Thanksgiving 2017: Conversation Starters

Dear Readers, 

Have you ever found yourself grasping at straws for suitable conversation starters while seated at a Thanksgiving dinner between a long-lost third cousin (twice removed), and a complete stranger (your brother's serious girlfriend of two weeks)?  Thanksgiving can be a great time to gather with extended family, especially the very extended type you are unlikely to ever see again. (Have you ever been guilty of saying the wrong thing at a holiday dinner, thus putting your foot in your mouth along with the turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie?  I know I have. It helps to commit this faux pas around a dining companion who will probably completely forget about you the following day.)

Fear not.  If you watch this short video from Mental Flossbefore Thanksgiving, you should have plenty of weird and wonderful conversation starters up your sleeve:

Thus armed, you will be able to expertly steer your own (and other people's) conversation starters away from those dreaded Dangerous Questions.  

What is a Dangerous Question?  Here is a short list of my personal favorite Dangerous Questions to watch out for, which will inevitably veer into the abyss (and possibly start a Thanksgiving family feud that will last through the New Year):

  1. "So, when are you two getting engaged/married/divorced?"
  2. "When are you going to have a child? You're not getting any younger..."
  3. "You're having another child? Don't you know the planet is overpopulated?"
  4. "Still haven't found THE ONE, I see. Have you given up on dating?"
  5. "Honey, it looks like you've gained some weight...are you pregnant?"
  6. "Honey, it looks like you've lost some weight... have you been sick recently?"
  7. "You're just picking at your turkey, are you on a fad diet or something?"
  8. "How much money does (your new boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse) make?"
  9. "What on earth do you see in (your new boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse)?"
  10. "So I hear you lost your job this much longer are you going to be living with your parents?  They're not running a hotel, you know."

(...and I could go on, but you can probably continue with your own list of Dangerous Questions here.)  

Now, we all know that we cannot stop well-meaning (or ill-intentioned, for that matter) people from asking us a Dangerous Question at the holiday dinner table.  Sometimes we may have (accidentally) asked one, ourselves.  However, just because someone asks us a Dangerous Question does not mean we have to answer it.

No, no we do not.  

Here is my foolproof holiday dinner table tactic for fending off unwanted Dangerous Questions: simply shrug and smile a small, mysterious smile, keeping your mouth tightly closed and lips pressed together all the while. This is key: if you don't open your mouth, nothing embarrassing or potentially disastrous can come out of it. (You also can't eat anything with your mouth tightly closed, a tiny problem during a holiday dinner...but I digress.)  Then quickly change the subject.  Or, if you're in a situation where you can do so, it's perfectly acceptable to just follow your shrug & smile routine up with a polite "Excuse me, please" and move away. Quickly.  Far, far away.

If you're stuck at the holiday dinner table (seated between Great-Aunt Bertha and Cousin Edgar) and getting up and leaving is difficult or impossible, however, a sample change-the-subject dialogue might look like this:

GREAT-AUNT BERTHA: "Still haven't found THE ONE, I see.  Have you given up on dating, dear?"

SELF:  (Tiny, meaningful shrug, accompanied by a small, mysterious smile) "Do you know what the Pilgrims ate at the First Thanksgiving?"

GREAT-AUNT BERTHA: (Momentarily distracted) "No, what did they eat?"

When given the choice, steering the dinner table conversation towards quizzing everyone on when Thanksgiving became a national holiday or what year the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (no, Gimbels) was will suddenly seem much more attractive than discussing your relationship status.  At least it will provide a (welcome) distraction, as everyone simultaneously starts yelling "Alexa, what year did Thanksgiving become a national holiday" or "Hey Siri, when was the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?" Ah, technology at the dinner table.  Every so often, it comes in handy.  Whatever it takes to steer the topic of conversation away from your new diet, right?

You'll want to be able to enjoy that second slice of pumpkin pie (with whipped cream, thank you very much) in peace later.


Yours Truly,



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Cat Tales: Napping

Shaun, enjoying a nice afternoon nap

Shaun, enjoying a nice afternoon nap

Dear Readers,

We all know sleep is important, but few of us actually get enough of it. The Cleveland Clinic recently sent out an email newsletter reminding their readers to pay special attention to adequate sleep during the holidays.

Shaun, one of my rescue kitties, has been practicing the fine art of sleeping (and napping) for years. Cats sleep an average of 15 hours per daysince they're hardwired to be awake at night, hunting.

I don't know how much hunting my indoor gang does at night. I do hear them (loudly) killing their stuffed mice at two o'clock in the morning, but I suspect around here my cat family sleeps a lot at night, too.  

This could explain my cats' consistently calm, cheerful and playful demeanors.  If I slept for hours (and hours, and hours) a day (and night), I would be really chipper for the few hours of the day I was actually awake!   

Much has been written about the importance of sleep, but probably not enough about how to get said sleep without feeling guilty.  All those things you will have to let slide!  All those chores and laundry that will go unfinished until tomorrow!  Unfortunately our culture reinforces this, and we get sucked into bragging about who's "burning the midnight oil" the most. Ouch.  Wait.  Why is being exhausted a badge of honor?

My cats do not have any of these hangups, bless their sleepy little hearts.  

Moral of this Cat Tale: sleep, without guilt, whenever you feel like it.  Or take a refreshing little cat nap.  All that stuff can wait while you recharge!  If a cat can do it, so can you.

Yours Truly,