I am truly honored to introduce you to one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. My friend Stephanie Alison Walker is one of the most talented writers I have ever known. It’s true, it’s a love-fest. I met Stephanie and her husband Bob years ago and I have had the honor of being their friend through some really amazing times and some really challenging ones. Stephanie is one of the people who influenced my decision to start blogging because of her incredible blog, LOVE IN THE TIME OF FORECLOSURE. Stephanie’s ability to write about such a (potentially) horrible time in her life is just so awesome. I remember when she told me she was blogging about her experience with foreclosure. She asked me to read some of her blog and I remember thinking her blog wouldn’t apply to me because I wasn’t going through foreclosure but I read it because she is my friend and I have to say, I’m glad I did. Don’t let the name fool you, just like Scrapbook Rehab, LOVE IN THE TIME OF FORECLOSURE isn’t just about foreclosure the same way my blog isn’t just about scrapbooking. Her blog is about love in the good times and the bad. It’s inspiring, it’s heartbreaking, it’s just plain fantastically written and I think everyone can benefit from Stephanie’s insight. She and Bob are amazing and their journey is worth reading about. Here’s a little taste of it. I hope you enjoy and take a lesson from Stephanie and don’t let anything get in the way of your happiness.
I’m a big believer in creating your own silver lining.
I have always been an optimist. One of those annoying glass half-full kind of people who sees opportunity in every situation. Example. As a kid, when I would misbehave and get sent to my room, rather than sulk for all eternity, I would redecorate. The thinking went like this: I was stuck in there anyway, I may as well try out my bed on the other side of the room.
One time, while banished to my bedroom, I took it upon myself to rip out the dull carpeting in order to expose the hardwood floors that were hidden beneath. Instead of the muffled sound of tears emanating from my upstairs bedroom, Mom would hear the sound of furniture being dragged and pushed about. Immersing myself in an improvement project like that took the sting out of being punished and I always felt like a new person when I was all done. A new room meant a fresh perspective. I felt like I could accomplish anything.
Mom would refer to this lemons to lemonade mentality as resilience. “You’re resilient, Stephie,” she would remind me any time something in life didn’t go my way (God forbid.) Like the time I auditioned for my high school’s Glee Club (called Swing Choir) and didn’t make it. “You’re resilient, honey. You’ll get past this,” she said sweetly and confidently. I knew she was right. I would get past it. “But,” I remember telling her, “I don’t want to be resilient, Mom. I just want to be in Swing Choir.”
Mom continued to remind me of my resilience throughout my life. When I was heartbroken. When I was struggling in school, when I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do with my life. It always helped. Mom’s belief in me, in my resilient spirit.
Then came the most challenging two years of my life during which my resilient nature would be put to the test over and over again.
Between 2007 and 2009 my husband Bob and I faced marital crisis, unemployment, foreclosure and finally, bankruptcy. Any one of those experiences would be enough to destroy a person. And I’m not gonna lie, it, well, it wasn’t easy. Resilience was my lifeblood. I relied on it completely during that time. I trusted that it was true. That I was resilient. That even though it didn’t feel like it, I would survive this. And not only would I survive, I would be better for it.
The marital crisis had nothing to do with the foreclosure. You hear a lot about the stress of foreclosure breaking up marriages. That wasn’t the case with us. For us, the marital crisis struck first. Mercifully. We confronted our marital crisis before our economic… and that is a very important distinction. It was because we had spent an entire year fighting for our marriage that we were able to join together as partners and confront our economic crisis with power, grace and acceptance. We were both very clear that had the foreclosure come before the marital crisis, our marriage wouldn’t have survived.
There was a pivotal moment in 2008 when we were both jobless and penniless when we realized that we could allow this crisis to destroy us. Losing everything like that is something you can’t prepare for emotionally. Thankfully our marriage was rock solid at this point and we were firmly grounded in our partnership. Our priority was clear. Nothing mattered without our love. And so we pledged to love each other through this material crisis. We vowed to rise above it. To learn from it. To grow as humans. To be vulnerable. To not allow it to take us down. To trust each other and share. We committed to each other to be resilient. No matter what.
And a funny thing happened… we discovered that in the face of losing our dream home, we were happier than we’d ever been. How was that possible? Crazy, right? Awesome crazy. Crazy awesome. It didn’t compute. How could we be drowning in debt, losing all of our money and our home and still be happy… happier than we have ever been?
When we received the dreaded “Notice of Intent to Accelerate” from the bank, there was a story in the news about a man who killed his whole family and himself because the bank was about to foreclose on his home. There was another about a woman who set fire to her home and remained inside while it burned. And yet another where a man literally bulldozed his home so that the bank couldn’t have it.
