Friday, August 5, 2011

Raising the Dead

There are so many cliches to describe the phenomenon.  "A blessing in disguise".  "Every cloud has a silver lining".  "It is darkest before the dawn".  It's just that this hopeful concept is so hard to remember when you are cowering in the scary part of the dark before the dawn.  I'm a firm believer in the "larger plan" but I often live deeply rooted in the terror of today's narrow perspective.

I've said often to my daughter, Tessa, when she finds herself in difficult circumstances. "What are you supposed to learn?  Now she says it to me, "Ok, Mom.  What are you supposed to learn?".  Ugh.  You're ruining my pity party, kid!  But she's right (and so was I when I was in the prettier shoes). 

What I've just learned from my recent experience of being "fired" from the realty is that I probably should have shopped around a little more before I chose a realty in the first place.  Or maybe it's just that I was supposed to have trusted the process and had faith that something better would come along for me.  Still, the free-fall is scary and painful and it's hard to have faith and trust as you fly downward and watch things go by on the decent.

Yesterday I met with another realty.  They have better support, better structure, better supervision, better perks, and, essentially, if I choose to join up with them, I get a raise.  Yes, I thought I got fired but, instead, I seem to be getting a raise! 

They pay a starting commission of 70% (that's a 70/30 split with the realty on the buyer or seller agent portion of the total 6% commission on any given transaction, to be specific, if you care).  I was at a 52% rate before. 

Granted, the new realty charges a $78 monthly fee but that is easily compensated for.  $78 a month adds up to $936 a year.  The difference between a 52% commission and a 70% commission on the sale of just one $175,000 sale (the average sale price around here) as the buyer's agent (the buyer's realty gets 2.7% of the total 6% commission on a sale while the seller's realty gets 3.3%) is $945.  An entire year's fees could be covered by just one sale.

Another compensating factor is that realtors with this particular realty can get a 25% discount on their AT&T phone bills.  That would amount to saving $87.50 per month for me -- $9.50 more than the $78 fee.  Either way, it it makes the fee tolerable. 

I haven't decided for sure that I'm going to join up with this realty or even if I'm going to continue in real estate.  I'm pretty sure I will because real estate is something I really want to pursue, it has the potential to pay periodic four-figure commissions what are far more desireable than the dead-end $10-$12 an hour I can make elsewhere, and, as I've said previously, the decision to quit or stay in real estate will be made by ME, not by my former broker. 

A week ago, my real estate career seemed dead.  Now I've essentially gotten a raise, or at least the potential of a raise.  Within a month or two I'm hoping to have the $600 that I need to reinstate my license and pay for everything I need to go back to real estate with this new company. 

My suspicion that I was supposed to be in real estate somewhere else is probably going to turn out to be correct.  I feel as if I have been plucked out of one situation and am about to be plopped down into a better one -- kind of like when you pick up a bug and move it to a safer location for its own good.  The bug doesn't know you're trying to do it a favor by moving it from here to there.  It has to go through the fear of being picked up and not knowing what's going to happen next.  I'm always happy for the bug when it figures out that it's been done a favor.  I guess I'm the bug at the moment.  I am very grateful for the favor.

Stress In A Basket

I've been reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Security.  As you probably remember.  She walks the reader through the steps of dealing with our difficult financial situations as she walks through her own after things didn't go so well with the millions of dollars she earned from her best-seller, Simple Abundance.

In one chapter, she says to gather up you bills into one place from the pile on the kitchen counter or the bag in the closet or wherever they're stashed.  "You are going to collect every bill sent your way and bring them all to the party," she says.  Check.  I have the pile on the counter, the stack in the bench seat, and big basket lurking near my bed for the ready accessibility and convenience of my nightmares.  I know I need to sort through them and throw away the many duplicates.  That will wrangle them all into the one basket.  But I know what's there.  I don't need to open them.  The figures have each worn their own deep path into my brain. 

Not pretty.  I considered going back and taking a prettier picture.  But why?

