THE “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” CARD

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ENOUGH

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

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

NOT me after months of being at home

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

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

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

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

THE ANGELS AMONG US

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

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

 

There are always angels everywhere. 

 

 

 

Perhaps we only think to look for them at Christmas,

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

But they are always there.

 

 

 

There in the quiet corners,

 

 

 

there in the shadows,

 

 

 

 

there in their ordinary clothes, 

 

 

 

and they are beautiful.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

POP’S CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM FIZZ

Fill a blender 1/4 full with ice cubes

Add 6 jiggers of gin

Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream

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

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

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

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

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

OUR ANNUAL USELESS GIFT GIVING GUIDE

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Each year at this time we try to perform our civic duty by providing suggestions for silly and useless gifts for the upcoming holiday season.  Last year I included such things as a harness for your chicken and a “Pull My Finger” Santa.  Boy, was I ever off the mark.  As it turned out, the most useless gifts for 2020 would have been tickets to a Broadway show, a gift certificate for business attire, or a European river cruise in July.   So I’m cautiously taking a different approach to the list for 2021.  Herewith is a list of what I hope will be useless in 2021:

Coffee Mug Map of My House: When I was a kid the phrase “shelter in place” meant we ducked under our school desk for a 5 minute drill.  This year, while we weren’t confined to a 2×2 space on a grimy linoleum floor, we did have to spend a whole lot more time inside our homes.  Venturing from the kitchen to the patio was the 2020 equivalent to a European Grand Tour.  

 

Toilet Paper Ornament:  Never have so many struggled to obtain such a pedestrian item.  Toilet paper became the Holy Grail of paper products.  People were trading semi-precious stones for a roll of Charmin like they were at a Middle Eastern bazaar.  One would think that we had become a nation full of diarrhea-prone idiots. There were jokes going around that in 2050, when people are cleaning out their parent’s homes, they will find a stash of toilet paper that will last another 100 years.  The summer brought some sanity to the situation with plenty of stock on the shelves but, alas, the recent uptick in Covid has caused people to lose their minds again.  Look for large quantities of tp for sale on Ebay when this thing ends.

Costco:  I don’t really want Costco to become useless in 2021.  I love Costco.  How could you not love a store that produces such a perfect pumpkin pie? But in 2020 Costco has become a madhouse.  At our local warehouse lines stretched around the store 30 minutes before it opened.  When the metal grate finally lifted there was a mad rush to the back of the store for….you guessed it…toilet paper!  And paper towels, meat, Lysol wipes and liquor.  Lots of liquor.  Last week when I was there I discovered that Extra Strength Tylenol is now on the restricted list, as it is what’s recommended to thwart the effects of the COVID vaccine.  So, I’ve made my last trip to Costco for the year – I’m just not up for being an unwilling participant in the Supermarket Sweepstakes frenzy.

 

Hand Sanitizer:  My hands are chapped, my nails are split and I rub my hands with sanitizer like an obsessive-compulsive person in “the home”.  I never thought that I would switch up my perfume for “Essence of Purell”.  Early on there was a huge shortage of sanitizer but then some geniuses figured out how to use regular alcohol to manufacture it and suddenly our local brewery became the best place to score some.  Now it is ubiquitous, featured on the end caps of every store from Target to the gas station.  I think the person who can come up with toilet paper and paper towels with hand sanitizer built in could make a fortune.

Lounge Wear:  Personally, I love a good pair of sweatpants.  I have some in every color, ranging from formal black to “greet the Amazon delivery person” gray.  Prior to the pandemic I really deplored people wearing their pajamas to the grocery store.  Now it’s so common it’s startling when you see someone with pants that actually zip.  There have been numerous studies over the years around the concept of “you are what you wear” and they all agree that dressing well positively impacts self-esteem and how you interact with the world.  Based on what I’ve observed in the past few months we have desperately low self-esteem, bordering on self-flagellation.  Hopefully when we regain some sort of normalcy we will also see the return of buttons and a sharp crease.

Working from Home:  I used to love working from home on occasion.  There’s nothing like the satisfaction of doing a load of laundry in between conference calls to make you feel like Super Multi-Tasker.  But I can probably speak for every working parent that we have reached the limit of how much time we want to work from our living rooms.  Turns out that most people like the interaction with people other than their immediate family and pets.  Plus, working while trying to futilely understand your third grader’s math problems is humiliating at best.  The goal for 2021 is to get everyone back where they belong – kids in school and adults at work.  For those women whose job was already full with child-rearing and running a household, I say they have earned a very well deserved rest, complete all the chocolate and wine they can consume.

That’s it for this year.  I’m looking forward to 2021, when a finger-pulling Santa is the highlight of my list.

And stay tuned for December 21 where I will once again share our dad’s recipe for his Christmas Ice Cream Fizz.  This year we may have fewer people gathered around but if ever there was a year where we need to double the recipe, this is it.

