A BlogHer’12 State of Mind

Before I graduated college, before I moved to California, before 9/11, I visited the Big Apple with twinkly little stars in my eyes standing so small among the smattering of skyscrapers like a forest of metal and glass.

The life that lay out before me to present day included severe road bumps, including getting thrown from my seven-year journalism career and regrouping to work another seven years in communications for elected officials.

As they say, all that’s prolog to the moment I surfaced from the subway 14 years older with a couple white hairs, a second career in politics under my belt, working a start-up pr shop with a husband of 7 years and a newborn baby in tow heading to my second BlogHer convention.

[P.S. I was born on 7/17/77. I know, creepers]

Last year, I spoke about illegal immigration as the token Republican knowing next to nothing about BlogHer. This year, I spoke about women in politics again, as the token Reep, but this time I knew all too well the exciting publishing network now as one of its syndicated contributing editor.

After running around doing some basic sightseeing around Midtown, we checked into the Shoreham Hotel with a couple hours to spare before my speaker orientation where I met the fabulous Heather Barmore, our moderator, and Councilwoman Lea Webb.

Afterward, I had an hour to burn before my next feeding with Baby Bird so I zipped through the multi-level, multi-hall expo to pick up piles of swag and meet lots of fun brands.

The next morning, I awoke with a start from the sound of my cell ringing from Nicole at genConnect confirming our interview in 5 MINUTES! Quickly, we rescheduled so I could wash the long, thrashy night beside Dagny off and collected my thoughts from my notes and soundbites scribbled down the day before.

Interview done. Just so my clients don’t think I’m always cool under pressure, I also always think afterward what I wanted to say but forgot. The white hot lights can distract you.

Thinking I would quickly jump in line for the Martha Stewart keynote was ultra silly. The estimated attendance of 4,000 actually jumped to more than 5,000 at last tally and you can tell by this room shot when she talked (rockin’ some killer orange platform wedges, I might add).

Once her chat concluded, I quickly ran back to the hotel for a little time with the fam before returning to knock out my panel.

Here’s the thing about talking politics at BlogHer… some people just don’t care.

In fact, President Obama’s opening address at BlogHer’12 wasn’t 100% adored. Standing in several lines, I heard from bloggers who felt it was overbearing to have politics thrown in their faces.

I know how much I and many in my circles eat, sleep and breath all things political, but it’s really not that interesting in the grand scheme of things for the average woman blogger.

So, I braced myself for a less than stellar attendance despite having Obama National Operation Vote Director Buffy Wicks on my panel.

So, imagine our collective relief when our little panel drew a heck of crowd asking about everything from how to handle the work-life balance to getting a campaign up and running.

You can see from the healthy Tweetstream #BH12Govt101 that we enjoyed some playful, as well as instructive discussion on the role of women in politics.

One of the remarks that struck me hard: one woman considered running for school board but feared controversial board votes would incite retaliation from teachers on her kids. Eek.

In my experience, I’ve never heard of such a thing. I recently met with a male school board candidate and all he worried about was winning.

Throughout history, women have made up just 2.2 percent of Congress – that’s House and Senate.

My takeaway: we do it to ourselves. We sit on the sidelines, we watch the men run the world while we make 80 percent of the household purchasing decisions and keep America’s families running.

In other words, we live with the decisions that impact our lives too afraid to take a stand even when it might do our kids some good. Or as my new BFF Lea said…

Despite that worrisome reoccurring theme both in my and the next day’s panel with Courtney Johnson, Romney’s Deputy Coalitions Director for Women for Romney, I walked away from the conference feeling that perhaps we inspired a few to get involved in their communities.

That night, I got to *finally* get some one-on-one time with my fellow BlogHer politicos at the chic and rather historic Flute to discuss our next big adventure at the upcoming 2012 Republican National Convention. [Stay tuned… big ideas and fun coverage on the horizon.]

Walking back to meet up with hubs who was walking the streets of Manhattan with bird, I caught a pretty mid-street shot up Times Square. So glad I finally returned to the city that never sleeps… a little older, a little wiser, a little sexier? Oh ya.

+++ Read the liveblog of our panel, “How Washington Works and How Women in the States Can Make a Difference.”

Follow me @erica_holloway.

How to use cloth diapers and keep your sanity

Before you think I’m all concerned about the environment or that I’m hyper budget conscience, let me state up front that my reason for using cloth goes beyond those two pretty good reasons.

