In response to this post a friend set up a GoFundMe to try to help keep my family in our home.
Here’s that link. Thank you.
The impact of being persecuted for my advocacy work: Our home is scheduled to be sold in a foreclosure sale on February 21st, just two days after the next (and hopefully final!) hearing scheduled in my 3-year-long legal battle (February 19th.)
This is our home in in the Sellwood neighborhood of SE Portland, Oregon. We bought the home on February 9, 2007, and moved in in April 2007 — after making it Lead-safe for our kiddos. This is the home we moved to after permanently leaving the home where our children were poisoned (in historic Irvington, NE Portland in 2005.) [From April 2006 to April 2007 we lived in a temporary rental home while we tried to find a new permanent place to live.]
Our youngest son Charlie was born in 2008, and has never known any other home.
AJ and Avi were both little kids (4 and 2) when we moved here, and also do not remember ever living anywhere else [except for a short time living in Sabin/NE Portland c. 2011/2012 when I moved to the other side of town with the younger three kids in the middle of all of this, in a failed effort to enroll them in more appropriate schools that we hoped could accommodate their special needs.]
This coming April would mark 12 years that our family has called this place home, which is an amazing feat for our family, after all we have been through!
Prior to moving here, we lived in more than a dozen homes over a very short time — following getting married and merging our households (in 2001), and then being displaced the first time by losing everything in a total-loss house fire in 2002 (two weeks after A.J. was born!), and again losing everything (in a very different, but even more profound way) after our kids were poisoned in August of 2005.
For us, this home represents more than just stability, it represents the triumphant struggle to keep our family together during the extraordinary string of traumas that have made up this 16-year-long surreal odyssey “middle act” of our amazing life story arc!It’s not a big house, and it’s certainly not a fancy house.
Public records put our Sellwood home at 1,741 square feet – but after we bought the house — before we dared move in with our children — we removed access to a closet, as well as a “bonus room” — areas that were full of Lead paint and asbestos shingles (we removed the doors and walled-over the areas where they had been!), probably bringing it down to about 1,650 sf. [Additional measures at this time for Lead-safe-ing the house, included “demoting” one of the two bathrooms to a laundry room — after we had to remove the old, leaded bathtub and redo the floor underneath it, when we tested the tub and found it was crazy-high for Lead and chalking; and we replaced all the original, Lead-painted windows and trim, and completely encapsulated a lovely original Leaded-glass window.]
Around 2010/2011 a Lead-mitigation grant from the City enabled us to address the remaining Lead hazards, which included pouring a concrete slab cover the Lead-contaminated dirt crawl space floor, encapsulating the couple of remaining original exposed posts and several ceiling boards on our porch, replacing our back door with a new Lead-free door, and sealing the floor of the garage.
The house doesn’t have a basement (there’s a small dirt pit under the house where the water heater keeps various wild critters warm in the winter).
The house doesn’t have an attic – it used to have a tiny crawl-space type access to get to electrical work and other stuff under the roof, but we had to seal that off too, because of Lead-paint issues [the sole access was through the closet we “disappeared”!]
Neighborhood lore has it that it was built in 1905 as a one-room cabin mother-in-law unit to the neighbor’s house, and subsequent owners kept adding on and adding on, so none of it is really “original” and it was also extensively remodeled in the 1980s. The fireplace has lovely pastel purple tiles around it to help definitively date the remodel. lol!
From the moment we bought it, we always thought of it as an eventual “tear down” (given it needs a new roof and has a faux partial perimeter foundation — to hide the fact that the actual “foundation” is just a bunch of felled old-growth large trees cut down in 1905 – sitting on the dirt – with a “house” built on top!).
Our dreams have included plans to eventually build something wonderful here (something Lead-free, and small footprint/green/sustainable/energy self-sufficient, paint-free, and… !) Ideally, a small group of micro-houses — so our kids can stay here long-term (if they need to / if their disabilities are such that they aren’t able to move out when the time comes) and so we can age in place. (We’re already “old” after all. I am going to be 50 next year and my husband will be 61!)
