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For any of you that were following the story… we’re now post-foreclosure panic, post-Making Home Affordable, post-waiting for the end of the story.

As of this moment, we are back into a mortgage routine, making payments, having a distinct mortgage balance (well, ok albeit daily amortization. At least I can log into their website and look at a number). We have no foreclosure on our records. We are still in our home.

Gracious, that was a tedious process. Our first call to Wells Fargo alerting them that we could no longer make our payments was in October of 2008. Sixteen months (and skyrocketing blood pressure) later, we’re all set.

Let me take on a lot of responsibility, lest we make any assumptions. Wells Fargo had no what-if-we-lose-our-job clauses when we first committed to the loan. They did not have to reorganize our payment schedule, and let us add our missed payments to the balance.

Neither one of us came through it gracefully. Wells Fargo hopefully has the headache it deserves for having to work within its own astonishingly convoluted, cobwebby network of various disparate departments multiply duplicated and unmotivated not merely to share information, but even to be aware of each other.

…and for my part, I’m bitter, even though I’m still in my home. It’s a guilt-ridden bitterness because of this voice telling me I should be grateful to my mortgage-holder. Our loan amount went up ten thousand dollars (no principle reduction like you’ve heard on the news), and our monthly amount went down 88 dollars (practically no payment reduction).  In the meantime, the value of our property dropped 40 thousand, so equity is a pipe dream.

But my family is under a roof. Even though it’s a tired old building that loses more chunks of white vinyl siding every time the wind blows, exposing the avocado paint beneath, and every time we accidentally touch the disintegrating foundation walls a cascading shower of ancient concrete pebbles builds higher piles of gravel on the floor, and even though the rain running through the moss on the roof doesn’t hit the gutters any more because they’ve sagged too far away from the building…

….this is OUR HOUSE! It’s really big, and has a basement. And Tara gets the whole upstairs to herself with her own bathroom. And there’s a lawn, and magic soil out front where I am dying to put in this year’s crop of vegetables. We have a fireplace, a guest room, a big country kitchen, and lots of places for our two silly cats to live whole lives and not get too close to each other (because they fight like demons when they do). We’ve got friends and relatives that just stop by, and neighbors that care about us. There’s a mailbox on the porch, and camellias up to the second floor that are bursting, BURSTING with blooms right now.

whew! I feel better.  ;o)

Plants by the front window

Can someone please explain the fish cracker in the bathroom?

Here are a few tidbits from my life the past week that I find amusing:

I got into the shower still partially asleep, which explains why I didn’t notice the fish on the shower rug until I opened the curtain to step out. Hm. Goldfish snack cracker on the rug in the bathroom. Interesting.


Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks like the Fonz. Oh, totally! Not in a still photo, but animated, when he’s speaking. How can a President in the middle of a country in chaos perpetually look like he’s waiting for you to get the joke so he can laugh with you? If one can ignore his politics and go just by appearance, this man has something boyish about him that is irresistibly endearing. Every time I watch him speaking, he raises his eyebrows, and I’m waiting for him to go, “Aaaayyyyyyyyy….”

My mother is a woman comfortable to remain within her realm. She finds peace in the familiar. She is not an activist, she does not stand on soapboxes, she avoids conflict. She says to me on the phone the other day, “I really want oranges, but I refuse to buy the ones Jerry has at the store. They are from New Zealand. I explained to him, ‘I won’t buy those, they’re from New Zealand.’ It’s too far away. That’s too much traveling. I think of all the expense of sending an orange to north Idaho from New Zealand, and I just can’t buy it.” Huh. I wonder if she’s even aware that she’s participating in activism. That’s pretty cool.

While my daughter was helping me with dinner a few nights ago, she started quoting the Black Knight scene from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. She just kept going. Word for word through the whole scene. I was laughing so hard I was gasping for breath. It was funnier without the images, because I could pay attention to the brilliant comedy in the words themselves. Besides, my daughter is a natural comedian. Black Knight: “I am invincible!” King Arthur: “You’re a looney!”

And hey, in addition to our meaningless form letter, we have now received a phone call from Wells Fargo’s office of the CEO, and also have been contacted by Sen. Jeff Merkely’s (D, OR) office about beginning a congressional inquiry. It can pay to stand up for yourself in America. Not always, and not usually the way you hope for, but if you bark with confidence, someone will eventually toss a bone.

