Category Archives: Debt

($ ÷ 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

Why Do I Love The Home Depot? – It’s the Muzak

My son Jake helping me pick out paint colors

For the past two weeks, we’ve been trying to spruce up our house for a possible refi, which requires an appraisal. I’ve already cleared away a good amount of clutter, but I got a bug up my butt about painting the kitchen and bathroom, as if a new color will suddenly make our home worth another 50 grand.

I’m a fairly organized person and I have all the painting supplies stored in a bin in the garage, then subdivided by brushes, tape, plastic sheets, sandpaper, patching supplies, etc. It’s a Virgo thing. I figured that all I’d need to buy is paint, so it would be a cheap and easy fix.

Yet somehow every single day – sometimes as many as three times a day – I’ve made another trip to Home Depot to pick up something.

It’s kind of a pain in the bucket. The store is only about six miles away, but when I’m literally up to my elbows in wet paint and teetering on the upper ledge of a stepladder, the last thing I want to do is stop and buy another gallon of semigloss Breakwater White Behr paint. Like trying to get blood from a turnip, I will squeeze every last drop from a bone-dry paint can before I say uncle.

I pull off my latex gloves, make sure I don’t track wet paint across the floor, and hop in my minivan. I head for the big orange sign, make a right turn into the parking lot and give an apologetic wave to the dozen day laborers who are hoping for a cash transaction, steer my over-sized shopping cart into the warehouse, and suddenly I am at peace with the world.

Why?

The Home Depot Muzak.

Their satellite radio is tuned to a retro ‘70’s station – some disco, some Nixon and Carter-era rock – but it always blares a tune that urges me to sing along.

On Monday I needed more plastic covers and blue masking tape and was greeted by Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets.

On Tuesday I bought some patching compound and heard REO Speedwagon’s Roll with the Changes and the Bee Gee’s Jive Talkin’.

On Wednesday my daughter Mary told me that the Hibiscus Petal I picked out as a bathroom accent color instead looked more like a wall of cotton candy, so I returned to Home Deport for a quart of Raspberry Lemonade (the color, not the drink). Home Depot’s radio played Kiss’s Rock & Roll All Nite, and 1973’s The Ballroom Blitz, which I haven’t heard in decades.

On Thursday I decided to buy a better straight edge and was treated to Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet and The Steve Miller Band’s Jet Airliner.

On Friday I needed more primer and heard Gloria Gaynor’s megahit I Will Survive and Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4.

Some of you may be familiar with the children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, in which the future butterfly eats something different every day:

On Monday he ate through one apple, but he was still hungry.

On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry.

On Wednesday he ate through three plums, but he was still hungry…

You get the picture. I felt like the Very Hungry Caterpillar eating up all that music. I dumped my satellite radio about a year ago and traded it for the free Pandora, but I would pay to get it back just to hear this great nostalgic music while I was working on the house. I never minded waiting in The Home Depot checkout line because I was happy killing time singing along with KC and the Sunshine Band or humming to The Hustle.

I asked the manager the name of the radio station, but he didn’t know. However he told me that the same station is not only played for callers who are put on hold, it is the same music that airs in every single Home Depot across the nation.

So whether you’re buying a faucet in Florida or lumber in Louisiana or a plant in Pennsylvania, everyone hears the music that I grew up listening to.

This made me wonder about Home Depot’s listening audience. I’ve noticed that there’s a huge demographic of contractors, home fixer-uppers or employees who like me who are around 50 years old. And if we have the chance to click our heels three times and say there’s no place like Home Depot, we can be instantly transported to a time and place where the songs were memorable and the gas was only 68 cents a gallon.

So I figured if my sound editing gig ever dried up, it wouldn’t be so bad to apply for a job at The Home Depot where I could direct customers to hinges, switch plates, and PVC pipe and spend all day listening to great bands like Foreigner, Queen, Boston, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Doobie Brothers, Styx… the list is as long as those odd/even gas lines that appeared the day I got my driver’s license.

In the meantime, if I’m feeling nostalgic for Kung Fu Fighting or anything from Saturday Night Fever, I can always call The Home Depot and ask to be placed on hold.

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Filed under Debt, Humor, Music, Parenting

Too Much Poop in the Pipes

What goes down... must come up?

In today’s tough economic times I am lucky to experience pride of ownership, but there are days when I wish I could just call the super to fix the broken (fill in the blank) without pulling out my checkbook.

The latest fill-in-the-blank started about a month ago when I noticed remnants of the garbage disposal drain regurgitating into the adjoining kitchen sink. I assumed that my husband was forcing large pieces of vegetables down the drain rather than discarding them into the green bin. I wanted to call him lazy for not taking the 30 foot walk outside, but I really like it when he cooks, so I figured I’d keep my big eco-friendly mouth shut.

A few days later, the bathroom toilet started clogging so often that the plunger made itself a permanent home next to the royal throne. I blamed it on my son Jake who refuses to eat anything except hot dogs and chicken nuggets. I know he’s only 5 years old and I am the mommy, but I have to pick and choose my battles, and forcing him to eat his dinner vegetables is the battle he seems to be winning. At least he does his homework without a fight.

