The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

Category Archives: Making an impression

the face

There’s the face. And then, there’s the face. The face that can convey a thousand words and a range of emotion. As parents, wives and husbands, we learn early on how to make a face for nearly any occasion. One that says exactly what we are thinking. To my husband, I can say That’s bathroom humor and it’s not funny with my face. To my children, I can say You have got to speak up. This is an older person and they can’t hear you if you speak to the ground. Oh, and look at him when you’re talking…There you go. Much better. without speaking a word.

It took some time to perfect, don’t get me wrong. Once we were eating at a Mexican restaurant with friends. Parents in one booth, kids in another booth. I had watched Emma double dip for just about as long as I could, so I zapped her with a look. She thought I meant for her to wipe her mouth. I gave a short shake of the head. Zapped her again. She thought I meant for her to wipe Ben’s mouth. I gave another short shake of the head. Zapped her again. She thought I was asking her if she needed to go to the ladies room. So, I picked up a chip from our basket and held it up for her to see. Darrell grabbed it and said, “Thanks, Babe” and went on with the adult conversation taking place using words and not this crazy facial language I was trying to invent and use – all in one sitting.

But, there’s another kind of face. The face that sneaks up and jumps out.

          

I happened to catch Darrell’s face as Emma showed him her new eye make-up. His voice said, “You aren’t wearing that around any boys, are you?” but his face said My little girl. Wearing make-up. What happened to the time??  

Darrell’s face reminded me of me as I sat through a meeting this week. During the meeting, I found myself astounded as I listened to a person describe all the reasons he didn’t like his job. Suffice it to say he isn’t a big fan of work in general, so the whole 40-hours-a-week thing seems to be just messing him up.  About halfway through, I caught myself wearing a you have got to be kidding me expression.  Where I should have remained neutral, my face was likely giving me away. Not very business etiquette-y of me.

See, our faces give away our emotions and emotion should be rationed out in careful measures at work. Guard your reactions, keep them close and give yourself time to think through the situation before allowing your face to scream My baaaaaby’s wearing make-up!

what’s new, cupcake?

There has been a book fair at my children’s school over the last few days. And, let me just say… It would help me out a lot if the book fair would sell only books. No erasers shaped like ice cream cones. No 36″ pencils in a flourescent yellow. No little spiral bound notepads with patterned paper. Books. The kind you read.

Naturally, Emma found a book on cupcakes that she couldn’t live without. It’s called What’s New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

The cupcake creations are unreal. The creativity and planning that must have gone into these cupcakes….it’s admirable, actually. The book breaks down every step and shows every tool used to create everything from a golf course to these cute little ducks (you can thank a doughnut hole for that cute little head). It made me think about the tools we use and the steps we take in the hope that we are creating the person we truly want to be.

Do your clothes flatter you and give you confidence? Do your friends bring out your best? Does your attitude inspire others or turn them away? What are you reading right now? Is it food for the brain or junk?

It’s ok if you’ve veered off course a tad. Just make some small adjustments.

Go on, Cupcake. Change things up a little bit.

what's new, cupcake?

There has been a book fair at my children’s school over the last few days. And, let me just say… It would help me out a lot if the book fair would sell only books. No erasers shaped like ice cream cones. No 36″ pencils in a flourescent yellow. No little spiral bound notepads with patterned paper. Books. The kind you read.

Naturally, Emma found a book on cupcakes that she couldn’t live without. It’s called What’s New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

The cupcake creations are unreal. The creativity and planning that must have gone into these cupcakes….it’s admirable, actually. The book breaks down every step and shows every tool used to create everything from a golf course to these cute little ducks (you can thank a doughnut hole for that cute little head). It made me think about the tools we use and the steps we take in the hope that we are creating the person we truly want to be.

Do your clothes flatter you and give you confidence? Do your friends bring out your best? Does your attitude inspire others or turn them away? What are you reading right now? Is it food for the brain or junk?

It’s ok if you’ve veered off course a tad. Just make some small adjustments.

Go on, Cupcake. Change things up a little bit.

3 ingredients

All it takes is 3 ingredients. Dump these 3 into a slow cooker, wait 8-10 hours and you’ve got the ground floor for tonight’s dinner. Are you getting this?  You put 3 ingredients in the pot, go about your business and come back to find the prize.

You know I’m going to twist this into a civility thing, so here it is: There are also 3 ingredients in order to make your attempts at civility worthwhile.

