Author Archives: IrvineRenter

Castle in the Sky

Over the last few days, I wrote about my family history in Ancestral Call, my youth in Community of Elders, my teenage years in Coming of Age, and today I conclude with a little perspective on life and an expression of one of my deepest desires. You never know what will happen when you put something out in the Universe. Maybe my dream will come true.

Chasing my entitlements

When I was thirty years old, I found myself repeating mistakes and causing myself more unhappiness. I met some people who were happy and showed freedom of heart in the midst of the pressures of daily life. I wanted that for myself, so I joined their group and spent eighteen months learning what really drove my behavior and how I could get control of it.

The men in the group had several characteristics in common. They all sought help in their late forties because they woke up one day and realized they spent all their time and effort chasing money, and they didn't know their families. What was the point of making lots of money? They weren't enjoying it, and their families didn't appreciate the results as the family entitlements were taken for granted. The worst part was that these guys missed out on family life. They didn't know their children and many were in rocky marriages. All this for the sake of a few entitlements.

I remember a few of these guys telling me they were so happy for me. I was awakening twenty years early. At the time, I believed them. I was very happy, I had no stress, and I believed I would avoid the mistakes that caused these men to regret how they spent years of their lives. It's been nearly fifteen years since then, and I find myself repeating many of the errors these guys made.

There is a simple truth in life it has taken me a long time to fully appreciate: the financial stress in life is directly related to the level of lifestyle spending needed to provide your family's entitlements.

I suppose some of this is merely mid-life for wage earners. When I was thirty, I didn't have a family, and I was not concerned with the opulence of my surroundings or partaking in costly activities. If it were just me, I could live on very little. But it's not just me anymore, so I struggle like everyone else to provide a good life for my family. Unfortunately, at times this leaves me feeling so stressed I can't enjoy the fruits of my labor. But when I think about giving up Irvine schools, Disney passes, or living in Orange County, I go back to work and try to make more. When will the struggles end?

Perhaps when the recession in real estate ends, my struggles may lessen, but if I'm not careful, my entitlements may grow further, and the stress will stay with me. I hope not. I grow weary of running against the wind.


And the years rolled slowly past

And I found myself alone

Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends

I found myself further and further from my home

And I guess I lost my way

There were oh so many roads

I was living to run and running to live

Finding Home

Since I left Wisconsin in 1992, I have lived in many places, but I never really found a new home. I moved from place to place looking for financial opportunity, career advancement, and a set of living circumstances I wanted to sustain. Each place I landed left we wanting.

When my wife and I came to California in 2001, we didn't know what to expect, but I wanted to live where I could enjoy yearlong outdoor activities and the amenities of a large population center. I wanted to make a home. Getting established took time, and when I was ready to buy a home and put down roots, the housing bubble had pushed prices out of reach. I was forced to rent and wait out the crazy market.

When I began writing for the Irvine Housing Blog in early 2007, I had no idea I had found a way to become part of a community. I wrote because I wanted to save people from financial ruin, but why? Why should I care? I knew I was making the right decision for me and my family. Why did it matter what happened to everyone else?

It was through writing about the housing market that I found a way to give to the community. I made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. I found a way to matter to people outside my immediate family. I found a way to become part of a community again.

Now that the housing market is closer to the bottom than to the top, I need to find a new way to contribute. I still want to help people. If I didn't feel I had anything to offer, I would stop writing. Over the last few months, I have developed a detailed report on the activities in the Orange County housing market, and I have created a network of housing news sites to put out the word. If my work has value, I will have found the new way to contribute I seek. I don't know if my new blog will generate a sense of community like the Irvine Housing Blog did. Perhaps that time is past. I only know I will continue to write, provide useful information, and be myself as long as someone finds value in it.

Providing for James

Have you ever contemplated what you will be thinking about on your deathbed? What worries or satisfactions will you carry with you to the end? Something will be there for you. Will you be full of regrets? Did you leave your family in good circumstances? Will you be full of peace knowing your loved ones will live out their days in comfort, love, and safety? I live my life as a dress rehearsal for the final play. I want peace of mind at the end, and I am willing to work to achieve it.

My strongest dreams and aspirations still focus on my family. As many of you know, I have a child with special needs. Having a special needs child creates a different set of challenges for a parent. In all likelihood, James will never work or participate in the many activities we consider part of a “normal” life. This creates two problems: (1) providing enough income to establish and maintain a degree of material comfort, and (2) caring for him once my wife and I are gone. These worries drive at the root of what it is to be a parent. Parents of typical children know their offspring will develop skills to take care of themselves. Parent's of special needs children know their offspring will never take care of themselves.


Love is here for you,

Strength is deep in you

Help is here for you,

Teachers near for you

Gifts are rich in you,

There is time for you

Teach us well as you

Walk your way as you

All is well for you

I can tell for you

You are welcome and wanted

There’s a place for you here…

Meeting the challenge of providing a lifetime of income for my son James has been the focus of the last few years of my life. When I formed a fund to flip Las Vegas properties, I knew it would afford me an opportunity to acquire action properties for myself. Since prices are so low in Las Vegas, all of these properties are cashflow positive. I convinced my parents to help out, and now we are all buying properties that will end up as James's inheritance. At some point, I will pay off the debt and the other investors, and my family will own a large number of rental properties. I am an only child, and so is my son. He will end up with everything. If I am successful at acquiring the properties I want over the next two years, I will supplement my parents retirement, I will provide for my own retirement, and I will secure a lifetime of earnings for my son. Needless to say, I am very motivated.

