Southern Graces by Miss Ella D

Pressing the Pause Button

By Miss Ella D

August 12, 2010

With temperatures at a seriously blazing 100º this afternoon, we are happily sitting inside our air conditioned home enjoying a movie and eating popcorn.  Well, my children are watching the “box” as I am watching them.  Their hands so small wrapped around the bowls and their teeth the size of Chicklets gum engulfing every bite, and I suddenly think ‘Where does the time go?’

People say ‘time flies,’ and while I would never disagree, today it is hitting me…hard….like a ton of bricks.  The little wonder that was not much bigger than a bag of sugar in my arms is now an athlete, a friend, and asking for his own cell phone.  Just yesterday, I was helping him learn to write his name, and today he is working on a MAC.

Days move slowly, but years have travelled at a pace too fast.  On Facebook (yes, admittedly, I do read it), a young girl who is leaving for college in a few weeks typed her status:  ‘wish I had a pause button.’  It made me catch my breath- ME TOO!  I love today so much I want to savor it, bottle it up, and cherish it.

With that being said, I have to really work at stopping to smell the roses- I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of every day- Is the laundry done? Are the lunches made? Did I make the calls for the local fundraiser?  There is so much to do and with so little time.

Here we go again with that four letter word…..time.  We need more of it- time to give our children the attention they deserve, listen to stories about their days, read one more book at bedtime, and scratch their backs to help them fall asleep.  What the mother (and my dear friend) would not give to have a little more of this precious time with her daughter who is about to embark on a new phase of life away from home, in a new college town, and sadly, apart from her mother.

I, too, am facing the reality of my child starting school.  Although our school is just a few miles away as opposed to a few hours, it is separation.  A door is opening for both our children- hers is college while mine is day school.  We are trying to each embrace it, relish in, and be proud of our creations.

Honestly, I just wish I had a channel master to life, and I could press the pause button.  Please let me dive into an endless pool of time that will let me soak up my children.  Please let me appreciate them and laugh at their silliness.  Please let me put that unnecessary band-aid on what is really not a boo-boo.  Please let me love them and enjoy them, and please give me just a little bit more time.

Miss Ella D

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Long Live Chivalry

By Miss Ella D

August 5, 2010

After a lovely visit with my father and his bride last week, we said our goodbyes after walking them to the door and onto the front porch.  My husband and I stood there waiting on them to load the car and drive off when we watched dad open the door for his wife.  That is right…he opened the door for her!

Were we at an event? Was it a special occasion at our home?  No, it was just a friendly visit to swap hellos and hugs.  What in the world??  I made a comment to my thoughtful husband about the chivalry of my parent’s generation.  With no intention of making a comparison to him (my guy is a jewel), I did have to comment….I was pretty wowed by this sight and secretly thinking back to when was the last time a car door was opened for me???

Undoubtedly, in our generation of women’s lib, equal rights, and “I am woman, hear me roar”, a bit of this chivalry has gone by the wayside.  I personally never wanted to pay for my own date, meet a guy out, or even call him first.

Remember the book, The Rules?  It was a guide on how to get a man and keep him.  It was simply how my grandmother did it…Play it cool, never let him see you cry, and don’t ever say yes to a date unless he has called by Wednesday.  I can hear her now reminiscing about the good ole days while sitting at the kitchen table snapping green beans, As the World Turns whispering in the background, and a pot of fresh homemade vegetable soup almost coming to a boil on the stove.  She would tell stories about her many gentlemen callers.  She was a diva no doubt!

We loved listening to her talk about those days before she met my granddaddy – the one that stole her heart and treated her like the queen she was raised to be.  Not because of wealth or status, but because she was such a lady!!  She lived and breathed it and expected that respect.  She was an incredible role model – as beautiful on the inside as on the outside.

Now, I understand times have changed, and we cannot totally live by this set of rules.  However, I truly think that if we lean more toward that attitude, we would have more car doors opened for us.  We deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  We are special and sometimes even a little fragile.  It feels good to be pampered and adored; so I say “may the chivalry live on!!’

Let that gentleman walking ahead of you hold that door open at the post office, and ladies, please do teach your sons to do the same.  If you expect it, they will learn to adhere…and clearly, it is time for a chivalry comeback!!

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A Touchy Subject

By Miss Ella D

July 29, 2010

Don’t you just love Water Festival?  I know there cannot be anything like it anywhere in the world and anyone who visits here must just think we are absolutely crazy to do it for ten whole days!  I could go on and on about how entertaining the bed races are and don’t even get me started on Motown Monday (the absolute BEST night of all) not to mention the wild antics that occur in the river.  We have a saying here in Beaufort just like they do in Vegas…what happens in the river stays in the river!  My column this week actually has nothing to do Water Fest- I just mention it because that inspired me for this week’s column.  Are you ready?  Cell phone etiquette.

