GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I was watching “Fosse/Verdon” the other night on TV (well worth viewing) when I spotted something I hadn’t seen in a long time – a cigarette machine.  Until that moment I hadn’t thought about those instruments of death, once so ubiquitous but now almost extinct.  I can’t remember the last time I saw one.  Clearly the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars was the death knell for them, but seeing one evoked fond memories.  I used to think it was great fun when my dad would give me a quarter to slip into the slot and pull the lever to magically produce his Salem cigarettes.  Of course, back in the ’50’s we had no way of knowing it would eventually lead to his emphysema, but then again, he lived to age 87, most of those years smoking cigarettes and drinking martinis so he had a pretty good – and fun – run.

Seeing something once so prevalent got me to thinking about other items that simply don’t exist any more.  For instance, console TV’s.  I recall getting our first console – maple! – and it taking a prominent position in the family room.  It was considered a piece of furniture, needing to be polished and waxed just like the dining room table.  The picture was always just a bit blurry and we often had to adjust the antenna on the roof, but it beat the green screen we’d had before.  In the late ’60’s my parents splurged and bought a combo console – TV, record player and radio all in one!  In was a behemoth, and I’m sure the sound quality on all three components sucked, but it was a proud possession of my mom until she moved to a retirement home in 2010.  Talk about getting your money’s worth!

 

Although land lines are not yet extinct, they have changed considerably from my teenage years.  Typically they were mounted on a wall or sat on a “telephone table” with a very short cord.  Personal conversations – so critical to any teenager – were impossible.  Where today’s kids beg for a cell phone, my only desire was for my parents to buy a long phone cord.  By exchanging the short cord for the long one I could pick up the phone and take it into my room, close the door, and have all my angst-filled conversations in private.  That said, when we still had the short cord Brother Bob overheard me one day fumbling for a way to turn down a date.  After I hung up, he told me, “Sis, what you say is, ‘I have other plans that night’.  That could mean anything from a date with another guy to washing your hair.”  I have used that line all of my life to gracefully turn down an unwanted event.  So I guess there were advantages to the “family” telephone.  The other advantage is that we didn’t carry it around, ignoring the world around us, or talk on it when we were driving.

 

And while I’m on the subject of phones,  here’s something else you don’t see much anymore – phone booths.  I remember when they were literally on every corner and were an oasis if you needed directions, were running late or simply needed privacy (for those who had short cords).  Kids today don’t realize how easy they have it when they get stuck in traffic on their way to an appointment.  They simply power up the cell phone and call the person to update their status.  We used to frantically search out a phone booth, often times pulling off a freeway in a strange neighborhood or, as I did once, walk a mile to find the nearest phone.  To compound the problem, once you found a phone booth you had to pray that you had the right amount of change in your pocket.  Nothing was worse that placing a call and having the operator (a real live person) tell you to insert 35 cents when all you had was a quarter.  I remember when the phone companies came out with calling cards where you could charge a call to your home phone.  We thought that was the height of technology.  Little did we know that decades later we would be living in a Jetson’s world with a hand-held device that would place calls, display maps, alert us to traffic jams and publicize our outing on social media.

Finally, something not everyone had but we did – a burn barrel.  It was a rusted-out 55 gallon oil drum that was re-purposed into burning leaves in the back yard.  Each fall my dad and his best friend Dick would spend several hours in our yard raking all the leaves into piles.  They would break for lunch and then spend the afternoon shoving all the debris into the burn barrel.  Of course, such strenuous work required a beer so I have wonderful memories of them laughing and burning leaves, almost like two kids playing a fun game.  The smell was wonderful, although God knows what fumes were spewing into the atmosphere.

We’ve certainly made strides over the decades – technology is better, the air is cleaner and we are healthier.  But somehow, given the choice, I’d go back to simpler times, even if I had to have a short cord on the telephone.

