What Things Cost: Chicken

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I went to the grocery yesterday to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts for a tandoori-like recipe. The price for two smallish breasts, raised free-range and never given antibiotics, was twelve dollars. Yes. $12.00.


I’ve been buying chicken all along. Maybe I haven’t bothered to notice the price before now.

But before someone tells me to buy thighs, I’ll admit I don’t like them. Thighs have a gamey taste that no amount of marinade can hide.  It’s breast or nothing. And since I already had the Greek yogurt and seasonings in the cart, I paid the price.

But I was curious. When did chicken get so high?

Back in 1989, I stopped eating red meat. My rationale? I was convinced that the growth hormones and antibiotics given to corn-fed beef contributed to obesity in humans. No studies—just my opinion. I didn’t eat pork or lamb. I lived in the Midwest, so good fish was difficult—okay, impossible–to find. What’s left? No, not turkey. I was cooking for one.

Chicken. Not once did I stop and think. Back then, chickens were given grain to eat and shot full of growth hormones and antibiotics. Darn. Chicken wasn’t healthy enough to make it the centerpiece of my diet.

But oh well. Water under the bridge. But, still curious about the cost. How much has the price of chicken gone up since chicken farmers stopped buying feed and growth chemicals?

Ta-da. The price has doubled since 1989. Curious yourself? Take a look at the data at the Official Data: Economy, Inflation, and More website.

Not out of line according to the inflation calculator found at the US Inflation Calculator. What used to cost $1,000.00 in 1990 costs $1,929.20 in 20018.

In other words, the price for everything has almost doubled in the last 30 years.

If prices keep rising at the same rate, I wonder whether two chicken breasts will cost $24.00 in 2050.

What Things Cost: Fire Alarms

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We received an invitation to a free-dinner-talk, sent from what we thought was the local fire department. Turns out, it was a guy trying to sell us smoke alarms.

Sitting through the somewhat dreadful dinner of pulled pork, beans, and coleslaw, I whispered to Jim, “Bet it costs $5000 to put smoke alarms in the house.” And sure enough, the cost, as we learned on a subsequent evening, was $4900.

For smoke alarms? Really?

Now we already have wired-in smoke alarms in the house. They were here in 2000 when we moved in and, other than change the batteries, we’ve done nothing to them. But. What we learned the night of the dinner was this: our smoke alarms operate via ionization, detecting electrically charged particles. According to the salesman at the dinner, these fail in 55 percent of house fires.

Instead, the salesman showed us photoelectric devices, which detect smoke via a beam of light. He suggested we buy 6 photoelectric devices, together with alarms for the kitchen and attic that measure rate of rise in heat—when the kitchen temperature rises more than 15 degrees in less than a minute, an alarm sounds. Plus two fire extinguishers. Plus a fire blanket. All installed in the house for $4900.

Long story short, Amazon sells a variety of photoelectric smoke alarms for $35-$65. We bought four of the $35 variety, installed them ourselves. Cost? Less than $200. We can purchase the rest of the equipment for about another $200.

Total? $400. Of course, we have to install everything ourselves (thank you, Jim) and our products are made in Mexico rather than California. But is the supposed quality difference worth $4500?

Hmm …

What Things Cost: Healthcare


Back in July, I had a sudden, severe headache and thinking I was having or about to have a stroke, I went to my local, rural emergency room. Thankfully, not a stroke, but very high blood pressure, now resolved with a combination of mainstream and alternative medical intervention.

My bill for that emergency room visit was $4300. Ouch.

But when my insurance explanation of benefits arrived, I saw that the discount to my insurance was more than 75 percent. Actual payment for the visit was less than $1,000.

So I was dismayed when I read a financial agreement at a new-to-me medical practice. I’m paraphrasing, but it basically said, if your insurance doesn’t pay within 60 days, you pay in full.

Yes, the IN FULL was the kicker. Why am I–a not-rich individual–expected to pay full-bore? Why don’t I get a discount?

Consistent with my resolution to complain when things seem wrong, I added an objection to the financial agreement and only then signed it.  Hopefully, my insurance will pay within 60 days …


Just Show Up


I ran across an ad on the Next Door website. A single mom asking for house or yardwork to make some extra money. Affordable.

My flower gardens have been misused and abused all summer. I haven’t been well enough to keep up with the usual weeding schedule. As for watering, I’ve managed to water weeds. I look out from my office window to the front flower bed and see–gasp–grass seed heads waving in the wind.

