Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Resolutions

Abby says:

It’s that time of year again. Time to ring in the New Year with New Year’s resolutions. This year, I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been, and I’m not making anymore resolutions. I’m done with that.

I cannot tell you how much time I’ve spent over the last several years composing ridiculous and unrealistic resolutions. And, of course, I never lived up to them – then felt guilty about it to boot. My favorite resolution is dieting and losing X number of pounds. It never happened! It never will!

My resolution for 2008 is to not have any resolutions. I went through a scary health bout with a family member last year. It made me look at things quite differently and treat every day as though it could be the last. I work hard. I have fun. I have wonderful friends and family. I try to help people along the way. I’m back in school, learning new things and meeting new people. My life so far has been an interesting journey with experiences I treasure. I am so grateful for what I have. I’m just going to keep doing what I do and enjoy each and every day as it comes.

Having said that, why make a resolution?


Sheri says:

Resolutions can be helpful. I made a number of them for 2007 and only succeeded in about half. The other half will roll over to 2008. I’m usually not willing to share my resolutions but I’ll share a few at the end.

Abby and I have been friends forever. I admire her and I think she has the same respect for me. But, we live very different lives.

Abby runs a thriving business and works harder than anyone I know. I am struggling to keep a business alive.

Abby is single. I juggle a household with a husband, grown children in and out, and my two in-laws who happen to live with us.

Abby is super smart. I’m muddling.

So, here are my resolutions (at least the ones I’m willing to share:)

Stop envying Abby.
Eat more.
Enjoy the little moments.


What are yours?

Abby says:

Give me a break Sheri, why do married people always think that “single people” have it easier? While I am single, I also have elderly parents to take care of. They don’t live with me but I am still responsible and do a lot for them.

My resolution for you is to stop talking and take action – think about what Sheri’s needs are instead of everyone else’s.

Sheri says:

I don’t believe Abby has it easier. Not for one second of any day. Nor would I believe that single people have it better or easier. Different does not mean better or easier – just different.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What's on Your MP3 or iPod?

Abby says:

I use my iPod for two things: working out and kicking back. So, my song list is extremely eclectic. During my workouts, I like music that motivates me such as things with deep drum beats, strong guitar and great acoustics. Earth, Wind and Fire, Bozz Scaggs, Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, Neil Diamond and Melissa Ethridge are just a few I listen to while I run. There are some evenings after work when I feel like I cannot possibly work out. Then, I turn on my iPod. It’s amazing how music can motivate you to do something you don’t want to.

On the flip side when I’m relaxing, I like smooth, quiet music. Give me Elton John, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, Seals & Crofts, Celine Dion, Basia and Gordon Lightfoot. It’s been fun to collect all these great CDs and put them in one place where you can enjoy them all at once.

Sheri says:

I want to be technologically proficient. I’m taking baby steps.

At first, my iPod seemed to have this limitless memory. Now I’m seriously close to running out. So, I’m in discard and clean-up mode. I’m very proud of myself that I know how to do that.

My first CD player allotted for five CDs and then you could put them on “shuffle.” This made me very happy. My iPod allows me to make play lists. (And then I can shuffle them.) This makes me giddy.

You can do the standard categories, i.e. rock, country, jazz, etc. But you can do other customized things like holidays or bad mood days. One of our mutual friends has titled one of her play lists, “Sing along songs.”

I’m very emotional these days so I’m considering a play list of “Cry along songs.” Who knows? It might prove very therapeutic.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Holidays or Hell Days?

Sheri says:

To borrow and paraphrase from Dickens, here’s how I feel about the holidays: It is the best of times; it is the worst of times.

Let’s start with the best:

* The music and decorations.
* Family and friends abound.
* Sending and receiving cards.
* Filling the stockings and hearing my husband read The Night Before Christmas .
* Our Christmas Eve Open House.
* The smell of the fresh tree.

The worst:

* Missing friends and relatives who have passed on.
* Decorating without the children here.
* Pure exhaustion from the endless running.
* Shopping for people who do not need a thing.
* Knowing the gray days of January and February are just around the corner.
* Coordinating schedules with a grown daughter and a son in college.
* Cleaning up after the tree dies.

Still, certain songs bring a tear to my eye and certain rituals give me great pleasure. So, I choose to embrace the holiday part of it and limit my griping about the hell days part.

Abby says:

I agree with Sheri – there are both good and bad things about the holidays.

Best things:
· Shopping for people you love. They know it’s the thought that counts – not the present.
· Taking a quiet moment when the room is dark and the tree is lit to reflect upon how lucky we really are – even during the worst of times.
· Spending extra time with family members and friends. It’s the only time of year when we all seem to take time.
· Watching my curious puppy dog open her presents. She never re-gifts anything I give her!
· Playing old Christmas music. It reminds me of my childhood.
· Waking up on Christmas morning to the smell of fresh coffee.
· Eggnog.


Worst things:
· Screaming children and run-away strollers in the stores. Stay home or get a baby sitter mom!
· People talking loudly on their cell phones while Christmas shopping. No one needs to hear whether you’re getting the Nintendo or the foot massager.
· Ungratefulness.
· Asking me “Do you have the receipt for that gift?”
· Materialism.

Some of my most vivid childhood holiday memories include:
· Waking up at 3:00 am the day after Thanksgiving and driving to Louisville to compete in an annual swim meet. My poor mom was so exhausted after cooking dinner the night before, but she was a trooper and was ready to drive us all there. We did this every year until I was 18!
· My brother taking the Rudolph the Reindeer ornament off our Christmas tree and dive bombing it onto the roof of the nativity set when we were little. It started an all-out nativity war one year.
· My friend Kathleen’s hair catching fire from a candle during Girl Scout Christmas caroling when I was a young girl.
· Making Spritz cookies and royal icing every year from scratch.
· Going to midnight Mass and delivering a prank gift afterwards to friends of my parents – for many years – at around 1:30 am. It was a totally fun stealth mission. Then they would call us at 2:00 am hysterically laughing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stop Blubbering; Stop Mothering

Sheri says:

Women in the workplace have made gigantic strides in my lifetime. As a young girl, women who worked outside the home were generally teachers, nurses or secretaries. A lot of them did this only until they got married.

I did not grow up this way. My mother went back to work for a large corporation when I was 5-years old. She worked her way up the ladder. She doesn’t consider herself a pioneer or a product of the women’s movement but I do.

Although the glass ceiling is showing some cracks, it still exists. Is that due to the old boys’ network or the things women do to sabotage themselves? Is that because women juggle more with children, household chores and keeping the schedules?

It’s been quite a while since I worked in a traditional office but I have client interactions that allow me to observe office dynamics. Plus, I have a long memory of my time in the banking industry and how women often set their own traps.

In my opinion, here are some traps that hamper careers and make people uncomfortable:

Tears
I can cry at the drop of a hat. I can cry with a sentimental commercial. Crying in the workplace makes everyone cringe. When I was managing departments at the bank, I cried twice. Once was private in my office and the other time was in a bathroom stall. I learned to save it until I got home.

Mothering
Mother confessor is not a role that any serious business woman aspires to be. Stop trying to get your way by bringing cookies. People will enjoy them but they don’t elevate your professional status. When’s the last time your male co-worker or Sr. VP swept into a meeting with his homemade cupcakes or felt your forehead to see if you were running a fever?

Sexuality
Well dressed is preferable. Save being sexy for your own time. Not that the men won’t appreciate it but it doesn’t exactly elevate your professional status.

I wish I could say that I’ve never made some stupid mistakes in the workplace. I have. But, I have a lot of young girls in my life who some day (hopefully!) will be running cities, companies and families. We don’t have to operate by the men’s rules; we can redefine them. But, I think we redefine them by reversing some of the stereotypes.

Abby says:

I think the leaks in the glass ceiling are due to all the issues Sheri has noted. Our generation of women will never have the perfect “seal”. There are industries where the good old boys network is still very much alive and kicking. I witness this from the outside. Because I am a small business owner, I fortunately don’t experience it often. When I do, I subtly and politely make it clear that I don’t support these attitudes and the behaviors that accompany them.

I also think as females, sometimes we are overly sensitive to those things. Our radar goes up. I have worked hard over the years to overcome this. I remember getting in the elevator with Sheri when we were in banking and one of the corporate lenders said: “Here come the marketing gals.” I was appalled. Today, I would handle my feelings differently and let it roll – because I am comfortable in my own skin now.

I am not a crier. I hide my emotions as often as I can in the work environment. When a major work snafu occurs, I more than likely get that barfing feeling to be sick. I never got the mothering gene – I was missed somewhere along the way. While I think the motherly behaviors often carry over into the workplace, part of that is what makes the world go round. I think it’s hard to flip roles when you get to the workplace – especially if you have kids. Most guys just aren’t wired this way. And God forbid that they are – because people assume they are gay.

While dressing sexy won’t necessarily get you a raise, Sheri, you and I both remember one certain person we used to work with who played that card very well. I remember sexy bikini swim suits at hotels on business trips. Yikes! She was incredibly beautiful and successful with the sexy thing and the upper crust management (males) bought it hook, line and sinker. She moved up the ladder quite fast and was not too good at her job.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Girls and Sex Education

Abby says:

Educating young women about sex has been on the news lately. I am very opinionated about this topic. I grew up in a Catholic household. Sex was not discussed. It was purely something that was reserved for marriage. While I understand that religious beliefs play an impactful role in this topic, girls need to know the facts about sex at a young age. While their parents may have told them to “wait”, they may decide not to wait -- due to peer pressure, the desire to fit in, the need to be loved, the curiosity to experiment, the need to rebel and a variety of other reasons.

