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23 December
Chris Arends

What to get your wife for Christmas is an age-old question. From the Gift of the Magi to A Christmas Story, men have been getting it wrong. Even when we listen to our wives we still manage to screw it up. My wife is great about not wanting stuff. Never really has. She always says we have too much stuff, not enough storage or she won’t really use what I think might be a good gift.

The reason I am not getting my wife anything for Christmas is she doesn’t want any thing. And its not that I don’t want to get her anything. Heck she deserves whatever she wants for putting up with my and the boys. It just seems that I never can get her the right thing. Wrong size, wrong color, wrong model, wrong thoughtful idea. No matter what I find a way to mess things up. So what she started doing is asking me to do things for her. Build this, fix that, help the kid’s type of things. Now that sounds sweet and like a bonus for me in that I don’t have to battle the malls or hope that Amazon can get it here on time but the reality is she is asking for one of the hardest things in the world.

Now, I will do my best to get as many of them done over the holidays and fortunately, my company shuts down over the holidays so you would think this would be no problem. The funny thing is between visiting family, watching football (doesn’t that count as family time?) and getting in an end of the year ride or two (she wouldn’t want me getting fat and dying early?). Add in then the kids work schedule, the weather or some other random event and suddenly it is time to go back to work and our regular schedule and low and behold I have failed to get my wife anything for Christmas.

So this year I am setting the bar low. I am not going to set any false expectations. While what my wife wants is one of the hardest things to give and what she deserves, making promises and not keeping them is worse than getting her nothing makes her frustrated and me feeling like a heel.
The goal is to not disappoint her this year. I am going to promise her my time but in ways that she can enjoy and that I can deliver.

16 April
Chris Arends

I could write about how I hate working late. The missed sleep, the early morning, the badge of courage for putting in extra hours. That really isn’t what is on my mind.

The truth is I kind of like working at this time. I can focus. Get in the zone and really get things accomplished. No email. No family. No distractions. Just me and the work.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a workaholic and its not that I don’t love my family. If I am in the cave and know that I could be doing something with them instead of working doesn’t create the best work environment on a Sunday night.

So I make the choice to work after they go to bed. I can lose track of time and make sure I get things done well instead of just done.

Sure I will have to listen to my 14 year old complain about how tired he is. Knowing that we had time together tonight and I still got some work done makes it all worth it. Don’t tell my boss. She thinks I do it because I love my job.

24 June
Chris Arends

Yesterday our new friend from Germany arrived. Susan and the boys picked her up at the airport for her three week visit.

Felicitas- from Freudenstad Germany is working to improve her english and get some American culture. I don’t know who will be more shocked her or the boys.

Things will be a bit different for Nick and Robert as they adjust to having an 18 year old girl in the house. That means closing the bathroom door and always having good manners.

Feli loves that we have ceiling fans and that you can get chilled water and ice out of the door of the refriderator.

Another relief to her was that we have another car that is smaller than the Expidition which probably looks like a bus to her.

We will enjoy the next few weeks sharing our lives with her and learning about her and where she is from.

Stay tuned as we share our adventure with Felicitas.

9 December
Chris Arends

Tonight my sons and I went and picked out our Christmas tree.  Despite that fact that they are 11 and 13 they didn’t mind that we walked down to the neighborhood nursery to pick out the tree. 

They happily looked through the selection of trees and easily decided on a tree.  After my evaluation of their choice we purchased the tree and as is our tradition proceeded to carry it home.   At this point they both eagerly grabbed an end of the tree and started for home.   I expected at some point one of them would get tired or just be annoyed that I wasn’t helping.  To my surprise they happily, almost joyfully carried it all the way home.  Now it is only about 5 blocks but it seems a  lot longer when you are carrying a 7 ft tall tree.  Yet they both could have gone on for miles.

After we got home they each helped in getting the tree up. Nick going into the attic to get the stand and ornaments and Robert setting up the tree stand.

Now I am sure to most of you that sounds great.  And to some extent it is to me as well.  Then I stood back and thought of the first time we did this, when they could barely stand the walk back and forth. Now here they are easily carrying the tree.  It is just one more reminder to me of how fast they are growing up and how I need to savor these moments.   In 5 or 6 years they may not be home for this part of Christmas, returning just in time to ask for the keys and gas money so they can see their friends.

This morning I was thinking how I wasn’t in the Christmas mood and how I needed to do something to help the boys slow down and remember the spirit of Christmas and here I am 12 hours later with thoughts of Christmas’ past, present and future going through my head.   Now all I need is for it to snow.

30 November
Chris Arends

Over the Thanksgiving holiday my parents came down from Minnesota. Growing up in Iowa we always had Anderson Erickson Dairy products. This time of year was especially anticipated as they make their Egg Nog.egg nog

I don’t know if this is really good egg nog or just that it brings back childhood memories of Christmas but it is held up as the best egg nog myself of my brothers have ever had.

