Buying Fart Products for Christmas

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about previously purchased Christmas gifts right now, but I’m going with it anyway.

This past Christmas was the year to get fart themed gifts in our family. In the fall, a friend introduced me to the Perpetual Kid web site (a great place for gag gifts, incidentally), and there were several fart-themed items available. I was mostly shopping for my nine year old nephew because my sister assured me that he would never tire of bodily function humor. Even Lydia got in on it, though, with a bag of unicorn farts (some vaguely cotton candy-like substance in a bag with a unicorn on it).

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The gift for my nephew was Farts-in-a-Jar and it was supposed to make a fart sound when you open the lid, but, when he did, it was irritatingly silent (insert SBD joke here. Or maybe it’s a SAND joke–Silent And Not Deadly).When I asked if he wanted me to exchange it for one that worked or just give him the money, he wanted a new one (of course he did). This led to an interaction as absurd as the item itself, where I found myself corresponding in a professional manner with a customer service representative about a defective fart product. Despite the absurdity, it was actually one of the best customer service interactions I’ve had. They responded immediately to my e-mail, even over a holiday weekend and promptly refunded my money after giving me the sad news that they no longer carry this product (perhaps ours wasn’t the only one to be less flatulent than desired).  Happily, they have since re-instated it and I stole their picture for today’s post (along with the unicorn one).

Faulty fart products or not, exceptional customer goes a long way, so I won’t hesitate to shop with them again. In fact, maybe  I should get a jump on it and buy another can-o-farts while supplies last.

I have nothing deeper to say that somehow connects fart products to the meaning of life or anything like that. It’s just a short post about fart products and some great customer service. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Buying Fart Products for Christmas

The Time We Didn’t Have Bed Bugs, or, Why You Should Always Get a Second Opinion, or, Why You Should Always Trust Your Husband, or, How I Learned to be Thankful in all Situations

I’m writing this because I’ve reached a point beyond its happening where I can look back without horror (mostly)–and even with some humor–and be glad for what I learned. I’m writing it also as a public service announcement because as this was happening to us and we were telling people, no one had ever heard anything like it. It’s one of those stories that’s hard to believe unless it happens to you.  If the title isn’t enough of a spoiler, I’m going to jump right to the part where we have a happy ending that didn’t involve bed bugs, but everything we did before we found that out was done as though we did have bed bugs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that we didn’t have them. It’s just that it makes everything we went through doubly maddening. This is a bit of a long read, but if you hang in ’til the end, I think you’ll find it somewhat educational and (I hope) a little entertaining along the way.

During the first week of May, 2012, we discovered some little brown bugs in our apartment, almost exclusively in the master bedroom. It was early spring, so even though I hate bugs, I didn’t think much of it because there’s nothing unusual about bugs surfacing after a long winter. I’m not even sure what caused me to look any further into it, but I did and was horrified that what I was finding seemed to point to bed bugs. I killed the few that I found and for some reason I saved one in a baggie (pro tip: if you ever discover a suspicious bug, kill it good and dead but in a way that preserves it as best as possible. Many exterminating companies will charge you up to $50 for an inspection if they come and aren’t able to find any live bugs. If you have a sample, they will waive the fee. It can also come in handy if you need to submit a sample to a lab for testing, but that part comes later).

An exterminator came–the owner of the company himself. He did a complete inspection, found no live bugs and no evidence of infestation, but took one glance at our sample and gave us the bad news. At the time, we didn’t know how bad bad news is when someone tells you that you have bed bugs.  We innocently took the several sheets of paper he handed us and probably nodded absently when told us that most of the work would be on our part. We had no idea what we were in for. He said we would need a minimum of 3 days to prepare our place for treatment. I cried and panicked when I read the list in full after he had gone.

If I remember right, it took Aaron and I working together the better part of 5 days to get ready. Think moving, only without the excitement of a new place waiting at the end. And having to remove all the switch plates and outlet covers in every room for the powdered chemical that will be puffed into each one. And moving all the furniture to leave a 3-foot area in front of the baseboards for easy-access chemical spraying (assuming you do a chemical treatment and not a heat treatment, in which case you’ll spend more money and do even more prep). And before packing everything away, put everything that can go in the dryer, into the dryer, for at least 25 minutes on high (extreme heat seems to be the only thing that’s guaranteed to kill these bastards) and everything that can’t go in the dryer into a plastic tub or sealed bag with a chemical strip and leave it there for 2-3 weeks. This means that every day during that time you dress out of a tub or plastic bag. This means that you have to have enough tubs or bags to put virtually everything you own into one, which means you have to spend a ton of money buying them if you don’t have them (we didn’t).

