The bane and blessing of insurance

Insurance exists as a bane to any budget, an unwanted expense, the cost denigrated in multiple conversations … until misfortune happens.
At 9, I barely understood the severity of the accident that sent my brother to the hospital for most of the summer. My only clue about the costs came when I overheard little understood conversations of adults discussing insurance and bills.
In my 20′s, health insurance came as a company benefit from my husband’s job – a fee extracted before he received his check. By state law, we had to write a check for our car insurance and the mortgage provider insisted on house insurance to cover their costs in case the laws of nature turned against us.
So insurance remained in the background of my worries until the day our son landed in the ICU after a car hit him. The paperwork and bills followed him home Thanks to insurance, our barely floating, family financial ship sailed on unscathed.
As a healthy person on a tight budget, I assumed I would never have enough medical bills to meet even a minimal deductible. Still, I grudgingly bit the bullet, looked at more than six decades of health, and chose a plan with the lowest premium and highest deductible.
I never came close to meeting the deductible. Medical crises happened to others, including my family who filed claims for the astronomical cost of pediatric heart surgery, a traumatic brain injury, ambulance runs and weeks of hospitalization for a chronic illness.
None of those bills came to my mailbox. So, I really did not consider the financial impact of a medical crisis until four months ago when I missed a step, fell, split my left tibia and broke my left wrist. Until I broke those bones, I simply echoed everyone else in grumbling about the cost of a policy I knew I would never use. Until I fell, I had no clue just how expensive medical care could be for me personally.
The meter began ticking the minute the ambulance arrived to take me to the hospital. It ticked a little faster in the emergency room as the x-ray technician positioned me on the metal bed in the darkened room to photograph my bones. The dollar signs multiplied rapidly as I had first one, then another surgery and two hospitalizations followed with hours each week of physical therapy.
The cloud of comfort from pain killers had barely cleared when the statements from providers and insurance company began filling our mailbox. The first 24 hours alone exceeded my deductible.
Last week, hesitantly beginning to use both legs with a walker after four months of recovery, I tallied all the medical statements to discover that the insurance company had paid out more than 20 times the amount I had paid for my deductible.
I put down the tallies both astonished and grateful. Astonished at the high cost of modern medical care for what is essentially a non-life threatening event. Grateful for the insurance company’s fulfilling their promise. It literally has saved our retirement. Without the insurance, all of my retirement funds would have disappeared that first month and the next three months would have greatly depleted my husband’s savings. Meanwhile the meter continues to tick.
Yes, insurance is expensive.
Medical care is more expensive.
I feel fortunate to be able to have had both …. and I hope I never again have to realize how much having even the lowest premium and highest deductible for medical coverage saved us so much money.

