The “Pickle Jar”, the only ‘Change’ you can, and should, believe in

I received this as part of a chain email.  I have no idea who the author is, but it  resonated with me; we’ve got  pretzel jar that serves  the same purpose.   It’s a lengthy read, but well worth the time, lesson, and sentiment.

“The pickle jar as far back as I can remember sat on
the floor beside the dresser in my parents’ bedroom. 

When he got ready for bed, Dad would empty
his pockets and toss his coins into the jar.
As a small boy, I was always fascinated at the sounds the coins
made as they were dropped into the jar.

They landed with a merry jingle when the jar was almost empty.
Then the tones gradually muted to a dull thud as the jar was filled.
I used to squat on the floor in front of the jar to admire
the copper and silver circles that glinted like a pirate’s
treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom window.
When the jar was filled, Dad would sit at the kitchen table and
roll the coins before taking them to the bank.

Taking the coins to the bank was always a big production.
Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the coins were
placed between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck.

Each and every time, as we drove to the bank, Dad would
look at me hopefully. ‘Those coins are going to keep you
out of the textile mill, son. You’re going to do better than
me. This old mill town’s not going to hold you back.’

Also, each and every time, as he slid the box of rolled
coins across the counter at the bank toward the cashier,
he would grin proudly. ‘These are for my son’s college
fund. He’ll never work at the mill all his life like me.’

We would always celebrate each deposit by stopping
for an ice cream cone. I always got chocolate. Dad
always got vanilla. When the clerk at the ice cream
parlor handed Dad his change, he would show me the
few coins nestled in his palm. ‘When we get home,
we’ll start filling the jar again.’ He always let me drop
the first coins into the empty jar. As they rattled around
with a brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other.
‘You’ll get to college on pennies, nickels, dimes and
quarters,’ he said. ‘But you’ll get there; I’ll see to that. No
matter how rough things got at home, Dad continued
to doggedly drop his coins into the jar. Even the summer
when Dad got laid off from the mill, and Mama had to
serve dried beans several times a week, not a single
dime was taken from the jar.

To the contrary, as Dad looked across the table at me,
pouring catsup over my beans to make them more
palatable, he became more determined than ever to
make a way out for me ‘When you finish college, Son,’
he told me, his eyes glistening, ‘You’ll never have to
eat beans again – unless you want to.’

The years passed, and I finished college and took a
job in another town. Once, while visiting my parents,
I used the phone in their bedroom, and noticed that
the pickle jar was gone. It had served its purpose
and had been removed.

A lump rose in my throat as I stared at the spot beside
the dresser where the jar had always stood. My dad
was a man of few words: he never lectured me on the
values of determination, perseverance, and faith. The
pickle jar had taught me all these virtues far more
eloquently than the most flowery of words could have
done. When I married, I told my wife Susan about the
significant part the lowly pickle jar had played in my
life as a boy. In my mind, it defined, more than
anything else, how much my dad had loved me.

The first Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born,
we spent the holiday with my parents. After dinner, Mom
and Dad sat next to each other on the sofa, taking turns
cuddling their first grandchild. Jessica began to whimper
softly, and Susan took her from Dad’s arms. ‘She probably
needs to be changed,’ she said, carrying the baby into my
parents’ bedroom to diaper her. When Susan came back
into the living room, there was a strange mist in her eyes.

She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand
and leading me into the room. ‘Look,’ she said softly, her
eyes directing me to a spot on the floor beside the dresser.
To my amazement, there, as if it had never been removed,
stood the old pickle jar, the bottom already covered with
coins. I walked over to the pickle jar, dug down into my
pocket, and pulled out a fistful of coins. With a gamut of
emotions choking me, I dropped the coins into the jar. I
looked up and saw that Dad, carrying Jessica, had slipped
quietly into the room. Our eyes locked, and I knew he was
feeling the same emotions I felt. Neither one of us could
speak. ”

Never underestimate the power of your actions.
With one small gesture or seemingly insignificant practice, you can change a person’s life.



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Artificially low student loan rates rob the middle class

Without easy access to student loans, colleges would not be able to charge such outrageous tuition.  The wealthy can pay, but there simply are not enough of them, despite Buffet’s claim that his proposed millionaires tax will have any impact.   The middle class is credit worthy enough to secure loans, which subsidize the “economically, socially/racially disadvantaged”, who cannot.  This is tantamount to a redistribution of capital, from the pockets of those who have worked to contribute the most to the economy, to those who will be granted permission to contribute the least.

Both government and higher education are complicit in this theft, with government policies ensuring that college tuition skyrockets unabated, and that the cost of educating certain [favored] students is billed to other [less favored] students,  literally a class action suit worthy of a high profile law firm.   Congress should permit the rate hike, to stem reckless borrowing and debt, and massive default.  Universities and colleges will have no choice but to lower tuition and operate within a budget.   Otherwise, this will be the next big bailout.

