Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom - Test Your Holiday Etiquette Quotient: Are You Naughty or Nice?


1. You are gearing up for the holiday office party.  As a way to reward yourself for a job well done, you plan to eat and drink ‘til your heart’s content.  Is this the best course of action?
A. Yes
B.  No

2. In our increasingly technological world, should the holiday card be mailed or electronically delivered?
A. Mailed.
B. Electronically delivered.

3. You have two close friends hosting a holiday party on the same night at the same time.  Whose party should you attend?
A. The party of the invitation you received first.
B. Both, split your time sensibly.

4. You are standing in line with a cart full of gifts and the person behind you has only two items to purchase. What should you do? 
A. Ignore them. You are on a schedule and need to get home to relieve the babysitter.
B.  Embrace the holiday spirit and let them go first.

5. The holiday table is set for ten and your friend arrives with two unannounced guests. What should you do?
A. Voice your opinion and send them on their merry way.
B.  Make room at the table and happily welcome them in.

6. The ritual gift giving exchange has become too costly.  Is it alright to abstain from giving gifts altogether?
A. Yes
B.  No

7. A guest arrives at your holiday party with a bottle of red wine and you are serving white with dinner.  Are you obligated to open it?
A. It is up to your discretion.
B.  Yes.

8. With regard to holiday tipping, is it best to give cash or gift cards?
A. Cash
B.  Gift cards

9. Your friend has invited you to be a guest at their posh ski chalet in the mountains for the holidays.  Upon your stay, you should…
A. Relax and enjoy yourself, you are in dire need of a vacation.
B. Step in, super guest and do your part.

10. Aunt Roz had a bit too much spiked egg nog to drink and is singing holiday tunes while everyone is trying to watch a movie. As the gracious host, you would join in and add harmony. True or false?
A. True
B. False

11. In 1995, the idea of ‘regifting’ was famously brought to light in an episode of ‘Seinfeld’.  Is it ever okay to regift? 
A. No way.
B.  Absolutely.

12. You are invited to attend a Hanukkah holiday party but are of a different faith. Should you participate in religious activities?
A. Most certainly.  It is the holiday spirit.
B. Definitely not. It will offend.

13. Your mother-in-law has invited your husband and you to a formal sit down Christmas dinner at her home, little does she know, you are on a strict gluten free, dairy free diet.  What should you do?
A. Nothing. Eat what you can.
B. Contact your mother-in-law beforehand to inform her.

14. It is New Years and you would like to toast your host to thank them for bringing everyone together. When should this be done?
A. Towards the end of the meal during the dessert course.
B. Once everyone is seated before the meal begins.

ANSWERS: 
1. (B) A holiday office party is not the time to gorge and draw attention to yourself. View the night as an opportunity to mix and mingle and build a relationship with co-workers. Nurse one drink all night and make only one trip to the buffet table.

2. (A) Holiday time is one of the few occasions where old-fashioned card stock and snail mail is appreciated.  Many people enjoy displaying their cards on the fireplace mantel for guests to read. Taking the time to personally sign each card adds a nice touch.

3. (B) Always attend the party of the invitation you received first. Since they are both good friends, however, inform them that you will only be staying for part of the time and then make it your mission to be the life of the party at both.

4. (B) Get Zen about lines. Be mindful of others. Find ways to pass the time by bringing a book or magazine to read while waiting.

5. (B) A most gracious host is ready for any last minute modifications.  If there are only ten Cornish cooked hens, then they should be willing and ready to whip up something in the kitchen to accommodate extra guests.

6. (B) There are alternate ways to participate in the gift exchange and keep everyone happy.  Have this conversation in advance of the holidays.  Suggest a secret holiday exchange, an exact agreed upon dollar amount, or offer to exchange gifts for children only as a way of keeping costs to a minimum.

7. (A) A host, you may choose to serve the gift of wine with the meal if you wish, but you are certainly not obligated unless the guest has given explicit instructions to do so. In this case, it is best to oblige to avoid confrontation.

8. (A) & (B) Both are appreciated, however, they are not necessarily appropriate for every recipient. For example, you wouldn’t offer cash to a teacher, but a gift card for her to purchase supplies for the classroom would be most welcome while cash for your elderly parent’s caregiver may be more appreciated.  If cash, make sure to have nice crisp bills on hand and present both cash and gift cards with a nice handwritten thank you note.

