Looking Fired

Her boss was reading a report and peered over her cheaters at Lu with a look of surprise and apprehension. “What are you doing here!” her boss nearly shouted. Lu was confused. This wasn’t part of her script. Sputtering she replied, “I stopped in to let you know that I’ll be back to work on Monday.” Lu had begun to frown. In the past she would have started to apologize even if she didn’t know what she had done wrong but not today. The frown deepened as she noticed a box on the floor filled with familiar items including her photo of Mister and her cat pencil holder. She still had her hands in her coat pocket and there at her finger tips was her new phone. With a simple thumb print and a double tap her phone was now in recording mode. She removed her hand and the phone from her pocket. She shifted her attention to her boss. With a piercing look, Lu stared her down. Her boss was now at a loss. She had never dealt with this new angry Lu. She stood up and leaned forward bracing herself on the desk. Lu recognized the stance as the “power pose” from that online seminar on managing the manager. She consciously struck her own pose, open arms with relaxed shoulders and a slight sideways tilt of the head. She was signaling that she was not afraid, she would not be cowed. “Ms. Dupin, I regret to inform you that you have been terminated effective immediately.” Lu nodded to herself as she looked inward and considered her next move. With a steady voice she asked on what grounds she was being let go. Her boss paused. Lu thought that it was odd that she didn’t have a well-rehearsed reply. Her boss started and stopped in the way a child does when conjuring a lie. She was being let go for too many absences, for failing to call in, for missing the project due date on a critical contract. The boss’ voice trailed off. Lu stared hard at her boss before she spoke. “I called you Monday morning to call off. That was my first missed day of work since starting this job.” Lu paused but maintained eye contact. “I worked Tuesday and called you that night to explain my situation. I distinctly remember you telling me to take the rest of the week off. You assured me that others would handle my work load.” The boss was starting to look uncomfortable. Lu continued, “I have accrued over 5 weeks of vacation time. Counting today, I have taken 4 days in the last 6 years.” Lu paused again, just like the prosecutor on Law & Order, “How does one sick day and 3 vacation days translate to too many absences?” Without allowing a rely she continued, “How many other people in this company are required to call in everyday during a vacation to remind you that they are not coming in? And how is it that you are firing me over work you assured me would be handled by others in the office?” Lu waited for a response. There wasn’t one immediately.

She blinked the way Mister did when he was being patient and condescending at the same time. She continued to look at her boss in a way that demanded an answer. Her boss lost the staring contest, probably because she wasn’t a cat owner but remained mute. Lu was angry. That fire that had been burning in her stomach flared. She took a deep breath before asking, “Can you get someone to carry my things to my car? I’ve got a very sore back and my hands hurt.” The boss asked her to have a seat and she’d call security to have them escort her out and transport her stuff. The boss maintained an uneasy silence. While Lu waited she looked at the photo of Mister sitting atop her things. It was a picture she had taken last year on a sunny day. Mister had found a sunbeam and positioned himself sphinx-like, eyes half closed. She had taken the photo, in fact several of them while Mister had posed unflinching as she tried to get the best angle. Her reverie was interrupted with a knock on the glass door. It was Angelo who arrived to carry her things. When he realized what was happening the happy fled from his eyes. He simply took the box and headed down to the lobby. Lu stood and looked at her former boss. She was half expecting some words of luck or encouragement but none came. She headed to the door but was brought up short when the boss asked, “By the way, how’s your cat doing?” Lu spun like a tiger that had its tail yanked hard. “He’s dead! I can’t carry the box because I have blisters on my hands from digging a grave in the frozen ground,…” She spat the words. There was a pause at the end of her sentence. Calling people names was something she did in private, in her car or in her head. Today she reconsidered. “…bitch!” She stormed out. There was only silence as she swept past her former coworkers. As she reached the elevator she could hear the slowly rising hum of the comments. She was feeling powerful and now she had more work to do.

