Lions and Tigers and Lizards…. OH MY!

When the realtor first showed us the house I ended up buying, she pointed towards the beautiful green conservation zone behind the house.  She explained that it meant there would be no more houses built behind us and waxed poetic about the gorgeous view.  Then she said,

“Terri, you’ll have WILDLIFE!”

Almost as soon as the words passed her lips, she changed the subject, as if she immediately realized that the existence of wildlife in the backyard would not be everyone’s cup of tea. She needn’t have worried. I immediately conjured up visions of Bambi and Thumper shyly inching their way to my back door, as I coaxed them ever forward with carrots.  Maybe I’d even build a saltlick.  I saw them giving me their trust and nuzzling against me.  In my imagination, the wildlife might even have broken into song.

Well, no.

Instead of Bambi and Thumper, the wildlife consists of birds and lizards.  Lots of lizards.  The birds are pretty innocuous, although kind of noisy at times.  We have what must be wonderful windows and insulation because it can be quiet as can be inside until I open a door in the evening.  Then, the volume and variety of bird sounds is quiet amazing.  The cacophony they create outside at night is comparable to a middle school orchestra tuning up.  The birds are kind of cool to watch during the day and I can’t hear them at night with the doors and windows closed up, so the bird wildlife is not a problem.

The lizards didn’t really bother me, either.  Most people will tell you that lizards are good to have around because they eat insects.  I don’t want them in my house, but I’m perfectly happy to live and let live as long as they do their living outside the structure where I do my living.  Max, on the other hand, became the great white hunter of lizards.  He was completely convinced that, if we did not do something to banish the lizards from our property, they would take over the garage and house.  He fretted that, once in the house, we would not be able to get them out because they are such fast little buggers.  He worried that they would raise a whole colony of baby lizards and I would rue the day I ever said, “they don’t bother me.”  I think he pictured them taking over the television remote control and fiddling with the air conditioner settings.

My research into lizard control told me that nothing can reliably reduce lizard population.  The most common suggestion was to get a cat, which I thought might be a good answer until I realized that the cat would not necessarily get rid of lizards, just kill them and bring them to me as love offerings.  While I don’t want live lizards in my house, I really don’t want dead ones either.  Especially dead ones gift-wrapped in cat spit.

Another big suggestion was to use insecticides to kill the bugs the lizards eat, thereby discouraging the lizards from showing up for the buffet at our house each day.  After trying several different insecticides and putting out mothballs to minimize the bugs, there might have been a slight decrease in the lizard sightings.  Or there might not have been.

Max followed the lizard abatement school of thought that we should minimize (read eliminate) the foliage around the house, thus destroying the lizard hiding places. He thought we should have more rock and stone instead of dirt and shrubbery.   He thought we should cut all the shrubbery down to the stumps and maybe put out some potted artificial plants. Besides being a lot of work and expensive to have someone do this, I didn’t want to do it.  First, I didn’t think the homeowners’ association that objected to a small patch of discolored lawn would be too keen on landscaping that consisted of bare stumps topped with potted plastic petunias.  The rules for landscaping are pretty restrictive.  Second, I didn’t want an ugly yard and I have to say that stumps sounded pretty ugly to me.  Third, I didn’t think anything we did was going to get rid of the lizards so I objected to taking extraordinary measures to try to do so.

While our disagreement on lizard abatement strategy waged on, Max took to looking for lizards in the front and back yard and dousing them with glasses of cold water.  He’d go outside, see a lizard, come in grumbling, “fucking lizards,” get a glass of water, and throw the water on said lizard.  I’m sure the neighbors were referring to him as the “crazy lizard guy.”  He really believed he was going to train the entire lizard population to stay away from our house because those who were foolish enough to venture near would spread the word to the rest of them about the icy showers that awaited them.

Finally, after weeks of Max “convincing” (in other words, nagging) me to do something about the landscaping, I capitulated.  I just couldn’t bear to hear another word about the “fucking lizards.”  I did insist, though, that we were not just going to lop off shrubs and leave stumps in the ground.  I called a landscaper and explained our goal of mitigating the lizard population.  I basically let Max make all the decisions about what the landscaper should do so he could be satisfied that all possible means were being employed to eliminate the lizards. I just kept veto power to ensure that the yard did not end up looking like a bomb site. The landscaper told us he could not eliminate the lizards, but could do some things to minimize them, like taking out a couple of bushes and replacing them with a certain kind of tree that would be less hospitable to lizards.  He also suggested covering some of our bare dirt with stones and ornamental rocks. Of course, none of this was cheap, but I thought it would look nice when it was done.  Whether it would have any impact on the lizard population, I wasn’t too sure. Personally, I would have thought that decorating the yard with large ornamental rocks would be somewhat akin to building a habitrail for reptiles, but what do I know?

