Perfectly Imperfect

I am acutely aware that my writing is not the best. My vocabulary is minuscule, my grammar can be atrocious and I often jump in and out of tenses. I sometimes don’t know where to put my commas, semi-colons, apostrophes and esses (letter s). Not to mention some of my spelling mistakes which a kind guardian angel keeps pointing out to me. But I’m writing anyway. See! I know you shouldn’t start a sentence with ‘but’, but it made sense to use it then. I bet I just committed another felony for writing but, but.

We often stop ourselves from doing the things we want to do because it’s not perfect enough or we aren’t good enough. You may be right but, can it ever be perfect? Even if it is, what may be perfect to me might be mediocre you. So when is that perfection ever attained? The truth is it never will be perfect so quit trying to engineer it. The people who are the most successful are not necessarily the best, they are just the ones who stuck at it with with dogged determination.

You’ve just got to start wherever you are. Because, (yes, another faux pas) if you don’t start doing, you will never start the journey to getting better and then becoming an expert. It might take me seven years to become a great writer but I am now ten months down in the process. Sitting and waiting for perfection will only leave me at the starting blocks.

So what are you sitting on this fine Monday morning? Get going and be perfectly imperfect.

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Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner

Dirty dancing was one of my all time favourite movies as a teenager.  It still is. In the days of VHS, we played the tape so much that certain bits got chewed up but that didn’t stop us ‘die hards’.  We figured out ways of using sellotape to reacquaint bits of the VHS reel so that we could hold on to the magic of the film for a little while longer.  My mum was absolutely frustrated at the number of times she came home to find us watching it. 

I don’t know what it was; whether it was the lines, the music, the dancing or Patrick Swayze. Perhaps it was because at the time it was a musical without the cheesy break-into-song bits. It was contemporary and the name alone made you feel naughty. 😉 It was just a quintessentially great movie with great lines and great characters.  

‘Nobody puts Baby in the corner’ was the breaking point of the movie; you could call it the coming of age for Jennifer Grey’s character, Baby. She was the virginal debutante and Patrick Swayze was the archetypal bad boy who was going to deflower her. She was over-loved and suffocated by her protective dad who preferred to hold on to an image of his ‘perfect’ daughter rather than see her as the young woman she had become.  He constantly put Baby in the corner where he could protect or, frankly, control her. 

Her father was totally blind to the fact that he was stifling her and her dreams.

Are there people or circumstances in your life that try and put you in the corner? Even well intentioned people? A boss, a friend, a spouse or partner, a colleague? Or a situation that keeps bringing you down like a failed driving test, exam or business?  Someone who constantly tries to undermine you and make you feel worthless?  A situation that make you feel like a failure?  That person or circumstance is not worth your acquiescence. 

After your worst failure always comes your greatest success, but you only achieve that sucess if you try again.
-Keji Aofiyebi

Get out of the corner and get lifted like Baby.

Only A Perfectionist Would Choose To Consciously Uncouple

Remember the children’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, about two weavers who promised an Emperor some invisible robes. He foolishly ended up parading naked before his subjects until a clever child pointed out the obvious to him. This is what I think of when I hear the term ‘conscious uncoupling’ -Gwyneth Paltrow’s reference to her split with Chris Martin, frontman of Coldplay. It sounds like a train wreck to me. Only someone who feels that family life should be like the Cosby Show family would seek to find another word to describe a painful thing such as divorce.

There are two issues here for me. One is the need to rename divorce. The second is suggesting that a name change is what will make a difference to the process. Oh wait! Actually there’s a third issue. A divorce by any other name is still a divorce.

Hollywood gurus are always selling something that already exists but give it a name before they feed it to their acceptance craving audience. It’s called an A-M-I-C-A-B-L-E divorce.

As a child of divorced parents, I don’t think if my parents decided to consciously uncouple it would have made a fat difference. I would have been embarrassed to tell my friends that my parents were consciously uncoupling. The opposite of an acrimonious divorce is an amicable divorce and there is nothing new about that. Even in Hollywood, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore proved that years ago. And I’m sure there are lots of people around the world that divorce amicably.

Why aren’t the gurus selling classes to help marriages in Tinseltown last? This moronic need to rename everything on the face of the earth to please liberals takes our attention away from real issues. Numbing the pain is never the same thing as healing. Divorce hurts. It hurts the couple. It hurts the children. It hurts even extended family and friends.

