Monday, October 31, 2011

From the archives: Day 3 on the Island - Is this house haunted?

Happy Halloween! I hope you enjoy this Halloween post from two years ago... when we had just moved in to the house on the island. 

(This post was originally posted on 10.31.09 on Love in the Time of Foreclosure at ChicagoNow)

We're in the checkout line at the hardware store buying a Swiffer with the help of Friday Harbor local and LITTOF reader, Joy. We had been looking at space heaters but balked at the $30 price tag. I am just looking for something to make the house warmer, cozier, homier.

Our friend Chris will be arriving soon in a Budget truck with our stuff from storage... all the way from L.A.

Yep, he's driving our stuff up for us. By himself. All the way... from L.A. And on the truck is our bed. Which means we could move into the house from the cabin. Which means we have to find a way to heat the place up a bit. Hence the desire for a space heater. But that will have to wait.

So we're paying for the Swiffer when we tell the woman at the checkout line that we have just moved here. We tell her that we're caretaking a house for two years and describe the house to her. She knows it. (It's a small island.) When I tell her that we're living in it, she stops, looks up and with wide eyes says, "You're living in it?!"
"Yes. Why?" I ask knowing the answer. I can feel it. The way she's looking at us.
"You know that house is haunted, right?" She says. Matter of fact.

Crap. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap! There had been mention of a 'friendly' ghost in the upstairs room but I hadn't given much weight to that. Simply because I don't want to believe that there actually could be a ghost up there. It's an old house. Yes. I've lived in old houses before. There's always the possibility of paranormal activity (if you believe in that sort of thing) in an old house, but I choose not to think about that.

But this woman is serious. Adding to my already overactive imagination.

"Oh, it's haunted," she states.
I laugh. Nervously. Is she messing with us? I mean I will believe anything anyone tells me. But she really does seem serious about this. She tells us that several prior owners had sold it because of strange noises.

Now this just seems ridiculous. The last two owners ran it as a B&B and the last owner didn't sell. It was foreclosed. (I know that's another piece of irony for another time.) When I mention that it was a B&B she says that the ghost was part of the charm.

More nervous laughter.

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm freaked. Trying to be cool, but totally freaked. I ask if she knows the backstory of the ghost and if there's anything we should do to appease it. Or if there's anything that might anger the ghost. If there's a ghost I do not want to anger it. Joy makes a joke about garlic. And the woman with the ghost story says, "It's not a vampire."

Silence. Then, I ask...

"Seriously, you're not joking? It's really haunted?"
"It's an old farmstead," she replies. As though to say, Of course it is. What do you expect?

What do I expect? I guess I expect to feel safe. To not live in a haunted house. Silly me. I look at the man waiting in line behind us who has just overheard our entire conversation. He's smiling and says,  

"There's no such thing as ghosts."

We pay for the Swiffer, say goodbye and thank you to Joy and get in the car to head back to our possibly haunted house. Before we even leave the parking lot, I'm crying.

"I don't want to live in a haunted house!"

It's all at the surface now. My fears. My tears. My paranoia.

What the hell was I thinking?! I really thought I could do this? Live in the country on an island in an old farmhouse that is now apparently haunted?! What the heck is wrong with me?! Why on earth would I want to do this?! Yeah, let's move all the way to the edge of the world as far as seemingly possible from friends and family and into a haunted house on an island. That's a great idea! WHAT THE F---?!

Bob is being calm and completely patient with me. I'm trying my best to quiet my fears but at this moment I have no idea what to do. There's no doubt about it. I am completely and totally freaked out of my mind. I can't do this! I cannot do this, I cry.
Apparently Day 3 is my meltdown day, I tell Bob and we laugh. It was bound to happen. We both expected it. So here it is. Triggered by a ghost story.

When we get home I sit down and write an e-mail to four friends that will be visiting us in November. Here is an excerpt from that e-mail:

Bob believes in ghosts but says he doesn't sense a presence in the house. I don't know what I believe. I just know that I'm a freakin' scaredy cat.... and I'm creeped out at night. Bob said this is probably the safest place I've ever lived in my entire life. He's right, I'm sure. But it all feels strange.

I do hope to get past this because right now I'm ready to bail. Again, scary movie plot.... all the previous potential caretakers bailed on the opportunity. The only ones that made it were the ones that had no other option. Us. And here we go.

Can we coexist with the ghosts? Are there any or just my wicked imagination? And what the heck has happened to my life? It's completely and entirely unrecognizable.

I miss you guys so much.
I miss L.A.
I miss our old life.
I miss the sun. Yes, it's cold. Bring warm clothes. Wool socks. Weather-proof jackets.
The responses I got made me feel so much better. Michael shared that he had lived with a ghost and it was fine once he acknowledged its presence. He also wrote this:

Meltdowns are good. They get rid of toxins. One of my favorite quotes is from Helen Keller, where she said "the only way out, is through". I've always thought of a meltdown as something I just have to go through in order to get out of whatever it is that has me stuck.

