This is a collection of my Let Inga Tell You newspaper columns, plus blog posts and favorite publications. You can reach me at email@example.com or visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ingatellsall.
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Inga Tells All: A saga of single parenthood, second marriage, surly fauna, and being mistaken for a Swedish porn star
I don’t usually
write about political topics because it just isn’t my area of expertise, but this
whole immigration thing has prompted me to weigh in where my husband assures me
I shouldn’t. I should mention that my husband is a Republican and I am not, so
you might imagine that dinner table conversation on this topic is
It just seems to
me that the Republican presidential candidates are not thinking outside the
wall. We who live in San Diego have an obvious interest in immigration issues
since we are (a) on the Mexican border, and (b) have a high population of the
very individuals that the Republican candidates wish to evict.
current crop of GOP candidates seem really fixated on building a
Great Big Wall along the U.S. border with Mexico similar to the one in China only
with more barbed wire. This will allegedly put a stop to the entry of rapist-drugdealer-criminals.
Then the only problem is to repatriate the undocumented folks who are already
here. Voilà! America will be great again!
the office seekers don’t live on the border, or even in California, I feel
compelled to point out some issues they should be considering, and even some
First:San Diego, and California in general, is
known as a place that not only has a high population of undocumented persons,
but shamelessly employs them as well. There’s a long-standing joke in San Diego
that nobody in the county could run for a high public office because we’ve all
hired undocumented workers. Except, of course, that it’s not a joke. We really
can’t. It was no accident that on the podium at the Republican presidential debates,
every state in the union was represented except
when you hire an “American” company, the people who are dropped off at your
home are often undocumented, especially if a part of the job is particularly
nasty. As it turns out, the home owner is in violation of the law even if they
didn’t hire the illegals themselves. This means that there no lack of
of U.S. citizen miscreant-scofflaw-malfeasants in San Diego who will need to be harshly dealt with as well.
current plan, as espoused by one of the Republican candidates, is to deport the
undocumenti at a rate of some 500,000
a month, assuming a figure of 11 million illegal aliens in the country.But
now certain office seekers are saying the number could be as high as 34
million.Seriously, folks, could we pin
this down? It’s going to be tough nut to meet your quota if you don’t even know
how many you have in the first place.
could be a new question on the California State high school exit exam:If the
President wishes to deport undocumented aliens, including their annoying anchor
baby offspring, at rate of 11 to 34 million in 18 to 24 months, how many INS
helicopters will he need in the sky before it looks like the Ride of the Valkyries
scene in "Apocalypse Now"?
next issue is one they haven’t thought out at all:Beware
of what you wish for. Once the wall is up and the undocumented are gone,
the only produce the U.S. is going to be eating will be from Guadalajara, at
least until all those unemployed Americans who have been pining for careers as
tomato pickers come up to speed. It will be a YOOGE boon to the Mexican
here’s another short term issue the Republicans haven’t thought through: one
Republican contender claims he will force Mexico to pay for the Great Wall by
imposing sanctions. Good luck with that!
The Mexicans can just withhold the veggies. Sort of a guns-for-cauliflower
thing. The average American doesn’t care about NAFTA worker visas but it would
be a serious mistake to mess with the availability of organic kale.
whole deportation scheme will be tremendously time consuming and expensive, no
matter how you look at it.So if I were
a Republican president, I’d just cede the entire county of San Diego back to
Mexico, thereby deporting the undocumenteds
and punishing the employer-felons who hired them, all in one fell swoop.
while you’re at it, let Mexico have the whole state. Trying to clear the undocumenteds
out the Central Valley agricultural areas is going to be onerous at best.It doesn’t matter if Mexico even wants
us.If you can make Mexico build a wall,
you can make them take California. Surely some legal hotshot can find a
loophole that will void the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo by which the U.S.
acquired California. Then: all yours, Mexico! Not to worry: it was a blue state anyway.
It’s Halloween time and the season for scary stories.
I just happen to have a few.
