When a soccer mom meets a soccer mom coming through the rye bread…

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Mornin’ all.

I am being hounded by an elderly Jehovah’s Witness.

She came to the door last week to offer me a magazine. Not “Watchtower.” Apparently folks have wised up to that title. Now the magazines are called “Awake!”. She offered, I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in any way. Have a nice day.” I closed the door, but I didn’t slam it in her face or anything. I get that in her mind, she’s doing what she feels is required of her. I made it clear to her that I did not want to share that mindset, and I thought that was the end of it.

That was not the end of it.

A few days later, she came back. I said, “I told you I’m not interested, and I meant it. There is no way I’m going to join your religion. Please stop coming.” I shut the door with a little more enthusiasm, just enough for her to get the point.

She did not get the point.

Tuesday, she kicked it up a notch. She knocked again. I opened the door, shook my head, then shut it with gusto. Do you think that stopped her? No! She opened my screen door and stuck a copy of “Awake!” in the door crack!

I think I need a new tactic. The hubby said I should threaten to call the police. That would probably be effective, but in no way enjoyable. I read the magazine. Holy shit. Or, unholy, depending on your personal beliefs.

Fun fact, I love learning about religions. Love it. I am not, however, religious. I just think religions are fascinating.

I read the magazine, a magazine filled with advice on avoiding ebola, tips for a successful marriage, and a detailed explanation of the byssus strands on mussels. On the back page of the magazine, they list their other magazines for the year and what “real life issues” are addressed in each. I got “Awake!” #6. I wish I had gotten “Awake!” #5. The main topic? “How to discuss sex with your children.” Man I bet that one was good. All I got was some hack shit about making sure to appreciate your wife not only for her looks, but her ability to clean your house (like any swell husband would) and how the perfectly perfect byssus is so perfectly perfected it couldn’t possibly be the result of evolution because science is a tool of Satan. Or something. That’s what I got out of the article.

I need to get this old lady to leave me alone, and I’ve got an idea. I think I’m going to make my own magazine.

“Oh, Bethie.”

I could fill it with articles that are almost the same as the articles in “Awake!”, with the key difference of applying logic and morals.

“No.”

I’ll tweak the little things, like saying, “Isn’t the wonder of evolution amazing?” instead of “Isn’t the glory of God’s creation amazing?” and “A husband should respect his wife because she is a human being with same rights and responsibilities as him.”

“Bethie, you can’t do that.”

I’ll have these printed up and leave them in the basket by the door, and when Grandma Pushy Pants comes back, I’ll say, “Oh, you’ve got a magazine for me? Thanks! I have one for you, too.”

“Please, do not do this!”

Why not?

Honestly. WHY NOT?

“She’s just trying to spread her religion!”

TO SOMEONE WHO HAS ALREADY TOLD HER NOT TO.

Look, she has a right to her beliefs. But, so do I. I have made it abundantly clear that I am not interested, that I do not now, nor will I ever subscribe to her religion. I have asked her to leave me alone. She has chosen not to. Why shouldn’t I present a counter argument at this point?

“Because you have to respect her religion.”

NO. That is something people get wrong all the time. Freedom of religion does NOT mean you must respect all religions. Or any, for that matter.

I don’t have to respect her religion. I respect her right to believe in any religion she chooses. That’s a huge and important difference. I don’t have to respect any religious doctrine itself. I think what she believes in is utter bullshit. But, as a human being with a firm stance on personal freedoms, I totally and absolutely respect her right to be part of that religion if she wants.

That’s not really the point here, though. I’d be willing to keep that opinion to myself if she’d let me, a stance I’ve proven through the course of my entire life when I have never once tried to foist my beliefs on anyone else. I am perfectly happy to keep my thoughts and let her have hers. She’s the one that came to preach at me, not the other way around.

SHE is the one that has a problem with MY right to be left alone with MY beliefs.

I don’t know. It’s like the King of Passive Aggressive Plans, isn’t it? A slow play, too, since it relies on her coming back again. And it would be time consuming. Hmm.