You're strong. Trust.
Thank you, Michael. That made me feel so much better.

Chris arrives with the truck and a bottle of wine called The Ghost of 413 as a housewarming gift. It makes me laugh.

It's pouring with rain again and dark by now... so we decide to wait until morning to unload the truck. That means one more night in the cozy cabin. But first, dinner. We decide to eat in town because we hadn't prepared anything and I was not in the mood to be in the house.

It's great to have Chris here. He brought the metaphorical L.A. sunshine and a much needed friend "fix." Talking always helps. For me, for sure. So after calmly talking about the possibility of the house being haunted and sharing our own paranormal experiences, for some reason I felt more grounded and less jumpy. At least able to sleep. Comforted by the presence and support of a friend. And relaxed by the help of red wine.

Is the house haunted?

I don't know. For now, I choose not to think about it. I choose to just move "through."

Happy Halloween, everyone!
P.S. This post is entirely true. And just happens to coincidentally have occurred the week leading up to Halloween. Perhaps making me even more jumpy than I might normally be.

P.P.S. Please let us know in the comments if you have ever had any experience living with a ghost. Do you even believe in ghosts?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dwelling in inspiration and what inspires you

Malcolm inspires me!
Something I noticed this week while dwelling in inspiration... I was inspired. All week. Fancy that. Talking about what inspires me, actually inspires me.

Did the same happen for you? I asked you on Facebook and Twitter what inspires you and some of you responded. I bet that in that moment you were inspired. By simply calling to mind and sharing your inspirations. Useful to note. And to remember when you're feeling uninspired.

Thank you for playing this week! I had fun and I hope you did to.

To cap off inspiration week, I'm sharing what inspires YOU.

Facebook Responses:

Woman with a Parasol in a Garden by Renoir
Sympathy for the Devil - Rolling Stones
Fools Gold - Stone Roses
Glory Box - Portishead
The Godfather, Macbeth, Gene Kelly
Really good acting

David Bowie
Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust

My kids
JD Salinger
American Girl by Tom Petty
Dorothy's Red Shoes
Any speech by MLK
Sesame Street

I am inspired by people who succeed against all making the impossible people who never give up, never quit, and do not stop! That's what inspires me.

Anything Mazzy Star, Radiohead, Cat Power, Joy Division, The Cure, Feist, Lykke Li, The XX. The song Crystalized by the XX is a great song to get me going.
And anything by Lady Gaga..If I want to say anything more specific, I would have to say Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. Music in general I think motivates me the most.
And I really like paintings by Renoir and Gauguin after visiting Paris.

The understanding that we're not going to be here forever, and that every day on this orbiting hunk of space rock we call Earth there's opportunity to attempt something GREAT. Whether it be to give a great smile to someone on the street, make a great meal for friends or family, or create a great work of art. The opportunity inspires me. Oh, and all that music and literature and stuff are just vitamins for the soul!

Cleaning out the closets and scrubbing the house makes me feel energized and re-focused.
I also feel more inspired to appreciate what I see around me when I focus on taking care of what I already have.

My mom, who is very different from me but has an unusually big, open heart
My amazingly talented friends
My dog who loves unconditionally
The vast range of beauty in nature
GREAT movies, music, books and TV of all genres
The girls and women I work with at WriteGirl
My nieces and nephews

Bjork's Army of Me always inspires me to kick some ass. Eminem's Lose Yourself inspires me to either get to the gym or keep working out, depending on where I hear it. Prince inspires me to embrace my sexual side. My husband inspires me to be a more giving of myself.

My students

Update- 10:49 PM 10/28/11 Megan just posted this on my FB page and I wanted to include it. Sending healing vibes her mom's way:

My mom. She's battling brain cancer and I don't think I've ever met a more upbeat positive person. 

Twitter Responses:

Don't laugh, but Stacey Francis (in the over 30s) on X-Factor is inspiring me these days.

(Thanks for responding, Michael. You were the only Twitter response to the inspiration question. And I did check out Stacy on the Youtube. She can sing!)

My extremely scientific analysis of this extremely technical study is that music is a common inspiration. Hooray for music! It's hard to answer the question, isn't it? Because there are just so many things that inspire. That's a good thing.

Good night. Have an inspiring weekend!

And feel free to keep this conversation going. Keep sending me what inspires you and I'll keep writing about it. Deal? Deal.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inspired by DANCE and Anne Marsen!

I love dance. I love to dance. I love the joy it inspires in a moment. I love letting go of my inhibitions and just moving my body. I love letting music infect me and make me believe in movement. I love allowing myself to be silly. To dance well. To dance adorkably. To just dance.

And I love to watch other people dance. Especially EXCITING dancers.

What makes a dancer exciting? Talent, yes. But that's not it alone. It's the love. The joy. Is it tangible? Can you feel it? Does watching them make you fall in love? With dance? With life in general? THAT'S an exciting dancer.

Anne Marsen is one of those dancers. I discovered her by accident. A happy accident.  Anne is an improvisational dancer. And an internet sensation. For good reason. You'll see. As a child she studied at the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center. And now she's unabashedly freestyling all over the world, including Mumbai and the Staten Island Ferry.

