O, how a foul wind doth blow…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

You know, sometimes I really hate being such a creature of habit. It’s one thing to develop a comfortable pattern in life as a coping mechanism for when things get crazy. It’s another thing entirely to be up at four in the flippin’ morning on the first Saturday of the school year.

*grumble*

I tried to get back to sleep, I did. It just wasn’t going to happen. My body whined, “But it’s too early!” and my brain said, “La la la can’t hear you…GET UP.”

It’s okay. I’ve got a surprisingly palatable cup of coffee and the kiddies are sleeping off their first week of school thought-hangovers. At least we’ve got time to chat.

Pardon the smell while we talk. The landlords have finally decided that a house should not, in fact, get a middle-age beer gut and sag alarmingly in the middle. They bought some 2x4s and spent the last couple days whacking them in place under the buckled support beams in our scary-beyond-all-reason cellar.

“Wait, Bethie. Did you just say your support beams have buckled?”

Yup.

“And that they are NOT going to replace them?”

Nope.

“…but…”

*sigh* And now you see why we’re trying to find a different place to live.

What should happen is that the house should be professionally jacked up and held in place while new support beams are installed, after which proper supports should be set in place on cement platforms so they can’t sink again. What actually happened is what I just said. They went around and placed bricks on top of the mud floor, then wedged 2x4s between the bricks and the sagged beams. As such, the house is still slumped in the middle, but they fully believe it won’t sag any more. And it won’t.

…until spring, when the floor of the cellar does its part to change our boring, common house into the poor man’s Fallingwater.

*architectural fist bump*

The cellar here is really a glorified crawl space, and you must hunch over like Quasimodo to move around under there. There are also a couple random pipes strung along the ground instead of up under the floor of the house where they belong, so while you’re hunching over looking for the bell to ring, you’ll need to have the skills of a top level crook on a bank heist faced with a laser security grid to twist and bend your way across the space.

Did I mention the spiders?

Because they’re down there and they’re everywhere. Normally I don’t mind spiders. But these freaky bastards are albinos. Large, albino spiders. So while you’re hunched over, twisting in ways the human body was never meant to twist, you also have to constantly swipe your hand in front of you to cut through an admittedly impressive amount of spider webbing if you don’t want to get it all over your face. Those albino spiders might be creepy, but boy can they weave.

Now, this house has been here for over a hundred years. It was cheap housing for workers who toiled in the leather tanning factory just down the road. It was never intended to last. Its purpose was simply to give the workers a place to sleep at night that was close enough to the factory so that they didn’t need to try and figure out a way to pay for a car on their measly wages. A quality house would have been built on cement, a real foundation. The cellar would have been a basement, and the builders would have taken steps to ensure that sagging into the Bog of Eternal Stench didn’t happen.

Being around for so long, it’s got junk crammed down in there. Nothing valuable of course. It’s all junk that people decided would be someone else’s problem.

…oh, we haven’t met? Let me introduce myself. I’m Someone Else.

It’s bizarre what’s down there, too. There are lots of old construction scraps, clearly from the people who’ve had to patch this old beast up many times over the years. There is a large stack of pipes on one wall, along with a dead boiler and two broken furnaces. Since I can’t see how in the hell they would have gotten those out of there, I can totally understand why they though it best just to leave them.

However, there is also an engine.

From a car.

Keep in mind, there’s no bulkhead.

Scratch that. A bulkhead was sort of constructed when the house was split into two units sometime in the 90s. However, it was never actually completed. There’s a rotten board over a gaping hole where someone framed out a doorway, but never actually built. It was not part of the original house. How do I know this? Because the way they made the hole was to remove the actual foundation stones and heap them up in the cellar as well. And yes, that may have a little something to do with the sinking problem, too. I’m no architect, but it seems to me that if you remove a large section of foundation stones, that might cause a wee bit of an issue down the road.

Anyway, as I was saying, the original house had no bulkhead. In the original house, there was a door to the cellar, and that was your way down to the boiler. When the house was divided into two, they made an additional set of stairs to get to the boiler from the other side. On one side of the house, you’ve got decent, sturdy stairs, but have to duck as soon as you start down them because of a great big wall. On our side, you don’t have to duck until you’re all the way down, because it’s the original way to get into the cellar and, therefore, was not built under a wall. That’s a plus. But, the staircase is a rickety old mess, constructed of what I can only surmise is jello. Either way into the basement sucks, that’s my point.

The engine is an oldie, one I might like to screw around with or at least use as a neat base for a coffee table if I could figure out how to get it out of there. It’s old and has a thick crust of rust keeping it secured to the wall, so I’m pretty sure it’s been down there since well before the hack attempt at bulkhead building. I have no idea how in the hell someone managed to get it in the cellar in the first place. In my mind, it probably began with alcohol and someone saying, “Hey Ernie, I know what we can do with that engine…”

So let’s recap. While being Quasimodo on a Mission Impossible assignment karate chopping your way through Aragog’s lair, you’ve also got to step over old, sharp, rusted metal. Even in the best of conditions, in the droughts, while armed with a flashlight that actually works, since god only knows if the swinging bare bulbs that are down there will play nice and actually light a path, it’s a Herculean trial just to cross the cellar, never mind what it takes if you actually have to try and repair something. Then, you might as well get out the Twister board and try to turn it into a game, because the other option is to sit down in the mud and cry.

…which you really, really want to avoid. The spiders will laugh at you if you cry, and that is a sound you never want to hear *shudder*. Also, there is a mysterious fungi down there that we believe may, indeed, be the harbinger of the zombie apocalypse. Don’t sit down. Suck up those tears and push on. Don’t let it get you, Atreyu!!

Now, imagine that it’s spring. The melting snow from the hill up behind the house turns the muddy cellar into Gollum’s lair. While you are twisting, turning, hunching, and flailing, you step over the same pipe you’ve had to step over a dozen times before. For a split second you feel triumphant, because hey, you’re finally getting the hang of the obstacle course! And then your foot hits the level where the mud bottom of the lake should be and keeps going, and before you know it, you’re sitting on your ass, dripping wet with who the hell even knows, listening to albino spiders snicker at your predicament while you desperately try not to remember that situations like this are exactly how plagues start.

See, what happens to a dirt cellar when water rushes in is exactly what you’d expect. It pools and puddles, makes little rivers through the mud, and swirls and carves out new basins. It’s an ever changing environment, like a shoreline or wetlands. Good for vacationers, hippies, and landscape artists. Bad for the foundation of a house.

What absolutely should have happened the other day is that the landlords should have rented a hydraulic jack, raised the house to the proper level, replaced the support beams, pounded cement cylinders deep into the mud, and then installed proper house supports.

Boy, doesn’t that sound like a lot of work? I get tired just thinking about it! Best just whack in a shitload of pine 2x4s and hope for the best.

Which brings us to the smell.

