What Bugs (#338)

My Chinese American husband doesn’t see dirt. At least, not in our house. He’s got a whole dirt manufacturing thing going on in our yard with multiple compost piles, but can he spot an errant leaf or Lego on the floor and pick it up? Haha, no. Not even after he’s experienced multiple late-night Lego fire walks into our son’s bedroom.

Back when we were dating, Andy would get mad about his roommate leaving crumbs on the kitchen counter.

Now that we’re married? Andy leaves crumbs on the kitchen counter.

He says he wipes down the counter.

I say, “Really? Because that ant right there is running off with a crumb from your sandwich and he’s going to share the joyful news with the rest of the colony and they’re all going to come running.”

Andy: “What ant?”

I squish the ant with a Clorox wipe and hold it in front of his face. “THIS ant. How can you not see this ant?!”

“Our kitchen counter is black! The ant is black!

Our kitchen counter, reflecting the afternoon sunlight.

“The counter is MARBLED black and white. Our cabinets are WHITE. How is it you never see these suckers and I have to kill them all?!”

Andy shrugs.

At least twice a year, usually when it’s hot and dry, the ants send scouts into our house. If we’re lucky, I spot and kill them before they find the honey in the pantry or the cat food on the dryer. If we’re not lucky, I have to clean out the entire pantry and kill ants for days. And if we’re really unlucky? They set up an entire colony under a fallen black sweatshirt in the hall closet (true story).

I don’t know if it’s the drought or the fact that the city cut down our old trees and ground up the roots, but lately the ants have been relentless. They’re attacking on multiple fronts: kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry room, and bathroom. The ones in the living room found an old potato chip in Andy’s recliner. If we were wealthy, I’d’ve burned it and replaced it. As it was, I had to take the chair apart, vacuum it, and wipe it down. Repeatedly.

The kitchen ants are the worst, though. I’ve spent the last few weeks fending them off. I sweep, vacuum, and clean counters, trying to make sure there are no enticing food bits.

Undoubtedly, some readers are wondering why the hell we don’t try poison.

First, I’m not a fan of any poison in any biome. Second, we have pets that can get into every nook and cranny and cabinet in the house as well as under the house. Some of these pets think everything is edible. Others think everything is a toy.

So I remind Andy to look for ants in the morning when he gets up before I do. He says, “Sure.”

It’s Monday at 5 AM.  Andy’s in the bathroom when I turn on the kitchen’s overhead lights. I see ants on the counter next to his half-full coffee mug. I kill the ants, then open drawers and cabinets to see where they are coming from. I discover a line of ants under the kitchen sink. I kill more ants, grumbling to the dog about certain blind persons in the house.

That night, I tell Andy that maybe, just maybe, light would help him see ants when it’s dark. I refrain from telling him I’m convinced he’s deliberately not turning on the lights in order to not see the ants because he doesn’t want to have to deal with ants. I remind myself that even before the recent invasion, Andy preferred to blunder about in the dark and the cold rather than pay any utility company more money.

The next morning, Andy’s up first. He leaves me a cup of coffee on the counter. By the dim nightlight on the stove hood, I see an ant crawling around next to my mug. It’s just one of many I have to kill, including some making a concerted foray into the pantry.

Ant scout in the pantry.

Andy is still in the bathroom when I leave with the dog. Fuming.

I fume all day. I kill straggler and scout ants all day. That night, I update Andy on the ant carnage tally, including the one right next to the cup of coffee he poured for me mere minutes before I entered the kitchen.

He argues, “But I looked! I didn’t see any ants!”

“I don’t know how you could have missed them, unless you weren’t really looking.”

Andy is offended. Then adamant. “I did a good job! I was looking!”

“Did you turn on the lights?!”

“I used a flashlight!”

“You—a flash—I just—” I throw up my hands and leave the room.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Or turn on a light.

Cold Wars (#334)

My Chinese American husband grew up in tropical Hawaii. When he moved to Los Angeles, his mom sent him with an electric blanket.

Years later, I laughed over that blanket before donating it to charity. I grew up on the East Coast, spending many holidays in New Hampshire. “Southern California is not cold,” I told Andy.  “Twenty below on a chairlift is cold.”

The disparity in our experiences was highlighted during vacations. I ignored Andy’s advice and ran up a sand dune barefoot on the island of Kauai, yelling, “How hot can it be?”

Answer: “Hot enough that you wind up whimpering with ice packs on your burning feet.”