Dancing on the Staten Island Ferry
What made Anne an internet sensation was a collaboration with friends. A long form music dance video called Girl Walk // All Day. The trailer for the video was shot on the Staten Island Ferry and got some MAJOR hype.

From the Girl Walk// All Day website:

Girl Walk // All Day is a feature length dance music video and tale of urban exploration that follows three dancers across New York City. They turn the city's sidewalks, parks and architecture into an evolving stage as they spread their joy of movement.

I completely missed all the hype about this video.

I missed the video being posted on The Gothamist.

I missed the story on The Huffington Post.

I missed the story in the New York Times Magazine.

Instead, I stumbled on it by complete accident. I was searching "inspiration" on Twitter when I came across a Tweet from ModCloth about Got a Girl Crush magazine who did a feature on Anne.

So that's how I found this nugget of joy:

Girl Walk // All Day from jacob krupnick on Vimeo.

Right? RIGHT?! I mean, now you want to see more, yes? I know. I know!

The full-length feature is going to be released chapter by chapter on The Gothamist in November. I can't wait to see it. In the meantime, check out the official trailer on the Girl Walk // All Day site and Anne's wonderfully whimsical, inspiring and infectious dance videos on her Vimeo page.

Get. Sucked. In.

Want to know more about Anne? Well, you can check out the above link to the New York Times Magazine feature about her and the feature in Got a Girl Crush Magazine.

You can also learn more about her high school days from a story from that gives some insight. (By the way, she graduated high school in 2007. I'm not so good at math, but that makes her, what? Twelve?):

Teneack High School graduate Anne Marsen becomes and overnight internet sensation -

Now bust a move already!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The inspiration of Fallingwater

If I had an official bucket list, Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Fallingwater would be on it. Crossed off.

Last month Bob, Malcolm and I took a trip to visit Bob's mom and boyfriend in Western Maryland. They live right near the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia in a small town that, while beautiful, is not a thriving metropolis. We talked about taking a ride on an old steam train into the mountains, but it wasn't running on the days we could go. Then Bob's mom casually mentions that we could visit Fallingwater if we wanted to.

What?! That's near here?! What are we waiting for?!

Turns out it was only about an hour and a half drive.

And so we all piled into the car and enjoyed the incredibly picturesque drive through the Western Appalachians to Mill Run, PA and Fallingwater.

I had high expectations, to be sure. But they were honestly surpassed by the experience of being in such an exhilarating space. I was incredibly inspired by just being there. The things he thought of. The details. The synergy with the natural surroundings. The inspiration of the natural surroundings. The water, the crisp air, the trees, the rocks and earth. The light.

Fallingwater was commissioned by the Kaufmann family - who owned a department store in Pittsburgh- and was built during 1936 and 1939. During the Great Depression. It was the Kaufmann's summer home. So... second homes were built even during the Great Depression. Like today. Right? Are there people out there building second homes in this economy?

We had a tour guide who led us through the house. Edgar Kaufmann Jr. helped design the tour himself. I asked a lot of questions...

Does the house leak? (Yes.)
Why isn't the kitchen on the tour? (Edgar Kaufman Jr. felt the kitchen wasn't architecturally significant enough.)
What's this button for? (For calling the servants.)
What's that smell? (It's from the humidity. We don't even notice it anymore.)

Being there filled me with such a sense of beauty. And that beauty inspires. It fills me with a joy and appreciation for life. It sharpens my eye for art in everyday objects around us. Art in nature. It makes me happy.

And Frank Lloyd Wright's uncompromising vision is undeniable. Apparently the Kaufmann's had expected him to design the house with views of the water falls. Not ON TOP of the waterfalls. That choice, so bold. It is what transforms this house from just a house to a living piece of art.

And that's how it felt being there. Like I was walking through a living piece of art. What a gift to all of us when Edgar Kaufmann Jr. donated Fallingwater to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

You aren't allowed to take pictures of the interior, so I only have this picture of a postcard I bought in the gift shop:
Fallingwater Interior - postcard

You can see more pictures and all kinds of great information about Fallingwater on the website.

If I had to sum up in the most simple terms what Fallingwater inspires in me, I would say this:

1. Unencumbered thinking
2. There's no such thing as being too bold when creating
3. Uncompromising execution 

Here's another pic of a postcard of Fallingwater:

Fallingwater postcard  

And here I am with Fallingwater in the background (Hi!):

Steph at Fallingwater

Have you been to Fallingwater? 
Do you have a favorite example of architecture as art? 
What does it inspire in you?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brene Brown: The courage to be imperfect

Day 2 of LITTOF Inspiration Week is all about the power of vulnerability as masterfully distinguished by research professor and author Brene Brown.

Do you watch TED talks? My mom was the first person to introduce me to TED at least five years ago. There have been so many TED talks that have inspired me over the years. But, this one by Brene Brown is especially inspiring, important and powerful.

