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Tardy gifts miff this couple

December 24, 2009

Dear Amy: Every year my family exchanges our gift lists, and every year I shop, wrap and ship our gifts in time for Christmas.

However, one family member, who always is the first to ask what we would like for Christmas, continuously sends gifts days, weeks and at times months after Christmas.

As much as we really enjoy and appreciate the gifts, it is becoming somewhat insulting to receive them so late.

We have a very small family, and it is only my husband and I who receive the gifts late. This family member absolutely refuses our request to not send gifts, so we have tried to make it easy by suggesting donations to favorite charities, gift cards or even a Christmas Day phone call in lieu of gifts, but all suggestions are ignored.

And knowing that this family member finishes shopping before Christmas, I even have sent a prepaid shipping label, suggesting it would be easy to send the gifts in a timely manner.

Frustratingly, the gifts are never sent until after the holidays.

How can I politely say please do not send our Christmas gifts in February?

Merry Valentines?

Dear Merry: You have tried to control or modify this person's behavior, and nothing has worked.

So the next thing you should try is . . . nothing.

It's time to see what would happen if you just went about your merry Christmas business and let the presents or phone calls fall where they may. If and when you get a gift, you can react. Until then, just assume you've fallen off this family member's list and be relieved of the burden of trying to get this person to behave appropriately during the holidays.


Dear Amy: I work in real estate (in a salaried position) and would like to become an agent; however, I am having mixed thoughts because if I became an agent I would no longer have a salary.

I want the flexibility to adjust my schedule when I want to do it, and I want the ability to make more money that I know I can make -- in addition, while I know there are challenges in the economy, I am also confident that if faced with having to get another job, given my skills, abilities and work ethic that I would find one.


Dear Dilemma: You're kidding, right? You're one of those fraternity pranksters all the other advice columnists warned me about?

This is not the time to leave a salaried job on purpose. You work in a volatile business during a dicey time of tumbling sales and market "corrections."

This is the time to hunker down, get as much training and certification as you need to become an agent (while still drawing a salary).

You should persuade another professional to mentor you -- and make your move when you either have a year's worth of living expenses in the bank or some solid sales leads.


Dear Amy: I think there could be more nuance to your answer to "Somewhere in Suburbia," regarding posting video of children on YouTube.

I think parents should be tolerant when other parents post photos and videos to social networking sites. But I'd raise a holy ruckus if the parent is making any sort of ID such as naming the kids.

As parents, we might have lost control of our kids' images on the Internet, but we can't allow our child to be identified by attaching a name to the image on an open site.

Perhaps some parents will be comfortable allowing this on a closed-access site such as Facebook. I suppose that would be tolerable.

I think you booted the chance to advise parents on drawing the line in this growing problem.

Images and video? Tolerable. Full identification of child's name with image? Raise a holy ruckus!


Dear Kevin: Your advice is excellent, though it's hard to prevent others who view the video from "tagging" them.


Dear Amy: We read in the newspapers about how worried the financial analysts on Wall Street are about whether our shopping will lift the fourth-quarter earnings for the year.

Isn't that a sign that we've lost the true meaning of Christmas?

We are in a recession, and many families are in crisis. Parents all over the country are probably preparing the talks they are going to have with their children about scaled-back expectations this year.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized some sort of media-fueled "keeping up with the Joneses" insanity takes over our country at this time of year.

My husband and I were talking about this and realized that it's ridiculous! Aren't most children already spoiled by excess? Shouldn't we all just step back and reevaluate?

Why not throw a cookie-baking party while watching "It's a Wonderful Life" or playing holiday songs? What if we don't buy gifts for everyone we know? What if, instead of buying new decorations, we just use what we already have?

Why don't we just go back to basics and celebrate the true reason for the season?

The Sensible Elf

Dear Elf: It's exciting that you and your husband have discovered the true meaning of Christmas, but I would argue that there are plenty of people who never lost it. Despite your assumption that most children are spoiled by excess, according to a census report more than 13 million children live in poverty (and these numbers were collected before the current recession).

Send questions to Amy Dickinson by e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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