FOR THOSE WHO SERVE AT HOME – Part One

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

There will be lots of news coverage this week about Memorial Day.  Unfortunately, most of it will be about hot dog recipes, furniture sales and half-off  underwear at the department store.  Few people remember that before 1971, Memorial Day was always observed on May 30.  Then Congress got in the act, declared it to be the “last Monday in May” and – voila! – the three-day weekend was born.  Now many Americans view Memorial Day as the kick-off to summer versus a time to reflect on those who have served our country and lost their lives.

So this week we want to pay tribute not only to those who have died, but to those who serve without much recognition – military families.  A couple of years ago we stumbled on a television program that puts the spotlight on these families and in the process, gave some perspective to our lives.  It’s called Coming Home.

I’m sure you’ve seen bits on the news about returning service people who surprise their kids by showing up at school or a ball game. Who doesn’t get choked up watching them?  Coming Home  includes some of these reunions but it goes one step further: they work with one service person and his/her spouse to plan an elaborate homecoming to surprise their children.  Often times whole cities get involved to throw a parade or professional sports teams lend a  hand to the cause.

Matt Rogers hosts the show and does in-depth interviews with the spouse and children of the returning service person.  And it is during this portion of the show that we are reminded that we really don’t have any problems.

The spouses of deployed service people have to be and do everything for their children:  supervising homework, ferrying kids to music lessons, attending sporting events or dance recitals, and being the shoulder to cry on when something goes wrong .  They must run the household singlehandedly, managing repairmen and maintenance, keeping everything running smoothly.  The financial hardship alone is stressful for many of these families, and most of all, they’re just plain lonely.  Add to all of that the constant worry for the safety of their loved one and it makes for a pretty difficult way of life.

It is truly a humbling experience to watch this program.  So you can imagine my surprise when I learned that Coming Home went off the air.  Replaced by a series about prostitution. Honest.

Stay tuned for Part Two where we’ll write about the brave children in military families and the fate of Coming Home.  Same time, same channel, on Friday.

A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME – Part One

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This week, in honor of Mother’s Day, I want to pay special tribute to my paternal great-grandmother, Annie Billiou Hoever.  Last year I received a ring from my mother that I always assumed was my paternal grandmother’s engagement ring.  When I told mom I would enjoy wearing Grandma’s ring she looked at me with alarm – something I’ve become used to – and said, “It wasn’t her engagement ring, it was her mother’s engagement ring.  It belonged to Annie Hoever.”

Sheesh!  Good thing I found this out before mom died or I would never have known the truth.  In all the stories I’d heard about our family, I couldn’t remember one mention of Annie Hoever.  Mom had only met her a few times after she married our dad so she couldn’t tell me much about her.  I wanted to know more about the woman who first wore the ring so I started doing some research.  Luckily, I found a second cousin who had stories, pictures and old newspaper clippings about the whole Billiou clan.  Jilted lovers, murder, insanity…it was all there.  Just your typical American family.

Annie’s father, Joseph Billiou, was born and raised in St. Louis.  Her mother, Julia, had emigrated from Ireland to Willows, California in the 1850’s.  Willows is in rice farming country north of Sacramento.  My father, who was raised in Willows, often spoke of his home town in rapturous terms.  I’m not sure Fodor’s would agree with Pop; Willows is a typical agricultural outpost that could barely be found on a map until Interstate 5 was built and they constructed some off ramps to the town.  Now its claim to fame is that there is a both a Denny’s and a Burger King right off the freeway exit.

In any event, when Julia came to Willows she fell in love with Joseph’s brother, Michael.  Michael (rather foolishly in hindsight) asked Joseph to move from St. Louis to Willows to join him in the rice business.  In a move worthy of a Kardashian, Julia took one look at Joseph, broke off her engagement to Michael,  and married Joseph.   That must have made for some rather awkward Thanksgiving dinners.

Joseph became major rice and grain farmer in his own right.  He and Julia eventually had four children, Annie being their firstborn, and they lived a wonderful life on the ranch.  Annie was educated at a Catholic boarding school near San Jose and then returned to Willows to settle down.  However, no eligible bachelor presented himself and by age 27 she was still unmarried.  Today, that would be the equivalent of someone at age 40 still being single.  In other words, getting hit by lightening was a more likely event.

