I Can No Longer Open my Food

I can no longer open my food. It is good to know that our food still obeys some safety laws. Apparently things in bottles need either a plastic ring around the bottle top or a sealed liner over the opening once the cover comes off. Some companies choose to be really safe and use both protections. Although companies probably stick to these particular safety rules to avoid lawsuits, these precautions are helpful to us. Wide mouth jars must have an inner seal or be vacuum-packed. They have a little button in the center of the cover (like old canning jar tops) and if it is down when purchased, and if the food has not passed the sell-by date, then the food is safe; if the seal is up don’t buy it. This, again, is helpful. It saves on ER expenses, calls to poison control and lawsuits.

There was a time when it became popular to mess with food stuffs and medicines.  People were finding things in their containers of food or drugs that did not belong there and did not come from the factory. Containers that were porous were found with needle holes in them. It seemed that people were tampering with our food and meds out of spite or to instill distrust in manufactured foods or who knows why people do these things. The Food and Drug administration moved to counteract this trend and make our food tamper-proof. While this is a sad commentary on the human condition it did seem to end food attacks at least until the next time someone has an axe to grind and some pretty creative new methodologies. I will say if it was a social commentary on overpackaging it backfired. Many of my foods are packaged so well that, as I already said, I cannot get into them.

I have had lots of trouble with pickles and I love pickles. Pickles are vacuumed-packed and the jars are fairly rotund. If you don’t have someone with bigger hands on the premises it is difficult to hold the jar and turn the cover at the same time. So while the jar feels like it will slip through your fingers at any minute I apply my little rubber mesh square to the task of opening the jar. Nope. That will not do the job. Forget the fancy jar opener device I bought in the kitchen tools aisle. I have two other options before I have to put the jar back in the cupboard. I can try to break the vacuum seal by prying the lid with a kitchen knife, but sometimes there is not enough room to accomplish the prying operation, and breaking the glass jar is a real possibility. I also find if you run the cover under hot water for a while (a messy operation that requires rushing to open the wet jar before it cools) the rubber mesh square will then successfully help you twist off the cap.

Everything is political but if you don’t like politics skip this paragraph. I know we have a government shutdown and a President who thinks (against military advice) that pulling all our troops out of Syria and Afghanistan is a good idea and that we are trying to make the point that a wall on our southern border is expensive, unnecessary and almost no one wants it. So my problem seems ludicrous in the grand scheme of things. But I still think my beloved salsa company would like to know that I have to switch brands because I cannot open their lid. I also do not think this is a problem that only affects women. Small hands are hereditary. Our President is rumored to have small hands. If he ever got near a kitchen he might have a problems opening jars and bottles. You never know when you will have to open a reluctant can or jar.

I feel like I am writing instructions for a 1940’s audience, as in certain sections of my mother’s oldest cookbooks. The problem seems somewhat archaic for the age of technology and artificial intelligence. All I am wishing for is some innovative food container solutions that satisfy our need to recycle and our need for food safety, but also our desire to actually access the food we buy. I know this sounds whiney and nit-picky, but the frustration is real.

Since we now have robots to vacuum our floor perhaps someone could invent a handy-dandy little robot who would open jars for us when no strong hands are available. Of course I have recently been reading a book about robots and I’m sensing this solution might end up being a bit pricey. Still all we need is a simple, cheap robot without any attitude. Think how well this would do on the Made for TV circuit. It has instant millionaire written all over it. You will be a minor hero to many and we may even get crafty and create a cute kitchen god to hang in our pantries in your honor. And I will finally not have to worry about opening jars and bottles and even meds.

Next discussion-security on our computers is getting so complex that we cannot access our own online accounts. Thoughts?

Goliath and David: Verizon Fios and Chewy.com

I had two business dealings in two days, one with a big corporation, a Goliath so to speak; the other with a much smaller internet company, a sort of David if you will allow an analogy that is both Biblical, and a recent pop culture TV title, used on the Survivor series. The Goliath in this scenario is the multimillion dollar business, Verizon Fios; the far smaller business, the David, is an internet company that supplies pet owners with food and supplies in the mail, Chewy.com.

I spoke to Verizon Fios a number of times because when my last two year contract ended my costs went up, a lot. Probably many of you agree with me when I say that there is very little to watch on television these days if you opt to stay with a cable provider. If you are a sport’s fan, cable TV may be indispensable. But I generally like figure skating, the Olympics and the Super Bowl and that is about it for sports.

Movies and news are my favorite choices. Movies are disappearing behind various paywalls. On cable the same movies repeat again and again, and they are movies I love, but I don’t want to watch them constantly. I have an Amazon Fire Stick but everything is not licensed to Amazon. When I counted I actually found that I was only watching 19 channels out of the huge number of channels that are advertised (but which no one can access without paying enormous fees). I wanted to negotiate my monthly fees downward. I was given a few options. I finally settled on a package that cost $160 a month (still too much). I agreed to sign a two year contract which took $5 a month off the price and or earned me a Nest doorbell, I can’t remember which.

