Tonight, I will be making my final appearance as Santa Claus for 2017. As I come to the end of my first year as a professional Santa Claus, I have been giving much thought about what my motivation to take up this calling is.
The reason is certainly not the money that can be made. While Mrs. Claus and I have earned a fair amount of dollars, it doesn’t really cover all of the expenses I incurred to get ready for the Season, and may not next year. It certainly didn’t last year, when I made one unpaid costumed appearance, and well as several informal “out of costume” appearances, all on my own time.
My motivation wasn’t really clear to me until recently. As we drifted into the holiday season, I purchased the usual Christmas gifts, including some for my wife. The gifts I purchased for her were fairly mundane items that I knew she would appreciate, but just things that I had seen. What relates to Santa Claus is that she kept asking me what I wanted for Christmas.
There are a lot of things that I want, but none of them are appropriate Christmas gifts. My desires for new electronic goodies (high end Computer, HF Ham rig, etc.) are more than I could reasonably expect someone to buy for me. The little things that would be appropriate for a gift… well, if I wanted it, I already had it. It was that kind of situation. My usual response was "I'm Santa Claus now. I give presents. I don't need to get presents."
We resolved the problem by going down to the local shopping area and hitting some of the stores… first Best Buy, and then Bed Bath and Beyond. We finally agreed to get a useful kitchen gadget which could then be wrapped as my “Christmas present”.
Last night, as I was falling asleep, the reason I enjoy being Santa occurred to me. As the Jolly Old Elf, I get to give gifts to people, and don’t need a gift in return. Sure, the physical gifts that I hand out at home appearances are provided by the parents who hired me, but the gift that I actually provide are the memories that I create for those families. If I can entertain with a song, a joke, or a story, I consider my efforts successful. When I bring joy to a child through interaction with Santa Claus, wonderful. That I provide myself as a prop for a parent to snap a photo of their child with is good too. (And you may be surprised at how many adults want a picture of themselves with Santa!) If I can make the children… and more importantly, the adults… understand that Christmas is about the happiness of giving to others, it will better help them come to understand the true meaning of Christmas.
Do I consider accepting payment for me efforts as Santa contrary to this spirit of giving? Not in the least. If I did not receive this remuneration, I wouldn’t be able to be the best Santa that I can be, and wouldn’t be able to maintain the role for long. As I feel my way into being Santa Claus, I have determined that I will continue to make the free appearances that first introduced me to the role, while charging the market rate where appropriate.
To bring the topic back around to Christmas, this is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, son of God, gifted to us by God to forgive us of our sins. God is the Father that already has everything that He wants. There is nothing that we can provide to Him that He needs. God has given us what we need. If we could only learn to follow His example we would be better for it.
I'm getting old.
Yes, I know it's almost a prerequisite of portraying a convincing Santa Claus, but it has disadvantages.
As I type this blog post, I sit at my computer with aching feet and sore back. The last few hours have been spent climbing up and down stairs, taking measurements, and cutting laminate flooring to fit that last little bit of a floor project I've been working on, only to find when I return upstairs that I cut the wrong end of the board as often as not. My fit bit tells me I've climbed 15 flights of stairs so far, and I did a similar amount yesterday. Not quite done yet... I still have a strip about 3" wide and 7 or 8 feet long that includes a door opening. Should get it done after a short rest, and that's it for today! The baseboards can wait a weekend or two!
A few weeks ago, my wife finally concluded that we needed to go on a diet. She decided on one of the low carb diets, which I had dabbled with before, but couldn't follow through on because she was a fan of Spagghetti, and similar foods. Now, with her buy in we've managed to stick to the plan (as much as I like spuds, rice, bread, and pasta too!), and I'm down 12 or 14 pounds so far. Since there's no reason to expect that this trend won't continue, I broke down and ordered a slightly smaller belt (I noticed the last one was on it's last notch already, and a little loose).
What else has been happening? Ordered a Santa bag from HALCO. Nice material, if plain. I've got it into an embroidery shop right now to have it decorated, and I bought one of Eileen's Santa name tags (thanks Eileen!). Along with all the other gear I've been accumulating, or making, I should be good to go when the season rolls around.
