Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Taking Ownership.

We bought our house during the bubble. Had we waited another 6-9 months to buy we would have probably gotten this house for a song. That is, if we had wanted this house and if we had been able to get a loan with what we made. We got our loan approved back when they were handing them out like fliers. My point being, we bought during the bubble and while I hate the word "victim" we fell "that word" to the falsely inflated market because we thought it was what we had to do to be owners.

We both have wanted to be home owners our whole lives. When the rest of you as kids were probably nestled in your beds having your parents read you bedtime stories and making you cookies in the house you were raised in from birth or at least toddlerhood, my husband and I were probably packing up our things for the 18th time. I do not make that number up, both Brett and I moved about 30 times before we turned 30. Let's talk about how much stuff you have after you pack up that many times and move. Let me tell you, you become light. Those boxes of your art work from kindergarten and plaster imprints of your hands and class pictures? That stuff is the first to go. I tried to save those things. My ten year old moved 6 times before he was 8. Bella, 3 times in 4 years. That is if you don't count the 2 times I loaded a moving van by myself while I was pregnant with her. If you do, then 5 times. This house is the longest my kids have lived...anywhere. I lived in Wisconsin then moved to Iowa then back to Wisconsin then here to Utah. Once here, I moved from house to house within the school district so no one really knew how much I was moving unless we were good friends. Then you knew. You knew how I lived at friends houses and in neighbors basements and garages. In places we would sometimes have to pay for by giving away things. In order to try and stay in a house for just three extra months once, my grandmother gave a man the deed to some land she owned and could never convince anyone to develop. That land is now called Traverse Mountain.

Brett moved from state to state more than I did but he similarly lived in garages and basements and other people's houses and was essentially homeless. (I think I have him beat with the few months I had a cot in a potato cellar with a microwave as my headboard, so I woke up every morning to, *ding, smack*, but I wasn't there to see some of the basements he lived in.) So knowing the kind of pain and fear that comes with homelessness we wanted to buy a home as soon as possible to prevent this from being "us". I am sure for most people buying a home is about making a wise investment and having something that will gain equity over time to help to pad your retirement nest egg or whatever. For us, it was about our children never wondering where they were going to sleep that night and trying to do better for our kids than our parents had done for us and having something that no one could ever, ever take away from us. So you know how desperate I am when I say I am considering having someone take it away from us. We are looking at making a strategic default. LOOKING AT. Don't get all excited...

And don't judge me. If you bought at a time when the market was boasting a false price, you know how cheated you feel. And if you don't, I feel cheated. People that I will not ever get my hands on decided to pretend houses were worth a crazy amount and we were all forced to pay it if we wanted a house. We wanted a house like anything. Brett and I didn't leverage ourselves and buy a huge house on an ARM like people were telling us we could, we set a realistic budget and bought a normal sized piece of crap house that was pretty much the only thing we could find in our decided price range. Sure there were houses for less, but they were two bedroom 1,000 square foot houses in West Valley. Not that this is why we would ever default, just because we were bitter about losing equity. And not because our house payment could buy us a 400,000 house in today's market. Not even that.

When I came to look at this house the first time it had been listed for about a half an hour. I was in the car on my way south to look at another house and got the call to come see it. My agent said it would be gone in 24 hours. I drove down but we couldn't get in, the parents weren't home, so we just looked around the outside. Three guys in black BMWs pulled up and tried to muscle their way in past the children who were home alone. That made the renters and the owners mad, we found out later, mad enough not to want to sell to them. My agent and I watched these idiots for a while when unexpectedly the owner showed up with a handyman. She happened to park by me so I began talking to her. She liked me because I had lived down the street. I didn't tell her I have lived down every street in Utah County, I let her dream. Our realtor told me if we somehow won the bidding war that was sure to happen with the BMW guys there was a friend of his that would buy it from us sight unseen for 10 grand more than we bought it for. We said no. Am I kicking myself now? Sure. But our answer was that we wanted a house, the house we never got to have as kids, to give to our children. A place to live without someone throwing us out on a moments notice because A. They sold the house, or B. Because their cousin/sister/friend was getting married and they were giving the house to them to rent/buy/lease or C. They went through an awful divorce/financial period/bankruptcy and decided to quit paying your rent money to the bank or D. They wanted to start parking their car inside for the winter. We wanted to raise our family and grow old in a house for a change was our answer at the time.

