*growl**grumble**curmudgeonish snarl*

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Mornin’ all.

Winter is over and the bears have come out. And not “internet” bears…

*If you don’t already know what the internet calls a “bear”, then you don’t live a life where the info would be very pertinent. I’m just sayin’, Google at your own risk if you must, but don’t get offended if you don’t like what you see.*

…I’m talking teeth gnashing, ornery summbitches that’ll mess your shit up for a pile of trash. They’re out and they’re fierce.

At least one of them is. I’m in a terrible mood. Not even this coffee is helping.

To be fair, it’s shit coffee because I had to make it. Teen 2.0 forgot to set a pot up for us. It’s okay. Since he is the coffee connoisseur in the house, he’ll be suffering for his forgetfulness. Instant karma.

The cat woke me up early by licking my nose, then screaming in my face. I didn’t actually mind because I was having terrible dreams. I got downstairs to find a pile of rubber-band-induced vomit.

Bad dreams. Shit sleep. Horrible coffee. And cat vomit. Helluva great way to start the day.

“Bethie, where did the ‘glass is half full’ attitude we constantly get annoyed by go?”

Sorry. I warned you I was feeling snarly. I’ve got a lot of clutter at the moment, both physical and mental.

See, I’ve been trying to clear out the dining room, AKA:Oscar’s Trash Can. I’ve got guests coming all through May, and I must must MUST get that room in order. Or, in as much order as I can get it. I’m going to do my best, but I’m still a hoarder. There will be a lot of shit left in there even when I’m done.

“Just grab a box of trash bags and go to town.”

If it were that easy, don’t you think I already would have done it? HM? I’d LOVE to be able to let go of shiny things and greasy things and squiggly bits and knobby doodads and twisty thingamabobs… I look at other peoples’ houses and honestly wonder how in the hell they live with nothing in their rooms. It’s legitimately a mystery to me.

I actually have let go of a lot, you know. I have one room that’s crammed full, not an entire house anymore. The Big Clean a couple years back has stuck for every other room.

And I will throw out a fair amount from the dining room, too.

It’s just going to take me awhile. I can’t just grab shit randomly and shove it into a trash bag. I can’t do it. I will sit there side eyeing the stack of bags and get so anxious that I have to- HAVE TO- know what’s inside. It’s a compulsion, not a desire. Not a want. Not a “quirk”.

And, to be clear, it’s not “garbage”. None of it is rotting or discarded wrappings or a collection of every rind from every piece of watermelon I’ve ever eaten. There aren’t stacks of junk crushing mummified animal bodies flat or piles of rat shit heaped up on anything. It’s mostly metal bits I’ve stripped from cars and electronics, all sorted according to the CCFS.

“CCFS?”

You aren’t familiar with the Coffee Can Filing System? It’s similar to the tried and true Dewey Decimal, except for in almost every single way. The CCFS goes like this:

Greasy things go in large plastic Maxwell House containers. Once they get de-greased, they are broken up into large utilitarian bits, like brackets and push rods and structural pieces, and small shiny bits. The utilitarian pieces go into large cardboard cans, like from cheap ass coffee we drink on our broke weeks, and the regular shiny bits get placed in small metal cans, like from Hills Bros., or Chase and Sanborn, because they are special.

Springs have their own cans, because springs are awesome and deserve their own cans.

Nuts and washers go into old film cans, the metal ones 35mm film used to come in before they started putting it in little plastic cylinders. I know they’re not technically coffee cans, but come on. They’re just nuts and washers. Duh.

…unless they are brass. Those are special and, as such, also get their own can.

Bolts or screws go into a huge Folger’s can, because why wouldn’t they?! Unless they are automotive interior bolts, which go into a separate can, or tiny electronic screws, which go into several small Altoids tins.

Now, electronic bits are harder, because they are small, fragile, and somewhat toxic. I have a bead sorter for the most delicate parts, which also holds transistors and resistors. Those go in there because they are small and round. Like beads.

