You Had ONE Job…

I love where I live. We have four seasons, big trees, enormous green biomass, plenty of surface water… all the features that make me feel safe and happy. I can deal with the ice storms and power outages (all hail the wood stove). I don’t mind having to get after the yard for months on end. For me, the pollen rotation is bearable, but there is one characteristic that I positively loathe about life in the Maryland countryside, and my neighbors are partly to blame.

I’ve had the same neighbors (or their kin) for decades. They are mostly quiet and family-oriented; they keep to themselves. Their favorite pastime is to loaf in the shade, though the kids often get together for play dates. I wouldn’t want any other neighbors, but being bovine neighbors, they tend to POOP in the FIELD and this draws FLIES by the SWARM.

I cannot abide house flies. Hate them with an irrational passion and will turn up violent in my efforts to keep them from my domicile. A house fly lands on me and I am rage personified. I, who can be philosophical about a mosquito needing protein to reproduce, who have been bitten by both European hornets and a brown recluse spider (in the same summer), don’t lose my buttons nearly as quickly over those bugs as I do over house flies. I’m not phobic about a flies–my reaction isn’t fear-based–I HATE them.

Flies are dirty, I know that, but it’s the feel of them I can’t stand. The little buzzing sound, the random flight patterns. My brain knows they are just going along trying to have a decent little fly-life, and that civilization would stop without the work that flies do, but my heart is determined to win the battle of the house fly at all costs. I know all the tricks–fans, light off, repellents, sprays, candles, colors, AC if your carbon-conscience can go there–and still they invade my space.

And wouldn’t you know it, one of the effects of the pandemic supply chain disruption for me has been a scarcity of the little cans of room-bomb (I did stumble upon a stash at Target). These are environmental anathema to me, but a sure fire last resort in knocking back the fly population. That they have become a little scarce upsets me inordinately.

There will one day be a character in my books who hates flies, and you will know why I have afflicted him thus. Authors are supposed to give characters quirks, because quirks lead to interesting backstory, and in this case, the backstory stops here. I think the War on Flies has special weight for me now because it has brought the reality of the pandemic closer to me. I did OK without milk, I conserved TP well enough, I have been masking up since mid-April no problem, but to be without my fly-killing bazooka of last resort… it maketh my blood to boil.

Are current events pushing any special buttons with you? Has the pandemic found or exposed any buttons you didn’t know you had? Keep it civil (cussing is OK, though), and I will send a signed copy of Too Scot To Handle (on ebook discount for $3.99 this month) to two readers.


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47 comments on “You Had ONE Job…

  1. I hate flies too, thought not as much YOU do it seems. 🙂 And there have been a few surprises as far as Pandemic Supply Chains issues for me as well.

    I am not always able to purchase Borax–you know, 20 Mule Team Borax, the most unsexy laundry additive ever. I use it for so many things in addition to my regular detergent for towels, sheets and other whites. I use it with water and sugar for an ant-be-gone recipe. When my boys were babies, my late Mom suggested I not buy the expensive Baby Laundry detergent but use Borax with my regular detergent for diapers and and baby clothes. I have used it ever since for anything smelly or needing an extra oomph!

    I have been LIVID I can’t buy Borax, as unreasonable as that sounds. And have gone to THREE STORES to buy a box–I have no idea WHY I can’t get it. 🙁 It drives me crazy.

    • I have wondered if stores aren’t purposely de-stocking some staples to train us to shop online. You can doubtless get Borax sent to you, but for some reason, you can’t find it on the shelves.
      On the one hand, I’m all for anything that deposes Amazon from the throne of on-line shopping power. On the other hand… I don’t like to be manipulated as a consumer. To them it’s a Borax sale, to me it’s a discussion of honesty and power.
      Hope you find that Borax soon!

      • Was able to purchase TWO boxes of Borax at my usual grocery store so I’m HAPPY! Whee!

  2. I also hate house flies but am in a place that doesn’t have them – Tahiti. I enjoy reading your books while we cruise and while we were locked down earlier in the year. You have likeable characters and you get them out of some very challenging dilemmas. Thanks for writing such readable books.

