Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Adventures with(out?) Bedbugs: A year-plus later

A year or so ago, we had a bedbug infestation in our home.  Here are the previous episodes of that Epic Adventure Story, gathered:

  1. Discovery and Naiveté
  2. Dracaris, the Heat Gun
  3. Professional Options
  4. The Incinerator
  5. Ozymandius (the last bedbug)
The very very short summary is that we had no idea what we were doing at the beginning, we tried a bunch of different things, and we landed on killing them with special heaters we ordered for $1000, following up with an $800 professional poison treatment that may or may not have been necessary. 

"The Incinerator" (our name), officially called "the Cube".
This picture makes the fan and heater look bigger than they are because
Prewash is so far back; they're about 24" high.

After our Incinerator/Cube heat treatment of the house, we've been bedbug-free with the exception of that last desperate crawl of Ozymandius, the Defiant BedBug, up my bedroom wall.

That is, we were bedbug free until May, when my husband woke me at 4 a.m. one morning to say he saw bugs in his bed.  And indeed, they weren't just any old bugs; they were bedbugs.  Dang it.

Given that this was May and Ozmandius had disappeared the previous August, I don't think that this was the same population, hiding out and waiting to spring forth again. No, I think this was a new infestation. And in talking to our friends, we get the sense that bedbugs really are more common than we'd like to think. 

The stories our friends tell make for some good (if skin-crawling) coffee-time discussions.  Andrea noted that whenever people talk about having bedbugs, they start to lower their voices or even whisper: "we have  . . . bedbugs."  Dan talked about being in Costa Rica, and pouring boiling water on his mattress to try to keep the population low.  Sarah's kids brought home bedbugs from summer camp; she responded by burning their bunkbed, putting diatomaceous earth all over the floor of that room, and sealing the room up for an entire month.  She said she was fortunate the kids didn't have a lot of furniture in there for the bugs to snuggle their way into.  

In our case, this past May we now knew what we were doing, and we already had The Incinerator. Despite the impressive name we give it, this cube really just gently heats a space up to somewhere between 120° and 130° F. Bedbugs die at temperatures above 115° to 120° F, although they have to be kept there for a while, the same way it takes a while for a person to die of heat stroke or hypothermia.  So when my husband noticed the bugs, we hauled out The Incinerator, plugged it in to three different circuit breakers in the house, opened up the closets and drawers to let the heat in there, closed off the room, and went about our daily business. We repeated the day-long heat treatment two days later, just to be sure. I'm delighted to say, the bedbugs are gone.  Murdered in our beds, so to speak. 

This Round Two experience was by no means pleasant;  I think both of us had a bit of insomnia and anxiety at the time about the beasties in our home. On the other hand, it was reassuring to know that we knew what we were doing, and it felt positively triumphant to be able to get rid of these guys in just three days. Bam!

We had talked about selling off the Cube after our first bedbug experience, but now we're determined to hang on to it, both so that we can sleep easier through the night and also so that we can share this amazing  contraption with friends if they ever find themselves in a similar predicament.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Family update: scoring sandwich/dog hair/lottery winnings

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  It's not been (for me) quite as fantastically rich/full as last week, but there's still been a wide variety of marvels to wonder at.  For example, ponder this lovely quote from my husband.  To set this up, I have to explain that he discovered to his utter delight (seriously, he was giddy and gleeful when he told me about this) that our year-old dishwasher has a filter that is actually quite easy to remove, clean, and reinsert. (!)  How was life complete this past year without our knowing that?!?  It seemed that it was, and yet now we know about easy filter removability, and so our life is even more wonderful than it was before.  Yes!  And, with that background explanation, you can fully appreciate my husband's utterance:

"When I went to clean out the dishwasher filter, it had lots of dog hair in it.  But I swear I never put the dog in the dishwasher."

Not all the husband adventures have been that upbeat, so try not to be too jealous.  Sunday, my guy dropped his phone off the Ben Franklin Bridge.  Good news: It didn't fall in the water, and it still works!  Bad news: It fell on the railroad tracks, which are completely inaccessible.  That phone gets to hang out on the Ben Franklin Bridge railroad tracks from now forward.   So you can't use the phone to call a cab or an Uber, but I guess you could use it to call a train.  At any rate, my guy had to have a cell-phone-ectomy for about 48 hours.  Fortunately, he's re-phoned now, and I get to wring my hands over replacement costs, so I'm back in my milieu as well.