I am not advocating for young girls to experiment with sex or become promiscuous. I simply believe that knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge can affect their futures if they become pregnant or acquire some type of sexually transmitted disease that leads to cancer later in life.

I don’t have kids, so maybe I am out in left field. I cringe today when I think of the way I was educated about sex. It was purely by experimentation. And, by friends who were as uninformed as I was. Let’s arm our young girls with the proper information and hope they make better decisions with the facts.

Sheri says:

I think the news item in discussion is the availability of birth control to middle school students. As reported in The New York Times, a school in Portland, Maine has garnered a lot of media attention because the birth control is issued through the school health facility and parental permission is not required.

Like every sane person, parent or not, I believe that middle school children should not have sex. They do not have the physical or emotional stuff. Their brains have barely developed beyond Tinker Toys. Sex is Pandora’s Box. Once you open it, there’s no going back.

We’ve witnessed a lot in the last 50 or so years. It used to be understood that good girls didn’t “do it.” The 60s and 70s brought the sexual revolution and the birth control pill. Roe v. Wade gave women permission to claim their own body. I don’t know a single woman who would actively choose to have an abortion but I know plenty who think this is a private choice.

Like Abby, I was raised with the goal of abstinence until marriage. Unlike Abby, I could (and did) ask my parents lots of questions about sex. They were pretty frank with their answers and allowed me to engage in open discussions.

When I began dating my husband, his daughter was a teenager. Teenagers ooze hormones. We were in a constant conversation about appropriate behavior.

When the son became a teenager, I became a maniac. I made him watch multiple Oprah shows about STDs and unwanted pregnancies. I would pause the tape and make him discuss it with me. All the eye rolling in the world wouldn’t deter me. I walked around behind him saying, “Wear a condom.”

Eventually, I chilled out a bit. My mantra became this:
Don’t do anything that would disrespect your body or hers.
Don’t do anything
with anyone that you would be embarrassed to bring into this house.

Maybe it’s the difference in generations but I never expected either of these children to abstain until marriage. I just wanted them to wait until their brain and their hormones were in sync enough to make wise decisions.

There’s something wrong when an 11-year old girl can’t talk to her parents and needs to go to the school health center for birth control. There’s something wrong when a middle school girl is having sex. The repercussions are mind-boggling.

It’s even scarier when that 11-year old becomes pregnant.

Abby says:

I'm not advocating for 11-year olds to have sex. But girls who are going to have sex are going to have sex.

Better protected and educated than sorry.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rock and Roll

Sheri says:

Music is a salve for my soul. I like it all. I’m really into country right now but I grew up on rock and roll.

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Lynrd Skynrd, Chicago and REO Speedwagon were and are particular favorites. Throw in Bob Seger, Rod Stewart and Elton John. Oops, I forgot Billy Joel, Carol King, James Taylor and Carly Simon. I also love the one-hit wonders. I love Motown. I can be mesmerized by oldies … especially Leslie Gore, The Platters or Patsy Cline.

Every song evokes a memory. I had a crush on a certain boy and this particular song makes me think of him. Or, I used to dance and sing to this song with my aunts. I had a pink, plastic case full of 45s. Then I bought my first album: Like most girls my age, it was Tapestry by Carol King. I wore it out.

My first car had an 8-track stereo system. This was before cell phones. Girlfriends could join me as we cruised around and blared our music. It was the best. No one could track you down. My next car had a cassette player. It ate a lot of tapes but it was still joyful when it worked.

I should’ve realized early on that music was destined to be a part of my life. Today, I live with a part-time musician. We have a CD collection that’s absurdly large. Everyone in my household has an iPod. There’s a gigantic piano in my living room that is played every day. Late night Internet searches are not for breaking news -- they’re for lyrics or figuring out who wrote or sang a certain song.

About a hundred or so years ago when my husband and I were dating, he used to play this game: A song comes on the radio and he asks, “Who is it?” Then it’s, “What was on the flip side?” Now we play a similar game on the piano. He starts playing and says, “What song is this?” I can usually answer but I like to toy with him. I act stupid and say, “I’ve never heard it. Are you sure you’re playing it right?” Then I start singing along.

Music is a part of my daily routine. It’s not only the soundtrack of my life. In many ways, it’s my sanity.

Abby says:

Sheri and I share the love for the same music. Music is in my blood. My grandfather, Frank Parrish, was a singer with Tommy Dorsey in the Big Band era. He traveled the county and the world performing.

Elton John was and continues to be my favorite artist. I remember listening to him over and over again when I was a young girl. I still listen. Give me any kind of music from the 70s. It brings back great memories. I compile and burn all my own CDs for the Spin classes I teach. My attendees tell me they love my class music – it’s like going to a mini concert every Saturday morning when we workout.

I agree that music is great for the soul. I love to listen to lyrics and wonder what was happening in the lives of the songwriters/musicians when they wrote them. I recently read 3 great rock and roll biographies/autobiographies: “Wonderful Tonight” by Pattie Boyd – the former wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton; “Clapton: The Autobiography” by Eric Clapton; “Elton: The Biography” by David Buckley. They were truly fascinating and a great look back into music history. I recommend reading them if you like music at all.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Are Rules Meant to be Broken?

Sheri says:

I don’t like other people pushing rules on me. I think my moral code is solid. Not that I don’t mess up occasionally, but in general I make pretty ethical decisions. My husband loves to announce a new “House Rule.” He has some control issues but so do I. We listen to each other and then pretty much do what we want. After this many years, he has figured out that I will make my own decisions.


I enjoy breaking the stupid rules:
Women over 30 shouldn’t have long hair. I break it.
You shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day. I break it.

History shows us that some of the greatest strides made for women (and mankind) are by people who dared to break the rules. I’ll probably never be that brave. But one of my favorite sayings is, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” I believe that was Eleanor Roosevelt.

I follow the rules of society. I try to be a law-abiding citizen. If I’m in a workplace, I follow the rules there. But every once in a while … especially in my own home, I like to be the rule breaker.

Abby says:

I believe in and understand why we need rules, I’ve just always had trouble being dictated to. It started when I was very young, and my parents set rules. I always considered myself one of the grown-ups, so I constantly rebelled. Nothing has changed. If someone tries to impose rules on me today it makes my skin crawl. Now I really am a grown-up and I don’t require direction.

My “house rules” accumulated over the years include:
· Maggie, my dog, is allowed to sleep in my bed. Most of the time she prefers her crate.
· Don’t pee in my toilet and leave the seat up (please).
· Don’t walk out my door and leave it wide open – for bugs and bees (and strange people) to fly in.
· I only clean once per week. Sorry if that offends visitors.
· Load my dishwasher ONLY if you do it the way I do.
· Don’t use my shower and leave my vanity mirror all fogged up.
· Don’t bother to take your dirty dishes to the kitchen if you’re not going to rinse and put them in the dishwasher.
· Don’t wipe your face with my dishrag.
· Don’t drink out of my milk jug. That’s what cups are for.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Media Hounds

Sheri says:

Ann Coulter made the news recently. Shocker! Many of the traditional media outlets were running clips from CNBC but I needed the perspective so I went to the Internet to watch the interview in its entirety. She’s provocative. She certainly courts the media attention. But, in this scenario, she was making a legitimate point that was misconstrued based on her choice of words.

The catch phrase that caught all of the attention was, “Christians are perfected Jews.” Throw that up on your crawl screen or your blog and watch everyone go nuts. If my little pea brain got it in context, what she was saying was that Jesus was a Jewish person. In the old testament, we honored and learned that heritage. In the new testament, Jesus became the savior for believers. Therefore, he perfected Judaism. This is the foundation of Christianity. Fact or fiction? That's up to you to decide. I know a lot of people who are nodding their heads in agreement.

I’m not a fan or a foe of Ann Coulter. She got her coverage. I’m sure it was well orchestrated. Do you think that choicy phrase was accidental?

There’s far too much intolerance in this world. People like Ann Coulter enjoy fanning the flames. I have friends with all different religious beliefs. I have friends with zero religious beliefs. That is their right. I guess if someone is willing to give Ann Coulter air time, it’s her right to make a provocative statement.

Also in the news, it was announced that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize. I am super suspicious of the politics involved. Think what you want about global warming but the man has won an Emmy, an Oscar and the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. Many scientists dispute his facts. Many others say he has brought an international crisis to the forefront of our minds. I don’t know.

With so many facts in dispute, I feel like the Nobel Peace Prize is a little tainted.

Abby says:

I don’t care for Ann Coulter. I watched her interview several times and I don’t like what she said. Her remarks were terribly offensive to me. I grew up in a Christian household but we never once thought that just because we were Christians that we were supreme over anyone else. I guess maybe I don’t know what religion I am after all. I have friends of many religious beliefs and to me it’s fine if we all think what we believe is right. That’s the Libra in me – everything in balance. Ann Coulter gets way too much media attention and the media just keep coming back for more. She has the publicity thing down. She needs to cut her hair.

