Sunday, September 30, 2007

I Am an Ex-StepGrandma

Walter and I met in June, 1993 and married in February, 1994.

We divorced in 2001. That was my decision, not his. I told him I never stopped loving him, but there were unresolved relationship issues I could no longer accept. There were things that had to change, but they hadn't. The divorce was finalized a couple weeks after 9/11.

He told my mother: *This is not over.*

Some folks might have been concerned about a statement like that from a new-made ex. My mother, to her credit, didn't get bent out of shape by thinking about things like my old stalkers from the past, one of which had involved my parents a bit. She loves Walter and Walter loves her and she knows he's a genuinely decent man, and never the remotest danger to me in any way.

For a whole year, he spent most of his time away, on the road. Talked to me on the phone. Thought about things. Worked on some things too.

Eventually, those things that had to change, finally did. To our great joy, we got back together. I love that man with every fiber of my being, and I got him back, whole and happy, making me the luckiest woman alive.

We're now, essentially, in a common-law marriage. My ex-husband is now my common-law husband.

Walter's family all lives in Europe. He has no one here but us, me and my own family. He came here in 1985, having escaped political danger he ran into in 1984, back while his country was still under Communist rule.

I've never had any kids. I never wanted to, and I firmly believe that if you don't really want to have kids, then you shouldn't. I can say that I would have liked to have been a person who felt they could safely bear and raise children. I was not, especially during those optimal childbearing years. I know I made the right decision. Perhaps today, if my health and fertility were intact, it would be different.

But stepchildren? Boy oh boy. Oh, did I want my stepdaughters in my life!

Trying gently to help Walter work out his family issues, earlier on in our marriage, I once told him: --Hey. I want my stepdaughters. Don't you know that's half the reason I married you?--

Well. I took a chance with that statement, there. I got a nice smile out of him. But the whole family situation wounded him so badly, he finally asked me to leave the subject alone, to let it be. So I did.

Now he has his family back. I haven't spoken with any of them, much less met them. We have no mutual language; we can't communicate that way. One day I will. They know about me, and I know about them, and I am so proud of those two fine young women I may just bust apart.

Technically speaking, I am their ex-stepmother. As of yesterday, I'm now an Ex-StepGrandmother too.

That'll do just fine by me.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Trips Through Life

I'm on the road.

I'm in southern Illinois now, sitting inside Denny's, using mass quantities of their free wireless and making mental notes on how one manages to eat relatively healthy food here. I'd rather eat my road food, but hey, we gotta pay for this free wireless somehow.

I need to be on my way again, but I have the most wonderful news, and I can't hold it in without posting it.

Walter is a grandfather today. A perfectly healthy baby boy was born to his elder daughter, after only one hour of labor.

A very few of you know about the tragic death of her first child last year. At one and a half years old, the little girl needed a heart transplant. They ultimately decided to just do repair surgery instead. Her heart defects, at birth, were extensive. The surgery was extremely serious, but she came through that, she improved, and went home from Vienna back to Slovakia to continue healing.

She was a highly intelligent, very sweet, and very articulate little girl. She talked on the phone to Walter after her surgery, the only time he ever spoke with her, and she stole his heart away.

A few days later, she succumbed to an infection and died.

She was the reason Walter was finally reunited with his family in Europe. The manipulations of his unscrupulous ex-wife had left him estranged from his daughters for some fifteen years, and heartbroken, he didn't communicate much with the rest of his family either.

Last year they called a friend of Walter's to see if he might talk to them. They needed help with the little girl's surgery, you see. Now - now, after some hesitant and careful opening communications, they've come to know that man as he really is. He got to talk to his father too, who passed away, at age 92, soon after the granddaughter.

Their lives have improved tremendously from knowing each other. All of them. Walter's two daughters and his brother and sister all call him now to ask his advice on business and life and law and the family and all that great stuff.

It was the beautiful little girl who brought them all back together.

Her mother, a very courageous and loving and fine woman, grieved and thought and talked to her husband and took some time - and decided to have another baby.

Today, that baby was born. He's 6 pounds 8 ounces, about 19 1/2 inches, and his heart is perfect.

They named him after Walter.

Everything's Gonna Be All Right

Thursday, with one foot out the door, I checked to see if Jill at Chase had finally returned any of my messages. I'd left several. Most were questions, things that my parents asked and that I didn't know the answer to. (Which wasn't much, thank goodness! That would have been really embarrassing.)

My Wednesday message was: --What's the total on that HUD partial claim lien? If you could, please call me back soon, I'll be leaving…

That message, she returned. Left a message of her own on my parents' machine. In the slightly peeved voice of an employee whose boss keeps asking --So what's the latest on that so-and-so customer, where do we stand?-

and has to keep replying, --Uh, not sure still…

she answered my question, and said what I really needed to do was get back to her about the deal as a whole, are we doing this or not? If she didn't hear from me by the end of the day she'd close my file out and walk.


I left another message of my own. I explained I'd left four or five other messages trying to talk to her about this, and yes we ARE ready to go, could she please call me back?

Except at this point, of course, I didn't have much faith in her voicemail any more.

So I kept calling. Every fifteen minutes or so, I'd try again, not leaving more messages but just to see if I could get her to pick up.

A couple of nerve-wracked hours later, she finally answered her phone in person.

Had she listened to my message yet?

Not yet, no.

We went through the didn't you get all my messages oh how many did you leave I only got x well I left y and and oh I'm so sorry I must have…

got THAT over with, and she was back to her usual sweet self (not peeved) and we finally talked.

