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Mornin’ all.

Hoo-wee, that was some night. You wanna talk weird dreams… It started out with me presenting my archaeological findings to some vague university board, when all of a sudden I accidentally initiated “the 100 year protocol.”

Nope, I have no clue at all what the “100 year protocol” is. Couldn’t even begin to glean the meaning from the random cut-scenes that happened next. What’s known for sure is:

a. Whatever the “100 year protocol” is, it terrified the university board so much that they ran screaming from the conference table.

b. The artifact that started it all contained the bone of the first man to ever live, a turkey feather, and an elevator. Not a big elevator. It was a hand held artifact, so like a mouse sized elevator. Maybe even a bit smaller. Okay, say you want to elevate a cockroach, but are too lazy or grossed out to actually just pick it up. That’s about the size.

“This dream is dripping with symbolism.”

I told you it was a whopper! Back to the list…

c. My guy suddenly appeared, in a pith helmet and full on 1900’s explorer gear, telling me, “At least now you’ve got a fighting chance.” Wait, huh? I’m in danger? And what do you mean now I’ve got a fighting chance? I didn’t before?

d. And then came the banshees, only instead of being screeching harpies, they were the faces of dead relatives.

See, folks, until this point, the dream was odd, yet kinda fun. I clearly was a miner of history, and that’s an appealing idea. But then it all turned, and…

e. Each relative tried to rip the cockroach elevator from my hands, telling me I didn’t deserve it, which…

f. …turned out to make sense to my guy who decided they were right and jetted out of there with one of them…

g. …leaving me with my dad, who decided to stop screaming and harassing me, and instead put on professor type glasses and stood at a white board that suddenly appeared, explaining the mechanics behind the elevator artifact.

Long and the short, even in the after life, my pops is long-winded. What started out as an adventure quickly turned to horror, only to end up as a Ken Burns style documentary. I fell asleep in the dream.

Let’s process that for a minute. I BORED MYSELF TO SLEEP IN MY OWN DAMN DREAM. Now what the hell does that say about me?

While I still don’t know what the “100 year protocol” is, the artifact had a cool story. The basic gist is that it was an alien artifact created after they discovered that the first human had died. Apparently they had been watching the earth? I like to think they munched popcorn while doing it.

Or, you know, “flaadglep,” since the odds against them also calling exploded corn kernels “popcorn” are astronomical.

They saw the first person die, came down, and harvested the bones. The femur was believed to have special powers of longevity. The alien race seemed to be as blindly superstitious as we are. I think that’s probably legitimately how it would be. I highly doubt humans have the market cornered on ridiculousness.

No idea why there was a turkey feather. Probably just decoration. Maybe Professor Pops explained it while I was taking a nap from my nap. And of course, the elevator part had something to do with ascension, though I didn’t get an overall religious vibe from the dream, so it could have been literal ascension. Maybe I simply don’t understand enough about such a foreign ethos to pick up on religious subtext?

“And maybe you’re reading WAY too much into this.”

*shrug* Probably. Even if I am, you gotta admit, it was a weird dream. This is how a book starts, folks.

…or therapy. Could be the start of therapy.

Anyway. Moving on.

We got our electric bill the other day. Our electric company has decided to take a new path and “rebrand.”

*collective groan from the internet*

I know, right? I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels slightly nauseous at that term. “Rebrand.” The only time a company “rebrands” is when they’ve effed up enough to want to get as far away from their old, accursed name as possible.

Our electric company used to be “Public Service of New Hampshire.” They have always had a rep for being an asshole company that pretty much had the residents of NH over a barrel. Though they are supposed to be highly regulated since they are a public utility, there are many, many ways around the regulations, and all of them add up to an enormous bill.

What ways?

Well, while there is a cap on what they can charge for the actual electricity, there is little to no oversight on their “fees”. Line fees. Storm fees. Facility construction fees. Maintenance fees. Delivery fees.

…the delivery fees, those get me. You get charged not only for using the electricity, but for the privilege of having them actually give it to you as well.

To give you an example of how ridiculous the fees are, in the summer, an average bill for us will probably be around $150/month. About $60 of that is for the electricity. The rest? Tacked-on fees.

Yes, the fees cost more than the electricity.

It’s been getting utterly insane, and in the past, there was nothing to be done for it. Unless you could afford to get solar panels installed or wanted to sit on a stationary bike in your lab all day pumping the wheels for hours on end to generate enough electricity to power your blender long enough to make a smoothie, you had to bend over and take it.

Recently, though, it was ruled that NO company, not even a public service, had the right to a monopoly, and the state opened the doors for other electric companies. PSNH has been steadily losing customers since.

So what did they do? Did they take a long, hard look at their shady business practices and decide to turn over a new leaf? Pfft, hell no! Are you kidding me?? Being responsible costs money. Do you know how icky it is to make LESS money? Of course they didn’t do that! Instead, they rebranded.

They sent a notice saying that they are now “Ever Source!” How exciting. And that they’d be changing all the logos! Thrilling. And that they’d get new trucks and new meters and look at new ways of providing customers with cleaner energy! Woot. They’re green! YES, GREEN! Because we all LOVE green! And I know they decided to tell us they were going green, because they made the logo green. Whoa now.

*By the way, it may cost the consumers a wee bit to fund all these changes… But that’s okay, customers, because your extra dollars make us GREEN! Say it with us: GREEN GREEN GREEN!!

It’s stupid, and we just paid for this bullshit. The month after the announcement, there were new fees tacked on to an already disgusting bill.

Now, it’s gotten worse. We got a notice in the mail right after the bill that announced that Ever Source is now going to be providing us with an electricity usage profile. It’s separate from the bill, and will apparently come periodically. It’s a customized pamphlet, in full color, that tries to shame us about how much electricity we use.

It’s got a chart (oooh) and a GRAPH (ahhh). Charts and graphs are serious. These figures show us just how poorly we stack up against “neighbors.” Which “neighbors?” DOES IT MATTER? There’s a chart AND a graph, so it’s totally legit. DO NOT QUESTION THE CHART AND GRAPH, PEON.

It says we’re wasting electricity. It specifically shines the light of shame on us for the winter months, when we used unprecedented amounts of electricity. Boooo. Wasters.

What it did not take into account is that we’ve got electric heat and hot water. EVERY winter our usage skyrockets. It has to. I kind of want to keep my kids from freezing. In the spring, summer, and autumn, though, we cut the kilowatt hours by easily half. In fact, this year, the difference is going to be even more significant, because it was a REALLY bastardly cold winter. It took around the clock heaters to keep the house at a balmy 53 inside.

Not a joke.

Not an exaggeration.

Yet they are electricity-shaming us for keeping our family warm. They are making it seem like WE’RE the problem for using the energy THEY are producing.

Does anyone else want to punch these hypocrites in the face right now?

** editor’s note: We are not, in any way, actually saying to go punch an entire company in the face. Jeez, it was just a little hyperbole, guys. **

This company, this conglomerate of cash cravers, could have spent their money on actual ways to go green. They could have taken the millions of dollars it took to “rebrand”, and spent it on wind, solar, or hydroelectric generation. Instead, they kept their same un-green ways, and wasted the moula on a nice new dyed-green wool to pull over our eyes. AND THEN BLAMED THE USERS FOR THEIR CONTINUED UN-GREENERY.

Gets worse, too. After we were electricity-shamed, on the back page of the ridiculous full color, personalized pamphlet that WE now pay for, there are helpful tips to save energy that are anything but helpful.

One of them is to recycle your second refrigerator or freezer. They specifically say that “many” people keep a second refrigerator, and that you should consolidate and only use one. (Second refrigerator? I barely have a working FIRST refrigerator!) You can do this by calling Ever Source and letting them pick it up, free of charge. So they want you to just give them a working refrigerator. Just…give it to them. *blink*

Another tip is to set your thermostat lower. Set it for only 68 degrees. So for us, that would mean running twice as many heaters as we have now. Nice suggestion. *rolly eyes* For some of their customers, though, this would probably save a bit of money. Not us. Not most of our friends. But I’m sure someone out there hasn’t cared about the $1000 dollar monthly winter bill before they read that pamphlet.

The last tip is to buy “energy star” rated appliances. I honestly could go on about the “energy star” program that started as a good idea and morphed into a payout for ratings plan. There are plenty of independent studies out there to support the assertion that all it takes to get an “energy star” tag is enough cash. But basically, what the power company is saying is to have appliances that were built within the last 20 years. The bulk of their customers already do. Again, that makes this a useless, pointless bit of advice.

Let’s “best case” scenario this. For the sake of argument, let’s say you live in their bubble world. You have a spare fridge, and decide to give it away. For free. To a company who already has a ton of money. You also keep your house at tropical levels in the winter, because you haven’t yet minded a bazillion dollar bill every month. And to top it off, you haven’t updated your appliances since beehive hair dos were popular with people, and not in an ironic hipster way. Let’s say you are the pinnacle of idiocy and waste, and this pamphlet was your shining moment of saving grace. At best, if you did all of these tips, and you use the proposed company numbers instead of reality, the power company claims you *could* save up to $380 per year in electricity costs.

