Step right up, folks, and keep and eye on that cow’s ass…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

I got up this morning and the 90’s Ace of Base song “I Saw the Sign” was playing on the radio. There are far worse ways to start the day, my friend. I had to keep myself from singing it out loud and my bebopping almost spilled my coffee. What can I say? I can’t be held responsible for coffee spills when a 90’s track takes hold.

The song holds a special place in my heart. Two, actually. The first is that it was oddly one of my father’s favorites. It would play and he’d point his fingers and make a Bill Cosby face and shuffle around the house sorta to the beat. He did that to Milli Vanilli’s “Wishing Well” and pretty much anything by Paula Abdul, too, but I never held that against him.

The other was a party my best friend and I threw. It was a sleepover with a luau theme. We were mini Martha Stewarts without the douchebaggery and put a lot of thought into that party. While we decorated with homemade lei streamers, we played “I Saw the Sign” over and over. That was an epic event, even if I DID get in trouble for someone throwing Jell-o jigglers onto the freshly painted ceiling to see if they would stick.

Spoiler alert: They did.

Anyway, wicked awesome 90’s tunes + smile-inducing memories = a good way to wake up!

I had a good weekend, too. Mother Nature decided to give our little hamlet an excellent round of weather. Now, I’ve lived in NH long enough to know that when you get a few bee-u-teeful days in a row at the end of September, it’s usually a pre-apology for things to come. Indeed, a quick check in with the old farmers at the almanac let me know that it’s supposed to be a bitter and long winter. Mother Nature is bribing us. I’ll take it, though. It was in the 80’s. And sunny. And the leaves have really begun to turn. And there were pickles.

“…pickles?”

Yes! This weekend was our town’s annual Pickle Festival!

052

Relax, that’s just a kitschy banner, not a call-to-arms for the next supremacy movement.

Why pickles, you ask? Why not? We’ve got to celebrate something, right? The large town to the north has a pumpkin festival. I don’t care for that. It’s a huge waste of a highly nutritious, inexpensive food source and…

“Bethie! Stop. Do NOT disparage the Pumpkin Festival.”

*sigh* Fine. I won’t say what’s clearly obvious just because you like literally burning thousands upon thousands of pounds of food in what has got to be one of the worst examples of First World entitlement in the area that I can…

“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU WOMAN?!”

Oh. Sorry. I didn’t notice the Pumpkin Fest tee-shirt you’re wearing. Or the pumpkin shaped novelty cup in your hand. Or the bracelet of souvenir charms from every single Pumpkin Fest. My bad.

Forget the pumpkins. Pickles are where it’s at anyway. What, exactly, is a Pickle Festival? It’s a chance to have a parade, eat free pickles donated by the Kiwanis club, listen to local bands, pig out on some carnival food, buy locally produced jewelry in the craft sale area, watch cows take a shit for charity… You know, same old that any “fest” would offer.

“Uh, could we back the truck up a sec?”

The cow thing, right? Yeah, a lot of people wonder about that. It’s called a Cow Flop (or Cow Plop…the two are interchangeable). What they do is section off a field into grids, usually with 100-1000 squares, depending on the fund-raising goal. Each square is numbered, and the numbers are put on tickets. The tickets are then sold, usually for like $5 a pop.

Next, a cow is placed in the makeshift pen. And then people wait for nature to take it’s course. Whoever has the ticket with the number that corresponds with the shat upon square gets a portion of the ticket sales.

“People get paid for a cow taking a dump?”

Yes, but for charity, so it’s cool.

“What happens if the cow doesn’t need to go?”

A cow ALWAYS needs to go. You install a cow into a field and you’re pretty much guaranteed a show within an hour or so. And part of the fun is watching the cow and waiting. It’s the same thrill you get from watching a roulette wheel spin or waiting for the blond in the glittery dress to announce the next lotto number, and people get disappointed if the cow lets loose as soon as it gets off the trailer.

“But what if it falls on more than one square?”

Then they split the prize.

“But…”

Honey, you’re putting way too much thought into this. A cow shits, people cheer, the charity gets money and the holder of the Golden Ticket gets to call all his or her pals and say they’re a winner. That’s it. It’s really not complicated.

You’ve got to admit, there are far worse ways to make money. This one’s virtually free to put on. There’s always a farmer around who’s willing to loan you a poopy cow for awhile. The only real cost is buying a roll of ticket blanks. Sure, we could have something more upscale, like the Met Gala. If we do that, though, we risk a Kardashian showing up. NO ONE wants that.

Anyway, there ya go. The next time you’re at a dinner party and someone mentions a Cow Flop, you don’t have to pretend you know what they’re talking about anymore. You’re welcome.

It was packed this year, too, and the festivities went on longer than usual. Normally the event wraps up at 4 pm, but the crowds tend to die down well before then. Not this year. I don’t know if people were just in a pickly mood, or if they didn’t want to stop wandering around on such a gorgeous day, but when I went through downtown at 3:30 to go to the store, it was still fairly busy and didn’t look ready to close.

I can’t tell you how good that is for a town our size. Any fest brings benefits to the community. If it didn’t, then the planners wouldn’t put up with the five alarm migraines they get from having to coordinate such a large event. However, I think if a small town like ours can put on such a successful event, the benefits to us are greater than if we were a large town. We don’t have an abundance of small businesses here. We don’t have a weekly draw, like a flea market or farmer’s market or any other kind of market, or any centers for concerts or sporting events. We’re just a regular old small NH town.

I saw a family getting out of a car with a Connecticut license plate. They had Pickle Fest tee-shirts on that they bought last year. We had out-of-state repeaters, and that’s exactly what we need. It’s all fine and dandy if the locals spend a few bucks on cotton candy. It’s much more valuable to the financial welfare of the community if we suck the dollars from tourists.

The parade was great fun, too. Er, for the most part. For some reason there was a float of very sad lumberjacks. And by that, I don’t mean, “Holy smokes, what a sad attempt to be lumberjacks.” I mean, they were lumberjacks who looked seconds away from openly weeping. They were lumberjacks but they were NOT okay.

A small town parade is something everyone should see at least once in their life. You really get a feel for the town by what slowly drives past. The leader of the parade was a classic car with the emcee of the event, Mr. Pickle (I can’t make that up) standing up and waving to the crowd from inside. There were band floats, two of them. After that, there were the sad lumberjacks, the happy Red Hat ladies, the content preschoolers all dressed up like bumble bees. Firetrucks, ambulances, and rescue vehicles, all competing with their sirens. A hovercraft.

YES hovercraft! I did not even know we had such a thing. It’s a rescue hovercraft for our fire department. Someone at the local FD found craigslist!

I mentioned the two band floats. In years past, we’ve only had one, a band from a different small town that has some notoriety in the area. However, we now have our own local town band! Two band floats, of two different small town bands. Why didn’t they tell the other band to get lost and pound sand? I think they were going for an edge, personally. High drama lends a bit of excitement to the event. Anything could have happened between such volatile groups. Flute keys are sharp as hell, and just look at a clarinet and tell me it’s not shaped perfectly to shove up…

The parade coordinator spaced the floats just far enough apart so you could almost tell what each band was playing. I think they should have played the same song at the same time, but that’s asking a whole lot from rivals. Perhaps that’s why the lumberjacks were depressed. They were stuck in a war they could not win and wanted no part of. I guess I’d be sad if I had Sousa in one ear and Fillmore in the other for an hour straight.

*band geek fist bump*

Tractors. Of course we had tractors. No small town parade is complete without some shiny or old, or shiny AND old tractors. One of the tractor drivers got into a little race with a mini car. That livened up the crowd! Candy was thrown to the delight of the kids (and one pushy woman in her 40’s that nearly bowled over the small children for a Tootsie Roll. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) and the parade was a success.

