Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best Award Show Ever

Ok - I'm not a fan of the award shows, but I'm usually tempted by the Tony's and rarely the Grammy's.  Tonight's Grammy's - best show ever.  It was worth the 3.5 hours if only for Pink. 

Show stopping.  And, more than that, thanks to this show, I'm off to iTunes to update my music collection.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A View From My Seat

Although it was a nightmare for many people getting to the office yesterday, you couldn't beat the view.  I definitely felt like I was sitting inside the big reveal scene of White Christmas when Bing Crosby opens the big barn doors and everyone gasps with awe at the beautiful sight of the snow falling gently down.

And for the first time since we began planning our move downtown, I thought I might miss the view.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


After a recent visit to the eye doctor where he told me (to my pleasure) that I have excellent vision, I confessed to the typical issue of the 40 {cough} year old woman...suddenly the small print on my cosmetics bottles was totally unrecognizable as words. 

"And how do you feel about that?" he asked. 

"Old." I replied.

Obviously his sensitivity training failed when he then decided to recommend bi-focals.


I go from having excellent vision to being prescribed bi-focals????

Well, it turns out I would be getting about the weakest reading glass prescription they can provide, but he thought taking the glasses on and off would be a hassle so I might want to try the clear glass top and reading glass bottom option.

Yes, I am the idiot who goes to the eye doctor affiliated with LensCrafters so you know he's trying to make a sale.

Instead, I stopped at a nearby CVS and picked out some 1.00 reading glasses.  They had them for under $15 bucks and buy-one get-one free Foster Grants.  Sold.

I've been using them this week at work and when reading in bed and surprise - I needed them.  I never realized how much I was squinting and furrowing my brow when I was reading until I had the help of magnification.  And also, my computer screen with the high-end resolution (aka small text).  Yup. Totally readable now.

So there you have it.  I am now officially middle-aged and be-spectacled.  But it ain't so bad.  And at least stopping the squinting should reduce the possibility of wrinkles.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Business Ethics

My course this semester is Business Ethics...and no that is not an oxymoron.  But I do have to say, this is one of the toughest classes I've had to take thus far.  It requires true soul searching to discover where your sword line know, the line where you will throw yourself on the sword rather than take an unethical action.  In business terms, you'll give up your job for it.  I'm still looking for mine.  The struggle right now is that I've been lucky enough not to feel I've ever been pushed to do something truly unethical, or even close to it.  And yet, when you look at the microinequities of every day occurrences, it is amazing how many things we (I) do that fall in an ethical gray line.

Yesterday, one of my fellow students got the hot seat where she talked about how she was uncomfortable that her boss asked her to process payments in 2009 for 2010 expenses.  To pre-pay for some advertising, some sponsorships, some charities.  I'm sure most of us have done something similar to's the end of the year, there is some money left in the budget, you use it up.  The difference being, her boss knows enough about the wrongness of this to request that she white out the dates on the invoices.  At this point in the class discussion, our professor begins to counsel her on the dangers of tax fraud, that she may need to call the ethics hotline at work, and that she should cease this activity immediately and document every conversation she has.   Holy cow!  She thought she was just doing a class exercise and suddenly she needs a lawyer.

The thing that I've learned about true ethical dilemmas though is that it is not usually the choice between right and wrong, it is the choice between right and less right.  In ever dilemma you must evaluate what are the two rights and begin to build your arguments for both.  When you find the weak point in the argument, you find the less right action. 

Then again, there remains the ethical dilemmas that are between wrong and less wrong as well.  But whichever you face, there are questions that can help you.  "Would I want this to be tomorrow's headline?" "Could I explain this to my mother?"  etc.  But the best advice my professor gave was this one, when you feel you are being forced to decide on something quickly just remember two things: (1) you should always have time to go to the bathroom (and think) before making a decision, and (2) remember this phrase: "If you must have an answer now, the answer is no." 

I'm about to outline my final paper for this class which requires me to define business ethics, determine my own personal ethics, and evaluate an ethical dilemma...wish me luck.

