I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

by Bob Sparrow

(When writing this blog, I’ve never just copied and pasted an entire article I’ve seen elsewhere, but that’s about to end, as this 96-year old woman’s letter to her bank said it much better than I ever could.  I share her dislike of banks.)

Letter to my bank

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his depositing the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly transfer of funds from my modest savings account, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty-one years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has recently become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact Status form which I require your chosen employee to complete.

I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Please allow me to level the playing field even further. When you call me, you will now have a menu of options on my new voice mail system to choose from.

Please press the buttons as follows:

Press 1: To make an appointment to see me.

Press 2: To query a missing payment.

On hold with the bank!

Press 3: To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

Press 4: To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

Press 5: To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

Press 6: To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

Press 7: To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.

Press 8: To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.

To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee of $50 to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. Please credit my account after each occasion.

Your Humble Client…

(That’s telling ’em granny!  I thought of your letter again today as eight of us were waiting in line at the bank (socially distanced out the door) while one teller was working and 5 other bank employees were busy doing nothing behind the ‘glass curtain’, being sure not to make eye-contact with those of us waiting in line!  They want to take care of my money, but don’t seem that interested in taking care of me. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrg!!!)

LET THERE BE LIGHT

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

                     Original and updated

A friend commented the other day that in the 20 years she’s known me I’ve been in a constant state of remodeling my house.  That’s not really true, but it’s not far off.  Hey, tastes change.  Plus, in my defense, when we moved here 22 years ago interior design trends were different.  I recall our first designer promising us that she would never inflict howling coyotes or cactus motifs on us, but we did end up with another popular trend at the time – darker finishes.  So over the ensuing years we’ve undertaken five remodeling projects.  I’ve changed the kitchen, modernized the office, torn down fireplaces, put in new windows and doors and updated the master bath and laundry room.  I don’t think that’s so much over a 20 year period but then again I may be in a state of denial.  Or the paint fumes I’m smelling right now have made me a bit delusional. In any event, this latest project I’m chalking up to Corona virus.

                I had no choice, right?

We’ve spent a lot of time in the house since March.  A lot.  The one thing I’ve never changed over the years is our flooring.  I hated it but I have heard such horror stories about removing tile that I never had the nerve to rip it all out.  I became increasingly irritated with it over the summer.  Okay, it was probably the virus and all the other crap we’ve been through that had me in a bad mood, but the floor took the brunt of my angst.  Finally I decided that I might not be able to do anything about a virus but I sure as hell could change some tile.  As it turns out, it was amazingly easy; the relatively new “dustless” tile removal is a miracle.  In 24 hours they had removed 1650 square feet of tile and cleaned it up.  It is unbelievably quiet and while it’s not completely dustless, it’s darn close.  I spent about 500 hours on Houzz looking for ideas and finally chose new tile much lighter than our old one.  Unfortunately (but not really) it became obvious that we would need to change the backsplashes in the kitchen and bar to blend better with the floor.  The problem was the countertop on the bar was dark so in order to change the backsplash we really needed to change the countertop.  You can see my point in the photo.  It HAD to be replaced.  I sought out just the right slab that would blend with our current kitchen granite.  The kitchen countertops in the showroom were stunning so I floated the idea of getting all new granite for the kitchen.  That idea was met with a stony stare, no pun intended.

Out with the old…

…and in with the new

Our project started on September 7th, with the slab company dropping our piece of quartzite and shattering it.  Not an auspicious beginning.  I hadn’t planned on being stressed out on the very first day.  I began to question doing a remodel at a time when my husband and I were spending an inordinate amount of time together.  But luckily the company was able to fabricate a new piece in a couple of days and from then on it was smooth sailing.  Every person working on our project was great to deal with and worked efficiently.  I loved the floor when it went into the great room but once it was laid in the living and dining rooms it looked terrible against the carpet.  My eye doctor told me I have an extraordinary ability to see color but I may be seeking another opinion.  My “eye for color” was a bit dodgy in this case.  I woke up at 2:30 one morning, distressed that I had made such an error.  Later that morning, my husband gave me a big hug and said if new carpeting would make me happy then I should order it.  And THAT is why we’ve been married 37 years.  The carpeting goes in next week.