I told her that my parents had agreed to, and also been able to, borrow the major portion of what Chase was asking for, and they'd turn around and lend it to me. That between their loan, and my Social Security money on the 3rd, and Walter's paycheck on the 4th, and the donations my blog readers made -

(Yeah, that's all of you who went and donated anyway after I explained right down there why this was NOT a situation that calls for donations. You know who you are. And imagine what it did for me when I could tell that to the banker. And to my parents. yes they aren't family or *in person* friends, they're just these really great people that read my blog, mostly other bloggers and steady readers too, see not everyone thinks I'm a total irresponsible fool after all or else even if they do they still forgive me anyway, so stick THAT in your hat and eat it huh?)

that pooling it all together, we could make it by the October 4 deadline. It would be tight, but one way or another we can do it.

ALL better.

This enormous black cloud over my life is lifting, melting away.

It was time for a bit of nitty-gritty. Testing the waters here, a bit. This was actually put in my little mind by you guys, and it's been hanging out there fermenting ever since. Getting discussed and batted back and forth between us here.

I explained that my parents - and Walter and I too - had an issue with the late fees, as follows:

If Chase specifically told us NOT to make payments during the 2006 modification request, why are they now assessing late fees? If they didn't want their payments they shouldn't ask for late fees now. If they wanted the payments and we didn't pay on time, that's different.

I explained some of the other things that happened. They weren't very nice, those things. And she didn't know much about them. I guess she's one of the workout people that - unlike me - didn't sit down and read every single piece of historical information available before she went to work on an account. She was paging through the voluminous old computer notes on some of these things as we spoke. She was startled.

And finally said, --Look. You know, I think my boss needs to hear this. I mean, I'll tell him myself, but I think he should hear it from you too. His name and extension are…

--He's left work for the day but why don't I switch you to his voicemail right now?

--No. Not yet. What happened before with this loan? Neither you nor he had one thing to do with all that. Neither of you were working this account, right? You personally weren't responsible for those things. I'm distressed about them just now, explaining all this to you, and I don't want him to hear it in my voice. Because it's not directed at him.

--Anyway - it's also a little complicated. Can I fax in the details? Look them up in my notes, write it all up, so he can see the history of this thing?

--Good idea- she answered. –Why don't you leave a brief message with just the outline of it, and fax me the written one, then he can read that when he gets in?


We hung up, and I thought for a while. I knew my dad was anxious to see me leave - hah! - not because he was all that upset with me any more, but he felt I should get home and handle my business.

Except, really, it would be far better handled from their house, first. Write the fax, send it in, make that phone call to The Boss Banker. Couldn't do that from the road, and it needed to be done NOW, not Monday. October 4 is Wednesday.

And frankly, the day's emotional roller coaster had left me frazzled. It didn't seem like a good way to start out a 1400 mile drive.

Would they mind if I stayed one more night? Answer: Not at all.

So that's what I did. I ran some errands, fueled the car, packed more. Saw a perfect full moon and thought about Sue. Stayed up until 4am drafting, thinking, revising, checking my old notes, making sure that letter was juuuuust right. Woke up a few hours later to print and fax it, and to make the phone call. Friday morning, that was.

Whereupon I was so exhausted, I went back to bed.

I'll post that letter I sent Chase.

By the way - It worked, a bit. They decided to waive $250 in old late fees.


I woke up from my nap Friday afternoon, and packed the cooler and took a bath and skedaddled out of there before he came home and got shocked to see my car still parked in their driveway and I might have to see The Wrath of Dad. heh! Just keeping the peace, me.

Night has fallen. I'm sitting in my car in the mall parking lot now, drinking espresso, tightening my ratchets. Ages ago, I lied about my age to get a job at this mall, one of the earliest malls in the nation. It was so totally rebuilt, I couldn't recognise it any more. Like a whole lot of this area.

I talked to Walter. Talked to Livey. Her D1 gets married Saturday, tomorrow as I write this. The big day is upon her. It won't be easy. I wished her well, and told her I'd be there in spirit.

Mileage - not from ye olde homestead, but the mall parking lot: 71943 on the odometer; 666.9 on the trip mileage counter - actually 4000 or 5000 plus the 666.9. I can't even remember any more how much I've driven since I left Florida in May.

I am SO outta here.

Request to Waive Late Fees

I'm a very deliberate person. Most everything I do or say is done for a reason. Sometimes this is hard for others to understand, from my casual air and refusal to display things like anxiety, if I can help it. Maybe the reason is a strange accommodation for my health needs - got a lot of those, and to the uninitiated, they can seem silly or odd or unnecessary.

They aren't. Well, odd, yeah.

Walter called this a very clever letter. Very high praise from that man. Oh, I was so pleased! Perhaps you can figure out some of why he said that, reading between the lines.

Of course, he's known me well for 14 years, both as a life partner and a business partner. So he's got a leg up on all y'all.


We are requesting Chase consider waiving the accrued late fees of $887.25 in our repayment plan. For a number of reasons, we don't believe late fees are owed.

Our recent mortgage modification request (8/27/07) was not our first request, but the second. The first one began by telephone in 8/06. We were specifically instructed not to make payments during the approval process. We were also specifically told we were not delinquent.

We understand that when borrowers are 3+ months delinquent, then for legal reasons, the bank will refuse to accept partial payments. However, our own case was entirely different from that.

First, the request - not a refusal - was initiated by Chase. Second, the only reason Chase requested this was because Chase was offering 45 special "hurricane" customers a chance to request a mortgage modification covering the period after our hurricane forbearance expired. Third, Chase made that specific "don't pay" request on 9/1/06, and only our 8/1/06 payment was unpaid at the time. We were not 3 months delinquent at all.