“*resigned sigh* You’re going to do it anyway, aren’t you?”

I’ll keep you posted.

It’s been a week of odd interactions, not just at home, but at work, too.

We get a wide variety of customers at the bakery; some good, some bad, some noteworthy and some forgettable…and some noteworthy because they’re SO forgettable that I stop and think, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever met a more beige person in my life!”

Usually my interaction determines whether or not I will remember a customer. However, once in awhile I get a scene. I get to watch as customers act out their personal vignettes in front of my counter all on their own without involving me in any way. It’s not really “dinner theater,” because I can’t count a sample of the bread of a the day as “dinner”. It’s more like “snack-time soap opera.”

The other day, one such episode happened. I was icing red velvet cakes (on sale this week for the low, low price of $4.99! Come on down! Hurry while supplies last! Offer void in Guam.), which is a pretty boring task. Ice, crumb the sides, do red criss-crossy lines, shell the border, repeat. It’s mundane, and my mind was wandering.

I think that’s why I noticed the ladies at all. One soccer mom espied another familiar soccer mom, and they met in the empty space between the rye bread and the muffin table. There was a toddler in tow, one of those that an elderly aunt would have called “well turned out.” Perfect little hair cut, crisp, ironed OshKoshes, not a smear of snot anywhere on his face. His shoes were still tied, he had both socks on, and I bet his hands weren’t even sticky. I never had one of those kinds of kids, myself. I’m not really sure where you’d get them. Babies ‘R Us?

The mum of the Perfect Lad was, herself, a vision in carefully groomed perfection. Her hair was in a pin straight pony tail, her ironed Nike sweatshirt matched her ironed Nike t-shirt. Not any t-shirt. Not MY kind of t-shirt. It wasn’t a two dollar has-been pulled off the Walmart clearance rack with glee. I bet that t-shirt was cashmere just pretending to be casual. She was in yoga pants, of course. When I was a kid, capris were the pants of choice for soccer moms. Now, it’s yoga pants. Her socks were folded in half (I didn’t know anyone even did that anymore) and her shoes didn’t have a speck of dirt on them.

The one who approached was almost a carbon copy. Different brands. Soccer Mom #2 was repping Rebok AND Addidas with her sweathshirt and t combo. I think she won. Most name brands worn at one time is the winner, right? Or does she get points off for not matching? She had yoga pants, too, and again with the folded socks. I guess that is a thing. Damned hispsters and their unwanted influences.

“Hi, I haven’t seen you since the kids’ playdate!” said SM#2.Of course the convo would start like that. How could you POSSIBLY expect any different with that stage setting??

Soccer Mom #1, the mum of the Ironed Tot, began talking about how she and her husband spent their holiday season. She started with Thanksgiving, when they went to Mexico. She said, “Fortunately his mother took the kids, because girl.” She dragged out “girl.” “Girrrrrrllllll.” She is not a person who should do that.

Soccer Mom #2 said, “I hear you.” Apparently “girrrrrllllll” is soccer mom short hand. She understood what was meant. Thankfully, she also clarified. “Trust me, I’ve got two myself. It’s too much sometimes.”

SM#1 continued with joy that someone else understood the trials and tribulations of a rich, white, suburban mother of two whole children. “Riiiight?”

Quick aside: I’m thinking that dragging the words out might be like a verbal secret handshake of the Moms of Soccer. It’s my current working theory. I need more data, or some external corroboration. Please feel free to leave your assessment of the evidence, or any anecdotal studies you’ve personally conducted.

Anyway, she riiiiight?s and then talks about her holiday season in detail. After they got back from a week in Mexico, they decided to “low key” Christmas, because “we really needed time to decompress after the trip.” Don’t worry, guys, she was totally able to con her hubby’s mum into taking the kids again for New Year’s, which was good since childless holidays in Mexican resorts are real “stressors on a marriage.”