Who is Brene Brown?

From her profile from the TED website:

Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness.
She poses the questions:
How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?
I recently became a subscriber to her wonderful blog, Ordinary Courage, and began following Brene on Twitter because I am a total nerd for vulnerability. I'm a big believer in loving and living full-out with no guarantees. In feeling things (good and bad) deeply. And embracing the rough edges in ourselves and in life. These are the goods Brene traffics in. And she has got the goods.

What the hell am I talking about? Well, just watch her talk from June 2010 at TEDx Houston and you'll see exactly what I mean. In this TED talk, Brene gets to the heart of what it means to feel fully loved and worthy. To be fully alive and vulnerable in our lives. I can't recommend her talk enough. Enjoy!

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Monday, October 24, 2011

INSPIRATION WEEK kicks off with Chris Guillebeau on Sufficiency!

This week is officially INSPIRATION WEEK here on LITTOF!

Each day I will post at least one time with something that inspires me. It could be a song, a quote, a blog post, a video... Doesn't matter the format. The inspiration is the point.

I thought I'd kick things off with a blog that inspired me at a really difficult time in my life. 

It was 2009. The night after our big "Freeing-Up Sale" where we attempted to sell EVERYTHING. Our house was suddenly bare. Our things no longer inhabited our space. The space. The space that was only ours to inhabit for a couple more weeks. Until the closing. Then no more.

The couch was gone. The chairs were gone. All of the furniture from the guest room. The dressers, the bed, the lamps. The floor lamp, the dining room table, the chairs, the bookcases were all gone. The pots and pans, the white dishes, the washer/dryer, the Danish sideboard were gone. The XBox, Guitar Hero, board games and books. Even Big Boy was gone.

I remember this moment so clearly. I was sitting at my laptop in my favorite place in the house-- at our kitchen counter in one of my beloved Eames fiberglass stools (that we still hadn't sold.) I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I was trying to imagine our future beyond my parents' basement. Where would we eventually land? If this was no longer our home, where would our home be?

I needed to sleep. But I couldn't. My mind was on a familiar loop:

Must. Make. Something. Happen. Must. Make. Something. Happen. Must. Make. Something. Happen. 

And in that state, sleep wasn't an option. So I surfed the web. And I somehow (through Twitter) landed on a blog I had never heard of before:

The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau 

I was drawn to the title. And especially the subtitle:

Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work & Travel

Yes. That's what we need. That's what we've been out to create. An unconventional strategy! Fate brought me to this blog at just the right moment. Now, who is this Chris Guillebeau? I quickly learn that he's no slouch and has this ridiculously amazing and inspiring goal to visit every country in the world. Every. Country. In. The. World. No joke.

On his About Page, he writes about his philosophy:

The essence of my philosophy is this: 

1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.

2. You can do good things for yourself and help other people at the same time.

3. If you don’t decide for yourself what you want to get out of life, someone else will probably end up deciding for you.

4. There is usually more than one way to accomplish something.

YES! Right?! Doesn't that make you want to read more? It made me want to read more. The post from that day, June 15, 2009 was SUFFICIENCY.
 Here's what Chris says about sufficiency:

As I see it, sufficiency simply means enough. It means having everything you need and not lacking for anything.

How this translated to me in that moment: We truly can be content in the face of "losing" everything. In fact, let's stop talking about how we're "losing" things. And let's keep talking about how to be truly happy with what you have. Chris was speaking directly to me.

And it just got better. He writes:

For me, the most important principle of personal finance is self-awareness. The values of frugality and generosity are also important to me, but I don’t think either can be consistently practiced without first being self-aware. Both frugality and generosity have to be related to a deeper value of clearly understanding how we think about money.

To become self-aware, it helps to know exactly what sufficiency looks like for you. How much money do you really need to a) meet your basic obligations, and b) do the things you want to do?

Once you have that amount, you have the walk-away number. That’s the number with which you can comfortably walk away from any commitment that is incompatible with who you are and what you really want. You can start to focus on building a life more than building a bank account. You learn to value experiences (things you do) more than possessions (things you own).
Valuing experiences more than possessions?! YES! That's WHY we were selling all our stuff. Because, as Bob said, "I want to acquire experiences, not things."  I was so inspired by Chris' post and his manifesto.

Towards the end of the post, Chris writes:

One of the best feelings in the world comes from the awareness that everything will be okay.

And that's so true. That feeling, by the way, does not come from having tons of money. Money has nothing to do with it. Things have nothing to do with it. And that's a wonderful thing.

Without further ado, I send you over to The Art of Non-Conformity to read SUFFICIENCY and discover more inspiration than you might be able to handle at Chris' site.

After reading his post (and after inevitably joining him on Facebook, following him on Twitter and delving into the archives,) come back here and share with us what you took from it.

And I'm taking suggestions for inspiring posts. If you'd like to share something that inspires you - be it a person, an image, a poem, a story - write me at

Or just share it in the comments below. Either way works!

Thank you! And I hope you're inspired!