Unfortunately, in 1887 the family idyll was rather unceremoniously torn apart when their cook, having drunk too much of the cooking sherry, stormed into the dining room one evening and shot Annie’s mother to death.  The cook then chased Annie around the house, shooting at her twice but – the cooking sherry having taken its toll – missed her both times.

The subsequent newspaper accounts of the cook’s trial and the vigilante justice that took place afterward are something right out of the Wild West.  I guess because it was  the Wild West.  A jury convened the week after the murder (makes you long for frontier justice, doesn’t it?) and found the cook guilty, sentencing him to life imprisonment.  Upon hearing the verdict  an angry mob formed and demanded “an eye for an eye”.  The sheriff, knowing a “situation” when he saw one, put guards at the entrance to the jail and hid the cook in the basement. He wasn’t aware that one of the vigilante group members was a former sheriff’s employee who knew all of the jail’s hidden entrances.  That night the group broke into the jail, extricated the cook, and lynched him in a nearby field.  No member of the group was ever arrested for the cook’s murder.

You would think Annie had suffered enough trauma to last her a lifetime, but unfortunately she had more ahead of her.

Stay tuned for Part Two…coming on Thursday!

ROAD TRIP THROUGH THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE – Part I

by Bob Sparrow

     When my daughter, Dana moved to Chicago she needed someone to drive her Toyota Corolla there from southern California.  That road trip had my name all over it, so I happily volunteered.  I kept a journal of my thoughts and observations along the way – here it is.

     It’s early, it’s dark, I’m invigorated by my planned road trip across two-thirds of America as I shower and get dressed.  Did I leave the shower on?  No, I look outside, it’s raining.  It will not dampen my enthusiasm.  I set out.  Where’s the windshield wiper lever?  More importantly where’s some coffee?  Gosh, these Corollas are small.  I fumble to find the cruise control in the dark, unsuccessfully.  OK, I’m serious now, what happened to the Starbucks on every corner?  Discover that Corollas don’t have cruise control!  Limited music on the radio at this time of the morning.  Didn’t realize we had so many Spanish-speaking stations – Mariachis at 5:00 a.m.?  My gosh what are they so happy about at this time of day?  Got coffee and finally out on the open road, sun starting to peek over the mountains.  I’m hungry.  Find an ‘Open 24 Hours’ truck stop.

     Wishing I still had that ‘TruckMasters Graduate’ ball cap as I feel like I’m not really fitting in here with my Bermuda shorts and Tommy Bahama shirt.  I sit at the counter and order my coffee black, like the rest of the truckers – I’ll put some cream and sugar in it when I’m back in the car.  I listen to the truckers’ stories and am reminded that I’m happy I have all my teeth.  Back on the road.  Soon the smell of rural American comes wafting through the car.  I see horses and cows and acres of farmland.  I see a little town ahead and slow down to read the sign . . . ‘Norco’.  I’ve traveled nine miles.  I’m thinking this could be a very long trip.

It requires significant will power to drive past Vegas; I didn’t even know there was a ‘past Vegas’ until now.  But on through to St. George, and after 700 miles, pull into Grand Junction, CO, for the night.  While it is a junction of sorts, I didn’t really find it all that grand.

The next morning’s drive was a ‘religious experience’ for me.  There are few, if any, more scenic stretches of road in America than the one from Grand Junction, through the Rockies to Denver.  The Colorado River has carved the most beautiful path through the mountains, and man has tunneled, cantilevered and laid his road next to the river.  It makes one of the most beautiful blends of nature and man’s work that I’ve seen.  I drove this road in the early morning hours, just as the sun reached the rim of the Rockies, providing a soft light to the freshly fallen snow.  It was a quiet, cold (7 degrees at its coldest), breath-taking experience.  I put in a John Denver CD, but decided that no sound was the best sound.  The winter panoramas were purely magnificent.  I pass the town of Rifle, the turn off for Aspen, Vail.    I stopped to take ‘communion’ (a cup of coffee and a doughnut) in the village of Eagle.  I parked the car, got out and just looked at the beautiful winter scape around me and listened to the quiet.  The cold air fills my lungs and while it was unbelievably invigorating it was also damn cold.  Back in the car and back on the road.  I remind myself to tell anyone that has the opportunity to make this drive, particularly on a clear winter’s day, to do it.

