Managing perfection, expectations and gratitude

sushipup1November 18, 2012

This column was in this morning's paper, and I thought of everyone getting busy for a perfect holiday dinner this week and for the rest of the holiday season. Every year, we talk about trying to make things perfect, high expectations for our tables and menus and our company, and the gratitude of thankful family and friends.

Maybe there are some words of wisdom here for us all.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Here is a link that might be useful: Navigating Holiday expectations

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I do identify with many of his points and that was a helpful article as I can be a perfectionist without too much effort.
But how not to be one is the question!

If I only put in "some effort" and have no expectations, yes, I'm not disappointed, but I've also settled for average and who wants to be that?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:38PM
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I thought this remark by the author, Carl Alasko, was a bit strange as well as amusing:

"Finally, you can become a lot more direct about asking for what you need. How about announcing at the end of the dinner that you haven't heard much appreciation from your guests and you'd like them to make the effort to voice their gratitude."

Seriously Carl?????????? I can't stop laughing!

If it comes down to that there are a couple of easy fixes. 1) Don't host the event next year. 2) Don't invite the ungrateful ones. LOL

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:26PM
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I was told that in some culture, after you have had a good meal you are supposed to burp loudly to indicate that you really enjoyed the meal.

I guess none of those 20 dinner guests burped. :-)

I cannot believe that none of the 20 guest said "thank you" to her. Not possible based on my experience.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:01PM
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I don't think I could ask people to thank me either. What's the point, if you have to ask for it? But I think it's perfectly reasonable to say "I'm making chestnut stuffing this year. If you want sausage stuffing, I'll be glad to send you the recipe" or "I need someone to bring apple and pumpkin pie" or "I need three people here by noon to help set the table" or whatever the case may be. I have great respect for women who refuse to be martyrs.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:20AM
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In our family, what's on the Thanksgiving dinner table is secondary to getting together for the day. My aunt bakes a turkey and extra pieces to slice and take home for sandwiches and a casserole of PA Dutch potato filling. We all bring the rest of the meal, which varies with the number of guests and their cooking abilities.

The kids set and clear the table, and we spend the morning putting up her outdoor holiday lights and doing any heavy household chores for her. After dinner, we play the "Tell Us" game while we have dessert.

Our expectations are to honor our parents' generation, have fun seeing each other, catching up on news, and having dinner together. That all gets accomplished.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:55AM
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If you are hosting and doing all the stuff that comes with creating your own brand of "perfection" and are hurt because you don't get thanked properly, you have your head screwed on wrong and will always be disappointed.
You cook and make a party because you love to do it, and one or maybe 2 of those softly uttered "mmmm' sounds is enough.
What really galls me is people who turn a thank you into something else. i.e. "The food was lovely, nice party. But, you do these things so easily, I would get all flustered and over cook the turkey or something" Which pretty well forces you to say...'Oh no! You have lovely parties and you really are a good cook." When in fact the person making the comment never hosted anything other than coffee with store bought coffee cake.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:12AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I agree, that the process is the greatest enjoyment, not the gratitude- which if you have to solicit isn't real-, it does irk me when people think it's not work because it comes naturally, or something like that. "Oh, your house is always so clean ('cause I clean it), but you know how to cook ( I learned, I know how to read), The table looks like a magazine (I work on that, yes, it costs money and I buy new stuff all the time)...

Sorry, Jessica, but if I asked someone to help me set the table, I'd want them the day before...and bring a pie? Only if I want store bought, Mrs. Edwards.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:29PM
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All I want is someone to help with the dishes. :-)


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:33PM
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I also enjoy the process and I do get plenty of appreciation for it, although I usually end up with the dishes because I prepare as much as I can in advance.

Like Ruthanna, the purpose of the holiday is to get together with my family, play with the grandkids, talk about everyone who isn't there, give my mother a chance to show off her perfectionist qualities as she's adding whipped cream to the pumpkin pie in perfect swirls. Everyone "oohs" and "ahhs", because I tend to just dump it on with a spoon, LOL.

My girls love my cooking and my company and I love having them, and always tell them how happy I am that they can come and have dinner with me, so I'm the thankful one, not them. They each have in-laws that also have dinner, and they always tell me I'm the best cook. (grin) amanda even asks me to bake dinner rolls to take to her in-laws, as they always have "store bought brown and serve". Even Bud and Makayla won't eat those!

So, I don't expect anything other than a nice day with my family, and I pretty much always get that. The turkey might be dry or I forget the cranberry sauce or the vegetables overcook, none of us really cares. We just have more pie and life is good!


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:39PM
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I am always torn on the big day about doing it all myself or asking DH for help. I appreciate it when he does help, like cutting up the potatoes and mashing them. But I hate it when he questions everything. "Why are you putting that ingredient in the stuffing or why are you doing it that way?" And I don't have the biggest kitchen so we sometimes get in each other's way. The easiest way is to start early and make everything myself, then heat it up later in the microwave for dinner.

I have to ask if they like something. I am not trying to get praise or thank yous, I really want to know if I should make it again. They are usually very honest, sometimes brutally (LOL).

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:29PM
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I love putting on the holiday meal. I use to stress but no more. It will be what it will be and it is always appreciated , no matter what. I prefer not to ask for help .....combination of control freak and wanting to treat everyone.

I can honestly say I have never in my many years of feeding people not had then express gratitude . Even though that is not my motivation, or expectation , I think I would be deeply hurt if they didn't.

Clive always handles the clean up wether it is just we 2 or 22 and I appreciate that more than just about anything.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:03PM
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Sharon, if you ever decide to boot Clive out....tell him, please that he is welcome at my house...

