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it keeps both Dick and Jane from getting out of the house and mingling with people to shop; ‘window shopping’ has even been replaced by computer ‘scrolling’.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!

 

Five Minutes You’ll Never Get Back!

by Bob Sparrow

“Hey, a blog about nothing, this should be good!”

It’s one of those weeks where “I’ve got nothing”.  OK, another week where I’ve got nothing!  I am in the desert this week, but I’ve told you all about my escapades there, bad golf, fine dining and not-so-fine drinking, but plenty of it.  Let’s see, Russia-Ukraine, of course, has the headlines and everyone feels pretty much the same about the atrocities happening there. Covid is somewhere between ‘old news’ and ‘what’s the new variant” and the stock market is just a barrel of laughs.

I’ve been reading those ‘good news’ sites I mentioned a few blogs ago, and I find that I’m already bored with all good news.  On that subject, I’ve become less attracted to ‘Squirrel News’, but love Morning Brew, very entertaining If you sign up and tell them that I sent you there, they send me a tee shirt or a coffee mug, or maybe it’s just a tee shirt with some coffee stains on it.

I’m sitting here with a blank computer and a mind to match.  I’m thinking of Jerry Seinfeld’s television series, that he described as ‘a show about nothing’.  I’m wondering if I can write a blog about nothing.  I’m guessing that there would be a number of people out there who would say that I’ve written a number of blogs about nothing. 

Nah!

So, if you’ve got something important to do, nah, it doesn’t have to be that important, I’d skip the rest of this blog and go do it.  Ahh, wait a minute, here’s something.   I just discovered that it was exactly ten years ago from last Sunday that Suzanne and I abandoned our idea of writing poetic tributes.  Yes, some of you remember the old ‘Red Posey’ business that was augmented by our just-developed blog, All the News that’s Fit to Rhyme, where we followed a USA Today newspaper format by writing a topical poem about World News, Sports, Business and Entertainment – we published it EVERY WEEKDAY!!!  You can still find them at the beginning of our archives on this site.  From a financial perspective, the business failed, but what we found out was that Suzanne and I enjoyed working and writing together, so on March 20, 2012, we had apparently run out of words that rhyme and launched a prose version called ‘A Bird’s Eye View’, which we had to immediately change to ‘From A Bird’s Eye View’ because A Bird’s Eye View was already taken.  Originally, we posted twice a week, but somewhere in the middle of 2012 we transitioned to every Monday, sometimes twice a week if we’re traveling to an interesting place.  The blog’s been posted weekly, without fail, since then. We’ve posted somewhere around 600 blogs and have received over 4,000 comments, although I’d have to admit that the majority of those comments came from the same two people – thanks Pam and Janet!

As I’m fretting over what to put in the blog this week, Linda says, “Why don’t you just skip a week?”  I look at her like she’s got two heads and remind her that Suzanne’s and my father was a newspaper man, so it’s just in our blood not to miss a deadline.  She shrugs like she doesn’t really understand, so I try to bring it home to her and say, “Your father was a dairy farmer, so did he ever decide not to milk the cows for a week, or for a day, or for a morning?”  She had walked away by then, so I’m not sure she got the point, or was interested in the point.  So, I’m still rambling here.  Hey, this week is the first week of spring, which doesn’t mean much to those of us in southern California, since we’ve already had days in the 90s, but for those in the northern environs it will mean warmer weather and for all of us, longer days; well, technically the days we still be 24 hours, there is just more daylight.

I’m reading a really good book, The Beatles, remember them?  It’s by Bob Spitz and it starts from the very beginning – really a detailed commentary on everything Beatles – very interesting.  Unlike this blog!

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.

We’re All Singing the Betwixmas Blues

by Bob Sparrow

Yes, Betwixmas is a word . . . sort of – it’s the term used for the six days between Christmas and New Year’s Day – and we are now in it up to our masks.    There are names for two of these six days that bookend Betwixmas; at the beginning, December 26 is ‘Boxing Day’, which is not celebrated in America, but mostly in England and its former Commonwealth satellites (Canada/Australia/New Zealand/Hong Kong).  It started out as a day to honor servants and those less fortunate by giving them a ‘box’ of something of value.  It then morphed into a shopping holiday (apparently, they said, ‘screw the servants’) where one would take back the ‘boxes’ of whatever they got for Christmas and exchange them for a box of something they really wanted (Maybe we do celebrate it here in America after all).  At the other end of Betwixmas is, of course, New Year’s Eve; never before will so many people really mean it when they say “Happy New Year”!!! But those four days in between, particularly this year, will drive you crazy enough to actually try to eat your grandma’s brick-hard fruitcake that you got again this Christmas.

Betweixmas is a time when we really don’t know what day it is,  who you are or what you’re really supposed to be doing.  There is no school and no one is really working.  If someone goes into the office during Betwixmas, it’s not to work, it’s just to get away from the spouse and/or kids, that have been driving them crazy since the Covid outbreak.

