Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Merry Christmas and don't let the door hit you on the way out"

Peoria Journal Star reporter Phil Luciano recently wrote about a longtime United Way employee who was fired because her husband had cancer and, so he reported, was told she would miss too many days taking care of him. She stated, however, that she could continue to work her three-day-per-week schedule.

Phil interviewed one of the employee's former bosses who said she was invaluable to the organization. On the PJS Web site, a commentator who had volunteered with UW testified to this employee's wonderful qualities. Maybe the UW has some serious dirt on this 77-year-old retired farmer who has worked for the UW earning minimum wage for many years. Or maybe it's just managerial arrogance run amok. (One cynically suspects as much.)

I generally do not support the UW, although I have given minimal contributions in the past. This year, however, I left the pledge envelope on my desk unopened. I'm not even sure why, just a gut feeling that I'd had enough. Maybe I am growing more cynical in old age. I do know that I would rather give directly to some of the best organizations in our community.

Maybe employers, instead of supporting the UW campaign, should have "Give Directly" campaigns and offer to make payroll deductions to any charitable organization that an employee wishes to support. That would provide more money to organizations, as we would cut out the UW executive salaries.

Monday, December 15, 2008

An issue with tissue

My most recent trip to the bathroom revealed to me serious feline distress. The tissue had been pulled from the roll and shredded into a huge mountain.

All three kitties are frustrated by single-digit temps. They want to go outside and take out their feline frustration on neighborhood mice, birds, and ground squirrels. But that darn freezing wind makes it difficult. They retreat inside. Big grey cat harasses the old, beautiful tortie. Little white Siamese, tries to cuddle with big grey, but that doesn't work, so he, too, hisses at very old Odetta.

Banjo, the kitty mamma tries to keep the peace, but, in the end, he can only take so many hits to the nose. My water spray bottle is at the ready, but sometimes I miss my cue.

Then, I wonder, who's the tissue terrorist? Big grey is just "large" and dumb. This is the same cat who fell into the pool while chasing a mosquito. Who jumped into the path of a moving car when he saw the wipers activiated. Who tried to overtake an enormous wild turkey.

Little white kittie is wiley and smart. He runs away when a vacuum or car starts up. I think he is most likely to think of taking his cabin fever out on the tissue. But, certainly, I will keep monitoring this issue.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kitty Mamma

Not sure my three-year-old Lab likes the designation, but often I refer to him as the "kitty mamma." He is the one who monitors feline behavior in our house. The two kittens like to harass the 14-year-old, frail cat. When they get too rough, Banjo intervenes, pushing the offenders away or distracting them with a game of chase.

The kittens love him. The other dogs grunt or turn away when they walk past. But Banjo tolerates them. They appreciate that. They take it further. They want to be near him. He is their protector. Their advocate. Maybe even their surrogate mamma. Little Blaze climbs in bed with him every morning and snuggles. Sometimes he just want to put his head up against Banjo. Other times he remembers snuggling with his real mamma and starts kneading Banjo's belly.

The amazing Banjo tolerates this. I think he knows that not only is he responsible for the felines' well being, but must have concern for their comfort as well. It's a touchy situation, but for the most part, harmony is maintained.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Best Day Ever

My nephew woke up early Saturday morning. He wanted to get on the computer, but I suggested that he create some artwork instead.

His attitude did not seem promising.

I was surprised at his creation, which suggested that this was going to be "the best day ever."

Isabel, my husband's step grandma and one of my best friends ever, used to say: "sometimes I wake up and just feel that something wonderful is going to happen. And then it does."

She and Riley must be on the same wavelength. I want to believe that we can channel positive energy and create something wonderful!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanks giving

We had 19 people for Thanksgiving dinner! That was wonderful. Everyone brought a culinary contribution and we ate very well. I made my famous mashed potatoes, which I learned to make from a Julia Child appearance on NPR. Bystanders, however, were a bit shocked by the amount of butter I tossed into the pot. "There's a whole sack of potatoes in there," I replied. "Relax. I'm a professional."