Then the tub began to clog on a regular basis, and I feared that there was a pussy cat-sized ball of hair clogging the pipe. I would love to have blamed that blockage on one of my daughters, but Mary still has her boy-length hairstyle, and although like me, Emily dyes her hair red, I suspect that the hairball was made up of long red hair with two-inch gray roots.

The final straw came last Monday when I started hearing gurgling sounds in the bathroom. The bubbling was coming from the toilet, and although it sounded like a 5-gallon Sparkletts bottle dispensing H2O, somehow I just knew that whatever liquid was making that sound was not going to be especially pure and fresh. A few seconds later the toilet flushed itself – or rather the water shot down and disappeared into the tank for a moment, then reappeared as murky grey muck. It reminded me of the redneck singing the The Beverly Hillbillies main title theme:

And up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.

Oil, that is.

Black gold.

Texas tea.

I suspected that unlike Jed Clampett, I wasn’t about to become a millionaire, although it might be likely that this bubblin’ crude was going to cost a million dollars to fix.

That’s the moment that I should have heeded the kinfolk’s advice when they told ol’ Jed to “move away from there,” because that crude-colored feculence nearly spilled right over the toilet rim.

I started screaming for my husband, because that’s what we delicate women do when a river of excrement is about to pour on our manicured toes. Although it was already past his bedtime (he goes to work at the ungodly hour of 6:00 am), he grabbed a flashlight and trekked out to the backyard to investigate the trap. Apparently the “trap” is the lovely place where all the household drains come together, then uniformly flow toward the city sewage line. The trap is kind of like happy hour at a bar where tramps and sleaze balls meet and at closing time make a beeline to the community fleabag hotel. And like that very busy, very sleazy bar, this trap was packed solid.

The next day I checked Angie’s List and found New-Pipe Plumbing & Rooter, the same business that installed our new copper plumbing six years ago. They also donated a gift certificate to the Colfax Charter Elementary School Silent Auction that I worked on last year, so I figured it was good karma to throw a little business their way.

Benny the Plumber ran a camera through the pipe, and my husband watched as roots attacked it like the Whomping Willow tree in the Harry Potter series.  We also had a seam where roots had shifted one of the adjoining pipes halfway downward, leaving a gaping root-filled hole and half the volume available for sewage drainage. Benny gave us three options:

1. Clear the drain with gas hydro jet for $714

2. Repair the broken section of the cracked pipe for $1723

3. Install all new sewage pipes for $5,000

It would be hard to come up with $714, nearly impossible to scrape together $1723, and we would be dreaming in La La Land to think we could afford the price of a used automobile. I told the plumber we’d do the $1723 fix. He politely advised me that he would be happy to do it, but because our home and pipes are 82 years old, that we’ll eventually be calling him again for the same fix on another section of pipe.

I contemplated crying. Then he reminded me that Angie’s List gave me a 10% discount, and that I would get another 10% discount for being part of the Colfax family. If we could do the major fix it would only cost $4,000.

The cost was still impossible.

And then I looked up at our brand new roof. That was impossible too, and yet we were spending a winter without a tarp over our heads and buckets throughout the house. How did we pay for that when our savings was nil? (You can read about that little adventure in my blog “Raising (the Cash for) My Debt Ceiling”).

Cash advance credit cards.

I pulled out one of the dozen or so offers we get each month as a reward for our good credit score. I found the one that advertised 0% until May 2013 with just a 3% fee.

I wrote the check. The plumbers came minutes later with their trenchless pipe-laying equipment and hardworking shovelers who obviously don’t need to spent their off-hours at the gym. And by nightfall, we were granted a 101-year warranty and got the A-OK to drain our human pipes into the new buried pipe.

Today I can run the dishwasher or the washing machine, turn on the faucets to the tub, shower, and kitchen and bathrooms sinks, and flush a toilet filled with the aftermath of the most humongous Thanksgiving meal, and rest assured that the remnants will not be making a reappearance up another drain like some verminous whack a mole game.

As for the money… the 0% $11,700 roof bill will start charging 15.99% interest in April. We’ve managed to pay off some of the balance, but the bulk of it will come from yet another 0% interest credit card and this year’s tax refund. That refund amount is sizable due to our insanely large mortgage payment.

Just another example of pride of ownership.

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

Red heads have more fun

I finally dyed my hair last night.

I don’t have the time or money to do it the right way – sitting for two hours in a vinyl chair reading a weekly magazine featuring a bunch of 20-somethings I’ve never head of since I don’t watch reality tv. Someday I dream of being flush, with time on my hands and I will have a standing appointment every five weeks with Jennifer at Suburbia Salon. I will be one happy woman.

Instead, I stock up red hair dye when it’s on sale and buy even more when I have a coupon. Every month or so, my grey roots start rearing their ugly heads on my hopefully-not-so-ugly head.  After putting the kids to bed, I throw on my old dye-covered tank top and boxer shorts, put on the cheapest plastic gloves ever made and start soaking those roots.

The problem is, I’ve now had shingles for seven weeks, and my scalp is still burning. I assume that hair dye is a big no-no since the last thing you should throw on a burning scalp is ammonia.

