About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The awesome gifts you would like. Please?

So I was requested to put up an article about what sorts of gifts I would like. This being the holiday season, this is the sort of question that's on people's minds, mine included, and I have to admit that it pisses me off more than a little.

I understand the question; really, I do. And I also know that it comes from the heart. I myself ask it from the heart, but the underlying attitude that it poses from many folks (kids especially, though you can't blame them readily: they just don't understand and it'd be wrong of me to expect them too as they've never known anything else) is just...well, it pisses me off.

The commercialism that Christmas has come to sickens me this year more than it has ever before. Perhaps it's just that times are tight all over the country, perhaps it's that times are very tight in my personal household this particular year due to a car accident that's had my beautiful wife out of work for months with no end in sight. Perhaps I'm feeling old and curmudgeonly.

To paraphrase Jim Carrey's Grinch: "That's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what it's always been *about*. Gifts, gifts... gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts. And the avarice...the avarice never ends! "I want golf clubs. I want diamonds. I want a pony so I can ride it twice, get bored and sell it to make glue."

For several years now I've longed for time to be able spend *making* gifts for people. I'd have to "skill up" a little, and I think that I'd buy myself a mini lathe to help the process out, but to spend time in my wood shop (which is actually a very, very poor excuse for a wood shop) to make for folks special pen & pencil sets out of wood that I found in what I like to call "my forest". Or small highly polished cedar boxes and chests. Creative clocks, for instance. All sorts of things, and I'd like to think that I'd derive great pleasure and relaxation in the making too. Everybody wins. I'm hoping that my future holds such echoes for me.

I felt a little bad that when the girl (my favorite (only) daughter) sidled up to me last week and asked whether I'd like a gift card from a certain store, or perhaps from this other place, I told her to save her money. I'm very proud of her, as she is thinking of spending her hard-earned money on mom and dad for Christmas, but I need to also let her know that she can do better, and get better bang for her buck.

That conversation expanded some days later, as she was still having trouble with gifting me. We talked about what *I* think the season is supposed to be about as opposed to what *I* think it has become.

'Tis better to give than to receive. Problem: Too many people would rather receive, and for those kind-hearted souls that want to give, there's a subtle insinuation that the giving MUST be done, and it must be done in a non-cheap fashion. 'I have to give *this* much, as that is what they are likely to give to me'. Or the notion that you can't give a not-too-expensive gift for fear of being viewed as a cheap-skate.

Isn't it supposed to be about letting people know we care? About letting people know that we appreciate the positive messages that whisper in my ear when I think on you? Does a new cordless drill say that? Does a sweater? How about an X-Box? And in any event, if I find that there's something that I really want, or that I actually need, I'll go and buy it, so long as I can justify it. And if I can't justify it, you can't afford it. :)

I told her that the very best thing that I could get is Peace and Quiet. That, of course, is not likely to show up, as there are so many of us in the house, and so many of those of us who are there are not quite mature and  are as yet prone to squabbling. So, where do we go? Make me a cake: one of those cinnamon streusel cakes, and put some apples in it. Those are a life-long favorite indulgences of mine, and the effort would be appreciated.

The better idea, for her tastes, was to suggest that she write a poem for me and get it framed. That'd be nice.

Is it just me, or have we lost our way a little?


  1. Generation by generation we have wandered a little further off the track....somewhere in my posts I have one that recalls a long ago ancestor of mine who perished in the cold two days before Christmas and the Christmas celebrations in our family over the past three generations.... it's under the Christmas label entitled Then and Now. I think I will go back and read it and remind myself what is really important.

  2. My problem with Christmas in addition to all that is it's a pain in the ass... I spend more time throughout the season saying "This is a pain in the ass" at different points, than I do saying "this is nice."

    Everything about it just whispers "Your next 2 months will be mostly a pain in the ass" to me... Christmas music, decorations, etc... And that makes me bitter throughout the whole ordeal. People spreading "cheer" make me wanna poke them in the eye. The crowds at the stores, they people dingling bells everywhere you go also looking for money...

    Just a pain in the ass.

  3. I agree. Christmas makes me want to vomit anymore. Which is sad, because when I was younger (not that long ago) this time of year actually meant something to me (even though I'm not religious). If only I was crafty, I'd be glad to make something cool for friends and family. Maybe I could write a nice poem about my eventual evolution into Scrooge?

  4. It's sad that we've lost what the whole season is about. It's all stress these days. Affording what kids want is the worst. Why is anything made for the younger gen hundreds of dollars? My family is all older than that now and I've only got a coupkle of very smalls to get for, but I dread their growing and what they'll be told they should get for Christmas.

  5. Thank you. Excellent reminders here. My father was notoriously difficult to buy for and one of the most successful presents I ever gave him was an ode to eyebrows (his were VERY large) I copied in my best handwriting.

  6. Well, it sounds like Matt has the Christmas spirit.

    Hey, Christmas is what it is and it is up to each individual as what to do about it. You cannot change the world, just yourself. If you want a smaller, less commercial, less stressfull holiday, make it that way in your house.

    I, on the other hand have just put up the damn frigging tree and I am feeling very fa-la-la-la la about the whole thing. A nice size glass of wine helps.

  7. I think that we're all right here: it is a pain in the ass, the way it's run these days. It's also run in a way that it oughtn't be. I'm thinking that it'd be less of a pain if we ran it the way it was supposed to be run. I'll get there one of these days.

    Usually, my fine Mrs. Makes it all a whole loe less of a pain for me, but I've got pretty much everything that I need.

    My best tradition: vacation between Christmas and New Year's...looking forward to that!

    Be well all!

  8. To be honest, Christmas for me is roast turkey, sprouts, and Christmas pud'. Lady Magnon has already given me her list of 'wants' (thankfully not too excessive), I buy chocolate santas for certain friends.... and that's it. Leave me alone!

  9. Amen brother. We have requested, nay, instructed our friends and family that because of their generosity at our recent nuptials, we would like no gifts for the holidays. Yet I expect, at the very least, to receive a new fly fishing setup and a Kindle Fire. Far be it from me to be ungrateful (I really DO want a Kindle) but there's actually a point where generosity starts to diminish in returns, and it places a pall of guilt on the party that can't reciprocate.

    Myself, I'm a big fan of baking holiday treats for people. Inexpensive, personal (but not too personal) and fun to make.