Category: Home

September 2nd, 2011

It started with a mole hole. Nothing huge. Just a little hole in the yard, albeit one that the kids came dangerously close to tripping on.

Then, the bees. One by one, I watched as they flew into the hole. Never more than a couple would go in or go out at a time.

“No big deal,” I thought. “I can get rid of these,” I assumed. “Of course I can get rid of these.”

So I went online and figured out what to do and followed the directions.

I put a screen over the hole to keep them in, but it was too loose so suddenly 50 angry bees were swarming. I waited until nightfall and I put the screen back on and poured boiling water down the hole. The next morning they were back so I did it again the next night except this time I plugged up the hole with mud. The next morning they were back again and had drilled a hole through the mud and so I did it again the next night except this time I REALLY plugged up the hole. The next morning they had drilled through THAT mud so then I went out with a shovel while they were around the hole and just smacked it over and over again and this sealed the hole but now the bees were mad.

I gave up.

I stopped at the hardware store and bought ground bee killing powder. I put up a plastic bee trap. I poofed around the hole with ground bee killing powder. The bees got mad, but not that mad. So I got closer and poofed more right in the hole.

And that’s when I saw the bees zooming around me.

And that’s when I ran inside.

And that’s when I felt a tickle. Then a sharp point. Then an itch.

And that’s when I realized I had brought a bee back inside with me, and it had just totally stung me in the ass.


And that’s when I realized this battle was long from over.

Category: Home

October 31st, 2010

When we lived in our old house, we spent years turning it into our own.

Year by year, we added and adapted. The open backyard gained a white picket fence. The far yard gained a beautiful raised bed garden. A herb garden was planted. Quartz was dug up and re-appropriated as landscaping border. Perennials were planted. A fire pit slab was built out of slate.

Over time, we had everything perfected. This, ultimately, helped in selling our house. The yard work was already finished. All someone had to do is keep up with the plants and mow the lawn.

If only that were the case.

We drive by our old house on occasion. Over the past year and a half we have seen it regress.

First, the raised bed garden was torn out. Then, the garden bed was covered with sod. Soon, the quartz edging was taken out. After the summer, we noticed that the perennials had disappeared and the herb garden had been stripped away.

We were effectively watching our legacy in that home taken out, piece by piece, like burning copies of an author’s manuscript. The time and work and sweat and money we put into making the house beautiful was being disregarded, the current owners not privy to what emotional connections we still had to that garden, that border, those plants.

But what can I expect?

When we hand things over, we hand them over with the understanding that, in fact, it is no longer ours. That’s the deal. That’s what selling the house means. We built it up to pass it on, selling our dreams and selling out those gardens. In return, we were able to move to a new home, one that was filled with another previous owner’s dreams and ambitions – dreams and ambitions we too reverse and tear down and disregard.

That yard is no longer our yard. It never will be again. And we were the ones who made it that way.

So, as we drove by today and saw that the white picket fence – the first act of business when we moved in and the most lasting and recognizable piece of our involvement with that house – was being torn down, I had to bite back scorn.

It’s out of our hands. And we’re all healthier when we recognize that point.

Category: Home, On..., Vilhauer

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June 25th, 2010

You can go ahead and talk about how you’ve moved to Jackson, how you’ve done well in life and can now afford a stately 500k home in the ghetto part of town, how you brave the traffic and float your kayak down the Snake and how, sometimes, you run into Teton Village for dinner at some restaurant that just opened.

Something Thai, I’m sure. Something expensive and trendy.

Go ahead. I know I’ve never formally lived in the Jackson Hole area. I’ve never called it home, and that nowadays I only visit every four years and barely have any family connection in the town. Even my grandma had to ditch the place. Probably the fault of people like you. I’ll pin that you y’all, if you don’t mind.

Here’s the thing. I might not be from Jackson, but I’m fiercely protective of it. That Thai restaurant wasn’t here when I wandered its streets every summer for years. Teton Village was just a tiny little ski resort. Jackson was still overrun by cowboys, not Subarus; ranchers, not transplants.

Maybe you’ve got your own personal Jackson – some place you’ve never lived but still stick to, allowed to become a part of your soul, of which you shun visitors and push away the people who just don’t get it. That’s it, right?

They just don’t get it, do they?

Jackson isn’t my home. It never has been. Still, I consider myself a local – thanks to generations of family and history and a bunch of my own experiences – and I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel guilty about it.

Sorry, man. I know you just moved here.

But unless you’re new place has some way to replicate three decades of tradition and sheer force of connection, you’ll never be a local.

At least not in my eyes. Not in my experience.

Not to THIS local-who-never-was.

January 8th, 2010

We’re Schwan’s customers, or, at least, we’re Schwan’s customers as much as is allowed while only purchasing ice cream every four weeks. It wasn’t a choice – it came with our house. Or, to be clear, the handsome Schwan’s delivery driver came with the house, a bi-weekly reminder of our mortality.

Schwan's“Only TWO gallons of ice cream?” he says, burrowing a deep gaze into our resistance.

It’s the extra 150 pounds or so I’ve gained since moving into this house that put things into perspective. What is this service? In Today’s Turbulent and Volatile Economy, how do people justify ordering frozen food via delivery service, the prices sitting comfortably at around 20% higher than grocery store rates?