Since last week when I was finally well enough to get out, I’ve been hiding three months of grey roots under a Santa hat, but now that Christmas is over, it’s kind of like floating that heart-shaped mylar Valentine’s Day balloon well after the Easter bunny has delivered his goodies. It just looks sad and desperate.

So I was extremely excited to find among my hair dye stash a product I bought a couple years ago by mistake – Clairol Natural Instincts in #22 cinnaberry with antioxidants and vitamins C & E! (they have the exclamation point on the box… I‘m excited, but not excited enough to add extra punctuation).

Why haven’t I used it? Because when I bought it I didn’t realize that it was non-permanent color and washes out after 28 shampoos. Granted, I could be cheap and lacking in hygiene and let that baby last for a good seven months, but frankly if I didn’t mind if my hair got greasy and nasty on the 5th, 6th and 7th day, I probably wouldn’t be so anal about my grey roots.

I did the math. If I wash my hair every other day, then my cinnaberry hair would be gone in less than two months. And that means completely gone. By the end of the first month, those stubborn grey roots would be three inches long and stealthly peeking their way out of my head, slowly materializing every day of the second month like an overly long magic trick.

I had forgotten to exchange my Clairol Natural Instincts and eventually lost the receipt, so it sat at the back of my hair dye collection, waiting to get thrown out as soon I planned to de-clutter the bathroom.

Until last night. I pulled it out and found two wonderful words on the box: ammonia free! (exclamation point mine this time). I could apply the dye to my raw scalp and it wouldn’t hurt, and it would tide me over until I was well enough to get the real thing.

I can now go out in the real world and tie one on at a New Year’s Eve party, although I never know who or what I should be tying. I just know that red heads truly have more fun than three-inch grey heads.

I’m in the process of clearing away clutter and other needless stuff. I’m happy to have my red hair back, but unfortunately I’m re-thinking about throwing things out. You never know if I’m going to wish I kept that stained “Happy Millennium” t-shirt.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Illness, Recuperating

Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth

My boss is kind enough to be one of my regular blog readers, so he took pity on me two weeks ago when I posted 10 Luxuries I Can Now Afford Since Once Upon a Time Got Picked Up for a Full Season and threw me another bone: four days of extra work on the TNT series Perception, starring Eric McCormick from Will & Grace, premiering summer 2012, but dubbing this week.

I could really use the cash and immediately started canceling some commitments, rearranging others and basically increasing my mega dose of caffeine. I had already written and was ready to post my next blog My Ex Husband is Getting Married Today for Friday 11-11-11. I threw on my cape, readied myself for a good night’s sleep sometime the next week, and started forging ahead. I’ve pulled this kind of task off many times before. But I was suddenly lambasted by a foe I had never before encountered.

Shingles.

I’ve had my share of pain in my life. I’ve broken my leg, cracked my coccyx, champed out stitches and suffered three experiences of childbirth ranging from all natural, to give me the epidural now!, to what the hell do you mean it’s too late for the f#%*ing epidural?

But nothing so far has prepared me for the sheer agony of shingles.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this ailment (myself included), it’s a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and is usually initiated by stress or a weakened immune system – which I guess is proof that I was unable to retain my Super-working-volunteer-mom status solely on a diet of Zipfizz and zero carb Monster energy drinks.

The Shingles started in my eye, and after being diagnosed with a migraine, a lacerated cornea and an ulcerated eyeball, the unbearable pain swirled through my eye and entire left side of my head, screaming for doctors to just murder me, because even though they wanted me to rate my pain level between 0 and 10, it had already zoomed past 12 on the agony Richter scale.

This cacophony of torment kept me incapacitated and hospitalized for a week and a half. I floated in and out of pain, sleep, and delusional pain meds for nearly a week, with an oozing eye covered in blisters and too swollen to see through. I resembled Sylvester Stallone in the first Rocky film when he begs his trainer to “Cut me, Mick!”

Still in a lot of pain, but definitely on the mend, it looks like I’ll be released from the hospital sometime tomorrow. I’ve got some vein bruising from my IV, so I can’t use my left hand. But my husband brought my laptop and reading glasses to the hospital today, so as I groggily hunt and peck the keyboard with one hand, I have composed:

10 Things I Learned From Having Shingles:
1. I am capable of lying in my own urine all night without realizing it. That’s how out-of-it I can be.

2. I can go 10 days without a bowel movement. My record was broken today after just five minutes experiencing my first-ever enema.

3. Hospital food isn’t that bad, particularly when you have no appetite. However, I realize that I actually like Jell-O.

4. I am eternally grateful for having good medical insurance. I don’t know yet what my out-of-pocket bills will ultimately be, but without insurance, that fear of living in an IKEA box could be a reality.

5. Without paying for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig (both wonderful weight loss systems from what I hear) I managed to lose 8 lbs. in a week. This shingles weight loss method however is not recommended.

6. My lily-white mind-altering-chemical-free head makes me a very bad candidate for pain meds. I’ve never been into recreational drugs and haven’t had any alcohol in over 16 years (I seem to have more than made up for it with my insane caffeine intake), so Demerol, Dilaudid and Vicodin all gave me the dry heaves, and narcotics that helped the pain gave me weird and vividly real nightmares where cats and rats were chasing me, or that I was the star of my own Fellini film.

