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Updated: Nov 12, 2023

I have been a grandmother (my two grandsons call me Gaga) for four years. Here are the lessons I have learned thus far.


Lesson 1: Dietary concerns are for the parents to worry about, not me. My 4-year-old grandson Leo is a picky eater and fails to understand the nutritional importance of cleaning his dinner plate. My husband and I recently watched the grandboys while my daughter and her husband attended a weekend wedding. When my daughter left Friday evening, she said, “Leo doesn’t get any more food because he didn’t finish his supper.”

Fifteen minutes after they left Leo looked at me with his sad eyes and announced he was hungry. Could he have a granola bar? “Sure!!!” I reply. As the grandmother, I get to distribute granola bars, juice packs and yogurt pouches on demand. I mean it’s not like they are eating cookies and chocolate.


Lesson 2: Strollers are now the size and weight of washing machines. They also have more knobs, levers and options than my car. My husband has a degree in mechanical engineering, and he could not figure out how to collapse the stroller after we took the boys to the park.

We approached a young family and asked for help. They were even perplexed but cleverly went to their cell phones and looked up the stroller specs. Voila! One push of a magic button and the stroller collapsed. It became smaller than a washing machine but still weighed the same.


Lesson 3: At my advanced age, watching toddlers is physically and mentally demanding. I did some crayon work with my grandsons at their little tot table. They jumped up after 10 minutes. There is no jumping up from a toddler sized chair for someone my age. I had to roll off the chair onto the rug and haul myself up from a kneeling position.

Later that evening my daughter, her husband and my husband were deeply involved in rewiring an overhead light. I was in charge of the boys. Finally at 8:30, wearing my plastic fireman hat and holding an armful of stuffed animals the boys and I successfully rescued from a pretend forest fire, I suggested to my daughter, “I think its bedtime.”

“It OK,” she replied, “the boys can stay up later.”

“I’m talking about my bedtime,” I explained.


Lesson 4: Blippi is the new man in my life. My grandkids love Blippi, a young man who started making videos to entertain his 2-year-old nephew. Now he rakes in $24 million a year.


Blippi is like a human Big Bird—sweet, funny and engaging. His videos feature firetrucks, police cars, helicopters, strawberry farms, science centers and road construction equipment. Thanks to my grandsons, I have watched many of these videos multiple times. I am now conversant in the mechanics of skid loaders and excavators.

Leo and Will are allowed to watch Blippi over breakfast so this enables me to linger over a cup of coffee. “Can we watch one more?” they always ask. “Sure!” I reply. “How about another juice pack?”


After a weekend of caring for my toddler grandsons, my mind and body are tapped out. As I go home to recover, I think of my new heroes: the 2.3 million grandparents in our country raising their grandchildren. I watch my grandkids one weekend at a time, but these grandparents are on duty 24/7.


Grandchildren are indeed the reward of a long life. I just hope my creaky knees, declining stamina and faulty memory let me enjoy them to the fullest.

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A recent vacation to Las Vegas to celebrate my 75th birthday cost me big bucks. And I never stepped foot in a casino.


Let's start with the air fare. I booked the outgoing flight from Dulles (Virginia) airport via United. Hearing Spirit Airlines has cheap fares, I found a flight back at the time we needed at a great price. Bad bet. As the date of our trip approached I checked the status of our flights. To my horror, I realized Spirit does not fly to Dulles. We would be arriving in Baltimore (BWI). This posed a problem as our car would be in a different airport in a different state. I decided to cancel. The cost for my mistake? $600.00 This includes the price of two tickets plus a $92.00 “passenger usage charge” for booking the tickets on line. I could use $210 of the $600 towards another flight but only if I booked within a defined window of time. My husband and I have no travel plans requiring air fare. I was down $600 without a single spin of the roulette wheel.



My losing streak continued when I checked on the status of our tickets to see Cirque du Soleil . After a 30 minute wait , I connected with a ticket agent. I explained I had not received any ticket vouchers and we were to go to the performance the following week. “I see the problem,” explained the ticket agent. “You paid for tickets for last week's performance.” Stunned, I said “you mean I ordered two tickets for the wrong date?” “Oh no “she replied, “you ordered three tickets.” Three unused tickets at $200 each came to $600.


Before we even boarded the plane, I was $1200 in the hole.


I blame technology. Planning a trip now requires a level of cyber-comfort and internet knowledge I do not possess. Finding the appropriate web site, creating new passwords, figuring out concert dates, airplane schedules, seat selection—not my forte.


The Chicks (formerly Dixie Chicks) concert episode is clear proof. We arrived at the ticket counter at Planet Hollywood for the Saturday performance. I gave the woman my cell phone so she could find the ticket voucher. She quickly navigated to the right site and said “One ticket for tonight.”


“What?” I exclaimed. “I booked two seats for my husband and me.”


“No, she said, “you only reserved one seat.”


How in the world did I pay for 3 seats on the wrong date for Cirque du Soleil and only 1 seat for the right night for the Chicks concert.? Clearly, I am ill-suited for the cyber world of travel arrangements.


Fortunately, there was a vacant seat next to me still available for the Chicks. I told my husband I needed a beer. (That cost $16.00)


My trip to Las Vegas proved a bad gamble. I am going with a sure bet our next trip. I plan to let someone else make all the arrangements.

(published in Spirit of Jefferson Advocate, August 2023)

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When Dante wrote the Inferno in 1321, he identified 9 circles of Hell. I have no doubt if Dante lived today he would add a 10th circle: customer service. So I will add it in his honor.


The entrance to the 10th rung of Hell features a telephone. Pick it up and call a company in search of customer service. I usually get a robot voice that asks: “Thank you for calling. Please select the reason for your call from the following menu.” I explain, “I want to talk to a live person.” “I’m sorry,” says the robot-voice, “I do not understand. Let me repeat the menu.” Usually it takes 3 or 4 tries (by this time I am screaming in fury) until the cyber voice gives up and transfers me to a live representative.


This next stop of the 10th circle of Hell begins with following message: “This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance and training proposes.” This message is being phoned in from circle 8 of Dante’s Hell: fraud. Who really believes recorded calls and responses are being used to improve service?

After listening to this warning, the next message begins: “All of our agents are busy serving other customers. Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line.”


This message is to test endurance. Is your problem bad enough to endure a 10 minute wait? A 20 minute wait? One time I endured a 30 minute wait because “our call volume is unusually high. Please excuse the delay.” When t customer rep finally answered, she had to endure my thoughtful, well-meaning evaluation of her company’s approach to customer service. (They won’t be using that phone call for training purposes.)


When I finally get a live person, I realize my trip is not over. The customer rep asks for proof of my problem. What is the order number? What is your pin? Was there a full moon when you placed the order? I am not very computer literate and when they tell me go to my computer graveyard to resurrect the paperwork, I know I am toast.


It is time Congress passed some meaningful legislation. We need a law that compels all companies to immediately provide live customer support if requested by a caller.


Until then, the warning Dante gave centuries ago remains valid for Circle 10 Customer Service: Abandon all hope ye who enter here.






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