I also made my "dry" stuffing, which consists of, hmm, lots of butter, old bread, raisins, craisins, nuts, sage, rosemary, celery, and onions. I had bought two small turkeys instead of one large one so we could stuff them and still have a reasonable cooking time. My spouse, however, read about cooking turkey in a book by his food network idol, Alton Brown. Alton said stuffing was "evil," causing one to overcook the turkey to bring the stuffing to a safe temperature. "Oh bother," I said. "Folks have been stuffing bread into fowl carcasses for years." My sister added, sardonically, "and people are dying out there."

Well, I ended up dousing the stuffing with chicken stock, putting it in the oven, and, still, it was pretty good.

OK, tomorrow I'm back to work in the basement cubicle.

Usually this year I have Christmas to think about/look forward to. I'm approaching the Yuletide differently this year. I don't believe spending money on gifts is appropriate given the suffering/hunger of many people in our community. I feel more inclined to give money to the local food pantry than to waste it on imported goods. I may give my nieces and nephews modest gift cards to a book store. But that's about the extent of my giving. I really want to help those in need.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Electric candles

I have a love/hate relationship with Walgreens. They are open early and late. If I go out of town and forget my meds I can go to any nearby Walgreens and get them. The pharmacy staff, however, is sometimes impatient, overworked, and rude.

Their buyers are magicians, though. They stuff so much cool stuff into one little store, that I enjoy going in there and seeing what I can find. Environmentally friendly shampoo and dish-cleaning liquid? yep. Plain and simple unsalted bulk almonds? A great bargain.

The other day I came across tea light candles powered by tiny watch batteries. I love candles, but often worry about the fire hazard, especially with two kittens in the house. I bought some neat little metal pastry bakers, put the electric candles in them, and placed them in the windowsill. Lovely light and if the kitties knock them down, flames won't erupt.

I also bought an electric pillar candle (with vanilla scent no less) that runs on AAs. I keep it by my bed. When I awake in the middle of the night, I love its soft, comforting glow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grandma and the mouse

One day my mother, who we now call "Grandma," came home from work - yes at 74 she still works three days a week - and smelled a mouse.

When I was growing up in a little house at the edge of a small town, surrounded by corn fields and a farm implement salvage yard, we often had mice and, too horrible to speak about, their larger cousins, in our home. They found any cranny to invade and bear their young. The rats crawled into the walls and scratched at night. We were surrounded and overwhelmed.

Today, better armed, emotionally and financially, when any member of my family smells a rat, we freak. We go into full retreat.

So, Grandma not only smelled the mouse, she saw evidence of it everywhere. On the stove, in a drawer. It was too much.

She threw out all the food in her house and cleaned her refrigerator and kitchen like she was preparing for surgery. The dog now eats outside. My sister and her children stopped by for a visit recently and ended up staying with another relative, "just so we could eat."

She has a plan, though. She goes to Wendy's and buys a baked potato, a chicken sandwich, and chili. From this she can make several meals. She has bought a few TV dinners, but generally frowns upon such sterile fare. She does have a nearby Jewel store and appreciates the bakery and deli. Actually, she seems to be making sort of a game out of the situation. How long can she go without cooking?

Maybe this is some sort of rebellion after having been responsible for feeding, first, her younger siblings and then her four children. And then her ailing husband.

What I do know is this: I can tolerate a mouse in the house, confident that one of the three cats who I share my space with will catch it sooner rather than later. If a rat were to enter my home, however, I think the memories would overtake me. I would leave. My mother's reaction to the mouse does seem extreme, but I do understand where she is coming from!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

miracle cure

"Did you soak it in Epsom salts?"

When I call my mother and complain of any pain, soreness, or ache, she asks me this question. This woman believes in the power of Epsom salts and claims that they can cure many an ill. She has taken them internally for gastrointestinal problems and has filled the bathtub with them so she could have a good "soak."

