Friday, May 29, 2009

Welcome, Planet Money readers!

If you didn't see the tweets or hear the news, "Love in the Time of Foreclosure" was recommended on NPR's Planet Money Blog. Here.

We're delighted to have more readers and welcome your comments and questions!

We've actually been getting a lot of really interesting questions over the last few days and plan answering them in a post. So please send us your questions (and suggestions) either in the comments section or via e-mail:

Thank you!

Living with Foreclosure - Planet Money

No Bull, No Baloney... Just Getting it Done

After rebounding from my darkest moment in this entire experience I am very happy to report that THINGS ARE LOOKING UP!

How? Why? What's going on?

Well, I'll tell you.

It all began on Tuesday morning when Bob declared this week a "Bull---- Free Week." As in, no baloney. No messing around. Just getting it done. Making it happen. Turning it all around. It was a powerful declaration and I got on board.

With a foreclosure looming on the horizon and no word from the short sale negotiator, I decided to call Countrywide and request a Postponement of the Foreclosure. That was an interesting/frustrating couple of hours. I actually "tweeted" (yes, Littof is on Twitter! Follow us) in real time while I was on the phone. If anyone is interested in what that looks like, here's a screen shot of my tweets from Tuesday. Click on the image to enlarge, then read bottom up to get the progression:

The bottom-line is that I was given the run-around (per usual) for a while until I was told by someone in the short sale department that they had no record of our offer, our file was closed and they wouldn't be able to postpone the foreclosure.

No record of the offer?! We submitted it weeks ago! What the hell?!

I e-mailed our Realtor that has been handling the negotiations with our lenders and expressed my utter confusion and frustration. She sent me our negotiator's phone number and said I could try to call him but that she'd been leaving him messages and hadn't heard back. I did call him and I left a message asking him to get in touch with me as I'm worried and had questions. I tried to sound sweet and not like the crazed banshee that was raging inside.

About an hour later, our Realtor called with our negotiator on the line. The negotiator said he was looking at the offer and not to worry, he could have it approved by Wednesday evening.

"See? There's nothing to worry about," said our Realtor. I know, but I won't rest until this deal is done and the foreclosure is off my back, I told her. She said she understood completely.

She was right, though. Because Wednesday morning it was approved. Phew! Finally!

Next step was to get the approval from National City (our 2nd mortgage.)

And we got that yesterday! Just like that. Getting it done. No Bull----. As soon as the National City approval came through, we entered 'escrow' (see definition at the bottom of the post) and the buyers were already scheduling the property and termite inspections.

What does this mean?

This means we are on the path to successfully avoid foreclosure.
We will officially celebrate when we close. But, this is good. Great, actually. Things are looking up, indeed.

Our closing date is June 27th. 30 days. That means we have one month left in this house. That means that we can start selling things. We can start planning. We can begin to move on. Yesterday, I sold (with lots of help from a friend) enough books to earn $109 on Today I'm cleaning the house, getting more boxes, selling my remaining books at a used book store, bringing some items to Goodwill, planning a giant estate sale. Moving on.

Yesterday as my friend and I itemized our belongings and entered them into an excel spreadsheet, it hit me, this is actually exciting. I mean it. I'm excited to sell all this stuff. I didn't think I could do it. But I am and I'm excited. I think I'd feel totally different if I were packing everything and having to store it somewhere until who knows when. That would be completely different.

"Yeah, how depressing," said my friend.

This is exciting and not depressing because it's an adventure. An opportunity to learn. To wipe the slate clean and begin again.

Last week Bob said to me,
"I don't want to acquire things. I want to acquire experiences."

And that's exactly it. That's what I want our life to be. Acquiring experiences. I think it's what I've always wanted. And that's what we're doing. Yes, this has been incredibly challenging, but I am so grateful for the experiences we've 'acquired' in the process. We are far more interesting now than before. Lighter, freer, happier. And Bull Shit Free.

What's escrow?


Escrow opens when the buyer and seller sign a sales contract, commonly called a real estate purchase agreement and receipt of deposit. The contract, along with any additional instructions, serves as instructions for the escrow officer.

Escrow assures that the lender releases the home purchase funds at or about the same time that the deed is recorded to reflect new ownership. Escrow includes depositing, with a neutral third party, funds, documents and instructions necessary to complete the transfer.

For us, escrow means that things are moving ahead. But, like I said, we won't officially celebrate until the deal is done. Until June 27th.

Any readers want to elaborate on the ramifications of escrow in California? Do it in the comments below! Thanks!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Embracing the Gray: An update on the quest for my organic self

This is my hair. And my eye. Peaking through my too-long bangs. Can you see it?

I thought it was time to do a little update on the
Quest for my Organic Self or What Color is My Hair?

I have not spent any money or used any chemicals on my hair since I embarked on this quest. And I think you can tell. I love progress, don't you?

The last time I dyed my hair was in January. It was almost black.
Very dark brown. Now, 5 months later, it looks like this:

How many colors do you see?
I see at least 3.
And a clear grow-out line.
I’m still not quite sure what my natural color is yet-
(dirty blonde??)
-but I’m getting closer.
And finding a lot of gray along the way.
Would you just look at that streak of gray!
I have a lot around the temples too.
I don't mind the color so much as the coarse texture.

This 'quest' began on March 24th. I should have taken a 'before' picture. I didn't. But I did write about it in a post here. It began as an opportunity as I wrote:

Yes, this is an opportunity. To let go. To confront all of my "looking good" issues. To see myself au nautural after years of being chemically enhanced (so dramatic, I know.) It's an opportunity to let my hair rest. I'm letting it go. Through all kinds of crazy striped color weird and potentially extremely ugly awkwardness.

I'll be honest. I'm a little afraid. I'm afraid I'll look ugly. That people will point and stare. That I'll have way more gray than I can possibly handle. That I'll look old, haggard and unkempt.

So why am I doing this? To embrace my fear. To strip me down to my organic self. To save money. To make a small personal sacrifice for the benefit of our household. To just see. See what? I don't know... what I really look like, what comes up for me. I'm just gonna see.

