This is our Christmas pep talk

Despite all the gorgeous Instagram and Facebook posts that show beautifully decorated homes, delicious food and every family member being kind and loving, this Christmas perfection is not real life for a lot of people.

In my house, we still have disagreements, tantrums, children not listening or being ungrateful and me stressing about getting all the food warm at the same time.

I’m guessing you can relate to a little something. Maybe there’s a family member or two missing due to death, illness or just other plans this year. We spent one Christmas in the hospital with Kendra when the twins were two.

So I’m writing this quick blog as a pep talk to you and to me:

  1. Define just one thing you want from Christmas

Is it to sing a nice song at church? Is it to have Christmas mince pies and tea for dessert? Is it to spend time with your family? Is it to see the look on a child’s face when you’ve gifted them something they truly want? Or is it to open your To Marcia, From Marcia gift? πŸ˜‰

(I want to go to church, focus on Jesus and sing my favourite song, O Holy Night. If this song is not on the rotation, I’m prepared because I have about 4 different versions that I like right on my phone!)

2. Remind yourself of the part you are there to play

Glennon Doyle once wrote on Instagram that when we imagine we’re the director of the play, then there’s the pressure and we feel like it’s up to us to make everything “perfect”. When we remind ourselves that we just have a bit part in the play that is Christmas (or any major holiday), we relax knowing that we only have a small part to play and we can then laugh at the Uncle that is drunk or saying inappropriate things, instead of taking it personally that they are Messing Up the Play.

Or something like that. You get the idea.

This has been very useful to me over the last couple of years as I tell myself my job is to do only x; it’s not up to me to make sure everyone has fun (although, as an enneagram 1, I can so easily take it all upon my shoulders).

3. Remind yourself that yes, it is the day we use to commemorate Jesus’s birth but it is still just a day.

Repeat after me, “nothing about today has to be perfect”. Jess Lively said that, I wrote it down and took a picture. Who made the rule that Christmas had to be perfect? Seriously, keep asking yourself that question.

A normal day has things that go well and things that don’t. The chicken takes longer to cook and everyone’s starving but the family member you worry about is particularly pleasant and non-combative.

4. Remember your personality and honour it

If you’re an extrovert, allow yourself the time to enjoy being with the people as this will energise you. If you’re an introvert, feel free to escape for 5 minutes to “tidy the kitchen” or “check on the kids”.

May I suggest this fantastic episode of Sorta Awesome where Meg Tietz and Gretchen Rubin talk about how the Four Tendencies show up for celebrations. I loved this episode so much. Gift yourself an hour and take a listen – it’s worth it.

and last but not least…

5. Stay off social media

You’ll just get depressed about the gifts you didn’t gift or receive, the food you didn’t cook, the family you didn’t spend time with and everyone else’s perfect kids.

I jump on Instagram for five minutes to post a Merry Christmas photo, and then I’m offline for the rest of the day except for phone calls to family.

Which of these tips resonated most with you? How do you remain calm and joyful over Christmas?

The life-changing magic of not giving a f**k

Despite the title of this book (I’m not a fan of sensational titles), to my surprise, it was a really good book.

If I were asked, I’d say that it’s a book about boundaries… and you know how much I love talking about boundaries. But if you’re super sensitive to swear words, I’d give this a miss because you won’t get her message. That said, I don’t like a lot of swearing too and I found I became numb to it after a while.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like (A No F*cks Given Guide) by [Knight, Sarah]

In this book, Sarah Knight gives her readers permission to stop wasting our time doing things we don’t want to, without feeling guilty about it. And without being that rude person no-one wants to be around. It’s about being firm, polite but being honest.

The nice thing is she gives lots of examples about places in all our lives where we do or pay for or attend things due to obligation without questioning, when in fact, the world will continue just fine if we stop doing these things we hate.

