Saturday, June 26, 2010

5 years and more to look forward too

Tomorrow I celebrate 5 years of marital bliss (well mostly) with the love of my life. In these 5 years I've learnt a lot about love, life, maturity, mummyhood and being myself. Some of the lessons have been sweet, others a bit tough to swallow and a few have been bittersweet. But what all of them have  in common, is the lesson that every individual is continually growing and we need to give ourselves and our family the opportunity to enjoy the growth.

My husband and I are together on our anniversary after 3 years (yes, we have celebrated only one anniversary together since we got married), so this year is all the more special. I am lucky to have married the first boy I ever fell in love with and I'll never take that for granted. So today's entry is just to thank my husband for being who he is, the best husband ever, a loving son and son-in-law, a supportive brother and brother-in-law and a dedicated dad who dotes on his daughter.

Thank you honey, for:

  • never judging me (When I wanted to enjoy a book and coffee, he learned to read quietly at coffee shops even though he wasn't really a book person and hated to eat alone)
  • being my friend and mentor (He helped me write my first real resume and I'm always told by interviewers that it is extremely professional)
  • letting me learn things at my own pace (When we were dependent on my cooking, he ate whatever I cooked or if I just didn't want to enter the kitchen he was happy cooking himself or ordering takeaway)
  • always being on my side (I can't give enough examples of this one. He has always been my techie in shining armour.)
  • always sharing the parenting responsibility equally (He could take care of the little one for a whole day and night before she was one. Giving her a bath, changing nappies, giving her the bottle, soothing nightmares, he did it all.)
My partner in life and love, without you my life would have a far poorer version of it's happy self.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Juvenile Diaries

I was excited after watching SATC 2 and decided to jump right into The Carrie Diaries. I should have tempered my expectations, considering:
  • Sex and The City was the only Candace Bushnell novel I didn't really enjoy.
  • There are no false promises about this being another fashionable, fun book. The back cover does state that the book is Carrie's coming of age story.
Though I obviously didn't go in thinking that this was about a 25 year old, I also thought that considering the writer's target audience it would have a chick lit kind of approach with a twist. Boy, was I disappointed. The story line and narration is one step above the Baby Sitter's Club (btw, I loved this series). Meaning if you were a preteen year old allowed to read the Baby Sitter's Club, you would actually be reading the Carrie Diaries in secret. I not sure the book will even appeal to teens who read stuff like the 'Twilight' series.

Maybe the book didn't appeal to me because the circumstances of my childhood were as different as possible from the one described there. There's a bit of teen angst, some boy trouble and a few bitchy girls. The storyline is tired and sounds recycled.

Anyway, here's the basic outline for those of you who want to know a bit more. Carries, who's part of a mildly dysfunctional family (even this aspect isn't strong enough to be interesting), lives in small town America and is desperate to get into a writing program. Our heroine's dad wants her to pursue a more intellectual field of study and she's torn between making him happy and following her dreams. Her close circle of friends don't exactly fit in with the nerds or the cool cliques at school. The bunch of friends try to make their mark in their last year of school with each member ultimately choosing their own path into adulthood. After being back stabbed by her best friend (I won't tell you how, or it might give away the story) our favourite girl decides to focus on getting out of her current stagnant life and into her dream one. She also gets better acquainted with one of her former high-school enemies, who actually helps her along the path to moving to her beloved New York.

Carrie doesn't come across as a unique character , expect for her desire to become a writer. The instinct to move to the Big Apple and write is the only link between the this character and the one in the SATC series. The part I liked best were the last few lines of the book, where another one of our iconic four is introduced (can't tell you more).

This is one mystery I just can't seem to solve. When SATC is one of my favourite shows (I also liked the movies, especially the second one.) I don't get why the original book or this one didn't hold my interest. I love Candace Bushnell's other books like '4 Blondes' and 'Trading Up'. Need to think on this, the analysis may help me become a better writer, or not.

