Tool of the Trade: My Trick for Holiday Shopping from Afar

Ribbons & Bows, originally uploaded to Flickr by david_s_carterFor those of you who live a flight away from your parents, I thought I’d share my trick for the holidays, which I use to avoid traveling with gifts.  It’s pretty simple, so here goes:

I send packages to Babette.

See, my mother’s name is Linda Vogele — so we’ve worked out a system through the years where if she receives a package for Babette Vogele (and this is kind of a year-round system at this point), she knows not to open the package.  She puts it aside in one of her many closets (ah, the joys of living in Ohio!) and when I come home I open all of the packages, wrap them, and slip them under the tree.  If it’s an occasion for which I’m not traveling home (say, her birthday or Mother’s Day or whatnot), I can direct my father to the appropriate box and he’ll open it and package it nicely and present it whenever her other gifts are being opened. (My mom tends to open all of the mail that comes to the house so this is primarily a problem with her stuff.) It’s a simple system, but I like it because it saves me from stressing about how to get gifts home, and it also means that if I see a good deal online for something my mother would like I can act on it, without having to remember to tell her that it’s coming, what it’s for, or who gets it.

Why Babette?  Well… why not?  We don’t know anyone with the name personally, so there’s no confusion.

Readers, what are your tips and tricks for holiday shopping?

(Pictured: Ribbons & Bows, originally uploaded to Flickr by david_s_carter.)


  1. My Dad, may the wonderful man rest in peace, had a policy of opening every package that arrived at the house immediately, and doing so with the sharpest and most unwieldy instrument he could find. Several times when I sent clothing or other fabric gifts, he tore them in the process of opening. (Yes, even when the gift was for someone else, such as Mom.) So I learned to label packages with a “NO” sign (circle with line through it) for knives, axes, swords, scythes, etc. He laughed, and he stopped. This is a sweet family memory for me, if not a tip that most other readers likely need…

    • Research, Not Law :

      This is a very sweet memory!

      And actually, my husband’s like a five year old boy at gift time, so I may actually use this tip some day!

    • The label (banning symbol oer knives, axes, swords, scythes) you describe had me grinning at the monitor. That is just so sweet, funny, and charming. Thank you for that!

  2. Woods-comma-Elle :

    My parents are a 3-hour flight away, so I generally tend to travel with the presents for Christmas on the principle that the space which then is left over on the way back, can be used up by presents my parents/sister give me for Christmas. For birthdays/mothers day/fathers day, I tend to send these directly to the relevant parent, with something like ‘not to be opened until X date’. But this is mostly because my parents live in another country, so if I ordered something online they may not always deliver there, or I can get free delivery to me and then posting it myself actually costs less.

  3. I’d like to get some opinions on diploma framing. Mat or no mat? (Also – is that the correct way to spell it? it looks off to me, but google seems to confirm the spelling).

    My law diploma is about 8.5×14 and my college diploma and bar certificate are 8.5×11. I like the idea of a mat, but my BF suggested that having all those things framed, matted, and hanging on the wall will take up a LOT of space and look weird. I’d love input from everyone! Thanks!

    • AnonInfinity :

      I got a single mat on mine. Most of the people in my firm have a mat. I think it looks much nicer and more polished than just a frame.

      Also, they’re yours, so if you like the mat, go with the mat!

    • I’m 5 years out from law school and have yet to see a framed bar certificate hanging on an attorney’s wall (at my prior biglaw firm or current in-house). Is this a geographic thing? Is it more common among litigators (of which i’ve never been)? I’m confused.

      • AnonInfinity :

        Might be geographic? For information-gathering purposes — I’m in the South, and I’m in the litigation department.

      • I’m in the South, litigation (civil and criminal) and we frame our Bar certs here.

        • I’m in the South, and I don’t have all of mine up–just college and law school diplomas, state where I live (I’m licensed in two others as well), and SCOTUS. (And yes, the SCOTUS certificate is up there because there is a reason the diploma wall is also called a “brag wall.” ;-) )

          In my office, at least, it’s hit or miss–some of the attorneys have them up, some don’t. Seems to depend a lot on wall space and the availability of other/better artwork.

      • A lot of people have them framed here (in FL), and many are not litigators. I don’t really see the need as I like my wall hangings to at least have the potential of sparking some conversation.

        • I don’t have my bar certificate or any of my diplomas hanging, either. I like my workspace to be calm, serene, and reflective of my personality and interests, and I’ve chosen wall hangings accordingly.