Divorces get nasty when individuals are unable to reconcile their differences civilly. If things are going well enough to the point where you have decided to do things amicably, why pay someone $297 for a five week course so you can learn to breathe and self reflect. Isn’t that what counsellors and psychologists are there for? Regurgitated nonsense if you ask me.

No matter what you call it, the most vulnerable victims of divorce are the children. Whether their parents are divorced or consciously uncoupled is not going to make a difference to the fact that their world has changed and you CANNOT uncouple that from their reality.

Redefining Wonder Woman: My Mother My Hero

Welcome to the first of many Redefining Wonder Woman (RWW) stories from ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. It would be remiss of me to start this series without acknowledging the influence of my mother on my life – just in time for Mother’s Day too. It was an interesting experience interviewing my mum as a woman and not as her daughter. I discovered so many things about her that I never knew and came to understand her a bit better. She has always and will always be my epitome of a strong woman. I hope you are as inspired by her story as I am.

RWW: What did you want to be when you were little?
Mum: As a child I didn’t really think about it.  When I left grammar school, I thought I wanted to study dentistry.  When my father sent me to England to study, he said I had to study Law. I protested and told him I would rather be an accountant if I couldn’t be a dentist. However, not having the prerequisite grades meant I would have had to complete a preliminary course before University. My father promptly told me he only had enough money for a three-year course and that’s how I ended up studying law.

RWW: Did you like it?
Mum: I enjoyed it even though it was tedious.  There was so much case law to get through and you had to constantly read journals and newspapers to keep abreast of current issues. In retrospect, I don’t think I would have enjoyed accountancy as much. For instance when I heard Tony Benn had passed away, I remembered that the renunciation of his peerage was one of the cases we looked at whilst I was at school. Daily occurrences made law a very interesting subject.

RWW: So no regrets about studying law?
Mum: Not at all.  I was very thankful to my father for forcing me to do it. Eventually it worked out well.

RWW: How did you get into Insurance?
Mum: After I graduated, I worked for the Board of Trade (now the Department of Trade and Industry) within the insurance division for about four years. Then I moved back to Nigeria in 1970 and attended Law school there. Before I left the Board of Trade, I asked my bosses to give me a recommendation of Insurance firms to work for. As soon as I got back, I contacted the two companies I was given, had interviews and secured a job offer with Royal Exchange before I graduated from Law School. I started work there on the 1st of June, 1971 and worked there till 1995 when I retired; almost twenty-five years.

I started out as the Assistant Legal Officer and within six months I was promoted to Company Secretary, Legal Adviser when the incumbent went back to England due to an illness. I subsequently became the Company secretary and I rose from Assistant General Manager to Deputy General Manager and eventually became an Executive Board member; the first female executive in the history of Royal Exchange, worldwide.

RWW: I find it incredible that you worked at the same organisation for almost twenty-five years. Why didn’t you move elsewhere?  
Mum: Should I say it was loyalty? I enjoyed what I was doing and I had everything I wanted in a job. I had a lot of autonomy within my role and I had the privilege of flexible working hours which meant I could do the school run and start work about 9.00 AM. I was also one of the top professionals in the industry with a good rapport with the Heads of Units at the Head Office in England which was very important in terms of longevity at the time. And you’ve got to remember that during this period there was the divorce, and I needed job stability. And to be honest, I didn’t have problems at work and there weren’t many companies at that time that operated flexi-time and that was very important to me.

RWW: What challenges did you face as a woman in the workplace?  
Mum: Internally, I found that men didn’t respect women or their opinions. They found it hard to accept a woman was their boss. Externally, when I went to meetings, people (men) looked down at me and I found that I had to put forward my views forcibly in order to be heard. However, since I dealt with trust investments, they soon realised they had to work with me.  

RWW: Can you recall an occasion where this was overtly displayed?
Mum: Yes. I remember a meeting with foreign investors and a much older Nigerian gentleman told me to shut up. He brushed my opinions aside and carried on with the meeting. I was livid, but I knew I had to be calm and avoid a slanging match. So I said very calmly that what he said wasn’t nice and he should accord me the respect due to me. I was proud of the way I handled it and at subsequent meetings, he addressed me appropriately. Ironically, eight years later, this same gentleman was embarking on a venture that required my approval to succeed. Suddenly my opinions were valuable to him as I was an instrumental party.

RWW: LOL

RWW: After you retired, you started a travel agency in your early 50s.
Mum: Yes. I used my severance package to invest in a Travel agency because I loved travelling. I ran that successfully for about ten years and eventually sold the company. I had no regrets when I sold it. It was the right time to do that.