Based on his current trajectory of development, James will probably never live independently. My wife and I hope he achieves some degree of independence, and we work to encourage that, but realistically, he will always need some help. James will likely live with us for the rest of our lives. Surprisingly enough, we are both okay with that. As you probably surmised by this point, family is central to my life. My wife and I were never counting the days until James was out of the house so we could enjoy the rest of our lives without him. The majority of our activities involve the three of us, and although there are some things my wife and I do as a couple, the idea of having James around for his adult life is something we look forward to.

After my son was diagnosed with autism, I wanted to have another child. I wanted to know there was a blood relative who would be around after my wife and I were gone who could look out for an older brother. Some people told me this was unfair to the younger sibling to leave them with that responsibility. The people I have spoken with who grew up in those circumstances have told me it's a labor of love, a burden they gladly take on. I don't know what the right answer is, but we didn't have another child. We decided against it. Given how much stress and worry my wife would have gone through worrying about having a second special needs child, I'm glad it turned out the way it did. When we gave up trying to have a second child, the fears of what will happen to James immediately resurfaced.

Castle in the Sky

What happens to people who die without family? Have you ever wondered? Fortunately, the world has many caring people who will give love and comfort even to strangers. Many healthcare and hospice workers are wonderful people who selflessly give. I hope the caregivers for James are caring and loving people when that time comes. Mother Theresa asked herself where she could find a group of people least likely to receive any love or comfort as they lived and died, and she sought them out to give them what nobody else would provide. It's an amazing act of love and kindness to look into the eyes of a perfect stranger and treat them with the same compassion reserved for the most revered.

What the world needs is a Mother Theresa championing those with special needs. People with special needs like autism often don't have the best social skills. Giving love to special needs people often requires tremendous patience and selflessness because the special person may not reciprocate in a way the giver may understand. Mother Theresa created a center which attracts the most caring and giving to continue her work. A religious order is ideal for the work of providing love and comfort to people with special needs.

As I contemplated what would happen to James after my wife and I are gone, I fantasized about what would be the perfect situation for James. Whose care would I like to leave him in? What kind of experiences would I want him to have in his final years? I kept coming back to the same thing: I would like him to live in the care of an order of Buddhist monks or nuns. What? Am I crazy? Perhaps. My wife thinks so. Can you think of a more peaceful and caring group of people? I can't.

If I had the money to make it happen, I would buy the Friendship Mound and build a monastery on top. I would bequeath it to an order of Buddhist monks committed to care for my son James through his final days. It's the finest destiny I can imagine, his own castle in the sky.


I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone

All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity

Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea

All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind

Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky

It slips away, all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind

The End

This is my final post on the Irvine Housing Blog. I want to thank you for stopping by and reading me for the last five years. It was my pleasure to serve.

Coming of Age

Having grown up in a community of elders with a long heritage, I have a deep connection to my old home town of Adams-Friendship, Wisconsin. I lived there throughout a blissful childhood until my family moved away when I was eleven years old. I struggled to adapt to my new environment always feeling like an outsider. In my Junior year of high school, I hatched a plan to go back to Wisconsin to have the high school experience I felt I was denied in Arkansas. I went home to come of age.


It was 1985, my thoughts were short my hair was long

Caught somewhere between a boy and man

She was seventeen and she was far from in-between

It was summertime in Central Wisconsin

I arrived back in Adams in the dead of winter. The second week I was there, the daily highs never reached above zero degrees. One morning, I went out to start my car to drive to school, and the temperature was minus thirty-eight degrees. That's cold. The cold weather stood in stark contrast to the warm reception I received from my friends. One of them changed the letters on a local marquee to read “Larry R is back in town.” I was home again.

My friend David and I picked up where we left off over six years earlier when my family left town. From the time I arrived, I was his wingman, and he re-introduced me to the broader circle of friends I left behind all those years ago. I was immediately accepted as part of the group. In many ways, it was like I never left.

Taking Laps

One of the unique rituals of social life in Adams-Friendship is taking laps. The two towns share a single main street that's a couple of miles long. During lunchtime and early on Friday and Saturday evening, most teens looking for fun will drive up and down Main street. As you passed by one another, you would wave to your friends, scowl at your enemies, and ignore the rest. You knew where you were in the pecking order by who waved to you and who did not.

You could gauge the enthusiasm by the way people waved to you. Waving became a ritual onto itself. Young men and women who wanted to hook up would send signals by how they waived or whether they waived at all. Waiving to someone you previously ignored acknowledged them and invited them into your world. If they reciprocated the wave on the next lap, it was nearly as good as asking for a date. Most hookups were preceded by an exchange of niceties on the ritual lap through town.

