A sick kid, a dead mouse, and a broken window walk into a bar…

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Mornin’ all!

I got up to one “awwww” thing today, which was so much better than the not “awwww” thing I found when I woke up yesterday.

The awwww thing today was a note pinned to the hallway outside my bedroom from my 9-year-old. It said, “I threw up in the night. It did not feel good. 😦 ” Now, why is this “awwww”? Because he could have just knocked on my door, ya know?

But that’s just so him. Everything about it was my little MacGuyver. He had no paper, so he snipped open a toilet paper roll and flattened it out to write the note on, found a thumbtack somewhere in his room, and pinned the note right at my eye level where I’d see it when I opened my door.

Again, he easily could have just knocked.

Ah, but he’s one to take care of things himself. Poor little guy. Guess my plans are scrapped for today and I need to run for ginger ale before the teens head out for school.

The not awwww thing was a gift from kitty. Dead mouse (not to be confused with deadmau5… *glow bracelet fistbump*). She left it at the bottom of the stairs for me, presentation style. It was sitting in the middle of a plastic grocery bag (her favorite thing in the world) with a black sock placed right next to it. I’d like to think that the smelly, dirty black sock was an intentional artistic addition to underscore the fetid morbidity of Death. As soon as I heaped on the praise, though, she sat down and started licking her ass, so she’s probably not a deep artistic thinker after all.

ZOMG. WAIT! Maybe the ass licking was a living art piece, a biting commentary on the entire event summed up in one controversial and provocative performance? I mean, when you think about it, could there really be a more succinct statement on the terrible emotions one must deal with when there’s been a death than the horror of licking ones own ass??

MY CAT IS BRILLIANT.

I’m glad we have a mouser. It’s getting colder, and the mice are getting bolder. The cold weather is kicking off some deep instincts, not just in the mice and Rembrandt Kitty.

*author’s note: Yes, I, too, found it a bit odd that I went with “Rembrandt Kitty” when I easily could have taken the opportunity for punnery. I’m not saying that “Picatso,” “Meownet,” and “Renrawr” weren’t given serious consideration. In the end, though, I decided that if Kitty was going to be all high brow, then perhaps I, too, should take the more mature route.*

Around these parts, the first time you see your breath in the morning, something deep inside says, “SHIT! WE WASTED SUMMER!!!” You start looking around in a panic at all the things you can’t do once the snow flies. You can’t fix that car. There’s no way in hell you’re getting concrete poured on the one stair that mysteriously disintegrated once it’s sitting under six inches of snow. The garage still needs cleaning. The deck is a mess. And let’s not EVEN talk about the plans you had for that broken window.

The cold hits the ancient internal “go” button.

That’s good in a way. I mean, the shit really does have to get done. It’s not about the beauty of the home…it’s about the knowledge that if a foot of snow lands on that deck, you won’t have a deck once it melts. These are NECESSARY repairs, not weekend do it yourself projects to give the joint more curb appeal. These things have to happen, and time is tickin’.

On top of that panic, there’s the incessant obsession to gather in a hoarder such as myself. I’ve mentioned before that the apples highlighted my hoarding thoughts. It’s so much worse when it turns cold enough to wear a cardigan in an un-ironic manner. The empty spaces in the cupboards fill me with a sense of dread. It doesn’t matter how much food is around those empty spaces. There are EMPTY SPACES people! It’s a CRISIS. We will STARVE if I don’t cram those cupboards!

This year it’s particularly bad.

I think since the man’s schedule is still all up in the air and there are many changes afoot, my system is trying to compensate by over-controlling other aspects. Food is only one of them. Then there’s just the general need to acquire and prepare for the times when we “can’t.” Can’t afford, can’t get to, can’t find…

See? I get it. I know and understand my compulsions. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t giddy as a schoolgirl at her first dance when the junk shop heaped tons of shit in the free pile across the street yesterday.

“…oh, Bethie. *sigh*”

I got tiles! TWO boxes of them.

“And what are you going to do with two boxes of tiles?”

Look at them. Have them. Know that they’re there in case I need them. Oh! And a fun crate! It’s got such a cool shape.

“Did you need a cool-shaped crate?”

