Words & Banter

RED & BLACK … Swastikas & Cupcakes

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


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Well, since it’s February, I guess we’ll want to talk about Valentine’s Day or love.


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Or, not hating.


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Excuse me? I know they say there’s a fine line between love and hate, but I’d prefer a “feel good” topic.


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But, sometimes “not hating” can be about hope, perseverance, and finding meaning.


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Care to connect those dots?


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Think about all the personal stories recently in the media as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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They were incredible! I found myself in awe and admiration as I listened to Holocaust survivors and, although you’d think they’d want to forget what they went through, they were determined the world should “never forget.”

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They were stories of hope, not hate.

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You’re right. I didn’t hear one word about hate. But I saw the love between a 98-year-old survivor, Lily Ebert, and her great-grandson, Dov Forman, as together they created TikToks to fulfill the promise she made herself while imprisoned that, “I will tell my story.”

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A story that has now reached millions of people, including younger generations who may not be familiar with the Holocaust. A story that not only “warns” of what can happen but also shows the importance of hope and determination.

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It’s similar to the video Natasha sent us of Alina Peretti, who had sterilization experiments done on her at Auschwitz, but instead of condemning her captors, she focused on how she survived. I had to smile when, in that very British understated way, she said, “Bloody hell, I’m very lucky that I came out of it.”

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Again, not a hateful word. Just explaining what she experienced (the experiments did not prevent her from having children), and amazement and gratitude that she survived.

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I’m not sure I could be that understanding, that generous, that brave. I think if I had survived such atrocities, or had family that had perished, I’d be full of hate.

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The problem with hate is it is contagious and becomes a vicious cycle. If you find a reason to hate someone – their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, political opinions, whatever – and those who are targets of hatred, in turn, hate their haters, it will never end.

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True. But it takes a special kind of person to not only “turn the other cheek” but go out of their way to confront hate with hope.

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Like the Italian street artist who uses spray paint to cover up graffiti of swastikas and racial slurs with images of food. Replacing hate with art.


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When I first saw the subject line on your email, “Swastikas & Cupcakes,” I thought it was another one of your strange connect-the-dots, not a “feel good” story.


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No, those are two things even I could never connect.


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What I found so inspiring, besides the obvious, is that the artist said, "The important thing is to rediscover values that we may have forgotten … We must remind ourselves of these values." But how does one do that? Can it even be done?


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Yes, but it takes a conscious effort. And, what better time to begin than Valentine’s Day?


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I’m sorry, but do I need to remind you that Valentine’s Day is about chocolates, flowers, and greeting cards? And if you’re lucky, maybe a romantic dinner.


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Sorry, but that is the commercial side of Valentine’s Day. Although brands are feeling pressure to allow customers to “opt out” of Valentine’s Day ads and promotions.


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Are you kidding me? I’m not sure I want to know the logic behind that, but suspect it has to do with the whole “let’s not offend anyone” culture we now live in.


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Basically, as brands bombard you with marketing, they want to appear to be sensitive that “celebrating relationships” can cause stress, and even depression, for some people. Similar to how this year, you may find Mother’s Day harder than in the past.


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Fine, but Valentine’s Day isn’t only about romantic love. I can remember when we were growing up, Daddy always gave us those heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and a card. And you’ve always given the girls Valentine’s Day gifts.


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Because I believe Valentine’s Day is about showing someone that you love them. Or, are thinking of them. This year, my quarterly teeth cleaning happens to fall on Valentine’s Day, so I plan to buy heart-shaped cookies for the office to let them know they are appreciated.


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I hope they’ll be sugar-free ones. Seriously, you might be the only person who gives their dentist’s office something for Valentine’s Day! But I guess there’s no reason why we all can’t think about someone whose day we can brighten. Even if it’s just a phone call or text message.


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Exactly. Rediscovering values we may have forgotten does not have to be as extreme as turning hate into love by turning swastikas into cupcakes, but we all have the ability to make a difference. One person at a time.

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I think you’ve inspired me. This Valentine’s Day, I may “show some love” by sending cards to people just to let them know I’m thinking of them.


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Good idea. I wonder if Hallmark has any cards that say, “Happy Valentine’s Day … I may not love you, but the good news is that I do not hate you.”

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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