Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Best Holiday Memories

When I was a child I adored the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas because there was so much buzz and excitement. I remember my mom being so stressed during that time and could never figure it out. But now, as an adult, I get it!

Rush, rush, rush! Buy this gift for that person. Go to this party or that function. Fight the crowds at the malls. What's wrong with this picture? I think it's easy to forget the true meaning of the holidays. Here are some of my favorite memories from childhood.

* Putting up the Christmas tree. It was definitely more fun for us kids than my parents (especially when the tree fell down by accident while decorating).
* Baking banana nut bread. I can still smell the sweet aroma. My mom did several loaves as gifts for the nuns at my grade school. Little did she know, these were the women who continually slapped me on the arm with their scary rulers!
* Making spritz cookies. My granny had this cool copper and aluminum spritzer with lots of shapes. What fun! I still have the spritzer today but it's a bit dusty.
* Delivering an anonymous gift each year to friends of my parents. My mom sang in the choir at midnight mass. We'd then sneak down the street in our car, turn the lights off and place the present on their doorstep, ring the bell and run! It was always some crazy joke gift. Then, they'd call us at 2 am when we arrived home, and we'd laugh so hard we'd cry.
* We had a giant reindeer head with a red light for his nose. We hung it on our front porch each Christmas and plugged it in. We lived on a busy street and he stopped traffic every year. I think he even made the local newspaper. We nicknamed him Rudolph of course!
* Sneaking downstairs at 5 am Christmas morning to look at all the presents and hear the still quiet or look out at the powdered sugar snow. It was magical!
* Breakfast of egg casserole and eggnog after we opened presents.
* Leaving cookies and milk for Santa on the fireplace hearth. I should have suspected when they were my dad's favorite brand of cookies!
* Christmas caroling with the Girl Scouts -- except for one year. My friend Kathleen, who had beautiful, long black hair, had her flowy locks burned by someones's candle . That was scary!

Ahhh. To be a child again with visions of sugar plums...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hospitals and Holidays

Well, I'm finally back. Sorry for my absence, but in our life, if it's holiday time, someone goes into the hospital. This year was no exception.

While I certainly did not mean for this blog to be all about health care and my family's ailments, there's been a lot of them in the last year or so -- hoping maybe what I learn along the way can be passed on to others.

Just when I thought we were getting my parents settled into their new living quarters, my dad awoke ill one morning and was hospitalized for two weeks. That was just the beginning. Then there was my mother -- who insisted on staying in his room the entire time -- leaving only to go to the cafeteria for food a few times (or when we forced her to get out into daylight).

It was rough, but there were bits and pieces of humor. My dad thought he was a general in the Russian Army. He told me he was Secretary of State. He said that the aliens were plotting and that we needed to be careful. He also thought he was in a prison (that one I can understand!).

At any rate, I drove the doctors and the nurses nuts because I am an Internet freak and know enough about health care to be dangerous (and annoying). I was constantly online looking up my dad's symptoms, going over old doctor's and hospital notes from previous years, etc. trying to diagnose his condition. One physician had to ask me to "stay off the Internet"! It's simple. My dad has pneumonia and a serious bacteria growing in his lungs. For someone who is almost 80, this is not good.

He is out of the hospital but recovering at a facility in what I'll refer to as "quarantined" for at least 6 weeks. Everyone has to wear bunny suits, latex gloves and masks when they go in to see him.

While I love all the discoveries modern medicine has to offer, sometimes it feels like a double-edge sword. Is this really how we want to live our lives in the later years?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Updates

Abby wanted to let all of you know that she'll be away from her blog for a short period of time. Her Dad is in the hospital and of course, needs to be well taken care of. Hopefully, she'll be back to blogging soon because her Dad will be doing better. Please keep him in your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stood Up (by my mother)

Yes, I've been stood up before in my younger days. I got over it. But, I've never been stood up by my own mother. How sad. I guess the move to the retirement home and being forced to live in separate quarters from my dad are taking their toll on her.

It was supposed to be a simple lunch at her new place on Saturday at high noon. I should have known when her line was busy all morning that something was amiss. But, as many older folks often do, she commonly knocks her phone off the hook and fails to charge her cell phone. I decided to venture up to her new apartment at the retirement home anyway in hopes of lunch and conversation.

When I arrived at her door I could see through the peep hole it was dark. Uh, not good! So, I knocked with a vengeance. Pretty soon, here comes my little mother to the door -- still in her PJs. She had fallen back to sleep. The best part was the make-shift "burglar alarm" she had rigged up. Upon walking through her front door, about 6 plastic hangers stacked one on top of the other came falling down on my head. It made me chuckle. She's never lived alone.

Goodness. I had no idea what we were in for with all of this moving and adjustment.

I gave her 30 minutes to get dressed and put on some make-up so we could get to lunch. It did have a happy ending. We had good food and good conversation -- which was much needed for us both.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Never Again

Ok I am a firm believer in not saying "never" because you just never know. But, I think I can say I will never move again until I move to a retirement facility (hopefully many years down the road). God forbid I should ever get married again -- sorry, lucky man, but you'll have to live at my place (though you won't have much closet space).