How do I feel about it now? Well, it is what it is. I’m definitely saving money and that feels good. I'm allowing my hair to 'rest.' I’m letting go of looking good. It’s kind of fun, actually. It’s more of a fascination. Each day more gray…. The "crazy striped color weird ugly awkwardness" is kind of fascinating. My response is, “Wow! Look at that!” instead of: “Oh no! Damn! Help!”

One day a couple of weeks ago while Bob and I were eating lunch together, he just looked at me and said, “I like your gray hair coming through.”

And I said, “What? Really?!”

And he said, “Yeah. It’s pretty. It’s you.”

I just kissed him. What more could I do?

When you strip everything away and are just left with you... nothing added, no house, no material possessions, no money, no make-up, no chemically treated hair, no fancy clothes and expensive lingerie... will you still be loved?

That’s the question and the fear, right?

If the answer is yes, you know you chose the 'right' partner. If it's no, well, to quote Liz Lemon from NBC's '30 Rock': "That's a deal breaker, ladies!" But that's just an opinion.

And I do believe more than anything that it has to first come from you. From within. Right? Everything else is gravy.

Wow, I just made what was supposed to be a lighthearted post, dramatic.
I guess I can't help it.

What do you think?
Did any readers join me in this quest? If so, please share your progress.
If not, anyone want to start now?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On the Market: Cameron's House in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and THE house from House of Sand and Fog


FERRIS: If I had to live in that house, I'd pray for a disease, too. The place is like a museum. It's very beautiful and very cold. You're not allowed to touch anything. Can you appreciate what it must have been like to be there as a baby?

For $2,300,000.00 YOU could own the house that housed the Ferrari in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Set over a creek in the Highland Park woods - north of Chicago - the home is a stunner.

Description from

THE BEN ROSE HOME-site of the famous movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", cantilevered over the ravine, these two steel and glass buildings, which can never be duplicated, have incredible vistas of the surrounding woods. This is a unique property designed by A. James Speyer and David Haid, both notable architects of the 20th Century. Estate Sale Sold -No disclosures! This is an amazing architectural treasure.
Want to see more pictures of Cameron's house? There are a bunch of gorgeous interior shots and more info at: Gizmodo


BEHRANI:Do you remember our bungalow on the Caspian, how I ordered the trees cut down on the west side so we may view the sea? ... I today have bought for us another bungalow. I purchased this home for a price no one would believe.

At a more 'affordable' $1,999,000.00 you could own the 'bungalow' from House of Sand and Fog.

Thanks to L.A. Land Blog we learn:
The ocean-view house staged as a San Francisco property in the 2003 movie "House of Sand and Fog" has come on the market at $1,999,000.

Actually in Malibu, the 1,239-square-foot house was built in 1955, sits on more than an acre and has two bedrooms and 1 1/2 bathrooms.

This is a probate sale, so I wouldn't worry about the film's tragic plot playing out in real life.

-- Lauren Beale

I have to comment on Lauren's point about the movie's tragic plot not being an issue in probate. Hmmm.... still could be an issue. If the deceased's family has emotional ties to the house but cannot afford to own it themselves, there could be a similar plot. Something like this, perhaps:

DAUGHTER OF DECEASED: I grew up in this house and you think you can come in here with your millions of dollars and buy, er, TAKE it from me?! This is a stolen house!! I will now cash your check. Thank you."
Or not.

For listing info & more pics via Redfin

Let's play a game.

Which house would YOU rather own? And Why? Who wants to start?

(If you like this post, please share it. Buzz it up. Stumble it. Tweet it. Facebook it. The buttons are right here. Just click 'em. Thanks!)

The Face of Foreclosure- Part 2

"The Inquisition"

Just a quick recap:
I experience darkest moment of whole foreclosure experience which leads to a day of recovery in the form of movie watching. We've just finished KUNG FU PANDA and I'm feeling a little better thanks to that delightful film. Now I'm ready for public. At least I think I am. I think it will be good for me to get up off the couch, shower, make a salad and eat smoked ribs with other human beings. This, I believe, I can handle.

And on with the story:
I'm now at the BBQ, picking the meat off said ribs and telling a couple of friends how we are planning a sale to sell everything. I know I shouldn't bring it up. My goal was to NOT talk about the house. I'm still feeling on the verge of tears. Feeling "leaky," as it were. But I bring it up because, well, I just... they're offering to help. So I say, "Thank you. That would be great!" and that's the end of that. Next topic. Something more cheerful, please?

But, someone had been listening. And decided to join the conversation. Not a terrible crime. It is a BBQ. We're all friends of friends. But I don't know this person and I really don't want to talk to strangers about our financial disaster. It's my own fault. I shouldn't have brought it up. "You're selling everything?" he asks. We'll call him Bud. Do I really have to answer him?

ME: Yes.
BUD: Why?
ME: Um, well...(would it be rude to say I really don't want to talk about it?)
BUD: Are you moving?
ME: Yes.
BUD: Why?
ME: Well, we're selling our house.
BUD: Why?
ME: (oh my freaking lord) Why?
BUD: It's a terrible time to sell. It's the worst time to sell.
ME: Yes, I know.
BUD: Then why?
ME: Because we have to.
BUD: Why?
ME: (seriously?!?!) Because we can't afford it anymore.
BUD: Why?
ME: (speechless)
BUD: Can't you rent it out?
ME: (is this really happening right now?!) No. That won't work.
BUD: Oh. What about refinancing? You should try that.
ME: We did.
BUD: You did?
ME: (getting pretty pissy now) We tried everything. (period. end of conversation.)
BUD: But you really shouldn't sell now if you can--
ME: (cutting him off... ripping off the band-aid) We're in foreclosure!

Suddenly all eyes at this big, long table are on me. Followed by a chorus of:

(Which translates to: how sad, you poor thing, glad that's not me, yikes, etc.)

ME: Yeah.

Just then Bob returns with beverages. A beer for himself (homemade by the host!) and a Mexican Coke for me. What makes it Mexican? It's imported. From Mexico. And it's awesome. It's way better than American Coke. Why? It has Sugar Cane instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup and it always comes in a glass bottle. It's a classy choice by our host to provide Mexican Coke. Classy.

