Bankruptcy and Security

One of our Kitchen Countertops
One of our Kitchen Countertops

I don’t even know what the kitchen counter tops in our kitchen were made out of.  But by the time we bought the house they were as old as that rest of the kitchen which was updated in 1956.  They were a soft brown linoleum like material with grease encrusted metal edges.  I imagined them infused with over 50 years of  food stuff which was now growing invisible worlds.   I was disgusted at the thought of touching them.  New countertops were out of our budget so I covered them with contact paper, something I thought so out of date,  I was surprised our hardware store carried it.

That was three years ago and for the past eight months I’ve been thinking it was time to change the contact paper which was starting to peel at the edges.   But something had happened that kept me from doing it.   Jon and I realized in April that we could no longer live the way we were living.  That we had acquired too much debt over the past four years trying to keep Old Bedlam Farm from going into foreclosure. We couldn’t keep paying the loans and our monthly bills.  And although we sold the old farm, what we sold it for didn’t payoff the mortgage.    The money just wasn’t there.  We decided to declare bankruptcy.

It wasn’t an easy decision and one we’d been thinking about and talking to our account and lawyer about for months.  When the conversation first started I never imagined we would actually have to take that route.  But as the months went on and things didn’t get better and money got so tight, there were times buying groceries was something we had to put off, we knew it was the best thing for us.

I found a certain relief with the decision but I was also struggling with the emotions of  trying to see some of my life time beliefs about money and responsibility in a new light.  A part of me knew from a business sense it was the right decision.  But dealing with the feelings of shame and failure were not as clear.

So I was nervous walking into our Bankruptcy Lawyers office for the first time.  I was sure of our decision but still uncomfortable with the thought of being judged.   We quickly found out that he was on our side and completely understood our situation.  But what I didn’t expect was when he told us we might lose our house.

That was something we were assured by another lawyer could never happen.  All along, in my mind, our home was not at risk, and when I heard it might be, it rocked my world.  I wanted to cry and I think I wiped away a few tears, but there are some times when crying doesn’t make things better.   Similar to when we found out that Jon needed Open Heart Surgery, I went into survival mode.  In seconds I thought of all the stories I’ve heard over my life time of people being forced out of not only their homes but their countries by war and natural disasters.  People who lose not only their possessions and livelihoods but their families and friends.  This wasn’t in any way close to any of that.  I  pushed my  shock and fears into a dark corner inside of me and told myself we’d be alright.  We could handle whatever we had to.

When Jon and I moved into our house I told him I felt like I could stay there the rest of my life.  I’ve moved a lot in my life and never felt like I wanted to stay long in any of the homes I lived in.  This house was different.

For eight months we lived in limbo, not knowing if we’d be staying in our house.  I dealt with it the way I learned to deal with “not knowing”.  I tried to live in the moment.  That’s why I didn’t replace the contact paper on the kitchen cabinets.  It wasn’t the money, contact paper costs less than a cup of tea at the Round House Cafe.  I was keeping my emotional ties to the house at bay.  Holding off on anymore  emotional investment in my home.  I planted the Dahlia garden and weeded the flower beds and put petunia’s in the planter on the back porch,  but I didn’t buy any new perennials.

It as an emotional time.  Jon coming to terms with what this meant to his idea of himself as a man and provider and me once again  figuring out what was really important.  My whole life I believed the idea that if you own your own house it means you’re successful.  It also meant security.   I always thought that when I was old and alone, if I owned my house,  I wouldn’t have to worry about not having a place to live.

But at the prospect of losing our house, and perhaps not being able to buy another one,  for the first time it made me really consider what security means.   And I came to see that it had to do with the people around me.  The ones who offered emtional support and even possible solutions about where to live.   And I knew that what really mattered was that Jon and I could continue to do our work and keep the animals.  And it didn’t really matter where we did that and perhaps there were even better places for us to be than where we were.

And I then knew that security doesn’t have to do  owning a house or money, but that it’s  something inside of me that trusts that no matter what happens I’ll be able to do what I need to do to live my life.  And to know that I have the strength to make the changes Jon and I would  need to, even if that meant giving the animals away, to continue our work and lives together.

There was another important  thing to come from this whole experience.  It was that Jon and I were good to each other throughout it all.  We could rely on each other, and lean on each other and support each other without blame or anger.  We were in it together and got through it lovingly.

And then, in November, after negotiating with the bank, we came to an agreement that would work for all of us.  We would be able to keep our home.   That weekend I found myself cleaning out the kitchen cabinets.  Throwing away the outdated food and scrubbing the shelves.  I bought contact paper and started putting it on the counter tops but found it wasn’t enough.  So I unscrewed the metal edges and scraped the old linoleum (or what ever it was) off the wooden planks they were glued to.   I couldn’t get all the glue off, so I washed it down and painted over it with black paint and a shiny polyurethane.  They’re a little lumpy, but they’re clean and they’re mine, for  now anyway.