Well those are my thoughts. Now tell me , what you thought of the book and the original SATC novel? Feel free to let me know if I'm completely out of touch with what most people like. Hey, this doesn't mean I'll stop my book reviews, however I just might view future books a little differently.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weekday Flip-off

If everyone out there thought only employees need to sound off on what a pain the workplace has been this week, think again. Here's what's been getting me down (please refrain from smiling smugly and instead empathize):

  • People who insist on post dated cheques with the date space being left blank. Hello! did you just hear yourself saying post DATED cheque!
  • Sly thieves who go around flicking air-conditioning units, copper wires, digital mouses (is this right) and keyboards. People who don't want to take responsibility for the equipment they use and create opportunities for such thefts to happen.
  • IT engineers who claim that they are waiting for a sample to create an online leave application form. This after:
    • The person in question has just got back from a 2 week vacation (for which he applied using the said paper form).
    • I spent a whole afternoon designing an administration system with them (of which this is just a part of module one). "When are we going to get the whole system up and running? (Were you there in the meeting when we fixed deadlines?)"
  • Conflicts between finance and administration. My common response:
    • "Yes, you have to go to these people (accounts) for the money, even if I have approved the spend."
    • "Yes, I do trust you, but the auditors don't trust anybody."
    • "Budgets apply to every department. No department is above finance."
  • Vendors who deliver the equipment to your location and forget to send the engineer along. "The agreement says payment is 90 days from the date of installation. Send in your technical team and then I'll speak to your accountant. I don't care if you are from a different department, I'm from a different company." (I know I mentioned vendors before, bear with me).
  • Government organizations that take 6 months to complete a 3 month audit and inspection, because they're too cheap to pay for their staff to travel for one client, and try to batch process everything.
  • Front office staff who:
    •  FORGET to take down contact information for walk-in customers.
    • Accidentally misplace feedback forms (which I'm guessing didn't favour them)
  • Equipment finance company representatives who ask the 'CEO and Founder' (this is what he was introduced as):
    • What his interest in the company is?
    • Whether they can have the financials of our angel investors (a private investment fund)?
I will now stop ranting and raving, since I have to get back to work. However, be forewarned, I am going to set aside one day a month for work related vents. Please feel free to join me or chastise me.

Are you totally happy with your colleagues, employees, vendors and customers or do you have some secret / not-so-secret grudges. Feel free to shout out here. Come on, make me feel like I'm not a total biotch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Marriage is not a Job"......"But it's Hard Work"

I know the release of SATC 2 has been done to death in the girlie blog space, however, I think for each viewer it has it's own relevance (or lack of), so please bear with me. The advantage of being one of the last bloggers to review this movie (we get most Hollywood movies, at least a month after the international release) is that I can give a bit of the story away.

Warning: The last bit may contain spoilers.

The movie was my birthday treat to myself. It was pretty unexpected. I had actually resigned myself to missing the theater shows and watching it at home, since Sunday tickets are extremely difficult to get, for any movie here. It was a packed Saturday at work and I was racing like mad to catch-up, when all of a sudden three meetings were cancelled and I had more than three unplanned hours on my hands. Added benefits, the toddler was at home with the sitter, having her afternoon nap and the husband was tied up with his own set of meetings. So with no man along to pass snide comments or a munchkin who demanded toilet breaks, I set off for three hours of girl time. If I may say so myself, best birthday gift this year.

I wrote this blog entry in my head as I watched the movie (is that weird) and changed the beginning at least twenty times. I am a big SATC fan, however after watching the first movie, I was pretty sure that I would have outgrown the concept and this time I just went along with no expectations. I have to state - the sequel is better than the first movie and  SATC has grown-up with it's viewers. I could actually relate to three of the four characters. Hey! I can never relate to Samantha, though she's fun to watch.

The movie was balanced between the new and the old. Here was Carrie maturing and finally getting what a real marriage was all about,  while Samantha's character stayed true to form. Miranda moves on from her all consuming job to achieve a better work life balance, while Charlotte gives up a bit of her family time to create more 'me' time.

Then only people in the theatre who seemed disappointed were those in the 18-25 category. They felt that the story was'nt SATCish enough nor did it have any decent fashion (they maybe right here). Though Carrie has moved on from Manolo's to Louboutins.

These are the dialogues that really stayed with me (I may not be a 100% right on who said what and the actual wordings):

Charlotte: Marriage is not a job.
Miranda: Yes, but it's hard work.

Miranda: Being a mother is tough.
Charlotte: How do moms who have no help do it?

