Posts filed under ‘Roadblocks’

Best of times, worst of times

I just finished reading “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. I can’t remember how many times I have read this book over the years. I love the beginning line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I also love the different plots in the novel. I agree with Alex Trebek when he said to a Jeopardy contestant who is also a booklover that every time you read the same book, it’s a totally different experience. Sometimes you forget what a book is about after a long time, but what I couldn’t forget about this book is Sydney’s ultimate sacrifice at the end.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It seems this line applies to my life at the present. Ending a long-time relationship may sound like it could be the worst of time in someone’s life, but if it’s a bad, explosive relationship, it could mean that it could also be the best decision someone makes. But of course, when we talk about relationships, there are always emotions involved. And that’s what makes it suck big time. I had wanted to leave a long time ago and it’s not like I left on a whim. I have thought about it very carefully and I don’t have any regrets.

A few weeks ago, I was given two awards at work. Perfect Attendance and 100% Quality for the year 2010. “How did you pull that off?” asked a co-worker. I honestly don’t know. I guess instead of wallowing in self pity and despair last year, I just really tried to focus on something else – work. And I guess it worked! And I’m very proud of these achievements. But the irony of it is this. Later that same day when I received these awards, I was at my lawyer’s office finally signing my separation agreement. It has been a long process drafting that document, going back and forth with my ex’s lawyer, trying to bargain on how much I should get from the division of our conjugal assets and liabilities. In the end, I agreed to what the ex wanted, just so I could get the money in my hands already (well it will go to my bank, actually.)

“Hardworking, niceheart. Life’s not fair, eh?” My lawyer greeted me when I showed up at his office.

“Well, it’s not.”

“How do you put up with it?”

“Well, I have already accepted that that’s the way he is and this is the way it’s gonna be.”

I could have fought it in Court, but as my lawyer has explained to me, I might end up losing more in the end.

What I have learned in life, especially during the time I have spent with this person, is that you have to choose which battles to fight. Not all of them are worth fighting for. And when you think you have lost in one aspect of your life, just look at the rewards and blessings you have. That’s how you move on with your life. That’s how I move on with my life.

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March 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm 2 comments

Starting Over

Wow! It’s been a year since my last post. And I’ve written only 3 posts last year. 2010 had been a very tough year for me. I’ve been really very busy that I never had the time to blog. Not only did I lack in time, but I also lacked in inspiration.

But that was last year and this is a new one. And things are starting to look better.

WordPress sent me an email at the start of this new year. They said that my blog did great in 2010. Yes, even though I only wrote 3 posts. Some of my most-viewed posts were written before 2010. “Your writing has staying power!” Well, that’s inspiration enough for me. 🙂

So I thought, I’d start writing again.

I thought of starting over. In my personal life, I did. I thought of starting a new blog, but that means letting this one go. But how can I, when this blog is still getting a lot of views and I still get feedback from readers that they get inspiration from my posts.

So, I’ll keep them there in the archives and just start writing new posts. My goal this time is to write just short posts. How often? Only time will tell.

January 24, 2011 at 12:20 am 6 comments

Sleep deprived

When I arrived at work on Tuesday morning, I opened my bag to get my water bottle. It wasn’t there and I thought that I‘d have to go downstairs to buy a water bottle at the Dollar Store. When I closed my drawer, there I found my water bottle on top of my desk where I have placed it just a few moments earlier.

On Wednesday afternoon, I heard the two ladies sitting next to me at work talking about falling asleep on the bus. “Have you ever missed your stop because you’ve fallen asleep?” asked Lady Number 1. “Yeah,” replied Lady Number 2. “Sometimes I fall asleep, head lolling from side to side.” “I do that, too,” I interjected. “I mean, missed my stop.” And then I continued, “I remember this one time. I dropped the book that I was reading on the floor. I fell asleep. I looked at the guy sitting across from me to find out if he saw that. It didn’t look like he did. But it was kind of embarrassing.” Lady Number 3 who was listening to our conversation said, “Oh that’s funny.”

When I woke up my youngest son on Thursday morning before I went to work, I told him, “Ryland, don’t forget to make your sandwich for lunch. You forgot to do it last night.” He said, “No, I didn’t.” What? I didn’t see his sandwich when I took out the juice boxes and my water bottle out of the fridge and put them on the kitchen table. And then I started to rattle my brain. Oh yeah, of course, I took his sandwich and juice box and put them on the table. And then I went back to the fridge to get my lunch and water bottle and I forgot that his sandwich was there and I thought that he forgot to do it the previous night.

