My journey through the mortgage mess

By Giselle G. Richards

I have often thought to myself, over the past 10 years, that my case is unique, yet troublesome. My case is unique because, not only have I been caught in the middle of the national mortgage crisis, I am henceforth at a point in my life that there may not be any hope for me to finish renovating my home.

You must understand that it is very difficult for me to “open” up about my situation. However, I have come to the conclusion that if I am to be heard, and/or receive help with my mortgage, I must bare my soul and tell all.

In The Beginning…..

I met my husband at college, in 1975, while attending Northeast Louisiana University, Monroe, LA. We both majored in Journalism. He was in Journalism because his parents owned a weekly newspaper in the small town of Colfax, Louisiana.  I was majoring in Journalism because I wanted to become a writer. I  wanted to write novels, and I thought I could get a good start in Journalism.

We immediately hit it off – did homework together, dated — all of it. I fell in love with him, too, and he, in me, I so thought.   I believed I had found my soul mate and that I was meant to get my degree and go to work with Dru and his parents in Colfax at their small weekly newspaper.

Dru graduated a year ahead of me and got a job with a newspaper in Logansport, La. From there he left and went to work at a newspaper in Center, Texas. He was there when we got married in 1978. I did odd jobs for them, and tried some reporting. However, within 3 or 4 months after we were married, Drub’s parents needed us to come home and work at The Chronicle, the newspaper they owned.

We rented a 1960’s style wood frame house for $65 a month from an elderly couple.  Wow!  You didn’t find one like that anywhere else. Of course it had old, wall mounted gas heaters and no air conditioning.

A few months later Dru’s dad, W.D. Sr. (friends and close family called him “Buddy”), considered buying some property across the street from his house that was for sale. It was strictly investment property to him. However, he did offer to let us move into the house sitting on this piece of property for the same amount of rent each month. There was a catch, of course:  the house needed A LOT of work.  At first I was against the move. The house needed a lot of work. It needed to be completely re-wired and all new plumbing installed, among other things.

But what drew me to the house was it still had most of it original doors and windows, it had a raised, front, covered porch, and, most of all, it had a big back yard. It needed a new roof to begin with, among other things, but I slowly warmed up to the house.

Built in 1912 with a hip roof, the house was, originally, the headquarters for the town’s first “telephone exchange office”. This is where switch boards and the high chairs were first used ever in Colfax.   Moreover, some of the original high chairs that the ladies sat in at the switch board were stored in the old shed out back.

The front entry way, or foyer and all the rooms still had the original pine floors; there were fireplaces in each of the rooms; and towards the back, an old bathroom was added in later years, taking in part of the old back porch. The floor was not level, and the small wooded window would not open.  The style of the house appeared to be “L” shaped, but with easily opening front and back doors to allow a cool spring breeze to blow through.

The ceilings were at least eight feet high. The rooms didn’t seem to have any specific designation, except for the kitchen and bathroom. It could easily have been a 4-bedroom house, but then it wouldn’t have a living room and dining room.

We worked hard to fix up this house, with help, of course. Dru had a younger brother, Kenny, a tremendous help. By the time he was 13 years old, Kenny had become the family’s unofficial electrician, plumber, contractor and engineer. So, with Kenny and Mr. W.D., – and sometimes Dru’s mother, Helen, we stripped and varnished the floors, installed sheet rock in all the rooms, ran all new electrical wiring, outlets and switches, installed all new plumbing using PVC pipe, and painted all the rooms. Helen bought and installed the curtains for all the windows.

Eventually Dru and I decided to buy the house. We were going to  borrow the money in order to finish all the renovations we had planned. We wanted to host our parties and family gatherings, and of course, raise the children we would eventually have.

(to be continued)