Nov 18 2010

With the holidays coming up,
it’s time to practice crowd control.

If you haven’t figured out how to descend on someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, and if you have the barbarian hordes descending on your home, it’s time to realize your power to control the day and adjust the festivities to your own level of comfort. Setting boundaries and limits to what you will and will not do can help you feel less overwhelmed. Rhetorically speaking, taking a few stiff belts of your favorite beverage can help temper the anticipation of relatives arriving with their boatload of comments, complaints and “suggestions.” But, without resorting to intoxicants, some directed forethought and well placed lifelines to sanity will encourage you to feel like a model hostess, thereby resisting impulses to slip out the kitchen back door when no one is looking.

One may take solace in the fact that relatives are an age-old problem as shown by the vintage postcard displayed below. If you are dreading the onslaught this Thanksgiving, no reason to feel like you are The Lone Ranger. These post cards were mass produced by the thousands for the general public over a hundred years ago so you know you are not the first and, odds are, will not be the last.

An age old problem with a simple solution?

In-laws truly present a special set of obligations and a special set of problems. It is interesting that in life, because of blood relations, you are expected to interact with people on a continual basis that you would never seek out for a sustained friendship. I have stood talking to my relatives and inwardly thought, “You know, if I met you at a party, I would be so turned off by your pompous arrogance, that I would never speak with you again.” Just inwardly acknowledging that I have rejected them for friendship has helped me step back from saying something I might regret. I have risen to the occasion a little easier, with less inward stress, because this related individual has been deposed as “not worthy.”

Are overbearing relatives the ruination of your holidays?

When I read many of the self help guidelines for getting along with relatives on the Internet, such as “How to Get Along with Relatives” found here or “Family Parties: Getting Along with Relatives or Anyone Else” found at this site, I am reminded that it is important to remember I can’t change other people, I can only change myself. But, one thing these self-help sites don’t emphasize enough is when you take responsibility for maintaining your own self control and discipline, do not feel responsible for everyone’s behavior as well.

For instance, don’t beat yourself up emotionally because you could not, on the spot without any warning, find the right phrase to diffuse Aunt Harriet’s unneeded comments about Cousin Mitzie’s couch potato husband, Bob, who’s lost another job. Don’t take responsibility for lifting that lead balloon out of the air.  You’ve fixed the dinner, washed the crystal and polished the silver. You don’t also have to be a stand up comedienne “just in from Las Vegas” delivering the perfect one liner to make everyone happy again.

No! Just smile and pass the sweet potatoes.

If Aunt Harriet is going to bomb, let her. If Cousin Mitzie is offended, let her cover for Bob one more time, she’s used to it. The point is, as hostess, you don’t have to be a psychiatrist to the group for the dinner to go well. Save yourself the effort because odds are, no one will appreciate your “interfering” anyway. No one will think you said just the right thing anyway. And, if you shield yourself from getting hooked into the action, it will be easier to relax and enjoy the rest of the day and rest of the family.

So! Like I said, smile and pass the sweet potatoes.

And, if you need a reminder as to how involved family
relationships can become, here is a 1991 episode of
TV’s Roseanne with a family Thanksgiving get-together.


The Relationship Cure is highly recommended. If it
interests you, hover your mouse over this link:

The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships

“This is the best book on relationships I have ever read — a truly impressive tour-de-force. John Gottman has discovered the Rosetta Stone of relationships. He has decoded the subtle secrets contained in our moment-to-moment communications. By introducing the simple yet amazingly powerful concept of the “bid,” he provides a remarkable set of tools for relationship repair. By the middle of the second chapter you’re likely to say to yourself, “Oh, so that’s what’s happening in my relationship with my partner (or colleague, boss, or sister), and now I know what to do about it.”
— Daniel B. Wile, Ph.D.,author of After the Fight: Using Your Disagreements to Build a Stronger Relationship

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Oct 02 2010

At Plimoth Plantation, the living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts,
the Pilgrims come to talk with you during your Thanksgiving feast.

