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Well, it seems I barely got the Thanksgiving decorations put away and I was putting out Chanukah menorahs. Which means the year's almost over. Where did it go?


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You say that every year. But this year, I think everyone wants the year to be over.


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Now there's an understatement! But I still love this time of year. I just wish I could enjoy it more, but I know that the days will just fly by. Chanukah comes mid-month and I'll barely be able to celebrate it before making sure that I'm prepared for Christmas and then New Year.


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That is the holiday tradition, exhaust yourself getting "ready" for the holidays. Then, try your best to actually enjoy the holiday, which will be a challenge unto itself given the pandemic. And then, feel relief, and maybe a little sadness, when it is over.


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You sound like a modern-day Scrooge.


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If that were the case, I would have mentioned the people who go through the holiday season feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or even depressed. Which is probably more this year than usual.


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You're not helping the situation. I'm already feeling overwhelmed. Between parenting, work, and managing the challenges of the coronavirus, the holidays just add more things to my already long to-do list with deadlines that can't slide.


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Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the holiday season was supposed to be about spending quality time with family and friends. A time of fun and joy. Of giving and sharing. Of hope. And, maybe even magical. And, yes, I appreciate that the pandemic will require being creative, but it can still be done.


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What's going on? You're talking about feelings! You're supposed to be the pragmatic one.


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No need to be concerned. Remember, I am the one who can talk about relationships and take emotions out of the picture.


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Which always makes me laugh. You're truly the only person I've ever known who can use bullet points to explain relationships.


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But, do they make sense?


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Yes, but what does that have to do with the holidays?


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Everything. Think about it.


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I hate when you won't just answer my question.


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No, you hate when I make you think. Do you remember the first bullet point?


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Yes. It's about understanding your values and priorities – totally independent of the other person. But the holidays are about giving and sharing. They're about family and friends. Even you said that.


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True. But, first you have to get back to basics and determine what is important to you. Otherwise, you get too wrapped up in all the details and forget the big picture. And, it is all the details which cause the stress and fatigue.


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No kidding. Tell me about it.


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One thing leads to another on your list. Then you start adding things you would like to do if you have the time, which somehow become things you feel you have to do. The next thing you know, you have totally unrealistic expectations. Layer on top the over-commercialization of the holiday season and you now are set up for failure instead of success. And, that does not even address the financial aspects, and associated stress, of the holidays.


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When I said, "Tell me about it," I was agreeing with you -- not really asking you to tell me about it.


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Too late now. You know how literal I can be. Lists aside, can you think of one or two things that you look forward to every holiday season?


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That's easy. The first is I always make a conscious effort to spend more time with the girls. It can be as simple as just watching TV with Sawyer or FaceTiming with Natasha. The second is making a little time for me, which this year will mean being creative since I can't escape to the movies.


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We both know it is not the movie – it is the movie popcorn. Anyway, the answer is "yes." Now, can you think of one or two unimportant things that are on your holiday to-do list just because they have always been on your list?


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Yes. Definitely more than one or two.


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Does your list have any of those "it would be nice if I had spare time" items that you know will not happen?


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Of course, it does. I see what you're doing. You're making me admit that even though I understand and talk about focusing on what's really important, I sometimes forget to stop and think about it.


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I was not asking for an admission of guilt, I was merely helping you remember to … Stop. Think. And, most importantly … Enjoy.

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

When Black came up with the idea of daily Banter Bites, Red thought it was conceptually great, but a bit unrealistic. At first glance, having to come up with a short comment from Red (ok, keeping it short might be a challenge), followed by a quick response from Black (no problem there), seemed like an easy task. But Red was concerned about keeping it current and relevant to readers – whether something happening in our lives, current events, or something that Black found in her non-stop reading and research, and told Black:

I'm not sure we'll have enough material to be able to post every day.

Rather than argue or debate, Black humored her sister, and suggested they do it a few days a week instead of every day. Meanwhile, she found it ironic that Red, the self-proclaimed queen of blah-blah-blah, was concerned about not having enough topics to discuss. But as with most things, when given a little time, Red often crosses to the "Black" side of things. We soon were coming up with more potential material than there were days to post and expanded Banter Bites to six days of the week (we believe Sundays shouldn't be spent on gizmos, although that doesn't stop Black from working).

We had gotten into a rhythm of daily Banter Bites, and then it was suggested to expand the posts as readers wanted to know more about the topic including what inspired or prompted it. Black immediately came up with the idea of adding a "Banter Bite Backstory" to each post.

So, how did Red react this time? Instead of being reluctant, Red embraced the idea:

It's so much fun being able to share with our readers the backstory of each Banter Bite. It's funny, because most times we're just spinning on a dime and reacting to things that happen – whether current events or in our lives. But isn't that what we all do every day? Add to the mix that Black and I usually see things very differently, and you end up with no shortage of things for us to say.
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I drafted this post weeks ago, but it seems fitting to post it today. Sometimes we need days to officially remind us to help others but for some people it seems to come naturally. Yes, today is National Day of Service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. But, that's not what I want to talk about.

This might not seem much to you. And I know it was truly nothing to Black. Just a quick reply on Twitter that she tossed off without a second thought. But to me it showed how, to some people, charity in the purest and best sense of the word just comes, well, naturally.

The details of where it started really isn't important, but it was a personal comment made in response to one of our "Words & Banter" posts and had a ripple effect as it ultimately involved a company mentioned in the post. The individual let us know that if replying to our post resulted in the company helping resolve their problem, then they'd send Black a bottle of red or white wine. (OK, I probably shouldn't disclose that Black's the one behind our tweets, but anyone who knows us would know that.) Most people, I suspect, would have thought, "Wow, that's a very nice offer" and then would have replied with their preference.

But not Black … she simply (and sincerely) replied:

Fingers crossed … but no gift necessary. Instead make a donation to a favorite charity.

It was like any other weekday morning, a tumbler of hot coffee on my desk and the morning news on the TV in the background, as I brace myself as I open Outlook. Computer issues? Nope, especially now that I have a new computer. Instead, it's the daily onslaught of emails generated by Black as she seems to do her best thinking while the rest of us are sleeping.

Well, the subject line of one of her emails, "Crazy idea?", stands out and I open it to find an image of a Good Humor truck and a leading question:

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