My husband and I were walking down Bay Street on our way to an event when we passed a couple who smiled and said their hellos.  He was walking a foot ahead of her, and she was talking on her cell phone.  For all I know she was speaking to her sitter or her mother or another couple they were meeting out.  It just sparked me to think that we are too quick to be on our phones, texting, and checking emails….constantly!  Believe you me, I do it too.  You know why?  It is an addiction- our generation is addicted to our phones and the immediate high we get when we receive the email or text or facebook update.  I am actually okay with it most of the time, but there are occasions when I am really bothered by it.  It saddens me when I see a couple out to dinner and one is on the phone the entire time.  Who could enjoy watching a telephone conversation?  Another is someone who checks and sends texts one after the other- they cannot wait until later to return that call or message.  Again, I just think they cannot help it, but it is hurtful.  It makes one think “hmmmm, am I not entertaining or interesting enough to hold this person’s attention?”  The person texting is thinking, let me just do this one real quick, but guess what?  That person responds within 30 seconds and a conversation evolves.  Did you notice the word conversation???  Calling on the telephone is really passé, now, just text to ask a girl out on a date, break up, or I am sure someone has even proposed via text message!  We live in a 24 hour media smorgasbord which includes our cell phones.

Let’s be more thoughtful and text less, talk less on the cell phones, and engage in meaningful conversations with those in our presence.  What a true gift your time and attention is to family and friends.  Turn the ringer off or how about just leave the phone in your car while out to lunch with your girlfriends?  If you do, then maybe they will too!

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What I Hold Near and Dear to My Heart….

July 22, 2010

Women require more than men- a larger monthly clothing allowance, one last glance in the mirror before going out, every color pair of shoes in her closet, and most importantly, friends.

I am not just talking about the people you say ‘hi’ to while walking down Bay Street, but the inner circle…the ones you call for no reason or call because you have news… the ones you want to go shopping or drink coffee with, the ones you who know you (the REAL you), and love you anyway.

I like to refer to it as a sisterhood.  These friendships we hold near and dear to our hearts- they require care and feeding and exercise.  We work at being thoughtful of one another and avoid the demands that strain these bonds.

Some ladies have a small circle of besties while others are large- it matters not the number.

What is important is the mutual like, respect, and thought.  Your friends rescue you- from a lonely Christmas day, a bad date, or from your kids!!  She knows you will do the same for her one day.  And you don’t keep score- it is never tit for tat.  It all evens out in the wash eventually- you see, that is what friends are for.

My inner circle is not so large, and I love it that way.  My oldest friend (she is not old mind you)- I could just eat her up: I love her like a sister.  She has been with me through thick and thin.  She knows me, my family, my past, and what I hope my future to be.  She understands who I am and why, she l listens to me with real empathy, she can laugh with me or at me.  In turn, I chuckle at her jokes, listen to her tell stories about her kids, remember her special days, and hold her secrets and dreams close to my heart.  Our bond is understood and mutual.  It has taken years to develop and nurture our special relationship.

Girlfriends like her and the rest of my inner circle are what I consider to make me the person I am.  It is these intimate connections with fellow women that make my mundane days just more fun!  I honestly don’t know what I would do without my girlfriends to chat with on the phone while I do my ironing or hang out with on those long summer days at the pool.  So, here’s to all the ladies and the bonds of friendships…cheers to the sisterhood!  Now, go give your bestie a call and tell her so!

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Hostess with the Mostess

July 15, 2010

When you walk into a southern woman’s home, you are offered a glass of sweet tea or lemonade before you sit down.  That is just the way we are, the way we have been raised, and would not consider it any other way.  This week, we decided to name this column Southern Graces, and I immediately thought of my grandmother- my inspiration for this and most of my articles.  You see, she was the epitome of a southern belle.  She taught me more than any book or etiquette teacher could.   Why?  It was real to her.  She made a person feel welcome the minute she opened the door with a smile on her face.  Now, the 33 seconds before answering the door, she may have not been all-too pleased about her visitor.  But, she would wash her hands (likely because she was frying chicken or chopping fresh vegetables for dinner), then she would put on some lipstick and open the door with a “come on in”.  Although she had formal sitting and family rooms, all company would head into the kitchen.  After fixing a drink and putting some nuts or crackers on the table, she would ask them to stay for supper:  “Of course, there is plenty, and we would love to have you.”  There was always room for one more and rare was the day that the invitee did not stay!

