to have to declare Bankruptcy. Trust me. I write about that here. We didn't take it lightly.

Bankruptcy isn't to be taken lightly. If you end up there, I highly advise that you learn from the mistakes that led you down that path so that you don't wear it thin.

And in the meantime, do as our Bankruptcy attorney advised:
Be good to each other.

And... quit with the "If onlys" and "what ifs."

Instead, create a financially responsible future.

My blog post about our decision to declare bankruptcy is here: B is For...

As always, I greatly appreciate your sharing this with someone facing foreclosure or bankruptcy.


This holiday season, share some Love in the Time of Foreclosure. The eBook is available here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

VOTE!

image from OBEY


Tomorrow, voting for me will be easy. I know my polling place (only a few blocks away). I know who I'm voting for and how on all of the propositions. And I know (I'm pretty sure) I won't have to wait in too long of a line.

Voting for some of you might not be that easy. Especially if you're in a battleground state. Today on the radio, Ed Schultz said that this election comes down to "the heart and soul of those people standing in long lines waiting to vote" tomorrow. That might be you.

If it is, thank you. Thank you for being willing to fight to make your voice heard. Thank you for caring enough about our country to wait and wait and wait to vote. I feel very lucky that I have never had to deal with challenging circumstances in order to vote. And I like to think that if I did, I wouldn't give up.

I've read about some crazy stuff going on out there... robo calls saying you can vote over the phone. You can't. Go to your polling place. If someone calls and says your polling place has changed, don't listen.

LOOK UP YOUR POLLING PLACE HERE


EVERY VOTE COUNTS. Don't give up. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. Use your power. 


For the record, I am proud to be voting to re-elect our President.

FORWARD!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just how tempted are you by Halloween candy?

Flyer from the Manila production directed by Rich Tuason
I  used to hide my Halloween candy from my brother. And he hid his from me. At least that's how I remember it. That candy is a precious commodity, no? As a kid, you work hard for that. Dressing up, going door to door to door to door. The candy you earn tastes even sweeter after all that work.

So, what would you do if your mom stole your Halloween candy?

Did this happen to me? NO. Thankfully the only threat to my Halloween candy was my little brother. But... I did imagine what it would be like to BE a mom who stole her kid's candy. And I wrote a play about it. Because, that's just what I do.

The play was commissioned by my friend and fellow playwright, Jeanette Farr for a production at Glendale Community College called THE MOTEL CHRONICLES. The only requirement was that the play had to be set in a motel room.

What sort of things happen in motel rooms, I wondered? Hmmmm.... Of course! Candy bingeing.

On this day when we are all either hiding our loot from ourselves, our siblings, our co-workers, our partners or our kids, I thought I would share my ten-minute play THE CHOCOLATE AFFAIR about a woman who steals her daughter's Halloween candy and checks herself into a seedy motel room to eat it in peace.

This is by far my most popular play. It has been produced all over the world from South Africa to India to The Philippines to the virtual world of Second Life.

I hope you enjoy!

You can read it online here -
THE CHOCOLATE AFFAIR by Stephanie Alison Walker

Also available in the anthology -
THE BEST 10-MINUTE PLAYS FOR 2 OR MORE ACTORS 2009 published by Smith & Kraus


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Good thing the foreclosure crisis has been resolved!

Sarcasm, folks. Of course it hasn't been resolved. But, listening to the presidential debates and the main talking points this election, you'd think it had been.

Why?

BECAUSE NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT.

Not Romney.

Not Obama.

No one.

Or is it just me? I mean, I guess it could just be me. I have been busy lately. I suppose it is possible that I completely missed it. That some brilliant proposal to solve the housing crisis strode in on a white horse  unbeknownst to me.

No... No. Nopey. Nope.

I wouldn't miss that. If either candidate had a brilliant plan for housing, it wouldn't matter how distracted I've been by child rearing, I would know about it.

EVERYONE would know about it.

Right?

You bet.

So no one has a plan. Okay. It's a complicated issue. Indeed. It's gone on far longer than anyone hoped. And it's far from over.

But why isn't it at least being acknowledged?

Are they just hoping - presumably because they don't know how to fix it- that it will go away? That we'll forget about it? That if it's ignored, it will erase itself as an issue that actually plagues millions of Americans still today?

