Monday, December 29, 2008

Do All Things Happen For a Reason?

Abby says:
I have always been a supporter of "all things happen for a reason". Now, I am a firm believer. My sister has always been somewhat karmic. She believes in Eastern medicine and is a Reiki healer. I work for physicians and am a believer in Western medicine -- although I don't discount other types of healing. We're very different, but somehow it's always worked out between us. Recently, after being gone from Indy for more than 25 years, she announces out of the clear blue, she is moving back. "From Boulder, Colorado? "Are you crazy?" -- people ask her. She's never really had a firm answer. She just said "It's time".

She's always had this uncanny way of knowing that something is going to happen -- good or bad. It has been that way since she was young. It gives me the shivers. Well, once again, voila -- my dad was hospitalized the week before Christmas. Luckily, she is home and available to help out or my brother and I would have a serious situation and big decisions on our hands. Just so happens she was in the process of job interviewing without a lot of luck -- thanks to our thriving economy. Now, she has a part-time job. Being a caretaker. My parents are happy. She has a flexible schedule and can devote the remainder of her time to creating her works of art. If that's not karmic, I don't know what is. All things must happen for a reason.


Sheri says:

I do not fully believe all things happen for a reason.

Too many senseless deaths and disasters occur. I do feel some people are more intuitive than others. Many are better prepared for various situations. Others may be more observant and see signals and signs versus burying their heads and seeing only what they choose to see.

It would be great if the chasm between eastern and western medicine could be bridged. I believe science and spirituality can co-exist. One word of caution: Care giving is mentally and physically taxing. She will need her healing powers more than ever. I think we are given free will to make some choices. Others are inflicted on us and our only options are how we deal with them.








Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What Were They Thinking?

Sheri says:
Although I love this topic, lately I'm more likely to ask, "What was I thinking?"
A few days ago, I backed out of my parents driveway and hit a car parked on the street. What was I thinking?

A couple of weeks ago, I was forced to separate from my husband of 16 years. Turns out, I didn't know the man quite as well as I thought, Where was my brain?

Lots of people make mistakes. Like the 3 auto maker CEOs looking for a government bailout who chose to fly in three corporate jets. Like the woman who was trying to stretch her baby's formula due to these dire economic times and ended up almost killing her son.

Some people are pretty good at thinking things through and making rational decisions. I used to think I was one of them but lately I'm not so sure.

Abby says:
* What were they thinking when they recently decided to bring leggings back into the fashion forefront? (What was I thinking when I bought a pair?)
* What were they thinking when they decided wearing your pants below your hiney was stylish? (Thankfully, I never adopted this fashion statement.)
* What were they thinking when they thought non-athlete males strolling the beach in skimpy Speedo bathing suits was hot? (Not!)
* What were they thinking when they thought making big grunting noises in the weight room at the gym would attract women?
* What were they thinking when they invited Cloris Leachman to be on Dancing With the Stars?
* What was Britney Spears thinking when she shaved her head?
* What was O.J. thinking when he stormed that Palace Station Hotel room looking for "his loot" -- landing him in prison? And, what were they thinking when they almost published his book last year?
* What were the mortgage lenders, finance companies and banks thinking when they made those loans they knew people could not repay?
* What was President Bush thinking all the times he said "nuculear" for "nuclear"?
* What were they thinking when they trampled the worker at Walmart trying to get into the store the day after Thanksgiving to scoop the best bargains?
* I agree with Sheri: What were the auto chiefs thinking when they decided corporate jets project a better image to the American public than flying coach?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

10 Reasons to be thankful

Abby says:
I cannot remember a time in my life where everything around me was so negative and so many people were unhappy. While I think the economy is very bad, I also think the national news media has done a number on us. You can't turn on the TV without someone analyzing and criticizing yet none of them seems to suggest solutions to the current mess. The owner of my favorite lunchtime haunt came up to me the other day and said, "Hey we need to figure out how to take all this negative publicity and turn it into something good -- something that thrives during hard times and can help people." I am totally on board.



The negativity continues in and around the periphery of my circle. People around me have recently died. One just took his own life. One other admitted to relating to how he feels. That is scary. One friend is possibly losing her husband. It's not working out. I remember how that feels. One friend's mother is in the hospital -- again. Family members of mine are struggling in many ways. Yet another is still recovering from a bad accident.


Through all of this I still try to see the positive and light at the end of the tunnel. Mostly, I am thankful for what I have. Here are my top 5 reasons to be thankful. They are overly simple, but that's ok:


* Thankful to have a family members in my hometown

* Thankful to have a good network of friends

* Thankful to have a roof over my head

* Thankful to have a job

* Thankful I know enough to be thankful



Sheri says:

I have had many negative things happen to me lately. Of course I have shared them with Abby. My personal life is in shambles and some other scary things are going on. Also, as Abby mentioned, a friend of ours committed suicide. Throw in money struggles and computer problems (my lifeline!) and I've had every legitimate excuse to be down on life.



Yet, I am not. I have laughed a lot this week. The ridiculous, over-the-top, can't get your breath kind of laughter. I have slept soundly which is something that I have struggled with for years. I have looked to the future with a stronger sense of self. It's pretty appropriate that these revelations have happened to me during the Thanksgiving season.



To Abby's list, I say "ditto for me." So my list will be a little sillier:

  • I'm thankful that the dark circles beneath my eyes are fading.

  • I'm thankful that my dog sleeps on my bed and growls if she hears anything suspicious.

  • I'm thankful that we're headed into prime eating season and I could stand to gain a little weight.

  • I'm thankful that my computer is fixed and my email is once again doing its job.

  • I'm thankful that I"m starting to like the person I see reflected in the mirror.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beauty and the Beast of Change

Sheri says:

For someone who avoids change, I must admit to some revelations:

* Most changes I’ve been forced into have turned out reasonably well.
* Most self-made disastrous predictions were proven false.
* Even the hardest changes have provided some valuable learning experiences.

I’m trying to embrace change with a more open mind. This old dog doesn’t change her spots very well but I’m willing to work on it.

Abby says:

I’m a total change agent and have been since I can remember. I view it as when one door closes another door opens.

Once upon a time when Sheri and I worked together long ago in our banking days, we navigated through some pretty turbulent waters every time our company acquired another bank. Which was often. Everyone around us got scared wondering if there was still a slot for them – or if their slot would be eliminated. There was always whispering, gossip and negativity. It was terribly unproductive.

I never looked at it that way. To me, it was a challenge to see what good things we could make out of every curve ball thrown our way. That attitude has served me well to this day.

To me, changes are bumps in the road. Some are bigger and more uncomfortable than others. Eventually the ugly beast leads the way to the raving beauty.

Sheri has recently encountered some big changes. Some cool and unusual opportunities have come of them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saying Yes to Life's Experiences

Abby says:
When I get really busy with work, I get writer's block, and the creative juices just don't flow. So, I asked a friend to give me a topic for our blog. Here it is. "Saying Yes More Often to Participating in Life's Experiences". I thought this was great. We're all busy occupied with our daily lives, but sometimes it's important to regroup and think about things we might be missing out on. Like the saying goes, "life's too short" -- and this really is true, so I guess I need to think more about living each day as though it could be the last.

This is sort of like our own "Bucket List". I'm officially adopting this today. Here are my top 5.

* Connect with people from my past: I have avidly pursued this over the last month thanks to a great friend from my past who recently reconnected with me. Because of this, I have made contact with people I cared a lot about but lost touch (some via online, some via phone and some in person). Including my sister -- who recently moved back to Indianapolis where I live. It's been a great experience. Most importantly, I want to stay in touch with these people for good.

* Live in another city: I hope to accomplish this someday, somehow. Even if it means commuting somewhere different on a regular basis for my work. My favorite cities are New York, Phoenix and Miami, but I'd be just as happy somewhere in California or on a ranch out West in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of cattle.

* Keep an open mind: While I'm the first to promote change in work scenarios, I often tend to stay in a rut when it comes to my personal life. It's easier. You don't have to try hard. You get into a comfortable routine. I think keeping an open mind and being more flexible may help me to get out and see what else life has to offer.

* Let my guard down: My family, friends and clients chuckle at me because they know I am a fairly guarded person. Ok, I get it. I need to put myself out there more. I think the last time someone saw me publicly emotional was when a family member was hospitalized a couple years ago. (I hide it very well). A client said it was readily visible that I was ruffled and commented that while the circumstances were unfortunate it was good to see that side of me actually existed.

* Get out of my comfort zone: Someone recently told me that if you're not out of your comfort zone, you're truly missing out. I thought this was well put. It's easy to do the same old thing day after day and create a safety net, thus potentially missing out on lots of exciting things. I think this advice holds true for all of life's experiences, as well as love, family and career.

