Photo taken by Red

I registered for Parent & Family Weekend even before my daughter left for her freshman year at college. Yes, I'm that parent, although I'll claim it's because I'm so organized. Yes, I started missing her even before she left (if that's possible). And yet it seemed like only yesterday, not a month ago, that we said good-bye and I became an empty nester.

Of course, being the straight-A student (some things you never outgrow), I studied the weekend's schedule of events and not just knew when, but where, each was taking place. And I couldn't help but notice there were several blocks of "downtime". Obviously, the school already knew what I was about to find out. Sometimes it's what's not on the schedule that really matters.

It was walking together to Kroger to get her "essentials" (Campbell's soup, Banquet chicken pot pies, and Cotton Candy grapes, although, much to my surprise, no ramen) and telling me about her idea to apply for an internship because classes are great, but she also wants real-life experience. It was not being able to decide where she wanted to go for dinner and instead ending up in her dorm room, her on her bed and me on the throw pillows on the floor, eating not Domino's pizza (although it was considered) but delivery from Noodles & Company and watching Survivor.

A few hours later, it was her walking me across the incredibly beautiful campus of Belmont University filled with majestic buildings, to the "circle" where everyone picks up their Uber, telling me that she's going to meet up with friends. Which made sense as I've heard so much about the people she's met and the many friends she's made, even meeting some of them. And it was the weekend after all.

But then she said something that totally caught me by surprise. Later she was going to study for several hours as that's her nightly routine (often starting after midnight). And, unlike me, who primarily focused on getting good grades, she explained that she loves her classes and truly wants to learn the material. Not for the test. Not for the grade. But to have the knowledge for when she graduates.

And on the Uber ride back to the hotel, I realized,

Parents Weekend is all about reassurance. Reassurance that she's happy and confident, and becoming the person that every parent hopes and dreams their child will become. It was my daughter, through her unprompted words and actions, during the "downtime" of Parent & Family Weekend, that brought me smiles and laughter. And without even knowing it, she reassured me that she was in the right place – literally and figuratively.
Photo by Joseph Sohm for Shutterstock

Red's Head

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.

Black's Head Black

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

Red's Head

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?

Black's Head Black

Does that mean that you are not going to decorate?

Red's Head

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.

Black's Head Black

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

Red's Head Red

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.

Black's Head Black

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."