Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Clue Number Four SUCKS!

Yesterday was Monday.  And it acted up like an unruly, ill-behaved, rotten little Monday too. 

I left the chuch feeling like my own little mini disaster.  Dropped some balls.  Through some cracks.  Inadvertently caused some unnecessary stress and annoyance.  Even though I really HAD done a pretty good job, all things considered.  Stood at the bottom of the dark sewer hole under that grate that I dropped the balls through and wished I could just make everything perfect always.  Stupid Pollyanna me.

On the way from the church to the realty for my afternoon phone duty hours, my cell phone rang.  It was my broker.  He asked for my resignation.  Because, basically, I suck.  Oh wait!  It's not ME that sucks exactly, it's THE ECONOMY, stupid! 

Regardless, I was asked to leave.  I still can't see how it would cost them anything except photo copies and a few cups of coffee for me to keep trying but apparently my "desk space" was more valuable to them than the space at that empty desk next to mine.  Cleaning my desk out was a pretty dark valley.

I can't help but take it a little personally that my dedication was not respected considering that I'm the only one of last year's crop of real esteate newbies (who didn't become a star realtor's assistant) that's still there regularly.  All the others had to take other jobs.  I did too, but I still managed to be there regularly.  I made a conscious decision early on that I was going to be the one to stick it out.  I planned to work there for the next 20 years. 

Eventually, I would have gotten my feet on the ground and all the dues I've paid would have started to pay off.  And all the real CASH dues I've paid would have ended up bringing returns on the investment.  Many of the clients I've worked with at length over the past 18 months has told me that I'm the best realtor they've ever worked with.  I'm proud to have given them the personal attention that made them feel that way.

I worked hard.  I was positive.  I was pleasant.  I was willing.  I did everything I knew to do.  I went to all the meetings and tours.  I stayed up on the new listings.  Most mornings I was the first person in the office.  I even restocked the toilet paper and refilled the creamer and sugar containers by the coffee pot.  I took as much phone duty as I could get.  I did open houses for other agents anytime I could.  I even brought a $600,000 listing. Several times I had clients find "their" house and make offers.  Only to have the deals fall through.  ALL the deals.

I will admit it.  I have had the kiss of death in real estate.  I even had the sale of a property that I own personally go down in a blaze of crash-and-burn flaming glory.  Everything I touched fell through.  Everything.  Except the two co-lists that were very generously given to me by the star agent.  I think those worked out only because her sparkly golden fairy dust fell on them. 

It's not that I was making a lot of money in real estate.  Ok, it's not like I was making ANY money.  But real estate had the POTENTIAL to bring in money in four-figure increments.  By comparison, the prospect of $10 an hour feels like a rodent cage to me.

This is painful and difficult to write.  But this blog is about being real and being honest.  As much as I would like to crawl under a rock in complete humiliation and never tell anyone about my latest dismal failure, I know that I'm supposed to put on my big girl panties and write about it.  About now, I'm thinking I could do without panties (big girl, granny, sexy, or otherwise).  But I have to go on.  And this blog is about seeing what happens next.  And hoping that's something good and not just another train wreck.  Either way, it's entertaining for YOU!

For today, I'm grateful to be sitting in the quiet haven of the church office letting the last of the pebbles from the land slide find their new places and settle in around me.  It's a little dusty but the air is starting to clear.  The velocity of the free-fall feeling seems to be slowing down a little.  I find myself in that place of hoping not to go splat on a big slab of concrete at the end of all this.  (Lord, please catch me!  Don't let me land messily in the parking lot!)  I still want to grasp at handfuls of air but there is comfort in trusting God or fate or spirit guides or SOMETHING to catch me, somehow, and set me gently on my feet, and give me a gentle nudge in the right direction.  Just wish I knew which way that was!

I ended a previous post ("Clue Number Three") by saying that I was on the lookout for Clue Number Four.  I guess I found it.  It is not what I expected.  Not even remotely.  It SUCKS. 