Samantha: I go to children's birthday parties for you. You are going to Abu Dhabi for me.
Miranda: Children's birthday parties, pulling out the big guns.

Samantha: We made a deal ages ago. Men, babies, doesn't matter. We are soul mates.

Carrie: You have to take the tradition and decorate it your way.

Charlotte: My first thought when I heard Samantha say Harry might cheat on me with Erin was, " Oh my God, I can't lose the nanny".

And it doesn't get more real that that ladies.

I think even my husband will enjoy the movie, once (I hope). He'll definitely like the sound track, 'True Colours' is one of his all time favourite songs.

There were a few goof-ups. One being a scene set in Abu Dhabi (actually Morocco), where the girls are urging Samantha to cover up, while there were bikini clad women in the background! Didn't expect that lack of attention to detail. The second one being, were the script writer inadvertently implies that the only reason a husband won't have an affair with a hot nanny is if she's a lesbian. Hello, please credit our men with a little morality here.

On the whole a truly enjoyable movie, where mature relationships, fun and a little bit of (not so great fashion) mix into a yummy cocktail. Might even get myself a copy of this one.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dealing in Millions is Not Fun

Wait, before you judge me, I am not one of those people who has tons of cash and goes around saying "money does not buy happiness". I firmly believe that money does make life easier, especially when you can spend it on a pair of Louboutins and a Herve Leger bandage dress (gotta use those curves).

Unfortunately, the only millions I'm seeing are those I have to shell out as payments to my vendors. Vendors who don't deliver on time and still expect your cheques to be credited correctly. Vendors who send equipment and conveniently forget to send the experts to install it. Hey, I'm not talking about your average desktop here, these are high-end diagnostic and testing equipment. (My homeboy techie can manage all your regular electronic stuff, what else will he do with that fancy engineering degree)

As you can see I have a bone to pick when it comes to vendors, more about that another day. My main struggle here is managing business cash flows. Now I'm the self-proclaimed queen of excel sheets and when it comes to creating advanced models for business forecasting, I'm your girl. However, reality strikes when I have to juggle cash outflows, which do not coincide with the inflows. I have learnt my most important lessons in humility after we started this business.  

Take the example of last week, we had major equipment payments coming up, which I was comfortable with since we had scheduled for them. Unfortunately, the finance head of one of our investors was out of action for a few days and a cheque which we were expecting was delayed by a week. I had to sweet talk and cajole a whole bunch of people in the hopes that at least 25 percent of payments due could be postponed by 7 days.

Finally, we did get a bit of leeway and managed to balance the payments to fit the investment receipt schedule. However for that whole week, till we got the investment deposits, I woke up in a cold sweat every night, imagining bounced cheques, being turned out of the house and not being able to send my daughter to school.

Like I said, dealing in millions is not fun.

Is it financially easier running your own business or earning a salary? I always thought both had their pros and cons, but am leaning towards employment in terms of financial stability.

Friday, June 11, 2010

See What My Mummy Uses at Home

I think this post is going to make all of you a lot more sympathetic to the teacher I cribbed about in the previous entry. Cookie (that's what we call the little one at home) had her first bit of homework yesterday: bring pictures of two objects used in your house, for a class collage. Me being the aspiring modern mom, ignored the fact that the message was addressed to the parents and decided to turn it into a project. My rationale being, what is she going to talk about if she doesn't choose the objects herself.

