It’s a Pretty Good Life

In the iconic holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey basically experiences a lifelong midlife crisis. We get it. When you’re in the trenches, and things don’t go exactly the way you thought they would, you (and by you we mean we) tend to get a bit scratchy around the edges. Little kvetchy. Possibly cranky. This is starting to sound like the Seven Midlife Crises Dwarves: Scratchy. Kvetchy. Cranky. Creaky. Whiny. Flabby. Hippy.

As this year comes to a close and we look back, we thought we’d make a “It’s a Wonderful Life” comparison to our year at Rare Bird and hope you recall in the telling a few reflections of your own. So grab a loaded or unloaded eggnog (it’s a better read with the former), cozy up to the fire (in your shorts, given the weather so far this year) and read on.

We’re Freakin’ Stuck in Bedford Falls

George Bailey wants out of Bedford Falls more than your dog wants out when he sees a group of squirrels get off the squirrel field trip bus at your house. But time and again, events (at pivotal plot times!) prevent him from doing so.

We’ve wanted a change from our now cramped, long-time headquarters for a few years now, and thought (for sure!) 2015 was the year. 2015, it turns out, was not the year. We’ve scouted and sniffed and hunted and gotten our hopes up and had them dashed like a boy at junior prom, only without the tux expense and that hopelessly awkward moment with the corsage.

While George eventually found peace with spending his entire life in Bedford Falls, we will probably keep looking. In the meantime, we continue to embrace what we love about where we are: close proximity to Chipotle, Jimmy John’s, Target, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Rockstone Pizza, Big Lug and Anthropologie*. These are within walking distance for all of us, except Ben. Ben will hike for miles, but will get in the car to drive a quarter mile for a sandwich. He is a hunter of photos, not a forager of food. Good thing he wasn’t a caveman dad. Before the wheel was invented, his whole damn family would have starved.

Then there are the things we don’t so much love about our digs. Like the woodpeckers who are so loudly intent on getting into the upper floor through the outer wall, it’s like they’ve been hired for a hit on Troy or Mike, or both (but probably Mike). Internet speeds that are so slow, Tom had to hardwire most of us rather than depending on wifi. He trained the woodpeckers to help drill the holes.

Did we mention you can’t run the microwave and the coffee maker at the same time or a fuse blows? When one fuse blows and you can’t make coffee, it’s like everything’s wired in series: other fuses are sure to blow. I am a repeat offender and had to tie a string around my finger like Uncle Harry Bailey to remind me not to push both play buttons at the same time. (BTW, that electrical joke was from Jim, who is still questioning whether it should have been series or parallel.)

Here’s the thing: there’s always something quirky or scratchy about where we (and when we say we, we mean everyone) hang our hats. Whether or not we’re truly stuck is more often a matter of perception than reality. George Bailey figured out that stuck is a state of mind. It’s a good lesson to learn.

*Anthropologie is not within walking distance, and no one but Ashley and I want to go there. But it’s so close and so central to the two of us, it merited mention. I suppose, for the nerds, I should include the Apple Store, as it is, I have heard, in the same facility, “though somewhat more useful and less smelly than Anthropologie,” says Jim.

When the Swimming Pool Opens, Dive In

One of the many iconic scenes in “It’s a Wonderful Life” is when George and Mary are doing the Charleston at the senior dance. Mary’s scorned date is offered the chance to get back at George by opening the gym floor to reveal the swimming pool below. We don’t know that character’s name, but I’m guessing his last name is Belichick.

In their Charleston and flirtation euphoria, George and Mary have no idea they are also flirting with disaster, and in they unexpectedly plunge. The next scene is awesome: George has taken Mary’s hand and they continue to dance in the water. Other kids, never thinking about how cold they will be or how they will explain their wet clothes to their parents, jump in the pool to join the fun.

Like you, we’ve had unexpected things open up right under our feet. Like George and Mary, we just keep dancing. And when you (and when we say you, we mean everyone) see an unexpected opening, consider jumping in. Unlike Pat McAfee, you don’t have to tell anyone why your clothes are wet. You just get to tell the how the adventure turned out.

