Monday, November 26, 2012

Being Thankful on Purpose

I like to think of myself as a thankful person. I'm quick to say "thank you" to those who help me or show kindness to me. Of course, it's super easy to be thankful for nice people and nice things. Even a toddler will grin at you when you give him something exciting.

Last week I had the story time at Kids Club. I talked about being thankful in all situations, and used the example of the Apostle Paul. I asked the children why they thought Paul was sitting in prison. "Because he did something bad!" one child said. "Yeah," said another, "he probably stole something or killed a guy." They were quite surprised when I told them that Paul was rotting in prison just for being a Christian. Meanwhile he was whipping out the letters to the churches, admonishing them to be thankful. "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." -Philippians 4:11

I'd like to think the Lord chuckled when He heard me speaking about this subject. Several situations have come up recently to try my thankful attitude. Some of you may remember that I had some possessions stolen from me just before my 23rd birthday this August. Nothing has resurfaced, and although I initially wanted to replace my video games right away, I've had to rethink my priorities. (insert a big "HALLELUJAH" from my mother). I determined that I can't afford the time I spent on entertainment. I instead made the decision to be thankful for God's blessings. Besides, I wasn't completely robbed of all my possessions. What would I do if the thieves had taken my coin jar? *shudders* 

The other day I spent half an hour buying socks at Kohl's that ended up being the wrong size and felt slightly like I was being subjected to Chinese foot binding, but since I got such an amazing deal on them, it wasn't worth the trip to return them. I spent a considerable amount of time whining about the $7.00 I lost on 11 pairs of socks before I just donated them to my normal-foot-sized roommate Victor.

Then I went Black Friday shopping. I was completely determined to fight off the other greedy shoppers at Best Buy to ensure that I'd be in line for a tv. Not just a tv. THE tv. The perfect blend of technology and low-costery. The more I thought of that beautiful 40" LCD 1080p 60hz Toshiba for $189.00, it became my own. I was no longer worried about getting it, I was concerned more about whether it would fit in the back of my car or if I should borrow a van. 

I arrived at Best Buy at 7pm Thursday, with the store to be opened at 12am. With me were my trusty friends Jordan and Alaynna, who also wanted a deliciously cheap tv. There were roughly 100 people in front of us, waiting patiently in line on the sidewalk. Thanksgiving may be a American holiday, but Black Friday is a Mennonite holiday. I determined that everyone is a Mennonite at heart, based on the frenzy a few sales and promotions can whip up.

At around 10pm, we were corralled into a maze made out of steel gates. We packed in close, knowing that soon the Best Buy staff would be walking through with the item papers. These papers were divided into their categories: Cameras, Laptops, Video Games, Cell Phones, Televisions, Desktops, etc. For the items that had a limited supply, it was first-come, first-served. However many papers they had on a certain item, that's how many they had in stock. 

It was about then that I noticed the kid with the purple Dr. Dre's. If you don't know what those are, allow me to show you a photo. 

Granted, these are nice headphones, but at $489.00, they would have to make delicious omelets each morning before I considered purchasing them.

The kid wearing the headphones was standing about 60 people behind me in line. I didn't notice him again, until he was 20 people in front of me. He had cut in line! I turned his direction and said "Heeeeeeeeeeyyyyy....". He turned toward me with a look of sheer guilt on his face, but stood firm in line. At this point the employees started walking out with the brochures. 

Long story very short, that kid stole my tv. 

I confronted him TWICE about cutting in line. Many of the other people, good citizens that never THINK about cutting, chimed in "yeah, I saw him cut!" and "You tell him, man!" I told the kid that he can't stand in line where he doesn't belong, taking MY tv. The first time I confronted him, he told me "Dude I won't take it. You can have it." 

He then turned and immediately took the brochure. I strode up to him again and confronted him. He played dumb, as did the Best Buy employee standing there. His friends denied his existence, while he denied doing anything wrong. In fact, he started threatening to report me, to which I retorted, "report me for what, standing in line legitimately?"

I didn't get my tv. Looking back, I realized that the 20 people between him and I would have snatched up that last tv anyway, but they were people that deserved that tv FAR MORE than he did. Some of the frustrated nice folks came up to me and whispered "they (Dr. Dre kid and his friends) took all the tv's!" I had become the rebel leader that stood in defiance against all things line-cuttery. But unable to do anything about it and with nothing else on my list to purchase, I left, cold and bitter. If only I had come at 6:30pm or even 6:45pm. I grouchily hoped that the kid would feel guilty every time he watched his new tv. 