Sheri says:
I like going second on this one. Abby’s list amazes me. My list is similar, but different enough:

Treasure Friendships. I have also reconnected with an old friend but for the most part, I’m struggling to keep up with the ones I have.

Rediscover the City I Live in. I love to travel but when I’m home, I forget to look around. I forget that there are places to go and things to do that don’t make my normal routine. I have had a few chances to live in other cities but life circumstances did not allow it.

Closing My Mind. Debates and various exchanges of information are powerful. I listen carefully and I like to form my own opinion. I have now lived enough decades that on a few subjects, my opinion is done. It is solid. It is part of my core character.

Be a Little More Guarded. Abby is known for her ability to keep everything close to the vest. I do not have this quality. I am a "Splat, what do you think of that?" kind of person.

Get Out of My Comfort Zone. Need to do it. Got to do it. Scared stiff. That’s why it’s called “comfort.”

Accept Myself. My mind is not quite as adept as a 25-year old. I feel behind in technology. But I need to remind myself that I am keeping up. On a day-to-day basis, I take care of a lot of people and things on the agenda.

Walk Away. I have tentacles. I tend to glom onto things/people and hang on for dear life. If a conversation takes a nose dive, I must learn to walk away. If a relationship turns toxic, I must walk away.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tramp Stamps

Sheri says:

Anyone who knows me is aware of my serious aversion to needles. I try to be a responsible adult so I get my blood drawn as part of a yearly physical and I get my flu shot. If my doctor tells me a need a booster shot, I get it.

Other than that, get those needles away from me! Needless to say, I do not have a tattoo.

Lots of the younger generation considers this a rite of passage, kind of like miscellaneous piercings. Go ahead young people! Mutilate your body. Don’t cry to me when you need to make a business presentation or attend a black tie event and you can’t quite hide your youthful escapade.

The tattoo along a woman’s lower back has been referred to as the “tramp stamp.” I did not coin this term, nor do I use it about anyone I know. But, I’m familiar with it.

Abby thought I might possibly be making it up. She doesn’t trust my wisdom very much.

I’m so glad tattoos weren’t popular in my day. I would’ve been the nerd who refused to participate. And I’m glad I’m not this middle-age woman with a tramp stamp running across my lower back.

Abby says:

When Sheri told me of this term I felt out of touch. I guess I am not in the loop. I even looked on Wikipedia, and there it was – an entire section dedicated to the tramp stamp. Amazingly, I know many professional women my age who have a tattoo – some larger and more visible than others, especially in the summertime. They have them for a myriad of reasons: sentiment, girl power, love – the full gamut.

I have nothing against them. I just never ventured into the painful, prickling waters of tattoo land, as I, too, have an aversion to needles. Flu shots and blood draws make me queasy. I also have an aversion to contracting hepatitis or other diseases. I know people who have – many years after getting their decorative marks.

Besides, I’d want to change the design like I change my shoes (and that is often!). Maybe a temporary tattoo is the answer. You can purchase them at drug store make-up counters. Just rub on and wipe off when you’re done (in case you change your mind).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Penmanship






Abby says:
Last weekend I was sifting through old photos. Upon digging through dusty boxes and discolored envelopes I also came across ancient-looking handwritten papers with beautiful penmanship. I thought to myself, "Who wrote these? The handwriting is so pretty". Unbeknownst to me, they were mine – mostly from grade school and high school days. My dad saves everything and I inherit these “treasures” as my parents clean out their house.

Today I have sloppy penmanship -- something between a writing and printing combo – depending on how hurried I am. It's barely legible to me. It looks like doctor scrawling. Go figure. I work with many doctors and must have unconsciously picked up that trait. I wonder why my writing has changed. Maybe it's because I don't have the nuns to slap me on the wrist with a ruler when my writing gets sloppy -- like they did in grade school. Or, maybe I am just lazy. Perhaps I need to work on this.

What does our penmanship say about us? Sheri's is the prettiest I have ever seen.

Sheri says:
I do have legible handwriting. Many people comment on it and it always makes me think of the years my parents made me rewrite things, like homework or thank you notes. They were sticklers.

Most of us do that combo between printing and cursive. Is it a signature style?

Every once in a while my husband or my son will leave me a note. It is not unusual for me to track them down and say, “I can’t read this.” My parents would have never tolerated this so here’s another area where I have failed.

Penmanship is personal. It’s your stamp. For those of us who still write and receive handwritten notes, it’s a badge.

I’m so glad the generation behind me knows how to type and text. I also want them to write/print in a coherent fashion. This will be my new cause!

FYI, I can always read Abby’s handwriting. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years.

Abby says:
Here are samples of our penmanship. Not too tough to figure out which one is Sheri’s.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reunions


Abby says:

This has been the week of happy reunions. Thursday night the girls from Sheri's Gym (our defunct workout training group of 10 years) got together for a small reunion to celebrate birthdays and drink margaritas. A fun night of laughs and catch-up.

This past week I was contacted out of the blue by an old friend from my past. He has started a Facebook page for the many of us who swam together competitively for the Riviera Swim Club in Indianapolis. Those were truly the best days of my life. As of today I have connected with several people via Facebook, MySpace and Classmates dot com from that era of my life and relived many great memories. I also spent the weekend pilfering through scads of old photos. Swimming is a weird sport. We spent hours, days, months and years together slogging in the pool at all hours of the day and night, smelling like chlorine and constantly slathering lotion on our forever snake-dry skin. The people I swam with shaped my life in many ways. Check out our newly-formed Facebook page (Riviera Swimming Alumni).

The best reunion of all is that my sister, Mindy, is moving home to Indy. I think she has been gone almost 20 years. Maybe more. Minnesota. Colorado. She must have acquired the artistic gene in the family as she is multi-talented and an artist. She makes beautiful one-of-a-kind hand-dyed garments and wall hangings and does other cool stuff too. I have lost track. Over the past few years I’ve seen her only a handful of times. It will be great to have her back and be her friend. Check out this photo above – one of her cool items.

Sheri says:

Reunions can be fun although I avoid some of them. I have never been to a high school reunion. We’ve had some unofficial reunions of college friends but I’ve never attended the official ones. It’s rare for me to attend a family reunion and I suspect those days are over.

Ab and I go to an annual conference. In many ways, it feels like a reunion.

Thursday night with the workout girls was fun but I don’t consider it a reunion since I see or talk to each of them every week.

Next month, there’s a gathering in my childhood neighborhood and I am going. I still see or talk to lots of these people but it is a reunion of sorts.

I’m excited for Ab’s reunion with her sister. Since I don’t have a sister, my closest comparison is two childhood girlfriends who try to meet at least once a year. One I see a lot; the other I only see every 12 to 18 months. I get giddy with anticipation of the three of us spending the weekend together. I suspect that’s what Ab is feeling with her sister moving to town.

Some of the people I miss have left this earth. Maybe that’s the lesson for me: Reunite with friends and loved ones while you can.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Generation Gap

Abby says:

When I was young I used to make fun of “older people” when they talked about “you young kids and the generation gap”. I never got it. Now, I am one of those older people and experience the generation gap quite often. Sometimes it makes me chuckle. Other times it makes me want to crawl under a rock.

A few weeks ago my cousins were in from Denver. We used to be U.S. Mail pen pals when we were young. I have not seen them since my teen years. It was great fun to hook up. During lunch, their two kids amused us all. Their 11-year-old son discussed his like for Aerosmith. I was quite impressed. We were then discussing Elton John (my fave) and his sister, who is 16, said (as she madly texted her friends), “Elton John, he’s dead isn’t he?” I laughed until I cried. Ah…the generation gap.

Sheri says:

I acknowledge the generation gap but I find it shrinking. And, I think it’s interesting that we share the same music with our parents and our children. I am equally happy with Frank Sinatra or the Doobie Brothers.

My husband’s children are teaching him things but he’s also introducing them to new things. I’m addicted to my favorite (oldies) music but they take great joy in discovering new artists.

Middle age is a puzzler. (I use the term “middle age” loosely. No one in my family has seen 90.)

My generation gap is more like a generation gasp. The reunion concert that I want to attend is celebrating their 25th or 30th year, Oh my!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Stronger than I Look

Sheri says:

Several years ago, our friend Mickey had t-shirts made for our workout group we used to refer to as Sheri’s Gym. The back has the phrase, “I’m stronger than I look.” I wear mine with pride. It was meant to bolster our confidence and remind us that sweating and lifting weights in the early morning would make us stronger.

Whether they exercise or not, I know lots of strong women. I was raised by one and I tend to surround myself with them. They inspire me. They are the looking glass I use to pinpoint my areas that need improvement. Sometimes they scare me with their decisions. But, I watch and learn.

Am I physically stronger than I look? Probably yes, thanks to Abby (she used to be our trainer). Am I mentally stronger than I look? The jury’s still out. Am I emotionally stronger than I look? No. I am a weenie.

