Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - Five Ways to Avoid Talking Turkey at Thanksgiving

This past week I've heard nothing but phrase for Thanksgiving. It is probably one of the most beloved holidays of the year.  Practically everyone looks forward to sitting down to a sumptuous feast surrounded by family and friends.  Whether the guest list is comprised of crazy blood relatives or an eclectic mashup of companions and co-workers, one thing's for certain, Thanksgiving provides us with an opportunity to share in each other's company and feel grateful without the pressure of giving anything but our time and our presence.

Bearing this in mind, the best thing we can do for one another on this day devoted to giving thanks is to hold our collective tongues and avoid talking turkey at all costs. No need to speak frankly and please leave your passionate one-sided opinions at home.  Trust me, they'll be there waiting for you when you return. The Thanksgiving table is not the time to rehash terrible atrocities or stand on soapboxes of any kind.  Our cup is full after what has seemed like an endless stream of outrageous scandals, senseless crimes, and unforeseen disasters.  On this day we can take a break from getting to the meat of the matter and focus instead on what's truly important - the sides - those kindler, gentler exchanges that guide our conversations and drive civil discourse.  To ensure your Thanksgiving is free of controversy, here are five ways to avoid talking turkey at the table this year.  

1. Make it a formal affair. To create harmony at Thanksgiving, create a more formal atmosphere. Set the tone of the Thanksgiving meal and keep things cordial by encouraging all guests to dress for the occasion. They will be much more inclined to be on their best behavior and turn on the charm than if they had arrived in their stretchy sweatpants and comfy sweaters.

2. Keep atmosphere light and breezy. It is a well-known fact that humor is the best remedy to loosen things up and relieve a tense situation. Levity is definitely the way to go with those guests who are wound up too tight. If the air is so thick you can cut it with a knife, put on a fun holiday movie, crack a few jokes or encourage a spontaneous game of charades which is always guaranteed to make people laugh. This should help alleviate the tension and hopefully make everyone forget their troubles (at least for a while).

3. Refrain from pushing each other's buttons. Family members and close friends are acutely aware of just the right button to push that might trigger another guest even on their best day. Bite your tongue, count to ten, run a lap around the block, do whatever you can to abstain from saying the wrong thing that may potentially ruin the entire occasion. You have the control and it is within your power to hold back, smile and rise above the situation.

4. Compliments are better than criticism. When we relax and are truly present for one another it is easy to find something nice to say that will make the other person feel good and loved during this time of year. Compliments are always well-received. It doesn't have to be anything earth-shattering, but it should definitely be authentic. After you pay a compliment, you may be pleasantly surprised by a normally restrained guest who now feels more inclined to pay you a compliment in return.

5. Find something to be thankful for. Recognize the obvious and be thankful for the small things. Being invited to someone's home or hosting a Thanksgiving meal is a blessing in itself. For older relatives in attendance, this may be their last. You never know what the future holds so cherish each moment together, appreciate each other and concentrate on the positive, unique attributes. Finally, before you gorge yourself with the Thanksgiving feast, go around the table and say one thing you are thankful for and maybe even one nice thing to each person at the table. This will bring instant connection and warmth to everyone in the room and isn't that all we really want anyway?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Manners Monday - Petiquette: 8 Tips for Civilizing your Furry Friend at Holiday Time & Beyond

In Beverly Hills, it’s quite commonplace to treat your pet like a person.  They are a bona fide member of the family attending power lunches, going to the salon and staying in the finest hotels. They hide inconspicuously in Hermés totes and parade down red carpets with equal ease.  They’re accustomed to accompanying their companions on shopping sprees at Neiman Marcus and finishing the day dining al fresco at The Ivy. 

Whether your pet is living the high life in a tony town or enjoying a more laid-back lifestyle by the beach, they must learn to be civilized and socialized just like the rest of the clan. To ensure your furry friend makes a positive impression, follow these recommended rules of petiquette guaranteed to keep them on their best behavior at holiday time and beyond.