It was 9:00 p.m.one October night and I was
processing Cub Scout badges at the dining room table while my 10-year-old,
Henry, sat opposite doing homework. My irrepressible adopted older son, Rory,
age 12, was presumably asleep after being banished earlier for a now-forgotten
but at the time tragically common act of misbehavior.
Henry and I heard it at the same time: someone was
on the front porch. We looked at each other with alarm. As a single parent, I
was fortunately religious about keeping the doors locked.
“Who’s there?” I inquired, trying to sound
calm.No answer. Instead, the person was
trying the doorknob. We could see it moving back and forth. Henry and I both
A few seconds later a flashlight beam came from the
porch through the closed shutters. They couldn’t see anything but it was
disturbing that they were trying. “Henry,” I said loudly, trying to control my quaking
voice, “tell your father to get the gun while I call the police.” We obviously
had no gun. (Short on men too.) This was also when everyone still had land
lines that were firmly attached to land, er, a phone cord. In another room.
Instead of departing, we heard the intruder come down
the porch steps and go around to the living room side, rustling through the
bushes. The flashlight beam came through the closed shutters on that side as
well. And then to our horror, we could hear someone trying to pry open the
window. About ten years of my life expectancy evaporated on the spot.Henry and I were both shaking in terror.All I could think of was: must protect the kids. I
pointed toward Rory’s room and whispered urgently, “Wake up Rory and go out the
back door to the neighbors!” Henry was gone like a shot while I ran for the
A moment later Henry was back. “Mom!” he cried.
“Rory’s gone! And his window is open!”
Oh, no! This was even worse than I thought. They’ve
already got one of the kids! But then a moment of clarity in all that panic. I
walked to the front door and threw it open to find Rory tapping ominously on
the living room windows with the barrel of the flashlight, happily starring in
his own personal Halloween horror movie. I honestly think I would have been
acquitted of justifiable homicide at that moment.
“Darn!” he said with a big smile, disappointed that
the jig was up. “How did you figure out it was me?” He had loads more stuff
planned.As I wrote about in some detail in my book, Rory
looked for excitement.And found it.
There was nothing he enjoyed more than terrorizing adults, with a particular
fondness for scaring the bejeezus out of Mom.
On another occasion, Henry and I were watching TV
around 8 p.m. on a November night; Rory was due home from a school function at
9:00. I thought I detected a moving shadow out on our patio but when I looked
again it was gone. To get into the patio, one would have to have a key or scale
a six foot tall locked gate. Must have been a reflection from the TV, I decided
with some relief.But then suddenly a
figure appeared at the glass door to the patio and stood there, silhouetted in
the dark, not moving, just staring at us. Henry and I both stopped breathing. “Mommmm,”
wailed Henry. But then something looked vaguely familiar about that
silhouette.I got up and walked over to
the door and snapped on the patio light. Rory.
“Geez, Rory, why did you do that?” I said. I don’t
know why I bothered to ask.His school
function had let out early and rather than just walk in the front door with his
key, why waste a perfectly good opportunity to terrify Mom?
On yet another occasion, after multiple threats
(Rory could push any limit), I ejected the wretchedly-behaving 14-year-old Rory
from the Boy Scout car pool on the sidewalk a half a mile from home at 8:30
p.m. He needed to know I meant it when I said cut it out. But punishing Rory
had always been an uphill battle. Sent to his room for a time-out as a child,
he would open his windows, pound on his bed with a tennis racket, and yell
“Please stop beating me, Mommy!”Or
worse: “No, no, don’t touch me there!” When Rory hadn’t arrived home at 9, then 9:30, then
10, I started to panic. Henry and I drove the route he should have walked and
every other street parallel.At 10:30,
as we walked up the front steps, I said “I’m going to call the police.” That’s
when Rory popped out of the bushes where he’d been all along, listening to me
freak out for the last two hours. He was more than a little annoyed that I
hadn’t called the police sooner. It would have been like, totally cool to watch the police come and take me away in handcuffs
for child endangerment. Two hours in the bushes for nothing! Not even Miranda
rights! He may never have gotten the police to come with all those tennis racket
incidents, but it was never too late to try. It had been fun, but time for bed.
