I was stuck in a Bob Newhart Episode and I wasn’t even mad…


Mornin’ all.

I was washing dishes the other day, putting off the biggest hassle on my “To Do” list for as long as I could.

I think I mentioned that we’re in a polar vortex of hell at the moment. Er, let me clarify: we *were* in a vortex. At this exact moment, we get a hiatus from the insanity for two days so that a Nor’easter can roll in and make everything worse. Don’t worry, that’s not going to last long. It’s supposed to be -25 again on Saturday.


The plan for the day I was trying very hard to avoid was to try to spelunk into our Scary Beyond Reason basement to investigate a frozen pipe.

Hang on. Let me set the stage. I’ve spoken of the Basement That Must Not Be Named before. Calling it a “basement” at all is very generous. That word implies that there’s some sort of order, rhyme and reason to it.

Or, at the very least, walls.

We have under our house a pit. What was once a real foundation a hundred and fiftyish years ago has sunken, crumbled, separated from the walls of the shack we call home. At the deepest point, you can alllllmost stand up if you wedge your feet into the canyon carved through the center by a hundred years of spring runoffs coursing over the dirt…floor? Is it even a floor? Can you really call a mud slick a floor?

You see? You see what we have to deal with down there? Every time I consider our basement, I’m thrust into a pique of existential pondering.

The stairs leading into Golum’s Lair used to be stairs. Do you know what happens to wood when it sits in bog water for years? Because whoever decided to make this particular staircase out of cheap ass pine clearly did not. Each trip down now is a fun game of “Will The Top Bolts Be Enough To Hold Me If The Cinder Block Slipped?”

One day I won’t win that game and will have to play a sudden death match of, “Is An Extension Cord A Viable Substitute For Climbing Rope?” I’ll let you know the answer when the time comes.

A rotting staircase leading into the pits of despair. Those are the hassles ones faces if they can even get INTO the basement. All that only becomes a consideration once I navigate through the obstacles in my way just to get to the door. A large stack of car parts, an M&M display, boxes of paint, some pictures I’m going to graffiti…

What I’m saying is that it’s a process to get to the basement door, a death-defying feat to successfully descend the stairs, and an outright trial of fortitude to traverse the wilds of the deep to locate a frozen pipe in -20 degree weather.

But, I needed to. A frozen pipe can quickly become a burst pipe if not handled in a timely fashion. It was stupid that we let it freeze in the first place, because we damn well know better. We dripped all the other faucets in the house…we just forgot to do the same for the tub. Nothing else froze, and in -20 degree weather, that’s saying something. Still, our fault, our problem.

So I was washing up the dishes, mentally plotting how I’d go about getting into the basement to assess the frozen pipe situation when I heard some muttering. I shut the water off and called to my man, because I thought it was him. He hadn’t said anything, and I shrugged and went back to the suds. Once again, I heard talking. I listened for a second, recognized the voice, then got excited.

We’re talking kid on Christmas morning who heard a puppy’s yipping through the box that was wiggling around under the tree levels of excitement. I was, as we say around here, wicked fuckin’ excited.

“Hon, I think Jim might be in the basement!”

Jim is our unhandyman. He’s a rock bottom priced Jack of Few Trades that the landlords of our duplex have used for every repair in this place over the last decade and a half. I like the guy, he’s quite a character. But he doesn’t exactly deliver top notch work.

He doesn’t claim to, either, though. That’s a huge point in his favor. He knows he’s fast and cheap, and does work that you’d expect for the price. He makes no bones about the fact. I have to respect that.

Hon went out to see if Jim’s truck was at the neighbor’s. There was, indeed, a truck there, and we were talking about how we’d get into the basement to talk to Jim about the bad pipe when there was a bang on the floor under our feet.

“Hey guys!” came the voice. “It’s me, Jim! You know…the plumbah!”

I opened the door to the cupboard under the kitchen sink and called back through the hole around the drain pipe. “Well hi, Jim! I thought that was you down there! How’s it going?”

“Oh, fine,” he called back. “I’m wicked busy right now with all this weathah. Hey, yer neighbor’s hot pipe froze and I forgot which one a’these boilers is hers. Can you run yer hot watah so I can feel the friggin’ pipes and figure this shit out?”

