empanadas, etc.

Yesterday morning I stopped at my favorite Vietnamese sandwiches shop for my Vietnamese coffee. My Starbucks gold card sighed in my wallet. I also bought some breakfast meat pastries to share at the office as I knew it would be a busy day. I learned from my favorite Colombian that it tasted exactly like the Colombian empanadas, though looked differently. She was delighted to found this familiar taste unexpectedly in a Vietnamese pastry which later I found the name to be “Pâté Chaud”.

Making one person happy made my day, and a few hours later unexpectedly I had a business idea that was completely unrelated to food. Ever wondered how the brain works? LOL. Incidentally, I was scheduled to have chocolate and ice cream with my Harvard PhD friend and I immediately recruited her for the cause.

Lots going on but not enough energy to go around…



Monday morning note

I woke up this morning with a clear mind and a cheerful mood, even though I would have a long and busy day ahead. These days I would usually wake up with a low spirit, possibly due to the shame of not being productive in the previous day or days. Often times, it would take me a couple of hours to correct my mood and I would end up having a decent day. So I wondered that whether my mood this morning was caused by a good night sleep or something else. The sleep last night was ok, so it must be something else.

Could it be that I feel better now because I have a short-term goal? So I no longer feel like a boat without oars in a vast ocean?

Could it be that hubby finally returned home, and that I feel more anchored?

Could it be that the people I will be seeing and working with today are all the ones I like and I feel a sense of community or at least non-isolation?

Or could it simply be that I had closed a small deal and could get my boss off my back for a little while longer?

Regardless of the reasons, I cherish this moment. My defense system is low in the morning so that I am subjected to a melancholy mood often. But that means that particular state of mind is the most natural one to me. I don’t want that. Not at all. I want my base mood to be happy, or at the very least, even keeled.

I prepared some bright smiles, and ready to say: “Good Morning!”

so bored

There are three assistants whom I work with on a daily basis. One of them is a young and beautiful woman from Brazil. I’ve heard, before starting to work with her, that she is cold to everyone, and sure enough, she keeps her distance from me as well. I don’t blame her, being a good looking woman working in a male dominated world, I wouldn’t show too much zealousness either. Anyway, she forgot to tell me some procedures, and it triggered one of those emails that copied everyone and their mother.

Adopting the LIFO method (last in first out) with my emails, I dutifully did a “reply all” when I saw the accusatory message. After playing ping-pong via emails a few times, I finally realized that I was being an office politics fool. It is the administrative manager’s responsibility to train the administrative assistants, and the oversight of my assistant would ultimately point back to them, either by way of inadequate training or mismanagement. Why did I insert myself in the email threads at all?

Anyway, when the administrative manager sent a separate email just to me and requested to talk offline, I stopped my “reply all”. I promptly forgot about the incident for 4~5 hours, until I walked pass the administrative manager’s office. Cheerfully, I walked in and asked whether she wanted to talk. To my amusement, she scolded me for not knowing the procedure and demanded me to take responsibility. Although I don’t play the office politics game, it doesn’t mean I don’t know the rules. I realized that she needed to perform a “slap on the wrist” in order to bury the issue under the rug.

I began to list the facts, then I felt some extreme boredom came over me. It was like I left my body to observe two adult wasting time playing a monotonous game in the sand. So instead, I smiled, and said that we would do better next time and left her office. No wonder “running interference with management” is a defined role in some teams. I’m glad that I don’t have to do a lot of that.

On the bright side, the assistant from Columbia, who is older but also attractive and very elegant, had always treated me as if I was her little sister. She even told me where to park to kill sometime between my meetings. And here is a picture from her recommended parking spot.


beggars at Starbucks

It was another busy day at work yesterday, as I was set to leave for Maui super early in the morning and I was concentrating on trip preparation. Once in a while, the office get together to “lunch and share” and yesterday was one of those days. The manhunt of Christopher Dorner was the top news of the day, as it seemed that every policeman in San Diego was out there looking for him. So feel free to jaywalk, but if you resemble a little of Dorner, or just in the same age range and have the same skin color, it would be best for you to stay home just to be on the safe side. Somehow a huge debate on  gun control sparkled up from the Dorner story, and I was amazed to realize that even though people in the room were on different sides of the gun issue, they were uniformly Republicans. Why was I surprised, you ask? Well, last time I checked, California was still a very blue state.

But party affiliation doesn’t really matter. Most “normal” people I know are fiscally conservative and socially liberal like me, regardless of the party affiliation. I think the two parties represent the two extreme ends, and they force people to choose one or the other. I’ve seen a chart about the amount of overlapping ideologies of the two parties 30 years, 20 years and 10 years ago verse now and there were quite a lot of overlaps in the beginning and it gradually reduced to the current state of near zero. I will upload the chart if I can find a soft version.

I went to chat with one of my colleagues who didn’t go to the “lunch and share”. He had many interesting views, although very different from mine. We both came from an immigrate background, but his motherland is still in economic turmoil while mine is already a mighty growth engine of the world and the largest creditor of the United States. Our birth countries’ economic status caused us to have different views on immigration policy, and I would like to ponder further over this issue.

What I liked about the conversation was that it revealed to myself that my mind is not fixed. I am still flexible and still thinking. It also reminded me my Starbucks story.

