Company Christmas Cheer

I love Christmas – it’s one of my favorite holidays! Growing up Mom put up Christmas trees in every room of the house. Dad decorated the outside with gobs of lights. We’d always drive around random subdivisions and look at everyone else’s lights. Christmas Eve was always a big celebration with extended family and it was a yearly tradition. We also did a family gift exchange the night before and got to open up one gift. The next morning the kids would wake up super early and beg Mom and Dad to start opening gifts. The tradition was to read the Christmas Story first and than each of us would open one gift and go around the room. You can imagine how long that took us with nine kids.

Part of Christmas, too, was the traditional Christmas recital and Company Christmas Party. It was exciting as a kid participating in my parent’s big company event. I looked forward to it and was excited to “hang” with the big kids! So, it was no surprise I wanted to do something special for this year’s party.

I planned our company Christmas party and had a blast putting it all together. I talked to Boss lady and asked if we could do it off-site and get all dressed up. Mom looked at me funny and replied, “Suuuurre???” I love planning events and surprising people. So, I got right on it and called various places. I booked the venue and got into the nitty-gritty details. I personally hand-made all of the invitations, table place cards, and other random things for the party. I like the artsy-fartsy kind of things. I’ve made multiple scrapbooks, many shadow boxes for my races as well as for friends, collages, and so forth. It is fun using the imagination and being creative; I enjoy it. It brings out a different side of me!!

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Part of the planning was a lot of fun. Parts of it were overwhelming and stressful. This was the first event planning I was given free range and completely on my own. Eek!!! I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I wanted everything to be just right. I wanted to have the party we had growing up and walk down memory lane. I wanted everyone to come and bring their plus one. Part of the planning was how to incorporate the employees spouses and make them feel part of the company. Part of Mom’s welcome speech was asking the spouses to stand up. We recognized them with applause and they each received a gift. She also stated that without spouses her company wouldn’t be successful. Spouses can make or break the employees days.

In the invitations I made sure everyone knew to bring a white elephant gift and to make it creative and funny. Boy, were some of them hilarious. Who would have thought to take a life cereal box, open it up and put lemons in there, add a $15 Starbucks gift card, and attach a lemonade pouch to the front. Ha!! Someone brought the largest Dunkin Donuts Coffee bag and that was a hit. Who could turn that down?! I may have brought a bag of chips, a live Betta fish and small tank, and included a adult beverage ornament. Fish and Chips.

Another memory was at every Christmas party, the expectation was for all of us kids to put our musical talents and lessons to good use. We each performed a song or two and scampered out of the room for our own party upstairs. My nieces play violin and piano and you better believe I incorporated them into the event! I’ve practiced with them, sang the songs a few times, and even got suckered into bribing my 3-year-old niece into singing well in order to get an extra Christmas present.

I incorporated something new this year. I wanted to tie in all the jokes and humors of the year of each individual employee and get them a funny, gag gift – we came up with some awesome gifts! One coworker’s desk is always a mess, so I got him the Bermuda Triangle Award…I made a certificate for the office where everything goes in, but nothing comes out. Made a sign of his most commonly said things and got him an actual triangle. He thought it was hilarious! Phew! Our production guys is always so willing to help out, is always flexible and known for saying, “sure, whatever.” The “whatever” clock suited him. Liz is always running around in all departments and never says “no”. The “Yes” button had her name on it. It said yes in funny voices and many different ways. At one company meeting, one lady was recognized for going above and beyond. The joke stuck that she was the gold star employee. I decorated her bin shortly after the meeting and we tease her all the time! We stepped it up and got her the “employee of the year” parking space sign. She loved it! Now she can have a designated parking spot for life! One installer is always harassing me about why there aren’t pens around the office. He hides a pen so anytime he’s in the office, he goes right to that spot and gets it. What did he get? Giant pens that you cannot miss or walk away with. I even offered to tape a fake flower to the top.  The General Manager is always digging into the details of things and questioning (in a good way). Typical of someone of that job responsibility, right? We got him an Albert Einstein mug with a funny quote.  Another gentleman is always between departments, making things happen, out on installations, doing measures, adding his funny sarcastic humor to everything…kind of like a Tazmanian Devil, in a good way. He was gifted with this sweet Taz shirt!

It was really easy picking out some of the gifts, and difficult for others. When it came to my mom, the owner, it was hard coming up with the perfect gag gift. Sure, I could have gotten her a grenade with the “complaint department” sign attached. Take the next number and you pull the pin out of the fake grenade. But, I didn’t think those were appropriate. I wanted her gift to be different than the rest. I set out to make the perfect gift. It took time, effort and great detail, all of which goes into building a business. I wanted to honor her and all of her hard work and everything she does. She’s had one heck of a rollercoaster year, and yet she still remained consistent. However, consistent isn’t the word chosen for her. The word that I kept coming back to was patient.