SM#2 was nodding and riiiiight-ing the whole time until SM#1 took a breath. This was the break SM#2 was eagerly awaiting, because she started talking about her own holidays, and how she and her husband decided to spend all three, T-day, C-day, and NY-eve, with their kids this year. “We were looking to keep it reaaaaallllly low key and reaaaaalllly classic.”

SM#1 took that as the jab it was meant to be. I may not have been sporting name brand apparel, but even I picked up on the subverted snarkiness. SM#1 could not allow such a thing to pass without firing her own salvo. “Did I hear that you are looking at downsizing? Someone said your house might have to go up on the market?”

OH SNAP.

SM#2 pinched. Her face pinched, her muscles pinched. I mean, everything about her pulled in to prepare for warrior mode, and I honestly thought she was building up a “Hadouken” to slam into opponent.

*gamer fistbump* *damnit guys…could you at least wipe the Cheeto dust off before I fistbump you next time?*

SM#2 said that her husband took a new career path.

“I heard there were layoffs. I’m sorry,” meowed SM#1, not at ALL sorry.

“Oh, no,” SM #2 corrected. “He wasn’t laid off. He started in a new division, one that will give him much more time at home with the kids. They won’t be young forever, and if he just works the entire time, he’ll miss it. He doesn’t want to miss it.” The “he” was said with the arch of an eyebrow and the twist of a knife, clearly indicating some not-so-secret rumblings among the soccer mom community about the state of involvement of SM#1’s husband in the lives of his perfectly presented progeny.

Now it was SM#1’s turn to assume the fighting stance. “That sounds…rustic.”

And with that, it was really on. A half hour. They went at it for a solid half hour. Smiles on their faces the whole time as they held their verbal sword fight, the toddler standing there with a level of patient sadness I have never before seen in one so young. He didn’t cry. He didn’t fuss. He was simply resigned. 2 years old, and already resigned to a life of dealing with his mother’s bullshit.

It wasn’t pretty.

I can’t relate to these people in any way. Take away the expensive clothes. I really don’t give a shit what they’re wearing. The snark about that was just for comedy. It was everything else, all the intangible things that made these two women not only unrelatable, but thoroughly unlikable.

I would never, ever see someone I knew in a grocery store and think, “Hey, there’s Sally. She looks like she’s having a nice day, that bitch. Let’s ruin it.”

And it went beyond the vicious verbal volley. It was what they were saying, the lives they described between the hissing and meowing and implied clawing. Just in another realm entirely. Real Housewives of NH.

Oooh. Now there’s an idea. It would be kind of like Duck Dynasty meets Desperate Housewives. Throw in the Jehovah’s grandma to attract a religious crowd and all the bases would be covered. We’ve already cast three members to having a show that would totally own the autumn line up.

I’ll take ten percent for coming up with the idea. The rest is up to you, Bravo.

Thus concludes the first truly long-winded Muse of the year for January 19, 2017. I got a new keyboard. My old one shit the bed with the help of some coffee the hubby spilled and I’ve been using a donor from Teen 2.0 that was tiny and straight and overall unappealing to my hands. But the new ergo. one arrived, so it’s smooth typin’…until the man kills another. I either have to get some kind of keyboard cover, or he needs a sippy cup. Gotta start carving notches in the desk for all he’s killed. I think we’re up to 11 now…

2016 Unnoticed Enemy…

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Mornin’ all.

I’ve got to talk about something that’s been really eating at me lately. I know I promised in the last Muse that we’d get silly again, but sometimes life requires deep, meaningful discussion to suss out the lessons we can glean from a troubling issue.

Or a controversial one.

I’m not going to lie; I may lose friends here.

It began with a set of lyrics I heard. You all know how important music is to me. Music is a siren to my emotions and sometimes the words grab hold and twine in my head and heart. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that a set of lyrics kick-started a deeply emotional journey.

What lyrics were those which moved me to obsession for days?

These four walls have a got a story to tell
The door is off the hinges, there’s no wish in the well
Outside the sky is coal black and the streets are on fire
The picture windows cracked and there’s no where to run
I know, I know
This house is not for sale.

