The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

Category Archives: Gifts

be sincere, not showy

And, here, I give you…….the power of the handwritten note.

Yes, it’s written on a piece of toilet paper. Yes, it has a grammatical error. There isn’t a comma to speak of. There is no form. But, there is no way this doesn’t make you smile. At least on the inside.

Don’t just think it. Tell somebody. Post-it note. Smoke signal. Pony Express. Don’t stress over making it just exactly right. It’s the sentiment, not the show.

 

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the pants problem

Yesterday was a kinda, sorta big day. I had a job interview! Talk about putting into practice what you preach…that was me. I did all the prep work to make sure I was well-groomed, well-versed and well-rested for the meeting and felt fairly pleased with myself until I pulled my pants from the hanger 10 minutes prior to departure. The button was missing. And there was a little pulling action in the tailgate area. I thought they were ready to go because they had come back from the cleaners a couple of weeks before Christmas – I had worn them with pride then. Clearly, a lot can happen a couple of weeks before (and after) Christmas.  One safety pin and a mid-thigh length coat later, I jiggled out the door and on to potential and possibility. Lesson: Even when your clothes come back from the cleaners, try them on your person before appointment time. And, if you find yourself in a pickle like this, don’t panic. Get creative, do what you can and forget it.

In the midst of the morning pants problem, I agreed to a 9:30pm Skype appointment with my friend, B, in Boulder. That’s 9:30 at night, in case you missed that. At 7:45, after a bowl of warm chicken and dumplings and after a warm bath, I discovered another lesson for the day: don’t make any decisions during a pants problem. After yesterday’s post, we are clear on my sleep requirements, right? So, I had some time to kill. Not that there isn’t plenty to do around the house, but after chicken and dumplings and a bath??

So, as I’m … I don’t know what I was doing … waiting … I smelled something scrumptious coming from the kitchen. I’m just really sorry if you have children that are into sports, art, drama, whatever…and don’t cook. This is what Emma had done to me…

Pecan Fingers. You're welcome.

Hello, pants problem.

I may have had a few. They were warm! It was the only thing to do.

My mother-in-law, who is a wonderful cook, made the batter for these lovelies, wrapped it in Saran Wrap and sent it to us. She said to keep it in the fridge, roll out a few at the time (or all of them), cook and enjoy. What a thoughtful thing to give someone! I had envisioned a quiet afternoon, a cup of hot tea in a pretty cup, 2 of these on a pretty plate. The reality was me in my pink flannel bathrobe, standing at the counter eating them like potato chips.

Why do we continue to do what we know contributes to the very problem we are trying to correct? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. May my lessons be your help and guide.  And, as you read these lessons, you can bet your tailgate I’m at the gym.

new holiday etiquette, part 2: party preppin’ & etiquette-cool

Welcome to part 2 of New Holiday Etiquette! In case you missed it, here is the link to part 1.

Pre-Party Preppin’ Time

Another emerging and perfectly acceptable way to gather for a meal this season is for the host to make a plan and ask each guest to help execute it. In other words, ask each guest to gather a particular list of ingredients and show up at specified time. When each person arrives, give them a festive apron to don (this could even serve as a party favor for your guests to take home! I suggest one from The Hip Hostess.) while they chop, stir and mix their way toward the intended dish and, ultimately, the dinner table. It’s communal, it’s fun and it’s not intended to be perfect. This will create a relaxed atmosphere where stressed out folks can meet new friends and have an easy and entertaining evening. Faux pas are expected with this relaxed approach, so drop the ‘entertaining with etiquette’ and ‘when will I be served’ expectations. Lend your host a hand and have some fun. However, moderation is key. While informal is good, cellphone manners remain firmly in place: Phone is turned off or at the very least put on vibrate (for whatever emergency you are anticipating, have warned others about and asked for forgiveness) and no texting. These are non-negotiable. This is isn’t high school. 
 
Etiquette-Cool Style
While the trend in the etiquette world (and the world at large) is to relax from convention and rigidity, it is still a requirement that you treat others with thoughtful consideration.

 Wouldn’t you prefer the gifts you receive to come with thoughtful consideration? Uh-huh, thought so. I mean, just how many scarves do you want, anyway? So, you gift the way you would like to be gifted. Teachers, for example, would probably love a prepared and frozen casserole they can bring out for their families. Or, when it’s time to find a hostess gift, reach for something applicable to their personality, not just something that happens to be sold on the path from your door to theirs, or the typical bottle of wine. You could even make a donation in their honor to a cause you know they are particularly fond of.

