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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« I know it’s a day early… | Main | The meme that started out promising, but then everything went wrong—just like life. »

Don’t read this.

Yesterday was one of the worst days Henry and I have ever had together. Truly, I have never seen him like that before. I’ve never seen me like that. We clashed on every topic (Are Dried Cranberries An Acceptable Dinner? Could He Watch TV For Just Another Minute? Why Couldn’t He Head Butt Me Repeatedly In the Groin While I Am Talking To the Mortgage Broker?) and each time Henry’s demands escalated into full-blown weepy hysteria; we went to our separate corners to enjoy our respective time-outs; we came back to each other to hug and declare our undying love; then it all started again. At one point I found myself yelling and clenching my fists and hopping up and down. Hopping. And I slammed doors. Twice. I am an excellent role model.

I could point to Henry and say IT’S HIS FAULT and say WHO STOLE MY CHILD AND REPLACED HIM WITH THIS MONSTROSITY? But the thing is, I know what’s going on. He’s reacting to me. I am distracted and frazzled and depressed and it’s making him anxious as hell.

We sold our place for more money than we thought we could, which is great. We’re thrilled. But our large margin of profit is not quite what we thought it was. Not quite enough for the house we want. Take the large amount and remove the $20,000 of closing fees and moving expenses, the huge tax bill we’ll have for 2005, the money we’ll need to put down for a car, the small amount of savings we’ll need in case any expenses come up with the house, and you have a much smaller number. Factor in the added expenses of owning a house—the insurance, the car, the heating bills, the inevitable repairs, the hefty real estate tax bill—and the number shrinks even further.

We could take more of a risk and put more down if, say, one of us had reliable employment. Without going into detail about my husband’s job, we don’t, not really. Not reliable in the benefits-and-vacation-time, check-every-two-weeks, severance-pay-guaranteed sense. It’s a great job for his industry, which is not known for its steadiness. We’ve been lucky for a while, but there’s always the spectre of the work drying up. If the work isn’t there, he doesn’t get money. So we have to be careful. We’ve been careful for years, we know the drill. But now we’re looking for a house, and being careful doesn’t jibe with finding a good and safe place for our family, and it feels like the air is being sucked out of the room.

We decided on this neighborhood in New Jersey; it’s close to the city, the trains are right there, the prices for the small homes with small lots (the kind we want, as we are city folk) are not unreasonable. We have friends nearby. But now it seems that if we want to be in the parts of town that have good schools, we have to extend ourselves past our comfort level. Last week we bid on a great house; we were right at the brink of what we could afford, and the taxes were astronomical, and we were stressed out and fighting about the expense. But the school there is wonderful, and I read the description of the school and I thought of Henry being at that school, and I wanted him to live there. I walked around that house and I thought, We will be happy here. We could just barely afford it, but we could afford it, so we bid. And then one other bidder came in at way over the asking price and swooped it up. This isn’t the first time this has happened; such is the market these days. Even if the numbers indicate we can afford it, we can’t really afford it.

We’ve looked at the less-fancy parts of town, that have relatively decent schools, at least we think, and taxes that aren’t so high. But every house we’ve seen in that area has low ceilings and dark musty kitchens and shag rugs and the neighbor’s windows so close you could pass cups of sugar back and forth, and I know this isn’t what we want. We’re not asking for a lot, but we’re asking for a little more than this.

So maybe I feel entitled. Maybe I’m a stuck-up bitch and I should get over myself and living in the cramped smelly house that after all we could fix up. That is probably a valid opinion.

But this is all symptomatic of the larger problem here. We don’t have enough money. We’re not making enough. Every optional expense has been cut out, and yet there’s still not enough. And it’s hurting us. It’s a constant source of tension; there’s no escaping it. Everywhere we look there’s a sign that we need more money. The dog is overdue for a vet appointment. We don’t have the money. Here’s the list of good preschools in Jersey. We don’t have the money. Let’s get food delivered because I’m exhausted and Henry didn’t let me even get near the kitchen all day, he’s been so clingy. We don’t have the money. Well, okay, maybe pizza. But let’s not go crazy with the toppings.

(We want another baby. We don’t have the money.)

Please don’t tell me I should write a book to make money. Or rather: tell me to write a book, and thank you for having faith in my abilities, really, but understand that such an undertaking takes years, years of nonpaid work, and also no one should write a book for the money. It just doesn’t work that way.