         I’m DONE…for now

I have found it amazing what change and light can do for one’s attitude.  Change is a very good thing.  Some people change their hair color, and here in Scottsdale, lots of people change their faces, but the fact is a change of any sort helps us view the world a bit differently.  Adding lighter tones to our rooms has made my world a bit brighter, which in turn, has made me a bit less crabby.  I admit I’m a bit of a remodel junkie and not everyone likes to change things up as often as I do, but I swear that just changing out the bathroom towels can elevate your mood.  I highly recommend it.  Of course, I won’t be buying any new towels for a while – I’ve been put in remodel jail.  Oh well, at least it’s pretty in here.

Golf on the Surface of the Sun

by Bob Sparrow

At Entrada, Utah

It seemed like a good idea at the time – getting out of the house and playing golf at some spectacular golf courses not too far away.  We thought our timing was perfect as it was just starting to cool down in ‘The OC’.  Unfortunately, it was heating up in places like Las Vegas and southern Utah, where we were headed to play.

So, the usual suspects, John & Judy VanBoxmeer, Jack and JJ Budd, Chuck & Linda Sager and Linda and I headed to Las Vegas, the first leg of our trip.  A lot of golfers brag about ‘shooting their age’, and that’s quite an accomplishment, but I’m going to brag about ‘shooting the temperature’ – which is not such a great accomplishment, especially when the temperature is in triple digits, but I did it!

There were only four of the eight that wanted to stop at an old haunt from our ‘Cinco de Mayo-Kentucky Derby’ weekend days, at the less-than-luxurious Primm Valley Resort.  Since moving from that venue to the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa and Rhodes Ranch Golf  Club, most of us had not been back to Primm Valley Golf Club in many years, so we decided to stop there for an 18-hole waltz down memory lane.  As it turned out, it was more of a waltz into the scrub brush and rocky desert terrain under a blistering sun on a less-than-pristine Primm Valley Golf Course.

Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas

The following day we played at Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas, a development that began just before the 2008 recession and has never quite recovered. A lake in Las Vegas is an oxymoron – I was just a moron when I played it.  It was still very warm, no, it was hot, but I was able to ‘shoot my temperature’ although I was feeling a bit feverish at the time!  While I thought I had not been very lucky at golf, that actually turned out to be the luckiest part of my day, as I lost at black jack, craps, the slots and a bet I placed at the sports book on the New Orleans Saints – a quinella of loses.  Vegas did offer to will fly me out there for free any time I want to go!

Next stop, Wolf Creek, a course carved out of the rocky, rugged landscape of Mesquite, Nevada.  It is certainly one of the most spectacularly beautiful golf layouts in the country.  While it was still very hot, I kept reminding myself to enjoy the scenery which I did while again managing to shoot the temperature on a hot three-digit day.  We had a delicious dinner at Katherine’s, a great old-time restaurant in the Casa Blanca Hotel, a property originally owned by Merv Griffin.

Wolf Creek Golf Club

The next morning, we drove to St. George, Utah and stayed in condos at the golf course at Entrada.  It’s a very interesting course, on the front nine it feels like you’re in Sedona, as is surrounded by lots of beautiful red rock formations.  On the back nine it feels like you flew over to the Big Island of Hawaii, as it is carved out of a huge lava field, but the temperature reminded us that we were still playing golf on the surface of the sun!

We journeyed back to South Point in Vegas for the night, just to break up our trip around the sun, as well as provide me with an opportunity to visit my money.  Actually, the sun finally shone brightly on my craps game that evening, as opposed to beating down on my crappy golf game throughout the trip.  If you haven’t already learned anything from this blog, and you’re looking to do a similar trip – go in the winter!

