Thursday, February 16, 2012

Grace in foreclosure

Are you starting off 2012 in foreclosure?

If the answer is yes, I'm very sorry. I've been there. I know how hard that is.

According to a story published today by CNNMoney,

"One in every 624 U.S. households, nearly 211,000 in total, got hit with some sort of foreclosure filing last month."

Starting off a new year with a foreclosure notice is not ideal. Not at all.

I get it. Bob and I received our intent to accelerate just days before Christmas in 2008. We know how challenging it can be to try to be optimistic and empowered when you don't even know if you're going to have a place to live months down the road.

It can be so overwhelming. Just know that you are not alone. Not by a longshot.

What can you do? 

Well, there are so many things you can do. But so as not to add to the overwhelm, the biggest thing you can do is face this potential foreclosure with grace and integrity.

What does that look like?

At the most basic level, it looks like a clean house.

Yes. Keep your house clean. Continue to love it. Treat it nicely. Take good care of it. That is especially important if your house is on the market.

I know that keeping your house up might be the last thing you feel like doing when the bank is threatening to take it away, but it's the right thing to do.

And, it will help you confront this challenge with grace.

When we realized that we wouldn't be able to keep our house in spite of everything, we decided that we were going to do everything in our power to find a buyer in a short sale scenario who would love the house as much as we had.

That meant that we had to take care of it. Yes, it can be exhausting keeping the house show-ready month after month after month after month. But, doesn't it feel good?

In the face of foreclosure, you can choose the path of destruction or the path of grace and integrity.

Choose grace. For yourself. And for your future.

What ways do you face your foreclosure with grace and integrity?

Foreclosures Climbed in January - CNNMoney

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Get your FREE copy of Love in the Time of Foreclosure today - one day only!

 Happy Valentine's Day, LITTOF readers!

My Valentine's Day gift from Bob was a Dunkin' Donuts coffee delivered to me in bed this morning. And my gift to you is a copy of my eBook, Love in the Time of Foreclosure.

Yes. That's FREE. For just one day.

If you haven't read it yet, why not take a chance today. At least load it up on your new eReader.

Dick Gordon of The Story with Dick Gordon called it
“A genuine human adventure.”

Sara Clemence (co-founder of said: “There are life lessons in here for all of us.”

Janelle Brown (author of “This is Where We Live”) said: “Walker’s personal real estate horror story is wrenching and emotionally honest, as she explores the impact of home ownership on relationships, dreams, and self-identity.”

And a woman in my mom’s book club said that Love in the Time of Foreclosure is “Enchanting and addictive.”

Enchanting and addictive!

So, what are you waiting for? Get your free Love in the Time of Foreclosure today.


Go to my publisher's site - Outpost19 - look at the left column and scroll down until you see this:

Outpost19 offers
epub versions for
non-Kindle devices
and apps:

Click on the "Outpost19" icon to download your free non-Kindle version of the book. When you get to checkout, enter the code "LOVE."

Happy Valentine's Day.

And enjoy!

P.S. We need your help to spread the love today. Please help us by sharing this blog post on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you hang out. For your convenience, you can just click the social media share buttons to the bottom or the left of this post. Thank you!

P.S.S. This special is for a non-Kindle version of the book. That means you won't be able to read this version on your Kindle, but you'll be able to read it anywhere else. Computer, iPad, etc. It's an .epub doc. If you have any questions about this, please leave them in the comments so that others who have the same question can see the answer. Thank you!

like this heart? sara jensen designed it.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

A frank conversation with Valentine's Day

Yo, Valentine's Day...

I'm not down on love.

I'm not down on romance.

I'm not even down on Valentine's Day, per se.

What I'm down on is the pressure of Valentine's Day.

It is totally possible to have a perfectly lovely Valentine's Day. Yes. It is possible.

Just like it's possible to be happy in the face of pretty sucky circumstances.
It's possible to experience love on a day that seems to be designed to make most of us feel like our love isn't the right love.

Yes, Valentine's Day. You did hear me correctly. You are designed to make us all feel like losers in love. No matter what.

If we're single we're losers because we don't have someone to be with on your day.

If we're in a relationship, we're losers because our relationship doesn't look the one put forth in the glossies or the ads. Whatever it is, it's not enough.

I'm a total sucker for romantic stories and movies. So I've been wondering why just the idea of a day dedicated to love and romance paralyzes me so.