So, step one was deciding where we were going to get the pictures from. The only solution I came up with was cutting them out of a magazine. Now, in our house we get two magazines:
  • A magazine for entrepreneurs, which both of us read and also refer to for ideas. I couldn't destroy the back issues as we may need it going forward. In addition, I didn't think they would have too many pictures of household objects.
  • Cosmopolitan which, again, both of us read. (Hubby when he's really stressed out and needs to laugh at us silly girls, or so he claims. Now you know his little secret) So my precious Cosmo it was. My logic being, this being a girlie magazine it has to have some practical women related advertisements. Plus, what other choice did I have. 
These are the pictures my little angel went for:
  • A pot of Bodyshop's Body Butter - I totally approved of this, what could be more useful (and indulgent)
  • A mug full of low-fat vanilla latte - which she insisted on calling "hazelnut mocha with skim please"
  • A pink and violet fully loaded hair dryer - I have a blue one, so close enough. She loves to watch me dry my hair and get a second of drying too
  • A tube of Neutrogena hand cream
  • A bottle of Vaseline for Men body lotion - we really have this at home. She shares it with her dad and declares that she "loves her daddy smell"
  • A bottle of Tide washing powder - this too has a place in our house
  • A plate of double fudge cookies - I kept trying to get her to focus on the plate and not the cookies, to no avail
  • The Burberry Summer perfume for men - she did gift this to her dad on his birthday
  • A small pot of MAC shimmer eyeshadow - my mom loves MAC products
  • A designer backpack - she claimed it was her Dora school bag
We finally decided on the Tide bottle (me), the mug (me), the hair dryer (her), the backpack (her) and the pot of Bodyshop Body Butter (her). Hope her teacher thinks that we like to get involved in our projects rather than that we are indecisive, considering the instructions said two objects.
    When we were packing the cutouts into the pages of her notebook, one of them fell the wrong side up on the floor. When I bent down to pick it up, instead of an image I saw the words "show him your wild side". That's when I realized, pictures cut from a girlie magazine will have racy articles on the reverse. Picture her teacher seeing that along with her choice of products and imagining a house where we throw money away on luxury brands and swan around in fancy negligees all day. So we had to stick the pictures on white chart paper and cut along the curvy edges to create faux collage worthy cutouts.

    Don't know if I'll be so excited about her next project. Maybe I'll just send her to bed and do it myself.

      Monday, June 7, 2010

      Worst Mother in School

      Summer is over in our part of the world and my daughter went back to school today. Technically her play school opened yesterday, however we had our company's soft launch and I wanted her to be there for it. The little one has moved from 'Playgroup' to 'Nursery' and she was all excited about seeing her friends.  So I was prepared for a few tears at the most. This is what actually happened.

      The moment our car stopped in front of her school gate, she claimed that her feet were tired and I should carry her. Since I anticipated spending some time inside settling her down and didn't want to be late for work, I just decided to give in and carry her. When we stepped in we were asked to go over and get her temperature checked (not with a thermometer, it was some sort of handheld device that they aim at your forehead) and clean our hands with a sanitizer. Apparently, there's been some concern over kids coming back from summer vacations with some nasty viruses. Now my daughter loves using the sanitizer, so imagine my surprise when she started screaming her head off while at the same time trying to climb up onto my shoulders!

      Things just got worse when I carried my wailing child into her new classroom and she refused to get down and greet her best friend, who I must admit was looking stunned. I finally handed her over to the nanny who assists the teachers and was preparing to exit, when her new class teacher caught me:

      Teacher: Your daughter didn't come in yesterday. She missed the first day.

      Me: Eeeehhhh, yes. I'm sorry.

      Teacher: This is going to make it tougher for her to settle in.

      Me: I'm sorry, we had an important family event which I didn't want her to miss. (I understand, bit I see plenty of kids crying today as well. Plus, yesterday was only half an hour, the same as today.)

      Teacher: You don't want her falling behind, do you. Unless a child is sick, she shouldn't be missing classes.

      Me: I will try to keep that in mind. (Well it's not like she's missing advanced math or physics. All these kids do is play, colour, dance, learn a few basic concepts and have a snack. I'm sure I can help her with whatever she's missed.)

      Teacher: Didn't you also miss the orientation program for parents last week.

      Me: Yes, I'm sorry. (What do you expect me to do since it was on a weekday at 12 pm. Plus I got all the material beforehand and was prepared in advance.)

      A very subdued me, kissed her sniffling baby goodbye and walked out, thinking 'I'm with you sweetie, I liked your previous teacher better too'.

      Am I really that bad a mother? In my defense I spent the whole summer travelling 20 extra kilometers, so that my baby could go to the best summer camp in the city. And my husband or me were always there to drop and pick her up. I also participated in all the parent child activities, even though it meant taking a half-day off on quite a few occasions.

      What do other working mom's do? Can someone give me ideas on dealing with teachers who hate working moms.