 

 

OH, TO BE THANKFUL

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

Well, we’ve made it to Thanksgiving.  In this weird/awful year of 2020 there were no guarantees.   If ever there was a year that a giant asteroid would destroy Earth, this would be it.  But here we are, ready to celebrate what we are thankful for on Thursday.  Some gatherings won’t have as many guests as normal since everyone except the Governor of California is supposed to limit the number of people with whom they dine.  Other families have had a really rough year – either due to health issues or financial stress.  We all know that we should be grateful for what we have and there have been about 8 million articles published about that in the last week.  There are so many that I’ve begun to think “yada, yada, yada” when I see them – they invariably with a photo of someone in a yoga pose or a cup of matcha tea.  So I’ve decided to take a different view – this week I tried to find some reflections on Thanksgiving that might just bring a smile to your face or appeal to the irreverent aspect of your humor.  After all, we could all use a laugh about now.

“A new survey found that 80 percent of men claim they help cook Thanksgiving dinner. Which makes sense, when you hear them consider saying ‘that smells good’ to be helping.” – Jimmie Fallon

“If you stand in the meat section at the grocery store long enough, you start to get mad at turkeys. There’s turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami. Someone needs to tell the turkey, ‘Man, just be yourself.'” – Mitch Hedberg

“The Thankstini: A fun and delicious new novelty drink I invented. Cranberry juice, potato vodka, and a bouillon cube. Tastes just like a turkey dinner.”  – from How I Met Your Mother

“It’s not too much food. This is what we’ve been training for our whole lives. This is our destiny, this is our finest hour.” – from The Gilmore Girls

“Coexistence: What the farmer does with the turkey—until Thanksgiving.” – Mike Connolly

“I suppose I will die never knowing what pumpkin pie tastes like when you have room for it.” – Robt. Brault

“An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.” – Irv Kupcinet

“I’m looking forward to seeing pie this Thanksgiving more than members of my own family.” – Damien Fahey

“Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-time of the football game takes 12 minutes. This is not a coincidence.” – Erma Bombeck

“Cooking tip: Wrap turkey leftovers in aluminum foil and throw them out.” – Nicole Hollander

“Thanksgiving: Bringing out the best in family dysfunction since 1863.” Anonymous (for obvious reasons!)

“Thanksgiving—when the people who are the most thankful are the ones who didn’t have to cook.” – Melanie Cook

“There’s always something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. Even if it’s just not being a turkey.” – Unknown

“Money saving tip:  Be sure to bring up politics at Thanksgiving dinner.  It’s going to save you money on Christmas gifts.”

“Real ballplayers pass the stuffing by rolling it up in a ball and batting it across the table with a turkey leg.” – Tom Swyers  (This one strikes a chord with me as it reminds me of the year that a large bowl of fresh whipped cream was placed on the table in front of Bob and me and we proceeded to take take large handfuls of it and have a whipped cream fight.  And, no, we were not 10.  We were in our 30’s.  Perhaps there was some wine involved.)

Bob and I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving.  However you are able to celebrate it, hopefully you will find something or someone to be grateful for.

Also, as a reminder, this is the last week we will be posting on Facebook so if you want to continue to read our blog please subscribe.  It’s easy, free and we don’t share your information!

 

Our Social Dilemma

By Bob Sparrow

To say that Suzanne’s post last week affected me is a huge understatement.  I would like to believe that anybody who has looked into what’s really going on with our social media today has the same reaction – frickin’ frightening!  After reading the blog, I read the link, The Dark Psychology of Social Networks, watched the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, as well as watched another documentary entitled, The Great Hack, which was recommended by one of our readers, Jeff Kane.

Both of the aforementioned documentaries state that “we“, or rather our brains, have now passed oil as the largest commodity in the world. Unbeknownst to us, our minds are being harvested and sold to the highest bidder. You may say, “I don’t care who knows that I like chocolate or that I like to travel to Italy”.  But when “they“ start knowing everything about us – what we like and dislike, who we associate with, what we search for on Google – then “they“ can program what we see and ultimately what we think. Don’t believe that? Have you ever asked yourself why we as a country are so divided? People on opposite sides of the political fence don’t understand how the “other side” can think the way they do and that’s easy to explain if you understand that virtually everything we see on social media reinforces what we already think. So our values, feelings, and persuasions get reinforced and the values of those who don’t think like us get diminished.

Even before Suzanne’s blog was published last Monday, I sent a text to my two daughters, who have young children, and told them to get educated on this phenomenon and to pay particular attention to the former execs at all the leading social media outlets, at the end of The Social Dilemma while the credits were rolling, answering the question, “Do you let your children on social media?”

We here at From A Bird’s Eye View have made a decision that we are no longer going to be part of the problem, so Monday, November 23rd will be the last day we post our blog on Facebook.  Yes, we will still be writing a new blog every Monday, as we have for the last 8+ years, but it will only be going to those who ‘subscribe’.  Some one hundred and fifty odd (mostly odd) of you already do that, but we know there are a lot more of you who only read our blog on Facebook.  So, if you’re not a subscriber, we encourage you to subscribe, it’s free and we don’t want to lose you as a fan, or even a casual viewer.  It’s easy to delete us and we’ll probably go to your ‘spam’ anyway.  There is still a place for you to comment on our blog and we are always delighted to hear from you.

