The House

We once owned a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath mid-century modern home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. It had views of the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Park Observatory and the San Gabriel Mountains. We loved this house. We were sure it was not only where we would be starting a family but also a wonderful investment.

Then Bob lost his job. And his income was all we had as I was an out of work writer. We had debt. A lot. We were heavily leveraged thanks to the renovation we had just completed.

All we could was sell.

We put the house on the market in August of 2008. A month later, Lehman Brothers went belly up and our economy was sent into a tail spin. This was the beginning of the housing crisis. No one had any clue how bad it was about to get.

The Foreclosure

We received our “Letter of Intent to Accelerate” just before Christmas 2008 after missing three mortgage payments. At that time, Countrywide was not interested in modifying our loan. They were only working with subprime loans and ours was a 30-year-fixed.
I began to fear the worst. I began to fear foreclosure papers plastered all over our house. Or worse- a forced eviction. All of our belongings out on the driveway. Us left with nowhere to go.
We kicked it into high gear. Lowered the price of the house into short sale territory, had weekly open houses and even tried to market the house as a location to Hollywood location scouts.
Days before the bank was to foreclose on our home, the bank accepted our short sale offer. We literally avoided a bank auction by days. How? Well, that’s all in a handy dandy blog post I wrote titled (aptly) How we AVOIDED foreclosure.
The Love
This is the most important part. This is everything. The story begins on a 500-mile charity bike ride from Minneapolis to Chicago (the AIDS ride) in 2000. That’s the when and the how we met. For me, it was love at first sight.
We moved to L.A., we got married and we bought a condo. At the height of the housing market, we sold the condo for a large profit and bought a house. Then we renovated the house. And in the midst of the house renovation we discovered serious cracks in our marriage. So we went to work on them. Immediately. These cracks threatened to tear down the entire marriage.
Therapy three times a week. For a while. Half a year? About that. It made all the difference. It was transformational. Our marriage and our love was more solid than ever. We confronted our individual demons. We breathed new life into our love.
Then the financial nightmare.
As I wrote in my blog post “Between a Marriage and a House”

 

The single most powerful reason we’ve been able to keep this whole mess in perspective is because a year and a half ago we came very close to losing something much more valuable than a house: our marriage.

 

Our priorities were crystal clear. We cared about each other, our marriage and our love. The house was just a house. The important thing is that we finally were truly there for each other more committed than ever.

I am someone who is utterly determined to create opportunities out of difficult situations. Just as in the midst of our marital problems I was able to see the opportunity of creating the marriage of our dreams, our financial ruin was the opportunity to create the life of our dreams.

We promised each other that no matter what, we would focus on that. On the lessons we needed to learn. And how to grow from the situation. Losing everything, we felt, could actually be a wonderful opportunity to create an amazing life.

With that attitude and commitment firmly rooted, we faced each day of our foreclosure. And that is how we were able to grow our love and happiness in the midst of such uncertainty.

I am a sucker for a good triumph over adversity story and I was determined to create my own. Luckily so was Bob.

The Twist

Every good story has a twist. Ours appeared out of nowhere on the day we were handing the keys over to the new owners of the house. We had sold 90% of our belongings and were headed back to the midwest for the summer to live with my family. Beyond that, we had no plan.

Until…

The twist. An e-mail. From a reader of this blog. I saw it in my inbox as we were saying goodbye to the house. Driving away. For the final time.

This reader had just bought a 1910 farmhouse on San Juan Island and was wondering if we would like to live there rent-free for two years as caretakers.

After a lovely summer working in Chicago and being with family, we got back in the car and drove to Washington State. We boarded a car ferry in Anacortes and headed to our new home in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.

One month later, I discovered I was pregnant. Nine months later, our son Malcolm James Walker was born.

Sometimes things really do turn out for the best.

If you’re interested in reading more about our time on the island, you can visit the blog I kept while we were there: Two Years on an Island.