Thursday, December 11, 2014

Real Estate Thoughts

Those of you readers who have followed me through the years (I started writing a blog and detailing my own personal financial collapse back in January of 2008 .... yikes, that long ago?) know that I was bankrupt and completely broke in 2009.

From the middle to the end of 2007, I literally lost everything.  My investment property and my custom built home were both becoming more and more difficult to maintain.  My mortgages totalled in excess of $10,000 a month, although that had been fine as long as the income was incoming.  Also, in 2007, my hoard reached its zenith and my parents (who visited me that year) had managed to make me so bloody angry that I had thrown them out of my house and back onto an early plane ride back to whence they had come. Although my father is a sociopathic nutcase who deserved to be kicked to the curb, I still regret that he managed to anger me so much that he caused me to lose it.  I wish I had handled myself with more dignity.  Still, all of these events just blended together in 2007 and, combined, began to really drag me under.

By 2008, my lucrative real estate job had disappeared like spit on a Mojave sidewalk in summertime.  Overnight,  literally, I was out of a job.  I left my office at 6pm on the Tuesday evening and, by the Wednesday morning at 10am, all of my real estate deals had lost their funding.  As the big real estate investors began to collapse in the financial crisis, the funding that trickled down to the man-on-the-street's ability to fund a residential property purchase via a mortgage just dried up.  It was unbelievable.  I don't think I will ever again see a situation like that in my lifetime though the lord knows, towards the end, I was predicting it.  We all were.

2008 was spent doing something that killed my soul: janitorial work.  I did what I had to do to keep it all going.  There were mortgages to pay and kids to feed but I sunk ..... quickly.  By the summer of 2008, I knew I was going to lose everything and so I had to scramble to keep us all off the streets before the Sheriff showed up at my big iron gates with bolt cutters.  We were just days away from it.  The bank foreclosed on my custom built home right about the same time as the investment bank foreclosed on my investment property.

With everything that was going on at that time, plus the chaos which we were living in at home with my hoard, I am so thankful that I still had the wherewithal to use my real estate knowledge and internet abilities to quickly find us another place to live.  I am equally thankful that I didn't just give up .... I had kids and total failure was not an option.

Cut a long story short: I called in some favors, found some financing from a private party who wanted to make good interest while lending me some money to buy a house, and found a 'robosigner' at the bank at the right time on the right day to sell me a foreclosure in a great neighborhood for far less than market value.  Of course at the time, real estate was falling like a rock off a cliff but I caught it right as it hit bottom.  In fact, I bought my house below bottom even.

And that saved our bacon.

I love my house.  Today, I went on Zillow and realized that my equity has hit the $270,000 mark.  That is how much money I can pull from this house if I sell it now.  Would I have saved this amount of money on the side over the course of the past 5-6 years?  Probably not.  Do I plan on selling my house right now?  No.  I used to truly hate living here in the High Desert but, over the past few years since the kids all left for college, I have come to terms with it.  I live here on my terms.  And I feel 'at home' here in this house, like it really is mine.  When the time comes, it will be hard to leave.

Check out the mortgage progress bar over there to the right ..... I have paid off 10.42% of my 15 year mortgage within 2 years of refinancing.  At the rate I am paying it down, I will have it paid off within 7 years.  Have I also saved enough money over the past 5-6 years to actually pay this mortgage off if I wanted to?  YES.  I did that too.

For me, losing the high paying job has actually been a blessing LOL  I no longer have the funds to blow on fast cars, crap hoarding, houses that are too big for us, and expensive vacations.  I no longer have the funds to spoil my kids with stuff they don't need, or heck even myself with stuff I don't need.  The spouse can no longer go and drop $6000 on music speakers for the garden (!) .... such was our financial stupidity once upon a time.