I think it's this idea of perfection. And one day. Like I have this one shot to perfectly express my love for Bob in order to feel like everything is right in the world. That I'm doing the right thing. That I'm with the right person and our marriage is on the right track. Right. Right. Right.


Too much emphasis on right only leads to wrong.

Because there is no such thing as "right."

There's only what we say is true.

There's only what we create.

But you don't emphasis that, do you?

It's in your best interest for us to feel inadequate because that way we'll spend more money on flowers, chocolate, lingerie and bling in order to feel RIGHT.

You set this up so well. You're so sly, VDay. You tap into that part of us that makes us desperate to prove how perfect our love is and how loved we are. You want us to spend as much money as possible as a way to go from feeling wrong to feeling right about ourselves. About our relationship. And in order to erase any loneliness we might be feeling.

In fact, you want us to feel bad about feeling lonely, don't you? As if loneliness itself weren't bad enough. We all get lonely from time to time, Valentine's Day. Whether we are single or married. We get lonely. Why? Because we are human. And loneliness is a perfectly normal and acceptable human emotion.

You want us to be terrified of loneliness. As though being lonely on Valentine's Day is the worst thing in the world. You want us to feel like we did in third grade when we were so fearful of being the only one in class who didn't get a homemade valentine. You want us to remember that feeling and organize our lives around making sure it never happens again.

You want us to think that if we are alone on Valentine's Day that means we will be alone for the rest of our lives.

But that's not true. Not at all. I mean, think about it. It would be like me believing that if I'm mad at Bob on Valentine's Day then I'm going to be mad at him for the rest of my life. And then I'll end up alone and we're back to the loneliness.

You know what I most dislike about you, Valentine's Day? 

That you make me feel incapable of adequately expressing the love I have in my heart for Bob.

Here's the thing. Of course I'd love to be able to show him how much I love him by surprising him with a fancy sports car with a big bow on top.

That'd be nice. He'd love that.

Or whisk him off to some tropical location for the weekend. He'd love that too. We'd both love that.

But I can't. Kind of have this debt we're paying off, see?

So what is it about you that has me want to spend money I don't have?

It's like I'm afraid if I don't then it means my marriage is missing something.

Really, Valentine's Day? Really? Is that how you want me to feel?



So, let me get this straight.

You're saying that if I spend more money than I can afford to buy my husband the perfect gift that makes him feel like he's 18 all over again
and I give him that gift with the perfect card with the perfect message
and I wear lacy lingerie just this side of naughty that makes my boobs look like I'm 18 all over again and I light candles
and wax my body
and tantalize his senses with perfume and aromatherapy
and I cook him a meal made for a man with sophisticated palate that also makes him feel comforted like he's at home with me... something like slow cooked short ribs and garlic mashed potatoes
and I bake him a chocolate cake with some sort of hot chocolate pudding lava center that we eat together and that has us wanting each other in a way that we haven't in a long time...
that he will fall in love with me all over again?

And in turn, he will look even sexier than Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise
and he will say all the right things in just the right way
and he'll give me those earrings I admired that day that we were walking by that shop in the neighborhood and I will love them more than any gift he's every given me not because of the earrings, but because it will show me that he was listening. He was listening.
and he'll hang on every word I say with the utmost sincerity.
and our conversation will be mutually fascinating like we are the two most fascinating people in the universe.
and he'll gaze at me as though I'm the only woman in the universe
and he will make me feel like everything is absolutely perfect and that I am without a doubt the most beautiful, accomplished, sexy, brilliant, powerful woman in the world.

And that is how Valentine's Day is supposed to be.




Ridiculous expectations?

But, Valentine's Day, that's not the message you send. You make it seem like that IS how it's SUPPOSED to be. And now you're suddenly saying I'm the one with ridiculous expectations?

Let's get real.

This is how it normally goes:

Every year. I tell myself and Bob that I don't care about Valentine's Day because it is a stupid and contrived "holiday" and I will not be caught in it's net of stupid expectations and childish fantasies about what real love is. I won't spend money in order to prove that our marriage is romantically on par with the best marriages in America... or what the magazines and movies say a romantically healthy marriage is. No. It's dumb.

We're happy. We're in love. We don't need to prove it to each other. We express our love every day. In different ways. In a look. In a kiss that lingers longer than usual. In our daily routines. The sharing of our lives. The way we parent together as partners.

We have nothing to prove to Valentine's Day.

