career woman

Roller-coasters were never my favorite

After 7 years, a bit of closure

Earlier this week I was frazzled & late for a date. As I made my way through the crowded bar, a guy grabbed my arm. Startling. Even more startling was realizing that guy was my ex‘s cousin, TwinkleEyes.

Gosh, I loved that man. His weekly Sunday family dinners were tradition – for 5.5 years, TwinkleEyes and his beautiful wife welcomed me into their family. I attended their wedding. He witnessed me grow up, drop out of university, put myself back through school.  When my ex and I broke up, it was TwinkleEyes who came to pick up the boxes of my ex’s stuff.  He told me he’d enjoyed every minute of getting to know me, and wished that I would eventually find greater happiness than what I had known with my ex – for if it was ending, it was because better things awaited each of us. I didn’t believe him at the time, but his sorrow for my heartbreak was a comforting memory I revisited often in the following months.

In that crowded pub, we tried to cram 7 years of updates into a few minutes of conversation. Hard to talk when your cheeks hurt from smiling. He & his wife, doing well. Me, doing so well- TwinkleEyes had been right, of course: it might have been a much longer and tortuous journey than either of us could have anticipated, but I’ve finally found my path to happiness. Seeing him gave me peace I didn’t realize I still needed. One of the hardest parts of that breakup, like any breakup I suppose, was finding myself cut off overnight from my ex’s family whom I’d grown to love deeply. I’ve often wondered what became of them over the past 7 years. I never expected to have the opportunity to find out.

TwinkleEyes came to say goodbye as he was leaving. More grinning and happiness. Then the mischievous look I’ve so missed crept into his eyes, and he introduced himself to my date, adopting an avuncular attitude. I’m surprised he didn’t ask flat out, “And who is this? Hmmm? What are your intentions towards Vanilla, young man?” Nice try, TwinkleEyes. Meet the Dude. That’s it. The Dude. No label, because he is just the Dude.

7 years later, and all I have to show for it is this blog, and its collection of various dudes. My ex, meanwhile is married with a gaggle of children. He wins. Or does he? My blog is pretty sweet, y’all. #forgethumblebragging #fullblownbraggingismoremystyle

#closurefeelsdamngood

Where in the world is Carmen Santiago?

On Thursday, an email popped in my inbox from Parisian Coworker. He politely invited me to drop off a project in Barcelona in late March because I was behind on deliverables for another of his projects. Cue the tears of embarrassment and shame.

I asked CFO-boss for a closed-door meeting. Seeing my tear-streaked face, he kindly told me that I should always consider his office a safe space to rant/vent/cry. I explained how overwhelmed and close to a burn-out I was; despite working with my #dreamteam, we’ve been unlucky with a series of protracted sicknesses/injuries and never-ending mat leaves, such that we are always playing catch-up, and I can never catch a breather or focus on my special projects. I shared the humiliating email. I blew my nose violently.

20 minutes later, I was still crying. CFO-boss exclaimed, “Vanilla! I’m proposing solutions and all you are doing is crying. Work with me here!!!” Which made me giggle. #genderstereotypesreenacted

Our tentative solution was to reach out to Parisian Coworker and propose swapping the Barcelona trip with an immediate Paris trip where I’d clear all deliverables related to the more important Paris project. CFO-boss also ordered me to take the following week off in vacation, out-of-the country. By Friday morning, this plan was confirmed, and after 1-2 hours of planning, I booked myself a 2 week long international trip, beginning 3 days later: 5 days in Paris, 9 days in Dubai, visiting Dynamo‘s brother & sis-in-law and attending a big dance festival. I leave tomorrow. I’ve never been this excited to purchase sunscreen.

Bet y’all didn’t realize that accountants lived such an unpredictable, highly-strung, jet-set lifestyle. (Funny story: I was mentioned my impending travels to a stranger at a party last night, and he asked me if I modeled, because why else would I be flown to Paris & Dubai? Bro, you slick.)

I’m excited for the change of scene and the chance to recharge. Hopefully this will trigger some new experiences, beautiful pics and blog worthy stories. Any bets on how badly I get sunburned?

