Monday, December 27, 2010

Disconnet and RE-ENGAGE

Just like that, in the blink of a blood-shot eye, the Christmas holiday has come and gone. In its wake, are more plugged-in and rewired kids (and adults) than ever before. Like the wall of tv monitors at Best Buy, everywhere you look it seems the alien nation of heads drooped down toward their iPads and new cell phones has them connected to Mars, but completely detached from real time contact.
When did we become a divided society of those connected, and everyone else disconnected from human contact and conversation? It is tempting to walk over to the next table in the restaurant and slap the sense back into the parents of the youngster drunk in a digital gaze at the 4x6 piece of plastic between their palms. But the adults are just as oblivious to this lapse in social interraction. Their little droids will only set their mesmerizing hand magnets aside long enough to inhale their meal.
Wait, what was I thinking? Slapping MYSELF back to my senses.
It is absolutely exhasperating though to witness a group of friends ignoring one another to pay attention to an inanimate object, or a family out to an expensive dinner with only half the table looking at each other face to face.
Last time I checked, playmates sat on the sidewalk and talked to each other, like Beaver Cleaver and Opie Taylor, not communicating by thumbs to a new virtual friend in the outer bands of Saturn with a machine smaller than a pop tart. Parents, wake up! Insist your children put down their electronic device with which they are fused to the hip. Politely ask, then demand that they power it off and instead - engage with you at the dinner table, in the car, and most especially in a place of worship.
To let them do otherwise is inconsiderate of you and your time together. The same goes for those on dates. If 'Mr. Right' can't put any distance between the menu and his Blackberry, he is most definitely 'Mr. Probably Not'.
Disconnect and Re-engage, because it DOES 'Manner' A lot!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Be A Guest STAR

'Tis the season to be invited to, and attend holiday parties. The invitations may vary - an open house, a boss' cocktail party, or a five-course dinner,but the basics remain the same. Whatever the venue and however formal, it is always polite to bring a 'hostess' gift'. That may seem sexist and outdated, as the hostess may be a host, but the principle remains the same - it is always courteous and thoughtful to bring the person hosting the party a small gift of appreciation for the invite, especially when it involves a meal.
A bottle of wine is always a great choice, but don't expect it to be served, as the hosts may have already made their wine selection. A small bundle of flowers is always a welcome and nice touch, although you don't want to saddle the hostess with something else to do. Remember, the hostess gift is a small token of your appreciation, not a birthday present.
Last week we hosted our office staff at our home. Only one guest brought a hostess gift - a very nice bottle of Cabarnet we did eventually uncork. While this hostess doesn't need any more 'stuff', it reminded me of how many people are completely unaware of this social gesture. My 'gift' came in the form of the late arrival of most of the guests!
The hostess gift is by no means obligatory either, but it is always considered good form. A candle or handmade dish towel may not guarantee a future invite, but it will certainly warm a party-giver's heart. If you are attending a potluck, no further gift is necessary.
This old-fashioned custom is one of those gestures i'm delighted has survived the test of time. It is a sweet act of gratitude that does not require a great expense or effort. So remember, if you'll be a guest at a holiday celebration this week, bring a little something with you, because it DOES 'Manner' A Lot!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010


There he was, between 'Silent Night', and 'Holy Night', conducting business on his cell phone behind us at our daughter's Christmas program. To his left sat a prominent businessman. Two rows in front of him, a Superior Court Judge, and all around, mild-mannered parents who were simply aghast at the gall. I'm pretty sure the angels on stage heard this boor and his plans for the next morning at work.
Of all the breaches of good behavior, conducting private phone conversations in public has to be the best of the worst! The device has changed the way we live our lives, but it has also changed the way we treat one another in public.
Disrupting events with loud babble, or worse, conducting business in a bathroom stall for everyone to hear, is rude. Anyone who thinks otherwise has had their brain fried by the cellular transmissions.
If the conversation with your mechanic is so important that it can't wait, take it outside and out of earshot. No one is interested in hearing how badly last night's blind date went, or what the guy in physics class said at the lockers.
So the next time Katie Perry chimes in to alert you of an incoming call. Don't answer. Turn it off. Get off the phone and get outside and out of earshot from others. Because it DOES 'Manner' a lot!

