Update to How Do You Keep Your Mouth Shut?

trilobiteJune 1, 2004

Must share.

Remember how I mentioned that my coworker spends as much time and energy digging herself further into debt as she does complaining about money? Well,she decided to get her debt load down with a mortgage refinance. But, now she wants to buy a new house.

Real conversation:

Coworker: (sighing) "You know, you don't know how DIFFICULT it is to buy a house that's beyond your means."

Me: "Well, you haven't put money down, right? You could always not buy it."

Coworker: "Oh, you'd understand if you saw this place. I saw it and just HAD to have it."

Me: !!!

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She should be given a copy of "Save Kayrn a shopaholic's journey back from debt"....the title goes something like that. Tell her to read it and write a book of her own...only from the sounds of it she'll still be on the shopping end come doomsday.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2004 at 7:45PM
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The two biggest things I had to learn how to do years ago were:
1) live below my means - not up to the edge of my means or especially beyond my means using debt
2) Learn how to walk away. Head must rule over heart. New car fever, new house fever - we all experience it. But the facts of income have to rule. Cars are bad enough, with 60-month-plus loans or too-good-to-be-true leases. But homes are even more serious.

Mark my words. The next thing she will do after buying the home is feel obligated to furnish it and buy appliances and electronics that also speak to her heart and emotions. The furniture and appliance stores are also more than happy to tell you that you can afford it with their convenient financing, even if you really can't.

She said, "You know, you don't know how DIFFICULT it is to buy a house that's beyond your means."

I say, "You don't know how liberating it is to live below your means."

I am free - free from debt (except for a small affordable mortgage), free from obligations, I felt free enough to quit my job to be SAHM, we are free to afford to travel to nice places a couple of times a year, free to save for our retirement, and DD's college, free from worry about debts.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 8:46AM
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It's SUPPOSED to be difficult to buy a house that's beyond your means!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2004 at 1:41PM
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I like TREKaren's response!

If she's really got a high debt load and this house truly is "beyond her means" then she'll have a tough time getting decent financing, I'd think.

Maybe she's just one of these people who likes to talk about how high their debt is in a roundabout bragging sort of way...you know, like "we make enough to get ourselves in a bunch of debt."

    Bookmark   June 5, 2004 at 1:12PM
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I wish it were hard for people to get financing for purchases that are clearly beyond their means, but it never seems like it is. There's so much competition now among lenders that they will give credit to just about anyone.

A lot of people seem to think that buying an overly expensive house is somewhat "less bad" than other extravagant purchases. In a way that's true, because at least you have some hope of getting your money back out of a house, whereas a car, big-screen TV, or most other purchases are assets that depreciate in value pretty quickly.

But a real problem right now for people who buy houses way beyond their means is that interest rates are probably going to start going up, and that's going to push house prices down. This could spell disaster for those who find themselves needing to sell a house for which they paid a grossly inflated price.

It's amazing to me what people these days think they have to have.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2004 at 5:48PM
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Back in the '50s the average size, middle class home for a family of four was somewhere between 800-900 square feet.
And people tended to live in homes longer, rather than "trading up" whenever they felt they could afford something that would impress people a bit more.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2004 at 9:33PM
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Good point! AND the house I grew up in had zero walk-in closets, so we tended to buy less clothes and other 'stuff'.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 7:26AM
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some people trade up whenever they feel that can afford something that will make life at home more enjoyable!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 5:11PM
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Nothing wrong with trading up! I've done it myself; I'm not saying people should live in little hovels if they can afford something nicer, or bigger, or in a better school district or whatever.

But a: I'm not sure how enjoyable it is if one is stressing about makiing the mortgage, paying increased taxes, maintenance, etc etc.

And b: Many people "trade up" to a more prestigious address, to a bigger house to impress people - don't laugh, I see it all the time. I work (painting contractor, and I do a lot of very high end custom painting) in these homes all the time. People have often made comments about "needing" to live in a more prestigious home because it fits their career, lifestyle, entertaining of other rich folks, they want their kids to mix with other rich kids. You bet. And don't forget the Lexus SUVs & 800 series Bimmers in the garage. And the lake homes. And boats. Acuras for the 16 year olds. Plastic surgery. Decorator everything. Ya think people would go to all this trouble if NOBODY SEES THEM? Of course not. You name it...it's mostly about appearances. That's the truth.