 

SPARKING JOY

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

In case you’ve missed it, organizing is a big trend. You can hardly pick up a magazine or scan the internet without bumping into an article about cleaning out and categorizing.  I think we used to call this Spring Cleaning, but of course now that it’s a trend it has a new name and its own hashtag – #sparkjoy.  Marie Kondo, the author of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, started the latest movement and is raking in millions with her books and now her Netflix series, “Tidying Up“.  Seriously, Netflix videos on how to discard and organize.   Her practice is based on the Shinto religion theory of treasuring what you have; treating the objects you own as not disposable, but valuable, no matter their actual monetary worth; and creating displays so you can value each individual object.  So many people are participating in the possession version of Match.Com that thousands of thrift shops around the country are bursting with donations of useless crap that should more properly have been disposed of in a garbage bin.  The Goodwill store in Denver increased their monthly intake by over 500,000 pounds, including discarded tee shirts with armpit stains and underwear with spots that should indeed be unmentionable.

I used to revel in a messy desk and my car was a disaster. My home was just clean enough to pass a health inspection.  I was perfectly happy in my messy little corner of the world until we relocated from California to Arizona.  We had to wait 18 months for our house to be built which necessitated putting three-quarters of our worldly goods into storage. At long last, when the moving company delivered the crates, more than half of the furniture didn’t fit, much of the “stuff” was no longer needed or my tastes had totally changed. Thus, my method of discarding was born. I call it the “Move, Store or Discard” method. Each spring I pretend we’re going to move and determine whether I’d pay to move or store an item.  If not, out it goes.  I never thought about writing a book about it.  But then again, this is not the first boat that’s left the harbor without me.  My method has kept me organized for 20 years.  This year I’ve been focusing on our garage and the kitchen.  I bought several baskets from Amazon and sorted my pantry into categories – baking, cereals, canned goods, cleaning products, etc.  As you can see from the photo, just about everything has a place and is easy to find.  A friend stopped by to see what I was doing and after gazing at my handiwork for a moment she slowly turned to me and said, “I think you might be slightly OCD”.  Yup.

Ms. Kondo suggests that if an item doesn’t “spark joy” it should be donated or discarded.  She further says that we should thank the item for the role it’s played in our lives, suggesting that is a way of properly saying goodbye, so that you can recognize the end of your relationship with it and release it without guilt.  Honestly, I have enough trouble recognizing my relationships with people, much less household appliances. Take my rice cooker, for example.  I just donated that last week because I haven’t used it in a few years.  Why in the hell should I thank it?  It was minimally useful to me and has just been lounging in the back of the cabinet for years contributing nothing to the household.  Thank it?  Good riddance is more like it.  I longingly looked at my floor mop and, as hard as I tried, I could not spark joy looking at it.  I don’t even spark joy at the clean floors after I use it.  But there it sits, in its thankless state, perhaps in hope that one day it will receive its due.  It may be waiting a long time.

I tend to agree more with Joshua Becker, the best-selling author on minimalism, who argues that possessions shouldn’t have that much meaning in our lives to begin with.  Yes, he’s a big proponent of de-cluttering, but for the purpose of making your life more joyous.  His bottom line question is whether the possession is helping to fulfill a larger purpose.  So instead of ridding yourself of 17 old shirts, only to go out and buy 17 new ones, now neatly organized by color in your closet, he proposes that we just pare down to what is useful and meaningful to ourselves or others.  It’s a lot to think about.  But it sure beats time spent contemplating your relationship with a rice cooker.

 

SNAKES IN THE GRASS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Desert blooms…and pollen

 

Spring in Arizona means three things…wildflowers, allergies and snakes.  This past week our winter weather finally came to a close.  After record rainfall and freezing temperatures (including snow!) we can finally break out our sleeveless tops and Bermuda shorts.  Also top of mind is that we should have done more bicep curls and leg squats all winter, but that’s a topic for another day.  With April we find that patios are once again used for wine sipping and lounging.  Sounds great, right?  After all, this glorious weather is what brought us to Arizona to begin with.  But there are a lot of downsides to Spring in the desert.  While I know I won’t get any sympathy from those friends in the Midwest who are still digging out from blizzards and dirty, melting snow, we desert rats have our challenges too.  And it’s more than shoveling sunshine.