And if you are wondering about what else I did besides 14 hours of school this weekend, check out the yellow cottage.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Earning a Place and Using Power for Good

Yesterday was the end of hell week.  It concluded with a 5-star dinner at 42 in White Plains.  I almost turned down the invitation.  You know how you sometimes wonder if you really belong in the room?  I was the only manager invited - all others were at a minimum VPs, and most were division heads, CEOs and Board Members. But in the end I decided to go and clutching my single glass of champagne in my hand (as it doesn't do to overindulge in this setting) I enjoyed meeting the leaders of our new MERGER company.  Although my attitude lately has been much more an affected "Don't really care...." to save my frustration energy, it was good to actually have a couple of hours where the merger seemed exciting again, and not just a chore. 

I was one of the first to enter the dining room and I selected an empty table - mostly for the view of the night skyline.  Lo and behold, I was joined by the Chairman of the Board, the Global CEO, the President of the Environmental Division, the CEO of the Operating Company in France, my company's Chief Technology Officer, and the Operations Leader of the Americas.  Yes...little ole me.

I learned a long time ago, that the best way to be comfortable in these situations is to shake off the title business and just talk to these guys like normal human beings.  I've also found that asking about personal life, children, vacations, homes, etc. is the best way to get people to talk and fill those initial awkward silences and also to connect human to human.   In the last couple of years I've received some comments on my reviews from "optional evaluators" that I seem to be more comfortable with executives than peers or junior staff.  One person said, "she terrifies my staff."  Little ole me? 

Anyway, I've thought about it and I think it may actually be the opposite.  Many people get tongue-tied around these guys and believe me - some of the executives are just as uncomfortable.  I think by shedding my own discomfort and just talking like a normal person, I put them at ease, and it becomes easier for us as well.

Have you heard this joke?  How can you tell the difference between an introverted engineer and and extroverted engineer?

An introverted engineer looks at HIS shoes when he's talking.
An extroverted engineer looks at YOUR shoes.

Believe me, after working with engineers for over 20 years I know this is an unfair stereotyping, but it is  also true enough to be pretty amusing.

Last night the Global CEO stood up and made some comments midway through the meal.  His enthusiasm is genuine and infectious.  He also indicated the integration is difficult.  (Nice to know he's noticing).  He said one of the biggest issues is our tendency to keep secrets.  We aren't communicating enough.  Have I mentioned in this blog how often our team has tried to get communications moving and how often the MERGER integration leaders have killed it?  So a bit later Global CEO was talking to me and asked about why we are so secretive?  I decided to truthfully answer.  "Truthfully Mr. Global CEO, we have a very difficult time getting approvals."  "Ah," he responded, "From clients?"  "Well....sometimes, but more often it is from inside."

He looked at me in silence for a few moments.  I didn't regret saying it, but I wondered if he would react negatively.  Finally, he looked at me and said, "Wenderina, (in his charming Dutch accent) - then I would say, break all the rules."  After jokingly gathering witnesses to this statement from others at the table, I promised him I would.

Shortly after this my CEO stood to make some remarks and he specifically thanked me for my work on the development of our new global business line.  I was stunned.  The meal continued and I was asked for my opinion on value-based marketing, competitive advantage, best practices for marketing, communications strategies, branding, etc.  It was a heady night.

As we prepared to leave, one of the executives stopped me at the door.  I had confessed to him earlier I wasn't sure why I was invited.  "Now, Wenderina..." he said, "Now do you feel like you belonged in that room?"

And you know what?

For maybe the first time in my life I did.  I fit in.  So now, my question is, how to use this newfound "power" for good.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bagel Duty

Tomorrow will be four sunrises I have seen in a row - definitely a record for me.  I try to avoid anything that requires me to awaken in the dark cold of a winter morning...or a spring morning...or a summer morning...or a fall morning.  It just goes to show I can do it when I have to, but the adrenalin of hell week is the only thing keeping me going. 

Tomorrow I considered a later start but realized I have BAGEL duty.  This is a very serious activity in the bagel club.  There are  minimum requirements, there are maximum expectations.  And ther is most definitely an expectation of arrival time.  If the setup is not complete by 8:30am, you'd better be in an ambulance on the way to the hospital from wrecking your car trying to get there - and even so, why can't the ambulance just swing by the office and drop off the 8 bags o'groceries on the way.

