When I started my first job after many years in television news, I was an electronic doofus! That’s because the software we used at that time in television was industry specific. Oh, and spelling was optional. I could produce the hell out of a 90-minute news program with battling talent and breaking news, but write a business letter in Word. No way! That’s why I’ll always be grateful to my friend Renee.
My first job in the Real World was as a Public Information Officer (unsworn) at the Richmond Police Department. I knew how to turn the computer on and off and was acquainted with a mouse. Renee taught me the rest. After two years, I was up to speed in most tasks and even editing a pretty good electronic newsletter.
I wouldn’t have lasted a week had it not been for Renee’s patience and tremendous skill as a teacher. It wasn’t like she had extra time to school her electronically ignorant co-workers, she just did. She’s now the head of a Department. You go girl!
Renee is an American Indian, a fact I always thought was really cool. How many American Indians do YOU know? She never made much of it until a few years ago when she married an American Indian and started to get more involved in the culture. This past Saturday I went to see her dance with the Yapatoko Drummers & Singers at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. She was gorgeous and graceful.
I must admit I went more out of friendship than interest. But I was blown away! First of all, her husband—a lovely, quiet man who doesn’t say much during visits—is like a rock star! He was the Emcee for more than a 100 people gathered in the Museum’s atrium. He was also one of the performers and has a beautiful voice. No wonder he doesn’t talk much socially, who wants to waste that voice on mere mortals? He explained the meaning of the dances and their origin. One of the dances was about a man running from a group of white interlopers who are shooting at him. The interpretation of the explosions and near misses in song and dance was something I’ll never forget.
My friend’s husband also talked about the clothing the dancers wore, explaining they should never be referred to as “costumes.” They are clothing with added regalia for special occasions. He asked the audience members never to dress as an “Indian” for Halloween because that is disrespectful. The audience was a sea of bobble-head agreement dolls as he explained this concept in his non-threatening, dignified way.
But the thing he did that left me with permanent goose bumps was when he asked the veterans in the audience to come forward so they could be honored for protecting us, all of us no, matter what our origins. At this point, most of the bobble-head agreement dolls had turned into jaw-dropped dummies. “You’re thanking us?! Uninvited guests show up, trash the place, get you sick, steal your land, kill you off, and herd you onto tiny pieces of useless land….and you can be thankful!” Damn, that’s a gracious host.
Thank you for visiting and thank you my most excellent, beautiful, friend Renee. You’re still teaching me.
After graduating from college, establishing a career, and starting a family, I often wondered what had happened to certain acquaintances. You tend to keep in touch with close friends and relatives. But often people you truly appreciate and enjoy slip away from your life almost unnoticed. I remember wishing I had a magical book that would allow me to catch up with their lives. Then came….do I have to say its name? Facebook.
People approach social media from different perspectives based on age, gender, culture, purpose, and availability of time. With FB in particular, there is also the desire for connection with the past and future.
Some people are afraid of it. One relative told me, “Oh, I’m not going near FB, it gets you in too much trouble!” This illustrates the idea that it takes away your control of your own information, and to a certain degree I guess that’s true.
I look at FB as my living room on the internet. It’s my choice to invite people in and to treat them appropriately as guests. If someone is rude, hurtful, or hateful they are not invited back. I chose what information to put out there about myself. I don’t appreciate others supplying information about me via FB. It’s too easy to misinterpret details or get them wrong. By the same token, if you’re not ready to go public about something, don’t put it on FB. You can’t expect the receiver to understand the information is a secret. It’s just not realistic and you have no one to blame but yourself. There are plenty of avenues for the exchange of private or sensitive information, including messaging and private groups.
Here are my basic rules:
f Don’t say anything to me on Facebook you wouldn’t say to me in my own home as an invited guest.
f Don’t come behind my comments on someone else’s page with nasty remarks.
f Don’t criticize me or anyone else on my page. While I like a healthy exchange of ideas, FB is not my preferred vehicle for heated discussion.
f Don’t friend me for the sole purpose of selling me something. I understand FB is a great marketing tool—I use it to push out this blog (which is not monetized.) But when it becomes painfully evident a request has nothing to do with me as a person and everything to do with me as a potential customer, its hurtful.
f Politics and politicians are fair game. But their supporters and detractors are not. Please don’t call someone an idiot because they support a certain candidate, party, or policy. They may indeed BE an idiot. But it’s just not a nice thing to say to a guest sitting on my cyber sofa.
f Please don’t badger me about my use of social media. I may not use it to the extent that you do and that’s OK. There have been many occasions when someone in real time will demand, “Didn’t you see my post?!”
f By the same token, don’t feel the need to apologize to me for not engaging with me on social media. I understand that some people enjoy my blog and others don’t. One woman said to me, “I only scan blogs looking for recipes. I’m not interested in the writing.” And that’s OK.
All in all, FB has enhanced my life. It put me back in touch with some great people, helped me plan events, and provided some amazing information and entertainment. So bring on the babies, the vacation pics, the cat videos, the dog videos, the funny videos, the profound posters, the job updates, the health concerns, and the DIY projects!
Thank you for visiting.