But then Alaynna pointed out to me that if God wanted me to have that tv, He would have given it to me. Wisdom coming from my friend in the exact same position I was in, since she wanted the same tv as well. I again was reminded of the lesson I taught the kids, about being thankful in all situations. So I stopped, thanked God for all the blessings I had, and hoped that He would bless the kid in the purple Dr. Dre's, who perhaps needed a blessing more than I did. 

And then this happened. 

I left my car at church on Sunday to ride with my family to my uncle's place for Thanksgiving. While I was busy stuffing my face with potatoes and turkey, snacking on gluten-free pumpkin pie and candy, and playing Murder Mystery and Mau (the details of which I cannot speak about lest I receive another card), my car was being mauled. Since there was no note on my car when I arrived later that evening, I immediately panicked that my car had been the victim of a hit-and-run in a church parking lot. My mother loudly announced that her poor son had been the victim of a "cruel prank" although I was fairly certain/hopeful that people don't damage their own vehicles to prank others. Dad and I immediately became crime-scene sleuths. We probed for evidence, clues, interesting tidbits that might be helpful to the police. There was rust, dirt, and a piece of plastic from the vehicle that hit mine, as well as a white paint mark on my bumper. My car had been shoved back 8 inches, as evidenced by the skid marks from the front tires.

I ran home and received the message about the accident. A friend from my church had been trying to contact me on my phone, which I had left at home. He had accidentally backed into my car with one of the Kids Club 15-passenger vans. My friend was very apologetic and dealt with it professionally. Today I got an estimate for the damage, and he contacted his insurance company. I nearly chuckled, realizing I had just talked at Kid's Club about being thankful in every situation and here a Kid's Club van mangled one of my most favorite possessions: Celia. (what, you don't name your vehicles affectionate terms?) 

Could I be thankful in this situation?

It took me a little while, but I found things to be thankful for. Nobody was hurt, the airbags weren't set off, there's no serious structural damage, and everything will get repaired soon. Also, it's just a sedan, a mutant salvage that won't make it to Heaven, (sorry, Celia) and the car is ultimately God's so He may do with it as He sees fit, especially when I leave it in His parking lot.

That tiny amount of visible damage amounts to just under $1,500. Kids, don't hit stuff. 

But life hasn't been all formaldehyde and bunions. God has really, really blessed me lately. I have awesome friends and family. I have more money than common sense. I have roommates that not only buy Snickers and star fruit, but also share it. I shot trash bags full of stuffed animals on Thanksgiving day with a firing squad made up of cousins, during which I got to spend some quality time with my cousin Kyle. I'm going to Oregon shortly for a welcome vacation where I'll get to play with all my little half-Graber midgets.

So I'll leave you, dear readers, with the calm assurance that I know the One that spoke the cosmos into existence with a commanding word. He is in charge and I'm secure in the knowledge that He knows what He's doing. I mean, God made THIS FRUIT

The Carambola just SCREAMS "I was created by Someone that knows what He's up to."

It tastes like a cross between crisp green grapes and crisp green apples. AWESOME. 

(Kids, if you give Victor socks, he will magically turn that good favor into a delicious snack).

Thank you, God. You never fail me.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Beginnings

I've been a xanga blogger for many, many years, so I've put up with a lot of updates, changes, bug fixes, etc. but I shalt do so no longer! Yesterday I tried making simple modifications to my profile, but xanga stubbornly refused to accept my alterations. I did some research and found a whole plethora of crabby xanga users that had come across the same problem. This has been going on for a while now, with no hope for repair in sight. So, like many of my friends did years ago, I'm abandoning the sinking Xanga ship. My blog will be found on the shores of Google, where updates will be accepted and bugs will get fixed.

Google, you practically own every part of my web existence, but since you've been so nice to me, I don't really mind.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Overused Words

My close friends and family know I have a large vocabulary, and a deep love for expanding it. I think spelling is fantastic but I have a deep dislike for trolls that have committed their life to correcting other people's spelling. I know I make grammatical mistakes, so correction would be hypocritical. Therefore I try my best not to harp on the spelling of others (unless I can't even understand what the original message was). 

Even though I pride myself on my restraint, there comes time when I allow myself to gripe about the state of vocabulary these days.

Our language is not only filled with incredible words, but outstanding synonyms to all those words. So when I see an overuse of a certain single word, I'm slightly peeved. Can't we find creative ways to explain things? By now I'm sure you're already thinking about words that get overused. At least, I hope you're  already thinking about words that get overused, because I don't want to some kind of weirdo.

Here's a short rant on words that need to take a long vacation. I'll even supply some substitutes.