Then we get to my super special cans. They’re not actually coffee cans. They are aluminum food cans, the kind that have the lining on the inside for acidic foods like tomatoes. Those are where the prime bits go, and I have made a special little stand for those out of an old film projector case.

“What would be a ‘prime bit’ Bethie?”

I’m glad you asked!

A prime bit would be something either very shiny, like a computer hard drive internal disc, or something that’s uniquely shaped, like the impeller from inside a diesel injection pump that looks just like the inside of the Hadron super collider if you hold it out away from you and squint. Basically, if I’ve never seen it before, or it’s super shiny, it goes in a special can in the special drawer in the special stand where I can easily access it.

So that is the CCFS in a nutshell. Of course there are tons of variations of the system, depending on the finds, the season, my ever changing whims… It’s kind of a subjective filing system.

But it’s mine. Every hoarder has one.

We have this customer at work that the night crew calls The Magazine Lady. She comes in and sits in a mart kart in front of the magazine rack for hours early in the morning. She does buy some things, and when she does, those things need to be placed in bags. She’ll pull her money from her purse, which is also in little bags, and then sort her change and her receipt into bags when she’s done. Everything she buys goes in its own bag, even if it’s a bagged product, then they get put together in a larger bag inside ANOTHER bag.

I know what her house looks like, folks. I know what her car looks like. I know what life looks like for her day to day. She follows the PBFS, and she is bound to it by much stronger ties than those I deal with. I feel bad for her.

Mostly.

She’s not just a hoarder, she’s also a real asshole, so my sympathy only goes so far. You can be a kind hoarder. And let’s face it, if you’ve got such a strong difficulty for people to look past to begin with, you SHOULD strive to at least be kind. I’m grouchy today, but I’m not an asshole. Usually.

Hell, could you imagine? A fat, broke, inept, compulsive hoarder…I really can’t afford to be an asshole on top of it. I have to have at least one redeeming quality. If you can’t achieve any other standard in life, kindness is the one quality you should always prioritize.

It’s not easy to work through the stuff in the dining room. It brings up other things for me, memories and emotional baggage I wish would just get out of my psyche forever. I wish you could tip your head to the side and whack the top and let the mental clutter fall out of your ear like in the cartoons. Wouldn’t that be great?

Ah, but then you’d risk throwing the baby out with the bath water, eh?

I just have to keep at it I suppose. I completely cleared a walkway on my first day. I broke down a holding box of parts I grabbed and hadn’t yet processed on the second. I’ll get there. I know I will. My guests will still think it’s a horrible mess, because let’s face it, the CCFS isn’t for everyone. But I’ll know how far I’ve come.

I just have to keep plugging away.

Thus concludes a bit of a Musing for Friday, April 28, 2017. It’s already the 28th? Where did April go??? Shit. Now I have to register my car before work today or risk getting a ticket Monday morning on my way in. We’ve got some really sneaky cops that have gotten very good at hiding along the route to work. It’s kind of impressive, really. This one hides his rig so well you absolutely cannot see it at all until it’s too late. I have to tip my hat…and hurry to get my car registered before the shark gets me…

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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.

Wrenches and glitter are both shiny, so why can’t they go in the same box?

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Mornin’ all.

It feels like an ominous day is brewing. I woke up way too early, couldn’t get back to sleep for about an hour, then had dreams about dead people. Ugh. I got up, and to my dismay, the morning dawned with all the freshness of moist sponge that’s been sitting under a leaky bathroom sink. It’s so humid.

No, wait. “Humid” is tame.

As we like to say in my neck-o-the woods, “It’s wicked fahkin’ muggy.”

Fun story: When I was a kid and we’d have a thunderstorm in the summer, my dad would always look outside after and say, “Here come the muggies.” However, what *I* heard was, “Here come the monkeys.” I’d run to the window and try to see the monkeys. I thought maybe they were hiding in the fog. It was a real bummer when I got old enough to realize that summer thunderstorms did not actually elicit monkeys.

