Dear New Tenants

When you rent a place that you know has been a rental property for many years, you tend to think of it as having no emotional history whatsoever. It’s easy to assume that it’s just a space that has been occupied by a long line of non-owners who came, paid their rent, and then moved on. Maybe I’m unique in this way, but I like to think that the house I am in has been a home, and I’m just continuing that tradition. With that in mind, I’ve decided to write a letter to the people who are about to move into the place I’ve just vacated.

Dear New Tenants:

Welcome to your new home. My name is Barb, and I have lived here with my dogs for the past 3 years. It’s hard for me to leave this place. I’ve loved every minute of my stay here.

I came here from Florida, and I didn’t know a soul. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before, and it was all very new to me. It’s kind of scary to start over when you’re in your 50’s, but that’s what I did.

As I struggled to get used to a new job and make new friends, and as I attempted to grasp a completely different culture, this house was my stability. I looked forward to coming home each day. In the warmer months I would sit in this wonderful back yard and eat my dinner while my dogs played, and the wind blew gently through the trees. I’d watch the birds and bask in the peaceful solitude.

When feeling sad or lonely, I’d take a nice long bath. And I’ve always felt safe here, so I was able to sleep better in this place than I have anywhere in my entire life. I’ll miss cooking in the kitchen and gazing out the window. I’ve made plans here. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried here.

Paula and Kevin and Jackson next door have become very good friends to me, and I will miss knowing they are only a shout away. I’ve had many delightful conversations with them as they stood in their back yard and I looked down from my bedroom window. If you have any questions about the neighborhood, I’m sure they would be happy to answer them for you. Also, if you have any questions specifically about this wonderful house, they know how to contact me.

I have bought a house down in Xxxxxxxx, simply because I knew that rent in this area would be going up each year, and would quickly get too expensive for me. If not for that, I’d have stayed here for the rest of my days. I will have tears in my eyes when I lock the door for the final time.

I hope you come to love this place as much as I did, and that you continue to fill it with happy memories. I wish you well.


welcome home

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I read something recently that I found very comforting. The same sunrise/sunset has been circling the globe for millions of years. Mind officially blown.

I love the idea that my sunset is someone else’s sunrise. It gives me a sense of connection with the wider world. It links me to all of time, past, present and future.

I also enjoy the perspective this gives me. The thing that is causing me stress and anxiety today is a mere blip on the sun’s radar. Talk about not sweating the small stuff! Here I am, one tiny little person, in one tiny little point in time, worrying about one tiny little thing.

It also makes change seem trivial. That multi-million year sunrise has looked different every single day, for every single person, and it will look different again tomorrow. And yet it still keeps on keeping on.

Despite our mortality, despite the havoc we wreak, on a larger scale there is stability and continuity. Life will go on, in some form or fashion, somewhere, some time. We are each just one thread in a vast, complex tapestry.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.


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Keep Your Distance–Demolition in Progress

I have this friend who is a great guy. In many ways, he’s the male version of me. He loves to travel, is liberal, and is a bit of a science nerd. He’s curious about the world and the people in it. He’s got a lot of stories to tell and he’s fun to banter with. For a brief, shining moment, there, I had a massive crush on him.

But here’s where we part company: His very existence is a slow motion train wreck. He has no steady employment and no steady address. There’s absolutely no stability in his life whatsoever.

I may be biased toward my Capricornian sense of organization and planning and order, but it seems to me that if you are that much of an eff up in your 50’s, you’ve had to put a great deal of time and effort into it. Granted, unexpected things can happen, and you never know when fate is going to kick you in the teeth, but to consistently operate without a stable foundation for your whole life long requires a certain skill set that eludes me.

Okay, to assume I know what’s best for everyone may be typical of me, but even I realize that that’s not particularly realistic. And yet I have to say that I have watched this guy make certain choices that were bound to have disastrous results. It almost seems as though he does these things to himself on purpose. Chaos is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

The only reason for this that I can think of is that it’s a highly effective way to keep people at arm’s length. It’s a rare individual who will voluntarily run into a burning building, after all. And this amazing, lovable guy is a towering inferno.


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Maslow’s Hierarchy Writ Large

I was talking to a friend about my utter lack of success to date on a dating website on which I’ve registered.

“I have to say I’ve never felt worse about myself.”

My wise and wonderful friend responded, “This is going to sound really bizarre, but your current depression is actually a positive development. For the first time in a long time, you have enough confidence in your job stability and other elements of basic survival that you’ve allowed yourself the luxury of thinking about your next-level needs. That hasn’t happened in ages. And yes, when you assess your progress against those next level needs, it sucks. That is hardly surprising given that they have been neglected for so long while you were in basic survival mode. But now you have time to start paying attention to them. Things will improve.”

Isn’t it fantastic when someone says the exact right thing at the exact right time? There’s a reason this guy is so successful at life. In one paragraph, he managed to get me to stop contemplating my navel and consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and its application in my life. And that allowed me to reframe everything. Once again, I have hope. I have perspective. I can be a little more patient.

What a profound conversation. What an amazing friend. Too bad he’s married! Even so, I think I’ll keep him.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

My 1000th Blog Entry

Whoa. This is an entry I never expected to be writing. It boggles my mind that I’ve come up with a thousand things to say to you. I must be an interesting person. So why doesn’t anyone ever ask me out? Seriously. I’m fairly sure I could hold up my end of a conversation.

