Monday, May 23, 2011

At odds with the American Dream

What do you do when you sit down and realize that the life you've created is at odds with your beliefs? What do you do when you feel that its your job to help others, to be kind to the Earth, and yet you feel trapped in old habits and patterns? What do you do when money is tight, when the stress is high, and the events of your life start looking like tsunami sized waves that are dragging you under? Well, I guess you have a couple of options. (1) Do nothing, because old habits are familiar and familiar is comfy. (2) Work and work and work and try to change the situation. Build up walls to block the influx of water. (3) Accept that things aren't working, and perhaps they were never going to work out anyways, and go with the flow. Ride the wave and see where it takes you.

Of course you know that we are going to ride the wave, but that is only because Ryan and I have tried options 1 and 2 for YEARS and know from first hand experience its not working!

After a lot of thought, tears of bitter disappointment, as well as a strange sense of relief and freedom, Ryan and I have decided we can no longer afford to live in our old house. The financial, emotional, and time costs are just too high. We, like so many thousands of other Americans, will be using the HAFA program to short sell the house, or more likely, do a deed-in-lieu. We are upside down in our mortgage, and will be for another decade. The roof leaks, the siding is starting to fall off, and the electric is out of code. We need at least 30K to fix the place. We could work and work to pay off another loan, or we can say enough is enough. Financial system of America, you've milked us dry. We want our life back. Basically, we are handing the keys to the bank and saying "Good luck!" We walk away (or float away?) after 6 1/2 years of payments and improvements with a 1000 dollar relocation check. The bank keeps it all.

Everyone we have told about this so far has felt REALLY bad for us. And if you believe in the American Dream, we did fail. Miserably! We had it all: the house, the picket fence, the dog, and we're only keeping the dog. We're also telling people we're getting rid of most of our stuff, to which many wonderful friends and family have offered to buy our things, to store them free of charge, and my Uncle even offered to pay for a storage locker! I want to say thank you to everyone, because I can see how much we are loved, and it warms my heart. I am surrounded by wonderful people. But please, don't feel bad for us! Let me tell you why.

I don't believe a house is the same thing as a home; its the love created by the people inside the walls that make a home.

I don't believe that money has the ability to make anyone happy; and losing money should not equate to losing happiness.

I believe that my time here is limited, and that what I do with the time is important. I have up to this point been wasting most of my time on pointless stuff and empty promises. Its time to be a full-time advocate for others.

I believe that Americans as a society have taken more than their fair share of the Earth's resources, and that our way of life is not sustainable. In our drive to consume and possess more and more and more, we are laying waste to our only true home, this beautiful sapphire of a planet. The idea that each nuclear family has to have their own McMansion full of possessions and two cars and a yard covered in grass instead of edible plants is a selfish dream, and its a dream I don't want to be a part of anymore.


A lot of people say yea, that's a great list! I believe in that too. And then they get bored, and go shopping for more stuff. Or they're not happy with their house because it only has 4 bedrooms and they want 5 bedrooms. Or they work 3 jobs so they can continue to subsidize a life that being sold to them by ads on the TV. Buy now and pay later! (And now Momma jumps off the soap box to tell you the plan).

In order to live a life that we can afford on Ryan's income and that allows us to embody our values, we are moving in with my in-laws. They have a four bedroom home that is currently occupied by 2 adults and 2 very large Newfoundlands. My family will live on the upstairs portion of the split level with a few of our favorite things; my in-laws will have the downstairs. We will share the living room and kitchen and have wonderful family dinners together. They have a large yard in which I'll be able to grow veggies for the whole family to eat, and I plan on planting some native species to feed the birds and bugs as well. We are expanding out of the nuclear family into a grand community. Big living, smaller environmental impact.

Nora and Emily are excited to move to Grandma's House (sorry Grandpa, but it will always be Grandma's House). They have a lot of reasons to be happy! First of all, they will be in one of the best school districts in the state. They will receive the equivalent of a private education for the price of public school. Emily's new speech therapist has an office that is less than a 5 minute walk from the house, so I don't need to purchase a car. The neighborhood comes with built in friends and cousins. Plus, the girls will have access to both their parents and grandparents. All that extra love, and smarts, can only help in the long run. Four adults to two children is a ratio that ensures everyone's needs will be met.

Ryan will benefit as well. He has been offered a new job that he's accepted. He is going to be a consultant whose main job is to help teach people how to use computer software. No more making plastic packaging that sits in landfills for thousands of years! The downside for Ryan is he has to travel, so he can no longer ride his bike to work. But since I won't be driving to work (when I get offered work...another story!), we hope we won't be adding more to our current level of auto emissions. But he will have his Mom there to make his favorite foods, so he can look forward to good eats after a long commute. The best part is that he has gained his weekends back. No more old house projects. No more fixer-upper headaches. Time that can be spent with me and our girls.

This post has already gotten too long so I will add more in the future. Now its time to get more stuff ready for Goodwill. Out with the old and in with the new.


  1. Ivy I love it! Bless you and your family on this adventure. I only manned to make it 3 long weeks with my mother in law before I threaten divorce.

  2. LOL! I hope it doesn't come to that! Luckily, I've always believed I won the equivalent of the in-laws lottery. I would be friends with my mother and father in law had I met them any other way. I'm hopeful its going to work. And if it doesn't, at least they have a big yard so I can hide in the bushes!!!