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Archive for October, 2008

Gone to pot(s).

My husband and I have distinctly different philosophies when it comes to plants and gardening.  I (the sensible one) do my gardening outside, in the ground.  My husband (Mr. Elaborate) likes containers.  Which can and must be moved inside when the weather turns cold. 

I bet you can guess where this post is going already. 

I have a few plants that make seasonal moves from indoors to out every year, but most of them are on the small side and therefore not too much trouble.  I seem to have inherited my grandmother’s knack for raising African Violets and have three blooming their heads off all year round.  I also rescued a Swedish Ivy from my husband back before we married and nursed it back to life, and fifteen years later it’s still thriving, which I like to point out to my husband from time to time.  You know, to remind him who is the horticulturist around here.  My challenge plant is a phaelenopsis orchid, which I have managed to get to rebloom three times now.  And then we have a couple of peace lilies and scheffleras that came from our grandmothers’ funerals that I’m not quite ready to let die outside. 

I am maxed out when it comes to houseplants.  I do not wish to do anything further.  As for everything else, my philosophy, it is this:  stick it in the ground and if it dies then so be it. 

Seriously.  I’ve got enough to do without worrying over wilting plants that need watering every day.  My husband thought I was being unreasonable, but if he didn’t water, I didn’t either.  Hey, he’s the one who wanted to do container gardening. 

My husband also thought it would be a swell idea to buy not one, not two, but FOUR palm trees this spring.  They looked very nice out in his outdoor kitchen all summer, and oh how he fussed over them.  And then he went out and bought a bunch of other plants to plant in pots and set all around, and while the effect was nice our water bill was sky high this summer. 

And since all good things must come to an end, the warm weather is over and he’s looking at me to see what to do with the plants. 

I’m sure you know what I said.  Let them go. 

But no.  Last weekend he hauled a very tall, very heavy palm tree into the house.  Literally, it is scraping my ceiling.  Yet another one has taken up residence in our bedroom.  He hasn’t found a place for the remaining two yet, and I’m damn sure not offering any ideas. 

There are two things you get when you bring plants in for the winter:  bugs and dirt.  Right now I’ve got more ants and ladybugs in this house than should really be necessary.  And the cats, of course, have taken to scritching around in the dirt in the pots, so I have dirt all over the floor. 

If I had my way there would be none of this.  This is proof that I don’t always get my way around here. 

 

— Mox

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Testing my willpower.

I’m of two minds about Halloween candy.  My left brain is all “you don’t need the calories” and my right brain is all “woohoo!  chocolate!” and sometimes it’s really hard to think straight with all that commotion going on in the background. 

I used to be the kind of person who bought candy that no one at our house would eat, simply because no one would eat it and then I would have plenty for the trick-or-treaters who came by on Halloween.  Then we moved away from the downtown area and settled into a neighborhood that has mostly retired folks in it, retired folks who keep the ball that ends up in their yard and chase after kids with brooms.  Say what you want about having Oscar the Grouch and Gladys Kravitz for your neighbors, but Neighborhood Watch has got nothing on the folks on my street.  Talk about omniscient.  Wow. 

On Halloween in our new neighborhood, I tried to keep up the tradition of leaving a light on so kids would know to come get candy at our house.  I soon learned that my house was the only one in a four-block radius with the porch lights on, that the Oscars and Gladyses of my neighborhood were hunkered down behind closed doors and drawn shades for the evening, not just Halloween but every evening of the year.  Who’d want to traipse around in the dark and run the risk of having some nervous old lady call the cops on you?  None of the clever kids who learned to avoid our neighborhood, that’s for sure. 

And that left me with a big pot of Halloween candy that no one at our house would eat.  I kept it until Christmas and then threw it out, because two months seemed to be a good statute of limitations on candy viability. 

Still, over the years we’ve gotten a handful of trick-or-treaters every year, mostly kids passing through onto greener pastures.  Some years we have no one.  So I’ve learned that it’s a good idea to buy at least a small bag of candy to have on hand, just in case.  The difference now is that I buy candy that at least one of us in the house likes. 

