Tag Archives: Christmas

How To Customise Your Christmas and Cut the Stress

Do you sometimes feel it’s all too much?

Do you feel caught in a Christmas trap?

I used to. I worried about every aspect of the approaching ‘Festive Season’, feeling far from festive. And then my son, who knew how I was feeling said this:

‘Mum, why don’t you choose the parts of Christmas that you like and leave the parts you don’t like? You don’t have to do all of it!’

I was reminded of when I bought my new Mini.

I knew the colour I wanted but that was it. The salesman had to talk me through how I could customise my new car. He explained which features came as ‘Standard’ and then presented me with choices for all the rest of the spec. Bit by bit I built up the picture of the car I wanted, choosing fabric or leather seats, interior and exterior colours, automatic or gear shift and so on.

The Mini I collected bore very little resemblance to the one in the brochure because I’d chosen how I wanted it to be. I’d ‘customised it’.

You can do this with the Christmas holiday.

 There are no rules apart from the fact that we all celebrate (or not) on the same day. You do need to be positive and assertive (not arrogant) but with a bit of practise, you can do this!

What comes as ‘standard’?

  • A day for giving gifts
  • Food
  • Decorations
  • A tree
  • Cards
  • Family time
  • Parties
  • Carols

You will want to add more to my list but let’s look at the first three.

How to customise.

  • Gifts.

You need to get ahead on this one, if you’re going to change from the ‘standard’ requirements. If you want to change who you buy for, perhaps only for children and not for adults, let people know your intentions well in advance, to avoid embarrassment or upset. It’s not easy to change a long-established routine but it is possible to do it if you are sure that’s what you want to do.

You could write down what you’ll say and even practise saying it until you’re confident.

  • Food

Ok, so the turkey roast followed by Christmas pud, mince pies, large amounts of cream and custard, is fairly ‘standard’. But you can customise!

Christmas food should be special. That get’s hard to do when we have the ridiculous amounts of ‘special’ food in the shops all year round.

One way to customise your Christmas food is to choose your favourites. If you love fillet steak but it’s a rare treat, or your mother is coming and her favourite is steak and kidney pie then that’s what you have! Try to have the food that’s a ‘treat’ for as many of your guests as possible.

If you choose to spend the day with your OH then it’s easy to have your favourite food but it can still be done with the family. Not everyone wants turkey when they can have it on any day of the year.

  • The family.

Not so easy to customise but not impossible. Here are a few suggestions:

Decide, well in advance, where you and your family want to be for Christmas. At home? On holiday? At your parents? Your parents at yours? Once it’s decided, stick to it. A few feathers might be ruffled but there’s no rule that says you have to do what you always do. You can change the habit, if it’s a habit you don’t like…

Do you spend much of the holiday driving your children to see step – parents, grandparents, divorced parents, so much so that everyone’s bad-tempered and the children hate it? If it’s what you want to do, and most importantly, if it’s what the children want to do, fine. If not, decide how to customise.

It’s about forward planning. It’s about taking the ‘I ought’ out of the equation and replacing it with ‘I’m happy to’.

I was delighted, and still am, with my beautiful blue Mini. Every time I drive it I smile. (Except in snow.) It suits me fine but I know it wouldn’t be everyone’s choice.

You can customise Christmas, to suit your capabilities, needs, emotions and stress levels.  It’s not selfish in a bad way, it’s simply deciding what you can cope with. As my son said, so wisely, you can include the parts you love and leave out the parts that concern you. That way, you might even enjoy it!

How do you deal with the varying ‘obligations’ of the Christmas season?

Are you changing things this year?  

 Have you ‘customised’ Christmas?

Do pass on your hints and tips.


Header by cursedthing, post image by the mullett, on Flickr.



Filed under action, adjust, anxiety, change, expectation, fear, hope, plans, positive, progress, success, timing

A Happy Family Christmas? Impossible. Or Is It?

I’m writing this post in response to a request from Christine. She asked this:

‘How do I find a Positive Spin when there are unspoken expectations/disappointments between the generations and amongst siblings?