 

     The lovely, annoying Palo Verde tree

First, I have to say that the brightly colored flowers and blooming trees so ubiquitous this time of year are one of the true treasures of the Sonoran desert.  Every cactus seems to have it’s own unique flower, each more spectacular than the next.  The Palo Verde trees are a riot of yellow blooms that are gorgeous to view – from INSIDE the house.  Because these lovely works of nature’s bounty bring with them allergies of gargantuan proportions.  I don’t know anyone who isn’t using some sort of nasal spray or allergy tablet.  Even those who have taken dramatic steps to curb allergies can be found with Kleenex stuffed in every pocket and eyes that stream from morning ’til night.  The local Walgreens can barely keep the allergy meds in stock and our noses have begun to look like W.C. Fields on a bad day.  The experts are telling us it will be a bad allergy season because the heavy rainfall has caused an abundance of blooms.  From April until June we venture out of the house at our own risk…there is so much pollen in each tree now that on a windy day it can blow for several blocks.

      The rattlesnake, playing through

My second caution of the season is the annual awakening of the rattlesnakes.  This was brought home to me last week when playing the second hole of our golf course.  There, in the middle of the fairway, we came upon a huge rattlesnake.  Usually they are resting comfortably under bushes or rocks but this guy was in the grass sunning himself, probably critiquing our golf swing.  Our partners, who were looking into the distance and not at the ground, stopped right next to the snake.  As we shouted for them to move the cart, the snake began to coil and hiss.  Never a good sign.  No one was hurt but it was a sure sign that these vipers of the desert are out and we need to be cautious.  Their appearance is good news for the local golf stores as it means that no one with any common sense wanders into the brush to look for a lost ball.  I lost two on Tuesday and as far as I’m concerned the snakes can have them.

Rattlesnakes are scary, that’s for sure.  But Spring also brings our big golf tournaments and another snake in the grass – the Sandbagger.  So between pollen, snakes and cheaters, I’m glad I have some indoor hobbies to keep me occupied.  The good news is the pollen dries up and the winter visitors with their bogus handicaps go away in June.  The bad news? Living here will be equivalent to being in a microwave oven.  You can’t have everything.

SPRING TRAINING HOLD UP

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

It’s that time of year again…Spring Training for Major League Baseball descended on Arizona over the past few weeks.  Avid baseball fans rejoice at the prospect of a good year ahead and come to check out new talent and old favorites.  For those of us who live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area we breathe a sigh of relief each year when the baseball tourists finally clear out.  Not that we don’t appreciate them – after all, the ridiculous add-on fees to rental cars, hotels and baseball tickets are what keep our property taxes down.  But after a month of crowded roads, restaurants filled to the rafters, and way too many sightings of white legs in Bermuda shorts, we’re happy that this week brings an end to the annual rite of Spring.

 

On the upside, Spring Training brings with it an abundance of good people watching.  Similar to the Phoenix Open golf tournament, hoards of young women see this sporting season as their opportunity to meet (and perhaps marry!) either a rich athlete or a wealthy sugar daddy.  Resplendent in their spike heels and halter tops, they cruise the ball fields like mongoose seeking its prey.  Just to give you a sense of how versed these women are in the sport they watch, a friend told me the other day that at the Phoenix Open a young lovely asked if my friend knew who the golfer was on the green.  Without missing a beat my friend responded, “Ben Hogan“, which generated a knowing nod from the questioner, clueless and no doubt tucking that little piece of info into her memory bank so she could later brag to friends about seeing Mr. Hogan in action.  The “super fans” are also worth watching – those people who don everything with their team’s logo, from hat to socks.  One can only imagine why they dress that way.  More perplexing still are the people who have jersey’s configured with their own names on it – as if anyone would believe that the balding, 250 lb. fan once was a baseball god.