What I learned from my dear grandmother is that you always, always, make someone feel welcome.  It matters not where you are- whether it be in your home, a friend’s, a restaurant, or even the pool.  It is called being gracious, and you don’t have to be from the Bible Belt to do it.  It is a state of mind, a way to be, a trait we all need to possess.  When someone walks into the room or approaches your circle of friends deep in conversation, welcome them to be a part of it.  They will never forget your small token of hospitality!  Recently, my husband and I were at a party that was an unfamiliar setting for us- although we knew some people, we were on new turf and did not quite know the protocol.  We clearly had blank looks on our faces and a wonderful lady whom I will always hold dear to my heart walked across the room and invited us to join them at their dinner table.  A sigh of relief, a feeling of welcome and belonging, and we were off to a lovely evening.  My grandmother would have been proud- she would have done the same!  We all could use that extra smile and sense of belonging- even as adults.  Being the “hostess with the mostess” in any setting is a title to be proud of and wear the crown proudly- I know my little grandmomma did!!

Miss Ella D

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The Island News is excited to announce a new weekly column, Southern Graces by Miss Ella D. If you ever have questions and/or comments for Miss Ella D, please email theislandnews@gmail.com, ATTN: Miss Ella D.

Merci Beaucoup!

July 8, 2010

“Hmmmm, how DO I find the right words to thank Aunt Hilda for that mango slicer?” And do I bother????  Absolutely!  Here are some tips in finding the perfect words to say thank you.

What a simple concept- to express thanks- an appreciation for a thoughtful act, expression, or a gift.  How many times has it been on your “to do” list to write that thank you note??  Honestly, I have four to do now (oops!)  The potential formality of the thought can be intimidating.  We want it to be perfect so we delay and get anxious to the point that the note remains on the “to do” list!  Just think- an imperfect note that comes with heartfelt sentiment is better than a perfect note that was never written!!  Now, make your Grandma proud and get that thank you in the mail- she and her friends have just been disgusted and discussing your lack of manners!

Now I am not going all formal on you here- let’s talk about everyday living.  How easy is it to look someone in the eye and tell them thank you for your change, getting your dry cleaning in the backseat of the car, or bringing you another glass of sweet tea.  We all want to feel appreciated.  I love to do for others, and I want to do more for them when they acknowledge my good deed!  Sometimes it is the small tokens of affection or appreciation that mean the most- a little note in your husband’s lunch box or briefcase could do wonders for his day (and your marriage!)  Let him know you appreciate the fact that he works hard all day to bring home the bacon.  Just maybe, he will leave a note for you soon after thanking you for frying it (and serving it with a smile!!)

The thank you is exclusively about thanking somebody for their kindness.  It can be in a smile, a tender voice of gratitude, or the lovely tradition (and practically dead, I might add) of writing a thank you note.   Our generation is just lazy, and you know what else?  They anticipate and expect whatever is given to them.  We cannot allow this entitlement to continue…Let’s start a movement to revive a little gracious living!!!

Miss Ella D

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The Island News is excited to announce a new weekly column, Manners with Miss Ella D. If you ever have questions and/or comments for Miss Ella D, please email theislandnews@gmail.com, ATTN: Miss Ella D.

Today Is the Day to Make the Pledge

July 1, 2010

My husband and I truly love reading our mail each day.  Honestly, no matter what time we return from a long trip or flight, we sit right down at the kitchen table and go through the stack.  Typically, it is bills, magazines, or just junk mail but often times, a smaller hand- addressed envelope is hidden between the unnecessary or uneventful correspondence.  Immediately, the seal is broken, envelope opened, and the invitation read.  I wish I did not have to admit this, but sometimes, I even open my children’s mail.  I know, it is a “sin.” You ask, “How in the world can she take away that pleasure from her sweet little ones?”  Well, I just cannot resist- curious to read what the next party will encompass- clowns, elephants, oh, just bring the circus!  (kidding of course…well, maybe!)  The days of fill-in-the blank lines have come to a screeching halt- now, children’s invitations are clever, fun, and creative; children’s parties include water slides, formal teas, and pony rides;  meals are served, puppeteers are hired, and the list of invitees is long.  Parents are getting creative, kids are being indulged, and honestly, these parties are more social and fun than any adult party we go to!