Have lived in NYC for almost 10 years, I’m an expert in “not seeing” the beggars and homeless people on the street. I believe being homeless is a life style choice, especially here in southern California. By the way, I also think these are the smartest of the bunch. If you had to be a homeless, California got to be much better than Milwaukee. In any case I never gave them money, as I know there are government assistances available and they would most likely use the money to buy drugs or alcohol. I always felt that I would be encouraging bad behaviors if I help them.

One day last fall I went downstairs to the Starbucks in my building for my daily coffee fix. A 40ish man approached me and said, “Can you buy me a coffee?” I was completely shocked and caught off-guard. Instinctively, I responded, “Why should I?” He doesn’t leave, but instead he stood behind me in the line. I was able to observe him from the corner of my eye. He looked like a construction worker, but wearing a pair of glasses. I felt nervous as he was standing so close to me. Thankfully more people came in for coffee and he asked the same question to the man and woman behind him. To my astonishment, the man agreed. Was I wrong for not buying him a coffee? No, I was actually thinking about talking to the Starbucks’ manager, because it was their duty to prevent their customers from being harassed.  I just never thought that other people would be so agreeable to the beggars.

Anyway, after that incident, I felt sort of bad about it. I don’t know why. I was certainly not wrong. Alas, I started to “see” these people in Starbucks, and I even saw that same guy again a week later. Just like me, he was a regular.

First day back to work this January, I went to the Starbucks. It was an unusually cold day for southern California. A woman came behind me and picked up a bottle of Naked Juice smoothies and asked me: “Can you buy this for me?”

I said “no” without any facial expression. And she stood behind me in the line. By now of course I knew that was customary. But she explained, probably to relieve me from worrying, “I’m going to wait in line and get a water.”

I nodded and started to observe her. She was a nature blonde. I could imagine that she was once very attractive. She was carrying a couple of big bags, and on top of one there was a leather jacket that was quite stylish. How did she come to this, begging at Starbucks? She might have had an exciting life when she was young. Maybe she was in a band. But now in front of me she was old, alone and filthy. What choices had she made that led her to this? Am I immune to mistakes or was I just lucky?

I picked up the drink and said to her: “I will buy you this.” When I was getting my own breakfast at the register, I thought I might as well make her day, so I asked her whether she would like something to eat. She said she would. And I got her a hot breakfast sandwich.

There are risks of pursuing your passion. Very serious risks. Such as the possibility of not able to support oneself. For the immigrants to this country, the first one or two generations have no choice but to get into a “real” profession, be a doctor, a lawyer, a banker or an engineer. Only with family’s financial support, the next generation could venture into more leisure fields like arts and music.

It is sad but true.

Author’s note: Today’s post was completed much much later than I would like and what I have mentally committed to do. It simply could not be helped. I finished the draft at 1:26 am and I was desperately tired. I had to get up at 4:45 am for my flight to Hawaii. It’s not like there are thousands of you waiting for my posts. In fact, I would be surprised if I even have one reader so far since it is only the 3rd day of the blog. Nonetheless, I was not happy with Evernote as it forbad access to my own note offline, so I was not able to work on it over the long flight to Maui. My apologies my phantom readers. I will plan better for my upcoming China trip so the posts will go out in the mornings of my local time, regardless which time zone or which side of the timeline I’m in.

fire and rain

I worked for a straight 4-hours yesterday on producing a comprehensive 2012 spending report for one of my larger clients. As I worked, I didn’t notice time and the world around me, since I was completely in the zone. I love the feeling of being in the zone.

Before I started my endeavor of managing money, I spent some time thinking about what the ideal profession for me would likely to be. I thought, “I like money, I like counting money and I like to work on my own personal finances and investments. Why don’t I do it professionally? If that’s what I like to do, then it won’t feel like a job, it would be part of my life. And I can do it till my old age.” Here I am 6 years later. Sometimes I still feel the same way, such as a day like this; but sometimes I wonder where my passion has gone. If managing money is my true calling, I won’t be sitting here writing a blog about finding one’s passion and motivation. But worse still, my hubby had requested the same report (since last year this time) for our own finance, and I have not done so. In fact, I’m doing the very minimum of maintaining our own family finance, such as just getting the bills paid on-time. Even with my own 401K, after selecting the funds from 5000+ that were made available to us financial professionals two or three years ago, I have not gone back to review and re-evaluate them. I conduct reviews for my clients because it’s my job, but I’m not treating myself equally. This is like an aesthetician who doesn’t take care of her own face, or a fashion designer who does care about his or her own image. Why am I like this I don’t know. Do I need to rekindle my passion? But that would be wrong, because I still love many aspects of the job: I love the intellectual stimulation; I love the feeling of understanding the world through the real lives of the families I work with; and I love being the person others trust and rely on. Maybe I just don’t like to do the same thing at work and at home? No, that’s not right either. Maybe it’s just simple laziness.

If I’m really honest with myself, I have to say that there are two things about the job that irritate me, and from time to time they overshadow the love and passionate I felt about the job. There is however no point of changing professional field, as I know whatever intrigues me would at the same time has some qualities that would annoy me. So the real question becomes, “How to keep the fire burning when it is pouring rain?”