Mark wrote a letter to everyone he could think of, explaining our languishing home mortgage modification process. We were hoping for two or three form letters in response to the six he sent out. We finally received this one via email.

Of note is the fact that the Congressman highlights the Making Home Affordable program, and recommends that we contact our lender and ask about the plan. This confirms our assumption that our letters would not even be read, since the reason we are agonizing is because we ARE in the midst of trying to make the Making Home Affordable program work for us, and it’s been a big cluster-* from the beginning.

From: Congressman Earl Blumenauer <>
Date: Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 11:56 AM
Subject: Reply from Congressman Earl Blumenauer

November 19, 2009

Dear Mark,

Thank you for contacting me about your mortgage situation and the state of the economy. I am deeply concerned about for the thousands of homeowners in my District who are in foreclosure, or on the verge of becoming delinquent on their mortgage. I have heard horrendous stories of people who have been in their homes for 10 or even 20 years and never missed a payment, but due to unforeseen circumstances such as the loss of a job or a medical crisis in the family, are now struggling to make ends meet. Worse, they often find that their property is worth less than their debt on the house, are as a result, they are on the brink of losing their home.

I have been outspoken in Washington DC that in order to stop the economic freefall, we must take immediate steps to shore up housing values and provide families with some degree of financial stability. That is one reason why I am adamantly supporting legislation that will allow judges to modify mortgages for individuals who have declared bankruptcy. It is outrageous that judicial modifications are allowed for speculators and vacation homes, but not for regular homeowners.

Recently, the US Treasury announced details of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan (

This plan will allow expanded refinancing options for homeowners who are currently in foreclosure, or who are still current on their payments but concerned about becoming delinquent. Lenders and homeowners will be offered direct financial incentives to refinance their loans into lower interest rates. While refinancing will not reduce the overall amount that is owed on the loan, it will help borrowers secure safer, fixed rate loans with lower interest rates, thereby reducing the amount of interest that would be repaid over the life of the loan. Homeowners are encouraged to contact their lenders and ask about the plan.

The following resource is also available to help Oregonians find additional information about avoiding foreclosure, as well as contact information for HUD-approved counseling agencies. These counseling agencies can help with answering questions about the Making Home Affordable Program, as well as contacting your lender and clarifying information.

HUD Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure <>

Through HUD’s online guide, homeowners can find and contact local housing agencies to determine what free services are available to help avoid foreclosure.

It is also important to note that unfortunately, there are some fraudulent foreclosure prevention services and hotlines are attempting to portray their organizations as affiliated with honest efforts.  Be sure that you are working with a HUD-approved counselor, such as those available via the above website.

Our nation is committing unprecedented resources towards stabilizing the economy. I am hopeful that these new programs will provide Americans with some fiscal security, and help to stabilize the value of what in many families is their greatest asset, their home. Thank you for contacting me with your concerns.

Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress

In January we did our taxes and got another shock: Mark owed thousands. In 2007 he had panicked, watching his stocks fall, so he gambled and took everything out of the previous investments, and put it all into banks. Hindsight will tell us all that it was an unfortunate move. Investors will know that when you pull stocks out of one place to buy something else, it’s counted as income. Though Mark never saw a penny of it, the IRS saw that he “earned” about $140 thousand in 2008 by selling stocks. In his despair at seeing banks fail and all his savings evaporate, Mark did not remember to hold anything aside for paying taxes.

Catch up to our story if you like, by reading Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5.

24)       We did manage to talk the IRS down from owing $46 thousand to owing $18 thousand, but what’s the difference when we have nothing to pay it with regardless?

25)       I was thankfully spared from owing taxes, because of my incredible loss on selling the Massachusetts home.

26)       Eventually the stay on foreclosures was released. We chewed our fingernails. In April 2009 we received our foreclosure notices.

The paperwork that went into our response was tedious, but we were willing to play their game for a chance at a new agreement. We began hearing stories about how people had their interest rates reduced to 3%, or had the amount financed reduced from $400 to $300 thousand – huge benefits offered to those who were willing to work with their lenders and to pay off their debt somehow. We had hope, and pressed on.

