Appreciating the Ghosts of Christmas Past

Well, I hope you all survived the feast that is Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday.  It's all about family, friends, food and gratitude.  And the tradition in my home is start decorating for Christmas that Saturday and Sunday.  My daughter's birthday is three days after Christmas, so this entire season is all about Jesus and Kate.  As many do that celebrate Christmas, we take out our decorations and all our ornaments tell a story.  We have multiple themed trees.  The main family tree has most of the ornaments.  We are tacky tourists and have an ornament from just about every where we go.

There is the Victorian Tree which dons my decor from the mid-80-'s, which is when I first started my 'own' Christmas collecting after college.  There is the Sports Tree, which is mostly golfers and Buffalo Bills (for die-hard husband who grew up there.) And the 'Hummel Tree' - I inherited a collection from my mom and my mother-in-law blessed me with many ornaments over the years.  Then of course there is the 'Barbie Tree' my daughters claim.  I get a very special feeling when I unwrap these treasures this time of year.  Kate is old enough and gentle enough to help me now, so she is learning all the stories associated with these gifts.  It is a healthy practice to remember who gave that one to you, and then think about them, and how those moments in time shaped your life.  Some clients choose to forget the past and move on.  Others dwell too much and let it drag them down.  I believe there is wisdom in the past, and lessons to pull from.

This is probably my favorite ornament.  My mom, who passed suddenly from a heart attack in 1979 when I was 16 years old, made it circa 1973. I remember she made many of these, and the pins, ribbon and bling were scattered on the crafts table. The loving memories of my childhood sweep in when I hang it prominently on the Victorian Tree, and everything else surrounds it.  Plus blue was her favorite color.

This ballerina was given to me by a mentor and surrogate mom when I was getting married in 1988.  Nancy Ryder Shay-she was a significant woman in my life at the time.  She was nurturing and loving when I needed it most.

This cross-stitch Santa was my one and only attempt at needlework.  (It is unfortunate, my mom was brilliant at needle work, and I did not pick up any of those skills.)  I attempted to fit into my then-Cincinnati neighborhood and joined Kindervelt.  They had KinderMart and I made this ornament for the fundraising event.  It took me 12 hours.  I used to joke with my neighbor Sue that it was the most expensive ornament at the sale if you consider my hourly salary multiplied by 12.  Instead, she bought it for me for $5.00 and surprised me.  I still LOL when I unwrap the thing.  Never again.

My mother-in-law and Todd's grandfather 'Pipe' painted these by hand.  Back in the 60's they did not have a lot of disposable income to spend on ornaments, so they made these precious trinkets and I begged her to let me have a set for our tree.

Procter & Gamble and my time in Cincinnati was spectacular.  I met life long friends and mentors and my career was launched and focused.  I was fortunate for 13 years at P&G. I followed and was inspired by a myriad of leaders.  We left P&G in 2001 to move to Maryland to be with my precious step-daughter Lexie who is now in college.  When we left OH, it was difficult as my friends became my family.  And it is ornaments like this that I can recall such memories.  P&G was the foundation for starting The Ermi Group.  Learning is a core value there and that company invested so much in my development.  I had a formal mentor, was part of a high potential program, and was given rotational job opportunities.  I had a global role, traveled the world, was exposed to incredible diversity, and started coaching very talented leaders.  It's where I caught the leadership development bug. These programs are critical in any leadership development strategy.

Travel has always been a big part of our lives as it is for so many.  Before Kate, we were big fans of California wine country.  The smells, the people (one of my mentors retired there and we got first class tours and treatment!) and the wine of course!  Visiting my parents on trips to Newport, RI and seeing the beautiful mansions decorated for Christmas. And business trips to Germany, where I learned these little handmade ornaments are quite popular.  And the cardinal's bird house I won in a fun ornament swapping party picked out by a woman I greatly admire.  These are moments that allow for the space to appreciate.  A leadership skill we can all work towards improving.


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Skills and Talents for the Long Haul

In celebration of the Reverend Martin Luther King's birthday many organizations and the feds honor his amazing accomplishments with a day off.  I think it is an important day to recognize, and if he were to be alive today I'd hope that he would feel like his marches, rallies and inspiration changed the way we value diversity forever.  His words and sacrifice of his own life has made an impression for the long haul.  He has gone down in history as one of the great orators and influencers of our time.

I also took the day off and my family was invited by dear friends to join them at Massanuttan Resort in Virginia with their family.  It is a four seasons resort, and the weather had been cold enough for them to make snow, so the plan was to hit the slopes.   I long ago sold my old Olin IV 180 cm relics at a yard sale believing that if I ever ski again the equipment would be archaic.  I last skied in 1993, and the biggest memory I have from that was painful burning thighs and freezing icy conditions.  I moved to Cincinnati soon after, and skiing is not exactly a local sport there, so  I got interested in other things.

My husband had not skied since 1995 and we sold his skis last year in a yard sale. Kate, the 5 year old seemed to be interested, so we decided to get her a lesson in the resorts' Slope Sliders program which was just wonderful. Her teacher was Spencer, and the whole experience was perfect for her.  It was a solid foundational introduction to the basics, she sloshed around in her clunky boots, made snow angels, learned the pizza wedge and was able to successfully get on the innovative Magic Carpet conveyor lift that beat the heck out of the old rope tow that I learned on.

I was petrified.  My husband and I decided to rent skis and give it a whirl.  In case Kate wanted to take up the sport some day, it would be nice to do it together.  We rented the skis and the hardest part was getting the darn boots on.  I was surprised at how little the equipment actually changed.  Apparently the technology innovations have been reserved for the abundance of snow boards, and not for the ski rental industry. But that was OK, it was familiar.

We carried our skis up to the chair lift, snapped them on, held our breath and swished onto the quad chair lift.  Now there has been some nice changes here with a gate to stop you and release you when it is ready for you, a rubber belt then moves you automatically, and far fewer falls than what I recalled.  We made it, and sat down   without incident.  It was exhilarating actually!  I had forgotten how fun it was to look down and see the diversity of skiwear, styles and ages. Tons of kids!  I did not recall that many young children skiing in the 70's but, then again, there may not have been as many given the vast differences in the economy.

OK, it was time for tips up and to get off the lift...and we did it!  We did not fall and it was just as easy as the last time I did it.  I squealed with glee as I pushed off and headed down the hill.  It all came back.  I had originally thought I needed a lesson to refresh my memory, but the brain and the body are amazing phenomenons.  It came back and it really was like riding a bike.

It was wonderful for our egos, especially my husband.  He suffered a stroke in 2002 and has some residual right side weakness in addition to other things, but he did GREAT!

Think about our emerging leaders and the Millennials entering the workforce.  They are learning skills and talents that they will hard wire in for the long haul.  We only really get one or two chances to set the tone and get it right.  The brain remembers.  The body recalls what the stresses and pressures feel like.  I am passionate about giving them the tools they need, the resources and frameworks to help them get it right EARLY in their careers.  They may not use these skills right away, but they should be in it for the long haul, and as leadership development professionals, we need to be in it for the long haul as well.

How sustainable are our programs?  Will they traverse the challenging mountains of 20 years from now? Will they navigate the terrain and make it down the hill, and then back up again?

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