Monday Musings: Summer

Monday musings in paper and inkThis was really meant to be last week’s Monday post but I got busy working on my new section avatar. I am actually trying to work on it still, but why postpone the post for the graphic?

I usually try to begin the week with a post listing a set of blurbs which are like snippets of what’s running through my head at the start of the week, instead of writing a full blown post. Sometimes one or two actually get written as a full entry later on, but I like the mental exercise of putting shorter paragraphs together without the pressure of developing the idea running through my head. It’s like a mini-workout..

I don’t remember now what I had hoped to write so let’s try to pull this Monday’s mini headlines forming in my head.

Weekend work around. I don’t normally work on weekends unless I have to or am requested to, but yesterday, I purposely set aside time to get started on a document I hope to work on some more today. In my mind, I wanted to manage my stress levels by not having to start from scratch on what are usually hectic Mondays. I set a time limit of sorts and told myself I will only do this task and only this. And I stuck with it. As soon as the task was done, I didn’t linger and shut down. I resumed my weekend. And in more ways than one, I think that helped. I’m on the bus and just got to the city and while I already got some emails that means it’ll be me grabbing coffee and then working away, I have one less source of stress. I’m at east a half hour ahead with the work I completed– and that gives me some breathing room. The important thing is, I didn’t spend the weekend working. I just completed a task.

Sometimes you just need to go with the flow. This Monday was busier than busy but I tried to just go with it and not fight it. I was writing stickies in my head . Reminder(s) to self.

Choosing to be nice. Salad line. You walk towards the end of the line where an acquaintance is waiting her turn. Now I try not to be presumptuous when in a social/work environ such as the cafeteria. So I don’t say hello figuring she was busy on her iPhone. She gets her turn and I get mine and between the two helpers trying to pull our orders together, I know she knew it was me. Still no hello. I go about my business and I walk to the dressing where we were practically face to face. I respect her choice not to be sociable and to pretend like we don’t know each other. Sometime it’s better that way. I’m not mad at her but she just became a statistic in my “not nice” list of people. Wouldn’t it have been just easier to be nice instead of putting so much effort into not being?

Former bestie at work now totally avoids me even when his work means I’m one of his clients. Friendship and professionalism are not the same. You may lose the friendship but you always have to maintain a certain work ethic where you work. I don’t like everyone I work with but I always try and do my job as best I can, no matter who is on the receiving end. I choose to be nice.

I treasure the happy times. Last week, I afforded myself an indulgence and went for a coffee break treat and a lunch adventure. It was a very busy week but I had much to be grateful for. So even when some things didn’t quite pan out the way I had hoped they would, I just kept replaying the “happy ” in my mind, and the truth of the matter is, it was way more than whatever negative moments came my way. I had a warm big hug to the heart and I hold that close and just bask in the warm and fuzzy.

I’m exhausted but I’m smiling at the thought of the warm and fuzzy.. and I know I’m probably making sense only to myself, but that’s why I write.
57th Avenue. Looking towards the west side

Daily Prompt: My daily toil

Daily Prompt: How do you feel about your job? Do you spring out of bed, looking forward to work? Or, is your job a soul-destroying monotony of pure drudgery, or somewhere in between?

From my first job as a radio newscaster back in the early 90s while trudging through law school to my current job, I must say I’ve been very lucky to have acquired the skills I did along the way.  I’ve gone after the jobs I thought suited me well, got paid well for them and have jumped into the rat race and out and still feel quite happy where I am.

So there — I do look forward to work and I’m proud of it.  I toil five days a week as the Executive Assistant to one of the top honchos of a Fortune something something in its field.  I’ve been on the so-called Executive floor for 7 of my 10 (now almost 11) years with this company, and I’ve had the pleasure and honor of serving three top executives during that run.

