Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Big Bad Wolf.

Who is scared by this whole “economic downturn” business? Yes, me, too. I don’t have any reason to think that I am going to be laid off in the immediate future, but I still think about the possibility all the time. In fact, money, food and shelter seem to be all I think about these days, and those thoughts have become all-consuming and occasionally depressing. After spending my days working and/or rushing around after my baby trying to make sure he doesn’t lose an eye, picking up the never-ending food and other detritus he incessantly flings around, and putting him to bed with a last pass around the house to clean his dishes and Windex his smeary prints off the coffee table, then I settle into the couch for an hour of self-defeating, tense-necked ruminations about money, and fear, and fear of no money. I can’t watch TV, or get involved in a book. I might scan a vapid magazine if I can manage it. I often fall asleep early, which could have something to do with the current pace of my life, but which I suspect is more likely a way to avoid these overwhelming thoughts. I feel paralyzed; we can’t make any plans. Forget about indulging in the idea of a vacation or even of a night away in the mountains; should we even waste money on a Christmas tree? The baby doesn’t know what Christmas is, and surely we will just spend all our time prying the ornaments out of his fist.

I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way. In fact, to read about it in the papers, millions of people feel the same way. Unfortunately, this mass trepidation is compounding our economic woes. We’re scared to spend the money we do have, which sets off a chain reaction. When I decide not to buy any new clothes or books at my favorite stores, or to eat at my favorite restaurants, the combination of my reticence with that of so many other consumers translates into lost jobs at those establishments. That in turn results in less people with money to stimulate the economy. The government keeps trying to shock the system with injections of fantastical sums of Monopoly money, but so far nothing seems able to stem the tide. Consumers are going to have to be willing to risk putting some of their money out into the marketplace to keep things from grinding to a complete halt.

The most immediate economic decision my husband and I are facing right now is that we want to remodel our house, but for every argument in favor of forging ahead there is a counterargument that says we should just let it ride for awhile: our family has already outgrown our tiny house, but didn’t American families manage to cram into small houses in the fifties? Maybe we are just being greedy Americans. We might be able to do the remodel for less right now while contractors and manufacturers are hurting for work, but does that really matter when I might lose my job or R. might not be able to get more architecture projects? The increased mortgage will have to be paid somehow. But the finished product would be good marketing for his firm… we go around and around on this until I end up back on the couch, staring into space with a clenched jaw.

Just so you get an idea what we’re talking about, here is a picture of what our house looks like today (well, really a few years ago, but it hasn’t changed).

You can see, perhaps, why we might want to make some changes.

Here are snapshots of the front and back of the new house from a 3-D mock up my husband knocked up based on his detailed architectural plans.

Now, maybe modern is your thing, maybe it isn’t, but it is ours! The dark gray portion will be concrete board panels arranged in some aesthetically pleasing design. The brick will be painted not sure what color yet – somewhere from a grayish off-white to a light taupe, depending on what looks best with the other materials we use. Then there’s wood siding, which we’ll probably do instead of the Finnish wood panels we would both prefer but which are prohibitively expensive. It all looks a bit stark here, but imagine it with plantings below the windows and other signs of life. See the little window that’s like a porthole? That is a floor-level window in the playroom designed for two little boys and a couple of cats to lie down and look out. I don't want the economy to huff and to puff and blow it all down.


Leslie Ann said...

I know how you feel about the bigger place. I was approved to buy something much, much bigger than what we live in now. Did not buy it even though I was approved to ride 2 mortgages.

And now so glad I did. Even though the 666 sq ft (yes, read that right) condo is just cringe and claustrophobia inducing.

Broady said...

I love that porthole window! And from what I can tell, it looks like there are "corner windows", if that's what you could call them. I can imagine how much light would filter in your house with those... *sigh*. I want those.

It's weird, how such a driving force of the economy is really just a mind f_ck. Fear and exuberance moving the ticker up and down like a manic depressive. Comforting, huh.

Cindy said...

I hate that I'm even paying attention to all the financial biz. Usually I take a glance at the Dow in the morning when I read the NYT website, but now I check it again when I come back from the gym at lunch and then (this is high crazy) before I go to bed to see how the Asian markets are faring. How fucked up is that??

Please go ahead with the remodel. The construction industry needs you.