Lighting a fuse all willy-nilly is no way to win a potato salad war…


Mornin’ all.

My kids decided to sack out in the living room last night so they could have a summer evening Netflix marathon while the neighbors set off fireworks in inexplicably random intervals.

…hang on a sec. I’ve mentioned my neighbors and their fireworks before, and I don’t want there to be misconceptions of where I stand on the pyrotechnics debate. I friggin’ love fireworks. I’ll be even more New Hampshire and say they’re wicked awesome. Live free or die, and do it under the pretty sparkles of burning chemicals. My problem with the neighbors isn’t that they set off fireworks.

My problem is that they do such a poor job of it.

I know NH has far more lax fireworks laws than most states, so for those of you who don’t have the ability to walk a quarter mile down the street and enter the wonderland that is a discount fireworks warehouse, I’ll explain the basics of home fireworks displays. Because when you buy a sack of fireworks to entertain your friends, you’ve got a responsibility to do it right.

**This isn’t about safety. I should hope you’d know to have people watch from a safe location, and not look down the tube of a roman candle to see why it didn’t light. This isn’t about that kind of responsibility because I don’t think my readers even need me to say how dangerous fireworks can be if you don’t handle them properly. This is about the cadence of the display, the way to make the fireworks themselves shine, and the way to be a hero in the neighborhood.**

So you’re having a summer BBQ and want to make it more special than the one the Hendersons threw last week. Since you aren’t going to beat Marge’s potato salad (and let’s face it, who could?), you’ll want to have something the Henderson’s didn’t. Bouncy houses cost too much, there’s no way you could afford lobster for everyone, and the last time you rented the mobile petting zoo, the goats ate your wife’s begonias and you’re STILL hearing about it. Clearly the ONLY path is fireworks!

The first step is the actual purchase. Newbies will get lured in by the big fancy displays at the front of the store. Usually these will be large, flashy-looking fireworks with colorful labels, either in a patriotic theme OR depicting landing UFOs. They won’t be the highest priced option, but they will be big enough give you visions of your friends and family looking up from their red solo cups of beer and going “oooh” in unison.

Skip those.

“But Bethie, this one has an American flag driven right through the alien crash site!!! TEAM AMERICA!”

SKIP IT! Walk past. Resist. Why? Because while those are good, and maybe you’ll end up getting one in the end, it’s the first part of the display that gets people in the mood. For that, you want bulk. Walk past the grand finale temptations and spend the majority of your money on a sack of smalls. You have to warm the crowd up. You can’t just rush to the grand finale of the US kicking alien ass in a green showery burst of flame. If you do that, you’ll be broke, people will be disappointed, and all that money you spent on the hamburgers with all the fixin’s and the keg will be for naught. You’re battling Marge’s potato salad here. Don’t grab the first bit of flash you see. You want a lot, and for that, you need to start small.

Fountains are a great way to start a display. They are cone-shaped ground fireworks that shoot a spray of different colored sparks up a few feet. Some crackle, some pop, some change colors. Generally, though, they’re bright enough to draw the attention of the crowd.

Then there are cute novelty fireworks. Some people shun these, but I tell you what, they really suck in a crowd. These can be little cardboard cars that zoom around when the firework is lit, or the classic jumping jack that pops and zips for a minute before it fizzles out.

My kids have a favorite, and when we can afford fireworks, we get some…the farting chicken. Hey, they’re teenage boys…what did you expect? The farting chicken fireworks consist of a cardboard chicken with a balloon in the butt. You light the firework, it does its thing, and the heat and exhaust from it fills a balloon, which then slowly lets out a bbllppfft noise. The farting chicken. Exactly what it sounds like.

When we were kids, my dad would always get spinners and tanks for the 4th of July. The tanks were just that…little cardboard tanks. You lit the fuse and stepped back and the force of the firework would send the little tank zooming and spinning down the road. Those rocked. It was especially fun when they’d get a bit wonky, when the firework would slip from it’s position and change the course of the tank, sending it turning and zooming right for us. Nothing beat the sheer exhilaration of kicking off my flip flops to gain traction as I raced down the pine-needle covered campground road to get away from a firework tank attack.

Spinners, too. Those are neat because they swirl, and everyone likes to watch something swirl. They’re round, with a series of fireworks around the outside placed in such a way that one will light the other in sequence, pushing like a little propulsion jet and sending the whole deal spinning. They come in all different varieties, but basically do the same thing. Some you have to nail to a tree or a post. You pin them in the center, and by doing so, those can get spinning so fast that it becomes a bright, shiny blur. Some dangle on strings. When we were kids, we used to have spinners on sticks, like individual ones that you’d hold like a sparkler. After the spinner exhausted the final firework, there would be a pop and the dead firework you were holding would open to reveal a paper lantern. Those were the best. Hands down.

I looked for those in the Warehouse of Awesome down the way, but was told by the cashier they don’t carry them for safety reasons. I suppose a product marketed towards kids that lights up, spins with fire, and then explodes, all while being held by a skinny stick is probably not going to be a big seller these days. Bummer.

Of course, we also had Jarts as kids, sooo…

Anyway, ground fountains and novelties. They’re only a couple bucks a package, and you can use them to really warm up the crowd. Plus, you can shoot them off to great effect even before full dark. Reel ’em in early and draw out the experience. That’s the goal. Can Marge’s potato salad do THAT? I didn’t think so. Get smalls, and THEN get some of the other stuff.

So the crowd liked all the smalls. They cackled like children at the farting chicken, as we knew they would. The spinner nailed to the little foot bridge kinda sorta started a small fire, but the mad dash to toss drinks on it and stamp it out became a fun audience involvement experience, so even that worked out in the end. But you can’t get cocky! Remember, you’ve just warmed them up. After it starts to get dark, you want to move away from the novelty fireworks. Stash any you haven’t set off away for another time and shift to the small aerials and more fountains.

“Aren’t the fountains played out by now?”

Hell no! Have you ever seen them? They’re mesmerizing! You can’t play them out. Besides, they come in all colors and sizes and, as we said, they are cheap. Besides, they’re only ground displays. You know exactly where they are going to be, and you know you’ve got a couple minutes to safely go into the field and set up your aerials. *taps head* Trust me. I know what I’m talking about here.

This is the time to set off some bottle rockets and roman candles. They are a great, inexpensive way to tell if it’s getting dark enough for the big guns yet. Mix up your order of firing for them, too. Don’t buy two packs of roman candles and set them off one right after the other. Plan it out a little, alternate between firework types. Keep the crowd guessing.

Once it’s full dark and the mosquitoes are really out like a mutha and someone’s toddler has had way too much cake and sun and is starting to make everyone glance towards their cars and itch to get away from the brat, it’s time to shut him up by dragging out your grand finale level of fireworks. Those need no more pomp. You’ve already done all the work! You simply need to light the fuse and walk away. Make sure you get one with a very long fuse so you can take your time walking away as if you don’t have a care in the world, James Dean style. It might seem like a good idea to slowly put on sunglasses as you’re doing it, but resist. The grand finale firework is enough to cap off the great night. Sunglasses would just be gratuitous.

You do it right, and people will forget you burned the hamburgers. They won’t mind the fact that they itch all through the next day because you didn’t buy the citronella tiki torches to ward off the vampires of the bug world. Hell, they’ll even start to remember that Marge put capers in her potato salad. CAPERS. You get the order right and people will remember the evening as THE neighborhood BBQ of the summer.

Now, I might have had to explain this to you folks who don’t have the good fortune of living in a state that embraces the wonderment of backyard pyrotechnics. However, to any NH native, this should be basic knowledge. Anyone who walks into an Emporium of Explosives should already know what to do. My sisters and I knew all this by the time we were ten. Ten year old me could have done such a better job with the neighbor’s fireworks last night.

And THAT’S why the neighbors’ fireworks nights annoy me so much. The waste. The lack of flow. There’s no planning, no showmanship, no finesse. They just light up whatever whenever at random intervals with no rhyme or reason.

*shakes my head* What an abuse of power.

The kids like watching them, though, even though I think they’re secretly rooting for the neighborss to misfire another into the big pine tree like they did on the 5th. I let the boys stay up to watch and then sack out in the living room. I had to play “the floor is lava” in order to reach my computer. I don’t know how I didn’t step on a kid or spill my coffee on them. I guess I’m a “floor is lava” master.

I’ve got an early appointment this morning. I like early. I do early well. It’s much better to get it done and then you aren’t waiting. Have I ever mentioned I hate waiting?

After that, we’ve got to get our asses back to town to show a car we’re selling for my Mum. She’s coming up on a big move and her vehicle must remain in NH. It’s not the first car I’ve sold, and I priced it to sell fast to get her some cash for the move. Holy smokes, the interest has been staggering.