“Uh, Bethie? Is that…is that a real estate song? What the HELL kind of music are you into these days?”

Yes, it is, and the answer is rock ‘n roll.

“That is not a rock song.”

Agreed. But sadly, it is. It’s from the recent Bon Jovi song “This House Is Not For Sale.”

Now, here’s the controversy:

Bon Jovi should have hung up his guitar ten years ago.

“Bethie!”

READ THAT SHIT AGAIN. It’s PAIN-FUL. It doesn’t even rhyme. YouTube it if you must and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s set to the world’s most basic public domain rock beat. He sings in it that burnt-out-jaded-bartender voice that’s WAY too high on sincerity and way too low on self-realization.

“But it’s BON JOVI.”

No. I disagree. I think the person we once knew as Jon Bon Jovi is gone and he’s been replaced with an intergalactic pod person. A husk. A shell of himself filled with the soul of an interloper who’s desperately trying to work its way into the upper echelon of society by possessing a once-loved superstar. The Bon Jovi I know, the one I grew up with, would never stoop to such drivel.

Here are more lyrics:

Drove a spike into the ground and I staked my claim
Standing on the dirt where they’ll dig my grave
Now what built these walls is in my veins
No time for looking back, the wolf is at the door
This heart, this soul
This house is not for sale.

You know the infinite monkey theorem? The one that states if you put a enough monkeys in a room with typewriters, they’ll eventually produce an entire copy of a Shakespeare play?

If you put enough monkeys in a room with typewriters and leave them in there long enough, they may end up with a Shakespeare manuscript, but I guarantee they will never, ever produce this song, because even monkeys that can’t read know it’s a steaming pile of shit that should never have existed.

I set each stone and I hammered each nail
This house is not for sale
Where memories live and the dream don’t fail
This house is not for sale
Coming home
I’m coming home.

That’s the chorus. Over and over. Whiskey-voiced, takes-himself-WAY-too-seriously-for-someone-pumping-out-musical-diarrhea Jon Bon Jovi beating this dead horse over and over and over…

Do you remember when Madonna came out with the album “Hard Candy?” No, of course you don’t, because it was 2008 and Madonna had become so thirsty and desperate that the handful of people who pretended to like anything off that album only did so out of pity. No one wanted to see her wrinkly pancake ass flapping out of her Spanx on the stage. It reached a point where it just got sad. “Hard Candy” was the start of the sad.

“This House is Not For Sale” is Bon Jovi’s “Hard Candy.”

It’s okay for rock stars to age. It’s actually often more than we can hope for. It’s good to see a wrinkled former rocker, because that means that they somehow navigated through the “sex and drugs” part of the lifestyle that claims so many. We WANT them to age. I WANT Bon Jovi to get older.

You hear that, Mr. Jovi? I WANT YOU TO GET AS OLD AS THE HILLS.

But Jon. Can I call you Jon? Heart to heart time here, Jon. You just released a single about goddamn real estate. Maybe it’s time to just rest on the previous successes you’ve had. I don’t want to see you go full on Madonna. Nobody does.

“Bethie, it’s metaphorical. He’s not ACTUALLY talking about real estate.”

He was going for metaphorical. He was going for, “I built this house and you can’t tear it down.” But that’s not what he says, is it? He’s been in the rock game so long, he KNOWS that’s an old trope, a staple that’s been way overused. So in order to attempt to put a new spin on a tired sentiment, he tried to cram as many metaphors together as possible.

What he gets in the end is not a metaphor. It’s just a jumbled pile of shit that winds up meaning nothing.

Look at it from a critical standpoint.

“You haven’t been doing that?”

No. I’ve been looking at it from a place of disappointment. There’s a difference.

Take all the emotion of a long forgotten teen who had Mr. Jovi’s “Tiger Beat” photo on her wall out of it, and just look at the words from a basic writing standpoint.

