Thursday, April 16, 2015

From Sparkle to Spackle

   The longer I sat by myself on my Dad's dented WWII trunk, the more desperately I wanted to disappear. All the other girls at camp had pretty new brass rimmed navy or forest green trunks with their pink or green script monograms on top. Although I was proud of it's history, my trunk had Dad's name, rank and serial number stamped in regimented white ink on top.
   As always, every August 8th, the camp bus dropped us off promptly at noon in the gravel parking lot of St. Simeon's School. Stepping off the bus into the hot Virginia air was like climbing into the inside of a dryer. Hazy and 99 degrees with 77% humidity. Sticky yuck.
   As I anxiously sat on top of the rusty trunk, I longingly watched the steady stream of station wagons parade by as my friends were picked up by their happy and hugging parents. After six weeks away, they were on their way home for a celebratory Sunday brunch or sweet tea on the porch. I nervously tried to relax, and quietly plastered a pleasant smile on my face, as I had seen my mother do many times when she was unhappy, which was often. Many of the other mothers, as well, had similar plaster smiles on their faces. The fathers seemed to have only closed lipped, slight smiles as they were busy loading the heavy trunks into the back of their station wagons.
   Yes, the FFV's (First Families of Virginia) taught their children to always look and speak pleasantly to others. Lovely social manners on the surface, but in this high society, if you were a nobody from nowhere or a transplant, and you or someone in your family had as much as a slight social faux pas, or public mishap, you were spoken about underneath every one's hot Virginia breath. I was slowly surpassing embarrassment heading into mortification. I knew if something bad had not happened to my parents, word was going to get around. Great. After the bankruptcy, just what my ridiculously small family did not need.
   I recognized my best friend's Kingswood Estate station wagon , the kind with the wooden paneling on the side, rounding the parking lot and I knew Carter Fairfax's entire family would be arriving to pick up her and her sister Taylor. Mr. Fairfax would be loading both their trunks into the back. Cute and tall Randolph Fairfax, my childhood crush, with his irresistible dimples and dark eyelashes, would be in the car too. Great. So, there I sat, helpless to do anything, hopeless without any family present, knowing there would be no room for my trunk in the back.
   Mrs. Fairfax kindly spoke to me in her high pitched and old Virginia accent and asked: "How are you Carolyn? Did you enjoy camp? Is your Mother coming to pick you up? Please tell her 'hello' for me." Embarrassed, all I could do was to stammer out: "Hey, Mrs. Fairfax. Yes. Carter and I had such fun. I guess Mom's just a bit late, but I will tell her 'hello' for you. Thank you." After Mr. Fairfax placed Carter and Taylor's trunk into the back of their wagon, he told me he would come back and drive through the parking lot just to make sure I was not still waiting. All I could choke out was: "Thank you so much, Mr. Fairfax." After the Fairfax family drove off, I was alone in the parking lot. Even the bus was gone.
   As I silently sat there with a sunken heart and gravel dust in my mouth, I thought about how to get home without help, so social tongues would not wag. I could try dragging my trunk the 1/4 mile home, but even as buckled and cracked the old sidewalks were, the neighbors, including our doctor and my piano teacher, would neither like the sight nor sound of me scratching up their sidewalks. I could risk leaving my trunk in the parking lot, with it's smashed up and broken lock, but could not risk loosing most of my clothes, I owned so few, and Mr. Fairfax might then return to an empty parking lot, and would be stuck lifting the trunk himself into the back of the station wagon.