I don't get it. And I'm not the only one.

HOME IS WHERE THE VOTE IS

A few weeks ago, I did a segment for Huff Post Live about the foreclosure crisis along with Tracy Van Slyke of Home is Where the Vote Is.

Home is Where the Vote Is is a campaign launched by The New Bottom Line that "gives voice to the underwater homeowner."

They are asking that same question.

From their site:
More than 15 million Americans are living in homes that are underwater, many of them are in the key swing states of Ohio, Nevada and Colorado.  We give voice to the underwater voter.
Neither President Obama nor Governor Romney are really addressing the root cause of the housing crisis or proposing any bold solutions to fix the problem.
The facts are clear:
Nationally, there are more than 15 million underwater homes, that are $1.2 trillion underwater. Resetting those mortgages to fair market value would save the average underwater homeowner $543 per month, pumping $104 billion into the national economy every year. This would create 1.5 million jobs nationally.  The bold and necessary solutions are clear, and have been advocated for by economists on both ends of the political spectrum. 
-The predatory practices of big Wall Street banks caused the economic collapse and foreclosure crisis, destroying millions of jobs and devastating communities.
-Americans’ homes have lost $6 trillion in value because Wall Street banks artificially inflated the housing bubble and then crashed the market. The continued housing crisis is a major drag the overall economic recovery and significant source of financial pain for families everywhere.
-With $700 billion in negative home equity and millions of homeowners being held underwater, banks have chained the American economy to a crushing housing debt load.

HELLO! This needs to be part of the election dialogue. If not now, when?!

Home is Where the Vote Is encourages underwater homeowners to contact the candidates to let them know that this issue is important to them. But whether you're underwater or not, it's important. This impacts us all.

What can you do? You can go to their site to share your story and sign a petition that states:


PRESIDENT OBAMA GOVERNOR ROMNEY:

It’s time you STAND WITH US.
We're UNDERWATER and WE VOTE.
Because for us, HOME IS WHERE THE VOTE IS
I also suggest following their blog for information and ways to help bring housing to the table.

HOME FOR GOOD

The Home For Good campaign recently sent more than 35,000 postcards to the Obama and Romney campaign headquarters demanding that they make foreclosure a top campaign issue.


From the press release:

During the first Presidential debate, both President Obama and Gov. Romney made no mention of how they would solve America’s continuing housing crisis with millions of homeowners still underwater. Instead, Gov. Romney promised to “repeal and replace” the consumer protections ushered in by the Dodd-Frank legislation.
And, while President Obama has created the Consumer Financial Protection Board, initiated the Making Home Affordable program, expanded housing counseling, and joined 49 state attorneys general in a national mortgage settlement with five major banks, these programs have yet to reach the millions of homeowners who could and should benefit from such assistance. 
“Abuse by banks and the financial industry, inadequate consumer protections, and massive long-term unemployment caused the mortgage and homeownership crisis, continue to plague a huge swath of the US public, and hold back our economy,” added Jenkins. “The candidates’ silence on these issues is as politically shortsighted as it is morally appalling.”
Three of the eight states with the highest foreclosure rates are presidential battlegrounds: Florida, Ohio, and Nevada. In Florida there were 27,000 new foreclosure filings in August alone—one out of every 328 homes in the state. According to market research firm CoreLogic, more than 3.7 million homes have been lost to foreclosure in the past four years.
Who knows if the postcards made an impact on President Obama, but last night on the Daily Show with John Stewart, he finally talked about the housing crisis:




It's a start. But, if I were fighting to save my house today I would want to hear a lot more.
Like an actual plan.

What do you think? Why have both campaigns been so quiet on the issue?

Is it because no one wants to say the 'F' word?

Further reading:

HOUSING CRISIS ABSENT FROM DEBATES - ABC News

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Thank you, Foreclosure" on Huff Post Live

Screenshot from today's Huff Post Live conversation
Just this morning Bob said that he's been feeling grateful for our near foreclosure and bankruptcy because it's had him feel stronger and more connected to the impact of our financial decisions. 

Later in the day, I received an e-mail from a Huff Post Live producer - completely out of the blue - asking if I would be interested in coming to the studio and talking about the silver lining of foreclosure.

Totally bizarre, right? Such serendipity.