Look, there’s a lot of talk in this pamphlet. They certainly use hot button words like “green” and “responsible energy” to make you think they care. Hell, they even tell you right there how to save money and use less electricity!

…except they don’t. Not really. By their own account, if you lived in a bubble where these tips would actually save you the max alleged amount, it’s a drop in the bucket. Most customers won’t see even close to the $380/year in savings because most customers already live in this century.

If you honestly cared, Ever Source, then where are the tips on how to *actually* save electricity? It’s been proven that unplugging unused appliances (like toasters, coffee pots, computer towers, etc.) when you’re not actively using them saves lots of kilowatt hours over the course of a year. If it’s plugged in, it’s at least drawing some power, even when it’s not on. That’s why you can’t stick a butter knife in a toaster to dig out the poorly cut English muffin that got lodged against the heater coil. As long as it’s plugged in, it’s drawing energy. Period. Phones left on the charger long after they’re charged, tablets, laptops, other electrical doodads. All of them draw, even when they’re full.

I notice they also do not mention changing the simplest, easiest, legitimately savings-generating product in your house: Light bulbs.

Two years ago, we decided to give LED bulbs a try. There was a fantastic deal on them and we replaced every frequently used light bulb in the house with an LED. Our bill dropped by $38 the first month, and was even more significant in the winter when compared with the previous year’s winter usage. $38!! That’s over $450/year. That right there is one tip that’s worth more in our pocket than all of Ever Source’s other tips COMBINED.

They don’t mention these things because they really are legitimate ways to use less energy and save money. They aren’t giving us helpful tips, they’re just pretending. They don’t actually want us to use less electricity. Why would they?! If we use less power, they make less money. They just want it to *seem* like they care.

And you know what? It’s going to work. I bet the other day as I read that propaganda pamphlet and scoffed with disgust, other people were reading the same thing and smiling and nodding and feeling glad they got their power from such a responsible company. *sigh mixed with a healthy dose of grrr*

I wish I could say that the other utility options we’ve got are any better. In fact, after doing some research, while we could save on the electricity itself, we’d have to pay an additional charge that goes to Ever Source anyway for the other companies’ ability to lease the existing power lines. No matter what, Ever Source makes bank!

I need to get off the grid. I doubt I’ll be able to talk my landlords into solar or our own windmill, but I do have three teens and a hyper 9 year old. Hm.

That’s it. We only have one choice. How much do you think 4 stationary bikes will set me back?

Thus concludes a charged Muse for Thursday, April 30, 2015. I’m going to try to live with the shame of using my electric sewing machine today. It’s not even “energy star” rated. No, don’t look at me. I can’t bear the pity I see in your eyes for the deep, dark cesspool that is my blackened soul…

The low thrum of a rusted muffler haunts my dreams…

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Mornin’ all.

I’m sitting here wrapped in a blankie wishing I didn’t have work to do outside. Mother Nature is the bitch that keeps on bitching. It’s 28 degrees here.

You ever see that move “Groundhog Day?” Every night Bill effin’ Murray goes to bed on Groundhog Day hopeful that he’ll actually wake up on the 3rd, only to be depressed to find he’s stuck in a loop until he manages to stop being a dick and gets life right.

We had beautiful, wonderful, warm weather for a week and just when we put the sweaters and boots in the back of the closet, Mother Nature zinged us with more wintry temps. Instead of “Groundhog Day” we’ll call it “Eternal Winter”. I’m sure it’ll be a huge blockbuster in my neck of the woods. Folks really love to watch a depressingly accurate drama unfold on the big screen.

It’s snowing in northern NH this morning. SNOW.

I’m not even mad anymore. I’ve accepted that this is how Mother Nature is going to be. She’s like that younger sibling your mum told you was allowed to hang out at your slumber party who accidentally stops being a dork for a second and cracks your friends up, so she decides that repeating that same joke fifty seven billion times is THE key to securing coolness in your older friends’ eyes.

It was a good joke once, Mother Nature. Twice, even. You sure got us. But at this point, you’re just embarrassing yourself. Put winter away and leave it there before I tattle to Father Time.

I gotta be honest…temperatures aside, I’m not all that eager to get outside today anyway. I’m looking out my window, staring at an old enemy that must be dealt with.

“Bethie, no! You will not win against Mother Nature!”

What?! I’m gently urging her to get her act together, but I’m not an idiot. I’m not waging an actual war with Mother Nature. We’re uncomfortable acquaintances, not outright enemies.

No, the enemy I’m talking about is a truck.

“How are you enemies with a truck?”

As I’ve mentioned, my man and I are shade tree mechanics. A little more than, depending on the car. While he’s worked on too many different makes and models to count, the bulk of my experience is with Mercedes.

“Oooh, la dee dah. I didn’t know we were so posh.”

It’s not like that. These are antiques that…

ANTIQUE Mercedes. My, my.”

NO. Listen. I started getting into them because my man bought me one and then my father in law got me another and it was…

GIFTS? You get Mercedes as GIFTS!? Well, don’t I feel under-dressed. All this time, I’m sitting across royalty in my bathrobe! Please forgive my crass and disheveled state.”

*sigh* Are you done yet?

“Better extend my pinkie when I take a sip of my coffee. Wouldn’t want to offend m’lady, now.”

*blank stare*

“Honestly, what you must think of me.”

…you good? Got all the sarcasm out of your system now?

“Suuuure.”

I’m going to let that one go.

Look, these are the facts. I DO work on Mercedes. I have gotten them as gifts. And they are, by and large, antiques.

But, these are not the shining examples of German engineering you see in museums, parades, and corporate parking garages. These are 1980’s diesel carcasses that have all needed a ton of work to resurrect.

My first one, a 1983 240D I liked the looks of and cost my guy $700. It belched oil every time it ran and developed a charging problem that no one could figure out. Because of this, it needed to be put on a trickle charger to rejuvenate the battery every time it was parked for more than an hour or so. It had more duct tape and coat hanger wire holding it together than original metal. The body panels were so rusty that they actually flapped going down the road. The beast had a 0-60 time of “nope” and AT BEST could scream a whole 52 mph in the downhill section of the 55 zone on the highway. Within a few months of owning it, we needed to cap off one of the brakes at the master cylinder because the caliper broke and a part of it fell off, and then somewhere we lost the bumper. I have no idea where. It was there when I left. It was not there when I got home. Someone in my town was gifted with a free Mercedes bumper.

It was *not* posh or fancy in the slightest. In fact, it was a rusted, frustrating pain in the ass.

And I loved it.

See, we were broke at that time. I mean, REALLY broke. Pay-for-diapers-with-pennies broke. We had to take what we could get and we had to figure out how to keep it running. I had done some things on cars before, because that wasn’t my first rodeo on a busted bronc, and breaking down with a passel of babies in the car is no fun at all. I had to be able to patch my hoopdies enough to get us home, and over time, I became more competent than the average woman my age. However, until our Mercedes, I was still firmly a newb.

I always liked mechanics; machinery in general. My dad was a geologist by degree but a machinist/engineer by trade. His dad was a mechanic for the navy, an engineer for a company that contracted to NASA, then a wood shop teacher. My other grandfather is a master electrician. I truly believe there is an engineering gene. I have always had a love of all things that whir and spin and brrrm and zoom, and that includes cars. Specifically, the inner workings. I don’t care much how they look. I’m fascinated with what makes them move.

Plus, if I’m going to be honest, I love doing societally-labeled “guy” things. No, I don’t want to BE a guy. I don’t identify as a male in any way. I just really like not having to wait around for a dude to stop scratching his balls long enough to change my oil.

“Well. You’ve certainly shattered the fancy pants picture I had earlier. I suppose I can put this pinkie down.”

That’s my point. There are levels of quality for any type of car, luxury vehicles included. I am not riding in the back seat while Jeeves ferries me around for errands. I am covered in diesel, oil, and carbon while I limp the beast to the store for another replacement part.

To keep our cars running as a team, we needed me to be able to work on them while the other half slept so he could go to work all night. As I said, I didn’t mind. I like getting my hands dirty, and he was patient enough to answer my bazillion questions. Together we learned the ins and outs of that particular car. My father in law found a killer deal on a much nicer one [sic: had a firmly attached bumper and would start most of the time] and bought it for me. Now with two under our belts, we learned that keeping 30 year old diesels running, even ones in excellent mechanical condition, took a certain expertise.

I’m not being conceited when I say that now on our 6th, and having taken two completely apart, engine and all, we’re getting into that expertise level where this particular series of Mercedes is concerned.

Now, while all this self-education was happening on the Mercedes, we got a rep around town as being people who work on cars. Hard not to. Our house is right on the main road, and in nice weather, we are almost always under the hood or car itself at least once a week. People drive by and see us working, and many through the years have stopped in to see if we could “just take a quick look…”

“Well that’s presumptuous!”

I know, right? At least that’s what I initially thought, too. At first it was unnerving to have a complete stranger just stop and start talking about either our cars or theirs. Over the years, though, I’ve grown to accept it. We’ve met some real characters, good AND bad. Oh, the stories I could tell.

Ah, but that’s for another Muse on another day. Today, we’re talking about the truck.

The Truck, we’ll call it, though perhaps capitalizing it gives it too much power.