Our agent knew a guy that did appraisals. A friend of his. This is a huge no-no if you were wondering. They pretty much sell you on the house as a team because one hand washes the other in this scenario. They told us certain things would be easy to fix, that our home owners insurance would cover a new 15,000 dollar heating system and that we didn't need a mold test. The house was being rented by hoarders so much of our home inspection reads, "Can not see (floor/walls/ceiling) to make full assessment." The renters told me of a toilet upstairs that broke and ran for an entire day and that the shower downstairs dripped badly for over a year. Every single door had been kicked in. It smelled and had muppett blue carpet EVERYWHERE. Were there huge red flags? Yes. But walking immediately into 70,000 in big could that red flag appear? Very small. Like a Barbie sized flag. And not even red. More like watermelon. And not even a flag. More like a scrap. Like a very little bit of watermelon Barbie yarn.

I worked on the house tirelessly in the beginning of our ownership. Then I slowed down. I thought it was because I was losing motivation to do it. I had energy one day and spent it tearing out carpet strips when I found the mold. We sealed up the downstairs. Then we tore the moldy drywall and paneling and base molding out and dealt with it ourselves to save 6 grand. And then it just sat, torn up. It's been like this for years. And I began to become successful in my job. And I began to continue to gain weight and sleep a lot and get sad and overwhelmed and in general my body began to act weird. And then I found out I had a rare disease. So we had some medical bills. Not too many but enough. We looked into Loan Modification and the company we gave our money to went out of business right after we paid them. We were very lucky that Steve Andrus has a lot of integrity because he worked his butt off and paid us back every red cent after a just few months time. We have had over 20 construction/handy men/contractor guys come look at the house. They all somehow stop returning our calls and just disappear. When I told that to the last construction guy, Jordan, he just laughed and said, "Are you scaring them away or something?" I said, "I think so, yes." He said, "You look tired. You look tired while talking about this." I am tired. I am just to the bones and soul tired. And so overwhelmed I wish I could explain what it feels like. I don't think you can imagine the stress and pain unless you have gone through something like this on your own for a few years. I am grateful for having a roof over our heads, I am. I am grateful for the people I work with that keep hiring me and are loyal and kind and fun and wise. I am grateful for having had such huge help with our kitchen and the miracle that that was. I am grateful to friends that offer advice and offer to help. It's just not possible to accomplish. I don't have a week anymore to have friends come over to help me. I work every day now so I won't begin something I can't finish. I don't have the physical energy either. I can't keep showing people what we need to do on our house over and over again. I can't keep living with it like this. I'm at rock bottom, folks.

As you go about your day, opening your doors without thinking about them, ask yourself what it would be like to have to yank repeatedly on that door to get it to open, dozens of times every day, every day for years. Or have it just one day fall off it's hinges. As you go about your day breathing in and out ask what it would be like to know your air quality is equal to living in the everglades. Or as you walk your deck stairs ask what it would be like to have to watch every single person that uses those stairs, every time they use them because there is a stair missing and the dog/neighbor's kid/your nephew almost fell through. This Thanksgiving when you sit with your family eating turkey and watching football on the couch imagine after cooking for two days you kiss your family goodbye, put on a coat and go out with a rented industrial paint sprayer and paint your entire house in order to take advantage of the free day you get renting equipment through Home Depot on a Holiday weekend. When you plug in your hair appliance/phone charger/laptop does it fall out of the outlet, two or three times during the course of you using it? Mine do. I just lost a ton of changes on this blog post alone after the laptop unplugged. Imagine crying for two hours while tearing out a bathroom floor after spending an entire day working on it, only to find you did it wrong and have to do it all over again. Imagine laying in bed wondering if your kids are breathing in gas from the pipe leaks. Imagine fighting and praying your way through a situation that was going to be so easily taken care of by a simple construction loan you could get with your 70,000 equity that no longer exists and never really did. Imagine working strenuous 17 hour days for weeks on end and finally coming home to a day off that is filled with the need for more physical labor. You fight that fight with your broken body for three years while being a wife and mother and holding a calling in your ward and throw in there a crazy mother and some mole removal then stir that all up in a pot with some loved ones fighting cancer and losing your dear Grandmother that raised you. After you do that, why don't you think of all of those things that I bet you take for granted day after day for being easy, that I have to deal with year after year, then you tell me if I am being immoral for considering a strategic default on an inflated loan on an arbitrary amount that was doled out under pretense by greedy succubi. You live in my shoes. In this house. Then you judge.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