      Thursday, June 3, 2010

      Minding your Ps and Qs

      As I mentioned before and for those of you joining us for the first time, hubby and me run a diagnostic center. Last week we did a corporate health check-up camp for an entertainment company. Since it was our first corporate event, we decided to have a postmortem session this Monday with the core team and a few of the new managers. I have to say this was the funniest business meeting I have ever attended. If you are squeamish or weak-hearted please do not read on, some parts are weird.

      The meeting was a Round Table (read group discussion). Everyone was asked to come with their own analysis of the event, basically 'what went right' and 'what we could have done better'. Here are some exceptional excerpts (sounds funny!):

      Discussion 1
      Manager A: Our clients found the phlebotomy (blood collection) session very comfortable - minimum pain and time involved.
      Manager B: But I heard that one of the phlebotomists made 2 pricks instead of one.
      Manager A: Even very experienced technicians can miscalculate the number of pricks, it's natural.

      Discussion 2
      Department Head A: I got the radiologist to review all the chest x-ray images. His feedback was encouraging, especially with respect to clarity and precision.
      Head Radiographer: Since our exposures were of the highest quality, I guess all the customers where satisfied, especial the young women.
      (Note to reader: High radiation is not advisable for women of child-bearing age. Our radiation levels are calibrated lower than most X-Ray centers.)

       Discussion 3
      Manager C: I can't really give you first hand feedback, since I was out chasing clients. In fact, Ms. ABC of XYZ company, was very interested in our services and promised about 600 heads if we could meet their price target. She is available for a personal visit tomorrow evening.

      Is it just me, or did any off you get the unintentional innuendos.

      Disclaimer (Just so that I don't scare all of you off): The speakers where all professionals who are a little too involved with their jobs. They are not perverts. The rest of the meeting was very serious and there were no more slip-ups.

      Have you ever been in a similar situation? Please share, so that I know it's a common phenomenon or that I have a giggly teenager living inside me.

      Tuesday, June 1, 2010

      To read or not to read

      I know, please don't say it. The title is cheesy with a capital C. My justification, I liked it. Are you people seriously booing me! You are going to feel really bad when you see how appropriate the title is, don't say I didn't warn you.

      I am as usual reading two books at a time (one at home and the other when I'm outside the house) and I couldn't decide which one to review. Taking the easy way out, I decided to give you the inside scoop on both. One book is a little more recent than the other, while neither of them are really new, so make your pick.

      The first book, I actually bought about 10 years ago. I started reading it quite a few times, however I never got round to finishing it. The book is by a pretty famous author Olivia Goldsmith, doesn't ring a bell! Think the 'The First Wives Club', award winning movie based on the book of the same name. I guess she did so well with her previous book that she was inspired to write the 'Young Wives'. The story basically revolves around three married women in their 30's (approximately) who are wronged by their husbands in a variety of ways. First is Angela the lawyer, who's married into old-money. Next comes Jada, the bank manager with 3 kids and a husband who's business is practically non-existent. Then there's Michelle, married to her childhood sweetheart and living the all-American dream. The story follows a pretty predictable path of the three girls supporting each other and serving their cheating husbands their just desserts. If you are looking for some light reading at the end of a heavy day, then this may not be the book for you. Personally, I still prefer a lot more fashion and fun in my chick-lit. I can always read Les Miserables if I want serious heart-break.    

      The second book, the  Uglies, is of the science fiction genre. Not groundbreaking different, just enough to be interesting. The story is set sometime in the future, when humanity, as we know it has almost wiped itself out. The survivors create new societies, in which all young adults have to undergo extreme cosmetic surgery to turn pretty and fit the required behavioural mold. The heroine, Tally Youngblood rebels against the establishment and joins a secret city that exists outside the boundaries of this enforced conformity. The book has obviously been written for adolescents and is part of a trilogy, to which a fourth book has been recently added. I've actually been wading though a lot of teen fiction lately (the Twilight series, to be precise), so found this quite different. I'm not sure this book will appeal to too many people above 25, and that's stretching it.

      So, now that I've given you a bit of choice, grab a cup of herbal tea (I advocate healthy living when I'm not stuffing my face with M&Ms), put your feet up and stop thinking too hard. Oh! and don't forget to recommend some books for me to read this weekend, am waiting.

      P.S. - Hope you get the title of this post now.