Egotistical as it may sound, though, I’m feeling rather proud of myself. This blog has become such a fundamental part of my life that I can’t imagine doing without it now. It’s my way of reaching out to the wider world. I kind of feel like it’s my legacy. It’s the book, in serial form, that I’ll probably never get around to writing. It’s one of my most solid commitments. It’s stability.

For fun I just went back and read my first blog entry, Nature is what’s happening when you’re not looking. The photo I included has long since disappeared. I wonder what it was? The entry itself was about all the nature I observed in my 13 years as a bridgetender in Florida.

I thought my life was very predictable back then. Little did I know that after that I’d experience death and surgery and move 3000 miles across the country. I had no idea what path I was on. I still don’t, I suppose. None of us do.

The only other constant in my life for the past 1,000 days has been my dogs. Everything and everyone else has come and gone, or has been there sometimes, for some things, but not for others. This blog has been my continuity, the very backbone of my days. What a concept.

I wonder where I will be, or what I will say, for my 10,000th blog entry? Whatever it is (if it is), I hope you’ll join me, dear reader. It’s bound to be an interesting and twisty little road getting to that point, but the scenery should be, I hope, worth taking in.

This image is called 1000 origami cranes, but I suspect they're not all shown. Still, it's pretty, and on my 1000th entry, I can show whatever I want. So there! [Image credit:]
This image is called 1000 origami cranes, but I suspect they’re not all shown. Still, it’s pretty, and on my 1000th entry, I can show whatever I want. So there!
[Image credit:]


I recently got screamed at for leaving a fingerprint on a microwave. It rendered me speechless. I am always shocked when people react all out of proportion to a situation. I mean, it’s a fingerprint, not toxic waste. It took me less than a second to wipe it off. And that whole time, the world continued to revolve around the sun.

According to, one of the many definitions of proportion is “symmetry, harmony, or balance.” Perhaps that’s why I get so unsettled when things are out of proportion. I thrive on balance. I don’t like unpredictability. I like to be in an environment where the emotional energy is flowing smoothly, without sharp peaks or valleys. Is that so difficult?

Recently I was in the midst of a typical bantering session with someone whom I love dearly. We’ve been friends for 14 years. He’s one of my favorite people in the world. Apparently I said something that touched a nerve. That wasn’t my intent. It was a subject we’d spoken about in the past. It was, to my mind, a mere sentence fragment amongst the millions we have exchanged over the years. But it caused him to remove himself from Facebook and cut off all contact for the past two weeks.

I e-mailed him and apologized for hitting that nerve and expressed surprise that he could think so poorly of me, but have had no further contact. That makes me profoundly sad.

It should be something we could talk about and easily resolve. It should be a mere blip on our emotional radar. Instead, my friend, who is a wonderfully big guy, seems to have painted himself into a very tiny, prideful, childish corner. Proportion? In essence, he’s taken his marbles and gone home. The longer this plays out, the harder it will be to repair this damage, and that breaks my heart.

I always viewed this person as my rock. The stable one. The go-to guy for advice. Now I am having to see him as unpredictable, and it has left me confused and more than a little tearful.

Maybe if I understood, I’d know what to think and how to act. And to complicate the issue, the very person I would have asked for input on this type of situation is the very one who is no longer speaking to me. I’m baffled.

Maybe proportion takes more work than I realized. Maybe symmetry, harmony, and balance aren’t the default positions I always thought they were. This is a very bewildering concept to try to digest at the age of 50. I’m struggling.

[Image credit:]
[Image credit:]

Marriage Contracts

I was listening to Weekend Edition on NPR the other day, and they were discussing the fact that in Israel, a woman cannot get divorced without her husband’s permission. Even a secular woman in that country is bound by this ancient Jewish practice. So if you have a vindictive husband with nothing to lose (the very type you’d most want to leave), you could very well be stuck with him for life. That means that even if you don’t live together, his debts and problems will forever be yours. What a nightmare. That’s not marriage. That’s slavery.

I love it when people talk about the sanctity of marriage as if it were some sort of never-changing feature in life’s landscape. The fact is that more marriages end in divorce than live happily ever after. That has been the reality for many, many decades, and it obviously isn’t going to change. With that in mind, isn’t it high time we develop our laws to reflect this irrefutable evidence?

Divorce should be a much simpler, cut and dried procedure that doesn’t cost a fortune and doesn’t require lawyers. As a matter of fact, from a sociological standpoint it would make much more sense if the marriage contract were something that people had to renew every, say, five years. If it wasn’t working out, you simply let the contract expire.

“Oh, but then there would be no stability for the poor innocent children!” Gimme a break. There’s no stability for them now. If people don’t want to be together, they’ll find a way not to be together. Making divorce easier isn’t going to impact that. It will just mean the inevitable will come to pass in a more equitable, rapid, inexpensive and less stress-inducing manner.

Marriage was invented at a time when people weren’t expected to make it to age 40. It was a lovely, romantic construct that added to a stable society, and provided support for women at a time when they couldn’t work outside the home. But let’s face it, you can live with the devil himself for that short amount of time but it’s quite different when you tack on an additional 40 years to that proposition, and women these days can take care of themselves. This delightful tradition no longer suits the reality of the situation.

It’s high time we take the religious fantasy out of our legal system and deal with the practicalities at hand.


[Image credit:]