But the sun came up this morning.  And I got up and I went for my morning walk.  And now I have to figure out what's next.  The signs say that I'm not supposed to be a realtor.  Ugh.  And that I'm supposed to write (because it makes me HAPPY).  And I'm supposed to be creative (because it makes me HAPPY).  And I have cool stuff (that makes me HAPPY) that people want to steal (which makes me UNhappy).  I have no idea how I'll ever make a living at any of this.  I think my spirit guides aren't very good accountants.  But, you know, if they were accountants, they might be pretty dull.  Surely the creativity that makes my heart happy and that makes me want to get up in the morning and go face the world again will be a good thing in the end.  Somehow.  At the very least, I can build a really cool cardboard house when I'm homeless someday!

Referring back to Sarah Ban Breathnach's book Peace and Plenty, she quotes Margery Wilson (20's-era movie star and of one the first successful female self-help authors):

"If you will just look around a bit you will, more than likely, find that the way out of the difficulty lies right under your nose.  You already possess the means of your deliverance."


Granted, I don't have a couple of best-sellers under my belt like Sarah and Margery do, but I live in the same universe, under the same sun and my own semi-warped version of the same God, and I do believe that the same principle can apply to me.  Somehow.  Unfolding like some Agatha Christie novel.  Except probably not so neat and tidy.  Or bloody.  Hopefully. 

I don't have the foggiest idea where I'm going but at least my key ring is one key lighter now.  Maybe I'll start by digging out an old pair of my girls' ruby slippers.  We had lots of those back when my girls were little and Walmart always carried ruby slippers because Walmart knew that every little girl needs ruby slippers.  Big girls do too!


Good Morning!

For all of you who skipped over the link I posted on facebook and thought "Yeah, whatever.  I don't have time for that and I'll bet it's boring.", you can now consider it required reading while I write up today's blog post. 


I promise you will enjoy it.

Take you laughs where you can get them.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Don't you hate it when you try to make something better and you make it worse?  Me too!

I just wanted to substitute in a better photo of a dollar bill on to the header.  And then everything went haywire.  But maybe, by the time I'm finished (which will probably involve getting my computer-savvy daughters to help me!) I could end up MUCH better banner instead of one that's just a little better.  I hope!

Please be patient.  Or have a good laugh.  Check back every two minutes to see what new mistake is running rampant!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Clue Number Three

Mark loves a bargain.  Even more than that, Mark loves to haggle.  We buy a lot of furniture for the RV's Mark deals in.  One of our niches is units with no furniture.  Most people don't want to deal with replacing the furniture.  It's fun for us.  I have a pretty serious furniture habit and this gives me a healthy outlet.  And Mark gets to haggle. 

We found a furniture close-out dealer here in Fayetteville.  One of the owners is also named Mark.  Mark and Mark were cut out of the same cloth in more than just name.  Mark and Mark both love to deal and to haggle.

Mark and Mark were haggling over a furniture deal one day.  I had perused every piece in the store and was ready to go and was getting calls from Tessa who was at home sick.  I wandered up to my Mark and said, "Baby, we need to go" and, to the other Mark, "Sorry, I've got a sick child at home".  They both just looked at me, incredulously.  Finally, the other Mark said, "But we're dealing..."  Yes.  Of course.  Forgive my lapse.  Dealing IS more important than sick children. 

This is one of our favorite stories and is oft quoted in our household.

But I digress.

Mark and Mark got together one day and, at the end of the dealing, my Mark came home and surprised me with a gorgeous set of contemporary outdoor wicker furniture.  He bought the whole set (sofa, coffee table, and two ottomans) for $100.  We put it in the yard up by the garage at the top of the driveway.  We enjoyed it regularly.  We admired it regularly.  We enjoyed the satisfaction of having gotten such a bargain on something so rich-looking.  Every time we have a garage sale, everyone wants to buy the outdoor furniture.  Not a chance.

Crappy photo as usual but isn't the furniture pretty?
Here it was being used for a staging job.

Yesterday, I started a major overhaul on the playroom (photos to come eventually on my freesourcefull blog).  The playroom has a balcony that overlooks the driveway.  The balcony is a great place from which to hurl large items that are headed for the trash.  Yesterday I went out on the balcony to hurl said junk into said disposal pattern.  I looked down on a blank spot on the yard where our furniture used to be.  It was gone. 

