Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Bob's birthday and we're giving away a Kindle Fire and a copy of LOVE IN THE TIME OF FORECLOSURE

This is Bob. (The one in the hat)

He is my husband, the father of my child (the cute kid in Bob's arms,) the love of my life, my best friend and partner in adventure.

Today is Bob's birthday.

What better way to celebrate Bob's birthday than to give away a brand new Kindle Fire Tablet?!

Bob loves new technology and Amazon's Kindle Fire is one hot new piece of technology.

The Kindle Fire has a 7" touch screen display and retails for $199
Specs from Amazon:
  • 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books 
  • Thousands of popular apps and games, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and more 
  • Ultra-fast web browsing - Amazon Silk
  • Free cloud storage for all your Amazon content
  • Vibrant color touchscreen with extra-wide viewing angle - same as an iPad
  • Fast, powerful dual-core processor
  • Favorite children's books, graphic novels, and magazines in rich color

We're not only giving away the Kindle Fire, but also a copy of the eBook, Love in the Time of Foreclosure. We wouldn't want to give away an eReader without any books to read!

So this is my first time attempting a giveaway and I'm using this really cool new company called Rafflecopter to help me do it. You'll see a box embedded in the post below. That's where you enter the giveaway. It will track entries and select a winner randomly. Just make sure to please follow the entry instructions.

The giveaway runs for one week. The winner will receive their Kindle Fire just in time for Christmas!

Now back to Bob for a moment. As I said, today is his birthday and he's a little shy about it... which is clearly why I'm blogging about it (such a mean wifey.)

Here's how sweet and amazing my husband is: when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he said all he wanted was for 25,000 people to buy my book. No biggie. To help make Bob's birthday wish come true, you can buy my book, Love in the Time of Foreclosure, here. And you can wish him a happy birthday on Twitter or on Google+.

Happy birthday, Bob. Te adoro. May this year surprise and delight you with its extraordinary-ness and wish fulfillment. And may you feel five years younger than five years before. (That's an ancient adage that I just clearly made up.) I love you.

Now onto the GIVEAWAY! 


UPDATE (12/7/11): The winner has been chosen randomly by and the winner is entry #104 - Megan Douglas! 

I decided to select a RUNNER-UP to receive a free copy of my book... chose entry #265 Heather. 

Thank you for playing! And Megan & Heather, please look for an e-mail from me.

Please note that it might take a minute or two for the Rafflecopter widget (the entry form) to load.

Monday, November 21, 2011

From the LITTOF archives: Being thankful in good times and in bad

This post was originally published on November 24, 2009 at LITTOF when it was on ChicagoNow.
A perfectly brined turkey (if I do say so myself)

Ever notice how it's so much easier to be thankful during good times than bad?

Of course. That's so obvious it doesn't even need to be asked. Of course it's easier to be thankful when things are going well. But... is it possible to be thankful when they're not? And isn't perhaps more important?

The last year has been hard on most of America. It hasn't been easy. We've been challenged in so many different ways. People have lost their homes, their jobs, loved ones. Nothing is certain anymore. Everything is changing. Long held beliefs have been shattered. It's... well, it's not been easy.

But, we're still thankful, aren't we? Shouldn't we be? Especially now when times are toughest? YES, YES, YES!

It's Thanksgiving week and I'm deeply thankful for so many things in my life. We actually celebrated Thanksgiving early here at the Walker household with four dear friends who flew up from L.A. It was such a wonderful weekend. It's so easy to be thankful for everything right now because things are really looking up for us. We have a beautiful place to live, we have unbelievably supportive family and friends, we made it through the most challenging two years of our marriage more stronger and more in love than ever, we have a new and improved outlook on life, the list goes on...
Early Thanksgiving in Friday Harbor 2009: Bob Walker, Brian Polak, Cece Tio, Steph Walker, Pablo Neruda, Jami Brandli and Michael Shutt

Times for us are good right now. And it's so easy to be thankful. But it was when times were bad that it was even more important.

Lately people have been asking us, "How the heck did you end up on that island?!" Just a year ago we were deeply entrenched in Los Angeles fighting with every fiber of our being to hold on to the life we had created. So how did we get from there to here? How did we get from that life to this?

There are a couple of answers to that question. One is the nuts and bolts.

-Bob lost his job
-We had no back-up plan
-Couldn't sell the house fast enough
-Economy tanked
-Housing values crashed
-Fell too far behind too fast
-Bank wouldn't modify our mortgage
-New combined salaries fell far short
-Started "Love in the time of foreclosure"
-Came days away from a foreclosure
-Sold the house in a short sale
-Got an offer from a LITTOF reader to live in a house on an island rent-free for two years
And here we are. All of that is true. But it doesn't explain everything. It's the space between that tells the rest of the story. That space was filled with our determination. Our promise to each other to flourish as opposed to flounder. To work as a team and communicate versus hide and blame each other. To become better people and turn the proverbial lemons into lemonade.