Abby says:

I wore my shirt so much it finally fell apart. I miss it. Funny thing, I used to wear it to the gym. Some guy came up to me and said, “You don’t look strange to me.” I thought, “Ok this guy is weird.” Then I realized he misread my shirt, so I went up and clarified to him that it said ‘strong’ not ‘strange’. We had a good laugh.

Another time I was wearing the shirt and had just come from working out. I noticed a man out of the corner of my eye approaching my car as I was loading groceries at the store. I turned on a dime and almost slugged him as he got in my personal space. It was an older man who said he "needed money to fill his prescription". I told him it was a very bad idea to sneak up on someone. I think I scared him more than he scared me. I had to chuckle because I was wearing that shirt.

I don’t consider myself mentally strong – but have the great knack of compartmentalizing bad things or things I don’t care to deal with at the time. It enables me to look stronger than I am.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Can You Fix It?

Sheri says:

If you’ve ever worked in the corporate world, chances are you’ve taken a personality profile test. I think I’ve taken at least 20 but I’m not sure how they helped.

It has been validated that I am impatient. I don’t like the build-up. Give me the gist of the message and I’ll let you know if I have questions. Most often, I ask, “Can you fix it?”

This applies to:
My car.
My computer.
My body.
My banker.
My plumbing.
And pretty much everything else I can think of.

Beyond impatience, I admit to some anal tendencies. I did not marry a “Mr. Fix-It” so I have all my “fix-it” people on speed dial.

Abby says:

“Can you fix it” has been the story of my life the past several weeks. I am not handy. My handyman skills stop at hanging a picture on the wall. A few weeks ago, we had a major afternoon storm. My office building was struck by lightning. You know those expensive surge protectors you purchase to protect all your equipment? Well, they don’t work during a major hit. I walked into work the following day only to find nothing was operating. Portions of our computers, modem and router were damaged.

Talk about “can you fix it”! I had two computer people working on getting us back up. One was here on site for two full days, and one was in Virginia via phone. To make matters even more fun, the AT&T repair person was here attempting to work with both of them. I felt clueless and helpless. I was clueless and helpless. They were speaking in foreign tongues talking about DNS this and something something that.

Those three people have now been added to my speed dial.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another Perspective On "Go Away"

Abby says:
When I was a young girl I had several pen pals. We would write snail mail letters back and forth across the country and live vicariously through each other. Unfortunately, letter writing appears to be a dying artform. Today, we have "cyber pals" on the Internet. As part of my Publishing Masters at PACE University in New York, I took an online course this summer and corresponded every day via a cyber blackboard with some neat people from vaious walks of life. Now, I have new pen pals. One of them was Shweta Johri. She is a journalist from Mumbai, India, currently living in Manhattan with her husband and working towards her Masters in Publishing at PACE.

She had some great and wonderful insight on our class topics, so I thought having her as a guest blogger would be interesting. She chose to comment on our previous post regarding "Go Away".

Shweta says:
I come from Mumbai, the second most populous city in the world, wherethe magic words "go away" have no power. We're surrounded by people all the time, everywhere we go. Even at home, the doorbell rings constantly, people show up unannounced, and when the phone rings, we always answer it – Mumbaiites don't believe in answering-machines or 'Do Not Disturb' signs or keeping to oneself, or the concept of personal boundaries or "me-time".

All my life, I felt suffocated by the constant stream of people imposing upon my time – be it my immediate family or the first cousin of the friend of a friend, a well-meaning but inquisitive neighbor or a persistent street vendor. I longed for what Virginia Woolf describes in her powerful essay as "A Room of One's Own." Then I moved here, and spent a few years oscillating between enjoying the wide open spaces this country has to offer, and suffering horrible withdrawal symptoms from my years of never having been by myself. Currently I'm living in NYC, and it has been a pleasant surprise to discover that it's possible to feel "alonely" in a big city. I use the word "alonely" to distinguish it from the negative connotations of "lonely".

I have begun to appreciate the company of people more, now that I can balance that with the opportunity to enjoy my own company. And I find myself hardly ever saying "go away". But that's probably because this country gives me few reasons to do so – whenever I go back to Mumbai I find myself chanting them more and more. Of course, they still have no power there.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Would you please just go away?

Sheri says:

One of my friends has taught her dogs this command: “Go away!” They don’t exactly embrace it but they do move away or lie down.

Have you ever been in a restaurant or bar with girlfriends and some intrusive guy wants to horn in on the party? Go away.

Or you’ve managed a few hours of solitude on a plane and your seatmate wants to tell you his or her entire life story. Go away.

I love the delete button. I get lots of spam and promotional opportunities. I hit delete. Go away.

Phones send me over the edge. The ringing breaks my concentration and I often scream at the receiver. Go away.

But I have come to realize that I am a needy person. With those I love, I don’t want to scream “Go Away!” I want to whisper, “Come a little bit closer. I need you.”

Abby says:

In my younger years I was an incredibly insensitive and impatient person. Many times I did the “go away” thing. One time, I said it once too often to someone. Unfortunately I was wed to him. He took the hint and really left -- for good. Woops, I did not really mean it that one time.

Now I am careful to only think “go away” and keep it to myself.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Seconds

Sheri says:

Lately, my life comes down to seconds.

I’ve attended quite a few second weddings and I know many people on their second marriage. I find myself second guessing myself and others. I read or watch the news and realize how often life changes in a split second.

Teenagers may not do this anymore but in my day, getting to second base was a big deal. People take pride in saying, “I’m a second-generation whatever.”

Maybe second isn’t so bad. I’m all about second opinions. Coming in second in a contest may not win the prize but you’re up there.

When I cook, I like it when people get second helpings. I also support the group, “Second Helpings.” They give leftover food to the shelters.

I’m firmly implanted in the second half of life.

Abby says:

I’ve never thought about it, but I like and embrace this concept. My most memorable triumph of “second” is a young, very close family member who just recently got a “second chance” – basically on life – after a very bad accident. I think her outlook now is very different than before.

I believe when one door closes the second one opens up.

Our good friend Big Sal embraces the “seconds” concept – she’s an avid Goodwill shopper extraordinaire.

It’s like that song by Shalamar from the 1980s – “the second time around is so much better, and I'll make it better than the first time”.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Responsible Reporting

Abby says:

In a school assignment last week we were asked to read a recent New York Times article that talked about Wikipedia breaking the news of Tim Russert's death. It stated: "Long before Mr. Russert’s death was reported on air, however, it was flashing across the Internet via the text-messaging service Twitter and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Television networks have a tradition of allowing a network suffering a death to make the announcement first. Other news outlets, including The New York Times and The New York Post, were about five minutes earlier in reporting Mr. Russert’s death for their Web sites."

So, Wiki broke it before NBC, where Russert worked. What is wrong with this picture? Or, should I ask, is there anything wrong with this picture?

Times are a changin'. I must be a big wuss, and I don't think I have the chops to be a reporter. The thought of reporting news of a death before family members are notified is not acceptable to me as a person. While I understand the goal of news outlets breaking big stories fast and first, where is the taste level? Do we no longer care about human beings? Has the gentleman's agreement gone by the wayside? What if Tim Russert's wife and son had seen this online or heard through the grapevine before being personally notified Tim had died?

According to the article, the Wiki principle states "No Original Research" yet this site has other times, been the place where news has broken (according to the Times article).

With all the access we have to online social media outlets, the challenge is only going to grow. Citizen journalism is now at work. While I love having instant access to breaking news, is there a line we don't cross?


Sheri says:

I think the line went away and I find it scary. Full-fledged journalists compete with hackers. Everyone wants to break the story and the hackers do not abide by journalistic ethics. Tim Russert’s death is one example but sadly, there are many more.

The journalism code of ethics includes verifying a tip or a rumor with a credible source before reporting the story. Even if the source must remain anonymous, the writer must be satisfied with the truth of the information. The Internet writer does not abide by this credo. Any gossip or tidbit (true or untrue) is fair game. Many times these stories turn out to be false or at the very least, slanted, and it’s too late. The rumor is out there and it’s destroying someone’s reputation or life.

Yes, I am on the Internet every day and I do like the immediacy of the information. But, I am still grasping tightly to the traditional media outlets. My respect goes to the reporter who gives me the quote or the sound bite and then gives me the background. My interest is piqued when someone bothers to do the leg work and give me the full story.

Abby says:

Unfortunately, the good online journalists are now competing head-to-head with the "hacks" now that the worldwide web is our playing field.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Summer Reading

Sheri says:

Abby and I are avid readers. On our previous post, we discussed how younger generations are reading less. As long as they keep publishing books, I will keep buying and reading. I like to discover new writers but like most people my age, I gravitate to my favorite authors and my guaranteed escapes. We are such dorks that we call each other and say, “So and so’s book is coming out next week.” At least twice a month, we meet in a bookstore and this is BIG FUN for us.

