If you snooze, you Cruz…

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Mornin’ all.

So my cat decided I was a pin cushion in the night. I honestly don’t know what the hell. My first thought was, “Did Timmy fall down that goddamn well again? Because I swear, if that little asshole didn’t learn to stay away from abandoned wells by now…”

But then I woke up enough to realize that the world around me was in color, I don’t even have a Timmy, and cats are just dicks.

She looked at me with big owl eyes. I looked at her with eyes that could not have been so cute and inviting. She blinked. I refused to blink back, the ultimate snub in the world of cats. She slowly withdrew her paw and tiptoed out of my room.

There was nothing amiss when I got up. She didn’t even have a toilet paper shredding party she wanted to show me. I think she was just bored and wanted to wake someone up. There are four children in this house…why you gotta pick ME?

Speaking of children…

My heart is in a state of melancholy today. I had the Santa talk with the Little Pup last night.

Oh shit. Hang on. Uh…spoiler alert. If you still hold on to the magical belief in a gift-bearing chimney sweep and his mystical flying cervine, then perhaps you should skip the next few paragraphs. I’m not judging you at all and there will be no weirdness between us when you return. Just look for the * and you’ll know to pick up where this leaves off…

For everyone else: We were sitting on the couch trying to fold construction paper circles into sixths to make snowflakes (top tip: dollar store construction paper folds like shit. I mean, in hindsight, that should probably go without saying, huh?) and he said, “Hey, do you believe in Santa, Mum?”

Every parent who’s perpetuated a nine year con knows the icy panic of this moment. The instant sweat on their brow, their minds making the cartoon “hummina hummina hummina,” the struggle to think of what to say. When Teen Prime was not so teen-like and approached me with the same general idea, I had days of anxiety after wondering if I handled things properly.

However, Little Pup is the fourth kid I’ve crushed with the truth, so I’ve got it down pat. I said, “Do YOU believe in Santa?” Because if your child still believes, and you’re like, “Shit no! Santa? Why the hell would I believe in THAT?” well, then, you are an asshole and you better start a collection jar for your child’s future therapy. No, you have to feel the kid out. Each kid is different. Some kids need to hold on to Santa just one more year, ya know? And some kids are ready, and need to know that you’re not going to lie when they point-blank you a question.

Little Pup clearly didn’t believe. He had that look in his eye when he said, “Well, I want to believe in Santa. Some of my friends don’t. And you did have all those fuzzy dice on your Amazon watch list.”

…yeah, okay. My bad. A couple years back he asked Santa for fuzzy dice. You know, the kind that dangle from rear view mirrors in bad 70s movies. Why? Who knows? He’s a little boy. You can’t try to apply logic or reason. Anyway, Santa found an incredible deal on a CASE of fuzzy dice. Apparently, Santa forgot that little snoops look over shoulders, and that Amazon does a real shitty job of helping you hide secrets. THANKS Amazon.

I gave him my practiced spiel, how parents perpetuate the Santa legend to teach kids the spirit of giving and to help the holiday feel magic yada yada. He took it very well. I mean, guys, he’s 9. And he’s got older brothers. I made sure to tell him that he now knows a big secret, and to never tell any little kids that Santa isn’t real. He seemed to like that part of it, that he’s now “in on it”.

I’m not so sure I took it so well. Maybe I’m the one who wanted him to have just one more year. Gah. Best get this back on solid footing. Things are starting to feel sad. Let’s get the believers back in here and change the subject.

*Spoliers over* *c’mon back*

Say, how about this zany election cycle, huh?

“*turns back around to walk off*”

Oh, now wait a second! Don’t leave again. I won’t dwell on it, I just have a theory.

I think Donald Trump is actually working for the Ted Cruz campaign.

NO! Listen. Who the hell is Ted friggin’ Cruz? Aside from a muppet with perpetual RSF (Resting Sad Face), I mean. No one knows. Here’s this guy who’s not a genius, but he’s not a total moron, either. He’s as middle of the road as the Republican party can seem to get these days. He doesn’t have great policy ideas, but he certainly seems fairly malleable. He’s not a good choice to the public, but he’s not the worst. He’s a former Canadian citizen, for god’s sake! Talk about friendly, eh?

“Uh, Bethie? The birthers are okay with this?”

YES BECAUSE HE’S REPUBLICAN. And it’s Canada, not Hawaii, so. You know.

Besides, who else have they got?

Bush can’t win. He can’t. His last name is Bush. Fiorina won’t win because she has ABF (active bitch face) and the stick is up her ass, not jutting out front, erect for freedom. Christie? Pfft. Nope. Huckabee? Are you friggin’ kidding me with that shit?

The Republicans needed a candidate, one that could actually win.

“But Trump can win, Bethie.”

No. No he can’t. He has high poll numbers, because the pollsters in his pockets are careful about who they poll. If you take a poll of 1,000 known Trump supporters, then you can accurately say that 1,000 of the people polled support Trump. Numbers are very easy. You show ’em a good time, and they’ll put out. Anyone can work numbers.

