House Hunting With Temple Grandin

79 thoughts on “House Hunting With Temple Grandin”

  1. Given what Johnny says about his cousin’s reaction to his very sensible, helpful plan, well, it probably couldn’t work out because they’d be resentful going into it.

    My wife and I live in Vegas. We’re really pretty fortunate, can work at home. I also do H&R Block taxes.

    Did way too many taxes for people this tax season for who were making solid incomes at casinos in 2019 and now aren’t sure how they will pay the rent / mortgage. Some casinos are open, but not all, Also, mostly it’s the full-timers with seniority who are working. The on-call workers probably aren’t getting many hours at all. This is literally tens of thousands of workers.

    Realtor friend in Cedar City UT who grew up in Vegas says she’s seeing people who moved to Vegas to escape southern California now moving to Cedar to escape Vegas.

    And Iron County, where Cedar is, just had its first COVID death…

    1. I love my cousin. We grew up together more as brother and sister and endured some difficult times together when we were young. I completely understand her concerns about remaining autonomous, etc. I’d like to help her, but she has a long long long list of “must haves” and “won’t tolerates” which is in direct conflict with external reality. My plan is to step away and let things play out as they may. If she approaches me in the future with a more flexible set of parameters… But I strongly suspect she’ll find a way to survive on her own terms even if that means a lower standard of living. Independence is very important to her.

  2. Wanna move to York, PA? My house is up for sale in a few years. Once the kids are grown we are moving to Europe (can’t afford to retire here). 1/3 acre zone 6 with fruit trees, solar, wood stove, geothermal, etc….

    1. What country in Europe? The COL in a lot of European countries can be pretty high (e.g. I’d like to try Switzerland, but it is expensive), although I hear Portugal is an affordable favorite of a lot of American expats.

  3. You could also look at Maine. Where I live in Glenburn there’s plenty of relatively cheap rural land for a tiny house, they make some nice ones locally, or a manufactured home/cabin. The land right next to me is always on sale and although it has the usual sprinkling of rural detritus it could be cleaned up for a few thousand leaving a relatively nice area in the woods with electricity only 30 minutes or less from a small city, Bangor, and the U. of Maine. Nothing upscale going on here but also few rules that are actually enforced, plenty of water, wood for home heating, and other natural resources.

    On the other hand buying an already existing house in this area seems like a dangerous undertaking. Keeping up with snow removal and maintenance on a house in Maine could easily become a full time job and all the houses we looked at had major problems related to the climate. We live in a 640 sq. ft. home made from shipping containers and taking care of that is just about enough for me.

  4. On your recommendation, I have been reading Sharon Astyk. She hammers home this point – that giving up some independence and privacy in order to share a life and resources with people you love – or at least trust and tolerate – can be well worth it.

    I am sorry things haven’t worked out with your cousins, but for your readers: consider very seriously that being in the “right” city with the “right” job might be less important than community, family, and the resilience that sharing can bring. That has definitely been my experience.

    Astyk puts all of this much more eloquently.

  5. Have you ever explored Southern Illinois as a viable option? I lived there as a kid and could never understand why people who had lived all over the country (in some cases, The World) would return to S. IL. Now, I kind of get it. Affordable. Warmish, for the Midwest, at least. Close enough to St. Louis or Paducah for evenings out. If landing there today, I’d prefer the greater Carbondale/Alto Pass/Makanda area. (hidden gems of hippie dippie, surrounded by hillbilly)
    You’re a good cousin. What more can you do? My sister inlaw tried to tell me she had her house paid off. The it was almost paid off. Then it was $100k still owed. All in same 5 min conversation.

    1. I rode through Southern IL on a scooter years ago (I rode cross-country on one several times; lots of fun!) and was very impressed with the general layout of the land. I found it very enjoyable just to ride through. Very nice country.