Here's what happened.

We were in Ft. Lauderdale's Ground Zero for Hurricanes Katrina (8/05) and Wilma (10/05). The eyes of both hurricanes passed over our house. Wilma especially caused significant damage to our house, land, possessions and income, and Wilma caused bodily injuries to me. The recovery period was very long.

Working through Chase's Disaster Department, then with SB in [Workouts], we were placed on a 12-month HUD hurricane forbearance program, ending 8/06. In 3/06, following its program requirements, HUD filed a "partial claim" lien of $9878.16 against our title.

In August 2006, PMG became our new [workout] representative. She had 45 "hurricane" customers she felt may be eligible for post-hurricane forbearance mortgage modifications due to continuing special circumstances. Our "circumstances" were numerous, including my chronic serious medical issues. The modification would start with the payments due for 8/1 and 9/1/06.

On 9/1/06, Ms. PMG specifically requested that we not make payments during the approval review period, because then she'd have to rework her paperwork. She also asked us not to call in very often, as the 45 simultaneous mortgage modification requests meant the process would be very slow. While it wasn't guaranteed, and she didn't want us to get our hopes up, she estimated a 90% chance of approval.

We submitted a down payment of $1024.02 in postal money orders. I don't have the date at my fingertips, but it was very early in the process. A portion of that was to be applied to premiums for an "optional" product, $100,000 term life insurance for borrower [Walter].

Chase misapplied that down payment. The insurance premiums were paid by us to Chase, but Chase didn't remit the premiums to the insurance carrier. The policy was cancelled. I eventually discovered this, called the insurance company, and explained it was Chase's error not ours; but they refused to reinstate the policy.

Months passed. We periodically called Chase about our modification request and were always told it was still pending.

In early 2007, a letter from Chase said we were delinquent on our mortgage payments. Very concerned, I immediately called Ms. PMG.

She explained that HUD rules required Chase report all 45 of us as 2 months delinquent, no matter what the delinquency period really was, or even if - as in our case - we weren't actually delinquent at all. She said that letter was a mass mailing, it shouldn't have been sent to those of us in this special modification process, it was in error, and to ignore it.

Around April 2007, to my great relief, Ms. PMG called and left a message saying the life insurance had finally been reinstated. She didn't mention the mortgage modification. Naturally, we assumed it was still in process and there was no news to report. I returned her call to verify that, and to thank her for successfully reinstating the insurance.

In late May, 2007, I went out of town. My health issues clearly improved in the different environment. I'd only planned on being gone a few weeks. Staying with a friend with health problems of her own, it was mutually beneficial for us to extend my visit.

However, I hadn't arranged to have my mail forwarded to me. And since I'd communicated with PMG shortly before I left Florida, I didn't call her again for some time.

So I had no idea she'd transferred to a different department. One or both of our cell phone numbers were in Chase's records, yet no one called to inform us of the change in personnel, or of any change in the mortgage modification request. I continued believing, as I'd been told over and over, that we were not delinquent and our modification was in process.

Imagine my shock this August when a neighbor called to tell me someone was looking for me to serve legal papers for a pending foreclosure on my house.

I made numerous calls to Chase, and was finally told we were indeed in foreclosure, and that our mortgage modification request had been cancelled for non-response.

Every single action we took was because Chase told us to.

We didn't make payments because of the pending mortgage modification request, as instructed.

We called for updates, but infrequently, as instructed.

We didn't expect news on the modification by mail since we were communicating by telephone, as instructed.

We believed we were not delinquent, as instructed.

On hindsight, of course I should have had my mail forwarded. However, I believe my error is understandable under the circumstances.

And under those circumstances, I don't believe we should be charged late fees.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

All Packed Up and Ready to Go

I'm leaving here tomorrow, heading back for Florida. Well, leaving today, I should say.

No news yet. My folks are checking to see what they can do to help me; they'd have to borrow money to do it, and they aren't sure how much it would be. I don't feel good about this.

All I can do for them in return, of course, is to hustle back home and file that tax return and do everything else I can to raise up funds. So, that's what I'll do.

Your kind wishes and comments and support have meant a great deal to me. A great deal.

I'll keep you all up to date, okay?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

To Answer Some Questions...

Well. Last post down, you asked some very good questions about the situation I'm in. I decided to answer them in a post. Writing the last post, and reading your comments, and answering some of your emails - You've all given me a great deal of comfort. Made me stronger.

I need that right now, of course I do. I need to think through all this very carefully too, and your questions helped me frame my thoughts about what's happening and why and how to fix it. I said *Thank you* for very good reason.

That means - oh, LUCKY you! - you'll get a taste of the life of workout specialists. I can't answer your questions, really, any other way.

One of the few things I have going for me in this situation is that doing loan workouts was my profession until I became disabled. It was commercial loans, mostly commercial real estate loans, which are treated far differently from home loan workouts. But many of the basic principles are the same.

One big difference is that the regulations, the regs, for underwriting home loans are far more stringent and inflexible than for the much larger commercial and commercial real estate loans. Our mortgage is a HUD first-time buyer's loan. That adds a whole another layer of regs to adhere to.

Of course a sensible bank doesn't want to foreclose, especially in a soft market. But people aren't always sensible, and corporations are composed of people. And Bank One, who bought out Chase, has an old and powerful reputation of being hardassed about working with delinquent customers. This was already true way back when I worked as a US government banking officer myself, and that ended in 1991.

