Email sign off etiquette

by Lemon Tree

I recently went down the rabbit hole of a Tweet about how to sign off an email. Many people indicated that “Regards”, “Best”, and “Best Wishes” are rude and “Thanks” is passive aggressive. There was a difference between Americans and British, with the tweets from England agreeing that “Sincerely” is most definitely rude and should not be used. One Canadian shared that he uses Sincerely to mean “please read what I wrote VERY carefully and have a think”.

Some suggestions to use were: Be Well; Stay Healthy; Til Then; Cheers;

I admit that 90% of the time I use “Thanks!”. The rest of the time I use “Cheers!”. Early in the pandemic I would use “Stay Healthy” but I rarely do that anymore. What do you use? What do you think is rude or passive aggressive?

Thursday Open Thread


Next week she will resume active administration of The ToteBag. Please fill up the Suggest Topics page for her. Friday Advice Column items are especially welcome.

As a conversation starter, but feel free to digress, Finn asked the following:

Most of us invest in indexes. Mutual funds or ETFs? What are the pros and cons of each? Which do you use?

Abundance vs Scarcity Mindset

by Minca

I have an enduring scarcity mentality, which I have to actively fight against. I’m generally happier when I maintain an abundance mindset (I can be more generous, decisive, and less caught up in optimally managing “stuff” if I have faith that the resources needed will be there in future and I can “spend out”/don’t need to “hoard” them now—because I’m still saving and am confident in my own resourcefulness if things hit the fan). But I still worry that this attitude is environmentally and economic irresponsible. Temporally, I can be a procrastinator—which may be consistent: time is scarce, so delay and (theoretically) compress the unpleasant tasks (assuming you can still enjoy leisure with to-dos hanging over your head). Are you naturally more “abundance” or “scarcity” oriented and how does it impact your decisions?

College Demographics

by MooshiMooshi

Since we all love to talk about college issues, here is an article from Inside Higher Ed on the “dirty little secrets of higher education”. Most of these are not secrets at all to anyone who is following higher education. But they all make good discussion starter points, so have fun with them. Some of my faves
4-year institutions are graduating a third more women than men; community colleges, 50 percent more.

Over a quarter of students at 4-year institutions live with their parents

Less than 20 percent of colleges and universities admit less than 50 percent of applicants – and just 46 admit less than 20 percent.

Do any of these seem surprising to you, or is it all old news?

Moving and Remote Work

Several articles have discussed trends magnified by the pandemic

Statistically speaking, Idaho is one of America’s greatest economic success stories. The state has low unemployment and high income growth. It has expanded education spending while managing to shore up budget reserves. Brad Little, the state’s Republican governor, has attributed this run of prosperity to the mix of low taxes and minimal regulation that conservatives call “the business climate.”

But there is another factor at play: Californians, fleeing high home prices, are moving to Idaho in droves. For the past several years, Idaho has been one of the fastest-growing states, with the largest share of new residents coming from California. This fact can be illustrated with census data, moving vans — or resentment.

Home prices rose 20 percent in 2020, according to Zillow, and in Boise, “Go Back to California” graffiti has been sprayed along the highways. The last election cycle was a referendum on growth and housing, and included a fringe mayoral candidate who campaigned on a promise to keep Californians out. The dichotomy between growth and its discontents has fused the city’s politics and collective consciousness with a question that city leaders around the country were asking even before the pandemic and remote work trends accelerated relocation: Is it possible to import California’s growth without also importing its housing problems?

“I can’t point to a city that has done it right,” said Lauren McLean, Boise’s Democratic mayor.

From Louise

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area struck a hard bargain with its tech workers.

Rent was astronomical. Taxes were high. Your neighbors didn’t like you. If you lived in San Francisco, you might have commuted an hour south to your job at Apple or Google or Facebook. Or if your office was in the city, maybe it was in a neighborhood with too much street crime, open drug use and $5 coffees.

But it was worth it. Living in the epicenter of a boom that was changing the world was what mattered. The city gave its workers a choice of interesting jobs and a chance at the brass ring.