"Keeping up with the Joneses" isn't a myth, it is real and I see it all the time.

And funnily enough - it is invariably these rather wealthy people who take forever to pay. Or give me bad checks. Or hand me a check & ask me not to cash it for a week because they have to move money around or some such. That absolutely makes me pi$$ed off.
In 25 years, I have never, ever had a problem getting paid by non-wealthy people.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 6:23PM
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"In 25 years, I have never, ever had a problem getting paid by non-wealthy people."

Actually, those people may be more wealthy than you know, even if they don't have a BMW in the garage. I have been reading more and more about 'millionaires next door', where people continually live below their means, sock the money away, and behind the scenes possess a lot of wealth. But they are the opposite of your wealthy customers, because for them, it is about security and well-being, not about "being seen".

We are no millionaires but we live well below our means. Our favorite thing is to pick a dream and save into a set-aside fund for it. As a result, we are now putting in the screened in porch we have been saving for. And we got on the contractor's busy schedule because the woman who was supposed to be next could not get her finances ready (she has been on his waiting list for 6 months and every time he is ready for her, she says she is still trying to get the funds). If she can't afford it, then why the heck is she getting bids from contractors?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2004 at 8:20AM
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"People have often made comments about "needing" to live in a more prestigious home because it fits their career, lifestyle, entertaining of other rich folks, they want their kids to mix with other rich kids. "

The thing is, these things DO make a difference. I'm not saying there aren't classy people at all income levels; there certainly are. Nor am I saying that all people who are rich are nicer than people who aren't; that's obviously not true either.

But living in a lower-class (socio economic) neighborhood may make your boss think twice about what sort of person you are, how focused, how achieving, how ambitious, how hard-working.

Sometimes your degree of ambition, social niceties, etc., will determine where and how you live. This CAN affect your job, esp. if your boss and coworkers and clients know where you life (would you hire a general contractor who lived in a lower-middleclass neighborhood? would that make you wonder how successful he was, and what sort of people he hired, and whether you could trust them not to steal from you?)

And it will determine what your children's expectations are. One problem w/ growing up in a poor neighborhood (according to a teacher I know who teaches in one) is that the kids can't fathom the idea of being a graphic designer, a lawyer, a general contractor--they don't KNOW any. They don't see any.

and I've seen plenty of times that the folks on the slightly poorer side of my small town have babies WAY earlier (often before they marry), have more of them, and EARN less. They don't study as much, they don't have very ambitious plans for their jobs. They all influence one another--they grow up to be like the people around them.

I believe you should pick your friends, your neighborhood, your associates very carefully. They WILL shape your life. (which is why I didn't allow my kids to exchange phone numbers w/ the kids whose mom used the "F" work when she was mad at the token booth clerk)

You can make those choices without going into debt--I'm not saying you should bankrupt yourself financially to do that. Nor should you bankrupt yourself SPIRITUALLY or ETHICALLY--I'd avoid the rich person whose kids had bad manners, too.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2004 at 1:01PM
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However, you have to ask yourself this question: By shielding yourself from those who don't or can't live as you have chosen to live, have less money, or a less refined upbringing, are you perhaps also cutting yourself off from people from whom you may learn things that could enrich your own life?

