Robbed at Meijer’s!

The other day, I was in Meijer’s (regional grocery chain) buying some miscellaneous items for supper. Since I only had a couple of items, I decided to use the self checkout machine.

I have found that I prefer the self checkout machines because they are fast and allow me to bag my items the way I want them bagged and not the way that the clerk wants them bagged. The other thing that I like about the self checkout machines is that it is a great way to get rid of loose change.

Loose change is one of my pet peeves. When I use the regular checkouts, I always pay with paper money because it is so much faster than fumbling through my pockets searching for that rogue penny. Thus, by the end of the week I have amassed a small fortune in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

Saturday is shopping day for me at Meijer’s. This is the day when I restock the refrigerator with produce, the freezer with staples such as orange juice and ice cream and the pantry with other essentials such as tp. But even though I try to make only one trip to Meijer’s on a Saturday, someone will always remember an item or two that didn’t make the list on time. The forgotten items get noted and purchased on the 5PM trip to Meijer.

It is on the 5PM run to Meijer’s that I gather up all the pennies, nickels and dimes and put them in my pocket. (The quarters I keep separate as they are really the only useful coin any more.) When I make my purchases on my final Saturday trip to Meijer’s, I haul out a fist full of change and start plugging it into the self checkout machine. On some days, I might have almost $5 worth of change. But, it was on this 5PM trip that I got robbed

Since I only had to purchase a few items, my total at the self checkout machine was $5.32. Great. I knew I had some loose change in my pocket so I hauled it out. There it was, 32 cents! Two nickels, two dime and two pennies! 32 cents. Even money. Empty pocket! Oh happy day! (I don’t get out much.)

I put in the pennies, now it is only 30 cents. I put in the two nickels, now it is only 20 cents. I put in the first dime, now it is 10 cents. I put in the second dime, now it is 10 cents. What? 10 cents? No, it should be 0 cents! That last dime didn’t register! How can that be? I pushed the coin return. Nothing! I tapped the machine lightly with my fist! Nothing. The bloody machine took my dime! I’ve been robbed.

Finally, I took a 5 and a 1 from my wallet, stuck it in the machine, and received 90 cents worth of change. I gathered my change from the dispenser, put it in my pocket and left the store, a defeated man.

Goodness gracious great balls o fire!

A few months back, I was making a chicken pot pie which is one of my favorite dishes. Having assembled all of the ingredients into the baking dish and about to put on the pastry crust, I realized that I had forgotten to add the cognac to the sauce. So, without giving it a second thought, I added the cognac to the dish, spreading it evenly over the contents. Then, I put on the pastry crust and stuck the whole thing into the oven.

A short while later, the alcohol in the cognac began to evaporate and collect in the oven. And, at some point in time, the alcohol vapors reached their flash point. Suddenly, there was a muffled “whump”. The oven door flew open, a big ball of blue flames belched forth from within and the door went shut again. It was pretty spectacular. The cats were not impressed.

Poor kitties. Eyes the size of saucers. Fleeing for their lives. That unforgiving linoleum. Their back end moving faster than their front end. That ultimate point in time when the back end attempts to pass the front end and ends up with a jackknifed kitty spinning out of control on the slippery floor.

Then the oven erupted a second time, thought not as big as the first. The kitties are now rolling in an effort to get out of the kitchen, to reach the safety of the carpet where they can dig their claws in and make their escape.

But a third volley occurs before they could retreat from the kitchen. Now, they are tumbling over each other desperately trying to flee. Finally to the carpet. Finally to safety. Fortunately, they maintained sphincter control.

A kitchen is a dangerous place to be for a kitty. First there is the ice dispenser, which sends an errant cascading cube their way. Then the freezer, which occasionally dislodges a pound of hamburg at them. Now they have a new fear; the fire breathing oven. There is a reason why the cognac is added to the sauce and cooked before baking.

Big Foot

I was in the checkout lane at Meijer’s (regional grocey chain) today and something really caught my attention. There on the front cover of one of the tabloids was written in bold letters “Big Foot diet”. At 800 pounds, Big Foot decided to go on a diet. Apparently the diet was successful as he lost almost 150 pounds. They even had pictures of him before and after, like they do with Oprah. I also noted that Big Foot was wearing a loin cloth. I guess he needed the loin cloth so that the tabloid could maintain its “family friendly” status. (I noted that the Martians and Werewolves are also appropriately covered.)