I moved over the weekend and have never been so exhausted in all my life. I guess I am not snapping back as quickly in my older years even with all the working out I do. It's like a rubber band sitting around for too long that loses its elasticity and snaps. I literally awoke the next morning and wondered if I was in the hospital or having a bad dream. Every muscle and bone in my body hurt to the nth degree. I barely made it out of bed. Once I did, I made my coffee then crawled back in for some much-needed slumber.

I made at least 10+ trips to the dumpster. And, about 15 more trips to my old house after the movers left. How does one accumulate so much stuff over the years? It's ridiculous.

Then there's my parents' stuff that has to be sifted through (I bought their house). My sister described it perfectly -- we feel like "intruders" deciding what stays and what goes. The movers filled about a quarter of their truck with donated items for Goodwill. It must be that Depression Era "don't throw anything away" concept that older people hold onto.

At any rate, it's now time to sift through the rubble and figure out what's next.

Mindy (Abby's sis) says:
Oh yes! I second all of this! I am not a thing person. I have the distinction of having moved at least 30 times in the last 10 years, and all of my stuff fits in a 10'x10' storage unit, with room to spare. I should be grateful that I didn't have to move all of that on top of what I had at my parents.

I think all of this, for myself and for Abby, is compounded by sheer exhaustion from the last year's events, coupled with the fact that we had just moved my father to the health center, then to the Memory Care unit 6 weeks later, then our Mother to her independent living apartment five days after that! And completely unpacked her on the same day as the move!

Is it any wonder neither of us can look a box in the face and we gag at the thought of ever moving again? Although I get to do this all over again in February or March....The fun continues as we go through 58 years' worth of accumulation!

http://www.paradigmalchemy.com/

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Becoming a Middle-Aged Mom

I never got the mommy gene. I chose to focus on my career, so the child-rearing thing never happened for me.

Until now.

Suddenly, I have been thrust into becoming a single mom at the age of 47. My kids are my 78-year-old parents.

The role reversal has been a whirlwind and something I never expected. I always knew I'd take care of my parents when the time came, I just had no idea what it truly entailed. All the hours, the emotional drain and worst of all, the reversing of roles. Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining by any means. I am just floundering in a sea of Medicare paperwork, bills and not knowing how, exactly, to do this and do it right. My sister is in the same boat.

By day I run my company and do my job. And, I fax my power-of-attorney to endless numbers of people, talk to Medicare and AARP and sift through the mounds of papers and invoices required by it all. By night, I call my parents to be sure they are taking their meds, getting their flu shot, going to meals, checking their mail, etc. My sister and I talk numerous times daily and nightly to recount who said what to whom about what in order to keep everything straight.

I never thought I'd be helping people to the bathroom, doling out medicines, getting phone calls in the middle of the night when my dad misses my mom and hopes she is warm with enough blankets on her bed. Or, getting calls from the retirement facility to have a "parent-teacher conference" to discuss my parents' individual progress (or lack of it). Or, dealing with a mom who taught me to be the fiercely independent woman I am today - and now cannot pull herself together and adapt to living in a new environment separate from my dad.

It's a lot to take in. It's painful to watch. But, looking on the bright side, maybe what I am learning can help someone else who will walk in my shoes at some point.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cleaning House

As if I need anything else to add to my plate, I am moving. When we moved my parents out to the retirement home, I purchased their condo. My sister is going to move to my house, so we are playing musical chairs once again with packing, movers, stress and heated tempers.

I am a bit of a pack rat, but up until this past weekend I had no idea how much stuff I had stock piled over the years -- stuff I simply don't need. How does this happen? I guess from living in the same home for 12 + years and not being diligent about keeping up with the clutter.

I feel a bit like Imelda -- enough silly shoes to open a store (I still have old and out-of-style kicks from 30 years ago in college that I could never part with!). I have enough black suit skirts and jackets to outfit a small corporation of women. That's what happens when you work in banking for 15 years and dress like a Stepford.

And then there's the make-up. You know. It's always buy something you need, and it includes a "gift with purchase". What a deal...(Not!) Nine times out of ten these gifts contain one thing I might use and 4 things I won't -- ever. But, when staring at products whose labels boast "use this and look 10 years younger" I kept them for a rainy day. Now I have a closet full of hard and waxy lipsticks, cakey, cracked powder and dried-up "look-younger serum" that never got the chance to erase my facial lines and wrinkles.

Finally there's the cooking paraphernalia. I am never home, so I rarely get the chance to cook -- which I actually love to do (when it's my idea, of course). Over the years, my mom has given me pots, pans, baking dishes, cooking spoons and the like -- in hopes of making me a domestic queen. I guess it never rubbed off. There they sit. I am queen of only my microwave. I'll dust some of these off and pack them up for the move to their next dark cabinet. The rest will get a new home.

Needless to say, I made a trip to Goodwill today with lots of stuff. I hope my much-needed loss makes for someone else's gain.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Coming to Grips With Reality

For those of you who know me, you know it's been a very rough year for my parents. They are both approaching 80 and have had some fairly challenging healthcare ups and downs over the years. But, we've managed to navigate the waters. 2009 was a different story -- the straw that broke my back (not the camel's).

