Category Archives: Anxiety

Very VERY Busy Stagnation

During the summer when I’m on hiatus from work and the kids are off school, the world is my oyster and the possibilities are endless. I wake up in the morning excited about my choices for the day. Should I clean out my closet? The kids’ rooms? The garage? The pantry? Weed the side yard? Trim the trees? Plant grass seed in the bare spots? Read a book? Update my address book? Hike? Go to Pilates? Take the kids to the beach? To the park? Write a blog or shoot a vlog? Sort through emails? Juggle the bills?

Where do I start?

I start them all.

I started gutting the kids’ room, but now the living room is filled with donation bags and their room looks like the Wicked Witch of the West flew through it.

I started sorting through CDs, but I’m halfway done, so there’s still a pile on the living room floor. “Blues?” “Alternative?” “Heavy Metal?” I’m mainstream rock so I have to ask Tom about his categories.

I started cleaning out my closet, so now I have a pile of too-big-or-too-small clothes and hangers on my bed.

I started putting in a landscape border for plants, but the border is still stretched across the driveway.

I started going to Pilates, but I didn’t stay for the optional final stretching because I had too much to do at home.

I started weeding through emails, but I’ve only made a dent.

I started writing about a dozen different blogs but didn’t post any in the past two weeks.

I’ve started three dozen things, but I haven’t finished anything.

I am so completely overwhelmed, my completion rate has become stagnant. If I have a choice in time management, I end up running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Someone should cut off my head.

My husband tells me to breathe. I’m trying to meditate, but my mind keeps wandering back to my to-do list.

Yesterday I was determined to finish the half-done things and today I finally reached a turning point.

I’ve finished my first blog post in two weeks (this one).

The kids’ room is clean, the donation bags are banished to the patio, and the CDs have been sorted and alphabetized. The grass seed is planted. I’ve deleted a ton of emails and only have 2975 to go. I’ve put about a thousand miles on my new minivan transporting the kids from one summer activity to another, so my mom points are back in the black.

I’m on a roll. The rest of my tasks are coming along.

I’m done hyperventilating.

Just in time to get ready to go back to work.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Family, Humor, Husband, Kids, Multitasking, Parenting

Playing Whack-a-Mole with 0% Balance Transfer Promotions

There was a time when I was floating near the top of the other 99%. My student loans were paid off. Other than my mortgage, I had no debts. My credit score was just short of 800, and I could stroll into nearly any shop or restaurant and charge it, then pay the full price 25 days later without ever giving it a thought.

Then I had kids. A divorce. Studios started paying tv sound editors five days of pay per show instead of six. The television season shrunk and fewer union films were being made. Overtime dried up. I remarried, and we bought a fixer upper near the top of the market and took out a second mortgage at the peak to start repairs. I went back to school for a second master’s degree while my new husband earned his MBA and started on his PhD. We had a baby. A year later, the writers’ strike brought the entertainment industry to its knees. And then the final nail in the coffin: the housing bubble burst.

It all sounds like some bad made-for-tv movie from the 1970’s, but instead of being a woman in peril running from my wife-beating husband or recreational drugs gone bad, I was trying to escape from something much more sinister: the flailing American economy.

Although our home hasn’t drowned completely underwater, it’s basically bobbing in the sea like a buoy. If I was Noah, those animals would already be picking bunkmates.

Our savings ran out. So did the second mortgage. But with our great credit score, we started seriously considering the offers that we used to throw away along with craft catalogs and obscure charity labels.

Receive 0% Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for one year.

It was like free money – almost. We just paid a 3% fee and we could postpone the bills. Certainly we could pay it off within a year. We signed our John Hancocks and slept like babies.

And then the roof caved in… literally. We replaced the 80-year old pipes and windows, but the funds ran out before we got to the Spanish tile roof. Each winter the tarp over our house grew bigger until we had a 1700 square foot sail strapped over our entire roof billowing against the wind, ready to make our home airborne as if we were Dorothy flying over Kansas. Tiles were flying like exploding landmines and this back burner fix suddenly became a front burner emergency.

We took advantage of three different credit card offers to come up with $11,700. And within months we were robbing Peter to pay Paul – taking out one balance transfer deal to pay off the balance of the one the year before.

Accumulated stress caused me to have a serious case of shingles to my head and eye and landed me in the hospital for nine days last November. The hospital and doctor bills came to over 100 grand. Insurance paid for most of it, but we were still responsible for about $3,000. I also missed weeks of work in an industry that doesn’t offer sick pay.

Needless to say, we have been taking huge austerity measures these past few years. We rarely eat out. The only movies I go to are at the TV Academy where I’m a member. We shop at thrift stores, and only when we absolutely need something. The Eurozone would be proud.

In the past few years I have become quite adept at the balance transfer jugging act. I have billpayer and autopay paying more than the minimum amount each month and I’ve created fluorescent notes reminding myself to have the balance paid before the interest goes into mafia amounts.

We had two cards doing just that in mid and late July. So on June 24th I applied for yet another balance transfer, and this one had an even better deal – no balance transfer fee.

As the day got closer, I started calling the automated operator of the credit card cards being paid off to make sure the transfer was made.

It wasn’t.

Because it was under Tom’s name, they wouldn’t talk to me – the lowly wife – so I had him call. He was told that they were still considering the request.

Considering a request? This card loves us! We did the dance with them two years ago, paid off the balance, and didn’t touch the card for a year. We had available credit of over ten grand.

I was starting to sweat. I juggled some bills, got some temporary advance cash and had funds covered the day the big interested was to start. We had another 3 grand due for this card the next month so there wouldn’t be any need to stop the payment.

