Mother’s Day: Simple Ways to Say “Thanks Mom!”

Next weekend we celebrate one of the most important holidays, Mother’s Day. I think it is safe to say, we all owe a lot to our moms (and to those women who acted like and watched over us like a mom). On Mother’s Day, be sure that special woman knows how much she is appreciated! Here are some ideas for simple ways to say thank you!

  1. Make a Statement, Write it Down
    • No texts or emails and not just a phone call. Find a beautiful card, or make one, with a sentiment that expresses your gratitude. If your mom is someone who appreciates the little things, having this card to keep will mean the world to her.
  2. For All She Has Done and Still Does, Give Back
    • Growing up, we all know our moms have given a lot to help us; now it is our turn to give back. Find something your mom does and do it alongside her.
      • If your mom volunteers, take the time to go volunteer with her.
      • Does she always do everything to get dinner ready? Help her out in the kitchen and jump in on the cooking.
      • Is mom always keeping the house tidy? Treat her to some extra help around the house or pay for a house cleaning.
      • Do you have other siblings? Jump in and takeover helping them for the day/weekend.
  3. Give a Meaningful Gift, Small or Large
    • A great keepsake and simple gift to put together is a photo album. Collect photos of you and your mom throughout the years, put them in an album, and write down your favorite memories.
    • Do you have a favorite memory or an “inside joke” with your mom? Find a small trinket that commemorates that!
    • Send your mom to get pampered (whatever that means to her) and let her enjoy the day.
    • Has your mom had her eye on a certain something, but will not spend the money on herself? Splurge for her!
  4. Spend Quality Time with Your Mom!
    • If you can give nothing, give of yourself. Amidst our busy lives, we often forget to plan time with those most important to us. Sometimes, we even take them for granted.
      • No plans this weekend? Hop in the car and drive home to see your mom!
      • Plan a meal your whole family can attend. This is especially meaningful if your family lives in different areas. Pick one weekend to gather everyone in the same place!
      • If you are a daughter, plan a “Girls’ Day!” Go out for lunch and a movie. Plan a trip to the spa. Go do or see something the two of you have been talking about for a while. The ideas are endless!
  5. Most Importantly – Give Your Mom a Hug and Tell Her You Love Her!

To all the moms out there, especially my own, THANK YOU! In celebration of the wonderful women in all our lives, here is one of my favorite sentiments:

Photo Credit: Mothers Who Know

Photo Credit: Mothers Who Know

Sparkle on y’all!

AB

Advertisements

Email Correspondence: Client vs. Professional

In your professional life, you have emails down to a science, but when it comes to your personal life, do you know how to transition from the expert to the client? While we are all boss ladies (and gentlemen) in the office, many of us struggle with how to communicate as a client in our personal lives… Ever been stuck waiting to hear back on an email you sent? I think we all have. As the thought crosses your mind, “Should I email him/her again.. call instead? How long should I wait for an answer? Did I write too much?,” you start to wonder how to best communicate and follow up with others. Truthfully, this can be one of the more frustrating things we face in everyday life as part of a technology reliant society. So, here are my tips to help alleviate some of this stress!

