Monday, January 25, 1999

Lexi Lavitschke

As a little girl she used to sit at night, staring out her window to the skies above. The stars in her eyes were the inspiration to many an endless dream. There was something soothing in the infinity of the black star speckled landscape of the heavens. She had memorized so thoroughly the star patterns that when she closed her eyes she still could with picture perfect precision see all the constellation formations. At the same time the predictability, the knowing that whatever was up above would be there long after her own life was over, was of great comfort. There was something meaningful out there that was far bigger and more important than the daily tasks she had in front of her.

It didn't matter how the events of her day left her feeling. At the end of every day her gaze into the stars filled her heart with wonder and comfort, her mind with all that she could look forward to. Then one day she read a newspaper report saying that those who had the power to, were considering downgrading Pluto from a planet, to something else. The unthinkable was about to happen, she was going to lose a planet. And it was her favorite one on top of it all.

The news was of quite a shock and she began to see that the things she had come to take for granted and rely on were not as eternal as she had always believed. It was a gnawing, disheartening realization that was interrupted by a loud noise from outside. The noise startled her. She looked down at the wintery scene below her beloved stars. Something was out of place but she wasn't quite sure, nor could she see enough from her window to know what it was. There was something alarming about the sound that made her think about those people frightened at the prospect of the end of the millennium. Their fears seemed so crazy. She knew the sky wasn't going to fall. She rocked herself to sleep, her mind racing a mile a minute.

The next morning she wandered out to the lake outside her house. The frozen lake was covered with an undisturbed fresh sheet of snow, so smooth, so white that she wondered if the events of the previous night had just been a dream. She looked farther out on the lake and noticed a hole in the ice. As she got closer she noticed no footprints leading to the hole which she could now see was star-shaped.

Instinctively she looked up to the gray sky. Something was different than ever before. She couldn't see it with the naked eye, but she somehow knew that bigger than the hole in the ice was a hole in the heavens where Pluto would usually be. It must be tough to accept a loss of planet status, she thought. She was now directly over the hole. The water below seemed as deep as it was cold. She couldn't see anything underneath the rippling green of the exposed water. She was due to be at work soon so she slid her way back to her house and began her daily routine. On her way to work she turned on her radio and heard that local officials thought the hole in the ice she had seen was caused by a meteorite.

When she got to her work, she wondered if she should tell any of her co- workers about her recent events. But the words weren't there. Instead she pulled out her notebook and jotted the following: "Due to a limited lexicon I have a legitimate liability that can't be legally levied. Lots of leprechauns are less lucky. So soulfully I sing to the sinners who sold their salads for a song and dance." It didn't make any sense but somehow it made her feel better. She closed her notebook and carefully put it back in her desk in its familiar spot.

She decided she indeed could accept what she now knew, even if such an admission (and the internal confession of that self discovered admission) would've been inconceivable just twenty four hours before. How she felt, how she saw her world was forever changed yet there wasn't a choice in returning to the comfort of what she always knew. She pulled out her favorite comic book- the only comic she regularly read and its pictures were as familiar as those stars she sat underneath every night. Maybe the heavens weren't as reliable as she once thought, but at least the pictures of the yellowing pages of her favorite comic book would always be familiar. Yes she could always rely on her favorite storyline to remain consistent and true- Popeye forever in love, forever chasing the admirable independence of his heart's true love, Olive Oyl. The dependable 70 years of courting made her feel calm and relaxed. She knew she could always count on them to remain true to their code...

Monday, January 18, 1999

Plant Parenthood

CYCLAMEN (Cy'clamen)

DESCRIPTION: These gorgeous plants have heart-shaped leaves marked with silver and they produce double or single flowers that are colored white, salmon, lavender, or red, on top of slender stems. Some flower in the fall, others in late spring. These plants range from Greece to Syria. A minimum temperature of 45 degrees is required.

For Christmas I went to a floral shop to buy my mom a plant. I had no idea how to pick out a plant my mom would like so after much contemplation, I looked at all my many options and decided just to go with the one I liked best. I ended up with a Cyclamen which I must say was a terrific choice. What a fine looking plant it is.

I eventually chose the Cyclamen because of its color. It is a light violet, a shade that suggested something between peace and beauty. But as with everything with me, once I made my choice I needed to find out all I could about this new discovery and share it with everyone I know.

I've never been much for taking care of plants. The fact that you actually have to work at keeping them going has been more than I wanted to attempt. And for the last seven years I've had a roommate with a fondness for eating any shrubbery I may bring into our humble abode. Yet the plant I chose for my mother is the type I think would brighten up my own home. There is something quite rejuvenating about watching its cycles: from flowering to wilting to regeneration of new buds. And while each is new, the cycle itself breeds comforting familiarity. Just when you think it won't come back, a new bud is born again. Yes indeed, I've become a Cyclamen man.

This has been an extremely long week. I'm tired and as I put the finishing touches on the newsletter, I must admit all I can think about is my new found knowledge. Thus the following is just about all you'd ever need to know about my new favorite plant. Go ahead, go pick one up for yourself! It's guaranteed to liven up any room!