We got out of there once the parade was done. We had arrived early enough to walk around the event before the depressed lumberjacks had a chance to bring us down. Besides, the crowd was ten times worse after the parade, and, being local, we knew to plan for an early day. All in all, it was a fantastic event.

There was talk around town of canceling the Pickle Fest. It’s costly, the logistics send people into spasms of self doubt huddled in fetal positions in the corners of the town hall, certain residents don’t like the traffic and noise… I sincerely hope that this year’s success proves to the naysayers that this really IS a worthwhile thing for our town. I like to see us go forward, not back. We have a fest. We should hold onto it. I can tell you without a doubt that it’s better than anything our town did when I was a kid.

Progress in the form of pickles. I like that.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Monday, September 29, 2014. I’m going to be writing today as I munch on a jar of leftover progress…after I go to YouTube and listen to some Ace of Base again. Once is never enough…

Not even a spoonful of sugar would make this go down easier…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

I’m up early this morning with pep in my step, energy to spare, and a positive attitude!

“Well huzzah and good morning to you, too, Bethie! Love the enthusiasm!”

…*snort* Wait a sec. You actually believed that?

I AM up early, that much was true. I can’t kick this cold. It’s now sludging up my lungs and the hack fest did nothing for my sleep. Then the cat came in and decided she needed to give a lengthy soliloquy about the state of society at the top of her lungs, and any hopes at dozing back off were dashed.

I’m feeling better overall, just can’t kick this cough. I hate that. The rest of me really is rarin’ to go, and then I cough and sputter like an old tractor engine when I try. I know what I need. Buckley’s cough syrup.

I see by the shudders that some of you have heard of this nasty and yet blessed concoction. For those not in the know, the slogan for this medicine is “It tastes awful. And it works,” and they aren’t lying.

It. Tastes. AWFUL.

It tastes so bad that I can’t really think of a comparison. Maybe…rotting pine trees mixed with pond scum mixed with tar…yeah, there’s definitely a tar element. Don’t believe me? It tastes so bad there are YouTube videos of people trying it for the first time. Yes, it’s that bad. But boy, does it work. (No, I’m not a spokesperson for Buckley’s. Though, ya know…if they wanna slip me a couple bucks…)

I think it works because it scares the germs and they run away. Or maybe the body is like, “Holy shit she wasn’t bluffing! Man the torpedoes! Arm the nukes! We’re kicking this shit before the next dose!”

So I need some Buckley’s today. I also need my damn washing machine part. We paid for one day shipping. That was many days ago, and still I have no part. I don’t think they understand the term “one day”. I tell you what, they’re GOING to understand the term “refund”. It’s been bathtub laundry this week. I can’t go an entire week without doing any laundry. We’ve got six people here. If I let it pile up for a whole week, the odds of being crushed under an avalanche of stinky socks and sweaty teen teeshirts are pretty high. I don’t want to go down like that. What an embarrassing obituary that would be.

“Bethie, just go to a laundromat.”

Are you nuts? Have you seen how much they charge at those things these days? I’ll just do it in the tub, old school. The part’s got to get here soon, right?

…RIGHT?

Boy I tell you what. There’s just nothing good in the news these days, is there? I popped on to check out what’s happening in the world. ISIS beheaded more people. Boko Haram is still up to their shit. A dad murdered his whole family in Florida, and another guy is standing trial for punching his toddler to death. A little toddler got PUNCHED TO DEATH. What in the hell is wrong with people?

Look, I could go on and on about each and every bad story. I could rage and rant and toss my two cents in with everyone else’s. However, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? ISIS, Boko Haram, and dads who kill their kids are bad. We know this. There is no debate, no “other side” of the story. If you cut someone’s head off, you’re bad. If you steal children from schools and rape then, you’re bad. If you kill your kids, you’re bad. There is absolutely no room for a lively discussion of differing viewpoints, because there simply are none. What more is there to say?

Besides, we don’t want to focus on the bad. The bad is everywhere. We want to escape the bad and have a little chuckle with our morning coffee, don’t we? With that in mind, I think it’s time we do a…

*cue catchy theme music*
*enter go-go dancers stage left*

* * * HEADLINE ROUNDUP!!! * * *

*glitter cannon*

Yes, folks, it’s time to take a look at the weird, poorly worded, or overly vague headlines that pop up across the internet’s biggest news sites. As always, these are actual headlines that have been unaltered…I simply add the colorful commentary. So pick the glitter out of your hair and join me as we take a look at the other stuff that’s happening in the world today.

– Colorado Education Protests Grow
I think the tacit pot joke here is enough…

– How Imminent is the Threat of an ‘Imminent’ Threat?
Isn’t this one of the riddles to cross the troll’s bridge?

– Idaho Woman Accused of Chewing up Back Seat of Police Car
The perp ass stains were simply irresistible. Just like Mom’s home cookin’…

– Turkish Leader Says World Not Doing Enough
Today’s No Shit Gazette headline.

– F-22 Raptor Makes Debut Combat Flight
The deb positively dazzled in her matte finish with chromed accents as she soared into the sky to the delight and utter terror of the gathered crowd.

– 26 Percent of Facebook Users Crop Vacation Photos to Hide Their Bodies
Very specific for an utterly useless stat, isn’t it?

– Smart Toothbrush Tracks Your Brushing
Great. It’s not enough that I get snarky attitude from my coffee pot when I don’t change the charcoal water filter, now I have to get flak from my toothbrush, too? This is why we have self esteem issues, people.

– Messaging App Seeks to Bring Voices Back to Phones
This is the blurb under the headline: Longtime technology guru Ray Ozzie wants to bring back the emotions of the human voice to telephones. Soooo….this revolutionary idea is to have telephones convey human voice from one person to the other. MIND. BLOWN.

– Dragon Arrives at Space Center With 3-D Printer
Scientists gladly accept the gift and use it to make 3-D lances and swords to slay the dragon, thus perpetuating the tense relationship between species that has existed for centuries.

– Deer Are Pests For Airports, Threats to Pilots
Looks like the TSA’s going to have some new regulations. Threats to pilots must be taken seriously. Personally, I’m okay if they ban ALL deer from planes. I know it might not be the politically correct stance, but I can’t help how I feel.

– In Louisiana Politics and Kegs Mix Well
I don’t think Louisiana has that market cornered.

– Texas Drops Plan to Allow Liquor Sales at Gun Shows
How bad is it that I’m a little disappointed at not getting to see Darwinism at work?
…it’s bad, right?

– Miami Bat Squad Tracks Rare Bats to Roost in Golf Course
If the members of the Miami Bat Squad don’t wear capes and masks, I will be highly disappointed.

– Indian Zoo: Tiger Kills Man Who Jumped Into Moat
Then Gives Compliments to the Chef For The Soup de Jour

– Oregon Man Claims Costco Security Broke His Leg
More proof that Costco is run by a secret society of ninjas. Forget the illuminati, people, and open your eyes to the real threat!

– Erotica Chain to Sell Goods to Pay Back Taxes
What? A store is going to sell products to pay their bills? What sorcery is this!?

– University Launches Beer-Making Program
Did they raise the ante in the enrollment incentive competition or what? The ball’s in your court, YALE.

– Missing Driver Said He Woke Up in a Field of Donkeys
Hey, cut him some slack. I think we’ve ALL been there.

