Monday, December 31, 2012

Best & Worst Manners Moments 2012

Nothing screams “end-of-the-year” more than a recap of the best and worst moments that have managed to encapsulate the past twelve months.  This year was chock full of bad behavior with some of our most public figures going down the road of ruin due to some thoughtless actions or words that spread like wildfire and tarnished their futures. On the flipside, we did see our fair share of exemplary behavior that gave us a glimmer of hope and managed to lift us out of the depths of despair.  It appears there must always be a little yin with the yang. I suppose if we didn’t have a brash Honey Boo Boo to degrade us, we wouldn’t have such an appreciation for the elegance and poise of the royal family.  Just in time, our best and worst manners moments of 2012.  What struck us as either praiseworthy or a cautionary tale. 

The Famous & Infamous
Best: The Royal Family.  The Royals had a remarkable year and managed to handle every single event with grace from the Summer Olympics to the Diamond Jubilee and most recently the Royal Pregnancy of Kate Middleton & Prince William.
Worst: Honey Boo Boo.  This year brought us up close and personal with Honey Boo Boo and her Georgia clan.  The TLC reality series “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” quickly turned into a phenomenon and the world became instantly fascinated with their slovenly, outrageous, no holds barred behavior.

On the Political Front
Best: First Lady Michelle Obama. A consistent picture of calm, beauty and good health, the First Lady helped lead the President to a second term while simultaneously maintaining her own initiatives for childhood obesity, educational reform and work-life balance.
Worst: General David Petraeus.  The Director of the CIA was forced to resign from his position due to an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell that created a storm of controversy and embarassing scandal for the U.S.

Picture of Health
Best: Robin Roberts.  The beloved co-anchor for Good Morning America took an extended medical leave earlier this year to undergo a bone marrow transplant.  Throughout her ordeal, she has been a picture of poise, with only smiles and positive messages for her fans. She has officially reached her 100 day milestone and we wish her continued good health and a speedy return to the job she loves.
Worst: Jessica Simpson.  We commiserate with the difficulties of keeping weight off and the battle to be thin, but we didn’t exactly see Miss Jessica tip the scales in a positive direction during her time with Weight Watchers and now with her newest bundle to be, the task may become even harder. 

In the Media
Best: Anne Hathaway.  Her “Les Mis” premiere was trumped only by the case of her missing panties.  While we highly recommend checking your undergarments before you leave the house, we do think Miss Anne conducted herself with the utmost dignity during in her live interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show when she cited the incident by saying how unfortunate it is that we live in a culture that “commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants” and tied the whole thing beautifully into a segue back her character Fantine in the movie.
Worst: Donald Trump.  The real-estate magnate should know better.  He is a public figure who has mistakenly used his position to espouse his every personal thought on record and on social media without any type of self-censorship.  His reckless tweets during the presidential campaign commented him as a buffoon that should not be taken seriously.

Divorced Couples
Best: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  While we all saw it coming, no one could have foreseen how swiftly and under-the-radar this mega-celebrity divorce was handled.  There were no public fingers being pointed, no custody battles over precious Suri, only Scientology rumors to contend with. 
Worst: Christy Brinkley and Peter Cook.  This divorce has not gone away as quietly and Christy Brinkley’s sobbing interview pleading her case on The Today Show didn’t help matters.  Peter Cook may be a big fat jerk, but Christy would do better to keep her model game face on and show only the picture of smiles and happiness for the camera.

Our Star Athletes
Best: The U.S. female Summer Olympiads.  They not only won 58 medals, but they succeeded in winning over the hearts of the American public with their grace, their tenacity and their unwavering courage.
Worst: Lance Armstrong. The champion cyclist suffered major embarrassment and shame this year from doping allegations used to enhance his performance.  He lost three major sponsorships and was asked to step down as the chairman of the Livestrong charity he founded in 1997 to inspire cancer survivors and their families.

Man/Woman on the Street
Best: Lawrence DePrimo.  The New York Police Officer who took it upon himself to buy a pair of boots for a homeless man on a freezing cold night in NYC. He wasn’t thinking about the cost, only human decency was at work here.  This random act of kindness sparked national interest and massive support.
Worst: Patricia Krentcil. The New Jersey mother known for her perpetually dark complexion was charged with child endangerment when she tried to impose her bizarre struggle with tanning onto her 6 year old daughter by taking her to a tanning booth for a session.     