At the time, I didn't fully appreciate what a unique and useful ritual this was. It was an important part of the socialization with a broader group of friends and acquaintances. Coupled with the in-car conversations with your closest friends, you heard all the gossip and knew what was going on. As a bonding ritual, taking laps was only second to the weekend parties.


Friday and Saturday nights

When I arrived in Wisconsin the legal drinking age had just gone up from eighteen to nineteen. It was due to go up to twenty-one six months after my nineteenth birthday. I was one of the last few who made the deadline. Since these changes were so recent, it wasn't terribly difficult to find a friend a few years older who would go into a bar or liquor store and buy beer. Most would do this out of friendship, and perhaps a cold one for their efforts. Each Friday and Saturday night, the first thirty to ninety minutes were spent trying to get beer. It was rare that it took longer than that, and we never went without. Getting beer was part of the routine, and we had fun doing it.

After getting enough provisions to last the night, we would set out to find people to enjoy it with. Usually, early Friday and Saturday evenings were lap-taking time. Everyone cruised town to find out where the parties were and who was going to be there. Often there would be a gathering at someone's house, but if nobody was having a party, there were a number of designated party areas at the end of deserted roads a few miles from town. The selected place would vary often just in case the police tried to crash the party.

These parties were fun, but the conversations were hardly intellectual. The most important thing you had to know was the engine sizes of eight-cylinder motors put in various muscle cars of the 60s and 70s. For instance, Shevy manufactured both a small block and large block 400 cubic inch motor in addition to its 327. Ford made a 298, a 302, a Boss 302, a 427 and a 454. Chrysler made various sizes as did American Motors. Lucky for me, my father owned a 69 SC Rambler when I was growing up. That made me cool.

My grandfather owned eighty acres just outside of town. It was a gathering place for some epic spring parties. Some of the better ones had a hundred or more people come and go during the night. One April day we all decided to skip school and play football out on the back eighty. We played football and drank beer all day long, then we brought in more beer and partied until nearly four in the morning. A good time was had by all.

All these experiences were fun and relatively harmless. They were also the type of experiences that was denied to me when I lived in Arkansas. I went to Wisconsin to have a good time with friends. That's what high school was supposed to be about. I'm thankful I went. I matured a great deal during my last semester of my senior year. I had come of age.

Summer in Wisconsin Dells

The summer after graduation, I stayed local and worked in Wisconsin Dells. I worked at an amusement park operating rides and spending my evenings down in the Dells where plenty was going on. It reminded me of the fun of my youth, but the activities had changed. Instead of racing go-carts and playing mini golf, we cruised laps and picked up on cute tourists. It was another wonderful and carefree time.

As the summer wore on, a certain foreboding began to set in. Everyone knew it was going to end. Many of my friends were preparing for college like I was. I knew I was moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the fall, and as the time approached, I felt sad and uneasy. When times are very good, you want them to last forever. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. Life is always changing, and no matter how much I wanted to stay and hang out with my friends, I couldn't, and neither could they.


Another turning point

A fork stuck in the road

Time grabs you by the wrist

Directs you where to go

So make the best of this test

And don't ask why

It's not a question

But a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable

But in the end is right

I hope you had the time of your life

Left again, unhappy again

I was excited about college in my freshman year. I got a scholarship to play golf at the University of Tulsa, and I felt prepared for the challenges ahead. I though college life was going to be similar to the fun I had in my senior year of high school. I was wrong.

The culture shock hit me again. Tulsa, Oklahoma, is far too conservative for the life I was looking for. Plus, I ran into the limits of my own talents at playing golf. The demands of maintaining a good golf game and good grades wore on me. I left Tulsa for the University of Arkansas for my second semester. My dreams of playing golf were done, and my fond memories of life in Wisconsin were fading fast.

The eighteen months that followed were the most difficult in my life. The lone bright spot was when some friends of mine from Wisconsin came down to live for a while. We partied and had fun like old times, and one weekend we drove back up home and met up with some high school friends still in the area. It was a joyous weekend in the middle of unrelenting misery. When the weekend was over, the idea of going back to Arkansas left be distraught and near a breakdown.

I pulled myself together and pledged a fraternity. I was looking for a group of friends like the ones I had left behind. Although I met some interesting characters, I never quite fit in there either. I left Arkansas for good in 1987 and moved back to Wisconsin to rediscover myself.

Return again to turn my life around

When I arrived in Wisconsin, I had two years of misery to put behind me. I couldn't enter school right away as I needed to work for a year to establish residency. I took advantage of my time off school to clean up my act. I took a job as a bartender in a local supper club and wove myself back into the fabric of local society. Happy days were here again.

My year of tending bar rebuilt my social skills and purged me of my bad attitude toward life I took on while living away from home. I was good at tending bar. I remember on night when I memorized everyone's drinks, I didn't say anything too stupid, and I made an above average amount of tips. I performed at that job the best I could do it. After that night, I started to lose interest in bartending. I was ready for something more.

I knew I was never going to raise a family on bartender's wages, and the only way I was going to do better than that was to leave Adams County and get a college degree. I knew it was time to move on, but this time, I would be ready for it.