Part of our requirement was that we had to call a credit counseling agency. I called one of the numbers listed in the Wells Fargo paperwork. I talked with a wonderful woman who asked a million questions and gradually began to lose her assurance that she could help us. “There is no way my company could get you better rates than what you have,” she said. “You are managing your finances very well.” Hm. Small amount of good my smugness did for me at that point. But regardless, I had talked with the credit counselor. I had upheld my end. What would Wells Fargo do for us?

27)        We had been asked for budget spreadsheets and copies of taxes and pay stubs on three separate occasions. We had been asked for letters explaining why we wished for a mortgage modification. Finally they responded that we had been approved on a trial basis. Rejoice! They came up with a new, lower monthly rate, and said if we paid that new amount for three months in a row, they would consider installing it permanently. They had reduced our obligation from $1624 a month to $1185. We were thrilled. Now we could afford everything on my salary alone.

We paid $1185 in May, June, and July, and then called Wells Fargo. They had stopped the foreclosure process, and our house would not go up for auction. Whew! But that’s all they could tell us. “Keep paying that same amount,” they always said. “We will contact you as soon as we get to your case. We can’t guarantee it, of course, but the $1185 you have been paying will most likely be your payment from now on.”

Months trickled by. My student loan forbearance with Direct Loan expired, and they requested that I begin paying another $210 a month in addition to the $223 I am already paying in student loans to Sallie Mae. And, in the time since I had last reviewed my account, I saw that the amount I owed in student loans had climbed to over $80 thousand. Why, again, did I go to school? What an idiotic thing it seemed to me. What a fool I was to buy that classist ideal that school is the path to a better life. Well, not from what I have seen. I put that portion of my loan back into forebearance.

28)       When my tax money came in, I paid off a credit card, and paid off Mark’s student loans.

29)        Mark got a job in July, after 13 months of unemployment and no unemployment compensation.

Finally we didn’t have such bitterness when hearing news about unemployment benefits extensions. We had applied for food stamps, medical care, housing assistance, heating assistance, and were turned down for everything because I make too much money.

Finally we didn’t have to listen to all the ignorant comments from people intending to help, saying, “If you haven’t found a job, it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough.” Or “Lower your sights and you’ll find work.”  And, “Apply to 10-20 jobs a day. Unemployment is a 40-hour-a-week-job.” And our favorite, “Have you tried looking outside your field?” Thank god there are people who have had an income through all this, and have had no reason to understand what it has been like for suffering families. But still, if you think you’re helping someone by saying those phrases to them, you aren’t, so shut up.

30)        With the new lowered mortgage payment, and second income, you’d think we’d finally be in a comfortable place, but it didn’t work out that way. Suddenly, we had the option to take care of more responsibilities, and all of them cost money.

Milda and me

We scheduled dentist appointments for everyone. We took both of our clunkers to the shop so that they would pass emissions tests and we could renew our tags and drive legally again. Both cats went to the vet. I paid off a loan from my 87-year-old grandmother (I HATE owing money, and especially hate owing people I love). I started getting the mental health therapy that was long overdue. Bought our kid new clothes that she desperately needed. Paid off another credit card. We continued our pared-down lifestyle of no cable, no home phone, very few dinners out, no splurging on little things that catch our eyes. We ate tons of food from our small but unexpectedly productive garden.

31)       The last week of September our final paperwork from Wells Fargo finally came through! But we were confused with what it said. Rather than the $1185 we had been paying, they had finalized our bill at $1536. And even though we had been making payments on time since May, the money had been held in a separate account, and not paid against our debt. Their records showed that we had not paid for months, so 1624 x 7 months = 11,368 + 207,000 still owing = a new financed amount of $218,000 at 4.625% = $1536 a month.

Ok, yes, I concede that 4.625% is a great rate. However, we previously had a great rate of 5.875% that was fixed. Now we had an adjustable rate and the amount financed had jumped drastically! Months of fear, anxiety, and paperwork all amounts to this? A savings of 88 dollars a month? Yes, we defaulted on our mortgage, but we were under the impression that this “Making Home Affordable” plan at Wells Fargo was going to, er, help make our home affordable.

