poor. There was a mortgage, a car payment, student loans, a small amount of consumer debt, and not much cash flow. We were making it work every month, but it just felt that at our rate we were never going to hit a sweet spot - the place where bills are paid, all the material needs are met, and no one's holding their breath praying nothing unexpected or costly would occur before the next pay period. We weren't unwise or even just plain stupid with our finances, but we got to the place that we just wanted some advice and guidance...and some extra money wouldn't have hurt, either.
Enter J.G. (why I think I have to speak with code names I really don't know). J.G. is the vice president of the mortgage department in our bank. We set up a time to come to his office and talk through options to improve our cash flow. Should we refinance our house at a lower interest rate? How about roll all of our remaining debt in with a refinance so we would have one payment? Or maybe we should try to pull out some equity in a line of credit? Maybe the bank offered a You-guys-are-really-great-and-are-totally-worth-some-free-money-just-because-of-your-shining-personalities kind of loan. Who knew? We didn't know what to expect, but we wanted, and needed, to find out.
We went. He asked questions; we answered. We asked questions; he answered. That much, we expected. What we didn't expect was the calm, steady counsel we received from J.G. It turns out that we could have refinanced our home, or rolled debt into a refinance, or gotten an equity line of credit. Yeah, we could have. But at a defining point, lacking any iota of condescension, J.G. leaned back in his chair, and said something to the effect of: "Listen, if you guys were my kids I would just say, 'hang in there'. Keep doing what you are doing, plugging away at your debt, trying to live within your means. Remember how close you are to seeing some of this debt totally paid off and just keep focused." Ouch. There was nothing instantly gratifying about that nugget of advice. There was, though, in that moment this surreal feeling that we had just received a wound from a friend, though we had never met him before. I assure you, this was most unexpected. We left there a bit deflated with no more cash in hand or hopes for any more than when we got there, but also with a renewed sense that we were doing as we should, doing right in our finances, and that we were in a season of learning diligence and the art of delaying gratification, trusting that there is both a springtime and a harvest.
So, we did it. We kept plugging away. Not long after our encounter with J.G. we took a months-long personal finance class that helped us even further in our budgeting and planning. We nervously but whole-heartedly set goals for paying off our debt, building up some savings, and loosening the budget some. And not a little bit miraculously, we started seeing the goals being met one at a time. Amazing. J.G. was right, in every way. He did not know us, but he honored us enough to give what we needed more than money - wisdom.
So from then to now a few years have passed. Little Big Man and Pretty Baby have shown up on the scene, and Brilliant Beauty is nearly done with her elementary education (I think I just blacked out). That all brings us to here: to days like the ones reflected in this blog where I winnow, try to use it or lose it, and keep the us-es higher priority than the stuff; here, where we are deliberating over more square footage, deciding to step out, and placing a For Sale sign in the yard.
Enter J.G. (seriously). Now, let me clarify that we had no preexisting relationship with J.G., or any semblance of one following that morning in his office years ago. Like so many other people or experiences, even ones that leave a significant impact, he had more than sort of faded to a memory, taken on a "Who? Oh, yeah, him." sort of status. But when we started the process of being preapproved for a mortgage loan this time around, J.G. was the man we happened to get connected with at the bank. Pretty neato.
So, blabbity, blabbity, blah, blah, blah (a bit late for attempting to cut it short now, eh?)...A For Sale By Owner sign in the yard: check. Flyers at the curb: check. Loan preapproval attained: check. Lots of great buying options around us: check. A buyer for our house: uh, nope. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
But then comes that ringing phone. It was J.G.
The bank found themselves to be the not-so-thrilled owners of a beautiful home in our area that had defaulted back to them. In these economic days of wacky weirdness, even banks are finding creative ways to make every effort to find themselves in the black and not the red. I'm not talking the shady stuff, just some of the unconventional stuff. The home was super lovely, but way above our price range. This wasn't the offer. There was already a local family (we'll call them "Other Family") interested in the bank's property, but they had not been able to close the deal because their home had been on the market for nearly nine months and not sold. J.G. wanted to know if we would be interested in viewing Other Family's home. If we liked it and felt it would fit our wishes and needs the scenario would be a two-part swap and would work like this (it can get a little jumbled, so stick with me here):
Swap 1 - Other Family would buy the bank's house ---- the bank would buy Other Family's house
Swap 2 - we would buy Other Family's house from the bank ---- the bank would buy our house
If we liked what we saw and decided to move forward, after the swapping the bank would go from owning a property costing in the $200,000 range to owning one that costs less than $95,000, Other Family would get their dream home, and we would get ours. Win-win-win.
Sounds too good to be true? Yeah, it does. But it isn't.
We went to see it and fell in love. It is within walking distance from Brilliant Beauty's school, on a quiet cul-de-sac. Each kid could have their own room. It's on a beautiful partially wooded lot with a portion of the backyard fenced in for the kids to play. It takes our square footage up considerably (to about 1,950 square feet from our current 1,100 square feet) without being too much house. There's a rocking chair front porch and a beautiful back deck. I could go on and on, I realize, because there is so much I love about it. I could not have picked something more perfect. We talked to J.G., expressed our desire to pursue the offer, and sat back and watched. Swap 1 has taken place, putting Other Family in their home this past Thanksgiving. I know they are thrilled. Swap 2 is down to it's final moments, and we are trusting and believing that we will be in our new home within days.
Ma Luffin' Mayun and I have talked about the movie Apollo 13, the fact that it has been said by the men and women involved in that infamous mission that had everything which had gone wrong been depicted in the movie, it would've no longer been believable and would just become the stuff of science fiction. That is how I feel about this home and these turns of events. I could write a -Part 3, -Part 4, and -Part 12 to these last posts, filling them with the most lavish and most basic details of the things involved in this whole transaction. Truly amazing. I am dumbfounded and in awe.
So the cat is out of the bag. I have spent a year winnowing a home for so many personal reasons. I have also tried to winnow within myself all the things that clutter and create chaos. I know now, too, that I have winnowed a home as a preparation for something I could not have foreseen; setting up a new home with new systems and new challenges. If you have come this far - into the post, into the blog, into my life - thank you for bearing with me. I'm so excited for the winnowing to come, for the continued learning of how to use it or lose it, to find a place for everything and everything in it's place. We'll just simply head 'em up, move 'em out, and do it all from a new address.