I said it’s not the first car I’ve sold, and it’s not. However, what I personally get, like, and work on are old German diesels. I love a diesel engine, especially pre-90s where there are no computers trying to complicate the car. They are so simple in design and function, and damn near bullet proof. However, we live in a climate that sees hot, muggy summers and icy, cold winters. The back and forth makes them testy, and they aren’t an easy sell. They’ve got rabid, absolutely RABID devotees…but they’re few and far between.

Because of this, the cars I’ve sold in the past have taken awhile to actually pull out of my drive with a new owner behind the wheel. We got lots of tire-kickers looking for that elusive one-owner grandma car, or dealers who want to buy the brand but not the problems that come with it at less than half of what we’re asking.

Mum has a Jeep. I tell you what. The amount of instant interest in the car, even with it’s clearly stated problems, makes me think I should be restoring and reselling SUVs instead.

KIDDING. Gug, have you ever tried to work on one of those things when there’s a problem in the electrical system? Or emissions? Or ABS? NO THANKS.

My husband is off work today. I popped the ad up on craigslist, and set up test drive times with people specifically when he’ll be here. I always do that.

“Bethie, aren’t YOU selling the car?”

Yes, but my husband is the one that’s a scary bastard. I’m a marshmallow…a marshmallow who reads the news. Look, there’s gender equality and female empowerment and all…and then there’s sheer stupidity. I’ll work on the cars just as much as my guy. More, on body work and electrical. But if someone is going to deal with a stranger and take that potential ax murder on a test drive, it’s going to be the one that’s intimidating enough to make the ax murderer sheepishly hide his weapon behind his back and slink away, NOT the one with a goofy grin who is clueless to the target on her back. That’s not sexist. That’s just smart.

So I’ll do the talking, I’ll be the up front one and answer questions. And he can put on his terrifying expression and take the hopefully-scared-enough-to-behave craigslist responder on the test drive. I’ll take the cash, though.

You wouldn’t believe how good I am at that part.

Thus concludes a Muse for Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Fingers crossed the Jeep sells fast. I’ve got a ton of stuff I need to do to get ready for my yard sale this weekend. And by “ton” I mean “all”, since I haven’t even started to gather stuff to sell. I KNOW I KNOW. Sheesh. I’ll get it done…

The fly in my ointment is flashing me a peace sign…


Mornin’ all.

I’m up so early today that I can’t tell if the pink in the sky is from the sunrise, or if I caught the tail end of the sunset. Coffee’s good, though. Somehow I managed to make a decent brew. Dumb luck, and I know not to get my hopes up that I’m taking a coffee-making upswing. Still, it is nice not to add to the rot gut I’ve got.

I couldn’t sleep. Too much on the mind. I’m stressed, as much as I hate that term. It gets overused by people who want to think their lives are much more complicated than they really are. Normally I take a fairly calm, easygoing approach to living.

Look, in life, crap happens. If you’re not in the middle of a whirlwind at the moment, wait a sec. That’s just how things go and it’s nothing personal. The cosmos is not out to get you, there’s no grand conspiracy to dump it on your head extra deep. The wheel spins and lands on whatever and you get dragged into the mix and that’s it. Same thing that happens to everyone else.

“Bethie, you’re sounding a bit cliche at the moment. Life sucks and then you die, huh?”

NO. Boy do I hate that expression. Life does NOT suck. If life sucked, then when you’re going through the tough times, flowers would lose their smell, babies wouldn’t give you that cute, trusting smile that feels like a hug, sunsets wouldn’t be able to take your breath away…

I’m saying that along with all the beautiful ups, you’re GOING to have some downs. You WILL have some trouble. In inevitable. We live in a fluid world, surrounded by 7 billion other people on a rock that’s winging through space at breakneck speeds between trillions of other careening chunks of dense mineral. Our daily lives are spent in an eddy of chaos. It’s impossible to always have things be smooth sailing. And if you can’t realize this and go with that flow, life’s always going to be hard.

I’m not usually one for stress unless I’m facing a huge question mark. The one thing that can get me is not knowing, not being able to plan. I am a person that likes to be able see the situation, then sit down and figure a way through. Sometimes, though, there are so many variables that the big scary question mark takes over and I end up watching the ass end of a sunset because I can’t sleep.

“FML.” That’s another expression I despise. For any who may not know, that means Fuc* My Life. I hate hate HATE that expression. People are so quick to damn a beautiful gift.

“Um, I think you’re taking it too seriously.”

I’m not.

“It’s just a silly little saying.”

But that’s the thing, it’s really not. It’s going to the extreme over every little thing. It’s a pervasive problem in society. One little hiccup and you’re ready to say screw life and throw in the towel. It’s NOT just a silly little saying. It’s a sad commentary on the lack of value we put on life. If a cancer patient doesn’t say FML over cancer, you shouldn’t jump to that extreme when your cell phone falls into the toilet.

I have never, ever used the expression “FML”. Even though my brain’s spinning right now and I can’t sleep and have internalized my stress enough to give me the seventh level of Hell for a stomach, I love life. I’m glad for every day I get.

“Then the rest is just details.”


*self-deprecating smirk* Hey, what can I say? I’m a complex individual with many layers.


Fine. I’m a control freak, then. Tomato, tomahto.

I really DO usually take life as it comes, though. I just require new information as quickly as it’s available so I can incorporate it, make a new path, and get started. I’m not one to whine and cry when something happens, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to take the bull by the horns and steer as well as I can. I’ll gladly go with the flow…I just don’t want to do it without a sturdy set of oars.

Ooh, that almost sounded like some deep writing right there. Either that or I’m so tired and hopped up on caffeine that I’m getting punchy…

Complicating the current issue is the possibility of a move in the future. I mean, packing up a household of six people (some of us maybe kinda tending a bit towards being hoarders) and finding a new place to live. Any regular readers of this blog will know I can’t stand the thought of going somewhere new.

“Oh Bethie. I don’t think you understand the ‘go with the flow’ concept…”

I do! I’m not complaining about the situation, I’m just saying it’s got me twisted in knots inside. That’s the difference. This isn’t something that’s “unfair” or “happening to me”. There’s no one to be angry with, no pouting in the corner. To me, that’s “going with the flow”. I accept that this is happening and want to make a new plan that helps my family follow the unexpected road we’re now on.

And THAT’S the problem. There’s so much up in the air that making a plan right at this moment is impossible. I’m spinning my wheels and that drives me up a wall. I am not a very patient person, if you couldn’t tell. Waiting is not what Bethies do best.

Add to that the fact that I’ve had my roots planted in this house for ten years now, and the thought of moving is like standing on the edge of a huge chasm. There’s a thrill of something new…and the terror of not knowing what that “new” thing will be.

Also, how it might go down is not feeling very pleasant at the moment. I sense a confrontation with landlords on the horizon, and I can’t stand confrontation. They have some valid points, but so do we. I tell you what, if I could just pay out the rest of our yearly obligation and find somewhere else in, say, a few months or so…that would be great. Time to get the duckies in a row. But that might just not happen. My ducks all may decide to swim willy-nilly and I’ll have to scramble to herd them back together.

…can you herd ducks?

“So it boils down to money problems?”


Well, yes. Money would help, and I’m going to be trying to scrape up some extra. But it’s more than that. Maybe things have been building with the landlords for awhile. Looking back, I can see where we let stuff slide we shouldn’t have, and they did, too. We’ve had a half-assed loosey-goosey relationship. Admittedly it’s not the ideal tenant/landlord situation.

Scratch that. It *IS*…until things go wrong.

So I need to make some cash to help get ahead of bills so we can start stashing away for either security on a new place, or a down payment on a junker house to buy that we can fix up. One thing living here has taught me is how to fix things.

My older sister, she knows me well. She knew I’d need a focus, a way to start some kind of plan, so she went online and found a realty site with listings in my area, affordable listings at that. She’s great. Man I wish she’d move back up north and be my life coach. Or at least organize my closet for me.

Anyway, on that site I found a bunch of homes that actually look really promising for someone willing to put blood, sweat, and tears into them. I’d own a piece of crap house. I know I can do the work, and at least I’d own it. Right now we rent a piece of crap house. At least if we own it, we don’t have to wait for five months for permission to fix the hot water heater.

I got looking on that site. Hoo baby are there some neat, rundown places out there. There’s one I like that’s in a different town, but has over 15 acres of woodlands with it. 15 acres! There’s one here in town that’s in much better shape, only 1 acre of land, though, but a two car garage with an extra car bay. There’s another in town that’s slightly better than that, needs nothing to fix up. And all of these with our credit will be way less a month than what we’re paying now if we can come up with a down payment and qualify for the loans.

That’s the excitement part. I actually can feel a tug of glee at the idea of moving into a roached-out wreck that’s ours and making it great with my own hands. For the first time, like, EVER, a fresh start sounds great. If we could figure out a way to extricate ourselves from this money pit…

I suppose the apprehension and rot gut is from trying to figure out how to get there.

