One of my favorite new-school Thanksgiving weekend traditions is REI’s #OptOutside movement.

I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper – I’m claustrophobic in big crowds, I hate getting up early, and I figure there are probably a bunch of people need those deals way more than I do anyway. My temptation has always been to spend the day after Thanksgiving continuing my turkey-and-pie food coma while getting an early start on holiday movies (you know, Bad Santa, Die Hard, etc.).

Several years ago, outdoor retailer/co-op REI launched a movement to #OptOutside. They’re closed today. Rather than demanding that everyone show up at 4 am to open the stores before sunrise, they give their staff the day off and encourage them – and us – to get out and hit the trails.

Sprout Social did a great case study on how something that started as a hashtag and maybe a bit of a PR stunt turned into a movement. And I’m a convert.

This pandemic year will be a bit different – we’re sticking close to home and hitting a national park that’s inside the city limits rather than driving out into the mountains – but as soon as we finish our turkey-and-pie leftovers lunch, we’re outta here to get some fresh air and exercise.

How are you remaining connected with your local landbase in this pandemic year as the days turn shorter and colder?

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.


Words for Wednesday

Everything Good between Men and Women 


has been written in mud and butter
and barbecue sauce. The walls and
the floors used to be gorgeous.
The socks off-white and a near match.
The quince with fire blight
but we get two pints of jelly
in the end. Long walks strengthen
the back. You with a fever blister
and myself with a sty. Eyes
have we and we are forever prey
to each other’s teeth. The torrents
go over us. Thunder has not harmed
anyone we know. The river coursing
through us is dirty and deep. The left
hand protects the rhythm. Watch
your head. No fires should be
unattended. Especially when wind. Each
receives a free swiss army knife.
The first few tongues are clearly
preparatory. The impression
made by yours I carry to my grave. It is
just so sad so creepy so beautiful.
Bless it. We have so little time
to learn, so much… The river
courses dirty and deep. Cover the lettuce.
Call it a night. O soul. Flow on. Instead.

Photo by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.

Don’t Forget to Breathe. It’s the Most Important Part.

Many many years ago, I was at an Omega Institute workshop run by Jean Houston. I remember two things from that workshop. First, the closing exercise was her talking us through a guided meditation in which I literally experienced the Earth as a living, beating heart and, second, a song whose chorus was: “Don’t forget to breathe, that’s the most important part.”

This week, I’ve been remembering what it is to breathe.

Years ago, when I had surgery for breast cancer, I began, like many surgery survivors, to unconsciously clench the muscles around the site of the surgery. This is a little bit of a protective mechanism — you don’t want anyone bumping your sore spot. But it can become an unintentional habit. They give you stretching exercises to help you unclench those muscles (who else had their work computers set to remind them to get up and “crab walk” their hands as far up the wall as possible? I did that through a lot of high-level conference calls.) Even after the stitches have healed, some of us are still walking around — all unawares — with those muscles clenched. It can create inflammation and pain which, ironically, makes us clutch that site all the more.

Weeks and weeks after my surgery, my firm had a dinner at which the Capitol Steps performed. They were hysterical and (OK, I was one or two glasses of wine in, which may have made them even more hysterical) I laughed and laughed. In the cab on the way home, I realized that: (1) I wasn’t in pain for maybe the first time since my surgery and (2) those muscles, which I’d been unaware were tight, were completely loose for the first time since my surgery. Of course, there’s significant research that laughter is good pain medication. From that point on, I could easily relax those muscles and relieve the pain because I could remember how that felt.

I thought of that night earlier this week when I watched the above video of the man Joe Biden nominated as Secretary of State. I’d never heard of Anthony Blinken. But if you watch what’s happening in this video, he’s teaching empathy.* The thought of having a Secretary of State who teaches empathy for refugees, after four years of the Trump administration throwing children in metal cages, was so wonderful. I could literally feel my chest loosening and my lungs pulling in deeper draughts of air. (I live in the mountains. The air up here sparkles and glows when you pull it into your lungs and your lungs send it to every cell in your body.)

It reminded me of that feeling from long ago. I’ve been worried for over four years about the state of our country, over my grandson’s future, over the plight of our environment. I can’t count the sleepless nights, the worried conversations, the doom scrolling, the shock and horror at each new breach in the levee of our norms. But I don’t think that I fully realized just how tightly I’d been clenching my muscles until I took in a deep breath of someone in power teaching “think how that must feel.”