Imagine the scene.   (This was me, a few years ago) …

It’s nearly the end of September. Leaves are turning, some are even falling. The clocks ‘go back’ soon and the winter darkness will begin. My stomach begins to churn. Butterflies, no, great big moths are revving up their wings as I spot the first Christmas cards in the shops.

There’s nowhere to hide. I try to pretend it’s not happening. I do distracting things. I sit outside on rare warm days, my face lifted to the sun and pretend that summer’s still here. I refuse to notice the displays of enormous tins of Quality Street in Sainsbury’s and scurry past the shelves stacked with Christmas Crackers. But the day comes when I have to face it. I have to ‘deal’ with Christmas.

I don’t think I was alone in worrying about how to manage a family Christmas. It can be far from ‘peaceful’. I still have a bit of a problem with it but it gets easier!

Here’s my Positive Spin on

 A Happy Family Christmas?  Impossible. Or Is It?

In a Christmas spin?

1.   It’s fake.

It’s an artificial situation. In most families the generations don’t live together all the time. Each generation gets to live their lives according to their needs and wants and these are very different. But at Christmas everyone is expected to get on with everyone else and even, (whisper this) spend a whole day together. Add the ‘booze’ factor and it’s doomed…

Each generation will have quite different ideas about how to spend Christmas.

Entertainment? TV? Games? Gifts? Real or artificial tree? Turkey or beef ? Meal at home or in a restaurant? And so it goes on…. and on….

Each generation and each branch of the family will have established traditions, and siblings will expect these to continue. It starts about the beginning of November…

  •  ‘But we always have a real tree….’
  • Why do we have to watch what grandma wants?
  • ‘I want to have my friends over!’

I’m sure you get my drift.

So…what can you do?


2.   You must make a plan and … stick to it.

Sit down with your OH and decide what you want to do,  what you will and won’t accept from the rest of the family. Then (this isn’t easy, I know!) you must tell the rest of the family what you’ve decided. (Pause while you sigh and say you just can’t…)

Why can’t you?

Because you don’t like confrontations. No-one does! You want everyone to ‘get on’, to fall in with the plans.

Believe me, that isn’t going to happen! Why should it? They have their views on the matter, you have yours and that’s that. So you have to accept that someone is going to get upset. It’s just the way it is.


3.   Compromise is the key.

  • The whole family needs to realise that ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’. Perhaps it could be agreed that Christmas will be organised their way next year, or that you’ll celebrate separately! 
  • It’s important to make your plans clear ASAP and face up any arguments from the start. You could even have a family discussion about it but perhaps that’s a ‘step too far’!
  • If you have to share the children, due to divorce, put their needs first. Whatever you do, don’t pass them from family to family like a parcel, driving miles to deliver them to the other parent, or grandparent. It’s not fair on anyone. Find out what they want and forget  using them as weapons to blackmail the other parent. And don’t compete for who gives them the ‘best’ present.  I know it happens. Hey! You could even buy a joint gift! OK, sounds impossible but not if you think about the children and put them first…
  • Tell yourself it’s only 1 day out of 365! We used to keep Boxing Day for ourselves but entertain others on Christmas Day, the way we knew they wanted it. My elderly mother loved ‘soaps’ as she was lonely. She always expected to watch them on Christmas Day in our house and I hated it. But… I just had to let it go and look forward  to the next day when we could do our own thing.

To sum up:

  • This whole family Christmas idyll is Fake. It’s not a ‘normal’ situation.
  • Make your plan…. and stick to it. You can be sure that someone will get upset.
  • Compromise is the key.

Remember, this is only my view.

You will have different opinions and that’s how it should be.

I hope you will add your advice and thoughts in the comments for Christine and any other readers who are having butterflies (or moths) about Christmas with the family.

Come on now! Help me out here!

 Do have a look at my new ‘This is me’ page. I felt I wanted to introduce myself so you know who you’re ‘talking to’ here.

Header image by cursedthing, post image by aaronjwebb on Flickr.


Filed under Uncategorized

Why We Should Value The ‘Small Stuff’

Ever been in one of these?

 OK, I’m showing off now, but I have.  In fact this might be the one I flew in on holiday in South Africa.


You bet!

Thrilled, excited, squeaking and ‘eeeking’.  All of that and more.

