Sunday, December 21, 2014

Work, Work, Work

I just did a podcast with a friend where he argued that the whole Christmas thing was a bunch of hooey. In the end, I think I managed to convince him that December was a season where people of all faiths get a chance to practice being better people and focus on the things that help us do that: charity, generosity, happiness, ... That if you can see past the commercialism, really, it's just a time to enjoy each others company and brighten up a world that can be all too grim.

Many people I know are taking the next two weeks off work to spend time with their families or concentrate on recharging the batteries. I am not one of them. While I enjoy the time off, I only have a finite number of vacation days for the year and I'd prefer to use them when the weather is warm and the golf courses are open.

He marks his scorecard and checks it twice.

A lot of creative folks I know (writers, photographers, painters, and poets) use this time to feed of the joy around them and get shit done. Many of the writers I know use the momentum from November and carry right through to the New Year, letting the ideas flow to the page as swiftly as the breeze that blows off Frosty's hat. I am not one of those either. I'll be working the day job Monday and Tuesday of this week and next. Chained to the desk, as it were, like some modern day project manager version of the ghost of Christmas past.

Jacob Marley has deadlines too.

I can't complain though. I like my job and my boss and I can take time off when I need it, I just choose to take it off at times when we get more than a handful of hours of sunlight in a day, that's all. The real heroes of the season are all the countless individuals who keep the lights on while everyone else takes time off to celebrate.

Every year there are thousands upon thousands of people working their butts off over the holidays to make sure that everyone else can stay safe, stay warm, stay healthy, stay fed. They're the ones who probably need the time off more than anyone else, yet they're the ones that are out there picking up our slack while we sit on the couch, put our feet up, and complain about how hectic the season has become.

So here's a toast to everyone from the minimum wager pouring your latte to the fire chief worrying about whether or not everyone's Christmas lights are up to code. If you've got time off take a minute to thank these folks, and if you are one of these folks let me take a minute to thank you.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

~ Andrew.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Best Kind of Gifts

There are a lot of posts and articles out there about getting the perfect gift, for a writer, for your significant other, for the person who has everything... Well it is the season for giving, and there's no shortage of options.

(Click here if you want to skip all the reading and go straight to the point of this post. Hint: it's something that will make you feel good inside)

I personally love this time of year because it's just so darned festive. I'd prefer if the festivities didn't start until December 1 and promptly ended on January 1 because I just find it to be a little too much. I'm only good for one month of overjoyedness, music, and excess by just about every conceivable measure. That being said, you can play me this clip of Clark Griswold every day of the year and I will love it just the same:



Oh, and for that matter, this one too:



It's all fine and dandy to give gifts to those you love, because why not? You love them and you enjoy seeing them happy and possibly receive something they really needed or would have not otherwise bought themselves. WestJet took this concept to great heights last year when they asked a bunch of people getting on a couple of their planes and asked them what they wanted for Christmas. By the time they landed all the stuff they asked for came out of the baggage claim. Here's the video in all it's awesomeness:



This year WestJet took this to a whole other level, and this gets straight to the point of my post this week. This year, WestJet went to a village in the Dominican Republic and asked them what they wanted for Christmas - and then gave everyone what they asked for, even the guy who asked for a horse - AND they build the kids a proper playground too:



And here we arrive at the point of this post. While this is the season for giving, and a lot of giving happens, there are people in need throughout the whole year, many involving people with special needs, as well as a good number of children. Too many children. So, I've decided to encourage people to help out in a couple of ways. It doesn't have to be a lot. Five bucks here or there can make a big difference, it really can.

The first is called "Blessings in a Backpack". This is an organization that sends kids home for the weekend with a backpack of food. These are kids who take advantage of the meal programs in schools during the week but go home with a cloud of uncertainty about how they will get their meals on the weekend. This campaign is being run by an old high school acquaintence of mine, Harv Glazer, and his family. Their goal is to feed 100 kids on the weekend for an entire school year.

You can read about the campaign and donate here.

The second involves a friend of a friend in Rhode Island. An autistic man, who is the son of my friend's friend, was struck by a car while at a crosswalk recently. He will survive but his recovery will be a long, arduous one. Due to the nature of his autism it is difficult to say how "old" he is, but understanding that we are all kids at heart it's not surprising to hear that he's a huge fan of Marvel Comics. I'm heading down to the comic book store and mailing him some ASAP so he can have a nice big stack of reading material to take his mind off the pain and the struggles he is going to face in the upcoming months. If you want to send some Marvel-ous (sorry, had to be done) comics or swag down his way you can get in touch with my friend Alex Kimmell on Twitter and he'll get you the info.

Finally, whatever you're celebrating and however you're celebrating it, I wish you all the best.

Namaste,
Andrew

Sunday, December 7, 2014

'Tis The Season

If there's one thing I love about this time of year it's the sweaters. Yup, sweaters. My personal favourite is argyle, so much so that it was even incorporated into name of the coffee shop trio I was a part of a couple years ago: Argyle Speedo



Now that I think about it, I think it might be a bit of an obsession. I mean, I've got several pairs of argyle socks and at least five or six argyle sweaters. Hell, at work all the aisles of cubicles are named and I recently moved into aisle 'A' a.k.a. "Argh! Aisle".


I almost bought another argyle sweater today at Old Navy (30% off!) but heard my wife's voice echoing in my head from yesterday. Something about possibly wearing sweaters that aren't argyle pattern. I can't be certain because all I heard was "argyle" and I drifted off into a colourful diamond dreamland.

Even better than argyle though, is the quintessential holiday garment: the ugly sweater. These have become such a hit that people are throwing ugly sweater parties where each attendee has to wear the ugliest sweater they can find. In the little village where we live (Hespeler, within the city of Cambridge, Ontario) there was an ugly sweater float. Even the NHL has a line of ugly sweaters you can purchase directly from their web site (I have an Ottawa Senators one that's positively horrible looking).

http://shop.nhl.com/Ugly_Sweaters 

I did a bit of research on the topic (one Google search) and naturally ended up at http://www.uglychristmassweater.com/ where they claim that none other than Bill Cosby is considered to be the "father" of the ugly sweater. While hard to argue with such a spectacular array of terrifically gauche knit attire, I'd like to think that good ole Sparky Griswold, a character made famous by Chevy Chase in the holiday classic movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation", played a larger role from a pop culture perspective.



Whatever your fashion style choices are for the season, try to have fun with it. Me? I'll be stocking up on argyle and ugly sweaters and getting out my stretchy pants for the big Christmas dinner at my sister's place and the in-laws on the 27th. I'll be wearing this:


Tweet me a picture of your best ugly sweater: "Hey @andrewbutters here is my best #uglysweater"

~ Andrew