Green Thumbs

Today my thumbs were green. Granted they got that way by handling grass clippings AND what is actually green are my gardening gloves, but still I think it counts. This year I am tending to my very first veggie garden. Yes I am 31 years old have just planted my very first garden. I've had herb gardens before - in fact I had *the* herb garden at my parent's house my entire High School career. I've had flower gardens. I've just never planted rows of edible results before.

As I obesses over this neat set of mounded rows I find myself wondering why I never did this before. It takes a lot of time from me. I end up watering it daily if its not rained. My brother did the work of turning it and preparing it for me this spring while B was on his business trip. Bro decided that the best way to structure the garden was with raised beds - and so I have raised beds. When the current crop of photos in my camera get developed I'll post a picture of what I'm talking about in the blog. Well raised beds, I'm finding, tend to get dry fairly quickly. Or maybe its just my imagination. Lord knows. Anyway, I am a watering fiend. Luckily the little guy helps me out. Or so he says. He walks next to me holding one the hose about a foot and half below the nozzle and commands me to water 'that one' and then to move on.

I also seem to weed daily. The area my garden is in used to be a row of raggedy, pathetic trees that starved each other for light and nutrients. It was also an area where nothing but vines and weeds grew and we never did much to contend with either until the 'boys' (aka my husband and brother) cut down a few trees and then my brother turned the ground over where the garden would go. I'm convinced the weeds I see today are seeking revenege on us for destorying their parents. I can weed tonight and still go out tomorrow to a garden that looks like I've ignored it for four months. That's ok. It gives me something to do while the little guy plays in the sandbox for the Nth time in a day. Oh, he also helps me weed. He sits in one of the trenches and pulls his little kid gardening tools through the ground pulling up weeds. So far he's very good about understanding what's "real" and what is "evil."

And I tend to experience extreme amounts of pride daily as if the three "W's" - my watering, weeding, and worshiping - really are what make these plants grow like mad. I swear I left for a weekend a way last week and my tomatoes were about 3 inches taller when I got home the following day. I find I take this like its an indication that I'm good at sticking something in the ground and convincing it to produce magic beans or something. Hey, at least I can honestly say that I have douced each plant once already with Miracle Gro and plan on doing so again tomorrow.

Details aside, what I've found most wonderful about gardening is the stress release it provides. Kneeling in cool dirt and pulling weeds I find I forgot whatever it is that has been eating at me. Pinching off early blooms from a tomato plant or retraining my pumpkin vines suddenly takes more focus than that idiot boss of mine and his sexist ways. Watching my son gleefully take handfuls of cut grass and tossing it down around the ever growing produce bearers makes me forget that just moments before he was throwing a fit because I refused to let him have pudding and chocolate for lunch. When I'm in that little space of garden my world s simple. Its pleasant. My biggest concern is whether the thing I'm thinking of pulling is a weed or a baby sunflower plant.

This garden gives me peace and pride - and honestly, what occurs to me now, what means the most quite honestly - is that its given me another thing to share with my children. My son loves to help in the garden. He's selected certain plants that are "his" and he waters them with his little elphant watering can like its all that matters in the world. "I good gardener" he says proudly as he smiles, dirt smudged on his cheek and a weed hanging from his not-yet-two-year-old hand. We stand in our trenches and we find worms to 'pet' and oogle at. We watch butterflies flit by. We collect ladybugs to re-deposit on cumcumber pants. We talk about how things grow and what "good bugs" are and how we can touch but only if we pet nice. Then we talk about how its ok to smush a mosquito. We talk about good foods to eat. Together we stand at the grass' edge and we admire how "our" garden grows. I know that someday he may hate the whole thing. He may roll his eyes when I ask if he wants to help weed. Or not. My brother, now 27 years old, still loves to get down and do the hard work. Turning the garden. Building said raised beds. He likes to help plant. He likes to watch things grow and to tend to it all. Even in his crankiest of days, he'll sit out there with my mom and garden. This is what I cling to. This is what I hope for. That this simple rectangle of land in my yard will become a constant for us too.