Time to leave for good

I stayed in Wisconsin for four more years and completed my undergraduate degree. I didn't make a lot of friends in college. I was too busy with my studies to maintain a time-consuming social life. I still had a good time, but it was much more subdued than it was in high school. I recognized applying myself to my studies was more important in the long run.

As the time approached to leave Wisconsin, I knew I would be leaving for good. The foundation of family and friends that nourished and sustained me in my childhood and teenage years had served me well. Despite the setbacks when I left previously, I believed I had finally matured enough to make it on my own and bring my own happiness with me. It wasn't the people or the place that made me happy, it was my own attitudes toward my experience that mattered. Once I recognized this, I knew I could create my own reality and shape it to my liking. I was finally ready to leave the nest for good.


Every time I look in the mirror

All these lines on my face getting clearer

The past is gone

It went by, like dusk to dawn

Isn't that the way

Everybody's got their dues in life to pay

Yeah, I know nobody knows

where it comes and where it goes

I know it's everybody's sin

You got to lose to know how to win

Community of Elders

Childhood in a community of elders

Yesterday, in Ancestral Call, I detailed my family history. I was born into a close-knit rural community, swaddled by family, extended family and a broader community which shared the same values. Both my grandparents living within a few miles of one another, and several aunts, uncles and cousins lived nearby. I had the support of this community during my formative years.

I grew up believing everything is possible:

You can be anybody you want to be,

You can love whomever you will

You can travel any country where your heart leads

And know I will love you still

You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around,

You can choose one special one

And the only measure of your words and your deeds

Will be the love you leave behind when you're done.

Making the most of rural life

One of the drawbacks of rural living is that there isn't much to do. There was one movie theater within 30 miles, few restaurants, and few other options for entertainment. Most people in rural areas of Wisconsin will spend their free time in the woods, in the tavern, or at home with their families. My grandfather and my father didn't drink, so they didn't spend much time at the local taverns, thankfully.

The one bar activity we did enjoy was snowmobile bar hopping. The snowmobile trails in Adams County have taverns as their end points. Every few miles, there is an opportunity to stop, warm up, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends and other snowmobilers. I always wanted to go along, but I always got sleepy as soon as we left home. I probably slept on most of the pool tables in western Adams County.

With so much extended family around, we would see them often, particularly my grandparents. My dad and his father are very close. When I was young, we would spend many evenings visiting their house. My dad and grandfather would talk for hours. My mother and grandmother would talk, play with me, or watch TV to pass the time.

My grandmother loved me openly and unconditionally. She is a psychological anchor for me, a reminder that unconditional love exists. Everyone should have people like that in their life. Sadly, many don't. My grandmother died in 2001, but I still think about her often. She used to collect wheat pennies, and now whenever I see a penny, I think of her. It's an association I cultivate and cherish.

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time outside. I used to go for walks in the woodlot behind my house spending hours exploring and watching wildlife. I had an enormous natural sand pile to play in where I created entire cities complete with roads for my Tonka toys to drive on. During the summer my mother and I would go for long bike rides to climb the numerous mounds, and spend lazy days at the beach on Friendship Pond. In the winter, I would go sledding or ice skating and build snowmen and snow forts for snowball fights. It was a simple time full of simple pleasures.

Life in town

Even while we lived just out of town, my mother's parents had a house right on Main Street in the heart of the action — what action there was in a town of 2,000 people. I had the best of both worlds. When I was in first grade, we moved from our woodlot property to a house in town two doors down from the elementary school.

Back in the 1970s, the back yards throughout the neighborhood were a communal playground. There were no fences to keep people out, and nobody was territorial about their yards. My next door neighbor became a close friend, and the other children in the neighborhood would come around and play with us. Often we would go play at the nearby school yard and listen for our mother's to call out to us when dinner was ready.

We bicycled all around our neighborhood, and in the summer, we would sometimes peddle down to the Friendship Pond to swim and cool off. Children today don't have the freedom of movement we enjoyed as children. Perhaps our parents were foolish not to protect us from the predators out there, but in our time of innocence, nobody conceived such dangers existed. We didn't have play dates, we just met up and did whatever seemed like fun at the time. It was a carefree era.

And this is where I grew up I think the present owner fixed it up I never knew we'd ever went without

And this is where I went to school Most of the time had better things to do

Early Friendships and school days

My first friend outside my family was David Georgeson. His parents owned the gas station a block away from my mother's parent's house on Main Street. When we met, I was still riding my tricycle. David was about six months older than me, and he had already learned to ride a tiny two-wheeled bike. Since David's parents were tied to their gas station business, they didn't have the time or freedom to do much. David and I became close friends, and he was invited to go along with us everywhere we went. He was like a brother to me.

My first memories from school include the first day of kindergarten. I was not afraid on my first day; on the contrary, I was excited. It was going to be great fun to meet all these new kids and make new friends. I didn't know what was going to happen in the classroom, but I didn't worry I wouldn't enjoy it.

All the students arrived at different times prior to the first bell. Some walked, a few were dropped off by parents, and many arrived by bus. We all played together until the bell rang to start our school day. These free times and recess is where we all got to know one another, and it's where the pecking order was established. David and I were both popular, and we found ourselves near the top of the class.