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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anonymous people who hate

On Friday, Eastsider LA ran this short piece about the book: Silver Lake Foreclosure Drama Goes from Blog to Book.

"Did you see the Eastsider LA story about the book," I asked Bob as he walked in the door after work.

"Yeah. And don't worry. There were people defending you too."

"Defending me? What?"

"In the comments. You didn't read them? Don't."

"No. I didn't read them. They were mean?"

"They weren't only mean."

Shit. Not again. It all comes rushing back. I'm naked, surrounded by total strangers who are pointing and laughing at my not-as-fit-as-it-used-to-be naked body. Did I mention I'm naked? These strangers are drawing diagrams around my body... like commentators at a football game. They are circling the flaws. Both inner and outer. There's no escape.

Other people's opinions
I know how it goes because I experienced it when we were in the midst of losing our house... when I had first started blogging. I knew that writing about our huge debt, financial mistakes and foreclosure would attract opinions. A lot of opinions. And I'm of the mind that everyone is entitled to their opinion. They may be misguided. But still. We all have them. We all make snap judgements about people based on sometimes even the tiniest morsel of information. At least most of us do that. The ones that don't? I admire them. Greatly. Do they really exist?

Here's the thing, most of us have these snap judgements but don't go posting them online in the comment section. Most of us don't wish perfect strangers ill. Most of us don't get online and point and point an laugh at people when they're down. We either keep our judgements to ourselves or we acknowledge them and let them go because we realize that no one is actually perfect. We realize that we aren't perfect. And we have compassion. For ourselves and others. We have the ability to stand in someone else's shoes and at least try to imagine what it might be like for them.

My very own internet haters

Back in 2009 I made the mistake of reading the comments section on the Curbed LA article.

This is what I learned about us from the comments section...

According to various anonymous posters, we are:

-Pretentious dumbasses
-Self-absorbed jackasses
-Attention whores
-We have poor taste in music
-We are liars who lied about our finances
-We deserve everything that is happening to us
-We are gamblers
-We are scammers
-We will probably end up getting divorced and one particular commenter actually said they hoped that we did. (seriously)

Some of those commenters actually researched the terms of our mortgage from both our house and our condo. (I can only imagine how much time they wasted doing this!)

They speculated on which house we actually lived in. They made fun of our neighborhood. They made fun of the fact that I was a failed writer. They criticized the fact that we re-financed our mortgage. Bring me one homeowner who wouldn't at least try to refinance when interest rates drop. Banks buy and sell mortgages all the time and a homeowner it isn't considered "good form" to refinance?! Anyway... that's an entirely new can of worms.

They assumed that we were flippers since we were in such a hurry to renovate the house. They made up stories about us. They spent a lot of time talking about all the mistakes we had made and how awful we are as human beings.

I let them get to me
To say that this bothered me, well, is a gross understatement. I felt sick to my stomach for days after reading the comments. I fell into a pit of despair wherein I just beat myself up with the belief that these anonymous strangers were right about me. I am a horrible person and deserve every horrible thing happening to me. Then I got so pissed at myself for caring what complete strangers think about me and allowing their uninformed snap judgements bring me down.

I'd already beat myself up enough for landing in the situation we were in. And that was no secret. I wrote about that in the open on the blog. I made it clear that we didn't look at ourselves as victims. Not in the least. We acknowledged that we were responsible for our situation and that's exactly what gave us the power to be able to keep everything in perspective. Besides, we were trying to do everything to make it right. We weren't strategically walking away from our house like so many people are doing nowadays. These anonymous jerks didn't know us. And bless them for all their perfection. I'm sure they've never made a single mistake.

"Attention Seeking Whores"?
And we are total attention whores for writing publicly about our financial drama.

Well, I've been called a drama queen and attention-seeker before. By my family. The people that know me best. But they never said it in a disparaging way. But rather in a loving way. Okay, I admit. I definitely have a flair for the dramatic. And as a kid, my favorite line was, "Mom! LOOK AT ME!!!!"

I'm a Leo, after all. So, attention-seeking is a personality trait that I've battled/embraced/battled my whole life. I've always felt like it was wrong to be someone who wants attention. And this is why that comment really stung. Because I didn't want to be an "attention whore." I just wanted to help people. By sharing what we were going through. Because NOBODY WAS DOING IT. NO ONE. Not one other person.

At the time that I started the blog, foreclosure was a word you whispered, not shouted. People weren't talking about it. Some not even to their own spouses. And certainly not in public places. As someone who was facing losing our house, I wanted to read a first-person perspective. I wanted to know what to expect. I wanted to know how to avoid it. How to course-correct. I wanted to know we weren't alone.

This was the genesis for the blog. I wrote about openly about foreclosure because no one else was doing it. I wrote about our foreclosure and our commitment to learn from our mistakes because it helped us get through it. I wrote about the drama because I am a writer and I process by writing. And it helped. It helped us. And it helped others too.

But you know this, lovely readers. Those of you who have been here since the beginning. You know.