The current boss is considered a rock star in the company and I’ve been lucky that he rocks as a boss as well.  We had a rough start almost three years ago, but we’ve gotten into a very good rhythm that makes me look forward to Mondays and doesn’t see me craving for the weekend by the middle of the week.  I work long hours, yes, but I consider that part of the job description, and I do get paid well for the trouble.  Of course I wish I was paid more, but in this economy, we should really count our blessings.  I do get the occasional call from recruiters looking for executive assistants for c-level executives like the ones I’ve partnered with, but it’s a little tough beating my current work arrangements given the way the market is.  (Too much competition from equally qualified jobhunters who can dive salary-wise, so we always hit a snag when I tell them what salary range would make me jump ship.)

I must admit there are days when I miss not having to dress up for work and being able to go with jeans on an every day basis — not that I have to look like a fashionista, but there is a certain dress code I abide by.  (More so on the floor.)  I also think of moving up or doing something else, but then I have to think long and hard about plunging myself into a career again — chasing after deadlines, stressing over projects, and working even longer hours.  I’ve been there, I’ve done that.

My boss doesn’t even know I have a law degree — something I don’t need to proclaim as I do my daily duties.  I’ve said time and again, it’s always easier to “dumb down” rather than try to appear wiser or smarter than you really are.  It’s like being exceptionally good at the easier job rather than constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to more challenging things.

I like that the world won’t stop turning if I decide to go on an extended vacation to Manila — and that there are no projects that I need to stress over while I take the morning off to watch my son perform in school.  And yet I’ve distinguished myself as smart and good at what I do enough to know that I have earned the tag “hard to replace” considering “indispensable” is not exactly true of anyone in the workforce today.

I’m fortunate to have the latest gadgets to help me perform my job well — from an iPhone 5S to whatever else I need to be an effective assistant.  Plus how can you argue when the view I see outside is this gorgeous portrait of the Manhattan midtown cityscape..?  I should be so lucky…
Happy Monday, New York!  23 floors above my usual view.  Cold but not quite as cold as we thought it would be. Good morning, everyone! #ny #nyc #newyork #manhattan #mynewyork #happymonday #goodmorning #ilovenewyork #cityscape #monday #mgviewfrom23 #nypl #

Just another night

It’s minutes past 9pm and I’m exhausted.  Got home from a full day of work trying to find a visa genie for my boss who’s trying to go somewhere that makes the US Embassy process in Manila seem like a piece of cake.  I am trying, and despite my processing company’s pessimism, I believe in miracles.  Between that and the usual things associated with a normal work day, I went home ready to whip up dinner.  Fried chicken wings (what else?) for the boy, and I whipped up some Pork Giniling with Foie Gras.  Rich, I know.  But the delicacy was going to go to waste… I needed something to thicken my giniling and add some flavor to it.  Success!  Rich, indeed. =)  Well, an indulgence once in a while is well-deserved.

A colleague of the hubby’s had given us this gourmet stack of foie gras from Paris a while back, and the ‘best by’ dates were almost past.  It was many notches above liverwurst, and totally yum!

I have a present to wrap up and finish which was requested by someone I made a version of this a while back.  (I can’t be specific as I might have to plead the fifth if someone zeroed in on what it was.)  Other than that, I’m hoping to do more writing, retire early, and heed my body’s pleas for rest.  I wasn’t feeling too well all day, and while the two Aleve’s (naproxen) I drank mid-afternoon somehow helped, it didn’t take care of the problem completely.

Just another night for me.  I just thought I’d write a post before I start wrapping up my evening.  It was THAT busy — no post !  It does happen.

Midweek yet again.  Time did fly once more, but in a good way.  I’m not whining.. just chronicling things here.

Trying yet another different look at Gotham Chick.  Go help my ticker move for that site and visit.. let me know what you think.

