coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Just Plain Mean

When I was a little girl I liked to hide just out of sight on the breezeway steps so I could hear my mother and Bernie (the next door neighbor who also happened to be my adored and adoring godmother) gossip at the kitchen table.  They had a coffee klatch every morning while the men were at work, and I loved to hear those women talk.  I learned a lot that way. Most of what I learned while surreptitiously listening to The Women was about human nature, about people and what motivated their actions.  It was fascinating and my interest in analyzing people's motives and desires has never waned. 

I am fairly certain
Mom never realized I was there, listening.  She probably never knew what a treasure trove of illicit information she was for me. 
Talk about a liberal education in the humanities!  Those two women were pretty insightful.  Not only did they do a close reading of most people, they deconstructed them to the bare bone.  I think that is one of the reasons I did not want to go to kindergarten.  Good stuff was happening at home in the kitchen.  That and I did not want to miss watching Captain Kangaroo.  I loved Bunny Rabbit. Not as much as Mighty Mouse, but almost.

One thing I suspected back then, and have since learned to be true, is that some people are just plain mean.

If you do not believe me, move someplace new or start a different job where you do not know anyone and they do not know you.  The Big Meanies will step up to bat and reveal themselves to be players, quick as shit.

I am beginning to understand meanness.  I think it is a strategy insecure people use to maintain the status quo and to ensure that others will not be mean to them.  Big Meanies are cruel to newcomers as a means to establish their authority and mark their territory.  We really are just base human animals when we do not take the time to think or feel. 

Newcomers suffer accordingly; eventually the Big Meanies throw them a bone of kindness to test the waters and see if they will bite.  By then the newcomers are so traumatized by isolation and loneliness they will do anything to make the BM like them, including agreeing with everything the aggressive BM says or does for the rest of their natural born lives. Ick. It is all so disturbingly stupid.  I am determined to forgive people when they hurt me, because I know they often cannot help themselves.  However, I would have to be an idiot to then want to be around someone like that, or to forget what they are capable of.  Cruelty is a social game I prefer not to play.

Try not to take it personal if it happens to you.  It is almost always about them (the BM), and rarely about you.  You could be anyone and the mean person would respond in the same exact way.  They do not realize their insecurities are showing.  BMs mistake meanness of spirit for strength.  And they want to feel strong.  We all want to feel strong, and it is much easier to be mean than to be kind.  It just is.

I hate to say it... but exposing yourself to a Big Meanie from time to time might just be good for what my Father used to refer to as "your immortal soul."  Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is brave.  Only when you are vulnerable will you notice the scarcity of good intentions that exist in this old world.  This is information you need to know and can definitely use!  Understanding meanness just might tip the scales as to whether you become a Big Meanie yourself or not.  We all have that meanness in us.  I try to control mine each and every day.  Mean is one of those things you have to actually try hard not to be.  Making that noble effort is part of our humanity.  When we think and feel and empathize, we become more fully human.

You really notice meanness when you become a stranger.  Middle class culture did not invent the Welcome Wagon to make newcomers feel welcome, they invented it as a marketing tool to get newbies to spend their money at local businesses and to introduce them to local norms.  If your neighbor brings you a cake as a "welcome to the neighborhood present" for no other reason than s/he wants to make you feel welcome, then by all means glom on to her/him.  S/he is a kind person - a rare find.

What I really hate are cliques.  I hated them a million years ago when I was in high school and I hate them now.  Is there anything more distasteful than adults  circling the wagons for no better reason than to exclude others so as to maintain the status quo? 

I guess I understand how cliques happen and why they exist.  Belonging to one is the easy way out.  We work hard to build relationships with people who are like us, who share our values.  I am not saying values are good or bad, I am just saying all too often what is most important in cliques is that the values are shared.

I know, I know, it feels good when everyone is just like you. But a personality can molder if life is too straight and narrow. All too often "easy" just turns out to mean dumb, and "safe" turns out to mean lazy.  Most of us will not put in the effort required to think about an issue unless we are challenged.

So why am I bringing this up?  Someone was mean to me, and it got me thinking.  See what I mean?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Good Grief and the Good Earth

What is this thing they call dirt in Central Florida?  It looks like sand mixed with a little topsoil to me.  You should have seen my face when I first dug up a clump of "grass" only to find salt and pepper underneath trying to pass as dirt.  I was perplexed.

I am spoiled when it comes to soil.  I grew up in the 1950's and 1960's in the Midwestern corn belt.  The dirt was dark and rich and vital. If you stuck a seed in the ground it would never fail to grow. My sweet Mother had a vegetable garden as well as flowers.  Getting things to grow was never a problem for her.  When I was a little girl, I liked to follow her around to see what she was going to do next. She was everything to me back then.  I knew if I stuck close to her, interesting things would happen.