  1. Timeliness
    • As a client, it is just as important to be responsive in a timely manner in your personal life as it is in your professional life. While you may be the client, the person you are communicating with is a professional and this is his/her business so he/she is relying on you!
    • If you know you are going to be away for a while or unable to communicate regularly, let your contact know that in advance. Anyone appreciates a heads up that allows them to know when the appropriate time to follow up will be. If you are off enjoying a vacation, no one wants to be the individual who nagged you during it! 😉
  2. Include all the details
    • Rather than bombarding someone with piecemeal emails each containing one question, send one concise email including all the details and questions you have on a topic. Be specific so your contact knows what to expect from you as a client, but also has all the tools he/she needs to do the job well.
    • If you are unsure about something, ask the professional. I guarantee he/she prefers to answer your questions ahead of time rather than be in a situation where a misunderstanding happens.
      • Side note: If you have been provided with resources from your contact, be sure to read and review them. It is very possible your questions will be answered there!
    • Schedule a call or meeting to discuss everything. While email is great for keeping a record of things, it is always possible that something will be understood differently by the recipient. Having the opportunity to talk through everything will clear-up any questions or differences of ideas!
  3. Know the best form of communication for the person you are contacting: This is possibly one of the most important factors in following up with an individual.
    • If your contact prefers email, then stick to email. Depending on the importance/deadline of what you are discussing, that will give you an idea of when to follow up (i.e. a week for something further out, two days for something upcoming in the next week, etc.). If it is an urgent matter, I highly suggest flagging the email when sending and honestly, simply call the person. Sometimes, if you need an answer, you just need the answer and promptly.
    • Despite the fact that we all have technology, it does not mean it is the way we all prefer to communicate. For some, receiving an email is simply a method to get the information in writing or have the needed documents provided to them; however, for these people, the true preferred means of communication is a phone call or in-person meeting. For an individual with this preference, send the email and then immediately follow it up with a calendar invite for a call or meeting to discuss the information. For something on a smaller scale, it is always OK to call your contact after sending the email to quickly talk through it or even to leave a voicemail explaining.
    • Similar to the individual who prefers a call, some people prefer to communicate over text message. While I do not recommend this as your primary source of communication, it can be a great follow-up tool! If you are awaiting a response to your email and you know your contact is OK with and prefers texting, send a respectful text message following up. Something similar to, “Hi Ann! Checking in to follow up on the email I sent a couple days ago. Will you let me know when you have a chance to review it? Happy to setup a call to discuss or feel free to email back with your feedback. Thanks!”

Now lets get out there and dominate the communication world on all fronts! For more information on general email etiquette, read my previous post!

Sparkle on y’all!

AB

The Contents of a Great Email

In today’s day and age, email keeps us far more connected than ever before. Rather than picking up the phone or walking across the office building, we continuously send emails to our colleagues, friends, and family regarding matters from business to social plans and everything in between. So, how do you know if your email gets read or better yet, how do you know if your email actually served its purpose?

To ensure your emails are getting the attention they deserve, and by that I mean the right kind of attention, here are my tips for the contents of a great email:

