This ‘fridge ain’t big enough for the two of us

Since merging two households – our daughter, her husband and their three little ones are temporarily living with us as they wait for their new house to be finished—we have made a surprising discovery.

We knew closets would be full. We knew there would be toys and baby gear covering the floors. We even knew the garage would bulge.

What we didn’t know was that the most densely packed space in the entire house would be the refrigerator.

Our local newspaper once ran a feature titled, “What’s in your ‘fridge?” where they published a short paragraph listing what people had in their refrigerators.

Make a list of what is now in our fridge and you’re looking at a 300-page book. And that’s just Volume No. 1.

Want balsamic vinegar? We have it in duplicate. Ditto for soy sauce, mustard and ketchup.

Pickles? You could open a deli.

Cheese? Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Asiago or mozzarella? Would you like that in blocks, slices or shredded?

The problem isn’t that the contents of two refrigerators merged into one, but that two women can’t stop shopping. Two women, neither of whom can, or ever will, yield control of the kitchen. The kitchen is where dynasties are built. Nobody yields a dynasty.

There was an initial agreement to meal plan together and shop once a week.

It lasted until I was able to find my keys, slip out of the house, swing by the store and pick up a few things.

Then she slipped out of the house, stopped by the store and picked up a few things. There is so much slipping in and out and swinging by the store that some days we nearly crash into one another in the driveway.

Turns out our agreement was an agreement made in mutual bad faith.

Do you know what happens when two women try to rule the same kitchen and keep stopping by the store to pick up a few things?

There is an explosion—an explosion of leftovers.

We now have 29,765 small containers stacked in the ‘fridge with a few bites of this and a few bites of that. We live in fear of the day they all go bad at the same time, emit fumes, blow their sealed lids and explode the refrigerator.

The explosion will probably take the entire kitchen with it.

When the dust clears and the last of the leftover pasta finishes sliding down the walls, we will both still be standing, still battling for control.

Our daughter keeps explaining that we can avert disaster if I will simply abide by the meal planning chart that shows the menu for each night and the ingredients needed for each meal.

“When you write the ingredients down with the meal you are making, you always have what you need,” she calmly explains.

I nod as though this is new to me. Then I note that the meal schedule says we are having cilantro honey-lime chicken tonight.

“Did you get cilantro?” I ask.

She gasps.

“I’ll get my car keys.”

Torn between investing and digesting

We are of a certain age where we frequently receive invitations to dinners at nice restaurants hosted by people in suits who would like to advise us on how to financially prepare for retirement.

If that’s not exciting enough, we also frequently receive invitations to preplan our funerals, buy burial plots or consider cremation plans.

What do you do for fun?

Let me just say that even though we have a retirement plan in place, we have been to several of those free financial advisement dinners and what we have learned is this: Italian. Go for Italian. By far, the best meal was at the Italian restaurant. Family style, nice sampling of entrees, interesting people at our table.

We’ve also learned there is a distinct pattern to every interaction with any sort of adviser, and it is this: No matter what question you ask, the answer is, “Excellent question.”

“Could you explain mandatory withdrawals?”

“Excellent question.”

“Do you think we might be better off just burying what money we’ve saved in the backyard?”

“Excellent question.”

We were recently invited to a webcast offered by the company that holds some of our retirement savings to hear what they had to say about the market outlook in lieu of recent volatility. It was a lot of the usual talk about diversifying and balanced portfolios interspersed with a few football phrases like “going long, short runs and long runs.” This was followed by talk about high-yield bonds, government bonds, Barry Bonds and James Bond.

Then they opened it up for questions and anyone could send any question they liked. Of course, every question was an excellent question with a few variations like, “Wow. Great question!” and “Isn’t that an excellent question?”

I typed in questions as fast as I could:

“Where did the woman reading submitted questions get her necklace?”

“Do we get coffee cups with the corporate logo like the ones on your desk? They might help ease the sting of our losses.”

For some reason, my questions weren’t read. Instead, they continued with talk about ranges of outcomes, distribution of returns and chatter about medians, divided medians, roundabouts and four-way stops or something like that.

I’m not saying they were filling time, but they began talking a lot about “break out to the upside” which I am pretty sure was a hit song by some boy band in the ‘80s.

In any case, they all agreed that though the market is uncertain and will probably continue to be uncertain, yet not even that is certain, they feel good.

Me typing: “Of course you feel good, you have our money. We’d feel good if we had your money. Wanna swap?”

That question wasn’t read either.

My favorite part was where one of the advisers told viewers not to make decisions they would regret without calling them first.

Me typing: “How do you know you’re about to make a decision you’ll regret until after you’ve made it and lived to regret it?”

Excellent question, right?

