A Saturday Night with the Monday Knights

by Bob Sparrow

Monday Knights in our bowling shirts

I not only don’t have some interesting place to tell you about this week, but I also don’t have anything interesting to say.   Contrary to popular belief, we are not on the road all the time.  Yes, we are on it a lot, but I’ve been consumed with our band, Monday Knights’ performance at Yorba Linda Country Club for the last several days, maybe weeks, OK! months!!

At last, it’s over!  We performed last Saturday night and It’s hard to know if our show was really any good, as most of the 140 or so in attendance were friends, golfing buddies, neighbors, or relatives – what are they going to say?!

Guest celebrities, Sonny & Cher

It was our second show this year, and third overall at Yorba Linda; our first show was in August 2021, which was a Yorba Linda’s Got Talent, talent show featuring club members singing while we did a number of pop songs, OK, maybe older pop, sort of like a coke that you opened three days ago.  Between our second show, which was all Country-Western, and the one last Saturday, which was labeled ‘The History of Rock & Roll, Part I (50s & 60s), we acquired two new band members, a drummer, Jimmy Cleveland and a lead guitarist, Richard Raunch; along with Alexis Hall, who subbed in ten days before our last show, for our female singer that have to have emergency surgery.  Her story is sort of like the baseballs’ Lou Gehrig story, who took over for an injured player and set a record by playing in the next 2,130 consecutive games.  We probably don’t have that many games, or gigs, remaining, but she is hitting it out of the park.  These three have brought an immense amount of talent, energy and enthusiasm to the band.

The show on Saturday was ‘rockin’, the music was loud, the dance floor was packed, and there were lots of people singing along.  We’re fairly sure that everyone got their money’s worth, as the numbers work like this, the cost of the dinner and show was $55 a person, and we were told by the club that they never offer a dinner for less than $50 per person.  So, once they did the math, they really couldn’t complain about a five-dollar show.  I think we actually gave them a seven-dollar show!

Pam, Jeff, me, Linda, Dana, Stephanie

We’re not sure what theme or when our next gig will be; clearly, we need to continue the History of Rock & Roll at some point with 70s & 80s, but we may throw something else in there in between.  Or, the band could be broken up as I’m writing this and I’m not even aware of it – I hear that stuff happens with rock & roll bands all the time.

A special thank you to my family, Linda, Stephanie, Dana and Jeff and Pam, who were all in attendance, and a public thank you to all those who came and made the evening a very fun one.

DASH THE WONDER DOG TURNS 10

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an empty space we don’t even know we have.”  Thom Jones

           An Irresistible face

Tap. Tap. Tap. I wake each morning to paws gently tapping my shoulder. I roll over and Dash the Wonder Dog’s face is one inch from mine, with an expectant look on his face.  I roll over and obediently scratch his ears.  He has me well trained.  I bid him a good morning and ask how his sleep was.  He response is 100 kisses – just to make sure I’m awake and to alert me that he’s ready to start his day.  This is his morning routine, and whether I have had 8 hours or 8 minutes of sleep, it never varies.  On the mornings when my sleep has been closer to 8 minutes, I wonder why I have let this dog take over my life.  I resent, just for a moment, that once I have let him out to sniff and pee, he curls up on the sofa, rests his head on his soft blanket, and falls blissfully back to sleep.  I, on the other hand, put extra coffee in the pot.

           Dash – 2nd from left

Ten years ago, on November 16, 2012, I received a message from Dash’s breeder that he and his four brothers had been born.  She sent me a photo of them, snuggled up together, looking a bit like tiny guinea pigs.  I didn’t yet know which one would come home with me, but it didn’t matter – I loved them all instantly.  I had waited a long time to own another dog and pledged that this dog would be special.  Little did I know I really had no choice in the matter.  Dogs have a way of wriggling into your heart and staking their claim on your soul.  In January 2013, I drove to the breeder’s home to select which dog would be mine.  Of course, what really happened is Dash chose me.  As I stood in the backyard, with dogs and puppies romping and vying for attention, Dash came up and scratched on my pant leg.  I picked him up, he gave me a lick, and I was done.  Dash was my dog, and I was his person.

“What do dogs do on their day off? Can’t lie around – that’s their job.” – George Carlin

             Dash’s first day home

We brought him home on February 3, 2013. I vowed early on that I wasn’t going to be a sap about this dog.  Who was I kidding? I was a sap by the time we backed out of the breeder’s driveway. From that first day, Dash has lived up to the nickname for Cavaliers – he is a “comfort spaniel”. No matter how bad a day we might have had, it is impossible to remain sad or depressed when greeted at the door by his wagging tail and twirling body. My husband and I vie over who gets to sit next to him on the couch.  Dash doesn’t care, he is an equal opportunity snuggler.  He plasters himself next to us and miraculously transforms into a 1,000 lb. dog – absolutely immovable.