   As I sat there, so very hot and sweaty at this point, and got thinking about how lucky our family was to have the Fairfax's as true friends. So many of the other country club set had in an unspoken way ostracized us, and in an unwritten way crossed my parents off the cocktail party list. Ditched cold. At 12 years old, what a momentous real life realization and "a-ha" moment that turned out to be for me. Right about then, I heard the distant crack of the gravel.
   Mr. Fairfax said nicely: "So, let's get you home." as we loaded the trunk into the back. With no radio on, and no chatting, the 1/4 mile drive home took forever plus two days. As Mr. Fairfax pulled the car up to the front walk, we both silently unloaded the trunk from the car, and carried it up to the porch. As happily as I could, I thanked Mr. Fairfax as he immediately and silently headed back to his car, waved, and drove off.
   Yet another great. So, there I stood on the old, wide front porch of the house we had to rent, the "poor house" as my Sister and I called it, a dilapidated Victorian house with good bones, but no air conditioning, one original oil heating grate, broken fireplaces, and holes in the thick plaster walls. Fallen from a childhood of ballet, tennis, tap, piano and horse riding lessons to an after school existence of helping my left-handed Mother, who taught me how to paint, wallpaper, plaster and sparkle. I had spent the last year trying to help around the house, doing the grocery shopping and cooking dinner, washing and drying dishes by hand, as we had no dishwasher, endless laundry and ironing, left-handed of course because this is the way the ironing board was set up, cleaning the house and all the yard work.  This beautiful old house was falling down around our heads. Without warning, patches of plaster in the upstairs hallway would come crashing down on top of our Old English Sheepdog, Muffin, sleeping in the upstairs hallway and on guard for us in the middle of the night.
    With the trunk safe on the porch, I opened the always open front door and called out: "Mom?" No answer. Walked into the kitchen. No one. Walked into the Den. My Father's desk, chair the couch and the color TV were gone, yet two chairs and the Persian rug my Mother had purchased remained.
   Up the front stairs, rounding the top into my parent's bedroom, I noticed only my mother's antique dressing table and rush chair but saw a turned up rug pad in the middle of the room, and nothing else. The king bed and wood paneled headboard were gone. I ventured into my little sister's room. She was probably playing at a friend's house as usual. Where in the world was everyone? Out of the side of my ear, I heard mom's 1959 portable AM radio playing a Barry Manilow song: "...and I'm ready to take a chance again, ready to put my love on the line..." I heard my mother's garbled alto voice singing softly along. What the heck?
   Peaking into the Guest Room, there was my Mom, laying on one of my great-grandmother's antique twin beds. She had her beloved peach leather colored, portable radio, with the matching handle, beside her, and a butter knife in her hands. Her right wrist was splotched with blood. I then smelled a waft of alcohol. Was my mother drunk? Yes, she took three fingers of bourbon to my father's two fingers, but she never drank during the day. Glancing at the Seth Thomas mantle clock on top of the old fireplace, it was 2:15 in the afternoon. What is happening?
   I gently coaxed the butter knife out of my mother's hand and dressed the surface wound on her wrist. She was still singing along to the radio. "I'm home mom," I quietly said. She smiled and said: "Your father and I filed for divorce." I replied: "When?" "Three weeks ago," she answered. Then smiled and closed her eyes.
   While mom slept, I began unpacking my clothes arm full by arm full from the trunk on the porch, and began the gargantuan task of washing an entire laundry room packed to the gills full of clothes  plus mine in the trunk. As mom slept into the evening, I fixed my little sister and myself a spaghetti dinner and turned on the evening news. President Nixon was resigning, but I was not. I decided right then and there I was going to grow up.