We don't need to plan anything. Nope. We'll do what we always do. We'll eat dinner together as a family. We'll laugh at something adorable that Malcolm does. We'll get frustrated when Pablo begs for table scraps and even more frustrated when Malcolm throws his food on the floor for Pablo. We'll get frazzled when Malcolm screeches that he wants down and we don't get to finish our dinner.

Then we'll take Pablo and Malcolm for a walk. We'll relax. We'll look at the moon. The stars. We'll be in the moment. We'll give Mallie his bath, put him down to sleep, then snuggle up together and maybe watch a movie. Or just listen to music and talk. Yes. Perfect.

And it's settled. That's my ideal Valentine's Day. Being happy with my life exactly the way that it is. Yes.

But then something happens as you get closer, Valentine's Day. I panic. I don't know why, exactly. Maybe it's the amount of Valentine's Day e-mails I get (I'm clearly on too many of these lists) or the plethora of stories about how to have the perfect perfect perfectist day that proves just how perfect you are and how perfect your life is... or maybe it's the inordinate amount of conversation hearts I've consumed in the last 24 hours.

But, it happens.

I admit it. I allow you to suck me in.

I get anxious. I did it again, I think. I planned NOTHING for Valentine's Day and it's TOMORROW.

What's wrong with me?! What does this mean? Who am I? Am I a terrible wife? Boring? Lazy?

I worry that if we do nothing to celebrate, that I'll feel left out. I already do. I feel left out.

Why does everyone else get chocolate?
Why does everyone else get champagne, fancy dinners, a night out worthy or red lipstick, back rubs and sex?
Why do I have to be "above" it?

I want romance. I want love. I want lingerie.

I get desperate. I start thinking of ways to make this the BEST VALENTINE'S DAY EVER.

There's still time to rectify this. No problem.


Wrong! This is a problem. There's not enough time. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

I'm here to tell you this, VDay: This one day is not a telltale for our future.

Stop making yourself so important. Seriously. You need to stop.

Oh, I need to stop?

I'm the one making you so important?

You're just you? You're just a day. A day that someone invented. And I'm the one giving you power and meaning?

Damn it! I know. You're right. I already knew that. And yet. And yet... I let you suck me in for a second.

It's a good thing I sat down to write this blog post because who knows what I might have done. Most likely I would have made Bob's life miserable by comparing him to Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise. What man can compare to that?! I would have just continued to invalidate myself and my marriage.

Because that's what we do when we measure our lives up against unrealistic expectations.
 A "perfect" Valentine's Day, just like a perfect ordinary day, isn't something that just exists. It's created.

And it has nothing to do with how much money you spend or how delicious a meal is.

Just like happiness is not a static state of being, neither is romance or love.

Romance and love are created feelings/emotions/moments.

Circumstances have nothing to do with romance. The circumstances in life rarely line up to create romantic moments all on their own. More often they seem to conspire against romance. At least against our pictures of what romance is.

So what to do?

Appreciate the love in your life.

Laugh when the perfect meal you were planning goes up in flames.

When the cookies you bake him end up being literally, "The worse cookies in the world."

Laugh at yourself. Laugh with each other.

GIVE the gift of unconditional love to others.

If nothing else, Valentine's Day is an opportunity to practice being the love we seek in our lives.

How do you celebrate Valentine's Day? 
Do you hate it?
Love it?
Please share in the comments below!

Check out this blog post on the subject:

Valentine's Day and Emotional Spending - EducationCents

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Monday, February 6, 2012

wanting and needing and everything in between: the beauty of a basic budget

There are things I want.
Source: via Stephanie on Pinterest

There are things I need.

There are things I want but don't need.

There are things I need but don't want.

And there are things I want to need but don't need to want.

(I have yet to find an example of that last one.)

The beauty of a fine-tuned, tediously crafted budget

The other night Bob and I sat down and worked tediously through our tedious and extremely tight budget. Did I mention it was tedious? We have a shared Google doc with our budget and lots of tabs. One of the tabs is our queue of things to buy that don't fall into our regular budget categories.

In this queue we have prioritized the expenses that fall outside of our budget.

We have the things we need to buy now (a new windshield to replace the cracked windshield before it shatters.)

Things we want to buy but don't necessarily need to buy them, though they would make life easier. (Such as a steam mop. And a Dustbuster.)

Those are just two examples. The point is that we have gotten really specific and vigilant with our finances. The goal is to take all the guess work out of spending and saving.

While working through this process, I noticed two things.