BOB: How's it going?
ME: Oh, fine. Thanks for the Coke! (I turn to my friends) Look! Mexican Coke!

I am desperate for anything else to talk about.

FRIEND: What's Mexican Coke?

So I explain. With relish and great detail. I'm grateful for this new conversation. To have something so trivial to discuss. I am aware that Bud has turned his questions to Bob. I try not to listen. But I hear him fire away. And I hear Bob answer each one with great patience and generosity. Today I'm Doom and he's Hope.

Bob explains how he lost his job and... so this Mexican Coke is so good, right? It's pretty sweet, but better flavor and better for you. Right?

Okay, the thing is... this is exactly why we started this blog. Why? To answer people's questions. To pull back the curtain. There are a lot of people who are terrified that our experience will become their experience. They're afraid the same thing will happen to them and we have been willing to share our experience to hopefully make a difference for others. It was our choice to do this. To become the walking face of foreclosure.

Bob tells me later that Bud's questions were coming from his own fear. He and his wife had just bought a house and she had apparently just lost her job. Our reality is his biggest fear right now. Bob said that he seemed really negative about their situation so he was trying to leave them with some hope.

I get it. People want to know what they can do to NOT end up like us. And they want to know what it's like in case they do. Like a former co-worker of mine. At least once a week he would say to me, "I want you to tell me more about foreclosure because I'm afraid we'll end up there soon."

So, if there are any readers out there with the same fears.... I hope this blog helps. I hope you learn from our mistakes. I hope we leave you with some hope. I hope you don't spend too much time worrying. I hope you don't let your fears (like I did on Sunday) possess you. And it's okay if you do. We get it. Trust me. We get it.

At this point I invite you to ask us questions.
What do you want to know? Ask anything.

You can do that in the comments section below.

Or send us an e-mail at:

Please. Ask away. That's what we're here for!

-Where to buy Mexican Coke? Costco of course [Serious Eats]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Face of Foreclosure- Part 1

"The Fit"

It's Memorial Day and I'm at a BBQ sitting at a table outside next to a couple of friends picking the meat off the delicious smoked ribs, trying not to think or talk about any of this. This. You know. The house, foreclosure, where we'll go, when we're leaving, what's happening, etc. I'm in no mood to talk about it. No mood at all. Why? Because I've traveled to the dark side.

It happened Sunday night.

Actually, it probably began the day we got the notice of sale. I was slowly heading towards that place. I just didn't know it. People ask how I am and I say, fine. Because, well, I'm breathing. I'm surrounded by love and support. And it's only a house. I know this intellectually. What I experienced Sunday night defies logic. But it points to the deep, emotional impact of losing one's home. We are not immune.

What happened Sunday night?

It started with me 'leaking' in public. At a bar. Tears pushing their way out of my eyes and me trying to wipe them away before anyone noticed. Unsuccessful.

I don't feel normal anymore. I feel scared. And the last few days it has been extremely difficult to be hopeful. The bright side has darkened. How dark, I didn't know until later. Until at home I...

...well, until I flipped. I just lost it. My fear and anger welling up inside of me, emerged and took me over like an alien. "We're losing our house and I'm terrified!" I screamed. I got hysterical. I screamed more, I cried, I wanted to smash things (but didn't), I hyperventilated- unable to breathe at all. I choked for air. Bob was telling me to just breathe. But I couldn't. I couldn't breathe.

Is this an anxiety attack? What the hell is this?!

I was scaring myself. My body felt all twisted up, like something had possessed it and I was fighting to be rid of it. This foreign thing. This darkness. My body wasn't mine. I had lost all control. And then it happened. I, well, there's no delicate way to put this... I puked. On the hard wood floor. In the middle of desperately trying to breathe, I threw up. It felt like an exorcism. Out. Get out. Leave me be.

We'll pause here for a brief intermission:

Now- I debated whether to write about this. I just have to interject that here because it felt too real. Too scary. Mom, please don't worry.... but I know you will anyway. It's embarrassing. But, it's part of this. I don't want this blog to be only about the ugliness of our situation... which is why I hesitated in sharing this part. But I am because we're committed to the transparency. And there is a happy ending. So keep reading.

"Oh my God, I just threw up! Holy shit! What the hell is happening to me?!"

Bob, the saint, is cleaning it up. Telling me to just calm down. He's handing me a towel. I'm trying to take back control over my body. Slow. Breathe. Don't freak out.

I'm just so angry.

"At who?" asks Bob.

"At me. At myself!"


"For not saving us. I thought I could."

"I know. It's okay. It's just a house," Bob comforts. He's right. Of course. I know this. I know it's just a house. This isn't about logic, I tell him. I don't know what this is.

I tell him that I want to smash things. That I want a huge earthquake to swallow up the house and take everything with it. I want to just get in the car and drive away. Drive away and leave everything behind. Or smash. Back to that. Back to smashing.

I don't know where this is coming from, but for the first time I understand why people in foreclosure destroy their homes. The ones that do.
1. It's a way to let go of some of the anger and rage. It's a release. Why not? There's literally nothing left to lose.

2. If you destroy the house, it's no longer your dream. It's damaged. It's easier to walk away from a damaged house than a perfect home.

3. ? I don't think there is a number 3.
And 1. doesn't apply to us anyway. We do still have something left to lose. We want to leave our house in the caring hands of new owners through this short sale. We are committed to walking away whole and complete. Not broken. Regretting.

Also, we have logic. And love.

-Love held my hair while I expelled my rage onto our hallway floor. (gross, I know. sorry.)

-Love cleaned it up. (again, sorry.)

-Love looked at me and said, "I'm scared because I've never seen you this physically upset before... but I can understand how you feel. And it's okay."

-Love got me water and Tylenol and put me to bed.

-Love sat and watched movies with me for most of Memorial day and said it's okay to rest.

-Love and logic said destroying the house will only send you down a path you don't want to travel and one that isn't you. Don't succumb.

-Love held me while we slept.

I thank my husband greatly for his love. Thank you, Bob. So much.

Monday morning I woke up to an e-mail from my dad that read in part:

"...just focus on the good news and your have to deal with the bad news----but try to deal with it only the amount of time required, do not let it possess you or monopolize your time."