So I quickly booked a babysitter and headed to Beverly Hills to the Huff Post Live studio to talk about my personal experience with the upside of foreclosure. It couldn't have been a better fit.

The conversation was inspired by a piece written by Peter S. Goodman titled Foreclosure Crisis Spurs Quest to Reinvigorate Suburbs, which was inspired by the MOMA exhibit Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream.

Did any of you get to see the MOMA exhibit?

Here's a link to the Huff Post Live segment from today-- Thank you, Foreclosure

If you watch, I hope you'll comment either here or on their site.

And just a head's up, I don't start talking until about 9 minutes in. Hard to believe that I held off that long. But it's hard to jump into those conversations. I kept waiting for an opening... This was my first time on "TV." There is so much more I wanted to say! Hopefully they'll have me back. It was so much fun.

I hope you enjoy the discussion.

And what about you, dear reader? Have you experienced the silver lining of foreclosure? If so, in what way? Please share in the comments below. Thanks!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

On your 2nd birthday

Dear Malcolm,

You're two years old! 


Two whole years old and you are so clearly your own person. With likes (stickers, soccer, strawberries and pirates,) dislikes (bees, toothpaste, the tribal masks on Uncle Tommy's wall and doing anything you don't want to do when you don't want to do it,) and full sentences (I love you, everyone!)

You just began to speak in full sentences in the last couple of weeks and it is so amazing to us. You also recently just began to refer to yourself in the first person instead of the third.

Malcolm no like it recently became: I don't like it.


Every day is filled with moments of parental pride for your dad and me.

You so clearly communicate what you need from us and we love that. Sometimes you "over- communicate" but you get that from your dad so I can't blame you. (Haha.)

You live life so fully and without any fear. We learn from you, Malcolm.


You go right up to kids at the playground to play. Sometimes they don't want to play with you, but you don't let that interfere for even a second with your own enjoyment.

Recently at the playground, there were some older kids sitting in a circle under the slide. They were about five years old and seemed to be making big plans. You saw them and wanted to be a part of whatever they were planning. So you went up to them and sat down. They looked at you and you started talking. All we could make out was every third word... which happened to be "Mommy." You went on for a minute or two -- Mommy this and Mommy that. I imagine you were saying,

"Guys, my mom is so awesome. Have you met her? My mommy is the best. Do you love your mommies? Because I love my mommy so much. I love just saying her name. Mommy, Mommy, Mommy." 

After about a minute of that, the older kids got up and moved to another location to continue their secret plans. But that didn't impact you at all. You just went about playing. And I loved that.

You try again. And again. Because that's who you are. I always learn from you when I witness that fearlessness.

You play full out when you play. Sometimes that means you get hurt. Bumps on the head, bruises on the shins and scrapes on your knees. But that's part of growing up. You invite adventure into your life, but you always use caution. And as your mom, I so appreciate that. Thank you.

You love so many things. Here is a short and partial list of things you love these days:

Singing, playing soccer, playing baseball, running, pushing your baby stroller, playing in the sand, playing in the water, dancing, cuddling, playing stickers, coloring with markers, helping mommy cook and clean, playing with other kids, hide and seek, Pablo, trains, pirates, trucks, mac & cheese, reading, being read to and doing things "myself" or "Malcolm self."

You are generous. You share. Yes, sometimes you need a little encouragement in that department. But you always come around. "Here ya go" was one of the first complete sentences you spoke and spoke often.

My little fishy. You love the water. So much. Today we celebrated your birthday at the beach. When it was time for cake, you didn't want to leave the water. I had to carry you away from the water. After cake, it was time to go home for a nap. When you woke up from your nap, the first thing you said was, "Ocean. Ocean!"

Cuddle, Mommy. 


I think you say, "Cuddle, Mommy" more than anything. Times ten. And I am so lucky for that. This morning you didn't want to stop cuddling. I wanted to get up and get things done before your party. And then I thought, "It's Malcolm's birthday. And all he wants to do is cuddle with me. I think I can give him that gift." But it is truly more of a gift to me than you. Times ten.

I hope to always remember what it feels like to cuddle and be cuddled by my sweet little two year old boy. Because I know that this will truly be the most precious moment in my life. Everyone tells me to soak it up because it won't last forever. And I know that. And I try to freeze the moment as much as possible. But I know that like every other parent, I will get to a point where I will wonder where the time went and long for our morning cuddle sessions. That much is inevitable. Today I am grateful that you love to cuddle.

