You Should Have Asked

Being a parent is very difficult, and reflecting on my many years as a mother, I am seeing mistakes I made, lessons forgotten, and activities omitted. How often do any of you think, “why didn’t we ever do that,” or “I wish we had done…?”

We went on a lot of trips, so I don’t believe regrets regarding travel would be on the list, but did you ever wish we had taken you camping or hiking? I thought about this today when Kelly mentioned the family challenge is to take the kids on fifteen hikes this year in addition to considering a camping trip out West.

I believe you all know that although Dad’s family had a camper which they used on their summer vacations, I would not ever consider taking our family camping. Dad just loves telling the story about how I considered our stay at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge as camping because we had paper bath mats and limited water pressure in the bathroom. It’s just not my thing.

As a little girl, my dad took me on hikes at the local county park, where we went off-trail to hike to the top of the mountain. He taught me to mark our path by periodically bending branches so if we got lost, we could find our way back to the trail, but we never went camping.

I do not feel as if I should include sleeping under the stars as part of my bucket list, but I don’t have as strong an aversion to hikes (although on a recent trek through the woods I spotted a snake on the paved path, so maybe I should take that back).

So the question I have is: Do you feel you missed out on a wonderful family activity because we did not go camping or hiking in the woods? In my defense, I don’t recall any of you ever asking.

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The Teeth-Brushing Challenge

Thanks to a blog I have been reading for the past few years—The 80-Something Blog—I was directed to the 30-Day Well Challenge in the NY Times. If the 80-plus author of the blog, Judy Kugel, was up to the task, how could I not accept the challenge? I would hang my head in shame if I can’t compete with her.

Each day I am emailed a video with four 30-second exercises to perform, separated by 15 seconds of rest. At the conclusion of the fourth exercise, the routine is repeated. It is not too difficult, although I am discovering which parts of my body clearly cannot do what I could have done during my youth.

I have only found one particular exercise to be difficult, and this is one which I have been instructed to repeat at least twice a day for the duration of the month. I am challenging all of you to attempt to do this and report back to me.

While brushing your teeth, you must close your eyes and stand on one foot. The next time you brush your teeth, switch to the other foot. This is to increase one’s balance, and since my mother has a poor track record of falling as you all know, I want to do whatever I can to prevent this from happening to me someday.

I admit that on the first day, I found it almost impossible to do, and even now on Day 3, I cannot do this with my eyes closed. However, each time I see improvements, although spitting is not something I can do on one foot and am not even certain that it is a good idea. (I see the potential for a mess.) Dad just rolls his eye but won’t participate.

So the next time you all brush your teeth, close your eyes, stand on one foot, and clean those pearly whites. Then let me know how it goes.

Loopholes

I learn something new every day. With a birthday party scheduled this past weekend which involved airline travel to get to the party, and a major storm—Harper—causing the party to be rescheduled, I had been busily researching if it was possible to get my money back, since I purchased a nonrefundable Basic Economy ticket.

It turns out that the answer is possibly, because of a little-known detail (at least unknown to me) which I discovered in the fine print under the “conditions of carriage” at the bottom of each page. American Airlines’ conditions of carriage “defines the rights, duties and liabilities of customers and American, including during events beyond our control like weather.” If a ticketholder has a flight change of sixty-one minutes or more, then a full refund can be given “to the original form of payment.” This is not a credit with the airline but an actual refund.

Delta will not offer the deal until the delay exceeds 90 minutes, and United’s policy was too difficult for me to determine. Each domestic airline has their own policy, so my advice is to ask your airline, and to remember to use the words “conditions of carriage.” I got nowhere with my inquiry with American until I pitched those words to the agent on the telephone.

Although these airlines may offer to book you on their next available flight, you have the right of refusal, and you can do this from the warm and cozy comfort of your home if you happen to learn of a delay before your trip to the airport. So on this particular trip, I continued to check the weather and flight status, noting that my flight was inbound from Chicago, so there was the hope of a delay.

Sadly for me, my flight was on time, so I was forced to eat the price of the ticket. I won’t go next week because I believe the weather turned out to be not as bad as originally predicted because I did not go. You see, I am a winter unlucky charm. I have always encountered bad weather and delays every time I have traveled north during the winter months. I will see the birthday girl after the probability of encountering snow and ice have greatly diminished.

Hopefully the shutdown will be over by then, because I am not secure in flying when the people responsible for my safety may be a tad tired from perhaps working another job or stressed from not having the income of a second job.

