Mindset is all it is

Some event must have triggered a response in my mind – an outlook that has eluded me for eleven long months.  I can attempt to justify this by serious problems that already existed or ones that arose in short order.  But by getting caught up in negativity and “don’t haves” I have been missing  something so huge, so all encompassing, so monumental – right there all this time, yet mindset of my own doing allowed me to overlook the obvious.

I am living a life of abundance!  I already am!  How could I have been so blind since last December when I moved here?  How did I allow negativity to swallow whole all the positive that has come to me?   Here I am, already IN abundance, while my poor tired brain and body are still striving , stressing, longing, wearying to attain something I already have.

I have been blessed so many times over.  The struggles, fears, hurts of the past several years are over and I have been rewarded, yet I failed to see this as I stressed over each and every problem and made them into mountains too high to climb.  I have been found, yet I envisioned myself as still lost and adrift with no lifeline to cling to.

I have the dearest friend anyone in the world could hope to have.  I moved into the unknown, yet have a nice little house with the kindest neighbors one could wish for.  I have spent the months in a struggle with myself, feeling useless in this world instead of enjoying the fruits of my labors of a lifetime.  I have all I need!  If I am not at present saving the world, or at least a person or two in it – it is because this is a time of making my own little nest, a time to pause and reflect, a time to enjoy the many wonderful things the universe has given me.

I have a good roof over my head,  I have enough to eat,  I have many lovely things in my little home,  I have two hands to make it beautiful to my eyes,  I have children who call, neighbors who care, a friend who is there for me each step of the way, books to read,  a computer to stay in touch with the world, my four beautiful cats to keep me company, a car to go  the places I need to go.

I have allowed the loss of those no longer in my life, past problems and hurts, the fear of “not enough”,  the worries of lack of monetary safety,  life lessons which have happened and are past yet cause anxiety and hurt each time they spring to consciousness, yes, I have allowed these things to blossom into a magnificence that overrides all the good in my present.

I am living a life of abundance.  And knowing this is a choice.  I can choose the mindset of focusing on things I don’t have…or I can choose to revel in the wonderful things that I do have.  Gratitude for the abundance in my life.  abundance22

 

 

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A walk with some cats; is it spring?

Early last evening, I went for a short walk on the mud path that passes for a road in here on the “island”. A few little friends came along.

These cats are feral/strays.  Megan caught or trapped about 15 of them here on the island and we transported all of them to be spayed or neutered. Some have become rather friendly over time.  This is Tinker (Tinkerbell) checking out the flowers and twigs.
These cats are feral/strays. Megan caught or trapped about 15 of them here on the island and we transported all of them to be spayed or neutered. Some have become rather friendly over time. This is Tinker (Tinkerbell) checking out the flowers and twigs.
All are fed and cared for by my oldest daughter's family and myself.  There are 6 strays at the barn that I feed along with my own 4 that are inside there.  5 more live on the porch at my daughter's.  The black one is "My Girl", Tinker is here again, and the orange tabby is JayJay.  He is harrassing the girls.
All are fed and cared for by my oldest daughter’s family and myself. There are 6 strays at the barn that I feed along with my own 4 that are inside there. 5 more live on the porch at my daughter’s. The black one is “My Girl”, Tinker is here again, and the orange tabby is Jay Jay. He is harassing the girls.
My Girl  and the well camouflaged one is Sister (SIssy).  Taking a break in our walk to rest up.
My Girl and the well camouflaged one is Sister (SIssy). Taking a break in our walk to rest up.
A close-up of Sister.
A close-up of Sister.
The vines are almost as thick as the trees.
The vines are almost as thick as the trees.
Yesterday's flowers...
Yesterday’s flowers…

036Today’s snow showers.

2010 – When a camper is not a home

I had sent the money up for my daughter and her husband to buy a camper that was for sale, so that it would be there when we arrived.  After traveling more than 8 hours with our five cats and dog, we came across the bridge and up the hill to view our purchase.  I was very tired after loading the trailer and the long drive, opened the camper door, stepped inside, then right back out and around to the back side of the truck  where Megan wouldn’t see me and let the tears come.  The enormity of our situation hit me like a ton of bricks. How in the world could the two of us actually LIVE in that tiny space with our cats?  From our farm, to 3 locations in North Carolina and  the few days with the census, to this.  There were no choices, it was all we now had. 