Well that, and that my tomatoes taste like real, yummy, Jersey tomatoes and my blueberry bush actually produces fruit. (And for the record, my tiny little blueberry bush has about a dozen green berries growing now!!)


Friends and politics don't mix

My husband used to be an avid golfer. Not a great one mind you, just avid. Ok, he wasn't bad. I feel compelled to clarify that, lest you think he's some horrid duffer like me that gets excited if I don't need the "double par plus 1" rule of golf that the weekend player permits to be applied - if you know nothing of golf trust me, needing that rule is not very good. The rule essentially says if you suck at golf, the worst you can get on any given hole is twice the hole's par plus one. Par being the number of swings an average golfer would require to get that stupid ass little ball into the cup. So on a par three, I'd take a 7. . . often.

Anyway, so the husband used to play a lot. Then we had a kid and golf disappeared. But, truth be told, golf starting wanning a bit before that. He blames the decline on our brief era of 'boat ownership' the summer before I got pregnant. I look back and see that it almost coincides with the 2001 Presidential campaign.

Now, I don't often discuss politics publically. Its just one of those things that ever seems wise to do even with the most rational of people. For this entry's purpose though, I have to dwell on where I stand on the great political spectrum. I don't often tag myself to a party - but I've yet to meet a Democrat I could bring myself to vote for. ;) I tend to think the vast majority of elections become selecting the lesser of two evils. Sad really but I honestly believe factual. I am hardly what I'd call conservative. I'm that person that drives hard-cores on either side batty. I am a moderate...I just lean a wee bit to the right. My husband is standing right there with me just east of center.

So back in the golfing hey-day, Hubby met up with three buddies - older men he knew from way back when. The ring leader of this crew was so far to the left of the political spectrum its amazing he never fell off the ledge. They golfed throughout the Clinton years and the ring leader would every now and then spout off about vast right-wing conspiracy's while my hubby would bite his tongue fighting the urge to let loose. Every now and then he'd pop off a comment - something mild and humorous yet still, a point he felt he needed to make. And every now and then when he did so, the ring leader would grumble about stupid conservatives...which would make hubby and I laugh.

Then the election came. The ring leader got more boisterous in his pontifications. Hubby just settled into saying "Maybe we should just not talk politics and focus on golf. You're not going to change me and I'm not going to change you." The chatter went on but the calls to join up with the foursome started to drop off. Before long they stopped all together. I can't but think politics played a role. I find that terribly sad. To me this is an example of a sad fact - politics and friendships don't mix.

Its sad really. You can be cruising along in buddy-ship, clicking like two sides of a zipper. Then one of you blurts out an opinion on some hot politically hyped topic like its a basic fact the other will obviously go along with seeing as how you both enjoy things like old movies and campy comedy shows. And the other doesn't. The cynic in me - which quite honestly is a beast that rarely shows its ugly little head - believes that even in the most openminded, this difference can cause a wee little crack in friendship's foundation. Often times its not enough to dessimate the thing, but enough differences, esp vast differences, can crumble a friendship to pieces. Thus the lack of golf in my husband's life. Its even sadder when one person is happy enough to just ignore those issues when together as if they didn't exist but the other sees it as too great an obstacle.

So why write this now? Well we're in the heat of the 4-year cycle where even flushing a toilet becomes political. I read blogs, I talk to folks, I over hear chatter. And I bite my tongue. I fear that speaking up and spouting off will cause those riffs. I worry that I'll loose buds by saying "Hold on a minute, did you ever stop to consider that Iraq USED weapons of mass destructions on the Kurds post-1991. He had them, the bigger question is not did he have them. He did. Even France and Bill Clinton believed it and said so publically pre-2003. The big question, the scary question, is where the hell are they now? To me, the threat was never directly from Sadaam himself. The threat was him handing off those weapons to a guy like Bin Laden who is just biding his time waiting to use them. To me the fact that we can't find them is scary not because I feel 'mislead and betrayed' but because I'm terrified someone is holding on and just waiting to pop one off." But I don't say those things (ok so I just did but typically) because it'll start cracking open a can of worms. And THAT is scarier than either "evil" on the ballot.