It never occurred to me that someone in my family would get Alzheimer's disease. I always thought of stroke or heart attack. This was a big surprise to discover. And, up until last month, I suspect I was in complete denial. Surely, it was something else. Maybe all the anesthesia from the 5 surgeries in January. Maybe this. Maybe that. Maybe not.

Then we started to notice odd things. Desk drawers with banded up unpaid bills (not right for a former banker). Asking us to repeat things many times (silly me -- I thought it was the hearing problem, not the memory). Lack of focus. Depression in someone who always loved life to its fullest. Telling me about the 40 books just read in the past week (speed reader!).

Did we all know and just deny these symptoms -- hoping "it was nothing"? Perhaps. Probably.

When we knew it was time for a move to the Alzheimer's unit at a retirement facility, it was tough to watch the "cognitive" testing the nurse conducted to determine how advanced the dementia was.

This took place in July. When asked what season it was: "It's Fall" was the answer. When asked what the weather was: "It's snowing today" was the answer.

When asked what city our home was in the response was "Ottowa, IL" (childhood hometown).When asked to draw a clock, my breath was sucked out of my body. I saw a scribbled attempt at a circle with child-like numerals drawn backwards in reverse order (Alzheimer's patients often have spatial difficulties).

Surely this was not my parent, I thought. But, it was. It was at that moment I knew for sure Alzheimer's was the cold reality.

Now I can say it out loud. Even to my parent. Every time we are together. "You have Alzheimer's disease." Phew! That was hard. I've finally come to grips.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cheers to Sheri

Abby says:

Well the day has come for us to say farewell to Sheri Riley Roman. She is on to greener pastures and will no longer be part of the Candid Girl Chat blog. But, I suspect she'll always continue to be the candid girl I met and became quick friends with (well not that quick since she was sort of mean to me when I first met her!) more than 20 years ago.

She's busy with her own blog and a jaunt into a new life -- scary and exciting at the same time, I suspect. I have walked in her shoes. I wish her much luck. We have shared many good times, laughs, cries, oldies stories, books, travel excursions and more. I will miss her wit and interesting tidbits that have made our blog a success.

Cheers, Sheri! The grass WILL be greener for you.

Candid Girl Chat lives on, but, you'll have to deal with me. I have no idea what it will be, but I guarantee I'll have much to say and interesting guest bloggers.

Sheri says:

Hopefully I will still participate occasionally.

This is an interesting time for me. It's very sad as I finalize the end of my marriage, and the rippling changes from that alter every aspect of my life. It's nerve wracking to be looking for a job during this economy and deal with the emotional and frightening prospects of not knowing. It's exciting to know that whatever this new chapter brings, it will be an adventure. Mostly, it's exhausting to have so many areas of my life in the midst of change. I crave routine and a sense of stability. Right now I have neither.

I have loved being a part of this blog. I thank Abby for letting me create it with her and I thank everyone who bothered to read it. Blogs are a great release, and I will continue with my other one: Rileywritings.blogspot.com.

So I sign off for now, but I remain a Candid Girl.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer Surprises (good and bad)

Abby says:

This has been an odd summer, to say the least. I experienced many "surprising" things. Some were big. Some were small. Some were good. Some were bad. Some were significant, and some were incredibly trivial. Here are my top 5.

1) After 8 months of illnesses, we put my dad into a nursing home last month and watched incredible the sadness he and my mom suffered being torn apart. After 58 years of marriage, I cannot imagine what that is like. It was gut wrenching for me, and I doubted my decision many times, so I cannot imagine what it is like for them. My mom has reluctantly agreed to move to the same facility in independent living, however, the "independent" portion is yet to be determined. I did not see this one coming. It hit me like a freight train.

2) I discovered a new book genre I now like because of a favorite author. Jennifer Sturman, one of my favorite mystery writers, recently published another book. But, it was not her regular who-done-it page turner, rather, a young adult mystery with fresh, lively characters and a great twist. Even if you're not a young adult, check out "And Then Everything Unraveled". Great surprise, Jennifer!

3) I took a much-needed reprieve and landed in Santa Monica at the beach for 5 sunny days. I "pooled" with a couple members of James Cameron's ("Titanic", "Aliens") production team. It made for surprising and interesting conversation about the movie biz and his upcoming film, "Avatar".

4) I discovered TV show "Gossip Girl". When I was studying for finals, I needed a stress outlet each night when I could not sleep. Nothing was on the tube! So I rented a few season one discs to try it out. That turned into all of season one, season two and a total addiction to the series. It must be my love of anything New York City (where the show takes place) whether it's meaningful or meaningless.

5) I unexpectedly connected with several people from my past. Some go as far back as grade school (that darn Facebook is addicting!). Some are from my competitive swimming past (amazing how you cross paths later in your adult life). Some are people from a past career that I was never close to -- and never dreamed I'd hear from again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Annoying Stuff

Sheri says:
Some days bring more things to annoy you than others. Abby has had a lot of those kinds of days lately so she suggested this post be about all of those things -- large and small -- that can send you over the edge. Or, at a minimum, keep you teetering there.

My list of things that are annoying me right now are:
Waiting. Whether it's a follow-up decision about a job or a back and forth document exchange regarding my divorce, I seem to spend a lot of time in anticipation of something. Patience is not a virtue I have.

