Monday, February 17, 2020

Trying My Best To Keep Up With The Grandkids

[”Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Feb. 17, 2020] ©2020

As anyone who has read my column for any length of time knows, I truly believe that technology will be the death of me.  Probably literally, when I can’t figure out how to call 911 on my cell phone as I’m having a heart attack.
But I do have to admit that my iPhone has given me ways to interact with my young grandchildren that I wouldn’t have otherwise. “Interact” may be somewhat of an exaggeration in the case of the four-year-old who has on occasion FaceTimed me eight times in a single day just so I’ll appear.  As soon as I do, he chortles and hangs up.  He just loves the power.

My 9-year-old granddaughter has a story writing app on her iPad and can send me the stories she writes with it to my iPhone.  It is a testament to my love for her and to how much I want to encourage her literary efforts that I figured out how to download the app myself to be able to read her work.  I am seriously app-aversive.  But if I hadn’t, I would have missed such precious prose as a story entitled “Avery in 25 years”:

In 25 years I hope to be taller and smarter than I am now.  I will have a family of five, 2 girls, 1 boy and lots of pets.  I will have started a chocolate business. [She is definitely my granddaughter!] I will make the sweetest sweets the world has ever seen! I will be writing books about everything from things about ants to things about people. I’m going to have a huge house with my brother. We’re going to buy my other brother a ranch because he really likes horses and we think a ranch would make him happy. 

Unlike either of my sons who were never pleasure readers, this young lady has been a voracious reader from the moment she learned to read, including all the Harry Potter books.  Recently she tried to engage me in a game on my iPhone where I had to guess the title of a book based on a series of emojis.  Here’s how it went:

Avery: OK, this is a game called name that book.  You have to guess the book from the omojis [sic].

The emoji string was a fairy, three kids, a basket, a bus, a mall, and a diamond. 

Me: “OMG. This is hard!  How about “fairy kids take a basket by bus to the mall to buy jewelry?”

Avery: You have to guess the TITLE.

Me: That was a title.

Avery: It’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.”  Try this one:

This emoji string looked like another fairy, one kid, the bus, the mall, a bunch of spider webs, 14 spider emojis, and some green creature.  A duck? A coiled up snake?  I figured it had to be another Harry Potter book so I guessed the only one I could think of (since I haven’t read any of them):

Me: How about “Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban.”

Avery: Nope!  It’s “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”.

Me:  Oh.  I couldn’t figure out the spiders.  What’s with them?

Avery: Its when Hagrid says “follow the spiders.”

Me:  You should have asked Baba [Olof] to do this.  He’s read all the Harry Potter books three times!

She quickly concluded that I was neither well-read enough nor sufficiently emoji-capable to play this game.  And she was totally correct.

While I am extremely loathe to admit that there are any advantages to technology, another way I’ve been able communicate with the grandkids is sitting together on the sofa with their iPads (which they know how to use and I don’t). researching charitable contributions that I will donate to in their names.. While I was initially concerned that the grandkids (and their parents) would refer to me behind my back as Grammy Tax Deduction (OK, they do), I did want to encourage them to help the world be a better place.

My youngest grandson really loves "horsies" so one of his was wild mustang protection.  He’s also really into “fishies” (he has a tropical fish tank) and one of his picks ended up being vaquitas – a type of porpoise endemic to the Gulf of California.  Only 30 left on earth!  Bettas and Tetras are still in ample supply so my grandson was happy to have the vaquitas be his “fishie” pick. 

Avery was big on banning puppy mills and protecting elephants. (She’s been big on elephants ever since the adoption of Shirley several years ago – my all-time most successful Christmas gift ever. Well, that and the lava lamp and weed to the other grandparents).  My other grandson went for lowland gorillas and snow leopards.

OK, I admit it. This is all made a lot easier with an iPad.  But that’s as much as I’m willing to concede.

