Friday, June 29, 2007

When Elder Care Becomes a Reality

Yesterday was personal milestone in elder care. My parents met with their attorney and legally named me as their healthcare representative. If they become ill or hospitalized and are unable to make decisions, I am authorized and expected to do this for them. It’s finally official. I am grateful and relieved. But I am also terrified.

This has been a long time coming. A family member was very ill last year and had to be hospitalized. Not once but twice. Luckily I am in the healthcare business, and I somewhat know my way around. Otherwise we would have been up a creek without a paddle. I work with some of the top doctors in the country in the fields of oncology and neurology. They have excellent peers in many other specialties such as emergency medicine, infectious disease, pulmonology and rheumatology – whom they graciously put me in touch with. It was lucky for us because this family member required care from them all.

While he was hospitalized I had no legal authority to help him due to the privacy regulations. I had no authority to speak to his physicians and inquire about his test results or diagnoses. I have a strong personality and just pretended I had authority, therefore everyone assumed I did. No one really ever questioned me. I lurked around the hallways of the hospital and was present by 7:00 am on the weekdays to make sure I could find his doctors while performing their rounds. I hounded them about his test results and prognosis. I asked them questions. I hounded his nurses to ensure he had proper attention and care. To ensure his bed linens were changed each day. To ensure someone (most of the time me) took him on walks so he did not wither away and become significantly weaker. They all became tired of seeing me. In the end, the doctors I work with every day collaborated with other physicians on his behalf – which saved his life. Thank you Dr. Eliot Wallack and Dr. William Dugan.

Let me tell you. Hospital care is scary. It’s bad. What you don’t know can sometimes hurt you. Maybe even kill you. You better plan to have an advocate lined up ahead of time in the event that something happens to you. Trust me. You’re going to need it.

After it was all over, I thought about my parents. They are in their late 70s. What if I need to help them? I told them, “You need to officially put me in charge. This particular experience was frightening. Had it not been for the docs I work with, we would have been in serious trouble. They helped me work the system and got me through it. I need official authority to help you make decisions, get test results and manage your healthcare. Let's not wait until something catastrophic happens.”

That discussion took place 7 months ago. Fast forward to yesterday. It’s finally done. I hope I make the proper decisions for them.
-- Abby

Sheri says:

I know many people who have been on the receiving end of Abby's dedication to proper care. She never hesitates to bully her way through the system and use any contacts necessary. Sometimes it eases your mind and sometimes it saves a life. I'm convinced in the case of the situation referenced, she saved a life.

The flip side of elder care is equally scary. Once your child turns 18-years old, physicians are very limited in what they can discuss with parents, regardless of the insurance carrier or whomever is paying the bill. There's a simple form in every physician's office allowing the release of medical information to certain people. Make sure your grown children are aware of it.

It's a good lesson for them. You'll be the elder one day and they'll know the questions to ask.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's Still a Man's World

Abby says:
I’m not sure what to make of this. Due to the nature of my business, I have a lot of evening dinner meetings with clients. Sometimes I buy. Sometimes they buy. We trade off. More and more, I’m noticing a trend that continues to grate on my nerves when I personally pay the bill.

Here’s the scenario: We finish dinner. The check arrives in a leatherette holder. I take it, tuck my credit card in and hand it to the server. Is there any doubt who’s paying the bill? Not in my mind. Many times, the server returns and places the fake leather check apparatus in front of one of the men in our group. I don't even get an acknowledgment or second glance. Female servers are just as guilty as male servers.

Hello? My name was on that credit card. Do you not understand I am the person who controls your tip? I contemplate not leaving the tip amount I normally would – even if the service is good up until the check snafu. Then, I remember servers live on tips. I get over myself. It’s not totally their fault – rather their restaurant manager’s lack of training. As we leave, I ask to speak to the manager and let him/her know of my displeasure. Some apologize sincerely and say they will take care of it. Some apologize but you can tell they don’t get it. Sometimes, I go back to my favorite restaurant haunts and it happens all over again.

I even have a female client (one of my best friends) who owns a medical practice and belongs to a country club. Occasionally, we have dinner meetings there. Again, the same thing happens. The man always gets the check – even if he’s not the member.

Can anyone shed some light or is it still just a man’s world?

Sheri says:
Yes, it is still a man’s world. It frustrates me too.

I am trying to help raise a man. I want him to be strong and powerful. I want him to earn the respect of his peers and eventually clients. I strive for the balance between treating a woman like a lady, using gracious manners and recognizing that some women will be his bosses or clients.