Hey, at least I have smart ass kids to crack me up and make me laugh along the way. And if we’ve got to move, the teen behemoths will come in very handy.

That’s it! I just figured it out!

We didn’t get complacent….we were just waiting for our workforce to grow. We were secretly brilliant this whole time.

Okay, NOW I feel better.

Thus concludes a coffee-fueled ramble for Monday, July 8, 2014. Today I will start the long and complex process of getting things ready for a yard sale. I’m sure you’ll get an earful after I pare down the piles…

All quiet on the wild western front…


Mornin’ all.

There’s a dank feeling in the air this morning. I feel it in me bones. I almost need a sweater. God, I sound like a little old lady, huh?

As I’m typing this, I’m uploading the second book in my Great Mother series. BOOM.

…er…only about three months after I planned to get it out. *embarrassed face* Ah well. It got out, didn’t it? Right! And I can’t believe there would be too many people who really took that little blip at the end of the first one seriously.

**If you happen to be one of those people who really were waiting for this book, first…wow…thank you! And second, I’m actually really sorry I didn’t meet my own deadline. If it’s any consolation, the third one is already written and should be out pretty fast.**

While I was waiting for it to come back from final editing, I decided to kill some time by firing up a video game, Red Dead Redemption. Whoo baby, you want to talk about good games? For those reading this who know it *fist bump*. For those who don’t…

Have you ever watched a really good wild west movie or tv show, or read Lonesome Dove and thought, “Man! I wish I could get on a bronc and rustle up some cattle and join a posse to track down a lily-livered scoundrel and hop a train and shoot me some cougars for the pelts and lope around the unsettled country side while tumbleweeds roll across my path?” That’s what this game is. All of that, and so much more.

It’s one of those games where you can choose to strictly follow the story line, or go off on your own for side quests and general roaming. I like those games. They pack a lot of value into game. Yeah, yeah, I know the old argument, so save your breath.

“I can’t. I’m a gamer, Bethie. I think it’s impossible for me to let it go.”

*sigh* Fine. Go ahead and…

“HOW CAN YOU CALL THAT VALUE?? It’s just a cheap ploy to artificially extend the hours of game play with meaningless little side tasks that serve absolutely no purpose or plausible function to the story line. You’re falling for it. You’re willingly taking the bait and being a mindless drone who wants to keep hitting the same button for literally no reward.”

…are you done?

“And how can you even pretend to be okay with the hunting aspect of the game? I mean, seriously, YOU are the reason that the buffalo and mountain lion populations dipped to such dangerously low levels. The amount of bloody, skinned bodies you leave in your wake…for what? Nothing. Not a single thing! You can sell them to buy more ammo to kill more animals…GAMER LOGIC!!”

*tap**tap* Go on. Get it allll out of your system.

“See, what really kills me is that you think that by adding these stupid time wasters, the folks over at Rockstar actually made a long and comprehensive game. They didn’t. They simply added a shit load of mini games to keep you from seeing that they ran out of quality ideas to make the story longer and better.”

I heard you take a breath. Does that mean you’re done?


Ah, there we go. Feel better? Now, let me address your concerns.

I know.

A lot of games use these type of mindless tricks to make the game feel longer. In Red Dead, you’ve got hunting challenges, silly survivalist challenges that see a hardened bounty hunter stop to pick flowers (FLOWERS!!), side quests about cannibals, endless bounty hunting jobs for extra cash…. As you do these things, you do rank up, and your abilities do grow. However, I am pretty sure even if I did none of the extra challenges and none of the ranking up, I could beat the game just fine. I get money. I get extra outfits (boy, does Rockstar make you work for those!). I get mindless and ridiculous rewards that really make no measurable difference in the game.

I know this. I get this. And guess what?

I don’t care.

I GET TO HUNT COUGARS!! I get to heya my horse next to a herd of buffalo. I get to lope on down to the river and hope to heroically stop an assault on a poor little lady in a covered wagon along the way. I get to rustle up a band of outlaws, and look kick ass in any hard-earned outfit while doing it. When in my life will that ever actually happen?

I live in NH. The closest thing we have to a tumbleweed is when the maples sneeze on a windy day and the whirligigs create little tornadoes in the streets. I don’t own a horse, and never would…

**clarification: I would if the zombie apocalypse happened and gas was in short supply, but ONLY because a bicycle is ineffective for zombie evasion, especially when I’m panicked because ZOMBIES**

…and even if I did own a horse, I wouldn’t ride it. I would never, ever roam a countryside and shoot animals to skin for sale because…just no. And ME? In a POSSE?? BAHAHAHAHA! Yeah. The bad guys would point and laugh.

I would run around and collect flowers, though. That’s pretty spot on.

My point is that I don’t care if they just put these silly elements in to give you more time with the game. That’s what I like. I LIKE all that side stuff. I like to escape from the not-at-all-wilds of NH and pretend I’m John Marston, former wild west bad ass. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A good video game is like a good book, a good movie, and a good album all rolled into one. A GREAT video game pulls you in and makes you feel like you’re part of the story, part of the adventure. It’s an escape, to me the ultimate form of entertainment. If they want to give me a reason, even a mindless one, to stay in that world a little longer, to lope my horse to the far reaches and explore for a few more hours, I’ll take it! As long as the game is great, I’m in.

Mass Effect did this, too, and it ended up being one of my favorites.

MASS EFFECT? Did you really just pour lemon juice in that still-fresh wound, Bethie?” *twitchy eye*

Whoa, buddy. Calm down. Deep breath…I’m with you on the ending. I totally get it and agree. But a shit ass ending does not negate the other hundred hours of enjoyment. It’s still in my top five.

The Fallout series was another one with added mindless content. Loved that. Again, though, crap ending. I think the developers get so into the game that they don’t want to see it end. I bet the meetings about how these expansive games wrap up are some of the most heated and contentious discussions in the whole game-making process. I think what happens is that everyone involved is SO involved, has so much personally invested that it’s impossible to find an ending that everyone can agree on. Ah, but there’s a deadline, right? It’s got to end.

In my head, the final decision happens in an epic darts shootout, with every possible ending people came up with in place of the numbers. Because even the non-gamers can YouTube the “ending” to the Fallout series and say, “You just push a button? That’s IT?” There’s no logic, so it absolutely must be a result of a bad dart throw.

Anyway, Red Dead does not have a crap ending. Well, it does, if you consider tears, feels, and emotions “bad”. But, it’s how the story has to play out. It fits. As painful and gut wrenching as it is, you know through the whole game that any other ending would be bullshit. But, like I said, there’s so much side stuff that you could literally just keep playing those things and avoid the ending for as long as you want.

I popped this one back in the console and fired it up because I got into a convo with my boys about best video game memories, and they soundly agreed that my initial play through of Red Dead rated high on the list. Why? Because for some reason, I could not keep a horse alive for the life of me. Cougar attacks, hidden rattlesnakes, horse suicides…

“Horse suicides? Oh yeaaah, Bethie. The game cheats. Riiiight.”

DUDE FOR REAL. Listen to me. One horse, Cocoa (yes they were named. Of course they were. Don’t even tell me you didn’t name your horses when you played this game, liar.) was grazing while I was picking feverfew. The next thing I know, a fine mist of red wafted in front of me and the train whistled. The horse went and stood in front of a train. Another horse jumped to his demise off a cliff. HE JUMPED OFF A CLIFF. Hell, I must have gone through a few dozen horses…and those were just the ones I named. If I was on a horse for less than five minutes or so, I didn’t bother to name it. Cougar attack, call up a new horse, second cougar comes out from behind the rock and suddenly nameless horse #143 joins the great horsey cemetery.

There was the horse I may have accidentally shot with my own gun. Another could not, in fact, get down the side of the arroyo safely. Oops. There was a skinned horse that…well, we won’t go into details on that one. I’m still traumatized. And then there was the epic double-bear attack of ’11. Poor Jingles.

The boys gave me such crap about it that I brazenly made the statement that I could keep a horse alive on the second play through. After blank stares followed by gut-grabbing guffaws, they decided I needed to prove it. Now, you don’t know my boys. You’re reading this and saying, “Okay, sounds like a little bet.”

They made me a set of rules. They know me well enough to make a set of guidelines, saying that I must name every horse I sit on this time, so I can’t weasel out of the death toll by saying a wild horse I grabbed for a hot second didn’t count. One of the rules is that I can’t respawn at my last save just because my horse got killed. They even shut that loophole down! If I get off my horse and it commits suicide, that counts as neglect on my part and that horse must be added to the tally.

So they made this list, and then they made me sign a contract. My word wasn’t enough. They took it to that next level, just to be sure I absolutely could not find a way around.

*sniff* I’m so damn proud. Now THOSE are gamers!

