The Watchman

The Watchman

Sunday, September 5, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night.....

In 1995, Rick finished his Officer Basic Course in Virginia and Airborne school in Georgia and we moved from Petersburg, Virginia to El Paso, Texas where he would be stationed with the 3rd Armored Calvary. The move was made via Ogden, Utah where the majority of our belongings had been stored while we were in Virginia for the six months it took for Rick to complete his training. Because we knew that the moving truck towing one car would travel at a slower speed than those driving in our other car, the plan was for my sister and I to drive with the boys to El Paso and start looking for a house, while Rick and my dad took a longer, flatter route and followed behind with the moving van. It was anticipated that Gwen and I should arrive at least half a day before the truck.

Well, what we hadn't figured on was road construction and detours. As is often the case in Utah in the spring/summer, orange barrels and detour signs sprout everywhere as road crews rush to take advantage of the good weather and repair the damage caused by winter or make the many perceived improvements to the State highways. Not only did the numerous detours on our route put us behind, but since this was in the days before Garmins or GPS devices, we ended up on a whole different route than planned.

We ended up driving through the mountains of southwest Colorado. Now on any other occasion, this could have been quite beautiful, but this was not our experience. By this time it was night and quite dark. The road was full of switchbacks as it wound up and then back down. As we neared the summit it started to snow which caused the headlights to reflect back blinding us even more. To top it off, the boys were tired and hungry, needed diapers changed and started crying. I can remember my white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel as I focused on keeping the car on the road and not start screaming.

Needless to say, we all survived that night and made it to the hotel in El Paso. Rick and my dad arrived a few hours after us, instead of the anticipated half-day, fully rested from their night in a hotel in New Mexico. We were able to find a house to rent for our time in Texas that perfectly met our needs. Everything worked out just fine. We have driven that route numerous times since and it is quite lovely and has been very enjoyable.

Later we were stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We were driving back to Colorado from a holiday weekend in Utah. At that time in life, with small boys and limited time to spend with family, we chose to do our driving at night. On this trip, we stopped in Laramie to fill the car with gas and change drivers. The boys and the dog were asleep and the sun was just starting to rise. As we were on a hill, Rick went to the inside lane to pass a semi that was slowing down. All of a sudden there was a loud thump and the windshield shattered. A young elk had jumped the cement wall to the left and landed right in front of our van. Rick was able to manuever to van to the shoulder and get it stopped. We were soon joined by an officer of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. As he was exiting his vehicle, looking at what remained of our van, he was on his radio calling for an ambulance. He was amazed to see us all standing safely and well on the side of the road.

This patrolman shuttled us back to Laramie. In Laramie, we rented a car to take us to Cheyenne. We then drove the rental car back to Laramie per the rental agreement. From Laramie we drove to Colorado Springs where Rick reported for his month assignment to Fort Irwin. My mom flew out and helped me transport the second rental car back to Cheyenne, again per the rental agreement, and back to Laramie to finish cleaning out our totalled van. By the time Rick returned from California, I had settled with the insurance company, purchased one new car and had found a second car for Rick. Rick continues to drive the truck we bought upon his return and the station wagon I purchased lasted until a couple of years ago.

Life is not always smooth and there are times when even the rough times get rougher. This week was one of the rougher times in our house adventure. We received a letter from the insurance company that has again raised more questions than it answered. We also learned that the adjustor assigned to our claim has not been forwarding the information to the claims office. We also received another valuation of our former home that put the cost to rebuild again at $240,000, but it still isn't "final". We were also requested by the claims office to no longer involve our local agent in our claims process. We will not listen to this last request, since the only results/progress we have received in the claim process is when our agent has gone over the heads of the people involved.

Then on Friday we came home to a "Notice of Trustee Sale" posted on the house we are renting. It appears that the house has been under foreclosure, but our landlords didn't tell us. I came home from work at 5:00 to crying girls who were worried that the sale of the house meant everything in it as well. Even though their brother had tried to calm them, he did not understand it either. The last few days have been spent trying to reassure our children that we will have a place to live, deal with the anger that has finally been expressed regarding our situation, and try to figure out what our next step is. Since we received the notice on a Friday of a holiday weekend, we have not been able to find out too much information. All we know now is that we should be able to stay here between 60 and 120 days more. If we can make it 120 days, we are confident that we will be able to have a home built. That is the goal and Tuesday will bring finding a way to get the 120 days and putting pressure where necessary to moving the rebuild process forward.

We have been following the progress of Hurricane Earl on the news. Our kids have asked lots of questions about hurricanes and were fascinated to learn that we had even been on the edge of one when we lived in Virginia. Part of the discussion included talking about the eye of the storm and how when you are in the eye, everything seems calm. Then the storm will move and you will be buffeted and tossed again. The last couple of months have been like the eye of the storm. We have had a chance to emotionally regroup and get our feet under us again. We are better prepared to deal with the turmoil that we will face as we are under a deadline to build a home. Our past has shown us that sunshine and clear weather follow the dark and stormy nights of life.


  1. Find out who the financial institution is who is foreclosing and offer to make rent payments to THEM. Given the huge stock of homes they are sitting on, they may well give you guys the time you need. Stop making any kind of rent payments to the homeowners- it's not their house anymore and they haven't been using the money to pay the mortgage. Not sure what all the legals are with that but I hope you can get something worked out with the financial institution.

    What a mess. I'm so sorry for all your family is dealing with. I hope when you are all ensconced safely in your beautiful NEW home, you'll be able to look back on this time with GREAT relief- that it's over!

  2. I found this- I don't know how long your lease is but it appears the financial institution may have to honor it.

    "Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009."

    This legislation provided that leases would survive a foreclosure -- meaning the tenant could stay at least until the end of the lease, and that month-to-month tenants would be entitled to 90 days' notice before having to move out (this notice period is longer than any state's non-foreclosure notice period, a real boon to tenants).

  3. Thanks for the words of encouragement Cindy. We were provided with a copy of the above legislation with the foreclosure notice. What we are unsure of at this point is will we have to vacate at the end of the lease (Dec 31) or if they will honor the clause for extending the lease to a month-to-month which will give us the time we need until the end of January.

    Since we haven't received a final value from the insurance yet, we are a little wary of starting to build, but we might have to in order to meet the deadline. Our plans should be back from the architect this week and then will need to be reviewed by a structural engineer, but that shouldn't take too long.

    I am meeting with a real estate agent on Tuesday to discuss other options we may have as well. Thanks again for your support.