PANDEMIC PLANS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

Well, it’s been quite the week, heh?  Last week at this time I had all sorts of social engagements and golf games on the calendar.  Today, I think of a trip to the grocery store as a major outing.  Mind you, an outing the warrants rubber gloves and endless sheets of Clorox wipes.  Who ever thought that going to pick up some rutabagas would become a life-threatening excursion?  When they first told us to watch out for the elderly I envisioned the folks that Dash the Wonder Dog used to visit in the retirement care center.  To my horror, I soon discovered that I’m considered elderly and, therefore, in a high-risk group.  Our paranoia about the virus has resulted in some changes around here.  We’ve begun to look at our friends in a whole new light – do we really think the Smiths wash their hands as thoroughly as they should?  Is Sally going to the grocery store and then not wiping down her countertops?  And what about those Johnsons?  They had their kids and grandkids in for spring break last week.  Surely they are swimming in germs over at their house.  Just to make it easy, we are not only socially distancing – we are socially hibernating.

The other change is that we now spend a fair amount of time figuring out what to do.  Normally, each morning when we walk Dash we talk about our plans for the day.  Now, with nothing on our calendar, that conversation is a little stretched for content.  My husband’s main “job” is to play golf.  His secondary job is to watch golf and hockey on TV. But now our golf course has closed down and all sports have been suspended so he’s out of work.  I’m not sure that the new relief package is going to cover his “unemployment”.  But we may need it.  His occasional pastime is watching the stock market but we’ve had to put an end to that as well – his heart just couldn’t take it anymore.  I usually knit a couple of hours a day because I enjoy it and it’s a calming activity.  But now that I have all the time in the world and no place to go, my knitting feels like a time-filler, which is sadly true.  Yesterday I tackled some ironing I’ve been putting off and I cleaned the kitchen for the n-th time and then I ran out of ideas.  Now I’m wishing that I hadn’t spent so much time last year organizing my closets.  Damn that “sparking joy” craze.  My spice rack is alphabetized, the sock drawer is neat as a pin, and all of my pantry items are resting in their designated baskets. I’m looking for other activities to keep me entertained, and – this is important – refrain me from killing my husband. My friends and I joke that among the 30-somethings we will see a baby boom in 9 months, while some of us older folks may well end up in the hoosegow for murdering our spouse.

We’re only 8 days into the 15 day “distancing” suggestion and I’m already antsy.  I’ll get over it.  Really, it’s not much of a sacrifice to sit on the couch with Dash, watch trashy TV and knit.  When I think about what the front line people at hospitals are going through it gives me shivers.  I can’t imagine their stress – not only the anticipation of a coronavirus tsunami, but the risk they take for themselves and their families working so near the disease.  I worry about all the small businesses that may be lost because we all have to stay home – businesses that have provided our communities with so much diversity and character.  But I am optimistic that we will all get through this.  I’m cheered by some unusual bi-partisanship in Washington and how citizens of all stripes are pulling together.  For every stupid college student on the beach in Florida saying they don’t care if they infect others, there are 10 great kids who are volunteering to help the elderly and needy.  It’s uplifting and perhaps just what we needed to remind us that we’re all Americans.

I hope that in two weeks time when I’m writing this blog we will be through the worst of it.  But according to this website https://covidactnow.org/  we may just be at the beginning.  So just in case, does anyone have the name of a good bail bondsman?

MARCH MADNESS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

If you live in a sunbelt state you would know what month this is without looking at a calendar.  The tip off is increased traffic, a shortage of dinner reservation slots and thousands of white legs in Bermuda shorts.  All that adds up to one thing, it’s March – the month of Spring training for baseball.  Both Florida and Arizona get swamped with visitors this month and then – like magic – they dissapear on April 1.  Last year more than 1,737,975 people attended Spring training games in Arizona’s Cactus League!  Oh sure, some die-hard fans may have attended 20 games or more, but still, that’s a LOT of people coming to the desert in a short period of time.  According to the official Cactus League stats (and isn’t baseball just full of those?), the biggest number of fans visit from Chicago to see their beloved Cubbies.  More than 16,000 people showed up for just ONE game last year.  And who can blame them when the average temperature here is 75 and back home…well, they’re putting on six layers of clothes just to walk the dog.

