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Christmas Gift Ideas For Her

Ok so I'm a little dubious about writing one of these posts because a. I'm not convinced men even read them (I am just presuming women buying for a girlfriend or significant other know what they want already?!). In my experience in retail as a teenager, men shop in a blind panic on Christmas Eve and buy whatever the shopgirl tells them to! ;-)

BUT times have moved on, I know many people shop online/ahead of time than ever before...although we are nearing T minus two weeks to Christmas so we are also entering the danger zone for ordering things online.

Also b. EVERYONE is different, everyone likes different things. It is important to know the person you are shopping for, and in my opinion, do your best to put some actual thought into the gift (and I totally get that this can sometimes be tricky depending on the person - for instance I am married to a "I don't need anything" person, they are the worst to shop for!).

So here are a few suggestions and tips, with that that caveat in place (i.e. I take no responsibility if your loved one hates any of these things! ;-)).

Something Thoughtful.....

Is there a book or author you have noticed they return to? I know it's tricky with Kindles now to snoop everyone's book shelf, but try your best!

Something that I think is pretty nifty is the Willoughby Book Club, which was brought to my attention by the lovely Janet of Someone Somewhere (who works there as well!). They offer a uniquely personalized service of picking out books for the recipient according to their likes and/or genre preferences.

They are taking orders until Friday the 15th for Christmas deliveries so do hurry though! Imagine getting a surprise book in the mail every month! Janet has amazing taste in books, as I'm sure do the rest of the staff so it's a fun and off the beaten path gift idea that I think anyone would enjoy!

If the person has a beloved favourite book you might also think about buying them a nicer edition than the one they have, whatever is in your budget!

Do they have a favourite actor/actress, director or era in film? There are lots of amazing box sets to be had, I think particularly when it comes to older films, which they don't tend to have as many of on streaming services.

Something Fancy...

By "fancy" I don't necesssarily mean it has to be expensive. But definitely something that isn't...a necessity. Something that you think they maybe would secretly like, depending on their tastes.

This might be anything from a pamper session gift voucher, a touch of soft cashmere (as long as they are not allergic!) etc. Cashmere gloves and scarves aren't too expensive in the many pre-Christmas sales, and it really is so much softer than standard wool (just don't ever buy me cashmere gloves because if you know me you know I will lose them!). Uniqlo has a really nice selection of colours with their scarves, and M&S is always a  good bet for soft cashmere in my opinion.

A simple pair of gold or silver hoop earrings or studs (preferably real, but whatever your budget allows) or a nice minimalist bangle or other piece of jewelry that is classic and won't break the bank (unless you want to!).

I think many people overlook local estate jewellers as well, you can often get more bang for your buck (or pound) in used jewelry shops, and the quality is often better than the more modern stuff. Keep in mind not everyone will love this idea, but if your partner enjoys vintage fashion and isn't too fussy about everything being brand new this might be a good bet!

It's not all about the shiny shiny,  a glossy new book about their favourite musician or hobby can also be deeply exciting depending on the recipient...just something outwith the day to day. Are they a beauty or fashion blogger or enthusiast? There are endless coffee table books to choose from. I like the look of this Neal's Yard  Beauty book, which includes homeopathic/DIY beauty recipes as well so it's a bit different/not just for makeup addicts. For the fashion addict a new Chanel book came out this year that looks tres jolie.

Or you know, a nice candle or perfume rarely go amiss either! Just a tiny bit of indulgence, of frippery, goes a long way!

Something That Is A Surprise....

I already mentioned the fun of the Willoughby Book Club element of surprise, but there are obviously many other "Thing of the Month" type services - from the classic wine of the month, things have moved on a bit, we now have all sorts of things to choose from in the realm of home subscriptions services. The Cheese Society sounds like a yummy way to pass those long winter nights in front of Netflix to me! 

There is even the Craft Gin of the month club (glug!), as well as Bloom and Wild, who post beautiful floral bouquets as if by magic through your letterbox (they are packaged especially, and they also do hand tied bouqets for the traditionalist!), so you do not even have to stress about being home for the delivery. They offer various subscriptions which I am sure would be a delight in the gloomy winter months especially! From beauty boxes to mystery gift boxes, a Google search might well lead you down a fun rabbit hole for a gift that will last past the New Year.
Maybe their favourite band is coming to a nearby town? Maybe there is a play they would love to see (I hear Hamilton is good...I kid....a little! ;-). Planning ahead for a future fun event is a great way to enter the new year! All in all, just try to "think outside the box" if you can, a little, in whatever way is appropriate or affordable for you.

So that's all I got...hope it is of some help to anyone feeling a bit lost with the Christmas gift giving! 

I fully appreciate that people find gift giving stressful, I am certainly not immune to this myself. My best advice here is: we should all stress less (seriously!) about gift giving at the holidays. There are lots of things to choose from nowadays, on many budgets, and it truly isn't the most important part of the season. 