More Moley

I am scraping the asbestos off my ceiling yesterday when I get a phone call from the Dermatologist's office. I am wondering why they are calling me for the second time in as many days. I answer and listen to a girl who can't be more that 19 try and talk to me in a language she doesn't understand and seems excited to be using in front of another grown-up. She tells me about the kind of mole the lab said was on my left arm and then she tells me about the mole on my thigh.

I ask confused, "My thigh?" She says yes. I tell her that the mole on my thigh was removed a few months ago, does she mean for certain the one on my thigh or the one on my knee? She mouth breathes for a second and says, "Uhm...the one on your knee..." I explain that indeed, that one was removed during my last visit. She is surprised by this. She says that if it's already removed not to worry about it. We hang up.

She calls me back three minutes later. She says again, it needs to be removed. I say, "Why am I removing something that isn't there anymore?" I continue, "My knee had a questionable mole recently removed, it was being sent out for a second opinion, it was on my left leg. Your doctor removed it last visit. IS this the mole we are talking about?" She sits for a second and sort of goes, "Yeeeahh the one on your knee." She's not sounding too sure. They need to have it excised and I need to come in and have it removed. I slap my hand to my forehead. "I did have it removed." "You did?" "Yes." "When?" "When I was there last." "On the 24th?" "Yes, exactly, on the 24th." Inhale. Exhale. "Oh. Mkaaay. Uhm, hang on a second." She puts me on hold. I'm sort of enjoying this now. She gets back on the line. "Uhm you need to come back and they need to do it again because of the cells. Because it's (Insert type of cell here) and they need to take them all out and make sure they are all out." I tell her I am totally lost. I ask if I am supposed to come in and do it now while my stitches are still in there or wait until it heals up and come back in to be re-opened or what. And she goes, "Uhm, hang on." I can tell she's getting someone else to help me this time. Sure enough another older voice comes on the line and begins with a slightly impatient and condescending tone, but not terribly so. "Hi, you aren't understanding something..?" I bluntly say, "Yes, actually, your girl there didn't understand what she was saying to me and so I didn't understand what she was saying to me." She sort of laughs and then explains it to me. They did what is called a "punch". What I gather is that when you do one of these punches, you are hoping that some cells are the bad changing into cancer cells and that the ones at the bottom of this core sample of cells will be clean so you know you got it all. Mine were all bad. They didn't get enough skin. So they have to go back in. So I ask when. They can't take me until the 13th. I am now shooting this day so I have to push it some more, which means I unfortunately will be all healed up just in time to be cut open all over again. Hooray. Also, I have to go in after they see their regular day time clients because I guess what I am doing is considered "surgery" and their surgery clients come at the end of the day. So they thoughtfully go about their day getting all nice and exhausted for their surgery patients who come in somewhere after what I am hoping is their 3:00 Starbucks run. Thankfully there was no mention about my butt mole. She hangs up. I go on scraping my ceiling.

She calls back. Do I take any blood thinners? No. We hang up. I scrape. She calls back. Did the last girl explain about the mole on my arm? Yes. Hang up. I stared at the phone for a good two hours before relaxing, realizing there would be no more phone calls. And then it hit me.

Do I have cancer?

I call her. Do I have cancer? No. I have cells that are in the process of making bad "changes". Sometimes these changes can become cancer and sometimes they go in for surgery and find the cancer in the skin beneath the changing mole cells, so it's good to be sure and get it all out just in case. Got it. I don't have cancer. As far as she knows.

What a relief.