Thursday, February 26, 2009

That good old can do spirit...

I've been playing around here for about an hour as I try to figure out what to write about. Saw comedy hero Ricky Gervais on The Daily Show the other night and it's Ricky who finally convinced me to do something with my Ipod rather than simply store music. I've subscribed to the Gervais podcast without even hearing it because I've heard him describe it several times and I know it will be funny. That filled up a bit of time.

And of course now I've added Facebook, with the incredible pictures and stories from people you love but haven't seen or talked to in years, to my morning computer ritual.

And we're starting to look at alternative house plans, since it's becoming clear that the one we designed for Delaware is going to be undoable on our budget. Steve and I have been emailing back and forth on that subject.

Why is it you can be punished for being prepared? We had our ducks in a row, which simply made it easier for them to be shot down by circumstances we never anticipated. Here's a corollary to what I said yesterday about having everything arranged and set: just when you think things are in order, something comes along to show you they really aren't. Life is a constant struggle against entropy. You'd think I'd learn something from that long-held realization, but I'm constitutionally unable to simply let nature take its course with no intervention whatsoever. What if I don't like what nature has in mind? I say give her her way because in the end you have to, but try to reason with her, too, and come to some accommodation, a compromise. Life may be what happens when you're making other plans, but I have to at least pretend that I have some control over the tide of the unexpected that comes my way.

There is an expression ubiquitous in the Arab world: "N'shah Allah," by the will of God. It seems to give people patience and a certain peaceful resignation to whatever fate has in store. I try to keep that equanimity in the face of what I don't want, but I am too well trained to go after what I do want to let fate simply have its way. I guess there's something to be said for having no expectations of life--you're never disappointed, anyway. But it would seem that you'd also never be excited about the future, never have any reason for optimism. Doesn't sound like much fun to me.

12 comments:

Zoey and Me said...

Back in 1997 I sold a vacant canal lot to a couple from Philly. They were upset that they didn't qualify for a loan to build a 2200 square foot house on the lot, their dream home design, so had the architect design it so later they could add the family room and pool/bath. That not only worked for them because five years later they refinanced to do a home theatre room, pool and bath, for essentially the same monthly, got a real good rate but they also got what they wanted. The exterior where they stopped was plumbed for the future as was the electric. You and Steve may think about getting what you can afford on the lot today and saving for the rest. They love the movie room and I gotta tell ya, it looks like a miniature theatre. Lovely. and the pool has a very distictive waterfall with ancient columns.

Ralph said...

Z&M, we're alreeaey asking for prices without some things that we can either do without or do ourselves. Two thjngs: we've gotten used to some high-end things, like a glass-block walk-in shower, in this house, which we did completely ourselves. Hard to give it up, but it's expensive when somebody else does the work. Also, we're not at an age where we know our incomes will keep climbing and we can add things "in the future." There's certainly still a future, but it's shorter now than when we bought this house 28 years ago.

Mim said...

"Punished for being prepared?" now that's a familiar line I feel I could have written.
This post is very thoughtfully composed and I will dwell on it all day.
It's about where I am.
I know you must be carrying on...but sometimes it is tricky.

Zoey and Me said...

I was sharing their experience of planning, saving, living in retirement a tad differently UNTIL they got all they wanted. If it hadn't been for the introduction of home theatre, they would have gone with a family room. As it was, the enclosed four season room became the nightly gathering place to be for them. With 4.875 money out there, I can't think of people not being able to get what they want. And prices in the resale market are rediculous.

Mim said...

Your glass block walk in shower really sounds great. That would be hard to give up... sorry if you have to!
Mim

Kat said...

Ralph,
I have no words which can salve the loss of your dream house. I've found being rooted to one idea does that sometimes; it disappoints.

It hasn't all that much to do with nature. It has more to do with the price of lumber.

You can still dream but it will be a different dream.

Ralph said...

Mim, one has no choice but to carry on, right? Being thwarted at every turn is getting old, but if that's the message, we'll have to pay attention to it at some point.

And besides, we're early in this NC process. Many more avenues to go down.

Ralph said...

Thanks, Kat. Who knows, we may still get elements of the house, and Steve's smart enough, and we're we're both able-bodied enough to do some things ourselves instead of a builder if it comes to that. After a few months not working, Steve will be chafing at the bit for a project--I can see ways we may still pull all this out. We're even looking at alternative, off-the-shelf designs, some of which are extremely nice and can be adapted to what we want. So all is not yet lost. It's just frustrating when things go wrong after you thought you did everything right.

michele said...

As we are learning in today's economy, flexibility is a good thing. Ouch. Anyway. Wasn't the house you have plans for designed for the Delaware lot? Following up on Zoey and Me's comments, maybe the times are coaching you to think about building a house designed for the NC lot, i.e., perhaps there are better options in this situation for a starter house with thoughts of expansion/change at a later date (looks like you have more room in the NC lot and as you have said Steve will need projects). Also, as you noted, custom-built vs. off-the-shelf vs. (dare we say it) modular (although modular may not be an option for your development)are all options that affect the price of the house. Difficult decisions. We know you are thinking hard about the important parts of this transition for you two. The house itself vs. the change in location and lifestyle? We don't envy you having to consider all the options, because, in a less complex way, we find ourselves facing similar decisions. It's hard, a dilemma of these times. We empathize. Who knew? Nevertheless, we are sending you good vibrations as you requested (maybe you need to post that Beach Boys song) and, in addition to the vibrations, we have our fingers crossed.

Ralph said...

Michele, funny I should hear form you today, because Chuck called, too. (He hadn't read this post, but is aware we're looking in NC.)

The house was designed for Delaware, you're right. It has a small footprint and we thought that would work in our favor, but apparently not. I think it's the "extras" that are hurting us, the stone work (well, a dressed-up version of Formstone, anyway) inside and out, the glass shower, some of the finishes in the bathroom, and some custom touches like the cabinet for the TV. As I said somewhere else up there, we love the glass shower we have here and would hate to give it up. But much of the rest we could make do without. (The TV will be in the living room and it needs to be hidden. But we can buy an armoire. They're making them now for wide-screen TVs.)

Anyway, Chuck reminded me of the modular home/kit home option, which we had toyed with and discarded as the restrictions of the tiny DE lot became clear. The development doesn't have a covenant against that kind of house, at least that we've seen, so it's definitely a path to explore. That, plus building the deck ourselves if the builder will sink the footers.

I think it's hard to give up the DE design a) because we put our heart and soul in it, and b) we paid $2500 for it!

Nan said...

Rather than punishment for planning ahead, sometimes I think the reward is in learning how to adapt to what life gives us/when those plans get all smashed up, especially when we thought that we had it all in control. I think optimism may be different than what we think it is. When I have been deeply disappointed or saddened, I find a reward in being able to (eventually) pick myself up again and be happy with life and find a love of what is around me, inspite of [whatever]. Waxing too philosophic? Maybe, but I do know that there is something freeing about letting go of the disappointment and the plans. This post gave me a great opportunity to think about that. And next time I need some optimism, I am going to remember these thoughts.

Ralph said...

I agree, Nan, absolutely every single cloud has a silver lining. That's just hard to remember when you're in the middle of the storm. I'm just wallowing in this post. I'll get over it.