I bought a couple of bags of candy last night, some bite-size Snickers and some bite-size dark chocolate mint 3 Musketeers, with the idea that if we don’t give it out on Halloween, I’ll take it into my office and let everyone there eat it.  The only downside to this plan is that the office candy jar resides on my desk.  Sometimes I outsmart myself outsmarting myself.  I am just that good

 

— Mox

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Or maybe that title should read “One of the things I am not very good at.” 

And yes, I just ended two sentences with the same preposition.  I know that’s against the English Majors’ Code of Ethics or something, but whatever. Grammar doesn’t matter when you’re fixing to commence beating up on yourself. 

On with the show.   

Probably one of the simultaneously best and worst inventions known to man is voicemail.  Before there was voicemail there were answering machines, and before that there were people who answered the phone and took messages for other people.  How do I know this much ancient history?  Because, Gentle Reader, back in the last century, I was one of those people who answered the phone and took messages for other people.  That was something called a “receptionist.” 

Back in the last century, a “receptionist” was front and center in a business, answering phones and greeting people.  It was the sort of job that one could be very good at, if one were the chatty type.  Now, I can be sociable when the mood hits me or when the need strikes, but to have to be “on” all the time is exhausting for me.  It’s not how I’m wired, which is to say that I live inside my head a good bit, and that’s okay.  They know me there. 

I was passable as a receptionist, I guess.  I developed a measured phone greeting for the company I worked for, something I didn’t have to think too much about when I picked up the receiver, and I was able to handle walk-in visitors with practiced pleasantness and good old’-fashioned Southern graciousness.  Contrary to popular belief, Southern girls are not born with genteel manners; they are molded in this way by their mothers and grandmothers, and I am here to tell you now, had I not learned the proper graces the family matrons would have stuffed me in a sack and dropped my unrefined butt into the river.  So at least I had that working in my favor when I took that job. 

The most relief I got in that job (next to quitting time, of course) was that hour of the day that I got to turn on the answering machine and go eat my lunch.  I didn’t have to make pleasant small talk with anyone and I most definitely did not have to be “on” during that time.  And then I would come back at the end of my lunch break and take down the messages that were left on the answering machine, without ever having to suffer through pointless chatter with anyone. 

Technology being what it is, though, my days as a receptionist were numbered.  When a bout of severe weather produced a heavy lightning storm that fried the phone system at my job, my company was forced to upgrade their customer communication techniques.  Meaning, the twenty-year-old phone system was so passe that the next-generation phone system we had installed came with cordless handsets and this nifty little thing called voicemail. 

It was all, welcome to the new millennium, folks, and be on the lookout for flying cars.  They’re next. 

So my career as a receptionist was for all intents and purposes over, and I moved on into the glamorous realm that I occupy now — which, maddeningly enough, requires me to talk on the phone to lots of salespeople.  Except now, they want to talk to ME, rather than just pass through me on their way to whomever else they can sell to.  Which is where that nifty voicemail gadget comes in handy. 

I’ve often thought that if I could let loose of my ingrained Southern tact and politeness, I would record an outgoing message that was more truthful than what I currently have.  My outgoing message would then say “Hi, this is Mox.  Leave a message.  If I want to talk to you I’ll call you back.  If I don’t call you back it’s nothing personal, it’s just that I don’t like talking on the phone.” 

See?  Honest and to the point. 

I’m really, really bad about not returning phone calls.  The truth is, I just don’t like talking on the phone.  I screen my calls via voicemail, and I return very few of them.  And now that my phone system also has caller ID, when my phone rings I can look and see whose call it is I’m ignoring. 

Yay for technology! 

Yesterday my phone rang and when I looked to see who it was I saw an unfamiliar number, outside of this area code.  So naturally I didn’t answer it, because see above.  In fact I forgot all about it until this morning when I came in and noticed that I hadn’t picked up my voicemails.  So I accessed my voicemail and listened to it. 

Turns out it was a friend of a friend, who was calling me to let me know that our mutual friends’ father had passed away.  Suddenly. 

Um, yeah.  Color me a heel. 

So now I’m a whole 24 hours late on hitching up the caring and sympathy wagon and calling one of my dearest friends to see what I can do.  Which, since I’m over two hours away from her, isn’t going to be much anyway, and yet I am hesitating to pick up the phone and call her.  Because I have no words for it.  Because not only am I not very adept at phone conversations, I am also very poor at knowing the right thing to say. 