  1. like responding to rude people’s obnoxious questions (whether they be complete strangers or family!)
  2. attending baby showers and other social norm events
  3. doing things at work that no one cares about

Some of my favourite quotes:

“when I stopped giving a F about going to baby showers – an activity I positively loathe – I gained untold Sunday afternoons of freedom” (I had no idea anyone else in the world felt the same as I do about baby showers!)

… it’s all about prioritizing. Joy over annoy. Choice over obligation. Opinions vs feelings. Sticking to a budget. Eyes on the prize”

and my favourite

“Your time, energy, and/ or money spent should result in greater happiness for you.”

One thing I really LOVED in the book was the concept of a personal policy. E.g. you get asked for a loan from someone. You just say, “I have a personal policy that I don’t give loans. So sorry” (polite, firm and they can’t argue – it’s your personal policy)

You can do this for many things…. go wild πŸ™‚

The overarching theme is that we all think other people care much more than they do (so true). And so we do things to make people happy when they really don’t/ won’t care that much.

So stop twisting yourself in knots, just be honest about your feelings in a kind way, and you and they will be much happier.

I think I have good boundaries but I also learnt a lot from this little book. If you need a little kick-in-the-pants (especially for the obligers and then upholders), grab a copy from the library and get reading in preparation for your Christmas events… or for a New Year refresh πŸ™‚

Do you need a boundary refresh? Where do you need to set a personal policy?

If you didn’t know, I coach women just like you to live more intentional lives. Contact me to arrange your coaching session.

Why I no longer have a gift shelf

We’ve all seen the tip to keep some spare gifts on a shelf in case of emergencies.

This is a great idea if you often need a generic gift, and perhaps don’t know the recipient very well at all.

I kept a gift shelf for many years and I was very glad when my kids were in pre-school and attending 10 parties a year for various little classmates.

We used to do a gift on a theme every year so it made good sense to buy 10 colouring books, 10 packs of my favourite colouring pencils and 10 pencil bags, for example.

But very quickly, once the kids started school, I realised that they’re not getting invited to as many parties anymore as the parties become smaller (in most cases) and “close friends only” invites.

In fact, Kendra (9-year-old twin girl) reminded me the other day that she has only been invited to three parties this year and it’s already November.

So there is no longer a need for a gift shelf.

When I realised this fact, I decided to clear my gift shelf by gifting what I’d been keeping to all my Santa Shoebox kids that year. It’s actually really fun for me to stuff those shoeboxes as much as I can. And I love having the extra space at home!

These days I do have a few things I might buy in advance for our own kids’ birthday or Christmas presents (usually books found at a sale, activity books for holidays, or a cute T-shirt).

The great thing is I decided on my limiting container – a clear plastic box the size of a photocopy paper box – and my self-imposed rule (I’m an upholder) is that I’m not allowed to exceed the container.

And for actual friend gifts? I ask the child what their friend would like, we discuss where to get it and then we go buy it. Easy.

This year (my kids turned 9 in July) one of the gifts for a boy was two Horrid Henry books, and some gifts for girls were 1) a beautiful hardcover prompted crafting/ doodling/ sketch book in a nice carry bag and 2) unicorn pyjamas with a set of unicorn notebooks.

If you keep a gift shelf, perhaps ask yourself if the gifts have passed their sell-by date (your kids are older and the gifts are for a younger audience) and you need to move on, or if the convenience of having the gifts on a shelf are not an issue anymore. There may be things on your shelf you’ve had for years.

One thing I’ve done this year for my own friends is if I’m out and about and I see something that is perfect for a specific friend, I buy it whether it’s their birthday or not, and gift it next time I see them. No waiting for birthdays or forgetting where I’ve hidden it! And the best is that people are usually surprised which is super fun!

Do you keep a gift shelf? Why or why not?

How to have the best Christmas ever


I started reading all my old posts about Christmas and realised that I have actually said everything I want to say, so let me link to those posts.

