Saturday, December 17, 2011


Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
Helen Keller

Truck & driver from United Stationers.

After months of work to get approval from the food bank for a same-day pantry, we finally had our first distribution day this month. Thrice weekly for years we had been getting bread donations and distributing them to our residents, but this undertaking was on a definitely grander scale. We asked for permission to do a monthly distribution of food. When the only way to gain approval was as a weekly pantry, we said, “We will make it work.”

A partial pallet of eggplant & me.
The order was placed last week, volunteers from our major donor lined up, and the cherry on the top—we actually went out to the food bank and made the pickup--thanks again to our donor who provided the driver and truck. As my colleague Penny and I poked through the extra free stuff, I thought about what a long journey it had been to this point. Our purchases were fork lifted into the truck and off we went back to our property. Little did we realize what was in that pallet of produce and just how many loaves of bread were in the boxes on another pallet. But, free is free and these free items were intriguing.

As our maintenance team unloaded the truck we soon discovered that the pallet of produce was entirely comprised of eggplant. However, the cereal, rice, canned tomatoes, diced fruit, coffee, crackers, turkey sausages, and more free produce seemed just perfect.

Penny took a knife to the cabbage to clean it up a bit, and we all worked hard before our senior residents started to congregate in the lobby. We had told the residents to come at their appointed times, but excited and curious residents were already waiting for 45 minutes before we let the first person through the door—a little Serbian lady. They came, a virtual United Nations. Polish, Serbian, Bosnian, Russian, African (Eritrean, Ethiopian, Liberian, Somali). Indian, Iraqi, Iranian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Cuban, Armenian, Pakistani, Argentinean, Jamaican, and American—all united in one purpose: free food.

The beauty of this operation, and yes, it is a bit of an operation, is that our residents, particularly the senior ones, don’t have to drive, beg a ride, or hop on the bus to get to a food pantry. Fueled by increased applications for SNAP benefits a.k.a. food stamps, we wanted to supplement our residents’ food budgets. We don’t pretend to be on the scale of other local food pantries, but we share their mission—provide food to those who need it.

Angela from United Stationers staffed our last pantry.
This week’s Marian Park Food Pantry was on a smaller scale as we opened our food storage closet pantry instead of using the community room. This move cuts down on staff time. We will have three weeks with the pantry operating this way and one big distribution with fresh produce, bread, frozen meat, and whatever perishable items we can snag. Would be nice to get a freezer but we have faith we will find one.

So, if anyone ever doubts what you are able to do, listen to more from Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Retro Morning Coffee

I’ve had the General Electric 12-cup percolator for about a month. After a long-term relationship with Mr. Coffee, I find this coffee maker just right, and I’m enjoying a cup of Eight O’clock Coffee as I write this. Sorry to say, Eight O’clock Coffee rebranded its iconic red and black packaging so I’m not totally retro this morning.

Mr. Coffee never really delivered. Sure, it was coffee, but not good, hearty coffee. I tried Black & Decker and Proctor Silex. No, not right either. On a whim and after remembering Mother’s percolator, I went retro. Of course, if I really wanted to do retro right, I’d use a stovetop percolator like Paula Deen’s 8-cup percolator, about which she’s quoted as saying, “No kitchen would be complete without a nostalgic percolator.”

I have to agree. Happy Saturday!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Reflections

Yesterday, the elementary school that's catty-corner from my house set up a big Spiderman moon jump. Cars parked up and down the street, and I assumed there was a fall fair, festival, or Halloween carnival going on.

I thought back to the early 60s when I was in elementary school. The school always had a Halloween carnival. There’d be a cakewalk, fishpond, games, lots of food, and the crowning of the Halloween Princess.

One year, when I was in fourth grade, for some reason I can’t now recall, I decided to give it a shot—a surprising choice for an introvert. The way you got to be princess was by collecting pennies. The girl with the most won. For days before Halloween, I had roamed the streets near the school knocking on doors along with a friend who lived nearby. I lived in the country and had but a few neighbors to pester. Pretty much the only way to make a go at the contest was to solicit town folks. So, right after school let out, we’d drop off our schoolbooks at the friend’s house and head out on our mission.

