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Divided Priorities

As I mentioned in my previous blogs, I finally took the plunge and bleached my hair white.  I have since re-bleached the roots once, and determined that the whole task isn't too onerous.  The primary reason that I finally whitened my hair is that my mentor, Santa Ron Campbell, has been coaxing me to take the plunge for the last month or so.  However, my wife's reaction was... less than enthused. Because I am back on the street as an unemployed IT worker, she thinks that it would be a good idea to return the hair on my head to a more natural color... at least until we're closer to the season, or I actual have a gig scheduled.  I am seriously considering doing this, because I am finding that I do have to re-bleach every two weeks, or the dark roots start showing.  So... its back to brown hair for now.  I'll leave the beard white, since it would be grey without help.  In fact, this is why I have the proper color to redye my hair, because I've been touching up the grey beard for the last few years, to match the natural color of my hair.  Dyeing the beard brown is a loosing proposition, since it wants to come in grey. Whether having dark hair is going to help in the job search, I can't say.  However it should please the Mrs., which is worth something.  I'll change it back toward the end of October.  But I'm not trimming the beard. Oh, and I got my first gig scheduled today for the season.  It's at the Retirement home where my Toastmaster's club meets.  It may be because of some Santa business cards I passed out there.  If so, then self marketing does work!       

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Going White

This morning, I finally took the time to bleach my hair. For those of you who have followed my postings, you will know that I had my beard professionally whitened by Gary Belo, in Highpoint, NC, back in March.  Because it was just for my photo shoot, I didn't do my hair.  So for the last three months, I've been wandering around with medium dark brown hair, and a more or less white beard.  This wasn't a huge change for me, since while my hair has remained dark, my beard had been going grey for the last few years.  It was always my intent to get around to the hair sometime before the Christmas season.  It could have waited for a few more months, but I decided to proceed with the change now because I was hoping to do a presentation at my Toastmasters club that white hair would lend credibility to. I have been studying the process of self bleaching hair care.  After reviewing a number of sites, I have concluded that the easiest and safest method was the one developed by Shannon Settles, who works up in Wake Forest, NC.  I purchased the Trionics developer and Prism Lights bleaching powder recommended by the process over the last month. I won't describe the process here.  Shannon goes into excellent detail in his PDF.  However, I will say that I mixed up a small batch, and slathered it all over my head.  I then used some plastic wrap to cover the hair, to prevent drying and reduce fumes for the 20 minutes or so I let the bleaching occur.  Then it was jump in the shower and rinse, shampoo, and conditioner. Is my hair white?  Not exactly.  There's still a little bit of a yellow tint, and I can see that I didn't have complete coverage, resulting in a little dark patch near one temple, and along my neckline.  This isn't totally unexpected, since the professional who did my beard said my hair would probably take two treatments.  I will repeat tomorrow morning, and hopefully things will come out whiter.   Then I just have to redo my beard, which is showing the dark roots.  But for those of you who have been in this game for a while, you probably know the process better than I do, unless you are so fortunately that you don't need the boost.    

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

A Santa Needs A Little Jingle

This week, I bought myself a set of sleigh bells and a key to add to my Santa gear.  Still need a few more props, but it's starting to come together. As the summer fast approaches, and the temperatures here in the southeast soar, I find that my intention to let my hair grow long was less than comfortable.  I've always worn my hair fairly short, ever since my days in the Army.  Letting it grow a little longer when it is cold is one thing, but not practical or tolerable in the summer months.  I finally broke down Friday and made a beeline to a barber shop, chopping my locks back to a length where combing is not necessary.  The lady did a great job of blending it into the beard as well, taming the sideburns enough so they don't stick out like a second pair of ears.  The beard was untouched, since there was no evidence of split ends, and a couple extra inches wouldn't hurt anything.  Unlike some of you lucky guys, my beard doesn't grow all that fast...  Started from a short office beard last August, and its still only about 4" long now. At this moment, as I sit typing this blog entry, I am waiting for a couple of loaves of cinnamon-raisin bread to rise, thereafter to be baked.  I'll be attending a local Santa Claus potluck event, and the bread is my surprise entry, along with a tropical fruit salad that I am signed up to make.  You would think that my Mrs. would be the baker in the family, and as far as cookies go, you would be right.  But a couple of years ago while I was between contracts, I decided that I was going to teach myself to bake bread.  Only took about 10 batches before I started creating bread instead of bricks, but I managed.  These days, I don't bake that often, just because if I do, most of it goes to waist, but any soft of event where bringing food is an option gives me an excuse to throw together a batch or two, and fulfill a certain psychic kneed...  

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Bleach Job... Delayed

This morning, I called the hair salon that does beard bleaching to schedule a whitening job on my beard and hair for two weeks out.  This evening, I found out that I'll have to reschedule the whitening to a later date (probably two weeks later), due to a conflict with an event for my son.  Ah, the joys of being a parent.  Oh well... I have to enjoy him while I can, because at the end of this month, he is off to Marine boot camp.

