By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


In 1975 I purchased my first house, which to me, was less about a roof over my head more about having a yard for a dog.  A couple of months after settling in, I ventured to the county dog pound (as they were called in those days) and bought a cute little fluff ball for $6.00.  I named her “Carrot”.  The people at the dog pound didn’t know much about her background, so they suggested that I take her to a veterinarian to have her checked out.  Unfortunately, she had kennel cough and for a few stressful days I thought I would lose her before I ever really had her.  But she improved and was my faithful companion until her demise in 1983.  So why am I writing about her now?  Because as part of our conversations with the vet during that time I asked him if he could tell me her breed and age.  He said she most likely was a cockapoo-terrier mix and fixed her age at about eight months.  I think about that conversation every time I stop to talk with someone about their dog. Somehow the owner always manages to blurt out some version of, “I really don’t know much about the breed or age because I rescued him/her.”  Sheesh!

I first started noticing the trend of “rescue virtue-signaling” about ten years ago.  Let me be clear, I think it is terrific to rescue dogs.  If you saw the 60 Minutes episode about dogs a week ago you were probably not surprised to learn that dogs have a “kindness gene”.  None of them deserve to be locked up in a cage.  All they want is a little love, a scratch behind the ear and some food and shelter.  In our family we have had a variety of dogs over the years, half rescue and half purebred.  But here’s the thing: when someone asked us about the rescue dogs, we always gave an answer that was as close to accurate as we could get.  Veterinarians are actually very good at assessing the breed and age of a dog.  I have a hard time believing that people who spend hours looking at dog videos on Instagram Reels or dress their dog up like a ballerina, don’t have the time or inclination to ask their vet for an opinion on the breed and age of their dog.

On my walk around the neighborhood last week, I met a woman walking her dog and stopped to ask her about the dog.  She told me all about how she rescued the dog but couldn’t tell me anything else about it.  I suggested that she purchase a dog DNA test.  She was stunned at my suggestion.  “Why would I do that?”, she asked.  I told her it would provide more information about the breed of the dog, which could be helpful in preventing or understanding future medical issues.  I left our encounter convinced that she had no intention of finding out more about her canine companion.  Because – and here’s the reason I find this trend so annoying – I think this woman finds more self-satisfaction in telling people that she’s rescued a dog that she would in saying, “She’s a Malti-poo mix and she’s about three years old.”  Where’s the fun in that?  How can the world possibly know what a wonderful person she is if she gives such a straightforward answer?

I’ll get off my soapbox now.  But I’m still going to tell people to get their dogs tested.  If people want to feel virtuous, they should donate time and money to the local animal shelter.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

     My Kindle

I was sitting in a waiting room the other day, reading a book on my Kindle, perfectly content and engrossed in the story.  A woman next to me was fidgeting and antsy, alternating between chatting to anyone who would listen and pacing the floor.  Finally, she looked at my Kindle and asked, “What is that?” I explained the concept of the e-reader and how convenient it is to carry around hundreds of books in a small device. She stared at it, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “I don’t read books.  You’re lucky to have something to occupy your time.”  She doesn’t read books??  I have previously met people who have no interest in picking up a book, who think the Cheesecake Factory menu is great reading.  I feel sorry for such people.  They are missing out on the magic of being transported to another place and time, the escape and education that can be a part of reading a good book. I thought about her comment.  Yes, I AM lucky that I love to read.  But it had nothing to do with luck – I had help and encouragement along the way.

         The Weekly Reader

First, my parents viewed reading as an important skill.  Of course, they owned and published a newspaper for many years, so they encouraged everyone to read, especially if it was the Novato Advance.  Our home was filled with books, and I cannot recall a time when they didn’t each have a book by their bedside.  My second influence, like many people, came in the form of great teachers.  In grammar school we were fortunate enough to receive the Weekly Reader, a magazine that published every Friday and contained fun stories, games and cartoons.  Mrs. Larson, my fifth-grade teacher, started a book club in her classroom.  We ordered books and when they arrived, we gathered around a table to unpack the box.  I still recall how excited I was to get a new book, especially if it was a Nancy Drew mystery.  She taught me how to read a book, about topic sentences, and themes.

