Posted in Opinions and Thoughts, Travel, Writing

‘Tis the Season

As I was running recently, I was thinking about how much I love this time of year. The crispness of the air, the smoky smell wafting from chimneys, the scent of evergreens inside offices and homes, the cookies, the parties, the decorations, the singing, the impression that everyone seems to be kinder – all of these are reasons I enjoy the holiday season. One thing that I really enjoy about this time of year are the Christmas cards.

Most of my friends have never been big letter writers. In the past, I was usually the one who would send regular letters. I always hoped for a response but never expected one. One time, I followed up with a phone call because I hadn’t received a letter from a friend who always responded and that was how I found out that he had died. His mom had been saving all of my letters for months – unopened – because she wasn’t sure how to break the news to me.

These past few years as life has become busier, my letters have devolved into postcards that I send when I’m traveling. It’s easy to jot a few lines on a postcard and pop it in the mail, right? Not always! Some trips, I’ve spent hours looking for postcards and post offices. When I went to Bali, I didn’t find postcards until my last day on the island so most friends didn’t even know I was in Bali until they saw pictures on Facebook. But I enjoy looking for postcards and finding just the right ones for certain friends.

I always hope for a return letter or postcard but I don’t expect one. But every Christmas, I look forward to amassing a stack of Christmas cards. Even if the card only has a signature and no personal note, it brings that friend to mind and I like that. The joy that I get when I receive real mail (as opposed to junk mail, bills, or bank statements!) has not diminished over the years.

Those Christmas newsletters that people rant about? I love them! In a couple of pages I can get updated on the happenings of my friends’ and their families’ lives. And I can do it on my own time, curled up in front of a roaring fire with a cup of cocoa at hand.

This year, I’ve gotten a couple of e-cards. And let me tell you, they don’t warm the cockles of my heart the same way a card in the mail does. They seem impersonal and thoughtless to me, more for the sender’s convenience than for the recipient’s pleasure.

But isn’t that what this season is all about? Thinking about others and doing kind things for them? So if you’re thinking of me this season, send me a real Christmas card via snail mail. I will appreciate it more than you know.

And the thought processor churns on . . .

Posted in Opinions and Thoughts

When You’re With Friends

I just spent a week in Dallas, Texas on business. Whenever I leave the office, people think I’m off having fun. They don’t realize that when you’re at a conference or a retreat, which this essentially was, it’s not like being in the office. When you’re in the office, you go in at 8 (or 7:15 in my case) and you leave at 5 (or much later in my case). You get to leave the office at the end of the day and leave your office persona behind.

When you’re at an off-site, there is no end of the day. Often you’re having breakfast with colleagues before you head into sessions. Then, lunch is a group event and whether it is a formal working session or not, work is often discussed. Then you head back into sessions. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an hour or two before the group dinner where, once again, work will be discussed whether in passing or intensely as a follow-up to the day’s meetings. After the group dinner, people will either congregate at the bar or in a hospitality suite. While this is optional, a lot of good discussions and ideas pop up during the informal networking that takes place with a round of drinks in hand.

At a conference or an off-site, you wear your office persona the majority of the time. And that’s exhausting.

But, if you’re with a group that you enjoy being with, it’s exhilarating and energizing. Even though the days are long, the time flies by because you’re with people who like you despite your personality quirks, who respect your opinions even if they’re not expressed as diplomatically as they could be, who want to hear your point of view even thought they know it’s different from theirs. When you’re with colleagues who are friends, work doesn’t seem like work and the impossible seems possible.

I wish things were like this at my office. But life is a series of choices, right? Even if I can’t be energized by the people in my office, I can choose to be energized by my projects. I can choose to be motivated by knowing my work has an impact. I can choose to look for bright spots in my day wherever I can find them. And in the meantime, I look anticipate my off-site meetings and conferences and I cherish the time I have with those colleagues.

The thought processor churns on!