Hi friends,


I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We traveled to my brother-in-laws house north of New York and had a great feast. Folks from both sides of our families were there, and we shared stories laughed, and ate way too much food. And then, I forced those still left to play one of the great parlor games of all time, "Four on the Couch".


How does one play? I thought you’d never ask, but I will try to explain it.

But first a blatant commercial proposal right here. Please watch. Also educational! (kind of):

It’s that time of year! Enough of the candy canes and cookies! Give them food for their head!


Now, back to the game.


Four on the Couch – a parlor game

You need at least ten people. Up to sixteen works. Or more, but your head will explode if there are too many. Best if it’s even numbers, though you can get away with odd.

I will offer the "traditional" explanation.

By "traditional" I mean, the group should be evenly divided between women and men. Now, it’s not necessary that those be the divisions, but there has to be an even division of two kinds of people. I have discovered this particular division is very satisfying to many, both men and women. In our games, if the numbers of men and women are uneven (8 men, 6 women, for instance), we may have some people who choose to "identify" as one of the others. In our game, there was one too many men, so I identified as "Wilhemina" and became a woman for the game (wear an identifying piece of clothing). It makes it a little more complicated, but it can be done. And is also funny.

And just so you know, don’t divide by age, or you older folks will find your brains have completely atrophied and you’ll get skunked.


Once the division is figured out –

1. Sit in a circle of chairs, couches, or whatever (not on the floor if there’s anyone who can’t get down that far, since people will have to move). No particular order. But one space, defined as "the couch" (e.g., a couch) seats four people in the circle. On the couch, there should be two men and two women.

2. Everybody writes his/her/whatever name on a slip of paper.

3. With that done, each person chooses a name out of the hat. You cannot choose your own name. If you do, put it back and choose another. If the last person gets his/her/whatever name, repeat the whole process.

The name you choose is your name for the game. Forget your real name. Someone else has it.

OBJECT OF THE GAME: The object of the game is for the women to get four women on the couch, and for the men to get four men on the couch. Real men, or real women, not the names you have chosen for the game.

Now the game starts – good luck.


4. Starting at one place in the circle, the first person asks two people to change places (“Betty change places with Lou”).

But, the real Betty and Lou do not change places. The people who have drawn those names change places. Try and remember who those people were.


5. The game continues with the seat to the left of the person who first spoke going next. It is the seat that chooses, not who was in the seat recently. If you were going next, but you changed places to another place in the circle, you’ll have to wait for your chance. Whoever is sitting in the seat goes next.


Clear so far?


The women have to figure out the names of the men on the couch (could be "Tiffany"!), and replace them with a woman who is not on the couch. Men do the same, trying to get the women off the couch and replace them with men.

6. The game is won when one of the groups gets four of their team on the couch.


You will quickly discover you can’t remember anyone’s name. You think you do, but by the time it’s your turn, you will forget. It is horrible. And hilarious. Click here to get a pdf of the rules.


Got a favorite parlor game? Let me know.


Back to our regularly scheduled program.


What’s my job after our national hair-pulling?

I travel a lot. Too much. I was in South Carolina and Florida the week before the election. I’m in Massachusetts now. I’m going to Texas at the beginning of the New Year. I see how things are. I work with people every day of all beliefs. And I, too, have very strong opinions about things. But for me, overarching over all our torment and struggle is the question, “What do we have in common?” I have a very big tent perspective on this – I’m interested in all of us living in the United States (and well, the world), not one particular group. If you’re here, you’re my neighbor. And I can tell you from my travels, no matter what stripe you are, where you’re from, what you eat for dinner, we all want pretty much the same things. I am lucky enough to see this on a daily basis. The stories that resonate with us, that touch us the most deeply, are the same. Fear gets in the way of this. Or like Martin Luther King said, "I have decided to stick with love…Hate is too great a burden to bear."


My job as a performer for families and children is to underline these common stories. I learned many years ago that when someone says "those people", there’s going to be a problem. While I’m not afraid to speak out for things (like my recent efforts for sane gun policy in our country), my main job is for us to find a common language. So before I pigeonhole someone, I’m going to look for some common ground. Speak your truth. Be civil. Both are possible. And when in doubt, err on the side of kindness.


Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, Bumpers, Bumpers, Bumpers

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little TurkeyThis month I’m going up to Boston to be part of the Massachusetts Book Awards – thanks to Charlie Bumpers. A lot of my time this fall was spent visiting schools who did whole school readings of one of the "Charlie" books, and I hear from people every day about them. Charlie has a life beyond me, which is a very wonderful and weird occurrence in my life. I’m finishing up the sixth book now, and looking to start the seventh (and last) early next year. I’m already missing him.

What’s best about Charlie? That kids are reading him on their own. That some kids who thought they didn’t like reading discover, through Charlie, that they do. That Charlie’s misadventures have led to discussion in schools and homes about how to live your life. That some kids feel like they found a friend. And then, like Sally Fields, I keep thinking "You do like me! You really do!" A lot to be thankful for. And there’s a deal on the Charlie Bumpers series (see above – watch it twice).


My own reading

First, I’m spending some time reading other children’s books, and am still in love with Kate DiCamillo’s work. Flora and Ulysses is beautiful and funny. I have a feeling she is too, but I don’t know her. I’m also really enjoying Richard Peck (A Year Down Yonder and Secrets at Sea).

Beyond that, I’ve been completely enchanted with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s memoir, Living to Tell the Tale. His command of language makes it seem like his life is a story of magical realism – just beautiful. I also really liked Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden, about an Anishinabe native fighting for Canada in World War I and his path towards healing. Really great!

And you? Let us know.


Off to do the Tango! Buenos Aires

My son Noah and I are taking a long talked about trip together, and are headed to Buenos Aires and environs for two weeks in January. Let us know if there’s someone there we should meet, or something we HAVE to see. Hopefully, he’ll be able to put up with snoring. We’re both pretty excited. All those dumb miles on the airplane have been good for something.


From the Office

Holiday Gifts!

We've put together a few suggestions of what to get friends and families this year. Visit our Holiday Gifts page to see them all or click one of the categories below:

And don't forget to check out our new Combo Deals!!!

On Sale!

Everything in the store is 20% off IF you enter the discount code when you check out. The code is Holiday2016 and it's good until December 20th (Which is the last day things can ship out to arrive by 12/24!)

And if you're in the US and purchase over $100 worth of stuff, your shipping is FREE!


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