Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Wish I'd Left My Heart in San Francisco

We quickly embraced the idea of the move to TN and enjoyed a giddy celebration meal with our boys. News was that Jeff's new company would send him to France, Poland, and maybe Germany. We might even live in France at some point in the future. If I hadn't been a fraidy cat, allergic to passports and all, it would have been a homeschooler's dream come true. What an education!

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I took a lot of huge gulps of water but made a mental note that I probably could use something a good deal stronger! I sang the re-invented version of my Willie Neslon theme song, put my head down, and decided I'd go inter-continental when the time came. I figured I'd pass out from hyperventilating before fear killed me. Even then, I knew my inner self wanted to suffocate the fraidy cat that has haunted me most all my days. Good a time as ever to slay the dragon-cat. Long in the tooth as I was even then, I was running out of borrowed time for such a lofty undertaking.

The mover came and did an audit to determine the size truck we'd need to beam us into our future. The home inspector came and sized up our house with good bones. We knew it was going to be tight since it had been a no down payment loan. We weren't sure, frankly, exactly how it would work this time. We'd always moved with a hefty amount of principal attached to our name before. Those days of being the darling of the real estate industry were long over. We'd shrug and say, “Tomorrow will take care of itself. We survived! YEA! GOD!” 

Two realtors came – one of the company's choice and one of ours. We made hurried explanations of how the bones needed new paint and new carpet. We pointed out that the good bones had outweighed the cosmetic stuff that needed doing when we had moved in 9 months prior. Both individuals seemed a bit more nervous than I recalled realtors seeming when we sold any of the last 5 houses we'd owned. Hmmm....

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
We picked thru the employment contract knowing that those 'no down' deals had dissipated with the economic earthquake. Hey, we'd survived! It would work out. Our realtor of choice came back with a friend who was an appraiser. I think that's what they said he was. We gathered in the entry hall. They coughed and stuttered and stubbed at the floor with their toes. They had a hard time making eye contact. I smelled blood in the water...and I was the chum. Deja vu starts feeling real familiar after a while. Pun intended.

With all the moving we'd done, I had developed a hobby, real estate. About every realtor we'd ever worked with asked me why I didn't get my license. I figured once the boys were old enough, I would. I figured out how to use public information to run my own comps when my folks bought the house a mile from us. I was within $3,000.00 of what their realtor came up with. We went with my numbers, and they got the house. I had a sense about these things. I watched those fellas looking like they were bugs run thru with mounting pins.

Jeff said, “Something's wrong?”

I said, “We are under water (a term meaning you owe more than the house is worth). How bad is it?”

Shock registered on their faces as they glanced at each other. The realtor asked how we knew. “It's a hobby...look...we've already talked with the bank and have worked out a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure if that doesn't work. We had already let go of the house in our minds. What you are saying is less shocking than if we were losing it. We'll figure out something.“

The 2 men let out long, slow sighs of relief. The cohort spoke up. “At least you two had an idea. About everybody we talk to these days expects to make the profit they would have made last year this time. We are spending our time telling them what we were going to tell you. Only, they are clueless. At least you all had a clue.” Then, I noticed, really noticed for the first time. Those fellas looked like they had been beat to a pulp emotionally. It was hard enough to hear the news. I couldn't imagine being the one to deliver the news to unsuspecting folks like us who had a house they needed to unload quickly. I couldn't help but feel sorrier for them in that moment than I did for me. They left as we all agreed that things might pick up in a few months, and we'd try again. Hahhahahahahaha as they say on facebook.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
$30,000.00. Our house with good bones had lost that much in equity in 9 months. Every dime of it hurt since we had moved in the month before the crash with no down payment. Time to regroup. We survived. We'd figure out plan B. Yea, God. Jeff spent a lot of time communicating with his new company. In any other economic climate, their hiring package would have been like wining a Powerball lottery to a modest, just getting back on our feet again, family like ours. It was a dream come true that seemed surreal. Or, it would have been if reality had not been more surreal.

We were, again, a statistic. I heard about us on the news almost every night. The good news was Jeff did have a job. We decided to rent the house here and rent one up there. Our older son had opted to attend his 1st year of college in town but would move in with my folks. That would be good. They'd have a younger person coming and going daily. Yea, God! Plan B would work. We'd lose a lot of those perky moving benefits as renters vs buyers, but we'd survived. Whew! I could still be the cheerleader!

Unbelievably, the numbers again started looking really dicey. It boiled down to our losing money on the rental plan. Rental rates had plummeted along with the real estate market. Who knew? Not us. No, we wouldn't go in the hole as much as if Jeff were unemployed. However, when you have only one credit card, you can't afford to go in the hole any. We began to feel like dogs chasing our tails. We went round and round trying to figure out how to make income match outgo if we rented in both towns.

Surreal. We snagged a job in the worst economy since the great depression. Not any job. A dream job with benefits to die for. Ok...we'll take the job even if we can't have all those fancy-schmancy benefits. Who cares. We will be together. But, how do we keep going in the hole every month? We wrestled with the dilemma from June thru mid-October. We decided to go for broke as we were going to go broke one way or the other it seemed. We found a wonderful homeschooling family with lots of little kids to fill up our house with good bones. They had experience rehabbing homes and were happy to do the painting we would not get to do. They were coming over on Wednesday the 28th of October, 2009 to ink the deal. YEA! GOD! On the road again...on the road again...I just can't wait to get on the road again....

I mowed grass on Monday as rain was expected on Tuesday. I'm OCD about not moving the mower back into our workshop till it has cooled some. Early Tuesday the 27th, I told my just turned 19-year-old college freshman that I was heading to the grocery store to get milk. I'd be back in a few. He was home studying for test. I had time. He had skipped a class to study. What a fateful decision.

I plopped my keys, phone, license, and debit card on the front seat of the van. I glanced down the back yard at my freshly cut grass and realized the mower was still parked in front of the workshop. ERGH! The rain was starting. No problem, I'd run down and put it away. I will never know why I took the path I took. Being a good Presbyterian, I'd have to say it was Providence. Sigh. I had no idea that I was going to fall. I had no idea that when the EMS squad picked me up to head for the hospital, we'd leave my heart behind in the rain and mud.


  1. Oh my goodness! I know what happens, but you really know how to write a cliffhanger, don't you? I'm hanging on!

  2. Ok, Imma take that a comment as an A+ on my 'writing assignment'. Thank you. I needed the encouragement today!