Saturday, May 29, 2010

I'm in Love

Yup, it's true, I've fallen head over non-existent high heels; hook, line and sinker for ........ Microsoft's OneNote. Now be nice, no sniggering. While I agree I'm a bit late with the technology part, my defense is that I'm more of a stationary girl. Give me Post-Its, a notepad, felt-tip and gel ink pens, highlighters and I'm in 7th heaven. Ask me to use anything other than excel (which I love), word or powerpoint and I'll give you a blank stare (yes, the only operating system I know how to use is Microsoft, well other than some accounting software).

That's why OneNote has my complete and undivided attention. It just feels like I'm using a very posh version of my 5-subject notebook (no, I am not in school anymore). Here are some of OneNote's features, that do it for me:

  • Toddler-proof: It's on my netbook so the little on can't use it for her artwork (I love her creations, just not when they are done on my work notes)
  • Automatic back-up: A bonus for technologically unlucky people like me
  • One stop shop: I can save all my work at one location. So, no more frantic searches for vital meeting notes that I need in the next 5 seconds
  • Audio and video search!: Fine, I admit, I haven't used these features as yet. I just feel very professional and knowledgeable talking about such technologically advanced features
  • Share: They have loads of share options, so you can have people work on stuff together. Also helps avoid duplicating work
I'm sure I've missed out all the really advanced features on this product, so go check it out yourself at the official OneNote website. I'm sure you will love it or just laugh at my lack of updatedness (just made-up that word), either way you will have fun.

My loving husband is laughing his head off, since apparently this product has been around for almost 10 years and I've discovered it just now. Like my 14 year old niece says - 'whatever'.

Note: I am (sadly) not getting paid by Microsoft to plug this product. I am just so excited about it I had to share. (Maybe the people at Microsoft will see this and pay me to review future products. A girl can dream right?)

Monday, May 24, 2010

The New Dining Rules

I had the most uncomfortable experience yesterday. My daughter has two sides to her, the stay at home side and  what I call her public image.

At home she expects every family member to run circles around her and obey all her commands (this works with her dad and my parents, not me), does funny stuff to make me laugh or sings at the top of her little voice and asks us to clap after she finishes an act or song, insists on dressing herself and cleaning up her own messes (doubling my work) and generally looks down on those who don't do the 'I'm not worthy' thing every few hours.

Her 'public image' is completely different. By public I mean when the majority of people fall in the stranger or not too familiar category. She speaks softly, sticks close to the nearest family member, drinks soup without spills (don't know how she accomplishes that), politely asks us to get her what she needs (this includes checking if she can use the toilet or needs to go in her pull-ups) and let's us put on a bib for her. So, obviously when we went out for a big family dinner last night I was sure of having a smooth and enjoyable evening.

The evening started with her insisting that she wanted to eat with chopsticks. On being presented with a set, she very politely handed one back to waiter and proceeded to eat her noodles with one chopstick. The waiter looked at me (who by the way was using both her chopsticks) with a raised eyebrow and all I could do was smile sheepishly. Next she asked for a glass of watermelon juice and was told that they had fresh orange, grape and sweet lime juices. She smiled sweetly and asked if they could get her some watermelon pieces please. When the plate of freshly cut watermelon arrived, she took her water glass, and proceeded to squeeze the juice out of the pieces into the glass. I asked her to stop immediately and was told that she was teaching the nice man to make watermelon juice! Finally when I was busy having a conversation with my sister-in-law, the waiter informed me that my daughter was throwing her food on the floor. I turned to her in shock, only to be told that she was clearing her plate just like I had asked her too! The princess was sent to watch the fountain in the hotel lobby with her cousins, while we adults finished our meal. Hope she didn't think I was rewarding her behaviour, it was more a case of getting her out of sight of the hyperventilating staff

Someone please remind me to think before I give instructions to a two-year old. They 'literally' take you at face value. Or is this just my little girl? And I couldn't even scold her for being naughty, since I have told her that if she understands why she's doing something and I understand it as well, we will only discuss how we can do better. Oh! the trials of modern, rational parenting.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mom, Baby and Me

I've had such a great weekend and I'm brimming with ideas for a post. However, I just realized that I missed my weekly book review and decided to catch-up with that today. 

Since I generally read 3-4 books at a time,it usually takes a while to decide on a book. Thankfully, or sadly (depends on how you look at it) there is no competition this time. The book that's really stayed with me is 'Like Mother, Like Daughter' from the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. 