With Mark’s new job we could possibly afford the new payment plan (if we made a few more cuts), but we were furious. We had been abused. I saw it as a breach of contract. Mark called to ask what happened, and was told that the people who first worked up our paperwork had made a mistake by using our net income rather than our gross income, and the $1536 was the absolute best they could do. I called someone else at Wells Fargo, and she said if we don’t like the new terms, don’t sign the new contract and send it back with a letter explaining why we won’t sign it. So we sent it all back.

32)        Then we wrote our congressmen, the CEO of Wells Fargo, President Obama. We’re hoping for a couple of form letters from someone, but so far haven’t received even that.

cc: President Obama

33)    The IRS called and said, “Enough dilly-dallying! You must pay!! $300 a month, and that is our final offer.” So, I guess we must pay.

And here it stands.

November 13, 2009, we have two reasonable incomes and are as broke as can be. How is that possible?

  • Mortgage – 218,325.79
  • Sallie Mae – $57,570.70
  • (Direct Loan Student Loans – $19,487.35) – in forbearance till April 2010
  • IRS – $18,461.60
  • Discover Card – $14,125.37
  • Chase Visa – $4,737.38

That leaves a monthly amount of $289 to take care of: utilities, school clothes, food, phones, home&auto insurance (we have no health insurance), internet access, etc.

You try spending only 289 on every expense for an entire month for a family of three. It is not POSSIBLE. When my forbearance expires, it will drop to $79 per month available to live on. I don’t know what we will do. Wish us luck.

Here’s a quote I caught this morning, and I’m going to take courage in it: “Despair is for people who know beyond any doubt what the future will be. Nobody’s in that position. So despair is not only a kind of sin, theologically, but it’s also a simple mistake.”

Chapter 4

My story of how we arrived at this fearful point is a long one. (Sorry!) I am sure that for many people, financial insecurity is not the result of one factor. In our case, it was a dreadful chain of events filled with bad luck and bad choices. I’ve chosen to tell it in chapters. Today (October 2009), we are in negotiations with Wells Fargo that began around October 2008, and progressed significantly around March 2009, yet today remain unresolved. Will the three of us be forced to leave our modest little fixer-upper home? Right now, no one knows.

Catch up to this part if you like, by reading Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3.

Unable to sell my Massachusetts home the Spring of 2007, I found a renter. I asked for a rent that was reasonable for the blue-collar community the house was in, but didn’t come close to matching the mortgage amount.

12)       The problems with my renter began immediately. She was almost a month late for her FIRST month’s rent. After a few sporadic payments, she stopped paying altogether. She eventually stopped answering her phone, and when I called her workplace, they told me she was no longer working there. I began researching how to evict a tenant in Massachusetts.

We were living at The Uncles outside of Portland while we looked for work. Mark’s unemployment check went to rent at The Uncles, and the mortgage payment, and I continued to rob my 401K to make up the difference. We spent the summer of 2007 just trying to make ourselves get up and be productive each day, and not succumb to fright or despair. Mark couldn’t take the daily reminder of his perceived failure, and took off into the desert for awhile.

All summer I filled out applications till they made me numb. I was invited to only a couple of interviews, and was not offered a position.

13)       In September I got a job with the VA. Not related to my degrees, but it was at least employment. In October, Mark got a job.

14)       School loans came due. I went into forbearance on the greater sum, and began paying Sallie Mae. They required a huge fee for a short deferral, and it was simply cheaper to make my monthly payments.

With two incomes, we were in a position to have our own home. I was sent to Baltimore for training, and while I was there, Mark found a house he wanted to buy. (We love The Uncles, but after 8 months, were ready to be on our own)

15)       We still had faith that the Mass house would sell someday, and made an offer on the Portland house in January 2008. By the last day of the month, we owned it. It was a 1925 home, basement crumbling, roof mossy, stained walls and stinking of dog pee on the carpet, but… it was large and we could afford it! Well, we could as soon as the Mass house sold, which had to be soon. In the meantime, we made two mortgage payments every month.

16)      February 2008, my daughter’s father decided he wanted to move back to California and take her with him. I disagreed with the plan. Since we had no money left, Mark put the attorney’s retainer on his credit card.