1. Observe Pets Presentation. They say many pets resemble their owners. You’ll never see a disheveled or unkempt pet in Beverly Hills.  Just saunter through Saks on any given Saturday and you’ll see an assemblage of pets expertly coiffed, dressed to the nines, smelling like a rose in brand name carriers. These owners will have ample supplies on hand, wipes for muddy paws, portable water dishes with filtered water to quench thirst and resting pads for getting some shut-eye.

2. Approach with Caution.  Not everyone is aware of how to properly approach a pet.   Big, excitable or aggressive dogs must be tethered or leashed in the event a small child or elderly adult decides to get close without a formal introduction.  Want to get up close and personal? Ask permission from the owner first and then proceed cautiously.

3. Be Mindful of their Mess.  My aesthetician told me about a client who routinely brings her pet to the salon only to leave small presents on the bathroom floor for others to clean up.  This is not only unsanitary and could cost the salon its license, but it is inexcusable.  Rule number one is clean up after your pet's mess.  Have your scooper and small bags handy to remove said offenses immediately. Don’t let your pet relieve themselves anywhere, certainly not on other people’s property. Walk them curbside and encourage them to ‘go’ there.

4. Train them Young.  Obedience training is a must for all dogs.  It is for their safety and yours.  Simple commands such as how to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ are a necessity and will help socialize your dog so that they can be around others.  Even dog lovers get annoyed when a pooch jumps and claws at them when they walk through the door. 

5. No Barking or Begging Zone.  Excessive barking can be a big nuisance and be upsetting to those within earshot.  Don’t risk a noise complaint from next door. High strung pets who live in smaller quarters should have a regular exercise routine to release repressed energy.  A little fresh air and running around will exhaust them and calm them down so they will not bark unreasonably.  Begging is unacceptable and can also spread germs. Never feed a dog table food and if begging ensues, remove them immediately from the scene.

6. Travel Companion or Therapy Animal?  As many a non-disabled person will circumvent the law and obtain a handicap placard for easier parking, there are those that claim their pet is a service animal so they may travel first class.  Pet Partners® has never been more popular!  If you have an emotional or physical disability and are in need of a therapeutic travel companion, I understand. Have your applicable paperwork, tag and license on hand. If not, please don’t subject the rest of us to your service pet antics, it is not very becoming.

7. Preferable Pet Sitting.  Don’t burden your family and friends with the responsibility of watching your pet when you leave town.  If they are interested in babysitting your pet while you’re away, they will let you know.  Neighbors make a nice option, especially if the relationship is reciprocal and you both leave at different times. Otherwise, enlist the help of a professional pet sitting service.  Check references and make sure they are insured and bonded before dropping your unsuspecting pet at their door.

8.  Love Me, Love My Pet.  You and your canine may be attached at the hip, but that does not give them license to tag along to your social engagements or accompany you at work.  Many people are allergic to pet fur. Untrained pets may damage furniture or permanently stain rugs leaving a wake of destruction in their path.  Showing up with yours unannounced can be considered incredibly insensitive.  If you are in a bind with your pet, have the courtesy to ask permission and wait for the green light.  Be gracious and make sure your pet is on their extra-special best behavior.

Don't forget to shower your pet with lots of love along with a treat or toy to reward them for their hard work.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Manners Monday - This Halloween Bring On The Sweet Treats & Give the Tricks a Much-Needed Break

In honor of National Candy Corn Day, this Halloween let's focus on on the sweet treats and give the tricks a much-needed break.  Lord knows we all could use it. The past couple of months have been a particularly challenging time in our country from the disastrous hurricanes and the terrible atrocity in Vegas to the Weinstein sexual harassment scandals and the Russian controversies, we've had our fill of nasty tricks, thank you. it's time to bring on a few welcome treats!  

As you prepare to set out on Halloween night in search of the best candies to fill your stash, please take a moment to review these helpful tips. They're guaranteed to keep the most ghastly goblins or ghouls in line.

Ditch the Clown Costume. As far as costumes for children, the general rule is that they be age appropriate and kid-friendly. The movie "It" served to solidify the already universal panic surrounding menacing clowns, therefore these costumes are still banned from schools and parties. Political outfits are as popular as ever with Trump costumes filling the shelves, but politically incorrect outfits or extremely scary horror costumes are never acceptable. Ask yourself one simple question, "Is my costume disrespectful or would it offend or scare another person at the party?" If the answer is yes, then find an alternative choice. 