Working numbers does not equate to reality, though. Trump will not win. He just won’t. People like watching because he’s a one man show. He’s entertainment. Orange, ignorant entertainment. He makes awesome sound bytes and gives plenty of water cooler fodder. That’s being popular, sure, but in the same way that your drunk uncle who stuck his head up the turkey’s ass at Thanksgiving is popular. Everyone talks about him, but no one’s writing him into their will anytime soon.

Trump is America’s drunk uncle. If he is on a ticket next year squaring off against Bernie or Hillary, the democrats WILL win. He’s fun to watch, he makes good tv, but when you’re looking at the ballot and imagining him in the oval office, your hand will honestly slap the shit out of your own face before it’ll let you check mark Trump’s name.

The Republicans don’t want another Democrat in office, no matter who that Democrat might be. They want to take back the white house, and they can’t do that with Trump.

Which they know. Which they’ve ALWAYS known.

Ah, but they CAN use Trump to get a different Republican in that coveted seat. They can use him to make a malleable candidate look enticing to the American public. Let’s conspirize for a few minutes, shall we?

What if Trump has been a patsy all along?

What if the Republicans were like, “Look, Donny Baby. You like money. You like the Republicans. You have no concept of personal shame and we at the Republican party respect that. We’ve got a proposition for you, a way you can help us all. We NEED a Republican in office next term, but so far, the pool of hopefuls looks pathetic. We need you to pretend to run. Get out there. Ham it up. We’ve been laying the groundwork for years, telling people how much better life in this great nation will be if we get a Republican in office. They’re whipped up and scared. The hard part’s already done. What we need from YOU is to go out there and play on it. Throw around a few catch phrases. Dig into those raw and terrified emotions. Keep them hungry for a Republican while we weed out the field. Then, when we’ve got the candidate we think can actually win, we’ll give you the signal to kick it up. Start going off. Say things, outrageous things, mind-blowingly racist things that’ll make our guy look like a fucking beacon of hope in this god forsaken race. We’ll make it worth your while. You want bigger tax breaks? Done. You want permission to build your next casino on protected marsh lands? Fuck the marshes! No one likes herons anyway! Child labor laws getting in your way? Schmild shmlabor shmlaws is what I say!”

I think we have to believe this theory. I think this must be the truth. How else would Ted Whatshisname be skyrocketing in the polls? A no name. A sad no name. A guy who looks like he’d be far more comfortable with a binkie and a blankie than a microphone and a podium. THAT is the man who is leading the Republican race.

Guys, I’m not big on conspiracy theories. It’s not that I don’t believe them, it’s that honestly, I generally just don’t care. We live in a world filled with nosy, sneaky, devious humans. Duh. Plots and ploys and control and subterfuge have been happening since the dawn of time. If you don’t accept that about our species, then you’ve got some serious self-denial going on. At the end of the day, if I’ve had some food, had some fun, and had some snuggles with the ones I love, I’m good. If I had all that and was still sitting here with a tin foil hat on and my guts in a jiggle about the thought of conspiracies happening all around me, then I’M the one with the problem, right?

But sometimes, you take a little step back and look at the big picture and can’t help but see the truth. And the truth here is…

Illuminati.

Clearly that’s the only explanation for Donald Friggin’ Trump and Ted Sad-Canadian Cruz being the two biggest names in our current election cycle. That is some next level crazy and only people with endless money and boredom can make that happen.

Thus concludes your conspiracy for the day for Tuesday, December 15, 2015. You know what I would love to have happen? I would love it if I got one of those polling calls from the Republican party today. That would prove my theory quite nicely. Ah, but now I’ve put them in a bind, haven’t I? What are you going to do, Republican Illuminati? The ball’s in your court.

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When life gives you lemons, play video games.

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Mornin’ all.

“Ooooh, look who decided to grace us with her presence.”

…*sigh* Okay, okay. I earned that. It’s been an incommunicado week. I wasn’t shunning you. I was simply busy with car repairs and gaming. My asshole car continues to be an asshole. It’s currently in cahoots with a wiring gremlin. It’s giving the bastard sanctuary and tracking down a problem that could literally be in any single hot wire in the entire car is turning me gray before my time.

…er…gray-ER.

Thank god the car crap was tempered by awesome Teen Prime being awesome. He got me Fallout 4 for Christmas…and didn’t even make me wait to play it!!!

Raised that one right, folks. *sniff*

So Fallout 4, probably one of the most anticipated games to come down the pike in a long time. Teen Prime got it for me on the PS4. I’m told the PC version is smooth as butter, though I have serious doubts about that one. I think it’s more likely that people can easily patch the PC game if they’ve got an issue, whereas you’re at the mercy of the developers for updates on the consoles. I have a very hard time believing that all the bugs I’m getting aren’t also an issue on the PC.

How buggy? Dialogue skips. Those seem to happen a lot and suddenly I’m supposed to answer a question the NPC never actually asked. There are consequences for the answers you give, too, so knowing what I’m saying would probably help. In one area of the part of the map I’ve explored, I can’t shoot two of my weapons unless I draw the enemy back into a different corridor.