I needn’t have worried about so little space. I turned on the water and we found burst pipes, so out to Lowe’s to buy all the things needed and that problem was repaired.  We were up the road at my oldest daughter’s home for supper and showers, then walked down after dark to lay down with the cats and our dog as they got used to their new surroundings.  It poured that night and Megan woke up at dawn in a puddle of water.  Later that day we coated the roof of the camper. 

That evening my daughter’s husband told us there had been questions about the camper appearing and days later, our arrival.  Covenants on this “island” restrict any mobile homes on lots.  So the trailer became home for the cats, a place for our clothes, and we took up nightly residence on their living room couch and floor. 

A storm on the fourth night we were there blew up the air conditioning unit on top of the camper.  We bought a window model to keep the temp inside under 78  in the hot afternoon sun.

A man from the city with a vacation home in here knew of our situation, and offered us the use of one of the bedrooms with two twins beds on the nights they or their friends were not using it.  So on average 3 nights a week, we would drive down at 11 pm, get our blankets and pajamas from the back of the truck and get to sleep on beds. Up at 7 am, get dressed and carry things back out to the truck. He said he never even knew when we had been there. Gratitude to this kind man and his family.

Clothes, bottles of water, toiletries, blankets and pillows, in and out of the truck, in and out of different homes, eating lunch in the park or down near the camper, suppers with my oldest daughter; this was now our life.  No rooms, no home, nowhere to rest or take a nap.  Through depression, despair, shame, and fear shown a small glimmer of hope.  I would find a way to change this.

The camper, set up and waiting for our arrival in July of 2010.
The camper, set up and waiting for our arrival in July of 2010.
Inside the tiny camper, I took this photo as I stood in the bath.
Inside the tiny camper, I took this photo as I stood in the bath.

A cry in the dark

I never expected to be where I am at this stage in my life. If long ago I had been able to gaze into a crystal ball and had seen this future, would I have been able to change it?  I feel like Alice down the rabbit hole, nothing is as it seems, I don’t care to attend this mad hatter party; I just want to go home.  But for me there is no home to go back to. 

I woke again yesterday morning at 4:30 a.m. with tears upon my face.  The dreams vary, but often I am on a street and can’t find my home and someone comes up to me and tells me it isn’t there anymore.  Or my daughter is being taken away, and I scream and beg for the people taking her to give her back to me, but they tell me she is better off without me.  Or it is night, and I  am driving  a car with no brakes, heading down a hill toward a large dark and murky body of water.  At times I do not recall them, just the feelings of desolation and despair, and the tears on my cheeks.

There is no more sleeping; I fold up my blankets from the floor, make a cup of tea, and carry my night things out to the back seat of my car.  The sadness remains with me for some time, but eventually I get on with mundane chores – feeding the feral cats out back here at my daughter’s home, walking to the barn to feed my cats in their room there and also the strays that stay at the barn.  Come back and wash up any dishes and put away any in the rack from the night before. Get online and once again attempt to locate a home, ANY home, where I can take my animal family ( and my daughter if she chooses to go) , that the bank would allow me to buy.  And once again, I can live for the day around the pain and sorrow. 

For so long now it has been one tiny step forward, four giant steps back.  What hurts me the most is I can find no means to change this situation. Everything that has been attempted has failed. 

Last fall I would often buy a dollar salad at a fast food place and go sit at the park to give my daughter and her family some time alone in their little house.  I would look at the homes on the streets along the park and wonder if those people knew how lucky they are.  To have a place to go at the end of the work day and on weekends.  A place to come back to after visiting or a vacation.  A bedroom to sleep in,  a closet instead of a car trunk for their clothes. 

Friends tell me I am such a strong lady, but I feel anything but strong.  Some days I feel like Humpty Dumpty, as though I will shatter into a million pieces and no one will be able to put me together again.  The only thing which sustains me, gets me through the next hour, is hope.  For somehow through the past 5 years of loss, pain and homeless fear, a small glimmer of hope remains.

