It’s been a Murphy’s Law stretch around here.

A storm knocked out our electricity for three days last week, meaning no internet, refrigeration, or AC – all while a record heat wave suffocated Pittsburgh (Yes, I know we need to buy a generator). When our power was eventually restored, the surge fried our new furnace, which we finally had repaired a couple days ago. Thankfully, our homeowner’s insurance covered it, minus a hefty deductible.   

While seeking refuge at our cabin for a few days, our 3-year-old Aussie Toby suffered a cluster of epileptic seizures, prompting us to hurry home to the ER. On Monday, the prognosis was so bleak, we took Noelle to see him, ostensibly to say our goodbyes. As a Hail Mary, we moved him to another hospital, home of a neurology expert, where things began to improve. I’ll never admit how much the whole ordeal cost us. The things we’ll do for unconditional love. 

By Wednesday evening, we were able to bring Toby home. The seizures had stopped, but the combination of meds and aftershocks left him unable to walk or control his bodily functions (presumably, temporarily). We carry him outside, nearly every hour, day and night. The mess in our house is only surpassed by the smell. At least there’s hope. 

While driving Toby from the hospital, I got a text saying my dear friend Caleb had passed away, far too young. I knew he was sick and had just spoken to him a week earlier – things seemed to be looking up, then took an unexpected, final turn. I was planning to visit him today. I can’t find a silver lining in that one.

I’m not sharing any of this to complain or self-pity. On the contrary. 

Our neighbor’s six-year-old son is battling leukemia. My cousin started aggressive chemo this week. Caleb has family and friends closer to him than I was. My sister and brother-in-law live with the deepest scars imaginable. 

We merely lost some perishable food and had to sleep (kind of) in 80+ degrees for a few nights. We have the resources to replace a furnace, to shower high-end medical care on a pet. Losing a friend sucks. At least I made a good friend in the first place. A silver lining, after all. 

My high school golf coach used to say, “It’s not how good your good shots are, it’s how good your bad shots are.” True in golf and in life. 

I feel like we’ve been spraying the ball all over the course the past couple weeks. But it could be a lot worse.

At least I was too busy to watch the debate on Thursday. 

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Another silver lining is that we didn’t rack up a crazy electricity bill for 9 days. A growing percentage of Americans are expressing concerns about home utility costs as summer heat waves rear their head, adding yet another potential spending strain on strapped households. Across virtually every retail and restaurant category we track, the concerned utility spenders are expressing higher intent to cut back elsewhere.  

First-time home buyers are eyeing fixer-uppers to brave stratospheric housing prices. In our 3 Things to Know this week, we examined the purchase intent of in-market home shoppers, finding that first-time buyers are more than twice as likely as current owners to be looking at low-cost houses that require major innovations. This could be good news – eventually – for home improvement retailers and contractors. We also looked at the big differences in how men and women address their mental health, by generation. Finally, we highlighted the continued rise in Americans who are eating more at home. 

The fact that we haven’t regulated social media is abject negligence. In our latest look at a problem everyone with half a brain knows is rampant, yet the clueless, spineless people in Washington won’t do anything about, we found that Americans support requiring warning labels on social media by nearly 5-to-1. It’s a no-brainer – crossing party lines – even though it probably wouldn’t accomplish much (like cigarettes). Personally, I’d start with strict age-gating (also like cigarettes)…18 would be good, but I’d take 16. Among the major social sites, only Pinterest users believe the platform is a net benefit for their mental health. Seriously, what are we doing here? 

Airbnb is a more popular choice for summer travelers this year.  In our latest look at America’s summer vacation plans, we found a slightly higher number of people who say they plan to cut back on travel spending (compared to 2023). It doesn’t exactly gel with the fact that, every day, airports are setting new records for passengers, aside from the fact that airfare prices are down almost 6% YoY. Among those hitting the road, a larger share plan to stay at an Airbnb or other rental, while fewer plan to book hotels, resorts, or do any kind of camping. 

Fourth of July revelers not named John Dick won’t be drinking as much this year. Just under two-thirds of us will do something to celebrate Independence Day, on par with years past. Nearly half will watch homemade or professional fireworks displays and a third will attend some kind of cookout. Thirteen percent will travel more than 25 miles from home. All those numbers are pretty consistent with historical numbers. One stat that did shift in a big way: 29% of drinking-age adults plan to imbibe on the Fourth of July, down steeply from 37% last year. 

In other teetotaling news, our latest GLP-Tracker came out this week and the percentage of users who consume alcohol has reached a new all-time low. See more of the latest data here

More awesomeness from the InsightStore:

The most popular questions this week:

Do you prefer function or visual appeal when decorating your home?

Do you generally prefer driving or being a passenger?

Are you an avid concert-goer?

Have you ever won more than $500 on a single scratch-off ticket?

Do you prefer to shop online or in-store?

Answer Key: Visually-appealing function; Driving, all day; Very much; Nope, I have the worst luck ever at those kinds of things; In-store for groceries and suits, online for everything else. 

Hoping you’re well.


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