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All lives matter

The Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter campaigns emphasize the respect, dignity and worth of individuals, that none should shrug off their deaths as unimportant. To the universal “All lives matter” we need to all … “including the unborn.”
Such words come easily, tossed about to prove a point and too quickly are then lost in the duress of daily life. There are no such slogans for two Vietnamese. They don’t talk, they simply live a daily example of respect and dignity for the smallest of humans. These two, Tong Phuoc Phuc and Pham Thi Cuong, have demonstrated this truth for years. Day in and day out, both have carefully and respectfully buried the tiny bodies of unwanted children who were aborted or abandoned after being born. They also have provided homes for babies who survived their mother’s rejection.
The difficult birth of his own child initiated Tong Phuoc Phuc’s journey. Waiting for hours during his wife’s labor, Phuc watched other women come into the hospital pregnant and leave without a child. Slowly he realized ‘why’. It impacted him beyond words. Phuc had to do something. He determined he would provide a burial for each infant rather than allow their little bodies to be trashed.
Phuc did not see these children as garbage. He wanted them to at least have the dignity of a burial. This building contractor did not just talk about the fact that the lives of the unborn matter, he bought property on the side of a mountain and prepared a very neat, highly organized cemetery. He received permission to receive the bodies. Over the past 15 years Phuc has buried over 10,000 aborted children. Each has their own burial plot and marker in graves that Phuc decorates with flowers. An Associated Press video shows him placing one flower in the holder of each the tiny, carefully graves marked with the date of death.
As the cemetery grew, people began talking about it and his respect and honor for the dignity the unborn. The story of his concern brought women to his door asking if he would take their child, when it was born. Phuc and his family agreed and have provided a home for over 100 children. Some mothers have later returned and reunited with their child. That is Phuc’s ultimate goal: reunion of child and mother; so the children are not available for adoption. As his mission became known, others have contributed to provide the funds and workers needed to sustain the children’s home and the cemetery.
Cuong began burying babies after she discovered a moving, breathing, abandoned newborn in a bag of trash. The child was covered with flies. Despite her efforts, the child died, but it began her constant search for other thrown away children. According to Vietnam News, since that first child, Cuong has found many thrown away babies, some alive, some dead. She buries the dead and finds homes for the children who survive.
She finds the babies in trash bags left on the sidewalk. Sometimes animals have found them first. “It gives me the chills,” she said. “But then I thought about their really short life of being abandoned, not even having a place to rest when they died, I still tried to bring them home.”
Not all agree with her mission. Some say this poor woman should focus on taking care of herself. Others call her an ‘angel’ and at least one person has joined her in the search for abandoned children.
Cuong’s story is similar to a Chinese woman, Lou Xiaoying who recycles trash for a living. The Daily Mail reported Xiaoying has found and rescued 30 infants in dumpsters and cared for them as her own. “I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage, how could we not recycle something as important as human lives. These children need love and care,” she said. “They are all precious human lives. I do not understand how people can leave such a vulnerable baby on the streets.”
That’s what it should mean, when we say Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter – including the unborn. Three Asians know this truth without all the hype. It should also be true in our country for both the party that wants to “Make America great again” and the party that “fights for everyone.”
Let both parties prove their slogans by working to show that even the Smallest of Lives Matter. When we begin caring for even the most vulnerable, when we recognize their right to life, then we all can fully realize we are created equal and enjoy our life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Essential Exercise for the broken

For a person who despises exercise, I sure do spend a lot of time doing it these days. Leg lifts, quad sets, wrist twists and turns, weight lifting, leg squeezes, stretching exercises and lounges. Thirty of each and repeat three times a day.
I know I need to do the exercises if I ever expect to leave the wheelchair and walker behind. But, still, I protest, for at least 20 minutes every single time before I get started. An hour and a half later, after I finish all the exercises, I collapse into a huge sigh of relief and just sit, recuperating for another 15 or 20 minutes of astonished gasping “Phew! I did it.”
Multiple those couple hours times three, add in a healing nap once or twice a day, fixing meals and the days just fly by.
And, people used to ask me what I would do when I retired.
I used to have a job, now I have a gym routine that consumes hours of every day of the week. All this because I missed one step, fell forward onto the landing, split my left leg’s tibia and broke my left wrist all in less time than it took to write all that. I am in my third month of recuperation and anticipate at least as many months ahead of me.
Yes, that long sigh you just heard came from me. I do that a lot of that these days … sighing. I look at the list of exercises and sigh. I argue with myself about the importance of doing them early in the morning, in the afternoon and before I go to bed. I lose the fight every time and I sigh at my defeat.
I keep my leg weight and exercise bands on the headboard bookshelf so I can stay in bed and exercise. In the dawn of the day I pretend I am just like my husband who sleeps soundly while I do leg lifts and tighten the muscles around my knee 100 times.
Yes, I said 100. And then I sigh, strap on an ankle weight and begin leg lifts and knee bending.
Later, I sigh while my husband bends my leg until it pulls uncomfortably (translation: it hurts). I live with the sigh of resignation that I must do all this to walk freely again.
Exercising began at my dear daughter’s house. She admonished me to not just lay there, but to keep moving. To keep her happy, I waved my right arm and leg around whenever she put in her daily exercise video. Those movements sufficed those first couple weeks as I internally cautioned everyone, “No quick movements. Be careful. I am breakable.”
Physical therapists don’t care about all that. They emphasize, they expect, they demand movement. I came home from the last hospital stay with a half hour routine of wheelchair exercises to do once a day. I thought I did pretty good working my way through them until I graduated from rehab therapy to recuperative therapy.
With a warm smile on their faces and determination to get me back up on my feet, the physical therapists add new exercises regularly during my three weekly visits. I began with a half a dozen exercises. The next time a couple more were added with the admonition to repeat each 30 times during three sessions a day.
All that exercise cuts into my book reading time. I must have books. I discovered audio books on YouTube. Now I ‘read’ and exercise at the same time.
Even my last physical therapy session added yet another couple techniques to use to restore my former freedom of movements. Okay, so it will only take five minutes to do each one. Those little pieces of my time: five minutes here and there are like breaking a Hershey bar into the little squares to eat one tiny bit of chocolate at a time. By the end of the day when all the chocolate pieces are gone, I still have eaten a whole candy bar.
With the bits and pieces of exercises to do through the day, I tally up more than five hours of gym at home and I still must not let the left foot touch the ground and carry the body.
The leg, the knee and the ankle exercise a lot. The foot waits high and dry for the doctor’s approval. Meanwhile the left wrist has escaped cast, brace and that initial stiffness to once again contribute to the daily activities including leg strengthening exercises. It will soon graduate from therapy with a cap, gown and a diploma admonishing it to remember be more careful in the future, I am breakable and I really do not want to do all this again, ever.

