HOLIDAY TRAVEL

by Bob Sparrow

holiday car    No, this isn’t the counterpoint to my last post on all that is good about air travel.  In fact one of the reasons I have such a positive attitude towards air travel is that I don’t travel during the holidays.  Whoever created the phrase, ‘holiday travel’ took the fun out of two of my favorite words.  I love the holidays and I love to travel, but together you’ve got the beginnings of ‘the nightmare before Christmas’.  If you’re trying to fly somewhere the nightmares feature things like delayed flight, missed connections, lost luggage, sitting on an airplane next to a guy with reindeer breath and practicing your ‘Just what I wanted’ expression when you get that battery operated recycled toilet paper dispenser.  If you’re driving, the nightmares are about jammed freeways, road rage, kids screaming “Are-we-there-yet?” and the practicing of, “They just fit” when trying on those new glow-in-the-dark plastic socks.

     Gone are the days when we could just go over the river and through the woods toover the river grandmother’s house and enjoy some of her homemade Chocolate Chip cookies.  Today grandma lives in a downtown, high-rise condo, six hours away where parking is limited and expensive – and the cookies are gluten-free.

     Holiday travel, indeed.  Shouldn’t there be a term for ruining two perfectly good words by juxtaposing them?  I’m sure there are lots of similar two-word combinations that shouldn’t be joined.  Here’s one that immediately comes to mind; the word ‘love’ is one of the best words around and ‘child’ is also a great word, but put them together and you’ve got . . . a bastard!  Shouldn’t there be a name for these kinds of words, I mean paired words like ‘Civil war’ or ‘jumbo shrimp’ are oxymorons, so maybe we name words like ‘love child’ and ‘holiday travel’ oxybastards.

     How could they do that to two such beautiful words?  Etymologically speaking, the word holiday is derived from the words ‘Holy Day’, so the term originally had religious connotations, but today it seems that the closest any holiday comes to religion is when Travelersomeone says, ‘Thank God I don’t have to go to work today” or “Can you believe this god-awful traffic?.”  Holiday actually is a . . . never mind, what I really wanted to talk about was ‘travel’, because today in the mail I received the National Geographic Traveler magazine featuring their 2nd Annual Best of the World – 20 Must-See Places for 2013 – great reading for a raining Sunday afternoon where I can reverse the aforementioned oxybastard and dream about and plan a ‘travel holiday’.  There now, doesn’t that sound much better?

     I rarely think of those two words, no matter what the order, and not think of Bob Hope traveling half way around the world every Christmas to entertain our troops.  He started during World War II when he island-hopped throughout the south Pacific in 1944 to the tune of some 30,000 miles while performing over 150 USO shows.  He travel to KoreaBob Hope troops during that war (Sorry, conflict) and did shows in Viet Nam every Christmas from 1964 to 1972.  He also did Christmas performances during Desert Storm (1990-91) for the troops in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.  Bob Hope was a ‘holiday traveler’ for 50 years, going wherever our troops were stationed.  Now it wasn’t all toil and drudgery, he typically traveled in a troupe that included the likes of Ursula Andress, Anne Margaret, Carroll Baker and Raquel Welch, which for those too young to remember those beauties, today it would be like  having to spend Christmas with Scarlett Johansson, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron and Salma Hayek.  Hope was known to crack, “I bring them along to remind the boys what they’re fighting for.”

 christmas-afghanistan-2011    There is no place like home for the holidays, but those who will travel and perhaps experience ‘holiday travel’ nightmares before Christmas, might be well-served to remember when you’re flight is delayed or the traffic is backed up and even when you receive that re-gifted fruit cake, Bob Hope’s amazing sacrifice during a time when he most wanted to be home and today’s service men and women all over the world who will be home for the holiday only in their dreams.

WALKING IT OFF

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

As my brother so accurately wrote last year, Thanksgiving is our family’s favorite holiday.  After all, we are related to five of the 17 families that came over on the Mayflower.  After I discovered this bit of history I deluded myself into thinking that our DNA is hard-wired to love the holiday commemorating them.  But the cold, hard truth is that we love this holiday because we love to eat.

