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Sunday, November 13, 2016


I hadn't planned on going to the grocery store this weekend. Trent can tell you that I am not a big fan of shopping during this part of the week. The throng of people is often too much for me, and brings my anxieties to the forefront. So I say again, for the record, that I had no intention of going to the grocery store this weekend. However, I fell victim to the siren song of one of my favorite cereals on sale for a ridiculously low price. A weekend-only sale. So I decided to go to the store. There were some other items that I wanted or needed, so I made my list and set off to brave the throng.

Now, one of the items that I saw in the store's weekly ad was a box of store-brand lancets (poky things used to get a blood sample for blood sugar monitoring) for a dollar. I could probably have gotten them free through my online pharmacy, but it would have required a visit to the doctor, so I decided to put that item on my list. I grabbed my purse and a couple of shopping bags and walked to the store. When I got to the pharmacy area, it was pretty busy. I saw a box of lancets on a table and put them in my cart rather than asking where they might be displayed.

When I went through the checkout, my total was more than twenty dollars higher than I expected. The box of lancets had rung up at a cost of twenty-two dollars! I told my cashier, one of the head clerks, that the product was on sale for a dollar, so he reversed it and rang it up at that price. As I walked home with my bags, my brain flashed a picture of the box that I had picked up. It wasn't lancets, it was testing strips! I had inadvertently cheated the store out of more than twenty dollars!

Since I was nearly home, I put my few cold items in the fridge, put the box and receipt in my purse, and walked back to the store. I won't deny that it felt good to know that I was going to rectify my mistake. I stopped briefly and apologized to the person who had been my cashier and proceeded to the pharmacy to right my wrongs. And that's when things took an unpleasant turn.

When I returned the unopened box of test strips to the pharmacy with my receipt and asked for the lancets instead, I was met with a blank stare. "Can't you use these?" the pharmacy tech asked. I explained again that I had only paid a dollar for them and had intended to pick up lancets, not test strips. She asked if I had the store-brand testing device, which I do not, and I told her that even if I did, I couldn't use the strips in good conscience because I hadn't paid for them.

The tech then informed me that she couldn't re-dispense the testing strips. I pointed out that the box was unopened and the product unused. Couldn't it go in a charity box or something? She told me there was no such thing. She repeated that since they had been dispensed to a customer, they could not be dispensed to anyone else. A comment was made to the effect that I should have come to the pharmacy counter rather than just picking the item up. Of course, this begs the question of why a one dollar item was behind the counter when a twenty-two dollar item was sitting out on a table.

After pouring some more lemon juice into the deep cut to my psyche, she freed the lancets from Fort Knox and told me they were not on sale. She grudgingly gave them to me anyway. I even asked if we could make believe that I had never left the store with the test strips, but she said no, they couldn't be re-dispensed. I walked over to the entrance and got a store ad to bring back to the pharmacy to show the lancets were indeed on sale. I ended up speaking with someone else who also rubbed some lemon juice on my mental wound. Through the whole interchange I was incredibly polite. I can say without a doubt that my courtesy and conscience were equally strong. I did mention as I left that I tried to be a good person and ended up feeling like a jerk. 

I walked home with the lancets in my purse and tears in my eyes. It all seemed so insanely wasteful to me. A perfectly good product was going to waste because I got in a hurry and made a mistake, and then was honest about it. After I got home and thought about it, I knew it wouldn't hurt the pharmaceutical companies. They make obscene amounts of money on diabetes-related products. And I am sure that the store's corporate headquarters won't suffer much from that small loss. I'm just stunned that a fully-sealed product cannot be used simply because I touched it and in their eyes might have tampered with it. 

Wow, I thought. It's incredible that an item that is not ingested can't be sold after it's touched. I can return a bag of potato chips unopened and they can go back on the shelf. And produce - heck, that stuff has been touched by so many hands it isn't even funny. And cold medicine, too. I realize that people have been harmed by medications that have been tampered with and that due diligence is necessary. I realize that the people in the pharmacy don't know me. I also realize that someone who is twisted enough to tamper with test strips is quite possibly twisted enough to return them in an attempt to hurt others. It just seems to me that there could be a simple solution that would make it evident whether the product was opened or not. We can do it with over-the-counter medications, why not other things as well? And I certainly wouldn't object to people not having to feel emotionally flogged when they are honest about making a mistake.