Epic. Used in everything ranging from the coolest stunt you ever seen a person do all the way to that one time when you tripped over the coffee table but caught yourself before totally face-planting AND THE CHEESE DIDN'T EVEN SLIDE OFF THE CRACKER IT WAS EPIC OMG.

We have done this classy word an extreme disservice. "Epic" deserves more. It needs to be reserved for truly unbelievable things, like the construction of the Hoover dam.

Excuse me, but DAM!

As if water-holdery wasn't enough, there is a two-lane bridge on top of that colossal structure.

You run all the way through a pouring rainstorm only to find you've locked your keys inside your car. Your friends go "Haha, epic fail man." What word are they going to use when they visit something truly awesome?

Shawn's Synonym Suggestions: outstanding, unbelievable, miraculous, unprecedented, legendary, and remarkable.

Awkward. This word mainly gets overused by teenage girls, so it's not as widespread as the 'Epic' Epidemic. I don't quite know where this trend has come from, but I'm slightly miffed by it.

Tween 1: "I love orange juice. It's so orangey and juicy and good. It's my favorite."
Tween 2: "Eww, nasty. Orange juice is definitely NOT my favorite. Apple is better."
Tween 1: "..."
Tween 3: "Awk-waaarrrrdd".

Tween 1: "Oh, look, there's Tween 2. She's wearing that scarf again, after I told her it totally looks silly. Now she won't talk to me, but I have to sit by her in biology."
Tween 3: Awk-waaaarrrrdd".

Shawn's Synonym Suggestions: unnerving, embarrassing, worrisome, heebily-jeebily.

Legit. This is not a word. This is a butchering of the excellent word "Legitimate". It's pronounced "Lah-jitt", and depending on how EPIC the situation, more emphasis is placed on the second syllable, until people are practically spraying you with saliva telling you how awesome their weekend was.

This moose's weekend was EPICALLY LEGIT.

Shawn's Synonym Suggestions: credible, prime, authentic, valid.

Those are the choice few that come to mind, and I promised my rant would be short, i.e. brief, momentary, fleeting.

That doesn't mean I won't revive this subject on a later date, though. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Curious Body Ailments

Lately I've been having minor difficulties with the life-support system that God gave my soul. I went back and inserted the word "minor" in there because I didn't want people to think I had contracted a contagious strain of cancer or stubbed my pinky toe on a dresser. Nothing serious like that. In the past few days I've been having difficulties regulating the amount of sugar in my blood, which is a nice, scientific way of saying that I'm HIGH ALL THE TIME. Not in a drug way, but in a high blood-sugar way.

A normal-type human with a normal-type pancreas doesn't need to worry about this sort of thing. The body regulates your blood-sugar content to a very close range, which is between 80 and 120 mg/dl. (Milligrams per Deciliter). The pancreas does all that like a well-timed machine, bossing the body around and getting things done. You never notice the operation of your pancreas. Since the day my pancreas said "Screw this! I want to be a lump of lazy organic material.", I've had to regulate my blood-sugar content with insulin. Less insulin, higher sugar content. More insulin, lower sugar content. The irony that I'm HIGH ALL THE TIME because I don't take ENOUGH drugs is not lost on me.

Pancreata. Ya just can't trust 'em.

But I've really, really simplified it. See, you can't just say, "I'm gonna take all the insulin, and my body will use it when it needs some." Nope, you must accurately discern how much your body needs based on current blood-sugar content, amount of activity you may or may not be participating in for the next few hours, and most importantly, food intake. So it's a tricky wicket all around.

My target blood sugar range is between 80 and 150. 80-120 would be super nice but it's extremely easy for blood sugar to vary. Sometimes I feel like my blood sugar goes up when I walk past a sugar jar.

Too much insulin, I risk going low, or Hypoglycemic. Too little insulin/too much sugar, I risk going high, which is Hyperglycemic. I can just imagine the meeting of important Latin scholars and doctors.