How perfect. It was as though he had somehow witnessed my fit the night before. Because that's exactly what I did. I let the bad news 'possess me.' And it wasn't pretty. Thanks, Dad. And don't worry. I won't allow it to possess me again.

What to do? Rest. Regroup. Watch movies. Comedies. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story followed by Kung Fu Panda
"There is just news. There is no good or bad."

- Master Oogway to Master Shifu in KUNG FU PANDA written by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger

Again, how perfect. Bob looked at me when this line was delivered by Master Oogway turtle with the long nails. He looked at me, like, yes. It's true. There's just news. And that's how we get through this. It's not bad. It's not good. It just is.

(to be continued in Part 2... "The Inquisition")

Saturday, May 23, 2009

F is for Foreclosure

F is for a lot of things...

Like French Fries, for example. And Family, Fiscal responsibility, Fate, Flourish, Fear, Fritatta, Fold, Fumble, Flophouse, Friends, Feedback, Fun, Flashdance, Forecast, Forestall, Furniture, Fishbowl, Failure, Finance, Fire, Freedom and...


In today's mail, we received 7 more

Seven. Enough to form an F.

As though the 12 total notices we've received via mail so far weren't enough, there was another posted on our garage door today for all the world to see.

We discovered it as we were leaving to see a movie-- an attempt to carve out a little bit of fun in this long weekend. We stepped out onto the driveway and there it was. In plain view. BAM! The thing that we've been trying desperately to avoid for months.

I tore it down immediately out of embarrassment. Hoping none of our neighbors would see. It wasn't until later in the day after having some time to cool down that I taped it back up for purposes of this photo.

How I felt? Like a big loser. Like a failure. And afraid.

Seeing that notice up there on our garage made it impossible to escape this reality. The last nine months have slowly been leading to this, I suppose. I just want to hide from it all. But... I can't. Because we're determined to see this through. To sell the house before the bank auctions it off. They may have set a date, but it doesn't mean this is over. The short sale is so close to being approved. Our Realtor keeps telling us not to worry. This week will determine everything. We should be in escrow by the end of the week and this auction date will go away. We just need to stay calm until then.

Regarding the Notice of Trustee's Sale on the garage door, my mom said, "It's just words on a piece of paper." And she's right. Words on a piece of paper. Letters that make up words. That spell foreclosure.

It's all a little too real right now.

(The top photo is my attempt at maintaining a sense of humor through all of this.)

The 'F' word we're yearning for: Freedom

Friday, May 22, 2009

All We Have to Do to Modify Our Loan is Get a Major Media Outlet to Do a Story About Us

Do you guys every listen to the Planet Money podcast? Well, it's great. You should! Monday's podcast ("Your Future Mortgage") featured a story about a homeowner who had been attempting to modify his loan through Obama's plan and had no success. Wells Fargo is his loan servicer and hadn't been able to give him any answers even though he was a perfect candidate for the Obama Plan. This sounded just like us. They kept giving him the runaround. For weeks. And weeks. No answers. Just, "Call back." And, "Send us your financials." Just like Countrywide did with us- as I wrote here.

Anyway, Wells Fargo eventually told this guy that he had been denied for a modification. Until, that is, Planet Money aired his story! Monday, the day the Planet Money podcast aired, this guy was suddenly told that his modification had been approved. No explanation as to how it went from being denied to approved.

He is now saving $500 a month and has a 3.75% interest rate down from 6-something%. Today's Planet Money podcast talks about this and how this is seemingly a phenomena. People go through hell trying to get modifications, get nowhere, then a major media outlet airs their story and WHAMMO! Loan Modified!

So, now to get someone's attention. NPR, PRI, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, XYZ, LMNOP?! Help.

"And Three Baby Camels" - Planet Money

Thursday, May 21, 2009


A life-changing post... this is all happening in real time.

That's what the envelope said in all caps:


I'm sitting here just writing a blog post about how we're so tired of showing the house after 9 months of jumping at every potential buyer's request to see our home and how we've decided to not show the house anymore since we already have 3 offers and how nice it will be for us to have a little privacy back for now... when something happens.

There's a knock at the door. A Realtor and his client. We were expecting them. Then the dog freaks out. Barking like crazy. At what? The mail carrier who arrives practically on the heels of the agent and potential buyer.

Bob picks up the dog as he's growling at the mail carrier.

"Steph, can you sign for something?" he asks, dog in arms. I quickly say hello and welcome the Realtor/Buyer and sign for the 5 (5!) certified letters from ReconTrust.

This is not good. ReconTrust (or RCT) is the company contracted by Countrywide to handle the foreclosure of our house. The last time we had received anything from them was on February 16th when they sent us- via certified mail- our notice of Foreclosure without a Sale Date. Again, 5 copies of the same letter.

I sign for the 5 letters, a sinking feeling growing in the pit of my stomach, and walk back into the house with a plastered-on smile.

"You have such a beautiful home," says the Realtor.

"I love the views," says his client.

"Thank you," I reply. "Would you like me to show you the downstairs room? Can I answer any questions..." I feel like a broken record. We've done this hundreds of times now. It feels like.

They breeze through the house and ask us about the offers.

"Yes," I say, "We have three. We just got a third today."

"And have any been accepted yet," asks the Realtor.

"Not yet," I say. But almost, I think.

They leave. Seemingly interested.... but, honestly, I don't even care right now. I care about the offer that is almost accepted. I care about these 5 certified letters from ReconTrust sitting unopened on my desk. I care about them because I know. I know what they're going to say.

And I'm right.


They have set a date. A date has been set. We are now in foreclosure with a date.

Notice is hereby given that RECONTRUST COMPANY, N.A. blah blah blah will sell on 06/09/2009 at 10:30 AM, at the West side of the Los Angeles County Courthouse blah blah blah at public auction, to the highest bidder for cash or check as described below, payable in full at time of sale, all right, title and interest conveyed to and now held by it under.... blah blah blah blah

Here's what Bob just figured out. February 16th, 2009 our house went into foreclosure without a sale date. June 6, 2009 is exactly 3 months and 3 weeks from February 16th. By law, they have to wait at least 3 months and 3 weeks. They are foreclosing at the earliest possible date. This, I have to say, is a surprise.

