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Bed Bug Freeeeee

Venus in Capricorn

Last year I promised myself that I would not spend this birthday organizing my closets.  But guess what?  New Years Eve has rolled around and what am I doing?  Yup.  Turning off my phone and organizing my closets.  And you know what?  It’s fantastic.

Seriously, I’m typing this and I can LITERALLY hear fireworks going off outside.  That’s how great it is.

FINALLY this utter pigsty is being righted after the glory of bed bug exermination.  Things are finding their places again, some are even finding new and better places than the ones they occupied before.  And I’m alone.  I really don’t want to talk to anyone – sorry, anyone!  I just want to clean and sort and get ready for the year ahead.  Happy New Year, everyone!  Happy 2014

 

 

Mars Remedy, Four Months In

repentOh gosh, it’s eleven thirty again.  I liked doing these daily posts so much more when I was actually writing them during the day!  Waking up and writing.  Remember that?  It was only eighty some odd days ago.  That’s when I started doing this every day.  It’s the bed bugs that did me in, and put me off track.  (It’s always something, of course, but this time it was definitely bed bugs!) But they’re gone now and tomorrow I will clean my house from top to bottom FINALLY.  It’s been agony living with it the way it is.

And after that – well, after that, I’ll be PERFECT.  It’s the New Year coming in, isn’t it?  Just think, a whole New Year with no mistakes yet made in it.  I feel a groundswell of resolutions setting in, and I can’t wait.  Well, that’s not entirely true, I am happy to have 24 hours between me and all of them, but I am happy that they’re coming.

I imagine that after the next month of being perfect and living into all my resolutions I will be happier and healthier and wiser than EVER BEFORE.  It’s very exciting.  (I can’t truly claim sarcasm here, though I am aware of how ridiculous it would be to say what I have with a totally straight face.   Dry, deprecating saturnian humor perhaps, but underneath all that just a mountain of credulity.)

I really believe I can conquer my demons and deliver on all my promises despite no real track record of such.  Hope springs eternal, I guess.  True in my case, at least tonight.  And thank heavens.  It certainly beats the alternative, doesn’t it?

Mean Old Bed Bug Blues

OH MY GOD.  Did you know Bessie Smith wrote a song about bed bugs?!  I did not ever imagine anything so fucking fantastic.  I have nothing to add:

Gals, bed bugs sure is evil, they don’t mean me no good
Yeah, bed bug sure is evil, they don’t mean me no good
Thinks he’s a woodpecker and I’m a chunk of wood

When I lay down at night, I wonder how can a poor gal sleep
When I lay down at night, I wonder how can a poor gal sleep
When some is holding my hand, others eating my feet

Bed bug as big as a jackass, will bite you and stand and grin
Bed bug as big as a jackass, will bite you and stand and grin
Will drink all the bed bur for them turn around and bite you again

Something moan in the corner, I went over and see
Something moan in the corner, I went over and see
It was the bed bug a prayin’, Lord, gimme some more cheese

Bed Bugs are the Worst

I popped into my apartment this afternoon to check in and see what it was like and I took one look and left.  It’s horrible.  Towers of boxes and plastic bags everywhere and the furniture all in weird places and it’s just sort of topsy turvy.  I’ll be sleeping there tonight and that means I’ll be waking up there so you should DEFINITELY feel sorry for me.  I will look like this for the next week, I imagine.

Bugfree for the holidays

I’m staying at my brother’s house tonight giving my apartment a chance to air out after being fumigated by the exterminators today. Thank heavens, or I would have missed it when my nephew came home from school and ran up to his mama all excited with his hands behind his back saying, “I made something for you!” I was in the other room, so of course I was curious to see her pouring over his card with her heart in her throat responding, “Mama’s just going to cry for a few minutes now, honey.”

“No, Mama, don’t be sad!  Here I’ll make you feel better,” he said, and put his little arms around her neck and gave her a kiss.

Sigh. I love Christmas. My mum and dad are here, sleeping on an air mattress next to me. T is going to wake me up in about six or seven hours and we’ll all have breakfast and coffee together and spend a leisurely day trying to agree on something to do and failing miserably and laughing about it the whole time.

My apartment is a wreck, everything’s out of place and in boxes and even worse than before, and I can’t put it away or clean it for another three days but you know what? I don’t even care. It’s the winter solstice, Venus is stationed retrograde, and it’s Christmas. My favorite time of the year. I’m with my family and we’ve got someone under four to make it all ridiculously magic and believable.