Manners Resolutions for 2013

Where did the year go?  If I had a dollar for every time I heard this question asked in the past month, I’d be a wealthy lady!  It seems the world is in agreement that time is passing at a breakneck speed and that our lives are becoming more and more complicated and less calm with each year.  The thought of sitting down and giving thoughtful consideration to our New Year’s Resolutions seems like a daunting task that requires way too much time and effort.  But the truth of the matter is, it is more dire now than ever.  If we don’t stop and give ourselves the luxury and benefit of this annual exercise, we are cheating ourselves out of a very important opportunity to clean the slate and begin anew.  

While you may have already begun writing your laundry list of resolutions for better health, better budgeting and better productivity in the New Year, we hope you’ll reserve a few spots on your list for better manners in 2013.   

1. Smile and be friendly.  Resolve to smile and be friendly with everyone you interact with this year.  Whether it’s a parent you pass in the hallway at school or the checkout attendant in the grocery store, everyone deserves a little acknowledgement.  It is not much effort, but makes such a huge difference.

2. Make a good impression on yourself first.  Take the time this year to focus on your health and well-being both physically as well as mentally.   Strive to be a bit more organized and efficient so that you can be your most effective self both personally and professionally. 

3. Be a good listener.  Humans thrive on relationships and connections with others.  One way to cultivate and nurture your communications with friends and relatives is to be a good listener.  This is the key to all great conversationalists. 
4  Choose to be optimistic.  We are beginning a new year, a clean slate, an opportunity for complete renewal.  Why not choose to proceed into these next twelve months with total and undeniable optimism.  Remember a positive and optimistic attitude is most mannerly and assures a successful outcome in anything we endeavor to do. 

5. Use your table manners.  Many of life’s pleasures and special moments revolve around the table and dining experience.  This year, aspire to be a bit more mindful of your table manners.  Begin with the most simple of tasks such as refraining from talking with your mouth full of food or putting your elbows on the table.  Make sure to sit up straight for good posture and say please and thank you when being served.  For goodness sakes, no cell phones at the table! 

6. Give thanks and appreciate.  We cannot say enough about taking a moment to be thankful and to appreciate what you have.  At a time when many are experiencing personal economic turmoil or major life crisis, it is more important than ever to try to find a glimmer of light and to acknowledge what you do have that is positive and encouraging.

7. Take a breath and think before you act.  This is so vitally important and can save a lot of heartache and headache.  We’ve all heard the expression “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” meaning everything we do has a positive or negative effect on one another.  Before you behave in a way that might upset or offend another, take a moment to think about how they might feel and choose to do the right thing.

8. Be courteous and patient.  We live in a 24/7, frenetic, automated world where common courtesies and human decency in general are threatening extinction.  Do your part to change the tide and make 2013 a year where you are more polite and patient.  From the people you stand in line with at Starbucks or share the carpool lane with on your way to work, to the caretakers who watch after your children and your families with whom you share a meal, aspire to be more considerate and a little more tolerant.

9. Be cautious with electronic communications.  Show some restraint before you type, text, post or Tweet.  Understand that everything you put in writing electronically is permanent and privacy does not exist.  Too many people have suffered major consequences due to careless communications.  Not thinking before you send an electronic message can ruin a career or sever a personal relationship.  Send only positive thoughts, comments or photos electronically.  Anything unflattering should be dealt with in person.

10. Don’t be stingy with the magic words.  The most commonly used magic words are: please, thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry and you’re welcome.  Use these words frequently and without discretion and witness firsthand a transformation from those who hear them.  Notice how a few kind words can help brighten someone’s day.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Manners Monday - "Bad Manners that Spook Me"

A black cat literally crossed my path this morning.  I was driving home from the gym at the early hour of 7am minding my own business when all of the sudden a cat popped out of nowhere and scampered across the street right in front of my car! I paused for a moment and wondered if the cat crossing was an ominous sign.  Did the cat know that Halloween was looming on the horizon?  Did he want to give me a little pre-Halloween scare?  I have absolutely no clue.  What I do know is that the silly cat succeeded in spooking me a little and became the inspiration for today’s Manners Monday post. 

Appropriately entitled, “Bad Manners that Spook Me,” I thought about the multitude of bad manners we have resigned ourselves to accept over the years that are natural repellents preventing us from being our best selves, as well as the collection of appalling manners we have come to amass more recently as a direct result of our deeply entrenched technological age and it scared the bejeezus out of me!  The bad manners examples  seemed endless with the most popular categories falling the three prominent areas of table, tech, and every day manners.  Below is just a smattering of what we found spooks us the most when it comes to bad manners.  What spooks you?  Share with us and let's see if we can make a dent to decrease our ill-mannered ways by next Halloween. 