Thing 1
It's a lot easier to distinguish between want and need when the stakes are extremely high and resources are limited. If you have $5 and you're hungry, you're not going to spend that $5 on a tube of tinted lip balm when you already have three in your bag and spending that $5 means you don't get to eat. No. You're going to buy a sandwich instead.

Last week, I was a guest at my mom's book club. Yes, my mommy got her book club to read Love in the Time of Foreclosure for their January book selection. (Best. Mom. Ever.) Anyway, the discussion was really wonderful. One of my mom's friends brought up Maslow's Hierarchy of Need.
via Wikipedia

She said, "It's easy to be concerned with self-actualization when you're living in abundance."

That really hit home. Especially because I have been thinking about that a lot lately.

Another way of saying that is that it's easy to be concerned with your personal psychological development when you're not flat broke. When you're not in foreclosure. When you're not unemployed.

When you're in that space of needing to fulfill fundamental human needs like shelter, food, water, breathing... you have no room or space to waste on wondering, wanting or any kind of existential concerns. It's all about providing. And the stakes are high. This is survival mode. (Notice that none of Woody Allen's characters are flat broke. At least not Owen Wilson's character in Midnight in Paris.)

Obviously, there are so many reasons why it's not appealing to live every day in survival mode. Especially when it's not your choice. But there are those people who actually choose to live here. Christopher McCandless comes to mind immediately. He was the Emory College graduate who gave away all of his belongings to live off the land in Alaska. Into the Wild is the book by John Kraukauer about Chris McCandless. (I highly recommend it.)

So there is something appealing about only having to worry about our most fundamental needs. About eliminating even the space to want. I definitely romanticized that notion different times throughout my life.

And I experienced the Zen of it when we were selling everything. Yes. It's wonderful to be set free from the material. It can be incredibly freeing if you have the ability to face it with a positive mindset.

Back when we were facing foreclosure it was a lot easier to avoid buying things we didn’t need because we didn’t have the money to even make that choice. We didn’t have to think “Do I really need this?” Because the answer was usually NO. You don’t. And we were so highly focused on the task at hand—saving the house.

Years go by. We begin again. We get back on our feet and begin to build up savings again. We get some room. We’re more comfortable. And foreclosure and short sales and mortgage payments are firmly in the rear view. That's when the wanting begins.

I've begun looking at property listings online. I gaze at houses and imagine a life in those images. I create entire worlds and stories. And then I shut it down. It's easy to do that with something as big as a house. Not so easy with the little things.

Things like a latte at the local coffee shop. A breakfast out. A new pair of jeans. On sale, of course. I want clothes. I hate mine at the moment. Bob and I haven't bought new clothes in years. Literally. Sure, I bought a sweater here and a pair of underwear there. And I've traded my clothes in for a few new items at Crossroads. But that's it. We both really want new clothes right now. But do we need them? Well... that's a little harder to answer.

It's not like we'd be walking around naked without them. So we don't need them for physiological reasons. But we do need them for reasons of esteem. The fourth layer in Maslow's Pyramid. It's just under the top. And this is how we categorize our needs. We don't need it to be safe, but we need it to feel good about ourselves. About our lives. That area can become so hazy so quickly that it requires constant checking in.

And that's what leads us to the second thing I noticed while budgeting with Bob.

Thing 2

When you budget with a fine tooth comb and really track your spending, there are no grey areas.

By budgeting every single penny (as incredibly tedious as it is) you actually eliminate the hazy area. It either fits in the budget or it doesn't. Every fiber of my being HATES sitting down to budget and track our expenses.

But (after a lot of internal and external kicking and screaming) once I give myself over to the process, I find freedom. I know myself well enough to only allow an hour maximum for this type of penny tracking at one time. And that helps. The knowledge that I won't be sitting in front of our spreadsheet for all eternity, but just for an hour.

It's been not only freeing to have this sort of command over our spending, but it's also been great for our marriage. I've been so unwilling to track our spending THIS closely that Bob has felt completely alone in regards to managing our finances. And that is so unfair. And just plain dumb.

For 2012 I'm done being dumb. Financial freedom happens through action. Not wanting. Not hoping. Not wishing or fantasizing. Action. That's it. And for us, that action is sitting down once a week with our budget and putting cross-checking, counting pennies and debriefing with each other on where we succeeded and where we failed that week.

Being able to know the difference between what you want and what you need is critical.

But it's okay to want even when you don't need...

As long as it's in the budget.

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