Al Gore? I think there has to be something substantial to all his research. Even to those deserving major awards, there are always politics involved somewhere along the line.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Let's Talk!

Sheri says:
Some days I am a huge talker. The phone is permanently attached to my ear. Other days, I am glued to email – sending and receiving. Every once in a while, I want to avoid it all but I can’t. I’ll take a break for a few hours but the ding of email or the blinking light of voicemail beckons me.

I remind myself, especially with the Internet, that any opinion or exposure is now “out there.”

Sometimes things are misinterpreted. Sometimes, I should not have sent that email or left that phone message.

All in all, I spend a great deal of time communicating with my friends and family. Occasionally, I don’t handle it with grace. But, I don’t plan to give it up any time soon.


Abby says:
I want to talk. I personally like talking to people – either on the phone or in person. I think our society is too caught up in email and texting. Sometimes I think it’s an excuse not to communicate. Often times, people take the easy way out of difficult situations and send an email. Email has been an incredibly productive tool for my business, however, there have been situations when it’s also blown up.

I once sat in a meeting with clients and one of them said: “We’ll see you tonight for the presentation.” I said: “Huh, what presentation?” He continued: “Oh, I emailed you last night, didn’t you get the email? We need you to present so and so tonight.” I about croaked. Luckily, I was available. I had not been in the office yet that morning to check my emails. Needless to say, it’s a good lesson in picking up the phone and calling someone if you have something important you need them to do!

There was an article in last week’s “USA Today” about Fridays going from casual dress day to email-free day at some companies – to encourage in-person conversation. While I cannot totally delete my in-box on Fridays I may make an effort to try to pick up the phone more often.

Monday, October 1, 2007

White Lies

Sheri says:

Doesn’t everyone tell some white lies? I do.

* No, your bald spot isn’t increasing.
* What gray hair?
* You look great in that.
* What a cute baby!
* No, that didn’t hurt my feelings.

Actually, I go to great lengths to avoid lying while also keeping kindness in mind. I can dance through a conversation and tango to a new topic.

Brutal honesty isn’t all is cracked up to be. I know honesty is a virtue but seriously, it has its time and place. There are only certain people in my life who have permission to be brutally honest with me. They know who they are and they’re always considerate about it.

White lies are different from big, fat, life altering lies. These might include:

No, I’m not sleeping with her/him.
No, I didn’t gamble away our savings.
I had a physical and it was fine.

The bottom line for me is this: A few white lies to save face or avoid hurting someone are ok. The big lies are never good.

Abby says:

For me, a lie is a lie and there is no such thing as a white lie. Either it is or it isn’t – that simple. That’s my black and white personality coming through.

No, I don’t like to hurt someone’s feelings, but if they ask my opinion, I am going to tell them the truth – hopefully as tactfully as possible. If I cannot, then I won’t answer.

I have told plenty of lies in my life but they were all lies – none of them “white” (or other shades thereof).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Unnecessary Urgency, Now!

Sheri says:

Abby proposed this topic and my initial thought was -- Good one but I’m not sure what I have to say.

I remind myself that Abby is available to clients, night and day. She makes it look easy and it’s not. She cares passionately about her clients. She responds to urgent demands. That’s part of her success – taking nothing away from her amazing talents.

Not to oversimplify, but some of us are demanders and some of us are responders. I refuse to stand in long lines. I use every connection I have to avoid it. I call ahead. I always know the manager’s name.

Today I needed a new watch battery and there were several people in the jewelry store. I was trying to be unobtrusive but I had a limited time frame. I wrote my phone numbers on a piece of paper and was wandering around, looking for an associate. Here comes the owner. They were falling all over me with service and I don’t buy jewelry.

Abby has found the balance. She’s a responder for her clients. She’s a demander in every other situation. She’s saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

I have yet to find the balance.

Abby says:

Sheri is funny. When I proposed this topic, it’s not at all what I had in mind, however, it fits right in with what I was thinking. To me the “now” problem goes even deeper than clients and work. It’s about what American society and culture have become. It’s the I want it now, I need it now, today, right this minute phenomenon. Perhaps technology in the last 5-10 years has really been the driver of being available 24 hours every day of the year. If you want to buy something, it’s midnight and the store is closed, get online and order it NOW from Amazon.com. If you forgot to tell somebody something that “just can’t wait”, get online and email them NOW. Even my mother calls and asks me to look up the latest medical ailment online at 9:00 at night. I happily do it NOW.

Or, how about: “I’ll call you from the car while I’m driving here or there”. What happened to going on vacation without your cell phone or your laptop? What happened to “I’ll get back to you in a few days with that answer”?

We never stop. Maybe it’s greed. Let’s be the first and do it bigger, better, faster. While I embrace the advances made in technology it’s made life exhausting. It’s not right. We have too much access. I am a guilty participant.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pretty People

Sheri says:

Some people are uggo. My husband says these are the people who should not procreate, but of course they always do. Some people are naturally gorgeous – Catherine Zeta Jones comes to mind. The rest of us wind up somewhere in the middle. We can pump up the effort and look reasonably good but if you caught us rolling out of bed, the word “pretty” would not jump to your mind.

Our society has biases about everything. Weight, race, age, ethnicity, religion, wealth, etc. Even beauty.

Pretty people probably get better treatment in stores. There are certain jobs that being pretty is a prerequisite, but only for women. Morley Safer had one foot in the grave and they put him on camera yet, Andrea Mitchell looks younger every time I see her. TV news is a tough job.

Flight attendants used to have weight restrictions. (They called them stewardesses in those days.) Being pretty was another requirement.

Paris Hilton has made a career out of nothing but her looks.

I think pretty people ride high for a while but when the aging process kicks in, it must be terribly depressing. For public figures, it must be awful to overhear, “She’s not aging well.”

Abby says:

Yes, it’s a world based on beauty. Aging Baby Boomers. Vitamins, creams, potions and plastic surgery – all to stay ahead of the aging eight ball. I am a participant. I own all those potions and apply them religiously. New make-up to diminish the appearance of your wrinkles? I’m there. Laser treatments to remove “liver spots”? Bring it on. I highlight my hair in hopes of looking younger than I am. I have even thought about getting hair extensions so I can have long, sexy hair like Gweneth Paltrow. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been intrigued by beauty and glamour. It fascinates me.

I recently had my photo taken publicly for something personally important. In my eyes, I looked like a rhinoceros. It was appalling. My friends were nice and said I looked great. I’d like to take lessons on how to make the camera like me – in case there is a next time. I’m vain (but honest). I was not raised to think this way. My parents taught me that it’s more important to have “internal beauty” than be beautiful. Somewhere along the line I slipped off the wagon and bought into the pretty people concept.

Hopefully I don’t impose my own beauty judgments on other people.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Breaking News

Sheri says:

I am so tired of everything being designated as, “Breaking News.” The media has overused this phrase so often, it has no meaning. Our country under attack is breaking news; O.J. Simpson’s latest arrest is not.

Abby and I both have journalism degrees. That may not qualify us as experts but it definitely provides a perspective.

The local news is even worse than the national coverage. Our local stations have considered the following things as Breaking News: a fire, (it happens almost every day.) A traffic accident, (It definitely happens every day.) A statement from the mayor or governor, (Duh!) An impending storm, (Isn’t this what the weather portion is supposed to cover?)

Since the phrase no longer has impact, I’ve decided to use it in my everyday life. I will announce to my in-laws, “Breaking News: Dinner in 30 minutes!” Or, I will tell the husband, “Breaking News: I’m going to bed now!”

I might call Abby and say, “Breaking News: I’m sore from workout!”

Abby says:

Sheri and I are both annoyed by this. It’s like the little boy (or girl) who cried wolf. I think it’s a ratings game. Let’s see who can be the most sensationalistic today to boost their ratings tomorrow. I used to pay more attention to this when it occurred on the national news, but even they are doing it. Hopefully if something really “breaking” happens, I will remember to pay attention.

This is an embarrassment to the field of journalism. What’s wrong with these reporters, news editors and producers?

This is a timely discussion for me. I am enrolled in a class in NYC – “Principles of Publishing.” This was a topic of discussion for a few of us in class last week. It happens in the big cities too. My classmates are tired of it as well.

Friday, September 14, 2007

If I Did It

Sheri says:

The O.J. Simpson book is being released today. Will you buy it?

I followed the entire trial. Actually, I followed both the criminal and the civil trials with a surreal, bizarre fascination. I remember where I was when the criminal verdict of “not guilty” was read. I took a few law classes in my day, plus our daughter is an attorney. One of the first things you learn is that a verdict of “not guilty” doesn’t mean innocence. It just means guilt wasn’t proven.

I am not alone in thinking this man got away with murder. Even his guilt in the civil suit has proven to be a joke. Of the millions he was ordered to pay, he just worked the system, moved to Florida and protected his assets.

In 1984, I was in a Dallas airport. I met O.J. Simpson. He was in his physical prime. He was handsome and charming. Now I’m repulsed that I’ve shaken his hand. The hand of a killer.

Yet, I’m still listening. I’m still watching. I caught a few minutes of Oprah yesterday with the audience debate. One woman said she will buy the book so the money will go to the Goldman’s charity. Then, she will burn it. Interesting plan.

Abby says:

Yes, guilty, guilty, guilty. I am over him and don’t plan to buy the book. He is repulsing and continuing to get way too much press coverage. I’d rather donate some money to the Goldman family. Ok, news media, let’s move on to a new topic.

