Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | December 18, 2009

Christmas is WHEN?!?

How did that happen? How did Christmas get to be… a week away?

Things have been very busy at our business. Orders have been coming in, even if we’re not exactly flush, and then there’s trying to steer this ship to a potentially friendly harbor if at all possible, while trying to keep it from sinking. This takes a lot of time and mental effort. Most evenings are jammed with work and/or the oldest child’s extracurriculars and/or me going to work out. Somehow, through all of this, Penny has managed to do some Christmas shopping for the kids.

But… how did it get to be just one week away?

We are, as I’ve mentioned earlier, financially strapped. Broke. Family members have surprised me by sending along money for Christmas shopping. We know that money is to be used for the kids, and not for paying bills, etc. We’ve already told family that we are not going to be able to exchange gifts with our fellow adults this year. I’ve likewise suggested to Penny that we not worry about getting gifts for each other, for the same reason.

But unbeknownst to Penny, one of my relatives sent me money for Christmas gifts with the stipulation that the source remain anonymous and that some of the money go toward a gift for Penny. This favorite aunt of mine is one of the few I’ve made aware of our marital woes. I’m not sure if my aunt is trying to help me keep the marriage together; I don’t think I’ve told her just how problematic that would be. But her funding a gift for Penny from “Santa” would make sense even if she’s not trying to help us stay together; my aunt rightly considers my wife part of the family, and that’s as it should be.

But… what do I get for Penny? I have no idea what to get her. Seriously.

[Even as I typed that an idea popped into my head: a gift card for a store like Target — both practical and, for the sake of the bank that holds our mortgage… discretely not tied to credit cards or other banking transactions. To the extent that we split up our living arrangements, we’re both going to have to replace household items that end up in the other’s apartment.]

[Wow, that sounds mercenary. And, yet….]

Penny is under a lot of stress with our current financial strife. She’s not eating well. She’s not sleeping well. And as the denial regarding our marital situation is starting to break down, I suspect the realization that we really are heading for divorce is also adding to her stress.

When she’s stressed, she has no real interest in her books (she is, otherwise, as much an avid reader as I.) Or music. Or other consumer/material goods. Chocolates are wasted on her. As are flowers.

The gift card idea seems very practical… but also a little lame.

And… should I get her something from me, even though I begged off on her getting me anything? (Truly, right now, there’s nothing I want or need from her.) If so, what?

This is likely to be our last Christmas together as a family. Yes, we’re broke, and yes, we’re stressed, and yes, we’re unhappy. But… I still don’t want to be a chump, you know? And for all that I’m unhappy in our marriage, I’d still like to find a way to cheer her up.

[And, no, I’m not going to leave all of the Christmas shopping for the boys up to her. I’ve got that covered. Kids are easy to shop for, however. Penny? Not so much.]

Only a few shopping days left until Christmas.




  1. What lovely people your family must be – I think it’s a wonderful gift to give someone money to ensure they have something to put under the tree. And I think your aunt was great to include Penny in her stipulation. It’s given you an opportunity for one final gift from you to her. I often talk about honouring what the relationship was and what it meant even alongside the hurt feelings, and this makes that possible. So if I were you, I wouldn’t pick something practical (and I definitely wouldn’t pick vouchers). I’d pick something to spoil her. I have no idea what she likes (for me it would always be jewellery) but the rule my ex and I operated on was “give me something I would never buy myself”. It could either be a more luxurious version of something I do buy and use, or something that would just feel like a treat. I’m thinking in your situation there must be some luxuries Penny has had to cut out that she might miss.
    Good luck in finding something that works, and I hope there’s joy in the giving of it.

    • I want to dove tail with Rules here.

      If you don’t know what to get her, simply ask her. Penny knows.

      Do not get a Target giftcard, As a rule gift cards are a tell tale sign of “laziness”.

      If gift cards is your only option, buy her a gift card to Sephora so she can get whatever she needs to look good whether make up, perfume etc.

      A couple of hundred dollars worth on the gift card will give her range enough to spoil herself silly. 🙂

  2. Dude. Jewellry. But not from a husband to a wife. Something that could be from the kids. A pendant with their birthstones or something along those lines.

    While she may not continue to be your wife, she’ll always be the mother of your kids. And she’ll have plenty of time to shop for household necessities.

  3. As I’m incredibly stressed, I would love a gift certificate for a massage. If she’s really stressed too, I’m sure she’d enjoy that. That’s one of those things I’ll never splurge for but man, what I wouldn’t do for one! Or what about a gift certificate to the salon she frequents? A bit of pampering is sure to help her relax a bit- especially if she doesn’t have to worry about the bill!

    And you have an amazing family! That was incredibly sweet of your aunt!

  4. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. It just occured to me that I probably should have bought some gift for the ex from the kids. I’m a really lousy ex-wife apparently. Well, nuts.

    Okay…right. We were talking about you. Ummm. I know a gift card seems impersonal, but right now, when it’s a struggle to meet basic needs, I understand that. And the kids may question if you start buying replacement goods. And nothing says, ‘divorce is inevitable’ like new dishes or sheets or towels. So, use your best judgement. (Not the kind we make for OUR decisions, the kind we use when we’re giving other people advice, the one we SHOULD use more and our lives would be less…messy.) You can do this! This is the perfect confidence builder.

  5. Dang, I hate to throw a monkey wrench in all of this, but if you and Penny agreed not to get each other gifts….
    Consider how she may feel if she, indeed, took you at your word, and then she discovers you weren’t serious about that after all.
    And if you weren’t serious about the gifts, maybe you’re not serious about being unhappy with her, not serious about separating, not serious about divorcing.

    Think about it.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t honor your aunt’s wishes, but I think you’d do well to tell Penny that an annoymous donor sent you a little something with the stipulation that you get her a gift, and ask her if there’s anything she’d like. Then reiterate to her that you don’t want her spending anything on you.

    Now is the time to say what you mean and mean what you say. Or is it okay with you to send mixed messages?

  6. Put the cash in a card with this explanation. I know that did not seem to read the last (first?) letter from you but maybe she has learned a thing or two? You can only hope. That way, the decision is hers and you have not attached any strings to the gift.

  7. Spa. Gift card to get a massage. Everyone needs one and obviously she does too.

  8. Hi, all.

    My original title for this post was: “What do you get for the person who doesn’t want anything?”

    Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions. I did end up taking Leah’s advice and talking it over with Penny: stating that an anonymous donor has contributed money toward a gift for her, and we remain agreed that we will not spend any of “our” money on gifts for each other.

    Penny has mentioned a couple of small (practical) items she would like. I’ve figured out another I can get her. They don’t add up to anywhere near what was donated. I’m mulling over your suggestions to figure out the next step. Thanks!

  9. PS: today, I gave her the house to herself for three hours. I took the boys to go shopping for a gift for her. Alas, our search was fruitless (today), but Penny certainly appeared to appreciate the chance to nap and to work on her office without the kids around to interfere.

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