         Bette Reese

But the greatest influence on what and how I read was my high school English teacher, Bette Reese.  Until I landed in her class, I was a middling student.  I was more focused on boys and socializing than schoolwork.  Ms. Reese was a task master, constantly correcting grammar, spelling and composition.  She taught me about symbolism and metaphors and introduced me to Hemingway, Camus and Dostoevsky – pretty heady stuff for a high school junior.  Her teaching philosophy was to teach to the highest standards.  If some in the class got left behind, so be it.  She wanted to instill an appreciation for good writing and classic authors.  To this day I credit her for my distaste of romance novels and sci-fi fiction. I can’t speak for everyone who was her student, but I do know that she influenced a great many of us.  Two years after I left high school Ms. Reese took a professorship at a local college.  She eventually became the faculty advisor to the student newspaper, where no doubt she used her magic on many aspiring journalists.  Sadly, Bette Reese died in 1979 at the age of 44 from pancreatic cancer.  I wrote a piece about her for a Marin County site and received many comments from former students who were similarly impacted by her.  Each year the college awards the Bette Reese Memorial Scholarship to a talented journalism student.  I can only hope they are maintaining her high standards.

  The Libby App

So, am I lucky that I love to read?  Undoubtedly so. I can be entertained anywhere as long as I have a good book to read – airports, waiting rooms, even on the treadmill.  And nothing is more soothing to my soul than to curl up in bed on a cold night, my husband and dog beside me, engaged in a good book. My friend, Patsy, introduced me to the Libby app, where I can download books for free from the local library directly to my Kindle.  A love to read and free books? Now that is luck.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


            Singing at the 16th

Last week we denizens of Arizona experienced record crowds – it is estimated that 1 million people visited the Valley of the Sun to attend the WM Phoenix Open and the Super Bowl.  Our “sun” has been missing most of this winter (last week it snowed in Scottsdale), but the Chamber of Commerce obviously has an in with The Big Guy, because it was sunny all weekend.  Twenty-five years ago we were advised to hunker down the week of the WM Phoenix Open, as the crowds are plentiful … and drunk.  When the Super Bowl is also played here the same weekend, it is best to venture out only in the event of a severed limb or cardiac arrest.  So, we watched all of the festivities from the comfort of our couch.  One of the most fun aspects of the Phoenix Open is watching the idiots, ummm, patrons at the 16th hole.  They started the week off on Thursday with a rousing rendition of “Sweet Caroline”.  It was joyous to watch and reminded me of a fun family outing when the song was newer, and we were too.  More on that later, but first, a bit of history about the song and how it got its name.

Neil Diamond released “Sweet Caroline” as a single in May 1969, and it was then featured on his album, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”.   Its catchy lyrics and staccato beat made the song an instant hit, spending more than three months on the pop charts.  Surprisingly it never reached the top of the charts; it peaked at No 4.  For years people speculated who the “Caroline” in the song might be.  Decades went by without a definitive answer. Finally, in 2007, Diamond finally told the backstory of the song and how he came up with its title. He explained that “‘Sweet Caroline’ was born in a motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, as an afterthought to some songs he was preparing for a recording session.  He said he was as surprised as anyone when the music and lyrics flowed quickly and easily from his mind to paper.  Diamond revealed that the most challenging part of the song was finding the right name for the title. At the time, he was married to Marcia Murphey, and had promised her a song. The problem was he needed a three-syllable name to fit the melody. He picked up his “idea” book, a journal where he routinely jotted down thoughts for lyrics, and found the name “Caroline”.  It was perfect.

The inspiration for the song

But why did he put the name “Caroline” in his idea book to begin with?  In the 2007 interview, Diamond said he was touched by a photograph he saw in a magazine of a young Caroline Kennedy, dressed in equestrian gear on her pony. At the time he thought it was a sweet, innocent photo, and knew at some point he would want to write a song about it.  He never told anyone that Kennedy was his inspiration until her 50th birthday celebration, where he performed via satellite and surprised her by revealing she was his inspiration.  She was thrilled.  By that time, of course, it had become tradition to hear it at numerous sporting events, perhaps most famously at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.  The song is played during the 8th inning of every game and gets the fans roused up, regardless of how the Sox are faring.  It was first played in 1997 and then intermittently after that until 2002, when Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs, noticed that every time the song played, he saw the crowd transformed.  Steinberg decided to make “Sweet Caroline” a tradition, and it stuck.