Bad Table Manners that Spook Me
  • Chewing with one’s mouth open.
  • Talking with a mouth full of food.
  • Using a finger to push food onto a fork rather than using a knife.
  • Cutting ones food using the pitch-fork style rather than using the Continental style of dining.
  • Cell phones on the table during the meal.
  • Parents who let their kids use tech toys at the table to keep them calm.
  • Relentless rudeness to the wait staff.
  • Haggling over dollars and cents rather than just splitting the bill.

Bad Tech Manners that Spook Me
  • Personalized smart phone rings that draw too much attention.
  • Texting when in the company of others.
  • Texting in favor of conversing with another who is well within ear shot.
  • Texting a back-and-forth heated exchange instead of just picking up the phone!
  • Irresponsible, thoughtless tweets. Who knew 140 characters could get us into so much trouble?
  • Causing FOMO on Facebook by posting egotistical photos and captions of one’s fabulous life.  
  • Emails with poor grammar, sentence structure and spelling.

Bad Every Day Manners that Spook Me
  • Slow drivers who refuse to move into the slow lane.
  • Someone who lets the elevator door close when another person is clearly approaching entry.
  • A poor handshake that resembles a knuckle-cruncher.
  • A loud talker who thinks the world needs to hang on their every word.
  • Showing up to any party without a gift, unless it expressly says, “No gifts please.”
  • Repeated tardiness from the same person.
  • People who consistently exclude, put-down or are critical of others.
  • Someone who continuously forgets your name and acts like they’re meeting you for the first time.
  • Belching and passing gas in the company of women.
Feel free to add the manners that spook you the most to our growing list. Send them into us and we will be sure to incorporate them. Happy Halloween!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Manners Monday - Get Your Digital Responsibility on in October!

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and National Bullying Prevention Month, giving us plenty of pause and cause to become digitally mindful and make sure we think before we click. 

This month is a wake-up call reminding us to dig our heels in deeper and take a stand for our families and for ourselves. It’s time to put the kibosh on blindly entering our social security numbers and credit card information onto any old website that inquires, and time to instill some serious consequences for those children who blatantly harm others by spewing hatred online.  We have to be hyper-conscious about our internet safety and security, be fiercely protective of our privacy and warn our children about the dangers of cyber-bullying and the cautionary tales of online plagiarism so that we may all become responsible digital citizens from this point going forward. 

Simply put, we need to instill a little “netiquette” into our lives.  Netiquette, a combination of internet and etiquette, is a genius term that was coined to provide guidelines for acceptable behavior on the Internet.  It is meant to keep all electronic activity organized and civilized. It incorporates the more formal common courtesies online, as well as the less formal codes of cyberspace. 

Whether you are proficient online or a neophyte in the digital world, everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, and should act accordingly.  Here are five crucial reminders to help keep you on track.

1. Practice the Online Golden Rule. Treat others online with the same regard, or better, than you would treat them offline.  Go the extra mile to be respectful and courteous. Remember that while you may be tapping away at a keyboard, the other person cannot hear the tone of your voice or read the visual cues from your face and body to better understand your meaning. All of this is lost in online communication and can come across as mean or rude, even if you did not intend them this way. Avoid typing your communications in all caps.  IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING!  If you want to emphasize a word, use asterisks, italics or emoticons to evoke your emotion.

2. Preserve Your Privacy.  We have been reprimanded repeatedly to keep personal information to ourselves. Especially in our age of over-sharing, we must set limits and boundaries and be smarter about what we will reveal both personally and professionally, as well as financially.  It is not worth the gamble.  Do not willingly divulge details unless it is extremely safe to do so. Keep things closer to the vest.  A little mystery in these times could do us all a bit of good.

3. No More Bull!  There are new ways to tease and taunt online that result in ruining reputations and exposing people without their knowledge or consent.  This behavior is malicious and deliberate and has been labeled Cyber-bullying.  Never ever type or post anything, including messages, videos or photos that would be considered slanderous or negative content about another person.  It is reckless and harmful and only exposes the abuser as a foolish individual. Learn from the phrase, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" and live it! 

