personal safety, personal values, and shopping

I have long avoided shopping at Walmart. I didn’t like the way they treated their employees regarding health coverage in the pre-Obamacare days, and I didn’t like their profit-above-all-else approach to business.

Here in Hemet I was happy to do my discount staples grocery shopping at WinCo, an employee-owned chain in the West and Southwest. They have low prices and a wide selection. You must bag your own groceries, but I have no problem with that. I was, after all, a box boy at two different grocery stores when I was in high school.

grocery shoppingBut in this time of COVID-19 I was unhappy that after Riverside County lifted its requirement for face masks in public most of the staff there stopped wearing them. That was not the case with other grocery stores in town. I submitted a comment on the WinCo web site and received the following response:

Currently, our employee-owned stores are complying with all local mandates in each area we call home. If a local jurisdiction mandates that each individual should wear a face covering, our employee owners follow those requirements. In areas where it is not mandatory by your local governing bodies, every employee has been provided guidance and is allowed to wear a face covering at their discretion – from home or provided by the company.

As Captain Picard once shouted at Guinan, “Not good enough, dammit! Not good enough!”

Walmart, on the others hand, has a national policy requiring employees to wear face masks and is limiting occupancy in its stores while enforcing social distancing. I also have to say that I appreciate Walmart’s commitment to energy efficiency and the use of solar power, despite some of its other faults.

So, instead of doing my usual WinCo run, I paid a visit to my local Walmart Neighborhood Market. I have long found Walmart stores to be cold and impersonal, and nothing changed on this visit. When I go to WinCo I generally find everything I’m looking for (of course there are those COVID-19 exceptions), whereas Walmart did not have several items on my list.

I’m going to have to rethink my grocery shopping patterns. Perhaps it will be a combination of buying more staples at a slightly higher price at Stater Bros. (my mainstream supermarket where I buy fresh meat and produce) and making more frequent trips to Aldi, with their particularly low prices but limited selection. And of course at Aldi you never know what interesting food item you might come across.

Really, though, I wish WinCo would change its policy on employees wearing masks. That would be the simplest solution for me.


not what we had planned

Terry and I were perfectly happy with our over-the-range microwave. It worked well and did everything we needed it to do. The vent cover was broken and held together with tape, so Terry went online to the Whirlpool parts store and ordered a replacement. Before it even showed up, however, our microwave experienced a sudden and unexpected death.

I was minding my own business on Sunday morning, fixing breakfast before it was time for online Zoom morning prayer with my friends at Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. I put my bacon in the microwave and set it for one minute. The microwave started, the turntable turned, the light came on, and the timer beeped. My bacon was uncooked. I tried it again with the same result. Oh, and there was the distinct smell of burned electrical components in the air.

new microwaveOn Monday, therefore, Terry and I ventured out, wearing our face masks, to our locally owned Appliance Showroom. Owner Larry Soares is, one might say, politically incorrect and perhaps something of a redneck, but his staff is loyal and he sees that his customers are well taken care of, as we have experienced first-hand more than once. This is far from the first appliance purchase for which we have visited his store. I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a countertop microwave to use until we were past COVID-19, but our counter space is so limited as it is (we still miss that remodeled kitchen in Gilroy) that we decided to do the right thing and replace the over-the-range unit.

There were three models of the over-the-range type available in white. We selected the middle-style mama bear option (think burgers at A&W drive-ins). The woman who helped us was able to squeeze in our installation for Tuesday, as our old microwave was completely nonfunctional. We appreciated that as the next proper open slot was Thursday.

The two installers showed up around 2:00 p.m. yesterday properly wearing masks and social distancing. They set about the task while we took the late lunch that we had just begun out to the patio, Tasha accompanying us. They made quick work of the job and departed with the old microwave and all the packaging and packing materials from our new one.

We’re pleased. It looks better than the old one and has a larger capacity. It has all the capabilities we need.

We have now replaced three of the four major kitchen appliances that came with the house (where we arrived five years ago today, by the way). In those five years we have replaced the refrigerator (twice), the stove, and now the microwave. The dishwasher is still going strong, knock on wood. We hope it keeps going for a while.


still going

Today is May 1st, and those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that means I am writing about our child Tasha. We long ago designated May 1st as Tasha’s birthday. We brought her home from the shelter on November 1st, All Saints’ Day, in 2005. When we took her to the vet in Gilroy a few days later she said that Tasha appeared to be about a year-and-a-half. We decided to designate her birthday as May 1st in honor of my beloved late Grandma Monaghan. That makes Tasha sixteen today. Amazing!

TashaWe did have a health scare recently. She had some intestinal bleeding, so the vet here in Hemet prescribed her a probiotic and told us to take her off the arthritis pain medication (which she had just started and which was helping her greatly). We had an appointment scheduled for a few days later. (Spaced out appointments due to COVID-19 and social distancing, you know.) The vet took an x-ray and thought he saw a mass on her spleen, so he sent it to the radiologist. Turns out that it was just the position her stomach was in for the x-ray. Tasha is now on the probiotic long term and on a less harsh (but more expensive, of course) arthritis pain medication. A hefty vet bill, but Tasha is well worth it. She is a happy girl and it’s a relief both to see her poop looking normal again and to see her moving around comfortably.

We have always made a point of taking good care of Tasha and feeding her quality food. We don’t know her origins, as animal control picked her up on the mean streets of Gilroy all those years ago, but clearly she contributed some very solid and healthy genetic stock.

