This is my neighborhood.

And this is my house.


I’m kidding! But it’s close. We moved to a fantastic neighborhood last March and were overwhelmed with how friendly everyone is. I can’t count how many cheerful neighbors delivered homemade cookies and introduced themselves after we moved in. I joked that it was almost creepy. “Everyone is so friendly! It’s kind of weird,” I said. I even referenced the scene from She’s Having a Baby above. Everyone smiles and says hello as they walk their dogs (and even clean up after them when they poop – after the dogs poop, just to be clear). And everyone waves as they drive by. Kids from all over the neighborhood congregate in our cul-de-sac to ride their scooters and climb the neighbor’s tree. This is suburbia. And the thing about suburbia is everyone has manicured lawns. Except us. Our house is the armpit of our suburban oasis.

Excuses [admittedly the epitome of first world problems]: We moved before putting our old house on the market so we had to maintain two houses for almost six months. Not to mention the time spent unpacking and settling in at the new place in addition to life with a family, full-time jobs, and our son’s health issues. I had foot surgery in September which complicated things for several more months.

We hired a couple of teenagers to mow since my husband was our family’s only capable parent and sole chauffeur, housekeeper, and cook during my foot recovery; but that was the extent of the lawn care last year. Winter came and everything turned brown as expected. Then spring came and things all around us turned green. “What happened to the yard?” my husband and I quizzed each other repeatedly during the entire month of April. I think we both suspected the other of secretly torching sections of the lawn behind the other’s back. I guess pure neglect is what happened to the yard because it looks like crap, and I know neither of us had time or reason to sabotage it. So far this spring, the neighbors have all had freshly cut lawns with that pretty diamond-pattern each week while we had multiplying bare spots, overgrown landscape beds, empty planters, and last year’s dead stocks on perennials.

Solution:  We got our butts outside Sunday afternoon and whipped everything into shape – except for the lawn, that is. (It’s to the point it requires professionals, and they have already been scheduled.) My husband planted numerous colorful flowers while I destroyed anything and everything that didn’t belong. We’ll be in prime condition soon! (fingers crossed!) Of course, today was known as “Tornado Tuesday” in my neck of the woods so we’ll see what’s left tomorrow.

I love doing yard work. It’s really one of my favorite things. I love nearly everything about it. It’s one of the few times you can constructively use brute force to accomplish something of great beauty. While it can actually be quite destructive while you’re pulling and moving things around, using muscles you didn’t realize you had, there’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment when it’s all said and done. I mean, I love not being able to extend my arms or stand fully erect for the following three days. Ah, the rewarding results [and twinges] of manual labor.

Nature is fascinating and surprising. It’s amazing how some of the littlest weeds have the longest, deepest roots that won’t give for anything while some larger shrubs have shallow, weak roots that release with the gentlest tug by a gloved hand. You have no idea where the roots are under the soil until you start to pull. I’m always intrigued by the tiny clumps of dirt on the surface as they start to roll and slide as the soil beneath is disturbed. Then suddenly the root breaks free and you fall on your butt or slam into the house because you’re still pulling with all your might. You take a glance around to see if any of the neighbors might have seen then laugh at yourself as you spit out the clumps of mud that flung into your face when the tension snapped. Ah, nature, you have such a great sense of humor while teaching us so much about the laws of physics.

I love the smells of freshly cut bushes and plants. The sweetness, almost sickening at times, invisibly fills the air with each snip of the pruning shears. Each plant has its own unique scent. When you brush your bare skin against the unassuming milky white substance oozing from the freshly cut ends, you don’t even notice because you’re too busy focusing on the pleasant fragrance and the giant ant colony you just disturbed. It’s only later while dotting Calamine lotion all over the flaming red rash that you remember nature’s powerful defenses. Ah, yes, we must remember Mother Nature while soft and beautiful at times can also be a bit defensive and prickly. She’s a finicky one! Tricky, tricky!

And then, of course, there are the little surprises like the garden shed which is now serving as a rodent hostel. We hadn’t yet cleared out the crap – and I do literally mean crap – left behind by the pack rat we had exterminated (er, I mean “caught and released into a nearby field”) last fall. Now my husband tells me a squirrel family has taken up residence. He literally just shut the door and said, “we’ll have to deal with that later.” It’s such a good feeling knowing that as the torrential rains and winds hammer anything left exposed tonight, a nest of blind, hairless, infant squirrels are nestled safe and sound in the shed in our backyard, undoubtedly sealing their futures to terrorize the neighborhood.

Ah, suburbia…

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