Look, I’m glad they’re working down there. It honestly should have happened seven years ago when they were told by a contractor that the house was starting to sink. They chose to ignore it then, it’s gotten so much worse now. Fixing it HAD to happen. And while what they’re doing is, at best, a half-assed attempt, at least it’ll keep the house of cards standing for the few more months we’ll be living here. I must say that even though it won’t last, for now it’s way less wobbly. The efforts aren’t completely without merit, and I applaud their attempt to do SOMEthing.

But the smell.

Oh m’gawd…the smell.

Their huffing and puffing and digging and shoveling has kicked up an unholy miasma I have to believe has come from the bowels of another dimension. It started the first afternoon they began work as an unpleasant odor that smelled faintly like a boy’s locker room. The second day, the smell was worse. Not only was I reminded of gym socks and sweaty jock straps, but a distinct rotten aroma added to the mix. I’ve never actually smelled durian fruit, but I imagine that’s what it smells like. I spent the day spraying Lysol and Febreze all willy-nilly, trying to mask the odor.

The third day, that was the worst. We got up and started gagging. Windows were thrown open, fans were run on high. I took another trip to the store to buy emergency Lysol. A giant can of the name brand stuff. You know, the BIG guns. No cheaping out on this disaster! It didn’t help. Nothing helped. I knew I should have bought those gas masks when I had the chance. We spent the day with watering eyes and queasy stomachs, and finally, that night, things started to calm down.

Yesterday it only smelled a little.

This morning I caught a whiff when I was near the cellar door, but I can’t smell it anywhere else, so I think the worst has passed. The crisis is over. I can breathe deep without fear of singeing my nose hairs.

I don’t want to think about what made that smell. That smell was not the smell of a healthy environment. That smell was not the smell of things that are pleasant and wholesome and good. That smell was the exclamation point on our voiced desires to get the hell out of here. We’ve lived here and paid rent for ten years. TEN YEARS. We’ve been putting up with their bad housekeeping for ten years. And now all of a sudden when they have to rent the other side, NOW they decide to do work? That’s a fine thank you for being tolerant and understanding and…

“Bethie, you’re starting to sound bitter.”

*deep breath* You’re right. I need to get going, and I don’t want to end on a sour note. They are here now doing what it takes to lure in another unsuspecting family. And we are working on leaving. Hey, at least I’ve learned how to do a lot of home repairs, right? If nothing else, I certainly got an education living here.

Now, we just need to find a place. And be able to afford it. Anyone know any wealthy old benefactors looking for a family to adopt?

Thus concludes a stinker of a Musing for Saturday, August 30, 2014. Off I go to prepare for the last yard sale of the summer. Hopefully the landlords haven’t chosen today to work on the outside of the house. The crap I’m trying to sell is cruddy enough without them splattering it with house paint.

Advertisements

And with one last glance back at the summer that’s gone, they turn and climb on the bus…

Standard

Mornin’ all!

Guess what day it is?

Oh now, guess! It’s no fun if you’re not actually going to play.

…*sigh* Yes, I know it’s August 27th. Har har, smart ass. Come on, you’re not even trying! What happens near the end of every summer that makes parents across the Northeast gladly wake up early and actually cook a real breakfast while humming?

“OH. School day?”

YES! Back to school! I’m having to contain my excitement in real life, since it’s still too early to wake the slumbering beasts, but once I do get them up, I get to make them leave. For the whole day. All of them. *sniff* The first day of school is a beautiful thing.

In all seriousness, I think the last month passed way too quickly. There were many things on the summer list we didn’t get to do because life was like, “NOPE.” And I will miss my pals during the day. I get bored easily. Who am I going to annoy when I get fed up with annoying myself? The cat will only take so much before she finds a basket to hide in. Perhaps I’ll befriend the wild woodchuck that’s taken up residence under my deck. Modern day White Fang, only without the gold and constant threat of death.

Yeah, you know what? That just might be my ticket to fame. I could be the woman who tamed the wild woodchuck. Now, I just have to figure out what woodchucks eat for snacks, then spend painfully frustrating days earning Woody’s trust. Maybe I should make a mini lasso.

Should I make a mini lasso? Will there be any wrangling involved?

See? I’m entertaining myself already. It’s good to have a new hobby. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

There is a plus. With the kiddies gone, I really will be able to address some home repairs that are so much easier without a younger generation distracting me. I love them, I love how curious they are, I love that they want to know what I’m doing and why. However, if you haven’t picked it up by now, I’m easy to derail. If I’m staring blankly at the hole in the wall, it’s not because I’m just on pause while I wait for someone to come over and spark up a conversation. I am actually making plans on the best way to attack the problem, and, “Hey, Mum. Whatcha doin’?” right at that moment makes the record player arm screech, and a giant eraser completely rubs out the plan I hadn’t yet set into motion.

So between training sessions with Woody, I can repair holes in the wall without interruption. And do laundry. Who knows? I might get real wild and wash the windows.

Ain’t no party like an NH party cuz an NH party don’t stop.

I was looking at the news this morning and a headline caught my attention.

“A roundup, Bethie?!”

Hm. I hadn’t really intended to do an entire Roundup. I mean, the house band that usually plays the intro is still at band camp, and the go-go dancers are recovering from a girls’ weekend at the casino…

“Bah, you don’t need all that flash. Come on! What better way to celebrate the first day of school than a cheeky look at the world as seen through headlines?”

…you do have a point. I suppose I can improvise on the music and dancing. Okay, you’ve won me over! Let’s do it! *cracks knuckles* *achem*

*hummed ditty* It’s time for a… Headline Roundup! *jazz hands*

“Oooh, nice jazz hands!”

Thanks! I’ve been practicing. Okay, so I guess we’ve already done enough of an intro this morning. Let’s just jump right into it.

– Woman Stands Trial in Fatal Buttocks Injection Case
There are so many ways I could go with this, and I assure you, none of them are good.

– Storms Create Huge Waves
Clearly that’s from the No Shit Gazette. I really should cancel my subscription…

– Alarming Increase In Near-Collisions
I think it would be more alarming if they stopped being “near”. I’m okay with “near”.

– Fight Over Reclining Seat Diverts Flight
Hey, if I’m flying somewhere and gramps in front of me decides to lean back and dip his toupee in my soup, I might have a thing or two to say about it as well.

– Dad Vanishes After Tux Fitting
He warned you he didn’t want the cummerbund, but you wouldn’t listen.

– French Government Dissolved
Yes, they literally canceled their government and ordered a whole new one to be ready in a couple days. Ah, France.

– Girl Accidentally Shoots Her Gun Instructor
Accident declared “most predictable work related death ever”.

– Ukrainian President Dissolves Government
DAMMIT FRANCE!! Look what you started!

– Miniature Lung Grown to Test Cancer Drugs
Leave it to Germans to take the “fi” out of the “sci”…

– Obama to Award Medal of Honor to Civil War Soldier
It’s nice to see they fast-tracked the paperwork for this one. I can’t wait to hear the man’s acceptance speech.