    2. I can’t believe Carbondale was just mentioned. I was born and raised there so I feel obligated to comment. Carbondale was a great place to grow up in the 80’s & 90’s but things have drastically changed. It was a once vibrant university town that is definitely declining. The university is a shell of itself and is now on life support. Enrollment is a fraction of what it was a few decades ago. That’s really the only industry, so the town is dying. You can get a house there for next to nothing, that is one positive. There is a ton of natural beauty there. You have plenty of lakes, hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. There is usually hardly anyone around so you have it all to yourself. The weather isn’t very good, hot and humid in the summer, cold in the winter but just hot enough to have cold rain instead of snow. If you like the outdoors with no crowds and can find remote work, it may be the place for you.

  6. Dear Johnny,

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

    Your Temple Grandin’s-point-about-cattle-in-the-slaughterhouse analogy, hmmm…. it seems to me that, in addition to house-hunting, it could be used to describe any number of human endeavors.

    Temple Grandin really is extraordinary. I read her book THINKING IN PICTURES an age ago, and funny, just the day before you posted here, it came to mind.

  7. Fayetteville, Arkansas? No big cities nearby but the Ozarks are beautiful with mild climate, and it’s a shorter drive from the west coast anyway. // But you have friends in Cincinnati. Maybe find a property manager you can relate to there? Friendly, businesslike, detached, no culture shock for the renters. Plant clover in the lawn & the soil can be garden-ready if or when you move there. // Then who knows, maybe a renter will ask if they can have a garden, and voila!

  8. Your relatives are my contemporaries, the back end of the Baby Boom/start of Gen X, the first generation to become worse off that those who came before, but hardly the last.

    “They both have lifelong work experience in live performance and video, mostly in community theater.”

    And this is why Generation Greed was followed by Generation Apathy. In our generation, it was mostly the working class folks who became worse off in the past. For those who had been to college and had similar skills, things were OK. “We’re screwed anyway, let’s just worry about ourselves” was the attitude. Just wait ten years and see where that got us.

    As for the generations to follow us, as you said, they’re all in Youngstown now. Perhaps they’ll retaliate by cutting off our Generation Apathy’s old age benefits after Generation Greed is gone.

  9. Have you considered that your (second) house hunting is overkill? And that, maybe, beyond basic emergency preparedness (part of which is living in a Strong-ish Town), it’s impossible to predict which of the “good” locations will be safe because threats are so varied in their nature?

    Not trying to troll, just saying that I’ve personally wasted a lot of real time/money, egged on by alarmists from both the left and right, into this bunker/hoarder mindset. Maybe it’s better to be flexible? Byzantium > Hadrian’s Wall?

    1. I’m currently in a quandary. Keeping light and liquid leaves plenty of choices for how to deploy resources in an uncertain future. But with the feds cranking up the printing press by the trillions cash appears to be a poor store of value in an inflationary environment. Stocks? Seems like a bubble to me… Bitcoin? If paper money is an abstract representation of stored value than electronic currency is an abstraction of an abstraction. Gold and silver? Definitely real money, but I don’t trust certificates and middle men and I don’t want to keep that kind of physical wealth under the bed… So a mortgage free house with a big productive garden seems like the best bet in an uncertain future. So far my cash is in short term T bills…

      1. This comment reads like it was taken straight from Ray Dalio’s new article, The Changing World Order. Is it?

        At the moment, I really only have one worry about these predictions of The 4th Turning, institutional failures, The Changing World Order, etc. Call it what you will, these things are all more or less predicting the same thing. My worry; how will the majority of unprepared people respond? Significant increases in crime? An even larger wave of nationalism? Or maybe the other direction, some form of coming together? Will the majority respond with a negative or positive attitude?

        1. I do follow Ray Dalio, but he’s just one of many people who say more or less the same thing.

          The last few Fourth Turnings were:

          1) The Great Depression/WWII (1941)
          2) The Civil War (1861)
          3) The Revolutionary War (1775)

          They come every 80-ish years. I expect something along the same lines right about now. Will there be violence? Yes. Will people also come together? Yes. This is how society dismantles old failing institutions and reinvents itself once every long human lifetime. It’s not fun, but it’s just what we do…

          1. Those are all big picture things. I’m concerned about what to expect at the individual level. All things money, food, housing are easy enough to prepare for. But what about the unprepared folks. What will they do? I really dislike the idea of seeing a crime increase. Even more gunshots in Chicago, or the need to padlock and deadbolt everything because more people take to stealing. I can control my readiness, but I can’t control how other people respond to once-in-a-lifetime hardship.