Submitted to Real Simple Magazine's 2014 "a-ha moment" 1500 word story contest.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Leaders Pause, Look and Listen to Anticipate Your Next Need, As Leaders Are Self Directed!

In the movie "The Devil Wears Prada," the Second Editorial Assistant, anticipates her Boss's next need by calling her boss's favorite restaurant ahead of time to make dinner reservations AND messengers her boss's dinner outfit to the restaurant ahead of time without having to be asked by her boss to do so. This new Second Assistant soon gets promoted to First Assistant and goes to Paris Fashion Week with her boss! How does she do it? How does she know what her boss wants next? How does anyone know another person's next need without having to ask?

Whether you work as an assistant to a magazine editor, are a student looking to win a college scholarship, work as a nurse in a doctor's office, or are a clerk in a Retail store, in order to get ahead and be considered for a promotion, you must learn to be self directed. Self direction is a very important marketable skill and does not seem to be formally taught in school.

Great leaders look ahead and anticipate the customer's next need. Leaders are self directed. How does a person learn self direction? Pause, look and listen. Pause, look and listen. Pause, look and listen. Got it?

Practice observing your surroundings and those around you. Practice empathizing with those around you. Practice not talking. Get to know your boss and customers or patients through careful observation, paying attention to their office decor, their likes, their dislikes, their habits, their moods, their fears. Make positive, sound decisions. Practice trying to please another person without having to be asked on a small task. Get them a cup of coffee the way they like it without having to be asked. If this is a success, perform a small task without having to be asked. Organize something small, for example files or the jewelry counter. Arrange something small, for example, the type of muffins, bagels, or boxed lunch for an office meeting you know your Boss will like.

Once small tasks are successful, move onto larger tasks. For example, in a Retail setting, if you do not have the item wanted by the customer in stock and cannot order it from your company, call around to competing stores to find the item. Send your customer to the competitor so they may have the item. In return, the customer will be so thrilled you found them the item they wanted, you will earn their trust forever! They will be loyal to you and will come to you every time they need any item and will count on you to deliver. They will also tell their friends to come to you because you get things done, tasks accomplished.

The same principal applies for medical recommendations. If your doctor's office cannot perform a certain service, as a medical assistant or nurse, recommend another doctor who may perform the service and send your patient to that office. Your patient will be eternally grateful to you for your thoughtfulness and effort. By satisfying your patients need, you will gain the long term trust of the patient, and they will come to you with all their needs for life as you have earned the patients trust and long term loyalty forever! Customer loyalty cannot be bought. It must be earned.

One fabulous yet simple example of anticipating another person's next need is when at a dinner table, you are asked to pass the salt. Do you only pass the salt as you were asked to do, or do you go one step further and pass the salt and pepper. Why would you pass both the salt and pepper when only asked for the salt?

The answer is, by passing both the salt and pepper, you are anticipating the other person's next need, by providing the other person with something they don't even know they might need. They may later decide they want the pepper, and there it is. They don't have to interrupt anyone or wait for any  conversation too end to have the pepper. You have made it easier for the other person because you have do not have successfully anticipated their next need!

 The current trend for college scholarships is to invite 30 students, all competing for the same one scholarship to a luncheon. Students asked to pass only the salt, who pass only the salt do NOT get the scholarship.

People who pass both the salt and pepper when asked to pass only the salt are correctly anticipating the other person's next need and move on to the next level of competition.

Employers are looking for self directed employees. Bosses are not there to hold your hand while babysitting. They are there to check in on your performance. The employee who is self directed will be the future employee who will end up promoted to Office Manager, Retail Manager, CEO.

In conclusion, pause, look and listen to anticipate some one's next need and practice with your good intuition to solve the problem some one may not know they have!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Manners Matter



Manners may no longer say where you belong, 

but they still say who you are,

 and where you have been.

*****

Good manners will take you everywhere you would like to go!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year's Resolution: Be a Super Leader and Learn to Take the Criticisms!

Want a Resolution for 2015 and every year for the rest of your life?

Here at The Sabot School of Etiquette, we always say: "Leaders make others feel special." Eleanor Roosevelt vary famously said: "You teach others how to treat you." Leaders teach other people how to treat them, which is why some leaders are mediocre leaders, and some are super!

That being said, however, be aware that with leadership comes the stress and pressure of popularity, easy accessibility to others, group, school, community or national notoriety, and a responsibility to behave properly always.

Yes, we said there is pressure and stress to be a leader. It's just a higher level of daily stress to get used to. Leaders are problem solvers. They are kind and quiet. They look other people directly in the eyes and listen. Leaders are empathetic to others' situations, give well thought out statements and opinions calmly and wisely. Leaders are true to their own convictions. They try very hard to never make another person feel badly. Once you acclimate yourself to these higher stresses and pressures, and adjust your attitude accordingly, you can relax a bit until the insults and confrontations start. Then, there is much more work to be done getting used to that side of the coin that comes with leadership.

