We all survey our domains.

Yesterday was a little amazing. I got the first fifteen minutes back for the audio book version of Only the Innocent to approve. Instead of instantly approving it, I sat there in my chair listening to my book as if I were hearing it for the first time. I was simply entranced. The voice actor did that amazing of a job. I’m stoked. So stoked that I’m put in to start a Kickstarter campaign so I can give him higher pay.

Despite that today has been a day of supreme domestic mundanity. There’s a lot that has to be done around the house to get things together and improve our… lot. When we came home, as I’m sure I’ve said before, the place was a mess. The house was full of junk. The property was covered in weeds and brush from where it hadn’t been getting mowed properly. Five giant pine trees that had been killed by the giant tornado from a few years ago stood dead, ready to fall and kill someone. The carpet stank. The sewage was backing up. The electric needs fixing. Just one thing after another.

So far we have managed to get the sewer pipes clear, shut off the water in parts of the house that’s going to need serious repair, get a washer to replace the one whose motor was burned out mysteriously after coming home, cleaned up various things that had been getting neglected, and (most recently) paid out a bunch of money to hire some young’uns to clean up the brush that had been allowed to take over the yard.

One super important goal has been to get some sort of fence in the backyard, because our dogs are miserable and who can blame them. We tried a petsafe fence, but the only guarantee with that which worked was their guarantee for our money back if the fence didn’t work. Alas. Things are better enough we could do it, so we got a very small loan so we can put in a traditional fence last week.

I should like to add here I would rather leave the lawn open and inviting, but the fence is a must.

Onward to the fencing grounds. Step one was actually getting the death trees cut down, which we’d tried to do on more than one occasion over the year. Finding people who want to work for a living in this town is next to impossible, I swear. I’d been a little iffie about cutting them to begin with because they were right on what we thought might be the property line, and we weren’t sure whose trees they actually were. We only knew they were widow makers waiting to happen. The biggest was leaning dangerously toward our house. If it fell we’d lose house and probably life. It was a BIG tree.

Some manipulative greasy types came by and pushed us around a bit, and between one neighbor next to the trees indicating they were ours and the greasy types we paid to have the trees cut. The greasy ones only cut most, said they’d be back,and left us with a half done mess. There were logs and cut pieces everywhere.

They took a too big chunk of my husband’s meager backpay, too. “At least it looks better,” my neighbor said to me. She’s right. But we’ll never see that money again. My reaction to this has been to put a sign on my front door that says NO SOLICITORS and warns that I *will* let my dog bite you while laughing as only an evil, fed up person can.

Step two was getting the brush out. That happened a few days ago, as I have mentioned. We have a yard again. You can see the concrete fence that the back neighbors and I share. You can see stumps, and terrain, and the boundaries. It looks great. Worth the price, I think.

Step three of this process was figuring the actual property lines.  This meant having to pay to get the land surveyed because people around us didn’t seem to know. I had asked one neighbor when we first bought the house and was told not to worry about it, because it was no big deal. (Yes, it was. I am about to tell you why.)

We’d asked another neighbor later who told us that we could probably try to find the metal stakes put on the corners of the property to figure it out. We got a used metal detector to try to find those, which we did not. (We did find a toy car and some pottery sherds, though.) While we dug, our other neighbor sat on her front porch and watched – nothing really goes on in this neighborhood, I figure, so when we do something outside it’s entertainment for everyone.

We didn’t want to because the price was too steep, but we hired a professional. He came out today. It took him and his partner most of the day, but when he was done we finally knew where our property boundaries were after all these years.  He also told me he’d surveyed the adjoining property for the neighbor who watched us flounder trying to figure out where the lines were. (The same neighbor, I might add, which told me not to worry about the property lines.)

He took me to what was left of the dead trees and explained that was not my property. 50% of the area that I’d paid to have cleared of brush was not my property.

He took me to another part that my neighbor is planting a rose garden in, and he explained that was my property.