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We had to take vacation days to prep and de-prep. And take a small loan from my mom and dad to afford the treatment itself and all the supplemental products you are convinced you must have because the bugs are coming for you, and you must protect yourself with special mattress covers and interceptor cups to go under the legs of the bed. You’ve had to argue with the landlord over whether they will pay for the treatment (they won’t). You’re vacuuming everything and then tossing the bag immediately into the outside trash and cleaning the inside of the vacuum and checking the roller for anything that might be a bed bug egg.  You’re obsessed with whether there might be bugs in here or in there or in this or in that and what if you missed one and it was pregnant? You feel the shame of a leper and just as contaminated. You don’t allow anyone into your house.

You’re losing sleep because the bugs are coming for you. You move your bed away from the wall and get rid of the dust ruffle/bed bug super highway. The bugs appeared to be limited to the master bedroom, so I decided I would sleep better if I was in the dining room, where we moved our table out of the way and set up an air mattress. As an extra safeguard, Aaron diligently surrounded the air mattress with some jury rigged double-sided tape—a system that involved twisting duct tape in a complex pattern (see the blurry photo below). The bugs were coming for me and I wasn’t taking chances. I don’t like the idea that there is a bug out there that can survive outrageous conditions and is going to come while I’m sleeping, inject me quickly with a numbing agent so I don’t feel it sucking my blood for 10 minutes, and then leave me with itchy bites (yes, I learned way more than I need to know about these hideous creatures while we were going through our ordeal).

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When you’ve gone through your prep and it’s finally the day of treatment, you feel some relief as the technicians arrive. You allow them to calm you and carry you through what they are going to do and answer your remaining questions (you’ve already been on the phone every day asking the poor office staff dozens of questions and you’re past the point of apologizing for it. They know. They’ve done this before). You leave your problem in what you hope are their capable hands. You go away for 4 hours and come back to the smell of chemicals but the knowledge that it’s over except for putting everything back (no small task but at least the worst is over and there are no bugs to come for you).

Until they come again the following spring, 2013. During the first week of May, just as before. I suppose it’s easy to look back and say that we should have asked questions at this point. But we didn’t. We had the opinion of an expert. He was the owner of a reputable exterminating company and had been in the business for years. He told us we had bed bugs and we believed him, bought all of his products, and paid him a lot of money to take care of our problem (they did give us a discount on our second treatment). When it happened again, I went into full prep mode—throwing things in the dryer, packing up tubs, and de-switch plating like a seasoned expert—before I even called the exterminator for an appointment.

The technician we had the second time around, though, didn’t give me the feeling of relative calm that the previous techs had. He accused us (rather rudely) of not being ready because a few things were still left unpacked (things that they had told me it was okay to leave unpacked). I was near tears as he called back and forth to the office to get the all clear to treat our place as we had it (“near tears” doesn’t fully describe my emotional state at that time. It was more like: I’m coming off year two, day five of bed bug treatment prep; I have had very little sleep and am under extreme stress, so this scrawny kid will damn well treat our place AS SCHEDULED or I will personally take him down!). I didn’t leave with the feeling of confidence that I’d had the previous year, but the treatment worked. We were bug free. Again.

Until 2014, the first week of May. At this point, we called in a different exterminating company so we could get another opinion because we didn’t understand how this could be happening at the same time every year. It seemed like something seasonal was going on. But we showed the new company the sample (I had a new sample and one from 2013), were told it’s definitely a bed bug, and we got ready to do it all for a third time. Until Aaron said to me, “What if it’s not a bed bug?” Even with everything that seemed out of place, I found myself questioning him. How could it be anything else? We’ve had two experts tell us it’s a bed bug. We’ve been treated two years in a row. Luckily, my librarian senses were tingling with Aaron’s question and I went into full research mode. I started with a simple Google search for “bed bug look alike.” A few things came up that definitely were not a match to what we had. Then I clicked on a link for “bat bug” and everything started falling into place.