Last night while Dagny played on my new favorite gift to myself, I stood at the counter in my laundry room in quiet reflection on my day while folding diapers. It stirred a memory of my mom.

“When you kids were off to bed, I would sit with the laundry basket on the couch and fold clothes. It was my quiet time, when I could think about my day with you and be alone with my thoughts.”

So I’m a sentimentalist. Sue me.

But I’m also pragmatic and when I shared my desire to my husband not only to breastfeed until our Baby Bird turned one, but also use cloth diapers – he was entirely supportive.

Yet, like weddings (ladies, you know what I’m saying) the research to make this undertaking happen fell on my very capable shoulders.

If you’re considering cloth diapers for your babies, for whatever reason, then feel free to use what I’ve learned:

  1. It’s all about the diaper pail (or a white 12.2-gallon Hefty trash can with an easy one-touch locking lid). Not one cloth diaper pail on the market got the full cloth-diaper mommy seal of approval – they were all too expensive, too small and too faulty. I have a second trash can on the other side of my changing table with odor-locking bags for wipes and other trash.
  2. It’s really all about the diaper pail liner. Toss aside those fears of pre-soaking diapers in the pail. I scooped up one of the best reviewed liners on the market by Blueberry. It’s said to withstand months of hot washes without the liner cracking which just leaks into your trash can (gross) while being affordable and pretty cute. It fits perfectly and snugly in my Hefty trash can with the elastic drawstring. Just dump the entire load and your bag into the wash. Voila!
  3. Smell. Ya, I know you’re worried about smell and so was I. All the “diaper pail deodorizers” also got terrible reviews from some of the most well-known brands. Then, I found these amazing little Citrus Circle Diaper Pail Deodorizing Discs which comes with a couple doo-hickies to adhere to the inside of the lid. I’ve replaced them every three weeks or so. So cheap, smells great.
  4. Diaper covers or all-in-one insert diapers. It’s all about you. We’ve got a couple of the all-in-ones with the inserts, one of which we plan to use for the beach, and they’re very convenient. But the covers can go through 2-3 diaper changes provided they’re just wet. In either case, you’ll also have to decide buttons or velcro. Again, we have both because baby waistlines don’t necessarily conform to the evenly distributed buttons. Just make sure to reattach that velcro to each other before tossing in the pail – it sticks to prefold diapers like… well, you know. Lots of makers to choose from in the diaper-making world – we stayed local with Baby Frenzy in El Cajon. They offer a 15-percent local discount. All diapers are stitched together by hand at the store and if any of the diapers need repairing, they’ll do it for no extra change.
  5. Prefolds – so cheap, so versatile, so not like disposables. It’s amazing, but you can buy three dozen Gerber prefolded diapers online from Babies ‘R’ Us for $53. You use these with the diaper covers and fold them to your liking. When baby needs a change, just replace with a clean one and drop the used into your pail. We also use ours for burp cloths or lay under her whenever she’s on her back to protect against leaks. Unlike a disposable, you will get a little opening in the back when baby moves around no matter how tight you make the waist. Wet leaks probably annoyed us for two days until we got the hang of it. NOTE: You have no idea the power behind those chemicals in disposables. My first wet and dirty changes with Baby Bird amazed me; I realized how much fluid and waste she really passed. It was a lot more than disposables would lead you to believe. But because of the discomfort, we know when she’s wet right away and there’s less fear of a rash.
  6. Laundry, laundry, laundry. It’s unavoidable. You must wash cloth diapers at least every two days, sooner if you have a dirty diaper in need of a soaking. Here’s where I thought cost would really kill us, especially with a baby-bottom friendly detergent. However, I found this highly rated Charlie’s Laundry Soap that sells 80 washes per container for $12.99 on Amazon – and cloth diaper mommy’s love it. You cannot use softener on diapers because, like towels, it reduces absorbancy and Charlie’s is specially made for this reason. We like Charlie’s so much that we now use it on all our clothes. There’s no smell, the clothes get clean and even with my sensitive skin, I’ve had no breakouts.

Pros: very affordable and eco-friendly.

Consumer Reports estimates that disposables can cost around $2,500 by the time kids are potty-trained. All told, we’ve spent about $250 so far. The only thing we could expect to buy more of that’s aside from other related costs before she’s trained is wipes and deodorizing discs.

Cons: not as convenient and time consuming.