The final numbers on Spring Training attendance won’t be out for another week but pre-season predictions were that it would be a “down” year.  And that was before we had unprecedented rain, cold and snow.  I can’t imagine anyone with a lick of sense is surprised by that.  I took a look at the pricing for tickets to the San Francisco Giants game the other day: $442 for the box behind the dugout.  For ONE game!  Just for comparison, in 1973 a box seat for the whole season was $468.  Granted, you can get a seat on the lawn for $25 (actually the only “seat” is yours, planted on a sloping piece of grass) but I can tell you from personal experience that sitting on a lawn for an entire baseball game is highly overrated unless you’re 20 years old. I was thinking about this pricing the other day when I read about Mike Trout’s $430M contract with the Angels.  How can a baseball player possibly be worth that much?  Today’s tickets are outrageous and out of reach for most families, while the average MLB salary in 2018 was $4.47M.  So now even Spring Training baseball joins the ranks of football, hockey and basketball in being unfriendly for family outings.

Clearly there are plenty of people who can afford to attend these events.  In 2017 Americans spent $56 billion (yes, that’s a “B”) to attend sporting events, according to a study by CreditCards.com. The amount includes the cost of tickets, transportation, and food and drinks. If you want to buy a hat you can tack on another $20.  If you have a lot of kids who want a hat…good luck.  Just to put the $56B in perspective, it’s more than double the $27 billion-plus that was spent on book purchases in 2015.  America – what a country!

INTO THE TUNDRA

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

There are times in life when friendship becomes paramount.  Such was the case last week when one of my closest friend’s husband died after a three month struggle with pancreatic cancer.  The funeral services were planned for Minneapolis so a few of us did what good friends do – we made plans to go to Minnesota to support our friend.  It all sounded fine until someone asked me, “What is a California girl like you going to wear?”  Hmmmmm…good question.  I still have my ski socks and Ugg’s so I knew my toes would be toasty.  As for the rest of me, my good friend Patsy offered to loan me her sheared beaver coat for the trip.  Now that is a friend!  So off we went, bundled with coats, scarves and gloves, ready for the tundra.

My only other venture to the North Country was driving Interstate 90 from Chicago to Mt. Rushmore.  But that was in July, when our vistas were lush, green fields and wide open spaces.  In contrast, last week all I saw was white.  We stayed in Wayzata, a charming city on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka.  At least that’s what they told me. All I saw was white snow banks, tapering down to a very large expanse of more white.  They told me that was the lake.  In the middle of the “lake” I could see some huts and, unbelievably, a couple of pick up trucks!  How could that be a lake?  One of the locals explained that they were ice fishing huts and that people drove out to them.  In fact, at times when people have been over-served at the local pubs, they actually have drag racing out on the lake.  It gave me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it – what if the ice cracked?  My California was beginning to show.

But as I say, Wayzata is a cute little town and we were told that Maggie’s Restaurant was the place to go for breakfast.  So our first morning we put on endless pieces of clothing and ventured out to see what the excitement was about.  Maggie’s is a typical greasy spoon diner – linoleum floors, Formica table tops, and waitresses with attitude.  As the three of us nestled into a booth our waitress came over and asked if we’d like coffee.  My friend Terri, a former model who is always dressed to the 9’s, asked if she could have a cappuccino.  The waitress began to shake her head and said, “This is Maggie’s.  You can have coffee or you can have coffee.”  You just know she wanted to end that sentence with “princess”.  We moved on to food, something Maggie’s is famous for.  Knowing that we would not eat again until dinner, we ordered like we were embarking on a 10 day trek – eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, French toast.  Our order came quickly, plates filling every square inch of the table.  The waitress came back to check on things and with a bemused smile, looked at Terri and asked, “Would you like some more cappuccino?”