Now that the work has been done, it does indeed look nice.  I’m very proud of it.  Did it get rid of the lizards?  The dirty little secret is that I don’t think it did.  Max says it did, but I’m sure he doesn’t want me to realize that I paid a lot of money, at his insistence, to fix a problem that still exists.  I still see him going out of the house with tumblers of water to throw on the invaders.  The thing is, now he does it very surreptitiously and without a word about the “fucking lizards.”

So I got what I paid for.

What are your thoughts?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂

Moving on Up?

My mother says we have moved to a “stupid state.”  She bases this assessment on the following:

  1. The highway and traffic systems are wild, wooly, and weird.
  2. There are more counties, with infrastructures supported by the taxpayers, than seems strictly necessary for sound governance.
  3. The news broadcasts consist almost exclusively of predictions about when the rain will hit each particular city block.

I am aware that my mother is having some difficulty with the transition to her new living situation.  She tries not to complain, but I can tell based on her frequent mentions of the “stupid state” and her abject despair whenever she is faced with any reminder that she has moved (like getting a piece of mail that has been forwarded from her old address).  I suppose it is natural for anyone, much less an 84-year-old woman with chronic kidney disease, to grapple with the trauma involved with a change of this magnitude.  I know I have my moments, as well.  Still, I do wonder if I did the right thing in moving her to our new state.

The original plan was that Max and I were going to remain in the old state while my mother was still alive.  She had a very active, happy life there.  Despite her significant physical infirmities and limitations, she still worked full time during the summer.  She was the queen bee of the volunteer docents at the local reservoir.  She knows more about water than anyone not employed by some water district has any right knowing.   She had lots of friends and acquaintances there. She was driving, something she stopped doing before moving (see “stupid state” reason number 1).    My brother, who has physical and financial issues of his own, lived close by.  She had access to excellent health care basically for free because of the wonderful insurance plan she has been patronizing for the past 50 years.  Still, when I bought the house in our new state, there were a few things in her life that were starting to disintegrate.  I thought she might want to move and it didn’t make sense to postpone our move for her sake if she truly would just as soon go, too.  She surprised me by saying she thought she would like to move.

Although my mother talks about the “stupid state,” I think there are really three main reasons she has some regrets about moving.

  • Her health insurance plan does not operate in our new locale.  This has been a constant refrain since she contemplated moving.  After nearly 50 years with the same company, it is a jolt, especially since the old plan operated completely differently from any traditional health plan.  Basically, it was run sort of like a privatized socialized medicine system.  The insurance company actually employed doctors, ran hospitals, and staffed pharmacies and labs within their own facilities.  A patient makes an appointment, goes to the facility, pays her $5 copayment, and all needs are addressed in one location.  While inexpensive and very efficient, the health plan was also pretty paternalistic.  Patients didn’t have to worry about finding a doctor or lab or paying much of anything.  However, if a patient isn’t happy with the doctors or facilities provided by the insurance plan, she is pretty much out of luck.  My mother loved her care providers and the ease of the experience, so “having to go to their doctors” was a blessing, not a problem.  I’ve got her signed up for a Medicare supplement policy now, which should mean that she should not have any significant costs.  Still, she is worried about a myriad of scenarios, most of which are extremely unlikely… that she will have to pay the doctors and file claims for reimbursement, that she will somehow end up paying the maximum out-of-pocket costs every year, that she won’t be able to find a doctor who will give her an appointment, that she won’t know where to go to get lab tests.  I’ve got her scheduled for her first doctor’s visit next week.  Hopefully, she will like the doctor and everything will go smoothly.  If so, I think that some of “health insurance” objection to moving will fade.  If not, the upside is that she CAN go to another doctor.
  • If she was still in her old home, she would have been working in the accounting department of a school district food service department during the summer.  Although my mother officially retired from her job at the food service department almost 20 years ago, she has been going back as a temporary employee during the summer every year since.  She loves it.  She has always been a social butterfly.  At the school district, she visits with her old friends.  People make a big fuss over her.  She does an important job processing applications for free and reduced price lunches.  Everyone aids her and makes allowances for her physical limitations because they love her and she really is very good at what she does.  Now, she chokes up when she talks about how she would be working at the school district if she was still in her old home.  The sad truth is, though, I am not sure how much longer she could have kept up with the job.  When I bring up the possibility of volunteering now, she puts me off.  Since she has moved here and I am with her more, I am seeing that she is much frailer and more tentative, both physically and in making decisions, than I ever thought she was.  I’m sure she would have gone to work this summer, if she had not moved, but I’m not sure it would have ended well.  Maybe it was better that she “go out on top” and stop because she was moving rather than because she became incapable.
  • My brother remains in the old town. It is hard for any parent to leave a child.  My brother’s health and, with it, his reliability to assist my mother, has been diminishing for the past five years.  I know she worries about him and it was probably doubly hard to leave a child who “needs” her.  On the other hand, there really isn’t anything my mother could do for him ten miles away than she cannot do 3000 miles away.

