“If Molly Campbell were a stand-up comedian, I'd be the one in the front row laughing the loudest. That said, I'm not easily amused, but "Life With The Campbells (View from the Empty Nest) is a treasure and a pleasure. I love the this writer's witty observations, nuanced humor, and lighthearted way of putting it all together. An absolute delight!”
Lisette Brodey, Author of Squalor, New Mexico & Crooked Moon 

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TRANSITIONING

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This will be the first year that we will not have our children here at home for Christmas. This is something that most families face—only the lucky ones all live in the same town forever.

Not having a “family” Christmas sparks all sorts of things. The big tree stays in the attic, along with all of the historical, family ornaments. Or, the historical family ornaments are sorted through and dispersed to the children, for whom they have the most meaning. Instead of adorning every single room with holiday festoons and seasonal accessories, there is instead one little tree in the front window, and a wreath on the door. So much easier to put those away in January. The stockings are packed into the boxes with the ornaments to be sent to the kids. No sense hanging them here.

Cookies? Who would eat them? And the standing order for the big turkey—cancelled. No need to root around in the pantry drawers for the holly berry napkin rings, either.

This all sounds very dispiriting. But there is an antidote. We look forward to traveling across the country to a house where there is a very exited three-year-old boy, who can’t wait for Santa. In this house, there are five, count them, five, Christmas trees. Stockings. At least two advent calendars, three crèches, an entire collection of German incense smoker Santas, holiday bedsheets and duvet covers—the entire nine yards! And I don’t have to put any of it away after the holidays!

Christmas dinner will be delicious, and I don’t have to cook it. There will be three toddlers, ten terrific adults, and a bunch of bad jokes and good cheer. Lots of people to help do the dishes. And Christmas music.

We will not be sleeping in our own beds, but the guest room mattress in this house is extremely comfortable. And right before he goes to sleep, a little boy will climb in with us and ask to hear a story.

We will probably spend all our Christmases in this house from now on, until we get too old to travel. And as far as I am concerned, one doesn’t get to be too old to travel until the age of 88. Thus, we don’t have to think about that for many years.

Another thing. Airports at Christmas time are happy places. If you don’t believe me, just watch Love, Actually for the hundredth time. Family reunions in baggage claim are hard to beat.

If you are going to be at your house for Christmas, put up an extra tree. Maybe set a Santa figurine on top of the toilet tank—so festive. And have a wonderful time in front of your own fireside. But if you are traveling to see your kids, maybe we will pass one another in the concourse at O’Hare. I will give you a hug and hand you a candy cane. Happy Holidays.

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A HOLIDAY HOW-TO, SORT OF

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This is Joanie. Joanie is holiday happy. Yes, Joanie is aware of the election results. But Joanie knows how to be chipper. These are some of the things Joanie does to be happy in December:

Joanie drinks a lot of eggnog, to begin with. The kind with rum.

Joanie has one of those pre-decorated artificial trees. No mess. Joanie has her husband drag it out of the attic, Joanie unfolds the thing, plugs it in, and voila! Done. Incidentally, Joanie’s children don’t come home for Christmas any longer, as they are grown. This explains why Joanie gets away with this. Because if one of her children flew home and saw the thing, there would be a tantrum. Though Joanie misses having her children in attendance, she loves the fact that un-decorating after the holidays is so incredibly easy.

Joanie listens to Christmas carols on her iPhone using earbuds–just about all day long. This drowns out the football games her husband watches this time of year. And frankly, the carols drown out Joanie’s husband as well.

Joanie does all her holiday shopping on Amazon.

Joanie makes slice and bake cookies. She holds her chin up high when her friends discuss the huge outlay of time it requires to buy all those little jars of sprinkles and sparkles, haul out the gingerbread recipe, rummage around in junk drawers for cookie cutters, and then bake, bake, bake. Joanie feels no guilt, whatsoever.

Joanie watches White Christmas all by herself in the afternoons. At least five times during December.

And when push comes to shove, Joanie firmly believes that the world will go on, people are intrinsically good, wars will end, Presidents will either lead or step down, and there will always be happy endings, somewhere, sometimes, somehow.

We should all be like Joanie.

 

 

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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My favorite thing about Thanksgiving is the thought that just about everyone in the US is having just about the exact same menu for dinner. We all sit down around the table, filled with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and those awful sweet potato casseroles with the marshmallows. We say what we are thankful for. We eat way too much. Then we fall asleep watching football, or in the case of women, we face the mountain of dirty dishes and rush into the TV room to shove the men out of their stupors to help.

This year, I know many of us are trying to figure out how to avoid discussing politics, which is tough, but nobody wants a poisoned atmosphere around the table. Here are some suggestions for table talk instead:

  • Why on earth do people put giblets in stuffing or gravy? Who wants liver flavored gravy?
  • Are all the Christmas/Holiday commercials already on TV making you worry that you will peak too early before December?
  • Why do people consistently avoid using coasters?
  • Is binge watching Poldark that bad? What are the pros and cons of binge watching?
  • Should you put stuffing and cranberry sauce on turkey sandwiches?
  • For philosophers: why does fruitcake exist?
  • How do you spell the hors word for appetizers?
  • What is a second cousin once removed?
  • Did you know that one can actually eat too much fiber?
  • Is is ok to use dental floss in your car?
  • Why did Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn talk funny?

I hope this helps you to engage your guests and family in sparkling conversation. Happy Thanksgiving from our house.

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WHAT NEXT?

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It’s been a tough week for those of us who couldn’t go along with our President-Elect on any of his tenets. Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and hate seemed to win the election. But I am not ranting today. Instead, if any of you want to try to do something right now to help offset what we just elected, here are some options:

The image above is for those of you who want to go with the safety pin, but feel just wearing one isn’t enough. This image was created by my artist friend, Amy Sherman, and it is available on an assortment of products in my online shop, All proceeds from these products go to The American Civil Liberties Union. http://www.cafepress.com/notexactlypicasso

Here are some other worthy organizations you can join/donate to:

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund https://dredf.org/

Lambda Legal http://www.lambdalegal.org/

NAACP http://www.naacp.org/

NAACP Legal Defense Fund http://www.naacpldf.org/

Native American Rights Fund http://www.narf.org/

Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org

Sylvia Rivera Law Project http://srlp.org

Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights http://theyoungcenter.org/

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network https://www.rainn.org/

Do something. It will help you heal. I want to thank my friend Amy Shumacher Kawa for helping me with this wonderful list.

PEACE

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ELECTIONITIS

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It’s  making many of us sick. The lies. The mudslinging. The scandals. Many of us are so anxious about the outcome of the election that we are having anxiety attacks, nightmares, indigestion, and worse. I am one of those people. So here are some of the things I am doing to try to survive until afterwards.

I am eating a lot of chocolate.

I continually ask my husband if my chosen candidate will indeed win the election. He replies in the affirmative. This makes me feel better, but I think he is beginning to get migraines.

I spend a lot of time petting the cats and hugging the dog.

I am eating a lot of chocolate.

Xanax.

I hear keeping busy helps. So I have a “to-do” list as long as my arm. Just curating the list keeps me busy–I haven’t actually started to do anything.

Yoga. I don’t do it, but it looks good on this list.

Binge watching Poldark helps quite a bit. Aidan Turner. Women know what I mean by this.

The chocolate.

The Xanax.

Social media, where unfriending supporters of the opposing candidate gives quite a bit of satisfaction.

When this is all over, I will either be cheering our first female President, or having a nervous breakdown. Stay tuned.

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