That afternoon we went into Minneapolis for the services.  It had begun snowing in the morning and would continue until early evening.  A block from our destination two cars in front of us slid and crashed, adding to our anxiety.  Between needing to wear four layers of clothing (which is a hassle when one needs to use the rest room) and navigating the snow to go anywhere I wondered to myself why anyone would live in that climate.  Later that night, a large group of us ate at Gianni’s Steakhouse, a fabulous restaurant which I understand has a lovely patio out back.  All I saw was white.  Around midnight we decided to walk back to our hotel, a distance of four blocks.  After all, it was only -5 with the wind-chill.  But on that walk, with no traffic in the street and a crystal clear sky, I loved the quiet, peaceful feeling of crunching through the snow.  It seemed like the perfect way to end such a sorrowful day.

Back home in Arizona, I held a new appreciation for the warmth.  I guess I really am a California/Arizona girl at heart because I did learn this: if I ever have to live in that cold climate I’m going to learn to wear adult diapers.

GORED WOMEN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Have You Seen This Lately?

Have you seen a lot of red ribbons lately?  Been accosted at the grocery store to donate to heart disease?  Or perhaps you’ve received 500 unsolicited address labels asking for an in-kind contribution?  Nope.  Neither have I.  You would be hard pressed to know that February is National Heart Month.  Contrast this with the month of October – National Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Every billboard, key chain and toilet seat has a pink ribbon on it.  I’ve written previously about the “pimping of the pink” (https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=5582).  My problem isn’t with the much-needed research on breast cancer.  After all, I have some very close friends that are alive today because of the advances made in breast cancer treatments.  My issue is with the ubiquitous pink ribbon that corporations and individuals use to solicit money when, in fact, very little of the money collected actually goes to research.  And in the mean time, money that could be used to fund research for other medical diseases gets squandered.

In fact, heart disease (heart attacks and stroke) kills more women than breast cancer.  According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, in a survey conducted by the American Heart Association, about half of the women interviewed knew that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet only 13% said it was their greatest personal health risk. If not heart disease, then what? Other survey data suggest that on a day-to-day basis, women still worry more about getting breast cancer — even though heart disease kills six times as many women every year. Why the disconnect?

The survey answers may have been influenced by who and when women are afflicted with these diseases.  In the survey researchers found that breast cancer affects body image, sexuality, and self-esteem in ways that a diagnosis of heart disease does not. Also, heart disease tends to show up at an older age (on average, a woman’s first heart attack occurs at age 70), so the threat may not seem all that real to younger women. Most 50-year-old women know women their age who’ve had breast cancer but none who’ve had heart disease.  In fact, the latest report from the CDC indicates that cancer is the leading cause of death in women under the age of 65.  After that, heart disease kills more women than cancer by far.

So, perhaps there is also an “ageist” aspect to all this.  After all, no one who dies while receiving a Social Security check is classified as an unexpected death.  Sure, 70 is the new 50 but I’m not sure on average our bodies are aware of this new social phenomenon.  So older women face two hurdles: age and sex.  The American Heart Association survey also found that many women say their physicians never talk to them about coronary risk and sometimes don’t even recognize the symptoms, mistaking them instead for signs of panic disorder, stress, and hypochondria.   According to that same Harvard article,  a woman’s symptoms are often different from a man’s, and she’s much more likely than a man to die within a year of having a heart attack. Women also don’t seem to fare as well as men do after taking clot-busting drugs or undergoing certain heart-related medical procedures. Research is only now beginning to uncover the biological, medical, and social bases of these and other differences.

The American Heart Association came up with the February awareness initiative to bring some light to all of these issues.  And specifically, they have targeted women with the Go Red For Women campaign.  Their website provides lots of interesting facts and resources – it’s well worth your time to become familiar with it.  Unfortunately, whoever came up with the website name didn’t think things through because it reads “goredforwomen.com”  which, when read quickly, can also read Gored For Women.  Perhaps the AHA needs to hire the marketing geniuses that launched all those pink ribbons.