POTTING: Young plants should be planted in small pots filled with a compost of two-thirds loam and one-third leaf mold, with an abundance of sand added. A warm, dry atmosphere must be avoided. Ashes placed on the benches will humidify the air by the moisture they hold. The greenhouse must be ventilated well in mild weather and the floor and benches dampened often. As the Cyclamen grow, they need to be continuously repotted. By early summer, they should be in pots that are 5 or 6 inches in diameter, these are usually the final pots in which they will bloom. For the final potting, the soil should consist of two-thirds loam, one-third leaf mold and dry cow manure, with a scattered amount of sand, charcoal and bone meal added.

During the summer, they should be placed in a shaded area where the atmosphere is cool and moist. In hot weather, it would be beneficial to sprits them with water. Do not over water these plants, but make sure they don't dry out either. In the spring, when they have finished blooming, the plants are usually thrown out, but it is possible to keep old plants and replant them the following year. If this is to be done, the plants are to be watered until they die. As the leaves whither, less and less water is given. When they have completely died, the pots holding the tubers are left in a shaded area until late July or early August. They are then taken out of the soil and repotted in the compost as described above. Place them in a cold frame where they will start growing again if the soil is kept fairly moist. Near the end of September they need to be placed in a cool, ventilated greenhouse. These plants may also be planted in the garden. They'll thrive in partially shaded areas. Some leaf mold and pieces of sandstone or brick should be mixed into the garden soil, unless it's already suitable. In cold climates they should be protected with leaves in the winter. When planting the tubers of hardy Cyclamen, make sure to set them at the correct depth. Those of C. neapolitanum should be covered with 2 to 3 inches of soil, but the others should only be set under about an inch. The best time to plant those that bloom in the late summer and fall is in July or August. Those that bloom in the spring should be planted in August or September.

PROPAGATION: Seeds should be sown in pans full of leaf mold, sifted loam and sand and placed in a shady frame or a cool greenhouse. Since they don't germinate at the same time, it is necessary to sow them thinly, so the first seedlings can be transplanted when they're large enough to be handled.

VARIETIES-Autumn Flowering: C. africanum (lg. marbled leaves & pale reddish flowers); C. cilicicum (pretty leaves & light rose flowers); C. europaeum (lovely marked leaves & fragrant rose colored flowers); C. neapolitanum (pale rose-red flowers opening before the leaves).

Spring Flowering: C. coum (rose-red); C. ibericum (rose-red); C. repandum (reddish-crimson).

Monday, January 11, 1999

Pennies from Heaven

My friend promised me that if I got a job she would come over and help me clean out and organize my closets. So with this extra bit of incentive I decided that yes indeed, it was time to end my retirement. This past week I took a position with the Senate Publications Office (for those of you who HAVE to read every word I write you can see my work at: True to her word, my friend was over on Saturday to work on the project I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

I have a bit of a secret. The reason my house looks as clean as it does is that everything of clutter is thrown into my limited closet space. There is stuff stored in my closets that I haven't looked at since moving into my house three years ago. Darn if my friend didn't do a miraculous job. She reorganized my closets to better organize my clothes. She showed me how to properly fold my pants so that I don't end up looking like a hobo. She even suggested buying a pants hanyer (or as we Maeda's say, "hanger." Since when is a "G" silent I ask?) which can hold multiple pairs of slacks and a tie rack to organize my impressive collection of hideous neckwear.

So as I prepare to begin my new job on Monday I may still have the same old clothes but now I can better find them and they don't have a permanent wrinkled look to them. My appearance promises to dazzle all down at the State Capitol. I'll knock their socks off, and now that my own socks are neatly arranged, I may even have on a matching pair my own self.

My friend left with some further suggestions as to how I could reorganize my rooms and closets and furniture to get my money's worth from my space. So as I was rearranging some furniture (in between bouts of anxiety worrying about whether or not this is truly the time the Earth has broken out of its orbit and we are hurdling away from the sun- thus the frigid weather) I accidently bumped into my dresser and down crashed my whiskey bottle full (and I mean FULL) of pennies. Glass and pennies flew everywhere. Mr. Max proved he hasn't lost any of his reflexes. I've never seen a cat bolt out of a room faster. I spent the next hour trying to separate the glass from the pennies. It seemed like an insurmountable task and for a moment I seriously considered giving up and leaving the mess there- my own little version of what Ground Round does- only with pennies on the floor instead of peanuts.

Of course as I carefully separated the glass from the pennies I couldn't help but get a little philosophical about my blasted predicament. Life is like a jar of pennies. You save up in hopes of building up a nice nest egg. Most often throwing the pennies in the jar is an afterthought- you have nowhere else to put them. You never think what you collect will add up to much. But after a period of diligent saving you actually accumulate a nice little stash. (Heck I may have enough where I can put a nice down payment toward another whiskey bottle.)