Many years ago during a television interview with the actress Bonnie Hunt, she said her family used the “Door Bell” method of housekeeping. You don’t bother to clean until the doorbell rings. While I don’t personally subscribe to this method, I do appreciate it.
I feel strongly about guests showing up early. I am strongly against it. Unless you’re having a medical emergency—in which case you should probably go to the hospital first—please don’t come to my house or event one second ahead of the stated time.
I was reminded of this concept several times in the last couple of weeks. I went to a baby shower in Jersey where half the guests showed up early. What is that all about? Is it a Jersey thing? The baby Grandma was rushing around trying to put the finishing touches on a lovely venue and was forced to entertain at least two dozen people ahead of schedule. Another friend of mine was hosting house guests who gleefully texted they’d hit the road sooner than expected and would be hours early. What! For God sakes, take the scenic route! Yet another acquaintance works weddings. She told me about an event just last weekend when many of the guests arrived at the reception venue half an hour early and actually banged on the doors. When she did let them in several people demanded mixed drinks even before the bar was set up.
For those of you who don’t get it, here’s the deal. Most of us mortals don’t keep a spotless house and must prepare for visitors. I take pride in presenting a clean home or well prepared venue. My mother used to say it should look like a stage set when folks walk in and then everything can go to hell. This prep takes a certain amount of time and scheduling because I have other stuff going on. Some of us also have pets so it doesn’t make sense to start cleaning a moment too soon because all will be re-fuzzed within minutes. When I’m done cleaning and prepping food, I like to enjoy a glass of wine while I prep myself. If you show up early, I miss the one part of party prep I enjoy.
Many people will say, “I thought you might need help so I came early”. If I need help, believe me I’ll ask for it in advance. I’ve never been accused of martyrdom. If you volunteer and I politely decline, I’m not being polite, I really don’t want you early. No one is that helpful. Some people will assume their bond with the hosts is strong enough that it doesn’t matter if they show up early and just hang out. Unless you’re still in the womb, there is no bond strong enough for an early arrival.
I realize I’m a little crazy about time. I worked in the television news business for many years where every second was accounted for. Time really WAS money! The only exception was 16 years ago when the clock stopped and we threw revenue to the wind in order to supply a platform for our community to grieve.
My family tells me this television-time perspective has left me with an unhealthy attitude toward punctuality on both ends of the punctal spectrum. OK, I can live with that.
Do you mind people showing up early? Don’t you cherish those last few moments when you can look around your house and admire your work while sipping Prosecco and applying mascara? In my husband’s case, it’s drinking beer and watching whatever sport is on TV (sorry son, I know you hate stereotypes but it’s true.)
Thank you for visiting, and not a moment too soon.
Several times a year my family and I drive past an historical marker on Route 301 in Maryland indicating the turnoff to “The Dr. Samuel Mudd House.” Each time I suggest we stop and each time I am met with a tortured chorus of “NOOOOO!” Last Saturday I was driving the route by myself with no spouse, child, dog, or cat and decided this was my chance.
For those of you asking “Dr. Who?” I begin with a short history lesson. Samuel Mudd was a country doctor in Maryland in April of 1865 when two men stopped at his house in the middle of the night asking treatment for one of the men who had broken his leg. No one disputes the story this far.
The house is five miles off of Route 301 and sits by itself on pristine farm land. A pretty young woman in period dress greeted me. This woman was not just dressed in the fashion of 1865; she looked like she belonged to 1865. At any moment I expected to see her face in one of the sepia-tinted Civil War era portraits hanging on the walls….cue the spooky music.
The house is very much the same as it was on that fateful morning when John Wilkes Booth arrived seeking medical attention. That’s because the house, and its substantial acreage, remained in the Mudd family until a nonprofit organization was formed to take control of it in 1980. While there have been some updates—such as indoor plumbing, central air, and heat—much is original to the house as it was built in 1857.
The tour started with a recounting of how Dr. Samuel Mudd, who lived with his wife and four small children, was awakened before dawn by someone pounding on the front door. On his front porch was a man asking help for his traveling companion who had broken his leg. Dr. Mudd allowed them in and did a cursory physical exam on the living room sofa. That sofa is still there in the same spot.
The two men carried Booth upstairs to a room and laid him on a bed. Dr. Mudd cut the boot off the swollen leg and proceeded to set the bone. Once that was done Dr. Mudd left the patient to rest and heal. When daylight came, Dr. Mudd and Booth’s companion headed into town. Not sure why. When Booth’s companion saw union troops nosing around town, he turned around and went BACK to the farmhouse. Dr. Mudd proceeded into town and discovered that Abraham Lincoln had been shot and John Wilkes Booth was almost definitely the culprit. Here’s the weird part. Instead of alerting the solders to the killer in his guest room, or hot footing it back to his house and family, Dr. Mudd hung out in town for almost 12 hours!
Eventually the dragnet for Booth spread to the Mudd House. Booth was long gone, but his discarded boot was found. They knew it was his boot because his name was written inside it. Despite his protestations of innocence and claiming he was merely helping an unknown traveler, Dr. Mudd was arrested and his wife and children put under house arrest. Dr. Mudd was tried with the rest of the conspirators and sentenced to life in prison on a penal island off Florida.
