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HAPPY 2015!

I’m so happy to share that a play I began writing over ten years ago is finally getting a world premiere this January!

It’s been a long journey for this play and I am so lucky to have this amazing team assembled to bring my work to life. We are currently in rehearsals in Chicago.

Our first preview is on January 22nd.

The play is premiering at 16th Street Theater in Berwyn, IL and is being directed by 16th Street’s Artistic Director, Ann Filmer.

If you’re in the Chicago area, I hope you’ll come to see these amazing artists bring this play to life.

Our cast is out of this world.

If you don’t happen to be in Chicago, would you consider sharing this with your Chicago friends and family? Thank you so much.

If you’ve been a loyal reader of LOVE IN THE TIME OF FORECLOSURE, then you’re familiar with my blogging…. I would love to share my playwriting with you as well.

Tickets are available here

The Art of Disappearing

by Stephanie Alison Walker
Directed by Ann Filmer
January 22 – February 28, 2015
Thursdays & Fridays @ 7:30 PM
Saturdays @ 5:00 PM & 8:30 PM

When Melissa receives a mysterious invitation to brunch from her mother after a two-year estrangement, she returns to a home where nothing is as it seems. Fathers lie, friends leave and she herself is failing in the artist’s world she covets- as her mother practices the art of disappearing before her very eyes. The devastating truth she discovers in her parents’ house threatens to tear all of them apart for good. Will Melissa stay and fight for her family? Or will she disappear too?

 
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We’ve heard this story before.

Two people you’ve never seen show up to your house with eviction papers.

They tell you they’ll wait while you gather your things.

You are then forced to numbly go through your home and clear out. While two strangers wait for you outside.

Where will you go?

What will you do with all your stuff once you manage to get it outside?

What will become of your home?

It doesn’t feel real.

You’ve known for months this could happen.

You hoped it wouldn’t.

You didn’t really believe that it could.

And then it does.

And here you are.

Moving through the rooms in your home for the last time.


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Disclaimer: This is a story from long ago and I have relied on my memory to retell the events as I remember them. That said, please be sure to read the hilarious correction that follows this story.

I’m on my road bike

pedaling down a packed dirt trail long converted from train tracks, trying to stay upright while my left eye screams in pain.

I have been on my bike pedaling for more than two hundred miles in three days when a tiny piece of matter has the nerve to lodge itself between my gas permeable contact lens and my eye ball.

Unless you have been a gas perm or hard lens wearer, you have no idea the agony one tiny spec of dirt can cause.

It’s fork scraping chalkboard discomfort.

It’s eye lash in the eye if the eye lash were on fire kind of pain.

It’s staring into an eclipse blinding.

This is what is happening to me… on my bike… in the middle of Wisconsin somewhere between mile 40 and camp.

There’s nowhere to wash out the lens. I can’t stop. All I can do is keep pedaling, as fast as my bum knee will allow.

OR… I could pop out my lens. But where do I keep it while riding? In my pocket? My water bottle? My hand? My mouth (I’ve done that before)?

Doesn’t matter.

I pop it out. It’s all I can do.

I “wash it” in my mouth. And then, without a mirror, I gingerly place it back on my eye ball.

I’m not alone. That’s the good part.

I’m with this guy I’ve been crushing on ever since we met training for this very long bike ride.

His name is Bob.

Bob Walker.

Bob Walker is helping me put my lens back in.

I manage to get it placed in the center of my eye. But it still burns. I instinctively pop it back out. I have no choice but to ride the rest of the way one-eyed and squinting. I put the lens in my water bottle for safe keeping and try to remember not to drink it.

Today was supposed to be an easy day.

Today we planned on getting to camp early to have time to go swimming. We were told there was a public pool at this campsite. Nothing sounded better than a dip in a cold pool with hundreds of our AIDS Ride buddies. We heard that there was a bar within walking distance from camp and that a bunch of people were planning on going there for a beer before crashing.

I want in.

I want to play. To party. To swim.

But instead of being there with everyone having fun, I am still on my bike, in agony.

My knee

My eye

My butt

My crotch

Everything hurts!

Why can’t we be there already?! Why is this taking so long? Why am I soooooo SLOW?!

It was Day 3 of 6 days of the ride. The first two days were tough. 90 miles the first day. 86 or something on the second. Today was much shorter. Closer to 60.

IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE EASY!

But it wasn’t.

And I’m pissed.

I would be completely falling apart if it weren’t for Bob.

Bob

I never thought I’d fall for a guy named Bob.

But here I am falling deeper in love with every mile. He rides with me. He brings me ice. He waits for me at every pit stop to make sure I’m okay. He brings me Cliff Bars and bananas. He shares his water when mine runs out. He doesn’t judge me when I shove Butt Goo down my bike shorts to help with chaffing. He makes me laugh and forget that this is really really hard.

I’m aware that my complaining is turning him off. It’s just so hard right now. I realize that this 6 day, 500 mile bike ride is the perfect first date. If we make it to the end still enamored with each other, then our love is a love that will last.

And this day. Day 3. Is the biggest test so far.

I want to be there, not here

The thought of everyone relaxing at the pit stop makes it even harder to get there.