Phew!

In the meantime, I kept calling the second big interest card, but that one still hadn’t gone through. I bugged Tom to call them again.

It turns out that we were denied.

What? Why?

Because we already had an account.

Duh!

Apparently the credit card company thought they were sending the offer out to some random Joe who had no credit history with them at all. Since we already had an account, we weren’t eligible.

That’s like offering a homeless guy on the freeway off ramp your leftover McDonald’s fries, but when you discover that it’s your next door neighbor you nab the greasy bag back.

I’m not by nature pushy, but I suddenly became the cartoon wife with the rolling pin in her hand, demanding that her husband fix this or else.

Tom convinced the credit card to give us the deal… almost. They wouldn’t give us the free fee. But it’s only 1%, which is $100 cheaper than the standard 3%.

So now we continue with our game of financial whack-a-mole. I start back to work in September, and we’ll continue paying down our huge accumulated chunk of debt.

Now I know what it’s like to be Greece.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband

It’s My Fundraiser and I’ll Cry if I Want To

I love our school. We’ve been going to Colfax Charter Elementary School since Emily enrolled in kindergarten in 2001, and since then I have accumulated literally hundreds of friends who are in my iPhone contact list – most whom I am happy to say are probably not dodging my call.

I’m on the Restaurant Committee, which is the team that lines up monthly fundraisers at local restaurants that give our school 20 – 30% back. We publicize the event on our marquee, on Facebook and Twitter, in an email blast, and by putting flyers in the kids’ backpacks.

These events take place during the school year, but recently I suggested that we try our hand at summer fundraisers as well. With the exception of flyers in the backpacks, we could publicize the events every other way, and instead of a monthly event, we could make them bi-weekly since the kids and parents will certainly miss each other and want to have a mass gathering.

The first fundraiser of the summer was yesterday at California Pizza Kitchen. Our last CPK event at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year brought in over $800 in profits for our school, so I was anticipating more of the same.

All three of the other current members of the Restaurant Committee were out of town, so I did all the typical social media posts and then shared them on my Facebook page:

 I’m going at 5:00 today. Who wants to join me?

I sent emails to everyone who was in Jake’s kindergarten class, and any other kindergartners who were in my address book, and even though it’s been a year since Mary moved on to middle school, I invited all her friends as well.

As I picked up Mary from drama camp in the Colfax auditorium I shouted out for everyone to join as for dinner at CPK at 5:00. I did the same when I picked up Jake from Colfax’s Farm Week Summer Camp.

Right before we left for dinner, I looked at my Facebook post to see how many Likes, Comments or Shares I had for the gathering.

Not a one. Nada. Zip. Bupkis.

Colfax’s Facebook page had one Share: Mine.

Usually at least someone would have given me a half-hearted Like, which might be something in between a 🙂 and a 😦 – maybe like a :/, but then that would have required a Comment, and as I just said, there was nothing. This post was in Facebook Wasteland.

The lack of comments to my post truly reeked of disinterest, as if I had suggested something duller than my kitchen steak knives:

Who wants to join me for my annual dusting of the ceiling fans?

Who wants to join me in the heart of a Sig Alert?

Who wants to join me at the DMV?

At least these posts might have sparked a laughing  :-)) or ;) winkingwinking 😉 response.

Undaunted, I forged ahead with my dinner plans. Mary, Jake and I arrived at 5:15, just to add a little time for possible latecomers. Unlike last fall’s CPK fundraiser, there was no long line of cars waiting to be parked from CPK’s complimentary valet. There was no crowd of four dozen people outside waiting to get a table. And as we walked in, there were customers at only three tables, and I didn’t recognize a one.

I thought of walking away without buying anything. We actually don’t have the luxury of eating out in our budget. The bill just gets tacked on to the credit card we won’t have the money to pay off until I start back to work on Season 2 of Once Upon a Time next September, and September is still a long way off.

But CPK only offers free valet parking if you get validated, and you can’t really get a validation if you don’t buy anything. Also, since I’m on the Restaurant Committee and the only member in town who could participate, I’d be a hypocrite to walk away without buying something.

I decided to get the food to go since I was going to get something for Tom anyway. Fortunately Emily’s a vegetarian who doesn’t eat wheat or dairy. I’d just tell her the whole menu would give her the trots.

I ordered a kid’s mac & cheese for Jake, kung pao pasta for Tom and jambalaya pasta for myself, and the portions had better be enough to split it for lunch tomorrow, dammit!

Mary wanted pizza AND salad, and I nearly choked. That girl always has champagne tastes with our beer budget, or since Tom and I don’t drink, it’s kind of like Dollar Tree apple juice vs. Martinelli’s sparking cider. I told her we have frozen pizza at home, so she settled on the Caesar salad. No chicken.

The bill came to $46.93, and I tried to look on the bright side: over 9 bucks back for our school and I didn’t have to pay a tip for a waiter.

We sat at the counter waiting for our order while Jake colored in the kid’s menu and Mary practiced her Belle lines from Beauty and the Beast.

No Colfax families. No big 20% back check. No fun reunion.

I wanted to cry.

But this was a public place and I would look like a wacky woman.

On the other had, no one here knew me.

There weren’t any Colfax families here to witness it.

I wanted to cry even more.

I held it together. Barely.

About ten minutes later, a miracle occurred! A Colfax mom arrived with her 4th grader. Heather and I did the Box Tops fundraiser a year ago, and I was so happy to see her, I wanted to cry – in a good way. But it turns out she was having a special mother/daughter dinner while her husband and son were gone fishing, so I didn’t want to intrude.