And how we managed that was by being thankful.

Being thankful especially when thing were looking most grim. When we were clear that this could very well be the end of us. That we could sink with the house and everything in it. When we felt like total failures and were helpless in the face of insurmountable circumstances... we were thankful.

When times were toughest is when we started actively practicing the art of being thankful. Each night before going to sleep we would try to remember to express at least one thing we were thankful for. On the worst days that one thing might be: "I'm thankful to be alive." Other days, it came easier and we would fall asleep while listing off the things for which we were thankful.

If I was in a depressed mood, Bob would say:

"Name one thing you're thankful for right now."

And I would answer. Sometimes reluctantly. But simply by sharing what I was thankful for I was essentially lifting myself out of my depression. No matter how bad things got, our lives were still filled with blessings. Even on the day we got our notice of default. Or when foreclosure notices were plastered on our garage door. We were always thankful for each other. And so much more...

Thankful for the unconditional love and support of our families and friends
Thankful for our health
Thankful for our resourcefulness.
Thankful for our education and upbringing
Thankful for the opportunity to grow
Thankful for the chance to set our priorities straight
Thankful for the opportunity to learn such important lessons so young
The more we grounded ourselves in the long list of things for which to be thankful, the easier it was to embrace the opportunity in the moment. With so many blessings in our lives, how is it possible to feel like victims? I believe it's not. And that's why we never did.

Today I am thankful for all the same things and more...

I'm thankful for everything I've learned
I'm thankful for having been courageous enough to take a leap of faith
I'm thankful for a wonderful place to live
I'm thankful to the owners of this house for trusting us and giving us such a gift
I'm thankful to have the opportunity to restart my life
I'm thankful for the ability to express myself through writing
I'm thankful for the courage to start this blog
I'm thankful for LITTOF readers and the support you've given me over the last ten months
I'm thankful for the gift and beauty of simplicity

I am honestly thankful for everything we went through in the last year. Because I now know without a shadow of a doubt that what makes me happy (and I'm happier now than I've ever been in my entire life) is love, family, friends, community and the adventure of living.

I don't miss the house. Because, I guess, it was never about the house. The house now represents an old model for happiness. My new model has nothing to do with anything material. And for that, I'm thankful.

Cece and Brian working hard and putting the kitchen to good use.

What about you? Do you practice the art of being thankful? 
What about during hard times? And for what are you most thankful?

Happy Thanksgiving!

(If you liked this post, please share it! Thank you!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Would you sell out your house in order to save it from foreclosure?

Here's the thing. I don't like the look of it either. I'm talking about those Bank of America ads on the Wabash Avenue bridge houses in Chicago. Have you seen them? Yeah, they're not pretty.

Our new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, signed a 30-day lease with Bank of America for that space, according to the Chicago Tribune. Why? To raise money, of course. Chicago needs it. Bad. And nobody likes this idea. Nobody.

But... I wonder...

Would you do the same thing if you could to save your house in foreclosure?

Would you, if you could, lease the roof of your house to Bank of America? Wells Fargo? Pepsi Cola? What about the front of your house? Would you wrap your whole house like a car in an Exxon Mobile banner?


What if it was temporary and it meant you could pay off your mortgage?

Yeah. That's what I thought. You'd do it, right? Your neighbors would hate you for it. But you'd do it. And maybe they'd hate you a little less knowing that you just saved their property value by avoiding foreclosure.

I'd do it. Totally. To save our house? Heck yeah.

Actually, according to Bob that's not true.

I was telling him about how I was going to write this blog post and ask people if they would sell ad space on their houses if it meant they could save their homes from foreclosure. Here's how that conversation went:

BOB: We talked about that.
ME: We did?
BOB: Yeah. I totally wanted to do that.

ME: You did?

BOB: Yes.

STEPH: You wanted to sell ad space on our house?

BOB: Yes. I wanted to call Bank of America and see if we could lease them our roof space for a banner or something but you were totally against it.

ME: I don't remember that.

BOB: Well... probably because you didn't want to do it.

So, there you go. I apparently didn't even want to investigate the possibility of selling ad space on our roof to save our house. Funny how short the memory is. Bob was Mayor Daley floating the idea and I was the general public railing passionately against it even though it could possibly save our house.

Though I don't remember it, I can imagine that I was horrified by the thought of a Bank of America banner wrapping our house. But wouldn't I have at least wanted to try? Thinking about it now, I assume that I would have completely gone for it because, well, anything to save the house, right? Apparently not anything. And why not?

Everyone is railing against our new mayor calling this leasing of city property for ad space a huge mistake. And I get it. It is a slippery slope. No one likes to be marketed 24-7. And our architecture is so precious to us. We Chicagoans are extremely proud of our architecture. We don't want to taint it with obnoxious banners and corporate logos. We don't want to completely sell out, no matter how terrible things are.