We played a lot of kickball and dodgeball in those days, but most of the play was unstructured. For a while marbles was a popular game, and it taught you something about risk. In the game of marbles, each player throws his marble at the other player's marbles until one of them hits their opponent's marble. There were two ways to play; for fun, or for keeps. The serious players liked to play “for keeps.” The winner of those contests got to keep the marbles of the losing player. My mother bought me a great set of marbles with many cat's eyes, boulders, and the massive king-king-boulders. I was thrilled to get such a prized collection. I lost a few of my most prized marbles playing for keeps, and I was distraught over my loss. Games like marbles teach you about attachment, gain, and loss. It was never as much fun playing “for fun.”

The class cohorts were small in Adams-Friendship. There were only three teachers for a grade, and only a few elementary schools in the entire district. The graduating class of 1985 was only 125 students. The small cohort groups meant everyone knew everyone else, and you saw the same faces every year from first grade through graduation. It creates a closeness that's lost in larger schools where students become anonymous. It also creates opportunity for marginal athletes to be local stars. Many small-town football studs wouldn't even make the team in a larger school, but by being in a small town, they got those experiences which they cherish forever.

Everyone today expounds the virtues of diversity, and living in a multicultural area has its appeal. Adams-Friendship was as homogenous as it gets. With no economic growth to bring in outsiders, the entire population was made up of multi-generational families like mine, all with the same background and rural heritage. There was no prejudice to speak of. We weren't rednecks who hated outsiders, it was merely that outsiders had no reason to move to the area and become accepted insiders.

When I was in school, they opened a federal penitentiary in the south part of the county. Apparently, the feds liked the sparsely populated rural swampland as it made it easy to round up any escapees before they got too far. This brought new faces to the county, and with them our first African American residents. At first being the only black children in a school as white as Wonderbread made them stand out, but after a short time, the novelty wore off, and they became part of the group. Nobody had taught the children of Adams-Friendship to hate, so we had no reason to reject these newcomers. Acceptance was the norm in the community.

Wisconsin Dells

Despite the somewhat boring nature of rural life, we did have a nearby source of fun and entertainment. Twenty-five miles south of my hometown is the tourist trap, Wisconsin Dells. In the mid nineteenth century, loggers floating timber down the Wisconsin River noted unusual and beautiful sandstone formations in one area of the journey. The Wisconsin Dells quickly became popular with tourists who wanted to see this natural wonder. As tourists flocked to the area, other attractions sprung up, and a tourist Mecca was born.

During the prime season of the summer, my family used to go to the Dells on Saturday nights to watch the short track auto racing. The scent of burning rubber, motor oil and gasoline still brings back fond memories of watching racing. Some of the best short-track drivers of the era used to race these circuits. Wisconsin Dells was always my favorite track to go watch racing because afterward, we would go into town and race go-carts and play mini golf. Many of the best moments of my childhood were had there.

Wisconsin Dells has always given me a peaceful feeling. I have many joyous memories of both natural wonders and man-made thrills. I like to go back every year in late June for the good weather and 18 hours of sunlight, but it doesn't always happen. I want to build these same memories for my son, but I know it will never be quite the same.

One of the greatest experiences of my youth happened one Friday evening in 1977. My father told me were were going to some new movie called Star Wars. I didn't know what to expect. The poster at the local movie theater didn't pique my interest. We drove down to the Dells drive in with my uncle and watched the movie on the really big screen. It was one of the most enthralling experiences of my life. I was completely captivated. After the movie, we went into town for our usual routine of go-carts and mini golf.

As we drove home that night, I remember the warm feelings of movie fantasy, family fun, and blissful contentment as I dozed off. I was the happiest time in all my life.

Remember when the days were long

And rolled beneath a deep blue sky

Didn't have a care in the world

With mommy and daddy standing by

End of innocence

My idyllic childhood came to an abrupt end. When I was 11 years old, my parents decided to move out of our small town chasing an opportunity for a better life. Better than what? The desire for more afflicts us all, and it's primarily what keeps me away even now. I don't blame them for wanting something more, I only wished it would have made up for what was lost. For me, it never did.

The family moved to Northwest Arkansas near the home of Wal-Mart. The culture shock was jarring. Uprooted from my friends and family, I was plopped down in the prejudiced fringe of the Bible Belt. The school system sucked, so I was two years ahead of my peers, and being of above-average intelligence, I was actually much farther ahead than two years. Rather than being accepted as a leader, I was ostracized as an outsider. It was a role I later came to embrace.

The trauma of the move and my inability to adapt to the new culture served to increase my nostalgia for Adams-Friendship. I made many new friends in my years in Arkansas; in fact, the lifelong friendships I enjoy today all endure from the people I met there. However, my dissatisfaction with life in Arkansas prompted me to hatch a plan to return to Wisconsin. Years later, I did go back. The last semester of my senior year of high school, spring of 1985, I went back to come of age.

Come back tomorrow when I explore how I recaptured my sense of community and came of age by returning to my old home town.

