Keeping Sharp in a Numbing World

by Bob Sparrow

As we continue to wade through this era of ‘house arrest’, as a society we have become sedentary bingers.  We sit at home and binge on food, binge on drink, binge on computer time and binge-watch the latest Netflix series.  How is this affecting us physically and mentally?  Significantly!

While we here at From A Bird’s Eye View don’t pretend to have the panacea, we will pass along some information that might be helpful in keeping you physically and mentally sharp . . . or sharper.  Caveat: If you are not sharp to start with, reading this will not make you sharp.

The information herein comes from a book I recently finished entitled, Keep Sharp, by Sanjay Gupta, MD (brain surgeon).  It’s currently a ‘best seller’ so perhaps you’ve seen it or even read it (sorry for the redundancy here if you have).  It’s directed mostly at those of us older folks, who are concerned with dementia, but the principles of a healthy brain apply to all ages.  To be honest, there is a lot of scientific stuff in the book that can get a little tedious, but it helps frame what you should be doing, both mentally and physically to Keep Sharp.

The book first asks the question, “Are you at risk for brain decline?”  Gupta list 24 items that could make you at risk.  Here’s a few:

  • Are you over 65?
  • Do you sit most of the day?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you take meds for high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol?
  • Do you have a smoking history?
  • Do you lack social engagement?
  • And of course, does Alzheimer’s disease run in your family?

Yep, I too found myself ‘at risk’.

He also lists a number of myths about the brain, among them:

  • Dementia is an inevitable consequence of old age
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • A crossword puzzle a day keeps the doctor away

Here’s a brief summary of the five things Gupta suggests to keep your mind sharp no matter what your age:

  1. Move – improve your cardio, strength, flexibility, balance
  2. Discover – take a class, learn a language, play games, develop a strong sense of purpose
  3. Relax – sleep needs to remain constant throughout life (You don’t need less as you get older). Regarding sleep:
    1. sleep aids like Nyquil and ‘PM’ formulas are linked to higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
    2. stick to a schedule
    3. avoid long naps
    4. don’t be a night owl
    5. eliminate electronics before bed – computer/tablet/phone screens contain ‘blue wavelengths’ that suppress melatonin.
  4. Nourish – what’s good for the heart is good for the brain
    1. cut sugars
    2. hydrate
    3. eat fish/more Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    4. reduce portions
  5. Connect – Crosswords get a B- for their ability to boost brain function, connecting with others, face-to-face, in person, gets an A (Understand that we’ve had some restrictions in this regard).

Not in the book, but something that I’ve found good for brain health, is a download called Lumosity.  It is a series of games and challenges that help keep the brain sharp.  After completing a number of the challenges, you can see where your brain ranks with other people in your age group. The download is free, but the Premium package (recommended) is about $60 a year.

If this helps just one person become ‘sharper’, then I apologize to the rest of you for this waste of time.

How ever you do it – hope you all keep sharp!

 

Post Script: Not so much as a public service, but because I have nothing else to do, I’ve created a 6-page summary of the book, including all the ‘at risk’ categories, all the myths about the brain, more detail on the 5 categories for keeping sharp, including the Top 10 secrets of slumber, as well as more detail on diet and exercise.  If you’re not someone who will buy and read Keep Sharp, but would like this summary, just let me know in the comment section of this post and I will email it out to you.

 

 

THE TERRORIST NEXT DOOR

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

Several years ago my brother gifted me the book, “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid“, by Bill Bryson.  I have come to read – and love – almost every book Mr. Bryson has written.  But the “Thunderbolt Kid” book was my first, and is still my favorite.  In it, Mr. Bryson recounts the joy and simplicity of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa during the 1950’s and ’60’s with such wit and affection that it instantly brought back memories of the small town in which we were raised.  While the population of Des Moines was more than ten times that of our home town, Bryson’s recollections of his neighborhood is strikingly similar to what we experienced.  People were friendly, we worked hard, and as kids we found ourselves endlessly entertained by items as simple as a drainage ditch or a field of wildflowers.