My heart is full. (please don’t point out to me how much T’s drawing looks like a family of bed bugs, I simply won’t allow it!  CLEARLY those are a family of Pixar monsters!)

Bed Bug Battles

rosie the riveter

With any luck I’m in the home stretch of my epic battle with UGH bed bugs. The pest control company that my building was using when I found them in my apt was fired and they’ve got a different company now that is treating FORTY ONE units out of 98 this week. I’m slated for tomorrow. Gah. I should be staying up all night boxing belongings and stuffing things into my tub wrapped in plastic but I’m not. Instead I’m watching the last season of Burn Notice and thanking the stars above that Gabrielle Anwar got her eyebrow situation under control.

I’ll get up early tomorrow to get this show on the road.  If all goes according to plan I may actually be able to have my apartment back to normal by my birthday. Fingers crossed.

living with bed bugs

Last night I slept almost eight hours.  Today I made chicken soup.  Whatever else is going on, I am not going to get sick on top of everything else.  I’ve had bronchitis every year for the last four and it is not going to happen this year.  I’m determined.  I don’t care if I wake up covered in bites (which I am) I am going to sleep, god dammit.

Mars is moving up to five degrees Libra squaring my natal Venus next week, which incidentally is when the exterminators are coming back to my unit, and I’m not taking any chances.  Mars is typically not so nice to me, and with everything going on right now I don’t trust him even a little bit.  So I’m going to be extra good.

I’m miserable, I can’t lie, bed bugs are no joke, they make everything worse, unless you’ve ever been through it, you just can’t know.  I can’t do much about my situation, but I can be kind to myself and my body.  It feels good to wash my dishes, to keep the parts of my room straightened that aren’t choked by plastic bags, and burn some lavender oil.  It feels good to go outside, get some air, walk around the park, feel the breeze on my face.  It feels good to be rested.

When the little things are the best things they really don’t seem so little anymore.  There’s a trick to living in denial and it has to do with selectivity.  Ignore what you don’t want to deal with and focus only on what makes you happy.  Obviously this isn’t something you want to take too far, but honestly, it beats the alternative when the alternative is thinking about how when you’re asleep you will be attacked by a hoard of miniature vampires.  (In case it’s not obvious, clicking on that link will give you nightmares – even I haven’t watched it, do you think I could write this post if I had?!  I mean, come ON)

The asteroid Sisyphus

Sisyphus, as imagined by the D'Aulaire's

Sisyphus, as imagined by the D’Aulaire’s

Just yesterday I finally moved some of my furniture back into place after living with it in the middle of my apartment for the past few weeks.  I’m not sure I can describe the exquisite relief of placing my plant back where it belongs on my beautiful bookshelf back where it belongs.  Unfortunately, it turns out that my embrace of normalcy was premature because not three hours later I spotted a bed bug on my bed.  And it wasn’t moving like a zombie the way the few I spotted early last week did, all on its last legs, oh no.  This one was spry and fresh and making its way across my bed linen without a care in the world.

I actually started weeping.  After I squashed it, of course.

I’m beginning to feel as though this will never ever ever end.  I cannot explain what it’s like to live with all my belongings in plastic bags, the furniture piled up in the middle of the room, navigating through towers of my plastic wrapped belongings like a hoarder who has forgotten what she even owns.  This is quite contrary to my normal way of living.  Left to my own devices my home is generally very organized, open and easy on the eyes.  I prefer a rather formal aesthetic.  With Saturn (order) in the 4th (home) in mutual reception with Venus (beauty) that’s no surprise.

I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that I’m getting sadder and sadder, feeling more and more hopeless, returning to old feelings of depression and despair.  I’ve been watching a lot of tv.  I have four or five emails I need to respond to that have been sitting in my inbox for weeks.  Everything is sliding.  It’s so dramatic after how happy I was just a month ago, and it’s pretty clear to me it’s related to the current state of my home.  Waking up to this mess all I want to do is go back to sleep.

Sisyphus loses his marble

Sisyphus loses his marble

Pluto at ten degrees Capricorn isn’t just transiting my Sun, it’s transiting the asteroid Sisyphus, which is conjunct my Sun.  The fact that the asteroid Sisyphus is conjunct my Sun is the very thing that made me start paying attention to asteroids in the first place, it’s just so on the nose, and describes my experience so precisely.  The legend of Sisyphus, you may remember, is the one where the guy is doomed to all eternity to forever push an enormous rock up a hill only to have it roll back down the moment he reaches the summit.