…and no, I’m not going to tell how how embarrassingly old I was when I finally had this revelation. Let’s just say, “Old enough” and let it go.

People say we can’t complain about this heat wave because of the horrible winter we had. Balderdash! We live on the 44th parallel. We get all kinds of weather, and I don’t discriminate. A 90 degree sauna is just as unpleasant as a -10 degree snowstorm. Can’t complain about the heat? Stuff and nonsense! I can complain about it all, my friend.

In spite of the heat and soul melting humidity, I had a great day yesterday! We piled the herd into the other wagon (the one we broke a couple weeks ago is still waiting for parts) and headed up to a different dam and recreation area for some damn recreating. It was hot, but boy was the ride beautiful!

I keep reading about the drought that’s gripped a large part of the nation. If you happen to live in one of those areas, I’m honestly not trying to rub it in. The past few summers here have been dry as well, but not this year. Maybe it was the extreme level of snow we had. Or the fact that when it has rained over the last couple months, it’s been less of a soft, pleasant drizzle and more of a “cats and dogs” situation.

…sidenote: See? People say “raining cats and dogs.” I’ve heard that my whole life. Now put yourself in the mind of a kid, and I really think a belief in rain monkeys is fairly reasonable.

Whatever the reason, we’ve got water, and that made the ride a beautiful collage of wild flowers, bubbling streams, vibrant green trees in every hue. As we got into the beginning of the lakes region, mossy, cat-tail and lily pad dotted marshes opened into broad, glittering lakes. Sometimes I forget how utterly beautiful my state is. It set the mood for a very fun day.

We met my grandparents at the dam. Yep, I said “my”. I’m lucky enough to have a set of grandparents that are still full of vim and pep (vim and vigor, but that always makes me think of my Polish grandmother who always got it wrong and said “vim and vinegar”). We met at the dam to hang out since my house has clearly been struck with a tornado of car parts and craft supplies. There would have been no way to enjoy lunch in the midst of all this…uh…can we just call it my “diverse collection” and make it sound artifact-y instead of hoard-y?

We chose a Wednesday to go, thinking it wouldn’t be crowded. While the picnicking area was wide open, the beach was surprisingly packed. The dam and recreation area are run by the US Army Corps of Engineers. As such, there’s only a small fee to use the beach and large picnic area, $1 per adult/$4 max per car. I guess a lot of the locals take advantage of the great deal on a hot day with bored kids during summer vacation.

That was fine. It was too hot to be a swim monitor for very long. The kids got a good (if slightly confined) swim in before we moved back to the shade of the enormous pine trees. We had a great picnic, then sat and chatted while we provided colorful commentary on the kiddies that were playing badminton.

Er, attempting to play badminton.

…er…flailing wildly at the birdie?

It was a fun day, great to see my family! And this wagon didn’t blow a hydraulic line on the way there OR back. In fact, as we pulled into the drive, the littlest pup piped up and said, “And would you look at that?! We made it a whole trip without a single disaster.”

Much like Tiny Tim, my jr. wordsmith certainly knows how to bring a sentimental tear to the eye.

So that was yesterday.

Today? I wanted to go out and finish the frame for my latest artistic bastardization. However, I can’t do it in this weather. I’m not a small lady. We bigguns’ don’t do the heat very well, and my neighbor would not appreciate me using the saw at 6 am before it gets too hot to work. I’ll be stuck inside for the most part. And that leaves me with only one option: I am going to attempt to clean in the dining room, aka the museum.

“No, Bethie. Sorry, but no. You cannot call it that.”

Aw! No fair! You said I could call all the crap “my collection,” and every collection needs a museum to display all the…stop shaking your head at me right now!

“*sigh* I will not legitimize your hoard by pretending it has institutional value.”

…*grumble*

“Come on. You know I’m right.”

…fine. You win. I’mma clean up my mess.

Satisfied?

“I don’t do it for me, Bethie. I do it for you.”

*blink*blink*

Yeaaah. Let’s move on.

