Thursday, February 28, 2013

Laying the Ghost

...To rest, of course.

I fell in love the first time at 11. His name was David. It was ultimately a damaging experience, involving years of rejection and humiliation. It led to my marrying the first person who really showed me some attention, because, really, what other choice would I have? Part of his abuse was taking advantage and building on that old mindset: if I didn't put up with his crap, who else would ever have me?

Yeah, well, childhood often sucks. Eventually some of us get over it. There's therapy, support groups, and finding someone who not only actually really cares but has a beautiful, nurturing heart. Yes, I'm talking about Steve.

Yesterday a childhood (best) friend, Charlene,  reached out to let me know she'd found David on Facebook while looking for somebody else. Those of you who know me know that I don't Facebook. I've never tried to look him up. Were I to look somebody up, I'm much more likely to look up his mother, our long-ago church choir director, somebody with a much more positive influence on my life, and if she were alive - doubtful - someone I would love to thank for the experience of the complicated music she brought to us.

But I'm just not much for the where-are-they-now? search. In fact it was my brother's family who reconnected with my old childhood friend and got us back in touch with each other.

Following her email, I asked Rich to help me look up David in Facebook to see what Charlene was talking about. It's apparently a common name, and we had to add in the middle name and his history at Phillips Exeter Academy to pin him down. Had it not been for that, I would never have recognized him from his public profile. I could stand next to him, possibly even know his name, and never tumble to the fact he was the same guy.

Why? Because everything Charlene said in her comments about him was right. He was no longer as "pretty" as he had been, and I might add, has nowhere near the hair he did. There's a lot of wear showing on that face. Further, he's obviously gay, though not specifically "out" as such on his  profile page. I suspect it hasn't been an easy road for him, as he's now a therapist specializing in GLBT issues. After all, the stereotype, of therapists, is that you deal with your personal issues by taking them up in your area of specialty, just like recovering addicts tend to be the ones supporting other recovering addicts. Not only do you get to deal with your own crap, you're the one with the credibility to help the next.

(So what's with the special support group he offers dealing with "Kinks" etc.?)

Bless Charlene for her final comment: "It's no wonder he ignored you."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Overheard In Court

I take both sides in this issue, not alternately, but simultaneously. I refer to child support collection and penalties. Personally, I spent years raising three kids without any income from my ex, resorting to hiring lawyers (yes, plural) to finally collect a fraction of what was due. I also know several fathers - I can count 6 in an eyeblink -who have had issues making payments. At least one was/is a total asshole, fortunately not connected to me in any way. The others have had employment issues, and epitomize that old expression about blood and turnips.

Minnesota has seriously tightened up its child support collection laws in recent years. While I understand from the Mom's position, I also wonder about how counter-productive such tactics as taking away drivers licenses can be, particularly for those fathers in areas without public transportation and nearby employment opportunities. Driving is a requirement in many jobs, nevermind the ability to get to/from the job, and lots of folks in HR don't even consider hiring somebody without that piece of plastic, however relevant is actually is to the position.

Recently a baby-daddy of my acquaintance needed to make an appearance in court, being behind in payments and between jobs. He had one starting the next week, but the outcome of this appearance could screw that up. Baby-mama showed up as well, with a few things to say to the judge.

She wanted him jailed, despite his upcoming job. The judge's reaction was a bit of incredulity. "So do you want some money out of this guy or what?"

Hmmm, I'm thinking "or what". Likely both jail and money. 

Baby-mama went on with a rant about how unfair it was that she had to get up and go to work every day to support all the kids she had (I have it on good authority she's had plenty of unemployment issues of her own, long term), on top of having to take care of them all when she got home, while baby-daddy could  just sit around and not work.

This time the judge gave her a long look, asking, "You do realize he's only responsible for one of them, don't you?"

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar Night - Best and Worst

Everybody seems to be expressing their opinions today. I thought I'd join in. I have some of my own after watching the program. Not about who won or who didn't: not having seen the movies, I can't judge. But I do have opinions on the awards program itself.

For example: Worst Host Ever: Seth McFarlane. This category is related to Worst Joke of the Night: anything by Seth McFarlane. There is actually an exception to the anything-touched-by-Seth-M-is-Crap meme: the category of Funniest Song of the Night: "We Saw Your Boobs". I'm hoping it goes viral on You Tube.

I find I have lots of opinions on wardrobe choices. Call me a sexist, but I only bothered noticing the women's fashions. Best Dress of the Night: Michelle Obama's. There were a lot of nice ones there, but this one stood out. Now Worst Dress had some stiff competition. One possible candidate was the one which caused the tripping incident. Lovely design but too much in front that couldn't be moved out of the way. It dovetails right into the Most Idiotic Question of the Night, where the reporter asked her if she tripped on purpose?  Duh, did you see that dress?

