Brittany Maynard and Death with Dignity

This is a post that seems too difficult to write in the limited time of my lunch break.  But I was reading this morning about the “assisted” suicide of brain cancer victim Brittany Maynard and her story has been on my mind.  At the age of 29, Maynard was suffering from painful seizures as a result of a fatal glioblastoma.  The disease would have ended her life within a few months.

Maynard, along with her husband and parents, moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s Death with Dignity Act.  The law allowed a physician to write her a prescription for a fatal dose of barbiturates.  On the first of this month, she ended her life.

I remember that, a couple of decades ago, assisted suicide had come into public awareness and was a hot topic.  Despite being a serious subject, I would hear jokes everywhere I went, comments about “Dr. Death” and being “Kevorkianed.”  Our discomfort with discussions of death led to wisecracking not unlike the faux witticisms I am now hearing about Ebola.

Maynard emphasized that a choice to beat a painful, fatal disease to the punch is not the same as “suicide.”  Apparently, the difference is that most people who commit suicide could have chosen to go on with full lives.  What the two situations do share is a whole lot of unbearable pain, be it physical, psychological or both.

I don’t think it is fair to require those whose bodies are rapidly deteriorating in the most horrible fashion possible to continue to live with a level of pain that few of us could imagine and fewer endure.

By the way, I think it’s past time that suicide, assisted or otherwise, stopped being a forbidden topic of conversation.  There’s no need to clear one’s throat and change the subject.  It is encouraging that the recent death of Robin Williams seems to be starting to make discussion of suicide more acceptable.

Many argue that suicide can often be prevented, that we need to devote more resources to mental illness and that we need to remove the stigma surrounding depression and other types of mental illness.  My father always dismissed suicide as “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

But what about those situations that are not temporary?  Those with terminal illnesses will never recover, no matter how many drugs and how much radiation and surgery we throw at them.  Their intolerable level of suffering will only increase as their quality of life dwindles to zero in the few days and weeks they have remaining.

So, yes, I support the ongoing work of Maynard’s husband toward passing Death with Dignity laws in every state.  I find it incredible that some claiming to be “pro choice” who are willing to end the developing lives of the unborn in the name of the right to control their own bodies are unable to support the right of a dying adult to make a life-ending decision on what to do with his or her own body.

If we can legalize abortion, I see no reason for us to be unable to legalize death with dignity for the terminally ill.

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Avocado’s Lament

avocoadoes for a buck

Pastor Mom’s friend from Mexico, who recently visited with us for several weeks, tells me that avocadoes go for about a quarter apiece just the other side of the border.  I am dark green with envy.

Lately, avocadoes have been selling for about a buck each here in California.  I think I need to grab me some pesos and take a little road trip to Mexicali.

I am beginning to understand why the wonderful taqueria just across the street from the parsonage does not serve guacamole.  To obtain any kind of reasonable ROI, they’d have to sell it at a price higher than most of the clientele (well, the sane ones, anyway) would be willing to pay.  And they certainly wouldn’t be setting any out on the salsa bar with the jalapeños or adding it to tacos and burritos as a condiment.

I am told that money doesn’t grow on trees, but I have it on good authority that avocadoes do.  So why they’ve turned out to be some kind of green gold remains a mystery to me.

If anyone complains about the price or quality of produce around these parts, the answer will undoubtedly be “it’s the drought.”  I am used to it being dry here in California, so it rarely occurs to me that Mother Nature hasn’t been particularly cooperative for the past few years.  You can tell I’m a city slicker, not a farm boy.  I’m told that the crops have to be watered and that bringing in water costs money, thus jacking up food prices and pissing everyone off.  Apparently, irrigation leads to irritation.

As we just had our state elections, I keep hearing that it’s all the politicians’ fault.  I suppose Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein should be performing a rain dance on the floor of the Senate.  The legislators up here in Sacramento might want to join in, too.  If nothing else, it’d be a good photo op.

