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‘Save Karyn’

Drowning in $20,000 of credit card debt, shopaholic Karyn Bosnak asked strangers for money online and turned her crisis into triumph.
/ Source: TODAY

What would you do if you were $20,000 in debt? One savy shopaholic turned her crisis into triumph. You may remember her from when she set up a Web site asking strangers to chip in and help pay off her debt. Well it worked, now she’s debt free. Here’s an excerpt of “Save Karyn”:


I awoke that morning to a buzzing in my ear. My head was throbbing. The night before we had a big party to wrap up the ninth season of The Jenny Jones Show, where I had worked for four years. (No, I wasn’t there for the murder, so don’t ask.) As desperately as I wanted to leave Chicago, I was sad to say good-bye to all of my coworkers, some of whom I had become very close with throughout the years.

The buzzing stopped and then started up again. I finally realized that it wasn’t my alarm clock, but my doorman buzzing my apartment. I got out of bed and went to answer the intercom.

“Karyn, it’s Robert the doorman. Your mom’s here,” a voice said.

Ever since I’ve lived alone, I’ve had an apartment with a doorman. It’s always made me feel safe. Sure, doorman apartment buildings are more expensive, but how can you put a price on safety? This particular apartment was on Oak Street — the Madison Avenue of Chicago. If you walked straight out the front door of my apartment building, you’d hit Barneys. That was good for me, a girl who grew up shopping.

“Oh, right. Let her up.” I was moving to New York the next morning. My mom was there to help me pack and was planning to stay overnight so she could take me to the airport. It was my last day in Chicago.

I love my mom. But she was part of the reason that I decided to move. She’d do anything for me, and I knew that and always took advantage of it. I was hoping New York would make me feel more independent, so I wouldn’t call my mother every minute to ask for her help. “Help” to me usually meant “help with some cash,” which meant “I spent too much at Marshall Field’s and I need help paying the bill.” And Mom was always there in that department.

After packing all day, we slept for a few hours before we had to get up and leave for my 6 A.M. flight. I was going to bring some of my clothes with me, and movers were coming to my apartment the following day to pick up the rest of my stuff. The reason for the early flight was that I had a job as a producer for a new court show called Curtis Court and had to be at work at noon the day I arrived.

That morning my mom and I woke up, loaded the car, and drove to the airport in silence. I’ve always had this horrible separation anxiety when it comes to my mother. When I was little, I would cry at school because I wanted my mom. My sister, Lisa, who is two years older than me, would have to leave her class and come to help my teacher quiet me down. I also was unable to sleep over at any of my friends’ houses until I was in fourth grade because again, I would cry at bedtime because I missed my mom. I would fake being sick and have my friend wake her parents up and tell them that I needed to go home. Every time I’d attempt a sleepover, my mom always knew the midnight phone call would come, and would get in her car to come pick me up.

After the twenty-minute ride to O’Hare, we pulled up to the United Airlines departure terminal. I got out of the car and my mom popped the trunk. The bell cap came over and took my bags out of the back. I had five of them.

“You are only allowed to check two bags,” he said.

“What? Why didn’t they tell me that on the phone? I need all of these bags,” I said.

Now, I admit that I’ve never been a light packer, but I had to have all these bags. My apartment wouldn’t be ready for me to move into until two weeks after I got to New York, so I had to bring some of my clothes, purses and shoes with me. And two weeks of clothes meant five suitcases.

“Sorry, miss. I can’t change the rules.”

So, I had to carry on three bags. Three big bags. These were not overnighter-size bags either. They were suitcases.

I turned around and looked at my mother, who was wearing her sunglasses so I wouldn’t see her tears, but I knew they were there.

“Mom, don’t cry!” I said. “Please don’t cry or you’ll make me cry.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it. Why won’t you let me come in with you?” she asked.

“Because if you come in with me, you’ll make me cry, that’s why.”

I looked at my mom and hugged her. I closed my eyes. I’ve always thought that if I closed my eyes when I cried the tears would stay in.

“Okay,” she said and continued to hug me. Hard. I couldn’t breathe.

I didn’t want to say the word “good-bye,” because I knew that would have pushed me over the edge. So I just said “I love you,” and pulled away quickly. Without looking at my mom, I turned around and pushed the heavy cart with my three suitcases through the automatic door.

After checking in and looking around for a while, I finally found a seat at the gate that accommodated me and my three suitcases. After I sat down, I looked to the left and saw someone familiar dart behind a pole. I couldn’t see the person’s face, but I could see the outline of a black Kate Spade purse. It was my mom! She was watching me!

Excerpted from “Save Karyn” by Karyn Bosnak. Copyright © 2003 by Karyn Bosnak. All rights reserved. Published by Harpercollins Publishers. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.