Planting a Rock Garden

I planted a rock garden. I’m kind of a tiny person, so hauling rocks isn’t really what you would picture me doing on a free Sunday afternoon. I am fairly certain that at least one of the neighbors was looking out the window at me on and off throughout the day, wondering when I would fall over.


Big rocks. Small rocks. Bricks. And walkway stones.


My home is scheduled to go on sale at the local county courthouse on May 11th. I have lived here for three years. I haven’t slept well for almost a year.


I bought my first home, w/ my first husband more than 10 years ago. I lived there for less than six months before we decided mutually not to be married anymore. Actually, his girlfriend and him decided mutually that we would not be married anymore. He didn’t even offer me the house, and I knew better than to ask. I was young, and had very little fight in me at the time. The only thing I asked for was my son, and my car to drive us away.


Since then, I have lived in five different places. Each time I moved, with a small child in tow, I accumulated more boxes. I loved every home that I had, with the exception of an older house with mold issues. When my new husband and I were ready to begin shopping for a home of our own, we had difficulty finding a mortgage. We were both divorced, and at the tail end of a very nasty custody battle for another child. We had exhausted our savings, and our credit was awful.


The house we finally bought together was the first one we looked at. Broken and put back together, our family was excited about the big yard, the quiet neighborhood, the hardwood floors, and the sunroom. Never again would we pay another pet deposit or cleaning fees. Our mortgage was sold to us by a “friend” (read *money hungry acquaintance*) and I failed to pay attention to the fine print. We were so excited to have a chance at being able to own a home together, that the now infamous term: “sub prime mortgage” meant little to nothing to us. After 2 years, a rate change raised our mortgage by $300, and then another $200 in a period of 12 months. I pulled my head out of the sand and started to notice the noise. Bad timing and complicated health issues forced me to join the ranks of unemployed. Do the math, it’s not too hard to figure out what happened next.


Our home has been in the foreclosure process for more than a year. Though I started working again part-time in August, we just can’t seem to catch up as fast as our lender wants us to. We have held the banks off with “forbearance”, “payment arrangements”, “modifications”…all the fancy buzz words that I hear daily on the news. Not a day goes by that I don’t worry about the reality of being homeless. Our family has since grown to include, in addition to my son: a stepdaughter, two nieces, and a new baby. I think I could live in my car or in a tent in the field near the off-ramp. But the rest of them: where will they go?


Fast forward to my rock garden.

I’m digging up weeds. I’m planting bulbs. I’m moving rocks. With every movement, I’m acutely aware of the noise in my head: It’s the 1st thru 10th lender I have called saying that they can’t do a refinance on a property in active foreclosure. It’s the 50th phone call to our mortgage company to check on our application status. It’s the negotiator telling me we simply don’t qualify. It’s the foreclosure attorney telling me they need $ 20,000. It’s my heart telling me it might as well be $ 50,000. It’s the Hope for Homeowners Program telling me to sell the property. I’ts the news telling me that help is on the way. It’s my nerves screaming Where the hell is it. It’s the voice of my ex-husband reiterating that I would be nothing without him. It’s a younger me wondering if he was right. It’s my father explaining to me that if I worked hard and got an education than anything would be possible. It’s me reminding him that his family’s land was passed on from generation to generation; and not owned by the bank. It’s the email saying that I was being laid off. It’s me thinking about how I will get my coffee cup back. It’s the application for unemployment and disability that I refused to sign and turn in. It’s the pride that says there are others who need it more than me. It’s the waiting room full of mothers sitting next to me; waiting for our WIC checks. It’s my swallowed pride when I realize how expensive a new baby really is. It’s my husband that refuses to participate in the process. It’s the promise that I will never argue with him about money. It’s my kids knowing which stop signs are the limits of how far they can go from the house. It’s my yelling that it’s time for dinner and I know how far my voice will reach. It’s the murals I painted in their rooms the first two weeks we lived there. It’s the quitter in me that reminds me that the garden isn’t worth anymore effort. It’s the lie that this house determines my worth.

I’m sweating. And every movement physically and emotionally hurts me. My arms feel like they weigh a thousand pounds. And I feel like every thought punches me in the stomach. Every rock is heavier than the last one. I work until way past dark and can’t even really see the finished project well when I’m done. I’m exhausted.

I finally sleep well knowing that it will be there in the morning.


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