– Kentucky Man Admits to Selling Fraudulent Fertility Kits
I really, REALLY want to know what’s in those kits. I’m picturing back woods voodoo dolls, old bottle caps, and a used G-string from Walmart’s discount rack…

– Giant San Diego Panda Gets Chipped Tooth Fixed
A panda has better dental insurance than I do. A panda. *sigh*

– Human Loses New Hampshire Election
That’s right, no humans allowed!
We only elect asses here.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Thursday, September 25, 2014. I’m off to completely kill my taste buds and glare at the spot on the steps where the package from the appliance shop SHOULD be…

Take two pills and call me in the morning….

Standard

Bornin’, ebrybody.

*sniff*

The damn kids got me sick.

*ACHOO*

My head feels like an elephant is sitting on it.

*snurfle*

Ew. Sorry.

The kids got me sick, then had the audacity to kick the bug in only a couple days. Meanwhile, in old lady Bethie, it lingers. Figures. I give them LIFE…they give me a cold. Seems fair.

Guess what happened yesterday? I went to do a load of laundry.

” *gasp* ”

Oh hush. I do laundry. I just really, really hate it. It’s my least favorite household chore followed closely by washing out the fridge and scraping the crud from the oven when a pie bubbles over.

Anyway, I set the load going and then was cleaning the kitchen when a ghastly sound came from the washing machine. Unless the mice have constructed a pint sized roller coaster under there, I think it’s broken. After I haul out the soppy clothes and suck the water away with a shop vac, I’ll have to pop it open and see what’s going on behind the case. Personally, I’m hoping for the mouse amusement park.

…come on. Admit it. You are, too.

I’ll keep you posted.

I’m hoping to get some writing done today, too. Aside from this, that is. We’ve already agreed this doesn’t count as real writing. I’m well into the fourth book in the Great Mother series while the editor slashes and hacks at the third. It would be cool to try a double release on them. There’s a good chance they’ll both get raised eyebrows instead of praise. I tried something different…we’ll just have to wait and see if it works. The beauty of indie releases in digital format is that if they flop, you’ve lost nothing but time. And since I thoroughly enjoy the process of creating a world and have a legitimately good time when I write, it’s not really a waste, is it?

I was taking a look at the news this morning, and this headline grabbed my attention: Official: Ebola Team Attacked

“Are we doing a Headline Roundup?”

No, and you can’t talk me into it this time, so don’t even try. I actually wanted to talk about the article and the situation. I promise a roundup soon, but not today.

The current epidemic of ebola virus disease has killed at least 2,600 people in West Africa and shows no signs of stopping. WHO, the World Health Organization, has begged and pleaded with various nations to help stop the spread, contain the virus, educate the people in the infected zone on how to stay healthy, and donate much needed medical supplies to care for the infected.

This is apparently controversial.

I guess everything has to be a controversy these days, doesn’t it? The articles about this outbreak have been slanted depending on the news site making the report. I’ve read everything from, “This is a desperate humanitarian situation,” to “What do you expect in a third world country?” to “THE END IS NIGH!”

This IS a desperate humanitarian situation that does happen to be occurring largely in third world countries. As to the end being nigh, we’ll talk about that in a sec. First, what the hell is ebola, really?

The ebola virus is a very potent little bugger that starts in animals and gets transmitted to people through contact with blood, fluids, bites, or dead bodies. From there, it spreads through human to human fluid contact, killing an average of 50% of people it infects after they have a brief and very painful round of headaches, rashes, high fever, nausea, liver and kidney failure and bleeding from soft tissues inside and out, like gums and the brain. Of course, this depends on the strain. Some strains of ebola can kill up to 90% of those infected in this horrible manner. I told you it was nasty.

That’s ebola in an admittedly small nutshell. I’m copping to condensing a very large situation into a tiny little package, so don’t give me flak, epidemiologists. We know there’s far more to it. The key points are that it starts in animals and spreads a horrible death to humans at an alarming rate.

The WHO has begged for help in stopping the current outbreak from spreading even further. It’s the largest outbreak in history, with more victims than all other outbreaks of ebola combined. The resources of the WHO are stretched to the breaking point and they need some help. We’re helping, but it took weeks for us to say “yes”.

Why?

I’m going with the honest answer and say that it just boils down to nobody caring about Africa. No one’s really in a hurry to bail them out of anything. Sounds harsh and mean and unfair…but it’s true. The articles that highlight the problem being in “third world nations” over and over and over attest to the fact that an elitist attitude against all things African still exists. If you point out the poverty of a nation as a means to enlist aid, that’s one thing. If you say you have to help the poor folks who choose to live in squalor to make yourself seem like a do-gooder, that’s another kettle of fish entirely.

Think I’m reading something into it?

Consider this: One article I read was exploring the origins of ebola outbreaks. Now, as I’ve said, it’s an animal virus that gets transmitted to humans through fluids. While the article didn’t come right out and accuse West Africans of having sex with jungle creatures, it strongly suggested it. Another article said that poor conditions lead people to essentially eat rotting road kill. Another said that “foreign death rituals” are a major contributing cause to perpetuating the epidemic.

Articles like this really bother me because they taint opinion. They make the infected seem like they are worth less than the reader, and in turn, the reader starts to not really care. The reader starts having the opinion that those infected somehow caused their own situation and deserve what they get.

If a farmer in Liberia slaughters a chicken from his coop that happens to have ebola, he stands a great chance of getting it. What, we don’t eat meat here? Or if an infected animal bites a person, they will almost definitely get sick. There are over a million people bitten by animals in the US each year. It’s hardly a West African specific problem. And the death “rituals” the article talked about? Government officials have admitted that their response when a family reports that a person who died with ebola disease symptoms has been pitiful at best, leaving the dead bodies in the homes of the families who then must handle them without proper protective gear. The only “rituals” happening are that regular untrained folks are being forced by their government to perform the tasks the undertakers are refusing to do without the necessary equipment.

People in these third world countries are poor, sure. But they’re not screwing animals, eating road kill, and getting freaky and weird with the body of their dead Uncle Sal. They’re people, like you and me, living their lives until they become victims of nature. Period.

“But Bethie, you can’t ignore the fact that there’s a hygiene issue, or that people transmit the disease through sex. Simple education would help mitigate the damage and quell the spread.”

Yep to all of that. You’re absolutely right…though I will say a surprising fact about the ebola virus is that you can transmit it sexually long after your symptoms have gone. You wouldn’t think twice about getting it on with your significant other a few weeks after you’ve had the flu, would you? Can’t do that after you’ve had ebola, not even to celebrate managing to live through it. That just goes to show you that the education part of this issue is critical.

And that’s what the WHO is really begging for. Manpower. They need trained people to go and educate the citizens of West Africa about the ways they can stay healthy and avoid spreading the virus. We’ve finally agreed to send doctors, supplies, and humanitarian troops. Of course, we’re also getting real haughty about it, too, but I guess that’s to be expected. That’s just the American way. At least we’re doing something finally.

“Officials: Ebola Team Attacked”

Eight people involved with the WHO were killed in a remote part of Guinea. They were in the town to educate people on safety measures when the government officials say they were attacked by locals and murdered.

“See, Bethie? People tried to educate them and look what happened.”

And I see your point. However, may I counter with this?

In the US, there is a well documented history of certain members of the country perpetrating violence against people for their religious beliefs, their race, their illnesses… Gay people still get jumped and assaulted for no other reason than ignorance. People with HIV are still treated like they’re about to spread the zombie apocalypse. People hold protests against teaching evolution in schools. STILL. And shall we even get into the shitstorm that’s kicked up any time a scientist dares point out the fact that the climate is, indeed, changing?

“Bethie, that’s not everyone. You can’t lump the nuts in with the….oh.”

Exactly. We’ve got our crazies too, people. We’ve got millions of people who DO have access to all the education they could ever want. And yet, these people, these Americans who do NOT live in a third world nation intentionally choose to remain ignorant. And in their ignorance, they are scared. They lash out. They attack that which they do not understand.