As I emerge from the Rockies the city of Denver unfolds below me.

(Next post: Part II – Denver to Chicago)

LIVING ON THE FACE OF THE SUN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Eight months of the year I live in Paradise, otherwise known as Scottsdale, Arizona.  Contrary to popular belief, it does get cold here in the winter – we’ve had a freak snowfall most every year – but generally we have sunny days and 70 degree temperatures.  It’s what causes some of my jerkier acquaintances to call home to Minnesota every January and taunt their friends who are digging out from an ice storm.

But all that is about to change.  This past weekend we had our first 100 degree temperature of the year.  That’s right – it’s frigging APRIL and we hit the century mark already.  Although it will cool down a bit this week, the fact that we’ve had a 100 degree day means only one thing:  we are once again facing hell on Earth.  Literally.  The average temperature here in July and August is 105.  That would almost be bearable except that the average low is 75.  So it never cools off.  We are God’s warming drawer for four months of the year.

I know that the conventional wisdom is that it’s a dry heat, but then again, so is my microwave oven and you won’t see me living in that.  In the 14 years we’ve lived here I’ve never become used to this “upside down” schedule.  My whole life I was conditioned to love summer – school was out, we looked forward to time at Tahoe, and we had lots of beer parties.  Now summer is something to be dreaded.  Somehow that still seems unnatural to me.

Our strategy since I retired ten years ago is to escape out of here each summer.  We have tried all sorts of combinations for our summer road trips – renting for a month, staying in hotels for a week or two, mooching off some of our friends who have mountain homes.  Two years ago when our house was being remodeled we rented a condo in Sun Valley, Idaho for three months.  Ironically, that was our worst summer.  I have to admit, as nice as it was to get away for the whole summer, I really missed my “stuff” at home.

So once again this summer we will be in and out of Arizona, traveling to California’s central coast, the Bay Area and up to Sun Valley.  That leaves a lot of time to sit at home in the air conditioning and get stuff done.  I’ve already started to compose my list of “summer projects”; really fun stuff like cleaning and organizing drawers, saving computer files to a hard disk, and alphabetizing the spice rack.

But I also have a potential blockbuster to keep me occupied. When I did our family history last year I traced it back to medieval England, and there is some possibility that one of our lines goes back to the Irish kings.  If true, that would go a long way towards explaining Bob’s propensity to enter every Irish pub he sees.   We also might be related to King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, in which case I think we are 16,346 in line to the British throne.  You’d think that should have warranted an invitation to the Royal Wedding last year.

So, as those of you in other states get ready for BBQ’s, planting a garden or just chilling at the beach, I will be putting the cardamom between the caraway seeds and the cayenne pepper.  And, maybe, getting fitted for my tiara.

THE ICE AGE

I love history – both generally and specifically as it relates to our family.  Last year when I was studying some of the Sparrow history I was fascinated to learn that our grandparents were married the same week that the RMS Titanic sunk.  In other words, that ill-fated ship and the Sparrows are commemorating a 100th anniversary this week. Of course, our grandparents have been dead for decades.  But our family celebrates everything without much provocation.

All the hoopla around the Titanic anniversary, including the re-release of the movie by the same name, has made me wonder what our grandparents thought about the disaster, or if it in any way affected their honeymoon. I suspect that I’m not alone in wishing that I had asked my parents and grandparents more questions before they died. Typical things mostly – what attracted them to one another, what their first job was, what mom was thinking when she chose that wedding dress, or, in this case, how did a major catastrophe affect their lives.

I suspect that in my grandparent’s case, it affected them very little. Theirs was something of a scandalous marriage at the time so they had their own personal ice floes to navigate (and, yes, I’ll write about that in a future blog). Something that happened thousands of miles away to strangers would have been interesting, but not necessarily all-consuming.  I suspect that they read about the Titanic in the newspaper over breakfast and then said something like, “Please pass the Devonshire cream”.

Contrast that to what might happen if the Titanic sank today. One can only imagine the news coverage: helicopters flying over the site, news anchors broadcasting from both Southampton and New York, and inevitably Geraldo Rivera would be clinging to an ice berg, wind whistling through his hair, looking for lost treasures. We would be inundated with “expert” analysis and live interviews with people who had a third cousin once removed who went to grammar school with the porter on the third deck.  I don’t even want to think about Twitter and Facebook.  The Food Network would be our only place of refuge.

