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.

20190112_094242-1279260124-1547312361242.jpg

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.

20190103_123607

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!

A CHRISTMAS TOAST

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Just hangin’ with the former Pres.

George H.W. Bush was a hero of mine.  I didn’t always agree with him politically, but in 1999 I read his book, All the Best, and fell in love.  I fell in love with his character, his joyful sense of fun, his integrity and his love of family and friends.  In so many ways he represented what was good about the Greatest Generation – an ethic forged through the Depression and WWII that stood for so many values we cherish.  As luck would have it, just weeks after finishing his book I was privileged to meet him.  He was as charming in person as he was on the written page.   I had my photo taken with him and was so excited to learn they would send me a copy of it.  I imagined framing it and placing it prominently in my office.  A few weeks later when it arrived my heart sunk.  The photo looked so unlike me that for an instant I thought they had mixed up my photo with someone else’s.  Finally in my despair I figured out the problem – a few days before the photo was taken I had undergone Lasik surgery.  Obviously I was still sensitive to light so when the camera flashed on my pupils I scrunched up like a Shar Pei dog.  For almost 20 years the photo has been hidden in a closet.  But as I watched his memorial services a couple of weeks ago I thought again about my encounter with him and dragged it out.  It did not improve with time.  But still…I love having that moment captured.  As I listened to his eulogies I thought about something told to me when my father died – that when a friend loses a parent it brings back all of the emotions you have about your own parents’ passing.

That rang especially true as I heard George W. say that the last words his dad said to him was, “I love you.”  A week before my dad died I boondoggled a trip up to Northern California so that I could go visit him in the hospital.  He was in rare form that day, laughing and joking, and generally keeping the nurses merrily entertained.  When I had to leave to attend that pesky meeting I’d manufactured, I leaned over his bed and told him I loved him.  He gave me a big smile and said, “I love you too, sweetheart.”  Although I spoke with my mom daily about his condition, those words from him were his last to me – a week later he died suddenly at home of a heart attack.  I know what comfort his words have brought me over the years and I know that George W. will undoubtedly take solace in those same words from his dad.  I miss my dad all year, but especially at Christmas when I remember all the fun we had and the joy he brought to every family gathering.

Our Pop – a jolly man indeed!

So for this Christmas post I’d like to pay tribute and toast all of the people of that generation.  We are losing them far too quickly and with each of their deaths we mourn not only them, but the civility they embodied.   I can’t think of a better beverage with which to toast than Pop’s famous Ice Cream Gin Fizz.  He served it every Christmas morning and it gave a roseate hue to the entire day.  We share his recipe in the hopes that you will also take a moment to remember those we’ve lost with a toast of ice cream and gin.  How can you go wrong?

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

It’s that time of year.  People scurrying about – shopping, cooking, eating, drinking.  Lots of drinking.  As always, we here at “From a Bird’s Eye View” are here to make your life just a bit easier.  Today, we provide our annual list of useless gifts for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list.  Where else can you get this kind of valuable information?

 

 

First, for the person who fashions him or herself as a “jock”, we have just the item.  The ‘Nose Aerobics” game.  The recipient simply slips on the glasses and tries to flip the ball into the basket.  It’s perfect for that brother-in-law who you’d like to bash in the head.  What could be better than watching him do it to himself?  Or perhaps it’s just the thing for the annoying cousin who is a perfect size 0 and just finished the New York Marathon.  You can challenge her to get her nose in shape and she’ll sit in the corner with this and free everyone else from hearing about her split times and muscle cramps.  Trust me, this gift has endless applications.

 

 

Or maybe you have a new baby in the family.  Frankly, babies think they can get by just being cute.  We say it’s time to put them to work!  Place the “Baby Mop” on your infant and let the fun begin!  You get to watch them try to crawl around, all the while getting your floors polished.  Oh sure, they may get a little dust and dander up their nose but think of it as preparing them to live in China, where by the time s/he is an adult, everyone will be working anyway.  Your baby will be miles ahead of the competition with their already-compromised lungs.

 

 

 

 

 

Next, for someone that you really like, do them a favor and give them the Nap Sack.  For the love of God, where was this when I was working, sitting through endless boring meetings?  Think of the times you’ve wished you could unobtrusively just nod off and no one would know.  By placing the Nap Sack on your head people won’t know if you’re asleep or planning a terrorist attack.  Either way, they’ll probably leave you alone to nap in sublime peacefulness.

 

 

 

 

For the person who has everything a set of Handerpants might do.  Again, not only can they keep hands warm but it’s a safe bet that anyone who sees a person wearing these will cut a wide swath.  On the more practical side, I’ve seen some rather obscene tattoos on fingers lately so if you know someone who has “E.A.T. S.H.I.T” on their fingers this item could be helpful if they need to go to Grandma’s for Christmas dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, there’s always that one person on your list who is difficult to please.  They have everything, they don’t like anything you’ve ever given them, and frankly, they don’t deserve much.  To the rescue comes The Gift of Nothing.  This little ball of nothing sets the person straight – it proclaims that Nothing is better than Christmas.  It is the ultimate gift of minimalism.  Something that the neighbors in “Christmas Vacation” might enjoy.  Or your sister who only wears black and eschews any form of holiday cheer.  Nothing can be the perfect gift.

 

We hope that these ideas prove helpful.  You can thank us later.