  1. Subject Line
    • Use the Important Information Only. I once was working with a hospital director’s executive assistant on multiple visits for distinguished visitors and the aide asked, “For visit requests, please put Date of Visit, Name/Title of Visitor, and Meet Time in the subject line so I can see the main points quickly. Once I see that, I will know exactly what I am looking for in regards to planning and level of importance.”
    • Do Not Write the Message in the Subject Line. The subject line serves as a preview to the contents of the email, it should not read like a sentence or go on past the viewing pane.
    • Stick to the SubjectIf you need to discuss multiple topics that are unrelated with the recipient, I highly suggest doing so in different emails. This (1) ensures all your topics will be seen equally and (2) reduces confusion when answering questions by eliminating bunched responses. If you do decide to include everything in 1 email, use an overarching subject line.
  2. Reply vs. Reply All
    • If you are placed on a group email thread and need to ask just the sender a question, reply only to the sender. There is no need to clutter everyone else’s inbox.
    • If you are sent a group invitation for an event, party, etc., submit your R.s.v.p. to the sender only. If you would like to know if other people are going, simply ask them yourself.
    • Only “Reply All” when all those on the message traffic will benefit from you sharing the information and it is pertinent to them. If you are the only person on the “To” line and the other people copied all need the information or are waiting for your direction then a “reply all” is appropriate.
  3. “To,” “CC,” and “Bcc.” Always pay attention to which line your name is placed on in the email and be discerning when adding people to those categories on your own email.
    • “To:” This means the email is directly to you and it is your responsibility to reply to the sender.
    • “Cc:” You are copied on the email for your awareness, but it is not your responsibility to take action. Allow the person on the “to” line to take action and send the first reply. If you need to comment or add information, do so after he/she sends the first reply.
    • “Bcc:” You are blind copied on this email, meaning it is only for your awareness. You should not reply, especially not reply all, because the other recipients do not know you were included. If you need to discuss something from the email with the sender, seek out that individual only (I suggest in person or on the phone).
  4. Marking Something with “High Importance”
    • Only use this flag if your email is truly of high importance and needs someone’s attention quickly. Overuse of this flag will result in people skipping your emails because they will believe nothing is actually “highly important.”
    • If something is truly important and you do not receive a response in an appropriate amount of time, call the person rather than sending him/her another email.
  5. Greeting
    • Always include a greeting to the recipient at the beginning of your email. The type of greeting you use will vary based on the email being sent (formal, professional, personal/informal), but no matter what a greeting is always important! Here are a few examples:
      • Formal: “Dear,” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Professional: “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening” always followed by the proper form address (Dr., Mr., Mrs., Military Rank, etc.).
      • Personal/Informal: “Hey, Hi, Hey there, etc.” followed by however you address the person in your personal life.
  6. Closing / Signature Block. Yes, you need one! Do not ever send an email without signing it!
    • Use a proper closing that reflects the relationship/type of email you are writing:
      • Formal: “Sincerely,” “Very Respectfully,” “Respectfully,”
      • Professional: You can close with something that reflects your personality yet is still appropriate. For example, “Have a great day!,” “All the Best,” “Many Thanks,” etc.
      • Personal/Informal: This type of closing is completely up to you and the relationship you have with the recipient!
    • Clearly identify yourself. Use your full name, title/position, and company affiliation in your signature block.
    • Include your contact information. Your signature block should include your contact number, mailing address, and company/organization web address.
      Be sure to use the signature block template from your company/organization!
  7. Review your email before hitting send!
    • Check your email for grammar and missing words (when you type fast, it is bound to happen).
    • Remove any uncommon abbreviations or text message lingo/short words.
    • Be cautious when using emoticons. Emoji’s are appropriate in informal emails or internal correspondence (between coworkers), but should not be used for professional or formal correspondence.
    • Ensure the email is addressed to the appropriate people on the appropriate recipient lines.
    • If you stated in the email you included an attachment, be sure it is attached before sending!

By incorporating these touches into your emails, it will ensure you have proper email etiquette leading to your email receiving the type of attention and replies you desire.

Sparkle on y’all!

AB

Wedding Guest Etiquette: Variations of Black Tie

With wedding season upon us, so many of you are receiving invitations and preparing to attend beautiful ceremonies! As the excitement leading up to the big day rises, you suddenly realize you need to plan your outfit. Then, it hits you… “Black Tie,” “Black Tie Preferred/Requested,” or “Black Tie Optional” are possibilities for the attire. Cue perplexed face and the question “So, what am I supposed to wear?” Not to fear! Here are my tips to help you navigate the the various “Black Tie” requests!

  1. Black Tie
    • For the Ladies – A formal, floor length gown is the way to go! Get ready to play dress up! 🙂
      • NOTE: A formal, floor length gown does not have to be extravagant or super “glitzy,” it can be simple, elegant, and understated.
        black tie - women
    • For the Gentlemen – A tuxedo is a must!
      Photo Credit: Friar Tux Blog

      Photo Credit: Friar Tux Blog

  2. Black Tie Requested/Preferred
    • This means the couple wants their guests to dress up, but understands if you are not able to do so. For some attendees, a tuxedo or a floor length gown is not affordable and the couple realizes this. As a result, they do not want to exclude those individuals from their celebration. If you can afford black tie attire then please wear it, but if you cannot, a formal cocktail dress for ladies and a dark suit for men is certainly appropriate!
      • NOTE: A dark suit does not mean a dark colored dress shirt under your suit, it only applies to the color of the suit pants and jacket. Choose a black or very dark navy colored suit with a traditional white dress shirt and a dressier tie or bow tie.
  3. Black Tie Optional
    • For the Ladies, I see two main options: A Formal Cocktail Dress or a Floor Length Gown
    • For the Gentleman, there are also two options: A Dark Suit (with tie or bow tie) or a Tuxedo

      My dad and brother are in dark suits while my mom and I both opted for cocktail length formal dresses.