Other candidates for worst dress include the white thing with the full, furry skirt. I have no idea who wore it but she had to move it when one of the winners needed to walk up to receive her award, and that even thoug both were in the front row. Not just impractical, but butt ugly! The only thing it might have been good for is if the wearer was a size 4 above the waist trying to hide the fact that she was a size 56 below the waist, pretending all that bulk was just the dress. And while one might assume it was brand new, it just looked dirty. Another Worst Dress candidate is also the Worst Hair winner: Helena Bonham Carter. Was she auditioning for another Sweeney Todd role?

Biggest Surprise of the Night? It's a tie between how tall Charlize Theron is and how short Dustin Hoffman is. Pairing them for a presentation showed the contrast.

Biggest Waste? About two of the four hours of the program, drivel and fillers. It made taping it and using the fast forward button worth its weight in... furry skirts?

Still Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Yep, some folks haven't gotten the word yet. It's a big no-no. But the count has just gone down by one.

My granddaughter needed to blow off some steam last week. She had several issues, the rest of which shall remain private, but the one which bothered me the most was a new boss/supervisor at work. I won't name the location, but know that it is a national chain of a fast food joint, and their need to ultimately protect their wholesome reputation was likely a factor in its resolution.

The new guy was an instant slimeball, sidling up to her under the pretense of supervision, close enough to touch her. She immediately backed off, saying, "Hey, personal space!" A bit later he nicknamed her "Miss Personal Space" and followed that up with a whispered invitation to provide him with a blow job.

Obviously a slow learner.

My granddaughter complained to the store manager, who happens to be a female. She displayed anger at what was happening, but my granddaughter perceived no action taken. She also witnessed the creep's advances toward the rest of the female employees, all young, and perhaps not as assertive as needed to deal with the issue. I suggested to her that she try to get her fellow employees together, have them all document on paper the incidents of harassment, and present them to someone higher in the chain with the threat of a sexual harassment lawsuit. If nothing else, the franchise owner is using his chain to finance his retirement, and a major lawsuit threat should get his attention.

I, of course, spent some time after the phone call really steamed. I came up with things to tell the creep if further incidents occurred, on the order of "If you try to get that thing anywhere near my mouth, I'll bite it off!" I thought about adding, "... and throw it in the fryer."

Recently I had a follow-up call, seeing how things were going. It was better, on this front at least. Her store manager had given the creep his first performance review, and it was terrible. It was very clearly a time for him to shape up or ship out. Halleluia!! So for the moment at least he's behaving himself.

I can't help wondering, however, what happens when he leaves to go manage his own place, unsupervised.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hardly a Bonsai

I was shopping in Walmart, and idly wandered into the garden section. Sure, It's February and we still get below zero readings regularly, but, hey, I needed a dose of green.  If one were available, that is.

It was. There was a whole table of houseplants. Some actually qualified for that designation. But an unusual color and pattern caught my eye, and I rolled closer for a look. It was a very grey blue with a spot of pink. It turned out to be a selection of grafted cactus in a pot. The bottom part was a straight stalk with a "V" wedge, and nestled into that wedge was something very odd. My best guess, since these things never come with any information, is that the top is some kind of prickly pear pad, minus the sharp spines, just fleshy protruberances, but thoroughly infected by that virus that causes the monstrosa deformation. It was wavy, with pink all along the top margin.

I bought the one with the strongest pink.

But while I was sorting through those, my eye was caught by a much more familiar form: ponytail palms. Or if you prefer, elephant's foot palms. I bought my first one back in 1978, when we had just moved to Georgia and I went to a garden center to see what was new- to me. I kept that alive for nearly 35 years, moving it to Sun City last fall and planting it in the front yard. Unfortunately, it got exposed to a bit of colder air than it's used to last fall and the jury is still out on whether it may recover. I'll reserve final judgement until next fall, giving it a chance to come back. There was still green under the bark when it went in the ground. Steve waters it when he waters the pines.

I had kept repotting it every few years, finally winding up with a galvanized washtub for a pot. When it got too tall I cut it off, letting it resprout with 5 new main stems of greenery. At the time it got moved, it weighed about a hundred pounds and took both my sons to put it out for the summer and bring it in for the winter. I had tried to sell it once, but had no takers, so determined to keep it and plant it in Arizona. Done, but had it survived? I decided I was in the market for replacements, just in case. Or even, perhaps, companions.