Conversations Between People who are Supposed to be Helping Customers. I cannot believe how many conversations I am forced to endure as I attempt to make a purchase.

Aches & Pains. I'm not talking about anything really serious. I'm talking about the little aches in the joints that remind me I'm not 20.

Ignorance. For some reason, I am running into a lot of ignorant people. These are not people who are striving for knowledge -- these are people who are intolerably ignorant and proud of it.

Insomnia. Maybe I've never been the best sleeper but it's getting worse when I am tense or stressed. (Why couldn't I be one of those people who can sleep all the time when they get depressed or tense?)

In all seriousness, I know I live a pretty blessed life. But sometimes it feels good to throw a few darts at the annoying things.

Abby says:
We recently moved my dad to a retirement facility, so pretty much every little thing is annoying me due to tension and high stress.

Curb-side smokers. Get a room! (just kidding). My office is located in a building with physician practices. It's ironic and unhealthy to see their employees standing at the entrance puffing years off their life.

Indiana grammar. As we covered in the last post, this makes my skin crawl. "Irregardless" is not a word. "For all intensive purposes" is not a correct phrase. "Ain't" ain't acceptable no matter where you live.

Text driving. I cannot believe how many people (not just the youngsters) I see driving and texting every day. We all know it's distracting and dangerous.

Younger women calling me "hon". I find this mostly with waitresses in uniform. What is it with "what can I get for you hon"? Especially when she is young enough to be my "hon".

Men I don't know calling me honey or sweetie. This is even worse. Ick. I am amazed how often this still happens in the business world. Maybe I should try it on them and see what happens.

Prejudice. I still witness this, and it amazes me. I grew up with friends of various religions who had different skin colors than I. That's what makes the world go 'round, so it hurts to see people are still judgmental.

Cars with deafening, loud booming radios. This just screams "look at me everyone."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Grammar


Abby says:
I have always been a stickler for proper spelling and grammar. I cringe when I read things that are misspelled or hear someone badgering the English language. This summer, I am taking a publishing editing class -- or so I thought. Little did I know it would include lots of details about spelling and grammar. Of course -- because that is what some book editors do. They red-line manuscripts to ensure proper spelling and style.

While I may be a writer, I write a lot of advertising copy. That means slang terms and style are much more loosy goosy than when writing a magazine article or a book manuscript.

Yikes, while reading our class assignments this week I realized I may have some poor grammar going, using my slangy terminology and such. I will never again go home to "lay on my couch" -- because that implies I might be "laying an egg", which of course, is not the case. If I tell my dog, Maggie to "lay down" -- no wonder she completely ignores me! She has no interest in "laying an egg" either. Now, I'm a bit paranoid. What happened to me? I guess I'll be paying better attention.

My past visions of grammar classes take me back in time to grade school. Catholic nuns walking around in long, black habits with stern looks -- and rulers -- making us spell incredibly difficult words. My classmates and I just hoped we did not get slapped.

My professor this time around seems much, much nicer, and there are luckily no rulers involved.

Sheri says:
I am so confused by all of this. I don't just have a slight crush on the English language -- I am hopelessly, stupidly in love with words, definitions and proper usage.

I am the nerd that should have pocket protectors stapled to my forehead. I would (almost) rather receive a box of sharpened red pencils than a new car.

By the way, I do not tell my dog to "lay down." I tell her to "lie down."

But here's the kicker. I am a dinosaur. Ok, I text. I use some shorthand in emails and notes. I know the difference between proper correspondence and a reply to a teenager. But do they?

And if I don't understand something or question its usage, I look it up. Years ago, that involved opening the dictionary or (gasp!) going to the library. I have it a lot easier these days. So does everyone. I still bother to look it up.

Abby says:
I look it up too. Problem is, grammar usage is tough to look up! With Microsoft grammar check, half the time it's incorrect...

PS: When Sheri and I worked together in a past life, she "red-lined" everything (whether it needed to be or not!).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The King of Pop

Abby says:
I could not let today pass without writing something about Michael Jackson. I told myself I was not going to get caught up in it, but here I am. I set my VCR when I left home and have had CNN running non-stop at the office, glued to watching the throngs of fans and media vultures as the Jackson family makes their way from the cemetery to Staples Center for the big tribute.

I loved his music. It shaped much of my childhood, then my young adulthood. I remember when the "Off the Wall" album (yes, "album" -- I'm old!) came out. Then "Thriller". Then "Bad". They were all great. We'd play them over and over, dancing until the wee hours of the night. The dance clubs played them until we thought we'd drop. I used all his music when I taught my aerobics classes back in the 80's. I still continue to play some of my old favorites when I teach my Spin class.

There was nothing better than songs by the King of Pop.

What a sad and tragic ending to what seemed to be the tormented life of a gifted and talented person.

Sheri says:
I must admit to getting a little tired of the media attention since Michael's death. Come on! It's not like he was a head of state or anything. And so much of his adult life has been filled with creepy accusations and innuendos.

But a funny thing happened while I watched glimpses of the endless coverage -- I was shocked at how present he had been in so many parts of my life.

