Sunday, May 20, 2018
[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 23, 2018] ©2018
OK, I’ll admit I’m a sucker just like everyone else for “listicles,” those popular website lists like “seven foods you should never eat” and “12 ways to lose 30 pounds in a week.” So it wasn’t too surprising that when I saw “10 Styling Tips that will instantly slim you down,” I had to go for it. Especially after the five-week food felony that was the holiday season.
The one thing that was clear about this listicle is that it was not geared to my demographic. I may not be in the pastel polyester pantsuit crowd just yet, but for me, it’s all about comfort. Unless I get a spinal transplant, there is no way a pair of heels will ever grace my feet again.
So here are the 10 listicle suggestions:
(1) “Invest in shapewear, particularly a seamless slenderizing piece that has reinforced panels to suck in your stomach, slim your thighs, boost your derriere and define your waist when wearing bodycon dresses, clingy skirts, tight pants or evening gowns.” First, what is a “bodycon” dress? Does Land’s End sell them? Actually, it doesn’t really matter because I’m pretty sure I don’t own one, or for that matter, any clingy skirts, tight pants, or evening gowns. Whew! Dodged the fat squisher bullet!
(2) “In terms of skirts, a knee-length pencil skirt is the most universally flattering silhouette.” Are you kidding? The only silhouettes that pencil skirts flatter are pencil-shaped people. The rest of us look like fermenting pork sausages.
(3) “Say ’yes’ to higher rise jeans.” They advise “going for a rise that hits directly above your belly button.” That’s their idea of “high rise”? I will say no more.
(4) “Rock out with vertical stripes.” I will concede that vertical stripes can make a person look “longer”. But we chunkies tend to eschew stripes altogether. For good reason.
(5) “Cinch with skinny belts to accentuate your natural waist.” What if you have no waist? Of course, I make up for it by having multiples of other parts, like chins. And thighs. But it makes the whole skinny belt thing moot.
(6) “Don’t discount maxi skirts; a well-cut maxi skirt can actually give you the appearance of looking longer and leaner.” I’d totally agree, so long as you weigh a maximum of 95 pounds. The rest of us look like a beluga whale about to give birth.
(7) “Buy a new bra.” I don’t know what it is about aging, but bras just keep getting more and more uncomfortable as you get older. For me, it didn’t help that I got my chest crushed and three thoracic vertebrae permanently de-stabilized by a drunk driver a few years ago. But maybe I wouldn’t be any happier with bras even if hadn’t had this accident. I was telling a friend that the first thing I do when I get home is take off my bra. She said she usually takes hers off in the car.
(8) “Choose heels with a low-cut vamp.” A vamp, apparently, is the portion of a shoe that cuts across your foot at the front which allegedly gives your legs a slimmer look, even as it cuts off circulation to your toes. A high vamp shoe comes up the foot and possibly up to the ankle. (Do Adidas lace-up walking shoes count?)
(9) “Mask problem areas with dark colors and highlight assets with bright colors.” Not a bad concept, but what if your whole body is a problem area? Do you wear all black?
(10) “Wear all black.” You were probably waiting for me to shoot this one down just like I did the first nine but this one I could (mostly) get behind. OK, I don’t wear ALL black which seems a tad funereal. But I’m really big on the slenderizing effect of black slacks. When my young granddaughter was visiting one weekend, she queried, “Mormor, why do you always wear the same thing?” As I explained to her it only looks like the same thing. Mormor actually has eight pairs of those black slacks (and at least as many white tops the combination of which I admit make me look like a server at a trendy trattoria). It is my personal opinion that black slacks best minimize years of abuses of chocolate and chardonnay. I wear them with colorful tops and sweaters even if they bring attention to areas that No. (9) suggests I shouldn’t be highlighting. But tough luck. I LIKE color.
