Category Archives: Husband

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

For Father’s Day, My Husband’s Wish is to Just Be Left Alone

Marc, Tom & Lina at the Saturday night Dodger game against the White Sox.

My husband Tom loves baseball with a passion, so for the past few Father’s Days, we’ve taken him to a Dodger game. It’s a perfect tradition – leave at noon for the 1:10 game, stuff ourselves with Dodger dogs, cotton candy and this incredibly tasty ice cream bites treat called Dibs, and take in some sun. It’s a bummer that Emily and Mary can’t make it since they spend Father’s Day with their dad (my ex-husband), who of course trumps step dad, but we take Jake, Tom’s mom Lina, and one or two of Tom’s childless buddies.

A few weeks ago Tom revealed to me he actually isn’t as fond of this tradition as I thought he was. In fact, it turns out that he not only hates day games (too much sun), but frankly he doesn’t like going anywhere on a Sunday, even if it does seem like fun. Apparently he would like to spend and entire day resting up from weekend fun, which basically nixes any holiday that falls on a Sunday – Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter. If he had his way he would hold Hallmark hostage until the card company switched all those big days to a Saturday. Better yet – Monday so he can get a holiday from work.

Emily, Mary & Jake at the Dodger game

This actually works out better for all of us since it means that Emily and Mary can join us. They don’t really follow the game, but they do like the food. The girls and Jake also like clapping with the organ, doing the wave, and trying to hit the illegal beach ball that gets bounced around in the stands. We brought our friend Marc, a huge sports fan (he attended every single home Kings game and three that were out of state), but he’s got a bah-humbug attitude about these activities. I was afraid that Marc was going to climb over the bleachers and pop the beach ball with a sharpened soda straw. Still, it’s always fun to go to any sporting event with someone who’s a fan of the game.

Tom had a bit of a damper for this year’s Father’s Day. He came home from work early Friday with a horrible upset stomach and it lingered on through the weekend. Although he trudged through the Dodger game, he didn’t really feel like eating anything, which is kind of like going on a cruise when you’re in the middle of a cleanse. Sure, you’ll have a good time, but the meals are a big part of the trip.

Tom & me at the Dodger game after I ate too many garlic fries

On the other hand, I gorged myself on a platter of garlic fries which were dripping in either oil or butter, and then it ended up reeking from my pores all night. Needless to say, Tom spent Father’s Day Eve sleeping on the sofa. There’s nothing like garlic sweat to really mess up an already upset stomach.

The next morning, the kids and I cooked Tom a special meal of extra-thick bacon and a huge omelet with extra cheese, or what should have been called The Clogged Artery Breakfast. I was still full from the night before, the girls we going to eat breakfast with their dad, and Jake was dying for a Poptart since it’s a treat he only gets on the weekends. So Tom was left to eat by himself, or at least pretended to eat while we were watching. With his wobbly stomach, he probably dumped it in the trashcan as soon as we left the room singing Happy Father’s Day to You.

The kids serve Tom breakfast on the sofa

The girls departed with their dad, which left just Jake and myself to celebrate Tom’s fifth year of fatherhood (sixth if you count Jake kicking around in my stomach). I figured it was Tom’s big day and he could spend it any way he wished.

And his wish?: to be left alone to watch westerns all day and play the MMO game Dark Age of Camelot with his virtual friends.

Just one funny card. No gift to open. Lina bought the Dodger tickets and I bought all the food there, and since Tom didn’t feel like eating, that pretty much means that I gave my husband bupkis for Father’s Day. Jake drew a picture of himself on a palm-size rock and made a paper tie for his dad.

Jake gives Tom his Father’s Day gifts

We gave Tom his wish for the most part. Jake played with Legos. I cleaned the house, which was so filthy it should have had cauthion tape stretched around it. Jake and I ran some errands and brought Tom some minestrone soup for dinner.

Pretty boring. But for my low-maintenance husband and his queasy tummy, it was a great Father’s Day.

The nice thing about today is that it will be very easy to top it next year.

If you’re a dad, I hope you got exactly what you wanted for Father’s Day.