– Florida Man Charged With Murder in Bystander’s Death From Police Shot
Yes, it’s what it says. A man is being charged with murder because a cop fired a shot that killed an innocent bystander instead of him. Confused? Did you miss the part that said “Florida?” ‘Nuf said.

– The Moon Smells: Apollo Astronauts Describe Moon Aroma
…but…no atmosphere…with the masks…and…HUH?!?

– Turks Claim Record for Largest Ataturk Portrait
Claimed it from whom? I want to know who else is vying for this record.

– Florida Skinny Dippers Attacked by Alligator
People, if you’re going to skinny dip, perhaps try doing it in waters that aren’t alligator-infested? Just throwin’ it out there.

– Dueling Hurricanes
If the coverage of these storms isn’t entirely set to banjo music, I will boycott the Weather Channel.

– Crews in NH Spray Pesticide Amid Mosquito Fears
Because apparently one or two people getting flu-like symptoms from mosquito bites is a far bigger concern than millions breathing in chemicals. I mean, how bad could lung cancer really be?

– 7 GIFs That Will Convince You How Bad the California Droughts Are
Does it really take GIFs to convince people of scientific fact? …it does? I quit. I just quit.

– ADHD Study Flags Pre-natal Use of Anti-depressants
Usually I throw a flag on bullshit studies. But I’ve got to say, any study that is against giving babies Adderall in-utero gets a thumbs up from me.

– Hawaiian Lava Flow Threatens Homes
In response, the Hawaiian volcano in question gave a brief, yet poignant, statement: “Duh.”

– California Cops Used Government Database to Screen Women They Wanted to Date
…c’mon, folks. With all the cop shootings and riot “control” tactics going on at the moment, are we really going to call THIS behavior out?

– Spider Personalities Shine Among Friends
Entomologists don’t get out much, do they?

– Weird Cell-Shaped Structure Discovered in Mars Meteorite
YES!!! YES YES YES!!! Prepare the crop circles, boys…the mother ship is coming!!!!

– Scientists Scramble to Map Previously Unknown Fault That Caused California Earthquake
How long after starting this endeavor do you think it was before they were all totally sick of Ted’s “whose FAULT is this?” pun?

– Turkey’s Erdogan Says New Cabinet to be Announced Friday
Personally, I think they’ll go with cedar. Sure it’s nothing new…but the classics are classics for a reason.

– Herding Mentality: “Sheepdog Mystery” Solved at Last
I can finally rest easy at night. You don’t know what a weight that’s been on me.

– Tortoises in Controversial Art Exhibit Removed
It’s about time someone put a stop to their antics. Everyone knows tortoises put on these types of “art” displays just to push the envelope. Tortoises are such attention whores.

– Mom of Boys With Lime Disease Fights for Chickens
…yeah, I read the article. But you know what? I think I’ll just leave you wondering.

Thus concludes the First Day of School Musing for Wednesday, August 27, 2014. While I was entertaining myself, the older kids hopped on the bus to be whisked to the magic building of education and the shorter one got up. Time to feed him and send him on his merry way. A whole day without them. It stretches, open before me a road of endless possibilities…and yet, it looms…

Simian Soda Quarks…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

Pardon the seemingly non-sequiturious title of this morning’s Muse. It’s an experiment in targeted advertising. You see, yesterday with my post having “gnome” in the title, the book of faces decided to display ads for garden gnomes, a brewery with gnome in the name, and this creepy ass game about child gnomes I hope I never, ever actually stumble upon.

“But…Simian Soda Quarks? Did you just randomly pick some words?”

Inside joke, but…yeah, pretty much. We’ll see what the tome of profiles does with this. Though, technically I suppose ANY product they display would contain quarks…

Rainy start to the day here. I was planning on mowing, and now I can’t. Oh, darn. Can’t you feel the disappointment. The whole day is shot. Guess I just have to settle for doing anything other than getting bitten by mosquitoes while grass clippings stick to my sweaty hair. However will I manage.

It’s quiet, too. The teens have not yet returned from far away places, and the eight year old has chosen to sleep in instead of putting on another show of dramatic couch flopping. It’s just me and the cat. And, of course, the internet.

Ah, the internet. Usually I have a few sites I visit, a few pod casts to listen to while checking in on social media and news outlets, which, in my opinion, are becoming one in the same. Sometimes, though, I’ll find myself getting sucked into the rabbit hole and going where no one should ever intentionally tread: the user comments section.

Hoo baby, you want a real, harsh look into the souls of humanity? Scroll down after a news article and read what the “average Joe” has to say when there are absolutely no consequences. Now, internet comments seem to fall under a few categories.

First you’ve got rational comments about the actual article. Usually these are either thumbs up or thumbs down style, with brief reasonable explanations for the poster’s standpoint. This is what the “comments” section was supposed to be all about. Way back when the ‘net was new, someone dreamed that one day it would become a forum for the exchanging of rational dialogue between people from all walks of life, a way of broadening individual outlooks and adopting new ideas.

…dude, stop laughing. It’s not polite. That person really, truly believed that’s what the “comments” sections would be all about. Oh, that naive fool.

After the rational comments, which make up about 5% (+/-5%) of all user inputted blurbs, you’ve got all the other forms of crazy that humanity can display in written communication form, with most of the crazy being directed back at the handful of rational thinkers.

The third type is…well, I guess that’s it, isn’t it? Sane and crazy, with crazy being the bulk.

I don’t actively participate in these debates. I used to when I was young and bored and didn’t know there was no possible way in the world I was actually going to change opinions. I’m jaded enough now not to even bother. Internet commenting is a young man’s game. However, sometimes I just can’t help but read them and shake my head.

This morning I watched an innocuous little morning show on YouTube. They run every morning, about ten minutes or so of talking about random stuff. The people are funny and likable, and it’s only 10 minutes, so doesn’t really require any commitment on my part. The episode I watched today was about different moon landing conspiracies.

I can tell by the rolling of your eyes and the loud groan that you see where this is going.

As we all know, there are thousands of seconds of film footage taken from the Apollo missions that made it to the moon. And as we also know, every single one of those seconds has been picked apart by people who cannot, for whatever reason, accept that human beings landed on that dusty orb. There are hundreds of hours of documentaries exploring all the conspiracies out there that “prove” people have only walked on Earth, and I’m guessing many, many websites devoted to the subject as well, though I didn’t bother “googling” in case my google overlords and masters start offering me other conspiracy sites when I try to search “potato pancake recipes”. Hey, I’ll get sucked into user comments, but I do have certain lines I will not cross on the internet.

Anyway, the show this morning was just talking about some of the most well known conspiracies about the moon landing being a hoax, not supporting them. At the end of their little segment, they said, “Leave your opinions on the matter in the comments section below.” Well, that was a red cape and I was the bull. I scrolled down and ended up in a world I wish I didn’t know existed.