Names We Despise

Abby says:

I was applying my make-up listening to the Today Show yesterday morning and heard something so disturbing my skin actually crawled. In response to Meredith Viera’s interview question regarding running for election, Senator Chuck Hagel answered her with the word “dear”. I was somewhat appalled – did he really say that? His tone sounded quite condescending. If responding to Matt Lauer, would he have called him dear? I think not! Ann Curry playfully called Meredith “dear” when they tossed it back to her for the morning’s news. Now, that was funny.

It goes to show you we still live in a man’s world. When Sheri and I worked together at Bank One Corporation, we experienced that quite a bit. The banking world really was a man’s world when we were part of it. I remember one time we were together riding the elevator and one of the men in our corporate lending group (who did not have much respect for marketing people) got in and said: “Oh, here are the marketing gals!”. Ouch! That was humbling. And, we had an internal client who referred to us both as “kiddo”. He’s the same age we are for goodness sakes! And, he reeked of cologne every day.

I dislike being addressed by anyone (other than my grandmother – who has passed on – or a guy that I really like) as “hon” or “honey”, “kiddo”, “sweetie”, “dear”, etc. I think it’s odd when a female young enough to be my daughter addresses me in a store or restaurant with one of these names.

Sheri says:

It’s sad to admit but I have fallen in the habit of occasionally using endearments. But, there’s one big difference. I never, ever use them in a business situation.

When the person at the bank used to call me “kiddo,” I was insulted. Later I started responding to him by saying, “Thanks Pop.” He got the point.

If you are a friend or loved one, I might greet you with, “Hey Baby.” If I ever do this in a business situation, I have lost my mind.

Abby says:

Yes, there’s the BIG difference – never do this in a business situation!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11

Abby says:

I guess I got up on the wrong side of the bed today. Everything has gone wrong from the very start. Poor me. Then I realized in the midst of my so-called “crisis” at work, today is September 11th.

I have a great life. I cannot complain about a thing. I thank God each and every day I wake up for what I have.

I will never forget that day, that week, that month or even that year. I don’t think I turned my television off for a month. I was glued to watching the 9/11 news every moment. New York is my favorite city in the world. Every time I visit, I try to go to Ground Zero for a moment of silence and remembering. It’s hard to believe it’s been six years. Our world is so incredibly different now.

Thoughtless me. I am embarrassed I even thought I was having a bad day today.

Sheri says:

Abby and I have visited Ground Zero several times together. On that incredibly horrible day, we must have talked 50 times. We were glued to the television and the phone. Some journalistic training kicked in, “What do you think that means?” floated back and forth. We analyzed for each other.

The world can only continue to thrive when we pick up the remaining pieces and move on. It’s hard. The threats are still there.

Unlike Abby, my first thought this morning was: Today is September 11th.

Abby says:

As I was driving home from a late meeting last night, my last thought was: Tomorrow is September 11th. How quickly I got wrapped up in “me” and forgot to reflect this morning.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Money Pits

Sheri says:

I have a primal attachment to my home. I love it. It’s not grand but it’s old and comfortable, just like me.

My husband and I bought this house for two reasons:
We were sick of the commute from our old house to our respective offices downtown,
We fell in love with the neighborhood. Secluded, wooded, close to everything.

We did not fall in love with the house but we could see the potential. So, we started the journey of making it our own. If I were a braver person, I would add up all the money we’ve spent but I’m afraid my heart couldn’t take it.

Before we moved in, we gutted the bulk of it. We moved walls. We changed entrances. We totally redesigned the kitchen and master bath. We took space off the sunroom so I could have a bigger closet. We took space from one of the bedrooms so we could have a larger master bath. In the midst of all this construction, one of our friends stopped by and said, “Oh my Gosh! What are you doing?” We didn’t care. We had a vision.

I work in a little office off my kitchen. The view is terrific, especially when the dog is romping in the back yard. When I curl up with a book, my sunroom is my haven. My closet is large and I don’t have to share it. My kitchen has housed many conversations and parties. Holidays are easy here. Thanks to my husband’s vision, our floor plan is very conducive to entertaining.

When we were remodeling, I remarked, “Please make sure the hallways are wide enough to get in a stretcher. That’s the way I’m going out.”

Now the husband is ready to downsize. He wants a condo. I don’t. The property taxes are crazy and there is always something in need of repair. It’s not rational and I know our finances would be better with a move but I’m just not there. I love my home and I’m not going.

Abby says:

I have had two money pits in my life. The first was a great old 1990 Saab that I bought used a few years ago to have as a knock-around weekend car. The day after I bought it from the dealership, it died. When I went to start it the next morning, the battery was dead. The dealer put a new battery in, and that was the last “free item” I received from them. Because it had about 100,000 miles on it (which is not much for a used Saab), it began to need some of this and some of that. About $3000 later, I decided to sell the car – to the mechanic who had worked on it over the years. I rarely drove the thing and it was truly a big money pit. No more used cars for fun!

My current money pit is my closet. I am sure Sheri would like to comment on that one.

Sheri says:

Oh, the temptation! But, the moment I start on your closet it might give you permission to comment on my book buying sprees.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Where There's Smoke, Is There Fire?

Sheri says:
I try to avoid being fodder for the rumor mill. I don't always succeed. I'm a little too "out there." My theory has always been that the people who know me and love me will be in my corner. Unfortunately, it's not always true.


Usually, the cliche, "Where there's smoke, there's fire" is true. There's a reason a cliche becomes a cliche. But ... sometimes it's just a hateful rumor. Once I had a woman annihilate me in public because she thought I was looking at her husband. This was untrue on so many levels. I don't even like her husband, but I happen to adore mine. Her husband is unattractive and boring. I don't want to get caught in a conversation with him, let alone flirt with him.


Many years ago, Abby, her husband and I worked for the same company. I was great friends with both of them. Her husband and I would take our coffee/smoke breaks together with another friend. The rumor mill buzzed. There was no smoke. There was no fire. It was a simple and fun friendship that I miss. But hey, I got to keep Abby!


Abby says:
Yes, the rumor mill buzzed about Sheri and my husband, especially during the process of him becoming "not my husband". Those rumors were especially hurtful because they came from people I somewhat trusted and they were misconstrued. Oh, well, in the end I kept Sheri as my friend, not them (or my husband).


For me personally, the smoke has not been caused from the fire -- it's from the pyromaniacs who don't have enough to do all day and wish to stir up gossip. Because I'm single and older, I must be a "ho". I have been accused of having affairs with people I barely know. I own a business. I talk to a lot of people. I gesticulate when I talk. Maybe that appears flirtatious. I talk to a lot of men -- there are a lot of them in my industry. Talking is how I set up deals and get business. It's amazing how people turn that into "I heard you are dating so and so".


When I worked for Bank One Corporation, the rumor when I got hired is that my dad got me the job -- he worked there at the time. This was so far from the truth as I did everything possible to make sure he had no involvement. The funny twist on that is Sheri did not want me to get hired because she thought I was unqualified! (I proved her wrong). I work with a lot of people in the health care industry. It is full of rumors of all kinds. Some of the best ones are true and some are hateful and malicious.


I love to hear rumors but typically keep them to myself as I remember how they feel when they become personal.


Sheri says:
I wanted you to be hired. I was just nervous about that particular position. As usual, you proved me wrong.


Abby says:
Rumor has it you did not like me for a long time. I guess it all worked out!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Do Religious Beliefs Change As We Age?

Abby says:
Ever since I was a young girl, I had a strong sense of spirituality and God. I never felt I needed organized religion; however, I grew up in a Catholic household and attended 12 years of parochial schools. I lived daily with nuns who carried (and used) rulers as their ammunition to make us memorize, recite and learn. Needless to say, organized religion was in my life to stay along with some of the guilt that can accompany it.

I remember as a grade-schooler being introduced to confession. It was utterly frightening and kept me up at nights. Imagine once per week as a very young person having to “confess your sins” behind a dark red velvet curtain to a priest then performing whatever penance he gave you. How many sins could an 11-year-old girl commit in seven days? Some of us would get together in the bathroom prior to confession and decide what we would say. The poor priest – we all went in confessing the same thing every time.

By the time I got to college, I experimented with other religions and went to the synagogue with my Jewish friends. I actually began to embrace that faith more than I did Catholicism. Later, I married in the Methodist church. The older I grew, the more I began to deeply question my faith. I didn’t really have a problem with Catholic “biblical” teachings, rather, their human interpretations. No birth control. No marrying a divorced person in the Church. No receiving the sacraments unless you had been to confession. Priests who drove corvettes. The list went on. I am a really practical person and this seemed very unbending and impractical.

Fast forward twenty-some years later. Am I Catholic? Probably partially – I don’t think one ever totally lets go of that upbringing. Am I Jewish? Not really, but I embrace, am interested in and celebrate their holidays and traditions with my Jewish friends. Am I Methodist? No.

Old habits die hard. Ironically, if I had kids growing up today I would not hesitate to put them into Catholic schools. While it was a stern upbringing, I not only got a solid education, but I learned about discipline (the hard way). In our world today with hate and crime, that is not a half-bad thing. To this day I still have my first rosary and prayer book tucked away secretly in a drawer.