#bestbossever

#adultingishard

#mylastrealvacationwasDynamosweddinginmarch2016

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Croissants: Swiss vs French

Here I am, at the Geneva airport, waiting to board my flight home to Montreal. My first trip of 2017: done.

A last minute request from head office brought me to Paris for work. I never knew it was possible to love a job/career/company as much as I do mine. Sure, there are aspects of it that drive me nuts, definitely there are some tasks that numb my soul, but what job doesn’t include that? Overall, I believe in what I do, respect my company, am thrilled by the coworkers I am meeting. This is good stuff.

I love work trips because they allow me to see past the perfect veil of tourist traveling. My favorite part is listening to my French coworkers as they sit for their déjeuner at the company cantine – their expressions, their topics of conversation, their customs, the nuances between France French and Québec French. Noticing the tiny differences between our cultures. I’m aware of how they differ from us, from all my interactions with the French immigrant population in Montreal – it’s the topics of memes and endless jokes. But it is jolting to become aware of how they deem that I (we) are different from them, when I am on their land. 

My love affair with France grows stronger with each visit. And with the backdrop of American turmoil shedding gloom over the world (I won’t even attempt to describe the pervasive mépris the French feel for Americans & American politics right now), walking the streets of Paris, seeing everywhere the juxtaposition of past and present, the scars of battles won and lost on buildings that are older than the entire North American continent (as per Western historical chronology) continues to make me feel that weird mix of sorrow and joy – I feel alive. This post from my trip in June resonates again and again.

I took the TGV Friday after work to go visit my friend in Lausanne for a mini weekend getaway. She is Canadian and was my coworker back in my audit days: I worked with her on several of my most intense mandates. I always admired her for her intelligence, beauty, drive and efficiency. 4.5 years ago, she moved to Switzerland to marry her Swiss-Canadian boyfriend; they now have a beautiful toddler, live in a house with a view of Lake Geneva and radiate happiness. While her first years in Switzerland were filled with homesickness, she now loves it. The fresh air, the quality of life, the absence of all the North American noise and consumerism. She says she has time to breathe and look around her.

And boy, oh boy, is there ever a lot to see.

With every visit to Europe, my Dream grows stronger: I will live here one day. I must. My soul demands it.

Sick in Paris, le zut alors

I’m back in Paris this week, for work. Just like that. Apparently, I’ll bring value to a special project that is getting fast-tracked from inception to execution and roll out. So wee, here I am, and I might be back in the spring du coup.

Its my third visit to France within 8 months for work. It blows my mind. I have trouble reconciling that I, Vanilla, have insights and inputs valuable enough to merit that kind of company spend. Part of me knows how hard I’ve worked to get here, part of me knows that I deserve these opportunities, but a huge part of me feels like an imposter and the rug will be pulled out from under me at any moment. The terror of joy.

This current (French) manifestation of my joy-terror feels suspiciously like the worst case of jet-lag of all time. I landed in Paris Sunday morning at 9am – as my hotel room was not ready, I walked aimlessly about town, trying to stay awake. I decided to go to the Louvre, as it has been 15 years since I’d last been: it would be like window-shopping, browsing bougie style. 25 euros later, I made my way to the Mona Lisa, laughed at the dozens of people taking bad selfies of themselves with La Jaconde, and almost fainted from exhaustion. 25 euros for 25 minutes. Win! 2pm, back at the hotel, got my early check-in. 3pm, asleep. Woke up at 5:30am today feeling like a marching band had taken up residence in my brain.

Behold the pics I managed to take before my body decided to hibernate:

 

Today I had fever, chills, a brain that was 100% wool and 0% grey matter, weird pasty tongue and dry mouth, and my kidneys hurt. I also lost my appetite. Do you know what sucks more than just losing your appetite? Losing your appetite in Paris. I see all those macarons, baguette, profiteroles, I am aware that my time here is limited and that I cannot find the equivalent in Montreal so I should eat up… and I just can’t do it.

The universe has a petty sense of humor. Hmph.

Zut alors.

Year-end pettiness

While all y’all might be excited about Christmas/New Year’s/Festivus, nah. December 31 = financial year-end for the company. Aka, the suspension of all aspects of my life that are not work related. I haven’t started my Christmas shopping.

