Monday, February 24, 2014

Manners Monday - Medal Worthy Moments & Missteps at the Sochi Winter Olympics

After 17 days, the XXII Sochi Winter Olympics has come to a close.  Seven years in the making and the most expensive Olympic games to date, Russia showcased a newly transformed country worthy of world recognition and finally shed the old imagery that existed prior to the Soviet collapse.  The opening and closing ceremonies portrayed a country rich in culture and proud of their heritage with elaborate productions that highlighted their excellence in classical music, ballet, literature and philosophy. The host country placed number one overall accumulating a total of 33 medals.  Precautionary measures to keep surroundings safe and free of terrorist threats thankfully succeeded and the help of twenty-five thousand happy volunteers helped to smooth over any other ruffled feathers.

Still, Sochi was not without its share of problems.  See meme #sochiproblems. The most noticeable embarrassment suffered was the 5th Olympic ring which failed to light up during the opening ceremony. This was humorously addressed during the closing ceremonies with a self-deprecating sequence that showed a purposefully delayed formation of the 5th ring. Other ongoing storylines surrounded the unusually warm weather with temperatures hovering in the 60’s making the snow slushy and causing the athletes to take more serious tumbles than usual. The Olympic village accommodations caused frustration for a number of athletes and reporters who dealt with spotty electricity, running water and poor internet connections. And, despite Russia’s best attempts to display a welcoming image, controversy loomed over the discrimination of human and gay rights. 

On U.S. soil, viewers had to overcome hampered coverage by sportscaster Bob Costas who suffered an untimely double bout of pink eye until pitch hitters Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera came to the rescue. It was not the easiest of games for Team USA who placed fourth in gold medals and second overall with many of its most prominent Olympians barely placing or garnering only a bronze.  

Each Olympics reminds us of our increasingly globalized society and the opportunity it allows our Olympians to act as mini ambassadors of the U.S. putting forth a message of international peace, tolerance and respect. With that in mind, here is our list of medal worthy manners moments and missteps. Who exemplified Gold medal characteristics and who didn't make it to the podium at all.

Medal Worthy

Perseverance Pays Off.  Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their first Olympic gold in ice dancing after 17 years of practicing together.  They are partners in dance only, have a strong work ethic, share a mutual respect and value the importance of an education.  Both are pursuing a degree at the University of Michigan.   

Bode Miller, Good Guy. Inspirational skier and medal record holder, Bodie had a rough time at Sochi and most likely raced for the last time in his Olympic career.  He said, "It's tough to have my last race here look like that," Miller said. "But I feel really good about where I am. I feel like I did my best. "  When questions arose around an emotional interview he gave to NBC regarding the pain of losing his brother and being the oldest medalist in alpine skiing history, he defended his interviewer on Twitter. 

Tearful, but Proud. After thinking they had the gold in the bag, The U.S. Women’s Hockey Team suffered a brutal loss to Team Canada in the final four minutes of the game. Although devastated they didn’t win the gold, members of the team choked back tears as they picked up their silver medal and professed how proud they were to have represented the U.S. in this year’s Olympics.

Young and Hungry.  Mikaela Shiffrin is a mere 18 years old and won the gold in the women's slalom.  

Puppy Love.  Gus Kenworthy, the silver medal-winning slopestyle American skier, upset by all of the stray dogs wandering Sochi took it upon himself to arrange kennels for the puppies and get them vaccinated in the hopes of taking them home to the states.  

Gracie is Gold.  She may not have won the gold, but she delivered extremely solid performances with grace and style.  Her excitement and enthusiasm were highlighted by her beautiful smile.

Medal Missteps

Loss of Steam.  They were riding high on a winning streak until their final games with Canada and Finland. After suffering the embarrassment of not being able to score a single goal,  rather than continue with drive, perseverance and team spirit, U.S. Men’s Hockey Team became disenchanted and played as if their heads were no longer in the game.

Pressure to Succeed.  Countless medals and a showering of accolades makes repeat performance almost impossible.  Team USA’s most prominent American Olympians, Shawn White and Shani Davis, fell under the pressure to succeed and live up to the expectations suffering losses early in the competition.  Shawn backed out of one event much to the dismay of his fans and then failed to medal in the halfpipe, his signature sport. Shani also gave a disappointing performance.  

