Of Grass, Glass, and Neighbors

This is NOT an old draft. Repeat, this is not an old draft. This is new – from today. You’re welcome. (Or, I’m sorry – but I’m not really sorry, so ha!)

I experienced a selfish delight today that I didn’t even know existed. I’m not sure if I’m proud of it because I haven’t had the chance to examine it closely. I probably won’t examine it closely – I don’t love admitting I might be slightly, morally wrong. It’s a thing – go read the earlier posts.

Backstory: I loathe, hate, despise, abominate, and all-the-other-synonyms-for-hate doing dishes. I would rather run unclothed through a rose bush in snow. That will be important in a few paragraphs.

dirty dishes on the sink
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Also, we have neighbors who are retired. The husband tends to stay inside or keep to himself, but the wife helps another neighbor across the street with an adult, special needs son. I know it must be a struggle for them, and my heart goes out to our across-the-street-neighbor and the challenges she faces, especially as her son is non-verbal, so he gets frustrated, too.

I’m not sure what my next-door neighbor does to help my across-the-street-neighbor unless she’s administering meds or some sort of home health care. She does wear scrubs a lot, which makes me think she is a retired nurse or works PRN to pay bills because she rarely leaves the house other than to walk across the street. I asked her once what she did for a living (or had done), and she told a story that had so many twists and turns that no author from O. Henry to Chuck Palahnuik to Jodi Picoult could follow it. She never did answer the actual question. Doesn’t matter.

She’s into everyone’s business, and while it does – occasionally – appear helpful, that doesn’t mean it’s necessary. She also still has a grown son living with her who can’t figure out how to keep his pants above his crack even with a belt, harbors another human who is possibly one of Crack-Attack’s kids, and whether it’s the grown son’s kid or not, the grandson is uber-annoying because he sits in his car, thumping Eminem songs from when I was in high school, and does nothing but vape. Any time we hear the thud and rattle of Y2K’s illest base, I guarantee it is followed by the gentle waft of Blu Raz Cotton Candy or the sweet zephyrs of Smurf Cake.

I’m not joking, that’s the actual name of it.

This is annoying on two levels: (1) I work from home and his busted speakers turned to a volume level of eleventy-five are disruptive and distracting, and (2) on the four nice days of the year when Kentucky weather cooperates and I can open the windows all day, I don’t need his second-hand vape offal ruining the fresh air. It triggers migraines from all the chemicals and reminds me why humans are distastefully unappealing – at least the ones who are incapable of adulting or who are not yet at the age where adulting is feasible. For a bonus, (3) I might suggest it would be better for my neighbor lady to focus her loving attention on raising her grown son and his vaping, maybe-progeny (he’s got to be someone’s kid) rather than butting into the rest of the neighborhood’s business. But I’m not in charge, so, the first and second will have to suffice.

Overall, they’re not horrible people – they are actually quite nice compared to some former neighbors we’ve had – but annoying on a few levels and each in their own way. The lady, though – I just… she’s not awful, she’s nice, but… this is going to sound petty, and it probably is, but…

Well, she mows her yard twice every week from April through October and every. stinking. time. she decides to use her lawn tractor instead of her weed-eater (that’s a weed-whacker for the northern bunch) and she mows a crooked line IN MY YARD. It looks like someone turned a blind zamboni driver loose on the rye – the liquid kind and the rooted kind.

She has been doing this for at least 6 years. I have asked her to stop at least twice, point-blank.

Let me be clear: it is not her yard, nor is it even the “property line.” She legitimately crosses the property line, which is helpfully marked by trees planted by the old man who used to live there, and who gave her a tour and pointed out the tress ON the property line (I was there – I heard/saw it). She is the human equivalent of Mr. Magoo and drives that lawn tractor like George Jones down a back-road before the hangover sets in. She smiles while she does it. Her blades are set so low that she’s scalping the grass, so there is no way to cover up the serpentine stripe she scrapes across our side yard.

So, so strange. (Yes, my problems are stupid.)

