Merry Christmas!

Phew.

FINALLY have a minute to come up for air.  I’m at the Vancouver airport, about 3 hours early for my flight.  What a whirlwind!  I have, literally, 4 updates that I started but never finished or posted on my website.  Since my last update, I’ve moved in to a new place in Henderson (about 5-7 minutes away from work), graduated both my customer service training class and my merchandising introduction class, been thrown into promo planning for the busiest shopping season of the year, had Thanksgiving in Palmdale with the family, decorated a lot of Christmas stuff at the office, came home for Christmas, and won the annual hat contest (today!).  Where to start!?

Henderson has been great so far.  Despite the unseasonal amounts of rain, it’s been an easy transition from California.  I live practically next to 2 golf courses, both of good to excellent quality, and within minutes of food, shopping, the strip, the airport and work.  The place I’m renting is a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom ground-floor condo in a gated community on a golf course.  I have my own garage (which is fantastic, by the way), and community features like a gym, tennis courts, a pool, a club house, and plenty of semi-private parking.  And all for about 2/3rd of what I was paying in CA.

I wasn’t away from California too long, though, because Shannon and I drove back to celebrate Thanksgiving with our respective families.  Thanksgiving was a ton of fun.  We congregated at Michael and Sarah’s place in Palmdale.  Mom came down from Vancouver, Chris came up from Newport, and Sarah family came in from other parts of California and even Europe.  Michael cooked a turkey, a rib roast and Jeff Clark, Sarah’s brother, had come up with a fantastic marinade for a leg of lamb that we rotisseried.  Michael also smoked some salmon (always delicious) and made a ton of other dishes.  It was a good time, tucking into 3 different meats, and celebrating with all the family.  On Black Friday, Michael, Jeff and I went out to Edwards airforce base to play some golf.  We thought it would be frigid and windy, but it was a beautiful, sunny day – not too cold, and practically no wind.  While this by no means left the course defenceless, instead of the all day battle I was prepared for, it was a pretty pleasant and fun day of golf.  And I didn’t lose too many balls!  Later on, Chris drove mom and I down to Hollywood, where we did a little bit of tourist stuff (Graumann’s theatre, Nokia theatre, etc.) and some shopping at little boutiques that Christopher seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of.  When we finally met Shannon at Paul Martin’s in El Segundo, it was a little hard to return to Nevada.

Life at Zappos has been one ridiculous thing after the next.  I was fully expecting the luster to wear off about 2 months in, but I find that the deeper I dig, the more there is to admire about the company and the more fun I have.  Sure, I’ve been working 12 hour days, but I seriously feel like I play around for 10 of them.  The work gets done, everyone is happy, and you make fast friends with the people you work with.  I’ve never been a part of an organization that does more little things to make sure everyone is happy, whether its creating a wellness course to ensure that people don’t get burned out during the busy season, or handing out Redbull shots the first day back from the holidays, or bringing in tons of partners and vendors to ensure that employees can take advantage of services to even up the work-life balance.  Of course there are things I’d love to change, but there’s a LOT that Zappos does right, and I’m happy to be a part of it at such an exciting point in it’s evolution.

December was particularly daunting.  Having never worked in retail, I’m not used to the holiday crush, and being part of the promotions and pricing team means working tirelessly to put together better and better promotions, and leveraging everyone’s creativity to drive sales.  It was a successful December – a bit of a trial by fire – and a fantastic learning experience.  It’s interesting work, and you definitely feel like your efforts dictate the performance of the entire site each day.  One of the benefits of working in retail vs. wholesale is that you’re much closer to your customer, and the results of your work – promotions, pricing, creative changes, product offerings, etc. – come back to you almost instantaneously.

But it definitely hasn’t been all work.  I think the managers were tasked with the impossible – make sure the work gets done, that we have record days this year, while, at the same time, making sure everyone has fun, feel included and everyone is happy.  We had movie nights and team lunches, decorating parties for the row as well as a very interesting team building exercise designed to highlight everyone’s strengths.  There was a Christmas party, small gifts every few days, a CRAP TON of baked goods … I mean, it was difficult to concentrate on the work that needed to get done because of all the activities!  But they did their job – I was reluctant to leave the office.  I wanted to work, longer and harder.  People at Zappos don’t just talk about that nefarious and abstract concept of “culture”; they live it and act to make it better every day.

And, in the midst of all of this, I feel like I’ve made some really good friends.  Paul, the guy who started the same day as I did, would take off every couple days to play Wii tennis (set up in the cafeteria).  A few of us went to a movie and dinner, and it was a great time cramming sushi into our mouths.  After the Christmas party, a bunch of us went out to a club that’s run by a company that someone’s husband works for, and we had a good time hanging out.  It’s hard not to work hard with people, to be thrown in in social situations and work situations, and not become good friends with them.

And then, finally, Christmas.  For some reason, I feel like it was more hectic this year than in previous years.  I arrived at midnight, December 23rd.  It’s 6 days later, December 29th.  6 days of food and family, paper hats and minute to win it competitions, rain and, well, more rain.  Vancouver is always fun.  Even in the midst of winter, it’s a beautiful city with a particularly clean smell to the air.  We went to the Canucks game last night to watch the Nucks but a good ol’ fashioned beating on the Flyers.  That there were a bunch of Flyers fans in our section only made the victory sweeter.  The Canucks were in fine form last night, getting a ton of shots, scoring a bunch of goals, and being physical enough to hem the other team into their own zone.  Luongo looked sharp, neither goal really his fault, and he made a handful of very good saves point blank and from the slot.  Mom looked happy to have us home, and Bobo … well, it is a little sad to see Bobo.  He’s near the end of his life, and his back legs don’t work at all now.  It’s fun watching him go for a walk in his doggie wheelchair, because he can be like his old self, active and curious and running from tree to tree to smell things.  At home, he mostly lies in one spot, or scuttles the back half of his body around the main floor with his front paws.  He’s a little shaky nowadays too.  Kind of sad.

Anyways, it’s almost time to board the plane, so I’ll leave it at that.  Oh, I also won the hat contest this year (repeat champion!).  I had decided that I didn’t have it in me on Christmas eve, but when I made it through to Christmas day, I figured “well, why the hell not.”  And here we are, 5 non-hair-washing days later, and I’m victorious.  It was a hard fought battle, as they all are, and I endured much ridicule and a lot of itchy scalp.  But it’s over now, and I couldn’t be happier.  Until next time!

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