7. Commercials ultimately pay my salary, but I am oh so grateful to Dish TV for not forcing me to watch them. Because St. Joseph’s Hospital doesn’t have the luxury of Dish or TiVo, I was bombarded by not only the worst choices of daytime programming, but I was also forced to sit through the identical dozen or so lame commercials every 15 minutes. On the plus side, I was usually too incoherent to pay much attention.

8. I am officially burnt out on Law & Order SVU. I used to be a fan, but after finally getting some of my mind back, I was treated to an entire Sunday with SVU marathons on two different channels so I could switch back and forth whenever there was a commercial. I happened to catch a long stream of episodes where chest-beating outsiders came in for pissing contests with the regulars. And frankly, you can only see so many rapes in one day before you start feeling like Malcolm McDowell being sickened by ultra-violence in A Clockwork Orange. I finally turned it off for good with a bad case of the heebie jeebies and the uneasy feeling that no woman is ever completely safe.

9. No, the clock hasn’t stopped. It just feels that way because pain time moves so much slower than real time.

10. No one is indispensable – even me. I enjoy being a very VERY busy mom, and have a certain amount of narcissist pride that I can pull off anything if I set my mind to it. After my shingles experience, I know I can’t always do that. I missed my kids’ nighttime prayers and school activities, yet another one of my son Jake’s basketball practices, my daughter Mary Belle’s 11th birthday, and whatever teen angst my daughter Emily was going through this week. I dropped volunteer commitments that I take very seriously and social engagements with friends who may never be reunited again. I bailed on my husband, just as he was turning in the comps for his Ph.D., which was incredibly bad timing. My ego might tell me that I’m the best dang dialogue editor in the whole freakin’ universe, but when it came time for me to abruptly bail on not one but two shows, my boss found a couple of equally talented freakin’ great dialogue editors to step in at a moment’s notice to make sure they didn’t miss their dub date.

Yes, I can disappear for a week and a half (and I may still be out of commission for a few weeks) but the world keeps spinning on its axis. Others pitch in and save the day.

It will take me a long time to thank them all.

But I’m going to try.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting, Surgery, Teenagers, Volunteering

10 Luxuries I Can Now Afford Since “Once Upon a Time” Got Picked Up for a Full Season

A couple of weeks ago, on the night of its premiere, I wrote the blog Please, Fairy Godmother… Please Make “Once Upon a Time” a Mega Hit!

I got my wish.

On Thursday, ABC announced that it was ordering a full season pick up of the new fairy tale drama, which means 9 additional episodes to their original order of 13.

Why do I care so much? As the dialogue editor for the show, that means 9 more paychecks. And if it truly is a mega hit, I may have 22 weeks of pay for years to come.

Since my last show Brothers & Sisters was cancelled last May, my mind has been going to some very dark places. Unemployment is only available for 26 weeks, and if I didn’t get another show, those dark places could quickly become a reality.

Foreclosure.

No medical insurance.

Food stamps.

Selling my kids into slavery.

But now I can count on some regular paychecks. Well, as long as I keep turning my show in on time and well edited. And also as long as the higher-ups on Once Upon a Time (basically everyone higher than I am) don’t get annoyed that a lacky like myself is incessantly chatting about their hit show on her mommy blog.

So now that I can count on a regular income (about as regular as you can get in the entertainment industry), here are the 10 Luxuries I Can Now Afford Since Once Upon a Time Got Picked Up for a Full Season:

  1. I can stop calling peanut butter the other white meat. We can finally add some lovely Spam to our dinner. Not every night. But some nights.
  2. Feed my dogs instead of eat my dogs. Their growling stomachs were really bugging me, and frankly, these mutts don’t have a lot of meat on their bones to nibble on.
  3. My 2012 wardrobe will not completely consist of my 10-year old’s rejected hand-me-downs from her classmate. I’m so glad Mary Belle’s friend is out of the High School Musical phase. I was feeling like one of those pathetic moms that dresses like her teenage daughter and truly believes it when people tell her they look like sisters.
  4. I can stop filling my Arrowhead water bottles from my neighbor’s hose. I dodged a bullet by never getting caught. Maybe I should make them a quiche to ease my guilty thieving conscience. A Spam quiche.
  5. I’ll donate blood for free. Platelets, however are too lucrative to give away.
  6. I can stop making my kids reuse their dental floss (no wonder they hate to floss).
  7. We won’t be living in a cardboard box on an off ramp. Actually my plan was to create a home out of cardboard boxes from IKEA. I figured that it would be easier to put together than their furniture.
  8. I can start buying my kids’ friends real birthday presents instead of just recycling the gifts they gave to my kids. It’s really embarrassing when I find out the hard way that there’s a personalized message in the book that was given.
  9. I can stop googling “earn money” “black market” and “kidney” together in advanced search mode. But shoot… I could have made a bundle of money. But my kidneys are getting a little old and tired. Too bad my daughter Emily’s got type 1 diabetes. They probably don’t want hers either.
  10. I can keep posting blogs on Sundays (those are the days that public libraries – and hence computers and the internet – are closed). Otherwise, it would take me about two days to text these ramblings via cell phone. Also, Verizon would have cut my service by then anyway for lack of payment.