           Diamond at Fenway

The most moving rendition of the song was in 2013, right after the Boston Marathon bombing. Diamond hopped on flight as soon as he heard the Red Sox would be playing and went to Fenway Park, not giving anyone a heads up.  Luckily the gate agent recognized him and let him in without a ticket. He stood in the infield and sang the song, with the crowd joining in as one. Diamond later said it was a moment he will never forget. That performance also created a great demand for the song, and Diamond donated all of the profits from those sales to the charity set up to help the victims of the bombing.


          The Three Troublemakers

I saw Neil Diamond perform in 1979, just after “Forever in Blue Jeans” came out.  Everyone stood, everyone sang, and in an era before cell phones, people flicked on lighters in the dark and swayed to the music when he sang “Sweet Caroline”.  But my best memory of the song dates back to the winter of 1969.  Each year we would spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s skiing at Tahoe.  That year was extra special because brother Bob had just arrived home from Japan, where he had been stationed for the past year.  The Vietnam war was still raging, and we were so happy he was home. One night we went to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner, and I suppose after a lot of libation and very little encouragement, we sang “Sweet Caroline” at the top of our lungs.  I’m not sure we even knew all of the lyrics, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.  Looking back, the other guests were probably not as entertained as we were, and it was a good thing brother Jack knew the owners or we probably would have been kicked out.  That night and that song have provided me a good memory for fifty-plus years.

Given its long-standing popularity, the song clearly holds sentimental value for a lot of people. Most of us can probably remember singing it at some point, maybe alone in a car, or in a crowd, or at a fun family gathering. All I know is that every time I hear it, it brings back memories of things being “so good, so good, so good”.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Have you seen the price of eggs lately?  They have skyrocketed in the past few weeks, particularly here in Arizona.  Beginning January 1, chicken farmers here have had to double the space provided for their laying hens.  The new law has caused egg production to diminish by roughly half, while the increase in prices has roughly doubled.  Elsewhere in the country egg prices have increased due to avian flu and weather conditions.  So, Americans are doing what they normally do in a crisis – taking matters into their own hands and becoming chicken farmers.   People are rushing to farm supply stores, hell-bent on becoming more self-sufficient when it comes to their breakfasts.  Unfortunately, like many trends that make their way to TikTok and other social media platforms, this has not been particularly well thought out.  I should know, for a brief time in my youth I was the proud owner of a chicken.

Novato was still a rural community in the 1950’s, with many dairy and chicken farms in the surrounding area. My third-grade teacher thought it would be a wonderful life lesson for us to see the cycle of life, at least with respect to chickens and eggs.  Perhaps she was trying to provide a real-life illustration of the age-old quandary of which came first. In any event, she brought a chicken coop into the classroom and every morning we rushed to the coop to see if the chicken had laid an egg. After four weeks of a squawking chicken and a room full of distracted third graders, she decided to end the “chicken lesson”.  But instead of taking the chicken back to where she got it, she asked if anyone wanted to adopt it. My hand shot up and several hours later I proudly walked home with “Henrietta”.  I cannot recall my parents’ reaction to the new addition to our family, but I can’t imagine it was good.  I quickly discovered that chickens take a lot of work and… this is the tough part…their excrement smells like, well, chicken excrement.  Details escape me but I think Henrietta quickly wore out her welcome and my dad took her to our next-door neighbor who already owned chickens.  It was perfect, I could visit her but not have to care for her, or more critically, clean up after her.

Given my brief stint as a chicken owner, I’ve been fascinated by this recent trend in chicken farming.  As I learned, raising chickens is not easy, or necessarily cost-effective.  Baby chickens are selling for $5 each.  Sounds cheap, however, feed ranges from 10 to 20 cents a bird per day and coops cost between $400 and $3,000. Other costs for the birds include heating and fencing.  And most people don’t realize that hens don’t lay eggs in winter conditions.  Perhaps they come to Arizona like the other snowbirds? One new owner adopted seven chicks four months ago and estimates she’s spent about $750 on food, bedding, heat lamps and other supplies. She doesn’t have a single egg to show for it.  That makes paying $8 for a dozen eggs sound like a bargain.