Celebrating me

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I joined this company.  My boss was actually instrumental in surprising me earlier today after I thought I had sent him off to a luncheon in one of the restaurants around our building.  Minutes later, he calls me from his cellphone telling me that he had accidentally left his organizer in one of the conference rooms where he had his meeting earlier in the morning, and that he needed me to grab it immediately because there was some sensitive information in that book.  So off I went and lo and behold, when I opened the door, I found the boss and his team and my fellow admins all seated with two bouquets of flowers, cake and lunch all set out…

I was so shocked and it was totally unexpected, and while I will say I know I deserve it  (Ha!), I still feel totally in awe at the gesture.

Flowers for my Anniversary at work - 10 years  Happy anniversary.. to me!
Flowers for my Anniversary at work - 10 years

Letting it go

I’ve been spending most of my morning shooting off emails, parrying blows, clarifying requests, being the peacemaker, and basically telling everyone they should all calm down and read their e-mails before reacting. I don’t mind doing it on a piecemeal basis, but when it’s a barrage, it gets really tiring. And while I can write a good business e-mail, I think it’s beyond my job description to actually explain things to people earning twice as much as I do. (Okay, maybe just 150% of what I make..)

Still.

In a previous lifetime, I had gotten used to doing my job based on what I can do and not what I’m expected to do and what I was paid to do — I always went the extra mile. Back home in the Philippines, there was always that unseen force driving us to achieve and excel and shine. I don’t know if it’s age (me getting old) or just the culture (different that it’s similar) — or perhaps that I have changed my focus at work from “building a career” to “earning a paycheck”. I do my job, and I do it well, but I don’t bend backwards too much anymore. Where I would normally chime in and offer what I know or volunteer what I can do to help, I find myself just watching quietly like the proverbial fly on the wall.  I will help if asked.

Apology made. Apology accepted.

Life is too complicated as it is for me dissect each and every fall or slap in the face. Is that me getting jaded? Perhaps. I think it’s more of my soul getting weary with each passing day. Some things you just have to LET GO. That phrase has been resonating in my heart the last few days.. LET IT GO.

I am not always successful in listening to the voice inside my head.  And that can be a tad frustrating indeed.  But I think I’m getting the hang of it and getting better at it.  It is easier now to get over things — be it anger, sadness, or plain excitement.  Faced with a disappointment, I look at it, try to understand it, and TRY not to go back to it. 

I try.

I try and let it go.

Sometimes, I succeed and I DO let it go.  There are still times, though, when I fail. And even then, I have to let it go.
 

When the universe whispers (and you can’t quite hear it clearly)

There are many instances on an everyday basis when I feel like the universe is trying to tell me something, or has told me something from out of the blue — literally.

For instance, I sit down across from the boss expecting the worst for my performance review and instead hear a glowing and heartening appraisal acknowledging all my efforts the previous year.   And this takes place when I’m actually considering an opportunity that knocked on my door just a few days earlier for a bigger and better role that found me, something I had not sought out.

It’s one of those calls from nowhere that suddenly has you sitting up and gets you all excited — then you pause a while and ask if it’s actually something you want to go for.  It’s the second in the last 12 months — but this is a more concrete possibility.

The first time was an offer in jest from the head of our Asian operations.  The prospect of working in Hong Kong and commuting to Manila on the weekends was doable, but home is New York, so that was that.

This new opportunity, though, found its way to me via my web presence through a professional network online.  I did a preliminary screening which, I am sure, will be the first of half a dozen others if I’m lucky to make it to the next step.  It’s a major opening to serve as Executive Assistant to someone on top of a huge organization, which means working on my toes and really giving the job 110% again.  Given where I am at which is just a few notches below that one beckonging me, I have settled down to a more relaxed pace which is not exactly a walk in the park, but which puts me in a position where I can do my job with my eyes closed.

Perhaps it’s also because I’ve sort of mastered the art of fading into the background, and I’ve succeeded in curbing my tendency to volunteer my time and talent for tasks beyond my job description.  It helps me to control my frustration about the job by knowing I am working within the scope of what I’m being paid for.  I know I should be grateful.  I did an online survey of salaries for my position, and it was not at all heartening to find out that I’m on the higher end of the scale given the economy and the general work environment in the country today.  It was like a bop in the head from the universe telling me “Be grateful you’re where you’re at.”  And I did get a raise, no matter how miniscule an amount it might be, it should help me cover the increase in commuting costs — I think.

