There’s always something to howl about

Life after foreclosure: Cultivate indifference and press on regardless.

We just lost our house to foreclosure. Negotiations with the bank fell apart and we spent the last seven days bugging out. This was our third Notice of Trustee’s Sale. We had managed to redeem the note twice before, and we thought for sure we could thread the needle a third time. No joy. We didn’t know until yesterday morning that the bank had actually foreclosed, but we had to operate on the assumption that we could lose our pets and our personal property without notice.

That’s bad, but it’s not the end of the world. We are solvent even if we are not terribly liquid just now. We have business assets, art and artifacts and intellectual property, all of which we were able to conserve by acting quickly. Was I the bank, I would have hung in there for another month or two, taking account that we live on a cash-flow roller coaster and that we had managed to cling to the home twice before.

Over the past three months, we have cut our monthly nut by two-thirds, so we are well-situated to weather the economy we are living in. Had we done this seven years ago, things might be different, but we live with the consequences of our choices. We loved our home and we are sorry to have lost it, and sorry, too, to have defaulted on our promise to the bank, but life is suddenly a lot more joyous without that anchor around our necks.

Our real estate business is secure and solvent. All of the rental properties we manage are leased to solid, performing tenants, and our corporate bank accounts are all in good order. Our personal finances might be chaotic — this for many years, alas — but this has had no impact on the funds we hold in trust for our landlords and tenants.

And our marriage is stronger than it has ever been — literally as the consequence of these events. Cathleen had some teary moments, because we loved the El Caminito house, and because we spent many happy, loving years there, minus a few rough spots. But I’m happy with everything, so far, most especially with our marriage. It is the shared commitment to overcoming adversity that makes families, and we have lived through a lot of commitment in the past week.

All of this is offered up as news: This is what is going on with us. We are living out of boxes in our new abode, but the office is up and running, with me keeping the paperwork flowing while Cathleen stages and lists a home for sale today. We’re running behind, obviously, but we are catching up with alacrity. In a week’s time, all of these events won’t amount to a speed-bump on a sleepy side-street.

We are hale, well and happy — and so should you be. FannieMae is taking another hit, but that seems to be what they’re good at. Meanwhile, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off — and press on regardless. We have each other, and everything else is just so much stuff.


Greg Swann
September 13, 2012


12 Comments so far

  1. Scott Gaertner September 13th, 2012 12:01 pm

    Typically amazing spirit. God Bless you both.

  2. Michelle DeRepentigny September 13th, 2012 12:14 pm

    It was just a roof, as long as you have a suitable alternative I am sure that you will both be just fine. I’ve seen so many torn apart trying to hang on to a house, when simply moving to another home would have brought more joy. The memories will remain in your hearts and I wish you both the best moving forward.

  3. darcy September 13th, 2012 2:39 pm

    “It is the shared commitment to overcoming adversity that makes families …”

    True dat.

  4. Thomas Johnson September 13th, 2012 4:31 pm

    Bless you both! May I interject a seafaring meme to you desert folk: Damn the torpedoes full steam ahead.

  5. Jessica Horton September 14th, 2012 4:10 am

    “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!”

    — Alexandre Dumas

    Just because we experience setbacks doesn’t mean that we are ever set back! Now, for me? My faith in God is what I depend on. But I know others have other solutions. And, I respect that.

    But a few years ago…

    When we lost our place (and everything else), it’s where we found His grace. I’ve never looked back. And, that’s my prayer for you and Cathleen both. To find His grace. It is a joy unlike anything that you’ve ever known.

  6. William Miller September 14th, 2012 5:13 am

    Well, this is a sad news.. I will keep my fingers crossed for you to be good and have a new house and have no financial problems.

  7. Erica Ramus September 14th, 2012 6:59 am

    I went through a business failure/sell off in 1997-98. It was a very humbling experience. I worked my a– off for a year after my accountant and lawyer told me to throw in the towel. I figured if I worked harder I could pull thru. I learned some big lessons, and in the end sold my company for a fraction of what I paid the original owner for it. And sold my soul to a competitor, as I had to work for him for 2 years and sign my paychecks over to someone I owed money to. In the end I didn’t file bankruptcy and we made it. My next business succeeded and the chamber of commerce named me Businesswoman of the Year in 2000. How ironic, I felt! But remember as trite as it sounds, this too will pass. My marriage also became stronger after the trauma of it passed. My husband stood by me and didn’t flinch when I told him I was starting another business. The lessons learned in that first firebomb made me a better businessperson in the end. Good luck to you two. You’ll be fine…

  8. Cheryl Johnson September 14th, 2012 6:24 pm

    Bless you, Greg and Cathleen. I think many folks will find hope and encouragement in your words.