You know, I’m guessing the non-gamers reading this will be horrified. I’m betting some of them will even wonder about my sanity, though to be fair, they should have had doubts about that a long time ago. But you gamers, you get how awesome this is.

My boys are rad, even if I’m totally winning this bet. 14 hours into gameplay and haven’t had a single horse killed yet.

…er…just one, but I died in the same attack, so they said that didn’t count as a “horse death”.

Damn cougars.

I’m going to win this bet. I’m bound and determined. I just hope my horse isn’t in a depressed mood when I hop off to pick flowers.

Thus concludes a gamey Musing for Saturday, July 26, 2014. Shameless self promotion time? Why not. Head over to and look up The Great Mother series.

I’ll take a coffee IV, Jeeves…


Mornin’ all.

I’m trying for peppy today, really I am. I’m already on my second cup o’ joe, I’ve got this catchy song by Dengue Fever playing through my headphones, and I’ve already put on real pants.


It’s just not working, though. I just don’t feel like I’ve got any oomph, and I’ve got to find it somewhere. I brashly made a bet with my husband last night that I’d get a particularly difficult repair patch welded into the car by the time he got home from work today. It was a bet that may or may not have been thought up after a few margaritas…

“Oh, Bethie.”

Don’t sound so disappointed in me. Okay, it was a tad bombastic. I’ll cop to that. However, it’s still not completely out of the realm of possibility. If I can just rally…

You know what always perks me up on a drag-ass morning? (cue the theme music and go-go dancers) It’s time for a….


That’s it! Why didn’t I think of it sooner? Perhaps because it’s been so long since I’ve done one. Well, let’s remedy that right now and jump right in and…

“Not to be rude, Bethie, but what the hell is a headline roundup?”

Boy, it HAS been a long time, hasn’t it? Back in the day, when I used to only do this Musing stuff for my friends and family, I’d sometimes Muse on silly headlines. I scour the major news sites, and some that wish they were major, to find headlines that are ridiculous, vague, or poorly worded, and share them with you. With commentary. See? Fun! So let’s get started. I love a good roundup!

– Woman Stops to Help Ducklings, Gets Ticket
“No one helps ducklings, lady. Not on MY watch.”

(See how it works? Headline first, REAL headline, then tidbit from me, completely made up and usually having nothing to with the actual article. I told you it was fun! Let’s keep going…)

– Suspicious Bag Outside Supermarket Contained Laptop
Remember when a bag someone forgot was just added to lost and found without being news?

– Mont Vernon Man Accused of Yelling, Firing Shots
In all fairness, he WAS stuck in Mont Vernon. The reaction to the circumstance seems completely reasonable to me…

– Child’s Fugitive Hunt a Wish Come True
Is it just me, or does Make-a-Wish seem to be running low on ideas?

– Coloradans Say No to Pot in Bars and Clubs
Bahahahahaha! *wipes eye* Good one.

– Is Drinking With Your Kids a Good Idea?
Well how else are you supposed to get the little bastards to conk out early?

– Millionaire Arrested After Exposing Himself, Urinating on Candy in Public
We were fine with the flashing, Ted, but when you pissed on the lollipops and gumdrops, you crossed a line. The GUMDROPS, Ted. *shakes head*

– Florida Town Stunned by News of Police KKK Ties
Rest of America Frankly Expected Worse from Florida

– 12 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Babe Ruth
Wow. TMZ’s really hurting for stories these days.

– You’ll Never Guess Which State Just Became a Haven For Painkiller Abusers
Give me 50 tries and I bet I could nail it.

– Looting in Paris as Europeans Protest Against Fighting in Gaza
Way to fight the good fight, France. I’m sure those embroiled in the actual conflict appreciate you bashing out your own store windows and setting your own cars on fire.

– Vandals Smear Cars with Baked Goods
O, the humanity!! There are some sick, sick people in this world.

– Soldier Attacked by Bear During Military Training Exercise
US Military Admits There “Might be a good reason the Romans stopped with the whole gladiator thing after all”…

– Iraq Catholic Leader Says Islamic State Worse Than Genghis Kahn
Not to sound harsh, but…IRAQ. What did you really think it was going to be like??

– Judge Tosses Wisconsin Senator’s Health Care Suit
“Aw, come on, your honor! I just had that pressed!”

– LeBron James Begins Tour of China
…no, I mean it. Why is this news?

– New Orleans Putting Smoked Butts in Better Place
They’re happier now. They can finally be at peace.

– American Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal
…and the world hushes the millions of Arabic teens living this horror on a daily basis to listen to the one American it affected that single time…

– Chinese Army Shows Off Dancing Robots
I honestly hope this means future wars will be settled with epic dance throw downs.

– In Florida’s “Sinkhole Alley”, Another Massive One Swallows Street
In other news, fire is hot and water is wet. More on these breaking stories as it develops.

– Americans Have Some Awful Ideas About Fixing Congress
This one was clearly from the No Shit Gazette. Along with the sinkhole thing.

– Beef Pollutes More Than Pork, Chicken, Study Finds
They really needed a study to prove that animals that are twice as big as pigs and a bazillion times as big as chickens cause more pollution to raise? Looks like the No Shit Gazette is having a red banner day!

– Mormon Church Hasn’t Budged on Gender Roles in 40 Years
Huh. They seem to be such a progressive lot…

– World Breaks Monthly Heat Record 2 Times in a Row
See kids? If you try hard enough, you can accomplish anything!

– China Will Not Fill US Void in Afghanistan
But…but…I was really looking forward to Chinese robots subduing insurgents with sick dance moves.

– Obama Says There’s More Than One “Authentic Way of Being Black”
Authentic ways of being black: 1. Be black. 2. *crickets* Hm.

– China Says Spy Ship Operations “In Line with International Law”
OH, okay. THAT’S where all the robots are. Guess it makes sense that fabulous dancing robots would all be…*cue disco music* In the navy! Where they can sail the seven seas…*sweet dance pose*

…oh stop rolling your eyes. That worked out perfectly and you know it.

Thus concludes a Roundup Musing for Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Seems like this worked. I’ve got pep in my step and am rarin’ to go now! Course, my heart is racing and my eyes are jittery, so the pep could be from that third coffee…

I think that I shall never see, a post as lovely as a tree…


O, how good the morn does find me today!
And rest assured I ask of yours as well.
For never have I a thought for myself,
Without sparing a tender regard
For you.

The heat wave has broken. We took advantage of the nice weather yesterday for part two of the acreage reclamation from the weeds in the morning, then did a car repair in the afternoon/evening/night. Boy, was that a tough repair, simply because we work in our driveway. If we had a lift, or even a pit, we could have done it in an hour or so. Ah well, it is done, and now all our cars are fully functional…

…for a hot minute and you bet your ass I’m knocking on wood as we speak. I’ve got to intentionally disable one of them to start the massive body work next week, but let me enjoy the moment.

Shopping today, then more of the back forty. I’m hacking it down with my kukri, because the weed whacker we have just laughed when I showed it the job I expected it to do. It’s a small electric one, a trimmer more than a whacker. I fired it up and moved it towards the thick stalks of long-ignored growth and as soon as the plastic whacker cord did no more than annoy the thick weed, I knew it just wasn’t the tool for the job.

That’s fine by me! Did you hear me say kukri? Any excuse to use the kukri.

Plus, it scares my bad neighbors when I’m out there swinging that knife. I stopped and smiled at the drooling one who was about to put his Barking Dog of Hell on the runner out back so the beastie could whine and cry for hours on end. The guy stood there for a sec, then turned around and returned Cerberus to his lair instead.

Oh the power.

“Um, Bethie? Are we totally going to ignore your uncharacteristically proseful greeting?”

Oh, right! That.

Poetry. I love it. I even love bad poetry, because I’m a jerk and get endless amusement out of horrible writing. I know, I know. I get it. It’s not nice to say or do. I can’t help it, though. People cannot help what makes them laugh. You think little old ladies LIKE laughing at an ill-timed fart in church? No. They are always mortified at their inability to keep their composure. But still, they laugh. I laugh at bad writing. I admit it. I laugh harder at bad poetry.

However, I actually really enjoy good poetry, too. I love it when a poet can actually grab a moment, a thought, a feeling and put it into words. I must admit, I’m not a fan of rhyming poetry…it’s got to be spot on or have the rhymes in a unique way for me to get over the fact that it rhymes. I like poetry that mixes up the cadence, or has a complicated pattern.

Let’s put it this way: I’m also a fan of modern art.

“Ah, okay. You’re one of *those*.”

Hey, now, don’t get all judgy. As you can tell by today’s salutation, I also like the classics. I like a wide variety, I guess that’s what I’m saying.

Poetry is very popular, but very rarely makes the news. It’s not really one of those professions that leads people down the road of controversy. “Poetry slams” are actually calm events, in spite of their name. I’m not saying it’s a boring line of work, but it’s not one that welcomes news coverage. What are they going to write?