Legally, the fact that one staffer told us not to make payments probably has no merit, it gives me no legal recourse. First, even if she was an officer (meaning she had certain legal authority to bind the corporation to a promise) it's extremely unlikely she had THAT much authority. In other words, Chase isn't responsible for what she said, if it conflicts with Chase's actual policies.

Second, I have no written record of it anyway, only my own contemporaneous notes. I can't ask her for a record, or for her testimony. It would almost certainly cost her her job, and I believe she said it to help us, not to hurt us. Even though it backfired, it would be dishonorable to hurt her in return for trying to help us.

Third, it's moot. Chase notified me in writing that the workout personnel had changed. The thing that was 100% my error, my responsibility, was that I wasn't getting my mail forwarded to me while I was out of town. All that's required is that they notify me by mail. They did. They mailed me what they needed to mail to get the foreclosure under way.

Foreclosure takes time. I have time until the property is actually seized and sold, probably at least 2 months.

Unfortunately, by then it would cost me far more to redeem it from foreclosure. FAR more. Probably an insurmountable amount of money.

Here's how I found out they'd started foreclosure.

Like with most serious legal actions, you must be served with papers. The people hired to do this came to my house over and over and didn't find me there, ever, because I was in the Northwoods. They saw my weeds were growing back and wondered if I'd skipped town.

So they knocked on my neighbors' door, the wonderful guys across the street. And told them: --Does your neighbor know she's losing her house? That the bank is foreclosing?

And those wonderful guys promptly got on the phone and called me up and told me. They saved my butt, big time.

So I called the bank, and got shuffled around a great deal, found out about the change in personnel, was told all sorts of contradictory things, yada yada yada. The usual stuff. (Some people who experience this think it only happens to them, but that's the norm, it really is.)

Finally, I got a call back from Jill, who'd been assigned to my account when they were taking over from the previous workout person. Jill is a very decent sort. She did everything she could to work with me. She told me how to put together a new modification request, since the previous one got tossed when I didn't answer my mail. She told me it would probably take around $1000 to put it in place after everyone agreed, and to be ready to send the funds within 72 hours of the written agreement. I checked over Mr. Budget, rearranged some things, and saw I could do it. (This amount is called a "down payment," and is usually around one month's mortgage payment. I'd already sent one in, months back, to do Modification #1. Jill's estimate was this: *$1000 or so, perhaps more, so be ready to add to it all you can.*)

Jill was totally shocked, in fact was in tears, when she called me last Thursday to say they needed significantly more. I could tell this was a terribly hard phone call for her to make, one she dreaded making. She was intensely relieved when I reacted as I did. I was shocked too, of course. But I didn't yell or scream or faint or cry, or get angry, or do anything much except ask some questions, and tell her I understood it had nothing to do with her. I don't take it personally. It's not personal. It's just business.

I know why I was shocked.

But: Why was SHE?


Here's why the "down payment" amount mushroomed from $1000, to way more.

-Starting foreclosure means legal fees. That alone comes to $3200 so far. See why it's such a battle for me not to be so angry at myself? That hit happened for one reason only: not getting my mail forwarded.

-When the first attempt at a modification was in process, they had to file a so-called "partial claim" lien on the property. Without going into the gory details, or into all the HUD home loan regs involved - which I'm not conversant with anyway - doing that changed the allowable parameters for the second modification, the current one. Interestingly, when I tried to pin Jill down on the specific changes this made? All she could say was that the 12 months being modified had to be paid back over 18 months, rather than over the remaining life of the mortgage. She couldn't say one reason why the partial claim would change the down payment.

-When Workout Person #1 said "don't make payments," we, of course, fell farther behind. Apparently the max they can do on the modification is 12 month's payments. We're now 14 behind, and after October 1 will be 15 behind. So a significant amount of the revised "down payment" is simply that we must pay 3 mortgage payments at once. Most people would have trouble coming up with that on 2 weeks' notice; we're no different.

-I've no idea if, or how, the regs address late fees. Usually that's at the bank's discretion. This time they say we must pay all late fees now, no flexibility. That alone is almost $900. Again, part of that is due to being told not to make payments.

Here's my plan of action. (Besides dropping the tail end of my summer odyssey and dashing home to file the tax return and all that.)

-While having been instructed not to make payments doesn't help me legally, it may give me bargaining leverage. I think Jill saw evidence of that instruction in my file. Chase may know full well that it's weak legal grounds. But simply having it in place as a possible legal defense might encourage them to deal with me a bit more gently than they want to.

Or...more harshly. More on that in a bit.

-I called the foreclosing attorney's office. I was not allowed to speak to an attorney. I did, however, ask a question of someone there, and got an interesting answer. My question was this: --Does your firm have any objection to waiting 60 days to get your legal fees?- The answer was: --We don't care at all, that's up to Chase.

So I already left Jill a message last Friday repeating that, and asking if her supervisor would consider letting that amount be paid after October 4. I've had no answer yet.

-Paying just the 3 mortgage payments we're truly overdue may forestall them requiring the rest of the funds for a couple weeks. Unlikely, but possible.

-The late fees may be an item that's discretionary. In other words, Chase may be allowed by the regulators to either waive them in whole or part, or, to allow us more time to pay them. That tends to be true of all sorts of different creditors. Remember that, if you're negotiating late payments anywhere. You can usually get out of paying late fees if you ask.

As soon as I get a fix on where we stand financially at present - I'm waiting for some information to come in - I'll put a counter proposal in writing and fax it off to Jill. From here on out, of course, most everything must be written.

Now: Back to Jill being so shocked at the increase in the down payment. Why was she so surprised? Obviously, something happened that was out of the ordinary for her. But what?

