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


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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.

Photo by Joseph Sohm for Shutterstock


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When I read the "Breaking News" email about the passing of Colin Powell from complications from COVID-19, I realized that many of us didn't even know he was being treated for illnesses that weakened his immune system. To me, he always seemed to be one of those incredibly strong and resilient men that could overcome anything, as I knew he served as the country's first Black national security adviser (during the Reagan administration), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (under President George H. W. Bush) and secretary of state (under President George W. Bush).

I first became aware of Powell during Operation Desert Storm and was living in Hong Kong at the time (shortly after I married a Brit, Shell assigned him to the Far East). I can remember being halfway around the world from home while watching seemingly non-stop news briefings featuring "Storming Norman" Schwarzkopf, with his "larger than life" details about the extraordinary precision of the airstrikes. At the time, it almost seemed more like a computer game than an actual war.

However, Powell had a far greater impact on me as he exuded calm mixed with steely determination, projecting an air of confidence that you sensed came from experience and deep personal commitment. And at this time of war and conflict, he provided a comforting feeling of power and control.


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I will not pretend to be a history buff, nor will I reflect on Mr. Powell's greatness as a military figure, statesman, and trailblazer. I will leave that to others. But, several things stand out about Powell as a man. First, he put America ahead of political party, stating, "I'm just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat, throughout my entire career, and right now I'm just watching my country and not concerned with parties."

Thanks to Punchbowl News, I learned that as a young man, he worked in a toy store, and the owner, a Russian immigrant Jew, admired the young Powell so much that he impressed upon him the importance of getting an education. Powell was so touched by this that he stayed in contact with him for the next 50 years. (I loved the sprinkling of Yiddish phrases as Powell tells the story.)

Of course, I could not help but smile rewatching this video of Powell along with two other motorheads, Jay Leno and (at the time) Vice President Biden "racing" Corvettes. And, may explain why one of my many favorite Powell quotes is, "Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror." But in his passing, you cannot help but look back over all he did for our country.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. May he rest in peace.

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


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I can't believe that Halloween's almost here, and the house isn't already decorated. Can I use the fact this is the first year I'm an empty nester as an excuse?


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Does that mean that you are not going to decorate?


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No! But without Sawyer home asking about it or prodding me by pulling the decorations out of the garage, it's still just sitting on my "to do" list. But fall is my favorite time of year, and I love seeing the house with all the Halloween decorations, so it will happen.


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I would think you could just put out the inflatables and be done with it.
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Image by Arseniy45 on iStock


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I know Columbus Day is a federal holiday, so banks are closed, but otherwise, it's barely celebrated. Growing up, it seemed like it was an important part of fall, not only because we had off from school, but because I can still remember (yes, those straight-A student school memories) learning about America being discovered by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Especially since he was trying to find a new way to get to the "riches" of Asia (without having to sail around Africa) and found the Americas instead! I still recall hearing that some people thought the earth was flat and his ships would fall off, and although it may not have been many people – it still made a lasting impression. Regardless, he became one of the most famous explorers in history.

I love history, so I loved everything about the holiday and even remember the names of the three ships, Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, all these decades later. And although I've long forgotten most dates in history (after knowing them for the test, of course), the year 1492 is etched on my memory, as I suspect it is for many people.


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Obviously, Red needs to "update" her history on Christopher Columbus, and I am not talking about "obscure facts" like that might not have been his real name. Information has been discovered (pun intended, although this is a serious situation), leading to significant discussion and controversy about Columbus "the person" versus the romanticized hero originally depicted in history books.

As you would expect from any explorer traveling the world, there would be encounters with indigenous people. However, historians now believe Columbus' interactions were despicable (my word, not theirs) due to his use of violence and slavery, and forcing people to become Christians. In addition, he exposed the New World to diseases and other complications in what is now referred to as the "Columbian Exchange."

So, in keeping with the spirit of today being a holiday to celebrate, a "replacement" holiday, Indigenous People's Day, was created. And, although technically not a federal holiday, it does fall on one and hopefully will help us all refocus. In fact, this past Friday, President Joe Biden issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples' Day, stating,

"For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples' resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society."