            1. I’ve noticed everyone has their own specific boogeyman they’re anticipating. People in the suburbs fear “urban” people. (Dog whistle for black and brown folks who will rape and pillage.) Rural people worry about “hordes” pouring out of the big metroplexes. (Even decent white people turn into animals after a few days without food and water.) People in one state fear people from other states “invading.” I recommend tuning this all out. I doesn’t put you in a good headspace for dealing with whatever may come.

              On the other hand, taking sensible steps ahead of trouble is calming – at least to me. Have earnest conversations with your neighbors about mutual assistance. Fortify your home where possible. Install better exterior lighting. Et cetera. A few years back I spent a year taking private firearm lessons from a retired cop / ex military guy. I continue hit the range for practice.

          2. I’ve been a hunter since I was a teenager, and sometimes shoot handguns for sport. However, concealed carry for anyone is probably a bad idea. So is keeping a loaded gun in the house. I don’t do either.

            If at some point I feel it’s necessary for guns to turn from sport into protection, then I’ll probably move away. Which is ashame because I like my neighborhood, I like my house, I like my kids school.

  10. How to fundamentally aid another person in a meaningful way without creating a moral hazard, without aiding and abetting foolishness in the process, is one of life’s thornier riddles. Charity can bring out the worst in people.

  11. Johnny, just wait a few more years. The aunt will pass away. Life and circumstances will backhand your cousin and her husband into humility. Or not – they may have a darker fate. You’re right that it isn’t 100% your problem to solve. If you can bear to do so, inform them that your door is open if they ever want to discuss further, and just leave it be.

    I also have older family members making terrible financial choices, the consequences of which will probably fall on me. I am waiting, and preparing. They are not able or willing to make compromises – so I will not waste time or energy on trying to haggle with them. When they have managed to destroy themselves, and are standing there blinking in the rubble… then… I will offer charity. On my terms. Springing from the duty I do still feel bound to, towards those who raised me. And at that time, they will be made to understand. There will NOT be any compromises.

    I’m just not sure there’s any other way.

    1. But excuse me, the last 50 years of stability has lulled me into a sense of permanent, “land of the lotus eaters” mentality.
      You cant expect me to have studied enough history to learn that stability never lasts & that now is a time for when, “The shizzle hits the fan” big time !

  12. Oh, and by they way. I hate to say it but you are probably better off they didn’t take you up. Mixing extended family and business that way can be a recipe for grief. Maybe close family like a brother or sister. But not cousins. At least not in my family. I’d never go within 100 miles of something like that because when it goes bad you can never escape it. The unequal power relationship between the “wealthy” and “poor” cousin never gets comfortable. Buying a house some place and renting to strangers is far easier.

      1. I think you are indeed better off since your cousin and her spouse appear to be either foolish people and/or are understandably stuck in deep depression. Either way they’d likely let the rent-free dwelling slide into an expensive state of deterioration unless you were constantly on top of it yourself. I feel bad for them and the thousands of others who are – or are about to be – in the same boat.

        BTW; prices for double-wides, even older ones, have recently soared hereabouts, mainly because there’s little else on the market that just about anyone can afford. For example; we bought ours about seven years ago for $19,500 cash (leasehold on the site). It just turned 40 this year, which is surprising since it clearly wasn’t designed/constructed to last more than about 25 years. We’ve put another 10 grand (again, cash) or so into repairs and improvements, including a new roof, and could easily get 40 to 45k if we decided to sell. Problem is, of course, that’s not enough to get us into anything much better. But we’re both old and this is likely the last house anyway. And so it goes.

        1. I’m absolutely not opposed to mobile or manufactured housing. If properly maintained and upgraded over time they provide perfectly acceptable accommodations. In fact I’ve spent years exploring the mobile Tiny House movement as one viable option at a reasonable price point. The trick is to have a secure long term spot to park one that doesn’t violate regulations.

          My primary concern about the double wide situation is the continuous rent increases on the land. There’s nothing “mobile” about a double wide so the landlord has the ability to gradually crank up the rent with captive tenants with no alternative.

          1. RE: rent increases; Too true – but also true whatever one rents to live in, which is the only option for many people.

            1. At the end of a lease on an apartment, you can leave. Or if you are in a tiny home on wheels, you can drive away. But in a double wide, you can’t leave without abandoning the house you own. It seems like it combines some of the worst aspects of both renting and owning.

                1. It’d be great if I was half as smart and wise as all y’all seem to be – circumstances notwithstanding – but sometimes it is necessary to just do whatever appears to be necessary at the moment. ‘Nuff said…

                1. It’s extremely difficult to find a location anywhere near a decent sized town where the relevant authorities will allow a mobile home to have its own infrastructure. Towns restrict anything modest and affordable in an attempt to exclude “the wrong element.” Living in the countryside is fine, but you need a long commute to employment unless you have an income that can be generated at home.

                  1. Not sure about that. Lots of towns in the Midwest are so desperate for people that they might allow new “manufactured housing” on a previously developed lot (with or without city infrastructure). And most of the decent sized metros have “countryside” or small towns and cities within 30-45 minutes’ drive.

                    1. Actually, some so called manufactured housing, but more descriptively modular housing, is essentially like site built housing, but created in a factory, and assembled like Legos at the destination. So looks like conventional housing, but often cheaper and higher quality. Nothing to sniff at.

          2. Or maybe not so gradually crank up the rent. Hedge funds have been buying up mobile home parks, and turning the screws as tight as they can. Some are even trying to force absurdly long leases onto elderly residents that do not expire upon death, in part to dodge California rent control laws. Unconscionable to say the least, and yet another example of financialization to extract wealth by any means, especially from the vulnerable.

            “In a California manufactured home park, seniors asked to sign leases that may outlive them”: https://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/seniors-aging/article244070367.html

  13. One symbolic detail that always amused me living in Texas? The subdivision entry portals that the HOAs maintain. If you drive around suburban Dallas or Houston you find that most of the actual landscape is utterly nondescript and there are no geographic reasons why one subdivision is fancier or more valued than the next. The land is all the same. So the builders spend more and more money on the fancy portals. Usually they aren’t even gated communities, it’s just they entry portal you drive through. They used to be just big stone signs with landscaping. Now they have fountains with landscape lighting and even colored computer-driven fountain lights. We lived in a more modest subdivision in Waco for a spell and had a voluntary HOA they called a “Homes Club” that charged everyone $100 per quarter and they only thing they spent money on was landscaping and maintaining our fancy sign and the big lawn around it. There were more email discussion chains about the landscaping around that damn sign than you can possibly believe.

  14. The hard part here is the shrug. I know you have to – even with people close to you – but at the end of the day it still hurts somewhere inside.

    It also makes me think of an article I read about people starting to make their own extended families: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/03/the-nuclear-family-was-a-mistake/605536/

    I guess basically the deal is that in the end the need for family is so primal and essential that we’ll hunker down with whoever’s willing. If blood turns us down, then re-open the position and interview until you find someone on the other side of the table who’s in it for the long haul and prepared to do what it takes.

  15. Pride is the worst of sins. Unfortunately, we all suffer from it and our culture is essentially built on it. The people who survive this will do so with humility and some manner of contentment. “Mutually beneficial arrangements” often fail for just this issue. Oh well. “Shrug”, as you write….

    I find the prospect of designing a better death chamber…er, slaughterhouse…both horrifying and depressing.

    1. Byron – you may find it horrifying and depressing, but if you hear the ‘why’ in Grandin’s own words it make perfect humane and economic sense.

      1. I’m sure there’s very “humane” reasons (even more “economic”, I’m far more certain). But it’s still a system whose main focus, and end, is death. It’s a lot like the “compassionate” arguments for euthanasia. Murder is not compassionate, not matter how you dress it up.