Ok… so I’m exaggerating a little. But in my head, I really was living in a box on an off ramp, filtering leftover German Shepherd with my single kidney.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

Next – The 10 Luxuries I Can Afford When I Win Lotto.

#1 – Spam every day!

Episode #3 of Once Upon a Time airs tonight at 8:00 pm on ABC. Please watch.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Parenting

Please, Fairy Godmother… Please Make “Once Upon a Time” a Mega Hit!

Once Upon a Time premieres on ABC tonight at 8:00 and depending on the number of Nielsen families tuning in for that hour, it will mean continuous employment for thousands of entertainment industry professionals, or just another show destined for instantaneous obscurity.

As the show’s dialogue editor, I am so far down the entertainment food chain that I don’t even warrant a screen credit (that goes to my sound supervisor Tom deGorter who absolutely deserves to be there on the big screen – depending on how large your tv set is). Yet I’m still antsy. It’s kind of like the big release of a new car model. I’m the guy who installs the floor mats, and I am anxiously waiting to see whether or not it will be the next Prius or just another Gremlin.

My desire for Once Upon a Time’s success is not motivated completely by selfishness (although the trickledown effect of its failure for me would be long-term unemployment followed by home foreclosure… and my kids really like their neighborhood and schools). The fact is – I actually love this show. I’m starting work on episode #5 this week, and I am genuinely hooked.

I’ve always loved fairy tales, whether they’re Disney, Golden Books or The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (if you have kids, beware; they’ll make you read this one to them over and over and over…). As a kid I performed a skit called Little Red Hot Pants, and in my early 20’s I wrote a Snow White direct-to-video (that never even made it to video) featuring normal-sized men on their knees acting as dwarfs (today that would be oh so politically incorrect). For years I did the sound for my daughters’ plays, which included fairy tale musicals like Into the Woods, Once Upon a Mattress, and Honk. And I know I’m not the only adult who still appreciates a good fairy tale. Although I’m not a fan of them, I’m certain there’s some X-rated film out there with Goldilocks gasping, “This one’s too soft!” “This one’s too hard!” “This one’s just right!”

You must be a shut-in if you haven’t seen a Once Upon a Time billboard. It features either a creepy Rumplestiltskin or an evil queen who looks a lot like Michelle Pfeiffer if Michelle was actually 20 years younger. The fancier billboards actually change the two characters back and forth as you move, which makes me believe it truly is magical, since there haven’t been any reported accidents while drivers were gawking at the metamorphosis.

Once Upon a Time contains all your classic fairy tale characters: Snow White, Cinderella, various princes and evil queens, even Jiminy Cricket and Little Red Riding Hood. The most memorable character is Rumplestiltskin (played by the amazing Scottish actor Robert Carlyle from Trainspotting and The Full Monty). The settings are grand castles and dark dungeons, and it features elaborate costumes, hair and makeup, and a cast of horses that would rival a Miramax film.

But that only half of this fairy tale. The evil queen has put a curse on the fairy tale characters, and they are all transported to a present day New England Town with no memory of their true existence. Henry, an adopted 10-year old boy, is the only one in Storybrooke who is aware of the curse. He enlists the help of his skeptical birth mother Emma, a bounty hunter whom Henry believes to be the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.

Once Upon a Time is created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the executive producers of Lost, so I’m hopeful that their fans will be seeking an exciting (and hopefully not so confusing) refuge since that show wrapped last season.

The show is scheduled against The Amazing Race and The Simpsons. Now in its 11th season, that race is no longer so amazing, and as much as I still love The Simpsons, after two dozen years of downing Duff beer, Homer can’t possibly have a functioning liver.

Watch Once Upon a Time tonight. If you don’t want to do it for me and my family, do it for yourself, because I think you’re going to love it. If you miss it or don’t have a recorder, you can watch it online here.

And because Once Upon a Time is owned by ABC (which is owned by Disney), there’s sure to be a new theme park ride or attraction based on the show: Snow White’s Scary Adventure.

Looks like they already did that.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Ditto.

Stay tuned for the Grand Opening of Disneyland’s newest wild ride: Rumplestiltskin’s Spinning Room. However Disney will be the one taking home the gold.

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Lucky to be Working Again?

Taking a break

First of all, let me tell you how grateful I am to have a job. Every morning I wake up to NPR, and by the time I get out the door there’s always a story about the unemployed.

From May through September, that would be me, as I mentioned in last week’s blog The Show Biz Hiatus Dance.

I’ve now been back to work for three weeks and have received two glorious paychecks. I’m not scrambling to grab another balance transfer on a 0% interest credit card to pay for the DWP bill, yet knowing that the temperature has to reach triple digits in my house before I turn on the air conditioner.

Because I am a very VERY busy mom, my calendar is always chock full of commitments, most of which I try to fulfill, and because I work from home, my schedule is flexible enough that I can usually pull it off.