 

 

 

 

FEELING GRATEFUL

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Those of you who are regular readers know that my house has revolted this year, requiring untold repairs and replacements.  Last Sunday my husband heard a loud “boom” emanating from the garage – that is never a good sign.  Sure enough, our hot water heater had exploded.  Luckily, we had a pan underneath it, sparing my Christmas ornaments from a watery grave.  The next day the plumber installed a new one.  He was no further than the end of our street when I turned on our under counter lights and blew the transformer.  I wanted to scream.  Instead, I did what any sensible person would do – poured myself a glass of wine and decided to take this one in stride.  I had just spent the weekend watching the fires in California and the absolute devastation they wreaked.  I thought about how many thousands of people wished that their only problem was a few repairs.  I was reminded of the saying by Confucius:  “I was complaining that I had no shoes till I met a man who had no feet.”  Sometimes we can get so caught up in minor problems we forget to just be thankful for all that is so good in our lives.  So this Thanksgiving week I am feeling very grateful for a house that is standing, a wonderful family and caring friends.  In the spirit of the week, I am sharing a few quotes about gratitude.

 

Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.  Leroy “Satchel” Paige

Gratitude turns what we have into enough Aesop

Find the good and praise it.  Alex Hailey  (This one comes in handy for anyone eating my cooking)

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.  Robert Brault

This is a wonderful day.  I’ve never seen this one before.  Maya Angelou

What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.  Brene Brown

Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.  Gertrude Stein

Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.  Zig Ziglar

Finally, since Thanksgiving this year falls on the 55th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, I thought it fitting to end with this one:

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.  John F. Kennedy

My brother and I are indeed thankful for all of you who read our blog.  We wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

IT’S NOT YOUR GRANDMOTHER’S KNITTING

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Warning: this post may contain some offensive photos.  In fact, this post DOES contain some offensive photos.

Kat Coyle, the Pussy Hat creator

I’ve been knitting since high school.  As I have recorded here before, the rhythmic motion of the needles and the creative act of designing has helped me keep what little sanity I have left.  So I was a bit dismayed when politics reared its ugly head in my favorite hobby.  Politics in knitting, you ask?  Yep – it started with the Women’s March in January 2017 when millions of women donned the pink “pussy hats” in protest.  Suddenly, the website Ravelry, which is the largest knitting website in the world with over 7 million members, began to attract younger subscribers so they could access the pattern for the hat.  In addition to providing patterns, reviews and general information on all things knitting, Ravelry has thousands of chat forums on any number of topics, everything from books to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.  But naturally, there are also plenty of political forums, both right and left leaning.  Reading the posts on those forums is actually a good way to hear both sides of an issue, although some people seem to be grabbing facts from the unicorn universe – kind of like watching cable news.

A sample of the “new” knitting

Over the past several months young designers have taken the pussy hat project “resist” philosophy to new heights – or lows, depending on your viewpoint.  Suddenly,  on the front page of Ravelry where they show photos of the “Hot Right Now” projects there began to be projects that were a bit over the top.  The hat in this photo is representative of that (I’ve erased the X-rated part but you get the drift).  I usually don’t comment on them but I did read the feedback that Ravelry received from many outraged subscribers.  As anyone who has ever played golf with me knows, I am not immune from the “F” word, but I do realize there is a time and place.  After all, what is the point in wearing such a hat?  Sure, you might get high fives from those who agree with you but it also prevents people from assuming they could have a reasonable discussion with you.  After all, it exudes hate which I thought we were trying to stamp out.  I was dismayed by the thought of my “safe space” website being highjacked by political viewpoints so I contributed to the forum on the subject of X-rated projects.  Here’s what I wrote:

I am the president of a large knitting guild. We have members that are gay, straight, of different ethnic backgrounds, and are liberal and conservative. In other words – a large cross-section of people. We have decided that it is in everyone’s best interests to find what we have in common – what binds us and makes us connected – rather than what divides us. It is amazing how people who have radically different political and social views can come together and enjoy one another’s company by sharing the craft of knitting. By getting to know the person we foster relationships, not divisions based on political opinions. If you are going to continue to publish divisive/x-rated projects why don’t you at least find a way to “hide” those projects from the front page?

I thought that was a reasonable suggestion but it just goes to show how behind the times I am.  There were FIVE TIMES more people that disagreed with me than agreed.  I was shocked.  My post received lots of comments – most of them were nasty.  Very nasty.  The only good news is that over the next few weeks Ravelry did find a way for members to block anything they found offensive.  Personally, I’ve used it more to hide toilet paper covers than anything else.

Could make an interesting dishcloth

Still, the patterns continue.  This week, in an effort to “get out the vote”, the hat pattern (left) was posted.  So…why do I bring this up when the vast majority of you don’t knit?  Because I think that when we have injected politics into something as innocuous and soothing as knitting, we’re in trouble.  In commenting about their designs, the artists who publish these items express their outrage and frustration and allow no room for an opposing viewpoint.  The warfare that is our political system is infiltrating every nook and cranny.  At the risk of once again holding a minority viewpoint, I think we would all be better off if these designers and their followers spent their knitting time creating something for the homeless, the Vets, or anyone in need in their community.  Wearing a “F..K” Trump hat doesn’t help solve the problems we face, it only serves to further shut down productive discussion and debate.  But then what do I know?  I’m just a grandmother who knits.