But more importantly, I know. We know. We know who we are and what we're out to create. We know that we're far from perfect. We know that as hard as we try, we'll never completely have our shit together. We'll never be perfect. But we can learn. And make up for our mistakes by not repeating them. By reaching out to others. By being a voice for positivity.

How to not care what the haters think
Needless to say, after my Curbed LA experience, I chose not to read the comments on the Eastsider LA post. I was told that in addition to the haters, there were also people defending us. Just like on the Curbed LA post. And that's nice. But I am really working on not caring what total strangers think of us and instead focus on what is within my control...

Being a responsible, generous, loving and authentic human being.

I don't always succeed in every area. But I get a new chance to make that effort every day. Every moment, actually. Every moment is a choice to either be great or something else.

As my grandma and probably every grandma in history used to say:

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

In this internet day in age, that has changed to:

"If you don't have anything nice to say to their face, go online and say it anonymously."

So, anonymous commenters, I say to you:

Thank you for being such a shining light of perfection in this world. I don't know what we'd do without people like you who are so unburdened by compassion and have never made a single mistake in your entire life.

Did I "ask" for this?

I suppose so. I did choose to put myself out there in a very public way. Not only did I write about an embarrassing topic on my blog, I also wrote a book. I really put myself out there.

Having unflattering things written about you is not fun. It can really sting. It all comes with the territory, though. If you choose to create and put something into the world, you're going to open yourself up to opinions and judgements. That is the price. It just is. And the quantity of haters only increases as your impact in the world grows.

As such, fear of other people's judgements is what keeps a lot of people from putting themselves out there.

So what do you do? Hold back? Hell, no.

Then what?

Ignore the haters. And just keep on putting yourself out there.

I'm glad I did.


Because I know it makes a difference.

How? Because you tell me that it does.

Thank you for telling me. It really does help to know that.
How else to deal with the hate?

Take Tim Ferriss' advice
Tim Ferriss is the author of the bestsellers- The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. Bob and I are both big fans of him and his out-of-the-box approach to life. He is someone who holds nothing back. And he's also not a stranger to internet haters. His video presentation "Tim Ferriss Scam! Learning to Love Haters: Practical Tactics" is really eye-opening.

And tip #5 from the Mashable interview with Tim Ferriss-  7 Great Principles for Dealing with Haters - is especially helpful:

5. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” (Epictetus)
“Another way to phrase this is through a more recent quote from Elbert Hubbard,” Ferriss says. “‘To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Ferriss, who holds a Guinness World Record for the most consecutive tango spins, says he has learned to enjoy criticism over the years. Ferriss, using Roman philosophy to expand on his point, says: “Cato, who Seneca believed to be the perfect stoic, practiced this by wearing darker robes than was customary and by wearing no tunic. He expected to be ridiculed and he was, he did this to train himself to only be ashamed of those things that are truly worth being ashamed of. To do anything remotely interesting you need to train yourself to be effective at dealing with, responding to, even enjoying criticism… In fact, I would take the quote a step further and encourage people to actively pursue being thought foolish and stupid.”

New goal: Learn to enjoy criticism.

What a difference that would make! I figure that the more books I sell, the more criticism.
I hope to get lots of practice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Love in the Time of Foreclosure, the eBook is here!

I am so thrilled to officially announce that LOVE IN THE TIME OF FORECLOSURE is now an eBook!  Now you can read our triumph over foreclosure story -- edited and expanded-- all in one place.

I wrote a lot of new material to fill in some blanks that I left on the blog. In the book, you will find posts that I wrote during our time in foreclosure, but never published. Why? Because the material was too sensitive at the time and I was afraid of potentially scaring off any potential buyers for fear that I might blog about them.

I am extremely proud of the book and hope that it will make a big difference for people who are experiencing financial hardship of any kind - not just foreclosure. 

Here is what Dick Gordon of "The Story" (heard on public radio stations nationwide) has to say about Love in the Time of Foreclosure:

"Stephanie Walker has the wit to transform the shame and anxiety of foreclosure into a genuine human adventure. Its a rare story-teller who can endure the soul-shaking loss of a home, and the concurrent stress on relationships, and see through that - one's higher priorities in life. Stephanie does this with the kind of humor and personal insight that challenges the fierce attachment that we have to bricks and boards, and she leads us to a new understanding of what's really important as  "home"."

It is available as an eBook on AMAZON for the Kindle and on BARNES & NOBLE'S WEBSITE for the Nook.

Don't have an eReader? NO PROBLEM. You can still read the book. Just go to AMAZON and you can get the Kindle version for PC or even your Android. They have versions for all devices so that you can just read it on your computer.

If my blog has made a difference for you, I hope you will buy the book. By the way, Amazon makes it really easy to give as a gift as well.

To buy it for your Kindle, click HERE.

To buy it for your Nook, click HERE.

To buy it for your computer, click HERE.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to share our story and make a difference for even just 1% of the millions of Americans facing foreclosure. Or anyone, for that matter, dealing with challenging financial issues in this crazy economy. I strongly believe that our story can make a difference... that's the point in all of this.

