From Hell’s Heart, I Stab at Thee…Fed Loan Servicing.

Khan I would like to claim I knew that line was from Moby Dick…but I just knew it from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. But, in my defense, The Wrath of Khan was way better than Moby Dick.

But that’s beside the point. My current source of wrath is my law school student loans.

It could be that they are more than six figures.

It could be that I’m paying over 7% interest on them. (Thanks, Government! We love your commitment to higher learning! Even though my student loan interest rate is nearly double my mortgage interest rate, you assholes.)

But, truly, the current source of my fury is the Morlocks working for Fed Loan Servicing.

So, here’s the thing.

I signed up for automatic withdrawal for my student loans (so I could save that *amazing* 1/4% interest rate!). They say “keep making your payments – it could take a couple of months for this to get set up. We’ll let you know.” Total lies. They do NOT let you know.

Consequently, I made my NINE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE DOLLAR student loan payment on MAY 29. But guess what?? They set up my automatic withdrawal (without telling me!) and so on JUNE 4 (6 DAYS LATER), they took ANOTHER $935. Seriously. Six days later. Oopsie. Bastards.

So, I called. They said “Sorry.” Then they said, “How about we credit this toward July?” Grrr, but ok.

Then I got a notice from Fed Loan Servicing saying, “Your next automatic withdrawal will be July 4.” What? You’re supposed to skip a month.

So I called. They said “Sorry.” Then they said, “No really; we really have it set NOT to take another $935 for July.” Okay. Dubious, but I’ll take the leap of faith.

Then I got a bill saying, “No automatic withdrawal this month so be sure to make your payment!” No. It can’t be. How many Fed Loan Servicing agents does it take to screw up one correction? Turns out, one more than I had talked to.

So I checked my online account.

DELINQUENT.

Rage. White-hot, blinding, whiskey-drinking, rage. I shit you not. They never bothered to apply that extra payment forward – they just suspended the automatic payment for a month.

So I called. They said “Sorry.”

I said, “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee; for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!” Okay. Not really. But I did tell him they were making me crazy. In a very sarcastic, hopefully day-ruining, tone of voice.

P.S.

In case I stumped you on the “Morlocks” thing – I direct you to a photo of the night-dwelling, cannibalistic Morlocks from the 1960 classic, “The Time Machine.” Morlocks And now your life is complete.

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Dear Mom.

[Ok – consider yourself warned – this is going to be a sad one. If you aren’t up for it today – move along.]

You died six months ago today. And my whole world changed forever. It’s strange how surreal it still feels when I consider you’re really gone, even six months later. I’ve replayed that day in my head a thousand times and it never ceases to feel like science fiction.

And we’re muddling through the best we can. I wonder if you realize how much everyone relied on you. You were the sun we orbited. You were my sun.

with Mom and DadI never realized how much joy I got from sharing things with you. Things really got their meaning when I told you about them. Now, something exciting or interesting will happen…and it sort of dies on the vine. I think about telling you – and can’t – and I think about telling someone else…and nine times out of ten, I decide it’s not worth it. And I let it go. Even awesome things have been lackluster since I can’t share my excitement with you.

I got a book deal. Everyone assures me you know. Something I’d dreamed of most of my life…happened! And I cried all day. Because your absence was unbearable. You’re the only person who has read every book I’ve ever written. You gave honest, valuable feedback and I relied on your opinion so much. What do I do now? You are truly irreplaceable.

You said you were amazed by my drive…by my fearless pursuit of my dreams. Well, your fearless daughter has developed a new fear. I’m so afraid of ever needing someone again the way I needed you, because losing that person…is a killer. I can hear you telling me that isn’t the answer…that our lives are worth living because of the people in them. And I know that’s true. But I really feel like over the last six months I’ve been testing the theory of whether or not you can die of a broken heart. Because sometimes…oftentimes…it’s devastating.

But you knew this all too well. And I didn’t understand. You can’t understand until it happens to you. But I understand now. I understand that underlying fissure of sadness you had most of my life – that you got from the loss of your father who you adored and your mother who was your best friend. Who were both gone by the time you were 38.

And I’m not unique. I realize that. People have lost their most important people, just as young, younger, under all kinds of tragic circumstances. And people survive it. And I will, too. Just like you did.