Yes, it's my first season (outside of sitting as SC for my HOA last year). But it's looking promising. My partner, Lou Shelton, and I have already arranged for 8 gigs, which in the grand scheme of things isn't that many, but I figure that this year is pure learning. I've been studying the subject with Steve Gillham and his group, and Ron Campbell has been advising several of us new Santa's. I figure that it pays to listen to old pros like that.
So yes, I'm getting old. However, when I look at some of the great Santa Claus's that I have as role models, maybe that isn't such a bad thing.
Today was a productive day, sort of.
I started the day by re-bleaching my beard, which I haven't done over most of the summer. Since my beard tends to be grey anyway, it wasn't strictly necessary until later in the season. But the reason I did so is the next thing:
At the request of one of the photographers that I will working with this season, I visited her in-home studio to do a practice photo session with her kids, to generate some promo shots for use on her website and my own. Since this is my first year, and I don't have pics with kids yet, I was willing to do this on an otherwise unused Saturday morning. I don't know if I'd be quite so willing to do this if I had more experience, and a collections of photos to post. But I might, since relationships like this can be useful.
As a beginning Santa Claus, I am learning that there are a lot of moving parts to this occupation. Care and feeding of reindeer, toy manufacturing, bell jingling, not to mention working with things like GigSalad, PayPal, and so forth. I was on the phone with one of my gigs yesterday, and found that she could not make a payment on my personal PayPal page, since she didn't have a PayPal account. She suggested that I try a business account. So I did, and it was easy. Learn something new every day.
I would claim that my tardiness in posting a blog entry here is because that I've been busy in the workshop, but that would be a stretch. I have been busy, but it hasn't been in the workshop making toys. Instead, it has been a split between my job search, and home restoration work.
The job search doesn't need explaining. The house work does. As I probably mentioned in one or more previous entries, my youngest son finally left the house a couple of months ago (Marine boot camp), and my wife and I have been working to restore his room, his older sister's room (she's been out of the house for four years... but motivation was lacking), and eventually, another bedroom that had been set up as an office.
We have made lots of progress in the past two months, including stripping both bedrooms down to plywood, patching and repainting walls (just about complete on second room now), and soon to put in new flooring (bought and paid for a load of laminate flooring today). We hope to have most of the work complete in the next two weeks, since our son will be coming home on leave after boot in three weeks.
Where does this lead to working in the workshop? Well, the first bedroom mentioned (our daughter's) is the designated guest room. My wife has claimed the second (our son's) as a sewing room [hers!]. This leaves the final bedroom, which currently is full of furniture and stuff that normally would be in the other two rooms. AFTER we rearrange everything, and empty this room out, I will strip it down, refinish and repaint walls, and re-floor as I have done with the others. This then becomes my office... or more particularly, Santa's Workshop. This room isn't on the same deadline as the other two... Mostly likely, won't finish it until Spring, to tell the truth, since we're just about ready to move into the holiday season, and during that time, I know I will be too occupied in other ways. But next year... I hope to have a basic studio ready to go, with backdrop and so forth. Ho ho ho!
Another week goes by, and we are suddenly rushing toward the Christmas season.
At the request of my mentor, Santa Ron Campbell, I generated a PowerPoint slide for him to use in a presentation he is giving this Saturday (7-29) at the 10th Annual Santa Business Round Table, in Highpoint, NC, showing the importance of having a Santa Claus website. Of course, I used screenshots from my own website as an example, and I must admit that I did have Ron's input when I put that site together. It took me a couple of tries to get the slide that Ron wanted, but I was happy to do it.
This past Monday afternoon, Ron called me and suggested that I put together a brochure to offer to help other Santas in the area put together a good website. Most of the gentlemen performing as Santa in this area don't have websites, or if they do, they are minimal... three or four pages at most. My site runs about 20 pages, with room for expansion. I admit that I can't compete with Santa Ed Taylor for coming up with a top notch web site, but I don't plan to charge a bunch of money either.