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Sacred fabric shears

Quilters make and share quilts. They share patterns, tips and techniques.
Quilters never share their best pair of fabric scissors with anyone reaching to use cloth cutting shears for any purpose other than cutting cloth. Every seamstress knows that using fabric shears to cut anything else could ruin them for cutting fabric. That protectiveness generated much discussion recently on a quilting Facebook thread.
The topic began with one question, “Is anyone else protective of their fabric scissors? I caught my husband using my best scissors to open a light fixture. I threatened to use his fancy screw driver to open a paint can. He immediately dropped the scissors and used a different tool.”
The responses came quickly.
“No, not at all, why?” (Teeth grinding).
“I caught my hubby cutting fiber glass with mine.”
“On no, don’t touch my fabric scissors, my husband knows better after I threatened him!”
“My wife hides her favorite scissors because I said to her that I used them to cut a can.”
“Once I had my husband use my $400 hair cutting scissors on paper. We will just say that never happened again – a power tool went missing.”
“Mine were labeled ‘fabric only’ and I would catch my son stripping electrical wire with them. Ugh!”
“I made my hubby go to the fabric store and buy me a new pair to replace the pair he ruined. He was appalled at the price and never used mine again.”
“I told my husband and kids that if they messed with my fabric scissors, I would break their fingers! They knew I wouldn’t, but Mom got her message across!”
“My husband is my scissor guardian angel. He gets very mad if anyone tries to use them for anything else. He has bought several pairs for me, though, so he knows the value of them first hand.”
“My husband knows not to touch my sewing stuff, he doesn’t go in my sewing room looking for things like that. My father-in-law on the other hand used my mother-in-law’s rotary cutter to cut the carpet. The blade was not the same after that and she had to buy a new one.”
Education sometimes guards against misuse. The techniques (and success) varies.
“My daughters learned from birth do not touch mom’s orange handle scissors. As an adult, my daughter was working on gift baskets at work. Someone included orange handled scissors, she said ‘those scissors are only for fabric.’ They kind of ignored her. Then someone else said ‘orange handled scissors are for fabric.’”
“Ask for scissors as a birthday or Christmas gift. Those who purchase them give them the value they deserve. Mine also have a label that says: ‘Touch these and die.’”
“I have a pair of Fiskars that I bought over 30 years ago and my husband and son know they’ve signed their death warrant if they even THINK of using them! After all these years and miles and miles of fabric, they’re still sharp as ever!…(the scissors, not the husband or son).”
Some quilters take measures to protect their shears.
“I have separate tools for paper and cooking from my sewing tools.”
“Padlock.”
“Mine are marked with thick black sharpie. ‘Fabric Only!’”
“We keep three pairs of shears in the kitchen for anyone to use. They are sharp enough to distract from my tools.”
“We just have a rule: Plastic handled scissors can be borrowed. Metal handled scissors are mine ONLY.”
“I hide my good scissors. I have a caddy with other scissors that anyone can use. Hubby and son are not allowed in my sewing studio for any reason whatsoever. Well, unless it is to repair something, even then they are supervised.”
Remember that the next time you see a quilt lovingly made by someone – the same person who sharply, severely admonished (even threatened) anyone and everyone to not touch the scissors used to make it.