16 thoughts on “Bankruptcy and Security

  1. Lots of people are having tough times financially. I have a friend who was forced into bankruptcy because she had a stroke while singing in the Easter Cantata at church and had to have emergency brain surgery. My husband and I know that we can’t work long enough to pay off our 30 yr. mortgage, so we are trying to fix our home up to sell. Hoping to downsize to a smaller one level house. I’m ok with that we can’t afford this house anymore. Actually, I want to move – I am tired of empty rooms and so much to take care of. It will be a new start.

  2. Hey Maria I came here to look at the quilt you told me about. But then I found this brave post instead. My John and I almost lost everything when we owned Peltier’s. It became the mostly funny story I told in Mud Season, but along with the funny bits I told were all the awful bits I didn’t tell. After selling the store at a tremendous loss we are buying our house for the second time ( for much more than we paid for it in the first place) I get it. Like you I have been exploring the notion of security these past few years. For me it is still a work in progress…Your countertop is terrific. It is strong and shiny all at once. It has served up lots of sustenance over the years. Imagine the stories she could tell … of endurance and love, sadness and fear. And joy. Always some joy. I like this countertop a lot.

    1. Seems so many people know this story Ellen. It was great meeting you at the bookstore on Saturday. Now I have to get Mud Season. Connie told me how funny it was.

  3. I have the exact same cabinets in my 1947 kitchen. Are those blue and white ceramic tiles I see under the cupboard handles? So adorable, and perhaps easy to clean.

    This practical rubber-meets-the-road sort of faith you wrote about is very inspiring:
    “no matter what happens I’ll be able to do what I need to do to live my life”
    Home is where the heart is…..

    1. Florence’s, (the woman we bought the house from) Husband put the kitchen in. I found a booklet from 1956 in one of the drawers. And those aren’t tiles, they’re just stickers, like contact paper. There was nothing as fancy as tiles in the house. It was well kept, but minimal. I really love the simplicity of this kitchen.

  4. Maria, my first husband died suddenly and under cloudy circumstances when he was 39. He was driving a Lincoln Continental, rented by the company he owned. The next morning, the Lincoln disappeared from the driveway, a week later I was notified that the house in which I lived and owned, was in my name, with a very small mortgage now had a mortgage of over $60,000.00 on it thanks to a forged document stating this was so. The bank refused to accept the forensic lab’s report that it was not my signature. They chased me for four years after his death. In the end they gave up. That experience has scarred me for life but like you, I had to deal with some awful realities. I knew that carrying two farms would be very difficult for you both and I always appreciated your positive attitudes, Jon’s in reaching out to his readers in a peaceful, comforting way to many yet I knew underlying this what you both must have been facing. I’m so glad that it’s finally over and that you can move ahead with your lives now. There are times in life when you are caught between a rock and a hard place for no reason other than external issues and pressures. I like your black counters. Creative people can come up with creative solutions. When the time comes, you’ll find another counter top that is suitable and not over the moon expensive. Our Canadian dollar now has dropped so low compared to your USD that we’re told it’s going to go even lower. That will restrict any US purchases for me, at least, until our dollar recovers. Recession is a word that to me, speaks of reality here in Canada.

  5. Maria I love reading your posts. You speak from the heart and your words help me to dig deeper in my life. Thank you

  6. Hi Maria, you have carried your burden very well. Your countertop is wonderful. I know your strong core and with Jon’s and your love for each other, will continue to carry you through. Blessings and I absolutely adore your Monday videos and love seeing photos of your animals and the countryside. Sometime I would love to have 2 of your potholders. Can I put in a pre-order? By the by, your box arrived in great shape. I shall enjoy spinning Liam’s wool. Have a blessed holiday season and love all the animals for me.

    1. Thanks Helen. Your words mean a lot to me. I’ll let you know when I have more potholders. I’ll be making them soon, I have some other orders for them too. I’m glad you got the roving in good shape. Have fun spinning….

  7. fabulous post — I always learn from and am inspired by you and jon — so glad you have each other and that we have you! xoxo

  8. Thank you for this post, Maria. I don’t think anyone is born brave, but I do think we can acquire bravery. Standing in your truth and figuring out what is important (and what isn’t) is a brave act. Doing so and remaining kind to your partner is admirable. I admire you both and once again, you have given me hope that I’ll be able to sort out the challenges in my life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Full Moon Fiber Art