The source of their cure? They "draw."

She remembers her grandmother administering a dose of "salts" for constipation and other ills. Living on the rice paddies of Arkansas, my family ingested or soaked in salts as a first course of action, often preempting a visit to the doctor.

My mother has suggested the Epsom-salts cure for me more times than I can count. She doesn't know that I don't purchase them or soak in them regularly.

On Monday morning, my dogs, as usual, woke me at 5 a.m. whining to be fed. Lucy, my 8-year-old chocolate Lab, loves to eat. With Lucy in a feeding frenzy and me in a sleep stupor, we collided. Her leg bent back my little toe and I heard it snap. I doubled over in pain as I filled her bowl with chicken and rice kibble.

Then I sat down and looked at the damage. The toe was twisted, blue, and swollen. I was sure it was broken, but limped back to bed and hoped for the best. After my shower, I buddy taped the damaged digit to the next toe and actually made it through a full workday and karate class.

After class, however, the toe was red, purple, and huge. I put ice on it and kept it elevated. On Tuesday, I realized that I would have to go to the doctor, so I pulled out a foot soak that I had recently purchased to try to make my feet more presentable. As I filled a tub with water, I read the label. The soak's main ingredients are salts.

The warm water felt good and I was reading something pleasant, so I think I soaked my feet for over an hour.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, the swelling, bruising, and pain had subsided. I concluded that the toe was not broken, but only sprained. The "salt cure" had drawn out the inflammation and the bruising. If the swelling returns, I will go to the doctor, but tonight I'm hoping for the best and believing that great grandma Wheeler knew a thing or two. I'm happy my mother passed this wisdom on to me, although it has taken me many years to apply it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

open your mouth

Sometimes when we see abuse or neglect we feel powerless.

Please remember that if we don't say it is wrong then that says it is right.

Keep an open mouth!

"None of us are free if one of us is chained."
"If you don't say it's wrong, then that says it's right."
–Solomon Burke -
None of us are Free

"Everybody's gotta fight to be free"
—Tom Petty


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring on the horizon

Click on the photo to see a close up of a beautiful spring moon. Soon we will be sitting in sunshine!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

pretty sad

I feel bad.

Since my last post I have gotten a new computer (another story) and thus a new Internet browser. I actually had to Google "Coffee and a Cubicle" as I had forgotten the exact URL for my blog.

Anyway, you might ask, what, after a five-month hiatus, has inspired the Cubicle Queen to once again pick up her mouse and blog?

It is shoe wipes. Yes, shoe wipes. Sorry.

If, like me, you live in the midwest or other variable-weather region, you often arrive at your cubicle with shoes that would just not do if you were to be suddenly called upstairs. I often slop through ice-melt, slush, mud, dew, and all matter of earthly nastiness before sitting down to my computer in the morning. My shoes look, literally, like they've been dragged through the mud.

I was at Walgreen's today looking for an expectorant cough syrup (yet another story) when I passed by the shoe-care aisle. "God my shoes look nasty," I thought, so I stopped to browse the inventory.

I spied Kiwi shoe wipes. They come in a little plastic pouch with the inevitable pop-up flap that releases moist wipes. I'm standing there thinking, "these are probably just water with a dash of alcohol. I bet all the various 'wipes' scattered all through this store really have the same ingredients, whether they be for you bottom or your counter or your shoes."

But, I do have nasty shoes, so I decided to try them. I am totally surprised to tell you that they are great. They are a small cloth with a hint of oily substance mixed in with an effective cleaner. Just several strokes across my shoes and the results are, well, amazing. After trying them out, I dashed downstairs to demonstrate them to my husband. I told him he could have this packet for his desk drawer and I'd get me another.

"Just think," I told him, "you get to work and notice mud and crud all over your shoes… and all you have to do is whip out a Kiwi wipe and you are ready to start your day with confidence!"

He tossed the little packet onto the coffee table and turned back to the Super Bowl.