By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Don't be fooled

Don’t be fooled

As I recently mentioned, my first job after college was as the advertising and marketing director for an upscale condominium development in Fair Oaks, California.  Why they hired me, I’ll never know.  My only experience in either field consisted of placing a want ad to sell my 1965 Renault, a car that featured a push-button gear shift. It was so under-powered that Bob used to ask me whether I put it in “puree” or “blend” to climb up a hill.  I suppose that my ability to craft an ad that actually resulted in its sale did take a certain amount of talent.  And being part Irish gives me a significant leg up when it comes to shoveling out the blarney.  I suspect, however, that they hired me because I was willing to work for peanuts.  I learned a lot during my tenure at that job – newspaper ad positioning, how to write copy that lured in customers, how to drink coffee for 8 hours straight. But mostly, I learned about people.

My office was upstairs from the sales office and since they had the coffee pot I wandered down to sit with them quite often.  Have I mentioned that my boss was 400 miles away?  Anyway, there were three wizened sales people who were kind enough to take me under their wing and teach me a bit about real estate and what people look for when they’re searching for a new home.  I spent a lot of time listening to them transfix customers with their “spiel”.  I thought I had developed a sense for who was a “buyer” and who was a “tire kicker” until the day an older couple (probably younger than me now!) walked in to the office. They were both wearing overalls; he had a cowlick and she was devoid of make-up with a shock of unruly gray curls.  They had literally just walked in “off the farm”. I went back up to my office while the saleswoman took them out on tour.   When she returned  I said, “Boy, that must have been a waste of time; they couldn’t possibly afford to buy in here.”  Which shows just how judgemental and stupid I was. They signed the papers that day for the biggest, most expensive unit we had, with magnificent views of the American River.

A Shining Example

A Shining Example

I have been thinking about that incident a lot lately – how I judged people by their outward appearance before I bothered to learn anything about them as individuals. It was a very good lesson to learn early in life and it helped me in my subsequent career as a Human Resources professional.  Not that I don’t judge people any more.  I have plenty to say about the Kardashians without ever having met any of them and I’m pretty sure that my impressions are spot on.  But it seems to me that we as a society are increasingly judging people using broad stereotypes. Black, white, Hispanic, cops, youth, Christians, gays, Democrats, Republicans…the list goes on and on.  When did that happen?  Or, more importantly, why? I’m not sure there is any one answer and certainly it would take someone above my pay grade (which is $0) to figure it out.  If I had to guess I’d say it has something to do with the advent of 24 hour cable news and the internet, both of which derive income by staking out corners in the far reaches of an ideology and then catering to people who reside there.  My experience tells me that the vast majority of Americans judge people as people, regardless of their race, creed, religion, sexual preference or whether they drink Chardonnay or Budweiser.  But these days it seems my Facebook feed is bombarded with posts, or more accurately re-posts, of some half-truth that generalizes and paints an ugly picture of some group.  As a rule of thumb, any group that has “Occupy” or “Tea Party” in its name is not going to provide a completely truthful analysis.  I’m on Facebook less and less because of this problem and will be un-friending people who continue to “share” those posts.  I don’t even want to think about how much more vitriolic social media will become as we inch toward the 2016 election.  And you’d best believe that the people who are running the campaigns will count on the masses to spread the half-truths to further their cause.

So I say we just STOP!  Let’s not be manipulated by people who have an agenda.  Let’s refrain from posting or forwarding information that is partisan or with an obvious bias.  Let’s not lump everyone into an amorphous group – let’s think about people as the individuals that they are.  Except when it comes to contractors.  Given my recent experience with our bathroom remodel, they deserve every bad thing ever said about them.


A Cup of Coffee and a Newspaper

by Bob Sparrow


The news is mostly about ‘self’!

I read in the newspaper last week . . . yes, I still read a newspaper; I realize I’m in the minority, as both newspaper sales and newspaper advertising revenue are falling like a prom dress. If you ask the younger generation where they get their news they will invariably tell you ‘on line’, but all I see is faces buried in their phones while ‘tweeting’, ‘liking’, ‘Instagraming’ or posing for ‘selfies’. Their ‘news’, I suspect, comes more from ‘You Tube’ than the ‘Boob Tube’. Which means, they may not really care that much about the news – which I understand as it is mostly depressing.

Call me sentimental, but I like knowing that the Orange County Register staff worked late into the night to gather the registernews, print it and deliver it to my driveway before I get up the next morning.   I do understand that newspaper news is a day old, but do I really need the up-to-the-minute scoop on what the Kardashians are doing or what political figure bashed what political figure today? It’s not like someone is going to ask me to weigh in on our Middle East policy. Do we even have a Middle East policy? Besides, can you line the bottom of your birdcage with your computer? Can you roll up your iPad and admonish your dog? Can you get a fire going by lighting your cell phone? I think not!

I stare into my computer at work, I’m glued to my laptop when I’m writing or perusing social media and I read books on my iPad; my eyes are thankful for the respite from the bright glare of electronic devices and welcome the act of sitting down with a cup of coffee, relaxing and reading the morning news, smug in the knowledge that my newspaper isn’t going to ‘crash’, ‘freeze’ or ‘lose its connection’.


This is NOT a health drink!

A cup of coffee! That’s what I started to write about before I so rudely interrupted myself with this newspaper rant. Coffee’s history is quite the opposite of newspaper history; sales are increasing as well as prices, especially for that ‘Venti Half-Caf Caramel White Chocolate Mocha Cookie Frappuccino Latte with a shot of Espresso. Again, I know I’m in the minority here, but I still like a plain cup of coffee and as I started to say, I read in the newspaper last week that coffee, which has had a mercurial reputation, is now once again, good for you!  The article I was reading was from New York Times writer, Aaron E. Carroll, and he, like many of us, grew up in a time when our parents drank coffee, but told us not to because it would stunt our growth. For the most part we believed them and didn’t drink coffee until we thought we were tall enough. We’d see midgets, jockeys and the Seven Dwarfs and think, ‘coffee drinkers’.