Lu is starting to get mad. Yes, she is probably going to exact some sort of revenge but as you well know, revenge is a dish best served cold…

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Looking at Fears

From a very young age I have been afraid of spiders. Perhaps afraid is not the right word. I’m terrified in a cartoonish crawl out of my skin and run screaming into the next century way. My first memories of spiders were of the neighbor boy pulling the legs off a daddy long-legs. I was angry that he was hurting it. I vaguely remember picking it up (minus a leg or two) and relocating it away from where he was sitting. The next memory was when I was in kindergarten. I woke up one morning and slowly opened my eyes. There on my pillow, a fraction of an inch from my eyes was a spider. I could see all of its eyes and very clearly its mouth parts moving. I leapt up and screamed. From that point on I wanted nothing to do with the 8-leggers. My mother tells a story from when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was in bed when I spotted a spider on the wall next to me. I bellowed for my father. He came in and wanted to know what was wrong. I pointed to the wall and shouted “spider”! He looked, finally noticing the tiny black dot, and pointing said to me “This?” I affirmed that that was it. He then smashed it on the wall with his index finger. It was no bigger than a period from a newspaper. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a slightly greater tolerance for them. As long as they stay out of my way and don’t enter the bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen they can live. If they come into my space they must die.

Which brings me to my latest encounter. I went geocaching in the woods with saintvi. For some unholy reason this particular woods was home for every species of spider known in lower southwest Michigan. No sooner had we started than we began encountering fiendishly positioned webs. They were strung between trees at face level. There were some that were spun with metal cable that could easily withstand a human walking into it. I envisioned a giant mutant spider able to devour an adult. I won’t lie, I made a high pitched scream. Yes it was a true “girly” scream. Then there were the hellish webs that were strung canopy-like over head with large active 8-leggers scampering to and fro. As we trudged to one cache, I admit to whimpering. There were webs everywhere! I am not prone to panic. However at one point I had my hand over my mouth to stifle my shrieks as I saw a score of little spiders riding silk threads on the slight breeze. I didn’t kill any of them as I was on their turf. Nevertheless I was very happy to exit that particular area.

To top it off Sparky decided we needed to watch the movie “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as if I hadn’t had enough arachnid exposure for awhile!! At least Spider-Man only has 2 arms and 2 legs!! (and I did enjoy the film but I know that it was just a refresher as a prelude to the newest installment “Spider-Man: Far from Home”)

Looking Bruised

I have been feeling the pressure to get a new bicycle. My current model is from 1969. I got it for my birthday. It has been well cared for and still works (mostly). It was only a 3 speed but time has reduced the speeds to one. Sparky has been urging me to upgrade. One of my friends has also been pushing for me to get a new ride. I even tried out her 3 bikes to see if I liked any of those models. Sparky bought a refurbished bike this summer and has been riding it across town to Planet Fitness, doing his exercises, and then riding it home. All in all he is gone for about 4 hours. Except for last Sunday. It went down like this:
On his way to Planet Fitness (~3 miles from home) he was bitten on the left wrist by some ferocious bug. It took a chunk of skin and made him bleed. It also hurt as in searing pain. In the space of 15 seconds he thought “I need to stop to get a good look at this bug bite.”, he forgot to apply the back hand brake before the front one, flipped the bike forward, went sailing over the handlebars, skidded to a stop by using his left palm as a brake (also used his left knee and his chin). After picking up his bike (with a busted gear shift cover) and assessing the damages decided to continue to Planet Fitness. After a few feet he changed his mind and headed home. I was awake, barely, when he came into the bedroom. His tone had me up and groping for my glasses. He wanted me to assess his injury. I looked at the bug bite. Ouch. I looked at the odd angle of his middle finger and red and swollen middle knuckle. I moved his fingers, felt the joints and then the bones of the fingers. They seemed fine. The metacarpal bones in the back of his hand however were very painful. We got changed and headed to MedPoint Urgent Care with the hope that we could be seen and still make it to church. We were delusional. After a medium long wait in the patient intake area, a semi-long wait in the exam room, x-rays of the hand, and examination by the doctor, we were ready to leave. The good news is his hand is not broken. It is sprained and bruised requiring ibuprofen and RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). He was told to take antihistamines for the bug bite. The bad news is that we missed church. His hand is better but still a little sore. He has been doing exercises to maintain mobility since he’s had it wrapped to help with the swelling and to hold the ice pack in place.