Look, I’m not saying there aren’t valid conspiracy theories out there. Now, I’m not talking about the moon, because that is simply ridiculous to argue. You can buy a telescope in fricken Walmart that’s powerful enough to see the debris and junk we’ve left up on the moon. There’s a flag there. Ours. There’s a giant mirror bank to reflect lasers. Ours. There are footprints and poop bags (Yes, four of them. On the moon. Because we’re humans, and muckin’ up nature is how we roll, even on other celestial bodies.) and landing gear and cars… We turned the moon into a trailer park lot, and we can see it. Easily. Clearly. With very little effort.

Aside from the moon, though, I have heard a few compelling conspiracies about different subjects. I honestly DO think that there have been times and instances where governments or religions or other ruling bodies have intentionally pulled the wool over our eyes, or misdirected our attentions. And I support the whole process of conspirizing. I do. I think it’s extremely healthy to look at something from every angle and try to see the entire picture, not just simply what you’re told.

However, it is a very slippery slope. There’s a difference between finding the truth, and creating a new false truth. Often people are looking so hard for there to be subterfuge that they create instances to prove their theory, and become blind to actual facts.

This brings me back to the moon landing, and the user comments section. Here are a couple actual, unedited, real comments pertaining to the moon landing that were left under the video:

“Didn’t happen. fake.”

Short and sweet and to the point. Why bother with all the hullaballoo of actually explaining yourself?

“If we went then we’d still be there now. Don’t make sense.”

I went camping when I was a kid. I am not still there now. I don’t really get what this person means.

“I believe the moon was 100% real, but 9-11 was staged.”

Attention! We’ve got a thread hijacking in progress. Please stay inside your vehicles and lock your doors.

“It was fake and NASA just making up reasons to prove us wrong I’m sorry but if we can’t cure cancer HIV/AIDS to this day we didn’t go to moon I’m sorry that’s how I feel.”

Well, you should be sorry, mystery poster. That’s not only grammatically abysmal, but the whole crux of your argument is stupid. We didn’t reach the pinnacle of competency in one aspect of science, so there’s no way we could excel in any other? That’s like saying that cavemen didn’t know about germs, so they couldn’t create hunting spears. Idiocy.

“You can’t see a flag you lying f**k. There are no clear photos of the flag on the moon and you’re buying the bulls**t you c**t.”

Oh wow. I never looked at it like that before. The use of profanity has swayed me like no “fact” ever could.

“Stanley Kubrick did it there’s evidence in The Shining.”

So now they are using a fictional movie as their scientific thesis? I bet you right this very minute the American Astronomical Society is frantically searching out this genius to offer him a chance to write a paper they can publish in their next journal.

“All photos have black and white but 1 is in color!! Someone screwed up.”

I have a photo of my great grandparent’s wedding, before color photography, that has been colorized. CONSPIRACY. But, while we’re on the subject, there are color photographs of WWII. ‘NOTHER CONSPIRACY!!! When will it stop?? HOW DEEP DOES IT GO?????

“No possible way we landed on the moon. My iPhone has more technology than what was available in 1969! Wake up!”

Yes, wake up…and realize that after we went to the moon, the US public lost interest and killed funding because it really was just a big, boring rock. No aliens, no hip intergalactic parties going on, nothing to keep the attention of the American magpies who are easily distracted by shiny objects. We crippled ourselves for space travel by voting to cut the money needed to…

“NASA don’t need funding there NASA stupid.”

Oh. Well, then, I guess I’ve been told. Forget my snarkiness about the lack of funds. Apparently NASA don’t need it.

Look, everyone’s got an opinion. It just kills me that one day, legitimate intelligent life from another planet may intercept our broadcasts to learn more about us and find…this. I don’t know about you, but I would be utterly mortified.

I guess the moral of the story is: Always be careful about what you post on an internet comments board. Some day, your words may serve as representation of the entire human race.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Friday, August 22, 2014. I’ll be sure to let you know what my little experiment yields for ads. Just for good measure, SIMIAN SODA QUARKS 4 LYFE. ..and I’ll defend that statement to any alien race that comes knocking…

If it walks like a gnome and jigs like a gnome…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

I shouldn’t be writing. I’ve got so much left to do that I should mainline this coffee and get to work. My fingers are itchy, though, and need to pound on the keys for awhile. So I figured I’d babble at my morning friends to appease the beast, and then I’ll get to it. I mean, sure, I’d love to get cracking on the next Newton book. But I’ve got responsibilities. I’m an adult, after all, and that means…

…oh look! The cocoa puffs turned the milk to chocolate! Yay!

*slurps from the cereal bowl*

I live in the best town in the world if you have a pile of junk that you MUST get rid of. I have bemoaned the fact that the local dump is only open three days a week. Yesterday was not one of those special days, so we decided to stick all the crap in a pile with a free sign and see what happens.

People. Took. Everything.

Old toaster oven? Gone. Lamp without a shade? Didn’t last five minutes before being snatched up. Box of rusty tools? Should have just been called ghosts for how fast they vanished. Shoes, old back packs, random car parts that we somehow had that were not for any of the cars we’ve ever owned, old cleaning chemicals from the failed one year pool experiment, cracked hoses that we specifically said had to be patched or used for something else… Didn’t matter. Anything we stuck out in the pile was gone almost before we were finished working. It was amazing.

People will take ANYTHING if you say it’s free.

…me included. Please don’t think that I’m picking on the people who went through the pile looking for an unexpected treasure to brighten up a ho-hum Wednesday. I’m not at all. I AM one of those people. Have been my whole life. I’ve already unabashedly copped to being a hoarder. I’m not picking on them. If life were different right now, I would be doing the same damn thing.

I can’t, but they did, so I’m grateful. They saved us a whole lot of effort and money, and I thank them.

What we’ve got here in town…I call it the “dump” because that’s what it was when I was a kid. You drove past the cemetery and could start to smell…well, something you hoped was NOT the cemetery. And the something-smell grew and grew until you wrinkled your nose and your dad pulled down a dirt road and turned the corner, at which point you didn’t care about the stink because in front of you was The Dump.

Yep, it was a classic “dump”, the kind that would send any environmentalist into an apoplectic fit. It was simply a great big pit with a heap o’trash in the middle. That’s it. Everything got tossed together in one giant mound. There were no restrictions and no recycling. You bagged up your trash- or left it loose- and tossed it onto the heap. Can’t get any more basic than that.

There was a man who worked there. We called him the Dump Gnome.

“Bethie! That’s horrible!!”

I KNOW!!! But we were kids, and my dad was wildly inappropriate… Besides, as mean as it sounds, the dude really, REALLY looked like a gnome. And he’d come out of seemingly nowhere to pick over what people were throwing away. He’d pull out anything that looked like it would be useful to someone else and placed it off to the side for people to take.

Hoarding is NOT a new phenomenon, people. As long as people have been throwing out useful crap they just got sick of, there have been hoarders snatching it up.