One of my first 45s was of The Jackson Five.I loved so much of his music and like Abby, it's almost been a soundtrack to my life.So of course, I watched the funeral. And I was touched once again by his music and his legacy. If you had asked me two weeks ago if I was a Michael Jackson fan, I probably would've shrugged and said, "He's ok. I like some of his music." Turns out, I'm a much bigger fan than I thought.

Abby says:
Me too. Not only did I watch the live telecast of the service, while I worked, I watched it on Larry King all night long. I did not realize how many people he touched all over the world.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Things We Miss About Our Youth

Abby says:
Every year when summer rolls around, I reflect on what I miss about my youth. Here are my top 10.
1) Looking forward to summer vacation. Ahh...that smell of summer in the air. There was nothing better.

2) My summer job as a lifeguard every year. Cute lifeguard boys, bright sun, blue sky, suntan oil and fresh air for 3 months.

3) Making prank phone calls. This was one of my favorites. We made lame calls like: "Is your refrigerator running? You better go catch it." This continues to be one of my favorite pasttimes with my mom. Even with caller ID I can still occasionally trick her.

4) Snow days! Back then we didn't have to make them up.

5) Red, white and blue popsickles (then called "bomb pops") from the ice cream truck man.

6) Having endless amounts of energy and never being tired.

7) Having not a care in the world.

8) Piling 8 of us into a car and catching a drive-in movie.

9) The feeling of naive freedom.

10) The butterflies you get with young love.

Sheri says:
It does seem as time is passing even more quickly than before. I miss:

1) Running with the neighborhood kids, playing all kinds of games, and no one had to worry about us. Well, except for the occasional skinned knee or broken arm.

2) The teenage years of piling in a car and no one had invented cell phones. Pure freedom!

3) Getting a great report card.

4) Picnics and gatherings where the adults did all the work. We children just had to show up and have a good time.

5) Putting on a swimsuit without thinking about what my body looked like in it.

6) The giddy anticipation on Christmas Eve or the night before my birthday.

7) Being able to read fine print.

8) The satisfaction of earning money and having no bills.

9) Playing 45s and then albums on the turntable.

10) Believing I could do anything.

Abby says:
Don't forget about those 8-track tapes. We thought technology had finally arrived. Little did we know!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Corporate Wastefulness

Abby says:
Americans are wasteful. Up until now with many companies downsizing and going belly up, I have never really paid that much attention. One corporation that comes to mind is Starbucks. With my business, I conduct a lot of breakfast meetings where I bring coffee and the like for small to medium groups. I often utilize Starbucks. When ordering a tote of coffee (serving 8-10 people) I typically ask for the accompanying "condiments". Rather than giving me enough for 8-10 people, I typically get enough sugar, sweetener and stir sticks for 50+ people . That is no exaggeration, and it happens every single time.

I recently purchased a coffee tote for my friends at the gym and counted 200+ sweeteners and sugars. Probably 60 stirs. The leftovers went right into my kitchen drawer for personal use. While I am thrilled I don't have to buy this stuff (it's NOT cheap) for quite some time thanks to Starbucks, it makes me a bit crazy.

Starbucks recently closed stores in my hometown, Indianapolis, and have been "right-sizing" across the country. I bet if their corporate powers-that-be knew of this practice they would cringe. Multiply me by even 500 customers a day and look at the wastefulness! Maybe they should train their staff to ask customers how many accompaniments they would like. Think of the dollars they could save.

Sheri says:
On the other hand, every fast food restaurant in the country has bounced to the other extreme. Does no one use ketchup or salt anymore? Why do I have to ask for it? Why does it only make it into the bag about half the time?

I realize cost-cutting measures are in order and in theory, I support them. But I long for the days when common sense and customer service prevailed. I long for the days when employees were allowed to think for themselves -- she ordered fries, I'll stick some ketchup in the bag -- rather than follow some robotic policy of "No ketchup unless someone asks for it."

I also wish we still lived in a society where companies didn't have to worry about every patron taking advantage of their generosity.

Abby says
Ahh...common sense. I guess it's gone by the wayside with the ketchup robots.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is GM Acting Socially Responsible?

Abby says:
I am in the business of marketing and advertising and have been for the last 25 years. Therefore, when TV commercials air, I watch avidly rather than flipping to the next best show.

To my dismay this past weekend when watching some mindless movie, a spot for the "new GM" came on. Wow, you've got to be kidding me. They take bail-out money then they needlessly spend gazillions of dollars on a TV spot to let the public know how they plan to reinvent themselves? What a waste of money -- especially since as taxpayers, we are indirectly footing that bill. There are so many new free or less expensive avenues with social marketing (such as blogs and chat forums) to get the word out about their plans.

To me that is irresponsible. Are they are talking out of both sides of their mouth? They want to be bailed out yet they keep spending needless money. No one cares about their pretty TV commercial (which was a bit odd in my opinion).

I care about turning the company around, honoring customer warranties and getting people back into the work force so they can support their families, pay their bills, buy groceries and have health insurance.

I've written and produced many TV commercials and placed the media for them as well. I cannot even begin to wonder how many thousands upon thousands of dollars they spent (and perhaps wasted) on this effort.

Sheri says:
As a taxpayer I now own part of these companies that got bail-out money. As an investor, I should be encouraged to buy these products or at the very least, hope someone else does so. As a citizen of one of the many states that is struggling to the very core due to this fiasco, I want to see them rise from the ashes. That's one side.