“Thirteen poets gathered today in an orderly fashion and shared their poems with one another without incident. At one point during the event, a man rose and the crowd tensed, wondering if he was about to throw a rotten tomato. However, calm returned when the gathered group realized the man just needed to use the restroom. Afterwards, the participants all enjoyed a lovely bundt cake and coffee as they discussed the weather.”

Not really gritty stuff, is it?

Ah, but every once in awhile something happens that sends a ripple through the poetry community and makes national news. I’m talking about Valerie Macon, the disgraced former Poet Laureate of North Carolina, who just buckled under the weight of condescension from the North Carolina Arts Council.

“Oooh, sounds juicy, Bethie! Dish.”

So North Carolina was in need of a new poet laureate.

…hang on. Let’s look that one up, because you hear the term “poet laureate” but does anyone outside of the poetry world actually know what the heck that is?

A quick search on the Google Overlord’s site has informed me that a poet laureate is much more than a title. The position has been around since the 13th century, when political mud was slung through the songs of traveling bards. Poets would go from place to place and sing the news in return for food and a place to crash, not unlike Metallica in their early years. It didn’t take a genius to discover that if you were a king or lord who paid the bards well, then they would sing about you in a way that made people believe you were so good and righteous and amazing that you shit rainbows. After awhile, the kings even realized that giving the bard a permanent position, with a real room and a bed that wasn’t also shared with dogs in the threshes of the feast hall, would make all the poetry that flowed from the grateful bard’s lips very much in their favor.

Yes, the first poet laureates were nothing more than ass kissers with flair. As the world expanded, one of the key jobs of a poet laureate was to basically list the king or lord’s credentials to visiting guests, sometimes spending over an hour telling one poem of the king’s greatness. Imagine how boring that must have been for the guests!

Over the years, people began to appreciate art and literature, and not just want a lyrical ass kisser, and the position morphed. In modern times, while a poet laureate is still often charged with creating poetry about the nation, state, province, or group they represent, they are, most importantly, considered like the gatekeepers of the arts and culture for that body. In the US, we have a national poet laureate, but also individual state poet laureates. While salary and specific duties seem to differ slightly, the idea is the same for each. The poet laureate of the state makes poems about the state/region/people/local culture, and also devotes time to helping bring poetry and arts to the different regions of the state. They coordinate with libraries and other gathering centers, help host workshops for aspiring artists, visit schools, etc.

And, above everything else, they must really know their poetry shit.

Now, back to North Carolina and the Great Laureate Debacle of ’14. The governor needed a new laureate and bypassed the usual process. He selected Valerie Macon without consulting either the North Carolina Arts Council or the four people who previously held the honorable position. Tres declasse.

“So? Is she a good poet?”

See, that’s the thing. I don’t know. Under pressure from the Arts Council, and a general outcry from North Carolina poetry lovers who had never even heard of Ms. Macon, she resigned only a couple days after the announcement of her laureateness. Not only did she resign, but she pulled the website that had some of her poetry. I can’t find any examples of her work. In fact, even the Google Masters are stumped. If you type a google search for “Valerie Macon poems”, Google comes back with, “Damned if I know. Here’s a picture of a kitten in a hat. Oooh, pretty kitty…”

Her credentials were not the best. She’s got two self-published books out there, but not in digital format as far as I can tell. And that’s it for her poetic resume. The governor claimed she was up for many distinguished awards, but the facts show that she was not even eligible for those “distinguished awards”. She works with the state in a department that oversees and implements social services, and the governor said her poetry highlights the human struggles with homelessness.

“Cool. Lemme see.”

…oh, wait. You can’t.

I’m with the Arts Council here, and not because she was “self-published”. I get the feeling from reading their statements to the press that they may have a little snobbery going there.

*shocked gasp*

Hey, just callin’ it like I sees it. I personally don’t care if everything Ms. Macon ever wrote was self-published. If it’s good poetry, it’s good poetry! The problem is, she does not appear to truly be a poet. A poet puts stuff out there. A poet has a site they don’t take down. In fact, a real poet would be out there publishing MORE poems to show their poetry chops in the face of the critics. I can’t find a single poem, or even an outside reference to one of her poems. You cannot be a poet laureate if you don’t make poetry.

In NH, our poet laureate is Alice B. Fogel. There are Alice B. poems all over the internet. Here’s a snippet of one off her website, from a poem called To The Bone, about autumn changing into winter:

…the way it breaks you down,
over and over, to mean you are
alive. the way you rub it in
the wound that you never
come close to wanting to close–
as if you could scrub away the whirling
of everything else and come down
like snow to the center, the eye, so close
to the purity of knowing inside this
present pain, that searing
white place without wind or words.

Now THAT is the work of a real poet laureate!

Is Ms. Macon a nice person? Maybe. Hell, let’s go so far as to say she is. She’s flippin’ fantastic, a real nice gal. But the very fact that I can’t find a single one of her poems lets me know that as wonderful as she is, a poet laureate she ain’t. I’ve got to back the North Carolina Arts Council here.

Thus concludes a culture-filled Musing for Friday, July 18, 2014.
And now we part,
To go our about our lives in separation
But leave each other older, wiser,
And always,
As friends.

Mama, just killed a man…


Mornin’ all.

I couldn’t sleep well last night. We had some thunderstorms, which means we had a spastic cat jumping on us all night. She’s a very small cat, only about 5lbs under normal circumstances. However, when she’s scared or hyper, she breaks physics, and we get dragged from slumber coughing and sputtering from the impact of her crash landing, holding our crushed chests in hazy, sleepy confusion and wondering who just dropped a piano on us in the middle of the night.

“Get a cat,” I said. “It’ll be fun,” I said.

It’s a good thing she’s cute.

I don’t know about you guys, but we’ve had some powerful storms this summer. It’s weird, because last summer was very bland in terms of thunder and lightning and whirly windy. This one seems to be making up for it. The amount of lightning in some of these storms is amazing. I’m scared of the dark, and normally storms freak me out because of the “what if” of losing the lights. However, the ones we’ve been having create enough lightning that at worst I’d feel like I was back in my clubbing day.

Yes, “day.”


Turned out me and clubs weren’t tight. In fact, it was a failed experiment that I was more than happy to never try again.

I finished my rough editing of the book I’ve been working on.

…which really just means that I pecked and picked and worried and reworked until I made myself stop and hit “send” and let it rest in the lap of my editor for awhile. It’s not “done”. When I get the corrections back, I’ll end up going through it all again and keep making changes. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be obsessive over my writing. My husband and children, now…they might disagree.

I opened this one by offing a main character. Mr. Martin has set a trend! Actually, it’s not as brutal as it sounds when you consider that it’s a post-apocalyptic series. I opened the first book by wiping out about 6 billion people. One is very tame in comparison.

She was sweet, though. Actually one of my favorites. I was surprised that she died so fast.


Look, I’m just as surprised by the turns my writing takes as the reader. That’s my system. I get an idea, I roll it around in my head until I can understand the characters, and then I sit and write and see what happens. A lot of authors write this way. The spontaneity is the fun in writing.

And yes, that means a lot of plot holes that need fixing and many hours of reworking. Spontaneity is fun, but rough.

So a good character bit the dust and I never even saw it coming.

I always worry when I kill someone off. This is the first series I’ve done that really deals with a lot of death. I’ve killed a couple characters in stories before, but really, they needed it. By the time they died it was a relief. This is the first series I’ve tackled that’s more like real life. People die, and not just the ones you’re ready to see go.

I worry that it’ll piss readers off. So far I’ve only released books online, and only in one market at that. I haven’t done promotional work yet, because I’m still trying to figure that part out. My point is that I’ve got a small reader base, but they actually seem to like what I write. I’ve gotten some really humbling reviews and that feels amazing.

And then I go and kill one of the best characters.

I can’t write for the reader, though…can I? Should I? Now that I do have readers, should this actually be a question that continues to plague me?

“Where are you going with this angst, Bethie? Because if you need to piss and moan, I’ll just step out for a coffee…”

No, no. I’m not pissing and moaning. I just worry where the line is. See, when I wrote for me, or made silly stories for my family and friends, it didn’t matter. None of this mattered. I didn’t care if I killed a character they liked, because I just wrote what the characters in my head said to write.

…stop looking at me like you’re going to grab a straight jacket. It’s not crazy to hear voices if you write down what they say and sell it. That’s not crazy, that’s just a book. Ask any writer.

I wrote what I wrote and that was that and the people who read the stories HAD to keep liking me because I was family. Now that I’ve expanded outside my tiny circle, people don’t HAVE to like what I write. They don’t have to like it at all. That’s the scary part of all of this. What if I do something so heinous in the story line that the readers throw their Nooks and Kindles in frustration and just decide to quit reading?