So the Dump Gnome, he’d take things like lamps, bookcases, furniture, blenders, tvs, books…anything that looked like it was in decent condition. He’d set it aside, and then encourage people to have a look through and see if there was anything they’d like. I can clearly remember him guiding Dad to the treasures and handing them over like the dump puppet in The Labyrinth. “Here’s a bear, dearie. Isn’t it a nice one? So pretty…”

…wait a minute. Stop everything. I’m having a revelation right now.

He was my first pusher. That gnome-y little bastard! Wow, I never thought of that before. But he was, wasn’t he? And damn if he didn’t turn a whole town into hoarders! That sneaky little… Okay. I will never again feel bad for calling him the Dump Gnome.

Sorry, got way off track there. Just…mind blown.

Okay. Where was I? Oh, yeah. The dump of yesteryear.

At some point when I was a teenager, the town decided that the heap of hazardous materials and the toxic fumes they produced were a bad plan for the environment. They stopped letting people pile the garbage up willy-nilly, and covered the whole thing with dirt and sod. What was once the town dump became a mountain that we had to pretend was always there. Then huge containers were brought in and what was once the dump became a transfer station. Recycling goes in those bins, trash and non-recyclables over here, please. Trash gets super compacted into bricks that get carted off somewhere to be someone else’s problem. You know, because letting it be someone else’s problem is modern environmental responsibility.

…did you pick up on the sarcasm? Because I was layin’ it on pretty thick there…

My point is that now it’s all very tidy and no fun whatsoever.

The Dump Gnome couldn’t hack the life full of restrictions and left shortly after the mysterious mountain that had totally always been there appeared. His spot didn’t stay empty for very long. Now, there’s an heir to the picker throne. He also pulls aside useful items, though he’s much more selective than the gnome ever was. And he never encourages people to take the items. In fact, if he’s not on his cell phone, he’ll glare at you if you so much as look at the pile. I guess he’s one of those high-functioning hoarders.

Ya know…I wonder what happened to the Dump Gnome? Much like a wild west gunslinger, he suddenly found himself in a world that moved on and left him in the past. Almost poetic, when you think about it.

Anyway, I’m glad the pile on our lawn went. The transfer station has rules the dump never had, and we would have ended up paying a fee to rid ourselves of some of that crap.

We found a ton of scrap metal, too. Now, “scrapping” around here is big business. There are many people who make it their job to ride around and collect metal junk that people no longer want. They load their rigs with everything from springs to refrigerators, then take it back to their work areas where they spend hours breaking it down into the different components. Once they’ve got it all down to bare metal, they take it to a local junkyard and sell it.

“That’s a business?”

Hell yeah. In fact, scrap metal collection is a HUGE business. However, you’ve got to do it in bulk to make it worth your time and effort. The scrap yards pay by the ton, and if you don’t have a rig crammed with a few tons of material that’s been carefully picked apart and sorted, it’s not really worth it.

We had an entire station wagon full of odds and ends metal, including a lot of aluminum which is going for crazy money right now. We checked to see if it would be worth it for us to haul it up ourselves. Since we don’t know enough about metal to sort it properly, what we had was a “mixed” load, and it probably would have netted us about $30. Not worth it, since we’d have spent $10 in gas there and back.

For us, it didn’t make sense. But, for people who make this their business, the pile was an excellent find. Two really cool guys stopped to see if they could have it, then chatted with us while they loaded it all into their truck. They explained the process of scrapping in detail while they worked. They do it for a living, and they went item by item to tell us how to break it all down next time if we were interested in scrapping things ourselves. They said if we broke it down and sorted it like they suggested, we could have turned that $30 pile into at least $100.

…with lots of time and effort. Trust me, these guys are going to have to work hard to turn that rust into gold. It’s going to take muscle and lots of time to make it worth it, and we were more than happy to let them have the whole shebang. We’ll have another pile in a couple weeks, probably even bigger than that when we tackle the larger garage. Maybe we’ll break that one down ourselves and see what we can make.

I have a helper awake. He does not appear to be in a good mood. He’s got his blankie pulled over his head and keeps sighing dramatically. So much drama in one so young… I wonder how loud he’ll get? It’s impressive, actually. I can hear him over Land Down Under in my headphones. Can people hyperventilate by excessive sighing?

Oh, okay. He’s amped it up by flopping on the couch. He’ll be fine. The flopping will get the blood flowing and counter the effects of the dramatic sighs.

He best get the angst out of his system. His older brothers are away today, so it’s just the two of us to tackle the teen bedroom. Normally I make the kids clean their own damn room. However, we’ve got to be brutal, and bags of crinkled and torn Magic cards that are totally hidden where the boys think I don’t know about them just won’t make the cut. D10s with the numbers half rubbed off aren’t viable, either. I promised them I’d keep good stuff, and I will. I’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty in salvaging Bionicle and Lego pieces, decent Magic cards, dice that aren’t all rubbed bare… It would have been so easy to toss the junk, and honestly, I doubt they ever would have known. I plan on doing the same in their room. But how many piles of old school papers they were too lazy to walk 20 fricken feet to throw away do teenagers really need, hm?

Ten bucks says I find a cache of dirty socks shoved in the corner.

Guess what the sighing helper’s first job is going to be?!

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Thursday, August 21, 2014. I wasn’t kidding about the socks. I can smell them from here. I’ll send the 8 year old in with a trash bag, rubber gloves, and a gas mask. Hey, he owes me for the early morning drama-thon…

Slowly I turn. Step by step, inch by painfully slow inch…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

*creeeeaaakkk*

Sorry. My back still wants to be in bed today. I’m hoping that this coffee will do for me what the oil can does for the Tin Man. Or at the very least, let me walk faster than a snail.

Do snails “walk”?

It took me quite some time to navigate the stairs. Fourteen stairs didn’t sound like many stairs before I set off on my lengthy journey. On the way down, I had some extra time to think about my day, ponder the meaning of life, develop an equation that definitively proves the Riemann hypothesis…

*fist bump to mathies*

…okay, maybe that last one didn’t actually happen. Hey, because of me, literally tens of people will google “Riemann hypothesis”. I have injected a short burst of interest into an oft-ignored subject. THE FIST BUMP STANDS.

We had another yard sale yesterday. We got a lot of tire kickers, but I noticed the junk/antique/crap shop across the street was having the same problem. They are an extremely popular little shop, and usually people walk out of there with their arms stuffed full of treasures. However, we saw more people than not driving away empty handed. There just wasn’t a buyer’s mood in the air.

I wonder if it was because of the cold? It started off legitimately chilly yesterday, and I know I couldn’t have been the only one thinking about winter being right around the corner. Perhaps the cold sparked some old, subconscious cue for people to hold onto their resources and not spend money, to save for the lean times ahead.

“Bethie, maybe people just didn’t want to buy your crap.”

…Or that.

It was a dribs and drabs and nickel and dime day. And everyone was looking for a much better deal than the smokin’ hot prices we already set. One lady actually tried to dicker the price down on a $2 item that was already dropped to $1 for her. Directly after being told she could have it for $1, she said, “Would you take fifty cents?” It was just that kind of day.