Sour Puss.  All eyes were on Ashley Wagner who initially radiated with a hopeful smile after her short form skating performance, but then quickly turned sour when she heard the judge’s low scores.  Clearly upset and unable to control her reaction, she scowled while mouthing a profanity to one of the teammates seated in the ‘kiss and cry’ section launching the first viral meme of the Winter Olympics.

See you in Pyeongchang...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Manners Monday - 5 Ways to Step Up the Manners in Your Marriage on V-Day

When it comes to long term marriage, manners can seem quite elusive. Once you've put in about seven years plus (they don't call it the seven year itch for nothing!) with your spouse sharing living quarters, exhaustive child rearing and/or opinionated in-laws, it's very tempting to bark orders and let your pleases and thank you's slide. Add to that already fragile recipe, a relentless work schedule and 24/7 access to online flirtations, and it's no wonder we are experiencing staggering divorce rates! Perhaps we should turn back the time and take a few cues from the "Downton Abbey" era. Resuscitating these formal niceties may be just the remedy to combat a comfortable rut between spouses. I imagine many a mate would prefer that their significant other stand at attention when they enter a room, rather than fart in it. They would appreciate a spouse who will offer to pull out their chair to be seated as opposed to seating themselves first. And, any partner who will take out the garbage when it is full rather than recklessly trying to cram in one last piece, comes across as incredibly thoughtful.  You see every little action, thought and reaction counts ten-fold in the days leading up to this Hallmark holiday. To ensure yours goes smoothly, here are 5 simple ways to step up the manners in your marriage on Valentine's Day and every day.

Sweat the small stuff. When it comes to marriage, the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference. If that means picking up your dirty clothes from the floor and putting them in the laundry, twisting the cap completely closed on the toothpaste, or greeting your spouse with a warm kiss instead of a grunt when you walk through the door, then so be it. Don’t give them any reason to get upset during this day devoted to love.

Make a new plan.  After many years of togetherness, married couples will take on certain roles. If you're the one doing the driving and shopping, as well as the cooking and the carpooling, your partner should offer to plan something interesting and romantic for you two to share in together. This may take some imagination, but it doesn't have to break the bank. Involve your spouse to make sure you are on the same page, but then show some initiative and confirm all of the arrangements on your own. 

Lose your tech. Technology has succeeded in separating us. When texting "I Love You" becomes easier than saying it face-to-face something is going terribly wrong. Do whatever is necessary to complete your work and show up in person for your spouse. Nothing is sexier than being present, especially if you travel for work or have your smartphone glued to the palm of your hand.  Ask your spouse meaningful questions and really listen to the answers.  This will automatically bring you closer, guaranteed.

Meet them where they are.  It is rare for a married couple to be exactly alike. As much as they have a shared love for one another, what may sound amazing to one partner may be a complete nightmare to the other. You know your spouse better than anyone, so put yourself in their shoes and try to find a happy medium you both can enjoy.  If they are a traditional romantic, put on some relaxing music, cuddle under a blanket, light a fire. If they prefer to loosen up a bit first, join them in a cocktail (or pressed juice smoothie) to take the pressure off. If they want to experiment Fifty Shades style, by all means go rogue, but be safe. Next time, you get to choose.

Communicate Considerately. Long time marrieds have a tendency to address their significant other in the same way they address their children when they are harried or upset. Your delivery doesn't have to be as formal as Lady or Lord Grantham's, however, speaking in a softer tone of voice, being selective with your choice of words, and daring to put a smile on your face can change the atmosphere in the room to a more positive one, almost immediately.