Further, people find it thoughtful and endearing to ask a question before making an assumption.  The original Emily Post might have trouble with this one. Let’s say you are introduced to Mr. Pearson. The lady standing next to Mr. Pearson is his wife, but she goes by her maiden name, Cannon. You have to listen when the intro is made or you’ll miss that one. And, if you do catch the difference in names, it’s ok to simply confirm what you heard. “Your name is Pearson and your name is Cannon. Did I get that right?” People have all sorts of reasons to not share a last name, none of which is any of your business, so just make sure to know their names and move on. Or, let’s say you are invited to a Winter Cookout. Will you really eat outside? Should you dress to be outside for 2 hours?? Rather than feeling uneasy about what to expect or trying to figure it out on your own, just call up the host and ask. It’s ok to ask! That initiative shows you are interested in making the function a success and are ready to come prepared.

 Thoughtful consideration works like a charm. 
 
Your Guests

When you are considering hosting a holiday event, step out of your norm when you are making the guest list. The world is a much smaller place than when it was appropriate to only have intimate family Christmas dinners. Think of the people you know whose family live in faraway lands. Perhaps you have friends who have chosen not to travel to visit family this year. Perhaps you know someone who lost a loved one during the year. Share the wealth of your holiday cheer and invite one and all. Bring them into your fold with the same treatment your usual clan gets by including them in whatever traditions you have. If you each open a small gift, have one ready for your new guests to unwrap. if you work in a soup kitchen in the hours leading up to your own dinner, invite your guests along. 
 
Now, the party’s over, it was a blast and your memories are engrained and ready to be shared. Before you click ‘Enter’ on your Facebook password, remember this new etiquette for this new thing called social media: 
*Posting a remark about last night’s awesome party with a list of people who were especially entertaining will only serve to make someone feel left out and that’s not etiquette-cool. And, you can’t disguise it with a post that starts with ‘Thank you Lisa & Bob for an incredible dinner last night.’ That’s still revealing too much. 
*Don’t post pictures from the event no matter how good your hair looks in the candlelight. While you may be so impressed with your locks, you could be killing the reputation of the guy in the background who is double-fisting his merriment. 
*A Facebook status or Tweet does not take the place of a thank-you note. Be more genuine than that. Drop a note in the mail or call up your host to tell them specifically what you enjoyed so much. 
*Stay positive! People have enough mediums to reinforce their level of stress, so back off comments like, “My co-workers are driving me crazy” or “I’m so sick of Christmas shopping”. Instead, share a golden nugget like an online retailer’s free shipping promo code or where to shop that offers pretty gift-wrapping. 

 Don’t be afraid to try something new – even at Christmas. Your invitation to chop or your just-right-for-them gift may be just what you friend needs.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

new holiday etiquette, part 2: party preppin' & etiquette-cool

Welcome to part 2 of New Holiday Etiquette! In case you missed it, here is the link to part 1.

Pre-Party Preppin’ Time

Another emerging and perfectly acceptable way to gather for a meal this season is for the host to make a plan and ask each guest to help execute it. In other words, ask each guest to gather a particular list of ingredients and show up at specified time. When each person arrives, give them a festive apron to don (this could even serve as a party favor for your guests to take home! I suggest one from The Hip Hostess.) while they chop, stir and mix their way toward the intended dish and, ultimately, the dinner table. It’s communal, it’s fun and it’s not intended to be perfect. This will create a relaxed atmosphere where stressed out folks can meet new friends and have an easy and entertaining evening. Faux pas are expected with this relaxed approach, so drop the ‘entertaining with etiquette’ and ‘when will I be served’ expectations. Lend your host a hand and have some fun. However, moderation is key. While informal is good, cellphone manners remain firmly in place: Phone is turned off or at the very least put on vibrate (for whatever emergency you are anticipating, have warned others about and asked for forgiveness) and no texting. These are non-negotiable. This is isn’t high school. 
 
Etiquette-Cool Style
While the trend in the etiquette world (and the world at large) is to relax from convention and rigidity, it is still a requirement that you treat others with thoughtful consideration.

 Wouldn’t you prefer the gifts you receive to come with thoughtful consideration? Uh-huh, thought so. I mean, just how many scarves do you want, anyway? So, you gift the way you would like to be gifted. Teachers, for example, would probably love a prepared and frozen casserole they can bring out for their families. Or, when it’s time to find a hostess gift, reach for something applicable to their personality, not just something that happens to be sold on the path from your door to theirs, or the typical bottle of wine. You could even make a donation in their honor to a cause you know they are particularly fond of.