We are all big eaters in our family.  There is never an “old maid” left on the  hors d’oeuvre tray and “thirds” are for the light eaters.  We are the family that inspired expandable waistbands.  We do have standards – we do not eat jellied cranberry sauce and no one belches at the table.  So far.

And yet we are not so slovenly that we have no self-respect.  No sir, we are all pretty good about exercise and trying to stay in shape.  For years I wore a pedometer to ensure that I walked 10,000 steps every day.  So in anticipation of Thursday’s annual bacchanal, I went to walk.about.com which has a handy little feature that lets you check all the food you’ll eat on Thanksgiving and then covert it to calories.  I thought that could be an interesting exercise, forgetting that when it comes to food, ignorance is bliss.

A glass of wine?  Check.  A celery stalk stuffed with bleu cheese?  Why not?  Okay, I’ll opt for one cracker with a slice of Stilton.  How much could that add?  On I went, from the turkey to the mashed potatoes to the requisite green bean casserole .  My total calorie count? 3,365!!!!

Then the intrusive, vindictive, people-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands snoops at walk.about.com felt the need to let me know with laser-like precision exactly how many miles and steps it would take me to burn off all those calories.  Turns out I need to walk 34 miles or 67,300 steps to wear off my dinner.  From a scheduling standpoint,  I need to cram 6 1/2 days of walking into Thursday.  If I start walking in downtown San Francisco I couldn’t stop until I reached Santa Clara. Fortunately Stanford Medical Center is on the way – perhaps I could drop in for a gastric bypass.

But here’s the worst part, I lied when I took the test.  One cracker with cheese?  I so frequently hog the snack table that my family nickname is “Hoover lips”.  I consider mashed potatoes to be health food and, frankly, I think it insulting to the cook if I pass on all the pies and whipped cream.  Even though the “cook” is Costco.  My real calorie count is probably north of  6,000.

So when everyone gathers on Thanksgiving to eat, watch football and talk about the nation’s pending financial crisis, I will sadly find no room for compromise.  Despite the obvious risks and danger, I will be jumping off the caloric cliff.

Veteran’s Day

 by Bob Sparrow

     If you’re reading this on Monday morning it may have just reminded you that yesterday was Veteran’s Day.  If you’re reading this after Monday, you may have just been reminded that you missed Veteran’s Day – it’s easy to do.  I’m going to give our blog followers the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were well-aware of the holiday because if you’re reading our blog then you’re among the most intelligent people on the planet.  I don’t know about you, but I heard more than once over the weekend things like, “Is Monday a holiday, what is it Columbus Day or something?”  Veteran’s Day is probably our least known about and remembered federal holiday.   Why is that?  How has it become so easy to marginalize a day that we all should remember and celebrate?

     The history of Veteran’s Day perhaps lends itself to its enigmatic reputation.   The holiday was created as a celebration of an armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at the end of World War I in 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, thus Veteran’s Day is November 11th.  However, the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending the war, wasn’t signed until June 1919, but our government didn’t let the facts of history get in the way of the creation of a new federal holiday.

     When I recently asked people to explain Veteran’s Day, they mostly said something like, it’s a day to celebrate our veterans.  I think the name gave it away.  When I ask them what they are going to do to celebrate, they usually just looked at me funny and said, “Celebrate?”  Some will say solemnly something like “We’ll celebrate by remembering those who gave their lives for our country.”  I’m tempted to remind them that that is Memorial Day, but I don’t.  After hearing a lot of confusion about this holiday, I decided to compare Veteran’s Day with other holidays in terms of how we celebrate them or what is associated with them and see if there wasn’t some way to get Veteran’s Day on the same level as some of our more ‘popular’ holidays.