          1. If you’ve never seen the “Better Off Ted” episode about synthetic meat, you should find and watch it, if you can.

            1. Actually, it’s part of the second half of S1E1 (two part premiere), entitled “Heroes”.

              Food taster: “Tastes like…despair….”
              Ted: “Maybe it just needs salt?”

  16. The symbolic details on the way to abattoir. Yes, we’re all fooled by them. “Urbanites” will pay through the nose for a little house in an inner ring suburb as long as it has those symbols: a train station, a bike path, a remnant of Main Streeet. Yet I still drive to Target like everyone else!

    The second home/BOL thing has eluded my grasp for a long time. I was looking at Bellingham, WA area last night. It’s pricey but ticks a lot of boxes for me and the missus. So hard to find that goldilocks zone when you’re trying to mix affordable, walkable, cultural, agricultural…

    1. Those details you listed actually seem extremely valuable to me, especially long term or in a serious economic crisis. I tend to see the symbolic details, in addition to those pointed out by Johnny, as things like Sub-Zero, Wolf, garage doors made of opaque glass, a really nice view, and the like.

      1. My point is that these so-called urban strengths, which in theory make a place more resilient, are often cosmetic fronts nowadays, so we shouldn’t feel too smug. That cute Main Street gets supplies from trucks (and China) just like WalMart. Recreational bike lanes in a town that’s 90% car dependent. A train system that relies on the grid. And so on.

        Don’t get me wrong. I think those “bones” are a valuable starting point. But we’re not gonna just start floating food on barges down inland waterways to walkable cities just because it worked like that 150 years ago. We saw that with COVID. 1/2 of the nation’s food went to waste because the supply chain is setup to deliver it to restaurants. It’s a big ship to turn around.

        1. You’re touching on the subject I’m most interested in at the moment. As much as I love Main Street towns our larger institutions dismantled their support structures decades ago. Covid and our national response is finishing off the mom and pops. But what’s the more resilient and sustainable alternative? A far flung subdivision with restrictive HOA off the side of a highway? A condo in a downtown tower? I think the best option (for me) at the moment is an older home on a larger lot that’s just on the edge of a historic walkable town. With a big enough garden there’s a degree of self provisioning. Rainwater capture from the roof, a few solar panels, and a wood stove are good fallbacks to the usual supplies. This isn’t about “self-sufficiency” as much as stop gaps in a crisis. But none of this should be bought with debt. So it’s tricky…

          1. Yeah, tricky. I’d love to hear the places you’ve kicked the tires on and/or where you’re seriously considering. Or where anyone else ended up on this topic. @Copeland do you have a short list of cities yourself or did you already relocate?

            1. So… I had a mortgage free cottage in rural Hawaii for 18 years. That was the first place I offered my cousin. I flew them out there with their teenaged daughter and asked them to move in. No rent. Just tend the garden and keep the place lived in. They declined for a long list of reasons.

              Then we explored Ohio. Again, they declined. Then we went to Montana at my cousin’s husband’s request. Nice place, but too expensive without carrying loads of debt. And the climate didn’t lend itself to serious gardening due to the short growing season – unless I wanted to grow wheat and raise cattle.

              The last location we discussed was Wisconsin. I could make that work. We explored various options. Then the conversation imploded with the usual “must haves” and “won’t tolerates.” That’s when I pulled the plug.

              My focus now (minus my cousin) is still the Midwest. I like the Cincinnati area. Good soil, plenty of fresh water, reasonable prices, and a culture I can live with. I have friends there and it feels like a sweet spot given my goals. But I’d still need local partners to look after the place if flying back and forth isn’t a viable option any longer. That’s why I sold the Hawaii property a few years ago. That cash needs to be rolled into something soon.

              1. Steve S isn’t wrong about the potential of Springfield, MA, and some of the surrounding towns. And if Pittsburgh is anything like it was 20 years ago when I lived there, it could be worth a shot too.

                1. I like Springfield, Mass (and would love to have Steve as a neighbor) and I’ve always loved Pittsburgh as well. But if I need to drive there on a regular basis it gets complicated.