That is, until the pandemic. Remote work offered a chance at residing for a few months in towns where life felt easier. Tech workers and their bosses realized they might not need all the perks and after-work schmooze events. But maybe they needed elbow room and a yard for the new puppy. A place to put the Peloton. A top public school.

They fled. They fled to tropical beach towns. They fled to more affordable places like Georgia. They fled to states without income taxes like Texas and Florida.

That’s where the story of the Bay Area’s latest tech era is ending for a growing crowd of tech workers and their companies. They have suddenly movable jobs and money in the bank — money that will go plenty further somewhere else.

What have you seen in your areas ? People moving in or out ? What trends do you forecast ?

Family Matching

by S&M

Who in your family looks like who? What do you think is nature, and what’s likely nurture? 

People have remarked since my son was little that he looks like me, particularly in the way he moves. Now that he’s full-sized and near final form, we see that his legs are built very much like mine, with strong quads and calves. His stance is often similar to my dad’s, and to my sister’s son. We move in very similar ways and have similar facial expressions. He has his father’s eye sockets and “allergic circles” under his eyes from my side of the family, poor kid!

When I was growing up, strangers occasionally asked me “are you Dr X’s little girl?” Yes, I was, spit & image. My older sister looked like our mom. The youngest didn’t look like anyone, but these days she looks like our mother. My sisters, parents and I all have pale blue eyes with freckles on the irises; the next generation all has brown eyes.

What about you and your family?

Editorial addition:

Since a fairly large number of Totebaggers have immediate family groups related by law, custom, or adoption, as well as by blood, please also reflect on family traits that are shared despite a lack of genetic connection.

When is the Last Time You Danced?

by MooshiMooshi

Note: This article is behind the WaPo paywall, and has a lot of graphics so I don’t know if it would work well in text format. See what you think

The Decline of Social Dancing.

I read this fun article on our various President’s social dancing skills (or lack thereof). Reading this article, it is clear that men were expected to know how to dance, and that it was for a long time a type of social grease. In my own family, men in the older generation still danced. Both of my grandfathers could dance, in particular my maternal grandfather, who could cut quite a figure on the dance floor, as could my grandmother. My father in law was also a great dancer and loved weddings so he could show off. When he and his wife socialized, polkas and waltzes were always a part of parties, combined with cards and booze. By my parent’s era, though, old school couples dancing was uncool, and at their parties everyone did those 60’s go-go dances, and later, disco moves. However, people still danced at parties back then.
I realized when I read this article that outside of weddings, proms and organized dorm dances, I haven’t been to a party than involved dancing since my parent’s time. In particular, I don’t think I have been to a party in a house with dancing. Teens have their own dance moves, as they always have, but once they hit adulthood, how many of them dance at parties? I think that the era of adults needing to be able to dance as a form of social grease is long gone.
Ah, but then I remembered…. TikTok. Perhaps the social grease function of dancing has simply moved, like everything else, to social media.

Anyway, here is the link to the article on Presidential dancing skills. It is quite fun. I had no idea that Betty Ford was such a good dancer, or that LBJ was taught to dance by his mother, who taught square dancing in the Texas hill country to kids.


Two Totebaggers mentioned Sleep as an issue

From North of Boston

I am finding that sleep can be hard to come by these days, with pandemic-related stresses piled on top of regular life stresses. Totebaggers, how are you sleeping? What are your best tips for getting to sleep, staying asleep, and getting back to sleep if you wake up during the night?

From AustinMom

Can we talk sleep and blursdays? Pre-pandemic, I was a fairly typical early to bed (10-10:30 pm) and early to rise (5:30-6:00 am) though not all nights were restful. Weeks had a pattern to them; I knew what day of the week and date it was every day.

College students coming home shifted us all to later bedtimes, some much later than others. With one back on campus, we are slowly shifting a bit earlier, but I am really struggling to get into a routine. In the past month or so, I am having more blursdays where I find myself checking the calendar not just for the date, but the day of the week.

Last week for the first time in a while seemed more focused and productive along with being more oriented to the day of the week. This week is starting out a bit of a blursday. 

Are others facing this challenge? How are you dealing with it?