Unlike my college years when I wore miniskirts to sub-zero college football games (can you say “bronchitis”?), I am no longer willing to suffer for fashion. And I would also aver that all the camouflaging tricks in the world won’t help chubby folks like me look good in anything that’s tight. Sorry, listiclist lady. That’s the word from the trenches.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 8, 2018] ©2018
Before Olof even got home from the hospital in January after his heart attack and brain injury (from falling during the heart attack), I already had my spreadsheet set up and my phone log ready. I knew from Olof’s 2009 surgery that went awry that my part time job in 2018 was going to be reconciling medical bills.
This time we were going to have bills not only for the cardiac cath lab, but for paramedics, ER services, twice daily head CTs, never mind assorted MRIs, the cardiac ICU, the trauma ICU, laboratories, the cardiac rehab gym, cardiologists, trauma surgeons, and neurosurgeons. Even the occupational therapy folks stopped by to say hello although Olof is retired.
Let me just say once again, he got fabulous care. He’s alive and healthy because of all those people. We are beyond grateful.
Who I am less grateful to is Scripps Health billing. If the doctors operated on the same level as the hospital billing service, they’d be amputating the wrong leg. Reaching the billing people by phone is at least a half hour wait, often longer. They’re hoping you’ll just get fed up and pay the bill even though they’ve forgotten to credit you for payment by your secondary. You know they got paid because you’ve got the EOB (Explanation of Benefits) from your secondary, dutifully logged into your spreadsheet.
I’m trying to think of the bill reconciliation as a sort of sadistic Sudoku game. I can see why people hire a service to handle this stuff. Because it will drive you TOTALLY EFFING CRAZY.
Of course, it may not be Scripps Health billing’s fault that what shows up on the Medicare and secondary insurance EOBs doesn’t always match up with their bills. This appears to be because the twice-daily head CTs, for example, were all billed individually, but clumped together in mysterious combinations when we actually got a statement. That’s the “game” part of it: trying to get any combination of EOB “You owe this amounts” to add up to the bottom line of a bill. When I succeed, I’m deliriously happy.
The first few days that Olof was in the hospital generated a ton of EOBs that merely said “critical care services,” “medical care,” “therapeutic services.” or “hospital inpatient.” I’m just assuming that lots of people did a lot of all those things to him during that time.
Recently we got a bill from Scripps Health for $10.90. Usually if it’s less than $50, I just pay it. Mental health move. No point in my having a heart attack over Olof’s heart attack bills. But there was no date of service and the Type of Service was listed as “recurring.” I waded back through the Medicare and secondary EOBs and in a eureka moment realized that the co-pay for Olof’s thrice-weekly cardiac rehab gym visits was $5.45. So this must be for two of them! I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.
If you have large medical bills, you’ll get a form from Meridian Resource Company, an organization hired by medical insurers to drive patients into homicidal rage and/or despondency. Their purpose is to make absolutely sure that you don’t have some other previously-undisclosed insurance coverage (Workers Comp, third party after an accident, etc.) so that they can hurl you into an endless perpetual loop of denied claims that will never be resolved, even after your death.
I’d dutifully filled out the Meridian form, keeping a photocopy, verifying that we do not have other insurance and that charges are for “A medical condition or age related condition that is NOT work or accident related.”
So, smack in the middle of (at least) $200,000 worth of medical bills, our secondary starts denying claims with the notation: “Are group health insurance benefits for these expenses available from any other source? If so, please send us: name and birthdate of the other insured person. If you do not have any other coverage, please indicate such on this form along with your signature and date, and return to us for payment consideration.”
Now, the folks at Meridian aren’t as bad at customer service at Scripps Health but you can expect some serious hold time. They agreed, oops, their mistake, you DID send the form, they will go back and mark those denied never-ever-going-to-be-paid claims for payment consideration.
Of course, the EOB that really got our attention was the one for the ICU for “Room/board”: $152,972.83. Olof definitely wants to dispute the “board” portion. When he collapsed during his heart attack, he did a face plant into an armoire, which in addition to causing a brain bleed (do NOT have a heart attack near heavy furniture!), resulted in a mouth full of stitches. So he couldn’t eat. Not even that nasty Jell-0. So he’d like a partial credit. Not much, maybe $10,000. We’re reasonable people.