And top tip for anyone else playing on the PS4…save frequently. Crashes, man. *sigh* Crashes.

Oh, but don’t think your “quicksave” will be good. That’s a feel good gauge at best.

“Sounds like the game’s a real dud.”

Not at all! Not to me, anyway. Look, this game is huge. Absolutely MASSIVE. The game is so expansive with so many different things to do that I’ve already put in a full-time-job level of commitment and still have not started the second major quest in the story line. I love a game that lets me roam free and fart around.

But something that size is going to have its issues. Does that make the game unplayable? No. Does it really make it less enjoyable? To me, not really, but I’ve got an odd sense of humor. I love glitches. They spice up digital life. And when you get right down to it, it’s a game. It’s just a game. Does it really make it worse if you’re laughing your ass off at an NPC suddenly appearing on your shoulders for absolutely no discernible reason? No. It makes it SO much better.

So far, I’m going with a 4.7/5.00 rating. We’ll see if that changes over time.

Okay, that’s enough of a book report. I guess I should try out Real Life for a little bit, eh?

“US to Target ISIS Leader”

Um…like…shouldn’t we have been doing that all along?

I mean, for real. Either this really is a new plan, which I seriously doubt, or we’re just putting it in the paper to scare the dude, which is ALSO really stupid. Anyone reading it really should be like, “We already knew that…”

C’mon, CIA. THIS is the best propaganda you’ve got right now? Those budget cuts must have hit harder than we thought. Someone get the CIA enough funding to hire a better sociolinguist immediately. If I’m going to be brainwashed, I’d at least like a little effort put into it. Stop half-assing it, CIA.

*Author’s note: Welp, if that doesn’t get me flagged, I don’t know what will!*

Let’s look at some other news.

“14 Dead in California Mass Shooting”

My heart goes out to the families that are suffering such a loss. Anything else I could possibly say would piss at least one of you off. I don’t want to piss anyone off. I want everyone to feel sad that 14 more people were murdered. It’s getting harder and harder to feel sad about it though, isn’t it? It’s becoming numbers. People are becoming numbers.

That’s a problem.

“Stone Temple Pilots Singer Scott Weiland Dead at 48”

That’s going to get more honest tears than the story above. I’m not dissin’ Scott or his memory. He made some damn fine songs that weave themselves through my teenage memories and it’s too bad he went so young.

Maybe one of these mass shootings will have to happen to a famous person before something’s actually done?

THIS IS NOT AT ALL A THREAT TO ANYONE. I just want to make it clear that I am NOT calling for or in any way planning anything against any famous person. I don’t want ANY people murdered! I’m just saying, the way our society is going these days, I just don’t know what it’s going to take for people to actually get off their asses and DO something about the problem.

“Day After San Bernadino, Republicans Line Up to Crush Gun Control”

Of fucking course they did. Because ANY reasonable compromise that might actually help make it harder for crack pots to get their hands on mass murder machines is just utterly insane.

…oops. Guess I forgot the “not pissing you off” promise. Not sorry. Needed sayin’.

Let’s see if we can find something in real life that’s less contentious to discuss.

“Nielsen: Smartphones and the Internet Are Eating Our TV Time”

This one is interesting. Nielsen is basically an information marketing company. You younger ones might not have heard of a “Nielsen family,” but before the internet, it was the only way that tv stations could track the popularity of their shows. A box was installed in randomly selected homes to track what tv shows the viewers were into. For decades, the Nielsen numbers were almost solely responsible for deciding which shows continued and which were cancelled.

Oh, I know it’s more involved than that. I was nutshelling it.

Now, they’re getting pissy. The internet is killin’ their buzz in a lot of ways. Their services are becoming less relevant across the board. It’s interesting if you’re at all into the business side of television.

“I’m not.”

…*blink**blink*…okay then. Uh…moving on.

“New Form of Carbon Is Harder Than Diamonds, and Glows”

Screw diamonds. I want a ring made out of THIS!

“Fallout 4 Superfan Creates 3D Printed Mini Nuke”

Aw shit. I want that, too!

“A Surprisingly Small Team Created 2015 Game of the Year”

Wanna guess what game?

“Fallout 4 Sales Shatter Records”

BOOM suck it Call of Duty!! Told you it was highly anticipated.

“How to Make Your XBox One Faster (And Make Fallout 4 Better)”

Pfft. Who’s playing on the XBox One?! Newbs. That’s who. I tell ya…

“…uh, Bethie?”

Yeah?

“I’m sensing a theme in your news viewing.”

Hey. I gave the Real Life thing a try. Aside from glowing diamonds, it pretty much sucks right now.

“How Accurate is Fallout 4 to Boston and Boston’s History?”

I don’t write the news. Is it really my fault if the Fates keep leading me down a particular path?

“Fallout 4 Player Accidentally Falls into Sea, Finds Mysterious Structure”

WHAT!?!?!!! Uh, sorry, but, uh, something just came up and I…just…uh…bye!