Do you want to know what I am wearing now, O Internet? (Especially those members of the Internet who send me hate mail because of my fabulous bloggy existence?) I am wearing jeans that have enormous holes in the crotch and across one knee. They are dirty, as I wear them every day. They are one of two pairs of jeans that I own; the others were pre-pregnancy and are now laughingly small on me. (Size 4! BLAHHAHAHAHA.) In addition to my crappy pilly too-small and too-old Gap sweater, I am also wearing ugly black leather shoes that I bought when I was pregnant, and thus are now one size too big. I trip in them every day. On most days I wear the too-big shoes and the ripped-up jeans. I could probably buy myself new jeans and new shoes, but the idea fills me with guilt. How can I buy something like clothing when we might not be able to pay for Henry’s preschool?

I know how whiny I sound here, I do. I know many many people have lives infinitely more difficult than this one. I know how lucky I am. Please don’t yell at me because I’m whining about my shoes. It’s just—I feel like I’m decaying, a little. I feel unattractive and like I don’t have the right to feel attractive. I feel like god there has to be more money somewhere, except there’s no time to get the money and no money (for childcare, that is) to get more money. I feel like my creative life is dying because all I do is worry and crunch numbers and do the little writing jobs that might bring in enough to pay the cable bill. (Yes, we still have cable. The indulgence! I know!) I feel like there has to be an answer somewhere and where’s the answer and aren’t I smart enough haven’t I been good don’t I have the education and the intelligence and resources to figure this out why can’t I figure this out?

I know, I know. I’m feeling sorry for myself. I should snap out of it, right? You can tell me.

(p.s. If anyone knows anything about the school system in the above-mentioned town—it’s linked to, right up there—please, please email me.)

Reader Comments (209)

If you decide to do the t-shirt thing, please keep in mind those of us who love you that are overweight and maybe offer a bumpersticker or magnet option. Because as much as I would love to be able to wear a finslippy shirt, it's not going to happen for a long, long time.

And I'm sorry, but I am irritated with anyone that emails people to tell them how horrible they are. You have every right to be stressed out about this. You have every right to talk about it on your blog. No one has to read this if they don't want to read it.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDM
Can I just say something terribly selfish? Because this is all about me? Reading that was good for me. It is full of all the anxiety that I carry with me because clothing is expensive and rent is expensive and computers are expensive and everything is expensive. But we don't talk about money, no. No, we pretend that we're all financially comfortable, and we don't talk about the enormous effect it has on our lives. So thank you, because I chastise myself all the time for not being financially savvy or making more money at a different job, and I don't need to do that. YOU don't need to do that. The world is expensive, and we are not less than because we cannot afford all that we are told we should want and have. You are not less than because you cannot afford what you want. Right? Me, neither.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterschmutzie
Dear Finslippy:

Long time reader, first time comment. If you are buying a home, not just a house, then you not only should be absolutely in love with what you buy, it is your right to do so.

Keep your chin up and keep looking. I bought a house in California by myself after saving for 20 years. I made my goal of getting a home before I turned 50 (only one year left, phew?). It was a long hard process, replete with numerous bids that were promptly beat out in a housing market that can only be called a nightmare. If I pulled it off, then you've got to believe, it's only a matter of time before you find a place you love, not just something you can live with.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNeoCleo
Alice, I'm from that area of NJ (just moved to southern NJ for a job, and now moving to WI for my husband's job and searching for one for myself!) and I wondered whether you had looked at Montclair or Nutley? I think Nutley may be more expensive than Bloomfield, but I think Montclair is within the same price range, and may even be lower. Montclair also has the advantage of trains to the city and also has quite a kickin' nightlife due to Montclair State University being situated there.

Otherwise, I totally sympathize with your plight. Once we move to WI, I won't have a job and the market in Madison is tight because everyone who goes to college there wants to stay there. We'll be relying on my husband's income, and even though it's steady my heart is in my throat every time I consider all the accidents that could befall us that we won't be able to afford.

Good luck, and feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions about other areas of NJ.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAriella

that's what it's like. it's like that. it doesn't really ever stop being like that. take the plunge. get the house you want and can most closely afford and you will make it work.

i am with you on the stifling of creativity. i am a smart, intersting, funny capable woman who struggles to finish the simplest of blog entries. there are people who live here who have come to thwart me whenever i try to use my mind for efforts beyond their own needs.

they are yelling at me now.

it is hard to believe, alice, but you will find the house and it will be where you deserve to live and you'll worry and worry and worry and then all of a sudden you'll have lived there a year and wonder what was all the fuss, everything is fine. i promise.