Monday, April 30, 2018
[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 2, 2018] ©2018 My husband and I may be among the few people who went to college in the late 1960s and never dabbled in pot - then or since. We’ve both always preferred things we could sip. But then came medical marijuana. My older son Rory had mentioned to me that medical marijuana might help the chronic pain I have from childhood polio, a serious auto accident several years ago, and just plain decrepitude of increasing age. When he was visiting San Diego a year ago, he suggested a field trip to a local marijuana dispensary to get a “prescription.” Actually, it’s not a prescription at all, but a “Physicians Statement & Recommendation.” The physician is alleged to live in San Diego but when I met him on a computer screen for my evaluation, the background looked distinctly like Barbados. Rory thought that if nothing else, this could be a nice mother-son bonding experience. (The problem with sons is that they’re just not that interested in lunch and shopping.) Once I had my “Recommendation” in hand, we were off to the actual dispensary. Do not try to break into this place. Seriously. Fort Knox is less fortified. Once in the inner sanctum, it looked like a candy store – except, of course, that the display cases were filled with every kind of marijuana one could imagine – smokable, ingestible, sublingual. I had already done some research so I knew that pharmaceuticals of the marijuanal persuasion have two properties in different ratios: CBD offers medicinal properties without a high. THC is the compound that supplies the high. What I ended up buying was a sublingual product – you spray it under your tongue - that was 18:1 CBD:THC. The least hallucinogenic product they had. I wrote in a column just before Christmas last December that my most successful gift at Christmas 2016 had been a lava lamp and two pre-rolled ready-for-action marijuana cigarettes scored from my very knowledgeable and obliging young neighbor. We always have a huge crowd at my son’s house in L.A. on Christmas day: our relatives, his wife’s whole family, my ex-husband’s family. I couldn’t help but notice that after gifts were unwrapped (the lava lamp duo when the grandkids were playing with their stash upstairs) that all of a sudden lots of people seem to have decamped to the patio despite the cool temperatures. Initially, I couldn’t figure out where they’d all gone. #clueless. So it occurred to me last December that since I had a medical marijuana card, maybe this could be a source of some successful Christmas shopping even though marijuana was about to become legal. I called the dispensary and a very nice young man made suggestions to me about products and I ordered up a bunch. And as it turned out, they even deliver! The driver would let me know when he was arriving at my house. I was to meet him at the door for the exchange. It was 5:30 p.m. and dark when I got the text. I duly opened the front door, took the small package the smiling gentleman handed to me, and handed him five 20 dollar bills. The guy at the door looked startled. “What’s this for?” he said. “I thought you only took cash,” I replied equally confused. Right at that moment, I realized this guy is wearing a brown UPS uniform and that the box he has handed me is pet meds. I peered out to the street and didn’t see a UPS truck. UPS man points down the block and says, “Your house is very hard to find.” And as if in an echo, our front gate opens, and another guy walks up my front walkway toting a small paper bag, announcing, “Wow, your house is really hard to find!” OK, it was the week before Christmas and we were ordering a lot of stuff on line. But seriously, what were the odds? “Whoops,” I said apologetically to the UPS man (fortunately a sub), “wrong delivery guy!” I quickly took back my $100 and handed it to Dave, the drug dropper who gave me my bag. The UPS guy made a very hasty exit down the steps leaving me holding flea meds and weed. (Definitely don’t want to get those mixed up!) “It was my first buy,” I explained to Dave, sheepishly. “Clearly,” he replied, pleasantly. I guess now that we oldies are getting into the market, this kind of stuff happens more and more. So, I’m not sure I’m sold on the medicinal properties of marijuana just yet. Frankly, the stuff I bought for myself just makes me feel really tired. Maybe need to try another product. But regardless, it was indeed a truly fun bonding experience with Rory, and I now know how to do drug drops to my home. And once again, I was everyone’s favorite non-so-secret Santa.