Time is short and we all feel the pinch. Reading for pleasure feels a little indulgent. I still squeeze it in. I am one of those people who always have a book in my bag, a book in my car and certainly a book on the nightstand. My favorite reading time is on a plane or on vacation. Sometimes I take a little trip to my neighborhood pool, plop on my sun glass readers and settle in. I don’t need a spa; I need to relax. Reading does this for me.

Lately, I’ve read:

The Last Promise – Richard Paul Evans. Schmaltzy and a great escape.
Change of Heart – Jodi Piccoult. Thought-provoking, as usual.
Charley’s Web – Joy Fielding. It resonated with me and choices we all make.
Just Who Will You Be? – Maria Shriver. It made me feel good for not knowing it all.
Mosaic – Amy Grant.
The Race – Richard North Patterson. One of my favorite authors.

I recommend them all. I have a stack that’s waiting for my attention. The dust bunnies will wait. If I can capture some time here and there, you’ll find me near water with a book in my hands.

Abby says:

Yes, I try to read every single night before bedtime no matter how late it is. On a weekend, give me a good book and a glass of wine, and I’m a happy camper for 48 hours! I love to escape and see where authors will take me and who I will meet along the way. I have even discovered my favorite restaurant and shopping haunts across the U.S. reading books. I especially love discovering new authors then reading all their old titles. Pure fantasy land.

My favorites this summer are:

Wikinomics: The Expanded Edition – Don Tapscott. Fascinating tour into the world of wikis and how big companies like P & G are thinking in today’s world and using the internet to compete globally.

Bull’s Island: Dorothea Benton Frank. Southern romance and scandal meets Manhattan excitement. A new author for me.

Love the One You’re With: Emily Giffin. A great love story revolving around what happens when you’ve already said “I do” and an old flame shows up.
Abandon: Carla Neggers. Mindless reading combining romance, police suspense, a New Hampshire lake house and a happy ending.

Sheri says:

Reading also sets a great example. If your children see you shut down the computer and pick up a book, they pay attention. When my son was in high school, he had massive reading lists -- usually the classics. I reread many of them so to his horror, we could discuss them.

There's nothing wrong with being wired in but I also like to encourage the young people in my life to unplug and crack open a book.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Net Gen Reading Habits

Abby says:
I was astonished when happening upon an article this week in USA Today regarding the reading (or lack of) habits in kids. It stated that “many kids in the U.S. are too busy, too distracted and, in some cases, to tired to read books for fun, a new survey finds, suggesting that schoolwork, homework and diversions such as YouTube and Facebook keep them from regularly enjoying a good book.”

This is somewhat appalling to me, especially because I am currently working on my master’s degree in book publishing. It’s also sad. Then again, I am trying to keep an open mind. Younger people in the Net Generation are different than I was when growing up. They have access to things we never did – i.e., the computer, the cell phone, the PDA. They rely on the Internet for their information. They are collaborators and “prosumers” in their own right.

While they might not be reading a book, they are perusing and actively participating in online forums and other arenas I am just now learning about. They choose to get their information in different ways than I ever knew. When I was in grade school and high school, you could not keep me out of the public library – especially in the summertime. I could not get enough of books and still cannot to this day. Will I ever migrate to an “E-Reader” device? Not likely. I like the touch, smell and feel of a book. For me, it’s part of the overall experience. It’s a stress reliever from toiling over my office, my computer and my PDA all day long.

Sheri says:
I read the same article and it freaked me out. The journalist in me insists that I ask questions and I often ask young people, “What are you reading?” I am appalled at how often they say, “nothing.”

Abby is correct that we grew up in a different era. No Internet; no cable. But, we had our own diversions. They just didn’t involve a screen.

About 11 years ago, we remodeled this house. Our son was 8-years old. We made sure he had a window seat and a comfy pad to recline and read. He will turn 20-years old in August and I still find him curled up in that spot. Of course, he also has the cell phone nearby and the iPod in his ears.

Cracking open a new book fills me with excitement. Where will I go? What might I learn? I prolong the anticipation. I read the acknowledgments and dedication. Then I flip to page one and settle in.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Din-din-dinnertime

We’re thrilled to have our first guest blogger, Rosemary O’Brien. In addition to running a small business and being an accomplished writer and author, she manages to raise children and run a household. She resides in Connecticut with her family. Welcome Rosemary, and please visit her blog as well.

Rosemary says:

The other night, I prepared dinner while simultaneously sending an e-mail to a client. The computer was running very slowly due to a scan that goes on automatically when I have the least amount of time to work. As I flew back and forth between office and kitchen (other office, it seems!), I realized how inconvenient dinnertime is for me. The family likes to eat around 5pm or so, and I need to stop my work to get it going most of the time since my husband does not cook and usually arrives by 5 if we are lucky.

Anyway, I would happily eat a piece of cheese and a cup of coffee at my desk just so I could continue my train of thought or current project. I don’t know about anyone else, but give me a chance to work through the night and sleep all day the next day, and I’m on board. The problem is this: kids have to eat. It’s a rule. Besides, they will migrate into my office and start chewing the legs of my chair if I wait too long to put dinner on the table.

So every day, I stop what I am doing to put a nutritious dinner on the table and wish I was able to continue working for a few more hours without breaking my stride for such an extended period of time.

Is this a “Mom Thing?” Is it a “Woman Thing?” Perhaps it is just a “Workaholic Small Business Owner Work-At-Home” thing?

Oops. ‘Gotta go start dinner again.

Sheri says:

I no longer worry about a nutritious meal for a family. It’s a huge relief. Like Rosemary, I could gnaw on a hunk of cheese and a piece of bread. I figure that since our kids are grown and the husband is an adult with many commitments, he can grab something with a client or friend. He can make himself a sandwich. He can punch a few buttons on the microwave.

But, it is ingrained in us. My husband likes to show off as the chef, and he’s good at it. Nobody seems to notice that someone else did the grocery shopping, the chopping, made the salad, etc. My least favorite phrase is, “Oh, we’re just going to throw something together!” Somebody has to make it happen with the prep work.

I love the holidays. I decided long ago that my mother had served her time. She’s a fabulous cook and always helps with everything, but I have been doing holiday meals and celebrations for quite some time. I’ve been known to throw a mean dinner party for the husband’s clients or friends.

Abby loves to peek in my fridge. She often teases me about whatever food stuff is in there. I still cook occasionally. I enjoy it because it’s not an obligation; it’s my choice.

Abby says:

I have no children, so my microwave gets more use than my shower, toilet and garage door combined. When I was married my husband often relied upon me for a meal, so I used to actually cook food on the stove and in the oven. I enjoyed it. Now, my fridge typically has some food items with mold growing wildly. I need to be more diligent about keeping track. I don’t know how working moms like Rosemary and Sheri have done it. Sheri always has some nice leftovers in her fridge. I often wish I had the time to cook.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Unimportance of "Stuff"

Abby says:
A few posts ago, Sheri and I talked about clutter and accumulating too much stuff. Over the last couple weeks, I have truly learned the meaning of "life's too short" and how insignificant material items and "stuff" really are.

Two weeks ago, my dad took a very bad spill (face first) and really hurt himself. We are lucky. He is ok.

Over Memorial Day weekend, we had a near family tragedy. Luckily those involved are alive, but it was one scary road in the emergency room and days later at the hospital. We were amazingly spared.

Two days later I had a personal health scare. It turned out to be a false alarm. Phew!

This past weekend, massive storms and a tornado hit Indianapolis. I lost my power for half a weekend. Big deal, no harm done. My friend and colleague Cheryl lost part of her house -- as the tornado swept through her neighborhood -- which is only 5 miles from where I live. Her house sustained damage. Her neighbors lost their roofs. She and her dog are remarkably ok. She said the comparison of a tornado sounding like a "freight train coming through" is more true than you can ever imagine.

While I have struggled on and off over the years with organized religion, I have never once doubted the power of God. The events of the past two weeks just strengthened this belief 100 fold. It's also a reiteration for me, "the queen of stuff", that material things just don't matter. At all.

Sheri says:
What is that saying? “Sometimes God taps you on the shoulder. Then, he throws a rock. Next you trip over a boulder.” I don’t know if that is true but I think about it.

That reference is aimed at me, not Abby. If I had been through what she’s been through in the last week to 10 days, (or few years,) I’d have folded like a house of cards. She’s strong and lots of people count on that.

God does allow bad things to happen to people. Is it a test? I don’t know the answer but I know it happens every day.

Abby says:
Life can be over in a nano-second. It hit home the last two weeks. I am thankful and grateful in a brand new way.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Guest Blogger

Abby says:



Today, Sheri is appearing as a guest blogger on "Writing Military Mom" a blog written by one our our colleagues, Rosemary O'Brien. Rosemary is a writer/author that Sheri and I met in New York City two years ago at an author conference.