Monday, February 10, 2020

10 Rules To (Try To) Live By

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Feb. 12, 2020] ©2020

I’ve long since given up on New Year’s Resolutions but for years I’ve kept a somewhat varying list of Ten Rules to Live By.  At the end of the year, I look at it and give myself a grade.  Some stuff just should just get dropped from the list because I get an ‘F’ every time.  But where it’s health-oriented, I feel morally obligated to at least pretend I’m going to do better next year. 

Here’s the 2019 list:

(1) Never pass a kid’s lemonade stand without stopping.  (A+)

It’s always good to have goals at which you’re guaranteed to succeed.  My kids loved having lemonade stands although I’ve noticed somewhat usurious inflation since their era.  $1.00 for a small paper cup of frozen lemonade concentrate mix?  But it doesn’t matter. It’s just really fun to watch the kiddies pour and make change.  Plus, I still owe the universe for all those passers-by who bought cherry tomatoes for $.16 each from my young grandchildren two years ago.  BTW, a corollary to this goal is “Never turn away a Girl Scout bearing cookies.”

(2) Do some sort of exercise every day. (A)

I’ve been a life-long walker probably thanks to my mother cancelling school bus service when we were in elementary school and paying us the money instead.  Aside from the exercise, I think she was motivated by the fact that bus kids were excused on snow days but non-bus kids weren’t. She was so averse to the three of us ricocheting off the walls for whole days at a time that she was willing to ship us out the door even in some pretty major blizzards. I think there were times when she hoped they wouldn’t find us until spring.   In her defense, she did always call the school and make sure we got there eventually.  To this day, however, I love the calming introspective effect of walking (maybe not in blizzards) and have written previously about the concept of solvitur ambulando – Latin for “it is solved by walking.”  Yup, it really is. 

(3) Do some really challenging exercise at least twice a week.   (C-)

Other than walking, I seriously hate exercise.  Fortunately, childhood polio and an auto accident give me plenty of excuses not to do it.

(4) Take good care of your teeth.  (A-)

About 30 years ago, I read an article that interviewed 100 elderly people asking them what they would do differently in their lives.  And the number one answer was “take better care of my teeth.”  I’m listening.

(5) Maintain a normal body weight. (F)

Why why why do I even bother to add this?  For years, I blamed it on a “temporary” weight gain after my divorce (40 pounds on the Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookie and Chardonnay Depression Diet.)  But the fiction is getting harder of maintain when I remember that I was divorced in 1983.

(6) While it would be nice to be able to save the world, there are a dozen opportunities every day for big or small kindnesses. Try to avail yourself of as many of them as possible.  (A-)
This one is a legacy of my parents and it’s nice to do not only in their memory but because it’s just a good idea.  And on a purely selfish level, it makes me happy.  I kind of have a contest with myself to see how early in the day I can log my first good deed. Sometimes it’s really small stuff – letting the person with one item go ahead of you in the grocery line, or saying something nice to the bagger who’s just been abused by a crabby shopper.  Or smiling at people you pass as you’re walking (although in some countries I’ve lived, they’d throw a net over you for this.)

(7) Challenge bigotry – in yourself and others. (B+)

This is truly my biggest legacy from my parents.  They were as flawed as any parents but their biggest gift to their children was that they didn’t hate.  I never once heard them refer negatively to anyone by race or religion.  My mother taught ESL and we always had a houseful of immigrants she was helping, on her own time, to get driver’s licenses, jobs, and simply navigate a new land. My mother always said, “What you accept, you teach.” Amen.

(8) Go barefoot and watch sunsets (not necessarily at the same time). (A)

Yup, this is my other easy “A” besides the lemonade stand and the Girl Scout cookies.  I have literally watched thousands of sunsets from either my front yard or a park nearby. 

(9) Apologize when you screw up. (A)

I simply get so much practice so it’s another easy “A”.  My motto for decades has been “A closed mouth gathers no feet.” 

