Thanksgiving Helper Hotline addresses pressing holiday issues

Our second annual Thanksgiving Helper Hotline is now open for questions, ready to resolve all of your pressing holiday issues. So stop checking your bleepin' Facebook feed, and let's get started.

Q: Help! I need a perfect turkey recipe!

A: At the Thanksgiving Helper Hotline, we would like to banish the overused word "perfect" from the recipe book. The secret to happiness, at Thanksgiving or any time, is to find pleasure in imperfection. The Thanksgiving meal should not be treated as a grad school exam or an Olympic dive. Whatever you cook will be good enough — unless you make that Twinkie turkey stuffing we're suddenly hearing too much about.

Q: Twinkie turkey stuffing? That sounds awesome! Recipe, please.

A: Against our better judgment, we'll say this and only this: Google "Twinkie stuffing."

Q: Why do I always have to do Thanksgiving with my family?

A: The secret to happiness, at Thanksgiving or any time, is to reframe obligation as opportunity. You don't have to spend Thanksgiving with your family. You get to.

We encourage you to play this game often, and in all seasons: Replace the words "have to" with "get to" and watch how the cold rain on your life changes to sunshine.

Not "I have to be the host again!" But "I get to be the host again."

And when you're thinking, "Why do I have to eat Aunt Sue's casserole with potato chips crumbled on top again?" change that thought to "A couple of bites won't kill me."

Q: Is it OK to drink too much Thursday, which is, after all, a holiday?

A: Is it OK to feel awful Friday, which is not a holiday? Alcohol, contrary to instinct, is not the secret to happiness. At Thanksgiving or any time.

Q: How do I avoid relationship tensions at Thanksgiving?

A: See "alcohol" above. But remember that Thanksgiving without tension is like a Thanksgiving without turkey. It can be done, but it is not the norm.

Q: Why do I always forget to buy at least one important Thanksgiving ingredient?

A: So that you have an excuse to get out of the house Thursday. Getting out of the house is the secret to staying alert through the droning hours leading up to the big meal, even if you don't go farther than 7-Eleven for another six-pack.

Q: So it's OK to sneak off to one of those Black Friday sales that starts Thursday?

A: Please don't.

Q: There's always someone at my Thanksgiving dinner that I don't see often, so I don't know what subjects to avoid. What if they've been laid off? Or been sick? Or had some terrible loss?

A: Keep your questions broad, e.g., "How have you been lately?"

Q: How do I keep the conversation from turning to politics?

A: This year? You might as well try avoiding the word "stuffing." But if someone mentions politics, divert them by mentioning the Twinkie turkey stuffing.

Q: Do you have a Thanksgiving poem to make me forget my Thanksgiving worries?

A: Try this snippet of Mary Oliver's "Praying."

It doesn't have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try

to make them elaborate, this isn't

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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