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Once upon a time there was Social Security…

Indiscriminate insurance coverage has eaten away Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security,  which, as reported today by the Trustees,  will vaporize in 20 years.   This theft occurred over time as the very definition of what constitutes health care was being hijacked by the all those folks who want validation, approval, license, and funding to practice their bad habits-  like paying for Lindsey Lohan’s 15th detox, and all those like her that call their vices a ‘disease’.   I am still waiting for a plausible explanation on how achieving an erection constitutes medical care or why I have to buy birth control for college students who can pay 60K a year tuition but practicing safe sex is a budgetary priority that falls below their bar crawl hookups.

Health care is not detox, birth control, Viagra, gender reassignment, or improving socialization by living with a pet [an NIH  taxpayer funded study]  – those are lifestyle choices; I don’t expect you to pay for mine, so why should I be compelled to pay for yours? Particularly if  your habits are illegal or if I find them objectionable.

Our current barometer on what passes for health care must be completely redefined.    Those of us that embrace healthy, risk-free practices, must stop validating the irresponsible conduct of others, and instead of rewarding/funding bad habits, our government needs to do the same and fast!     Failure to act decisively will harm us for generations to come.

A lesson in history

Last week I visited Colonial Williamsburg.     We were treated to re-enactments, one of which was “A conversation with Thomas Jefferson”, and  the audience posed questions that brought history to life.  An audience member inquired:  “Can a government force people to pay for a product or service?”  Jefferson’s reply was as timely at his time, as it is in ours:  that such an act had already been attempted with disastrous results and a revolt among citizenry.   He was referring  to the British tax imposed on tea, and closing of Boston Harbor, that mandated  that colonists purchase tea from England alone.   The resultant Boston Tea Party was the turning point that galvanized the colonists’ rebellion into the fight for independence.   “Jefferson”, or should I say the history teacher/insurance agent/thespian portraying him, was correct in his assessment- it really was/ is that simple.

They say those who fail to learn history are bound to repeat it’s mistakes.  Let’s hope that our Supreme Court justices are better pupils of history than the Executive branch.

The ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ of healthcare

If the press is any indication, the Supreme Court will rule on the most controversial case in recent history.    If I didn’t see photos of twenty somethings camping out for viewing tickets like techies awaiting the next iPad release, I still would agree, but not for the reasons currently bandied about: [il]legality of compulsory purchase by citizens, [il]legality of fines for those that don’t purchase, or that such subscriptions run afoul of interstate trafficking laws, or that forced coverage violates ethical/religious principles, freedoms- all alarming and valid.

My concern is practical and unfortunately, not part of consideration currently before this Court – the two tiered system of prescriptions that will result by class.   Last week, several publications featured lawsuits of patients harmed by prescription drugs.  Those who successfully sued, were prescribed the brand label, and those that didn’t, generic.   This nationwide health care bill features savings under generic prescription coverage.  It is this  ‘estimated’ [purported] savings based on generic prescription costs of national coverage that are being rammed down our throats.   Physicians will write specific instructions for branded prescriptions and that will blow all these estimates sky high, or will be prevented from doing so, or governed by vague  instructions as to circumstances that allow for deviation in procedure.  Let’s be clear,  the Supreme Court is not deliberating about the constitutionality of  national mandated health care;  it is deliberating the constitutionality of governed health care- George  Orwell’s ears are ringing.


Record gains: for gaming companies and US waistlines

As I read about the record-breaking sales at EA, Entertainment Arts, the accompanying photo said it all.  Young males, sitting.   And that’s also what struck me during a recent campus visit to my Alma Mater.   As my son and I toured the dorm,  my dorm,  I was transported back to a time when the courtyard was filled with frisbees and volley ball games, the net hooked between an oak tree and the window ledge of the  first floor Girl’s bathroom.  Alas, no sign of that now.  Instead, on a warm sunny day, students were inside, a couple of girls on their laptops or iPhones, and the boys  engaged in video games.    The days of arranging who brings the mini-fridge, and stereo, are replaced by who brings what game system: X-box, wii, playstation, the flat screen TV, even though there is a flat screen TV on each floor supplied by the dorm.    As far as the eye can see, a spoiled and sedentary student body.

No surprise then, that the CDC reported a decade rise in obesity rates among males.  Coincidence that males are also the leading consumers/players of  virtual/sedentary activities?  I think not.   I’ve been clamoring for vice related tax on all products that decrease activity and productivity as this will wind up costing us tenfold in health care and in global innovative capital.    The only meaningful contribution from Angry birds, Mafia wars, and facebook  is to their  owners post-IPO checkbooks.

Dr., Full disclosure please.

Last week the below article was the subject of one of my tweets regarding lack of ethics and disclosure on part of FDA staff.

“FDA advisers, in a recent vote, said the benefits of four popular Bayer AG birth-control pills outweigh the blood-clot risk. What the FDA didn’t disclose is that three of the advisers have had ties to Bayer, serving as consultants, speakers or researchers.”

