Using Friends to Teach your Children

Hi Friends,

I hope you're having a fabulous day, truly.  I haven't been blogging much lately but really want to.  I have been so busy with new products and new ideas at The Etiquette Factory that it has really overtaken my time.  Here's what I would like to share with you today.

Use your resources!  As a homeschool mom, I am always so grateful for the freedom that comes with homeschooling our children.  The opportunities are truly endless.  This year, I am taking advantage of friends without abusing them I hope.  I took an inventory of the many friends I have and the gifts that they have been blessed with.  From that, I have come up with a couple of great activities that are truly blessing my son's school experience this year.

First, there is Mr. Heningson.  He is in his eighties and we go to church with him.  He is an amazing carpenter.  He can turn any piece of wood into an amazing piece of art.  I decided I would ask him if he would mind giving my son a lesson once a week for an hour on carpentry, woodworking, etc.  I wanted him to teach my son about all the different tools carpenters use, how to use them safely and help my son show his creativity through woodworking.  Of course I was expecting to pay him but as it turns out, Mr. Heningson absolutely refuses to take payment.  He says that he is so excited to be able to teach a young person these skills and that he is very lonely and Sawyer coming over once a week gives him something to look forward to.  What a blessing he is.  Since he won't take payment, I have been able to take him a few gift certificates, pies, etc that he doesn't seem to turn down so I don't feel so guilty.

Secondly, one of my friends is a cardiovascular surgeon at a local hospital.  Because my son is so fascinated with surgery or like he says, "cutting on people" (yes I know this should worry me), we have set up a time that my son can go and interview him at lunch next week.  He has written 10 questions to ask him and is so excited for this opportunity.

I am recruiting and using other friends for other things which I will share later, but the point is, whether you home school or not, use your resources.  Our greatest resources are the people we know and the gifts and talents they possess.  Use the barter system.  I barter lots of things like I will give a family a free etiquette lesson in exchange for my son to get a free guitar lesson, etc.  Think of what you have to offer and then think of what you can barter with.  It's really a great way to expose our children to many things.

Have a great day!  Blessings to all.
a.k.a. Mary Manners

Speaking Positive About our Children

I pray that your summer was everything you wanted it to be.  Mostly, I pray that you found yourself counting your many blessings and feeling grateful for families.  I want to talk about how we interact with our children this month.  I know we’ve touched on this subject before, but I feel that we can’t speak of it enough.  As I visited the malls, restaurants and busy areas through the summer, I heard many comments that stung my heart.  So here we go.

I was standing speaking to a lady as her children were standing behind her.  The children became a little noisy (I thought perfectly acceptable since the mom and I had been yapping for sometime), but the mom turned to her children and said in a very frustrated tone, “Why are you all so rude?  Can I not have one conversation without my children acting like wild animals?”  Her children just looked down, obviously humiliated, and then she turned to finish the conversation with me.  She then said to me, “My children sometimes have manners but you would never know it today.  They embarrass me quite often.”  I told her I was impressed that her children stood quietly as long as they did and quickly told her I must hurry off.  We then went our separate ways.  Now before you say, “What’s the big deal?” let me plead my case.  It is never, never, never OK to embarrass or humiliate our children, especially in front of others.  I know we’ve spoken about not correcting our children in front of others, but that also means we never speak anything but praises about our children to others when our children are present.

This world we and our children live in today is not always the nicest place with the nicest people.  I know that our children are faced almost every day with ugliness, rudeness, teasing, bullying, and many more unpleasant things.  It is our obligation and pleasure to everyday think of how we can “build up” our children.  One way we do this is always speaking kindly of them to others.  Now I don’t mean that you’re going to go around “bragging all day” about all your child’s accomplishments but YES, let your children hear you praise them.  NEVER tell others when your children our present of how you are disappointed or frustrated with them.  These conversations should be private between you and your children in the spirit of correction with love.  Remember, it’s OK to correct, but it must be done in private.

I’ve heard moms say in front of their children things like:

“Oh, he’s not my smartest child.” or
“I do wish she didn’t have her grandmother’s nose.”  or
“He’s not very athletic but we’re hoping he excels in music.”  or
“She can be very manipulative, but we’re really watching her these days.”

