Our Christmas Cat

Five days ago, we went from a two-cat (Nala, the 8- year old boss female, and Pookie, the 5-year old male) family to a three-cat family. My husband (the Crankee Yankee) was visiting a friend in MA, and called me from his cell phone. His voice sounded a little strange as he told me that he had ‘gotten himself in a situation.’

In the time it took his words to penetrate my decidedly foggy brain, I thought, ‘situation?’ What kind of situation? Did the car break down? Did he get robbed? Did he have an accident? Were terrorists holding him for ransom? What?!?

He said, “there’s a cat.”

In the next breath, he explained that this black and white cat came up to him, was extremely friendly, loved being held, and in fact was at that moment sitting comfortably on his shoulders in the car. The cat had an injury to its neck, it was thin and obviously hungry–and the weather that night was due to fall below zero.

I said, “Bring him home and pick me up–I’m calling the vet right now.”

Our wonderful vet, a man who adores all animals, especially cats (and he can’t resist kissing them on their heads), told me that he would be waiting. When my husband arrived, I got into the car, and the cat happily jumped into my lap. He purred all the way to the vet’s office.

Our vet checked him all over, and said that, for a street cat, he was actually in pretty good shape–no ear mites, no fleas, no fever, had been neutered, and even his teeth were in decent shape. He estimated that the cat was about 5 years old. He gave him a rabies shot, tested him for disease, shaved the injured spots on his neck and applied ointment, squirted an antibiotic down his throat, clipped his nails and said, “I believe this cat chose YOU.” No kidding.

By that time, the Crankee Yankee and I were both in love with him (the cat; we already love the vet), and named him Pepper. We took him home and set him up downstairs with Nala’s carrier, fitted out with a thick, clean blanket and a couple of catnip toys. We gave him a dish of wet food, a bowl of kibble, a bowl of water, and his own litterpan, and Pepper knew just what to do.

We have been slowly integrating him with Nala and Pookie–‘supervised visits’ for now. He and Pookie had a brief screaming match over territory, but Nala just gave him the ‘don’t mess with me, sonny’ look. As the days have been going by, they are gradually getting used to each other, and we are getting used to having three cats.

Pepper adores the carrier, and treats it as his own personal Airstream (he is getting his own carrier soon–even thin he is a big boy). When he tires of roaming the upstairs with us, he either sits on the padded shelf the Crankee Yankee built for him this morning on the basement stairs, or he naps in the carrier with ‘his’ radio on around the corner. I’ll tell you, this cat is one happy boy now.

He is very love-y, too, and adores being cuddled. Nala and Pookie like cuddling to a point; after that, they have better things to do and take off. But Pepper is a natural-born lover. He likes traveling from lap to lap, and then likes to drape his 14-lb. body over our shoulders (actually pretty comfortable and cheaper than a massage!).

The Crankee Yankee and I consider Pepper our Christmas present this year. We are both suckers for animals, and we have a regular crew of neighborhood cats (most of whom belong to neighbors), racoons, skunks, chipmunks, squirrel and birds who enjoy the food we put out. We have three bird/squirrel feeders, and have an area under our porch with an automatic feeder AND a ‘bed’ (an insulated box with the Crankee Yankee’s old thermal vest and two thick fleeces in it)–‘just in case.’

I never in my life thought I would have two cats at the same time, nevermind three, but somehow it’s all working out. The Crankee Yankee tells me I tend to over-think these things, and he’s right. Cats have their own management style, and we are all taking it a day at a time–but we love it.

Merry Christmas to us all!

Have Yourself a Stressless Little Christmas

Yes, you heard me–I said ‘a stressless Christmas.’ How is this possible??