But through clumsiness or laziness or lack of attention you bump into the savings you have taken for granted and it all comes crashing down. Now the valuables you have saved are mixed in with dangerous sharp pieces of glass- some so tiny you don't seem them until after they cut you. And it's up to you, and you alone, to clean up the mess that's left behind. You grab a plastic water pitcher you never use and begin to put the pennies inside. You fret that it doesn't look as impressive without the clear container that allows you to watch your collection grow. But you soon realize that the container isn't nearly as important as what is inside. It's the inside that most often matters.

One by one you gather up the pennies. You wonder if you'll ever be able to get them all bottled up again. Sooner than you expect the pile doesn't look so intimidating any more. You actually see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. And the moment eventually comes when you are done. You sweep up the glass and look at your dirty hands. You may have made the mistake of carelessness but you have corrected that mistake and you have the sweat and blackened palms to prove it. You've even learned a valuable lesson from your experience. Whoever said never put all your eggs in the same basket didn't have it quite right. It's more accurate advice to say you shouldn't put all your pennies in a glass whiskey bottle. And it is always quite helpful getting advice about what should and when you should come out of your closet.

Monday, January 4, 1999

1998 Woman of the Year

Previous Women of the Year:
1992- H. Ross Perot
1993- St. Francis of Assisi
1994- Newt Gingrich
1995- Cal Ripken Jr.
1996- The Dole Campaign
1997- Dolly the Sheep

Due to the uproar and outrage that was voiced by protest groups angry with last year's selection of Dolly the cloned sheep as our newsletter's Woman of the Year, committee members met early in 1998 to discuss the selection process. The committee also met with protesters from the most vocal opposition group, People Against the Newsletter's Selection of Dolly the Sheep as the Woman of the Year (PATNSODTSATWOTY).

Protesters of PATNSODTSATWOTY expressed concern that the selection of Dolly did not meet the standards written in the committee's bylaws as to what qualifies as a Woman of the Year. The newsletter committee tried its best to explain the selection citing the criteria for Woman of the Year states that the winner must "meet the high standards" that sets Cheapo apart from its competition. Dolly met this criteria according to the newsletter committee due to the innovation behind her creation and the fact that her "used" DNA was metaphoric for Cheapo's reputation as the finest used music store in the Twin Cities area.

While the newsletter committee stood behind its selection it was agreed there were issues involved that needed to be addressed to alleviate concerns over the fairness of the selection process. These concerns included incidents such as the "erroneous coin flip" and the increase in the number of pass interference calls. To avoid similar problems in the future it was agreed that each committee member look within themselves to examine what could be done to improve the process.

Eventually it was decided that each committee member should devote more energy toward the selection process and thus it was mandated that to serve on the Newsletter Woman of the Year Selection Committee, members had to quit their other occupations and become full time committee participants. The other major improvement was to upgrade the selection committee's computer. Unfortunately the funds were no longer available seeing none of the committee members had any income coming in so the old computer equipment was once again utilized for this year's process.

With renewed vigor and energy committee members ferreted through reams of information about perspective candidates. Hours upon hours were devoted to intensive research, discussion, and debate. Once all the information was fed into the computer, it became apparent Y2K issues were rampant in the hardware and software utilized in the process. For whatever reason no matter what data was fed in, only one name was generated: Susan B. Anthony. While Ms. Anthony's credentials impressed all the committee members, none of the members were too fond of that whole Susan B. Anthony dollar coin fiasco of years back.

Thus the committee resigned itself to manually selecting this year's Woman of the Year. Although there were numerous qualified candidates the committee quickly narrowed its choices down to four. Consideration had to be given to the cast of characters involved in the Washington debacle that occupied so much of our nation's attention this past year. The committee considered Hillary Rodham Clinton for her admirable strength and dignity through the whole ordeal. Either Ms. Clinton has nerves of steel or she hides her turmoil better than any human this side of the Mississippi. Also considered was Linda Tripp because she single handedly focused attention upon the tape industry- an industry our company still has a stake in. After much discussion both women were eliminated from consideration because the scandal involved goes beyond absurdity. Enough already.

The runner up candidate too received far too much attention for the committee's tastes. But of course any year end review consideration had to include Mr. Ventura. Yes Jesse's story was quite remarkable and the next four years should at the very least be entertaining (something government rarely is). Jesse's last bit of publicity was to suggest his wife should be paid for her first lady's duties. The newsletter committee tends to suspect Jesse made the suggestion less out of concern for women's rights issues and more out of concern for the Ventura family pocketbook.

When it came down to the wire the winner was rather obvious because 1998 was nothing if not the year of the storm. It blew. It came. It went. The damage left behind is still a tad indeterminable. But it left its mark. For every disaster there was someone out there who was willing to blame it on our winner. And in that end it all kind of makes sense. We have been told by one who should know that our winner's name is considered offensive by those who speak the language. Still, no name was heard from as much in 1998. Congratulations to the 1998 Woman of the Year: El Nino.