What the article did not cite, was weather or not any of these Bayer-compensated-FDA-panel members also approved the  [tax payer] funds that made this study possible.

I’m not a fan of compulsory and mandatory healthcare for all, but Obama’s proposed rule that drug companies publicly list all payments to doctors [today’s NYTimes]  is a welcome disclosure for the public and long practiced elsewhere- Wall Street, yes that industry of favored scorn by democrats and republicans alike, gets it right:  “Your Broker, Inc. makes a market in this stock”.    Up front and in writing, the customer knows if the broker has a relationship or interest in the underlying security,  whether serving as the seller or buyer, or merely facilitating the sale between parties- truly the ultimate ‘Buyer beware’ policy.   Adoption of this practice is certainly a step in the right direction for the medical field, but  here’s what else needs clarification:

1) Will Obama’s public this list also include/ apply to government employees like those FDA staff that approved Bayer’s product above?

2) Does this disclosure of conflict-of-interest also apply to FDA and other government agency staff when awarding grants to companies?

That would  make many a physician recuse himself/herself from not only voting on the approval of drugs, but also in awarding [tax payer funded] contracts to companies that have compensated them, as this blurs the line between objective Panel reviewer and lobbyist.    Id appreciated it  if someone from the Obama Administration would reply to these questions- ethics can only be achieved with accountability and transparency for all.

I’d rather lose twinkies than Kodak

As an adult I realize that there is little nutritional value in the iconic snack so its possible demise isn’t as  big a loss as say Kodak, although I say this as someone whose never had a fried Twinkie, even though it is on my ‘bucket’ list.    But Kodak is the last bastion of traditional photography.   Professional photographers, and school photography instructors have long lamented  the difficulty of finding the correct roll of film, and dark rooms may be harder to come by or justify in a school’s budget.   But an even greater impact will be felt by individuals who either don’t own, or want, a computer to transfer digital photographs- people like my father in law.

At 86 years young, he drives all over the continental US to visit relatives.  Driving through rain, sleet, snow or hail,  worthy of any mail carrier one quarter his age,  his trusty camera was always at the ready.  Unfortunately, he lost his camera somewhere in his travels last year and it has greatly affected him.   In searching for a replacement, the major electronic chains we shopped at explained that they didn’t sell any simple click models just the disposable cameras, and even if we found a model, they would not accept it for repair.

Unlike the majority of folks whose pictures wind up on facebook and displayed for even strangers to see, his are solely for his own personal comfort and enjoyment, as he reviews each and recalls the time he spent with family-     the loss of a twinkie could never be felt as severely.   If there is any way for Kodak to revive itself, it  would be for them to focus on  the market that they and other companies have abandoned; the elderly.

‘Diabesity’ sums it up accurately

A  study was published in journal Health Affairs recently and received coverage in the NY Times,

The study discussed the lower earnings, graduation rates, and employment prospects for diabetics compared to their non-diabetic counterparts.

“They had lower rates of finishing high school and were less likely to move on to college than young adults who were not diabetic. By age 30, a person with diabetes is 10 percent less likely to have a job, in part because of reduced education.”

Quite a loaded statement considering it was made without regard to Type, Type 1, juvenile diabetes or Type 2, adult onset, usually brought on my obesity.  This  glaring omission puts these dubious findings in dispute.

To look at diabetes in vacuum is misleading and smacks of propaganda.  The majority of diabetics are obese, which indicates that the challenge and discomfort of maneuvering stairs, or commuting,  may account for the reduced education and job opportunities cited.  It would take a study that distinguishes between Type 1 and Type 2 to determine if any of the above ‘findings’ can be attributed to  weight or diabetes.

New Year’s resolution: Make waves or at least ripples

Recently, I was in my local megamall and as I ascended the second floor was met with the gaze of what appeared to be a poster of naked teenage girl in the store windows of Aerie.   It was a side view, covered in discreet places, but the viewer was left to interpret the model was not wearing any clothes.   I immediately entered the store and asked the gal at the register to take down the poster since I considered it child pornography.  She nervously explained she was only the manager on duty but would inform the store manager immediately the next day.  I assured her if  action was not taken swiftly I would lodge a complaint with the mall management company, explaining since it was available for all mall inhabitants to see, Aerie, and its parent company, Abercrombie and Fitch, were trafficking in child pornography- clearly I’ve seen too many Law &  Order episodes.

As it was a Friday evening and the mall property’s management staff had left for the day, security staff provided me a complaint form and instructed me to return on Monday am.  Upon my return Monday,  the Aerie window display had been removed, I did not need to lodge a formal complaint after all, I needed only to voice my objection to a  retailer dictating to me, and my children, what passes for normal.

Our daughters are constantly bombarded with messages from the media that they aren’t sexy enough, and for Jr high! since that’s Aerie’s targeted audience, ages 10 and up.  If you complain about things you see or hear, but rarely voice your objection, it doesn’t take much to start a change- that you made a difference is all the reward you need to take on the bigger challenges.