Ancestral Call

My rural roots

My roots run deep in the rural farm community of Friendship, Wisconsin. My fraternal family line can be traced back to Thomas Roberts, a Welshman born in 1831. Thomas arrived with two bothers in New York, but sadly, he became separated from them and never saw them again. Thomas immigrated to Adams County, Wisconsin where he started a family which still boasts many local residents. Although my name is Welsh, the women who married Roberts men for the next several generations were of Scandinavian descent. I am a mutt of the American melting pot.

Many Scandinavians, Germans and Poles were drawn to central Wisconsin. The climate was something they were used to, so adapting to the new way of life was a bit easier for them than most. I grew up with four seasons, although the winters are particularly long and cold. Like everyone else, I adapted to the climate, but I never really grew to like it. The first snow in the fall is exciting, and sitting in front of a cozy fireplace while a blizzard rages outside is a special experience outsiders don’t fully understand. However, the fortieth snowfall of the season in April and hard freezes in May are experiences I’d rather forget. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but I don’t miss living there.

The Castellated Mounds

In the last ice age, much of Wisconsin was covered by glaciers. Adams County was actually the bottom of a large glacial lake which left behind a flat pile of sand which slowly drains to the adjacent Wisconsin River. The marshlands are drained by a series of small creeks and dotted with a mixture of pine trees, maples, and oaks. The landscape is relatively uniform except for the unusual castellated mounds which spring up across the county.

These mounds are characterized by exposed sandstone rock outcroppings elevated above the treeline providing views of the surrounding countryside. Just as Ayers Rock arises from the Aboriginal outback, these mounds have long been a spiritual magnet for local peoples dating back to the Native American Tribe of Roche a Cri who inhabited this area. These earliest inhabitants carved hieroglyphs depicting the key events of daily life. Growing up, I explored many of these mounds, and I discovered carvings from settlers dating back to the nineteenth century.

These mounds draw me in as they have others for centuries. When I approach I feel like I am entering holy ground, seeing Gaia, naked and exposed. These rocks feel ancient and unchanging surrounded by an ephemeral environment of fire-prone forests, lakes, and marshland.

Whenever I go back to Wisconsin to visit my home town, I go climb these rocks. For me it’s a religious pilgrimage.

Agrarian Rural Life

Central Wisconsin is far enough south that the growing season permits salable produce. Fifty miles further north, and timber is the only harvest. My ancestors were farmers making a living from the land. It was a arduous yet uncomplicated life. They grew crops, ate what they needed, and sold the rest to obtain a few niceties. They knew their neighbors, and they banded together to share seldom-used farm equipment, protected what they had from outsiders, and enjoyed a beer or two at the local tavern. A close-knit community developed.

The local economy was based on crop production, and trade revolved around the mills which sprung up along the various creeks which crisscrossed the land.

Servicing an agrarian economy took merchants. My great-great-grandfather Rufus Roberts was one of these entrepreneurs. He started the Monroe Center Store in 1898 and ran it at the turn of the twentieth century.

Rufus Roberts sold the school district a lot for the first elementary school in the area. He also took over the local sorghum mill and operated it for several years. At one point, Rufus bought the old county courthouse, moved it on rollers by horseback to a new location, and converted it to four apartments. As a community leader, he began the forth of July parade in Monroe Center and fostered it’s growth over the years that followed.

Rufus and Tilly, my great-great-grandparents (seated) were the parents of William Roberts (second from left) who married Elizabeth Carleson.

William and Elizabeth had five boys: Roger (my grandfather, now 94, on the left), Alva, John, Otto, and Claude.

William and Elizabeth acquired the prime farmland just outside the farm community of Friendship, Wisconsin. This farm is still worked by the Roberts family today.

Adams County, Wisconsin, is the land of my forefathers. Many of their decedents still live there. I try to go back every year to catch up with family and friends and find myself all over again. I get very nostalgic, and it serves to ground me in what’s real. Some part of me will always call it home.

Adams-Friendship, Wisconsin

Friendship, Wisconsin, is a farm community of about 700 people. has been the county seat of Adams County since 1848. When the railroad came to the area, local landowners demanded too much money, so the railroad moved the station two miles to the south, and the city of Adams sprung up in the gap between the station and the village of Friendship. The city of Adams is home to less than 2,000 people, and the entire county has less than 20,000. Needless to say, it’s rather rural.

Rural communities don’t change much. The building facades change periodically as businesses come and go, but for the most part, those towns are the same today as they were forty years ago when I was a child. In all likelihood, these cities will be same for the rest of my life. I take great comfort in that. The sameness of my home town is something I can count on. No matter what else changes in my life, my connection to the past will always remain. These towns will always be familiar.

Roger Roberts

My grandfather, Roger Roberts, grew up in Monroe Center. World War II started when he was in his early twenties, so he enlisted in the US Army Airborne. While in basic training in El Paso, Texas, he became severely dehydrated on a long march and his kidneys failed. He was sent to the hospital to recover. While in the hospital his unit was sent to France where it was decimated on D-Day. If my grandfather had not had kidney failure on the long march, he would have gone to battle and died on D-Day with the rest of his unit. I try not to think about the crazy way Fate intervenes in life.