My mind how it wanders

I have a few items rolling around in my brain today, so indulge me while I spit them out here.

I'm writing a piece for a magazine and I'm looking for one final person to interview. I want to interview someone that had preserved embryos and choose NOT to donate them to another couple. I want to know why donation was not an option. If you know of anyone that has gone through IVF, had preserved embryos,choose to either destroy or donate to research said embryos AND they would be willing to talk about it for publication (we can use a pseudonym.) please email me at redheadgur@yahoo.com. Thanks!!

Language is a funny thing
Listening to my son chatter away today I started thinking about how amazing the development of language skills really is. I mean really, think about it. Kids learn to words by listening to us use them. We point to things and label for them. "Tree, that's a tree. Can you say tree?" And perhaps our little one gleefully responds "Tee!"

In that vein there is some measure of instruction, but the complicated parts, they just happen. I never told my son how to press his tongue to the roof of his mouth in order to make an "N" sound. He just did it. I never showed him how to move his lips to utter the sound "Oh." Its instinctual. We hear sounds and somehow our brains just know how to mimic them.

Watching my child grow over the last two years has taught me more about the miracle the human body is than any science class ever could have. To see how many things are just inherent - things that we take for granted - is just baffling. To see how the wheels turn in the brain as we encounter something new is just fascinating. I find myself looking forward to the next discovery my child makes and to starting again from the beginning with my 2nd. It keeps me from getting bogged down in the "terribleness" of two. ha!

With a Kick-Kick Here
Speaking of the pending #2, she's really starting to get feisty. I started feeling movement about a month ago, but lately its gotten more consistent and more pronounced. Like her brother, this little bugger is active at night as I begin to wind down - she's punching my side as we speak. How am I sure she's punching and not kicking, you say?

Today we had our follow-up Level 2 ultrasound. I know the position she was lying in as of 9:45 this morning and unless she flip-flopped a 180 between then and now, she's punching.

Why a follow-up? Well last month they weren't able to see 'something' as clearly as they wanted. I have no idea what because the Perinatalogist doing the scan never said. He just said the baby was lying in a position that made it hard to get a good view of something he wanted to see so I had to go back. Well today we found out he was trying for a clearer view of the heart. Huh. Glad I didn't know that.

My husband, you see, has a mild heart condition. One wall is slightly thicker than it should be. His father had it too. And so hearing "We need to see the heart more clearly" would have sent me for a whirlwind panic attack. But alas, today Dr. H got a clear view and today all was declared well and wonderful.

Clearly nervous by the gathering storm of pink in our house, my paranoid spouse asked the doctor if he was sure this little turnip of ours was still a girl. So back I laid down on the table and back the little probey thing went on my belly. In the doctor's words - This is very much a little girl or one very poorly endowed little boy ready for Jerry Springer. So the pink stays. (Ok, actually we're not overloading on pink...I'm more a lavender and green for the girl type mom.)

And on the topic of kicking - my feisty little girl hates ultrasounds apparently. She the entire scan kicking the crap out of my stomach. Had she been larger than a mere 1 pound 1 ounce, the others in the room may have seen her little feet poking out my abdomen. What they did see, however, were her fists flying around several times. I'm thrilled actually, they printed out a picture for us of one balled up fist resting near her face. I have the same exact 'photo' of her brother when he was about half-way along in gestation.


Caught in the great in between

In terms of fertility, I am caught in the great inbetween. Its a hard place to be, quite frankly. A present life firmly rooted in one world, yet a past life spent mired in another.

I won't rehash our entire history again, although maybe I should. Fact is after a year of non-conception, my husband and I sought out medical intervention as it were. We did tests - tests that strip you of all sorts of humility and faith in your own body. We did fertility drugs. To this day I swear that Clomid is the worst thing ever invented by man. I've never felt sicker or more emotionally disraught then while I was on that horrid little pill. Yet we got no where.