Also, we have our mowing crew mow all the way to the property line, do all of the edging professionally – including around those trees – and have told her at least twice that we do that in addition to me asking her to stay on her side. She still mows that blankety-blank crooked line down the yard twice per week. Do I care that much about the yard? No. I bought this house because it is next to a field that can never be added to the subdivision, which means it will always be on a dead end and I will only ever have neighbors on one side. My introverted heart delights in the thought. It has a giant picture window that is great to read by while saving money on the electricity bill, an open floor plan that flows easily from kitchen to living room so it’s easy to spend time with friends and family on the rare occasion we invite them, and it has three bedrooms of generous size for a house this small, along with two bathrooms.

And separate bathrooms save marriages. (Feel free to write that down somewhere so you see it often. Trust me.)

I care because – again, two reasons – (1) my husband goes bonkers every time he sees that loopy line, which means I have to hear about it and I can’t do anything to fix it other than go nuclear (not a great way to treat neighbors, and probably-most-certainly NOT what Jesus would do), which means I have to see it AND listen to why it’s so hideous all the time, and (2) she always mows it in the middle of the morning when I’m working. She even asked me about my work schedule, then proceeded the next day to start mowing at exactly the time I explained how busy I am. I kid you not.

Fast-forward: today was one of the four nice days of the year when I could open windows for more than 30 minutes because the temperature was under 80 degrees but above 60.

She was not mowing, thank goodness.

I had to run the dishwasher a couple of times to get through all the dirty dishes that have piled up over the past week (maybe two), and I had to do a few of them by hand, because I like my expensive cooking utensils more than I hate dishes. It’s a close race, in case you were wondering.

Our dishwasher came with the house over 12 years ago and needs to be replaced. The detergent dispenser lid is broken so all the soap gets used too quickly, making pre-scrubbing a requirement. The spray element thingies are a bit clogged – probably from mineral build-up, but there are other options I prefer not to explore. Most of all, though, it is loud. I don’t mean loud in the way you can hear some dishwashers splash water along the plates.

I mean when the wash cycles start, it’s loud in the way an industrial wood-chipper sounds when fed enough sheet metal and plate glass to outfit a two-story building, with the added grinding noise of a blender slogging through modeling clay.

*Note: Please don’t ask me how I know what that sounds like. My childhood was weird and we probably should have been better supervised, but hey – natural selection was at work, and none of us died, so that’s good, right? Thanks in advance.*

I complain about it all the time and have asked for a new one for Christmas if my husband would rather buy that than the jewelry I wanted, it’s that bad.

Anyway, I started a load of dishes after opening the front windows today. Our next-door neighbor was outside in her driveway, having just come back from the across-the-street-neighbor’s house.

She was tending her mums.

If I’m being authentic and if I don’t self-reflect from a moral standpoint, I will say I took great delight in seeing her jump every time the wash cycle circled back around after a rinse cycle. It startled her. She even looked over her shoulder a few times, vexed and wondering what was happening behind our closed front door. If she’s half as neurotic as me, or anything like Mrs. Kravitz, she was imagining all kinds of scenarios and nefarious plots.

I smiled and waved from the picture window.

If it keeps hitting anywhere between the upper-50s to mid-70s, I might start doing dishes every day.

I’m so excited.

nature garden grass lawn
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Ginger Ale and Funeral Plans

Look! I found another blog post I wrote at least a year ago and never published! It’s like Christmas in October, but not on the Hallmark Channel! Cheers!

There is something deeply unsettling about realizing that if you were asked the age-old question about what you would take with you if you knew you were going to be stuck on a desert island, your answer is – immediately and without hesitation – toilet paper and ginger ale. And that if you had to choose just one, you’d be hard-pressed to choose between the two. I used to think that I’d choose a book, or maybe some sort of lip balm, since I’m hopelessly addicted to both.

But when you spend an entire week with your head hanging over a toilet puking up the entire contents of your stomach – including blood (no, I didn’t go to the hospital, and no, it wasn’t really that much blood, and yes, I know it was blood and I know why I’m puking it up) – and then you spend that same amount of time again in the bathroom (I’ll spare you the details) continuing to be sick for no other reason than your DNA structure, you start figuring out what your simplest priorities are.