Some men take great pleasure in these situations. It’s society’s nod to them that they still control the world. Some women take great pleasure in bursting that bubble. The rest of us take it one situation at a time. We also tend to frequent the establishments where someone knows us by name and we can make payment arrangements beforehand.

Do you think they made all of those leatherette/pleather bill holders out of the sofas and chairs that we all owned in the 70s and 80s? While you’re haggling about the bill, this is a good point of discussion.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Is There Etiquette For Rejection?

While the topic of etiquette is fresh in our minds (from our last post), we thought we could cover rejection etiquette this time (if that concept even exists).

Abby says:
I went to Village Pantry today (for those of you who are not Midwesterners it’s similar to a Circle K) to get gas. I pulled up, got out of my car, opened my gas cap and swiped my credit card. The sun was shining very brightly, so I could not see the pump screen. Suddenly, a very loud voice came through the speaker with this booming statement: “Your card has been DENIED. Your card has been DENIED. Please try again.” I crouched as low as I could next to my car. There were customers at every single pump. They heard those words. They saw me. I was a loser.

I tried my card again and it went through, of course. Ok, I had stupidly swiped it backwards. I glanced around at the other patrons, embarrassingly smiled and laughed. How humiliating.

While my gas was pumping I went into Village Pantry and sought out the female voice who had broadcast to the entire neighborhood that my “card had been DENIED”. I found her to be a meek and quiet woman. I said to her, “I have a customer service suggestion for you.” She politely inquired, “Yes, how can I help you?” I said, “You screeched at me twice my card had been DENIED loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear. And, just to set the record straight, it was not denied. I swiped it improperly. If it had actually been denied I would want that to be between the two of us – not the entire world.”

She apologized profusely several times. That was all I needed. I told her so and thanked her. It was nice to have someone be accountable and actually take responsibility.

This is not the first time my credit card has supposedly been “DENIED”. It’s happened in restaurants with clients when I am paying the bill. And, at the department store when buying that black pair of shoes I really don’t need. I know American Express has not cut me off! Is there any etiquette for this circumstance? For those of you in retail, how about using one of these phrases: * I’m sorry, Miss; can you try your card again? We were not able to read it.
* I’m sorry Miss; we were not able to capture your card number. Do you mind trying again?

Whatever you choose, be discreet and quiet so those around you don’t think you are a criminal or you have not paid your bill.

Sheri says:
Unfortunately, “denied” and “rejected” are words I’m used to hearing. Like Abby, I don’t enjoy having it broadcast across North America. Unlike Abby, it is usually my own fault. I’m a little scatterbrained about that bill-paying task. It often gets me in trouble.

We’ve all been rejected and it doesn’t just happen with credit cards. I’ve wasted countless tears because some boy or man rejected me. I’ve stomped and fumed when I was denied a job or project I thought I deserved.

Manners help but I’m not sure there’s a kind way to say, “Not you.” It stings no matter how it’s phrased. Discretion is crucial.

By the way, American Express has occasionally cut me off and Abby does not need any more black shoes.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cell Phone Etiquette

Ever walked into the bookstore, coffee shop or wine bar with the expectation of having a nice, quiet, relaxing few minutes, only to have it spoiled by an obnoxious bystander talking loudly on their cell phone? How do you keep yourself from throttling the person and throwing their phone in the nearest incinerator?

Abby says:
This happens to me often. I was recently in Barnes and Noble on a Saturday morning relaxingly perusing the mystery aisle when I heard a cell phone loudly ringing. I cringed and followed the tone along with the loud male voice who answered with a bellowing "hello". There he was, lurking in the fiction and literature aisle. Mr. big shot. Could he talk ANY louder? It was not a short call. It went on and on. I pulled one of the employees aside who informed me he was not allowed to approach customers about this.

So, I took matters into my own hands. Not only was he ruining my quiet Saturday, I could tell he was spoiling that of other patrons. I politely said to him, "Excuse me." He stopped talking and looked at me like I was from Mars. I continued, "Can you please take your call outside the store? You are disturbing me as well as other customers." He huffed off and eventually took his call outside. Other customers gawked at me with an approving look.
If you know of someone who needs cell phone etiquette tips, here is what I tell attendees in my seminars:

  • Be courteous of others. The world is not about you.
  • If you're going into a quiet place, turn your phone to vibrate. That way you'll still be alerted if you receive a call.
  • If you must take a call in a public place, walk outside or into a lobby, atrium, etc. where you won't disturb others.
  • When taking calls in public places, speak softly. No one cares to hear your conversation. Really.
  • Never, never take a call when you're in a public bathroom stall. I've experienced this as well. A woman at my gym in the stall next to me answered her cell while we were all doing our business. She loudly talked about her Super Bowl extravaganza in Miami going from yacht to yacht with wealthy men. Get a life.
  • Never shop and talk at the grocery, drugstore or department store. It's as tacky as walking and smoking.