          Not to mention – it has always struck me as slightly snobby. As in, just in case you didn’t already know, I graduated from X and Y! And I say this as someone with no chips – Ivy and T10. Not that I think people should hide where they went to school (if one more Harvard grad answers the college question with “near Boston,” I’ll scream) – I just don’t see the need to hang it on my wall.

          • One time when this girl responded to where she went to undergrad with “Yale College” this kid just deadpanned “oh I’ve heard of it”

          • I understand this view, but at the same time, what else are you going to do with them? Not hanging them up anywhere and letting them collect dust in a closet seems kind of like a waste (they do seem to be designed to be seen and displayed), and hanging them up at home seems way snobbier to me.

          • Also…when I took the bar exam, I struck up a conversation with the woman seated next to me. she mentioned, off-hand, that she went to law school “in connecticut.” Later in the conversation, we were discussing how the bar exam sucks in general, and she said, “Oh you know, where I went to school there was so much focus on theory rather than blackletter law…”

            I laughed and I said, “It’s ok. My brother went to Yale, too.”

          • @Jas1 – I saw a friend have the opposite experience.

            “Where’d you go to law school?”

            “In Connecticut.”

            “Oh, did you go to Yale?”

            “No, to Connecticut.”

          • Former Clerk :

            @Prentis: They get that a lot. It’s not particularly funny. (High-class problems, I know, of course.)

        • I framed my bar cert and it has actually sparked quite a few conversations since it’s not from the state where I’m currently practicing.

      • north east here and have never seen a bar certificate. Prob because if youre an attorney, its assumed you passed the bar.

        • Northeast too, I don’t see bar certificates but I see a ton of diplomas.

      • Woods-comma-Elle :

        Never seen a framed certificate in London (Big Law) – here it would be a practising certificate, rather than a bar certificate, but the same principle applies. In fact, I think my original practising certificate is held in some secret vault in HR and in any case it isn’t very fancy, doesn’t have any logos or anything, just my name and the fact that I am allowed to practise law.

      • It is common in the PNW — typically displayed with diploma.

      • Ekaterin Nile :

        I see tons of framed bar certificates at my Biglaw firm in the Midwest (transactional and litigation attorneys). In fact, some attorneys have their bar certificate but not their diplomas on display.

        I have my diplomas framed and on display in my office. They all have a mat (matte?).

      • I think it depends on whether you live in a state that gives everyone a bar certificate versus one where you have to order and pay for one. I received one for my first state of admission, and I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I hung it on my wall (and it’s still on my wall at my current job). But my second state of admission doesn’t give you a bar certificate unless you pay for it, and I didn’t have any reason to actually buy one. I only know one or two people who are licensed in that second state who have their licenses on display.

      • Midwest most attorneys have both degrees and the bar certificates from state and federal courts (if applicable framed).

        Honestly, I do not think it is snobby. Sometimes it is the only thing that sets me apart from the secretaries that treat me like a child since they drive nicer cars, own bigger houses, and go out to lunch everyday that yes, I actually am your boss. But that is an afterthought, not why I hung them up. I did that because otherwise, I would have likely lost them.

        • The best reason–“otherwise, I would have likely lost them.” I was thinking the exact same thing myself :)

        • We need a “Like” button for comments like this one!

    • another anon :

      If you are going to frame it, it will definitely look more polished with a mat. For the 8.5 x11 items, you should be able to find a frame that already has a mat with it, and that will be much cheaper than having it custom framed and matted. Then you can do a custom frame on the law school diploma to match. That’s what I did with my diplomas, and I think it ended up being much less expensive overall.

      • Thanks everybody! I have seen framed bar certificates at my current firm as well as 2 prior firms that I interned at. 2 of the 3 are in New England, one was in Philadelphia.

        I think I will go with the mat, as that is my instinct, but FWIW the reason I was giving some weight to my BF’s opinion is that he went to art school and has worked in a few galleries, and generally has a good aesthetic sense.

        • Really? huh have never seen this in the North east. But if they are in your work place its obv. a common thing for that place. I would go with the mat

          • E Squared :

            Some states give bar certificates automatically (ex-MA), others do not (ex- CA)… this probably has something to do with the framing, hard to frame it if you have to go out of your way & pay the bar more $ for the actual certificate.
            I didn’t know if I wanted to put matting on my degree because it was freaking ginormous to begin (seriously, most awkward size EVER)… but I ended up doing it, and I LOVE it… it looks amazing. I did double with my school’s colors (1 metallic & 1 in velvet). If you are in a place with an Aaron Brothers, they always have 50% off coupons on their website and it ended up costing about $100.

