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”.