Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why I Dislike Showers

Yesterday's question got me thinking about showers. The truth is that no one really looks forward to attending a shower. The reaction to a shower invitation ranges from grim resignation to abject horror.

It's not the concept of feting a woman on the brink of marriage or motherhood that I find horrific--in fact, that is a lovely idea. Good food and drink, convivial company, and generous gifts honoring a loved one on an important occasion--that's what Graces do. I just strenuously object to the format.

This stems not from religious beliefs, nor superstition, nor family tradition, merely the abhorrence of an event dedicated solely to opening gifts and showcasing them to everyone in attendance.

This gift ritual defies every facet of Grace--it requires guests to sit idle and bored, intermittently feign interest and elation at a stock pot, mix master, or toaster, endure the not very subtle gift competition, and cease all interaction with their fellow hostages for the duration of this torture. (I swear I was "shushed" at a shower once when I recklessly attempted conversation while the the bride-to-be waved her new dishtowels overhead for all to see.) In addition, the potential for sherbet punch, crepe paper decorations, gelatin-laced food, ridiculous games, and endless gift commentary looms large. Not to mention the sacrificial Saturday or Sunday we are asked to give up like an Aztec virgin atop a volcano.

My sisters and I have crafted an assembly-line strategy that we employ at our family's showers. It works well to reduce the hostage time (i.e. gift opening and display) to a minimum. We station ourselves, guerilla-troop style, around the guest of honor. We procure a pair of scissors to avoid fussing with all of those ribbons and paper, (thus preserving our manicures) paper and pen, and we move fast. One of us cuts and removes some of the wrapping, and passes the gift to the bride,who removes the gift from the box and holds it up; the second gift handler moves in quickly, secures the item, and puts it back in the box. This can be a tricky job and must be given to someone with fast hands and fortitude--they prevent passing the item around the room even if persnickety aunts demand it. The third commando catalogs each item with the name of the giver. We have gotten through 30 gifts in 10 minutes with this method.

It is not for the faint-hearted, and there could be some flak from the devotees of the old ways, but progress comes at a price.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shower Guests

Dear Grace,
Is it acceptable to invite people to a bridal shower who will not be included in the wedding? My future sister-in-law has two lists and I think they need to be fused.

Dear Sis,
You are correct. If you are invited to shower the expectation is that you are invited to the wedding. Exceptions exist, of course--if it is avery small or destination wedding that most friends/family won't attend,then it is conceivable that a shower invitees might not be on wedding list, but not for a traditional, medium-to-large wedding. It is also possible if the bride-to-be hails from somewhere far from where her wedding will be held that her extended hometown family might throw her a shower without expecting an invite to the big event.

Tell your future s-i-l to merge and cull the lists; it will save hurt feelings and miffed relatives down the road. Weddings are enough of a minefield without asking for trouble. Thanks for writing!

Since we're talking wedding, I'll share Glee's version of this momentous event. Just between us Graces, I have not jumped on the Glee-wagon, but I seem to be in the minority. Since that is the case, enjoy....

How to Handle Vacation Crashers

Dear Grace,
We recently booked an all-inclusive spring break vacation. At a PTA meeting later that day, people were chatting about travel and I mentioned our upcoming trip. Today I learned that, as a result of my conversation, another family has booked the same trip, and I am not happy. We have rarely socialized w them, although we do overlap--the mom heads my boys' soccer league and we both volunteer at the school. Their older son has been unkind to my son several times, but the younger bro's are friends. Cut to the chase...She wants to meet for meals and book excursions. I want to have a family vacation without these people. But I don't want to offend them. Help???

Grace Says:

Oh, my that is an awkward situation. I had a similar challenge several years ago--I had recklessly become friends with a neighbor who had a child the same age as mine. You know how that happens, same schedule, glad of company, then you realize that you have nothing in common and you'd rather have an unanaesthetized root canal than spend one more minute with this chick.

Anyway, we were planning a family trip to FL and I ill-advisedly mentioned it. She said, "Oh, we've been dying to get away. Tell me where you are you staying so we can meet there!" I said, in what I thought was a relatively gentle way, "I think it would be best if we don't vacation together." She was deeply hurt and we were never really friends again. Of course, that suited me just fine. Graces don't want to be cruel, but we do want to escape from miserable social situations. In my case, I at least had the advantage of foreknowledge and was able to take preventive measures. You, poor dear, are stuck. To minimize exposure I recommend several tactics:

1. Contact the resort and request rooms, tables and any other communal accommodations away from this family.

2. Pre-arrange activities so that you and yours are busy and occupied so that there is less chance for interaction. (But make sure they are things you actually want to spend your vacation doing, not just filling up the day with shuffleboard tournaments and sushi classes to evade detection.)