On the plus side, my mother says she feels better physically than she has in years since she has moved across country.  I think she is secretly happy to have left her volunteer empire, as she expressed that it felt good to not have the stress of the timesheets and all the phone calls.  The mobile home where she was living (which she bought for $6000 in 1996) was falling apart around her.  It was filthy and decrepit.  She always said the mobile home bothered me way more than it bothered her, but the fact remains.  Now, she says she loves the new mobile home here in the great southeast and that she feels her living conditions have improved considerably.  I am at her place at least four times a week and take her out often, to run errands and to go fun places. I think she likes that, even though I can’t really compete with all the activities and interactions she had in her old environment.

There are arguments on both sides of the move issue. I truly don’t know if we made the right decision.  I am sure that, as Robert Frost pointed out, there is always the “road less traveled” phenomenon.  Whichever decision we made, there would always be “woulda, coulda, shouldas.” If my mother had not moved, my brother might not have been able to take care of her needs because of his own medical conditions.  The wiring in the old mobile home might have failed and caused a fire.  She might have gone to her volunteer job one day and been unable to get back in the car.

A friend of mine once said, when I was obsessing ad infinitum about some decision or action, “stop shoulding all over yourself.”  I guess that is the problem.  I want an answer that is guaranteed to be the right one, with no questions or regrets.  I don’t get to have that.  Also, people do get to feel the way they feel.  Ultimately, my mother was the one who made the decision and if she has wistful moments, that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean that she thinks it was necessarily the wrong decision to move.  I will do what I can to help her be comfortable and happy in her new home.  And if she ends up deciding to change her mind and move back west, she knows I have her back on that, as well.

So what are your thoughts?  Do you struggle with making the “right” decisions, too?  Have you discovered any successful strategies for living peacefully with the paths you take?  Share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Have a beautiful day, no matter which road you don’t take!

Terri 🙂

A Sod, Sod Story

Shortly before we moved to our new home, I received a notice from the homeowners’ association telling me that I had a brown spot on my lawn and needed to remedy the situation.  The community manager suggested resodding the area.  When I spoke to the property manager who was renting the house for me, she said she would tell the tenants (who were soon to be vacating) that they needed to fix the problem since they were responsible for the lawn.  Apparently, that did not go well.  The property manager later told me that she thought the brown spot had been there over 2 years ago when I first bought the property and, therefore, we should not attach the tenants’ security deposit to pay for the sod.  I agreed, but asked that she make sure the problem got fixed so the HOA would leave me alone.

When we arrived to move into the home a month or so later, I saw what the HOA meant. There was a small area of grass that seemed a little bit stressed.  It wasn’t super noticeable to me, but I could definitely see that there was a problem.  I asked the property manager about it.  She told me that she didn’t recommend resodding because it was the wrong time of year and water use restrictions would impede new sod’s growth.  When I shared this theory with the community manager, he was less than impressed and told me that I needed to get something done immediately or be fined. 

Thus began the “sod, sod story.”

We had a fellow who was trimming a tree for us that also did sod.  We asked him about resodding for us and he agreed, but said that we probably needed to get some sort of lawn treatment service or protocol in place, as he thought the dead area was likely caused by some underlying problem like bugs or lack of soil nutrients.  He advised that we would want to fix that problem so that new sod would thrive. 