              2. That’s quite a journey! Never been to Cincinnati but loved Pittsburgh. My spouse definitely isn’t down for the Midwest however! She thought England was cold in November. She’s originally from Hong Kong.

                So, since the South is too hot for me (see the trend, we’re a bunch of urban softies), our search is confined to the West Coast for the time being. We started seriously looking at Bellingham, WA recently. A college city surrounded by farmland, freshwater & islands. Far enough from Seattle (2 hrs) to be independent, yet just an hour to Vancouver for Canto culture fixes (or escape into Canada?). No income tax is nice. Cons, besides the low sunlight hours, are the usual Left Coast ones: high home prices, a lack of moderation in politics and… volcanoes. Can’t have it all I guess 🙂

                On the other hand, as I’ve commented before, my thinking has changed. If it’s just a temporary thing (e.g. Great Depression), then a country home makes a ton of sense. However, if it becomes so bad that I need to grow a significant portion of my own food and/or conceal carry at all times, then well… I’d rather invest in a second passport.

                Not mutually exclusive approaches in theory of course, but I’ve learned from your blog that it takes a ton of time (relationships, frequent travel, etc) and money to create a viable second home, so I’m trying to weigh what’s realistic and what’s actually “resilience larping” in the context of my family situation.

              3. Asheville, NC (City and immediate region) may also be a good area to meet the overall wide needs in a Temperate climate. I know the City and region are getting comparatively expensive, but it may still be in the ‘accessible’ range for the time being. I visited for a two days during a cross country trip a couple years ago and found the City and region/landscape very amenable to me (as a dyed in the wool lifelong Great Lakes region native). If I had to move ‘south’ that would like be where I’d target.

                1. Lots and lots of people from Great Lakes states have gone before you. I don’t think Asheville is affordable unless you are a relatively comfortable retiree.

                  1. That’s why my wife and I intend to either retire to central Chicago or a nice great lakeside community in MI or IN or WI…maybe even OH (where we are currently).

                    Other commenters have cited southern IL or central AR, but the same could likely be said for southern IN.

                    I’ve lived in southern OH, Chicagoland, southern MI and northern (lower) MI and now NE OH. I really enjoy the southern Great Lakes areas because once you go north of the 45th parallel there is a distinct climatic and seasonal shift toward colder longer winters.

                    1. I am obviously biased as a current resident, but will pitch in my 2 cents.

                      The Old Northwest Territory was the wealthiest and most politically significant geographic region of the United States for the first 150 years of the Nation’s history. Up until the postwar era midcentury. That wasn’t by accident or happenstance.

                      Not that it means much as a bit of isolated historical trivia – human history is rife with fallen economic powers that never adapted or recovered (Cordoba/Spain, Venice, Malacca).

                      But I am hopeful.

            2. @Brian re: short list of towns

              The town we now live in ticks all of those boxes but its too close to Seattle and therefor is becoming too expensive on our (meager for this area, but not meager for many places back east) income.

              My wife will not go back east, or Midwest which is where we came from, so we’ve looked at some of the smaller cities in the Willamette Valley as a compromise. Somewhat less expensive than Seattle metro but also opportunities for work.

              The problem is that any place that is half decent to live in is being ingested (and has been for many years already) by California expats with way more money than we have, and often the ability to work from home, or no need to work at all. Ironically, COVID-19 may have also put us in a position to work from home on a fairly permanent basis…strange times.

          2. Johnny, how do you earn a living? You are clearly a gifted individual, with an ability to promote those gifts that most of us (including me) don’t have. But have you been able to completely move beyond a physical location as a source of income?

            Back during the 1980s housing bubble, a few housing bubbles ago, my wife and I figured we’d live a cheap as we could in NYC, and then buy a house for cash in Upstate NY, where housing was affordable, and spend our days there. But we quickly figured out that any job that either of us would get in the small metro areas up there would be THE job. And if we needed to change jobs, we’d have to move. We wanted to settle down.

            That’s the issue. Perhaps the work from home thing with change that. Or perhaps we’ll all be replaced by people in India.