Still, made a few bucks, and every drop in the bucket helps. Stuff that didn’t sell that we just couldn’t bring ourselves to drag back in was put in a “free” pile. I tell you what. You want to get the attention of hundreds of people? Stick anything on your lawn with a “free” sign. It was like some weird zombie movie. They Came for the Free Pile. Within minutes, the mob swarmed, coming from nowhere and everywhere all at once. They attacked that crap as if it was their very life’s blood, pawing and pushing and throwing and gnawing. It was too creepy to watch out the front window, and we drew the curtains and sat staring at the door, rifles clutched at the ready, our terrified heartbeats matching the painfully slow ticking of the clock as we prayed that the horde would lose interest and just…move…on…

The rest of the afternoon passed without incident, but I tell you what, I hugged my kids just a bit tighter before bed, knowing all that could have happened.

Today we’re going to attack one of the garages and create another free pile. This time, though, we’ll be prepared. I think I’ll set up an electrified fence all around it. A zombie-be-good perimeter to protect our home just in case one of them can’t handle the surge of adrenaline at finding a pile of free junk and decides to see what other treasure may lie within the fortress.

KIDDING. Sheesh. You think I want to waste that much electricity? I’ll just put razor wire out and that should be enough.

That garage has some of everything you’d expect in a garage. There’s an old fish tank, an 80s tv stand, some random weed whackers in various states of functionality. There’s a huge pile of recycling we haven’t gotten around to actually taking to the transfer station, a sketchy bird with a nest in the rafters who, without fail, flies into the closed window instead of the open door when we go inside, tools, dead appliances…pretty much what you’d expect in a catch-all garage.

Well, everything but a car.

It’s a huge undertaking, but I have help today. Hopefully we’ll weed it out enough to where I can get the rest by myself when the dump is open.

**Drawback #843 of living in a small town: the dump is only open three days a week.**

Gut the garage, that’s the goal. I figure if we can at least get it sorted into sell, free, and dump, we’ll be doing well for the day. Then tomorrow I can focus more on inside the house. Ya know, I can only think of one other time in my life where I wished for a real genie lamp. But that time turned out okay, and it was a far more dire situation. If that turned out fine, this will, too. It’s just the getting there part I can’t stand.

One plus, though, is that cleaning up a hoard is one helluva good workout. Ignore the sore back. That I did because I twisted funny with a large bag of books I knew damn well I should have broken down into at least two bags. I was stubborn, and that was my own fault. But the rest has been some really great weight training. Old school. No fancy machines, no drill sergeant personal trainers. Rocky in Russia style. Blast a little Eye of the Tiger, strap a box of trash bags on your belt, and get to it.

I used to lift weights. Back in the day, I was on the school’s weightlifting team, actually. Two years, and I liked it. That came to a screeching halt when a friend and I had the brilliant idea of playing tackle basketball, with my ankle being the victim and ending up in a cast. That was that for the weightlifting, but I still have the medals to prove I was actually pretty good at it.

See, I like feeling strong. I’m a very large person. No matter what, I’ll never have abs of steel. I aspire to more of abs of slightly stale marshmallow peeps. That’s about the best I think I could hope for. I do, however, have very strong legs and arms that build muscle easily. I’d much rather be able to pick stuff up and haul it around than do 1,000 crunches in the morning. I’d rather my strength be a usable force, rather than one for vanity or bragging rights.

If I had a spirit animal, it would be a mule, and I say that with pride. Sure, a thoroughbred horse is prettier, but a mule can work hard all day long. I’m from sturdy, eastern European stock. My ancestors worked the cabbage fields by day and drank vodka all night. No thoroughbred could live through that.

I hurt my knee a few years back. I did it in the dumbest way possible, too: I dared to walk from the living room to the bathroom.

“Hey, if you’re going to live life on the edge, Bethie, you get what’s coming to you.”

I know. I fully cop to it. I blew it out good, too. One minute it worked, the next it honestly felt like there was absolutely nothing there. That one took a good two years to heal. In that time, I couldn’t do much in the way of yard work or winter shoveling or home repairs. As you can imagine, things kind of went to pot.

I tell you what. It feels very, very good that it’s only my back that’s kinked up this morning after all of this work, and NOT my knee. I even caught myself brazenly tempting fate by walking directly from the living room to the bathroom WITHOUT HOLDING THE WALL.

“Bethie…”

Save the lecture, and stop looking at me like that. Everyone has to get back up on the horse at some point. I made it without incident and I think I took a crucial step forward (pun ALWAYS intended). Though I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to attempt tackle basketball again, at least I’ve put one demon to rest.

*roll neck most of the way*

Hm, well the combo of coffee, mindless babbling, and Bayer extra strength back ache pills seems to have oiled up the gears. I can almost turn and stare out the window now. I think that’s a sign that it’s time to get working. At least I have a helper today. If things get too sore, I can always grab a whistle and be the overseer.

Ya know, that’s not a bad idea.

…oh…the power…

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Sunday, August 17, 2014. I’ve got to remember where I put that whistle. I’ve got an egg timer that I can set for my worker’s breaks. Hey, you think a clipboard would make me look more official, or would that just be too douchey?

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No…it’s…a great big pile of crap?

Standard

Mornin’ all.

“Well look who it is, gracing us with her presence.”

Whoa now. I know I’ve been busy, but…

“What happened to your promises of keeping in touch and creating new posts with regularity?”

I’ve done pretty well up to this week! It’s not like I didn’t want to be writing. It’s not like I want to have to clean out the hoard and scramble for a place to live. Sheesh. You act like I’m enjoying doing all that crap. Trust me, I’d MUCH rather be babbling at you!

“…you mean that?”

Of course I do! There’s no place I’d rather be in the morning than chatting with you over coffee.

“Fine. I’ll accept your apology. THIS TIME. *sniff* Proceed.”

It’s a chilly start here, the kind of morning that makes any parent perk up and say, “Holy shit…it’s almost time for school to start!” I want them to go back, and yet, I don’t. Turned into a dud summer here, and I wish I could have another month to actually do things with them instead of running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to handle the cards life dealt.

My youngest is going into the third grade this year. He got a letter in the mail yesterday from his new teacher, a teacher I had back in fourth grade. It’s so weird having your former teacher now be your kids’ teacher. When my eldest attended first grade here when we moved back from a town just up the way, he got my first grade teacher for his. The first time I attended a parent/teacher conference with her, I sat there and “yes, ma’am-ed” and “yes, Mrs. Felton-ed.” She said, “You know you can call me Kathy now, right?”

What? What is this!? Call my first grade teacher by her first name?! Every ounce of little kid left inside me recoiled in absolute horror. She had another of my kids later on. I still call her Mrs. Felton, and I always will. Some things are just too ingrained to change.