Posted by Inga at 7:46 PM
Monday, April 23, 2018
[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 25, 2018] ©2018
If you watch the Environmental Services trucks pick up trash on Monday mornings, it is pretty amazing that the city-mandated black trash receptacles last as long as they do.
Our garbage pickup vehicles are seemingly modeled after one of those amusement park rides that yanks people 90 feet into the air, flips them upside down then slams them, minus their stomachs and spines, back to earth. Arms shoot out from the trash truck, grab the container and flip it upside down over the top of the truck, then hurl it back to the pavement inflicting a whiplash on the receptacle’s lid in the process. (The wheels take a pretty big hit too.)
When we replaced our battered black trash bin two years ago at the city’s full cost of $70, I was dismayed to find the lid split within two months. Now we just keep covering the cracks with Gorilla tape so rain won’t leak in and make it too heavy. They won’t take it if it’s too heavy.
If you go to the Environmental Services website, you will note that the black city-issued bins are considered to have a functional life of ten years. Once you stop laughing, you can further read that should you (or they) determine that your bin has become unusable before that time, you can apply to have a new one provided at a pro-rated cost (determined by them) plus a $25 delivery charge, unless you want to show up at Collection Services on 8353 Miramar Place to pick it up yourself. Fortunately, we had an accommodating neighbor with a truck when we replaced ours.
You can, of course, provide your own black bin but it has to be a very specific model suitable for abuse by the city’s trucks. And if they break it, or it gets stolen, it’s on you. Of course, even if their own can gets stolen, that’s on you too.
On the Environmental Services FAQs, question 4 asks: “Why do I have to pay for a trash container that the trash truck broke?” The non-answer basically comes down to: Because we said so.
If a picture says a thousand words, this collection of manhandled trash bins that I photographed over a period of 15 minutes says a lot more. Note to Environmental Services: as grateful as we are for free trash pickup, could you maybe reduce the velocity even a little, please? Your trash receptacles thank you.
Monday, April 9, 2018
[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 11, 2018] ©2018
There are times when home ownership feels like the worst idea ever. Like, for example, when you have a difficult-to-diagnose problem that you just know is going to suck up endless amounts of time and money and still may not get resolved. Such was the case recently when we noticed smudgy spots on the walls of our little reading room.
Now the problem with “smudgy spots” is that you can’t go on Home Advisor and search “Fix smudgy spots” especially if you don’t know what the smudgy spots are. What they looked like were tiny grandchildren palm prints which would have made great sense if they didn’t start at the five foot level of the wall and go to the ceiling. As resourceful as the grandtots are, they don’t yet do ladders.
Of course, it was the holiday season so we worked diligently at ignoring the smudgy spots which, to be fair, were more obvious in some light than others. So I tried to be sure not to have the lights on in any way that I could actually see them. Dedicated Denial is a strategy that many homeowners develop over time, us among them.
I was kind of hoping I was imagining them. Olof, after all, hadn’t said anything. So I finally pointed them out hoping Olof would say, “What smudgy spots?” But like me, he had been working overtime not to mention them. It’s one of our many compatibilities.
After the holidays, it was obvious they were getting worse. It really didn’t seem to be mold.
When your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser doesn’t help, you know you’re in trouble.
When your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser doesn’t help, you know you’re in trouble.
Fortunately, our long-ago kitchen contractor was still in business. He felt that there was moisture coming down the back of the wall even though it had not rained a single drop in four months. He recommended a roofer come out and look at it despite the fact that our roof had been replaced in 2010.
There are few words that strike more fear in home owners than “roofer.” (OK, toxic mold.) But the roofing guy came out, wandered around for a bit on our roof, and came back down with a slide show he had taken with his cell phone. Flashing had separated from a vent, and there were also several nails holding flashing down that had come up. Some fresh caulking would be required as well. His estimate for repairs: $200.
Olof and I tried to contain the paroxysms of joy we felt that we might be getting out of this for $200 even though the reading room – and likely the living room since they are really all one big space – would have to be repainted. But with the right lighting, that could be ignored for another two years.