This is the season of the year when observant Jews add the Hebrew phrase mashiv ha’ruakh u’morid ha’gashem to our daily prayers.  It’s a reference to God, “who makes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.”  For centuries, imploring the Lord for rain was a serious matter.  Without it, the people and animals would go thirsty and then nothing would grow, so we’d go hungry as well.  In Biblical times, drought meant death, and often prompted mass migrations to areas where potable water was available.  That’s how Jacob and his sons ended up in Egypt, a land irrigated by the Nile.

I wonder if there were avocadoes back then.  If there were, I imagine that they may have been split open against the rocks, after which the insides would be scooped into an earthen bowl and pounded with a mortar.  I don’t know whether we had tortillas, and matzos weren’t invented until the day we finally left Egypt following 400 years of slavery.  But we do know that dough was kneaded and left to rise on hot stones, so perhaps my forebears did know the joys of the guaco taco.

Somehow, the avocado never seemed to make it into classic Jewish cuisine.  I don’t recall having even heard of avocadoes until I went away to college and spied those funny-looking things at the local food co-op.  Was it a fruit or a vegetable?  Are you supposed to peel it?  How do you even spell it?  Pluralized with an –es like “potatoes?” Nah, that doesn’t look right.  I was told that avocadoes are used to make guacamole, an explanation that I found singularly unhelpful.  I had no idea what guacamole was.  I just nodded and smiled rather than further reveal the depths of my ignorance.

Some forty years later, I am still relatively ignorant when it comes to avocadoes.  When they are affordable, my wife buys avocadoes that are in a hard, unripe state and then softens them up by allowing them to sit in a paper bag for a few days.  Then they go in the fridge.

Sadly, the last batch of avocadoes we bought ended up going in the trash.  On the day I got out the lemon juice and garlic, I split open our lovelies only to find that they were completely rotten inside.

You can feel sorry for me now.  I’m singin’ the Uncle Guacamole blues over here.

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The Wanderer

Ohio Snow

Update:  My sister texted me this photo this morning with the message “Greetings from Ohio!”

My sister is a wanderer.  She’d really like to be able to stay in one place, but timing and circumstances seem to have conspired against her.

I’ve never visited either of her houses, neither the one in Idaho nor the one in California’s Bay Area.  I have been to a number of her former homes, mind you, and there were a lot of them.

My sister migrated from New York to California about ten years before I did.  Her young husband, who hailed from the east coast of Canada, was working as a high tech engineer in the go-go days of 1980s Silicon Valley.  The two of them rented a little apartment in Palo Alto and their house hunting efforts proceeded apace.  By the time I visited them during my first trip ever to the west coast, they were ensconced in a small house and were already looking for a larger one.  Soon a son came along, and then a daughter, along with the big house and the big mortgage.  But still they wanted more:  More bedrooms, more land, more privacy.  My niece and nephew had barely reached adolescence when my sister and her husband purchased some land out in the country and had their dream house custom built upon it.  Although still in the Bay Area, the neighbor houses were far apart and the local wildlife had not yet disappeared.  Deer leapt over their fences to munch on their landscaping.  Walks up the hill frequently involved encounters with rattlesnakes.

And then my sister and her husband got divorced.  The kids, who were still in high school, took it hard.  While still married, my sister had a nose job (paid for by my mother after my sister made her feel guilty by insisting she was so unhappy that she might kill herself) and bariatric surgery that enabled her to lose an enormous amount of weight.  Dissatisfied with her husband’s lack of attention to her, she began to look around online, dated numerous men and moved into the guest bedroom downstairs.  Her husband was willing to go along with whatever she wanted as long as she stayed married to him.  My sister, who had stayed home with the kids for a lot of years (spending all day in bed for several of them, presumably due to depression), didn’t have much of her own money and demanded that hubby give her money to buy a condo.  Amazingly, he did.  She moved into the condo, eventually selling it for a profit and hopping from one temporary abode to another after the kids were in college.  Meanwhile, my niece and nephew bounced back and forth between their parents.  Eventually, my sister purchased the Bay Area house that she now owns.