4. Don’t Play with Plagiarism.  With the World Wide Web at our fingertips, it is way too easy to adopt another person’s words as our own.  Avoid any implication of plagiarism by making sure to cite and credit the author of your sources.  If you do not, be prepared to face the unpleasant consequences and embarrassment.  

5. Update Your Status Sparingly.  Online social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are meant to be used to enhance and complement your existing offline life.  You should not use them to create an imaginary life where you are more successful, interesting or attractive than you are in person. Apply extreme discretion when disclosing any type of personal information, you never know what might come back to haunt you in the future.

Do you have any personal stories you'd like to share about your experiences online? Any lapse in judgment with regard to your digital responsibility?  Share with us, we'd love to hear from you!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Red Carpet Manners at the Primetime Emmy’s 2012 - A Bit of Humor & A Hassle-Free Host

This year my Primetime Emmy experience began up-close and personal the night before at the annual “Evening Before” party to benefit the Motion Picture Television Fund.  Literally everyone from television was in attendance and I have to say looking quite fabulous in their casual chic attire.  A veritable who’s who of TV’s biggest celebrities mingled while noshing on food and sipping libations from Wolfgang Puck’s menu of selections.  Smiles, hugs, handshakes and good humor were on tap with cast members ranging from Glee and Girls to Mad Men and Modern Family chatting and wishing one another the best of luck.  Popular performance artists, Gil and Jill Bumby a/k/a the Bumbys, were on hand to give “fair and honest appraisals” of one’s appearance as celebs and regular folk lined up inside the Essie nail polish tent to obtain their readings.  (I have to admit I got sucked into this, but was happy to receive a 9.4 out of 10 on my style and will say that their written assessment was spot on!). 

What struck me the most was how much better everyone looked in person and how much smaller everyone is in real life!!  The camera really does add pounds and inches!  I was also surprised at how late everyone partied knowing they’d have to get up early, look rested, and do it all again the next day.

On Emmy night, the heat turned up literally and figuratively.  Stylists dressed their stars in this season’s hottest colors while they struggled not to sweat in the blistering heat.  On the red carpet, the ladies hit home runs outfitted in shades of grey, burgundy, blue and yellow.  My heart went out to the number of men who must have been sweating bullets in their Brooks Brothers Black Fleece label suits. 

Although it was Jane Lynch who hosted the previous year, the pressure was on for Jimmy Kimmel to perform and to perhaps try to top the other Jimmy (Fallon) who seemed to have so much fun hosting in 2010.  All in all, I think he did a pretty decent job delivering a hassle-free and humorous show.  Here is our red carpet manners recap on some of the night’s most noticeable hits and misses.

Style on Steroids – Okay, I love fashion as much as the next gal, but the gratuitous plugs for the designers are beginning to take the emphasis away from the celebrities actually wearing them!  Having to sit through the mispronunciations of the names and the laundry list of mentions from shoes, to jewelry to handbags has made the whole red carpet experience seem a bit vacuous.  E! has jumped on the bandwagon in a big way displaying their ginormous 360 Glam Cam, their Stiletto Cam, and now the debut of their Mani Cam (giving props to all the fashionable nails).  Yes, we know everyone is dying to see a close up shot of Kat Dennings’ cleavage and Sophia Vergara’s backside in circular motion, but I think I’m officially over it.  To me, it was much more interesting to see one of entertainment’s married royal couples, Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow, take to the cam for a traditional dip.  To me, that is true Hollywood glamour.

Combustible Busts – While we’re on the topic of bosoms. We simply cannot ignore the voluptuous Two Broke Girls Kat Dennings and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks who both chose to emphasize their  G-d given gifts with figure hugging dresses that were conversation topics all to themselves.  Kat Dennings openly admitted to E! that she decided to flaunt them because “no matter what I do, they are there!”  She also confessed that her posture may be less than perfect as she favors the hunched over position which is better for keeping “the girls” inside the dress where they belong!   

A Hassle Free, Humorous Host – After sitting through two hours of red carpet arrivals, we caught a first glimpse of our host, Jimmy Kimmel.  The opening sequence for the Emmy’s involved him crying in a bathroom stall over a botched Botox session in an absolutely hysterical, if not irreverent, look at the double-standard females face to appear eternally young in the eyes of the media.  The pre-taped skit included TV’s funniest female nominees taking swings at Kimmel to help punch his features back into their original position.  Once he had everything back in the right place, a very fit and dapper looking Kimmel took the stage.  Although he seemed a tad nervous at first, rushing his lines without pausing for reaction, he quickly settled in for some truly funny and poignant jokes.  My favorites were the ones where he poked fun at the actors themselves speaking candidly about their most difficult roles when they have to play “an actor who is happy for the success of another actor.” When he addressed the audience directly assuring them that the show would end on time so they could go home and put on their “fat pants” was perfection!  There were no major offenses or risky behaviors a la Ricky Gervais to mention, only a prank that involved Tracy Morgan pretending to pass out on stage which fell short. Another attempt where his parents were escorted out of the audience for lying to him was more well-received.

