The Great Recession was rough on us. If you’ve followed our story at www.theboxcarkids.net/wordpress at all you will know that. A series of unexpected events and some very bad timing conspired to fracture our lives in some very basic and damaging ways from which we have not yet recovered.
To recap so that you don’t need to read all the earlier posts in my blog – in 2006 I brought home my fourth child from China, a son! He was born with a heart defect but it had been repaired in China and when he arrived home at the age of 3 the cardiologist checked him out and gave him a green light. His heart looked good and we didn’t need to return for 2 years. I had a good job in the environmental industry and we lived in a very nice house in Colorado.
Our house in Colorado
But my son, who was small for his age, despite his favorable bill of health from his heart specialist, did not thrive and his pediatrician and I spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out why. He was a mere 28 lbs when he came home and nearly 2 years later he weighed the same amount! At our 2 year heart check up the reason was revealed. After many tests the cardiologist explained that my son’s lungs had been affected in the months before his heart was repaired and living at a high altitude was just too much for them. He recommended we move to sea level.
So I found a new job in California, but this being 2008, we were unable to sell our house. A neighbor came up with a solution for us – a member of her church was homeless and needed a place to live with his sons. He was a handyman and could make some minor repairs we needed while renting our house until he could get back on his feet (his wife had left him) and we could find a buyer. We handed over the keys and moved to California where we rented a house with the option to buy once our house sold. At first it seemed like our prayers had been answered – my new job required a bit of a commute but seemed like a good fit and my son gained nearly 6 pounds in the first few months.
The one issue was our renter. Aside from a small deposit before we left Colorado, he had not paid any rent! He ignored my phone calls and eventual eviction letter and we were forced to go to the courts to have him removed. Unfortunately the courts were backed up with similar cases and we were not able to get a court date for months. In the end he lived rent free for over six months, sold or disposed of property we had left stored in the garage and basement, and vandalized the property. Although we received a judgment against him he merely skipped town with no forwarding address.
We had several sales fall through as borrowers were unable to get loans and in the end lost our house to foreclosure as I was unable to pay both mortgage and rent. During this very stressful time the environmental industry began shedding jobs in reaction to the downturn in construction. With fewer new developments environmental permits were not as needed. My company went through several rounds of layoffs and as last hired it was inevitable that I should end up under the ax.
In July 2009 I was laid off and very soon after that our landlord gave us notice. In August 2009 we were living in two tents in the state forest campground. I was certain it was temporary but as I networked with ex-colleagues I found more of them were also unemployed and looking for work. It was to be a long uphill struggle.
When my severance check came in we purchased a 27-foot travel trailer and moved from the state park to an RV park. Five people, two (small) dogs and a cat – it was close quarters to say the least! My second daughter spent six months living with friends all the way across the country to free up space and I missed her dreadfully.
My son, giving our house a wash!
We lasted nearly two years in that trailer as I took on a variety of part-time jobs and worked as an independent consultant writing, editing and doing small archaeology projects. I started my blog and found support and encouragement from my readers.
When the opportunity came we moved up to a slightly larger trailer – it was a relief to have a working stove and a refrigerator that was larger than the dorm sized model! But RV park living wasn’t good for the kids. There was no safe place to play and sometimes our neighbors were surly, mean or outright dangerous people.
As the recession dragged on and jobs in my industry failed to appear I was forced to make a decision for the health and safety of my family. We had to leave California and move to the Midwest where we had relatives who were willing to take us in. So we packed up our old mini-van and filled a U-haul trailer to the brim and headed east last summer, arriving in the middle of a heat wave and drought that had me wondering if moving had been the right idea!
Weather aside it has been the right idea – the kids are doing great, excelling in school, and becoming involved in sports and extracurricular activities like 4H. My son in particular is thriving under the influence of several male relatives and friendly neighbors who are introducing him to hiking and fishing and other outdoor activities. We have started a small hobby farm – raising Kiko (meat) goats and I’ve found a part-time job that provides a very small income. To improve our finances I’m going back to school (not an easy decision at my age) in an accelerated program that will result in a teaching certification in a year. I was able to win a competitive fellowship that will pay much of my tuition costs for this program.
Our goats – Ginger, Nutmeg and Honey
And our relatives have agreed that we can put a home on their property, next to the goat barn we currently use. We’ve gone through the permitting process and have all the necessary permissions from the county. Now we just need to raise money for the home (most likely a mobile home, although we are looking at a variety of options including a Pole Barn style home) and for installation of a septic system and well (there is no ‘city’ water here).
Our Home Spot
We are very grateful to the relative who has given us shelter for the past year. Having a family of five shoehorned into his house with the attendant noise and chaos has certainly disrupted his quiet bachelor life! Now it is time to move on – to a place we can call our own, where we can have some more space, privacy and autonomy. We have all been sharing very small spaces for years now and my growing daughters need their privacy as does their aging mom! We are hoping some of you can help us make this happen.
We need to raise money for the house itself, the septic installation ($10,500) and a well. We have essentially no furniture (one dresser and one bunk bed) or household goods to speak of and much of the little we have was left in California so we would like to raise money to have it shipped to us.
If you have been with us during this crazy journey you know we are a tough, roll with the punches family. We don’t give up or fall apart. We have fought hard to stay together, healthy and sane and it hasn’t always been easy. Actually let me rephrase that – it has never been easy! I invite blog readers to recount their favorite story from this journey! But during this time we have continued to try and help others when we could, to stay busy and productive, to do well in school and keep our spirits up. We are relieved beyond words to finally be on the doorstep of having a real home again and we are very grateful to everyone who has helped along the way and who is helping us with this final push!
I’m hoping the next time my son draws a picture of his home it won’t look like this one:
You can see our fundraising campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/32ox3g Please consider helping us by sharing the campaign with your circle of friends. It really will take a village to raise this house!