Monday, December 30, 2013

2013's BEST & WORST

    Since this blog's inception three years ago, the final  days of the year always call for pause and reflection on the previous 12 months - the good, the bad and the ugly in human behavior and social graces. Again this year, there were plenty of candidates for all three categories. There were remarkable displays of kindness and human spirits worth celebrating. And sadly, there were also crass and vulgar acts we'd just as soon forget. 
     ItMannersAlot has always been about much more than the butter knives and salad forks. Moving into 2014, it will continue to shine a bright light on the importance of social graces and civility. And with that, here is one last look back at the Best and the Worst of 2013!


1.  Dignity Health's Humankindness Campaign.  The national health care organizations's multi-million dollar marketing campaign served big doses of the simplest of medicines: Be kind to one another. Genius. Countless studies already show the health benefits of being nice to each other.  Dignity hopes humankindness will  become a household word. Already, its massive billboards are giving motorists some food for thought and employees within the organization are putting the call into action and encouraging others to share their random acts of thoughtfulness on

2.  Our Community's Trash Detectives.  The dumping of trash and litter remains an epidemic in Kern County, despite the availability of garbage receptacles big and small at every turn. And the debate continues on what lies at the root of the growing problem - cultural, education. Regardless, it persists, and thankfully, there are those in our midst who are fed up and refuse to tolerate it any more. The woman on her morning walk tossing a discarded diaper BACK into the offender's vehicle. The shopper in the parking lot reminding a litterbug that there is a trash can nearby. The volunteers who regularly pickup trash near the bike path and river banks, without compensation or fanfare. Their reward is knowing their part of the community is a little neater and nicer.

3.  The Bakersfield High School and Bakersfield Christian High School football teams.  Bravo to these two teams of athletes who reached the pinnacles of their game in division contests. Bakersfield Christian lost, and BHS took their state title, but both teams epitomized the very best of our community and good sportsmanship. Professional athletes could learn a thing or two from these terrific young players!

4.  Bakersfield Symphony Conductor John Farrer.  In his 38th and final year as Musical Director of the beloved arts organization, Maestro Farrer will wave his baton one last time as director at the end of the 2013-2014 season come May. His relationship with the Symphony will continue, but it will be hard to imagine a concert without his masterful direction. A hallmark of Bakersfield's arts community, Farrer has exuded class and elegance with every nod, especially during BSO's period of transition. We are all the richer for it.

5.  The Volunteer.  From the animal lovers in our community who try to fill in the gaps between the animal shelter services and connect people with their lost pets through the use of social media, the many people who helped launch the inaugural, and wildly successful Nut Festival, those green thumbs who helped the Tree Foundation plant trees in the downtown Arts District, and the many people who cooked and donated for St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center's first BBQ, attended by some 800 community members raising upwards of $70,000 for the center - astonishing by anyone's standards - the volunteers in our midst underscored why Bakersfield is truly beautiful.


1.  The Trash-a-holics. Despite ambitious local public service campaigns, many people still don't get the message. Their disregard for the community is evident alongside highways 58, 99 and 178 and in parks and parking lots from one side of town to the other. Shame on all of them. It takes but a second to properly dispose of garbage. This is the 3rd year in the row the Litterbug has landed on this list of the best of the worst. Hope springs eternal. May it be the LAST!

2. Congress.  The stubbornness among politicians on Capitol Hill reached a new low this past fall with the government shutdown. Non essential workers were furloughed, staying at home twiddling their idle thumbs while congress argued and bickered over the budget and debt ceiling. And we constituents payed top tax dollars for this pathetic customer service. Really. bad. form.

3.  Anthony Weiner. Just in case there were disbelievers the first time the disgraced New York politician professed repentance after his sexting scandal, Weiner returned with more embarrassment for his supporters and family. This time, wife Huma blamed herself. Women's eyeballs could be heard rolling backward 'round the world. Thankfully, voters denied him another seat in office.

