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.