We are both so delighted that Tasha is still going and still going well.


grilling again

I wrote a while back about how our outdoor gas grill never got used last year. This was due to a couple of factors: we had a new stove that we loved and on account of my surgery I was not allowed red meat until late August. So the grill sat there unused.

grillThis year we decided that we would get back to grilling, but our grill was in serious need of cleaning. Due to social distancing we discontinued the services of our housekeeper, but thinking that she might appreciate the work we told her that we would pay her the regular house cleaning rate to clean the grill. However, she failed to call us on the agreed-upon day after the rain was to have ended, so Terry undertook the task of cleaning it herself. She completed the task and we’re now good to go. Given the current heat spell I think that we’ll probably give the newly-cleaned grill its first use tomorrow. 


pots and pans

pots and pansI spent one summer in college working in a local restaurant as a dishwasher. My senior year in college I worked for the food service vendor in a failed attempt to get into food service management. (That is another whole story.) In both cases washing dishes and washing pots and pans were two separate functions.

The same is true here at home. We have the dishwasher for plates, flatware, glasses, and other dishes. Pots and pans we wash in the sink. At our house in Gilroy, both in the original and remodeled kitchen, Terry always seemed to do the pots and pans even when I was cooking. Here in Hemet, I do most of the cooking and I do the pots and pans.

This makes no real sense, but I think it somehow has to do with the choreography and flow from the dining area to the kitchen in our respective houses. And I’m happy to clean the pots and pans along with the associated utensils (the KitchenAid (cheese) shredder attachment, the mandolin, etc.). After all, I got them dirty. I ought to clean them.

I enjoy cooking and am happy taking responsibility for the follow-up.


Christmas tree redux (Christmas tree re-do)

Christmas treeTerry and I went to our (nearly) local Christmas tree farm a week ago Monday and bought our Christmas tree. We put it up and decorated it, including all of our Star Trek and NASA ornaments. On Saturday we were sitting in our recliners, minding our own business, watching Pioneer Woman on Food Network when [WHOP!] the tree fell over. Just like that. Seems the base was too small for the tree.

Terry went to Home Depot and got a new base which was too big. She went back and exchanged it for one that was (you guessed it) just right. We decided that we had had enough activity for one day and put off (re) decorating the tree until Sunday. On Sunday we did just that.

We’re happy with our (re) decorated tree, but that was excitement which we did not need.

Still, the tree is up and beautiful and solid now, and we are prepared to enjoy our Christmas.

Happy Christmas to you, wherever you are.


that was the year that was

We did not do a holiday letter this year. It is the first time in recent memory that we haven’t done one. I was simply not up to it. Or, more accurately, I was not up to writing about things which I figured people would just as soon not read about.

calendar 2019I wrote in last year’s letter the harsh medication I was taking to shrink the GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor) on my duodenum didn’t shrink it and that I would require surgery. I didn’t think that people would be interested in my three-and-half day hospital stay for the surgery in February and the fact that I was in three different rooms during that time. I thought it would probably be TMI to write about my setback in March which put me back in the hospital for the better part of a week, and which could have been entirely avoided had I been given more complete directions about eating slowly and thoroughly chewing my food. I doubted that friends and family would care to know that I had had a tube through my nose to my stomach or that the surgical people on Day 4 finally spoke to the gastroenterological people who did an endoscopic procedure and removed two pieces of mushroom that were causing the blockage (in conjunction with the normal post-surgical swelling).

Those are the kind of things that one simply doesn’t want to put in a holiday letter, but those things informed the first third of my year.

On the other hand, people might get a chuckle to read that as Terry was finishing up her physical therapy from her knee replacement surgery (right in advance of my own surgery) she told her team that she needed to be able to pick up a thirty-five pound dog and put it on the bed, since I would be unable to do so. The physical therapy team adjusted Terry’s routine to accommodate that. And folks might like to know that our thirty-five pound dog, Tasha, now fifteen-and-a-half years old, continues to thrive.

Friends and family might like to know that Terry, who went on leave from Horizon Solar Power in advance of her knee surgery, went back to work after I recovered from my setback and continues to enjoy her work as a permit runner. They might care to know that at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church we finally, after nearly three years, called a rector who is turning out to be the exact right fit for the parish. And perhaps they might also be interested that I continue to manage the web site and the weekly e-news for the church.

Those of you who are connected with me on Facebook probably saw this, but those who aren’t might like to know that after six months of not being allowed any red meat, my surgeon released me from that restriction in August. Terry immediately went out to In-n-Out and got me a Double Double. It was marvelous!  And I suppose people would be interested in knowing that a CT scan in September showed no sign of anything amiss in my digestive tract. Oh, and folks might be amused that Terry was jealous that my scar disappeared more quickly than hers, even though her surgery was four months before mine.

If you remember that I was an avid baker of bread after our kitchen remodel in Gilroy you might appreciate the fact that I am baking bread once again. Our oven died and the cost to fix it was nearly half the price of buying a new stove. We ordered a Samsung model with a grill burner and convection oven before my surgery. It did not show up until I was well on the road to recovery from my setback. A perfect time to relearn my bread baking skills.

So that is our year. We are enjoying our holiday season and are looking forward to getting our Christmas tree tomorrow, which we had to forego last year as Terry’s healing cyber-knee was not up to the task.

Very best wishes to you and yours this holiday season!