Once, a new member actually brought in Lender's bagels. 

Yeah, it wasn't pretty. 

Another time, someone actually forgot it was their turn. The reaction was such that the person immediately ran to their car and went on an emergency shopping run to rectify the criminal act of forgetting bagels.  I almost had to ask for special dispensation to bring bagels in on Thursday this week instead of Friday. 

Everything except the bagels is now chilling in the car - fresh fruit tray, bakery danish selection, variety of juices, clementine oranges.  Tomorrow at 7:30 am I'll pull into the local bagel shop (grocery bakery bagels are nearly as reviled as Lender's) and select two dozen fresh and warm bagels and pick out some gourmet spreads to go with it.  I've stepped it down a notch this week as I just can't bring myself to bake anything - usually I throw in a home-baked item or's hell week.

But hell would have to freeze over for Bagel duty to be derailed.

I've got to go set my alarm for another sunrise morning...yawn.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hell Week

I'm just logging off for the night at 9:09PM.  I met with my CEO and Global Ops Director this afternoon and they aptly described this as HELL WEEK.  We have meetings from 7AM to 6PM all week (I won't be attending all, but prepping for many) and there are four consecutive dinners out with colleagues as well.  I consider myself lucky I am only attending two of them.  By the time this week is over, everyone will be sick of everyone.

My schoolwork and house projects are calling me (not to mention the 4 novels on my bedstand)...but they'll just have to wait.  The place that pays for all of that is first in line this week. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who needs the gym....?

...when you've got home improvement projects? After two days of painting a 5x5 room I've done about 1,000 squats while balancing a paint tray, brush and roller. My butt and thighs feel like I did 6 straight hours of step aerobics after the up and down the step ladder calisthenics I've been doing. The arm movements extending my arms to their furthest rotation to paint walls, ceiling and moulding are reminiscent of Mr. Miyagi training the Karate Kid.

So I ask again, who needs the gym, when you've got home improvement projects.

Well...probably me...but I also don't have the time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

That time of year again

Well, it's time again.

Today, I'm counting my many many blessings; thinking of my loved ones - those here, those far away, and those gone; and taking stock of another year gone by. It gets blurrier every year, how fast the time goes.

I am rather quiet about this day. No celebrations at work. No real celebrations at home. A lovely wake-up kiss and sweet happy birthday from hubby are all I really need.

After passing the big ones, 16, 18, 21...I haven't had much use for the day. I'm not about anti-age recognition, I'm about low-key, post-holiday, done with the celebrating thing, let's got on with life.

But a little reflection, a little glass of wine...and a lotta chocolate cake...yeah, that's ok.

So - time to get out my favorite cake plate.

Bake a chocolate layer cake.

Light it up.

And it's time to face the mirror (and camera).

Me. 43.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Relief

So this is the 2nd Wednesday in a row (actually the 3rd if you count Christmas week) that I haven't been in the office. I love it. Last week I slept through most of it, but today, I ran errands (Home Depot and Lowe's are my 2nd home right now), hit the Dr. for a script of antibiotics to get rid of this chronic sinus infection everyone has, and spent a lovely three hours at the salon getting my hair highlighted, lowlighted, other-lighted?, and cut. I feel thoroughly relaxed right now, have only checked my blackberry once today, sending out a volley of replies which are sure to have generated more... and trying to motivate myself to work on my school assignment.

There is a chocolate layer cake in the oven (oops - beeper just went off...) needs 2 minutes more. And the house is smelling yummy. I have the fixin's for a nice spaghetti comfort food dinner with some fresh garlic bread and hubby is heading home any minute now.

Tonight we spackle walls, or maybe he does, as this school assignment just won't wait. The assignment is due Friday...which means I'd better get cracking on it if I don't want to be pulling an all-nighter tomorrow. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to do the things I want to do, much less the things I need to do (i.e., job, sleep)

But I do have to say...two days on, a day off, two days on, two days off seems like a nice work schedule option. If only it could be an every week thing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hoteling Memories

I've read several articles that claim that people may think they are good multi-taskers, but at best, they are good at organizing around multiple tasks. Actually concentrating and giving our best requires a more singular focus.

