In 2007 I was already a mother to a 15 month old baby girl and I gave birth to my second child at the end of that year. I was in the military about to get out after ten years of service and I was excited about becoming a civilian and being able to take care of my family.
The plan was something like this. I was going to take a few months off after giving birth to my second child. I would find a good job in a different state because I didn’t want to stay in Maryland and I would carry on with my life with my little family. Oh, how wrong I was! When life throws a challenge, it really throws it hard!
So, I left the Army one month before I gave birth at the end of 2007. My hubby (Henry) and I had a nice nest egg in case something happened. Henry was doing great in the real estate field despite some health challenges he had incurred after he too served in the military.
But here come those challenges I was talking about. In 2007 the housing market started crashing…along with everything else. It hit some areas of the country really hard and almost instantly. It took a while but it hit Maryland too.
No one expected the market bubble to burst as bad as it did. So, I had no idea that getting out of the military and losing that stable paycheck and full medical benefits was going to be an enormous mistake.
I thought that having been a senior non-commissioned officer, with 10 years of experience, leadership skills and training, I’d be able to find a job within months. I was so WRONG!
Challenge number two, the month after I left the military and gave birth to my second child, my husband’s health declined drastically. We thought it was going to be temporary but sadly he never got better. Today, Henry still struggles with his health and the Veterans Affairs Health Care System (that’s a whole other blog!)
Remember, we thought this would be temporary? So there we were, both of us not working, we were living off our last paychecks thinking he would recover soon and that I would get a well paying job sooner than later. And the months went by. We dipped into our savings. Every day, news networks disclosed the thousands and thousands of people who were going into foreclosure and getting laid off. People were committing suicide due to huge monetary losses
or because they were no longer able to provide for their families. We would just stare at the T.V. in disbelief.
It was a very scary time in our lives. All we could think about was our babies and all the hard work and preparation we’d done before bringing kids into this world. We had done everything right. We got married. We built great careers. We had lots of work experience. We had savings. But none of that spared us from what was to come.
After I spent nine months applying for jobs I found myself in extreme fear of losing the home we had just purchased about a year earlier.
So, the worst happened. We went into foreclosure status and Henry was on bedrest for most of 2008. I couldn’t get a job that would pay enough for infant childcare and a toddler, nevertheless for a caregiver for Henry (not even counting all of our bills).
I was BEYOND petrified and I felt completely alone. We ran through our nice nest egg to get by as long as we could. Before we went into foreclosure I tried avoiding it by requesting payment deferments and I also asked for a home loan modification but my lender always claimed I didn’t qualify because I had not yet missed at least three payments. Stupid right?
So, I did what I could. I took on odd jobs. It was very hard because I was nursing my baby and couldn’t be away from my little family for too long because they depended on me. All of them. Henry sacrificed his health a lot because he had to. He cared for our little girls while I took on jobs.
On very good days, Henry was able to come along and help. We brought our girls along (not like we had a choice). Our oldest, who was finally walking, “helped” us and our little one was in the car seat watching her surroundings or slept as we cleaned foreclosed homes for other realtors or people who were preparing to rent their house to avoid foreclosure. But these odd jobs were not enough. I returned my new SUV to the dealer and we cut off luxuries like cable and memberships to gyms. We had already stopped going out to eat or to the theater. Anything that was not a necessity was cut.
Eventually, we started selling our household items on Craigslist. we sold almost everything except our beds, dishes, clothes and two televisions because no-one would buy them.
We spent two years in foreclosure and asking our mortgage company to modify our loan. During that time, I got my disability rating from the Veterans Affairs Health Administration, so that income was enough to qualify us to enter a modification program. Henry already had his coming in. However, the money we got was not enough to make ends meet.
Luckily for us, since the government had recently made changes to the G.I. Bill by adding a housing allowance as long as a veteran was enrolled in full-time school, I decided to finish college. That was the beginning of my long college journey while I was dealing with Henry’s health challenges, my new role as a mother and a civilian.
Before I applied to a college our mortgage company had notified us that our house was going to be sold at an auction and we had to be out of the house by a certain date. So, because we thought we weren’t going to be able to keep our home, we had decided that when the time came, we would move in with my Mother-in-law (bless her) and I applied to a school near her home.
I had called my Republican and Democratic senators and Congress representatives for help. I didn’t know how they could help, but I figured, why not ask? I also called and wrote to the-then Governor O’Malley’s office, and the Obama administration. I actually sent a letter to President Obama, Mrs. Obama and Jill and Joe Biden requesting for help to pressure the VA to give my husband proper care because they kept refusing to provide him with certain services before and after one of his many surgeries. I also asked for some sort of help that would allow us to keep our home, specifically, to help us get a modification offer from our lender.
Two weeks after I had mailed out all the letters, I received a phone call from a social worker from the VA Medical Center in our area. I’ll never forget his words. After he introduced himself, he said, “I’ve been assigned by President Obama’s office to care for your husband’s needs. How may I help you?” I. Was. Completely. Stunned!!!
Suddenly, his doctor appointments and requests to see certain specialists were no longer ignored. His appointments were no longer cancelled at the last minute. The relief I felt knowing that someone had listened and done something to help us and realizing WHO that person was felt SURREAL. From the hundreds of thousands of daily letters the office of the President of the United States received, my plea letter was NOTICED!!
About a month later, which was almost a week prior to the auction date of the supposed sale of our home, we received a modification offer from our lender. After almost two years! As you can imagine, we were extremely happy, relieved and surprised. Although our problems did not immediately end upon getting that modification offer, we were both able to sleep better after that horrible nightmare.
The main thing I learned during those two years in foreclosure was that I was more resourceful than I imagined. Since we didn’t have money to spend on entertainment, I learned to craft using things around the house and shopped wisely when I could. I learned to ask lots of questions and research programs that could help us. The pressure I felt to be the head of household allowed me to focus in college those two years and graduated with my associate degree with honors. I continued my education and ended up earning my master’s degree.
I also became a very informed advocate for my husband and for myself within the VA. I realized that my passion was to help others because through every journey, there were always a few people willing to share information that got me closer to a solution.
I learned that no matter how much anyone prepares for the unforeseen, things can still go wrong and that very few people will understand what you’re going through including family members. When you’re going through hardship people will judge you for not fitting into a stereotypical expectation of what people in hardship should look like. For example, you’ll be judged if you seem to be wearing ‘good clothes’ or have a new item assuming you’re not doing so bad because they think you purchased it not realizing that the item was gifted to you. Because if things are so bad, how come you have nice things?
Lastly, I learned that I need to create my fate. I learned I am not meant to work for someone else the rest of my life. I am meant to build my own business. That business will help others, specifically by sharing stories that people can learn from and by helping people become aware of and reject their subconscious biases.
This blog is a step in that direction. I hope to share inspiring stories and help people xxx
I’d also love to hear YOUR stories, so please comment below or send me an email. I’m always looking for stories to share with the world that give valuable lessons to my readers.