I convinced myself I was “homefull” with so many friends offering to house me. Lynn and Lucas offered me their cabin in Green Valley Lake, as well as a room with bath in their Redwood City apartment. Linda offered me luxury accommodations in her “Guest House” which resembles the luxury penthouse at Caesar’s Palace. Iris, my Costa Rican friend, offered to house me in her family compound on the finca (farm) in Atenas. Many many others came forward with offers to put a roof over my head. But it was their roof. Not mine.
How did this happen? How did the hot-shot Realtor with the Seafoam Jaguar and the big diamonds get in this position? Well, like Ian, one of my readers, put it, “I love your no-fear approach to life.” What he doesn’t know is I have a long history of ‘leap first, look later!’ And until you have walked a mile in my stilettos, or work boots, or flip flops don’t pass judgment. And sometimes when I look at where I’ve landed, I get scared. Very scared. I just don’t show it. As the song says, “Nobody loves you when you’re down and out.” Pull yourself up by those bootstraps and carry on.
So, everybody wants the story! Here’s the nutshell version (unabridged version will be in my next book, “The Husbands.”)
I moved to Costa Rica three years ago at the suggestion of a handsome, charming man I met just after the fiasco of marriage number 5 (that’s a book unto itself). I was struggling to sell real estate in the recession that started in 2008. I worked like a dog, made a few sales, was worn out and barely keeping my head above water. New man said, “Hey, how would you like to move to Costa Rica with me? We can live nicely on our social security alone.”
His timing was perfect. I jumped up from my real estate desk, grabbed a paper bag, dumped the contents of the desk drawer into it and grinned. “Let’s go!”
Things were good. I was happy. We rented an all inclusive casita for cheap. It was Paradise. Because of our Central American location he got a job with a California company that paid extremely well. Eureka! We could stash a ton of money, buy a piece of dirt, and build the proper home he had promised.
For a variety of reasons, he changed his mind. The company sent him on assignment to Colombia. I never saw him again. I held on for a while, using $850 of my $1044 social security check to pay the rent. And then came the kicker. A trusted sister-friend had come to me some months back. We took a walk in the woods, as was our tradition. She didn’t seem herself, so I asked what was troubling her. I listened in horror as the story unfolded. She sobbed softly and confessed that she had gotten into trouble with the IRS – BIG trouble. If she didn’t pay a fine of $15,000 by Friday, she was at risk of going to prison. She told me she had thoughts of taking her own life.
Although I did not have any money, I did have pristine credit. I could not stand by while one of my bracelet sisters was suffering. She assured me that if I took a cash advance on my credit card, her account, which had over $500,000 in it would be unfrozen and I would be paid back in two to five business days. In fact, she said she would pay me back double!
“No, no, just pay the cash advance amount plus the fees,” I said. “This is about friendship, not profit.”
Eight days later, I got a call from my friend. “They want another ten thousand dollars.”
“What?! But…but…you said… I sighed into the phone, as my head starting spinning. I felt trapped.
“So, you’re saying if they don’t get the ten thousand your account will remain frozen? That’s absurd. You have the money in your account to pay all the fines and they won’t let you use it? If I give you that money are you absolutely, positively certain they will release your money?”
“Yes!” she said without hesitation. I did it. That was over a year ago. The promotional rate on my cash advance expired and the minimum payment shot up to $700 per month. Hmmm, let’s see… income $1044, credit card payment $700. How do I pay the rent?
I sold all my worldly belongings and used the money to pay the debt down. Every copy of “Flying High with Carole Jean” I sold went to pay down the debt. I negotiated with the credit card company to reduce the interest rate to get the minimum payment down to $500.
When my friends, Lynn and Lucas, got transferred from their Costa Rica assignment to Redwood City, California, Lynn sat me down after the transfer was official. “You’re coming with us. We are not leaving you here by yourself. Besides, we need you to help us repatriate our dogs! Our cabin is vacant and you can stay there as long as you want.”
Yes, I was happy to be “dog lady!” The plan was for me to stay cloistered in the Green Valley Lake cabin and write, write, write.
In addition to this generous offer, my dear friend, Linda, in Arizona invited me to live in her luxurious guest house for a few months. She asked me to help her write her book, “From Stewardess to Senator,” for which she would pay me … her way of making sure I don’t starve. Hardly likely with her feeding me lamb chops, au gratin potatoes, fine wine, and the like every night!
Food, clothing, shelter!
How will I do it with that debt hanging over my head every month?
To be continued…