Imagine that, Big Foot going on a diet. I would think that he would want to hang on to all of that fat for the winter. After all, food is kind of scarce this time of the year. He may be able to find some roots and nuts but it would be nothing like what he could find in the summer and fall. But then again, maybe his weight loss wasn’t out of choice. Maybe he can’t find enough food and is starving. Or maybe he has been sick. I did not pick up the tabloid to read about the diet, but lets assume that he did decide to shed a few pounds so he would be ready for the beach come summer.

The first question that one needs to ask is whether he is carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore. Lets opt for omnivore since that offers the most in diet options.

First of all, lets start with the meat choices. Water fowl is definitely off the list. Do you know how much fat is in goose? Tons. And all that fat translates into excess calories. Next on the list is racoon. Anyone who has ever eaten a racoon can testify that while the meat is very tasty it is also very greasy. Like wise with possum.

I think that possum would be a staple in Big Foots diet. After all, they are plentiful and easy enough to acquire. Since the poor devils can never seem to make it across the highway alive, Big Foot could probably find a fresh one on any stretch of highway on any given night.

The next meat off the list is bear. Beside the hazard of trying to kill one with out getting killed, they too are high in fat. Hence the term, bear grease.

Red meats of choice would be coyote, fox, deer, wild goat and wild boar. Turkey, quail, pheasant and morning dove would also be acceptable. Dove hunting is not legal in this state so there should be plenty of them. But probably his better choice of meat would be salmon. Low in fat, high in Omega 3, and it is available in most states. Salmon would be a fantastic choice of meats.

As to the vegetables, corn and most tubers are out of the question. Way too much starch. Think South Beach. A better choice would be fern leaves and most flowers. Fruit and nuts when in season, though nuts are pretty high in calories.

Personally, I think that the true secret to Big Foots weight loss is a diet of bugs. Bugs are very high in protein and low in fat. And, they are available year round though they may be harder to obtain in the winter months. Plus, the hard shelled ones also provide a good source of fiber. Meat and vegetables may be fine but I think the real secret to Big Foots weight loss are bugs, the other white meat. Oprah, eat your heart out.

Gerald Ford

I was saddened to learn of the passing of former president Jerry Ford. For us folks here in west Michigan, Jerry was more than just another politician, he was family; uncle Jerry. He was a kind and gentle man who really cared for his constituents and not the money of some rich lobbyist. The country may have lost an ex-president but west Michigan lost a legacy. He may not have been the countries greatest president but he was an honest man. He will be greatly missed.

Whenever a VIP comes to GR, traffic is a mess. While the airport is about 10 mile from downtown, on the south east side it is only about a half mile from the expressway. Since the security folks like to have two routes to the destination point, they usually pick the expressway and the East Beltline. And in doing so, they pretty much paralyze the east side of the city. No one can get in and no one can get out.

Every intersection and every entrance ramp is blocked with police cars so that the road is only open to the motorcade. And on the expressway itself, they have a rolling road block.

With a rolling road block, two cruisers get on to the expressway, side by side, about 10 miles out from the motorcade route. They then proceed to drive slowly with their flashers going. The traffic behind them is prevented from entering the motorcade route while the traffic ahead of them naturally leaves the motorcade route as they travel to their destinations. If all goes according to plan, the motorcade will have made their departure before the rolling road block gets anywhere near the motorcade route. Fortunately, we now have the South Beltline aka the Paul Henry, so when those road blocks go up, we can still get around.

When President Bush spoke at Calvin’s graduation, I happened to be in the area that day. I knew that it was close to motorcade time, so I headed for the expressway hoping to get out of town before I got stuck. The police cars were already sitting by the intersections waiting for instructions as I am frantically headed for the expressway. And as I am driving down the expressway, I saw Air Force One coming in for a landing. That was too close. Another time, the rolling road block began just as soon as I passed the cruisers sitting along side the expressway. Again, another close one.

This week, the main roads are already plugged with the after Christmas shoppers. Throw in a few motorcades with the president, former presidents and dignitaries and driving should be almost impossible for the next few days. Law enforcement is definitely going to have their hands full with traffic control this week.

