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Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary?



You Learn Something Every Day

Being involved in my homeowners’ association has been a great learning experience. And what a well-rounded education it’s been indeed! There are so many aspects to association governance ranging from financial and legal to construction, facilities management, personnel and more. For example, as a volunteer, as a Board member and most recently as President, I have learned things like why roads get cracks in them, the relationships between all of the levels of government in the local area, the difference between cash and accrual basis accounting, the life cycle of gypsy moths, how to deal with a variety of personalities, Performance Management, and on and on. The learning never stops and each lesson is unique and valuable, and some of the decisions we have to make in leadership are very hard and potentially controversial.

A Lesson In Civil Liberties

Most recently, we’ve had a request that the Board of Directors stop the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at our public meetings.  The reason, interestingly enough, is not wholly associated with religion, which has been the basis of many challenges to the practice in schools and other places over the years. The basis for this request has more to do with being inclusive of all homeowners, since the Association exists for the benefit of all homeowners. Some residents, we’ve been reminded, may be prohibited from reciting the Pledge because of religious issues, but others also may be prohibited from reciting the Pledge because of citizenship issues. As you know, one does not have to be a US citizen to own property here. It was argued, “If we are going to demonstrate patriotism or loyalty at our meetings, there are less exclusionary ways to do it,” such as the singing of America the Beautiful or something.

Should Alternatives Be Considered?

It’s not uncommon for organizations to open meetings with the Pledge – especially since 9/11, when Patriotism experienced a big Rebirth. The practice has become a regular part of our HOA meetings, as it has become a standard in some other organizations’ agendas. I’ve never considered that it might be offensive to some and quite honestly have always regarded it as a totally voluntary part of meetings. I am beginning to wonder if our quest for a kinder, gentler HOA requires that we be more sensitive to issues like this and that we seek an alternative to the Pledge. Is there some other way to honor our country, one that satisfies the needs of the many without alienating the few? After all, athletic events and even the big, televised political ceremonies opt for the National Anthem as the opening highlight.

What do you think? Does this request have merit? Or is this a case of political correctness gone mad?

Lisa sells residential real estate in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern PA, and authors The Poconos Real Estate Blog. Being a strong believer in community participation, she currently serves as President of a 1700 home Property Owners' Association and Secretary of the Board of the local REALTOR Association for 2009. Her most challenging and fulfilling role, though, is that of Mom to two teenage girls, and her main hope for them is that they learn to appreciate the abundant joys of a life lived with a positive attitude. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

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  1. Jack Leblond

    April 28, 2009 at 8:59 am

    As a veteran and former city council person, my initial reaction was “if you want to live here, you can say the pledge!”

    However – after thinking a bit, reading the history of the pledge ( and learning how it started as one man’s wish for children and slowly morphed into a tool for conformists to use against those that are different from them in any number of ways.

    I do feel pretty strongly though that people can only have one country. If you choose to move somewhere, get a job, buy property, have children etc – that is your country now.

  2. BawldGuy

    April 28, 2009 at 10:45 am

    At some point we, as Americans need to look some of these folks in the eye, and remind them they knew who we were and what the rules were when they came here. Then remind them WHY they came here.

  3. Sarah Cooper

    April 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Lisa, I remember the first time I said the Pledge with my child in public. Her eyes went wide when she realized Mommy knew the words to something she thought of as “from her school” – and then she looked around and all the other adults knew it, too. Suddenly it clicked with her, it wasn’t about school, it was something that united all Americans.

    I can understand a HOA meeting wanting to start with that feeling of unification. I’m not sure that I understand the problem with saying it, unless there is someone of another nationality who lives there and is offended. Personally I would enjoy listening to another country’s pledge to soak up some culture, even if I didn’t say it myself.

  4. Jim Rake

    April 28, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Lisa – Good questions & congrats on your willingness to step into the HOA ring and do battle.

    Suppose, I’d begin by asking what responsibilities come with home ownership. Are there any? To own a piece of American soil, does it come with any cost, other than the price of the property?

    Should it?

    Is pledging allegiance to the country or its’ flag necessarily against a religious or ethnic belief? Not one I’m familiar with.

    Lastly, since no specific God is identified in the pledge, what is there to oppose? For those who believe there is no God, there would seem to be no problem either.

    With property ownership comes responsibility, plain and simple. And, by the way, when these homeowners have (legal)problems with their land/property, whose court system are they going to petition for relief?

    Obviously, the only one available, and probably the only one they have faith in to fairly respond to their petition – the U.S Court system.