When people realize that chicken farming isn’t all romance and eggs benedict, the question arises as to how to dispose of the chicken?  In olden days, once hens could no longer produce eggs, they became dinner.  But many new chicken owners are reluctant to eat their hens.  In fact, some say they have become a part of the family.  One woman in my knitting group has knit sweaters for her daughter’s chicken.  We thought she was joking, but it turns out it has been a popular fashion trend for chickens.  Apparently, people are mis-guided in thinking that chickens get cold, when in fact, sweaters actually inhibit the hen’s ability to shed feathers.  But like the people who put a ballerina skirt on their dog, sometimes common sense plays no part when it comes to people and their animals.  All I know is, although my time as a chicken owner was brief, it did inform me as to how convenient it is to buy eggs at the grocery store, regardless of price.  The eggs are ready to eat and better yet, you don’t have to muck around in chicken excrement to get them.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I listened to an interesting podcast the other day wherein NYU professor Jonathan Haidt was interviewed about his book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.  The book takes a deep dive into the culture of “safetyism” that has developed on college campuses and how it interferes with young people’s social, emotional, and intellectual development and has contributed to the divisions we see in our culture.  It’s more complicated than that, and certainly more nuanced that I can do justice to here.  He’s an interesting guy and has a number of videos on YouTube if you want to learn more about him and his research.

What caught my attention, and led me to this post, was his discussion about the effect of social media on young people.  (I actually started this post a couple of weeks ago after I watched Haidt, and coincidentally blends right into what my brother posted about last week).  Haidt cited a statistic that was startling: between 2010 and 2015 the suicide rate of teenage girls almost tripled.  Haidt concluded the advent of social media, with its constant bombardment of “influencers” who appear to have a perfect face and body, combined with negative, sometimes cruel, comments young girls receive about their own posts, is a primary cause of depression and feelings of worthlessness.  This struck a chord with me, as I had just remarked to a friend that I couldn’t imagine being a teenager today, having to be constantly “photo worthy”.  Heck, my heart skips a beat now when someone accidently FaceTime’s me.  If I don’t have my hair done and makeup on, I pretend I was in the shower when they called.

It seems every young woman I see lately is clutching her phone like a lifeline. I think about how far we have come from the more reticent generations before us.  It was pretty common growing up that our mothers – and certainly our grandmothers – were known to say, “Oh, don’t put me in the picture!”  Now we have social media platforms that contain nothing but people taking pictures of themselves.  I keep an Instagram account to post photos of Dash the Wonder Dog, and a lot of the photos that come across my feed are of women with their phone to their face, trying to pose in just the right way, with their lips in the perfect pout or their hair tousled to project something between “I just got up” and “I’m the sexiest person alive”.  I’d like to blame the Kardashians for starting this trend, but that’s too easy a target.  There are plenty of people, and companies, to blame for this fascination with how we look and the compulsion to let others know how we look.

Aside from the damage all this does to self-esteem, the bigger concern for me is the inward focus of this trend.  The “influencers” give the impression that if you just have the right clothes, purse, makeup, yada yada, life will be good.  But those of us of a certain age know that no amount of beautiful outward trappings will bring you happiness. Which is why Heidt is so concerned about the mental health of young people, who strive so hard to replicate an airbrushed version of someone and are then bitterly disappointed when they fall short.  I think this is an urgent problem that needs a drastic solution.  Removing phones is impractical and unrealistic – we can’t put that genie back in the bottle.  Maybe we need to have a draft for young people where they are required to do community service.  It would not only get them out of the house and into broader society, but it would also expose them to people less fortunate, who have bigger problems than not having the right brand of sneakers or a statement handbag.  It would be a start.

I promise – next week we will be back to talking about football or cake or something a bit lighter!




Feeling Isolated?

by Bob Sparrow

Feeling isolated?  You’re not alone.  Now there is an oxymoron for our times!  It seems to me that we’ve been working our way into isolation over the last couple of decades; certainly exacerbated by Covid recently, but largely encouraged, by the convenience of getting most everything we want or need without leaving your home and ironically, through social media, which can be very anti-social and divisive.

Come with me inside an American household at the end of a typical day. 