For most of my life I have struggled with the nagging certainty that there really is no point to anything, effort is essentially a waste of time, so the legend of Sisyphus speaks to me, I identify with it.

The lesson of Sisyphus, at least as far as I can tell, is to release oneself from expectation or interest in outcome.  There is only now, there is only pushing a boulder up a hill.  There is no point, it just is.  Theoretically this is actually no bad thing.  It’s very zen, actually.

If I could squash the myth of Sisyphus inside me the way I squashed that bug last night, oh I fucking would.  But I know better by now.  The only way out is through.  There is no end to bed bugs, there is only battle with them.  There is no security, no home in my home right now.  The only thing I’ve been able to keep ordered and collected and familiar is writing here.  So I will just keep doing it.  Not because there is anywhere to get, but because.  Just.  Because.

I don’t have to know why, I don’t have to worry about getting to the top because there is no top.  There is no place to get.  There is only here and now and this here boulder and my shoulder leaning hard against it.

 

Deep breath.  Push

 

 

Bugsgiving

Last Wednesday I kidnapped Chani and made her come with me to Craftnight, since I knew JP was making PINECONE TURKEHS and who doesn’t want to take home one of them?!  Chani’s was way more elegant than mine, this picture doesn’t do it justice, but the stars for eyes and the pink head on hers really were made for greater things.  I was only half a martini in when I selected the makings for my turkey, so I can’t blame the booze on the letters I picked to adorn my own wooded fowl, but the letters B, U, and G really jumped out at me.

Chani laughed at me when I put it all together saying, “I don’t know why I picked those letters.”  She pointed out to me that I probably had bugs on the brain.  I still can’t believe I didn’t know why I’d picked those letters.  It’s weird.  But this Turkey is a gift from my subconscious, a reminder that there’s something to be grateful for everywhere if you just know how to look.

Today I’m grateful for Thanksgiving starting early, ’cause I’m on my way over to my friend Michael’s to help him prep for tomorrow (he’s the kind of Thanksgiving nut who starts a week in advance, by noon today he’s going to be buried in lists and longing for someone to shake his Capricorn stick at!).  So here we go, my little Thanksgiving Corn Muffins!  Into the holiday breach!

Be safe, be loved, be thankful.

How to Identify a Bed Bug and What to Do About Them

2ac602b0-0b5b-4c28-8c11-d0d400516b06_zpsa8ee4a0fEverything’s in bags except for my coffee and cleaning supplies.  I’m trying to focus on the positive, give myself a few places around my apt where my eyes can rest on something beautiful, something lovely, but I can’t pretend it’s not an effort.  I have four more days of living like this before the exterminator comes back for the second treatment.  OMG you guys, DO NOT GET BED BUGS.

Sadly, this fate is not so easy to avoid.  Think it can’t happen to you?  I’ve got some sobering news for you.

Because they’re spreading like wildfire in the US.  Seriously, the bed bug population has exploded by 500% in the past few years.  500%  Think about that.  There’s a lot of reasons why this might be so, including building resistance to pesticides, increased air travel, and the high cost of treatment (up to $1,200 for a small one bedroom apt!).  Bed bugs are singularly impervious to any kind of DIY treatments, unfortunately.  Chemicals are largely ineffective because the eggs can only be killed by heat or cold, which takes special equipment, you see.

In addition to that, bed bugs can live for 18 months without feeding!!  So they are perfectly happy to be bagged up in plastic for a very long time before being re-released into the wild.  Cool, huh?  If you like horror movies.

But one of the biggest problems – and the one that we can actually do something about – is probably lack of public awareness about treatment and a few persistent myths about how bed bugs populate and spread.  If you think it has something to do with sanitary conditions, you are WRONG, so keeping a clean hearth and home is no guarantee against infestation.  If you think this is something that only effects the lower classes than you are, guess what?  Wrong again!  While it’s true that impoverished communities are adversely affected by the phenomena, this is largely to do with the high cost of treatment.  The fact is that prior to 2006 the highest incident rate of bed bugs was found in luxury upscale hotels.

Bed bugs were a common phenomena prior to the 40’s and 50’s and everyone pretty much knew how to look out for them.  DDT eradicated them in the states, but that crap’s been outlawed and now they’re proliferating again.  This time without people knowing what to look for.

So, I’m using this transit of Venus conjunct Pluto (and my natal Sun!) squaring Uranus as an opportunity to deliver a public service announcement!