The “Advance” when our parents owned it

I’ve given a lot of thought to our upbringing this past year.  I think the COVID slowdown has caused some reflection about the “busyness” with which we are normally consumed, and how different our life is compared to growing up.  Life seemed simpler back then, because it was simpler.  Small town life, or neighborhood life in a bigger city, revolved around locally-owned businesses, school, community activities and social clubs.  Our parents were one of those small business owners, and they knew the owners of every shop in town.  People helped each other out during hard times and shared fun in the good times – softball leagues, community plays and bake sales were just some of the ways we were entertained.  As a kid, a small town can seem stifling.  Everyone knows you, thus, the opportunities for getting into trouble with anonymity are very limited.  Our mother didn’t need eyes in the back of her head because she had a whole community of “snitches” that would tell her if one of us got out of line!

This past week I was thinking about that small town ethos when I read a piece by Virginia Heffernan, an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times.  Apparently Ms. Heffernan is waiting out the COVID pandemic in a hideaway home, situated in a place where it snows.  I have some familiarity with “snow towns” near LA and I’m willing to bet that she is living in a small community.  A few weeks ago, after a massive snowfall, her neighbors came over and shoveled out her driveway.  Nice, neighborly gesture, right?  Well, apparently not.  In her column of February 5th, she laments that she doesn’t know how to feel, since the neighbors supported Trump for President.  So she questions how nice they really are and then proceeds to compare them to Hezbollah, Louis Farrakhan and the Nazis.

My goal here is not to get into the politics of this, as my brother and I have steadfastly stayed out of the fray all these years and our intent is to continue.  My thoughts are more focused on what a shame it is that Ms. Heffernan has no foundation to draw from that informs her about what it means to be a neighbor.  Although it didn’t snow where we grew up, shoveling someone’s driveway is exactly the kind of gesture that would be so ordinary as to not even draw attention.  Motives would not have been questioned, much less evaluated, based on whether someone had voted for Nixon or Kennedy.  To judge anyone through a political lens would have been unheard of, and better yet, strongly discouraged.

I’m glad I grew up when and where I did.  The small town mentality has served me well over the years and I appreciate it in others when I see it.  I am saddened that we have gotten to a point where someone’s character, motives and integrity are judged by their political affiliation.  A point where a simple, kind gesture is dissected and over-analyzed by a journalist.  Perhaps Ms. Heffernan needs to spend more time in her “hideaway” to learn a bit about the behavior of people who live in small communities.  It may come as a shock to her that they are not on parallel with terrorists.

 

The Game, the G.O.A.T.s and the Guacamole

by Bob Sparrow

Young G.O.A.T. and Old G.O.A.T.

I’m writing this before ‘the game’, with the exception of a few comments (in red) that I will squeeze in on Sunday night (assuming I’m relatively sober) or early Monday morning (assuming I’m not too hung over).  For me the Super Bowl is a bitter-sweet occasion, as it’s the best two teams in football squaring off, yet it marks the end of this football season. In January, colleges ended their season with the College Football Playoff National Championship and now this . . . it’s over and I don’t have my Covid-19 or my ‘Football’s Gone’ vaccine – I don’t know if I have the virus, but I am feely depressed.  Perhaps Pfizer can work on a vaccine for that!

So, here’s my preview and review of the events from Sunday’s Super Bowl LV (That’s 55 for those that don’t speak Roman)  Either the young G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), 25 year old, Patrick Mahomes or the old G.O.A.T., 43 year old, Tom Brady, won the game.  (the old G.O.A.T. was the clear winner!) With my 49ers watching at home, I was ambivalent about the outcome, but rather hoping for a good game, whoever wins.  Another reason for hoping that the game was at least a close, good one (which it wasn’t), was that, for me, much of what surrounds the game is the usual pseudo-hype and frivolous fluff.