So we’re supposed to get a pass? Our scared, crazy people are understandable while theirs “deserve what they get”? If you believe the Guinea government line on this story…

**CONSPIRACY INTERRUPTION: Seriously, do you believe that? Or do you think there’s something decidedly suspicious about it all? A terrible virus, a very robust strain, somehow breaks free and spreads in unprecedented ways, and one of the first teams to go in to stop it is found in the latrine with their throats slit… Maybe it’s just because I’m writing about THIS VERY SITUATION in a work of fiction, but sounds a little fishy, no? CONSPIRACY TIME OVER**

…then the educators were killed simply because people did not understand what was going on. They were upset and scared and lashed out. Sound familiar? Because it should. That shit’s splashed all over our news about our own citizens every single day. What makes us worth more?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I’m glad we’re finally sending some help that way. I wish we weren’t simply concentrating on Liberia, but hey, it’s a start. However, people are still bitching about it. People are still complaining. Read the comments sections of the news articles and it’ll scare you just how vehemently people do NOT want to help. I specifically brought up the “they did it to themselves and deserve what they get” attitude because that’s a common thread, echoed by many Average Joes in these open discussion forums, and it’s terrifying. They believe US dollars should be spent in “better” ways.

“THE END IS NIGH!”

For a lot of people, it really is. For an average of 50% of the human beings that become infected, their end truly is nigh. And if it cannot be contained, if this virus which is spreading “exponentially” cannot be stopped, the end will be nigh for a whole lot more. They need help, lots of it, and they need it now.

Where the hell is the controversy?

Thus concludes what turned into a pretty good rant for Friday, September 19, 2014. I’m off to take more cold medicine and thank my lucky stars that’s all I’ll need to feel better.

And now for something completely different…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

It’s a cold start today. I’m already fully dressed. No chattin’ in my jammies this morning. I even put on socks and an alarmingly uncool mom-style fleece sweatshirt.

“Bethie, just kick on the heater.”

Are you nuts? It’s only September! I’d be a laughingstock if I turned the heat on this early in the year. This is New England. It’s a matter of pride, people.

*shake my head* Turn on the heat. *derisive snort*

I had a dream about real estate last night, specifically a house we went to look at. The outside was, in fact, a house we saw newly listed. The inside, however, was a bizarre mix of every real estate nightmare. Rotten floors, bad plumbing, a random two story slide that started to collapse when some random kid tried to slide down it… You know, standard stuff in a house.

All my life I’ve had a recurring dream about my grandparents’ house. In the dream, I’d go up the stairs to go to sleep in the guest room, but I’d find a door that I had never seen before. I’d open that door and then I’d find myself in an entire secret house. The dream has always fluctuated on what kind of secret house I’d discover. Sometimes it was scary, a terrifying place that I couldn’t find my way out of. Sometimes it was pleasant and homey, like a cottage or something. Sometimes it was like an Indiana Jones adventure, and I’d find lost treasures.

The dream last night was similar in that every time I opened a door in the house, I got something different from room to room. And that’s not a good thing. The random kid who wasn’t mine but was, for some reason, taking the tour with is kept falling through, tripping over, or getting eaten by various things in the house. We helped him, but showed an alarming lack of concern. Maybe he was our mining canary.

You know what? I wish the real estate process was faster than molasses. You see the real estate shows on TV and they make it seem like it’s a fast paced world of racing the clock and closing the deal right before the other guy. In truth, it’s a whole lot of paperwork that takes weeks. It’s ridiculous, especially considering it’s all handled digitally now.

We saw the house we want. No, it’s not the one from the dream. The one from the dream is supposed to be our back-up house in case we can’t get the one we really like, though if strange kids are going to follow me and fall through the floors, I don’t know that we want it on the list at all anymore. We saw the house, actually got pre-qualified for more than we plan on offering (I know, right?! I was just as surprised as you!), and now are waiting to hear back about what kind of inspection we need. All of this has taken two weeks.

Fun fact: Waiting is NOT what Bethies do best.

Maybe the dream last night was the cosmos telling me we do not need a Plan B house. Maybe it was smacking me around saying, “Forget the back up! Eyes on the prize.”

I hope so, anyway. I don’t really want to have to rescue strange kids I don’t really like on a daily basis.

Okay, enough babbling about houses and dreams and canary kids. Let’s talk about sports!

“Um, Bethie? We don’t ‘do’ sports here.”

It’s okay. We can talk about sports once in awhile.

“If you expect me to know any stats or positions or try to make sense of fantasy leagues…”

Dear lord no! I promise sports will simply serve as the backdrop. The real discussion will be about the people involved, not the touchdowns or goals or RBIs (which SHOULD be RsBI, by the way). So, are we good?

“*sigh*”

Great! Let’s begin.

I like football. American football, for any international readers out there. It’s the only sport I enjoy watching. I’m not a rabid fan or anything like that, and I only actually watch a few whole games through the season. I do, however, follow the news and scores as well as listen to sports talk radio every morning during the NFL season.

And boy howdy, have they had a rough start this season in the PR department, eh? Ray Rice started a firestorm by smacking the shit out of his fiance in front of an elevator camera.

Actually, no. I take that back. He didn’t start the real tornado of holy hell. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell was the one who really brought the heat. Why? Because he tried to keep the actions of Ray Rice hush hush. He handed down a punishment of only a two game suspension and hoped people would be cool letting Rice off so easy.

“But Bethie, what a player does off the field shouldn’t…”

Stop. You stop it right now.

Don’t be one of those people saying Rice’s rights were violated, or that the commissioner acted reasonably by only suspending him for two games. When an NFL player signs a contract, there is a clear cut section that governs their behavior called a morals clause. Why? Because they are public representatives of a team, a franchise, a league. When they sign with the NFL, when any sports player in the US signs with any league or team, they agree to live by certain basic guidelines designed to keep them acting like decent human beings.

LIVE by them. Not just pretend for the couple hours they’re on the field in front of the camera.

Ray Rice was a good player. He was young and promising and had big numbers. He did charity work in front of a camera and was always ready to give an interview on the evening news. He talked about God a lot, which the NFL really likes, and he’d even remember to look up at the sky when he had a big play and the cameras were rolling. He brought attention which brought sponsors. He was, in essence, one of the NFL’s cash cows.

So when Roger Goodell found out that he beat his woman and then dragged her lifeless body out of the elevator like a caveman, he decided to keep it on the down low. In fact, he waited until Rice had been criminally charged and made a plea deal before he mentioned any kind of NFL sanction. Why is this odd? Because Roger Goodell has screamed loudly for years about the need to enforce the morality clauses in player contracts. He said it, but he clearly didn’t live by his own words.

He tried to keep this one quiet. Boy, did that blow up in his face or what? Guess he underestimated just how pissed off the sponsors would get when they saw the guy they’re backing beat his girlfriend unconscious. In fact, Goodell kept living in his little dream world after the sponsors pulled out, after the team fired Rice, after the public stormed the NFL headquarters with pitchforks and torches.

…okay, that last one only happened metaphorically. I don’t really support storming the NFL headquarters with actual pitchforks and torches. Lances and vats of boiling oil would be much more effective.

Another player just got arrested for child abuse. Adrian Peterson ripped a branch off a tree and used it to flay his four year old son so badly that it gashed open his thighs and butt. The player did turn himself in, because he sees no problem in disciplining his child in such a manner. That’s the scariest abuser of all, the one that honestly does not understand what they are doing is wrong. That’s a terrifying person right there.

Perhaps learning from his previous mistake, Goodell did, in fact, indefinitely suspend Peterson. However, I can’t help but feel it’s a little hollow, that his actions are just for show.