And all this leads me to wonder: are our lives improved by constant, overwhelming news reports?

I realize that in a broad sense we are all part of the “human family” and sometimes news coverage gives us a better understanding of an issue or a situation. And certainly there is a human interest aspect to every major story.  But so much excessive coverage also leads to stress. We can hardly breathe for all of the information that comes our way. The news channels seem less interested in providing us with the salient facts than in out pacing their competitors in the minutia race.  The result is a LOT of “noise” and the inevitable annoying person at the office who has to be the resident expert on every breaking news story.

Sometimes I think the generations before us had it better in this respect.  They got the pertinent news, usually once a day, and unless it affected a friend or relative, they then went on about their business.  Somewhere between 1912 and 2012 we’ve misplaced the happy medium.

Oh, one other coincidence between the Titanic and the Sparrows:  there has been many a “morning after” when someone in our family has suggested that they were hit by bad ice.

DO NOT GO GENTLY … Part Two

Please excuse me if this is brief; it’s really hard to type when you’re in traction.

Just kidding. Some of you thought that was a real possibility, though, didn’t you? But I am home, safe and sound. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from skiing after 23 years away from it. But just like me, some things were the same and some were radically different. Here are a few of my observations:

Observation #1: The Weather Channel is never to be trusted.

Last week they said it was going to be bright and sunny for our trip. Just what I wanted – spring skiing! So imagine my surprise when on the first morning we woke up to snow. I went to the Weather Channel app and drilled down to their 15 minute forecasts. They said the snow would stop by 10:15. It didn’t.

Observation #2: Ticket pricing makes no sense.

I was surprised to learn that the age for a “senior” ticket is 65. This struck me as strange. Last week I went to the movies and was able to buy a “senior” ticket and the sum total of my physical exertion was to amble down a concourse, balancing a Pepsi and popcorn, and sit in a cushioned seat for two hours. Here, they strap two fiberglass boards to my feet, haul me up to 9,000 feet, expect me to slide down on snow and ice, and somehow I’m just an “adult”. This whole “senior” ticket thing is going to require some investigation.

Observation #3: Technology is a beautiful thing.

And specifically, I’m talking about the improvement in fabric and equipment. I have lots of memories of skiing while freezing. I used to dress in so many layers that I looked like a shoplifter. And I still froze. No more. I wore a thin ski t-shirt under my parka and I was toasty, even in snow and 20 mph winds.

Skis are better too. They used to be the height of my arm raised over my head. Now, the skis barely come up to my chin. I like anything that gives me more control and these new skis are like my own little minion, awaiting my command. Even the tickets are digital. They look like a hotel room key, and when placed in your pocket, allow you to ski right through the lift portals. The portals look something like the security scanners you go through at the airport only without the annoying TSA agents frisking you and stealing your stuff.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is ski boots. Although they were comfortable and warm, they gave me all the grace and agility of Frankenstein. It was not lost on me that I could survive the skiing, only to break my arm doing a face plant coming down the steps from the bathroom.

Observation #4: The 60’s are alive and well in skiing.

One of the major changes to skiing in these 20 plus years is the advent of the snow boarder. Most of these kids (and they are almost ALL kids) look like real slackers. I sized a few of them up on our first day. They probably thought I was staring at their great outfits. I wasn’t. I was assessing each one of them as potential human missiles that would later be careening down the hill aimed right at me. But on some of our gondola rides we met a few of them and almost all were college graduates, just “chilling” for a while before they got a real job. For those of us who came of age in the ‘60’s this sounded awfully familiar.

The other similarity to the ‘60’s was the spirit of fraternity and honesty among skiers. When we stopped to get lunch on the first day I suggested that we rent a locker to store our skis while we ate. My husband looked at me like I had lost my mind (this happens off the ski slopes as well). We simply leaned them against the railing and left them there, for the entire world to see – and steal. We also left our parkas, gloves and goggles on a table while we went to another room to get lunch. And when we came back, they were still there. Maybe I’ve lived in major cities for too long, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is still a place where people don’t take things that don’t belong to them. That said, I’m not sure I’d leave my iPad unattended.

Observation #5: It pays to set reasonable expectations.