“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”  Andy Rooney

       Dash visiting a WWII hero

We acknowledge that over the past ten years he has put a crimp in our social life. Spending an evening with Dash, vs dinner with someone blathering on about their hook shot on the 10th hole, is not even a fair fight.  Our friends tease us that they have met the “Dash bar” when we go out rather than stay home.  But we are not the only ones who are smitten by him. He has put smiles on faces wherever he goes, especially when he worked at the Vi Care Center, bringing some sunshine to people who didn’t see much of it.  We have taken him everywhere we traveled, and as luck would have it, he loves car rides.  He doesn’t really care where we go, as long as he is with us.  He is the reason we have met people from all parts of the world, who engage us in just enough conversation to justify their real reason for stopping – to pet Dash. He made friends with a little girl from England in Squaw Valley, and he snookered the people in the gift shop in Sun Valley to give him treats every time he passed by.

                        My sweet boy

When we first brought Dash home, I told my husband that I’d be happy if he lived ten years.  After all, most Cavaliers suffer from mitral valve disease, so their lifespan can be shorter.  Two years ago, Dash was diagnosed with it.  He is on medication and so far, it seems to be keeping the disease at bay.  He still loves to play fetch every night.  Mostly I do the fetching, as he manages to put his toy exactly one foot beyond my reach.  I can almost see him laugh as I heft myself off the couch to retrieve it.  He would do this for an hour, but oftentimes my knees give out before he does.

His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever—in case I need him. And I expect I will—as I always have.  Gene Hill

Dash the Wonder Dog at 10

And now that he is 10, of course I want more time.  I want more snuggles and kisses, more twirls when I get home, more waking in the night to his chainsaw-like snoring.  I dread the day when I won’t wake to the tap, tap, tap on my shoulder.  But for now, we’re taking it a day at a time, and enjoying each day to the fullest. At night, before we tuck in, I set Dash up on the bed and review our day – where we went (nowhere), what we did (nap and eat) and any special people we might have seen (the crazy dog down the street).  And then I tell him how much he is loved.  I bury my face in the scruff of his neck and tell him what a good boy he is and how blessed we are to have him in our lives.

I’ve done nothing to deserve this sweet, gentle boy, and yet he chose to grace me with his presence.  For that, I am the luckiest person on earth. Happy 10th birthday to my most cherished companion!

Our National Pasted Time

by Bob Sparrow

The World Series is over!  If that’s news to you, you’re not alone.  It concluded last weekend sometime with a team from Texas beating a team from Pennsylvania, taking the series four games to two.  I assume there were lots of home runs, lots of great defensive plays, lots of strikeouts, actually, I heard there was even a no-hitter (although it took four guys to do it.  The only other no-hitter in a World Series was done by one guy, Yankee, Don Larson, pitching the whole game!), but few people watched or cared for that matter.  It didn’t help that there was not a team from the west coast in the series, but regardless of what team is playing, TV viewership has declined significantly over the last several decades.  In the 80s viewership for the World Series was between 55-60 million, compared to the last three-year average of around 10 million.   So, why have people stopped watching America’s national pastime?

I could suggest that the World Series comes at a time when college football, the NFL, the NHL, and the NBA are all in full swing, so there are just too many other sports to watch.  But I recently read an article by Derek Thompson, in The Atlantic that had a different answer to that question, which helped me understand why I didn’t watch any of the World Series games this year. I understand that I run the risk of you not reading any further about the decline of a game that you cared little about in the first place, but it’s a break from the political ads with which you’ve been inundated via mail and TV for the past month.