My sister was awarded alimony for five years, and she resolved to obtain training in a marketable skill during that time.  She began attending school in Colorado to become an X-ray technician, then switched to studying sonography at a school in Texas.  Having already tried and rejected several careers, including carpentry and public school teaching, she was determined to settle into the medical field.  Once licensed as a sonographer, however, she found it difficult to land a job without experience.  She settled for working for a traveling agency, whereupon she bounced around the country on temporary assignments that lasted from four to ten weeks.  After a while, she had gained enough experience to land a permanent job.  Unfortunately, it was in Idaho.  She bought another house there, while renting out her California house through a real estate management company.

The main problem is that my sister has a difficult personality.  She loves to argue and can’t seem to get along with anyone, whether romantically or as an employee.  Several months later, she lost the job in Idaho, so she rented out that house, too, and resumed her wandering ways.

I can’t seem to keep track of my sister.  I recall that she was in northern New Mexico, then in southern New Mexico, then clear across the country in Ohio.  She flew to interviews in states that I’ve never been to, and I’ve visited most of them.  Her fondest desire was to land a permanent position in the Bay Area so that she could return to the region that she loves and live in her house again.  She almost made it.

Returning to California, my sister had planned to move in with my parents in the Central Valley for several months while she looked for a job.  She made it about three or four days before they were at each other’s throats and she left my parents’ house.  Her ex-husband has since remarried and lives with his two (now adult) kids as well as several of his wife’s children.  They also rent out some of the bedrooms in their sprawling Palo Alto house because, well, you can imagine what the mortgage is like on a two million dollar home.  My sister had the nerve to ask to stay there for a while.  It should come as no surprise that the new wife would have none of it.  So my sister and her cats bounced around from one weekly hotel room to another.

In September, she finally landed a job in Oakland.  Still a little too far to commute from her house, but certainly getting warm.  After a few weeks in Oakland, my sister finally found a job in the same town as her house.  She had the real estate management company give her tenants a 60-day notice to quit.  The new job was part-time and temporary, but had, she was assured, the very real potential to become full-time and permanent.

On my sister’s first day working back in her hometown, her already paltry hours were cut further.  She bitched about this and, within days, was fired.  The real estate management company assured her that, when her tenants leave, the place will be painted and rented out to new tenants for much more money.

Jobless again, my sister returned to the traveling agency.  To her surprise, she discovered that the small Ohio hospital at which she had worked a brief assignment now wanted her back for several months.  So on the road she went, once again a Buckeye, at least until January.

When I texted her a few nights ago, my sister responded that she was still en route.  “Can’t type much while driving.  I’ve stopped for the night in Ioaca, IA.  One more full day of driving then a couple of hours into Dayton.”

I had never heard of Ioaca, Iowa, but I imagined it to be a tiny crossroads just off the freeway.  Being the geography nerd that I am, of course I had to look it up.  To my surprise, Google informed me that there is no such place:  “Did you mean Isaca, Iowa?  Ithca, Iowa?  Ica, Iowa?  Iacac, Iowa?”

Sweet dreams, Sis.  Um, wherever you are.

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Blog Hop

To the person who recently left a comment asking me to participate in a blog hop:

I am not really sure what a blog hop is.  I’ve been a fan of the Danny and the Juniors tune “At the Hop” for decades now, but I get the general impression that this has nothing to do with a high school dance.  My little grandniece likes to prance through the living room yelling “Hop, hop, hop!”  Just watching this from the couch exhausts me, but again, I have a feeling that this blog hop thing has nothing to do with physical fitness.

I am guessing that this blog hop is some sort of connect-the-dots event in which participants “hop” from one specified URL to the next.  I don’t know whether the hoppers visiting my blog are supposed to read my latest post or leave a comment or spray paint “Kilroy was here” on my About page.