Running a business isn’t easy by any means. Growing up in the family business has had its ups and downs. I saw my parent’s get burned big time, and yet they still held their heads high. Customer’s refused to pay; they’d try to get their money, but realized it was easier to let it go. I watched my parent’s cry over the small and big things. I watched Mom cry saying goodbye to employees. I watched Mom agonize over decisions. Growing up, there were numerous nights my mom would put us to bed and go to the office to finish up things. She was quiet about it and never told us…until way after the fact. There have been numerous nights she went without sleep because of having to finish up projects, making a stressful business decision the next day, or contemplating what was the next step. There have been countless hours she and I would sit at the table and talk business and she would share her heart with me. Growing a business, as well as a family, was tough at times, but my parent’s never gave up and continued pursuing their dreams. They put their fears aside. They didn’t know where the business would go, but they had a vision, passion and drive, and continued their journey. 33 years later, 9 kids, 3 grandkids (and another on the way!), 4 grand-doggies, 2 imports (daughter and son-in-laws)…

According to the dictionary, patient means “able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” This word was Mom’s word. When I Googled patience some more, the symbolism tied to the word was a seahorse.

A seahorse? Yes, my thoughts exactly!

I started reading all the symbolic meanings and mythological significance. The Ancient Greeks and Romans believed the seahorse was considered a symbol of strength and power. The ancient Europeans believed that the seahorse carried dead sailor’s souls to the underworld. Chinese culture believed the seahorse was a dragon that was revered for their power and thought to have good luck.

The symbolic meaning of a seahorse is patient, protective, perspective, persistent, friendly, content, perceptive, and extremely generous/sharing.

Seahorses are content to roam the seas. Their bodies are not geared for speed, but ambling through the waters. They are happy with where they are and aren’t in a hurry to get here or there. They are patient and content. Their body type has remained the same since the beginning. They don’t feel the need to change. They are content to be who they are. Mom is very secure and content with who she is. She doesn’t change herself just for those around her.

Another symbolism is their resistance to change and carefree approach to progress. They can be rather stubborn. Mom is stubborn. She knows what she wants and will make it happen.

When the waters are rough, the seahorse wraps its tail around the nearest object, whether it is seaweed, a plant or whatever it can grasp onto, and anchors itself. Persistence. Strength. No matter what, you can achieve goals during the rough times and can still be flexible in achieving them. The kids “running” the business may have made decisions she may not have personally made, but she was flexible with it. We still made it to the end goal…with only a few detours. How do you learn something fully without mistakes along the way? Mom’s had several rough waters this year, and yet she still anchored herself through the crashing waves and came out even more beautiful.

Physically, seahorses have a grasping tail and horse-like head. They don’t have scales like other fish, but instead bony plates which protects the body. Because of the hard exterior, they are extremely limited in their flexibility. Their exterior body protects. Sometimes we need protection from external circumstances. Or, it could be symbolic for building walls that aren’t always needed. Mom’s shell on the outside is tough-girl, but deep down she’s a softy. She has a heart of gold and is always willing to help whoever it is out.

Even with their armored body, the seahorse still has to let its guard down. We all need protection, whether it’s physical protection, emotional, mental, etc. Mom let her guard down this year and trusted us kids to run the business while she spent months in South Carolina taking care of Sarah. This is the first time in 33 years that she’s ever done that. She had to let her walls (and Type A personality) down. She couldn’t control everything and have everything how she normally would do things.

Because they lack a fin, seahorses don’t swim very fast. However, they are extremely maneuverable and drift precisely. Mom may not swim through decisions quickly, but she thinks through everything methodically, precisely, and meticulously. She makes business decisions that sometimes frustrate all of us, but there’s a reason for her madness.

A seahorse is incredibly sharp, and each eye moves independently. I thought it interesting and the last symbolic lesson is perception. Even through trials and circumstances, Mom still has a keen perception, can read others like nobody’s business, and aware of others around her. Despite her own things going on, Mom is always being aware of her employee’s well-being and personal life. She’s always there for her employees and never has a closed door towards them. She truly cares about what’s going on in everyone’s lives.

The last unique thing about a seahorse is its ability to change colors even stronger than a chameleon. Mom’s ability to adapt and change colors is an awesome attribute. She has an ability to adapt to those around her and shed her spunky, outgoing, bright, and energetic personality. She brings color to everyone she meets (literally and figuratively).

Seahorses don’t always go with the flow and can overwork themselves. How funny! Why? Mom is always working – whether it’s at work, home or whatever she gets involved in. She goes above and beyond and gives 110% in all that she does.

Seahorses are very interesting creatures and I learned much about them. I thought the word for Mom was patience. She loves the beach and ocean, so I thought it fitting to make her this gift and present it to her at the company Christmas Party.

Mom is one of the strongest women I know. She runs an extremely successful business, and yet never lets it get to her head. She doesn’t like praise…in fact, I’m sure after she reads this blog she’ll be blushing and shaking her head, rolling the eyes at me… She goes after what she wants, has strength, dignity, respect, care, compassion, kind-hearted, extremely giving, and never gives up. She’s been around the block a time or two and is extremely perceptive and wise. When you first meet her, don’t be intimidated when she sits there and just observes! It’s not that she doesn’t like you; she wants to figure you out. She has most people figured out before they figure themselves out! She’s a bright and energetic woman who makes everyone smile. She’s one of the most giving people I’ve ever met, and is always quiet about it too. She never wants praise or things in return. I’ve seen her get hurt and burned by people in the community, other business people, and friends, and yet she still turns the other cheek.

Mom is one heck of a lady. I hope I can be half the woman she is!

 

 

MOm and me

 

The company party was a success and everything came together perfectly! Everyone had a blast and talked about how much fun it was. My mission was accomplished seeing everyone’s smiles and hearing them all laugh.

Merry Christmas from me to you,

Hannah Lodwick

(number 5 of the 9)

 

 

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Lump of coal?