2021 in Sports

by Mémé

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, what are you looking forward to this year in Sports, both spectator and participatory? For yourself, your family members, your community.

I still have my Red Sox season tickets. Since I can roll over the paid up balance from one year to the next, and I doubt there will be fan seating before mid summer, I have decided to keep them through 2022, which I expect will be the first full season with crowds. Sunk cost and all that, even though I have a right to a refund of cancelled dates.

Advice Column Friday – The Horror

by Ada

This Ethicist column has been a long-standing inside joke between my husband and I. Whenever we discuss some difficult decision or hear about someone grappling with and ethical dilemma, we say, “But at least it’s not as bad as bedbugs in the chateau!”

Last summer, I visited friends at their chateau in France — good company, excellent food, but a lumpy mattress full of bedbugs. Badly bitten, I said nothing, but I know I’ll be invited back. How can I politely tell them about their infestation? Or more politely, must I remain silent and simply decline the invitation? — JS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla

You’re waiting until now to tell them that their house is infested? What would you do if the chateau were on fire, mention it demurely in a few months? If this situation involved only your own comfort, you could keep silent, but because other people are at risk, you must speak up. Here’s how you tell them: You tell them — on the telephone, using a fake accent and a false name. No, no — openly, honestly, calmly. I can understand your desire not to embarrass your friends or imperil your relationship, but I hope they will value your candor and realize that having bedbugs is not a moral failing. 

This was during a dark period for the NYT Ethicist. They seemed to have forgotten that ethical dilemmas are complicated and instead published a bunch of letters that were really just “awkward problems” or “should I do what’s right or what’s easy?” problems. They have emerged from that now and occasionally quote a philosopher or two and tackle some complicated things. 

But for fun today, or maybe “fun” – let’s talk about the awkward horrors of travel with friends! I’ll start. You may recall we have a very tiny trailer (that came across an ocean to be with us.). It’s basically a queen bed in a 5x6ft box, though my claustrophobic mother and 6ft husband have both slept comfortably in it (after some initial reluctance). I think (somewhat irrationally, it appears), that it makes a very great guest room. We have now had a 6’6” friend stay, who feigned appreciation. A couple who required us to shuffle kids around and couldn’t sleep in the trailer because he needed a place to plug in the CPAP. A parent who worried that it was unsafe for our daughters to be unattended overnight in the backyard (though the girls found it magic). At this point, I should start renting it out on AirBnb so I can let the disappointments and hilarious awkwardness pile up!

Thursday Open Thread

by Mémé

Thanks to all the Totebaggers for articles and topics posted on Suggest Topics page. I am working through what is there, but more are always welcome, especially the fun ones I am less likely to find on my own.

We always have a lot of finance, and food. So I am going to dole those out one per week, or combine two into one. So if your submission is not posted right away, I am not ignoring it.

Tomorrow we will have an Advice Column post.

The biggest technology failures of 2020

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

I think this is not paywalled, but if it is, I’ll post a copy.

From the MIT Technology Review

Details for each item in the list are in the article.

1. Covid tests
2. Unregulated facial recognition
3. Quibi’s quick collapse
4. Mystery microwave weapon
5. #zoomdick
6. Light pollution from satellite megaconstellations
7. The vaccine that make you test positive for HIV
8. Cyberpunk 2077
9. Hydroxychloroquine, the covid drug that never worked

Introverts vs Extroverts Stuck at Home

by Houston

For introverts: How do you keep from become too introvert-ish? It is so easy during these times to just sink into yourself. How do you care for the extroverts in your life?

For extroverts: How do you care for yourself and your introvert? How do you get enough social interaction during COVID quarantine?

Childhood Foods

by L

What are the foods you remember from your childhood? What were your favorites? Least favorites?

My best food memories from childhood usually involve some kind of sweet and unusual flavors, probably because both were restricted in my household! Strawberry and grape soda (Welch’s) with a bacon cheeseburger were a special treat when we went camping (before the camp house was built) and got lunch at the general store nearby. I also remember oatmeal creme pies after my first (and last) Girl Scout overnight – my troop leaders washed cookie sheets for our food in the stream with detergent, so our English muffin pizzas tasted like Dawn!