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Cell phone in court

Cell phones. Can’t live without them, can’t live with them. They keep us in touch far from home or the office. They interrupt conversations and meetings. Even silenced, fingers twitch to take just a peek for messages or to see who might have called.
The urge dictates so strongly that pastors admonish folks, “please, turn off your cell phones.” The tables turned at a wedding. The ceremony began with the preacher, groom and groomsmen filing in and nervously waiting for the processional of the bride and her attendants.
An insistent buzz broke the momentary silence in the expectant room.
Attendants, musicians and guests looked around for the guilty party. Red-faced, the preacher reached in his pocket, pulled out his cell phone and turned it off as the audience quietly laughed.
“We all have been reminded, let’s continue,” he said as he pocketed his now silenced phone.
If church is a solemn place prohibiting cell phones, the courtroom multiplies the mandate many times over. Cell phones may not be seen or heard. Judges do not like to have a cell phone tweet, buzz, chirp or even be seen during their proceedings. Frequent visitors and regular court attendants know any violation could result in the phone being confiscated until the end of the day’s session of court.
Court begins with the bailiff or judge reminding everyone in the courtroom to silence all cell phones. Still, the lawyer just walking through the courtroom to talk with his client, automatically reached into his pocket when his phone vibrated. He raised it to his ear. A scowling county officer zeroed in on that phone, quickly crossed the room and held out his hand. The lawyer grimaced, smiled ruefully and handed over his phone, hoping he might get it back when court finished that day.
Seeing that once sufficed to warn any new to the court. Another day, following the bailiff’s command to turn off all cell phones, folks reached into purses and pockets and double checked. One hand slipped and hit a command button that overrode the silent mode. “I’m sorry, I can not find Internet access,” the phone mechanically complained from the dark pocket. Though muffled, it still broke the courtroom silence.
Fumbling quickly, the owner scrambled to stifle the phone. The bailiff looked. He knew this offender. He grinned, and approached the offending phone and owner. Beside the owner another frequent visitor quickly rummaged around in a bag and pulled out a large package of gum. “Here give this to him,” the visitor shoved the block of gum into the offender’s hands.
Disbelief, confusion and relief overwhelmed the offender. The gum went from owner to offender to bailiff. The talkative cell phone stayed in the pocket. The bailiff took the gum, looked at it, grinned and tucked the gum into his shirt pocket.
The judge proceeded with the first hearing. Twenty minute later, during one of the court’s many lulls in activities, the bailiff, with his back to the judge, looked over at the offender and the visitor.
He grinned broadly, elaborately reached into his pocket, pulled out the gum, deliberately took out a piece, unwrapped it and popped it into his mouth. He raised his eyebrows, smiled and began chewing, obviously relishing the phone substitute.
The guilty spectators shook their heads and chuckled silently.
A couple weeks later, the cell phone offender saw the other spectator and held out a new package of gum, “To repay you for the gum.”
“What? Oh, the phone. Thanks.” The gum went into the bag and the conspirators settled down to watch another day of court. This time with both cell phones turned off and tucked safely out of sight.

