Friday, September 29, 2006

Being Honest…accepting my weakness(es)

I am really ashamed of myself. Can you imagine, it has been over a week since my last posting on this site. I was so sure I will never fail when I started but that is getting more difficult with each day/week not to slip. I am even more amazed because I am teaching my son to live up to agreements and commitments such as doing homework at a particular time and going to bed at an agreed time and if I may ask how about, writing and posting daily blog at an agreed time?

Believe me, I have tons of reasons and excuses but if I am not willing to accept that from a little boy who has his reasons (playing with friends, TV sometimes, etc) why would I give such lame ones like sitting in traffic for 4 hours two days ago and getting home drained of all energy or rather, that my wireless internet card did not work in the city where I have been on business trip so I could not write and post? Or even better, that I should be pardoned for sitting at the airport for fours long hours for a flight back to base and there are no alternatives that one can fly and at least be confident that the plane is air worthy not that the airworthiness guarantees anything in this time and age. These are all valid reasons by the way but does that exonerate me from failing to carry out a commitment that I made by myself to myself and my site visitors? I doubt!!!

Talking of security of air travel, in the years past when people enter planes and are scared it is either that the aircraft is experiencing serious turbulence or the thought of a possible mechanic fault that may cause the aircraft to crash but other than that, people get into the plane and fall fast asleep. I have been watching passengers in recent period in the long trans Atlantic and cross country flights especially going to Europe and America and all of a sudden everyone is a watchdog in the aircraft and every ‘unusual’ movement is being watched by all. I have not done any survey but I doubt that the concern of most air travelers is the possibility of mechanical fault from the aircraft more than it is of terrorist attack except maybe for countries like mine where we are more concerned with planes being airworthy and technical expertise of the operators.

In one of my pensive moments (no sober moments) recently, I was thinking that the chronic indiscipline in the very grains of our souls and blood streams could also be a factor in the recent crashes that we have experienced in Nigeria. Nigerians are known for wanting to do things ‘differently’ and there are no planes made specifically for Nigeria so I cannot help but wonder if our pilots actually follow rigidly the operational requirements and steps in pressing the numerous buttons. As passengers, we will never know. We have found out that we can 'amend' the service period to go years beyond what the manufacturers specified but the truth is that the operators will tell us to be grateful that there are aircrafts for us to fly. (Actually a lot of people are going by road these days).

Staying focused requires a lot of discipline and I am sure those of us who have tried to exercise and follow a regimen can testify to that. A lot of people like (me in this blogging decision) start off well and fizzle out but I cannot help but wonder how we want our kids to have a routine and stick to it when we as role models are unable to do what we expect others to do.

Now that I have said it all and made no excuse, I guess I can forgive myself and move on. What do you think?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Is there any good in a Tragedy?

Tragedy is not a good thing no matter where you stand. However, like my old boss used to say, there are good things even in sad stories and if I may add even in tragedy. Three and half years ago, the world woke up to one big tragedy, made bigger even because of the power of technology and everyone saw the Columbia shuttle shatter in the air upon entering the earth killing the seven astronauts on board and all of a sudden we all became “Space Watchers”. I am sure space watchers mean something else but I am not keen on researching what it means, for me it means that we suddenly now pay attention to news on TV and network cables when NASA is launching a shuttle and we all now monitor the developments of the shuttles. It is even worse now that there are “space trips” for tourists like me (when I have made my half a billion US dollars, I am heading the space that’s for sure!)

Unbelievably, I find myself following the recent trip by the Atlantis shuttle to the space to continue the building of the space station for 11 days. Now you must believe, I even know that is a difference between astronauts and cosmonauts. Before I became an avid ‘space watcher’ I had no clue. I thought everyone in space is an astronaut. I even know now that earth is very hot and that the shuttle temperature reversal assimilation system must be intact without any foam falling out if things are to go well considerably. (I have no doubt that NASA will be impressed my definition above of the much talked about thermal system). I also know that the shuttle at lunch requires 3 million gallons of fuel (that is some energy).

Two days ago when NASA said something was floating about in the orbit where the shuttle is, I got a bit scared and even though I have been praying for this particular shuttle like I have prayed for the other ones since Columbia, I prayed harder. The whole of yesterday (intermittently) I was checking development in the search for the UFO around the shuttle and was happy to see that the shuttle had been given the thumbs up to land. This morning, I have been glued in front of my laptop monitoring the NASA sight (I have also done some work) but I could not help but rejoice when the big thing thundered down at the Kennedy Space Center amidst joys, cheers and high-fives.