Hon leans down toward the cupboard, joining the conference call in progress. “Not a problem,” he shouted, in case the connection wasn’t so good. “Hey, Jim, while you’re down there, we’ve got a frozen pipe, too.”

“Shit. Which one?” yelled Jim.


“Hot or cold?”


“Christ. Okay, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna stick this propane heatah goin’. It’s got propane for four days. Give it three days and if yer watah’s not flowin’ by then, I’ll come back with my friggin’ Salamander and make this cellah a thousand fuckin’ degrees and thaw everythin’ out forevah. Sound good?”

“Sounds great! I’ll turn that water on for you now.”

“Thanks guys!”

I turned the watah on for him. In just a couple minutes, we heard, “Jesus that’s fuckin’ hot!” I shouted down into the redneck cellphone, “You find it, Jim?”

“Yeah, got it. Thanks! Stay wahm!”

“You, too!” We shut the door to the kitchen sink, thus ending our discount Skype session with Jim.

If you’ve ever wondered what the best part of winter in New England is, that’s it right there; shouting through the drain hole with unfettered glee because your neighbor froze their pipes worse than you froze yours, giving the landlords no choice but to call in the discount handyman who will muck around a -20 degree frozen shit pit so you don’t have to.

THAT is the joy of winter in New England.

You know you’re jealous.

Thus concludes a quick little Musing for Snowday, January Shitstorm, 20screwthiswinter. I got home from work yesterday and was able to take a hot shower. The propane heater worked! Jim didn’t have to make my cellah a thousand fuckin’ degrees. Too bad. Would have heated up these old wood floors…

Can’t tell if it’s the cold or the paint fumes that’s got me feeling sappy…


Mornin’ all.

Guess what? The world DIDN’T end in 2017!

…um…at least…I don’t *think* it did. I’m holding my face over a hot cup of coffee (the only hot thing in the entire northeast right now) in an effort to keep the blood flowing to my brain so I can type through the -11 degree morning.

“Achem, Bethie. It’s already warmed up to -10.”

Oh. My b. Lemme just run and find my tank top and hot pants.

Anyway, as I was saying, I can actually feel the pitifully small amount of heat radiating on my shivering chin. I can sort of feel my fingertips creak over the icy keyboard that I can see sitting on the desk in front of me. I can hear dueling tv shows the kids fell asleep watching (probably before midnight, though none of them will ever admit it). And I can smell an odd aroma I think is coming from the bathroom wall that we’ve got a space heater aimed towards in an effort to thaw out pipes.

Side question: Can you get lead poisoning from inhaling melting paint fumes? Asking for a friend.

My point is, I think I am observing these sensory inputs. Maybe I am not. Maybe we didn’t actually make it through 2017 and this is some bizarre afterlife.

“Um, I think you should probably move that heater away from the lead paint wall.”

It might be asbestos. I’m not entirely confident I know what asbestos is…

“You’re experiencing some kind of reality, right?”


“And I’m here, too, right?”


“Let’s just say we made it through and move on before the coffee ices up and we freeze our faces to the rims like jackasses, okay?”

…fair enough. I think we can say with confidence that we may have actually made it through 2017! And if we didn’t, we have no idea. So, happy 2018!

Everyone’s doing this “What I learned in 2017” thing on Ye Olde Booke of Faces. I actually kind of like that. I’m one of those super annoying people who thinks there is something of value to glean from every situation, no matter how shitty. In fact, usually the shittier the experience, the more valuable the lesson.

I learned many things in 2017. I learned that my boys are far more capable than the Mummy in me wants them to be sometimes. I don’t really mean that, of course. I want them to be very capable, independent men. But I still want my little boys. If you have kids, you understand. Teen Prime has taken on a very demanding position at work and is thriving, Teen Beta is in college and broke as shit (as any decent college student do), and Teen 2.0 is gainfully employed and killing it. The Littlest Pup is having himself a great school year, and is finding his voice in my often exuberantly loud pack. And though I still want to protect them all against the trials and tribulations of life, they got this shit. And it’s awesome to watch.