    “cut our monthly nut by two-thirds” I’d like to know more specifics … where you cut …. how you decided what to cut …

  9. Greg Swann September 15th, 2012 10:30 am

    > I’d like to know more specifics … where you cut …. how you decided what to cut …

    You might take this up with Cathleen by email, since she did most of it, but basically we cut everything: Cable TV and one of our two land lines, cell phone plans — losing 3 or 4 bat-phones that were rarely used — Starbucks, eating out, drive-thru, lots of stuff like that. We are eating a very boring, very cheap diet and shopping carefully for everything. Living poor with style: Cafe Bustello at Walmart is ~$3.50 for 11 ounces versus ~$15 for a pound of ground espresso beans at Starbucks — and the taste and aroma are better. Our housing costs are much lower, and there are all kinds of other ways we have cut out-flow. At the same time, we are broadening our in-flow base: I am selling books and other intellectual property, and Cathleen is liquidating art and collectibles she has been meaning to divest herself of for decades.

    I personally made $30,000 in March of 2011, but real estate sales has been brutal for us since then. Where we are now, with a sale or a couple of leases, along with our property management income, we make our month. Anything more than that, from real estate or other income streams, helps us build down debt and build our businesses.

  10. Don Reedy September 15th, 2012 3:21 pm

    Greg and Cathleen,

    I just finished (just now) reading The Unfallen and written a review. Now I come to Bloodhound to find that “Devin and Gwen” have had a run-in with the bank.

    All of you who love Greg and Cathleen…here’s a passage from the end of “The Unfallen”. I think it may reflect what Greg and Cathleen feel.

    She grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him tight to her. “Are you going to do something or just talk about it?” She put her other hand on his neck and pulled his lips to hers. It was a kiss of communion, a conjoining of bodies and minds and souls – and of time, the endless, boundless time of the universe. It was the kiss that sanctified and gave meaning and reality to the legal and religious words that had been incanted earlier. By the priest they had been joined in law, joined together with the community. Now were they joined to each other, forever, locked together by an endless kiss. All around the yard the married men and women looked at each with secret smiles. He said, “Can I tell you the truth?” “Always…” “This – right here, right now – this is the happiest moment of my life.”

    Swann, Greg (2012-08-07). The Unfallen (Kindle Locations 3758-3764). Kindle Edition.

    Devin does a lot of crying in Greg’s book, and I suspect that plenty of tears have been laid upon the land and home you’ve lost. As with the others that have written, each one provides a path from which you may escape the pain.

    But I know you two. YOU are “Unfallen.” And this day of which you write, right here, right now – is one of the most moving in my life.

    For me, the certainty of God’s love brings happiness to me as I contemplate this day and tomorrow for you. And readers may find this heresy, but you are (always it seems) happy……..

    Love to you both.

  11. Greg Swann September 15th, 2012 4:26 pm

    Bless you, Don. Thank you — and thanks to everyone who has written here and in email.

    Cathleen shed a few tears, but I’ve been nothing but happy with these events. That’s just my way, but even then, if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. We have discovered what we could not get done. Now we find out what we can do instead.

    Gwendolyn Jones is fun, isn’t she? Of all the characters I have written, she and Anastasia are my favorites. And of all of them, Gwen is the one who is most like me — sex roles inverted everywhere! — which could account for why I like her so much.

    > but you are (always it seems) happy

    I am, and I think Cathleen is, too. I can’t speak for her, but I own an unshakable serenity from the birth of conscious memory in my mind. I don’t let other people have me, not ever, and I never foreswear or neglect my own values for theirs. I can be happy with nothing, because I already have everything I care about: My mind, my thoughts, my values and my fidelity to them, my work, my memories. I screwed up my first marriage, and The Unfallen was my roadmap to my Best Beloved, and now I have her, too, so long as I live up to her.

    When I say this, I don’t intend to be rude, but many people seem to hear it that way: I don’t care what anyone else thinks about my life. But that’s because I care completely what I think about it. This is the state of mind I strive in every way I can think of to convey to other people, to give them back the freedom each one of them was born with. This is what I am doing in Man Alive! If people reading here would like to see life the way I see it, every character in The Unfallen lives completely in my world.

  12. Josh September 17th, 2012 3:56 pm

    I am friends with several families that have also went though a foreclosure and know it is not easy. The good new is that it will get easier and things in many cases end up being better if only for not having to worry about it home day in and day out. Good luck.