Thursday, February 23, 2012

The American Tragedy Part 2

I was feeling really terribly that I left you all with such sad news and with sort of a negative post; the one about Shasta.  But, to be honest, that is sort of how life has been around here...But that is sort of how life has been for MANY people, for a VERY long time; so I am still smiling and laughing each and every day.  And knowing that many of these things are a natural part of any ranchers life; and that I would not be a good rancher if I did not take them so DEAR TO HEART.

So it is time to get over my pity party and get back to work.  I don't have many months left here at The Royal Ranch and I need to make every minute count.  I don't know if I have made the point enough times, but I am a full time student at Ohio Christian University now also; so life is a bit hectic, what with eggs in the incubator, kids running to and fro, new turkeys adjusting to our ranch routine and of course online studies to be done.

I am orchestrating the move of an entire ranch/family that will also entail a huge downsizing (which is a good thing in my book) and still taking on new projects.  Yes, you heard that right.  Why?  Because I feel that this particular project is one that will help my family, my new homestead and my community.  I will get further into it in another post, because I have really used my negotiating skills to get this project off the ground!

Today I want to talk a bit further about the banks (and bank bailouts).  Simply because I said I would.  I am not going to spend much of my energy on them because frankly they don't deserve much of my energy anymore; but what I do want to share is some useful tips.  I told you all our story in the first post of The American Tragedy.  I also told you all in that first post that our belief is that this foreclosure mess in America is due to the bank bailouts.

Okay, so I am no financial genius.  From here on out you are going to assume some of your own risk.  But I mean this country has a financial epidemic on it's hands.  We went to our county's Public Trustee's website to figure out about foreclosures in our county and did you know that only banks buy up foreclosures?  Not one has been sold to a private person in the last year.  That's right they take them, buy them back and then sit on them.  Why?  In my opinion, so that they can tell us tax payers that it is a loss and then when the market gets better they will put them all for sale; which by the way will be no good for the recovering market.

I mean, I just went to go pick up the links for this story and started getting a damn headache  from reading it all.  I can't do it Dear Rebels.  So if you want to do some reading on what all is happening to folks, have a go at this article (don't forget the comments, that is half the story!).  Or this one, because it is where I got a good piece of advice.  Well, I hope so anyway.  I filed a complaint with the OCC (Offices of the Comptroller of the Currency); which so far hasn't shown to do anything, but at least I feel like I am doing something and they are not just going to get away with this scott free.

Next, if you are in this or any other legal issue for that matter; make sure and read every line of every piece of paper that you are sent, and even more importantly do it in a timely fashion as their are "due dates" on many items.  Now, this may sound like common sense to some, but it simply is NOT.  When a person finds themselves in a place like I have the past few weeks, and that is simply inundated with work and pretty much grief stricken; common sense does not play a role.

I got a mailing from the attorneys that are foreclosing on our homes, and of course this mailing pissed me off.  So, being the Rebel that I am I had set it aside and not thought much about it.  Well, it just so happens that it was The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act that they are required to send me and it actually had some really helpful information in it so if I hadn't read each and every little bitty, and they do make sure it is little bitty, line of it, I would not know that they have to provide me with quite a bit of information before they can just foreclose on my home.  The catch of course is that you have to ask for this information, in writing, within thirty days.

So they are of course hoping you, as a dummy don't read the tiny writing and won't do the awkward wording of how in the hell am I going to ask them for all of that stuff and make it sound just so?  And within their time-frame no less?  Well, at least I was.  So, lo and behold my class right now is Intro to Computers and we are learning Microsoft Word; can you believe that in that program is a template for exactly what I needed?  I mean this letter even quoted The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and a court case that supports it and everything.  So there is help out there for us dummies folks, don't despair.

Lastly, we got a delivery from a Deputy of an affidavit that has some helpful information on it that we are following up on as well.  This program is something called Deferment; and I don't know much about it except that it goes through the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline and it gets you set up with a HUD counselor if you are approved.  I must admit I am a tad bit leery of this program as it is another government plan (gee, we've had such great luck with those so far...) and they are for people who intend to keep their properties as their PERMANENT RESIDENCE.  Which I am not sure we can commit to.  Wink, wink Big Brother.

You know that anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law...or something like that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ode to Shasta

Shasta and Shade

Please Lord, wake me up from this nightmare that I am in.  Oh wait, I am fully awake and this is my real life.  Last night I went to put my daughter to bed and our Baby Girl Shasta was lying peacefully on her bed like she had been all day.  When my daughter grabbed her to cuddle up for the night she made an odd sound and her mouth sort of fell open; I tried to act normal and finish putting My Bell to bed and took the cat out of the room to my husband.

She was gone within minutes.  She made one more noise, a loud meow and then she was gone.  My husband and I just stood there in total shock, our beloved Raggedy Ann Doll Kitty was gone forever!!!  She got this reputation from years of being carried around like a rag doll; literally being tossed over the shoulder of many children with her arms on either side of their necks.  She would hug them as if her little life depended upon it and let them take her wherever they were headed off to play...