      My dad and brother are in dark suits while my mom and I both opted for cocktail length formal dresses.

    • When deciding between these two options (whether a lady or a gentleman), consider the following:
      • Ceremony/Reception Venue: If the wedding is being held at a formal location (think historic building/library, a ballroom, castle/mansion), you can certainly lean towards to the floor length gown or tuxedo option. If the ceremony is at a place that lends itself to a less formal feel, a formal cocktail dress or full suit is absolutely appropriate!
        • NOTE: Always be respectful of cultural or religious aspects. Religious venues tend to be on the conservative side. Avoid neon/fluorescent colors, side cut-outs, excessive displays of cleavage, extremely high leg slits, or backs that plunge so low you can almost see your bum. I am sure you can rock those styles and look dynamite, but this is not the place to do that. It is also usually required and most respectful to have your shoulders covered.
        • Another option is: Wear one outfit to the ceremony (If it’s in a church and calls for something more modest) and change for the reception (wear something a little more fun or flashy if that’s what you prefer).
      • Time of Day for the Ceremony: For evening, I always think long gowns or tuxedos are a classic/sharp look! If the ceremony is during the day, you may be more comfortable in a formal cocktail dress or full suit.
      • Cultural or Local Tradition Influence:
        • If you are going to a wedding with strong cultural ties, be sure to research what is appropriate. One of my favorite examples of this is at an Indian wedding, the bride wears red so stay away from that color. However, other bright colors are encouraged! Additionally, individuals of Indian heritage and those in the wedding wear saris.
        • Depending on where in the United States or where in the world, there may different, local understandings of what “Black Tie” means. For example, there is such a thing as “Texas Black Tie!” (if you cannot tell from the exclamation point, this a personal favorite!) In Texas tradition, gentlemen wear their best, formal cowboy boots with their tuxedo and ladies wear a floor length gown with the option for glamorous boots underneath 😉
      • Leave the White Ensemble to the Bride!
      • Personal Preference: No matter what, you know what you will feel most comfortable wearing. If being around people who are dressed more formal than you makes you feel uneasy then opt for the floor length gown or a tuxedo. If you are more comfortable in a formal cocktail dress or a full suit, then select that option.

No matter which variation of black tie your celebration calls for, always remember to think sophisticated and elegant. This is someone’s wedding and the spotlight should be on them! Additionally, family members of the bride and groom will be present and you do not want to be embarrassed by wearing something inappropriate. Now, go celebrate these very joyous occasions in fashion! To all those getting married, “Congratulations on your Happily Ever After!”

Sparkle on y’all!

Alexandra

Ghosting: Why is this a thing?

We have all been there… You have been having an ongoing conversation over messenger on a dating app, gone out and had a great first date, or even been on several dates, all for your perspective “future someone” to go silent. For the long term. Ladies and gentlemen, you have officially been ghosted. This behavior has now become so popular, it has it’s own name and honestly, this is not a good thing. What this truly comes down is poor dating etiquette and immaturity. But I encourage you not to lose faith because this phenomenon can truly be fixed!