4.  Kern County 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez.  Elected in 2012 to represent the district, Perez almost immediately began looking for greener pastures in a special election race to fill the 16th California Senate seat vacated by Michael Rubio. Whoah! In high school there was a term for girls like that who moved on to the next best thing faster than you could say gym class, and it wasn't flattering. It seemed like really bad form to sincerely court the voters of the 5th District, rake in thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, and then just a few months into the gig have a sudden change of heart when a better looking 'suitor' came calling. In announcing her run for supervisor, candidate Perez said the voters of the district should not pick a supervisor who used "political loopholes", a reference to her opponent, Karen Goh, who was appointed to the seat by former Governor Schwarzenegger. Perez argued that voters should judge the candidates “by how deep the roots of a candidate reach into the earth of the district.”
   Political loopholes looked a lot like rungs on the ladders eager politicians like Ms. Perez couldn't keep from climbing. And it appeared those roots in the 'earth of the district', didn't run deep enough. But Christmas came early to the 5th District. Perez lost the special election, and in her defense, she appears to be settling in nicely into the role as county supervisor. I predict she'll do admirable things in the coming year, as the experience no doubt left a lasting impression.

5.  Celebs Behaving Badly. Again.  They keep social media tabloids like TMZ in business, but I for one am exhausted by the never-ending train wreck of celebrities behaving badly. Alec Baldwin joins the list this year. His foul-mouthed angry rants at anyone who looks in his direction are creepy scary. No wonder his much-anticipated talk show was canned.  Then there was once sweet Miley Cyrus, twerking her way up the most-talked about list for all the wrong reasons. She's too old to be spanked and put in time out for the next year or so, but I for one would like to see her expand her repertoire into more ladylike fare and keep her Gene Simmons-esque tongue in her mouth. And finally, Lindsay Lohan can't get off this list to save her life. This year her escapades included fibbing to law enforcement and arriving late for court appearances. Big no nos in anyone's book. No one has thrown the book at her yet. Here's hoping Oprah can help put this once-promising young actress back on the right track in 2014.

Thank you for your continued readership of this blog.  Best wishes for a new year filled with health, happiness and heaps of civility. Afterall, ITMANNERSALOT!

Monday, December 16, 2013

HUMANKINDNESS: The Gift That Will Keep On Giving!

There is a giant billboard facing eastbound motorists on Rosedale Highway that has Bakersfield drivers doing a double take.
No, not the one with the bicycle begging to be recycled.
"Kindness Has Zero Carbs."
This one had me at the word 'Kindness'.
Those four simple words strung together on the Dignity Health sign west of Costco are catching people's attention in a big way, which is exactly what the San Francisco-based health organization is aiming for. Towering advertisements enticing us to move to a new residential development or attend an upcoming concert, we are used to. But kindness? 
It may take some motorists miles before the message sinks in. But I for one think it is brilliant and wish i'd thought of it. Save me a seat on this bandwagon.
More than just a catchy media blitz, Dignity is taking the ambitious $11 million dollar advertising campaign seriously by putting, what they say, is humanity back into health care. Whether it ever left, or if so, where it went, is subject to interpretation. But in the midst of a national discourse on the dollars and cents and tech missteps of Obamacare, the novel campaign highlighting acts of kindness, however grand or slight, through stories shared on its website –, hopes to start a conversation prompting people to behave better and connect with one another in a more compassionate way.
And the effort doesn't come a moment too soon. According to a survey on Civility in America, 86% of responders say they have been on the receiving end of some sort of incivility. Is the decline of good manners the new norm? Dignity says no way and I can't stop applauding. Bravo!
Besides, countless studies have already told us that being nicer, kinder and more gentle with each other can be a potent dose of medicine in lowering blood pressure, warding off illnesses and aiding in the healing process.
The stories shared on the movement's website are inspiring: A rescuer who braved choppy waters and risked his own life to save another, a good Samaritan who helped a stranded stranger in need, and a surprise for a family shopping at Target whose entire cart full of items was paid for by someone else.
There have been calls to acts of caring before, most notably Bakersfield's Dr. Chuck Wall and his Random Acts of Kindness campaign launched 20 years ago. Dignity hopes humankindness will become a household word.
But why not just plaster billboards with boasts of shorter ER wait times, fancier delivery rooms and cutting-edge medical equipment? “Some have questioned what this campaign has to do with health care,” says Dignity's local Director of Strategic Marketing, Robin Mangarin Scott. “We are proud to say 'it is different'. If we can use a human connection to inspire a stronger and healthier world, then what is the harm in that?”
Already, officials with Memorial and Mercy Hospitals say they have seen the call to treat one another nicely within their hallways and among their employees. “Something special is happening. The people who work here are listening and holding themselves accountable to the brand,” Mangarin Scott says. “We all know that sharing humankindness is great on paper, but when it is shared through actions, it can hold the power to heal and help others in ways that extend beyond health care.”
While modern medicine will always hold the ability to cure, let us all become more attune to the human conditions and opportunities that present themselves every day to extend compassion and reconnect with humanity, not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year. Perhaps Desmond Tutu said it best: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Humankindness will truly be the gift that keeps on giving.
Best wishes for a Christmas rich in time spent with loved ones, and a year ahead filled with health, happiness and all that 'MANNERS A LOT'! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