For some of us, we really do have to hit rock bottom.  But, if we're smarter than the average bear, we can learn something from our experience and grow, make changes, perhaps become better for it.  In several instances of my life, I have had to hit that bottom.  I've had my ass handed to me a few times in this life that have devastated me, no exaggeration, and I've wallowed around in self pity and regret for a time while I tried to deal with it.  But then .... I got back up and dusted myself off.  I've learned finally that oftentimes I have to avoid the tempting situations in the first place that would lead me down the path to ruin if I allowed it.  That, I think, is my biggest takeaway from the whole debacle: I have learned better impulse control and I have finally grown up and that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my thoughts for today on real estate.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Post UK Trip Basic Summary

Hello dear blog readers.  I hope everyone is well and that you all had a nice Thanksgiving holiday.  What's that you say?  How was my Thanksgiving?  Well, against my better judgment, I didn't spend it here in the US.  I did, in fact, return to the UK.  So, my TG sucked, personally, but the spouse held down the fort here and had a very nice 'pitch-in' dinner with the kids and other extended family.  I don't think they missed me at all :P

What can I say?  Blood is thicker than water .... and dysfunctional family binds me like nylon cable ties.  My sibling pitched a fit when I made the announcement that I was not going to be able to return to the UK to help out with what is obviously an untenable situation.  If the Family Cloth was threadbare before, it is now in tatters.  I should've stayed here because NO ONE over there is ready for my no-nonsense approach.  I even surprised myself at the degree to which I have changed.  I am no one's bitch.  It's official.

Where do I begin?  Highlights?  (or LOW lights):

My father has met another woman at the pub and has asked my mother for a divorce.
Seriously.  I had a feeling that something was up last year, when my father got into a fistfight over some old tart at his local boozer.  Apparently, my father was discovered up in her bedroom but he told everyone that he was looking for leaks.  LMAO  Sorry, I can't help it because the whole situation is so damn ridiculous.  Did I ever mention that my father had an affair in the 1970s?  Well, he did.  For months, our household was turned upside down while my father carried on with the wife of one of his friends.  It was "Juliet this" and "Juliet that" ..... even I, as a child, knew that something was seriously wrong.  My father would go AWOL for hours at a time and my mother became a nervous wreck, although she did a far, far better job of holding things together than I would've done.  I am far too volatile and would've reached for a knife ...... j/k (I think).  Anyway, my father was never busted at that time by either my mother or his lady friend's husband and no one ever actually witnessed anything untoward but the rumor mill worked overtime and, as they say, "the actions, they speak louder than words."  It was obvious, even to me at that time, that my father was engaged in some type of involvement with the woman.  Well, here we go again, only this time my father is being up front about his intentions rather than skulking around behind my mother's back.  His behavior and his timing have only added to a very complicated situation.  As for my mother, she is refusing to entertain any notion of a divorce. 

My mother's supposed dementia is nowhere near as bad as UK family members have made it out to be.
I feel deceived because my mother is really not demented .... at least, not to the extent that I was expecting.  Instead, what I feel is that my parents are not going to be married for that much longer and the family in the UK want me to somehow fund a new living arrangement for my mother.  Do you know how the family refers to me?  They call me 'The Rich  American'.  It's OK.  I'll wait while you have a good laugh over that one.  If I heard my sibling say, 'You can afford it!' once .... well, you know the rest.  It's so funny how we perceive others.  The spouse made the mistake of putting some pics of our house up on Facebook and it all seems to have stemmed from that.  Fuck Facebook!  By UK standards (sorry UK!) my house is large and in charge.  In the UK, one would pay a couple million for it for sure.  Not so where I live right now, of course, but the family in the UK are not thinking about that.  They think we have big money.  I was even asked if I had won the lottery.  Unreal.  Based on all of that, the UK family are looking expectantly at me to provide alternate living arrangements for my mother.

My sibling's marriage is hanging by a thread.
Oh and here's another problem, albeit a problem that doesn't surprise me entirely.  My sibling is extremely unhappy and has wanted a divorce for years, apparently.  Only stayed together for the sake of the kids who are now all grown and gone.  My sibling's spouse is an alcoholic and the situation is dire.  Poor health and unable to work.  My sibling is the only one working and paying bills and the load is overwhelming.  It's just like the whole fucking thing has imploded.  My sibling's spouse has also been unfaithful ........