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Socializing in the rehab unit

No one in the rehab dining hall at the hospital considered it rude to ask, “What happened to you? Why are you here?” The sudden, abrupt changes to their bodies that each had endured, screamed to be discussed.
The guy with one less leg than the day he retired a couple weeks ago, wanted to talk about the blood clots that took his leg and the other clots that still threatened his life. How could it be possible that only 10 days after retiring, his life changed so dramatically from what he had planned?! His wife sat close by at every meal, just as shocked and struggling just as much to compensate with the implications.
The man with the knee bending brace held up with a leg extension on his wheelchair negotiated his chair under the dining hall table to avoid hitting other wheelchair occupants. He said he had just been driving along when someone hit his car. Sure their insurance would cover his medical costs, but he landed in the hospital with a crushed knee, not them. “I have lots of four-wheelers and vehicles to get around with at home,” he mused anticipating leaving the rehab wing and its abundance of wheelchairs.
Not everyone asked or answered the overriding question. The tall, young man never came to the dining room. He ate in his room, worked his way through the exercises as directed by the physical and occupational therapists and never responded to the glances and tentative approaches of the strangers around him. He spoke only with his family. He and a couple others kept their distance doing everything prescribed standing out even as they refused to blend in.
The generic exercise clothes, hospital gowns or pajamas and ubiquitous wheelchairs stripped everyone of the symbols of their life’s achievements and history. Only by talking, asking questions and listening would anyone know that the elderly man had taught business courses at the college well past his 70th birthday. Or that the woman nibbling nervously through the day had had a busy, active career as a single woman for decades. The confusion that followed the incident which brought her to the rehab wing left her feeling isolated, alone.
“I guess everyone knows everyone else,” she said looking around the room of folks chatting with each other.
“Not really. They just start talking and asking questions until they get acquainted,” she was told. The next time the staff wheeled a new patient through the dining room, she looked up and smiled across the room – a promise to meet at breakfast, get acquainted and commiserate.
The energetic 57 year-old man looked around eagerly for conversation. Given the chance he worked hard to achieve a mile on the stationary bicycle. The oxygen tanks that tethered him and his mandatory exercises kept him from his goal. At meals he talked eagerly of years spent repairing engines and his hope to return to the shop he had left more than a year ago. No one pointed out his dependency on tanks of oxygen. No one wanted to diminish his hope.
All felt a warm welcome from the rowdy, heavy-set man with one leg. He cheerfully said he had come to be fitted with a new leg. “The other one just did not fit right. When I get this new leg, I can do more,” he said. Another amputee sat and chatted with him on the exercise table in the rehab unit. The representative from the prosthetic company made sure the new leg fit and watched him test it. A couple days of practice and the staff graduated him to home care.
While he was there the thin, cheerful little bird of a lady handed him her can of Ensure at every meal. She preferred it frozen into a shake. She said she had fallen early one morning at home. “I could not get up. I tried crawling where they could hear me.” Loving relatives lived close by, but that day, they had not heard her cries for help. She lay on the floor for hours before someone found her. The staff taught her strengthening exercises and talked about different living arrangements. She listened intently, nodded at the wisdom of their words – then packed her bags and left joyfully for her home.
No matter how enlightening or entertaining or educative, all the conversations with former strangers could not diminish the earnest desire to return home.