Although most visitors to the Royal Ranch did not even know that we had Shasta as she was very shy, but she had a soft spot for the children, especially our son Austin.  She was drawn to him from the very beginning of his and our oldest son Thomas' friendship so many years ago; and she would sleep on him whenever she got the chance!  Their next visit home will not be the same without her...

In loving memory of the best Raggedy Ann Doll a girl could EVER ask for.  We love you dearly, Shasta.

PS  When I clicked on the link to find it for Shade, I re-read that post and thought GEEZ, if I only knew then what I know now....  Yes, the loss of Shade really was an indicator of times a changin'; I have lost my herdsire, Marcel since then, which to be honest really made me lose my passion for llamas...  Now the loss of my beloved Shasta.  The loss of The Royal Ranch is taking its toll on us all it seems; it is most definitely time to move on and get a fresh start.  When we told our kids about the foreclosure, my son Nathan said that it was okay because he thinks that this place may be poisoning us and after what has been going on I'm not too sure if I don't agree with him.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Silver Lining

Okay, so just moments ago I posted about our foreclosure, literally.  But I am going to let this post sit in my drafts folder for a few days for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost so that my first post in this series gets it's full amount of time in the spotlight so to speak; and secondly because this part of the story, too is one that is unfolding daily and will be the fun part to share.

You see, when I made the decision to go public with this Foreclosure deal, I talked to my family about that decision and how it would affect each and every one of us.  Not that I am like famous or anything, but word will get out a little faster this way....  Specifically, I asked my parents for feedback on the first article I wrote.

Well, Mom felt obligated to tell the family before it hit the airwaves, which I entirely respect.  What I didn't expect was for my family to react the way they did.  My Uncle and Aunt will be arriving this weekend with a large bale of hay and my Grandpa is making a tuition payment for us!

Which brings me back around to one of the reasons I wanted to write this piece.  I wrote in The American Tragedy about us making decisions, not mistakes, throughout this process and I would like to clarify that a bit.  We have chosen to pay for our boys to go to school as much as we can instead of them going into debt.  Yes, they have taken on debt for themselves, but we are paying for as much as we can.  Some people may say that is a mistake; I for one was not willing to start my kids out with a pile of debt.

Another thing that I think a family needs to really and truly look at when they get to a point that we are in is if they are living above their means.  And we are to the point that we know we are, and we are done with living that way.  The hard part for many families, as it was with us, is that we weren't living above our means at one time.  With the change in economy and the added medical expenses it happened slowly over time.

We are so excited to be moving on and ready for the next phase in our lives.  Although it is scary to be downsizing at this stage; it is a necessary evil.  I will share some of these tips and tricks with all of you too, if that is what you want, give me some feedback here...  So far, one of my rules is if it isn't antique or in isn't going!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An American Tragedy