I could use some affordable help in the garden. After a brief discussion with Jim, in which we verbalize the usual pros and cons about ‘hiring it done’, I give single mom my telephone number via the website, let her know its all about the weeds, and wait for her call.

She doesn’t call me right away. Too bad, too, because the weather turned nice last week. Cooler. Wetter. Better.

On Saturday, she calls me. We dicker for a while about how much she expects to make per hour. She tells me her rate for ‘landscaping’ and I tell her what I’ll pay for weeding. We finally agree on a per hour price and then I say, “You know, it’s gonna be really hot next week. I’d prefer to start after Labor Day.”

But no. She’s  hot to get started. For all sorts of reasons. We agree on Tuesday–that’s today–and set 9 am as the start time. I give her directions to the house.

So here it is, Tuesday, 11 am and where is she? No sign of a car. No calls or texts. Nothing.

And I’m left wondering. Did she drive by and, after seeing the yard, decide it was too much? Or maybe the dogs scared her? Did she get a better gig? Or maybe she overslept? Or her kid(s) held her up?

If only she’d call.

Well. Here’s what I’d say to her after I told her that I can’t use her. If I can’t trust you to show up when you say you will, how can I trust you to do a job?

Was it really Woody Allen who said 80 percent of success in life is showing up?


Country Roads

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With the cooler weather, Jim and I have been walking a bit in the evening.  Yes, it’s a gravel road, but by the time we get out there, most everybody’s home. Less traffic means less dust.

The other evening–maybe Monday–a new sight astonished us. Speed limit signs. Someone had planted A 35 MPH sign at the corner of our gravel road–running north and south–and the chip-and-seal road– running east and west.

Well, we said to each other, people drive 50 or 60 MPH on that nice chip-and-seal. Sort of dangerous when a car is coming the other way. Can’t always see them over the hill. Although neither of us could imagine driving a mere 35.

But as we turned to head home, we noticed a speed limit sign on OUR gravel road.

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We thought about it for a bit, the question being, why 40 MPH on gravel with its potholes and skid-promoting surface, but 35 on smooth, easy to drive chip-and-seal?

The wisdom of the country commissioners? Asked tongue in cheek …

Now here’s the next question. Who will enforce these speed limits?  In almost 20 years here, I’ve never seen a police car lurking to ticket miscreants on our country roads.

Oh and that beagle in the middle of the road? Not my dog. He’s one of three following us when we go for walks.



Walking on Gravel Roads


My husband tells me I complain too often about too much. And it’s true. About five years ago, my New Year’s Resolution was to complain more often, a promise that has expanded to unimagined heights.

In fact, I once complained about the number of clicks involved in an online shopping pay-you-back scheme, and the only response I got was from a young ‘un who said: “Old people. Always complaining.”

But here’s the thing. I like to walk. When I lived in town, I’d take a three mile walk in the morning before work and a three mile walk in the evening after work. Kept my stress levels under control. Gave me something to look forward to every day. Loved the endorphins.

Plus the chance to march through my neighborhood, waving to people I knew by sight, stopping to visit with friends.

But in 2000, we moved to the ‘country.’ And I thought, yippee, great place to walk.

I was so wrong. The exurbs do not come with sidewalks. Dogs–some friendly, some not–wander about. Walking on gravel is not pleasant. Easy to twist an ankle or foot. And the dust … Good heavens, either wear a mask or turn your back when a car or truck goes by.

Three years ago, maybe four, Jim got tired of hearing me complain. He went to the county commissioners and asked if our road could be treated with dust control, preferably a chip-and-seal.  That would’ve given us a smooth surface for walking and reduced the dust by about 80 percent.

Our commissioner promised everything and gave us nothing. So here I am, 18 years of walking–not very often–on gravel roads. And yes, I have a treadmill (boring), and those walk-in-your-house DVDs (irritating). I could drive six miles to walk around the lake, but then there’s the cost of gas and the hassle of taking the car …

I guess I do complain a lot.

Simplify Healthcare, End Greed


The way folks talk about healthcare seems overly complicated to me. Maybe that’s because I worked in healthcare–sort of–for more years than I like to count.

The problem with healthcare in the US is profit. Too many middlemen have their fingers in the healthcare pie. And we let them.