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:12PM
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To tell you the truth Linda he was kinda pushing it today!!!!! Being retired together has its moments :-)

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:20PM
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For a hostess who's at risk of calling off the whole thing because of feeling overworked and underappreciated, store bought pie might not be the worst thing in the world. At the very least, people will really appreciate the homemade pie next year.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:42PM
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I am a firm believer in asking for help, and also offering to help. Helping each other binds us together. But I am finding that more and more this is becoming a minority position as everyone seems to be trying to be Superman/woman all by themselves for fear of seeming inferior, or "lazy." Also I find that the younger generation hasn't been taught how to say thank you much or how to show gratitude, how to offer to help, how to make people feel good about themselves. The young generation I hang out with at colleges seems to be self absorbed and snarky. Of course absolutely not all, but I think a lot of kids are suffering under a tough, bullying condition at school and need a lot of support from their families to just teach them how to be nice and be loving towards one another. They are getting plenty of coaching on how to "stand up for themselves" but not much on how to be kind and helpful to others. Of course this is not the case for everyone, but maybe that woman's family was like that. I wouldn't ask for expressions of gratitude, but I would ask for help and I would model saying thank you and being grateful. This often gives your guests the idea to repay you in kind. If your family has a critical competitive atmosphere then I can imagine why you would dread the holidays!

I once started down the path of holiday perfection, but then I realized that I do not have to live up to the mass marketed version of what the holiday should be or someone else's ideas. I don't want just one day to be the day I show thankfulness and gratitude to my family, or just one day I make a nice meal for them, or even just one day I get to eat roast turkey! I can roast a turkey whenever I want and I decide what will make my day enjoyable and try to do that, rather than meet other people's expectations. Last year we didn't even get together on Thanksgiving day, it just didn't work out, and we had pork loin roast a couple of days later with all my loved ones together and it was lovely.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 12:22AM
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Jessica - I would not be put off by a store bought pie or anything that enabled me to be able to enjoy my own party. Easy for me to say - I don't eat pie.

But you do bring up the main point of the article which was feeling overworked and underappreciated.

Part of me thinks Carl the author made up the letter so he had something to write about. Carl is a marriage therapist. My advice to him - perhaps telling someone what you need works in the bedroom. At the Thanksgiving dinner table, well, not so much.

A summation of people's take on the article:
Most of us have never experienced a lack of gratitude for our cooking efforts
It is work - even if it does come naturally!
The letter writer must have her had screwed on wrong
Concentrate on enjoying the process AND the company
Some of us will settle for help with the dishes
Eating more pie will make anything right (some of you may want to sub wine for pie)
Husbands that do dishes are in high demand

And one last note. Double count your blessings this year and make another donation to the Red Cross for those that were in Sandy's path. There is nothing quite like a natural disaster to make you realize what's really important in life.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 12:25AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

If you really need it, there's always fishing for saying, "Oh dear, I think I added too much salt to the stuffing!" and then let everyone say, "Oh no, it's really tasty!"

And certainly the hostess can say, "thank you for coming, I so enjoyed having you" which I doubt would ever evoke a response like "you're welcome." Rather "Thank YOU for having us, we had a wonderful time."

But the sun that brings so much warmth and light and energy to the earth and makes our lives possible, shines whether we thank it or not....

I used to set a pretty table when MIL came over even though she was blind and DH could care less...I did it because it mattered to me.

But if it's an issue of grown children then I agree with the author in that, unless parents change the relationship from always giving to their children who always take, the relationship will stay the same. I made this point with my old sec'y who had an ill husband and a large family with married children and grandchildren and always did a huge amount of work for the holidays. I told her that she will not always be able to do this and that it's time for her kids to start to learn the recipes, the traditions and to contribute more. As you get older or in ill health, necessarily that relationship will have to change and the sooner that switch starts to take place, the better. So she did...before the next holiday, she told them she wasn't up to doing as much as she used to and if they wanted to continue these traditions, they would have to help out....guess what....they stepped right up and now her workload is much easier and they all enjoy being participants.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:36AM
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I just found this thread and it triggered some bad memories of family gatherings. We hosted DH's family to several big dinners where we worked ourselves to exhaustion making sure every taste was catered to, every dish prepared with great care and the house sparkled. The family is mostly terrific, great people who would give you the shirt off their backs. But not food people. They mostly arrived, stayed late, ate everything and left us with all the dirty dishes.

The extended family was worse - a SIL's grown children came and left without saying a word to us - not hello, not thank you, not goodbye.

Finally I reached my limit and said "never again"! So the next and final time we hosted everyone, it was at a relative's home. We brought the food, set up and cleaned up. And we left New England the following week.

Part of the problem is that I really love to cook and have a nice table. They don't. Their dinners are heat-and-eat meals from TJ or Costco, they enjoy processed food which we don't. But they are good company and good people. We could not find a good middle ground in this clash of cultures.

Since arriving in the Southwest, we've hosted friends several times. There's less tension and lower expectations all round. Perhaps it's because we choose friends, family is given to us.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:49PM
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Last year my son & wife ,3 children came for dinner,now let me show you whats involved here.I go for dialysis 3xs a week,exhausted all the time but decided to make dinner for my family of 12,I worked my butt off.Tired,cant eat anyway I had lapband surgery but I made it .Delicious I might add.My youngest sons wife told the kids do not eat we're going to grands house.Great grandma.I didnt realize at first.Everything we offered them she said no.So a week later grandson was down I said heym werent you hungry you didnt eat.He said no we go somewheres else to eat.Not to mention I had a lot of left overs.But geeze talk about the new generation.The daughternlaws will not offer to help at all,never have.Thank the lord my daughter helps.Id be up the creek.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 2:50PM
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