Sunday, September 20, 2020

Dead Rat

Our greatest neighborhood allies are the Perfects next door. When I bought this house in The Year of Our Lord Eleventy Hundred, I was too intimidated to talk to them because they were, well, perfect. So instead I just spent like three years doing a lot of embarrassing things in front of them without affording myself the opportunity to explain.

A big part of the reason I didn't cultivate much of a relationship with them is because I just assumed they wouldn't want me to bother them with my boring self. This is a thing I assume about everyone always. It's very healthy and for sure not in need of therapy.

Then Jon Skylar Westerdahl moved into my house. Skylar is the opposite of me. It doesn't even occur to him that someone wouldn't be interested in talking to him. And it's not like he's arrogant about it. He doesn't necessarily assume everyone will love him either. He just doesn't care. He barges into the lives of everyone he sees and decides that if they don't want him, it's their burden to get rid of him. 

Within days of him living in this house, he was in the Perfects's''ses' front yard arm-in-arm with all four of them and the dog, laughing and creating memories. Suddenly they were coming to parties at our house and helping us with our gardening. We became "can you water the flowers while we're out of town" neighbors for each other. They texted us immediately after the earthquake earlier this year to make sure we were ok. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Teacher's Pet

I'm a few weeks into this new semester with my First Amendment class at the law school down the street and reader, let me tell you: teaching a class is so weird in These Uncertain Unprecedented Times We're All In This Together.

My university made the decision to require that around 60% of all classes be offered exclusively online this semester. The rest of the classes are taught both in person and over Zoom (for anyone who has symptoms or is otherwise uncomfortable meeting in a group).

The school has some really strict measures in place to keep in-person classes as safe as possible. For example, there is only one class in the building at a time. They also have seats blocked off so students have to sit 6 or more feet apart. Everyone has to wear masks. Everyone is supposed to wipe down their areas before and after. Everyone is supposed to leave the building as soon as class ends.

The school asked me if I was comfortable teaching in person and I said I was because I don't believe in science I'M KIDDING DON'T EMAIL ME. I thought the measures sounded good enough that I wouldn't feel at great risk. Also, I haven't left my house since The Year Of Our Lord Eleventy and I'm starting to lose my mind greatly so I thought it would probably be good for me to have two events a week where I see 14 other humans.

But oh boy. Let me tell you something. It is a challenge to teach to a large mostly-empty room of spread-out people, in a mask, and simultaneously minding the Zoom screen of students at home. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020


Skylar found out his newest rotation would be in pediatrics and this freaked him out. I was honestly surprised that he was so nervous to do this rotation. If you ever meet Skylar, within seconds you sort of get this Barney the dinosaur vibe from himlike maybe he missed his life calling. 

He told me he was nervous because he's "not good with kids," which might be the least self-aware statement I've heard from a human mouth since basically everything I ever said before I came out.

When we go visit my family, my nieces and nephews, MY OWN FLESH AND BLOOD, will literally run around me to jump on him. Their official greeting to me is "where's Skylar?" One time a few years ago we stayed at my sister's house to watch her kids while the parents were out of town and the then five-year-old had a terrible nightmare in the middle of the night. I got up to console him and when I got to the room he sobbed "can you just get Skylar? He's better at making me feel better."

And look. I'm not offended by this. I know my limitations. I am incapable of talking to children under the age of 14. I treat all kids like I'm their accountant and I'm concerned about their financials as we near the end of their fiscal year. 

Skylar? He approaches the world with majestic wonder, and kids can sense that from him. He's excited by the same things that excite them, and he treats them like they're his whole world.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

When It's Easier To Laugh Than Cry

We received an alert or several that a sly wind from the east was coming in. Apparently the air from wherever was about to cross over from Colorado and Wyoming and ultimately hit our quiet little Salt Lake City.

I'm told high winds can result when a huge build-up of cold air hits our mountains and then pours down them into our very lovely valley. 

By early Tuesday morning all of those nannies from Mary Poppins were getting launched directly over my house as we legit had category 3 hurricane winds, which is not a thing I thought I'd say about my 2020 at 4,500 feet elevation, deep in the desert mountains of Utah.

As it turns out, high winds are terrifying. Nearly the entire city immediately lost power. I say "nearly" because somehow our house seemed to be the only place in town that had electricity (it's been a few days since the storm and there are still large parts of the city without power). My friend Emily came over to work from my house after this happened at her house:

Monday, September 7, 2020

Red Vines

On Saturday I started getting notifications to my phone about my Instacart order. This was curious, since I had, in fact, not placed an Instacart order.

I had forgotten that some time ago I gave Skylar the login for my account and it seems he, from the next room over, decided to go ahead and place a Costco order without bothering to consult with me about what we should buy. I suppose that was fine. We've nearly committed personal hate crimes against one another inside a Costco in the past. I'm 100% positive that no relationship exits a Costco in better shape than when it entered.

But you'd think we could engage in online shopping without getting the divorce lawyers on the phone. The bulk of our historic Costco contention really centers around navigating the army-tank carts around entire family reunions in order to gather more cheese than we could ever possibly consume and then stand in a line that wraps around the entire solar system twice just to get back out to the parking lot that stretches to Prince Edward Island.

Speaking of buying more than we could ever use: the last time Skylar did an Instacart order he accidentally bought 2,000 garbage bags. We don't go through a lot of garbage bags. After they were delivered he calculated that at our current rate, these bags could last us up to 35 years. 