My least favorite dish was “milk chicken” – chicken parts with flour over the top, not enough salt and pepper, dotted with infinitesimal bits of margarine, then baked with about 1/2″ of skim milk in the pan until the milk evaporated and the chicken was *well* overcooked! Second were lima beans (plain, boiled). I still don’t like lima beans.


by Houston

Please share your updates on things/situations you’ve mentioned on the Totebag. Did you ask the Hive Mind a question? Did you try a recipe that someone posted? Did you make a purchase based on a recommendation? We want to know how things worked out.

Here’s mine: I asked if anyone used the Costco Car Buying Service. Several people came back with mildly positive reviews. Well, we just purchased a Subaru Crosstrek using the program and I highly recommend it. The experience was very pleasant, and the discount was fairly substantial. Also, the program asks dealer to share their invoice prices, which took a lot of stress out of the purchase for me. Two thumbs up!

Caring for aging Parents

by Allie

I’m curious about what people have done to financially care for parents when there are multiple siblings of various financial abilities and life stages (DINKS, married with young kids, single), most geographically separate from the parents.

How do you best structure financial and practical assistance to your parents when there are financial and geographical issues affecting all options?

My siblings and I (4 of us!) have expected financially assist our mother in the future and/or have her live with one or more than one of us. However, after multiple falls, bone breaks, and other health challenges and a lack of ability to maintain a single family residence, it’s obvious something has to change sooner, even though she is only 62. The question is how? Obviously the focus is on keeping mom safe, healthy and happy, but I’m sure there are ways to set up this process for the least friction between siblings.

AARP and other places have checklists for this process, but they focus on getting the senior into long term care, not general at home care that might include living with adult children or similar. They also seem to focus on documentation, and I am interested in the more practical day to day realities, as well as later implications for financial assistance structures set up in the moment.

Click to access prepare-to-care-guide-english-aarp.pdf

What steps of this process are going to be the biggest surprise or roadblock that is not mentioned in these cheery checklists? If the assistance requires help with a property purchase, like a condo with elevators and an HOA for outdoor maintenance, how best should that be structured?

Forgotten Words to Use in 2021

By Blythe

From Inside Higher Ed:

At Wayne State University, the Word Warriors release annually a list of words “worthy of retrieval from the linguistic cellar.”  Check out their very fitting list for 2021:

Anagapesis — Loss of feelings for someone who was formerly loved.
Blatteroon — A senseless babbler or boaster.
Brontide — A low, muffled sound like distant thunder heard in certain seismic regions, especially along seacoasts and over lakes and thought to be caused by feeble earth tremors.
Dysania — The state of finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning.
Footle — Engage in fruitless activity; mess about.
Maleolent — Foul-smelling, odorous.
Paralian — Someone who lives by the sea.
Snollygoster — A shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician.
Sophronize — To imbue with moral principles or self-control.
Ultracrepidarian — Expressing opinions on matters outside the scope of one’s knowledge or expertise.

How many of these words can you use in a sentence? Do you have a favorite forgotten word to nominate for the list?

You can find the archives at New entries are posted there — as well as on Facebook — weekly.

Politics Open Thread, Jan 24 – 30

All topics welcome. WCE provided this starter.

Great essay from Andrew Sullivan on the potential triumphs and excesses of the Biden administration for the Politics Page.

“If Biden’s team meaningfully accelerates the pace of vaccination, he will be rewarded handily, as he should be. (He’s already lowering expectations, to maximize any political pay-off.) If he’s capable of passing an economic stimulus that can mitigate some of the extreme social and economic inequality this teetering republic labors under, rescue and grow the economy and help innovate and expand non-carbon energy sources, ditto. These are clear, measurable tasks that most non-ideologues can heartily support. So too would be a fuller extension of universal access to healthcare, via an Obamacare public option, if they can squeak that through the evenly divided Senate.

These are sane, sensible, center-left policies with majority support. He should make his explanations of these policies simple and clear. If he wins some of these battles this year, he would move the country lastingly leftward. Stick to them, and the politics takes care of itself. 