Not everyone with brains, character, and drive is capable of "making it" in the stereotypical American sense.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2004 at 4:34PM
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Funny how this is under How to keep your mouth shut. I grew up on the "wrong side of town" and my parents never used the "F" word or any cuss words. We never blamed others for our luck either. I remember learning how to treat visitors to our home, offer them our best, that went for manners and respect. We also had no debt. Now we are living in a better part of town and I see some kids I would be ashamed to claim and parents even worse. I ran a business and found that usually people in the lower income paid readily and honorably and didn't complain about fees whereas we got bounced checks from many who drove around in BMWs, etc. I makes me sad to see this. Most children don't know what it takes to get bread on the table, nor do they care. They grow up into adults lacking a lot of basic knowledge of the toil and sweat it takes to produce things. All they think about is money, money and how can they get more of it w/o working harder. It's true you have to be exposed to opportunities even to have a dream or give them ideas for a dream. I like to engage young people who are willing to listen and encourage them to not hold back on their dreams, I've mentored some that have gone on to college or successful careers even though they came from poor neighborhoods, they have a lot to offer, believe it or not.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2004 at 6:54PM
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"would you hire a general contractor who lived in a lower-middleclass neighborhood?" Of course. Why wouldn't I, assuming he has a good business reputation and does good work?

"would that make you wonder how successful he was, and what sort of people he hired, and whether you could trust them not to steal from you?" No. Actually, I'd be more worried that the GC who lives in a big house in a fancy neighborhood would overcharge me because of his need to make big bucks to support his lifestyle.

But I also wouldn't forbid my children from associating with kids whose mother I overheard cursing. I'd figure that her kids, like anyone else, are entitled to be judged by their own character, not hers. If they're nice kids, I would be delighted for them to associate with my family.

I must say that I think you have an awfully class-biased view of humanity.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 2:10PM
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TREKaren, exactly! I do some regular work for a realtor - she tells me she's often amazed how many seemingly affluent people have a hard time getting financing because they are so maxed out.

Sue - yes these things CAN make a difference if one buys into the whole silly thing. But they don't have to. My boyfriend is a doctor (partner) with a corporate group. He doesn't belong to a country club, doesn't live in a McMansion, drives a 3 year old Focus station wagon, and makes just the same as everyone else in the group. I can think of quite a few affluent people - including a couple of relatives - who are fairly iconoclastic without buying into the whole Ken and Barbie thing. It's not a prerequisite unless you want it to be.

And as to hiring contractors - well it wouldn't matter one bit to me. I'm a contractor, and was actually homeless (living in a van) for a while in the '80s. Then I lived in a pay-by-the-week motel. Now I livce in a fairly nice house, and really haven't noticed any changes in the type of jobs I get. Not to brag but OK I'll brag - I am very good at what I do, have a small, excellent crew, and that is why people refer me. Not because of the type of house I live in. Oh, my work truck is 9 years old. Should I buy a big new truck, saddle myself with 5 years of payments - will the extra good paying work I get make that worth it? I think not.

And by the way, I grew up extremely poor. So poor that I remember my mother using chicken feed to make dinner casseroles, and we rarely bought toilet paper (used newspaper) because of the expense. I don't imagine you would have allowed your kids to associate with me or my siblings. Too bad for them.

However I learned along the way not to be a bigot, and not to judge people by what side of the tracks they grew up on, the house they live in, or the car they drive.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 3:25PM
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Some people actually like to DO things with their money than BUY things. I would much rather have extra money to travel to different countries, take time off for fun road trips to visit friends & such, than saddle myself with lots of monthly payments.

Anybody who is going to judge me or my three siblings (who are all extremely successful) by how we grew up or whether we occasionally use cuss words isn't someone I want to associate with at all. And if I had children, I sure wouldn't want them exposed to those sorts of values.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 3:34PM
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Amen Carina.I'm an independent too.A reputation for honesty and hard work means much more than my geographical location to my client base.The general contractor in the 8000 sq.ft. house I used to clean stopped payment on his building materials from a very large project he had completed.That was the money he used to buy the house in GF's name after declaring bancruptcy and starting his business under a new name.You couldn't pay me to hire a snake like that.Sandy

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 10:33PM
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I think folks have taken what Talley Sue said out of context. I think she's describing "shiftless" which is different from "working class" or even "poor".

The key characteristic of this group is limited horizons and the inability to plan for the future. It's not based on income, but having limited horizons and the inability to plan for the future is absolutely dire at lower income levels.

Incidentally, I would put the coworker who originally started this thread firmly in the shiftless class and she originally comes from money.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2004 at 10:18AM
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So, in other words, a contractor who lives in a lower-middle class neighborhood is "shiftless"?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2004 at 3:03PM
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Talley Sue wrote:
"...would you hire a general contractor who lived in a lower-middleclass neighborhood? would that make you wonder how successful he was, and what sort of people he hired, and whether you could trust them not to steal from you?)"