Outside in late spring or early summer, she would sometimes keep me out of her hair by giving me a packet of zinnia seeds to plant. They would most definitely sprout and grow into beautiful flowers.  They were my flowers.  I helped them grow from tiny seeds.  It was magical.  That is probably when I first caught the gardening bug.  Thank you, Ma!

When T and I first moved to upstate New York, we would often go for long drives in the country to compensate for living our lives as worker bees in town.  We could not help but notice the soil when the NYS farmers would till their fields. Those Upstate New York fields were filled with large rocks.  How in the world they manage to plant crops I will never know.  Apparently it is a constant struggle because with freezing and thawing the ground keeps pushing up rocks from the deepest depths of the earth.  If you notice a preponderance of lovely stone walls and fences in NYS it is because each year the farmers have to pull big stones and slabs of rock out of the fields so they can plant seeds. They have to do something with those piles of rocks. Consequently, stone fences are what they used to mark their property lines and field borders.  It must have been especially hard and discouraging work for the early settlers with their simple tools.  Thankfully they stuck with it and figured out how to work that stubborn land. They created beautiful stone fences with the rocks and stones.  The results are unique and amazing, well worth the effort. 

Once we moved out of town and into the country we got serious about perennial gardening.  In addition to removing rocks, we enriched the heavy clay soil on our land.  T was still young back then.  He did some impressive "double digging" for numerous perennial beds. We read gardening books.  We badgered other gardeners with questions. We made mistakes. We figured it out. We changed. We learned.

The first year on that land my Mom came to visit and brought us small, old-fashioned yellow bearded irises she dug out of her own garden.  She also brought us a start from her infamous trumpet vine.  The original plant had been in her father's garden.  She took a cutting from his trumpet vine before he died in 1961 and she kept it alive all those years.  Those were the plants we started with.  

For years we mulched with composted horse manure in order to improve that soil.  Is there anything more comforting than having a mountain of composted horse manure delivered to and dumped on your property?  As I said, we lived in the country. 
It was fully composted, so it did not smell. No one ever complained about our manure pile. I figured they wished they had one, too.  Who wouldn't? 

We spent every weekend for 6 weeks each spring shoveling shit into our wheelbarrow and then hauling it all over our land to mulch the flower beds.  Eventually the mountain became a mole hill.  When it was gone, I would plant pumpkin seeds in the good dirt that remained and it became the source for our Halloween pumpkins. 

I am assuming our current HOA will not allow us to have a mountain of composted horse manure delivered to our front yard in this subdivision in Central Florida.  Bummer.  Where would we put it?  In the garage?  Oh, that IS an evil thought.  Please do not let me do that.  Instead, we must buy our composted cow manure in bags, for crying out loud. Like normal people. How did it come to this?

So here we are starting over, not knowing the land nor understanding the soil. Again.

I get up each morning and stroll out through the lanai, peering out of our screened-in "birdcage" to stare at the new plantings in the back yard, imagining they have grown overnight.  I need to get my fat ass out the screen door and commune with those plants!  I need to walk the land, and stop thinking of it as just a small yard.  The Good Earth deserves more respect.  I need to surrender to this sandy soil and figure out what likes to grow in it. 

A friend once gave me a button that said "I don't know where I am going, but I'm on my way!"   It made me smile because it was so true.  I like to think this is me at my best, aching and floundering; slouching towards change much like Yeats' rough beast from Bethlehem

Up North I had daylilies of every type and color I could find. The wild ones started blooming in late June.  I thought wild daylilies were the most beautiful wildflower of all; however, now that I have seen Maypops in the wild at Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, Florida, wild daylilies may have to try harder to get my vote.  Maypops
are also called passionflower vine.  The Latin name for Maypops is "Passiflora incarnata!"  I think you get the picture.

Once the wild daylilies were spent Up North, one hybrid variety after another would bloom through the end of August.  I loved my daylilies.  For 9 long months of every cold, gray year I waited for them.  When they poked their way out of the earth and started growing, I was happy.  I miss them like an old friend.  I heard rumors there are varieties that grow in zone 9.  I am not sure if I believe it because I have yet to see a daylily down here. 

The last ones I saw were Stella D'Oro daylilies just starting to bloom at a South Carolina rest stop on our way down to Florida in late March 2014.  I distinctly remember how happy I was to see them!  We were homeless, frazzled, and on the road.  And then I saw them.  I trilled to T: "Oh, the daylilies are starting to bloom here!"  Then I thought, "Oh yeah, WE don't HAVE any daylilies." I got back in the car and we resumed our journey to Central Florida, slouching all the way.

I mourn the loss of my sweet Mother's yellow bearded irises. That is another plant you cannot grow down here.  Now that Mom is gone, I wish I could have brought some with me.  However, I know they would not have survived. Instead, I am planting Louisiana irises in a wet area next to the house.  I think I will like them more than bearded irises anyway.  They have a more elegant shape.  My mother would understand.