Doctor: "Mm, yes, quite. We need to invent more words today! More words about the body."
Scholar: "How about 'Maximus'? Have we used that one yet?"
Doctor: "We used that just yesterday, on the largest muscle in the body."
Scholar: "Splendid! What are we naming today?"
Doctor: "Low blood sugar and high blood sugar."
Scholar: "Hmmm, fascinating."
Doctor: "Mm, yes, quite."
Scholar: "Perhaps we can incorporate 'glycemia'. I like that word."
Doctor: "It does have a fancy sound to it! But whatever does it mean?"
Scholar: "Well, I derived it from glucose, which is sugar in the blood."
Doctor: "I do like it when words sound nice AND make sense! But what about the high and low business?"
Scholar: "Well, it does appear that people with a lot of sugar are unusually energetic and rowdy."
Doctor: "Perhaps, 'Glycemicus rowdicus'?"
Scholar: "Mmm, sounds like we're casting a spell."
Doctor: "We wouldn't want that. Might have some people question our ability to name things."
Scholar: "Indeed. This is a posh job, and I'd hate to lose it."
Doctor: "Whatever we decide, I'm going to diagnose my niece with it. She's especially hyper."
Scholar: "Hmm...Hyperglycemia?"
Doctor: "Indeed! Quite magnanimous!"
Scholar: "That's for the high. Now the low...what's the opposite of Hyper?"
Doctor: "I have noticed that Hippopotami are quite lazy. They seem to me to be the perfect opposite."
Scholar: "'Hippopotamiglycemia' is quite the mouthful."
Doctor: "Shorten it to Hypo. Nobody will question us."
Scholar: "Good thinking! Meeting adjourned. This calls for some celebration!"

When you look up "Victory Celebration", Google gives you this.

So what is a low blood sugar? Anything below 65 is undesirable, but I've already been down to where my meter just says "LO", which is around 28 mg/dl. This is not a good place to be. The body is sluggish, unresponsive, nearing coma. It makes snails, sloths, and hippos look energetic and speedy. A common low I'll have is in the 50's, when I've either eaten less than I intended, taken more insulin than I've intended, or did some kind of physical exercise, which I never intend but it sometimes happens by accident.

This woman is experiencing some accidental exercise.

High blood sugar is anything past 160, but I don't necessarily treat highs with insulin until they are past 200. 300 mg/dl is pretty bad, and usually indicates I've missed an entire insulin shot and/or somehow devoured a crate of Snickers without knowing. So you can imagine my alarm and dismay when my blood sugar meter cheerfully beeped at me last night with the number 435 stamped all over its ugly little display. I immediately demanded a recount (since sometimes tests are a wee bit inaccurate), and my retest came up at 412 mg/dl. I briefly considered feeding tests into the machine, hoping for a nice downward trend, but 412 was within the standard deviation. But I hadn't eaten a truckload of ice cream, and I sure-as-shootin' didn't miss a shot. So I'm still a little puzzled. I devoured some delicious Mexican cuisine at the new restaurant in Kalona for supper, but the sugar content was minimal. I ate some crackers and CheezWhiz at home for a snack...perhaps there is more sugar in aerosol-ized cheese than I previously imagined. Like, 40 times more than I imagined?

I do not like to be so high. It makes me really thirsty and sometimes irritable. Jumpy, nervy, twitchy, excitable...those are facets of my personality that get noticeably prominent as I get high. Blood sugar high, I must again stress. (Because of my injections and the way my body reacts, my manfriends like to joke that I take LSD, and commonly refer to my insulin as "crack".)

"Hey guys, I found a picture of Shawn."

On several occasions, my meter will greet me with a "HI" reading. No, it is not cheerfully wishing a splendid day upon me. "HI" is any blood sugar over 600, at which your blood veins have become sugar delivery routes. Thankfully, those moments are extremely rare. They usually happen when other parts of my body are down for maintenance, like when I'm sick. Or when I visit Christian's house with his unlimited supplies of peach tea and Gold'n Nuggets.

That is the stock photo of my meter. They have no photos of "HI" or "LO" readings on their meters because that would be bad for business.

So I've been battling this high-blood-sugar trend lately, which has affected my sleep, which has made me grumpy. I guess I can thank diabetes for giving me an excuse to be grumpy. :)

After discovering the 412 reading last night, I took the proper amount of insulin and went to bed. When I awoke, I was 247 and nonplussed. Yes, 247 is lower, but it certainly wasn't the 110 that I wanted. DID I SOMEHOW EAT WHILE I WAS ASLEEP? For the sake of my sanity, I hope I did. Then at least I'd have an explanation as to why my sugar was still high in the morning.

Hmm, side note. Do you ever do research on something you've always just used, but never thought about? I just did some calculations on mg/dl. I've seen it approximately 18,992 times in my life (you can see it at the very top of the meter screen in the picture I've handily provided.) Using 100 mg/dl (a nice, round number) and converting to measurements slightly more common, I've found that it precisely equals 1 g/l, or 1 gram of sugar per liter of blood. In American measurements, that's 4 pinches of sugar per 1.06 quarts of blood. Our bodies run on such little input! Once they make a car that can run efficiently on those types of ratios, I'll be impressed.

With all this research, I think I'll test my blood sugar.

