Tag Archives: financial insecurity

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.


Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Humor

It’s My Birthday Today. Please PLEASE Don’t Get Me Anything!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday. For one day out of 365 and a quarter days I get to have my cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, I have a lot of wonderful friends who want to give me more cake, and as much as I appreciate the thought, effort and financial exchange, I don’t want to eat their cake too. At 49, my metabolism isn’t what it used to be.

My husband Tom asked me what I wanted for my birthday. “Your homemade jambalaya and a funny card,” I answered. I’ve now made it to the age where that answer doesn’t secretly mean: “And dinner at a really expensive restaurant this weekend. And something sparkly. And flowers.” I can’t afford the money or calories for the dinner, we’re not going anywhere that requires any bling, and in just two days that bouquet will be dead and stinky. However I will probably give my husband the pseudo-silent treatment if that funny card is something lame like a zany cat hanging upside down.

My kids asked me what I wanted for my birthday. For a few years now, I’ve been giving them the same answer: “I want you to be really REALLY nice to me all day.” Too bad this isn’t the kind of gift that just keeps giving. But it’s still what I wish for every year when I blow out my candles.

I have friends who want to buy me gifts, and I try to nix that one before it pops out of their well-meaning mouths. Here are my reasons:

1. I’m trying to get rid of the crap I already have. I don’t need new crap to add to it (not to say that your gift is crap, but frankly the formula is: GIFT + TIME = CRAP).

2. If you give me something, I will feel inclined to buy something on your birthday, and I’m pretty broke. It’ll probably be something from the Dollar Tree in the line of that lame and zany cat hanging upside down and it will immediately fall into your crap category. Let’s just not do that dance.

3. If you buy me something, I will have to send you a thank you card. That means $3.95 plus tax for the card and the 44 cent stamp, and that’s about the price of a venti café mocha from Starbucks, which I can’t afford. There’s also the time to drive over to the drug store, park, pick out something better than a lame and zany cat hanging upside down, and then the real clincher – trying to think of something funny to say on it when I’ve already used up my funny trying to write this damn blog.

For the three previous years, between work and getting my MLS, I was very VERY busy on my birthday. So busy that I didn’t answer the phone or look at one email. Throughout the day I heard various slightly off-key voices singing: “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Cathy. Happy birthday to you.” I didn’t want to take the time to figure out how to turn the volume down, so I just put a pillow over the answering machine. No offense to any of you who sang to me last year. I wasn’t talking to you. Your voice is lovely.

It took me over a week to get to the emails, and I don’t think I even answered them. I believe I was just visualizing a virtual high-five as a response. The Facebook messages were long gone out of the Facebooksphere by the time I read them. I felt like a very bad friend.

Happy Birthday Facebook notifications

This year I’m answering the phone (and unfortunately hearing the entire happy birthday tune without the ability to fast-forward), glancing at emails and reading my Facebook responses. Although I’m still very busy this year (rather than very VERY busy) it is a high quality problem to have a lack of time to read birthday wishes from your friends. I am lucky to have so many great friends, or at least people who claim to be my friend on Facebook.

My good friend Lisa just popped over with some flowers and a card. Fortunately the card has a pair of Renaissance angels instead of a lame and zany cat hanging upside down. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the flowers will be dead and stinky in a couple of days, and she could have got herself two Starbucks venti café mochas for the price.

I think I’d better not inform my good friend Lisa about my latest blog.


Filed under Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Parenting