I-daughter has had many travel experiences this week.  She bopped off to . . . um, I think a reunion of her knitting tour group, for which the original tour had been to Ireland, but the reunion was in New York State.  She then bopped back here, where we got to see an awesome local production of Bechtel's Fun House (the musical), and then she bopped over to . . . um, some other place.  Yeah, I'm a good mom, aren't I?  

I-daughter and I both had lottery winnings of a sort this week, which is tricky because neither of us are the type to gamble.  In her case, the local library had sponsored a "read-around-the-world" this summer.  She only made it to four continents (book-wise), but still scored a gift certificate to a local restaurant via a random drawing.   And me, I got this message in my email in-box on Thursday:

Your gift to United Way of [Your] County during our 2020-2021 campaign entered you into our Give Back Win Big incentive prize drawing. And we’re delighted to let you know that you’ve won a $250 Pay It Forward gift card bundle generously sponsored by [People] & Associates! You’ll receive five $50 gift cards to local establishments… and if you can’t use all of them, feel free to “Pay It Forward” and donate any unused cards to someone else. 

So, I gave the United Way a pile of money, and now they're giving some of it back.  Go figure. 

Speaking of money, N-son landed a job!  And not just any job, but the kind of job that gets to the very essence of his being.  When he was young, we asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said, "a sandwich".  (He actually said, "a sammitch", because he was cute and little that way).  Then we asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said, "a sammitch".  And, look!  He got a job at a sub shop called Jersey Mikes, making sandwiches and cleaning up.  Whoop!  He's very pleased that he'll be earning, they say,  $11/hour plus tips.  I think he starts Monday.  So perfect.

Me, I'm still doing my Dean thing.  I'm verifying the hypothesis that I like it when people I work with are polite or even encouraging, and I don't so much like it when they are combative and angry.  (In case you wondered.)  Mostly I get people in the former category, fortunately.  Did I mention before that I've formed a group called the "Compliance Alliance"?  I not only love the name of the group, but they're actually a really fun, nerdy, friendly group to hang with: BioSafety protocols for the win!

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Miser Family update: fireworks, fast times, and ferocious pirates

Life is kick-butt-ingly rich and full in the Miser Family Household this week.   It was a week that could have been a month, it had so much (good) stuff happen.  Dull moments?  Not even remotely a part of this week.  If you devour pop-psychology books the way I do, studying the key ingredients of what makes a person happy, then you'd realize I was at the all-you-can-eat buffet of the Good Life, and right now I feel a tad overstuffed.

Connections with people is one of those must-haves, and I checked that particular box the moment I hit "send" on last week's update, heading out to the ball park with some of my co-workers and also my own "Plus 2"s:  I brought along Marj (a friend I haven't seen since almost before the pandemic) and my daughter's sock.  Here we are with our home-team mascot, "Silo" (the red cow who is holding I-daughter's sock).  

And since her sock got to go to the game, I-daughter tagged along, too.  Here is her own hand and sock, together, watching the players on the field.
Also key to the good life:  ritual and celebration.   After the baseball game, the stadium put on an awesome fireworks show.   I'd already walked home by the time it started, but since I live so close I got to watch the show through my bedroom windows while Prewash snoozed nearby.   (She's very good at snoozing, even during fireworks).

Working toward "stretch" goals is a Big Deal on the happiness checklist, and I managed to tick that one off the very next morning.  Sunday, I ran a half marathon (1:57:51.51), which -- although it wasn't quite 1:55 -- was darned close, and almost a minute-per-mile faster than I ever remember running that distance.  I was third in my age group, which is of course merely an artifact of other fast people not showing up.  
Here's me posing for my guy after I'd finished, and also me getting a medal (which I immediately gave to another finisher).

My favorite response to the people lining the roads, who'd been cheering for the gazillions of runners ahead of me and who were still cheering as I ran by ("great job!", "keep it up!"), was 
"Am I winning?". 
They all answered yes, so it must be true.   At any rate, that was Sunday, and after the marathon I did what all sorts of Good Books suggest, and I rested.

On Monday, I saved a life (gave blood).   I also did a bunch of Dean stuff.  And then on Tuesday, I kicked off the feel-good part of my day by chipping in a few hours at our local soup kitchen.

And karma being what it is, here was my job on Tuesday: 
The chef had me cutting sticks of butter into individual butter patties, and then each little patty went into its own Individual Plastic Cup.  Yes, I put 100+ pats of butter into 100+ plastic cups.   And when I was done, the chef said, "here are the lids", and so I topped each little plastic cup with a little plastic lid.   And this goes to show that I am not doing this to make myself feel good, but to make other people feel good.  And research says that that's probably better for my happiness anyway, in a weird planet-destroying-but-hey-now-people-have-sterile-butter kind of way.