     Every day at 5:30 am my favorite radio station plays our National Anthem; normally I look forward to this and if I have a hat on, I proudly toss it off and place my hand over my heart (even if I am driving) and belt it out!  And I am sure whenever the Pledge of Allegiance is said, my voice can be heard ringing out clearly above the rest; that was until yesterday, and ironically I had to lead both of them in one day.  Yesterday, I slowly took off my hat, and I sang, but more with a dutiful song in my heart; my daughter was with me, we must teach them respect.  And when I led the Pledge of Allegiance at my meeting in the afternoon, my voice was the same as the others; I just didn’t have it in me.
      This is a very difficult story to share because it is so very personal, but if it were to help another family or two from making the same mistakes, no decisions that we made then this is a well worth it piece.  Where do I start?  With the loss of 1/3 of our income?  Maybe I should start with a real bang and try and explain those pesky medical bills, you know the almost $30,000 worth (even though we are considered well insured)?!?  The loss of our home?  No, to be honest I want to start with my family, because that is what really matters to me…bottom line.
      Well, if you haven’t met me, my name is Judy Jeute.  Up until last week, I was probably the most proud American you could meet.  My husband Tom (who is a machinist by trade, biker by choice) makes parts that go up into space (!) and for all sorts of medical parts; all of which are proudly stamped with Made In USA.  Together we have so very proudly raised the most amazing family; we now have two sons in college, a sophomore in high school and a sixth grader!  And I truly don’t mean to brag, but everyone tells me that they are the most respectful kids you’ll ever meet.  :)
       I’m really not sure what came first, my back going bad or the loss of income, it really all seems somewhat of a blur now; but in 2008 I started feeling hip pain.  It took my organized health care company two years to find a severely ruptured and herniated thoracic disc.  In October of 2010 I had to have emergency surgery after I had to write a letter to said organized health care because my doctor was literally joking and betting my husband a "nickel“ about the size my disc would be in the MRI he incorrectly ordered.  I now have permanent and severe nerve pain, but I am blessed to be able to walk.
      The loss of income is the same old American story, I’m afraid.  The bottom fell out of the economy and then our President decided to not support our space program which directly affected any company sending parts into space (!).  But I had also been working on building our small businesses; building our dreams.  We have been living on our little ranch here on the mountain and sharing our passion for it with the rest of the world.  That is really hard to do with a broken back…but I am the type of gal to roll with the punches, so I kept our website up.  Hoping that someday I would get better, and not only that, but I am always changing my business plan to adjust to my life changes.
       The first time we almost lost our home it was because of the HAMP program.  We had a heck of a time getting on that darn program in the first place, but I did it; all the while fighting for my life practically with an organized health system that would not listen to me.  Anyway, we finally got accepted into the program, did all of our trial payments and then less than a week before our first permanent payment was due they told us that our payment would be raised more than $450.  I don’t know many families of six that have a spare $450 in a week’s notice and we started off on the bad foot, and it all went downhill from there.  We ended up paying over $10,000 to pull it out of foreclosure.
       Right away we started getting calls from our mortgage company (Wells Fargo) that they could help us with a lower payment and a new in-house modification.  Although I was suspicious, we proceeded, thinking what could it hurt?  I got really concerned in December when our Home Preservation Specialist told us not to make a payment as it would “skew” her numbers.  In January we were told we had a good deal going and were even given preliminary terms, although they were terrible; they would have us automatically upside down in our home, we had dreams so it didn’t really matter.  We were told we would hear back by the 27th of January.
       On the 31st I was on the phone with a really nice representative from our second mortgage, which also happens to be Wells Fargo because it was one of those fancy deals where they “roll part of our mortgage into a second” thing…  Anyway I decided to tell this nice lady my concerns; like how Tom and I had each been leaving multiple messages and not hearing back and that we had been told not to make payments and that now I was afraid we were in a position of foreclosure again.  This wonderful gal finally got through to someone who just coldly told me that indeed our home is lost.  We have been denied our modification and we are in foreclosure.
                The sad thing is how we were denied.  They used my own hard working drive against me; the fact that I kept my website up and intend to not take this back injury lying down and want to still be a contributing member of society.  When we told them Tom had lost his overtime due to the bad economy, they saw that he gets 2.5 hours each week opening up the shop (on each and every paycheck that we sent, probably 12-14+) because he is the foreman, they took that out of the equation because it is not “reliable income”.  But what really concerns me is the dates of everything; our house was being taken back much faster than this modification process was working.  If we are lucky it looks like we have four months left in a home that we brought our youngest home to.
Which brings me back to my spectacular family; we actually only started out as five.  We officially grew to six when we adopted our oldest son’s best friend due to a tricky family situation.  His father wouldn’t fill out the paperwork to send him to college and we needed to get his cleft pallet fixed before adulthood or there is no fixing it at all.  We thank our lucky stars each and every day that he accepted us as his family; he is an amazing kid and will make us very proud parents when he graduates alongside our other son at college in 3 ½ years.
But our three boys are active; and alongside my multiple MRI’s, surgery, etc. for my back injury (that we never will find out exactly what injured it, I have severe Degenerative Disc Disease as well which may have caused it along with ranching and the good/hard life) we have had broken bones, head injuries and concussions.  All of which really add up when a family is called co-insured; with very high deductibles, co-pays, etc. but even higher premiums for both us and Tom’s employer.  It adds up to almost thirty grand of debt.
When I applied for Social Security Disability like my doctor encouraged me to do, to try and help out with some of these crazy bills they called me before they even had all of my documentation and literally laughed.  Laughed because I had been self-employed for all of those years before this happened, I was not entitled to any government income.  I went for help at our local resource center; if you have ONE child and an income under $75,000 you are considered in the high-risk category; but somehow with Tom’s income we simply didn’t match the criteria for one assistance program.  It was so very kind of that resource center to pay one of our heating bills with their own local money; a one-time deal.
I am not concerned about my family; we are a strong, well bonded unit that can withstand any storm that is tossed our way.  As I said, we have a plan and we have dreams; although as I write this I am totally shell shocked and in mourning for a home that is so full of memories and the markings of a family being raised; but the memories we will carry with us.  In a few days we will recover, strap on our boots and begin to pack up a lifetime.
My concern is for our country.  This, my proud family of six and the situation we are in, is a prime example of bank bailouts and organized health care.  But, we are one family in hundreds of thousands that this is happening to; and I for one think that is criminal.  As I said, this was a difficult story to share, but one worth getting out there if it will stop one more family from losing their home.  So where do we go from here?  Stay tuned.  I intend to talk more in the upcoming posts about the hows and whys of why I believe this was due to bank bailouts and why I believe that organized health care is a terrible idea.  I also will give some specific examples and tips as we go through the foreclosure process.  Again, if it can help another family, I am all for it.

Judy Jeute