Baseball is not the only event that March brings.  Seemingly every school in the United States is on Spring Break over the next four weeks.  Normally Arizona is not as inundated as Florida, given that we don’t have sandy beaches or a long history of hosting drunk college students.  But this year it seems there are more kids visiting grandparents in our community.  Maybe with the corona virus people have cancelled trips to Disneyworld or Atlantis...who knows?  Grandma and Grandpa’s house sounds like a good alternative – it’s free and less germ-ridden than your average hotel room.  I expect that for the next month our community pool is going to need extra chlorine for those youngsters who confuse the pool with the restroom.  Our gym will also be packed – mostly with college-age kids who run on the treadmill at speeds that I could only dream about.  God, they make me feel old.  They will also be talking on their phone and – most disturbingly – not wipe off the equipment after they use it.  When they leave at the end of the month we will have been exposed to every virus currently circulating in our institutions of higher learning.  Personally, I’m skipping the gym this month – I can’t find a hazmat suit to fit me.

Finally, for some reason the golf clubs around here have conspired to schedule all the big invitational tournaments this month.  Okay, granted, I don’t have to play in our club’s event, but it’s really fun and at least it’s an outside activity.  Plus it’s always fun to bet on the same people who win every year.  In the golf world these people are known as “sandbaggers”, meaning they artifically inflate their handicap and and then shocked – SHOCKED! – when they shoot an unbelievely low score in the tournament.  So betting on them to win is the only way to feel good about these people – they are so reliable that every year there is money to be made on their shenanigans.  I’m just hoping that my score isn’t so bad that I’ll wish I had been quarantined with the corona virus instead.

The good news is that this March will bring two great events – this week we will be hosting brother Bob and his wife Linda and next week is St Patrick’s Day.  It’s fortuitous that these two events will happen so close together because not only are we excited to spend some time with Bob and Linda, but just to add to the anticipation, my brother is the only member of my family who will share a Guinness with me in salute to the old country. That almost makes up for all those white legs we’ll be spotting this month.  On my visit to Ireland I was told that Guinness is considered medicinal, packed with vitamins and minerals.  That’s probably a lot of blarney.  Still, maybe the CDC should put it on their “recommended” list, right up there with hand sanitizer.  After all, it’s probably just as effective and it’s a heck of a lot easier to find.

SPORTS BALM

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This past weekend we observed the 40th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice”, when the US Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union in a shocking upset.  I’ve read a few articles about that game and how uplifting it was to our national psyche.  Of course I remembered the game – it was actually the first hockey game I ever watched – but I had forgotten how dismal our morale was at the time.  The preceding years had brought us the Vietnam War, Watergate, raging inflation and blocks-long lines to get gasoline.  A regular smorgasbord of misery.  President Carter, six months prior, had given a speech wherein he spoke of our collective “crisis of confidence”.  But then our hockey team, overwhelming underdogs, did the impossible and suddenly we all felt better.  We regained a bit of our swagger and once again, Americans felt anything was possible.

Turns out that identifying with a sports team, Olympic or otherwise, can have great psychological benefits.   Adam Earnhardt, co-author of “Sports Fans, Identity and Socialization: Exploring the Fandemonium.” points out that walking in a mall wearing a team cap or shirt instantly connects you to others fans of the team.  In that sense, your favorite team can serve the same purpose as church and family, fostering a sense of belonging.  I can attest to this.  My husband is a huge USC football fan and has struck up conversations with complete strangers who are wearing a Trojan logo.  One time he stumbled on the father of a recent draft recruit in the grocery store and the conversation went on for an hour.  No amount of my hinting about melting ice cream could deter the two of them from re-living every game from the past season.  Scholars who study “fandom” have also found there is no correlation between being a fan and a winning record.  Oh sure, there are bandwagon fans who jump on when times are good but a true fan is consistent through thick and thin.  One need look no further than the Chicago Cubs for an excellent example of this phenomenon. They had longest time between World Series wins – 108 years 19 days.  Their 2016 championship was one for the ages.  Lots of people were suddenly sporting Cubs hats, shirts and beer cozies.  But the true fans had supported the team all of their lives.  We know people who cried tears of joy and lamented that a long-lost relative never lived to see the Cubs win the Series.  Those life-long fans shared a joy and sense of redemption that could only be imagined by the rest of us.