It took a second to register.  Someone actually walked past the sidewalk, past the picket fence, up the driveway, and took a whole truckload of furniture.  Probably in broad daylight.  They also took two wheels/tires that were extras for Emily's car.  THE NERVE!  That makes me SO MAD!

Being stolen from feels horrible, doesn't it?  I believe that all theives should have things stolen from them so they get for experience the full emotional impact of their selfish actions. 

It took me awhile to calm my anger enough to call the police to make a report.  They told me to make a report online unless I have any suspect information in which case I should call back.  As I write this it occurs to me that a stone masonry company just finished a big patio project at the house next door.  There were three or four guys working there every day for a couple of weeks. They all drive trucks.  And work hard.  And don't make a lot of money.  I really do suspect one of them.

As the evening went on and I digested the theft more and more.  I started thinking about the meaning of it.  I wrote in yesterday's post ("Susan and the Book") about listening to the clues.  I decided that having my furniture stolen is a clue.  It shows me that my stuff is cool enough that other people want to steal it.  Basically: other people want my stuff.  Hmmm... 

Put Clue #1: the velvet roadrunner paintings I left in the dumpster that I found out later I could have sold (see "Dumpster Rejects" post), with Clue #2: the book Peace and Plenty (see "Susan and the Book" post) which says to start with where you are and with what you have and to listen to the clues, with Clue #3: people want my stuff and that thought I've had lately of doing a flea market booth (which I've done before) or an online Etsy store to sell my finds and creations starts to seem highlighted. 

If only I could make a living doing what I love most!  If I could find a way to making writing, blogging, creating, and finding cool junk into a paying profession I would be in true heaven! 

Susan sent me another book years ago.  It was called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow.  I have kept that philosophy in mind while also trying to be prudent in my professions. 

For awhile, I was so very fortunate as to get to buy, renovate, and flip houses.  I LOVED it.  I was doing what I loved and it was reasonably profitable and looking like it was about to snowball in a positive direction.  That was about the time about half a dozen aspects of my world converged in a downward spiral to form the perfect storm that took the business out. 

Try losing 95% of your income and then see if you can hold it all together and keep what you have.  That's where I've been the past few years.  That's how this blog came to be.  But the lesson is that I was about to build that business up to almost respectabaly profitable while doing what I loved.  Maybe I can do it again in another category of "what I love".  Maybe I can even do it better.  But, if it never brings me a single cent, blogging and dumpster diving and making things is still what I live to do.  It's still what I wake up every morning wanting to fill my day with.  It still what makes me feel alive. 

So I've decided to take the theft of my furniture as a compliment.  And an encouragement...  And an opportunity for Mark to get to do some more haggling!

I am now on the lookout for Clue #4!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Susan and the Book

It had been a long, rough day.  All morning at the church.  All afternoon at the realty.  Expecting to spend all evening at my caregiver job.  I was trying to squeeze cooking dinner in between. 

My afternoon at the realty on phone duty had been a waste of time as usual.  I took two phone calls (which is more than the usual zero).  But nothing will come of them. 

My wasted afternoon was punctuated by being called into the closing broker's office where I was informed that, because an old credit card had won a judgement against me, my wages were being garnished.  For the record, the charges on that credit card were not boutique shopping sprees but groceries, utilities, and emergencies like tires and doctor visits.  I had planned to pay the balance eventually but I've been unable to do anything about it (even make the dinkiest payments) for long enough that they sued me.  $5100.  I can't blame them. 

I took the news well.  At first.  I'm getting pretty used to this sort of thing.  It's becoming less dire and more ordinary.

In two weeks I was due to get only my second commission check in my year and half in real estate.  No big loss, I guess.  Except that I was going to use that money to pay my overdue realtor dues and two of the three months I'm overdue on the cabin mortgage, and, in a big splurge, I was going to buy $50 worth of new towels.

The new towels were going to be a very sweet indulgence.  The old ones are ratty.  Each member of the family has chosen a color and I was planning to buy two towels in each color so that everyone could rest secure in the knowlege of having their own towels -- AND, more importantly, could learn a little responsibility in managing and washing their own towels.  Plus, it would immediately identify the culprit when wet towels are found on the floor.  At $4 each, I was planning to buy six pairs at just over $50 total.  Maybe I'll sell something so I still can.  This was important for moral, lesson teaching, and household management reasons.