    • Lorraine, I love to write, and that you are enjoying the happily ever afters just makes my day. I have LONG thought that cruise ships are an under-served book market, but I can’t get a publisher to agree with me. Enjoy the absence of flies!

  3. Where I live now which is right on a beautiful coastline I don’t seem to be bothered with flies.This is a blessing because I dislike them so much.When I was a schoolgirl many years ago we had a science lesson in which we put a fly under a microscope and saw what it had stored on the hairs on its legs.The usual nasty things but what made me feel sick the most was when the teacher explained that a speck of white substance was fresh cream from a cake most certainly from the local bakery shop window.Even now I will not buy any cakes that have been sitting out on display to tempt people to buy.The big flies are called blue bottles over here and are a lovely blue shiny color.But soon as they come buzzing around me I am on full alert and try to destroy them ,I rarely do.Clever and fast but an enemy to me.Still we must admit they will always be around whether we like it or not.

    • My parents lived within sight and sound of the Pacific Ocean, and they too had very little problem with flies. I am not willing to make the trade–the ocean, which scares me–for a lack of flies. As for the view down the microscope… fascinating, but daunting too.

  4. Mosquitoes!

    Yikes, we seem to have a bumper crop of them this year! I can’t read on the back deck in the morning….this makes me a little cranky. Two of my neighbors have found a local company that sprays twice a month and it’s not harmful to pets and small children. I am tempted to join them!

    The prices and availability of some items bothers me. Yeast was scarce in April, now butter seems hard to find. And hand sanitizer and wipes – the prices have gone up! And up!

    Am hoping things settle down in the Fall.

    • Sue,
      This is when we all need screed porches, with fans, and aromatic candles to repel the danged flies. Oh, and incense too. I know bugs are essential to most ecosystems, but reading comfortably is essential too!

  5. Sadly, I already knew that I am very type A and super impatient with others. This is much more obvious in close quarters during social distancing, though. And there is only so much that meditation appears to be doing for me (and by extension for those around me)

    As to my current desperate lack of an item? Keto chocolate chips. Unless I want to buy a CASE of them, at least triple the price of normal nonpandemic cost, I am S.O.L. Not to mention they will arrive melted into a solid ball during shipping due to god awful weather now. Boo

    • Anything that parts me from my chocolate of choice is a serious matter. Food generally is a Rubik’s cube for me, a balancing act between what I can enjoy eating, what isn’t bad for me, what is good for me… When I can’t get my dark chocolate Ghiradelli squares (which are a large enough serving but not too large, a format that allows for eating in many small bites, a quality that’s usually OK but not divine enough to tempt me to excess…), I am not a happy camper.
      I feel silly for being my age and still dealing in an emotional economy of treats, but it more or less works, most days.
      I hope you get your Keto wonder chips soon. Treats matter.

  6. Honestly my biggest issue with the pandemic situation is simple but heartbreaking. I miss hugging my family! My 7 & 10 year old grandkids live only 10 minutes from us and under normal circumstances (I can hardly remember those days!), we would see them fairly regularly. Sometimes they & their parents would come over for the day, sometimes the kiddies would join us for sleepovers. Even the occasional “pick up after school because Mom & Dad are working late” led to pizza & donuts out, along with a couple of hours of silliness. When we do see them (as we did yesterday due to some family difficulties), it’s mask-on, social distancing! We crave the feel of those little bodies grabbing us with the same intensity with which we like to smother them with kisses! The rest of the pandemic is terrifying, to be sure, that sword of Damocles hanging over all of us, fearing for the health of our loved ones. But on a personal and heart sick level, it’s the lack of hugs that gets me.