There really are a number of disassociated events that helped cause the lack of interest in baseball; first there was:

  • Players cheating:
    • Using steroids and other PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) to hit the ball harder and farther

      Batting helmet with earphones

    • Corking a bat to create a trampoline-effect to hit the ball farther (physics research has shown that it really doesn’t work)
    • Pitchers using ‘foreign substances’ on the ball to make it do funny things on the way to the plate
  • Teams cheating, like the Astros who stole the pitcher-catcher signals and uniquely passed them along to their hitters while at the plate

But Mr. Thompson suggests another reason, simply saying, “You can make a thing so perfect that it’s ruined.”  To him It all started with a term, aptly portrayed in the 2011 baseball movie, Moneyball . . . analytics, defined as the systematic computational analysis of data or statistics.’  Yes, the geeks took over baseball and ruined it by being catastrophically successful.  Through crunching the numbers, they found:

  1. If managers wanted more strikeouts from their pitchers, they needed to cut down on the number of pitches by each pitcher and thus use more pitchers during a game. They found that with fresh pitchers, the average velocity and spin rate per pitch, increased.
  2. Hitters responded by increasing the launch angles of their swings, raising the odds of a home run, but this adjustment also caused more strikeouts, quite a few more. In the 1990s, there were typically 50 percent more hits than strikeouts in each game; today, there are consistently more strikeouts than hits. Singles have swooned to record lows and hits per game have plunged to 1910s levels.

So today, watching a baseball game is akin to watching two guys play catch, while another person swings wildly at some pitches and mostly misses, but occasionally hits one out of the park.

The article I read offered no solutions to the declining popularity of the game, although it mentions a few changes, that have come very slowly, in order to improve the game or the pace of the game.  For example, in an effort to make it more palatable to the consumer, in 1973 the American League installed a ‘designated hitter’, typically for the pitcher. So we wouldn’t have to watch the pitcher strike out every time he got up to bat.  The National League just adopted the rule this year!  The ‘intentional walk’ used to require the pitcher to pitch four straight pitches out of the strike zone before the batter was given first base.  It wasn’t until 2017 that they eliminated pitching and just sent the batter to first base.  But neither of these changes had a dramatic affect of the palatability of a game that needs more hits and more runs, i.e., more action!

So what needs to happen to change the game?  If you ask me, and no one has, or will, I’d say move the pitcher’s mound back about 10 feet or so, maybe back by second base.  Then, teams can use as many pitchers as they want, but the ball is going to be moving much slower when it finally reaches the plate and the batter will have a much longer look at the ball.  Thus more hits, more runs, more fun!

Someone let me know if they ever do something like that; I don’t watch baseball!

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH SUZANNE

By Bob Sparrow and Suzanne Sparrow Watson

We’re changing our format a bit this week.  With the publication of the book Suzanne co-authored, Before All Is Said and Done, Bob thought it might be interesting to learn a bit about the writing process and how the book is faring now that it’s been on the market for a month.  So, the following is a discussion we had about the book – how it was written and how it’s doing. 

Bob:  How is it you came to write a book with Pat?

Suzanne: Pat is a good friend and for many years she was my next-door neighbor in Scottsdale.  After her husband died, she experienced many problems, most of which she had not anticipated.  As she spoke with other people, she discovered she was not alone – either they had similar experiences or knew someone who had.  Pat is a seasoned journalist who has won numerous awards for her in-depth interviews, so her natural inclination was to talk with people and write about the problems widowed people encounter, and perhaps more importantly, with experts about how to avoid those problems.

Pat knew that I had previously written a book, and of course is a loyal subscriber to this blog, so once she decided to write a book, she called me and said, “Here’s my idea and I’d like you to help me write it.”  It was a daunting thought at first, but I love to write, plus it was smack dab in the middle of the Covid lockdown – what else was I going to do?  So, I agreed to give it a go.