Then, she says, put the bills into three piles:  Current Bills, Past Due 30-60 Days, and Old Debts.
I have basically two piles:  Bills I Need To Pay This Month (or something will be turned off) and Old Debts. 

Next, she says "Once you have budgeted for the essentials -- food, clothing, shelter, child care, savings, transportation, and insurance -- you will have a good idea of how much money you can put toward debt reduction.  This become the pot of money you dip into to pay the rest of your bills."

SAVINGS?  INSURANCE?  Clearly, Miss Sarah does not understand my situation.  Savings is that thing I'll have someday after my debts are paid.  As for insurance, I have done without health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, and property insurance for a very long time.  Oh, and that AFLAC policy I'd love to have too (Quack!).  Recently, I was able to get auto insurance again through Mark's business fleet policy.  That provides much relief as the first thing I did when my auto insurance expired last February was back into a car.  That is one of the bills I am now paying on monthly ($50 a month on $1800). 

Next she says "If there is a particular debt that bothers you, then take 1 to 10 percent of the pot and make an honor payment toward the balance owed."  Right.  The only way I would have extra money to put in the "pot" to pay debts with would be if I went without basic utilities, food, or the fuel that gets me to work.  "Ok kids!  Let's not eat this month so we can pay off some bills!"  Sure. 

But then, I must remember Sarah's perspective.  When her financial troubles descended, she had to move out of her castle.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Simple Satisfaction

Mark and I have an arrangement.  He makes the big money and pays the big bills (the mortgage and the cell phone bill, for example, and he's working on building up his business so there will be larger profits in the future).  I make the little money and pay the little bills. 

Mark gets annoyed with me lately because every time he asks me if I need money or he tries to give me money I'll only take $100 (usually about twice a month and only when I absolutely have to take it).  Then he usually tries to force more on me.  He's very good to me.  And there's something about having my husband force a crisp $100 bill into my hand that makes me feel very, very taken care of.  But I'd rather earn it myself.

Recently, I have found myself on an almost comfortable financial plateau, the first brief resting spot on my climb out of the pit.  I am within about $200 of being able to support my household on my own.  Granted, I'm not talking about the mortgage on my house or the mortgage on another property I own and there are debts I owe and bills I can't pay, but it feels SO good to be able to pay for my basic utilities (water, gas, and electric), fuel for my car, food for my family, and small payments on a couple of debts by MYSELF. 

I make a little less than $1000 a month, I am always in fear of losing my house, and I know my day with the IRS is coming, but I can turn on the lights and the TV and the air conditioning, I have hot water and (as of last week) cable TV (HOORAY!), I have enough food to get me though the immediate future (there were times when I was one meal away from that being an issue), and I am chipping away at my debt.  And I do this though my own efforts with just $200 a month in additional help from Mark's profits. 

There is peace and serenity and, yes, even joy in this humble accomplishment.  Six or seven years ago, I bought houses with cash and renovated them with cash and sold them for a pretty good profit.  Now I'm a secretary and I clean houses and I barely scrape by.  There was less satisfaction in that more prestigous accomplishment then than there is now in my current small, humble success at mere survival. 

Of course, I'd rather be renovating houses because I LOVE that creative accomplishment, but I manage to enjoy what I do now and I just trust that I am where I'm supposed to be and I'm being taken to where I'm supposed to go.  There is great peace and satisfaction here.  And I dare to hope as I look ahead.

I've been looking for a book I have to find a quote for this piece.  I finally found the book but now I can't find the quote!  I know it's in there somewhere.  Perhaps, the quote remain ellusive because I'm supposed to read the whole book while looking for it?  Perhaps I'm supposed to recommend it to YOU?  I'll trust the higher order on that one.  The book is The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die by John Izzo, PhD. 

It's pretty beaten up because I carry it around a lot!

The author interviewed older people about what is meaningful and important in life and wrote this book on what he learned.  It is powerful and important.  I recommend it to everyone.  I might hand it out on street corners if I had funds to burn!