17)       Still no communication from my renter, so I hired a Realtor in Mass to put the home on the market in March, and plunked down the credit card once again for a cross-country flight and got the lady out of my house with relatively little pain. I spent a few days putting the property back in order. The electricity had been shut off. She had drained the heating oil and the pilot light went out. The water was off. The toilet leaked. There were mountains of construction rubbish in the back yard. I hired a guy to pick up everything inside and out, and haul it away. I hired a landscaping company to take care of the lawn. $$$$$$$ I went back home about a foot shorter, shrinking under the weight of the world.

18)      June 2008, Mark lost his job. It was a shocking blow. Poverty hit hard. There was no way we could survive in the new home on my paycheck only. I was earning $42 K a year. We put up a clothesline. We washed and reused baggies.

19)      The custody skirmish was over only a few months after it began. We only spent $5000. That was a MIRACLE compared to what had happened to us in California. AND, for the first time the courts ruled in my favor. Barney moved to Cali like he wanted to, but our daughter came to live with me finally. For good.

20)       I asked my family law attorney to recommend a bankruptcy attorney. Both of them were fabulous and I would highly recommend either! I was advised that bankruptcy wouldn’t work for me. My major expenses included $60 thousand in student loans, which I would still have to pay. One of the only things that didn’t cost me much was my car, and they would take it from me. They wouldn’t even wipe out my credit card debt… just rearrange it and put me on a payment plan.

We put our heads down and pressed on. We focused on getting my girl into school for 6th grade, settling in the house. Mark looked for work and tried not to sink into depression. We called Wells Fargo and explained that we were not going to be able to make our payments much longer. They told us that as far as they were concerned, our account was in good standing. We had paid every month, and on time, and our credit was great. “We can only help those people who have been delinquent for three months in a row or more.”

We began giving that statement some serious thought.

Chapter 2

This is Chapter 2 of the story that led to our current state of not really feeling as though our housing situation is stable. Read Chapter 1.

3)      During the 2003/2004 school year I used the profits from the sale of my California home to live on, pay court fees, and to hire an attorney. The GI Bill paid for my classes, which were $11 a credit back then – nice!

I chose my classes so that I had a regular daytime, Monday through Friday schedule, for the first time in my life. It was great to be able to attend morning assemblies with my daughter at Ridgewood Elementary School before she started second grade classes each day, and to be home to meet her at the end of the driveway when the bus brought her home. I was free for weeknight book sales and free to schedule parent-teacher conferences at a normal hour. If for no other reason, being able to participate this way in her expanding life was worth giving up my well-paying job as a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service.

Other than that, I had my doubts.

I wasn’t rich, but up until then, I had plenty. The kind of comfortable life where I could go buy a new winter coat for my kid when she lost hers (that seemed to happen a lot). When I fell in love with some real leather, knee-high boots, I could take them home. We could go to the movies on the spur of the moment. On a particularly lovely Fall afternoon, we took a Humboldt Bay cruise on the Madaket just because we wanted to, and then stop for ice cream at Bon Boniere on the way home. It was a very good life.

After I decided to leave my job and go to school instead, I made serious cuts in my lifestyle where I could. But life can be expensive.

At the end of the school year in Cali I was able to move to Massachusetts. I had managed a painful compromise plan of physical parenting rights. We split her remaining years as a minor, and her father got the first shift. It shattered me to have to share at all, but making the best of it, it meant I could go to school anywhere. I considered living in Brandeis dormitory housing on campus to save money, but just couldn’t bring myself to rent after having been a homeowner for so long. And when my little girl was with me, I wanted her to have a real home.

4)      I took the gamble, which tends to be my personality. Big Chances = Big Gains (or Losses, as the case may be) I bought a house that was shockingly expensive for me, but I wasn’t worried. Real estate was shooting upwards like a rocket. Property values in the Boston area were DOUBLING every 12 months. Besides, this was my fifth home purchase, and I had learned that buying and selling a house was a sure thing. Once  I had lost $30 thousand of my investments…and in that same year I gained $30 thousand in the value of my home. There was no way to lose in Real Estate.

our Massachusetts house

I was a bit surprised to get the loan without a job. But… I put over 20% down, had thousands in savings, had thousands in retirement account that I could borrow against, I had a work history of 11 years of federal service, and my credit score was stellar. So it wasn’t that hard for me to believe a lender would take a chance on me. The lender asked me how I intended to pay the mortgage, and I said “with student loans.” I was serious. And ignorant. Everyone who goes to school gets a loan, right? At great rates right? In my mind it made total sense to get student loans to pay the mortgage.