I had reviewed all the game’s advertisements on line last week and found them to be lacking in creativity, humor and impact, but they were diverse.  Prior to the National Anthem being sung, America the Beautiful was performed by Gabriella Wilson, who goes by the name H.E.R. (An acronym for Having Everything Revealed.  I’m hoping that it didn’t get to the point of Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show).  The National Anthem was sung by R & B singer, Jazmine Sullivan and country western singer Eric Church – I hope it was recognizable and that everyone stood at attention with their hand over their heart.  OK, I can hear you now, “What century were you born in, Bob?!!!”

The Guac

The halftime show featured The Weeknd, (yes, that’s how you spell it), a three-time Grammy winner, who is known for his graphic music videos and performances featuring blood and violence, but the three-time Grammy winner said he will tone down his act during this show – let’s hope he did; there was probably enough blood and violence during the game.

If you’re feeling like that New Year’s resolution diet just got blown up, it probably did, as Super Bowl is the second most glutenous day of the year, trailing only Thanksgiving.  Like the turkey at Thanksgiving, the avocado is an endangered species during Super Bowls as over 100 million pounds of guacamole were consumed on Sunday. Avocado growers refer to the Super Bowl as the ‘Guacamole Bowl’.

Too late for you now, but I’ll make a few ‘prop bets’ – promise I won’t change them after the game:

  • What color Gatorade will douse the winning coach? And if you’re really into this one you can also make a bet as to whether an offensive or defensive player will be the one dousing. (Orange is the favorite color, I’d bet defensive). (Gatorade was blue and I don’t know who poured it, but it was probably an offensive player)
  • The easiest bet is the coin flip – it’s never landed on its side, so it’s a 50-50 proposition, but because the head side tends to be heavier, I’ll take tails. (it was heads) 
  • Will the first score be a field goal or a touchdown? Better odds on the field goal, but better payout on the touchdown.  With these two teams I’m going with the touchdown. (it was a field goal)
  • How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown and How many times will Roger Goodell be shown? I’m betting on and hoping it was Gisele! (Unfortunately Goodell got much more screen time)

This is feeling more like my last trip to Vegas!!!

Just in case you were wondering, there were 25,000 real Tampa Bay hometown fans at the game and 30,000 cardboard cutouts – not sure where they were from.

I’m going to have to face the facts that football is over . . . for now, but the vaccine is on its way, isn’t it?  There are rumors that college football may begin in the Spring.  But I’m not going to bet on it!

 

 

WHEN TV WAS FUNNY

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I was watching TV the other day when an ad came on for the new comedy, “Call Me Kat”, starring Mayim Bialik.  It was advertised as “the funniest new show on television”.  Well, heck, I love a good comedy and I always enjoyed Ms. Bialik on The Big Bang Theory, so I gave it a shot.  My time would have been better spent sorting my sock drawer or alphabetizing my spice rack.  Not funny.  Not even close to funny.  Slapstick, stupid humor, and preening for the camera seemed to be the objective.  Not to mention Swoosie Kurtz’ distracting plastic surgery. When you’re almost unrecognizable I think it means you’ve gone too far.  Anyway…the show just didn’t do anything for me.  When I heard the news of Cloris Leachman’s passing this week I thought about her on The Mary Tyler Moore show and it reminded me of when TV was actually funny.  In my opinion, the “murderer’s row” of comedies that aired on CBS in the mid-70’s was the pinnacle of humor.  Every Saturday night we were captivated by high quality writing and acting.  We didn’t know how lucky we were.

The evening started with All in the Family.  We thought it was quite daring when it first aired, with the main character, Archie Bunker, opining on everything from  racism to women’s liberation.  It was the only comedy show that opened with a warning about content.  For a generation that grew up watching Leave it to Beaver, All in the Family seemed downright revolutionary.  And that was the point.  The show’s creator, Norman Lear, wanted to reflect the changing times by having Archie bicker about the issues of the day with his progressive son-in-law, Mike, or as he referred to him, “Meathead”.  As logically as Mike would try to explain the changes in social norms, Archie would respond with equally inane logic.  The cast was rounded out by his “dingbat” wife, Edith (who was actually quite smart), and his daughter, Gloria, caught between her dad and her husband.  The show, and Archie, evolved over time, matching the tone of the era.  Not least among its groundbreaking feats was that it was the first to air the sound of a toilet flushing!

