I Didn’t See That Coming.

My husband took me hiking on Mother’s Day. The big kids opted to stay home and watch Squish. Mostly so that they didn’t have to go. My Mother’s Day didn’t involve any actual children. I’ll unpack that guilt later. They bought me MoonPies and Junior Mints, so I know they love me. Back to the tale.

As we were hiking, I found a prickly pear cactus that had been squashed nearly flat by the bulldozer that blazed the trail. I never take anything from a park, but prickly pear, a favorite food of many tortoises, is non-native and invasive, so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for breaking off a small section to take home.

Let me explain a little about me. Spring is in the air, and I have a physiological need to plant as many things as I can. I need to see things growing. If the seeds I planted yesterday aren’t growing yet, I’ll just plant some more. This sad little plant needed me. My hope was to get a bit of it into soil to see if I could get it rooted. It was the ultimate challenge.

Prickly pear. Look at those awesome spines. I wonder if it would keep the neighbors' dogs from pooping in my flower bed.

Prickly pear. Look at those awesome spines. I wonder if it would keep the neighbors’ dogs from pooping in my flower bed.

2:00 pm Choose the piece with no large spines and put it in my pocket. Wonder if a little rooting hormone might give me a better chance at starting this plant.

2:01 pm  Begin to feel stinging in my leg. Whoa. I forgot I am wearing my Columbia switchbacks. My pocket is mesh. No worries .The spines are so small as to be nearly invisible. How much damage can they do? Wonder if big spines need to be removed before offering to tortoises at Zoo.

2:05 pm Stinging becomes rather uncomfortable. Remove it from my pocket, wrap it in a leaf, and slip it into an outside pocket. I can’t wait to get it home.

2:06 pm My finger is stinging. I can barely see the tiny spine embedded in my fingertip. Wow, this plant is good at defense! I scrape the spine away with a fingernail.

2:06:10 om Spine becomes embedded in the other finger. Good grief! I remove it and carefully wipe it on the ground.

2:08 pm Calf begins to sting as tiny spines are dislodged and work their way through my pants and down my leg. Feel like I am being eaten by fire ants. Check to make sure cactus bit is still nestled in its leaf wrapping.

2:09 pm Dislodge spines from my finger tips with more energy than is absolutely necessary. High-tail it back to car.

2:30 pm Remove cactus bit from pocket and look for something, anything, to wrap it in to get it home. Find box to throw it in. That should keep it safe.

2:31 pm Attempt to scrape spines from fingers and from legs. I vaguely wonder if any of these will penetrate my skin, travel through my bloodstream, and kill me dead. That would be bad.

3:00 pm Arrive home, carefully unwrap cactus bit without touching it and dump it in a pot of soil. Warn kids not to even look in its direction for the rest of their lives. Wash hands in hopes of removing remaining spines. Wonder why I didn’t just buy a potted prickly pear.

10:30 pm Undress for shower and realize that my left leg is still riddled with spines. Remove them to the best of my ability. Leg now looks like a golf course for bedbugs. Throw pants in wash to get rid of any remaining spines.

10:40 pm Remove spines that have relodged in fingertips.

7:00 am Take clean pair of jeans from closet and put them on.

7:01 am Remove pants to dislodge new spines that have somehow become embedded in my leg. When will this end?

Stupid cactus. It is the work of the devil. I hope it dies.

I Lost It Today

I have been dealing with AT&T telemarketers for around two weeks now. Daily calls, morning to night, sometimes more than one in a day. It has gotten to the point where I am afraid to answer the phone. They won’t take “no” for an answer, and believe you me, I have tried.

After yesterday, I am officially over it. During the 11am phone call, I thought I told the woman pretty clearly that I am not interested in adding any services, thanks for calling. She interrupted to argue with me. I hung up. At 8pm last night, I got another call. Eight my-baby-just-went-to-sleep-and-now-she’s-waking-him-up o’clock last night, she called me again.

I don’t yell at telemarketers. I try to put myself in their shoes. They’ve got a crap job, and they’re just trying to get by, too. They’re making a living doing what The Man tells them to do. I’ve been trapped in jobs by circumstance, too. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I called AT&T this morning and told them that if the calls don’t stop, I’ll be changing my phone service. The (really nice) customer service rep told me it would be no problem to put me on their no-solicitation list. I had no idea there was such a thing, and it made me really happy. She did inform me that it wouldn’t go into effect until midnight tonight. I just have to make it through today. No problem, right?

10am the phone rang. I answered, heard the tell-tale click and pause of a telemarketer, and I hung up. At 11am, the phone rang. I let it. If a real person left an actual message, I could answer. When the machine cut in, the caller hung up. Twice in an hour. Unreal.

And then came noon. I had just gotten the baby down for his nap, and he was in that tricky limbo phase where his brain was trying to decide between hibernate and overdrive, and any sudden interruption can end our efforts for the day. I answered the phone.

