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Playing board games

While on break from school and work, the long dark nights of the holiday season are a perfect time to turn off the TV and dust off those board games. There are great new games that can become a holiday tradition if you play them long enough. Remember, there's nothing like a rousing game of Twister to get the gang laughing and burning off extra holiday pounds.

The sun is setting, its pale yellow rays falling across the fresh snow. In my backyard, tiny ice crystals shine on the tops of the crabapples that never made it to the ground this fall, and that provide icy meals for cardinals, house finches and squirrels.

It’s good to be home.

Last year, I was on the road for months interviewing for my work, and will do the same this year.

Stilling my journeys for a bit, I got to hang out with my two grown sons over Christmas at home. I basked in gratitude for having them close. We get along well, and they make me laugh and think and stay up too late. In the week they were home, I stayed awake later and for more consecutive nights than I have been since I was their age. (Note to my female contemporaries: I’m not talking about our insomnia here, but rather staying up by choice!)

We played Hearts, watched Netflix, visited friends, took long walks and talked into the wee hours. Mostly, though, the guys and I played the board game Settlers of Catan. For hours and days and nights. When I started to win, with absolutely no plan in mind, they pulled out the “expansion pack,” meaning it was over my head as far as strategizing goes. I lost those games, but could feel my brain expanding, too. Then, when one kiddo started arguing with the other about why he would place his road “right there” if not for pure spite, I was slung back in time.

It was 20-some years ago when they bickered and sometimes fought daily about what seemed to be trivial matters, but for them of course were not. And I thought it was my responsibility to keep them always happy and conflict free. I probably did 100 things wrong as a parent every week, but it was not for lack trying with a pure mother’s heart. With kids, it’s always a balance of keeping the peace and learning to let them settle things for themselves—a skill for life.

Back in real time: The board game was finally put away. Hours later, we were out for breakfast, and after eating half his food the aggrieved one announced, “I forgive you.” They smiled and talked briefly about what had been at the root of the disagreement.

I am still amazed at how much my own siblings can set me off more than any friend or stranger. In a flash, I can fall back six decades to when my sister took advantage of my naiveté, or my older brother ignored me or I had to keep an eye on a little brother instead of going out with my friends. I can become a wimp in my mind just by thinking of what one of them might say. And, yes, I know that’s crazy at my age.

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On the flip side, my brothers and sister talk to me straight, they laugh at my bad jokes and they love me unconditionally—after they’ve given me advice, of course.

One of my younger brothers recently called me from his car about an issue he was having. Before I even knew it, I was giving him some of that lovely advice. The phone went dead. He called me back right away. He’d driven through a  “dead spot” but we both noted that it was at the exact moment when I started advising him. We laughed. Lesson learned, or at least heard.

Let’s all listen more, feel happy with what we have and be there strongly but perhaps more quietly for friends, family and strangers in need.

Goodbye to a horrific 2018, and happy New Year! (If you want one, that is.)

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