Here was my extracurricular schedule this week:

Saturday:

8:30 am – 5:30 pm Models of Pride conference with Emily

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm Going away dinner for my neighbor

8:00 pm – 12:00 pm Colfax Charter Elementary Parents Social

Sunday:

8:00 am – 1:00 pm AIDS Walk LA

Monday:

9:00 am – 10:00 am Meeting

6:00 pm – 8:30 pm Colfax Annual Giving Telethon

Tuesday:

7:30 pm – 8:30 pm Meeting

Wednesday:

4:30 pm – 5:15 pm First basketball practice for Jake

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Valley Village Homeowners Association Meeting

Thursday:

10:20 am –? Great California Shakeout

7:00 – 8:30 pm Take Mary Belle to Turning Pages volunteer group

Friday:

9:00 – 10:00 Celebrate my friend Lisa’s birthday

This doesn’t include car pools, daily community reading in my son’s kindergarten class, family dinner, chores, helping my kids with homework, or obvious things like taking a shower or sleep.

This was a tough week. I’m a dialogue editor working from home on the new ABC show Once Upon a Time, and frankly, the production sound sucks. There are probably a lot of variables of which I am unaware, but there should never be a reason why I should be cleaning 5000 microphone zaps out of a show. A job that typically takes me 50 to 60 hours this week took close to 80.

Where did I get those 80 hours? I made it to Jake’s first basketball practice, but otherwise everything after Monday was a wash, including the car pool, reading, dinner, chores, and even eventually the shower. And sleep. On Wednesday and Thursday I crawled out of bed, parked my butt in my Herman Miller Aeron desk chair and stayed there until the wee hours, leaving only to make a smoothie or use the bathroom.

Thursday morning, I got a call from the dub stage saying my tracks sounded like crap (ok, they didn’t use the word “crap,” but it was the same implication).

What? No one has ever accused my tracks of sounding like crap. My boss told me that they were trying to move along with the mix, but that I would need to recut the problem areas, which apparently were across the entire show.

While I was on the phone with my boss, I got another call with the caller ID from my daughter’s high school. Emily wasn’t feeling well and wanted me to pick her up. The school is 20 miles away, and I realized at that moment that there was no earthly way for me to finish my show by Friday.

I started to cry. Not just cry, but bawl my head off, heaving and jerking around like some daytime soap star. It was the hardest and longest crying fit I’ve had probably since puberty. My 15-year old was still on the other end of the line.

“Breathe, mom. Breathe. It’s ok. I’ll just lie down in the nurse’s office and wait til school gets out.”

I barely heard her as I cried some more and dripped tears and runny snot all over my bed. I wanted to take a nap. I wanted to die.

I sobbed a little longer, and then started working again.

My husband Tom came home from work, made dinner, and read to Jake. Mary Belle helped Jake with his crafty project (don’t get me started – those crafty projects will soon be getting an angry blog of their own). Emily took the school bus home and said she felt better by the end of the day.

I kept working.

I started to make better time.

It turned out that there was a technical glitch on the stage, and my tracks were actually not crap. Oops. I started to reclaim a small portion of my fractured self image.

I worked again until after midnight, then drove to Disney at 7:00 am with four more minutes of material to cut. I brought my laptop, MBox and drive and finished cutting on the stage, managing to stay just one step ahead of what they needed.

I left the Disney lot just after 1:00.

And now I’m on to the next episode.

I’m going to start early erasing some of my calendar for next week. And I’m thinking of turning on the air conditioner tonight, just to remind myself how lucky I am to have a job.

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The Show Biz Hiatus Dance

Sorry folks.

I’m a little busy with my day job this week, meaning the one that pays the bills (or at least some of them). I’ve got a dozen ideas rolling around in my head, but I just don’t have time yet to jot them down via keyboard and upload them into cyberspace. So in the meantime…

For those of you new to Very VERY busy mom, I started this blog on North Hollywood/Toluca Lake’s Patch.com, the hyper-local newsite owned by AOL.  This was my very first post and appeared on May 4, 2011. I thought I might reprint it here, since I’m now currently on the opposite end of The Show Biz Hiatus Dance.

The Hiatus Dance as a tv sound editor

Man is the only earthly being that senses the concept of time, and as long as he’s been aware of it, he’s been slicing that time into “before” and “after” sections. Nine months of an anticipated due date is followed by decades of annual birthdays (which progressively become fodder for mock and ridicule). Our Gregorian calendar divides our years into B.C. and A.D., which more recently can be dissected into “Before Children” and “After Divorce.” And for many of us who are seasonally employed in the entertainment industry, our world is split into two distinct segments: “working” and “on hiatus.”Last week I was working.

This week I am on hiatus.

Work = money and no time. Hiatus = time and no money. And as Kipling said, “Never the twain shall meet.”

For over a quarter of a century, I have been a television sound editor, working primarily from September through May. I get a few breaks around Christmas and in the spring, but most weeks it’s 50 – 60 hours working on a strict deadline. And then faster than you can say “Nielsen ratings,” I’m unemployed.

Brisco County, Jr.

