When Mary Schmidt took to the Internet last Wednesday, it was to unload 14 months of stress and heartache from watching her parents struggle to keep their Santa Rosa home despite huge personal challenges.
In 2009, her mother Maureen, a longtime pre-school director, had her hours and benefits slashed in a wave of spending cuts.
In November 2010, her father, Noel, a former teacher and the founder of a Santa Rosa non-profit, suffered a stroke that left him bedridden for months.
Battered physically and financially, the couple, who met in the Peace Corps, stopped paying their mortgage early last year, resigning themselves to losing their home if Bank of America didn't modify their loan.
And by last Wednesday, despite weeks of efforts by foreclosure prevention counselors at Catholic Charities, the couple was less than 24-hours from watching their home of two decades go to the highest bidder.
In response, Mary Schmidt,the youngest of five siblings, began to pour her frustrations into a "strongly worded letter to Bank of America" that was both an ode to her lifelong home and a lament for what she sees as corporate greed.
"When you enter the house, you will notice the colorful walls and vibrant tiles," the 23-year-old wrote. "We call that my mom's &‘mid-life fiesta.' Enjoy that. It was a labor of love. Each colorful tile was made by mom and laid by my dad."
She catalogued the bookshelves, the mantle and the fence in the front yard, all built by her father long before the right side of his body was stricken.
"You will notice railings on the walls," she wrote. "My brothers built them. They were for my dad to help him to learn to walk again after he suffered a massive stroke last November. You probably remember; it was right around the time when you sent my parents a letter telling them their loan modification had been rejected."
Only when she finished writing did she consider making her family's private plight public. She posted it to her blog, a modest site she'd barely updated in a year.
But the posting got the attention of friends and family members who forwarded it to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
Some sent her the email addresses of people at Bank of America, to whom she forwarded her letter.
People she barely knew — others she didn't know at all — began to thank her for sharing. The growing wave of attention had nothing to do with the good news that soon followed.
After more than a month trying to work with representative of Bank of America, Jami Walsh, a foreclosure prevention counselor at Catholic Charities, threw out a last-second Hail Mary to the U.S. Treasury Department.
At 7 a.m., the day of the auction, Walsh got word that it it had been postponed until March.
Schmidt's letter, though, clearly led to what came next. On Friday, as the recent college graduate headed to work at a San Francisco cafe, she got a voice mail from office of the president and CEO of Bank of America.
When Schmidt called back, the woman who answered told her an executive had passed her missive up. For legal reasons, the woman wouldn't divulge much, but indicated that an offer for a new loan modification was being mailed to her parents.