So you know by now that I did NOT accept the invitation to participate on Dancing With The Stars. Of course, that was before I knew it was going to be the "senior citizens edition". Florence Henderson? Priscella Presley? Are you kidding me?! I could have won that competition. But I'm not sure anyone will be watching anyway. I know I'm not tuning in....
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I was a toy maker in Drobak, Norway. It was the same town in which I was born. I lived outside of town, in the forest, just a 5 minute walk from my parents house and within 10 minutes of the town square. My little shop, sandwiched between the bakery and the cheese shop, faced the town square. I displayed toys in the window but, once inside, it was quickly evident to anyone visiting that I used every square centimeter of space available as a toy-building workshop. I didn't know much about merchandising or the concept of "retail theater" back then. I also didn't yet know about my father's legacy as a former king or his fortune. I loved my work and it was sufficient to put food in my mouth, clothes on my back, shelter over my head, and still have enough left that I could give some to my less fortunate neighbors. But I also had dreams of expanding my business at that time. Not for personal gain but because I believed then as I do now... toys bring happiness to children but, more importantly, toys inspire adults to be better people. And I also believed that if I could earn more, I would have more I could give. Thanks to my neighbors sending my toys as gifts to their relatives in Oslo and other towns around Norway, my toys had begun to receive recognition well beyond Drobak. And the baker next door was encouraging me to expand the business.
So it was against that backdrop that a young, beautiful blonde woman entered my humble little store/workshop that spring day. She was absolutely stunning. I had to catch my breath before I could welcome her. She introduced herself as "Mary from Oslo". We made small talk as she looked closely at all of the toys I had on display. She was so intent on examining the toys that I got the sense she was annoyed by my attempt to chat... so I excused myself to work on another toy and retreated to the very back of the workshop, but not before I learned that she was visiting relatives in town. While I tried to pretend to be busy with the toy I was making, I couldn't take my eyes off her. She seemed particularly interested in the music box I had just made the week before. Her face lit up as the music played. I was convinced that she was going to purchase it but she placed it back on the shelf, turned... I think she caught me watching her..., smiled, and thanked me for my time.
"Are you going to be here visiting your family for long?", I asked, suddenly desperate to not let her leave.
"I am leaving this afternoon," she answered. "Its beautiful here but I need to get back to Oslo. Thanks again." She turned and walked out the door. I suddenly felt very empty and very alone.
It seemed that not an hour... and certainly not a day... went by for the next couple of weeks that I didn't think of Mary. In that brief encounter, she had captured my imagination. And then, exactly two weeks after I had first met her, to my surprise and delight, she walked back in.
"Hello. I was here a couple of weeks ago... I don't know if you remember me... I'm Mary".
"Don't remember you?! Are you kidding me?!", I thought. But I checked myself, caught my breath again, and responded... "Of course, I do, Mary. You seemed to really like that music box. What brings you back? Did you decide you wanted it?"
"Oh yes. It's very nice. I love it. I can't believe you noticed, much less remembered. But that's not why I'm here....".
"Really?" Now I was curious. And hopeful.
But it wasn't what I hoped... "Really," she said. "I have a deal for you."
Now it was my turn. "Really? A deal?"
"Yes. I own a general merchandise store in Oslo. In fact, its the biggest store in Oslo. And I'd like to carry a line of your toys. Actually... I'd like to feature your toys. These are premium toys... made with the best materials and with care. And I think I can get a premium price for them. I'd like to get 50 of each of these," she said pointing to the full display of toys in the window. "We'll charge 4x your costs and split the profits. But I want an exclusive in the Oslo market for the first 2 years. I'll make you famous and rich!"
She paused. I don't know if it was for effect or because I looked like a stunned animal. "Um...."
"How can you not love that deal?" she inquired earnestly.
At this point, I was wondering if this was the same woman I had chatted with 2 weeks earlier. I was still struggling to string together a few thoughts when I instinctively said, "I only charge 10% above my costs. Do you know how expensive 4x will be?"
"Yes. But I know we can get it. Trust me..." She seemed sure of herself.
"I need to think about it." I knew I had no hope for stringing together anything that resembled a coherent thought.
"Great. Think about it, join me for dinner tonight, and say yes to this deal. I'll be back here to meet you at close. You pick the place!" She turned and walked out the door, not even waiting for an acknowledgement or response of any kind.
Of course, there was no "place" to pick. We had a tavern in Drobak but there were no restaurants like in the big city of Oslo. So I rushed to the market and picked up a fish, fresh vegetables, spices, and all of the other ingredients that I needed to cook a nice dinner. The evenings were still cool so I built a small fire in the fireplace, set the table, lit the candles, and rushed back to the store/workshop just in time to meet Mary.