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Talking About Santa

This weekend, I attended the District 37 Toastmasters spring conference.  In and of itself, this had nothing to do with Christmas, or Santa Claus.  However, I did want to mention it here in that I had the opportunity to do some cheap advertising in the conference program.  I really don't expect to get a lot of return on the ad, but it did make some of my fellow Toastmasters aware of me, and realize that I had a reason for growing a white beard.  In addition, I did here one  person suggest that Santa might be able to make an appearance at the fall conference. The main Santa related thing that came out of the conference...  My wife and I currently run the district bookstore, which means we have to haul boxes of manuals and books related to Toastmasters to and from each conference location.  This time, since the conference was at a hotel, we were able to snag a luggage rack to carry the heavy boxes and bins in from the truck.  However, at some previous events, luggage carts were scarce, resulting in this weary part time Santa having to lug a dozen or more containers an unreasonable distance.  Anyway, on the drive home last night (actually early this morning), I mentioned that we ought to get one of those little fold up luggage carts.  She agreed.  Score!  The specific cart had been mentioned by one of my brother Santa's as a great implement to be used for transporting audiovisual gear and stuff in the Santa biz. The fact that it's "primary" use will be for the bookstore is besides the point.  We may use it for that, but the cart will be ours (mine), since we don't want to bother the district finance manager for reimbursement for a $60 item.  And we don't expect to be saddled^k^k^k^k^k^k^k in charge of the bookstore forever.    

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

It's Beginning To Look Not Like Christmas

The post Christmas enthusiasm is beginning to wear off, and it's getting more and more difficult to muster the Christmas Spirit as we move into Spring and Summer.  Yes, I am moving forward with preparations for the next season, but I find that much of what I have to do is wait for the next thing. One thing that I just completed is Ed Taylor's Santa Claus Conservatory classes.  Not having worked as a paid Santa Claus before, I have to admit that there was a whole lot of useful information there.  I'm just not sure that I was able to absorb it all, since I don't have any real personal experience to compare it to.  Well, that's what I'll be getting during this next year, hopefully.  I fully expect to get a fair number of gigs from other Santa's in the area who are overbooked (or so they tell me at the local IBRBS meetings).  Next year, I can repeat the classes, and perhaps attend one of the Santa Schools, depending on their schedule and mine, since I am still a working stiff. As I mentioned, I do attend the local IBRBS meetings.  Next one is Wednesday at lunch, which isn't terribly convenient, but I fell that it is worth attending, even though it's just a planning meeting.  I also attend a story telling class offered by Steve Gillham, which will be tomorrow after work.  I don't expect to become a Super Santa in only a year or two because of these groups, but I do hope that these associations will allow me to become a better Santa than I would otherwise.

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Did I Mention It Is Easter?

Over the years, Easter has changed for me.  Back before I got married, it was much like any other day, except that I would make a special effort to go to church.  That, and the stores were stocked with chocolate bunnies and eggs.  After I got married, I became much more familiar with the candy and egg painting again, which I hadn't been involved with since I was in middle school.  But now, with my youngest out of high school and set on joining the marines, Easter is no longer about the candy any more.  Yes, I expect we'll see those times again, after there are grand kids, but that is probably a few years off, God willing. For the most part, this holiday is a non-event, as far as people having a three day weekend.  Yes, both my wife and I were off Friday, but we didn't go anywhere.  There's too much to do around the house, refurbishing bedrooms as kids have moved on, and turning them into office space, guest bedroom, sewing room, Santa study, and what have you.  Since I'm doing this work myself, its slow going, although I finished painting one room a week ago, and will start painting the next in a week (currently masking).  The nice thing about this mini-remodel is that it should be the last time to do so for this house.  We bought it new in 2001, and depending on the ups and downs of the real estate market in this area, will be looking to sell in another 4 - 6 years, as I retire. I haven't decided where we will go at that point.  I have been thinking for years that I would like to get some acreage away from the city... 20 - 30 miles out would be good.  If I enjoy playing Santa as much as I expect that I will during the times before this move, I would even consider coming up with some variation of "Santa's House".   Yes, I know that Reindeer aren't practical or possible in North Carolina, but other things are possible.  But that's a daydream for another day. What's been going on this week?  Well, I ordered an assortment of hair/beard care goodies... including some Prism Lites Blue Lightener and some Trionics lift thru, with the thought to try maintaining my own beard coloring using the Shannon Settles method.  I had my beard bleached professionally back in February, and it's already starting to show the grey.  I'll have it done one more time by the professional in the next month or so, and catch the hair on top, which is still fairly brown.  After that, in July, I'll try it myself.  If I can't get it right, I'll still have time to let it grow back, and get the Pros to fix it. Also picked up some got2b Glued, to get the 'stash out of my mouth.  It's going to take some practice to apply this, since I found if you use too much, it clumps, and doesn't look at all natural.  Not worried about this one.  Finally, got some Cowboy Magic detangler.  This stuff is great!  Although I am finding that it takes a lot less than I expect it to...  And the goodies keep coming.  I ordered and received Joe Moore's third Santa Claus book "Glaciers Melt & Mountains Smoke".  The first book of the series was great, and the second was pretty good.  I'm hoping for another good read with this one, although I haven't had time to read more than the first 3 chapters.  Interesting story, but it has already widely diverged from my "North Pole", as I pencil it out. Have a wonderful Easter weekend.  Blessings on you all.      