The credit card

At the beginning of November, I received a letter from my credit union informing me that they were not renewing my VISA card when it expires at the end of November. I was both shocked and dismayed. With a credit rating well into the 800s, I figured that I was a prime customer for a credit card. And even though I had a Discover card, I hated the interest rates on it.

With all of the hidden costs and up front fees, getting another VISA card from a different financial institution seemed like a real pain to me. But, fortunately, on the bottom of the letter, was an 800 number to call for questions. Figuring I had nothing to loose, I called the number.

After giving them my credit card number over the phone (which I hate doing) they looked up my account and announced that I was no longer a member of the credit union. This took me by surprise as I have been a member of the credit union for 25 years. They said that my membership was canceled 3 years ago because I no longer had an account there.

Ah, now I remember. They kept sending me those annoying letters stating that my account was inactive and to please close the account. Thinking that I was doing them a favor by closing my account with them, I withdrew the last of my money. That must have been what canceled my membership in the credit union.

So I asked what I needed to do to become a member again. They told me that I needed to open a savings account. Savings account?. Surely, I thought, they will require some outrageous minimum balance. But when I asked how much, they told me that I only needed 5 dollars. Well 5 dollars is a deal! 🙂

If I became a member, I asked, would they renew my credit card? They replied that I would have to get a new card number as they couldn’t renew my old card and that I would have to apply for a new card and have my balanced transferred. 🙁 Having worked for the state for as long as I have, I have a good sense of how bureaucracy works so I was not surprised at the answer. So, not wanting to be without a credit card during the holidays, I headed to the nearest branch office to open my 5 dollar savings account.

When I arrived at the credit union, I explained my situation go the account person. He confirmed what I had been told; 5 dollars to open an account and I would have to apply for a new credit card. I then filled out about 10 pages worth of paper work and gave the man 5 dollars. Ten minutes and 5 copies later, the man returned with a new document that I was required to sign. He then announced that I now had a no maintenance savings account with a balance of 5 dollars, a no maintenance checking account with a balance of 0 dollars and that I would be receiving an ATM card just in case I wanted to withdraw my 5 dollars. Fine, now lets get to the credit card.

The credit card was fairly straight forward. The account person explained the various plans and then told me to choose one. There was the food back plan, which allowed you to buy a certain amount of free food. The more you charged, the more free food you could receive. There was the gas back plan, which was similar to the food plan. Then there was the Prime plan, which sets your interest rate at or a certain percentage above the Prime rate. The percentage you paid was determine by your credit rating. Since my credit rating was excellent, I chose the Prime plan.

The account person told me it would be about an hour or so for my credit card app. to be approved. He asked if I wanted to wait around. If not, he would call me when I got approved. Since I had things to do, I gave him my cell phone number and left. Two hours later he called and asked me to stop back around for the final sign off.

When I stopped in again, the account person gave me a folder for all of my papers, a magnet for the fridg and a coupon card for discounts at various businesses and told me my card should arrive in 3 to 4 weeks. I was hoping for a faster turn around time on the cards but such is life.

Three weeks later to the day, my cards arrived. As I am pulling out my old card to replace it with the new, something caught my eye. The numbers on the new card were the same as the numbers on the old card. Yes! 🙂 Apparently someone higher up in credit card chain noticed that I was not a new customer and reissued my card. Only this time, my interest rate is very low.

Valentines Day

I was in Meijer’s Saturday doing some last minute grocery shopping for Christmas. As I am going down the isle, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Right next to the Christmas candy were some big red heart shaped pillows. Valentines Day stuff!! We haven’t even made it through Christmas yet!!

Ah yes, the next big holiday is Valentines Day. I suspect that come Tuesday, all of the Christmas stuff will be 50% off or even more. Gotta make room for the Valentines Day stuff.

Unfortunately for the retailers, Valentines Day is not a major event; candy, cards, flowers and lingerie for the most part. Of course, if you happen to own a flower shop, candy store, card shop or lingerie store, Valentines Day may be your busiest holiday. But for the rest of the retailers Valentines Day is not that big.

The first problem with Valentines Day is that it is centered around a limited motif. Unlike Christmas which has Santa Claus, reindeer, elves, snowmen, holly, Christmas trees, etc. Valentines Day has only the red heart.