Now here they were. The bulbs were fist sized, and these had been trimmed as well, with 7-8 sprouts coming out around the top on each.  I noticed after bringing a pair of them home that the small pots were explained by the claim that they were bonsais. Yeah, sure.

Until April, maybe. Then they're traveling south with me and getting a chance to stretch their roots out in front of the house where the green leafy bushes were pulled out. They'll become part of the desert landscaping then, in company with aloes and agaves, to be planted later. The cactus will come along as well, going way out in front near the address number sign. We'll see how it does there.

Meanwhile my green fix is sitting in the dining room in front of the big south window.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Books or Flowers?

"Huh?"  Steve had just asked me that question over the phone, completely out of the blue.

"Do you want books or flowers?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Your Valentine's Day/Anniversary present."

Oh. Yeah, of course. Mine to him was already on its way. Very romantic: a rain gauge. Of course, not just any rain gauge. This was a glass tube being supported by a fat green frog. Still not romantic? Would it help, knowing Steve's favorite pastime, that the frog held a fishing pole with a fish on the end?  It actually has rained a few times since Steve's been down in Arizona, and he's had no idea of just how much, or whether he still needs to water the two big pines in the yard. So, a rain gauge.

As for me, I'm nuts about flowers. Can never get enough. Hate taking bouquets to people on Valentines day or birthdays or anniversaries because it's never me on the receiving end. Never got flowers from Paul after the year the vase got set on top of the TV and didn't quite stay there. After that, Paul's idea of a romantic present was a blender, so I could make our own baby food.

Um, yeah.

So of course my answer was...


Surprised even me. But the budget has been going other places than into the library lately, and I knew we were behind on several authors, including one who has already died. The books would last much longer, and we could both enjoy them. I used the gift certificate for 5 books. Can't tell you what they were without going back and checking the order, but I do know the authors: Dana Stabenow, J A Jance, and James Doss. All mysteries. Hours of pleasure, to repeat years from now.

Of course, ask me next year, and the answer might very well be flowers. Or both.

Or something completely different.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Would You Land On That Planet?

It used to be a standard theme in science fiction: a ship is sent out to colonize a new planet, the survey crew makes positive findings, and once the colonists awaken from cryogenic sleep and start living on the planet, they find out what's actually wrong with it. Often it's a bit simplistic: the orbit turns out to be highly eliptical and seasons are drastic and long, or they wind up in a highly volcanized area, or something else a survey crew should have caught before colonization.

I have a planet to describe for you. Imagine, if you will, that the choice is yours whether to wake the colonists and set down on it. You start reading the survey report.

The basics work for humans. Gravity is OK, the period of rotation is comfortable, the air is within breathable parameters, and the sun is the right kind, a "G". It is noted in the report that it does emit radiation that can cause severe burning with overexposure, causes blindness over a long number of years, and long years of exposure wrinkle and toughen the skin, even causing cancer in some number of individuals. There are a few areas with comfortable temperatures, but most have such extremes of hot or cold or both that you need to be protected from it.

The planet is not stable. Vast areas are prone to earthquakes on a frequent basis, mostly minor but some severe, and volcanoes are currently active in several areas. There are some giant calderas, with no estimate of when they might become active and destroy most of a large continent. Most of the surface is water, but not drinkable. Where there is drinkable water, the distribution is irregular. Vast areas receive no rainfall, while others receive heavy rains daily. Some areas have rains varying by season. Floods and droughts are common. Significant amounts of water are tied up in polar glaciers, more in clouds which can produce massive storms coupled with extremely strong winds. Lightning is always present somewhere. If you didn't put up satellites, you have no way of establishing patterns and predicting extreme weather events.

There are a lot of ways the planet itself can kill you. Even more dangerous, however, are the many life forms inhabiting it. The good news is that many of the proteins are compatible: you can eat them safely. Plants have a variety of physical defenses against you, however, including toxins that can give you a rash or indigestion in the mildest cases, or downright kill you, sometimes slowly, with anything from an allergy to a neurotoxin. Some manufacture chemicals which are both harmful and addictive. They also can scratch or poke though unprotected skin, or just tangle around your feet as you try to pass. There are even species of flora which lure, trap, and consume fauna. It will take years, if not generations, to sort them all out.