In the years that Goodell has been the NFL commissioner, he’s investigated many incidents that would violate the morals clauses…AFTER they’ve been made public. When Michael Vick was turning puppies into murders for profit, Goodell stepped in and made an example of him…AFTER the press did. When there were accusations of bullying and harassing of a player in the Dolphins locker room, Goodell thoroughly investigated and released a scathing report…AFTER the player had gone to his superiors, filed official complaints, been ignored, went to the press, and blew the cover off the bullying culture himself. He’s got a history of taking charge and bringing down the hammer, but only AFTER there’s some type of public outcry for him to do so.

Since Roger Goodell has taken the helm as NFL commissioner, and promised to make the players better people, role models, guys the kids of America could look up to, there have been 56 players convicted of domestic violence in the NFL. So what did Good Guy Roger do? Suspended them for 13 games TOTAL. Most, in fact, received no sanctions whatsoever. You think Ray Rice knocking his woman unconscious is bad? Carolina Panthers player Greg Hardy was convicted in July (as in THIS July) for chocking his girlfriend until she passed out. In case you are unfamiliar with the basics of biology, people need air to live. He was seconds away from killing her. Just seconds. He was convicted of something easily as heinous, if not worse than Ray Rice, and yet he got to play. He had a great game the first week, in fact. Put up huge numbers. Gave those nice, shiny stats.

And THAT’S why Goodell keeps his yap shut. The bottom line. The almighty dollar.

A major sponsor, the Radisson hotel chain, suspended their sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings, the team that swiftly suspended Adrian Peterson when they found out about his child abuse allegations. The Radisson pulled all their money because they do not in any way want to be affiliated with child abusers.

THAT’S why the NFL has morals clauses people. It’s not about making players be good role models. It’s about keeping sponsors happy.

There are almost 1,700 players in the NFL. The vast majority of them are decent guys. But 56 cases of domestic violence are 56 cases too many. I can’t help but wonder if Goodell had actually cracked down on the small percentage of bad players for no other reason than it being the right thing to do, would that number be lower? How many women could have been saved the horror of their 200+ lb ripped professional sports playing man turning on them and using their faces as a punching bag?

This is not just a problem with the NFL. It’s happened in every professional sport through history (with maybe the exception of curling). The guys at the helm are so worried about offending sponsors that they have built a culture than can do nothing but offend. They tell the bad guys they are good, and tell the good guys to shut up and keep their heads down, and they do it all while shaking hands and kissing babies in front of the camera and…

…holy shit. Professional Sports = Government.

Mind. Blown.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Tuesday, September 16, 2014. I’m going to go obsessively stare at the phone in the hopes that the realtor will remember that she works in the brutal, cutthroat, fast lane of real estate and calls me before it’s too late. Why, right this very minute another potential buyer could be shuffling in on maybe thinking about taking a look at the property. CAN’T SHE SEE IT’S URGENT??

It’s not illegal if you give ’em a shiny lanyard…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

Welp, it happened.

I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve been around long enough to sense it in the air; a heavy, oppressive yet nearly undefinable foreboding. Still, with everything going on right now, I have to admit that it caught me a bit off guard.

It sits there on the printer, no bigger than a common magazine. And yet somehow, it looms.

Yes, folks. A new school year has begun and that means it’s….school fundraiser time.

*collective groan*

To you parents out there who groaned, I assume you either groaned in commiseration or groaned because your kids haven’t brought The Packet home yet and I just reminded you it’s coming. If it’s the latter, I’m sorry. But, isn’t it better that it comes from a friend?

Fundraisers. I know they have to happen. Schools are massively underfunded and they need every penny they can get. It’s not the fundraising concept I’m opposed to at all. I get it, I’m on board. I clip the Box Tops for Education and soup labels. I kick in a couple bucks to add to the begging bowl at community events. I send my kids to school all kitted out so they use as few of the schools’ supplies as possible. I do my part. I KNOW schools need to raise extra money.

However, there are two problems I have with these classic take-home fundraisers: what they sell and how little they actually earn for the school.

See the basic gist of this scheme is this: A company makes/purchases massive amounts of super cheap items. Crap. Junk you’d never really want unless your kid is staring at you with a hope in his eyes that makes you buy out of guilt. After they get the pile of garbage, they need a way to sell it. It would be too much work and take too much effort to set up a store, and it’s really a hassle to waste a Saturday behind the table of a flea market. Why put in the time and effort when it’s much easier to tap into the millions of child laborers we have available in this country?

“Bethie! No child laborers. Bad, bad Bethie.”

Hey, don’t turn that wagging finger at me. I’m not the one roping little children into shilling dollar store crap for absurd prices to strangers. I’m firmly against child labor.

…unless it’s my own kids and the laundry pile has gotten too high.

So they’ve got all this junk, and want the little kids of the nation to sell it for them while they rake in the cash. Seems like a rock solid business plan! Now, how to get the kids to actually do this? And be excited enough not to just take the money and run off to Tahiti?

Enter the Prizes.

The company who wants to pimp this shit comes into a school and gathers the kiddies for an assembly. Right there, it’s already pretty much a done deal. Who doesn’t want to get out of class for awhile? They’ve already won the adoration of their future salespeople. But then, just to make absolutely certain they’ve sealed the deal, they they whip out and dangle the Prizes.

“OOooo…prizes…”

Having a flashback to your own childhood fundraisers, are you? It’s okay. I’ll give you a minute to remember the disco ball you could never win.

The Prizes are awarded for selling. Basic commission, only instead of giving actual useful money, they give the kids…more dollar store crap! You sell one thing, you get a lanyard. It’s neon, though, so you know it’s a good one. You sell five things, you get a lanyard AND an eraser! …and on and on. You sell enough and you can amass about five whole dollars worth of junk.

Ah, but it doesn’t actually end there. At the very end of the presentation, once the kids are already dreaming of the lanyard, the eraser, AND the super bouncy ball, then, then they bring out the big guns, the top tier Prizes, ones there’s no way in hell they actually have to hand out. These are real, legitimate Prizes, things like a tv, or a game console, or a tablet… And you only have to sell 500 items to get one. What kid WOULDN’T come home jumping with excitement at the prospect of getting themselves a new tv without having to spend ANY money at all?

Let me tell you from experience, poor kids jump even higher. *sigh*

This year the packet my son brought home is by a fundraising company called Genevieve’s. I think they’re based in Massachusetts, though their company website is insanely light on info. They are members of AFRDS (Association of Fund-Raising Distributors & Suppliers….yes, that’s a thing), which we’ll talk about later. I guess they’re legit. No one gets the AFRDS stamp without being on the up and up! …right?

So what are they selling? Let’s flip open the booklet and have a look.

…Oh. It’s multiple catalogs. O…kay… I don’t know why they do this. Seems a bit confusing. And all of them are on super high gloss, full color, card stock thick paper. Glad to know that not a penny of the funds my kid will work his ass off to earn will go to waste! Hm. I suppose we go for the big one first.

Gak! Two more catalogs fell out. Good god, why don’t they just put it all in one?? I gave it another shake and that seems to be all the surprises, so let’s open ‘er up and have a look.

Oh, this is a pleasant surprise! It says right on the cover of the main catalog that over half their items are under $10. Indeed, the first item IS under $10. It’s a $9 set of window clings for Christmas. It includes one small snowman that looks like it was drawn and cut out by a blind monkey, 9 letters that spell out “Let it snow,” also in hideous writing, and a handful of colored dots. Uh, pass.

Reindeer gift tags for $8. Oops, sorry. “Elegant Reindeer Gift Tags.” My bad. I wouldn’t want you to think they weren’t elegant. There are ten of them in the set for $8. Guess elegance is pricey.

