Fear And Losing In Suburbia

Seth Doane is a CBS News correspondent based in New York.
One family's fall from American Dream to needing a paper route to survive

"It's just fear – consuming fear – that makes you want to sit down and almost cry and sometimes do," Ruth Remenar said, referring to her current situation.

If you know anything about Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., the picture of a family struggling to survive probably wouldn't pop into your head. When the Remenar family moved into the leafy neighborhood about 14 years ago, they certainly didn't have that image in mind either. They were excited to be near the "excellent schools and parks and everything," Mike said.

But now, foreclosure signs can be spotted popping up around their home as several neighbors have fallen on tough times. Ruth Remenar worries that they could be next. "Am I going to lose my house?" Ruth asks, "[That] would break my heart … we like the neighbors, we love the schools … that's why we moved here."

The Remenars seemed initially reluctant to speak with us on camera about their financial woes, which I completely understood. It's hard enough to go through this and admit that you're having trouble never mind talking about it on national television. Though, in the end, I think that the Remenar family felt that it was important to talk about their troubles in order to let other Americans know that struggling exists where you wouldn't imagine. You can read their story here.

As we walked down the street in front of his house together, Mike said, "by now I should be planning my retirement, and here I'm just trying to plan on just getting through the next few days."

Mike had worked as an auto-parts designer but lost his job about a year ago. Working in the auto industry he is familiar with layoffs. But says they've "never been this bad."

Nevertheless, Mike and Ruth are working hard trying to provide for their family. I went along with them early one morning and witnessed just how tough it is to get up at 2 a.m. to stuff papers and deliver them around nearby neighborhoods. Our first stop was to fill up the car with gasoline – a cost that is increasingly cutting into their bottom line.

They zigzag around nearby neighborhoods working their paper-route, getting in and out of the car, opening screen doors, running up and down driveways, and using a flashlight to search for addresses of new subscribers. They're clearly willing to work hard and they aren't just sitting back accepting where life has landed them. They take pride in what they do. "We walk right up to the porches most of the time – we don't throw [the papers] from the car, because we believe that there is an amount of integrity involved and we're not going to be one of those people who's people's papers wind up in the bushes, because that's just not right," Ruth said.

Meanwhile, Mike and Ruth are applying every day for jobs. She once worked as a paralegal (before having their three kids), and he is willing to move anywhere in order to get another job. They've started a small travel agency, Remenar Travel, and work out of their home to try to make ends meet. "I'm doing everything I know how to do: searching for jobs, sending out résumés, going on interviews," Mike says. "I don't know what else to do."

"I've never been this scared in my entire life – never," Ruth said to me, "I will … sometimes just sit and blubber,"

Scary indeed. And it's a position, it seems, in which more and more Americans are finding themselves.