Blessed Are the Poor

Several weeks ago, my brother-in-law emailed an opinion piece from The New York Times titled What Makes People Poor? by Thomas B. Edsall. Considering my post about our current economy, the Edsall piece has provoked added reflection for me.beggar2

A simple Google search on “poverty” produces websites and articles in abundance. At least one offers mind-numbing statistics on worldwide poverty. Those facts alone are enough to depress anyone. But Professor Edsall’s thoughts don’t bog down with stats. He attempts to present the “discussion of poverty as a technical problem, not a moral one.

The kernel of Edsall’s piece (as I understand it) is to call for “ideological convergence [that] could produce a more empirically grounded understanding of the causes of poverty and of social and economic inequality as well.” Even though analysis (on both left and right) tends to be somewhat complementary, he blames “political polarization” for preventing a desired synthesis. Continue reading “Blessed Are the Poor”

Mobile Home Nation?

When I walked into the family room this morning, my Beloved was tuned into a show with a topic he’s been interested in for several years. The show was Tiny House Nation on the fyi tv network. (Truth be told, I’ve never even heard of this network before!) Because I know my Beloved’s interest in the tiny house concept, I sat down to watch with him.tiny-house-outside

Word of warning, my Beloved watches lots of house renovation and do-it-yourself shows. I’m more likely to watch the HGTV’s HouseHunters International because I enjoy seeing what kind of living quarters people can locate overseas. It’s my idea of vacationing without having to go out my front door.

My more practical spouse is thinking about the temptations (his, not mine) to down-size and simplify life. When he contemplates the tiny house concept, he’s not thinking 1500 square feet (which would be about two-and-a-half times smaller than our current living space). He’s closer to thinking in the 300-500 square feet of space. So far, he hasn’t offered me a convincing argument for the reduction. But he hasn’t given up on the idea. Continue reading “Mobile Home Nation?”

Homing Doodlery

My friend Debbie, at the Desperately Doodling Debbie blog, is in the midst of one of life’s most perplexing challenges (in my view) − the home renovation / home addition torture, er, uh, adventure. I speak from experience.renovation

We were in our mid-thirties when we tackled an 85% home reno. We had less cash but an abundance of time (even with four children underfoot), so as a way to save money, we hired workmen who were willing to guide us through demolition and certain installs.

Walls were removed (a broad steel beam put in place for extra stability) to make the home seem more open, windows and doors were moved and/or replaced, and concrete was poured in one section to even out the floors. Continue reading “Homing Doodlery”

Downstairs, Upstairs

upstairsMy son and his family have been living (upstairs) with us about a month now. For my part, I have no complaints about the arrangement; we’re glad we have the space to accommodate them while they look for another place.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this arrangement has been having our grandson under the same roof. In the mornings, he brings his cheerful, almost four-year-old self down the stairs and greets us eagerly. He’s ready to interact, prepared to cuddle and share his stuffed animals with us, and chock-full of commentary about the day ahead of him (and us). It’s a treat. For my Beloved and myself, our grandson’s presence is a huge reminder of how blessed we are.

On the other hand, I think we may be approaching nightmare status with our daughter-in-law. I can say it’s been a month since they moved in; my DIL would say (much more emphatically), it’s been a MONTH! From her point of view, one month is about how long she’d hoped it would take for them to find a house. (Yes, she’s definitely an optimist.)

Never having lived with my mother-in-law (thankfully), I don’t know that experience first-hand. But I can honestly say, there’s been no tension, no cause for anxiety. (Why, I ask myself, would anyone mind living with delightful people like me and my sweet husband?!) Nevertheless, I’m also sympathetic to our DIL’s desire that they find a place of their own. She’s used to things being done in a particular way … and truly, they don’t have the kind of space upstairs as they previously enjoyed in an entire house of their own.

The house-hunt is (naturally) stymied by factors that include the (1) kind of house they prefer (2) available in their price range and (3) located in an area of town that suits their needs. Obviously, almost everyone searching for another place to live faces these (or similar) challenges. When I suggested to DIL they might want to talk with some builders to see if they’d have a better chance of finding (and affording) what they want via new construction, DIL demurred, insisting new construction would “take too long.”

As they’ve looked at various properties, though, they’ve weighed the desirability of newer home vs. older. DIL adores quaint, one-hundred-year-old homes with plenty of character. My son looks at these vintage homes and visions of “money pit” dance through his head. Other considerations abound: acreage vs. subdivision, long commute vs. short, etc. When they located a house they both agreed on, it ended up being in a 55-plus community! (I didn’t know younger folks could be locked out of a neighborhood, did you?)

The search continues. I’m reminded of a time many years ago when my Beloved and I were purchasing our first home. We had two small children and no money to speak of, but we hoped to find a home with ample square footage to hold what we expected would be our growing family. We settled on a home with just over 2,000 square feet (four bedrooms and two baths) … a home that needed a huge amount of work. What can I say? We were young and naive, but we lived happily in that home for 23 years.

The poem below provides a glimpse of that inaugural home-owning experience. The week we moved in (back in 1977), we were immediately confronted with unexpected and costly repairs (undisclosed by the sellers). This poem attempts a humorous retelling of what was (at the time) a terribly discouraging turn of events. Our “Dream Home” suddenly turned into disaster … and the Latin phrase caveat emptor moved from theory to harsh reality.

Thankfully, we survived … but whenever we hear about a Handyman Special, this is the reality we remember!