A couple of minutes later, Lina arrived.

This is when I really want to cry, and not in a good way.

Lina is my mother-in-law, and I invited her to join us for dinner. She drove herself to CPK after a hard day at work, and here I was, about to grab my to go bag. I had completely forgotten that I had invited her. I offered to stay and get a table or buy something for her so we could go home or to her house and eat it, but she was obviously despondent. I could tell she felt rejected, and I didn’t blame her.

I felt terrible.

I mostly felt terrible because I assumed she was feeling terrible that I didn’t have the thought to let her know that the evening was cancelled. She walked away without validating her ticket, and by the time I caught up to her she had already paid the valet.

That’s when I started to cry.  It began as a silent whimper. I felt sorry for my mother-in-law and our little school and the fundraiser that didn’t bring any money. That whimper snowballed into a bottomless shame pit.

You’re the dork who thought we could have a successful summer fundraiser!

No wonder no one came. Nobody likes you anyway!

How the hell are we going to pay for this meal anyway?

Your mother-in-law hates you!

Now your kids are hearing you cry out loud and they’re going to either be scared or think you’re emotionally unstable!

You really are emotionally unstable. Doesn’t a straightjacket in a rubber room sound like a good solution?

I used to go down this rabbit hole a lot in middle and high school, but I thought I had gotten better as an adult. Obviously not. By the time I got home I was blubbering like an idiot.

My husband Tom has absolutely no personal comprehension of the mood swings created from PMS or menopause or insecure women feeling downright bonkers. But he gave me a hug anyway and wondered out loud how such an intelligent lady can spin out of control so quickly.

He invited me to go to Family Swim at the Y, where no one would question why my mascara was running. And after watching Jake dog paddle while wearing his goofy goggles, I felt better.

Today, nearly 24 hours later, my original Facebook post still sat empty. So under the Like – Comment – Share buttons I wrote a comment to myself:

Nobody likes me.

Maybe someone will click the Like button on that one.

But then it begs to question:

Does that mean they Like me?

Or do they Like that no one likes me?

I shouldn’t be on the Restaurant Committee for my elementary school. I should be enrolled in the elementary school. Because clearly, my self esteem in this instance is still in the 1st grade.

On the bright side, our little CPK fundraiser ended up with 14 Colfax receipts, taking in $605.80 and a donation of $121.16.

To the other 13 families who came to Colfax Day at CPK last night:

Thank you so much! I’m so grateful I could cry.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Family, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting

SPF: Severe Pigment Fry

Ouch! Where’s the aloe vera?

As a kid, during the summer months my skin perpetually existed in three distinct states: burn; blister; or peel.

This was before suntan lotions had SPF ratings. SPF actually stands for Sun Protection Factor, a standard that really should more accurately be called I Wish I was Born an African American to Why Wasn’t I Born an Albino?

Growing up in sunny Orange County, we often spent the day at the beach. Even though there were four of us kids and we were just a year apart, my mom managed to coat us all with Coppertone to keep us from burning. Yet an 11:00 am to 5:00 pm shift of building sand castles and collecting shells in the hot Southern California sun turned us all into lobsters. It was a miserable trip home with all of us sweaty and sandy and feeling the effects of first degree burns covering 80 percent of our bodies.

Before the magical natural use of aloe vera, everyone used Solarcaine, which felt cool when it was sprayed on, but I’m not sure if it actually did anything.

We winced a lot and walked around with our arms partly outstretched, and it was difficult to fall asleep on sheets that suddenly seemed unbearably rough as sandpaper. We observed the places where blisters appeared – our noses, our backs, our bellies. Once when I was 13 and my bosoms were blossoming, a one-inch wide and two-inch tall sunburn blister appeared directly between the two larger sprouts. My mom nicknamed it my third boob.

Eventually the blisters would pop – either as a natural progression of healing, or more likely because we decided to pop them ourselves as a science experiment to see what lied underneath the bubble (always something gooey and gross).

In a few days, the neon red color would start to fade and our skin would begin to peel. This was my favorite part. And I don’t mean favorite as in a favorite stuffed animal or a favorite ice cream flavor. I was literally obsessed about peeling skin. As we watched television, we’d take turns sitting astride each other’s butts and peel our sibling’s backs. My brother and sisters and I would have contests on who could tear the longest peel. Sometimes we’d save the peel as if it was a prized souvenir. To this day I love to peel things – wallpaper, glue, hangnails. I really should look into a 12-step program for my peeling disorder.

Camping at the beach with my sister and the nieces

From May through September, my nose was one permanent scab. I wore zinc oxide, which for a short time seemed cool because that’s what the foxy lifeguards wore on their noses, but looking back, I think I more resembled a failed mime.

In my teens, I switched from Coppertone to Hawaiian Tropic in an effort to attain the perfect tan. It was an impossible dream. My Irish/Scotch/Finnish lineage guaranteed that the only thing brown on my skin would be my freckles. I dreamed that one day I’d get so many freckles that they’d blend together and become a true tan, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Emily with her porcelain skin

Hawaiian Tropic was later discarded for pure baby oil as I deliberately fried myself in the sun. Once I got past the burn-blister-peel cycle, I actually acquired an honest to goodness tan one summer, but it proved to be way too much work. It required riding the bus for an hour to Newport Beach and lying all day with my fingers outstretched so I would tan in between them, and turning every 20 minutes like a rotisserie chicken to maintain and even color. The bus ride back was an hour and a half, and an hour of it was standing room only with my bottoms full of sand, carrying my towel, beach chair and baby oil, and hoping that I wouldn’t blister.