Next on the schedule was M*A*S*H.  Ostensibly a show about a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the Korean war, the satire and dramatic commentary of the show were clearly aimed at an audience that had grown ambivalent about the war in Vietnam.  The show ran for 12 seasons – and its finale in 1983 is still the highest rated series ender.  M*A*S*H seemed to have everything you could want in a comedy.  Yes, there was great humor, but often there was a sentimental story line that ran concurrently to Hawkeye’s antics.  Unlike McHale’s Navy or the Phil Silver’s Show from the previous decade, M*A*S*H showed real people with real emotions.  It wasn’t unusual to laugh and cry at the same episode.

The second hour of comedies started with the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The casting on the show was brilliant.  In addition to Mary Tyler Moore, it included the aforementioned Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Gavin McLeod, Gloria Engel and…Betty White.  How can you ever go wrong with Betty White?!  As a young woman in my 20’s I was fascinated by the show’s premise – a divorced, young woman living on her own and forging a career in a tough industry.  Over the years I’ve heard other women say how influenced they were by watching MTM stand up for herself and succeed in her professional life.  Also of note is that although Mary had several boyfriends during the course of the series, she never married.  That is something you certainly didn’t see in previous sitcoms and it is still rare today to have the lead female character never marry during the run of a series.

The next show on the schedule was The Bob Newhart Show.  Newhart played a psychiatrist and brought his dry wit and deadpan delivery to the show.  His patients and support staff delivered the comedy and hijinks, while he sardonically commented and observed.  Suzanne Pleshette played his wife, also with a sarcastic bent and intelligent wit.

Finally, the evening ended with The Carol Burnett Show.  Has there ever been a more entertaining variety show?  Carol Burnett just seemed so down to earth and friendly – almost like your best friend was hosting a neighborhood talent show.  Her portrayals of “Eunice”, Mrs. Wiggins and, of course, her “Went With The Wind” Scarlett are funny to this day.  But the highlight for me was the pairing of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman.  They delighted in trying to “bust” each other during the live show taping.  Part of the fun was watching Korman trying not to laugh when Conway pranked him.  The funniest sketch I have ever seen is the famous “dentist” scene, with Conway as the dentist and Korman as the patient.  Conway improvised so much during the taping that Korman admitted later that he laughed so hard he wet his pants.  Here is a link to the complete skit – it’s almost 10 minutes long but worth watching to the end.  If you aren’t laughing hysterically by the end of it, well…there’s just something wrong with your funny bone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IUSM4EKcRI

So that was it – the funniest night of television ever.  Yes, the NBC Thursday night line-up in the 90’s that featured Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier was also very good, but just not as funny or relevant as that old CBS schedule.  I read an article that observed one of the reasons for the popularity of the old CBS shows was that we didn’t have much choice.  Most people only got 4-5 TV stations in the 70’s, so we tended to watch the same things.  Each of these shows contributed to the common culture because we all shared the laughs, tears and experiences of these characters.  Today, with 500 TV stations plus a seemingly endless number of streaming apps, our viewing is fragmented.  Some days I’m lucky if anyone has even heard of a show that I’m streaming.

There’s a lot of talk about bringing unity to the country these days.  Maybe we should consider going back to fewer shows, with better writing, that would give us an opportunity to have some shared experiences.  Plus, it could give us something laugh at other than the politicians.

Roads Not Taken

by Bob Sparrow

Two roads diverged in to a wood, and I

Took the one less traveled by ,

And that has made all the difference.

                                                                            Robert Frost

No, this is will not be a dissertation on Robert Frost’s most-misunderstood poem, but rather the musings of this traveler, who has found too many ‘Road Closed’ signs during this pathetic pandemic!  They are all roads not taken!

