As I mentioned briefly in my Bonus Content for yesterday, I had an unexpected visit from a neighbor. This is entirely outside of my comfort zone, of course, but thankfully I’d spent the weekend cleaning and I wasn’t ashamed to open the door to a woman I recognized. Plus it was still fully daytime.

She bought a huge watermelon which she and her husband couldn’t possibly eat all of and she’d been cutting it up and giving it to folks, of which I was one. I stood in the doorway chatting with her for a moment, still hanging on to the 4th of a watermelon and wondering when she’d run out of things to talk about when all of a sudden she just stepped into the house and shut the door behind her.

“I hate for you to waste your air conditioning!”

Right, Lady. You just wanted to see inside my house.

I did not invite her to sit as a good hostess might have, but when you consider how chock-full of cat hair my sofa is (I have a sheet I throw over it if I ever want to sit in the living room – can we say ‘pathetic’?), I felt like I was doing her a favor.

It was at this point when she noted, “Gosh I don’t think I’ve seen the inside of this house since it was renovated!”

Well, duh. I’ve owned it since it was renovated and you have not yet (and even STILL) earned an invitation inside.

Polite smile from LizHarrell.

No mention of how awesome it looks now from neighbor.

Instead, “I knew Mr. _____ who owned it forever before the guy who flipped it. Knew him before we moved across the street. My son was just a baby. Mr. _____ went to my church.”

-“Oh, really?”

“Yep, he lived here with his mom but when she passed away he had this lady friend, she lived with him for about three years. Then he died.”

-“Oh, my.”

“Yep, he left everythang to his lady friend who lives up on the lake now. His family was so angry.”

-“I bet!”

“Yep then there was the fire.”

-“Oh, yes I’d heard there was a fire.”

“Yep, one Sunday afternoon the house caught fire. They thought it might be his family, they were so angry. But it could have been some kids playin’ or someone living here that did it accidentally.”

-(In my head, I’m thinking… did someone squat in my home before I lived here?) But I said, “Oh my.”

“Yep we never did find out what happened but I thank it was the family.”

-“Wow, that’s crazy.”

“No kidding, yes you have the prettiest cats – if you ever go out of town and need someone to keep ’em that’s what I do.”

-“I’m sorry?”

“I pet sit when I’m not nursing.”

-“Well that’s neat!”

Lady proceeds to tell me the details of her business… “Well I know you musta had a long day I’ll get out of your hair.”

-“Thank you so much for the watermelon! It was very nice of you to think of me.”

Lady opens the door behind her (as we’ve been standing in the same spots for twenty minutes at this point) and starts to head for the stairs. I walk out behind her.

-“Be careful on our stairs, they’re a little covered in weeds at the moment.”

“A LITTLE?”

Sigh. “Well, you know…” ::::::LizHarrell shuts door on lady and quickly engages the deadbolt::::::

Neighbors. Hard to like ’em, can’t avoid ’em.

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I am a really shy person. I don’t think I’m particularly introverted once I get to know someone, but it’s sometimes difficult for me to get beyond that barely-acknowledging-the-existence-of-other-people phase. I like people. I hate small-talk. People I don’t know tend to mostly keep to the simple topics of conversation. My natural inclination is to end such conversations as quickly and gracefully as possible. I’m fully aware that this is the sort of behavior that keeps my relationships with acquaintances at that very surfacey level. It’s a catch 22.

But the moment a natural disaster strikes, genuinely nice people come out of the woodwork to help out. There’s nothing like having your biggest frustrations visible for the whole neighborhood to see for forcing yourself to open up. Of course, Hubby had already made friends with these folks, which definitely eased my own relations with them significantly. Hubs is awesome at making friends. He’s a small talk wiz, but more than that, if you talk with him for more than a minute or two, somehow, you start to feel comfortable with him and conversation deepens. I just don’t have that same skill.

Anyway, I have previously made some snap judgements about my neighbors. Okay, I really do still believe the folks next door grow different sorts of weeds than I grow so effectively in my yard. But they are  nice folks, they know my name, and they thanked me for the pie I made them. They came and visited with Hubby when he was chopping up the limbs this morning.

Also, I may have recently posted that my across the street neighbors held my food hostage and drank my milk. Then the lovely  mother of the family came over with a BRAND NEW gallon of skim milk and had the decency to tell me that my cats are beautiful. My babies! Are beautiful! She, too, thanked me for the pies.

The third neighbor, who brought us cold drinks last weekend, came over to thank me for the pie and tell me how much her husband enjoyed it  – and asked for the recipe!

So, I guess the moral of this story is, it’s sort of nice to like your neighbors, and have them like you back. I suppose it’s a little sad that it took me three years in this house to figure that out…!

OPELIKA (June 23) — One unopened gallon of skim milk is being held hostage this week in the home of [NAMES WITHHELD FOR SECURITY REASONS], along with one family sized box of pizza Lean Pockets, one bag of frozen chicken, two Jeno’s Party Pizzas, one unopened bag of corn, one unopened bag of broccoli in cheese sauce, two boxes of Weight Watchers Ice Cream Bars, and one unopened bag of Pizza Pockets. Negotiations for their release are currently at a stand-still.