Anyway, my youngest has my former fourth grade teacher this time. He’s excited because in her note, she mentioned that he has to bring a set of ear buds for her “listening station”. He said, “I get a listening station? Like for music? Do you think she’ll let us watch YouTube?”

He was so excited that I took the parental cop out. “I guess you’ll just have to wait and see!”

Oh come on, don’t give me that look. If he’s excited, let her be the one to dash his hopes. It’s been a crappy summer. Why not let the boy dream?

Got the school supply list, too. It’s not bad this year. Standard stuff. Pencil box, pencils and crayons, notebook, etc. The only weird thing is the ear buds, and those are a buck at the dollar store. Nice and simple, as it should be.

Some teachers seem to get drunk on the power of writing a supply list. When my older boys were in jr. high, I got these lists that were insanely specific. “1 1/2-inch blue binder, 1 2-inch red binder, 100 3×5 lined index cards, 100 4×6 UNlined index cards…” It went on and on.

One year, a teacher specified the brand of pencils she preferred in her classroom. Another wanted me to supply three boxes of tissues OR a case of bottled water, my choice. That one struck me as weird. I mean, if you’ve got a runny nose, wiping it off on a bottle of water seems like an unusual solution. But hey, I’m not a teacher. What do I know?

I get it. I understand why teachers have to ask for extras. I get that public schools are so strapped for supplies that they have to ask parents to kick in more than just the insane taxes. But I just think some take it way too far.

I once had to buy a photo album for one of the kids. It had to be certain dimensions and a certain color. I couldn’t find the exact thing and got as close as I could. Turns out I should have gone to Staples, not the other three stores I went to looking for it, as the teacher informed me in a passive aggressive note the following week. Well damnit, lady! Why didn’t you just say, “You can find these at Staples?” Or, better yet, chill the hell out about it because it’s just a damn photo album and not worth any drama whatsoever!

A teacher once asked that when we chose the folders to insert into our child’s binder that they not be neon colors because she found those distracting. She chose a profession where she had to deal with a classroom full of hyper active children all day. Snotty noses and petty bickering and spitballs and gum on shoes and outbursts during quiet time and all the other million little acts of chaos that happen in an elementary school classroom every single day…and she’s stressing the color of a folder? Good luck with that one, lady.

Look, I’m not knocking teachers here. I had some fantastic ones. And even the crappy ones have a really hard job, and that should be taken into account. However, as a parent, it’s my obligation to complain about the supply lists. It’s just how things work, and I’d be shirking my duties if I didn’t do it.

Two weeks and they go back, jumping in the fray. And I will be here by myself in the mornings.

Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike being by myself? Especially now that the kids are older and far more interesting. They’re cool and fun, and I get so bored when they’re not here.

“But Bethie, think of the writing you’ll be able to do without your little distraction machines.”

…you have a point.

Plus, I can pop on a girlie movie while I clean and do housework and there won’t be a single boy around to scoff and roll their eyes (even though they totally get into them, especially the 80’s ones, while trying to LOOK like they’re ignoring what’s happening on the screen…YES I’M CALLING YOU OUT BOYS).

And I must admit, as great as they are, they’re huge and have an annoying habit of standing in the way when I’m trying to clean. I’ll admit it will be very nice to bag up some junk and walk it to the back of the station wagon to haul away without having to tell the same kid to get out of the way five times.

Yes, the clean out continues. What part of “hoarder” did you not understand? I’ll probably STILL be at it a month from now.

I had to get rid of a ton of books yesterday. There’s a drop box here in town where you can donate books. I hauled two station wagons full of books for that bin and filled it right up. The problem is, I’ve easily got twice that many books left and no room to donate. I can’t throw them out, I just can’t. Books are special and books are magic and I can’t throw away special magic. I also can’t bring myself to haul them to our next place, especially when they’re the ones we absolutely will not read again. Maybe I’ll just stick them out with a “free” sign at the yard sale this weekend.

I’ve got to say I’m really impressed with my stacking abilities. My hoard is all shoved into the corners of rooms and closets. We’ve always got some floor space. It’s not like we’re being buried or consumed. And looking at the piles in their corners of the ring before a bout, I assumed there were a few bags of garbage per. I mean, how much can you really fit in the corner of a room? Got one corner of the dining room done yesterday.

Hang on. Lemme ‘splain. My “dining room” is really my “catchall project room”. We don’t dine in there. We make projects or messes, or messy projects. As such, instead of a hutch with the family china, it’s got some of everything.

I got to one of the bad corners. In that one space, I bagged up eight bags of crap to throw out. Eight! Looking at it all bagged up, and then looking at the corner, it’s impossible to figure out how it all fit.

My theory is that hoarders can control gravity, but only in relation to our collections. It’s our super hero skill. Admittedly, it’s not the best super power a person could have. It doesn’t do much good in real life crime fighting or saving lives or pretty much anything else. But boy, can we pack shit in!

I think I just came up with the next Marvel movie! You laugh, but they just made a blockbuster out of a talking raccoon and a tree. Heroes of Hoarding doesn’t seem like such a stretch now, does it?

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Friday, August 15, 2014. Grocery shopping then the next section of the dining room. Getting there. Really I am.

Is there anything more poetic than a drawer of empty pistachio shells?

Standard

Mornin’ all.

It’s a coffee AND gum kind of morning today. I got up feeling very nervous and apprehensive. I swapped a cig habit for a gum habit three years ago. No, not nicotine gum. Bubble gum. You know, because I’m mature. *whooooosh POP* And some days, I need it right off the bat. Makes the coffee taste funny, but I make funny-tasting coffee to begin with. It evens out.

Also turned on the music to soothe the savage beast. Right now I’m listening to Awolnation. You may have heard the huge hit “Sail” put out a few years back. The rest of that album kicks ass, and I’m listening to “Kill Your Heroes”. If you haven’t heard it, you should remedy that right now.

“Bubblegum and b-side album recommendations? Are you…are you turning into a..a.. HIPSTER??”

Egads, man! I already told you I’ve got a nervous constitution this morning. Don’t add to it! Hipster? ME!? *shudder* Sheesh.

“Okay, okay. Calm down, killah. I was just joking.”

*sniff* I’m not a hipster.

“I know. Now, what’s got you all wound up today?”

Gah, I don’t know. Everything. Things are up in the air, changes are afoot. And I’m cleaning out my hoard with reckless abandon.

Look, I joke a lot about being a hoarder because as long as I keep saying it and making light of things, it’s okay. The second I stop talking about it and poking fun at myself over my tendencies to gather junk is when I start having a bad problem again. The second I stop talking about it and start stashing secret piles, then you all can worry.

Now, to be clear, I’ve never been diagnosed and treated. I’m like an alcoholic who wakes up after another bender and just knows they’ve got a problem. I found something while attempting to clean out my closet (not a metaphor…seriously, I was cleaning my closet) that was very eye-opening…but more on that in a sec. Let’s first look at hoarding.