On Friday night I was trying to watch one of the TV shows that I taped earlier. I have fallen asleep a few times while watching the one hour show and I kept rewinding the tape and finally I just gave up and went to bed.

I was scrubbing the shower at around 5:00 this afternoon and I felt so tired and sleepy. Like I was about ready to go to bed. Good thing I didn’t fall asleep in the shower.

And here I am at 10:30 on this Sunday night still blogging when I should really just go to bed early and bank some sleep time for another busy week ahead of me.

January 24, 2010 at 10:43 pm 5 comments

Gift receipt? Yes or no?

Last week, I went to a housewares store to pick up a housewarming present for a friend. It was my last purchase of the night because I had also been doing my Christmas shopping for the previous two hours. My feet were already sore from walking around the mall and my arms were also getting tired from carrying my shopping bags.

I was third in line at the cash register when I heard the cashier asked the pretty young lady at the front, “Do you want a gift receipt?” Miss Pretty Young Lady looked at her tall handsome partner who was standing beside her, and then she turned to the cashier, “No, if they don’t like it, they just have to suck it up.” My eyes grew wide and my mouth hung agape. I don’t know if both the other lady in front of me and the cashier were as surprised as I was, but the cashier said, “Well, that’s the spirit of Christmas.”

Well, I sort of agree with Miss Pretty Young Lady there. I was surprised because you don’t often hear people say what she said out loud. But I have also thought about what she said a few times when buying presents for people. I spend time and energy trying to find for that person something that I think they will like. And whether they like it or not, you just want your efforts to be appreciated, at least. And because I’m sort of a people pleaser, I also ask for a gift receipt, only sometimes, not all the time. Less than half of the gifts that I wrapped this Christmas have gift receipts included in the box or bag.

I know sometimes it can be a hit and sometimes it can be a miss. If it’s a hit, good, everybody’s happy. If it’s a miss, well I guess that must have been the reason why they thought of the gift receipt. So the receiver can exchange the item with something that they like better. Just to be clear to anyone who’s lost, a gift receipt is a copy of the sales receipt that doesn’t show the price or the amount paid for the item. It has a barcode, though, that matches up with the item.

I, myself, haven’t used a gift receipt to exchange something I have received. Not that I have received that many presents. Actually I remember only once or maybe twice getting a gift receipt that came with the present. It was a present for one of my sons. The clothes he received weren’t actually his style of clothing. But we didn’t bother exchanging it. And no, he never wore the clothes.

And I think this is the perfect example where a gift receipt can serve its purpose – when buying or receiving gifts for children. If it’s a toy that’s in question, a giver might not be sure if the child receiving the gift already has that particular kind of toy. We don’t want the child ending up with a duplicate toy. The gift receipt can be used to exchange the toy with something that the child doesn’t already have. If the gift in question is an article of clothing, sometimes it can be hard to figure out what size the child wears. Then if you have a gift receipt, the clothes can be easily exchanged if the size is wrong.

But other than that, would you really exchange a gift because you didn’t like it? Or do you just suck it up? After all it’s the thought that counts, right?

December 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm 1 comment

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic - book

My girl friend raved about Confessions of a Shopaholic and the others in the series a few years ago when she first read them. But I wasn’t interested in chick-lit back then so she wasn’t able to convince me to read them. Then they made a movie based on the book and I thought that it must be really good. So I thought I’d give it a try. Also, the book just came out in pocket size and it was on sale at Superstore. Besides, I thought that I could probably relate to the main character. Well, I’m not really a shopaholic, but Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood was deep in debt, and so was I.

I have had a love-hate relationship with this series.

That’s probably because I sometimes see myself in Becky. First of all, she is a financial journalist. She tells people how to organize their money but there she is, accumulating all these Visa bills, unable to pay them, and she’s always trying to avoid her bank manager who has been constantly trying to get an appointment with her to settle her bank overdraft. How can I relate to that? Well, here I am with an accounting degree. Yes, I do know how to balance my bank accounts. And I’m supposed to be able to analyze my financial status. Well, I’m able to do that, too. I know how to analyze my financial status. And my analysis is that- it was in a bad state. I was deep in debt, I was barely making the minimum monthly payments, I didn’t know how to get out of the hole and I was so stressed out. But that will be another post. Today, we’re talking about the Shopaholic series.