So after exchanging a few pleasantries, I explained that we did not have any restaurants in town and that I had prepared a meal at my home, if she cared to join me. To this day, I'm not sure if she was more shocked that we didn't have any restaurants or that I had taken the time to prepare a meal.... but she agreed to join me for a homemade meal.
We talked for hours... lost in each other's company and remembering only occasionally to partake of the food before us. It was well after midnight when we realized how late it actually was. Most of our food was still on the plate, yet neither of us were hungry. I offered to walk her back to her aunt's house and she accepted. Before we left, I told her that I had a gift for her and I handed her the music box she had been admiring. Her face lit up; my heart lept. She looked up at me, grabbed my face with both of her hands, pulled me close, and kissed me. "Thank you" she whispered gently in my ear. Then, without another word between us, we both moved toward the door and began the walk home.
It was a bitter sweet walk. I really enjoyed strolling through the woods and into the town square with her by my side, but I was sad to know the night was ending. When we got to the door of her aunt's house, I awkwardly tried to kiss her but somehow ended up kissing her ear. We both laughed hysterically. We agreed to meet the next day for lunch and I left for the return walk home. It occurred to me on the walk home that we never did talk about the deal. But as it turned out, we fell in love over the course of those next few days, dated for several months, got married in December of that year, and Mary moved to Drobak. Mary had her sister agree to run the store in Oslo and we began to sell my toys there. With her sister running the store, Mary had the time to exploit the potential she saw in my toys and she began to develop & execute the master plan for expanding sales to markets throughout Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. The rest is history... and we are continuing, every day, to live happily ever after.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Thursday, February 07, 2008
..and so am I. It was back to the proverbial grind this week. Wow... as much as I love my job, it is a shock to the system to go from waking up with no alarm clock and choosing between relaxing on the beach or having brunch to being fully and passionately engaged in 10 hours of meetings each day. But we made good progress. And its exciting to see a little spark of Christmas spirit fire up in February. Mrs. Claus has been busy too. Already this week, she has been to London, New York, and Singapore to attend board meetings for the variety of NGO charitiable organizations that she participates in.
So sitting down tonight at the North Pole to watch the season premiere of Survivor, with a bowl full of popcorn, roaring fire, and cuddled together under blankets was the first time Mrs. Claus and I had really had any time together since we left Maui. It was nice.
You'll note that (with much angst and gnashing of teeth in the Legal department) I posted the Survivor Naughty and Nice list. I'll keep that up to date for you through the season. I do have access to inside information before each show airs; however, I'll only post the updated list based on the week's show so I don't spoil any of the surprises for you. Hope you enjoy the new season!
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Good evening, everyone! I am writing this from my hotel room in Phoenix. I'm going to the Super Bowl tomorrow with a buddy. I don't expect it to be much of a game but I still plan on having fun. If it turns out to be a good game, all the better.
Mrs. Claus is in Buenos Aires this weekend. She went down with a few friends to have a "girls weekend" with a little shopping, a day at the spa, some fine dining, and time to catch up while I enjoy the Super Bowl. Our vacation is done... we left Maui on Thursday afternoon and returned to the North Pole. As much fun as we had, it was good to spend the night in our own bed and our own house. In a funny kind of way, I actually missed the cold & snow. It was nice to have the chill in the air, drink hot chocolate, and sit by the roaring fire. Of course, we were only there one night as we both set out Friday afternoon for our weekend.
It's going to be tough on Monday to get back into the grind. I have a meeting with Jingle Monday morning to review our annual plan for 2008. We also will spend some time talking about the leadership off-site we are planning for late February/early March where we'll work on our strategic plan for 2009-2011. I also imagine I'll have a ton of email to catch up on and hundreds of voice mails to return. That should fill my day. Sometime next week, I'm going to head back to Seattle to begin negotiations on the gaming platforms for Christmas 2008. The one thing I am looking forward to this next week is the return of Survivor. I love that show. And the Fans vs. Favorites format should be entertaining. In fact, I'm working with the Legal department to see if I can publish my Survivor participants Naughty/Nice list weekly. They are usually concerned about privacy issues when publicly naming my Naughty/Nice list; however, I'm arguing that we are protected since they have waived their right to privacy by appearing on an internationally watched television show. Stay tuned (so to speak).
For those of you in the US who are watching the Big Game on Sunday, I hope you enjoy it! Keep an eye out for me in the stands. Oh... and if you get a chance, I'd love to hear which ad is your favorite. I'm going to Tivo it just so I can watch the commercials after the game.