If you don’t have a private laundry room, that could make the washing process a bit more complicated and two working full-time parents probably cringe at the idea of more laundry.

One final thought: Some believe, as my mom does, that a little inconvenience now leads to less inconvenience later.

It’s a controversial debate in the cloth vs disposable world: Do cloth diapers speed up the potty-training process?

Some say yes believing that the discomfort and awareness of being wet or dirty help connect the dots faster for kids.

We’ve all seen how the disposable diaper industry has expanded their lines from diapers to pull-ups and variations therein seemingly to keep kids in some form of their product longer.

After a couple months with cloth, I can tell you that’s a very convincing selling point for parents.

So perhaps the contributing factor of earlier potty training for cloth parents is wanting to be done with the whole diaper scene.

I’m not going to tell you it’s the most magical experience ever or that every parent should stop buying disposables today. Do what’s right for you and your family.

But if you’re interested, for whatever reason, it’s not only possible but can be a very rewarding experience and with just a few tricks of the trade, you can do it and keep your sanity.

Got some cloth diaper tips of your own? Please share your tips or blog posts in the comments below.

WARNING: Cute Baby Pictures May Cause Peeing (Lots of peeing)

I’m a major sucker for cute baby pictures.

My Pinterest account’s been largely created just so I can scope out adorable, wrinkly, chubby-cheeked darlings in all their precious glory.

So, imagine my excitement at dolling up my own little princess for cutsie pics.

About three weeks before my due date, my family photographer Melissa Jacobs began asking if she could shoot our princess.

Melissa’s more than a photographer – like any great photographer, she’s part of the family.

I met Melissa while working for Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. On the professional front: she’s the best. I’ve seen her all over town, from the PRSA Bernays Awards to weddings to elected official press conferences.

I’ve recommended her to clients (and they’ve always been pleased), plus she’s done my professional headshot and some shots of us when I was five months pregnant which we used for our 2011 Christmas cards.

The one below got rave reviews from family and friends:

Right away, I pilfered my Pinterest account for this little magical shot.

In true Melissa form, she responds saying “no problem” and she can’t wait to meet her when she arrives.

What I loved about the above picture: it focuses on the size difference of the baby. Can’t you just “feel” that cute little baby’s soft skin?

I just happened to have a cute stuffed elephant my mom gave me for the nursery this past Christmas.

Here’s Hank all ready for Dagny to come home:

When Baby Bird arrived two weeks ahead of my due date, it threw off our photo session calendar and instead of being two weeks old – she was three weeks on the dot.

I thought those baby photo sites must be nuts for recommending a baby be 10 days old or younger for newborn pictures.

What’s to shoot? All she did was sleep.


All the mommy sites recommended I have her well-fed, calm and be prepared for another soothing feeding.

But our best-laid plans quickly devolved into a comedy of errors made more intense by her screaming bloody-murder.

  • Best lighting caused her to blink angrily.
  • Peaceful visions of a naked baby butt replaced by a screaming, kicking, Army-crawling baby.
  • Sitting up to snuggle with the elephant. No. Laying down with the elephant. Kinda (see below).
  • Peeing. Lots of peeing. Peeing on hubs (he changed his shirt for the family shots), peeing on the nursing glider, peeing on the carpet, nearly peeing on Melissa.
  • Pacifier did not earn it’s name. She would either purse her lips or spit it out like a watermelon seed. The only thing that kind of worked was giving her hubs finger to gnaw on between shots.

After the sitting up pose flopped, Melissa re-assessed.

“Let’s lay her sideways with the elephant.”

Worked in theory (like the rest of the shoot), but she kept throwing her leg up in the air as soon as the camera started clicking and showing the world her pikachu.

Hubs sighed: “I’m failing already.”

Here was the best of the lot (it’s not cropped or touched up):

We finally took the elephant out of the equation and went far more simple.

Once Dagny calmed down and focused on Melissa, some beautiful shots materialized.

Hubs and I originally didn’t plan on being part of any shots and so, we didn’t get gussied up.

But since we were throwing plans out the window, what the heck?

I’m glad we did because she snapped some candid shots of hubs calming Dagny that brought tender little tears to my eyes.

Plus, she captured the three of us in our natural three-weeks-postpartum state: tired, unsure and making lots of mistakes.

I thank God everyday for bringing this priceless creature into my life.

She’s already teaching me how to let go (quite literally).

Our deepest appreciation to our dear (and patient) friend Melissa – she’s a celluloid maven.