I usually paid my bill on the ninth of the month so when they took their payment on the fourth I got a bit nervous. I called Fios and finally worked my way through the automated labyrinth to speak to an actual person by which time I was a bit snippy I’m sorry to say. I explained that it upsets my budget if they just take out a payment on any old day they want. I must know what day the money will disappear from my bank account and it needs to stay the same every month, unless someone lets me know ahead of time. This, however, turned out to be the rudest agent I have ever spoken with and he was no help at all. He was mean. I received an email in the next week that told me they would take my next payment on the 30thof the month. Since I had already made a payment in this month (on the fourth) I had to call back and quit autopay. I do not want to make two payments in one month. Apparently, when I was finally connected, this time with a young lady, I made mistakes in describing the details of my “plan”. She actually laughed at me.

After these two upsetting experiences with customer service, I decided to leave Verizon Fios and go to Spectrum, although that prospect did not excite me either. They are almost as expensive and I am sure they will work their way up. But at least they were polite and connections were made very efficiently.

Then I had to cancel my plan with Verizon and I knew they would give me a penalty for vacating a two year contract. I was hoping they would waive the penalty fee but I was informed that the charge will be $305. Yikes! Spectrum advertises that they will pay the penalty fee to Fios for me. We’ll see. There is probably some kind of trick to it that I don’t know about yet. I asked the agent at Fios, who this time was very nice, to see if Fios will waive the fee but I am guessing the answer will be no. So great big Goliath company, totally impersonal and bound by rules agents can’t break without permission, and permission is rarely given.

This is my sweetie cat, named Gomez by the children she originally belonged to (who were probably watching The Adams Family). I recently had to put her to sleep for reasons I will not describe in detail as it would embarrass Mz Mezzie, as I called her, if she happened to be looking down on us and if she could read. Mz Mezzie had lived with a family in a rental where she was illegal and for a number of years she had spent most of her time outside. Even when she came to me she spent most of her day on the back porch, never wandering from the yard. She was not used to using a litter box but I would not make her stay outside if she wanted to come in. Her long hair made her unhappy with the usual kitty litter which is small and got stuck in her toes. I used a litter called Yesterday’s News (newspaper pellets) which she came to accept for a while.

This litter was so heavy that I had difficulty getting it in the house. That’s when the clerk at the pet store told me about Chewy.com. This was helpful because Chewy delivered to my house. We added another expensive litter that smelled like grass to help my little outdoor kitty. When I had to put her down last week I had just received a shipment of that expensive grassy-scented litter. I let Chewy.com know that my pet was no longer with me, because I did not want to keep receiving pet-related emails. They told me that they would credit the last bag of litter I purchased back to my account and they did it, that very day. Today I looked out the window and saw a van in my driveway. I watched the driver walk to my back door with a package. I was amazed to find that what he had for me was a floral arrangement from the people at Chewy.com with a sympathy note. Now that’s my kind of business.

I want everyone to boycott Verizon Fios and buy their pet products from Chewy.com. Of course I am not the boss of anyone but this would offer each of these companies, the Goliath and the David,  what each deserves. Thank you Chewy.com.

Pink Cadillacs – Tribute to Aretha Franklin

When Aretha Franklin’s funeral cortege leaves her funeral service today in Detroit it will travel through a tunnel of pink Cadillacs. How fitting for the Queen of Soul who sang about the joy of driving a car that suited her so well. We get to celebrate her life with a tribute to that iconic car and that iconic woman and singer as we say a tearful goodbye. Our tears are accompanied by big smiles. If you cry and smile at the same time does it make an invisible rainbow? Maybe.


This all seems like a fine tribute to a great lady and a talented singer. We will miss her but she left us her music.

Words For Aretha

Aretha Franklin died today. I know everyone and their sister will want to write something to say how much she meant to them, so I do not want to be left out. I don’t like to admit to my actual age, especially since I think people will pay my writing no mind once they know it, but I am only 3 years younger than Aretha Franklin. First all it reminds me that I am at the end of my life. But what really strikes me is that we lived through the same decades and she sang songs that spoke to me all through those decades. She had talent she was born with and that she honed through practice and hard work and that talent carried her through a spectacular 50 year career.

She said she was not an avowed feminist, but she was beloved by women everywhere who realized that women are sisters at heart, sisters whose lives involve love and break ups and feeling empowered, feeling joyful, and feeling low down. She was an activist in the civil rights movement and we, who lived through those same decades, felt connected with Aretha through the social and political movements that have punctuated our days. My admiration for Aretha has accompanied me and her music has lifted me up; it has been belted out by me in the privacy of my home while I did my housecleaning; it has made me smile as she sang from my car radio while I did my errands or on long trips. I don’t want to miss her, because she has left a legacy for all of us that will continue to move us. I think it is more in line to celebrate a life well-lived. But my sympathies are with her family and friends who knew her well enough to miss the person, as well as the musician. From what I hear she was even greater in person.