 

 

SOUL SUCKING

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

          Before the cleanup

This is going to be a short post.  Last week in the midst of remodeling I broke my toe.  I should know better than to walk barefoot – I’m way too prone to bumping into things.  But we had our tile floor taken up and for a few days we had nothing but dirty concrete in the majority of the house.  Sure, the contractor vacuumed after he was done but somehow 22 years of dust and mortar clung to the surface.   At one point I got on the working end of a wet mop in my compulsive attempt to clean it but even I realized the futility of that endeavor.  Anyway, I couldn’t wear shoes on the concrete and then walk on the carpeted areas of the house so I was barefoot much of the time.  As I was playing with Dash the Wonder Dog one evening I ran after his toy (“fetch” is not his strong suit) and rammed my foot into an ottoman.  When you hear a loud crunch at my age you know it’s not a good thing.  For such a small digit it hurts like hell.  The only time I’m comfortable is with my foot up with ice on it.  And ice in a glass.  With alcohol.

OMG, it’s gooooood

But broken toe aside, two good things happened this week.  Perhaps the first good things that have happened in 2020.  First, Soul Café, our favorite little breakfast place re-opened.  Dash is thrilled because they are very pet-friendly (they even have a separate dog menu) and he gets scrambled eggs when we go there.  As for me, I’m excited because I can once again gorge on my favorite Raspberry Granola pancakes.  They are perfection itself.  Crispy on the edges and soft on the inside, chocked full of fresh raspberries and house-made granola.  I have a huge appetite and even I can’t finish one.  The regular order comes with TWO pancakes.  I can’t imagine anyone being able to eat two in one sitting but our favorite server assures us that people do.  And speaking of servers, we have two of them that we adore and have gotten to know us over the years.  Actually I think they like Dash more than us but since we’re footing the bill they tolerate us.  I was so happy to see that both servers have been brought back after months of being laid off.  Somehow it made life seem a little bit more normal in this very un-normal year.

The second great event was that the Pac-12 announced they’re going to play football this fall.  That may not be earth shattering news and college football is certainly a “nice to have” but, boy, being able to watch the Pac 12 play football again has lifted my spirits no end.  I hear that there is an election going on this year but I’m choosing to focus on college football instead.  I know that I don’t have control over either one of them but at least with college football you avoid the slimy, soul-sucking, utter hypocrisy that is our political system right now.

So for the foreseeable future you can find me in my she-shed, foot propped up, remote control in hand, studying the Pac 12 schedules and rankings.  At some point I’ll work on teaching Dash the concept of bringing the ball back to me but I’m not getting my hopes up.

All the News That’s Fit to Lie About!

by Bob Sparrow

Jack & Barbara Sparrow in front of the Novato Advance

Hey Dad, I know you haven’t been with us for nearly 20 years now, but you must be turning over in your grave, what with all that’s going on in the newspaper business and news media in general today.

Dad, Jack Sparrow, graduated from high school in 1932, into a world that was trying to climb out of the Great Depression.  His choices after graduation were to get a job or . . . get a job.  So, he got a job at the local newspaper in San Rafael, California, the Independent Journal – which, in those days, was actually INDEPENDENT.

He worked hard at every level of that newspaper from reporting to running the linotype.  Then in 1941, at 26 years old, he purchased the Novato Advance and at the time became the youngest newspaper publisher in California.  Since television wasn’t a popular media until the mid-50s, newspapers were where everybody got their news.  The goal of the newspaper and the news reporter, was to report the events as they happened and let the readers come to their own conclusions.  Today’s reporters must have missed that day in their journalism class.

Today the media see themselves as influencers and whoever pays them the most, in whatever form that payment may be, gets the good news.  Today, politics plays a huge role in what a media outlet will report and how they report it, or even if they report it.

The basics of a news story in the old days were covered by the “Five ‘W’s”:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?