Mr. Martin certainly isn’t worried about offending readers. He’ll hack and slash and gleefully make the best ones fall by the wayside. I don’t know his process, but I think he does it so he can introduce you to a new character that moved into the world in his head. And it works! Those books and now the tv series are amazingly popular. They’re like a series of twisted vignettes, and the world is ravenous to read the next chapter and say good-bye to their favorite in the hopes they’ll like the next new guy even better. What a great system!

Mr. Bradbury, he did the same through his mountain of fantastic short stories. Mr. King moonlighting as Mr. Bachman…

None of them were afraid to kill a character if it helped the story. I can’t see any of these great writers chewing the cap of a pen nervously as they stared at the shocking words they just wrote on the screen in front of them, wondering if they took the story a step too far.

Then again, maybe they did. Maybe everyone who kills off a good character goes through the same personal terror.

Okay, okay. You’re right. Angsty moment over, it’s done. She’s dead. Life in Newton rolls on. No regrets, right?

*gurgling stomach of nerves*

I killed her off to set a vibe for the book. The writing style of this second on is different than the first, too. Intentionally harsh, more stilted. I don’t know if that’ll work, either. I don’t know if people will expect the story to flow the same from novel to novel. The third is set in a completely different place, with Newton in the periphery, and the fifth…I’m not even going to get into how utterly different the fifth is. I’m trying something and I have no clue if it’ll work.

I don’t know if ANY of this will work.

And to be honest, I suppose that’s part of the fun of writing, too, even if it does mean I have to keep tossing back the Tums.

Thus concludes an angst-ridden Morning Musing for Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Off I go to work on cover art and tell myself to resist the urge to correct my corrected corrections until I get it back from my editor.

Blackberry beetle battle


Morning all!

Did you notice the exclamation point there? And the full use of the “ing” instead of colloquial “in’?”

“Why, I did notice, Bethie. You seem a little peppy today.”

Yer darn tootin’ I am! The cake. The cake is gone. My home is no longer infested. The sun is shining a little brighter. A rainbow broke across the misty field where a unicorn stopped and cocked its head regally to watch the poignant moment.

…okay, that was a bit of hyperbole. There wasn’t really mist.

Can I just say… PHEW. I was totally unhappy with how it came out, but the bride and groom liked it. I didn’t make a bride cry. Not my best, not my worst, and now it’s over.

It’s late for muse. It’s humid as Jabba’s ass crack today, and the early hazy sun said if we wanted to get out and pick blackberries, we best do it early. I shooed the unicorn away and went to town. These are the small blackberries that are pictured right up there in the left hand corner of this blog. I have been corrected several times over the years and told they are, in fact, “black raspberries”. Google agrees with me that they’re the same damn thing, and since Google is the preeminent authority on everything, I’m going to keep calling them blackberries.

*and somewhere, a lone botanist waves a clenched fist at the screen and vows revenge*

Anyway, the small ones we picked today gave us damn near a gallon. Add that to the half gallon we got the other day, and it’s a good haul so far. We’ve got a large snake out there that didn’t seem happy to be disturbed. He likes to sun right on the berry bushes, right across the thorny branches.

Don’t judge, now. Some humans lie on a bed of nails. Just because he doesn’t have an assistant in a flashy getup or a bored audience doesn’t make him less of an artiste.

He reared up, but he’s just a garden snake, so we weren’t all that impressed. His pride bruised, he sniffed haughtily and slithered off. Then we only had to battle the beetles.

Boy are those buggers persistent, eh? There are two types that like to eat the berries: Japanese beetles, and squash bugs, which I’m not sure are technically beetles but they stick and cling like them. (And what an unfortunate name for a bug. Maybe they’re just resigned to their fate…) Most bugs will fly away if you move your hand toward them. Japanese beetles and squash bugs just hunker down. They’ve got brass ones, I’ll give them that.

Bugs on the whole don’t bother me. If I know they can’t sting or bite me, there’s no point in freaking out.

Okay…earwigs. Earwigs are the exception. I hate those squirmy bastards.

I don’t mind beetles, that was my point. However, I do get annoyed that I have to work so damn hard to take a berry from them. I pull it off, it clings to my finger. I go to flick it away, it just flies right back. It’s like beetles implant homing devices in their own personal berry. Determined little things. And then the next thing you know, they’ve called in reinforcements.

Squash bugs are much better. You pick them off and throw them and they get the hint and stay gone. Maybe Japanese beetles just have no social skills?

I had two helpers with me. The eight year old is short, so he does the stuff in the front. The teen whose here is mid-sized, so he takes eye level ones. And I’ve been picking berries for 30 years and am far more determined, so I pushed my way through the bastard prickers to get the good berries in the back.

Maybe I’m make a pie, since I’m on the outs with cake.

“Bethie, it wasn’t the cake’s fault.”

I know. I’m sure we’ll make amends down the road.

I worked on the book some, too. Not a lot because I couldn’t concentrate with the whole unicorn and rainbow thing going on, but I did make a dent in the work I’ve got left before I can email it to the editor. It’s the second in a series, and I have the third and fifth already done. I already know it’s an ass backwards way to do things, so stop rolling your eyes at me.

Oh! Tiny ants. I hate those, too. The little ones someone I know calls “sugar ants”, but I don’t know if that’s what they’re really called. The ones that show up out of the blue like fruit flies to swarm around a piece of food that fell on the floor unnoticed overnight. Those. I’m not scared of them, they just piss me off.

I saw these cool beetles out there I’d never seen before while out picking in the early morning sun. They were large, like the size of a good sized June bug, tan in color and glossy with black spots. I did a search on the Almighty Google, and found out they are called “spotted tan beetles”. Not a very creative name. They’re also sometimes known as “grapevine beetles”.

They were neat and climbed around a leaf on my hand for awhile while one of my helpers was impressed and one helper really didn’t care. I thought they were neat, though. They’re up from the Carolinas, I’m assuming on vacation since they don’t belong here and were sampling the exotic blackberries and not the grapes I’ve got. Definitely “cutting loose on vacation” behavior. They certainly didn’t implant homing devices into the berries I was trying to pick. Much better than the locals.

We triumphed, though, and now I suppose I need to go wash my hard-earned haul and hiss and bitch when the cold water hits all the tiny little thorn scratches… I shudder to think of the shower later. When I say I pushed my way into the center of the thicket, I meant it. And let’s not even talk about soap. *wide eyes of horror*

Ah well, at least I’ll be able to console myself with pie.

Thus concludes a surprisingly brief Morning Musing for Sunday, July 13, 2014. Maybe I’ll ease my way slowly back into cake’s good graces with blackberry shortcakes. Seems like a good starting point in repairing what once was a beautiful relationship…

Ice, ice baby…


Mornin’ all.

I am slowly choking down turbo-charged coffee. I made this batch strong intentionally, so I was ready for the punch to the gullet. I need to be high octane this morning because boy, do I have a lot to do. Today is cake delivery day. *bum bum BUUUUMMM*

…after I finish it, that is.

I’ve made a lot of cakes in my day. I went to pastry school (yes that’s a real thing…a very expensive real thing with student loans that’ll never, ever end…) for a year, and then used the skills at home. This will be the fifth wedding cake I’ve made, so I’m not exactly new. However, this sucker is big.


It’s certainly the biggest cake I’ve ever made. It’s got to feed 150 people.

“That means nothing to me, Bethie, since I’ve got no frame of reference.”

Good point. Hm…okay. Here’s how I can explain…

IT’S A LOT OF FRICKEN CAKE! Especially considering I’m working out of my tiny-ass kitchen in my tiny-ass house. Oh I know it’s my own fault. I could have said no. But at the time I said I’d do it, I thought, “Okay, I’ve done a cake for 80 before, no problem. I’ll just double that…” While that’s technically what I did, I do not have a commercial mixer, or a walk in cooler, or a ten foot long work bench…

At one point, before the layers were filled and stacked, they were everywhere. As they were done baking, more would join and the cake infection spread like wildfire. It took over the table. It took over the counters and still it could not be stopped! It took over the stove and we all ran screaming, telling the neighbors to save themselves. It was like some bad sci-fi.

It Came From the Oven

Or a horror movie…

Bakenstein’s Monster

Tasty, tasty horror.

I’ve got the finishing work to do today. It’s a summer wedding, so temperature and humidity come into play. I don’t have a walk in cooler, and the couple did not want fondant. Butter cream. Had to be butter cream. You see, when you’ve got fondant, it acts like a sealant, with the added benefit of helping to maintain a firm structure even under the intensity of a summer day. Butter cream, however, is made with such a high fat to solids ratio that…

…are….are you actually snoring right now?

Fine. We’ll skip the details. But, if you ever DO want to talk shop, I’ve got a great formula for…

*hands up* OKAY. I get it. NO more shop talk. Sheesh. Tough crowd this morning!