The result is that I’m not so sure I want a new bike. I don’t relish the thought of a broken anything. I’d be willing to ride my bike around the neighborhood but the whole riding in traffic scares me. I can just see me falling off my bike and being run over by a car…

Looking Assertive

It was a quick drive to the offices of Polder and Swale. She marched to the reception desk and demanded to speak with Mr. Swale. The fake smile fled from the receptionist’s face. Lu’s tone of voice commanded action and the lawyer appeared much more quickly than on her previous visit. She transferred the papers to his hands and asked for a receipt acknowledging he had taken possession. He looked at Lu. He was puzzled because this woman was not the meek and withdrawn person that he remembered. Lu was done being a door mat. With a curt nod she turned and headed for the door. On impulse she tossed a comment over her shoulder, “You will keep me informed. Feel free to call and leave a message.” Once in her car a little of the bravado slipped. Looking at her hands she could detect a slight tremor born of repressed panic. She was going to fake it until she made it. Everything had gone smoothly. People had snapped to attention. She was catered to. She had to admit that it felt good to be in charge. Although she was feeling a wave of bravado it started ebbing as she considered her next move.

Checking the time, she estimated that she had at least an hour before her boss would leave for the day. A turn of the key and her car nearly drove itself to her place of employment. The lot was almost full. She had never failed to get a spot in the first row but now found herself parked in the far corner with the prospect of a long cold walk to the building. Looking for her gloves brought the realization that she’d left them in the phone store. On any other day, she would have taken that as a sign that she needed to abort her mission. Today it pushed her forward. Her pass key in her hand and hands jammed into coat pockets, she headed inside. The security guard was at his post and she nodded and swiped her card but the door didn’t click open. She tried again. Lu felt the familiar tingle of panic and a tightening of her throat as the guard approached. “Good morning Ms. Dupin. Is there a problem?” Normally she would have turned and run, instead she managed a hoarse affirmative and an explanation that her card wasn’t working. She noticed for the first time that his badge had his name on it, Angelo. She looked at his face. He was smiling and had happy wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. She blushed. He reached past her and with his card let her in. He even held the door for her. She was flustered and she felt her face getting warmer. She dropped her gaze as she muttered a soft “Thank-you.” The elevator was already at the lobby just waiting for a passenger. With relief she entered. She hated to ride with other people. So much so that she would take the stairs all the way to the 6th floor. Today was her lucky day she told herself. The soft chime indicated her floor and the doors opened to a familiar sight of file cabinets and cubicles. She turned left and headed to the frosted glass that was the location of her boss’ office. As she rounded the partition the normal murmur and hum of the office went silent. It was as if the sound tract had been placed on mute. Lu paused briefly and considered if her stress had finally caught up to her. Looking into the cubicle city she saw what looked like a hundred eyes staring at her. She shifted her attention to the office door. The frosted glass couldn’t hide the fact that he boss was at her desk. She knocked and entered without waiting for the invitation.

Lu is turning the corner. I think she has discovered her spine and maybe a little seldom used courage…It is amazing how a smidgen of self confidence can make a person that much more attractive!

Looking Exercised

Last week I took a tour of the university fitness center. It has been open less than a year and with all the other things going on I never went during the open house. I met a former coworker and she showed me around. It isn’t as open as the old fitness center (which was renovated for the women’s basket ball practice facility). The old track was bigger (6 laps = 1 mile) and had windows looking over campus on 3 sides. This track isn’t oval it is winding and narrow with the feel that you are walking through hallways. There are maybe 3 small windows and the rest of the time it is just walls with bright lights. There are however so many machines of all types. Some of the machines are very complicated. It is a little intimidating but there are people manning the desk who are able to assist me. I guess the news is that I’m going to exercise 3 times a week. This is my first week. I’m going to just do the walking track to start. Walking is a low impact exercise. I used to walk and it afforded me time to clear my head and concentrate on a single topic – almost a meditation. I’m sorting my poems into categories in hopes to assemble a booklet. I really need to give it some deep thought on the direction I want to go. The by-products of this exercise regime should be better cardio fitness, clarity of thought, and even some toning of muscles. If all goes well I should feel fabulous and have accomplished a book ready for publication.

Looking at the Recipe Box

I am my mother. I never thought in a million years that I’d come to that conclusion but here we are. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been sorting through my recipe boxes. Yes, I have two stuffed to the bursting point boxes of recipes. Some of the recipes date back to B.C. (before children) or even pre-B.C. (before Betty Crocker)! It has been my mission to wade through the contents and toss any that are horrible. Now I have to confess that a good portion of these were part of a 9th grade Home Economics project that involved collecting recipes and putting them into a card box. I was not selective. It was one of those boring and in my 9th grade mind pointless activities. I did exactly what was required to receive an A. Thus I have in this file a couple of recipes that I will never in 10,000 years ever make or eat if someone else makes. The funny thing is that my mother gave me a fist full of newspaper clippings and recipes that she had collected and never used for this… so we have 2 generations of dishes that no one wants to eat.