Six cycles of hell, er Clomid, later we paid a visit to our friendly neighborhood Reproductive Endochronlogist. More tests. More poking. More talking. More treatments - this time In Vitro. Shots are almost as bad as Clomid. Ok, shots mean self-inflicted needles (in theory, I never could do it myself) so shots are worse. Our IVF attempt was a miserable failure. Of 11 eggs we had 8 embryos. Of the 8, by the day of transfer we had 3 left. One of those was dying. Two weeks later, just in time for my blood work, I began to bleed. No viable pregnancy. I always consider that failed cycle a miscarriage. Not that I talk of it often, but there you go.

Neither I nor my husband had the emotional or physical fortitude to go through that again. Yeah, one cycle is probably not enough to be sure, but it was all we could afford out of our various banks - the emotional one, the physical one and the good old monetary one. We gave it a try and it didn't work. We set about to live our lives as a couple - a spoiled rotten couple. We committed ourselves to healthy eating and to exercise. We took great trips (the previously mentioned trip to Tahiti for example.) We bought ourselves great presents.

And then nearly a year and a half later I missed a period. And then I missed another...

And then I dared to do what I swore I would never do to myself again. I took a home pregnancy test. And it was positive. I didn't believe it so I took another. And another, and another and another. Five in all. All five said positive. I was pregnant. On my own. No Clomid. No tests. No RE. No IVF. Just me and hubby the good old fashioned way.

7 months later (remember I tested so very late!) my son was born. We decided to try again and we prepared ourselves for failure. But alas, failure decided we had spent enough dancing with one another and so he moved on to another poor soul. We conceived our second child - a daughter due in Sept - on the 2nd month of not even really trying.

So now I'm one of the regular folks that get pregnant the good old fashioned way - and yet I carry around with me the heartache of our infertility journey. I ache when I hear stories of couples struggling for a child and I want to hug them tight and say "I know. I know. I know. I've been there. The pain is awful." Yet I know if I do that the question comes - so your child is from a treatment? Ummm, well no. And suddenly its a slap in the face not a comfort.

There are times I hate to tell my story. I hate to share it because I remember hearing all the tales of women that magically conceived after completing adoption. I remember being told to just take a vacation and stop stressing about it, because after all I just needed to relax and boom, it'd happen. People mean well when they say that crap, but it hurts. It negates what you're feeling. That you've failed; that your body has betrayed you. It says that every time you feel broken and inadequate you're merely being melodramatic because after all all you really need to do is loose a little weight and stop stressing. In some cases that may be true - I suppose in mine it was, but in too many others its not. Too many others have real problems they face. Too many other couples have legitimate medical roadblocks and all the vacations and massages in the world won't fill their arms with a baby.

I hate to tell my story because I don't want it to be something others use to inflict on the infertile. I know they do because they tell me, their eyes glowing and their voices full of excitement "Oh, I have to tell Jane this, they've been trying for years and are on their 5th cycle of in vitro now. But hey, look at you, maybe if she goes to Weight Watchers and joins a gym!" Poor Jane, I think, and I smile weakly. Sometimes I even say "Please don't tell them. You don't understand. It'll hurt too much. Its not right." Oh, my, aren't you just a silly thing says the hand they flop at me. Of course it won't hurt, she'll hopeful. And my foot once planted in the 'other' world itches to plant itself up their butt.

Its a weird place this great in between. Knowing the pain and knowing the joy. Its hard to feel like I belong in either. I don't fit in the world where people get pregnant just thinking about it and never really have a notion that their fertility is a gift, not a given. I don't even quite fit in the world where people try for a while and finally get there on their own. I did that and more. I had Clomid Migranes and injection site bruises. I had the experience of watching my dreams crumble before my eyes -- as short lived as their demise turned out to be. Yet, I don't fit in with those that hug their children close today and thank God for a medical world that can work miracles. The medical world didn't get me to where I am today.