If You're Old Enough to Drive...Trick or treating is a tradition reserved for younger children who look forward each year to dressing up in their favorite costumes and going door-to-door to receive unlimited amounts of sugary treats. Most teenagers typically lose their interest, but if you're sixteen and still stomping around in your scary costume, it's time to turn in your pumpkin bucket.

Treatin' In N Out of the Hood. It is perfectly acceptable to travel outside one's own neighborhood, particularly, for children who live in a canyon without sidewalks or who live in a neighborhood that is less than child-friendly. However, if you do decide to leave your hood, the next best thing is to trick-or-treat with a friend in their area or find an alternate place that feels comfortable and familiar. Wherever you choose, be respectful of lawns and gardens and use the sidewalks or pathways leading up to the front door. If a house is dark and all the lights are turned off, this is a signal that the family is not participating in the ritual or may not be at home.

Hosting & Ghosting Halloween Parties. Anyone with a birthday in October knows how much fun it can be to have a Halloween party. If you are hosting, be gracious and provide ample treats and entertainment for your guests. Encourage everyone to come dressed in costume to help set the tone for the party. A little spooky music adds to the fun. Make sure to be a good guest as well. Don't ghost your host by not responding to an invitation and never show up empty-handed. Bring a birthday gift or host gift for the party-giver as a thank you for including you in the festivities.

Safety First on the Night of Fright. Begin trick-or-treating at dusk while there is still some light for safety. Sidewalks and lawns lined with electrical cords can be dangerous. Come prepared with flashlights to make sure you do not trip or fall. Have supplies on hand for emergencies. Keep a couple of Band-Aids and Neosporin in your pocket should minor accidents occur. Make sure to look both ways before crossing the streets. Although there are more pedestrians out than usual, it is still dark and drivers may not see clearly. Adults and children should stick together at all times. There is nothing more treacherous than trying to track down a small child in the pitch black of night.

Tricks within Reason. Halloween is meant to be fun, but never at the expense of others. Contrary to what we might see on television or in the movies, it is not an opportunity to toilet paper a neighbor's front yard or throw eggs at their front door. It also does not give one free reign to steal or damage pumpkins or other decorations. It is wise to stay away from anything that could potentially cause property damage as these types of pranks are not only dangerous but illegal. If pranks and tricks are a must, try creating an imaginative fun house or haunted house for your friends and other guests to experience.

Teal is the New Orange.  NOTE FOR KIDS WITH NUT ALLERGIES: The Teal Pumpkin Project is a new organization designed to raise awareness for kids with peanuts and tree nuts food allergies. If you see a Teal colored pumpkin, it is a signal that a home is handing out non-food treats. Whether a non-food or candy treat, teach children to be patient and polite and limit themselves to one piece unless more is offered. Remind them to say please and thank you and try not to crowd or stampede the doorways. 

General Halloween Etiquette Tips. Halloween is a perfect "training" time to teach children how to mind their "P's" & "Q's." After just a few house visits, your two-year-old will be an expert! At least one parent should accompany all children up to the age of twelve. Trick-or-treating should generally end around 9pm as most families with children and older adults are preparing for bed by that time. Parents should check the treats of the younger children before they eat them. Children should never eat anything that is handmade, unwrapped or specially prepared unless they personally know the family.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tuesday Thoughts - In Uncertain Times, There's Great Meaning in Practicing Small Acts of Ceremony

Tonight our beloved Los Angeles Dodgers returned to the World Series for the first time in twenty-nine years under blazing sunny skies and a brutal 100+ degrees temperature.  Two burning questions were on everyone's mind. Would the players be able to withstand the heat and will the team stand for the National Anthem? While the anthem issue was first brought to light back in 2016 by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, it has continued to spark serious debate among players and owners from the NFL and even our President who has added fuel to the fire making the controversy an integral part of his platform.  