Case in point:

I left work “early” on Wednesday, at 6:30pm, to get my hair dyed and cut because #prioritiesyo. How can I possibly determine if we are missing any accruals or if margins are off if I have roots? Impossible.

15 minutes after I’d left, my emails stopped working on my phone. I tried to suck it up. I did breathing exercises. By the time I’d arrived at the hair salon, I was having cold sweats. I sipped on a glass of wine, telling myself that this was an excellent opportunity to work on appreciating the present moment, that taking a break would allow me to return to my workload refreshed and concentrated.

Yeah, no.

My scalp halfway covered in dye-goo, I had a nervous breakdown, insisted on getting the salon’s wifi code, booted up my laptop, and spent my hair appointment working from my hair salon chair.

The next morning, I arrived to the office to sort through the 50+ emails that had come in overnight. These included an email chain between a French coworker and somebody in one of our sister companies. In that chain, he makes reference to me “Vanilla, the Chief Accountant of XYZ Co.”

Now. My signature clearly states Accounting Manager. French Coworker has met me, multiple times. He has introduced me to people as the chief accountant of XYZ Co. I’ve bit my tongue, tried to talk myself out of this fixation on my title, reminding myself that such small details don’t matter, its probably just a language barrier/translation issue, it’s the quality of my work that dictates my brand & professional reputation. I can’t do it. I’ve worked too damn hard to get where I am. I negotiated this title just like I negotiated my salary. I firmly believe that in a business setting, titles matter: people respond differently depending on the rank of an individual. Sucks, but so it is. And don’t get me started on the whole gender thing and how THAT impacts perception. I’ve fought my way to where I am, I will continue to fight going forward, and I will NOT accept that any of my due is casually discounted as being a trivial detail.

That is why, Thursday morning, when everyone across our organization was mad scrambling to close out the year, I took the time to call French Coworker and gently remind him that my title is not Chief Accountant, it is Accounting Manager. Because why be a mature team player when you can be the Grinch of Year-End Pettiness? #oops

#imajoytoworkwith

#brash

#holidaycheer

This is how I handle stress

 

 

That is all. Except I happen to avoid suffocation approximately 5-15 times a day. #scurvy

All while listening to La Traviata as loud as possible. Because what are my struggles when compared to true love, social ostracism, tuberculosis, and terrible communication skills?

Lyrics of that excerpt:

Farewell, happy dreams of the past,
The rosiness in my cheeks has already gone pale;
The love of Alfredo I will miss,
Comfort, support my tired soul
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.

The joys, the sorrows soon will end,
The tomb confines all mortals!
Do not cry or place flowers at my grave,
Do not place a cross with my name to cover these bones!
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.

If that doesn’t give one perspective, what can?! “All is finished”… yup. Sounds ’bout right to me. If you want an even bigger punch to the gut, watch this. Woman is reunited with her lover, all is forgiven, they pledge to live happily ever after, and then after two 3 minute arias, she keels over and dies. #bleak #nowthatssomeheavydutyadulting

#nomorebangingbod #definitelynotaskinnybitch #pleasantlyplump #ineedavacationandabottleofwine #lovemyjobiswear #notadramaqueennoway

My booté saga: a chapter at the office

Not the point of this post – part 1

Clothes. I like how they can be a form of self-expression. I also like analyzing why I put on wtv outfit I do in the morning: sometimes it reveals stuff on my mind, or a mood, that I wasn’t fully aware of. For example, last week, when discussing vanity, I put on that outfit because I felt it was a perfect mix of professional, sexy, fashionable and stylish (those are NOT the same thing!) and made my facial features pop. That was the version of myself I felt needed emphasis for a day with the auditors and a board meeting at night: during those meetings my intelligence would be on display anyhow so I wanted to highlight the other, more appealing aspects of myself to balance everything out. In contrast, earlier this week, I scheduled a meeting with CFO-boss that was likely to be very tense: I needed to communicate 1-2 messages that he wouldn’t be delighted about, and I had a vested interest in convincing him to endorse my proposed action plans. What did I wear? Something very corporate? No, my boss knows I am smart AF, that is why he hired me, no need to emphasize that. Something sexy? No, he’d find that displaced, no sense in unconsciously irritating him. Something very fashion forward? No, he is an accountant. So I wore work slacks, and a baby pink finely knit sweater – the kind that is office-appropriate but makes you wanna hug the person. Simple makeup, glasses, and an outfit to highlight that I am a cute, adorable girl. I chose to dress in such a way as to offset my strongly-worded arguments and my intense emotions, as those would be abrasive enough for my boss. It worked.

