That Annual Thanksgiving List We All Love to Write

Pretend you’re in third grade. It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and your teacher just gave you That Assignment.

Now pretend it was your idea all along. With me? Let’s do this. Here’s mine:

This year I am thankful for…

…the good health of my family, myself, and most of my loved ones.

…the communal strength, love and support that continues to go out to those in need of it.

…the power of Nature’s everyday beauty that she keeps surprising me with (Spiderweb! Lichen! Wing of thrush!)

…really DARK chocolate

…the way gardening and eating local food is re-awakening in America

…my amazing amalgam of work, which allows me to get my hands sticky, get paid, interact with lovely people, and still retire to the quiet of my writing bench

…those hard-working folks still teaching and nursing and fixing pipes FULL TIME (y’all know who you are; I am so grateful to you–please let me make you pie!)

…friends who push me to improve my Spanish and my guitar-playing.

…mis hijos. Los dos.

…my Mate. Always. Always. But somehow, after 37 years–increasingly.



Know what? I could do this all day. How ’bout you? What’s at the top of your gratitude list? HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS–don’t forget to #optoutside this Black Friday!


#OptOutside (Like I Need Another Reason to Love REI): Turning Black Friday Into National Go Outside Day

Except for an old jacket and an even older daypack labeled LL Bean, from back in my former life as an easterner, ALL our outdoor gear is REI, either their own brand or bought there. The Mate and I are faithful citizens of REI Nation. Which is why I’m extra pumped to feel so proud of Recreational Equipment Incorporated for their recent announcement:

REI will close for “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, the most important shopping day on the U.S. calendar. They want us to go outside and play.

I LOVE this. “If only this would catch on,” was my first thought. And guess what: it has! According to King 5 News, Seattle retailers Outdoor Research, Gregory Packs, and Clif Bar, have Opted Outside now too.

The #OptOutside movement speaks for itself, so I don’t feel the need to say more here.


Except this: how about supporting the idea? Save our shopping urges for another day? Anyone who can, let’s all go outside on Friday, November 27–anywhere outside, just nowhere near a mall– eating our Clif bars and wearing our REI gear proudly.



Germany Says “Enough!” To Christmas Commercialization Creep; What Do You Say?

How early is too early to hear Christmas carols in a shopping center? Does “Black Friday” ruin the Thanksgiving holiday? Is there something wrong with Christmas lights going up in November?

These are not new questions for us Americans. The tug-of-war between keeping Christmas special and maximizing both its joy and its bottom line has been going on since I can remember, and I’m not what they call “young.”

But I’ve been interested to notice lately, on the edges of the news, stories about Germans pushing back against “Christmas Creep.” There is even talk of regulating when Christmasy treats can begin to be sold! The Christian Science Monitor cites a recent German poll on the subject:

According to the survey, done by the polling institute YouGov for the news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 1 in 3 Germans want the government to regulate when stores can start selling Christmas gingerbread cakes and other Christmas goodies. Most of the survey’s 1,000 respondents say that that date should be Nov. 30. Half say the early display of Christmas commercialism erodes the meaning of Christmas.

Yep, that’s right: the government telling stores when they’re allowed to start selling. Can you wrap your head around such an idea even being uttered in America, let alone approved of?

Sigh. Of COURSE I don’t want that kind of regulation in my own country. But. I sure wish consumers and advertisers could get together and make their own “regulation”–i.e., common sense. Respect. Dare I say “honor”–of the meaning of Christmas?

What a hoot. Get a grip, Wing.

Germany and Austria are also apparently waging a war against Santa Claus–bless their hearts. According to the website, 

Bettina Schade says she doesn’t have anything personal against Santa Claus. In fact, she likes a lot of things about today’s celebrations of Christmas — the lighted trees, the gold ornaments, the silver stars.

But all the material things, the hectic rush to buy gifts, and the ubiquity of the bearded man in the red suit are taking away from the core meaning of Christmas. She’d like to see things changed, or at least toned down a little.

“The Christian origins of Christmas, like the birth of Jesus, have receded into the background,” she said. “It’s becoming more and more a festival that is reduced to simply worldly gifts and to commerce.”

She is part of a campaign called the Frankfurter Nicholas Initiative, founded by a Roman Catholic priest in Frankfurt, Eckhard Bieger. Alarmed by the growing commercialization of Christmas in Germany, he launched the initiative that’s aimed at putting St. Nicholas, a fourth-century monk, back in the Christmas spotlight where he used to be.

The article goes on to point out what all Americans ought to know (though I’m guessing that most don’t), which is that our current image of Jolly Old Saint Nick was created for, and promoted by, the Coca-Cola Company. The “real” St. Nicholas would probably not have sold too many fizzy drinks. Which is kinda the point.

Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia; Jonathan Meath portraying Santa)

Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia; Jonathan Meath portraying Santa)

I am not intending here a discussion of the so-called “War on Christmas”–you’ll need to go to someone else’s blog for that. But I am interested to hear if my readers have similar ideas on when is a good season for Christmassy “stuff,” and when is not. Perhaps you hate seeing wrapping paper on sale in October, for example, but still enjoy Christmas lights as soon as Daylight Savings Time kicks in.

Can you articulate when you like to begin to see, hear and smell “Christmas,” and when you do not–and why?

Christmas Shopping. Shopping, Period. Is it Really an X-chromosome Thing, and If So, Am I a Guy?

I’ve said this before: You know those license-plate frames, “I’d Rather Be Shopping At Nordstrom’s?” If I owned one of those, it would have a big red slash through it.

In other words, I’d rather be doing almost ANYTHING than shopping at Nordstrom’s. Or any place attached to a mall.

(orig. image courtesy

(orig. image courtesy

But still, I entered the gaping maw of the Beast this past Monday in order to “allow” my husband to buy me my (late) birthday gift, a gold chain to replace the one I lost this summer.

I’m still feeling guilty about going to a chain store (HA! pun SO not intended!) to buy that chain. Somewhere out there is a lil’ mom ‘n’ pop jewelry store, and I’m positive that my missing $$$ in their till is probably what will make the difference in sliding them into bankruptcy this year. Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Pop.

But you see, husband & I were in Eugene…we weren’t expected at our friends’ house for another hour…we had some time to kill…and my birthday was six weeks ago…and there are NO jewelry stores that sell plain old jewelry on our island. (Adorable earrings made from shells and crystals–yes. Gold chains–no.)

And…chain stores are way cheaper. And gold is expensive already. Dang it–still feeling guilty. ANYWAY.

As soon as I walked into the mall, I remember why I rarely walk into malls, and my husband felt it even worse. At Christmastime, yet! At least it was Monday–“Cyber Monday,” in fact–so it wasn’t all that crowded. But the music and the displays were still overwhelming. I picked out my chain, tried it on, watched husband pay for it, and we got out of there. I swear he was shuddering.

Later, we compared notes with our friends, who have two middle school-aged daughters…who adore shopping. Their mom, who’s more like me, sighed, saying she forces herself to go to the mall with her girls from time to time because they enjoy it so much. Didn’t I do that with my kids?

Nope. I have BOYS. They “love” the mall as much as their dad does.

That led to a spirited discussion of whether and why boys are less into malls than girls. Is it because boys are less into clothing, and malls are more about clothes shopping than, say, Legos, or electronics?

(orig. image courtesy

(orig. image courtesy

We decided we needed more “data.” Not the kind where you do actual research. I mean the kind where I ask,

What do y’all think? In your experience, are girls truly more into shopping than boys, or is this just a stereotype? IF this happens, what, in your opinion, is driving it?

And then I sit back and wait to hear what you have to say.