I beg, take this cup from mine lips, for the taste is bitter.  Hear my cry from the bottom of this well.

cry-sad-alone2

Mortgage pre-approval! (but the joke is on me)

In October of 2013, I began the long and arduous task of getting pre-approved for a home loan.  Three months later, I was turned down for various reasons on my credit report, but no one at that bank told my why. So I went to another bank, and it took the loan officer half an hour to ascertain the difficulties.  For some unknown reason, although the home loan for my farm had been marked “paid in full”, that bank had a note on my credit report that stated they had seized the property and sold it themselves to procure the funds to pay off the loan.  In other words, that would be considered “foreclosure” and I would not be eligible for a home loan for…alas, I do not recall exactly, but I believe it was 7 years.

Eventually, after many, many calls to various departments in that banking system, as no one could locate paperwork as I no longer had any account with that institution – many trips to a branch of theirs 25 miles away – weeks of waiting for the credit report to clear – the statement was removed.  I also had one back bill that had been sold to a collection agency.  Unfortunately, it had been sold again and it took weeks to locate the present holder and get that settled and removed from the records.  Weeks, frustration, tears, phone bills, gas, settlements, credit institution calls when items remained that should not have been posted there; finally it was done!   In late June of 2014, I was pre-approved for a home loan for the amount of $29,000.  (My income is just under $800 a month now on social security).  I had enough saved for closing costs and was set to go!

A couple of my friends and I were so hopeful, as we had been perusing the HUD site and realtor.com for weeks, and had found quite a few suitable properties at the amount I would be able to pay.  We had to watch for taxes and also look for homes with private septic and well to keep the bills down.  But we were very excited!  The search was on!

I had a few requirements – an acre so there would be room for the horse, preferably a private well and septic, and some sort of shed, barn or building.  I still do not know if Megan will be moving with me, but she is renting in the basement of someone’s home. She has Valentine, our dog and one of our cats with her.  I have our other 4 cats (all strays that we took in) and also our 3 chickens.  I need a place where she can come, for if anything happens where she is presently, she will have nowhere to go with the animals of ours that are with her.  I am not comfortable with getting a home where the animals could not go.  My dream, since our farm was lost in October of 2009 was to get us a new home.  To get us off people’s floors and couches, have a bedroom once again, a place where I can make my crafts, my herbal salves and preparations, cook,  plus a place to put my clothes and not have to keep them in the trunk of my car. 

At first there were a few.  I found a nice place with a very pretty double-wide, 2 acres, a big shed and some fencing.  It was listed at $31,000.  I put in an offer, sight unseen, for $29,000.  That property sold for $35,000 in 5 days. 

We found another, similar on a Friday evening.  I tried calling 4 different realtors over the weekend, and when I finally spoke to one late Monday morning,  I was told a contract had been signed that morning.

We also found several that were being sold by banks and not FHA HUD homes.  Nice places that needed a little work, such as fix a deck, paint rooms or put down carpets or tile, all of which I can do.  What I did NOT know and was soon to find out is that banks will no longer give loans on properties that need ANY work at all.  And banks will NOT put carpet in that one room with the subfloor.  Will NOT put in the required stove and will not allow a buyer to until it is purchased and after closing.  The other problem is that more and more of the low  priced HUD homes are listed as “uninsured”, which means FHA will not back the loan, so the home has to be purchased with cash.

So these properties are available ONLY to people who have cash or to investors.  One that I really loved and was listed at $25,000 was sold to an investor for $17,000.  Okay, the bank took a lot less, but no mortgage, no loan, off the books – easier for the bank.  But where does that leave low-income people who are desperate for a home? 

I cannot afford to rent.  Rents here where I am presently are $700 and up for an apartment,  $950 and up for a house.  I only get about $800 a month.  I could not even afford the rent without utilities, phone or internet.  Without food or water bill.  Even if I would move south of here to a depressed area where it is cheaper, I could not rent for $400 and pay utilities.  And there certainly is no place to rent with our animal family.

A home at the $29,000 I have been approved for would be about $230 a month, insurance and taxes included.  This is my only chance to get a place to live.  A house, a HOME.

I did put in an offer on a house about 3 1/2 hours from here and my children.  The house was a HUD home, needed some work, but there was an escrow amount which goes to the bank for repairs, and it was low enough that I could do it.  (For those who know something about mortgages, I have a 203b, not a 203k loan approval).  The house was listed with 1 1/2 acres and in an area I am somewhat familiar with.  I got a call from the realtor and my offer was accepted!  However there was a problem.  The land that was on the listing did not go with the house.  So there was approximately half an acre which was all trees but for the small front yard.  I was heart broken.