3. Explain to this vacation-crashing mom that you are really looking to have a FAMILY vacation and plan to spend time as a family unit. It is nice that you will be at the same resort but you are really planning on a lot of quality time as a family. Offer up ONE evening to have dinner w/ them (or some other activity that you could endure w/o agony) but the rest of the time spend w/ just you and yours.

None of these is foolproof but worth a shot.

Good luck. Maybe they will all get sunburned and stay in their rooms the whole time. Or maybe they'll take an excursion tour and.......

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's Your Name?

Yesterday's post got me thinking about name recognition and reminded me of a mortifying situation I landed in several years ago. Have you ever gotten someone's name wrong, and stuck with the erroneous handle for months without being corrected? For your sakes, Graces, I hope not; it is sheer hell. Here's the story....

We were in the habit of frequenting a local restaurant and generally had the same waiter. We became quite friendly with him over the year and realized too late that we did not know his name. Of course, he knew ours because of our reservation, which made it especially awkward. And the restaurant was small enough that it felt wrong to ask one of his coworkers.

One Friday evening, about 6 months into our love affair with this place, my sister joined us for dinner. I explained the waiter-name situation, and she immediately grasped my dilemma: "You're past the point," she said astutely, "but never fear, GraceSis is here! I'll introduce myself and get his name for you." Which she promptly did when she got up from the table and asked the whereabouts of the loo. She returned, bursting with intel. "Edgar," she said discreetly. Boy, were we relieved. We enjoyed regular Friday evenings at the establishment, and were taken good care of by our fave waiter "Edgar". We were relieved and delighted to be able to greet him by name and we did so with enthusiasm and courtesy, feeling, perhaps that we were making up for the first 6 months of "Hello, great to see you, nice to be back". All was well.

Fast forward to December. The restaurant had decorated for Christmas by hanging personalized stockings for each employee. I searched for Edgar's stocking, thinking that I might put something in it as a thank you for all of his good service throughout the year. Imagine my dismay when I found no "Edgar" stocking. I was pretty sure he celebrated Christmas, because he hailed from a Latin American country that is 99% Catholic. I knew he was still employed there because he was serving our table that very night. And then I saw it. Big as life: HECTOR.

The restaurant has since closed, we have not seen Hector in years, but I still wince at the boo boo. And it wasn't really Sis's fault; the place was lively and loud and "Hector" does sound like "Edgar" in the midst of a hundred festive voices.

Moral of story, like a band-aid or bikini wax, quicker is preferable. Tis far better to suffer a brief embarrassment early on than to endure deep, lasting humiliation later.

And speaking of brief embarrassment or lasting humiliation.....

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Workin' 9 to 5

Hi Graces,

Sorry I have been absent this week; started a consulting gig recently and am a bit overwhelmed.

Back soon with some goooood stories!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Zumba This, B$#@*!

You know how much I love zumba, Graces. It is the one fitness activity that I have discovered that I genuinely look forward to. Most others I view as a sacrifice on the altar of thin. (or in my case, not thin exactly, but acceptably curvy.) So imagine my dismay when yesterday's class was ruined for me by some lollipop who thinks she's Beyonce.

In case you are not familiar with the term lollipop, it refers to a person who is abnormally thin from the neck down, giving the appearance that her head is overly large. There are swarms of them in Hollywood, think Victoria Beckam or Renee Zellweger:

but the species is far less common here Philadelphia. Cousin to the lollipop is the BOS (boobs on stilts) or TOS (slightly more vulgar version of same), with the curves having been tacked on by the marvels of modern medicine. But back to my Zumbic horror tale...