Bob:  How long did it take to write the book?
Suzanne:  All told it took two years from that first conversation to the publication of the book.  When we began the process, we weren’t certain what format the book would take or how it might all come together.  We did some market research and learned that most books for widowed people either focused solely on grief or were written from one person’s perspective.  We knew we wanted to include stories from a wide range of people on a variety of subjects.  We began interviewing people to see what kind of information we collected.  I conducted a couple of interviews, but it became clear that interviewing people was Pat’s forte, while writing was more in my lane.  We sort of fell into dividing up the work that way and it worked out perfectly.
Bob: What was the writing process like?
Suzanne:  It was a real eye-opener to me that how people express themselves in conversation during an interview is much different than how one reads.  When you are speaking with someone you might jump from topic to topic, circle back to something previously discussed, or not discuss things in their logical sequence.  That’s just how we all converse.  But when you are reading a narrative there needs to be clarity and a logical order to the information.  Pat would write the draft of the introductions and then sent me the transcripts of her interviews to weave into narrative form.  That was challenging, but once I got the hang of it, it became easier over time.
Bob:  How are sales going?
Suzanne:  Really well!  We won’t get firm numbers until the end of the quarter (this is standard in publishing), but we became the #1 “bestseller” on day one in the Estates and Trusts category on Amazon and have remained there for the past month.  Recently we have also been ranked #1 in the Grief and Bereavement and Love and Loss categories.  The book is definitely striking a chord with people and we’re very happy that people find it helpful.
Bob:  Why do you think it has resonated with so many people?
Suzanne:  People have asked me that a lot this past month.  The feedback I’m getting is that the book provides a vehicle to have conversations with a loved one or family members on a subject that typically has not been a comfortable topic of conversation.  As a Baby Boomer myself, I’ve now come to equate it to when The Joy of Sex was first published in 1972.  Prior to its publication no one really talked about sex in the way the book suggested.  It became a huge best seller so clearly people were willing to read about it, even if they didn’t openly talk about it.  I think we have done the same thing for preparing for a death.  Certainly not as fun, but just as thought-provoking!
Bob: Can people only order the book on Amazon?
Suzanne:  People can order on Amazon, or they can order through their local bookstore.
Bob: This is your second published book, what was your first one about?
Suzanne:  My first book, In the Enemy’s Camp, was really written as a gift to my mother-in-law.  She was a beautiful writer and kept a diary during her three years as a detainee in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.  Her strength and courage were remarkable, especially considering my father-in-law was very sick much of the time and she had to care for her two children, my husband and his brother, who were one and four years old when they went into the camp.  I took her diary and turned it into a book that incorporates the historical events occurring at the time.  I published the book before my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday and she had a ball going to book signings and speaking at clubs about it.  By far the best gift I’ve ever given! Amazingly, 17 years after publication people are still buying it on Amazon.
Bob:  Any future books in the works? 
Suzanne:  Well, as they say, “never say never”!  Pat and I have joked about writing a sequel.  There are a lot of people who struggle after the death of a loved one with moving forward and creating a new life.  We heard that a lot from widowed people – the “what do I do next?” problem.  At this point we have no plans to write the sequel, but as we’ve learned, you never know what the future might bring!
If you are interested in learning more about the book, or purchasing it, here is a link to the Amazon page:
If you do buy the book from Amazon, please take a minute to give it a review.  It really helps!

A Holiday Primmer

by Bob Sparrow

Don’t forget Fiestas de las . . . whatever

Yes, it’s getting to be that time of year again, and we here at From a Bird’s Eye View, want to give you a primer on holiday ‘dos and don’ts’ during this new age of ‘the holiday season’.  First, let’s define ‘the holiday season’.  While Costco would suggest that ‘the season’ starts right after summer, it is usually considered underway sometime around Thanksgiving and ends sometime in January.  I know, you’re thinking it ends after New Year’s Eve, and yes, it typically does here in the U.S., but if you’re traveling to a territory of the U.S., Puerto Rico for ‘the holidays’, they don’t end there until mid-January with the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian, which literally translates to ‘party on San Sebastian Street’.  I digress.

First, lets examine basic holiday greetings.  ‘Merry Christmas’ was discouraged several years ago, as not being inclusive; but if you know the person you’re extending this salutation to be a Christian, then it’s OK.  Nowadays it’s mostly been replaced with ‘Happy Holidays’.  So, no matter if you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus, you’re good..  Festivus you ask?  For those who didn’t watch Seinfeld, it was created on one of his episodes as a secular holiday, as really a way to eliminate trying to guess what religion a person is so you can address them with the proper holiday greeting.  It has been described as ‘the perfect secular theme for an all-inclusive December gathering’.  Or, as they referred to it on Seinfeld, “a Festivus for the rest of us”.  OK, does that include my pagan friends you ask?

Maybe, but they are covered with a simple ‘Happy Winter Solstice’, or ‘Happy Yule‘.  Yes, Yule, as in Yuletide.  It has come to have a different meaning today than originally, where it referred to the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  I’ll never sing, “Yuletide carols being sung by a choir” again without wondering what I am really singing about.

OK, I think we’ve beat that dead horse enough.  Let’s move on to helping you understand the terms that you’ll be hearing over the next couple of months, and with whom you should use them.

Epiphany – A Christian feast day celebrated on January 6th, commemorating the Magi’s visit to the baby Jesus.  For: Christians, who don’t want the holidays to end on January 2nd.

Feliz Navidad – A Spanish phrase meaning “Happy Christmas.”  For: Hispanic speaking Christians

Frankincense –  a hardened gum-like material that comes from the trunk of the Boswellia that symbolizing holiness. For: Anyone who wants to feel holiness in a Boswellian sort of way.

Kinara – A candle holder for the seven candles lit during Kwanzaa. For: Anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa, it is most popular among Blacks worldwide.