9. (B) House guesting is not the time to rest on your laurels. If you accept an invitation, you must be ready to pitch in with groceries, prepare meals, keep to your hosts' schedules, and clean up after yourself. Don’t forget to send a proper thank you note and gift afterward.

10. (B) False. You do not need to join Aunt Roz in her one-woman stage show.  Instead, try to deflect and distract by inviting her into the kitchen to help you prepare the desserts and offer her a strong cup of coffee.

11. (B) Absolutely. There is even an official day dedicated to re-gifting on the third Thursday of December.  Re-gifting is permissible as long as there is no trace of previous ownership, the time is in perfect working condition, and you are positive the recipient will love it! 

12. (A) If you agree to accept the invitation, you should be prepared to participate in all of the activities out of respect for your Jewish friends.

13.  (A) Rather than draw negative attention to yourself, eat a little snack prior to departing and sample whatever you can at the dinner.  If your mother-in-law happens to contact you beforehand, you can certainly offer to bring a special dish to contribute that everyone will enjoy.

14. (A) A toast is offered by the host at the very beginning of the meal.  All toasts offered by others occur during the dessert course.  When toasting your host, make sure all glasses are full and remember the 3 “B’s”: Begin, Be Brief and Be Seated.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom - Spread Gratitude & Goodwill This Thanksgiving

If you're feeling particularly challenged this Thanksgiving, don't despair. Grab onto goodness with all of your might. The world is watching and it responds in kind.  Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Virtually everyone is facing one type of challenge or other. It may be dealing with the loss of a home or a loved one or taking care of a child or significant other who is battling a mental or physical health illness. Any feeling of overwhelm can be easily overcome through connection and a kind word.  When we are grateful, good things we thought impossible, suddenly materialize. Find ways to volunteer your time, your money or your resources. If you enjoy hosting, open your home. If you are a guest, wear your most important accessory - your smile. The grace and generosity you bestow during one of the most beloved holidays of the year will come back in spades.  Here are our top 5 etiquette tips to enjoying a most grateful and gracious Thanksgiving this year and always.

1. Set the tone with a warm and welcoming scene. To create those cozy feelings we associate with Thanksgiving start by setting a warm and welcoming scene.  Begin with good lighting to give everyone a soft glow. Ask Alexa to play some soothing background music. Break out your wedding china (when else are you gonna use it?). Match it with hand-made placemats designed by your kids. Select fresh blooms from your garden to give it an especially organic feel. A beautifully appointed table makes the food taste so much better.  You’ll relish in the oohs and aahs as your guests enter your home.

2. Put extra oomph into your food presentation.  Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl of food holidays. People diet for weeks in advance just to partake in an endless buffet of delectable savories and sweets.  Regardless of whether you slave over the stove making every last item on your menu days in advance or place a call to your favorite take-out restaurant for a fancy spread you can serve on the fly, everyone appreciates piles of food placed neatly on eye-pleasing platters. Toss the cans of cranberry sauce before your guests arrive. Scoop the stuffing from containers into porcelain covered bowls.  Forgo the plastic ware and paper plates in favor of real dishes and utensils. Have each item set on the table along with its designated serving piece.  

3. Keep the atmosphere light and breezy. It is a well-known fact that laughter is the best remedy for any difficulty. If we can lighten the mood and find the silly during even the darkest times, it allows us to not take life so darn seriously.  Lord knows we can't control the curve balls so we may as well embrace the circumstances with a few coping mechanisms. Put on a funny holiday movie, crack a joke or encourage a spontaneous game of charades. Any of these are guaranteed to bring the crew together and hopefully make everyone forget their troubles (at least for a while).
4. Connect with compliments and nice questions. Strike up a conversation with a loved one or friend by opening with a compliment. It doesn't have to be anything earth-shattering, but it should be authentic. When we are truly present for one another it is easy to find something sweet to say that will make the other person feel good and loved during this time of year. Keep the conversation going with a few nice (not nosy) questions and actively listen to the answers. Sometimes people just want to be heard.  A sincere interest goes a very long way in building and sustaining a good relationship. 

5. There is no better attitude than that of gratitude. We must find a way to give thanks at Thanksgiving. Big or small – it doesn’t matter.  Being invited to someone's home or hosting a Thanksgiving meal is a blessing. Sharing the holiday with older relatives who are healthy and well is a blessing. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family is a blessing. You never know what the future holds so cherish each moment together, appreciate each other and concentrate on the positive. 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 love to everyone in the room and isn't that all we really want anyway?