So, there I was, early for class, water bottle and towel in place, having staked out my fave spot toward the front. This is not for vanity or exhibitionism, rather to compensate for my bad vision. I don't like to wear glasses lest they fly off during a particularly energetic spin, so I need to stand fairly near the teacher. I am partial to this one spot up front because there is a pillar directly behind it, thus preventing anyone from stationing themselves right behind me. (I feel strongly about personal space; note to self: cover that topic in post next week.) Imagine my pique when the aforementioned lollipop arrived five minutes late (another Gracepeeve) to a rather full class and plunked herself directly behind me in the no-dance zone. Imagine my further pique when she inched slowly forward with each step, leaving me to choose between being slugged by her flying hands and feet or surrendering my coveted spot.

Well, Graces, you know what I did. I did what Graces always do, which is to compensate for the bad behavior of others. I moved over, telling myself that it was obviously very important for her self esteem to be front and center, availing herself of a full view of her gyrating hips and totally immobile artificial breasts. This forced me to encroach on my neighbor's spot, which troubled me greatly. I apologized to the encroach-ee after the class, explaining that I had been summarily shoved over and had no other option without starting a battle for territory.

So even though I took the higher ground, I had much less fun in Zumba yesterday. And I can't have that. Since Graces, like the Boy Scouts (minus the homophobia), always plan ahead, I am considering strategies on how to prevent a repeat offense next week:

1. Let it go. She really seems to need the attention, rude though she is in her quest for it, and based on her shape and its enhancements, I should pity rather than censure her.

2. Speak up (A). "I'm sure it was an accident last week, but you kept moving into my space and that forced me to move over several times during the class. Please try not to do that again. It makes it harder for me to follow the instructor and pushes me into other people. It's a crowded class so we all have to be mindful of our space so no one gets hurt. Thanks."

3. Speak up (B). "I know this class is popular and spots are first come first served. I arrive early to get this one so please don't move into it while I am standing here."

4. Speak up (C). "Yo, Black Swan! Take you, your microscopic ass and your fake boobs and step to the rear. I was here first, Dammit."

Class is Thursday, so stay tuned, Graces.

And a parting clip--I'm a total sucker for BritComs--we've all been here--in fitness class, kind of wishing you were somewhere else, paying no attention, and suffering humiliation when the entire group is on to crunches while you, oblivious, continue jumping jacks.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gym Jams

I know, I have been on about Grunts at the gym recently.

My Spinning class seems to be particularly problematic. Here is my latest horror tale: The cycling studio was jam-pack crowded; favorite teacher, new year's resolutions still intact, convenient time. Normally, I choose a bike near the wall so I only risk one annoying person sitting next to me but the pickings were slim due to the turnout and I was stuck in the center--the airline equivalent to a middle seat, alas. You won't believe this, but I ended up sitting next to Mr. Handshake--remember him--he of the sweaty palms from last week's class?

Anyway, as I made my preparations--water bottle stowed, towel arranged over the handle bars, bike adjusted to my dimensions--my friendly neighbor shared his spin-thusiasm. "Are you ready to go? Gonna hit it hard today! You up for it?" Needless to say, these remarks were not pleasing to me, but there was nowhere to go. I replied with the barest minimum of courtesy, "sure." and hoped that ended it.

Do I need to tell you, Graces, that my one syllable was construed as an invitation for Mr. Thinks-he's-Lance-Armstrong to appoint himself my personal spin coach for the duration of the class? Yup. For the entire 50 minutes I had a motivational speaker on my left: "Go, go. I'm pacing you. Follow my feet. You got it. Push it, you can do it. Sprint, sprint. Endurance. Your head limits your legs, don't let it! Mind over Matter" and other suchlike muscle-head phrases that essentially ruined the class for me. I couldn't hear the actual instructor, I couldn't really go at my own pace with this shouter to my left, and I felt heckled the whole time. (Ok, I'll admit, I probably got more out of the class and worked harder than I otherwise would have, but the irritation factor far surpassed any benefit.) If I'm there, that's enough for me--I don't have to break any records or impress my fellow soldiers fighting the battle of the bulge.

I know the following spoof is well, a spoof. But this dork is really not far off from my nightmarish spinning neighbor. Watch:

And while I am on the subject of fitness Grunts, can someone please tell me when people deemed it de rigeur to display their midsections at the gym? I don't want to look at my own "work in progress" abs let alone anyone else's. Yes, I'll admit, some people can carry it off--they are generally 19, spend all of their spare time (which, when you are 19, you have a lot of) working out, and they have ripped tummies. Good for them. I get it--if you've got 'em flaunt 'em, emphasize your assets, whatever. They are not really the ones I object to, although I am not in general a proponent of exposed belly skin. The ones I can't stand are the ones who, well, really shouldn't be sharing that view. No one wants to see your back fat or spare tire--especially when it's jiggling on the treadmill or stairmaster. Trust me.