You did ask whether I am “really” located in California (no, actually I’ve been pulling your leg all this time, I’m really in the Aleutian Islands), so I suppose this must be a critical factor.  Perhaps, with a nod to Oscar Wilde, I should have titled this post “The Importance of Being Californian.”  Are you attempting a tour of the fifty states?  If so, I should think that finding a California blog would not be that difficult.  Rhode Island or North Dakota, maybe, but not California.

Then again, you did mention that the last two bloggers whom you queried failed to respond.  This would tend to indicate that it is not as easy as one might think to secure a willing Californian participant.  Of course, many bloggers do not indicate their physical locations for safety or privacy reasons, so it could be difficult to ascertain whether your favorite blogger is actually from California or not.  I am guessing that the title of my blog was a dead giveaway.

I could not help but notice that you were reduced to pleading, hopefully not upon your knees.  “Save us,” you piteously mewed.  Such shameless begging makes me feel particularly bad to be the blogger who causes you to “strike out,” the third California blogger to give you the cold shoulder by failing to respond.

Please don’t think me ungrateful.  I truly appreciate each and every one of my readers and I am deeply honored that you take time out of your busy week to peruse the drivel that I regularly dish out in this space.  I do my best to return the favor by reading as many of your blogs as I am able to fit into my equally busy week.  I try to help anyone who asks, particularly new bloggers who need a boost in comments or request advice on what techniques I have found to work and what has fallen flat.  I believe in giving folks a hand up and I believe in doing what I can to improve this blogosphere that we inhabit.

However, I do ask that you have pity on me.  We are right in the middle of NaBloPoMo, for heaven’s sake.  I am doing my best to keep my commitment to post daily during this annual event, even though I work a full-time job, spend two hours per day commuting and attempt to participate in a full life with the many members of our extended family who live nearby.  Although I was able to compose a few posts in advance, I prefer to write with an immediacy that is only available by describing what is on my mind at any given moment.  I do take time to write a few longer posts on the weekends, but during the week I have to catch as catch can, writing during my lunch breaks, on my phone in the car and even in the middle of the night when I suddenly wake up with an inspiration.  This is quite a change for one who is accustomed to posting once weekly, adding notes from day to day or sitting down of a Saturday and writing the entire post from beginning to end in a single session.

So please don’t think that I am a latter day Scrooge, a Grinch with a heart two sizes too small who serves up double decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwiches with arsenic sauce.  It’s just that your event has fallen victim to bad timing.  By all means, ask me again after NaBloPoMo.

At that time, it will be my pleasure to put on a smile, click on your link, and assist you with your blog hop.

Whatever that is.

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Cheap Chic

Saving money on everyday purchases seems to have attained a great deal of popularity these days.  I suppose this is really nothing new; I have fond memories of my parents pasting Triple-S Blue Stamps (from Grand Union), S&H Green Stamps (from Daitch Shopwell) and Plaid Stamps (from the A&P) into little books that were stored in a kitchen cabinet next to the refrigerator.  And then there were always coupons to clip from the pull-out sections in the Sunday newspaper.

My teenaged niece recently expressed interest in “couponing.”  I see that, these days, coupons don’t necessarily require scissors; you can just print them off your computer’s printer.  I call these “click coupons.”  Some coupons are even paperless.  You just wave your phone at a QR tag, scan a bar code or show the email/web page to the clerk.

There are a lot of bloggers out there writing about sticking to a budget and shopping economically.  I particularly enjoyed this post that encourages readers to make the dollar store part of their regular routines.  Nevertheless, I don’t agree with the author’s thumbs down on purchasing food at the dollar store.  Sure, you have to keep careful watch on expiration dates, but you can often spot large remaindered lots of soup or tomato sauce or canned vegetables that sell for more than a dollar each in the supermarket.  Junk food like chips and soda seems to be cheapest at the dollar store most of the time.  For nonfood items, however, you can pretty much run amok like a kid in a candy store.  (Speaking of which, it’s a great place for candy if you’re dying for sugar.)  We wouldn’t think of looking for greeting cards anywhere else.  And I credit the dollar store for the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas schlock with which I have been able to decorate my cubicle at work.