Acceptance Speech Gone Awry – Our apologies in advance, Julie Bowen, but we have to make mention of your acceptance speech which had one too many mentions of “pesky nipple covers” for our liking. Picking up her consecutive second win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in the hit comedy, Modern Family, the striking vision in yellow seemed to struggle to be witty and went seriously south in her speech detailing what life on a TV set is really like underneath the clothing and makeup. 

Staples, Surprises & Spouses – Most everyone was expecting to see the list of staple winners and losers on Emmy night, but there were still a few surprises including the multiple wins for under-the-radar favorite, Louis C.K. and statues going to Jon Cryer for the first time as Outstanding Lead Actor and Julia Louis-Dreyfus who won for Lead Actress in Veep. Out of their 17 noms, not one award went to Mad Men.  Instead, the many awards went to new darling, Homeland which at last put Showtime on the map in the drama category beating out longtime competitor HBO.  On a separate note, one of the things we noticed in many of the speeches on Emmy night, was the showering of accolades to the countless spouses and partners of all the winners who so graciously remembered to thank their significant others for their unwavering support and love.  How sweet! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Manners Monday – Back 2 School Manners 4 Parents

On the final night of summer, parents countrywide prepared for the annual ritual of going back to school.  They busily organized backpacks with new supplies, painstakingly prepared lunch boxes with the latest healthy (or not so healthy) fare, selectively laid out outfits or uniforms to help their kids look presentable, and perhaps snuck in a handwritten note in their notebooks wishing their kids a great first day! 

Mission accomplished, they tucked their children into bed and let out one last remark reiterating their excitement about new teachers and inspired curriculum's, meeting new friends and maintaining old relationships. They reminded them to remember the six pillars of character and be mindful of the golden rule.  With the parenting checklist for back-to-school preparation completed, they breathed a collective sigh of relief. 

Not so fast parents!  There is still work to be done.  It is virtually impossible to steer your  kids in the right direction - trust me, they will never listen - without taking a good close look at yourselves and your own back-to-school behavior.  As you slowly integrate into schedules and school lunches this week, take a moment to review our list of dos and don’ts.  Remember, your children emulate you and will do as you do and not as you say. Better to set them on the right course by setting a good example. You certainly don’t want anyone pointing a finger at them and saying the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

  • Greet fellow parents each day with a smile.
  • Integrate new parents by including them in school activities and special events.
  • Use the magic words unconditionally and often with teachers, administration and staff.
  • Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher and establish a relationship.
  • Make your best effort to donate monies for class funds, field trips & other activities in a timely manner.
  • Offer to help parents and children who are in need.
  • Keep negative comments about the school or other parents or their children to yourself.
  • Communicate with your child and let them solve their own problems with their peers if possible.
  • Keep tabs on your own child and make sure they are not bullying others.
  • Regulate your child with a good night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast each morning.
  • Use designated crosswalks when crossing the street near school perimeters.

  • Judge parents by how much or how little they are able to volunteer at school.
  • Attempt to gain favor with your child’s teacher by showering them with accolades or gifts.
  • Send mass emails to your child’s class list unless it’s regarding school work or administration.
  • Hit “reply all” unless the person who initiated the email has expressly requested it.
  • Gossip or spread harmful rumors about the school, the parents, or the children.
  • Jump to conclusions about anything school-related. Give others the benefit of the doubt, gather your facts and then respond accordingly.
  • Jay-Walk unsafely with your children in tow.
  • Honk, double-park or block other drivers. We are all just trying to find a space and get our children to school. Have some patience and take a breath!

I'm sure there are many parents out there who wish other parents had better manners at school. What are some of your biggest gripes?  Which do's and don'ts would you add to this list?  Please share with us, we'd love to hear from you!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Manners Monday – When Tragedy Strikes – How to Share with Your Children?

