A Guide to Bear Proofing: One Woman's Fight to Keep the Bears Away

Apparently there are bears in my neighborhood.  BEARS.  Okay, one bear sighting, but I’m pretty sure this was not a selling feature of the community.  All winter long, I listened to coyotes howl in the nearby woods and thought that was the extent of our wildlife…well, and the daddy long legs who spin their webs in corners that can’t be reached, angled in such a way that no broom handle can fit into the corner to kill them.  But Coyotes and Spiders…I can handle that.  I can’t/don’t handle bears.

A bear sighting has made me realize, I’ve got to take some precautions to protect my family.  Being unprepared is no excuse.  We have to bear proof…now. 

I read up on bears immediately.  I wanted to find out their feeding habits, predators, likes, dislikes, Twitter handles…anything I could use against them in the event of a bear invasion. 

Here are the precautions I’ve taken and maybe you should do the same.

The only thing I did know about bear proofing prior to becoming Wikipedia certified on the subject was that you have to keep food away from them.  That means I had to get my food up off the ground…and quickly. 

I know technically you should hang your food up in a tree or from hooks, or buy bear proof containers (which is apparently not a feature of the Lock and Lock), but I thought using the second floor of our house was basically the same thing.  I spent the morning dragging all of our groceries upstairs.  All the cereal, crackers and pasta noodles are now upstairs in my master bathroom.  I put up a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs for good measure (if I can't figure out how to open a baby gate, a bear's not gonna either) and figure that by encasing the food in the shower, there is an extra layer of protection by having the door there.  

I did leave a box of Spanish rice and a can of fat free refried beans in the pantry in the off chance that the bear did come in the house.  Perhaps he would think that was all we had and leave quickly, keying our cars on the way down the driveway for having such lame food. Also, since I don’t like Spanish rice and refried beans I thought this would be better than throwing it away and being wasteful.  It’s the circle of life, people.

After that, I figured it was time to get educated.

Allegedly, bears have no natural predators…except humans.  Their main hunting predators were Native American groups who used their teeth and claws and such for ceremonial dressing.  After a failed attempt at getting my yard declared a national reservation to attract hunting parties and being told I was culturally insensitive I decided to go another route. It wasn’t a great plan anyway because any Native American group agreeing to live in my front yard to scare off bears would have to pack up and move over a few feet to guest parking every time we wanted to back out of the driveway since I live in a townhouse and technically have no front yard.

I thought about an alternative to this plan and learned bears’ other natural predators are other bears.  Not having any real bears on hand, I took one of Sam’s Berenstain Bears books to Kinkos and had bear-sized cardboard cutouts made of the whole Berenstain family and set them up in my driveway. 

I figured that in terms of dominance, a bear family already living there and civilized enough to be wearing clothes and accessories would certainly speak volumes to the other bears in the area.  After all, bears in clothes who are standing in front of a home is an indicator of superiority...or at least that they have a larger line of credit at their disposal. 

These bears obviously have a mortgage and probably a big fat 401k.  The child bears obviously go to a private school…which ain’t cheap and clearly, they’ve won over the neighborhood. Yep, this should speak to the wild bears' feeling of inferiority and send them on their way…maybe down the street to Rita’s where they will drown their bear sorrows in frozen custard and wonder why everyone seems to have more money than they do. 

Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work.  All I can say is that if our home is attacked, I’d like to hear the HOA defend its stance on extravagant and gaudy yard decoration in court.  That is all I’m, legally, allowed to say about that. 

Oh and remember that every animal doesn’t get the same lawn display rights as flamingos, deer and bunnies.  The fight will never be over until a person can display a fake bear in their yard without persecution (and strongly worded letters).

And since the HOA is against large cut-outs of wild animals, I’m guessing they would object to our having a pet Cougar even though I intend to keep it in our fenced-in patio and no one would be the wiser.  Cougars are not predators of bears, but they are competitors.  I think the layered strategy of a Cougar in the backyard and food upstairs in the master bath would be too much work for the bears and force him to move on to other townhomes in the area.  Alas, I was forced to scrap the Cougar idea as well given the red tape involved with wild animal purchases. 

In doing additional research I learned that bears are attracted to people who speak nicely to them and that people should only show aggression in order to dissolve tense bear situations.  In real life, this does not work when dealing with human road rage, however apparently bears are very sensitive and their love language is words of affirmation. 