Maybe I’ll skip through the Christmas stuff. Surely there’s something in the kitchen gadgets I like.

*flip flip* *finger lick* *flip*

Ah, here we are. Kitchen stuff. Plastic toast press, to imprint “Good Morning” on your bread before you toast it, $10. Yikes. That’s a bit high for a couple inches of cheap plastic. Boiled egg slicer. $12?! Orange juicer, the star-shaped kind you just mash an orange on…$17!?! Are they out of their friggin’ minds?! $18 for a terracotta baking dish with lid. Hm, okay, that actually doesn’t sound too bad…until you realize it’s a banana baking dish, only large enough to fit “one medium banana” inside.

The wrapping paper is $9/roll. Nine bucks. The chocolates are $9/5 oz. Five little ounces!! And we won’t even get into how much the “salsa pitcher” costs…or how ass ugly it looks…or how stupid of an idea a pitcher for salsa is in the first place. I have a pitcher for my salsa. It’s called the jar and it comes free with every purchase.

The main catalog is a bust. Let’s look at some of the inserts. One is titled “The Essentials Collection”. When you see “Essential” on anything being sold, you instantly know two things: it’s overpriced, and it’s not, in any way, essential. This catalog lives up to those ideas in spades. It’s filled with hand creams that cost $21.95, candles that cost $24.95, and…I guess it’s jewelry(?) for $29.95. See, in this one, they round down by five cents to let you know you’re really getting a good bargain.

The next is a chocolate catalog. Mmmm. Chocolate. Let’s flip it open and…

HOLY MOTHER OF…$15 for NINE ounces of “banana cream filled monkeys”. I quit this one already. *tosses catalog aside*

“Genevieve’s Gourmet”. Uh oh. Do we even dare crack this puppy open? Screw it. We’ve come this far down the rabbit hole. Might as well see it through.

“Well? Come on, Bethie! What’s inside?”

Things. Delicious, tasty things. There are coffee cakes and danishes. There are cookies and brownies and chowders. There are cinnamon buns and honey buns and whoopie pies as far as the eye can see.

“Oooh! Yay!”

…and you only have to take out a second mortgage to pay for them.

“Okay, yes, Bethie, it’s expensive. But that’s because the school gets so much.”

Does it? Does it really? Okay, Mr. Smartypants. Show me how much the school gets. Go to the website, and find where Genevieve’s lists its stats.

That’s right, you can’t. Genevieve’s fundraising company does not offer any information at all about how much of the proceeds actually make it into the school coffers. In fact, they list the top three reasons why your non-profit should choose Genevieve’s for your fundraising needs. They are, “Your local and knowledgeable sales rep!”, “Unique brand names your supporters know and trust!”, and “Promotions! Some even with entertainment centers you frequent.” Um…so…NOT to make money for the school?

If I owned a fundraising company that really did leave a good cut for the school, I’d broadcast that loud and proud. Wouldn’t you? Yet nowhere on Genevieve’s website does it say what my school will get from the hard work my kid puts in.

Which brings me to my real problem with these types of fundraisers: how little the school actually gets.

I mentioned the AFRDS (again, it’s real. I cannot make this shit up.). Since Genevieve’s site had nothing about what kind of a check they’ll cut the school, I went to the AFRDS website to see what their guidelines are for members. The are, after all, an official Association. Oooh. And they do not, in fact, allow just any fundraising company to join. They claim to have strict ethical guidelines. Sounds promising!

In their FAQ, they have the very question listed that I wanted to ask. “What percent of fundraising sales should organizations receive?”

This is their answer, pulled verbatim from the AFRDS website:

“Percentages of sales offered to non-profit groups vary widely depending on the type of products being sold and the services offered by the fundraising company. Too often, fundraising coordinators equate financial success directly with the percentage of gross sales that their group will keep. Rather, volunteers should be focused on how the combination of product quality, company services, and percent of profit to be received will all work together to help the organization meet its total fundraising goal.”

Have you ever heard a more bullshitty bullshit answer? First they blame the non-profit organization for actually expecting to make some money for their group (the nerve of those non-profits!) and then they say the “fundraising” companies should work their smarm and intentionally evade what is an utterly reasonable question…the ONLY question a non-profit should have for the company.

The AFRDS claims they are ethical. Roll that one around for a minute. They “ethically” tell their representatives to do all but lie to a non-profit organization about how little money they’ll make if they send their minor children out for two weeks to pound the pavement selling dollar store quality garbage to strangers while they dream of hyped-up neon lanyards. Those are the proud ethics of this noble association.

I tell you what. I’m not going to buy anything from this catalog, or the million others that fell out when I opened it. Instead, I’m starting my own association. “Bethie’s Association for Donations And School Support”. Or, as we like to call it, BADASS.

Any members of BADASS simply need to send $5 into the school of their choice. And that’s it. The school will receive 100% of the profits, your children will remain children and not overworked, unpaid child laborers. You won’t flood your community with dollar store garbage and guilt, and you won’t have to hold a crying kid when the neon lanyard he busted chops to get breaks within a day.

BADASS. Make it happen.

Thus concludes a rather lengthy Musing for Tuesday, September 9, 2014. Sorry, folks. I tend to get wordy when I’m all het up.

I saw a shiny and I want it. I WANT IT…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

Any of you have a cat?

I’m sure there are a few hands raised and nodding heads, so some of you can commiserate. Last night my cat decided she would get in touch with her inner kitten and pounce on everything. This was fine, albeit slightly annoying, when she wanted to pounce on things like a book, or an empty water bottle, or my bathrobe. This was not so fine when she noticed my toes peeking out of the blanket at two a.m.

It got less fine when the gnawing and pawing woke me up, and the jerking motion of me yanking my toes from the grip of claws scared her. Thinking the tables had turned in a bad direction, she decided play time was over and that she should most definitely attack for real.

I’d like to say I was awake and coherent enough to assess the situation and calmly draw my feet back under the covers, thus eliminating the threat. I’d like to say that, but alas, ’twas not so.

Now I have scratched tootsies and my cat has trust issues. We keep shooting each other wary glances. It’s awkward.

When I was in the first grade, my teacher decided that for the class Halloween party it would be fun to shut the classroom lights off and read us scary stories.

One of the stories she told has stuck with me to this day. It was about a weird, psychotic little creature that got its tail chopped off by a farmer. In fairness, the farmer didn’t mean to cut off the tail. He was trying to ax the whole creature. The farmer, seeing he didn’t kill the whole animal, decided to keep the tail as a souvenir, ‘cus that’s how the farmer rolled. Of course the satanic little critter couldn’t leave things well enough alone. He decided the farmer would pay, and began to haunt the man, demanding his tail back. When the farmer wouldn’t give it up, the hellcat rose up from under the bed and gnawed off the farmer’s feet before burning the whole place down around them both.

And there were pictures.

Maybe I’m just getting old and forgetful, but I don’t remember this one on Reading Rainbow.

Did I mention that said teacher was also wearing a witch hat? And using scary voices as she read??

Poor kitty. It’s not her fault that my childhood was tortured by a first grade teacher who, in hindsight, probably should never have been a first grade teacher. Yelping and flinging her was the visceral reaction of my foggy mind that honestly believed in the moment that the hellcat demon creature from another dimension was back for it’s “tally pole”.

…did I mention the critter in the story had red, glowing eyes? What the hell, Mrs. F? What. The. Hell.

Today my eldest turns 16. I asked if he wanted a Sweet 16 party and even offered to buy him a ball gown and tiara. He just gave me a look, so I canceled the hall and ice sculptures. Sheesh. You’d think he never watched Pretty in Pink or something.

…oh. Wait.