As I’m writing the roofer a check, he mentions that the roof vent next to the flashing has a big hole in it, which is likely letting creatures take up residence in our attic. We just had all our roof vents replaced with new screening five years ago, but as we know too well, local rodentia are not dissuaded by mere window screens.
When we got the handyman out to replace the vent screen, we suggested he check all of them. As it turns out, all but one vent screen around the roof line has been chewed through.
I felt really annoyed at the rats about this. Once you’ve chewed through one vent, is it really necessary to chew through all of them? Are you that lazy that you can’t slither five feet to the left and go into the one you’ve already gnawed? Or, maybe rats have developed a taste for vinyl-coated fiberglass (local mutation?)
As for the one vent screen still intact: Years ago, we had had the vector control/rat slayer people out and while they don’t remediate your rat problem for you, they’re happy to tell you how you can do it yourself. (You pay for this service on your tax bill.) One of their suggestions was to put up window screening then spray it with a goopy foam substance so the rats can’t chew through it. After we did one, my husband Olof had some misgivings about this, pointing out that the reason you have attic vents is so that you can get actual VENTilation in your attic to prevent mold. So for the rest, we just had screening material put up, naively thinking this would slow them down.
$360 later, all ten vents have been replaced with heavy gauge steel mesh which we have no illusions the rats won’t ultimately chew through. But we’re hoping it will give them indigestion.
But then I had a sudden, terrible thought: “Do you think we might have trapped any rats inside?” I said to Olof. The color drained from his face: “Do NOT even say that out loud.”
Rodents had chewed through all the vents around our roof line
Steel gauge mesh will probably only slow them down temporarily
(but we hope it will give them indigestion)
Monday, April 2, 2018
[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 4, 2018] ©2018
Well, I haven’t always been winning friends lately, particularly not among gastroenterologists, environmentalists, and even a few dentists. To follow up:
I wrote a column recently called “Down in the mouth” about coming in for a routine teeth cleaning to my long-time (40 years!) dentist office and being subjected to a lot of high-pressure sales tactics regarding procedures I should have. My own dentist had recently retired, so this was a new staff. It was really a dilemma: I would do anything my old dentist suggested but this felt eerily reminiscent of used car shopping at Mossy Toyota.
A number of people wrote to say, “I know just what practice this is.” Except it wasn’t! It seems as if retiring family dentists are being replaced with what one reader called Wall Street Dentistry – maximizing dental procedures (particularly the replacement of crowns) whether the patient needs them or not. One reader wrote: “We had not learned the new dental-speak "code" words. Deep cleaning, in code, translates to "Bentley payment due" in English. Routine X-rays? Code for "air fare for ski trip to Austria" next month.”
Of course, a number of other people correctly guessed my dental group as well, expressing similar sadness that a practice in which they had had such faith for so many years now was apparently owned by a conglomerate in Las Vegas – with all the faith you might expect from that.
In another recent column entitled “The last parking place in La Jolla” I lamented that La Jolla’s historically easy parking (except during the summer months) now appeared to be a thing of the past. It wasn’t surprising that I heard from people along the lines of, “Are you kidding? Compared to New York and L.A.? Quit yer whining!”
It was also noted that parking is not easy in any place you’d actually want to live. I’d say that’s probably true of lots of places you DON’T want to live too. For me, that would include New York and L.A. (and not just because of the parking.) Couldn’t pay me enough. I have the incredibly good fortune to live here. To be a La Jollan is to have expectations, and parking was one of them. Or at least used to be.
Flushing drugs down the toilet….First of all, thank you to all the kind people who sent good wishes to my husband Olof after his January heart attack and the head injury suffered doing a face plant into an armoire en route to our bedroom floor. I am happy to say he is progressing beautifully, including recovering from the debilitating effects of having been inadvertently inflicted with statins in the hospital. In my column, I mentioned that in my fury at discovering the bottle of statins sent home with him (he’s severely allergic to them), I flushed the pills down the toilet.
