I haven’t done a mailbag post in a long time but there was over 50 e-mails from people about Mark being bullied and just over 93% and all of the comments were supportive of Mark and how Wendy and I handled it.

Most of you sent in your own stories of being bullied or stories of others being bullied and how horrible it was.  Some of you told me to pass on your stories to Mark if we wanted to and we forwarded them along to Mark’s e-mail account.

A bunch of you wanted to know how Mark being in karate influenced his decision and if it has been a good experience for him. Unlike the evil dojo in Karate Kid or the guy in Napolean Dynamite, Mark’s karate instructor does a good job of always emphasizing to the kids the importance of walking (or running) away from violence.  They are to defend themselves only as a last resort and even then it is to defend themselves so they can get away.

Mark takes that pretty seriously.  Instead of making violence worse, my gut feeling is that the more kids that take part in something like this, the less bullying there would be.  Of course the bigger issue is what is going on at home.

There has been some feedback on what is happening with the contextless links.  There has been some plugins to make look prettier and I will use them as soon as I find some time.  I realized that they are being double posted in my RSS feed (thanks for letting me know) and that is stopping as well.   A better reading experience is coming soon.

Of course my other option is to keep all of the links in the sidebar and keep the main column just for new content.  In other words look for some different versions of content coming your way soon.

I was asked how Wendy and I came to the $100 budget that we set for ourselves each Christmas.  It’s easy, we chose a number and we stick to it.  We buy for Mark, Oliver, Lee, and as you can see by the photos, for the Reimers and our friend Kristi.  We also give out some other gifts or cards to friends but that isn’t a significant outlay in cash.

The $100 for Wendy this year is broken down into $40 for a gift from me, $20 each from Mark and Oliver, and $20 from the dog.  (gift giving from the dog is a family tradition)  We can go over the $100 but not unless we both agree on it and there is cash to spend.  Our budget for Lee is similar although he tends to give big gifts back to us.

The rule of thumb in the house is that all Christmas shopping has to be done by November 30th for everyone else other than Wendy and I.   It stops the impulse buying.  Last night we ran into Wal-Mart looking for some gloves (I hate losing gloves when it is -30 out) and I saw a dozen things that Mark would have liked.  I love giving gifts but there is a time when you have to say no and for us, it is November 30th.

A lot of IM’s about what we do at the Centre for Christmas.  First of all it is busy on Christmas as we find that guys who are couch surfing are often kicked out at the holidays.  Christmas shopping is done in the fall and we use a company called Bargain’s Group and we buy bulk from them.  They work with a lot of Salvation Army shelters and other agencies similar to us so their sales people are quite helpful.  Basically the process is that I start looking online for gifts, I show them around to the staff and get input and we do that until most of us go, “Cool!” and then we order that one.  Bargain’s Group staff calls me back and gives me some ideas of stuff that they know are coming in that are similar.  It takes a bit of time but I have to admit, it is a nice part of the job.

On Christmas Eve we have an early supper and some platters are brought in for the guys later that night.  On Christmas morning there is just food being prepared all day.  There is good coffee made fresh in the kitchen and lounges and we will have a variety of other drinks and sodas available.   We have two television sets going.  One will have Christmas movies and family comedies while the other television will have some actions movies.  Right now we are thinking of showing the Bourne Trilogy and the Die Hard series but that will have to be decided.  We also have had a broken bubble top hockey game donated which we fixed (thanks Costco!) and someone dropped off a broken fooseball table which is being fixed as well.  I am also ordering a soft tipped dart board for the dining room.  If we can figure out some prizes, we will have an inaugural Christmas Day dark tournament.

Around 10:00 a.m. the guys get their gifts.  From then on they can sleep, watch television or eat so much we have to roll them out of the dining hall.