Discretion

Compassion

Patience

You dump these 3 into your pot of business deals and relationships, let it stew there for a while because people have to know you’re genuine. Come back later and you’ll discover you’ve built the ground floor for success and happiness.  

Discretion

Compassion

Patience

Or, a 3-4 lb. Boston Butt, a jar of BBQ sauce and a can of Coke cooked on Low for 8-10 hours.

It’s really just whatever you’re into.

Honesty? Not always.

This may come as a shock to some, but honesty is not always what people want or need to hear.

From you.

You heard me.

It’s your not plight in life to make sure people know your innermost thoughts. It’s not your place to “offer advice” to your co-worker on her hairstyle or clothes choices or, heaven forbid, husband choices.

Honesty has been a hot topic over the last couple of weeks. I’ve seen some online conversations about it and someone posted a question about honesty on my Facebook wall. Here is the question and my response:

Question: Dear Kate T. Lewis…[Let me just interrupt for a second. Feel free to call me Kate. You don’t have to say the T.  I know it can be confusing. An interviewer once referred to me as KT throughout an entire TV segment. I’ve often wondered if she thought I was rapper.] I have a question for you to ponder… listening to a popular radio program yesterday they were asking the question, should you give your friends/family unsolicated criticism especially about the way they look or are dressed? (ie… your dress is just a little too tight, or that hair style you’re going for isn’t working for you) I give it to my husband often, but he never gives it to me — so I ask… should we keep our thoughts to ourselves and let those dear to us look bad, or should we intervene?

AnswerI would ask you this: Does the person dear to you “look bad” because it’s your opinion that what she is wearing isn’t becoming? Or, do they “look bad” because they are struggling with something and it’s affecting their appearance? If your sister shows up at a family dinner looking rumpled and unclean, it’s your duty as someone who cares for her to find out if she’s ok. That’s a very different conversation than if you were to approach her with “your hair looks terrible and you need to iron your shirt.” Rather than unsolicited criticism, that’s inquiring about her well-being. If you are bothered by someone’s appearance because you would simply choose something different…well…there are some things that are none of your business. Great question!!

Got it? Good.

per emma & ben

This morning over breakfast, I asked Emma and Ben what I should blog about. They both said I should use this great spring weather and the blooming flowers.

hmmm….

“But, what’s the point?” I asked them. “What do you mean, What’s the point?” Ben asked.

Sigh. Twice, for good measure. Clearly they are only into this blogging business for the pictures. Or, what they can complain about since on Friday, Ben said to me, “I thought I told you not to put me in your blog anymore, Mom. Anybody in the whole world can see it.” First of all, I had to talk to him about how young people talk to adults, because he wasn’t doing it right. Secondly, I had to tell him how I have better judgment than to put something compromising about my own child on the world wide web.  It’s not like I put his mug up with a For Sale sign over his head.

………

Sorry. I’m back. My mind wandered.   

So, I explained to them that with each post, I use an everyday home or work situation and look for something useful in it. A lesson. A nugget of truth.

After a few seconds of putting way more cinnamon roll than is necessary in his mouth, Ben said, “Don’t smell all the flowers.”  Emma looked at me nodding her agreement.

Thanks, kids, I’ll take it from here….

They’re right. Not everything that looks good  – is good. There are bright shining objects that get our attention and draw us in. And, there are smooth-talking people that say everything we want to hear. But, it’s up to us to determine if we should actually walk up and take a sniff. So, we’re back to using good judgment. Using discretion and showing integrity. The flowers in your career that you should smell every chance you get are the opportunities to meet new people, to learn new things and to share your knowledge. Focus on what is productive and right. Not just what appears most appealing at the time.

So, thank you, Emma and Ben for pointing us in the right direction.

(See? I do put nice things on this blog about y’all!)

cowboy cool

It’s Friday and I’ve got a little something for you to think about. Other than how sore this guy must have been the next morning.

 

Try not to run through your day like a bull coming out of the chute…aimless and throwing people to the side.

 

Be calm, take in your environment, think through your next move, value people around you so you can learn from them, be considerate, be encouraging, be courteous even when you don’t feel like it.

Just be nice. Be cool.

 

Be Cowboy Cool.

And Have a GREAT weekend!

don't panic

This morning as I am standing in front of the bathroom mirror, makeup drawer open, hair wet, about to start the great transformation, Ben walked in. With that oh-my-gosh-what-is-going-on-here look, he said, “Mom. What are you doing? We’ve got to go!” How can it be 7:30 already????….my mind and my pulse went into overdrive.

