grandmas

Friday, September 12, 2014

Playing games

The Treasure Island Catan game
To pass the time, Marc and I play games when we travel.
We used to play a travel Scrabble game that had little teeny tiles on a kind of board that folded open and held the tiles — except when we dropped one on the way to the board. Then it required some serious bending and stretching to find the tile under the seats.
For the most part, though, it was great and served us for many voyages.
People all around us would offer suggestions and cheer when one of us scored a big word.
But it's a new age now and this time around Marc bought a bunch of games for his iPad: Scrabble, Carcasonne, Settlers of Catan and Puerto Rico.
Instead of toting along a game board and bags of tiny pieces, we just opened up the device and selected something to play. We usually had a couple of computerized opponents joining the fray.
The Siena sunset
It took some getting used to since we didn't have any cards or little pieces to hold or see.
It was difficult to know what the other guy had when you needed to negotiate a trade or steal something worthwhile.
But we persevered and pretty soon we were loving the fact that we didn't have to set up or take down anything.
Wherever we were when we were interrupted, the game came back at that spot.
We could play for five minutes or two hours, as long as the battery was charged.
We could play waiting for our food at a restaurant or on the plane as we waited to take off.
It didn't matter whether we had table space or not.
In Siena, we played waiting for the sun to set and in Florence in the Boboli Gardens when it was too hot to walk around anymore.
So now we're spoiled.
We're home and we're still playing our games on the iPad in our spare time — plus we've added a few, new ones, mostly variations of Catan.
It's really quite enjoyable except that Marc wins most of the time.
That's annoying.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Beating up grandpa

It wouldn't surprise me to get a call from the folks who monitor elder abuse and neglect.
My aged father currently looks like he's been going the rounds in the boxing ring.
He has a huge bump on the back of his head, cuts and bruises on both arms and on his knee and 10 stitches across his right eyebrow.
He is also sporting a couple of fractured ribs.
But we kids had nothing to do with this.
In fact, if it wasn't for a little email message I got from my stepmother's daughter, I wouldn't even know he went to the hospital — twice this week.
Seems he went out to dinner Monday night and misjudged the distance when he stepped out of the SUV.
He fell down. He banged his head and went to the emergency room in the ambulance.
He was released around midnight and went back to the retirement center where he resides, not telling anybody about it.
Then yesterday around lunchtime he was mailing a letter at the front desk on his way to lunch and fell again.
This time he apparently hit his walker on the way down because he got a serious cut near his eye and smashed his ribcage.
When I saw him yesterday he looked pretty rough.
He was sitting in the bed trying to watch tennis on the hospital TV without any sound because he couldn't find a remote. (It's on the bedside unit used to call the nurse.)
He was hungry because he'd missed lunch and looked like he would miss dinner. (I got him a box lunch from the nurse's station.)
He was unhappy because whenever he breathed in hard or coughed or laughed, it hurt — a lot. He thinks the answer is to go home, get into his easy chair and stay still.
I sat with him most of the afternoon trying to figure out what is going on and what we are going to do.
Sure, he's past 90 and can be expected to have some difficulties now and then.
But two emergency room runs in four days?
I wondered myself when the doctors asked him (and me) what was going on here?
He thinks he's fine, no worries. He's getting good care and he likes the attention.
He still believes he isn't ready for an assisted living center. He doesn't see what all the fuss is about.
I'm thinking we're in big trouble here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sliders for lunch

The fashion-conscious customer on an angle

Waiting on the waiter...notice the blocks
There's a lovely little place in Siena, Italy, that serves lunch and dinner.
The food is freshly cooked.
The service is good.
The view is spectacular.
It's a treat to eat there — if you don't mind sitting at a table and chairs that are in danger of sliding down the road at a moment's notice.
See, most of the roads in Siena are steep and laid with cobblestone.

The merchants in the town have to adapt.
So this little restaurant has cut the legs of the table and stools at an angle and then put down little wooden studs to act like brakes that will stop the furniture from sliding.