And while I have thought that I was on this mythical road to nowhere, I discovered that there is indeed a Road to Nowhere; it is in North Carolina, but it actually does go somewhere, it starts in Bryson City and ends at a ‘tunnel to nowhere’ inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

People who were more ambitious than just building a road or a tunnel to nowhere, created a Highway to Nowhere, actually there’s several of them, the most famous is in Baltimore, where one mile of freeway runs through a park.  Not to be confused with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, which it may seem like we’re on right now, but there really is one of those too, in Western Australia, so named for the number of fatal accidents that occur there. What you don’t learn from these blogs!!!

And as we think about ‘things to nowhere’, and what more appropriate time to think about that than now, how can we forget the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, which got a lot of national attention when Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska and the Vice Presidential running mate of John McCain in 2008. The project encountered fierce opposition outside Alaska as a symbol of ‘pork barrel’ spending and was never built.  So apparently  you  still can’t  get  to  nowhere  from  Alaska.

Personally, I can’t think of roads to anywhere without thinking of the ‘Road to . . pictures;’ yes, that what they called movies back in the day.  The ‘road pictures’ starred Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, who were always in some far-off country, fighting for the affections of Dorothy Lamour.  And even though I knew that these movies were filmed on the back lot of the Paramount studio in Hollywood, using blackface ‘natives’ and phony sets, they gave me the travel bug and the desire to create my own ‘Road Pictures’, which I subsequently did when I traveled to a number of exotic destinations like Kathmandu, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. But, ironically, I have never been to any of the seven destinations depicted in those ‘road movies’, but they’re on my bucket list!  For the record, they are, Road to Singapore (Year made: 1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Zanzibar is a city on an island off the east coast of Tanzania, Africa.  Who doesn’t want to go there?!!  Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (Alaska) (1946), Road to Rio (de Janeiro 1947), Road to Bali (1952) and Road to Hong Kong (1962). In the movies, Hope was constantly breaking the ‘forth wall’ to address the audience directly, such as when Crosby was getting ready to sing, Hope would turn to the camera and say, “He’s going to sing folks, now is the time to go out and get some popcorn”. There was actually an eighth picture that was going to be made in 1977, called Road to the Fountain of Youth, ironically, Crosby died of a heart attack that year – if he could have only gotten to that Fountain of Youth!  Little-known-and-less-cared-about-fact: Two of the very top singers of their generation, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley, died in the same year within a couple of months of each other.

Critically, these movies probably get a grade of C-, and perhaps that’s even being a bit generous,  The plot lines were rather thin and predictable, but Bob Hope was funny, especially when he’s adlibbing, Bing Crosby could sing and Dorothy Lamour was certainly worth the boys fighting over.

OK, sorry for droning on about movies that were made some 70 years ago.  Forgive me, my cabin fever is beginning to boil over – there have been just too many roads not taken!  I can’t wait to get on the ‘Road to Anywhere’!

 

 

 

 

THE “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” CARD

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

As you may have read, Arizona is the COVID hotspot of the world. Yep – you read that right – we’re #1 not just in the U.S., but in the world! This week our health care professionals have warned that if things don’t improve, they are going to invoke the triage experts.   Or as they are colloquially known, death panels.  My friends and I decided in addition to avoiding COVID, we need to avoid a broken hip, as some death panel may figure it’s easier to shoot us than fix us.  I admit that I have not been taking this latest news well.  For a variety of reasons, we have not travelled more than 20 miles from our home in almost a year.  So you can imagine our relief when Arizona began vaccinating older citizens last week.  I am not eligible, but my husband was and we were able to get an appointment last Thursday.  Typical of any government-run program, the state has managed to make registering as complicated as possible.

Here’s how I imagine the staff meeting went when they designed the enrollment system:

Manager:  So, we are going to start vaccinating the general public in Arizona.  We’re starting with people age 75 and above.  Tell me about the enrollment system you’ve designed.

Idiot #1:  We’ve got this!  Our systems works on the Chrome and Firefox browsers so it’s very accessible.