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Friday, November 11, 2016


We don't always realize, when we are either learning ourselves or teaching others, that sometimes what is learned goes far deeper than we had originally thought. I realized this when I was training telephone customer service bankers. One day I discovered that one of my favorite trainees was no longer taking customer calls, he was now working as the department assistant. His duties were many, and the job was an important part of the functioning of the call center. He was responsible for supplies, mail, ensuring that forms went to the proper area, and all sorts of other things. 

When I saw Chris doing the job, my heart sank. I thought that I must have let him down as a trainer if he decided to leave his original position. Every time I saw him or spoke with him in passing, it haunted me. I had failed. One day, I decided that I couldn't let the self-torture continue. I had to know what had happened, so I asked. His face lit up as he told me that I was, indeed, the reason that he had left his original job. He wanted to thank me, and in fact, his mother wanted to thank me. 

This left me almost ready to cry. Had I done such an awful job that even his mother wanted him to quit? He then told me that because of my training, he had decided to go back to school and finish getting his bachelor's degree. And then he gave me another wonderful gift. He told me that before taking my new-hire training, he had thought that learning was boring. I had made him realize that learning could be fun. Needless to say, knowing that I had had this beautiful and unexpected impact in his life made me cry anyway. But they were tears of happiness.

This morning, I was playing a game of solitaire on my cell phone. Now, even a non-programmer type like me knows that computers of any ilk are very stringent about the rules. They know that A leads to B, and that's the way things are. They can't be forced to fudge the rules or be flexible with them like humans can. I remembered Gram teaching me how to play Solitaire years and years ago. She taught me how to lay out the cards. About discard piles and going through the deck. Playing the cards on each other and building up your suits at the top of the game, and moving Kings to the emptied spaces on the field, freeing the cards underneath them to be played.

Gram liked to play a hand of Solitaire every morning after her breakfast. She said that playing a game of Solitaire in the morning would tell her how her day would be. There was always a deck of cards on the kitchen table ready for her to shuffle with her gnarled, arthritic hands. I would watch as she played, sometimes telling her about a move that she hadn't noticed. And then I saw her doing something that I thought was breaking the rules. She took a stack of cards that did not have a King at the bottom and put them in an empty spot on the playing field. I told her that she couldn't do that, only Kings could go in an empty spot. She calmly and coolly told me that if all of the Kings were already on the table and there was an empty spot, you could move other cards there. Hey, it sounded good to me. If Gram said that it was okay, I would add that rule to my playing as well.

When I play Solitaire on my phone or computer, I often think of Gram and wish that I could use Gram Rules to play my game. And that's how it was this morning. I chuckled to myself at the memory of Gram bending the rules and knowing that she'd get frustrated with the inflexibility of playing it without a real deck. And then it hit me - Gram had, all those years ago, taught me an invaluable lesson. Sometimes we have to do whatever we can to make things work.

This kind of blew my mind, and in a way that I really needed. Like many people, I was taken by surprise with the election results this week. It didn't go the way that I had hoped or expected. I was stunned not only by the results, but the violence that occurred as a result of the presidential race. I had expected fear and disillusionment, but not anything like this. And then a game of Solitaire let Gram teach me something nineteen years after her death. Sometimes we have to do whatever we can to make things work.

The more I thought about her teaching me to play this simple card game, the more learning I found. The game will never be won without the different colors or cards working together. Every card in the deck is important and necessary to make the game a successful one. On the playing field, the King is on the bottom and the smaller cards are built on and supported by the most powerful one. When the suits are built up, the King cannot survive the game without the smaller cards, the little guys.

Like Gram's game of solitaire, we need to do whatever we can to make this thing work. We have to unite, all colors, all genders, all beliefs, all of us, no matter what category or description we use for ourselves. With our love for the other cards in the deck, we can win this game of life. Sometimes it might seem like the game is difficult or unwinnable, but if we work together, maybe we can make it happen.


The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

Thank you for reading!