Thursday, May 08, 2008

Good-bye Yellow Brick Road Gnome Hill

It’s a done deal. We’re no longer in residence.

If this seems sudden…well, it was for me. We knew we would have to leave, but this entire process ended up being a four-day scramble to find new housing and move out. Without going into way-too-personal details, I’m still a little shell-shocked. I find myself in the middle of the night sitting up and thinking, “What that hell happened?”

For anyone reading this who doesn’t know me or my family and before you rush to judge, know that we didn’t have a fleet of Hummers in our driveway. I don’t own one single designer item (I, in fact, avoid wearing anything sporting a designer logo); don’t own a lot of jewelry, valuable or otherwise. My kids bought their cars with their own money and they both have jobs. Most nights we all eat dinner at home together. We’ve always vacationed within 500 miles of where we live.

What we did was build a house at probably the worse time we could have picked to build a house. But it didn’t look that way at the time. At the time, we’d been in business for three increasingly successful years, the area building trade – of which we are a part – had prospered during the 9/11 economy slump (giving us a false sense of faith in the area building trade…), we had six months liquid cash in savings in case things turned sour and had no debt other than a little house with a nominal mortgage and a monthly payment of $350 (yeah, I know…) and no credit card debt. By our calculations, if we only did a quarter of the business we were doing, we could afford the house we were building.

So we signed, planned and, as long-standing Linguini readers will recall, obsessed over getting the house at Gnome Hill built before the House of Squalor became uninhabitable. Our budget: $325,000, including pool and full deck with screened porch. Yeah, it was a huge house and Dirtman had big plans. And it seemed to get larger every time Dirtman watched too much Home and Garden TV. But it was still within budget.

Until Katrina hit and building costs soared.

Until the large developers got greedy, started building on spec and crashed the bubble; the large developers who refused to pay their bills to their smaller subcontractors like us, knowing we didn’t have the lawyer-power they had; the large developers who went crying to Washington for subsidies and tax breaks that never trickled down to the rest of the industry they had stiffed because by that time most of us were bankrupt anyway.

We put some plans for the house on hold, and then cancelled them. Some things had already been started. By the time we were committed to the house legally, too much had been begun to turn back. In order to get an occupancy permit, we had to use every bit of credit we had.

And – no, we didn’t use subprime mortgage. We had a construction loan that was supposed to be mitigated by the sale of The House of Squalor.

Like I said, the absolutely the worse time to build a house.

We do have to own the fact that we totally miscalculated how long it would take for the building industry to come back. We hung on for two years, trying to pay everything down, trying to move first The House of Squalor, then either house.

You know the story.

So here I sit among the very-loosely-packed boxes in a two-bedroom rambler we now rent from a very kind couple who took us on faith that our six dogs and two cats wouldn’t be a problem.

I’ve seen the death of a son and both my parents; I’ve nursed family members in my home and helped others through personal crises. I’ve been out of work and faced chronic illness. But I have never felt so raw, so depleted, and so doubtful about my ability to cope. Whenever faced with crisis I usually fume for maybe – maybe – a day or two; and then I find a plan and look forward to it. But I’m having trouble with this one, perhaps because it’s an ongoing process that we’re still dealing with everyday, climbing over boxes, shuffling dogs, and filling out endless forms.

And of course there is the real and perceived judgment of others that dogs us wherever we go; because there are assumptions about people like us: we’re spendthrifts; we’re spoiled; we’re boors; we’re nouveau riche without the riche.

Before you start telling us how thrifty and morally superior you are over us, just know we hear it over and over and over and over from every person we see. So if we don’t seem satisfyingly repentant and humbled all the time; if we try to bolster our self esteem by cracking a joke; or if we are forced to buy damn Arby’s sandwich because we haven’t yet unpacked the damn frying pan and are so emotionally depleted that we have trouble working a stove, please be assured I’m up all night long beating myself up, berating every decision I’ve made for the past 50 years and trying to figure out a way to disconnect my brain so I can get one decent night’s sleep.

I realize all that’s about making your self feel good at the expense of someone else. There’s nothing like seeing someone fail to make the fact that you didn’t all the sweeter. It makes you feel that every decision you made was not only right for you, but is right for everyone else.