Sheri says:
Religion is part of who I am as a person. I am Methodist, although I have a lot of experience in the Catholic Church and I am quite comfortable with mass and many of the rituals. I’m not comfortable with Papal supremacy – isn’t he just a man? I’m not comfortable with the no birth control rule. I’m not comfortable with how some priests are very rigid and some are very fluid with the rules.

I’ve known people who could not get an annulment and therefore were unable to marry their true love in their chosen faith. I’ve known others who have been married in the Catholic Church even though they were divorced and no annulment was achieved.

I loved going to confession. (I had one of those liberal priests who let me go through the rituals even though I wasn’t officially Catholic.) The miracle of it! Confess your sins, do your penitence and Poof! You are forgiven!

Eventually, I settled back comfortably in the Methodist faith. Other than the Pope and the saints, the fundamentals are quite similar.

One of my favorite people on this planet is a devout Christian. But instead of being preachy, he loves a healthy discussion/debate about religions – all of them. He’s well traveled and well-versed in theology. He sends me articles and recommends books. A few years ago, he gave me a book titled, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” It was fascinating.

He’s still going to church. Most of the time, so am I.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Flirting

Sheri says:
Who wouldn’t agree that flirting is fun? It’s a dance that makes you feel attractive and strokes the ego. Like everything thrilling, there’s an element of danger. In my world, there are three levels of flirting:

Harmless: These are the people you’ve known forever. They trust you; you trust them. They pat you or kiss you. You know their spouses and their children. They tell you that you look pretty and then they go back to good behavior.
Medium: The hand strays a bit. The kiss is too long. The compliments get a little lewd. Some sort of sexual innuendo comes into play.
Over the Top: I will kiss you hello but please don’t try to put your tongue in my mouth. I will hug you but please don’t grope me. I will dance with you but please don’t throw me around like I’m your play doll of the moment.

I love to flirt. I love men. Most of all, I love my husband. That doesn’t stop me from finding other men interesting or him from finding other women attractive. As long as everyone behaves, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Abby says:
Hmm. I have a really different view. I don’t consider the “harmless” displays of affection with a good friend actually flirting – especially when you’re all out together with your respective spouses/significant others. To me they are what they are. I do, however, think the ongoing “medium” grade (and above) flirting Sheri refers to can be fodder for the danger zone, and I’ve seen these innocent encounters turn into full-blown affairs – many times – especially when one is “lonely” or “not happy in their current relationship”. In my opinion, body language is the key and tells all.

My thought? Keep the flirtations in private if you’re going to truly flirt or be prepared to join the rumor mill wall of fame. You never know who’s watching or listening. Things can be misconstrued, taken out of context and passed on as gossip. I see and hear it each and every day. I’ll give you an example. I was in a coffee shop one afternoon and a really nice looking guy about my age walked in. He was by himself until two very cute, bouncy high school girls walked in. One girl immediately appeared to be “all over him”. I thought to myself, “What a scumbag. He’s going for a teenager!” I had to hang my head in shame. When the girls left, one of them said “Thank you for the coffee, dad!”. I hear gossip at least once a week about this person or that person and how they are having an affair – and I know it’s just not true. That’s how juicy rumors begin.

Me? Like everything else in my life, I would be a private flirter. I walked into the shopping mall 2 weeks ago and a nice (cute) high school boy held the door for me. Then, he told me to have a good day. Then, he said “You’re a** looks really good in those white pants”. Instead of being flattered at this over the top flirtation, I ran for the nearest dress rack, totally embarrassed!

Sheri says:
Inappropriate? Yes. Over-the-top? No.

Body language is certainly a key factor. Having an unwelcome tongue stuck down your throat is another. Obviously, people define flirting in different ways.

Regardless, the rumor mill will keep on churning.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tip Jar Trends

Abby says:

When do you leave a tip?

I’ve always thought of this as something reserved for (hopefully good) service in a sit-down restaurant or bar where you’re actually being served. Or, maybe at a nice night club for someone who is playing the piano or strolling the room with a violin. I guess that theory has expanded itself somewhere along the way.

I’ve recently noticed more and more fast-food restaurants are handing out receipts that have blank lines for leaving a tip. This is disturbing to me. These folks are not even bringing food to my table or wiping it up with I am done eating. Many times, I am getting mine to go. There are no cooks or wait staff. I assume these order takers/cashiers are being paid an hourly wage. What is equally disturbing is when they display glass tip jars with home-made signs scribbled in marking pen.

For what are we tipping? I never tip in these circumstances. Often times I get hateful stares when I write “zero” in the tip amount line (or, am I just imagining this?). I need some direction.

Sheri says:

Like Abby, I tip often and I tip well. As a creature of habit, I tend to frequent the same establishments and these people take excellent care to provide quality service. I reward accordingly.

I spoke with the bar manager at one of these establishments. A great portion of his income is supplemented by tips but as he pointed out to me, there’s a huge difference between where he works and some of the businesses that just plop a tip jar on the counter and hope you’ll chip in.

I don’t mind tipping for service. I wish we had more businesses providing something that remotely resembles service. Once I’ve poured my own soft drink and pumped my own ketchup, I’m a little annoyed to see the tip jar.

Our daughter worked her way through college and law school in the food service industry. I know how important the tips were to her. But again, if you tipped her, it was because she was cordial and prompt. She brought your drinks and food. Hopefully, she made the dining experience easier and more pleasant. She did not hand you a paper thimble and instruct you on where to find the condiments.

Here’s an interesting twist. About ten years ago, I bought my husband a piano. We spend many hours around it, often with friends. One of our friends bought us a gift – a large and beautiful vase. He declared it “the tip jar.” It still sits on our piano and on many occasions I’ve strolled through the room the morning after a party and there is actually money in it!

It just proves my theory: With enough wine or beer involved, people will tip for anything.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Marriage Secret

Sheri says:
I wish I knew the secret. Some make it; some don’t. Other than those people who get drunk in Vegas and marry in front of the Elvis impersonator, I don’t think anyone takes it lightly. If it fails, it’s gut wrenching. No one explains that to you when you’re standing at the altar.

The first time I got married was more than 23 years ago. We had a beautiful wedding but I don’t think either of us was prepared for the actual marriage part. Plus, we were both too young. Yet, the too young excuse is pretty lame. I know a number of people who married young and have made it work. So, maybe I just was more infatuated with the wedding and the pageantry. I did love him, still do. But, we weren’t married very long and I think it was my fault.

My husband and I have been married a long time. A lot of people thought it wouldn’t work between us. We’re just prickly enough and determined enough to prove them wrong. There must be some point of maturity (or stubbornness) that happened. Even when I’m tempted, I refuse to throw in the towel. Our favorite joke is, “We’ve been married 15 years – two of the best years of my life!”

Every marriage has its share of secrets. Whenever I get really envious of someone else’s relationship, I remind myself of that.

It takes two people to make a marriage and in general, it takes two to screw it up. Didn’t we learn this in physics? Every action has a reaction. Sometimes you can change your entire world by how you choose to react.

Abby says:
I have a very different outlook on the concept of marriage than I did in my mid twenties when I wed. Back then, I bought into the idea that you could stay truly committed to one person for the rest of your adult life. I was brought up that way. I watched my parents do it and so I thought I could, too. Today in my forties, I just don’t know.

When you’re young, you don’t know the questions to ask a potential spouse. What are your money and spending habits? Do you believe in fidelity? What is your parents’ marriage like? Did your father ever have extra-marital affairs? Did he ever hit your mother? What are your goals for the future? Do you want to have kids? If so, how many? If we “can’t” have kids, is that ok? What are your feelings about a pre-nuptial agreement? Did you grow up in an abusive household? How do you feel about sharing a bank account or “sharing” in general?

These are just some of the questions that we learn in hindsight to ask as we get older and smarter. If I’d had the brain and experience of a 45-year-old when I married in my mid-twenties, I would have made different decisions. I would have treated marriage more like a “business decision” than an emotional one – which is exactly how I would treat it today.

In all honesty, I am not sure I want to be with just one other person from now until eternity. I am not sure I can make that commitment. After being single for so long that’s a lot to ask. I am not envious of anyone’s marriage – not even close. I would live with someone, but then again, there’s an out with that if it’s necessary. I am not a commitment phobe. I was in my marriage for the long haul – he was not. I guess now, I’m just more of a realist.

If there are children in the picture, that’s a whole other story for another blog posting. With kids, I believe and understand in making that commitment work – even in the worst possible circumstances.

Sheri says:
Kids do take the commitment to a new (and possibly deeper) level. But, in the worst possible circumstances, i.e. abuse, serial adultery, etc., I believe you should grab the kids and get the hell out of Dodge.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When Is Quitting Ok?

Sheri says:
Regardless of the activity, at some point you may want to quit. It may be a sports team or it may be a job. I quit ballet once and then begged my parents to take me back. My son quit football after a few years and has never looked back.

Sometimes, it might be a relationship.

My parents frowned on this. "You made a commitment and you will abide by it!" This is drilled into my brain. I don't give up easily. But, when I have mulled it over and made my decision, it is not negotiable. I am done.

It's a delicate dance. Knowing when to stick it out and knowing when to throw in the towel is a challenge.

Quitting can be an easy out. Or, it can free you to do other things.