My eight-year old came running into the dining room yesterday (he made it past the cake infection without getting bitten and turning into a Night Of the Leavened Bread zombie) to tell me about a fantastic product he saw on tv. Ah, the lure of the infomercial.

It’s a cat arch…um…thing that has wire bristles. The base is filled with catnip, so it lures kitty in, and then as she brushes against the bristles in a nip-induced euphoria, the bristles comb the cat. I told him that it sounded like a good product, but we didn’t have $20 to spend on something we didn’t need. This is what he said.

“But Mum, if we act now we can get two for the price of one! All we have to do is pay for the extra shipping. And when you think about all the time we spend grooming Zelda, it’ll be like saving money. So only twenty bucks for all that seems like a really good deal. We have to call now. I’ll grab you the phone.”

Bet those people with the cat arch thingie would be happy to hear that their ad resonates with someone. I doubt 8 is the target demographic, though.

My eldest used to watch the infomercials and beg for everything he saw, too. They come by it genetically. My dad once gave me a food chopper and a food slicer. He said, “These showed up at my house. I got two sets each, meaning I ordered two and got the ‘free’ one, so now I have four of each.” I asked why he did that, and he said, “I have absolutely no memory of ordering them, but I’m pretty sure it happened after that party we had…”

The slicer’s good. The chopper is more trouble than it’s worth. The image of my dad drunk dialing after watching an infomercial…priceless.

I wonder how many of these deals are sold to drunk people late at night? Especially food products. Drunk or not, no party animal is going to order a work out DVD. But something that’ll help make snacks, well that’s just planning ahead for next time.

When you think of it like that, late night food infomercials are brilliant.

As you can tell by now, I want to write today. I’m revising a book and there were a few sticking points, a couple plot issues I couldn’t figure out how to fix. And then as I was slathering on the 50th lb of butter cream, it came to me. I like when that happens.

…and, I don’t.

See, my “process” (don’t WE sound pretentious this morning?) is utterly random and usually happens at the wrong moment. That’s when I get “inspired”. That’s when ideas come to me. I think that’s because I have the attention span of a tse-tse fly. I just get bored and my mind looks for other things to do. That’s great when I’m in a position where I can put what I’m doing down and focus on writing. Not so great when I’ve got other things that responsibility and personal pride insist I finish. And especially not great at all when it happens in the middle of a conversation with someone else.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I can devote to fixing the plot holes I created. I’ve got to get this book off to my editor. I had hoped to get it up by the end of May. *sheepish shrug*

“Bethie, stop procrastinating.”

You’re right. At this point, I’m just babbling, aren’t I? I’m just nervous as hell. What if this cake turns out not to be what they wanted? What if it doesn’t travel well and I get to the other end and it’s a crumpled heap of sugary disappointment in the bottom of the box? What if the bride looks at it and cries?


*sigh* “My, Bethie, you need a lot of hand holding this morning.”

*sniff* Maybe.

“Buck up! You’ve made cakes before! You’re almost done, for god’s sake. You’ve got the easy, fun part today!”

…you have a point.

“And you’re doing all the work for free! They already told you they just want a tasty cake. You sure sampled enough of the scrap to know you’ve me the criteria.”

Yeah. …wait…was that a compliment or not? I can’t tell. I didn’t eat THAT much of the scrap…

“Now you stop wasting time and you get in there and you show ’em!”

Okay. *deep breath* This is working. This is calming me down and making me focused. For good or bad, by 4:30 this afternoon, this epic cake commitment will be over. I just have to stick to it and get through it. Totally doable. Right?

I’m not a sporty person, but right now I could use a locker room huddle to pep me up. Who’s in?

*hands in the middle*

One…two…three…BUTTER CREAM!

Thus concludes a rambling Muse for Saturday, July 12, 2014. Can’t wait to drop this behemoth off and be done with it. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked forward to peeling out of an Elks lodge parking lot before.

Gettin’ awful choosy about which “huddled masses”, America…


Mornin’ all.

The brain is churning bright and early today. Actually, it started to churn before it was bright. I freaked my cat being up before the sun started to shine. She looked at me, looked at the window, cocked her head and meowed, “What the hell?”

…fine, don’t believe me. But it totally happened.

The coffee’s garbage. I mean, I took a sip and almost spit it out. I didn’t put enough water in and it almost walked itself from the pot to my cup. My eye is still twitching in aftershocks from that first sip before I dumped it into a much larger mug and watered it down.

I’ve got a lot going on upstairs. Too many things swirling. Had some interesting dreams because of it, I’ll tell you what. Have you ever dreamed you were delivering a wedding cake via canoe? Yeah.

I get the cake part. That’s one of the things swirling. I’m making a wedding cake over the next couple days and though it’s not the first, it’s always a point of stress. I can totally understand why a cake would be in my dreams.

But a canoe?

The couple is having their reception at the local Elks lodge. It’s pretty much the premiere place in the area for all kinds of parties. Everyone has one of these in their town, or in a town very nearby. It’s a hall that’s clean, cheap, and easily accessible. Nicer than a VFW, but not as uppity as a country club. You know, for us regular folks.

I’ve personally been to eight or nine functions there, and I can tell you for a fact that you do not need a canoe to reach that particular Elks lodge.

I like canoes well enough. I haven’t been in one for years and years. When I was in jr. high, I went on a canoe adventure with a youth group down the Connecticut river. It sounds grander than it was. Really the adventure consisted of about 15 kids who had no idea how to canoe paddling in circles and falling out into a muddy backwash. In fact, now that I think about it, I can’t remember us ever actually GOING anywhere.

But there were roasted marshmallows that night at the campsite, and we saw a bald eagle, so it was a win.

I also think there may have been some sock bowling on the way back from that trip with my older sister and her boyfriend. Was it that trip?

Hey, I told you the mind was a’swirl.

Then there’s family on the mind. Always. Sometimes it’s happy thoughts and sock bowling memories, and sometimes it’s stress and worry. Hey, it’s family. That’s what happens. Someone’s always going to have a health issue, because the laws of statistics say that. Someone’s always going to have some drama. Someone’s going to get to have fun setting off homemade smoke bombs under the guise of teaching her kid a science lesson and not send you the formula yet so you can do it to teach your own kids science (translation: to piss off annoying neighbors)…YOU KNOW WHICH SISTER YOU ARE. I expect a recipe in my inbox toot sweet!

I need an “off” switch in my brain. I’ve got a bunch of old electronics equipment lying around. Think I could rig one up? I’m pretty handy with a soldering iron.

And then there’s the news. That’s got me all worked up. It’s summer, so people are leaving their kids in the car to bake to death.

I’ve had 4 kids go through babydom and the toddler years, and would you know that not once did I “forget” that they were in the car with me? Boy, Fate and Luck must have been smiling down on me, eh? Either that or I just wasn’t a completely self absorbed idiot.


There’s an app now that reminds you to check the back seat to see if you’ve got a baby in there. AN APP. And the horrible thing is that it will honestly probably save lives. People need an app to remember their kids. Unbelievable.

The other story that’s really got my attention is the US border crisis. Unprecedented numbers of children are crossing the border illegally looking for a safe life. And when I say children, I’m talking about little kids. Parents are sending their children up, largely from Central America, on their own in the hopes that they’ll be accepted into the US. There was a story about an 8 year old boy who was nabbed by border patrol. Only 8 years old.

I have an 8 year old boy. He’s brazen, but tiny. He still needs me to hug him when he’s had a bad day. He still needs me to convince him the lightning storm won’t get him when he’s safe in his bed. He still needs me to cook his meals and help him with his homework and show him how to hit a nail with a hammer…

He still needs me.

I read that article and was honestly crying by the end. I cannot imagine the horrible life that boy’s parents tried to save him from. I can’t imagine how bad it had to be for them to kiss their little child goodbye and sneak him out and send him off in the big world all alone.

He made the journey from Guatemala with a couple other kids, all around his age or a bit older. None even close to adulthood. He didn’t have his Mama to hold him through the ordeal. He didn’t have a bed to hide in during the thunderstorms. He had a journey that no adult I know would be willing to take.

And then he got nabbed by border patrol. He got to where he was promised safety, and now he sits in lock up and waits.

There are going to be an estimated 50,000+ children this year pouring over our borders. If the numbers continue as they’ve been going for the first half of the year, we may even hit 60,000. Stop and think about that.

I’m not talking about adults who cross. I’m not talking about grown ups who know what they’re risking by illegally entering the country. I’m not talking about people who are aware they are breaking a pretty big law.

This point is important. This fact is critical. I’m NOT talking about the man who wants to leave Mexico or one of the Central American nations to find a better life here without going through the proper channels. I’m talking about children. CHILDREN. 8, 10, 15…3 or 4 in some cases. Little children whose parents decided for them. Children, exactly like our own.