First, start by admitting to yourself that during December:

A) There will be crowds of people in all the places you want to go

B) There will be tons of traffic

C) There will be shortages of stuff you wanted

D) There will be screaming, crying, arguing, fighting, pushing and shoving everywhere

E) There will definitely be many contenders for Santa’s Naughty List

F) There will be deafening noise

G) There will be rude gestures in parking lots

H) There will be little or no parking spaces in parking lots

I)   Restaurants will be busy–really, really busy

J) There will be a huge cloud of crankiness, crabbiness and craziness everywhere

So, knowing all that, how can you possibly prevent Christmas stress? Besides the obvious (i.e., get everything done by Halloween), there’s this, too–decide that you absolutely, positively, and most definitely will NOT let this get to you. If possible, avoid the crowds. Stop watching ‘angry crowd’ videos. Take ten deep breaths. Drink plenty of water. Put on restful music. Have a nice glass of wine. Order take-out. Cuddle your significant other, kids and animals. Call your parents and grandparents. Forgive slights–they don’t matter in the long run. Tell yourself each morning: “Today is going to go GREAT!” Repeat at least 20 times out loud, and do it enthusiastically.

Remember what it was like to be a kid. Make a snowman. Throw yourself down in fresh snow (watching out first for dog poop) and make a snow angel. Make yourself some real cocoa and put in plenty of marshmallows. Watch funny cat videos on your computer. Find something to laugh at each day–here’s a great one: Google up Porky Pig singing Elvis’s “Blue Christmas.” Honestly, each time I hear it there isn’t a dry eye (or seat) in my house.

If you don’t buy, wrap and send all the gifts and cards you meant to, forgive yourself. Tell people that they will enjoy your gift even more after the holiday when people tend to get bummed out that Christmas is over. In fact, remember that some of the best deals are available after Christmas.

Remind yourself of the reason for the season. Count your blessings–seriously. Be grateful. Put a buck or a coin in every Salvation Army bucket you see. Smile. Laugh. Let yourself weep with joy. Remember Christmases past with joy, enjoy the present one thoroughly and look forward to the next one. Live in the moment–this one, perfect moment. Remember with love absent family and friends, celebrate with current family and friends, and look forward with joy to new ones. If you find yourself alone during the holiday, celebrate anyway–do it for YOU because you deserve it.

As a good friend of mine always says, “Live, love and laugh!” A great recipe for a stressless Christmas.

When Did I Become a “Hon?”

Although I’m not a sweet young thing any more, I am certainly not a doddering old dear. About three birthdays ago, I began to notice wait staff, toll booth attendants, and so forth started calling me “hon” or even “sweetheart.”

Now when I lived in  the south, I kind of enjoyed how everyone universally called everyone else “darlin'” or “sweet thang” or “sug [short for ‘sugar,]” or even “puddin’.” Somehow being in the south, it seemed natural and kind of sweet. Certainly not offensive once I got used to it.

Now my husband (the Crankee Yankee) always calls me “love,” which I adore. I expect such endearments from him or my mom or dad. But from total strangers? When the heck did that happen? What’s next, will they start talking to someone sitting next me instead of me, as if I 1) can’t hear or 2) it’s not worth it to speak to me directly? Oh, the humanity!!

Last weekend I went out with my two oldest friends for our monthly “Ladies Who Lunch” get-together. We went to a nice restaurant and were waited on by a perfectly lovely young man who was not only cute, but personable. He was attentive but not intrusive, friendly but not fresh, accommodating but not smarmy. Not only that, but he called us all “Miss.” Sheer genius on his part, but I suspect he was not only raised right, but was naturally kind.

We gave him a goodly tip and thanked him for being a genuinely nice person – and for calling us all “Miss.” As they say in the south, Ah do believe to mah soul that we women of a certain age made that sweet young boy blush.

Some may call us “hon” but believe me, we still have it goin’ on!

Friday the 13th? BAH!

Do you have triscadecaphobia? This word is defined as “an abnormal fear of the number 13.”

Friday the 13th is like any other Friday – carefree, the end of the work week, bagels and doughnuts at work, going out to dinner, seeing a movie, doing some shopping, etc. – and having the whole weekend to enjoy.