One of the people who wanted our help works with my guy. Younger dude, 23, 24…seemed nice, worked hard, taking care of a girlfriend and her two kids. He was in a desperate car situation and picked up The Truck for what he thought was a song from a little old lady.

Don’t let little old ladies fool you. They can be crafty bitches. He paid a good grand above what he should have for the truck, and spent everything he had to get it. Brought it to us when changing the brake pads didn’t fix the little stopping issue it developed just a week after he bought it, and my man and I took one look and saw a project.

…the project being the KID, that is. Poor thing seemed to be having just the worst string of luck and we are too quick to adopt strays. Had we known at the time that his bad luck was mostly of his own making…

I didn’t know, though. My crystal ball was at the cleaners that day. We had no idea the drama that would unfold. No, that day, we saw him, a young guy who was trying to do right by a family and got screwed by Demon Grandma and we felt bad. We took a look at the brakes, gave him a list of things to buy, found him the cheapest parts, and made arrangements for him to come by the next day my guy had off and we’d get those brakes working!

The very next morning, we got a call at about 6 a.m. from the kid. He was taking his girlfriend to work when the truck’s wheel fell off. “Whaa???” we said, because…wha??? Met him at his place after the tow truck returned it. The wheel had, indeed, popped off. He had a buddy help him put new brake pads on, and they didn’t tighten the lugs after they put the truck back on the ground.

To quote a modern genius, “Doh!”

The truck fell, scraped the differential and hub. The axle was visibly bent, and the truck would not idle. On top of that, once we got underneath, we could see that the frame was significantly rusted and the bed had massive holes. After my man and I conferred, we determined that it would not be worth it for the kid to keep throwing money at The Truck.

Look, you can keep a clunker running. But there comes a point where the value of the clunker is so little compared to the dollars you have to put in that it is in the best interest of all involved just to pull the plug. Sometimes the most humane thing you can do for a trusty vehicle who’s given its all is to send it to the ol’ scrap yard in the sky. The Truck had met its time.

The kid was devastated. And stuck. He had no car, no money to get another until his tax return came in. We knew that situation. We’d been in it ourselves more than once. We knew the panic he was feeling.

In every story, there is a crossroads, a single moment where you can pinpoint just where you went wrong. Here’s where we done goofed.

We loaned him one of our cars.

“Oh, Bethie. I’m no car guy, and even I know that’s stupid.”

Yep. Yep, yeppity, yep, and boy did we pay. Long story short, after we had to rescue OUR car that he broke and just left 14 miles away at a gas station for days, the guy and his self made problems are no longer our concern. If you borrow something, you return it. You don’t abandon it at a gas station and let it be someone else’s problem. I’m not even mad that it broke. Shit happens. But you don’t leave it. You call a tow truck and get it back. Basic decency.

Bah.

ANYway. Got a knock on the door the other night. The handyman who does work here popped in to see if we could help him out with a truck he just picked up for a song.

“Oh no.”

Oh, yeah.

I says, “Sure,” says I. “I won’t be here in the morning, but you can drop it off.” We made plans on where he should park it and where to leave the keys. I went shopping and ran errands the next morning, and when I got back, there was a truck in the drive.

“Excellent,” I said with glee, eager to make a few bucks. I hunted around for the keys that the handyman clearly forgot to put in the right place, and as I did, I got this nagging feeling that the truck I was in seemed very familiar. I found the keys, closed the door, and saw the XLT badge.

It was a special make of Ford Rangers, and not common. What are the odds in such a small town? Still, though, the kid was supposed to sell the truck for scrap. That was the plan. It was beyond hope, after all. It couldn’t be…

I stepped back and looked, a growing feeling of dread building. It had a different bed, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t The Truck. I searched the glove compartment for the paperwork and confirmed it.

The Truck has once again reared its ugly head.

I think I’m being haunted, folks. I’m being guilted into resurrecting it. I should tell the handyman to let it go, to run from the obvious Christine before it’s too late.

And yet, the selfish side of me, the part that’s all for self-preservation and dead set against sleepless nights of terror says that if I don’t fix this truck, it will just keep coming back. It will stalk me. It will hunt me down and find me and sit in my drive like it’s doing now, staring at me with it’s wide, headlight eyes and smug, chromed-grille sneer.

So here I am, right back to where we started at the beginning of this Muse. I’m still cold, still a pawn in Mother Nature’s tired “Groundhog Day” reboot, looking at a sneering truck that won’t seem to leave me alone. Guess I have to pull a Bill Murray and fix what’s broken before I can move on.

Now isn’t that unexpectedly poignant?

Thus concludes a Muse with a moral for Saturday, April 25, 2015. I’m off to get ready to tackle The Truck. Two will enter the ring, one will hopefully drive out for good…

With great weather comes great responsibility…

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Mornin’ all.

It’s only 5 a.m. On a Sunday. When I had absolutely zero early morning obligations or plans that would require me to watch the sun rise. In fact, I had early morning plans to sleep until it was no longer “early morning”. What happened?

BallistiCat. That’s what.

The little fur ball lost her damn mind. She came bursting into my room an hour ago, then proceeded to do everything she could to get my attention. She meowed, she knocked things off the nightstand, she walked on my face. It was as if she was desperately trying to tell me that Timmy fell down a well.

However, couple flaws with that notion:

– We don’t have a well or a Timmy.

– And even if we did, she’s a cat. She wouldn’t ring the alarm and get help. She’d simply watch the unexpected show unfold until she got bored.

No, folks, the one and only reason she wanted me to be awake was to be a bitch. To prove my point, she is, at this moment, napping in the laundry basket. It’s a victory nap. Her plan worked. I’m awake and up and her job is done.

Get a cat, they said. It’ll be FUN, they said.

At least the coffee’s good. It’s reheated stuff from yesterday, but the eldest teen made it. He’s by far the best coffee maker here. So, that’s something. And I really do have a lot I wanted to work on today, so I suppose lazing about really wasn’t the best way to start the list.

Still, I know one little feline that’s not getting her catnip toy today.

It’s been a busy week here. With great weather comes great responsibility. I spent my 5 month meteorological prison sentence planning all the things I’d do when the skies cleared and the snow melted, and now it’s time to start going down that list.

Thing is, my obsessive nature wants me to DO THE LIST. DO IT ALL. SPROUT TEN EXTRA HANDS AND DO THE WHOLE THING RIGHT NOW BEFORE SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS YOU USELESS SACK OF…

…well, you get the idea.

I’m glad I’ve got my teens. They really do help me focus and realize my internal kibitzing is pointless. The eldest is particularly good at helping me sort out the overwhelming mound and pick a place to start.

Makes good coffee, helps me not be quite so insane…do I really have to let him grow up? I mean, college is SO overrated.

“Bethie.”

*sigh* I know, I know. Cut the cord and all that. I will. I AM. But.

But.

Speaking of parents who are building a strong foundation for their children’s future therapy, have you read the flap about the “free-range” parents?

As we all know, there are many basic styles of parenting. Actually, if everyone was going to be honest, every single parent has their own unique style. But people NEED to belong to some group or another, so for the sake of this musing, we’ll just go along with that herd mentality.

We’ve all heard the terms before. “Tiger” parents tend to be forceful and domineering, micromanaging every aspect of their children’s lives, “helicopter” parents hover, wiping noses and cutting hot dogs into responsible sized pieces even when the kid is 14, blah blah, etc. Every year or so, Oprah introduces a new “doctor” with a groundbreaking parenting style we simply MUST adopt. And even though Oprah knows fuck all about kids, there are many who can’t wait to jump on board.

The latest parenting style to make the news is “free-range” parenting. It’s pretty much exactly as it sounds. The proponents of this theology claim that modern parents are too involved with their kids’ lives, that they baby children and give them not only insecurities and a lack of self confidence, but a juxtapositional sense of entitlement.

I have no problem with that part of the theology. In fact, at face value, I believe the “free-rangers” have hit the nail on the head. People DO micromanage their kids’ lives and shelter them too much. Too many PSAs in the 80’s have made a generation of parents that want to keep their kids bubble-wrapped from life. While it’s a sentiment that truly does come from a good and noble place, the world is shitty. It’s mean. It’s full of scum bags and assholes just waiting to take advantage of those who can’t handle it, and the parents who pretend that isn’t true are grooming a fresh batch of victims.

Not only that, having Mummy and Daddy do everything for a kid will make that kid believe that ALL authority figures will provide the same hand-holding. If someone is always there to do everything for the kid when they’re young, why wouldn’t they feel that they are entitled to that same service when they’re grown? I can agree with that part of the “free-range” philosophy, too. If you’ve never let the kid do anything, then they aren’t going to know they should.

…which leads to the third important tenet of the “free-range” style. Not only are too many kids over-sheltered to the point where they’ve got no understanding of the real world, and then coddled so much that they expect other people will always be there to do things for them, they’ve got no confidence whatsoever and do not believe they can ever do things for themselves. If you’re still cutting your 14-year-old’s steak, then you are sending the message to that kid that you don’t believe they should be doing it for themselves. “Best let me cut that. You know you’re too weak and stupid to know how to eat.”