February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterhonestyrain
You and I are going to be a fucking BARREL OF MONKEYS in Amsterdam!


Money is soul sucking. It's the worst kind of all encompassing stress.

I'm sorry it's so stressful right now.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommentermelissaS
Mostly I like that you called this DON'T READ THIS. Then, no one can complain! The end!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEm
Dear Alice:

Your post was like reading about my life, sans the baby. I think many of us who are self employed worry about money, and rightly so. It is very stressful just to get by, but having to buy a new house and move is enough to get anyone committed! Don't worry, you don't sound whiny; you sound scared. Just know that there are a lot of us out there who share your fears and frustrations. We will also share recipes for beans and rice with you, too.

My unsolicited advice on the house is to buy as nice as you can for the money you have. If you move into a nice area, chances are that you will gain equity very quickly, even if the house is not perfect or the house of your dreams. Equity will allow you to make improvements, build additions or borrow money for things like cars. My husband and I are in "hot" neighborhood and I cannot believe what homes are going for now around here. It's not the perfect house but we have made it work for us. And my experience is that clean, well maintained houses (the little ones that are funky in some way) are better than fancy houses that seem to be perfect. It's called character. And it's always funny to look back and laugh about the orange shag carpet.

As for your son, you seem to me like the kind of parents who would give him many experiences and opportunities that will make him a fine man regardless of where he attends school.

Now call up a good friend and ask him or her if they will take Henry and/or make you dinner tonight. I'm sure you've done the same for them before and it's time to call in the favors. Ask them to bring wine, too!

Remember, this, too, shall pass!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSW Art Chick
I'm feeling you chickadee: I feel like I have nothing that fits, haven't had my hair done in months, never have nothing I want but am able to keep my 2yr old in shoes (barely) but then realized I have at least 3 pair of jeans that fit me and 4 tops. So even though I gave nothing to Katrina, you Ms FinSlippy got my monthly allowance (that Amazon better give it to you!). I only ask that you continue to share your unique perspective with us by not just telling us what is going on but What ELSE is going on behind it. That is what makes you compelling.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNomasp
Once upon a time in a life far, far away I was in heavy, heavy debt to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars and everyone wanted their money NOW. I know the sick feeling of not having jack for cash and having empty cupboards and gas tanks. I know the feeling of threadbare clothes and having to scrounge up change to pay the water bill.

With a lot of work I got out of my debt and I don't owe a penny to a soul and I have the deepest empathy for those who are struggling to make a nice life for themselves and their family.

It's crazy for me to give advice to you - getting a job or skipping pre-school for Henry or picking this neighborhood over that neighborhood are things I'm sure you've already considered. I'll instead just give you some hugs and support and assurance that one more person in the world knows how you feel.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDixie
I've decided that someone has declared this Random Bad Money Vibes month. We're struggling right now. So are a few other people I know. High heating bills? Christmas hangover? Cabin fever? Whatever it is, I want it to GO AWAY.

So forgive me, but all I felt today when I read your post was relief. I'm not crazy insane or alone. Neither are you!

My little town has a great resale shop and a volunteer who will act as your personal shopper. I'm seriously thinking I need to buddy up to her and have her put things aside that I could use. I work full-time and I'm supposed to dress nicely. Hah!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterH
Worrying about money is the worst. It really does color your whole life. And as someone who has a husband in grad school and a mortgage that takes slightly more than half her salary each month, I know what I'm talking about!

One of the other commenters said something about selling stuff on Ebay. My husband has been selling old textbooks on Amazon and old records and other stuff on Ebay, and it has been a nice supplement to our income. You won't make tons of money, but it does help pay for vet bills and the occasional new pair of jeans.

I hope your situation gets better soon.

