Archive for July, 2013


an unexpected bonus

Last Saturday, I went to a cemetary to continue my research for a book I am planning to write. I have been to this cemetary before, but never at this time of year. I was surprised to discover, growing up a tree in the middle of the gravesites, muscadine grapes. Fortunately, I had my work gloves in the car. As you may know, the skin of this type of grape is very acidic. Picking them without gloves on often results in chapped hands. And rubbing your eyes by mistake is painful. However, the grapes make a superior jelly, so the extra effort is well worth it.

Since I did not know that the grapes were there, I did not have a basket with me. So, I had to improvise. In the car, I had a small bag from Jack-in-the-Box and another from Barnes and Noble. I also had an empty Dr. Pepper bottle. Using these containers, I managed to pick, and actually make it to the car with, enough grapes to fill my large colander. Getting them out of the bottle required the use of a pocket knife to cut off the neck. The Barnes and Noble bag broke on the way to the car, so I probably looked quite comical trying to hug it closed until I could put it on the car seat.

This week, I need to go back to the cemetary to finish my research. I will bring a basket this time. Then, I will make all of the grapes I gather into jelly. If my family speaks to me nicely, I might even give them some.

Some of you may be wondering why grapes were planted in a cemetary. In Victorian times, it was common for families to picnic in the cemetary next to the church between services and on national holidays. Children have always been children and they would get bored after a bit by the adults’ talking. So, many congregations planted fruit or nut trees so that children could be kept busy. I have been looking for pecan trees, but had not thought to look for grapes. So, that is my happy surprise for the month. If CPI ever gets around to sending me the pictures from his camera, I will add a photo to this post.



I am smart

There! I have said it. I did not say this to brag or boast. I said it because it is a fact of my life and one that is causing me trouble.

I’ve discovered that some people are afraid of anyone who has above average intelligence. I once greeted two of my female classmates on the stairs in junior high after school. They were going up and I was coming down. They obviously did not know that stairwells carry sound. When they were out of sight, one said to the other, “she is so smart”. “Yes,” replied the other, “but she is very sweet.” Thinking on this, I realize that the sweet statement was meant to be an buffer to the smart one. In other words, it was okay that I was smart since my niceness counteracted it.

When I was at home with the children, this was not as much of a problem. However, there were those who wanted to know why I was “wasting” my talent by staying home when I could be sharing it with the world. I think that passing on my knowledge to my children is sharing it with the world. Now, there are four of me where before there was only one. Not many jobs give you the opportunity to quadruple your strength.

When I did go into the workforce, my brains gave me more trouble. One co-worker was so disconcerted that she actually stood up in the middle of a temporary office in a conference room and began to yell at me about something off the wall that I had no idea I was even doing. After patching things up, my supervisor (who has since moved on) told me that the co-worker saw me as a threat to her job because I was smart. I had absolutely no designs on her job and had never even considered what it was.

The biggest problem, though, is me. Yes, I am afraid of my own smarts. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Never the less, it is true. I often make mistakes half on purpose to keep others from feeling threatened. (PS-EB, this is the main cause of my inability to speak French with the proper accent.) I don’t volunteer for projects whose solution will showcase my thinking skills. Finally, I am in a job where I am greatly underused because I do not want to risk offending others by seeking one that is more of a challenge. Periodically, I have to take one of my Xanax just to keep me calm enough to get through the day. I am antsy because I am bored.

If I could, I would quit tomorrow. Then, if we had the money, I would do research for the rest of my life and write books on what I found. That way, if anyone felt threatened by my smarts, I wouldn’t know it.

But, I hold the insurance that allows us to take care of IRP, so I will go on. I will try to gain the courage to find a better job. Unfortunately, this may mean that I have to go to a new place. I hate new places because I never know who is going to be offended and what they will do as a result.

My greatest fear is that I have passed on this reluctance to use my intelligence to IRP. She is also smart, but she very rarely shows it. Forgive me, sweetie, if I have made you afraid. Be bold and do what your mother didn’t. Love to you!



when did i buy that? and, is it too late to take it back?

I have long declared my hatred of, and incompetence at, math. Lately, though, I have begun to consider this. Granted, I failed to learn subtraction correctly in elementary because of someone’s brilliant idea to play a record that went progressively faster in giving problems.

In 7th grade, I told my algebra teacher, Mrs. Exozedus (apologies for possible mis-spelling) that my father said I would never use algebra in the real world and I did not see why I had to learn it. This won me a trip to the principal’s office, my mother a visit to the school and my father an order not to discuss math with me anymore.

However, in 8th grade, Mr. Evers asked me to participate in the Math Club and go to competitions. The club met once a week and we were taught the required mental arithmetic for competitions. It was forbidden to use paper at these events. I only remember one competition. I won a 10th place ribbon, which I suppose is still roaming around somewhere in my parents’ house.

Tenth place may not sound that wonderful, but you have to consider the size of the competition. Even in the late 1970s, Houston Independent School District had a huge population of junior high students. Only the best went to these competitions. Obviously, at this point, I was good enough at math to hold my own.

So, the question remains, “when did I accept that girls were bad at math?”. Regardless of the timing, I have decided that I want to take my purchase back if I can figure out how. I was good at math once and I was much younger than I am now. Surely, I can be again.