  5. Mark Eibner

    April 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    we’re at it again Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary?: Get out of your feed reader and comment on t..

  6. sheilabragg

    April 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary?: Get out of your feed reader and comment on this post- we PROMISE that the ShamW..

  7. Lisa Sanderson

    April 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    RT @Just posted: Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary? (here’s the right link, sowwy

  8. Daniel, The Real Estate Zebra

    April 28, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    No offense intended to you or your HOA, Lisa, but stuff like this is precisely why HOA’s rarely get anything accomplished; or when they do, it has been accomplished for twice the cost as it could have been done.

    Say the pledge, don’t say the pledge, who cares? The pledge has nothing to do with the tasks that an HOA is charged with.

    I live in a LARGE HOA, and I see the same thing happen here, too. Folks are so worried about non-essential junk that the stuff that really NEEDS to get done, doesn’t.

    Have someone make a motion to eliminate the pledge, second it (or not), discuss it, and vote. Then, move on to more important stuff.

    While the Pledge of Allegiance might be appropriate fodder for our elected government officials, HOA members and directors have things far more important to their organization that should be receiving attention.

    Saying or not saying the pledge before meetings will do nothing to the membership dues, the facilities maintenance, or the value of property.

    That being said, kudos to you for serving on your HOA board. You are a much braver person than I!

  9. Real Estate Feeds

    April 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary?: Get out of your feed reader and comment on this post- we PROMISE that the ShamW..

  10. Lisa Sanderson

    April 29, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Jack: I keep going back and forth on this too…definitely a tough question to answer.

    Bawldguy: Not sure the ‘rules’ include the Pledge, hence the question. But I do get your point.

    Sarah: I *love* experiencing other cultures & customs. One of the great things about our country is that we’re allowed to express them!

    Jim: Great point about the legal system. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  11. Lisa Sanderson

    April 29, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Thank you, Daniel! HOA leadership is an awesome experience and I highly recommend it.

    I understand your concern that sweating the small stuff might distract from the real job of the Board, but I don’t find that to be the case. As a matter of fact, paying attention to the things that are important to the members has allowed us to grow our volunteer base, a major accomplishment! The challenge is to find ways of addressing these ‘small’ requests while keeping priorities where they should be. It can and does work for us.

    If your Board is not able to prioritize and get the right things done, you should definitely consider running!! 😉

  12. James Malanowski

    April 29, 2009 at 11:39 am

    If there are HOA members that decide they will not/cannot recite the pledge for whatever reason, fine. They have that choice. Why should their choice crush the choice of others?

    Last I checked, this is still the USA and we have a pledge to recite. I won’t recite the Mexican pledge when I visit Mexico, but I sure won’t complain that others are doing so.

    The folks in your HOA choose to live here … They need to learn how to deal with it.

    People need to get over the whole politically correctness BS and grow a spine.

  13. Lisa Sanderson

    April 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    @SarahWV Thanks for your comment yesterday…I *so* agree about the soaking up some culture thing!

  14. Sarah Cooper

    April 29, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    @LisaSanderson You made me think, it was an excellent question.

  15. Missy Caulk

    April 29, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I would have had a hissie fit!!

    I am so sick of this attitude and political correctness. I would have quit and walked out on the spot. If it is your tradition then it should not be stopped.

    There are few things that get me riled up but this one does. I’ll come back later IF I calm down.

  16. Heather Barr

    April 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    “Is pledging allegiance to the country or its’ flag necessarily against a religious or ethnic belief?”

    No, pledging to the American flag is a symbol that you’re proud to be an American citizen. It does not mean you’re a proud property owner.

    “I won’t recite the Mexican pledge when I visit Mexico.” Neither would I. But US property owners are not always visitors. Nor are they always citizens.

    Refraining from saying the pledge at an HOA meeting isn’t “political correctness”. There is simply no connection between reciting the US pledge and being a property owner who exhibits pride of ownership and respect for your HOA and neighbors.

    If your HOA wants to demonstrate specific sentiments at the beginning of the meetings, perhaps it would be better to ask each person present to try to say something they love about your community.

  17. James Malanowski

    April 30, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Okay, then when I go and visit the ranch in Mexico that my wife and I own, I will not complain when others recite the Mexican pledge … Jeez, talk about splitting hairs.

    This is a very “PC” topic. The connection is that if an assembly of people decide to open their meeting with the Pledge then others who do NOT wish to recite it have the right not to just as the others have the right TO recite.