I may not know precisely what I believe, but I believe that you are at peace. That death is only sad for those left behind. I believe that you are with your parents, who you spent decades missing. I believe that, even if you can see us, our sorrow is not making you sad because you now have that wisdom that assures that we’ll be together again in what will seem like the blink of an eye.

All the goals I had – being a published author – being an attorney. My goal these days is to be able to say “I miss my mom so much” without crying. It’ll have to be a long-term goal.

Apparently the only thing bigger than your presence in my life was the hole left in it when you died.

People tell me to focus on the good memories, the happy times. But that’s not what we were. We were the constant sharing of every thought and every feeling. Every day. Sure, there were good times – but I don’t miss being able to take a vacation with you. I miss the 20-minute talk on my way to work. And the 20-minutMome talk on my way home. And the phone call I would have made to you when I found out  about my book deal. (The very FIRST phone call I would have made.) And the phone call I would have made to you when I found out about the suicide of a friend from high school. And when I won that motion in court. And when that dog got into my yard and attacked my dogs. And hearing your input on the sequel to my book that I’m working on. And hearing what you thought of the season finale of The Blacklist. Or you showing me how well your apple trees were growing in your yard. How will focusing on the good memories ever be a replacement for the million things you and I would have told each other about in the last six months? Or the next 20 years?

But I’ll make it through, obviously. I get my toughness from you. And I hope my own fissure of sadness isn’t too big. And I hope that I dream of you. And that after I heal some more, I hope I’ll believe people when they say “she’ll always be with you.” And I hope that I make you proud.

I miss you so much.

 

 

The Fairy Tale Law Firm – Warning: This Warning May Cause Cancer.

the fairy tale law firm

Long, long ago in a far-away, entirely fictional kingdom called California, there was a lord called ShortSightedLawmakers. This lord really liked to hear himself talk so he summoned his barrister – assuming she’d enjoy listening to him talk about stupid crap as well – and went for an inspection of his kingdom.

Lord ShortSightedLawmakers stopped in many storefronts as he passed through the villages.

“Lady Barrister,” he said, “I am very concerned by some of the compounds being used by the shopkeepers.”

“Such as what, My Lord?”

“Well, the tannery uses tannin.”

“Yes, I believe it is necessary to their work.”

“But I believe it causes cancer. People have a right to know when they are exposing themselves to such dangerous chemicals. I think they should be required to post such a warning.” (I know. This is sounding vaguely familiar.)

“Well, My Lord, I suppose I understand your concern, but how would it be enforced? Our law enforcement officials are overburdened as it is. I’m not sure we could expect them to police tanneries as well – simply to see if they are displaying proper signage.”

“Not just tanneries,” he bellowed. “Any vendor that utilizes frog’s legs! Or aspirin! Or lye!”

“My Lord, are you certain all of those cause cancer?”

“No!” But I’m not certain they don’t! And salt! I don’t think that’s good for you, either! And vinegar! Because I don’t like the smell. And there is something sinister about tea leaves!” And the Lord rambled on and on, naming chemicals he felt were vaguely threatening in some way.

The barrister sighed. “Again, My Lord, I do not see how we can put enforcement of such a law on the shoulders of our law enforcement officials.”

“Then we’ll let the people enforce it!” (Perfect. What could possibly go wrong?)

Lady Barrister’s mouth hung open a moment. “But, My Lord, doesn’t it seem that there are greedy, unscrupulous, self-serving, sleazy individuals that would exploit such a law to the detriment of poor business-owners who do not realize they are violating the law?”

“Nonsense. It will work.”

So the law was passed. And money-grubbing barristers all over the kingdom learned how to exploit the law, finding plaintiffs they could sue on behalf of and bringing lawsuits against business-owners who had no notion that they had done anything wrong. And they sued their pants off –  despite the fact that the “plaintiffs” in those cases had never been harmed by any chemical found at the business. And those “plaintiffs” and barristers made mountains and mountains of gold and business-owners were afraid and so started posting signs in every store stating that they *might* use chemicals that *might* cause cancer, simply to avoid being prey to such a lawsuit.

And all of the people Lord ShortSightedLawmakers intended to protect with his warnings, found the signs, which were now freaking everywhere, utterly useless because (a) they were EVERYWHERE (like I said), and (b) they didn’t know what the chemicals were, how much they were exposed to, or whether they even were actually harmful! Add to this the fact that the lord’s list, which initially had a few chemicals on it when he started, ended up with HUNDREDS of chemicals on it.