The quote I can't find says something to the effect of this:  When looking back over their lives, people tended to remember the times of struggle and poverty the most fondly.  There was great nostalgia for the Great Depression, for example.  I'm beginning to understand this.  I can see how there would be nostalgia for the beginning of the dream.  Because, when you're sitting flat on you butt in the dirt and you have to figure out how to pick yourself up and go on and built a future for yourself, there has to be a certain degree of dreaming and a healthy dose of digging into the stuff that you're really made of. 

Merge all that with the way struggle and scarcity give appreciation for the little things and you have the makings of something that is likely to be looked back upon with fondness.  How many couples have you heard talk about when they were first married and they lived in a little tiny apartment/house and made do with a beginner's pay check and the fruits of their own labor and resourcefulness?  There's a sweetness is that -- in living small and dreaming of bigger.

There's a song about this principle.  It's Trace Adkin's "You're Gonna  Miss This". 

Here's the link to the video if you're interested.  I recommend it. It dispenses a healthy injection of appreciation for where you are, wherever that is  -- even with all the trials and struggles.

"You're gonna miss this. 
You're gonna want this back..
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast. 
These are some good times. 
So take a good look around. 
You may not know it now, but you're gonna miss this."

I took a good look around.  There is joy in being here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I wrote two blog posts today.  They were both whiney.  Nevermind...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's Next...

Sorry for the silence.  I kinda got knocked on my butt for a little while there.

Then came more clues.  In one day two people had real estate prospects for me -- one buyer client and one listing.  So I started thinking maybe the point isn't that I'm not supposed to be in real estate but just that I'm supposed to be in real estate somewhere else.

Yesterday I called an old friend.  Charlie was the first person I ever met in Fayetteville.  Seventeen years ago, Charlie was my realtor.  He's still a realtor.  He knows everyone and everyone thinks VERY highly of him.  So guess who I called?  Tomorrow I have an appointment with his realty to see if I might want to work there and to see if they might want to have me in their midst.  I will check out at least two other realties as well before I make a decision.

I have decided one thing for sure:  the decision about whether or not I'm going to stay in real estate will be made by ME and not by my former broker!  I had planned to be with my former company for the next couple of decades.  Seems like maybe I wasn't ready to quit!  So maybe I'll stay at the next realty for those upcoming decades.  I am not a quitter.  I may not be the most successful realtor in town but I'm not done yet! 

Now, for the practicalities:  It will cost me about $600 to update my license dues and get one of the magic widgets that opens the doors on all the houses.  I think that might be possible before too long. 

In the meantime, I've decided to ramp up my staging business, focusing more on home optimizing, curb appeal makeovers, and use-what-you-have room re-dos than on staging empty properties for sale.  Door flyers will be going out soon. 

I'm also on the verge of getting a flea market booth and opening an Etsy store to sell some of my freebie finds and freebie makeovers.  (Shhhh!  Don't tell my buyers that it was all free to start with!)  This will all go hand-in-hand with my Freesourcefull blog ( where you can watch my projects in progress.

For example, here's what I pulled out of the dumpster over the weekend. 



It's the bracket that held a mirror on top of an old highboy dresser.  I know it doesn't look like much now but it will soon be painted (white or red?), will hold a framed chalkboard, and will have an additional shelf at the bottom and maybe some hooks for keys and such -- all made from stuff I have around and all FREE. 

Now I've just GOT to learn to part with my projects!

Now I'm wishing I'd picked up those two cane-backed dining chairs I passed by on the curb the other day...

For those of you who keep telling me I need to do LESS.  Sorry, I've got to do everything I can until something takes in a such as way as to fill up my bank account.  Last week I cleaned two houses.  This week I'm working for a relocation company helping to unpack for a family that just moved to town. I'll continue to work mornings at the church and some evenings at my caregiver job.  I may also look into doing more caregiving and might even get at CNA (certified nursing assistant) credential to make me more valuable in that field.   I'll do whatever I can to get by.  I actually do enjoy all of these different kinds of work.  I learn something everywhere I go!  I'm always curious to see where I'll find myself next.  In the end, the best part is that I WILL find myself!