The implication here is that people who live in lower-middle class neighborhoods (most people I know live in such neighborhoods) are more likely to steal, associate with, or hire people who steal, and be generally unsuccessful. Nothing to do with ability, character, shiftiness or lack thereof, just where someone lives. Two of my good friends live in *gasp* mobile home parks. Guess that makes them shiftless and irresponsible? Good gracious.

That sounds like first class snobbery to me:
"The trait of condescending to those of perceived lower social status. One who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect."

Maybe she meant "ghetto" instead of "lower-middleclass neighborhood." Perhaps a little brushing up on vocabulary is in order, hmmm?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2004 at 9:35PM
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Greetings, all,

The opinions expressed in this thread leave me open-mouthed.

Good wishes to you and yours - wherever you may live.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   August 7, 2004 at 4:08PM
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I have to say, not being one to keep my mouth shut (a clear cut case of foot in mouth disease)

I agree with you, ole joyful ed.

! indeed

Carina, when I was a vet tech, we learned quite quickly that the little old widow down the road who drives a well maintained older car and lived in the same little house for 30 years is in much better financial position to afford vet care than the young ex-football player who drives up in the maxed-out Humvee and has diamond-studded TEETH (!). And we respected the little old lady much more because she's smart- she doesn't have a pet (or anything else for that matter) that she can't afford. Not like the ex-football player with the designer Pit Bull of the moment (though she is quite cute).
And also having lived with food stamps (mostly) buying our groceries, with the electric and gas cut off for non-payment when I was young, yes I did some trading up over the years. I can also cuss like a sailor (actually it was mechanics who taught me), yet I'm going to be a vet. Not exactly ghetto to McMansion, but I'm not the only one in vet school with similar circumstances. I see idiots and incredibly smart people from both sides of the tracks. It doesn't seem to make a difference. Hard honest work DOES get noticed, word of mouth DOES matter, and if you do a good job, people will think better of you, no matter where you live or what car you drive or if you have diamond-studded teeth.
So yeah, that was my long-winded I agree with you (as usual).
PS- for the life of me, I don't know what the ex-football player does for a living.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2004 at 9:59PM
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The ex ball player is probably living off his soon to be ex-money!
Actually my boyfriend is a doctor, meaning his income is probably in the top 2%. But he drives a very modest older station wagon, belongs to no country clubs, wears jeans and t-shirts when he's not working, and the house isn't particularly fancy. Certainly not an uber-decorated McMansion like most of his colleagues live in. You can't always tell by appearances, this is true...!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 7:24AM
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I just realised I repeated what I said in an earlier post, I wrote that so long ago I forgot. Haha.

And the only house I own is a fairly ratty older one, my work truck is 10 years old, and I also have a very very nice car I bought with some $$ left over from doing rather well on some previous real estate (I wasn't being smart, just happened to buy at the right time.) I actually paid more for the car than I did the house, which says more about the rattiness of the house than the nice-ness of the car!
Everything I own is paid for 100%, including the house. But someone judging me only by my house or my truck (and my ability to swear, like Meghane) would peg me for a bit of a lowlife, were they so inclined...
Meghane I am so proud of you for getting into vet school! I know that's pretty tough to do, you are going to be a wonderful vet. :)

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 7:31AM
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I found this thread most facinating. It gave me cause to reflect and examine the many different ways we all grew up, what we became, and how it impacts us today. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2004 at 1:31PM
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I didnt come back earlier to clarify my comments and respond, bcs I wasnÂt making myself that clear, I didn't think I could do it well enough to get you to understand me, and I honestly thought it was best just to let it die.

But since this has been revived, IÂll try. IÂve come off looking like a completely different kind of snob than I am.