Monday, November 5, 2018

Manners Monday – Midterm Election Etiquette for the Masses


Tuesday, November 6, 2018 is one of the most important midterm elections we’ve witnessed in recent history. With a number of states experiencing excruciatingly tight competition, the question on everybody’s mind is whether the Democrats will win back the House majority or if President Trump will stump the country once again with an unprecedented win for the Republican Party. One thing’s for certain, citizens across the country will be stapled to their seats until the very last ballot is counted.  

Voter registration continues to hit record highs and never has it seemed more important for our collective voices to be heard.  Our great country has been fueled by recent acts of violence spawned by intense hatred and symptomatic of our venomous discourse, but we are better than this and it’s time to start acting like it.  Every American has the right to their opinion and may vote accordingly so please don't force your righteous rhetoric down another person's throat. All the money, campaigning, and grassroots pounding the pavement will reveal itself soon enough.  We will have to find a way to move forward in peace as ONE nation together. Treat tomorrow as an opportunity to learn and listen and not to judge or bully. Let us begin by showing some respect for the process and act with poise at the polls. Here’s a list of Midterm Election etiquette do’s and don’ts to ensure everything goes as planned.

DO
·  Go Early.  While most polls are open all day until 7:00pm, it's best to head to polling booths bright and early before going to work or beginning your day.  
·   Bring ID. To prevent voter fraud, new laws may require an original birth certificate in addition to a driver’s license, school identification or another ID card.
·   Honor Privacy.  With this race particularly heated, people are preferring to keep their personal choice mum.  Allow friends and family their vote without pressuring them to divulge whom they support.  
·   Respect Volunteers. Polling place volunteers are regular people just like you and me. They have dedicated their valuable time, they are not getting paid, and are doing their best.  Be patient, kind, and polite.
·  Take Reading Aids. This is not the day to forget your glasses. Reading the ballots is difficult, the type is very small.  It would be a shame to wait on a long line only to discover you couldn't decipher the ballot.
DON’T
·   Electioneer.  An amendment prohibits people from wearing political buttons, hats, pins or T-shirts near polling places which are considered a campaign free zone. If you do so, you will be asked to remove the items or turn your tee shirt inside out. No campaign material that could influence other voters is allowed.
· Talk Politics. Don’t verbalize your thoughts about each candidate or whom you are voting for while waiting in line. It's nobody's business.
·  Be Alarmed.  There may be police presence at polling booths. Officials expect emotions to be on high this Tuesday so they are taking precautionary measures by stationing law enforcement armed with guns to ensure the safety of all.
·  Dawdle. Prepare ahead of time by familiarizing yourself with the ballot choices beforehand so you may be more efficient in the polling booth. Some places will let you take a pre-marked sample ballot into the booth so that you may simply copy your marks onto the official ballot saving oodles of time.
·  Be Hesitant. If you have young children, don’t hesitate to share how you voted. Use this as a teachable moment to talk about the process and the dominant message of each party. This will help them with their critical thinking and encourage them to have an independent voice of their own. 
·  Don't forget to proudly display your "I Voted" sticker or pin. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: This Halloween There’s a Minefield of Tricky Phenomena to Navigate


Say goodbye to the good ole days of frivolous trick or treating when your only worry as you counted your candy at the end of the night was whether some crazy lunatic stuck a razor in your box of Raisinets.  Today there is a minefield of tricky phenomena to navigate, each one scarier than the next and loaded with real-world consequences.  One wrong move and that monster lurking in the darkness is ready to pounce.  There’s no such thing as benefit of the doubt, only accusations and finger pointing stripping you of every last shred of dignity.  To ensure you are your most mindful and thoughtful this Halloween, don’t dare step a pinky toe outside your door without a quick review of our Halloween etiquette tips for this year and beyond.

Chuck the Culturally Insensitive Costumes. As far as costumes for children, the general rule is that they be age appropriate and kid-friendly. But recent events have proven that costumes must absolutely and should be culturally sensitive too. Respect for one other is of paramount importance and anything that even suggests appropriation of another culture’s dress or demeanor will be frowned upon. The same goes for politically charged costumes that incite. Don’t dare wear a MAGA hat or a Trump mask in mixed company. This is guaranteed to draw sneers and jeers. While we’re at it, let’s not forget menacing clown costumes or extremely scary horror costumes, these are still banned from schools and parties and 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.