Hm, 117.

Life is good! Nothing to report.

Unless, of course, I find incriminating evidence that I DO sleep-eat. I'd report that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Names are More Important than I Suspected


Allow me to explain.

My two older sisters spent hours upon hours looking up names for their babies, Shelley especially. I scoffed, thinking, "what's the big deal? There are plenty of amazing names out there, just grab one up!" But alas, it is not so simple. According to my sisters, (and evidently moms in general) the baby's name cannot be that of any other baby born within the last decade. The baby's name should have some form of tie to an ancestor or relative, or some trendy spin on their names, so you don't actually name your child "Bertha", "Horace", or "Glenda". The baby's name shall not under any circumstance be allowed to transform into an undesirable nickname. The name can't have too many syllables when paired with the middle name.

As I heard the ghastly amount of thought you have to put in to naming your children, I began to understand and respect Dr. Seuss for naming some of his creations "Thing 1" and "Thing 2".

I suppose I put some thought into names myself. I'm fond of the name "Amaya", which means "night rain" in Japanese and "high place" in Spanish. What's not to love? Well, evidently when you say it with a last name, it sounds like an identity crisis. "Amaya Graber" becomes "Am I a Graber?" I don't know if I could put up with that nonsense.

Have you ever looked up your own name? I'm sure at one point or another you've heard or read about the meaning of your name. My parents, being God-fearing, sensible human beings, gave me the name Shawn. In Hebrew, it means "God is gracious, merciful, Jehovah is gracious, God's gracious gift". That's just dandy with me, and I quite like my own name. Much better than getting named "Espen" (a trendy play on the abbreviation ESPN) or "Apple". Not that I have anything against apples.

But as I dug deeper into the variations and meanings of the name "Shawn", I found that Hebrew doesn't have the corner on the definition market. gives me this charming little tidbit:  "In addition to being a variant of John, Zan is also from the Italian, meaning "a clown"."

Shawn: Thanks for that, Italy.

Italy: You think that's bad, Clownboy? Just you keep on reading.

Ignoring the evil chuckle coming from a country that looks like a woman's high-heeled boot, I went deeper into the meaning of my name and learned far more than I ever wanted to know. I wandered across the gender line and started to read about the female Shawns out there. Does a girl's "Shawn" mean the same as mine? IT DOES NOT.
"From the Hebrew, meaning "pretty, beautiful", as it is a variant form of Shaina. Also from the Hindu, meaning "chickpea". Shawn is from the Irish, meaning "God's gracious gift"."

Israel: See? Perfectly acceptable name.

Ireland: Why, nothin' but a bonny blue lass!

Tibet: Tee hee! I like chickpeas!

Believe it or not, it's pretty difficult to find a name with a negative meaning. "Ichabod" is the only one that comes to mind. Even "Delilah" has a nice meaning: "gentle". "Delilah" also means "hair", so you can take that either way.

Now that we have the meaning of Shawn squared away, we arrive at SPELLING, which also happens to be a big deal in the name world. You've chosen your child's name because of all the nice meanings behind it, but now you have all the variations to contend with. Here are the synonyms for the name "Shawn", separated by country. (Also, since I find that lists are boring, I've put it into a conversation format.)

Ireland: Hey everybody! I made up a new name! It's "Shawn".

England: Hmm, needs improvement. "John". No, wait, "Jon"! Both are nice.

Greece: Ugh, too formal. "Joannes" is waaaaayyyy trendier.

Israel: "Hanok"! "Yochanan"!

France: I haven't screwed up enough English words yet. So, "Jean", perhaps?

Russia: "IVAN". (Seriously, how did they get "Ivan" from "Shawn" (or the other way around)? Russia has some serious questions to answer.)

Germany: "Haines" sounds goot, yah. He'll get teased about his undies. Tee hee! Und those Grecians have it wrong, yah. It should be spelled "Johann".

Denmark: Too many letters! Make it "Hans".

Italy: "Giovanni" positively SPRINGS from the tongue, no?

Spain: No, no, it doesn't sound like a name involved with the Black Market. How about, "Juan"?

Wales: We're going for Shortest Name Award, so "Jan".

Ireland: Everybody is the whole world is crazy.

Those were just the BOY variations. The girl ones include Channa, Shakila, Shakilla,Sephorra, Sephora, Channa, and Shanara.

What got me all started on this knowledge quest was the discovery of a plaque in my dad's garage with the Graber Coat of Arms on it. A family crest! I immediately felt a glow of pride in my heritage. Our family crest is beastly. Just look at it!

Here it is on a commemorative beer stein.