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Filed under Baseball, Family, Friends, Holidays, Humor, Husband, Illness, Kids, Parenting

I Used to Bake a Lot of Cookies… And Then I Had Kids

Back in 1993 when I was a 31-year old newlywed, I used to cook all the time. I received many extravagant wedding gifts and I loved to use all the kitchen appliances: bread maker; pasta maker; juicer; waffler; Cuisinart with all the gadgets. I prepared an amazing bruschetta with fresh roma tomatoes, basil and garlic, and the more often I made it, the more immune I became to garlic. I made my last big batch when Emily was just a few months old and it reeked of so much garlic it would have scared away the cast of Twilight, and I was forced to pump & dump because Emily refused to breastfeed my stinky milk for a day.

These days, I’m not much of a cook. I try to spice up a box of Hamburger Helper by replacing pork chunks for ground beef or adding a pack of frozen peas, but that’s the extent of my culinary creativity.

We don’t have the budget to eat out or buy take out. If we did, my family would be regular customers at every eatery within a 3-mile radius. Because I’m usually overbooked, I tend to stock up on Costco or Trader-Joe’s ready-made meals. Unfortunately, the rest of the family is sick of them and are now boycotting anything that comes in a 2-quart plastic container.

But before I had kids, I was one heck of a baker, which seems backwards since you’d think I’d be baking more with my kids. Back then I owned a home with a spacious gourmet kitchen and a double oven, and I had the luxury of actually getting the baking dishes washed while my treats were cooking instead of spending that time pouring apple juice, pulling out the bin of Barbies and grabbing Neosporin and a Bandaid. Now I have a trampoline that is bigger than my whole kitchen, my oven temperature has a mind of its own, and my collection of baking utensils has dwindled down to one cracked mixing bowl and a four-quart measuring cup.

Back in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s I used to be a quiet co-dependant and created lavish cheesecakes and birthday cakes and spent the holidays frantically baking up a storm for all my co-workers as an effort to make them like me. It turns out they liked me without me having to kiss their stomachs, and they showed me their gratitude by taking up a collection and buying me a Kitchen Aide mixer. I paid them back by getting pregnant shortly thereafter and rarely baking again.

One Christmas I baked four different kinds of bar cookies, rice krispie squares, peanut butter fudge, 10 dozen cupcakes, 6 batches of brownies, and 100 dozen cookies. It took me from Friday through Sunday night with very little sleep in between, and I packed up the variety in large baskets for each department at work. I have a picture somewhere and I wish I could find it. My arms are outstretched in front of row after row of cardboard boxes piled high with baked goods. It’s the only proof I have that I’m not exaggerating, because personally, I wouldn’t believe me either.

I’m not quiet or co-dependent any more, but the main reason I don’t bake like Mrs. Fields is because I’m just too busy. I always donate something to the school bake sales, but in most cases they’re the slice & bake cookies, or brownies or cupcakes that just need eggs, oil and water added. My kids love the latter because they get to lick the cracked bowl and wooden spoon. Unfortunately I tend to find time to bake hours after they’ve gone to bed, so the licking of utensils is a rare treat.

Tom is definitely the chef of the family. He’ll make a big pot of jambalaya or chili, and I will continue to eat the leftovers for lunch day after day and never get sick of them. I make a complete fool of myself at potlucks because I am not too proud to take home all the leftovers. I figure it’s saving me over $100 in food and about 5 hours of cooking/cleaning time for the week. I have no idea what kind of reputation I have when I’m out of earshot. Are people making oinking sounds? Do they think I’m the porker at the all-you-can-eat buffet? It really doesn’t matter because as I said, I’m not too proud.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been creating vlogs (video blogs) for YouTube’s MomPulse Network for their Question of the Week. Since this week asks What is your favorite recipe? I decided that it was a great excuse to make the time to bake something with my kids, and also buy a much-needed measuring cup. Together we prepared the dessert that used to tempt even the most hardcore Weight Watchers member: Monster Cookies.

If you have three minutes, please follow this link to watch me and my kids make this delectable treat. I dare you not to drool.

And if you’re reading this, I invite you to come over for an extravagant dinner party in which I serve freshly made pasta, homemade baked bread, and a few side dishes that take me hours to prepare. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until all the kids have left for college.