I am quite happy to be free of that damned trumpet vine.  I loved my Grandpa, but his legacy plant quickly became a greedy gut, invasive weed that wanted to take over my soul. I was tired of fighting it. 

I actually bought three Stella D'Oro plants last month and put them in the ground.  Not to worry, I enriched the soil. Stella's are small, but they are the mighty workhorses of the daylily world.  If any daylily can make it in Central Florida it will be Stella. 

Unfortunately, it is only late May and my daylilies already seem to be burning up.  I am not used to watering daylilies.  I am more of a "survival of the fittest" gardener.  But I have been watering these.  I am going to give them my all.  If I cannot have a daylily on my land I fear I might have to rethink just about everything I believe to be true and good.  Then again, maybe it is time to rethink everything.  Canna lilies are good.  It is also true that I can grow them here.

Here is a photo of everything I believed to be true and good circa 2013 in Upstate New York:

Here is Ma's old fashioned yellow bearded iris:

Here is a photo from behind the naturalized "drop-gardening" area looking up towards our old garage.  Refer to my Flower Lust post for more about my "drop-gardening" technique.  The house is hidden behind that Crimson King maple tree on the right. If you look real hard you will see my Grandpa's trumpet vine blooming up in front of the brown garage like a small tree.  That garage was great, too.  It had garage doors in front (facing the street) and in back (facing the gardens).  Brilliant design for riding lawnmowers:

Below is a better shot of that damn Trumpet Vine.  T built a pergola for it to climb over, but it really wanted to climb up over the roof and embed its sticky suckers under and over the roofing tiles.  It did such damage to the garage.  We had to cut it back, hard, every year; but still it persisted. It was WAY stronger and more determined than we were.  It dropped seeds that grew all over the ground in front of it, and in every garden bed close by.  They always grew and their roots were deep.  Trumpet Vine can serve as an inspiration to us all but in someone else's garden, please.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I just came back from an imaging clinic where I was supposed to have an MRI.  I am wildly, breathtakingly claustrophobic and the prospect of having an MRI is one of those big ass fears that can keep me up at night.  I understand why I have to be awake for this procedure.  I need to periodically hold my breath while the MRI technicians take pictures.  Yes, that is correct - they want to stick my entire body inside a narrow, enclosed tube AND they want me to repeatedly hold my breath while they take pictures.  Half way through they will then pull me out, inject me full of dye and then stick me back in the tube to do the procedure all over again until I am done.  This should only last 35 to 40 minutes they said.  I thought: that is about how long Survivor lasts if you take out all the commercial breaks.

The clinic staff are not able to do an MRI on a fully sedated person.  You have to go to the hospital for that.  I told everyone before and up until I laid down on that damned MRI table, including my doctor when she originally called to recommend this procedure,  that I was seriously claustrophobic.  I am not sure why they still sent me to the clinic where I would have to be awake for this procedure.  Perhaps "seriously" was not a dramatic or descriptive enough adjective.  I will communicate more effectively  next time.  Sometimes it seems like no one really cares enough to listen, though.  Or maybe they are listening but they do not really care.  Or maybe the burden is on me and the lesson here is to be even more dramatic.

At the time of the procedure I was mildly sedated on Valium, and all ready to go.  I felt pretty good, Valium being what it is, but I most certainly did not feel adequately drugged or anxiety free.  They were inserting me into the miserable MRI tube and my head was just starting to follow my shoulders inside when the panic hit.  And when I say "panic" what I really mean is "terror."  And when I say "hit" I mean that I was psychically sucker punched.  I simply had to make them stop, which I did.  I could not let my head enter that tube.  The horror of claustrophobia was too great.  I had hoped I could just keep my eyes closed, listen to the music on the headphones and wait it out.  I had practiced deep breathing in anticipation of this event.  I wanted to get this over with.  I wanted to do this.  But no, I could not.  I just could not do it.  Damn. 

Just for the record, I did not freak out or fling my body parts all over trying to get up.  I simply said "Stop," and they stopped.  I then said, "I don't think I am going to be able to do this."  I was calm.  However, there is no doubt in my mind that if my head had gone inside that miserable tube, I would have destroyed it trying to get out. 

The two aides then asked me to relax on the MRI table, wait for a few minutes to see if the Valium would overcome my fear, and then try again.  I said OK, because I aim to please.  Plus, I really wanted to get this stupid procedure over with.  And, of course, I was weighted down on the table with with substantial magnetic throws and I had earphones on.  Waiting seemed like the right thing to do.  After a few minutes when they came over to me and asked if I was ready to try again, I had to say no.  Just the thought of my head once again slowly moving into that miserable tube was enough to make me want to jump out of my skin.  Mere Valium was not going to alleviate my fear.  