There's a Trick to Getting those Treats.  There is an unwritten social contract that will get all good-willed trickers the treats they seek.  Just utter the words 'trick or treat' graciously accept your one piece of candy and be on your way thank you very much.

Teal is the New Orange.  NOTE FOR KIDS WITH NUT ALLERGIES: The Teal Pumpkin Project is an 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.










Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom - Rescheduling Puts People in a Particular Pecking Order


Rescheduling of any kind puts people in a particular pecking order. Whether we’re postponing a meeting with a prospective client or rearranging a rendezvous with an old friend, our priorities are made clear by whom we choose to keep appointments and whom we believe it’s okay to defer for another time.  When it comes to rescheduling a work meeting or a plan with a friend, better think twice before you accidentally offend. The gravity of the excuse can make all the difference. In certain circumstances, you may choose to share a white lie to spare someone’s feelings and other times we have a genuinely legitimate reason for canceling such as an illness or accident. 

How you communicate your message also matters. What delivery method you use – will it be a text, a call or an email – demonstrates the level of respect in the relationship.  For social engagements, I always advise my clients to pick up the phone. A pleasant tone of voice is vital to letting someone down easy.  When it comes to rescheduling a business meeting, an email should suffice.  One of the unwritten rules in Hollywood, however, and really with anyone is ‘3 strikes, you’re out!’ The 3rd time is NOT a charm when it comes to rescheduling.  If you are canceled on three times, call it quits. No point in pursuing that person, they’re deemed totally rude and you move on.  I learned the hard way this rule also applies to doctors.  I had been putting off a colonoscopy and rescheduled my consultation with the office three times.  The day before my third appointment when I was finally committed to going, the doctor’s assistant called and canceled. Apparently, doctors don’t like getting snubbed either!

Most beauty services from hair and massage appointments to facials and bikini waxes require 24 hours advice notice to reschedule without being charged. If you neglect this rule, you must be prepared to make payment.  I never reschedule my hairdresser, but she reschedules me all the time to take care of her many A-list clients.  I am always devastated but completely at her mercy as no one else can handle my tresses with such expertise. Does it pain me to have to handle the reschedule gracefully?  You betcha, but I have to act graciously, especially if I wish to continue having her do my hair. 

Rarely is a reschedule completely benign, but it is possible if both parties are happily amenable to the idea.  There are those occasions where you made a plan or a set a meeting and you’re really not in the mood or ill-prepared, but you don’t want to be the one to initiate the change.  If the universe is working in your favor that day, one person will reschedule and the other one breathes a sigh of relief and all is right with the world.



Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day 2018 - Me & My Shadows


I spent the day before Mother's Day visiting with a high school friend sipping on champagne and reflecting on motherhood in scenic Los Olivos.  We sat curled up on the burnt orange cushions of the outdoor furniture with the sun beaming down and nary a care in the world, Her kids with the babysitter and my girls' miles away at home in Los Angeles with dad.  

There was no one to ask me to make them lunch or do their hair or put money on their credit card or drive them to the beach or take them emergency shopping at Sephora for a friend's last minute birthday gift. I was spending 24 blissful hours taking a break from being a mom.  We enjoyed a full day of strolling through the town, wine tasting, vintage shopping, and eating till our hearts were content. 

After swapping stories about our work, my husband, her online dating after divorce, and our parents the conversation came full circle to where it always winds up - with our kids!  She has 7-year-old twins and my girls are fully developed, teenagers. Despite the fact that we are both driven entrepreneurs who spend almost every waking hour thinking about our work, we were both over-the-moon grateful for the best gifts we could have ever received - the blessing of children.  

As I lay my head on the silk pillow I brought from home and tucked into the trundle bed of my friend's daughter last night, I smiled a deep sigh of satisfaction.  Like a Cheshire Cat with a mischievous grin, I felt like I won the lottery having been blessed with two amazing daughters who are beautiful both inside and out and who make me proud on an (almost) daily basis.  Sharing in the minutia of their lives and having them come to me with their most intimate of problems makes me feel needed and that they can trust me to help them navigate through the rollercoaster of life.

Watching them shine with such grace, warmth, and humility is like a dream come true.  They are far from perfect, but they are intrinsically good people.  I love them more than life itself and I am filled with gratitude on this day celebrating mothers that in some small way I am on the right track and doing a decent job.