No, no, hang on a sec. Before you roll those eyes and call it an over-exaggeration, just think about it. If your folks micromanaged every single aspect of your life, what would the long term message be? Especially once you got older and saw that other kids in school were doing things for themselves? I know a woman who still spends five minutes every morning hugging and kissing and saying goodbye to her fifth grader every single morning in the school parking lot. That kid has no chance. None whatsoever. She is proving to him that he can’t handle things on his own and he NEEDS her there every single moment.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a very hands-on mum. I ride their asses about school work something fierce. When they’ve got something new to do, I will dive in and show them how to do it, then stand there and make sure they listened. But, I’ll also let the older ones take the kukri out back to hack down some overgrown bushes, and the youngest has a proclivity towards tinkering with his own set of tools, which I let him do without hesitation. I have sheltered in certain ways, but I think overall they’re growing up to be pretty capable.

Just to be clear: I don’t for one second believe I’ve gotten it right, and if you have a few hours I can certainly list everything I feel I’ve done/am doing wrong. I’m not at ALL saying I’m a good parent. I’m a hot mess who bumbles through life hoping I’m not screwing them up too much.

However, I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that parenting needs to be a mix of care and concern, and knowing when the little birdies need to learn their own life lessons for themselves.

That’s where I break with the “free-rangers”. In “free-range” parenting, it’s not a mix. It’s straight up neglect.

“Bethie, I think that’s a little harsh.”

Hang on. Let me judge the “free-rangers” before you judge me. Everything must be done in a proper order, you know.

The basic philosophy of “free-range” parenting is to allow children to be little adults. “Free-rangers” believe we pamper kids too much and that they are far more capable of handling life than most people think. While that true to some degree, a “free-ranger” sees that statement as an absolute.

Case in point is the new story I mentioned. Two “free-range” parents in Maryland are in hot water once again for letting their 10 and 6 year old children play in a city park by themselves. A concerned citizen called the police after the two young, unsupervised children approached him, a complete stranger, and asked to play with his dog. The man let them, then followed as he called the police to make sure the kids would be safe until the cops could arrive.

Now the parents are in trouble, and it’s not the first time. In fact, they were in trouble for this exact scenario in the autumn of last year. Their children were seen walking a mile by themselves and picked up by concerned police. The parents were investigated and put under watch by the local child protective services. The state law in Maryland is that a child of 8 may be left home alone or in a car, and must be 13 to watch another child. The parents are crying foul, but the law is clearly against them.

Right off the bat, they are teaching their children it is okay to break the law.

Let’s look at the parents for a minute. In case you’re thinking it’s a situation of low circumstance, that they’re like some poor gutter trash who doesn’t know any better and it’s to be expected (you bigot), these parents are both highly educated, intelligent scientists. These aren’t people who don’t know or understand the law. They are simply people who have decided they are above it.

Or, more accurately, that the law is wrong.

They have support, too. Lots. There are many people across the nation who agree with these parents. If you read the comments section in any news story about this case, the defense of these folks generally falls under a few umbrella opinions:

1. The kids had been to that park a lot and knew the way. Chill out!

2. Nanny state! Get your laws off their kids and let them parent how they want to!

3. My mother let me play out on my own ’till the street lamps turned on, and I made it through just fine.

Let’s dissect these opinions.

The parents have said that the route the children took and the park they went to play in was familiar to them, that they’d been there lots of times and knew the way. Well, that’s good, but getting lost is only part of the danger, isn’t it? A very small part, actually, since if you get lost, you can always ask for help. In fact, getting lost is probably low on the list of possible bad scenarios a 10 and 6 years old could face on the way to and from a city park on their own. It’s certainly not the crux of the argument, so I think we can just discount this defense right off the bat.

Next: Nanny state! Yeah. About that…of course there are laws about parenting. There have to be because there are some seriously irresponsible and/or flat out dangerous parents out there. The laws protect kids when the parents cannot/will not do it for themselves.

There are also assholes. Remember the assholes? I said the world was full of them, and it is. And some of these assholes specifically target young children.

Kidnapping. Assault. Rape. Murder.

If you go on to a “free-range” parenting website, they will be quick to point out that the media makes a bigger deal of these instances than they should. They’re very fast to show that the stats prove that “only” about 115 kids get abducted by strangers every year in the US, and that there aren’t any “substantial” statistics on assault on children by strangers, so that MUST not really be a problem.

This stance boggles the mind. The odds are in the kids favor, so it’s not worth worrying about?? You know what? The odds are in a kid’s favor for Russian Roulette, but I wouldn’t let them play it!

Which leads into the last most stated and most ridiculous argument. “I lived like that and I grew up just fine.”

When I was a kid, I clearly remember chewing on wall plaster. It was ugly wall paper, and I hated looking at it. It was criss crossy and made my eyes go wonky, so I started to rip it off. I discovered that the wall itself could be easily crumbled, so I began to pick and chew on it and created a huge hole that I tried to cover up with my teddy bear.

…I never said I was a *smart* child.

Because children have a knack for chewing on things, the government said, “Hm. Maybe we shouldn’t let people put lead and toxins in all the shit kids are going to chew on?” Did I live through my leaden experience? Sure. Without brain damage? Mostly…I think… But did everyone?

No.

Seat belts weren’t mandatory for minors until the 80’s in many places. Car seats were unheard of until I was a tot. Jarts were a thing that really happened (true story! We had them. You young ones, look ’em up) and teenagers used to think nothing at all of hitchhiking to the next town over.

The people who lived through those troubling times of wanton danger were most definitely in the majority. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t make it through by dumb blind luck.

And THAT’S the problem with the ridiculous argument people are kicking around in support of the “free-range” parenting style. To accept that something you used to do is dangerous isn’t caving to a cry baby society, it’s growing the hell up and learning how to be better for the next generation. It’s progressing as a people who have gained a deeper understanding of the dangers of the world around them.

We put seat belts on the kids. 99% of road trips will go off without a hitch. 99% of the time, the seat belt turns out to be completely unnecessary. But all it takes is one bad driver, one moment of distraction, one idiot who had a few too many, and that seat belt proves it was a worthwhile precaution. We did away with lead-based construction materials. 99% of babies know damn well not to chew on walls, no matter how ugly they are. I’m a 1%er, and I just got lucky. Others in my elite group did not, and suffered life-long debilitating side effects of lead poisoning. Jarts only very rarely impaled a kid, but they were banned because kids are kids and it’s just plain stupid to let them hurl giant pointy spears at each other.

Again, I’m not calling for over-protection. I’m saying that parents need to be reasonable and protect in reasonable ways against legitimate threats. It is reasonable to understand that a child is NOT an adult and WILL throw a sharp object at another kid if given the opportunity because it seems fun. It’s reasonable to take that sharp object away and hand over a rounded one. Sure, the kid’s still going to throw it, but at least the other idiot that stupidly grins as he agrees to be the target won’t be impaled. Reasonable steps, folks, because kids are just kids.

There is another far more important aspect to parenting than simply understanding that kids are dumb and need protection from themselves. If parenting was just about the kids, the “free-rangers” might be on to something. But, it’s not. When you are parenting, you are trying to raise a human being to be a member of a society filled with OTHER human beings. THAT’S what the “free-range” philosophy has ignored. There is a world around their children that these kids are ill prepared to handle.

In this case, the children approached a strange man to play with his dog.

These kids have been filled with the notion that they ARE adults and CAN do what they want. There is no “stranger danger” in their minds. They waltzed right up to a strange man in a park. If you are a parent, right now you should be cringing. I don’t know why people keep ignoring this extremely critical fact.

Why are laws against children being left by themselves important? BECAUSE THIS.

What if that guy wasn’t a caring and concerned citizen? What if he was a kidnapper?

“Bethie, that’s silly. What are the odds that he’d be one of the 115?”

Or a pedophile? Or abuser? Or junkie? Hell, what if he’s just a dick who wants to berate and tease a little kid? Would that get reported? No. Would that have a negative impact on the kids? Absolutely.

What about gangs? Can you really look me in the eye and even try to claim that a city with a population near 100K in this country doesn’t have any gang activity? Bitch, please. What about thieves? What about a mentally ill homeless person who sees the kid as a threat for whatever reason?

Let’s take the adults in the park out of the equation. Let’s say these “free-range” kids ran into some older kids. “Cooler” kids. Bullies. What the hell is a 10 year old going to do if the little 6 year old is being harassed? Or the other way around?!

There are so many variables in this scenario. And the fact that the kids did not know they shouldn’t walk up to a complete stranger and potentially invite trouble says that these parents ARE failing.

The world is not a safe place. It’s not being “progressive” to “free-range” parent. It’s being JUST as irresponsible as the “tiger” and “helicopter” parents the “free-rangers” rail against. The plain truth on parenting is that while there is no completely right or completely wrong way, it is NEVER a black and white issue. It’s not clean, it’s not cut-and-dried. And the moment you think you’re doing it totally right is the moment when you really should step back and take a look at how you’re doing things. Instead of crying to the media, these two parents should have said, “Holy shit. Our kids just went up to a complete stranger. Maybe it’s time to reassess.”

You can’t protect your kids from everything. And the “free-rangers” are right…you shouldn’t even try! If you want a functioning member of society, you need to teach them about society.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect them at all. KIDS ARE NOT JUST SHORT ADULTS. It was beyond irresponsible for these folks to allow their young children to play in a city park alone where the real world is just one idiot away.