I used to be a pretty good skier. But after such a long absence I set new expectations. Very LOW expectations. The last run I skied all those years ago was at Mammoth, and it is called Stump Alley. I’ve always assumed its name refers to the trees, not the appendages of humans who have fallen. It’s a fairly steep intermediate run and I pretty much knew that my days of skiing “Stump” were over. I was perfectly content to start – and stay – on the bunny slopes. You know, the ones with six year olds whizzing past and people bent over like they are in a perpetual state of looking for their car keys.

But here’s the thing: just as everyone assured me, skiing is like riding a bike. By the second run of the day I had my “legs”. That familiar pole plant-weight shift feeling came back. It was awesome. The rest of the trip was one joyous run after another.

There’s also a big mental benefit to skiing; it requires your complete attention. Usually I’m a prodigious day dreamer. I contemplate a million things on the golf course – the fabric for the family room chairs, what to fix for dinner, why that person said she had a 5 when I know she had a 6. But a lapse in focus while skiing can have disastrous results. So for the entire time I was skiing I didn’t think, or worry, about anything except keeping my knees bent and my weight on the downhill ski. As my husband said “Skiing is good for the soul.”

Observation #6: There’s a missed opportunity here.

Okay, it wasn’t all perfect. I did fall once. I put my weight too far back when I came to a stop and fell backwards on my butt. Nothing spectacular, in fact it was one of those stupid things you do and then look around in the fervent hope that no one saw you. But that wasn’t the worst part. I could not get up. After several humiliating tries I finally had to take my skis off. The only way I could stand up was to roll over and claw my way to an erect position, looking like a polar bear digging for roots. So here’s my idea: Life Alert for the ski slopes. One little squeeze of a button and some cute ski patrol guy would come along and help you up. I think I’m on to something.

So, that was my trip. I’ve spent some moments being mad at myself for having missed all this fun for so many years. I don’t know why we tend to be afraid of active sports as we get older. I suspect it is the fear of getting hurt. But living life being afraid just isn’t a very satisfying way to live. So from now on I will apply my re-conquest of skiing to other things in my life that I have been afraid to try. Except hang gliding. I’m not completely stupid.

Oh yeah – guess which run I skied on the second day? Stump Alley! Here’s a picture of me at the bottom of it. At 61 I skied the same run that I did at 38. Next time I’m not waiting 23 years between runs.

Do Not Go Gently…Part 1

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

A year ago, when my husband turned 70, he decided that he wanted to take up skiing again. Our last family ski trip was in 1989 and while he has occasionally waxed sentimental about skiing, I never took him seriously. Golf, arthritis and unadulterated fear has kept me from any illusions about skiing again. But like a lot of Baby Boomers, my husband was reflective on his birthday and decided that he had no desire to just slide into old age. He said he wanted to experience the excitement of skiing and if he got hurt, well, so be it. Of course, all I could imagine was him with his casted foot propped up and me fetching things for him every time he rang a damn bell.

But I secretly admired his gumption so I humored him through the “Ski” magazine subscription, then the purchase of ski clothing, and finally, his first ski trip. I could not go with him as I was in physcial therapy for my back but I casually mentioned that I’d go with him this year (note to self: don’t let your mouth write checks that your body has to cash). But I figured that one trip from Scottsdale into the cold climes of the Sierra would convince him his dream was folly. No such luck. He has become a ski nut.

The early part of this winter brought no snow to the Sierras. I was not disappointed. But now precipitation reigns and my casual comment has come back to haunt me; I’ve agreed to go skiing. I look at it this way – I’m in decent shape, I still have some spirit of adventure, and, let’s face it, I’m not ready to admit that I can’t do something anymore. My husband was so excited at the prospect of our trip that for his birthday he took me to Ski Pro to buy me a parka. And since then his every trip there has netted me some little “gift”: gloves, ski shirts, goggles, a ski mask, three pairs of socks, and after-ski boots. I did have to go with him when he insisted on buying me ski pants. I want to say at this point that trying on ski pants is the winter equivalent of testing out bathing suits. It completely goes against common sense for a middle-aged woman to try on clothes that make her look fatter. I’m not sure that even my Spanx are going to help me avoid the Michelin Man look.

