A couple of months ago I wrote to President Obama and asked that he appoint me to be the U. S. Volunteer Czar.  I wanted the job because I’m so confident that volunteers could fix pretty much everything that’s wrong with this country.  Instead of the appointment, I got a lousy form letter that thanked me for my concern, but never mentioned anything about my thoroughly researched and thoughtfully written letter.

But I’ve come up with an even better idea.  What we need more than a Volunteer Czar is a Shopping Czar.  This occurred to me yesterday when one of the news channels reported that a cruise missile costs $160,000,000.   In the past I have ignored reports that my government pays $125 for an ordinary hammer and just under a hundred bucks to feed lunch to one of our soldiers.  But A HUNDRED AND SIXTY MIL FOR A MISSILE?  That’s insane!

For the record I pride myself in being a great shopper.  I NEVER pay retail.  A sign reading “80% off” doubles my heart rate.  I’m one of many friends who I consider skilled at this trade.  All of us clip coupons, scout sales and can recite from memory the best place that’s web-based or within 200 miles to buy anything.

I’ll bet I could have gotten us that missile at least half-off.  Maybe we could have found some that were just past their expiration date, or were last-year’s model or perhaps something slightly used or with a couple of scratches or dents.  Once they explode, who would know?

I know I can do a lovely homemade lunch for under eight bucks (maybe ten, with packaging and shipping) and I found perfectly good hammers at Home Depot for under $15, and there were a couple in the clearance bin on sale for  $7.  Some of my friends are positively addicted to shopping and would likely volunteer a few hours for free.  Forget the paid position; I could get hundreds of folks lathered up about shopping for cheap missiles. 

I know exactly how our government makes purchases.  They use a thorough and complicated bidding process.  But their contracts lock them in for as many as 50 years.  That’s craziness.  I sincerely believe that if the contracts were shorter and more flexible, AND if our contractors guaranteed the lowest price in the marketplace, both our national debt and budget would shrink considerably.  With our purchasing power you’d think we could get a volume discount at something close to cost.  Instead we appear to be paying a healthy “sucker” premium. 
Please send me your thoughts.

I volunteer at my church and www.greatplacesinc.com is well known among the parishioners  - as is my cell phone number.  Over the past few years I have received several calls from seniors in assisted living facilities wanting to share the “goings on” of their community.  They frequently describe what someone said at dinner or the behavior of some notorious resident whose name, I am supposed to have committed to memory from previous conversations.  I frequently give advice on what response I might have to the words or deeds of these unkind acts.  For the most part this all seems rather silly or maybe the result of too little to do.    But a dear friend sent me an article yesterday that labels some of this behavior as bullying and perhaps that is what it is.

In the article Gina Kaurich, an executive director at FirstLight HomeCare is quoted as saying, “There is, in some regard, a caste system among residents,” Kaurich says. “There would be an elitist type of table in the dining room where you had people who could eat and drink and carry on conversations very well together. And if an individual who had trouble eating tried to sit with them, they would ignore them or say, ‘Why do you always seem to drop your fork?’ They’d speak meanly to them. It was like high school.”

“In the recreation room, if somebody didn’t participate the way somebody else thought they should, you’d see them get into that person’s face,” she says. “They’d be literally shaking their finger and saying, ‘How dare you call out Bingo when you don’t have a Bingo!’ or ‘How dare you sing that hymn that way!’ Even if the person was in a wheelchair, they’d be looking down at them, shaking their finger in their face.”

The article went on to quote a source called Bonifas to estimate that “10-20 percent of seniors are bullied with some type of senior-to-senior aggression in an institutional setting, much of it verbal abuse.  Both men and women can bully… but women tend towards passive-aggressive behavior like gossiping and whispering about people when they enter a room while men are more  ‘in your face’ With men, it’s more negative comments directly to the person…with women, it’s more behind your back.  But it doesn’t always stop at back-biting and bickering. Seniors have also been the victims of violence…sometimes over something as trivial as a coveted spot at the dinner table.”

I was shocked.  Somehow I thought that when we moved into the next stage of our lives it would be lovely to have all of these delightful neighbors for company.  But I found that when I hit middle age I got my first chronic ache and started to gain a few pounds.  That made me mad.  Part of the anger was directed at me for not being more disciplined about exercise and diet but some of the anger was about the aging process which I could only temper not stop.  Maybe some of these folks are angry, frustrated, hurting and end up taking it out on each other,

I checked with my own personal “senior circle” and found that indeed moving to an assisted living or skilled nursing community involves a social adjustment.  Being the “new kid” in the building can be every bit as traumatic as changing schools mid-year in grade school.  One likened the senior cliques to prison gangs with the same intimidating behavior patterns you see on TV.   She admitted that might be a bit strong but said the power of feeling picked on or ostracized in a group setting can be extremely painful.

If you have family or friends in a senior community pay attention to the dynamic when you visit.  Ask those you visit how comfortable they feel, who they like and dislike and why.  If you uncover any bullying or isolation behavior, meet with the staff or other professionals to seek advice on how to solve the problem.  Acceptance is a human need.  Isolation and loneliness can lead to depression and illness. Bullying isn’t just a kid problem.