Thank you all so much!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Financial problems can strengthen a marriage

I was recently interviewed for an article about how a financial crisis can actually strengthen a marriage. That story is here. Check it out! It's a great piece. I'm so glad to see this type of reporting on the financial crisis. There is hope, after all!

How Financial Troubles Can Help Relationships by Erica Sandberg --

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Don't let foreclosure occupy your every thought

One of the biggest traps to fall into when facing foreclosure is allowing your financial crisis to occupy your every thought. When you're being bombarded with phone calls from creditors and letters from the bank it's not easy to live a life outside of foreclosure. It's as though your financial problems have set up base camp in your brain. Right? And they use your subconscious insecurities about your self-worth for kindling. The fire continues to burn in your head. Its oxygen is your fear of failure.

So, it's truly not easy. I completely get it. But you can douse those flames

You can create a foreclosure-free zone in your brain.

Here are 4 things that worked for me.

1. Pay attention to your thoughts
It's easy to allow automatic negative thoughts to overpower your mind if you're not paying attention. So start by paying attention. Notice how often you allow your thoughts to return to financial crisis and foreclosure. And get that you're actually the one allowing your thoughts to go there.

2. Just change the channel
My mom gave me some advice as a little girl that has helped me in this area. I used to have a hard time falling asleep because my mind would go to dark places. I would think scary thoughts and I would become too scared to sleep. One night Mom said, "Just change the channel."

That resonated with me. I reached my hands up to my ears and turned them like knobs on a TV. (Remember when TVs used to have knobs?) I turned my hands around my ears until I landed on a happy channel. And then I drifted peacefully to sleep.

It worked for me then and it works still today. When I'm overcome by negative or dark thoughts I know that I can just change the channel. If the little girl version of me could do it, the adult me can too.

3. Designated wallowing
Being in foreclosure, or unemployed, or in bankruptcy are serious states of being. There's no question about that. Sometimes, when my mind was overwhelmed by losing everything, the only thing that would work was to actually allow the thoughts to exist. But only for a designated period of time. If you must, wallow. But only for an hour at the most.

Set a timer and declare the next hour your personal pity party. Go full out. Pity yourself to the max. Be a world-class wallower. Be dramatic. And when the hour is up, move on. Change the channel.

4. Live your best life now
Losing everything isn't easy. But, in my experience, one of the worst things you can do is allow it to occupy your life. Live your best life now. Do not wait for the crisis to pass before you start living. Your life is happening now. It's not waiting for you. Don't miss it. (I'm starting to sound like Ferris Bueller now: "Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!")

You'll be surprised what amazing things you can create in the midst of losing everything. Trust me.

What would you add to this list?

Like this post? If so, please share it. You can easily "Like" it by clicking the handy dandy thumbs up right here at the bottom. Thank you!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

7 Words Steve Jobs Never Uttered

Image credit: Jonathan Mak
I, like so many people, was surprised to find myself so impacted by the news that Steve Jobs died last night. Surprised because, though I am a huge Apple fan, I've never given too much thought to the co-founder. It's not like I sat around thinking about how remarkable Steve Jobs is every time I checked my e-mail on my iPhone. It was never a conscious thought. I guess I took for granted that an actual human being invented the remarkable tools that impact my life on a daily basis.

But last night at dinner when Bob said, "Steve Jobs died?" after sneaking a peak at his iPhone, I found myself choked up by the news.

"What? No. What? Seriously? He's dead?"

The news made me sad. Sad for him. Sad for his family. And sad for the world. The human being behind the technology was suddenly real in my mind. A real person. A visionary. Who succumbed at such an early age to this (and please pardon my french here) fucking disease.

How to be like Steve
Today, after watching and reading countless tributes, I'm left thinking about how I want to be more like Steve Jobs. And how there are seven key words that stop me in my tracks before I even begin to think about being more like Steve Jobs.

Those seven words are:

That's just not how things are done.

Has anyone ever told you that before? Have you ever uttered those words? Maybe you've said them to yourself.  Maybe you say them to yourself on a regular basis.

I led a large part of my life prisoner to those seven words. "That's just not how things are done."

The "rules." The way you're supposed to do things. According to... who? Those who came before? The rule setters? The problem with the sentiment is that it only looks back on what has been done in the past and implies that anything never tried before is invalid.

I've been thinking about this a lot as I've been calling myself out for being stopped by fear. And today... all anyone is thinking about is Steve Jobs. Right? I mean, aren't you? Reflecting on Steve Jobs, reading all the wonderful tributes about his extraordinary life has me thinking about the limits I place on my own life. 

I remember ten years ago (or something like that) when I had just finished writing my first full-length play, THREE FITTINGS, my good friend and actor Porter Kelly suggested we produce the play ourselves. I was against it. Why? Because that's just not how things are done. No.

You're supposed to send your play out to any and all theaters that might possibly be interested in producing your play in one of their four slots per year. Then you're supposed to wait up to a year (sometimes more, sometimes never) to hear back as to whether or not those theaters want to produce your play. And if they all say no, you either put the script in a figurative drawer or revise some more, send it out again and wait another year. Lots of waiting. And trips to the post office.