If a reporter could get the answers to these questions, he had a good, and complete, story.  News stories today have a different standard and are measured very differently:

  • Spin it – use bias, vague, dramatic or sensational language, which moves the reported story away from objective, measurable facts
  • Make Unsubstantiated Claims – use statements that appear to be facts, but do not include specific evidence.
  • Use Subjective statements – don’t forget to use statements based on personal opinion, assumptions, beliefs, tastes, preferences or interpretations
  • Look for opportunities to use Sensational language – be dramatic, yet vague, use hyperbole at the expense of accuracy
  • Bias by omission – don’t cover stories at all or omit information that would support an alternate view
  • Bias by placement – The stories that a media outlet features “above the fold” on the front page or prominently at the start of the broadcast, tells you which stories they really want you to read or hear.

OK, maybe I got a little too deep into the weeds there, I guess I could have summed it up by saying that most media outlets, print or electronic have rolled all the above standards, or sub-standards into one term – Fake New, but that’s nothing you don’t already know.

I know, Dad, we used to be able to say, “Yes, it’s true, I read it in the newspaper.”  Yes, really!  Sound ludicrous now, but newspapers used to have a noble goal – inform the public and help keep our politicians/government honest – be the people’s watchdog.  Now, the ‘fourth estate‘ is the politicians ‘lap dog’.   We’re at a point where we cannot trust anyone or anything you hear or read; you must consider the source; no one is watching the watch dog!

So, Dad, we’d sure appreciate it if you could somehow reach down and teach our news “personalities” how to report the facts…just the facts.

 

PERSPECTIVE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

My husband and his mother, 1941

Ten years ago this week my mother-in-law passed away at the age of 96.  That’s a good run by anyone’s standards but given her life story, it was truly extraordinary.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot this summer as we have wended our way through the coronavirus pandemic.  At times it was easy to get discouraged, between social distancing, isolation from family and not being able to eat the raspberry granola pancakes at our favorite restaurant.  But whenever I would begin to feel just the teensiest bit sorry for myself I would think of all that she endured and realize what a dope I was for being ungrateful.   Some may have read my previous posts about her, or read our book, In the Enemy’s Camp, but for those of you who are unfamiliar the following is a recap.

 

          Internee shanties 

Kathleen Chapman Watson was born in the Philippines to a British mother and an American father.  She enjoyed a wonderful childhood that she spoke about fondly for the rest of her days.  At age 22 she married Daniel Watson, a Scot who was based in Manila working for a Glasgow import/export company.  They expanded their family in 1937 with a son, Richard, and in 1941 with my husband, Alan.  They believed their life to be perfect.  Then in December 1941 the Japanese attacked Manila.  By January, all men who possessed Allied citizenship were taken to an internment camp at Santo Tomas University.  Kathleen and the boys stayed in their home but the Japanese slowly began to confiscate their possessions.  First it was their car, then furniture and finally, their house.  By August, her parents were sent to the U.S. in a prisoner exchange and she saw no choice but to join Danny in the camp.  All told, more than 3500 Allied citizens ended up in Santo Tomas, mostly businessmen and their families.  The overcrowding was stifling, both in terms of privacy and space.  Eventually many of the families, including Daniel and Kathleen,  built shanties outside the main dormitory building to gain some semblance of a home.

For more than three and one-half years they lived with the privations and vagaries of their Japanese captors.  By the end of their captivity they were allotted just 800 calories per day.  Danny had every tropical disease known to man and his 6’2″ frame was skeletal.  Kathleen suffered with malaria throughout their internment.  The news they received was spotty at best and most updates were based on unsubstantiated rumor.  Finally in September of 1944 they heard the rumblings of something unrefutable: American bomber planes.   By Christmas of that year they were still held captive, with increasing retribution and punishments by the Japanese.  The salvation they thought was imminent in September had still not materialized. Yet despite their disappointment, in the diary that Kathleen kept during their time in Santo Tomas, this is what she wrote on that Christmas Day:

Contrary to all expectations, Danny and I have agreed that is is the happiest Christmas we have ever experienced because our sense of appreciation has been so sharpened that every simple thing has appeared in a roseate hue.  This Christmas season, watered by the tears of desperation and despair, and enriched with a great hope for a new future in a brave new world, is a Christmas which we shall always remember.  