My parents' house is fallling down (in more ways than one obviously).
Roof leaks, mold, broken windows, heating that doesn't work, blocked drains ... it's a nightmare.  Their house is another thing that's imploding, falling in on itself.  This time around, I didn't mince my words.  I called up the landlord and called him a fucking slumlord and to get his ass around to the house to collect a list of repairs that need to be made NOW.  Why my parents and/or sibling cannot do this stuff themselves I do not know, although I will say that a separation of 6000 miles can help at times.  I walked around that fool's office like Clint Eastwood in one of his westerns .... no foolin' yo.  I also enlisted the help of local solicitor (lawyer) to help in getting the remedial work completed.  I am not playing around with this clown landlord, he who collects big rent every month and NEVER does a GD thing in the way of repairs.  It's bullshit.  I wonder how he would like to live in a mold infested building??  My parents?  They don't have a choice.  And now that my father is cavorting around the village with his 'lady' friend, this has become a situation that I have thrown up into the air just to see how it shakes out when it lands.  One thing is for certain, the landlord has a notion that I may indeed be a 'rich American' with money to sue him for being a slumlord.  Let him think that. :D

Meanwhile........... the spouse needs surgery BUT .... the surgeon wants to postpone it for the time being due to a variety of factors.  It is complicated but let's just say that the spouse is going to be monitored very closely until the condition worsens.  Yes, I can hear ya'll wondering what the heck is wrong with the spouse for THAT to be a course of treatment but like I said before, the surgery is life or death and the surgeon does not want to perform surgery unless absolutely 100% necessary.  Just a matter of time though.  We will be at that point soon enough.

What's the forecast?
Ummmmm .... more visits to the UK next year.  I am the only one with cajones in the family (because I got away from them all and reclaimed my life!!) and therefore I am the elected one to deal with the London based landlord.  My sibling is intimidated by said slumlord, who treats my sibling and entire family like rubes.  Humphh.  Not me, pal.

Taking care of the spouse.  He has a new medication regimen and regular medical tests to schedule and show up for.  We have to take better care of ourselves and lose the ever present weight.  The spouse is doing far better than I am at that right now.

Pay off the mortgage.  We want to be free.

Get the kids through the last year of college.  We want to be free.

Retire.  Next year.  He wants to be free.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Next?

It doesn't rain here, it pours.

B, my sibling, called me to let me know that our mother has been diagnosed with dementia.

In addition to everything else, I must now make a quick trip back to the UK before the spouse's surgery.  I plan to stay for no more than 7 days.  I will probably miss the Thanksgiving holiday here this year in order to fit this trip into the schedule.

My road is suddenly becoming bumpier.  Stress levels soaring.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Spouse Spells It Out

Last night, while cooking dinner with the spouse, he asked me how I was doing.

I told him I was doing OK, but that I (and the rest of the family) will be extremely happy once his surgery is over and he is on the road to recovery.

The spouse said that my moods have definitely been 'off' the past week or so and that he was concerned that I was becoming depressed.  It's true .... I have been thinking a lot about the surgery to come but also (again) about some of the things that I have done in the past that will cause me regret until the day I die.  I guess it all gets mixed up and one thought leads into another.  I count my blessings daily but in so doing I sometimes remind myself of how differently things could've turned out had those 'things' gone off on another tangent.  My life could be so different now .... and probably not in a good way either.

Like most people, I go through periods of introspection.  I think about the way certain things have turned out (for the good, luckily) but how those very same things could also have turned out way way way for the bad.  Then I think about the reasons behind why I behaved the way I did in my younger years and I totally know the answers behind the reasons: my parents.

I'm not making excuses for myself (as I've stated many times before) because I take full responsibility for my behavior but I DO blame my parents for instilling such rage and recklessness within me beginning in very early childhood with the way that they behaved.  Their judgmental attitudes and the physical, mental, emotional abuse.  As I've said before, I am scarred for life.

As we were talking while making our dinner, the spouse suddenly said, "You know, even if something were to happen to me, I don't think it's a good idea for you to go back to the UK permanently.  In fact, you need to rethink this whole idea of living with your parents, even for the short term like we were talking about.  It's not going to work."

I thought that was such a coincidence, seeing as how I've been thinking the same thing but really not saying anything to the spouse.  I wanted to keep an open mind, see how things work out. I also don't want to burden the spouse with anything more to think about, seeing as how he has a lot on his mind right now.  Yes, we talked about moving in with my parents after the spouse retires so that we could help them out in their extreme old age.  Perhaps find them a better place to live, help with bills, sort out their hoard and so on.

