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

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