Looking at the “ground crew” which is all of NASA staff and space watchers like me (who are providing prayers in addition), I see how much that tragedy of 2003 has brought us to appreciate the enormity of activities of the space missions and the weight on NASA as an organization. I am also most impressed by the astronauts who despite the imminent danger of their mission are committed to it. I know that there are tons of professions out there (the military, the pilots etc) that have high level of risks but today, I am saluting all astronauts (living and dead) and budding astronauts. I am also giving the kudos to the space watchers out there. Let us continue to pray for all these people. It is not so much for these people only but for their families who are teams with them.

Although the world now watch NASA activities with interest, it is indeed brought about by a tragedy that we all saw in our own very living rooms and today there are a lot of people working with NASA (unknown to NASA for sure) to ensure that space missions are successful especially with no further loss of life and these are the “space watchers”. Now that I am writing, I think I will launch a website for space watchers to air their views and chat with other space watchers and this will be the birth of the global “Space Watchers Club”… we may even get to say something about space missions at the UN assembly in the next couple of years.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Caught in the middle

I work with people ( I know a lot of us do and even the ones that work with animals also have people working with them) and I am forever amazed at how different we are. I am not sure if animals are different (as in each sheep in a herd or each monkey in a zoo) but humans? Vastly different!!!

Over the years, I have seen a number of situations scenarios where mangers ‘play games’ with their team members and leave HR grappling like a drowning clown, flapping hands to make sure no ego is ruffled. So the HR person has to implore the greatest level of ‘office diplomacy’ (even Condoleeza will be impressed sometimes and the level of diplomacy we exhibit in our day to handling of employee and relationship management in the office) to ensure that employee does not feel undervalued and without making the manager lose face or look bad in the situation. Sometimes this can be tough.

Over and over I hear leadership gurus state quite strongly that managers need to make a tough call (okay, this is really Jack’s favorite line and he highlighted quite a bit of such situations in his famous “winning” book). However, most managers shy away from making any calls at all and a regular call suddenly become a tough call. When tough call comes, they actually melt in front of it and make a mess of it.

Today an employee came into my office with loads of training information that she will like to go for and in my mind I thought “oh this is trouble”. I did not say so though so I asked if this has been discussed with the manager and I got one of those looks (oh yea, but she is not keyed in). I know that this particular unit is undergoing some serious restructuring which will end up with a possible change in ownership and while training is important, the manager is really focused or consumed by this impending change. I know that this manager expects the team member to understand and that is the bit that is quite niggling. However, both of them have not sat down to discuss how this change will affect individuals in the team in terms of project changes and development/skill needs.

What we see in HR is how things that should and could be nipped at the bud suddenly gets out of hand and become huge issues. Communication is the single most important thing in running a company/team. I know there are other components but employee problems have strong root in either lack of communication or inadequate communication. People need to talk and I am sometimes totally confused on why this is difficult between team leads and their team members. I think that this should be fairly easy if we present the honest picture at all times and show empathy in our approach.

This is not a technical piece truly, but how difficulty is it to talk to and with people that you work with? We as managers(Whoops! Actually, I am a manager, can you beat that?) underrate the ability of our team members to understand ‘serious business issues’. My experiences have shown me that when employees are carried along, they feel more involved and this greatly reduces friction and attrition.

Going back to the employee that stormed into my office with the solutions to her development needs, now I will have to ‘resolve’ this issue and the way I approach this resolution will be very important but since this is what I do so often and have done over the years, it will come fairly easily but in my early years, believe me it would have been catastrophic…Hmmm!! Who says age and experience have nothing to do with it??

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Beating the Blues

Everyone knows the blues and when they hit. (Okay,not everyone, most women). Some people say that it is a natural occurrence with women at some point in their monthly cycle (I will not argue that). I know that I get it every once in a while and since it does not feel like every month, maybe that theory does not apply to me ...It does not mean it is wrong. During the blues I kind of feel sorry for myself but it is usually triggered off by something. Sometimes I am able to identify the 'culprit' sometimes I am not and I do not even think of what triggered it, I just concentrate on getting past the blues.