Abby says:
I am with Sheri – which is one reason we get along well as friends and colleagues. The word “quit” has never been a part of my vocabulary. To me it does not exist. When people say “Hang in there; don’t be a quitter” I cringe – especially when it involves a young person. I get a visual image of a little league dad screaming loudly at his young son who doesn’t really even want to play in little league.

To me, if something does not work out, and you’ve given it your all, move on. And, it’s OK to move on. I have a very black and white outlook on life, so this is an easy one for me. Either it’s working or it’s not.

For example, while I’m not promoting divorce, sometimes people grow apart or it just ends up not working. Society in general punishes us for these things. When filling out applications I am often asked if I'm “single” or “divorced”. Why do they need to know? I don’t have any dependents. It’s none of anyone’s biz. Maybe they should ask if I was a “quitter” instead (at my marriage).

I cannot think of anything I quit in my life – probably because I don’t look at making life changes as “quitting”.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Regrets ... I Have a Few

One of our readers wrote in and suggested we blog about one thing we regret from our past. Thanks for the suggestion. Here are our thoughts.

Sheri says:
Regrets can either make you stronger or do you in. I agree with Frank Sinatra.
“Regrets. I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.”

Well, I’ll mention a couple.

· I regret any commitment I did not keep, including standing on the altar and saying, “I do.”
· I regret any bad habit that has hurt my health.
· I regret missing a chance to say, “I love you” to any person who is no longer here to hear it.
· I regret wishing time away. I want some of it back.
· I regret every dream I gave up because someone convinced me it was silly or unattainable.

When I was a child, I dreamt of being a ballet dancer. People told me I wasn’t tall enough, thin enough, talented enough, etc. But it was my dream. I wanted to go to New York and pursue it. When I was in college and decided journalism was my passion, I had visions of grandeur. I was going to save the world with my reporting. A professor told me I didn’t have the chops. Now I know differently.

I’m not sorry for the roads taken. I’m sorry I was foolish enough to listen to people who enjoyed stomping on my dreams.

If we all learn from our mistakes and regrets, they have served their purpose. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on them. But, sometimes they come to visit in the wee small hours of the morning.

Abby says:
I try not to dwell on the past. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I guess those have shaped who I am today. I really have only one “big” regret that I would go back in time to change. Believe or not it’s not my former marriage. It’s the whole college experience. While I was lucky to be a varsity swimmer at a Big Ten school, the stresses that went along with it were unbearable at times.

My typical college day was to awaken at 4:45 am, ride my bike to the pool for practice, then go to classes (hopefully staying awake!). At 3:30 pm I had to be back on it for weight training, followed by two more hours of swimming. After that, it was training table until 8:30. On the weekends, we competed in Saturday dual meets – sometimes at home and sometimes far away. I rarely slept. It was hard to find study time without distractions. I was a small fish in a big sea. My grades were ok but not the A’s that I wanted and had received in high school.

When my parents told me to pay attention in college – because it will have impact on the rest of my life – they really were right. Fast forward to today. I am applying to graduate school in a program I very much want to participate. I am not sure if my grades will cut the mustard in today’s competitive environment. Here I am at 45 worrying that what I did in college will impact me 22 year later. It’s true.

If I could go back and change my college years, I would go to a smaller school and compete at the Division II or III level – focusing more on my schoolwork and less on sports. I probably would have chosen a university on the east coast – my favorite place in the world. I hope I would appreciate the knowledge and opportunity more so than I did back then.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It's Your Turn

As of yesterday, this blog has 30 posts and a respectable number of hits. We're honored that people take the time to read it. Now, we want to get your ideas. Please leave a comment at the bottom of this post and tell us what topics you’d like us to blog about. Nothing is off limits. Think of all the drama and controversy you encounter every day – whether at work or on television, etc. There are lots of great topics swirling around. Remember, there’s an election around the corner!

We want this to be an open and honest forum for women to speak up. We are opinionated and open for discussion. Maybe you want to vent … maybe you just discovered a great new product … maybe you have a question. We have developed an amazing network, plus we are both trained journalists. Attorneys, human resource professionals, doctors and politicians... we'll track them down, use their expertise and welcome them to this forum. Bring it on!

To comment anonymously:
Click the “comments” button at the end of this article. Type your comment in the blank box. Click the circle that says “anonymous” (unless you want to use your name). Then click the button that says “publish your comment”.

You don’t need to sign in or have an account.

We look forward to getting some good topics and having a candid girl chat about each and every one.

Abby and Sheri

Monday, August 6, 2007

Obituaries

Abby says:

This may sound a bit morbid but I read the obituaries every day. I mainly do this because 9 times out of 10 I know someone who’s listed. I try to send cards or attend services where appropriate. We’re at that age where people around us are dying. I learn a lot about people reading their obits. What they accomplished. What type of family members they had. Where they went to school. Charitable organizations they were passionate about. What their nicknames were. Many times, however, it’s not apparent how these people died, and I’m often curious. I wonder what happened to them – especially when they are young.

In my Sunday paper, I read a rather disturbing obit. There was a photo of a young man who appeared to be in his 20s. The copy said he had taken his own life – unintentionally – with drug use. It went on to state the dangers of drug use by young people. It talked about how he had devastated his entire family including a 3-year-old daughter. It continued on to lecture those who think they may want to use drugs and the risks involved. Quite non-traditional, but very moving. I hope what his family wrote will save some other young people’s lives.

Sheri says:

Good thought and nice wishes. However, I don’t think most young people read the obituaries. I also don’t think these kinds of stories resonate unless it’s very close to home. Even then, there’s an air of invincibility that comes with youth.

I also read the obituaries every day. I scan to see if there is anyone I know. Then, I go back and read the ones with the quirky nicknames. I am obsessed with it. Some families feel the need to state the obvious, i.e. Robert “Bob” Johnson. (As if the reading public couldn’t figure that one out.) Others include ridiculous nicknames, i.e. Robert “Goofball” Johnson. Not very dignified.

We’ve lost a lot of dignity in our society. People wear jeans to weddings and funerals. My husband always says, “Look, he’s wearing his good black jeans.” I’m still old-fashioned enough to think your obituary and your funeral should be dignified.

As a control freak, I plan to write my own obituary and let my loved ones know where to find it. No nicknames allowed.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

To the Grave

Sheri says:

Business situations often require a signed confidentiality agreement. I'm trustworthy and I sign it. The legal stuff gets on my nerves but I go along.

Girlfriends never put a piece of paper in front of you. They just say, "I need to tell you something. Please don't share it." Sometimes we say it, sometimes we don't. It's implied. It's "to the grave."

This is a gigantic leap of faith. I have told girlfriends all of my faults, my marital issues, my financial stuff and much, much more. Our kids occasionally make me crazy ... I tell my girlfriends. Ex-wives and ex-husbands and in-laws ... I vent to my girlfriends. If I'm contemplating any change in my life, I run it by the girlfriends.

There's no piece of paper. Every once in a while we venture into scary territory. I am not afraid. I trust these people with my heart and soul. I trust them to the grave.

Abby says:

Unlike Sheri, I have become very guarded as I've aged. I used to tell my friends absolutely everything -- until it once came back to haunt me in a big way (not with Sheri or current friends). So, I am completely gun shy. I am intensely private. As close as Sheri and I are to this day, I have even turned the faucet off with her. It has hurt her feelings. I have apologized to her. But, this is my reality.

Hopefully, even though I don't divulge a lot of deep and dark secrets, my small circle of friends knows how important they are and that with me, once you're in, you're in for good.

Sheri says:

Yes, it occasionally hurts my feelings. On the other hand, it makes for a great escape when I'm guessing about your life.

Seriously, that's part of our friendship. It's your choice and I respect it.

However one chooses to deal with personal details and secrets is an intimate choice. Just knowing that you have friends in your corner is often a welcome relief from the stress, even if you don't share the details.

We have a lot of people in our corners.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Emoticons and Email

Abby says:
I send thousands of emails every week that are work related. I send hundreds more that are personal in nature. I consider myself somewhat Internet savvy. I surf all day long. I give talks on customer service and always include a section on “email etiquette”. Yet, I never understood all the emails I continually receive with smiley faces at the end (even smileys that move and shake) or symbols combined to actually convey messages.

I was reading my “New York Times” Sunday morning and found my answer. Emoticons. It sounds like an ingredient you’d find in Pepto Bismol. But, it’s the latest in symbol communication for email. The Miriam Webster definition is: a group of keyboard characters (like :-C) that typically represents a facial expression or suggests an attitude or emotion and that is used especially in computerized communications (such as e-mail).

I did not realize they had a name and a dictionary listing. Are we going to have to now learn shorthand for email? I totally don’t get this. It’s code. Like text messaging a teenager. Maybe I just need to further investigate, but I cannot imagine using emoticons in any type of serious business communication with my clients.

If you’re having a bad day, should I email you with an upside down smiley face and say sorry but I still "Heart" you ? I don’t think so!

I suppose I better study up just in case a client puts an emoticon in an email to me that I need to de-code. Or, in case someone in Slytherin House at Hogwarts needs to secretly contact me. I can let them know how l:-( I am.

You can click here to read the NYTimes article and view the common emoticon symbols to see for yourself. When you get to the New York Times home page, search "emoticons" and the story will come up.

Sincerely, your BFF, Abby

(that’s “best friends forever” for those of you who are not up on the lingo).