The typical Siena road
You have to make sure you don't move the legs out from behind or from fitting into the studs.
One has to plan one's entry and exit in advance.
The waitresses have learned to walk backwards most of the time so they don't develop shin splints during their shifts.
It's entertaining to watch and a good example of adapting to the environment.
We enjoyed our meal there.
Gives a whole new meaning to eating up  — er, out!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The drug scene

My doctor warned me a while ago that this day was coming.
He showed me a flier from a local pharmacy that said soon pharmacists would be making the decisions as to who got what drugs.
I didn't totally dismiss the prediction but I didn't worry unduly.
Well, a day or so ago I went to pick up a prescription drug that I take on a daily basis.
The lady at the counter said she only had a few pills and I would probably need to come back in a couple of days.
I was startled.
I need to take this particular medication regularly. If I don't there are fairly severe consequences.
I came back a day later and this time, the senior pharmacist came out to talk to me.
"There's a nationwide shortage of this drug," he said. "You had better call some other pharmacies and see if they have any."
I panicked a little.
However, I thought I had some reserve tablets in my 72-hour kit so I'd be OK for a few days.
Turns out I don't.
I went downstairs today to get them and apparently I had already raided my back-up supply.
The next morning I called my doctor who is a specialist for the condition I have.
He said he'd never heard of such a thing but told me my drugs have a half-life of about a week so I'd have a little time before the situation became really serious.
I really didn't want to risk coming out of my remission.
I went back to the pharmacy.
This time, the pharmacist said he had 48 tablets — not a full refill, but more than nothing.
I took them.
I came home. I'm guarding them with my life.
If this keeps up much longer, I'll have to get me a drug dealer. (My family physician says he has a contact in Canada...)
Who knew?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My favorite things...

Jack through the porthole laying on the bunk inside the crew's quarters
People keep asking me what my favorite thing is from our English-Italian vacation.
I think over all the world-famous art we saw, the duomos in Florence and Sienna, the sunsets over the Arno River, the views from the towers we ascended, the lush Tuscan countryside, the sets and props for the Harry Potter movies, the stage show of "Wicked" in London.
I revisit the memories and the moments when I stood in one historic spot or another and I always come back to the same thing.
My favorite part was seeing Jack, our 7-year-old magical grandchild, the grandchild who ran right to me though it had been two years since we'd last seen him in real life.
Jack lives in middle England with his mum and dad and doesn't really understand why we don't pop over on the occasional Sunday for dinner.
He's happy to have us Skype him on Sundays and tell him jokes and read him stories.
He's enthusiastic about letters and presents from America but he's generally so far away that I have to settle for virtual hugs and kisses.
Ready, set, hug!
So, when we were deciding where to go and what to do for our 25th anniversary, there was really no question.
If we were going to make the arduous voyage over the ocean, we had to make sure the trip included seeing Jack.
The kid with his feet off the ground is Jack.
We arranged the schedule with his parents so he'd be out on holiday from school and so they could meet us in London for a bit. (I'm past where I'm comfortable with Marc driving in England.)
They brought in their caravan and camped outside the city.
We set up a meet at the London Zoo and a go at the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum.
On Saturday we took the tube, a train, and a walk and arrived a touch early and started scanning the queue outside the gates of the zoo.
I looked for a little tow-headed boy and his parents.
It got to be 10 a.m. and we hadn't see them yet. We walked up and down the line.
We looked over at the giraffes and tigers across the street. Maybe we'd come in the wrong way.
We looked some more.
Then, suddenly, there he was, taller than I remembered.
He started running toward us, a big smile on his face.
I opened my arms.
He ran into me and we hugged, blissfully.
We went on to see all sorts of sights. We toured the Cutty Sark ship, Jack slept in the crew quarters bunk and tried steering the boat.
Jack showed us the eels and the jellyfish and the poison frogs and butterflies that would sit on his hand in the aquarium. He played every game and he told us all sorts of things in his British accent. He sat with me in the back of the car and made up stories.
He let us buy him a racing car after taking a couple of long hours to choose just the right toy.
It was restorative and marvelous and, yes, the best part of a two-week trip!

Jack and Marc at the top of the Monument




Unbelievable!

