Phew It's Done!

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“Just as a puppy can be more of a challenge than a gift, so too can the holidays”John Clayton

Come on…. I’m not the only one thankful this time of year that the holidays are over. Admit it. This time of year can bring an overabundance of too much cheer with holiday parties, socials, present shopping, suffering with some relatives, and feeling like you just can’t do enough. We find ourselves in a vortex of activity and anticipation. I liken the time after the holidays to the sensation of feeling exhausted and experiencing the joy of falling into a huge pillowed pile of soft white down blankets. “Ahhhhhhh”.

Although I am a gardenaholic and love spending time outdoors creating, digging, and fussing in my garden, there is a feeling of “phew” once the season is over and my garden slowly falls asleep. I’m sure that many of us are feeling that way right now.  The big event is over and we have time to relax and rebound before the next “season”.  There has been a hustle of activity and sense of urgency and we just can’t take the time to sit back and enjoy the season that we are in. It’s only afterwards that we exhale and realize what a ride it has been.

This time of year gives me a chance to relax without the worries of watering the garden, deadheading, throwing all my creativity into the ground, and I can reflect. I have the time to look at what I have done this past year in my garden and start to plan what next year will bring via UPS! The garden catalogs are starting to flow into my mailbox and I’m getting eager to start fresh and make changes the next season.

This is also the time for you to plan for the next season before you set some 2016 goals that you may or may not keep. Before you can plan for change you need to get the cobwebs out of your brain, relax your mind, and open up your thinking. Now is the time to reflect on what brought you joy last year and feel accomplished, may it be in your personal or professional life. Only then can you set goals or look forward. Get the cobwebs out of your head before you tackle new growth.

Sit down and say “Phew”

  • Admit that you are glad the hustle and bustle is done. Don’t feel guilty. Society has brainwashed us all into feeling guilty if we aren’t all happy, giddy, and fulfilled this time of year.
  • Purge both mentally and physically. It will make you feel better and like you are making progress. Even if it is symbolic you are one step closer to bringing in the new.
  • Focus on you. Spoil yourself in a fashion that you normally don’t (no red sports cars now...)
  • Try a new hobby for the month. It may open new ideas or doors next year.
  • Read. Yes, pick up a physical book and just read.
  • Disconnect at 6 pm every night from all your gadgets and social media. Try it even for 1 night. Then try going 2 nights. The world will not end without you. Facebook will be waiting for you.
  • Watch some trash TV – within reason. Now, if this has been a habit of yours all year do the opposite – turn it off or discover new genres in shows.
  • Take a sick day. Yep. Call in sick on a day that you will be the only one home. Enjoy the day without guilt and love it!

Once you decompress and let go, you can look forward to the New Year and plan your growth. That’s what I do every year both in my personal and professional life. It’s not easy for me to sit back and relax; in fact it’s a struggle but I need to do it. It really helps to clear out the old to focus on the new. Try it!

A Letter From Santa

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“Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy” – Edwin Osgood Grover

Happy holidays my friend,

Christmas is just days away and I hope that you have joy in your heart, you remember what Christmas is really all about, and that you are ready to share yourself with others this season. My hope is that a part of you still remembers the magic of this season and that you carry it with you until the next time we meet. I ask that you let your inner child come out this week and that you allow your eyes to sparkle, your actions empower others, and you give the best present of all – yourself.

It’s not always easy being Santa Claus. My spirit lives to give others hope and to help spread cheer and love. I glow from the love of children, yet my heart hurts when they stop believing. I represent a special magic to some, yet I am commercialized by too many. All I ever really wanted is what I want from you this season – give of yourself. Giving means different things to many people. It can be time, money, sharing your unique gifts, charity, empowerment, or love. Giving is meant to be personalized and unique.

I am more than just a symbol or character this season. I ache to bring meaning to others and to lift them up. I can’t do it alone and I need your help this coming year. Preparing for the holidays is a year long process in my business. Unfortunately, my team needs assistance with carrying the spirit of the holiday all year. We need you. I ask that in my absence, you be a leader for the season all year. Impact those around you and be “Santa” after next week….

At this point you may be wondering what I’ve been drinking in my milk or mixing in with my cookies. My friend let me demonstrate what I mean by sharing my own holiday leadership advice. Then I ask that you be Santa in my absence.

·         Keep a twinkle in your eye. Remain genuine and show an interest in others. Let your eyes show them that they are the most important person in the room when you are engaging.
·         Be jolly. Laugh and have fun. Make fun wherever you go and encourage others to join in. Laughter builds relationships and relieves stress.
·         Look out for the little people. My elves are my business. They are the foundation of my success and both the drivers and glue in our teams. Treat everyone equally and remember that your most important people aren’t your management team – it’s the people behind them!
·         Create magic when you enter a room. There are some people in the world that walk into a room and make everyone feel special and worthy. They remember names and families. They know the work and contributions of their people. Be that person. Bring magic into every interaction that you have.
·         Christmas is my favorite day of the year AND every day is Christmas for me. Bring this spirit with you every day. Bring joy to your work and if you don’t find that every day is Christmas – find your purpose elsewhere.
·         Decorate for the season. “Decorate” your people with praise, kindness, and thanks every day. Catch them doing things right and spread the word.
·         Believe. Genuinely believe in others and they will astound you with their efforts. We all ache to perform and make a difference. Give people the chance.
·         Hope. Hope is one of my favorite gifts during the holidays. When times are tough or things look bleak, give hope. Be a leader that inspires people and instills hope. Show them what can be and how important that they are to change.
·         Be yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I was ridiculed by others because of my bright red suit and snow white beard. Guess what? It’s who I am and what I represent. I don’t care what others think of me or that I’m being judged. I’m comfortable with myself and know there is so much more below the surface. Be confident in yourself. Be authentic and real. Know that you are special and it’s the inside that counts.