Further, people find it thoughtful and endearing to ask a question before making an assumption.  The original Emily Post might have trouble with this one. Let’s say you are introduced to Mr. Pearson. The lady standing next to Mr. Pearson is his wife, but she goes by her maiden name, Cannon. You have to listen when the intro is made or you’ll miss that one. And, if you do catch the difference in names, it’s ok to simply confirm what you heard. “Your name is Pearson and your name is Cannon. Did I get that right?” People have all sorts of reasons to not share a last name, none of which is any of your business, so just make sure to know their names and move on. Or, let’s say you are invited to a Winter Cookout. Will you really eat outside? Should you dress to be outside for 2 hours?? Rather than feeling uneasy about what to expect or trying to figure it out on your own, just call up the host and ask. It’s ok to ask! That initiative shows you are interested in making the function a success and are ready to come prepared.

 Thoughtful consideration works like a charm. 
 
Your Guests

When you are considering hosting a holiday event, step out of your norm when you are making the guest list. The world is a much smaller place than when it was appropriate to only have intimate family Christmas dinners. Think of the people you know whose family live in faraway lands. Perhaps you have friends who have chosen not to travel to visit family this year. Perhaps you know someone who lost a loved one during the year. Share the wealth of your holiday cheer and invite one and all. Bring them into your fold with the same treatment your usual clan gets by including them in whatever traditions you have. If you each open a small gift, have one ready for your new guests to unwrap. if you work in a soup kitchen in the hours leading up to your own dinner, invite your guests along. 
 
Now, the party’s over, it was a blast and your memories are engrained and ready to be shared. Before you click ‘Enter’ on your Facebook password, remember this new etiquette for this new thing called social media: 
*Posting a remark about last night’s awesome party with a list of people who were especially entertaining will only serve to make someone feel left out and that’s not etiquette-cool. And, you can’t disguise it with a post that starts with ‘Thank you Lisa & Bob for an incredible dinner last night.’ That’s still revealing too much. 
*Don’t post pictures from the event no matter how good your hair looks in the candlelight. While you may be so impressed with your locks, you could be killing the reputation of the guy in the background who is double-fisting his merriment. 
*A Facebook status or Tweet does not take the place of a thank-you note. Be more genuine than that. Drop a note in the mail or call up your host to tell them specifically what you enjoyed so much. 
*Stay positive! People have enough mediums to reinforce their level of stress, so back off comments like, “My co-workers are driving me crazy” or “I’m so sick of Christmas shopping”. Instead, share a golden nugget like an online retailer’s free shipping promo code or where to shop that offers pretty gift-wrapping. 

 Don’t be afraid to try something new – even at Christmas. Your invitation to chop or your just-right-for-them gift may be just what you friend needs.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

flowers from afar

I have been shakin’ a tail feather this week! Dry cleaners to pick up the suit I’m wearing for a book signing  tomorrow tonight that I am going to cuss out if it even acts like it’s going to pucker around my thighs; Hobby Lobby to get some nice and generous person to cut a black mat to act as the backing on the tabletop poster for the signing; the Ford place to ask them politely and hurriedly to tell me WHY the low tire pressure light would come on on the day I needed to drive an hour – in the dark – going and coming for a very important event while my hunter husband scales the Rockies 7 states away?

And, in the middle of all this civilized chaos, the nicest thing happened.

I got a dozen roses from the hubs!  He gets a big ole A for the trouble he must have gone through to make that happen because they aren’t getting good cell service way out there. He called a few days ago using a calling card. When’s the last time you’ve heard of anybody using a calling card?? I’m envisioning him standing on one booted tippy-toe on the edge of a canyon holding his cell precariously between 2 gloved fingers, a bullet falling out of his pocket, Sam and Fortson (bros-in-law and partners in crime) balancing him out by tugging on the tail of his hunting jacket which is about to tear! ‘Can you hear me now?’ he says to Erica of Garlinda’s Garden all the way back in Perry, G-A…just to send me flowers. Awww…

OK…that’s enough of that…I’ve got stuff to do. But, take your queue from my hubs and go to a little trouble for somebody. Stand on the edge of your cliff and send somebody flowers from afar.

Happy Wednesday!

goodness gracious

All the comments floating around during World Gratitude Day about goodness and gratefulness has inspired me to DO something. I don’t know what, admittedly.  But, something. Something that will make a difference for someone… or something…in some way. All sounds rather vague, I know.