Easy Christmas decorating

Lower your Christmas expectations especially with social media

The Christmas Card controversy

Keep Christmas simple but meaningful

Clever gift ideas for Christmas and throughout the year

and last but definitely not least, my favourite Christmas post ever!

Create the perfect Christmas… for you

What does the “best Christmas” look like for you?

Tell me all your questions and I’ll answer in the comments.

Lower your Christmas expectations

My family made a Christmas fun list sometime during November.

One of the things on the list (added by me) was to make Christmas cards. In years past we made them and it was a lovely pleasant activity.

Well. It appears those days are past.

We had one session of utter craziness that left none of us feeling peace and goodwill towards men, so I went to the shops and bought Christmas cards for my own sanity and peace of mind.

They had no problems writing in ready-made Christmas cards so that is what we did this year.

I had to lower my expectations, you see, or make the cards all by myself.

Of course that made me think about Christmas on the whole, and how, when we see all the Instagram and Facebook perfection of families crafting, baking, wrapping and decorating, we can start feeling resentful about our own real lives.

I’m here to relieve you from the expectations and help you to lower the bar.

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Here’s how I’m lowering the bar this Christmas:

  1. I’m focusing on the things that make Christmas special for us and leaving behind everything else.
  2. We will go to church on Christmas morning to make sure that Jesus is our focus.
  3. I’ve long said that the way to have a happy holiday or event day (Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc.) is to stay completely off social media. I do like to post a picture in the morning but if I miss it, I’ll post one that night and that will be it.
  4. I’m only giving presents to a few people that I will be seeing. I remember years past when I’d buy/ make presents for so many friends and frantically try and see everyone. No thanks – that sounds like a headache rather than joy to me this year. I may change next year but we’ll see.
  5. Speaking of presents, I know what I want for my To Marcia From Marcia gift, but I can’t be bothered to go get it while the shops are crazy busy.
  6. The longer you think about things, the more you stress (in a lot of cases) so I’m not even thinking about food until I finish work on Thursday πŸ™‚ Someone told me Woolworths is already running out of food and I said, “well, then we’ll make do somewhere else.
  7. It’s nice to have a Christmas fun list but treat it like a suggestion, not a must-do list. E.g. we have an item to have Christmas-themed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Well, it turns out no-one actually likes those doughnuts – they all want just the plain glazed ones πŸ™‚ But… everyone wants to do far more baking than I feel able. So I’ve told them we will do two easy things and each child will bake with me once.

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Last but not least, don’t feel pressured to feel emotions you don’t feel. If you’re not feeling utter joy, that’s okay. If you’re not feeling peace and goodwill towards your fellow man, that’s also okay. I have a feeling Jesus wasn’t all happy and smiley all the time too, so you’re in good company.

Decide what you want to feel this Christmas and focus on those desired feelings. And remember to communicate your needs to your family. There’s no rule that says you need to be around people for hours and hours on end.

Some of you are aghast at what I’m saying but it doesn’t mean you love your people any less if you want to escape and do something by yourself for a bit.

I once asked my friend Beth about an extended family holiday weekend they have every year. She wisely told me they realise they’re mostly introverts so no one feels bad to just go off and do their own thing for an hour or two throughout the day. Isn’t that insight great?

That’s what I want to leave you with today – know what you need, create the time for it and you’re sure to have a great Christmas day.

Does your inside always match whats going on around social media?

Where do you need to lower your Christmas expectations?

PS some clever gift ideas in case you’re stuck

Reading according to the season/ What I read in November

So it seems there is interest in talking more about books on the blog. This is last month’s post if you want to catch up.

But today, I want to talk about reading according to the season and then I’ll run through the November highlights.

I’ve always enjoyed a good summer beach read when I’m actually on the beach, and I definitely enjoy Christmas-themed books in November/ December.

In fact, I store up a few books throughout the year so that I’m ready when the Christmas season is here.