Sheri says:

I have walked and smoked.

I have been humiliated with my phone ringing at an inopportune time, usually because I forgot to switch it to silent mode. (They really frown on that in church.) Other than my own forgetfulness, which I totally blame on the cell phone for zapping my brain cells, I obey the etiquette.

I was a hold out on the cell phone. I had a home phone and a car phone, which was about the size of today’s laptop computers. I knew it was something that would eventually catch up with me but I held out as long as I could. Now I’m another lemming with it clipped to me most of my waking hours.

People should not be expected to be reached and available 24-hours a day (unless you are a physician on call). I think the etiquette could be boiled down to two rules:

  • Be polite to the people around you.

  • Occasionally, turn it off

Some final advice: don’t walk, smoke and talk on your cell phone -- especially if you are wearing a fur. You are certain to be pelted with something.

I want to meet that girl that bops from yacht to yacht. Sounds like someone I need to befriend.

If you want more etiquette tips visit the Ten Commandments of Cell Phone Etiquette.

Friday, June 22, 2007

All the Hillary Hoopla

Sheri says:
All of my girlfriends seem to strongly dislike Hillary. I can’t quite get there. I may not agree with her politics and I may disagree with her wardrobe choices, but there’s a charisma that I admire. She has lived under the microscope and survived. Her husband was impeached. “He did not have sex with that woman!” Yet, she raised a pretty impressive daughter, held her head up through the turmoil and became a senator. She could’ve just taken the book advance money and asked the Secret Service men to bring her a cup of tea.

I admire Laura Bush. Maybe it’s that “stand by your man” mentality but she always comes off composed and real.

I admire Condi Rice. (I like to refer to her as “Condi,” as though we’re personal friends.) I wish she would run for president.

I’m irritated that we only have one woman seated on the Supreme Court. I miss Sandra Day O’Connor (because we’re friends too). I liked knowing that we had two of them battling it out. Their politics were different but at least we had two women representing us.

Hilary just might be our next president. Some people believe that she was our pseudo-president for 8 years.

Her new campaign video was recently released. ( It’s a campy parody of the Sopranos’ finale. I thought it was clever and funny. It probably won’t win her any votes but it sure won’t hurt her. I like women who have a sense of humor.

Abby says:

I am not yet a fan of Hillary. I think what swayed me was the evening shortly after September 11th when President Bush was giving his speech to our country. When he finished, everyone heartily applauded – except for Hillary. She mockingly clapped and appeared to be disinterested.

At a time when our country was in severe crisis, it did not matter what party the president belonged to. He was comforting us in a time of tragedy. We needed to feel united and protected. What she did was rude. It made me angry. I was embarrassed by her and for her.

She is a bright (and sometimes humorous) woman; I won’t deny that.

Relative to her campaign strategy? Hey, I own a marketing and advertising company. I try to come up with new ideas for my clients. Tell your campaign creatives to think of their own ideas, Hillary.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Husbands For Sale

Abby says:

My life is not without male companionship, by any means. I am single and I am happy.

Why is it that so many people ask me, “Do you have a husband?” “Where is your boyfriend?” “Who are you dating?”

My response is often, “Where do you get the right one?”

I’m a shopper. I’ve never seen husbands for sale at Nordstom’s. They have a great return policy so I wish they would add this service to their list. If he doesn’t fit – return him – no questions asked. Kind of like renting a tuxedo … it either works or it doesn’t.

While the women’s movement has come a long way, many people believe that a woman needs a man to be recognized/validated. God forbid that you are over 35 years of age without a significant (or insignificant) other by your side. The labels come out. You’re a spinster. You’re a loser. You must be gay. (I have many gay friends and I adore them. To paraphrase a line from Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I mean no disrespect.)

My biggest hang-up with remarriage is being a business owner and protecting my assets. (Yes, that is selfish.) It’s hard for me to look someone in the eyes and say, “I might want to marry you but let’s do a pre-nup in case it doesn’t work out.” That seems like setting a situation for failure.

Just my opinion. It might change tomorrow.