Manager:  But the vast majority of older people either use either an Apple or Microsoft  product.

Idiot #2:  No worries – we’ve instructed them to download either the Chrome or Firefox browser.

Manager:  Ummmm, okay.  But most of these people have no idea what a browser is and downloading is something they do with their dentures every night.  They think Chrome is what’s on their wheels and Firefox describes the hot number with the boa that walked into the bingo room last week.   Well, maybe someone can help them download the browsers onto their tablet or phone.

Idiot #3:  Oh no – the site isn’t compatible with tablets and phones.  They have to be use a desktop.

Manager:  Let’s hope this goes well.  I assume you have enough server capacity to handle the demand for enrollment?

Idiot #4:  Oh yes, we’ve got plenty of room and backup capacity.

Manager:  So once they get on the site they just sign up?

Idiot #5:  No.  First they create an account, then they have to retrieve a verification code from their email, then come back in and verify their account.  Then they go to the site and search day by day for an opening because we figured it was just to much work to put a calendar up showing “next available” appointments.

Okay – that’s my imagination but I don’t think I’m far off.  As anyone who has the sense that God gave geese might have predicted, the systems crashed on the first morning and the “help” line wait time was over three hours.  The statement from the Department of Health is that they didn’t anticipate the number of people who would be signing up.  Really?  We’ve been one of the worst hit states since the pandemic began, we have a large vulnerable population (over 75) and they have all been cooped up at home for almost a year.   Which is why I have so rudely characterized the people working on this as idiots.

It came to light yesterday that the state used Google to design the website.  That goes a long way toward explaining why they designated Chrome as the go-to browser.  It is shameful that they are using this event to steer people to their product.  Luckily, after much hue and cry, they finally enabled people to use Safari.  Silicon Valley has spent a lot of time lately talking about how they are improving the diversity in their workplace.  Well, here’s an idea – why don’t they put someone over the age of 65 to work on a program for people over the age of 65?  Now, there’s a concept.

In any event, my husband received his first shot last week so we are one step closer to getting out of jail.  We’re going to spend some time this week planning our summer vacation trips.  Somehow it feels like we’re one step closer to normal.  Hooray!!!

 

Songs for the Times

by Bob Sparrow

John Legend and Sara Bareilles

We know that all that 2020 brought us, doesn’t go away with the flip of a calendar page, although we will have a new president next week and no doubt the press will be kinder to him.  But with the vaccine rolling out and no major holiday gatherings in the immediate future to bump up ‘the curve’, we have reason for optimism.

I have observed that music has helped sustain many during this pandemic; so I thought I’d share with you a few YouTube videos that were written during or about some of our more ‘trying times’ of the past and present.  Hope you enjoy.

(Click on the links below and a separate link will appear, click on that to watch the video; if it doesn’t take you to the YouTube video, just copy and paste the link in your browser)  A brief advertisement may come up initially, it will either go away on its own or you can click “Skip Ads” to stop it.

  1. This first song harkens back to 911 and is a song Alan Jackson wrote right after the bombing of the twin towers in New York City.

Where Were You (That September Morning)?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvnlyeBN3sU&list=RDzvnlyeBN3sU&index=1

    1. Grace Potter’s song, Eachother (words put together on purpose) is a song about the Corona-19 pandemic, which includes, among others, Jackson Browne.  This song, and the next, coincidently echo the word ‘enough’ – sharing Suzanne’s focus on it last week.

We’ve got each other

And for now, that’s enough

Eachother

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_N8fVhQn8w

  1. This raw, emotional duet by Sara Bareilles (my favorite female artist, who co-wrote the song with Lori McKenna) and John Legend, is my favorite of this group of songs. In spite of the fact that the song was written a few years back about immigrants, if you listen to the lyrics, it fits today.