*empty computer chair spins*

*papers flutter to the ground from the whirlwind*

*you awkwardly sit there, staring at the cat and wondering if you should show yourself out*

Thus concludes a quick Musing for Friday, December 4, 2015. I’d pen a closing quip, but it’s hard to type with one hand on the controller. You understand.

The trees aren’t the only ones confused this morning…

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Mornin’ all.

Welp, things are a’changin’ in the House of Bethie. The man did so well at his job they up and promoted him. I warned him that would happen if he was competent, but did he listen? Noooo.

Good thing he didn’t, because now I get to be really proud of him and make him blush. He’s a wizened old geezer, so the opportunities to make him blush are few and far between.

The new position means a new schedule, perhaps the one drawback in our plan to take over the world. We had really gotten used to the wee early morning routine. Now we have a slightly less-early routine that will then stretch later in the day and include a random night shift once a week. I wouldn’t be surprised if some evening musings popped in here once in awhile, though we probably shouldn’t be drinking coffee and eating day-old pastries together while we chatted at night. Too much caffeine. We need a different plan, you and I.

I’m not to sure what people do in the evening, since I’m usually sleeping at that time. Should we have a…cocktail? Would cocktails be an evening thing? I always thought they were before dinner, though. Hm. Nightcap?

Definitely NOT a nightcap. There’s an expectation after a nightcap, isn’t there? I’m not down for that.

I mean, no offense man, I like you. But I don’t like you like you. We don’t have that kind of relationship, and I think you can only drink nightcaps together if you do.

I suppose we could tip back a highball. It probably wouldn’t be effective, though, because I don’t have raw meat to gnaw on or hot asses we could slap, and I definitely don’t know any bawdy jokes that we can make about our secretaries while we lounge together in a man cave.

I will *not* drink beers with you. I will not drink beers with ANYONE. Blech. I honestly to my core have no idea how in the hell that drink has endured so long. I get that folks didn’t have better options available in the ancient times, and beer was a slightly better choice than getting dysentery from the water. But now? Now there is no excuse, folks. We have so many options. There are beverages out there that actually taste GOOD.

No beer. Beer bad. Bad, beer. Bad.

Maybe we shouldn’t drink. What do people who aren’t big drinkers drink in the evening? I usually have seltzer water and watch a bit of tv before heading upstairs to read for an hour or so.

Shit. I really AM one cardigan away from being Old Lady Bethie, aren’t I? One cardigan away from that, and one little glitter-crusted raccoon hat away from being Crazy Old Lady Bethie. Never forget how small that line is or how easy it is to cross, kiddies.

I think out of all the choices, cocktails sound the best. We can chat over cocktails and eat…uh…fondue? Is that how most grown ups spend their evenings, or is fondue actually a myth, like I’ve secretly believed all my life?

We are creatures of habit around here and this change is going to take some real getting used to.

I think it actually helps that the season has finally decided to change, too. It’s a chilly morning, and maybe that’ll help us transition better. An “out with the old, in with the new” kinda deal.

It’s been an odd end of summer here. All of September so far has been exceedingly warm. In fact, when we went to shop for some fancier work duds, the wind was carrying in the cooler air of autumn Nature had been waiting to embrace. Because it was so breezy, the leaves were falling off the trees, as they will. The weird thing, though, was that they were still green. The confusion of the trees was palpable. I think the conversation around the forest probably went something like this:

“Yo, Birch?”

“Yeah?”

“I think we’re supposed to be dropping leaves.”

“Nah. We can’t yet. It’s not cold. Hell, mine are still green.”

“I’m lookin’ on the calendar, and I really think we’ve got to drop them. See for yourself.”

“*sound of pages madly flipping* Shit. You’re right. But don’t we have to dye them first?”

“I don’t know. I’m so confused! Let’s get another opinion.”

“Good idea. Who should we ask?”

“The Larch.”

*MONTY PYTHON FIST BUMP* *OH YEAH*

The larch must have agreed, because we drove through showers of still-green leaves the whole trip. I tell you what, if this keeps up, the leaf peepers we get up from Connecticut and New Jersey will be highly disappointed. I don’t think they came to watch the shedding tears of confused trees.

It’s cold right now, though, so it may not be an issue. The cold is what signals the trees to shun their leaves and retain the life giving sap, thus eliminating the leaves’ ability to photosynthesize.

Science Monday.

Hopefully it’s not too little too late. We’ve got the annual Pickle Fest coming up at the end of the week, and it would be glorious to have another bright sunshiny day that thrums with the vibrancy of electric colored leaves, the mood highlighted by the briny scent of pickles wafting in the crisp, cool air. *pleasant sigh*

So I was picking the youngest cub up from school the other day. The school pick-up procedure goes like this:

You drive up and park and wait for your kid.

It’s not a complicated process, even though we got a three page pamphlet home on the first day of school explaining it. No joke. It’s just your basic after school pick-up. Simple, easy, the way kids have been picked up for years.

