Canada Day Eh! and All about Choice


by Roxanne Tellier

One amazing country

 

Let’s let some talented Youtubers do the talking …

 

Wishing everyone a very Happy Canada Day, Eh!

And now … for your Sunday Sermon …..

How critical is ‘choice‘ in how we live our lives? The last time we were looking for a place to live, I began to see how little I really understood both the concept, and the reality, of choice.

After over 30 years of home ownership, we were neophytes at this rental game, and discovered quickly that everything had changed since the days when the local newspapers (remember those?) listed page after page of places to let.

how to decideAnd that really got me thinking – not just about the frustration of trying to find a decent rental in these anxious teens, but about how essential available choices are to our daily life.

Buying a house is the biggest financial decision that most people will deal with in a lifetime. When you begin house hunting, your agent will ask you to narrow down what it is you’d like in a home. You are asked how much you can spend, but also, what areas of the city or suburbs interest you, and what sort of structure do you picture when you envision your future. Do you fancy a bungalow? Split Level? A MacMansion? Something with a lot of land, or maybe something with as little necessary upkeep as possible?

choosing the right houseBut there’s also another factor in that quest, and that is what is available at the time of your search. At any given time, there will be a finite amount of available homes from which to choose. And, depending on how much of a city explorer you have been, you may have defined a fairly narrow search area for your house hunt.

In the end, humans like to believe that they make decisions based on rational and carefully decided logic. But in fact, they are driven by the options before them, and the good salesmanship of the people that get them to choose. The ‘shit or get off the pot moment’ is when the agent says, “ok … this one? or this one?” It’s not so much about how ‘right’ this one piece of property is over the other, it’s about the choice you can make, based on what is available, right now.

Ichoice is scary have traveled all over the city, for business and pleasure, and I would consider myself fairly cognizant of what most Toronto neighbourhoods and local areas have to offer. But when I look for somewhere to live, I tend to stay within the same area that I have lived in since I first arrived here, in 1976. It’s not that I don’t LIKE other parts of the city, it’s that I’m more comfortable living in the East End. And so that is where I choose to look for accommodations.

And yet, given half a chance, would I live in an artist’s loft in the West End? You betcha. Or in a big house, up in Rosedale, with a view of the ravine? In a heartbeat. I’d enjoy any chance to see how others live and what other areas have to offer.

I just don’t immediately think of those areas when I’m looking for a place to live – because I’ve never lived there. The familiarity, the knowledge of the streets, the shops, the pubs, the people … I would have to learn all of those in order to best enjoy a new location.

Which is … again … a choice. I would have to choose to learn all about that new neighbourhood, and sometimes I feel like I’m just too old, tired, and lazy to go to all that trouble.

The sad truth is that we often think our choices only come in black or white, until someone introduces Technicolor into our lives.

Our love lives are also governed by limited choice. Whom we choose to fall in love with is often driven by our age, where we live, and how strong a sex drive one of the two in the couple have. Again, it may not be about Mr or Ms Right .. but Mr or Ms Right Now.

choo choo choose youMost of us will have to live a lifetime to understand that the person without whom you could not bear to live another minute in your teens, is not necessarily the person you would choose in your twenties, thirties, forties or really, at any other point in your life.

People change, and the people you love, or even like, at one point, may be the person you literally cannot tolerate in another phase. That silly certainty that drove Romeo and Juliet to their deaths over a glimpsed ankle? Very romantic. Very teenaged. Highly irrational.

I’m gonna bet that neither Romeo nor Juliet had met a lot of people by that point in their short lives, and, by the end of the tale, neither one was ever gonna get any more chances to do so. End of choices. Stuff happens.

Our access to money – ours or our families – plays a huge role in our choices. We can be born into it, we can earn it, or we can lose it, and each of those options determine everything from how and where we live, to whom we have the opportunity to meet and marry.

Where we are born, and what colour skin we wear, will also have an enormous impact on the choices and options available to us. Not everything is open to everyone. The father and daughter that died this week on the Mexican border had made choices, and sadly, those choices turned out to be deadly.

But those that berate these sad victims for choosing to put their lives and their children’s lives in danger forget that life is only cozy and safe for some people – many others live in places filled with violence and terrorism. The two that died in that river were just two more people who made choices, based on the only choices they had – to fight or to flee.

That family were no different to my ancestors choosing a long sea journey from France, to try and start a new life in another country, free from the prejudices, crime, and politics of their own birthplace. I’m sure my maternal grandfather’s mother would rather not have given birth on a ship somewhere between Ireland and New York City, but there was that pesky famine going on back home. My gramma walked behind a covered wagon from South Dakota to Alberta, despite the many stories of those who died from that journey in the 1800s, from wild animals, disease, the rigours of crossing the Rocky Mountains, and the perils of encountering other humans who might wish them harm.

choosing healthChoices. So many choices. What to eat, and what to drink, and what happens if you eat and drink the wrong things. Deciding to smoke, in order to fit in with your peers, and, fifty years later, being the one dying of emphysema. Opting to take drugs to temporarily numb the pain, only to find your whole life fitting easily into the plastic bag that rests beside you on the sidewalk you now call home ….

Choosing to learn how to best care for yourself and others; learning how to navigate the technology of your day; opting to reach for the stars rather than plod along like so many others who are afraid of failure if they make the wrong choice …..

Choices – and consequence. Politics; elections have consequences. When we vote, not for someone good for our country, but to punish the person who didn’t fulfill all of our needs and dreams, we will face the consequences.