So cleaning. It’s not at all what I want to do, if you couldn’t tell. I would say something glib like, “Who actually WANTS to clean,” but there are some people who like to do it.

Let’s investigate that for a minute. Some people, they *like* cleaning. It’s something they *enjoy*. They WANT to go through stacks of crap and do things like “sort” and “organize” and probably “collate,” though in fairness I’m not entirely sure what that means. I’ve never collated anything, so I assume it has something to do with being clean and tidy.

Anyway, these freaks, they clean, they organize, they collate their asses off. And then do you know what they do? They label “totes” and place similar items together inside. From what I gather from my Google overlords, they will get a tote for just pencils, and then ONLY put pencils in it, no matter how much other shit they *could* cram in there. They do all of these steps, AND THEY LIKE IT. They look forward to doing it all again on a REGULAR SCHEDULE to keep everything “neat.”

The world is full of sick, twisted psychos, folks.

I have one sister who gets dangerously close to being neat and tidy most of the time. In a pack of four girls, statistics say that at least one of them will be addicted to orderliness. It’s okay, we love her anyway. She’s moving right now, and is using boxes.

Boxes!

I said, “Why don’t you just get a bunch of trash bags? Scoop everything in. If something breaks, then you weren’t meant to own it anymore.”

But noooo. She wants to be all fancy.

Boxes. Pfft. I bet she actually wrote on them, too! Isn’t half the fun of moving playing the “where’d it go” game in your new home?

“Honey, where are the damn forks?”

“Did you check the Jack Daniels box?”

“Yeah. It’s full of tampons and razors.”

“…can’t we just use those?”

Good times, good times.

I wish the house she was moving to was closer. I bet if she walked in to my dining room right now, she’d say, “Oh HELL no,” and pull out the pair of rubber scrubbing gloves I want to believe she carries in her back pocket at all times, and get to work.

See, one of the bad things about hoarding tendencies is how overwhelming it feels. Right now, I’m not even CLOSE to my worst. That’s not denial, so don’t start with that crap again. I have way less junk than I did a year ago, and most of the house is still easily traversable.

It’s cluttered in there, but most of it is cluttered because it was left out, not put back on the shelves and corners. We had a whirlwind of using the tools and parts and supplies, and they are out where I will trip on them and over them to get to where they belong. I have the desire to at least make it so we can move around in there freely, just not the organizational part of the brain that tells me how to accomplish this task.

I was born with an organizational deficit, I suppose. The closest thing to an organizational center I have in my brain is a fat, lazy dude named Stan who glances up from his video game and says, “Damned if I know,” when I ask him how to do something.

Teen Prime somehow got the organizational skills I lack. I have none of them, and neither does his father. Must be a recessive gene. He’s going to help me in there because I busted ass to get his room rearranged to fit a new fifty bazillion pound desk in there last week. He owes me.

None of the other teens have shown any neatness tendencies. One of them is slightly fastidious, but that is not the same. His fastidiousness does not extend past his personal space. The littlest shows promise, but he’s also got my lack of attention. He is definitely a mini-me in that respect. Bright lights and shiny objects distract us. Nine times out of ten we’ll end up looking through the button jar while we sit in the middle of the half-straightened mess until someone intervenes and reminds us what we were doing.

Not good.

Teen Prime is growing up. Teen Prime is moving away soon. I guess I should probably take notes when he helps me sort and organize and maybe even collate later today. Right, Stan?

“…huh?”

Exactly.

Thus concludes a muggy Musing for Thursday, July 30, 2015. I’m going to make another pot of coffee before I begin this most dubious venture. The coffee I’m drinking now was made by one of the kids, and it just doesn’t have that burn-yer-belly feeling that a real pot of joe offers. I think I’m going to need the full strength kick in the pants to get through the cleaning. Sure I’ll be up all night with a flaming gullet while I hallucinate little pink men from the overload of caffeine, but neatniks assure me this is a normal side effect to a thing they call “efficiency”. Unto the breach my friends…