He took me to the far corner of the yard and showed me where that property line ended.

He suggested I cut down the maple tree that is 90% on my property but 10% on the neighbor’s. To avoid drama, he said.

He suggested I do a lot of things to make sure there were no grey lines anymore. He seemed to feel it was very urgent I do so.

After he left, it took a little while for it to sink in but I realized I’d been tricked into spending 100% of my husband’s back pay AND to go into debt to clear the dead trees and brush from my neighbor’s property. It was money we sorely needed. Our credit is terrible, and there have been times we weren’t sure if we’d eat over the past year. Now the money is gone.

On my neighbor’s behalf, I’m sure it was an honest mistake. The property lines are a mess. The man who built this house – we call him the Doctor – did a lot of things to make sure we could tell where the property line was without a mistake. He planted trees. He cut a groove into the backyard and lined it with stones. These are all things that told me where the lines were on two sides, but unfortunately I didn’t have the legal document to back it up. So when my husband and I came home from the army, we had been warned by a third neighbor of the animosity brewing over the state of our yard against us – the state that turned out not to be our issue at all. Talk about throwing stones at glass houses.

So here I sit, a little deeper in debt because the people around me felt that knowing the property lines was no big deal. We would have preferred to use my husband’s back pay to put up a fence and not go deeper in debt. It rather feels like we’ve been robbed, and not just by the greasy thieves that said they’d cut down the trees.

But on the bright side… the yard really looks a lot better. Seeing things cleaned up always lifts my spirits.

The Hardiest Plant in the World

Our finances are disastrous right now. I haven’t been making much money lately, and it’s my money that’s been holding things together. With doubled taxes on just about everything, my husband and I have been forced to separate. He’ll be couch surfing until his pending retirement from the army finally goes through. I packed my office and came home. This is now.

About four years ago, my husband was stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana and I moved down there to join him. This meant leaving our house behind and choosing to really do without on a lot of fronts, but it seemed important to keep our family together at the time. I convinced my friend who was living on her own in an internetless neighborhood to move into my house for me. She would live rent free and pay her utilities in exchange for not letting the house fall down around her ears.

I warned her I would be coming home at any time without warning. I also warned her the area was due a natural disaster – so I guess my warnings were passed off as crazy prophet nonsense. Because when the super tornado hit about a year later, she was surprised. And when I finally made it home yesterday, she was terrified and cried for hours.

But she knew we were coming. I just wouldn’t tell her the exact day – and the reason for it was I needed to catch her in the act. But she knew. She knew for four years, and then two, and then a matter of months. And during all this time, I had people who were driving through randomly check on the house for me.

I was told that cat urine had been allowed to stain my downstairs curtains. That the smell in the house hit you like a load of bricks. That the place was messy trashed. That the garage was so full of my friend’s stuff you couldn’t park your car in it. That the gutters were a mess. The place smelled like mold. The place was, to use a single word, nasty.

And for the past four years I have been told by her over and over again how she couldn’t afford to live. I offered to turn off the cable. I offered to turn off the house alarm. No, she’d make it she told me.. to me at least. And I guess it hasn’t been that bad if she could afford to drive from Illinois to Florida for a convention to meet a boyfriend she met online in California right?

So when it came to the fact that my husband and I could no longer afford to live, I put it out on The Heavenly Bride that the comic would have to go on hiatus for a while until I got home and my life straight again. (Thanks, U.S. Government!) So I knew she knew, because 24 hours after I put out the notice she called me. The house was being cleaned for my arrival, she told me smugly. And I shouldn’t worry about the bills because she had money saved up for a while, we’d be fine. Okay good. I still refused to tell her I was leaving Thursday night. I had to catch things for myself.

Why? Because somehow, people always think I’m the bad guy. After what my daughter did, I’m rather tired of being the villain. I mean, sure if I were TRYING to be the villain I’d enjoy the label… But there’s this guy in Miami who honestly believes I spent a *lot* of money out of his bank account that my friend had access to (but I didn’t) because she was driving around buying snacks and goofing off every day… I’m not quite sure what the story is. I just remember his “concerned” phone call to ask me to stop it.