Please stop!!!!  Please don’t ever speak unkindly or announce your children’s faults in the presence of your children.  Children want others to believe that they are perfect in the eyes of their parents.  They know they’re not really perfect and they know that you know they’re not, but it is a betrayal if a parent announces these hurtful comments in front of their children.

We have to guard our children’s hearts as if they are the most special, the most fragile, and the most lovely thing about our children.  Please be so careful with your words.  I am guilty of this blunder myself as I’m sure we all are.  Let’s just be more careful and strive to find and announce all our children’s strengths, so that they know we love them and that we are so proud of them.  This gives them the confidence they need to face the world.    As we strive to build them up, they will strive to continue to please us.  It’s the true nature of parent/children relationships.

Have a great month!
Monica Irvine
a.k.a. Mary Manners

Funeral Etiquette

Hi friends.  Please don’t be alarmed at our subject matter this month.  Although it might not be our favorite topic, I know that this is very important and sometimes knowing a few skills can help all of us feel more comfortable when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations.  How many of us have experienced the situation where someone we know has lost a loved one and we don’t quite know what we should do?  Should we call?  Should we send flowers?  Should we take over food?  What?  Let’s talk about it. 

First, I would like to share a quick story before I list a few helpful hints.  Several years ago I had a friend whose husband died very tragically and suddenly.  He was very young.  I wasn’t super close to this lady, but our children were good friends.  When I heard, I was of course so saddened and shocked that I couldn’t even fathom what she must be going through.  So...I picked up the phone to call her.  I just wanted to tell her how sorry I was.  She didn’t answer so I just left a message on her voicemail.  I can’t remember what I said, but I remember just wanting her to know how my heart ached for her and her family and that I would be spending time on my knees in her behalf.  That’s all I knew to say.  I assumed that she was surrounded by family and friends and probably was being well cared for.  To my surprise, a couple of months after this incident, I was speaking to her one day and she said to me, “Monica, do you realize that you were the only person that called me?”  I was completely shocked.  I didn’t understand and my heart hurt even worse for her.  Now please don’t think I’m telling you this so you can “pat” me on the back and say “Good job Monica.”  Not at all.  As I’ve thought about this over the years, I’ve realized that the reason they didn’t call is not because they didn’t care, but because they didn’t know how.  They were afraid they would say the wrong thing, or not know what to say and then it would be awkward, etc. etc.  I realized that day, how important it was to forget about my own comfort level, my own fears, my own inhibitions and just reach out.  We don’t have to know what to say.  We don’t have to have all the answers.  We don’t have to have ANY answers.  But we do have to let others know that we care and the only way to do that is to ACT. 

Here are a few etiquette suggestions that I think may help:
Sending a card quickly is a wonderful way to express your condolences.   It shows you took the time out of your day to send a few words of encouragement and love.
Check the obituary or contact the funeral home to find out the details of the services.  This way the family is not burdened with so many questions about the schedule.
Honor flower/donation request.  If a family requests a donation to a charitable organization in lieu of flowers, it is important to honor the family’s wishes; otherwise, it is customary to send flowers for the service.
Show your support by offering to do things for the family like; volunteer to pick up their dry cleaning, shop for groceries, deliver meals, help out with household chores.  You can also make necessary phone calls or volunteer to stay at their house and receive guests and food while the family members make arrangements at the funeral home or cemetery.
Wear Proper Funeral Attire. It’s important to dress appropriately for the service. While there is no longer a requirement to wear all black, it is always safe to wear conservative clothing in dark or neutral colors.
Arrive Early.  Make sure you arrive 15 minutes before the service begins.  Remember to turn off all cell phones and all electronic devices.
Turn on your Headlights if you are part of the funeral procession.
If a funeral procession is passing you, it is polite to pull to the side of the road until the entire procession is past.
Make sure and check in on the family a couple of days after the services.  Now is a better time for longer conversations and words of empathy and encouragement.
Remember it is more important to listen than to talk.  Usually, during these difficult times, what you do is so much more important than what you say.  Listen, hug, share a cry, pray with them and simply offer your friendship and love. 
Some suggested things to say; “I’m sorry for your loss,” “You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers,” “I’m here for you,” “Please accept my sympathy.”
There are some things, inappropriate to say.  Although they may be true, it is the family’s decision to reach to these conclusions.  For instance, “They’re in a better place,” “At least they’re no longer suffering,” “We should rejoice for their deliverance.”