Her children were habitually hungry, she and her husband were weakened and sick, and she hadn’t seen her family in over three years. Still, her optimistic attitude shined through.  It was her defining characteristic until her dying day – she always found something cheerful on which to focus.  So, as I said at the beginning of this post, whenever I feel a little down with all that’s going on in the world I try to channel her buoyant outlook and remember that as bad as things are, I’m not living in a leaky shanty held captive by an invading army.  Sort of puts things in perspective.

2007 – Kathleen with her two great-grandsons 

Footnote: Kathleen’s optimism was rewarded in February 1945 when the First Cavalry burst through the gates of the camp and rescued the prisoners.  The family set sail for the United States in early April and by mid-May they were safely docked in Los Angeles.  Abandoning their plans to move to Scotland, they decided to settle in Pasadena, where they eventually started a business, worked hard, and lived the American dream.

Old Man Visits Old Man River

by Bob Sparrow

Donnie, Starlet, Linda and Old Man on the river

I had the occasion last month to visit Minnesota, home to Paul Bunyan, the Vikings and Linda’s mother, Phyllis; sister, Starlet; brother-in-law, Donnie and various nieces, as well as some great-nieces and nephews – their greatness varies, but mostly they’re great.  Some of our friends doubted our sanity in 1) flying anywhere during Covid, and 2) going to the state that was ground zero for all the national riots.  How some ever, we’ve become callus to comments about our sanity – they seem to come with predictable regularity.  So off we went.

While we did fly into the eye of the storm (Minneapolis), we were quickly picked up by Donnie & Starlet and whisked 85 miles south to Rochester, home to the Mayo Clinic.  So, if Minneapolis is ground zero, Rochester would be ground one million, what with all the highly qualified doctors, state-of-the-art medical facilities and all those ‘Minnesota nice’ folks.

I won’t bore you with all the darn tootin’ card games we played or with Gene & Denise Cobb’s bucolic, five-acre vegetable and flower garden (featuring the finest salsify in the land), but what I will bore you with is a side trip we took to the Mississippi River.  Yes, for those who are geographically challenged, the ‘Mighty Mississippi’ starts in Minnesota, from a glacial lake that’s only about 2 square miles, Lake Itasca, to be exact.

Will and Gene in Cobb backyard

Denise in Cobb backyard

We drive to Lake Pepin on the Mississippi; yes, the Mississippi has lakes, and Pepin is the largest one. On the east side of the lake or river is Pepin, Wisconsin, on the west side is Lake City, Minnesota, where we stop to have lunch, and learn that:

  • It was on Lake Pepin where water skiing was born in the U.S. – and we actually did see some water-skiers on the lake this day
  • Not to be outdone by Loch Ness, Lake Pepin has its own monster, Pepie – we didn’t see her.

As ‘Old Man River’ and the ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ echoed in my brain, I wondered what else I didn’t know about what most people mistakenly think is America’s longest river.  That’s right, that honor goes to the Missouri River, which is about 100 miles longer and originates in Montana and empties into the Mississippi in St. Louis, where they jointly ease their way to New Orleans then into the Gulf of Mexico.

I was interested in what Google had to say about the river; not surprisingly, quite a bit.  Here’s a few gems (OK, maybe not gems, but possibly of some esoteric interest):

  • It is 2,320 miles long, about 100 miles shorter than the Missouri

    Old Man River from Wisconsin side

  • It has flowed backwards during hurricanes and earthquakes
  • It is 7 miles wide at its widest point
  • For a single drop of water to travel the length of the river would take 90 days.
  • At its deepest, the river is 200 feet deep.
  • While the river looks slow and meandering, the current is quite strong and thus it is very difficult to swim across. If you get pulled under, the water is so muddy that you’d be difficult to find.  Glad we didn’t decide to take a dip.

We leave the river and stop at a winery and get a better understanding of why Minnesota is known for a lot of good things, but not it’s wine.  We head directly to The Little Thistle Brewing Company, a local craft brewery, where Gene Cobb is an investor, and get the taste of wine out of our mouths with some great craft beer.

All is still NICE in Minnesota (except the wine), and it’s somehow reassuring to know that during these crazy times Old Man River just keeps rollin’ along.