The first book in the series, Confessions of a Shopaholic, introduces us to Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood. It starts with a letter from Endwich Bank in London (that’s where Becky lives) congratulating her from recently graduating from university and offering her an overdraft account of 2,000 pounds. Now, shouldn’t one be offered such an account only after they get their first job, when they are already earning money? But, sadly to say, this is the reality that faces young people today. They don’t know any better and these bank companies are taking advantage of that. The second letter from Endwich Bank, which is dated two months later, informs Becky that she has exceeded her limit and her balance stands at over 3,000 pounds. In the third letter, we learn that Becky wasn’t able to get to the bank to discuss her financial situation because “she had broken her leg.” The reader will realize that that is just an excuse.

In Confessions of a Shopaholic, we are reading Becky’s thoughts. One thing that I like about it is that her thoughts are candid and honest and a lot of times funny. How many times have I also thought about something or someone that I dare not say out loud for fear of offending the other person or sounding rude? But if you just say it to yourself, it sounds funny. What I don’t like about Becky, and I know she means well, is that when she finds herself in a sticky situation, she tries to pretend she knows what she’s talking about instead of just fessing up. And then there’s also her debt situation. She’s accumulating these huge Visa bills, but she still keeps on shopping. She ignores her bills, hides them in her drawers and even throws out her letters from her bank and credit card companies. But of course, she couldn’t help it. She’s a shopaholic and she even describes what it feels like when she enters a shop. She lusts for things and she experiences a high, an exhilarating feeling, when she goes shopping. As I have mentioned a few times, I also experience some kind of high when I do my grocery shopping. 🙂

And so the reader is transported to Becky’s world as she tries to reason out her spending. Like how she thinks a bottle of wine is essential, or how buying a suit that was on sale – 30% off – is actually saving money. She did try to CB (cut back) and MMM (make more money), but when her efforts fail, she finds comfort in – shopping. And the cycle goes on and on.

Then a big story arises and the break that Becky’s waiting for finally comes. Becky realizes that there are people who think that she’s a joke and now she’s going to try her best to prove them wrong. She feels guilty about giving her neighbours a neglectful advice. She does a journalistic investigation and writes an explosive article.

But just when I thought that she had learned her lesson, there she is at the end of the story ordering sunglasses on TV. I was turned off by that.

I wasn’t so sure if I’d like to continue on reading the Shopaholic series and so I read different book. I really liked A Thousand Splendid Suns, but it has such a serious and heavy theme and I thought that I needed something easy and light to read next. So I went on ahead and read the next Shopaholic book.

shopaholic 2

In Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Becky goes to New York with her now boyfriend Luke Brandon. She had a few mishaps there but in the end, she sort of redeemed herself. So I like how this one ended. And I probably should have stopped with this book.

Shopaholic 3

But I went on reading the next book, Shopaholic Ties the Knot. What can I say? I sort of fell in love with Luke Brandon. Okay he’s a workaholic but I like the way he makes Becky feel. She feels so secured with him. But then again I realized that Becky’s addiction to shopping isn’t being cured by being with Luke. He’s wealthy, you know. He has his own PR company and Becky’s getting away with her shopping addiction because Luke’s got money.

shopaholic 4

I started to get impatient with Becky again but somehow, I just felt that I wanted to know what happens to Becky and Luke next. Now that Becky and Luke are married, I wanted to find out how a joint bank account will work. With Becky’s shopping, how will Luke react to all these expenses that will show up in their bank account? Also, I read in the back cover that in Shopaholic & Sister, Becky has found a long lost sister, but her sister hates shopping. But does having a thifty sister help Becky stop shopping? No need to tell you the answer.

shopaholic 5

Because there is a fifth book called, Shopaholic & Baby. And this is probably not much of a spoiler and a surprise, but Becky still loves shopping. And now, she’s not just shopping for herself, but for the baby as well. This is where I got really disappointed after reading the fifth book. Becky’s shopping addiction hasn’t been resolved. Unless, the author, Sophie Kinsella, is planning to write a final book where Becky will really finally wake up. And then it will be an inspiration to those shopaholics who are deep in debt and don’t have a wealthy spouse who can bail them out. Although, I wouldn’t need that book to inspire me because I have finally got out of debt, well, sort of. Maybe I will write about that to inspire others. Well, anyway, back to the book. The only redeeming part that I found in the fifth book (or final maybe?) is Luke’s answer to Venetia when she asked him why he married Becky, “this mindless consumer little girlie … All she cares about is her shopping, her clothes, and her girlfriends.