 

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Filed under Family, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting

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

Automated Responses for Ridiculous Requests

I’m a little territorial. Although I have had requests from people who wanted to guest blog on very VERY busy mom, I’ve always turned them down. A lot of it has to do with being selfish. It’s my blog, dammit, and I want to cling to it as tightly as the $100,000 bars I refused to trade with my brother and sisters when negotiating Halloween candy.

But a lot of it has to do with ego. Once a week I try to write something funny – so funny in fact that you laugh out loud. I don’t want to cause a pileup on the 405, but if you happen to be in line for coffee at Marie et Cie, I want the people around you to stare, wonder what you’re reading on your iPhone, then say ala When Harry Met Sally “I’ll have what he’s having.” As for a guest blogger, anyone who has ever watched too much stand up comedy knows that even though the writer thinks it’s funny, it ain’t necessarily funny. Your friends don’t want to be the one to get the short straw to tell you, but sometimes comedians just suck.

However I’m about to renigg on my no guest post rule – partly because I just have too much work this week to write something, but mostly because I found someone truly worthy of a guest blog. I have to admit there’s a certain amount of nepotism here.  It comes from my husband Tom, who many of you know from his witty, typo-ridden responses to my blog posts. He’s also father to one of my children – spazzy 5-year old Jake, and stepfather to my daughters Mary and Emily. And even though Tom is usually the one who plays the bad cop in our parenting scenarios, I suspect the girls like him more than they like me.

Tom is the Library Building Officer at UCLA’s Charles E. Young Research Library. He’s the guy everybody calls if there’s a problem. If the elevator is stuck, if the temperature is too cold, if someone is sneaking a cigarette too close to the entrance or if some homeless guy is parking himself all day and watching porn, Tom’s the one who fields the complaints. He also oversees new construction and remodeling, so he’s the bad guy who has to move people out of their cubicles or tell employees: “No, you can’t take a short cut through the yellow caution tape.”

On Friday Tom posted the following update to his Facebook page, and I think it is worthy of posting for my blog:

It has been a long week and I had to be at work 4am yesterday and 5am today. I am a little tired and surly. Sitting at my desk on my lunch break I have decided to work on my customer service procedures. Most of the problems that I received come via e-mail. Therefore, I have come up with some automated responses that I can send out depending on the problem.

  • Wow, that sucks. I hate to be you.
  • Please ignore that problem like everyone else does so I don’t have to do anything.
  • That is an easy problem to solve. Even you can solve it.
  • Your problem may be interesting to you, but I could care less.
  • That problem is far too complicated for me to solve right now. Please send it again next month and maybe then I can deal with it. No promises.
  • I am on my lunch break right now. My new lunch hour is 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. (yes, that is my normal working hours)
  • I can’t be bothered right now. I am trying to beat my 5 year old’s Angry Bird score.
  • I have tried to get that fixed several times. I no longer care. Please adjust accordingly.
  • I know the temperature is not what you would like it to be, but it is wrong everywhere else in the building. Find the spot you like and move your desk there.
  • No I won’t help you move.If you have other suggestions feel free to add them.

The funniest line so far was from his virtual friend Ileata (they’ve never met, but Tom and she play massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Dark Age of Camelot. on Saturdays).  Ileata asked if he works for the DMV.

And like the other person who wears the pants in this family just said, if you have other suggestions feel free to add them… so please give me your comments.

Just don’t send me your complaints or I’ll have to use one of these.

8 Comments

Filed under Career, Humor, Husband

10 Exciting Things I Can Now Do After Being Featured on “Freshly Pressed”

Imagine opening up your email and instead of just the standard Groupons, spammers, and loads of subjects starting with “Re:” (even though you were sick of reading the original email the first time around), you – Joe Shmoe – see page after page of:

[Joe Shmoe] everybody likes you…

[Joe Shmoe] everybody wants to follow you…

[Joe Shmoe] everybody is commenting about you you YOU…

This exact thing happened to me last Friday. Well, the exact same thing except that instead of “Joe Shmoe” it was for my blog very VERY busy mom. And of course it didn’t actually say “everybody.” I just said that to provide myself a little ego boost.

But I kid you not. I was getting a new email practically every minute.