I called the lawn treatment guy, who agreed (of course) that we needed lawn treatment.  According to him, it was the evil cinch bug that was causing the lawn disaster.  He also said that the sprinkler system was in really good shape, but we might want to think about upgrading in the next year or so.  When he was testing it, I noticed that none of the sprinklers seemed to be hitting the brown spot.  I’m surely no lawn expert (never having had a lawn before), but it seemed to me that without water, it wasn’t any surprise that the grass was dying.  I pointed this out to the lawn treatment guy. He insisted it was the evil cinch bug, not the lack of water, that was the problem.   

I signed a contract for lawn treatment every other month.  The lawn treatment guy said to wait a couple of months after the first treatment before resodding.  While I was wondering how the HOA was going to feel about that, he uttered the words I have come to know and fear….

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Now, what is that supposed to mean?  What does worse look like?  And how will we know if it is the “worse before it gets better” or if it is the “worse because this crap isn’t working?”

True to our new friend’s word, it did get worse.  And worse.   The lawn treatment technicians left us with cryptic notes and multiple flyers about every possible thing that could be wrong with our lawn, from frost to the German measles.  The flyers seemed to suggest contradictory courses of action.  When I read that spraying with Round-Up was the remedy for one of the possible lawn maladies, I became alarmed.  Did you ever look at the label of Round-Up?  It is called “GRASS and Weed Killer.”  It seems kind of counter-intuitive to spray grass killer on an area of lawn where you are trying to grow… well, grass.  Applying Round-Up doesn’t seem like the best thing to do when you are trying to bring a lawn back to life, does it?  Still, I tried doing everything suggested in the flyers, and, also, several strategies I discovered on the internet.  Nothing seemed to make a difference.  At least not a POSITIVE difference. 

I called the lawn treatment company and, also, the guy who mows the lawn.  Both of them said…. You guessed it…. “It will get worse before it gets better.”

After the second lawn treatment, with the area of brown expanding at a rather startling rate, we started trying to get our tree trimmer/sod guy back to do the resodding.  Let’s just say that he wasn’t the most responsive of creatures.  Max pursued him with the tenacity of a male musk ox trying to attract a mate.  After no less than four no shows and reschedules, the sod guy finally showed up.  I guess he figured it was either show up or take out a restraining order. 

Never having seen sod before, we didn’t think anything of the pathetic collection of mud squares with some sparse grass blades sticking out of them that our sod guy delivered.  He apparently did whatever one is supposed to do to prepare the ground and then laid the “sod.”  Before he went away, he told us “It will get worse before it gets better.” 

Max religiously watered the resodded area every day with a garden hose because the sprinkler wasn’t hitting that area.   Some of the new sod seemed to start growing, but, for the most part, the lawn just got worse.   Having been advised that it would “get worse before it gets better,” I wasn’t immediately alarmed, but when the dead areas started spreading and multiplying geometrically, I decided it was time for action. 

I called the lawn treatment guy again, who finally agreed to come over and check the technician’s work.  When he arrived, he was shocked and appalled by the state of the lawn.  Duh.  Initially, he thought the problem with the sod was that we had not kept to the heavy watering protocol for new sod.  This pronouncement didn’t make us very happy since Max invested hours upon hours hand-watering what was presumably dead or dying grass.  We explained what we did but the lawn treatment guy still eyed us suspiciously, assuming we were negligent, non-watering sod-killers.

Eventually, after much discussion, the lawn treatment guy could see I was about at the end of my rope, so he called in a sprinkler guy, a sod guy that their company used when needed, and the lawn treatment technicians. They all decided, of course, that I needed a new $2000 sprinkler system because (wait for it) …. THE SPRINKLERS WERE NOT HITTING THE PART OF THE LAWN THAT WAS DYING!!!  After I stopped reeling from a severe case of déjà vu, I started bargaining.  Noting that some of my problem was that I was dealing with too many components of the same issue (sprinklers, lawn treatment, sod) and wasn’t lawn-savvy enough to know which component was the problem (or even if there was a problem because, you know, “it gets worse before it gets better”), I demanded that this lawn treatment company take complete ownership of the problem and arrange for all the moving parts to do what needed to be done and monitor the success.  When they agreed to that, I figured buying the sprinkler system for $2000 (which did seem kinda necessary since even I could tell lo those many months ago that the sprinklers were not hitting the dying lawn areas) was a bargain.