    It has been some time since the last post on this blog. Life, including milestones like weddings, has a habit of getting in the way. In the past year, we were honored to witness the unions of some special young people, including one at a venue two states away, and another not far from home. Our connection to two of these events was by way of the parents of the two grooms. Not intimate friends, but friendly enough to score invites. This was a bonanza year for us as wedding guests and gift givers. 
    It had been awhile since I shopped wedding registries.What an eye opener that was. 24 years ago when I walked down the aisle, it would have been considered gauche to 'ask' for such gifts as money and furniture. But that train has left the station, and like it or not, I hopped on board.
    But one thing I will never be unwedded to: Thank You notes! If someone takes the time and makes the expense of purchasing a gift, acknowledge the thoughtful gesture. Not by e-mail. Not by text. Not just verbally. And not in a printed letter, but in a handwritten note. Considered old fashioned by today's social media standards? Probably. But it's high time some of these time-honored customs were hammered back into the social mindset of brides and grooms tying the knot these days.
    The honeymoon probably wasn't even over for the out of state couple before their thank you letter, obviously printed on their computer, arrived. Sigh. We weren't the only guests who had traveled a great distance at considerable expense to witness their nuptials. At least they thanked us, which I appreciate, but how much more thoughtful it would have been had the notes been handwritten. It reminded me of the days when our children were little, and could barely write their name on the fill-in-the-blank thank you notes I insisted they complete. But they were four years old! Not approaching their forties!
    The other couple, whom we run into with some regularity around town, must still be on their extended honeymoon. Perhaps the acknowledgement of our gift to them will arrive in the new year, near their first wedding anniversary!
    Thank you notes STILL 'Manner A lot' in my book - the old fashioned kind, handwritten from start to finish.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


    Now that the Duchess of Cambridge has been 'delivered of a son', as they say across the pond, has posed with the newly minted Lord of the Manor and his  father Wills for the obligatory photo-op, and headed for home, whichever castle that may be, it is time to open the wrought iron gates to the flood of well-intended advice, all of it unsolicited, that will roll through the palace doors in the coming days.
    Kate hasn't asked, but I'm offering, my tried and true, well-worn golden nuggets of parenting advice to help her get her high-heeled footing back in these early days as a family of three.
    1. First, and most important of all - sleep. I know, every mother was gifted this priceless piece of advice, and everyone I know, including myself, disregarded it. Who sleeps when the little prince is  snoozing and there is laundry to do and bills to catch up on.
     22 years later, I wish I had slept for days after the birth of our Alexander.  I didn't know then that laundry mutates, and will ALWAYS be there. Ironically, the sleep deprivation was the first thing I forgot when I had our two princesses.  The Duchess may not opt for a nanny, but for the love of God and country Kate, use the night nurses, your mother, Camilla, the Queen, and any other Lord or Lady in waiting willing to hold his royal highness while you catch up on your beauty sleep, even if someone else pays the bills and folds the laundry.
    2.  Ditch the bulky diaper bag. Don't even think of picking one up. I had dozens, in the cutest of colors and designs. Even the pockets had pockets.  Young mothers today are risking shoulder injury as they lug those things around. How many baggies of cheerios, fishies, bottles of formula, diapers, extra changes of clothing, teething rings and toys will Prince Cambridge need? Isn't that what the Court Jesters are for?
   3.  Save the family photographs for the royal archives, not Instagram or Twitter. As your young royal will soon find out, social media will be useful and fun, but even an adoring nation of subjects will tire of every little burp and bump with hashtags. It's too soon now, but at some point, when he's approaching his pre-teens, sit him down for a chat about his uncle Harry's infamous romp with a camera in Las Vegas.
   4.  His Royal Highness won't break. I promise. Oh sure, there may be a torn ligament or fractured limb down the road after a fierce polo match, but relax as his adoring grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins fawn over him like a piece of English bone china from great-great-Queen Victoria's hutch. And remember, this dovetails nicely back into rule number #1, which may make it possible from time to time to sneak off for a quick Corgie nap (no cats at Buckingham).
    5.   Mind his manners, but massage his tender heart more. The English have cornered the market on the important skill set of social graces. His royal highness will be in good hands. But generations of royals appear to have lacked the affection all children crave, something Grandfather Charles found difficult to display at all, but William's late mother, Diana, worked tirelessly to overcome. If a picture is worth a thousand words, judging from today's 'unveiling' to the world, I would say the young chap is off to a very jolly good start, cradled in the arms of loving parents who seem determined to model a new modernity of royal family.  And that 'Manners A lot'!