It’s no surprise however that baseball - America’s prized sport - stayed out of the fray. The Dodgers made the conscious decision to stand in unison and support our most recognizable symbol complete with hats off and hands over their heart while Keith Williams Jr., a gospel singer from Compton, delivered a heartfelt rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." 

I wasn't a big sports person growing up.  I am rather petite and didn't exactly exude physical prowess. In middle school, I was always the last one chosen on a team and no one ever passed me the ball. My approach to every game was the same - stay out of the way and dodge the line of fire. I spent more time bench warming than actual playing. In high school, I tried out for dance. Much more my speed. Needless to say, I didn't have a great deal of experience with sports-related anything. 

Not until I became a mother and a fan at my daughters’ sporting events did I truly pay attention to the practices that were standard on fields and courts everywhere.  It never dawned on me how many meaningful rituals and traditions were associated with athletic games. Watching these kids stand up straight, remove their caps, and place their hands over their hearts to sing the National Anthem was such a respectful way to begin the game.  And then witnessing each player, whether winner or loser, shake hands with opposing teammates and say an enthusiastic ‘good game' was such a dignified way to end.  

There is great meaning in practicing these small acts of ceremony.  In their most basic form, they help set the tone for the game and remind everyone to act in a civilized manner.  When a collective mass - from the players on the field, to the spectators in the stands, and the viewers at home - stops and pays their respects to the flag, it is a significant gesture unifying our country even for a fraction of a second. These observances are an important piece of our makeup and they are what connect us as a nation.  In uncertain times and with countless threats to our homeland both internally and abroad, any opportunity to display patriotism should be a welcome gracious gesture for all. 

Go Blue!  Keep the winning streak going in Game 2!!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Beverly Hills Manners Declares War on Tinseltown - No More Blank Checks Drawn from the Bank of Bad Behaviors

The Harvey Weinstein scandal opened the floodgates on what will hopefully become a watershed moment for the entertainment industry and all of corporate America. Just over two weeks ago, Weinstein's sexual harassment allegations were revealed and since then we have witnessed a veritable feast of perpetrators including Roy Price at Amazon, director Jeffrey Toback, and the already ostracized Bill O'Reilly who sustained another blow over the weekend when it was uncovered that he paid a whopping $32 million settlement back in January.  Countless women (and a few men) from celebrities and journalists to athletes and tech engineers have garnered the strength and confidence to come out of the woodwork and share their stories. Here's mine.

Years spent pounding the pavement in the entertainment industry, I learned the hard way how things work in this town.  I was fired from my first job at a record company for blatantly ignoring the sacred rules of office hierarchy.  Later, I was a featured player in my own scary Hollywood story, auditioning for a “producer” who directed me to take off my top and bra so he could film me for some bogus project he was peddling. It was the typical scenario – naïve twenty-something looking for work innocently responds to a casting call and winds up in the suite of a hotel. Yuck! Thank goodness I escaped unharmed, but I'll never forget that horrible feeling of shame and remorse and pray my two teenage girls will be much wiser if faced with a similar situation.

The casting couch has existed forever and this community is swarming with predators. But Harvey Weinstein brought it to a whole new level. He reigned at the helm of a thin-air crowd – the ones for which the rules don’t seem to apply.  He bulldozed his way through business, wielding his power over cowering, guileless underlings with colleagues and staff turning a blind eye until, finally, karma caught up with him.

Enough is enough! Aren't we tired of witnessing this constant circus of exploitative conduct furthering the myth that it’s condonable merely because someone has achieved superior status? It has become common practice for companies to shell out millions with blank checks drawn from the Bank of Bad Behaviors without batting an eye; especially, if that person is uber powerful and is making said company insanely rich. This problem has plagued the system forever and will not change anytime soon unless a mandatory shift is made in the culture. Changing the system is literally the single most important thing we can do to get out of this mess.  

For more than a decade, I have worked tirelessly to wave a white flag and draw attention to the dire importance of manners.  Now before your eyes start to glaze over, I’m not talking about some stodgy, stuck-up set of rules that have no place or meaning in today’s society. I'm speaking about common sense guidelines, basic civility, and human decency. 