My grandfather became a Sergeant in the Army and ran the kitchen cooking for over 180 men each day. His most harrowing experience was during the Battle of the Bulge when his 101st Airborne unit was overrun in Luxembourg by German Panzers sixty-eight years ago this week. He survived, thankfully, or I wouldn’t be here to tell the story.

Roger returned home in 1946 after two years abroad. He married Edna Paulson, my grandmother, and they had three children, Larry (my father), Judy, and Kenny. He worked with his two brothers in their local salvage business for most of his working life. He’s 94 years old and still doing well.

Leo Wilda

My mother’s father, Leo Wilda, settled in Adams, Wisconsin, and spent his entire adult life there. He married Margaret Wilda and had five children: Pat, LuVerna, Audrey (my mother), Mary, and Mike.

My grandfather always had a deep connection to the land. He liked to farm and grow his own vegetables. I remember he would start his tomatoes under grow lights indoors to get a couple of weeks head start on the growing season. He maintained his own garden plot until late in life. He also maintained the grounds at the local cemetery, and he maintained the local 9-hole golf course, all part-time. If the sun was shining, he was probably outside. Leo Wilda passed away in 2000 at the age of 83.

There is a lot to admire about both my grandfathers. When I think about my mother’s father, I always deeply respected his connection to nature, and I enjoyed his quirky sense of humor.

It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life

Ancestral Call

When I think about community, I remember what it was like growing up in a rural area with family and friends. Kinship and shared values bound us together. Prospering in an inhospitable climate required people to come together for mutual benefit. There is a sense of shared sacrifice and creating something greater than oneself for the benefit of others. It’s one of the feelings I enjoy about blogging and providing information for the greater good.

I am a small town the child of two families with deep local roots and a love for the area. Both sets of grandparents and much of my extended family lived within a few miles of one another. It was a unique environment. I was part of a community of elders who helped guide me in the formative years of my life. I had every advantage a strong family could offer. It was a wonderful way to start out life.

Over the next three days, I am going to write more about my life growing up in this environment. These are the experiences that shaped and defined my beliefs and my outlook on life. Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

Housing price bottom delayed to at least 2013

The following headlines suggest the market will not bottom in 2012:

I am not the only market observer who has come to this conclusion.

Home Address … 90 LEHIGH AISLE #58 Irvine, CA 92612

Asking Price ……. $449,000

Real estate recovery in limbo until 2013, experts say

By Martha C. White — December 23, 2011

This year was supposed to be the bottom for the housing market and 2012 was supposed to mark the turnaround.

Really? Is that on the authority of realtors who call the bottom every year? Nobody with any credibility was calling the bottom in 2012, and anyone who did no longer has any credibility.

In reality, even the improvements sound like bad news, and some forecasters are saying we'll have another year of gloom before the clouds break.

Yes, the forecasters who have a clue what's really going on are looking at the buildup of inventory, weak sales, increasing delinquencies and forecasting continued falling prices.

“It's unlikely prices will rise next year in most markets,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at real estate information site Trulia. “By that measure most local markets will not recover next year, but prices are only one measure of how the housing market is doing.”

While it's true that price recovery is only one measure of the health of the housing market, it is the only one most loan owners care about. Sales volumes will likely increase in 2012, but that is going to come from investors buying low-priced houses.

American home values are likely to shed $681 billion this year, according to Zillow. That's better than the $1.1 trillion lost in 2010, but hardly worth breaking out the bubbly.

In a nutshell, that's the problem with the housing market today. Even the good news is relative, and a true recovery is still at least a few quarters away.

[T]he unabsorbed pool of housing supply, dragging levels of consumer confidence, high unemployment and negative equity will continue to put downward pressure on the housing market, pushing our expectation for a potential recovery into late 2012 or early 2013,” Stan Humphries, chief economist at real estate research company Zillow Inc., said in a statement.

Data company CoreLogic estimates there is a “shadow inventory” of 1.6 million homes, which is the biggest drag on prices.

Basically, supply of motivated sellers is going to overwhelm the weakened demand. No matter how you describe it, aggressive supply meeting weak demand results in lower prices.

“Foreclosures lead to very motivated sellers, which will have a destabilizing effect on prices,” said Nicolas Retsinas, professor of real estate at Harvard Business School. The sluggish pace of foreclosures — hampered by the robo-signing scandal, ongoing investigations and litigation — have stalled the movement of those homes back into the market.

None of the market props or processing delays have helped the market bottom. In fact, these circumstances have done nothing other than delay the bottom.

Data on the number of sales is more promising.

In November, sales of single-family homes hit a seven-month high. Sales rose 1.6 percent for the month, and 9.8 percent over the past 12 months.

But these figures are climbing back from abysmal depths; the National Association of Realtors thjs week lowered its figures on the number of homes sold between 2007 and 2010 by nearly 3 million, down to 17.7 million.

The silver lining in the NAr revisions is that sales comparisons now look better. Volume is improving which is to be expected with lower prices. Further increases in sales volumes are required to clear out the supply.

“With a highly leveraged housing bust, you haven't seen that increase in residential investment in spite of low interest rates,” said Ted Gayer, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution.