We have continued to correspond and keep in touch. Rosemary lives in Connecticut with her husband and her sons.

Check out the post by clicking on the link above.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dogs with Jobs

Sheri says:

Abby and I are both dog lovers. In the 20+ years of our friendship, we’ve celebrated new puppies and grieved the loss of a beloved pet. Abby held my hand and scraped me off the floor when my previous Lab had to be put to sleep.

I’m partial to Labs; she’s partial to Boxers. One of her first Boxers ate a bathroom and most of the living room. She also heaved herself on my husband’s head during a puppy frolic. I can’t tease her too much. I’ve had Labs destroy their fair share of my material things.

Not all dogs are destructive. When the horrific events of 9/11 were unfolding, Abby and I watched in stunned shock. When we weren’t together, I kept the phones near my ear in case I accidentally dozed off. This went on for days. In the midst of the ruins, they brought in the dogs. My husband refers to these as, “Dogs with jobs.”

If a child goes missing, there’s a dog with a job on the case. Chances are your local fire station has a Dalmation – it’s a job. Walk around the airport and those bomb-sniffing dogs take their job seriously. The physically impaired and the blind rely on service dogs. Your police department probably has a K-9 patrol. Mine does.

My dog does not have a job except to bark at air. I remind her occasionally that she’s a slug. She gives me a look that lets me know I am one also.

Abby says:
Yes, and how about the dog who “knew” his owner was terribly ill – prompting a medical exam that led to a cancer diagnosis? And, the dog who pulled a family safely from a house fire? My, Maggie (a Boxer/Shepherd mix rescue) has a job: eat, sleep, play and protect me. It’s totally a dog’s world.

What prompted this post is that one of my clients living on a farm in Kentucky got to talking about his dogs. He mentioned that one of them – a Great Pyrenees “guards the goats”. I had no idea what he meant. I even had to Google the breed name. What a great job – to guard the farm goats from foxes, coyotes and other wild scavenging animals. He also has other breeds of dogs whose job it is to guard certain areas on his farm. I might also add his Great Dane recently had 14 pups. Yes, I said 14 – pups – that will soon turn into small ponies.

I am always amazed at the smarts our dogs exhibit – even those who are not formally trained outside of being a house pet. When my former Boxer, Sadie, was dying of heart disease (after years of thousand dollar vet bills and multiple medications to sustain her life) she often stood in one corner of my living room facing the wall. It sort of became “her final resting place”.

When I first brought Maggie home from the Humane Society, she went right to that corner – and sat facing the wall. For many months thereafter, she would sit and stare quietly, as though she and Sadie were corresponding and in cahoots. Whenever she sat there, she did not wish to be bothered, petted or spoken to. It was a little unnerving. She still occasionally hangs out in “the corner”. Dogs must know things we don’t.

Sheri says:

Of course they know things. That’s why we love to hang out with them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Simplifying

Sheri says:
I read an article the other day about simplifying. The woman profiled had reduced her wardrobe to the following:
5 pairs of pants
5 shirts
1 sweater
3 pairs of shoes: winter boots, everyday casual shoes and a pair of heels.
1 dress
2 coats: one heavy and one lightweight jacket

What fascinated me was the woman was not destitute. This was a move of choice, not desperation. She owned her home and had a healthy income. She simply decided to live with less stuff.

I walked through my home and realized (again) my abundance of clutter. It’s probably time for me to let some things go. I won’t manage to do it to her level but maybe, just maybe, I could take some baby steps.

Too much equipment, too many books, etc. We all have our vices.

When I first read the article, I misread it. I thought she meant she only had five pairs of jeans or five pairs of black pants. Three pairs of shoes? I thought she was just counting by category.

She also simplified other things in her life, but just thinking about the closet exhausted me.

Abby says:
I applaud this woman whoever she is. I wonder what prompted her to clean house. I think simplification can be very cathartic. Sometimes cleaning out physical possessions can help to cleanse our minds and put more important things into perspective. Maybe she experienced a life-altering event that required her to make a big change.

I have way too much. I don’t buy extravagant things. My vice is going to Target and scoring a cool pair of $19 Converse tennis shoes or a spicy aromatic candle on the clearance aisle. The problem is, I do that a lot. Therefore, I've accumulated a few pair of Converse tennies and several candles sitting in my cabinet. There is some type of comfort in being surrounding by “things”, yet once you have those things they can make you crazy when you have too many.

At the moment, it’s hard to think about material things when you see those recently affected by the earthquake in China or the people suffering from the loss of their family members due to the cyclone in Myanmar.

If we were all forced to do what this woman did, somehow I think we’d be fine.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Texting Lingo

Abby says:
Ok, so I have proudly broken into the world of text messaging. Until I purchased my iPhone (which I must say has been the best technology gadget to ever benefit my business) I never really texted. With my current data plan, it's free, so I decided to slowly tread into the waters of this hip cyber typing experience. I have learned something new!

I've grown to love it because I can correspond with someone quickly if there's no time to pick up the phone and voice mail. With some clients, it's become a great productivity tool when you need to get a quick message to somebody. It's also great between meetings when there is no time to call. Beware: if you have "diarrhea of the mouth" texting is not for you. It's also not for experimentation while driving.

And, I feel like I might be accepted into the cool crowd corresponding with my "younger friends" (much younger I must add) and relatives. I must tell you, though, I've noticed they send me messages with abbreviations, signs and symbols to which I am clueless. Perhaps I am not as hip to the technology as I thought.

After receiving a text with an upside down question mark, I decided to investigate. Upon Googling, I found it's just the Hispanic symbol for a question. Easy enough, but how do you actually type this? Well, it's the "num lock" plus "alt" plus "168". That is too much info for me to remember let alone a stress on my pre-arthritic fingers!

Textmessages.com is a great site if you're looking for a whole slew of text abbreviations. Here are a few they list:
nid = need
nt = not
2moro = tomorrow
f = if
? = what?

Sheri says:
I don't know how to text. My husband uses it all the time to communicate with the kids and I'm a little jealous. I just got a new phone and have made learning to text a priority. Luckily, our son is now home from college so he will try to teach me. It will be a new language for me. I'm not very good with signs and symbols, plus I tend to write in complete sentences.

Once I learn, Abby will be the first to know.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Voting Stories

Abby says:
I don't think I have ever been as interested in an election as I have this year. While I don't support all the candidates and their views, it's exciting that we have the opportunity to be voting Americans in a free country. I love that high school aged kids have been calling my house during the dinner hour for the past several weeks, pleading their case for their candidate -- even if I didn't plan on voting for their candidate. I talked to them and encouraged them to believe in their cause and stay involved. I love that young people in their 20s have been setting up tables outside near my office, encouraging people to vote in the primary. These kids are the future of our country.

When I arrived yesterday at my voting precinct during the dark hour of 6:00 am, there was a long line. I wasn’t irritated, I was glad. People care, and they are voting. I waited about 30 minutes. An interesting observation I made while watching the goings-on around me: precinct volunteers literally had their hands on the pile of "Democrat"
forms – appearing almost anxious to hand them out as they asked voters which party they declared. This was not just a presidential primary, it was about congress, school board, judges, etc. Was this a subliminal message that people are looking for a change? Or, have they been watching too much of the media talking about cross-over votes? Who knows, but it was mighty fun to watch.

We live in Indiana. Hillary won. But, will she throw in the towel? It will be an interesting few weeks ahead.

Sheri says:
I am way too obsessed with the political process. Indiana has not really counted in the primary elections in over 40 years. Yesterday was our day. The Clintons and Obamas criss crossed our state repeatedly over the past few weeks. To quote one of our columnists, "If you didn't see them, you didn't want to." They were everywhere.

It's nice to have Indiana in the spotlight for something other than a sound bite with someone with bad teeth and bad grammar.

I voted early but unlike Abby, I missed the morning crush. The average age of our poll volunteers is 73+. After I submitted my ballot, a volunteer man came lurching toward me and smacked a "I Vote; I Count" sticker on me. He put it on my breast but I decided to not be offended.

The primary is important. But I'm a tad concerned about the candidates below the presidential level. We have a few buffoons that keep getting re-elected year after year. We have a Congressman who was elected solely on his last name and his grandmother's coattails. We have a person who used to be our governor that I suspect is working and oiling the political machine. That makes me crazy but it is reality.

After I voted yesterday, I had several conversations with neighbors, friends, etc. Two of them referred to Obama as the "Anti Christ." The young people seem to adore him; middle-aged people seem to be skeptical.

I am only one person. I vote. I count.

Abby says:
Even Stevie Wonder showed up for Obama and performed a few songs downtown on the American Legion Mall. Sorry I missed that. He's one of my favorites!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Graduation Advice for Young Women ... and some Older Ones

Sheri says:

Isn't it amazing how quickly the years go? The time warp has just begun for you.