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

A Taxing Week

As the title of this post suggests, it has been a taxing week.  No, not really difficult, although it was busy.  Just not in a Santa Claus way.  Although I was off work this past week, I didn't get as many of the items on my honey-do list complete as I would have liked (painting and yard work).  It seemed like every evening or day was occupied by some Toastmasters related event or other (contest season).  Perhaps the worst of it was yesterday and today... when I knocked out my taxes for the year.  Yes, I do my own, and completely by hand.  Well, I use spreadsheets to crunch the numbers, but I created them myself, and update them year to year.  Just an idiosyncrasy of mine, but I've been doing it since the 80's.  But that's finished (owe: $800+), and I was able to turn to other things. Today, I was re-watching the video recording on Santa Ed Taylor's site for Beard Whitening and Care (again).  I originally watched this video back in late December or early January, and at the time concluded that it would be better to have a professional bleach my beard the first time around.  Now, however, a little bit of grey is starting to creep back in, and I'm thinking that I may want to re-bleach before Fall as I had originally planned.  Since the professional who knows how do the job is a 2 hour drive from home, and costs $80 - $150 (I just had beard done last time, will need top done next time), I am rethinking the idea of doing it myself. With that in mind, I put in an order for a bottle of Trionics and a container of Bleaching Powder.   I figure I can do a little cautious experimenting, and have plenty of time to recover from any mistakes that I may make.  If it proves too difficult, I can always go back and have a pro do it in October. While I was shopping, I ordered some got2b glued styling gel, which I've heard does good things for run away hair.  My mustache is behaving well, developing a nice curl even when dry, but the part over the lip doesn't want to stay put.  I'm sure that as it fills out, I will be able to make it behave all by itself, but in the meantime, I want to be able to glue it up out of the way. As far as eating and drinking (coffee!!!), this is a must have.  I won't even talk about the ribs I had for dinner last night... My contract is supposed to be restarting this coming week, which is good, since it keeps the money flowing.  Depending on the budget, I am debating whether I can afford a new Santa Suit... higher quality than the cheap one that I bought in February.  My wife has promised to sew some other items for me (vest, hat, etc.), but the entire suit may be pushing the limit for right now.  Have to put that request off until next year.

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Bit by Bit

Slipping into the role of Santa Claus is something that most of here have learned to do, but as a novice Santa, I am finding that there is more complexity in the Business of Santa Claus than I predicted before I stared.  I'm not just talking about the dollars and sense of what gear needs to be purchased, or how much is a fair rate for your time in the big chair or at an event.  No, I'm speaking of the little things. Take Business Cards.  You wouldn't think such a thing would be all that complicated.  But when you get input from multiple people, all of whom have an opinion about the way the card should be laid out, which pictures to use, font size, etc., it slows the process down.  Mrs Claus has one idea, and I have another.  My mentor is offering an opinion as well, which I definitely pay attention to, but dang it, I can think for my self, and while I will accept advice from all, I am going to decide.  I finally assembled the best first try and shot an order for 100 from Vista.  If I decide they are right, I can make a reorder of 500 or 1000.  If not, I'm out $20, and can try again.  Guess I'll skip a trip to McDonalds.  Another thing that came up is email.  Yes, there is an email address that I created to receive email for the organization (both myself and Mrs. Claus).  However, I had been communicating using my personal email account, as has Mrs. Claus, and our mentor insists that our email should have our pictures with the Santa wear.  Maybe not such a great idea, since I use that account for other communications (e.g.: Work), and business folks don't see things quite the same way outside of Christmas.  This is easily solved, of course, because there is nothing stopping you from having more than one email account.  So now, I've got my Google account linked to three emails:  meckardt@gmail.com, my normal email; Santa1MikeE@gmail.com for personal holiday email traffic; and MrsClausPlusSanta@gmail.com, for everything related to the business of being Santa.  I've instructed my Mrs. Claus in who to do the same thing, with the last account being a shared business address we can both access.  That account has a couples picture associated with it, and the two holiday accounts (will) have our appropriate festive attire.  My original account remains the same, with my normal homely mug available for all to see. I'm sure that these aren't the last issues that I will have to deal with before I get through my first real Christmas season.  But as the saying goes, anything worth doing is worth overdoing.        

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

It Ain't Hollywood

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, my website is up.  Today, I can report that I have made it visible to search engines, and enabled Google Analytics.   Yes, my site is finished, at least enough to feel that it is worthy of display.  Sure, I'm still planning to tweak bits and pieces, and add frequent blog entries (both as Santa, as well as the North Pole News) as well as episodes of "The Story of Santa", which will eventually end up in book form, but for now will provide a distraction to younger readers who find my site. I also set up a GigSalad account.  I'm not sold on the idea that this is the best way to generate business, since it comes with a fee (6%/$20/gig), and it doesn't link back to all the other social media I plan on having.  But everyone tells me that it is necessary, so I set it up. I didn't mention it in any of my previous blog entries, but during the photo session last month, the clasp on the brand new reindeer brooch I had bought to put on my Santa hat broken off.  I couldn't even fix it, since I evidently lost a piece when I picked it up.  Didn't particularly like those pin and clasp arrangements anyway, so I went online and bought a pack of those magnets you use on the back of fancy plastic name tags.  Sticky tape on magnet replaces pin and claps, and I'm all set.  The remaining 9 magnets went in my Santa tool kit for future repairs.   While I was putting my gear away, I noticed that the vinyl belt that I had used for the photo session was already tearing at the buckle hole I had used.  Not too surprised, since I'm rough on belts... I usually go through a standard leather belt every year or so, so vinyl doesn't stand a chance.  I have a couple of backups (in vinyl), but it's too important to depend on these things, so just before sitting down to enter this blog entry, I went on one of the sites I found for such Santa belts (https://www.yourtack.com/Santa.html) and bought a good 3 1/2" leather belt with brass buckle.  I suppose that I could have found something cheaper if I'd asked around, but this is still a lot cheaper than the belt(s) that I hope to have in the future.  Meanwhile, it is 1000% better than vinyl. One of the sad things about being a beginning Santa is that I have to deal with all the expenses involved with getting started (Santa Wear, Photos, Beard Treatments, etc.), and won't be seeing any return for months.  Yes, I know that gigs are assured, since I am working with the local IBRBS group, and they assure me that they're always looking for someone to offload extra work on.  Next year, I fully expect to be able to have money for the "nice to have" stuff... but this year goodies like trips to Gatlingburg, Atlanta, Denver, etc. are not in the cards.  Same with going to a Santa School... this year.  I already have that stuff mentally penciled in for 2018 (assuming work allows, and my not being a total Santa-flop).      