Why did those people’s stories have such tragic endings when our story was shaping up to have a happy ending? Why? Because of the pledge we made. When we made that pledge we put our love, happiness and partnership above anything material. Above money, above a house. We didn’t blame each other. We didn’t blame ourselves. We didn’t carry the burden of guilt. We wouldn’t allow each other to do that. We acknowledged that we got ourselves in this mess and that we would get us out. Though we felt out of control and completely terrified of the unknown, we never let it take us down. We had each other. That’s all that mattered.
I started a blog to share about our experience in the housing crisis and called it Love in the Time of Foreclosure. I shared honestly about the ups and the downs. I wanted to help other people in our situation. I wanted to be a spot of sunshine in the world of foreclosure. Not every foreclosure story has to be a tragedy. People, to my great surprise, started reading it. Planet Money on NPR wrote about it, The Huffington Post, Business Week and the L.A. Times wrote about it. Suddenly I had readers. I had people writing me personal e-mails to share their stories about foreclosure. The generosity of these people amazed me. I felt like I was a part of a community of people redefining the American Dream. Searching out a more fulfilling life and starting over again, determined to learn and not repeat the mistakes of the past. We were in this together. The unexpected benefit of my blog is that it helped keep me true to my promise to rise above. It kept me honest and in communication and didn’t let me hide even when I wanted to.
Bob and I started to create a vision for our future without the house. We played the “If we lost the house” game. We brainstormed exciting rent-free living situations. If we lost the house, where would you want to live? In a lighthouse as lighthouse keepers. On a beautiful campground as campground hosts. We talked about buying an Airstream trailer and traveling the country. We began to realize that a future we had never imagined could actually appear as a silver lining.
Though we weren’t able to save our house, we were able to avoid foreclosure by a matter of days. We sold our house in a short sale in June of 2009. The day we drove away from our house and towards family in the Midwest, we received an e-mail from a woman who had been following our story on Love in the Time of Foreclosure. She was writing to see if we might be interested in housesitting for two years in her 1910 farmhouse on San Juan Island. Living rent-free. I had never even heard of San Juan Island. As we drove cross-country, Bob and I researched. San Juan Island is an island off the coast of Washington State. The bottom line is that it’s rural, remote, surrounded by mountains and Orca whales.
When we shared this new twist in our story, Jenna exclaimed, “Do it! Go live my hippie fantasy!” It seemed crazy, but it also seemed exactly right. This was our silver lining. This was our lemonade. This is exactly what we had been talking about when we committed to each other to make the most of this situation. Who knows what could open up, we said to each other. Who knows, indeed. The universe knew. This was the universe giving us a gift…we would be rude to turn it down.
So we did it. We spent the summer in Chicago and moved to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island only four months after selling our house. And less than a month after arriving, I got pregnant.
It might sound completely crazy, but I’m actually grateful for everything we’ve been through. I am a better person because of it. All of it. So yes. I’ll say it. Thank you, marital crisis. Thank you, unemployment. Thank you, foreclosure. We lost the house of our dreams, but we got the life of our dreams. We are now three years past our short sale and bankruptcy and we are more connected and grounded in our financial decisions than ever before. And the best part of all of this is Malcolm. Our beautiful, wonderful, smart, charming, challenging, crazy fun two-year-old son.
What did we learn from all of this? From marital crisis, housing crisis and bankruptcy? That happiness has absolutely nothing to do with how much crap you have (or don’t have.) That there’s always a silver lining if you’re willing to do the work to create it. And, yep, Mom was right all along. I really am resilient.
Bob and I created a Pledge to Love that helped us every day through our crisis. I’m sharing it with you so that you can use it as inspiration for your own.
The Love in the Time of Foreclosure Pledge
I, insert your name here, pledge:
- To not allow this foreclosure to get the best of me.
- I will mine this financial crisis for every opportunity.
- I will stay in communication with my family and friends.
- I will stay in communication with the bank and my creditors.
- I will learn every lesson there is to be learned from this.
- I will live in the moment.
- I will ask for and accept help.
- I will take time every day to connect with the people in my life.
- I will take time every day to do something that makes me happy.
- I will empower myself to be happy without the need to spend money.
- I will continue to live my life productively and responsibly.
- I will acknowledge my fear and act in the face of it.
- I pledge to Love. To love others, to love myself and to love my life…
- …in the time of foreclosure
- …in the time of hardship of any kind
(To read the LITTOF post about the Pledge to Love
My book- Love in the Time of Foreclosure – click here
My blog – Love in the Time of Foreclosure
Listen to Bob and I being interviewed on The Story