I'm no expert but I do have the wisdom of a few years. I've made my share of mistakes and I've learned some of the lessons the hard way. If I were speaking to you alone or in your graduation ceremony, here' are some tips I'd pass along:

The Brass ring is different for you than for me.
Don't let anyone define it for you.
Abby says: Work on building your self-worth and self-confidence. The longer you wait, the harder it is to acquire this.

Your size is not who you are but you may be judged for it.
Be comfortable in your own skin. If you're not, learn to fake it.
Abby says: My advice would be work very hard to become comfortable so you don't have to fake it. Don't pay attention to what your friends are doing. Be your own person.

Everything you do or say could wind up posted on UTube, FaceBook or other sites on the Internet.
Sometimes dancing on the table seems like a swell idea. I've done it. Sometimes having someone take your photo while the guy behind you is holding an illegal substance seems harmless. In this day and age, it will come back to haunt you.
Abby says: As Sheri and I heard recently at a conference in NYC, don't put anything on the Internet you would not want to appear on the diamond vision screen in Times Square! Good advice.

Compromise.
I am still learning this. For some of us, it's an ongoing battle. I could've saved myself a lot of pain and tears if I'd tried a little harder. The flip side of this is never compromise if you're selling out.
Abby: Compromise is an ongoing task forever. Learn to embrace it and live it because this will touch every facet of your life.

Know who is in your corner.
Don't take them for granted. Don't be afraid to reevaluate.
Abby says: People are generally "good". Give them the benefit of the doubt until you have reason not to.

Keep your credit and your reputation clean.
You'll save yourself years of headaches and possibly a small fortune.
Abby says: Start now. Don't wait. When you marry, understand his/her financial woes. You'll probably inherit this.

Your boyfriend now may not be the love of your life.
No offense to all of you who have managed to navigate long-distance relationships and have great plans for the future. I know lots of people who have made it work with their high school and/or college love. Just make sure you have explored who you are. Sometimes the love of your life isn't the person you've fallen into a comfortable routine with.
Abby says: My best relationships appeared later in my life. Enjoy singlehood while you are young.

Children.
Most of you will become mothers. With that life stage, you will appreciate your own mothers, aunts and girlfriends even more. Children will shock your mind, body and soul. The responsibility is mind-boggling. Don't take it lightly.
Abby says: Amen.

Have your own time.
Is it a cup of tea and the newspaper in the morning? Is it 10 minutes to read before you fall asleep? Is it 20 minutes to email some friends? Give yourself a few minutes every day. There's a reason they put locks on doors.
Abby says: Even in the strongest relationships, both partners need their "space". Getting involved with someone who does not respect and embrace this may be a control problem later (or sooner).

Take your time.
Some days will feel like a never-ending juggling act. You have time to be a career woman, if that is your goal. You have time to be a wife, which takes redefining endlessly. You have time to be a mother. You will be called on to care for others: parents, siblings and friends. Don't beat yourself up when you can't do it all at once.
Abby says: In recent years, I have learned that being spontaneous is invigorating. Learn this now so you have it later.

Your health matters.
You are young and probably in good health. It's very easy to take that for granted. I warn you ... the weirdest things can creep up on you. Know your family history.
Abby says: Young ladies, have your female check-ups and mammograms EVERY year. Many catastrophic health problems are preventable. If you save money for nothing else now, be sure you keep (or sign up for) your health insurance. I work in health care -- I know!

Embrace technology.
I'm sure you get very tired of all of us old folks reminding you that we grew up with three television channels, no microwaves or VCRs. The computer chip in your cell phone used to take an entire building to house. So, if those changes happened in the 25 or so years since I was in college, imagine what your next 25 years will bring. You already know more than the majority of Americans. Keep up.
Abby says: We're preaching to the techno choir here!

Vote.
And be politically informed.
Abby says: You are the futures of our country.

Know your comfort things.
I like the company of my dog and a cushy pair of slippers. My blood pressure can decrease immediately if I am near a lake or the ocean. The bathtub will do in a pinch.
Abby says: Private time is irreplaceable! Mine is my tub, a book and a glass of wine with no TV or computer.

Roll with It.
You'll make good and bad choices. Don't beat yourself up. Learn from your mistakes and embrace the good in all you do.
Abby says: My favorite motto is "Fess up then Move On"!

Abby Adds:
Diversity Is beautiful!
Everyone is different. Learn to breathe this in and enjoy it. The world is full of interesting people.

This is your time. Enjoy it!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Papal Visit

Abby says:

This is Abby Marmion, correspondent from Chameleon Co., reporting live from my kitchen table about the Papal Mass. Because of the Internet and these things called blogs, even amateurs can be news reporters, reporting stories as they happen, and broadcast them over the waves of cyberspace.

As I worked on my school presentation Sunday afternoon, my mom called and reminded me the Pope's Mass in NYC was on CNN. I turned on my TV and was absolutely glued for the next 3 hours. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, I suppose.

I was raised in the religion and attended Catholic schools for 12 years. While I respect and still believe some of the basic principles, somewhere along the way, I fell off the wagon (like many in my generation) for numerous reasons we don't need to belabor here. So, I guess I am one of those "sometimes" Catholics (as hypocritical as that may sound) and still a stray searching for the perfect religion.

As I watched the public Mass, for the first time since my grade school years, something made me want to be there taking part in this pomp and circumstance. Hmm. Wonder what that is about? Sheri and I should have stayed in NYC last week in hopes of scoring tickets. Other than a Yankees game or a U2 concert, I have never heard such applause in a public venue. Attendees were on their feet from the time Pope Benedict entered the stadium until the Mass commenced. It was somewhat shocking to watch, in light of the numerous scandals plaguing the church.

The Pope somehow exudes mystery, making viewers want to bottle it up, inhale it, and never let it go. I have never seen some 60,000 people receive Holy Communion in a venue this size. It was amazing in and of itself. Unlike a rock concert, he left the stage (altar), but there was no encore. As he departed Yankee Stadium, the crowd was still, and no one moved from their seats.

While I don't support everything the Catholic church stands for (and am ashamed for what's been uncovered recently regarding priests), I respect the Pope. There are many religions I respect. While I am not sure how the Catholic church will recover from all their controversy, I still enjoyed watching this once-in-a-lifetime event. When I was growing up, we didn't have the multi-media technology to view an event like this.

Sheri says:

I am Methodist but I wanted to be Catholic for a while. I tried. Most of my childhood friends are/were Catholic so I spent some time there. My goddaughters are Catholic. I am married to a FARC (Fallen Away Roman Catholic.)

All of the Christian sects were spawned from Catholic beginnings. Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian ... even those wacky Baptists.

Am I incredibly naive? As I look at Christian religions, I find very few differences. One is Papal Supremacy. I admire him. I wish I was still in NY so I could see him in person. But I don't think he is God on earth.

Abby says:

I agree with Sheri's comments. FARC? I have never heard that term but I guess it fits me, too.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Powerful Word of Mouth Buzz

Abby says:

If you want to create buzz, have an earthquake.

I awoke this morning as I always do around 5:15 am and began my normal routine. I rose in the dark, stumbled to find the coffee maker button and turned on the news. Then I went to retrieve my sleepy dog to take her outside. As I stood half awake in my kitchen waiting for my brew and for Maggie to do her biz, I could have sworn I heard a freight train. No trains in my neighborhood. Thunder? Nope, beautiful forecast for today. Then, my floor shook and the bottle of red wine on my white counter top began to move sideways. What the heck?

I grabbed Maggie and went in to look at the TV. The newscasters were having a heyday. An earthquake! In Indianapolis! We're on a fault line, but I didn't know it was that faulty.

Within minutes the local news stations had hundreds of calls and thousands of emails. Everyone was buzzing. Immediate interviews from across the Midwest. That's all they could talk about for the rest of the morning. When I arrived at my favorite coffee house around 6:30 am for some much needed caffeine, it's all I heard. People were buzzing about the earthquake. When I went to lunch, everyone in line was talking about "where they were when the earthquake hit" -- and what they were doing during the recent aftershock (which felt stronger to me than the initial quake).

Wow. "Word-of-mouth- buzz" is incredibly powerful. And it travels so quickly today thanks to the Internet and satellite technology. This never ceases to amaze me. As a marketing professional, I need to figure out how to bottle up this concept and sell it.

Sheri says:

I'm getting used to being clueless. It seems to be my MO these days. The original earthquake happened at 5:30ish this morning. For once, I was asleep. Neither my husband nor I felt or heard it. Only when I turned on the news did I learn about it.

Later, I left for an appointment. I walked in the house to both phones ringing. Did you feel it? I thought my callers were referring to the earthquake this morning but apparently we're going through aftershocks. I was in my car -- I didn't feel that one either.