After many years together, you may be looking for some marriage validation. Great news! The book, Love Illuminated, by Daniel Jones, editor of the NYT's "Modern Love" column brings it. I haven't read it yet, but apparently after reading hundreds of thousands of email submissions from readers searching for love, he has found that most everyone is looking for the same thing - marriage and a committed relationship.  Happy Valentine's Day. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Manners Monday - Superbowl Etiquette for Spectators at the Stadium & at Home

I am particularly pumped for Super Bowl XLVIII. I don't know if its the fact that it will take place in my home town of New York - well, technically at the Met Life stadium in New Jersey - or because I will be on the edge of my seat waiting to see if cornerback, Richard Sherman, will unleash another outburst on live television.  It could be that this year's half time show with the multi-talented Bruno Mars and awesome Red Hot Chili Peppers is sure to rock the stadium.  Or, perhaps it's because my husband won the pool at last year's game and bet two squares on the grid again this year. Mama needs a new pair of shoes!  And, lest not forget the all-important commercials. The competition on the field is nothing compared to the competition for the most brilliant, simple, intricate, outrageous, expensive, or most original advertisement to fill the 2-3 minute gaps between plays. Regardless if you're rooting for a team or your favorite commercial, one thing is certain, Super Bowl Sunday is on everyone's radar and the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are sure to put on a good show.  So whether you're braving the cold to experience the game live, or opting for a viewing party where your tootsies will stay warm, here are our top etiquette tips for spectators both at the stadium and at home.  

Keep it Friendly.  Sunday is family day so children are typically in tow.  Keep the atmosphere friendly and comfortable for everyone.  Reserve the foul language for the street when you’re walking to your car at the end of the game and monitor your alcohol intake so you don’t embarrass yourself and regret your behavior the next day.  

Don’t Block the View. Super Bowl Sunday is one of the rare times that the television should be the center of focus.  If indoors, don’t be a ninny and walk right in front of the set blocking everyone’s view as you cross the room to make your way to the hor's d’oeuvres table.  In the stadium, you are more apt to stand and shout for your team, just make sure those behind you can still see the game. And for goodness' sake, no giant hats or wild accessories that will prohibit the view.

Stay on Topic. On Super Bowl Sunday, the main conversation should be on the game. Know your facts beforehand so you are well-versed in the teams that are playing and the host city.  Learn the vernacular, know the difference between a touchdown and a field goal.  You want to be able to bond and converse with everyone.  This is not the time to bring up a serious conversation, mention a grave illness or ask for a job.  Superbowl Sunday is supposed to be fun. Keep the tone light and breezy and pay attention to the ball.  Here’s a complete glossary to everything you could possibly want to know for game day terminology.

Avoid Being the Know-It-All.  You may be the type of person who thrives on knowing every minute detail about the two football teams, the players and the controversy. And you may enjoy spending hours researching the commercials that will be shown during the game, but that information is best kept to yourself.  Today is not the day to sit on your soapbox espousing your knowledge. A know-it-all is a big turn off. 

Display Good Sportsmanship.  Wearing your teams jersey’s and caps, painting your body to show your support, showing the love by cheering them on is all perfectly fine.  What will not fly on Super Bowl Sunday is shouting expletives at the television screen or in the stadium when your team misses the ball or picking a fight with your neighbor because he did a victory dance for a touchdown for your opposing team.  Remember you are not playing in the game, you are just a fan!  Don’t make it personal!

Don’t Bet the Farm.  There are more Super Bowl pools than I care to imagine.  Know your limits.  If you’re an out of control gambler, designate the set amount for your bet before you leave the house so that you cannot be coerced into contributing more than you can afford.  There are plenty of pools to choose from and not all require a $500 ante.  You certainly don’t want to dip into your child’s college fund for a silly square on the football grid.    

Compliment the Chef.  Super Bowl Sunday is the second most popular eating day after Thanksgiving and food plays a major part in the enjoyment.  Hosts spend weeks preparing the special menu of finger foods typically based around the two playing teams hometown favorites. If invited to a party or partaking in a tailgate, take a sec to compliment the chef and, whatever you do, remember not to double dip! 

You Gotta Give Thanks. Of course, it goes without mentioning to make sure you thank the host before you leave and follow up with a nice handwritten thank you note the following day.  The same goes, especially, for anyone who graced you with coveted tickets to the game. That may warrant a special gift of thanks to go with your note!

Who do you think is going to win this year's Superbowl? Did you place a bet? Do you have a special Superbowl dish? Share with us, we'd love to hear from you!