Since I don’t intend to stand outside and engage any bears in conversation, I’ve decided to find a symbol that let’s the bears know that my household means business.  Sam and I practice scowling from the window upstairs, and I have to say, that my little three year old is intimidating.  We practice hours on end and even though Sam cries the whole time and begs to go watch Super Why, I know he will thank me one day for teaching him this important life skill.

I thought long and hard about what I could use to really communicate that our house is an aggressive one and not welcoming of bears and I think I came up with the greatest solution possible.  I have had all the sod removed from my side yard and in its place an Ultimate Fighting Cage is being built.  This way the bears will know that professional fighters live and train here and they will move on - not wanting to "go there". In my mind, there is nothing more intimidating than messing with an ultimate cage fighter…nothing, that is, except Vin Diesel. 

This led me to get a cut-out of Vin Diesel.  And who, other than bears, doesn’t love Vin Diesel?

Don’t worry, I am being smarter with this one.  I’ve decorated the perimeter of Vin Diesel with red, white and blue streamers and fastened him to the side of the house outside of our master bedroom window.  I did this so that the bears will think they just woke him up and he grabbed his gun and fourth of July streamers and is coming out the window to kick some bear butt.

I preempted the HOA’s sure-to-come strongly worded letter, by reminding them that holiday decorations are allowed and since its close to the 4th of July and Vin Diesel is a national symbol of action movies and he played a character who got killed in a movie about a war for our freedom that it would be UNAMERICAN (yes I all capp-sed that) to request me, a veteran (okay I lied about that) to take it down. 

I made sure that I used the words “emotional distress” in my letter…a lot.

Luckily, the form of legal action that the HOA is choosing, will take a good portion of bear season to organize and round up witnesses and such so for now, Vin Diesel stays. 

All in all, I'm pretty proud of my quickly gained expertise on the subject of bear-proofing.  All it takes is a few extra steps and you too can have the peace of mind that I have in knowing my family will not fall victim to senseless and random bear violence.


Last time, I was a semi-finalist, today I am a finalist.  One day, maybe I'll place!  Click the ribbon to read the award winner.  It's a slightly altered version of "A Victorious Loss".

Go to Bed Mad...Please!

I have a lot of marital advice to give.  I think when you are an expert at something, you should share your expertise…plain and simple.  Give what you can give and what I can give, is remarkable wisdom about a topic that has eluded so many. 

Some advice I’d like to give out about marriage to all my Decent Enough Women includes:

1.) Very early in your marriage, dye his favorite shirt pink…it will save you years of having to do his laundry.  No one is going to divorce you over your lack of laundry skills so set the expectation now that you are incapable of laundering things properly.  In a few years, when he starts to think you’re capable of doing laundry again, wash his favorite belt while still looped into his pants.  It will work like Windex to ants and stop him in his tracks. 

2.) Shave your legs so infrequently, that when you do, he thinks something is up.  You have to keep your man guessing.  He’ll spend hours trying to figure out what you have up your sleeve.

3.) Finally, overall, I recommend just keeping his expectations really low.  He thinks you’re going to cook every night.  Don’t.  Cook every third night.  Sure, it will be rocky at first.  Just like the army, you have to break them down before you can build them back up to your liking. 

It’s so worth it when one night, you turn off The Real Housewives long enough to throw a Stouffer’s lasagna in the oven and cook some Texas toast.  He’ll take you into his arms and declare what a lucky husband he is.  

That’s how you’ll know it’s working.

I think the most valuable advice I can give to all married people out there has to do with amending advice we were given when we got married.  Every married person we spoke with while we were engaged, would pat us on the arm and declare (as if it were easy) that we should not, under any circumstances, go to bed mad. 

“Don’t go to bed mad.” They would say.
“Apologize before bed.” We would hear. 
“Don’t let the sun set on your anger.” A movie I saw, but can’t remember the name of, spoke to me.*

We were totally on board.  We never asked what dreaded thing would happen to us if we dared slip into a slumber while still stewing over a first-year fight, that let’s face it, was going to be over something like a Christmas card picture or the temperature in the apartment.  Perhaps it might have been over someone’s favorite shirt being dyed pink.  Whatever.  The details are not important (to me).  The point is, I was not going to be a statistic…we would go to bed happy, or we would not go to bed at all. 

I had consumed the proverbial Kool-Aid on that topic and since I was a rules follower, we were going to do what we were told. 