Saturday, June 15, 2013


    I lost my father a couple months ago. I never could have imagined back in March, when a stumble sent him to the hospital, and then into rehabilitation, that our first Father's Day apart would be weeks away.
     Today, on a pre-Father's Day hike with the father of my children, to the rim of the world, Parker Lake and the southern skirt of Yosemite and the Sierra, at an elevation my muscles may never recover from, the majestic splendor of the geography, and the fact that I trailed my husband and two of our three children, gave me great pause to reflect, and appreciate.
    I will miss tomorrow's telephone call to my father, but will treasure forever the voicemails I saved, and the many saved in my memory bank.
   I will appreciate my father's gift of patience, the next time one of his grandchildren test us.  I hope they bumped dear Dad up to first class when he soared to heaven. Afterall, he had the patience of Job, as the father of three girls.
    I will think of Dad as the weather takes an unusual turn for mid-June. A Kansan, born in a farmhouse that was often rattled by tornados, we enjoyed dissecting the weather forecasts.
    I will remember his resolve to protect and provide for his family, at any cost. If only more fathers placed such a high premium on that value. 
    I will light sparklers on the Fourth of July, and write his name in the air with them.
    And I will enjoy a slice of watermelon, in his honor, with a sprinkle of salt, remembering how he loved to make homemade ice cream the old fashioned way, with a hand-crank.
    My father was our family's plaster, brick and mortar.  We are all the richer for that. And he was triple-blessed with three like-minded, amazing sons-in-law, who carry on his legacy on Father's Day and always, because 'ItMannersAlot'!

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

       In the coming weeks, thousands of graduates will don caps and gowns, receive a hard-earned diploma, and set sail on their idyllic journey to great places. They will no doubt thank all those who helped them in reaching this milestone: Google, Wikipedia, Starbucks and Mr. ATM to name a few.
    And they will be lathered in accolades, pats on the back and high-fives. The path to graduation will be like playing Candy land – frothy, and laden with fluffy, artificially sweetened pieces of advice. Enjoy every last bite of the sugar-coated pearls of wisdom.
And after the last sip of your iced mocha, marinate on this:

    No one owes you a thing. Oh sure, your parents may be picking up the tuition tab for now (which may be closed before your first Incomplete), but you are not ENTITLED to anything. Carve your path in life by wanting what you already have, not having everything you want. Living each day from a place of immense gratitude and thankfulness will lower your blood pressure, extend your life, improve your health and wellness, and attract others to you like a magnet.

    Appreciate where you are right now. You may never get that dream job, but find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Remember, in this job market tighter than Spanx, don’t give up or consider certain employment beneath you. Manage what little money you have and make it last. Don’t contribute to the national debt, but pay your debt to your community. Invest in making your corner of the world better, safer and nicer.

   Make the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ part of your daily vocabulary. Like magic, you will be amazed at the doors they will help open for you. In a world increasingly void of civility and thoughtfulness, being polite and courteous to others will always give you an advantage.

  Discover what moves you, inspires you and brings out the best in you, and then chase this passion to the ends of the earth. What you are passionate about will define you, not the leased luxury car you think you must drive or the crib in the fancy zip code where you think you should reside.

