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Happy Birthday To Us
You might wonder why my website is called” The Advice Sisters” when there is just one of us. Well, it wasn’t always the case. My twin sister and I were both writers prior to our career writing together in and around 1996. We quickly become known for our wedding and relationship advice and especially our signature “Double-Take Q&A” featuring two views for every question asked by readers. I still use this signature “Double-Take” format with co-author Anthony Sabatini, on Leather and Lace Advice.. America Online coined the phrase “Advice Sisters” for us when we participated in their “Love at AOL” chat rooms, but as content providers for other sites we went by many other names, including “The Wedding Belles” (our advice about giving back a ring earned us a quote and reference on the Yale Law Journal “The Rules of Engagment,” June 1, 1998).
Jessica and I founded the Advice Sisters and wrote a bunch of books. We were guest speakers, held seminars and created a CD series called “Make New Connections.” We’re credited with bringing the advice/information genre, online (The Marriage and Family Experience, Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society, 8th Edition) and eventually started to become known as the next “Ann & Abby” for the new millennium *unlike those famous twins, we really liked one another!
Hardly a day ever went by when we didn’t chat by phone, or communicate by email, or see each other in person. We had plenty of disagreements, but we understood each other so well we didn’t stay upset for long, We moved forward, together, until the day Jessica left a message that said: “Please pick up a copy of US magazine with the photo and quotes about us, in it, as I’ll be gone.” She meant “Gone to the South of France.” She was going there on vacation the next day.
But she never made it there.
My husband and I were driving when I got a call on my cell phone. It was a friend of my sister’s — one that I avoided as much as I could manage and who would never call me for any reason. This time, she insisted I pull off the road. We pulled over. In a gas station, she told me that my sister had died, suddenly, drinking coffee in her bedroom. You can’t imagine what a shock that was! Losing a family member is always hard, but a twin? Indescribable. And as we headed for home, I had to figure out how to tell my father that his daughter had suddenly dropped dead. Giving him the news was one of the most difficult moments of my life.
In the months that followed, there were more deaths of people I love, including my favorite cousin and my beloved cat. A book deal my sister and I were working on was dropped when the publisher told me he’d only honor the deal if I removed my sister’s name. “I can’t sell a book with a dead twin, it’s a bummer,” he said. I refused the deal.
Jessica was a true people person while I am fairly shy. When we were promoting our first book, Recruiting Love-Using the Business Skills You Have to Find the Love You Want, she loved being in the spotlight. She loved to laugh, and she knew just how to put anyone else at ease. She always helped you to have a good time. She was an amazing storyteller. I wasn’t surprised when she won Miss Congeniality at the Miss Syracuse Pageant in College.
As a relationship expert, it’s easy for me to give advice to others, but what should I advised myself? Looking at it now, my counsel would be that you never know what life is going to bring you and you find out just who you are, when faced with situations you can’t even imagine. Challenges, bad breaks, and grief can sometimes fall on you like rain, but there are those who become so overwhelmed that they just stop functioning; and those who think: “well this is really bad but I’m still here and I’m ok.” I’m of the latter variety. I simply put one foot in front of the other and work the problem until I can move forward again. Sometimes you can only count your blessings in small increments: a hot shower, your cat’s purr, a friend’s laugh, a positive phone call. Advicesisters.com fans, family and friends, continue to remind me of the precious connections we make in life. Love is around us in all sorts of forms if we choose to acknowledge and accept it.
When I was a child, I resented the fact that I had to share a birthday (and a birthday cake) with my sister. Since Jessica passed away, now I always have my own cake — but no sister to share it with. It’s never really a happy day anymore. But I can still say: “Happy birthday to US Jessica.” I feel that she’s wishing the same to me. -Alison Blackman-