I was in that mood recently so off to the shops I went...for a "black shirt with a character". I really do not shop often but then the blues come (thank God it is not often), the shops have an amazing allure and buying has a way beating the blues. I stopped at the first shop that is likely to give me what I want (I am not sure about the price) so true to my expectation, they had something. I tried to justify is not too plain, the sleeve is really beautiful...I will take it. So they packed it up for me and I started humming and singing down the stairs on my way back to my car. Now you must agree, I am really a disciplined shopper! I went to one store only in a mall (okay not a mall, a shopping complex more like it)and I was out afterwards. I got home, threw the stuff away at one corner but I am actually happy that I bought something and the blues got temporarily fixed.

Two days later, I picked up the shopping bag from where I dumped it (feeling good again) and I showed my sister who liked it (she likes every new piece of apparel or accessory), then I found out it was the wrong size. They gave me a size 1 instead of size 2(Before you start imagining me as a tiny winy being, these sizing is from another planet where size 1 is equal to US size 6 and British size 10). Come to think of it the designer of this brand must have had a brain wave and thought that since women love to describe themselves in the numerals under 10, he/she will design the clothes not to exceed size 6. Size 6 is the highest in this brand. So I decided that I will return the shirt for the right size.

Off again to this one shop but this time I took the 'wrong' road/route to the shop because I stopped briefly at another shop 'just to see'. When I got there I asked if they had any "Black shirt with a character". The store owner was there (another mistake) and she said "Oh a lot". That should have been an alarm bell in my ears but I smiled instead and like President Bush I mistakenly said "Bring them on!" I rejected most of them until one with big sash and very trendy style was shown to me and when I tried it on, I knew I must have it because it was meant for me - know one of those meant for me type fittings?. So they packed it up for me and again I was singing and humming all the way to the car. I realized that it was too late at this time to get to the other shop to return the other one because I had to go pick up my son from school and since it was the first day of school this session, I was not ready to start it off with a late pick up. I made a mental note to call the shop and explain that my driver will return the shirt.

I did not get to call the shop eventually and so off to the shop again the next day to return this shirt in the wrong size. When I got there, I was told that size 2 may not be available (and I rejoiced in my heart since I had bought one with a very strong character already)but they checked and lo and behold there was size 2. I quickly tried it on and then said to myself, "actually this one is more like a work shirt and the other one is a 'free lancer'so I will buy it". I had them pack it up for me. I wrote the check and left but this time, I was not singing and humming all the way to the car, I was looking at the gapping hole in my account made possible by the quest for a black shirt with a character which came as a result of the blues!!! Next time, I have sworn (no I did not literarily swear ..just a figure of speech)when the blues come, I will put a music tape and just sing along and jump and down until it goes away even if I have to it for hours or days. I am never going to go to any shop not even the bookshop which I pounce on sometimes when the blues come too!!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Mystery of Marriage

Marriage is a big mystery to adults...has anyone ever thought of how very confusing it is to children? I certainly cannot remember as a kid if I thought of marriage except when we play mum and dad the way kids usually do.

Today at our usual sunday breakfast (actually we have breakfast as a family only on sundays except that I heard that my son and hubby sneaked out to breakfast ysterday when I went to the office for a couple of hours), my son threw one of those questions that adults have not thought of a prepared answer to give. Not that we prepare for all the questions we get but most mothers have some already made answers for questions like "Mummy how do you make babies"? "How do they get into your stomach". He started by asking me how come I do not know how to play piano so that I can teach him. I said that it is because I was not taught as a kid. He asked again, "did you not go to school?" I said, I did but I was not taught music. He did not understand how someone will go to school and they will not teach the person music. He asked again, "what school did you go to mummy?" I quoted the school I went to as a kid. Again, that sounded like somewhere in the moon to him but he let it be. He continued on the music thing and said, "how come my daddy can play the piano and teach me?" I said it is because his daddy had a piano as a kid and grandpa got him a piano teacher. I went on to say that he will one day be able to play very well since he goes for music lessons.