Last Friday’s movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado was a tragic reminder for parents that no matter how hard we try to protect our children, it is virtually impossible to shield them from all danger. We live in an uncertain world where the behavior of others is often unpredictable.  The only thing we truly have control over is our own actions and reactions. 

So how do those of us who are watching the television and reading the media headlines respond when our children catch us emotionally enraptured by the latest story developments?  How should we explain what happened? What is appropriate for our children’s ears? What is better left unsaid?  And, what can they learn for the future?

However we decide to explain the tragedy to our children, one thing must remain clear and that is that we deliver our message in a responsible manner with the utmost sensitivity and respect for the families who are experiencing the loss firsthand.

Ø  Let your tone convey the gravity of the situation.  Children know very well by their parent’s tone of voice whether a particular subject is to be taken seriously.  When tragedy strikes, parents should be calm and reassuring while they explain the situation in practical terms with only pertinent facts included. 

Ø  Keep it age appropriate and in perspective.  Youngest children should receive this information on a need-to-know basis only and using very simple words. Older children may be privy to more detail, but with limitations, as we still don’t want to scare them unnecessarily. Be mindful of the media and make sure children do not have unlimited access.

Ø  Teach your children to empathize.  A tragedy of this magnitude offers our children the ability to learn how to sympathize with another person’s situation, and to offer understanding and compassion. Children need to exercise their empathy muscle so that when a situation arises they will know how to genuinely show their support.

Ø  Use the tragedy to strengthen survival skills.  There is always a lesson to be learned from tragedy, and as painful as it is to discuss, children must gain wisdom from the experience.  In this particular situation, it is a lesson to teach our children to always be conscious of their surroundings, to heighten their awareness of others, and to notice and identify suspicious behavior.  These skills may just wind up saving their lives someday. 

    If you happened to miss the live courtroom newsfeed this morning as the 24 year old defendant, James Holmes, received his first words from the judge, here is the clip It is strikingly evident from this footage that the young man is deeply troubled. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Don't Be a Bum at the Beach" - 4th of July Etiquette for the Sand & Sea

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I made a last minute plan to venture out to Paradise Cove in Malibu for a little R&R.  At the beach for the first time in about ten years without kids in tow, we simply couldn’t wait to break into our magazines and soak up the summer sun.  There were no nagging voices begging us to make a sandcastle or desperate attempts to drag our bodies into the cold ocean to jump the waves, merely the pure bliss of alone time doing whatever we pleased. Just as we were finally settling in to our groove, a pack of eight adults decided to plop down right beside us as if we were completely invisible.  As sand flung onto our towels, they proceeded to unpack heaps of beach paraphernalia within inches of our designated space.  Rather than scold them because they were clearly clueless, we decided to preserve our zen-like mode by packing up our things and moving further down the beach.   

The 4th of July marks the height of the beach going season.  After much preparation to clear our schedules and make ourselves beach worthy with requisite tans and new suits to model, the last thing we need is to be bothered by annoying adults blasting their bad music, pesky children (or adults for that matter) kicking sand onto our towels or thrill-seeking seagulls swooping down on our homemade fried chicken and expensive imported cheese.  To learn how not to be offensive to others and to best enjoy the beach experience at holidays and all year long, here is our top list of proper beach etiquette tips. 

Dress Appropriately for the Occasion. The last time I checked, topless and nude sunbathing is frowned upon here in America, and in some cases is considered against the law. Unless you’re on a private yacht in the south of France or vacationing in Brazil, kindly keep your bathing suit PG-rated. Private parts should be sufficiently covered. The beach is for families and they are especially in tow on a big summer holiday.

Come Ready with Your Own Supplies. Everyone has their “must have” list of necessities for the beach. Most importantly, the list is to help you be prepared so that you do not have to constantly bother others with your requests for items you forgot at home. The bare minimum: sunscreen, hat, bottled water and towel. Kicking it up a notch: beach chair, umbrella, tunes, books or magazines (old school style), games, a cooler fully stocked with an incredible feast. Recommended for parents: full day supply of diapers and wipes, a Pack N’ Play or tent for shade, sand toys (BTW, don’t forget to write your name on them so you leave the beach with the same toys you came with), ample sunscreen, snacks and beverages.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm. If you are one of those people who perpetually arrives fashionably late, don’t expect to have first dibs on prime real estate at the beach. There is plenty of space and no one is entitled to a reserved spot, unless of course, you belong to a private beach club and the attendant has a reserved number of chairs and umbrellas set aside for members. To ensure you do not encroach on another person’s space, ideally there should be about 15 feet between distance between you and your neighbor. When selecting your spot, don’t forget to take into consideration high tide. Look for a high water mark, consult a tide chart or ask a lifeguard before settling down for the day.