Apparently a post I wrote last month about obsessing over the high price of gas entitled “($ ÷ Gallon) x (Miles ÷ Gallon) = LA Gasoline Anxiety” was featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed, a Webpage that offers between 11 and 19 picks of the day chosen from their nearly half a million bloggers.

Typically I’ll get 80 to 160 hits when I post a new blog, and then it’ll dwindle down to about 20 to 50 hits until I post another new one the next week.

But after appearing on Freshly Pressed’s hit list, I had an astounding 1757 hits!

Let me repeat that: 1757 hits!

I don’t even know 1757 people. Even virtual people.

More readers visited in subsequent days. 1647 on Saturday. 1438 on Sunday. 1443 on Monday. By Tuesday it dropped down to just 442, which was still more than double my all-time record of 174 hits in one day.

I received 181 comments on that article alone, mostly from people reprimanding me for driving my pokey 5-year old son 1300 feet to school in the morning. I guess you can’t explain the humiliation of a tardy slip to people who want to save the planet from greenhouse gases.

I must have logged onto my blog a hundred times between Friday and Monday just to watch my hits graph move up. And to answer the obvious question… no, it wasn’t just me visiting my own site 1757, 1647, 1438, and 1443 times in four days. WordPress actually counts unique visitor per day. And if I am anything, I am certainly unique.

So, to celebrate my good fortune, I now present:

10 Exciting Things I Can Now Do After Being Featured on Freshly Pressed

1. I can wear a sash in the Valley Village 4th of July Parade that says “Miss Freshly Pressed.” Or maybe not, since I hate ironing.

2. I’ll have virtual conversations with well-known bloggers, and they still won’t know or care who the heck I am, but I have the opportunity to feel smug anyway.

3. I’m finally getting more regular comments from people besides my mom and my husband.

4. I get to experience what it’s like to have 5 minutes of fame without claiming to be impregnated by a pop star.

5. Because I now have more Twitter followers, I’d better start posting more newsworthy tweets than “Another Wednesday. Another Humpday.”

6. I now have readers in countries I not only have never heard of, I also can’t pronounce their names. (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya… anyone?)

7. My Klout score has risen to an impressive 46! I still don’t really know what a Klout score is, or if 46 really is impressive, but it sounds good, and most of my readers probably don’t know the difference.

8. I can brag that both Indians (Native Americans) and Indians (from Asia) read my blog, except at opposite times of the day.

9. I now know a lot of people in Europe who want to move to LA for the cheap gas.

10. I have to figure out who at Freshly Pressed I need to bribe to get featured again. This has been fun!

41 Comments

Filed under Humor, Husband, Kids, Top 10 List

Getting Paid NOT to Write My Blog

This week I received an email from a marketing firm offering to pay me $40 if I let them guest blog on Very VERY Busy Mom. So many emotions rumbled through my body as I mulled over this request.

First of all, I’m very flattered that someone I’ve never heard of would seek me out to write for my website. It’s kind of like guest hosting for Jay Leno. Only they might end up being funny.

Secondly, I am thrilled about the prospect of free cash. Although $40 seemed like chump change when I was in my carefree and wasteful late 20’s, today $40 can mean the difference between gas in my tank or sticking out my thumb on a street corner (That was a lie. I’ve never hitchhiked before, but with the price of gas these days a free ride sounds very enticing).

However, there were three reasons why I wanted to turn them down. First, Very VERY Busy Mom is my blog, and I’m a little territorial about it. I’d feel like a hypocrite lamenting how I’ll take a little Me Time when I’m dead, then have someone guest blog about the 10 Best Spas in LA, especially since I couldn’t even afford the valet.

I also don’t do ads. I think it’s a little creepy when I’m on a website and the Google Ads are offering me products for hygiene. Am I not bathing enough? Am I choosing the wrong deodorant? How does Big Brother know?

The final and most important reason that I didn’t want the deal was because Very VERY Busy Mom is a humor blog, or at least I try to make it humorous. And I suspected that the subject matter they were proposing was not very funny.

No, it wasn’t selling cemetery plots or raising money for an orphanage in Cambodia. It was for a website advertising dentists – specifically cosmetic dentistry.

I figured that I would be a terrible choice because I would be inclined to mention the famous scene in Marathon Man with Laurence Olivier stabbing Dustin Hoffman’s cavity and asking, “Is it safe?”

That could be my tagline:

Is it safe? Only if you go to one of our dentists.

"Is it safe?"

I can just imagine the first paragraph written by the guest blogger:

Do you brush your teeth regularly? Do you floss? Is your answer an embarrassed “no?” Fear not. Make an appointment with one of our dentists and in no time you’ll have a winning smile!

Would you keep reading? Or would you close the screen window and never ever log onto my blog again?

On the other hand, if they let me write it, it might sound more like this:

Have your teeth become the color of your Starbucks’ cappuccino? Do you knock over large animals with your bad breath? Do strangers compliment you on your realistic Halloween Billy Bob teeth? Then let’s hope that you have a great personality to attract a mate. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring your fat checkbook or great credit over to our dentist if you ever want to get a date.

These are my teeth. Really.

I checked out the website they wanted me to promote. It has a lot of quick information about things like root canals, tooth decay, and gingivitis (a great vocabulary word I learned from a Listerine ad before I had a DVR and could speed through commercials). The site invites you to find a dentist in your area by entering your zip code. I tried it, but my dentist wasn’t on the list. What? I’ve been seeing him twice a year for over 20 years. Perhaps he has enough regular clients like me, so he doesn’t have to advertise online.

The home page of the website contains a photo of a hunky 50-something guy and one of those blonde natural beauties you see in ads but not so often in real life. They’re smiling at us from the beach. If this was a tv ad, they might even have some CGI sparkles emitting from their perfect teeth.

My real dentist ad would have the hunky 50-something guy lying back in a dentist chair, drooling on a bib while a dental hygienist shoves a sharp poker, a mirror, and a small hose into his mouth. She tells him he needs to floss more often. “Aaaaakaaagaaa,” he answers, as the hose sucks his gurgling spit. Suddenly he’s not so hunky.

Then there would be the ad where the blonde natural beauty is not so naturally blond or naturally beautiful. She has just finished her checkup and therefore all lipstick and foundation applied below her nose has rubbed off. She is told that she needs to have x-rays taken, and the semi-blonde bursts into tears because her co-pay just went up and insurance now only pays for 60%. She pleads that she’s got a Smartphone, so can’t she just take a picture of her teeth and email it to the dentist?

Another ad would be the hunky 50-something guy awakening from a root canal, getting a prescription for Vicodin, and relapsing after 25 years of sobriety as he chases more pain meds.

These would be my ads if I wrote them. Which is probably why the marketing gal wanted me to hand my blog over to the guest writer, who would most likely write about the virtues of whitened teeth and how crowns make you more appealing to a prospective employer.

Not my teeth. Thank God!

Should I take the $40 and run? Maybe to a beach with the hunky 50-something guy with a winning smile? Probably not, or my 40-something husband will stop writing witty replies to my blogs. He might even stop making me dinner.

I decided to take the high road, stick to my morals, and make some fun of dentists myself rather than let somebody else promote them. I emailed the marketing gal back and thanked her for the offer, but told her no.

She emailed me back and offered $90 instead. She also said I could write the blog myself, and I could even mention halitosis. All I had to do name the company and provide a link to their website.

I posted this blog around noon, naming the website and providing a link. Then an hour later I received an email from the manager of the marketing company who told me:

… we would really appreciate you not disclosing our client in the post or linking to it as this could harm our relationship with the client.

He offered to pay me if I would just take down the links and delete any mention of his client.

Should I hold out until they offer to pay for my kids’ braces?

19 Comments

Filed under Debt, Humor, Husband, Parody

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

Why My Husband Scares the Crap Out of Our Kids: Football

"I have been rather naughty"

My husband Tom is a pretty mellow fellow. Nothing fazes him much. He has the kind of job where everyone calls him when something goes wrong and he’s the guy who has to find the right person to fix it. If that right person flakes out (which happens often) Tom is the murdered messenger. Yet he still rarely loses his cool.

Tom didn’t get mad at me when I broke a hole in the bathroom sink, or yell at Jake when he drew all over our coffee table in Sharpie, or chew out Mary when she cut her own hair, or lose his patience when Emily comes up with yet another ridiculous teen angst comment. But there’s one thing that really gets his blood boiling enough to scream bloody murder:

Football.