Curried carrots
Pickled tongue
Creamed turnips
I’ve come undone
Barbecue hotdogs
Celery jello
Asparagus flan
I’ll just say no!
Green olive soup
Fennel bread
Vinegar pie
I’m better off dead

I hope you enjoyed the list poem (with a touch of rhyme), I’ve tossed the above recipes. The asparagus flan was a weird and disgusting recipe. Just imagine for a moment making a fruit flan but substituting asparagus in place of apricots. Yeah, there is no point in keeping that one! I did however keep the recipe for “Cherry Fluff” that my Grandma Tena gave me. She went through a phase in the late 1970s when she made and served this dessert at every get together. I’m not sure why but it was a favorite, however I usually make it with black cherry jello.

Pink Fluff
Ingredients:
1 large package of cherry jello
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can fruit cocktail drained well
16 oz. cool whip
1 c. chopped pecans

Mix together pie filling, jello, and fruit cocktail. Fold in cool whip until it is a uniform pink. Refrigerate. Sprinkle nuts on top and serve well chilled.

Looking Victorious

She gently carried the box into the backyard. Kneeling in the packed and dirty snow, she opened the box. Startled she stared at the contents. Instead of the white towel there was a black plastic trash bag neatly knotted. She felt hot as she threw off her gloves and ripped the plastic open. There he was, curled up in a tiny ball. He seemed even smaller than when she last saw him. She lifted his stiff form out of the remnants of the bag and placed him into the ground. For a moment she considered saying a prayer but reconsidered. Instead she sat in the snow and talked to Mister as if he could hear her. “Oh Mister, what am I going to do now? You were the one that was brave and you always knew what to do.” Her nose began to run and she sniffed. “I told myself that this wouldn’t have happened if I’d grabbed the knife and helped you, if I’d have defended you!” A sob tore through her chest. “Mister why….?” With her ragged gasps, she scooped the dirt back into the hole using her bare hands. When she was finished she took the shovel and went inside. She didn’t even wash her hands before collapsing on the sofa and falling asleep.

She slept without dreams until the next day. Her anger smoldered as she showered. There was a fire in her stomach. All morning she worked on a plan. It wasn’t until the afternoon that she went looking for her phone, only to find that it wasn’t just a cracked screen but she had destroyed it completely. She glared at the phone before dropping it in her purse. The copy of Aurora’s death certificate was nestled in a folder with all the paperwork the lawyer had requested. With the folder on the seat and the phone in her purse, Lu headed to the mall. Normally she would have avoided the mall at all costs but today was different. She needed a phone. In the past it would have taken her nearly 30 minutes to make her way from the car to the mall entrance. Today she parked and sprang from the car. She strode business-like through the doors and into the phone store. She surveyed the employees and selected a young man who looked knowledgeable. She walked right up to him and when he asked how he could help, she pulled out the damaged phone. He looked at it with admiration and commented, “Wow, this is an antique! I’m amazed you still have it! Are you looking to upgrade today?” She repressed a snarky reply and simply indicated that she needed a new one. There were several brands and lots of new features to consider but it didn’t take much time. Transferring the information from the old to the new phone took just slightly longer than the paperwork. With the new phone in her pocket she exited, not as if she were pursued by demons, not as a defeated soul but with a victorious bearing.

We are on our way home after an eventful but relatively short trip to Pennsylvania. I should be home by this evening. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on comments and commenting…

Looking in the Oven

As a continuation of the “new recipe debacle” I wanted to post about the dish I took to a Sunday get together at Sparky’s sister’s house. First off this recipe was in Food & Wine, yet another magazine that has been showing up in my mailbox. I don’t remember subscribing to it. We are not wine connoisseurs and of course most of the recipes are way out there. (There was one for a Roasted Curry Tomato Pie that had 2 pages of instructions!) But I found one for a Blueberry Cheese French Toast Casserole that looked easy and above all didn’t have any weird ingredients. I whipped it up in no time and it was a hit! In fact I didn’t bring any of it home. I forgot to take a photo. However when putting it together there were a few pieces of the french bread that didn’t fit into my giant lasagna pan and I made a smaller version that I saved for us… And I took a picture of it!!