Also some time early in the week, I got wonderful calls from my three youngest kiddoes.  Last week, I'd written that I didn't know why K-daughter had been to Ohio, and she wrote back to say,   

"We went to Ohio, Illinois (Chicago) and Wisconsin! We went to check out a ferry machine (for rotomolding) for Energy Wall! It was a great trip!"

Then I got a call from my Hardly-Ever-See-Him son, J-son, and he didn't want money and he wasn't in trouble; he was just calling to say he'd read about my race on his dad's Facebook page, and congrats and I love you.  He is still very much himself, doing okay and still trying to figure out who he really is and what he really wants to do, my Don Quixote of the boxing gym.  

And then, as if that wasn't awesome enough, I got a call from N-son, who has passed the book-test portion of the Moped license test, so now he has his permit!  Whoop!  He not only learned lots of good Moped safety facts, but he also learned -- he tells me -- not to got to the DMV on a Monday morning.  He and L2 were there from 9:45 to 2:00.   He has until October 13 to pass the road test, which ought to be a breeze given his extensive bicycling experience.  

I also, somewhere amidst all this, fed the brain portion of my happiness recipe by snarfing down a book called Maphead, which I totally recommend.  It's a book about people who love maps, and after I read it I wanted to cuddle up with our globe and think about how geography affects everything and to marvel at the nerds who compete in the Geography Bee and . . . I was sad the book ended.  But also kinda glad, because reading it was cutting into my sleep time because I loved it so much I kept staying up late to read it. 

Mixed in with all of this was more Dean stuff, and also some really good math work.   And meanwhile my guy was managing both the shopping and the un-shopping lists, visiting various places that accept donated books, home goods, etc, and also making good use of Freecycle to get the non-donate-able stuff into the hands of those that use it.  The shopping list allowed me to go into a creative cooking frenzy Thursday night.  

And after the cooking frenzy on Thursday, then came Friday.  Friday was even more Dean stuff, which ended with our now-becoming-traditional "Footloose Friday from 4:00 to 4:10", dancing in the halls of Old Main.  And after dancing I went home and we had The Pirate Dinner.   There were eight of us, but not all of us felt photogenic.  Here are the five lusty wenches.

And there was lots of food (re, cooking on Thursday), of which the most magnificent was the Pirate Ship Cake.   Here are three photos of dessert.



We had highly energetic treasure hunts, and recitals of our favorite Pirate Jokes.  (What did the Pirate say on her eightieth birthday?  She said, "Aye, matey" -- get it?  "I'm eighty!")   One of the Pirates left a message on the chalkboard. 

Wonder which pirate that could have been?


And with that, Saturday was almost back to normal: run with friends, catch up on emails, dinner with the man I love, and porch time for an increasingly popular Prewash (she's really developing a fan club among the college students who walk by our house).   And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Miser family update, oasis of awesomeness

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  I feel like I've been in a little oasis of awesomeness, actually.  Sure, fires and floods are ravaging the world, but my city has had some of the most beautiful, sunny and cool days I've seen in months; the humidity and heat has broken and the rest of my neighbors have joined me in throwing open windows and doors.  Oasis of awesomeness. 

Or take the Covid cases, which are rising all around; 11% of my county has tested positive since the pandemic began, and our hospitals are filling up.  And yet at my college, people are so happy to be back together you can see their smiles right through the masks.  Our leadership team sent us this encouraging weekly update. 

  • As of today, 96% of our students and 98% of our faculty and staff have provided proof of vaccination, and that number continues to grow. We are in Moderate alert with masks required for everyone regardless of vaccination status. As noted in our Sept. 7 email, that mask mandate has been extended to at least Sept. 24. Ongoing, weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals, including students and employees who are completing their vaccination protocol or who have a vaccination exemption, began Monday and Tuesday of this week. There were 0 positive cases of COVID-19 among those who participated.

A minor win for me was seeing a post on Freecycle asking for packing materials.   Over the course of the past year we'd accumulated a 2 ft x2 ft x 2ft box of padded envelopes and bubble wrap, and so I got to put it all out on the porch and send it off back into usefulness.  And then I got this lovely little email:

Thanks for the packing supplies. They will be put to good re-use. Love the purple bench on your front porch! (And the cows, of course.)

I sell and ship for [Church] United Methodist Women Attic Treasures, just down the street from you on the corner of [This] & [That] Streets. We have an indoor "yard sale" once a month on the 2nd Saturday from 8 - 12. Check us out! The good quality vintage and antique items go on-line, so your wrapping supplies go to a good cause.

