Gator Nation News

It's the Little Things that Count

Jigsaw puzzles and jump ropes. The joys of a perfectly roasted tomato. This particular Thanksgiving seems a fine time to salute the little things that are getting us through one of the weirdest years on record.

Spouses and partners and family. Friends and colleagues. Good health.

This year, we are all especially grateful for the big things. Steve Spurrier (BSPE ’81), legendary college and NFL football coach, aka HBC (head ball coach), summed it up: “I am thankful that my wife and my entire family, including four children and 14 grandchildren, have stayed healthy,” he said. “I pray they continue to stay healthy during these uncertain times.”

But what about the little things? What items, what rituals, what new hobbies have helped you get through 2020?

We posed that question to just over a baker’s dozen of notable Gators. Here’s a Thanksgiving list that might inspire the rest of us.

I’m thankful for…

“… my unicycle. I learned how to ride a unicycle because I wanted to challenge myself physically, emotionally and mentally. Learning how to ride my bike taught me how to lean into my failures, face my fears, set goals and celebrate my wins. My next challenge is juggling while on the bike.”

Bertrhude Albert (BA ’12, MA ’14, PhD ’16), co-founder of the not-for-profit P4H Global (formerly, Projects for Haiti)

“… jigsaw puzzles. They’ve been a great way to pass the time over the past several months — especially the hours I’ve spent looking for pieces that have fallen under the table.”

Jamison Webb (BSJ ’07), actor in Santa Monica, whose credits include the role of Maj. Lee Baxter on the Netflix series “Space Force”

“… my camera, a Nikon Z6 Mirrorless with a Nikkor 200-500mm lens. When the pandemic forced the zoo to close, I was able to do something I’ve wanted for years: make a short film on birds at the zoo with no human presence or manmade sounds. It was amazing to be the only person there for weeks, watching birds exhibit behaviors I had never been able to previously document while hearing nothing but their beautiful songs and the sound of trickling water. The resulting film, ‘Wings of Asia: The Beauty of Birds,’ won an international award and helps remind me of the saying, ‘The earth plays beautiful music if we would only take the time to listen.’”

Ron Magill (AA ’80), wildlife photographer, communications director of Zoo Miami

“…my Kindle. Being able to order a book and read it immediately has been a godsend.”

Paul Perkins Jr. (JD ’91), Orlando personal-injury lawyer

“… being outdoors and disconnecting more often. I’ve picked up a new hobby – playing tennis with my girlfriend or a coworker (socially distant). Although I’m not too great at it, it’s been a relief to try something new and scratch my competitive itch.”

Mario Agosto (BA ’18, MS ’19), South Florida investment analyst, director of UF Association of Hispanic Alumni

“I’ve rediscovered the jump rope — not the fancy high-speed ones you find at a gym, but the kind your child leaves lying in the yard after taking a turn or two. Sometimes I would go it alone, and sometimes I would take turns with my oldest daughter. Sometimes I jump after hours on the computer. Other times I jump after a neighborhood run. No matter how I show up, the outcome is always the same — pure childlike delight in a body full of life.”

Kim Holton (PHD ’14), yoga teacher, wellness specialist and lecturer at UF Department of Health Education & Behavior

“… the outdoors, the overwhelming love and support from our followers and for Gator football. We’re also grateful that even during these difficult times, we have been able to start our non-profit, which is dedicated to preserving land and protecting wildlife, @HenryAndBalooFoundation.”

Henry and Baloo, internet celebrity dog and cat, as shared by their companion, Andre Sibilsky (BSBA ’10) of Denver

“My wife, Tiffany (a Seminole!), and I have rediscovered board games we haven’t played since childhood. It’s been a joy to share these games with our three children of the gadget generation, and a bit humbling for this mystery writer to find out that my 15-year-old daughter is much better at ‘Clue’ than I am!”

James Grippando (BA ’80, JD ’82), novelist and lawyer, winner of 2017 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

“Being on the frontlines of COVID-19 research, I have worked seven days a week (5 a.m. to 1 a.m.), without a single day’s break since mid-February. My respite is leaving the office at 6 p.m. every day to cook dinner for my family. My wife and I being from multicultural backgrounds, we prepare what most Americans would consider ‘different’ foods, including Czech and Hungarian goulash, Moravian roast duck, Asturian caldereta (the most delicious fish stew imaginable) and Filipino pork kabobs. A special treat is the rare time we can get burgers from Mac’s Drive-Thru!”

John Lednicky, UF virologist and researcher professor of environmental and global health at PHHP and Emerging Pathogens Institute

“The one item that has kept me sane during this long pandemic is the old-fashioned telephone. Not texting, not sending emails, but actually keeping in touch with my friends I used to see regularly at lunches and dinners. Now we have long, meaningful telephone conversations. It’s staying in touch, and when we return to the ‘new normal,’ we won’t have to play catch-up.”

Judy Lynn Prince (BSJ ’64), 1988 College of Journalism and Communications Hall of Fame inductee, 2015 UF Distinguished Alumnus

“I have found comfort in the many rocks I have collected in my 93 years. These rocks lay in the ground waiting me to dig them up so they could reveal information about social and physical activities of Florida people from the ancient past. These stones may reveal secrets dormant for more than 30,000 years. I have published papers about rocks like these since the 1970s and will have another paper published in December, which is something to look forward to. The only other thing I have to be grateful for this year is I don’t have to prepare a 30-pound turkey with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving. I’d like to put COVID-19 in the oven and broil!”

Barbara Purdy (PHD ’71), prehistoric stone-tools expert, UF Professor Emerita of Anthropology

“… the opportunity to rent a handcycle. I had always loved riding bikes and was so discouraged that I couldn’t just pick up any bike and ride, so I was so excited to find a company that would rent an adaptive handcycle to me. It was such a great way to adventure, spend time with my family and get some fresh air and exercise.”

Mariel White, UF junior majoring in sports management, disability advocate, UAA sports journalism intern

“If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would never have discovered roasted tomatoes. For close to 40 years I’ve enjoyed preparing recipes from Italian, Turkish and other cuisines, but I had never in my life roasted tomatoes. A friend of mine recommended the blog ‘Eating My Way Through Italy,’ and what caught my eye was this ‘so-simple-you-won’t-believe-it’ recipe. They are crazy good. You simply cut the tomatoes in half, drizzle with olive oil and chopped garlic and oregano (and salt and pepper) and throw them into a hot oven for 40 minutes. What eventually comes out is a headily aromatic, rich and delicious, slightly caramelized tomatoey mixture that will knock your socks off.”

Sidney Wade, poet, UF Professor Emerita in English, poetry editor of Subtropics

“… our Facebook Portal to stay in touch with people, Whole Foods’ two-hour Prime delivery to be sure the fridge is stocked with goodies, and Peloton to be sure the images on Portal aren’t negatively impacted by the ease of ordering my favorite IPAs and chips from Whole Foods.”

Jeff Lin (BSAC ’02, MACC ’02), New York City entrepreneur