Friday the 13th is only a superstition, plus a set of really bad movies (sorry, Freddie).  How about we start calling Friday the 13th the luckiest day? Let’s all test it out: if you never buy a lottery ticket, get one today. Do something you ordinarily wouldn’t do (within reason and the law!). Let’s nudge ourselves out of our comfort zone on Friday the 13th. How about we make a pact with ourselves that on every Friday the 13th we will seek out something fun to do?

Here are some ideas to celebrate this new luckiest day:

  • Buy and wear bright red lipstick (men, if you can carry it off, go for it!)
  • Go outside wearing that cute winter hat with the knitted kitty ears you bought on a whim
  • Treat yourself to lunch
  • Take a friend to the movies
  • Go for a walk and count all the good things in your life
  • Buy a decadent pastry and eat it yourself
  • Make a date with your sweetheart
  • Pay the toll for the person behind you
  • Hold the door for someone
  • Send a real letter to someone
  • Buy yourself flowers
  • Dance
  • Sing

..and so on. We can make it up as we go along. Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!

Common Sense Working

We often become so focused at work that we forget that we don’t work in a vacuum. Here are some tips I’ve mostly learned the hard way; I hope they help you avoid some missteps.

Assume nothing: when you’re given a job by your boss; for example, copying some files, and you notice that several of them are duplicates, don’t assume he/she only wants ONE copy of them. You may not have the whole picture—they may want all the copies for several people. Do what you are asked to do. If you have a question, ask –don’t assume.

Keep it professional: Remain cheerful and professional. Do your best not to take others’ attitudes to heart—you don’t know what might be going on in their lives. (Yes, I realize this is unfair, but that’s life for you.)

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot: Don’t say anything about anyone you wouldn’t want to tell them to their face. YOU WOULD BE AMAZED AT HOW INFORMATION, GOOD AND BAD, FINDS ITS WAY HOME!

Find out how your boss likes his/her information: Always find out as soon as you can whether your boss is a visual type who likes to have a paper trail of everything, get emailed on everything, etc., or one who likes to be told everything. This will save you and your boss a lot of wasted time, not to mention frustration.

Don’t waste people’s time: When you have to interrupt someone at work, make your request short, friendly, and professional. Don’t dawdle and admire their kid’s artwork or tell them you have a headache that just won’t go away. Get what you came for and GO.

Act as if: Conduct yourself at work as if those in charge are watching you on a monitor. (Perhaps they are!)

No such thing as a petty theft: There is NEVER a reason to take home office supplies for personal use–never. People have been fired for much less.

Let gossip die with you: Do not to carry tales about others. This is not only a waste of time, but it often sets false expectations in the minds of those who hear such and prejudices them against the person in question. Don’t let yourself be labeled as a gossip. Just like the playground all over again—it’s not cool to rat on someone!

Always check your work: No one is ever that good that they never make mistakes. Do not assume the copier made the copies perfectly—check them one by one yourself. Do not assume that you put the correct information in the right envelope—check it again. Double-check your work, and when in doubt, check it again. Little things left undone out of carelessness makes YOU look bad.

Who’s watching the watcher: Your boss may have taken the day off, but you won’t know if he/she assigned someone to watch your comings and goings. Don’t try to get away with something you wouldn’t do if your boss was there.

Nothing personal: This should be obvious—business phone calls and visits, unless otherwise indicated, are considered company time. Personal calls, visits, and errands and should be considered personal time. Don’t make personal calls from the office, or anything else that isn’t strictly business.

Put yourself in the caller’s shoes: Remember that as familiar as you are with your business, the person on the other end of the phone is not. They don’t know your products as well as you do, they aren’t familiar with the terminology, and they simply may not know what they want. Try to put yourself in their shoes—how do you feel when you call a company for the first time and get a snippy, impatient reception? It’s just as if you walked into a new fast-food restaurant: you are not familiar with their foods, their prices, their sizes, etc.–you’d want a little understanding.