Click- pause. “Is this (pronounces my fairly straightforward name very wrongly)”


“This is (different chick from the one who hassled me yesterday) with AT&T – ”

And I let her have it. I raised my voice to a stranger. It was not how I was brought up, but she had it coming.

“Listen,” I said, “Someone has called me every single day for nearly two weeks. Sometimes twice. When I am eating, when I am going to bed, when my kids are in bed. Every day.We don’t want any additional services. I got put on your no-solicitation list this morning. I know that doesn’t go into effect until midnight, but you are going to stop calling me. It hasn’t been you, it’s been some other chick, but you have to take no for an answer. You woke my kid up from his nap. Calling me twice a day is insane. We are not buying anything else. You are going to stop calling me. Write it down somewhere. Stop calling. I cannot take this anymore. And there is nothing left for either of us to say.”

I hung up on her. I have not hung up on anyone in a flying rage since I was fourteen. As I hit “end,” it hit me like a bolt of remorseful lightning. The voice of the kind customer service rep from this morning played back through my mind. “In the next 24 hours, someone will be calling you  to make sure that you had a good experience with Customer Service.”

That wasn’t my telemarketer pal that I cut loose on. Son of a pup. I am a turd. I hate myself.

Will I Ever Learn?

Symmetry in nature is beautiful

The days are getting shorter, the kids are off to school, and we all know what that means. I’m screwed. Let the record show that I don’t do this every year. It usually takes about 2 years to completely forget past mistakes and make them anew with reckless abandon. And I think I outdid myself this time.

I love plants. I used to work in a greenhouse in college. I did everything from cloning African violets to cloning carrots (yes, somewhere out there is a giant carrot dragging its mutated self around the globe searching for its creator. It’s ALIIIIIVE!). I love watching the new shoots pop up through the soil, fighting the odds in its struggle for life. I take as much pride in my aloe’s offspring as if I had spawned it with my very own rhizomes. I love surrounding myself with a jungle of green. And that’s my problem. Where does the jungle go in the winter? I only have one window.

Okay, I have more that one window. I don’t live in a subterranean cave, after all. But I also have several cats. And a small kid. So let me amend that statement to “I only have one window that gets enough light for a plant to survive and is out of reach of four-legged diners and wild two-legged diggers.” So I’m screwed.

Last year, I remembered. I remembered the drought and twice-a-day waterings. I remembered not being able to see the top of my kitchen table from October until May. I remembered the heartbreaking parting as I had to send my largest ficus to my husband’s office because there was no way to keep our burgeoning bi-ped out of it. Instead of our forest of tomato plants (which are annual and die before it’s time to bring the plants in, thank you very much) and cuttings of every house plant I have ever owned, I contented myself with planting one tomato and repotting my ferns. I did make a few cuttings of my ficus to grow as Christmas gifts. But that was it.

At the end of last year, I had my fern, my son’s alligator plant and a few of its incredibly homely offspring (but a baby plant is a baby plant and must be nurtured, right?!), and the cuttings of the ficus. At Christmas, I repotted them for their new homes. Unfortunately, the ones that were supposed to travel to the in-laws got left behind. But their tiny pots fit on my sill. I wasn’t too crowded as I did my dishes, and there were only 4 plants to  move off of the kitchen table when it was time to eat.

I blame our university’s garden story-time for the loss of my ever-lovin’ mind. We went to our first story time of the season, and instead of a coloring station, the children got to plant a seed to take home. Squish was fascinated by the bean. He insisted on watering it and checking its progress every day. The day it sprouted was a day of celebration. And then it hit me. What do we DO with it? It can’t live a full life in its little cup. Do we let it die an unnatural death in front of our son, or do we buy some soil and give the stupid thing a chance at achieving its potential? Do I have to tell you what we did?

Once the bean was planted, we (okay, there was no “we.” It was all me) decided it could use some companions. Having no idea what kind of bean we had planted, I was unsure if it was a self-pollinator or not, so we planted some sugar peas in the same pot. We started them in a plastic jar so that the kids (okay, me again) could watch their root development. I called them Venomous Tentacula in honor of the upcoming HP movie, which amused me more than anyone else. They grew with frightening speed. I measured 2 inches of root growth in just under 3 hours. Good thing they’re sensitive to temperature or these things would take over the planet!

Then my husband became an accomplice to my stupidity. He brought home a book on herb gardening. Suddenly I had my heart set on growing my own bay laurel, and we set about on a city-wide search. The plant was elusive, but we managed to secure one. I’ll never have to buy dried bay leaves again! Who knew it needed a 12 inch pot? And it’s a tender perennial, so it needs to winter inside.

Same with the rosemary.

And then my daughter bought some mint. Won’t fresh mint tea be tasty this winter?

And then there’s the thyme. And the oregano.

And those ficus babies have been re-potted. They doubled in size  and are ready for their new homes.  Except for the one I’d really like to keep.

The fern is now so big that it won’t fit in its little nook by the microwave this winter.

And the burro-tail won’t fit on the sill because its new pot is too wide.

I might be easier if we just move.