 

LIVE LONG… AND PROSPER!

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Julia Hawkins – running at 101

This Friday marks our mother’s 100th birthday.  She’s no longer with us – she died 6 years ago two weeks before her 94th birthday.  She was actually fairly healthy but fell in her apartment and broke five ribs.  Who knows whether she might have made it to 100?  Despite the fact she’s no longer here we’ll celebrate anyway.  We Sparrows never have to look far for a reason to hoist a toddy.  Mom’s century mark birthday got me to thinking about the people who actually reach that milestone.  What is their secret?  Turns out, there have been countless studies on the subject, many of which result in conflicting conclusions.  My After reading untold articles on the subject my opinion is that longevity is pretty much a giant roulette wheel.  Some argue that exercise and good, clean living are the secret, while there are ample stories about centenarians who swear by cigarettes and a shot of whiskey each day.  That said, ignoring the “eat spinach and turmeric” advice, there do seem to be some personal qualities that lead to a longer life.

Be Rich – Yep, you read that right.  One of the leading reasons for longevity is the access to health care.  People of means tend to go to the doctor when symptoms arise, thus resulting in earlier diagnosis of serious disease.  So if you want to know how to add some years go add some money to your bank account.

Here’s to your health!

Laugh – Turns out that laughing more – especially at oneself – can lead to increased longevity.  Almost every article I read about living to 100 had some variation of good humor: have a positive attitude, be friendly, socialize.  There are scientific reasons for this that are above my pay grade but basically laughing and being of good cheer releases hormones that reduce stress, which in turn, leads to a longer life. Maybe that’s why so many 100 year-old’s swear by their glass of whiskey!

Get a Pet –  Well, duh.  Any of us who have pets know that they are wonderful companions.  But it turns out that owning a pet can reduce your chance of a heart attack by one-third!  They are the ultimate stress-reducers and provide a sense of purpose by requiring food, walks and scooping up poop.

Cope with trauma – One of the most interesting studies found that male Holocaust survivors lived longer than men of the same age group who immigrated to Israel before Nazi rule. The theory is that living through trauma resulted in post-traumatic growth and a greater appreciation for life. This one hit home for me. My husband and his parents were interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp for four years. His father had every tropical disease known to man during that time. That, coupled with the stress of caring for two small children in a dangerous environment, took a toll. Yet, my father-in-law lived to 90 and my mother-in-law lived to 96. You could not spend more that 20 minutes with them without a discussion of how lucky they were to survive – and thrive. Obviously, these are extreme examples, but there is something fortifying about coming through a bad experience that increases one’s appreciation for each day.

Family – In a world-wide study of people who lived to be 100 there were three regions that produced the most of these rare individuals: Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, and Loma Linda, California (Note to Bob – move 47 miles east and you have it made).  The studies showed many differences but also some things in common – not smoking, moderate exercise, and eating legumes.  Jeez – those legumes show up everywhere.  But the #1 thing they shared was a love of family. Oh sure, I’m sure somewhere in there was a drunk uncle but for the most part they felt loved, supported and cared for.  Quite a nice feeling even for those who don’t reach 100.

There you have it – 50 studies distilled down to five common themes.  Personally, even after all that reading I’m still skeptical.  Even though I read that only 10% of longevity is based on genetic history, almost all of the women in my family going back for generations lived very long lives.  And as far as I can tell, they all liked a bit of the hooch and, if mom was any indication, the only gym they knew was Jim Beam.  So on Friday I’ll lift a glass to mom and pray like heck I should live so long.