Monday, December 6, 2010


One of the most surprising changes in social acceptances of the last two decades has been the embracing of the practice of regifting. You know, the taking of that gawdy Egyptian-themed set of holiday glassware from Cousin Eddie that you know will never see your kitchen's light of day, and rewrapping it to give to someone else. Once considered a social no-no other than at the office party's white elephant gift exchange, today it is such a commonly-accepted act (a staggering 60% of people reportedly approve of it) that there is a National Regifting Week, day and website dedicated to the recycling of someone else's thoughtfulness. Even etiquette columnist Peggy Post has copped to the practice!
The popular "Seinfeld" series gifted the notion into pop culture. No question the economy and environment have also made it easier for regifting to gain acceptance.
I know i'm seriously out of step on this one, but I have never been a fan of the regifting concept. My manners-meter has always pointed to the 'tacky' on this idea. Instead, that crocheted apron and plaster dish of Elvis have gone the way of the grow-your-own-cactus set and rope-trimmed picture frame - to charity! In the next few weeks, that donation pile will be joined by yet more vanilla-flavored jars of wax, mini Christmas-stocking coin purses, and hard-as-nails fruit cakes. I'll accept them graciously, then later designate them to be given away to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul. Sans the fruit cake of course.
I am outnumbered here, I know. The regifting train has left the station. And although I refuse to hop on board, I'm offering a few suggestions on how to regift with tact: 1. Be realistic about the item and its intended recipient. Will your 85-year-old Aunt Clara REALLY want those ski goggles? 2. Rewrap the item with new paper and ribbon! Nothing undermines your stealth mission like patches of torn paper still taped to the box from the first go-around. 3. Don't regift something that has been used. Those items shouldn't go anywhere else BUT to charity. Doing otherwise would be off the tacky-richter scale. 4. Be mindful of the retailer of origin. It's been several years since Gottschalks closed up shop. Regifting a crystal dish from its shuttered china department may not elicit the desired effect with your mother-in-law.
And remember, it IS the thought that counts, and it DOES 'Manner' A lot!

Monday, November 29, 2010


With the arrival of the Christmas season comes high season for socializing. As the invitations to parties and gatherings trickle into your life, via telephone, mail or electronically, note those oft-overlooked four letters somewhere at the end: R.s.v.p. Short for 'Repondez s'il vous plait', or 'please respond' in French, those letters are every bit as important as the details of the event.
There was a time when responding to an invitation was the rule, and not the exception it seems to have become today. Unfortunately for today's host or hostess, responding to the invitation is considered by many to be unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you've ever thrown a party and were still awaiting a reply from half of the invitees, then you know how it affects everything from the amount of food to purchase to seating arrangements.
An invitation should be accepted or declined as soon as possible after it is received. The old school of thought was to respond within several days of receiving the invitation. But most certainly, before the deadline, if one is noted. To do otherwise is the height of RUDENESS, and at the very least, inconsiderate of the person extending the invitation.
My rule of thumb is to immediately note the response deadline in my planner, and to call immediately if I'm certain I can or cannot attend. If there is some question as to whether I will, the 'r.s.v.p. by' date stands on my calendar to remind me.
Same goes for the 'regrets only' format which has become popular in recent years.
It is no fun for the host to have to place numerous telephone calls days before the event, hunting down guests and their response. Nor is it nice to have empty seats and too much food. So the next invitation that crosses your social calendar, respond. Because it DOES 'Manner' a lot.

Friday, November 26, 2010


If you made it through Thanksgiving with nothing more serious than some indigestion, congratulate yourself on sprinting the hurdle to Black Friday. Even if you didn't wait outside a big box store in the pre-dawn darkness wrapped in a blanket, teeth chattering like a popsicle in the sub-freezing temperature, your trip back into a department store in the coming weeks is inevitable.

When you do stroll, or drag your heels, into a store, take pause and check yourself - and your manners. Bravo tv reality star Bethenny Frankel coined the phrase 'check yourself before you wreck yourself'. Cute and flip as it was, it is spot-on for the holiday season, aka the season of rudeness. We can all sand down the roughness the retail holiday season will bring. Before you swoop down on a newly-hired seasonal worker with an air raid of questions and requests, remember that your clerk is not an air traffic controller. Their abilities to serve you will be limited.