Dick shuts off his computer and takes off his headset, as he completes another day of work . . . remotely, just as an Amazon truck pulls up in front of the house, for the third time this week, as the driver drops off a package at the front door – it’s the cosmetics his wife, Jane, ordered yesterday.  Shortly thereafter, the doorbell rings and it’s Door Dash with the meal that was ordered for tonight’s dinner.  They sit down and enjoy their meal while watching a Netflix series. After the kids wolf down their food and are not interested in what their parents are watching on TV, they retreat to their separate bedrooms and get on their phones or computers.

Sounds pretty normal right?  But what’s missing is fairly obvious – socialization!

Dick working remotely is certainly handy and saves gas and time commuting to and from work, but it eliminates any socialization with work colleagues.  Amazon is amazing, but it keeps both Dick and Jane from getting out of the house and mingling with people to shop; ‘window shopping’ has even been replaced by computer ‘scrolling’.   Amazon. seems to be on a mission to make most retail stores obsolete – and they’re doing quite well at it.  Door Dash and their like, deliver meals or groceries to your doorstep, which keeps the family out of restaurants and grocery stores; while Netflix, and all the other streaming services, keep folks sitting silently in front of their televisions and out of movie theaters, as well as typically eliminating any family interaction or sharing of the ‘events of the day’ while sitting around the dinner table.  Today’s kids would much rather be alone with their phones or computers than sitting around the dinner table having a ‘family discussion’ or watching what their parents are watching on TV.

This trend is disturbing to me.  Even getting to know people is different; today people don’t learn about each other from meeting and interacting, they learn from social media.  It seems that the tools we’ve been given and told would increase connectivity and socialization, have done just the opposite.  Yes, we most probably ‘connect’ more, but on a more superficial level; and mostly just to show as many people as possible what a great life we have, because we only post the good stuff!  We also believe that there are a lot of people who want to hear our opinion on a particular subject, even though we may not be at all qualified to opine intelligently on that subject.  Sites like Facebook and Twitter give us the platform to spew whatever is rattling around in our brains at the time, regardless of how knowledgeable or well-thought out our responses are.  Today, everyone has a platform, which on the surface sounds good, but it is a privilege that is egregiously abused.

I think we are on a very slippery social media slope and I certainly don’t have the answers to find purchase thereon, but I hope to make a more conscious effort to choose socialization over social media this year and hope you do as well.

I’ll be right back, after this commercial break . . .

Kids ‘socializing’!

As we all inevitably get deeper and deeper into social media, as they get deeper and deeper into us, we’d like to encourage you to subscribe to our blog (Just click the ‘SUBSCRIBE’ button at the top right of this page and put in your email address.  The blog will come directly to your email every Monday).  We know many of you have been subscribers for years, and we thank you, but we also know that many of you get and comment on our blogs on Facebook, or other social media.  As we get closer and closer to being totally disgusted with social media and ‘drop out’, we want you to still be able to get our blog every week.  The cost is reasonable, like free!!!

Back to our programing.  Actually, my work is done here – ‘thought for the year’ – more face-to-face,  and less Facebook, Facetime and Faceplants!



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

If you’re like me, you’re avoiding the scale this week. All of the eating and drinking over the holidays has taken its toll on my hips.  I don’t need a scale to tell me that – my zipper does a fine job of letting me know I’ve overindulged.  I always make an attempt to form resolutions at the beginning of the year, a time when I feel particularly guilty about my mental and physical state.  Most years the ink isn’t dry on the paper I’ve written them on before I’ve broken one.  I thought this was true for everyone.  But John C. Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton has researched New Year’s resolutions and finds that contrary to popular belief, a fair number of people actually do stick to their good intentions.  In fact, in a study he conducted of people who wanted to change a behavior, he discovered that more than 40% of those with resolutions stuck with them, while only 4% of the group who didn’t make a resolution achieved the behavioral changes they had in mind.

In a larger study in Sweden a professor learned that how New Year’s resolutions were framed helped determine how effective they were. For example, if you want to spend less time on your phone, you have a better chance if you commit to reading a book than if you delete Instagram.  He discovered that starting a new activity is “stickier” than quitting an old one. The new activity quickly transforms from a chore to a habit. The upshot of both studies was that if we want to keep a resolution longer than say, January 10th, it needs to be specific and realistic.  One person vowed to begin flossing his teeth every day and a year later he was still on track.  That makes me wonder what took him so long to perform this basic hygiene task, but as with all resolutions, we shouldn’t judge.  Besides, I’m sure this guy’s dentist was thrilled so actually he made two people happy that year.

