Ask Athena: Intruder Alert

Some basic rules of encroachment. 


My mother-in-law is a wonderful person but I abhor her taste in home furnishings and décor. Unfortunately, she’s also a generous person so whenever my wife and I visit, she usually invites us to choose a “favorite” piece to take home and enjoy. Our house is starting to look like an old lady lives here. Also she’s a smoker and I swear we’re starting to smell like her too. My wife isn’t thrilled either but she doesn’t want to hurt her mother’s feelings. We don’t have money for storage. Do we have to live with this stuff till she dies? — Surrounded

Your wife needs to get herself a backbone! Both of you do – if she can’t stand up to her mother, then you need to get in here and demand some boundaries. One of life’s little pleasures is filling our home with items to enjoy and express ourselves. Your MIL’s offerings, while generous, are encroaching on your personal space. You have every right to put your foot down.

As a partner in this marriage, it is your responsibility to assert your wants & needs to your wife. Perhaps a compromise to rein things in? Agree on a set number of tchotchkes or to a prohibition on stuffed furniture that smells funky (or anything that smells funky for that matter). Talk it out. Look for ways to take your MIL’s obsessive gifting in a positive direction.

For instance, perhaps you could help your MIL sell some items on eBay or get to them to a consignment shop where they can make some extra cash? Any profits can go toward a nice family dinner or a mother/daughter day at the spa. Who knows, they might discover a fun new hobby throwing yard sales or renting tables at flea markets!

Quite possibly, though, you and your wife might need to navigate some disappointment and hurt feelings from your MIL, and that’s ok. Reassure her that stuff is just stuff – it’s the memories you make, and the love you all feel that’s important.


If you hit a deer with your car, should you pull over to help the deer or keep going and let Nature take its course? — Nervous Nellie

A: Neither. You should pull over and CALL 911 immediately. They’ll dispatch the cops and possibly a game warden or wildlife rescue, depending on the severity of the injuries you describe. DO NOT TRY TO TOUCH IT or help it. Traumatized animals are very dangerous. Deer are powerful creatures with sharp horns and hooves. If it’s alive, stay clear.

Fun Fact: the police officer reporting to your crash can write you a permit on the spot if you want to take the carcass with you for consumption (it’s illegal to eat road kill otherwise). Bon apetit!


A friend of mine lives on a “Private” road and whenever I walk over to visit her, one of her neighbors comes out and yells at me for trespassing and threatens to call the cops. What’s the deal with “Private” roads? Can I really be arrested or ticketed for walking or driving on them? Is there any response I could give that might help this situation? — Sneaky Pete

Private roads are private property. And, yes, a person could be arrested for walking or driving on them without permission — or, more likely, for refusing to leave when asked. However, in your case, you are not trespassing: you have permission from one of the owners of the road to come down it. Let your friend know what’s going on with that neighbor, and hopefully your friend can clear this up. Next time you see the neighbor, wave and remind them who you are. If that doesn’t work and they call the police, I suggest you skedaddle before they arrive.

Agree or Disagree? Please comment below.
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About Athena 44 Articles
When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to

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