Every year I find Christmas becoming more of a time of too much tension, and too little joy. I used to love buying and wrapping gifts, sending cards, and baking cookies with my mom when I lived at home.
When I was in college I found time to visit my aunts and uncles, and to celebrate the holidays with friends, making it a time of fun, too.
But ever since I started working, then married and had children, the pressure to make a perfect Christmas has become too much to handle. There's not enough time, money, or energy. I start off with all sorts of plans - the just-right gift list, the cooking/baking ahead - but I always fall short and feel deflated on Boxing Day when I can't even afford the sales.
Short of saying "Bah, Humbug!" and giving up on Christmas, what can I do to make it turn out better?
Paint a new picture. What you miss are the feelings. You can create new traditions that are manageable and emotionally rewarding, just as the old ones were in a different phase of your life when you did have time, lots of energy, and some money you could spare.
Make this your motto: Keep it simple. The "Perfect" gift is one that benefits many... i.e. an affordable donation to a charity in the name of everyone on your list (any amount is worth giving).
Throw a drop-in gathering at your place for some warming drinks and easy nibbles for the people you want to see. Spend time with your kids doing something casual and fun like skating, or bowling.
And do something purely of Christmas - whether it's attending a church service (non-Christians can also use holiday time to connect with their own faith), or viewing the big stores' festive window displays.
The message of the holiday is about the truly perfect gift: peace and goodwill.
I'm a housekeeper here from another country doing this job for years for a few chosen families and their friends. I had a bachelors' degree back home and would like to eventually study here.
It hurt me when one homeowner acted or looked as if I'm taking something, and when she implied I'm making a story out of what happened to their things.
Once, when I threw out the garbage, I found two caps. I let them stay in the bin inside, instead of throwing them away, and forgot to mention it. When I returned, they were still there so I washed them and told the owner.
She phoned her husband and was uttering words like "she's the best actress..." It bothered me but I know I'm clean and trustworthy. I need the money to save for my future study here and for my living expenses. Mostly, I've been blessed with people to work with continuously.
But what can I do? Please tell me if my principles in life are correct and what to do in this case.
Hurt and Worried
Your principles - honesty, ambition, hard work - are valuable in all aspects of life, so don't let this incident shake you. The woman was insensitive and wrong to imply any attitude. Someone in her house had mislaid or tossed the caps, but it clearly wasn't you.
Many people would feel lucky to have a trusted housekeeper, and since you have good referrals from others, know that you don't have to accept shabby treatment or mistrust from anyone.
My dad's been smoking secretly for a long time, thinking I don't know. I feel uncomfortable when I even see strangers smoking. I want him to be truthful with me, but I don't want to hurt him. What should I say to him?
His secrecy means he's uncomfortable, too. He wants to make sure you don't smoke, so he's well aware that it's an unhealthy habit for you to copy.
But stopping smoking can be very daunting, as nicotine's very addictive.
Tell your dad that you already know he smokes, and it makes you feel sad, because you care about his health and want him to live a long life. Tell him there are books and methods and support groups that work, and you'd be so happy if he could try. Allen Carr's "Easy Way to Stop Smoking" is a book you could buy him (or get your mom to buy for you) for Christmas.
Tip of the day:
Trim Christmas to its basic message and create new traditions you can manage.