It turns out there is a bug that looks EXACTLY like a bed bug to the naked eye. The only way you can tell these two apart is under a microscope. Something about one of them having longer hairs on their legs or something. I couldn’t be bothered with the science-y details at that point. All I knew is that we were onto something. I started calling the exterminating companies and they didn’t know anything about bat bugs. I looked up bed bug experts in Ohio. I found one at OSU. I called her. I e-mailed her. No response. I was desperate for information at this point. Finally I got someone on the phone who directed me to the C. Wayne Ellett Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic at OSU. The people there are the real heroes of this story and I still feel like I could kiss them. For the ridiculously small fee of $20 (by this time, I would have paid my weight in gold doubloons to get to the bottom of this), you can submit a sample to their lab and within a week they will let you know what you’re dealing with. Enter the precious samples I have been diligently collecting and saving for two years. I filled out their form, wrote a check, and packaged up our samples per their instructions.

Even though we now had a suspicion about what they were, the bugs were still coming for us (bat bugs will bite humans in the absence of a bat host and I had some bites–see another blurry photo below, which does a terrible job of showing the bites on top of my foot. I couldn’t be expected to take high quality photos during all this, could I?), so time was definitely a factor. I wasn’t about to put this precious cargo in the mail and risk our sample being lost or wait for it to be delivered.  The lab is close enough that I could drive there myself, which I did without hesitation, ferrying my package as though it were the Hope Diamond or the Ark of the Covenant and not a smashed bug barely a half centimeter long. I gave the package to an appropriately lab-coated employee and was assured I would have results within a week to 10 days.

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Within only a few days, we had an e-mail that still ranks among the best e-mails I’ve ever received. The message contained their official report, confirming that what we had were BAT bugs and not BED bugs! This meant a few things: 1.) We were not insane 2.) Treatment of these bugs is completely different than bed bugs and will require absolutely nothing of us and zero chemicals (yeah, we wish we had known this before we did bed bug treatments two years in a row. But…bygones). 3.) The landlords would have to pay for this treatment.

Armed with this information, we had our landlords contact an animal control company because if you have bat bugs it means you have (or have had) bats. The inspector came out and told us there was no evidence of bats. We continued to see a few bugs, so I made more calls and found a new animal control company (second opinions–always get one). Everything I had read said that if you have these bugs, there are bats somewhere. Sure enough, even though it was subtle, the second inspector found evidence of bats. It was a matter of waiting for fall and they could come seal everything over. (bats are protected and animal control has to wait until the babies are grown before closing up their roosting area). We saw no bugs in 2015 or 2016, but I still await the first week of May with some trepidation, hoping I don’t see that familiar little brown shape anywhere.

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During all of this I did manage to find some things to be thankful for. I had called out to our friends and family for prayer and some answers came one night as I sat on my air mattress island and took comfort in the only thing I could at the moment–God and his word. I was doing a Bible study with friends that asked you to make a list of 3 things you were thankful for about a situation that was causing you stress or anxiety. Not just general things you were thankful for. Things you were thankful for about that situation. I started the exercise with a few superficial things and ended up with a notebook page filled front and back. I started with things like, “I’m thankful these bugs don’t move fast or fly and you can squish them easily” and moved onto “I’m thankful that my house will be deep cleaned and organized when this is over. And that my husband is a heavy hitter when it comes to deep cleaning. When’s the last time the inside of your dresser was vacuumed and dusted with Pledge?” I even ended up thankful that God was using the whole thing to bring out various character issues, knowing that that realization could end up strengthening our marriage and family.

There’s no denying that going through this has changed the way I see things. I don’t like sitting in waiting rooms or any other public seating area. I can’t fully enjoy staying at hotels or going to movies and I take certain precautions if I do (for quite a while, we would leave a change of clothes in the basement if we were going to the movies so that when we got back we could go straight downstairs and put our things in the dryer on high just in case). It took me more than a year after the first treatment to return to a thrift store because back in 2012 I thought that might have been how we got our “bed bugs.” I finally did go back but now I make sure to come home and put everything in the dryer on high first. Then I wash it and dry it normally.

Even though what we had turned out not to be bed bugs, I learned how widespread they are and I certainly know how horrific it is to treat them, so I never want to get them for real. I hope you never get them either, but if you think you have them, I’m happy to act as consultant. Remember that even the experts don’t know everything. Sometimes when something doesn’t seem right, it’s not. You probably know more than you think. Be your own expert when you need to be. Find some things to be thankful for, learn what you can, help someone else if they face what you did.