But Joe Biden has also shown this week that his other ambitions are much more radical. On immigration, he is way to Obama’s left, proposing a mass amnesty of millions of illegal immigrants, a complete moratorium on deportations, and immediate revocation of the bogus emergency order that allowed Trump to bypass Congress and spend money building his wall. Fine, I guess. But without very significant addition of border controls as a deterrent, this sends a signal to tens of millions in Central to South America to get here as soon as possible. Biden could find, very quickly, that the “unity” he preaches will not survive such an effectively open-borders policy, or another huge crisis at the border. He is doubling down on the very policies that made a Trump presidency possible. In every major democracy, mass immigration has empowered the far right. Instead of easing white panic about changing demographics, Biden just intensified it.”

Bucket List Update

by Rhode

I’m hitting a milestone year soon… and thinking of creating a list of things to do ahead of that birthday.

What are some of your bucket list items? Did you create a “50 things to do before 50” list? What did you put on it?

Following the Recipe

By Ivy

Recently the NY Times printed a column about following recipes exactly as a way to experience new tastes and even cultures. I know that as I’ve gotten more experienced in the kitchen, I am less likely to follow recipes to the letter. But the thought intrigued me, especially as I would like to get more variety into our menus. This is especially true for meals and foods from cultures where I have little to no first-hand experience.

What is your cooking style? And – how did you learn how to cook foods from origins very different from your own? Am I the only one who has stood in H Mart or other “ethnic” stores frantically googling ingredients on my phone? Any cookbook, blog or other recipe sources to recommend?

(I can pull a PDF article of this article if needed!)

Inauguration Day open Thread

by Mémé

I grew up in the District of Columbia and my mother worked on Constitution Avenue near the Capitol. It was a city holiday. Schools were closed. I used to go in with her to experience the pomp and circumstance and grandeur of the transition of power.

Time Sinks

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

We’ve discussed some other blogs, and some advice columns, but another entertaining time sink is the Money Diaries section of Refinery 29. Young women (it’s almost all young women) post a week’s worth of spending and then the commenters tear them apart. You might feel sympathy towards the poster, but getting torn apart is the whole point. N.b: I have Chrome set up with enough ad blockers and whatnot that the comments don’t show up. I have to use a different browser to see them.

What other time sinks have you found lately?

Sunshine Calls

bu AustinMom

The Dell Medical School at UT Austin and Meals on Wheels of Central Texas have been testing out a program that could help combat the health effects of loneliness and isolation, particularly among older people. (See link below) 

This calling program struck a cord with me as it is something my local women’s group started up in November as well. Our holiday social is hosted by the past presidents and this year instead of just sending out the electronic reservation link, we split up all the members and called them to (1) personally invite them to the social and (2) check in to see how they were doing and offer assistance to get on our electronic meetings as well. The response was so positive that we are now going to be calling members every other month, at least those who are not actively participating in monthly meetings or small group events (all except the hiking group are online). 

I volunteer in another group and our turn out to our planning meetings has really fallen off. Because of the success of the calls, I sent cards to each volunteer letting them know they were missed, thanking them for their service and reminding them of the next meeting. Our meeting after I sent the cards increased attendance by 50%. 

Are you finding that phone calls and letters are coming back? I think so much business and social life is connected to the computer that we are tiring of it. The phone call and snail mail now seem so much more personal. What do you think?

Advice Column Friday

AITA: For uninviting my sister to my wedding for what she told my fiancèe?

My M27 fiancèe F25 has an obvious permanent burnscar from an accident that caused her mother (her only parent) to pass away from injury. My fiancèe had a long recovery it’s been 7 years. The scar is on her collarbone. it goes down her chest but isn’t showing. Unless she’s wearing scoop/square tops. She often wears hoodies/jackets to cover up. She puts this cream I don’t know what ladies call it but it’s supposed to tone skin color or something? I’m not sure but my fiancèe calls it foundation that is one degree brighter than her skin color. I absolutely adore her she’s pretty, smart, ambitious and the list goes on. What happened was unfortunate and I’m glad she’s at peace with herself and more confident.