        •  Martin Luther King Day – recognizing civil rights
        • Valentine’s Day – flowers, candy, dinner for your ‘sweetheart’
        • St. Patrick’s Day – wearing green and drinking
        • Easter – going to church, hunting for eggs, eating ham
        • Memorial Day – remembering out fallen warriors
        • 4th of July – fireworks, barbecue, parades
        • Labor Day – celebrate the worker, last barbecue of the summer
        • Halloween – scary costumes and candy
        • Thanksgiving – turkey and football
        • Christmas/Chanukah – religious, food and gift giving
        •  New Year’s – drinking and making resolutions that we never keep

      So it would seem that in order to make Veteran’s Day more popular, like our other holidays, we need to create more customs around it like traditional garb and food.  Perhaps on Veteran’s Day we should all dress in camo gear and pop open a can of c-rations to feast on.  It also might be nice to commit to memory the words of Alan Alexander, who said, “A veteran is someone who at some point in his or her life writes a blank check to the United States of America in an amount up to and including the loss of his or her life.”

     Thank you to all who have served – we owe you a great deal.

WE’RE BACK WITH THE NEWS WITH THE RED, WHITE AND BLUES

Headlines:  What we need is some Purple Haze. 

This week we’ll celebrate the founding of our nation,

When our white-haired Founding Fathers fought the British for cessation.

Somehow we think they’d be appalled to see our red – blue divisions,

With politicians who can’t compromise and use polls to make decisions.

Money:   Beware of unintended consequences. 

The markets are red-hot but we’re still wary of Wall Street,

With one squawk from Europeans they could begin a big retreat.

We’ve already seen white papers written about the health care decision,

And we now have the blues – is a new tax what we envisioned?

Sports:  The good, the bad, and the downright awful. 

Phelps and Lochte competed in blue waters at the Olympic trials,

And Missy Franklin was a phenom with her red nails and flawless style.

Jeneba Tarmoh  raised the white flag and won’t make the Olympic team,

And poor Nastia Liukin fell twice, not quite the ending that she’d dreamed.

Life:  We wonder what L. Ron Hubbard has to say about this?

After five long years of posing Katie Holmes shook off the blues,

Secretly filing to end her “marriage” to her red-faced mate, Tom Cruise.

On Saturday Alec Baldwin’s bride looked resplendent in glittery white,

And sighed relief that Alec didn’t engage the priest in a fist fight.

FOR THOSE WHO SERVE AT HOME – Part Two

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I left you in Part One with military spouses and prostitutes – quite the juxtaposition.  So let me continue …

One of the most moving and emotional parts of the Coming Home series is when the service member walks down the tarmac.  Spouses dissolve into tears and as they bury their heads on each other’s shoulders you can see their relief.  Relief that the soldier is home safely and relief that, at least for the foreseeable future, they will be a united family unit again.

But the real story of the hardships of military life lie with the children.  During the set up for the surprise homecoming,  Matt Rogers  spends time talking with the children in the family.  These interviews offer a very sobering view of the sacrifices these kids make.  Most of them are mature beyond their years.  They have to be.

They see other children on their base receive news that a parent has died or been severely injured.  With one parent gone these children learn to be more self-reliant, older siblings step up to take care of younger ones, and at important occasions in their life they are forced to acknowledge the reality that their mother or father will not be in attendance.

Birthdays and graduations are the events mentioned most often, but if one listens carefully to what the children confide to Matt you can tell that their parent is missed most in the smaller moments.  A son wants to share with his dad that he made the basketball team, a daughter is starting school and her mom is not there.  Parents are missed when kids are tucked into bed at night or when they come home from school with hurt feelings and need some comforting.

So when the Coming Home surprise unfolds and the children learn that the clown at the circus is their dad or the person in the ump outfit at the ballgame is their mom, it is one of the best moments on TV.  Shock and disbelief are their first reactions, but then as they are wrapped in their parent’s arms something else happens.  Most of these children begin to cry.  Not normal “happy tears”.  They shut their eyes and sob so hard that they can’t catch their breath.  And in that instant you see all that they’ve been bravely holding in for so long:  the worry, the absence, all the missed small moments.  We know it’s coming every episode, and yet we cry every time.

Given how tremendous this program is, we were taken aback by the Lifetime Channel’s decision to replace it with a show about prostitution.  Believe me, I have nothing against sex and I do realize the communal bar has been set pretty low for what passes for entertainment these days.  But to suspend a show that pays tribute to the unacknowledged heroes among us with a show about a madam ….that is substrata stuff.