Luke said, “The first time I ever saw Becky Bloomwood, she was asking a bank marketing department why they didn’t produce checkbook covers in different colors. The next year, they did produce checkbook covers in different colors. Becky’s instincts match no one else’s…. Her mind goes to places no one else’s does…Yes, she shops. Yes, she does crazy things. But she makes me laugh. She makes me enjoy life. And I love her more than anything else in the world.

And then I realized those are exactly the reasons why I kept reading the Shopaholic books. I got sucked into Becky’s crazy world and she made me laugh. It was a great escape from my own crazy world. 🙂

confessions movie

Now, let’s talk about the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic.

I had a huge problem when I watched the movie the first time. I shook my head a lot. They squished the first two books into one movie. There are a lot of changes and it seems at times like a totally different story that was just loosely based on the Shopaholic Series. First of all, Luke is the only one who’s British in this movie. Then the movie was totally set entirely in America, mostly in New York. For the most part of the movie, Luke is working at a company called Dantay-West and then he hires Rebecca Bloomwood as a journalist. In the book, Luke has owned his own PR company, Brandon Communications, since the beginning and Rebecca is working as a financial journalist in a different company, Successful Savings, not working for him.

I also had a problem with the casting. I think Isla Fisher fits the character of Becky Bloomwood, but other than that . . . Hugh Dancy is of course, British, so that was a plus. But I pictured Luke Brandon to be a much taller guy and someone who exudes confidence, and at the same time, charm. Yeah, there are a few scenes where I found Hugh Dancy charming. Let’s not take that away from him. And then, Becky’s parents – I think both John Goodman and Joan Cusack look much too young to be Becky’s parents. I have pictured them to be a lot older. They are both retired after all.

Elinor Sherman, Luke’s mother, was mentioned but didn’t appear in the movie. And what about Janice and Martin Webster? They are missing in the movie. They are very important characters in the first book. When Becky realized that they were tricked out of their investment, Becky investigated and exposed their bank. I also missed Becky and Luke’s debate on Good Morning Coffee. These are my two favourite parts in the first book and they didn’t make it to the movie.

Some of the changes that appeared in the movie:

Becky joins a Shopaholic Anonymous group. It doesn’t seem realistic. There’s no such thing, is there? But then again, maybe the producers included this in the movie in an attempt to solve Becky’s shopping addiction. But it didn’t work on Becky. Instead, she sort of influenced the people in the group to go shopping again, which was kind of funny, really.

Becky assumes the pseudonym of The Girl in the Green Scarf. I sort of like the idea, but why green scarf? It is some kind of blue in the book, and she fantasizes about herself as the Girl in the Denny & George Scarf, not the Girl in the Green Scarf. Why did they change it? Green doesn’t really go with most of the colors. I think they should have stuck with blue, which would easily match better with the other colors. I think.

Derek Smeath is portrayed as a mean guy. Okay, Becky’s told her parents that he was a stalker, but that was a lie. She actually got to know him personally and found him to be a nice person. She even referred to him as Sweetie Smeathie in the end.

I read the first book, Confessions of a Shopaholic a second time and also rented the movie a second time, because I wanted to write/finish these reviews. I now realize why the series became a bestseller. It’s smartly written and it’s funny and I think everybody, even those who are not shopaholics, can relate to Becky. And after watching the movie a second time, I realize it’s not that bad. But I still think they should have included Janice and Martin’s story there and made Derek Smeath a nicer guy.

I’ve read that the movie received mostly negative reviews. It came out at a time when the economy is down and there’s financial crisis everywhere. Not a good time to release a movie about shopping and wasting money.

October 10, 2009 at 11:40 pm 3 comments

‘He-cession’ affecting husband and wife roles

I’ve read an article in The Winnipeg Free Press about how this failing economy has been referred to as a ‘he-cession’ (recession) because it is the men who are mostly affected. Most of the companies that are downsizing are those in the male-dominated industries such as: trades and transport, including construction; manufacturing; and natural resources. The women, as a result, now make up a large percent of Canada’s labour force. And of course, this affects the family dynamics.

There is now a role reversal between husband and wife. More women are bringing home the pay cheque and more men are staying at home and taking care of the family.

It’s not as if there isn’t already an ongoing war as to which spouse/parent is to do this and that chore. But whether the husbands like it or not, they have to step up in doing most of the work only their wives used to do. For some men, it is hard to do things they were not doing before.

