When I was 27, my Dad went into the hospital with pneumonia, signed over power of attorney, and confessed that he had taken out a 2 million dollar hard money loan to develop the land that had been in our family nearly 100 years.
There were specific milestones around engineering that had to be met, and they weren’t going to be completed due to vendor delays.
He was about to be in default on the note. He would lose the land.
Could I help him?
He pleaded softly and humiliated from his hospital bed, his eyes desperate and his breathing wracked with pneumonia. My Dad and I had been estranged for a few years and had only reconciled six months before.
While I felt young and unseasoned, I was getting an MBA in sustainable business, and I wanted to rise to the challenge — even while a pit was lodged in my stomach.
I took a deep breath of stale hospital air, squared my shoulders and reached for his hand. Of course the answer was: “Yes. I promise.”
Over the next four years to save the land, where my Dad and our forebears had lived for most of their lives, over the course of nearly a century. I would do everything you are supposed to do.
I would do anything and everything I could to get the loan refinanced. I would put every single asset either one of us owned on the line. I worked with money brokers who never delivered. I worked with investment bankers who made my skin crawl.
I tried to meet local investors who showed an interest in green building and sustainable communities. I reached out to my alumni associations. I traveled and went to conferences and networked nonstop. I envisioned and meditated on planes.
As foreclosure loomed, my desperation grew, and money dwindled. I wrote letters to famous people and wealthy people who showed an interest in green building. I did an Indie Go-Go campaign that failed publicly and spectacularly. I tried to get on Ellen. I tried to use Google ad words to reach out to Richard Branson.
I would also do all the things you are not supposed to do.
I cashed out my retirement account. I borrowed money from friends and family. The only asset I have that was never on the line at some point is my wedding ring. I bet on myself. I bet on the magic and benevolence of the Universe.
It was the summer of 2008. The market was beginning to crash, and it would keep crashing.
We never got the loan refinanced. We lost the land. My dad tried to commit suicide, then died less than eight months later. Official cause of death: Cancer. Actual cause: a heart broken beyond repair.
I’ve lost nearly everything that mattered to me, except my marriage. I fried my adrenals. I bloated to 50 pounds heavier than my healthy weight. I have been a terrible friend and niece and sister, isolated in my grief.
I owe over $400,000 to friends and family, and I’m still paying it back. I could not bear to have children during some of my most fertile years, even though I want them very much. My husband has been ready. I have been the hold-out.
To understand why I put everything on the line, you have to understand what the land was, and what it meant to me and my family. You also have to understand my vision for it.
I had dreamed it would be something spectacular. I wanted community gardens and no fences so people could meet their neighbors. I wanted playgrounds and a community center and bike paths. I wanted geothermal heating and solar panels so that we could move towards a more sustainable energy model. I wanted green building available for everyone.
In short, I wanted to reinvent neighborhoods.
Visions, goals: They’re crucial to our sense of purpose. But financial realities can blow them away like an epic hurricane. Read DailyWorth tomorrow for part two of my story. While I can't promise you a fairytale ending, I will deliver cold, hard truths that are just as valuable.