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Handicapped parking, or not

Hubby pushed the cart as I carefully wheeled my wheelchair back to the handicap slots in the parking lot. We stopped at the end of the sidewalk and stared across at our sedan. Someone had parked in the striped area beside the door I needed to open to transfer from the wheelchair. The van occupied the “do not park here; it is reserved for a handicapped person.” In fact, drivers had coveted the convenience of the closeness to the building and filled all the striped areas of handicapped parking lot.
They had not parked there for lack of parking spots. Most of the spots on the other side of the line remained open. Beyond that lay hundreds of empty parking spots.
I know the reasoning, Years ago, late at night, shortly after the federal government mandated handicap parking, we arrived at a national monument. Rationalizing, “no one will need this handicapped parking spot at this monument this late at night,” we parked in the spot nearest to the monument to facilitate our quick visit.
When we returned to the car (yes that short of time) we had a $50 parking ticket. That was the last time we rationalized taking a handicap parking spot, no matter what the circumstances.
Now we need the handicapped parking. We have a tag and we know how much energy and time it saves. We are not alone. One afternoon, we drove down the line of disabled parking spots at a major department store and could not find an empty handicapped spot. We made do in a far off parking spot with extra space around it and hubby rolled me into the store.
So, of course we parked close to the store the day a van blocked my access. Seeing the van sitting so close to our sedan, my husband took down the license number, left me on the sidewalk with the buggy, marched back into the store and had an announcement made. Minutes later, the red faced owner came out, mumbled an apology and moved his van a few spots down to a non-handicapped spot.
When I posted our experience on Facebook, a follower told of the day her handicapped husband encountered a lady parked in the striped area. He could not get the wheelchair lift down to load himself and his chair. When he asked her if she could move from the handicap space, she screamed ‘this is not marked handicapped. My husband is a policeman and I know the law.” Who cares what the law is, another person simply needed a bit of consideration. She could take a couple minutes, move her van and help him access his ride home. Common courtesy and thoughtfulness is all that is asked. We don’t need the law to do that. And review the law with her husband when she got home.
Another Facebook acquaintance, whose late daughter was handicapped wrote, “I feel for you. We had vehicle and access problems for her whole 35 years. Mostly people were not nice about being asked nicely to help by moving. We were told many times that there were places for kids like her and if we wouldn’t put her there, we should keep her at home so other people could live their lives without the irritation of seeing her… (I omitted the curse words). I hope the climate has changed some toward the handicapped in the last 11 years.”
Ouch! Really! Hide the disabled at home? What un-enlightened century did they come from? Frankly, it is getting out and doing something that has enabled many disabled to make the effort and become active, contributing members of society. Being able to leave the house definitely adds to the quality of life for anyone in a wheelchair or on a walker. Just a couple weeks in the hospital and I simply enjoyed a wheelchair stroll through the hospital’s gardens. When I finally left the hospital, I spent the entire ride simply enjoying the view. A little empathy goes a long ways folks.
Another reader noted that she too, “found the frustration of parking a handicapped van for my dad. People don’t realize how important spaces are to a handicapped person until you’re the one looking for one.”
Even at the doctor’s office on Tuesday we experienced the same lack of accessibility. I guess everyone hobbling in wanted a short walk. My husband double parked near the door and helped me out of the sedan, then parked the car further away.
At least we had the option. Not everyone does. Think about that before you slide your car into that handy, close to the door spot. Drive on by, park further away from the store and be thankful that you can walk the extra steps with ease.