Millions of species of fauna present their own challenges. Some can be eaten, provided you can catch and kill them. Some will be tasty, others merely edible. All will be hungry. Some will do their best to eat your food supplies before you do. Some will do their best to eat you: compatible proteins work both ways. Yes, there are many kinds of formidable predators, some of which will even cooperate and hunt you in packs. They come in both nocturnal and diurnal varieties, so you will need to rig some kind of protection before you can go to sleep safely. They came in all kinds of strengths and sizes too, and some can even fly. Others will burrow under or chew through your defenses. Even those deemed harmless can become aggressive in defending their territory or families. Some may merely defend themselves with a pharmacopeia of poisons, whether they inject them, coat themselves for skin contact, or keep them in their tissues so you'll never eat more than one.

Insects will be relentless in pursuit of you and yours. Some bite, sting, chew your clothing, housing, ruin your foods, spread microbes. And speaking of microbes, if the proteins are compatible, the microbes will be too. There will be varieties to kill or spoil or sicken everything. Every piece of equipment, clothing, shelter, food, even every bit of yourselves could be vulnerable. Even the normally harmless can trigger an allergy that can become life threatening.

Every bit of life on that planet is busy competing with every other one while defending itself. If you land there, you will have to be constantly on alert to find and take your place among them to survive, much less hope to thrive. So would you stop there? Would you?

Would it make a difference if I told you you're already here?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Courageous? Or Quitter?

So he's the first Pope to step down in 628 years, give or take, and the last one to do so was one of three Popes at the time.  (The other two were referred to as Anti-Popes. So why did he step down instead of them?) I, being on the road, have been listening to the commentary on the radio all day, in between the MPR pledge drive bits, of course. Even the BBC, which is lent an hour of airtime over here, did their man-on-the-street interviews.

Two reactions came across with great regularity, worldwide. Either Pope Benedict was courageous, not sitting around to wait to die and leave the Church untended by actual holy leadership while all the political wanna-bes grabbed whatever power they could, or he was compared unfavorably to his predecessor, the guy who was not a quitter, and did sit around waiting to die while the political wanna-bes grabbed all the power they could while the Church was untended by actual holy leadership.

I guess to be interviewed you had to be Catholic for your opinion to count. That's just an observation, an aside to the question.

Benedict was close enough to watch the physical and mental deterioration of his predecessor in office. It doesn't take a genius to realize he didn't like what he saw and wanted to set a different example. Whether or not you are Catholic, or even Christian, whether or not you find any Pope holy or chosen by God, one can understand that decision - at least from a secular point of view. Other people retire, step down, abdicate. Pick a term. Ordinary people recognize their physical, and perhaps even their mental deterioration, and stop carrying their loads. They aren't called quitters, or expected to go till they drop dead, whatever kind of job they're doing.

One of the effects of his stepping down might be the humanizing of future Popes. This may very well be one of his most important legacies. Of course, there's also the part about not leaving the Church leaderless for a few years while he waits to die. That tells me he cares more about the job than his personal power.

I do hope he gets recognized for it. In this debate, I come down on the side of courage.

Monday, February 4, 2013

More Silliness: In Whom Do We Trust?

First, let's start with where I'm coming from. Back in junior high, I came across a bumper sticker I kept for decades: "In God we trust. All others pay cash." That's my kind of sense of humor.

Lately there's been way too much attention to whether and where those first four words appear. A couple years back, there was a big bruhaha about the new dollar coins. Email chains were going around posing a boycott because those words didn't appear on the coins. Of course, the idiots proposing said boycott didn't seem to realize that the rim of the coins, where the words did actually appear, were actually a part of the coins!

Last night, prior to the Super Bowl, another idiotic chain proposing a boycott was going around. Rich and Brenda were sitting there with me, in preparation for watching a commercial blitz - who cared about the game? - and got the chain a couple times. Was this another government-related item? Oh no, this time it was about... wait for it... Pepsi!

Yup, it seems that Pepsi has had the audacity to put a new can out with the pledge of allegiance on it, but missing the words "under God".  One nation indivisible. They didn't want to offend anybody, and went back to the pre-1950's wording. Of course, there is a segment of the population with nothing much to do that's more important than taking offense at imaginary slights, and somehow confuse Pepsi, a mega-million dollar world-wide company, interested in the bottom line rather than anybody's souls, with their own version of government-sponsored church.

C'mon, guys, really? Pepsi? You need them to endorse God? That's the bedrock of your faith, or the cause of it crumbling, what Pepsi prints on a can? It's not like any Muslims, animists, or atheists might drink it, eh?

The boycott message concludes that we should all quit bringing our US government money which states "In God We Trust" to spend on something which lacks that phrase. Gimme a break! Name one other thing at the same grocery store with those words! Just one! You need your bananas stamped? How about those disposable diapers, about to be filled with something as sacred as baby poop? You need that phrase there?

For that matter, when I hit the grocery store, my money is grey, plastic, and much more likely to say "Master Card."