Paradoxically, the shortest day of the year was just last Monday, so the days should seem to just fly by, but no, these days drag on and makes Betwixmas seem interminable.  Typically, it’s the time to relax after the Christmas ‘rush’ and get ready to usher in a new year, a different year, anything but what we’ve been experiencing, so this Betwixmas drags on even more than normal.

Snow Angel

The result of these shiftless days are things like creating New Year’s resolutions that are unrealistic and completely unattainable.  To wit:  you’re probably going to be a little heavier by this time next year.  That home gym that you built this year will go mostly unused next year.  You’re not going to be a better person next year, you’re going to be about the same, and you’re going to be no more organized next year than you are this year.

Usually, the novelty of the kids being home during Christmas vacation calls for some family activity – heading to the mountains to frolic in the snow, visiting Disneyland or if you’re a fan, going to a college football bowl game.  But there’s no snow in the local mountains, Disneyland is closed and the general public is not allowed to attend a college football game.  We are doomed to spend Betwixmas just like we’ve spent the last nine months – in house arrest.

So, one would think that this would have been a good time for a blog that’s really entertaining; a missive filled with little-known facts of interest that would take your mind off the tedium of the times.  But no, it’s a match for the times.

Merappy Betwixmas

 

Could This Be Your Most Memorable Christmas?

by Bob Sparrow

Like everything else in 2020, I’m guessing Christmas this year will be a little different for you.  Probably fewer people gathered together, maybe a change from the regular venue, Santa could be wearing a mask instead of a beard and perhaps the gifts given and received might be a little different, as suggested by Suzanne last week.  But I have no doubt that the ‘Christmas Spirit’ will prevail – assuming you don’t run out of Christmas ‘spirits’.  If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes we need a change of routine in order to appreciate the routine.

So, as we prepare for whatever this holiday will bring, I can’t help but recall my most unusual Christmas – it took place in 1968.  As a backdrop for those who weren’t around then or as a stark reminder to those who were, 1968 was a crazy year!  The U.S. was ass-deep in a very unpopular Viet Nam war, causing unrest on college campuses in the form of protests and draft card burning.  Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated; the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, Richard Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace to be elected to his first term as president, streets were filled with civil and gender-rights protests – some not so peaceful, 82 crewmen of the USS Pueblo were held captive most of the year by North Korea; Mao Tse-Tung celebrated 20 years as communist leader of China and the Zodiac killer (who has yet to be found to this day) is on the prowl in California. In December of that year, three Apollo 8 astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders, became the first to circle the moon, in preparation for the first moon landing seven months hence.

Don and me in front of house in Atsugi, Japan.  Dec. 1968

In 1968 I was an Ensign in the Navy (ours!) and in July of that year I received orders for Atsugi Naval Air Station, Japan.  By December, my wife and I and our dog, Xoon, were living in a small, two-bedroom house, surrounded by Japanese neighbors, about four miles from the base on Dog School Road – apparently, there was a dog school nearby; I’m not sure if it was a pre-school or a pee-school.  Thousands of miles from home in a foreign country, we were planning for a fairly lonely Christmas, our first and only one without family or friends.  Then, about two weeks before Christmas, I got a letter (no cell phones or even email in those days) from my best friend, Don Klapperich, who was a Navy F-4 jet pilot, assigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Coral Sea.  He wrote that their ship, that had been on combat duty in the South China Sea, was coming into Yokohama for Christmas, and that their squadron (VF-151) allowed them to send for their wives to spend the holidays in Japan.

What great news!!!  What was going to be a very dismal Christmas, just got significantly better.  Don was not only my best friend, but my singing partner from high school, and since he had his guitar with him (not in his aircraft, but on the ‘boat’) and I had mine, Christmas Eve found the four of us gathered around our ‘space heater’ chatting and singing songs, which I recorded on a reel-to-reel tape.  I still have the recording, which I converted to a CD, and when I listen to it today, it takes me back to that most-unusual Christmas far from home.

That cold Christmas morning we woke up to no presents under no tree and no stockings hung by the chimney with care – we had no chimney.  But we did exchange gifts, then drove to the Officer’s Club on base, which had a TV, in order to watch our astronauts circle the moon and provide us with that iconic ‘Earth Rise’ photo.

Iconic ‘Earth Rise’ photo – December 1968

As we headed back home for the evening, we looked to the sky and saw a bright, crescent moon and marveled that three astronauts were up there circling it.  So, when I was expecting a lonely Christmas far from home, it turned out to be one of my most memorable Christmases ever.

My point, and I apologize for the rather circuitous route in getting to it, is that this Christmas will undoubtedly be different, presumably like no other you’ve ever or will ever experience, but with a little luck and a positive attitude, it may turn into a Christmas you’ll never forget – in a good way.

We’d love to hear how you’re planning to make this Christmas a pleasantly, different one.