5)      I planned to rent out the lower level of the house. It was a spacious split level, and the lower level seemed like a decent space to rent. That would definitely help with the bills. But I couldn’t find a renter.

6)      I had some difficulty getting my financial aid into place. I got a threatening letter from the school that said something like, “If you don’t pay your tuition now, we will kick you out!” Having been out in the world long enough to think I had to handle everything on my own, I didn’t realize that the best option would have been to go to the Financial Aid Office and ask for help. Instead, I put my first year’s tuition on my credit card. Nope, not just a semester – the whole damn year. Duh.

Me on campus, Autumn 2004

Turns out, I didn’t get to live on student loans like I had assumed. (You know, there are a lot of assumptions to overcome when a person is the first one in her family to go to college) Turns out, there is a cap on how much a student can borrow. Turns out, owning a home is reflected as wealth when the Financial Aid Office crunches your numbers. Though I had a $1600 a month mortgage payment, the house was considered an asset, and thus reduced my ability to borrow.

My first bout with poverty struck, and it was a blow.

My spending continued to be outrageous, but I wasn’t getting much pleasure out of it. I ate Ramen noodles, but forked out the dough to purchase cross-country flights to continue my relationship with my daughter and to make my California court dates. (Still battling family law two years down the line. Little advice – never attempt to reorganize a family in California) I continued paying my attorney. I had to spend on basic upkeep of the home, landscaping, maintenance, snow removal, public transportation passes, and school books are expensive, even when you buy them used.

Needless to say, I began chopping away at my retirement account, which had recently made it above $100 thousand, but wasn’t destined to remain above. I was selling stocks to pay off credit cards. It just didn’t seem right.

It actually REALLY wasn’t right, as my financial advisor told me later. But… how does a girl learn good lessons without some pain?

Why you are getting this notice: You owe $46,182.00

Ok, so everyone owes the IRS at one point or another. But $46,182? That’s obscene. Forty-six thousand, one hundred eighty-two dollars. Right. You know, I can’t even get worked up about it because that amount of money is simply… ridiculous.

And plus I’m mad at Mark. It’s his bill, but since we’re family it’s our bill. Apparently in 2007, in an attempt to improve the outlook of his investments, he pulled all of his investments out of their diversification, and dumped them into…. well… banks.

Banks didn’t do so well in 2008, if any of you didn’t notice. Or 2009 either.

In the meantime, because of his method of investment – pull the money OUT, then buy new and completely different stocks – each sale registered as income. It doesn’t count that he just bought more stocks. Which failed. The IRS thinks we had a great 2007 based on his stock sales.

His defense is that he used the 1040EZ and it didn’t ask him any questions about his stocks, so he didn’t put it down. “The EZ form? Seriously?!” ( I suddenly remembered that until his divorce was final a couple years ago, his ex’s family accountant did his taxes for him every year.) And then he said he sort of forgot about the risk he took, because he was so worked up about losing his retirement savings when all the banks failed. “What?!! How can you have lost track of that extremely important detail?”

So ok, there’s probably some denial going on here, probably some embarrassment, probably some legitimate bone-headedness. Needless to say, he is not allowed to do his own taxes anymore – so long as T and I are impacted.

The bottom line is: that was a really yucky thing to get in the mail.

Last week, Mark “celebrated” his one-year anniversary of being unemployed. The good news just keeps raining on in.

Here are some other things that also bite the big one:

certified mail - yucky

They are all addressed to someone different. In order to cover all the bases, I suppose. To: Mark, Crystal, Mark & Crystal, The Trulove Residence, Homeowners, etc. Unfortunately, a duplicate set of all those envelopes was also served to me. In my living room. When no one else was home to comfort me. 😦

As if getting served wasn’t humiliating enough. Take a look at what was inside:

foreclosure notice - yucky

But the worst part of all of it was the notice at the bottom of the letters. The precise details of how, where, and when our mortgage holder plans to unload our home. This is hard stuff to read. Very hard.