Krampus – this is a half-goat, half-demon character of European folklore who punishes misbehaving children during Christmas.  For: Anyone who still uses Santa Claus to get their kids to behave.

Magi – The Zoroastrian priests of ancient Persia. According to tradition, three of these “wise men” visited the infant Jesus.  For:  Christians, Iranian Zoroastrians and anyone who can find three wise men.

Mele Kalikimaka –  A phonetic translation of “Merry Christmas” into the Hawaiian language.  For: Those who don’t find it distasteful, since it’s a colonizing party’s song using the native tongue for novelty.

Myrrh – A fragrant oil that is used for problems in the stomach and intestines, congestion and parasite infections. For: Anyone of any religion with GERD, acid reflux or other digestive issues

Wassail – A hot, spiced cider drink, traditionally served to poor carolers by their wealthy neighbors.  Any lower economic caroler regardless of religion or anyone looking for a little holiday spirit.

One last reminder for whatever or however you celebrate the holidays  – an apostrophe is no way to pluralize a surname. Let’s say your last name is Watts, or it ends in an s, ch, sh, x, or z, how would you sign a card from your whole family?

            • Wattses
            • Watts’
            • Watts’s

If you guessed the first one, which looks like the wrong answer, you are correct!  If you’re still confused or not convinced, just write, from the Watts family. 

You’re welcome!

Hope you have a Happy, Merry, Festivus holiday season.

LOST AND CONFUSED IN THE ICE CREAM AISLE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

How many choices do you need?

My love of cake notwithstanding, sometimes in the summer months I indulge in ice cream.  Not long ago I was perusing the ice cream aisle at the supermarket and as I scanned the freezer shelves, I marveled at the options: full fat, slow-churned, low fat, sugar free, sherbet, gelato, ices, soy ice cream, rice ice cream, oat milk ice cream, and on and on.  The flavors were as varied as the types, ranging from French Vanilla (it’s never just “vanilla” anymore) to Phish Food (which tastes better than it sounds).  I was so overwhelmed that I came home empty-handed, once again convinced that my love of cake, in part, exists because it is so much simpler than ice cream.

 

My favorite!

I thought back to when I was a kid and ice cream was our nightly dessert.  Our mother was not a baker, but she could buy a mean container of ice cream.  There were no fancy flavors back then; we either had chocolate or vanilla.  Some families had strawberry, but we saw little attraction in that.  Our neighbors had an ice cream churn and made fresh fruit ice cream all summer long, but I didn’t trust anything that didn’t come out of a cardboard box.  Our family was split as to flavors; our dad, Bob and I liked chocolate, while our mom and brother Jack liked vanilla.  I hated it when mom served vanilla until Bob taught me to pour a generous heap of Hershey’s chocolate sauce over it and blend until – voila! – it turned to chocolate.

The Novato Creamery on the main street in town

It was always a special occasion when I got to go out for ice cream.  Our dad’s shop was just down the street from the Borden’s Novato Creamery.  Occasionally mom would drop me off with dad while she ran errands and then he and I would sneak down to the Creamery. I still remember the horseshoe-shaped counter and Betty, the nice waitress who greeted us with a dimpled smile.  We always ordered a chocolate milk shake.  To my dad’s everlasting credit, he never made me share.  We would watch as Betty placed the ice cream and milk into the Hamilton Beach blender’s metal cups. We not only each got a shake, but it was at the Creamery I was introduced to that wonderful tradition of the “sidecar”.  Back in the day before corporate accountants figured out exactly how much ice cream and milk would fit into a milk shake glass, there was always a bit of shake left in the metal cup.  The frosty “sidecar” was placed next to the full glass, as if taunting us to finish the whole thing.  We always did.

Twiggy. I hate her.

The Creamery eventually closed, in part due to the newly opened Berkeley Farms, a diner that served up legendary banana splits.  Then in 1966 a new company – Baskin-Robbins – opened in our town.  We gazed in wonderment at their flavors. Thirty-one! Prior to that we thought Spumoni was the most exotic ice cream available.  My best friend and I became regulars at BR.  She liked Mint Chocolate Chip and I liked Jamoca Almond Fudge. It wasn’t unusual to find us on a weekend night drinking TAB and eating an entire container of BR ice cream.  Then in 1967 our love affair with ice cream came to a crashing halt.  Twiggy burst onto the scene and became the fashion icon of our time.  As teenage girls we were influenced by supermodels and strived to be like her.  And for the first time in my life, I was introduced to that most evil of entities – the calorie count.  Turns out that a double scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge contains 540 calories.  Clearly, I was not going to look like Twiggy if I maintained my ice cream habit, so ice cream became forbidden in my quest to look like a Q-tip.   It was at this point I turned to cake.  Those wonderful people at the bakery figured out that one can blissfully eat cake if there is no calorie count on the container.

