I like to think of myself as fairly intelligent. When it comes to finance, though, I rarely feel smart.
When my husband starts to talk about iron condors, straddles, and strangles, my brain shuts down. I listen, look intently, and try to follow his explanation, but somewhere among the puts, calls, and expiration dates, I get lost. It seems like my brain just physically cannot follow his logic.
So I knew I had a huge task at hand. I wanted to write a book about the recession, and this recession is all about economics. How could I learn enough about it to accurately convey its meaning to my readers?
I started with Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of how Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System– and Themselves
. This book was daunting at first; I gawked when the librarian handed it to me, the weight of it falling dead in my hands.
A woman behind me in line at checkout cooed. “That looks miserable! Are you going to read that whole book?”
At that moment, I was sure. “Yes,” I replied. “I’m going to force myself to ready every damn page.” I eyed the page count: 624 pages. This would require discipline, for sure.
But Sorkin writes his book like a novel, with well developed characters that are fun to know. I read the book in five days, and it left me thirsting for me. It was a very good place to start, indeed.
The house we owned in Westwood was a beautiful Tudor built in the 1930’s. It wasn’t perfect, to be sure, but it was our dream house. We bought the house in 2006 for $970,000. According to Zillow, it is now worth $742,600.
This is a photo of the infamous kitchen. It was definitely the ugliest room in the house. Not only were the cabinets made of a cheap particle board that was buckling under the weight of the granite, but the design did not complement the house. When you entered the kitchen you felt like you’d entered an HGTV show about kitchen remodels gone awry.
The Pilates studio was perfect. I painted the walls a sand color and the ceiling a quiet blue. It was a calm, peaceful space different from the bustle of typical gyms: it was a place for busy moms to escape their lives and focus on their own health.
This was my son, Drew’s, room. He had a nice size room. As you can see it held a double bed, desk, bookcase, and bureau handily. (And no, it never looked this neat in real life).
Above was our master bedroom. There is a stark contrast between this bedroom and the one we currently occupy in Shaker Heights. We went from muted colors and minimalism to a pink room with gauzy curtains and Laura Ashley wallpaper. Now we enjoy a design aesthetic best described as Holly Hobby, not city chic.
I do some of my best writing in the car.
It was the summer of 2011. The country was reeling from a faltering economy and a no-good Congress that seemed unable to do anything besides bicker. I was panicked, about both the state of the country and our financial situation. It was 1.5 years since Greg had been laid off, and we were still without a regular income.
Despite all this, Greg and I decided to take the kids on a rode trip from Cleveland to Bradenton, Florida. Bradenton served as an oasis where we could escape both the world’s problems, and have some space away from my parents. (We’d been living with them for one year now). We grabbed the kids and loaded up our Armada with food and DVDs for the 16 hour drive.
“I don’t know if you’ll like it,” she paused. “It’s kind of fun.” I’d never heard of the book, but I was happy just to hold one. I hadn’t read much since Drew was born. Now that the kids were finally a little less demanding of my time, books, not just magazines and newspapers, were back in favor.
I devoured Janzen’s book. My story is nothing like hers, but her book inspired me just the same. In fact, I wrote the entire outline for my own book days after reading Janzen’s memoir. We’d spent Thanksgiving at my in-laws in Virginia and I had a rare 8 hours to write, as my children were tethered to their car seats.
When we returned to Cleveland I was elated. Though I’d always wanted to write a book, I never had any idea what I might write about. Now I had the idea, and it had come easily. The big question in my mind at that point was simple: could I successfully publish a book without being a celebrity or well known writer?
My book is all about the recession and how it affected me and my family. I’m sure you have a few nasty stories to tell as well.
We bought our house in the summer of 2006, at the height of the market. We sold in 2009 (I make a mistake in the video on dates). Why did we sell? My husband, Greg, was laid off in January, 2009, and we felt trapped in a neighborhood where the schools were not so good. We’d foolishly planned on private schools, not realizing how risky a plan that was.
In a panic, we put the house on the market and stressed week after week as we saw the value of our house deteriorate. Fortunately, we sold within 3 months; it felt like 12.
After the sale, we moved into a rental located in an area with great schools. The house was crappy, but you can’t have everything, right?
In this video I talk about the sale of our house, facilitated by our amazing realtor, Sue Adler. I also touch on an issue we were having at the time: after we sold our home we signed a lease on a rental home with an option to extend the second year. When we decided to exercise that option, the landlord informed us he was selling the house. We thought we had rights, but we found out otherwise.
(Beware. A right to extend a lease doesn’t preclude a landlord from selling the house you live in. In fact, a landlord can legally sell whenever he wants to, regardless of the contract he’s signed with you. But don’t worry. The contract has to be honored by the new owner. That really makes you feel warm and fuzzy as a tenant, doesn’t it?)
Welcome to my blog! I am in the process of writing a memoir about that nasty recession. It includes lots of laughs, drama, hand wringing, and “f” bombs.
This blog is an accompaniment to the memoir. Here I will be sharing lots of material about my book and me. You’ll get to know how I write and how I informed myself about the recession. You’ll find out what inspires me. You’ll also get to take a peek at photos and video clips of me, my family, and the many different homes we’ve lived in.
Please stay tuned. I promise it will be worth your while. (If you have some subjects you’d like me to cover, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you! Send me an email: bodyacumen at yahoo dot com or a Tweet: @cbharmon