That's how "real" playwrights do it. That's at least what I thought. I thought self-producing was not in "good form." And that "people" would look down on it. They wouldn't consider it a "real" production. I'd be considered one of those playwrights. The kind that self-produce. I obviously had a negative connotation attached to "self-produce."

I didn't look at it as a way to take the bull by the horns. As a way to actually BE an artist as opposed to waiting around for someone else to make me one. To live in the moment. To chart my own course. To make art now!

No. Self-production for me was "just not how things are done."


I'm not sure how I came around or what Porter or Bob said to change my mind. Because one of them, if not both, must have said something to pull me out of my little box. Or maybe it was something my mom said. Or my dad. Whatever it was, I did eventually come around. Maybe I just got tired of waiting. Porter and I formed WALKER KELLY PRODUCTIONS and produced the heck out of my play. We worked with some pretty fantastic people. Johnny Duda Directed. Cece Tio Assistant Directed. We had a cast of nine amazing women.... who all got along. It was an amazing experience.

The relationships created during that time are of the life-long variety. I learned so much. It was hugely challenging, frustrating, exhilarating, exhausting and extremely rewarding. If people thought I was a fraud for self-producing, I was having too much fun to care. To think that I could have missed out on such an amazing experience because I was afraid of what other people would think... just makes me crazy.

Those seven words put a stop to creativity. They don't allow for exploration and discovery. They are very dangerous words when put together. And they don't hold water. The only purpose they serve is to keep people small.

It has taken me a long time to really get how much I lived life by the "rules," beholden to those seven words. I didn't see how much it limited me. How afraid I was to take any action that might be considered "crazy" or "misguided" or "naive." It kept me living life in a tiny box. Making tiny progresses along the way.

And it's so unsatisfying.

I don't know for fact, but I'd be willing to bet that Steve Jobs never in his life uttered those seven words. He didn't follow the "rules," instead he made his own by trusting his "curiosity and intuition." To a person who is carving his own path in the world, the only thing to do when someone tells them, "That's just not how things are done," is laugh. Laugh because they know better.

I am finding myself incredibly moved by the passing of Steve Jobs. I just watched his 2005 Stanford commencement speech (thanks to the link shared by Man Vs. Debt in his incredibly moving tribute post today) and found myself crying.

Why? Because it's always sad when the world loses a visionary. Steve Jobs was a genius in the truest sense of the word. And it is with him in mind that I banish the words "That's just not how things are done" forever from my life and replace them with the mantra that Mr. Jobs shared with that Stanford audience: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

If you haven't already watched this video, I HIGHLY recommend you do. It's incredibly inspiring.

And if you have a moment, share in the comments below how you can be more like Steve in your own life.

This post was written on a MacBook. Thank you, Mr. Jobs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Banks burn borrowers post-foreclosure

If you're someone who is in foreclosure or teetering on the precipice, you need to read this Wall Street Journal article: House is Gone But the Debt Lives On

Why is it essential reading? Because it sheds light on the fact that banks are more actively pursuing borrowers post-foreclosure for the loss on the house. It's called a "deficiency judgement." I think there's a misconception out there that once you lose your house to foreclosure, that it's all over. But it's not.

This is why my mom - who is a Realtor and has been for 25+ years - strongly advised us to do everything in our power to sell the house in a short sale as opposed to letting it go to foreclosure. She wisely said something like this:

"At the point the bank takes the house back and auctions it off, there's no getting money out of you. Obviously. You have none. You've lost it all. But, you'll get back on your feet. And in a few years, you'll be doing all right. Maybe you'll even have some money in savings. That's when the bank shows up to press you for the deficiency. When you're well past the foreclosure. Once you have money again. You don't want that to happen. In that case, not only are you losing your house and your investment, you're also paying for it years down the road."

It was sage advice. And yet another reason (in the long list of reasons) why we didn't want to lose the house to foreclosure. We tried everything to sell it outright. When that didn't happen, we tried everything for a short sale. And fortunately, that worked.

The WSJ story says:

Foreclosed homes seldom fetch enough to cover the outstanding loan amount, both because buyers financed so much of the purchase price—up to 100% of it during the housing boom—and because today's foreclosures take place following a four-year decline in values.
"Now there are foreclosures that leave banks holding the bag on more than $100,000 in debt," says Michael Cramer, president and chief executive of Dyck O'Neal Inc., an Arlington, Texas, firm that invests in debt. "Before, it didn't make sense [for banks] to expend the resources to go after borrowers; now it doesn't make sense not to." 

I know. Not good news if you're facing foreclosure. But you need to know the consequences of foreclosure. It's not just a negative impact on your credit score. Knowledge is power. The "rules" are changing every day. So, keep reading. Keep talking to your bank. Keep looking for alternatives. And keep focusing on all the things that make you grateful. 

House is Gone but the Debt Lives On - Wall Street Journal


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