My method is different.  I don’t have a direct lineage to the Queen, nor am I a former employee of the Royal Family. I’m a native New Yorker raised in Beverly Hills who created a business to make manners relevant with a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is approach bridging East Coast roots and a West Coast style. 

At a period in history where so much turmoil, disruption, and distraction persists, manners are the final frontier. In essence, they are the last stop where we can turn for some semblance of order, direction, and calm during a crisis. We depend on them to restore a sense of stability and substance. Manners touch every facet of our lives. They exist between the cracks. Like glue, manners are the adhesive that holds everything together and, if left unused, dries up and renders itself ineffective leaving behind only chaos to follow. Manners – or the lack thereof – affects us both at home and in our world and all boil down to something very simple: RESPECT.

Rather than spending ridiculous amounts of money on lawsuits, wouldn’t it be a lot smarter – not to mention economical – for corporate America to invest in a preventative program that arms executives and employees with character-building tools and know-how to handle themselves more correctly?  It’s time for everyone to wake up – from the privileged set at the top all the way down - and learn to follow the rules both written and unwritten. 

In today’s age of radical transparency and zero tolerance, where any wrongdoing can be captured by a tiny smartphone, no one can afford even the slightest misstep. I’m not just talking about how to politely wiggle your way out of an unwanted advance. I’m speaking about practical skills such as crafting an email to a co-worker in a civil tone, treating people of equal value regardless of status or position, and everyday courtesies such as holding the door open for someone walking directly behind you. A complete self-analysis is essential so we act thoughtfully and mindfully before we say or do something that might have a lasting negative effect on our personal relationships or professional environment.

How many more examples from Hollywood, politics, sports, and the media do we need before we take action? Harvey Weinstein started as a Hollywood problem, but his tentacles stretch far beyond this tony town.  The larger issue spans coast-to-coast and must be addressed. We’ve already witnessed countless public figures lose their jobs, their families, and their lives because of sheer stupidity. Isn’t it time we start leading as a nation, individual-by-individual and set the tone for the rest of the globe? This conversation is surely as crucial to our well-being as diet and exercise.

Manners are not about being politically correct or a people-pleaser.  They provide us with a solid framework and help us connect on a pure level. They are your finest friend, whether you’re agonizing over how to apologize to your mother-in-law for a flippant remark or riddled with guilt as to how to decline your boss’ Facebook invitation. They are there to save you from your worst self, to fall back on in your time of need, and protect you in the most precarious situations. Manners are locked and loaded, ready to employ at a moment’s notice. Use them wisely and they will keep you whole.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Manners Monday - Solar Eclipse Etiquette – How to Savor the Spectacle & Not Spoil it for Others

Today marks the first time in almost a century that the Total Solar Eclipse will be visible across North American spanning a path of fourteen states from Oregon to South Carolina. This once in a generation phenomenon has everyone from students and space buffs to weather enthusiasts and wonderstruck visitors clamoring for ISO-compliant safe eclipse glasses to capture the spectacle in all its glory.  On this fateful day, the moon will surreptitiously slide in front of the sun and, for a moment, ever so brief depending on your viewpoint, the Moon’s shadow will block the Sun’s light turning day to night and back again.  The entire event is supposed to last about two and a half hours beginning in our neck-of-the-woods at approximately 9:05 am, peaking at around 10:22 am, and ending around 11:45 am.  As you prepare for your eclipse viewing, here are five tips to savor the spectacle and ensure you don’t spoil it for those around you.
1. Keep Eyes Properly Covered. Proper eye coverage is crucial to stay safe and protect your eyes.  Only purchase glasses that are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard clearly marked.  I waited until the very last minute to find glasses, but everything was sold out. Luckily, our Mayor of Beverly Hills Lili Bosse will be handing out protective eyewear during her Walk with the Mayor this morning at City Hall
2. Clear Away the Distractions. Stay still when observing the eclipse with other people around you.  Viewing areas will be packed with throngs of people gazing at the sky alongside scientists conducting experiments. Show respect to all by taking in this experience with peace and quiet.
3. Keep Small Children & Pets in Check.  Animals have heightened senses and could have an alarming reaction to the sudden switch from light to darkness. Children may experience behavioral changes as well. If young children are running around, unmonitored, and unruly, it may cause additional mayhem.
4. Silence Truly is Golden.  Viewing the eclipse is a sacred experience for many and will be different for everyone.  With a duration of fewer than three minutes in total, show respect to all by holding off from making conversation and turning off your cell phone during this time.  Even the slightest vibration can create a background noise that can ruin research for those measuring sound. Be mindful of those around you.
5. A Little Patience & Courtesy Will Go a Long Way.  If you’re traveling to a viewing destination, follow the rules of the road along with parking instructions.  Small annoyances including bumper-to-bumper traffic, road closures, and check points will certainly slow things down.  Drive the speed limit and be on the lookout for pedestrians crossing your path.  Put on some relaxing music, soak up the scenery and take a deep breath.  This most memorable event won’t come around again anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - Back 2 School Manners for the Teenage Set