He starts out talking about the four walls and stories they could tell, but never actually tells those stories. Instead, he jumps right into the muthafuckin’ apocalypse happening outside, then says his house isn’t for sale. The story…progresses? We’ll humor him and call it progress. The story progresses by going back to points about the construction of the house he’s currently in according to the massive context cue of the overuse of “this house”, only to throw us for a loop when he promises to “come home.”

Which house were you singing about, Jon? If you’re singing about “this” house, but you have to “come home” to it, then you’re not really singing about “this” house, are you? You’re singing about THAT house.

“It’s METAPHORICAL. He’s talking about himself.”

He drove nails into himself? He has four walls and a broken-hinged door? Okay, weird, but let’s roll with it. How do you explain this next steaming pile?

This house was built on trust
That’s what it is and always was
No wrecking ball could knock it down
This house was built on higher ground

GODDAMNIT JON. That doesn’t even make sense!!! What the hell does higher ground have to do with trust? You’re not talking about living through a tsunami or hurricane. You’ve mentioned nothing about erosion or the foundation being weak. A wrecking ball most certainly CAN take down a house on top of a hill.

Have you ever stopped to think about what words mean!?!

*sigh*

If a new music group released this song on YouTube hoping for it to be their big break, they’d get 82 views, most of those from Grandma trying to be supportive…and even SHE would give it a thumbs down under the blanket of anonymity that is the internet. People would laugh at them because this is a terrible song. The ONLY reason this is playing across the radio waves is because it’s Bon Jovi.

Jon. Remember when you were “Livin’ on a Prayer?” When you made us all imagine we were in an old westerny shoot out with “Dead or Alive?” What happened, Jon? This…this is shit, man. This is worse than shit. It’s lazy. You didn’t just get old. You got LAZY. Lazy lyrics, lazy music, lazy tempo. You made a plug and play pop song, Jon.

Get it together, man. I’m saying this because I care. Get it together, and fast. Otherwise you’re going to find yourself in Spanx jiggling next to Madonna and wondering where it all went so wrong.

Thus concludes a Muse for Friday, January 6, 2017. I’m off to keep changing the station on my way into work in the desperate attempt to avoid hearing this piece of trash.

First meeting of the 2016 Survivors Support Group…

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Mornin’ all, and a Happy New Year!

2016 was…hm. How shall we put it?

There’s an old curse that comes to mind. “May you live in interesting times.”

Yep. I think that sums up a year that saw the Grim Reaper swing at beloved figures from gorillas to intergalactic princesses, grown ass people legit frenzied over clowns, England pulling a ‘Merica, then ‘Merica out ‘Merica-ing England because we gotta keep our cred, bro… Beheadings shown on YouTube, alarming push for reversal of human rights laws, angry rednecks squaring off with shockingly angry hippies and neither side being self-aware enough to realize how stupid they’re all being… People having to protest in order to keep their drinking water oil-free in some parts, the government STILL not getting the lead out in other… Flat out making shit up being the new “spin” in journalism, “belief” being now touted as having more gravitas than proven fact and hard evidence by a scary number of those in charge… And that’s just the tip of the melting ice berg!

On a personal level, things were not as dramatic as beheadings and gorilla assassinations, but it was definitely a stand out year. It started with the great Electrical Apocalypse and snowballed. One of the pups had a very scary struggle with mental illness, another a gut-wrenching battle with a bully. Finances didn’t just go in the toilet, they’ve been flushed so hard that they’re probably tangled in one of those garbage floats somewhere out to sea, and let’s not even discuss the sketchiness that is my mode of daily transportation right now…

This past year was certainly “interesting.”

Thing is, “interesting” isn’t all bad, is it? Otherwise the curse would have been, “May you live in shitty times,” or whatever ye olde word for “shitty” would be. “May your days be excremental.” “May you dwell in times overrun by defecation.” “May the gods loosen their bowels upon your year.”

Some would argue that the gods did, indeed, let ‘er rip on the world in 2016.

The other day, we got a snowstorm. It was supposed to be dire, and it did turn out that way for parts of New Hampshire. Here, the fronts took a shift and the storm only dropped about five inches. It was a heavy snow that fell, the kind that’s shown on greeting cards, sticking to every branch and wire and fence post.