Diffuse the anger: When someone complains, try to put yourself in their shoes. Your knee-jerk reaction might be, ‘well, it’s not MY fault!’, which is exactly NOT what the other person wants to hear. They want: 1) to be heard, 2) to hear some acknowledgement that they are heard, and most important, whether you can fix the problem or not, 3) they want to hear SOMEONE say, ‘I’m sorry you had a hard time.’ You’d be amazed at how this diffuses anger!

Diffuse the anger #2: if someone is on the phone or in your face yelling, complaining, and blaming you personally for something that went wrong, remember that it really isn’t you with whom they are angry. Each time you hear “you,” replace it immediately in your head with <name of your company>. This will save your sanity.

Cube mentality: When you work in cubicles, be aware that people can hear you at all times. Think of this before you say or do anything that may bother anyone. Try not to put your phone on speaker; this is disturbing to others. Try not to blare your radio or CD player; this is disturbing to others. Try to keep your conversations low; loud talking and laughing is disturbing to others. Get the idea?

Smells, like voices, carry: If you eat lunch at your desk, remember to properly dispose of your leftovers. Other people do not want to have to smell them all afternoon.

Cut back on the perfume: Remember that colognes, sprays, or perfumes can be overpowering to others. People around you may have allergies that can be triggered by strong scents. Please be considerate and keep it light or don’t use it at all.

By now you must be saying to yourself, ‘But what about MY rights?’ Well, here’s the thing—when you are in close proximity with others, then everyone needs to both practice and enjoy consideration. Much of this is what I used to call Common Sense, but I have since learned to my chagrin that common sense is anything but common.

Let me share with you my favorite saying: “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

How To Make Your Own Laundry Soap

I found this ‘recipe’ online by Crystal Miller. The Crankee Yankee and I have been washing our clothes with it for a few years, and it works beautifully. Not only does it get clothes and towels clean, but everything out of the dryer smells wonderful, and towels and blankets come out soft and fluffy.

Don’t worry if the soap isn’t very sudsy. The whole point of laundry soap is to clean, and this recipe does it beautifully. Best of all, it’s cheap and easy to make; a load of wash costs out at about a penny per load.

Have fun! Here’s the recipe, and some FAQs as well:

“Making your own laundry soap is very easy!  No longer do you need to rely on store bought detergents.  With a few ingredients on hand you will be able to make batch after batch of laundry soap.  The cost savings by doing this is incredible!

What Ingredients Do You Need?

You will need 3 basic ingredients; a soap of some sort, washing soda and borax.

The Soap:  The most typical type of soap to use is Fels Naptha.  It is an old-fashioned type of soap usually found in the laundry aisle.  The other options for soap are Ivory or another brand called, Zote.  Any of these will work.  If you use Ivory or your own homemade soap you will need to use the whole bar.

Washing Soda: This is not to be confused with baking soda.  Washing soda is sodium carbonate or soda ash (baking soda is sodium bicarbonate).  It is a white powder.  Its purpose is to help remove dirt and orders.   The brand to look for is Arm & Hammer Washing Soda.  I find it in the laundry section of my grocery store.   Many people have a hard time finding this locally.  I know you can purchase it online, even through Amazon.com.  I would also suggest asking your grocery store manager if it would be possible for the store to get it for you.

Borax: Borax is a naturally occurring mineral: Sodium Borate.  It is a white powder.  Its purpose is as a laundry whitener and deodorizer. The brand to look for is 20 Mule Team.  It comes in a 76 oz. box.  You should be able to locate this in the laundry detergent aisle.  Again as with the washing soda, if you cannot find it ask you store manager or look online.

 THE RECIPE

  • 1/3 bar Fels Naptha or other type of soap, as listed above
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • ½ cup borax powder
  • Small bucket, about 2 gallon size~

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan.  Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts.  Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket.   Now add your soap mixture and stir.  Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir.  Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel.  You use ½ cup per load.