Which brings me back to the question of the hour — do I really want to start working like a horse again?  And yet there’s a voice whispering that it wouldn’t hurt to look at a bigger opportunity for me.  It might mean working harder, but it will definitely be a leap in terms of income opportunity.  That being said, it means dressing up to the hilt again.  Not that I’ve dressed down because I really cannot do it on the Executive Floor, but it has meant not being in a suit 5 times a week.  There are days when I can get away with a sweater or a sweater and cardigan ensemble.

It’ll mean long hours again, although the principal seems to be a corporate jetsetter which might mean less pressure the days when he is in another part of the world, but the current boss is out of the country at least once every month now.  And my current 8:30am-6pm (give or take a half hour) days are not exactly regular working hours as it is.

During my performance review, I told my current boss that I chose to be an Executive Assistant as a “quality of life” choice. He says he thinks that they are under-utilizing my talents and I sense he feels I might be getting bored where I’m at.  He did acknowledge that I’m very good at what I do.  After a rocky start, we have gotten down to a nice rhythm that sees us laughing more and navigating moods and heavy days better.  (His moods, that is — an Executive Assistant is not allowed that leeway.)

I know I’ve just gone through the preliminary screening.  I might get dropped even before the next round, or I might not make it to the final screening at all.  I just feel these are questions I need to resolve early on so that I don’t find myself with these doubts and second thoughts when I actually go before a decision-maker for a face-to-face interview.  I have always considered myself a go-getter, and if I am not in 100%, it will show when I answer their questions.

I’m leaning towards it, but we are always tempted to stay with what is comfortable and easy.  And there is the constant challenge that our ego poses to see how far we can go.

I’ve been there, I’ve done that.  The last four years have been easier since being in the frontline, and I’ve gotten kind of used to the lighter pace.  My most demanding and yet best principal was a highly-accomplished lady executive who used to be in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list four years in the running.  We would still be together had not the universe decided she was better off out of this company.  She was a demanding boss, but she was fair and generous.  Being with her was the best training an Executive Assistant can have because it sharpened and honed my skills at paying attention to details.  That’s the experience I’m banking on to catch their attention for this new opportunity.

I’ve been having a lighter and easier ride the last  few years.  I wonder if the universe is tryling to tell me I am much better than the me I’ve been bringing to work this past 4 years.

Maybe.  Or it might also be telling me I am worth so much more — if only I’d take the chance.

Well, we’ll just have to go wait and see.  It’s not exactly in the bag yet.  Wish me luck!

A challenging week just passed

I thought my weekend had started when I stepped out of the office at 5:30, boarded the bus home, picked up dinner and some eclairs for dessert and I sat down to watch TV and work on my altered book.  I managed to do around 4 spreads of a multi page layout, and I’m just waiting for the latest two-page spread to dry before proceeding.  Then an e-mail came in on the blackberry on a work issue that I had made up my mind to postpone for Monday.  Apparently, only I felt it was the weekend, and others were too nervous to let the issue be.

E-mail came, and I had to answer.  In their nervousness, they failed to see that the  big boss wasn’t even aware there was an issue, and now that they wrote in their defense, he is.  This could’ve been solved and nothing would’ve been taken against them.  But no, some people just can’t keep quiet when they feel they need to put up a defense.

It’s 11pm.  I have promised not to look at the blackberry and just let it simmer.  There should be a work e-mail rule that things that can be resolved on a work week should NOT be dealt with on a weekend.  Like I didn’t mind receiving a nice hello from one of my VP Chiefs of Staff who was in Tokyo, reporting he got my Starbucks mug as I requested, but that he was in one day only next week so we might not see each other until the following week.  That wasn’t work and it was an e-mail that made me smile.  (The promise of an addition to my Starbucks mug collection is always reason to smile. =)

I shouldn’t be venting about work.  The boss himself was away 4 of the 5 days of this previous week.  And that is what’s eating me — I get paid to get aggravated by him.  I hate it when others below him who do not possess that same stature nor moral ascendancy over me do it and make my life miserable.  (Or at least my work life.)