Not only has our nuclear family of 6 grown up here (our boys are now 22, 16, 13 and 10), but we also always open our doors to families and others in need. In the past 12 years we have provided temporary refuge to many families (and individuals) in transition, for one reason or another. Last year we hosted a family escaping a domestic violence situation (at one point about a year ago, we had a total of 11 people living here altogether!) The year before we housed a young family (mom, dad and newborn) who were homeless and in crisis — because the State illegally took their baby from them in the birthing room, alleging the mom was a “bad mom” before she even had a chance to be a mom (it was a bizarre and complex case of outrageous discrimination and State impingement on medical freedoms.) Over the years, we have hosted quite a few college students in transition (really I can’t even remember all of them) — from all over the world (Libya, Australia, Boston, Wisconsin…). And next up – in a couple of weeks – a brilliant young mechanical engineer / bike designer who was illegally jailed is coming to live with us upon his release from incarceration. We are going to be his stability and responsible for making sure he complies with the condition of his release while he still battles the State around his illegal incarceration. [Federal Marshalls have come to the house to interview us and make sure the place is safe and appropriate for him!]
We love this home, this location and the community and family it represents – and the thought of losing our very humble-but-beloved home – being homeless – in February (just about 7 weeks from now) is frankly unfathomable.
With our children’s special needs, it is crucial for them to have continuity of where they live. With his brain injury, our 13-year old Avi depends on predictability and routine; the boys are finally at a point where they can each have some independence in the neighborhood (since they have been here forever); they know the merchants, they can exercise independence in going for a walk to the store or to the library; they know many people in the neighborhood. They have been able to overcome many of their issues solely because of the stability of their home.
That said – I’m no longer attached to real estate. Our fire – and the loss of nearly everything we had in the world but each other – changed my views about the material world. I know that everything in life is temporary — but when we moved here to this home, we really hoped this would be our FINAL move (after the dozen+ moves preceding it.).
To be clear, we would not be in this position (on the verge of losing our home to foreclosure) had my work and my reputation not been under attack for the past three years (it will be three years in February.) With loans and help from friends and family, we had been able to scrape by until my illegal arrest on false charges last November (2017) – charges that were dismissed in full this past May (2018.) Since then, the financial hardship caused by all of this – and especially caused by the arrest and related repercussions (enormous legal expenses, coupled with a significantly-reduced ability to make a living) – has left us unable to pay our mortgage [even though we have a really good mortgage rate – 2%! – and a fairly low house payment — especially for Portland!] All money we have raised and earned – and borrowed – has gone to pay for the basics: 1) legal fees, 2) food & utilities and 3) not much else!
We also “bought time” — in fact a full year, while have been able to stay here without making payments — by going through the Federal Home Ownership Preservation Program. So for those wanting to offer that as a suggestion – we did that, and it helped — but February 21st is the end of our “grace period” of being allowed to stay in our home.
The sick irony of all of this is that just about two weeks ago, we finally listed my mom’s farm (in Napa) for sale. We listed it on a Thursday evening, and then — by the next Monday — we already had a full-price offer! When the farm sells, I will have enough to keep our home (and to pay everyone back who has helped us through this incredibly difficult time), but because the farm land is not really farm land – but rather an unusual commercial property, it will likely take 8 to 18 months to close escrow (once we have an accepted offer)… and that’s too late to save our home.
I’m writing this as an update, and also to help keep me sane. We have had so many “Deus Ex Machinas*” save us from seemingly-insurmountable challenges during this time, that we’re hoping for just.one.more. (although honestly, I don’t really know what that will look like, just now.)
Here’s to a much better 2019. Things can only go up from here!
*This Latin phrase originally described an ancient plot device used in Greek and Roman theatre. Many tragedy writers used Deus ex Machina to resolve complicated or even seemingly hopeless situations in the plots of their plays. The phrase is loosely translated as “god from the machine.” This translation refers to how the Deus ex Machina was often performed in ancient theatre. An actor playing a god or goddess would be lowered on stage by a “mechane” which was the name of the crane device used.