Signs, signs, everywhere signs

First the neighbors asked if we were moving. Then the mail carrier wanted to know about the rent.

In the bizarro world that is my life lately, the latest crazy thing is the “House For Rent” sign that sprouted on our lawn overnight.

We own our home. (Well, we make mortgage payments.) Yeah, we’ve thought quite a bit lately about unloading it and ditching this D-town, which lately stands for Depression State-Ground Zero. But we’ve not done anything yet. And somehow, with the appearance of this sign, the universe is channeling my deepest fears. The cosmos is playing a dirty trick. In one day, two important things are taken away and a sign appears  suggesting that we are renters and on our way out

Had I not been on week two of a sleep deprivation above and beyond my normal dosage, I would have probably ripped out the sign immediately and stuffed it in the trash along with all the other wayward signs that find their way onto our expansive corner lot. It would have found a home next to the obnoxious “Garage Sale” “Bush/Palin” and “Open House” placards that folks don’t even bother asking permission to place on our grass. Had I not had bigger issues to resolve, such as no cable/phone/Internet service, I would have  inquired around the neighborhood to see if someone was missing a sign.

But I’ve not been myself lately. Just because I see something with my eyes, hear it with my ears, or touch it with my hands does not mean it’s real or true. So I stared at the sign, felt my eyes tear up, and then wondered through the watery blur: Did we sell our house? Did we ever really own it? Are we renters? Did I just emerge from a fugue state for the last decade?

Hoping to clear the haze in my head, I went outside, looked at the number written on the sign and called it.

Of course, no one answered. Of course, the voice mail message was vague. I listened as a sleepy-sounding guy asking me to leave a message. I did. Mr. Sleepy never returned the call.

When I awoke this morning I looked outside. There stood the sign in all its conspicuous glory. No one has rescued this runaway. I went outside and yanked it out of the earth and placed it on its side near the street. Much later, upon returning from errands, I found it planted on another front lawn two blocks north of my house.  Ah, so it’s some sort of misguided marketing strategy or a silly prankster on the move. Whatever the reason, it’s a freaky little message from the universe.

Should we stay or should we go? That’s the question of the moment. We’ve invested nearly a decade in this property. That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since childhood. It’s easy to pack up  a place after just a few years. But a decade in, well, now you’re talking about a place steeped in memories.

I cannot look at our living room without thinking of two giddy newlyweds sitting on cushions, eating takeout Chinese food, surrounded by unpacked boxes. I cannot ascend our second-floor staircase without recalling the time when we had the upstairs gutted to the studs, a big hole cut out of the west wall, and my husband’s office doubling as our bedroom for three long months. I cannot tour the big back yard without remembering how it was when we found it: a sea of weeds and overgrown shrubs. Today it is home to a good-sized playground and a massive vegetable garden.

So much time, money, energy and hope poured into this place. We always knew we’d leave it. We never professed a lifetime commitment. The plan was to leave on our own terms, when we were ready. Plans change. Terms change. Are we ready?

The very palpable fear of loss has forced me to appreciate what I have and to fight like hell to save it. If I lose that fight, let me leave with grace.

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I'm not ready to deal with it



Rather than look down the road at a horizon obscured by thick clouds, I’m focusing my attention on what’s directly under my feet. One or two footsteps ahead. That’s all I can manage.

When I look down, I see that my feet look like someone who goes barefoot too much. I see that I’m rough on my shoes. I see that people spit their gum on the sidewalks with great frequency. Why is that?

What I don’t want to see is that I don’t know where I’m going. I’m neither walking away from a problem nor walking toward a solution. I’m just walking. Maybe even a little aimlessly. Dangled just out of reach is a carrot. This carrot that I cannot grasp or fully envision is the answer to all my current problems. There are many other hands swatting at one another for that carrot.

This is all I can process now: carrots, shoes, gum on the sidewalk.

The road ahead, behind those clouds? It could lead to the gates of happiness and prosperity heretofore unknown. It could be another day just like today, which is one-half  blessing and one-half torture. It could be a cliff.

There’s no way of knowing. There’s only so much I can do to prepare.

I can’t allow myself to contemplate it for too long. When I do, I don’t sleep at night. I don’t eat during the day. I worry endlessly. Suddenly, the irrational and extreme actions of loved ones in the last few years make more sense. When you are close to the edge, you begin to feel its pull. It becomes a great struggle to avoid looking into the chasm.

For the first time in my life the expression One Day at a Time holds real meaning. It’s more than a lousy ’70s sitcom. It’s more than the popular bumper sticker in the parking lot at AA meetings. It’s a guiding principle at this point. God, let me make it to another sunset, let me find some sleep in the night ahead. Let me awaken to a better day tomorrow.

Let me find a carrot on the road ahead. Let the clouds part to expose clarity of direction.

And really, what is it with all the gum on the sidewalks?

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Granola brain



Like a bag of granola, this week has been a mix of stuff:

The nuts: Always there must be the philosophical challenges with those connected by blood. How about this one?

If I believe chocolate is the way to inner peace and you believe peanut butter will save the universe, unless we can come together in a Reese’s candy cup, forever we will be wrapped in separate packages. Is it possible to be on the same shelf? Why do you buy me peanut butter when you know I don’t eat it?*  Why do you make it your mission to change others? Over here in chocolate-land, we see a lot of unhappy peanut butter eaters waging a battle against chocolate lovers. Why would we join the ranks of those so obviously unsatisfied by their own choices? 

The sweet fruits:  Tucked between days swaddled in gray and showered with rain came a few breathlessly beautiful bursts of heat and blue.We discovered an urban oasis cut with hidden trails, opening to duck ponds, and hills for climbing up and running down. 

I realize the best things are free. It is a joy to have true friends. My wish to live a simpler life may be manifesting itself in ways I had not anticipated, but I will become a better person for having lived through them.

Those pesky sunflower seeds that always get stuck in your teeth: Our own personal challenges of staying afloat in a Titanic economy are as unpredictable as ocean swells. Sometimes the horizon is in sight, sometimes the sharks circle. 

Chewy raisins that are good for you but don’t taste the best: Engaging in activities that nourish my mind and body aren’t always easy or pleasant.  If it weren’t for them, however, I’d be smoking crack outside tent city near the casino district talking to my pet rock.

Mystery item that looks soft, but when you bite it, threatens to dislodge a crown: Realizing that the things that tick me off the most are my biggest lessons. I don’t have to defend my position. I don’t have to take the bait. But why, oh why, am I always the one to clean out the litter box? Huh?

* I’m speaking euphemistically, of course. Actually I love peanut butter as much as chocolate.

I'm wondering

as I read the news:

— how my husband would feel if I started working as a dominatrix to supplement the family income. I hear the demand is high right now and the pay isn’t bad. Seems like there are more opportunities in freelance fetish than freelance writing.


— if it’s more than just the economy. People aren’t spending their money because every food product and household item out there is either defective, tainted or programmed to explode when exposed to heat or light.

— if communal living will rise in popularity. So many families I care about are on the brink of crisis, foreclosure, repossession, utility shut-off. Families that two years ago were living large. They cannot find work. Any work. Not even Target. How would it be with two or three famlies under one roof? The upside is shared child care, food, and financial resources. Downside: too many people, boundaries and other unintended consequences.

— if we all could collectively raise our consciousness to envision and believe in an economic turnaround, a brighter future, a new course of action —could it happen? Could we get a majority to do this? Is cynicism too powerful a force to deflate? Could Americans today make the huge sacrifices our grandparents and great-grandparents made? Could we have another Greatest Generation?

Just wondering.