Sheri says:
I am not up on the lingo. I had never heard this word until Abby introduced it to me. I can barely work my iPod but I am able to maneuver the Internet a bit. I send tons of emails and I think the only emoticon symbol I’ve ever used is the smiley face. That is saved for friends and family, never a client.

Text messaging is a foreign world to me. I receive them but I couldn’t send one if I had to. This is something I plan to learn but I’m delaying it as long as possible.

All of this makes me feel old. I try to catch up but I am struggling.

Technology is great and I use it every day. But, nothing is quite as satisfying as putting a nice pen to some quality paper and writing a note, drafting some thoughts, or writing a journal entry.
Emoticons probably serve their purpose but the writer in me thinks people shouldn’t need them. Like my mother and every English teacher taught me, “Use your words.”

Abby says:
I agree with Sheri. The writer in my likes my pretty pens in varying colors of ink and my many secret journals. I love to write in them every night. I’m afraid the world is replacing conversation with electronic communication. I don’t like that. I prefer to pick up the phone and call someone. Or, send my personal notes via “snail mail”.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Barbie Dolls

Sheri says:
I was a part of the Barbie doll generation. I had several Barbies, Ken, Midge and Skipper. I think I might have even had a G.I. Joe that someone passed along to me.

Playing Barbie is a great example of economics -- the puzzle of the haves and have nots. I had a lot of accessories but certainly not all of the ones I coveted. I made do.

My body has never looked like Barbie. My breasts don't jut out from my collarbone and my legs do not make up 3/4 of my body. I do own some cute clothes and a mind-boggling array of shoes.
As I got older, I used to have Barbie and Ken go on a date -- and do some other stuff. Then she met G.I. Joe.

Abby says:
Ok I think I must be weird and/or abnormal. I did have a couple of Barbie's and they were kept in this very cool pink carry case with her clothing and plastic shoes. The pink case was much cooler than Barbie herself.

I never got it, though. When all my friends were playing with dolls, I was trying to figure out how to "own the doll shop" and be a little entrepreneur. Must have something to do with why I never had the urge to procreate. I missed that gene!

Reconnecting With An Old Friend

Abby says:

In a recent post, we list some of our favorite things to do before summer’s over. One of mine was to reconnect with an old friend. That was the only thing left to do on my list and I finally did it.

I called my friend Becky. We were best friends in high school and roommates in college. We were inseparable. We did everything together. We double dated. We were total trouble. She graduated with her nursing degree, got married and before I knew it, moved away. Other than the sporadic high school reunions, we have all but lost touch.

How does that happen? Especially with me, “Ms. Technology and Email?” How is it that you spend all your spare waking moments in high school and college with someone, then, before you know it you haven’t seen or talked to them in 5 or more years? It’s not that they become unimportant. I guess it’s just easy to get swept up in our day-to-day lives. I guess that’s my excuse.

What’s even worse is that a close family member of hers passed away last year. I feel terrible. I did not know. I even make it a point to read the obituaries because I typically know one person a week who is listed. I am sad.

I am making an effort to keep in touch permanently.

Sheri says:

This was not on my list. I’m pretty good at keeping in touch.

My oldest two girlfriends are people that I’ve known forever. One I met in kindergarten and one in middle school. We’re still extremely close and we work at it. The relationship is important.

I had a group of friends in college that were my core for several years. I’d lost touch with most of them, except for the occasional Christmas card. Then someone in our group died. I didn’t know and I missed the funeral. Within the last year or so, I’ve reconnected with a few of them. It’s fun and nothing compares with that trip down memory lane.

Abby and I lost touch once. Thankfully, we reconnected.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sheri's Gym

Abby says:
We’ve not told you about Sheri’s Gym. Sheri and I started this many years ago. In addition to my marketing company, I also own a side biz doing personal training and Spinning classes. I’ve been teaching fitness classes since I was 15 years old and never got it out of my blood. It’s my outlet from work and stress.

Sheri’s Gym started with 4 women who wanted to get into shape. We met 3 mornings a week at the wee hour of 6:30 am for workout “torture”. I trained them in Sheri’s sun porch using dumb bell weights and calisthenics routines. We were so into it that Sheri’s husband (aka Big Daddy) and her dad built us a “real gym” in Sheri’s basement. It’s darn cool. Mirrors. Ballet bars.

Now, we have a stepper, weight bench, free weights, bands, videos and more for a complete torture regimen by Abby. We watch the Today Show while they workout. We’ve grown to 5 members. It’s chaos. They complain. But, they are in shape.

We even designed a logo and made tank tops and sweat shirts. Whenever I wear my attire, people stop me and say “That’s a cool logo. Where is Sheri’s Gym? I have never heard of it.” I just laugh to myself and tell them it’s a very private and exclusive club.

Next year will be the 9-year anniversary of Sheri’s Gym. The “members” have become some of my very best friends.

Sheri says:
6:30 is bliss. When I worked at Banc One Corporation, I rose and worked out at 5:30. Of course, I was a lot younger then.

I’ve got to give Abby a lot of credit. These are cranky people at this hour of the morning. A lot of the time, she’s saying, “What are you doing? Please pay attention.” Or, someone starts telling a story and we’re all so enthralled that workout comes to a complete halt. Sometimes, everyone arrives and one of us will say, “Let’s just have coffee today.” Abby does not let us get away with that.

Once a week or so, she threatens to quit on us. We’re not buying it. She would have to relinquish all of her “Sheri’s Gym” attire.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Being Domestic

Abby says:
There is something about occasionally being domestic that makes me feel really good. Or, maybe useful. I don’t know. I rarely have the time to cook or entertain, so I relish the times that I do. I think sometimes I am so stressed with work schedules and deadlines that I seek domesticity out – to feel somewhat “normal”. I know I can bring home the bacon but rarely can I fry it up (unless it can be microwaved).

I was reading a trash novel last week and one of the characters mentioned pot roast with red wine and porcini mushrooms. Umm, I thought. That sounds very intriguing. I need to make that. So, I Googled this dish and came up with several recipes. Twenty minutes later, walah! It was great and I have a week’s worth of meals now. My dog, Mags, just lies on the floor sighing at me – this upset her schedule terribly to see me slaving over a stove!

For me, it was more cathartic than doing 5 loads of laundry or planting flowers. I felt like Martha Stewart for a few hours. Back to reality tomorrow.

Sheri says:
I don’t know when this happened but I am extremely domesticated. (Does that mean I have been tamed?) I like to cook, when it’s my idea. I like the smell of freshly laundered clothes but I do not like someone asking me about the laundry. I hate running errands; I do it anyway. We have a big ol’, money pit house. Something always needs done. My in-laws live with us. My baby is headed to college. My husband travels and golfs a lot. The dog needs training. Oh, and I have deadlines.

I’d like Martha Stewart to spend a few hours at my house.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Top Summer Reads

Abby says:
I love to read. It’s my passion. It’s my escape. I love to imagine that I am characters in some of the books I read. Here are my top 5 favorites to date this summer.

“Quickie”: James Patterson
He’s the prolific mystery/suspense king and did not disappoint on this one either. I read it in 2 hours on the edge of my seat.

“When Day Breaks”: Mary Jane Clark
It’s a great mystery intertwining scandal and television personalities.

“Wild Fire”: Nelson DeMille
The military mystery maestro kept my pulse racing with this one. Terrorism is scarier than we could ever imagine. Main character, Detective John Corey, has his usual great sense of humor.

“Bungalow 2”: Danielle Steele
This is Danielle Steele at her finest. Hollywood, trash, sex, cheating, lies and more. Quick read!

“Fresh Disasters”: Stuart Woods
Another Stone Barrington suspense. I think I need to meet him. He sounds fun, sexy and mysterious. And, he lives in Manhattan. What else could a girl wish for?

Sheri says:
I also love to read and I can get a little nutty when I don’t get the chance. It is fantasy yet, I also learn.

My top 5 for the summer have been:

“Dream When You’re Feeling Blue”: Elizabeth Berg
I love everything she writes. This will take you through WWII and the magical bond that sisters have.

“Nineteen Minutes”: Jodi Picoult
If you’ve ever been bullied or worried about someone bullying your child, this is a new perspective. If you’re haunted by the Columbine tragedy or Virginia Tech, you will be mesmerized. It sounds depressing but it is totally engaging.

“Barefoot”: Elin Hilderbrand
Two sisters and a girlfriend on Nantucket. A houseboy. Men who come and go. A summer romp with serious overtones.

“Body Surfing”: Anita Shreve
She always makes me think in a new way.

“The Land of Mango Sunsets”: Dorothea Benton Frank
Good southern humor and lots of family twists and turns.

I like to go back and re-read certain books. I love certain poetry. I love “Gone with the Wind.” I’m pretty sure I could entertain myself with the dictionary.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Working From Home

Sheri says:
Everyone seems to wish to work from home. I do it. Let me tell you, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, you can design your own dress code. Yes, you can enjoy the flexibility of putting a load of laundry in the washer.

Other than that, it’s like taffy. You are constantly pulled in new directions. You can be working on a project and the exterminator calls. You can be washing dishes and a client calls. You never seem to have both feet in the same world.

I could rent office space but I’m stubborn. All of the phone messages and chores would still be waiting for me.