Carroll sites numerous studies that show the benefits to coffee drinkers; lower rate of virtually all cardiovascular disease, lower risk of liver cancer and lower risk of prostate and breast cancer. For those who already have liver disease, coffee is associated with decreased progression to cirrhosis. Coffee intake was associated with lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, lower cognitive decline and a potential protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee (all these studies refer to ‘black’ coffee, no sugar or cream, but can be caffeinated or decaffeinated) was associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Pretty impressive I think! But we don’t drink coffee as a ‘health drink’, although a regular brewed coffee has 5 or fewermug calories and no fat or carbohydrates; we drink it because it taste good and perhaps because we’re hooked on caffeine and need that ‘legal stimulant’ to kick-start our day.

OK, give your eyes a rest, you’ve been staring at your computer long enough, turn it off (Oops, first ‘share’ this blog with a coffee lover you know, it will make them feel better about this morning’s cup of coffee), grab a newspaper and another cup of coffee and relax, that is if coffee doesn’t give you the jitters or make you run to the bathroom. Hey, nothing is perfect!



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

New yearsI operate under the illusion that I am a fully functioning, rational adult.  That could be the root of my problem.  Here I sit, two days before the new year, convinced that 2014 is going to be a GREAT year.  I’ve polled a few of my friends and their sentiment is exactly the same – they all are looking forward to 2014 with great optimism and hope.  We will NOT have any of the problems we experienced in that nasty old 2013, no sir.  2014 will be perfect.

What is it about human nature that we completely suspend reality at the beginning of each year?  We forget that life’s road is bumpy and that each year brings with it some amount of problems and worries.  Heck, at our age, every doctor’s appointment holds the possibility of being a life-altering event.  And we forget that the world around us (especially in a year with mid-term elections) can be a very hard place to find comfort and joy.  So this year, in an effort to be more grounded, I am not making any resolutions that are high-minded or completely unrealistic. I’ve decided to make some resolutions of what I won’t do in the new year.  Here’s a sampling:


1.  I will NOT exercise every day.  Every year I say I will and every year I fail.  One year I made it all the way through April.  That year was 1966.  Ever since then I can’t even get through the month of January without sitting on my butt for hours eating Doritos and watching TV.   So this year I am setting myself up for success – I vow to exercise when I feel like it.  Hopefully that will be something more than once a week but I’m not making any rash promises.

2.  I will NOT eat healthy every day.  Although I do consume more than my fair share of kale salad and green smoothies, I hate that I feel guilty when I eat something resolutionswonderfully sugary or packed with carbs.  So…in 2014 I pledge to do my best, keeping in mind that there were probably several women on the Titanic who in their last moments thought, “Damn!  I should have had that chocolate cake!”

3.  I will NOT get organized.  This year I bought one of those P-Touch label makers.  I set up a color-coded filing system and labeled every folder.  Then I made labels for a bank of  switches so I finally could distinguish between mood lighting, overhead beams and the window shades.  Perfect.  But then I took it too far – I labeled the hair dryer, the spice rack and the toaster.  My husband never stayed around me long for fear he would end up with a label.  So in 2014 I will not attempt to organize.  Instead, I will seek professional counseling for what is obviously my OCD problem.

4.  I will NOT watch Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo-Boo or Miley Cyrus.  This one is pretty easy because I don’t follow those people now but since they are constantly on the news I shall vow to avert my eyes when they appear.  Also, in 2014 I will not be Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Except the whole “Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman” thing.  I met him once in 1977 at a cocktail party and he was the very essence of manhood and virility.  So watching him get his Adam’s Apple shaved and wear women’s undergarments could hold a certain fascination that will prove irresistible.

I think these resolutions are sufficiently low.  In fact, I’m feeling confident that this year I will accomplish all of my goals. Optimism runs rampant today because, like many of you, I look at January 1st as a fresh beginning. My slate wiped clean of any problems, with only great possibilities spread out before me in the coming 12 months.  Today I believe that all things are possible.  Today I believe that the new year will bring contentment, good times and I will finally be able to discard my “fat clothes”.

Here’s to a wonderful 2014 to us all.  May your year be filled with good health, good friends and good times. And may all of your resolutions be fulfilled – no matter how low you set the bar!   Happy New Year!!!!

2014 Jahreswechsel, Neujahr

Affairs to Forget

Headlines: Is Cain Able to Handle Situation Gingerly?

Herman Cain provides the fodder for his political foes,

When he sits down with his wife this week to see just what she knows

About friend Ginger White with whom he just had friendly connections,

And he’s hoping to avoid the subject of presidential erections.

 Money: Just What We Need, Another Stock that Isn’t Worth Anything 

Just in time for Christmas you can buy some Packers stock,

So you can put a Cheese Head in that special person’s sock.

But investors should be wary as there’s something to be learned;

The stock, while it brings ownership will bring no monetary return.

 Sports: Keep Manning Manning the Sidelines

Payton Manning’s neck is healing the doctor said this week,

But his comeback for this season still is looking bleak.

We know that he’s a winner, but it cannot be his dream

To stand behind the offensive line of his winless Indy team.

Life: Barbara Wawa Holds A Mirror Up To Our Culture and It Isn’t Pretty

It’s Barbara Walter’s Special night we hope you won’t be late,

She tells us who we really like and who can fascinate.

The Kardashians and Trump are among those who she’ll fete

All in all it sounds like something that we’d just as soon forget.

 Put a tribute in someone’s sock this year

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