Actually, that one I can legit use. It’s very wide one way, and tall and skinny the other. It’ll be perfect for holding the paintings I’m doing, a place to safely store them before sale. So *pfflllbttthhh*.

The urge to get the rest of the stuff from the pile was almost overwhelming. There was a chair that has just a bizarre vibe that drew me to it. I kept staring at it. No, I did not go over and get it. No, I won’t today if it’s still there. I’ve already got one chair project going, and don’t really have the space for the that. I don’t need/can’t fit another. There was also a pile of unusually shaped cinder blocks. I have never seen cinder blocks that looked like them. I couldn’t think of a real purpose for those, so they, too, stayed put.

I’m trying, folks. I really, truly am. I blew it on the tiles, but the crate will honestly help with an organizational problem I’ve been having.

I got the first layer of concrete poured on the stair yesterday. I need at least one more layer, but I thought it best to do a series of thin layers since it’s cooler out, and since I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Landlords didn’t fix it, and I was sick of turning my ankle every time I left my house. Three of the household guys suggested I use the tiles on top of the stair and make it look fancy, because:

a) they get me…

b) they know how hilarious fancy stairs leading up to our just-this-side-of-a-tar-paper-shack house would be.

Could you imagine stepping onto icy tiles, though? Yikes. I’ll have to find another way to make an ironic statement about my home.

When I was a kid, I saw a house that was decorated with political messages. Not in my town. Over towards where my grandparents lived all the way on the other side of the state, a good two whole hours away. The owners would paint huge messages on the clapboard siding.

Shit. Was that over by my grandparents? Bah. Who knows. I was a kid. Somewhere in NH there used to be a very political house.

…or was it in Maine? Ya know, it could have been Maine…

Anyway, I could do that. Instead of going with the ironic fancy route, I could be more blunt and write things like, “I refuse to live my life under the imperialistic constraints of a straight roof!” or, “Is the foundation really warped, or is YOUR perception of it the problem?” You know… make people think.

“Wouldn’t your landlords object?”

Well, see, here’s the thing. The house has been peeling for years. It should have been painted at least five years ago. They ignore the problem by refusing to walk over to this side where the damage to the paint is very apparent. True story. That way they don’t have to look at the paint and can pretend it’s still perfectly fine. What they can’t see, they don’t have to fix, right? I think that’s how landlording works.

In order for me to make tall statements on the clapboards, I’d need to first prepare the surface. And that would mean a free paint job for them! If they don’t care about piles of peeling paint, I highly doubt they’d give two shits about a few words.

There’s a flaw in that plan, though. I could paint all the words I wanted and the real statement would be totally lost on the Landlords. They wouldn’t get it. They honestly would just be jazzed that they didn’t have to hire a painter after all.

Someone’s already done it, too. That’s another drawback. Someone else has already painted their thoughts and feelings on their house. I guess if I’m going to passive aggressively shame my landlords in a manner that would go completely over their heads, I should at least be original about it.

Maybe I could do inlaid tile work around the broken window? It’s facing the road so everyone will see. I’ll lay the tiles out, then surround them with gold painted filigree work to highlight the absurdity. Picture it. The paint will be peeling all around it. The window broken and askew in the rotting frame. And yet, a peek of Taj Mahal level opulence…

“Whoa. I’m not a home improvement expert, but wouldn’t that take a lot of time and effort?”

Yep.

“…for what is essentially an inside joke that pretty much no one will ever understand?”

You do realize that all you’re doing is talking me into the idea, right?

“*shakes head* You have issues.”

So, so many.

Thus concludes a ramble for Tuesday, October 13, 2015. It’s light out. I’m not going to look across the street and see what’s still left in the free pile. I don’t need it. Right? I mean, who wants a stupid chair, anyway? A stupid, unusual, different, captivating chair. Heh. *breaks out into a sweat*

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Renaissance Cavewoman

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Mornin’ all.

You want some applesauce?

My apples are coming in. BOY are they coming in. I haven’t even really had to set up a contraption to harvest them yet, though my guy and a buddy of his had some great redneck fun climbing up there and shake shake shaking the branches. They climbed just high enough to scare me, but still in a range where a fall would most likely be survivable. I’m not going to lie and call that a sober endeavor, though I really feel like that goes without saying.