If a tree falls in the forest but there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Now I'm looking to my dog to give me a clue of impending weather or another aftershock. Turns out she's as clueless as I am.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Meeting New People

Abby says:
The other day I awoke around 7:00 am -- which for me, is like being on vacation. I slipped into my workout gear, grabbed my iPod and headed to the fitness center. I sleepily stepped up onto the elliptical machine, turned on the Today Show, put my headphones in my ears and began my workout. This was no ordinary workout and no ordinary day. As I peered out of the hotel fitness center's floor-to-ceiling window on the top floor, the sun was brightly reflecting on the ornately carved silver building facade across the street. This was my final day in New York City -- my most favorite destination.

Sheri and I had been attending our annual writer/author conference for the weekend, and it was time to go home. We always meet the most interesting people with interesting stories to tell, and this year was no exception. I found that the "six degrees of separation" concept still holds true.
We joined a random group of writers for Saturday dinner. When we all sat down and began talking, I realized the people at my end of the table were all medical writers -- just like me. I am not sure how that twist of fate happened.

· Judy, who was sitting next to me, was writing a book about being a "replacement child" -- being conceived after the death of her sibling when a plane crashed into their home.
· Elyse was an author from Midland, Michigan. I know one person from Midland -- my best friend from high school and college with whom I recently reconnected. And, they are both nurses! How weird is that?

· Kim had recently scored a book agent and was writing about big name athletes (of course I cannot mention which ones).
· Then there was Martha, who was writing a book about a home out East infiltrated with demons. She was interviewing priests from the Catholic Church as well as the home's residents.

At breakfast, we met Tireska. I cannot remember what her current book was about, but she had Demi Moore silky dark hair, perfect skin, kitchy spectacles, cool clothes and a sophisticated British accent from living in the UK the last seven years. At that moment, I wanted to be her.

I also had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with my professor, Melissa Rosati, from my Master's program. That was a great treat. She took me around the building where our graduate classes are and I got the official tour. It was fun to see what I have only imagined via my cyber classroom experience so far.

This was a great trip and an opportunity to decompress and escape into the deep dark caverns of my mind.

Sheri says:
I have been to this conference and to Manhattan many times. It never disappoints -- neither the city nor the conference. The energy and the passion is contagious. Plus, it lets me reconnect with Abby in a way that our daily lives do not allow.

We've attended this conference for enough years that now we see familiar faces. Abby is much better at networking and meeting new people but she allows me to tag along.

We spent lots of time with fellow writers and journalists. I was inspired by their ideas and various projects. Some conferences and writer's groups get colloquial and secretive. Not this event. People openly share their projects, their ideas, their mishaps, etc. I learn a lot in the seminars but I also learn from the other attendees.

The flight home is bittersweet. I replay the people I've met. I try to sort through new goals. I press my forehead against the window and say a silent good-bye to Manhattan. To quote someone near and dear to my heart, "I'd live there if I had a k'zillion dollars."

Abby listed several of the talented writers we met and/or reconnected with. I have one more.
We went to the Capitol Grille for a drink and to decompress. Our server was Patrick and he did the usual shtick -- Where are you from? What are you in town to do? It turns out Patrick is also an aspiring writer. We returned one other time and Patrick bought us a glass of wine. (That may happen in Indy but it's pretty rare in Manhattan.)

In my college years and early 20s, I used to think I would live in Manhattan. It didn't happen. Life threw me some different paths.

But I will go there at every opportunity and I will absorb the energy. For a second, I will wish I was 20 years old or even 30 years old and would've made a few different choices. And I will look forward to next year.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reconnecting Friendships

Abby says:
I am a voracious reader. It's my escape for an hour at the very end of my day -- no matter how late. Because my business is somewhat high-energy, I typically choose to escape into a dark cave of mystery novels, medical thrillers or romantic trash novels. Last weekend I was perusing the new fiction releases at Barnes & Noble and noticed a cover that caught my eye. It was something about the soothing aqua colored design that drew me to read the book jacket.

The author is Kristin Hannah. The book is "Firefly Lane". The story unfolds with two young girls who become friends by chance, and their friendship blossoms into many years intertwined with happiness and tumult. I was not totally sold until I noticed the end of the jacket -- which talked about the music group ABBA and listening to "Dancing Queen". Somehow this reference made an instant connection with me. I was thrown back into my early years of sweet memories.

The book was moving. Amazingly, I have branched out and read something that is not a trash novel. It opened my mind. Hannah has an amazing talent and a knack with descriptive language that brings you into the story. The ending is completely a heart break that brought a lump to my throat and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Most of all, this book reminded me of my friendship with Sheri. We have endured many, many years. Some have been good. Some have been great. Some have been bad -- some even totally void of contact. Sheri makes me laugh. Sheri makes me angry. Our friendship has seemed distant and far away recently -- we're both dealing with our own lives and issues.

"Firefly Lane" made me look at our friendship in a completely new light for which I am grateful. The next time Sheri makes me mad I will try harder to let it roll.

Read this book.

Sheri says:
What a shock to learn that I make Abby mad sometimes!

I have also read this book. I’ve enjoyed the author for years and it’s been interesting to watch her writing style evolve. As Chick Lit, this is a great friendship story, and for any woman in her 40s, it’s bound to take you down memory lane.

You will see yourself in each of these characters. At least I did. I will take the recommendation a little further. Yes, read the book. Then, take a fresh look at your friendships and reconnect where necessary. I’m going to try to take my own advice.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Local Indy Author Goes Green

Abby says:
My friend Kate Shoup is an author here in Indianapolis who has written several “how-to” books for big-name publishers. Unlike many authors who are required to find an agent and pitch their projects, Kate is sought after to write books for these publishers. She’s incredibly talented. Her mom Barb is also a well-known author who writes for the young adult audience.

Kate has written cool stuff like “Not Your Mama’s Beading”, “Bargain Shopping Online”, “iPhone Visual” (which I’m currently reading). And, techy stuff like “Easy Microsoft Windows XP” – ironically co-written with my high school pal, Shelley O’Hara (small world!). She also wrote “The Agassi Story” about tennis player Andre Agassi.

Like a lot of people, Kate’s now gone "green". She just published a new book – an idea she pitched to the publisher – called “Rubbish!: Reuse Your Refuse”. If you’re crafty, you’ll love it. Even if you’re not, it’s worth the read. She creates cool projects out of everyday throw-away items. My favorite project is a handbag made from a light aqua, soft and fuzzy turtleneck sweater. I am not particularly talented in the crafts arena, but I may attempt this one.

I went into Barnes & Noble over the weekend hoping to purchase the book, and low-and-behold, they didn’t have it. I teasingly scolded the woman at the information counter and told her Kate is a local author. They need to carry her book! She immediately ordered copies for the store (plus one for me) and also asked me if Kate would consider a book signing.

To check out Kate visit kateshoup.com. To check out the book visit Amazon.com.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Drawing the Line

Abby says:
Chelsea Clinton campaigned for her mom here in Indianapolis last week at Butler University. During the Q & A she was asked by a male student whether the Monica Lewinsky scandal had hurt her mother's credibility. She retorted "Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question, in the, maybe 70 college campuses that I've been to." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REbD19UNCmo)

Was that an appropriate answer? Since she's put herself out there on the campaign trail, was that fair game during questioning? As members of the voting public, what is and isn't our business regarding a White House scandal that entwines the candidate's husband? Where do we draw the line?

The fact that Hillary stayed with her husband was a personal decision. Did it hurt her credibility? Who knows. Taking into consideration they were raising a daughter together, leaving Bill may have hurt her credibility more than staying. If the tables were turned and it was Hillary who publicly cheated on Bill, would we even be having this discussion? No matter what her decision, I am not sure this issue is pertinent to her ability to run our country.

Sheri says:
I watched this. I thought the question was inappropriate. I think it’s fair game for Bill or Hillary but not Chelsea. She was a child during the Lewinsky affair. Although she had to endure it, her opinion of that whole fiasco does nothing to define how Hillary would serve as president.

In the 1980 election, we learned that President Bush self-diagnosed an alcohol problem. We also learned he hasn’t had a drink in decades. Is it my right to know if a candidate smoked pot in college? Is it my right to know if a candidate tried cocaine decades ago, when he or she was not in public office? Is it my right to know if a candidate has visited a psychologist or psychiatrist to work through a troublesome time?

Some journalists and some of the voting public enjoy asking questions for the shock value. As a voter, I need to know where the candidates stand on the issues that they will have the ability to impact. A lot of the other stuff is fluff and titillating.

I may watch it but it doesn’t sway my vote.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Election Thoughts

Abby says:
Ok. I am over the news media. We are still a ways away from the election and it's all we've heard for months. I love living in the US and the freedoms that accompany it, however, this election is getting under my skin -- which is too bad -- because so many countries don't have this opportunity.

