It has been a stressful few months. What with coming to terms with my husband's potentially life limiting health condition and the way it's already affecting our lives, car issues (thankfully solved now, fingers crossed) and a fire at my neighbours which left our home smoke damaged, I have been really at the end of my tether.
I'm normally quite resilient but looking in the mirror recently I saw an older, tired face gazing back. No amount of creams could help the bags under my eyes and my patience has been stretched paper thin.
When both our neighbour's insurance people and our own refused to help restore my daughter's room to a habitable state I despaired, not really knowing what to do. She is having to share with her older brother and our youngest son is on the floor in our room.
But a few unexpected acts of kindness gave me a real boost and gave me the strength to pick myself up.
My daughter bought her sister a new duvet, pillow case and a new rug. We'd only just redecorated the bedroom and when we were planning the colour scheme and design, our youngest daughter was very keen on getting a soft rug and her sister understood that replacing that was very important. My sister (who I've had a difficult relationship with in the past) and my friend's mum sent some money to go towards replacing some of the other things destroyed by smoke damage.
I'd mentioned to a friend how upset I was that we couldn't use our Christmas decorations, some of which I've had since I was a child, as they were in the attic which had filled with smoke and soot which we'd been told could be toxic.
She contacted members of our book club and asked them to bring a Christmas ornament to our meeting - when I was presented with a little pile of decorations I was absolutely overwhelmed by their kindness.
Like many people I suppose, I live under the impression that people don't generally like me and I never feel like I fit in anywhere so that kind gesture by my friend and the fact that our group responded to her request was one of the most lovely moments of my life.
Added to some charity shop finds and one ridiculously overpriced but beautiful bauble from Liberty bought for me by my thoughtful eldest daughter, we now have decorated for what we hope will be a Happy Christmas.
And at the weekend I donned a mask and with my younger daughter's help cleaned out her room, took all the soot-covered soft stuff to the tip and scrubbed every surface clean. It's a lot better than it was, although still not habitable. However, moving forward in optimism I'm hoping to sort a mattress and if we can manage to banish the smoky smell with ongoing cleaning and vacuuming, I hope to have her back in there soon.
Meanwhile, another friend has given us a decent fold up bed so my youngest doesn't have to sleep on a folded duvet on the floor.
It's not just Christmas which is a time for little acts of kindness and I've discovered that something as small as a tiny Christmas decoration could mean the world to someone who is struggling.