    • Anonymous :

      It looks more formal matted, I think. It’s customary to have a mat from everything I’ve seen (don’t think I’ve seen unmatted diploma frames actually)

    • Agree on matting.

      I’m in a small boutique firm in the Midwest; everyone here has their diplomas and certificates framed and hung. Above my desk are my diplomas, framed to match a beautifully done masthead print that the law journal staff gave me and other outgoing editors. (With that said, I’m 20+ years out of school now and a name partner and feel like I can take them down and put up some art that is more to my taste — if I ever get around to it.) However, I came back here to my home state, where I’d first taken the bar, after practing somewhere else for three years, and I had long since misplaced my certificate of admission for this state. My late and much-beloved former partner and mentor always used to tease me about the absence — “if my barber has to display his license, you have to display yours!” Hey, maybe that’s why everyone feels the need to do this.

    • Mine has a mat and a gold insert-like riser-thing between the mat and the diploma. Looks nice. You could do a no-mat floater-type framing, but I think that is more for a work of art than a diploma.

      • a nonny miss :

        I have a degree from a business school in France and since the size is not similar to a readily available frame in the States, I have it in a float-type frame and I love it. Really nice.

    • I would do a mat, but don’t get sucked into thinking you have to spend a lot of money. (I get irrationally angry about the diploma-framing racket.) I have gotten all my frames at Michael’s and Bed Bath and Beyond, which you should be able to do too since your certificates are standard sizes.

      FWIW I’m Mid-Atlantic and I see the bar certificates all the time. I actually have my original diplomas and bar certificate hanging in my office at home (at just 1 year out seeing them still gives a sense of accomplishment), and have 8.5″x11″ copies hanging in my office in matching double-mat frames I got from BBB for $20 each.

      • Not to sound preachy, but a big part of why you need to get it professionally matted is to preserve the paper. This is something you’re going to have for the rest of your life – suck it up and pay the money to do it right. Save money by selecting a less-expensive frame or mat; but pay a professional to mount it properly so that it stands the test of time. In fact, how about asking for it as a holiday present (that’s what I did, oh so many years ago).

        • What’s the difference, especially if the actual materials used (frame and/or mat) are cheaper? (No snark; genuinely curious.)

          My dad actively offered to frame all my certificates, but I preferred to have him spend the money on something I wanted more. I do like to look at my certificates, but if it weren’t for cheap frames they’d all still be in the envelopes in which I received them.

        • I touched base with someone I know who was formerly a professional framer, and she advised that the value of the professional matting (not considering quality of materials) is a reduced risk of slippage. Preserving the paper is best accomplished by using UV-protective glass and acid-free mats and backing.

          That’s not to say that there’s no value to professional framing, but if you’re comfortable using inexpensive materials, apparently you may as well put them together yourself.

      • I got my custom frame and mat from diplomaframes dot com and was really happy with the quality and price.

    • Mine are beautifully framed and sitting in a closet. I have gorgeous photos on my walls. Who cares about a diploma? Everyone I work with has ’em.

      • Thanks for all the responses everybody! On the same topic, I was at another mid-size law firm in New England a couple weeks ago for a deposition, and noticed that they have the diplomas and certificates of the founding partners (from the 1920’s) hanging in various public spaces around the firm. It was neat to look at the old Latin documents.

        I do understand why some people think it’s tacky/snobby to hang that stuff on the wall (my siblings, who went to Schmancy-Pants Law School feel the same way, especialy working in the public interest places they work) but I am going to let myself get away with it this once…and make up for it by not doing other things that I think are tacky/snobby. I think it will remind me of the pride I feel about that accomplishment to be able to see them framed, and inspire me to keep working hard. FWIW, I have a contract position right now so I won’t be hanging them in my office yet, but I will be ready to do so when the time comes, and in the meantime they will be protected.

        Finally, any thoughts on burgandy mat vs. navy blue? Or even forest green?

        • AnonInfinity :

          Mine are navy. I think you should go with whatever color you like best!

        • E Squared :

          I matched the colors in my school’s seal which is on the diploma– just an idea. ;-)

    • I got a single mat on mine, and the mat also serves to protect the diploma – it’s important to get acid-free matting and framing. I got a mat and frame in my school colors, which I thought was fun.