 

THE WEATHER HOG

     They’re speaking in Groundhogese

“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Nobody, that is, except Punxsutawney Phil.  This Saturday he will make his annual pilgrimage to Gobbler’s Knob to make is prediction about how much longer winter will last.  The practices and lore of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions are predicated on a light-hearted suspension of disbelief by those involved. Kind of like the WWE. According to the lore, there is only one Phil, and all other groundhogs are impostors.  We are supposed to buy the notion that this one groundhog has lived to make weather prognostications since 1886.  Given that the average life span of a groundhog is six years, I’d say Phil is definitely an outlier on the age curve.  The Groundhog Club is the body responsible for foisting this farce on the public each year.  I suspect that Groucho Marx uttered his famous line, “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me”, was provoked by an invitation to join the Groundhog Club.  To prove a point, according to the Groundhog Club, Phil, after the prediction, speaks to the club president in “Groundhogese”, which only the current president can understand, and then his prediction is translated for the entire world.  These people make Trekkies look normal.

                                A classic

After doing some research about this supposedly 133-year-old ground hog, I learned that the reason for his longevity is attributed to his consumption of “groundhog punch” or ‘elixir of life”.  I’ve seen a lot of people drinking a lot of things over the years that has resulted in actions significantly stranger than predicting winter’s length.   But wouldn’t you think that after all this time some bright citizen of Gobbler’s Knob would figure out how to convert the groundhog elixir into something palatable for humans?  But then again, maybe they’ve watched the Bill Murphy’s “Groundhog Day” and realized that re-living the same experiences over and over isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Ask anyone over 60 who has memory lapses.

                   Come to Arizona!

But the real question about Phil is – how accurate is he?  For those of us who live in warmer climes we don’t really pay much attention to when winter ends, but my friends on the East Coast are darn sick of snow and cold.  Thus, the suspension of common sense in watching a ground hog make a prediction about when they will feel the warmth of the sun again.  They are desperate.  As of 2018, Punxsutawney Phil has made 132 predictions.  Unfortunately, his accuracy hovers around 35%.  Sheesh – you could flip a coin and be more accurate than that.  The Inner Circle of the Groundhog Club (can you just imagine those meetings), claims a 100% accuracy rate.  Of course, that’s total horse pucky.  Some people have been so distraught – or frostbitten – that they have sued Phil over his incorrect prediction.  The Inner Circle claims that whenever the prediction is wrong, the person in charge of translating the message must have made a mistake in his interpretation.   Well, of course, haven’t you had problems translating Groundhogese?  In actual fact, the Inner Circle decides well before February 2 what the prediction will be so the whole exercise couldn’t be more farcical.  Somewhere someone is making a lot of money off of this.

Anyway, for my friends on the East Coast, I hope that sunshine is coming your way soon.  For the rest of us, we can watch Phil on Saturday with a small amount of interest and a large amount of groundhog punch.

 

 

 

 

THE BOOK BATTLE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

MCC library

Wright’s Great Library

One of the best jobs I ever held was as a tour guide at the Marin County Civic Center back in the mid-1960’s.  The iconic building was the last of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces.  In fact, when I worked there only the Administration building was completed but we were awed by the scale model of what was to come – a judicial wing, an arts building and a heliport (which was never built).  Still, as I led tour after tour on the weekends my appreciation for his architecture grew.  In my opinion, no part of the building was more stunning than the library, with its rounded ceiling and open spaces.  I was fortunate enough to develop a love of books from a grammar school teacher who spent a whole year teaching us how to read a book.  She introduced me to Nancy Drew, Tom Sawyer and Louisa May Alcott.  So, oftentimes on the weekend when my fellow tour guide and I didn’t feel like leading a tour, we’d put a sign on the desk saying we were out touring and would return in 30 minutes.  And then we would sneak off to the library.

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Part of my beloved library

Over the years, whether I was in a studio apartment or a larger home, I always maintained a library.  To this day I have some of my college textbooks, which come in handy when I want to learn something about ancient history!  In my current house we converted what the architect considered a necessity, a fourth bathroom, into something I considered an absolute must – a library.  I even organized it by subject matter and author.  I know, I’m a geek.  So, when the eBook revolution came about I was one of those who swore I would never convert.  I scoffed at those who jumped on the bandwagon, even as I lugged my huge canvas bag of books on every vacation.  I think it was on one of those trips when my husband commented about the “rock collection” I’d brought along, that I began considering an eReader.  In 2010 I relented and bought my first Kindle.  I’m now on my fourth.  I love that I can store hundreds of books, that I can read at night with the light off so as not to bother my husband or Dash the Wonder Dog, and it has kept me amused as I’ve waited at doctor’s offices, airports and the DMV.