RWW: Speaking of travelling, what countries have you explored?
Mum: Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Jamaica, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and other places in Europe as well as several American states. A few of those trips were done when I travelled round the world in six weeks with one of my best friends.

RWW: Let’s get personal. What was it like raising four girls on your own?
Mum: It was hell on earth!
RWW: LOL
Mum: Not because you were bad children but primarily because of my own fear of making a mistake.  I wanted you all to turn out right. There was the fear of whether you would excel at school, and then university and then life. I spent a lot of time being anxious for each one of you. I was constantly wondering if I would ever get this thing right? There was also the fear that people would say you would have been better off with your father. With a lot of determination and God’s help, it turned out right even when things were tough financially.  I have no regrets as far as you children are concerned.  It was just the pressure to look after the family that sometimes got to me.  Even with all that pressure, I still count myself very lucky to have had the four of you as children. I know people in similar circumstances who did not have the same ending. I count myself very lucky indeed.

RWW: Would you say you were successful?
Mum: LOL. That would be for other people to judge. I think I set out to do what I wanted to do as far as Law is concerned. I have done everything I wanted to accomplish. Even though I didn’t want to do it, I have thoroughly enjoyed being in the Legal profession and have no regrets at all. I met many Nigerians who were much older and pioneers in their professions through Law; older members of the society who acknowledged my success and accorded me my due respect. I’m happy with all I accomplished.

RWW: Although you are retired you are still quite busy for a woman in her 70s.
Mum: Yes, I’m very much involved with a few church committees and several charitable organisations. I’m also a non-executive board member of an investment company and a school governor for a boys secondary school in Lagos.

RWW: What concerns you about young women in Nigeria today?
Mum: I think there is still room for women at the top of corporations. I pray for a time when women will not have to make a choice between being there for their family and work. These days, it is difficult to marry your home and your job. It’s very difficult for women to get professional jobs with flexible working hours. I feel there is going to be a time when things have to change as they have changed in England.  

RWW: What is most important to you?
Mum: My name.  The fact that I can go out today and hold my head up high without any shame.  I didn’t steal or cheat anyone. My name counts for a lot. 

RWW: Thank you mummy.

Mummy collage

I Made My Children Late For School

What a morning I have had. I’m battling a cold at the moment so I’ve been a bit tired. As a result, I shirked my evening routine and didn’t prepare for this morning. It was a what the heck moment. Very rash. Regretfully rash. Routines are there for a reason.

Of course I woke up late this morning and had to iron school shirts for the children and my work clothes. Thankfully, my husband woke them up and got them in the shower and all. I could hear the background noises but I still could not get out of bed. I was soooooooooo tired. Eventually I did, but it was inevitable, with so much to do we were going to be late. I get a slap on the wrist for making my children late this morning.*hangs head in shame*

We eventually made it to school with five minutes to spare. Although my children were probably the last to arrive in class, they were there before 9 a.m. That in itself was an accomplishment, all things considered. As I ushered them up the stairs, we were greeted by different brightly coloured hats on a table. Psssssssssss. It felt like air was suddenly let out of my tummy, as if I had been punched in the gut. “Our Easter Parade hats”, my children wailed. Dropped shoulders, forlorn faces, dejected looks pointedly at me.

I have to say, they handled it quite well particularly as they had worked on them all weekend and the day before. We had been well organised. To be honest, they would have been well within their rights if they had thrown a tantrum but they just gave me those puppy dog eyes look. Come to think of it, that might have been reverse psychology. Well it worked. So I said “O.K., get into your classes. I’ll go back home and bring forth your hats. Wonder Woman to the rescue”. Not really but something to that effect. It’s all a blur now. Booo hooo hooo. *wailing and head on the steering wheel in despair*

I wish I felt like Wonder Woman but what could I do? It would have been so bad if they were the only ones at the Easter Parade without hats or even worse, wearing supplementary ones made by teachers. Thankfully, we live only fifteen minutes away from school; a quick text to my line manger then I zoomed off home. Bless God, there was no traffic. I got the hats and zoomed back to the school. As I drove towards the school, a ‘Road Ahead Closed’ sign had been erected. Perfect! I reversed and went through another road and that had a ‘Road Closed’ sign. I deliberately ignored it but when I got to the adjoining road, a maintenance guy got out of his truck and said I could not pass through. Close to hysteria, I said “the other road was closed so I came through here”. He said, “the sign said Road AHEAD closed”, with emphasis on ‘ahead’. I looked at him blankly, like and the difference IS??????? With emphasis on the ‘is’. Road ahead closed and road closed. All I see is closed. Did anyone else know there was difference? Someone help me as I’m obviously having a meltdown. So I had to reverse, yet again, and go through the road-ahead-closed route *rolls eyes* and finally got to the school.