Sunday night I was sitting quietly on my couch watching "The Godfather" drinking a glass of red wine when the phone rang at 8:00. Hmmm, I wondered. Who could be calling at this late hour? Well, the called ID was a residence of which I did not recognize. Assuming it was a volunteer calling for the AmVets, I answered. I always talk to them when they call for clothing and furniture donations because I help them out when I can.


Not to be. Instead, it was an extremely pushy woman who wanted to know if I was going to vote for Mr. Obama. I told her my vote was absolutely none of her business. She repeatedly kept pushing and prodding. She then told me she hoped I was registered to vote. That stung. I was so incensed over this I hung up on her.


Not only is this campaign about candidate-to-candidate mud-slinging, but some candidates are obviously reverting to low tactics that involve urging volunteers to push (in very irritating ways) their wares. I am over that. It's too bad, and maybe I am too PollyAnna. While I realize there are several important issues at hand, shouldn't the election be a celebration of our freedom? It's hard to get beyond the media to discern what platforms the candidates really stand for.


Sheri says:
I watch all of it with a passion. I’m afraid of McCain, Clinton and Obama – all for different reasons. Lots of highly qualified people will never run for office, let alone the highest office in the land. So we look over the candidates and vote accordingly. These are strong and accomplished people. But once one aspires to reach the voting public, the political machine takes over. I’m pretty sure this was not what our founding fathers had in mind.

It’s been a long time since I was 18-years old and a newbie voter. I still take this right seriously and in some ways, I consider it my duty. I get annoyed with people who don’t vote. I get anxious when people tell me they just pull the party bar.

Like Abby, I don’t want to be part of the poll and the endless phone calls are crazy. I wish we had refined our system long ago.

Am I hung up on this lunatic minister that Mr. Obama has been associated with for decades? I haven’t decided. Is John McCain’s age an issue? Will he keep us in this never-ending war? I haven’t decided. Does Hillary’s experience as First Lady and then senator make me trust her more or less? I haven’t decided.

I’m not over it. I’m paying more attention every day.

Abby says:
Maybe Tim Russert from "Meet the Press" will put his name in the hat. He seems to grasp the issues facing country better than most of the candidates. I might even vote for him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Filling the Void

Abby says:

What happens when the task you spend 90% of your time doing suddenly goes away one day? Without notice, there is a big, scary, lonely void to fill. My friends are there.

Sheri has spent the better part of two years caring for her in-laws. One day they just showed up from Mississippi and moved in "temporarily" with Sheri and her husband. Two years and lots of unexpected care giving later, her mother-in-law suddenly died. Six weeks after that, the father-in-law died too. While Sheri tried to "have a life" during all of this, it didn't work too well in my opinion -- as an outsider looking in.

My other friend "S" is in a similar boat. Her mother is about to turn 93 and has been "on the verge of death" for at least two years. She is the only sibling living here in town, so everything has fallen to her. She bores the entire burden (quite graciously I might add). She told me last night, the end is truly here.

I wonder, how will my two friends fill the voids and how does one begin to cope with that feeling of total emptiness? Even after someone passes, and the caregiver is relieved for many reasons, it's still difficult beyond imagination. After the grief lies the thought of "what do I do now".

Sheri says:

There are many of us in this boat. It’s almost like Noah’s ark; we’re boarding two by two.

I can’t deny that trying to have a normal marriage, deal with household issues and children, plus dealing with elderly care did not have an impact on my life. I am still picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to my business. Abby is right. Care giving turns you into a different person.

I am grieving and I miss my in-laws. But, I am proud of my efforts on their behalf. When I look at the void, I am excited. Our children are building their own lives. No one is harping at me to take them to the hospital or deal with medications. Business opportunities are mine to pursue. I don’t have to turn down trips because I’m afraid of my in-laws burning my house to the ground.

Yes, there’s a void. There are also a lot of experiences that I’ve had to bypass in the last few years and I’m ready to join the world again.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Body Image

Sheri says:

Like most adult women, I’m often concerned with the images we’re giving young girls. What is perfection? Is there such a thing? Most 12-year olds don’t understand air-brushing in Photo Shop and most 40-year olds wish for it. Still, the media does us all a disservice when they put photos out there of unrealistic and unobtainable images. I get it but does your teenager?

I fall into this trap. I have a daughter who is beautiful. I have two goddaughters who I pretend not to know when we’re all in bathing suits. I’m not exactly jealous of their bodies; I’m just trying to figure out why or when mine went south. And I’m traipsing down memory lane when I was one of the cute girls in a bikini.

Overweight will not be my issue. I don’t think anyone will airbrush me and put me in People Magazine. I’ve earned every line and dimple. Now I must teach myself to not run screaming from the mirror.

Abby says:

Body image goes all the way back to the 16th century – or perhaps even earlier. Why do you think women wore tight corsets? According to Wikipedia, the purpose was to “cinch the waist and hold up the breasts”. So, nothing’s really changed. Today, we just have access to super media and social marketing outlets to hype toned, skinny bodies and surgeons to perfect them. It’s tough for a young girl growing up to define a zone of comfort.

When I was a competitive swimmer, I had quite the perfect bod for many years. Then in college, it became harder and harder to maintain – even when I was training. I’ve been teaching fitness classes for 30 years now. At my age, fitness alone doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. It’s about what you put in your mouth.

I also have plastic surgeons as clients. Am I concerned about my body image? You betcha. It’s a combination of my past and my present. But, I have recently come to the realization that I will never have my 20-something figure back – and I’m ok with that. So my ongoing goal is to stay fit, and maintain a weight where my clothes look good and be comfortable in my bathing suit. I think each person has to find this type of balance – whatever “it” is.

It’s easy to criticize others. I try not to do that. One day at the gym, I overheard some guys in their 40s talking in a derogatory fashion about a woman who had put on weight. I could not help but thinking what big beer guts these guys had – not a pretty picture – yet they were critical. You almost can’t win!

When asked, here’s what friends/acquaintances secretly told us about “their body image”:

* “I am stunned to see a middle-aged (or older) woman looking back at me. I generally feel pretty much o.k. about my body until I look at specific parts and think that I didn't use to look like that. Most of the time, I don't honestly think about it.”

* “Hadn't really paid much attention to myself in detail in the mirror until about 1.5 weeks ago. It started with putting on a pair of jeans that ‘shrunk’ in the wash. Being daring, I decided to prove this was correct and got on the scale. Well, that was off as
well – seemed I gained 8 pounds from nowhere. Glutton for punishment I am, I decided to look in the mirror. AGH! Nothing was lying after all. Lumps were where lumps shouldn't be…Now, all I need to do is get rid of these wrinkles on my face – never thought I would be one to consider Botox, but it's now on the forefront of my mind.....why did I look in the mirror?”

* “When I look at myself I see a not so bad looking older woman with my clothes on. My body image will never be the way it was in my younger years. However, I try to do whatever I can to tighten things up and get fit. I see a big stomach, big butt and a lot of jiggly skin. I am who I am and I love that person, even though she still is out of shape. I don't make unrealistic goals for myself. I try to do the best I can with what I have and leave it at that.”

* “I am currently very upset about my body…I would say I was happiest with my body, between 36 & 44 years old. I felt good & was proud of my figure, especially for my age. Recently though at age XX, my body no longer seems my own. I don't recognize it, I have strange new cellulite, flab, and blottedness. I hate it. I need to make time to get into an exercise routine. I have thought about both Zumba and back to Pilates. I do not feel good about myself. I am horrified that I do not fit into most of my clothing and what I do fit into, I have "stuff" hanging out! I can not look into the mirror without wanting to hurl. Gross Gross Gross!”

* “Obviously, I am having a hard time with myself in the mirror right now because of my 15 to 20 lb weight gain…I do have faith that I will loose these extra pounds when I am fed up and ready. My body image has not changed much since I was young. I am pretty satisfied with what God gave me except I have always felt somewhat fat because of my stomach. It has never been as flat as I would like it to be. If I could just be about 2 inches taller maybe I could have that flat stomach that I have always coveted.”

* “I see things that I feel are holding up well, such as my breasts, considering I breastfed 2 children but I’ve always felt awkward and graceless in the way I move. I think back on when I was a teenager and I know I looked pretty good from old photos but even at the time I felt chunky. I have up and down days on my body image since I had a tummy tuck. I think I look better in clothes than without.”


* “I guess I would have to say that when I look in the mirror naked, I look pretty good and then I try to squeeze into my (one size too small wardrobe) and everything bulges over the top, I get depressed. On the other hand, if I tilt the mirror back, it elongates my silhouette and actually makes me look pretty hot!”

Abby says:

There you have it. It must be human nature to critique our bodies.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Body Image

Our next post (coming soon!) will address body image.

The good, the bad, and the ugly. Stay tuned.