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:

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.

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?

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.