    • Barrister in the Bayou :

      I’m in Louisiana and see the certificates all the time… only here they’re the size of a large poster. I think people here have them framed and matted because all the Louisiana Supreme Court justices sign them.

    • I have my Bar certificate and a certificate from a prestigious training program in my office, in frames I bought at Michael’s.

      My diplomas are at home, but they should go up, too.

      My mom had her degrees in matching frames, in her office, when I was little. She used mats so all of them were the same size. I plan on doing that when I get around to it.

      I worked hard for these pieces of paper, and they were really freaking expensive. I’m going to hang them.

    • Seventh Sister :

      Anybody else have a fading signature on a diploma? My college diploma signatures have faded to a very light brown. I suspect it’s because it was “really” signed (i.e., with an ink pen) as opposed to the embossed signatures on my other diploma.

      My college diploma isn’t in direct sunlight, and started to fade well before I had it framed. I wish there was a fix….

  4. I just send them to myself at my parents’ house — they know not to open them. The problem is when the box clearly displays what the gift is, like the photo printer I got my mother last year.

    • Anonymous :

      Yep that’s what I do. If anything truly strange shows up for me in the mail (recently it was a follow up survey for a post 9-11 memory study) that my parents aren’t sure about, they call me and while on the phone open the package, then if I need it, they send it to me. Very straight forward.

      • This is what I do, too. The one time it didn’t work so well was when I had smooth river stones shipped (for a luxury home pedicure set) — I ordered them from Amazon, but they were shipped directly from a nursery (I guess they’re more often used to cover the surface of dirt for plants in pots) and the box said in huge letters, “OPEN IMMEDIATELY – LIVE MATERIALS!” So Mom called; I couldn’t think of what that package could be and asked her to go ahead and open it. Then that part of the surprise was spoiled . . . . But I like to blame this on the nursery — for mislabeling things!

    • Early on I sent them to myself at my in-laws’ house – it was a big box from Amazon with gifts for everyone including my little nephews. The box arrived December 17 and someone opened the box AND HANDED EVERYTHING OUT. I was livid. They couldn’t wait till Christmas morning? They couldn’t wait till I got there to open a package addressed to me? They couldn’t call me to ask why I was getting a package at their house? Really seriously?

      I fixed the problem by changing their shipping address in Amazon from Mella Lastname to Do Not Open Mella’s Box. (And then there was another fix when the person divorced away.)

  5. Same as @Nancy P. I send gifts to myself to my parents’ house (or grandparents’ house, brother’s house, etc). They know not to open them. If it’s for a birthday, etc. where I’m not present, then I send it directly to them. I’ve also been known, if we’re in a third party location, to send the present to their house with instructions, do not open, and then for the gift opening, to put a picture of the gift in a card. So then the person can open something twice – once at our third party location and second back when home.

  6. Research, Not Law :

    I *love* the Babette idea!

  7. Threadjack:

    After a strategy meeting on my biggest case, the other associate involved stopped by my office and said that the partner asked him to apologize for getting “too excited” during the meeting and the partner was apparently concerned that I was upset or angry after the meeting. I told the associate no need to apologize (because there really wasn’t).

    Ten minutes later, the partner stops by and asks if I’m ok, if I’m too overwhelmed, too busy, etc. I repeatedly reassured the partner I’m fine, busy but not too busy, etc. After saying he doesn’t believe me, he says that he’ll do a better job checking to make sure I’m not overwhelmed because he thinks I’m juggling too many balls.

    The next day, the partner again stops by to ask if I’m ok/too overwhelmed. I again assure him I’m fine.

    Ten minutes later, the associate stops and asks if I’m overwhelmed or too busy. Again, I reassured both of them that I’m fine and my workload is good.

    And again today, the partner makes it a point to ask if I’m ok. Again, I tell him I’m fine.

    I haven’t missed any deadlines. I’m on top of my work. I’ve completed tasks as promised, so I really don’t know where this is coming from.

    FWIW, I work with this partner and associate ALL THE TIME, and we have a great working relationship. Open, honest and frank, which I really appreciate.

    I will admit that I have been stressed, but nothing out of the ordinary-at least not that I think warrants 3 different conversations as to whether or not I’m ok.

    Other than continuing to meet deadlines and reassure the partner, what else can I do? I don’t want to have work/assignments taken away from me or lose their confidence , just because their perception is that I’m too overwhelmed.

