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October 13, 2008

No House For Us, In These Dark Times

I want to make clear, I'm not complaining.  My partner's job is stable, and while there's a good chance mine won't be renewed in three years now (given that I work for a state university, and the state is in dire straits), we can survive on just one income in our current home (if it's his, that is, since he makes three times what I do).  We'd have to give up child care and I'd try to keep writing from home while doing the full-time stay-at-home-mom thing, which frankly terrifies me, but lots of people survive that, so I imagine I would too.

What I'm mourning is the loss of my house.  Not the quite nice three-bedroom condo we live in, which really is plenty big enough to accommodate us, even if we do have that second kid we're trying for.  But the house of our dreams, the one we've been browsing real estate listings for.  Nothing fancy -- just something with a back yard, and a fourth bedroom, or at least a basement or attic that could be converted into a playroom.  I'm getting a little tired of tripping over blocks, and it would be lovely to exile the bulk of the toys to a playroom.  Not to mention that a house would hopefully have a bit of storage space somewhere for old baby clothes and outgrown strollers and the like.  With a house, instead of confining all my gardening to pots on a rooftop deck, I could actually sink some roots into the ground, and plan a garden over a few decades, instead of working desperately to keep a few things alive over the winter.  Maybe we could find a house in a quieter neighborhood, somewhere our daughter could eventually safely ride her bike down broad tree-lined streets.  That sounds really nice.

Given that we still want to live a reasonable commute from our jobs at UIC, we would never have been able to afford a house like my parents have -- a big four bedroom in Connecticut, with walk-in basement and attic.  But a little house would have been within our means, if we were willing to pull out some of our retirement and Kavi-college investments to help with the down payment. 

A sweet little house -- it's a nice dream.  Now, though, that dream's gone up in smoke.  More than half of our investment money has disappeared in the last week, at least on paper, so we can't afford to pull what's left out to buy a house.  We're stuck where we are, for the foreseeable future.  Some of my smart finance friends say that while the market will come up again, it might easily take five years, or ten.  So we're going to be here a while.  And again, I'm not complaining; I'm just a little wistful.  It would feel awfully self-centered to really complain, given that people are losing jobs, and the homes they live in, and their lives in this mess.  We're the lucky ones; we can tighten our belts a bit and be okay.

Sometimes I can't quite believe how bad things have gotten, and how quickly.  A friend of mine has taken to adding 'in these dark times' to her statements.  In these dark times, why should I get out of bed?  I deserve extra butter on my muffin in these dark times.  It's funny, but in a depressing sort of way.  Black humor.

In these dark times, we're going to stay right where we are, put down our heads, and try to ride out this storm.  In these dark times, we're hoping our health holds up, because if one of us got seriously ill, our lives would fall apart.  In these dark times, we're counting our blessings, and worrying about our friends, our family, our nation, our world.

I'm thinking good thoughts for you and your family, in these dark times.


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