    • I have seen so MANY posts like this, from, “Fair warning: When this is over I’m hugging ALL Y’ALL…” to the same sentiment: Will I ever hug my grandkids again?
      Maybe we will be wiser for having been put on a hug diet, and a socializing diet, and a eat-out diet. I know many writers are sorely, sorely missing the one or two conferences they go to each year when they get to hang with their tribe, in the same room, over the same table of drinks and chips.
      We will get through this, and if we’re smart, we’ll be better for it. Hope the hugs can resume soon!

  7. I’m not a fan of flies, but I detest lizards more. Growing up in Jamaica we had huge croaking lizards that would come out at night. The sounds they made would give me the willies! To make things worse, the country folk had all sorts of tales about how they would attack little children in their beds, so as a small child I would be scared to fall asleep. Now in South Florida our iguana population has exploded, and they are everywhere!

    My biggest concern and the thing that pushes my buttons with the pandemic is that people have made being safe a political issue. If we want to go back to “normal” we need to stem the tide of the virus. In WWII people made sacrifices, we also need to step up to the plate and hopefully it will hasten the demise of the virus.

    • This is a curious issue to me, the one about people being ignorant and selfish regarding masks.
      The polls tell us the majority of Americans–the majority of REPUBLICANS too–support wearing masks, hand-washing, and social distancing. The perception is, though, that anti-maskers are on every street corner, breathing arrogance, ignorance, and death on the rest of us. I am left to wonder how bad the problem is, and how bad the problem would be if the media instead focused on how rare the anti-masker sentiment is, how contrary to common sense, and how dangerous–instead of how “prevalent” it is.
      Instead, the few foghorns without a clue seem to grab all the headlines. It’s the same with school re-openings. The clear majority view is: Nopity-nope. Clearly, clearly, not a good idea. But the media keeps presenting school reopening as a “dialogue about an inevitability.”
      What’s really going on here? Because there seems to be a disconnect between the news and the reality.

  8. The move away from science has, as we have seen in the US, been going on for decades and with an obvious political, religious or economic (or some combination) agenda most of the time. As is so clear right now. I can not bear to listen to or even read about those that pushed for an early re-opening (with guns! At state capitals!), refuse to wear masks, believe COVID is a hoax etc. instead of listening to experts and actually caring about the impact of their actions on others. We have been lucky enough to not have shortages really hit us yet, who knows what will come next. In the meantime I suppose I’m angry enough

    • I tell myself there are three phases of information. There’s what I see around me–most people masking up, social distancing, being kind and responsible.
      Then there’s the news, a steady diet of division and despair, only tangentially related to reality.
      Then there’s social media, an entirely manipulated, profit-driven dystopian fantasy that we were better off without.
      The less I’m on social media, the saner and kinder I feel.

  9. I live just north of you in Penn and enjoy the four seasons and lots and lots of rain. Being stuck at home means I get a lot more time for my garden. My worst issue with the pandemic is that I have run out of my favorite coffee. I tried to get it on line for a while, but I believe I have single-handedly copped Target’s and Amazon’s supply. I’m hoping that there will be more in my lifetime.

    • And isn’t it odd, how that one change hits you in the face every morning, reminding you of what you cannot have? I’m the same way about my chocolate, the same way about tea.
      I think this is one of the bad side effects of consumerism–I am attached to my privileges–but unavoidable in an abundant world. I have tried to experiment with other chocolates and other teas, but so far… I want what I want, and I want what I sometimes simply cannot have.
      It’s a nuisance, but only a nuisance. Beats being on a ventilator, right?

  10. I hate to kill anything but do loathe flies in the house. I have fly swatters and occasionally I can trap one and put it outside.

    As for the pandemic, this is the first time in my lifetime that I feel like our government is flailing. I just don’t see the steady leadership and reliance on science that countries like New Zealand, Germany and others have provided their citizens. There have been many times I have disagreed vehemently with our federal governemnt (Iraq invasion, anyone?) but I haven’t seen this level of incompetence ever.

    Wearing a mask has become politicized where I live, particularly since the mayor of our city has mandated wearing them when entering a building. I know a nurse – a NURSE! – who posts articles about how requiring people to wear a mask to protect others in a PANDEMIC is an assault on our civil liberties. Our schools are going to reopen. In May, one of five teachers said they were unlikely to return. Most of our state doesn’t have the internet resources for kids to learn at home. We are officially in a mess.