I often wonder if aging and too much Diet Pepsi is eating away at my brain, or if I simply expect too much from it.

When I was a child, I used to sit at the dinner table and make some comment about my body being like a hotel and as I ate my dinner, I was filling the rooms - veggies, meat, beverage, etc. When the hotel was full, I was done. I had a special room for applesauce as my mother served it at every meal. I think it was her way of bribing me to eat my veggies. She didn't much care if I buried my peas in it, as long as the peas were eaten. Of course now people look at me strangely when I always prefer my peas mixed in with applesauce, even as an adult. But as usual, I digress.

I think my brain is really like a hotel. And I think the rooms have been full, and maybe even over-occupied for a very long time. Now I am kicking out residents to make room for new check-ins and it is leaving some pretty serious gaps in my memory and thoughts.

I can walk from one meeting to the next and at the end of the day, if I don't have notes from the meetings, I can easily forget 80% of what I heard. Hopefully, the 20%I retain is the important stuff- or at least the stuff most relevant to my regular to-do list...but overall, I think I've been pretty lucky not to drop a major ball yet.

One example is even keeping up on two blogs. My mind is so focused on projects for Yellow Cottage Chronicles that I haven't put much thought into what else in life is going on that might actually be interesting enough to post here. Of course I have random thoughts throughout the day as I have conversations, meeting, listen to news, watch a movie, read a book....but by the time I get to the keyboard, the hotel rooms have been vacated and the linens are changed and the incoming guest have no clue as to what was going on before the changeover.

I've often wished to have a camera embedded in my brain. Mostly for those once in a liftime moments that you just wish you could capture and replay. But now, I'd like the camera to be like a security camera in the hotel lobby. Who checked out? When? Who checked in? for what? Where is the bathroom? and the bar? Or maybe I just need a hotel manager.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sick Day Hangover

Yesterday I took a sick day. I wasn't overwhelmingly ill, but I had a very bad night of sleep (got about 1.5 hours total) and had a killer headache. I might have been able to "suck it up" and function, but I probably wouldn't be worth much. Today? Today was what I call sick day hangover day.

Every meeting and conference call that was supposed to happen yesterday (that didn't go on without me) I rescheduled for today...on top of what was already supposed to happen today. I was on the phone from 8:30 until 12:30 today non-stop.

Every deadline was overdue one more day, or one day closer to BEING overdue, so I had lots of deliverables to crank out. Every person who wanted to consult me, get my signature, or in any other way "use my talents" was waiting as if there was a take-a-number bakery line.

Then, I went into a conference room for a 30 minute meeting at the end of the day, that turned into 3.5 hours! Not a bad meeting, but obviously everyone had stored up a lot of stuff to talk about and it all spilled out there. From seating arrangements in the new location, to budget adjustments for end of 2009, to employee relations issues, to MERGER stuff, and everything in between.

So after getting back to my desk at 7:30PM, I found myself with a message from my VP in a two hour earlier time zone to call (meaning I would still catch him at work) and an unforgiving and long list of To-Dos that would just haunt me further tomorrow if I didn't tackle them now.

So it is now 11:00PM and I'm headed home.

I foresee some further hangover tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why Hubby Makes Me Laugh

W: Well, seems the jewelry I picked out for Hannukah gifts for the girls (nieces) were not a hit. Their mom says they like big and gaudy, not sweet and delicate, so I'm digging up the receipts for returns. When I was their age....

C: Times have changed W. Right now if you can keep their POOTY off the internet you're ahead of the game.

W: I cannot believe you just said POOTY.


C: You should stick all those things Penny Kitty has gathered up into a potato and take a picture.


C: You know, for your blog.


W (to Penny Kitty): You're all, "Get away, get away" and then you're all "Pet me Pet me Pet me". Everything has to be on YOUR terms. You are SUCH a girl.

C: Suddenly everything in my life seems clear.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Paw'd and Dangerous

She's at it again...or should I say still.

After the infamous potato caper, I've taken greater care of my produce and no longer keep unbagged loose temptations like baking potatoes in an open bowl on the counter. But beyond the potato a few other things have turned up in Penny's arsenal....

We're not quite sure what she wanted with the marble chess pawn....but maybe it's like a message to us? We are just pawns in her little game?