I'm my own unique breed, I suppose. I just sit back and listen quietly to either world share their stories. I feel a pang of guilt when I hear struggles. I still feel a pang of jealousy when I hear of pregnancy with ease. I guess I'll always be stuck in the middle.


When I grow up. . .
This morning my not-quite-two-year-old informed me that he was going to be an astronaut when he grew up. "I be astronaut," he said, "Fly Space Shuttle. ZOOM! Walk on moon." Now how he knows all about being an astronaut and flying to the moon is not of consequence for the moment. However, for the curious out there, its a combination of his fascination with the night sky, our time spent surfing the web looking at NASA's photo albums, and "The Shanna Show" short on Playhouse Disney.

His declaration got me thinking. When I was a kid, what were my career goals. (Not that I recall much from my 2nd year of life so we're talking "young child" not "toddler child.") I remember wanting to be a lot of things at various times and as I think it through I realize that in some way I've managed to reach many of those goals - at least in some form.

1. A Mommy - What little girl doesn't playhouse at some point in her childhood and pretend to be the big cheese? Ok, maybe some out there don't, but I did. I was going to marry Tommy from kindergarten and have two kids, a boy and a girl. Tommy's Dad was the Mayor so this was really a big deal at 5 years old - it was like marrying into the White House. Of course I only achieved half this goal. I am a Mommy. I do have a boy and a girl is on the way. I didn't, however, marry into the mayor's office. Tommy is now a funeral director in town and I married an older man I met at my first marketing job.

2. A ballerina - Oh I was all flushed thinking about wearing pink tutu's and pointy toed satin slippers. I took ballet lessons for what seemed like ages. "Run, Run, Run, Leap!" my teacher would command as she tapped her long pointer on the floor and with a fluid motion of her arm seemed to levitate us over a pile of records. I was going to be great. I am not a ballerina. I doubt my bigger-then-they-should-be hips and misc body parts would look all that hot in a tutu to be quite honest. BUT, I am a dancer. Of course my music is a far cry from Swan Lake. I dance around to the Wiggles and JoJo's Circus CDs. I don't get my body up on my toes much, but I do spin and dip a lot. I guess you can say I made it a third of the way there. Ha! Or less.

3. An Astronaut - yeah, I too wanted to fly through space. My math skills, however, left much to be desired and my interest gradually waned. I'm fascinated by the stars and what not, I just have no desire to actually fly that close to them. When we took our "IVF failed miserably we're going to wallow in the fact that we'll never have kids" trip to Tahiti, we paid to have this nutty British guy give us a "night sky tour" in Moorea. It was one of the best things we did that trip - and that trip was amazing from start to finish. But, like I said, standing on a hilltop with a pair of a binoculars and a nutty professor complete with umbrella as pointer is different than strapping in to experience zero gravity. The closest I get today is laying in the grass on a cool night, pointing to the moon, stars and planets as we tell our son what is what. I don't even think that counts as getting very far to the career goal.

4. A Teacher - Yup. Another stereotypical little girl thing. I'm sure there are a zillion girls that never wanted to teach, but at one point I did. I remember making tests for my brother to take and grading them when he was done scribbling away on them. (He is, afterall, four years younger.) As I moved through school, other long-term career goals got in my way, but it is something I've reconsidered a few times in my adult life. I even went as far as attending a seminar on alternate route certification. I thought teaching would be a great way to allow me to be home when my school aged children were. But alas, there's that older man I mentioned previously. We spoke at length and since I can earn more in a corporate world than a teacher will its important that I be in a point in my career that I can be considered 'primary bread winner' when the kids are college-aged. My dear husband will, at that time, be a sweet 60-something year old man. It scares him. He worries about his ability to have a job with decent pay and benefits when he's 60. My father is nearing 57 and is convinced he's going to be offered an early retirement package by January from the company he's been with for over 35 years. Hubby knows this and it scares him more. Being 13 years younger than the 'old man' of mine, I know he's right, I do have to be in a position in my career that I can be "the provider." So teaching is a done idea.