  • You have been having an ongoing conversation over messenger on a dating app
    In this scenario, I simply think ghosting happens because individuals are communicating with too many prospects at once. They lose track of conversations and forget with whom they potentially have plans or they go out with someone of interest and then “fall off” all other conversations. As much as I hate to say this, this is all part of the numbers game that is online dating. For my tips on how to combat this, read “The Real Life that is Online Dating.”
  • You have gone out and had a great first date
    A large part of meeting someone on a dating app is actually making it to the first date. While you may have great conversations over messenger, it is completely possible that you will not hit it off in person. Similarly, if you met “in the wild” (thanks GGE) and your first date is the only face-to-face time you have spent with this person, you may realize you do not “click” with the person. If either of these are the case, it is OK to be honest with your date. If he/she asks you out again and you are not interested in going, simply decline the date in a kind way. Just because you do not know someone very well, does not mean you should ignore them. Also, do not come up with an excuse (something along the lines of “Oh, I am really busy coming up and I am not sure when I will be free”) because this inevitably just puts off the person to follow-up with you at a later time.
    In a slightly different scenario, if you were setup on a date by a mutual friend/colleague, you definitely need to be honest about your experience. It may be awkward to tell your friend he/she missed the mark on “picking your type,” but it is inevitable that you will see this date in other social settings so keep everything friendly!
  • You have been on multiple dates with the same person
    If you have gone on multiple dates, but you realize this person is not someone you are romantically interested in, have the maturity to have that conversation with him/her. Talking about this face-to-face or even on the phone is typically uncomfortable because no one wants to hurt someone else’s feelings, but I promise you will be glad for having done this. Simply be kind and honest with the person. It does not have to be a long explanation, it can truly be something like, “I have been enjoying getting to know and as I have, I realize this feels more like a friendship to me. I feel bad saying this, but I want to be honest with you and not lead you on.” He/she will appreciate your honesty in place of wondering why they simply never heard from you again.

In my personal opinion, ghosting happens as a result of our lack of in-person communication due to our reliance on technology, leading to our lack of accountability to others. My challenge to everyone is simple, remember the wise words we were taught when we were young, “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Sometimes doing the hard thing also means doing the right thing, and when it comes to other people’s feelings and emotions, I encourage you to do the right thing.

For those of us who have been ghosted and left not knowing how to feel, I leave you with this: Look on the bright side – do you really want someone who acts like that to be part of your life? Count your blessings and be glad he/she made an exit 😉
If you are still having trouble getting past being ghosted, check out this read!

Sparkle on y’all!

AB

The Real Life that is Online Dating

In a world where swiping is the norm, I have begun to wonder what is the actual success rate of online dating? As a Family Science major in FMSC260 (shout out to my Terps!), I learned the majority of couples meet through mutual friends; a statistic that is now being challenged by online dating. Evidence can be shown for the success of online dating, but as a twenty-something I continuously hear about the frustrations faced with online dating. The largest complaints being, “I have conversations that never go anywhere” and “He never ended up confirming the date.” So, let’s tackle these!