They’re very quick to tell the media just how intelligent they are. Too bad they don’t understand the difference between “intellect” and “ignorance”.

Thus concludes a very long Musing for Sunday, April 19, 2015. Heh. Guess I was a little more worked up about that than I realized. I’ll just push this soap box back under the table and get cracking on the next item on my list…

This better not be some sick joke, Mother Nature…

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Mornin’ all!

Yep, that was an exclamation point there. Here’s another.

!

“Why the extra pep this morning, Bethie?”

Because it’s spring! Finally! And not just because Hipparchus said it was. The snow has (mostly) melted, the birdies are singing in the the morning, and when that nuclear reactor in the sky is shining, it actually provides…

…get ready for it…

HEAT.

Like, legit warmth. I was outside in a t-shirt yesterday, and not just because I’m from NH and will don a tee in 30 degree weathah just to prove I’m tough as shit. No, it was about 65 degrees yesterday. And the day before. AND the day before! Today? Going to be about the same.

Ahhhhh.

I got outside with my welder on Monday. I have been itching for six months to get going on a project, but you can’t weld on top of a mound of snow.

…hm, I suppose you probably technically *could*, but I don’t think it’s recommended.

Coincidentally, that 40 lb coil of wire I picked up in the free pile across the way IS weldable! Woot.

“Free pile across the way? You lost me.”

There’s an “antique” shop across the street from us.

Oh, wait. Hang on. Most of you aren’t from small New England towns, are you? Okay, so when you’re in a small, admittedly slightly seedy town in this area, there will be antique shops along the main highway. However, they will generally not really have antiques. They’re junk shops that pull in the fancy-pantsy people driving through.

“Ooh, an antique shop, Harold,” the woman says to her bored, zoned out husband as she waves a hand that jingles from all the jewelry towards a run-down shack just up the road. “Isn’t it quaint? We really *must* stop. It’s so New Englandy!”

Poor, beleaguered Harold will indeed stop, as he has stopped at every such purveyor of authentic New Englandiness along the way. He’ll do it to humor Eugenia, and he’ll buy her yet another rooster pepper shaker that she insists is a real antique and exactly what their Cape Cod cottage needs for “rustic authenticity”. Hell, maybe he’s such a pro that he’ll even scape off the “Made in China” sticker before she notices.

Way to take one for the team, Harold.

Now, I’m not knocking the Harolds and Eugenias of the world. There’s a lotta junk lying around, and if someone’s willing to gather it up from yard sales and estate auctions and put it all under the roof, they need Harolds and Eugenias to buy it.

I’m not at all knocking the shop across the way, either. I love them. I’m a hoarder, and they often put out items they don’t think will sell well in a free pile. I’ve mentioned before, so I won’t get into my pathetic, drooling, Pavlovian response to the word “free”. And we’re neighbors. Often they’ll give us a discount on their regular items for sale, too. They’re great for picking up cheap furniture. In fact, half my house is furnished with $6 tables and $1 lamps from over there. I like them. When I call them a “junk shop”, I mean it in the best way possible.

Anyway, last autumn, they had picked up an estate lot that had a bunch of construction materials. They never sell the construction materials they get in. Not sure why. Perhaps it’s a liability issue? When they come across stuff like that, it all immediately goes in the free pile. Oh, did we score! One of the things we picked up was a 40 lb. coil of very thick wire. However, before I got the chance to see if it was weldable, we got snow.

I was very happy to confirm that it is very much weldable. Also, if you’ve got a torch, metal shaping hammers, and cabin fever, the wire can be worked into a very respectable miniature sword.

“You can’t make wire into a…”

minisword

“Oh. Well, then. It really *was* a long winter, wasn’t it?”

You have no idea.

I can weld now. I can also start in on the meaty car repair list that seems to grow every day. I drive old diesels (er, for the most part. We’ve got a gas car in there, but the other diesels haven’t seemed to notice the difference, so if you could keep it to yourself and help me avoid driveway discrimination, I’d appreciate it) which is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the cars are almost completely mechanical.

“ALL cars are almost completely mechanical.”

Actually no, smarty pants, they aren’t. In terms of automotive mechanics, a “mechanical” system is one that’s controlled by the driver directly. Let me explain it by using the brake system.

When you push the brake pedal in an older car, that pedal is connected to a series of linkages and metal rods that push in a pin at the back of the master cylinder. When that pin is compressed, it squeezes brake fluid through the brake lines which in turn makes the calipers (or drums) clench, thus stopping your car.

Now, in modern cars, while the basics are the same, there is a third party involved between the time when you push the pedal and the time you stop: a computer. These computers help determine which calipers will squeeze, how hard they’ll compress, how long they should be depressed considering the ambient temperature and road conditions which another computer has already discussed with this RoboBrake2000 while you weren’t paying attention…

These computers are everywhere, too. You want to roll up your window? Hang on a sec and the vehicle will gather a caucus to discuss the best possible way to make that happen. You want your wipers on? No prob! Just let the Visibility Synod agree on what setting would be ideal for the conditions. Should you put the car in 4 wheel drive? Please submit your inquiry at the c:\ prompt and wait for the .exe order.

A driver of a modern vehicle has little actual say in the running of their car.

While it, admittedly, makes the driving experience easier and more comfortable for the average user, the computerized vehicles are harder and more expensive to work on.

The first rule of any type of mechanics is: more parts= more parts that can break.

So we drive the diesels here (and one renegade gas car) because they are simple machines that we can fix in almost ever circumstance without fancy diagnostic equipment.

On the other hand, they are old, which means they need a LOT of that aforementioned fixing.

I don’t particularly mind right now. It’s spring! And we’ll be out in the sunshine producing massive amounts of Vitamin D. How could I complain about that after the winter we’ve had? I’m sure I’ll get tired of it eventually. I’m bound to get sore and grubby and tired. No doubt after a few weeks, I’ll be right back to bitching and moaning about ANOTHER car repair. I’ll forget my winter of being confined and long for a lazy day on the couch. It’ll happen. I’m sure of it.

But not today.

Thus concludes a quick Musing for Wednesday, April 15, 2015. See, folks? I *can* be short-winded and to the point. Now, I put up with new Neighbor’s pipe-freezing shenanigans all winter. Let’s fire up the side grinder and get our paybacks…

It was a dark and stormy morn…

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Mornin’ all.

I’m not going to beat around the bush. I’m sick of winter.

“But Bethie, it’s spring!”

Tell that to Mother Nature. My kids had a school delay yesterday because of snow. SNOW! While it’s not unprecedented to have snow in April, it feels particularly loathsome this year after the winter we’ve had. I haven’t been able to get out and work on the cars or bust out the welder and make something neat in almost 6 months.

SIX MONTHS.

It ain’t fittin’, it just ain’t fittin’!

See? You see what it’s done? It’s turned me from the vibrant young-ish blogger you know to crotchety Ol’ Lady Bethie. Pitiful.

*sigh*

“Feel better?”

No. I feel grumbly. And grouchy. And every other “g” adjective that conveys sullen, sulky, snarling emo beast. I feel bad. You came here for coffee and light-hearted banter, and I’m giving you swill with a side of malcontent. There’s a roll of Tums on the table if my bitching has given you indigestion.

It’s not snowing out this morning, so that’s something. It’s rain, but I’ll take clear precipitation over white any day. At least the weather’s trending in the right direction. Also, if the weather forecasters are correct, it’s supposed to actually start getting legitimately warmer this weekend. I really want to believe them. I do. But ever since that damned rodent delivered his brutal prediction in February, I must admit I’ve kind of lost my meteorological optimism.

I don’t want to go into the weekend in a funk, though. The weekend is for relaxation and happy times, right? I just need something to pull me out of the mud.

“Are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”

My friend, I do believe I am. Cue the go-go dancers. It’s time for a…

*catchy theme music* *** HEADLINE ROUNDUP! *** *can-can routine*

*fireworks*

“Ooh! The fireworks are new!”

Yep! Took months to get the right permits in, but there are no bureaucratic hoops I won’t jump through for you!

“Aw! That’s so sweet!”

Damn right it is!

“What?”

I SAID…

“Can’t hear you over the fireworks!”

*waits for the finale* *helps go-go dancer stamp out the slight fire in her feather headdress* *waits for smoke and stage to clear*

Yes, what better way to pull ourselves out of a miasma of meteorological misery than to scour the internet’s most trusted news sites to bring you questionable headlines? As always, the headlines are 100% real. I only add the literary rhinestones as decorative commentary. Time to cast our net into the net and see what we pull in:

– US Approves Sale of Missiles to Egypt

Good idea! Because selling off our excess weapons to the highest bidder has never once come back to bite us in the ass.

– North Korea Urges Mexico to Free Ship

You know you’re being a dick when even North Korea says, “Not cool, bro.”

– Please Don’t Expect Miracles

Okay. Can I still expect magic tricks, though?