That said - even though I'm not a teacher in a formal career sense, I am still a teacher by default. All parents are. I taught my son to walk. I taught him his alphabet. I've taught him to count to 14. I've taught him the language skills he has. I've taught him about the moon, the astronauts and the Space Shuttle. I've taught him about trucks and planes and trains. I've taught him to feed himself and to pick out his own shirts. I've taught him to say please and thank you. And I keep teaching him new things every day.

This week my mom taught me when to plant tomatoes and how to cover the beds with grass clippings to help keep the weeds down. She taught me how to feign excitement over the 10-millionth bulldozer we see in a day. She's taught me how to be a good mother...and from that I know that my in formal job as 'teacher' never ends. Career goal obtained without pay.

5. A lawyer - My aunt was a lawyer - a corporate lawyer that used to work for Hanna Barbarah (bad spelling!?) and used to send me calendars filled with cartoon characters. I wanted to be a lawyer too. Then I spent the day, as a child, with a real attorney and I decided that it was actually quite boring. To me, being a lawyer was only good when you had Perry Mason type moments and seeing as how those could be few and far between, the job lost its appeal.

6. A writer - This is the one that made it all the way. My "Day Job" has been in marketing. Even now, in my technically self-employed state, my primary contract is to perform marketing and public relations duties for my former company. In this role I write. I write a lot. I write everything from press releases and trade show signs to white papers and sell sheets.

I also have this blog - no pay but lots of satisfaction in that I can write what I want, when I want to. On the money side, I've ventured into the freelance market and have written a wee bit for publication. Its not a lot and I certainly should get off my ass and pitch more ideas so I can write more for pay...which is actually in reality more about the glory of seeing my name in print. I have a ton of excuses why I've not pitched more to date. Nothing worth wasting time over now though. They are, in fact, just excuses.

All of this certainly falls short of that novel I was going to write at 13 and its all very different from what I set out to do as a college Freshman. I'll have you know that I was going to challenge the fame of Woodward and Burnstein someday. I was going to be a great reporter. A red-headed Lois Lane. That was me. Then my journalism professor had a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer speak to us. All I can recall today about that lecture is that journalist get crappy pay to have the one hightest suicide and divorce rates in the country. Understandably, when you put that up against the speaker we had in our PR class, writing for papers lost some of its luster.

The way I see it, I'm young - I'll only be 31 at the end of this month. I have time to write that novel. My fiction writing professor used to drum into our heads the rule that you "write what you know" if you want to write a good piece of fiction. I don't feel like I know enough yet - at least nothing interesting and so I put off the great novel. Some day maybe I'll do it. I just haven't felt a book begging to get out of my head yet. Essay's - sure...they become blog entries and some day maybe things I pitch for the heck of it...but books no. At least no book since I hit a point in maturity to recognize what was a "good story" vs some sort of cruddy predictable teenage vision of great literature. ;)

So I guess, looking back on it, my little kid dreams of "when I grow up" weren't so far off. Then again, I'm not "all" grown-up yet by any stretch of the imagination. That'll come later. For now, there's still time to grow and learn and expand.


I've decided its just me. I thought maybe I was a freaky neighbor magnet - but that's just asking too much. It must be me. I'm the weird one and they're all perfectly normal. Its the only thing that makes sense. Me and neighbors - we go way back.