HereÂs one thing in my own life that makes me think "who you know" influences you in ways one doesnÂt think about. I didnÂt join a sorority in collegeÂit never OCCURRED to me. Why not? Bcs I didnÂt know anyone whoÂd ever been part of one. However, kids I went to school with, didÂand in fact, assumed everyone would. Bcs in their circle, it was something the grownups around them had done. So in that way, I learned that the attitudes, jobs, leisure activites, interests, hobbies, etc., are influenced by who youÂre around as a kid.

I think lots of people experience something like this, and that influences why they pick a certain neighborhoodÂthey want to influence what sort of circle their kids are surrounded by.

My first point is that the people mentioned who pick their neighborhood according to the income level and perceived "type of people" who live there, are approaching neighborhoods as an* aggregate.* That fact that inside a crummy neighborhood there are great people is beside the point. They're picking a neighborhood, not individuals.

When I was a kid, I lived in a town w/ 3 levels of housing: crummy, medium, and rich. It was a small townÂ1,500 peopleÂso I knew the people who lived in each type of housingÂI went to school w/ their kids, delivered their paper, heard about their activities outside their homes (clubs, work, arrests, manners or lack of, spending patterns, etc.) I was a kid, so I didnÂt know ALL the details, but I knew the broad strokes of many peoples lives.

The actual people that I knew who lived in the crummy housing were often (not always, but often):
- badly organized (as evidenced by their front lawns, side lawns, and garages, as well as by their work history, which I knew),
- not particularly visionary in terms of where they wanted to go w/ (as evidenced by their choice of profession, attention to educationÂhigh school, training, or even collegeÂwhich was known to me, bcs the people were known to me)
- not particularly reliable (as evidenced by their work history and spending patterns)
- more likely to have unstable personal relationships or tempers

(in fact, though I mentioned stealing, I probably shouldnÂt have--the biggest reason I wouldnÂt hire someone from the crummy housing in my hometown is that most of the ones I knew anything about were unreliable, sloppy, and inconsiderateÂtheyÂd leave the paint can on the lawn, or be more likely to spill it all over the grass, or something, bcs they donÂt think itÂs a problem. And yes, the workers from the crummy housing in my home town were the ones most likely to get arrested for pilfering or stealing or fighting or driving drunkÂwe read the arrest records and conviction records in the newspaper. The ones from the non-crummy housing didnÂt have these problems.)

These things existed in the medium and rich housing as well, but not as often, and not as severe. Or not as publicly, so I didnÂt notice it.

I had some really good friends in the crummy housing (who were also someof the things above, but my friends nonetheless), but there were plenty of kids from the crummy housing that I avoided. (and I avoided the rich kids, too, bcs they were mean)

So while on an individual basis, I was happy to be friends w/ specific kids who lived in crummy housing, I wouldnÂt have chosen to surround myself with all the families in that income level. Which is what you do when you live in a neighborhood.

So I felt early on thatÂespecially at the extreme lower endÂwhere you live can often be a reflection of what you are like. The housing is not what makes someone badly organized or not visionary about their own life; but it can be the RESULT of being badly organized, not reliable, or whatever. (not must, *can*--and if you're from a crummy neighborhood and having vision about your life, you're part of proving my point--are you going to STAY in that neighborhood?)

When a person picks a neighborhood, they have to take it (at first) as a whole. ThatÂs how neighborhoods are experienced.

And many of us could agree that it doesnÂt take that many unpleasant people to make a neighborhood tough to live in. In the very low end of housing, the chances of getting such people increases. It was only in the crummy housing of my hometown and my college town that I EVER heard anyone yell swear wordsÂat their own 4-year-old!!!--across the lawn (I sometimes swear in certain circles, but only once have I ever sworn in public, and IÂm still mortified by itÂscreaming the F word in front of little kids and tons of adults on a subway platform is not something I admire, and I donÂt need to apologize for it; and I donÂt want my kids to spent time in the home of an adult who would do that, I donÂt care how nice their kids are, and IÂd worry about how their kids would act, esp. since those particular kids, weÂd just met).

If I know about a contractor who lives in crummy housing, and I know he does great work, IÂll hire him no matter where he livesÂthatÂs treating an individual like the specific individual. But if I DONÂT know anything about him, and he lives in crummy housing, IÂm gonna be real cautious. Because IÂll be afraid that the things that put him in crummy housing, could also make him a crummy contractor. ThatÂs treating an individual like a member of a group, trueÂbut itÂs only because I donÂt know anything about him.