There is only so much that you can do with the red heart. Red heart shaped pillows, candy boxes, balloons, pasties, that’s pretty much it. And lets not forget heart shaped cookies and cakes.

Realizing this dilemma, retailers have move into just the color red as in red satin pajamas or red satin sheets. Associating the color of red with Valentines Day offers the retailers more versatility as they can use the same products for both Christmas and Valentine Day. Genius!

Anyway, it annoys me when retailers start putting out merchandise for the next holiday when the immediate one has not yet even occurred. It is bad enough that they get the stuff out the day after the previous holiday. And, I suspect that in another week or two I will be able to buy a new swimming suit but not a winter coat. Oh well.

December visitor

On a December evening, about 9PM, a couple of years ago, someone rang our door bell. As I flipped on the outside lights, I noticed that there was no car in the driveway. We live in the woods and our nearest neighbor is 100 yards away. On the other side of the street is a cemetery, so we don’t get a lot of walk up visitors, particularly from the cemetery.

I opened the door to discover a 50ish woman with chin length blond hair. I had never seen this woman before but judging by her facial features, I would say that her heritage was Scandinavian. And, I ventured to guess that her first name was probably Ingrid.

She asked if she could use the phone and I told her yes. As she came in, she explained to me that her car was in the cemetery, running, and that she had accidently locked the doors.

This sent chills down my spine. Why was she in the cemetery at 9PM? Was this some sort of witchcraft? Some Druid ritual? I tried to put a good spin on the event by believing that maybe she grieving the recent loss of a relative and came to the grave site to light a candle or leave some flowers. Then my sick little twisted mind kicked in, “Maybe she is taking comfort in the loss of a relative and wanted to make sure that the bastard was still dead.”

She stated that she was going to call someone to bring over her extra set of keys. She made her phone call but apparently the person she was calling was not at home. So she left a message.

She then decided that she would just walk home to get her extra keys. I offered to drive her if she wanted, but she declined. She said that she didn’t live that far away and that the exercise would be good for her. And so she left.

About 5 minutes later, the phone rang and the voice on the other end asked, “Is Ingrid there?” “Who?” I responded. He said “Ingrid. She just left me a message from this phone number.” I said “Oh, you mean the 50ish woman with blond hair.” He said “Yes”. I said “No, she left about 5 minutes ago.” He said “Thank you.” and hung up the phone.

“Ingrid” I smiled to my self. Can I call em or can I call em.

Still, I have to wonder what a 50ish woman would be doing in a cemetery at 9PM? And why did she leave the car running in the first place? Was she just making a quick stop or did she leave the car running in case she needed to make a quick getaway? And more to the point, was she meeting someone there? How many women would go to a cemetery at night, alone? I guess I will never know the answers as to Ingrid and the cemetery. While this is not the strangest event for this house hold, it is one of the more interesting ones.

The earrings

Christmas time brings gift giving to a height. With gifts comes wrapping paper. But before you wrap the gift, it needs to be contained in something with smooth symmetrical surfaces, namely, a box. Such was the case for my oldest daughter.

In her pursuit for a small box for wrapping a gift, she came across a 3″x3″x1″ jewelry box in our Christmas box repository. Upon opening the box, she discovered a pair of gold colored earrings.

Since these were clip on earrings and not pierced earrings, my daughter thought that they were cuff links. She brought them to our attention as we sat around the evening meal. Assuming that they were my cuff links she announced that I must have forgotten them from Christmases long ago. As I pulled them out of the box, I noted that they were not cuff links at all but earrings. Thus the mystery begins.

Everyone, including myself, has pierced ears. So, who were the earrings for? We came up with three possible conclusions:
1. They were a gift for someone else that was forgotten, ala Griswalds.
2. They were a gift from someone else that was to be exchange for pierced earrings.
3. They were a gift for someone else that needed to be exchanged for pierced earrings.

In reflecting back on the earrings, everyone sort of remembers them, but it would have been from a time long long ago. Mean while, my 2 ½ year old grand daughter enjoys being a fashion queen by showing off her gold colored clip on earrings.


Back a few years ago, a friend of mine developed a rather severe cough. This cough would come in 5 minute spells several times a day. Once the spell was over, he was fine. But during the spell, he could hardly breathe.