You stopped nursing this week


I hope that you won't be mad at me when you're a teenager for writing this. It's a big deal for us. Two years of nursing. I never thought we'd go that long. And this week we said "Bye bye" to Mommy's milk. I'm proud that we went as long as we did and I'm proud that we weaned without drama. Thank you so much for that. One day I'll tell you the whole story of how you weaned... but only if you want to hear it. (Other moms, contact me privately for the story. It's a good one.)

You're two. You're about to start pre-school. You're about to start potty training. You're rapidly gaining independence. Growing into your own. And making it impossible for me to fully express how I feel about it all. Two years ago your dad and I became parents, thanks to you. Two years ago we lived on a little island in the Pacific Northwest. We were just beginning to get to know you. Two years ago as I write this, we were still at Island Hospital with your Grammy Pammy and our tiny little newborn baby boy. We were in our bubble of joy.  

Drunk on the miracle of you.


Two years ago tomorrow, we brought you home on a ferry. (Your entire birth story is here and here if you ever want to read it.) We arrived with you at the farm house on the island and introduced you to our friends Juniper and Sean... and you met Pablo for the first time. You won't remember that moment, but Pablo will. What have they done?! I'm sure he was thinking. But he has grown to love you. When you cry, he cries. When you sleep in your room, he waits outside your door. Listening. Protecting. He forgives you when you pull his tail. Actually, pulled. Past tense. Thankfully, you are over that phase.

Two years ago we had no idea how we would travel from our little island to Chicago and then on to L.A. No idea. (It's still hard to believe.)

Some days you and your presence in our lives seems normal. Like, of course. And then I think... no. No! You are a miracle. You always will be. Because you weren't until you were. And are. And continue to be. Like all children. Here you are. How can we ever understand? How can I ever fully express what you mean to me? I can't. I try. Because I feel like I should be able to. But I always come up short. I procrastinated writing this birthday letter to you for this very reason. I kept thinking I'd find a way to say it. "It." The "it" that is surreal and escapes my abilities. The "it" is the miracle of you.

Right now you are snuggled with Daddy on the sofa watching your favorite movie at the moment - Muppet Treasure Island. You are filled up with beach time, grandparent time, friend time, sand play, water play, sticker play, strawberry and cream cake, presents, presents, presents and so much love.



Sometimes it feels impossible to love you more than I already do. And then I love you more. And guess what? I'm not the only one who feels that way. Your dad does and so do all of your grandparents and aunts and uncles. We love you and we are so proud of you, Malcolm.

Happy birthday, my sweet boy. As you grow, we grow.

I love you.

Love,

Mommy

P.S. Daddy made you this video for your birthday and it is one of your favorite things to watch again and again and again...



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Sunday, June 3, 2012

What I know about love and the surefire way to heal a wounded heart




This post was commissioned by the lovely Therese Schwenkler of the seriously-you-should-be-reading-this blog The Unlost who asked if I might be willing to write something about love and heartbreak for a blog post celebrating her one year "single-versary." She was hoping I would provide some wisdom and hope for women who are currently dealing with heartbreak and/or loneliness.

I welcomed such a noble (if not daunting) challenge and here is what I came up with...

Bob and I just celebrated nine years of marriage. And we've been together for twelve. I haven't had to go out on any first dates in a very long time. Mark Zuckerberg was 16 when Bob and I started dating, so thankfully Facebook wasn't a part of my single womanhood. I'm a thirty-six year old woman with a husband, a toddler and a Pug Dog... so how the hell can I relate to someone who is single and heartbroken?

Well, it's true. I can't completely relate to where you are right now. In this world. But I have been there. And what I can tell you is this... as much as it hurts, as much as it seems like you'll never be happy again, as much as you can't go a day without crying or at least trying not to cry, as much as you want to just shut yourself away from the world for a little while...

You alone are responsible for your own happiness.

I'll say it again. (This time with feeling.)