But if someone is buying a house and picks a neighborhood because they think a certain type of people is likely to live there, thatÂs treating a group like a group. They donÂt have time to consider all the individuals as individuals. And, theyÂre NOT EVALUATING individuals; theyÂre evaluating an aggregate experience.

What happens for folks Carina talked about, who want to move into ever-richer neighborhoods, is that they take this idea and apply it at all levels.

Unfort., I donÂt think it works in the middle. Once you get beyond the lower levels, it stops applying.

In fact, the place IÂm REALLY a snob is at the top: you might get me to live in a poorer neighborhood than IÂd like (and IÂd be extra alert to which neighbors in that neighborhood I wanted to spend any time with).

But you could NOT get me to live in Chappaqua, NY, or any other highly affluent neighborhood. I hear things that happen there that are worse than any "swearing on the lawn" or "ridiculing college graduates" or even "getting arrested for stealing your arch-enemy's battery to get even."

Plus, my early prejudice is that while poor kids might be less visionary and harder to live around, rich kids are MEAN. Oh, IÂve liked *some* rich kids from my home town, now that theyÂre grown up (and IÂm grown up).

As for the idea that where you live might send a message to your boss, I know this to be true at the higher levels. I have an uncle who got a job as a CFO of a national company here in NYC; when he moved here to take that job, he looked very carefully at which neighborhood he picked, because he knew his business peers would too.

In the middle levels of housing, and of socio-economic standing, I donÂt think these things apply. (and so I shouldn't have expressed worry about a GC who lived in a lower-middle-class neighborhood; it's the lowest-income neighborhood that would worry me)

But I can understand the logic of people who think they do. I don't agree w/ them, but I understand how they get there.

THAT was what I was trying to say. That my experiences at the extreme edges leads me to understand what logic they're applying to the situation.

Also, not wanting to live in a certain income level doesnÂt mean you have CONTEMPT for the folks in that neighborhoodÂit just means you want to live somewhere else.

IÂve probably just dug myself in deeper and made you all think IÂm much more of a snob than I am.

But I tried.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2004 at 6:53PM
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I understood your first message taken in it's totality, as I do your second. I don't take you for a snob, rather someone who has seen things in her life, learned from them, and is putting her adulthood together with those understandings.
Words are hard mediums of communication because what is meant to be written isn't always what is understood when it is read because we each have our own life experiences that influence our interpretation of what we read. I think there is no fault on any side in this, I think it is a fact of life.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 7:33PM
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I've said for years that, when one is communicating a complex idea from one brain to another, it's important to get it as cloase as p[ossibleto the orighinal.

So, it is important to learn precise meanings of language, and choose one's words with care.

That's especially true when there is some misunderstanding or controversy involved.

Happy autumn, all.

ole joyful

P.S. I'm almost out of my allotted 2 hrs. on library computer.


    Bookmark   September 22, 2004 at 1:54PM
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Talley Sue NYC,

I note that at the end of yor mesage, you say, " ... I tried".

My experience on the farm, something over 50 years ago, led me to the conclusion, "That's what the steer did - but the result was inconceivable".

Serioously, thank you for explaining your viewpoint.

It seems to me that it is important that we build bridges of understanding between people, communities and nations.

For example - it seems to me that if the U.S. and other Western nations had been more even-handed in the way that they treated Israel and the Palestinians for the past 50 years, there would have been much less antipathy built up on the part of many Muslims, resulting in a substantial number finding the message of the fundamentalists rather attractive.

Good wishes for building bridges, rather than walls.

If we don't learn to live together - we'll all perish together.

Actually, some of the other inhasbitants of the world, when they regard the depradations of man, have the feeling that if man perished from the earth, its other inhabitants might be better off - could breathe easier, so to speak.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 29, 2004 at 4:29PM
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How to keep your mouth shut?

I still say ...

... duct tape.

Enjoy your day, all.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 6:37PM
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