Towels Heaven
More Towel Heaven

Mark had called during the afternoon to tell me that our latest RV sale had been delayed a week.  Which sets us back a week on already overdue bills and delays the purchase of new inventory for at  least two and a half weeks.  NOT what we needed.  Getting further behind invites catastrophy

I dragged into the house after work (jobs #1 and 2) to cook dinner before going to work again (job #3).  I put on a pot of water and started digging out the kitchen.  Dishes were still piled everywhere -- the residue of my weekend out of town (when I leave town, my ex-husband comes and stays with the kids.  It's just easier on everyone.  Except that he doesn't do dishes.  But that's another set of baggage.) 

As I cleared dishes and debris from the kitchen table I spotted an large envelope under a pile of that mail that I don't open because I can't oblige most of those creditors.  I excavated the envelope expecting it to be for Emily because she orders stuff off the internet periodically.  As soon as I touched it I knew it was a book.  The handwriting on the front was a familiar hieroglyphic -- my birthmother's unique handwriting that many people can't read.  The name on it was mine. 

I opened the envelope and found a thick hardback book with a gorgeous repeated print of small branches of green oak leaves and brown acorns spread on a butter yellow background.  At the center of the oak forest was the title:  Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity by Sarah Ban Breathnach. 

Sarah Ban Breathnach is the author of Simple Abundance (think gratitude journals, the Oprah Winfrey show, and 117 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List).  Susan sent me a copy of Simple Abundance back when it came out.  It may be part of why Sara-Grace has Sara in her name.  Peace and Plenty is the book she wrote (her third) after she lost all her money.  This is the book she wrote to dig herself out.  Which is exactly correlated to the purpose of this blog which was created for me to document how I dig myself out.

Two post-it notes inside, in the same hieroglyphic, said,

Hi Anne -
I hope you have
time to read this if you
haven't yet.  It is both
wise and cheerful

    Much love - Mom

P.S. I used it
for a Journal Ink
and have just left
my Post-its in.

Journal Ink is the journal-writing class she has taught out of her house for about 15 years.  It has a wonderful following and is truly an unequaled bonding, healing, self-exploring exercise.  One of her students even went on to publish a book (I'll add the title in here when I find it).  She also teaches Memoir Writing in the continuing education department at the University of Texas at El Paso.  And she was previously the writer/editor of the children's section of the El Paso newspaper.  Can you tell I'm kind of proud of her?  And that my writing comes genetically?

I flipped through the book, noting the passages that the post-it notes marked.  Then I just sat down on my filthy, neglected kitchen floor and cried. 

I don't cry much.  But this cry was reflexive and from the depths of my soul.  My birthmother, who has always been the earth-bound equivalent of my fairy godmother, knew exactly what I needed.  She always does.  Somehow she always sends me exactly what I need.  Out of the blue.  Just because.  I am so blessed to be the recipient of her maternal love and her great kindness and wisdom.  She is amazing. 

At the perfect moment, she reached into the depths of my despair and gave me a lifeline.  I can't think of another person on this planet that that could more rightfully have come from.  There are not words to capture the magic of it.  No, not magic.  Grace.  Pure grace.

The post-it notes marked Sections with engaging titles like:

"Well-Spent Moments"
"The Thrill of Thrift"
"Keep Calm and Carry On"
"Money - An Education in Ourselves"
"The Glad Game Revisited"
"Starting Where You Are"
"Take Another Look Around"

You will be hearing more about this.  Probably MUCH more. 

I am blessed.  And I am hopeful, in a boyant, soothing way that I haven't been in a very long time. 

So far, my favorite line in the book says, " We need to find inspiration whenever we can, because when we're spiritually tuned in, everything is a clue pointing us in the right direction."

My clues this week have been a pair of velvet roadrunner paintings and a very important book.  I think I'm about to learn a lot.

Sara-Grace and Susan

Tessa and Susan

Family mug shot: (from left) Tessa, Annie, Susan, Noah -- with Sara-Grace in front. March 2009.