However, there is a growing trend at our little school, and I’m wondering if anyone else has this problem. Several parents who get out of their cars to wait for the younger students bring their dogs. They wait on the lawn starting about ten to fifteen minutes before the end of school, and have their dogs right where the kiddies are going to come running out.

On Friday, someone brought a big and hyper dog. I believe it had some husky in it, because the markings looked very huskyesque, but it was taller than I picture huskies. Admittedly, my knowledge of dog breeds is fairly basic, so that’s the best description you’re going to get. Sorry, dog lovers.

This dog, it was crazy untrained. It was on a leash, but it was like…it was like those fireworks you pin to a tree branch or a freshly painted backyard bridge (DAD. Jeez.) that are on a string and whiz-whiz-whiz-zip-twirl when you light them.

Of course he was a barker, too. He was barking so loud that the teacher in the classroom next to the walkway shut all of the class windows. You’d think the owner of the dog would get the message.

…and if you thought that, you’d be silly. Why would she suddenly have consideration for her fellow man when she hadn’t shown a lick of it before that point? She let the dog keep barking. She let the dog start barking at other dogs. She stood there ignoring the fact that her arm was one wrong move away from being torn out of its socket because talking on her cell phone was far more important than controlling her spastic dog at a school.

The dog got the four other dogs in the pick-up area all riled. Only one of the dogs had a muzzle. The others started to hop and yip and pull and generally act how dogs will act in a chaotic situation.

And then the kids came out in a flood, as kids do at the end of the day. A rush of small children running past already amped up animals.

The husky-like dog lunged at kids. He didn’t get any of them, but that was only because the little children were smarter than the dog owner and changed course to veer away from the dog in time. Once again, the dog -the hyper, barking, jumping jack- was in the main path the kids walk down when they leave the school.

Now, I’m not saying that all of the dog owners that bring their dogs to the school are irresponsible. There is one that always, ALWAYS has a muzzle on the dog, even though I have never once seen that dog be anything but a nice, mellow animal. It sits there and looks happily around with its tongue lolling out the side of the muzzle and thumps its tail when its kids come out of the school. That is a responsible dog owner.

There’s another one that brings the dogs for a run around the large field every afternoon, then puts them securely in the car before the kids come out. Now, I know for a fact she doesn’t clean up their dog poop, but at least the dogs aren’t a danger to the kids.

That’s what we’re talking about here. A legitimate, real danger to the kids that the irresponsible dog owners create. The majority of the owners that bring their dogs to school do not seem to realize that putting their family pet in a high activity situation with a bunch of strange, hyper children is potentially very dangerous, especially when there are OTHER overly stimulated dogs there, too.

Why don’t these dog owners understand that?

Right now, I know that some of you have an argument for me. Right now, there are some dog lovers reading this thinking I’m attacking dogs. I’m not. I like dogs well enough. The dogs aren’t the ones who drove to the school, are they? I’m not even saying anything bad about the ill-trained maybe-husky. It’s just a dog being a dog. It’s an animal, and it was behaving as such. Nothing more, nothing less…nothing to get angry at the dog about.

It’s the owners here. The owners are the problem.

And before I get an email about the responsible owners I mentioned, let me just point out one thing that is impossible to argue:

This is a SCHOOL we are talking about.

This is a school, where kids of all kinds, shapes, sizes, and temperaments go to learn. Not to hear dogs barking. Not to have to veer this way or that to safety. Not to have to step in dog shit when they’re playing in the field (that’s riling me up, now that I’m thinking about it).

Why are people trying to make the school a dog park?

Thus concludes a Musing for Monday, September 21, 2015. I’m going to probably take this week and next off from Musing to wrap up a book and get into the swing of the new schedule. I’ll come back with either coffee and pastries one morning, or cocktails and the ever elusive fondue one evening, and we’ll have chat and laughs. Enjoy the beginning of autumn, even if you have to peep green leaves!

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.

And through the fog shone a blinking red beacon of hope…

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The crisp air of early morning wafts through a window that was carelessly left open, carrying with it the sweet tang of ripening apples, reminders that summer is always fleeting. Somewhere in the house a teenager stirs, glances at the glaring red numbers hovering on the desk near his bed. He shivers in the chill, groans at the time, and pulls the covers over his face to close his eyes and try to escape his fate.

But, there can be no escape. And as his mother sweetly calls to him to get his ass out of bed right now before she has to come in there and do it herself, he sighs heavily and resigns himself to his fate while his mother does her best to hold in her cackles of unmitigated glee.

Mornin’ all!

This is the scene that will play out in just a few minutes. Times three, that is. Why?

BECAUSE IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FOR THE TEENAGERS!!! WOOT WOOT PARTY PARTY WOOT!!

…not for the little cub, though. For some reason, he doesn’t start until next week. However, 3/4 is still a majority. I feel that’s celebration-worthy.

This year, I’ve got a senior in high school. It hit me the other day that this is a thing that’s really happening. *sniff* Teen prime is a senior. How is this possible? Look at me. Do I look old enough to have a high school senior? Uh, ignore the gray hair. Oh, and if you could overlook the wrinkles, that’d be great too. But other than that, I look fresh as a daisy. I’m a spring chicken. I shouldn’t be old enough to have an almost adult!