Hoarding is a psychological issue in the same family of mental illness as obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s categorized by the sufferer collecting and keeping items that may or may not seem to have any purpose to an outside observer. The Oxford Handbook of Hoarding and Acquiring says, “Among the features associated with hoarding are difficulty making decisions, perfectionism, emotional sensitivity, and strong attachment to objects.” They say that up to 6% of US and European adults suffer from this mental illness, and that “hoarding symptoms commonly begin during childhood or adolescent years.”

So basically, hoarders see something and instantly form an attachment to it and must have it and keep it. It’s a compulsion. Something inside says, “You need to find a way to have this thing because this thing is the thing you are missing and if you walk away and don’t pick it up you will regret it and the memory will haunt you and DEAR GOD YOU MUST TOUCH IT RIGHT NOW AND MAKE IT YOURS.”

Yep. That’s pretty much how it happens.

I’ll see something and my mind will instantly say, “Ooh, I could use that for project X.” Then before my logical side can step in, the monkey on my back that just wants a new toy starts listing ten other ways I need that object in my life. I can look at anything and tell you ten different ways it can be useful.

Yes, that’s good in some ways. I can MacGuyver the hell out of anything. But, it’s also simply a way to justify getting the thing in question.

I’m not a money spender. I don’t pay for the stuff I pile up. I get it all for free, either given to me or from the free pile across the street at the junk/antique shop. Or, I strip down things we’re throwing away, like a broken couch or lamp. I’ll completely disassemble them to take out any bits I deem useful. A lot of times I get things I truly do use in something else. But, I also end up with another little box of pretty bits that in all likelihood I’ll never really re-purpose.

I think it’s interesting that this is a disorder that begins to manifest in childhood. Remember when I said I was cleaning out my closet? Well, I found an old jewelery box. I used to collect jewelery boxes. At one point, I had eight. Now I am down to two. I was cleaning one of them out and I found that the four drawers were full of collections I had when I was probably about 8 or 10. I had forgotten I had them, but as soon as I looked I could clearly remember gathering them up, the processes, deciding to keep them, etc. Wanna know what was in the drawers?

In one was bottle caps. Not good ones. Flattened or old and rusty ones. You can’t read the labels, and they honestly look like garbage.

The second drawer had a handful of magnet strips that I popped off the back of fridge magnets. I didn’t keep the picture parts, just the magnets off the back.

The third drawer contained ripped stamps. Some were together on a sheet that clearly had kool aid spilled on it, promotional snowman stamps from March of Dimes charities that they used to send to guilt you into donating a few bucks. Most of the stamps in the drawer were just torn off letters, common stamps of the day that are so ripped and ragged that there is no worth, use, or purpose for them.

And the last drawer contained pistachio shells. I used to love pistachio shells. This wasn’t from like one incident of late night pistachio eating or anything. I’d pop a few in to add to the collection when we’d eat pistachios. It was a conscious collection gathered over time, not just once on a little kid whim. I just loved the way they sounded when you jingled them in the drawer.

All of it crap, and all of it kept for almost 30 years.

I dumped those drawers into the trash. Yesterday alone I threw out 7 trash bags of junk. That makes about twenty five in the past two weeks. My house is getting emptier, which we really need. But it also sounds emptier. It’s starting to sound echo-y. Even the ambient noise is telling me I just lost a bunch of stuff. The monkey on my back is missing his shinies.

See, the other thing about hoarding is that it’s so very comfortable. Yeah, you look around a room and know you’ve got a problem. You KNOW that most people don’t have stacks of junk piled very nearly to the ceiling in the corners of all the rooms. You know, and while consciously you feel guilt, deep inside, you don’t care. When you shut that light out at night and nestle in to sleep, you can’t see the piles and feel the guilt they bring. You FEEL that stuff there around you and it’s like sliding into an old pair of sweatpants. It’s safe. It’s warm and cozy. It’s comfortable.

It is not comfortable to hear the air swirl around in the room and remind you that your pile is gone. It’s not comfortable to get up to go pee at night and feel bare floor under your feet and not have to walk around anything to get there, because you know that means you lost all your stuff.

I love feeling an empty and open space. I really, honestly do. I look at my older sister, the one I want to be my life coach *AHEM HINT AGAIN*. Her house is magazine-neat. She’s got elbow room and doesn’t trip over a stack of disassembled computer parts. I do like that, I honestly do. I want that, really.

And yet, I don’t.

The light goes off and the walls of my castle are gone and it just feels like I made a huge mistake throwing all that away. I mean, I can’t ever get it back. Ever. And while I truly am logically okay with that, there is an undeniable sadness associated with losing all of that potential.

I’ve gotten better with hoarding over the last five years or so. When our boy was diagnosed with cancer, it became clear there needed to be massive changes to keep him as healthy as possible during the treatment. No, as I’ve said before, I am not the kind of hoarder that has filthy dead animals and piles of garbage all over the house. I have junk, not wrappers and molding food. Piles. Huge piles. The thing is, those collect dust. And with the type of treatments he needed, any contamination was the enemy, including dust. My wonderful family pitched in and went holy hell on my piles…I think that was the moment when I knew just how bad a problem I had. Seeing it through their eyes, watching the parade of stuff fill up boxes of trash bags and an entire U-Haul that was rented to take things to the dump. That was the moment.

And while I’ve slipped, it has never gotten as bad as it was then again. I DO make myself go through things and have a two year rule that seems to be working well. If I haven’t touched it in two years, then it can go and I will live just fine without it.

…mostly.

Come on, I can’t get rid of my childhood jewelery boxes. That’s simply unreasonable. I can, however, get rid of the trash inside. Even if it does give me a stomach ache.

I need to get my kids up in a minute. I’m working in one of the boys’ bedrooms again today. My eight year old is here to help, and he’s a hoarder, too. No, I’m not kidding, and as we’re going through paring down the piles, he’s making comments that actually make it far easier for me to huck the shit while he watches and, hopefully, learns. He’s saying things I used to say. “Oh, I know! We can use that as decoration on a lamp shade!” “Only one part is broken. I can still use the rest.” “No, I haven’t used it for awhile, but I might.”

I tell you what. That’s the best reason in the world right there to keep filling up these trash bags.

I don’t want him to be like me. Not like that. He’s my fellow MacGuyver. Since he could walk he’s been helping me build and repair and make contraptions with all sorts of found materials. He’s also clearly been paying way too much attention to my less-than-awesome traits. I want him to see me throw things out, and I need him to hold the bags open while I do it. I keep trying to stress that he can keep things he legitimately still uses, but it’s time to let the broken crap go. By the end of the afternoon yesterday he was taking the dust pan and just scooping stuff up without looking from the bottom of the toy box and throwing it away.

Let’s just hope that’s the lesson that sticks.

Thus concludes a cluttered Musing for Saturday, August 9, 2014. I’m listening to Goyte’s “Night Drive” at the moment. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. It wasn’t a…HOLY CRAP. Okay, I am officially giving you permission to slap the hell out of me if I even so much as reach for a Pabst…