So, there are two morals to this story. The first, life causes cancer. Seriously. (Okay, to better illustrate – when you roast coffee beans, a side effect of the roasting process creates acrylamide – all on its own! Not man-made. Just by roasting those little bad boys. And acrylamide is on the list. Consequently, every friggin coffee company YOU know has been sued. So, next time you go into Starbucks, enjoy your warning sign. I’m sure you all stopped drinking coffee as soon as you saw that oh-so-important sign informing you that your coffee may cause cancer (if you drink 37 cups a day, 7 days a week for the next 18 years).)

Oops. Forgot I was at the “Fairy Tale Law Firm.”

Okay, second moral to this story: please, for the love of all that is holy, read laws BEFORE you vote for them. You need to consider more than whether a law would be “a good idea.” Does it have an enforcement vehicle that actually works? Because bounty hunter clauses are making asshole plaintiffs and asshole attorneys into millionaires. And I doubt that was part of what you thought was “a good idea” when you marked your ballot.

Okay. I’m off my soap box. Sorry about that. And not to make this post overly educational, but here is a link to the California Attorney General’s record of Prop 65 lawsuits for 2013 – in case you thought I was exaggerating. 73% of all amounts recovered under these lawsuits went to the attorneys! I’d like to take a moment to thank those attorneys for furthering the stereotype that lawyers are basically bottom-feeding scumbags 🙂  Thanks, guys!

By the way. WARNING: This blog may contain chemicals known to the kingdom of California to cause cancer or other reproductive harm.

Side Effects May Vary.

I’ve always been a “seize the day” kinda girl. (Granted, sometimes it feels a little more like “don’t look before you leap” girl, but let’s not split hairs.) Point being, you do only live once and you should seize the day because, God knows, you never know how many more you have.

So take this personality and add to it one prematurely-deceased, healthy, spunky parent and you get some interesting side effects.

No, I didn’t book a skydiving excursion. (Yet. That will happen, eventually.) I ate pork. (Gasp! The hell you say!) Okay, follow me. About 32 years ago, my mom decided the family was only going to eat poultry and fish. Her father had died young of colon cancer, but she also just didn’t like hurting the little animals. So, in more recent years, my siblings went back to eating all meat and my mom went full vegetarian and had been for the last 12 years of her life. And me – aside from a couple short-lived periods of actual vegetarianism – I stuck to the poultry and fish thing. For the last 32 years.

There is this awesome Jon Favreau movie called “Chef.” (This segues back – trust me.) I think it’s on Netflix. Seriously. Watch it. It’s kickass.

Chef

Jon Favreau is a chef who has a meltdown that goes viral on social media and he ends up with a food truck where he makes the most epic Cuban sandwiches. Obviously, there’s more to it. But for our purposes here, I’m talking about the sandwich.

Cuban

I even linked this picture to the recipe from the movie…in case you’re inspired.

So the movie was about family, and following your passion, and simplicity, and, of course, food. So, last weekend Steve and I were celebrating one of my best friend’s birthdays and we went to this great restaurant in Sonoma County called Bear Republic Brewing Co. And on the menu they had a Cuban sandwich (there’s that segue I promised you) and Steve ordered it.

And I had to try it. So I took a bite (ok, four) and it was delicious. So good. So, for no other reason than “what the hell,” I ate pork for the first time in 32 years. Is it because mom isn’t here to be disappointed in me? Maybe. Is it because, if I take after my mother and grandmother, I may only have another 20 years and that I need to carpe diem (or in this case, carpe porca)? Possibly. So I tried it. And you know what? No one died. (Well, except for the pig.)

On a side note, I found these socks (courtesy of the Bloggess) and I think I need them.

Carpe Diem Socks

I included the link for this as well in case you need them, too.

So go out there and seize the hell of the day, my friends.

Friday Happy List.

It’s Friday so I thought I’d share with you a quick list of awesome things that make me happy.

  • Fridays. I have yet to meet one I didn’t like.
  • The new show, iZombie (which may be further proof that I am actually a 15-year-old girl trapped in a woman’s body). Whatever. It’s a delight.

iZombie

  • Wine. Because it’s amazing. This picture of wine is also amazing. So two for one on this point.

