Get a real house

“They need to bulldoze that entire neighborhood and put in some real houses!”


I once heard a speaker tell a story of how someone had commented that the speaker’s possessions weren’t nice enough to impress them. His response to the audience was “Give people permission to have their own dreams.” This post is about MY dreams, which, apparently, some people don’t find impressive enough.

I don’t think he knew he was talking about my neighborhood. Still, we both, my wife and I, felt a bit offended.

We live in an older (by North Texas standards) area that was built in the 1960’s. It’s not fancy, but it’s nice. It is a neighborhood of mixed ethnicity, which I do not mind. I grew up as “the gringo” in an Hispanic neighborhood. This place is full of Hispanics, Orientals, Africans, and yes, a bunch of gringos. The ages around here range from sweet and often clueless young couples to wizened curmudgeons (a class I am probably fast entering).

We chose to move here at a time that we just needed a place to live because I had a job in the area. It was in our budget. That was a long time ago. We have stayed here despite years of people dissing the area because of their “real house” snobbery.


Let me tell you why I love this place.

It is small

– smaller than the retirement apartment my mother lives in. Its very smallness is something I love.

It is easy.

While I was thinking about writing today, I decided to put some things away around the garden. I was walking around looking for my Birkenstocks because I needed to walk to the back of the property, and the path goes across some gravel that can be uncomfortable to an unshod foot. Because the house is small, there were only a few places where the Birkis could be. I found them in a moment.

It is personal.

I have thought a lot about all the things I have chosen NOT to have because I don’t want to give up the space. For example, I don’t have a big screen TV. In fact, I only have one very old TV (NOT part of the IOT), having given away all the others a few years ago. I keep only what I want and what I will use. The rest? I don’t have it, nor do I care to. I do not have a storage rental, nor do I need one. There is actually room in my garage. I don’t have a sofa. I used to, but my wife and I found that we prefer our personally-selected chairs and the personal space they allow.

I keep a small office in one of the “bedrooms.”

While it’s small, I can sit three people in it if I need to do so. I rarely do that, however, because of the Starbucks that is a 10-minute walk and Urban Alchemy Coffee + Wine that is a 10-minute drive. And I have a car. I can go places.

And Zoom. I love Zoom.

The Muse keeps her office in the other “bedroom.”

It is a magical place where she proofs everything I write, manages all kinds of personal and business projects, and keeps the kitty who loves to fight with everyone behind a closed door when he is inside. The Muse does not care for Zoom so much. She does like that it keeps me happy.

I love this place because of the dirt around it.

I have friends who live on “zero lots” or in what I have heard called “lock and leave” houses. The former are so close to their neighbors that they are practically in bed together, but to me that sort of sounds like living in a very large apartment.

My little place sits on enough dirt that I was able to plant what became a gorgeous, 12-foot-high, six-foot-deep hedge to shield me from that degree of closeness to the rental neighbors next door. (From what I hear, “real house” neighborhoods have renter issues, too.) I have a bit of lawn, but not too much, for walking on and for the dogs to roll in. There are beds upon beds of perennials, ornamentals, and edibles. There are trees for shade and for birds and for squirrels…and for the occasional possum or raccoon.

There are stone walkways that we laid ourselves. In the front and the back, there are shaded formal sitting areas with spectacular views of foliage and blooms that vary with the season. You see, our outside is a series of rooms that we have designed so that you are never more than a few steps from a wonderful place to sit and sip your coffee or tea or wine and think. Always furnished, always ready, and always beautiful. And full of living things.

As for the “lock and leave” homes, I hadn’t heard of those before last week.

It’s a cool concept if your main goal is to have a place just to stay and let someone else take care of everything from the landscape to the handyman stuff so that you can leave at any time. If you get a wild hare, you can just lock it up and go. I get the attraction of being footloose, but we have made other choices.

We have chosen to have a way-over-our-quota collection of rescues who have found our small home, moved in, and rely on us. Some would call them moochers, but that’s because they really don’t get it. As The Muse often says, “You can have perfect carpets or unconditional love. You cannot have both.”

The pack and the clowder are smaller than they have been in the past. We are recognizing better our limitations and our mortality and are having to put some limits on what we personally can adopt. The rest we help through the local no-kill shelter that we support. But the ones that have moved in, well, they are family, and you don’t “lock and leave” family.

We have made our choice, we stay, and will continue to do so.

This little house is full. And alive. And personal. We know where everything is and why it is there. We know every corner of the inside and outside. We have dug and cultivated almost every inch of the outside – all the way into the utility right-of-way where we have the composter and what I call the ROW (right-of-way) garden. And yet another sitting area.

This is where I live. This is where I write. This is where I work.

It is real.

Michael Stammer is a Sales | Life | Performance coach available for individual and group coaching and speaking to organizations. For more visit

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