Mary – my freckle-faced beauty

Thankfully I started a long line non-stop jobs and didn’t have the time to work so hard on my tan. Looking back, I am truly grateful for this calamity as it’s the principal reason my skin isn’t wrinkled like a prune today.

These days I wear sunglasses and a hat outdoors. My daily moisturizer and lip balm both have built-in sunscreens, and I coat my kids in SPF 70 whenever we’re outdoors for any extended period of time. My almost 16-year old Emily has beautiful porcelain skin, and she wants to keep it that way. My daughter Mary has the most adorable freckles, but any time her pediatrician sees them multiplying, the doctor reprimands me like a bad dog, so I try to keep her coated as well.

Jake – the Whitest Boy in America

My son Jake is so white he is nearly translucent. I don’t know if they make SPF 100, but if they do, it would be because they had Jake – the whitest boy in America – in mind when they created it.

Last week we went camping at the beach with my sister Tammie, who is to this day a bona fide sun worshipper. If she was matched with a Sherwin-Williams paint chip, she would be French Roast. Tammie wore her SPF 2 cooking oil while I plastered on the SPF 50-70 variety of creams, sprays and lotions. And yet, somehow I was burnt to a crisp. Not blister-burnt like the old days, thank goodness, but burnt enough to have it smart, and red enough to need regular coatings of aloe vera.

Tammie sun bathing

But now I have mixed emotions. I want my skin to heal and go back to my 21st century acceptable pale complexion.

On the other hand, I’m dying to peel my back.

Maybe I should look into those Peeler Anonymous meetings.

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Filed under Anxiety, Family, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Vacation

My Husband Loves Me More Than Your Husband Loves You

I love my husband and I know he loves me.

I’ve met a lot of women who like to have their husband’s love proved to them on a regular basis in the form of flowers, gifts, and jewelry. However, these are not my preferred forms of affection.

Although I appreciate flowers, I know within days the petals will drop, the pollen will cause my daughter Emily to be sneezing up a storm, and in a week, I will be the one hauling the dead bouquet to the green bin and having to wash a vase filled with skunk water.

In lieu of gifts, I would much prefer a gift certificate for “Free lawn mowing without the prompting of subtle hints” and “Complimentary kitchen cleaning – including wiping down the stove.”

And although I love admiring the glittery jewels other women wear, I just couldn’t appreciate showing off a chunk of bling when we’re still up to our eyeballs in credit card debt.

My husband Tom shows me he loves me in subtle ways. He’ll fill up the Keurig coffee maker with water when the light is flashing, even though he is already done with his own caffeine fix. If he’s making a root beer float for himself, he’ll offer to make one for me. And if I order a meal that turns out to be to the left of “just ok,” he’ll offer half of his meal, even if he’s starving and his dish is delectable.

We moved in together in May of 2005 and weren’t married until October, and there was still a lot I didn’t know about him. I volunteered Tom to man the grill for the annual Hartsook Street Block Party, which took place on the hottest day of the year. The temperature soared to 110 degrees and the humidity was so thick neighbors were sweating more liquid than they were ingesting. Tom lamented that the grill actually felt cooler than the air. He perched himself in front of that charcoal-induced sauna for four hours. Later he told me to never NEVER volunteer him for anything ever again without his permission.

Why does this scenario make him a more loving husband than the rest of the men out there? Because he wasn’t a dick the entire time he was grilling, he told me the “no volunteering” request without raising his voice, and he didn’t hold a grudge about it for weeks. How about it, Ladies? Would your hubbies have that reaction?

But the Grand Finale of Best Humbandrycame last night, just after 4:00 am. The previous day, our dogs found a bin in our pantry filled with Special K bars and ingested about a dozen of them.

Devil Dogs

Tom came home to crumbs, wrappers, and two very guilty-looking dogs. Then he cleaned up the mess before I could take a picture for my blog (more Best Husband kudos!).

In the middle of the night I awoke to a fearsome stench. I got up and started to walk toward the switch to turn on the light when I felt squish squish squish – the unexpected feeling of stepping on gooey wetness.

I turned on the light and started screaming.

“Tom! Tom!” He had gone out to the couch about an hour earlier because he couldn’t sleep. Tom ran in like he was ready to fend off a home intruder and we both stared down at the bedroom carpet.

It was completely covered in runny diarrhea. It looked like someone had unloaded a paintball gun filled with caramel-colored pellets. The mess was sprayed all over the doors, the walls, and the mirrored closet doors. I was actually standing in the middle of the Feces Forest and had no idea how to get out of it.

I just stood there – stunned, paralyzed, terrified. I had no idea where to even start cleaning up such a sewage spill.

I was still a motionless statue by the time Tom arrived with the pooper scooper and started cleaning up the watery excrement. He looked like he was playing a game of miniature golf, but instead of a ball, he was easing the club over stinky slime.

I performed a standing long jump into the hallway, dashed into the bathroom, and scrubbed the bottoms of my feet so hard you would have thought I was a plague victim in Contagion. Then I prepared a bucket with Mr. Clean, poured the hottest water I could stand with industrial-strength rubber gloves, and raced back to the bedroom.

“I’m done,” Tom said. ” Go sleep in the kids’ room.”

Well, his idea of “done” and my idea of “done” are two completely different things. Granted, the piles had been smeared down from two inches to two millimeters, but instead of random piles of poop, there now was a smooth ground cover of crap.

And tomorrow morning it would be a dried, crusty ground cover of crap.