Mayor Emanuel plans to bring in $25 million for the city through this sort of advertising. And if he's right, if it works, would it be worth it? I don't know. Feel free to chime in. Please. That kind of money could save a lot of jobs and programs, right? So it could be worth it?

And I'll ask again, if you could sell ad space on your house to save it, would you? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

For more information about the new ads downtown Chicago, check out these links:

Dear Mayor: Don't cheapen our public spaces - Chicago Tribune

Emanuel's ad quest for dollars not as easy as it sounds - Chicago Tribune

(The photos are courtesy of Bob Walker. Thanks for braving the cold on your lunch break, honey!)
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Friday, November 11, 2011


It's time for another LITTOF Reader Story!

What do you do when Plans A, B & C don't pan out? If you're like LITTOF Reader, Laurie, you choose Plan D.

That's right. That's what survivors do. That's what resilience is all about. And I'm all about resiliency. So I'm very excited to introduce you to Laurie- who prefers that I only use her first name. So, like Madonna she will be known by only one name. Laurie.

She e-mailed me back in January of this year to say that she was glad I had picked up blogging on LITTOF. In that e-mail, she shared that she and her husband began their modification/short sale/ foreclosure process when she was pregnant with their first child. They now have two children – a 19-month-old and a 3-year-old. It really shows how much life can happen in the face of foreclosure! Life goes on. Life is created. Children grow up!

Laurie wrote to me about their trouble and frustrations with HAMP. And her attitude while sharing about the insane runaround they received while trying to save their home, really struck me.
“We may end up in foreclosure and then bankruptcy like you.  It's all going to take time to tell.  Meanwhile, we love our home that we have remodeled and made our own.  But it is just brick and mortar.  We are excited about our future and the lessons we have learned, that we have each other.   We consider it the price to pay for this painful education we have received.”

Laurie and her husband experienced the nightmare of Fed-Exing payments during a trial modification only to be kicked out of the program for non-payment. Has that happened to any of you? I can't imagine. I've actually been hearing about that happening more and more. Yet in the face of that, Laurie remained positive.

So sit back and enjoy a conversation with Laurie about life in and after foreclosure and choosing Plan D...
LITTOF: First, tell us about the house. Where is it and how long have you lived there?

LAURIE: We moved into our first home in the spring of 2006. We moved out at the end of August 2011.  It was in a great suburban area of Northern California, the perfect family town.  We renovated and made it out own and really loved our neighbors, the park I walked the kids to every day and our garbage man, Carlo, who stopped by every Friday and took the time to say hi to our very excited son, Max.

LITTOF: What were the circumstances that led to your foreclosure?

LAURIE: My husband is in the construction industry.  When the economy tanked, banks quit lending and builders quit building.  My husband would go without a paycheck for months at a time.  We had really stretched ourselves, spending probably 70% of our income on our mortgage because we had faith that like our neighbors, our investment would pay off, prices would continue to rise, and we could refinance and be ok eventually.  

LITTOF: Please tell us about the process thus far.

LAURIE: In 2008 we knew we were in trouble.  Our home price had dropped by 30% and our income by 50%.  We contacted the bank right away and stayed in touch the whole 2 year process, first trying to modify, then short sale, then foreclosure with bankruptcy for protection.

LITTOF: How long did the process take?

LAURIE: The process took from fall of 2008 until summer of 2011.  Most of that time was in the roller coaster that is modification.  We were told something different each time we called.  

LITTOF: What has been the most challenging aspect?

LAURIE: The overwhelming lack of consistency and communication with the bank.  We were told erroneous information that would take us down one path and then months later, to find out it was wrong.  EX:  We were told our bank would accept a modification if we just entered into a trial mod for 3 months.  For 10 months we kept paying diligently and Fed Ex-ing payment in advance each month. 

I eventually had the case escalated to a corporate level to see what was going on because we were told during one of my weekly calls that we were kicked out of the modification due to non-payment, then again that same day that things were ok, and then again that we were denied the mod but they didn’t know why.  Corporate investigated and determined that our bank, “didn’t participate in modifications.”  What a waste of time.  

LITTOF: What has been your most triumphant moment thus far?

LAURIE: The day we decided to go with plan D.  We decided early on to come up with a contingency plan because we had heard lots of horror stories.  Plan A was a mod, Plan B was a short sale, Plan C was a foreclosure and D was bankruptcy (and foreclosure).

 Plan D became our realization and actually it was very freeing knowing we had really done everything right and tried our best and it was going to be over soon and we could move on.  Plan D allowed us to close a door and start planning for our future.  We knew everything would be ok once we set our sights on our new reality.

LITTOF: How are you able to stay positive?