I am not here to downgrade anyone for making a prom out of a dance, a banquet out of a meal, or even hiring a circus for a backyard birthday party.    My concern is that we are not letting the generous hostess know whether or not we are coming!  Remember the days of Emily Post’s Etiquette where you would mail back a formal response on your engraved stationary?  Those days are dead and gone.  One would think that in our techno-savvy world with blackberries, email, and texting, rsvp’s would be rampant and easier than ever to do, but sadly, not so!  I admit, I have done it myself- slipped and just forgot or assumed the party was regrets only when the invitation said rsvp.  The morning of the party, I glance at the invitation to make sure I can get my sweetpea there on time and doggonit- I forgot to let them know we are for sure coming (and who would miss any kid’s party??)  I certainly do not want to call because that momma is running around with her head cut off until five minutes before that party starts.  At this point, does she really care if she needs to add two or four more?  She is not going to add another layer to the cake, chill more juicey juice, or order more pizza just for us at this point.  I will just apologize when I get there that I goofed- that I, too, run around with my head cut off even without hosting a celebration.  She will forgive me because we have all been there.  We will eat cake together, watch our kids splash, and she will hand me a truly fabulous party favor for each one of my angels.  We will forget about it, but I will remember better next time I get the lovely printed invitation with adorable writing that I must RSVP within a day of receiving.  Additionally, won’t that make the hostess flattered that you are looking forward to the party?  So, today is a new day- we are making a pact- all party-goers and party-givers – the pledge to RSVP and regret is a must and a done-deal.  I look forward to seeing you at the next party that we both gave ample notice to the hostess for!

Until then!

Miss Ella D

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The Island News is excited to announce a new weekly column, Manners with Miss Ella D. If you ever have questions and/or comments for Miss Ella D, please email theislandnews@gmail.com, ATTN: Miss Ella D.

It Begins At Home…

June 24, 2010

There are two kinds of people in the world, and I know what you are thinking: politics, race, religion. No, I am speaking of something deeper, more important.  Manners- yes, you read correctly- and I am talking about possession of them.  You see, there are those with and those without.  I refuse to waste either of our time discussing the latter.  Hopefully, after perusing this article, they will be inspired and transformed to come to the “other side”.

The simplest and most pleasing to my ear is adding ma’am and sir to yes, no, or honestly, to the end of any sentence.  It sounds softer, kinder, and well, mannerly!  I firmly believe this southern way is the only way!  Back in the day when I taught school, it was required that my students speak to all adults with only their best manners.  You cannot imagine how many parents thanked ME for teaching and enforcing this simple rule.  Now, I tell my own children they only need two things to be successful in life (now, you know I am exaggerating, but you get the point):  good manners and the ability to balance a checkbook.  You chuckle, but add a little education, and, honey, you will go far!!!

Saying yes ma’am or no ma’am is an example of respect- another dying tradition which our generation seems to not embrace.  Why are we becoming a nation that is so accepting of mediocrity?  I hear the way mothers speak to their children at the grocery store, the way teenagers blow off their parents’ requests, and even couples argue in public.  What happened to the days of Ozzie and Harriet?  It seems we all would be a little better off if we worked just slightly harder to be kinder to one another.  Truly, it feels good and as you “pay it forward,” what comes back your way is tremendous!  I read an article one time about a checkbook (here we go again with the checkbook theme!!).  Much to my husband’s chagrin, it did not help me with the balancing of my own but instead, it helped with the checks and balances in my heart.  Similar to a real checkbook, you have to make deposits into the “account”- these deposits are words or acts of affirmation such as compliments or taking the trash out (love that!)  You must make several deposits before ever making a withdrawal, which is any negative comments or selfish acts.  I believe the ratio was seven deposits before even trying to go to the bank for a withdrawal!  When you think about all that kindness and generosity, it just makes your heart tingle.

As I sit in my kitchen this Sunday morning, I am ever so mindful of my own children and how they should be using their very best manners (extra emphasis on should, please).  I am having to ask my daughter to answer me with yes ma’am and my eldest to please put the dirty waffle plate dripping with syrup in the sink.  It is a continual reminding, and I just hope and pray that one day it comes naturally- no reminding necessary and no asking twice to hear the correct answer.  As for now, we are molding our children, making impressions on others, and just doing the very best we can.  I must admit that some days are easier than others.  I let myself down and, when reflecting back at the end of the day, just wish I could hit the button to make it be “groundhog day” and do it again- just better and kinder the next time around.  As I rest my tired head each night, I just hope I am not in the red in the checking account of life, I hope that tomorrow my children will look the nice elderly woman in the eye at Walgreens checkout and answer her with a “yes ma’am” and “how are you” right back, and that my husband knows his wife respects him more than anything.  And honestly, if we can practice and enforce good manners at home with our own, just think how they might surprise us when we are not around- oh, what a blessing that would be!!!

Miss Ella D

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