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Getting Back On Track

The last couple of weeks have been busy, between getting my photos and the website launched, as well as doing things for work, etc.  Yesterday saw a continuation of that, we my wife and I driving from Raleigh to Alexandria National Cemetery to pay respects to her grandmother, who passed a year ago. I did take time during the middle of last week to add a couple of posts to my website, since it had been a little while.  My intent is to start adding a post to the blog almost every day, and I've set up a story line that should occupy at least a few of these posts.  If you want to know what it is, you have to go read it.  Another thing I'm working on in my web site is my Story of Santa.  Yes, I know it's been done, but I am trying to convince myself how I ended up as the man.  The first postulate of my Santa ethos is that Santa is eternal, but it is not the same dude forever.  This has been done in a number of stories and movies, including Joe Moore's "Believe Again" and Tim Allen in "The Santa Clause", both of which I enjoyed immensely.  The purpose of my Story of Santa is to provide a background that I can use in answering questions about the North Pole, but to act as a diversion to curious eyes exploring my website.  Note that the link for the Story of Santa appears above the About Mrs. Claus and About Santa links that will provide relevant information to prospective clients who want to know about the people who will be performing for them.  I don't mind the kids reading these things... but if they read the Story of Santa first it will actually make sense that Santa is real. Yes, there's a lot more going on in my life as Santa.  I'm working occasionally on putting together a gig bag with all the stuff that a busy Santa is likely to need in his work.  There's a long way to go before that's complete, but I figure that there isn't a real hurry to get it done.  Also new Santa gear to be produced.  I picked up some nice material to make a Santa vest, as well as plain red cloth which I can use to make a Santa bag.  My wife promises that she will get to it soon.  Also bought some name plate magnets that I can use to repair a Reindeer Wreath ornament who's clasp broke during the photo shoot. That's all for now.  Need to go do some more chores now, or I'm likely to get onto the Naughty list.    

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Ready for Gatlingburg (Sort of)

Well, I got the photos from our professional photographer last Thursday, and of course immediately started putting them into my web site.  The photographer sent us the best 20 or so pictures, and I culled through that list to come up with the best image for each page of the site.  From there, it was crop and scale, and position the text boxes until everything was looking the way that it should.  Unfortunately, that took up a lot of my time, since I had to get the site ready for Gatlingburg, as well as create business card mock-ups, resulting in not having time or energy to post here, or on my Santa Claus blog on the website.  Hopefully, now that the web site is ALMOST ready for prime time, I'll have time to get back to the blog(s). No, I am not going to Gatlingburg.  However, my partner, Mrs. Merry Lou Claus (Shelton) is attending, and she wanted to have some information to hand out.  We spent a couple of hours on the phone last night going over the web site page by page, and I have fixed everything she pointed out.  Still waiting on her bio for the About Mrs. Santa page, not to mention entries for her blog, but that is on her.  From my standpoint, the website is about ready to turn on.  Still want to generate my blog and story content before I unleash Google search on it, but is far enough along that I am no longer ashamed to admit I did it.  So for your browsing pleasure: https://www.mrsclausplussanta.com/ I will continue to add Blog Entries or continue writing in the Story of Santa Claus section in the coming weeks.  As soon as I can get Lou to add her bio, and start posting in her blog, I will unblock it from search engines.  Hopefully I can have enough story content done by Fall to capture the interest of any kids who happen on the site.

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Professional Photos Taken... Check

Spent several hours today having professional photos taken.  Except for having to wear a hot Santa Suit, the session was a lot of fun.  The studio tells me that the pictures will be processed and available in about a week, which I'm really looking forward to.  In addition to having to complete my website, I need to get my GigSalad account set up, and make up a new set of business cards and so forth, in preparation for Gattlingburg. This week, my wife is away, so she hasn't been able to get started on new Santa gear for this year.  We picked out material for the first outfit or two, so I know she is eager to get started.  I'm also eager, since it will expand my wardrobe beyond the basic off the shelf suit. I'd go on, but this week I've been running behind on sleep, and am about ready to nod off.  Blessings, Santa MikeE  

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Turning Into Santa

Another week  goes by, and I am one step closer to being Santa Claus. As mentioned in last weeks post, I received my round wire-frame prescription glasses in the mail.  Of course one of the first things I did was get my wife to take a picture of me wearing the new glasses along with a Santa hat and a red T-shirt.  I've added this picture as my new profile pic here. Not to worry... next Saturday I am scheduled to sit (or stand) for professional photos in full gear, so shortly thereafter I expect to be replacing this makeshift Santa picture with a real one.  Not sure what kinds of backdrops the photographer has, but I hear that they do Santa pictures for kids, so I'm hopeful. What else?  Oh yes, my web site.   Still not ready to go public, since it doesn't have pictures, but one thing that I decided to add was a blog.  So not only have I made a commitment to post in this blog every week, but I want to post over there three times a week, more or less.  Not that it is the same kind of blog entry.  More as Santa, talking about things going on at the North Pole, or answering questions.  Sometimes I plan to post "North Pole News", which comes from the local journalists up there.  All good fun, with the intent of keeping new material on the page every week, both to keep the kids coming back, and to get Google to rank the site higher.  No, I haven't set it so Google will crawl the site yet... I want to get the picture on the site, and finish a little more material on the Blog and certain other pages before I do that.  Be assured, I do intend to turn it on before the end of March (prepping for Gatlinburg). Blessings,  MikeE  

