All the good stuff is over. Christmas is over. New Year’s Eve is over. The fun part of winter-the part where we are excited for snow and the holidays-that’s over. The election is over, and 65 + million of us think the world as we know it might be over.

This is the time when days are unbearably short. The furnace is on all the time, so everybody has dry, itchy skin. Cabin fever. Crockpots and Instant Pots bubble along on all the countertops, because STEW. It’s hard to roll over in bed, because all the cats and dogs are on there with you.

This is the time of year when I wish my husband liked to play games. In all of my favorite books, when the holidays and all the good stuff are over until Spring, couples sit in front of the fireside and play Whist (I have no idea what that is), Pinochle, Cribbage, or Scrabble. Or they put together a huge jigsaw puzzle. It’s cozy and brings out conversation, emotional connection and subdued laughter. It’s a fantasy.

Over here, one of us sits by the fire, all right. Looking down at either an iPhone or Mac Book Air. The other one sits in a chair, glued to yet another device. No conversation. No eye contact. Occasionally, somebody murmurs something, turns on a video, or coughs.

I suggested a rousing game of Dominoes just last evening, and my spouse looked at me incredulously and asked if I was okay. I sighed. Then I looked down at my phone and played a few rounds of Solitaire.

Yup. The good part of Winter is truly over. Anybody out there know how to play Whist? Is it fun? Do men like it? Wait. How do you play Poker?




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Happy New year. ugh

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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 excited 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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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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Waterlogue 1.2.1 (66) Preset Style = Vibrant Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Auto Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Narrow Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

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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