Setting up Shop. If possible, organize your items so that you only have to take one trip on the sand to your spot on the beach. Walking back and forth is exhausting and will tucker you out before your day even begins. Before laying your towels down and inserting your umbrella, check to see which way the wind is blowing so that you don’t blow sand into your neighbor’s direction or block their view. Make every effort to consolidate your items into a small area that will not take valuable beach front away from others.

Keep it Down & Watch Your Language. We are well aware that the beach is outside, but that does not give you cart blanche to blast your latest iTunes mix on your giant speakers or shout profanities to your buddies when we are within ear shot trying to enjoy a family day with our kids. On the flip side, parents need to monitor their children and make sure little Mikey and Susie aren’t running amok hurling sand toys and fighting over the last Cheeto while adults are trying to enjoy a little peace and quiet or read the latest best-seller. Being outside entitles everyone to use their outside voice and have fun, just be mindful of how loud and crazy you get and keep it all in check.

Fun in the Sun. Game playing is great, but keep it away from others. First of all, it is obnoxious to play ball over others heads while they are trying to relax and secondly, it can be dangerous, especially if there are little ones around. This extends to water playing as well. Look out for others in the water before you engage in spirited splashing, dunking and other horseplay. Maintain control of boogie boards and other water toys so that everyone has a safe day in the sun. A special note to parents: keep an eye on your children. Organize plenty of activities like building sand castles, playing Frisbee or searching for the most unusual sea shell to keep them busy so that they do not wander off or, more importantly, wander into the water without your supervision.

Clean Up After Yourself. If only there was a “Smoky the Bear” or that Indian fellow who shed a single tear at the sight of litter being dropped at his feet to protect our beautiful beaches. Where’s the mascot to remind us to keep our beaches clean? I remember swimming once at a beach just north of Santa Monica and seeing plastic bags, soda cans and straw wrappers in the ocean. It was disgusting! Please take a garbage bag or paper bag with you to the beach and have the decency to collect all of your trash (that includes food wrappers, diapers, newspapers and whatever else you bring) and then deposit it into one of the large trash receptacles located everywhere.

Don't Bring the Beach Home with You. Carefully shake all items and sufficiently clean off anything with sticky sand before leaving the beach. Watch your neighbors to make sure you are not blowing sand dust in their wind. There is nothing worse than dust particles of sand found in the car, on the floor or in your bags when you return home. Shake off towels, clean dirty feet, wash out bathing suits and dump all bags before settling into your car or entering the house.

Give it One Last Look. Before making your final exit, patrol the area one all around your beach party scene one last time for any lost items, leftover food or litter.

Did I forget anything? Let me know what your beach rituals include? What items do you take? Have any tips for rude patrons? Share with us. We'd love to hear from you!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sleep Away Camp – 5 Personal Traits for Kids to Gain and Get Rid Of

This week, I joined the legion of parents, who kissed their kids goodbye and sent them off to sleep away camp.  Like so many others, I was filled with mixed emotions: excitement over the freedom of having a whole eight days to myself before my youngest returned home; and sadness that my girls were gone and experiencing something fun without me.

I remember my first time at sleep away camp like it was yesterday.  I was shipped off to Camp Akiba in the Pocono Mountains for an entire summer.  When you lived back east, this was the norm and no one batted an eye.  I have fond memories of my experience and am grateful for participating in this rite of passage that is so entrenched in our American culture. 

Today, camp is different.  Campers are more sophisticated and the challenges for counselors are greater than just monitoring the canteens and candy trunks.  Nowadays, they are more concerned with stripping campers of their techno mentality and getting back to basics. 

While my girls are away at camp, I obviously want them to have fun, but I also secretly have a personal agenda of what I’d like them to gain, and get rid of, during their experience. 

1.  Gain: Independence. At camp, kids must stick to a schedule.  They are obligated to organize their belongings, keep their bunk neat, write letters, participate in activities and basically follow all of the designated camp rules or suffer the consequences. Get Rid Of: Laziness. In an age of concierge parenting, it is very easy for kids to slip into the role of dependent where mom and dad do everything and kids expect us to wait on them hand-and-foot. This attitude is simply unacceptable at camp.