    The bottom line is, recite or don’t recite … Just don’t base your decision on a person being uncomfortable because they’re not American or they don’t like America, or whatever their reasoning is. They can step outside for the 30 seconds it takes to get through it if it bothers them that much.

    If people are offended by the US Pledge (or US anything for that matter) maybe they shouldn’t be owning property, residing, visiting, or anything else.

    Since when is patriotism wrong or unacceptable? The respect for my HOA and my neighbors is exhibited by my recognizing their right to be in the same country as I am and I don’t bash them for not reciting our Pledge, singing our anthem, or anything else that would have them dishonor THEIR homeland.

    Again I say, if there is someone in the room so uncomfortable that they would try and limit my right to recite our Pledge then THEY should leave the room.

  18. BawldGuy

    April 30, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Simply put, we’re becoming a nation of 10 year old girls.

  19. James Malanowski

    April 30, 2009 at 5:32 pm


    Oops, that response might be construed as religious.

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Green Live & Work

Regenerating architecture: green building product innovations

(Green News) Sustainable design has evolved beyond robotics, and has tapped into the basics, using pre-historic methods: bacteria. Genius!





A Third Grade Teepee

Remembering back to third grade science class, about ten sticks bound together at the top with twine of some sort, and a little beansprout planted at the base of each pole, eventually became the coolest shelter this eight year old had ever seen. Seedlings wound their way up, tendril by tendril until their leaves reached just far enough to clasp and join, and create and fantastic teepee that was actually a food source, too! Talk about the ultimate in sustainability – but that was old school.


Making Something Out of Nothing

Enough about my blast from the past. I was seriously thrown into nostalgia when I thrust onto the path of this fantastic article by Gary Wollenhaupt earlier this week regarding some of the most inspirational green-building products I have heard about in quite sometime. It must have something to do with the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s Innovation Challenge and building products that seem to become something from nothing! Apparently these folks were up to the task!

So, maybe the little teepee which was representative of the sacred “three sisters” or corn, beans, and squash that the Native Americans utilized as their staple crops symbolized something else to me. The regeneration of soil, the regeneration of the land, and a regeneration of that happy little elementary school structure, covered in beans which became the perfect hiding spot.

Obviously, the teepee wasn’t innovative, but for this little kid, the shelter “appeared out of nowhere” once those leaves filled in. The Forbes article pulled together an arsenal of truly innovative products that are not only environmentally friendly, sustainably-minded products that will certainly turn many green-builders on their heads!

The Home that Regenerates Itself

Innovation comes in many different forms. Lots of great builders looking to build sustainable homes look towards energy efficiency in a hard-core way and building with products that take building to a new level; however, these innovators have gone and created building products that supposedly grow themselves, or are fire-retardant, or are -say what?- regenerating when they are broken? Oh, ok? This sounds like something out of the future, and we don’t even have our hoverboards yet!

Seriously though, it is amazing to think that there is a product made of a bacteria which will regenerate itself. Self-healing materials have been around for a while, but not necessarily for home building. Wollenhaupt noted that the”Bacteria engineered to thrive in dry climates is helping to create a concrete that can repair itself.

The bacteria are mixed into the concrete and release calcium carbonate, similar to limestone, as part of their waste process. The material fills in holes and cracks in the concrete, making it last longer and reducing maintenance costs.” As someone who is incredibly interested in developments like these, I am quite curious as to their durability and what the testing has been like for the products, but can’t wait to see what the future holds for green building products that bring us full circle! Fascinating, isn’t it?

Watch it Grow

It will be fascinating to see what happens when these homes are built out of these biologically and ecologically innovative building products, and if they will indeed withstand the test of time and do as they say they will. Take some time to view the entire roster of impressive applicants to the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, the California based non-profit who put on the event, check out their information, and applaud their achievements in green-building and design!

Now I want to go in the yard and build a little pole-bean teepee, and watch it grow. I don’t think my back yard is at the “coral-like” regenerating concrete bio-product level quite yet.

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Green Live & Work

Superadobe: super sustainable building phenomenon

Taking something that already had the power to be awesome and making it, well, super-powered, that is what one bright-eyed architect did with an age-old building concept. Let’s take a mini-adventure into the world of Superadobe, where a blending of concepts which are thousands of years old with some new ideas has created yet another buzz in the stratosphere of sustainability and green building.