The other aspect of “fandom” is the idolization of a particular athlete vs a team.  There may not be a better example of this than the LA Lakers.  The Lakers are synonymous with the Southland, but when you think about the team one most often congers up one of the all-time great players: Magic, Kareem, Kobe and Shaq.  Our collective reaction to the tragic death of Kobe illustrates the flip-side of being in the “sports community”.  Today, as the memorial service takes place for Kobe and his daughter Gianna, we will mourn their loss.  In grieving, we will, once again, have a shared moment.

Mostly, I think sports and athletes can be an uplifting balm for whatever ails us.  From football to curling, celebrating a win or bemoaning a loss can bring us together with complete strangers.  These days, I’m for anything that can accomplish that.

 

THE CORONA VIRUS BLUES

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

News about the corona virus gets scarier by the day.  More cases, more deaths and more quarantined people.  The experts are saying that warmer weather in the Spring should contain the virus but, Puxatony Phil aside, we’re still several weeks away from cherry blossoms and daffodils.  I know people here in Scottsdale that didn’t go to the Phoenix Open for fear of contracting the disease given the massive crowds.  Personally, I think there is enough alcohol consumed at the event that germs don’t stand a chance of surviving.  Still…you never know where it might appear.

 

As a bona fide germaphobe I have to admit that I’m a bit extra cautious these days – there is an epidemic of the regular flu going around that has made people sick for weeks.  I keep a container of Purell in the door pocket of my car so that I can wipe it on my hands whenever I’ve touched anything in public.  I grab an antiseptic wipe when I enter the grocery store, not only to wipe down the cart handle, but also to cover my finger with it when I punch in my phone number at the check-out counter.  I’d rather have my kidneys explode than touch a door handle in a public restroom.  I don’t even use the pen they provide in a restaurant or doctor’s office to sign anything – I have my own pen at the ready, sterilized and untouched by the masses.  More and more I frequent places where I can use my Apple Pay so I don’t have to touch anything.  Okay, I know that I can be a bit over the top.  At Walgreen’s the other day a woman in front of me was watery-eyed and coughing into her hand, and then used  the keypad to punch in her number as she paid her bill.  As I approached the counter the clerk asked me brightly if I would like to put my number in.  That garnered her my five minute rant questioning how a drug store that is full of sick people with the latest flu, asks people to put their hands on something that those same sick people have touched.  She told me that they do wipe down the keypads several times a day.  I rolled my eyes.  Clearly the powers that be at Walgreen’s need to teach their employees about how germs get spread.  Maybe I could consult.

In any event, I think most people agree that avoiding the flu, and particularly the corona virus, requires a good immune system.  Eating berries of any sort is highly recommended and in particular the elderberry.  At first I thought that might be a berry for old people but, turns out, it’s been the basis of moonshine and cough syrup for generations.  It was even featured in the movie Arsenic and Old Lace where the aunts used it in their deadly pursuits.  Aunt Martha gave the recipe: “For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoon full of arsenic, then add half a teaspoon full of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide.”  Hmmmm…that might be going a bit too far.  A friend recently went to Mexico and her doctor told her to chug Elderberry Syrup before, during, and after her trip.  A few of her travel companions had the flu but my friend sailed through in fine fashion.  I found Sambucol Elderberry Syrup at Costco.  It claims to improve the immune system as well as assist heart health and allergies.  I just started taking it last week but so far I don’t have the flu, haven’t had a heart attack and my allergies actually are better.

I’ll keep you posted.  After all this if I come down with the flu I guess the joke’s on me.  Plus, it could screw up my consulting job at Walgreen’s.

ME IN A CAR GETTING DOUGHNUTS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

A few weeks ago I read an article on the CNBC website about Kakeibo.  In case you think that’s a form of sushi, I’ll explain.  Kakeibo roughly translates to “household financial ledger.” Invented in 1904 by a woman named Hani Motoko (notable for being Japan’s first female journalist), kakeibo is a simple, no-frills approach to managing your finances.  In essence, every purchase is made with thoughtfulness.  If you practice it you will ask yourself several questions before buying anything – can I live without it?, can I afford it?, will I really use it?, etc.  That seems like a lot of thought process to go through when buying toilet paper but it’s probably not a bad concept on anything more important…like that new pair of Manolo Blahniks.  I’ve been practicing Ms. Motoko’s approach most of my life.  As a struggling college student and then when I had my first job and apartment, eating a solid diet of bologna sandwiches prepares one for frugality.  Which, in part, is why I seldom buy a new car.