A senior and not one, but two juniors. I give it a week before upper classmanitis sets in. Add to that the growing miasma of cockiness the testosterone is creating, and I have a feeling September will be insufferable around here.

Anyone want a month long house guest? Full disclosure before you decide: I don’t do windows, I suck at laundry, and I snore so loud I wake mySELF up.

But, I make cookies.

Lots and lots of delicious cookies.

Seems like a fair trade off to me.

The cub is so excited that he doesn’t start until next week. Teens pointed out that just means he’ll get out later next summer, but he’s 9. Like he cares about “next” anything! We’re supposed to clean his room today so I can get to the closet that contains school clothes. See, he had an idea, and I foolishly let him run with it.

“Oh, Bethie.”

Yeah, yeah. I know. See, I was doing a car repair, and the clever little imp knew I was too distracted to really pay much attention to what he was saying. He said he had a great idea for his room, asked me permission to “just do something real quick.” I waved it off with a “sure, whatever, I’m just inside looking for the damn 14 mm wrench because some sick maniac at Mercedes decided to be the only person ever to incorporate a 14 mm bolt in a system that clearly should either be 13 or 15 like every other thing in the engine…” He saw his moment. He seized his moment. And I…I let him.

“Newb.”

*hangs head in shame*

What he did was set up a tent. Quite impressive, actually, because he not only managed to fit a tent in his room, but filled it with accouterments of comfort. He had a little table, a fan, his water bottle, sleeping bag…he even fashioned a couch out of extra pillows and a sheet. The kid made his own little apartment.

Now, my teens are very smart boys, so don’t take this the wrong way. But if the zombie apocalypse happened, the only kid of mine I don’t have to worry about is the cub.

Unfortunately to make the tent fit, everything got pushed to the side. Since a bed takes up one corner, and another bed takes up the large wall, that leaves the closet. Mounds, folks. We’ve got to dig through mounds and heaps and piles to get to that damn closet.

Oh! OH OH OH!!! Hang on a minute. I just glanced down at the clock and guess what? It’s that magic time! I must go do my duty and wake up my teens for the first day of school. How should I play this? Sweet and annoying? Snarky and annoying? Maybe I’ll sing a little ditty…

You know what? I’m over-thinking this. I’ll just go in there and wing it. I feel confident that I can play it by ear and get the desired results. I’ll be right back and let you know how it went. *chugs coffee for fortification* *takes a deep breath* Unto the breech!

….aaaand nailed it.

I went with, “Boys, time to get up! It’s a school day. Or should I say, COOL day!?”

Their groans of appreciation for my early morning wit are really all the recognition I need.

I hear them stumbling around their rooms in various states of denial. One is already getting dressed. One sounds like he’s throwing every bit of clothing he owns out of his dresser. The upstairs one is no longer moving. Shhhh. Let me listen.

No, he’s definitely not moving. Hang on.

Damnit he fell back asleep! No way. Not happening, bucko. NOT ON MY WATCH.

I told my man this morning that it would be miraculous if I got all the teens out the door dressed, fed, clean and groomed with all of their backpacks and school supplies. Odds are very good that one or more will forget to do one or more of these things. That’s okay. As a seasoned pro in the first day of school biz, I know that some of that list is optional. Not a lot, but some.

All I need to do is to make sure three kids get on the bus with enough clothing to not get sent back home. The rest can sort itself out later.

Now that they’re up, they’re actually getting along. As any mum of a herd will tell you, the hardest thing about summer vacation is that the pups have to look at each other’s faces for months. While my boys get along way better than most siblings, there are limits, especially in the heat.

A half hour, folks. That’s all I have left before I send them off to catch their bus.

It’s a foggy morning. It’s been hot here, but that cleared out with a powerful storm system the other day. Last night got chilly, and turned the leftover humidity to thick fog. I love fog. It feels close and comforting. Sure, it hides the world from view. However, it also hides me from the view of the world. I like that.

And I think if the drone policing trend continues, others are really going to start liking the fog, too.

Have you read about this? North Dakota (of all places) just okayed the use of armed police drones.

Now wait a sec. Put those pitchforks and torches down. Let’s look at the details before we storm the castle.

…or fort? I mean, it’s North Dakota. It might be prejudicial to assume, but I just don’t picture many castles there.

Either way, let’s chill and look at the situation rationally before acting on our gut impulses to revolt and tamp down our future robot overlords.

Everyone knows that police around the nation have been using drones to spy for awhile. More and more, drone camera footage is used in courts to help convict ne’er do well jaywalkers. While the nation is not at all comfortable with those drones, it feels like we’ve kind of accepted them.

However, North Dakota just kicked it up a notch. They are the first state in the nation to okay the use of weaponized drones. At the moment, the drones are authorized to be equipped with pepper spray, tasers, and “other non-lethal weapons.” They’re not loading them with bullets, though that level of ambiguity in the last clause certainly leaves the door open. As long as a drone is trained to shoot at the foot, a bullet could technically be considered non-lethal. Right? I mean, that’s what I’m reading into this.