Here’s some of my favorites from the day:

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Childless no longer…

A slight and soft creature, a tender 7 pounds in weight, with thick dark hair and an angel kiss on her forehead lay still in the crib beside me.

Hubs matched her exhausted, motionless state in the spare bed of the postpartum room at Naval Medical Center San Diego while I absorbed the moment.

After hours of chaos, it was silent.

A nurse walked in quietly and presented a tray of food. If I could have, I might have lunged at him for what amounted to very bland hospital fair.

I ate greedily adding up the hours in my head of my last meal: about 35. The makers of Jell-O would be wise to get hungry new moms to write their ad copy.

With my tray sufficiently scarfed, I turned my attention to the gentle sleeping face of my new little girl eying every strand of hair, her tiny finger nails, the curve of her mouth knowing all that grew within me.

I laid back in bed trying to rest but it was hard. Everything about her fascinated me.

Just as I was about to drift off, she began to cry in hunger. Hubs hardly stirred as I pulled her crib to me and feebly, awkwardly lifted her out.

Once cradled in my arms, her soft eyes opened and I felt the first of many awesome waves wash over me: I’m her mother, her teacher, her life giver.

We lay embraced for some time before hubs stirred and the spell was broken with the interruptions of nurses and doctors caring for her and me.

Sunday, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day with hubs, my mom and sis, and of course, my Baby Bird.

As I got ready for our celebratory brunch, I thought of a Mother’s Day several years ago when I attended Skyline Church service alone in the midst of our infertility struggles. Countless women filled pews wearing corsages, holding hands with their children, dressed in their Sunday best.

Rev. Jim Garlow began to bless the service with a special prayer for all the women who longed to be mothers and were dealing with infertility. Painful tears streamed from my closed eyes.

The road to motherhood since amounted to as much pain and sorrow as that enormous joy payload in those first precious silent moments alone with Baby Bird.

One day in the midst of my pregnancy, hubs caught me in thought and asked why I was shaking my head to myself.

“Even now, I know that it happened, but I still find it hard to believe.”

He smiled and said: “Everyone keeps saying it’s because we stopped ‘trying.’ But we stopped when we started the foster care process. Maybe it happened because we were finally ready.”

In life, some seeds of happiness just won’t grow no matter what we do.

While they might not be what you expect, life just might surprise you with something (or someone) greater than you ever imagined.

My first postpartum nurse came in to wish our little girl a happy birthday and write a note up on the wipe board for her. She asked how to spell her name and as she began writing with her back to me, she turned around with a confused look.

“Did you make that up?’

In the weeks following our ultrasound, we slogged through the girl’s section of a baby names book several times over. One night in bed while reading “Atlas Shrugged,” hubs was rebuffing my latest name suggestion and I jokingly said gesturing at the book: “How about Dagny?”

He looked it up in the baby name book sitting bedside. Old Norse meaning “rebirth.”

In the months that followed, we “tried it on” to see if it fit and sometimes I wasn’t sure until hubs brought her to me for our first collective snuggle.

She lifted her head, opened her dark and stormy eyes and looked at me.

At 34, my life started anew.

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.

Dobby the Wonderdog, Truck Stop Coffee and Other Roadtrip Ruminations

At about three hours into our road trip to Houston from San Diego for a week of Thanksgiving eating, I finally decided to reach down for my neglected pile of public relations trade magazines.

Somehow, I wasn’t months behind in my reading, but I don’t imagine I gave the articles nearly the same attention as I did with nothing else but endless sky to distract me.

Road trips force you to slow down your brain, think deeply about what you want and also what you don’t want (another Sonic burger…).

I read some thought-provoking pieces out loud to my patient husband on the role of CEOs and the importance of self branding. Bridging those two takes time and I realized that I do what we all probably do throughout our workdays. I grind. There’s not a lot of personal thought that goes into my work sometimes and that causes a nasty side-effect: I lose the chance to tell stories.

My clients range from politically-adjacent to completely grassroots and independent-thinking, but they all have the same two basic goals: grow membership and increase influence.

But what makes a Steve Jobs stand out with his product compared to Bill Gates and his product? In recent years, we’ve grown to like Gates but not in the way that we love Jobs. Perhaps because we saw a person in Jobs, not just a CEO, who founded a company he ended up losing to another leader for a time. He learned much and humbled himself in later years at the helm once again making light of his failure.