My smart son then said out of the blues just when I thought we have finished the music and piano discussions "Mummy if you did not have a piano, what did you have?" Honestly, I could not remember what I had (I really did not have a lot of toys growing up and not sure I had anything that will equate to one of his hitech toys today so I mentioned the first thing that came to my mind and I said, "skipping ropes". This brought a lot of laughter but he was okay with that. The next question was the one that totally threw me off my feet. He said, "mummy what else did my daddy have as a kid?" I said "Oh dear, I do not know. I did not know your daddy when he was a kid" This is one that he could not fathom. He retorted, "mummy if you did not know my daddy when he was a kid, how come you married him?" I was going to say, I am not sure how come but I quickly recovered and said, "Oh I met your daddy when we were both grown up and we decided to get married". This was even more confusing because he looked very puzzled and I tried again to explain that actually some people marry people they have known from when they were kids but most people just meet when they are fully grown and old enough to be married. They meet and they realize that they love each other so they get married". I do not think that I convinced him but that was the end of the discussion.

However, this whole episode got me thinking all through the time I was preparing lunch and I thought, mhnn! why do people really marry total strangers? I know there are cultures where people 'arrange' marriages and these kids get to know their spouses while they are growing up. But strangers or people you know and grew up with...whichever way, whichever one, marriage remains a great mystery to adults and to children alike. Suffice it to say that it did not help that in church today, the pastor said over and over again how marriage is a serious matter and not to be treated lightly since it is a choice we made and it is really beyond the gymnastics of our heart beat and the sex energy that drive us crazy at the beginning because all that fade and wane in a very short while. We should understand that it does not mean that it is time to change partners rather, everyone seeking to get married must ensure that it is to someone who will be complementary to his/her purpose and dream and both will wade through the challenges together. I will leave this subject alone to the cousellors and other experts out there. All I know is that it is a big mystery!!!

We want it and we hate it when we get it and we want it again and again...If that is not a mystery, I am not sure I know what could be a greater mystery!!!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Discipline or 25 hrs day?

School only resumed yesterday and I am already late posting a blog? What a shame I told myself. No one will believe when I remembered that I wrote nothing on my page yesterday... when I was almost falling asleep on my bed at night. I was very sure when I started on this blogging that I will write everyday and that decision was good for two days only. No more promises!!!

School resumed so what ? Well, I went to "Welcome everybody" which happens only at the beginning of a new session and it was hooo haaa!! " How was your summer holidays?", "Did you have fun?" What did you do? Where did you go? Oh my God! It was an earful. It got me thinking. To start with, we do not have a season in Nigeria that is called "summer". We have only rainy and dry season and this holiday in the 'old days' - my days going to school was called 'long vacation'. Beats me how these things change. Now to the question of where did you go? Do kids have to go somewhere other than where they live? No wonder my son was saying when school closed "Mummy, are we going to London or America? I honestly said "None of the above". For some reason, he has made a number of trips to both locations during some holidays and some not during the holidays because before he started proper structured grade school learning, I used to whisk him off on my trips. So I guess it has been taken for granted that he would go or we would go somewhere during every holidays. He actually mentioned the kids in class who were going to London, America and to the moon literarily.

I was honest enough to say that I do not think that we have any plans for "summer holidays" and that we (daddy and myself) are working all through this summer holidays and if he is lucky, he will visit his grand-parents in the East. He was not happy with this. He said, he will like to visit with his grand parents when he comes back from either London or America and so summer holidays began. Now it is over, I will wait to hear the stories from his friends and what he will have to say.

I was talking of writing my page everyday before I digressed to the new generation Nigerians who will import the weather seasons just like we import everything else (culture, belief, values and accents). Woe betide you if you speak with any indegenous accent, everyone will turn and look at you as if you suddenly dropped from the ancient days...sometimes the 'victim' is not even aware and so the ostrasization begins for that unfortunate person (what a world we live in). The list for a person's definition is getting longer, I tell you. I am still digressing from the topic for today and at this rate, I doubt that I will even end up writing about whether my problem is discipline or truly what I need is 25 hours a day.

So I headed to work right after the hoohaa that I mentioned earlier and my colleagues were suprised to see me with full make up on my face. One actually said, "woah!I like your make up" and I said, "thanks, I am just coming from my son's school". She looked lost for a tiny winy bit because she could not make the connection between my make up and going to my son's school. She asked if I needed to wear make up to go there (only she really did not voice the questions)so I quickly told her that I did not want to look out of place. I proceeded to explain how people come to parents seminars and Parents/Teacher meetings looking like we are called for "Paris fashion show". I said that my son is getting older and I do not want him to start noticing that his mum looks rather different from the least since I will not wear the couture fashion to school meetings...I will at least have some make up. Again, I have digressed!!!

