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How strange we find comfort these days in gasoline at "only" three bucks a gallon, a payday-advance loan instead of a second mortgage.

We watch as libraries shave hours and government services are threatened and people we know are let go, because that's the way of the world at the moment and buck up already.

By now we are numbed by news of financial crises. "Tumbling markets," those cultured NPR voices say, a deceptively pretty image. We have politics to worry about, too, and all that November will bring.

But even with our economic anxieties and that big change a-comin', with none of us sure what it will be or who it will be or how bad it might get, around here we have managed to find reason for joy.

We have found it in blue skies and baseball, glorious baseball, even those of us who came late and still are figuring out what we're supposed to dislike about Philadelphians now. (At least they're not as loud as those Bostonians.) Rays baseball has made us remember we have heart, we have hope, we are scrappers and we can survive.

We can even win. Go Rays. Go for us.

Yard signs have sprung up like toadstools after a hard rain in my neighborhood and probably yours.

On one lawn I spot two Obama-Biden signs. Two doors down one sign touts McCain-Palin, another Amendment 2, the gay-marriage ban. In my gay-friendly neighborhood, the sign counsels that marriage is between a man and a woman, period. Just in case your heart mistakenly felt anything different.

The apolitical yard between is all "Happy Halloween," dancing bats and smiling skeletons and can't we all just get along?

On another street another sign says "Women For Sarah Palin," which bugs my brain as do misplaced apostrophes and inappropriate quotation marks - The Smith's or Try our "Club" Sandwich. Or those disturbing fast-food ads in which one barnyard animal encourages you to eat another.

And so I take a different street, one less scary even with its bedsheet ghosts moving in the trees.

For perspective on change, I call Eileen Hart, activist, retiree, grandmother and master gardener. After all, what's gardening but change, rise and fall, life and death, bloom or bust?

She was news after she stood before the Hillsborough County Commission to return the moral courage award she won years back. For her it lost its luster after the board voted to rename it for a conservative activist millionaire who had, by the way, lined campaign coffers.

In an ugly moment even for a board with a chocolate-box assortment of them, Chairman Ken Hagan appeared to dismiss her and took the award below the dais. There was a thump. Someone with more respect and decorum - your average alley cat might have qualified - later rescued from the garbage the award she had returned.

In the praise for Hart that followed, more than one observer suggested her as a write-in on the ballot against Hagan, who lacks serious opposition. (Some say that can affect a politician's demeanor.)

"Oh, no," Hart said at the thought of being one of them. She likes to work for change as she always has. Besides, she finds it hard to lie. It would never work.

So we have our Rays, and a turn of the page in Washington. And also things that never change.