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There’s room for both!

So it was with some interest that I read an article in Inc. Magazine recently noting that according to The Wall Street Journal, sales of traditional print books rose by 5 percent in the US last year, while sales of eBooks plunged by 17 percent.  No one knows exactly why that happened or if it’s a lasting trend.  They do cite two very good reasons for the switch.  First, real books can be shared.  Remember the days when we paid $20 for a book and then passed it around to 10 friends?  Now everyone has to pay around $13 for their own download.  The second reason they cited is that real books make more meaningful gifts.  I couldn’t agree more.  I still remember who gave me books as gifts and the sentiment behind the purchase.  I also love a hardcover when I’m reading one of my historical biographies with a complicated family tree illustration just so I can easily flip to the chart when I can’t remember who’s married to whom.

Those are indeed good reasons to buy a real book, but last night I discovered perhaps the best reason.  A week ago my daily email from Kindle advertised a novel about women in WWII.  Always a sucker for a good war book, I decided to download it.  Amazon informed that I already owned it.  So I went to my archives and, indeed, I bought it in 2013.  I downloaded it to my current device and began reading.  It wasn’t until last night, one third through the book, that I realized I’ve read it before.  Hey, I’m not beating myself up.  I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, much less a book I read six years ago.  But thinking about this post today I realized that perhaps the best reason for a real book is that after you’ve read it there are creases in the spine or perhaps a dog-eared page or two, alerting you that you’ve been down that path before.  On the upside, re-reading a good book is kind of like meeting an old friend.  I guess there are benefits to losing your memory!

NEW YEAR’S REVOLUTIONS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

I’ve never kept a New Year’s resolution.  I don’t think I’m alone in that confession.  In fact, according to the Huffington Post, only 8% of people keep them.  I was kind of Ditch_New_Years_Resolutions_Daysurprised to learn it was that high.  Who ARE those people?  Probably the same ones who have their taxes filed by February 1 and the Christmas cards done in August.  So, being the sloth that I am, I went in search of resolutions made by people who, like me, have absolutely no intention of losing weight, exercising more or improving my vocabulary.  Luckily, there are a lot of us out there and I found some rather amusing one’s to share with you this last day of 2018:

 

I want to lose just enough weight so that my stomach doesn’t jiggle when I brush my teeth.

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I didn’t become a better person.

I need to start eating more healthy, but first I need to eat all the junk food in the house so it’s not there to tempt me anymore.

I don’t call them New Year’s resolutions.  I prefer the term, “Casual promises to myself that I’m under no legal obligation to fulfill”.

My resolution is to stop kidding myself about lifestyle changes.  Nobody likes a cheap, skinny, sober bitch anyway.

Never again will I take sleeping pills and laxatives on the same night.

I’m going to fake my own death, move to Mexico and live off tacos and tequila.

And from a kindergartner:  I’m going to stop picking my nose.  It’s going to be hard.

I’m only making one resolution this year:  I will indulge when the moods strikes.  Not much of a stretch, I admit, but I’m taking inspiration from a friend.  She posted a photo on Facebook last summer of her husband in a 50’s-style diner, grinning like a 10 year-old as he was served a huge chocolate milkshake, with a sidecar to boot.  Tragically, he died unexpectedly last week.  I thought about that photo – he was so excited to indulge, with nary a thought about cholesterol or calories.  Somehow it made me happy to know that he’d had such a satisfying, guiltless moment.  We should all be so lucky.

So, this year, I wish you and your family much happiness and good health…and many chocolate milkshakes!