I also learned that 39 years is apparently enough years of carefreely eating shellfish. The Last Lobster was damn good, though. I put the sea bugs on a charcoal grill, right in their shells so they cooked in their own juices. Man oh man, if you want the best tasting lobster of your life, don’t boil it…grill it whole. If at all avoidable, I’d skip the Benedryl dessert, though. Bitter taste, groggy finish. Still, better than dying, soooo… 3.7 stars out of 5

I’m not really that bummed about avoiding Maine’s number one export. I only ate me some lobstah maybe once every 5 years or so as a treat. What does make me sad is that the shrimp toast I tried a couple weeks later yielded a very similar “lack of breathing” result.

Top tip kids: You want to breathe. It’s the preferred method for staying alive.

*sniff* I love shrimp. I guess they got sick of me killing their brethren and finally launched an effective counter attack. Touche, shrimpies. You have bested me in this contest of life, and I concede the match.

In fact, 2017 was the year of general body rebellion. Maybe it’s age. Maybe there’s a genetic component, which seems very likely when viewed with others in my family. Hell, maybe it’s just 39 years of not taking care of myself finally catching up. Whatever the cause, the smiting I took at the fins of The Shellfish of Justice was just the harbinger of things to come. What followed was a couple months of serious stomach pain, until I tried an elimination diet to see if I could figure out what was causing the issue.

“Um, Bethie? Maybe you should just go to a doctor.”

Ooooh, look at Ms. Fancypants over here with her “health insurance”. I don’t work enough hours to qualify for insurance through my employer, I don’t make enough to be able to afford the “Affordable Care” promised to me through legislation, and I make too much to qualify for state assistance. I tried to straddle it, but I’m afraid I am one of the millions of Americans that has fallen into the coverage gap.

If I thought it was something super serious, I’d go to the doctor even without insurance. In fact, my self diagnosis plan was:

– Google

– Trying the reasonable things found on Google in order to eliminate certain possibilities (no, that did not include drinking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar every day, or eating a paleo diet that only kept the average cave woman alive for 35 years)

– Going to a doctor and working out the enormous debt later if steps 1 and 2 failed

They didn’t fail, though. I got a result, the pain stopped, so I really think it was diet related.

I’ve narrowed it down to wheat or dairy. I haven’t had either in many months now, and the stomach is much, much happier. It wasn’t the same reaction as the shellfish…it wasn’t like I was having an “oh shit I can’t breathe” moment after a cheese sandwich. But I was definitely in awful pain after nearly every meal. And since I cut those things out, I’m not.

“Do you miss that stuff?”

I enjoy not doubling over in pain when I eat far more than I miss pizza. It was one of those “I didn’t realize how truly awful I felt until I stopped doing it” kind of life changes. Here’s a surprise: I like not being in pain. I like it so much I don’t miss the things I’ve cut out of my diet.

It’s like when I quit smoking. I quit because I got the flu and couldn’t breathe. It was the first time ever that I couldn’t pull in a solid breath, and it was terrifying. I stopped smoking right then and there and have not once thought “man, I could use a cig.” Not a single time. That’s not a brag…that’s trying to explain how scared I was, how awful that experience felt. The same as sticking tweezers in an outlet, or trying to quick iron your skirt without taking it off first. You get hurt bad enough, you learn.

I’m just not a fast learner about some things.

I guess we’re down to my personal life lesson of 2017. It’s a big, emotional can of worms and there’s no way to say it without sounding like a total douchebag, so I’m just going to spit it out and give myself over to the dark side. I think in 2017 I finally learned that it’s okay to take care of myself.


I warned you first. I’m going to sound like one of those annoying “it’s time for ME” people, and trust me, I’m not happy about it, either.

“I was only kidding, Bethie. You SHOULD take care of yourself.”

I’ve always had a difficult time doing that. In fact, I kind of perfected the opposite. When I feel bad, what makes me feel better is treating myself horribly. Maybe not always intentionally. Or maybe sort of intentionally with the comfort of guilt after.

I think a lot of people would understand what I mean by that, and if you’re not one of them, then I envy you. I truly do.