And mine, sadly, are toilet paper and ginger ale. Those are my needs.

I’d prefer if said ginger ale came in canned form, and while I do have a particular brand I prefer, any made with real ginger would do. I figure with as much of it as I have to drink, I could use the cans structurally once they’re empty, weighing them down with sand so they’re more stable. I have plenty of time to think of these things in weeks and months like this.

For example, I’ve decided that when I die and my funeral is planned, I don’t want flowers on my casket. Everyone does that, and it’s predictable. I want a party, dang it. And everyone knows that at parties, there are balloons. That’s right, balloons. Multi-colored ones. The hubs would tell you my favorite color is Roy G Biv, and I expect my funeral to live up to the occasion (pun completely intended).

Instead of flowers and that weird apparatus they use to lower (drop) the casket into the grave, I want a ginormous bunch of multi-colored balloons tied to each corner of my coffin and then a bunch in the middle on each side – basically every place there would be a pall bearer. I will be weirdly levitated from funeral service to grave (which is quite considerate, I think, as it takes the weight off the pall bearers – my final act of selflessness). When it’s time for the family to “throw their flower,” I want each person at the funeral to take a balloon from alternating locations on the box, so that my remains are slowly and awkwardly lowered into the ground. The beauty of this is that (a) it is irrevocably strange and uncomfortable, and (b) there is guaranteed to be comedy, because eventually, the weight of the casket will overcome the force of the balloons, and I’m bound to drop crookedly and suddenly into the pit that will be my body’s final resting place.

And if you don’t think that’s funny, you’re probably already dead.

Seriously, picture it: a bright but overcast day, a slight drizzle – even a misty fog – shrouding everything in sight. All five of my friends gathered with my husband and family, reliving their favorite moments shared with me: baking chocolate chip cookies, arguing with my brothers who always wanted to be right but never were, the way they would call or text and not receive a response for days because I didn’t check my phone regularly and couldn’t be counted on to watch for social media notifications (true story), and so on. The preacher closes with a prayer, and one by one, the gathering steps up to a gleaming mahogany casket surrounded by a halo of balloons that would put all the birthday parties up to that point to shame. Everyone gets to take one balloon from the bunches, making their way around the perimeter like a twisted game of Duck-Duck-Goose. (And you only get one balloon – if you let yours go and it floats to the sky, well, that will teach you to hang on to the things that matter, won’t it? You never know when they’ll float into the ether.)

Slowly, the casket drops into the grave, completely unbalanced and with a lurching, drunken sway, to be honest. This probably wasn’t a good idea, someone will whisper. I know, someone else will agree, but it’s what she wanted.

Indeed.

Suddenly, the groan and creak of the box accompanied by the hissing, disconcerting sound of its contents (me) shifting to one end. Gravity overtakes helium. I make one final, crash landing into the abyss!

Macabre? Sure.

Hilarious?

YES! And totally worth it.

I’m not 100% sold on everyone taking a single balloon. We could make this far more interesting and turn it into one of those carnival dart games where everyone gets three chances to pop a balloon. We just have to make sure someone is there to officiate – the game, not the funeral – and clear the other side of the casket to avoid injuries. People shouldn’t have to worry about getting hurt at a funeral, you know.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve decided I want instead of the usual wake. I feel like that’s fair if I have to spend so much time locked in a 3 x 5 room staring at porcelain only to spend all the time after my time in an even smaller space lined with satin. (Whose idea was satin, by the way? Of all the non-breathable, expensive, impractical fabrics out there, we thought the underlining of a 1960s prom dress was classy and appropriate for the afterlife? Really? How ’bout some good old fashioned cotton or linen, like the Egyptians? They figured out mummification pretty well – I can’t see how satin is an improvement.)