A seeming act of kindness turned into a hostage situation early this week when [NEIGHBOR] volunteered on Sunday to keep dead-tree-power-outage victim LizHarrell’s refrigerated and frozen foods in their spare refrigerator until her power was restored. The situation began to escalate Monday evening when LizHarrell dropped by [NEIGHBOR]’s house to collect her food items. It didn’t take her long to realize that, though they appeared to be at home, [NEIGHBOR] wasn’t going to answer the doorbell.

Frustrated that her evening meal was not going to be a Lean Pocket but a (highly disappointing) Healthy Choice Fresh Mixer, LizHarrell resolved to win her neighbors over with a gift. She spent a fair amount of time preparing pies for their enjoyment. These no-bake pies required several hours of refrigeration and she planned to return to [NEIGHBOR]’s house the following evening with the gift.

Meanwhile, the unopened gallon of skim milk cowered in fear in this unknown refrigerator. Would it be rescued prior to its ‘sell by’ date? Would it be reunited with its compatriots from the freezer or would it simply be poured down the sink by its evil captors, its blue cap mailed to LizHarrell as a threat? The gallon of milk had soured on its current conditions.

The following day, LizHarrell arrived home from work, eager to continue negotiations for the release of her food items. Although no ransom had been requested, LizHarrell thought a goodwill offering may ease tensions. She removed the pies from her refrigerator and walked across the street. After ascertaining that at least one of the family’s cars was in the driveway, LizHarrell rang the doorbell to no response. She attempted to knock but found that a large spider web had enveloped her fist. Taking this as an act of aggression, LizHarrell scampered back to her home, pies still in hand.

It is rumored that at lunchtime the following day, the frozen broccoli and one of the Jeno’s Party Pizzas attempted a breakout when [NEIGHBOR]’s college aged son opened the freezer to locate some sustenance. He took one look at the broccoli and threw it back in with the other hostages. The Party Pizza has not been seen since.

Negotiations are set to resume at 5:15 today, at which time LizHarrell intends to make a second attempt at delivering her pies. She is not hopeful for the recovery of the gallon of milk, though she expects to find the frozen vegetables and Lean Pockets intact. “I really just want to keep the pies,” LizHarrell confides. “The lemon one looks especially tasty. Maybe I should just let them keep the groceries.”

Attempts to contact [NEIGHBOR] have gone unanswered, though witnesses confirm that a milky rag and two pop-sickle sticks were placed in LizHarrell’s mailbox at approximately 3 PM today. Stay tuned for further updates in this ongoing story.

I have been married for seven years today. Yesterday, Hubby reminded me why he’s my hero, just in time to celebrate our anniversary.

Y’all, a little back story may be in order. Remember how on Thursday afternoon a big limb fell and pulled down our power line and we had to hire an electrician? Well, the electrician we found did a wonderful job on Friday of fixing it right up. For some serious cash, certainly, but he was a nice guy and really came through in our crisis. Anyway, I got home Friday evening, retrieved our frozen and refrigerated goods from our neighbor’s house, packed my things and drove to spend the weekend with Hubby in Birmingham because he had to work on Saturday, it was our anniversary weekend, (and I didn’t have any internet connection to entertain me at home). We spent most of Saturday afternoon in indecision about how to celebrate the anniversary and were basically decided that we’d just celebrate next weekend in Auburn when the phone call came. It was our next door neighbor informing me that there had been storms that afternoon and several more branches of our tree had come down. And it looked like the very same power line had come down, as well.

It was like someone had snatched my stomach out of my body. I felt both hot and freezing cold at the same time. I don’t even know what I said to the poor lady who called to tell us about it. I doubt I was particularly friendly to this bearer of bad news. Not that I wasn’t appreciative that she’d taken the time to call us when it didn’t look like we were in – that was very sweet. I am pretty sure I thanked her for the call. But I was just too stunned by the unbelievably awful timing of it all to be 100% polite.

Hubby also received a call from another concerned neighbor and after we called a third neighbor, we pieced together that it was either not as bad or significantly worse than what had happened on Thursday afternoon, and the massive branches in our yard were either bigger or more profuse than the original branch of destruction. Also, there were either holes in our roof or just some small branches.

Basically, we were going to have to come back to Auburn together to see for our selves. So, after ten minutes of sobbing uncontrollably, I pulled myself together, had dinner with Hubby’s family, called my Dad to apologize for not getting to see him on Father’s Day, and we went to bed.

Wow, okay that was a lot of back story…sorry, every now and then I can get quite carried away. To the point!

Sunday morning, Hubby and I got up semi-early, packed up the cars with a ladder, chainsaw, gas cans, hand saws, gloves and safety glasses and drove the two hours back to Auburn. When we arrived, it was clear that everyone we spoke with on Saturday had basically explained the situation correctly, despite the inconsistencies in their stories.