I had this realization in the middle of the grocery store health and beauty aisle when I was shopping for lotion. It was the third item on my list, right after “wheat free bread for stuffing?”. Yes, with the question mark, because just writing down such a selfish indulgence was hard for me to do. I found the bread, talked myself into buying it because stuffing is the only reason to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and moved on to lotions.

My skin is having a very horrible time right now. I think some of it is the weight loss (no cakes, no cupcakes, no cookies, no cheese covered sammies…can’t argue with the unintended results of cutting that shit out), some of it is age, a lot of it is working in a dry bakery… I’m chapped all over my hands and lower arms, and my legs from my knees down. It burns and catches on my sleeves and pants and starts bleeding. I need lotion.

I need it.

And it was so hard to buy. I was honestly in tears.

It just…it hit me, ya know? You ever have a moment when you stop and legitimately ask yourself what the hell you’re doing? I felt so bad for shopping for the foods that won’t hurt me, and buying lotion which – I’ll say it again- I absolutely, without question NEEDED, that I stood in the aisle and started to cry. It wasn’t the four bucks for the damn lotion. I had that in my pocket. It wasn’t about the cost, that was only my justification. It was because I still couldn’t shut that voice up in my head that was saying I was being difficult, needy, high maintenance, selfish…

I can’t do it anymore. I can’t bleed quietly while I convince myself I deserve it.

I don’t know where exactly all these feelings come from. I’ve got some obsessive tendencies I honestly believe are genetic. You all know I’m a hoarder. I’ve made no secret about that. Cleaning out my dad’s place after he died and finding the most bizarre stashes of random shit led me to thinking about things from my childhood…I think he probably fought that beast, too. I also have other harmful tendencies that I would also classify as obsessive compulsions. Perhaps it’s an extreme version of the genetic mutation which allows for altruism as a means of advancing the greater Us. I don’t know. That seems like a can of worms for a different day. As with hard solipsism, it’s a brain exercise that has little to do with reality when you get right down to it. At the end of the day, this is the reality I am experiencing. It’s the reality I at least have the illusion of controlling. How I got here matters far less than what I’m going to do about it.

I have to start taking care of myself. I have to figure out how to do it without feeling guilty.

I’m gluten free. I don’t eat dairy. I’m a douche who covers herself with cocoa butter lotion.

*author’s sidenote: Cocoa butter is UH-MAZE-ING. I got this “healing therapy lotion” for “severely chapped skin” that burned so bad I was fighting back tears for almost an hour. Only after the hour in agony did I read the back of the bottle and found that it had acid and two types of alcohol in it. Who the HELL puts ACID in a cream you’re going to rub on severely chapped skin?!?! Psychopaths, that’s who. Absolute maniacs. After scouring the lotion aisle once again and discovering all the big names are run by horrible, uncaring MONSTERS who get their jollies by tricking you into rubbing your already beaten body with what equates to the classic tequila shot, I found one that didn’t have acids and alcohols in it. Cocoa butter, kids. It’s just cocoa butter. No acid that will sear your already damaged flesh. No alcohol that will continue to dry your skin out further. It just creates a soothing barrier between your tender cracked shell and the cruel, icy world. Learn from me before it’s too late.*

Listen to me. I’m becoming a person I always secretly mocked.

Part of me hates that I’m at this point in life where I realize that I’ve belittled those who treat themselves well because deep down I was jealous that they seemed to deserve being treated right and I didn’t. Most of me hates the fact that it’s taken 39 years to come around to their way of thinking.

We don’t know what happens after we die. People aren’t exactly clamoring to come back and let us know for sure. The one thing we do know is that we’re here now. We definitely have THIS life. I’m hoping for at least another 20 years. I don’t want to spend the future the same way I’ve spent the past.

It’s not really a New Year’s resolution. It’s a New Year’s revelation, one that really shouldn’t be. This year, I’m going to try really hard to stay this new and slightly uncomfortable course. I’m hoping that it’ll get easier with time. And I’m hoping I have the fortitude to keep taking care of myself even if it doesn’t.

Thus concludes the first Musing for 2018. This one turned serious on me. I didn’t intend for it to. I wanted to joke about the cold and maybe do a Roundup. Guess sometimes you just have to go where the winds take you. I do feel a Roundup beckoning, though. Stay tuned. The next one will be fun. I promise.