So, I have a new yard sale location to check out, on top of it all.  Yay!   To balance out my trash reduction efforts in the home, though, this week I started back at the local soup kitchen, helping prepare and serve breakfast once a week.  This week, my job was to wrap about 100 bagels, individually, in saran wrap.  Which I did, because that was my job.  But,    so    much     plastic.     Sigh. 


My guy did a bike race today and finished second in his age group (we're number two, so we bike harder?).  He clarified that there were, indeed, more than two finishers (he was in the top half), and if there had been a larger 60+ category, he would have still medalled with a bronze.  

N-son called to chat earlier this week because he needed his social security number, and also (I'm sure) because he just wanted to hear his mom's voice. Before I dug out his SSN I grilled him; he's been helping L2 and her boyfriend move; he went to brunch with them and got to swim in their community pool; he helped them install not one, but two TV's ("that was an experience!"), one on a swivel.  He needs his ID to get a job and a moped license.  I gave him his SSN and then he was done listening to his mom's voice.  

K-daughter went to . . . Ohio?  For some reason I don't know.  But I think she's coming back, because she's promised to be at next week's Pirate Dinner.  She has also successfully completed ALL her college coursework.  I think (?) this means that there will be a graduation and a degree, and I'll get to celebrate her at some point . . . oh, man, I think I need to do a better job of keeping in touch with my own kids.


I moved furniture around in my office at work.  In the picture above, if you look carefully you can see my candy-sculpture trophy from winning the summer's "Musical Chairs" championship (my husband is, after all, not the only prize athlete in the family).  And also, if you look even more carefully you might see my faithful companion.   Here's a close-up.

Whatever anyone else thinks of my job in administration, Prewash generally disapproves of my work habits -- except when I work weekends and bring her with me.  And then, my approval ratings go right on up.  

Well, that's the news from our family, those I've managed to track down at least, and we continue to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.



Saturday, September 4, 2021

Miser Family Update: miscellaneous

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  For some reason, so much is happening and then I get to Saturday and I can't even remember the slightest thing I did . . . yoicks!  I guess that's the fun of having a job that's like bumper cars, where I keep starting to do something in one direction and then . . . bam! . . . I'm heading in a different direction.

Let's see, we can do a few offspring updates to get the memory juices flowing.  I-daughter, thoroughly enjoying her job at the City Yarn Shoppe, offers some good job advice:    

She says, "Dress for the job you want." Yes.

She is also very, very happy that the weather has gone from sweaty weather to sweater weather.   The texture of this particular sweater looks a little bit like mermaid scales to me, and goes so well with the ocean-colored skirt, don't you think?


And L2 and N-son are having fun in Minnesota.  Here they are on the Sky Ride at the Minnesota Fair.  

N-son has been helping L2 move to her new address, which someday I hope to get so that I can send her stuff through the postal mail someday.  Does that sound like a hint?  

As for my guy, it's hard to call what he does a "rut", but what can I say?  Biking, protests, meeting friends at coffee houses, driving to NY to meet geeky science people about geeky science conferences that might be happening in Madrid.  Y'know, same old same old for him.

And here's another little snapshot into the life of an Associate Dean, as classes start back up: I don't think of myself as a People Person at all, but all my years of devouring pop psychology books seem to help me fake it.  This week, I had two different conversations with faculty members in which they teared up and apologized for starting to cry.  Times are hard right now, and I don't have the magic wand that makes everything come out right.  For one of these people, wondering about what might happen, I had to say I honestly don't know.  For another person, I had to deliver unhappy news that a promotion wasn't in the works.  (And that's what I said after the crying started; it wasn't me that made them cry!).    As hard as that all sounds, I really am loving my job.  I can't fix the underlying problem (at least, not immediately), but I can be a person that some people feel comfortable confiding in and working with.   

And in other areas, I am fixing things.  I love being super organized and thinking about underlying structure, and I'm All Over That, trying to get all sorts of messes cleaned up and to get procedures clarified and documented.  So much fun.

That, and I started a new event:  Footloose Fridays at 4:00.   This past Friday, there in the halls of our Administration Building, we closed out the work week with a crowd of a dozen masked people dancing to Walking on Sunshine and Footloose.   The president, the provost, our VP for DEI, a handful of administrators, a student worker who looked a bit embarrassed to be the witness to Old-People-Dancing . . . and me and my husband, tearing up the dance floor.  Well, not the dance floor, but the main hallway.  The only complaint we got was that we need louder speakers; several people asked if I'll take requests next week.  [Answer: yes!  I'll play one request song, and one Footloose, and that's all for that week.]

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.