Not the point of this post – part 2

My team is young. Young enough that they are all on Facebook, and we are Facebook friends, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (We are also coworker friends, but as everybody knows, if it isn’t on Facebook, it isn’t real). As such, they sometimes read this blog. The things they know about me! Makes me blush, except it doesn’t, bc #vulnerability, y’all. Anyhow, they know both this story about my dismay about my shrinking butt, and this epic prank by Coach Dr. Booté. A good story is a good story, even if it makes me sound like a vain, superficial twit. Bc I am totally not a vain, superficial twit, no way. I am a vain, superficial, nerdy SMART twit. Obvi.

The point of this post

Yesterday at work, I was checking out my outfit in the mirrors of the ladies washroom. I had a meeting in late afternoon with a supplier, and I’d chosen an super corporate dress for that purpose: previous meetings had left me with the impression that the supplier did not respect me to the extent I desired, thinking of me more as a girly girl than as a business woman to negotiate with. I was evaluating the severity of my outfit, distracted by the excellent workmanship of the cut (discreetly flattering, of course, because #bougie), when my youngest team member walked in. She pointed to me checking out my profile and consoled me with a smirk,

Vanilla, if you are worried about your butt being flat in that dress, I promise you it’s not.

Consider this a free lesson in How to Get Your Staff to Respect You 101.

#onpoint #howwellsheknowsme #hmph #thisvainsuperficialnerdysmarttwitisalsoademandingslavedriver #iswear #irunatightship #butmyshiphasbooty #teambootyaccountants

Booté post afterword

A little video of my latest attempt at mimicking a Pussycat Doll.

Actions speak louder than words. Sugary actions speak the loudest.

You might have noticed I love my job. I only mention it here. And here. Oh and also here.

Well, I have yet another reason to boast about how much I love my job.

I’m currently swamped. SWAMPED. A high-profile special mandate, with a hard deadline that’s fast approaching; an audit starting this week; another project got pulled forward 6 months and must be done by Xmas; and a lot of turnover in my team (life in Canada: wouldn’t change it for anything, I am so proud of our country’s policy to grant 12 months mat leave to women… but oye, does it ever have implications from a staffing perspective). I feel, to put it mildly, stretched to my limit.

Thursday, after a day of meetings to discuss all of the items above, the feeling of pressure in my chest was unbearable. My brain stopped working, pretending instead to be a hyper hamster, running endlessly on a hamster wheel, going nowhere and accomplishing nothing. So I timidly knocked on Big-boss’s door, intending to ask him to make reassuring noises. But ADD, yo! Instead I asked him a work-related question, which started a productive discussion. Half-way through, he told me to sit down, and reached into his computer bag, pulling out some goodies that he had bought for me during his latest trip to Paris. And then, he looked me in the eyes, and told me that he knew I had an awful lot on my plate, and he imagined it might be overwhelming. “You got this, Vanilla, and I want you to know that I got you. Whatever you need to get this done, and done as well as I know you intend to get it done, you let me know, and we’ll arrange for it to have it happen. And if you need to vent, you know my door is always open.”

My rapid intense blinking had nothing to do with the sudden rush of tears in my eyes. #professionalallthetime #excepthardlyever

This weekend, I was enjoying my Halloween festivities. Seeing pics of all my Fbk friends’ little babies, all decked out in their costumes, made me think of my wonderful team. How they are my little cuties – I feel maternal towards them, they are so young. Yet one of them is leaving on mat leave in 2 days, and the other has a 6-month princess, and the last one is finishing up uni (did I mention #young?????) How they too are stepping up to the plate, handling the transitioning roles seamlessly, working like champs and making me so proud to be their manager every damned day.

So I decided to feed them. Behold, the entire inventory of candy from the local grocery store:

Apparently, at work, we show leadership by giving each other diabetes. The kind of gift that is impossible to forget.

#lovemyjob

#managementwayoflife