I feel sorry for today’s kids with all of the ice cream choices.  I recall an interior designer telling me once that people should only have three choices in any product; more than that becomes overwhelming and oftentimes causes inaction.  Kids faced with today’s plethora of frozen treats must go into sensory overload.   In a world already overstimulated by social media and streaming services, I think we’d be doing the kids a favor by going back sixty years when chocolate and vanilla ruled the world.  As long as there is Hershey’s chocolate sauce on the vanilla.

 

An Ozark Odyssey

by Bob Sparrow

First, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to go to Amazon and order Pat Miles’ & Suzanne’s book, Before All is Said and Done.  I have read it and it is truly something that I think every couple should read and follow.

Sunset at Top of the Rock

For this blog, the alcohol is bootleg moonshine, and the music is from the Dillards, my favorite bluegrass band from Salem, Missouri.

We got a taste, literally, of the Ozarks, on our way from the Springfield airport to Branson when we stopped for dinner at Lambert’s Café, an institution in the Ozarks since 1942, where you get your hot dinner rolls from the server standing on the other side of the dining room and throwing them to you!  A good thing we could catch, or part of our dinner would have ended up on the floor, maybe that would have been better, the food was not that great!

The ’Great Eight’s’ (the Budds, Sagers, VanBoxmeers and Sparrows) first full day in Branson brought us to the historic Table Top Golf Course – a par three course that one can only walk, no carts, and it has only 13 holes!  They surely didn’t run out of real estate, so I’m guessing no one was counting the holes when they were building the course.  After the round we stopped at the ‘14th hole’ for cocktails.  It was a perfect weather day and for some reason our scores were much lower!

Heading out on Table Top Lake

The next day was spent on a rented outboard pontoon boat, cruising Table Rock Lake and having lunch on the lake on another picturesque day.  I suppose the weather gods were making it up to me for that lousy Alaskan weather!

Day Three was back to The Top of the Rock for another round of golf at Ozarks National, the score doesn’t matter, it was another perfect weather day.  After golf we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening experiencing the picturesque golf cart tour which included a cave, with a drive-up bar in it, amazing rock and waterfall features and spectacular views of the valley and lake below.  That was followed by a beautiful sunset ceremony at Big Cedar Lodge including the firing of a cannon and the playing of bag pipes and a splendid dinner.  Oh yeah, the Table Top/Top of the Rock complex is the creation of Johnny Morris, a billionaire businessman, from Springfield, who started Bass Pro Shops and then created the golf complex here.  Linda ran into him on our visit and I’ve not seen her since!  I wasn’t aware that she even liked bass fishing!

Johnny Morris & Linda

Two more rounds of golf, one at Buffalo Ridge (our favorite) where there were actually buffalo on the ridge, and our last round at Branson Hills, both very good golf courses on very nice days.

One evening we saw The Baldknobbers show, funny name, but great show of singing (country, rock and gospel) and comedy.  It is the longest running show in Branson, it’s been playing for 63 years!  The grandson of the original creator of the show is now the lead singer.

My overall impression of Branson is very different than what I had imagined; I imagined a fairly small town with a main street lined with lots of theaters, like Andy Williams, Tony Orlando, Dick Clark, etc.  Those theaters are there, and there is a downtown area where you can buy tee shirts and coffee mugs, but the theaters are spread out all over the countryside.  And there are lots of things for kids to do from miniature golf to Ferris wheels to zip lines and much more.  While the food was generally just OK, the people were the nicest I’ve seen in the US, and I’ve been to Minnesota!

Great trip, but if I had to do it over, I’d play less golf and see more shows.  Oh yeah, I do kind of wonder what ever happened to Linda.

 

 

 

BEFORE ALL IS SAID AND DONE

In October 2020, my friend and neighbor, Pat Miles Zimmerman, returned to Arizona from her summer home in Minneapolis with an idea for a book.  Pat’s husband, Bucky, had died of pancreatic cancer in February 2019, just three months after receiving his diagnosis.  When Bucky’s doctor advised Pat and Bucky to get their affairs in order, they thought their affairs were in order.  But as it turned out, they had been set for life, but not for death.  After Bucky died, Pat experienced a plethora of problems, many of which she had not anticipated.  As Pat spoke with friends about her experience, she learned that she was not alone: very few people prepare to leave this world.  And yet…we’re all going to.  As Pat observed, we prepare for a baby, to go away to college, to marry – really for all of life’s milestones – but we don’t plan for death. She was determined to address the issue head-on.  So, on that October day in 2020, she called me and said, “I have an idea for a book, and I want you to help me write it.”