Wine

  • My new bamboo sheets. Seriously. Who knew you could make fabric out of bamboo? And why is it the softest thing in creation? And why have I been having so much trouble getting out of bed in the morning? More questions than answers, really.

bamboo sheets

  • This sign. Because it always makes me picture a little bird with a French fry. And how does that not always bring a smile to your face? ‘Cause that little bird just hit the mother lode.

Bird with a french fry

  • My dogs. Because every time I walk in the door, they act like I’m a combination of Joe Montana, Geddy Lee and Jesus Christ. (My dogs are big Rush fans. I blame Steve.)

Jack & Sawyer

Enjoy your weekend and take your happy wherever you find it.

My Writer’s Streak.

Writer's Streak

Apparently, when you are rep’d by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary Agency, you become a member of the Wolf Pack. And, once my announcement came out, the other members of the Wolf Pack informed me of a Wolf Pack tradition. They told me Michelle’s authors put a streak of color in their hair when Michelle gets us a book deal. Shenanigans, right? Have no fear. I insisted on photographic evidence. Which was happily provided.

And since I have never been one to tempt fate – or miss an opportunity to do something ridiculous with a totally valid excuse – or, frankly, resist peer pressure when I don’t feel like it – here is my new writer’s streak.

And since, as Linda Grimes put it, some judges are lacking in a sense of whimsy, I strategically placed it so that it could be overlooked in court. Unless I meet a super whimsical judge, in which case, game on.

Writer's Streak 2

It’s Official! My Agent Just Accepted a Two-Book Deal From Tor/Forge Publishing!

Man, this writing thing is a long and winding road. And this is the moment you dream of but doubt will ever actually happen…the book deal.

I was lucky enough to gain representation from the amazing Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary and now we officially have a book deal! We just signed a deal with Tor Publishing for the first two books of my trilogy, The Contract Killers. (Which, despite the title, is actually a funny romance with a twist.)

So this wanna-be published author just became a gonna-be published author and dreams really do come true if you stick with it long enough and never give up.

Damn it, Mom. You missed it by four months. And you believed this moment would happen more than anyone. I ❤ you always.

The Secrets You Keep.

But I suck at keeping secrets – well, my secrets, anyway – so here’s a few that my grievy little heart has been bottling up. And because I’m not special, odds are, if you know someone who is grieving, these are their secrets, too.

  • You’re not okay. But you do a pretty good impression of it. And it’s exhausting.
  • There are different kinds of grief. I’ve had the normal kind…lost people I loved and missed terribly. Now I realize there is a different category when you lose the person that was your foundation and this type burns you up and remakes you from the ashes and you suspect you’ll never be the same. (Plus, some of the most honest shit you say sounds super melodramatic.)
  • You feel isolated. You feel like you don’t see the people in your life much. Logic tells you that life is busy – nothing more. But grief tells you that it’s too much work to be around you. So you do your best to be cheerful when you’re with people, but this only makes the isolation worse because now even when you’re with people, you feel like they don’t really see you.
  • The people that assume you’re actually still a mess are the only ones you can really connect with. And that friend that tells you “it doesn’t matter if you cry every time we’re together – you’ll always be worth it” said the one thing you needed to hear more than anything.
  • Life looks different. The good things aren’t as good and the bad things are worse.
  • After four months, you still live in the theater. And the movie hasn’t stopped playing yet. It’s the background noise of your life.
  • You still cry all the effing time. And you’re sick to death of it.
  • That good spell you had gave you a false sense of security that you were coming out the other side. But now you realize that this is actually the most messed up tango ever and you don’t take a step forward without taking a step back.
  • You miss your old self. You want to be that upbeat and optimistic again. But you aren’t driving this train and apparently you don’t get to decide when you get off.
  • And you keep these secrets because nobody likes a whiner.

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

So, this doll over at The Pretty Platform nominated me for an award. No, seriously. Look how cute this girl is.

Elke at the Pretty Platform

Right? Adorable. So, Elke, because you’re too cute to say no to, I accept 😉

sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award

Okay. Here are the rules!