I don't know what most people feel about the Chicken Soup series, I personally feel they are great when taken one book at a time with a substantial gap in between. I happened to pick up this particular book from my 12 year old niece's room on a quiet Sunday afternoon. My daughter and niece where busy cooking in her Dora kitchen and I just wanted to laze around. 

The stories were sentimental (what you generally expect from a Chicken Soup Book) while at the same time being upbeat and real! The realness (for want of a better word) of the mother daughter relationships was what got to me. Right from turning to your mom when you have your first baby, to the fights where we feel like they just can't let us go, I could relate to almost every emotion in the book. Apart from that, there where also stories that triggered off my maternal feelings and made me look at my excited little daughter with a gentle smile on my lips. From the pains of midnight feeds and tantrums to the joys of waking up to a baby's wide smile and little hug, this book has it all covered.

On the downside, I don't think you can read the whole book at one go, since it tends to get a bit mushy. The way I would use it is: first, obviously on the days that I feel down and overworked; secondly on the days when you want an idea on how to thank you mom or daughter for being who they are and loving you.

One thing the book reminded me of is that, life always comes full circle.


Friday, May 14, 2010

What's your weekday uniform?

I don't literally mean uniform here. Rather, we all have a style that we follow on working days, at least as far as I have noticed. The fact that most of us have a predefined work day style has probably, less to do with detailed thought and more to do with convenience. The advantages for me are: I already know what goes with what (or most of the separates pair up easily), the whole set has been washed and laundered over the weekend and when an item of clothing gets worn out it, just takes me about half an hour to pop into a familiar shop and replace it. The obvious disadvantage (in the eyes of some) is monotony, which most of us combat with variety in accessories, shoes and bags (if you have the time to set a new one). So having discussed the pros and cons of having a fixed weekday wardrobe, here's mine.

Before I had my baby and when was working in a corporate environment, I used to dress pretty formally. Outfit type one was trousers in black, grey, tan or pinstripes paired with formal shirts in colours ranging from shades of white and cream, to pastels and the occasional bright pink or blue. Outfit type two was similar to one except that trousers were replaced with skirts - pencil, long, slightly flared (but always an inch below the knee) - usually in pastels shades with an almost invisible self print and the odd black one. Shoes were obviously closed and formal in black, brown and grey.

Today, post baby and with a business to run, my uniforms are a bit different. I need to be able to transition from a meeting with my operations team, to one with the auditors and move straight on to a site inspection where I meet with the builders (one can come away from these covered with quite a bit of dust). So there are a couple of considerations, nothing too girly (though a touch of femininity is nice), should survive long hours without wrinkling, should be easy to dust off. So this is the uniform I came up with: jeans in dark colours - think indigo, navy and black - for a formal look and button down shirts or tunics in black, whites and pastels, with the occasional red. For shoes I generally opt for formal looking ballerinas (don't want to fall down a flight of unfinished stairs) in black with some pretty detailing.

So what's your weekday uniform, or are you one of those people who actually make an effort to look different everyday? Any ideas for me to dress up my outfits?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Respecting Our Customers

This is a purely work-based entry, on a topic I really need to discuss. Customer service.

The reason my husband and I got into the healthcare line was a direct result of what we experienced as customers, especially when I was going through my pregnancy. The first irritant was, that there was no system of appointments (or a very ineffective one), particularly if the doctor was a good one! Secondly, patients where asked to endure pretty uncomfortable conditions, notwithstanding the fact that most of these people were in pain or at a minimum extremely uncomfortable.

This lack of concern for the customer, in a industry which was thriving on treating sick people, showed us there there was a definite gap in the market, just waiting to be filled. So today, we are on the verge of launching a business through which we aim to provide high quality diagnostic services, a great customer experience and value for money.

Hopefully, we will keep in mind why we got into this line of business, when we are struggling to match the profit figures that our investors expect. To increase the chances of not forgetting our initial motivator, I have created a code of ethics for us and our staff to follow:
- Respect: Treat customers and colleagues with the respect due to a fellow human being
- Professionalism: Deliver on all commitments, on time, and to the best of your abilities and knowledge
- Transparency: No bureaucracy, just clear, concise and essential processes and procedures   

I'm sure there are loads of points I have missed. So, if you feel you can add value here, please give me a shout. I will definitely consider all input seriously.