My friend, I could go on and on about how you can be “Santa” all year long. I’m not saying that I’m perfect or haven’t made mistakes. I have had centuries of experience, failings, and made unpopular life choices. I have learned what works my friend and encourage you to look deep inside yourself, learn from failure, and keep the spirit going next year.

May the joy of the holiday season inspire you to be the joy in the life of others. My hope is that kindness, love, and an interest in those around you encourages you to empower and bring gifts to those that you serve.

Joy and happiness,


Volunteers Are The Real Lights This Holiday Season

"A candle loses nothing by lighting another Candle" - James Keller

Just in the past 2 weeks I have seen holiday lights pop up everywhere in every shape, size, and color! As I drive around neighborhoods I'm amazed, and puzzled, how some of the lights ended up where they now hang sparkling away. I love Christmas lights and I wish that most of them would stay up year round. There's nothing like a twinkle in the trees and a warm summer breeze to help me relax and enjoy the night colors of a garden. The glow of  lights always brings a glean to our eyes and wonderment at all the kaleidoscope  of colors. The best part about lights this time of year is the reaction that they bring out in people and the delight in young  happy faces.

There is an endless array of lights to choose from. I remember when I was little we were stuck with the big, colored, hot lights that looked fake and BIG! Now we have LED, color changing, icicle, net, solar, specialty, globe, Princess, Sponge Bob, Mickey Mouse, - the list is endless! What I enjoy is how lights just seem to give and give while twinkling  their hearts out.

What are YOU doing this year to bring out the light in people?

To me, the true bright lights of the season are all the wonderful unsung heroes that volunteer year round to help others. These giving souls kick it into high gear during the holidays and have a passion for making a difference. These "lights" don't ask for recognition or a standing ovation. Volunteers love to bring out the light in others and leave a lasting glow. I have a close friend that runs around this time of year delivering for the Santa Claus girls. She's exhausted but glows after a long day. At my company we had an Angle Tree for those who have so little. The generosity of complete strangers was astounding. The giving bestowed a glow that lasts throughout the holidays. I've seen it so many times - people doing for people.

As I get older I am less enchanted with the holiday season itself, the presents, the relatives, and the Christmas splashed all over for weeks and weeks. What warms me is seeing others give so much of themselves expecting nothing in return. No applause, no spotlight, no newsflashes. Just humans being, well, human. I eat up stories about people doing for other people. Being a light in the dark. Bringing hope and letting others know someone is thinking of them. Why can't the lights shine bright all year?

If volunteers are the lights, then our various charity organizations are colorful bright beacons. These organizations run on passion and their volunteers are their electricity. If you have ever worked with groups of volunteers you know that it's important to keep those 'lights" burning so that your volunteers have the time, energy, and drive to carry the light out to those that need it. Leading volunteers is a gift and you need to keep them glowing and growing in order to help others.
How do you keep the light burning when leading volunteers?
  • Select the right people. Find those that share your vision and understand your mission so they stay on board for the long term.
  • Consistently share your organization's mission and goals. Update your volunteers on your progress.
  • Show your passion, frustrations, hopes, and disappointments. Be human. Be a leader.
  • Help your volunteers connect with each other and feel a part of the group.
  • Help your people to learn and grow with your organization. Keep them informed.
  • Enable your people to  shine all year. Let them know every day how critical they are to your success.
  • Play and have fun. Set up times to socialize with other volunteers to share stories,  struggles, and triumphs.
  • Constantly coach and mentor people. You will lose volunteers if you fail to mentor them and don't consistently connect.
  • Provide professional training and support.
  • Let your people lead. Have them set the direction and become leaders of new volunteers.
  • Say thank you every day.
  • Know how people want to be thanked. Some volunteers cringe at public recognition. Some eat it up!
  • Celebrate wins as a team. Cry on each others shoulders when there's pain.
  • Be approachable and "one" of them. If you are a director remember that titles are just that - letters.
  • Remind yourself that YOU are the electrical current that can keep those volunteers glowing. Keep the lights on!

"A volunteer is like a rare gem. When placed in the right setting and cared for, they will shine and give pleasure to all who see them" - Unknown

Leading volunteers is a gift and such an honor. They are the energy in any organization. I know from experience how easily volunteers slip away and how challenging it is to keep their fire lit. Take care of your people. Help them grow as individuals and in your organization. Challenge them. Thank them every day. Make them feel needed. Empower them to bring your message out into the community. Be the electricity to keep their light glowing.

To all who volunteer all year long.. THANK YOU!

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