SUCKING it up for the HOLIDAYS

From the Butterball ads, to the movies and TV specials.  Tis the season to be Jolly, fa,la,la,la,la,la la la.    Where everyone makes it on time to cut the perfect Turkey.   We are sucked in by perfect images of  flawless food and the perfect families. Its all kisses and hugs…Ahhhh, what  a crock!

Thanksgiving and Christmas  with the family is the most joyous time of the year and for most families it is. However for other families what starts out as joyous become out and out warfare  with pre-heated words and fists, leaving some members to question why they came.

Christmas is the most seductive holiday of the year.   The lights, the music, the joy many people believe in the power of Christmas,on this day everything will be better.  It a day of peace, men and women ,boys and girls  will set aside their differences and there will be love,love,


If this is your family,you should stop reading here.

This is for the rest of us, the people who want to believe in power of  Christmas but have families who make us crazy.

During  my freshmen year in college  I heard great stories from other students going home for Christmas.  The talk  of food and love and traditions, I was swept away.  I saved all my coins to insure everyone received a gift.   I begged a friend to get me to Greyhound so I could catch an early bus to the bay.   I couldn’t wait to see my mom, nephew and nieces.

45 minutes after getting off the bus, I wanted to return to school.   It seems I had created a new family in my mind.  I had created a black version of  ” The Walton”s  a popular television program at the time.   That fantasy crashed and burned, there was a breech in the family,a lot of people were angry and to make matter worse, there wasn’t a plan B . Being away in college my friends had made other plans.  No caroling, no midnight gift openings.   After the Christmas meal some members of my family started to turn on me.   My weight, my hair, my speech.

Holiday Amnesia 

The Christmas/Thanksgiving tradition repeated itself for many years.   For the most part it’s great, seeing members of the family-meeting new members.  However lurking in the shadows are individuals who use THE HOLIDAYS as a platform to  remind you of  what THEY believe is your shortcomings .

Take a Breath

This action is usually  pre-planned  and often quietly supported by other family members who simply want to know why you haven’t married?  Why you should go on a diet like your sister. ( I have this cookbook!) Or go back to school.

Family members who used the happy,happy, holidays, to revisit events that happened decades ago and share those events with new members of the family and visitors.      These and other holiday rituals that creep under our skin and make us crazy, is often forgotten until the next holiday.

A Family Theme Song:  

( Ain’t no drama like family drama ,cause family drama don’t stop!)

For years, I often wondered  why my family made me so crazy.  After all I am a professional, I’ve successfully worked directly with the public for decades.  So why do these people reduce a 6 foot 4 baby boomer into a screaming ten year old?


Do People React (or Overreact) to your Questions or Comments?

If so? Click the Link Below

13 Questions You should never ask…


History and expectations  Unlike strangers, we have history with family and with that comes certain expectations. It’s an  understanding, and sensitivity that generally doesn’t exist with persons outside of family. Unfortunately  that understanding and sensitivity isn’t guaranteed within the family.

The truth is, there are siblings and other family members who simply don’t like each other, never have and never will.   Family resentments often last a lifetime.  Siblings can often clearly remember events that go back more than seven or eight decades  and once a year those dormant events  resurface during family events. While some people  are able move on, others simmer.  So after the gifts are exchanged , after the hugs, after the second  round of dinner, simmer increases to boil and let the rumble begin.

Sucking it up for the Holidays 

First things first…We have to realize we are unable to change anyone.   If there is a change, it has to come from us. 

Who do you become at these family gatherings?

Mildly Irritated(MI)-doesn’t really get to you

Extremely Irritated(EI)– takes you days-weeks  to shake the family gathering .

A screaming banshee(BS) You lose compete control and vow never to return.

Fists of thunder(FT)-you have gotten into physical altercations with family members .

A week before the family gathering , you will need a plan of action.  

 Do not share your plans with other family members as there are moles every where!  Including  Ma, Pa and Peggy

Knowing and managing your Triggers 

When are you going to settle down and get married?

Are you still working at that job?

I expected your life to turn out differently..etc,etc, etc

(Write them down)

Every family have a natural rhythm, I could almost set my watch to certain events in my family.  They would often take place a couple of hours after dinners often accelerated with alcohol, the players are the same every year.  

Memorize the players in your family, they rarely change. Prepare yourself for the triggers,  rehearse your non combative response.

I have a friend who limits his visit with his family to two and  half hours   He calls the last half hour “The Sharpening of the Knives”.  No matter how much fun he is having,he limits his visit to two and half hours… 10 minutes longer and someone takes out a knife.

 Why don’t you have that wart removed ,once you have that ugly thing removed and get that tooth straightened out and buy some  clothes that don’t have that cheap look your’ll be better.

Remember you can’t change your family.  You  can only change  how you react to them.  