My current car, and Acura MDX, has been showing it’s age.  Not the body or interior – that still looked pretty good.  But the car was 9 years old which, from an electronics standpoint made it something out of the Pleistocene era.  Every six months I would get an offer from Acura asking me if I wanted to update the nav system and I always declined.  After all, I always carry my cell phone so I didn’t see the need.  But my husband convinced me that I really needed a new car if we are going to go on any long trips this summer.  God forbid, we would dirty up his BMW taking it anywhere.  I decided to go back to the Lexus RX SUV, a car I’ve owned twice before.  And here was a contributing factor:  Lexus always has a great lounge with baked goods and coffee.

Our first venture into a dealer was our local one and the car salesman had all the traits of a Randy Quaid character – just the slightest bit sleazy.  His attitude was “we sell a million of these so we don’t care if you buy one.”  So we didn’t.  Then we were lucky enough to have our friend Alfy take my husband to Superstition Springs Lexus to meet with Mark Dent.  I instructed them to find me a silver car (because that’s really the most important thing about a car, right?) and sure enough they came home with a deal.  I would have loved it if they’d just driven it home but nothing is ever that simple.  Turns out I needed to be there to sign all the paperwork so, braced for the worst, over the weekend we made the 45 minute trip to pick up my new car.

Right off I knew I’d like this place because they had a comfy lounge and…wait for it…doughnuts!  Ahhhhhh, that’s when I knew I was back at a Lexus dealer.  Secondly, and probably more important, turns out that Mark Dent is one of the most likable car salesmen I’ve ever met.  He’s actually just a really nice guy, regardless of profession.  He even put the big red bow on my car, which was a fun touch.

A “swift” two and a half hours later we drove off the lot with our new purchase.  We ran into trouble immediately upon entering the freeway because my husband said the steering wheel was shaking.  He was certain that the tires were out of balance.  Turns out, it’s the lane guidance system that alerts you when you’re veering out of your lane.  OMG – I cannot thank Lexus enough for this.  I now can focus on reading or knitting on long car trips, rather than watching for any “drifting” on the part of my driver.

When we got home I made sure that the “captains” chairs configuration in the second row would be suitable for our captain – Dash the Wonder Dog.  After all, any road trip must include comfortable seating for his majesty. As you can see from the photo, he snuggled right in to his new ride.  Last I saw him he was trying to learn the voice control system so he could request pee breaks and dog treats from the back seat.

All in all, it was a great experience and I love the car.  But truth be told, they had me at the doughnuts.

GEAUX JOE!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

If you’re like 30 million other Americans, you will be watching the College Football Championship game tonight between LSU and Clemson.  It is slated to be one of the most exciting playoff games in recent history – both teams are undefeated and have stand out quarterbacks.  Hopefully it will live up to the expectations.  But aside from the thrill of who will win the Championship, many people have found a different reason to take interest in the game – LSU’s quarterback, Joe Burrow.  In this age of bad-boy athletes where the headlines shout of domestic violence, gun shots, and cheating scandals, Joe Burrow is the soothing balm that reminds us of just how good college sports can be.  This one person, in one night, brought dignity, kindness and generosity to the forefront.  His story bears telling and re-telling.

Joe Burrow hails from one of the most impoverished areas in the United States – southeast Ohio.  His hometown is Athens, a part of Appalachia that has yet to see significant benefit from the soaring stock market and lower unemployment rate.  Joe is a product of the local high school and was heavily recruited upon graduation.  He attended Ohio State, where he red-shirted, obtained his BA in Family Resource Management, and then with two years eligibility remaining, decided to transfer to a school where he could get more playing time.  In May 2018 he signed on with LSU and their charismatic coach, Ed Orgeron.  The rest is history.

