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.