The bottom line is, nothing is ever certain, but we feel good, too. Why, you ask? Because we’re having Italian for dinner and I’m making it at home.

Cars of future put backseat drivers out of work

The first thing engraved on my brain as a new driver was to keep my hands at the 10 and 2 positions on the steering wheel. I just saw a picture of a driverless car of the future. It doesn’t even have a steering wheel.

What do you do with your hands? I imagine mine will be waving wildly in the air as I scream.

The other thing we were taught as new drivers was to keep our eyes on the road in front of us.

The driver’s seat in one prototype driverless car can swivel to the back. To see the road in front of you, you’ll need eyes in the back of your head. (More flailing of arms, more screaming.)

Driverless cars are part of the future. I know that. I accept that. I don’t want to be the person filling boxes with 8-track tapes and cassettes when the new norm is storing music in the cloud. Although, in my defense, I hear that vinyl is making a comeback.

In any case, the truth is some of us go more reluctantly into the future than others. Some of us may need a push. Or a mild sedative. Or both.

I reassure myself with the fact that some of the technology utilized in driverless cars is already in place in many of today’s vehicles—things like anti-lock brake systems that detect vibrations when a vehicle begins to skid or slide and will pump the brakes for you.

Recently, after a nearly invisible layer of ice covered the roads overnight, the little yellow skid marks appeared on the dashboard as my vehicle began to slide. I managed to get to a full stop. Whew. Close one. And then the vehicle slid completely sideways.

I may need more reassurance.

Driverless cars have amazing robotic systems and software that can detect the presence and distance of other vehicles and pedestrians. A car being tested in the U.S. can detect the presence of pedestrians with 95 percent accuracy, which is excellent, unless you’re in the other 5 percent.

Another challenge facing driverless cars is creating sensors able to see through dust, fog, heavy rain and snow. Manufacturers are trying to develop sensors that mimic the eyes of certain animals able to make out shapes even in bad weather. No matter what we humans invent, at some level, we are always duplicating what nature has already mastered.

We were recently passengers in our friends’ new luxury sedan that has all sorts of computerized safety features. Our friend was driving as his wife explained that the car can tell him when and where to turn or to slow down if he is too close to an object or a pedestrian – and begin braking for him if he doesn’t brake. It also alerts him when he crosses into another lane and even keeps him from following the car in front of him too closely.

“Amazing,” I said.

“It’s nice all right,” she said with a grimace. “But now what am I supposed to do?”

Losing sleep over a new mattress

Half a dozen or so of us were standing around the bed like you’d stand around a shiny new car someone just drove home from a dealership.

We recently broke down and bought a new mattress and box springs. Our new mattress and box springs sit substantially higher than the old ones. Unfortunately, I have not had a corresponding growth spurt, so to get into bed I now must run, jump and lunge.

I suspected some of the family thought I was exaggerating about the situation, so I had them look at the bed themselves. One of the sons-in-law said, “Wow, that is high.” This coming from a fella who loves playing basketball because he can make rim shots.

“Tell me again how you get in,” one of the girls said.

“I start a slow jog at the door, build momentum, jump by the side of the bed, twist and land. I throw both arms in the air as I land for a sort of gymnast effect.”

Progress is often marked by making things larger – bigger big-screen televisions, higher high-rise buildings, larger large homes and ever-more luxurious luxury hotels. I wonder if someone thought adding height to beds was a mark of progress, too. If that’s the case, I bet that someone was 7 feet tall. Or more.

Someone suggested getting a step stool. I’d thought about that, too. But what about getting out of bed? What if you forget there’s a little step stool below your feet, trip over it, pitch forward and dislocate your shoulder? How is that part of a good night’s sleep?

I don’t mind doing a run, jump and lunge now, but what about 20 years from now? Will I still be running, jumping and lunging?

I called the salesperson about the dilemma. She chuckled, said it is a frequent concern and that all we need to do is lower our bed frame.

We have a four-poster bed nearly 100 years old. To lower it, we’d have to saw off the hand-turned wooden legs.

I also mentioned that the mattress is a lot harder than the mattress was at the store. Like cement block hard.

“Do you have children?” she asked.

“We have children and grandchildren,” I said.

“Have them walk on it.”“Excuse me?”

“The new hybrid beds with memory foam can be loosened up if you walk on them. Have the kids take off their shoes and socks and walk all over your bed.”

She was a nice lady and switched out the box springs for one not nearly as deep. I no longer do the run-lunge-jump to get into bed. She also said if we didn’t like the mattress, we had 60 days to exchange it.

The exchange will be easy.

The hard part will be telling the grandkids they are no longer welcome to walk on the bed. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new moniker of “Most Fun Grandma.”