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Life from the wheelchair

Nothing like a couple broken limbs to change my perspective on life. I used to be rather tall. From the wheelchair, my shoulder barely rises above the kitchen counters. I suddenly understand the short person’s and wheelchair person’s dilemma. Everything is too high. I can just see over the edge of the frying pan to check my breakfast egg.
With my long arms I can reach the over-the-stove microwave to open the door and shove in a small dish of food. If the turn table ends with the dish at the back of the oven, I turn the carousel until the food comes to the front so I can remove it. I don’t anticipate cleaning that device any time soon. Not from a wheelchair.
I did however clean the kitchen counters. Using my right arm and leg, I hoisted myself out of the lounge chair, flopped into the wheelchair and rolled backward into the kitchen. My keep- it-straight, broken leg blocks my path to most items. The broken left wrist mandates reaching over the chair if an item is on my left side. I approach the dishwasher at an angle almost close enough to toss dishes into the holders and drop the silverware into the basket before debating the importance of glasses being upside down. I even managed to wipe off the counters and wash a couple of skillets. My long arms can reach the dirty part of the counter. The rest must be clean. I can’t see into the sink, but I can fill it with the hot sudsy water and slosh cleaning rag around. The broken arm must stay dry, it did wipe a few things with a wet rag.
With a broken leg, I can technically stand and cook – or so the physical therapist said. With a broken leg, a broken arm and a walker, I have yet to figure out a safe way to do that for more than about seven minutes.
Opening the refrigerator as a stiff, one-sided person, I wheel myself backwards so my right hand can pull the door as I roll it open, then roll forward to reach the food. If we have a full gallon of milk to set on the counter, I start my weight lifting therapy early that day.
Carrying food in a wheelchair, I often spill something. I shrug it off. Who will notice if I have a few crumbs of cereal or wet spots on my black shorts?
One day my husband brought home a couple packages of cookies and placed them on the middle shelf of the cupboards over the counter. He thought they were wonderful. I wanted one. II rolled the wheelchair this way and that. I reached, jerked up and down in the seat and still could not reach them. I experienced the short person’s challenge – except I could not climb on the counter.
I could have gone back to the walker, locked the wheels on the chair, pushed myself up with one foot and arm, hopped to the cookie cupboard, carefully balanced on one foot while leaning on the arm rest and reaching with my right arm. I decided those store bought cookies wouldn’t taste all that good anyway.
And yet, I keep trying to do more in the kitchen. My inspiration comes from a local woman whose arthritis, years ago, forced her into a wheelchair. She cooked and sewed every day. She told me she kept her dishes in the dishwasher even if it meant, “Some of them get washed two or three times before I actually use them.” Makes sense to me: Convenience over convention. If she could do it, then so will I … at least until the physical therapy exercises have me on my feet again.

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Gorilla or child?

Once again the rapid read and respond time of the Internet prove how few individuals take the time to explore an issue before posting their opinion on the matter. This week it was the killing of a silver back gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo after a preschooler ignored his mother’s “No, he could not swim with the gorilla” and crossed two barriers to fall into the moat in the gorilla display arena. One of the now ever present videogaphers recorded several minutes of the animal picking up and then dragging the child through the water. Zookeepers, including the team trained to deal with dangerous animals, rushed to the scene. They shot the animal to protect the child.

Of course the video and the story quickly hit the wire and the world wide web. And then the “Monday morning quarterbacks” issued their objections and questions about everything.
Avid animal advocates, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) denounced the death of the gorilla. “The gorilla enclosure should have had a secondary barrier … to prevent this type of incident.” PETA further urged families to stay away from displays of animals where humans gawk at them. Ironically while PETA protested the abrupt decision to put down the primate, yet the PETA organization euthanize up to 90 percent of the animals (cats, dogs, rabbits, etc.) placed in its care within 24 hours of the creatures entering their shelters, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and according to Huffington Post.

The zoo’s dangerous response team underscored the intensity of the situation and negated those who insisted that a tranquilizer should have been used. The team pointed out that a tranquilizer could have taken up to 10 minutes (too long) to be effective on an animal already agitated. The life of the child weighed in as more important than the gorilla. Management had to make a decision without the sideline benefit of replays and time to second guess. They reported that the animal appeared confused (possibly from the noise of the human spectators watching the scene). Something needed to be done quickly. The other gorillas responded to a call to quarters. The male did not.

“I would have taken much longer for the sedative to work and could have angered the gorilla,” the team explained.

Still the outrage at killing the animal continued. Piles of flowers and memorials accumulated near the statue of a gorilla outside the now closed exhibit.

Second guessing the event included harsh comments about the parental supervision of the child. “You killed him for protecting a child whose parents couldn’t contain their own children.”
Easy to say. And then there is reality. An observer of the family that day reported having seen and heard the mother caution the child against getting any closer. The observer saw the family of three children and two adults together and then suddenly one child was gone. He had slipped across the barriers that met the standards for safety set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Some called the parents negligent and advocated for criminal charges. The woman who filmed the gorilla’s actions with the child negated the suggestion, “Children are adventurous, this stuff happens. I don’t think negligent is the right word.”