I kneeled down in the hallway safe zone, rung out a soapy sponge, and started to scrub.

“Go to bed,” Tom gently ordered.

I was really beat. This was going to be the first time in over a week that I would be getting more than 6 hours of sleep, and now that plan had gone out the now-open window. The stench was truly unbearable and I was afraid I might even vomit, which would have been a nuisance since the pooper scooper was now outside.

“I’ll take care of it in the morning,” Tom said. I knew this really meant I’ll think about taking care of it in the morning, but if I wait until afternoon, I know you’ll do it anyway. But I was so tired, and the smell was so overwhelming offensive, I staggered to the kids’ room and crawled into the bottom bunk. Fortunately for me, Jake has been sleeping I the top bunk with Mary since he’s afraid of zombies (which apparently only make an appearance at his 9:00 pm bedtime).

I awoke this morning, dreading the job in front of me.

Mary woke up in the bunk above me and asked why I was in her room. She hopped out of bed the instant I told her what happened.

“Can I see?”

We headed through the hall and I plugged my nose as I opened the door, ready to be hit in the face by the noxious odor.

Instead, our carpet shampooer sat in the middle of the room and the carpet was clean.

What the…?

Tom was already holding a cup of coffee.

“I cleaned it last night.” He gulped his coffee. “I couldn’t sleep.”

Later in the day he hosed off the dozen or so piles of diarrhea scattered throughout the yard that were ejected after the dogs had been banished outside.

“I also cleaned and shaved Spike’s butt,” Tom said casually.

Apparently the constant streaming of liquid excrement had created a hefty cement-like compound, and leaves, dead flowers and weeds were caked onto our Australian Shepherd’s anus.

So for all you women who treasure the glittery bling, the dozen roses and the fancy gifts, I’d like to ask you a single question:

Would your husband let you sleep while he shampooed a shit-filled carpet and scrubbed the poopy ass of your long-haired dog?

This is why my husband loves me more than your husband loves you.

How about you? How does your spouse or significant other show you that he/she loves you?

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Family, Humor, Husband, Kids

Dodging the Telemarketers

There are a lot of really nasty jobs out there: the fellow from the transportation department who scrapes road kill stuck to highways; Big guys who maneuver through mucky crawl spaces to clean up sewage spills; and my brother Michael, who spends 50 weeks of every year away from his family while he trains the police force in Afghanistan.

But none of these professions can hold a candle to the granddaddy of nasty jobs: telemarketing.

If I want something, I drive to the store, look at the clearly-marked price, then decide how badly I need it. I shop at places like Trader Joe’s and Costco, where I can ask the clerks where I can find the coconut milk or lima beans, and they won’t try to sell me a Buick. I can retain a feeling of power and superiority because I am in control of my destiny, or at least my own shopping choices. I avoid malls where toothy salespeople leap out from all directions and spritz me with cologne, or compliment my beauty and in the same sentence tell me that I should have a makeover. Really… how can I be both?

But if I think the mall peddlers’ tactics are hard-sell, telemarketers make them look like pushovers.

Granted, I know telemarketers are merely doing their job and trying to make an honest living. At least some of them may be honest. But just by calling me, I feel like it’s an unwanted invasion – bypassing the front door and sneaking in through the phone lines.

I don’t seek telemarketers out. They seek me. They’re stalkers who know my name and phone number and want to smooth-talk me out of my credit card number. They are incredibly persuasive, and I am putty in their hands.

My husband Tom has no problem dealing with telemarketers. I know he’s on the phone with one when the conversation consists of: “Hello?” Click. I’m not as tough as he is. I am a nice, polite person and I don’t want to hurt their feelings, even if they are calling from a warehouse in India but pretending to be down the street.

But I have a secret weapon: It’s called “Caller ID.”

I’d love to kiss the guy (or gal) who invented Caller ID. If I recognize the call, I pick up (except for my particularly chatty friends who are just going to move on to the next person anyway). If the number has a strange area code or literally “000-000-0000 NAME NOT FOUND,” the call goes to the machine, and the caller usually just hangs up.

But Telemarketers have gotten wise to the Private Caller ploy, and they stealthfully slink in through that back door. I don’t like to answer Private Callers because they’re already paranoid by discretely protecting their anonymity, and my subliminal judgment of them is not going to convince them to crawl out from their hiding space. Yet it’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black if I’m hiding from callers who are also hiding from me. My mother-in-law is a Private Caller, so I play a little game of Russian roulette when I cross my fingers and pick up the phone. About 95% of the time it’s the dreaded Telemarketer.

I can already hear the theme from Jaws playing in my head: Da-dum. Da-dum-da-dum.

The ironic thing is, last year we really did need to buy something and I thought it might be helpful to talk to one of these phone predators. We had a tarp the size of a football field on top of our house, which means we were in the market for a new roof. So when a telemarketer from a roofing company called, I decided to champ it out and hear his pitch.

Telemarketer: “Mrs. Flynn?”

Me: “This is she.” (Two things – “Mrs. Flynn” was my grandmother who resembled Mrs. Santa Claus. “This is she” makes me sound so erudite, it’s hard to resist).

Telemarketer: “We’re working in your neighborhood this week, and we were wondering if you needed any home repairs.”

Me: Uhhh… (Maybe this one will be “the one.”) We actually do need a quote for a new roof.

Telemarketer: “What time will both you and your husband be at home?”

Me: “Huh?” (So much for my erudite act).

Telemarketer: “We need both you and your husband to be there when our contractor comes out.

Me: (What are we – Siamese Twins?) “Why?”

Telemarketer: “It’s our policy.”