I grew up in a household with four girls. Now I have a household of four boys. I am constantly struck by all the differences between raising boys and girls, even after sixteen years. He’s got no demands for his birthday. I was an easy teen, by a lot of standards, and even I had certain things I wanted for my sixteenth birthday. He doesn’t. He wants to hang out with friends after school. And…

That’s it! How easy is that? Done and done! In that respect, boys are so much easier.

Their feet still stink, though. And if they don’t clean their room, the funky miasma that wafts from the pile of dirty laundry is nasty. They also pick their noses and scratch their asses and say “balls” and “fart” a lot. But, they’re easy about their birthdays.

He’s going to be at his dad’s after school. While initially bummed that I wouldn’t get to pester him with intentionally obnoxious and annoying baby stories, I came up with a good surprise for when he comes back on Sunday.

…which will also be another birthday in this household, his younger brother. Yes, they will share a cake. Yes, they are used to it by now. No, they don’t mind. There. That covers the standard questions I get when I tell people I have two kids whose birthdays are two days apart. I don’t know why that’s so fascinating for some, or why it elicits a barrage of questions. If they had giant horns growing out of their heads, yeah, okay, I can see why people would be interested in peppering me with questions. But it’s just two close birthdays, people. I doubt Barnum & Bailey will be knocking on the door offering them a spot in the sideshow. Let it go.

They’re growing up so fast and getting so big.

Which will be great if we get the house we saw last night. It’s a scientific fact that moving becomes easier the bigger your kids get. Not only will they stay out of the way when you tell them to, but they are amazingly adept pack animals who can haul things your aged back simply can’t. And they rarely spit on you like alpacas or llamas.

“Bethie! Children are NOT pack animals!”

If you think that, then you’re doing it wrong. Didn’t you read the instruction manual?

KIDDING.

…it’s not in the instruction manual. You’ve got to purchase the supplemental insert, “101 Other Handy Things Your Child Can Do”. You should be able to pick it up on ebay.

Yes, the house hunt is officially on! We’ve seen two this week, and we think we’ve actually seen enough. The one last night is perfect. It’s broken enough to put it in our price range, but not so broken we can’t fix it. It’s the right size, in a good location, with a yard and a garage and a workshop. And it just felt good walking in there.

I’ve just told you as much as I know about the real estate process. You look for a home, find one you want, and…and then…next you…hm. I don’t really know. I’ve never done this before. I suppose we’ll find out.

I wish I had a Real Estate Guru. The realtor is great, but she peppers us with so much info so fast that it’s overwhelming. I think I should stop paying my life coach for the time being and shift those funds to a real estate coach. The job pays cookies if you live near me and digital high fives if you don’t, with Facebook smiley faces posted on your wall as a bonus for anything above and beyond the call of duty.

Think about it. You don’t get perks like that in any other job.

I want this house, and I’m trying very hard not to get too excited too soon. I don’t know much about the process, but I do know the deal can fall through at pretty much every turn. Our credit might not be good enough for the bank to take a chance, the house might not pass muster, the buyer may get cold feet and decide she simply can’t sell it after all. I know this, so I’m really trying hard to temper my excitement.

But it’s got a garage. With an attached carport. AND a separate workshop just for me!

The best parts, though, are the huge rooms upstairs for the boys. Right now we’re crammed into what I’m really starting to understand is a very tiny house. I’ve always known it was small. However, I moved into this one from a trailer. In comparison…

Ah, that’s the problem. I felt like the house we saw last night was enormous. My guy laughed and said, “No, this is a normal sized house. We just live in a matchbox.” It’s all relative.

The boys will get elbow room. They’ll have space for all their stuff without tripping over it every day. I really think they’ll get a kick out of the funky and bizarrely shaped closets, too. There’s one that’s got a door that is as tall as a regular door, but is only one foot wide. It’s the weirdest thing. Why bother with a one foot wide door? What am I going to put in there? Cue sticks. Yard sticks. Anything in the “stick” category, really. Golf clubs, as long as they aren’t in a bag. Baseball bats. Um… swords?

There’s another little closet, a cubby really, that’s about two square feet. It’s got a door and all, and it’s about six inches deep with three shelves. If it was in the kitchen, I’d say it was a spice cabinet and find it incredibly useful. But, it’s not in the kitchen. It’s just there, in the middle of the den wall, saying, “Yep. I’m completely unnecessary. WHATCHOO GOT TO SAY ABOUT THAT?” Another one is a weird domed doorway under the staircase that looks like someone tried to get fancy and failed. It’s lumpy and lopsided, like a bad boob job. It’s fantastic.

In the upstairs, there are two huge bedrooms and weird closets. But there was also another door. I asked the realtor if it was another closet, but she didn’t know, so I made my man open it while the realtor and I stood a safe distance back.

Hey, I love my guy, but if a rotting corpse is going to fall on anyone, I think between the two of us he’s the one who’s better equipped to handle it.

Eerie music began to play as he stepped forward. A board squeaked underfoot when he shifted his weight towards the door, extending his hand to the cold brass knob. The realtor and I stood closer to each other, breaths held in terrified anticipation. Slowly he turned his hand, the squeal of the old knob’s age echoing through the empty room. With one final deep breath, he gave the old door a tug and the realtor and I screamed as the door burst open to reveal…

Another room! A huge one, with high, attic ceilings. I think it was an attic, in fact, but with a few new floor boards and some drywall, it could easily be another large bedroom. None of the info provided about the house even mentioned there was a whole extra room up there. It was so cool!

…wait. You’re disappointed? You actually WANTED a rotting body to fall on us?

You have issues, my friend.

There are no neighbors. That’s perhaps one of the greatest bonuses about the place. It’s not in a Desirable Neighborhood because it’s not really in any neighborhood. It’s a house right on the main highway tucked into a little alcove cut into the forest. Nice and private and secluded. Which is weird, since it’s on the highway. But somehow, it feels all by itself.

No neighbors. Ah.

Did I mention the workshop? It’s attached to the house, and also was not mentioned in any of the realtor’s information. It’s huge and goes down into the ground a fair bit. In fact, if we do get this place, the first thing I’d probably build in the workshop is a set of stairs. It’s got one cinder block to step down on, and even that is a scary distance from the floor.

It needs the old ucky wall paper pulled and the walls plastered and painted. There’s some wiring upstairs that’s from the 40’s and probably should be addressed *cough* Grandpa *cough*. The roof has a few places where it needs new flashing, and there are some clapboards on one side of the house that need to be replaced. It’s not perfect. But it IS perfect for US. I told you, I’m shooting for a piece of crap we can own to get out of the piece of crap we rent. Trust me, it’s a significant upgrade.

Now, we just have to figure out how to get it.

I tell you what. I’ll sweeten the pot for any potential Real Estate Gurus out there willing to guide me on this journey. I’ll also pen an ode in your honor. A ballad, a legacy to be sung by bards through the ages. Does any other employer offer to immortalize your name in song?

I didn’t think so.

Thus concludes a rambly Muse for Friday, September 5, 2014. Since I expect a veritable influx of job applications for the Real Estate Guru position, please allow up to five business days for a reply…

All I need is a tractor and an empty septic tank…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

Summer is having one last blast.

…scratch that. This year, summer never really kicked on. You can’t really have a “last” blast if you never had a “blast” at all. We had only a handful of days over 90 degrees, and when it didn’t rain, the air was dry, not humid like it normally is in the summer. In short, we were pampered in comparison to an ordinary year.

Mother Nature decided to smack us upside the head with actual summer. It’s hot. And sticky. And feels ucky and gross. I’ve already turned on the air conditioner. It’s supposed to be near 90 today and as humid as a sumo wrestler’s armpit. Doesn’t that sound pleasant.