February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbad penguin
Alice,When I get into situations like that that seem almost hopeless, invariably something comes along to aleviate the stress. Hang in there, it will get better!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkate
Ah Alice. Were I living anywhere fancier than northern Minnesota, as a designer, with an artist husband, I'd be homeless. Duluth has some good schools.... if you like nine months of winter.... I don't know what to say. It's a good place to raise kids and there's not much to do, so it's a good place to write, but that's about it. And you could afford a house AND pizza. Deep breath.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarian
I second the ads idea; they don't bother me at all and I'd click click click if it made your life a little less stressful!Also, I'd totally pay to subscribe to finslippy. I don't have much, but if all your internet-adorers paid even a bit for the loveliness that is finslippy, it might help out.Sign me up and bill me if you think paid subscriptions are a good idea!Much love.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNadarine

First time commenter, long time reader. I know you didn't use an agent on the sale of your apartment, but I wonder if you're under contract with an agent to help you buy a house. It sounds like you lost out on the house you really wanted. Here's the deal, it wasn't so long ago that I was a single mom wearing the same pair of Levi's day in and day out and didn't know how in the HELL I would be able to pay for groceries for my kids. So, I've got a soft spot for money anxieties. Anyway, I'm a licensed realtor, and I could refer you to an agent in NJ, and in doing so, would be entitled to a referral fee, usually 25% of their commission on your purchase. If you're not under contract with someone, and you really should be for the purchase of a home, I'd be happy to refer you and advise them to credit you for the entire referral fee. It might be a thousand or more, and I wouldn't want anything out of it other than a warm and hearty thank you. Believe me, I don't want to deal with the hassle of the 1099 income I'd have to report-because even though I'm still licensed, I now work in real estate management, so I get the biweekly paycheck, benefits and 401K these days. I'm sincere, I'm not a freak and I'd love to help you get the house you really want. I get so much pleasure from reading your site, I practically owe you anyway!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmy in The Twin Cities
I am sad that you are sad, as cliched as that sounds. I just donated you enough for at least one new shoe. Hang in there. You have a lot of good wishes coming your way. That has to help, right?
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
I hope things get better :)
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJem
Bring on the Cafepress or other Finslippy goodness -- we'll buy! Hugs to you from someone who's been in the same leaky boat. Money problems are horrible. I started having an irregular heartbeat from sheer stress alone; finally had to file for bankruptcy when I was a single mom and my daughter was 1.5 -- and pretty soon my heart got better and so did the rest of me. Now I'm in a better job and we've (finally) been in our own home for the past 2 years. I hope the solution that you find (and you will find one) bursts on the scene for you like a warm, beautiful sunrise.

Re the house: My advice? Buy a smaller house in the neighborhood you like, even if you're within spitting distance of the neighbors, as long as it's got decent schools and is chockful of kids for Henry to play with. He won't notice anything else if he's got buddies to pal around with. Also, I personally don't think trying to live in one spot and getting special exceptions for him to go to the better schools elsewhere (as some have suggested) is the best option, as he won't be going to the same school as the neighborhood children; no one wants to be the odd man out. Just my two cents' worth, and I know you'll make sensible choices. Henry sounds well loved, despite the occasional moments when you just want to click his off switch for a while. (Or is that just me, with mine?)

Best to you -- Carolyn B.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn B.
I'm usually a reader, not a commenter, but thought I would chime in with some good wishes (because they're all I have to offer. And they're sincere).

Even when you think you have the money, buying a house is spectacularly stressful (and then it's more stressful when you find that, oops, no, it's more expensive than you thought). I do hope things work out.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercheryl
Alice, did you know that you were human? We all face these things and most of us have blogs where we vent and people come by to tell us they love us and are worrying/thinking/praying for us and it makes us feel a little better and we can shoulder the stress of financial/relationship/family/marital problems a little easier. That is what your blog is for and that is what we are for. Don't apologize for whining.

We are here. We are thinking about you and praying for you. And frankly, it is nice to know that you are human, too.

I wrote similarily about my son today.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterShelli
Because of preggo weight and the perfected ability to snack, I found that I also needed clothes. I got alot of mine from, in my area. I hope this helps. Many postitive thoughts heading your way!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Rani
I'm with Ern - great post title! Um, I won't echo what everyone else has said - although I must say, you've got yourself a buttload of good advice to peruse now, don't you?
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnnejelynn
Read "Your Money Or Your Life", this book changed our lives, and I don't mean that in a cult sort-of-way either. It is quite straightforward and forces the reader to really examine what is important in life. I never thought I'd have that reaction to a book, but it helped us figure out our financial strategy as a couple, and we never fight about money anymore - such a relief, because it stressed me to no end as you feel now. Check it out of the library and browse the first chapter, see if you get hooked!
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSully
Wonderful writing, today especially. I hate the vicious cycle of anxious mommy, crazy 3 year old boy. I am going through that right now. My thoughts and margaritas are with you.
February 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJbeeky

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