This…this is a hard one for me, folks.

On one hand, I’m a firm believer that robots have the potential to be our downfall. Call it too many sci-fis with my dad when I was in my formative years, but I just don’t like the idea of artificial intelligence, of putting robots in a position to make decisions for humans. I have a deep distrust of inorganic walking, talking, moving, shooting things. If a human made it, it will not be an infallible system. And if A.I. truly advances to the self-logic stage, we’re screwed. From a purely logical standpoint, humanity is a no win scenario. We’re bad for the environment, we’re bad for other species, we’re terrible to each other. I believe in humanity because I’ve got the part of A.I. that cannot be programmed…emotion. Will a robot? ANY robot?

The other hand contains a few arguments I just can’t seem to shake.

First, there’s the fact that drones are not A.I. units. They are drones. They…drone. Someone programs them. Someone watches through a camera and makes the drone change actions through a series of human controlled inputs. Someone, a person, a living, breathing, thinking being makes that drone perform every single duty.

…right now.

At the moment, it’s a failsafe. But will that always be true?

Another point is that real human police are the ones that are trained to shoot to kill. Many of them have the non-lethal options that the drones will have, yet in the time of crisis, when there’s a choice between killing or simply disabling, they act like humans.

Now don’t get it twisted here. I’m definitely pro-cop overall. I just realize that humans have a very strong survival instinct. We didn’t get to be the alpha species without it! And that survival instinct is what overrides the brain in a split second situation. That instinct makes the hand go to the weapon that is going to make certain the threat is eliminated, not just stopped in the moment. That instinct says, “Kill it and don’t let it have the chance to kill you ever again.”

Is this bad?

No. It’s simply human. It’s just part of being a self-aware meat lump that doesn’t want to die.

People can override this instinct. There are plenty of officers who will do everything in their power to choose the non-lethal option. However, there are also plenty who haven’t had the training or the personal discipline to be able to choose calm, rational thought over the gut instinct of survival at all costs. It’s not a failing on the cop’s part. It’s a failing because of the way we train our officers. We train them to eliminate the threat, put a gun in their hands, then casually mention “Oh, yeah, there’s some other shit there you could use, I suppose.”

A drone won’t be like that. If all the drone can do is act in a non-lethal fashion, then we’ve successfully found a way to take out human emotion in the moment and act with logic. If a criminal is brandishing a knife, and a drone tases that person, the person will most likely drop the knife and real officers can safely move in to slap on the handcuffs.

When viewed in this light, I can actually see the benefits of sending a non-lethal drone to take care of a dangerous situation.

“Ah, but what happens when the guy at the control end gets a God complex?”

Ay, that’s the rub, eh? The person controlling the drone is not there. They aren’t just steps away from the real human being at the other end of the weapon. There’s a disconnect. Without being the one to view the person involved, to get the sense of humanity you simply cannot feel through the lens of a camera, it would be so very easy to keep hitting the zappy button. Or to go on the attack when it might not be necessary.

The very same system that is designed to remove one dangerous human trait makes the world vulnerable to another.

And last, but certainly not least, is the aspect of officer safety. Like cops or hate them, they’re people. Real people with mothers and fathers, wives, husbands, children… In 2014, there were 133 “line of duty” deaths for officers in the US. 49 of those officers were shot or attacked by a suspect. It’s sad when an officer shoots to kill. It’s also sad when an officer GETS shot and killed. It’s a broken system with victims on BOTH sides. It’s easy to forget that when you read the news. These drones would definitely remove more officers from dangerous situations.

This one’s a real poser for me, folks. On paper, the pros of using non-lethally weaponized drones clearly outweigh the cons. On paper, it’s a no-brainer. Use drones. Save lives.

But we don’t make decisions on paper, do we? That’s exactly what makes us flawed, wonderful, impulsive, illogical humans and not simply machines. We AREN’T drones. So should we really let the drones do our dirty work? Or should we instead start recognizing the fact that we’ve gone so far off the rails that MACHINES seem like the only way out, and start really making some hard changes?

The moment a species lets another one take over, they are no longer the alphas. We’re sending in drones because we are too lazy to fix ourselves. I honestly don’t know how that could possibly sit well with anyone.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! I just watched the bus ferry the teens off to start another year of learning and growing. They were slumped down, heads hanging, the loss of summer manifesting itself in a physical cloud of disappointment that surrounded them. *sniff* Warmed this mama’s heart.

I know what I *won’t* be having for dinner tonight…

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Mornin’ all.

I was a brave mum yesterday. The eldest teenager (we’ll call him Teen Prime) decided that the electronic gadgets and games he’d acquired through the past few birthdays and Christmases were old news. Can’t blame him. He’d played most of the games through at least twice. He said, “Say, would you feel like taking me up to Game Stop real quick so I can trade a few things in?”