My reaction wasn’t graceful. It was almost as if I had lost my footing. I started picking up things and putting them down in a panic. After I moved around the hairspray, the toothpaste, my bedroom shoes and pushed Ben back with my forearm as if I were protecting him from impact, I grabbed my watch.

7:09. And, he was gone.

I should have known better than to listen to him. This talk coming from the fella who can’t keep up with time for anything?  Who can’t keep up with his pencil at school, who can’t keep up with his pencil at home and has been known to lose his own bookbag in his own room? Still, when someone pairs the facial expression with the words that you are way off base about something, it’s human nature to react.

I knew it couldn’t have been 7:30 already. Deep down, I knew. But, the morning rush is no time for practical jokes. (I think he understands this now.) And, I was just as much at fault for succumbing. (Not really – he’s completely to blame for the bruise on my shin since I would not have used it to shut the drawer had he not started with me this morning.)

So, today’s mantra:  Don’t panic. Especially when people around you are tempting you to do so. Only you know when it’s time for you to panic, so don’t let someone else fling their stricken state on you. Keep your head about you and know that when others are acting with wild abandon (now there’s an image…wet hair, bathrobe, no makeup and wild abandon), you will end up leading the pack with your calm and rational demeanor.

As the posters say, Keep Calm and Carry On.

don’t panic

This morning as I am standing in front of the bathroom mirror, makeup drawer open, hair wet, about to start the great transformation, Ben walked in. With that oh-my-gosh-what-is-going-on-here look, he said, “Mom. What are you doing? We’ve got to go!” How can it be 7:30 already????….my mind and my pulse went into overdrive.

My reaction wasn’t graceful. It was almost as if I had lost my footing. I started picking up things and putting them down in a panic. After I moved around the hairspray, the toothpaste, my bedroom shoes and pushed Ben back with my forearm as if I were protecting him from impact, I grabbed my watch.

7:09. And, he was gone.

I should have known better than to listen to him. This talk coming from the fella who can’t keep up with time for anything?  Who can’t keep up with his pencil at school, who can’t keep up with his pencil at home and has been known to lose his own bookbag in his own room? Still, when someone pairs the facial expression with the words that you are way off base about something, it’s human nature to react.

I knew it couldn’t have been 7:30 already. Deep down, I knew. But, the morning rush is no time for practical jokes. (I think he understands this now.) And, I was just as much at fault for succumbing. (Not really – he’s completely to blame for the bruise on my shin since I would not have used it to shut the drawer had he not started with me this morning.)

So, today’s mantra:  Don’t panic. Especially when people around you are tempting you to do so. Only you know when it’s time for you to panic, so don’t let someone else fling their stricken state on you. Keep your head about you and know that when others are acting with wild abandon (now there’s an image…wet hair, bathrobe, no makeup and wild abandon), you will end up leading the pack with your calm and rational demeanor.

As the posters say, Keep Calm and Carry On.

Another surprise, another lesson

We had the nicest surprise on Saturday afternoon. Friends we had not seen in years pulled up in the driveway! The Hubs and I were thrilled to see their smiling faces! I could not believe my eyes!   And, in hindsight, I could not believe I hugged and talked and laughed like my hair wasn’t wet and getting frizzier by the minute.

Unlike June Cleaver, my house and I are not often company-ready. Company-willing? Yes! I love drop-in company and spur of the moment get-togethers. But my lipstick is usually in the last place I look and my hairdo is usually leftover from yesterday unless I have a reason to fire up the flatiron. Our friends were quick to apologize for not calling first and I was quick to apologize for the Flashdance hair, so we spent a fair amount of time going around in that circle.

We had such a nice visit that I decided right then and there that we should all back off. Yep, that’s right. Back off the rigidity of looking for the perfect moment to make that phone call to the friend of a friend who lost a loved one. Back off looking for that perfect recipe for that delicious pie your mom once made to take to your neighbor. Back off the hesitation to tell your boss congratulations (yes, your boss!) on a job well done because you don’t think you will say it well.  

You may have heard me say this but having nice manners isn’t about following a bunch of rules. However, you should know the rules well enough so that you can show some grace and charm.

Just pull up in someone’s driveway and say Hello. You won’t believe what fun it will be.

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