Say you’re sick and go see the doctor. You have insurance that you’ve paid for in premiums. Your insurance tells you to pay the doctor a bit up front. Your doctor sees you, helps you, and then …

The provider bills the insurance that covers you for the premiums you’ve paid. Your doctor needs a special ‘insurance’ clerk, able to ‘work the system’ so that your insurance pays. Seem complicated? You’re right.

Why so complex? Simple answer. Insurance isn’t there to help you or your doctor. Insurance is there to make a profit.

How much simpler would it be to have single-payer healthcare? You show up with a health problem and the provider helps you. The doctor gets paid. And no one makes a profit.

Now before you start singing hallelujahs, single payer health isn’t free health. It’s paid for in taxes. But you and your employer will no longer pay the premiums, copays or deductibles that support insurance company profits.

When no one’s making a profit, healthcare gets cheaper, and people have a better chance of getting the help they need.

Oh, the flower? An African Violet hybrid called Bob Serbin.

Sunny Sunday


How quickly plans can change! I tried taking a photo of THREE blooms, but one fell off during the ‘arrange to be prettier’ process.

I tried finishing up my outline board for my current work in progress. But first the printer stopped working and then I was hack-attacked. Two days later, and five hours remote chatting with experts, I’m finally back to square one.

No point in working now. I need to go for a walk.

Worst Boss Ever: And the Winner Is…


Remember? I was looking for a boss who completed her sentences. The search was a little like buying a house based on the desire for a fireplace and a bay window, but ignoring everything else.  I did that once, too, and subsequently spent thousands of dollars on the foundation.

WBE was my boss for more than a decade before she left the company. A long, unrelenting, and never-to-be-forgotten decade. I still have flashbacks.

WBE started off by being more than two hours late for my job interview. I shoulda known, right? Why did I wait? I really wanted a boss who completed her sentences. What I didn’t pick up on–given her lovely verbosity–was the charming nature that spelled bully. She seemed so smart, so filled with precise vision, so nurturing, so much the perfect person to have as boss and mentor.

I should’ve guessed when she called me on the phone to tell me I ‘got the job’, “Listen,” she said, “either it’ll work or it won’t and you’ll be gone.” But yeah, I was desperate.

WBE loved to ambush people at staff meetings. She had one meeting and one target every week. That person who was ‘IT’ got a seemingly innocent question. Why did you do this? What happened to the stats on that? Are you prepared for this aspect of the site visit? Why is the call-wait time this many seconds.

And the issue at hand always related to a never-before-questioned problem. So, of course, IT wasn’t prepared. Lots of stammering and stuttering followed, leading to the WBE’s pay-off. The humiliating lecture. The unnecessary advice. The admonition to change. Or else.

I once sent her an email with the subject line: AMBUSHED! asking if she could please prepare the person who was IT.

Making me IT for several weeks thereafter.

WBE was also significantly late for every meeting everywhere about every subject. When she arrived–no matter how late and no matter whose meeting it was–everything had to start over. And in public venues–community meetings, sales meetings, conferences– she always introduced herself as Dr. So-and-so with her full business title. Embarrassing. And total insensitivity to social cues.

Did we complain to the CEO? You betcha. But for more than a decade, our complaints were ignored because, like bullies everywhere, it appeared as though WBE’s tactics brought strong financial and quality results.

In school and at work, experts tend to intervene with the victim instead of the bully. Here’s a shout-out for more bully-interventions. In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, embracing this as another aspect of harassment seems only right.


Goodbye, Goodbye

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Jim and I moved to the acreage south of Louisburg in 2000, and back then, had long drives to work. Twenty miles one way for him. Thirty-five miles one way for me. One hundred ten miles per day (55×2), five days a week.  That’s a lot of gas.

Jim’s solution to the issue of keeping the cars filled with gas was to buy a 500 gallon gas tank, creating our own gas station.

You’d think we’d get a premium on the price of gas, but like the stock market, it turned out to be impossible to ‘time’ the price of gas. Over the fourteen years of buying gas in bulk, I’d estimate we paid about ten percent more than everyone else buying gas by the tank. And that doesn’t include such items as Sta-bil, an additive to keep the gas from going bad.

When I finally retired, we moved the tank to the ‘way-back’ acre and I tried to build a garden around it. The Garden of Rusty Things. Despite the clematis and daylilies, still ugly, and the garden was uproariously unsuccessful thanks to weed-creep.

And then one day, Jim up and sold the tank. Goodbye. Goodbye to red and ugly and rusty.  Although the convenience of having our own gas station could not be beat.

Was there a life lesson in all this? I don’t think so…