But, I’m rambling now. The only thing left to do is say it, so here goes:

Two foreclosures and a bankruptcy.

So there it is. Details about the move will come later. Or maybe not. I'm living hour to hour and yet still would like everyone to know I'm aware that this is a totally self-serving entry


Jane G. said...

I will personally beat the shit out of anyone who gives you grief about this.

Gwynne said...

Ouch...that really hurts! Reading this and knowing that it can happen to anyone (as an accountant, I've seen the rich go down faster than the thrifty) you'll get no judgement from me. You did all the right things. There is life after bankruptcy and you'll be the better for it. Some people let their egos get in the way and don't take advantage of laws available to them. I'm convinced that we're all just one decision away from ultimate success or ultimate disaster and our fate rests in the hands of a power much larger than ourselves. So give yourself a break. Know that you are surrounded by people who love and respect you, and I pray that you and your family at least have your sense of humor and your health intact. Let yourself grieve the loss as you would a death but know that this too shall pass. Hey, at least you're not living in a cardboard box. Okay, maybe not so helpful. I'll go now. 8-}

Dark Garden said...

.... Ok! ... so... Who wants an orange whip?

(pointing) Orange whip?

(pointing to another) Orange whip?

Trasherati said...

And I will help Jane. And it will be a thoroughly effective ass-whuppin.

I stand ready for whatever you need. Just call - email me if you need the number.

Sisiggy said...

Jane and Trasherati: I am compiling a list. You may want to save vacation days for this.

Gwynne: So true and thanks so much.

DG -- is allowed to say whatever he wants because he saved all my stuff, including Gnorm and the precious fish, which was consumed with the proper amount of respect (as was befitting their numbers).

...the fish -- not Gnorm.

Gwynne said...

Sure, I'll take an orange whip. See? At least the family's sense of humor is still in place.

You ATE the fish? Please tell me these were in the freezer, not the aquarium.

Dark Garden said...

We all ate the fish. I ate the hell outta the fish.
It really was...all about the fish. It was cooked fish; two kinds; salmon and some white fish that I think Sis made up the name for. I ate the most of the fish. I'm thinking it was a cleansing fish to an extent.

Sisiggy said...

Tilapia. I didn't make that up.

And it's true that we were cleansed by the tilapia and salmon.

Cleansing fish.

Gwynne said...

Like the kind that suck the algae off the wall of your tank? Those kind of cleansing fish?

Sisiggy said...

Gwynne: That makes me laugh on oh, so many levels!

Leslie Shelor said...

I'll help JAG and trasherati. Those spike heels I just bought will do some serious damage!

Dark Garden said...

Perhaps the Darkgarden blog needs a nice entry on how to cleanse ... all the way around. ;-)

bleeding espresso said...

I read your other version of this over at Spot-On and I just had to come over and read more of you.

What an honest, brave account you've written; I hope that many people read it and realize what the face of bankruptcy in America today really looks like, because I think your story is sadly quite common these days.

And for those who judge, if they don't realize they are just one seemingly good decision at the time away from the same place, well, I hope they never have to learn the hard way because these emotions and struggles aren't anything I would wish on anyone.

Which is why Jane's suggestion is so well-taken ;)

benning said...

Having made more than my share of stupid mistakes in my life - and I continue to do so - I can't fault you and hubby making plans and starting in on them. That they didn't work out is a shame. But I'd say it's not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

You misjudged and that's all there is to it. We still worry about you and pull for you.

Oh, and I'm still living paycheck-to-paycheck because I still make mistakes of epic proportions. So feel better.

Sisiggy said...

bleeding expresso: That's the whole "what the hell happened" issue with me. We made some stupid decisions, that at the time didn't seem that crucial. But oh, the ramifications. I would have...well, hindsight is 20/20, isn't it?

benning: Yeah. The dumbest one I think we made was acting as our own contractor. Remember the trouble we had getting into that house? What I never blogged about was how much it was costing to finish a house that was delivered "complete." (hitting self on head) What were we thinking?'m able to pronounce "price goudging."