Many people express a desire to write a book, but Pat’s background and experience brought credibility to the idea.  Pat was a revered part of the Twin Cities media landscape for more than a quarter of a century. She was a TV news anchor for WCCO-TV and KARE 11, she was also the creator and host of A Pat Miles Special for KARE and rounded out her career as host of The Pat Miles Show on WCCO Radio. Pat has won numerous accolades, including the National Television Academy’s Silver Circle Award and induction into the Minnesota Broadcast Hall of Fame. Needless to say, she is an expert at interviewing people and telling their stories.   

We started by doing some competitive research and discovered that most books written for widowed people are either written solely about grief or recount a singular experience with the death of a spouse.  Our idea was to provide a broad array of perspectives, from many people and on a variety of subjects.  As we delved more into our research and conversations, we realized that many of the problems widowed people encounter could have been prevented with some pre-planning.  It became apparent that this lack of preparation added unnecessary stress to an already stressful time.  As Pat learned firsthand, by the time someone receives a terminal diagnosis, it’s often too late to start planning. We decided that our book would not only address issues that occur after a death, but what actions need to be taken beforehand.  Thus, the title of the book is Before All is Said and Done.

After our research concluded, Pat spent the next 18 months interviewing dozens of widowed people to learn about their experiences.  The problems were varied – financial, legal, family dynamics, alcoholism, dementia, sudden death and of course, grief – just to name a few.  She then sought advice from experts on how to avoid the problems or how to better cope with a situation.  We learned some new concepts: end-of-life doulas who can guide a family through a terminal illness and “intention letters”, that convey the thought process behind unequal inheritances, how family assets or belongings should be distributed, or to pass on family values and history. Through her contacts Pat was able to interview such notables as Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Bonnie Carroll, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work with military widows, and Melanie Bloom, the widow of NBC News correspondent David Bloom, who took her husband’s very public death and turned it into a public service.  Pat found doctors, lawyers, accountants, psychologists, and counselors who were all intrigued by the idea behind the book and wanted to participate. 

We quickly got into a rhythm for putting the book together; Pat would send me her thoughts or personal experience on a topic for the introduction, along with the transcripts of her interviews that pertained to that subject. I then turned the interview questions and answers into a narrative that combined the widows’ stories with advice and counsel from the experts.  We edited the subjects down to twelve chapters that deal with grief, estate planning, financial planning, blended family dynamics, dementia, sudden death (including suicide), COVID-19 deaths, military deaths (and why they are different), alcoholism, end-of-life doulas, self-care, and finally, examples of people who have come out the other side of grief to make new lives for themselves. 

It has been a long two years, filled with writing and rewriting, but finally, our book will be released tomorrow!  We are excited to share our work.  This is not just a book for those of us on Social Security.  In fact, the book includes several stories of women in their 30’s whose husbands died unexpectedly and left them with complex problems to solve.  The book is really for anyone who has a spouse, partner, children, or any loved one they will leave behind.  

If you would like more information here is a link to the Amazon page, where you can read about it and, we hope, purchase it: https://amzn.to/3BZBiJp

I have learned a lot about the book business in the past year.  One thing I learned is that if a book gets more than 50 reviews on Amazon it gets the attention of Goodreads, BookBub, and other book selling sites.  So, if you buy the book and have an account with Amazon, we would appreciate it if you could take a moment to write a review.  I also learned that there’s no faking it – Amazon tracks if you really bought the book. If you choose to buy the Kindle version, you must have read at least 30% of the book for your review to count.  They track that too. I think my next book is going to be about how Amazon works.

The past two years have both gratifying and educational.  Given that I spent my career in the financial services industry I believed I had all of my documents in order.  I didn’t. I learned, and am still learning, how to be a better writer.  But mostly I learned that you could embark on a long, sometimes difficult project with a friend and not only end up still friends, but better friends.  All in all, it’s been a great journey.

BEFORE ALL IS SAID AND DONE!