I’m not sure whether the worse offense was doing it or mentioning it, because I actually know you’re not supposed to do this as it can affect marine life. And other than this incident, I never do it. But geesh, you would have thought I’d killed every fish from here to Tokyo. Instead, I am hoping that local marine life are at least enjoying improved LDL. And even more that they aren’t suffering the same effects as Olof which would have left them lying on the bottom of the ocean floor writhing in agony. Jokes aside, the issue is more complicated than that: it can affect our own drinking water as well. Anyway: I shouldn’t have done it, I apologize for doing it, and I promise to never ever ever do it again!
Colonoscopies…OK, it probably wouldn’t be too surprising that local gastroenterologists are not my biggest fans at the moment. Several have taken the time to engage me in cordial but dissenting dialogue asserting that the new DNa colon cancer test misses too many cancers (although it is an alternative for people who “don’t want to be scoped.” Does anyone WANT to be scoped?) It was suggested that my really bad experience recently was probably because I have Kaiser and/or didn’t get the anesthetic Propofol. Nope: I have a top-of-the-line PPO and all my care is through Scripps Health or UCSD.) And yup, I had Propofol.
After my first colonoscopy column, I was inundated with colonoscopy horror stories, some of which included genuine harm to patients. Inflicting so much misery and potential harm on millions of people who have no symptoms and no history of colon cancer seems like a high price to pay. Just my personal view at this point. I do, however, want to mention that there is another “colon prep” product that I learned about called Suprep, considered the “least bad” (damning with faint praise) product on the market. And now: I promise not to write on the subject again!
Sunday, March 25, 2018
[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 28, 2018] ©2018
Over the years, I’ve been collecting favorite quotes – way too many to list here. But this week I’d like to share a few, some of which seem truly prescient for their time – especially the first three:
"In America, anybody can be president. That's one of the risks you take." - Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)
"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." - Albert Einstein (1879-1955) (Climate change?)
“We are entitled to our opinions. We are not entitled to our facts.” - Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003), and others
Other favorite bits of wisdom:
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” - Thomas Edison
“Most editors are failed writers. So are most writers.” –T.S. Eliot
“My body isn’t me. I just live here.” (Magnet on Inga’s refrigerator)
“Things always get worse before they get a lot worse” - Lily Tomlin
“The road of indecision of is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t decide.” (Unknown)
“Not having to worry about your hair anymore may be the secret upside of death.” - Nora Ephron
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” – Hanlon’s Razor
"God gave men both a penis and a brain, but only enough blood supply to run one at a time." - Late actor Robin Williams, commenting on the Clinton/Lewinsky affair
“She buffers herself against parental input.” - Neighbors, referring to their teenage daughter
"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." -Journalist A.J. Liebling
A scientist friend who was invited to present at a professional meeting in Jakarta observed to the organizer that the schedule, as set, was not being even remotely followed. The reply: "You should think of the schedule more as a first draft,” he opined, “of a play that will be given improvisationally.”
“A closed mouth gathers no feet.” - Inga’s personal motto, poorly followed.
“What you accept, you teach.” - Inga’s parents’ motto, well followed.
“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
"I've had a wonderful time, but this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx (1895-1977)
“A lot of people ask me if I were shipwrecked and could only have one book, what would it be? I always say, ‘How to Build a Boat.’” – Actor Stephen Wright
"I have never killed anyone, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction." - Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
“After a failure, there’s always someone who wished there was an opportunity they’d missed.” - Lily Tomlin
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson (1874-1956), Chairman of IBM, 1943
"I am not young enough to know everything." - Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
"We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time." - Vince Lombardi
"There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." - Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964)
“Life begins not at conception, but when the child begins sleeping through the night.” (Inga, and the sentiment of most new parents.)
"Nothing is wrong with California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure." - Mystery writer Ross MacDonald (1915-1983)
“The chief cause of problems is solutions.” – Journalist Eric Sevareid (1912-1992)
"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." - Mario Andretti
"Happiness is good health and a bad memory." - Ingrid Bergman (1917-1982)