NOTE: The finished soap will not be a solid gel.  It will be more of a watery gel that has been accurately described as an “egg noodle soup” look. Also,  the soap is a low sudsing soap.  So if you don’t see suds, that is ok.  Suds are not what does the cleaning, it is the ingredients in the soap.

Optional: If you want your soap to have some sort of scent you can scent this with ½ to 1 oz. of essential oil or fragrance oil of your choice.  My favorite scent is orange essential oil.

But is it Really Less Expensive?

Is the laundry detergent a cost saver?  How do the numbers on this add up?  Well I am a person who likes to know what I am spending and if my efforts save me in one way or another.  This is one of the areas that I wanted to know if I was actually saving money.  We do a lot of laundry and I make double batches of this soap and knowing that the time spent doing this was a savings for my family was important to me.

Here are my calculations:

The cost of making the above recipe of laundry soap was .71 cents.  That was amazing to me!  With this 2 gallon size recipe you will have enough to do 64 loads of laundry.  That translates to about .01 cent a load.

Breakdown of Laundry Soap Cost

Here is the breakdown of my costs and how I came up with those numbers (I am using the prices I paid for these items and you may find your price varies some based on what you pay):

Fels Naptha: $1.12  for a 5.5 oz. bar.  The recipe says to use a 1/3 of a bar.  I calculated 2 oz. just to make the math a little easier.  The cost of the Fels Naptha per batch is: .40 cents

Washing Soda: $2.23 for a 55 oz. box.  This came to .17 cents per batch.  I calculated how much per oz. (2.23 divided by 55) and then weighed a half cup of washing soda (4.2oz.) and multiplied my per oz. price by 4.2

Borax: $3.27 for a 76 oz. box.  This came to .14 cents per batch.  Did the same calculations as above, however a 1/2 cup of borax weighs 3.5 oz.

For the final numbers I have .40 + .17 + .14 = .71 for 2 gallons of laundry detergent.  Two gallons translates to 64- 1/2 cup portions and .71 divided by 64 = .01109, etc… or about .01 cent a load!

FAQs

  1. Can you use this laundry soap in a high efficiency (HE) washing machine?
    Yes.
  2. Is the laundry soap supposed to be clear and smooth like manufactured laundry soap?
    No–It will be a liquid gel.or a liquid with bits of gel in it, sort of like an Egg Noodle Soup consistency. If it is more or less gelled it still works. If it does not gel at all, next time add more soap.
  3. Will the laundry soap clean badly soiled or smelly clothes well?
    It depends–the soap works fine for every day dirt and grime. But if you have extra dirty clothes then you may add a scoop of Oxyclean to the load.

 

“The Sad Solo Diner???”

I was just watching a news show on TV this evening, and the host happened to mention that there is a list compiled from someone who obviously has nothing better to do than canvas diners about what their pet “dining out” peeves are. Number One on this particular list: “The Sad Solo Diner.”

Really?? Number One? Does this mean that each time I take myself out to lunch or dinner along with a favorite book that some of the other diners are sorry for me? Do they think that all people eating alone are sad losers who have no family or friends? Kind of an assumption, don’t you think?

This reminds me of a story about a stay-at-home mom who was juggling four active kids and a husband. Without warning or notice, she took herself out to dinner alone. She was gone for about an hour and a half. In that time, her family dissolved into mayhem, outrage, and general disarray.

When she got home, her kids and husband surrounded her, all yelping ‘where were you?’ ‘When’s dinner?’ ‘Where did you go?’ ‘Why were you gone so long’, and so forth. She addressed them all, saying:

“I went out for dinner by myself. I enjoyed a lovely meal of liver and grilled onions, a baked potato stuffed with sour cream, bacon and cheese, a side of roasted asparagus and a hot fudge sundae for dessert. Nobody bothered me, no one tipped their milk over, no one yelled or screamed or threw food, no one demanded I get up and get them seconds of this or that, no one complained, no one looked at my liver and onions and said, ‘ewwwwwwwww–I’m not eating THAT!’ It was the nicest meal I’ve had in years.”