Be the hand of a hopeful stranger

Little scared, but just strong enough

Be the light in the dark of this danger

‘Til the sun comes up

A Safe Place to Land

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht2NCrlghS4

  1. I had to get a song that was a little more up-beat, with a positive thought as I didn’t want to leave you in tears; so here’s an oldie but goodie from the Bee Gees.  Incidentally there is a great documentary about this group on Netflix called, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.  Hope you’re following their advice and . . .

Stayin’ Alive

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNFzfwLM72c&list=RDfNFzfwLM72c&start_radio=1&t=0

Hope you found some joy, solace or simple entertainment from these songs – share them with someone who you think might enjoy them.  Hope you all can be the light in the dark of this danger ’til the sun comes up in 2021 and that we all find ‘a safe place to land’.

 

ENOUGH

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I’m writing this post on New Year’s Day and thinking about all that occurred in 2020.  I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit shell shocked from the past 12 months.  We had such high hopes going into the year – a new decade before us seemed so full of potential.  The biggest controversy a year ago was the guy buying his wife a Peloton for Christmas.  Little did we know that he would turn out to be the smartest guy in the room.  We got a bit of foreshadowing of a bad year when Kobe died in January but we persevered, thinking it was a one-off piece of bad news.  Then in March, everything shifted and life as we knew it changed.  But for better or worse, we’ve made it through and with a vaccine on the horizon I am hopeful for a better year.  Or, more realistically, a better half year.  I’ve resigned myself to the notion that the first half of 2021 is going to look a whole lot like 2020.  Still, it’s a new year and worthy of some resolutions.

NOT me after months of being at home

With the new year approaching there are lots of people opining about how to make 2021 a better year.  The best piece of advice I read was to find your “enough”. Not as in, “I’ve had enough cake” because we all know there is no such thing.  Instead, the author suggested that we all learn to be grateful for having “enough” of something – food, shelter, friendship, health, money.  Personally, I think 2020 was a good year for analyzing my “enough”.  Watching innumerable people lose jobs, and subsequently housing and security, made me more grateful than ever for a roof over my head and knowledge that I had “enough” to weather the COVID storm.  I learned that I had “enough” hobbies to entertain myself for endless days/weeks/months without going completely batshit crazy.  I had “enough” self-discipline to log 13,000 steps every day this year with one exception (I can be forgiven – I had minor surgery that day).  Prior to March I wouldn’t have known that about myself but now I’m pretty proud that I did not slink into a vegetative state on my couch watching the entire “Tiger King” series.

Most importantly, 2020 taught me that I have “enough” family and friends.  My husband and Dash The Wonder Dog have been great company over the past several months, providing support, laughs and a reason to go for a walk every day.  My friends have also been a source of support this year.  I have “enough” good friends to render me one of the luckiest people around.  I read an article from Instyle magazine that posed the idea that 2020 allowed you to narrow down your true friends by using the yardstick of who you would allow to see you topless.  I’m thinking that the average age of an Instyle reader is 19, so maybe that makes sense for them.  I can tell you at age 70, NO ONE wants to see me topless so my friends might be narrowed by those I would spare that visual.  In any event, 2020 brought into focus who I really treasure spending time with and that is a good guidepost going forward.

Had we all known a year ago what we were to face, I suspect we would have thought we couldn’t get through it. But the last 12 months has taught us that we have more grit, resilience, patience, and strength than we gave ourselves credit for.  In truth, we had “enough” to get through it and we are better off now for knowing that.

I hope that 2021 brings all of you “enough” of all the things that matter to you.  While we still have a few months to go before there is some semblance of normalcy, there is hope on the horizon and for now, that is enough.

