Words & Banter

RED & BLACK ... An Extreme Summer

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I don't even know why I'm bringing this up, especially since I'm well aware that compared to so many other people, I'm incredibly lucky. Not to mention, you probably won't understand what I'm feeling because let's face it … you're not a mom, you seem to work 24/7, and you never take a vacation. In other words, you're "immune" from so much of what us "mere mortals" are going through.


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If it were not for the fact that everyone is staying at home, I would think you were about to ask for time off for a summer vacation. Or, maybe you are planning a stay-cation?


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Neither. I was doing my usual disclaimer before I lamented that August will be over before I know it. And when I look back over the summer, I'm going to find myself asking, "What summer?!"


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The summer of COVID-19. It will be hard to forget.


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I know. There are so many people, as in millions, who are truly suffering – whether physically, financially, or both.


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Do not forget "mentally" as almost everyone, whether they realize it or not, is experiencing increased levels of stress. But, we are both very lucky. So, beside the obvious, what is your issue with this summer?


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Now I feel guilty saying anything. But it's as if summer never happened. I feel like ever since corona-craziness hit over spring break, every day, every week, every month, just feels the same. With the only thing changing being the level of stress.


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Sounds like that Bill Murray movie. I think it was called "Groundhog Day."


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Exactly.


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So, if someone asked you what you did this summer, what would be the first thing you would say?


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Working seemingly non-stop on Red & Black.


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Ok, I suspect if I had asked you that question a year ago, you probably would have said the same thing.


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Maybe. Probably. But with us trying to get our new website up and running, it has been even crazier than normal.


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I understand. However, we have the luxury of having always worked from home, so that aspect of life did not change. For some people, their work life is now extremely different.


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Funny you say that. I was talking to a good friend and mentioned just that, which led to us talking about when Nick was unexpectedly fired years ago. All of a sudden, he had not only lost his job, but was home all the time. It changed the dynamics of our life literally in seconds. Nothing was the same from that moment on.


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There is an understatement. And, I remember our conversations about how to explain it to the girls, who were very young at the time. Including the concept of working from home.


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Yes, but even years later, once divorced and "doing" Red & Black full-time, it was challenging to work from home over summer break. And that was without all the complications related to the coronavirus.


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I know how much COVID-19 affected Sawyer going to camp this year. Not only in terms of the weeks you stressed over whether to allow her to go, but also all the precautions that had to be taken in advance and in preparation for her return home.


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This year was extremely different from the last 11 years. Especially because, on top of all the new rules and safety precautions, it was her first time as a camp counselor. I'm glad it worked out, otherwise she'd have gone stir-crazy at home since I was restricting a lot of her normal "outside-the-house" activities.


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Yes, I could tell the months of staying home was getting to her. If it had not been for camp, it would have been a daily battle for you – trying to find the balance of keeping her safe yet also allowing her a life.


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No kidding. But I'll say this, being stuck at home, Sawyer started cooking more and really enjoyed it. And I did too. It not only helped occupy her time, but she made dinner some nights. And they were delicious.


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Do you still barbeque a lot?


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Oh, yes. We're doing lots of barbecuing and lots of home cooking. I'm not quite ready to eat out in restaurants, and take-out is nice, but gets expensive.


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Funny thing is that your eating habits sound old-fashioned. Back when families used to have meals together at home – instead of everyone grabbing something on the go.


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Well, we're all stuck at home. What else are we supposed to do? In fact, if anything, I feel like we're eating too much.


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If it makes you feel any better, that is extremely common. Many people turn to food, especially comfort food, to cope with stress.


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I don't know if it being "extremely common" makes me feel any better about it. No more so than if you told me it's "extremely common" to feel stressed out about the coronavirus and the fact it seems to have taken over and changed everything. Including summer.



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So to recap, this summer is filled with stir-crazy and/or bored kids, juggling work and summer break, barbeques and home cooking. And, if I had to guess, you probably had an overly optimistic list of things you wanted to do this summer that is not getting done. It sounds to me like a normal summer.


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Yes, when you put it that way. I regret even starting this conversation, but can't help how I feel. And just because we're extremely lucky compared to others, it doesn't change the fact we still have to deal with the situation.


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No argument there. However, I was merely addressing where this conversation started, which was you stating that you felt like you did not have a summer.



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OK, so I did have a summer. But, as you pointed out, in so many ways it was just more "extreme". I guess it shouldn't surprise me that you'd see that. After all, as I often say, you're a bit more extreme …


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I find that comment extremely … accurate.

If you find yourself feeling, like Red, that in the scheme of things you've been extremely lucky this summer, consider reaching out to help others that are suffering. For example, Black donates to the local Feeding America Food Bankas the need for food has skyrocketed.


Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Photo by OnTheRunPhoto for iStock


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I keep getting emails about where to go for mocktails. I know alcohol-free cocktails, like Virgin Margaritas, have been around for a while, but I’d never heard that term before. Do you think it has to do with New Year’s resolutions?


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It can if any of your resolutions are to lose weight, save money, sleep better. Or, drink less. Psychologically, January is the month when we “reset”, so a UK-based organization, Alcohol Change UK, started Dry January, where you abstain from drinking alcohol.


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Perfect timing since many people shop, eat, and drink more than usual over the holidays.


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I know you used to drink a glass of Cold Duck on New Year’s Eve, a tradition going back to our childhood, but that hardly counts as drinking. But, I have always wondered why you rarely drink, but never asked.
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Photo by bhofack2 for iStock

Popcorn! Quite simply, it’s one of my absolute favorite things. Starting when I was a child, whenever I went to the movies, I’d get (and finish!) the largest bucket of popcorn available. And I always thought movie popcorn was far superior to what you could make at home … until a recent trip to visit a close friend in Tennessee, and she introduced me to Great Northern Popcorn (I promise this isn’t a paid ad). Now I’m addicted to it as I can make it on my cooktop. I know Black would be more interested in the science of what makes popcorn pop, but I prefer to just be obsessive about my popcorn …

Popcorn. Just the thought of popcorn makes me smile, makes me want to indulge, makes me happy. And I’m guessing my popcorn obsession makes Black roll her eyes (although she might admit it can be a healthy snack). However, plenty of people must love popcorn as much as I do. Why else would there be a National Popcorn Day?!

Over the past few years, the pandemic posed challenges that none of us could’ve foreseen (and I’ll never forget the dedication of the front-line workers or make light of the sacrifices so many had to make). But part of me has to laugh at the irony because it ended my seemingly easy “escape” from the stresses of life – going to the movies and enjoying the largest bucket of popcorn – when I needed it the most.

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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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You’re going to roll your eyes, but lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about myself.


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That is totally out of character, unless you are thinking of New Year’s resolutions.


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Actually, no. For decades, my priorities, and therefore my life, have always been focused on the girls and Mom. But that’s all changing. And I’m not sure how to “change” with it.
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