Why is it a surprise? Because in our attempt to modify our loan with Countrywide we were told by the Office of the President not to worry because they are so far behind that the likelihood of them actually setting a date in 3 months and 3 weeks was so slim. It could even be six months away. We wanted to believe that. So we did.

But that's not the only reason we're surprised. The short sale has been approved by both Countrywide and National City. Why would Countrywide approve a short sale and foreclose instead? At this very moment, Countrywide is considering two offers on our house. We just got a third offer today that we'll be submitting to them for consideration. Three different parties are trying to buy our house at this very moment. Why would they set a foreclosure date in the face of all of this? Well, perhaps it's a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.

That's one explanation. Another is this. We were supposed to close on the first short sale offer (the one that fell through) on May 19th (3 days ago) but didn't. Because, as we've written here, that fell apart. The letter from ReconTrust is dated May 20th. Perhaps they decided to move on this rather than wait for another deal to come together. I don't know.

This is what I know: we have 3 offers. 2 are already at the bank under consideration. The people who submitted these offers really want our house. Our Realtor is telling us not to worry. That the short sale will come together and this date of foreclosure will all be moot. None of it will matter. I want to believe this.

Another thing I know: it will all work out. I don't know how. I just know. In the meantime, we will do everything we have to do to make sure this short sale comes together. Foreclosures don't benefit anyone.

June 9th (the auction date), by the way, is 10 days after our 6 year wedding anniversary.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You Really Should Have Read This By Now

I have decided to begin the overwhelming task of shedding our possessions by giving away our magazines. (Baby steps.) This has led me to several realizations:

1. We have a lot of magazines.
2. We have a lot of magazines no one has ever read
3. Reading magazines makes me want to buy things
4. Reading certain magazines makes me feel inadequate
5. Despite my best intentions I will never read our back issues of National Geographic
6. The magazines in our collection fall into two general categories: a. Magazines that make you want to spend money and make you feel inadequate and b. Magazines that make you want to know more and make you feel inadequate


I stopped buying magazines 9 months ago to save money. I thought I was just saving money on the cover price, but what I didn't realize at the time is that by eliminating magazines I was drying up the main source of my wanting, therefore saving a whole lot more.

Take Dwell, for example. I love Dwell magazine. The images, the homes, the stories, the ideas it would inspire... but I could never shake the fantasy it sparked. The fantasy and dream for a better life.

What I didn't realize until I stopped reading Dwell is that looking at the perfect images of other people's homes and furniture made me feel lacking. Our home wouldn't be complete until I replaced the living room furniture with that (incredibly expensive) Ligne Roset sofa I saw or until we installed solar panels on the roof. Until we renovated our 2nd bathroom and installed a rain shower head in the first. I compared my life to the lives I saw in those pages and always felt inferior. The luster of our home would lesson each time.

After closing an issue I would look around our house and just feel, ugh. That rug needs to go. Look at our dining room table... it's so boring compared to that oblong white marble table I saw in Dwell.

Now that I don't read magazines anymore, I no longer fixate on things I don't have but feel for some reason I must. The fantasy of a 'perfect' life no longer haunts me because I love the life I have- for everything it is and everything it isn't.

The other day I picked up a magazine in the check out line at Ralph's. It was an issue of Lucky. And I saw clothes. Lots of clothes. Suddenly I was struck by a familiar feeling of wanting. Needing. Lacking. I quickly put the magazine down, turned and walked away.

Other magazines in our collection that fall into the Your Life Won't be Complete Until it Looks Like This category:

(now defunct)
Los Angeles
Budget Travel
(oh, the places we haven't seen)
Metropolitan Home


Magazines in our house that fall into the You Really Should Have Read This By Now category include:

The Paris Review
Glimmer Train
National Geographic
Written By
Inventor's Digest

I OBVIOUSLY should have read these magazines by now. The literary journals especially. That's why I bought them. Years ago. Every time I look at them on my bookshelf I consider picking one up to read one of the short stories within. But there's always another day. These journals are so old that one of them is now defunct (Story.) How sad is that?!

If we read every issue of National Geographic that we have in our stack, we would be two extremely knowledgeable, well-informed people. Our lives, I'm sure, would be enriched considerably by the stories contained within those pages. But we don't read them. Ever. So I keep them... hoping that we will. Feeling like we should. One day.

Inventor's Digest? I subscribed to that one for research on a play. It's a great magazine but I've fallen behind and think one day I'll have time to catch up. But I don't. Robot Magazine? That's Bob's. He got a subscription for Christmas one year and I doubt he's read even one issue. Good magazine? I have no idea. It looks... well, good. I should read it. It was a premium for subscribing to KCRW... I always intended to read it...

You get the point. I've been reluctant to toss away this treasure chest of information. So instead they've sat collecting dust on our bookshelves and their presence only reminds me of all the things I haven't done (in life) but should. All the things I don't know but could if only I took the time. But I don't. And now it's time for them to go. All of them.

Dwell is the first to go. I found a good home for them. Next? That depends.

Anyone out there have an interest in robotics?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Opposite of LOVE in the Time of Foreclosure

1. VANDALISM in the Time of Foreclosure

ONCE UPON A TIME there were 3 red-haired pigs and a big bad crazy homeowner who wanted to huff and puff and blow his house down because he was losing it to foreclosure and was very angry. So he huffed and he puffed and he locked the pigs in the house and let them wreak havoc.

The pigs were left without food or water for a week before the neighbors realized what was happening and called authorities. Luckily they survived, but they were dehydrated and I'm sure very, very scared. The house? Trashed. Which was the point. Apparently.

Man Uses Pigs to Trash Own House After Foreclosure -


Why destroy your house? Why do people do this? To express their anger and rage? I suppose. But it's so incredibly irrational. And as irrational and unproductive as it is, it happens a lot. So much, in fact, that last year banks were paying homeowners in Las Vegas to vacate without destroying the house. To deter, as stated in the Wall Street Journal article, "Home Rage":

Buyers' Revenge: Trash the House After Foreclosure -

2. BOMB in the Time of Foreclosure

Yesterday a man in Riverside, CA was arrested for sending a message to the bank that repossessed his home in the form of fake pipe bombs.