A software developer based in Australia built an app called Streaks, a to-do list that functions a bit like a game. When users assign themselves daily tasks, they suddenly feel an urge to complete them: they want to extend their streaks. I get it.  I do the same thing with my Fitbit app – trying to extend the number of days I do at least 10,000 steps a day.  Two years ago, I was up to 246 days but then had to have some minor surgery.  It was not a big deal, but just enough that I couldn’t exercise for a day.  Since then, I’ve gotten to 109 days and then broken it again.  I think my streak on Candy Crush is now greater than my step goal.

This year I’ve resolved to get my walking streak up again – perhaps I’ll accomplish it every day this year.  Or not.  The only thing I can really commit to is eating cake once a month, watching dog videos, and binging programs on Britbox.  You can hold me accountable for those last three and I’ll report back next January.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Last week, as I was playing golf and talking (mostly talking) I mentioned that I might not send out Christmas cards this year. My partners shook their heads and told me they stopped sending holiday greetings years ago.  I guess I’m just late to the party – again.  But as I thought about the annual tradition of keeping up with old friends, it dawned on me that I do that all year long.  Social media and email have completely changed how we keep track of and communicate with each other.  Now, through the miracle of Facebook, I can tell you that my friend down in Atlanta had scrambled eggs for breakfast because she posted a photo of it.   I regularly email with friends throughout the year, so I know of every birth, death, marriage, divorce and trip to the mall.  So, I don’t really need to get a Christmas card or worse yet, a Christmas letter, to know what my friends have been up to.  I know what my friends are doing right down to their scrambled eggs.

I have some general observations about holiday cards, and I admit, I’ve been guilty of doing some of the very things I dislike about the custom.  I see Christmas cards as falling into four major categories.  First are the corporate cards.  You know, the ones from the banker or insurance agent.  The first card we received this year was from our estate attorney.  I don’t know whether he’s sending genuine greetings or he’s waiting for his card to be returned so he can start filing paperwork.  The second category are from distant friends – people that we haven’t seen or spoken with in years, but somehow the need arises to wish each other the very best for the holiday season.  Mostly they are old neighbors or workmates I couldn’t pick out in a crowd.  Am I morally obligated to continue this exchange of well-wishes?  In the past few years there has been a trend toward having their cards printed with their signatures printed on the inside, with a return address sticker on the outside.  Our name and address are printed on an address label and stuck on the envelope. It has all the warmth and personal touch of our utility bill. I admit that I have done this on some cards in the past few years, which is what started me questioning why I’m sending a card at all. The third group are the true friends – the ones we see or keep in touch with all year long.  Heck, some of them are golf partners or good friends with whom we socialize every week.  We will be wishing holiday greetings in person, some of them several times.  Do we really need to send cards too?

The last category is the Christmas letter.  Some of them are really well done.  Some.  But most seem to have turned the holiday tradition of wishing others well into one giant “let’s talk about me” exercise. In general, the problem is that people just don’t know where to stop.  Johnny got into Harvard?  Great.  Snookie was elected president of her third-grade class?  Good for her!  But too often it goes into such minutia that it borders on the ridiculous.  My parents used to receive one that was so full of trivia and self-aggrandizement that we couldn’t wait until we were all gathered on Christmas Eve so that one of us kids (by this time adults and full of “cheer”) could read it in dramatic fashion, everyone breaking into gales of laughter.  There is nothing like reading bowling scores to bring out the holiday spirit.  Each year my husband and I receive a Christmas letter from one of his former co-workers that always includes a litany of the various trips taken, a review of golf handicaps (they always go down, of course), and an update on the career achievements of their four adult children (and spouses!).  Last year they even included the employee count and various office locations of their son’s latest employer.  Seriously. Do they take a moment as they’re writing this to consider whether anyone cares about the headcount in Poughkeepsie? I’m more prone to wonder why the son keeps changing jobs.  I think there’s a story there.

christmas-ornamentPerhaps the best take on Christmas cards was from a friend of our parents back in the 60’s.  They kept every card they received the previous year.  Then they re-addressed it to the sender inserting a note that read “We liked your Christmas card so much last year that we have decided to give you the pleasure of seeing it again this year.  So, we’re sending it back to you.”  Now that is clever.  And it beats using old cards to make ornaments.  As for all the Christmas letters?  They could be shredded into bird cage liner and the circle would be closed.