I am a big fan of the “green” movement, and a fervent believer in reducing, reusing, recycling and repurposing.  So the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores are always fun places to visit.  Several times each year, we make donations of clothes that we no longer wear and toys that my grandniece has outgrown.  Better that someone else should enjoy them for 99 cents than that they should sit forlornly in our closets.  We like the fact that many donors have dumped off piles of books there, a few of which find their way cheaply (and temporarily) into our library.  We rarely keep them long.  After we’ve read them, we usually pass them on to someone else.  If no family member is interested, there’s always someone online who is.

I still get a kick out of the references to Grandpa’s coat and “poppin’ tags” with “twenty dollars in my pocket” from Macklemore and Lewis’ hip hop answer to conspicuous consumption, “Thrift Shop” (although I could do without the gratuitous profanity).

soy meat

When I recently had a day off work for Veterans Day, we took a trip up the freeway and over into Sutter County to check out Grocery Outlet.  My wife had stopped into one of their stores in downtown Sacramento after she dropped me off at work one day last month and was surprised to find my favorite “fake meat.”  There are a lot of these vegan products around, made from soy or textured vegetable protein, either of which can be formed into nearly any shape.  They are meat substitutes, good sources of protein and typically supposed to taste like beef or chicken (they don’t).  Most of these products make an excellent dish when sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic with a bunch of veggies and served over rice, potatoes or pasta (or done up as tacos).

So we decided to check out a Grocery Outlet store a little closer to where we live.  This place is a far cry from a 99 cent store, but it certainly does carry an eclectic variety of merchandise at relatively low prices.  You just have to be choosey and see whether anything you happen to need is available on the cheap.  In front of the store was a tall display filled with the largest bags of potato chips and barbecue chips that I’d ever seen.  Perusing the aisles inside, I was amazed at the quantity of non-food items they carry.  The last time I’d been in a Grocery Outlet store was back when we lived in the Central Valley, many years ago.  We used to call the place “the canned food outlet,” because that’s what we would buy there:  Lots of dirt cheap canned items, mostly dented or with the labels peeling off.

This place was different, however, and we were surprised at some of the bargains we were able to pick up.  A blue and white laundry basket for my niece, along with a matching rug.  (Merry Christmas.)  A Psalms calendar for Pastor Mom.


And that’s when I saw it.  A rack of zippered jackets, with enough insulation to be cozily warm without being heavy like a parka.  Most incredibly, they had some in my size!  I tried on a chocolate brown jacket and decided that this was indeed a bargain for twenty bucks.

Oh, and they had my fake meat, too.

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Homeless Youth of California

No one really knows how many of California’s young people are homeless at any given time.  But on one day in the middle of the winter last year, a PIT count (a flash census — PIT stands for “point in time”) estimated the number to be about 15,000.  That’s 15,000 youngsters aged 12 to 24 sleeping under bridges and over heating grates, in cars, in shelters, in the woods or on someone’s couch.

I’ve known for some time that there are a lot of homeless young people, but I found this number to be truly appalling.  And that’s just for one state!

Many of these “throwaways” were abandoned at a young age or fled to escape homes marred by physical abuse, drinking and drugs.  On the street, they are frequently victims of sexual exploitation and encounter a downward spiral due to a life to day-to-day survival that prevents completion of high school and renders them unemployable.  They may find themselves with early and unplanned pregnancies, AIDS or malnutrition.