I recently received an interesting e-mail from my good friend Jean that reminded me that the foods in nature give us visual clues as to the organs in our body they nurture.  I remembered seeing this some years ago and found a more extensive list on a great website called J.CROW'S® Arthritis and Folk Medicine.  Visit the site.  You will find much wisdom there.  The following is a reprint of J. Crow’s list.  Take note!

"You are what you eat, so eat well.

A stupendous insight of civilizations past has now been confirmed by today's investigative, nutritional sciences. They have shown that what was once called 'The Doctrine of Signatures' was astoundingly correct. It now contends that every whole food has a pattern that resembles a ody organ or physiological function and that this pattern acts as a signal or sign as to the benefit the food provides the eater.

Here is just a short list of examples of Whole Food Signatures    
A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look
just like the human eye...and YES science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four Chambers.
All of the research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the Research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right Hemisphere, upper Cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the neo-cortex.We now know that walnuts help develop over 3 dozen neuro-transmitters For brain function.

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the Human kidneys.  

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough Sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Eggplant, Avocados and Pears target the health and function of The womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats 1 avocado a week, it balances Hormones, sheds unwanted birth Weight and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? . it takes exactly 9 months to Grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 phytolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the motility of male
and increase the numbers of sperm as well to overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries
Grapefruits, Oranges, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary  glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement  of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like body cells.   Todays research shows that onions help clear waste materials From all of the body cells They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes

Bananas, Cucumber, Zucchini and more target the size and strength of the male sexual organ. It's true!

Peanuts have a profound effect on the testicles and sexual libido. Peanuts were banned As a food for males by the church often during the middle ages. Most people don't realize that arginine, the main component of Viagra, comes from     peanuts."


Arthritis and Folk Medicine

I just spent an hour and a half staring at a sign that read, "Walgreens America's Most Trusted Pharmacy since 1901."  This was my third trip back to pick up an antibiotic prescription in the past two days.  First, they claimed the doctor hadn't returned their call.  That happens.  I called my trusted doctor of 20 years.  My records showed it had been called in.  I returned the next day to the same excuse.  The pharmacist said he would check his voice mail - then let me sit there.  I had work to do and resented the delay.

I proceeded to pass the time by shopping for things I did, and didn't, need. Apparently, when the pharmacist found no voice mail message, he considered himself rid of me and moved on.  No one gave me a progress report.  I began to amuse myself by inventing alternative, more appropriate mottos for the company. My best effort was, "Walgreens, We Don't Care - We Don't Have To!"

Finally, I approached the counter to ask for an update.   A voice from a rear pill stack shouted that the doctor had been called again and they were awaiting a reply.  I stormed to my car where I had left my cell phone and dialed the dear doc.  His office manager informed me that the prescription had not only been called in, but she was holding a confirmation FAX report that was five hours old.

With mounting fury, I returned to the store where I was told the authorization "had just been received." 10 minutes later, I left with the pills that I should have started two days ago.  Just so you don't think I am the only "customer from hell," let me add that I witnessed four others "go postal' while I sat or stood in line. The recipient of the ire was a poor teenager who dutifully took the complaints to the back room, then returned with either bad news or a simple shoulder shrug.  

I have experienced these problems at three Walgreens stores in my community and two while traveling.  Walgreens repeatedly commits three fatal customer service errors. First, they show a lack of care for their customer's problems AND, as importantly, a lack of respect for their precious time.   Second, their automated system consistently fails and is left on auto-pilot with no human intervention.  Finally, management fails to take responsibility for any failures.  Instead, the lowest paid staff is sent to deal with angry, frustrated customers with no good news or offer of compensation for the inconvenience suffered.  The message is clearly: "Customers are fungible. We have way more than we can handle, and there are plenty more where you came from.  Please feel free to take your business elsewhere."  Sadly, the economy has diminished the remaining choices.

I mention this for two reasons.  It’s therapeutic.  I have my own blog, and I can vent periodically.  I actually feel better already.  The second is that I can exact some minor penance on customer service offenders.  

I've been on drugs for years - most of them legal.   Some 20 years ago, the local pharmacist retired and our medication list was transferred to Snyders.   They auto-refilled, were quick to respond, and I gleefully shopped there for years.  The recession took its toll on the chain and our medical records were sent to Zoss Drug.   Mr. Zoss was a kind and considerate man who personally delivered a prescription after hours without complaint. He, too, succumbed to the economic downturn. The records went to Walgreens.  It has been a consistently painful experience.  Days of delay, out-of-stock items, and no serious attempt to be helpful has been my experience.

I suspect the reason for the poor service is that good employees leave companies that subject them to angry assaults for a mere nine bucks an hour.  I've always championed the belief that, if you talk to a customer with a problem, YOU own it until it is resolved.  Even if it isn't your department OR your company's fault.  Do something to help the customer find a solution.   Make a phone call, look up an address, do a web search - show that you care.  The impression you leave will make someone’s day and, perhaps, your company’s reputation.

I love the holidays.  Everyone is cheerier and more helpful than at other times of the year.  With only a few days left this December, I anxiously await this attitude to overtake Walgreens' company culture while I search for a new pharmacy.

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