As I accept this nomination, the following must be accomplished:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Nominate seven blogs.
I got this.
The Answers
  1. If there was a book written about you, what would it be titled? At Least She Meant Well.
  2. If you could go back to any age in your life, which would it be, and why? Well, I have made splendidly horrendous mistakes at every stage of my life, so I wouldn’t say I had any desirable “stage.” And I’m 42 now but have never minded the journey of getting older so there isn’t a younger age I’d want to be. That leaves the obvious – I would go back to any time prior to December 15, 2014 when I still had my mom and best friend.  That was all the best stage.
  3. What single accomplishment are you most proud of? I’m proud of my three as-yet-unpublished novels. Because I never quit. Even when I came so close the first time only to suffer a huge disappointment – I just moved on to the next book. Full-time job, kids, law school – didn’t matter. A writer writes.
  4. Country living or city living? Suburb living looking to escape to the country. I want chickens. And a goat.
  5. What’s your favorite joke? Do tell. The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.
  6. Are you an ugly or pretty crier? I’ve actually become an expert in the matter. I’ve got the pretty cry, the ugly one, the rogue-tear one, the cry-till-you’re-hoarse one, and the I-swear-to-god-I-seriously-need-to-stop-crying one.
  7. If you could donate money to one cause, to one organization, which would it be? St. Jude’s Hospital. Anything for children. And it was my mom’s favorite.
  8. What do you think should be taught in schools today that isn’t already? I’m not a huge proponent of shock value, but after I saw “American History X,” I thought it should be shown in high schools. With all the language, violence and hard R rating intact. I don’t know that I’ve seen another movie that more accurately embodies the futility and tragedy of hatred more than that movie.
  9. How do you like your steak cooked? I don’t remember. Haven’t had a steak in about 33 years.
  10. What vacation spot did you enjoy the most? That’s tough. I love love love to travel. I guess I would say Blarney Castle in Ireland. Sad that it’s only known for kissing that nasty stone. The grounds are so beautiful, I could have stayed for a year.

The Questions for the Nominees

  1. What are you most afraid of?
  2. Star Wars or Star Trek?
  3. What is your favorite book?
  4. Now what is your real favorite book that that doesn’t make you look as intellectual as your answer in number 3?
  5. If you could trade places with any currently living celebrity, who would it be?
  6. Do you believe in ghosts?
  7. What is your favorite Pixar movie?
  8. What is the most impulsive thing you’ve ever done?
  9. What is your favorite genre of food?
  10. Who is your favorite Disney princess?

My Nominees

  1. Gone Catawampus – love love love these girls. Sorry to be redundant, cause I’ve nominated them for stuff before, but they never disappoint.
  2. Never Trust a Jellyfish – just the name makes me smile. As do most of her posts.
  3. Heather Christena Schmidt – Love her humor and honesty.
  4. The Stay at Home Philosopher – Quirky and clever. And I love quirky.
  5. Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy. – AKA Aussa Lorens. Okay. She’s kind of a big deal and this is not news, but she’s just so damn funny.
  6. Some Offense Intended – because offensive is funny if you’re smart.
  7. Have You Seen My Glass Slipper? – because Kay is way more clever than I was at 18.

So, thanks to the lovely Elke. And I apologize to my nominees for the homework assignment.

Much love.

Erin

Give Me 5 Minutes and I’ll Get You Excited for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Zombie Apocalypse Of course, some of you need no convincing and are probably already stockpiling ammo and bottled water. But for the rest of you…

I’m a fan of zombie movies, new and old, and a huge Walking Dead fan. But what I’ve realized is that there is an emotional component to the draw of the zombie apocalypse that’s driving my desire for apocalypse-themed entertainment lately.

Think about it. It’s all about survival. Nothing strips away the bullshit of our day-to-day lives like a hoard of mindless, flesh-eating zombies. Because that parent-teacher conference you were dreading next week? Pretty sure it’s canceled. Still upset that a couple of your friends checked in on Facebook for happy hour without inviting you? Nope. Just worried about surviving till happy hour. Stressed about losing 10 pounds before bathing suit season? There is no more bathing suit season. Plus, you’ll probable be in kick-ass shape from walking all day and swinging a heavy machete.

The point is, there is no more worrying about your kids grades, their college paths, their life choices. Your new parenting goals? Food, water, no bites. I can get behind that. Plus, no more stressing over your career, your mortgage, your retirement account. Congratulations. Your five-year plan just went out the window. You’re now working on a 24-hour plan with one goal: survive.

This sounds good to me. Because I’m at a point where my threshold for bullshit is microscopic and there’s so much bullshit. The things I worry about in a given day are so insignificant in light of what I’ve lost. But somehow I still have to worry about them. Because life goes on, with all its bullshit intact. Unless we fall into a zombie apocalypse. Fingers crossed.

zombie-horde-the-walking-dead