Abby says:
I worked from home for 2 years when I started my business. The first six months were great. I was in heaven. Then, clients came traipsing through my house, sometimes as late as midnight to deliver jobs to me. It was tough – you have to be “available” when they are. So, I never felt I totally got away from work.

I then moved to my current office space. It’s nice. I get up and "dress up" for work. I am now able to separate work and home. And, when I want to work from home, I do and I can. Wearing my bathrobe until noon when I’m on a conference call feels really nice once in awhile.

Sheri says:
Just like we said on our post about technology, I don’t think it matters where you are. People will find you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Name Game

Sheri says:

I’ve been divorced. I don’t recommend it but sometimes it is the best solution. Some of us make wrong choices. I don’t think there’s any prize at the end of our lives for living with mistakes for 50 or so years.

One of the plus sides of divorce is getting to choose your name. I have used my birth name: first, middle and last. I have taken my husbands’ names. I have replaced my birth-given middle name with my maiden name. When Abby and I worked at the bank, I was going through a divorce and actually sent out a memo announcing that I was going back to my maiden name. I’m not sure I would do that again.

When I married my current (and last) husband, he was adamant about me taking his name. I disagreed but I did it anyway. Now, I’m glad I made that choice. I like having that in common. It’s like we’re related, but not really.

I am finally comfortable with my name. I will NEVER change it again.

Abby says:

Sheri has been married more than I so she has a bit more experience with the name/identity change. When I got married I sort of changed my name. I did the hyphenated Marmion-McDaniel thing which was absolutely retarded. My husband, Ty, did not care for that. He did not understand that I had a professional identity to maintain. So, I then changed my name to McDaniel -- his last name. It never sunk in with some people. One night we were at a party and someone introduced him as Ty Marmion. I thought he was going to die.

Then, he divorced me. I will never forget the minute he made his grand announcement. I immediately started answering my phone at work again as Marmion. He was stunned. I told him, “That’s what you get when you leave. Bye Bye.”

My sister has completely changed her name from Marmion to:
De Marmion. That is our family surname – which dates back to the medieval days. Yes, I am a direct descendent of Sir Robert De Marmion – he was William the Conqueror’s Champion at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. I am a descendent of the Vikings (Normans). Cool!

If I change my name again, it will be to De Marmion. Or, if I get married again, maybe my new husband will take my last name...

Sheri says:

Yes, I have been married more than Abby but I don’t think I’m going to give Elizabeth Taylor a run for the record.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ten+ Things To Do Before the End of Summer

We love summer. It never lasts long enough. That’s probably why we feel compelled to visit warmer climates during the winter. Here are our 10+ things:

Sheri’s Top 5:
Jump off a diving board.
We all did this as children. Go ahead. Get your hair wet. Last year, I attempted a back flip and failed miserably. I did it time and time again until I got it right. I was bruised and miserable but I did manage one good one. I have not done this yet this summer.

Go on a picnic (or at least eat outside.)
I am not a big fan of bugs and flying insects. Yet, I love to eat outside. When there’s a mound of snow on my patio, I love to remember the meals we shared during the summer.

Read a “beach” book.
There’s a time and place for all kinds of reading material. Summer is the time to enjoy a light-hearted romp – the trashier the better.

Visit a farm stand.
Load up. Suck the juice from the in-season fruit. Gnaw on a fresh tomato. Make fruit salad and fresh salsa. Have melon or berries for dessert every night.

Take long walks.
This is more fun with a dog. They are fascinated. “Look at this blade of grass!” I like to memorize everything so I can think of the flowers and greenery when the trees are bare.

Abby’s Top 5:
Even though I am still working as much as I do in the winter, I try to take time out to enjoy the extended daylight.

Read something substantial.
Get in bed early and read a book that will stimulate your thinking. I’m reading the biography of Albert Einstein. It’s heavy stuff but a great history lesson!

Enjoy the flowers.
Plant colorful flowers in an outdoor pot or window box. You’ll feel accomplished and have something beautiful to look at. My favorites are zinnias.

Take it outside.
Change your exercise routine to include an outdoor activity. Walking your dog counts too! My friend Cynthia from Sheri’s Gym started riding her bike.

Vary your cooking.
Cook a healthy new dish you’ve never tried. I made my friend Pam’s recipe for Chinese chicken salad and have been enjoying it all summer.

Reconnect with someone
Call an old friend you’ve lost touch with. Make a good connection with your past. (this is still on my list.)

Sheri says:
I will add:
Catch some fireflies. Put them in a jar just like we all used to do
Grill a lot
Dance on your patio, under the stars
Stand outside during a summer shower
Get a pedicure or give yourself one
Buy a new pair of sandals or flip flops – Flaunt those toes
Wear a bikini

We want to know your list.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Too Technology Available

Abby says:
I love technology. It enables me to work from home when I want to. It enables me to work from my car when I need to. I can see and work off of my office PC network from any computer in the world as long as it has an Internet connection. But, it also makes me available to the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If I don’t return an email within 24 hours people get testy with me. Even when I go on vacation, people think I should return their emails. There’s something wrong here.

There is also something wrong with me. I love to hang on the Internet – all the time. I love to correspond with my friends via email. I cannot stand to be away from the computer – even on the weekends I am Googling stuff I want to know.

What happened to those summers when none of us had cell phones? I went to work at the pool as a lifeguard and was basically unavailable for hours on end. We went to pay phones if we absolutely had to call someone. I remember when I was a teenage swimmer, only kids whose mom or dad were doctors had any type of technology device – and it was limited to a pager so the hospital could reach them. When away from home they returned their pages on pay phones.

I sold the original car phones in 1987 when I briefly worked for Bell South. They were the gigantic monstrosities that came in big, zippered nylon bags. We thought we had arrived. Then there were the big phones that actually mounted into your car console. Look how far we’ve come in 20 years. Now, my phone has the complete Microsoft Office package, email and Internet access. It’s fun but I never truly get away from it all.

I guess I need to get a life.

Sheri says:
I am not as technologically savvy as Abby. But, I do have my cell phone strapped to me most of the time and I get little palpitations when I cannot get to a computer.

In my youth, we did not have cell phones. There was no Internet. It was possible to disappear for hours at a time. College was basically a party line and you could convince someone to lie to your parents. “Yes, she’s in the library.”

There’s something freeing about not being able to be found. I suspect none of us will ever know this feeling again. I feel sorry for our children, even though I’m glad I can hunt them down.

I take vacations. I rarely take one without my laptop. I am never without my cell phone. This sounds very nostalgic but, I miss the days when no one could reach you.

Try explaining that one to your children.

Abby says:
I forgot to mention. When Sheri and I worked together at Banc One Corporation, I remember taking a tour in the main vault off-site. It was a building filled with the brains of the bank – big rooms with big, floor-to-ceiling computers. I also remember the personal computers on our desks; they were huge and used those very old-fashioned floppy discs (and I mean really “floppy). I also remember the day we installed email in the marketing department – it was archaic compared to what we have today but we thought we were cool. I also remember when our office first got voice mail. My mom would call and leave me a message and say “Please pick up if you are there. Can you hear me? Abby, pick up”. Obviously, she did not get the concept.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Customer Service

Abby says:
As long as we’re on the topic of etiquette and manners, let’s talk about customer service. Very basic customer service and how it makes a difference. I get a sandwich to go from the Jimmy John’s across the alley from my office about 4 times a week. I began to notice that absolutely every time I walk through the door at least one person says “Hi. How are you today”? Wow, that’s nice. I finally asked the cashier if it’s part of their corporate culture to do this. She replied that it was. Way to go Jimmy John’s!

Something so simple really makes my day.

I work with a lot of physicians. I visit a lot of physician offices in various specialties every week. Two of my clients have some of the friendliest staff in the country. At JWM Neurology in Indiana, you are greeted immediately as you walk in the door. There’s no hiding behind glass partitions and ignoring patients. The JWM management and docs would not put up with that. The Indiana Hand Center has a patient concierge staff that greets patients as they walk in the door, answers questions, etc. Perkins Van Natta Sadove and Kelley Cosmetic Surgery does have a glass partition but it’s always opened by a smiling face when a patient comes in.

As I make my way around Indiana to visit other physician offices I often get flat out ignored. Sometimes the employees don’t look up at me. Other times they do, but they still don’t acknowledge me or ask what I need. They just finish up what they are doing until they are good and ready to deal with me. Several times, I’ve been ignored then asked if I’m a pharmaceutical representative. Do I look like one? What does a drug rep look like? Do they automatically get ignored?

Healthcare work is tough and it’s fast-paced and stressful, but a little customer service goes a long, long way. And it’s not brain surgery! We’ll leave that to the doctors.

Sheri says:
Most people engaged in a customer service role are extremely young. They have not been trained in proper manners. It does not make it any easier to swallow.

I used to have a healthcare client and we did routine patient satisfaction surveys. We finally stopped because the two constant complaints were: the phone system and the front office staff. I wonder if they’ve made any progress with either one.

I tend to frequent the same restaurants. Probably because I like the familiarity. Just like the words in the theme song from Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name.”

Speaking of names, why does no one under the age of 35 seem to have a last name? If I call, I want to know with whom I’m speaking. I want to be able to follow up. I think only Hooter’s waitresses and phone sex girls (or guys) should be able to get away with this practice. Everyone else should be required to use their full name. Just a pet peeve of mine that I should probably let go.