But I found it on a wooden plaque, not a beer stein.

And NO, I don't see any resemblance between the Graber family crest and the universal signal for DANGER or CAUTION.

What would possibly make you think they looked alike? Posh with a capital P!

HouseOfNames jumps in with another helpful little fact. "
The distinguished German surname Graber is derived from the Old High German "graban," meaning "to dig." The name was originally used to indicate "a digger of graves or ditches."

I wouldn't have placed "grave digger" under "distinguished positions and occupations", but who am I to argue with the Germans? Perhaps they honored the people that did jobs nobody else wanted to do. Kinda like we do with plumbers nowadays, but instead of honor we give them money.

As many of you know, (for it is one of my favorite stories to tell) I was going to receive the name "Shane" up until it was stolen 14 days before I was born. The name-thieves were none other than my roommate Shane's parents.

Debby: "What do we name our son? Sam and Serena took our name!"
Barry: "Let's name him Shane anyway. We don't hang out with them very much."
Debby: "We see them far too often. We can't have our sons named the same."

(Note: I was not living at the time this conversation took place, so I can't claim complete accuracy in the quotations.)

So I was named Shawn instead. Shane Schwartz, my roommate, is a very close friend of mine and I'm glad my mom was sensible and named me something different, although Shane contends that it would be "practically the coolest thing" if we were able to call ourselves Shane & Shane.

My parents had their revenge 6 years later, when my brother Shane was born. It was like, "See what we did? We got to have a son name Shane anyway."

Two possible responses my parents had when naming my brother Shane.

I'm not even slightly ashamed to say that I like the name Shawn better than Shane. Perhaps it was because I didn't know there was a possibility I was going to be named Shane until I was a teenager and had gotten used to being Shawn. So by the time my parents mentioned that my name was changed a scant two weeks before I was born, I couldn't possibly imagine being called anything different.

HouseOfNames backs me up on this point, and states that "Psychologists find that if people are happy with their names, they are generally happy with themselves." That smarmy little quote was found under the name "Delilah", as if to say "Cheer up! Getting named Delilah isn't the end of the world."

And it isn't. I know of a Delilah that is so awesome, she's every bit as positive as Sampson's treacherous barber-wife was negative.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for my name. I love it. My outburst at the beginning of this blog was not in anger or a feeling of injustice. I was shouting only because I'm amazed that out of all the thousands and thousands of choices, you picked the perfect name for me.

Of course, with knowledge comes change. Thanks to the internet, when I greet a stranger, I'll say "Hello! I'm Chickpea, the Grave-Digging Clown."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Letter to Taco Bell

There was a time in the History of Shawn that Taco Bell was a welcome port in a hunger storm.  When the distant rumblings of an empty stomach crashed over the landscape, Taco Bell was a sure-fire way to stave off the munchies.

That all came to a sudden halt when I realized there were trace amounts of gluten in everything I had previously thought was Shawn-Friendly was indeed NOT Shawn-Friendly.  As I have stated in posts past, there are only two food types in the world: Shawn-Friendly and Wheat Sauce. 

I searched for images of "wheat sauce" and this is what the internet has returned to me.

The food at Taco Bell, to my shock and surprise, fell firmly in the latter category, despite their motto "Think Outside the Bun®" practically screeching Shawn-Friendliness!

Yeah, seasoned alright. Seasoned with WHEAT.

I recently read that the Taco Bell corporation does some pretty awesome things.  When a prankster gave false hopes to a town in Alaska about getting a fast-food restaurant, Taco Bell air-shipped 10,000 tacos to the town, free of charge. Screw you, prankster! For reals, you can read about that awesomely heroic Taco-splosion right here:

I decided that I could possibly sway the Taco Bell executives to send some love my way in the form of Shawn-Friendly tacos. Without any more laborious prologue, here's a copy of my handwritten letter to Taco Bell, headquartered at 1 Glen Bell Way, Irvine CA.

Dearest Taco Bell,

My name is Shawn Graber. At age 9, I was diagnosed with Celiac, that is, gluten intolerance.  Alas, my weakness can be found in tacos.  I cannot resist those crunchy, zesty, cheesy, munchy piles of Mexican cuisine.  Unbeknownst to me, those delicious little slices of Heaven had hidden amounts of "wheat sauce" in them.  I would leave your fine establishments with a stomach ache but think nothing of it, deducing that my aforementioned aches were due to my indulgence in vast quantities of taco-ey goodness.  I discovered the wheaty ingredients in your corn shells, your taco meat, and your irresistibly tasty potato bites while I was doing some research on the ingredients of your then-brand-new Frutista Freezes.  To my delight, I found that your refreshing Frutista Freezes are Shawn-Friendly, but to my dismay, I found every other menu item that I loved contained wheat sauce. (You see, there are only 2 types of food in this world: Shawn-Friendly and Wheat Sauce.)