Halloween itself has always been so tame in
we talk? I mean, this conversation is way overdue. Here’s the problem:You guys are young and strong. I am not
young, and, after having my chest broken by a drunk driver, not strong. It
doesn’t matter whether I bring my own re-usable bags or you bag it in the
store’s plastic ones, you guys put ALL the heaviest stuff – like both half
gallons of milk AND the half gallon of juice – in the same bag. Then instead of
putting that bag in the child seat where I might have a fighting chance of
wrestling it into the trunk of my car, you stash it under the child seat where
I’d need a forklift to haul it out.
I know the word “heavy” is really subjective. So when I say, “Would you put the
heavy bags on top?” I realize that to you, none of them are heavy. Which is why
all the heaviest stuff seems to end up in the bottom, or worse, in the rack
UNDER the cart.I really really hate
when you do that because I really really can’t get it out of there.
avid recycler, I initially purchased a bunch of your store’s re-usable bags. But
seriously, I could never lift a single one of them by the time you’d finished
stuffing the contents of my entire grocery cart into just two of them.
Fortunately, I happened to make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund and they
sent me four smaller recyclable bags. But it’s still amazing how much stuff you
guys can get into even those. Yes, I know you're willing to put the bags into my trunk for me, but I still need to be able to carry them into my house.
really hate to complain, because you guys are generally adorable. And really
trying hard to please. And having to deal with the general public who are going
to whine no matter what you do. I’d shoot myself after one day of working in
retail. Which is why I’m trying to be really nice about this.
actually have more sympathy for your job than you know. For two years starting
in 2005, my husband and I lived in Sweden. There, you not only bring your own
recyclable bags to the supermarket, you bag your groceries yourself.I didn’t understand that at first, and stood
there smiling at the grocery clerk who wasn’t smiling back. Neither was anyone
standing in line behind me who were shooting the equivalent of rabid moose
darts into the back of my head.
after I caught on, I squished a whole lot of groceries in those early
weeks.You really had to be bagging your
stuff fast so you wouldn’t hold up the line. Really important not to let the
tomatoes get under the laundry detergent. Or the herring either. Really hard to
get that herring smell out of your bags.
bagging was only the first step. There were still plenty of opportunities to
make fruit salad out of your produce before you even got it home. After you
bagged, you had to pack it all into your Swedish shopping trolley and wheel it
home. Loading your shopping trolley for optimal food survival was an art all in
we first got to Sweden, I noticed that everyone left their shopping trolleys in
the front of the store by the checkout stands while they shopped and but I
didn’t want to leave my shiny new one there since I was sure someone would
steal it. You just don’t leave anything of value unattended in my neighborhood
in La Jolla if you ever want to see it again.
soon became apparent that the Swedish national ethic frowns on stealing
shopping trolleys. I should have known. When we were at a wedding in northern
Minnesota (serious Swede country) some time back, Olof and I were aghast to see
people leaving expensive fishing gear and bicycles in the parking lot of the
motel where we were staying.Finally we
said to the owners of this stuff, “Aren’t you afraid someone will steal it?” And
they looked at each other and shrugged, “City folk.”
I did become a pro in the field of grocery bagging while we lived in Sweden.It was a comforting feeling to know that if
my boss laid me off while I was gone, I’d be a shoo in to work at Vons.
I’m way more empathetic to the tribulations of your job than you might realize.
So when I ask you to not make any of the bags “too heavy,” I mean no more than
one half gallon of any beverage (adult or otherwise) in any bag. And could we
spread out the canned goods too?Maybe
give that box of laundry detergent a room, er bag, of its own?
maybe I should quit whining and bag it myself since I actually know how. Duh.
