photo by Sheri Dixon

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Share the Sacrifice

My fingers are paralyzed.

Sometimes writers get blocked- that awful feeling that there's nothing to write about- nothing worth using up cyber ink and paper for. Nothing, nowhere, nohow.

What's the opposite of that?

There's so much going on in my life, my family, my country, my world- things glorious and gruesome, too good to be true and unfuckingbelievable that it all gets jammed up in my brain and won't/can't come out in a way that makes any damn sense at all.

A good deal of what I've been dealing with is our personal finances, which is, I'm sure, completely fascinating for anyone else.

But here's the thing.

We're not alone.

Reading the news every day there are more people making hard choices and considering things they never thought they would have to. Not just brand name vs. generic or a one week vacation close to home vs. two weeks on the Rivera.

Things like not paying bills. On purpose.

Some are unemployed through no fault of their own, some underwater in their mortgages through no fault of their own and some knocked off the rickety bridge of "paycheck to paycheck" by a sudden illness or other Life Event and straight into Shit Creek Without Canoe OR Paddle.

So here ya go.

We had that unfortunate incident wherein the buyers of our old house disappeared after trashing it (also known as No Good Deed Goes Unpunished).

Our credit was already sketchy from a decade on the cancer/heart disease/diabetes train.

We can't afford 2 house payments, nor can we afford to fix the old house up enough for anyone else to want it. It is now worth approximately half of its appraised value and about $40,000 less than what we owe on it.

I called the bank holding the note to the old house and told them we needed to just let it go and why- they are supposed to get back to me to do a "deed in lieu of foreclosure" which means that we'll be in credit rating hell for 5 years instead of 7 years.

I called the bank holding the note to THIS house and she said we'll just have to ride it out- as long as we pay THEM on time they're still happy to be our bank...just don't ask for a loan re-write until our financial punishment is over.

Which sucks because it's an adjustable rate mortgage- the only thing we could get while still having the other house in our name, and we needed to move when we did- in the old house Ward suffered infection after infection literally non-stop. Our dear old house wasn't a danger to me or Alec or to most people, but was actually life-threatening to Ward. Since moving into this house- carefully planned with no carpets, no formaldehyde, no particle board and no drywall Ward hasn't had a single infection since the day we moved in over a year ago.

So it's all worth it. Absolutely and Amen.

The PLAN was for the buyers of the other house to make our payments on it till they could sell THEIR old house and get them a loan of their own to pay off that house and then our bank would re-write our new house to a fixed rate...before the first adjustment in 4 years (now 3 years).

*As an added pointy stick in yer eye bonus- remember the folks who disappeared on us are suffering NO consequences. NONE. Their credit is totally unaffected. *Ow*. Make it stop.

So I'm grimly positioning ourselves as though we're entering bankruptcy- making damn sure we have...

Shelter- check.

We've been a 1 car family for over 2 years. Ward's truck, Flaming Paul, needs work and even when running gets about 100ft per gallon, so it's been parked.

Lunablu, our trusty '05 Mazda Tribute, has been a wonder and a joy- never given us a moment's trouble in the 6 years we've had her. She's also still not paid for since we used her as equity to pay...medical bills. She's got 174,000+ miles on her and as good as she is, I know it's only a matter of time before the BIG things start going wrong.

So we went car shopping and were able to acquire Stellaluna- an '11 Tribute still new off the lot- there were dealer incentives cuz she's a year old, and they gave us an extended extended warranty- 72 months/120,000 miles instead of the usual maximum of 60 months/100,000 miles. (ElDorado Mazda in McKinney- see Doug)

Therefore we have 1 very-well covered new vehicle for the duration of our purgatory as well as a damn good backup car for Ward and Alec to use...

Transportation- check.

Those are the 2 biggies. Shelter and Transportation. Everything else is details.

And we hate it and it frustrates us and it makes us crazy and sad and more than a little ashamed.

The fact that there are articles and writings not just on "fringe" sites, but in the mainstream news about walking away from debt is remarkable, but doesn't make us feel much better.

When they point out that it makes sense, to not look at it from an emotional standpoint but from a "strictly business" standpoint- if something (like the old house) will never recoup its value and we would be paying well over 28 more years (because we took out the equity in THAT...for medical bills)for a house we no longer live in and will never sell for even what we owe on it- that it makes cold hard business SENSE to say to the bank "Sorry- we're walking away because any way we crunch the numbers this is a losing prospect...nothing personal".

Well, that's a new way of looking at it.

In a financial climate where businesses are saying every day "We're cutting your health coverage and laying off people- nothing personal" and banks are saying "We just can't accept a credit score of under 10,000 anymore and we're charging new fees and rates for old services...nothing personal", in a strange and perverse way it's empowering to turn the tables.

I was always told that your credit score is the most important thing to keep golden. But in this month's Consumer Reports there's an article explaining that there are 3 reporting agencies and their rating processes are mysterious and absolutely random.

All the services offering "see your credit score for free" will not even give you the same numbers as the bank will get when they request your credit score- you yourself as a private individual do not have access to the real numbers that determine life or death in the financial world.

So I guess the bottom line is that corporations make decisions that affect peoples' lives without regard for the individuals involved because it's "just good business sense". Banks make decisions that use a made-up number as their benchmark instead of the applicants' character, work history and length of time with them as customers because it's "just good business sense".

In this hard hard economy we've been told to get us back on track everyone must Share the Sacrifice.

We hereby sacrifice our old house to the bank. What happened was not our fault- we did our best to get good buyers in there and I had to get Ward safe first and foremost. We have crunched the numbers and are pragmatically positioned to weather the financial storm and it's just good business sense to cut our losses, hunker down and then move on.

We're not deadbeats. We didn't live beyond our means.

We're us. We're you.

It used to be so easy to know right from wrong, point fingers at those who made bad decisions and wrong choices. Now I'd never ever presume to judge anyone because unless I'm inside their head and their life I have no way of knowing anything about them.

My fingers are paralyzed.

Not really from writers' block or lack of ability to form sentences but from embarrassment and sadness.

But it felt better to share it.

Share the sacrifice.

Puts a whole nuther spin on that phrase...


  1. Crap, what an awful decision to have to make, particularly beCAUSE of your character and morals! For what its worth, in its small, insignificant way, I am sorry this happened to you. And I wish I could make it better.

  2. I am, too, sorry this has happened. As my household enters its 5th month with one salary, there are some hard conversations that are taking place. What with child support, rent and just the basics, I am keeping a death grip on the bottom line but, I know, if nothing gives, we, too, will make some hard choices. Choices we may never have fathomed a year or two ago.

    I feel your pain but not shame. We (your family, mine, all of us working on the line of real life) have done nothing wrong. We are making the most of business as usual and weathering storms not of our making.

    We will rebuild the future and understand the real meaning of share the sacrifice.

    Hugs and love from central WA.