Her family was thunderstruck. As she walked out into the kitchen, she tossed this comment over her shoulder:

“You know, I enjoyed that so much, I may do it again. And again. And I won’t tell you when I’m going.” Things changed after that, and quick.

So, that’s just one example of why someone may be eating alone. There are many. I am positive that there are in fact many folks who eat alone who would like to be with someone else, or who are lonely and feel conspicuous eating alone. They have my sympathy. But I’m not one of them.

I absolutely adore eating out alone, also going to movies by myself. I’m very happily married (to the Crankee Yankee), but there are times he is off doing his own thing or just doesn’t feel like seeing a movie. So–I go alone, and enjoy it immensely. And eating out alone, ordering whatever I want and reading a book, is sheer heaven. I get it that many wait people look askance at the solo diner. After all, many solos are notoriously bad tippers, one of the many “types” who frequent restaurants.

Having waitressed my way through college, I am well-versed in dining folk types:

  • The bad tipper
  • The annoying couple who send you back eleventy-seven times for piddly stuff (when they could have asked for EVERYTHING at one time)
  • The table hogs who never leave, meaning you can’t turn that table over all night
  • The ditsy parents who don’t notice that their kid is tearing around the restaurant like a mini maddened bull elephant, disrupting everyone’s evening
  • The sloppy drunk
  • The puker (yes, really)
  • The two sweet little old ladies who still think that .50 is a good tip (bless ’em)
  • The infamous groper who grabs a lot and tips very little
  • The woman who likes to bully all wait staff for fun (and BTW–wouldn’t you think she’d be smart enough not to piss off the people who are in close contact behind closed doors with her food?)

I love being a solo diner, and I tip well. I’m having too much fun to be cheap.

To assume that someone who has dinner alone in a restaurant is somehow an object of pity is just beyond me.  And to the author of that list? Buddy, you owe this solo diner a bottle of wine. GOOD wine.

Throw it Away, Already!

My husband (i.e., the Crankee Yankee) believes to the bottom of his heart the old motto, ” ”Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!” My own motto is “If you can’t use it, replace it, fix it, or live with it–THROW IT AWAY!”

We have a basement with shelves crammed with de-labeled prescription bottles, odds and ends of stuff that broke (“but the other parts are still good!”), a couple of cracked dishes that have needed mending for over 5 years (and that I don’t even care about), and all the yoghurt, sour cream, and Smart Balance “butter” tubs we have ever used in nearly 12 years of marriage, re-purposed to hold nails, screws, bolts, washers, etc. Empty litter jugs are used over and over again for water when the Crankee Yankee pours concrete. I can certainly go on, but you get the picture.

Consequently, when I broke my favorite vegetable chopper (damn those thick-skinned onions!), I rendered it useless. A small plastic piece on the bin broke off so that you couldn’t chop properly. It broke my heart as I loved that thing and use it several times a week. I mourned its loss, and will have to go buy another one. I told my husband as much, foolishly believing that this item was on its way to the dump.

But no–the Crankee Yankee fished out the other unbroken pieces, declaring them still useful. For what, I asked? He said that when I buy a new one, it will be good to have spares–in the same pieces of the new ones break. Good thinking, except for the fact that THOSE pieces aren’t likely to break any time soon. This means that, should I break the NEW one’s bin, I will have the same spares and no bin. Sigh.

Next time I will just cover my crime. In fact, I think I’ll buy two or three choppers, just in case. Oh no–I think I may be turning into another version of the Crankee Yankee myself–except that I will be hoarding NEW items, not useable parts from broken ones. Ok–that’s fine. Now I feel better.