That dreadful discovery was a few years ago, and since then I've abstained from Taco Bell food.  Over time, my squelched passions for your amazing food have built up inside me until I can no longer be silent.  This brings me to my heartfelt plea: would you be able to create a Shawn-Friendly taco?  It would be fairly simple.  I can have all vegetables and dairy, so lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, onions, peppers...these are fine.  I can have meat, provided it isn't thickened with oats.  I can have corn shells, provided they are not thickened with oatey filler.

I understand this is a large request, but I would be MOST grateful!  I would purchase any gluten-free offering you sell.  Also, the gluten-free community (2,000,000+) would be grateful as well.

I'm not asking for an entire menu overhaul, just a taco that I can munch without unpleasant side-effects.  I'd be more than willing to spend my hard-earned money on a few dozen.


Shawn Graber

Hardly a week passed from sending my letter on its merry way, when I received a reply from the offices of Taco Bell. Upon official Taco Bell stationary, their response read:

July 25, 2012

Dear Mr. Graber:

On behalf of Taco Bell Corp. ("Taco Bell"), I want to thank you for your interest in our Company and for taking the time and effort to suggest and idea.

We have, however, adopted a general policy of not accepting unsolicited ideas and suggestions.  While we regularly receive many unsolicited suggestions concerning our advertising, products, processes, and a wide range of other subjects, experience has shown that most of the unsolicited ideas we receive have already been considered or used by Taco Bell or its competitors.  Also, experience has proven that the practice of considering unsolicited suggestions can give rise to misunderstandings as to the origin and ownership of the particular ideas which may be contained in such materials.

In keeping with this policy, we are unable to pursue unsolicited suggestions, and have not retained any copies of your letter, and enclose your submitted materials herein.  May I express our appreciation for your interest in our company and sincerely thank you for taking the time to write, by enclosing a "Taco Bell Gift Check" for your use.

Very truly yours,
BJJ/cs (Some scribbly official-looking signature)
Legal Department


(Enclosed with the letter was my original handwritten letter, along with a $5 Taco Bell Bucks voucher.)

First I laughed at the irony of getting sent money to a restaurant that can offer me nothing but fruity slushies.  Then I sat back and admired Taco Bell for running a successful business whilst (or because of) still maintaining professionalism and courtesy.  Sure, I want me some tacos, but there are other places I can get them.  It's pretty difficult to find Wheat Sauce in authentic Mexican food (besides their flour tortillas, of course).

I traded the $5 voucher to my brother Shane for the purchase of fast-food at a restaurant that is more Shawn-Friendly, but looking back I feel like I should have framed the $5 voucher, along with the letters.

If you are a homeless beggar that has access to stationary and stamps, you can send unsolicited suggestions to Taco Bell and receive $5 toward their restaurants (along with a nicely worded denial to your idea)! I wouldn't advise this because you would most likely starve in the week-long waiting time it would take to get the voucher.  If you DO send a letter, get a voucher, and visit a Taco Bell restaurant, make sure to ask the cashier if they have any Gluten Free menu items.
Worth mentioning is that although I pulled "2,000,000+ gluten-free community members" out of a foggy bank of dim recollection (where most of my exaggerations come from), I was pleasantly surprised/totally not surprised at all that my claim was backed up by the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Lately I've been ending my blogs with a question. I'm in no mood to rock the boat tonight, so I'll continue the trend.

If you, dear reader, suddenly found out that you were unable to eat at a fast food restaurant (or if you did, you would come down with warts or leprosy or elephant-shaped bruises in conspicuous places), which restaurant would you miss the most? If you're brave enough to reply, you might as well give us a reason why you'd miss it the most and/or your favorite menu item at that establishment.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Spare Change

I love it. Spare change, that is. I find great pleasure in snatching up pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that go overlooked by others. I never spend my change, but instead I put it in a giant glass jar that I purchased for $20 from Crowded Closet. The irony of spending 2000 pennies on something to put pennies in is not lost on me. I enjoy watching the coins pile up, and there's a very rewarding "plink plink" sound as I toss them in at the end of the day.

This is what my jar looks like, empty. If you can't tell, it's the same size as one of those office-water-cooler jugs. I won't show you how much change I have in it because you would probably travel great distances to steal it.