It was a spur of the moment thing and it wasn’t silly money either.

But what is silly money is the current trend among UK parents to emulate the US tradition of arriving in ‘style’ for the end of school ‘Prom’. We’ve only been doing this over the last five years or so but it’s escalated outrageously.

I’m not talking about teenagers here, I’m talking about eleven year olds.

(I’ll pause at this point while you read that bit again….)

It’s summer and our eleven year olds are about to leave their Primary schools.

Of course it’s a milestone for them. The pattern for celebration used to be signing one another’s school shirts with a felt pen and promising undying friendship, even having a disco in the school hall, but, I kid you not, some unbelievably competitive parents are hiring limos,  fire engines and horses and carriages to transport their offspring to these events, at ludicrously high prices.  

One school, and who knows if there may be more, received a request to land a helicopter on the school field…

Thankfully the request was turned down, but what on earth is going on here?

Here’s my take on it-

  • Is it about guilt?

Parents feeling guilty because they have to work and can’t spend much time with their children?

  • Is it about not wanting to be the only parent who doesn’t go with the crowd?

Not wanting to be the ones who don’t buy the expensive dresses and accessories for their children?

  • Or is it about using money to replace love?

Do these parents believe that the more money they spend for their child to join in on these very expensive occasions the better parent they’ll be?

Here’s the thing- 

How can the child appreciate the ‘small stuff’ when this outrageous spending is what they’re taught to expect?

What exactly is a ‘treat’ for them?

Surely these parents are setting their children up for huge disappointments as they grow older.

When grandma visits and produces a small gift from her bag, will they burst into tears if it’s only a chocolate bar?

What will the reaction be when the Party Bag only contains pocket money toys and sweets?

Will they go on to judge their peers by how affluent they are?

When I was about eleven, my father always bought me a special Christmas gift, just from him.

I learnt in later years that he would use his dinner break to choose it, without mum’s help. It was often a brooch or a necklace,  in a gift wrapped box.

Inside was a label which said,

‘To my beautiful little girl from her dear old dad.’

Tears appear as I write this as it is such a precious memory. The gifts cost very little, but I treasured every one.

What will you give your child that they’ll treasure,  many years later?


Filed under action, change, expectation, happiness, hope, plans, realistic, success, timing

The Waiting Game


How often do you say this?

‘How much longer?’

‘I’m not going to wait’

‘I can’t wait to…’

If there was a survey about how much of our lives we spend waiting I bet it would be about as much time as we spend sleeping.


Over the years I’ve waited –

  • for Christmas to come – that took for ever
  • to be ‘grown up’ (I’m still waiting…)
  • for the potatoes to boil
  • for  a bus
  • for exam results
  • for a phone call
  • for the ‘right’ man
  • for warm summer days
  • for a holiday
  • for my daughter’s key in the lock late at night
  • for the cat to come in
  • for a job interview
  • for a ‘light bulb’ moment
  • for a Valentine
  • for my first kiss (I was 14 at the time…)
  • for the first day of the school holidays (child…)
  • for the last day of the school holidays (parent…)
  • for the day my son would come home from uni
  • for my hair to grow after chemo
  • for the postman
  • for snow
  • for a diamond ring (yes, it was worth the wait…)


Over on Hettythehermit’s blog she says she’s ‘in limbo’.

She has a lot of decisions to make and can’t seem to move forward.

In my view, waiting’s good!

OK, there are some things we could wait for, for ever.

Like – having long hair when we have short, or being brill at tech stuff when we’re only at first base.

But decision making is different.

I have a good friend who says,

When you don’t know what to do, do nothing at all… until you do know.

Wait a while and all will become clear.

I guess you may have to put a time limit on it, but it should be your time limit, no-one else’s. After all, it’s your time…

Some times I feel I’m ‘In Limbo’ like Hetty.

I wait… listen to my gut feelings.. and then  I usually know what I want to do.

How about you?

  • Are you waiting for something? 
  • Are you ‘in limbo’, like Hetty? 
  • What’s your take on the Waiting Game?

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Filed under action, adjust, change, hope, instincts, plans, risk, success, timing