I'm getting a sense here of someone, somewhere in the chain of command, wanting to play rough with my particular modification. It could be the departmental attitude as a whole, rather than just me. It could be Jill's immediate supervisor, or someone another level up.

Or maybe I'm reading this all wrong.

But I've worked in many different workout environments, and I've seen many different approaches and attitudes to restructuring debt. It's often harsh and unreasonable. While "half a loaf is better than none" is sensible, the amount of anger behind many collections groups is powerful and overriding. It can also be highly variable within one firm, from workout specialist to workout specialist, from manager to manager, from office to office or region to region.

I worked alongside peers that truly believed every delinquent borrower was a crook. I worked with others who, for no real reason I could see, would take a personal hatred to a particular borrower and throw the book at them. Just didn't like them. Others might do that to former officers of the failed bank, perhaps the president and the treasurer; or they'd go hard after the borrowers they were convinced were financial criminals.

And while I told Jill I don't take this personally, there's some evidence that perhaps I should. There's a couple possible reasons too, including one that you'd think wouldn't happen much. Surprisingly, it does.

Here's some of that possible evidence.

Jill is clearly experienced at her job; she knows what she's doing. Believe me, I can tell. Remember that at first, she estimated I'd need *$1000 or so, perhaps more...*

She'd also clearly read my file before she talked to me the first time on the phone. She had the factual background memorized, as any professional should. That means she knew certain things already. She surely knew what the outstanding late fees were, for instance.

Why would she estimate a $1000 down payment if the late fees alone were almost $900?

The most likely reason I can think of is because it's NOT standard practice for her to demand 100% of the late fees as part of the down payment.

Same goes for the legal fees. The difference there is, she may not have picked up a modification request file that was already in foreclosure before. Perhaps she didn't know the full legal fees would be demanded.

Or...again, that may not be standard practice. Demanded not of everyone, but this time, demanded of me.

If I'm right in guessing there may be animosity in her chain of command, there's usually one of two reasons for that. One is CYA. The other truly is personal. One comes from fear, the other from spite. In business, when I see someone take a sudden new interest in crossing their t's and dotting their i's, I look at those two angles - fear and spite.

Since Chase clearly did some things they shouldn't have done, they could be pressing for everything they can get in order to pad the file with righteous behavior. At job review time - or in court - they could say, --WELL! Workout Person #1 really screwed up and said *don't make payments and don't call in.* Good thing we transferred her! But ME?? I made sure Jill didn't cut them any slack! No, we did it RIGHT, we did.-

In other words, having someone do you wrong does NOT mean they'll be more willing to work with you to remedy that. It's quite often the other way around.

It's also part of human nature to be more angry at someone, even spiteful or hateful, BECAUSE you've done them wrong.

I know that sounds counterintuitive. Shouldn't the victim feel angry instead of the *doer?*

But how often do we see the opposite happen in marriages, in families, in the workplace? Say a manager unfairly passes over a more competent employee, in order to give the manager's less competent relative a promotion. Forever after, that unfair manager may say or do nasty things to the person who was unjustly passed over for the promotion. They add on the injuries, because it feels to them like it makes their initial misdeed seem justified. They make the innocent employee seem like a Bad Guy, in order to protect themselves from the consequences, or the guilt, of their own wrongdoing.

So if what I'm looking at here really is personal spite, it may be from that: because the spiteful person at Chase knows I wasn't really dealt with fairly.

It could also be because I'm disabled and on Social Security, and I said so. I had to. Explaining one's financial situation is required when applying for a loan, or for a loan modification. No way around it.

You might be horrified at how often finding out I'm on disability means people decide I must therefore be lazy, a cheater, a liar, an idiot, a manipulator of the system; or, how often folks are simply jealous at what they perceive as k getting a free ride, an easy life. I even tell them sometimes, right out loud, that they don't want to pay the price I paid to get here. No indeed. I almost never wish this on anybody - except sometimes, on people who think like that. I wish them one day or one week living in this body. Let the punishment fit the crime.

Last but not least, through a long series of events, this whole thing grew out of the hurricanes that damaged our house in 2005. The eyes of Katrina and Wilma passed over my house; I was live-blogging Wilma as two trees were coming down on the roof. I finally had to sign off. Five minutes later I was nearly decapitated by flying glass, as the window on the other wall of my home office blew out and the hurricane came inside the house. We took a great deal of damage.

There are those - you can read them in blogland any day you like - who feel some deep grievances toward anyone who took a beating from those hurricanes. They assume, again, that we got all sorts of great special things we did not merit. So it's possible that someone in Jill's chain of command has an antipathy for hurricane folks - and through no doing of my own, I happen to be one of them.

So. Let's hope spite isn't at work here. But I'll certainly keep all these possibilities in mind every time I communicate with Chase, by phone or in writing. Knowing where they're truly coming from could make the difference in doing this modification, or not being able to do it at all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bad News Day

Well. Now that I'm in a place with a great internet connection, and have some quiet time to post - everything I need - as you can see, I've been a quiet poster instead. I've gotten some nice emails, people were concerned, so I want to explain a bit about what's happened.

Last Thursday, I got some seriously bad news on the financial front. And it's ALL my own fault. That means I get to add being totally humiliated on top of just plain scared.

I've been trying to absorb the shock, and to think through the things I can do to remedy the emergency.

Without going into the less interesting details, I've been working on a modification of our mortgage payments for some time. The workout person at the bank said she was swamped with work, and slow, so please give her lots of time; and meanwhile, don't make payments, it would mess up her paperwork. We were told not to call her much, maybe check in every couple of months; otherwise, when the time came, she'd call us.