Here are some guidelines on when it's ok to engage in mid section exposure:

1. If you are at a beach, pool, or jacuzzi and there is no muffin top involved.

2. If you are built like Victoria (or David) Beckham.

3. If you are in the privacy of your own home.

Aside from that, keep it covered, and be ready, Graces, to avert your eyes, should a violator enter your field of vision!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Om My God, Will You Please Shut Up?

Yesterday's post about a Grunt at the gym opened the floodgates. I guess it's all those people who promised themselves on New Year's Eve that this would be the year they achieved total fitness. Here's one for you Yogic Graces.....

Dear Grace,

I attend a weekly Yoga class and recently there have been some new students who blab through the entire practice. It ruins the whole thing for me; I am there for both the physical and mental benefit and I leave feeling stressed out and angry as opposed to centered. What to do?

Grace Says:

Ah, the Yoga Resolution. Can't you just hear them at the New Year's Eve party, as they swill their apple martinis or Champ-ale: "Buffy, Trixie, Let's make like a NY Res and do like Yoga together! I am so not going alone, but I so think we should do it as a group. Jennifer Aniston does it and i wannabe her!"

But I digress. On to your question...

Tattle. It's that simple. You don't want to become the scolding Yogic schoolmarm, mid-Chataranga, shushing people as you flow. Discreetly let the instructor know that this is a problem--I find it curious that he/she hasn't noticed by now. The teacher should make an announcement about the need for peace and silence throughout the practice to afford maximum benefit to all. It might be worth a word to the facility's management as well; they could post a sign, conspicuously located, reminding participants to respect the Yoga space and maintain a quiet, contemplative atmosphere.

I found the following clip of a frustration scenario in Yoga class rather amusing. Make sure you address the problem of the Yoga yakkers before you get to this point. Thanks for writing and Namaste.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hands to Yourself at the Gym

These days it is harder and harder to motivate to keep fit. Every fiber in me is saying "Stay home where it's warm. Bake cookies. Eat the cookies. Make some hot chocolate. Sit on the couch and watch DVRs of Modern Family." This is not good advice and should be ignored. Aside from the obvious downside of widening the hips, lack of physical activity and natural light do not a healthy Grace make. So, I've been keeping up my regimen--regular visits to the gym with frequent of outdoor walks mixed in. Sadly, I have encountered some gruntish behavior among those similarly inclined toward fitness.

I'll start with today's Spin class. The instructor had begun to warm us up and asked if we were ready to go. Having been a teacher in a previous career, I know just how unnerving it is to toss a question at your class and receive utter silence--even if the question is slightly rhetorical. Although it was spinning and not 7th grade history, I still felt his pain, so I responded loudly and quite alone, "Yes!". This gave the chap sitting next to me the notion that I was there to mix, mingle and make the party go. He leaned over, extended his hand (which, by now, 5 minutes into class, was sweaty) and introduced himself. He continued to make slightly flirtatious, or at a minimum, overly friendly remarks for the next several minutes forcing me to both miss cues from the instructor and experience repulsion at his perspiring proximity.

What's a Grace To Do?

Well, I really only had one option. I shook his hand (inwardly cringing and making a strong mental note to apply anti-bacterial gel at the first opportunity), introduced myself, and ostentatiously faced dead ahead, focusing hard on the instructor. As my friendly neighbor's overtures continued, I looked for an opening to mention the fact that I was not on the market. Fortunately one came--when he mentioned that he taught spinning in the evening, I mentioned that I never exercise at night since I am home with my husband and children.

Full disclosure requires me to divulge that I was flattered, of course. And, really, the chap almost got it right. There's absolutely nothing wrong with meeting people at the gym. He strayed from the Grantly path when he extended his hand. When you are working out, physical contact--unless it comes from your personal trainer tweaking your bicep curl, your Yoga instructor's adjustment to your plank pose, or a paramedic administering CPR--is out.

Yes, folks, it's a minefield. Normally, a firm handshake is ingredient number 1 in the recipe for a sound introduction. But at the gym, where uncomfortably close proximity to sweating people is often unavoidable (on cardio machines or in popular classes, for example) it is essential to give personal space.