My friends think I am completely nuts. They have brought out every story about every friend who has ever gotten hurt on a ski run. I’m getting such supportive comments as, “Is there a good hospital in Mammoth?”, and “Do you want to take my Hunger Games trilogy to read in the hospital?” My neighbor, Pat, who is very athletic, went skiing last week after a seven year hiatus. I knew she would offer me some positive perspective and encouragement. So the day after her return I anxiously asked her how it had gone. She looked at me with that middle-distance stare usually reserved for mental patients. “It was horrible”, she said. “I was frightened the whole time. I skied scared every day.” Her hands were still shaking. Great. This was not the reinforcement I was seeking. Maybe I AM nuts.

Today the car is loaded and we are ready to go. I did an extra 10 minutes on the elliptical machine this morning which I’m sure is going to make all the difference when I’m at 9,000 feet. Or not. I’ll let you know.

IF IT’S HALF TIME IN AMERICA, WHERE’S THE BAND?

Headlines:   There goes our trip to Wally World.

The U.S. closed its Syrian embassy, slapped new sanctions on Iran,

Meanwhile in dealing with these nuts, Hilary’s doing the best she can.

But with 20 percent of our oil coming through the Hormuz  Straights,

We’re thinking our summer driving tour is going to have to wait.

 Money:  Never work with kids or animals…or soccer players.

Another Super Bowl has come and gone and we just watched the ads,

They tell us everything we need to know about the current fads.

Based on this year’s crop we like babies, dogs and Eastwood,

But in the end there’s no disputing David Beckham looked quite good!

Sports:    Most guys would probably want what Tom is holding.

THE game was pretty exciting, this was no Super Bore,

It was good until the end, and left us wanting more.

Eli was the QB who was exciting and could impel,

But Brady’s the one who gets to go home to Gisele.

Life:   My word, I think my Corgis can dance better.

Madonna had her day and images of her will linger,

But it wasn’t really cool that M.I.A. gave us the finger.

We’re guessing neither of these artists will be asked to have high tea,

Or to perform  for Queen Elizabeth at her Diamond Jubilee.

HAPPY HANGING CHAD DAY!

Headlines:  This ballot is so easy – it’s already got Mitt’s name filled in!

Well, if it’s Tuesday surely somewhere it  must be Primary Day

And sure enough, Floridians will finally have their say.

Frankly we don’t care how any of the candidates rate,

We are just thankful that this week there won’t be any more debates.

Money:  The return of an American icon.  But is he deductible?

Honda Motors has announced it’s bringing back one of our faves,

Ferris Bueller will appear in a Super Bowl ad, to raves.

But Ferris might discover his parents’ welcome is destructible,

Because the IRS ruled this week that adult kids are not deductible.

Sports:  Strung out.

We went to bed quite early, set the alarm so we would wake,

We wanted to see Nadal vs. Djokovic, every serve and every break.

But it turned into a marathon, neither one would be dispatched,

We could have slept for three more hours and still seen half the match.

Life:  Talk about skeletons in the closet!

We read that Shirley MacLaine will join the “Downton Abby”cast,

We’re wondering if she’ll play someone that she’s been in the past?

And Demi Moore this week overdosed on aerosol from “Whip It”,

If that’s the best that she could do, maybe she should skip it.

MAYBE THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A STUPID QUESTION

Headlines:  The true American hero..ine.

Newt Gingrich won South Carolina only due to this one thing:

He answered a ridiculous question from CNN’s John King.

Meanwhile Gabby Giffords has decide to retire,

But ‘though she’ll no longer be in office, she’ll continue to inspire.

 Money:  Edsel…Kodak…RIM?

Remember back when Blackberry was the phone you must possess,

When BBM and the roller track would cause us to obsess?

Now it’s just about extinct, no innovative ideas have been heeded,

Yet the new CEO says that “no drastic changes will be needed”.

Sports:  Well…there’s always next year.

Just as we expected, the Patriots beat Baltimore,

The Raven’s kicker missed the uprights and couldn’t make the winning score.

As for the writers of this blog, we don’t mean to come off as whiners,

But we’re very disappointed that the Giants beat our ‘Niners.

Life:  The Celebrity Go-round.

The weekend brought a plethora of relationship news,

Aretha nixed her engagement; Heidi will be someone else’s muse.

Kristin and Jay will have a baby; Drew and Will are going to wed,

And sadly, at age 73, the wonderful Etta James is dead.