We have just about completed our Christmas shopping for this year, with about 95% of it coming via online shopping. Sorry to not support the local economy, but with the masks and the lack of merchandise, and the need to go from one place to another to find what we can exactly find by a few clicks on the computer mouse, it’s just not fun to have a shopping day out and about. Maybe next year, if things indeed get better, and we can put our masks back in a drawer, then we can get back to real living.
So with online shopping comes package delivery. It’s always kind of a fun time, when we first hear the FedEx truck at about 9:30 in the morning hitting our neighborhood, and then the post office delivers around 2pm, and then UPS stops by around 4:30. Usually we know precisely what is in the boxes that stack up on the front steps, but it’s still fun, unless you open it up and it’s cat food instead of the cool Christmas present you bought for your wife.
This past week we have had a couple of interesting wrinkles to the box delivery. First, Cheri got that message from her work messages that the former owners of our house (they moved over 5 years ago) had inadvertently ordered some things on line and hadn’t changed their address, so she wrote to ask if we could keep watch out for about four packages (or so) that would be coming, and just call her when they arrived, and she would send her husband to come pick them up. Please notice the exponential growth in the number of people involved in her ordering. Plus, although it’s not a big thing, we then have to take possession and take care of the boxes until they come to get them. One came two days ago, and it was a tiny little thing, so we decided to just hold it until the others came, so as to not waste the husband’s gas to drive over and get it… the doorbell rang around noon, which I figured to be our sons once again ordering lunch in, instead of using the hundreds of pounds of food we have available in our refrigerator and freezer and cupboard… it wasn’t so, because the next we heard was a pounding on the door, as if the December werewolves were chasing someone and they needed refuge. It was the husband, coming to retrieve the tiny package, since they probably tracked it online and knew it was being sequestered in our front entryway. I expect this to happen another three or four times before Christmas. Ho Ho Ho.
The other thing that happened has far more extensive ramifications, both in responsibility and use of our time. A box was delivered with the others yesterday (I had ordered Slinkys and Silly Putty for the boys’ stockings), but the box was addressed to both Cheri and me. I looked on the side of the box, and it read “FTD.” Now, it read it sideways, since the arrow that was on the box also was pointing sideways toward the door. That’s probably what the delivery guy thought it meant – point it toward the door – instead of, perhaps, pointing the arrow toward the sky, as it meant “keep this end up, so stuff doesn’t spill everywhere.” But no – pointing toward the door.
I brought it in, and I knew immediately what it was, and where it came from, except I was wrong on one account. I knew it came from Cheri’s sister, as she loves to order those types of things, either to celebrate Cheri’s birthday next week, or to help us get ready for Christmas. And sure enough, that’s who sent the box, via our friends at FTD. As Cheri opened the package, what we pulled out from inside was a small Christmas cactus, with a nice little note.
Now, I wouldn’t tell anyone what they can and cannot give us as presents. Why, we wouldn’t turn down hardly anything, unless it was a big pot of navy bean soup. However, 14 years ago we ended up gifting our entire home of houseplants to various neighbors and relatives – big dieffenbachias, scheffleras, peace lilies and more – because the (at that time) new kittens in our home would race to the plants and want to start chewing on what we found out to be very poisonous stuff for cats. It was like kryptonite catnip for them, and they just wouldn’t leave it alone. They did the same for our live Christmas tree that year, with Hermes climbing to the very top and then sticking his head out to see where he was. After that, we made sure that we had no live plants indoors – actually, not artificial ones as well, since they also liked to chew the plastic leaves, which left a lovely look, sort of like the remains after an artillery shelling…
Now, on occasion I have brought my beloved wife some flowers, which were usually delivered to her office, where others could ooh and ahh. She would then bring them home, and place them on the only spot in the house that was clearly safe from the efforts of felines to destroy plant life. The spot? The corner of the mantle over the fireplace between our dining room and living room. It’s just a bit too high for a single leap, and no furniture is close enough for the cats to do parkour, with numerous leaps to get from one place to another.
That location, however, has already been claimed for the season by the shepherds’ side of the nativity creche. We also put the creche up on the mantle to keep it from being marauded by giant cats attacking the stable, so it’s not an option to move it from safety. So, that meant moving the large candelabra that was centered on that side of the mantle, and sticking the Christmas cactus between the last shepherd and some little wax trees.
Now, I’ve read up on Christmas cacti, and it is a relief that they are not poisonous to cats, so when the little blooms fall to the carpet before we can grab them, and they are chewed on by the cats, it won’t kill them. However, Cheri’s sister managed to introduce another dynamic to our home. Now it happens that someone is going to have to care for the cactus, which means the soil can’t be too wet or too dry, and they can’t be in too much light, but need enough sun to be happy. They won’t need fertilizer – yet – but who knows when and how they are to be transplanted into another pot, and then another and then another.
You see, I’m a big proponent of cut flowers. In high school, I drove the delivery truck for Baseview Floral, and made deliveries all over the countryside. Everyone loves flowers – especially when you are a teenage boy, and you knock on the door and a pretty captain’s wife receives a bouquet from you – it’s a nice job. The wonderful secret about cut flowers of course is that they die. After a number of days, their days are numbered, and what was so pretty now becomes not so much, and they get tossed. End of story, until another occasion and another delivery.
Houseplants, however, never seem to die. I don’t know how long I want to invest in a plant that blooms about three weeks a year, and then goes dormant, but still demands care! I don’t see a promising future for this unfortunate cactus. Maybe we can find a cactus rescue organization that will help it find its forever home, probably with someone who loves to fiddle with plants all day.
Well, there we are for now. It’s another example, if I may offer it, of what happens when you may have the intention of being kind and giving, but accidentally you plunge an unsuspecting family into forced plant care. Part of living intentionally means that you also take the time to consider possible unintentional consequences of your planned action. “I’ll give something pretty to my sister” is a great intention, but “I’ll give a houseplant to my sister, whose three cats will never leave it alone, and she will be forced to take care of it, since her husband is very willing to let it pass on to the great cactus jungle in the sky” is no longer a kind thing, nor even very nice. Give the cut flowers. Do the world a favor. Be fully intentional, and think ahead, won’t you?
Word for the Day: lamiaceous. Get ready. Pronounced LAMB-ee-aysh-us. The word as it exists today refers to about 7500 species of herb, known to us as “mint.” It includes rosemary lavender, hyssop, oregano, basil, sage, and of course, peppermint, spearmint and a billion other mints that will grow very well in your garden. This time of the year, pumpkin spice goes away, and peppermint comes out to play.
However, if you look past the curtain to the origins of the word, you quickly find out it will lead you to a dark and scary place. The original word from Greek lamia, was the name from Greek mythology of a monster who would prey on humans, especially sucking the blood out of little children, in revenge for the goddess Hera killing her children out of revenge for her having an affair with Hera’s husband, Zeus. See how adultery and infidelity is just a bad idea? Somewhere along the line, someone is going to act like a vampire.
So, maybe be a bit careful when you see a mint on your pillow – the lamiaceous roots might just bite back.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.