Among the greatest risks of homelessness among the young is aging out of the foster care system.  It has been estimated that about one out of every four foster children will become homeless upon turning 18.  The reasons for this are complex, and include such factors as a lack of family support, immaturity and the reluctance or inability of foster parents to continue to house their foster children after compensation from the state stops.

Drawing a bright line at the age of 18 makes no sense.  I fail to see the logic of stating “yesterday you were a foster child under the protection of the state, but happy birthday, today you’re on your own, go fend for yourself.”  Even the children of intact families are rarely in a position to support themselves the hot moment they turn 18.  So it’s really not a surprise that, after a childhood and adolescence of being bounced around from one placement to another, at the age of 18 foster kids fall off the edge of the earth.

I think of my late sister-in-law’s three children.  I didn’t know them when they were young, but they were removed from their drug addicted mother early in life.  This was fortunate, as my wife tells me stories of going to their apartment, only to find the kids without food and their mother gone.  One of my nephews was adopted as a baby, while my other nephew and his sister went into foster care.  They were fortunate to enter a stable foster home with committed parents and never had to go anywhere else.  All three are in their twenties and thirties now, and I am pleased to report that they turned out very well.  One is finishing up college and still living with his mom.  Another just celebrated the birth of his first daughter.  And the third has settled into her career and lives close enough to us that we are able to see her often.  What all of them have in common is that they never had to deal with homelessness.

Shouldn’t the story turn out that way for all of California’s foster children?

Visit the California Homeless Youth Project blog and read the touching stories of their struggles.

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A Vegan Does Thanksgiving at Work


In most of the United States, the leaves are off the trees and winter has set in.  But here in northern California, November is the height of autumn.

Thanksgiving is generally the worst day of the year for vegans.  As if everyone eating turkey weren’t bad enough, most of the so-called trimmings aren’t fit to eat for those of our ilk.  In my case, I am extremely blessed to have a wife who humors my prandial proclivities.  She always prepares something for me in advance, which we carry to our family functions.

But tomorrow is our annual Thanksgiving pot luck up in the penthouse at work, which I anticipate with more than a bit of trepidation.  The turkey and gravy is being provided, with employees bringing the fixings.  I hope I don’t end up having to discuss veganism, but I don’t know that there will be much way around it.

I can just see it now:  “Have some turkey, there’s plenty!”

“Um, no, thanks.”

“Why not?  It’s Thanksgiving!”

“Um, I don’t eat meat.”

“Ohhhh, that explains it.  Well, have some mashed potatoes!”

“Thanks so much, but not right now.”

“Why not?  There’s no meat in that.”

“Milk and butter.”

“You can’t have dairy either?  Oh, you poor thing!”

“Yeah, I’m vegan.”

“Really?  Well, have some green beans.  Have some sweet potato casserole.”

“Bacon.  Dairy.  Sorry.”

“Aren’t you going to eat anything?  At least have some pumpkin pie!”

At which point I bolt for the elevators, heading back to my cubicle to get some work done.  Hopefully, by that point, many of my coworkers and bosses will have seen me, so that I’ll have made an official “appearance.”

I’ve been trying to think of alternatives.  I could bring my lunch with me along with my usual gallon of iced lemon tea in my big handle bag that I pull behind me.  I could bring a sandwich or a plastic container of tofu and vegetables up to the penthouse with me.  Perhaps if I dump the contents onto a paper plate, it will look as if I’ve helped myself from the buffet.

Alternatively, I could hide out in my cubie and hope that no one notices my absence.  The last time I tried this tactic (at another employer), it blew up in my face.  “Your absence was noticed,” my boss informed me frostily the next day.  I was officially “not a team player.”

I suppose I could always take a sick day.  Three-day weekend, anyone?

Update: I did not attend the event, instead opting to hide out in my cubicle with my lunch brought from home and get some work done.  Several of my coworkers did the same.  No one has complained.

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Apples of Autumn


Autumn is the time of year when I start obsessing about apples.  I don’t know whether an apple a day really does keep the doctor away, but I do know that my daily apple is a dose of happiness.