Seinfeld had a typically hilarious take on personal greetings, though he had a bone to pick with smooches, not handshakes--remember his objections to the "kiss hello" which culminated in an unexpected moment with Kramer?

But, most importantly, Graces, keep up the regimen--whatever it is. Winter can be tough on both the waistline and the mood. Too much pizza and not enough physical activity will be most regrettable when the sunny days return.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Inhuman Resources

Grace D. applied for a job at a major telecommunications firm. She had several interviews and was optimistic that she would be hearing from them soon. She wrote thank you notes to the folks she met emphasizing her interest in the position. She waited a week. She sent a 'thank you again/still interested email". And waited some more. Still nothing. After several weeks, she called the HR person. HR person ignored call. Finally, after two months she got through. The HR person said,
"our headcounts have been altered." D was utterly mystified and assumed that she had been mistaken for someone else. She reiterated her identity, refreshing the HR crone's memory on the job application. The HR crone repeated "I know who you are. Our headcounts have been altered." Finally, D asked for a translation. HRC said, "The job was eliminated before it was ever filled."

Beware of corporate doublespeak jargonese.....

Graces would never behave this way.

If the HR person were a Grace, she would have responded to email and phone inquiries. Graces don't leave people hanging in any circumstance--and really, how long does it take to send a blast email to all the applicants informing them of the decision? Even the most Machiavellian Grace would do this. An HR person who treats applicants with respect and courtesy (even if you don't offer them a job) gains a good professional reputation. This leads to potential advancement for both you and your company.

Confused? Here's a little illustration--

After interacting with Grace the HR person, Rejected Applicant said:
"Unfortunately I didn't get the job, but the HR person was really responsive and at least let me know when the decision was made. I appreciated that."

After interacting with Grunt the HR person, Rejected Applicant said:
"Unfortunately, I didn't get the job, but the HR person was so rude and incompetent I'm not sure I would have wanted to work there anyway. She never returned my calls or emails and I had to find out 2 months later by practically stalking her that the position had been eliminated."

If only Graces ran the world.....

Thursday, January 06, 2011

It's an Epidemic

Yesterday's post on people's rudeness in ignoring messages and emails prompted several Graces to share their horror tales in this realm.....

Grace J., artist extraordinaire, contracted with a gallery in another city to sell her work. The director did not display J.'s paintings, and did not plan an exhibit, nor did he seem to be doing much of anything on her behalf. She emailed him several times over a month period asking for updates and offering to assist with the sales in any way he deemed appropriate. She finally learned that he had suggested her paintings to two of his regular clients. They both liked the art but declined to buy and he felt that his work at that point was done. J. disagreed and emailed to ask for a phone meeting to discuss next steps and alternative strategies.

Gallery Director ignored the request and never responded to her email. It really made her want to , well, scream.

Ultimately, J. broke up with this gallery and is now carried by a more proactive and productive group--to date they have sold three pieces for her.

When ignored thus, What's a Grace To Do?

Grace J got it right. Send periodic 'check in' emails with inquiries on status and decreasingly gentle nudges to get moving. In each of these, offer to assist in any way possible. If nothing productive transpires, examine seriously whether you want to continue your affiliation. Then examine seriously any contract you may have entered, and make sure you can escape. Consult a lawyer if necessary. Before you jump ship, however, consider the why.

If the gallery director is simply not interested in promoting your work, preferring instead to flog the flavor of the month white on white with invisible bicycle tire artist phenom, then cut and run. If, however, there are extenuating circ's, well, Graces don't burn bridges. Unless, of course, they are being crossed by your ex, who, while you spent a loyal and celibate 4 months on a consulting job in Romania, consoled himself in the arms and company of someone named 'Bunny'. But I digress.

Reasons to stick it out--or at least have a little patience:
--the majority of regular clients were heavily invested with Bernie Madoff, and the Gallery is actively seeking alternative markets.
--unforeseen personal difficulties (illness, bereavement, etc.) Graces don't dump someone because he had to attend to his mother's funeral arrangements.
--unforeseen logistical challenges (shipping woes, leaks in gallery roof, computer crash).