My two teenage girls started new public schools in the scenic Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles.  They are both making this transition during a phase in their academic careers when my youngest is entering her final year of middle school and her sister is starting her sophomore year of high school.  The timing isn’t exactly ideal to make a significant change and be forced to make new friends and figure out a new school campus, but life is about staying flexible and finding a path that feels right. They have changed schools many times previously from public to private and back again. Some experiences were good, and some were downright ugly, but all were enriching nonetheless and each made them the strong, independent young ladies they are today.

As they blossom into full-fledged teenagers, my attention has turned to preparing them for the challenging road to college.  For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been combing the August issue of Town & Country - the one containing the College Anxiety Guide – and it has made me even more clear on the message I want to impart on my girls going forward. Given the current climate of our country and the vitriol we are witnessing across the globe, it is crucial that our teens are equipped with solid character-building skills and self-respect so that they can interact with their peers at school and the world in a way that is both meaningful and constructive.  While I'll never stop preaching the tenets of The Golden Rule or reminding them to keep their social media clean, there are deeper themes I want them to hold dear at the start of this new school year.

Acceptance. These first days and weeks of school set the tone for the next nine months. One single student can make a significant impact for the better and have a rippling effect on a class at large.  Whether attending a big school or small, there will be kids in attendance from different economic, religious, ethnic, cultural, and sociological backgrounds and each is equally entitled to be there.  Be kind, be tolerant, and be friendly with everyone.  A smile and simple acknowledgment place all on a level playing field.

Balance. Every teen needs an outlet and athletics or some type of physical activity is just the antidote for both the book worm and the social butterfly.  The natural endorphins achieved through moving the body create equilibrium and help to diminish feelings of anxiety and anger.  Participating as a member of a team or taking a group exercise class provides much needed interpersonal connection and expands social circles.

Intuition. The teen years are wrought with bad decisions and the constant test of will to do what is right or fall prey to peer pressure.  Teens need to learn to go with their gut feeling.  It will never steer them wrong. And, this is where the self-respect component plays a significant part.  If teens have a strong sense of self and it is nurtured by their parents, they will tap into it to make better choices. They will become imaginative and find ways to fool their silly friends when it comes to drugs and alcohol and they will think twice before jumping into a car with an unsafe driver.  

Passion. “Passion cannot be faked.”  I wholeheartedly agree with Charles Isherwood in his article Liberal Bias for Town & Country magazine.  Educational institutions are growing smarter to the fact that many kids may be fulfilling their parent’s prophecy rather than pursuing their own personal interests.  Now’s the time for teens to explore activities that they are particularly passionate about whether that be student government or sailing the high seas.  If they haven’t figured it out yet, then parents can present options and make suggestions, but they should really be in the driver's seat.

Trust. Teens throw this word around loosely without the faintest clue of its true gravity and power.  They demand that parents ‘trust’ them as if they are old enough to make adult decisions. What they really need to start mastering is trusting themselves and earning our trust. They must also practice the art of trusting their friends and trusting the universe at large. Real trust can turn seemingly large problems into smaller manageable ones. It allows teens to take a beat and give another person the benefit of the doubt rather than going immediately for the jugular. By trusting the universe they are staying nimble, they are giving up control, and they are committing to the notion that everything will work itself out in the end.  Not such a bad thing in my book.