Since he never had a spell in the doctors office, the doctor assumed that the cough was caused by his blood pressure medicine. So, the doctor tried several different blood pressure medicines but to no avail. Finally, the doctor took him off of all blood pressure medicine but the cough still persisted. Perplexed, the doctor started down the allergy road.

Fortunately for my friend, he had a coughing spell in front of the doctor. Seeing the violent coughing scared the doctor so much that he decided right then and there that this was no allergy and that it was something bigger than a medication problem. The doctor would not even let him leave the office until he was sure that the coughing was under control. The doctor even sent out for lunch for the two of them as he reviewed all of the symptoms. After conducting some tests and getting the lab results back, the diagnosis was in. Pertussis!

Both the doctor and my friend were shocked. After all, my friend had been vaccinated against Pertussis as a child so why would he be getting Pertussis now? My friend concluded that he must have been exposed to it while in Canada several weeks earlier. But what both the doctor and my friend missed was that fact that someone who had been vaccinated still came down with the disease as an adult.

In checking with the CDC, they noted that there is no life long vaccine against Pertussis. In fact, the vaccine that most of us 50ish people received has an effective immunity duration of only 5-10 years. After that, we are all susceptible to Pertussis. And given that fact that the medical community seems to be in general denial that it still exists, means that it may be more common than we know. In fact, my friends doctor could not diagnose the disease until he ran a simple lab test. And had he not witnessed the violent coughing spell, the complaint would have been dismissed as environmental.

Now, according to the CDC, Pertussis can have varying intensities from extreme, as in the case of my friend, to mild. And Pertussis was not even suspected until my friend actually had an extreme coughing spell in front of the doctor. So my question is that if an extreme case of Pertussis is dismissed by the doctor as a problem with medication, what about a mild or moderate case of Pertussis? The person sitting next to you that seems to cough all of the time could have a mild, undiagnosed case of Pertussis.

A co-worker of mine complained of have some sort of cold that seemed to hang on for weeks. His main symptom was periodic coughing spells. Several weeks later, I too came down with similar symptoms.

I would have coughing spells that would last for maybe 15 seconds and then I would be fine. At times, the coughing would be so violent that my ribs would hurt. Thinking that this would pass after a few days, I did nothing. Finally, after 2 weeks, I went to the doctor.

The doctor looked down my throat and listened to my chest and then announced that I had a cold. But according to the CDC, Pertussis can only be confirmed by a lab test and not looking down a throat or listening to a chest. Besides, a cold doesn’t last for 8 weeks. If I had pushed the issue, I am sure he would have suggested a change in blood pressure medicine. The bottom line is that Pertussis is not considered to be an option unless the doctor actually sees a severe coughing spell.

The doctor gave me some prescription cough medicine which worked really well. One teaspoon of that stuff and I was asleep in five minutes. Unfortunately, it only lasted for about 4 hours and then I would start coughing again.

Besides my ribs hurting from the coughing, I was also suffering from a lack of sleep or should I say a lack of restful sleep. Every time that I would start coughing, it would disturb my sleep. While I seldom woke up from the coughing, I was still not getting a restful sleep as a result of the coughing.

All in all, my “cold” lasted for almost 8 weeks. Upon checking the Pertussis web site, I had the classic symptoms of a mild case of Pertussis; bouts of coughing, producing thick mucus and last about 8-10 weeks.

My conclusion is that :

1. Pertussis is much more common than most people realize.

2. Mild cases are almost never diagnosed.

3. Severe cases can not be diagnosed without a lab test.

Christmas Letters

Every year, it seems that we get right down to the wire for getting out our Christmas letter and this year was no exception.  At least this year, we got the letters in the mail before Christmas.  Not a record by any means but it is a start.  I hand delivered them to the Post Office in an effort to speed up the delivery process.  I don’t know if it will help but I feel better knowing that the USPS now has them.

Monday was writing the draft.  Tuesday was reviewing the draft with Kathy.  Wednesday was finding the address list on the PC.  (It is a yearly event) Thursday was lickem and stickem.  Shazaam, it’s done for another 365 days!!

Actually, I do enjoy writing the Christmas letter.  I am just always amazed as to how quickly Christmas arrives.  It seems like there should be another week before it is Christmas.   Maybe next year we’ll do better.