The loose coins jangling around in the jar quickly add up. Once, through gross negligence and oversight, I overdrafted my checking account by $30 or so. In a panic, I quickly compiled all my resources to bring my checking balance back to the positive. I hurriedly dumped out my glass jar into an ice cream bucket and took my coins to the bank. Even though the coins were just over an inch deep in the glass jar, the sum of them was well past $100.

Since that overdrafting episode, I haven't taken a single coin out of my jar, and I don't plan to until it is full. Assuming that 1 inch of coins = $100, the jar can hold $1,600. Most of the things I'm saving up for are either silly, selfish, or sappy. Just a few of the theoretical items that the money would go toward are:

2012 Dodge Charger SRT8.

FN FS2000 bullpup rifle

6,400 rounds for this sweet old Mosin Nagant I have already purchased. More likely it would be 2,500 rounds and a dozen visits to the chiropractor. Not visible is the metal butt-plate of this ancient gun, which likes to rearrange your shoulder bones after only a handful of shots.

A future honeymoon. Not that this would necessarily be the place, but it was one of the first photos that popped up when I googled "honeymoon locations". (Okay I sorta lied. I've done some research on prime honeymoon locations, and this one seemed nice, albeit touristy. But it IS one of the first ones that pops up in google, so...half truth?)

A PlayStation 3/dvd player/Blu-Ray player/music and video media server to replace the one stolen from my home.

An AlienWare Laptop. These things are just scary fast. Plus, you can customize the LED color on the little alien's face/keyboard underglow! As in, if today you want it purple, then purple it is. Rather have red? Or green? Just adjust it. I'd like to see an Apple product do that.

For serious.

So those are just a few items on a fantasy list of mine. The theoretical $1,600 (more if primarily quarters, less if primarily Canadian pennies) would only be a piddly beginning to a few of the things on this list. I have said that when the inclining amount of funds in my savings matches the declining cost of the 2012 Charger, I shall buy one. That most likely means it'll be 10 years old with 200,000 miles on it.

MEANWHILST, it did not take very long for my friends to catch on that I find great pleasure in obtaining coins. Eyeball these scenarios:

A few manfriends and I have just eaten some delicious wings at BWW's. Due to limited street parking, we made use of a parking ramp. Upon exiting, I realized I didn't have any cash on me and asked if someone would toss me a few bucks. Brooks gladly shared a few dollars, and I paid for the parking. Upon receiving the change (time dims my memory and I'm not sure of the exact amount. It was 80 cents or so), I asked if Brooks would like the change. He said, "Naw, keep it." Not unlike a toddler who found a lollipop stuck under a park bench, I gleefully put the coins in my pocket. "Wait," said Brooks "I need a quarter." So I handed him a quarter. After all, it was his money. He then proceeded to drop the coin in the crack between the seat and the center console. Laughing, he said, "There ya go! Have fun."

I had the last laugh, because while under the seat digging for the quarter, I found two pennies and a nickel.

Here's another scenario. Just this weekend, we were having a wondrous campfire. Shane Schwartz, my manfriend/roommate, had been serving at an Amish wedding so he arrived late. While sitting around the campfire, the subject got on to spare change and how crazy Shawn was for it. So Shane pondered aloud, "I wonder what Shawn would do if I threw a quarter into the fire." He then pulled a quarter out and held it in his hand. I tensed, ready to pounce from across the fire. With a nonchalant flip, he sent the quarter into a pile of burning coals. I grabbed an iron fire poker and pushed the quarter over into a corner of the fire pit where there wasn't as many coals, but eventually lost it while getting my arm hairs singed off by the flames. Shane tossed a nickel and a penny as well, laughing uproariously as I attempted to save them. The nickel was lost into the fiery deep, but I was able to save the penny because he overthrew it and it landed on the other side of the fire pit. I shook my head and chided Shane for such wastefulness, but he claimed it was "worth every penny to see Shawn's reaction". Truman, another manfriend, said "Whoops!" and tossed a large handful of change into the fire. That's when I got up and left.  EDIT: I found out later that Truman tossed in a handful of rocks, tricking me into thinking it was a handful of change. It worked.

I have realized two things.

1) I'm glad I didn't say that I love puppies, because I'm sure some of my manfriends would drop-kick a few into a minefield just to see my reaction.



2) Some people just like to watch the world burn.

But seriously, how boring would life be without best friends? Money can't buy lasting friendships. The burning of money shan't destroy lasting friendships. If my friends occasionally waste ~$1.50 to see me react, that's their choice. I'll try to be a good sport about it. 

What do you do with your coins?

On a side note, if you are in the same "coins are useless" boat as my friends, you are more than welcome to send your change to me.