    Shortages are everywhere. I can’t buy some vitamins I need to take daily, have had to order those and so many other things from Amazon or Walmart, because I can’t get them locally. I was just glad to get them.

    The people who bought out everything – toilet paper, etc. – were just ridiculous.

    • I will go you one better.
      It seems to me that somebody–the government, foreign trolls, pick your conspiracy–is using the present situation to expose every fault line in a society that had many to begin with.
      Some of that is good though. I think part of the reason George Floyd’s murder was a racism-awareness tipping point is because all of us–sitting at home and counting our rolls of TP–had the bandwidth to pay attention to the facts of the case. We all, for a change, are questioning the competence and benevolence of government generally, not only of the police force. Few of us will sleep walk through this time, and that can be good.
      And as for the people who “bought out everything…” in many cases they did not. Hoarding is a fine narrative for blaming consumer greed (and doubtless there was some hoarding), but the reality is, at least in the case of TP, we were all sent home at once. TP comes in two varieties–domestic use and commercial grade. The commercial grade is the cheap stuff on the huge rolls we find at the office, at the library, on campus. It’s made in different factories from the domestic grade.
      All of a sudden, domestic consumption doubled, commercial consumption plunged. Nobody had to hoard to create a shortage. The supply chain was simply too fragile to pivot, and because nobody wanted to make over an whole factory for a pandemic when price gouging was available instead, a shortage resulted.

  11. I live in England, and we’re lucky that, after an initial surge where everyone bought toilet roll and hand sanitiser like mad, it all calmed down and we can now buy pretty much everything as normal.

    I guess what I miss most during the pandemic is not an item you can’t buy, but some of the routines that brought us together when sharing food.

    At work (I work in a college), at certain times of the year when things got really stressful, my colleague and fellow teacher Jamie would bring in the most fabulous cheese scones for the staff room to share at break time. Now the college is closed until September, and I miss Jamie, my other colleagues, my students… and the scones.

    And Saturday mornings are not the same without a trip to the sunny, leafy ‘Secret Garden Cafe’ by the river with all its little outdoor tables. They make the most amazing cakes including a truly magnificent Mars Bar scone (do you have those chocolate bars in the US? They are like Snickers, without the nuts).

    Still, I am hopeful that all these things will return, and when they do I’ll have a newfound appreciation for them.

    Sending my best wishes to you all in the US; I hope you all remain safe and well, and buoyed up by some wonderful reading during these challenging times!

    • I’m in the same boat. Not much really changed for me after the first few weeks, but one my periodic lunch buddy date had to be set aside for a few months. I am INORDINATELY glad now to be able to do a take-out, distanced picnic with my lunch buddy. Man, did I miss that one, relatively taken-for-granted social pleasure.

  12. Suggest to your neighbor that he add poultry to his cattle in the pasture. The poultry eat the fly larvae. Gift him with Dale Stickler’s book, Managing Pasture. It is amazing how many separate areas of ranching work together.

    • Or maybe get some free range chickens of your own – with your neighbor’s permission to let them roam on his property. The problem is getting them to your side of the fence at night without too much of a hassle. A side bonus is more fresh eggs than you expect assuming you like eggs of course.

    • Great idea! Except that would mean he had to pen up his biddies each night (coyotes, foxes, farm dawgs, the occasional passing bear) and I can’t see this guy bothering. He does have a few cooped chickens, but they are never allowed out, which strikes me as kinda silly, but it’s his farm.

  13. Living in the Northwest means 4 seasons-clear lakes-tons of wildlife in your back yard & few bugs!
    What I find a shortage of is being able to travel. A group of us ladies went to England & Scotland 2 years ago. This fall was going to be an adventure to visit Spain & France. How sad that we can’t experience first hand the different cultures that make the world what it is.