I had been hoping not to have to write about this that’s why I had avoided writing a blogpost of substance all week.  My prayer sticky in the post preceding this is also in reference to all the negative energy that seems to be brewing around me.  During these challenging times, I am grateful for the support of colleagues like the friend I have discovered in my co-EA next to me.  And there are the old reliables like a former second assistant who is more a friend now than a subordinate.

I don’t mean to play the victim.  I can be a real diva with a capital B in the office, and I can stand my ground and not let things through.  I’m human.  Okay, I’m a “taray” human. LOL  But the past months have seen me mellowing down.  Where my fangs and horns would pop out when provoked much like Wolverine’s blades do when he is agitated in years passed, these days, I take a deep breath and I literally say a prayer.  Between the “Our Father, who art in heaven..” to the “..deliver us from evil. Amen.” I find my balance again.

I have taken to answering calls with a standard almost call center like tone saying “I’m here to please” that some people expecting me to bite are getting upset that they can’t make me.  (Thinking about that actually made me snicker…)  I have found validation when during a three-way call, a third party later felt sorry for me for the way my other colleague had treated me during our discussion.  So I knew I wasn’t being my usual bitchy self.  I told her not to worry, the other lady lopping my head off was actually a friend.  And that was the irony of it.

For a week when I should’ve been able to take things easy, I was kept busy working on so many things I feel so exhausted even as I’m writing this post.  Then I remind myself it’s the weekend.  Even if it’s not for them, it IS for me.

The weekend it is.  I look forward to working with polymer clay again as some Christmas tree ornaments I had experimented on last night came out so much better than I had hoped them to and I’m going to be making more over the weekend.  (I think I’ve found the medium for my holiday card this year.)  I’ve been trying to catch up with swap deadlines for Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) both at swap-bot.com and ATCsforAll.com.
ATC: Zentangled P with watercolor backgroundATC: Zentangled Q with watercolor backgroundUntitled

ABOVE: Zentangled P-Q-R

I’m still learning and I check what mail has come in every day with much anticipation.  I have been learning from the different ATCs I’ve received, and I’ve been developing other techniques and trying to make it work with the resources I have.

I’ve been doing several sets involving elements referring to women.  Japanese women in traditional costume are a current favorite and I am still set on learning how to do kimono origami.

ATC: Beautiful Asian Lady 2 of 4 ATC: Beautiful Asian Lady 1 of 4

Most swaps are “themed” and I also finished quite a set of Vintage Dancers where I used a black and white real photo print of Ziegfeld dancers.

ATC: Vintage Dancer 2 of 4ATC: Vintage Dancer 1 of 4ATC: Vintage Dancer 4 of 4

Amidst this creative streak, the best news was Angelo was named (yet again), STUDENT OF THE MONTH.  (Of course, I’m a proud Mom..)

Again, let me dwell on the happy. =)  (Literal smile there.)

It was a challenging week — not a bad week.  Productive even if heavy on the heart at times.  It can only get better.  Next week will be a better week.  For now, it’s the weekend.  MY weekend is going to be great, and I’m going to try my hardest to make it so.

What? No one told me I could take a real lunch hour..!

I’m an Executive Assistant to a C-something here in one of the so-called Fortune 100 companies whose headquarters is located in Midtown Manhattan.  Even when I had a second assistant helping me out, “lunch” was usually taken in front of my computer screen, catching up on news from back home online.  I couldn’t quite fathom why some of the older assistants on the floor would actually grab their purse, eat and sit alone in the cafeteria or with each other, maybe watch the common TVs spread around the eating area, and actually stay away from their desks a full hour.