   Living an honest life of purpose will take leaps of faith and involve risk-taking. If you play life safe, you will never truly know what you are capable of doing, or feeling. Your true success will not be measured just by all your wins and getting what you want, but by your losses and disappointments as well. Failing IS succeeding, if you find the lesson to be learned in the experience and don’t let it be a lesson lost.

   Life is not easy. In fact, it will be downright hard when you least expect it. But it will always beat the six-feet-under alternative. Rest your faith in a higher power.

   Don’t marry the first person who sweeps you off your feet. Romance and butterflies in your stomach have a shelf life shorter than a Taylor Swift song; Build your future on a bedrock of commitment, respect and shared values with someone you see yourself sitting side by side with in wheelchairs in a nursing home someday.

   Give back, each and every day, in big or small ways. Whether it is holding the door for an elderly person, letting the shopper with just one item leap ahead of you, or volunteering for a non-profit, giving of yourself, your time and talents isn’t for others to do. It is part of your unspoken contract with growing up and becoming a mature adult.

   Reading may no longer be mandatory, but never stop. Read everything you can get your hands on. The more you read, the more you know, the better you are able to converse, and the more interesting you become to others.

   Enjoy the obstacle course that your life will become. That’s right, the student loans, the unreasonable professor, the selfish roommate. You’re not going to be able to rewind your journey like a television episode on demand. ALL of it will become the fabric of your life!

   And finally, laugh often. In almost every circumstance veiled by uncertainty or angst, there will be slivers of something worth laughing at. Laugh at yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Not only is it the best medicine, but it is much cheaper than prescriptions.

    As beloved Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel writes in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, life really is a ‘Great Balancing Act’. Wherever you go and whatever you do up there on the high wire of life, be authentically you, and not someone you think others should see. Take ownership of your actions and all of their consequences. In doing so, you will strike the perfect balance, and what really ‘Manners A lot’!

Monday, May 20, 2013


    I don't have a horse in tomorrow's special election race to fill the 16th California Senate seat vacated early by Michael Rubio. But from my perch in the grandstands of the 3rd District, I find the spectacle that is Leticia Perez's campaign really bad form. I kept thinking, i'm missing pieces to this puzzle. There must be something more to her decision, besides 'seizing opportunity', that would make it okay in her mind to court, seemingly so sincerely, the voters of Kern County's 5th District last year, rake in thousands of dollars in contributions, and then just a few months into the gig have a sudden change of heart when a better looking 'suitor' came calling. 
     But if there is a greater, authentic justification, I haven't found it. And i've looked. I've really tried.
    Last year, in announcing her run for supervisor, candidate Perez said the voters of the 5th District should not pick a supervisor who used “political loopholes”, a reference to her opponent, Karen Goh, who was appointed to the seat by former Governor Schwarzenegger.
   Perez argued that voters should judge the candidates “by how deep the roots of a candidate reach into the earth of the district.”
   Political loopholes look a lot like rungs on the ladders eager politicians like Ms. Perez can't keep from climbing. And as for those roots in the 'earth of the district', sorry 5th District residents, apparently they just didn't run deep enough.
   Whatever happened to saying what you MEAN, and meaning what you SAY?  12 months ago your performance of someone anxious to go to bat for the little people of the 5th District earned you the job.  If you meant it then, shouldn't you have felt the same way for the duration of the term?
    Maybe what you mean to say now is that if you are elected to serve in the 16th Senate District, 16th Senate District residents may find themselves in the same boat as your current constituents, should a congressional seat, a Presidential appointment, or a job at Chevron roll across the conveyor belt of her political ambitions. They have no real assurances, other than Perez's word (and I'm not sure how much of that you can take to the bank) that she's any more comitted to you than she said she would be to the voters of the 5th District of Kern County. Her win may become your loss if a more attractive 'opportunity' comes calling.
Should Perez be defeated, the residents of Kern's 5th District, the ones in the rear-view mirror of her short-sighted political ambition, will be stuck with someone who apparently doesn't want to be in a long-term, committed relationship with them for the duration of the term. Her loss will be yours as well.
    In an age when distrust of politicians and the political process is at an all time high, wouldn't it be refreshing if emerging public servants with great promise and the potential for years of service SAID what they meant, and MEANT what they said?  Afterall, it 'Manners A lot'!