Riverside Man Allegedly Booby Traps Foreclosed Home - L.A. Now Blog

3. FRAUD in the Time of Foreclosure

(photo: Jerry McElroy/iStock)

This is a trend, in fact. There are enough people doing this to constitute a trend. Seriously. People actually think they can burn the house down, get the insurance money and get away with it. At least they're desperate enough to try.

Like this woman in Indiana who last year tried to pay her neighbor to help her burn down the house and make it look like a botched rape: CNN
Snyder allegedly offered to pay a neighbor $5,000 to help her burn down her house and make it look like a botched rape attempt - all in order to claim $80,000 in insurance money. Snyder wanted the neighbor to bind her hands in duct tape, write "whore" on her shirt, and then help her escape once the blaze was set, the prosecutor says. The neighbor demurred, instead reporting Snyder to police.

There is another option. What is it? Yes, Love.
Love conquers all, don't you know? Even foreclosure.

Monday, May 11, 2009

5 Ideas for Rent-Free Living

On the subject of what the heck are we doing/where the blazes are we going next, we have some ideas (in no particular order)...

Okay. What's a WorkCamper? What's a Workamper? And what is the difference?

According to Wikipedia, a volunteer camp host is a WorkCamper, while a PAID camp host is a Workamper. "Workamper" is a contraction of work and camper that is copywritten by Workamper News, Inc. (fascinating, right?)

When this idea first occurred to us, we had no idea what a "workamper" was. It was the day of our very first open house back in August (which also happened to be my birthday.) We spent the day avoiding reality as best we could at Leo Carillo State Beach in Malibu. There was this RV situated in a lovely nook on the beach with an unobstructed view of the Pacific and a little wood sign that read "Campground Host." Campground host? It had never occurred to me that there was such a thing. But of course. Why wouldn't there be? We started fantasizing.... imagine living in Malibu ON the beach and getting paid to be there!

With a little research, we discover that the Leo Carillo Campground Host gig is UNpaid. But still. In exchange for 20 hours weekly, you get to camp there for FREE including all services (electric, water, sewer, telephone and AT&T Wifi.) That seems like a good deal, actually. 20 hours of work leaves plenty of time for another job. And you get to live on the beach. Bob can do his job anywhere there's a wifi connection. Check. I can write anywhere. There's a Starbucks down the road. I could be a barista/writer/campground host. This could work. Right? Well...

There's the little matter of needing to purchase a camper, however. Though I do enjoy tent camping for a night or two, I'm really not interested in living in one. And so far we haven't landed an Airstream for free. Not yet, at least.

Opportunities for volunteer campground & park manager/hosts in CA:
-California State Parks

An intriguing Paid Campground Host/Manager gig in Alaska:
-Kenai Riverside Campground Host/Manager (ALASKA)


Ever since watching Pete's Dragon as a kid, I've fantasized about living in a lighthouse. Who hasn't? Did you know that you could live in one for FREE? Well, in exchange for being it's keeper, of course.

How to Be a Lighthouse Keeper

I'm really loving this idea!


I think this idea came from my mom. We've been thinking about it. How it would be an opportunity to live rent-free short term somewhere we've always wanted to live but have never had the chance. I'm sure a lot more goes into it (as all of these ideas) than we can see on the surface, but it's definitely fun to look at some of the listings...

Like this one found in The Caretaker Gazette
HOUSESITTERS of adventuresome spirit, Europeans, jet setters, retirees, caretakers. Discover unspoiled Alamos, Sonora's city of silver in semitropical Sierra Madre Mountains. Live in 250-year-old Spanish colonial mansions. Experience a unique community. The Santa Fe of Mexico. Little theater, tennis courts, bridge club, poker, chess. 4000' municipal airport.
And this one:
COUPLE, or a single person able to handle isolation, is needed on a remote southern Arizona ranch for various short-term time periods. Caretaker, cooking, housekeeping, and maintenance responsibilities. Small salary, housing and insurance provided.
Biggest fear about house sitting? The Shining. I mean, it's right there in the ad: "couple able to handle isolation"?! If that's not a warning, I don't know what is.

Sabbatical Homes - House Sitting Listings

Googling "Living Rent-Free" generated this intriguing and slightly scary idea- living like a pirate in NYC. There is apparently, however, a 400 person wait list!

Urban Pirates via Gothamist

and from the New York Times:

A Floating Home
Moored in a spot about a 10-minute boat ride from Midtown, a ship has become home for a small group of secretive and resourceful people looking for an inexpensive, unorthodox place to stay. The ship is 6,000 square feet across four floors with 15-foot ceilings, and from a roof deck the size of a tennis court there is an unbroken view of the Manhattan skyline.

5. WWOOFing

Idea #5 comes from Vagabondish in
"8 Tools to Help You Travel Forever and Live Rent Free"

WWOOF stands for World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

According to their site,
WWOOF is a world wide network - It started in the UK in 1971 and has since become an international movement that is helping people share more sustainable ways of living.

WWOOF is an exchange - In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.

WWOOF organisations link people who want to volunteer on organic farms or smallholdings with people who are looking for volunteer help.
WWOOF USA- for Wwoofing locally

For more information, here's an article about WWOOFING in Australia: "Labour of Love"

To WWOOF or not to WWOOF...

Heart of Life

A few years ago a good friend invited us to join him on a trip down to Tijuana… not to buy cheap Valium or low priced cigarettes. Not for hand painted ceramics, secret potions or magical soaps. But for the orphans.

He invited us to meet at the Park & Ride at the 405 and Sepulveda at 4:45 AM on a Saturday to get on a bus, drive down to Tijuana and visit two orphanages and drive back all in one day. To bring them supplies, toys, diapers, to make them lunch, to read to them, to show them that people care. He was extremely passionate in his invitation. He guaranteed that this would change my life and make a huge difference. How could I pass that up? I was in!

If it sounds like a nightmare to you, that's okay. It did to Bob at first too. 4:45 AM?! Tijuana? Orphanages? He didn’t join me until the second trip. After seeing my pictures and hearing the stories about the kids.