This was the first album I owned by Aretha Franklin and it had so many great songs. You can look up the discography of all her albums on Discogs or ASCAP or All Music or even on Wikipedia.

In fact Discogs gets attribution for this album picture, although they most likely do not own it.

Songs on this album:

  1. Respect
  2. Baby, I Love You
  3. I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)
  4. Chain of Fools
  5. Do Right Woman – Do Right Man
  6. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
  7. Sweet, sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
  8. Ain’t No Way
  9. Think
  10. See Saw
  11. The House That Jack Built
  12.  I Say a Little Prayer
  13. The Weight
  14.  Eleanor Rigby
  15. Share Your Love with Me
  16. Call me

I also love many later songs like Pink Cadillac and Who’s Zoomin’ Who. My little eulogy to a much loved star of music and life must include a video.

Can someone exist in this life and in the next life at the same time? If you love anyone who has died you know that it is possible. Thanks for the body of work you have left to comfort us in this life of joy and pain. And thanks for sharing your talents with us. We don’t always make that easy.

Photo Credit: Google Image Search (I hope this is Fair Use)

Losses, Memories, Joys, Tears, and a Japanese Maple

I introduced my mom, Velma Augusta Hatch Brisson to my readers in July because we were getting ready to help her celebrate her 100th birthday. She was born in 1917. This kind of milestone is not considered as great a thing as it used to be since many people live beyond the age of 100 these days, but it is not really a contest or an accomplishment. It is just a fact.

We were a lucky family. Who gets to enjoy their mom’s company well into their own senior years? It has its down sides because mom needed more care and she was still bossy. She would still look over your outfit and say, “are you wearing that?” But we were not orphans like most of our friends. Now we are. In November of 2017 mom died and it has now been six months since she passed. We, her children, have spent the last six months getting the family home ready to sell. It is a poignant labor of love to sift through all the memories collected in each possession, each room, each corner of the yard that surrounds the house.

Yesterday I sat out on mom’s back deck for lunch with two of my sisters, perhaps the last time we will meet, as we did so many times, on that back deck. You can almost see the family coming and going as we sit around that patio table. Sometimes, in the pictures in my mind, the family members who live in Florida come by and the level of talk gets loud and tangled with lots of individual conversations ebbing and flowing throughout a sunny afternoon. Sometimes the great grandchildren are there, visiting, playing on the back lawn, hauling out all the toys and games stored in the shed. Sometimes it is just the few sisters who live near mom, and mom, hanging out on a rare warm, dry day.

For me the years passed before me as I sat looking at the lovely Japanese maple tree that we all bought for mom. It will now belong to some other family, or perhaps, because the house is old and in bad condition, it will all belong to some flipper, who might even rip out that tree. You can’t have something and not have it. Does that fit the Schrödinger conundrum? I don’t know. You can’t have the tree and not have the tree. But you can have the memories. You can have the firefly evenings, the homework around the dining table, the brother shimmying down his sheets from the upstairs bedroom window only to be faced with a table full of his family (and dad) sitting down to dinner. You can have the ice skating rink in the backyard, and the ball games and the games of Tag and Red Rover. You can have the memory of mom having to stuff a crying child on to a school bus, and mom putting together a countertop full of sandwiches for all our school lunches (8 of us).

You can have all the day old bread, and the trips to the dairy to buy milk, all the tar-heeled walks to church in our high heels to sing in the choir or meet with the Youth fellowship. All the shopping trips with dad to the Midstate, the movies for 50 cents at the Hollywood Theater. Elvis had us dancing in the aisles. All the school days and instruments rented and discarded and all the books read. (People gave us boxes and boxes of books.) All the second-hand boxes of clothes we sorted through to find outfits that were suitably stylish. It all seems so wonderful now. But our feelings at the time were all over the place.

You can keep all the Christmases and the Easters, even the one when everyone had measles (awful). You can have all the graduations, the birthday cakes, the smiles, the songs, the friends, the broken hearts, the tears, the grief (my sister was killed in car accident at 29),the joy, the weddings, the babies, the toddlers, the tweens and the teens. You can keep them all because they are imbedded in your mind.

So why is it so hard to let go of that well-used house. I don’t want to buy it. It needs too many repairs. But I think the grief over the house gets magnified by the loss of our mom and the end of it all, the end of our childhood, even though we are ridiculously old. Our lives have lost their center.

These memories barely scratch the surface of a life lived in a simpler era which is probably gone forever. So I’ll throw that loss on the pile and mourn it too, because while it was happening I did not realize that these things would not be the memories of everyone. Now that I know the ravages of human hate, now that I know how poor we were and why that poverty has been difficult to leave behind, even knowing all I know, I still treasure those memories from our days of innocence and ignorance. I still am grateful for  how earnest my parents were, and how everyone around us pitched in to lift us up. I am sad right now, but we have all been there, all felt the sadness of loss. My mom’s life was a life well lived. You are missed.