This morning, I’ve been tossing some ideas around in my head, but I keep eliminating one after the other. I thought about surprising the fam with a dinner out, but determined that was rather self-serving. I thought about baking a buttermilk pie for a friend who is having some health issues, but realized that wasn’t appropriate for someone on a strict diet. Then, it struck me…there is actually the right way to do good and that’s why I’m struggling to figure out what I can do in just the right manner.

I hope World Gratitude Day made you think about the good things of which you are capable. Even little things can be good! Don’t rack your brain for an act that will put you in the running for the  Nobel Peace Prize (the internet can only be invented once, after all) when you could change the course of the day for your next door neighbor or cube mate. So, when just the right good thing settles in your mind, remember these pointers so you can be gracious in your goodness.

Not everyone will think the idea is good. That’s to be expected! If everyone had just the same ideas and desires, there would be no variety in life. So, if someone should bring up all the things that could go wrong with your idea, don’t get defensive. Listen to these comments carefully. Digest this new information and use them to make your idea workable.

Make sure the idea is for them and not you. Remember, goodness for others isn’t supposed to throw you in the limelight. This is about the deed, not the glory.

This isn’t a one man show. Don’t be afraid or hesitant to ask for input, advice or help. If you believe you have devised a new way of processing customer requests for your company, seek out the stakeholders and ask for feedback. Put the idea on the table and let the group work through it together.

If your idea is grabbed by someone else, let it go. Unfortunately, some are more interested in getting the credit than getting it right. Rise above something so petty and certainly don’t try to announce that you were actually the mastermind.

Do the good, then move on. Let’s say you decide to whip up a couple of batches of your most delicious chocolate chip cookies for the office. Simply put them in a basket or on a platter and leave them in the break room. You might put a Post-It nearby that says ‘Enjoy!’. But, don’t sign your name. It will look like you are being showy. Also, there is no need to ration them out from your desk where people may feel awkward having to ask for one. If you truly want to share the cookies with your coworkers, make it easy for everyone to enjoy them. 

Now, I will dance at the funeral of anyone who can show me how my getting a massage today could be viewed as gracious and good for the world in general. Please. I’m begging.

When you are nervous

As a new school year begins, I am struck by the number of new beginnings happening this time of year.  People are  moving to a new town to start a new job.  People are moving within the same town in order to be in a certain school district. People are moving to a new position within their company. All sorts of reasons crop up that require us to reach slightly outside our comfort zone and this tends to make some people very uncomfortable. So, I am including a Daily Lesson from my book The Civilized Minute on being nervous. It’s a natural reaction to new responsibilities, new surroundings and new people.  However, there are pitfalls to nervousness that the professional should be aware of.  Be sure to consider the Savvy Suggestion at the end of the post that suggests how to use this information.  Remember, knowing what to do and actually doing it separates those that are good from those that are great.

I hope you find this post helpful for whatever new beginning you are lucky enough to be a part of.

When You are Nervous

Everybody gets nervous. If someone should tell you they don’t ever get nervous, they are lying. It’s even ok to be nervous. Being anxious means you are aware of your impact on a certain situation. The recognition that you play a role in producing a desired outcome should drive you to overcome those feelings. Listen to your own reactions regarding your environment and feed off that energy. Make this an internal exercise, though, because being visibly uneasy will make others question your expertise and worthiness.

Your physical presence can express more to those around you than your words. You can tell someone you aren’t nervous, but the glisten on your upper lip may say otherwise. Likewise, you can tell an interviewer you are experienced in sales, but if you fidget in your seat during the discussion, they are going to wonder just how many times you have actually had a conversation with a potential customer. A seasoned professional, they will think, would not be so uncomfortable while they talk about their work history.

Take note of these common nervous gestures and work to keep them at bay:

· Fidgeting. You may be bouncing your leg or tapping your fingertips on the table and not even realize it.

· Avoiding eye contact. Maintaining eye contact is imperative for you to appear confident.

· Touching your hair. This is a habit you may have developed and not know it. Women tend to put their hair behind their ears while men run their fingers through their hair.

· Gesturing with your hands. Moderate use of your hands during conversation is good. Wildly waving your arms about is not good.

· Closing your body. Crossing your arms over your chest, sitting in a chair angled away from the action, even clasping your hands in front of you can be subtle obstructions when trying to connect with someone.

Savvy Suggestion: Create a mock interview or meeting environment with a trusted friend. Video this exercise so you can critique your body language.

 

Which day is your day?

Maybe it’s because I have children that I  sometimes become stunned when people actually follow my direction.  My children, well, don’t always do that. 