Reasons to seek greener pastures:

--failed to distribute your press release because manicure was not dry.
--bereavement occurred 5 years ago.
--logistical challenges are chronic and costly--leak destroyed inventory, computer bugs repeatedly infect your computer, shipping label sent framed watercolor to North Dakota (ND) instead of New York (NY) more than once.

When you do decide to sever ties, be honest but not brutal. I am a firm believer in "you never know". This chap could seem like the worst agent in the world right now, but five years from now he might be the toast of the town and in a position to help you. You don't have to resort to "it' not you, it's me"; go with a simple version of "we don't seem to be a good fit" or "I am going to explore other avenues". Send a thank you for his efforts on your behalf and move on.

I've said it before but it bears repeating: sometimes it's tough to be a Grace.

Speaking of the art world, I got a chuckle out of the following spoof. The images toward the end of the clip are quite amusing. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Get Back To Me Now!

Why do people think it is okay to ignore emails and phone messages? Here's a nasty little tale of of this rude and ugly practice that I was unfortunate enough to suffer through recently...

Through no fault of my own, I was thrown into a dinner fivesome for a Saturday night out which I knew would be problematic. Two of the five (a couple) will never commit. They are the types who don't actively seek out babysitters, lament how hard it is to find reliable sitters, but when I offer to share some of my contacts they say things like, "Well, WE are very careful about who we leave with our children" or "We are not as comfortable as you are about leaving our children with strangers." (The implication being, of course, that I commit reckless endangerment at least once a week or hire monsters to mind my offspring. You can see why I did not relish the prospect of dinner with these toads--but you know how social obligations are.)

Anyway, I made a reservation for 5, fairly confident that the toads would not end up coming, but, as is the way of the Grace, prepared for the possibility. I emailed them Monday and said, "Got us a table for 5 at the fab new french bistro--they would like a confirmation on Thurs, so please let me know if you will be joining us."


On Wed, I emailed; "Looking forward to Saturday night; must confirm count tomorrow. Let me know your plans."


Now, does it occur to anyone else that a table for 5 is significantly different for a restaurant from a 4, 3 or 2 top? Not these grunts, obviously. And does it occur to anyone else that I want to remain in good stead with the fab new french bistro so that when I call for a table henceforth, they will say, "Tres bien! Grace is coming. Set aside the best table in the house." Not, "Oh, this Grunt again. Hold the table by the loo; she'll be showing up 15 minutes late as a party of two when we've held prime real estate for five on Saturday Night." Or worse yet, "Sorry, we are fully committed."

Would you like to know when I finally heard back? Saturday afternoon. Not surprisingly, and to my enormous relief, they declined to join us. And we called the bistro immediately to release the large table, issued profuse apologies for the late notice, and had a delightful evening, toad-free.

But I would have much preferred to know this on Monday. If I had been dealing with Graces, I would have. They would have responded: "Thanks for making the arrangements, Grace. We are not likely to find child care for Saturday evening and we certainly don't want to leave you or the restaurant hanging, so count us out this time. Have a lovely evening, and hopefully we can take a rain check."

See how easy that was?

Just make sure you don't call too late, ala Larry David.....(Note: clip contains some R-rated language.)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year, Graces.

No, this is not going to be my wish list for other peoples' resolutions. Tempting though it is to suggest things like...

1. "I resolve to hold the door for the person behind me."
2. "I will always rsvp by the requested date."
3. "I will make an effort to reciprocate invitations and favors."
4. "I will not issue 'friendly insults'" (like 'how liberating for you that you are not watching your weight' or 'it's great that you don't care what your children wear, must save a lot of time in the morning.')
5. "I will not overshare information of a personal/medical nature with casual acquaintances."
6. "I will not use my cell phone in a way that encroaches on another's repose."

Nope. Not this year. Instead, I want to address the best way to respond to the proclaimed resolutions of others. There are many reasons why people feel the need to broadcast their intentions--which, incidentally, nearly always fail by mid-January. Some are seeking attention. Some feel that they will be more likely to honor the resolution if they tell a lot of people. Others truly believe that you are interested (these are the ones who need to embrace resolution #5 above). So, here goes.....

Resolution: "I plan to start a fitness program and lose 20 lbs this year."
Grunt Response: "WOW! Really? That's great. You really need it. It's about time."
Grace Response: "Good for you. I hear people love spinning. Have you decided on a strategy?"
Uber-Grace Response: "Good for you. It's a constant battle, isn't it? I try to keep fit with power walking. Let me know if you ever want to join me. I go most mornings before work and do about 40 minutes."

