Karen Zero Interrupts Lawn Zen

No Gravel No Mud

After years of dealing with the builder from hell, our family, consisting of me, my wife Jojo and three awesome kids, had finally moved into our newly constructed forever home.  It was is a nice house on a big parcel of land.  Land that would need a lot of work in the lifetime to follow.  Jojo knew it was going to take years to finish the landscaping.  She had plans of her own for the inside of the house.  Having spent a lifetime researching decorating trends, whilst developing her “design sense”.  It was for the common good, of course.  Jojo was always five steps ahead of everyone, and quietly got things done; her way.  Even though she was usually right, if a tug war was not waged over these important decisions, it was just not as satisfying as she expected.  In hindsight, we did have some energetic conversations over such matters. I was smart enough (self-preservation) to listen.  Jojo’s domain was the well-funded interior of the home, and mine was the “we will get to it someday” everything else on the outside of the house.

The universe sided with me on two key features of the property.  They both had to be completed within twelve months of taking occupancy.  The driveway and landscaping needed to be “finished” to acceptable HOA standards.  Translation, no gravel or mud.  As a couple, Jojo and I did agree on all core decisions (eventually).  If we were going to do something, it was going to be done properly. 

A Plan Comes Together

We decided to pour a cement driveway and walk that first fall, to take care of the “no gravel codicil”.  Once the beautiful cement worked was completed, it really looked nice with the new home.  It snowed soon after the cement set. It was truly a Griswold setting for our first Christmas at the new house.  Unfortunately, the spring melted our Christmas card into a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie.  There was mud and stuff that I honestly don’t know where it came from.

As you can imagine, moving into a new house, pouring a cement driveway (and sidewalk), and going overboard on the aforementioned idyllic holiday season, left little money for the “landscaping” in spring.  Still, my directive from the lovely and talented lady of the house was, “do NOT screw up the landscaping”.  We agreed, that since the backyard had natural vegetation covering the mud, I would focus on getting a lawn established in the front yard during the spring.   Before anyone thinks that our subdivision was created at the expense of rich farmland, think again.  Our land is composed of rocks, sand, and rocks.  Our lot has approximately one third of an acre for a front yard, and almost three acres in the back.  There was to be a blend of grass and natural growth were the transition from front to back was to be managed.

This Might Actually Work

I ordered a huge amount of top soil (based on my precise calculations), rented a skid-steer loader (still can’t believe they just dropped if off and let me rock for a weekend), and proceeded to grade and prep the front yard on a razor thin budget.  Damn if it didn’t actually look pretty good, when all was said and done.  As fate would have it, one of my clients was getting impatient with my remote work (it was almost a quarter of a century before this was common practice). The CEO wanted me at his facility in Seattle, “pronto”! 

My hand was forced. The seeding planned for the front yard was not meant to be.  A contractor was hired to install sod on our newly contoured piece of the earth, we called our yard.  My preference is to always seed an area for long-term success.  Friends and family who have seeded, instead of going with sod, historically experienced better results. 

Lawn Zen

I have to admit, it was incredible seeing the newly installed beautiful green lawn, upon returning home from a week of hell, spent with Mr. Pronto and his band of yes-men.  The new lawn, driveway and home were now “done.”  A lifetime of sweat and tears bore fruit that I could not have imagined all those years before.

The next morning was Saturday and I was going to be home for another glorious 36 hours.  As the sun was rising, I got to work connecting hoses, sprinklers, and marshaling other devices that would aid in providing TLC to the lawn.  A few hours into my turf bonding ritual, it dawned on me that I was done.  I mean done, done.  Jojo gave me a wave from the from door, the kids were laughing inside our home, and the smell of breakfast being made filled the air.  Looking at the watered grass, the oil free driveway, and the pristine house, I believe I was transported to a place of Zen (as if I knew what that was).  Whatever it was, it felt pretty great!

It was almost as if I could hear bells ringing in the background.  But it wasn’t bells, it was the enormous set of keys in the pocket of my overbearing neighbor. She was making a beeline with great rapidity towards me.  Hence forth, this creature will be referred to as Karen Zero, Mrs. Z or simply Karen.  When Karen’s talons were firmly planted on my property, she bellowed, “I need to see your Landscape Plans”.  Jojo had been smart enough to evade this irritant of a human during the week while I was gone.  This must have really fueled Karen’s desire to be in the know regarding my newly “landscaped” yard.  Man, seconds before I was at peace with the universe, having accomplished an important goal.  Completing a home my family could be proud of, where we would grow and share our lives together. A place to create memories and grow our family legacy.

Karen Zero Had Other Ideas

In my professional life, I have dealt with countless assholes and bloviators.  Karen Zero certainly checked both of those boxes.  At any rate, I smiled at Karen, said I would gladly get the “Landscape Plan and return momentarily”.  After getting into the house, washing my hands, getting a cup of coffee, and platting some of that delicious smelling breakfast, I my took my place at the table with the family.  Jojo looked out of the window and said “Why is Mrs. Z standing in our driveway, it’s almost like she’s waiting for something?”.  Before I could say a word, Jo instructed me to join her at the front door to “discuss something”.  It was a very short discussion, that ended with, “Get her the hell out of here!”.  Jojo imparted this message in a manner only heard by me. Seconds later, she flash her beautiful smile timed to coincide with our return to the dining area. Our three wide-eye kids could sense when someone was trouble. 

Clark Does Not Make A Friend

With a renewed focused and sense of urgency, I approached Karen Zero.  Coffee in one hand, I took my position next to our lovely neighbor.  There was an uncomfortable moment of silence.  To break the tension, I took a sip of coffee, channeled my best Clark Griswold looking at the Grand Canyon, including a perfect sequence of head bobbing.  Turned towards the grass, raised my cup and stated “This is my fully executed Landscape Plan, how do you like it?”.  These would be the last words I ever exchanged with Karen Zero.  The air had been removed from her tar filled lungs, the acidic words never made their way to her pie hole.  Karen flashed a glare of ill-intent, then promptly clanked her way back across the street in disgusted dismay. 

At this point, the morning was well underway.  I went back into the house, expecting a hero’s welcome, and actually did get a hug from Jojo.  She pulled me close, and whispered “Don’t forget to pickup the dog poop before you leave tomorrow.”


At the time, I did not fully understand the historic significance of my encounter with treacherous entity. It would be decades before the term we now know as “Karen” would become a pejorative term. Looking back, it is obvious that I did indeed meet the first Karen.

Karen Zero!

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