Overall, just remember that a true friend is there to bear one another’s burdens, to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort and to lift those down trodden.  Be sincere.  Just be there.

Have a great month,
Monica Irvine
a.k.a. Mary Manners

Some of the above suggestions came from the Berry Funeral Home Website.

Fitness Center Etiquette

OK people...let’s get down to business.  I thought that since we’re all motivated to work out 7 days a week for 2 hours a day, being the first of the year and all, we might want to review a few etiquette skills for the gym.  To those of you who have already cut back to once per week for 20 minutes, I probably wouldn’t worry about etiquette but rather commitment.  Regardless, let’s review for the fun of it.

Please refrain from using your cellphone in the gym.  Here’s a couple of reasons: #1, IT’S DISTRACTING!  When others are trying to focus on running, weightlifting, watching aerobic steps or trying to breath in yoga class, they don’t want to hear a conversation about your neighbors’ dog or your husband’s socks or anything.  #2  Because since most cell phones now have cameras on them, it’s just simply not appropriate; not in the gym and most definitely not in the locker room, period.

Let’s talk hygiene.  Please don’t go to the gym if you have a bad cough or sneezing situation.  Every single person working out around someone coughing and sneezing is thinking, “GERMS” and it grosses us out.  Now let’s talk sweat.  Realizing that most of us sweat and that’s the whole idea of working out,  let’s make sure however, that our smell doesn’t go beyond our body.  Meaning, if you come to the gym already smelling bad, please shower before you go into the workout areas and cause discomfort to everyone around you.  Just try to be mindful of your smell (use deodorant).  Lastly, always wipe down your machine, especially if you were sweating while using it.  This helps all of us cut down on germs.

Please dress appropriately.  What does this mean?  It means do not wear loose, wide-leg shorts that show all your “business.”  We don’t need to see that.  Women, be aware of your “business” too.  Going to the gym is not about what you can show, but about what you can accomplish.

When you’re in the locker room, can we say “TOWEL” people???  OK, so I realize that men are sometimes more comfortable with their bodies than women, but it is not polite to assume that everyone in your company is comfortable with seeing all your birthmarks.  Remember, proper etiquette is about helping those around you to feel valued and comfortable.  This is kind of hard when someone in the locker room comes up to you to speak about carpooling or the latest stock market numbers in their birthday suit.  I can’t concentrate in these conditions people.  I beg of you to put a towel on!!!!!

Please no urinating in the gym shower.  Need I say more?  I recommend flip flops for the rest of us.

Let’s speak for a moment about groaning and grunting. :)  All I want to say is that it’s OK to do, unless it sounds like the scene of a bedroom instead of the gym.  Let’s keep these noises under control.

Please no spitting in the water fountain.  YUCK!!!  I won’t describe what I saw once in a water fountain.  I’m not sure whoever deposited it there meant for it to come out when they spit, but.....IT DID.

It’s not polite to correct someone’s form or style of exercise unless they ask for your help.

If you decide to work out with your significant other, please remember to keep your eyes on your weights.....or your significant other.

Please try not to “hog” a machine, especially in busy times.  If you are determined to stay on the stair climber for 1 hour, then consider going to the gym during the “off time.”  Usually, 30 minutes is the maximum time to use a machine when others are waiting.

Please put away workout equipment after use.  This is considerate to others who will come behind you making it easy for them to find the equipment.

OK, I’ll stop.  I think that’s enough to help all of our gym experiences to go more smoothly.  If we’re blessed enough to be able to work out at a gym, let’s be considerate, kind and aware as we enjoy this privilege.  2012, here we come!

Have a great month,
Monica Irvine
a.k.a. Mary Manners