Ah, I just heard it: The collective groan of sympathy from other mums of gamers…and the knowing “mmm-hmms” from gamers who’ve been there. For those not in either group, let me explain: One does not simply walk into a Game Stop. There is no such thing in the gaming lexicon as a “real quick” trip to a gaming store when trading is involved.

Knowing this, but trying to be awesome anyway, I said, “Sure. Why not?”

Those three little words set into motion a veritable tornado of teenage activity. The others hopped into action and the games piled high on the table. I was imagining a couple games, maybe the system they didn’t really play anymore. It certainly wasn’t presented to me as An Ordeal. And yet, as the bags filled and the excitement amongst the herd grew, An Ordeal is exactly what it became.

I let myself get suckered, folks. In fairness to Teen Prime, I had an idea of what I was in for. In fairness to me, though, I didn’t realize that they were going to scour every corner of the house to scrape up every possible trade dollar.

I’ll say this…Game Stop does a fair trade if you’re a club member. The teens walked in there with old games and a PlayStation 3, and walked out with a PS4, extra controller, two games, and three Wii games for the youngest cub. Not shabby. It only took about an hour, which in fairness to the clerk was far less time than I expected.

And now I am awesome.

…or was. I mean, they’re teenagers, right? Who knows how long that’ll last? I got them a watermelon, too, so maybe that bought me a little extra time high up on the list.

Speaking of lists, I have a lot on my “to do” today, but I just read an article while I was drinking my morning joe and since I nearly spat the coffee across my screen, I figured there was something juicy to sink our teeth into* before jumping into chores.

* You’re going to hate me for saying that. Just wait….

I was reading my FB feed and a friend posted a link to what has to be one of the most epically WTF articles ever written. How’s your stomach this morning? Are you rock solid?

“Yeah, I’m feeling fine.”

Best grab a bottle of Tums to have on hand just in case.

“Bethie, it can’t possibly be that bad.”

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A man in Wyoming was stopped for a routine traffic violation. The cop noticed he smelled a little boozy, so he asked the dude to step out for a field sobriety test. The man got out, stood there while the cop asked him questions, and pretended not to see the eyeballs falling out of the leg of his pants.

Read that sentence again.

THERE WERE EYEBALLS FALLING OUT OF HIS PANTS.

Here’s the deal. Mr. Roy Tilbott works for a meat packing plant. Roy likes himself some bovine eyeball soup. However, the packing plant does not sell eyeballs, nor does it allow the employees to take the scraps home for personal use.

Clearly Roy was backed into a corner. They practically forced him to smuggle eyeballs. There was no other option. Not wanting to get caught by his bosses and fired, he figured the best way to get those tasty, juicy eyeballs out of there was to shove them up his ass.

Now, the ass has been used to smuggle many a’thing. Drugs. Weapons. The odd light bulb. But in all of those instances, NO ONE WAS GOING TO FUCKING EAT WHAT WAS SHAT OUT!!!

Guys, he didn’t even wrap them. He just took the freshly de-skulled eyeballs and pushed them up his butt. While at work chopping your steaks and grinding your hamburger.

So there he was, with THIRTY eyeballs crammed up his ass, and just his luck, a cop pulls over his El Camino. Of *course* he drives an El Camino, because he just wasn’t creepy enough with the ass eye soup fetish. He gets pulled over, stands there with the cop, and was scared of being caught smuggling. Folks, you know what Nature makes people do when they’re scared…he shit his pants. Only instead of shit, out came his dinner.

You know.

EYEBALLS.

I can’t help but wonder just what was going through the cop’s head when goddamn eyeballs started dropping out of Roy’s pants and rolling on the ground. That poor, poor cop.

This wasn’t a one time deal, either. Roy has smuggled “several thousand” eyeballs during his employment with the meat plant. Along with absolutely no taste, Roy seems to also have no shame. He gladly shared the details with the press. “I enjoy eating bovine eyeballs and smuggling them out in my colon was the only way I knew how to get them out without potentially getting caught and fired. I put them in soups. They’re beneficial for erectile dysfunction, which I currently battle, but I also just like the texture and taste.”

He says it like it’s so reasonable. Roy, no. If you’re reading this, NO. Just….no.

The cops have no idea what to charge him with RE: the eyeballs. They consulted with the meat packing plant*…

*doesn’t that term just take on a new meaning now?

…to see if they want to charge Roy with theft. He also had in his possession a few large, professional quality knives that the cops aren’t sure if Roy stole. And Roy was drunk at the time of the stop, so there’s a nice DUI for him. I guess in light of the rest of the crimes, eyeballs up the ass is actually the lesser offense.

So what’s going on in Wyoming? Oh, not much. Just a drunk, knife-wielding, limp-dicked El Camino driver shoving eyeballs up his ass to shit out later for his dinner.

Same old.

Thus concludes the most disgusting Musing ever for Saturday, July 25, 2015. It’s Saturday. It’s the weekend! And maybe your life isn’t going the best at the moment. But hopefully, after reading this, you’ll at least be able to thank your lucky stars you never ate dinner at the Tilbotts. Always find the silver lining in life.

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…