With Thanksgiving around the corner, this year we have much to be thankful for.  The pandemic which has separated us from family and friends makes it difficult sometimes to count our blessings. Rather than taking one day to acknowledge what you are grateful for, why not take a moment every evening to reflect on the best part of your day.

A creative way to do this is with a Gratitude Pumpkin. All you need is a pumpkin and a sharpie, and each night you can take a moment to write one thing on the pumpkin that you are thankful for. Start at the top and wrap the words all the way around the pumpkin until it is full. If you live alone, this is a great time for self-reflection and positivity and if you have children, it is a great way to get their creativity flowing. They will be excited each night to contribute their addition to the pumpkin. It is wonderful to watch the pumpkin grow with so many reminders of how lucky and blessed you and your family are.

If you begin writing on your pumpkin on Thanksgiving Day, it will be filled with words and ideas that have brought you happiness right up to Christmas. It will also be the perfect unexpected addition to your Christmas centerpiece and a great conversation starter to share with your extended family as you sit around the table and reflect. Sometimes we all need those little reminders that happiness can be found in each and every day and your gratitude pumpkin can do just that.

21st Century Family - Modern FamilyFamilies are becoming less and less the traditional ring of blood relatives.  These days, they are more a collection of people who care about each other.  And that’s not a bad thing.

However, these situations may cause a few head-scratching questions when Aunt Karen isn’t either parents’ sister.  Or when your friend’s uncle is younger than she is.

How do we know who is really related to whom?

When you first meet someone, or are getting to know a new acquaintance, tread carefully here.  Asking too many questions or making judgmental comments will be offensive.  We suggest keeping it general by asking, “How are you two related?”  Then accept the answer at face value, moving the conversation along.

If you are on the other side of this scenario, and are asked “How are you two related?” you need not feel obligated to explain your relationship in detail, or to make excuses for it.  And if you are pressed by someone for details you’d rather not divulge, well, that person is offering a great example of rudeness.

While out and about, making friendly conversation with people you don’t know may open the door to comment corrections.  Age is no longer indicative of whether someone is a parent, grandparent, spouse, or sibling.  Never assume a relationship in conversations with people you run into at a park, while dining, or when out shopping.

In short, we must rid ourselves of assumptions regarding family relationships.

How do you handle questions about your family members?  Have you been corrected when making assumptions about others’ relationships?  Tell us about it here.

"Tina Hayes with Student"

ASP Graduate Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Northern California. Tina also writes a monthly editorial for Cuisine Noir Magazine. We are proud to feature her latest article this week on our blog.

"Family Reunion Etiquette" by Tina Hayes

Are you familiar with the song, "Family Reunion" by the R&B (rhythm & blues) group, The O'Jays?  The lyrics convey the message of a joyous time for "the family" to come together and celebrate their heritage. The song summarizes the gratitude and excitement surrounding a family assembly. Some of the lyrics are:

Family reunion (Got to have)
A family reunion
Family reunion
(It's so nice to come together) To come together
(To get together)

It's so nice to see
All the folks you love together
Sittin' and talking' 'bout
All the things that's been goin' down

It's been a long, long time
Since we had a chance to get together
Nobody knows the next time we see each other
Maybe years and years from now

 "Family"

A family reunion is a grand opportunity to spend quality time with relatives. Your gathering may be as simple as a backyard barbecue or it may include other fun activities such as a picnic, talent show, game night, prayer breakfast and tours. When planning a reunion, consider a theme that would enhance family unity and pride, make family members aware of their heritage. Some families incorporate their history and genealogy into the celebration. The significant achievements of family members, vintage artifacts or the development of a family tree also adds value to your gathering. Regardless of the timing, the location, or the chain of events, it is to every one's advantage that family members adhere to the following six etiquette tips:

R.S.V.P. in a timely manner

Inform the planners if you will be attending the event and do not bring others without first checking with the hosts. Promptly pay any cost or fees (often deposits are required to reserve venues, purchase food, etc.).

Socialize with everyone

Take advantage of the opportunity to meet and spend time with "distant" relatives. Do not just mingle with immediate family. Participate in the family activities and cherish your time together.

Arrive on time for the planned activities

Be timely. Exhibit the highest degree of social decorum by being respectful of other family members' time and effort in planning the events. Also, if you are requested to bring food for a potluck menu, make sure that your dish arrives on time.

Parents should keep an eye on their child(ren) to ensure they are mannerly

While socializing with family members that you have not seen in years, it can be easy to become distracted and leave children unsupervised. Organizers planning the reunion should include activities for children of all ages to allow them to have fun and occupy their time.

Acknowledge the elders of the family

Honoring their presence shows great esteem and teaches respect.

How appreciation to the organizer(s) for planning the family reunion

How nice it is for the people overseeing the reunion to receive a thank you note from family members expressing sincere gratitude for their hard work and efforts. Even though things may not have been perfect, a note of appreciation lets the organizers know that their work was not in vain.

Have a great summer!