When old men, intent on feeling the thrill of virility again, launch a war that will be fought by young men … are the deaths of those soldiers their own choice? Or were the soldiers only offered two choices; to fight for their country, or to be deemed unpatriotic?

choose your love. jpgWe like to think that we have all the choices in the world, but of course, the only choices you have are the ones you find in front of you, and those are based on this moment in time, and your current place in the cosmos.

We may not necessarily make the right choice, and these may not be all of the choices available to us, but each of us can always try to make the right choice for right now.

And, in the end, that’s the only choice we ever really have.

life is what happens

Roxanne Tellier, choice, choosing, real estate, romance, love, elections

Boom Times in the Big Smoke


It’s Boom Town for realtors in Toronto these days. 243,400 houses were sold last year, and as of April of this year, the average residence in the city had a starting price tag of a cool $921,000.

378 East Sept 2016My old house in Scarborough, which we sold last July, was re-sold twice more by speculators before the year ended, each time jumping another $100K or so in price. It’s now been demolished and rebuilt as a monster home. I wouldn’t recognize the place, they tell me.

Fine by me. We sold, we moved, and I can barely remember the person I was when I lived in my big, old bungalow. Turns out it’s great not to have the onus of house maintenance, and the constant waiting for the next expense to drop. Renting, after 30 years of owning, may not lend the same sense of autonomy, but it also comes with a lot less responsibility and chores.

Taxes can be a burden on the home owner as well, since your residential tax is based on current value, not what you paid for the place at the time of purchase. If you lucked out in the eighties and bought your dream home for around $100,000, you might be considering a second job just to keep the taxes paid and the utilities flowing.

hawkstone-manorGood ol’ Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins has his big estate, Hawkstone Manor, up for sale. Again. He tried to sell it for $14.9 million back in 2013, and failed. But it’s up again, this time listed at $4.3 million. If it goes to a bidding war, which is not out of the question, he could still get closer to the $10 million mark.

From the Toronto Star, April 2013:
“It’s a $100 house on a million-dollar property.”

The nine-bedroom, five-bathroom home is really only notable for the lifetime of memories that line its orange living room walls. A buyer would likely bring in a bulldozer.

But the house sits atop a rare piece of prime Kawarthas real estate — 165 acres gently sloping down to almost 4,000 feet of waterfront that, on these sought-after shores of the Trent-Severn Waterway, can go for $5,000 a foot.”

The Order of Canada recipient is 82, and not in the best of health. Whatever the final price, he and his wife will be able to cash out big and find somewhere a lot cosier to shelter them in their golden years.

sold over asking. jpgAnd that’s the ideal situation to be in, in the market right now. If you’re selling and have to purchase another place in the city – good luck to you. They want ridiculous money for so much as a garage, without a house attached. It’s madness. Tiny bungalows, like the one I’m renting, list for $800K and sell for over a million.

And when the interest rates rise in a bit, it’s gonna be even crazier. How can the average person buy so much as an entry home in the city, without a family income somewhere in the $300K a year range? It’s nuts. Rock, meet hard place. Rock musicians … move to Hamilton.

Funny thing, though, about this real estate madness – with hundreds of thousands of properties changing hands in the last two years, there have never been more paper millionaires minted in the city than it’s likely seen in it’s history. scrooge_mcduck

Not just millionaires – multi-millionaires. If you’re one of those lucky enough to have pretty much retired the mortgage, and are ready for retirement yourself, you could be walking away with more money than you ever dreamed you’d have. (Not me, I hasten to add – we did alright but didn’t hit Scrooge McDuck status. We’re barely McDucklings. We’re Ova McDuck, if anything.)

Barring a lotto win, which is unlikely, since I keep forgetting to buy a ticket, I’ll probably spend the rest of my days in rental properties, of decreasing proportions. Part of me would love to be a home owner again, but the rational, sensible part of my brain is quite comfortable with letting someone else worry about the roof, the septic tank, and the tyranny of ‘keeping up with the Jones.

I’m liking this downsizing, says the unrepentant hoarder. I’m liking trying to fit everything that once overflowed a 4000 square foot sprawler into this teensy tiny, less than 1000 square foot bungalow. It’s given me the chance to actually sift through all of these souvenirs and memories, and sort the metaphorical wheat from the chaff. I’m culling the hoard. It’s great to tear willy nilly through the detritus, and toss out the junk. It’s fun to put boxes of odds and ends on the lawn, under a big sign that says ‘Free!’ and watch cars screech to a halt, their drivers eager to find some little treasure to haul home.

1 800 got junkIt’s really heartening to go through all of the boxes of clothing, shoes, books, craft items, and linens, choose what can be redistributed within our family and friends, and then pass on the overflow to people who will appreciate what we’ve donated. There are so many who have so little, while others have three of everything. Distributing some of my bounty to those who can use it liberates my home AND my heart.

I didn’t need three apple corers. In fact, I have never even used one of them, not even once. Ditto the cherry pitter.

For the first time in my life, I’m no longer buying stuff ‘just in case,’ or with a view to some future purpose, because my future is now, and I want to be present.

I’m happy for those who are selling their properties for a tidy profit. I’m happy for those who are finding their dream homes. I worry about Torontonians who missed the real estate roundabout, and are now trying to find something affordable to rent. But this is all going on around me, and like you, I have very little say in what the Toronto of tomorrow will resemble.

Owning a home is not for everyone. It’s a very nice thing, and can certainly be wise and profitable in midlife. But when it comes time for retirement, home ownership is more like an anchor around your neck, keeping your proverbial boat stuck in one place. To enter new waters, you’ve got to haul up that anchor, and unfurl the sails, letting the fresh breeze take you somewhere new and exciting.

Avast, me hearties … I’m bound for uncharted shores!