Between the drunk apes and good old fashioned gravity, I’ve gotten enough apples so far to make three batches of apple crisp, two apple cakes, and four gallons of applesauce.

Four. GALLONS.

Three of the gallons are divided and ziploc-ed in the freezer. I always use ziploc bags for freezing stuff like that. Once you fill the bag, squeeze the air out, and zip it closed, you can lay it on the counter for a bit and it’ll get very flat, making it good for storage.

Admittedly, it feels very, very odd to have a sac of warm applesauce in your hands. It’s like some bizarre boob implant gone awry.

“Bethie, I’m offended by the word boob.”

Of course you are.

Once you get the edible implants flat and stacked, they fit very nicely in our small freezer. It’s times like these that I wish I had a chest freezer. Though I guess if you look at it the right way, now I do.

BUH DUM DUM CHING

I’d guess a good two thirds of this year’s apple crop is still up in the tree branches. I’m going to make some apple butter and jar it, so I can store that in the cupboards. And I’ll keep cranking out apple cakes and crisps and crumbles and buckles until the kids can’t stand the smell of apples and cinnamon.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?

“Yes, but they don’t mean you should cram the whole year’s worth in at once.”

Eh, semantics.

We had use of a standing freezer at one time. It was great. My mum got it for a song from the junk shop across the way, and we muscled it into her garage when she lived next door. It gave us a few good years, then shit the bed. We used it for storage of woodworking materials and hand tools after it would no longer chill our grub.

You all know how much I love having a new thing to fill with all my junk, so it wasn’t really a heartbreaking day when the freezing element conked out. But having the ability to hoard food is something I miss.

I was thinking about hoarding the other day while combing through the tall grass for apples, my shirt full because I didn’t have the forethought to bring the cooler over to the other side of the tree. Had I been a chipmunk, I would have started cramming my cheeks full.

You’re welcome for that mental image.

I bent over to pick up another apple and the makeshift “pouch” of my tee shirt bottom gave way and a few apples fell out. I’m not going to lie. It gave me a moment of panic. It truly, honestly did.

“Uh, Bethie…”

Yeah yeah yeah, I know. Just bend down and pick them back up. I get it. But in that moment, all I could think was, “Shit, I just lost them! Hurry and get them back right now or the kids will starve this winter!”

Here’s a theory, folks. I don’t think my hoarding is a dysfunction. Instead, I propose that the hoarding “illness” is actually a recessive genetic trait carried from our hunter/gatherer cave-cestors.

Now wait. I’m not justifying any of the alarming or truly damaging aspects of hoarding. There is no reason to get so much junk that you can’t tell when you’ve got flattened, mummified cats at the bottom of the heap. There is absolutely no survival benefit to owning mummified cats.

But if you were to come into my house right now and look at things through the eyes of a caveman or cavewoman, you’d not only be impressed, but you’d put down your rock and club in concession to my obvious superiority and crown me Queen of the Caves.

…”*dubious eyebrow lift*”…

…okay, well you’d at least whistle and waggle your bushy cave brows and thump my man on the back while saying, “mmghfm, brah,” which I don’t even think needs translating.

I’m saying that while I may fail at being a modern chick in many ways, I’d friggin’ rock the hell out of cave life.

*sidenote: The misogynistic OpenOffice spellchecker approves of “caveman” but not “cavewoman.” Someone start an online petition toot sweet.

**sidenote p.s.: Also not allowed are “spellchecker” and “sidenote,” though I doubt this will raise enough ire to warrant a petition. Still, worth mentioning. Tighten it up, OpenOffice.

Cheekiness aside, I do think I might be on to something here. I wasn’t kidding when I said the apples falling out of my shirt caused a moment of panic. That’s what actually gave me pause and sparked what might be the first epiphany of the school year. With the kids gone during the day, I can actually think.

Look, I’m not at all unaware of my stupidly obsessive thoughts. I know it was utterly ridiculous to feel fear at the potential loss of three apples, especially given the circumstances. They didn’t actually “go” anywhere. They were still there in front of me, cushioned in the grass, waiting for me to bend down and pick them back up.

Right now, in modern life, I didn’t have to worry at all. I didn’t lose them.