I have to say, I do like to see photos of people’s kids, grandkids and dogs.  Especially if they are related to me.  Those I treasure and file in a collection in my “family files”.  But while I won’t be sending out cards this year, I reserve the right to change my mind and resume sending them next year.  Especially if I win the Nobel prize or discover the cure for cancer.

One tradition I will always maintain is providing you with Pop’s Christmas Ice Cream Fizz recipe.  I hope you enjoy it as much as our family has over the years.  There is nothing like a little gin to make the holidays just the slightest bit more fun!


         A jolly man indeed


Fill a blender 1/4 full of 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 everything!

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.

Happy Holidays!!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

It’s that time again, when we present you with holiday gift ideas for those people on your list who are hard to shop for.  Or who you don’t like.  You choose.  I’d say the only requisite is that they have a sense of humor.  And if they don’t – why are you giving them a gift anyway?


For the egocentric: What could be more thoughtful than giving someone a picture of themselves on a potato?  Although it has some cannibalistic overtones, you can rest assured than your gift will be unique. And with some butter and a ton of sour cream, it might even be tasty.



For the smoothie fan: Nothing is more annoying than when you go to make a smoothie only to discover your banana is overripe.  When that happens to me, I give up and grab a piece of chocolate cake, but I understand that some people like to eat fruit.  Enter a guy who is selling “banana hats” at $13 a pop.  It’s a plastic top, covered with a knit hat.  He just secured a deal on Shark Tank.  Really.  Who sits around and thinks of these things?  All I know is, next year everyone on my list is getting a knit hat for their bananas.



For your reckless brother-in-law: Let’s face it.  Some people are just not cut out to be parents.  Your brother-in-law may be one of those people.  Normally he might tell his kids to go play on the freeway, but if you want him to be a more responsible parent, why not give him the “My First Fire” kit?  That way, the kids are safely in the backyard and your brother-in-law can watch them without setting down his beer.


For the romantic: Candles are considered romantic.  It’s hard to find a romantic movie where candles don’t appear at some point, either around a bathtub or next to a bed.  Well, what could be more romantic than a candle made of your ear wax?  It exudes your essence even when you’re not at home.  Who could resist?


For the Toto enviers:  A few of my friends have the Toto toilet that apparently does everything for you but go to the grocery store.  They rave about the heated seat, the warm water and the blow dry.  Frankly, I’ve never seen the benefit as my goal is to spend as little time in the bathroom as possible.  But then again, I’m not a guy.  So for the person who does spend a lot of time but doesn’t want to splurge on the Toto toilet, you can get him the Roto Wipe.  My guess is it works just about as well at 1/1000 of the cost.

For the dog owners who entertain:  You spend hours preparing for a dinner party – cooking a gourmet meal, setting a gorgeous table, fresh flowers – and then just before the guests are due to arrive you notice that your dog has done his “business” on the lawn.  Who has time to go get a bag, scoop it up, and take it to the trash?  Instead, you can employ the “Hide a Poo”, a device that looks like a rock and covers up the whole mess.  You’re on your own when it comes to masking the smell.  Hopefully your guests have bad allergies.


For the TV news watcher:  I don’t care what news channel you watch, at some point someone is going to say something ridiculous.  This is especially true if a politician is speaking.  How handy, not to mention cathartic, would be it be to have a BS button?  I think ours might wear out in the first week.  Perhaps you may want to purchase back-ups.




For everyone: Let’s face it, 2022 has not lived up to our expectations.  If you had told us in 2020 that we’d still be fighting COVID, but added in RSV, we would not have believed it.  Throw in the rising cost of everything, Ukraine, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and the mental images from the Johnny Depp trial that cannot be erased from memory, I think 2022 has a lot to answer for.  But just in case you know someone who thought this year was just nifty, why not give them an ornament to commemorate the smorgasbord of misery?

That’s it.  If you’re actually interested in any of these gifts they can be found on Amazon.  You can thank me later.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

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

           An Irresistible face

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

           Dash – 2nd from left

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

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

             Dash’s first day home

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

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

       Dash visiting a WWII hero

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

                        My sweet boy

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

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

Dash the Wonder Dog at 10

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

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