Now I will have to go to the hospital where they will put me out and an anesthesiologist will take charge of monitoring and, when needed, holding my breath for me while I am "asleep."  I do not find that reassuring.  The clinic staff are not waiting for me to make the appointment (so I can put it off indefinitely), they are making the appointment. 

I have been re-watching Star Trek, Deep Space Nine for the past few months.  Great series, with a wonderfully bright, genetically enhanced doctor.  HE has a hand-held scanner that he uses quite effectively as a diagnostic tool.  That is exactly what is needed here.

I wonder if Xanax or Ativan might have been a better sedative choice? 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Who ARE these people?

I spend my days desperately trying to avoid hackers and phone scammers.  They know I am a retired person and they are absolutely determined to come between me and my money.

Multiple phone scammers call our house each and every day.  I no longer answer the phone if I cannot identify the caller.  Instead, I look at the phone when it is ringing to take a look at the name and/or number of whoever is calling us. I pretty much know that any call from area code 407 without an identifying name displayed is from a hardened, psychotic criminal. Who else would be calling me from central Florida? My daughter and husband text me. My son-in-law and his parents email me. My 3 year old grandson has recently figured out how to contact me via Facetime on their iPad (sometimes as early as 7:30 am if his parents are out of the room), and my 11 year old granddaughter tries to avoid communicating with me via modern technology at all costs. Those are the only people I know in Central Florida. I think I am safe in assuming everyone else is psychotic.

The other day I picked up on a phone call from a number with a Southern Florida area code.  That particular number had been calling every day (sometimes more than once a day) for weeks and I have to admit I was curious to see what this particular scam was going to be.  I did not get the satisfaction of yelling at someone because it turned out to be an automated call.  It was malicious Mr. Robot Man telling me he had been trying to get a hold of me to settle our account (never saying what his business name was) and if I did not get back to him he would have to take me to court.  Then Mr. Robot Man gave me the choice of either pressing 1 to call him back or 2 to leave a message.  Hilarious.  If only I had magical powers to create a third choice:  press 3 to send unbridled bolts of crackling hot electricity through the phone lines to burn Mr. Robot Man's sorry robot circuits to Hell. 

The phone rang while we were eating dinner last night.  If got up and walked over to the land-line phone to see if it might be a normal human being trying to get in touch with me. I live in hope. Instead, the caller ID screen on our phone revealed it was from "Voter Consumer."  Whatever that means?  My husband said it should have read from "Consumer Harassment."  I concur. But that reminds me. As the general elections approach we will now start getting political phone calls, too! Ouch.

I also get a ridiculous amount of email spam, even though I try to filter it out. I also try VERY hard not to click on any links or open any emails from sources I do not recognize.  I am kind of proud of how distrustful I have become. But they are so tricksy, those computer scumbags. The other day I got an email from Federal Express, or that is what I thought.  When I opened the email it said to click a link so I could track my package. Well, I sometimes order online, so I thought it was real. I clicked, dammit! It turned out to be just another trickster scam to get me to buy something I do not need nor want.  And now my big fear is that legions of demented hackers are sending pornography related email to everyone in my contact list because I was foolish enough to click on that one miserable link. Sheesh. If you get pornographic emails from me, please know they are not really from me, okay? That particular virus is THE one I have always hoped I could avoid. 

A kind and gentle man I know was victimized by that virus a few years ago.  I think there are still people out there who fear he is a raging pervert.  Poor guy.  I also know a high school teacher who was victimized by it.  Can you imagine how awful that would be? No doubt she had students in her email address list.
Just think of the horror and embarrassment innocent people have suffered because of that virus. In my alternate universe the person who created it would have his/her knuckles removed and then be forced to write "I am sorry for the trouble I caused" 100 times before getting them back.  Yes, in my alternate universe knuckles can be removed and then re-attached.  There are amazing surgeons there.

I suppose now I should just never open any emails I get. Where will it all end?  Mr. Natural (old R. Crumb alternative comic character and mystic guru) would have answered, "In the grave, my boy, in the grave."

Wow, I just now got an email from Wells Fargo Bank telling me that a hacker has been trying to hack into my account and if I would just click on the link they provided they would reinstate my account.  Funny thing is, I do not have any business dealings involving Wells Fargo.  True story, just happened.  Unbelievable.

It is odd imagining this is how some people make a living or get their kicks, by deceiving and humiliating innocent people. You have to wonder why they do this?  Of course, they are probably some of the narcissistic sociopaths I wrote about last time.  Or maybe they hate old people because they had mean grandparents who pinched their childhood cheeks and wrote them out of their wills.  Perhaps they were raised in damp caves by drug addled parents who never hugged them or gave them any encouragement.  Or, I suppose they could just be the spawn of the devil?  Who knows.  Armchair psychology is an imprecise science.