2.   Gain: Possibility.  Camp is an opportunity for children to discover something about themselves that perhaps previously they thought was not possible.  Get Rid Of: Fear. Camp is an incredibly nurturing and safe environment enabling children to try new things, to test limits and to let go of fear.   It is an excellent time to break out of their comfort zone and take a few (reasonable) risks.

3.  Gain: Friendship. Camp is a wonderful time to solidify old relationships and cultivate new ones. The environment thrives on camaraderie, inclusion and close bonds where fellow campers learn to cooperate with one another, help each other, and encourage fellow campers to be their very best. Get Rid Of: Hostility. At camp there is no tolerance for gossip, slander, or bullying of any kind. On the contrary, it is an ideal environment for practicing kindness, consideration and “The Golden Rule.”

4. Gain: Interaction.  Good old-fashioned face-to-face communication is the preferred method of communication at camp. This is an excellent opportunity for kids to practice making eye contact and learning the subtleties of reading facial expressions and body language.  Get Rid Of: Technology.  No television, no smart phones, no computers of any kind are accessible at camp.  There is nothing to distract campers except the sounds of nature and possibly a little Justin Bieber playing on the counselor’s CD players.

5.    Gain: Quiet Time. At camp, there is an enforced period daily where kids are encouraged to quietly engage in an activity on their own without verbal exchange. This allows the mind to settle down so that introspection can take place.  Get Rid Of:  Stimulation. Our children are in need of constant stimulation and it is to their detriment.  They expect to be entertained 24/7 and as a result they are losing important self-soothing skills, as well as the ability to discover and develop their own talents and interests.

Like so many famous camp movies from “Little Darlings” to “Parent Trap” and “Camp Rock,” one thing’s for sure, my girls will be gaining everlasting memories. Whether participating in a Friday night talent show, dancing to music in their bunk with friends, or playing color war on the field, they are sure to come away with a smile having achieved a greater sense of self and a newfound confidence that will stay with them forever.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father’s Day Etiquette – Don’t Give Dad The Shaft

When it comes to celebrating a day for parents, somehow dads seem to fall on the short end of the stick.  Father’s Day is paid about as much attention as the red-headed step-child sitting in the corner. 

Mother’s Day, however, is a very different story with the build-up beginning months in advance!  Dads everywhere scramble for brunch reservations or spa appointments to ensure their better-halves are pampered and tended to on their special day.  This delicate showering of affection is not necessarily out of love, but out of fear that if they do not do everything in their power to ensure Mother’s Day is unique and special, heads will roll and someone’s gonna have to pay!

I happened to ask several fathers over the past week what their plans were for Father’s Day and I was met with the same blank response that assumed not much fan fair had been discussed around the subject. But, you won’t see dad sulking on the couch or screaming at the top of his lungs that no one appreciates him.  Instead, he’ll simply smile and be thankful for whatever morsel of kindness is bestowed his way. 

Don’t give dad the shaft this Father’s Day, find a few ways to make him feel at least, almost equally as special as mom (wink).  Here are several ideas, although last minute, to show him you really care.

Let Him Be King of His Castle.  Let dad be in charge of the remote and settle in on a program that he likes – for once! If he wants to wear his favorite ratty old college shirt with the holes, so be it!  Hand him the sports section of the Sunday paper so he can read it cover to cover wherever he pleases. 

Give Him Some Space. As much as dad loves hanging with the family, this might be the perfect occasion for mom to take the kids out for a few hours to allow him some “me” time to relax without feeling guilty.  

Get Outdoors.  If dad is an athlete, offer to throw around the ball outside.  If he loves hiking, find a trail that has a scenic view and plan a picnic at the top. If biking’s his thing, go for a ride along the beach and follow it up with lunch at one of his favorite haunts before heading home.

Present Him with a Gift He Will Truly Enjoy.  Don't get dad a last minute practical gift because he needs it, use this opportunity to present him with something fun and unexpected that he will truly enjoy. Perhaps a book of 10 movie passes if he is a movie buff or a set of Beat Box headphones for the music lover who loves to sing in the shower.

Make Him a Home-Cooked Meal. We all know that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  If he loves to BBQ, marinate his favorite meat for grilling and couple it with some tasty Cole slaw and beans as sides. If dad is newly vegan?  Channel Alicia Silverstone and whip up a tantalizing tofu or vegetarian recipe online that will punch with just as much flavor.

Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere from your loving wives and children!!  xoxo