Archives December, 2009

23 December
Chris Arends

Being unemployed at the holidays for most people means less under the tree. While we all want to open lots of new stuff on Christmas day there are up sides to a minimal Christmas.

First their is the love/hate relationship with shopping.  We love to share with others but hate all the going and looking for a better price and the wrapping and shipping. With a minimal Christmas there are no malls, no all night wrapping sessions or the stress of finding just the right gift or running all over to find a specific item.

It also gets you off the hook for buying presents for nieces and nephews who already have too much stuff and you never know what to get for them.

Next is Christmas day.  You can open your gifts and clean the place up before Noon.  In our case that means we can be at Grandma’s in time for Dinner.Unfortunately, there isn’t any football on Christmas day so having free time just means hanging out with the in-laws. 

The down side of having fewer things to wrap my wife feels the need to revive a practice they have in her family of wrapping everything.  That includes candy canes, chap stick and even AA batteries just to fill up the stockings on Christmas morning. Have you ever tried wrapping or opening a gift wrapped AA battery. It is basically all tape.

So now that we are ready for Christmas my wife also has more time to bake,. If I can keep her from giving it all to the teacher, neighbors and co-workers I might actually get to try some of her treats.

Merry Christmas


18 December
Chris Arends

They start coming the week of Thanksgiving. Cards arriving from people we see everyday and some we haven’t seen in years.  The competition begins.  Who gets a card and who doesn’t.  Especially if we want to stay on their list.  

As November moves into December, the days pass and the list gets longer.  You haven’t started your list, picked out a photo or started writing the Christmas news letter.   You start to panic.  Along with Christmas shopping, decorating, school, work and church Christmas parties  you think, when am I going to have time to write Christmas cards?  Some how most of us manage to get them done although some delay long enough to make it a “NewYear’s” Card.  It is usually either automated by printing address labels and simply signing the card or having your kids get in on the act.

As crunch time gets closer, there is “the decision”.  Do you have to send a card to someone you don’t really know/ like/remember and if so do you have to personalize it or can you just sign it and send it.   This is a bigger and bigger decision every year.  After all we are all busier than ever and of course jt costs almost 50 cents to mail the darn thing. Is this person really worth it? 

The other questions is do you really have to send a card to someone you see every day/week?  They know what is going on in your life. They were sitting next to you at the band concert/football game/PTA meeting.  you are unlikely to tell them anything they didn’t already know. So why waste a stamp on them just because they were crazy enough to mail something when they live three blocks away? Will you lose face if you don’t reciprocate when they send you a card?  Will you feel like you have to make an excuse like you are boycotting the mail service for raising the price of stamps so you aren’t sending cards on principle?

Here is where the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes one day.  Step back and think what a difference taking the time to hand write a note to that person you don’t really know or care about?  Maybe they have been laid off or lost a loved one and maybe you don’t even know about it. If you do know that they have had a hard year, what would a word of encouragement do for their spirits? What would it do for yours knowing you made a difference?  After all if you are going to spend 44 cents to mail the card you may as well get your money’s worth.

Will I hand write all my cards this year?  Probably not, especially if I want the recipient to be able to read it. Any of you who have gotten cards from me before know what I mean. What I will do is make sure the person I am sending it to knows that I was thinking about them for the few minutes that I scribble a few thoughts to them that someone, somewhere cares for them.

If you don’t get a card from me either one of two things happened. Either we keep in touch enough that you don’t need to know what I am doing or what I am up to or post man couldn’t read my writing.


15 December
Chris Arends

I admit that spending money while you are unemployed is something you should take very seriously but at Christmas there still has to be something under the tree.  So with my very brief list I headed out.

As I arrived at my designated stores,  I realized that one bonus of not having a job is that you can go shopping while everyone else is working. No sneaking a trip to the Mall between conference calls or getting up early on Saturday to beat the mobs.  Instead, the unemployed are greeted by happy  clerks who are at the start of their shifts and are still happy to be there.

So for the unemployed while we may not have as much money to spend, we can at least take joy in getting a decent parking spot, avoiding long check out lines, and smiling clerks who haven’t been working since 3 AM. While our employed friends are exhausting themselves at the mall, we can be at home watching “Its a wonderful Life” with our family. Although depending how long you have been looking you might be wanting to spend some time away from your family. 

Today’s No Job Joy is for empty parking lots and happy store clerks.


10 December
Chris Arends

In the spirit of Christmas I am going to do some posts on the time honored traditions of Christmas.  Today I will start with Christmas cards.

We all get them. Love some, hate others.  As you start making your list and writing out your Christmas Cards think about your card says about you.

Vacation Photo Card
This is the I took a cooler vacation than you card.

Close friends read:  That’s nice. They went some where nice.  I really have to get on my spouse to get us somewhere nice next year so we can have a cool photo. Also I need to get matching outfits so we look nice.
Acquaintances read: Anything from “you show offs” to “that’s nothing,  wait till you see where I went this year”.
Unemployed friends read: Sucks to be me.
Do gooder friends read:  Just think what good you could have done with the money you spent or You just doubled your carbon footprint with the airplane flight.

The Generic Christmas card with just a signature
This is the “I’m busier than you so I can’t write anything” card.  That or the “I had a really crappy year and didn’t want to bring every one down”card.

Close Friends read : You must be really busy not to write something more personal to ME.
Acquaintences read:  I’d better send them one or else I’m off the list next year.

The year in review letter
The card of choice for the creative type.  Typically sent by empty nesters, busy bodies or Moms who have kids who are in music sports, drama, drill team so I have to tell the world that I am in carpools so much I have time write this letter while I am waiting in line to pick them up.

Close friends read: We all know your kids are wonderful. Why did you waste the stamp, I knew all this because I was sitting in the carpool line behind you at all these events.
Acquaintances read: Wow my life must really suck if I can’t think up enough stuff to fill a page and send people I barely know.  That or my friends have way too much time on their hands.
Single Friends read:  Having kids can’t be that hard. They still had time to get out this silly letter.

So before you start writing your cards this year. Think of your audience.

Merry Christmas


8 December
Chris Arends

This weekend my oldest son had a scout camp out. To commemorate the trip I thought I would channel some Gilligan’s Island.  My apologies in advance to the original lyrics.

Just sit right back and you hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from a parking lot,
with boys and men and kit.

The scout master was a mighty scouting man,
The quartermaster brave and sure.
Twenty boys went to camp that day,
for a weekend of fun,  a weekend of fun.

The weather started out quite rough,
the troop they bundled up.
If not for the leaders of the fearless troop,
the troop would be lost, the troop would be lost.

They came to camp to learn some skills to get them through the wild,
Like campfire building,
and lashings too.
Orienteering and cooking food.
They ate some cobbler with their Dads,
and spent time in the woods.

So this is the tale of the first year trip,
They stared with a five mile hike,
then  learned some knots and how to lash.
And how to read a map.

They learned,
they grew
and played some ball
despite the wind and cold
you’d never know that it froze, except we got a bead

They made the dinner and pitched their tents
with out the help of Dads.
They even did a skit or two,
and gave us all a laugh.

So next time they go camping,
we know they’re sure to smile
with all the skills they learned in camp
they can do it them selves.

Thanks to our first year leader and all the other adults who made Troop 890’s first year camp out a success and learning experience for all the boys.