Everyone was at assembly so I just placed the hats where I thought my children would easily find them not necessarily where they should have been. I just pray after all that, they got them. My day can only get better, right?

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I’m Hungry

Eating healthily means I’m soooooooooooooo hungry. Last year my husband and I decided to give up bread at the same time. This was fuelled by a documentary I watched on T.V. I was mortified to discover that a lot of supermarket bread is not given time to prove which means that yeast is left to ferment in our bellies and hence the bloated feeling you may have experienced. I was really put off by that. So I decided to give it up. I initially substituted with Ryvita (which wasn’t that bad) but I eventually concluded there was no substitute for bread. By the end of the year, we were eating bread a lot less, not totally giving it up but it got me thinking about eating healthier, a goal I’ve always kind of ignored because I’ve been blessed with slim genes. Those genes have now gone A.W.O.L due to a combination of having two children, ageing and starting a cake business. Oh the dreaded cakes! 😦 I saw myself go up almost two dress sizes.

So healthy eating is NOW firmly on the agenda. I am motivated by the fact that I lost about 3 inches round my waist, without exercise, when I gave up bread. However, beyond losing weight, I really do want to eat healthily and not feel so tired all the time. I spent a lot of 2013 feeling listless and perpetually exhausted. The strangest thing is since I changed my diet, I’ve slept better and feel a lot more energised with seemingly less food. So I’m doing a lot of research about what to eat and what not to eat at the moment particularly on healthy snacks.

It has taken a lot of organisation though. Buying fresh fruit and veg, prepping them for lunch at work and making smoothies – not to talk about the expense. I will blog about any interesting discoveries.

Here’s one great tip that has worked for us as a family. Prepare your vegetables and place in an airtight container filled with water (where appropriate) and keep in the fridge for up to three days. I’ve been able to save time after work and stopped making excuses for not having a salad.

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John Legend – All of Me

I’m just in love with this song.  I have to see John Legend live some day.  I’m trying to influence a friend to use this for her first dance.  However the lyrics are not necessarily about mutual love but I just love the chorus and that velvety voice. 🙂 ♥

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh

Writer(s): Toby Gad, Tobias Gad
Copyright: Emi April Music Inc., Gad Songs LLC

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up

This is an odd question for an almost 40 year old to be asking herself. The thing is I’ve never really wanted to be anything in particular. I wasn’t one of those kids who wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a singer. Although I had always expressed myself in writing, it wasn’t something I considered as a career. I just wanted to be successful. I did want to be a supermodel at some point though because I was super skinny but that ship has sailed off and sunk.

I’ve always been very clear about what I’ve wanted to experience or do and chased that instead or a specific role. I look for a role that has all the qualities that I require to be fulfilled. I’ve let my motives guide me and found jobs or opportunities that fit. I’m an idealist I know. When I decided I didn’t want the plaid life of an accountant I pretty much set myself free from a ‘career’ or the ‘real ‘world’ as it were. Now that my husband is a student, I’ve been thrust back into that world and the path I’ve chosen has glaringly obvious downsides. Employers need to be able to pigeon hole you so they know where you fit in their organisation. The world hasn’t quite evolved that much yet. Skills and experiences are only transferrable within a defined trajectory. The normal way would have been to get a job and then wait for an opportunity to express myself. I suppose if I had stayed in accountancy then by now, I would have had a more varied role. Perhaps but I’m not convinced. In any case, I was a bit too stubborn to even consider the option of sticking it through.

I think the difficulty for any parent advising their child on a career path is that you want the very best for them and naturally you want them to succeed. However, not everyone wants a typical career. And some people would be stifled within an organised structure. The upside is that I have a lived a more varied life than I would have had if I remained an accountant and I do have invaluable skills and experiences that are transferrable. It hasn’t been financially lucrative (yet 🙂 )but it has been amazingly fulfilling.

I’m giving the whole career thing a shot now, in the second half of my life as it were. You could say I’m a late bloomer but I like that being mature means I’m not perturbed by the shenanigans of line mangers and office politics. Mainly because it’s a career on my terms; I know what I want out of the experience – ah ah! See that’s the motive rearing it’s head again – and frankly I’m too old to care about what anyone thinks about me. We’ll see whether I choose to remain in the real world or go back to my ideal world. Something tells me I’m going to find a way to combine the two.