Handyman-Special, remodeling, renovation, bathroom updates, poetry, light verse, poem
Poem: Handyman Special


Paltry Poetry

FatChickThe part of the country in which I live has two distinctions:  first, it is the home of WalMart and second, it is the headquarters of Tyson Foods. These two multi-billion dollar corporations have been the lifeblood for our region as well as the economic engine for the rest of the state. (I think it could be argued the success of these two entities, both as employers and producers, has fueled an otherwise lackluster US economy for years. For anyone who has an argumentative inclination, no, I’d rather not debate negative stories or trash talk about either corporation.)

Right near where I live, there are numerous chicken farms with production houses that extend about 400 foot long (approximately) and house as many as 11,000 birds. When I’m out driving, it’s not uncommon to see an eighteen-wheeler with a trailer full of chickens destined for market. Through the years, we’ve seen stray chickens off the trucks scurrying along the street-side, and friends of mine have been known to capture the birds for their own backyard chicken coops or stew pots. Yes, it’s amusing.

As the home campus for the University of Arkansas, there’s also a large Poultry Science department with its poultry research and other assorted courses of study dedicated to poultry production. When my children were members of 4H, they entered the county’s cooperative extension office competitions for grilling chicken.

Given this environment, my versification has (on occasion) veered to the nonsensical for some light-hearted ribbing about the industry that has shaped the economy of our region. This poem is longer than I like to post here, but I can’t help indulging my silly side this week!

In writing this particular poem, I didn’t intend to demean the local accent nor the tendency in speech for some locals to drop syllables (which in this specific case, makes poetry sound very much like poultry. You might need to live here to understand.) So please, no offense intended, and I hope no offense taken!

Po-try-Contest, poetry, poultry, light verse, poem, chickens
Poem: Po’try Contest

Not Much Happy Talk?

AncestryHow many children were born to your great-grandparents? How many born to your grandparents? How many to your parents? And if you’re a parent, how many children were born to you and your spouse?

For me, the answers on my paternal side are 8, 6 and 6: eight children born to my great-grandparents (two of whom died as teenagers) and six children born to my grandparents (one of whom died in infancy). Six children were born to my parents (one of whom died in infancy) and my husband and I had four children.

On my mother’s side of the family, the answer is 4, 2 and 6. My great-grandparents had four children (two of whom died in infancy) and my grandparents had two children (one of whom died in infancy). As previously mentioned, my folks bore six and I had four.

I ask these questions for two reasons. The first:  I’m a genealogy nut and these kind of comparisons are interesting to me, and secondly, I consider demographics a fascinating way in which to understand some things about our world.

DentI’ll put this into the context of a new book I ran across this week. The Demographic Cliff: How to Survive and Prosper During the Great Deflation of 2014-2019 looks like an interesting entry into the overall demographics discussion. Author Harry S. Dent, Jr. (not to be confused with the Batman franchise’s Two-Face character Harvey Dent) has written at least eight previous books in which he discusses population trends and how these trends interface with market outcomes and a population’s eventual impact on an economy.

As a Baby Boomer myself, I find Dent’s observations compelling. My husband and I tend to reflect many of the buying and spending patterns of our fellow Baby Boomers. Dent uses Japan as a primary exhibit in extrapolating how the aging of a culture has a direct impact on a nation’s economy.

Entering their 60s and 70s, Baby Boomers are moving away from the “I can afford it” and “I deserve it” mode into an opposite, the mode of capital preservation. As a general rule, Baby Boomers are thinking less about the newer, bigger house or the head-turning new automobile and focusing more on maintaining sufficient funds to support our independence by keeping the nest-egg funded long enough to make it to our final breath.

I ask my Baby Boomer friends, am I wrong?

If you’re a member of a younger generation, Dent’s scenario won’t offer any comfort to you. In fact, if you take a look at most of his other book titles, Dent’s doom and gloom theme seems to predominate. In a December post at Business Insider, author Steven Perlberg (who looks to be much younger than the Baby Boomer demo) sardonically characterizes Dent’s latest book as “cheery stuff.” Another post (The Market Oracle from the UK) begins an author interview with these words:  “There’s little happy talk in Harry Dent’s new book …” 

Ever since the 1987 release of Ben J. Wattenberg‘s book, The Birth Dearth, I’ve paid some attention to the discussion surrounding population trends. I’m far from an expert on the subject, but I’ve always looked at the trends that were operative in my own family tree.

Certainly, one of the primary things I learn from my family history, I’m immensely grateful we live in an age when infant mortality has decreased considerably. Just looking at the trend of births in several generations of my family seems significant. My paternal great-grandparents had twice as many children as my husband and I. Furthermore, many of our peers characterized our family as being on the “large” side. (For families with one or two children, four does indeed seem large.)

On my maternal side, I had the same number of births as my great-grandparents, but significantly, all of my children lived into adulthood.

I also find it striking that my paternal great-grandparents (having emigrated from Germany and settling in St. Louis) raised a larger family overall than my maternal great-grandparents who had been born and whose family had been rooted in Philadelphia from several previous generations. I can’t help wondering if this was an expression of differences between the two sub-cultures (eastern US and central US).

What do you think? Are we headed over a cliff, as Harry S. Dent suggests? Whether or not it’s a cliff, I think it’s prudent to weigh the possibilities and consider our options. Your comments and observations are always welcome!

Whoa-ful Verse

Whenever I prepare a blog post, I usually reflect on its overall quality. If I think a post is silly, I have this tendency to make explanation for it. Almost always, the only explanation that seems adequate is, this is just how my brain works! I think it’s apparent I have a way silly streak that I must occasionally satisfy. (I added the Rembrandt sketch to provide a bit of gravitas to the post. Lame, I know.)

Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last decade understands something of the struggles our economy is going through. When it comes to such things, I’m prone to find my own way of laughing and this is one example.

Financial-Whoas, housing bubble, sub-prime loans, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, hard times, poetry, light verse, poem
Poem: Financial Whoas!