In October 2020, my friend and neighbor, Pat Miles Zimmerman, returned to Arizona from her summer home in Minneapolis with an idea for a book.  Pat’s husband, Bucky, had died of pancreatic cancer in February 2019, just three months after receiving his diagnosis.  When Bucky’s doctor advised Pat and Bucky to get their affairs in order, they thought their affairs were in order.  But as it turned out, they had been set for life, but not for death.  After Bucky died, Pat experienced a plethora of problems, many of which she had not anticipated.  As Pat spoke with friends about her experience, she learned that she was not alone: very few people prepare to leave this world.  And yet…we’re all going to.  As Pat observed, we prepare for a baby, to go away to college, to marry – really for all of life’s milestones – but we don’t plan for death. She was determined to address the issue head-on.  So, on that October day in 2020, she called me and said, “I have an idea for a book, and I want you to help me write it.”

Many people express a desire to write a book, but Pat’s background and experience brought credibility to the idea.  Pat was a revered part of the Twin Cities media landscape for more than a quarter of a century. She was a TV news anchor for WCCO-TV and KARE 11, she was also the creator and host of A Pat Miles Special for KARE and rounded out her career as host of The Pat Miles Show on WCCO Radio. Pat has won numerous accolades, including the National Television Academy’s Silver Circle Award and induction into the Minnesota Broadcast Hall of Fame. Needless to say, she is an expert at interviewing people and telling their stories.   

We started by doing some competitive research and discovered that most books written for widowed people are either written solely about grief or recount a singular experience with the death of a spouse.  Our idea was to provide a broad array of perspectives, from many people and on a variety of subjects.  As we delved more into our research and conversations, we realized that many of the problems widowed people encounter could have been prevented with some pre-planning.  It became apparent that this lack of preparation added unnecessary stress to an already stressful time.  As Pat learned firsthand, by the time someone receives a terminal diagnosis, it’s often too late to start planning. We decided that our book would not only address issues that occur after a death, but what actions need to be taken beforehand.  Thus, the title of the book is Before All is Said and Done.

After our research concluded, Pat spent the next 18 months interviewing dozens of widowed people to learn about their experiences.  The problems were varied – financial, legal, family dynamics, alcoholism, dementia, sudden death and of course, grief – just to name a few.  She then sought advice from experts on how to avoid the problems or how to better cope with a situation.  We learned some new concepts: end-of-life doulas who can guide a family through a terminal illness and “intention letters”, that convey the thought process behind unequal inheritances, how family assets or belongings should be distributed, or to pass on family values and history. Through her contacts Pat was able to interview such notables as Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Bonnie Carroll, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work with military widows, and Melanie Bloom, the widow of NBC News correspondent David Bloom, who took her husband’s very public death and turned it into a public service.  Pat found doctors, lawyers, accountants, psychologists, and counselors who were all intrigued by the idea behind the book and wanted to participate. 

We quickly got into a rhythm for putting the book together; Pat would send me her thoughts or personal experience on a topic for the introduction, along with the transcripts of her interviews that pertained to that subject. I then turned the interview questions and answers into a narrative that combined the widows’ stories with advice and counsel from the experts.  We edited the subjects down to twelve chapters that deal with grief, estate planning, financial planning, blended family dynamics, dementia, sudden death (including suicide), COVID-19 deaths, military deaths (and why they are different), alcoholism, end-of-life doulas, self-care, and finally, examples of people who have come out the other side of grief to make new lives for themselves. 

It has been a long two years, filled with writing and rewriting, but finally, our book will be released tomorrow!  We are excited to share our work.  This is not just a book for those of us on Social Security.  In fact, the book includes several stories of women in their 30’s whose husbands died unexpectedly and left them with complex problems to solve.  The book is really for anyone who has a spouse, partner, children, or any loved one they will leave behind.  

If you would like more information here is a link to the Amazon page, where you can read about it and, we hope, purchase it: https://amzn.to/3BZBiJp

I have learned a lot about the book business in the past year.  One thing I learned is that if a book gets more than 50 reviews on Amazon it gets the attention of Goodreads, BookBub, and other book selling sites.  So, if you buy the book and have an account with Amazon, we would appreciate it if you could take a moment to write a review.  I also learned that there’s no faking it – Amazon tracks if you really bought the book. If you choose to buy the Kindle version, you must have read at least 30% of the book for your review to count.  They track that too. I think my next book is going to be about how Amazon works.

The past two years have both gratifying and educational.  Given that I spent my career in the financial services industry I believed I had all of my documents in order.  I didn’t. I learned, and am still learning, how to be a better writer.  But mostly I learned that you could embark on a long, sometimes difficult project with a friend and not only end up still friends, but better friends.  All in all, it’s been a great journey.