Fast forward to December 14, 2019.  Burrow was one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy and, in a surprise to no one, he not only took home the trophy but did so by a wider margin than any winner in history, securing 93.8 percent of the possible points.   That alone would make him stand out in anyone’s book.  But it’s what he did next that swayed hearts and minds.  In his acceptance speech he not only thanked the usual people – his teammates, parents and coaches (including those from Ohio State), he took the opportunity of being on the big stage to remember those who have not been as fortunate as he.  Mid-way through his speech he said the following: “Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area. The poverty rate is almost two times the national average. There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home—not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too.” He was crying, and I’m guessing anyone watching cried right along with him. It was a thoughtful moment – surely one to make everyone who ever had anything to do with this young man feel proud.  His dad commented the next morning that he received over 500 texts and the overwhelming majority of them congratulated him on Joe’s thoughtfulness, not the piece of hardware he’d won.  But it’s what happened next that highlights the positive impact just one high-profile athlete can have.

The following morning, Sunday, December 15th, Athens High and Ohio grad, Will Drabold, was so moved by Joe’s speech that he decided to set up a fundraiser on Facebook for the all-volunteer Athens County Food Pantry with a goal of $1,000.  By the end of that first day he had collected more than $50,000.  Major media outlets picked up on the story and by Monday morning, the total donations surged to $80,000, which happens to be the annual budget the Food Pantry.  By Tuesday, December 17th, the fund had collected more than $350,000.  Drabold raised the goal to $500,000 – why not shoot for the stars?

On Wednesday, at a local middle school, a teacher played Burrow’s Heisman speech for her students. When they finished watching the speech, she said she saw “a lot of bug eyes, like, Wow, he’s talking about us.” They sat down to write letters to Burrow. One of the boys in the class turned this in:
Dear Joe Burrow,
Thank you for showing me and other children that no matter where you’re from or your life story, if you work hard you can achieve greatness. Also, thank you for giving back to your community. You have inspired me to not be embarrassed by my life story and work hard to achieve my goals. Again, thank you very much.
The student signed his name, and under it wrote: “Just a kid from Southeast Ohio.”

On Friday, December 20th, donations to the food bank were close to $450,000.  Joe Burrow, meanwhile, accepted another token of his hard work and dedication that day – his Masters Degree in Liberal Arts from LSU.    By Sunday the total for the Food Bank topped out at more than $475,00. Karin Bright, president of the food bank’s board, was asked about the affect of the fundraising on the organization – “I truly hope this opens a conversation across the country and we finally address the issues of hunger and food insecurity in this country. We’re better than this. People in this great country should not be going to bed hungry. And for Joe Burrow to put such a personal face on it—his classmates at Athens, he knew, were going hungry. And he remembered that at this momentous time in his life.”  She said the funds that have been raised are a sacred trust, and will ensure that it is allocated with utmost respect for those who gave it.

As of this morning, game day, the total donations are $503,211.  I don’t know who will win the game tonight, but I do know that Joe Burrow has already made more of an impact off the field than on it.  Yes, thousands of people in Athens County will be less hungry this year, but really, all of us have been given a gift from this upstanding young man.  He has lifted our spirits, caused us to remember that the American people are generous and kind.  He provided a shining example of what college athletes can be.  Joe Burrow is not just a kid from southeast Ohio – he is an inspiration to us all.

So for tonight’s game I say, Geaux, Joe!

 

CELEBRATE 2020 – EAT GRAPES, POUR LEAD, DROP A POTATO!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, here we are again, ready to ring out the old and ring in the new.  Personally, I’ll be glad to ring out the old since it did such a good job of ringing me out this year.  But hope springs eternal for 2020.  There is something inherently optimistic about a new year.  This year we also get the double whammy of anticipating a new decade.  To get us in the mood for New Year’s Eve I researched some of the more unique ways people celebrate the new year around the world.  Trust me, after reading about some of the customs you’re going to feel a whole lot better about your stale bottle of champagne and Cheetos.

The 12 Grapes of Luck – In Spain and some Latin American countries, one New Year’s tradition is to eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the coming year, to secure prosperity. Here’s the challenge: you need to eat one grape with each bell strike at midnight. I think this would be a whole lot easier if we could drink our grapes in a nice Chardonnay.  The likelihood of me choking on a grape is quite high with this one.

