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Needn't feel you're all fed up

November 26, 2009

Dear Amy: Well, it's Thanksgiving again, and I expect our family's celebration will be the usual stressful event where one or two people dominate the conversation, at least one person has too much to drink, people fight over politics, someone leaves the room in anger, and the people who have prepared the meal are exhausted and angry.

Maybe I'm just venting, but I don't know if I can take it again. Any advice?

Turkey Tired

Dear Tired: Thanksgiving is only perfect in that famous Norman Rockwell rendition we all have seared in our memories. But any snapshot will only contain one moment -- and in a typical family there are many moments -- many good and some bad. You may do better if you find a way to embrace -- or laugh about -- some of your family's foibles.

That having been said, the Thanksgiving feast is a high-pressure social occasion where the focus is often on the food preparation when it should be on other aspects.

You might disarm domineering Uncle Larry, for instance, by playing a sort of tabletop game of "thanks and blessings." All guests (including the kids) should mention a particular event or person they're thankful for, the only rule being that everyone quietly listens while the other guest is speaking. (To enforce this, pass around a salt shaker; whoever is holding it gets everyone's undivided attention.)

Also -- please! -- enlist your guests to help you. Give people jobs to do and take a few minutes to catch your breath, glance around at your messy family and find something -- anything -- to be thankful for.

Send questions to Amy Dickinson to askamy@ tribune.com or to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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