African Peanut Chicken Soup

This soup is delicious, nutritious and is spicy and satisfying.

Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 3 chicken breasts
    • 1 onion
    • 3 garlic cloves
    • 2 medium sweet potatoes
    • 1 green bell peppers
    • 1 red bell peppers
    • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
    • 1 1/2 cups V8 vegetable juice or 1 1/2 cups tomato juice
    • 1 teaspoon ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large pot.
  2. Add 2-3 chicken breasts, diced; 1 onion,chopped; and 3 cloves of garlic, chopped.
  3. Stir and cook 5 minutes or until chicken is done.
  4. Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes then either grate, food process, chop, or bake/microwave and mash them.
  5. Add the sweet potatoes to the pot along with 1 green bell pepper, chopped; 1 red bell pepper, chopped; 2 cans of chicken broth (or 3 1/2 cups chicken broth made with chicken buillion); 1 1/2 cups V-8 or tomato juice; 1 teaspoons ginger; and 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper. Mix well.
  6. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes or until veggies are tender, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter and stir well.

When They Are Needed

“Well, that’s it—that’s all the money I have left.” said Emily.

A crumpled $5 bill and a $1 bill lay on the kitchen table in front of her. Emily thought of her last job as a marketing intern at a large company. They had had a layoff six months ago, and, as her boss said, ‘The last hired is the first fired.’

While looking for work, she cleaned houses in the neighborhood, and was a bookkeeper for a small plumbing business. But the little money she made wasn’t enough to pay rent and meet her other expenses. She also received unemployment, but that was due to end this week.

Her parents had been wonderfully supportive, and occasionally helped her out. However, after accepting their last check, Emily just couldn’t bring herself to go to them again. And now the rent was due, the electric company was threatening to shut her lights off, and her used car needed two new tires.

On top of all this, her boyfriend of one year had just informed her that he felt that they ‘should see other people for a while.’ Emily had told him to see all the people he wanted to; she was done seeing him. True, the relationship wasn’t perfect, but she missed having a “someone” in her life.

“What am I going to do?” Emily addressed the bills on the table. “I’m doing everything I can to get a job, I have a college degree, I have two part-time jobs, my parents have helped me out and I still can’t get on my feet.”

Gloomily, she remembered how thrilled she had been finally to have an apartment of her own. Her tiny bedroom contained her childhood bedroom set and a small desk and chair. But she loved the rose-patterned wallpaper, and there was a big window that opened out to the back yard, and a sprawling lilac bush grew right beneath it. In the spring its scent wafted through the whole apartment. Her kitchen was perfect for one person, and her little living room had a built-in bookcase for all her books and her seashell collection. The thought of having to leave this first home of her own made her heart sink.

She glanced up at the top shelf of the hutch, where her angel collection was displayed. Her grandmother had given her an angel figurine for each birthday and at Christmas for years, and she loved them all. They had shared a strong belief in angels and loved to talk about them. But her grandmother had died last year, and she still missed her and the angel stories.

“They show up when they’re needed,” her grandmother had told her. “They watch over us and sometimes they even visit us.” Tears came to Emily’s eyes when she thought of their time together.

“I give up. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.” Emily was so tired of worrying. Sighing, she rested her head on her crossed arms on the table and presently dozed off.

The sound of a loud muffler just outside her window woke her. She pulled the curtain aside, and saw a big white car covered with red dust parked at the curb beside the house. A large older woman with reddish-gray hair squinted up at the window and waved to her. Emily waved back. A short balding man got out of the passenger side.

“Can I help you?” Emily called.

“Are you Emily Weston?” the woman asked.

“That’s me. What can I do for you?”

The woman smiled up at her, waved a small booklet and said, “Do you still have that turquoise jewelry you advertised?”

“Um, sure!” said Emily and ran down to unlock the door.

As the couple walked in, they introduced themselves as Marge and Hubert Smallmax, from Bluewater, Arizona, traveling for “fun and adventure.”