To whit:  sanitary conditions have NOTHING to do with bed bugs, as long as you persist in thinking that you are putting yourself at risk, I’m afraid.  Ignorance is bliss until it isn’t.  In fact, if you are a traveler who stays in hotels than you are at significantly more risk than most.  Especially if you go to NYC.  Sorry, NY, but you are teeeeeming with the vermin and you know it.

So how can you avoid my fate?  The truest answer is that there is no guarantee that you can.  Sorry, but it’s true.  The sooner we all accept that the better off we’ll be in terms of identifying this scourge and keeping it at bay.  However, there are some preventative tips to take that we should all know about.

HOTELS:

1.  If you stay in hotels do NOT put your clothes in the closet or dressers.  My exterminator recommends putting your suitcase on the metal rack and leaving it there for the duration, only taking out clothes as needed.

2.  Inspect your bed and mattress / box spring / headboard carefully for signs of current or past infestation.  Pay special attention to the seams of the mattress.  Also inspect the baseboards and drawers.  If you find anything request a different room at once and repeat the process.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:

1.  I didn’t know what to look for.  If I had known what bed bugs actually looked like I would have called the exterminator a week earlier.  They’re small, flat, and brown.  In short, they’re rather innocuous looking bugs that you wouldn’t think WERE SUCKING YOUR BLOOD WHILE YOU SLEEP.  But they are.  Oh yes, they are.  Unfortunately you may not know it because you might be one of the “lucky” ones who isn’t affected by the bites.  I’m not affected by the bites, but I’ve found a few FULL OF MY BLOOD in the middle of the night anyway.  OMG IT’S SO GROOOSSS!!!

So look at the pictures above, and if you ever see any of those little things – or their babies, which are so tiny and transparent that you wouldn’t even notice them at all UNLESS THEY’RE FULL OF YOUR BLOOD in which case they turn red, well then, call an exterminator immediately.  Alternatively go blind reading a bunch of stuff on the internets which is totally un-reassuring and not at all what you want to hear.

TREATMENT:

I’m so far from being able to answer this effectively as yet.  There’s a lot of different answers on out there on the web and as many success stories as horror stories.  So far the most useful site has been bedbugger.com, which has a great FAQ page and active forum.  University of Kentucky has a great page describing the history and living habits of the critters, (did you know they’ve been plaguing humans since Aristotle?!), and a writer at The Awl gave me hope that I may actually survive this infestation successfully and live to tell about it.

The two most important things I’ve come across so far run totally counter to intuition so I’m going to post them here and hope it saves somebody somewhere this miserable experience:

1.  DO NOT THROW YOUR INFESTED THINGS AWAY WITHOUT TREATING THEM.  This is, it may be obvious, a very easy way for the damned things to spread.  Likewise, do not buy things second hand without carefully inspecting them.  This goes for books as well as furniture.  (Libraries are reporting higher instances of BB infestations, FYI.)

2.  DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR BED AND MOVE TO ANOTHER BED/SOFA.  The bugs will FOLLOW you and you will spread your infestation.  Sorry, but for as long as it takes to treat the infestation you are now BAIT.  Make like Fay Wray and put on a brave face.

3.  If you use 91-100% alcohol in a spray bottle to kill the fuckers please know that you are also increasing your chances of going up in flames in the event of any kind of fire.  Is that really the way you want to go?

I’ve still got some questions about treatment, like what should I use instead of alcohol and is freezing or heating the most effective treatment, but as I’m not sure yet, I’ll just keep plowing through it till I have more information.  I’ll post more at some point later on when I’ve actually got to the other side of this.  I am going to get to the other side of this, right?  RIGHT.

Right.  I’m sure it’ll be just fine….

UPDATED: What worked in the end was my apartment management firing the first exterminator and hiring Isotech. Those guys came in, treated FORTY-ONE units in a ninety-eight unit building, heated all our clothes in a truck outside, and freeze treated our furniture. I couldn’t have paid for that, it was the apartment building that ended up doing it FINALLY. I’m one of the lucky ones, I only got the little buggers at the very end, some people had them YEARS. Can you imagine?!

I tried every folk remedy out there, and honestly, I just don’t think there’s anything for it but paying a shit ton of money to get them treated and treated right. Isotech did the job on my unit, but I prepped like a madwoman for it, and did every last thing they told me to. I’ll never forget it. I’ve been bed bug free for over two years now and it still haunts me.