 

 

The Time We Didn’t Have Bed Bugs, or, Why You Should Always Get a Second Opinion, or, Why You Should Always Trust Your Husband, or, How I Learned to be Thankful in all Situations

Why I Don’t Want My Daughter to be Happy

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If you read the title of this post, please hear me out before you dismiss me as some freak parent who wishes misery upon her child. Even if you disagree with me on how I’m going to get where I’m going with this, I’m pretty sure we want the same thing for our kids.

Anecdotal evidence suggests to me that if you ask parents what they want most for their children, the majority of them will include in their answer some variation of “I just want them to be happy.” It’s not wrong to say it, but it depends on what you mean by happy. What I’ve discovered is that just as certainly as I don’t want my daughter to be miserable, I also don’t want her to be happy as our culture defines it. Happiness really isn’t good enough. Happy doesn’t cut it. What I want for her is so much more than happiness. I believe she is promised something richer, and I pray that she seeks and finds that richer thing, the apostle Paul’s ability to find contentment in all circumstances.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11-12, NIV

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Most of us are too quick to settle for a fleeting kind of happiness. We think we deserve to feel happy, but that’s where the trouble starts. Feelings change. They’re notoriously unreliable. The world’s advice to follow your heart could lead you terribly astray. Not that there’s no place for heart. I’m a hopeless romantic, eternal optimist, glass-half-full kind of girl, but the dangers of following your feelings wherever they want to go are too great.

God never promises a life of feeling happy. Never offers a lifetime supply of fabulous circumstances. In fact, many times it’s quite the opposite and it can leave us wondering if God is even there, and if he is, then what kind of God must he be? (I’m in danger of digressing to another topic entirely, so I’ll bring it back around). What God offers is something beyond our feelings, something beyond happiness. A way to joy that only he can fill. In Christ’s love and forgiveness, we can be filled with that kind of joy–the ability to be satisfied whether we feel happy or not.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Even though they aren’t current, the pictures I chose to go with this post are chosen for the joy and happiness they express and because they embody the prayer we have for our daughter: May she be filled with joy. May she always have arms wide to the world, open big enough to hold all that God wants to heap into them. A kind of happiness only he can give.

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Why I Don’t Want My Daughter to be Happy

Budge’s: It was never about the burgers

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If you’re from Lafayette, Indiana (at least the part of Lafayette I’m from), you know spring has arrived when Budge’s opens (the way I have pronounced this name my whole life rhymes with budgie’s, not fudge’s). I haven’t lived in Lafayette since 1997, but I still love knowing when Budge’s opens, and I still claim that no one makes a cherry Coke like Budge’s (except maybe Frozen Custard, also a Lafayette original, also open seasonally. And perhaps McCord Candies, another Lafayette original, where they will make you a  cherry Coke super old school style–from an actual soda fountain. With the bonus that you can get it all year round). Do other towns have places like this? Definitely. Do they make a cherry coke or a twist cone? Undoubtedly. Is it as good as Budge’s? Probably, but it won’t seem so to anyone who grew up going to Budge’s. At a certain point, other things come into play. Things that might require you to use words like “quintessential” and “iconic.”  Things from a smallish hometown.

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Budge’s opens in early spring, but for me and the others who grew up in that neighborhood, Budge’s was more about summer. Summer at its finest. Absolute summer. Summer as it used to be, in elementary school days, before the realization of time and the slow intrusion of adulthood. Days when we played freeze tag and ghost-in-the-graveyard. Caught lightning bugs in jars fixed with grass and air holes, the golden-green glow lingering in the dark. There were swings sets and child’s treasures and freedom to roam. Part of the freedom was walking to Budge’s by myself.

When I was a kid, Budge’s was mostly about the candy. They had a huge candy display with all the classic favorites: Jolly Rancher sticks, Now and Laters (when they still ripped out your teeth and were really for now AND later, as opposed to these days when they’ve softened them to where they’re really only a NOW), Dubble Bubble, Big League Chew, Pixie Stix (especially the giant size), Astro Pops, candy cigarettes (what?!), and Fun Dip (the 3 pack with 2 sticks). I remember being short by a dime once and the woman working (one of the original owners, I believe, who seemed like an old lady to me, although I don’t know for sure how old she actually was) let me take my candy anyway, on the promise that I would bring the dime back later, which I did very dutifully, walking all the way home and all the way back with my dime to show her I was good for it.