When I showed my nephew what had been gathered by our industrious feline, his quick wit came up with the answer: "She's like MacGyver kitty....a potato, some wire, metal screws...she's building a bomb and she's gonna blast her way out of here!" This comment has made me laugh several times. But then today...she showed up under the dining room table with this.

Caught red-pawed.

It's the drill attachment used for heavy duty sanding or filing metal....

Call the bomb squad - she's paw'd and dangerous.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Home and Family is Never Far Away

In October, our nephew-in-law was sworn in as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army. After 20 years of service as an enlisted man, he is now officially an officer. No matter how many times I ask him to explain the intricacies of life in federal service, I never seem to grasp it. It is full of acronyms and illogic, politics and policies, just well beyond my ability to understand. But one thing that he said during his promotion ceremony that was touching and clear was the thank you he gave to Hubby and I for always making he and his wife and sons always feel that home and family was never far away.

As a military family, they are on the move quite often - to my recollection they've been in Dallas, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and D.C. Those postings also included overseas duty in Iraq for him, while my niece held down the homefront. As he completes his officer training over the next 12 weeks, he'll be sorting out where his next posting will take him, and also his family. We all believe it will be farther than the 5 hour drive from us it is now...and we will miss that ability to drive out for a quick weekend visit.

Because my niece is only 9 years younger than I am, and her husband is only 4 years younger, I feel more like a big sister than an Aunt. Although at times I admit I still marvel that J (aka A's mom) has grown to such an incredibly impressive woman, wife, and mother when she is forever in my mind the sweet little girl in the ballet outfit. But now, as a fully grown 40+ year old, I'm feeling aunt-like to her little boys - and such darling Great Nephews we have too.

Little Man A is just at the age where Christmas is truly exciting. As you hand him a box, he exclaims, "What IS it???" in THE most adorable way. He is truly curious and thrilled to see a pretty wrapped package in his hands. Even when he understands the gift may be for his baby brother, he still gets very excited and gives little outbursts as he tears off the paper - the first excitement is finding the box - WOW!! he says, even if it doesn't show anything of the gift inside. Then he opens the box and finds tissue - "Oooh" he says, again still moments away from the gift...then the toy or book or even clothing is revealed and the crowd goes wild. Even when he doesn't know exactly what it is - he loves it because it was part of the gift process.

When do we lose that ability? That ability to be unabashedly excited over the receiving of a loving gift? There is nothing quite like seeing a little one experience Christmas or a Birthday, or even the 4th of July fireworks display is there? Once we become grown-up, beginning - most likely - with the very costly teenage cool years, we surrender that beautiful raw emotion.

Because of that, the joy we have in watching kids in their excitement is that much more magical. It is likely our only chance to re-capture that simple and all-encompassing glee. To remember what it was like to be so damned excited and happy that we couldn't stay still. We had to run around in circles screaming like banshees, or hop up and down until we felt sick, or turn somersaults in the middle of the living room, or even just grin from ear to ear until our cheeks felt they would burst.

Thank you Little Man A and Baby Brother Z, and thank you A's Mom and Dad, and to my sister Jude and her Rob, for a wonderful start to the New Year, filled with glee, laughter, and the simple pleasures of little boys. And for always reminding US that home and family is never far away.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Announcing "Yellow Cottage Chronicles"

I'll still be here - but I wanted a project...something that I would hold myself accountable to, something that would chronicle my trials, tribulations, and checkbook through a year of getting my house in order...literally.

I am one of the most ungifted undomestic people you could ever meet. I live with HGTV envy and spend way too many hours thinking about, discussing, and gazing at home makeover materials. But too little of my time has generated any action. Let's see if I can make a change.

The site itself is still undergoing some construction...I want it to evolve to have some features, some photo galleries, a punch list of projects, a shopping list, a bank account to show my investment levels, etc. I'm working on an organized label list that will help you see the house as it develops room by room. Kiki (formerly of Good Intentions blog) is helping me with the design elements, but we're in no rush. It's like all the other home improvement projects...all in good time, and after suitable planning and shopping for options.

Hope you come join me - I have free stuff to give away too! Check out my first FREEcycle post coming on January 4.