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The year of homeowner - Jason Smith

The holidays are officially behind us.

Families are busy putting away their Christmas decorations -- if they haven't already done so. Holiday tunes won't be heard again on the radio until next November.

People like me have begun making the annual adjustment of writing "2010" on everything requiring a date. I've already had to catch myself several times, while writing stories for the newspaper, to make sure I don't inadvertently thrust readers back into 2009.

A new year is an exciting prospect, with its fresh starts and new beginnings. Still, it's important to look back on the previous year.

For me, 2009 was an eye-opener on several different levels, but perhaps mostly as it relates to my role as a homeowner. Aside from making sure the bills are paid and the grass is cut, I've become more attuned to a number of aspects of having my own house.

I think there's just something within the head of a household, which compels him to become his own guard dog. I used to secretly snicker at my dad whenever he would throw a fit, after seeing lights on in an empty room. I always thought he was making a bigger deal out of it than necessary.

Soon after I bought my house, I found myself doing the very same thing he had done. It frightened me just a bit, but I couldn't help laughing at myself.

Shortly after my wife and I moved into our house, I had problems sleeping because I jumped at the slightest noise I heard outside my bedroom window.

Eventually, I adopted my wife's practice of keeping a box fan going in the bedroom. Whereas she likes having air circulating in the room when she sleeps, I find the noise of the fan drowns out everything else, thereby allowing me to get some shut-eye.

Speaking of my wife, she briefly had a case of homeowner hysteria as well.

One night as I tried to sleep, she saw what looked like a human shadow on the wall across from our bedroom window. She lay very still and asked me what the figure was.

I turned to look out the window, and saw the culprit.

It was her mirror. I calmed her down, pulled the covers over my head, and went to sleep.

In recent months, my wife and I have freaked out about kids walking through our back yard, the noise of construction workers assembling a nearby house and loud music played by our neighbors.

I'm at least relatively sure that in 2010, those nuisances will continue to some degree.

Hopefully, though, my homeowner hysteria will have subsided somewhat by the time the holidays arrive again.

Otherwise, it's going to be a long year.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.