I released my e-book called The Civilized Minute last week.  Here’s the cover. There are pages behind it.  They are filled with all sorts of trickery. Thirty days worth of trickery to be precise. It’s written so that you have a 1-minute read each day for 30 days with each day presenting a lesson in civility.

                                  the-civilized-minute

And, people are actually buying it.  AND, people are actually telling me about tips they have implemented – that are working.  They are saying things like, “I didn’t realize I was reacting so harshly to everyday situations” and “Day 9 is printed and posted on the office bulletin board”. 

So, admitting to the masses that this comes as a surprise to me probably does not make me appear…confident? sure? as if I know what I’m talking about?

Well, who doesn’t doubt their genius status every now and then? (Day 11 is pretty good help with this) I mean, don’t we all want to be liked? (Day 25) Don’t we all want to be viewed as a role model? (Day 5)

Am I tempting you yet?  Well, don’t let me stop you from 30 days of pure…well, you decide…but, be nice about it (Day 22).

Click here to decide which day is your day: The Civilized Minute e-book

daily candy kids – off the track

This issue of Daily Candy Kids it going to leave a mark. 

For those of you who don’t know about Daily Candy, it’s an editorial email delivered to your inbox filled with (normally) way cool happenings, discoveries and people to see in certain cities.  Daily Candy Kids “is an up-to-the-minute guide to the latest gear, fashion, and kiddie happenings”.  Truthfully, it’s a great concept.  Their content is entertaining and the pictures are always good. 

But, pretty and entertaining ain’t everything. Sometimes, it’s actually wrong.

On July 8, Daily Candy Kids wrote about a new service available to busy moms.  If you have a list of thank you notes that should be written, you can send the list of items received and who gave them to you and let this service write the note for you.  This is how it’s described in DCK…

“Think of her as a personal assistant who’s utterly charming and has great grammar. You enter your list of presents and gift-givers; [company owner] composes witty missives, which are printed with your choice of font (which could pass for actual handwriting).”

Are they seriously offering to impersonate gratitude? And, for a fee???

My personal grievances (I sincerely hope you have some of your own):

1) Thank you notes should be written by the person who received the gift.  Not your mother and not a paid service.  The gift-giver didn’t have either of these people in mind when they spent their hard earned money to recognize the big event in your life.  It’s impersonal and fake to let someone else attempt to verbalize why you so appreciate the thoughtful gesture.

2) The font they claim “could pass for actual handwriting” will look like a mail solicitation. 

3) You don’t have to be “utterly charming” when writing a thank you note.  You only need to be sincere.  This service isn’t concerned with the sincere factor.

Don’t fall into the age old trap of being sucked into something that is wrapped up in a pretty little package.  Look deeper.  Dig deeper.  Make sure you keep your identity and, above all else, be genuine.

Write someone a thank you note today and show these guys how it’s done!

daily candy kids – off the track

This issue of Daily Candy Kids it going to leave a mark. 

For those of you who don’t know about Daily Candy, it’s an editorial email delivered to your inbox filled with (normally) way cool happenings, discoveries and people to see in certain cities.  Daily Candy Kids “is an up-to-the-minute guide to the latest gear, fashion, and kiddie happenings”.  Truthfully, it’s a great concept.  Their content is entertaining and the pictures are always good. 

But, pretty and entertaining ain’t everything. Sometimes, it’s actually wrong.

On July 8, Daily Candy Kids wrote about a new service available to busy moms.  If you have a list of thank you notes that should be written, you can send the list of items received and who gave them to you and let this service write the note for you.  This is how it’s described in DCK…

“Think of her as a personal assistant who’s utterly charming and has great grammar. You enter your list of presents and gift-givers; [company owner] composes witty missives, which are printed with your choice of font (which could pass for actual handwriting).”

Are they seriously offering to impersonate gratitude? And, for a fee???

My personal grievances (I sincerely hope you have some of your own):

1) Thank you notes should be written by the person who received the gift.  Not your mother and not a paid service.  The gift-giver didn’t have either of these people in mind when they spent their hard earned money to recognize the big event in your life.  It’s impersonal and fake to let someone else attempt to verbalize why you so appreciate the thoughtful gesture.

2) The font they claim “could pass for actual handwriting” will look like a mail solicitation. 

3) You don’t have to be “utterly charming” when writing a thank you note.  You only need to be sincere.  This service isn’t concerned with the sincere factor.

Don’t fall into the age old trap of being sucked into something that is wrapped up in a pretty little package.  Look deeper.  Dig deeper.  Make sure you keep your identity and, above all else, be genuine.

Write someone a thank you note today and show these guys how it’s done!

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