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

You've Got To Move It

Once again, another week has passed, and I progress toward being Santa. Over the last week, many of the items I ordered online have come in.  Things like a Santa Claus makeup kit, various items to build costumes (faux fur, specialty needles, boot cuffs), and best of all, a message that my round eyeglasses have shipped.  This last is great because I'll be able to see while having my professional photos taken (assuming the post office can get them here in less than 2 weeks).  If they don't come in, I'll have to use costume glasses that I picked up, which don't do anything for my sight. What else have I been doing?  I finally broke down and bought web space on WIX, and a domain name to go with it.  MrsClausPlusSanta.com is now registered in my name, and the basic framework for the site is up, along with some material that I have been able to accumulate or appropriate from examples set by other Santa's.  If you look at it at the time of this post, it doesn't look like much, since there are no pictures (except one selfie), and I haven't really worked on the text yet that much.  After picture day, I should be able to start alleviating that lack, but I also need to work with my partner, (Merry) Lou.  After I get pictures up, and the site in a more presentable state, I'll post the URL as part of my profile.

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Santa

Did I mention last time that I expected to have a busy week?  It was. Thursday afternoon, I drove out to Highpoint, NC to have my beard whitened.  Something over an hour drive, and then about 2 hours for the treatment.  Would have been longer if I had done the top, but I only need my beard white for photos in a couple of weeks.  I won't even worry too much about keeping it white until October time frame, when I can plan to get everything done in preparation for the season. Ron Campbell loaned me a vest and great coat combination to use as a pattern to create my own this week.  My wife and I went down to the fabric store this morning to see what they had in the way of Santa appropriate fabrics.  We found one pattern that we figured we could make into a vest, so we picked up enough to make a couple, as well as some thinner plain red cotton to practice on.  We didn't see faux fur there today, so I went online a ordered a yard to give us something to work with.  I don't think there's anyway we can get anything finished before my scheduled picture day (March 4), but plenty of time before the Christmas season begins in November.  Meanwhile, I'll just have to make due with the off the shelf cheap Santa Suit.  

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Back In The Saddle Again

OK, it's a hokey blog title, but its getting late on a Saturday night.  I was up early this morning to attend a Toastmasters training event (for the 3rd week in a row!), and I didn't get much of a nap during the day. Just finished reading Believe Again, by Joe Moore.  Very enjoyable Santa Claus story, and plenty of material to allow me to start crafting my own mental image of what the North Pole is like.  It isn't urgent that I define this world view... if I get it roughed out by summer I should be in good shape.  Meanwhile, there's a bunch of other books I'll have to consume as fodder for my imagination. Tomorrow, I'll be meeting with Ron Campbell and Lou Shelton.  Lou is a Mrs. Claus local to my town that is looking for a Santa to work with, and Ron has recommended that we consider working together.  As a new Santa, this would greatly benefit me, since she has done this for a couple of years, and I have yet to really get my feet wet.  Since all spouses will be along for the meet, it should be an interesting luncheon. Last week, when I attended the Triangle Santa Buddies meeting, Ron was eager to find ways to help me get up to speed as a new Santa.  He offered to lend me a pair of black boots, but I showed him the black western style boots I was wearing that evening, and he said the would be good enough.  Sure, eventually I'll have to get some better boots, but for now I can save a couple of hundred not  spending money on this.  Instead, today I ordered some fur boot cuffs that use Velcro to attach to the boot tops.  A whole lot less expensive, and I should be able to reuse them with any other standard boots I may get in the future. This week, I attended the first class of Santa Ed Taylor's on-line training for 2017.  I can't say that I was overwhelmed by all the information... since I'd prepared for the paid class by reviewing the recordings of the last two year's classes.  But information is information.  I'll absorb it all, and combine it with what I learn from my local Santa group(s) to start crafting my own portrayal of St. Nick. Next on the agenda (after my meeting tomorrow) is getting my beard bleached.  On the recommendation of several other Santas from TSB, I'll be driving up to Highpoint next Thursday afternoon to go to a specific hair saloon for a specific person:  Gary Belo.   Yes, from everything I've heard here and elsewhere, you don't want to mess around with doing your own bleaching, especially at first.  Also, most hair places do not know how to work with beards.  Gary Belo is the expert in North Carolina, or so I have been led to believe.  I should be able to report on the success of my transformation in my next blog post.  

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Missed One

Yes, I missed blogging last week, and almost missed it this week.  Fortunately, I remembered Monday morning, and had a few minutes to jot down some words while waiting for a meeting to get started. I made contact with the local Santa community in a big way!  Thanks to Santa Steve Gillham for connecting with me, as well as the guys and gals at Triangle Santa buddies.  I'm sure to get some great coaching as I move on in my Santa Journey. At the advice of several of the Santas I've spoken with, I'm doing extensive background reading from several books, some borrowed, some purchased.  As a first step, I've scheduled an appointment to get my hair bleached professionally, after which I can get photos, etc.  One step at a time.