The thought of our teammates cooling off in a cold swimming pool, jumping and splashing makes the humidity we feel during our agonizing stretch to camp excruciating.

I can’t stop picturing that cold frothy beer I’m not drinking.

And it’s making me mad and super complain-y.

“I just want to be there!” I whine. “They’re all having so much fun and we’re still here on our stupid bikes and I can’t see and my knee–”

“Try thinking of it another way,” Bob offers, cutting me off mid-whine.

“The party isn’t at the pit stop,” he says.

“It’s not?”

“No. The party is here.”

“Here?”

“Yes. Right here. We’re not the ones missing the party,” he explains, “Everyone else is. Because the party is wherever we are.”

“We’re the party?”

“Yeah,” he smiled, “We’re the party.”

I look squint at him through my burning left eye.

It occurs to me that I’m already madly in love with this man.

For the remaining 20 miles, we do everything to create and actually attend our own party.

We sing. Bob can’t sing. But he does anyway. We dance. As best as we can on our bikes. We pay the lovely scenery the attention it deserves.

And most important, we stop longing to be anywhere than right here.

We stop trying to fast forward this moment where sparks are flying and our love is taking shape in this early crazy visceral stage.

We not only attend our own party, we become the life of the party.

There are still moments where we forget. Mostly me. A shooting pain that travels from my knee up my IT band causes me to long for a big ol’ bag of ice and the healing powers of the chiropractors at camp.

Bob reminds me…

“The party! Where’s it at?”

“Right here!” I respond.

“That’s right,” he smiles. Convinced.

There’s a shift. I relax a little. There’s no place to get to. I’m where I’m supposed to be. On my bike. With Bob. Pedaling.

::Sigh::

A mantra for life

That was in 1999.

We were married 4 years later. And in our ten years of marriage (our 10 year anniversary is on May 31st) we have recalled this moment more than a few times. But not for a while.

For some reason this moment flashed into my head last night.

Bob’s phrase: “The party is wherever we are” bounded to the front of my mind.

It had me thinking about how I’ve been lately.

Have I been living it up in the here and now?

Or have I been delaying celebration until I reach my destination?

And if so, what the hell is my destination if not here?

When I apply this to my writing life, I can see that I’m guilty of this thinking. Rather than enjoy the writing itself and the process, I’m anxiously desiring to be at the end of the process. Sitting in the theatre watching as brilliant actors bring my words to life in front of an audience. Or dreaming of a big pay check, awards, the bestseller status… when the joy is in the writing and, as they say, having written.

Yuck. No wonder it can feel like a chore.

The party is wherever I am…. right now.

Not later, once I’m “successful.”

Not later, once we finally can own a house again.

Not later, once I’ve lost twenty pounds.

NOW. NOW. NOW.

Right, Bob?

Bob says, “Right.”

I love my life. I’m so incredibly grateful for all parts.

The last thing I want to do is squander this amazing time wanting to be elsewhere… especially when THIS is the party.

Do you find yourself spending time wanting to be elsewhere?

Do you squander your present moment imagining better times in the future or romanticizing the past?

Do you feel left out when you think about other people enjoying themselves and you’re “stuck” at work or at home because you’re up to something else?

Do you delay celebration of your life until some future accomplishment is met?

Well, then, I offer you Bob’s words of wisdom…

The party isn’t there. It’s right here. Where you are.  Right. Now.

Create your own party.

And be the life of it.

In any given moment.

 

Thanks, Bobbie, for always making a difference for me. Then and now.

I love you so much!

-Steph

!CORRECTION!

This is hilarious. Okay. So, I posted this lovely story about how Bob and I met and how he had this awesome wisdom, right? And we all fell in love a little more with Bob, right? Well, I did. Anyway, Bob just texted me to set the record straight. Here’s what his text said:

“While you and I definitely took that to heart during the ride, I did not utter those words to you. I wish I could take credit. However, it was actually David Bloodsworth. He was coaching you. As time goes on, we all rewrite history a bit. ;)”

Yeah. So… now that he mentions it… I don’t remember the actual moment that David Bloodsworth (our team leader and all around amazing guy) coached me in this. I can’t for the life of me picture it. But his words really stuck. And the rest is true. Bob is the one who reminded me of David’s words when we were on that dirt trail and I was dying and complaining. And we both took them to heart. I think that because Bob has reminded me of that wisdom over the years I automatically gave him authorship.

David, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry I gave Bob credit over you. And just know that your wisdom truly made and still does make a difference for me. You introduced me to Bob and for that I am eternally grateful. I adore you!

The point, I think, is that it makes a difference.

Hahahaha. And I’m old. And my memory is going. Oy.

 

Dear readers, if you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it. Thanks!

 
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Yes, our books are organized by color.

 

I’m on my way to the gym at 9:30 for a Zumba class when I happen to check my e-mail on my phone. There is a message from a producer of ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer asking if I might be available for an interview for tonight’s broadcast. Um, let me think about that for a second…


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BUY THE BOOK!

02.14.13

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Love in the Time of Foreclosure – the book!