Not me.  I’d take out my lunch, clear the immediate area in front of my keyboard and choose the newspaper article I would read.  There was the occasional lunch with a colleague or two, but very rare.  When I ventured out, I would usually drift into any one of my favorite beads or notions store lining the streets around Avenue of the Americas for my crafting needs.  Time for something new.

Up until two days ago, I never really exercised my right to a “Lunch hour”, opting instead to go and grab a bite when I grabbed something for the boss or occasionally doing a personal errand around Midtown where I work.  I am finally with a boss who actually eats and minds short lunches, but that means I have to be at my desk as he munches away in case someone calls.  My next door neighbor on the Executive Floor, though, has been egging me to go out and take a walk even for just a few minutes — and there was the voice of experience talking to me.  She’s been at this job the last three decades or so, and I’m just about to round up my first.  And she was persistent… so I said, not a bad idea.. let me try it.  Forget that it was cold — I have my coat and my light scarf.  I’ll live.

So two days ago, after days and days of telling myself I WILL SIT IN THE PARK AND TAKE A MOMENT TO BREATHE in the middle of the day, I finally found a late lunch hour to squeeze in maybe a modest thirty minutes of “me” time.  I grabbed my iPad, breezed down the two elevators taking me to my piece of midday heaven, ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and surveyed my new lunch spot.  It was chilly, but I was giddy with the thought this was just me and my book (currently reading EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert alternating with A STORM OF SWORDS by George R.R. Martin).  I kept glancing at my watch to make sure I had enough time after allotting myself a half hour for this “experiment” of sorts.

I glanced around and looked at the other people sitting at their tables.  Suits on the cell..  Backpacking tourists enjoying a “New York” lunch.. Stay-at-home moms pushing strollers… what struck me was there were a lot of individuals who were obviously dressed to go to work just enjoying the park as they had lunch or staring off to nowhere, or as they tapped away on their handhelds.  Kindred spirits trying to take a break like me.  (So this what be what most normal working people do.)

As rain was threatening in the skies, I picked a spot under one of the garden umbrellas (just in case) by the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain.   There’s something about the sound of the water spraying onto the pond surrounding the fountain that I find most soothing.  I wish that it weren’t so cold but I was bundled up.  Spring seems to be constantly teasing us here in New York, disappearing behind the chill that has fallen upon the city the last couple of days

I’m finally taking a lunch break.  I like it.  No rushing from the office to some store or the bank.  Just letting it all hang loose as I had my little piece of heaven there for half an hour.  I ate my sandwich and read.  I glanced at my watch and was surprised that I had all but taken half of my allotted time.  I read on and took a few pictures.  Bliss.

The next day, I returned — again with my iPad– ordering my grilled cheese and I inched closer to the lawn.  (Getting braver.)  I stayed close to the fountain.  I spied some pigeons.. children playing in the grass (finally open to the public), and I just took it all in.  I tried drafting a post right there and then, but I changed my mind after realizing writing was “taking me away” from enjoying the moment.  So I just sat there, read some more, and looked around… I breathed it all in.

A half hour of me.  Maybe later I’ll write some letters or a note or two.   Or maybe I’ll just sit and watch.  I might even stretch my half hour to a full hour of just me.  Hey, I work hard– and for someone who doesn’t get overtime pay, I deserve an honest-to-goodness break.  (It makes my 9 to 10-hour stretch from 8:30-6 or sometimes even 6:30 more palatable.)  Before anyone goes crazy over the “no overtime”, the company seems to think I’m paid high enough to not be entitled to the additional pay.  Of course I don’t agree, and the only way to get the better deal is to take that full hour break.

I’m all excited by the coming summer when the park will be abuzz with a lot of lunch hour activities.  Maybe on super busy days, I’ll take a table on Broadway or something.. or I might stay indoors in one of the public areas — one of which is right across my building across from the park.

Again, bliss.