Having agreed to do this, I quickly edited some of my work generated while making the PowerPoint slide for Ron. I thought I was good to go, but then he comes back Tuesday evening and "suggests" that I replace the picture on my entry page with a video. Ho ho ho... wasn't that a whirl wind of excitement.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I'm in the middle of refurbishing several bedrooms in our house. I had JUST finished paining the walls in the first room (a dark green), and decided to use this space to record the video. I assembled various pieces of easily portable furniture and other props, and I and Mrs. Merry Lou Claus (Lou Shelton, my partner) practiced and recorded a minute and a half of video in an hour on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, I trimmed the ends of the file, added some background music, and published it to YouTube so I could display it on my website and on GigSalad.
Tomorrow (Saturday, 7-29) is the Santa Round Table, and I expect to be getting up and hitting the road by 6:00 a.m. (it is an hour and a half drive to Highpoint, and the day starts at 8:00). I will have a folder full of brochures (OK, 8 ½” x 11” double sided sheets) advertising website services, a box of business cards (thank you Vista Print!), and the cheerful demeanor of a newly minted Santa Claus.
Somehow, this post was never published when I entered it a week or so ago. The form displayed it when I got ready to enter another post. I will just push this out, and go on to write my new mutterings.
This Summer, my son moved out of the house, finally taking the plunge and joining the marines. He's about half way through boot now, and I expect to be attending his graduation down at Paris Island in a little over a month. His older sister moved out a number of years ago, and is currently starting her final year at college. What this means is my wife and I are now empty nesters.
One would think that this is a great thing. In a way, it is. However, with the empty nest comes a number of challenges. Chores that were delegated to a teenager are now my responsibility. And while I don't mind doing the things that my son was tasked with doing, it takes time and energy that are in short supply while nearing 60, whereas in my 40's, those things weren't as physically demanding. Oh well, such is life.
The point of this post, besides reminiscing about growing older, is that I am now facing a daunting project of converting our home... a 5 bedroom monstrosity that previously housed two kids, into something better suited for an older couple. I've concluded that it would be financially better to hang on to the place for at least another 8 - 10 years, and need to make better use of the space. After discussing it with the Mrs., I now know what to do.
We have always reserved one of the bedrooms as a guest room. This will remain the same, although it will be kids as our primary visitor rather than parents. Another bedroom becomes Santa's workshop. Mom claimed both of the other rooms, one as an office, and another as a sewing room.
Here we are in the early part of July. The year is barely half over, and I am already getting requests for Santa gigs for the coming holiday season.
For those of you who have been Santa Claus for some time, early bookings may not be anything out of the ordinary. However, from my study of the industry, a newly minted Santa, which pretty much describes me, can best expect to get the bulk of his work from other Santas who are overbooked. This is what I gleaned from this and other web sites, and it is what I read direct from other gentlemen at the two Santa groups I attend. With that in mind, I try to network with other Santas as much as i can, in the hopes that I can pick up on some of their leftovers.
And yet... through the good graces of Santa Ron Campbell, my mentor, I fully expect to have a running start on other gigs. At his insistence, I set up a GigSalad account, which I would probably have done eventually anyway, but he wanted me to do it right now (this is back in April). I have so far gotten two inquiries on the account, and I don't even have all the recommendations that an established Santa Claus would expect to have. I have a third request through my website, probably due to a business card I handed out while talking with someone. There is a forth gig that Santa Ron has mentioned that he expects I can pick up. And this is before the middle of July!
This tells me that I need to aim high. I've already got a basic Santa Claus outfit, along with upgraded boots, belt, bells, and key, but I still have to work on the nice to have things. My wife will be sewing me several vests, and I just order 3 sets of Christmas style buttons to complete these. While we're at it, I will probably make sure we make some extra long Santa caps to replace the ones shipped with the Santa Suit. In addition, every Santa Claus needs a Toy Bag, so I will want to put one of these together. We have about 6 yards of material to do all this, 4 yards in a red fabric with gold tree pattern, and 2 yards of plain red fabric. If we need more, Jo-Anne's is just a few miles down the road.
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!
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: email@example.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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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