Me: (I’m getting a little scared) “Uh…4 o’clock?”

Telemarketer: “And will you be able to commit to buy at that time?”

Me: “Uhhhh….” (Why the heck didn’t I let it go to the machine?) “Uhhhh…”

Telemarketer: “May I speak to Mr. Flynn?”

Since I kept my maiden name, and my husband isn’t one of those wimpy-boys who takes his wife’s name (no offense to the wimpy-boys who do that sort of thing), “Mr. Flynn” leaves my long-dead dad, or my brother Michael Flynn, who as I already mentioned, is in Afghanistan either getting heatstroke or frostbite, depending on the season. My answer?

Me: “I’m sorry. We’re not interested.”

Click.

At least I said, “I’m sorry.”

I told you I was polite.

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Filed under Anxiety, Humor

RIP 1998 Toyota Sienna XLE

I got the call three weeks ago that one of my best friends of the last 15 years had died. She had been in an accident, and her injuries were just too severe to save her. Personally, I don’t think they tried very hard. I know it’s because of her age. When you’re old, you’re expendable. I disagree. I think she still had a lot of good years left in her.

My kids hung out with her every day, and all their friends knew her well. My companion and I spent an insane amount of time together and we never tired of each other. She was attractive, yet low-maintenance. She was dependable. And until her tragic, untimely death, I knew I could always count on her.

She was my 1998 Toyota Sienna XLE Minivan.

On Friday the 13th of April I was trying to parallel park on a residential street two blocks from my home when another car struck the front of my car and sped away. The collision tore the front bumper completely off my minivan and broke the axel. Still, the damage looked repairable, so it was a real shock when the auto body shop told me it a total loss.

When I got the news, I just started sobbing, and I’ve been continuously crying ever since. This was the car that I was going to pass on to my daughter Emily when she starts driving this summer. However, I already knew that I was going to be an Indian giver. I loved my Toyota Sienna XLE and even though she was already 15 years old, I wanted to keep her a little longer.

Toyota came out with the Sienna as a minivan substitute for the discontinued Previa. We bought one of the first off the assembly line in the summer of 1997. It had a sliding sunroof, leather interior, dual air conditioning, power windows, radio/cassette/CD and a power driver’s seat. Coming directly from a Mustang convertible, it was nice to step into the lap of luxury rather than some sticky, soiled kidmobile.

I eventually got a couple of dings on my minivan, but by that time the car was so old that didn’t bother me much. There was a scrape along the passenger side from a Trader Joe’s shopping cart, and the paint was starting to fade from the repair done in 2004 from the time I was backing out of a parking spot at Warner Bros. and didn’t see a pole in my blind spot. But the engine was pristine. I performed regular tune ups and oil changes, and in 15 years there was not one single engine breakdown or malfunction. Remember when I mentioned that she was dependable? I would be hard pressed to find any human as trustworthy as my Sienna.

Jake loved to have the sun roof open. Emily enjoyed sitting in the front seat and propping her boots on the dash. Mary – always the social butterfly – would have a carload of her friends coming home with her, their heavy backpacks piled in the back. It was roomy enough to transport the whole family plus my mother-in-law to the Inland Empire for holidays with my family. It felt like first class seating in an airplane, and my Sienna probably got us there faster than flight + check in time.

Since all the back seats were removable, I have probably helped move 30 people into new homes, and loaned my car out as a free U-Haul to a wide variety of friends. I had just purchased custom leatherette seat covers to hide the rips and cracked upholstery on the driver’s seat, and only the day before the accident the odometer clicked past the milestone 150,000 miles. My Sienna should certainly have been placed alongside the Energizer Bunny and the Timex watch as a product that takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

I loved this car the way many people love their animals. I’ll probably get some nasty comments by saying that, but it’s true. Granted, it was a one-sided love, because it’s not like a car can love you back. But it’s certainly better than most one-sided relationships where your love is not reciprocated. At least my object of love made me exceedingly happy.

A week after the accident, I turned over my keys, signed away my rights, and cleared my belongings out my minivan. It felt like I was packing up keepsakes after a death, yet the death seemed like my own. Emily was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999, and I found old stashes of glucose tabs, blood testing strips, glucagon and insulin that had expired years ago. Finding all those supplies brought back the flood of fear that engulfed me when Emily received the diagnosis just two weeks after her 3rd birthday. We had to keep emergency supplies with us wherever we went, and those first few years we’d grab them from the glove compartment. Now Emily carries diabetic supplies herself. I never thought there’d be a day when I wouldn’t obsess about her disease, yet at some point it happened.

I cleared out CDs I hadn’t heard in years – Steve Winwood, Phil Collins and the recently departed Whitney Houston. These CDs had long since taken a back burner to NPR and iTunes while I was driving solo, Adele when Mary was with me, and everything from David Bowie to Ozzy Osborne to My Chemical Romance to the soundtrack to the musical Spring Awakening for my daughter Emily.

The seat pockets held headshots and resumes of my daughters from their commercial auditions stint years ago; about 50 Bed Bath & Beyond coupons (they take expired coupons if you didn’t know); baby wipes that were bone dry; my daughters’ ID cards and fingerprints that were issued back in 2003; makeup that had solidified, faded, or otherwise been rendered unusable; and bandaids and sunblock in a variety of car cubbies. Despite my LASIK surgery last summer, I found two pairs glasses and contact solution that expired in 2002.

By now the vehicle is probably being dismantled and sold as used parts for other 1998 Toyota Sienna XLE owners who want to keep their trusty friends around just a little bit longer. I can’t blame them. That’s what I would have done if I had a choice.

