Words & Banter

The Sound (& Smell) Of Happiness

Photo taken by Red in her kitchen

I promise this isn't about how as a single mom, my days and evenings (including weekends) have always been busy. But lately, my evenings are as busy as my days, as that's when I try to "catch up" on Red & Black because my usual "juggling" act of work, mom, and daughter duties has become even more challenging. And if there's not enough to do as my younger daughter goes off to college in a few weeks, not to mention just wanting to enjoy every moment of our time together, there are the rapidly increasing demands because of our aging mom. The result? My daytime work hours have been seriously encroached upon, pushing things into the evening.

So, is this a piece about work-life balance? And how I feel like I'm constantly taking one step ahead but falling two (or three or four) steps behind? Or how all those articles about how one day you'll find yourself in the middle of caring for children while caring for parents will present not only time management challenges but mental health ones as you try to take care of everyone, including yourself … are suddenly about me?

Well, actually, no. As a former theater major, I was merely "setting the stage" …


I was recently in my workroom with my head buried in paper and emails when a sound interrupted me that I easily could've ignored as "white noise" (ok, Black would probably comment that I'm misusing the word as it has a technical definition and specific uses, but as any parent knows it's that background noise that you know you can disregard). But I chose not to as it was the sound of my daughter and fiancé baking in the kitchen, and I'm not sure who was having more fun – my 18-year-old or an almost 60-year-old grown man.

It started with the sound of lots of laughter followed by some (really bad) singing to everything from John Denver to Lady GaGa singing "Shallow" alongside Bradley Cooper. (It must be said that my daughter has a very eclectic playlist.) Then the next thing I know, I see fingers full of cookie dough coming my way, playfully threatening to get it on me. Wrapped up in the moment, I wasn't sure that would be a bad thing, and smiled when they left as it looked like really good cookie dough.

At this point, I turn to the TV (more "white noise"), apologize to Don Lemon, and turn it off because the sounds from the kitchen are some of the happiest I'd heard all day and far better than all the depressing news on TV. And then, as if it couldn't get any better, the sweet smell of a freshly baked cookie cake (because who can be bothered making individual cookies when you can just cut the time in half by baking a cake and cutting it into bars) drifts towards my workroom.

It's the most relaxed and happy I've felt all day, and I fire off those sentiments to Black, thinking that I'm being very clever by ending my email not with a warm and fuzzy comment, but something that I thought Black would appreciate,

And who would've thought that happiness could be "bought" for the price of some flour, sugar, chocolate chip cookies, and vanilla extract?

Of course, her reply comes within minutes (unlike me, Black's work-life balance seems, to me, to be more of a work-work balance as she'll acknowledge she has no life) and, of course, has a business angle (at least she didn't tell me to calculate a cost per bite). Black explained the successes of the Pillsbury advertising campaign from the 1950s and 1960s (check out this TV commercial from 1962), including the introduction of the beloved Pillsbury doughboy, ending her email with what's one of the most iconic advertising slogans of all time, and one she thinks Pillsbury should re-introduce,

Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven.
Photo by OnTheRunPhoto for iStock

Are you taking the Dry January challenge and not having any alcohol for the month? Or, maybe you plan to drink less (but not nothing), which makes it Damp January. Or, maybe this is the first you’ve heard of it. (If so, there’s still time to start!)

Well, nothing much has changed from our approach to Dry January last year, except the one who had started drinking more last year is continuing the trend …



red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

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?


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

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.


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

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


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

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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red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

It’s January, and everyone’s probably tired of reading about New Year’s resolutions.

Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

Not me. Since I never make them, I never feel the need to read about them.

red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

Of course, you don’t. So, what should we write about?

Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

How about that we celebrate some of our favorite things in January?

So many “National Days” in January are fun (we’ve written about them over the years) and remind us of some of our favorite things. (Can you pick which are Red’s favorite holidays and which are Black’s?) And whether or not you make resolutions, it’s always important to have a sense of humor and enjoy the simpler things in life …

Answer: Red’s favorites are Bagels, Popcorn, and Hugging. Black’s are Clean Desk, Bagels, and Backward.

Wishing you Happy 2024 – with new beginnings and much more!