Once back to the office, I had my weekly reports to complete and had other meetings that ran into other meetings and it was know how it is on Friday evenings. I had not even completed my tasks for that day when the office was thinning out. I thought, well, I came in late, gotta put in some more hours and then I had to head home. Guess I can be pardoned since it is my first Friday blogging and it was not in my calendar life is totally ran out of calendar - Monday to Friday, now I do not know whether that is good or bad!!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Carrying our life's burden

Yesterday, a colleague sent me one of those stuff that we never know the source but forward around from one recipient to another. I assume that for it to have ended up in my box, the entire world has received it because I am not in that chain email thing. This one was titled “The ant and the contact lenses”. Of course there are loads of stories and fables involving ants and each has a moral lesson over the ages so seeing the ant in a story is not particularly strange but I would think contact lenses? ThatÂ’s a pretty new invention. Anyway, I read the story. I thought it was a pretty nice story about faith and believing that God is able to see us through difficult and seemingly hopeless situations but it was the cartoon that depicted the ant carrying the contact lenses and saying "Lord, I do not know why I am carrying this lead, it is not good for food and it is awfully heavy but if that is what you want me to do, I will do itÂthat caught my attention. Whoops!!!

So many times we have one load we are carrying or the other and sometimes just as we are off loading one, we are taking on another one. Some loads alias burden stay with us for life. As a young girl and even now in my moments when I forget how old I really am, I dare dream and want to look like one actress or model and I just think, if my waist line could just get smaller or my boobs bigger, I will just be the best thing walking the face of the earth and all my problems will be solved. No actually, I will not even have any problems and the dreams change with each illusion that I entertain. (Maybe this happens to just me but it does still happens. Please do not ask how old I am)

Anyway, back to my revelation about burdens, sometimes we imagine that some people we know “have no issues or real problems” and we wish to be in their shoes but the truth is everyone has one load which like the ant is not particularly good for food and awfully heavy but that is the way life is. Each time my own load is ‘killing me’, I cry out to God and He kind of makes light of it but I am always quick to remind Him that although it may seem light to Him, the load is crushing me.

Okay now, I have to stop Pappee wants to use the laptop..remember him? Told you there will lots of stories on this site about my very smart, wonderful 6 year old son. He says it is his turn to play some games on the lap top.

Recently, there has been a lot of focus on Autism (Time, CNN etc)and how it has been on the increase. However, each case shows parents who are doing everything and will do everything to get help for their children. They have also accepted that they willhave to "carry" this burden for as long as they live. It may not be autism in your case, it may be parent with alzheimer, or the loss of a loved one but we sure do have one "load" or another we carry on the life journey. Some may seem lighter or easier to us when we compare them but like the ant they are really awfully heavy for the people carrying them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I work in an office that is full of young people..predominantly members of generation"y" and today in the lounge during lunch, the discussion veered to step aerobics and eventually 'deteriorated' to exercise and gym attendance. This is a conversation that is part of me in this life because I am a protagonist for exercise and eating healthy. Back to the lounge talk: my colleague mentioned that she was late for the last step class and was asked by the instructor to move her board to front and she said to herself "forget it" and she was in no mood to fight. Mhnn!! I chuckled. I did not press her for the reason going to the front will warrant a fight with the step instructor. She said half an hour or so later when the class was over, she regretted not going because the people coming out looked throughly 'worked out' and she has vowed to make the next class.

Interestingly, it was not the step class that was going through my mind but how a little discomfort makes us lose sight of our objective and miss out on our desired result and blessings. How many times has a little obstacle (as little as "move your board and come to the front") has made us suddenly rethink and go back? Each time you meet a hurdle, no matter how little or big, ask yourself, what is my objective in first place? What is my destination? Is this detour ot flat tire or mechanical fault enough to stop me on my journey??

On another story, school will soon resume and I have been thinking of the 'life style changes" that I will need to make int he morning to get my little boy to school and make it to work on time. For some reason the summer holidays seemed like a long time and now I am not sure how it ended so soon. Please watch out for the stories on "bringing up Pappee". Pappee is currently six years and will be going into grade school 2 or primary 2 in a few days.