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Another Saturday... and a Busy Week

When I started out this blog, I promised myself that I would post to it religiously once a week.  Of course, I immediately broke that promise, posting more frequently that first week, and then missing my weekly check-in by a couple of days last week.  I have my reasons...  Too much to say the one time, and dealing with an auto accident my wife was involved in the later.  However, this week, I'm going to post on time. As the title of this entry suggests, I've had an eventful week.  Yes, my wife was in an accident.  Just bruised up for the most part, but the car was a total loss.  Quick response by the insurance company resulted in us spending this afternoon at the car dealer, and driving off with a new car to replace the old one.  She still has to finish clearing up the insurance, loan paperwork, and registration, but that's about as quick of an auto purchase I've ever been involved in.  Helps that she has excellent credit, and a very helpful credit union. Enough of that.  Much more important, and relevant to this forum, I jumped right into Santahood this week, signing up for Santa Ed's classes at the Santa Conservatory.  Probably would have gone to Schools4Santas instead, except that they're still closed down.  That's OK... I'm sure to catch them sometime in the future.  Looking forward to Santa Ed's classes next month, but am presently consuming the recordings of classes from previous years, at the rate of one per night.   They aren't going to last through the end of the month.  Of course, as I watch all of these recordings, I am getting a whole lot of useful information.  Also watching the forums here.  Between them, I've realized that I can get a cheap Santa Suit on eBay.  This is not the suit I plan to wear next Christmas season, but it would make a decent backup, and will allow me to get some professional pictures taken 3 or 4 months earlier than if I waited to buy the $500 suit. Also started following links from various places.  Found the National Beard Registry, and promptly registered for same.  Also registered on the Santa Claus Oath website.  I already signed up for IBRBS, and received my membership card in the mail the other day.  We are one day into another three day weekend.  Hopefully this will allow me to catch up on some of the chores that tend to pile up around the house...  Also, I'll have more time to figure out better ways to become Santa.  I know that on Monday, I plan to start making contacts with various local Santa's, including @Shannon and @Steve Gillham.  I also plan to connect with the local section of IBRBS, Triangle Santa Buddies.  I know I've got a long way to go before I'm ready to fill Santa's boots... but I hope I've taken the first steps.

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Ho Ho Ho.

At one point or another, either here in my blog, or somewhere in the forum, I'm certain that I have mentioned that I am a Toastmaster.  Currently a member of two clubs, as well as being the co-manager of the District 37 Bookstore.  This evening, I took the opportunity to present a speech on the topic of Santa Claus.  This is the text that I had written out yesterday.  Much of what I presented was extemporaneous.  The speech was scheduled to go 15 - 20 minutes, for the project "Speaking to Entertain".  I hit 20:15, which is just about perfect. Ho Ho Ho [real belly laugh] Thank you Mr. Toastmaster.  Fellow Toastmasters. By a show of hands, who in this room believes in Santa Claus?  [Count hands.  Shake head sadly.]  This world would be a better place if more of us believed.  Tonight, I’m going to describe my experience as Santa Claus.  I will describe how Santa’s are working around the country.  Finally, I will convince you why Santa is real. Last month, I had the opportunity to play Santa at our neighborhood Holiday Festival.  Normally, I am not involved in my Homeowners Association’s Social Committee, but leading into the Christmas season, I decided that it was time to attend.  During that meeting, a number of topics related to the Holiday Festival were discussed.  When the topic of Santa Claus was brought up, the new Board President, who had played the roll last year, stated that he guessed that he could do it again.  Everyone looked at him… a clean shaven, fairly trim gentleman, and then they looked over at me.  One of the other Board members in attendance said “Why don’t we have Mike as Santa.  He’d make a good Santa!” Two weeks later, it is time for the Holiday Festival.  I arrived early to help set up the event, which was to be held in the community pool parking lot.  The borrowed Santa suit was hidden inside the fenced off pool area, behind the pool house.  As the time for the festival approached, I slipped through the gate to don the suit.
Santa suits are designed to fit over normal clothing.  However, it isn’t easy to put on.  The jacket isn’t too bad, but the Santa pants require taking off your shoes… in my case, cowboy boots… donning the bulky Santa pants, pulling the fake Santa boot tops on, donning shoes or boots under the boot tops, and then draping the boot tops over the shoes or boots.  Can we say awkward?  Since I am not particularly flexible anyway, this contortionist act took me about 15 minutes, and left me winded.  Finally, more or less ready, I circled around the back of the pool house to emerge in the parking lot, where the members of the community were beginning to gather. As arranged, a picnic shelter had been set up with a chair for Santa, along with camera equipment one of the residents who was a professional photographer was supplying.  After I had settled in, with a bowl of candy canes to one side, children of the community were brought forth one by one. "Ho Ho Ho.  What’s your name little girl?"  "Have you been a good little boy this year?"  "What would you like Santa to bring you this Christmas?"  I’ve never taken formal Santa training, but I had these basics down.  I learned quickly that there are three types of children… generally divided by age.   The young ones, up to about 2 or 3 years old, don’t want to have anything to do with this big, mean looking man in a funny red suit.  As often as not, they’ll scream their head off.  I guess dealing with this group is something that they teach you at Santa School. The second group, slightly older, and up to about 6 or 7 years old, are the true believers.  Santa is not only real, but they get to meet him!  These are the kids that are the most fun to work with, since they take the situation seriously.  I know that I could improve my interactions with youngsters of this group, but I enjoyed talking with them. The last group of kids were the older ones.  They are the ones who are skeptical about the whole Santa thing.  Generally, the only reason that they go through the motions is that they have younger siblings who still believe.  That’s OK.  I don’t mind that they think I’m not the Santa Claus of legend. There was a fourth group who I interacted with as Santa Claus that day.  That was the adults at the festival.  You would not believe how many grownups wanted their picture taken with Santa!  We even had a group of firemen that came on a firetruck as part of the festival that wanted their picture taken.  I know that they knew that I was just a guy in a suit, but it was all fun, and I enjoyed my day as Santa. Acting as Santa can be a lot of fun.  But it can also be a business.  Every year, malls and large department stores around the country host Santa to greet children and take photos.  This trend, which started in the 1930s, has become a cultural norm.  More recently, as the lines for Santa at malls become longer and longer, some Santa’s have found work appearing at various community and business events, or even performing home visits.   Regional, National, and International Santa Organizations provide a social network for people who work as Santa, Mrs. Claus, Elves, and Reindeer Handlers.  The handout that I have passed around is the monthly newsletter from one such organization, the ClausNet Gazette, generated by the members of ClausNet, a group of over 2,400 Santa’s and related people.  Other Santa organizations include IBRBS, the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, MOTS, the Mystic Order of Traditional Santas, and AORBS, the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas. Santa training is available from a several Santa schools, both in person, or electronically.  Some of the Santa schools include The Santa Claus Conservatory, the Northern Lights Academy, Schools4Santa, and the original Santa Claus School. Santa gear is available from any number of stores for a wide variety of prices, from a cheap Walmart Santa polyester outfit to custom made lined velveteen suits  costing thousands of dollars.   Santa performers can expect to earn adequate remunerations for their efforts, with Santa’s potentially earning $10k - $50k in a Christmas season.  Santa Ed Taylor in Southern California rakes in over $100k doing Santa year round, including Television commercials and similar work. Of course, not every Santa is in it to earn a living.  Santa Johnathan, in Northern California, spends an entire day every year at San Francisco’s Childrens Hospital.  Santa Schwindy, Tom Schwindenhammer in Pennsylvania, accepts donations for the Northampton Food bank and area families in need.  Santa Nick, Mark Ramsey out in Oregon, brought in over $65k of charitable contributions in 2016, doing Corporate events and home visits, all of which was donated to charity. Will I play Santa again?  You betcha!  I fully intend to move into full Santa mode over the coming year… acquiring proper Santa training and purchasing my own Santa suit as funds permit.  I know that I won’t be bringing in the big money that some of the other Santa’s out there do any time soon, but if I can cover most of my expenses while I gain experience and make some children’s Christmas merry, I will be satisfied.  Once I get my bearings, I expect that I can do charity work in addition to the paid opportunities.  Is Santa real?  I believe he is.  He may be a conglomeration of ideas handed down through the generations, from Saint Nicholas, a 4th Century Greek bishop of Myra, to the Coca Cola advertisements of the 1930s, but he represents an ideal.  An ideal that we can bring happiness to people, young and old.  An ideal that it is better to give than it is to receive.  Santa is as real as any one of us who is willing to put the time and effort into portraying the jolly old elf and making children and adults happy, either for pay or for charity.  