Pouring Lead – Who doesn’t want to know what the next year might bring? In Germany, people melt small pieces of lead in a spoon over a candle, then pour the liquid into cold water. The bizarre shapes from the lead pouring (or Bleigießen as it’s known) are supposed to reveal what the year ahead will bring. If the lead forms a ball, luck will roll one’s way, while the shape of a crown means wealth; a cross signifies death and a star will bring happiness.  It kind of puts a whole new spin on “get the lead out”.

Scarecrow Burning – In Ecuador, people build scarecrow-like dolls of politicians, pop stars, or other notable figures to set them alight. Burning the año viejo (old year) is meant to destroy all the bad things from the last year and cleanse for the new.  You can see the potential here, right?  Is it possible to build a scarecrow that exactly replicates Washington DC?

Round Food, Round Clothes, Round Everything – In the Philippines, the start of the new year is all about the money. The locals believe that surrounding themselves with round things (to represent coins) will bring money or fortune. As a result, clothes with polka dots are worn and round food is eaten. I think this one is right in my wheelhouse.  After all, cake and cookies are both round.  By this measure I should be Bill Gates by now.

Tossing Furniture – “Out with the old” is the motto in Naples, where people toss everything from toasters to fridges off their balconies. Getting rid of old possessions symbolizes a fresh start in the new year. To prevent serious injuries, most locals stick to small and soft objects for their throwing tradition, though it’s still a good idea to watch your head should you travel there.  Nothing like being hit on the head by a refrigerator to put a cramp in your Italian vacation.

Animal Spirits – Rural Romania is steeped in tradition. New Year’s Eve celebrations include mask dances and ceremonies about death and rebirth. Dancers dress up in furs and wooden masks depicting goats, horses, or bears, then dance from house to house to ward off evil spirits. The dance of the bear is the most popular. According to pre-Christian folklore, if a bear enters somebody’s house, it brings prosperity, health, and good fortune.  Yeah, tell that to all the people at Tahoe who have “entertained” bears in their house.

The Potato Drop – With less tradition but more high-tech, the people of downtown Boise will welcome the new year by dropping a giant spud from the sky. More than 40,000 spectators turn up to see the internally lit, 400-pound “GlowTato.” Frankly, my husband and I love Boise and have been visiting there for more than 30 years.  Lately it has been overrun by Californians escaping the taxes and high housing prices and it has changed dramatically.  I think the Potato Drop is a “jumping the shark” moment for this formerly low-key town.

Personally, I’ll be sitting in front of a fire eating a great dinner and watching the Utah Utes beat the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl.  It may not be exciting but it beats getting hit on the head with a Barcalounger.

Bob and I would like to wish all of our subscribers and readers a very happy and healthy 2020.

 

JOY TO THE WORLD (WITH A SPLASH OF GIN)

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

        A jolly man indeed

 

Christmas is a lot like golf.  We have visions of greatness and perfection but the reality is often closer to a bogey.  Some years maybe even a double bogey.  As we get older the holiday season can be more difficult, remembering those who are no longer with us or who we no longer see.  I think many people become sentimental about Christmases past when life seemed simpler. Personally, when I’m in the midst of the Christmas fray I long for the Christmases of my childhood when all I had to do is show up. No shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning – just act excited about the gifts under the tree.  I say “act” because there were a lot of years when I found my gifts in my mother’s not-so-secret hiding place and knew exactly what I was getting.  Mostly what I miss are the fun family gatherings, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  There are people who are lucky enough to live close to their families, thus avoiding the packing and mailing of gifts and – worse yet – traveling to see loved ones, but they are becoming fewer and farther to find.  I hardly know anyone anymore who doesn’t deal with some sort of hassle or drama around the holidays.

Which is why this is a good time to reflect on those things in which we can take joy and perhaps be a bit kinder to one another.  It’s often said that we never know what problems people have from looking at the outside.  I’m sure we’ve all known people who appear to “have everything” and yet in reality have significant problems.  And that includes the person who cuts in line at the supermarket or honks their horn in traffic.  Maybe they’re just jerks.  Or maybe the holiday season is particularly difficult for them – the loss of a loved one, illness, a lost job – seem magnified right now.  Throw in all that’s going on in the world, and life can become a bit overwhelming. Which is why a little kindness can go a long way in making someone’s day just a bit better.