By Halloween, with my friend’s help, I’d collected so many pennies that I thought for sure I had won. I couldn’t really enjoy any of the games, thinking instead of winning. As the pennies were counted, it soon became evident that I had been beat by a classmate—a popular girl from a wealthy family. I don’t remember what I did exactly. I just remember feeling that it was not fair that I had pounded those streets and knocked on those doors. Rightly or wrongly, I believed my classmate’s daddy had brought her title.

Years later, I enjoy this time of year and look forward to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. But I also know that the little things in life can stick with us and color who we become and what we choose to do with our lives. I never became the popular girl. My mother worked when many mothers stayed home. My father couldn’t keep a job as a glazier, bouncing in and out of the mental hospital. I became dependable, stuck to the rules, sucked it up, went with the flow, and made a point not to cause trouble.

I wonder today what would have happened if I had won that contest? Would I be different? A risk taker perhaps? Popular? No, I don’t suppose so. Not my style. And then I think, I didn’t turn out so bad and my life has been rich enough without the title of Halloween Princess.

But every Halloween I am reminded of how I felt that day. And I know now that the little things are sometimes just as important as the big things.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Getting the Lay of the Land in Aurora, Illinois

Summer update: I’ve moved from Batavia to Aurora, Illinois, the second biggest city in Illinois. I’m two blocks away from older son, and family. Grandma Sheila, that’s what Nic calls me, can walk to baby sit these days. I promise not to become the annoying mother-in-law Marie from the TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond, to my daughter-in-law, but there are parallels like the brother who lives at home. And differences. There’s no Frank.

It’s a nice neighborhood near Aurora University. I can:
  • watch the peewee football players practice after school at Freeman Elementary school across the street;
  • shop at Prisco’s Fine Foods and have my groceries carried out to my car with nary a tip expected;
  • go to a Blvd District neighbors’ meeting on neighborhood safety issues on Tuesday night;
  • visit the Jewel, a Wal-Mart, Aldi’s, public library branch, an old-fashioned hardware store, walkin medical clinic (just in case—I really don’t want to visit this but it’s nice to know it’s there), and more nearby;
  • eat at restaurants close by like the Roundhouse, an historic downtown Aurora landmark that’s recently shed the Walter Payton name;
  • take classes at Waubonsee Community College’s new downtown Aurora campus (disclaimer: my son works for the college); and
  • check out the farmers market every Saturday in warm weather and enjoy local musicians like the lady Patsy Cline singer who was wailing out a mean version of Crazy the day I stopped by for tomatoes.

And speaking of tomatoes, my next door neighbor has generously supplied us with the most amazingly beautiful heirloom tomatoes which certainly proves growing monster tomatoes without fertilizer is not only possible but delicious. She promised to give me tips when spring planting season rolls around.

So, I am exploring and getting the lay of the land. Can you tell I kind of like it here? Should maybe I change the name of this blog?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Pulling the Plug and Unhooking the Cable on Cable TV

It's official. I canceled the cable. I returned the cable box and remote control yesterday. Comcast is going to charge me more than I thought I would have to pay to keep the Internet and for now the phone, but I figure I will still save nearly $90 a month.

But I did discover I will have an unexpected bonus: not only will I save money but I will also save energy. According to a recent New York Times story,
Those little boxes that usher cable signals and digital recording capacity into televisions have become the single largest electricity drain in many American homes, with some typical home entertainment configurations eating more power than a new refrigerator and even some central air-conditioning systems.
So goodbye dear old cable TV box. This is the first time in over 30 years--so long that I can't even remember when cable TV came into my life--that I will be cable-less. So far, I can honestly say I don't miss it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More Cutting the Cable TV Cable

Back in March I contemplated cutting the cable TV cord. My monthly Comcast bill is a ridiculous $178.30 for what Comcast calls its "Triple Play." Internet, land-line phone, and TV. That's it. No HBO or Showtime. Well, after yesterday, I could kick myself for not acting on my instincts earlier.