Monday, August 18, 2014

German warfare

One of these things is not like the other

This one is for British Airways NOT Air Berlin
So Marc and I are sitting in Stuttgart waiting for our plane.
It's been delayed since there are thunderstorms and high winds in London.
Everybody around us is getting upset because not only is the plane delayed but no one is sharing information.
The lady in the gate booth came in and tidied up around boarding time but hasn't looked anyone in the eye or picked up the microphone to tell us what's going on. The crowd is almost out of control.
We don't know when the plane might be leaving or what will happen when we all miss connections.
We have already suffered through an unbearably long wait to get our passports checked, a line that started at the top of a big stairway and moved at a snail's pace through to the waiting area.
That's when it became apparent there was trouble afoot.
We also discovered that German people apparently have hair-trigger tempers and short fuses.
They were increasingly vocal as time passed.
"You don't tell us anything because you will have to compensate us then for the time and trouble!" shouted one angry fellow.
"I only live 4 miles from the airport. I can go home and wait better than here!" put in another unhappy customer.
"Yeah! Nien to this! said people with much hostility.
Marc and I watched the show.
We didn't think it mattered much to us whether we waited a long or a short time. We had flown from Florence, Italy to Stuttgart simply to catch another short hopper back to London.
We could be late without severe consequences.
After 90 minutes though, it got old.
We were almost as interested in moving on as the rest of the crowd.
Finally, we were told the flight was being rescheduled and a bus was backed up to the door to take us to the plane.
Then the bus left.
The news stopped.
The bus came back.
We waited some more. The lady got on the mic. "We're going to put you on a bus to the plane but you might have to wait on the plane for a while," she said. "But we'll start boarding."
We started through the gate. That's when the bottom fell out.
The ticket reader refused our boarding passes.
The lady tried several times.
"Oh," she said, examining them more closely. "That's the problem. You have the wrong airline and gate."
She moved to the next passenger.
What?
Apparently there are two flights out of Stuttgart for London at exactly the same time on two different airlines. We were supposed to be on the other one that boarded 30 minutes earlier...with a gate at the other end of the terminal!
We panicked. We bolted. We practically climbed over the passport gate to get out.
We sweated all the way to Gate 343 on the south end from Gate 121 on the north end (I'm not kidding).
We made it with a nano second to spare but not before I had made some serious promises in my prayers and questioned my travel patterns.
No more German parties for me.
And I'll always check every inch of fine print on a boarding pass, even the areas I don't know matter.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bringing Elsa home...

Hey, do you think Disney has a plan?

It wasn't my intention to focus on the Frozen Elsa doll all during our anniversary trip to Europe.
It began with kind of a curiosity: Could it be possible that the doll we wanted to get for a host of granddaughters for birthdays and Christmas could be found in England or Italy?
Maybe the obsession with the Disney movie and the dolls hadn't reached across the pond just yet?
We had routinely harassed the local stores for Elsa dolls for months. (We found Anna dolls a while ago and dropped in every day to the Orem store to buy two at a time until we had enough.)
We knew we had little girls who wouldn't be happy with just one sister.
So we stopped in London at the store on Oxford Street and checked.
"Oh. We just sold out. We had some," said the sales girl.
When we looked crushed, she leaned forward to confide, "I can't promise anything but we may be getting some in the morning. If you can ring us exactly at 9 a.m., we could put your name on the list."
So it began.
My son had provided us with a burner phone for emergencies and this became one.
Every morning we rang the stores. I have three European phone numbers memorized now.
 Every time we got on or off the tube near Covent Garden or Oxford St. we stopped in to look for Elsa. (There was another one that was a long ways away. Fortunately they never got in a shipment or we'd have made that ride too.)
Nobody wants her in this dress
When we went to Hamley's toy store with our grandson for a race car, we looked for Elsa dolls.
"Finished!" said the clerks. "We are finished!" (Apparently that's the word for "Sold out!")
It became a kind of obsession that carried through to Italy.
We found a tiny toy store in Sienna that had finished with Elsa as well.
We found another in Florence that just finished a few minutes before we arrived!
On the last day before we left London, we made a final call.
Elsa is magical.
"Yes," said the harried clerk. "We may have some Elsas in the morning."
We stopped in the next day and joined a little huddle of moms and small girls in front of the store.
Once in, we all flew to the display and to our amazement, there were beautiful, 11-inch, authentic Elsa dolls. (You can get the fake ones from China on the Internet but they aren't the same at all.)
We grabbed four.
I was thrilled. Marc was happy to have resolution to this mad campaign and just as happy to drag a sack of dolls home, through customs, onto several planes and buses and trains.
More than once, I'm sure he was thinking..."Let it go! Let it go!"
But hey, it's a grandma mission accomplished.