Now my parents knowing that we all love this egg nog told me they were going to bring some down. I thought, great and forgot about it until they arrived with 5 quarts. Now you might say that was nice of them except that I am the only one in my house who likes egg nog and the expiration date is December 8th.

It 250 calories in a half cup serving that is an extra 10,000 calories.  I don’t want to do the math on how many hours of cycling I am going to have to do to burn that off. T And I am sure it will be of no benefit to my cholesterol numbers either.

So as I sit here with my third glass of the day, I say thanks Mom and Dad for the egg nog.

17 November
Chris Arends

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much in the last six months. Mainly because I have been working and trying to keep up with my kids activities.

One thing I have noticed is how much I miss writing this blog. The good news is that I get to write and blog for work. The bad side is that it is n’t the same as writing what you want to write about.

There is something about getting your feelingsand thoughts out that just is a great release for me. Maybe knowing that others are amused or appreciate what I have to say helps too.

Either way I am going to try and be more regular about posting here. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading

27 June
Chris Arends

Yes I know its been more than a month since I posted. It has been a bit crazy in both good and bad ways. More on this to come.

In the mean time More Than Half Full has been a blog for more than a year now. With more than 100 posts I hope those of you who have read it have enjoyed it. I have enjoyed writing it.

Look for a more consistency out of me. and maybe some changes in direction.

10 May
Chris Arends

We all get it and we all hate it but here is a great take on SPAM and seeing something positive.

21 April
Chris Arends

I am reading a book called Switch How to change things when change is hard. One thing it talks about is focusing on the bright spots or successes that you already have and replicating them.   This is a great More Than Half Full concept.

Focus on whats working

With out giving you all the examples in the book the point is that instead of trying to fix things that are broken, focus on what you can control and what has shown success.  This encourages prototyping and taking small risks to  see if it an idea can be replicated or expanded.  If it fails you lose a little and have learned something.  If it works you have the foundation to make a bigger change.  That change could be walking down the stairs in your office which will help you be healthier or it could be a new service for your customers.

The power of this is that it focuses on what is working and how to create more of that. Whether it is a business process or losing weight,  if you find and build on the little successes you can improve almost any situation.  Another point the authors make is that in some cases the most critical success is the one in our head.

Win little battles to win the war

Whether the challenge is global warming or getting your kids to eat their vegetables, big challenges never get solved over night or by using one silver bullet.  They are solved by a lot of little changes.  A great example would be CFL’s.  Everyone wants to use less energy.  Changing one bulb to a CFL was the intial goal.  As people got used to the funny shape and the higher up front cost, there are now more CFL’s on store shelves than incandescent bulbs. People started saving money and it just snow balled.  We can do the same thing with a lot of other problems. We just need to find the simple little things to make a big difference.

20 April
Chris Arends

Well it is that time again. Time to sign up for a new electricity plan. It used to be you could just go with the local provider and you were charged what the rate was.  Now you have to search through all the rate plans. Fixed vs variable, standard vs green, 3, 6 or 12 month term variable early termination fees and on and on.

Use Less – Pay more?

With my last plan it took me about one bill to realize that I had made a bad choice.  In my house I am religious about turning off lights, keeping the thermostat low/high depending on the year all to use less energy.  It is not just because I am trying to be thrifty it is because we as a country are using too much energy. Burning too much coal global warming and all that.   On my first bill I noticed that we used less than 1000Kwh of power.  Great we are using one third less power than the average household.  The bad new is my rate plan says that if I  use less than 1000kWh of power in a billing cycle I owe them $9.99 for not using enough power.  To me this is like paying to use an ATM instead of a live teller.  I lower the cost for the utility and they charge me more.

Use Less Save More

As someone who is on renewable energy plan this is completely counter intuitive.  The first rule in reducing our need for foreign energy, not having to build more power plants, wind farms or solar panels is to use less.  So why is it I pay more when I use less.  First by using green energy I won’t make the generating companies add more coal or gas power plants, reducing their over head.  If I use less energy that means they have to build fewer wind turbines, lowering their overhead.

Make more money

I understand this is all part of a marketing plan that wants a predictable revenue stream for the energy provider and that they are in the business of making money.  People who use more should bear more costs.  This means a higher rate per kWh not a lower one.  That will drive efficiency both for the providers and the consumers.  Look at the cell phone market. Buy a certain number of minutes  pay a set rate.  Go over and that the power company can double their rate and  make real money and penalize the people who use the most not those who use the least.  That makes the grid more predictable.  It would make people think about when and how they use power, upgrade to more efficient appliance and run the A/C a little less.

As for me its back to the comparing rates and see which one of these guys might have a clue about how to set up a rate plan.