I don’t only read Christmas books but a good percentage of my fiction reads from about the second last weekend of November are themed.

This year I’ve already read 3 books, I’m currently half-way through this very photogenic book and our book club read also awaits.

Do you read according to the season?

And now, onto the books I read during November:

6 fiction/ 4 non-fiction (this year has been my biggest non-fiction reading year ever)

4 Kindle/ 3 Audible/ 3 Physical

Best fiction read: Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty. This was our book club read for November and I absolutely LOVED it. I was the only one in the book club who gave it 5*. I heard a podcast after that (No filter by Mia Freedman where she interviewed the author and she also LOVED my favourite character in the book). Have you read this one? Who was your favourite character?

Best non-fiction read: Frientimacy – Shasta Nelson. If you’re passionate about the subject of friendship like I am, you’ll enjoy being challenged and provoked into deep thinking by this one.

I read my first fiction book on audible in November. I chose The restaurant critic’s wife and it was a good read. I enjoyed the process especially when I figured out it’s exactly the same as reading a non-fiction on audible πŸ™‚

So next year I’ll put a couple of fiction books on my reading goals list πŸ™‚

Most of the books were just 3 – 3.5* to be honest, but Truly Madly Guilty totally made up for it!

What were some of the books you read last month? What was your best fiction read? What was your best non-fiction read?

PS for those who are interested, here are my 12 days of bookstagram

Merry Christmas from our family to yours

Friends and readers, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Thanks for reading, commenting, “liking” on Facebook and Instagram and messaging or emailing me. I appreciate all the connection.

Let’s do more of it next year.

And after Christmas, it’s my favourite week of the whole year! Join me on Instagram as I post daily on my review/ recap of 2016.

Are you on Instagram?

Some clever gift ideas in case you’re stuck…

There’s one week left til Christmas!

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If you’re still shopping or thinking about gifts, here are some ideas for you:

Give according to their love language

If you have someone with a quality time love language, for example, give them the gift of time with you – tea/ coffee/ cake/ lunch/ supper at a restaurant, or a game of adventure golf, a manicure, etc.

If your special someone has gifts or acts of service as their love language, take the time to think about presentation. A gift bag (can be recycled)Β or nicely-wrapped present with a gift tag is a must πŸ™‚

Give according to their interests

What is the person’s hobby? if it’s reading, give a book and a bookmark, or a gift voucher to Amazon or Audible.

For your soccer-loving kids, maybe a soccer ball or a soccer-themed annual.

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Give something to help with a problem they have

…but be careful πŸ˜‰

If your friend always says they can’t find their keys/ rings, etc., maybe a nice trinket bowl they can use in their entry way.

I’ve shared before how once a man phoned me to buy organising services for his wife, which I declined to sell him. That’s not going to win him any points. The wife herself contacted me about a year later and we worked together but the point was that she had to be ready for the help.

A voucher is a good idea if done thoughtfully

A gift voucher is better if paired with something really small. This way it looks like you actually took the time to understand your recipient.

I’ve given vouchers to homeware stores for foodies with a set of cloth serviettes. I’ve also given a mug with a tea bag and the gift voucher inside. The tag on the tea bag read something like this – enjoy a cup of tea while you decide what to buy for your new home.

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Give gifts that go together

I like to give babies’ gifts as sets – for example, a blanket and a teddy for bedtime, or a book and a blanket for snuggling and reading.

One of my favourite gifts of all time was a set of Christmas mugs and a packet of shortbread biscuits. We ate the biscuits that year and we are still using the mugs 7 – 8 years later.

What are some of your favourite gifts to give?

PS I’ve given gifts of music in the past and presently too, but I’ve since discovered that recipients have to belong to the same country’s iTunes store. So it’s been hit and miss, (and you don’t get your money back unless the recipient tells you they can’t access and you log a call for a refund) so this year I only gifted CDs to fellow South Africans with iphones.

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