Apparently there are a lot of other people who feel as we do and have barraged Lifetime with emails calling them everything from pond scum to unpatriotic.  Surprisingly, the “suits” at Lifetime listened.  Coming Home will be returning to their line-up on May 30, the real Memorial Day.  If you want an hour of TV that will make you humble, proud and appreciative of your small moments, I encourage you to tune in.  I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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.

Welcome to ‘A Bird’s Eye View’

     Yes, you’re in the right place; you don’t have a virus; well, maybe you do, but that’s a whole different subject.  This is Morning News in Verse and you are either receiving this in your email (thank you subscribers, we love you) or are getting it through Facebook (we love you too, but it’s more like a puppy love).  Due to an increasingly diminishing number of requests, we’ve made a decision to change our format from mostly verse and some prose to mostly prose and some verse.  Our number of ‘hits’ tell us that it’s what you would prefer as well.

     We’ll still make fun of the Headlines, Money, Sports and Life, but only occasionally; rather, we’ll proffer samples of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ of life-observations.  Sometimes our observations will be from the road, usually the one less traveled, and sometimes they will be from just around the corner.  Sometimes we’ll write about insignificant, Andy Rooney-kinds of things and other times we’ll offer observations on this process of growing older, but not necessarily up.

So let’s start with our new name, ‘A Bird’s Eye View’; it is, of course, a play on words of the name Sparrow, but it also has some family history to it.  In 1940 our parents moved to Novato, a small, northern California town, where our father, Jack (yes, Jack Sparrow, but no relation to Johnny Depp) bought the Novato Advance, a local, weekly newspaper, and at 26 became the youngest newspaper publisher in California.  It was truly a ‘Mom and Pop’ business – our dad hand-set the type and operated the printing presses while our mom, who could also operate a pretty mean linotype machine, attended the town meetings to gather the local gossip, or news as she called it.  She also spiced up the paper by chronicling the comings and goings of Novato’s social elite, such as they were.  Those familiar with small town newspapers know what we’re talking about.  Jim and Mabel Cranston were visited on Sunday by Mabel’s sister, Iris from Ukiah; she brought an apple pie – Jim had seconds.  Our mother originally called her column, A Little Bird Told Me and later changed it to A Bird’s Eye View.  When we recently asked her about why she changed the name, she first said, “Who are you two?”  At 93, we forgave her for not remembering the details of a newspaper column from nearly 70 years ago.  Our theory is this: etymologically speaking, ‘A Little Bird Told Me’ sounds like second-hand information, like we’re not sure if this is true, but we heard from someone that yadda, yadda, yadda. ‘A Bird’s Eye View’, on the other hand, seems to suggest more of a first-hand, optimum perspective of things.  Our mother could neither confirm nor deny our theory.

However the name came about, we’ve decided that it’s ours and we’re bringing it out of retirement.  We hope you enjoy our new direction.

VALENTINE’S DAY: IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CARD

By:  Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Each year, due to family birthdays, my husband and I are usually on a road trip on Valentine’s Day.  This means we have been able to be with family on this “day of love”, which is a good thing.  Each year we both purchase Valentine’s Day cards that we think best express how we feel about one another.  There’s only one problem: my husband leaves the card at home in his dresser drawer.  Every. Year.

The first few years this happened I would hand him my card with great anticipation, waiting for him to read the sentiment and then what I had written to him about our relationship.  Then he would look at me and say sheepishly, “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.  I left the card at home again.”  Each time I heard those words I was crestfallen.  And the scene repeated itself so often it became like Groundhog Day.

I would think: how can a man who remembers to bring his favorite cookies and his golf magazine on every road trip forget a card that is lying out on his dresser?  I admit, I was pretty pissy about it the first few years.  But then circumstances (and quite possibly some maturity) made me realize that it’s not about the card.

My husband tells me he loves me every day.  Not just on Valentine’s Day or our anniversary.  He tells me that every time I go out the door and when we go to bed at night.  He does little things like get my paper for me every morning and sets up my coffee so it’s ready to brew when I get up(okay, this has gotten easier since we bought a Keurig, but still…).  All in all, he’s a great guy who treats me very well.  I finally realized that these little daily acts are far more important than a $4 Hallmark card.