            The retired can go wherever they want, of course — if they are among the dwindling share who have retirement income. But we’ve decided that is most important to us is to be near our kids, so we can help them as long as we can, and they can help us. The way Americans move around the country, friends, family and community are valued at zero. But we paid big bucks to be with my wife’s family in their last months, in travel and hotel expenses, and they were a train ride away. Mine are a plane ride away. Expensive for us, though officially it increased GDP.

            1. I’m a self employed housekeeper, gardener, occasional house painter, sometimes handyman, once in a blue moon caregiver. No big money here.

              1. I’m in my early forties now and I’m convinced there won’t be much of a social security by the time I would either wish to retire or be forced out of the work force, so I follow you with great interest regarding creating and managing passive income. I’m already familiar with some of your ideas (home preserving and managing bulk purchases) but the real estate side… it’s completely uncharted territory to me. I am from another country but I find your observations quite pertinent

  17. Maybe you can sell it to them as an opportunity to save up for a down payment on their own house while living rent free as caretakers. You’ll have to do a really good job of hiding the fact that you’re not optimistic about their future prospects, but it will let them see it in a completely different light. Even more than we need the symbolic details, people need dreams to work towards.

    1. No. I wouldn’t waste my time selling someone on an idea they don’t really want. You’re just asking for continual pain on both sides.

  18. I really feel for your cousin and her spouse, but have to walk back my empathy when I see people who are determined to continue to try to make a square peg fit a round hole.

  19. This entry made me really sad. I too have seen relatives and dear friends make self-harming financial decisions for the sake of keeping appearances, although I cannot offer solutions I wish they weren’t so dumb

    1. Pride can indeed be self-defeating. I remember hearing more than a few stories, usually from men, the primary breadwinner, that refused to apply for unemployment insurance or welfare because they were ‘too proud’ to accept assistance. Even though it hurt their families, and the circumstances (like a layoff or illness) were not their fault.

  20. My wife and I have seriously talked about being deliberately ‘house light’ once we get past our current dependent children stage and are setting it in our sons’ minds right now as preteens. We fully intend to get one, two or all three of our boys to provide a modicum of minimum shelter for us when they have their own places (if possible). We are even willing to finance all or a good portion of any associated costs.

    As for your proposal, Johnny, before you said it I knew exactly what your cousins’ reason was for denying the proposal. I am continually reminded (as a thoughtful early mid-age adult) why Pride is/was included in the seven deadly sins. Pride and ego are dangerous personally counter productive parts of humanity.

    Good luck to your family and all others out there in similar situations.

  21. What a startling but apposite metaphor. And your photos really illustrate the point.

    Best of luck to your relatives.

  22. Thank you for a well presented picture of the American Problem. The cousins’ dilemma is something I struggle with in my community when trying to move people with these problems to see how their lives might be improved. Though I understand this as an institutionalized system of power, I still haven’t figured out a way to budge or nudge the majority of us at the bottom of that structure. Maybe your “Shrug” is the only way; move on and wait for our generation to get out of the way so the children can step up to the change.

  23. It’s hard to imagine anyone in my generation not leaping at such a deal. Obviously there could be dynamics at play that would make it challenging, but even just a few months of no rent, and a chance to start fresh somewhere, would seem like a dream come true to many people.

    They are also already taking care of family, so how are more family entanglements an issue? I know choices like this are very personal to people, though, and sometimes giving up a dream is the hardest pill to swallow.

  24. We are starting to have this conversation now about some of my family… enough of them that we really need an apartment building somewhere.

    Fortunately the conversation is a bit more productive. I’ve found that everyone wants something to contribute, and since we have small children (and plans for more) we have a built in reason to colocate.

  25. It’s an interesting perspective, familiar as I am with Temple Grandin. Cripes I’d like to take on the role as caretaker to a similar scenario but still searching for that in Australia. Best I can do at present is help bring a friends garden into a more productive mode, as a level of slight protection for us both, when I happen to be in this area. It seems people like to live as if things have never changed and never will, regardless of the actual facts on the ground.

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