So with that information, here is an example of what one of our fights looked like then:

At 2AM EST, we were sitting on opposite ends of the living room, my eyes were red as I wondered who this man was that I married.  His were spinning in a permanent roll, that I wasn’t sure he could stop without some sort of medical intervention as he dreamed of a world without women with emotional outbursts.  Oh, and there was silence…a lot of it. 

The fight had begun five hours earlier over something as important as the thermostat and had now escalated into something much more personal.  We were fooling ourselves into thinking a sentence existed in the universe that could be said that would magically make our anger disappear, our resentment vanish and our dreams about driving our cars in opposite directions until the gas ran out seem silly and ridiculous.  

If only one of us could think of that one blasted sentence. 

One thing was certain, we were not going to bed until someone thought of that sentence.  The great sentence of compromisation (again, no it’s not a word) that would make us forgive each other, and we could go to bed “knowing” we “did it right” and oh how the well-meaning people before me would be so proud of us. 

We mumbled apologies of some type, eventually and went to bed.  

The next morning, we were still mad and now sleep deprived and somehow the apologies we forced ourselves to make meant nothing because we made them so we could get some sleep. 

A year into our marriage, we decided that this bit of wisdom wasn’t working for us. 

Let me give you an in-depth mathematical and scientific analysis of why this didn’t work, see below:

1. Mad People + Sleep Deprivation (divided by) Dumb Argument = Saying More Stupid Stuff

2. Saying More Stupid Stuff + 2AM EST = This Fight Will Last A Month

So we gave our fights a “Go To Bed Mad Makeover”.  Here is the mathematical explanation for this:

1. Dumb Argument + Going to Bed Mad = Avoidance of Saying Stupid Stuff at 2AM EST

2. Avoidance of Saying Stupid Stuff at 2AM EST + Sleep = Don’t Care About Dumb Argument Anymore


3. Don’t Care About Dumb Argument Anymore = Someone Buys Chicken Biscuits for Breakfast.

Sometimes people say, "you never know…one of you might not wake up in the morning and you don't want to have gone to bed mad." First of all, yes you will wake up the next morning.  Second of all, yes you will wake up the next morning. Thirdly, why are these people not waking up?  Who did this first happen to that has made it a 'thing' to say to young engaged people?  And, why do they tell this to newlyweds who are statistically not likely to die in their sleep?  Maybe they are being abducted by aliens...and if one of us was abducted by aliens after going to bed mad, I guarantee neither one of us is still thinking about the thermostat.  

And finally, when you take the following into consideration as it relates to importance, it just brings it home:

4. Potential for Chicken Biscuits > (is greater than) Risk of One of You Not Being There in the Morning Because You Were Abducted by Aliens

I don’t really think you can argue with science and math…or chicken biscuits. 

Clapping from the Curb

It's just a typical Saturday night.  As usual, I'm sitting in my chair, listening to Shawn Mullins (and by that, I mean my Glee mix) and working on that Oscar acceptance speech that I'm going to make one day thanks to The Secret.  Don't roll your eyes.  It works.  Just yesterday I was imagining in my mind how much I didn't want to get up and fix my son something to drink.  I mean I was really envisioning how much I didn't want to get off the couch...I could feel myself becoming one with the cushions.  When I opened my eyes I saw that Sam was spraying his water gun directly into his mouth.

Problem solved.  The universe came together to hydrate my son while I stayed on the couch.  That's the power of The Secret.

I was focusing this week on how hard I work at being mediocre.  Really.  I am one of those people who works just hard enough and I never set any goals.  No goals.  No work.  No disappointment.  I see no problem with this. 
Furthermore, because I'm anti-goals, I tend to get annoyed with people who accomplish things.  Like really annoyed.  I hate the Rudy story.  I resent those Jamaican bobsledders.  Every time that gymnast from the 1996 Olympics shares her story of triumph, I'm all, "blah, blah, blah, blah."

All that motivation and perseverance and not taking "no" for an answer...ugh.  I just don't have it in me. 

I find that anyone who accomplishes goals, shares one of two answers to the "how" of their accomplishment.  It's one of two extremes.  They either did something really hard that I will never do, or they did something so simple that their accomplishment can only be credited to a complete and total fluke...and flukes don't happen to me.

I call it, "I would never go to all that trouble" vs. "This would never happen to me"

For example, when I was young, I read Where the Red Fern Grows. 

Don't cry, I'm only going to talk about the beginning of the book.