Tom spent all day yesterday watching football. Apparently there were two playoff games – the Ravens vs. the Patriots and the Giants vs. the 49ers. As a sports novice, I imagine that it would be a no-brainer. With everyone abuzz about the Republican primaries, Patriots would certainly squash any bird (definitely Ravens, but probably not Bald Eagles) and I picture someone akin to Jack in the Beanstalk’s 100 foot Giant stomping out a bunch of old men with bad backs panning for gold.

Tom was rooting for the Ravens, and although he usually goes for the Niners (apparently this is the lingo for Forty-niners), he likes the coach for the Giants. (If you’re reading this blog, Tom… see? I do listen to you sometimes. Or did I get it backwards?).

He has been warning the family for weeks that during the playoffs we’d better stay out of the living room and not bother him. This was going to be his day to park himself in front of the tv and enjoy the games.

I need a new definition of the word “enjoy.”

Throughout the afternoon, Tom was screaming. “Go! Go! Go, dammit!” He was also dropping the F-Bomb a lot. Correction. Not dropping the F-Bomb. He was literally hurling it through the air like a cannonball exploding from Big Bertha. Not just once. Several times throughout the day. This from a guy who seldom curses.

When we were first dating, the girls and I were invited to a Superbowl party at his house. Emily was 8 and Mary was 4 and they didn’t know Tom well yet. He had offered to help Emily with a class project during halftime.

Everyone in her 3rd grade class had to build a musical instrument and Emily decided on a harp. God help me. I didn’t know the first thing about how to construct a harp. Tom was handy with tools and had his own power saw. He told us what kind of wood and screws to purchase at Home Depot, so while other guests walked in with chips and seven layer dips, we entered with extra long 2x4s and a baggie filled with bolts.

Superbowl began, and I immediately realized that the sweet man I had been dating was magically transformed into a madman just by adding football to the mix. Tom spent the game pacing and squirming uncontrollably like a dog about to give birth to a boatload of puppies. Then with no warning whatsoever, he jumped up screaming and cursing at the television set.

“Go! Go! Go, dammit! Move, you f@%$ing tool!”

I had heard about such men, but I’d never seen one in action.

My girls were terrified, and frankly so was I. How could a bunch of steroid-laden goons in helmets and padding bumping into each other at great speeds have such an effect on my beau? Would his maniacal anger continue through halftime? Could I trust him in the garage with power tools and my little angel when he was threatening to murder an entire team?

I shouldn’t have been concerned. As soon as the whistle blew for halftime, Tom was back to his normal sweet, mild-mannered self. Which was comforting because Emily and I were literally shaking in our boots.

Flash forward to 7 years later. We’ve been married for 6 years and have added our 5-year old son Jake into the family. Tom still shrieks at those football players for not doing what they’re told – as if he has a direct line from our little house in LA straight to a megaphone on the San Francisco football field.

The kids are used to the screaming by now, and know that it only happens on Sunday afternoons (and Monday nights, and occasionally Thursday nights. Apparently football is on way more often than I would like). The decibel level of Tom’s caterwaul seems to be directly proportional to the number of athletes on the field who are on his fantasy football team. If the kids’ friends come over, we have to warn them in advance that Tom will not be killing anyone, and he’s probably not yelling at them. That is, unless they wander in front of the tv set.

I know there are other men and women out there who spend Sundays screaming at their big screens, just as there are non-sports-loving spouses and partners who invest in either earplugs or an afternoon excursion far, far away from the game. For us, what is our football equivalent?

I am the dialogue editor for the television show Once Upon a Time on ABC, Sunday nights at 8:00. I’m also a big fan. What would be the reaction of our sports-obsessed mates if we all started screaming, “Just kiss her, David! Mary Margaret is your true love!” or “Don’t make that deal with Rumplestiltskin, Emma! The price is too steep!” or “C’mon, Storybrooke! Can’t you all see that the mayor is really the Evil Queen?”

From my experience, the spouses won’t have any reaction. They’ll be too busy screaming at the game that just went into overtime.

13 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Humor, Husband, Parenting, Public Schools, Teenagers