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year... or at least it will be, a couple of hours after I complete this post. I am an incessant planner.  Just my nature... always has been.  After I decide to pursue a course... say, joining the ranks of Santa Claus, I try to analyze how that's going to work, as opposed to the guy who just starts doing it.  I know, I know... I end up winging it half the time anyway, with all my fancy spreadsheets and schedules thrown to the wind.  But I'm still going to do it... in part because I enjoy it, and also because it helps me think about what I'm doing. Case in point:  In my last blog entry, I outlined the steps I would need to take to pursue the job of St. Nick.  I reviewed it this evening, and I'm fairly confident that I enumerated the key points.  I'm sure there are details to be filled in, and as I get further along, I will so fill them.  But one thing that I'm still working on is the budget and what I should legitimately be charging customers.  Face it: my first year is going to be a learning experience, so I don't feel right charging the market rate.  I really don't want to undercut or undermine the other Santas working in the area, but I hope to coordinate with them to hit new market areas, or take some of their overload, so I don't plan to take jobs away from them.  Secondly, I doubt that I will have a full schedule the first year.  I'm hoping to get 20 gigs or so, for maybe 30 hours of paid exposure.  In addition, I'm sure that I'll volunteer for a number of places that I am associated with anyway.  As I fine tune my rates, I've got it all plugged into a spreadsheet to figure my bottom line (they call me a Excel Guru at work).  Right now, I'm figuring two rates:  Standard rates during the week (Monday - Thursday), and Prime rates on the weekends (Friday - Sunday).  I have looked at the way some of the rest of you structure your billing, and I kind of like the way SCSanta does it... billing by the 1/2 hour, with the first 1/2 hour weighted heavy to cover travel & setup.  My current thoughts are to charge $30/$20 Standard rate, and $45/$30 Prime rate.  This isn't going to make me a fortune, but it will cover most of my costs, and should garner me a fair amount of great experience as I work on my routine.  The next year, I would probably be able to line up more gigs and charge a higher hourly rate.  Might even see some profit in the second year. Of course, all of these plans can be upended based on some of the things that I have read here on ClausNet.  I've seen differing opinions about charging less.  My Santa's Hat is off to Santa Chris Capstone for the idea of Entry Level Santa For Entry Level Clients.  In a couple of weeks, I plan to start talking to some of you who live in my area, trying to get a clue as to what I should be doing.  Hopefully by the time Spring rolls around, I will have a better idea of how it works.      :       