That boy saved up for like a year for those dogs.  After I read that, I thought, "That is a great story of working hard for what you really want. I should be more like that." Sadly, the truth about me is, I would never save up for a year for dogs.  I would probably have tried.  I might have even made an envelope for it a la Dave Ramsey and hidden it in my Wonderfile, but the truth is I would have raided that Redbone Coonhound hunting dog fund as soon as I heard about an upcoming Kohls 3-day event without even a twinge of guilt.  In short, I would never go to all that trouble.

An example of a fluke would be the guy that found two abandoned Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs in an abandoned well with tags on that bore the address of his own house, and this would never happen to me. 

Yes, I had to Google the breed of dog in the book, but that's so not the point.  Pay attention because here are some accomplishments and the two annoying extreme secrets to their achievements that I feel like happen to everyone else.

You might ask...
How did you get that dream job?

I would never go to all this trouble...
 "I went to school for 15 years, then took an $8/hour job and slowly worked my way up by tackling 90 hour weeks and babysitting my bosses kids on weekends for free.  I also incorporated regular meditation cycles and studied the power of positive thinking."

This would never happen to me...
"So weird. The CEO is one of my Twitter followers. 

You might ask...
How did you write that book?

I would never go to all this trouble... 
"I lived in a Super 8 for like three years eating nothing but Spam and drinking sweet tea while crying nonstop and forcing myself to write.  It was painful and I had no hot water and was on a shaving strike until it was finished, but I finally got it done and in three more years of doing nothing but sending query letters and making phone calls, someone finally wanted to publish it."  

This would never happen to me...
"I was clipping coupons when an idea hit me and I just started writing and didn't stop until my kids got up from their nap 49 minutes later and I was done.  I had an interested publisher on the phone before I was done making dinner." 

You might ask...
How do you make so much money working from home?

I would never go to all this trouble...
"I am up at 3AM every morning making sales calls.  I stop only for bathroom breaks and make calls straight through until midnight.  It's so worth it to stay in your pajamas." 

This would never happen to me...
"I received a seven figure settlement when I was eleven."

You might ask...
How did you win the lottery?

I would never go to all this trouble...
"I have spent $75 on the lottery every week for the last 25 years.  It finally paid off."  

This would never happen to me...
"I didn't even remember that I had bought a ticket when I found it in my coat pocket two days after the numbers were called."

You might ask...
How did you lose weight?

I would never go to all this trouble...
"I did interval workouts for 4 hours at a time with 7 minutes of rest between in 22 hour cycles for 30 days...stopping only 2 hours to sleep.  I also I had to change my diet to include only lemon water and communion wafers."

This would never happen to me...
"I gave up Peeps.  It was crazy. It all just melted off."

This alone motivates me to continue my unbroken streak of mediocrity.  Besides, as Will Rogers once said, "We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by."

Something Might Be Wrong With Me

This weekend can best be summed up by the following pictures. I had some severe lapses in judgement and I would like to confess them to you now.

On Saturday, I thought it was a great idea to load up two dogs and my child in 97 degree weather and take them to the playground five minutes before nap time.  
It was not.  

The dogs fled and forgot their names, my child cried at things like pine straw and drops of water and I spent my time sweating like a hooker in church.  

No offense to church going hookers.  You go, girl(s).

Then, I decided at the family reunion to let this happen.

I have these moments where I am a really protective mom and I stop Samuel before he does anything remotely dangerous, but then I suddenly decide that he is going to have to learn some lessons the hard way.  For instance, I am fearful of letting him touch his toe in the ocean because I'm afraid of a current dragging him out to sea, however, I apparently think there is great educational value to be gained from drumming on a gas tank with sticks.  

You have to really want to see the value.

But perhaps the biggest indicator that something is not right with me is this. 

I gardened.  

Right now you are thinking, "She had me convinced at the gas tank drum solo." Well, the thing is that this picture more than any of the others is the most out-of-character.  

I am a card carrying, bug hating, sunshine fearing indoor girl, but for whatever reason, I decided to start a container garden...yesterday.  You should have seen the smirk on Andy's face when I shared the idea with him.  

I know to the master gardener that these few pots are unimpressive, it was also unimpressive to the 3 year old who just wanted to bury his army men in the potting soil, but this is a big step outside of my comfort zone and I'm quite proud of the time I spent putting it together. 

Check me out.  I'm so rugged now. 

Then I found out how much I have to water them and now I would value any iPhone apps you know of that have "Water Your Plants" push notifications.  

Also, I guess I have to take them to the beach with me for a week.