P.S. (can you do this in a blog): I'm not sure if similar conditions exist in the healthcare industry globally. These situations seem to be common everywhere that I have ever lived.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Doing it all over again

Today's is my little brother's 26th birthday and I miss being with him. Even though I'm married with a baby, I can't believe my little brother is in his twenties, a successful trader who I see once in three to six months. I've always considered him my first child and still call him baby within our family circle (he would never live it down if I called him that in public).

We always were and are very close and both of us never imagined that we would live apart. In fact not very long ago, probably about 10 years back, we used to have animated discussions over what our shared grown-up flat would be like. We both share a love of books, and the only arguments we have ever had are over who would read the latest Wilbur Smith first, though we are very different in other aspects. My relationship with this baby of mine has been a defining constant throughout my life. First, I was his second mommy, then his friend and sister and now we are semi-equals (he still listens to me) taking and giving each other advice, support and love.

This unconditional love of a sibling is what I want for my daughter. This is the reason that, even though we can't afford another child now, financially or otherwise (in terms of time), I feel strongly that we need to have at least one more. The best gift my parents ever gave me was my brother and my child deserves the same sort of support and companionship. This in my mind has way more value than any other inheritance I can ever give her. Even after we are gone, she will have family to love her and for her to love, an unbreakable lifelong bond.

So though this entry has gotten a little mushy, I have come to a conclusion. However, tough it's going to be to go through the nursing, sleepless nights, potty-training and time management exercises again, I want to do it. This is truly the best gift I can give my baby girl.

Happy birthday my darling first baby, you are in my thoughts always. I heavenly you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wake-up to the Daylight

As everyone who knows me will vouch, reading is what I love best, followed by art and sleeping. So I decided to dedicate an entry every week to either a book that has caught my fancy or some information on the art world. This is to help me broaden my (currently narrow) horizon and focus on something other than my family and business. I may, later, add on other topics of interest, since I truly believe that each of us needs to try and be the best we can. So this is my starting point.

The book that recently made a big impression on me was "Chasing Daylight" by Eugene O'Kelly. Though I read this book a few months back, and have read about 10-15 books since, it has really stayed with me. It's a sort of biography by the former CEO of KPMG and covers the last few months of his life after he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.

Funnily, the book isn't morbid or weepy. Even I (the person who cried when she saw Jack Dawson die in the Titanic) didn't shed a tear! It just inspires you to take life by the horns, decide where you want to go and start heading in that direction.

Though the author wishes he could have done certain things better, he also doesn't let regret slow him down. There are great lessons here for anyone who runs a business or is working towards a managerial position. There are lots of ideas on helping employees find some sort of work-life balance. One idea I particularly liked was where senior managers were encouraged to switch off their phones for the first 30 minutes after they got home.

Another great aspect is his relationship with his wife and the rest of his family. Though I'm sure we all value our family, we often forget to draw strength from each other. This seems to be especially true of young busy couples. We forget that the person next to us, is there to lift us up when we stumble and that there's nothing wrong in admitting that your scared or need some help.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling now and let everyone read and understand it for themselves. Just one last thing, for you non-readers out there, it's a really slim book and really worth every minute spent reading it.

This book has definitely woken me up to the possibilities that lie before me.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Where do you see yourself ..... years from now

I've been asked this question from the day I finished 10th grade and I'm guessing most people have had a similar experience. Well, now, about 15 years down the line, I think we should frame a new question 'Is this where I saw myself, when I started walking down my path of dreams?'

I for one had a very different picture in my head. I planned to work in finance for about 10 yeas, make a ton of money, retire when I was about 30-35 to just paint and write and have a cozy little bookshop of my own. Oh! and I also planned to live in Florence and spend one month in every year exploring a new country. Yup, I was what you call realistic.

Today, I'm a year and a half away from my 30 birthday and my life seems to have gone off on a tangent. I've been married for almost 5 years, have a 2.5 year old daughter, have chosen to take care of my in-laws, left behind my investment banking job and run a healthcare business with my techie husband. But you know what, this life seems pretty good to me! Yes, we are currently strapped for cash, I haven't done any serious painting for over two years and this blog is my only form of writing. However, I am optimistic that we will, one day, travel the world together (it may be as back-packers or with first-class round tickets), I will definitely have an art gallery of my own and maybe this blog will give me the courage to finally write that book.

So here's what I'll tell my daughter when she starts planning her perfect life: Plan and work towards your dream but let life flow as well. You never know what path the river will take to reach the sea. It may be longer than you thought but also a lot richer and way more interesting.