That being said this is what I came home to yesterday:SONY DSC

SONY DSCA front door still sporting a green condemnation X the city had painted on it years ago. A house so desperately cleaned the smell of the chemicals kept me from entering the basement. SONY DSCDead house plants, like a smatter of floral zombies with their dead parts on the floor from dining room to reading room. Basement curtains were clearly stained. Most of the house had clearly been vacuumed recently, but “The Blue Room” smelled of cat urine. Hardly any sign of any of my belongings – I guess because she had them shipped to us four years ago despite my clear instructions to have the military movers SONY DSConly pick up my bedroom, my office, and the boxes I already had packed waiting by the door. (Yeah, it was free. And yeah, they broke most of our stuff.) Her stuff is everywhere in such a clutter I literally have no place to draw or set down a coffee cup. Black mold in the basement. A rotting deck probably due to a clogged gutter. Glass, nails and shingles still throughout the yard from the tornado years ago. Bush weeds taking over various parts of the yard. Old dried up cat diarrhea in the hallwaySONY DSC. And a friend bawling her eyes out in my arms.

SONY DSCA lot of what we found we can’t blame our friend for. For example, the garage mess turned out to be mine. The clutter in the Blue Room was stuff my husband had brought home two years ago or so. Cleaning gutters? Yeaaah… I couldn’t do it either. The mold? She’d never had a basement before and had no clue. But… the cat urine… clutter… I mean. She wasn’t renting this place. She was staying for free and being a guardian of a home that’s also considered by me and my friends to be “The Temple to Nothing”. She… defiled an entire temple.

My poor plants. All brown, dried up and brittle because she “over watered” them. Magically, recently, when she admits they were beautiful and green for three years running. She started college and bam. They died. Just like that.

Except my aloe plants, which look like big green monsters in pots that are too small for them… and one special plant. The hardiest plant in the world.


It was my job to do walk throughs on foreclosed houses, and this little sucker I found in a kitchen window of a house that had been abandoned for months. It was barely clinging to life at the time. I took it home and promised it that it was saved.

From there it flowered like it was springtime as if in thanks and got bushy…it used to decorate the reading room. And while everything else withered up and blew away around it, it sat there waiting. And clung to life.

Yesterday after I’d settled down from driving for two day straight I realized there was still some green and forced my friend to water it.

Today while beginning a bit of clean up I figured out why this little guy had survived. He had sprouted roots all over his little body and he was getting water out of the air. The main root system in the soil is dead.

I’m forking impressed. My little plant has been named Hardy… I’ve taken the branches and put them all in water. When I’m done I’ll probably have a Hardy, Hardy 2, Hardy 3, etc…

And that’s okay.

Because he’s the hardiest plant in the world.

As for my friend: well. I can’t be too angry. I asked her to uproot and move in. Sure I gave her a free ride for four years, and sure there are some things I no longer am going to tolerate. Now that I’m home her entire lifestyle has to change – that’s kind of a rule when living with me. No soda in the house, I’m not going to tolerate her clutter all over my dining room table for her office when she has a perfectly huge office to use… If I catch myself being the bad guy again, our friendship will be over… you know. That sort of thing.

And you gotta give my friend credit. She helped my daughter get her driving license (I knew I’d be too impatient and paranoid). She was here when the tornado hit and handled a lot I couldn’t be here for. Things like that as well.

We’ll replant, we’ll fix the rotting deck, we’ll do what we can do get this place back together.

My temple’s spirit is symbolized by my little plant, I think. My husband and I: we’ve been getting hit by betrayal, government extortion, you name it to the point we feel as though our own main root system has been damaged. But like this plant, we keep putting out our little roots. And we’re clinging, dammit, even if we have to suck it out of the air.

Today we fix the new door. Tomorrow who knows.