We’re All Singing the Betwixmas Blues

by Bob Sparrow

Yes, Betwixmas is a word . . . sort of – it’s the term used for the six days between Christmas and New Year’s Day – and we are now in it up to our masks.    There are names for two of these six days that bookend Betwixmas; at the beginning, December 26 is ‘Boxing Day’, which is not celebrated in America, but mostly in England and its former Commonwealth satellites (Canada/Australia/New Zealand/Hong Kong).  It started out as a day to honor servants and those less fortunate by giving them a ‘box’ of something of value.  It then morphed into a shopping holiday (apparently, they said, ‘screw the servants’) where one would take back the ‘boxes’ of whatever they got for Christmas and exchange them for a box of something they really wanted (Maybe we do celebrate it here in America after all).  At the other end of Betwixmas is, of course, New Year’s Eve; never before will so many people really mean it when they say “Happy New Year”!!! But those four days in between, particularly this year, will drive you crazy enough to actually try to eat your grandma’s brick-hard fruitcake that you got again this Christmas.

Betweixmas is a time when we really don’t know what day it is,  who you are or what you’re really supposed to be doing.  There is no school and no one is really working.  If someone goes into the office during Betwixmas, it’s not to work, it’s just to get away from the spouse and/or kids, that have been driving them crazy since the Covid outbreak.

Paradoxically, the shortest day of the year was just last Monday, so the days should seem to just fly by, but no, these days drag on and makes Betwixmas seem interminable.  Typically, it’s the time to relax after the Christmas ‘rush’ and get ready to usher in a new year, a different year, anything but what we’ve been experiencing, so this Betwixmas drags on even more than normal.

Snow Angel

The result of these shiftless days are things like creating New Year’s resolutions that are unrealistic and completely unattainable.  To wit:  you’re probably going to be a little heavier by this time next year.  That home gym that you built this year will go mostly unused next year.  You’re not going to be a better person next year, you’re going to be about the same, and you’re going to be no more organized next year than you are this year.

Usually, the novelty of the kids being home during Christmas vacation calls for some family activity – heading to the mountains to frolic in the snow, visiting Disneyland or if you’re a fan, going to a college football bowl game.  But there’s no snow in the local mountains, Disneyland is closed and the general public is not allowed to attend a college football game.  We are doomed to spend Betwixmas just like we’ve spent the last nine months – in house arrest.

So, one would think that this would have been a good time for a blog that’s really entertaining; a missive filled with little-known facts of interest that would take your mind off the tedium of the times.  But no, it’s a match for the times.

Merappy Betwixmas

 

THE ANGELS AMONG US

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I am ending this very strange year with the inaugural From A Bird’s Eye View people of the year award.  No, it’s not as prestigious as the award from Time magazine, but I believe our nominees are more fitting.  The poem is one I came across a few years ago and my hardest task for this post was narrowing down the nominees who best represent it.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten many groups of people but for all of those who have worked during perilous times this year, we want to express our thanks for your unwavering strength throughout 2020.

 

There are always angels everywhere. 

 

 

 

Perhaps we only think to look for them at Christmas,

 

 

 

When their wings can be seen and their halos glow with light.

 

 

 

But they are always there.

 

 

 

There in the quiet corners,

 

 

 

there in the shadows,

 

 

 

 

there in their ordinary clothes, 

 

 

 

and they are beautiful.

 

 

 

Make room for the angels, for they will catch you unawares and fill your heart in ways you never could imagine.

 

 

 

Speaking of angels, our dad was certainly one on Earth and I believe he continues to watch over our family. One of Pop’s hallmarks was the Ice Cream fizz he served every Christmas morning.  Oh sure, most families had hot chocolate and cider while we were drinking gin, but don’t judge – it has given a roseate hue to many a Christmas morning.  So this year we are once again sharing his recipe so that you and your family might also enjoy this wonderful tradition.

 

POP’S CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM FIZZ

Fill a blender 1/4 full with ice cubes

Add 6 jiggers of gin

Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream

Add 1 small bottle of soda water (the size you get in a 6-pack)

My brother Bob adds an egg so the white adds some froth, brother Jack doesn’t add an egg.  Personally, I’d add it just because you can then claim it’s a protein drink.

Just blend it well and – voila – you have a concoction sure to put a positive spin on everyone and every thing!

Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg.  As we got older we would conspire with Pop and ditch the wine glass for a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.

Bob and I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.  We know for many of you it may be quieter, but hang in – 2021 is sure to be a better year.