When you look at our idea of excitement now, it’s
hard to believe that Olof and I met 50 years ago as intrepid 17-year-old adventure
junkies spending our senior year of high school in the Amazon.
How times change. This summer, the celebrations we
had for both our 20th wedding anniversary and Olof’s 68th
birthday caused our younger son Henry to drily observe: “Now don’t get too
Henry had tried to talk us into doing
something special for our 20th anniversary. Maybe a trip to
Europe, he said. Actually, our celebration stayed a little closer to home. We
sat outside in our Adirondack chairs drinking a really nice bottle of
champagne, watching the sunset, and reviewing all those betters and worses that
we so naively agreed to two decades ago. Then we had an extra-large anchovy
pizza delivered to the front yard. It was the best anniversary ever.
The evening satisfied all of our current criteria
for a successful celebration:(1) we
didn’t have to get dressed up (2) we didn’t get in the car, and (3) somebody
else cooked it. We’re SO easy to please.
Not that this celebration did take at least a little
planning. Annoyingly, fewer and fewer places make anchovy pizza anymore. Half
the time, it comes with artichokes instead because they didn’t really believe
you really wanted what is uncharitably referred to as a “bait pizza.”
Anchovies get no respect. People won’t even let you
have anchovies on your half of a pizza, insisting the anchovies will
contaminate theirs. When we order Caesar
salad at a restaurant, the waitress will ask if we want anchovies, already
noting “no” when we respond “heck yes!” (Somebody has to eat up all those dusty
cans of fish that restaurants keep around just in case.) Finding – and even
better, marrying – a fellow anchovy lover has been one more plus in a long list
A few weeks after our anniversary was Olof’s 68th
birthday. When asked what he wanted to
do for the occasion, he replied "bake a cake,” something that has been on
his bucket list for a while. Mostly I think he wanted to haul out the
Lamborghini of stand mixers (it even grinds meat!) he bought to make cookies
for my book launch last December. Olof has baked exactly twice in his life: the
first time two years ago to try to recreate his family’s Christmas cookie
recipes from his childhood, and the second time to make cookies for my book
The Christmas cookies resulted in a column called “How
an engineer makes cookies” that won a first place at the Press Club awards. Olof
baking has to be seen to be believed. The spreadsheets! The flow charts! A re-formulation
of the recipe into engineer-speak with headings like “Integration of Components.”Who knew a degree in nuclear physics could
have such practical applications?
Of course, his other motivation in baking a cake was
that he wanted a chocolate cake that included raisins – impossible to find
unless you bake it yourself. My dear friend Susan perfectly expressed my
sentiments about raisins in chocolate cake:
much as I am a "live and let live", freewheeling kind of gal, I'm
afraid I too must draw the line at chocolate cake with raisins. My
position is that the raisins are taking up valuable real estate better served
by, say, more chocolate. Replace the raisins with chocolate chips and
we've got a date.
After considerable research, Olof modified an Ina
Garten recipe to his specifications which in this case included the addition of
TWO CUPS of raisins. I thought it came out beautifully (if seriously raisin-y). I always take a photo of Olof holding
his birthday cake that indicates how old he is. This year, just to add a little
hilarity, we switched the candles around for some of the photos to say 86
instead of 68. We’re such cut-ups. Laughed ourselves silly. This is where the
kids start rolling their eyes. Sorry kids: fun is where you find it. We all have to keep it fresh in whatever pathetic
ways we can.
Amazingly, Olof made this first-ever cake totally on
his own with only a couple of minor assists from me, like How to Turn On The
Oven. Nuclear reactors are a cinch compared to the controls on our
massively-nonintuitive stove. The only person who can figure it is our tiny
granddaughter, who turned off the Thanksgiving turkey two Thanksgivings in a
It’s still a few months until my 68th
birthday where we’ll probably have a celebration of a similar type. Maybe go
wild and crazy and order in Chinese food. But as far as our anniversary and
Olof’s birthday celebrations are concerned, for the moment we’ve had all the
excitement we can stand.