LAURIE: Actually, I am a worrier and a control freak.  I unfortunately can easily get consumed with things.  I have always been very conscientious about bills and paying on time and my credit has always been excellent. The stigma and what our neighbors would think bothered me at first. I prayed a lot and got support from some girlfriends and made the decision early on not to let this get the best of me.  I am a Christian and so it was important for me to let go of my need to control things and give it to God.  I knew I would do my best to navigate the issues but ultimately I had no control over the final outcome and I knew I would be taken care of.  Things would be ok.  It might not be the way I would want it, but eventually, I would see it was a blessing in disguise.  It has been. 
LITTOF: What is your goal in all of this?

LAURIE: To take the road less traveled by.  The norm in our culture is to strap yourself down with debt, trying to have and be what the world tells you to.  We are living on a cash basis now, much more aware of our spending and our goals.  It opened our eyes to a way of life that is not on the rat wheel.  We are free, mobile, and most importantly are dreaming again, with our heads out of the sand.   

We are planning to rent until our kids are through elementary and then live in an RV…probably a 5th wheel toy hauler and travel the country, road-schooling our kids through the middle school years and teaching them by exposing them to things they would have only read about in books.  

It is fun to dream again and to plan our adventures.  We have a big map and put tacks on the places we want to see.  There are so many, we will have to narrow them down.  It’s fun to research them and figure it all out.  We have time, so it will be a work in progress.
LITTOF: What have you learned thus far?

LAURIE: Material objects can be a huge burden.  It is freeing to let them go. 

LITTOF: How are you better off now?

LAURIE: I am reminded of the song that goes, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone….I can see all obstacles in my way…Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind…it’s gonna be a bright, bright, sun-shiny day.” 

LITTOF: Do you have a plan for the future?

LAURIE: Oh yes, family, fun, experiencing life to the fullest, and freedom. 

LITTOF: What advice would you give to someone who is either worried about losing his/her home or is actually in foreclosure?

LAURIE: It may be the best thing that has happened to you, giving you a new start and a new perspective.  Don’t waste your energy trying to stay aboard a sinking ship, if foreclosure is the direction you are headed, focus your energy on a plan for a new life.  A house is not a home. 

LITTOF: Anything else?

LAURIE: Just want you to know that your blog really helped me in a time when I thought I was the only one. Your honesty and candid thoughts on the subject as if happened were inspiring.  Thanks.

LITTOF: Thank you, Laurie. And best of luck in the future. I love your idea of road-schooling your kids! Keep in touch!


- Do you have a plan D? What is it?

- Have you experienced the same runaround in a trial loan modification? What happened and how did you handle it?

About the picture- I asked Laurie to send me a picture of what represents "HOME" to her today. And this is the picture she sent. I love it!

Send me your pictures of what represents home to YOU and I'll share them on the LITTOF Facebook Page. You can send them here:

Here's a story about the trouble with trial loan modifications:
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The secret to happiness

This is a chair:

And this is a person:

Wanting this person to be any different than they are, would be like wanting the chair to get up and walk across the room.

No matter how much I may want the chair to get up and walk across the room, it's never going to happen.

Because it's a chair. And chairs don't walk.

Wanting a person to be different than they are in any way IS just like wanting the chair to walk across the room.

It is.

No. It is.

Don't argue with me.

Wanting the people in my life to be different than they are is a waste of time.

Having expectations that they will be different than they are is a set up for disappointment.

Wanting someone to be different than they've been the entire time I've known them is a lot like the definition of insanity- Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Wanting and expecting people to be more the way I want them to be as opposed to them being exactly the way that they are is not only insane and pointless, it's a lose-lose for both parties.

And it won't ever work. Much like wanting the chair to walk across the room.

Why not?

Because people are the way they are.

And I can't change them by wanting them to change.

So, what can I do?

Change myself.

Allow people to be the way they are.

Foster the ability to be great with people even when (especially when) they're not great with me.

Love them for who they are AND for who they're not.

And remember that people are the way they are.

And they're not the way they're not.

And a chair is just a chair.

And that is the secret to happiness.

The end.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Love is... being willing to say when you've been a jackass

Believe In Goodness by Rob Ryan
I love my husband. There's no question. Even when I'm mad at him, I still love him. But that doesn't mean that I always demonstrate my love. That I exemplify it 100% of the time. No. It does not. I wish it did. But I'm human. And therefore a lot of crap gets in the way of my full expression of unconditional love.

If love were the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, I licked away the hard shell last night, exposing it.

Wait. What? A Tootsie Roll Pop? Love is the center of a Tootsi--
I know. Terrible. But just... what I'm trying to say is... sometimes the actual experience of love is hidden. Or covered up by hard, crunchy layers of... of... humanity?

Moving on.

Here's what I want to say...

Last night I saw something about myself I didn't like. Something ugly. Something that I really didn't want to own up to. Not at all.



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