A New Year, A New Life

New Year’s Eve. A night for letting go of the past, hoping for the future and counting the many blessings in life. No year brought so many surprises for me as 2011.

I embraced my role as a foster mom and all that entailed – foster parent classes, ceritifications in water safety, CPR and first-aid, professional and personal referrals, baby-proofing, child-rearing education and re-assessing my professional life to make room for three weekly visits with caseworkers and biological parents along with the court records that each visit required to be filed.

It was an immense undertaking, but we were ready.

Then, we found out just as we were about to cross the last “t” that we were expecting.

One might think it would be an easy shift. A better outcome.

But there’s that lingering desire deep inside transformed by compelling stories that longs to be a foster parent.

In the midst of such confusing emotions, we dealt with new weirdness: unwelcome parenting advice, weight-gain assessments, career pressures and a family torn between wanting to be involved but not knowing the child’s sex.

My growing belly and the active girl inside nevers lets me forget for a moment that I must overcome and ignore all fearful obstacles. My life does not belong to me alone anymore.

There’s as much solace in that notion as anxiety.

I try to take each day as it comes and drown out the doubts as I prepare for my most incredible life achievement: child birth.

On Tuesday, we’ll meet our doula who will be our one constant child birth expert throughout the miraculous experience. The Navy system does not assign you the care provider you’ll deliver with –  you get whoever is on duty.

In life, you get so few opportunities to feel the complete understanding and meaning of life. When this year began, I resigned myself to never having a baby.

I thank God for giving me a chance.

For all the difficulties, confusion and heartbreak, I thank God. How else would I have ever so appreciated this experience as I do?

We only get so many days on Earth; never miss a moment to be present in the good as well as bad times. Each second is a precious lesson, a chance to know yourself and be better.

So long, 2011. Thanks for the curve balls. You kept me on my toes.

Thank You for Your Business: What Holiday Gifts Say To Clients

Thank you for your business.

Such a simple sentiment, but so necessary to business survival. So it can be especially tough to express in a holiday gift.

Last year, I showered my burgeoning client list with homemade gift baskets filled with cardamom pear jam, rosemary-garlic infused olive oil, sugar cookies, chocolate truffles and of course, champagne splits. Just delicious and beautiful.

In the end, I spent nearly as much if not more doing it myself than buying ready-made baskets. But the big difference was personal sentiment and quality control. I was rewarded with generous words of appreciation all year through plus continued business support. Well worth the effort.

This year, my client roster has grown such that a similar endeavor would eat up weeks not to mention precious billable hours better spent serving my clients.

So, as I consider some of the ways I’m going to thank my terrific clients for a great 2011, it occurs to me that each client gift needs will vary. A large gift basket for an entire office might suffice for one whereas a carefully selected book might do the trick for another.

Here’s a few goals:

1 – Make it memorable by standing out and adding even just one personal touch. Take note of little office items, such as collectibles, or even scour social media pages for hints.

2 – Select from brands or gifts that represent you and your company’s values. The products, services or endeavors you appreciate say so much about you.

3 – Don’t eat all the good stuff. Include one thoughtful gift that sticks around all year to remind the client that you appreciate their business.

Simply put: The holiday gifts doesn’t mean all candy, all the time.

You can give the gift of giving. One year, I gave a co-worker the gift of a donation to Rescue Task Force to benefit wounded troops and another, I adopted a military family in their name through Operation Homefront.

Entertainment can be a great way to thank clients with a night out, especially if they’re artistically inclined. In San Diego, the options are endless with The Old Globe Theatre, the San Diego Opera, and the San Diego Symphony among many others.

Books and other industry-related materials can be a great way to mix business and pleasure. In my field, there’s no limit to political and public relations- related books. If you know them well enough, make a personal selection of a book they would enjoy.

And of course, a crowd-pleaser staple – edibles. Everything from chocolate and cookies to champagne and fruit can perk up a busy office. Delight a foodie client with a gift card to their favorite eatery. For clients outside the region, share a little taste of your local favorites from a beloved winery, farm or ranch.

What’s great about your client gift selections? They’re saying something to the client about who you are – be it that you support families in need, patron the arts, know the best writers in your field or enjoy a fine wine.

Still at a loss? Give the gift of business.

Order your holiday gifts from a client or make a holiday-time referral. Nothing shows you appreciate a business like giving them a little, especially if you can cross-promote clients to each other.

After all, business is all about connections.

Gifts to avoid:

Clothes. You don’t want your client gift to end up as the Ugly Sweater of the Day.

Fruitcake, figgy pudding, mince meat pies and other traditional holiday foods. They’re an acquired tasted typically not acquired by most.

What are the best — and worst — client gifts you’ve ever sent or received?