There were branches a plenty,  a couple of which were larger than the original branch of doom. And in terms of the power line, the situation was worse in that when the line came down, it was a live-wire, meaning they had to remove our meter box when they came out, which they hadn’t had to do on Thursday afternoon. But the situation was much better also, because the electrician had reinforced the new piping much better than it was originally done, and therefore none of that will have to be replaced the second go around. As far as the roof goes, there were little limbs all over it, and maybe a shingle or two poking up where it shouldn’t, but nothing extreme. But Hubby was there with me, and may I say, that made all the difference! I could handle the insanity of the situation because I wasn’t being required to figure it all out alone. In fact, I could defer to him as the authority on the subject of all things tree and power.

Not only that, my man is a beast with a chainsaw. He got to work with that thing and in no time, he’d chopped up the biggest limbs in the driveway into more manageable pieces. AND he hauled most of it to the street for pick up. I was in charge of smaller branches and obtaining cold liquids for him to drink. And taking phone calls, of which there were many, as our families were checking on us constantly. His parents even came down to join us, arriving around 3 with sustenance and another manly eye.

With his dad there to advise him, Tom ended up in the tree with the chainsaw. Keep in mind, when I say that this is a huge tree, I am not exaggerating as usual. I’m serious. Hubby was at least thirty feet up*. I was terrified, but I was also really proud. He chopped down three more huge limbs and looked like a rock star doing it. There’s just something about a man with power tools. Yummy.

After descending from the heights of the tree, he started chopping up the felled branches and the power tool gave out before he did. We decided it would take three days to chop up the rest with hand saws so there are still three HUGE branches in our yard and driveway, but Hubby will be back next weekend to work on that. In the meantime, as soon as I get power, I’m going to make pies for the three neighbors that helped us out this last week and hope they forgive the fact that our yard looks like a war zone.

In conclusion, my husband rocks. Happy Anniversary!

* A Picture of Hubby In HUGE DEAD TREE:

Hubby In the Tree!

When I mentioned to my mother that I planned to post on roosters today, her response was: “Why, are you planning on adopting one?”

This is a perfectly legitimate question given my current zoo/farm/chipmunk sanctuary living situation, but for once, Mom didn’t call it right! Nope, today’s post concerns not my own odd pet needs but someone else’s.

Today I visited a dear friend’s home while “on the road” for work. There I found an adorable home in an adorable neighborhood – with one interesting exception. (Before I start in on my friend’s neighbors, I’d like to refer back to my previous post on my own rather sketchy neighbor situation and comment that I still think my friend’s neighborhood is far and away nicer than my own.)

But she does have some interesting neighbors of her own. The chicken coop in the next back yard stuck out pretty hardcore, particularly when the rooster crowed. At four fifteen in the afternoon. Multiple times.

I found this incredibly odd. I’m not against poultry farming by any stretch of the imagination, but in the middle of a suburban neighborhood?? What is the purpose in this? Honestly I have no idea how many eggs a couple of chickens and a rooster can produce (well, obviously the rooster won’t exactly produce any eggs…but you know what I mean), but is it worth it to annoy the crap out of your neighbors just to get a dozen eggs a week? And how much do live chickens cost, anyway? I mean… this just doesn’t seem that cost effective when you count in how many eggs you are likely to have thrown at your house in the wee hours of the morning.

Oh, and dear friend, I recommend that you suggest being compensated with free eggs for having to deal with the surprisingly random crowing of your “fowl” neighbors. If this doesn’t work out, I’ll loan you my husband’s BB gun, no questions asked.

I’ve long suspected that our next door neighbors deal drugs. It should be more than a suspicion at this point, as said neighbors have offered to supply my husband with weed on multiple occasions.

What I want to know is, what else is going on over there?

Their house is small. From the outside, it looks as though it would fit my kitchen, and that’s about it. I am certain that the real reason behind their congregating for hours with various suspicious folks on their front lawn has something to do with their lack of indoor living space. They have what I would ordinarily consider a very hip outdoor fireplace, around which are situated plastic chairs of various design, and in any imaginable state of disrepair. This is where they hold their shindigs. And no matter what sketchy invitees are present at these parties, there is one invariable element that stands out as a common theme.

This element happens to be a heart stopping explosion. The first time this happened, I ran outside to make sure everything was alright. When I heard their riotous laughing, I assumed all was well. I’m not a particularly chatty person, so there was no way I was going to walk any closer than my driveway. The next time, my husband intervened, and he is chatty, so he went over to see what the problem was. This was also the second time they offered a drag, at the least, to my slightly wide-eyed husband, from the joint they were passing around the fire.

It turns out this explosion had something to do with compressed gasses in a bottle of beer that had been lovingly placed inside their outdoor fireplace. Yes, in fact, they did do it on purpose.

In any case, these explosions tend to occur with the most frequency on the weekends, but weeknights are not out of consideration. I get the impression that the explosion is a sign of how early in the day they started drinking, or how much alcohol and/or drugs are involved in the get together. Because after about fifty of these explosions, how could anyone still find them amusing?

No, I’m fairly convinced this has nothing to do with humor, despite the raucous laughter following each explosion.

My theory? Meth Lab.