When I was a kid Donald and Mary lived to the right of us (right being if you were in the house looking out.) They were a nice enough couple. Mary, perpetually tan, was 10 years older than Donald. They smoked pot with wild abdandon and liked to parade around naked. This shouldn't have been an issue with the stockade wood fence between our yards by the time nudity became the rage over there, but we had a tree fort. Or I should say my brother had a tree fort. My mom used to think he was just a young boy that liked being up a tree - it wasn't until Mary asked, rather uncomfortably I might add, if Mom could keep the kid out of the tree a bit more often that it became apparent WHY he liked being up a tree. Sure, the tree was great, but he liked to watch her sunbathe in the nude, clean in the nude, swim in the pool in the nude, well you get the idea. When questioned about this years later, my brother merely grins and says "Hey, I was 12." Yeah, right. As if he'd have stayed out of the tree if he was 17. ;)

Donald and Mary moved, selling the house to Janine and Richard. He was an uptight, white-collar, rod up his spine Wall St kind of guy. She was big hair, late 80s Jersey girl through and through. They were the oddest couple I'd ever seen. Janine was loud. Nice, sure, but loud. I remember falling asleep on a summer's night - my window up to allow some lame excuse of a breeze puff in to my hot, non air-conditioned room - hearing that cackle of hers. They had two children eventually, Christopher and Erica. Both were understandably perfect. In terms of odd neighbors these four were actually the most normal.

When I married and moved into the former bachelor pad apartment I found myself with bizarre neighbors once again. The girl in the apartment across the street was another nudist. She'd walk around her room - a window facing ours - buck naked, blinds wide open, lights turned on. We called her naked girl. The man downstairs (aptly nicknamed Man downstairs because never did know his real name) liked to watch the Spice Channel. Think porn on cable. I remember sitting on my couch at night, our own TV momentarily silent as one show turned to another, and hearing the moaning. He'd sit down there with his lights off, curtains drawn tight, and moaning TV pumped up loud. Man downstairs also had a weird dog. The poor thing would flip out if you walked to close to it. Apparently it was abused in a previous life - sad certainly, but bizarre when paired with this bizarre single man who'd yell back at it "Oh Ferdie! You're such a chicken!" Ferdie, by the way, was also terrified of our then puppy. That little 8 lbs of Husky was enough to send the full grown dog into a tizzy. Man Downstairs also liked to go to the apartment complex pool in a Speedo. Mind you, I've yet to see a man that actually truly looks good in a speedo, but Man Downstairs had no business trying.

Also in the apartment complex we had a couple that would scream and shout at each other almost nightly. There walls seemed to butt up against ours. One day the super can with an eviction notice, but the screamers were already gone. Below them was a young couple with a baby. They were always afraid to have the super come do work on their place because they had built a full, real, functional wall across their dining room making the place a 2 bedroom apartment instead of a 1 bedroom as they were paying for.

So we thought we might luck out and leave the bizarre behind at "Mansions at Middlebrook" when we bought our house. The first week or so the place seemed normal enough. No screamers, no pumping loud Spice Channel or middle-aged, pasty-white, bald men in spandex tight bathing suits. Normal. Sure, right.

Steve and Edie live to our left. Their three adult kids and granddaughter live there too. Its quite a full house. Steve is a real chatty fellow. He means well. One day he called us and said "Hi! My name is Steve. . ." then pitched DH on a pyramid scheme. Ahh, no thanks we said. Steve didn't talk to us for a while after that. It did, however, explain the line of cars that seemed to show up at his place regularly and leave after a short stay. We used to try to guess if he was part of a cult or drug ring. Guess it was just pyramid schemes. Steve and Edie used to have a German Shepard named MacKenzie. Mac didn't like her backyard. She used to dig her way out under the wood fence and roam the street. I used to think it was odd that the old folks that owned our house previously had erected a chain link fence barrier down either side of our front yard. The first time that dog sat on her front yard and barked her head off at me for being on mine I was thankful for said barrier.