Months went by, searching frantically on every site I could find, day and night. I finally decided to try a different route.  I went to realtor.com and for each area put up the LOWEST price houses.  I needed one with a decent roof and good foundation, but many repairs I can do myself.  There were (are) a couple that  I really like, however, they are selling for anywhere from $14,000 to $20,000 and payment has to be cash.  My $5,000 that I have for down payment and closing costs is not nearly enough.

The other idea my friends and I discussed was someone purchasing one of these very low-priced homes for me, me giving them the $5000 I have, then making payments to them for a few years like a mortgage, all of which can be set up with just an attorney.  We found a few problems with this, as the home would not be their primary residence.  Taxes and insurance would be higher (which I could not afford), and they, too, would have to have cash for the remainder of the purchase price.  No bank would lend to them on one of the “fixer upper” homes, and any loan would add back  the price of closing costs.

8 months of looking, making offers, finding out a home doesn’t have a carpet in a room so it has to be a cash deal. 8 months of hopes dashed, frustration, despair and tears.  And still no home.  My loan is a joke.

The photo on this blog is of a home for sale last week.  Pretty nice on the inside with over an acre of land. A friend of mine found it and sent the link, but I was unable to get out due to the ice, snow and flooding here.  It is already under contract.WPpondview

Attempting to save our home

When I re-read the last post, I realized that I written nothing about the many attempts to save our home in those last months.  We did not sit idly by.  Many good people stepped up in an effort to help.

When I first defaulted, the bank sent me a letter stating that if I paid $8,000 on the loan that they would refinance the remainder.  A friend of a friend called me and told me not to worry – that he would come up with the money for the refinance.  A stand of timber was being sold and the money from the sale would be put on the house.  This unfortunately did not work out; the timber deal fell through.  Also, the bank asked for an income statement from me and deemed my income inadequate for the refinancing. 

I went to many places to ask about work, but was told I needed to apply online.  I received neither calls nor e-mails.  It was frustrating and depressing.  Impossible to get hired when no one will call you for an interview.

After this, my oldest daughter 220 miles away went to get a loan to buy my property. The payments would have been approximately $200 a month.  She called me several times to let me know the paperwork was going through and then one day I answered the phone to someone crying.  The loan was denied, even though her income was more than adequate, for she was one who pays in cash.  She did not have bad credit, just NO credit history.  And as this home would have been her “second home”, the loan was not approved.  My heart broke to hear her distress, for she had done all she could to help.   Another plan that did not work out.

We were boarding a horse for a family down the road.  They had purchased a horse that had many health problems and Angel was with us while my daughter Megan doctored her and while her owners put up a fence.  John (name changed)  had just heard that we were going to lose the house.  While we were standing at the fence watching Megan treat Angel’s hooves, he told me that he would buy my six acres with the barns and house for the $25,500 owed to the bank and Megan and I would be able to stay there.  He told me he sure wouldn’t mind owning it, and that it would be a good investment for him. John said for me to give him a couple days to work out details, and not to worry. 

Two days later John was again leaning on the gate as I walked outside and sadly told me how sorry he was, but that the night before he received a call. A big contract had just fallen through.  He would not be able to buy the house.  I thanked him with all my heart for trying, for his kind offer. 

Each time my hopes were soaring, and as one idea after another failed,  my heart broke.  I was on the phone every day calling places in the town, government agencies looking for some type of aid. All to no avail.  Someone told me about an online “help” site, so I started an account and told the story of my dilemma.  Kind strangers ( I made some wonderful friends the years I remained on that site) as well as friends of mine helped us to keep gas in the car and the phone paid, but the huge miracle I needed to keep our home was not forthcoming.

It was over.  There was nothing left to do but contact a realtor and list it at a super low  price, hoping to have a couple thousand instead of allowing the bank to auction our beloved home and leave empty handed.  So people gathered on the courthouse steps the morning of the auction to bid on my home, but no bidding took place, as a sales contract was signed the evening before. 

