The homeless man living in our backyard

I’m pretty confident there was a homeless man living in our backyard this summer. I found a man’s winter coat tossed haphazardly in the weed forest a few weeks ago, and that was my initial suspicion. The thought hasn’t let up. What else could it possibly be? No one wears a winter coat in the middle of summer except homeless people — or someone with a serious case of the flu. Maybe.
homeless man's coat in my backyard
Brian, who’s been home most of the summer while I galavanted across the country, suggested that it was one of the neighbor’s coats, so I marched next door, knocked on the door, and when he answered asked if the coat belonged to him. It didn’t. He also looked at me like I was insane (probably because of the crazy eyes). Well, there goes the most plausible explanation. It was time for my imagination to run wild.
I walked back to the house where Brian was busy painting the deck and didn’t have an opinion…or even care that this giant coat was found in our backyard. It couldn’t possibly have been blown through the neighborhood because it was one of those super heavy work jackets, and there hasn’t been any gale-force wind up in the Chicago suburbs lately. 
Which left a couple of options.
1. It belonged to a homeless man sleeping in my backyard.
2. It’s discarded evidence from a crime.
I graciously placed the coat on my fence because a. I was not bringing that thing inside — it could have bugs. Or germs. Or be evidence for a murder or something and b. I thought if the homeless man came back, he would realize that I had left his coat in a place he could access without coming into my backyard, and perhaps he’d realize that I was on to him. And would possibly sick Louis the squirrel on him. Or maybe the cops. 
Brian apparently spoke with the other neighbor on the other side of our house, and they both think that it was left by a ComEd dude. But I just want to point out that IT IS SUMMER. No one wears a heavy coat in the summer.
Nearly a month later and the coat and I are at a standstill. I refuse to move it from the fence and it refuses to disappear. I realize that I could also throw it away, but it’s a pretty decent coat.
But I’m also left wondering, what happened to the homeless man who was living in my backyard? Maybe he moved to someone else’s backyard across town. Though heaven only knows why. I still have tomatoes and peppers galore in my garden if he were to get hungry. And my backyard is welcoming and cozy as fuck. It’s all Illinois Prairie gardeny and shit.
Illinois prairie backyard with milkweed
What would you do? How do you think it got in my backyard?
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Londonberry Lane

My mom wrote this story 13 years ago. It was published in local newspapers and came quite close to being published in Chicken Soup for the American Soul. This is her story; not mine. But on today, a day of remembrance, I think that it’s important for everyone to share their stories. 

Londonberry Lane

by Patricia M. Wojdyla

The sky is blue with pale yellow clouds, slowly turning pink. As the sun sets, there is no sound. The date is September 12, 2001. One day after the Attack on America. One cannot express the mortification we all feel.
 
At forty-three years of age, I am a typical American suburban wife and mother. My husband of nineteen years, Larry, owns and operates our family business. It has been the local bar and grill on Main Street for the past twenty-two years. Our children are typical suburban teens. Chrissy, a freshman, attends Bradley University. She has always been involved in school functions, cheerleading, and civic volunteer work. Brian is a senior at Glenbard East High School. He, too, actively participates in football, wrestling, and he has volunteered with church. We work hard, and are parishioners of Christ the King Church. We care about our community. 
 
Our neighborhood is a very diverse one. Many people from many nations live on Londonberry Lane. We are White, Black, Hispanic and many new Americans. They have come to the United States from India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan. Our faiths include Christian, Islamic, Mormon, Hindu — whatever we want. This is America. Each day, our street bustles with the sounds of children laughing, screaming, playing, riding bikes, and rollerskating. People walk around the block daily. The teen boys playing basketball is a common sight.
 
Not today.
 
Not yesterday.
 
The sky is empty. No planes. What an eerie feeling. Having lived within a few miles of O’Hare International Airport my entire life, I have never known this phenomenon. Airplanes are a part of life. Through all sunsets, sunrises, blue skies and cloudy days, planes fly unconsciously by. 
 
Televisions blare endlessly on, airing the latest accounts. We see horrific images again and again. More buildings are falling as countless lives are lost. War is a real threat. It is beyond belief. This is the United States of America. New York, Washington, Pennsylvania. So far away from our house. But it is our American family that has been killed. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, kids, friends, lovers. Altering the lives of millions of people forever. Entire companies wiped out. The whole scenario is completely mind boggling.
 
We will continue to go to work, our children to school. Our prayers will take a little more effort and time. 
 
As the sun sets on the American flag, it brightens our house on Londonberry Lane. 
 
So quiet, one could hear a pin drop.
 
No children playing.
 
No women walking.
 
No laughter.
 
No planes. 
 

We remember.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

We Broke Up With Our House…Or…We Almost Bought a House

Remember two weeks ago, when I was planning all the exciting things for a house we hadn’t bought?

And last week, when I bragged about a secret?

And Tuesday when I teased about an exciting day to my Facebook followers?

And the majority of those two weeks were spent pinning home decorating images to my Pinterest board?

Last Saturday, Brian and I put a bid on a house. And within two hours of starting the paperwork, we had negotiated a deal with the sellers.

We were on cloud nine. We had a quirky amazing house. And plans.

Old bones with big additions. I was calling it my 90’s chic 90-year-old house.

Vaulted ceilings, book nooks, connected closets, walk-in closets as big as bedrooms, a gigantic jet tub in the master suite, a loft–it was insane. Great location. Near the train. Near highways. A little extravagant, perhaps, but somehow fell in our price range. We couldn’t turn it down. It called to us.

When we walked in, we knew it was our house. Just like everyone says about houses…you just know.

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Vaulted ceilings in the bedroom

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Built-in bookshelves and nooks

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Tuesday, we had our inspection. We had told ourselves that there wasn’t anything they could find that would deter us from the house.

We were wrong.

Our inspector was GOOD. I mean as a person? Not my kinda guy…a cocky dude who talked down to Brian, for sure, but he knew what he was doing. He was thorough.

His thoroughness quickly found major issues with the foundation and property grading, some current, some potential. But big.

And we can try to append the contract to factor in these major problems, but do we want to?

Brian’s stipulations had always been that he didn’t want to deal with foundations or roofs at the starting gate. I can’t blame him. It’s a lot to deal with.

So we both grieved. Which seems bizarre for a house that we’ve only known for two weeks.

We learned a lot from the inspector (about clues to look for, how to tell the age of certain appliances and fixtures, features we should recognize…it was eye-opening).

And we realized that there were other things we were willing to overlook, but we’re relieved that we won’t have to deal with (ALL old appliances, huge heating and cooling costs, a creepy basement, and unusually high taxes, among other things…)

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The creepy basement

I do know, though, that we will find a house. It just isn’t this one.

Have you bought a house before? Have you lost a house? What was your experience with the inspector? Tell me your story.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!