My only guess: this is some weird holdover from the 50’s, when convenience was the invention du jour. The catalog reads like one of those Sears Wish List books, with row after row of frozen food, all ready to put into your Kitchenaid Range or, later on, your Panasonic Microwave Oven.

Jetsons Kitchen of the FutureBroccoli. Penne Gratin. Mixed Vegetables. Sushi Rolls. Meatballs (Turkey or Pork). Pretzel Poppers. Tomato Basil Soup. Green Beans. Sliced Ham. Brown Rice.

“Don’t forget to tell them about this week’s special, the Pirogues.”

Yes. Sorry, handsome delivery driver.

This is Schwan’s. Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – at the ready. Totally prepared and brought to your door. But now, instead of the future, it seems like an old standby of less frugal times.

This, my friends, is the future we were always waiting for. And it continues to serve us, one bag of frozen grilled mushrooms at a time.

Category: Food, Home, On..., Technology

October 18th, 2009

There’s a green star stuck to the coaster. There are two gold stars on the floor, about three feet apart. There are worn stars scattered around the carpet; points curled, foil tarnished, backsides no longer sticky. Everywhere we turn, star stickers turn up.

The sheet upon which the stickers once lived, pulled fresh and untouched from its package just three days ago, is now battered, half-bare and folded, manhandled by wet, greedy hands.

From that sheet to the floor? What’s the progression? How do star stickers find themselves separated from their backing and borne into the wild?

First, Sierra must use the potty. Successfully. No release, no star.

Then, the dominoes begin falling. The potty: Dump. Flush. Rinse. Sierra: Wipe. Wash. Dry.

That Sierra took it upon herself to begin potty training is both frustrating and inspired. Naturally, we weren’t ready. I don’t think any parent has ever been ready. Sure, we might have said to ourselves, “Hey, maybe it’s time to let our child use the bathroom on his/her own.” But no one is really ready when it begins – when the diapers come off and the pull-ups and underwear and toilet paper and accidents and constant sitting and crouching and waiting and waiting and waiting finally take place.

Maybe Sierra was aware of that anxiety. Maybe she was fully aware that, unless she took charge and got the ball rolling, she’d never get to wear the new underwear we’d purchased months ago.

She’d never get to sit and read on the toilet. She’d never get to wash her hands seven or eight times a day.

She’d never get to start depositing star stickers throughout the house.

Oh. There’s another one stuck to my sock.

It’s blue.

Category: Home, Sierra, Vilhauer

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July 1st, 2009

Before we purchased our house, we snuck a peak at the average utility bills for the family that owned it before us.

They were astronomical. And we knew we could do better.

The reasoning was twofold. First, we knew we couldn’t afford an electric bill that ran nearly three times that from our old house. Second was a matter of pride – that we are able to watch what we use. That, despite our inklings otherwise, we’re armchair conversationalists.

We were lucky enough to see the problem immediately – electric baseboard heating in a very cold basement, connected with its own thermostat, was used more often than needed with two pre-teen boys playing video games non-stop during the winter.

And, we were lucky enough to have something to compare to.

If you knew what your neighbors were using, would you work otherwise? If you could see how you shaped up on average – for example, if you were using less than the neighborhood average, or if you were using more and saw the cost differential – would you make arrangements to change your habits?

According to an article in The Atlantic, energy companies are betting that yes, you would.

It’s being tracked by a company named Positive Energy, and it a new wave of controlling costs through guilt or competition. According to the article:

”In Positive Energy’s reports, a once-intangible bit of social information—how much energy you use relative to your neighbors—is made tangible. Now you can find out not just what people in the same city are doing, but what people in your neighborhood, living in the same-size houses, are doing … but also with customized tips on how to do better.”

Will it work? So far, it has.

”…in Sacramento, where Positive Energy began its pilot program with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in 2008, people who received personalized “compared with your neighbors” data on their statements reduced their energy use by more than 2 percent over the course of a year. In energyspeak, a 2 percent reduction is huge; with the pilot sample of 35,000 homes, it’s the equivalent of taking 700 homes off the grid. And the cost to the utility is minor: for every dollar a utility spends on a solar power plant, it produces 3 to 4 kilowatt-hours; for every dollar a utility spends on the energy reports, it saves 10 times that.”

So, I say this to my local electric and gas companies: Go ahead. Guilt me into cutting back. Make me prove my ability to conserve.

It sounds like the type of challenge that we all could handle.

Category: Home, Politics

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May 22nd, 2009

Looking at my hands, palms down, from left to right…

Two healing scars on my left thumb. One from trying to open a paint can with a screwdriver, the other from a vicious cardboard cut while taping a box.

One recovering scab on my right thumb, from a door frame that had seemingly popped out of the woodwork.

One cut on the pad of my right pointer finger, picked up from the edge of a plastic pasta salad container. This one hurt the worst.

A series of rough patches of skin on the top of my right ring finger. Dry weather, constant scrapes and a lack of upkeep over the past two weeks are the culprits.

A gash on my right pinkie, thanks to getting in between the fence and our dog, who was getting a little too uptight while meeting the neighbor dogs.

Add to this the aches, bruises, scrapes and pains that accompanied the move, and I can’t imagine anything more dangerous than being a professional mover.

Category: Home