For more than a hundred years the Mudd family tried to clear his name. But guess what? While Dr. Mudd was not in on the assassination attempt, he did know Booth and was privy to an earlier Lincoln kidnapping plot. That’s the reason he let those guys into his house in the middle of the night. As the docent put it, “John Wilkes Booth was the matinee idol of his time. It would be like George Clooney stopping at your house. You’d probably recognize him.” My apologies to George Clooney. Dr. Mudd spent the next few years in prison making beautiful handicrafts (many of which are in the house) until he volunteered to help with a Yellow Fever epidemic and was pardoned for his efforts.
In the meantime, Mrs. Mudd ran the farm and apparently did a damn fine job of it. When Dr. Mudd was pardoned he came back to the house, fathered five more children, and spent the remainder of his life the way he started his career in the first place, as a country doctor.
There were a lot of fascinating details about domestic life during the Civil War. I learned the origins of sayings like: “Sleep tight,” “Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” and “Hitting the hay.” I also learned the finer points about the use of chamber pots. It’s a little different than you might think.
But in the midst of all the recent confederate statue debate, here’s what I really appreciated about this experience. It was based on the facts, there was no sugar-coating what happened, and it was interesting as hell! The docents didn’t defend Mudd or try to explain his thought process. They simply told a compelling and true story based on solid research that has an important place in our Nation’s history. I asked if they’d gotten any negative feedback since the Charlottesville Riot. The Made-for-a-Stephen-King-Novel-tour-guide said there had been none. She suspects they are under the radar. That may be part of it….how many of you asked, “Who is Dr. Mudd?” I would like to think they’re not getting any negative feedback because they respect history and the telling of it as honestly as possible.
On my way home Monday, I passed another sign that read, “The End of the Road for an Assassin.” This of course is where John Wilkes Booth was finally trapped and died. I didn’t stop here because, like most historical figures, I think Booth’s journey was much more interesting than his end.
Thank you for visiting.
There have been many occasions when, instead of hosting a dinner party at home, my husband and I have taken people out to eat. There are some obvious incentives, not the least of which is less prep on my part.
We usually pick somewhere we’ve been before. We are fortunate that Richmond is in a restaurant renaissance. That may sound pretentious…until you go to one of the amazing eateries popping up like yummy mushrooms and try the chef’s take on soft- shell crab, fried green tomatoes, or tres leche cake. Then you’ll say, “That’s not pretentious, that’s delicious!”
When hosting we make it clear it’s our treat. If the guest offers to pick up a round of drinks or the tip, I think it’s OK to accept graciously. If they don’t, that’s OK too. Guests should not feel obligated. The only thing I absolutely cannot abide is a tussle over the bill. My husband’s family has mastered this sport. One relative literally ripped a bill in half trying to wrestle it from my husband. Frankly, I would have given it to her gladly! And I’m not talking about the bill. But I digress.
I think hosts should offer to drive and be mindful of their alcohol intake. If a guest has a compelling reason to drive, I think that’s all right too and the offer should be gratefully accepted. It’s a funny thing, when people hear I’m supposed to drive they become very keen on providing the transportation themselves. I’ve been known to back into things.
If possible, we make reservations to prevent a wait. Needless to say, everyone should do their best to be on time. There is nothing more stressful than chasing a reservation at a popular place because your guest wasn’t ready. If there is no emergency, there is only one reason for keeping people waiting. And that is because you’re a jerk.
I often see complaints in etiquette columns from hosts whose guests have ordered expensive entrees. I don’t quite get this. I assume that if my hosts have invited me to a restaurant, they can afford to feed me. I don’t think it would be polite to order a take home meal for the babysitter, but if it’s on the menu it’s fair game. No pun intended. Same for drinks and various courses.
Unfortunately we have hosted guests at restaurants where the service is bad. Although the host has no control over this variable, I always feel awkward about bad service, as if I were the one holding things up. What does one do? You don’t want to bring attention, but it gets to that awkward point when everyone is hungry. It’s like an elephant in the room that you wish were on your plate. On one occasion when the drinks hadn’t shown up after 45 minutes, we got up and left. I think the arrival of drinks is a pretty good gauge. Besides, after a round of drinks you don’t care as much. Another telling sign is if very few diners have food in front of them.
If the actual food is not up to a guest’s standards, I think they should just grin, chew, and bear it. After all, you can’t beat the price. I feel it’s rude to criticize a free meal. That’s happened to me several times and I’m always taken aback by it. To me it’s the same as criticizing a gift. It’s all right to politely send something back that’s the wrong order or woefully undercooked. But to compare food unfavorably to other restaurants, or even home-cooked meals, is insulting to the hosts. What’s the point? Keep it to yourself, or better yet find something you can complement, like the company.
What finishes off the meal best is a heartfelt thank you; from the guests for the meal, and from the hosts, for the fellowship. Even if everything sucked, at least you didn’t have to shop, cook, or clean. That is something to be thankful for.
Thank you for visiting.