Slack demand for existing homes also means fewer buyers for new homes. Home building has traditionally been the tow truck that pulls the economy out of the mud, but with so many empty houses and so few people moving into them, that's not the case this time around.

With an entire industry sitting on the sidelines, our economy continues to suffer. Employment in homebuilding and related industries is not improving much.

“It's not a demand problem,” Gayer said. “When you have such a huge excess supply it doesn't really get at the problem.”

Even though interest rates are at record lows, a tight credit market is keeping people who do want to buy on the sidelines, said Retsinas. Lower rates of household formation — fewer immigrants and more adult children still living with their parents — also quash demand.

The tight credit meme is consistently reported incorrectly. While it's true that people who want to buy can't, it's only the people who want to buy who aren't qualified that are being denied. They should be denied credit. They won't pay it back. We have credit standards to establish who will repay loans, not to see who wants a home.

Despite these headwinds, there are glimmers of hope.

Have you noticed that hope only comes in glimmers? The light at the end of the tunnel is not very clear or bright.

Kolko said an uptick in multifamily construction and remodeling, while not as strong as the traditional home building engine, will still provide construction-sector jobs in the near term. Longer term, more multifamily dwellings on the market will alleviate the increase in rents happening now, potentially giving people more breathing room to save for a home purchase in the future.

I can assure you, the people developing multifamily right now are not anticipating a weakening in rents. Further, weakening rents will keep more buyers on the sidelines because it impacts rental parity. Without the pressure of increasing rent, many potential buyers will simply wait and continue to rent.

And a few parts of the country might catch a break next year. Kolko said California's Silicon Valley, along with much of Texas and New England, are starting to recover due to their employment levels or because the housing bubble wasn't as pronounced there in the first place. The rest of us will just have to hope for better luck in '13.

The housing bubble was not as pronounced in California's Silicon Valley? LOL! Failure to deflate is not a sign that prices didn't bubble.

The housing market will likely not bottom in 2012. Fall 2012 or the winter of 2013 perhaps, but the spring rally of 2012 — if we get one — will not mark the bottom of the housing bust.


This property is available for sale via the MLS.

Please contact Shevy Akason, #01836707


Home Address … 90 LEHIGH AISLE #58 Irvine, CA 92612

Asking Price ……. $449,000

Beds: 2

Baths: 2

Sq. Ft.: 1682


Property Type: Residential, Condominium

Style: Two Level, Contemporary

View: Tree Top

Year Built: 1988

Community: University Town Center

County: Orange

MLS#: S653494

Source: CRMLS

On Redfin: 270 days


If you favor contemporary design, are creative & imaginative, then you will fall in love with the open, airy atmosphere that this modern 2BR/2BA + loft/office/guest/game room provides. You will appreciate the modern, angular lines in this centrally located townhome & will enjoy highlighting your artwork, sculptures & furnishings within this unique space. The living, dining, & kichen areas are open and can accomodate both intimate & large gatherings. The loft skylights have retractable shades to provide as much sunlight & /or shade as the occasion calls for(as a guest room or game room). The oversized master bedroom w/ large picture windows views out to treetops & greenery below bringing the outside in. The spacious junior bedroom can accomodate a queensize bed if needed. There are doors out to a large covered balcony from both the living & secondary bedroom areas for al fresco dining or a quiet moment after a day's work. Walk to Trader Joe's, the Farmer's Market, the Cinema, shops & eateries


Proprietary commentary and analysis

Asking Price ……. $449,000

Purchase Price … $224,000

Purchase Date …. 7/22/1994

Net Gain (Loss) ………. $198,060

Percent Change ………. 88.4%

Annual Appreciation … 3.9%

Cost of Home Ownership


$449,000 ………. Asking Price

$15,715 ………. 3.5% Down FHA Financing

4.02% …………… Mortgage Interest Rate

$433,285 ………. 30-Year Mortgage

$135,001 ………. Income Requirement

$2,074 ………. Monthly Mortgage Payment

$389 ………. Property Tax (@1.04%)

$0 ………. Special Taxes and Levies (Mello Roos)

$94 ………. Homeowners Insurance (@ 0.25%)

$498 ………. Private Mortgage Insurance

$433 ………. Homeowners Association Fees


$3,488 ………. Monthly Cash Outlays

-$322 ………. Tax Savings (% of Interest and Property Tax)

-$622 ………. Equity Hidden in Payment (Amortization)

$22 ………. Lost Income to Down Payment (net of taxes)

$76 ………. Maintenance and Replacement Reserves


$2,641 ………. Monthly Cost of Ownership

Cash Acquisition Demands


$4,490 ………. Furnishing and Move In @1%

$4,490 ………. Closing Costs @1%

$4,333 ………. Interest Points

$15,715 ………. Down Payment


$29,028 ………. Total Cash Costs

$40,400 ………… Emergency Cash Reserves


$69,428 ………. Total Savings Needed


Personal writing

I have written my last real estate post for the Irvine Housing Blog. My last four posts will not focus on real estate. If reading about my feelings of community and experiences growing up interests you, please stop by over the next four days. If not, it was a pleasure serving you over the last five years. I hope to see you on my new blog the OC Housing News.