What’s it about? It’s about how my husband and I created our dream life in the face of losing our dream home. It’s the story of how we saved our marriage while losing everything else. It’s about how love conquers all… even foreclosure.

In 2008, my husband lost his job soon after we had completed a major renovation on our Los Angeles home in the neighborhood of Silver Lake. Our only back-up plan was to sell the house. We listed the house, found new jobs (at a combined 60% less than my husband’s previous salary alone) and quickly found ourselves fighting foreclosure at the beginning of the housing crisis.

We made a pledge to each other to rise above our financial crisis. We were committed to learning everything we could from the experience and actually creating the life of our dreams. Love in the Time of Foreclosure tells the story of how we did that. The ups, the downs, the maddening struggle for a loan modification, the re-calibrating of our priorities and perception of the world, the selling of everything and everything else in between.

Who would buy it? According to author Janelle Brown, “anyone who owns, has owned or fantasizes about owning a home.” It’s also the perfect fit for anyone who is in foreclosure, worried about foreclosure, unemployed and/or struggling with something major in their life or relationship.

PRAISE FOR 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”.

Dick Gordon, “Host of “The Story”, heard on public radio stations, nationwide.”

Stephanie Walker writes about tough experiences with honesty, humor and a good dose of optimism. Her story is a window on a downturn that affected millions of Americans—for worse, but also sometimes better. There are life lessons in here for all of us.

– Sara Clemence, co-founder of Recessionwire

“Love in the Time of Foreclosure” is essential reading for anyone who owns, has owned, or fantasizes about owning a home. Stephanie 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.

– Janelle Brown, author of “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything” and “This Is Where We Live”

Where can I buy it?

Love in the Time of Foreclosure is available for the Kindle on Amazon and for the Nook on Barnes & Noble.

Where can I find out more about the book?

From my publisher– Outpost19.

Thank you so much for checking it out!

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

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

Back in October, Bob went to Nasheville for a bachelor party weekend to see the Bears play. That was his first weekend away as a dad. Though we are all traveling to the islands together (Bob, Malcolm and me,) the time at the writer’s workshop is my own. Bob and Malcolm will be staying with Jenn’s husband Luke and their three girls (Malcolm will love them!) while I enjoy my first weekend away as a mom… to BE a writer and be with other writers.

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

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

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

More info about the weekend here.

To learn more about the other participating artists:

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

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

Jennifer Beck Furber, Author of Baby by the Sea

Jesse Michener, photographer

The view from Doe Bay Resort (SERIOUSLY!)

 
 

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

It is a new blog experiment called

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

Or… Today’s failure is tomorrow’s success

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

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

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

LEARN ONE MAGIC TRICK AND PERFORM IT FOR 5 STRANGERS

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

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

Welcome to my grand experiment in embracing failure – TODAY’S FAILURE

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

 
 

A not-so-perfect picture of me and my totally perfect son

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

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

Lie.

COMPLETE LIE.

It was more like this…

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

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

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

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

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

This didn’t make sense to me.

I was not hungover.

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

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

So why so crabby?

I should be A FREAKIN’ ENDLESS FIELD OF GLORIOUS WILDFLOWERS

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

I should really be an inspiring and blank space for creation

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

I should at least be cheerful.

Right?

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

Except…

More.

Just more.

Always more.

More of me. More time. More money.

More accomplishments.

Because

Well

It’s just never enough.

Here’s what I realized…

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

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

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

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

YUCK!

BLECK!

PFFFFFT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fail.

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

Loser.

Lou

Zer.

Loo loo loo loo loo

zerrrrrrrr

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

HA. NO.

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

Here’s the thing.

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

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

It won’t.

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

It won’t be different.

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

I marvel at the people who do it all.

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

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

Here’s what’s easy…

Letting

It

Go

Because I’m so clearly not that person.

And I don’t need to be.

No, I don’t. I really don’t.

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

If I did, I would fail.

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

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

That I struggle to even write one blog post anymore?

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

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

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

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

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

The “Why Bother” trap

Here’s another thing I discovered today. I regularly fall into the “Why Bother” trap.

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

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

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

HA! Fool!

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

Does that sound like a sell-out?

I don’t mean it to.

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

Ordinary is okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STRUCTURE & POETRY

And I am in love with that.

LOVE IT!

It totally inspires me.

Structure

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

Here are a couple of examples:

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

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

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

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

Poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for your thoughts, dear readers.

And happy happy new year.

Happy Imperfect YOU!

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

-Steph

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

 
 

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

I responded, “Yeah. Maybe. There are a million if only’s. Oh well.”

Two things about that…

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

If only…

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

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

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

If only we had never bought the house.

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

Then I usually go to:

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

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

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

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

2. Bob has a point about the Bankruptcy

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

I did not.

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

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

Well… I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

How can you learn from us?

First. Do NOT do this:

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

That’s what I did. And I regret it.

So, what to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bankruptcy exists for a reason.

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

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

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

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

And… quit with the “If onlys” and “what ifs.”

Instead, create a financially responsible future.

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

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

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

 
 

VOTE!

11.06.12

image from OBEY

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

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

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

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

LOOK UP YOUR POLLING PLACE HERE

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

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

FORWARD!