    • I am SO GLAD I’ve been privileged to see some of the US, AUS, NZ, Europe… At the time, I told myself, “You cannot afford this. This is too disruptive. This eats into writing time. You always come home to a mess. You just went last year….” But I am so glad I made the effort, and can’t wait to go again.
      I hope you and your ladies get to hit the road again soon. The world is well worth seeing!

  14. Flies are disgusting, I agree, but roaches cause me to shiver in revulsion. We had an epidemic of them when I lived in apartments in Washington DC and I couldn’t stand the sight — turning on a light in the kitchen at night and seeing them all scuttling around. And mice! rats! oh gosh, definitely the shivers up the spine! So I moved to Virginia and a single family house where I can control things a bit more.

    I haven’t missed many grocery items since I always disliked cooking and the quarantine, alas, has not caused me to like it any better.

    • I remember life in an old DC apartment… I didn’t mind the roaches, but my roommate wasn’t of the same disposition. My mom, in SoCal, was constantly at war with roaches.
      My low-grade phobia here is snakes. I ignore them, and hope they will ignore me, but I do see the occasionally slither, and it’s the same sense of “turning on the lights and being grossed out.”
      I hope the cats gobble up all the possible snake-chow, but there’s still the occasional sighting, and lordy, sometimes Ireland looks like a mighty good choice.

  15. I am not of fan of any bug in my house. Oddly enough, I will tolerate spiders in the house since they eat the other flying, creeping, and crawling critters. That said, the spiders need to stay off of me or they get evicted if I find them after the kneejerk get-it-off dance I do.

    I try to be tolerant of people having different opinions. These days I have zero tolerance for those who are hateful, dismiss science, and show complete lack of concern for other people by not properly wearing a mask in public. It is now required to wear one in most Texas counties, but there are still people who rant about how unfair it is and refuse to cover their mouth and nose. And then there are the ones who think wearing it around their neck or dangling from an ear is fine. For the love of God, grow up!

    • As somebody else noted, we’re paying the price for decades of anti-science sentiment, and also, I think, anti-education sentiment. We somehow got to a place where my self-absorbed opinion is more valid than your researched facts–or than your continued good health and life.

      For me, repeal of the Fairness Doctrine has something to do with this, because it allowed an industry we relied on for decades as a source of truth (the news media) to subtly become a fountain of opinion and entertainment. We lost something important when we (meaning the entertainment lobby and President Reagan) allowed that to happen. Now, it’s “all” subjective, and facts are for spinning.

      • We have almost daily rants here about the lack of objective reporting in the media. My husband majored in agricultural journalism and I took a few journalism courses in both high school and college. I honestly don’t know how people today would react if the news media went back to reporting ‘just the facts’ and only allowing opinions in editorial bits specifically labelled as opinion.

        Wouldn’t it be wonderful though?

  16. This comment has nothing to do with your questions, but it does address your fly problem. Years ago while visiting PA, I couldn’t help but notice something odd in a few restaurants. Plastic bags or mason jars hanging from string or wire, in front of each window and doorway, with water and shiny pennies in them. Explanation – they kept away the flies, the prism effect being too much for them to handle. And indeed, there weren’t any in those restaurants, but there were plenty outside. From what I’ve read, you can also put the jars on windowsills. I’ve tried it in my garage when we have to leave the door open for any length of time, and it works!

  17. You have to ask yourself why fly “bombs?” I, too, have found butter scarce and the homegrown too expensive to use for baking. Petite peas are another item gone missing here, although we have a good supply of 20 Mule Team borax. I expect it’s a case of “the battle was lost, for want of a horseshoe nail,” but sometimes those “nails” are a matter of political meddling, which is beyond infuriating.

    • What you said, like the TP manufacturers deciding that rather than convert factories from commercial to domestic production, they’d just raise prices, allow scarcity to happen, and cheerfully blame all those selfish “hoarders.”