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

This New Step of Covid

When The Great Covid began earlier this year I was one of those people who was constantly telling you that actually we really had a lot to learn from this experience and "in a way" it was totally valuable and shouldn't we be kind of grateful that we had to slow down?

Then some months passed and suddenly I found myself screaming in my mind and becoming willing to kill for movie theater popcorn.

Ok, not totally. I still feel those early things about sunshine and rainbows. But the working from home all day every day business has started to wear on me in a way I had not previously anticipated.

When we started all of this, Sky was in regular classes at school and since The Whole World got canceled starting March, he was suddenly sent home, just like I was. So we'd both work from the house every day together, occasionally yelling to each other from neighboring rooms "WHY ARE YOU SO FREAKING LOUD."

Duncan would wander between us, sometimes happy for the company but usually looking more annoyed that we were disrupting his all-day nap, which, to be fair, would be an important part of my schedule as well if I had no bills, someone fed me every meal, and I got to poop outside without shame YES I THINK THAT SOUNDS LIBERATING DON'T @ ME.

So, things were fine and well. I felt like I was sequestered with my family, checking the news and worrying, but at least having someone to worry with.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

When did we get old?

I started teaching a class at the law school down the street from my house last fall. It's a First Amendment class. We read a bunch of cases from the Supreme Court and then we discuss them together. I really loved teaching it last year. I felt like I was getting together twice a week to hang out with my peers and debate some really fascinating issues. 

But y'all.

I don't know. I guess I still think of myself as being the same age as the average law student. 

We were talking about the Newdow case, which is the Pledge of Allegiance case from 2004 where everyone was fighting about kids saying the Pledge at school and the words "under God," etc. We were discussing this idea that a lot of people have argued over the years in First Amendment/religion cases that some things are just so steeped in tradition and so ceremonial that they aren't really a religious act anymore. Nobody really thinks, for example, they are engaging in a religious act when they use money, even though the money says "in God we trust" on it.

So we were talking about this argument in the context of the Pledge--that people never really thought about the words "under God" when they were saying the Pledge before this case/debate happened in 2004. And I was trying to make the point that ironically, this case actually flipped that around because we all started talking about it. I said something like, "if your experience was like mine, before 2004 you probably never really thought about those words at all. Now, every time a group at a rodeo says the Pledge they almost militantly yell that part. So this case actually weakened that argument that the words are only ceremonial."

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Pictures from my Phone & Weekly Distractions

We are so very overdue for a Pictures & Distractions post and I have some fun stuff to share with you. So here it is. 

Matt turned 40. The birthday bash wasn't quite as big as we had planned, but, you know. Pandemic.
Matt turned 40. The birthday bash wasn't quite as big as we had planned, but, you know. Pandemic.

Sunday, August 23, 2020


The first time I visited Skylar's family in Portland I thought maybe the Pacific Northwest was experiencing a famine that hadn't made the news in Utah. We were invited for dinner at the home of one of Skylar's sisters. In my memory, 12 asparagus spears were delicately placed on a white plate and offered to the crowd of 10 people that had gathered. Skylar thinks I'm exaggerating and swears it wasn't that bad. I took offense to his accusation, which is totally unfair as I've never before exaggerated in my life.

As soon as I saw the full dinner offering I made a silent note to myself to venture out later that evening and find myself some more food. The meal was phenomenal. Skylar has two sisters who should be working as head chefs in some pretentious Manhattan kitchen. Instead they waste their skills feeding us.

But although the food was delicious, I stated what I thought to be the obvious to Skylar as soon as we got back to the car afterward: "WHY IS YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY ON A FASTING DIET."

Skylar politely told me I was overreacting, and then he said something I hadn't really ever realized. "Honey, they are normal. You are not. You are incapable of cooking for two or four or even ten people. You only ever cook for fifty."

I told him this is how all of my friends and family are. He agreed. And then it finally hit me that there must still be some major residual Mormon left in me.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Gal Gadot

When I bought my house in 2014 the inspector guy showed up and kicked the tires and then told me the place was unlikely to collapse but that my A/C unit was from The Year of Our Lord 1776. It was actually used as the desk on which Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence. 

I didn't want to buy a new A/C at that time because I priced them out and found out that A/C units actually cost more than the International Space Station and since I had just spent eleventy billion dollars purchasing and furnishing a house, that wasn't going to happen.

Every summer I conduct a full seance in order to get the thing to kick on and start working for the year. I have literally made eternal promises to Satan I cannot possibly keep in order to get my house to cool down every July. I'm terrified of the day I have to explain that to him. It's seriously going to drive a wedge in our friendship. 

As it turns out, although 2020 so far has been a really phenomenal year with next to zero adversity or problems for anyone, I suddenly could not longer put off replacing this thing. I had noticed our power bill was exponentially increasing, the A/C was almost constantly running without ever actually cooling the house much, and whenever it kicked on all of the power in the house would flicker and an angel would die.

So I finally called a company I've previously liked and had them come out to replace it. A few days later two pimple-face teenagers showed up and spent a full day in my basement beating my furnace with weapons of war and loudly discussing which female celebrities were "hot enough" that they would deign to date them. They were on the fence with Gal Gadot. They had a hard time deciding if she could persuade them into a sexual relationship.