My busiest week on record is a total of 112 clocked hours, so when I say I was working every waking minute, it’s not much on an exaggeration. You know you’re working too much when you want to dial “9” before making a phone call, or instinctively grab a toilet seat cover when using the little girls’ room. My hardest month was May of 1994, when I was in the midst of May sweeps for my show The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., while simultaneously cutting the pilots for ER and Third Watch.

ER

After working 16-hour days for a couple of weeks, I went to work on Friday at 6:00 am and worked straight through until 1:15 Saturday afternoon. Then I went to a wedding.

Third Watch

I was younger then. Today that would kill me. And believe me, I would be praying for death.

Today’s 50-60 hour week should feel like part-time work. But now that I have three kids and a very busy life outside of work, it’s become a hard task to gracefully master. I’m lucky to have a husband who doesn’t work in the industry. He has a normal 40-hour week (albeit an early one – 6:00 am – 2:00 pm) and picks up a lot of slack. If we have home-cooked meals, he’s the one who prepares them. He’s often the parent who picks up the kids from school, takes them to appointments and helps them with their homework. It’s really hard to feel like a martyr when your husband is the one cleaning up the midnight flu vomit. But even he can’t do it all when my workload is heavy.

When I’m on a show, we eat a lot of Costco ready-made meals. I have to just accept the sticky floors and the thick layer of dog hair that accumulates in every corner of the house. Lack of exercise has made my hips even more Jell-O-like, and I blame sleep deprivation for making me forget the names of my children. My responses to Evites are posted in this order: “YES!”…. then “Maybe”… and finally a day or two before the event, a very apologetic “No.” I have a half-dozen saved phone messages from my 10-year old daughter pleading “Please come home Mommy! PLEASE!” and I have to create auto replies for my emails saying that it’s not that I’m out of the office, it’s just that I’m too busy to look at them.

Joan Cusack running in "Broadcast News"

When describing my work schedule to the 9-to-5ers, I compare it to two different movies, which is appropriate since I work in entertainment. The first is from the 1987 film Broadcast News where Joan Cusack has less than 60 seconds to leap over and under file cabinets, drinking fountains and small children to deliver videotape before the station is forced to cut to black. This hilarious scene shows the urgency and panic of working under an impossible deadline, and it’s similar to the nightmares that wake me up when I really need to be getting my beauty sleep.

The Slave Galley in "Ben Hur"

The other film is the rowing of the galley slaves scene in the classic film Ben Hur. I think of this scene whenever one of my at-home mom friends suggests that I make it a point of taking time to relax. This would be akin to a shackled Charlton Heston, rowing at top ramming speed, turning to the guy with the whip and asking “Can’t I just pause a moment and take a little ‘me’ time?”

I have it easier than most. Working in post-production (and for this season working completely from home) I have a certain amount of autonomy and flexibility as long as I get my show done.

Chained to work

Those who work in production are not so lucky. They get up at 6:00 am and travel to whatever location they’re shooting that day, and they are literally slaves until after the last scene of the day when the director yells “Cut.” They might finish up at midnight and do it all over again the next day. Granted, the crew has meals brought to them, but so do prisoners in San Quentin, but at least the convicts get a full night’s sleep.

And then there’s hiatus.

I actually get an adrenaline rush just thinking about hiatus.

Ahhh... hiatus!!!

My to-do list is miles long, and ranges from big projects like cleaning out my garage and painting the house to simple little things like picking my kids up from school on foot, or taking a moment to brush my matted dogs. I’m looking forward to reading a book. Yesterday I went to the YMCA and took my first Pilates class in four months. Unfortunately, today I’m walking like I just road a horse from Bakersfield. I also spent two hours at Target strolling down every single aisle – and I did it with my four-year old. As anyone with a preschooler will immediately attest, this should have been the equivalent of an afternoon in hell. Instead, I had a great time, although a variety of squirt guns and squishy balls magically appeared in my basket.

You used to know who was on hiatus, because you’d all see each other in the unemployment line the following Monday, but now (mercifully) you can file online. Marie et Cie and Aroma Café bustle with new summer regulars who finally have time to socialize or start that screenplay they’ve been talking about forever. The 12-step rooms are packed with those who finally have time to work on their addictions, or who are under the misconceived notion that they’ll get their big break by pitching to a celebrity during an AA meeting.

The workaholics have a big problem. If they don’t have a family or a hobby, the transition from 180 mph to a dead stop is just too extreme. They’ll end up like the stereotypical housewives – eating bon bons and watching Oprah, or in the case of the men, eating ships & salsa and watching ESPN.

Many friends of mine in the industry have a tough time making the work/hiatus transition, especially when they have kids. The ones with a full-time nanny have the easiest time, because they get a long vacation and don’t have to clean up a mess that’s been piling up for nine months. But those with a spouse who stays home with the kids tend to perform a confusing dance of Who’s Job is it Anyway? for the first month or so of hiatus. The hardworking parent finally gets some quality time with his little angels, but completely disrupts the routines established by the long-suffering spouse. The breadwinner thinks he deserves a little downtime but the homemaker resents having him parked on the sofa all day watching Law and Order reruns.