If you want to feel sick and sad about humanity in general, find one of these stories covering the crisis and then scroll to the comments section below. Here are some gut wrenching gems from two different articles dealing with the situation on NBCNews (Spelling and grammar are the choices of the idiots who posted. Wouldn’t want to be so presumptuous as to correct them, now…):

“When they keep talking immigration reform bills do they mean just giving these illegal locust people all amnesty?”

“OMG that trip was so hard. Coyotes and rapes and starvation…WAH WAH. No shiz! Then stay in your own country and don’t make that trip idiots!”

“sick of these ‘victims’, no one cares.”

“Its time too place the Protected Black Wolf in these territory’s. Lets place Great quantity’s of Rattlers on the trails used by travelers.” (…to which there was a round of cheers and the added suggestion of filling the Rio Grande with gators. People cheered at the thought of wild carnivores tearing kids apart limb by limb. Let that one sink in.)

“Deferred action for childhood arivals in 2012. Obamas action! This is orchestrated to accomplish his personal agenda. Wake up america! Do you know the Money for social security and disability runs out next year. This is all in his game.”

“Obama being from and having relatives from Kenya sympathizes with them. Many of his relatives are living here illegally.”

I’d like to clear one thing up. Obama is NOT in favor of keeping the children here. I don’t know why people have that impression. The money he requested is to medically treat them, temporarily house them, hire more border patrol for the interrogations, and then send them back. He’s not keeping them. This is in no way an Obama “ploy”. In fact, he’s going to end up looking like a big asshole here, no matter which side of the coin you’re on.

So the people who want to sick gators on kids haven’t even taken five minutes on google to look at the facts of the situation.

A common thought among the overworked border agents is that this may be a ploy by the drug cartels that have really moved into the Central American nations, that the cartels are forcing the kids to flood the borders to overwhelm the patrol and make their smuggling runs easier. While it may sound like the plot to a bad movie, I have to admit there’s some sense to it.

But does that matter?

Okay, say these kids really ARE patsies of the cartels. So what? We round them up and send them home…and then what? What kind of life will be there for them in a nation that’s clearly overrun by drug lords? And if we send them back…did they fail, then? Will there be repercussions for them? Or will the czars be happy with their efforts and bring them into the fold? Will we just end up fighting them in ten years’ time?? Any way you look at it, life for these kids when they return to their home countries will not be good. They just won’t.

Look, we need some reform. That’s absolutely true. We’ve got a problem with undocumented workers, we make legal immigration damn near impossible with a 10 year waiting period for a Mexican to get a green card… But this is not about that. We’ve got an opportunity here to help. Not to send a check to a foreign nation and HOPE it isn’t snatched up or misused by a corrupt government or rebellious cartel. We’ve got a chance to really help. We keep pretending we’re a giving and caring babysitter to the world. We’ve done so for years. What’s written on the Statue of Liberty?

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

We’ve got a chance to step up, here, to put our money where our mouth is and prove it.

But I guess for some people, that invite doesn’t extend to starving kids, does it? Hey, if these self centered asshats send ’em back, at least there’s no risk the kids will be left to die in a hot mini van. That’s something.


Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Thursday, July 10, 2014. I know for a fact I’ll probably lose some friends over this post. If that’s the case, then I’m much better off having them gone.

Antisocial media on a hazy morning…



…sorry. That was kind of a rude salutation, wasn’t it? I mean, it’s not your fault I’m all worked up and I really shouldn’t take it out on you. Let’s try that greeting again.

Mornin’ all! How are you on this bright sunshiny morning?

…this searingly, scorchingly bright humid morning that’s already making my back sweat and has absolutely melted my miserable cat into a fur heap on the floor…

*sigh* Guess the peppy won’t happen today.

It’s just…see…I went on Facebook before I had my coffee. *hangs my head in shame*

Stop looking at me like that! I know it’s my own damn fault, okay? Your condescension does me no good at this point. Where were you a half hour ago BEFORE I had the brilliant idea to click that icon with zero caffeine in my system?

Have you ever looked at something on of your “friends” post and thought, “Wow, I USED to think you were smart…”?

And then of COURSE you feel mean, because everyone has moments of derp, and everyone has at least a few ideas you won’t agree with. That doesn’t actually make them stupid, or even mean you shouldn’t be friends.

Remember when you were a kid and you saw your friend at school? Ah, good times. Sometimes you’d see them on the weekend or a vacation, sometimes you’d sleep over or have them to your house. You’d get a visit, then go your separate ways. I kind of miss that.

Now, you see a friend online and they’ve posted a pic of a wild party they were at that includes too much nudity and a bra-wearing donkey. Or worse…they dressed up their cat. In a bonnet. WITH RIBBONS.

*…and now any of my FB friends reading this are frantically scanning through my contact list to try and figure out which sick bastard actually dresses up their poor cat. It was just an example of depravity, not really a specific photo. But we’ll wait while you look anyway. … … …back? Okay, let’s continue…*

Back in the day, people took care to be part of the group. They learned as children the rules that guide social interactions in a gathering with others. They learned what to say, what not to say, what to do and what types of crazy to keep to themselves. Didn’t agree with something they said? Face-to-face, they got the visual cues of your discomfort and changed the subject, as you did when the situation was reversed, and you both moved on to happier thoughts and fun. They could see you purse your lips, or frown, or roll your eyes, giving them the signal to change the topic before any damage was done. They’d move on, and then you got the opportunity to also see your friend in other situations, see the many levels of the person, not simply the opinion of offense or malcontent. Face-to-face, you could see the person as a whole. You could get to actually know them.

Online, you don’t have that option. Your only interaction point is the post.

See, when we use Facebook or other social networking sites, we’ve crippled our ability to properly interact. We’ve taken away the physical cues and clues that help make us be accepted by other people. We’re pack creatures by nature, and when we don’t actually have the pack around us, things get very confusing.

I know I’m guilty of it myself. I’ll post shit, too, you know. I’m not saying I’m exempt. I would bet a million bucks that I’ve posted things on social sites that made other people step slowly away from their computers and close their blinds, hoping I forgot where they lived. You can’t NOT step in it sometimes. Without the checks and balances of others around you, it’s damn near impossible not to piss someone off!

“But Bethie, at least this way you get to know who the person really is.”

No. I don’t learn who the person really is through a computer screen. That’s impossible. I learn who they think they are in the moment. Sure, over time you get a general sense of the individual. But could you say what they’d be like at a party? Or what they’d do when the shit really hit the fan? Or how they truly treat other people?

I had a friend who would re-post things without reading through them all the way. They’d share everything they saw, from chain emails that claimed God or a leprechaun would give you luck if you shared it with 50 people in 30 minutes, to funny cartoons, to American pride pics, and everything in between. They happened to share one that was rather lengthy, but at the end the “moral” of the story was about how races mixing was really against the laws of nature. The photo was of a racially diverse couple, and it started off talking about when they got married. Then it talked about their kids, and that’s where things really started to turn…how their kids had to deal with racism, etc, and how it was the PARENT’S fault for putting them in that situation in the first pace. Anyone who skimmed it, as my friend no doubt did, probably thought it was a post about how racism is evil, not the other way around.

Now, I knew this person in real life. I knew they weren’t like that. I knew for a fact that they had relationships with people of different ethnicities. I knew they were absolutely NOT a racist. They simply hit “share” without reading. In the spur of the moment, they clicked something they shouldn’t.

“Bethie, we ALL do this. We all post without thinking sometimes.”

Sure do!

But, if that’s our only interaction, how would I know that it was a hapless mistake? If all I know is the online person, or if I, say, reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen in forever… I’ll look at their posts. I’ll nod my head to many, snicker and snort to some, and feel good about our online friendship. I’ll feel like this person gets me, and I get them.

And then they go and change it up. They’ll make a post that comes out of left field and everything I “knew” about them will be forced into question.

All of a sudden the brakes slam on, the mind gets boggled. It really does feel like a betrayal. “I thought I knew you. How the hell could you say that?? How could you share that pic? How could you possibly support that cause or politician or religious zealot??? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME???”

When we take the socialization out of our social interactions, everything is personal. If all we have are a few posts, then everything becomes a big deal. It must. We’ve got nothing else to judge by. We haven’t seen the person drop some change into the cup of a homeless panhandler, or make faces at a baby in line at the grocery store to get them to laugh, or offer a truly sympathetic look when something bad happens. All we have are a few words typed into a cold machine.

Now isn’t THAT a pleasant thought.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Now that I’ve spread my cheer here, I think I’ll go hack down the jungle in the back 40. Boy, those people who clear cut the rain forest have the right idea, eh? Trying to get through the trees and the bushes to reach the berries is so annoying. SO much easier when you level it all. Clear cutting FTW!!! …KIDDING…sheesh. Do you people not understand irony?I thought you knew me better by now!!?