Looking back, I still do not understand how every attempt was thwarted, why nothing anyone tried worked out.  I still hurt for all those who tried and felt they let me down.  I wish them all the blessings their lives can hold for wanting to help us, for caring, for their attempts.   I lost our home, but I was richer for the people who were there beside me, caring.  Heart hugs to each of them

FUND8 copyWPThis is a photo of Valentine, Megan and her nephew Gavin in one of our pastures on the farm.

The beginning of the end

In December of 2006, we were loaded up and ready to head 220 miles south to our new home.  Megan, my youngest and then 14 years old, and I were very excited – our dream had come true.  I had sold the house we owned on the river and purchased a little farm with 2 barns and 6 acres.  So with our belongings and cats and dog, we set out to begin our adventure in our “forever home”.

So much work, but it was fun!  Changing locations of fences, putting in new ones, painting the barn where our horses would be kept, and also traveling to find Megan the perfect horse, her first horse.  In February of 2007 we traveled to Tennessee and found Valentine, her gray Arabian mare.  She was beautiful and perfect for Megan.  When I told her she could have her if Valentine was the horse she wanted, my daughter burst into tears.  She had drawn a picture of a horse years before with her riding it – a white horse with a pink snip on its nose.  Yes, it was indeed Valentine, and Megan was overcome that it was not just a dream or wish, but reality. Then in March I found my black and white Tennessee Walker, Domino (Alen’s Bow Tie is his official name on his papers).  Shortly after we got 5 chickens to have our own eggs.  Our farm was filling with happiness and much love.  Anyone who visited there said how peaceful it was.  I was in love with this life we had, all the years of my working had come to this, and I couldn’t have been happier.

I had worked at home for Dell Puzzle Magazines since 1983, and we would care for the farm and animals by day and I constructed pencil puzzles and word games by night.  I never made “a lot” of money by most people’s standards, around $22,000 a year, but it was enough.  Our needs were simple. 

Then in late March, about a week after Domino had arrived, I got a call from my editor in New York City.  My job was over.  Twenty five years of being “the puzzle lady”.  Twenty five years of doing what I loved, over in a flash.  My “career”, my heart’s work, gone, just like that.

I applied to other puzzle magazines on the market, but each had their own constructors.  I applied for any job I could find, but the job market had changed.  No longer could one go to a business and the people there meet you and talk with you.  Now applications had to be submitted online.  I was 58 years old.  No one replied with a job.  I heard about the school census and went up to apply there.  I was told I could only apply for one district, even though we were borderline for two.  So I picked one.  Unfortunately the wrong one, for the woman who had done that district years before asked for it again.  I have bad bunions and cannot stand on my feet for hours at a time, yet I applied to stock shelves at Walmart.  I would have crawled on my hands and knees not to lose my home.

I still had some checks coming for work I had done.  We managed to hang on until the middle of 2009.  I only owed $25,000 on our property, but it might as well have been a million dollars. Then the inevitable happened.  The bank put our home in foreclosure.  I gave my beautiful Domino to the nice man who trimmed our horses’ hooves. Megan went outside when the people came to load him in a trailer and take him away.  I could not. I called a realtor and sold our home at a dirt cheap price, the contract being signed the night before the auction on the courthouse steps. We had a household sale and sold most of our furniture for a pittance to pay the last electric bill. My beloved job, my horse, our forever home, our furniture. All our dreams, our life, disappearing a piece at a time, and I was helpless to stop it, to change the nightmare.

Part of the contract deal was that we had 3 weeks after the closing to remain at the property while trying to find a place to go.  We couldn’t rent with all the animals, couldn’t buy as we didn’t have enough money. It was decided we would go to North Carolina with my second daughter and her family and figure out what to do from there. 

The people who bought our home arrived 2 days early with their trucks, dogs, furniture…we had the moving truck mostly packed so we threw in a last few items and closed the doors.  My oldest daughter’s husband was driving the moving truck for us, so Megan and I put the cat carriers and dog in the back of our little pickup truck with a camper shell.  Then I turned and looked one last time.  I could not cry as my heart filled my throat.  I got in, turned to face the road, and drove away.

(photos of our horses and farm are on the next blog.)  This

This was exceedingly difficult for me to write.  Forgive me for any typographical errors.