The at-home parent feels like a chump who has to play bad cop with the kids because the good cop/parent is suddenly home, taking back some authority and lets the kids stay up late, have extra dessert, or skip chores. This leaves the other parent dealing with cranky kids the next morning, hyper sugar highs or cleaning tornado-ravaged bedrooms. With this feast or famine style of cohabitation, I’m often amazed that entertainment industry marriages survive at all.

The West Wing

And then there’s the money… or rather lack of it. For those working on a successful show, hiatus is a vacation like one any other deserving American might take, only longer. In the late ‘90’s/early 2000’s I was the dialogue editor on the full seven-season run of “The West Wing,” and I always had an intense summer itinerary with my kids which included touring amusement parks, exploring every park within a ten-mile radius and taking weekly beach excursions.

brothers & sisters

However my current show, Brothers & Sisters, seems to be in a limbo state. It has not been picked up for the fall season, but its set has not been struck either, so I am anxiously waiting for the fall lineup to see if I get to go to the beach or start scrambling for another job. Maybe I’ll be on the next long-running hit show… or I might land a stinker that gets cancelled before Halloween. If the latter is the case, hiatus = beau coup time and a home foreclosure.

So much for the glamorous life of show biz.

Once Upon a Time

Here’s my happy ending –

This season I’m cutting dialogue on the show “Once Upon A Time” which premieres Sunday, October 23 at 8:00 pm on ABC. We did not lose the house, but our credit card debt now rivals those of many small nations. I am still trying to clean out the garage.

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Raising (the Cash for) My Debt Ceiling

This blog is reprinted from from my original Patch blog on July 15, 2011: http://patch.com/B-lGC

When giving someone directions to my house, I’d specify by saying, “It’s the house with the big blue tarp.” Strapped on by hefty ropes and a variety of bungee cords, the 50 by 30 foot tarp enabled us to use our mixing bowls for cooking rather than collecting rain water indoors. On stormy nights, it sounded like we were raging choppy seas on a medieval sailing ship, and on windy days we raced from the car to the front door, maneuvering an obstacle course of flying tiles and cement.

After getting multiple quotes from roofers, it was apparent that the tarp was here to stay. At the bare minimum, a new roof was going to cost ten grand. They might as well have told us ten million. We just didn’t have the money.

Then tragedy struck. Specifically, that tragedy struck my left breast. On a clear, calm day, a large Mexican tile hurled itself from the roof, took aim and collided with my not-so-endowed chest. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I don’t have implants, or I may have needed a quick silicone patch.

The debris could have hit one of my three kids in the head – or the head of one of their 30 regular playdates. Our 81-year old roof was no longer the brunt of my poor white trash jokes. It was now a life or death issue. At the very least, it was a costly lawsuit waiting to happen.

My husband and I bought our home in 2005, just as the height of the market was starting to peak. We’re not necessarily underwater, but we’re like a young toddler wildly treading that water, barely staying afloat. We’ve been trying to refinance, and I had hoped we could get some equity out of the house to pay for a new roof, but it turns out my hopes were higher than our collapsing roof.

We cleaned out our two $1000 Rainy Day Funds. After all, there’s nothing like a leaky roof to realize that Rainy Day Funds should literally be spent before that Rainy Day wrecks havoc on your indoor furniture. We tapped out the last of our home equity line of credit (AKA the Monsoon Day Fund) that enables us to pay our bills while I’m on hiatus. We juggled bills, cancelled services, and postponed debts that wouldn’t hurt our credit score.

I awkwardly mentioned to friends I’ve loaned money to that now would be a really good time to consider paying me back. Unfortunately, they were all in the same financial dire straits they were in when they hit me up in the first place, and as they say, you can’t get blood from a turnip.

A relative of mine has a few bucks, so stuttered through a humiliating plea, only to get immediately turned down. I crawled with my tail between my legs and asked my ex-husband for an advance in child support for our two daughters, and he actually came through for me – even graciously. Now I have to be really really nice to him for a very very long time. On the other hand, it’s a pretty small price to pay for the safety of his little princesses’ noggins.

We were now completely tapped out, and still had $5000 to go. I was losing sleep, wondering how much money I could make if I sold oranges and lemons from my backyard trees. Could I take in laundry or clean houses? Sell blood? Plasma? Did we have anything of value we could sell on ebay? The only jewelry worth more than 50 bucks is my wedding ring, and that would just be sad – pawning off the symbol of my (current) husband’s love to literally pay for the roof over my head. Even if I was desperate enough to search for a little Mafia money, how in the world would you find a loan shark in Valley Village?

The answer came to me not in a vision, but in an audible message called NPR:

On August 2, the federal government will reach its debt ceiling limit of $14.3 trillion. 

This was my answer.

I had reached my own debt ceiling, and mine was nowhere near $14.3 trillion. And like the US government’s AAA rating, my credit score is good, and I’d like to keep it that way. So I just did what any other worthy Democrat would do.

I raised my debt ceiling and got a cash advance.

It’s actually a great deal. Just a 3% fee and no interest until July 2012.

Now my ceiling is in debt, but at least it no longer leaks.

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