And even if I had, even if they had tumbled down the little hill into the drainage creek to be swept out to the Ashuelot river, there were plenty more apples for me and my family. Too many, actually. I don’t have a freezer. I can’t possibly use all the apples Nature has provided this year. I honestly did not need those three apples.

But cavewoman Bethie could have. Cavewoman Bethie probably would have. Every single scrap of food was necessary. It makes sense to have a mini panic attack when you think about it from that standpoint. I might live in modern times, but I’m still an animal. At heart, we all are. And what more animalistic endeavor could there be than gathering food for a family? Not shopping. Not opening a can. Real, honest, raw gathering. Out there, barefoot in the morning dew, eyes carefully scanning the tall grasses for the bright red that signals another step towards full bellies and healthy cubs.

Instinct. In that respect, hoarding food is simple, pure instinct. Grab as much as you can and then protect it, because those three apples could mean the difference between life and death.

On the “stuff” side of hoarding, as the gatherer half of this h/g team, my ability to scavenge and save and stockpile would have been a massive advantage. My little clan would have had things to trade, more possibilities for tool crafting, greater comforts than other groups. Those things would have given us status.

I would have OWNED caveman life.

Modernity hasn’t negated the inborn need humans have to amass huge quantities of things. I hoard stuff. Junk, if you’re going to insist on cold, hard truth. I love the things I gather. To me and my little clan, it’s useful, even if others don’t see the glorious piles in a twinkling, rainbowy light. However, while others are shaking their heads, the vast majority of the tsk-tsking naysayers are also hoarders. They just hoard money. Or shoes. Or nice furniture instead of curbside freebies.

Think I’m off base? Then explain storage units to me.

We humans have created a multi-billion dollar industry that exists for the sole purpose of storing all our extra crap. If you’ve got a storage unit that holds all your extra stuff, then you’re actually pretty much just like me. The ONLY difference between the two of us is that I refuse to pay someone $300/month to keep all my extra shit. I don’t tuck my hoarding away and pretend the urges aren’t there. I face it and live with it every single day.

“Bethie, we need storage units. What about when people move? They need a place to keep their stuff for awhile.”

Yep. But that’s not how it plays out, is it?

My uncle had a storage unit. He got it when he downsized after his divorce (lawyer speak for “he had to sell the house and give the ex the money”). When he started out, he *intended* for his storage unit to be temporary, as most folks do.

But once he got into the apartment, he realized how empty it felt. So, he started to buy new stuff. Why not? His house stuff was really for a house, after all. He needed apartment stuff.

When he died, we had the job of sorting out his storage unit. What did we find? Copies of the stuff he had in his apartment. Another couch, another stereo, an outdated computer. At that point, he had been divorced for nearly two decades, and had been shifting that crap from storage facility to storage facility as he moved. He paid every single month to house his “house” stuff for decades.

You’re laughing, but his story is not at all uncommon. In fact, most people who rent a storage unit end up paying to keep it for years. Some people have multiple storage units.

How is that NOT hoarding? It is hoarding. It’s just socially acceptable hoarding. That’s the only difference between the average Joe with a storage unit and myself. Society okays one and pretends the other is different. We are alike, though. We’ve all got that little side to us.

It’s a compulsion that’s been in our genes since before we were humans. It’s an ancient survival instinct that happens to be more prevalent in some people than others. I’m simply more in touch with my ancestral heritage than most.

I’m not a hoarder. I’m a Renaissance cavewoman.

Wait…why are you groaning and rolling your eyes?

“Because it just dawned on me what you’re doing.”

Uh, what do you mean? I’m proposing a very important biological, sociological, and anthropological theory here.

“No, you’re trying to justify ignoring the housework for another day.”

Whaaaa? Meeee???

“That’s what this entire post has been about, isn’t it?”

*whistles* *picks lint off bathrobe* *develops a sudden deep interest in the position of the stapler on the desk*

“Bethie.”

…yeah?

“Go clean your room.”

*grumble* *glare* Fine. See if I try to enlighten you again. *mutter* *shuffles off to get the broom*

“Don’t forget the trash bags.”

Tyrant.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Tuesday, September 1, 2015. I guess I’ll go clean my stupid room now and conform to your modern oppression. But you have to admit, excuses and stalling and epic procrastination technique aside, I might just have a point.