– Car Plunges Into LA Harbor; 1 Boy Dead, 1 in Grave Condition

…*sweat breaks out on brow* *must…resist…*…

– Bronx Bride…

I CAN’T DO IT! I tried, folks. You saw how hard I tried! I tried to let it go and forget it and move on because it’s too soon and too sensitive a subject. I just can’t. I CAN’T! It’s a compulsion. I must. I MUST.

-Car Plunges Into LA Harbor; 1 Boy Dead, 1 in Grave Condition

Aren’t they both in “grave” condition then?

YES I KNOW I’M DAMNED. Thank you for pointing that out.

– Bronx Bride Gets Married 10 Times Without Ever Getting A Divorce

Oh sure, a dude does it and he gets a TLC reality show. Where’s the equality?

– University Reverses Decision; Will Show “American Sniper”

How about the universities show “education” instead? What a novel concept these days.

– Angry Worker Who Took Train for Joyride Faces Sentencing

“I’ll show ’em! Imma go back, and Imma go forward. And then I might just get real crazy and go back again! Take THAT!”

– Detroit Police Officer Accused of Robbing Drug Dealer

You know, I’m finding it real hard to muster up anger over this one…

– Liquid Metal Discovery Will Pave Way for Shape-shifting Robots

Aw HELL no! What the eff is wrong with you, scientists?? Have you never seen T2?? Step away. Just forget you ever discovered it and walk away. Put the liquid metal down and go cure cancer before you accidentally create our robot overlords!!

– Washington Deputies Find Cabin That Family Reported Stolen

…a…cabin? As in a house? Someone STOLE a house?? Okay, then. It’s official. Washington State is now the most dangerous place in America. Hand over the championship belt, Detroit.

…did you hock it? DAMN IT. *sigh* Oh well. Someone stole the museum Washington was going to display it in anyway.

– Rare Bird Alert: American Robins Returning in Waves in NH

Meanwhile in New Hampshire…

– 14 Biggest Heists In US History

If the Washington cabin-stealers aren’t on the list, I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

– Man Who Robbed Bank in Zebra Print Dress Pleads Guilty…

…To Crimes Against Fashion. Everyone knows you wear FLORALS for hold ups. Jeez.

– Former TV Pitchman Will Go to Trial in Owl Harassment Case

He kicked an owl. In mid-flight. Like, they were both up in the air and he kicked the owl. Is anyone else finding it odd that it’s a simple harassment charge and *not* assault? It’s either speciesism or those big ad dollars at play here, folks. Either way, totally unfair. We should launch a protest on the owl’s behalf! Let’s grab our pitchforks and storm the halls of justice!

– China Deploys New Weapon for Online Censorship in Form of “Great Cannon”

Anyone else getting a cartoony image of a little cannon coming out of your monitor and doing a Wiley Coyote *kapow*, or is it just me?

– Group On A Mission to Save Lives With Recycled Hotel Soap

Dunno either. I guarantee the story in my head is far more entertaining than the truth, though.

– Taco Bell Wants to Test Delivery Service

Shh, listen. You hear that? That’s the sound of millions of stoners across the nation weeping with joy.

– 11 Plucky Moments in the History of Eyebrow Grooming

NO.

– Postal Fail: Quote on Maya Angelou Stamp Isn’t Hers

Post office won’t change it, either. I guess you can’t blame them. It’s not like she was like, oh, I dunno, famous for writing epically moving works that have produced literally thousands of poignant quotes to choose from or anything. *rolly eyes*

British Prime Minister Mocked for Eating Hot Dog With Knife and Fork

As well he should!

– VP Biden Puts Baby Pacifier In His Mouth

…as well he should?

– Animal Activists Are Raiding Circuses to Liberate Abused Bears, Lions, and Monkeys

Wait. Hang on a sec. I’m all for closing down circuses that force animals to perform. But, uh, maybe we shouldn’t be rushing to unleash angry and abused BEARS and LIONS into the world…

– No More Playing Nice: California Names, Shames Water Wasters

Good! It’s about time they stop pussyfooting around and figure out the drought issue in CA.

– Birds Die After Cement Flows into Oakland Creek

…uh…maybe the drought issues aren’t really that mysterious after all.

– Scientists Seek Source of Giant Methane Mass Over Southwest

*insert political joke here*

– 8 Myths About Constipation

I tried to read the article, but the site was blocked.

– 13 Heartwarming Animal Pictures You’ll Love

Can you really promise that? You don’t know me. Maybe I’ll just find them “meh.” Maybe I’ll hate them. Will there be some kind of refund if my heart isn’t warmed? Awfully sure of yourself, aren’t you, AP?

– Candidate Died in 2012, but His Name Might Be on 2015 Ballot

Why? Because ‘MERICA, THAT’S WHY.

– Wildlife Officials Warn Floridians Not to Throw Baby Tortoises Into the Sea

They have to be told this? STAHP THROWING TURTLES!! Shesh. And you wonder why America shakes its head at you, Florida.

And finally…

– Dallas Woman Behind Bars for Illegally Giving Butt Injections

…make of that what you will. I’ve decided I should probably take the high road at least once today.

Mature of me, don’t you think?

Thus concludes a good ‘ol Roundup for Friday, April 10, 2015. I’m off to a parent/teacher conference for the youngest pup. I’ve got to take him with me this time, so I can’t pretend it went badly just to make him sweat. Damn. That’s half the fun.

I didn’t know kitties had pull strings…

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Mornin’ all.

I just unwound my cat.

I got up to find her wagging her tail at me…

*author’s note: Dude, this cat. This cat wags her tail like a dog. All. The. Time. When she’s happy, it thumps. When she’s mad, it sways. When she’s froggy for adventure, it twitches. She also eats trash and drinks out of the toilet. I tell her all the time that she’s a cat…she’s above such banal canine antics. I’ve told her about her proud heritage, that her ancestors were held up as demigods, for cryin’ out loud! Do you think any of that matters? Nope. Not one bit.

…and when I looked closer, I saw about two inches of curling ribbon sticking out of her mouth.

Yesterday was Easter. While we aren’t religious here, I was raised in a Catholic household and there are many Easter traditions I celebrate simply because they were joyous memories I want to have with my kids, too. We don’t go to church, but we have our own way of doing it up. One of the things we do is have one big basket of candy. I wised up and learned a long time ago that when you’ve got four kids, making one huge basket is a helluva lot easier than four separate ones. Plus it really does look epic.

MOUNTAIN. OF. CANDY.

While we were in Oregon, we saw some really cool Easter bouquets of candy. I liked the idea, and decided to make a bouquet of marshmallow Peeps to stick up out of the basket. I skewered those poofy little buggers and then tied curling ribbon around the skewers underneath the impaled Peep asses to make them seem less Vlad-like and more festive.

Now, in years past, the plastic Easter grass that normally fills the bottom of a basket to help make it look like the Easter Bunny isn’t a cheap-o has been nibbled on by our identity-confused kitty, so I changed over to tissue paper. Looks just as pretty, is way more cost effective, and boy, can you fluff that shit and make it seem like there’s a ton of candy! Plus, I’m not going to be sweeping up damn Easter grass five months down the road. I thought it was a brilliant solution all the way around.

I should have thought of the curling ribbon.

So here’s the cat, wagging her tail with no shame, and a couple inches of curling ribbon sticking out of her mouth. I think she wanted me to know. Or maybe she wanted my help. I began to pull, thinking it was just a little bit she needed to spit out. I must have pulled out a foot and a half of kitty spitty, soggy, limp, disgustingly warm ribbon.

See? *shakes my head* No dignity.

Needless to say, the basket is going to be put where kitties dare not tread. Or, if I’m too lazy to figure out how to secure it, I’ll pull off all the ribbons. I can’t imagine it would do her digestive tract any good to have feet of ribbon work its way through.

Easter was nice. Like I said, we don’t do much here. Listen to Jesus Christ Superstar, see if we can sing all the parts (Spoiler: I can. I’d be an embarrassment to my family if I couldn’t). My dad always played it before Easter, either on Good Friday, or Gettin’-a-buzz-on-before-Easter Saturday. Unlike my household of girls when I was a kid, boys turned out to have zero interest in fancy new Easter hats, so there’s some money saved. We do an egg tap with our colored eggs, a nod to their Pop’s traditions, and have a nice dinner. And that’s pretty much it. Not a lot, but nice nonetheless.

For much of the world, yesterday was just another Sunday. While it is without a doubt the most pivotal, crucial, reverent holy day in the Christian religions, the vast majority of the world’s population is not Christian. I get that. I respect that.

What I don’t understand is the need by folks on Ye Olde Booke of Faces to:

a) point out on Easter-celebrators’ posts that they are NOT celebrating Easter

b) post as many atheist memes as possible

c) make zombie jokes

It grinds my gears, folks, it really does. I mean, why? WHY? What is the point? There has to be an end goal in mind. I just can’t figure out what that might be.

Is it to make those who ARE celebrating reconsider their beliefs? Because I gotta be honest…being a dick on their most sacred holy day is not the way to accomplish this goal.

Is it to let the world know that they don’t follow the Christian dogma? Again, why? What the hell does that matter to literally anyone else? No one cares if you donned a bonnet and sat in church, or if you had a sweatpants-wearing Netflix binge Sunday. It’s like those people who have eaten meat their entire lives and see a movie or read a book and suddenly believe they’ve had an epiphany and go vegan and MUST tell you EVERYTHING about it so they can feel morally superior. Same mentality. No one wants to know what you eat, no one wants to know if you don’t celebrate Easter. No one cares.