  18. Stink bugs! I hate them! They are a horrible invasive species that invade my abode in the spring and fall and attempt to cohabitate with us in the winter. Ew. I have a screened-in porch, and I need to redo the screen so they won’t breach my abode. To combat them, I carry a small glass of soapy water to those screens and flick the offending nasty beasties into it where they drown. It works. Recently, I have found that a magnetic screen keeps most of them out. I just velcro it to my porch door, and the stink bugs and other flying insects do not get in. The only issue is our neighbors had an impromptu fireworks display without letting me know in time to rescue my cats. Fireworks explode, the cats claw a new way through the screen into the house. This necessitated a run to the fabric shop to buy Nylon Thread to repair their work and hem it. All this work to keep out the Hell-beasts known as stinkbugs.

    • I think you would get a big yeah-man for this nomination. I recall when these guys first started proliferating,and I had to vacuum my daughter’s bedroom from floor to ceiling, corner to corner, every night. Gross! But they don’t bite, and they do tend to move out in the spring, so I try not go to war with them.
      Wasps and hornets though…
      And I was cool with spiders too, until the danged brown recluse turned half my arm sore and red for weeks. Those gals are not to be messed with.

    • Maybe that’s next week’s topic.
      I’m reminded of my son-in-law’s experience. He was raised in Denver, born and bred, and moved to Western Oregon in adulthood. He put a package of opened graham crackers in the cupboard, and came back a few days later to… soggy crumbs. He was utterly bumfuzzled. What on earth was going ON?
      “Humidity,” said my daughter. “This is why God made Tupperware.”
      And being raised in Maryland, she knew of what she spoke.

  19. Covid19 has tested each and every person in some way. My mother died on Mother’s Day in NZ while I and my siblings live in Australia. She died alone and we have been unable to go home to give her a proper service and burial. We have no idea when we will be free of restrictions and give our mum the respect she deserves. The circumstances have certainly tested my resolve.

  20. Flies. Don’t know what it is about the new home but there sure are a lot around. I have discovered the best (most satisfying) way to get rid of them is with the smallest (was $5) mini-shopvac in one hand and the hose tricked out with a rigid 3 ft. extender and crevice nozzle in the other. Turns out flies, when disturbed, escape by flipping over and down–right into the suction tornado! My fly vaccuuming skills are now marvelous. Never mind those pesky video game controllers the nephews never managed to train me on. I am the Death of Flies Incarnate! (no, they can’t get back out) Almost as good as knocking the Japanese beetles into the Swimming Pool of Death (tupperware with water and some detergent)

  21. No store in my area has lemon scented Lysol wipes. I have scent sensitivity to many cleaning products that claim to smell like a pine forest or a mountain stream, but to me smell like chemicals. My eyes begin to water, my nose stops up and starts to run like a faucet. The attempt to clean is interrupted by the need to wipe the eyes or the nose. The longer I am exposed to the chemicals, the greater the likelihood of a raging headache to accompany the other symptoms. A thoughtless person once told me to just take an allergy pill and suck it up, because my child needed a clean house. The allergy pills come with their own side effects for me. Being fuzzy brained and/or zombie tired is the trade off for cleaning the house with chemicals? I switched to sinus rinse with the saline packets and found natural cleaning products that don’t set off the allergy symptoms. During cold and flu season the lemon Lysol wipes were the only chemical product that didn’t set off the allergy triggers, but made me feel that I was keeping the house as germ free as possible. Now this novel coronavirus shows up and the CDC says Lysol will kill it almost immediately on contact. This is my worst moment. Heaven knows when the Lysol wipes, or any Lysol at all will return to store shelves in enough quantities that I will actually find some in stock during a regular shopping trip. The toilet paper shortage caused less upset. While not trying to dwell on the negative, I want to know that I am doing whatever I can to kill this coronavirus if it enters my house. Any substitutes that don’t involve bleach would be helpful. Bleach is on the allergy list. The CDC website requires a great deal of patience to navigate and I gave up at the use Lysol or bleach section. I will sacrifice a rubber chicken for Lysol products but won’t pay the inflated prices on Amazon. My tolerance for price gouging went out the window after 9/11.