 Warning:  This isn’t easy and its very possible you may fail on the first attempt.  Just remember your changing a lifetime. 

Sharing the suffering

Here I begin with a question?  If you needed emergency therapy after spending Thanksgiving or Christmas last year with the family. (I say or because only a reality show masochist would double dip) Why would you invite a friend,girlfriend or boyfriend to accompany you this year.  The friend WHO you clearly lied to when you told them it would be NICE!


I love the stories about everyone staying in the home and experiencing holidays together.   Cooking together or opening up packages at midnight.   Its a great tradition.  But its not for everyone.   It’s very important to place your needs over the desires of the family(unless of course they agree to pay your shrink bill).  Consider getting a hotel/motel room.  I find it to be an oasis in the valley of the kray,kray.   When the volume increases, I begin make a plate and yawn several times ooh-I really must be tired and head to room 212 with a closing yawn-I’ll see you in the morning-love you.  Then you turn off your cell phone and tell the front desk to send calls to voice mail. (ooh I fell asleep) . Trust me- at least two people will rush to tell you what you’ve missed.

The room is really important for your friend.  He/she and the children don’t necessarily need to see you in super Kray form.   They don’t share your history, why put them through it.   My wife and family would get a large suite and sometimes sneak out to the movies.

Because I’ve been a victims of painful memories I am both watchful and mindful of what I say to my family and I run interference for those who want to inflect pain on others.   You have to be mindful of the painful smile.

Changing The Script (New Traditions)

We have been seduced… From movies to Commercials  that the holidays is everything and you must be with your family. This is what we are supposed to do right?   But what is your family is  less Waltons or Huxtables and more Bundy.

The harshest realty is, the realization that some of our families are toxic.  Year after year,we return because this is what we know, its how its always been.  It never occurred to us we have another option.  So we go hoping for that Brady setting and sometimes return in shambles.  Worst of all, we take OUR children to these events infecting them.

Not only do they have to bare witness to our annual dismantling. We are creating a new normal for them.

For some families, normal is screaming, fighting and manipulation. While visitors are shocked,  it’s just another family event, where someone pulls out a knife, threatening to kill another family member.  Another Christmas dinner were everyone swears. 

If these joyous family events leaves you anxious, depressed and sad. You may want to consider not attending at all.

New Traditions

Again, a lot of us attend events, because it something we’ve always done and there isn’t anything wrong with that if you enjoy that family event.   But if its painful for you and YOUR branch of the family, there aren’t rules that say you have to attend.

Instead of modeling bad behavior for our children, we started our own traditions.  Cartoons, movies, a billion and one desserts.   One year our holiday meal was turkey, they next ham, one year pizza.  No one needed therapy because we didn’t have the traditional meal and it was less work .   One of our best Thanksgivings was in a Burger King.   Today our children are grown.  They didn’t share our history of family and one day they will create their own Traditions, hopefully filled with joy and laughter.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the 365  days a year.  If you choose not to share those holidays with your family and siblings, it is NOT a reflection of your love .   It means you that you’ve chosen you.  Try not to allow others to make you feel less than, because your chosen your sanity over a family event that leaves you shaken and stirred.  Be gracious, you can still share gifts.

Breaking free may not be easy.  The guilt control machine will be launched-everyone is expecting you! Especially by your siblings who feel, if they have to suffer, you must attend!   Aunt Pearl will be so hurt, you know this may be her last Christmas,she loves you so much!) and turn off all phone until the day after.  Then feel free to call.  If you get a call, take control by keeping the call short no long or extended conversations involving the past.   We or I am not going…. Love you, bye!!       They take control by keeping you one the phone.   Remember, Choose you!  Choose your family.

The Holidays like every day can be a loving joyous affair.  Take control and make it happen!!

Life ends in an instant.  Choose Joy.

Meanwhile B Safe




Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

4 thoughts on “SUCKING it up for the HOLIDAYS

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  3. The words seeps into my pours. I am a survivor of a dysfunctional family. Most of my life I went to family events faking a smiles until my face hurt. My sisters and I where quilted into spending honorific holidays with our parents. Our parents were functional alcoholics who attacked us for their shortcomings. I drank to cope, so did two of my siblings. Three years ago I discovered my then 13 year old was drinking to cope, I learned my coping was harmful to my family. I had to come to terms that I was an alcoholic and that my parents were detrimental to my well being. You clearly know what your talking about and like you I have learned to cope. I no longer visit my parents during the holidays. I have very planned visits with them a couple of times a year. I stay at hotels and like you said, make the visit an event. It isn’t easy, my defection is resented by parents and a few of my siblings. They do not have the courage to fight for their well being, and that’s their problem. , I didn’t mean to go as long as I did. I have shared you blog with a few people now…. Thank you Joanne Roades


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