I’m not naive. America isn’t “saved.” We have a long way to go to even get back to where we thought we were and we’ve hopefully learned that where we thought we were wasn’t very good.

But one thing we must do is celebrate our wins. Like so many of you, I’ve worked my ass off for four years to defeat Donald Trump and his administration of evil, including, especially, Rex Tillerson, Mike Pompeo, and Steven Miller. We did this. We should be proud. We should celebrate it. We should breathe it in.

I’ve been doing this whenever I go out for my daily walk here in the Virginia highlands. I watch the clouds and take a deep, deep breath of mountain air. I climb up the hill to home and do it again. I stop to watch the cows and the Canada geese at the next-door farm and I fill my lungs with oxygen.

Don’t forget to breathe. It’s the most important part.

*I’m thinking a lot these days about empathy, what its absence has been doing to us, how you teach it, whether some of us are simply immune to it, and so on. I hope to write more about this soon.

Monday at the Movies

Not a visitor


We’re moving steadily and certainly from Samhein to Yule. What Dylan Thomas called “the close and holy darkness” enfolds us a little bit earlier every evening, making the spot of light from your lamp, fireplace, or candleflame into a precious island — a warm, safe spot in the ocean of night.

I’ve always loved driving past houses at night and seeing the light in windows. Maybe it’s me being nosy, loving the glimpse of someone’s living room or kitchen that’s not visible during the day. Maybe it’s the comfort of knowing there are others around — families sitting down to eat, an old man reading by the fireside, a pair of lovers kissing before they close the curtains. And maybe it’s just the joy of an archipelago — lots of tiny islands.

I’ve noticed that this year my neighbors are decorating for Yule quite early. And normally, I complain. “It ruins the whole season when they start it so early! By the time it comes, I’m sick of it.” But this year, I don’t mind. I understand. We all need some light, and safety, and warmth this year.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

What Does It Look Like to Give Thanks in a Pandemic?

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart

I mean this in both senses, that of celebrating the holiday itself and that of the act or practice of being thankful, of the actual giving of thanks.

With regards to the second, we’ve been very fortunate in this pandemic year. Neither of us has caught the virus. So far – knock wood – all the friends and family who have caught it either have recovered or are not seriously ill.

My spouse’s job is secure, and although revenue in my business is off significantly (like more than 50%) this year, wouldn’t you know it, our expenses are down quite a bit, too, since we can’t travel or eat out or go to the theater or take dance classes or many of the usual leisure activities we spend money on. So we’re not going to lose the house or anything, and in fact, we’ve been able to increase our charitable giving substantially, which is a good thing, because our local service and arts organizations really need the help right now.

We both normally work from home, so the day-to-day hasn’t changed for us a whole lot (other than NEVER going to an on-site client meeting). Which, combined with my slow work schedule, has meant plenty of time for solo, masked walks, practicing boxing and dance on my own, and Spanish practice. (My current instructor and classmates were surprised to learn, in last night’s online class, that I’ve only been studying Spanish for nine months. Well, when you can invest an hour or so in practice most days, you do tend to make progress.)

I desperately miss my friends/family of choice – seeing only one household per week, only outdoors, physically distanced, and not sharing any food or beverage (or hugs) is not the same – and although my feelings about my Trump-supporting family of origin remain complicated, I’ve never gone this long – not even in 2017 – without seeing them.

But overall, I actually do have a lot to be grateful for this season. Which feels somehow wrong, or disrespectful, to articulate, when so many people are experiencing so much loss. More than 250,000 Americans are dead. More than 12 million Americans are out of work. Hundreds of thousands of children are falling behind in school, because it’s not safe to send them there.

How does one give thanks while still properly acknowledging all the harm that so many have experienced this year?

With regards to the actual celebrating of the holiday, we’re still trying to figure this out.

Obviously, we’re not traveling out of the area, nor are we gathering together any sort of large – or even medium – group.

Health experts have been recommending that we all form small – VERY small – “pods” (or, as my spouse prefers, “bubbles”) for the coming cold months. The thinking is that since we will no longer be able to gather outside for any length of time with any level of comfort, and confining ourselves just to the people who physically live in our house (in my case, just me, the spouse, and two EXCEPTIONALLY spoiled kitties) may be detrimental to our mental health, better to choose one other household to basically join our household. In short, you become one household that just happens to have two locations, which prevents you from losing your shit and going to a big party that turns into a super-spreader event.