Nor are they wizards able to speed the passage of time. Patience really will be a virtue. As should decorum. Wait out the long lines with composure and courtesy. Resist the temptation to channel Scrooge and become agitated! The first shopping day of the Christmas season needn't be black and blue. But it, and every other day of the year, should be cordial, thoughtful and respectful...because it DOES Manner A Lot!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Buckle Up! Here we go again, full steam ahead into the eye of the storm that has enveloped social graces - the Season of Rudeness, the most impolite time of the year! Hustle and Bustle will stomp courteous behavior like a stampede. Too many people with too much to do in too little time. It is as inevitable as disheveled toy aisles at Walmart the day after Christmas. Soldiers of social graces will feel weather-beaten by all the bad manners on display, like blinking holiday lights.
So as we prepare to roll out the holiday season with turkey and stuffing, and with friends and family, let us take pause to count our blessings. A number of years ago, Oprah introduced the idea of the gratitude journal. Our family incorporated the notion into nightly dinners. After grace, each person spoke of something they were grateful for, however big or small. It caught on, and is as much a part of our mealtime today as the napkins and utensils.
The 'Thank-you' is the most basic of courtesies in the language of good manners, and while it will be the centerpiece and cornerstone of Thanksgiving Day, make gratitude a part of everyday, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, New Year's Day. There are times when we all feel otherwise, but each of us is blessed beyond measure. Count your blessings, including the gift of good manners - and then pass it on, like the cranberry dish that will make the rounds Thursday. It will make the coming weeks more pleasant and important, and it DOES Manner A lot! Happy Thanksgiving All - and thank you for your loyalty to this blog and its mission.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


As weekend jobs go, that of movie theater cleanup - especially on a Saturday night - surely must rate among the best of the worst! Each and every one of them, with their broom, dust pan and garbage bags in hand, deserves double what they are making, and tips to boot for having to clean up after the hordes of sloppy and inconsiderate movie-goers. If only Harry Potter's magic wand could make the mess the visitors leave behind disappear. Hello, Hermione - help here?
Unfortunately, today's conventional thought is, "Well, they will clean it up." Yes, THEY will. But how wrong is it of the collective US to leave the trash behind to be cleaned up in the first place?
Our own children grumble, but we insist that we all pick up our trash and carry it out to deposit in one of the MANY trash recepticles available, from the theater to the exit. But in doing so, we pass tubs of strewn popcorn, hot dog wrappers, and empty drink cups that are littering the aisles. Funny, there aren't any strollers, purses or jackets left behind, just the garbage left for SOMEONE else to pick up and dispose of.
Every moment of every day offers parents an opportunity to teach by example. When you are out in public, teach your children by example, especially at a venue like the movie theater. Even though there are people paid to come in and clean up after everyone, the civil and polite thing to do is to DISPOSE of your own trash!
This thread could take on a life of its own, from diapers and parks to parking lots and coffee cups, but no matter the locale, doing the right thing, doing right by the environment and behaving in a respectful manner does 'manners' a lot!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


No doubt, you've seen them: The mourner at the funeral, the church-goer at Sunday's service, the perky bank teller - all chomping away on a wad of gum! Emily Post once wrote, 'It is still impossible to imagine a lady walking on a city street and either chewing gum or smoking.' Imagine what she'd think today?
England's future queen, the newly-minted princess bride-to-be Kate Middleton's mother took some well-deserved heat a few years back for being photographed at Prince William's Sandurst graduation chewing gum. Sadly, it is an unattractive practice that has become so commonplace in today's society that many people aren't even aware that it is in poor taste and disrespectful.
If polite, civilized behavior is based on the tenet of respect, then how inconsiderate is it to worship in God's house, gather to witness a marriage, or conduct business while chewing like a cow? Not only is it rude, but it is a guaranteed impression-buster. If you're going to go to the trouble and expense of suiting up for an important or special occasion, why undo your efforts with gum-chewing? You might as well light up a cigarette and grab a flask while you're at it.
This nervous habit is not lady-like nor gentlemanly and is best left in the privacy of your own home. Because, it DOES 'Manner' a lot!

Monday, November 15, 2010


The language of Good Manners is punctuated with simple, easy gestures of thoughtfulness. One that should come most naturally is the 'Greeting'. Whether it be at a restaurant, in church or a parking lot, the acknowledgement of another person is civility at its most primal, and purposeful. This past weekend spent in beautiful San Francisco proved a pleasant surprise on my personal greeting-meter scale, confirming that perhaps, the greeting isn't really dead afterall.
I'll never forget the first time I strolled down a South Carolina beach one sunny summer morning. "Good morning", "How y'all doing?", "Maam", one beachgoer after another said with a tip of the forehead. But like Robert DeNiro in "Taxi", this jaded Californian looked around and behind myself, certain the pleasantry was intended for someone else. I thought, "You talkin' to me?"!
In the years since, we've come to appreciate the fact that this is the norm, not the exception in the South, the cradle of civility. Fortunate to divide our time between both coasts, we have brought that basic polite exchange back with us to California. Our 'Good Mornings' and 'Good Days' aren't always returned, but it hasn't dissuaded us.
Whether someone is absorbed in their own thoughts, as Emily Post writes in her bible of good behavior, the bad habit of the slight, whether intentional or not, is rude. Much of Post's standards may be considered archaic today. But nearly a century ago, Post wrote that 'for one person to look directly at another and not acknowledge the other's bow is a breach of civility that only gravest cause can warrant. The "cut"...a direct stare of blank not only insulting to its victim but embarrassing to every witness.' 'Happily, it is practically unknown in polite society', she went on to write in the tenth edition of her tome.
Sadly, she could not have imagined then just how pervasive the "cut" would become in our society.
So the next time you find yourself out in public, don't forget to nod and greet your fellow human beings whose paths you cross. You needn't become a Walmart Greeter, bobbing your head up and down while issuing verbal notice to everyone within a mile of you. But the lovely, polite gesture will soften your demeanor, and most likely, that of your fellow man. Go out and GREET the day! Lisa

