Words & Banter

RED & BLACK … A Year-Round Valentine

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


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Where did January go? Every day feels like Groundhog Day, but yet the months are flying by! Our January column was about "resets" instead of resolutions, so maybe we could expand on that and talk about self-improvement.


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Instead of love, hearts, and Valentine's Day? Works for me.


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Maybe we can tie the two concepts together – become a better person as a Valentine's Day gift to yourself?


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Instead of looking at what needs improvement, what about learning to love – and accept – yourself?


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That sounds rather arrogant, as I think it's safe to say that most of us could use some improvement.


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Agree, but that puts the focus on what is wrong with us versus what is right.


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Interesting thought, especially as I suspect that most of us underestimate, and undervalue, all the positive things we do. It's just so easy to get caught up in the "how to be better" mindset. Which can be overwhelming, as it becomes just one more thing you feel you need to do.


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And, can set you up for failure versus success. Plus, everyone's personal circumstances are different, which is why I am suggesting self-acceptance versus comparing yourself to some other "ideal". Focus on positive traits. Then, build on those.


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I like that! Especially since building on something you already do will probably take less time than trying to change and, let's face it, lately it seems that time's flying by even more quickly than usual.


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Someone once told me, "The older you get, the quicker time flies." Which means we must use it wisely. Especially since none of us knows how much time we have left.


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I know you're pragmatic, but that was painfully blunt. Especially given what's going on with the pandemic. In the past, most people preferred not to think about death, but now, at the risk of sounding dramatic, it's all around us and has touched so many people. It's so incredibly tragic.


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Having loved ones die, especially untimely deaths, can have a powerful impact. Which is what happened to me growing up. It made me realize that the future is not a guarantee, but merely an incentive. And that, in turn, had a direct impact on my priorities. And, how I approach life.


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I remember you telling me that. It certainly explained a lot of things, like what appeared to be your "devil-may-care" attitude. It helped me realize that a lot of your decisions, and actions, were based on your unusual perspective. I guess you can say that you live life based on your experience with death.


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To some extent, but I see the bigger influence being how I want to be remembered at my funeral.


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I'm not sure I even want to have this conversation, but I'll admit I'm curious. So, do you care to explain that remark?!


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I believe you should live your life not concerned about what people think and say about you when you are alive. But instead, what they will say about you once you are gone.


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Why would you care if you're no longer around?


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By then, what you say you are going to do is a moot point. All that is left are your actions. And, they will speak louder than words. What did you do? Who did you help? Did you try to make a difference?


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That's a very interesting attitude for someone who doesn't seem to care what people say about you when you're alive!


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Is it? When people talk about the living, many focus on gossip and/or perceptions. People look at isolated incidents. Recent events or actions. However, when you remember those who are no longer here, you may have specific memories that stand out, but you remember the person. And, what they stood for. You remember them in terms of the life they lived.


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You're right. Almost every night, Wolf Blitzer on CNN takes the last few minutes to memorialize victims of COVID-19 and he talks about the life they lived. I don't even know them, but it makes me realize how everyone can be special. And the ripple effect everyone has on the lives they've touched.


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Do you remember the conversation we had years ago when we were returning from Cousin Frankie's funeral? We talked about all the incredible things that everyone was saying about him.


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Absolutely! We weren't close to Frankie, but we learned so much about him by what other people said. He touched so many lives. I remember thinking that, in a strange way, knowing that helped comfort Aunt Maxine and Uncle Connie.


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I remember the recurring sentiment was that he always let his family and friends know that he loved them.


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Yes, I remember that, too. Since his death was so untimely and unexpected, that was such an amazing gift that he left the people he loved.


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One of the greatest gifts you can give the people you love is to let them know that you love them. Especially because you never know if that will be the last chance you have to let them know how you feel.


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So true. Which is one of the reasons that Valentine's Day drives me crazy. Although I love getting cards and flowers, I don't think that you should need a holiday or special occasion to prompt these things. Do you really need Hallmark and your local florist to tell you that you should be saying, "I Love You"?


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Somehow, I do not think you want to discuss the business aspects of holidays. But you, of all people, understand how easy it is to get wrapped up in day-to-day living. Sometimes we need a reminder to make us stop and focus on what is truly important. Why not use Valentine's Day as an opportunity to stock up on "I love you" cards and then use them all year long? Obviously, Post-it notes, phone messages, or text messages work just as well. There is much truth to the cliché, "It is the thought that counts."


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So, does that mean you do or don't want me and the girls to send you a card on Valentine's Day?


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Whatever makes you happy. Just promise if you get me a card, it will not be one of those drippy sweet ones. If you really love me, make sure it is sarcastic. And, the more sarcastic – the better.

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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