I guess it would be one thing if someone simply said, “Just an ordinary Sunday here. No bigs.” However, that’s not what happens, is it? No, that can’t be it, because then they can’t get any sick pleasure in pissing people off. No one’s going to get angry and worked up on their special day just because of that innocuous statement.

That’s the real reason I saw so many anti-Easter posts yesterday. People went online to publicly make fun of a religion because in their minds, that would make them seem smarter and make the religious people seem dumb. They do it because it makes them feel superior to belittle people who truly believe in Christianity.

Not cool, bro. Not cool at all.

I hate the zombie jokes. Again, not because I find it offensive to *my* views, but because they are only designed to make good people feel bad on a very special day. There is no other point for these jokes to exist.

And the funny thing is, the people who have no problem making “zombie Jesus” jokes are the SAME people who will jump down the throats of anyone who doesn’t support their particular cause. If you champion for fairness, dignity, and respect for one group of people, how in the hell can you justify NOT offering that same courtesy to another?

There is a difference between being and atheist and being an asshole.

Themoreyouknow

*Bethie steps down from soap box and shoves it back in the corner where she can’t ding her shin on it*

What? Don’t look at me like that. It had to be said.

Hey, did you know that when you move to a desert, it might just be a waste of resources to have a perfectly manicured lawn? Apparently the folks in California are stunned that their wanton lawn-watering has created a massive drought in the reservoirs. H2O is at dangerously low levels, and several news sites have articles on how Californians are “trying to adapt” to not watering their imported sod.

I’m sorry, but is this *really* a concern? Really?? If they wanted a lush, green lawn, why in the HELL did they move to a desert? Did they not learn about deserts in school? Has the Common Core curriculum so crippled the nation’s ability to think that they had no idea at all that deserts are hot and dry? Are there not enough dictionaries to go around anymore??

IT’S A DESERT!! There’s no “adapting” that needs to happen! Let the desert be the friggin’ desert and leave the water alone. Gawd. You read stories like this, of these people actually panicking over having to look outside and be reminded that they live where they CHOSE to live, and THAT’S when you shake your head and say, “…’Merica.”

Don’t get me wrong, now. I love our country. Wouldn’t live anywhere else. But sometimes, people. *sigh* Sometimes.

Did you know…

“Another ‘did you know’? Is this Trivia Monday or something?”

…hm…Trivia Monday?…*strokes beard*…not a bad idea.

“You mean…I thought of something!?”

You may have done at that.

“Yay! Can we get prizes?”

Uh…

“You have to have prizes.”

I was thinking more of imparting random facts to you.

“But I wanna win stuff.”

Oh. In that case, scrap Trivia Monday.

“Awwww.”

We’ll just call it Know-It-All-Monday. The prize you get is the satisfaction of knowing something that others might not.

“…that is literally the shittiest prize ever.”

Yep!

ANYway, as I was saying… Did you know that there was a Society of Biology poll on the sex lives of critters?

Ahhh…got your attention, didn’t I? No use pretending you aren’t intrigued. I know you’re trying to sulk over there, but I saw your ears perk up.

Apparently the Society of Biology- yes, that’s a real thing- was incredibly bored and more than a little randy with Spring in the air. That’s the only reason I can come up with for this poll to exist. They decided to try and determine which creature has the most unusual sexual habits. Though there were many contenders, the Argonaut Octopus has come out on top.

…er…pun only intended if you aren’t offended. Otherwise, pardon the slip of the tongue.

What makes the Argonaut Octopus the world’s weirdest lover? First of all, the male mates with the female who is five times his size. How’s THAT for aiming high? But probably of even more significance in this particular poll is the fact that when they mate, the males leave their penises behind.

It’s detachable.

The penis, I mean. It comes right off.

Not only that, but a female collects them. These Lorena Bobbitts of the deep break off and store the penisis for later fertilization. The males, having literally given their all, die shortly after. And you thought getting your HEART ripped out after a romance was bad!

So there. I’ve now given you three topics to discuss around the water cooler this morning. Nothing too controversial. Just religion, dumb Americans, and unusual sexual habits. Should be a banner day at the office!

You’re welcome.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Monday, April 6, 2015. I’ve got to take apart a washing machine today. Huzzah. Oh, and deal with an insurance company about a vehicle I may have sorta dinged up a wee bit… I suppose after 20 years of driving, I was bound to have a blemish on my record somewhere. Still no speeding tickets, though. There is that. *goes to knock wood, but remembers she drives a 30 year old diesel station wagon and speeding is nigh impossible, so skips the knuckle rapping and hopes for the best*

Is there anything more awkward than standing in line for an airplane bathroom?

Standard

Mornin’ all!

I’m back!

And by “back,” I mean actually back, not just in the “I haven’t posted in awhile” sense. I went away for a week. Like, from my house.

“You traveled??”

Yes. Yes I did. I packed up the herd and we went a’wanderin’. The only one guarding the House of Bethie was the kitty. You totally could have robbed me blind and had your pick of my sweet hoard.

Missed your chance, suckah.

“But…but…I didn’t think Bethies traveled?!”

Usually we don’t. I am a happy moss collector under normal circumstances. In fact, I am generally utterly terrified of going anywhere different. But if you recall, the last time we chatted I told you that real life happened. There was a place we HAD to be, and as it turns out, the only way to get somewhere different is to travel. Go figure.

So where did I go?

Oregon!

…which is pronounced “Or-eh-gun” NOT “Or-eh-gone”. I feel the need to point that out because, as I learned by traveling, people who travel anywhere are automatically promoted to experts on the visited location. I know I’m new to this “getting out and seeing the world” thing, but I do have excellent powers of observation. A keen scientific mind. I took some notes while I was airborne.

…no, seriously. I did. How could I possibly remember everything to share with you if I didn’t? Like “Daniel Woodfart.” That was the name called over the airport announcement system for all to hear. Do you even know how hard it is to keep four boys from cracking up when the attendant calls for “Daniel Woodfart?” I had to keep notes. I did it for you, folks.

Anyway, judging by my fellow travelers/test subjects, if I’ve ever been anywhere, people NEED to know. They need to know it more than they need their next breath of air. Their lives will suffer if I don’t tell them every minutiae of my entire travel history. Passenger after passenger was observed boring the person next to them stiff with the long past itineraries of their previous escapades.

I also must correct people when they say the name of a place improperly (hence the above pre-correction), pretend to understand the culture on a deeper level than anyone else who has also been there (this one got tricky for the hipster asswad who kept kicking my seat when it turned out his seat mate was a retiring pilot who had literally been everywhere), and make a point of saying I *could* have flown first class if I didn’t want the “real” travel experience.

Gawd that guy was a douche.

Douche or not, these seem to be the rules for a traveler since other passengers followed these same guidelines. I suppose I’m honor-bound to comply. I’ll do my best.

So I went to Oregon. I’ve personally never been west before. When we were kids, we did a couple trips south. I spent a fun and memorable week in Florida when I was ten, and as a teen took a trip to Virginia. I highly recommend Virginia.

*Travel note: Pronounced “Vir-gin-ya”.

When I was eighteen, I worked at the Olympics in Atlanta for scholarship money.

*Travel note: Pronounced “no parents in a strange city filled with chaos and mayhem”.

I’ve been around New England. We grew some tiny states out here. You can’t live in New England and NOT go to a different state once in awhile. If you get in a car and drive for more than a couple hours, you’ve crossed state lines. I’ve accidentally ended up in Vermont or Massachusetts more times than I can count.

All that travel was when I was younger, though. As an adult, I think the furthest I’ve wandered is Connecticut.

*Travel note: Pronounced “Cuh-net-ih-cut”. I don’t know that that extra C is doing in there.

Want another confession? This is the very first time in my life that I’ve flown.

“What?”

Yep. First time.

“But…that doesn’t…how can…you’re thirty-…”

YES I KNOW. I’m thirty-blah-blah and I’d never been on an airplane before. In fact, I had never actually even been to an airport. Not once. Ever.

Look folks, when I say I am not a traveler, I really, really mean it. I went around when I was a kid, but *I* didn’t really…you know? I was a kid. I was packed into the van with the fam and taken places. I had fun at those places, sure. They are good memories for the most part and I am glad we had those vacations.

But the older I got, the more fear developed. I had kids. I had nightmares about every possible bad scenario that could happen to those kids. I’ve had cars break down on the side of the road with a gaggle of crying babies in the back seat, so I knew how awful that was in a car right down the road from my house…imagine how bad it would be in a car, train, plane, or boat far away from home! Hell, some of it HAS to do with the hoarding, right?

Bah. You didn’t come here to be my therapist today. Whatever the reasons behind the tangled web of neuroses, the result is that I am a thirty-*cough*-*cough* year old who just flew for the very first time.

Four times, actually. We went from Hartford, CT, to Atlanta, GA, then on to Portland, OR. On the way back, we stopped in the hole that is Minneapolis, then caught one more plane to Hartford. Four planes. Four take-offs, which were not so great. Four landings, 75% of which were fun, IMO. Four planes, 3,500 miles.