In my effort to be a bit more kind I don’t have to look far for an example.  Our dad was the kindest man I’ve ever known.  Coupled with his hysterical sense of humor, he was a force to be reckoned with.  He was in his element at Christmas, with his children gathered around him and hosting friends and family.  I miss him all year long but most especially this season.  So in his memory, I once again provide you with his famous Christmas Ice Cream Fizz recipe.  He served it every Christmas morning and it gave a roseate hue to the entire day. We share his recipe in the hopes that it might help you all enjoy the holidays just a bit more.  After all, ice cream and gin – how kind is that?

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 conspired with Pop and ditched the wine glass for a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.

Wishing all of our subscribers a very happy holiday season! Cheers!

OUR ANNUAL USELESS GIFT GIVING GUIDE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, here we are…it’s Christmas shopping season again.  This year the panic over what to buy those you love (or simply tolerate) is compounded by the fact that it’s a short shopping season.  Compared to last year, there are six fewer days to find the perfect gift.  Or any gift.  Which means that we here at From A Bird’s Eye View are here to help with our annual Useless Gift giving guide.

First on the docket is something that is just the thing for your next dinner party – Red Solo Cup Wine Glasses.  Sometimes it’s hard to find the right balance between formal and “we’re glad you wore a shirt at the table” casualness.  For those who can’t quite decide whether to break out Grandma’s crystal or stick with a backyard BBQ theme this is the perfect solution.  They are also known as Redneck Wine Glasses.  They hit the right note between fine dining and ripping open a bag of salad.

The next find is simply genius – Snittens – The Original Snot Mittens.  How many times have you been skiing when your nose begins to drip like a faucet?  There’s a reason the ski resorts have Kleenex boxes everywhere.  No one wants to see frozen snot.  Enter Snittens – mittens that are specifically designed to keep your nose dry.  In fact, they advertise that the mitten absorbs 28x its weight in snot and tears.  The palm side is designed for tears, while the backside mops up snot.  It was 37 degrees this morning when we took Dash the Wonder Dog out for a walk and believe me, I could have used some Snittens.

Next is a gift for the man who is embarrassed by his physique.  Maybe he’s been working out at the gym this year and is a little wary of meeting up with the rest of the family of flabby butts.  The solution?  The Dad Bod Belt.  All he needs to do is slip this on, maybe get a Redneck Wine Glass, and he’ll fit right in with the rest of the family.

 

The next gift is perfect for the animal lover on your list.  Maybe not your average cat or dog person, but instead someone who has chickens.  The Chicken Harness is a solution to … well, I don’t know what, but imagine the poor chicken owner looking longingly at his or her neighbors who can take their dog for a walk.  Now with this invention they can join in the fun at the dog park.  The manufacturer claims that it is easy to take on and off (I would hope so because no one likes to tussle with a chicken), washable (again, self-explanatory) and a conversation starter.  I would think so.

I am a klutz.  I am constantly bumping into walls and dropping things on my feet.  I’m not hinting or anything but the Bubble Wrap suit is right up my alley.  Made from real bubble wrap and fastened with Velcro, it is easy to slip on and off and protects you from injury and general clumsiness.  It has the added attraction of providing entertainment for those people who find it fascinating to pop bubble wrap.  Of course, that defeats its protective qualities but could keep a grandchild entertained for hours.

Finally, speaking of grandchildren, for those of us who have little boys in the family there is seemingly nothing more hilarious than when Grandpa teaches them the old “pull my finger” trick.  Well now that sentiment can be part of your cherished holiday celebration with the Pull My Finger Santa.  I’m tempted to say that this will keep the grandkids in stitches but frankly, and speaking from some experience, I think Grandpa is the one who finds it so side-splitting.  Whatever.  If people are laughing at family celebrations the source doesn’t really matter.

I hope this practical guide to the impractical lessens your holiday shopping stress.  We strive to be helpful.

 

 

 

THANKSGIVING WITH THE PILGRIMS… A SHAM?