When I lived in upstate New York, I would often go to Boston, Massachusetts and when I did, I would stay in Plymouth to enjoy the historical area. I was intrigued by the story of the Pilgrims landing in 1620, and, so we were taught, being the first Europeans to land in North America. Years later, after reading many books and after learning that Squanto, the Native American who helped the Pilgrims through the first winter, greeted them in English after they landed, I have reassessed what I was taught in school. In my schooling career, very few books mentioned that before the Pilgrims arrived, Squanto and many other Wampanoag tribes people has been captured and taken back to England. But that’s another story and a good one. You can find it and more facts about that first Plymouth winter in Nathaniel Philbrick’s wonderfully educational book, Mayflower, as seen at the bottom of this post.

All plants and animals in the 1627 Village are native
to the times, as are the garden preparations.

But, when I went to Boston and stayed in Plymouth, I would always make a point to visit Plimoth Plantation, the historical area that is spelled in the old style of the original Plimoth colony. And, when I visited Plimoth Plantation, I was always charmed by the idea that every Thanksgiving, the museum hosts a banquet, a 17th century Thanksgiving feast, where tickets may be purchased to “dine with the Pilgrims.” I decided that someday, when I had a family, we would one day go, sitting in rare style on Thanksgiving Day, eating our pumpkin pie just down the street when where it all happened long ago.

Plimoth Plantation is a living history museum,
providing historical immersion in another time.

Eventually I did take my family to Plymouth and Plimoth Plantation, but it was after a few false starts. The programs are very popular around Thanksgiving. I had heard reservations have to be made early, but I thought the beginning of October would be plenty of time. I didn’t know they begin taking reservations in June, (!) so that some of the most popular seatings for dinner are sold out long before fall even begins. So, later, we planned ahead and the next year actually did eat with the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day. A triumph years in the making.

A mast, rigging and the crow’s nest of the Mayflower II
docked in downtown Plymouth, Massachusetts.

When you go to the Plimoth Plantation website, found here, to look at the educational events, you will find the Thanksgiving dinner information here. You will notice there are many dates and times from which to choose. The Thanksgiving dinners start in October to allow many more visitors than could be accommodated in November alone. The web site will also show you there are several living history areas: the Wampanoag Native American home site, the 1627 English Village, The Mayflower II, the Nye Barn, in addition to a tempting Gift Shop and other educational and social event facilities.

Wampanoag descendants tend a cooking fire
to instruct visitors on their cultural customs.

Being a bargain shopper as I know you are, I hope you have noticed on the Plimoth Plantation web site that educational and social events are less expensive for Members of the museum; why you even get a discount in the Gift Shop! I would strongly encourage everyone who loves history to become members of all museums that speak to your love of heritage. With the economic climate and families traveling less, donations toward non-profit groups like museums are declining.

Visitors wander freely through the Village
while talking to Pilgrim interpreters.

Unfortunately, government grants and funding have also lessened leaving museum directors and curators wringing their hands as to how to maintain collections to safeguard the pubic trust. By supporting museums, by becoming a member and actively participating in staged events, museum doors stay open and the collections can be maintained for future generations. In some small museums, the need is especially critical, so please give to the museum/s of your choice.  Make sure the museum where you want to take your kids or grand kids someday will be open when you bring a carload of fun seekers to their door.

To preview a copy, hover over this link:

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

The following is a spirited Amazon review:

“After a recent trip to Plymouth with the family (also heartily recommended), most of the tour guides & workers suggested this as a very good first read about the history of the Plymouth Colony. They were absolutely right (thanks guys). This is a very well written book that covers the main history of the Plymouth Colony from the establishment of the first successful colony through King Philip’s War. Nathaniel Philbrick’s main point is how the relationships with the natives changed from one of mutual dependence to outright open warfare between competing cultures. While telling the big story, he tells a lot of small stories along the way that make this a wonderful book. The details didn’t interfere with the flow of the larger story.
The writing is excellent. The history is fascinating. It’s a must read for anyone interested in the Pilgrims, King Philip’s War, early American History or Massachusetts history.”

To enjoy a video of Plimoth Plantation, click play:

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