Let’s take for example Isabel and Hector. When he got laid off from work, she had to work the extra hours to make up for the loss of income. Hector didn’t mind cooking and doing his share in cleaning the house. But he had a hard time accepting that he had to do the grocery shopping and the laundry as well. They did end up doing the groceries together but he just wouldn’t do the laundry. She was so frustrated, so she started picking out his clothes out of the pile and didn’t do his clothes. He wasn’t too happy about that at first but after a few confrontations, he understood how she was already tired and exhausted and she just couldn’t manage to do all six to eight loads of laundry every week.

It’s tough. But with the changing times and things happening that are beyond our control, we have to learn to adapt, to be flexible and to be tolerant of each other.

April 12, 2009 at 8:22 pm 5 comments

A Mother of A Problem

A Mother of A Problem

A Mother of a Problem

This past week’s episode of Ugly Betty titled, A Mother of A Problem, brought me many years back.

You see, Betty is now dating Matt. She met him in her YETI (Young Editors Training Initiative) class. She just recently found out that Matt is rich. But she liked him even when she suspected that he didn’t have money. Well, last week, she went to his house to meet him there. But Matt wasn’t home yet and Betty met his mother, Mrs. Victoria Hartley. At first, Mrs. Hartley thought that Betty was one of the maids. When Betty told her that she’s dating Matt, she wasn’t too impressed. Matt came and introduced them properly and when they left, he apologized to Betty about her mother, “She’s judgmental and controlling. No one I date is ever good enough for her.” But Betty said, “It matters to me that she likes me.” And she wanted to meet her again.

So Matt invited Betty to this fancy dinner that his mother was holding the following week. Betty wanted his mother to like her and so she prepared for it, even asking her boss’s mother, Mrs. Claire Mead, how to act at this kind of parties and Mrs. Mead even told her how Mrs. Hartley have these topics for these dinners. They tried to find out what the topic was and it was “Torture.” Good thing that Betty just read an article about the topic.

The big night came and there was a mushroom fiasco with an expensive painting owned by the hostess, but Matt took the blame for Betty. Even so, Mrs. Hartley made sure that Betty wasn’t sitting beside Matt at dinner and what do you know, she changed the topic to “The Future of Opera.” Well, Betty is a smart girl and since she works at a fashion magazine she came up with an answer that she knows very well, “Opera is fashion.” (She does know about fashion a lot, although her sense of fashion may be debatable. 🙂 ) The guests were impressed with her opinion. She thought that she impressed Matt’s mother, as well.

But she was wrong. After dinner, Mrs. Hartley talked to Betty. She asked Betty what she has in common with Matt. She went on ahead and told Betty that Matt went to Yale University, he speaks three languages and he plays the piano. When Betty couldn’t answer, Mrs. Hartley told her that it would be the last time they’d be seeing each other. When Matt saw Betty leaving, he told his mother that he was leaving with her.

This is the part where I was brought back in time. I was in my early 20s many years ago and I had been dating this guy for quite a while. I already had a feeling that his mother wasn’t that fond of me. One night she came to my house and told me that maybe I should give her son some space. She noticed that we had been spending a lot of time together and that he was at my house a lot. She thought that since her son was still young, that he should still meet other girls. She kinda knew that we were getting serious. She probably thought that if it were not for me, her son would meet someone who conformed more to her standards, whatever they might have been. Maybe she didn’t think that I was good looking enough for him or that he was a bit young for me (only two years, btw). I didn’t know. I never thought of asking. Because, honestly, I was surprised when she came to talk to me. I thought that “you’re not good enough for my son” speech only happened in the movies. At that time, I rattled my brains and tried to think what lines those characters delivered in the movies that I had seen. I told his mother that I wasn’t trying to force her son on myself. He liked me and I liked him and if he ever felt that he didn’t want to be in the relationship, he was free to go.

And yeah, of course, I was hurt. Friends told me to ignore her. She wasn’t the one I was dating or going to live with if the relationship was headed in that direction. My friends had a good point. But I think, to some girls, it matters that their boyfriend’s mother like them, like it did matter to Betty. But to what lengths are you going to try to make them like you? If it’s a matter of attitude, you can probably try to change. But if it’s a matter of personality or the way you look or just the way you are, there’s nothing much you can do, is there?

I like Claire Mead’s advice to Betty. She said that she’s never going to win over Mrs. Hartley and that she needs to stand her ground. And I guess that’s what I kinda did.

March 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm 4 comments

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