Monthly Archives: March 2012

Quite Contrary

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Nurseries, it turns out, are not filled with children but with plants. Which is for the best. A nursery is a place of commerce. It’s a relief, knowing they don’t traffic in children.

Prior to last weekend, my experience with plants had been very limited, apart from eating them and wearing clothes fashioned out of them and occasionally seeking shade under the larger varieties. While living in Chapel Hill I had tried to grow a violet, which under my care became ill with astonishing speed, and I had tried to grow some indoor cacti, reasoning that these hardiest of plants could survive even my ministrations. Remembering to water them only every month or two would have been sufficient.

Unfortunately Goblin knocked them from their ledge on the window sill. That, or they jumped. Forensics results were inconclusive.

Why is it easier to keep a cat alive than a plant?

It is spring now, and for the first time in seven years, my front yard is not a parking lot. My personal politics (roughly summed up as “one notch below ecoterrorism”) demand that I try my hand at gardening. My dwindling savings demand that I try it, too. If I get this to work right, my grocery bill should go down a fair bit.

I have spinach and lettuce growing in a container on my back porch. I have rosemary growing next to the porch. I have sugar snap peas growing next to a different side of the porch (with a lattice for them to climb upon, if they attain adequate height before I kill them off), and green onions growing next to them. They would have been regular onions, only I didn’t read the packaging carefully. And then, a bit removed from all of that, I have some mint plants.

I think another weekend visit to the nursery is in order. I don’t want to overreach in my first attempt at a vegetable garden; if I wind up accidentally slaughtering everybody, I’d prefer to contain the damage to a small herbimassacre. Still, though: the cost savings could be noticeable. I spend a lot of money on cilantro, potatoes, tomatoes, onions (the regular kind), garlic, and basil — and if this suggests to you that my kitchen is a place of deliciousness, you would be correct.

And cauliflower. And broccoli. Dang. Oh and carrots.

Fortunately, I have two gardens in which to attempt to grow and/or annihilate vegetables. After a steady campaign of wheedling and nagging, my boyfriend surrendered and allowed me to commandeer a patch of his plot. (I’m not deliberately using militaristic language, by the way. It’s happening unintentionally. This probably does not reflect well on my relationship with gardens.) He was envisioning a garden filled with decorative trees and flowers, which is nice enough, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing, but frankly the UNCA botanical gardens are within walking distance and nobody every made a nice hearty stew with a Japanese maple, now did they.

So in that garden I am responsible for the lives of tomatoes, rosemary, spinach, basil, mint, bell peppers, strawberries, cilantro, and cayenne. By extension I am also responsible for the lives of some slugs. This is not very earth-mother of me, but I want them dead. I want some slug carnage. I want to soak the earth with the blood of my slug enemies, though since they’re invertebrates I’m guessing they probably don’t actually have blood.

Also by extension I am responsible for the life of a salamander. It was ugly as sin, pure black and slimy-looking, but it was good company while I was planting and my internet research tells me that salamanders are harmless in gardens, so it may live.

One thing I will not be held responsible for is the fish. I have graciously allowed my boyfriend to use a bit of his own land for purposes other than my vegetable growing. He has installed three half barrels, formerly home to Mister Jack Daniels, and boy howdy do they smell good. Rather than buying a damn pump, he is insisting on using pipes and tubes and siphons and physics to construct a system for moving water between the barrels. If he ever gets that part figured out, he will have a functioning miniature ecosystem for goldfish and guppies to live in.

Seems like a lot of effort to me, but I am humoring the project, because ultimately it will work to my advantage. I will be able to use the fishie water for my vegetables. Pictures of barrels and vegetables alike will follow in coming posts. Meanwhile, keep your fingers crossed that my plants are vegetables with a strong will to live.

Not that I loved Caesar salad less

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After several months of stagnation, I am breaking free from my reading funk. I’m still way below par for the year, but a nice spate of Young Adult novels suggests that I have not lapsed into illiteracy. Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay for Now was particularly enjoyable. The novel was reminiscent of Robert Newton Peck (A Day No Pigs Would Die — remember that book?) and of Sherman Alexie’s marvelous book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, only with less swearing and less masturbation. It’s not like Gary D. Schmidt was the first person to write a young male bildungsroman, but he’s done a better job with it than most. The prose is delightful.