Okay, so that’s two things I’m not very good at. 

 

— Mox

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I don’t watch a lot of TV.  It’s not that I don’t want to watch it, it’s just that I don’t have a lot of time to get involved with many shows.  I suppose I could TiVo certain things, but there again, it’s that element of time that stops me. 

Still, I make time now and again to watch certain things.  One of my guilty little pleasures is watching Dancing With The Stars.  I suppose I’ve got a good-sized case of envy that people can dance like that, because Mox = not so much grace.  But I try to watch it whenever I can.  I even suspend my “no TV on a school night” rule and allow Spawn to watch the show with me. 

We’ve got one more week to go before we all hunker down and go to the polls, and frankly, I’m not even sure I care anymore who wins.  Last night watching DWTS, the commercial breaks were chock full o’nutty ads, demonizing every candidate available, right down to dogcatcher.  I realized by the end of the show that my jaws were clenched, listening to all that. 

Most everyone I’ve ever talked to dislikes the negative ads, and yet every single candidate spends more time eviscerating their opponent than they do talking about themselves.  I don’t know about you, but I really don’t need the boogeyman jumping out of the bushes at me.  My own imagination keeps me plenty jumpy without someone else spewing invective my direction.  I don’t like to be scared into voting one way or the other.  It offends me. 

You see, I like to think of myself as a thoughtful, intelligent person who is capable of discernment.  I might be one of the few people out there who votes as an informed person, someone who has done their research and decided which candidate lines up more accurately with their personal beliefs.  I know my own mind; not everyone takes the time and energy to figure out what they really, truly believe.  That’s not to say I’m always a rational person, you understand, but I don’t think that there’s anyone out there who is rational 100% of the time. 

I suppose that other people are just as tired of the muckraking as I am, and will vote for the candidate that pisses them off/scares them the least.  Which I guess is the whole idea behind the negative ads in the first place.  Knee-jerk reactions as opposed to thoughtful decisions. 

I’m gritting my teeth for one more week, and then it will be all over but the shouting.  And thank God for that. 

 

— Mox

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If I talk to one more person who sighs, gets a wistful look on their face, and says, “I like to see the change of seasons,” I think it’s entirely possible I might come unglued. 

Okay, fine.  You like to see the change of seasons.  You like the nip in the air and the colors on the trees and blah blah blah.  Good for you.  I, too, enjoy weather that’s a little bit out of the norm, but I also like for the default to be on the warm side.  I could be very okay with fall if it only lasted about two weeks or so, and I would be completely fine with winter not coming AT ALL. 

I do not like cold, is what I’m saying. 

I don’t know when I became such a curmudgeon about cold weather, but I am and I am past the point of making apologies for it.  About 70° is about as cool as I like to see it, and I do think that good sleeping weather kicks in at about 55°.  That’s as low as I’m willing to go.  However, a high of 55° in a day — well, I’m sorry, but that is not acceptable in my book.  Please try again. 

There are lots of things that go along with cooler temperatures that fuel my ire — mostly these are things that interfere with my ease and comfort.  For one thing, the fabrics and layers and long sleeves and closed-toe shoes of fall and winter fashions just really irritate me.  I’m a big fan of just throwing something on and heading out.  I don’t enjoy the bulk and restricted movement and the itchiness that cool weather clothes bring to the equation.  Yes, I suppose that I have some sensory issues in that department.  Another thing I don’t enjoy is the length of the darkness that comes with this time of year.  It takes a stick of dynamite and a gallon of coffee to get my butt up out of bed on an average day — imagine how much harder it is to pry my eyes open when it’s still dark outside.  And then when daylight finally decides to show up, nine times out of ten around here it’s obscured by heavy gray clouds.  Wintertime in this neck of the woods is cold and wet and decidedly gloomy. 

All of which makes me decidedly gloomy. 

Five months until this seasonal torture abates.  Won’t I be a lot of fun until then? 

 

— Mox

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I have been taking an abs class at my gym for a couple of months now.  It’s just about the right size for me, thirty minutes of intensity and a foreseeable goal. 

I am, however, just about the most uncoordinated person on the face of the planet. 