 

YOUR BRAIN HAS BEEN SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Whew…these are tough days we’re in.  I readily admit that my stress level is through the roof.  This week I decided to take a break from news shows and social media.  Yes, I’m going to miss all the posts of cute dogs and scrumptious birthday cakes, but my mental health requires it.  A few days ago I decided to stick with Netflix and I hit upon the documentary “The Social Dilemma”.  The film features former executives and developers from Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter and their comments about the dangers of these social media platforms are both illuminating and frightening.  As is so often the case, these sites started out with good – perhaps even innocent – intentions to make the world more connected.  But to a person the executives are alarmed at what social media has become.  The documentary spells out in a clear way how our brains are being manipulated and even rewired by algorithms designed to get our attention and make us buy things.  And not just to buy physical “things” but to buy into ideas.  Ideas about the world, ourselves, and each other.

After watching the documentary I wanted to know more.  I read as much as I could stand about social media manipulation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Attention Extraction (AE).  You may not have heard of the latter.  AE is a business model used by all of the social media platforms to monetize their business. In other words, it’s how they make the big bucks.  The basic construct is they employ surveillance tools to observe what their users are viewing and clicking.  Have you ever thought it was creepy when you see an ad for something you were just talking about or Googled?  It is all planned.  The tech companies are constantly reviewing what interests you and then they  configure the algorithm to have ads or stories come up related to that interest.   And who is paying for those ads or stories?  Big business and big politics.  In other words, the product that big tech is monetizing is YOU!   If we only saw ads for a dog food we’d researched that might be pretty harmless.  But it goes deeper than that.  The algorithms in AI and AE  use what they know about you to tailor the news results you see.   The upshot is the average person is only seeing stories that reinforce their preexisting inclinations. Some of the tech executives opine that no one knows what is genuinely true anymore because every story has gone through a filter.  That goes a long way toward explaining why we’re so divided.  AI is increasingly being used to curate and generate the news.  Even traditional news organizations such as the AP, Bloomberg and The Washington Post are utilizing it and Microsoft has transitioned to AI to generate all the news on its MSN homepage.  And who is programming the AI and checking it?  The executives in the documentary point out that only a handful of people in any of the companies understand the AI algorithms and that AI is becoming so sophisticated that soon no one will understand or control it.

Perhaps more troubling than skewed news and advertising is the affect of social media on our youth.  According to a September 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the suicide rate for pediatric patients rose 57.4% from 2007 to 2018.  That should alarm everyone.  The Facebook engineer who invented the “Like” button did so thinking it would be a positive reinforcement.  Instead, it turned into a social measurement of popularity among young teens.  Other social media platforms followed suit and we now have a generation of kids who assess their self-worth by the comments others make about their posts and photos.  Pre-teens, who have never been known for their kindness, have taken criticism and cruelty to a new level.  Almost all of the executives interviewed in “The Social Dilemma”  ban the social media apps on their children’s devices.  That speaks volumes.  In 2020 when we add in COVID and its isolating impact, it’s easy to see how overwhelmed and vulnerable young kids have become.

Certainly social media is not to blame entirely for our problems and, in fact, it can provide some positive relationships and distractions, but we need to be better informed about how we are being influenced and manipulated.   Bob and I obviously get the irony that some of you may be viewing our blog on Facebook, which means we’re contributing to the problem.  We are going to spend some time this week discussing our social media presence going forward.  Look for news on that next week.  In the meantime, we ask that you subscribe directly to our blog.   Why?  Because we don’t monetize our site – no one pays us and we don’t pay anyone (except platform management fees) and we certainly don’t share our subscriber list.  Here is a link to the site and you can sign up in the right hand column:  https://fromabirdseyeview.com/

For me, I’m taking a break from social media.  If you post something fun or interesting please don’t be offended if I don’t click the “Like” button.  If you don’t get a Facebook message from me on your birthday, rest assured I’m still wishing you a happy year ahead, I’ll just do it via email.  Finally, if you’re one of my friends who is constantly re-posting news and political stories I respectfully ask that you stop and think about how you’re being used by the big tech giants.  If you want to write something original – great!  But re-posting just feeds the beast and the beast needs to be killed.

See you on the other side.

P.S.  In addition to “The Social Dilemma” I found the following article to be most informative.  I’ve included the link in case you’re interested.

“The Dark Psychology of Social Networks” by Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/social-media-democracy/600763/

 

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

by Bob Sparrow

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

Letter to my bank

To whom it may concern,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please press the buttons as follows:

Press 1: To make an appointment to see me.

Press 2: To query a missing payment.

On hold with the bank!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Humble Client…

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

LET THERE BE LIGHT

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

                     Original and updated

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

                I had no choice, right?

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

Out with the old…

…and in with the new

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

         I’m DONE…for now

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

SOUL SUCKING

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

          Before the cleanup

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

OMG, it’s gooooood

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

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

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