Growing up in the New York City area, the only types of apples that I knew anything about were Macintosh and Red Delicious.  If any kid pulled an apple out of his Superman lunchbox (Not a stupid apple again!  Anyone got a Devil Dog or a Ring Ding?  Anyone wanna trade?), it was pretty much guaranteed to be one of those two.

The produce section at Waldbaum’s also carried these funky-looking green things that probably weren’t really apples at all.  Green apples from Mars, I called them.  Mom said their proper name was Granny Smith, but I thought she was joking.  They were horribly sour and I had a grandmother named Granny Smith and my mother hated her guts, so I figured Mom was just calling the mother-in-law a sourpuss.  Anyway, she’d buy a few of those weird green things once in a very great while when she was getting ready to bake an apple pie.

Many years later, when visiting Mom in upstate New York’s Mohawk Valley, I discovered the local favorite apple that went by the moniker of Rome Beauty.  But it wasn’t until I moved to California that I discovered an entirely different kind of apple.  I fell in love with the Fuji, the Pink Lady and the Gala.  These small, crisp, heavenly treats are something like biting into a juicy candy.  They are by far the sweetest apples I have ever tasted and it’s hard to believe that such a snack is actually fresh fruit that is good for you.

Although it’s been some time since I’ve owned a Superman lunchbox, my noon meal at work never seems complete if it does not have an apple to serve as a final flourish like a sweet punctuation mark.

And no, I won’t trade you!

Not even for a Ring Ding or a Devil Dog.

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The King-Sized Sheet: A Veterans Day Story

My 80 year old parents use a fitted sheet on their king-sized bed.  Their one and only fitted sheet.  Once each week, they remove it, put it through the washer and the dryer, and back on the bed it goes.

Well, you know what happens after a couple of years of this.  One day recently, my father hauled the sheet out of the dryer, spread it out on the bed, tugged at one of the corners, and rrrriiiippp!  A sheet that is used daily only lasts so long, and this one had reached the end of its natural life.

So my parents were forced to go shopping for a sheet.  They looked for a good price in several stores, finally settling on an Egyptian cotton number marked down at Ross Dress for Less.

It was apparent that numerous shoppers had put their grubby little hands on the sheet before it attracted my parents’ gaze.  The zipper on the plastic wrapper was partially open and an edge of the sheet was sticking out.  It looked as if someone had completely removed the sheet for inspection, rejected it, and stuffed the sheet back into its casing.  But my parents liked the color and they felt the price was reasonable, so they bought it.

Back at home, my father set down the package in the guest bedroom to disengage it from its plastic cocoon.  When it was out, my mother took one look at it and said “that’s not a king-sized sheet.”  “Yes, it is,” my father replied, spreading it out roughly on the guest bed to prove his point.  After all, the outside of the package had a large K sticker and the tags inside were marked “king” as well.

Very well, said my mother, who removed all the tags and threw them in the trash.  (Now I know why we keep our tags along with the receipts.)

Several days elapsed before my parents removed the torn sheet from their bed for the final time.  Time to bring out the brand new sheet.  In the washer went the sheet, then in the dryer.  My father carried the new sheet into the master bedroom for its inaugural run.  He tried to spread it out on the bed when he realized something was wrong.

“You were right,” he admitted to my mother.  “It’s not a king-sized sheet.”

My parents knew they had to drive back in to the city to exchange the sheet that very day.  My mother brought out the ironing board and ironed the sheet.  Then she folded it neatly and stuffed it back into its plastic casing.

The only problem was the tags.  My mother had thrown them away.  And my parents knew that the store was not likely to take back the sheet without its tags.

Thus, my parents proceeded to conduct the great tag hunt.  This involved rummaging through several days of accumulated trash.  Now, my parents live out in the country where there is no municipal trash collection.  Most of her neighbors pay a trash hauler to come by each week to pick up the contents of their trash cans.  Not my parents.  They are too frugal.  It’s a waste of money, in their opinion.