I suppose it’s appropriate that Young Adult novels have been thawing my reading freeze since I’ve been working with Young Adults lately.

Ooooh, let me re-type three of those words: “I’ve been working.”

Three times now I’ve worked as a substitute teacher. I’ve still got no insurance; the pay is only $69 per day, and there’s not always work available, and from what I understand there’s a great big mandatory vacation right in the middle of the summer; but even though I am underemployed, underpaid, and uninsured, this means that I will burn through my savings at a much slower pace.

 First time I went to a kindergarten class, where a teacher’s assistant and a student teacher rendered me superfluous. I did spend one hour tutoring a young man one-on-one, but apart from that hour I spent the day being bewildered. Apparently with that age group you sometimes have to sing to get them to pay attention. It’s all a bit over my head.

The second subbing session was at an intermediate school, a concept that did not exist in this county back when I was a child. The intermediate school is for fifth and sixth grade students, and I was filling in for a Special Ed teacher. That was good fun. Then today I filled in for a Special Ed teacher at a high school for at-risk kids, and that was really good fun.

Openings for sub opportunities can be posted at any time, but the busiest time is in the mornings, when the teachers wake up and realize they’re sick. This means that I have to monitor the openings at 5:30 in the morning. This is not such good fun.

I’m still no closer to figuring out what to do with myself in the long term. Community college? Another master’s degree? Neither? If I don’t continue my education, then precisely how am I supposed to earn a living? If I were to sub every single school day in a year, I would earn $12,420 before taxes. I’m going to need something a little bit more lucrative than that.

With several months of unemployment/underemployment to my name, you’d think I’d have better answers. It’s not as though I haven’t had the opportunity to ponder my options. I have pondered plenty. I have not arrived at any conclusions, is the problem. And if I am going to apply for fall admissions to a graduate program, I need to get my act together. It is already mid-March.

Speaking of which: Happy Pi day! There is a very strong chance that I’ll make a pie tomorrow, if by “pie” we mean “chocolate cheesecake.” I realize that’s a day after the fact, but that’s okay, because tomorrow is another holiday. I suppose for that one it would be thematically appropriate to eat a Caesar salad, but I think I’ll stick with the pie — not that I love Caesar salad less, but that I love pie more.

Will work for cat food

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So, the sure thing I had lined up at my Mom’s company? The one where I would definitely get hired if I showed up to the interview with a pulse?

I showed up. I had a pulse. I was offered a job.

Only then they realized they couldn’t hire me. There were complications because I had been previously employed by the same company, albeit only technically. For most intents and purposes, I had been employed by a bank when I worked at the company’s call center — I followed the bank’s rules and provided phone support for the bank’s customers — but the call center itself was located in a wing of my Mom’s company, and it was that company that issued the checks.

Long story short: even nepotism couldn’t get me a job.

I try not to indulge in too much self-pity here. It’s not very productive and, more to the point, it’s not very attractive. No one likes a whiner.

But I cannot beg, borrow, or steal my way into a job. I have applied in the obvious places, libraries and bookstores; I have put my name in with the temp agencies; I have applied for skilled positions and unskilled positions. I am educated and experienced; I am articulate and personable and dedicated; I can solve problems and soothe disagreements. I am young and white and not hideous to behold. Not that I want to claim those as advantages, since it’s not fair, but those are the kind of qualities that make it easier to get a job, at least once you make it to the interview stage.

I’m doing everything I know how to do, but it’s not working. Ergo, something has to change. It would really suit me if the job market around here would do the changing, but I’m not hodling my breath for that. This means that I am the one who has to do the changing.

Only thing I can think to do is to pick up more education. And since I need to be able to afford cat fud while I acquire my further education, it will need to be at the graduate level. I need to be able to take out enough loans to live on. Can’t do that with community college.

In more pleasant news, for about a month now I’ve been seeing a nice young man. I won’t be revealing any details here, since I am a big fan of privacy, but it is really neat to be in a relationship with someone who does not have a criminal record. (Personal friends who want to know more may contact me for the scandalous details.)

Only I’m starting to worry that it’s an either/or kind of thing: what if I can have romance OR a job, but not both? I’d hate to have to kill off the new boyfriend.