As Emily made tea for them, Hubert grinned and said, “My wife usually does all the talking, so I’ll leave it to her.” Emily grinned back at him.

“Today is our 40th wedding anniversary and Hubert said I could have anything I wanted,” said Marge. She flipped to a well-worn page in the booklet, and said, “So you still have the turquoise squash blossom necklace, bracelet, earrings and ring for sale?”

“Is that the Super Penny Saver?” asked Emily. Hubert nodded. “But I put that ad in a year ago, and they don’t keep ads that long.”

“Well, this is an old copy, but I’m hoping you still have everything,” said Marge, her blue eyes shining. Emily remembered later that it seemed as though the woman had the clear untroubled eyes of a happy child.

“You know what, I still do! Would you like to see?” Emily stood up to go into the bedroom.

“I’d love that!” said Marge.

Emily brought out the box containing the heavy silver and turquoise necklace, and the matching bracelet, ring and earrings. Marge exclaimed over everything, and Hubert just smiled and sipped his tea.

“I love it all!” Marge exclaimed happily. Emily gave her a hand-mirror so she could admire herself in the earrings and necklace.

“We’ll take everything. How much?” Hubert asked.

Emily thought quickly. She had originally priced the necklace at $1,200, the ring at $120, the earrings at $80 and the bracelet at $100; that would be $1,500—enough for the $1,000 rent, the $150 electric bill, tires for the car, a past due bill from the phone company and groceries!

Marge gently put her large freckled hand over Emily’s and asked, “Let’s talk money later, sweetie. I want to know all about YOU.”

For some reason, Emily felt so comfortable with the Smallmaxes that she told them everything.

At the end of her story, she realized she was crying again. Hubert handed her a large red bandana to dry her eyes.

Marge said, “You know, in our little town I’m known as something of a ‘people reader.’ You are a strong young woman, and you haven’t let these temporary problems get in the way of trying to improve yourself and your life.” She touched Emily’s roughened fingertips and said, “And you’re not afraid of hard work, either.”

“Th-thank you,” sniffed Emily and gave her a watery smile. Marge smiled and said, “I think you are going to be very surprised at how quickly things will turn around. Something wonderful is right around the corner for you.” She patted Emily’s hand and said, “Now—I can give you a check; how much do we owe you?”

Emily told her the amount, and neither Marge nor Hubert blinked an eye. As Marge handed her the check, she said, “Now, dear, our names and address are right on the check. I want you to write to us and tell us how you’re doing.”

Marge and Hubert hugged her and told her again that things were going to change soon in her favor. Emily didn’t believe it for a minute, but she was cheered by their visit and was very happy to be able to pay her bills. It was a pure pleasure to buy groceries again, and she even indulged in a special treat of hers; a small bottle of almond-stuffed olives.

In exactly one week, Emily had a new job, earning more money than she had ever in her life. For once, all her bills were up-to-date, and she had a real savings account. She adopted a small gray cat who had been showing up on her doorstep, and named her Jonesy. She found she didn’t miss her old boyfriend at all.

One night as she was getting ready for bed, she remembered Marge and Hubert and decided to write them a letter. She told them all about the new job, Jonesy, and how much she had enjoyed meeting them. Marge was right, she said—good things had happened. She dropped the letter into the mail box the next day and thought nothing more about it.

Several days later, the letter addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Smallmax at 1800 South Libbey Corner, Bluewater, Arizona came back stamped “No such persons/no such address.”

“It couldn’t be,” murmured Emily. She had put the check in the bank, and it had cleared with no problem.

She sat down at her ancient computer and Googled “Hubert and Marge Smallmax” at their address, and couldn’t find them.

How could this be? They had sat right in her kitchen and had even drunk tea at her table. Who were these people? Then she thought of her grandmother.

“They show up when they’re needed,” Emily whispered. “Sometimes they even visit us.”