But wait…. There’s more.  The sprinkler installation went pretty smoothly, except for the hit to my pocketbook.  Then, the sod guy showed up immediately to take measurements and quote me a very low price to install the sod to replace the first sod guy’s mud.  For, when the second sod guy finally showed up with the sod (it took several reschedules, but what else is new?), it was clear that the first sod guy provided something that truly didn’t even resemble real sod.  It was no wonder it didn’t grow.

Our lawn is beautiful now.  It only took six months.  And, just for the record, after the second sodding, it never did “get worse before it gets better.”

Do you have a sod, sod story of your own?  Who knew that acquiring a lawn that meets the minimum standards of the HOA would be such a trauma?  Or at least a drama?  At any rate, the grass is greener on the other side of the lawn now.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a sodding good day!

Terri 🙂

Life is a Highway

Driving in my new home state is a bit of a challenge. 

I learned to drive in a place where the structure of the road and highway network is pretty simple.  Odd numbered roads go primarily north and south.  Even numbered highways, east and west.  While some highways have “honorary names,” being called after a political figure or public hero, numbered highways are almost always referred to in common vernacular by their numbers. All ten digits of the usual numbering system are used, so each highway is fairly distinctive. If the roads have actual names, those names, with few exceptions for long roads that meander through numerous cities, stay the same.   Someone might give you directions by saying something like, “Take the 203 freeway north to the Snickerdoodle Road exit, turn right on Snickerdoodle Road, drive about 3 miles to Hooligan Avenue, turn left and continue on Hooligan Avenue until you get to the second house on the right, 123 Hooligan Avenue.”

Not so much in my new state.  To begin with, whoever it is that decides on the highway titles is pitifully lacking in imagination.  It appears mandatory that each numbered highway must include the number “2” at least once in its title.  This makes it harder to remember which highway you are supposed to be on because they all kind of sound of like.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the highway system actually includes all kinds of offshoots and iterations of the same highway number.  For instance, there may be an Interstate 221, County Road 221, State Route 221, and random other roads labeled “221” with various suffixes like 221A, 221B, and 221C.  Roads often merge together, muddying the waters still more.  Then, certain communities rail against the lack of creativity and give these numbered road(s) their own names.  There is one such stretch of road that I travel rather frequently. At some points, it is Interstate 221, State Route 25, County Road 21, and Lemon Tree Trail- all at the same time.  Even my GPS gets confused.  The other day, I was trying to find an optometrist in a town about 40 miles south of my home.  I finally gave up when I realized my GPS had led me about 60 miles towards the state line…. The state line to the NORTH.

In my old state, driving is a well-regulated, tidy business.  There are helmet laws for motorcycles.  All passengers must wear seat belts.  All but the tiniest of intersections have traffic lights.  U-turns are frowned upon.  If U-turns are actually allowed at the intersection, there are usually signals to govern when drivers in a given lane can make a U-turn or left turn unimpeded by cross traffic. 

In my new state, traffic lights are for sissies. Turning left from a stop sign across a major highway without traffic lights is an adventure.  At first, I would sometimes drive literally miles out of my way to find a place I could turn around with the aid of a signal.  Now, I just take a deep breath, say a prayer, and tool across six lanes of traffic like a madwoman.   The citizenry also considers regulating U-turns to be some sort of infringement of personal liberty.  I have yet to see a sign prohibiting a U-turn, no matter how narrow or wide the road.  On roads that are so wide each side has its own zip code, people will make U-turns from anywhere on the highway.  It doesn’t matter if there is a light or a left hand turn lane or anything.  Sometimes, they will come to a stop in the fast lane and just wait until there is a break in oncoming traffic to make their U-turn. 

Motorcyclists wear helmets at their own discretion.  I think the wearing of helmets is considered more a fashion statement than a safety measure.  A lot of people around here have bumper stickers and decals on their cars that proclaim proudly, “I watch for motorcycles.”  I’m glad they do.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste by splattering it all over the highway. 

Adult passengers in the back seat are not required to wear seat belts.  When I first heard about the adult passengers in the back seat not having to wear seatbelts, I was kind of amazed.  Then, it made sense.  If you don’t wear a seat belt, it is way easier to reach the gun that is also legal to carry around in your car. 

They say life is a highway. In this state, however, I’m never sure which one I’m on or which direction I’m going.  I think I have to get used to the idea that life’s highway is all about the journey, not the destination!

What are your thoughts?  Don’t let life’s highway pass you by!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at  Have an awesome day!

Terri 🙂