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brokedown palace

September 26, 2010

Mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since I first left home.

At the beginning of this year, my husband and I made a life-changing decision. We diagrammed up two possible futures, consulted with experts, and considered every tiny element of our lives. Then, we battened down the proverbial hatches and stepped, with eyes wide open, into a brand new world.

Our new year’s celebration was tempered by the fact that we knew it would be our last in the house we had struggled to tame for over 6 years. As the clock struck midnight, and 2009 came to a close, I looked outside the window at a blue moon–a real one–and felt both exhilarated and petrified knowing that we had just made the last payment on our brokedown palace.

To be a little more blunt about it, we had decided to give our two mortgage companies the finger, and move on with our lives.

In November of last year, during Thanksgiving break, one of my major contracts (I am a freelance graphic designer, writer, and photographer) pulled the plug on my regular job shooting photos of food every week for a healing foods website. He was out of money, had to cut back. In that split second, I lost almost $1000 per month of income. A little over a week later, my cell phone rang, and I listened to the editor of the newspaper where I worked (my largest contract) tell me that we had just published our very last issue. Gone in a flash was the rest of my regular income. I’d made just enough, essentially, to cover our mortgage, which was a staggering $2300 per month.

I could give you a long list of other reasons that drove us to make the decision we made. I could explain in minute detail how broken our palace was. How the rain gushed through the dining room ceiling. How a heavy rain could fill a 35 gallon bucket in an hour. I could show you pictures of the wood floor that was ruined by rain that spilled over in our absence. I could describe the thick mold I saw peeking around the edges of the swollen ceiling boards. Whoever put that sunroom addition on, that we set up as our dining room, didn’t do it even remotely to code.

I could tell you about how the electricity in the entire house needed to be upgraded–from the street–and that without the upgrade, we couldn’t run the radiant heat in the girls’ room.

I could tell you about the termites we found in a woodpile out back, close enough to the house to scare us.

I could tell you about how all the window latches began falling to pieces last summer and fall.

I could tell you about the three other leaks that appeared in the old roof after a winter of tremendous snow. One in the girls’ room, one in the bathroom, another in the bathroom that wasn’t finished.

I could also tell you that we were upside down on our mortgage to the tune of almost 100,000, and add that Citimortgage was unwilling to help us out by lowering our interest or payments or principal in any way. Instead, they tried to bully us, as though through guilt alone we could conjure up more money.

I could tell you how stuck and hopeless we felt, even when we could afford to make our mortgage payments.

I could tell you how desperately upset we were every time we added up the costs of all the repairs the house needed, and came to a figure that surpassed $75,000. If we were lucky.

But I’d rather tell you this: That Chris and I decided to take our lives back. That our credit rating meant nothing compared to the time we were losing with each other and our family trying to keep up with the snowballing tragedy that was our house and our professional lives.

Chris hates his job. Hates it deeply, with great passion. But he makes a pretty reasonable salary plus benefits and so, considering the state of our nation’s job market (not to mention the state of our own finances), he is stuck there. His job requires him to travel, and in 2009 he was home 16 weeks the entire year. What this means is that for 36 weeks last year he was traveling around the US, including Alaska, coming home only on the weekends then turning around and leaving again. I was on my own with the kids and the weekly grind and my full time job. It’s all such a blur now.

We count our blessings, believe me, and feel lucky that one of us remained gainfully employed, but we also know there’s much more to life than trying to chase a paycheck…paycheck to paycheck to paycheck, always living on the very verge of our means, while the kids grow up so quickly around us.

Soren will be old enough to move out in 2-3 years. Where has the time gone?

I would also rather tell you this: That part of our life’s dream is to step away from this non compos mentis life we have all been living, and become the people we truly want to be. Part of that dream includes building a home with our own hands on a lush piece of land that will support us and our extended family for generations to come. My mother and I have talked about one day pooling our resources and doing this together, partly because we are so close and partly because I never want to be forced to make the difficult decision she had to make for her parents, several years ago. How incredibly upset my grandmother was when my mom told her she would have to move into a nursing home.

I would like to be able to care for my mother when the time comes that she needs it. I would like for her to be able to stay in her home.

And so, we had to leave our brokedown palace, and until now I couldn’t write about it. Could hardly talk about it. We filed chapter 7 bankruptcy to protect us from legal action on the part of the mortgage companies, and that was discharged on the 7th of this month. We moved in July, to a lovely little house owned by my father. I’ll write more about that later. In the meantime, we still have some cleanup to do at the old place, and a huge garage sale is in our near future.

Then, onward….

And upward.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. zenwestern permalink
    September 26, 2010 5:09 pm

    Fabulous recap of the last several months. Good to know you are on the mend!

  2. hallie permalink
    September 27, 2010 7:00 am

    Oh, it’s so hard to let go of that shining credit rating. For some bizarre reason, it’s a point of pride, and it’s completely manufactured, isn’t it? I don’t know how they manage to talk us into caring about that crap.

    I managed to sell my house in time to avoid some of the bullshit you’re going through, but my credit was sacrificed on the altar of ‘I can’t care about this and provide for myself and stay sane’, so. I think Ariel said, “Good people live perfectly normal lives with really shitty credit,” or something like that. Bless her. It was one of the few voices I heard in support of humanity over commercial viability. It would have been false economy to sacrifice everything I’d made to preserve a credit rating that’s more use to banks and creditors than it is to me. I’ve lived without credit for four years now, and I’m not hungry. I call that victory.


  1. Musings about Professionalism, plus today’s 365 Creative « Non Compos Mentis Mama

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