The personalities of my houseplants

Life’s been a little too heavy lately, so I decided to lighten things up with some fluffy psychoanalysis of a few of my many houseplants.

Let’s start with SULKY.

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This is the one that plays dead if it doesn’t get watered a few times a week. Even though I feel guilty anytime I come home from work to see the leaves drooped down to the table, this plant is the canary in the coal mine that reminds me to water everything else because it’s the first to complain.

 

Next, we have THE PHOENIX.

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If ever a plant arose from the ashes, it’s this one. I rescued it at work from an empty office where it had been sitting abandoned for months without any water. It was down to ONE living leaf. A few years later, this super plant is so voluminous that I can’t even move it because it has many trailing stems of leaves.

 

Here’s my friend METHUSELAH.

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Okay, he’s not 969, but this African violet is fifteen or more years old. I saved this one from my mom (she’s a houseplant killer) when she received it from a friend as a condolence gift after my father died. It survived a family move and has been repotted (only because it fell on the floor and the pot smashed). I don’t even bother to fertilize plants, so I have to give this guy credit for blooming multiple times a year for weeks at a stretch. He’s got good genes.

 

Say hello to the ever-ugly PERSNICKETY.

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This tree was a gift from my brother and sister-in-law, who have a beautiful, graceful version of the same plant. It’s supposed to be “low maintenance,” and at first it was. I put it in a corner, watered it about twice a month, and generally forgot it was there because it didn’t grow AT ALL. One nice spring day, I thought it would enjoy a little outdoor time. Apparently not. I brought it inside after a day of frolicking in the sun, and the leaves were already starting to turn black. Sunburn? Since then, it’s never been the same. It drops leaves until I think it’s about to die, but I swear it knows when I’m about to throw it in the garbage and has the good sense to sprout a few new leaves to keep me in a state of false hope. This tree is my teacher; I consider myself “above average” in houseplant husbandry, and this is my only failure to date. Oh well; you can’t reach them all, they say.

 

And finally, I SWEAR IT’S REAL, EVEN THOUGH IT LOOKS FAKE.

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I have had this plant for more than two years now, and in that time, it has never gotten larger, dropped a leaf, or showed signs of distress during periods of drought (i.e., me forgetting it was there and not watering it for a month).

I’d love to see a picture of your favorite (or ugliest) houseplant!

 

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Traveling way outside my comfort zone

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“East or west, home is best.” This is a phrase I grew up hearing my father say often, especially when he got back from another international business trip. It’s something I say to myself nearly every time I pull into my driveway.

Even though I’ve been a single parent for the past several years, I’ve never in that time taken my kids anywhere overnight by myself. I don’t really enjoy traveling, flying, or going to new places. This spring and summer, I decided that had to change.

My kids and I just got home from a one-night trip to western Pennsylvania (about four hours away), to places we’d never been before. My older son developed a fascination with Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. He set a picture of it as our computer desktop background and asked me every few months about going.

Wow, was it worth it! We had a great time. My older son said the tour was even better than he had expected and my younger son (the one I’ve now and then accused of taking all his blessings for granted) thanked me many times for our trip and how much fun it was.

I will confess that I naturally have a lot of anxiety and the main way I keep it at bay is through routine. Get up at the same time every day, have the same breakfast every day, follow a to-do list I wrote the night before every day… what may sound boring to you is comfort to me.

Most people would be shocked to hear that I’m anxious because I come across as easygoing and carefree a lot of the time. That’s because I happen to be fortunate enough to have a lot of control over what I do when (a major indicator of human happiness). Only those who know me well see the cracks at the seams when we eat dinner two hours later than I expected or had plans to go somewhere that get changed last minute.

I am not a go-with-the-flow type of person, so taking a last minute trip to somewhere I’ve never been before, finding a hotel online, and driving across the state with some handwritten directions scrawled on a scrap of paper were definitely pushing my boundaries. To one of my world-traveling coworkers, I equated it with her going to Russia.

It got me thinking, what else can I do to keep growing and experiencing new things? What do you do, large and small, to get out of your comfort zone and into the great big world? I’d love your ideas! (Please don’t suggest varying my breakfast, ’cause that ain’t happening.)

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Tips for family game night

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“Mom, can we play Monopoly?”

This is one of the most dreaded questions ever, because I know that “playing” Monopoly is likely to end with money and property cards on the floor, accusations of cheating, and at least one child in tears. However, family game nights are getting better with a little pre-planning, some growing maturity on the part of the kids, and reduced expectations from me.

I’m determined to make this work because my kids are at the golden age where they can read and write, they have an attention span of at least a half hour, and they don’t have much social life to get in the way of our evenings together.

Here are a few of my suggestions for making family game night go more smoothly.  I’d love to hear yours as well!

1. Make a list of games that all of the family members can play (appropriate age level, length of game play, interest level).  Some of our favorites are Sorry, Uno, and Clue.  Sometimes we enjoy easier games that don’t require a lot of strategy, while other times we like more cerebral games (Pandemic is a new favorite and you have to work together to win this game rather than compete against each other).

2. Take turns getting to choose the game of the night.  Because you’re choosing from the “approved games” list, no one is allowed to whine “I don’t feel like playing that one today!” (myself included).

3. Set a time limit for how long your gameplay will last, even if the game hasn’t ended yet.  If everyone agrees at the stop time that they want to continue, go for it, but if anyone wants to quit then, game night is over.  No one is allowed to quit early either.

4. Make sure you hold family game night on an evening where no one is exhausted or overwhelmed with homework or household chores. Sunday evenings work best for us.

5. Build excitement for game night by planning ahead with a special meal or other pre-game ritual to get the kids enthused.