My family love her. How can they not. She’s a member of the family. My mom makes sure she takes part in every family function and things like shopping and decorating other things. However. My sister made comments about my fiancèe’s scar several times. I’ve called her out on her behavior several times to get her to stop because she was hurting me before my fiancèe with her backhanded and insensitive comments. I told my fiancèe she had everyright to cut my sister out and not deal with her bullshit but she has been forgiving and respectful of my entire family.

Our wedding is in February. My fiancèe went shopping for the wedding dress. This is where the issue started:

My fiancèe showed the wedding dress to my sister. I didn’t see it but I was told it was a spaghetti strap dress. My fiancèe likes this stuff. Anyways my sister saw it and went nuts she started criticising her choice and said that she should’ve gotten a high nick or a jewel wedding dress to cover up the scar. She argued with my fiancèe about it. I went to my family’s house and I confronted her. I yelled at her after she told me my fiancee needed to return the dress and get a “proper” one so that guests won’t focus on her burnscar and use it as the topic of conversation and gossip. I told her that she’s not invited to our wedding. She isn’t welcome to my wedding with this entitled attitude of hers and her insensitivity and disrespect. We argued for half an hour then I left.

In exactly an hour. My mom and dad called and berated me saying my sister was crying after I uninvited her and that I had no right to univinte her. She’s my sister and was just trying to help out and give an advice and avoid any “unnecessary” drama at the wedding. My mom said my fiancèe can keep the dress but suggested to wear a pridel shawl as a neutral solution. I stopped responding to my mom’s calls and texts after that. Family members were upset my sister was uninvited and wanted me to invite her again because this will make family look bad in front of outsiders and guests.

Future of health care policy?

Excerpts from Interview with Atul Gawande

by WCE

A century ago, we really finally drove childbirth from being one of the biggest killers for women and newborns to becoming a rare cause of death for women and a much, much lower likelihood of death for children. It was a combination of the government and the private sector. The private sector innovated around how you save the mothers’ lives and babies’ lives. But public information—a century now of [recorded] death rates of every hospital, every death of the baby and the mom—total transparency about where things go wrong [also played a role].

The Department of Public Health would potentially shut down a hospital if it was having bad results. It would hold people’s feet to the fire to maintain a minimum standard of care. You could get real competition between places over everything from the experience of care and whether they have a Jacuzzi or whether they have great clinicians. But you weren’t competing over whether your baby would die or the mom would die in one place versus another. The lesson I’ve [learned] from working on the nonprofit side, working on the private sector side, and having worked on the government side is: Given how much the big have gotten bigger, there will need to be much more data transparency about the actual services that are provided and what the outcomes are—whether it’s childbirth, primary care, cancer care, or surgery.

There is going to need to be close involvement from people in the public health system around whether it’s serving its minimum quality and appropriate levels of care. And the pandemic has made that eminently clear. We don’t have the basic information on whether testing is being done and where, who has access, who doesn’t have access, how well it’s being done, where the holes are, how much mental health has been damaged, how much our specialty care has been affected.”

Mémé: I confess I don’t know what WCE intended by the excerpt she provided. I think it has something to with using good data to make policy. So I extracted some sections I thought interesting as well.

Primary care is a service where you should have ready contact for the majority of your medical needs at any time of day. It should be a team that you have contact with, who knows you well enough to know what your goals are and how you’re doing over time against those goals. And it then should be able to deploy the assets of the healthcare system, which are enormous, right? Whether it’s highly complex, specialty care, getting you a COVID test, or recognizing your goal is to get pregnant and getting you on the right path there. It should be a system that could enable all of the assets of the system to serve your needs and then follow along to make sure that when it doesn’t serve your needs, you’re in good hands.

That basic service is a fundamental building block of many systems around the world, but it is not of ours. We don’t have a system for the fact that half of your life or more is going to be spent with at least one or more chronic illnesses, whether it’s high blood pressure or a complex heart disease.

We have a fundamentally broken system by having a healthcare system built around where you work. It means when you stop working, you lose your healthcare, you lose your primary care. You don’t have the connections sustained for big parts of your life like it should be.