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

   The real First Thanksgiving -in Jamestown

I am a Masterpiece Theater junkie.  I think I’ve watched every program they’ve broadcast, from the divine Upstairs, Downstairs to the questionable Press.  One of my favorite contemporary series is Jamestown.  It so fascinated me that I decided to do some research and read a bit more about it.  So I bought the book, Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin, by James Kelly.  Not only was it an exciting tale of intrigue, human behavior and the founding of our current form of government, it contradicted just about everything I learned in school about America’s “first” colony. But wait a minute, wasn’t Plymouth Rock the site of our first colony?  I’ve been eating two pieces of pumpkin pie for years as a tribute to the Pilgrims’ founding of our nation.  Well, according to Mr. Kelly – not so fast.  Turns out, like a lot of history, the story of the Mayflower settlers vs. those in Jamestown was colored by the fact that winners write the history books.  So, if like me, you might be interested in the following fast facts.

  • In 1606, King James I granted a charter to a new venture, the Virginia Company, to form a settlement in North America. They referred to the entire Atlantic Coast as “Virginia”, named after Elizabeth I, the “virgin queen”.  Perhaps the most mileage anyone has ever gotten out of being a virgin.
  •  Three ships set out from England that fall with 100 settlers, all men.  The group was fairly evenly divided among “gentlemen”, who had no clue about how to do anything useful, and “commoners”, who at least knew how to swing a hammer or plant a field.  They landed in May 1607 at Chesapeake Bay and soon discovered the flaw in their plan – half the group was completely useless except for bickering and jockeying for power.  Finally, they elected one of the sea captains, Christopher Newport, to head the governing council.
  • In the summer of 1607, Newport headed back to England with two ships and 40 crewmembers to give a report to the king and to gather more supplies and colonists. Those 40 crewmembers were all “gentlemen” because the “commoners” had discovered by then that they were really considered indentured servants by the Company and had no rights at all.  The settlers left behind suffered greatly from hunger and illnesses like typhoid and dysentery.  They also lived under constant threat of attack by members of local Algonquian tribes, most of which were organized into a kind of empire under Chief Powhatan.
  •               The beautiful Pocahontas

    It was at this point John Smith, rose as the leader of the remaining settlers and forged a relationship with the Chief and his daughter, Pocahontas.  Pocahontas saved Smith’s life when he was a captive of the Algonquians and their relationship was the basis of a peaceful decade of trade between the settlers and Native Americans.  You remember all those pictures you saw in textbooks of the “first” Thanksgiving in 1621?  John Smith was actually the one who broke bread (okay, it was corn but you get the idea) fourteen years prior to that.

  • By 1619, Company officials and investors wanted to make the colony at Jamestown permanent. Bringing over more English women, particularly women of an elevated social position, seemed to be the solution.  The belief was that the presence of marriageable women would make the men work harder, invest more of themselves in the colony, and improve the poor quality of life that discouraged many settlers from making Virginia a permanent home.  And, might I mention, they added a bit of common sense to the mix.  If you watch the Jamestown series on Masterpiece, this is the time frame in which it is set.
  • In 1619, the colony established a General Assembly with members elected by Virginia’s male landowners; it would become a model for representative governments in later colonies.

              Captain John Smith

I could go on and on but by now I know you’re weeping with boredom.  Let me just finish with this – why do we celebrate the Pilgrims each November rather than the settlers of Jamestown?  As I mentioned at the beginning, it is in large part due to the old adage, “the winners write history”.  Jamestown, in the form of John Smith and Pocahontas, became part of southern culture.  John Smith wrote a book, General History, about his experiences but by the mid-1800’s  Northern scholars, mostly from Massachusetts, began attacking Smith’s credibility.  In the 1840’s the well-written description of the Mayflower settlement, Of Plimouth Planation, was discovered and was mass produced in 1856.  Thanksgiving was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1863, as a day to thank God for the advancing army and navy of the Union.  The Union victory gave New England a decisive moral advantage for the next several generations as no one was going to look to the South for a story about America’s birth.

 

I hope this peaks your interest a bit in Jamestown.  Or not.  I understand not everyone is as interested in this stuff as I am.  There is so much to discover in this story but even if you don’t read any more about it you might toast those poor souls who founded Jamestown next Thursday.  It’s as good an excuse as any to have another glass of wine.