We did what she instructed us to do.

Unfortunately, in midsummer she transferred to a different department. Which should have been a non-issue...except that they notified us by mail.

And me, in my desire to leave my personal life hassles to themselves for a while, and not even dreaming I'd be gone so very long - well, I didn't forward my mail to Livey's. So I had no idea what had happened until very recently. Remember those payments we were told not to make? In my absence, when I didn't reply to their letters, the bank started foreclosure proceedings.

The situation is still salvageable. But it went from being an easy workout to one that demands several thousand dollars from us by October 4.

And we don't have money like that lying around.

I feel like the most foolish person in blogdom. All I had to do was get my mail. I didn't. How dumb can I get?

So instead of lounging about at my childhood home for another couple weeks, doing some fun things I'd planned with the family, I need to cut out from here and get back to Florida in a few days instead.

Once home, I can do things like file the income tax return, which will pay for around 50% of what they want, and file some old insurance claims, stuff like that. Things that I'd also neglected to do before I left Florida - again, my bad. The tax return will probably be paid in short order; the IRS is pretty fast these days. Not fast enough, no. But once it's filed I can probably borrow against the refund. That will cost me more money, but that's the situation as it stands.

You see, I can raise the funds in 2 months or so pretty easily. We're extremely good at scrimping and saving by doing without. Two weeks, however, is something else entirely.

I know we could repay a loan quickly, but it's hard for us to borrow just now. Our credit score is not where it should be. After our business losses in 2003 we've recovered pretty well, we've worked so hard on that, but in the last year we've blown a lot of money on medical bills and funerals, things I've not posted much about because the vast majority were the private tribulations of relatives. Of our family and friends who might lend us part of the total bill, most everyone we know is also in a financial bind. They have mortgage issues like us, or layoffs, or their small businesses are losing orders and income in this economic downturn.

Walter - my wonderful Walter - has been an angel about it. This man reminded me that beating myself up over my glaringly idiotic errors will not help remedy the situation, that it'll even distract me enough to be detrimental to focusing on fixing the problem. And of course, he's right.

It's extraordinarily difficult to stop doing that. My fault my fault my fault how ridiculously foolish could I be to have done this...Here's a time I need to do that hardest thing for most of us to do: forgive myself.

As part of my return trip, I'd planned to go through 2 towns: one in Mississippi, with a population of less than 1000, and some interesting history - and also New Orleans. Slowly and gently, revisiting old haunts, going to my beloved St. Joe brickyard, photographing, talking to people.

I don't have the extra fuel to get to New Orleans now, and even if I did? My heart would not be in it. My heart just now is grieving over my errors and over my house. I don't want to lose that house. I so very much don't want to lose that house.

There's a wonderful Gumbo Festival near New Orleans in mid-October. If things do work out, I can visit then.

And for now? I shall set aside my other little plans, and take a lot of deep breaths, and take care of business as best I can. I know what I need to do, and I'll do it. Outside of that, I want, and even need, to continue posting about the fun parts of the journey I've been on.

So when you see me talking about my pretty rocks and agates and bears and Lake Superior again, please don't think I'm in denial, or procrastinating about the work I need to do. I'm not. I'm just paying attention to Walter's excellent advice, and making sure I can maintain the calm and the stoicism to think clearly and proceed as I must on resolving this. When I hit a spot where I can't do any work on it for a few hours or days, I'll be sure to return to my regular life.

Regular life is full of joys and of sorrows. The things I do for fun, the actions and attitude some people tell me is childlike, all that's there for a reason. I want to be happy. I think it's a legitimate goal and purpose in life for us all.

It's a state of being that requires a bit of work, of effort. Other people can't make us happy. Only we, ourselves, can do that. I decided, years ago, to make happiness and calm a goal in my life.

This doesn't mean I ignore the hard things that happen. I most certainly don't; I've got plenty to deal with, and if I ignored them I'd be dead by now. What I do is try to address them as needed, do the work required to manage it all, then set them aside while attending to that other life goal. Compartmentalize.

But this time I screwed up. My error in judgement has cost me dearly, and it may get much worse. I'll work as hard as humanly possible to prevent that from happening. In between, when I can, I'll continue to work on enjoying my life.

One point I want to make screamingly clear: This post is NOT a backhanded call for donations. See the tip jar up there on the upper right? I wrote that bit about earning one's tips for good reason. The scooter was a true emergency. That situation was not one of my own doing, and it needed to be corrected immediately, before another infection took my leg or worse.

This situation is very different. This problem is ALL of my own making. Not the sort of thing I consider appropriate for donations, even if donations were an everyday part of my blog life. I'm not trying to say donations aren't legitimate for bloggers in general; to my mind, of course they are. This particular emergency of mine, though, is not.

Okay. I'm done.

And thank you, in advance, for listening.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wood Is Beautiful Too

Birch always is.

Especially when it supports these pretty mushrooms.

They look, sometimes, like they have writing on them.

The root systems on some of the trees make me think of the apple trees in Wizard of Oz, throwing their own apples at our intrepid travelers, who then had sense enough to eat them.

But this one?

This one makes me think of Desert Cat. The sturdy central stump looks like it's supporting a poor sick little kitten with its strength. And the little one is looking up at him, trusting him, knowing now what care and succor really means.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Drying Out

Tuesday, September 4

Lord above, what a rain we had last night! Around 3" here at the campground, all in one night. The parking area by the showers was so flooded they had to cut a little channel in the ground to drain it. Nearby Houghton took some bad street flooding.

Me? I got a little water in the tent. Not much. Mostly it was where my bun accidentally brushed the top, or some of my stuff rubbed against the side of the tent. When you do that it becomes permeable and water gets in.

Considering how high the water came up the sides of the tent, though? I was very lucky.

However. Rain in the tent is NOT a good state of affairs. For someone like me, especially, it takes all day to dry everything out, instead of Having Fun.

Therefore, I dispatched myself off to the local Walmart (yep. They got one, open 24/7) and purchased a big ol’ hunk of black plastic tarp for $8 or so. I cut it in half and covered the tent with it, making two layers going in two directions.


Fixed THAT up. No more water in MY tent, any more. Rain all it WANTS to.


On the Beach at McLain

Here's what I saw when I first got to McLain. This shore was within 50' of my first campsite.

Looking to my left, southwest. There's a beautiful lighthouse just beyond that point of land.

Looking right, northeast. See all the pebbles, layered on the sand? They're chock-full of agates, and of other rocks that are just beautiful things, gorgeous, sometimes valuable in their own right as gemstones, or copper or silver.

Most of the shoreline here on Lake Superior is below small cliffs. There are chairs and benches scattered throughout the park, atop the cliffs, where people love to sit and watch the surf or the sunset.

Someone loves someone...

A Nice Rock is a Beautiful Thing

Tuesday, September 4

The people who camp here are very nice, and very quiet. I need that. By nature I’m a solitary person, and while I’ve enjoyed myself in the Northwoods no end, it’s time for me to recharge my own self. A surprising number of people are surprised that I’m camping by myself. They notice this, and they seem to worry a bit about me. They don’t need to. I’m extremely self-sufficient. But it’s sweet of them.

For me, solitude is as necessary as eating and breathing. If I go too long without it, I start to get sick. I don’t know what to call that. Solitude sickness?

I’m finally starting to relax. I feel a little guilty about the money I’m spending here - it’s $26 a night. But I’m doing my own cooking, as usual, and I don’t need much extra. The electricity is free. I don’t buy my firewood; there’s plenty available from legitimate collecting areas. So I try to tell myself this isn’t much more money than you’d spend just staying at home so I can simply enjoy my time here. I HATE guilt. It can so ruin one’s fun.

I’m near the town of Houghton. They actually have two small university campuses there. One houses the Seaman Mineral Museum. That place is rumored to be fabulous, and I’m dying to get in and have a look.

Understand, I know nothing about rocks. I always leaned more towards biology and math and English - actually, almost all subjects except for physics. This involves physics, and requires some understanding of matters like crystalline structures, which simply don’t move me much. Somehow, actually studying rocks leaves me cold. Don’t know why.

But I love to look at them. I love beautiful things, and all my life I’ve loved gemstones.

I don’t actually have any to speak of. I’m not an acquisitive person that way. Married twice, and never had a diamond ring yet. (Note, please, that the lack of an engagement ring didn’t stop me from marrying. I’m not that kind of girl. Although, come to think of it, I’m not so sure that’s wise.)

Besides agates, I’m collecting rocks galore to redecorate my yard back home. Yes, I already have lots of rocks there. Still, one needs to refurnish from time to time. Here there are incredibly beautiful rocks along the beach and inland, both.

Ah, but agates are beautiful. Even unpolished ones can show you why agates are gemstones. Every day I find more. Between here and my Door County collecting, putting up a *Catch of the Day* has occurred to me more than once. But for now, I’ve not been able to find a place to scarf a local internet connection. So posting daily pix isn’t doable.

Not yet.

But me? I got PLANS.

That Old *Guilt Trip for Being Sick* Thing

Monday, September 3

This is Labor Day. Over the weekend, starting Friday, the camp here was packed. Full house. It puts me in mind of a hotel: SORRY, NO VACANCIES! Long ago I had a few stints as night auditor at hotels, and being all sold out was a wonderful thing. Oh, it spread sunshine and happiness and stress and overtime pay and busybusyness throughout the staff, all around.

I was supposed to come last week, well before the weekend. There were plenty of spaces available, and once you’re in, you get first dibs - newcomers can make reservations, but they can’t reserve specific campsites. If you’re here you get to keep your spot. That’s why I wanted to come earlier.

Well - that, and the fact that winter is already approaching up here. It’s well into autumn, the leaves are all turning, and I can’t abide cold weather. Like many people with fibromyalgia, it causes me intense physical pain. Our way overdeveloped and miswired nerve network actually misinterprets the sensation of *cold* as *pain.*

But…I couldn’t get here earlier. Livey was sick, way sick, and no way could I leave her alone in that condition. She was in terrible straits.

She knew her illness delayed my trip, and in a way that significantly impacted my plans for a small vacation.

Now we run into a situation that so many chronically ill people have to deal with: Guilt. She was getting eaten up with guilt because her sickness caused my vacation plans to get postponed.

I saw it coming and oh, lord, I know that feeling so very well. It was a bit unexpected to experience it from the other side.

I explained some things the way Walter has to me. I told her this: --It’s not your FAULT that you’re sick.

Did you get sick for fun? To amuse yourself some way at my expense? Because you actually enjoy suffering?

Of course not.

of COURSE not!

I know that. I’ve been in your shoes many times. This is one of those life situations where you just have to say, --Shit happens.-- It happens to me all the time. It’s a normal part of my life. I have plans to go do something, and I can’t go, because I’M too sick. That’s why I always have alternative plans for fun. If I can’t do this thing, then I just move to Plan B. It’s one of the methods I use to stay happy.