Try not to get overwhelmed by choosing the "perfect" gift, and yes this advice goes to me as well, I totally do this, and you know what? It's honestly not worth the stress! People like presents, sometimes they like some presents more than others, but I have never heard a person (other than a child) complain about their Christmas presents! Of course it's natural to want to please our loved ones, but really just knowing that you tried to be thoughtful is the main thing! Now get shopping, Christmas is coming! ;-)

Hospital Ghosts

So last week I had my annual mammogram (there is nothing to report by the way, knock wood spit spit), it is something I have been doing since I was 35, being eligible for early breast cancer screening.This is ironically  because my treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma included radiotherapy to my chest, which increases a woman’s chances of breast cancer (I honestly don’t remember exactly how much/try not to dwell on it).

Usually mammograms and the follow up grope (I mean…it’s necessary, but still, having your oranges and lemons squeezed is always awkward! ;-)) are fairly straightforward for me, emotionally. It has been 14 years next month since my cancer diagnosis, and I have had a few trips to and from the same hospital for various other ailments.

But I’m not going to lie, sometimes, for some reason, it takes me back. This time there was a fairly obvious reason, there was a woman in the waiting room who was clearly a cancer patient. This has never actually happened before when I went.  

I tried to make eye contact and smile without being weird or awkward, because I know how hard it is to be someone who no one wants to make eye contact with. On the flip side I know how hard it is to be the object of pitying stares.

The blessing and the curse of being a cancer “survivor”, is that you know the pain, but you are no longer identifiable as a sick person, and so you feel like a jerk for not being able to somehow communicate this.

Of course it matters little to anyone in the thick of it that someone else got through it, well maybe it matters some, but you never, ever want to be the smug survivor, telling them they “can do it”, because you know it is not really in their control and they are probably as sick to death of hearing the meaningless platitudes as you once were.

So anyway I then felt guilty, of course, just for being there, in my healthy, albeit cancer scarred body. Because honestly?  I don’t really sweat mammograms. I don’t think about the possibility much at all if I’m honest.

Is it denial? Very likely. No one likes a post cancer hypochondriac. Usually I have a “treat yo’self” day on mammogram day and get myself a cupcake on the way home. Because having your boobs squished down to the size of pancakes isn’t a lot of fun:  it’s not the worst thing in the world, but it kind of sucks also.

But it’s not something I usually let get to me. As I was leaving and almost to the hospital doors there was a man, with a shaved head  covered in large stitches and an i.v. with him standing in line at the new (since my time there) coffee stand. He looked scary and frightening I imagine to most people in the line, just popping by for a visit. But I recognized and remembered something of myself in him.

Before I was diagnosed, I had never spent a night in the hospital in my life that I remembered (I broke my arm when I was three and I think I did have a short stay because of asthma as a kid, but I don’t remember either). But hospitals generally scared me. The smell alone freaked me out. Sick people scared me.

But once you are an inpatient for any length of time, you just start to give zero f*cks in a weird way. I had three surgeries in the course of a month, two failed/inconclusive biopsies and eventually open chest surgery that left me in intensive care and then in hospital for a week or so after. I was also admitted after my second or third chemo treatment (I don’t recall exactly) for uncontrolled nausea. 

SO I went from being a person who had flitted in and out of hospitals a handful of times briefly, to someone who spent a month or so as a person who lived in a hospital. I hated it, mostly, but at times I also found it oddly soothing, to be alone, at night, with my scary thoughts. A very kind nurse would stop in and listen to my often morphine addled insomniac thoughts (or maybe I imagined her! ;-)).

I was very lucky, in NHS terms, in that because I was a young female and on the heart patient ward, and after that the blood cancer ward, so I never had to share a room. I had plenty of visitors but visiting hours are limited and I would often get bored. A few times I took myself for a little walk, when I still had an i.v., to the hospital tuck shop for a magazine, a drink, some air (no point trying to get air outside the doors as the air  is smoke filled though!).

And while I felt a bit self-conscious, I also felt like “This is my place, I belong here, and I will not be embarrassed or shamed to be ill in a place that guess what nosy drive by visitors looking at me uncomfortably, is here for the sick.”

So anyway, it’s just part of life, 14 years later, to still have to visit the hospital where I went through hopefully the worst time, for various other things, and try to not get sucked into the past too much. Usually I don’t. 

But sometimes it’s hard not to, this time I cried on the walk home and got mad at myself for it, which is
pretty unfair on myself if you ask me (;-)), the same walk I took for 28 days after radiotherapy, that keeps me coming back now “just in case”. Even though I stopped having cancer check-ups a few years back, even though I can now go days or even weeks without thinking about any of it much.

I do feel I have moved on from my cancer experience, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still get bad days or sad days or survivor’s guilt or fear of it coming back sometimes. That is just life after cancer, and I get frustrated when we as cancer survivors are expected to forget about it completely somehow.I don't think most people realize that most of us have to deal with it in some way or other for years afterwards.

We get reminders all the time, often not even as memory triggered as mine at the hospital. It might just be a movie where someone gets cancer, or a charity ad that is designed to tug at the heartstrings but somehow saddens and infuriates you at once. 

You are allowed to have all sorts of complicated feelings as a former person with cancer, which is all I really wanted to say I guess. You don’t have to be brave or anyone’s hero or inspiration, your constant strength is not required. Just let it ALL out and cry and rage sometimes, it’s ok and it’s normal. And don’t forget to buy yourself a cupcake, you earned it!

Random old grainy snowstorm pic from up north a few years back, I feel like we might be in for a White Christmas this year, it's cold in Scotland!