(10) Stop screwing up so much.  (D)

Not so good at following the motto.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Really Bad Timing

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 5, 2020] ©2020

As a dog owner, it turns out there are worse things than your dog rolling in poop.  And that’s your pet contracting a truly nasty bug or eating something in your yard that she really, really shouldn’t have, and inflicting massive intestinal mayhem all over your beds, furnishings and floors for two weeks. 

On the third night of this, at 3:30 a.m., I thought I heard Lily running toward the front door and in racing after her to let her out, I slipped in a slurry of fecal miasma and landed on my back. That meant that for the next week, I had to delegate all cleanup of subsequent ordurous deposits to my initially-skeptical husband. But seriously, I’d much rather clean up dog diarrhea than be in as much pain as I was in. 

In a show of solidarity (we really wished her stool had had more solidarity), and to make it up to Olof,  I began setting my alarm for every hour all night, every night, so I could hobble to the front door with the dog and let her out.  When you watch your dog poop literally 15 times in five minutes, you’re not all that sure you want to let her back in.

The onset of this episode could not have been worse.  We were due in two weeks to go for Christmas to our younger son’s home in Los Angeles.  It was our older son’s turn to join us with his family plus our daughter-in-law’s extended family would be joining us from far-flung locales as well.  We bring Lily every year and she revels in all the attention.

Our wonderful vet, hoping to have Lily cured by Christmas, brought out the heavy artillery when the rice-chicken-pumpkin diet plus a week of Metronidazole failed to resolve this issue.  She added more antibiotics plus Canin Gastrointestinal kibble, Tylan antibiotic powder, and Proviable Forte digestive health supplements in both paste and sprinklable form.  The thick paste came in the form of an injection syringe the plunger of which actually requires some force to use and hence it was completely understandable how the first time it ended up in the face of the husband holding the dog rather than in the dog’s exceedingly reluctant mouth. 

It goes without saying that Lily should have had the healthiest intestinal tract in America after two weeks of this regimen.  And indeed, she did finally start to get better.  But as we had no idea what caused this event, we were concerned for its sudden reoccurrence given that the house in L.A. would be populated by seven young food felons whose priors included leaving trails of food particles in their paths and feeding Lily comestibles of the non-dog-food persuasion under the table which could compromise her fragile digestive motility. Beef tenderloin and garlic mashed potatoes were probably not the foods of choice for this dog at this point. My daughter-in-law was hosting 25 people for the better part of three days, and a dog emitting hourly metabolic effluvia on her premises would cause a rift from which our relationship would never recover. 

Ditto our hotel. The Kimpton Palomar in Westwood allows dogs to stay for free. More specifically, continent, non-barking dogs.  But as the days before Christmas approached, Olof and I would examine Lily’s stool and ask ourselves: could this deposit be picked up from the floor of a hotel elevator?  Or was it just a lake that would require holiday housekeeping services, a $100 tip, and a red line across our faces for future reservations?

My efforts to find someone to stay with Lily at any price for December 24 and 25 were for naught.  When our dear friend Jim heard of our dilemma, he heroically offered to help. That Jim volunteered to stay with Lily when her alimentary canal was still channeling the Colorado River rapids is an act I doubt we’ll ever be able to repay.

Meanwhile I researched doggie diapers and ordered some off Amazon.  On the same day I also ordered male incontinence supplies for the disabled friend we are helping and the Barbie stroller which my granddaughter coveted for Christmas. You can’t believe what my “Recommended Just For You” list looks like now.

It was frankly a huge relief not to have Lily with us in L.A.  We knew that if we brought her and there was a single mephitic emission at either the house or hotel, we’d have to just pack up and precipitously leave, Lily anointing Olof’s car all the way home. 

Well, it’s the new year, the carpet and upholstery people have done their magic, and all the comforters have been sent for professional cleaning. (Given that this had gone on for two weeks, we considered just burning down the house.)  Now if we could just figure out what she ate because it would be totally eradicated from our property.

Our vet pulled out the heavy artillery to make Lily better