The other side is a person who believes in the power of marketing -- especially if the product backs up the marketing promise. I have seen it work. I have also been in too many situations where the marketing budget is the first line item to be cut. Marketing can save a company. It can also permanently destroy a customer relationship if the advertised promise doesn't deliver.

I hope they are looking at every possible avenue to save the American automotive industry. I hope every line item is under tremendous scrutiny. I hope the bail out is a hand up, not a hand out. And I truly hope they use the line item marked "Marketing" in a responsible way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Right to Bare Arms

Sheri says:
This little twist of phrase was used recently by President Obama in reference to the over-the-top attention to his wife’s frequent preference for going sleeveless. She’s done it for magazine photo shoots, state dinners – even in her official White House portrait.


I say, “Hooray Michelle!”

Many of us grew up hearing things like, “Women over 30 shouldn’t have long hair.” Or, “Bare arms are inappropriate for women of a certain age.”

I respectfully disagree. I still have long hair and I often have bare arms. I think the reason for the bare arm rule was none of those people worked out. Women whose arms resemble Dumbo’s ears should not go sleeveless.

Some women have arms I covet. Kelly Ripa comes to mind. So does Samantha Harris.





I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to camouflage my thighs and suck in my stomach. But as long as I keep a standing date with my free weights, I will bare arms.


Abby says:
I agree with Sheri. Rules are made to be broken. I break rules all the time. Like Sheri, I now have long hair. I love it, and if people think I'm too old, oh well! And, I bare my arms all year long because I bust my tush at the gym lifting weights. Why not?

In my opinion, the rule about no sleeveless in the winter time went out the window with the invention of the personal trainer. Old fashioned I am not.

Go girl power!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fat and Sassy in NYC

Abby says:
New York is my absolute favorite city to visit. Luckily since I go to school out there, I visit often. I travel every year in April to a conference and always meet interesting people, collect interesting tidbits of information and have interesting things happen to me. This year was no exception. I will say, Sheri and I typically travel this one together, so I missed her being along this time around.

I never take "sensible" shoes. I actually don't own any sensible shoes. Therefore, when I arrived at the airport yesterday to fly home, I could barely walk due to the huge blisters and black and blue bruising on the bottoms of my feet -- from walking around Manhattan in high heels. We're talking blocks and blocks of walking for 4 days. I have attempted to become familiar with the subway system, and even purchase a Metro Card when I visit. But, unfortunately when you get on the wrong subway line, you get lost and end up walking anyway. Somehow I accidentally trained from the upper east side to the upper west side instead of returning to my hotel and ended up walking about 35 blocks. Ouch!

Oh well. It was definitely worth it.

On my last evening there I decided to dine at one of my favorite haunts several blocks from my hotel. When I limped in, sat at the bar and opened my menu, to my dismay all the dishes were listed with their individual calorie counts. How depressing! I asked the bartender what that was about. He said it was a New York law for chain restaurants. Yikes.

So, after eating my Caesar salad (approx 860 calories) and my crabcake appetizer (approx 700 calories), a few pieces of bread and a glass of wine (calorie content not disclosed), he slid a dessert menu in front of me. Of course, the calorie count for the coconut cream pie I ordered (along with the other deserts) were not listed!

After consuming all this food (last year Sheri and I split one dinner and it was plenty!) I waddled out, past the limping stage, and hoofed it back to my hotel. Even with my aching feet, it was a great trip.

Sheri adds:
Once I get over my mind-consuming jealousy of your trip without me, I will be fine. As for the food, I believe dieting is not necessary in Manhattan. You are guaranteed to walk off any extra calories.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

100 Things We Love

Abby says:
This is our 100th post! To commemorate the fact that we are still blogging (and that Sheri and I are still friends) here are 100 things we love.

1. The look, feel and smell of a new book
2. British accents
3. The words "I can"
4. Laughter
5. The smell of puppy breath
6. An ice cold beer on a hot summer day
7. American Idol then downloading the great songs on my iPod
8.The feeling of a small (or large) success
9. A great old song that brings back memories
10. A great song that creates new ones
11. People that still say please and thank you
12. A guy that opens the door for me
13. My dog, Maggie
14. The color combo brick red and mustard
15. A great movie
16. A crackling fire in the fireplace
17. A quiet day at the pool (anyone's pool!) or a sandy beach
18. Driving around on a sunny day with a great song on the radio and the windows down
19. Mexican food
20. The cooing sound of a newborn baby
21. The sound of steady raindrops during a summer rain
22. A spicey fragrant candle
23. A clean house
24. Surfing the Internet, blogging and Facebooking
25. A guy in faded blue jeans and and a t-shirt or sweats
26. Sweating during a great workout
27. Being done with my workout
28. Trips to Phoenix with my friends
29. A quiet day with a good book
30. Tulips and lavendar in the spring time
31. Cold sleeping weather with lots of blankets
32. Balance in my life
33. Fall days with clear blue, sunny skies
34. Intimate dinners with great conversation
35. A great bargain find at a flea market or thrift store
36. Coffee
37. Walking around NYC and taking the subway
38. Texting my friends
39. Cold water with crushed ice in a clear glass
40. A night when I don't have homework
41. A trip to the outlet mall
42. Accomplishment
43. Jack Bauer in TV drama 24
44. Every once in awhile getting really dressed up
45. Writing books
46. Writing in my diary
47. Sushi
48. Teaching Spin class
49. Listening to loud music while I clean
50. Living life!