Gates lost our support during the monopoly scandal and then started a nonprofit with his wife to benefit public education. We like him, but we don’t love him and the brand loyalty of Microsoft certainly isn’t as rabid or personal as Apple.

Perhaps that’s why CEO blogs rose in popularity for some companies. When used properly and with a certain level of transparency, our fondness grows for their product and perhaps we’re more forgiving of mistakes.

On the second day of driving, I enjoyed some of the most delicious coffee I’ve had in a while and it wasn’t from Starbucks. In fact, I hadn’t seen a designer coffee place anywhere between San Diego and San Antonio. No, it was from a Love’s truck stop. I liked the coffee and the unpolished, but friendly service so much, I stopped there on my way back for two tank fill ups – my car and my caffeine levels.

Road signs flew past me along the desolate West Texas highway. It seemed to take forever, but time does pass and experiences collect.

How do we capitalize on making a lasting impression on just one passer through enough to love and benefit our brand for life?

I shared some of my ruminations with my brother, Jeff, who handled human relations for some 15 years at Exxon. He learned much and some the hard way about what resonates with the public for CEOs and what doesn’t. He now works in a similar capacity in foreign relations for a private oil company, but the challenges to humanize CEOs remains a challenge.

In the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the company CEO took a back burner and became a case study of what not to do. In the end, another “face” might have been better to look at than his but he needed to step up and learn how to be his company’s brand. It’s where we public relations professionals can make such a difference  by making sure our people are prepared for the sharp fork in the road.

“What the CEOs don’t get is that they’re the company,” he said, as we watched our hometown team lose – a long-standing Thanksgiving tradition for Detroit.

When the game was truly hopeless, Jeff walked me around his ranch grounds visit with his horses, sheep and some dang noisy chickens. As we walked, some plucky dogs and sneaky cats zipped in and out of fence lines.

One dog rescued in the 11th hour was fondly named Dobby for her strange appearance of large eyes and ears similar to that of the Harry Potter character. She’s not a traditional sheep dog, but she has the love and enthusiasm for it. The sheep resist at first, but then they respond eventually and go with the program more readily than they do with the other ranch dog more suited to the work. In fact, they actually try to bite the other dog.

You could say Dobby dresses for the job she wants and my brother happily encourages her good work.

Companies aren’t much different. Some people “look” the part, others work at being the part despite rough edges. In the end, it’s the heart and passion behind the job that motivates the best results and loyalty.

With the notion of being personal on my mind, I prepared a client during a conference call for what’s to be a great opportunity for her organization and decided that her focus shouldn’t be all work and no play.

“Be personal and visionary,” I suggested, while stretching out my mom’s house phone cord to my laptop. “Tell your story about what leading this organization means to you. With all the jobs in the world, why do you love this one?”

Sounds a tad touchy-feely, doesn’t it? But think back to those narratives that tells us about the lifes-blood of people’s work.

What drove Mark Twain to write about a poor boy in the south? Why did James Watt dedicate his life to building the steam engine? How did Tom Brady forge ahead after being a bench-sitter in college to winning three Super Bowls? Can a middle-aged Julia Child just rise to French-food stardom in a freezer-dinner world?

We’re suckers for the story behind the story.

And while most CEOs struggle to seem cool, calm and collected under pressure, as my brother pointed out, sometimes the best approach is the human one.

Standing at what seemed like my 20th fast-food counter somewhere in west Arizona, I thought about the parallel to my work ethic. I’m more of a from-scratch type who bakes my proposals with personal love.

As a friend who shares my mantra says to clients: “For better or worse, you get me.”

But I’ll admit, during a hard and heavy work week, those french-fry ideas do seem better. They save time, money and lots of people think they’re just fine. Plus, just imagine how many more clients I could serve with a few fry cooks. Fresh idea require research, vetting and sometimes, a few trials before they’re just right.

Even still, visions of poulet a la creme looking, smelling and tasting good enough to make Julia warble “Bon Appetit!”danced in my head as I looked contemptuously at my final handful of fries. I dumped the remainder in the bag.

After a full week away from my desk, I’m back to work cooking up new approaches to help my clients speak their language, not a “CEO” language, but in genuine terms that are practical, ambitious and true. We should all aspire for the lasting impressions Dobby the Wonder Dog and Love’s coffee.

Be real, be yourself, do what you love and do it well. And try to stay away from French fries – figuratively and literally.

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?