On one trip to New Hampshire, our son woke up at the crack of dawn, yelling. We bolted out of bed and found him in the kitchen—unharmed, but convinced he’d seen a strange cat. Andy disappeared while I got Baby D back to sleep. It was only October, but the temperature had plummeted overnight. I found the very old school thermostat and turned the dial up before hunting through the house for my husband.

He was back in bed, shivering.

I patted his arm and said, “Don’t worry, honey. I turned on the heat.”

“Good,” moaned Andy, who is an engineer. “I couldn’t figure out how.”

The undecipherable thermostat had a dial like this.

The one time we went whale watching? Andy spent 30 minutes in the hotel shower afterwards. He drank hot coffee while standing under hot water, convinced he was hypothermic.

Before any readers start in on how cold it is watching the whales in Alaska or Cape Cod, please know that our ship barely made it out of the bay in SAN DIEGO.

So you’d think that my husband would be the first person to bump up our SoCal thermostat (which he finds easy to adjust because it is not “an archaic New England instrument powered by witchcraft”) to higher temperatures.

Wrong. Heat costs money. My husband, like many Chinese Americans, is very frugal.

Our tiny house, which was built for hot summers (e.g., no basement, just a crawlspace with vents allowing cool breezes to circulate under the house) can easily drop to 55°F overnight during California winters.

Boss Cat sneaks under the covers. We cover up our short-haired dog with a blanket.

In the mornings, Andy will throw on a robe, slippers, and sometimes a beanie or wool leg warmers from Bolivia.

But he will not turn on the heat. Not even at 55°F.

Mark, a fellow blogger in South Dakota, wrote a whole post about how tough it was to get up when his household temp dropped to 59°F (though he immediately built a roaring fire).

Using oil for heating is prevalent in New England and expensive as fuck. Yet my ExStepmother in New Hampshire sets her winter thermostat to 64°F at night and 67°F during the day. So does one of my sisters in upstate New York.

And still Andy will not touch the thermostat, insisting, “It will warm up during the day.”

Which is often true. It might be in the forties in Southern California at 5 AM, but once the sun comes out at 7 AM, the temperature soars. Last Sunday we swung from 49°F degrees at dawn to 75°F degrees at noon.

Besides, most days Andy only has to last an hour before leaving for his warm office at work (in a car with heated seats).

Meanwhile, I type with fingerless gloves. Wearing a jacket, my own ski cap, fleece pants, a wool sweater, and a turtleneck. And wrapped up in a blanket crocheted by my friend JM.

But I’m not turning on the heat, either. Even though I have a history of sneakily turning up thermostats.

Because I’ve been on New Hampshire chairlifts in -20°F and no fucking way am I caving with the heat before someone who grew up in Hawaii.

Sometimes, though?

I regret not keeping that stupid electric blanket.

Something Is Under the House (#236)

I thought I’d made peace with the freaky-assed crawl space below our house in Los Angeles. It’s not a nice, solid basement, but makes sense to have easy access to plumbing and the electrical lines for our drip system. And after multiple years, the only scary thing lurking under our house had turned out to be our own mischievous dog.

Until recently. Continue reading Something Is Under the House (#236)

Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day. Continue reading Red Flags (#226)

Sprinkling Stupidity (#215)

Look at how my neighbors water their green lawn…and the cement sidewalk.

I grew up in a swamp. D.C. is ridiculously hot and humid in the summer. A blanket of oppressive, immobile air suffocates the city for weeks at a time, only stirring for the occasional afternoon thunderstorm. But the thunderstorm doesn’t wash away the misery, oh, no. It just makes the ground steam.

All the water makes for lush, green lawns with minimal watering. I never saw a sprinkler system until I moved to Los Angeles. Continue reading Sprinkling Stupidity (#215)

Cracked (#192)

Like most couples, my husband and I divided up our chores based on our abilities. Since my husband was unable to see dirt, I cleaned. Since I was unable to see any problem with eating Kraft Mac & Cheese mixed with Hormel Chili several times a week, my horrified husband cooked. He grew vegetables in the backyard; I maintained planters of flowers in the front.

I walked and trained our rescue dogs. I cleaned the cat litter box. I fed/ vetted/ medicated/ washed all four animals. I did the laundry. I swept the patio and front steps. I mowed the lawn. I washed dishes. With 4 shedding animals, I vacuumed every other day.

Andy washed the cars. Continue reading Cracked (#192)

What Lies Below (#187)

I live in Los Angeles and there’s something under my house.

Don’t freak out.

It’s just a crawl space. Continue reading What Lies Below (#187)