    Has anyone else had this situation? Any suggestions as to how I can handle it?

    • If it is someone you work with frequently, I’d have a discussion with him. Find out what exactly makes him concerned that you are overwhelmed, and assure him that is not the case.

      I was in a similar situation recently. It turns out, the partner I work for saw me putting my hair up in a messy bun at the end of the day, which is what his wife does when she is overwhelmed. (have I mentioned I’m the only female associate?) I just do it because it is the end of the day and more comfortable. Anyway, after our talk we both kind of laughed about it, and I assured him I would let him know if I was actually overwhelmed.

    • I know sometimes when I get depressed about something outside work, I appear different at work/give off weird vibes, even though my work is not suffering. So is something going on outside work that maybe they’re sensing? IME people you work with all the time can pick up on breaksups etc without a word being said.

      Also, tell them you’d feel less overwhelmed if they’d cease and desist coming by your office to ask if you’re overwhelmed! (I’m known to be sarcastic and have a great relationship with my boss, so I would totally say this to him.)

      • Thanks for the advice. The partner even asked how home life is (it’s good, btw). And you’re right, it’s certainly making it much worse by the constant “are you ok?” I told him this morning that I think he’s projecting his wife’s overwhelmed-ness (is that even a word?) on to me (she’s pregnant and due this week). He laughed and said I shouldn’t use psychology terminology because it might confuse him. This is the kind of relationship we have, so maybe he will get the hint and lay off.

    • I think you’re only giving half the story. What happened in the meeting that sparked the apology and the partner’s concern? Perhaps you have been acting irritable and tired lately, and the partner is attributing this to stress? Is it possible that you actually are under a lot of stress, and the partner is trying to prevent you from burning out?

      • Really think about how you’re acting and if you may be giving off a weird vibe. The partner for whom I work is constantly asking a fellow associate if she’s doing okay, if she’s overwhelmed, etc. And I know it’s because she kind of has a chip on her shoulder, acts overwhelmed, gets snippy when she’s stressed, and can generally be aloof when she’s not in a good mood. Partner doesn’t know how to handle it, feels bad about it, and overcompensates by being overly solicitous about how she’s doing. Here, I don’t think it’s a positive development — the partner has told me several times that one of my biggest strengths is my attitude and the fact that I “always show up with a smile” even when stressed/overwhelmed/etc.

  8. Research, Not Law :

    How do you all approach team members who are low performers?

    There is a woman with whom I’ve worked on two projects over the last two years. She’s unreliable and – on the rare occasion she does come through – her work is poorly done, incomplete, or otherwise “off.” It affects the projects as a whole. She’s been with the company for a long time (decades?) and is nearing retirement (but no date announced). I don’t know if she has consistently provided this poor quality of work or whether it is a recent development.

    Our company is structured into centralized departments, so a project team is constructed from members of 3+ departments. Therefore neither I nor the project lead are her direct supervisor and capable of official action. Our company has a poor history of accountability, and there’s not a clear path for providing feedback to her supervisor. On both teams, the leads seemed aware of her poor performance and (to my knowledge) have done nothing about it.

    Should I just proceed on, doing my work and sharing her burden with the rest of the team? Should I discuss with the team lead? Should I try to figure out how to provide feedback to her supervisor, even though it likely will do nothing and could potentially make me look bad? Should I quietly ask around to figure out what’s going on? Discussing the issue with her directly is not an option I will consider; it would not go well.

    If it matters: She and I have different positions but are equals on the org chart, although depending on who is holding it, she could be higher or I could be higher. Her department is loosely (ahem, poorly) managed and can be a bit protective and inflammatory.

    Thank you for your advice.

    • Former Clerk :

      I would say that shouldering the burden (equally among your teammates, of course) is probably the path that offers the least amount of trouble for you. If it’s seriously a problem for you, though (beyond the sheer frustration of “how does this moron still have a job when x amount of people are unemployed and I kill myself on the regular to put together a spectacular product because that is my G-D job”–which I TOTALLY FEEL YOU ON, so if that helps, please take it and run with it), like you are legit having trouble getting your parts done because of last minute fixes that fall to you because of her shoddy work, then you should go to your team leader. Do not go to her supervisor (so tempting! SO tempting!). You’re not enough above her, I don’t think, to make it appropriate to do anything other than present your supervisor with your actual, for-real, her-related problems. (Disclosure: no direct experience with this except, you know, I read a lot of advice columns and Ask A Manager.)