It is so easy to sit back and say, “They should have … I would never …” yet things happen to the most diligent of parents. The difference is that most of the time nothing untoward happens, as it did that day at the zoo.

Kim O’Connor, who videoed much of the incident adds that the video does not show the moment when the gorilla pulled the boy onto the cement portion of the exhibit. “It was too horrific to even hold the camera steady to shoot anything that bad.”

Anyone can have an opinion after the fact, with the briefest of news stories about the event.

Anyone with wisdom will take the time to find out more before passing along a harsh, off-the-cuff remark about the zoo, the parents or the animal.
As with any event, read, find out more information and ask questions. You have the time that the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team did not. They had seconds, minutes to decide. They chose the life of a child over the life of an animal. To have done otherwise is unthinkable.

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Infectious Laughter

Happiness is contagious. Just ask Candace Payne, now known as Chewbacca Mom.
She gained the name after she posted a video of herself laughing infectiously behind a Chewbacca mask that makes Wookiee sounds like the Star Wars character. Payne found the mask at a department store, picked it up and accidentally triggered the whining call of the hairy one. It tickled her fancy. She bought it for herself, knowing that her two school aged children would want it in their stash of toys.
Payne quickly made a video using the her car’s dash cam. She wanted her friends on Facebook to know she claimed ownership of the mask with its pathetic vocalizations. Nothing special about the video, just a suburban mom, sitting in her car, explaining how she got the mask for her enjoyment. Laughingly she pulls the mask over her face, demonstrates the sound as she opens the jaws and proceeds to laugh every time she talks. She ends saying, “I kind of want to drive around wearing this.” She posted the video, picked up her children and noted her surprise a couple hours later that she had 1,000 views by that evening.
“Can you believe it?” she commented.
Before she went to bed, Payne was astonished to see a million had viewed her post. The next morning she had 20 million views. Less than a week later Payne broke all records for Facebook videos with over 140 million views. Facebook management invited Payne to headquarters where she joined Chewbacca riding bikes together.
By that time Payne had already appeared on several early morning news and late night talk shows. She has been given VIP tickets and passes to the upcoming Star Wars event in Dallas. The department store (which she mentioned twice in her original video) sent a store representative to her home with a pile of gifts, gift cards, shopping points and enough masks for each member of the family. Video clips of her appearances on the talk shows have also garnered viral views on the Internet. Payne interacts comfortably at each of the short interviews, possibly because she is a praise and worship leader in her church near Dallas, Texas and was the 1999 homecoming queen at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia where she majored in musical theater.
One of her first opportunities to talk about the phenomena came a couple days after posting the video when she spoke to the youth at a Creative Arts event at her church, The Oaks Fellowship in Red Oak, Texas, near Dallas. Payne is stay-at-home mom.
To the youth she said in part, “The thing that will take you further and farther in the Kingdom of God is three things: diligence, patience, and obedience… Do not try to make a name for yourself. His name will always out shadow yours.”
Candace shared on a talk show that the best note she received came from a mom who has a daughter with autism. The daughter laughed over and over again for the first time in more than two months as she watched Candace wearing the mask. Others mentioned relief from depression andgrief after viewing the video.
The Chewbacca Mom video pumped sales of the mask. Stores quickly sold out of masks. Masks posted on Ebay that had hovered between $10 and $20 a mask – with many unsold – suddenly saw auctions soaring to $100 and more. In the first flush of desire to have a mask, one person paid nearly $500 on Ebay through a “Buy It Now” sale that included free shipping. The price of a Chewbacca mask on Amazon.com now ranges from $50 to $150 for new and used masks.
This week, one woman’s infectious laughter provided a springboard of joy at the end of the school year and beginning of summer. With everything else going on in the world and nation, it is just what the doctor ordered. Or as the good book says in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.”

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