So, ladies, if you’re a bit disappointed in your spouse or significant other today because you didn’t receive a card or – and this is the worst – your husband sent flowers to your home instead of your office, please take a lesson from me and look at the bigger picture.

And if that bigger picture isn’t so good either, dump his sorry butt!

Aloha

This week I’m in Hawaii and have just turned off the news,

And focused on relaxing, taking in some sunset views.

So my world consists of trade winds and walking on the sand

And sitting by a palm tree with a Mai Tai in my hand.

This week I do not wonder, ‘Is the market bull or bear?’

My big concern is where to place my reclining poolside chair.

This week I will not wonder, ‘Should I buy or should I sell?’

But just relax in places that I’ve come to know so well.

This week there’ll be no sniping or my sarcasm to share;

Just the squawking from the birds that fill the morning air.

There is nothing to be learned, as I will not try to teach,

As I sit and watch the waves as they crash upon the beach.

I know this week is ending and my life will rearrange,

And my lazy, ‘island attitude’ will surely have to change.

I know that soon my office will be getting lots of use,

But please forgive this one last day where I can just ‘hang loose’.

Turn Bad Resolutions Into Better Resolutions

By Bob Sparrow

Some of you have already put your New Year’s resolutions on paper; hopefully they’re in pencil.  Most of us have had some vague ideas rattling around in our heads about how we’d resolve, no, how we’d ‘wish’ this new year would be different from anything we’ve ever experienced in the past.  The fact is, while there is typically a lot of ‘resolutioning’ going on at this time of year, there is very little that is actually resolved.  I’m not trying to be a downer here; I’m just trying to keep you from another year of disappointments – resolution after resolution succumbing to reality sometime in January, or if you’re lucky, February.  I therefore offer you a guide for keeping your resolutions . . . real.

Bad Resolution: I’m going to lose weight  The average American adult gains about 2 pounds per year; the average gain in weight over the holidays is about 5 pounds.  Even if you got one of those oxymoronic diseases where you painfully, but thankfully lost 10 pounds while feeling miserable, you’ll go right back to your poor diet and lack of exercise as soon as you’re healthy enough to sit up and eat a bag of chips.

Better Resolution: Fat people are jolly, resolve to be jollier.

Bad Resolution: I’m going to join a gym  This is part of the above lie you’ve told yourself about being healthier this year.  Gyms prey on people like you in January with deals to get you in the door – they know you’ll never keep it up, you know you’ll never keep it up, but you resolve that this year is going to be different.  It’s not; save the $29 ‘special offer’ and all the money you’ll spend on ‘I’m looking good’ work out gear.

Better Resolution: Walk to the nearest gym, look at all the saps who were duped this year, walk home and enjoy a Cinnabon. 

I’m going to spend more time with the kids:  This assume that the other demands on your time are going to diminish – they’re not.  You love your kids, you want to spend more time with them, but are you going to work less, play less golf, miss your favorite TV show?  No.  Besides, you’re kids are getting older and they want to spend less time with you, but will want to see you when they need money.

Better Resolution: Spend ‘quality’ time with the kids, whatever that is and keep cash handy.

I’m going to be better at work:  A mere turning of the calendar page is not going to make you a better employee or employer.  Yes, you can agree to treat Dottie in accounting a little better, but you know she’s going to piss you off when she asks for all those expense receipts.  And the only way you’re going to become a better salesman this year is if the economy gets better.

Better Resolution: Try to keep your job.

I’m going to be a better person: This is sort of the ‘catch all’ resolution; it’s great because it’s vague enough to keep you unaccountable.  It can encompass everything from being a better spouse (this is fine until you realize that your partner hasn’t made the same resolution) to finding god (if he wanted you to find him, don’t you think he or she could make that happen?).

Better Resolution: Don’t perpetuate any of that Internet drivel that tells you you’ll have 17 years of bad luck if you don’t pass it along in the next 15 minutes to your 50 closest friends.

Hope this helps, you’ll thank me in February.  Happy Same Old Year.  The reality is we like you just the way you are.  OK, we’d like to see a few changes, but that ain’t gonna happen.