I learned the first night that I have no business setting up in front of the mirrors in the room.  The instructor is a tiny little Filipino woman, about four-ten and a buck-oh-five soaking wet.  She is also the kickboxing instructor at the gym, and built like a brick house.  When you are a compact sort of person, your movements tend to be precise and compact, too.  If you are nearly a whole foot taller than someone like that, complete with arms and legs a whole foot longer, any movements you make tend to look like windmilling no matter what you do. 

Those mirrors, they mess me up.  I find that I do much better watching the instructor than I do watching a reflection of myself flail around, all arms and legs flying out at random angles.  So I set myself up in an area of the room that has no mirrors, which, unfortunately, is also the area that has a double glass door.  Which means the guys sitting on the bench waiting for their taekwondo class outside the aerobics room can watch me in all my sloppy glory.  Fun, that. 

I’ve toyed with the idea of joining this instructor’s kickboxing class, but I’m not too sure my dignity can take one last blow. 

My main problem, as I see it, is an utter and abject lack of balance on my part.  This concerns me, since my mother has no balance, either, and has taken to falling flat on her face with regularity these days.  Is this what I have to look forward to on the cusp of 70?  Yikes.  Part of the reason I’m punishing myself in abs class every week is because I am working desperately to be in better health than my mother is when I hit my 60’s. 

So I decided that maybe I should work on this balance issue, and went in search of a video workout I could do, without embarrassing myself, in the comfort of my own home.  We have digital cable, so there are a lot of on-demand programs just like that, and I hit upon a section of yoga exercises that promised a stronger core and better balance.  Trouble is, not only am I uncoordinated, I am also not too very flexible.  I got about a fifth of the way through one of the yoga workouts and clicked off the TV because, whoo, ain’t no way I’m going to wrangle these gangly limbs into a warrior pose. 

I do think that at age 41, it might be too late for me to develop any athleticism.  Perhaps I should just retire to the divan with my knitting. 

 

— Mox

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The other day I found myself standing in line at the grocery store behind a friend’s ex-husband.  Mind you, it’s been over 20 years since I’d seen him, but when you stand up with someone in their wedding — even though you know in your heart of hearts that this is going to be a disaster — you don’t tend to forget the major players of the day. 

I’ve kept up with my friend over the years, though our paths have taken divergent directions.  She has two kids with her ex, two kids that he never sees and doesn’t feel the need to support. 

I didn’t strike up a conversation with him.  I didn’t see the need to play catch-up when I already knew what my friend has been through trying to make sure he was current in his child support payments.  I calmly watched him pay for his groceries in cash.  When the cashier made a comment about how no one pays in cash anymore, he admitted to her that he pays cash for everything. 

Of course he does.  If he has no bank account then the courts can’t come after him for child support.  It’s called “living under the radar.” 

I realize this is pretty common.  It’s just that this is the only situation I have first-hand knowledge of. 

I knew some 20-odd years ago that this relationship was doomed.  We were in high school.  My friend was 17 and her future ex was 23.  Even through the haze of hormones we were swimming in, I had the sense to wonder what a 23-year-old was doing messing around with someone still in high school.  We graduated, we went off to college.  Halfway through our college years he proposed to her and they married.  He was 25 and working as a bag-boy at the local grocery.  The rest of the baggers were still in high school, or retirees.  Something didn’t seem right to me even then, but I swallowed my misgivings and stood up with them at their wedding.  And then we went on our separate ways, the way friends who no longer have anything in common do. 

Two children later, he was tired of having to have responsibility.  They divorced, and he has spent his childrens’ entire lives avoiding the resposibility of supporting them.  Every time he’s gotten a job, the court has garnished his wages, and then he has promptly quit that job. 

When I say that he’s a bum, I mean it.  He’s a bum. 

So I went home and told my husband that I had run into my friend’s ex at the grocery, and that he had paid in cash for everything, and expressed my opinion as to why that was.  My husband, ever the devil’s advocate, suggested that maybe it wasn’t quite the situation I imagined it to be.  After all, “people can change.” 

Yes.  And past performance is a good indicator of future performance.  Or to put it more bluntly, once a deadbeat dad, always a deadbeat dad. 

People CAN change, but the vast majority don’t.  It takes a lot of effort to change, and most people don’t want to put forth that effort. 

In case you’re wondering, I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of person. 

 

 

— Mox

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