As a tribute to my dearly departed friend, here are some of the posts I wrote on Very VERY Busy Mom that featured my beloved minivan.  Please join me on a trip down Memory Lane:

There is Nothing Sexy about Washing My Filthy Minivan

Celebrating My Vanity With My Vanity License Plates

 ($ ÷ Gallon) x (Miles ÷ Gallon) = LA Gasoline Anxiety

Road Trip with Kids – 40 Years Ago and Today

That New Car Smell Has Left My Minivan

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10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Win the $656 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

Like half of all the other desperate souls in America, I was dreaming of what I would do if I won $656 million in the Mega Millions Jackpot. I bought not one, but two lotto tickets, which is a very big deal since it meant that due to the astronomical gas prices I’d have to drive four fewer miles this week. Good timing since it’s spring break and I get a break from middle school car pool.

In my fantasy, I would pay off the house just enough to have 20% equity, then do a na-na-na-na-na-na dance to the half dozen loan officers who have turned us down for a refi this past year.

I would pay off the student loans my husband and I have accumulated to the tune of $185,000, and then have plenty left over to put our three kids through the college of their choice. What the heck… we could probably buy our own college.

We could fly first class to Florida and spend a week at Disneyworld while Emily is still young enough to enjoy it and Jake is old enough to avoid the dreaded naptime.

I could dream forever and keep going on about my fantasies, but the fact is, I didn’t win. Obviously, or my blog hit numbers would be through the roof. So since I try to be a glass half full kind of gal, I have come up with the…

10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Win the $656 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

1. Taxes. Right now I earn and pay a pittance – just enough to contribute a little something to our under-funded public schools. If I was paying millions in taxes it would all go to big ticket items like politicians’ pet projects such as funding studies on whether cockroaches prefer Cocoa Krispies or Cocoa Pebbles.

2. All the kindergartners would be knocking out their own teeth during sleepovers at our home since it would be rumored that we have a very generous Tooth Fairy.

3. My credit union building is just not big enough to deposit all those dollars

4. I really don’t want to be featured in supermarket tabloids under the headings “She’s just like us! She buys her own deodorant!” and “Lotto Winner Caught Picking Her Butt!”

5. I’d have to scrape off my “Other 99%” bumper sticker.

6. I’m afraid someone will kidnap my dogs and hold them for ransom. Then I’d have the dilemma of whether or not to pay the criminals or let the mutts just annoy them as much as they annoy me.

7. I’d probably have to start paying my kids an allowance.

8. Every third cousin in my family tree would be hightailing it to LA for a piece of the pie, and then race back again every month when their stash ran out.

9. I would have to spend all my free time rejecting new Facebook friend requests.

10. I would be invited to fancy shmancy parties that Mitt Romney is also invited to and then I’d have to keep repeating the awkward conversation that I am a Democrat and would plan to outspend his Super PAC.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Public Schools, Top 10 List

Baseball: America’s Favorite Pastime or Just a Mound of Dirt?

There are two things my husband is passionate about.

You might think I would say that they were his wife and his children.

You’d be wrong.

Although I know he loves us, he is enthusiastically, obsessively, and maniacally passionate about westerns and baseball (and of course football, as you may have read in my previous blog Why My Husband Scares the Crap Out of Our Kids).

When I got pregnant and received confirmation from the ultrasound that we were going to have a boy, I was absolutely thrilled. I’m not usually one to make sexist assumptions about gender roles, but I couldn’t wait to see our little Jake dressed up in a cowboy costume like Woody. But more importantly, and more lasting, I couldn’t wait to see him play baseball.

I got my wish a couple of weeks ago when I signed Jake up for Toluca Baseball. He was to join a group of 11 other 4 to 6-year old boys by participating in our nation’s favorite pastime.

I envisioned Tom coaching the team, helping the boys perfect their throw, giving them tips on how to hit a ball that would sail over the shortstop’s head, and Jake’s gleaming smile as he rounded the bases and stepped on home plate.

I did not get my dream come true.

We have two boys on our team who have played in a league before. The rest are novices who had to be told the definitions of mitt and 1st base. They look forward to their snack more than a chance to bat, and they’d rather play in the dirt than play ball.

Jake’s no exception.

He throws the ball as if he’s aiming for a gopher two feet in front of him.

He swings the bat slowly and gently as if he is Miss America waving in a parade.

He doesn’t run after the ball. He waits for it to roll by him, then he strolls over to where it stops and pounces on it. We have to remind him to throw the ball back to us.

He runs like he’s the Six Million Dollar Man speeding 60 mph in slow motion. I honestly don’t know how he defies the laws of gravity as he floats effortlessly through the air.

Our baseball team is all this – times 10. I’ve signed up to be the team parent, which means that I’m the good cop who gets to cheer them on when they hit the ball and the bad cop who has to wrangle them when they’re off in La La Land. As such, I have compiled a list of common commands:

Don’t play in the dirt.

Quit climbing the fence.

The bat is not a weapon.

Quit chewing your mitt.

Take your finger out of his nose.

No, it’s not snack time yet.

I told you, don’t play in the dirt.

Hey! Get out of their field! Our team is over here!

Run! Run! Run like you’re chasing after the ice cream truck!

 “Baseball stance” does not mean sitting on your butt.

Your mitt belongs on your hand – not your foot.

Your penis is supposed to stay inside your pants.

Don’t throw dirt!

Turn around and face the pitcher. The rest of you – face the batter.

Great hit!… No! Don’t chase after the ball! Run to 1st!

