Maria’s Musings & Advice: Holiday Expenses and a Bossy Boss

By on Dec 1, 2016 in Advice | 0 comments

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holiday_3Dear Maria,

We hosted my wife’s family (about 20 people) for Thanksgiving last week. Everything went fine, and we all avoided talking about politics. What bugs me is that we spent over $300 on the meal. This is a paycheck for my wife, who works part time. All they brought was a side dish.  How can I get my wife to get her family to pitch in on a big meal like that? It doesn’t seem fair that we carried the expense for the whole group.


Frugal Guy

Dear Frugal Guy,

You know, in the grocery store checkout line, I’m amazed at how quickly things add up. At the holidays, I buy specialty items (cranberry chutney, anyone?) that are expensive and we get only one or two servings/uses out of them. The good news is, we have access to healthy food and can share it with our loved ones. The bad news is it costs so damn much sometimes!

img_1727About your in-laws: Is this the tradition, that one family hosts everyone else? Or has this feast been served in your house every year? If this is a repeat performance, talk to your wife about enlisting her family members’ help. It’ll take a little more coordination, but it can be done. If your wife resists the idea, perhaps she likes being in charge of food prep, and/or has favorite recipes she wants to cook? Talk with her about her expectations for family gatherings, and let her know your concerns. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask her family members to contribute a dish (or several) to the meal.

On the other hand, if the sub-families are taking turns hosting each year, and this isn’t a recurring situation for you, then don’t make an issue of it. Think of it as your turn, and you’ll get a lighter load next year. All families have patterns of how they celebrate holidays or family events. It would be tough for you, as one who has married into the family, to suggest a big change in how things are done. It is important that you talk with your wife about your concerns, though, and listen to her reply with an open mind and heart. She may have strong emotions connected to the annual Thanksgiving gathering. Be loving in your suggestions—don’t just try to argue her into agreeing with you.

P.S. If you all avoided an awkward or upsetting political discussion this year, perhaps it was worth every penny!


Dear Maria,

I have a bossy boss. His emails and texts are brief and kinda mean, and he expects a quick response. In group emails, where several people are asked for their input, he answers like his word is final. I try to be a good employee and just do what he wants. But, I get anxious that I’m not doing it right or quickly enough.  When I’m not at work, I think about it all the time. Notifications pop up on my phone, and I answer right away, but then don’t get a reply from him. It’s frustrating. What can I do?


I’m Tired but I’m Working, Yeah

Dear Tired,

Congratulations on doing what you can to keep the place running smoothly. You’re not alone in these feelings. I suspect many of your coworkers can empathize. Organizational communications are critical to the success of any enterprise. Your group has a lot of media available to it, and yet the conversation gets shut down, or goes on at inappropriate times. The boss has a lot of power to set the terms of the conversation.

It’s a curse of our contemporary era that, communications-wise, we are not tied to an office or desk, and yet are tethered to our work more than ever. The good news about showing up at an office or shop, and working with a land line, is that you get to leave it behind when you walk out the door. There’s a natural boundary. But, our cell phones and personal tablets or laptops open lines of accessibility that chain us to work even when we’re on vacation or off the clock.

Some suggestions: When you respond to your boss, during regular business hours, get clear timelines and deadlines out in the open. This will help set expectations on projects. If you hear from him outside of business hours, gently remind him of when he can expect a response. For example, if he’s asked for a project status update, you might reply, “Let me look into that first thing tomorrow morning and I’ll get you that information.” Unspoken or assumed expectations are probably contributing to your frustration. Get these out in the open as much as possible, and refer back to them as needed.

Is your cell phone a company phone, or personal one? If it’s personal, turn off the notifications! If your job requires you to be available outside of regular business hours, there should be some standards in place as to when you are not expected to respond. If not, talk to your boss. You’re only as available as you allow yourself to be.

The internal work you can do in this situation is perhaps the most important. Pay attention to when your thoughts get carried away with work concerns during non-business hours. Deliberately redirect your thoughts to other things. It’s tough to do at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. For me, there’s relief when I realize I haven’t thought for a while about something that worries me. A mental break is very refreshing. Take good care of your head space.

If none of these bring you relief, or your boss scoffs at setting boundaries or clarifying expectations, then maybe it’s time to look for another job. Having no time to recharge your batteries away from work will impact your mental and physical health in the long run. You weren’t born to serve this company, you were born to have a good life. Decide what that means to you, and what you need to do to create it for yourself and those you love.

Dear Readers: What suggestions do you have for Frugal Guy and Tired but Working? Comment below!

December 1 Reflection from Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas:

The night is far gone; the day draws near. Romans 13:12

Since the middle ages, the Advent Wreath has been part of Christian spiritual preparation for Christmas. This tradition emerged from an ancient practice of farmers and laborers who, having completed the season’s harvest, used greenery and candles to celebrate the solstice and the coming spring.

The wreath is rich in symbolism for Advent preparations. The light is, of course, that of Jesus Christ, coming to a world so desperately in need of his perfect love. The greenery assures us that no matter the losses or challenges we face, God’s life renews any situation, resurrecting that which was thought to be dead.

The wreath’s circle symbolizes the Advent journey. As we’ve discovered in life, the attainment of wisdom and peace is not a linear journey; rather, it is a circular one. We may travel through the same issues many times in life, but when we face these issues with open hearts, we grow ever-closer to God. This month, we will journey with Mary and Joseph, the Magi, and Christians around the world and rediscover the light and life of Jesus Christ.

Light an Advent Wreath this year. Celebrate these blessed days that focus our attention on the reason for the season.

Take a moment to reflect:

Today I am grateful for:

My intention for today:

My to-do list for today:

GCB 08 coverPurchase a gift edition of Prepare Your Heart for a Great Christmas on Amazon.com, and receive a Kindle edition for just 99 cents. Makes a wonderful hostess gift, or for any woman you know who’d harried this holiday season!




Dear Readers: In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.  This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.

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