In our case, we approached another couple with whom we are very close friends who also have no children or local family, who also both work from home full time, and who also only ever interact inside with any other humans in a single weekly, masked trip to the grocery store at a low-traffic time of day, if they would want to “pod/bubble” with us this winter.

They said yes, and we chose Thanksgiving as the first time any of us will be inside, unmasked, and sharing food and drink with anyone other our respective spouses since early March (and even then, we had gone to brunch with other friends shortly before everything shut down, and there was NO “you have to taste this” or “can I try that?” going on WHATSOEVER at our table – everybody ordered their own food, ate their own food, and that was that).

But now, with cases rising in our area (even though we’re still among the very lowest infection rate locations in the entire country), I find myself wondering if we should chuck it, stick to just the two of us for the entire winter, and hope we don’t kill each other or go mental in the process.

How does one balance what is, likely, very little (but not *no*) physical risk against likely (but hopefully not severe) mental risk?

I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, but they are certainly making for yet another deeply discomfiting chapter in this seemingly never-ending anno horribilis.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Thoughts for Thursday

I’m so old that I remember people complaining that Hillary Clinton acted as if she were “entitled” to the presidency. I’m so old that I remember when she lost, people bitched and moaned that she should just “go away,” or “go for a walk in the woods,” or “go play with her grandchildren.”

It’s as if unconscious sexism is a thing.

Picture found here.

Words for Wednesday

Trail of Tears

~ Linda Hogan

With lines unseen the land was broken.
When surveyors came, we knew
what the prophet had said was true,
this land with unseen lines would be taken.

So, you who live there now,
don’t forget to love it, thank it
the place that was once our forest,
our ponds, our mosses,
the swamplands with birds and more lowly creatures.

As for us, we walked into the military strength of hunger
and war for that land we still dream.
As the ferry crossed the distance,
or as the walkers left behind their loved ones,
think how we took with us our cats and kittens,
the puppies we loved. We were innocent of what we faced,
along the trail. We took clothing, dishes,
thinking there would be something to start a new life,
believing justice lived in the world,
and the horses, so many,
one by one stolen, taken by the many thieves

So have compassion for that land at least.

Every step we took was one away from the songs,
old dances, memories, some of us dark and not speaking English,
some of us white, or married to the dark, or children of translators
the half-white, all of us watched by America, all of us
longing for trees for shade, homing, rooting,
even more for food along the hunger way.

You would think those of us born later
would fight for justice, for peace,
for the new land, its trees being taken.
You would think
the struggle would be over
between the two worlds in this place
that is now our knowledge,
our new belonging, our being,
and we’d never again care for the notion of maps
or American wars, or the god of their sky,
thinking of those things we were forced to leave behind,
living country, stolen home,
the world measured inch by inch, mile by mile,
hectares, all measurements, even the trail of our tears.

With all the new fierce light, heat, drought
the missing water, you’d think
in another red century, the old wisdom
might exist if we considered enough
that even before the new beliefs
we were once whole,
but now our bodies and minds remain
the measured geography.


Picture found here.

Monday at the Movies

Of course I’m binging it. But that is some really bad direction vis a vis Thatcher.

Framing Police Reform

In the aftermath of the election, Democrats have been debating where we go from here. That’s normal and it’s what should happen after every election. Some of the debate has centered on Abigail Spanberger’s comments that slogans such as “defund the police” made it more difficult for her to win re-election in her just newly-purple district and on AOC’s response.

I think both sides are missing an important issue and, no surprise, part of the problem is a need for better framing.

Our goal actually isn’t to defund the police. Our goal is to reform the police and “defunding” them is one of the methods we need to use. Defunding can mean a number of different things. On one hand, it can mean simply cutting police budgets so there’s less money to spend on weapons of war, Big Brother surveillance, so much tear gas that they pollute the rivers, and so on. On the other had, it can mean taking money from police budgets and putting it into the budget for social workers who can respond to the sorts of situations that police aren’t trained to handle and often mishandle. Those measures can work along with eliminating qualified immunity, banning choke holds, setting up legal presumptions when police cameras somehow fail to record an interaction, legalizing the drugs that police use as an excuse to stop (black) people, and so on. All of these things help to reform the police.

So the framing needs to be that Democrats want to reform the police. We have a variety of ways to do that. This framing avoids sounding as if we just want to eliminate social safety and allow rapists and muggers to run wild — which of course, we don’t.

Framing matters.

Picture found here.