You’re bored? You can come to my house and clean my toilet if you want something to do.

Is that your phone? Where did you get it? Is that your purse?

Tag him! Tag him! Touch him with the ball! No – don’t throw the ball at him!

Hey! What’s that in your hand? Drop the dirt. Drop it. Drop it now!

It’s a bat. Not a golf club.

Quit picking the grass.

Get out of that tree!

Don’t push the runner off the base. He belongs there. You don’t.

You already had a turn. Yeah? Well, life’s not fair. You should learn that now when you’re 5 (no, I didn’t really say this. I thought of saying it though).

If I see you in the dirt again I’m going to move you.

Don’t cry. When we say “Run! Run!” we’re not yelling at you.

You’re playing right field. You don’t need a helmet.

Don’t fight over the ball!

Drop the bat. Don’t carry it to 1st.

You found it on the ground? Take it out of your mouth.

All of you! Stay out of the dirt!

We’ve got two more months before the closing ceremony.  I think the Toluca Baseball commissioners are going to need to order one thing for the big occasion to make these kids happy:

More dirt.

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Filed under Anxiety, Baseball, Kids, Parenting

($ ÷ Gallon) x (Miles ÷ Gallon) = LA Gasoline Anxiety

Here's the gas prices at the station closest to my home. Aaaahhhh!!!

With the astronomical price of gas these days, I start to have an anxiety attack each moment my odometer clicks another tenth of a digit. I quickly do the math in my head: if my 15-year old minivan gets 16 miles per gallon of gas and I pay $4.50 for each gallon, I am coughing up over 28 cents for every tenth of a mile. It now costs twice as much in gas to deliver my daughter’s forgotten brown bag lunch than to just make her buy lunch at the school cafeteria. What a dilemma!

When I got my driver’s license in 1978, I remember paying just 64 cents for a gallon of gas. I say this and I feel like the old geezers who complain how when they were kids they used to walk to school uphill both ways. Suddenly I’m older than dirt.

Today, as I near a hundred bucks a pop, each time I fill up my tank I feel like I just lost the kids’ college fund – that is if I was wealthy enough to actually have a decent kids’ college fund. My head pounds, I feel emotionally sick, and I am suddenly terrified of the future of both my family and America as a whole.

With such an adverse reaction, you would think that my work commute must be an enormous trek and I am suddenly spending a fortune in gas.

Wrong.

Actually, my commute distance is exactly 13-1/2 inches and takes about a nanosecond, so it costs exactly no dollars and zero cents in gas to drive to work.

Jealous? I don’t blame you.

My editing system sits on a desk near the foot of my bed and I am able to upload and download my session via the Internet. I work a 48.6 hour week (blame my union for this obscure number) and I can do it all in my pajamas.

I can’t image how I’d afford gas if I still commuted from the home in Chino I sold in 1992. It’s a 90 mile round trip to Burbank, so at 16 miles per gallon I’d be spending over $550 in gas each month. Plus I’d be wasting about 15-20 hours each week staring at lame bumper stickers and the rear ends of all those SUVs that have stick figure drawings with family member names underneath, all the while sucking up thousands of Verizon minutes yacking with people who’d certainly be tired of talking to me after the first ten minutes.

Thank you God for telecommuting.

I do have to drive a mile and a half each way every week (84¢) to drop off and pick up my external hard drive from my assistant/right hand man Eddie. I also travel four miles ($2.25 round trip) to the Disney lot and swing by the dub stage, mostly to keep my chops primed in having three-minute conversations with actual adults who work in post-production sound. In real life, the majority of my conversations consist of telling my 5-year old to stop squirming and keep his finger out of his nose, so the last thing I want to do is instinctively bark these orders at the dedicated mixers of Once Upon a Time.

So if I’m not paying up the wazoo in my work commute, where does all the gas money go?

Jake’s school is three blocks away, and since he’s a pokey walker, we drive. I figure the trip there and back costs a little less than 20 cents a day. In a week I spend less than the price the ice cream man charges for a SpongeBob on a stick. Such a bargain!

I’m the afternoon carpool mom for Mary’s school which is three miles away, and I drive about six miles on the way home dropping off the other middle school kids. That gas bill adds up to about $2.53 each day. In a week, I spend more in gas than I would in buying a half dozen Red Bulls – which I recently cut out of my budget because they’re now a luxury I can’t afford. Please don’t tell my insurance agent this if I happen to fall asleep at the wheel.

Emily attends Cleveland Humanities Magnet which is a 28-mile round trip and would cost nearly $40 a week in gas. I have all you Los Angeles property owners to thank for generously donating your tax dollars. So far LAUSD has not completely cut funding for Magnet School buses, so for me, Emily is a freebie.

I don’t have the luxury of time on my hands, yet I will still drive six miles and wait for 20 minutes in line to fill up at the Costco gas station to save a few cents.  Actually, it’s more than a few cents. Yesterday Costco gas was $4.21 a gallon, but the closest gas station to my home was $4.75. They have the audacity to charge $4.99 for premium, and at that price “premium” should mean “with complimentary foot rub.” Don’t even get me started on the three-millimeter sized “9/10” at the end of every gas price. Is there any other product that charges an extra nine-tenths of a cent?

Even with my Costco membership, it now costs more time and money to buy a gallon of gasoline than it does to get a Starbucks Venti Frappuccino. It’s too bad my minivan doesn’t run on iced coffee. Especially since I make my own cup a Joe. After all the money we spend on gas these days, who can afford to buy anything from Starbucks?

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Parenting, Public Education, Public Schools, Teenagers