(or any family visit)
Please offer a little help here by making additions in the comment section......

1. Go into the family gathering with a POSITIVE ATTITUDE
(P.A.C.E.= Positive Attitude Changes Everything)
remember the mistakes of years past and avoid making them again this year

2. Think before you talk...share in with not at
(if you know that you disagree with a family member's position on our being in Iraq or the IQ of the current President.....keep it to yourself. Sitting at the children's table may be your best option.)
((this extends to anything that may be too embaressing, a little ribbing and a little reminiscence is okay, but there are is never appropriate to tickle someone until they pee))

3. If you are having differences with a family member do not wait until the day of the the party (or meeting) to make amends
call your family members and make contact way in advance so that things can run more smoothy when you meet face to face
we are all hungry for deserts, but no one wants to be eating awkward pie

4. don't get drunk (okay....don't get too drunk....if you do not know when to say when then just say NO... there will be plenty of time for drinks that evening)

5. Dress Comfortably/Dress Nice/Clean up your act: outward appearances effect how people percieve you
showing up looking a little nicer will let people know that you respect that this gathering is special

6. Show up on time and do not over stay your welcome (that is not to say that you should evacuate before dinner is over)
((most certainly my brother will find humor in this as he likes to quote me with a phrase I said in college..."christmas is over!" as I dramatically took off on my motorcycle with flip of the helmet visor and nothing but gravel and dust in my may have been really cold and the bike may have stalled leaving me awkwardly standing over my motorcycle pushing the ingnition/starter button...))

7. Try to contribute to the dinner preparation and clean up......even if someone says..."no, stay in your seat" it is still a big help to clear the table, plus that makes there more room for more food...maybe even desert
bring something.....a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine; to host an event like this can be expensive.... it is nice for people to give back

8. Do your Christmas shopping before Christmas Eve (this may increase the odds that the gift suits the recipient)

9. Be thankful and appreciative of not just the gifts but of the efforts of the host; this applies to most any party... college I had a friend who had flyers for a party (one of the many parties at his rock-n-roll house) where they called themselves THE PARTY MARTYERS;

10. Take a break from the action.... go for a walk in the neighborhood.... step away from the maddness... go downstairs and hang with the kids.... catch your breath and get ready for the next round

and the final issue...
11. How to deal with the Madness of the Presents
This is something that our family has yet to learn to deal with. There are 6 children all getting many presents from all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents. It is an ugly greedy sceen. My goal is to make the holiday gatherings about family....not about presents. I want the young cousins to run and play with each other rather than tearing madly at the paper of all the presents.

the thing about this list is that I am less that perfect
far from perfect
I can create this list from all of the things I have done wrong over the years
currently working on change and improvement
things are looking up...our family is moving forward
family is not always easy
holidays can be a hassle

so don't think I am some Dudley Do Right with some Soap Box to stand on
I am far less perfect than most
although I did pick up two bags of trash in the woods across the street from my house and then dug out the fire hydrant that was burried in dirt
(oh, I told you that already...sorry)

best I move from my home computer to my bike so that I can finish this rant at my work computer
gotta roll
it may be quiet at work
but I still need to be there