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


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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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


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

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


Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

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


red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

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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