"Has your mother called you lately?" he asked.
"No, not for a few weeks."
"What's going on there?"
"Well, I opened my great big gob and told my dear mother's friend that my parents' house isn't up for guests."
"Why did you do that?"
"I wish I hadn't."
"It wasn't your business.  You should've just let the chips fall.  Look, you have to know by now that there's nothing you can do for your parents.  Look at your dad.  He received an inheritance and he has gone completely off the radar.  Even B (my sibling) has said the same thing.  B has had enough of it too but ...... they are all birds of a feather.  They stick together and they gang up on you at the slightest provocation."
I acknowledged the spouse: "I know."
"So why are you still worrying about this?  It's time to stop it.  Way past time.  I'm gonna break it down for you.  Your mother is going to die soon, so is your father.  If, at this stage of their lives, they are still going to hold you responsible for the way their lives have turned out, don't you see?  I know we've joked before about you being shotgun but that was years ago.  And if they haven't made their lives work by this time, if they are still angry about you, my little shotgun, then you are just going to have to face the facts.  They are incapable of ever really being 'there' for you.  There is no such thing as unconditional love as far as they are concerned ..... I doubt they even know what that is.  I know they're elderly and all that, but they have never been there for us.  Even when we had the kids.  We were totally on our own."
I acknowledged again: "I know."
"Your dad inherited who knows how much money?  but B says that they are still acting like broke asses ....the roof leaks, they need a new car, B says your mother is wearing shoes with holes in the sole .... what the hell is going on?  We have enough on our plate right now and I want you to stop worrying about your mother and father.  If they can't talk to you like grown adults about what was said and the intent behind it, if they want to sit and stew like they always do ....then leave them to get on with it.  It's done.  It's over.  It will soon all be over.  I'm sorry to say this, but perhaps then you'll be able to move on."

My parents cast a shadow over my life to this day.  No wonder I ran 6000 miles to get away from them.  I knew even then that our relationship could never and would never work.  I could never please them, no matter what I did.  No wonder I started drinking at 9 and smoking at 11.  No wonder B developed a personality disorder.  No wonder I broke out in hives daily for years.  Funny that.  As soon as I moved out of their house and moved in with the spouse, the hives went away and never returned.

"I wanted resolution," I said.  "I wanted to feel that I had forgiven them, which I have, but that they had forgiven me too for whatever it is they are holding against me.  I've just always had to deal with this stonewalling from them.  All the time.  Even now.  I didn't want them to die with our issues unresolved."

"I don't think they care," said the spouse.  "They are wrapped up in their little lives, just as they've always been.  I think you are beating a dead dog now, especially now that your mother seems to be losing it in her old age.  You are going to have to accept things for what they are.  Just as I had to."

The spouse grinned and then ... so did I.  What did I do to deserve this man?!  We both shook our heads in resignation.

"Let's eat.  Crack open that bottle of wine and let's get pissed."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why Can't We Just Get Along?

I used to have so much to say but, these days, I feel as though I have said it all and re-runs get boring.

Right now, I am in the dog house (what else is new) with the UK family.  I mean, honestly, there has really never been a time when I haven't been in the dog house with them.  I always have to watch myself around my parents, and watch what I say and what I don't say.  They are extremely thin skinned and touchy.  My sibling is no better and apparently continues to live life as an extension of our parents.  No wonder there's such misery.  No wonder I left.  And no wonder I will never return.

I have made a firm decision regarding my parents:  I cannot live with them, despite the fact that I am older and wiser.  I will not make an exception to this decision no matter what.  I was kidding myself when I wrote that I would be moving in with them for a few years ..... there is no way on earth that is going to happen.  I hoped that my decades away from the family hearth would change things, that time and age would change us all for the better but, alas, recent developments dictate otherwise.

It is no secret on this blog that my parents live in an old dump.  It's not their fault.  My mother in her old age has made the place as comfortable as possible but the water damage from constant rain and a landlord who will not fix anything have wreaked havoc over the years on the structure.  The house is damp and smelly and moldy.  It is a health hazard and dangerous.  When the spouse and I visited last, we both became very sick and it took us weeks to recover from the visit when we returned home ..... I am convinced that we were exposed to high levels of toxic mold.