 

MARRIAGE IN THE AGE OF COVID

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I now pronounce you husband and wife.There are few phrases as sobering, with the possible exceptions of ”We have lift-off” and ”This country is at war.”   Erma Bombeck

     Boy, do we look young!

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated 33 years of marriage.  Or as my dad used to say, “Thirty-three years of indentured servitude”.  He was joking, of course.  I think.  In any event, I was thinking about marriage last week as we prepared to observe our special day.  We have remarked several times over the past few months that we are very fortunate that we’re so compatible because it seems like we’ve spent 25 hours a day together since March.  And like many others, there have been a few challenges.  In addition to dealing with soaring COVID numbers in Arizona, I had some minor surgery in May, my husband underwent nine weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer and even Dash the Wonder Dog joined in with the diagnosis of a heart murmur.  Add in the hottest summer on record and it seemed like the fun just never stopped.

 

“People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. The rules are the same. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. Allow for room to grow.”   Erma Bombeck

Now that we’re almost to fall with its sub-100 temperatures and the COVID numbers are abating,  I’ve had some time to reflect on how we’ve changed.  At first I mused that the only “growth” we’ve seen is in our girth.  But in fact, we have gained renewed appreciation for each other and our home.  Not necessarily always in that order.  I love our house and am giving it full credit for getting us through this.   A few years ago we contemplated selling our home and moving into one of those slick retirement communities.  I think we have commented 1,000 times this summer that we’re grateful we saved ourselves from that fate.  Our friends who live in said communities have spent months cooped up in their apartments with meals being delivered to them.  It’s like prison only with better food and nicer guards.  The advantage of our house is that we have plenty of room to spread out.  Like fighters between rounds, we are able to go to our separate corners to gain space and sustenance.  In actuality, we seldom even argue.  Still, spending 24/7 together is like the ultimate game of “Survivor”… just hoping one of us doesn’t get voted off.

“Marriage has no guarantees.  If that’s what you’re looking for go live with a car battery.” Erma Bombeck

As I was researching articles about marriage in the time of COVID I found several about the increase in marital discord.  Apparently lots of people are being voted off their marriage island.  All over the world couples are struggling with lockdown, from mental health issues to realizing you’ve married someone who, in fact, is very annoying in a 24/7 world.  The pandemic has caused higher divorce rates and it’s anticipated the rate will only increase once everyone is fully out of lockdown or back to work.  I know that we’ve had it easy and have thought often about families where the parents are working from home AND trying to instruct their children on the higher principles of algebra or the periodic table.  There are many parents who have lost their jobs and are juggling a job search and childcare/home schooling at the same time.  It’s a lot to ask of a marriage to hold up amidst all that stress. On a brighter note, I also read many articles about people reconnecting, both with their spouse and their children.  It seems being locked up together has caused people to talk more about their frustrations, desires and needs.  It’s also caused a boom in real estate and remodeling as people “nest” as they did right after 9/11.

Well heck, I don’t want to be left behind the current trends so I’ve decided to undertake a bit of a home facelift next month.  We’ve been through remodels before so I realize that COVID may be a cakewalk compared to demolishing tile floors.  In fact, under no circumstances should “remodel” and “marital bliss” be uttered in the same sentence.  They start next week so I’ll keep you posted.  We may have to place bets on whether we make it to year 34.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

by Bob Sparrow

If you really have nothing else to do, you can continue reading, however, ‘spoiler alert’ there may be a bit of ‘advertising’ in this blog.