Written confrontations are always easy. Plenty of time to think about and write a positive reply. But remember, anything written down on paper and especially typed on the Internet, including all "private" E-mails and the "Public Babble Page" Facebook, are forever public domain.

Verbal confrontations require Diplomatic skills. It is said that a Diplomat does nothing and says nothing nicely. Making a little joke, or self deprecation works well when dealing with folks who want to tell you how to lead, or hostile hecklers. Clever puns and positive quick quips work well too. Dealing with a heckler takes practice. Have some general retorts at the ready and keep on smiling in your soul.

Dealing with the aftermath of all the criticisms once you get home to the peace and quiet takes practice also. Letting your anger go, coming to the realization that no one asks a question unless they already know the answer. Questions are people's way of showing what they know. Bullies always have to put others down to make themselves feel better, then they take the cowardly way out. So, don't fret too much about bullies. They are just unhappy people.  

Your strength as a leader will spur other people on to be strong. No one wants to be around a negative person. Everyone wants to be around someone who is positive yet humble, always deferring to others, letting others run the conversation and talk, thus, making other people feel special.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Animal Table Manners - Hilarious Christmas "Le Holiday Feast" Video !

Animal Table manners?? ...Hmmmm... Hey, they're Dogs, and then there's THE CAT !!

 Enjoy your Christmas meal at the big table with the big people, and don't forget to put forward your best table manners!

Enjoy, and remember to donate to your local animal shelter :))

Watch 13 Shelter Dogs And A Cat Take Part In A Hilarious Holiday Feast - Most Watched Today

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Have You Been a Good Holiday Guest This Weekend? Have You Done Your Guest Duties?

Have you been a good Thanksgiving Holiday weekend guest this weekend? Even if you are visiting your parents or a sibling, have you made your bed every morning? Have you offered to help the Hostess with the dishes, or with other chores? Have you brought a thoughtful house gift? Have you thanked everyone for a delightful time? Did you even realize guests have duties??

The following are a few ideas for all guests:

  • Bring a small, thoughtful house gift like a bottle of wine, or a Rum Cake or yummy cookies. 
  • Offer to help the Hostess, or just be self directed and start drying the dishes or taking out the trash.
  • Look around the house and find something to compliment the Host and Hostess on and mean it. 
  • Contribute to and keep your table conversation positive. Do not talk about religion or politics.
  • Make your bed each morning and upon leaving. 
  • Keep your room and bathroom picked up and neat. Clean up after yourself.
  • Y'all know the old saying about house guests and fish...after 3 days.....
  • Write a hand written Thank You note within 24 hours to your Host once you arrive back home. 
Be a good house guest by earning your keep and you will be invited back.

Don't be a good house guest and you'll get nothing next year but excuses:

"Sorry, we're going out of town this Holiday Season, maybe we'll see you around."


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Table Manners from 0-10 in 60 Seconds

  Thanksgiving Table Manners from 0-10 in 60 Seconds 


 0.   Smile, greet everyone, then offer to help the Hostess.

 1.   Sit up straight in your chair and treat it like a church pew, not like a Lazy Boy chair.

 2.   Don't touch anything until the Host/Hostess sit down and place their napkins in their laps.

 3.   Have an age appropriate Grace or Blessing memorized and ready to go, just in case.

 4.   Place a dollop of all food offered on your plate whether you like it or not, and pass all dishes to the left with enthusiasm and a thank you.

 5.   Please, May I ask you to use your magic words often. Thank you! 

 6.   Fill your fork only 1/2 full (your fork is not a shovel) and raise it nicely to your mouth.

 7   Quietly say: "Please excuse me" if you must leave the table and place your napkin on your chair, the international signal for "I will return, do not take my plate."

 8.   Pace yourself with the rest of the table and pace yourself with the conversation as well.

 9.   Compliment and Toast the cook(s) and mean it with applause!

 10. Warmly thank the Host/Hostess for their hospitality, delicious food and lovely evening, then write a hand written "Thank You" note as soon as you arrive home.


 Be thankful, be with friends and family, be happy, be relaxed and be enjoying your Thanksgiving Day!