I think the way that Medicare Advantage is evolving, Medicare [Accountable Care Organizations], some of the capitated [fee per patient] Medicaid plans is the ideal way to go. And what is that? It means you have a primary care relationship. Dollars flow on a monthly basis to that team to meet a certain level of convenience and efficiency, to get the full range of your needs from medicines to preventive care, to be advocates for you. And if they don’t do a good job, then you take your payment from them and it goes to the next clinician and the insurers reward them for being able to deliver on a certain quality and manage the cost constraints. That has been immensely popular in Medicare with more and more people flowing into that part of the system. I think it would be of great interest if we were to expand in the under-65 population


by SM

I just noticed, much to my relief, that the date on a picture I took of the little yellow flowers in our yard last year is in January. Very late January, but still the current month. Once they popped up, I recall temps slowly rising. Of course, they don’t have as far to rise here as in some other places. The weather service puts out warnings of extreme conditions if frost is expected—even if temps are still above freezing. W

Spring showers do bring flowers, but they come later than April, and can liner into June. The real season of rainy, grey days though is fall, with gloomy, wet weather alternating with glorious yellow leaves and the occasional red vines. 

I think a reason for Germany’s famous twinkling lights and warmth for Christmas season is the length of winter nights. Those traditions, like putting candles on a tree, pre-date Christianity here, and may outlive it, imo.

What marks the seasons where you are, and what climate would you like to live in?

Advice Column Fridays

by Denver Dad

I Suspect My Husband Has Concocted an Elaborate Scheme to Expose My Lies

Dear How to Do It,

I’m a married woman. I had a three-month affair with an old boyfriend, “Jim,” that ended abruptly two weeks ago when I got an email from a friend saying “Check this out!” with a link to CNN. I clicked and a page with a video player showing a picture of the guest bedroom in my house opened. Huh? I later noticed my friend’s email name had an 8 changed to a 3, and the CNN link was actually a hypertext link to IPaddress/myname. I clicked play and a message popped up: “I know you’re watching.” I had a full-blown panic attack as I watched a 53-minute hi-res clear sound video featuring Jim and me. No one besides “Will,” my husband, could have been in the house. There’s an alarm system. He’s also a computer engineer. He’d know exactly how to do all of it. I gave Jim the link. He’s married and panicked too.

I couldn’t find a trace of the camera and was physically sick with anxiety by the time Will got home from work. He said nothing about the video, just asked me what was wrong so I said, “I’ve got a bug, not COVID I hope.” The next day the site disappeared. For the past two weeks, the video hasn’t been mentioned, and nothing’s changed. Will has stopped saying “I love you,” and the only time he touches or kisses me is when we’re having sex. That started about six weeks ago, and now I know why. I thought maybe it was too much self-quarantined time together.

I don’t know what Will’s game is. He’s torturing me by making me live in constant fear of an angry confrontation and/or our marriage crashing and burning. Is he waiting for COVID to end before divorcing since it would be hard to date someone now, we’re companionable, and he gets sex whenever he wants because I feel guilty and hope it will somehow atone for my transgressions? He’s planning to shame me with the video or threaten to in the future? The thought of him making me watch it with him makes me cringe. Is he waiting for me to come clean? Sometimes I think I should end the charade, admit to a huge mistake, and beg for forgiveness. I’d agree to a hall pass or whatever he wants, but I’m afraid of what will happen. I don’t know what to do. At this point, I don’t even know why I had an affair, things were good between us—maybe COVID boredom. Help.


Sad News & Condolence Page

Last week a terrible tragedy befell the family of our long time and beloved administrator known as “Kim”. Her adult son was killed in a highway accident when the car in which he was a passenger was struck by a vehicle from the oncoming direction that lost control and crossed over.

This page will stay up for a while to accumulate messages from the large anonymous and mostly lurking Totebag community, much like the online pages put up by funeral homes. Those of us who have full contact details will represent the community with flowers and/or other appropriate gesture on everyone’s behalf.

Kim will be taking an immediate hiatus from her admin duties, so please direct all communication to me at, and resend to me any topics you may have submitted to her in the past ten days.