This particular breed of snow falls when the temperature hovers juuuust below freezing. It’s just cold enough for the flakes to fall as flakes instead of drops, but warm enough to make them moist and sticky. The bulk of the storm hit overnight. The man had to get to work early, so he and I donned our winter gear and went out to shovel at about five in the morning. Being the native with 20 more years experience in this type of situation, I tackled the berm while he started cleaning off the cars.

Shoveling the half-melting, salt-laden, three foot thick berm left by the road plows at five in the friggin’ morning with a strong wind blowing icy flakes in my face is not in itself very fun. I know. Shocking. It could have been just an awful experience.

But halfway through, I stopped to lean on my shovel and roll my back to loosen the kink, when I looked up.

If you’ve never been in a snow at night, I don’t know if I can adequately describe the experience. Not during the storm, but right after, when the last flake settles into its new blanket that covers everything with a bright, bluish quilt. There is no such thing as a dark night in winter if snow is on the ground. It reflects any tiny bit of light, creating a surreal and almost solemn landscape. Everything is quiet. Everything is still. Everything feels like it’s resting, waiting.

And then the clouds move and you are suddenly standing on a sleeping world, looking up into the clearest sky at the brightest stars. And you feel at once alone, and yet so much a part of it. You feel like an insignificant speck, but one who has, for some reason, been offered a glimpse of the universe, a tiny taste of the bigger picture. You feel like for once, you were at the right place at the right time. You were there.

The snow was heavy. My hands were numb. My back was most assuredly displeased, a disgruntlement I’m still dealing with today. It was such a shitty experience in almost every way. And yet, I am completely and utterly glad I was out there. I do not regret it in any way.

That was 2016. We were there. And while the shit snowed down around us, we had beautiful moments where we looked up, where we stopped and said, “I am here.”

Will 2017 be any better?

Welp, my dryer shit the bed. It’s not the Electrical Apocalypse. It’s more like a tribute to the Electrical Apocalypse. I think it’s an improvement, though. At least it’s only one appliance, not all of them.

Maybe that’s how we have to go into 2017. Things are not instantly going to be better. Change comes in small, measured steps, with heartache and strife along the way. The ball dropping wasn’t a magic wand that erased the past year, and it wasn’t a crystal ball promising good things for the one to come. Life doesn’t work like that. The universe doesn’t give a rat’s ass about our calendar.

But we made it through 2016, didn’t we? We were there.

And now, we are HERE.

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions. I know me. I wouldn’t stick to them even if I did. In fact, I tend to do the opposite. “I’m supposed to lose weight? Screw this shit. No one’s going to tell ME what to do, not even myself! Gimme all the ‘tato chips and order me a scooter. It’s about to get real.”

However, I do think we all should have one this year:

Take the time to look up.

If all we’re going to do is focus on the pile of shit we’ve gotta shovel, we’re going to miss so much. And I think that was 2016’s biggest problem. We allowed ourselves as a race to focus on the bad, while forgetting to recognize all the good that existed outside the small, petty side of humanity. If we keep doing that, nothing is going to change.

Look up. Make those moments where you take the time to appreciate that no matter what else is going on, you’re here. In spite of what is going on in the world, in spite of a universe that has done its level best to make things as difficult as possible for you to exist, you ARE.

I’m not saying that you should ignore the problems of the world. We can’t. We may only be a speck zinging through the universe that’s honestly insignificant in the grand scheme, but it’s our speck. We need to live here. Of course we need to do our best to make the experience as good as possible.

But life itself is amazing. It’s so very precious and rare, and if we don’t take the time during a storm to look up and feel the awe of the great picture, I guarantee we’re going to have an equally terrible 2017.

Look up. I promise it’s a resolution you’ll want to keep.

Thus concludes a quick Musing for New Year’s Day, 2017. I know it was sappy instead of silly. I’ll get back to silly next week.