So they dispose of their trash themselves.  This means that when the trash cans in the kitchen and the bathrooms fill up, they dump it into their large trash bucket out back of the house.  When the bucket starts getting full, they haul the contents into town for disposal in a convenient location.  Dumpsters located at convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants are likely targets.  When larger items (such as old furniture) require disposal, they are taken out back, where my father chops them up with an axe before dumping the pieces into “the hole,” a large trough that they had dug years ago, way back at the property line of their 2½ acre spread.

My parents pulled chairs up to the trash bucket out on the patio, tilted it onto its side and began sorting through the contents.  Partway down, the errant tags were located, covered in coffee grounds.  Breathing a sigh of relief, they cleaned off the tags as best they could, then washed them.  But they still were all crumpled and ugly-looking.  So (what else?) my mother ironed them.

Back into the plastic casing with the sheet went the tags.  My parents drove back into town, returned the sheet to be credited back to my father’s charge card, and headed over to Bed, Bath and Beyond to look for another sheet.  A real king-sized sheet.

Locating a sheet that satisfied them, my mother bemoaned the fact that here she was making a purchase from BBB just when she did not have one of their ubiquitous 20% off coupons that are always arriving in the mail.  Luckily, they overheard a conversation in the store about a discount granted to veterans.

My parents entered the checkout line with the sheet, and another elderly couple lined up right behind them.  When the clerk rang up my parents’ purchase, my father asked about the veterans’ discount.  “Sure, let me see your veteran’s card,” said the clerk.

The clerk, a young woman who appeared to be barely out of high school, didn’t realize who she was dealing with.  My father explained that he didn’t have a veteran’s card and, in fact, didn’t even know that such a thing existed.  “I served in the Korean War between 1952 and 1956, young lady,” began Dad, “but you wouldn’t know anything about that because that was before you were born.”

The manager had to be called, holding up the line.  Finally, the elderly couple waiting behind my parents came to the rescue.  “Here, use my veteran’s card,” said the man.  The clerk punched the card number into the computer, my father returned the card to his neighbor, and a receipt spat out with the veterans’ discount duly deducted from the total.

Word is that my parents are now enjoying their new king-sized sheet.

Happy Veterans Day, everyone!

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Runaway Squad

Lately, we’ve been watching episodes of the detective show “Runaway Squad” on DVR.  The way that the parents act on this show bugs the heck out of me, so today I am going to spout off about it.

The premise of the show is that families hire this elite group of seasoned investigators to find their children after they have run away from home and disappeared from their lives.  Often, the squad first begins ferreting out clues many months after the kid absconded.  Typically, the rogue teen is located somewhere in New York City, ground zero for the nation’s runaways.  While New York has become the destination due to the ease of blending into the city and the multitude of opportunities there, it is also a dangerous center of exploitation where both girls and boys often end up sucked into the sex trade.

Predictably, the squad gets their man (or woman) and sits down for a discussion with the newly reunited family.  What transpires never ceases to amaze me.  After the tearful hugs, the parent(s) begin raging with anger at the recovered kid.  How could you do this to us?  How could you not take our feelings into consideration and allow us to wonder whether you were alive or dead?

Um, excuse me?  First of all, after you’ve gone through the effort and money of hiring the Runaway Squad and then successfully recovered your kid, you think you’d act a little grateful that your kid is back at home?  Secondly, you know perfectly well why your kid ran away from home.  Either it was a difference of opinion about a boyfriend/girlfriend or about religion or about privileges or about lifestyle choices or about something. Parents, how could you fail to take your kid’s feelings into consideration on an issue that meant so much to them that they felt they had no choice but to run away from home?  You only see what your kid did to you, but you refuse to see what you did to your kid to cause him or her to leave home in the first place.

Wise up, parents, it’s not all about you.

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