  1.  I have conversations that never go anywhere.
    • As much as we want to believe everyone is out there looking for his/her special person, the reality is that everybody is using the app for a different purpose. Some people are looking for actual relationships while others are looking for something only physical, and some are just looking to fill their free time. For those of you who are stuck in the endless text conversation, it is likely you have encountered someone who is looking to fill his/her free time, but not actually invest time in another person. The other possibility may be you have encountered someone who does not have much dating experience and may not know exactly how to ask you out in person.
    • So, how do you combat this? Keep conversations going for a suitable amount of time, but get to the point. After exchanging messages for whatever length of time you feel comfortable with and think you would like to meet this person, shift the conversation to making plans. If you do not feel comfortable outright asking, then lead with something like, “Do you have fun plans for the upcoming weekend?” and gauge how to move forward from his/her response. It will either cue that person to ask you about plans or if you get a positive response, will open the door for you to ask about getting together!
    • Remember: Just because you have a great conversation over messages, does not necessarily mean you will connect in person. If you feel like it is better to talk with the person a bit more before meeting, ask to give him/her a call! Oh my gosh, I know – actually pick up the phone?! Say what?! Trust me, it works. If you can hold a real-time conversation with the person while on the phone, it will gauge your potential for an in-person meet-up!
  2. I have plans tomorrow! Wait, I think I do… do I?
    • Real life example (names changed to protect the innocent!): During the week, Grant asked Cary to meet up for tacos on Sunday. Cary happily agreed! Saturday night got here and Cary had not heard anything from Grant, she started to wonder about her Sunday plans. Sunday morning passed, lunch time arrived, and still nothing from Grant… Cary figures this date is not happening and now she is left frustrated for having set her schedule to be able to meet Grant for tacos, and for wasting time she could have spent with others.
    • Not cool taco man! This happens far too often in the online dating scene… Here are my suggestions:
      • So, your conversation has been going well and he/she finally(!) asks you about getting together! You enthusiastically agree and then the talk about free dates/times begins. In the initial conversation, the date and time (or at least time frame) for the date should be set. If the two of you are looking into options for what to do, that is OK, just make sure you have a set date and time frame!
      • The evening before the date, the initiator of the date should send a text to confirm the plans for the next day. At the absolute latest, the confirmation should be made early on the day of the date (this is really only if your date is in the evening). If you do not hear from the person confirming the date, you are NOT obligated to go on the date.
        • For example, say Grant had sent a message at 5:00pm on Sunday for “dinner time” plans – it is perfectly acceptable to reply, “I had not heard from you so I did not think we still had plans. How about we set another date/time that will work for both of us?”
        • Say Grant texts you the next day striking up a casual conversation, you are allowed to express your dissatisfaction, just make sure you do it in an honest, respectful way. For example, “Thanks for reaching out, but I have to say I am a bit surprised. We had plans to get tacos last night, but I never heard anything from you.”
        • If you do not hear from Grant, that is just plain rude on his part and short of him having an actual emergency, move on. Stay tuned for a new post, “Ghosting: Why is this a thing?
      • I realize some people will 100% disagree with me on these ideas and that is OK. Ultimately, this is all up to personal preference and how flexible you are; however, in being courteous to others and respectful of someone’s time, a confirmation (or cancellation for that matter) should be made within a reasonable time frame (typically 24 hours). Think of it as setting a precedence from the beginning for what type of common courtesies you expect!

With all that in mind, keep swiping my friends, but do so mindfully, honestly, and respectfully!

Special thanks to my own friends for allowing me take our real life examples and share how we deal with them!

Sparkle on y’all!

AB

Happy Birthday America! 🇺🇸

It is no secret I am a big fan of birthdays and celebrating them – my birthday 🎉, Jesus’ birthday 🎄, and of course, America’s birthday! 🇺🇸

To say the 4th of July is one of my favorite days of the year is an understatement! As a regular part of my life, I show off my American spirit and wear a lot red, white, and blue (courtesy of #USOLife). So let’s just say, I am more than ready for this birthday party! I also consider myself pretty lucky seeing how I get to celebrate this special day. Thanks to a fantastic job with USO-Metro, I spend the first half of my day recognizing service members at the Washington Nationals game. Later on, I get to watch fireworks over the Nation’s Capital from the monuments. I do not think it gets more American than that!

As we celebrate our freedom and our country, be sure to sparkle in all the right ways! One big way to do this is to honor and respect the flag in all the right ways 🇺🇸 Here are few tips to do so:

  • Fly the flag all day! Be sure to keep a light on it when the sun goes down.
    • NOTE: If you are hanging the flag rather than flying it, ensure you display it correctly. Here’s how!

  • I know it is cute to use plates or napkins that have the American flag on them as a decorative piece, but here is something to keep in mind: Even though it is not technically a real flag, eating off the flag and the act of wiping your mouth or using the flag to clean your hands is disrespectful. Avoid using American flag plates and napkins if possible.
    • NOTE: A design of stars and stripes is great, I am referring to the actual American flag printed on something.
  • If you are wearing apparel or accessories with the American flag on them, ensure they are tasteful and appropriate. The flag should not be partially displayed (it should always be displayed in it’s entirety), tattered, or “distressed” in any way. You should also never drape yourself in the flag.
  • Watch this interview featuring Gary Biggs of Protocol Partners for additional, valuable flag protocol information.

Remember and thank the service members who have fought for and are currently serving to protect our freedoms.

Have a wonderful 4th of July! God Bless America! 🇺🇸

Sparkle On,

Alexandra