Meanwhile, though, I won’t be planning a trip to any desert islands in the near future. I don’t think banana leaves and palm fronds are a good alternative to Cottonelle. I also don’t know how to make my own ginger ale and I honestly don’t know if ginger is native to desert islands – probably not, if I had to guess. Otherwise, why would Canada lay claim to it?

balloons calm clouds colorful
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Your Problems Are Stupid

GUESS WHAT!? I just realized this week that I still pay for this domain and that I’ve written a ton of blog posts that I never published. (Yes, that’s silly.) The following is one of them from either last year or the year before, because I have also decided that paying for a domain where I write blog posts I never actually post is ridiculous – almost as ridiculous as a politician with a Twitter account. (Please don’t send me hate mail or post ignorant comments disagreeing with me or mouthing some vitriol about politics, freedom of speech, etc., etc.  – I don’t read them, I don’t care, I do vote, you won’t change my mind, I will almost certainly block you, and it won’t bother me at all. INSTEAD, go use that energy to donate a dollar to the Red Cross or to a clean water initiative for countries who need it and use your powers to make a positive impact instead of no impact at all. *Thanks, Management.) So, here is one of those drafts, and I have decided that October 17th will be my January 1st and that I will purposely be posting far more regularly. Otherwise, why the h-e-double-hocky-sticks am I paying for a blog domain? Enjoy!

I’ve been traveling lately, I’ve been around more people than I would normally interact with in several months’ time, and I’ve been exhausted by it. It’s been draining, frightening, confusing, exciting, interesting, wonderful, and enlightening, to say the least. I’ve come home with some new perspectives on my day-to-day actions and decisions, I’ve started to find new ways of doing things based on what I learned from some of those interactions, and I’ve also thought of some creative solutions to challenges I’ve been facing for a few weeks, all because I traveled.

Granted, it was business travel, so that was kind of the point – to interact with peers and colleagues who could share with me their point of view and open my eyes to see things in a way that isn’t always comfortable for me. I hope I had the chance to do the same for them. I also got to hear some amazing stories of overcoming obstacles that I allowed myself to get temporarily warm and fuzzy over and then swept to the side so I could focus on my productivity. But when I came home, I started thinking back to some of those stories and reflecting on them. I’ve been getting a little (a lot) philosophical about life and how it should be lived, and I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep (I got almost none, mostly because I don’t sleep well in strange places and tend to just lay there and contemplate the universe, but also because I was in a different time zone and worked different hours and it jacked my system all up, let me tell you.) or the creative juices that started flowing, but here’s what I’ve decided:

*wait for it…*

Your problems are stupid.

I know that’s upsetting, but it’s the truth. And what’s even more upsetting is that my problems are equally stupid and when I think about them, not really problems at all compared to other people. I mean, as far as I know, I don’t have any type of cancer I’m fighting while also working while also raising a family while also going to school while also dealing with home repair issues and transportation issues. I do have a job, which I love, I have a family, whom I love and sometimes even like, and who I like to think cares at least a little about me. I have friends, though few, which is by choice and not because I’m a hideous bridge troll who sucks the life out of everything I touch (at least, if I am, no one has told me – and ignorance is bliss, so I’m cool with that). I have a home, and even though it needs some work and if anyone came inside they would think we were hoarders who got robbed but the job didn’t get finished, it’s a roof over my head. I have clothing (far too much of it if you ask anyone else in my family, but what do they know?) and food (including a lot of mac-and-cheese) and clean water. My bills get paid. Our dogs get fed. And my neighbor only mows an indecently crooked line up the side of my yard once per week because she either can’t see straight or hates me and grass.

I have problems, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not horrible. I mean, I could compare myself to my great-grandmother for some perspective. That woman lived through the Great Depression, WWII, buried two husbands and a couple babies before she was 37, raised her other children alone, and lived to be just shy of 100 years old. She was wise, caring, tough, and when I was old enough to understand – hilarious.

So yeah, we all have problems, but when I take some time to consider the problems I don’t have? My problems are stupid. All of this to say, this is a preface to another post where I’ll probably talk about my problems – namely, Crohn’s disease and the issues it causes. What’s awesome about that is that I can totally do that and contradict myself (because it’s my blog – kind of like that whole sales game where “it’s my bat, my ball, my rules”). So stay tuned for a glimpse of what life is really like for people with weird, gross, annoying illnesses for which there is no cure.

But please understand that I, of all people, do know that compared to the majority of the world, my problems – and probably yours, if you’re a citizen of a first-world country – are pretty stupid.