Sheri adds:
51. Sleeping with my dog, Gabby
52. Receiving a handwritten letter
53. Eating just hors d’oerves for dinner
54. Finding money in a coat pocket
55. Mastering a new techno gadget
56. Landing somewhere tropical, especially in winter
57. Chardonnay
58. Discovering a new website or blog
59. Shooting stars
60. Homemade soups in the winter
61. Sculpted arms
62. New words
63. Anyone with a great sense of humor
64. Seeing a great movie the first weekend it opens
65. Daffodils and daisies
66. The smell of sunscreen
67. Sunglass readers
68. Sharpening pencils
69. Clean, pressed sheets misted with Lavender linen spray
70. Rising from failure
71. The fellowship I feel in church
72. Indiana tomatoes and corn
73. Black pants and black skirts
74. Cowboy boots
75. Men with great taste in shoes
76. New school supplies
77. Any fair: The State Fair, Art Fairs, People who are fair
78. Funny quotes
79. Lake cottages
80. Urban areas, especially Manhattan
81. The theater, especially Broadway
82. Girl trips
83. Quirky, dive bars
84. Old movies
85. Things that make cleaning easier like Swiffers
86. Good hair days
87. Baseball caps and a ponytail
88. Going through old photos
89. Chocolate chip ice cream
90. Old sitcoms like The Andy Griffith Show
91. People watching in airports
92. Nervous anticipation
93. Diamond solitaire earrings
94. Objects that evoke a memory of a person or an event
95. People who know how to fix anything from the plumbing to the computer
96. Dogs who swim for tennis balls
97. Parents who teach manners and proper behavior
98. My family
99. My friends
100. The blessing of every new day.

Monday, April 13, 2009

10 Ways of Cutting Back Without Feeling It

Abby says:
In today's economy, I don't know anyone who isn't cutting back somewhere. I am no different. My office lease is up, and I'm moving to a smaller space. Not to be cliche, but I'm consolidating as much as I can in my business where there are economies of scale.

But, I'm trying to cut things without actually feeling it. Here are 10 ideas we came up with to share with you.

1) When grocery shopping I am now buying some generics. On some items, you truly cannot tell the difference -- except in price. Some examples (depending on the store): bottled water, soda, sliced cheese, paper products, half and half creamer. If you take prescriptions, ask your doctor to write for the generic if available. It can mean the difference of paying $20 versus $80 or $100 per Rx.

2) Rather than giving in to my Starbucks fix each morning on the way to work, I am buying Starbucks by the pound at Target -- saving about $20 per week. It's not as glamorous, but you can use the extra money you save to buy a glamorous pair of shoes!

3) I love the Goodwill Store and other thrift shops. If you've got some time and you're willing to dig through the rubble, there are great deals to be had! Some items even have the original tags. It beats the high price of the malls.

4) I am a Barnes and Noble junkie. You can find me there almost every Saturday morning. Now, instead of buying the books, I look at them at BN then try to find them at the library. I am once again an official card carrier.

5) Call your local cable TV company and ask for pricing on a package deal. Mine is batching phone, cable TV and Internet for an unbelievably low price for a two-year term. The potential savings are sizable.

Sheri says:
In addition to the poor state of our economy, I am facing divorce and a never-ending job search. Cutting back has taken on a whole new meaning to me. Like Abby, I want these changes to be as painless as possible and here are a few that can help.

1. Order your pet medications online. Cutting corners is one thing, neglecting your health or your pet's health is wrong. I have saved significantly by ordering through Pet Meds.

2. Donate your time where you once gave money. Yes, all of those organizations still need cold hard cash and yes, you might not be in the position to give at the level you once did. There are still ways to contribute.

3. Sell your clothes and accessories through a consignment shop. I did a major purge of my closet and although most of the items were donated, several went to a consignment shop and I received a small sum. Or, learn to sell unwanted items on eBay or similar sites.

4. Prioritize. I don't pay a trainer (sorry Abs!) and I don't belong to a gym. I do exercise every day. Sometimes it's using free weights and going up and down the stairs. Most days it's taking my dog to the park for a 2-mile walk.

5. Accept the gift. I used to pick up the check on a regular basis. I enjoyed it and it was not a sacrifice for me. These days, I do not have that option on my budget. But, when someone offers to buy my lunch, etc. I graciously accept.

We'd love to hear your suggestions.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Next In Line Please

Abby says:

Ok, maybe it's because people are so stressed about the current economy. Maybe they are clueless. Or, maybe they are just plain rude, and I'm only now noticing it.

When you are at the checkout of the grocery, drug store or other retail establishment, and there's a big long line it's irritating. It's even more irritating when a new cashier opens up and says: "I can help the next in line please" and someone cuts in line to rush up and pay. Yes, "cut in line". That's from grade school, but I don't know how else to describe it.

