You made it through Thanksgiving without a significant injury and now it's on to the gauntlet of holiday parties and the requisite chit-chat. The challenge is to remain sociable and inoffensive while at the same time fending off the threat of terminal boredom. Here is where having a nifty selection of discussion questions at your disposal might come in handy. 


For example, pose something like this. Would you end a friendship over money? A recent survey by Bank of America found that most people have a lending tolerance of about $500. After that, things get sticky. “According to our study, money is cited as a key stressor in friendships, and friends would rather talk about nearly anything before talking about money. While it’s clear that many consumers are willing to lend money to their friends, the idea of asking to be repaid causes tension and stress. And this avoidance often leads to the severing of ties among friends, as more than half of respondents have seen a friendship end over money owed.”



Along the same lines, a SunTrust Banks survey asked another question. What would you do with your money if you did not buy Christmas gifts? “Nearly 7 in 10 Americans said they would skip exchanging gifts this holiday season if their friends and family agreed to it. If they didn't have to buy gifts, 25 percent would use the money on activities with friends and family, 37 percent would pay down debt and 47 percent would save or invest.”



Spending money on gifts is pretty standard, especially when it comes to gifts for kids. Thinking back to your own youth, here's a question for you. Have you played with a toy inducted into the National toy Hall of Fame? This year the three inductees are: 

Clue, the Paper Airplane, and the Wiffle Ball.


When I was a stripling, Wiffle Balls were a staple. It turns out we were cutting edge. “Neighborhood games of pickup baseball required kids first to negotiate the roster, available space, and how to allow for safety considerations. Wiffle Ball slowed the game, shrunk its field, and so helped in all three areas.” Plus, every kid in the area could play. “Minimizing the effects of size and skill, the goofy orb helped even the contest.” (http://www.toyhalloffame.org/toys/year)


Of course, when it comes to toys, there is a key question for you to answer. Have you purchased one of the worst toys of the year? The Consumer Product Safety Commission that said in 2015, there were more than 254,000 toy-related injuries.

A group called World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH), has published a list of what it considers this season's most dangerous toys: Itty bittys baby plush stacking toy, Pull Along Pony, Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword, Hand Fidgetz Spinners,  Spider-Man Spider-Drone Official Movie Edition, Nerf Zombie Strike Dreadbolt Crossbow, Slackers Slackline Classic Kit, The Oval Xylophone, Jetts Heel Wheels and Brianna Babydoll. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/retail/2017/11/14/10-worst-toys-of-2017-list/862445001/)


I don't know about you, but when I was a kid if none of the Neff brothers were bleeding or electrocuted by Christmas afternoon my parents figured their gifts were a success. 


If you want to inject a bit of humor into the discussion, ask this. What would you do if you were locked in a beer cooler? It actually happened to a guy in Wisconsin. Rather than panic, he made the best of it. “He decided to enjoy the experience, according to police. The man told police that he went to a Kwik Trip here to buy some beer but became trapped inside the walk-in cooler when it was locked at about 11:50 p.m. Rather than bang on the glass door to be let out, he warmed up to the idea of staying inside all night to sample the merchandise – an 18-ounce bottle of beer and three cans of malt liquor. He also fell over a stack of 30-can beer packs, breaking three cases open.” Seems like a good time, eh? Not so fast. “He left the makeshift bar without paying his tab and was issued a misdemeanor citation for retail theft.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/10/27/trapped-beer-cooler/806053001/)


Perhaps beer is not your libation of choice. So, would you drink low-cal wine? “This holiday season, there is a new option for saving a few calories where you might not expect it: the wine. Weight Watchers has unveiled its new line of diet wine called Cense. They say Cense has 85 calories a glass compared to 120 calories for other white wines.” This sounds good to me. The more calories you save on wine the more you can allot to bacon consumption. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/11/14/weight-watchers-debuts-diet-wine-toast-holidays/859556001/)


Walking off some of those calories might be a good idea, but if you traverse the McKellop Walkway here's the question. Do you enjoy doing the tip-tap-Bojangles goose step? You may have noticed that the geese are back on Lake Cadillac. Just FYI, from a population of about 9,000 birds in 1970, Michigan is now home to more than 300,000 Canada geese. They are busy, too. An adult Canada goose drops about 2 pounds of doo, per bird, per day. Sort of makes you want to have your guests check their shoes at the door, doesn't it? (http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/11/07/how-much-poop-can-one-canada-goose-poop-one-day-read/830375001/)


Finally, the burning question is this: How do I keep the kidlings from driving me nuts before Christmas Day arrives? Well, do not fret. A Neff Zone holiday tradition has you covered. I have once again produced a web page with all sorts child-friendly activities guaranteed to entertain the entire family. On this page are: games, puzzles, recipes, crafts, coloring sheets, jokes, videos, and hundreds of other things. Get a score on the Naught-Or-Nice-O-Meter, watch Santa's reindeer live, email dancing elves cards, and on Christmas Eve track Santa's sleigh on NORAD radar. It's all at: https://www.neffzone.com/holidays/


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews