An Overdue Update, and an Unreal Week

Hey everybody!  My last update was a little while ago, and have I got a lot to tell you all.

We’ve still got a long way to go to reach our goal, but the last few days… I need to tell you all about the last few days!

I also want to talk about the current state of this fundraising campaign and where we’re going with it. Sorry, this is a bit long.

Like all fundraising efforts, our new crowdfund saw a big surge of support right at the beginning.  Then after a few days, donations started to slow down. This, I’ve learned, is how it goes. Your closest network donates right away (thank you, you awesome people!) and they share. Their networks see it, and then they share and donate, too. It starts to filter out through the internet. Eventually, momentum tapers off unless you’re very lucky and your campaign goes viral.

I spent a few days over the past ten days asking folks to please help share and not let the most recent donation get more than twelve hours old. We learned last year with our original GoFundMe: momentum is key to a crowdfunding campaign. As long as it’s moving, newcomers seeing the page for the first time are a LOT more likely to donate. If the last donation was a day or more ago, it looks like the effort has died out.

For better or for worse, people are just a lot more likely to donate when the donation before theirs was a relatively short while ago. It feels more like a group activity I think, but I’m no expert it’s just something I’ve noticed.

By this past Thursday, I was getting a little nervous:

What happened next was kind of unbelievable. Everybody: I cried.

I cried a lot.

The next thing that happened is that my new Twitter friend @MoggyBee stepped up (once again) and asked for help sharing on our behalf, and @SydneeyHolmes happened across it:

The next thing I knew, a writer from Brooklyn named Caroline Moss (@socarolinesays, from The Toast??!!!) was sharing with her considerable and extremely generous network on Twitter:

My phone blew up. Notifications from Plumfund, Paypal, and CashApp were pinging every few seconds. Literally every few seconds. For a couple of hours the phone was never quiet. I cried. My wife cried. My nine year old cried when we explained that “people on the internet are trying to help us save our house.”

Caroline kept boosting throughout the day. She’d never heard of us before Thursday, and she did this for my family after reading our story:

Others picked it up. I don’t even have screenshots for everyone but I wish that I did. Our fundraiser exploded across Twitter for 24 hours and reached I don’t even know how many people:

Nicole Cliffe (@Nicole_Cliffe, from The Toast!!!) picked up and shared our campaign, too! She also donated an incredibly generous amount herself. At this point, my heart was about ready to beat out of my chest…

We broke milestone after milestone within a few hours. Thanks to folks I’d just met on Twitter literally days ago getting our crowdfunding campaign in front of Caroline, and thanks to Caroline’s extreme generosity and high energy, a spark was lit that burned for a day and a half. I’m still in disbelief and it was days ago now.

We broke $10K, then 11, then 12… I’m running out of synonyms for “unbelievable” here. As of this writing, we’re at $16,745 raised and we’re so close to breaking another milestone. It’s… what’s another synonym for unbelievable? Our hearts can’t take it. Thanks to Moggy Bee and her friends getting our crowdfund out there, Caroline and Nicole and their network were able to raise more in 24 hours than I raised in the two weeks prior. Thank you, all of you!!

So, we’ve raised a pretty big amount. What’s next?

We’ve got just enough time to raise the rest.

Thanks to all of you–all of you–we’ve bought time. We were never going to be able to raise our goal in one week or one month. Now we have enough time. For people who are new to us and our struggle in trying to keep our home, let me summarize the last couple of years as best I can…

We formally went into foreclosure with Wells Fargo in late 2016 after we had run through our savings and what was left of my pension. There wasn’t much left of either. I’ve blacked out my wife’s maiden name in the letter below as well as our account number. Everything else is just as it was.

We searched state websites. We researched state programs. We researched FHA, HAMP, and HARP. I called and left messages with housing counselors, who are basically social workers in Connecticut who help you salvage your mortgage. I never heard back from any of them. We were headed for disaster.

Already by this point I’d spent 4 months trying to find a job. I was still having focal or petit mal seizures pretty regularly, a couple of times a week. The anxiety was unbelievable (I don’t think the anxiety has ever stopped since, to be honest, and that includes as I write this.)

Not hearing back from any of the state programs I’d left messages with after a couple of weeks, we borrowed money from Chris’ grandmother to hire a foreclosure lawyer. After a consultation, she assured us that she could buy us some time while I continued to look for work. We had read online about foreclosures with Wells Fargo taking anywhere from six months to three YEARS to even get started.

About three days after we paid the lawyer’s retainer, I got a phone call from their paralegal. “Good news!” they said. They’d gotten Wells Fargo to agree to a modification under HAMP. The new mortgage payment would be 55% of my wife’s income after taxes. There was zero chance we could afford that along with our usual expenses including medical expenses. None.

If we turned down the modification, we’d go into foreclosure immediately. Our only other “option” was to pay to reinstate the original mortgage, and our original payment, which was even higher. No relief there.

So much for buying time.

Chris hurriedly filled out paperwork and made phone calls for a hardship withdrawal from her 403(b) and we signed the papers for the modification that same week. We had to make at least 3 payments for the modification to “stick”. Luckily for us, by the time the paperwork processed on the modification, it was tax refund season. We got an OK refund because I’d had no income for half of the prior year. We used some of it to repay Chris’ grandmother, and the rest to begin the modification payments.  I continued to look for work.

