Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Take a break with a gratitude meditation

This year, I have been learning and practicing meditation and mindfulness as part of my self care and personal development. I wanted to share this gratitude meditation. It’s only 5 minutes long.

If you feel your attention wandering, just notice the feeling or thought and turn your attention back to your breath. It’s normal to feel distracted or think of other things.

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Turkey Day Trivia!


  1. Who painted “Freedom from Want?” in 1943, depicting a Thanksgiving scene?
  2. Say “thank you” in Spanish, French, Italian and German.

  3. What is the difference between “stuffing” and “dressing”?

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A playlist of Thanksgiving-perfect songs

You know what goes great with a Thanksgiving meal and get-together?


A soft backdrop of positive, beautiful music sets a gracious mood and enhances conversation, not takes away from it. It is calming, and a proven mood-lifter and stress-buster. Music has been shown to help you slow down and really enjoy food, as well as make healthy eating choices.

There are some great songs about gratitude and togetherness. I put some together a list of 18 songs that seemed to work well together for the occasion. These songs feature some feel-good, familiar tracks, plenty of acoustic guitar, and sweet lyrics. New songs include Jack Johnson’s tender holiday song, “New Axe” and Andrew Bird’s “Manifest.” Familiar hits include Natalie Merchant’s “Kind and Generous” and Taylor Swift’s anthem to her mother, “Good Day.” If you’d like to take a listen, check out the YouTube playlist.

Which songs would you select for your Thanksgiving meal or get-together? Other suggestions?

Cool Yule Thanksgiving Playlist

  1. Andrew Bird – Manifest
  2. Avett Brothers – Better Here
  3. Bon Iver – Faith
  4. Kelly Clarkson – Thankful
  5. Foster the People – Sit Next To Me
  6. Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats
  7. Jack Johnson – New Axe
  8. Lumineers – Ho Hey
  9. Phillip Phillips – Gone, Gone, Gone
  10. Natalie Merchant – Kind and Generous
  11. Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait
  12. Phillip Phillips – Home
  13. Sixpence None the Richer – Breathe Your Name
  14. Ed Sheeran – Autumn Leaves
  15. Taylor Swift – The Best Day
  16. James Taylor – Shower the People
  17. 10,000 Maniacs – These Are Days
  18. Wilco – You and I

Thanksgiving gifts

Are you having Thanksgiving in someone else’s home? Then, you’ll want to bring a gift to show your appreciation. Here is an assortment of ideas from Cracker Barrel.

The year there were TWO Thanksgivings

Here’s a Thanksgiving episode of the Jack Benny Show from 1939. The running gag is that there were two Thanksgivings that year…and there really was!

A Newsweek Magazine 1939 cartoon that depicted which states were celebrating which Thanksgiving date. Note that the Pilgrim looks like FDR! (Wikimedia)

Thanksgiving had not yet been set as a fixed holiday, as it was set each year by Presidential Proclamation. Presidents had traditionally set Thanksgiving for the last Thursday in November as President Lincoln had first done.

But in 1939, President Roosevelt acquiesed to the request of retailers who wanted to have an additional week of Christmas gift sales. At that time, shoppers tended not to shop for Christmas presents until after Thanksgiving.

In 1939, Thanksgiving was to fall on November 30, which was so late in the month, he moved it up to the 23rd.

However, calendars had already printed Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. School breaks and Thanksgiving Day football games had to be rescheduled. It was quite the mess! Some states adhered to one Thanksgiving date, other states the other. Some people were so irritated, they called it “Franksgiving” (after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Twenty-three states and the District honored the 23rd date. Twenty-two states stuck with the 30th date, including Virginia. And three states celebrated on BOTH dates!

I think we can assume the Macy’s Day Parade that year took place on the 23rd, as President Roosevelt was from New York. Here’s a clip of the Parade in 1939. Can you spot Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?

Congress ultimately passed a law in December 1941 so that Thanksgiving would always fall on the fourth Thursday of the year.

Jack Benny was a funny man but he also gave most of the best lines to his colleagues, including Mary Livingstone, whose real name was Sadie Marks (she later had it changed legally to Mary Livingstone). In the program, Mary was a friend of Jack’s, but in real life, they were actually married. She became popular on the radio program after appearing as a stand-in for a last-minute cancellation. She received so much fan mail, NBC kept her on as a regular. She is a standout in this episode.

Free Thanksgiving Meals in Northern Virginia and DC

Are you having one of those years? We’ve all been there, one time or another. You are not alone and support is available.

Here is a short list of places that are offering free Thanksgiving meals and fellowship for people who are in recovery, are experiencing homelessness or are coping with financial challenges or other problems.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and keep on keeping on!

  • Sheltered and unsheltered homeless people can enjoy a meal at The Embry Rucker Shelter in Reston (next to the Reston Public Library) at no cost. Call for more information (703) 437-1975.
  • The Unity Club in Falls Church City is a hub for 12-step meetings and fellowship in recovery. They are offering a free, potluck Thanksgiving meal from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. You can sign up in advance to bring a dish of your choosing, but it’s not required.
  • The Salvation Army serves a free meal, the Safeway Feast of Sharing, on Wednesday, the day BEFORE Thanksgiving, to more than 5,000 people at the Walter E. Convention Center in Washington, DC.