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

Saturday Night... Christmas Eve

Yes, its Saturday night.  Christmas Eve.  Mrs. Santa is already in bed, and the kids are not tucked in their beds.  Of course, kids are somewhat of a misnomer, since they are both technically adults now.  They'll undoubtedly still be up long after I finally give up the ghost in a little while. I determined the other day that I would make a blog entry once a week... specifically on Saturday night, when I didn't have anything else scheduled.  You see, Monday is Toastmasters.  Tuesday is free, but something invariably comes up.  Wednesday, there is sometimes a meeting with a group down at the local sports bar/pizza place.  Thursday is another Toastmasters event.  Friday... who wants to plan on anything Friday?  Saturday it is. Christmas Eve...  I know that the majority of Santa's are either making last minute performances, or at home resting after a busy season.  Not I... not this year.  But I do intend to venture into this business moving forward, since I've been feeling the calling for the last couple of years.  After my brief appearance a couple of weeks ago, I decided to move forward. Step one will be speaking with some of the local Santas... after they've had a break.  Certainly no need to pester them immediately.  Mid January is about as soon as I want to begin this process.  Step two will be getting some basic training materials...  Schools4Santas produces a DVD set that will be a good substitute for attending a full fledged Santa school, which isn't in the cards right now.  When their store reopens in February, I plan to place my order.  Between these two steps, I should be able to find out exactly what I am getting myself into. Steps three, four, etc. will involve getting the Santa Suit, professional photos, and making together necessary business contacts.  Yes, I will take any advice my local contemporaries will provide, but I also hope to leverage contacts at work and among the Toastmaster groups.  All a learning experience.  I don't expect to become an instantly successful Santa, with 100+ hours of work a year.  For one thing, I still have a day job, and will only be able to do weekend and some evening gigs.  But I do hope to get a start, and at least defray the cost of the suit, training, and so forth. It's 10:30, and time for Santa Mikee to go to bed.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!  

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

 

A HAM's Night Before Christmas

Yes, I know that I promised myself to only post every week or so, but I can't help myself.  This definitely doesn't fit in elsewhere in the Forum, but I thought you might enjoy it anyway.  As I mentioned in my introduction, I am an Amateur Radio (HAM) Operator (KK4ETS), and have a number of contacts in that field.  One of the local hams (Gary Pearce KN4AQ) wrote this variation of The Night Before Christmas.  Not the only Ham Radio related version, but the only one by a person I have met personally.  I've linked to a UTube of Gary reading the poem too.  Enjoy! A Ham's Night Before Christmas 'Twas the night before Christmas, 
And all through two-meters,
Not a signal was keying up
Any repeaters. The antennas reached up
From the tower, quite high,
To catch the weak signals
That bounced from the sky. The children, Tech-Pluses,
Took their HT's to bed,
And dreamed of the day
They'd be Extras, instead. Mom put on her headphones,
I plugged in the key,
And we tuned 40 meters
For that rare ZK3. When the meter was pegged
by a signal with power.
It smoked a small diode,
and, I swear, shook the tower. Mom yanked off her phones,
And with all she could muster
Logged a spot of the signal
And the DX Packet Cluster, While I ran to the window
And peered up at the sky,
To see what could generate
RF that high. It was way in the distance,
But the moon made it gleam -
A flying sleigh, with an
Eight element beam, And a little old driver
Who looked slightly mean.
So I thought for a moment,
That it might be Wayne Green. But no, it was Santa,
The Santa of Hams.
On a mission, this Christmas,
To clean up the bands. He circled the tower,
Then stopped in his track,
And he slid down the coax
Right into the shack. While Mom and I hid
Behind stacks of CQ,
This Santa of hamming
Knew just what to do. He cleared off the shack desk
Of paper and parts,
And filled out all my late QSLs
For a start. He ran copper braid,
Took a steel rod and pounded
It into the earth, till
The station was grounded. He tightened loose fittings,
Resoldered connections,
Cranked down modulation,
Installed lightning protection. He neutralized tubes
In my linear amp...
(Never worked right before-
Now it works like a champ). A new, low-pass filter
Cleaned up the TV.
He corrected the settings
In my TNC. He repaired the computer
That would not compute,
And he backed up the hard drive
And got it to boot. Then, he reached really deep
In the bag that he brought,
And he pulled out a big box.
A new rig? I thought! A new Kenwood? An Icom?
A Yaesu, for me?!
(If he thought I'd been bad
It might be QRP!) Yes! The Ultimate Station!
How could I deserve this?
Could it be all those hours
That I worked Public Service? He hooked it all up
And in record time, quickly
Worked 100 countries, All down on 160.
I should have been happy,
It was my call he sent.
But the cards and the postage
Will cost two month's rent! He made final adjustments,
And left a card by the key:
"To Gary, from Santa Claus.
Seventy-Three." Then he grabbed his HT,
Looked me straight in the eye,
Punched a code on the pad,
And was gone - no good-bye. I ran back to the station,
And the pile-up was big,
But a card from St. Nick
Would be worth my new rig. Oh, too late, for his final
Came over the air.
It was copied all over.
It was heard everywhere. The Ham's Santa exclaimed
What a ham might expect,
"Merry Christmas to all,
And to all, good DX." (c)1996 Gary Pearce KN4AQ
Permission granted for any print
or electronic reproduction.

Santa MikeE

Santa MikeE

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