The tax refund ran out before Chris’ hardship withdrawal was deposited, and in between we got another acceleration letter from the bank. They didn’t waste any time. Luckily the deposit came along soon after and we held the bank off yet again. I continued to look for work.

At this point, the gap in my employment was nearly a year, but we were actually feeling a little optimistic. I was sure I’d find work any minute, and now our monthly payment would be lower due to modification.

Since you’re reading this, you already know it didn’t work out.

The hardship withdrawal ran out.  Work didn’t come. At this point I’d had around 30 or 35 job interviews after applying to a couple of thousand jobs. An average of ten or fifteen per day. I called old coworkers, managers, tried to call in favors. No dice. No luck. We got another acceleration letter. Wells Fargo seems almost eager to take this place from us, and from our rescue cat colony.

I started our first GoFundMe on Thanksgiving of 2017 while my daughters watched the Macy’s parade on TV and Chris worked a double. I pleaded: please give me one more year to look for work. I never thought we’d raise it all, but I didn’t want to keep increasing the goal after the fact for fear it would look bad. We really have no social circle, my wife and I. We’re very introverted. Her family can’t really help, and I’m estranged from mine. We weren’t optimistic about fundraising.

People responded! We got a big initial burst, and then it slowed a bit, but over time and with the help of some particularly large anonymous donors, we actually raised an entire years’ worth of mortgage payments, which carried us to… last month. September. I applied to jobs the entire time. I had another 30-35 interviews. I got not even one job offer, just like I talk about on the Home page of this site.

I have 15 years of experience in my field, which has garnered a lot of interest, but I can’t seem to pass an interview. There’s a few things working against me, I think. My age. My increasing employment gap. My memory and concentration problems since my grand mal seizures in 2014.

I still continue to have the small ones, although they’re less severe lately. I had one yesterday, so small I barely noticed it, but when writing later that evening I kept using the wrong homophones. It’s… weird. It’s a weird, hard to quantify thing.

I’m being more proactive with my neurologist again. I was already denied disability once, but I’m trying to make a case for it. We can’t stake our house on it, though. I have another appointment in about a month to get my skull all wired up again:

Last time I underwent this test, it didn’t find anything, because I had no seizures during the test. It’s a very frustrating, difficult thing. I’ve actually driven to the ER during a spate of small seizures to beg them to wire me up just so that I can have documentation. They don’t do emergency EEGs, I’m told. So I have to hope I seize during a test if I want a real diagnosis. It’s maddening.

The new plan from the neurologist is to admit me to the hospital early next year after I’ve seen the doc (I’ve only seen the PA so far), take me off of my epilepsy meds, and try to induce a seizure so that they can watch. The last ones I had almost killed me. I’m not a fan of that plan. Here’s what my wife, a registered nurse, had to say about that plan:

So yeah, I’m not sure if a formal diagnosis of my smaller seizures is worth it. It’s terrifying. Meanwhile, my last job interview was about 11 days ago. I didn’t get an offer. I last spoke to a recruiter about 4 days ago. I speak to one almost every week.

So… that synopsis was a little longer than planned. For some of you it’s old news, sorry about that. For new supporters, it’s history that I hope will help you understand what we’re trying to do with this new crowdfund. I’ve spent two years, four months, and two weeks trying to find a job now. Our family can’t support itself on my wife’s nursing income alone. Without donations we’d already have been homeless a year ago.

Complicating things further, if I have another grand mal seizure, which could happen any time, it will probably be my last. I speak about that on the “About” page, near the bottom. I’m not in good shape since the last set. A lot of that damage hasn’t healed. We hope my new medication means I’ll never have another one, but if I do… I don’t know if my family is going to be OK without me. I need them to be OK.

That’s why our goal is to pay off the house. We asked for time, before, and we got it, and I still couldn’t save this ship. I need your help to make sure my family will be secure in their home with or without me.

Thanks to all of your support so far, we have time now. We’re not formally in foreclosure with Wells Fargo right as of this moment. Before this fundraiser and this site started, we were weeks away from new foreclosure proceedings.

The problem though, is that we’re still losing our home, just slowly. In a day or two, before it would be late, I’ll make the October payment using some of the funds we’ve raised so far. It will give us more time to raise the rest of our goal. I’ll keep looking for work but it’s impossible to be optimistic about the prospects of that anymore and I certainly can’t bet my family on it. When I make that payment, much of it will be swallowed by interest. If we have to use everything we’ve raised so far for monthly payments, we can drag this out a little while, but we’ll be back to zero in the end.

We have to raise the rest of our goal fast enough to outpace the interest on our mortgage and pay the house off.  With our current fundraising goal that means we have until around March, so that we can cover interest, fees, and a lawyer to look over the paperwork and make sure it’s sound and my girls are safe. Like I say on the Home page, it’s an aggressive goal. We have to raise an average of… a lot per month to meet it. Still, in the end it’s just $5 from 43,000 people.

We’ve had so much help from so many of you. Can you please keep helping us? Can you share this as far as possible? Can you help us find ways to spread this? We started out needing 43,000 people to donate an average of $5 each. As of today we’re down to 39,651 more donations of $5 to go. We can do this, if you’ll help us.

Please help me make sure my wife and girls will be safe even if I’m not. Thank you so much for all of your help already, and thank you so much for reading.

– Mark (and Chris, Sarah, Izzy, and all of the rescues)

PS –

We got the very first contribution to our fundraiser via postal mail yesterday. It’s absolutely beautiful, and very, very sweet! Thank you so much, Martha, from all of us.

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