Steve and Edie have a new dog - I have no idea what its name is, everyone just calls it puppy. Yes, everyone. Puppy, you see, gets out of the yard too. Steve knows this. Steve doesn't care. Their wooden fence blew over during one of our bad storms this winter. They had tried merely propping it up for a while against our chain link. I liked to tip it back into their yard for fun when no one was home. :) The fence is now 3/4 removed. They talk about getting a new chain link that will run up against ours. In the meantime there exists this 6 inch or so gap between what's left of his wood fence and our fence. Puppy gets put in the backyard and runs for freedom. She's small enough to squeeze by the lame excuse for a bush that sprouted between the two fences once upon a time and spends oodles of time roaming the block. She always seems to return to her backyard, as did Mac before her. But one of these days, Puppy is going to meet car and its not going to be pretty. I spend much of our outside time trying to coax puppy back into her own yard. I use my child as bait - "Come here puppy! Come see L!" L, you see, loves puppy. He thinks its funny that the dog likes to lick his fingers through the chain link. He also thinks its hysterical to see the puppy run in wild circles everytime Tasha (our dog) barks and howls. Today Puppy came to play with us on our front yard. If I didn't find one dog to be enough of a pain in my ass lately I might just adopt Puppy - she's here enough.

On the other side lived Ray, Ray's wife (no I have no idea what her name is) and their four obnoxious stalker children. When we moved in they were newborn through 5. Now they are 11 through almost 6. Ray and his wife were the most normal neighbors I had ever had at first. They borrowed cups of milk. They chatted over the front lawn fence with us. Their stalker kids turned their bikes around on our driveway but we didn't care. Better to be nice to young hoodlums so they won't egg your house later. :)

Then one day I heard screeching followed by a slammed door and mad Ray storming from the house. A week or so late there was more screeching followed by a police car stopping in front of our house. Talk about heart in throat. I couldn't imagine they'd send police out because we had ripped the tags off the mattress or something. And they hadn't. No the police went next door to the 'normal' house and spoke to both Ray and wife o' Ray. Several more weeks went by and Ray was no longer seen around these parts. Days after his disappearance "New Ray" showed up. A younger, buffer version of the guy we had once thought normal.

Since then "New Ray" has left and "New Ray 2" (called New Ray for short, although recently I've learned his name is Steve) moved in. Yes, moved in. Ray shows up sometimes to pick up the four stalkers for the weekend. Some weekends he, the Ex-Mrs. Ray and New Ray stand around by Ray's beat up "amazed it really runs" car and shoot the breeze. Laughing at little jokes and seeming like old friends. Other times the police make a visit and speak to each - she in house, he in car - separately. I've heard all about how Ray can't give her another penny because after she bleeds him dry for this house and all that crap he's left with maybe a $100 a month to live on. No, Ray didn't tell me this himself, he sort of shouted it for the whole block to hear - or maybe it was just her. Not sure.

Now, Ex-Mrs. Ray doesn't reserve her screeching for Ray. No. Ex-Mrs Ray shares it with her children and therefore with all of us. There are days she screams at them to stay outside "I SAID STAY OUTSIDE DAMN IT! DO NOT COME IN UNTIL I SAY!" There are other days she yells at them stuff like "SHUT UP ALREADY! JUST SHUT UP! I SAID STOP! DAMN IT! STOP!" Yes, you read that right - there are days they must stay outside. I recall one cool day when the youngest was maybe 3 she made her stay outside - sans jacket - for hours. Not out back, no out front...Sitting on the front stoop. Is it a wonder they are little stalkers? Even prior to L's arrival, the littlest stalker - we'll call her C since she's a minor, would come over and chat everytime I was out front. Now having a little buddy with me makes me all the more attractive apparently. Sadly L seems to adore C. So every time we go outside, and she's there, he calls out her name and waves. Of course, every time we go out front she is ALWAYS there unless she's at school or Ray's. Its like radar or something. She must sense our front door open because she comes running right away. Top speed - ZOOM! She's chased us down the block before if we were walking down the street when she spotted us. Its like bees to honey. Its annoying. I'd like to go in my front yard without C hanging around all the time.

Happily, C says they are moving. They are the aforementioned neighbors with the house for sale but not a for sale sign. I can only hope the next set of new folks fails to follow history. I'd like normal people living near me. People without run away dogs or domestic dispute phone calls. I'd like people that like to walk around in clothes and not cackle and snort louder than the buzz of crickets on a warm summers eve. I want a lot, I know. But, hey, haven't I paid my dues?