Cut to the chase.  An old friend of my mother's, who lives in one of the Southern states, called me up to find out if it would be a good idea to stay at my mother's house while she visited next year.  Of course, me (wanting to be straightforward and honest) told her that it probably would not be a good idea because of the lack of proper facilities, like a functional bathroom for example, and the fact that my mother has a lot of worry in her life right now because of my father.  I just figured that I'd be doing my mother a favor as well as the friend.  The friend has money and lives a luxe life .... my mother's house would absolutely be a house of horrors for the friend.  I know the friendship would not survive and I already know that the friend would check into a hotel after just one night at my parents' house tout de suite.

Well, word got back.

My mother is furious with me and the comments I made and I have once again been given the cold shoulder.  Really, I should've just kept my trap shut and let the friend and my parents duke it out.  Instead of that, my parents have taken great offense to my comments despite the fact that every word I said to the friend was true.  If I was about to stay in a house that was full of mold, I would want to know.  That's me.

I have such a chequered past with my family.  I have to finally, finally accept that their dislike of me is greater than any love they may have for me.   I mean, that's totally true of my father anyway, given the way he used to beat the tar out of us as if we were punching bags.  I am at that place in my life now that I want to just divest myself of anything that doesn't work for me.  And my relationship with my parents just doesn't work.  I can't be around my father for any length of time before he starts jibing and antagonizing me and I can't be around my mother when she behaves like a petulant spoiled child.

Was I wrong to have said what I did?  It was never supposed to have been repeated to my parents as they would've been none the wiser.  As for the friend, should I have just kept my nose out of it and let her do what she wanted to do?  From now on, I think I will keep my opinions to myself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

De-Hoarding Day

I had a very productive day today. 

Took 2 carloads of stuff to Goodwill and sold a bunch of furniture on Craigslist.

I was sorry to see the furniture go .... the items were not those that I really wanted to sell but, given the current situation, there is nowhere else for me to put them.  I still have some furniture in the garage that needs to go and I advertised those things on CL this afternoon.  I'm sure those items will soon be gone, and again it is stuff that I don't really want to part with.  Expensive furniture, still looks very good, still has a ton of life left in it.  Bah.

Here is how a hoarder operates from my perspective:

I will sort out closets and boxes and rooms and put back the stuff I absolutely want to keep.  The stuff that I know needs to go will then get put in bags or back in boxes and then I will store it sealed up in my closet or out in the garage or in little piles somewhere throughout the house.  Then, the stuff will stay there for days, weeks, months, years sometimes.  Because I think I'll need it.  After time passes and I am back sorting again, the stuff will probably make it into the garage and there it will stay for days, weeks, months, years while I look at it every day and while it gets in the way, pisses the spouse off and generally falls underfoot.  Eventually, I will get hit with a real cleaning bug and that is when stuff makes its way to Goodwill or on to Craigslist.  Mind you, I might take the ad off and change my mind about selling .... or just bite the bullet and pray for the stuff to sell.  Which it does.

This morning, I blew a kiss after my office desk as it left out of my garage and down the street, along with a hammock and a gorgeous lamp that I really, really wanted to keep.  This lamp had the most elaborate red velvet pouffy beaded shade EVER .... with tassels!  And embroidery.  I didn't want to sell it at all but I have/had nowhere for it.

A friend is buying some more stuff from me and that will leave out of here tomorrow.

The place continues to empty out .... I'm getting rid of anything and everything that we don't use.  Some of this stuff has been with me for decades.  Since childhood, some of it.

You might think that I couldn't possibly have anything left to get rid of, seeing as how I started dehoarding back in 2008.  But.  I brought too much of the old hoard with me when I moved from the ex-custom house and this is the stuff that I am still trying to part with.  But I will tell you ...... I am really coming to the end of it, to the bottom of that endless barrel.

My house is ever more streamlined and clutter free and I love it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


The spouse took off by himself on Sunday and came home with a shaved head.

He said that, seeing as how everything is out of his control, at least there's one thing he has some control over.  When he presents himself for surgery, there will be one less thing for the nursing staff to do.

No word yet on a surgery date.