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Be A Good Sport

"It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser" - Harry Sheehy, Dartmouth Athletic Director & former coach, Williams College.
As Fall sports wind down, from the soccer and football fields to the volleyball and tennis courts, there are ample opportunities to drive home the importance of being a good sport right now. The discussion of being a gracious winner has been a recurring topic in our home as of late, as our beloved Oregon Ducks paddle ever closer to a chance at a national championship.
Our culture embraces winners, and certainly no one wants to lose. But just as we use sports to embolden our youth and teach them life lessons, so too should we emphasize the value of their behavior AFTER the last whistle has been blown. Recently two of our children witnessed first hand how easily one can be perceived as being a sore loser, without ever uttering a word. Following the last month's USC-Oregon game at the LA Coliseum, as we walked back to the car (our allegiance clearly visible on our apparel) past herds of post-game Trojan tailgaters, across Exposition Park, and back onto the campus, only one USC fan congratulated us on our win. Just ONE!
As collegiate football fanatics, we've had the pleasure of attending games in venues steeped in tradition and graciousness, such as Williams Brice Stadium - home of the South Carolina Gamecocks, where winners and losers alike congratulate the opponent and thank them for a good game. Period. As the late, legendary Coach John Wooden said, "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
There's an article at about teaching our kids how to be a good sport, including telling your opponents "Good Game", regardless of who won. Check it out, then print it out and share with your children before their last soccer, football or volleyball game has been played. And as they line up to exchange the obligatory high-fives with the other team, remind them that the hand-slap gesture is meaningless without a smile on their face and sincerity in their heart. THAT is what will truly make them good sports!

Friday, November 5, 2010


This morning's drive to our daughter's school reminded me of another oft-overlooked courtesy motorists seldom extend to each other anymore - the 'you-go-first' maneuver as I like to call it. Especially here in California, it seems everyone is in a hurry, blazing through almost-red lights, honking the horn to prompt the driver ahead, and even employing the use of hand and finger gestures, as if that will help speed things up.
Who hasn't tried to change lanes, only to have the other driver speed up or tried to enter traffic from a parking lot, but to no avail? If those nascar-esque drivers took a page from the Southerners, imagine how much more civilized our daily commute would be?
The next time you find yourself in that situation - LET the other driver in ahead of YOU, pull back and let him or her PASS in front of YOUR car. I guarantee you'll feel a little better, your blood pressure may even drop, and you will have extended a random act of kindness to a stranger.
Thoughtfulness in the car is every bit as important as it is at the supermarket or the soccer park. And remember, if YOU are the recipient of such a simple, yet kind gesture, the polite thing to do is to wave in thanks. Like a well-oiled car, let's keep civility going, especially out on the roadways, because it DOES Manner a lot!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Welcome to this, the first of what I hope will be many posts engaging thoughtful, courteous discussion about the seemingly painful demise of social graces in this country. I was raised in a loving, polite home where thoughtfulness abounded. I've taken those heartfelt lessons with me to college, into my profession and out into the community. They guided me through young adulthood into marriage, and my husband and I have instilled the same rudiments in our children with as much passion as we give to their nutrition and discipline. Yet like so many, we've found that despite our best efforts at home, not a day goes by that we aren't subjected to the discourteous, thoughtless behavior of others. NOT a single day!
No doubt, dear Emily Post is rolling over in grave. Although our hurried society no longer places a premium on these social graces, the fact is, it very much DOES matter, A LOT! Long my personal soapbox, the decline of good manners, i've created this blog to call out impoliteness, one bad behavior at a time. I hope you'll join me on this mission to polish etiquette as we knew it and restore civility.

Have a lovely day~ Lisa