Superadobe, I am Your Father

I believe it was Christopher Nolan who said “Batman and Superman are very different characters but they’re both iconic and elemental.” Either way you cut it, adobe is elemental, and adobe is nothing new; I make the comparison the Batman and Superman because they are both superheros, however different…

Adobe is also something nothing short of super. From the ancient Egyptians to the Anasazi Tribe, many cultures near and far have utilized the brilliant mixture of straw, soil, sand and water tamped together to create a sun-hardened earth house for shelter through the ages. These homes are sturdy, cool on the inside in the heat of the Sun, and warm on the inside during cool nights.

It is quite possibly some of the most amazing architecture that we can find when we look at the history of our progression of architecture, next to the great pyramids and cliff dwellings. Let’s face it, in many parts of the world, because of its magical simplicity, adobe is, after caves, how humans survived the elements.

Superadobe is Born Powerful

In the present, an Iranian born architect, Nader Khalili, has discovered, well- I say present, but it was some twenty plus years ago- how to perfect the concept of adobe and bring it forward into the new age. Through modification of the structural processing of the staging of the adobe, Khalili has managed to create a product and process that he has coined as Superadobe. Khalili has said that “Superadobe is an adobe that is stretched from history into the new century. It is like an umbilical cord connecting the traditional with the future adobe world.” He has an interesting take on adobe and its re-emergence to the “new world” through his superadobe product.

Moon-dust or Sand. Take Your Pick – it is Still Super.

What this really means is that his process of taking long tube-like bags, usually made of sturdy polypropylene or sometimes straight-up burlap, and filling them with sand, or rice or any sort of fill, then creating a trench for the foundation, and forming the frame out of these tubes which are filled with the “fill of choice” and then tamped down, either by hand or with a pneumatic tamper. As the foundation is created, windows can be created by having voids not filled, or cut out after the fact. A huge part of superadobe, beyond the tubular filled bags of soil or the like is the barbed wire which reinforces the shape of the buildings, which are generally a coil of these reinforced tubes which ultimately form a beehive shape. There have been extensive experiments with the concept of superadobe, or the earthbag building concept, which Khalili first came up with after attending a symposium at NASA in 1984 where he was trying to figure out who to build structures on the moon! Imagine, bags full of moondust. That sort of sounds magical, or super! Doesn’t it. Just agree. It does.


From the Moon to Your Backyard it seems that not even Kryptonite will take  this stuff down! Superadobe is one sturdy building concept. It is aerodynamic, just as its predecessor, just regular old adobe is. However; with the beehive and or rounded edges that it tends to take on, it can survive hurricane force gales. A superadobe home or building can be built by unskilled labors in a matter of days by the resources available on site, either of the sandbags, or of the specific tubing and barbed wire. The buildings are sturdy, sustainable, cost effective and can be built in nearly all elements. As a builder, one would look to superadobe from the cost effective standpoint for a client who is thinking about passive solar design; it tends to stay cooler during the day in those hot climates, and warm in the evenings in cold climates. The stuccoed exterior is incredibly low maintenance and provides the client for an exceptional opportunity for reduction in utility bills, or for even being off the grid, if they so desire. New offices looking for an interesting, cost effective and sustainable building concept, could certainly look at superadobe as an option. The unique building structure of the circular and hive-like shapes lend towards something new and different. If you want to stand out from the crowd, be sustainable, and possibly have a quick build, superadobe could be for you.  It From the moon to Costa Rica and everything in between, superadobe is a sustainable building concept that has green building aficionados looking towards the sun. It’s a bird, it’s a plane. No. It’s superadobe.

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Green Live & Work

GreenSpur: sustainable construction, reclaimed materials

GreenSpur Unveils their first OneNest Project home built in Virginia, a sustainable construction project that could be duplicated across the world.



sustainable construction

sustainable construction

One of a kind sustainable construction project

This weekend was full of anticipation and completed, what could be called “full-circle-excitement come to fruition” for those who have been keeping tabs on the GreenSpur construction team. Not so long ago, I brought word to you about the incredible opportunity that Mark Turner and his concept team were working on regarding a fully sustainable, green-built home constructed of Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPS) and reclaimed materials.

This project is the first of its kind and is hopefully going to be one of many that will be replicated internationally as a model of sustainable construction that meets the needs of a true nest.

Flying into the Nest

Minimalism, with a true rustic elegance is what you find peering out at you as you make your way up the steep, curving drive to the Delaplane OneNest home set atop a perfect hill overlooking the foothills of the Shenandoah mountains. It is almost as if someone has called in the gentle fog to hover just at the top of the treeline for intrigue, mystery and sultry ambiance to pull you into the site. Recall those mystical tendrils of smoke that lure… that is what pulls you here…to something new and exciting.