Thanksgiving for one: making a solitary holiday special

Have you ever spent Thanksgiving by yourself? You’re not alone! Maybe you are one of the people who…

  • Are single and live alone; a growing population in nearly every age range.
  • Share custody of their kids and it’s not their turn to spend Thanksgiving with them this year.
  • Can’t afford to travel to see distant relatives.
  • Don’t have any family members left or are estranged from their family.
  • Work on Thanksgiving Day or on Black Friday.
  • Experience depression, anxiety or other challenges that cause them to isolate.
  • Enjoy having the day to themselves.

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For Thanksgiving: A Turkey Cheese Ball

turkey-cheese-ballI think this is pretty darn cute. It’s a standard cheese ball — nothing fancy in the way of ingredients — cheddar, chives, cream cheese, a little pepper and Dijon Mustard — but, ah, it’s the way you decorate this cheese ball that takes it into sublime territory.

My only worry is that people will not want to mess it up. But it sounds delicious! Put this out with your crudites this Thanksgiving!

From your friends at Hallmark. Download the recipe and decorating instructions.

Your Thanksgiving Self-Care Plan

Be present in all things, and thankful for all things — Maya Angelou

718-6IH9jXLDid you know that 1 in 5 people cope with a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety? And that 1 in 10 people are in recovery from addiction? If you have one of these challenges, you are not alone.  Thanksgiving can be an especially stressful time, and that stress can make these conditions worse.

Even if you do not have one of these conditions, Thanksgiving may stress you out.

That’s why you need a self-care plan for Thanksgiving Day. Your self-care plan should remind yourself that you have value, adhere to your healthy boundaries and provide for resources in case you need them.

Consider reviewing your plan with a therapist, sponsor, relative or friend.

Here’s an example of a self care plan for Thanksgiving.

  • Stay on schedule with medications, meals and sleep.
  • Set aside time to rest and relax. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
  • Choose safe driving times. Consider not driving between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., when most DUI accidents occur.
  • Enjoy a special meal that is right for your dietary needs.
  • Abstain from alcohol or reduce what you imbibe.
  • Set aside time for exercise. Movement helps reduce anxiety and depression. Stretch, walk outisde, run, bike or do yoga.
  • Practice mindfulness. You can choose to meditate, say affirmations, do a craft or color. Practice deep breathing and other relaxation techniques.
  • Express your gratitude. Be thankful in a way that is meaningful to you. Gratitude helps relieve depression and anxiety, and has many health benefits.
  • Connect with people and avoid isolating. If you can, spend Thanksgiving with family or friends. If you can’t, arrange time to call them on Thanksgiving Day. If these aren’t options, spend a part of the day around people.
  • Do something nice for yourself. Ideas: a bubble path, pedicure, or hair cut/style.
  • Plan something fun to do that you really enjoy. Check out the Cool Yule November calendar for ideas.
  • Laugh! Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Friends Thanksgiving TV episodes or listen to old time radio Thanksgiving episodes of The Jack Benny Show or Our Miss Brooks (you can find them on YouTube).
  • Arrange for help, in case you need it. Put the phone number of your emergency contact person (sponsor, therapist, doctor, etc.) in your phone, to be used in case a crisis develops. The Merrifield CSB in Fairfax County also has a 24-hour mental health crisis number (703) 559-3000.
  • Enjoy a Thanksgiving Day meal with other people in recovery. The Unity Club in Falls Church offers 12-step meetings and a free Thanksgiving meal from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. with fellowship and great food. You can sign up in advance to bring a dish to share, if you like. Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia is offering a free Thanksgiving meal on November 21 at the Merrifield Peer Resource Center at 12 Noon and on other dates at four other locations in Northern Virginia for people who are living with mental illness and/or addiction..

What other ideas do you have for a Thanksgiving self-care plan?

Gratitude inventory for Thanksgiving

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” — Aesop

The Health Benefits of Gratitude

It’s amazing that the active practice of gratitude has more positive impact on some aspects of our health than prescription medication (with zero side effects!). Gratitude journaling or thoughts have been found to reduce blood pressure, alleviate depression, improve sleep, boost energy, reduce pain and motivate physical activity.

Expressing Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Some families create a Thanksgiving tree, or use a gratitude jar to remind themselves and their loved ones of their blessings in a concrete way that is easy to share.

Gratitude Jar Activity

I think this is a wonderful idea. I bought a gratitude jar from Target from $3. Everyone draws out a chip and says why they are grateful for things like a favorite teacher, a special time of day, and lots of other things I hadn’t considered being thankful for.

Counting our Blessings

It would be easy to make your own with any kind of container and slips of paper. There are plenty of similar projects online.

Here are some ideas for things to express gratitude for on Thanksgiving.

  • The love and support of our family.
  • The company of our friends.
  • The comfort and security of our home and community.
  • The efforts of our teachers.
  • Our jobs.
  • Our volunteer work or causes that give us purpose.
  • Our faith in God or a higher power.
  • Our good health.
  • The companionship of our pets.
  • The bounty of our Thanksgiving meal.
  • Our good memories of people who have passed.
  • Our challenges that help us grow.
  • The dedication of our police officers, fire fighters and first responders.
  • The courage of our military.
  • The expertise of our doctors and people who help keep us healthy.
  • The beauty of nature and the blessing of our environment.
  • The luxury of time to do the things we love to do.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?