You alone are responsible for your own happiness.
This piece of advice was given to me by my stepmom Silvia following a particularly bad breakup when I was 24. I was having such a terrible time getting past being dumped. I couldn't go a day without wallowing in my misery. I felt cheated and lost and hopelessly sad. It was all very dramatic. One day on my way home from work, I was on the phone crying to my stepmom (who had been a wonderful listener during my weeks of wallowing) when she said this to me.
Our conversation went a little something like this (I reserve the right to paraphrase... a lot):

ME: It hurts so much. It's so unfair. (blubber blubber, sniff sniff) I don't know how I'll ever be happy again...

SILVIA: The thing is, you alone are responsible for your own happiness.

ME: But, you don't understaaaaaaaaand--

SILVIA: You alone are responsible for your own happiness. Not a guy. Not a relationship. Not your mom. Not your dad. Not your job. Not your circumstances. You.

Silence.

Silence.


ME: But--

SILVIA: You.

ME: Okay.

And it hit me. Not right away. But soon after that conversation I realized she was right. If I was responsible for my own happiness, then I could just be happy. Now. I didn't have to wait for anything to happen. I didn't have to wait for the pain to go away. I didn't have to wait for his new relationship to crash and burn in order to show him how amazing I was compared to her and how wrong he was for dumping me. No. In fact, I could just be happy. More than that. It was my JOB to be happy. No one else's job. MY job.

But how do you just be happy? You begin by getting that outside circumstances have absolutely nothing to do with your happiness. Then you start doing things that happy people do. At least that's what I did. I engaged in my life. As a single woman. I empowered myself. I determined to kick ass as a smart and single twenty-four year old. I signed up for a 500-mile bike ride for charity with my mom (it was my very smart and kick butt mom's idea.) And then I began training for that ride. Raising money and riding my bike all over Chicago for a cause far bigger than myself. This ride was the AIDS ride and raised money for people living with AIDS. Doing that made all the difference.

I was up to something and loving life. I realized that had I still been in that relationship, I probably never would have done this ride. It was such a fulfilling experience. And it completely had me get how powerful those words "You alone are responsible for your own happiness" really are.

The best part of the story comes now.

I met my husband training for that ride.

Our first date was the ride itself. 500 miles over six days from Minneapolis to Chicago. We fell in love in bike shorts and helmets, pedaling up steep hills, in wind and rain, through knee pain and sore butts.

I was never one to believe in love at first sight, but by the end of that ride I knew I would spend the rest of my life with him. That ride has been a metaphor for our life together. Ups and downs, pain and tears.

Love never gets easy. The most rewarding relationships are hard fought. What I've learned from our 12-year-relationship (that has been far from perfect, by the way) is that love isn't saying yes once and hoping it lasts. It's saying yes over and over and over again and especially when everything seems impossible. Saying yes in the good times and especially the bad. That's love. That's our love. We just keep doing it.

Throughout our marriage, Silvia's advice has come to mind many times over. "You alone are responsible for your own happiness." Not anyone else. Not ever. Not only when you're single, but also when you're in a committed relationship. And especially when you're married. Trust me. I've tried to make Bob responsible for my happiness. It does not work. So, please don't even try it. You can outsource a lot of things these days, but not your happiness. Why would you want to?

So, I guess that's my advice for anyone who is brokenhearted and/or lonely.

Make being happy your new occupation. 

Go out and surprise yourself with how awesome and amazing you are. Do a bike ride for charity. Sign up for a 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk. Raise money for an important cause close to your heart. Learn to play the saxophone. Take a tap dancing class. Volunteer at your local shelter. Deliver meals on wheels. Write that novel you've always dreamed of writing. Be someone who inspires happiness in others.

Be. Happy. Now. Yes. Right now. You deserve it.

Thanks, Therese for inviting me to write this post. It had me realize that I write way more about foreclosure and debt than I do about love. I've been neglecting the LOVE part of this blog. No more.

Now that you've read this, it would be so great if you would comment below with your advice to the lonely and temporarily brokenhearted.

And DEFINITELY go read the inspiration for this post- Therese's one-year single-versary blog post about love:

Rewriting the Great Love Stories of Our Time - The Unlost

Check out the other wise women contributing posts to The Unlost's post on love:

The Road to Transformation - Further Bound

Guest Post, The Unlost: Stories of Our Time - [According to Aletheia]

Later today there will be another related post up on Expat at Home.

P.S. If you liked this post, please share it. You know what to do. Danke!
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