The recipe (with a few tweaks)
Ingredients
2 loaves French bread
8 eggs
2 c. milk
1 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
8 oz. softened cream cheese
16 oz. ricotta cheese
2 c. powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1 pt. blueberries

Grease a large 13×9 lazagna pan. Make 1″ cuts in the bread so that the slices are not all the way through the bottom crust. Place into greased pan. Mix the cheeses, powdered sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Fold in the berries. Spoon this mixture between the slices of bread. Beat the eggs until frothy. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and milk and mix well. Pour over the bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. To cook, bake in an oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and sprinkle the top with a little extra sugar and cinnamon, cover and bake an additional 5 minutes. Can be served hot or cold. For extra elegance (because this is from a fancy magazine) serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (noting that there are recipes to make your own whipped cream and ice cream – or you can just buy some at the grocery because “ain’t nobody got time for that!”)

As was discussed at the gathering, it would be good with raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, marionberries, and as opined by one beautiful soul, “I bet it would be good with pumpkin mixed in for Thanksgiving!” So there you have it. A successfully executed dessert from a magazine!

Looking at the Map

Unfold the map
Parse the confusion
Route recap
Colored line profusion
Crease rip gap
Wrong conclusion
No time to nap
Roadway occlusion
Detour trap
Shortcut exclusion
Toll road – crap!

The above poem is the way the best made plans can sometimes work out. Not that I’m anticipating a disaster but we are in the season of road construction. There is only one thing Sparky likes less than not getting an early start – having his agenda go up in smoke. Detours and traffic delays can be stressful for him but that is life. I’m a pretty good travel companion so I’ll offer to drive if he gets too stressed. We are on our way to Pennsylvania. By we I mean Sparky, myself and saintvi. Saintvi will be visiting Seedsower. We will drop her off in Oley (well, not exactly IN Oley) today before Sparky and I head to the big wedding on Saturday. After the wedding we will make the trek to my sister’s house to visit with my mother. We’ll do a little shopping and have some fun before heading back to pick up saintvi. We are planners. Sparky has an agenda and a schedule. And a map. Yes, a map. He has indicated the route we will drive there and back and the time it will take to get to each stop (the route out will be 14 hours according to his plan). The trip back has been mapped according to geocaches we need to get (and will take 2 days). Sparky has decided that we are leaving VERY early today. That means that we will be half way across Ohio by the time this posts. Yes early means up by 4:30 AM and out the door by 5:30 AM sharp!! In terms of the passengers, we will be snoozing as he drives into the rising sun. The schedule has a stop for a quick breakfast and potty break around 9:00 AM. Lunch is scheduled for 12:30 PM. That isn’t to say there won’t be other breaks. Sparky is very willing to guzzle coffee, sodas, and any other caffeinated beverages while he drives which translates to many impromptu side trips to view the various restroom accommodations available in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The idea is that we should arrive at our final destination and hotel by dinner time. Sparky will either collapse or be unable to sleep due to too much coffee. Either way the wedding festivities won’t begin until 5:00 PM on Saturday so we can sleep in. And by sleep in I mean according to the agenda that would be 7:00 AM…

Looking for the Shovel

Her usual habit was to ignore the phone and then check the messages later. For some inexplicable reason Lu answered, “Hello?” The anonymous voice inquired, “May I speak to Aurora Dupin, please?” It was less a question and more a request that the caller assumed would be granted. “No!” screamed Lu. The fury of her reaction startled her. She realized that she was standing and shaking and her hands were balled into tight fists. Her phone was on the other side of the room and she could see the screen was cracked. She had never done anything like that before. Sitting down hard, she pondered her next move. Staring at the phone she dared it to ring again. Standing up she marched to the kitchen. She reasoned that she would need a good meal to fuel her while accomplishing the next tasks. She made an omelet and took out her rage on the eggs whipping them until they frothed. Even the toast was not safe as she savagely buttered each slice. With a ferocity normally seen only on the savanna in Africa, Lu tore into her food. Uncharacteristically she left the dirty dishes on the table as she headed to the garage. It took her awhile to locate the shovel. She hadn’t used it since moving in when she planted the privacy fence made of climbing roses and raspberry bushes. Next to the house, just under the trellis, she started digging. Even with the outside light on it was hard to see. The ground was frozen but she persisted, working up a sweat. She labored until she had managed a hole nearly 3 feet deep but not very large. Leaning the shovel against the house she stomped back to retrieve Mister from the garage.

I have to apologize to everyone for Mister’s demise. I promised my mother several stories ago that I wouldn’t “kill off” any of the main characters as I was planning mayhem. No one died that time. This time was different…