What's the matter with people that they are in such a rush? I was recently at Walgreen Drugstore purchasing some items for my dad's return home from the hospital, so it was an already stressful day. The store was hot. The line was long. I was tired. There was a woman in front of me with her arms full of diapers and baby formula. When the new cashier opened up and announced "next in line" I went to help this gal over with her stuff. Low and behold a young woman slipped in front of us and put her things right on the counter "cutting in line". Not being my usual nice self, I moved them back and put the women's items down who really was next in line. It turned a bit ugly. I told the woman she was "cutting in line" -- and everyone behind us chimed in with agreement. She asked me: "What are you going to do about it?" I was not very polite to her, and she stormed out of the store. Everyone in line clapped.

I noticed this past weekend the "cutting" happened twice again. Blatantly! I said something to the 60-something woman who totally ignored this at the office supply store, and she was quite embarrassed. She did actually apologize.

What has happened to manners?

Sheri says:

Manners have gone the way of the economy – rapidly downhill. If it is stress, there is no excuse. We are all stressed.

People are cutting other things besides cutting in line. They’re cutting corners. Some of us are cutting ties. Others are cutting their losses.

I’m all for people making necessary changes to fit life’s circumstances but there’s no need to inflict undue misery on others.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Siblings

Abby says,
Siblings. Some like Mars. Some like Venus. That's what makes the world go round in so many different ways. Until recently, I've not contemplated my siblings.

We are a sandwich. I'm the youngest, my sis is in the middle (4 years my elder), and my brother is the oldest (4 years older than my sister). All my life, I got along well with my brother. My sis and I were a different story. When we were teenagers, our over sized bathroom with dual sinks was never big enough for the two of us. We fought, we screamed, we yelled. We threw things. It was not until I "grew up" in my college years that I finally appreciated having another chick to hang with.

Just as we were getting to know one another and appreciate the friendship we had, she got married and moved far away. Fast forward 27 years. She is back, but sadly because our dad has been unexpectedly ill.

Until a family crisis rears its ugly head, you never appreciate just how different siblings really are. During the high stress periods in the hospital, I think we all three wondered, "Are we REALLY related to one another?" I even joked about it with my dad as he lay in his hospital bed. What's great about us all being very different is that we have been able to contribute different sets of expertise and make the best of our situation. I am the one with all the doctor contacts. My sister is very detail-oriented and has a book keeping background -- which has been a God send in organizing everything. My brother works behind the scenes and is a thinker who comes up with ideas. He's also the peace-maker who tries to keep us all from killing one another and keep everyone on a level playing field. We all 3 do things very differently, however, in the situation with my dad, it did not matter. It's just great to have 2 other intelligent people with different perspectives pitching in.

And, we have a long road to go with his health care. Until now, I've never thought about how different we really are. I just know I am so lucky to have them both, especially considering the situation we have been through the past 3 months.

Sheri says:
This is a hard topic for me to discuss without sounding negative. I do not have siblings and I vacillate between resenting those who do and being grateful that I do not have to engage in sibling wars.

I am unusually close to my parents but I don't believe it's because I'm an only child. I think they would be this way with any other children they might have had. They have "adopted" others over the years and they are loved as much as I am.

Like most things, being an only child has its plusses and negatives. I've never felt lonely -- I have enough personalities to entertain myself alone. I've never lacked for friends and many I love as much, if not more, as any phantom siblings I may have had. I've studied families over the years and like everything else, some are stronger than others. Some siblings are thick as thieves while others rarely acknowledge each other. Or, only do so in times of family crisis.

That's when I get a little nervous. When a parent is ill or dies, I see families come together. Regardless of family history or lurking issues, siblings embrace their shared history, make decisions and support each other. My parents are usually quite healthy but during our few times of crisis, I feel alone. No one has the vested interest in these two people as I do. No one shares my childhood or my genetic quirks.

It serves no purpose at this point in my life to wish for something I do not have. But I hope those of you who are blessed with great siblings will cherish them. Be nice to the odd ones too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From One Candid Girl to Another

Sheri says:

The image above is from a card I received many, many years ago. The handwritten note inside expresses good wishes for some difficulty I was experiencing. I do not remember what it was. Of course, the card was from Abby.

The framed card has moved with me numerous times. It's been in every office I've ever occupied from my corporate days to my home office. I've looked at it almost every day for close to two decades and it still makes me smile.

Now it's my turn to send this card and similar wishes to Abby. Queens may not make bargains but some of us mere mortals do. Abby is facing some challenges and every day seems to throw a new curve. She is one of the strongest women I know but that doesn't mean she is immune to fear or exhaustion.

So, hang in there my friend.

Abby says:
Thanks Sheri! I remember this card and have always loved it.

Yes, I am exhausted and I am somewhat in fear. My dad has been in and out of the emergency room 4 times in the last week. He was admitted finally and has had 2 unexpected surgeries in 2 days. There was to be another today but he's now got some type of stomach flu so they cannot operate. It's been never ending. All odds say he should make it through. I am keeping hope.

The one good thing that has come of this is I am now armed with the missing information I need to complete my healthcare book -- to help others like me naviagate our difficult system. I have met with numerous doctors and other healthcare providers yet it's more confusing than ever. Hopefully I can pass the knowledge I've gained to others soon.