  9. I ship everything to my parents’ house addressed to Margaret, c/o Margaret’s parents. I do it every year, so they don’t open anything addressed to me. Works very well.

  10. a nonny miss :

    Is there a polite way to ask guests to not bring gifts to a birthday dinner?

    FWIW, the guests are my parents, boyfriend and a couple close friends. I requested no gifts period, or, if they were really compelled, to donate to a horse rescue that is really hurting for money in this economy. I know for a fact that my mom has a couple of things, but I really want the dinner to just be about spending time with everyone, a gift in and of itself.

    • You can make the request again, maybe with the preface ” Mom, I’m really serious about this” but I suspect that if you have told her once and she is still planning to give you a gift, there is nothing you can do but accept it gracefully. If she asks what you want, tell her something that you would have bought for yourself, and then donate the money you would have spent on yourself, so it’s the same effect for the horse rescue. I think parents are often giving the gift as much for themselves as they are for you. (and i don’t see that as a negative thing, just a difficult one to change)

    • It seems like you’ve done all you can, requesting no gifts and/or in lieu of gifts, giving to charity. If your mom or a friend still has a gift for you, just smile that you have people who love you so much!

    • If it’s dinner you’re concerned about, tell your mom that you appreciate her generosity, but you’d prefer that she not bring anything to the actual dinner so that your other guests don’t feel that they’ve been rude by not bringing a gift. Then arrange another time for her to give you the gift if she’s an in-person gifter.

      • Agree. She can always give you a gift before or after, not in front of the guests.

    • Well, you can do what they do at kids’ birthday parties these days and not open the gifts in front of the guests.

    • I worry about this too. I’m having a no-gifts non-shower (tiny wedding –> people coming to my non-shower are not wedding guests, and therefore should not get me a gift) and asked the hosts to put “no gifts, please” on the invitation, but I’m still worried that someone will bring something anyway, even though “no gifts” is right on the invitation. I’m not sure what I’ll do if someone brings a gift anyway, but I’m definitely not opening it at the non-shower.

      • I did a “no gifts” shower. the invitation, email, and all communication specifically said no gifts. I would say 2/3 of the guest brought a gift. While 1/3 sat there saying “but the invitation said no gifts”, the other 2/3 demanded that I open the gifts. it was sooooo uncomfortable for me. Even worse, I took a bus and train to the luncheon and had to then figure out a way to haul the gifts across the city!

        If you have a good friend or ally at the shower, I would suggest that you plan for this in advance and ask that person to “run interference” by receiving gifts, thanking the gift giver, and telling them nicely “because the invitation said no gifts please, she will not open them here, so as not to offend other guests – i hope you understand”. Your friend can discretely set the gifts aside.

        In general, my wedding experience was that whenever you do something that is not traditional, it is good to have a friend who will play “coordinator” and “bad guy”, so you don’t have to!

  11. Just want to celebrate a personal victory with fellow Corps, who I know can understand my excitement: I paid off my private law school loans today! :) yay!

    I’m still paying the federal ones and still paying a mortgage, but after a few years of paying very little toward principal because I was not smart amount money, followed by a freakout and a few years of saving 25% of take home to make extra payments, I feel like I’ve earned a huge win for myself today.

  12. Wednesday :

    Does anyone have recommendations on speaking up in large meetings? Because of my role I find myself in these meetings with quite senior people, and I’m often the youngest person in the room. I’m finding myself tongue-tied quite a bit, and it’s something I want to remedy because I don’t want people to walk away with the wrong impression.

    • Welcome, my calendar sister!

      I struggle all the time with getting psyched out around senior folks. However, when I talk about not being good at speaking up and making my point clearly, everyone who works with me says that’s ridic, so apparently I have gotten a lot better over time. As with most things, I think there’s no substitute for practice. That said, I make notes in advance whenever possible, and–no lie–I monitor my breathing before and while speaking. I often realize I am taking short, shallow breaths, and that doesn’t bode well for completing thoughts and sounding authoritative.

    • Is it a general fear of public speaking or more of a “I don’t want to sound like an idiot in front of all of these higher ups”?

      If it’s the former, let me suggest toastmasters. I joined about a year ago, under the theory that I could improve public speaking and do some networking /business development at the same time, and so long as the club you join is good about getting everyone up to speak regularly, it really does help.