Before you get to the site, strategically placed communal fire pits with site-found logs are hissing, popping and generating that delightful campfire smell and then there is that house. With the elevation of a classic barn marrying a contemporary sanctuary, OneNest sits there among newly planted native river-birch trees, nestled in yet peeking out. The patina of the tin a deliberate match to the brick-red rust of the seamed and painted hardi-plank that covers the SIPS.

The standing seam metal roof line is a delicate yet masculine balance to the reclaimed history that is woven into this home through the use of wood paneling straight from past cabin quarters of the John Marshall property. The facade wouldn’t be complete without the mirror image of floor to ceiling windows flanking a steeple like fireplace that is masoned in stone harvested directly from the site. Usable porches galore. Panoramic views of the fog rolling on and on across the pits and valleys of the foothills while the cows come home. A matching barn is just beyond the main house that has an awning wide enough for a classic riding tractor. Classic is right. This is just the exterior.

Getting Cozy on the inside

Delivering more inside, OneNest’s vaulted ceilings are welcoming and open, leaving one to be baffled by the thought that this space is one-thousand square feet. It could be thousands more; the trompe l’oeil affect of the grande windows to the view beyond pulls the eye out and into the distance. The living room has very functional usable built-ins and is open to the stunning kitchen with a wonderful amount of storage. The fantastic use of counterbalanced Connecticut-style pull down lanterns is just one more ‘trick of the eye’ and fun for the gorgeous space and means to draw the eye up to the loft space above which is the master suite.

Past the kitchen, a full bath, well appointed and glowing is to the left, and storage to the right. Beyond that, windows, again floor to ceiling brighten the space and pull in the outdoors while highlighting the spiral staircases to go up and up into the nest. Before heading up, a nosy poke into the crawl space reveals some more smart design, wine-cellar in the crawl built from galvanized metal buckets and wine-racks; a good use of space in an otherwise unusable crawl!

The second floor is home to the lofted main bedroom, which has a lovely view of the great wide yonder and can be conveniently enclosed with thoughtful curtains; wrapped around the far right of the bedroom is a little nook- great for reading, a dog-friend or maybe some lovely indoor plants for creating a nice indoor air quality. The master spa-bath is impeccable with an egg-shaped soaker tub, walk-in shower complete with rain head and well, it is simple, yet stunning. Plus, there is a fireplace above the bath. Nice… I

n the central stairwell, up once again, the next level houses the guest room with incredibly functional use of space, reclaimed wood and a sumptuous bathroom which is just incredibly well done. This OneNest space is an unbelievable four stories of beautiful, reclaimed, green living space built to help the owner truly nest in, living in what they need.

sustainable construction

sustainable construction

sustainable construction

sustainable construction

sustainable construction

Nesting as a Trend

Why OneNest? Business partner, Arian Lewis, stated “this is something that can be replicated in any country across the world. I’m currently talking with contacts in Malaysia to see about using our concept houses there.”

Lewis is the partner based out of the Oxford England team, who has been working on outreach to developing nations. These homes can be built anywhere. They are sustainable and don’t have to take up a lot of space or resources. Minimal or luxury finishes can be put into them and the product can be built an a relatively small amount of time.

Mark Turner, the brainchild behind GreenSpur and the OneNest project, said when asked what the biggest take away should be for the project, “Well, this was absolutely a labor of love and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I wanted to do something different that other builders weren’t doing and that would change the way things were being built in the construction industry.” He has proved it once before when he built a net-zero house on Capitol Hill, now he has done it again with the OneNest project’s first completed home, built in 100 days in Delaplane, VA.

Turner reminds us all that “OneNest is the context of everything in one world- a natural resting place.” Mark has also been quoted, “When I think about designing and building PLACE, I am inspired by Stegner’s quote, ‘There it was, there it is, the PLACE where during the best of our lives friendship had its home and happiness its headquarters.’ This 1000 SF OneNest Project is our team’s best attempt to capture this spirit. We are using radical approaches in design, materials and building science to capture that simple notion that we all universally yearn for: ‘happiness its headquarters.'” I love this about this team, they are so grounded in their since of duty to balance and harmony with nature, life and the elements.

What is Next for OneNest

Looking at their mission, Delaplane was a lovely place to select for the first part of this project’s journey. Just off of John Marshall Highway in historic wine country, this may be an idealistic “happiness headquarters.” The first OneNest will be open for extended stays as well as events for the next six months to continue to the conversation within the community and beyond about this intriguing and passionate design and building concept.

Where do you think we’ll see more of these beautiful, sustainable creations across the States and internationally? Start the conversation by making the visit.

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