Corazon de Vida is the non-profit that organizes these trips. They support 14 orphanages in Baja Mexico.

From their website:
Corazon de Vida (CDV) Foundation is a 501 c3 nonprofit organization. Founded by Hilda Pacheco-Taylor in 1994, CDV is committed to End the Cycle of Child Homelessness…we believe that moving children from streets to safe housing, improving current orphanage conditions and quality of life and focusing on education will ensure a promising future for Mexico’s orphans.

We believe every child's life is valued and holds the same potential, excitement and opportunity as any other life. It is up to us to work together to make sure our care transforms into each child's hope for the future.

Currently CDV is helping to feed, clothe, shelter, and educate over 750 children each day!

After our first trip down together, Bob and I started sponsoring a child by making a monthly donation of $62.50. After another trip we added a second sponsorship and then later, a third. Every trip down to visit the kids made us want to contribute more. The kids are so wonderful and so in need of help. It truly is something you have to see to believe. I don’t think we would have given $187.50 a month if we hadn’t been there and seen their need and their hearts for ourselves.

Such as the little girl at Los Angelitos Orphanage who had been brought their by the policia at 3 years of age. She was three years old and living alone on the streets begging for food to survive. Her first few months in the orphanage she would have to fall asleep first on a bench sitting up and then be carried to bed. Why? Because she was so accustomed to sleeping on park benches she couldn’t fall asleep in a bed. (?!?) We will never forget her.

Due to our financial quagmire, we had to drop our sponsorships and it was the hardest ‘expense’ to cut. We actually asked my mom and step dad to take over our sponsorships for a while so that Corazon de Vida wouldn’t lose our donations all at once. And they did. Thank you, guys!! We look forward to being able to reinstate our sponsorships. Until then, we hope that spreading the word like this will make a difference.

From the economic crisis to the violence in Tijuana to swine flu, Corazon de Vida is in need now more than ever. Because of Swine Flu, they've had to cancel all bus trips until further notice. Given that this was the main way to generate sponsorships, they are now more than ever in desperate need of support. I’m posting this with the hope that someone, even one person, will choose to make a contribution... even be a sponsor.



- Spread the word - share this with a friend

- Get on CDV's newsletter list and join a bus trip when they start up again - click here to sign up

- Visit the CDV website to learn more

- Attend BLAZIN' HOPE III, Saturday June 6, 2009 at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood (benefit for CDV) click here for info

- Become a friend of CDV's Facebook Sponsor a Child Cause. If they are able to get 1000 friends, a kind and generous donor will donate $1000 to CDV. You do not need to be a Facebook member to join and it's FREE. click here to join the cause on Facebook

What does Corazon de Vida mean?


Friday, May 8, 2009

Mad, Mad Cleaning Frenzy & Some Potentially Great News

We just got some potentially great news:

If all goes well (fingers crossed) we have another offer coming through today!

We don't know very much just yet. Only that the people submitting the offer saw the house at some point, we're not sure when. They are a couple. One half loves our house (which I guess would be obvious considering they are submitting the offer) and the other half doesn't remember the house which is why they are coming to see it today.

In 3 and a half hours. To be sure.

Which means I have to clean. And fast.

To be honest, we've been pretty lax about keeping the house presentable since we haven't had showings for a couple of weeks. The house is a mess. Laundry to be folded, floors to be washed, windows to be cleaned, clutter to be wrangled, toilets to be scrubbed... I could go on but I'm losing precious seconds here.

I'm about to embark on a mad, mad cleaning frenzy.

Wish me luck!

A question for readers: What are your cleaning secrets and tips?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

LITTOF Linkage

LITTOF Linkage
Things that interest us today

-FRIENDS OF THE LA RIVER 20th Annual Great LA River Clean-Up

-SEEKING CLOSURE ON SHORT SALE HOLD-UPS - Realtors ramp up call for standards a great overview on short sales (inman)





For any readers in L.A., come on out on Saturday to join the L.A. River Clean-Up. We'll be in Frogtown... check out the FOLAR link above for more info.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Debt is Dumb

Our credit rating is on a respirator. It's barely holding on for dear life. It's useless, actually. Just lays around all day in a hospital bed under a morphine spell. We don't even visit it anymore. It doesn't recognize us.

Debt did it. Debt killed our credit rating. Our debt. No one else's. Our inability to stay on top of our debt, to be more specific. You know how this goes.

Many months ago we began to prepare ourselves for the death of our credit rating. It's inevitable. We agreed that it would be okay. We never want to be in debt ever again so not being able to use credit is a way to not be in debt, right? We don't need it. Cash will be our king and we'll never use credit again.

This may sound like an extreme over-correction not to mention impossible. Indeed, there are stories about people declaring bankruptcy and a few months later the credit card offers start arriving again. So it's not like we'll never be able to get a credit card again... it's that we don't want to take that chance.

You're supposed to use self-control. You're not supposed to carry a balance. That's when you get into trouble. Yes, yes, we know. But why is this so much easier said than done? We had zero credit card debt before we bought our house. And then... and then... well, mistakes were made. The balance ballooned and the rest is history.

Debt, one could say, is dumb. We're not stupid, so how could we be so dumb?

In "Walking Away from Credit Cards" on financial expert, David Ramsey, says this about that:

"Debt is not a tool; it is a method to make banks wealthy, not you," says Ramsey's Web site, where users can find blunt advice on how to deal with creditors and develop sound money habits. "Debt is dumb."

The article then goes on to quote Brad Chaffee, a finance student of Charlotsville, Virgina who thinks:
"I think if we just use cash and debit cards, it's a much better idea," he said. "Credit cards are too risky, and when something does happen to you and you have a bunch of debt -- like for instance when life happens to you, you lose your job or whatever it may be -- you've got all this debt in your life, whereas if you didn't use credit cards and you didn't use debt, then you might be in a little better situation."

We agree.

Walking Away From Credit Cards - CNN.COM

Today it's Frank Sinatra. Definitely Frank Sinatra

So, yeah, we lost our buyers.

It's funny how everything can change in a day... less than a day. A moment.