If I’m going to do something for the first time, I’m not going to half-ass it.

My man is from Oregon. His family lives there, and that was the “real life” that happened. We went out there to spend the week with them, and to show the kiddies where Pops grew up. They know all about me. Hell, I am currently sitting less than 1 mile from both houses I grew up in. Half a mile that way is the first, half a mile the other way is the second. The kids had the same elementary school teachers I had and use the same family doctor. My brood knows everything about my life. All they had before were stories from Dad with no real frame of reference.

They weren’t the only ones that really dug seeing the land that produced my man. I had a great time seeing the people and places that formed my beloved weirdo.

Oregon is very different from New Hampshire. From the northeast in general, actually. We flew into Portland, but we actually stayed in a smaller city about an hour and a half away in the Willamette Valley. It’s a sheltered region nestled between mountain ranges and is fairly temperate. Usually they don’t get much in the way of winter weather, so already it’s got a leg up on NH. We left our house here on departure day and it was 14 degrees. When we landed in Portland, it was 68. 68!!!

The very first thing I noticed was the green. Green everywhere. I hadn’t seen green in months, only dirty white piles of never-ending snow. But as soon as we cleared the cloud cover to land, I was surrounded by greenery. *sniff* It was beautiful.

They’ve got moss on trees out there. Now hang on. I know we’ve got some moss on some trees out here, too. But when I say they’ve got “moss on trees”, I mean MOSS on EVERY tree. All over, wrapped around like Nature’s sweater. Here…take a look.

Oregon a027blog

See? And not just one kind of moss. There are wrapping mosses, and hanging mosses, and clinging mosses, and fluffy dangly mosses… It was some straight up Jurassic Park shit. I think I may have gotten more photos of mossy trees than of anything else.

“Hippie.”

Yep. Then there are the mountains. Look, out here, we love us our Presidential section of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Mt. Washington in New Hampshire is one of the most photographed, visited, and hiked mountains IN THE WORLD. We are very proud of these rocks that jut so high in our sky.

It kills me to admit, but…damn. The mountains on the west coast make our range look like hills.

*ducks rotten tomatoes from angry Hampsters*

Sorry but it’s true! I can’t help it. It’s simple geology. Theirs are bigger, they just are. Hey, ours are far older. That’s something.

We went to the coast. We took a day trip so the kiddies could see the Pacific. I would have imagined that an ocean is an ocean, and I was expecting it to be the same. Nope! It was utterly different, from the type of coast line to the sand. It even smelled different.

We went on the only “normal” kind of Oregon spring day. It was overcast and often drizzly, and I thought it was fantastic.

Oregon a079blog

See? I couldn’t have gotten that if it was all sunshine and unicorns. Powerful, loud, blustery. That’s how I’ll always think of the Pacific now.

On the way there, we took a winding logging road that was one of my man’s favorites to drive when he lived out there.

Hang on. This needs mentioning: The settled areas out there are weird. When you’re in a town or city, you’re REALLY in it. The population density makes it feel like the city you’re in is far bigger. We were in a place with a population of around 40,000, yet it felt far more congested than Boston. It’s tightly packed in neat rows with 4 lane one-way streets and constant traffic.

However, if you venture a couple miles off the main corridor, you’re thick in either farm land or logging hills.

This:

Oregon a102blog

…was literally less than two minutes away from 4 lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic. “Where in the hell did the city go?” you’ll ask yourself when you bang a left instead of a right.

Anyway, we took a logging road to the coast. Ever been on a logging road? I thought we had twisty, winding roads here. Nope. It was a series of switchbacks and I swear a couple loop-dee-loops through impossibly tall, moss-covered pine trees. If I hadn’t been so terrified, I would have gotten pics. As it was, I think I left a couple fingernails embedded in the “oh-shit handle” of the mini-van we were using.

Once we were out of the terror, the road got a little better as it followed a river. And by “a little better,” I mean that there was mountain on only one side. On the other, there was a sheer drop off to a raging river. Did I mention that there were no guardrails?

Oregon. What the hell do you have against guardrails?

We also saw “ELK” signs. They said simply “ELK.” Having never seen an ELK, I decided I was going to. My guy said, “Don’t get your hopes up. I’ve only ever seen a handful of them, and I lived here for decades.” He did not realize that I was determined.

Behold:

Oregon a021blog

It was a large herd, but by the time we could find a place to turn around, many had loped off. Or scampered. Or frolicked. Scurried? I’m not really sure what ELK do.

Still, it counts. My guy couldn’t believe it. I tried the same trick with whales at the coast, but had no luck. I think the water makes whales less immune to my wildlife summoning powers. Salt interference or something.

While out there, we also went to a fish hatchery. I know that sounds weird, but it was fantastic. We love fishing, but stream fish in New Hampshire. That means we catch small trout. Sometimes we go to a reservoir, and get perch and horn pout. But even those are fairly small. My guy grew up catching huge fish, and wanted to show the kids what a “real” trout looked like. I must say, it was very tempting to just dip my hand in and casually take one of the foot and a half long rainbow trouts.

At the fish hatchery, we came across a bizarre sign.

Oregon a014blog

We didn’t see any interpretive frisbee-ers there. I have to imagine that if we had, we would have seen a long-haired, graying hippie in neon shorts with knobby knees doing a sick underhand back twist throw while he pirouetted, ending with a vogue-pose in homage to the forces of the Cosmos.

It would have been special.

Magical.

I don’t think “interpretive” means the same thing here as it does there. I say this not because we don’t have frisbee hippies in New Hampshire. Oh boy, do we. I say this because:

Oregon a025blog

Wha…??

I mean, it’s either a boardwalk, or it isn’t. How can it be “interpretive?” Unless it’s positioned directly near the Ministry of Silly Walks, I just don’t get it.

*Monty Python fist bump*

I know I should have the answers. I mean, I traveled there. I am now an expert. But on this one, I’ve got to admit I’m scratching my head.

Another oddity I cannot explain:

Oregon a097blog

What you are looking at is a train track running right down the center of a residential street. And these aren’t trolleys, or everyday subways. No, these are huge, long, enormous freight trains. They run through the town constantly. At a crossing, there are the bars and signs. Here, in this classic suburban neighborhood? Nope! No signs at all. They just expect you to not shit your pants when you turn a corner and find yourself playing chicken with a mutha-flippin’ lumber train.

Right down the center of the road. *smh* What’s going on, Oregon? You feelin’ okay? I like you. I’m just worried.

And then we came home. We flew Delta. I am going against the stream and highly recommending them. I found them to be friendly and understanding, even when the youngest actually had to use one of the air sickness bags. It was a rough, rough landing in Minnesota. Hell, that whole leg was rough. The plane smelled like exhaust and grandma farts. The lights kept blinking on and off. The pilot decided to try and find every single pocket of turbulence, and there was a woman, a seasoned traveler, who would not shut the hell up. My kid lost it on the landing, but so did other passengers. We were being shaken like a Boggle cube, and I have to admit that it took a lot not to use my air sick bag as well.

At least I had this guy to keep me company:

Oregon a147blog

Yep, that’s a lady bug. Stayed with me the whole rough ride, too. Bet he was confused as hell when he flew off to tell his buddies about his wild adventure only to end up alone in the strange misery that is Minnesota. We’re not even going to talk about the abomination that is the Minneapolis airport. 75% of the airports we went to were cool. 75% of the planes did not smell like grandma farts and regret. 100% of our luggage arrived at all places with us intact, and every flight attendant was friendly and pleasant. Those are some pretty good stats, I think.

The last flight was mostly in the dark. If you’ve never flown at night, I highly recommend it. We went over some great lakes, and boy, the name does not lie. We saw millions of little lights far below, with vast stretches of snowy fields and icy rivers between. The moon was glinting off the wing of the plane and the stars and planets were brighter and clearer than I’ve ever seen before. It was utterly amazing, and I’m very glad I got the chance to see it.

So that was the trip! Will I take to travel now? Nope.

I had a great time. I loved seeing the family, seeing the sights. Since I’d never done it before, I pretended to be an annoying tourist and made my guy drive me around and pull the car over quickly so I could take random pictures, the whole time saying touristy things like, “We don’t have this back home,” and “Isn’t that quaint?”

You think I’m joking. I am not. It was great fun to embarrass my guy by amusing myself in such a manner. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a fanny pack, but I didn’t think of it until we were already on the way and there was no way in hell he’d find a Walmart for me once we set out.

Next time, I’ll be better prepared.

Look, life happens. Sometimes no matter what your personal hang ups may be, you NEED to be somewhere. That sent us to Oregon, and it will no doubt send us other places in the future. I had to get somewhere. Without question, we needed to go be with our family. And in the future, I will do the same. There was absolutely no thought *not* to go. And while there, I jammed in as much as I could to take full advantage of the situation.

But it didn’t turn me into a rolling stone. I said I’m a moss-gatherer, and I am. Like the trees of Oregon, I like to stay put and let the world gather around me. And you know what? I think that’s okay.

Thus concludes a homecoming Musing for Friday, April 3, 2015. Boy, do I have some laundry to do today. …or tomorrow. Jet lag. JET LAG. Ugh.