McLain will still be there when it’s time to go. Those rocks aren’t going anywhere either. They’ll always have beautiful rocks for me to look for, okay?

Besides, this is my chance to pay you back for when YOU've had to take care of ME.

I think I finally got through to her. She seemed to feel better.


Because when you care about someone, the last thing you want is to watch them hurting even worse than they already are, just because their illness impacted your life too. Part of being sick all the time, one of those many life lessons it has to teach you, is to let others help you and not feel bad about accepting it.

It’s a very hard lesson, a very difficult thing to do, to accept help even when it costs your friends some effort, or time, or money, or changes in plans. But: That’s what friends are for.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

So. Where in the World Has k Run Off To Now?

Why - here I am! At the beautiful McLain State Park, on the Keewenaw Peninsula, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Smack dab in the middle of Lake Superior.

I'm way behind on my posting. This place is so remote there's no cell phone service and very little internet access. I can get on, some, from the friendly Coffee Cabin in Houghton, but one doesn't want to wear out one's welcome.

So I'll be posting *catch-up* posts for a while, as I can. I should be REALLY online again Monday, back at the folk's house, where I'll stay for several days before heading back to Florida.

It's too damn cold here. We've had freeze and snow warnings, and my Florida car is anything but winterized. I'm also completely out of money, so I can't keep paying to stay at my beautiful campsite.

Besides, very early this morning night I had a Bear Experience.

A small bear, I'm sure.

However, when all you have between you and Bear is a flimsy tent - and when you know that once a bear's found something to eat, it's likely to return the next night - it's time to move on.

Now I'll put up the first post I wrote from McLain, and hopefully, will keep catching up.


Monday, September 3, 2007

I’ve arrived at a campground in Michigan’s UP, the Upper Peninsula. I’m in mining country here. Copper, mostly.

And agates.

Yes. As it happens, this beautiful place is just chock full of them.

I came in late last night. To my surprise I found my site was right on Lake Superior. It didn’t used to be, and they didn’t update the map on their website, so I wasn’t expecting this treat. See, there was another line of campsites between my site and the lake.

That was before part of the cliff fell into the lake. heh!

See the road blocked off? And the campsite number in front?

There's no Campsite 93 any more. That's because it fell in the lake.

Now the paved road is blocked, and the road on the left is just graded.

Here's where they shored up the cliff with rocks in a wire net.

And here's where it went and peeled off. OOOPS!

Here's a closer look. The edge of the old paved road kind of falls off on the right.

I went to sleep last night lulled by the sound of the surf. I had no idea how much I’d missed that sound of home.

More than one of my docs would be horrified to know I’m camping. The opportunity for injury or infection is way higher. Try as you like, it’s just not easy keeping sterile in camping conditions. Not to mention, I’m by myself.

I don’t care.

I love to camp. I missed my trip to the Fossil Farm this year because I was too sick to go, fresh out of the hospital with that lung infection. Missing the annual Fossil Farm trek broke my heart. I haven’t missed it from the first time I ever went, years ago.

Some say it’s too dangerous for a woman to camp all alone. They point out that I have no gun and no dog or husband with me.

I don’t care.

I love to camp, and I’m not going to put off having my fun this way any longer.

The campground here is beautiful. My tent is big enough for me, 8’ x 9’. It’s only about 4’ tall, but here’s where being Height Challenged comes in handy.

Modern camping is a hoot. The state parks in Michigan, at least, are full of sites that provide electricity.



I bought a little surge protector for a few bucks, just to give me more outlets. Six, now. One has an extension cord plugged in. That cord has 3 outlets itself, giving me 8 total. It’s not quite enough for all my plug-in needs, but I’m making do. ;-)

Here’s what gets connected:
Espresso maker
Microwave oven
Toaster oven
Electric toothbrush
CPAP (two cords for that)
Back massager
Charger for the car battery jumper
Camera charger
Cell phone charger
Scooter charger
AA/AAA battery charger

The campground also has a little restroom/shower building. Indoor plumbing, there. Hot running water.

This isn’t considered a really *modern* campground. There’s no laundry facility or rec room or ice machine.

But it’s a far cry from the camping I did as a child. Even the outhouses don’t stink any more.

Weird, huh?

This camping jaunt was completely unplanned. But…so was spending the entire summer away from home. I left all my camping things in Florida, but I did bring my sleeping bag. I had to buy a tent, but my old one was busted anyway. I don’t have a lamp, but the light from the microwave and the laptop is enough. I’m never without at least one or two flashlights. Walter loves to get them for me, and I love to have them.

Livey gave me an old microwave oven she had for sale ($5) in her garage sale inventory, something she’d picked up for free. She lent me her toaster oven too, since she dislikes it and never uses it herself. It works just great for me here. And if it gets cold at night? All I have to do is turn on the toaster oven for a few minutes. It has an automatic shutoff after 15 minutes. In 15 minutes it warms up the whole tent, and if I fall asleep, it shuts itself off.

Camping this way just cracks me up. I tried to explain to Walter that this is NOT *roughing it.* I’m still not sure if he really understands what I mean.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Walter!

There's a reason agates are called gemstones.

These are different views of the same rock. As is, picked up off the beach. NOT cut or polished yet. Clicky, and see the incredible details on this one.

I did spray it to get it wet, and make the colors and patterns jump out a bit better.

This one is bigger than my fist. It's sitting on the laptop here, to give you an idea of its size.

This one is for Walter. It's become my special pet rock, now, and I carry it everywhere with me.

I promised him pix of it, either by email or post. Here you are, my dearest. I love you.