"This is when and where your property will be sold"

Ok, but don’t worry about us. Mark’s already negotiating with the IRS to figure out how to chop that number down. And Wells Fargo was encouraged by the Obama Administration to cut us a deal. We qualified for a loan modification program and they have cut our mortgage down to something we can afford just on my income.

I’ve resisted writing about it because I don’t want to face it: the foreclosure process has begun on our home mortgage.

Wells Fargo sent us the letter last week. I was at work and Mark got the letter and emailed me, “What do we do?”

Practical-minded, all-business me, I replied with a string of questions. I said he should call them and get all the questions answered. I approach roadblocks as games, most of the time, when I’m in a good frame of mind. “You can’t” hardly ever really means that. It translates almost perfectly to: “Many people wouldn’t, and if you think you should, be prepared to struggle.” And those are terms I can accept.

He got through to Wells Fargo and was told our mortgage may qualify for re-negotiated terms and is currently being reviewed by attorneys. We will be contacted. Otherwise, there’s nothing we can do. …unless we want to pay up.

I am worried that the boot-us-out-of-the-house team will be more efficient than the work-out-a-plan team. I have no intentions of moving out of this home. We will somehow, somehow find a way. I want to stay here, where Miss T can walk to school. We love our neighbors, our old creaking house, our aging postmistress who lumbers painfully up all the steps to our mailbox.

Actually, it could be a good thing, right? Maybe they can work out a plan that will help. We’re really only a few hundred short, now that I stopped contributing to my retirement, and stopped having withholdings taken out for the girlie and me. We’ve almost given up completely that Mark will get a job. Have you listened to the news lately? People finding jobs are not what’s in the news. At the very least, having our mortgage reviewed could buy us a little more time. I’m due to get a tax return one of these days, which we could use to buy our way back into the contract. I’m due a promotion in November because I’m a spoiled federal employee who gets a raise even when the economy is in the tank.

So, we proceed again. Heads tucked down against the barrage, determined, pressing forward, trying to hold on to hope.

Omar chatted with me from Palestine this morning. “Things are the same, but we have hope,” he said.

“Hope is powerful,” I told him.


I was just browsing through old photos and found this one on my flickr accout. My girlie two years ago, her friend Polly from Brazil, and Sara from Boston’s inner city. I love this photo. There is a lot of joy captured here, and it spills over me whenever I look at this picture.

Mark helped me out of a panic yesterday (it’s a good thing we take turns freaking out, that way we can always be there for each other, heh). I was struck because tomorrow is February first, the day the mortgage is due. It will be the third month in a row we can’t pay.

I honestly believe we have done what we can to find Mark a job. He applies for every single thing that comes up – no joke. From water bottle delivery person, to Home Depot cashier, to secretary at Bonneville Dam. And yes, every single environmental job of any kind that is advertised, he pours his effort into, because he’s a soil scientist.

We have spread the word to friends. He’s got all his buddies at his AA meetings keeping an eye out, like the guy who hooked him up with an interview at CH2M Hill. The Uncles work for TriMet, and we’ve asked them a couple of times to bug the ears of the hiring squad. My co-worker DB and her husband who works at the US Army Corps of Engineers has also been giving us regular updates and keeping us inspired.

….there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. The team leader from CH2M Hill actually called Mark up yesterday and told him the company just can’t afford to fill the positions they had advertised, and they canceled the hiring altogether. He apologized to Mark, and said when they do start hiring again, he’s one of the top people on the list. Well. That’s something, anyway.

So when you’ve done all you can and it isn’t enough, a person is tempted to FREAK THE HECK OUT!!

But Mark reminded me that it’s only scary to think of losing the house if we are convinced we have to have the house for happiness. “So what if we have to leave this house?” he said. “Then we move into an apartment. It’s not a big deal, we’ll be fine.”

He said he has been really focusing on a morning meditation where he thinks of all the good in his life and and evening meditation where he takes note of all the good of the day he just lived. He says it’s really working. (Thanks Brian)

“I just got tired of waking up at 2 am full of fear,” he said. “And this coming from me, Mr. Negative.”

Well, I’m generally the most positive person in the house. But even upbeat people can get beat down some days, and I’m glad glad once more for my perfect family.

One of my many guises

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