After three months I finally went out to RadioShack and brought their Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna. I asked the fellow who helped me if the antenna worked in this area (Batavia, Illinois, is 40 miles from Chicago), and he said, "Well, I haven't seen anyone return it." That was good enough for me. When I got home son plugged it in and in a few minutes, both Scott and I were amazed at the crisp quality we saw on the Sony. We are picking up local TV stations with one notable exception. We can't  get CBS. While I watch CBS's Sunday Morning each week, I can learn to live without it for the money I will be saving.

In anticipation of this move, we have supplemented our Netflix with Hulu Plus at $7.99 a month. I haven't decided if I will drop the land-line but am leaning towards that course also. Right now I think this is a positive move since I'm heading out for a walk to Batavia's Riverwalk instead of watching Sunday Morning. More later.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shame on St. Louis Cardinals

I just read my daughter-in-law's Facebook post about the difficulty she encountered with getting tickets to a St. Louis Cardinal baseball game in September and I'm mad.

She wrote,
Just bought tickets to a St. Louis Cardinals game in Sept. I am sad to report that even though they built that nice new stadium, there is not handicap accessible seating in the affordable seats. They wanted to charge $77 a person per ticket to be in handicap seating rather than the $24 a person for tix in the upper deck.
She commented further:  Thanks for the support. My thought way, do they charge disabled veterans this price?!! This may be one of my new missions. The Chicago White Sox had great accessible seating in the upper deck yesterday for $22 a person.
Dad & Nic at Sunday's White Sox game in affordable seats.
More:  Well, Cardinals, someone from that number you gave me just called me back and the final verdict is that NO, there are NOT accessible seats on every level. They were not built into the upper levels of the new park. And, all the $77 accessible seats are full so we would have to pay even more than that per person. Guess I've found a new mission to help kids with disabilities get affordable seats in the MLB.
Natalie has 1247 Facebook friends and is a social media marketing professional. If anyone could stand up for kids who can't stand up themselves, she's the one. I hope she has the time to pursue this mission in between taking care of little Nic and managing her business. 
So, I say shame on the St. Louis Cardinals! Sad that you have forgotten the days when a family could afford to go to a baseball game--even a family with a child in a wheelchair.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Home Invaders

Box elder bugs have invaded my home. You can see from the photo of my house that there’re a lot of the critters. While most expert advice I have read indicates that they are harmless (although one did say they can occasionally bite), they are indeed “pests.” At first I was content to merely brush them away when they crawled on me. But they are persistent, insistent on returning. I wasn’t very successful in trying to smash the offenders and thankfully so. Another expert said they can stink much as a stink bug does.

So far the best approach seems to involve the vacuum cleaner and the toilet. Could be worse. At least I am not battling bedbugs!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cutting the Cable TV Cable

I'm investigating cutting the cable TV cord. Right now it seems like a good idea. With Netflix and the Internet as options, I truly think it's time. We watch a lot of programs via Netflix already.

Of course, I'd still like to be able to watch the local news and Tom Skilling's weather forecast on WGN. I have read about the best antennas and have one in mind: the Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna for Off-Air HDTV Reception. Now, I guess I will have to see what Comcast wants to charge me to continue my Internet service, which I really have no complaints about. My gripe with Comcast has to do with the outrageous price I am paying each month. Stay tuned to see how it goes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Nicolas Turns Three

Yesterday, Nicolas (my grandson, for anyone new) turned three. It was a pretty big transition.

Those who know Nic's history (born at 26 weeks, weighed 1 lb. 12 oz, 101 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, heart surgery, brain bleeds, cerebral palsy, etc.) might like to know that this little miracle guy is still thriving and inspiring.

Seems Nic's excitement at the Fox Valley Park District caught the PR manager's eye, prompting a recent feature about Nic in the Aurora Beacon-News.

And now, with that third birthday rolling around, Nic graduates from early intervention to school. Yes, every day, big boy school with new challenges, a new team of teachers and therapists, experts and evaluations, an IEP, wheelchair, walker and Nic.

This grandma has no doubts. Nic will move forward, adapting and compensating while continuing to inspire. Way to go Nic!