This morning we received the official short sale approval letter from National City (our second) and then I wrote the post about inventorying our life and getting ready for the big move. Not long after that we found out that our buyer was withdrawing the offer.

Why? We're not sure exactly. Cold feet. Perhaps they realized that the house was more than they could afford even at the deal they were getting. We can't say for sure.

Were we surprised? No. We were disappointed but not surprised.

Why not? Because we've been dealing with this for nine months. Nothing is real until it's real. The floor is there one minute, the next it's not.

But we really thought this buyer wanted the house, right? That's true. We did think that. It did seem that way. And yes, I even blogged about that in You're Just Having a Moment. I wrote:
"...we found a buyer who truly loves this house. He will take care of it. He'll be a good neighbor. He'll enjoy living here as much as we have. I know. I could see it in his eyes when he was here. He's already mentally moved in."

Well, yes. Yes. Obviously I was wrong. The thing is, though, today we received a piece of mail addressed to the buyer. Yep. Sent to our house (the house he's no longer buying) in his name.

What do you call that? Irony. You call it irony.

What does this all mean? It means that it will take a little bit longer. Still.

Is there an upside? There's always an upside. And here it is: We have official approval on the short sale from both lenders- Countrywide and National City. This means that whoever puts the next offer in won't have to wait too long. We're half way there.

AND we already have interested buyers. We could get an offer by the end of the week. Most likely tomorrow we'll change the status of the MLS listing to say "Active" and we'll start showing the house again. Perhaps another open house. We'll know more tomorrow.

Did I pack any boxes today? No. I did not pack any boxes today.

Are we okay? Yes. We're better than okay. We're great, in fact. We've grown accustomed to change and waiting and things falling through and not knowing and being up one day and down the next... I've gotten used to hanging upside down. That's how it feels. Not like a roller coaster ride. I like roller coaster rides. This feels like being stuck upside down on a ride and all the change has long since fallen out of my pockets. I've been hanging there so long that the world seems right side up like this. Truthfully, I only feel like that some of the time.

What I keep thinking is this: "Well, here we go again."

And if these buyers got cold feet, they weren't the right buyers for the house. This could very well be a blessing in disguise. One thing we know for sure is that opportunity can be found in the most unsuspecting situations and places. Lurking. Waiting for someone to grab hold. So that's what we're doing. Again. Do I sound like a broken record yet? We're all about the opportunity in every situation and we're getting very good at remembering that.

What does that mean? It means we really are fine. That we've already downshifted and are drafting our new plan.

In pencil.

That's Life by Frank Sinatra
That's life, that's what all the people say.
You're riding high in April,
Shot down in May
But I know I'm gonna change that tune,
When I'm back on top, back on top in June.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How to Take Inventory of a Life

You begin with a pen and a yellow lined pad of paper. You look around your house at your belongings and you start a list. It begins like this:

-Danish Sideboard/SELL/$250
-West Elm Floor Lamp/SELL/$30
-IKEA bookcases/GIVE to J&B
-CB2 side table/ SELL/ $25
-Books (need to decide which to keep, which to sell and which to give away)
-Tiffany's champagne glasses/KEEP? (where?)

The champagne glasses were a gift from our wedding. We used to keep them protected, wrapped in bubble wrap so they wouldn't break. When we renovated the kitchen, we put them out on the open shelves to use them. To actually use them. And we did. And whenever we did it made me happy.

Now we need to wrap them back up in bubble wrap so they don't break. We'll wrap them up, put them in a box, label it clearly and then...? Ask a friend if they have room to hold onto this box, I suppose, with the idea that we'll be back and we'll want them with us wherever we go. More accurately, I will want them with us. I want them with us because I would never buy them myself and they turn a $12 bottle of sparkling wine into a $100 bottle of champagne. They are magical crystal glasses that make my fingers feel dainty and make me feel like Audrey Hepburn. I do not need them. I could sell them. But I want them. For toasting in our future. For celebrating. For a little bit of magic no matter where we land. Who knows, we could be in an Airstream and it would probably be totally ridiculously impractical to have those glasses with us. And I might very well end up letting them go. But today, they're on my KEEP list.

I haven't packed a single box yet. My goal is to pack one, just one, today. It will be symbolic, I know. The first box. Maybe it will be the Tiffany's champagne glasses. Something on the KEEP list that we won't need to have access to. Or maybe it will be my books- those I'm unwilling to abandon. I don't expect to have many boxes. The goal is to have very few. So this first box will have to be packed very carefully. The contents set the stage for how this will go.

I keep thinking about the move into this house and how exciting and stressful that was. We were amazed at how much stuff we actually had in our small condo. It's not until you move that you realize how much stuff you actually have. Since then, we've only accumulated more stuff. We've grown like goldfish to fit our pond. That's easy. That's how it goes. Unthinking. You grow to fit your surroundings. Accumulation as a natural occurrence. We are whales and our stuff is barnacles.

It's the opposite direction that's hard. At least it seems hard now. Shedding is harder than accumulating as anyone who has ever dieted knows. But, wait. Losing money is easier than gaining it. Where does that leave us? I guess challenging each notion. Neither is necessarily true.

Whether easy or hard, the fact remains that we are lightening our load. The goal is to let go of everything. Take only what we can carry, so to speak. And what is that? I haven't even begun that list. I think the reason I've always hated packing is because I'm afraid of packing the wrong stuff. As though there is such a thing. I'll get it wrong. I'll pack too much (as I always did as a kid for family vacations at the frustration of my parents) or too little. I'll forget something important. I'll miss something I love.
"Take only what you need, Stephie."

I heard that a lot as a kid. Take only what I need. Only what I need.
But I need this third pair of sandals in case I decide to wear the yellow sundress if the weather is nice and I feel like wearing a dress. And I need this hairdryer because I hate hotel hairdryers and I know it takes up a lot of room but I need it. And I need this book because even though it's heavy, I am in the middle of it and want to finish reading it on this trip...
And before long my suitcase would be too heavy for me to carry.

Need is relative. I'm learning (finally after 33 years) to need less. And that is what this is about.

How does one pack for starting over? How do you pack for a new life?

I guess like this:



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