(Nine years ago, this month Suzanne and I started writing together – it wasn’t exactly this blog then; we called it Morning News In Verse, where we provided examples of what we could do in our new-found business, call Red Posy, a business of writing rhyming tributes.   At that time in this space, we would take the four sections from the national newspaper, USA Today, main news, sports, business and entertainment, and write some rhyming news items.  In March 2012, we closed our Red Posy business (I think it was due to too much business!), but found that we really enjoyed writing together, so decided to just write and post a new blog, From A Bird’s Eye View, every Monday about ‘Life’s Little Observations.’  My reason for this brief, albeit rather mundane history of this site, is that what with Word Press expenses, GoDaddy annual fees, the cost of website analytics, up-dating plug-ins, Akismet anti-spam software and Wordfence website security, not to mention Suzanne’s and my valuable time and effort, all coming to you free of charge, we decided that we needed a sponsor to help absorb some of these on-going expenses.  And so, my reverse mortgage business leaped into the breach.  We ask that you please indulge us as I provide four of my, ‘true-life’ reverse mortgage experiences that I needed to put up on my new business website: https://bobsparrow.myloanofficer.us/aboutWe will have then satisfied our ‘commercial obligation’ and will press on with the usual drivel that you’ve become accustom to in this space).

These stories are true, the names have been omitted to protect the innocent and to keep me from getting sued.

  1. HEY, YOU SMASHED MY CAR!

After dinner at a restaurant in Orange, I backed out of my parking place and scraped the fender of a car parked behind me.  Don’t you hate that sound of metal on metal?!!  So, I stopped, got out of my car and wrote on the back of my business card, “Sorry I bumped into your car, my contact information is on this card”.  The next day I got a call.

“Is this Bob?”

“Yes”

“You ran into my car last night”

“Yes, I’m sorry, I can have my insurance company take care of it”

“Nah, that’s alright, I’m in the auto business and can have that buffed out without a problem, but I noticed from your card that you were in the reverse mortgage business and I’d like to know more about how it works”

So, I made an appointment for the next day, when I got there, the good news was that he had already had the car dent buffed out; the bad news was that he was living on ‘leased land’, and a reverse mortgage cannot be done on lease land.  So no deal, but I initially thought about a ‘car accident market plan’, but quickly dismissed it as a bit too risky.

     2. TOO OLD FOR A REVERSE MORTGAGE?

A man called me asking about reverse mortgages; one of his first questions was, “Is there an age limit for getting a reverse mortgage?”  I said there is a minimum, 62, but no maximum age limit.  He said, “Not even 104?”  I responded, thinking that he didn’t sound like he was that old, “Not even 104”, I replied.  He then proceeded to tell me that his mother-in-law was 104 and she had been bed-ridden for a number of years and that the in-house care they were providing her was taking a toll on the family’s budget.  And since the 104-year-old was still living in her home that had plenty of equity, we did a reverse mortgage for her that enabled her to keep the long-term care in her house, without affecting the family’s finances. No, she’s not alive today; she passed away about a year ago.

      3. I THINK MY HOUSE COULD ROLL AWAY

A lady in Hemet called asking about reverse mortgages; she was a real talker, probably lonely and finally got someone on the phone that would listen to her for as long as she wanted.  She said I was referred to her by someone she trusted and proceeded to tell me everything I needed to know about how she was living, what she did in her spare time, how her cat was doing (not that well) and on and on.  From the numbers she gave me, it sounded like she could do a reverse mortgage, so I scheduled a time to go out to Hemet and give her a proposal.  On my drive out to Hemet, about 80 miles one way, she calls me and sheepishly tells me that her house is not a ‘regular’ house.  I asked, “Does it have wheels?”    “Well, it could”, she replied.  Oh great, I’m thinking I’m driving over 150 miles today to tell her that we can’t do a reverse mortgage on a mobile home.  When I get there, I find out that it’s not a mobile home, but a ‘manufactured’ home – and we can, and I did, do a reverse mortgage for her, but not without getting regular up-dates on her cat.