Help Never Looks Like You Think It Will

So, Clarence. Clarence, George’s wannabe angel, makes an appearance when George has reached his lowest point.

The beauty of Clarence is that George now has a team. To some degree, George felt disappointed and alone his whole life. Sure, he has people who love him, but he didn’t achieve his dream of going to college, seeing the world, building things and shaking the Bedford Falls dust off his feet. When it looked like he was about to lose the Savings & Loan, he thought everyone would have been better off if he’d never been born.

Clarence allowed George to see life in a different way. Decked out in a nightgown for cryin’ out loud, he proved to George that life was indeed wonderful by showing him how a world without George Bailey pretty much sucked for everyone in Bedford Falls. George simply needed help gaining a proper perspective.

While we’ve been busy building websites and doing what we do, we have learned more than ever that we are better as a team. We’ve always known that, but as we grow and sometimes feel the Midlife Seven Dwarves wanting to crash the party, we know to talk to each other to gain a proper perspective. You never know where help might be lurking. Hopefully not in in a nightdress, but we’d happily listen anyway. I mean, Justin occasionally wears a kilt. So there’s that.

Every Day Is Auld Lang Syne Day

At the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” they sing the classic “Auld Lang Syne,” which sounds like a line of designer cookware you’d find at Williams Sonoma (“Introducing our Auld Lang Syne collection of hand-forged pots and whatnots”) but is actually a Scottish phrase meaning “times long past.”

We toyed around with the idea of penning a traditional holiday missive, where we could talk about “times long past,” and a Facebookish blow-by-blow of what we’ve been up to this past year. Instead of talking about how tall the kids got (Craig did grow a few inches!) or the fabulous trips we’ve taken, the web or e-commerce sites we’ve created or the number of doughnuts we’ve consumed, we decided that mostly reminiscing on our good fortune of knowing great folks like you was, really, what this time of year is all about.

We couldn’t have a “Pretty Good Life” without the support of our families, friends and clients. “We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne” and raise them up to you and yours.

Thank you for your many kindnesses to us and helping us earn some wings. We hope we did the same for you. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

7 Comments

  • Dismas Veeneman
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Jim,

    Thanks for the post. I always enjoy the creativity and sense of humor! I have noticed that Lori is doing most of the monthly reports these days. I’m sure it is because you are so busy doing those tasks that your kids don’t want to do, like pulling weeds.

    My pray for a Blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with peace and happiness. Give my regards to all the Cota clan.

    Father Dismas

    • Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Dismas! I hope all is well with you and you have a beautiful Christmas and joyful Epiphany.

  • Rob Shumaker
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    So I can’t resist. The “scorned date” in the pool scene is played by Carl Switzer, better known as Alfalfa from Our Gang.

    Great blog, great company, and Jim you do a wonderful job of putting things in perspective. Thanks for the encouraging holiday wishes. Keep up the good work

    • Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Rob, I have to say that I’m not even remotely surprised that you’ve been keeping close tabs on Carl Switzer’s career. I am surprised, by contrast, that you didn’t notice that Lori wrote this particular piece. In fact, she hardly lets me write anything anymore.

  • Brad Meiser
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    You forgot to mention that said fuse isn’t in our own office unit and that we have to awkwardly face the traveling nurse lady that steals Ben’s parking spot to get it switched back on :).

  • Janet Cota
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Fun read. We send our warmest wishes to all the Rare Bird flock for a very Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year. Hope that you will find your new and roomier nest in 2016.
    The NC Cotas

  • Posted December 22, 2015 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Great blog! I know it’s crass commercialism, but you ought to consider putting your blogs into a book – no doubt you’d have an awesome title (one that will make us smile) and it would surely be an inspiring collection of thoughts on teamwork, taking risks, customer service, etc. You have built a company to be proud of Jim, and you’ve got a great eye for talented nice people that you have added to your team. Cheers! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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