 

We Didn’t Look Suspicious

There is a daily conversation regarding the border and the president’s insistence on a wall at our southernmost border. All the chit chat got me thinking about my two visits to the border. The first was many, many moons ago. I accompanied Dad on a business trip to San Diego, and one day, we decided to cross the border into Tijuana, Mexico. Nothing unusual happened at the border, and my most vivid memory of the trip was the purchase of our onyx chess set.

It was my first visit beyond the United States border and the first time I had any participation in the fine art of haggling. I admit there was little, perhaps none at all, haggling done regarding the purchase of the chess set. What I recall is that I had seen many similar sets in the San Diego shops, which were priced four times higher than the ones in the little Mexican town. What happened is that I hesitated when told the price, so the merchant immediately, to my great astonishment, dropped the price. My pause was honestly because I was uncertain regarding the color. I immediately got out my wallet, much to Dad’s annoyance, because he told me later that he was positive he could have negotiated a better price. I was satisfied.

Our second southern visit was on a trip to Tucson five years ago. We decided to explore the area, so we set out in our rental car headed to the hokey little town of Tombstone. Hokey, I say, because it was as if we were on the set of a movie. Tombstone was a recreation of an old western town, complete with people walking the streets in period costumes, complete with a recreation of an old Wild West fight.

As we got closer to Tombstone I observed a border patrol checkpoint, which we would have to pass though on our return trip. I do not know what got into me, but I suddenly felt the need to check our rental documents inside the glove compartment. I was upset to discover it was empty, meaning we had no way to prove that we were the renters of the car. I imagined that we were going to be hauled off to prison. We hadn’t even seen “Breaking Bad” at that time.

It turned out to be an unnecessary worry, because the border agents said hello, glanced briefly inside the car, and waved us on. How did they know we were not smugglers?

My biggest observation from the trip was my view of the great expanse of nothing to the south with lots of mountains. I would not want to go on a stroll in that area. There are probably lots of scary bugs and snakes there.

He’s Not Very Nice!

We have all experienced times when money was tight, but we are all very lucky that none of us ever knew true hunger or homelessness.

The first time I was ever made aware that some people don’t have a home was when I was in sixth grade. We went on a field trip to New York City, and I recall walking through an area known as The Bowery. During that time, there were a number of homeless people living there, and our parents had to sign a permission trip acknowledging that we would be walking through the area—as if it were an attraction. I don’t recall where we went on the trip but I still recall the homeless men to this day. I remember that they were called “bums” or “hobos.” How awful to call another human being by that name!

I never again experienced people living on the streets until we moved to Chapel Hill, and now when I visit Casey in Silver Spring, I am again saddened to pass homeless individuals living under the Metro bridge close to her home. I feel both guilt and helplessness.

Yesterday, I saw a man interviewed on television, and he wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke about his fears regarding how he would take care of his family during our latest shutdown. My heart broke for him and others like him.

Our president clearly has no understanding what it is like to be faced with choosing between food and medicine, stating that “they will figure it out.” Really? How does that work?

Then I thought of a story I heard about a recent trip to an indoor waterpark, when a bigger girl, who did not wait long enough before heading down the waterslide, crashed into Lily before she climbed off the slide. Lily turned to her and said, “That wasn’t nice!” When Lily told me the story, she added, “Grandma, she didn’t say she was sorry.”

So I listened to the president answer questions about how people were going to cope without receiving their salary, and it was obvious that he was clueless to their plight. He’s not very nice and he didn’t say he was sorry!

I Can’t Hear You

As a twenty-first century grandma, I am finding it interesting to see the toys which my grandchildren are enjoying that I played with during my youth over fifty years ago. I have mentioned the Legos, Colorforms, and board games such as Candy Land and Monopoly. The latest gift which brought me traveling down good old Memory Lane again was a set of walkie-talkies. In the age of a cell phone in the pockets of approximately 95% of all adult Americans and a surprising number of children as young as eight, I was surprised to see the excitement with which this gift was received.

I recall getting a set of walkie-talkies with my best friend, Karen. She lived two blocks away from me. Living in a household with six other people, no one had the luxury of being able to occupy the telephone for more than a few minutes, so we put our thinking caps on and came up with the idea of buying the walkie-talkies.

Unfortunately, they were only slightly better than two tin cans connected by a string, which actually work but not with the distance separating the two of us. We discovered that the only way to use these contraptions was for Karen, who was at the top of the hill, to position herself in her basement and me to be in my upstairs bedroom.

As I recall, there was a lot of static and yelling involved in order to communicate, so I do not believe we could not have many top-secret discussions. But as nine or ten-year-old kids, we thought it was cool and had a lot of fun talking to each other. I am curious how the new-and-improved communication devices of this century compares.

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