On the 13th day of a Christmas holiday

It is interesting to take a holiday from work. Most people need the break, some more than others. The problem always seems to be how long does it take to dis-engage from that work cycle. Invariably you tend to ‘dabble’ in a few things about work even when you are supposed to be on holidays. Your spouse will quickly remind you of any dabbling that you do. There just happens to be this demand or driving force to just get that last thing done or to find out about something that may have happened at work. This holiday was not be one of dis-engagement but it has a different quality by being with the kids.

It seems the better (read dis-engaged) holidays have always had the following points.

  • physically moving yourself to another geographic area at least in another time zone. The more times zones the better.
  • having a strong focus on what you plan to do i.e. golf. That may mean you don’t take your wife along. That presents another problem of dis-engagement.
  • removing any ability to contact you either via phone or Internet. Postal mail is ok.
  • defining the holiday by the number of postcards you send or at least buying the postcard but not having sent them. They sometimes make the best pictures of your visit.
  • your ability to finish at least 2 of the books you wanted to. You probably took 5 with you.
  • the number of times you forgot to shave (or brush your teeth).
  • having your meals at  times you would not normally have a meal. Nothing like having supper at 9:00 p.m.

This Christmas I had a few weeks off to be at home with the family. There wasn’t much we did due to the snow and weather. There was stuff that was work related. It was still a good holiday.

Social Capital and the positive capital of employment

My good friend and colleague William Azaroff has a very thoughtful post about the need for all of us to be creating social capital through our affiliations with others on the web and that this can prove a benefit with these different economic times upon us. I wanted to bring another view into focus.

I have long felt that as an employer (one that hires and fires) one of the most important aspects of working with people is to create an environment of trust and respect. Over the years there have been a number of people that have worked for the credit unions I have worked for that got their start with us and then moved on for various reasons. It has always been difficult to see these people leave as has been the case recently. You train and challenge them to be better employees and people and you watch them grow. Life does not remain stagnant and so things change and people move on.

It is important that as an employer you keep the relationships open to the point of having that person who wants to move on talk to you about it. When they feel confident enough to approach you to say that they are going to be looking for another job then you can prepare for their eventual departure. The process becomes healthy and proves to be a benefit to both parties. One of our employees told me they were looking for something else. That was a few months ago and they recently found a new job. They had the ability to say at any interview that they could call us, the current employer, for a reference. Now how powerful is that? They had the ability to take the time off for interviews without saying it was a doctors appointment. It was a transparent approach for them in moving their career path as they saw fit. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it puts a proper closure to the situation of leaving an old job and getting a new one.

Employers should be creating social capital that can be used by current employees as they need it. That should be the norm.

Then you have the other side when you have to let someone go. To terminate anyone is one of the most painful experiences you can imagine. To do it abruptly and quickly makes it worse. When you are able create a transitional plan that incorporates social values that both parties hold as important, that takes some of the pain out of the situation. The impact of loosing people affects the bottom line of course but the loss of anyone diminishes the social capital of any business in ways that one never realizes until that person has gone. You really can’t measure this loss. In the difficult times we will face in the future one hopes that the worst situation possible, loss of one’s job, can be handled with care, compassion and respect. Everyone deserves that.

This is the element that scares me the most for the future. Experience has taught me most people can live under difficult economic circumstances. It becomes tragic when people loose their livelihood. Much of what defines us is what we do and when we loose that important definition our lives become that much blacker. If social capital is one way of alleviating that despair it will make a true difference in how we move forward.

Early Christmas Morning

Our family maintains a European tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve. Our grandparents had this tradition (German) and when I married Marjun it remained as it is also the Danish tradition. Christmas Day has always been quiet and peaceful.

It was a different Christmas Eve for us this time. Our daughter-in-law was not with us as she had to remain in Saskatoon. Both Fleming and Nils were here so it seemed a lot like a Christmas of their past childhood. Typically we sang some Christmas carols after the Christmas Eve dinner and before we opened presents. This is the time we all have a good laugh at the male section of the family. Even though we all love music Nils and I can’t sing. Fleming is much better. Marjun is choir material. If we don’t have the song sheet in front of us most second verses are pretty well ad-libbed which makes for a lot of fun. This year I took some videos for posterity.

My family always amazes me at their generousity. My mother-in-law always sends me some wonderful mohair socks which are appreciated immensely. There is nothing so soothing on the feet. Marjun got me a Roots training outfit (that must be a hint to get to the gymn). The rest was DVDs, a moleskine and books. This years books are:

A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada by John Ralston Saul

Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries by Naomi Wolf

Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer

With all the snow this year and the sudden return to milder temperatures it will be a slushy and wet Christmas Day. The perfect time to stay inside and enjoy each others company.

Saturday before Christmas

Colder than it has ever been in Vancouver since I can recall. If it stays like this the lineup at the stores for skates will start with every body of water an ice rink.

Day 3 of Christmas holidays is going well. Not much to do and not much planned. There is the Blackhawks – Canucks game to go to tonight. This will be my first hockey game this season and I am going with a die-hard hockey fan. It would be nice to get to Dix’s before the game.

Anyone finished all of their Christmas shopping yet? If you have one can only think you are the prepared type for this holiday season stuff. I didn’t want to say anal.

Ron Shevlin has hung up his blog as of yesterday. He will be missed. He had some great stuff there and it will be missed by a lot of people. I think anyone who blogs for more than a few years has that question in the back of their mind as to how much longer. The excitement seems to wear off and at times it becomes a chore. It does push you though to get something out. Procrastination is the enemy of blogging.

Here’s wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Year’s. That should cover anyone who I forget to send a card to, right?

Where does the time go?

One of my very favourite songs is ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’ by Sandy Denny. It has a haunting melody and wonderful words. When you listen to it there is the sudden question again about where has the time gone. It seems that way when Advent begins and Christmas is soon to be upon us.

It has been busy this last month, no let me put it another way, it has been flipping nuts. Busy at work, busy at volunteer positions, busy on credit union system work, and whatever else can fit into 24 hours. It doesn’t seem to slow down. Someone asked my recently about email and how we ever got along without it. One could say the same about a fax machine or a photocopier. These technical beauties have only speeded up what we start to where we finnish. The work is the same, the time to complete is measured not in days but in moments. Our time to reflect on any given subject is not done without effort and our work ethic creeps in so quickly if we think we are reflecting excessively. More gets done but the engine, us, remains the same. Maybe that is why music is such a relief. It does breakdown that invisible inertia that causes us stress. It stops us, if only for a few moments, to reflect in another dimension. If nothing else it gives us the must deserved break without any guilt.

Tomorrow I fight off the historical boxes of ‘stuff’ in the storage room to find the Christmas tree. No crowds to fight, no saw to cut the trunk, no needles akimbo, just true plastic and lights, ornately assembled and stowed away in the ‘original’ carton somewhere in the basement. Ready to quickly give one a hernia because of its weight, it will be dragged upstairs to its holy place in the corner of the living room, close to a wall outlet. Within minutes of plugging the lights of the tree into the electrical grid, Christmas will dawn, sans pine smell. Once again the magic of the season will start. Usually we never put the tree up this early. We are still the old ‘keep the tree up until the 12th day of Christmas’ types so putting it up this early is creating some new family history. But when Fleming arrives from Saskatoon on Tuesday and Nils from Copenhagen on Wednesday it will be the key sight when they step in the front door. That part of Christmas, being with ones’ family, then begins. There is more, always much more, about Christmas. Before you know it though you will be asking yourself, where does the time go?