Sheri says:

Pre-nups are smart. The Donald and Ted Turner had no problem having these conversations. You’re successful. Think Oprah. There’s a reason she hasn’t married Stedman.

I don’t have a pre-nup. Guess my big ol’ lug is stuck with me.


One of us has been married more than once. Ok, more than twice but after that we stop counting. We've both experienced divorce. Not fun. Not recommended.

We both grew up in an era where marriage was the goal. Go to school. Meet a boy. Get married. Have babies. We were also expected to have careers. The woman's movement was in full swing. "I can bring home the the bacon ... and never forget you're a man." Feel free to sing along. Although I'm blessed with two stepchildren, we forgot to have babies.

After marrying and divorcing my childhood sweetheart, I made an idiotic decision and married someone else 15 minutes later. If you're ever in this situation, think therapy -- not remarriage. Eventually, I met, dated, and married the love of my life. Third time's a charm.

Marriage is hard work and no one prepares you for that. It's not all about hearts and flowers. It's about who's going to make a sacrifice, who's going to play the bad cop with the kids, who's going to keep the calendar, etc. The mundane details can zap any romance very quickly.

I applaud people who have never been divorced. Good for you. I know some people who should be divorced -- they are not happy people. I am not ashamed of being divorced; I'm just ashamed that I made reckless choices.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why Women Love Their Dogs

Dogs always provide us with unconditional love. When you have a disagreement with your dog, they forgive and forget within a matter of minutes. And, there is no recollection 5 months later. Dogs never ask us "what's for dinner"? They eat whatever is placed in front of them. Dogs don't care how often we go shopping.

Dogs don't notice that we're not wearing make-up. Dogs don't notice that we've gained a little weight around our middle or accumulated a little cellulite on our butts. Most times, dogs will sit and be quiet when we tell them to. Dogs don't mind if we parade them around the neighborhood on a leash.

Most dogs like being in a cage for a period of time. Dogs are the only creatures whose snoring does not bother us. With your dog, you always know where you stand.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Where, Exactly, Will We Finally Call "Home"?

My mom and dad informed me the other day that they had purchased their caskets and burial plot. Great planning on their part, I thought. They are 75 years old. At first it alarmed me to think about this, but my mother convinced me it's now complete so that my siblings and I don't have to worry about it later on.

Ok, that made complete sense to me at the time. Then, I started thinking. Hmm. Where will my "final resting place" be located? Will I choose to be buried? Will I choose to be cremated? Will I choose to be placed next to them? Will there still be plots left, or will my parents be buried next to strangers? Will I go somewhere else and find a location just for me? Should I plan now, at forty-something? Or, should I wait until much later?

Currently being void of a person significant enough to be buried near, I guess it deserves some consideration.

Where will my brother and his family go? Where will my Colorado sister end up? Will she choose to scatter her ashes amidst the Boulder countryside? My granny, to whom I was very close, is buried at yet a different cemetery -- next to one of her few husbands. I have no idea where the other husbands are buried.

It's very odd to think of growing up in the same household for many years together with these family members and the various places we called "home". The truth is, at some remote point in the future, we will be separated permanently by choosing the different places we finally call "home". After that, who knows...


Friday, June 1, 2007

10 Reasons to Keep Your Girlfriends Close

There are so many reasons that our girlfriends are our Best Friends Forever (BFF.) Our top ten picks:

  1. Girlfriends don’t sass. If they do talk back, you’d better sit up and take notice.

  2. True girlfriends give advice but they don’t judge you.

  3. When there’s trouble with the husband, family, significant other (or lack thereof,) they are always there to listen and pour the wine.

  4. When your outfit is wrong or your panty lines are showing, they'll tell you so. You will be relieved, not offended.

  5. You can swap great clothes and accessories. Sometimes, they will even shop for you. And, they never keep count of how many pairs of shoes or black skirts you have in your closet.

  6. When your ex shows up with his new chickie, girlfriends hand you the tissues and tell you how much smarter and cuter you are than her. They also gloat to him about how GREAT you’ve been doing!

  7. Girlfriends don’t require make-up or toned bodies. They also don’t care what you wear.

  8. Girlfriends can always help find an excuse for chocolates, tortilla chips, or a shopping spree.

  9. Girlfriends share numbers: the best handyman, plumber, babysitter and electrician are all within your reach with a call to the girlfriends.

  10. They can call you or you can call them. Anytime. Anywhere. For any reason.

For great quotes about great friends visit The Quote Garden.