See the difference? The Grunt's abundant enthusiasm emphasizes the person's overweight and unfit state. The Grace sends positive wishes and gives the aspirant a chance to talk about his plans. The Uber-Grace offers good wishes, understanding, and then concrete support in his endeavor.

Resolution: "I am going to get engaged this year."

Grunt Response: "To Whom?"
Grace Response: "Congratulations! Who's the lucky girl/guy?"
Uber-Grace Response: "That's wonderful. I can't wait to meet him/her. Let me know if you want to double date."

In this particular case, it is entirely possible that the resolver has not yet met his/her intended. If so, emphasizing that fact is both counterproductive and discouraging.

Resolution: "I am going to quit smoking/biting my nails/ignoring parking tickets/[fill in other bad habit]" this year."

Grunt Response: "Like Tax Day, this resolution is an annual event."
Grace Response: "Good for you. Best of luck."
Uber-Grace Response: "That's great. My neighbor had good luck with hypnosis/wearing a muzzle/selling her car. Let me know how it goes!"

But it would be nice, wouldn't it, if we could make (and keep) resolutions for others. (Starting with items 1-6 above.) As my Grant of a hubby frequently says, "The world according to Grace....what a wonderful place it would be."

Monday, January 03, 2011

Gracious Thanks for Less Than Stellar Gifts

We all got one--the heinous gift. Whether it was a reindeer sweater, a gigantic homemade ceramic vase, or a year's supply of turkey jerky, it's here. Now it's time to face the Grace challenge: writing a sincere sounding thank you for said atrocity. Yes, you have to write the note. But I am here to hold your hand, steady your pen, and suggest some phrasing for even the most bizarre and horrid of gifts. Here goes:

I know you are tempted to write:

Dear Aunt Hilda,
I received your package just in time for Christmas. The fact that you think that I would want such a hideous item in my home makes me question whether or not you should still be living without supervision. Where one even finds life size opossum statues is a mystery. The thing scared the crap out of me! I shall destroy it at my earliest convenience.

But a Grace would only think it, and possibly share the draft and a snarky giggle with a few discreet, inner sanctum fellow Graces. Instead, a Grace would send the following missive to the misguided Aunt Hilda:

Dear Aunt Hilda,
What a surprise to receive your Christmas gift! The opossum statue is certainly unique and very life like. It was so kind of you to remember us at Christmas as we celebrate our first holiday in our new home. We will definitely be needing accoutrements to adorn our abode. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and generosity.
With Love and Best Wishes,

Dear Sue and Bill,
You can’t imagine what went through my head when I opened the pink scarf with kittens on it! I wouldn’t use this thing as a tourniquet if I were bleeding to death. Do I look like someone who dresses up in f&*%$#g kitten scarves?

But what you actually write is:

Dear Sue and Bill,
How kind of you to remember my birthday. The scarf is very sweet; my daughter fell in love with it before it was out of the box, so I may be forced to share it with her. Thank you again.

Dear Helga,
Many thanks for the lovely sauna towel. I know how much expertise and experience you have in this area, so I know it is of the highest quality and most current style. The anti-bacterial coating and stain resistant finish make it especially useful, not to mention the amazing chartreuse color--my favorite! It was so generous of you to take the time to choose something for me; I know I will enjoy using the towel when I next travel to Finland.
Again, many thanks for such a thoughtful and unique gift.
Grace K

Dear Vin,
I wanted to thank you for the wonderful bottle of Pinot Noir you gave me for Christmas. I was pleased to share it with my family over the holidays as a perfect accompaniment to our roast duck. It certainly came in handy when my younger brother threatened to drink my Dr. Hauschka Facial Toner if I did not come up with some more hooch pronto! I know how much of a wine connoisseur you are--proven by the wonderful bottle you chose--and I appreciate the care you took in selecting a gift for me.
Many thanks for your thoughtfulness and generosity.

For stationery supplies in increasing order of expense, see

You don't have to go the personalized route--just please avoid the cards that actually have "Thank You" printed on them. Strenuously avoid anything with big-eyed children, overwhelming cabbage roses, or baby animals. Now get writing Graces!

If you need some additional inspiration, here's Dido with her own version of "Thank You."