Ah well. It’s got to break soon. Hell, in a couple months when the snow’s falling and the wind howls with icy terror, I’ll be remembering the time I complained to you all about a late season heat wave and kicking myself for forgetting that it can always be worse.

We drove around yesterday and looked at some houses that are on the market. In my little town, that would be about half of them. You drive up almost any street here and you’re guaranteed to see at least a couple houses for sale.

“Bethie, you exaggerate.”

Often, yes, but not about this. There’s a street here in town that leads up to the school. It is a Desirable Neighborhood, close to “downtown”, close to the school, with the Community Center’s enormous open fields that taper off into forest as a back yard. The houses are Victorian styled, they almost all have fantastically huge garages, and their views of the rolling fields are gorgeous.

Picture this… You wake up in your large, Victorian home, to see the autumn sunshine over a frost covered New England field, with the patchwork colors of the autumn quilt covering the trees of the forest that lines the clearing. You sip your coffee as you lean against the antique woodwork of the open door frame, and watch the light twinkle on the frost, the heat of the morning sun beginning to make wisps of steam curl up into the crisp air when all of a sudden, a majestic buck regally parades into view. And not a single neighbor takes a shot at it off their back porch. Not one.

That’s a Desirable Neighborhood in this town, my friends.

There are seven houses for sale in this particular Desirable Neighborhood. There are less than 20 houses total on that street.

“Wow.”

Well said. Wow indeed.

“Okay, so why the mass exodus?”

Taxes. See, in NH we don’t have silly things like income tax and sales tax. However, would you believe we still have state expenses? And that we need to pay for them? As such, we have property taxes. While everywhere has property tax, in NH, the lack of other taxes means that we pay out the wazoo for the privilege of owning property. Our rate here in town has a base of $28 per $1000 of assessed value. I don’t know why the town does it like this. Why don’t they just say 2.8%? Because…math? Who knows.

So that’s the base. However, depending on where you are, the property will, of course, be assigned a different value.

We looked into one of the Victorian houses for sale in the Desirable Neighborhood just to see. We knew it would totally be out of our price range, but we just wanted to know what they were going for. It was a 4 bedroom jobby with a garage on 1/2 acre of land. A good sized house, to be sure, with the added bonus of a nice garage. They are asking only $167,000 for the house. It’s a steal!!!

…until you read the tax information. The 2014 property tax is just over $7,800/year.

“Wait Bethie. Your math is off.”

No, it’s actually not. See, the tax counts the house value AND the assessed land value. So for just that little half acre of land, they charge an additional $3,000ish/year. For half an acre.

To give you an idea, there’s another neighborhood in town that goes back into the hills. The road sucks getting there and you can’t get cable, so don’t even try. However, because it is not a Desirable Neighborhood, the home was in the same ballpark as far as size, but comes on 4 enormous acres of land. It’s yearly tax is only around $5,000.

See, even in a tiny redneck town, it’s all about the neighborhood.

I did not know this until we started looking for houses. Actually, I suppose I did sort of. I never really gave it much thought, though. If we want to live in the Desirable Neighborhood, we need to plan an additional $680/month tacked on to the mortgage JUST for tax. We are not shooting for the Desirable Neighborhood. That’s like paying two mortgages just to be able to watch deer frolic in the field. I don’t even like deer.

While toolin’ around, we accidentally ended up going around the lake. Tiny little lake homes that just look expensive let us know we were SO not in the right neighborhood, but the road was narrow and filled with people who paid way too much to look that stupid in their coordinated velour jogging suits. We couldn’t find a place to turn around, so we just had to press on. I said, “Oh, no. I think we’ve ended up in a cul de sac.” To which my man said, “We can’t afford to live in a cul de sac!”

No. We can’t. No Desirable Neighborhood, no lake properties, no cul de sacs.

We got turned around and lived through the condescending looks leveled at us as we passed by the town’s hidden wealthy. Took a turn off that street, saw a trailer, and instantly felt better. Then we got up into the hills.

I’ve lived in NH my whole life, and one thing I can say for certain is that if the town has back hills, which most will no matter how large the center of the town may be, then the properties you will find in these hills vary about as much as anything can. In the Desirable Neighborhood, the houses and properties fit a rough pattern. Victorian style home, large garage, same sized lot, same majestic view of unmolested woodland creatures. Around the lake, there is a property protocol, too. Tiny house, but meticulously maintained. Not a blade of grass longer than the rest, white picket fence an absolute must, and I believe in the purchase agreements the velour suit thing must be a requirement since everyone has them.

EVERYONE.

Driving through there was like ending up in Children of the Corn. Only with rich people.

Neighborhoods tend to take on personas, certain vibes, whether they were built to be intentionally conformist by one development firm, or sprang up in dribs and drabs over the years as people bought and developed individual lots. The need to fit in with the neighbors is evident.

But, in the back hills of any decent NH town, all rules are broken. The only “vibe” is, “Mind your own damn business.” One property might contain a thousand dollar trailer left over from the 60’s, with old tv dinner tins patching up the siding, while just up the road, you’ll find a couple million dollar estate. It’s a mix of everything up in the hills, and that makes for an interesting holiday Monday drive.

Those developed hill properties rarely come up for sale. You can buy untouched land up there, but the kind of people who intentionally build their homes in the most hard to reach places do so because that’s where they fully intend to nestle in and be kings of their empires, whatever form those empires may take. I don’t blame them a bit. If I ever get rich enough to not have to do silly things like go anywhere, I’d do the same.

Among all the fantastic, sprawling estates, and the cozy, hoopdie little trailers, I saw a property that I just loved. It’s got a little stream through it, hills, forest, and a large clearing. Someone had set up a work shop, one of those huge prefab steel tubes that just look like they’d be fun to shout into to hear the echo, and they had a few tractors parked outside their home. What was the “home”? Two campers strung together with a little tin roof. Like old 70’s Winnebagos.

What a life, huh? Get a huge piece of gorgeous property tucked back where no one will bother you and play around on tractors all day. Tell society to eff off, get a couple campers to skirt around building codes…

I’m not being sarcastic. That sounds awesome. And if we didn’t have kids, that’s exactly what we’d do. I told my man that. He said, “I’m game if you empty the bathroom holding tanks.”

…perhaps there are some drawbacks to this idea I did not initially consider.

We turned down a road that lead up to an enormous spread with a little pull-over spot in front of a stone wall and a sign that read, “Turn around in this spot. Do not come through this wall.” There was no gate, just an old fashioned stone wall that had probably been there for a couple hundred years. There were no obvious signs of any security measures. No cameras. No guards. Just a small, open stone wall and a sign.

In the back hills.

Of NH.

Trust me, that’s all the security they need. Anyone who reads that sign and doesn’t understand that their ass will be shot if they go onto the property will learn pretty quick. We turned around as respectfully as possible, just in case, and made our way back down the hill. We did not turn down any more unmarked roads.

So that was our day of local sight seeing and property watching. We found a couple we like, so keep your fingers crossed. Seems everything in our price range is “cash only”, which is moronic when you think about it. If I had $70K in cash, I certainly wouldn’t buy a $70K house that needs total renovation. I’d buy a $200K gorgeous place with one helluva good down payment.

Actually, $70K would probably get me a nice chunk of redneck heaven up in those hills, with enough left to get a couple old trailers to stick on there. And maybe even a used tractor.

Hm. Now if I could only think of a way to trick someone else into emptying the holding tanks…

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Tuesday, September 2, 2014. Keep your fingers crossed for a little one we really like. Figuratively. I don’t really expect you to walk around for weeks with your fingers uselessly twisted together, though I thank you for your commitment to the cause…