      If it’s the latter, can you get the meeting agendas in advance and try to think of some comments or ideas that you would like to express? Going in with your ideas in hand, maybe even written down, will give you confidence that, “OK, this is not just some crazy idea that popped into my head, I’ve thought about it and I know it is good.”

      • eek, I meant “improve MY public speaking”

      • Wednesday :

        I think it’s more the latter. And that hesitation really makes me freeze at times. And in some cases, I find I’m not as fast as I’d like to be – by the time I’ve thought of a question or response everyone else has moved on to another topic.

        I should start writing ideas down beforehand – that’s a good idea.

    • Do you bring a notepad? Perhaps you could write down what you want to say in advance. Even writing the main points, rather than complete sentences, can help you to deliver a clear, concise statement.

  13. Haha, no advice – same thing happens to me. I tried to make an intelligent comment a few weeks ago in a department meeting, as the most junior person in the room, and wound up totally confusing something and seemed like a total idiot (blonde moment). I was teased for a week… Sigh…

  14. Your parents all have a lot of self control. If I send my mom something that might be a gift, even if it says DO NOT OPEN UNTIL DECEMBER 25 and has a giant skull and crossbones, she tears right into it. She will try to re-package it and pretend she didn’t open it, unless it’s something she really likes in which case she’ll use it right away.

    • This made me laugh. How cute is your mom?!

      • She’s pretty funny :). Normally it’s the parent who has to hide gifts from the kid – not in my house, I always liked to save the surprise.

    • Mine too! Except she also can not keep a secret. So then she comes clean, but rewraps it and puts it under the tree anyway.

      • My Dad can’t keep a secret to save himself. This year, we were all together a month or so before my birthday and my brother and sister-in-law asked my Dad to ship something to me that they picked out after I left. He called me to tell me he had shipped it and and started to tell me what it was! My brother was furious. He just can’t stop himself.

  15. Anon in NC :

    Threadjack – quick question – do you cc yourself when you send emails?

    • Anonymous Poser :

      Not a lawyer.

      I more commonly bc myself.

    • Research, Not Law :

      Rarely. I do it at times when I want to be able to easily archive or find the email in the future, such as when I send an important document.

    • No, and I do not understand why people do (as a bcc, either). You can archive a sent mail as easily as an inbox email. Why create extra clutter in the inbox?

      • Research, Not Law :

        I know it is unnecessary since I could archive the sent email. However, I do it for two reasons: One, with some important emails, I want to be absolutely sure that the message was sent correctly. Two, I want to archive the *exact* message that was received by everyone else. I also have a quirky preference for archiving out of my inbox only.

        • Ah. See, I prefer to archive the “sent” version. I obsessively file every received and sent work email in separate client folders or a general subject matter folder. The cc: and bcc:ing would be way over the top for me! I guess we all have our own system.

    • Only if I’m BCCing a bunch of people – then I put myself in the to field.

    • Maine Associate :

      I have all my e-mails set automatically cc myself so I remember to print e-mails for my files. I do this for 2 reasons: 1) If I did not do that, I would forget and 2) there is no date/time stamp on it until it is sent. If it does not need to be printed, it gets deleted.

    • I bcc myself automatically on all work emails I send out and “file” it in email folders I have set up for each of my clients. I could grab the email from my sent folder and move that to the appropriate client folder, but it is easier just to use the bcc copy from my inbox, since I already have my inbox open. I control-all delete my sent items every few months so that I don’t overload the system with two copies of every email. I also have the auto bcc set so that it doesn’t copy emails to certain people, like my husband.

  16. Only if it’s an email I am definitely going to look for repeatedly – in those cases I cc myself and save it in the appropriate folder. Otherwise, it’s all in my sent folder and I can find it there if I happen to need it. (For example, I cc myself on emails I send to the advisory council I support – they include the email list and all sorts of materials, so every time I send a new one I just go back and work from the previous one as a template.)

    • Anon in NC :

      Thanks everyone for your responses – I wasn’t sure if it was a best practice etc. that I should utilize.

  17. I just send thing to “Birthday girl (or boy) [name]” to make it clear. Started with nieces/nephews, now do it for my parents too.

  18. Babette — say it’s from the movie Babette’s Feast. Wonderful old movie about the nature of giving and gifts.

  19. Great tip! This will be our first holiday season spent across the country from our families and we’re considering a similar system. I hadn’t thought about the name thing, though!

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