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I remember being sad when they started downsizing the candy window. It happened slowly and now it’s not there at all. This change was a hard one. Hard in the way that it’s hard now to see some of the same candy we had then that tastes slightly different and the packaging has changed. Somehow I want it to be the same as it was. Isn’t that always the way? It’s  hard to watch things change. I don’t know why I expect my beloved candies to remain the same when nothing else does. Why wouldn’t they update the packaging or try to make it taste better? As human beings, we certainly don’t stay the same on the outside through the years and not on the inside either, if we’re lucky. I recently read this African saying:

It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.

I love it because it means it’s okay to change but it’s okay to bring some things with you from the past that were good and keep them as part of you. The candy may not be the same and I’m not either, but I love what I’ve brought with me from those days of buying treats at a local drive-in.

One thing I’ve noticed about my growing up friends that I now see on Facebook is that we all love the local stuff. Everyone loves it when Budge’s and Frozen Custard open for the season and no one can go to Lafayette without eating Arni’s pizza (some even have it shipped to where they live now). Whether these things are really that good or it’s the nostalgia making them taste that way, it doesn’t really matter. We’ve brought them and everything they mean right along with us.

Even though it’s called Budge’s Burgers, when I went there I almost never had anything but candy, ice cream, or a cherry Coke. The food isn’t bad, but it was never about the burgers anyway.

 

Budge’s: It was never about the burgers

A post about toothpaste but more than toothpaste

0228172343It’s not breaking news that sometimes life is overwhelming. It’s probably even a cliché to say it. I get overwhelmed more often than I should (but maybe not as much as I used to, so that’s something). Sometimes it’s big stuff. Sometimes not. But still overwhelming. This happens to me at the store when confronted with 521 kinds of anything I want to buy. The last time this happened I was in front of the toothpaste. I spent some time I won’t get back looking for the plain-Jane kind I wanted. Found what I thought was exactly right only to get home and find that it was close to what I wanted but the tube was all wrong. It was one of those that stands on its end because that’s supposed to be better. I can’t stand this kind of tube because the lids don’t close, the toothpaste leaks out, and there’s always a mess. I wanted the regular tube kind. But I wasn’t about to waste what I had and I sure wasn’t going back to the store to stare at the 521 kinds all over again, so however long it was going to take us to use that annoying tube up, I was going to have to deal with it. I rejoiced when it reached the it’s-going-to-need-a-clamp-in-order-to-squeeze-out-even-another-pea-sized-drop stage.

Aaron got to be the hero last night by examining all 521 toothpaste varieties to find what I had written on the shopping list, which was “Crest old school tube if possible.” The very wording expressing my doubt that what I wanted actually could be found. I was slightly anxious as he opened the cardboard carton, hoping it wasn’t a repeat of the tube from hell we had finally used up. I was so relieved to see that it was exactly what I wanted. Not only the tube shape but the type of toothpaste itself—the classic Crest opaque blue-white mint. I don’t need it to whiten, tighten, dance, taste like cinnamon, cherry, or bubble gum, or make my lunch for me (although, begrudging lunch fixer that I am, I would certainly buy it if it did).

I don’t think I’m being a curmudgeon and saying I don’t like choice, variety, or trying new things. I just want those things on my own terms. And those terms usually involve wanting the original form of something. If I want Triscuits, I almost always want original Triscuits. I don’t need  Triscuits fortified with kale or made with salt from the Dead Sea (I’m making things up right now. I have no idea if these varieties exist). Not that new varieties are bad (except any special issue Oreos. Just No. I barely like Double Stuff). I think there’s a reason the original endures. It’s the first. It’s good. Probably the best. (Do not take too many leaps into areas of life other than consumable goods here. My philosophy does not apply to things like siblings, for instance. And I’m speaking as the first born).

Though I still have to wade through the 521 choices, there is freedom in ignoring the vast variety and choosing the ONE thing you want and not worrying about whether this or that other thing might be better. It’s similar to the feeling I had when I quit coupons some years back. I’ve never regretted it and have such joy every time I toss entire runs of coupons in the recycling bin guilt free. (But think of all the money you could save. Nope). It saves me much more to choose not to be bombarded by the bombardment. #freedomfromchoice #longlivecrestorignal #cresttoothpaste

A post about toothpaste but more than toothpaste