      4. THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE QUEEN

I got a call from nice, young lady (young is a relative term in ‘reversemortgagees’ – typically someone in their mid to late 60s) wanting some information about reverse mortgages.  I asked her some questions and determined that she and her husband could be eligible, so made an appointment to do a proposal.  I arrived and met the lady of the house, who was just as sweet as she sounded on the phone and then met the husband, who was gruff, rude and bombastic.  He proceeded to tell me how successful he’d been in business, but someone really screwed him over these last few years and he had been given some bad advice about some investments.  He treated his wife as a sub-human, in fact, he treated me that way also.  But I bit my tough and we did the loan.  The wife thanked me; the husband just grunted.  The next week, I got a call from the wife.  Her husband had just passed away!   Yes, less than one week after the loan had closed!  I may have heard a hint of glee in her voice in this otherwise sad bit of news, but she seemed most concerned about whether the reverse mortgage that had just funded was ‘still valid’.  I told her, “Yes, you can live there, mortgage-free, for as long as you want”.  I think that made her happy, or perhaps something else already had.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

THE RELUCTANT SEPTAGENARIAN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

      Leslie, (left) supervising me

I knew this day was coming – I could tell by the hanging jowls and the crepey skin.  Yet somehow waking up last week to the realization that I’ve entered my 70’s was a bit sobering.  I feel pretty darn good and my doctor says I’m in tip top shape.  Hmmmmm.  I cleaned out files recently and found some documents from a gym I belonged to in 1980.   As I perused my old weight and measurement chart I was pretty pleased until I took my current measurements.  How can I possibly weigh the same and yet be bigger in every place that counts?  Are my ear lobes appreciably smaller?  Does gray hair weigh less than blonde?  I’m guessing the weight loss has occurred in my brain because I’m not sure how much is up there anymore.  I’ve spent a lot of time at home this summer so you’d think I would be pretty familiar with my house, yet I still wander into a room and wonder what I’m doing there.  As my friend Liz Gett always says, “These days I only retain water”. 

 

Still, I’m doing just fine and especially in this catastrophic year of 2020, I’m just glad to be upright.  Don Imus, the former disc jockey also ran a camp for kids with cancer.  He once said whenever he’d go to some soiree on the Upper East Side where people complained about their age his response was to ask them if they would like to visit his camp, where 12 year-olds were just hoping to make it to 15.   Every year on my birthday I think about Leslie, my childhood best friend.  The photo is us at my 10th birthday where she supervised my gift opening, just as she supervised most everything I did. She called me every year on my birthday without fail.   On my 64th birthday we had a long conversation and she laughed hysterically when I told her I had chickenpox.  It was the last time we spoke; she died suddenly a couple of months later.  I still miss her and think about her on my birthday so far be it from me to complain about reaching 70.

           Just some of my bounty!

Besides, I had a wonderful celebration filled with …what else?… cake!  I guess at this age it’s good to be known for something.  I have friends that are known for being smart, dressing well, a kind heart, a great artist, you name it.  I, on the other hand, am known for my love of cake. I used to be the kid at the birthday party who would elbow my way to the cake cutter so I could get the corner piece with the big, sugary flower on it.  This year I received three cakes for my birthday, including one that exploded with flowers, candy and cake when I lifted the lid.  I didn’t share ANY of them with my husband.  It dawned on me that I might have a problem when the guy we’re working with to select new flooring (that’s an “I need to have my head examined” story for another blog) brought me a dozen doughnuts.  I think I have a problem and so far as I know, there is no such thing as Cake Anonymous.

Perfect pairing – wine and dessert

My celebration was capped by a fabulous dinner at Vivace Restaurant in Tucson.  Due to illness and a wariness of COVID it ended up being just me, my niece and my great-niece for dinner.  Actually, it was perfect!  We had such a wonderful time catching up.  There is something special about three generations who enjoy each other’s company and share laughter and good stories.  Most of them true.  The restaurant is spectacular and the food was beyond tasty.  One advantage of our smaller group was there was more dessert to go around.  The restaurant offered a lovely tiramisu in honor of my birthday, but really, sharing dessert among three people doesn’t quite meet the mark so we also ordered a crème brulee and a chocolate molten lava cake with ice cream.   All that, coupled with the wine, provided a sugar rush that I’ll still be recovering from on my next birthday. Still, it was worth every spoonful.

So I was feeling pretty good about turning 70 and life in general and then the worst happened – the NCAA cancelled the football season. Is it even fall if there is no college football?  COVID has been hard enough but life without college football seems unfathomable.  I may just have to eat more cake.