Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Girls Just Want To Have Fun In The Summer Sun!

Since the year 1905
There's been on Cayuga shores
A jolly bunch of happy girls,
Who are able to use the oars,

Their object is to have some fun,
In the very best kind of way;
From early morn 'till setting sun,
They dance the livelong day.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

From my book: "Forget-Me-Not, Forget Me Never, Remember The Fun We Had Together, Reminiscences and Memories of New York"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Letter To The Editor - Go East - The September Issue, Vogue Magazine

Dear Ms. Wintour,
   Imagine my glee when upon opening your September Issue, the largest issue of each year, for many years, the issue industry insiders, designers, advertisers, and the rest of America waits for with Manolo's on, to find y'all shot your main fashion story in China. As lovely as the Great Wall was, I'm sure, here's what; how about shooting your main fashion story every month in America. American cities. American landmarks. In case y'all up there in your own Tra la la land have not stuck your heads out of your offices lately, there  are approximately 25 million Americans out of work. Give local photographers, lighting crews, models, and local designers a chance, a look-see, a job.

Respectfully submitted,

Katherine Barrett Baker
Manakin-Sabot, Virginia

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: "The Glass Castle", Unbelievable and Unforgettable

   Last week, a friend recommended "The Glass Castle" as one of the best books she has ever read. Quickly purchasing the trade paperback, "The Glass Castle" came with me on vacation. I could not put it down. I still cannot stop talking about it and thinking about this amazing story of survival during the 1960's in America from the childhood eyes of the author. I have already purchased many more copies for Christmas presents.
   The autobiography begins in present day New York City. Jeannette Walls, the author, is meeting her husband for dinner. She is sitting in a taxi, looking out the window and catches a glimpse of a woman digging through a Dumpster. This woman is her dear Mother. Yes, her Mother is a homeless woman living on the streets of New York and her Mother prefers it that way.
   The authors' parents, Rose Mary and Rex Walls were married in 1956 in a traditional church ceremony. Her Mother was dressed in a lovely white wedding gown and her father dressed in a formal shawl collared white dinner jacket and black tuxedo pants reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart in the movie Casablanca. Rex Walls was an Air force flyer and Rose Mary Walls was a beautifully educated teacher and from a well off, well mannered, landed Texas family.
    One wonders while reading this tale of constant chaos, what went so wrong that both parents ended up happily homeless, living in New York City. The simple answer is that they were both non-conformists.
   Rose Mary Walls' God given talent was that she was a true artist in every sense of the word. She was a dreamer, an eternal optimist, a lady with fine manners and knowledge of fine art and antiques, and considered her "Tra la la life" a wonderful adventure when she was not forced to work and when her husband was not drunk. No matter how dire the family's situation remained, over and over again, and no matter where the family lived, including in shacks and cars, Rose Mary carted her art supplies with her and chose to paint her pictures for her source of escapism, rather than, unfortunately, keeping an eye on her children.
  Rose Mary did, however, give her children a life of literature. Whatever town the family was near, Rose Mary Walls consistently got herself to the Public Library and checked out book after book for all her children to read. Reading was their saviour. Reading gave these children hope, a sense of belongingness in this life, and a happy escapism.
   Rex Walls' God given talent was that he could fix anything. He could fix cars and anything electric, including wiring a house. His life's dream was to design and build a glass castle heated by solar panels.  The sun, after all, is forever and free. More importantly to Rex the dreamer, one does not have to pay any corporation or entity for the privilege of receiving electricity or anything else. Rex did not believe in dependence on anyone or anything, especially any government, church, hospital, corporation, or any charitable organization. He believed in self-sufficiency to the point that this belief became a primitive, viking-like, pioneering and post nuclear survival philosophy. This manic philosophy of life may sound genius on paper, but in practice, proved to be a bit bi-polar, or maybe a bit "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" resulting from his own stark, starving, cruel childhood in the poorest part of the Appalachian mountains, Welch,West Virginia. For better and for mostly much worse, this strict survival mode mantra was how the Walls family lived and Rex was head of the household.
   Why do some people get going and work themselves into a frenzy to prosper against terrific odds while other people simply rely on others for help when life gets rough? Why do some horses want to be first in a horse race and other horses don't really care? Wanting to succeed has little to do with money, breeding or upbringing. All material things and certain qualities are nice and may help, but success comes down to personal drive. An inner hunger of sorts. It seems as if it is a personality. Utilizing one's God given talent helps as well. Everyone has at least one talent.
   The largest lesson in this book is: no matter the hardships life will throw at you, you will always be able to use your good, resourceful mind to learn, strive and work your way out of any situation if you choose to do so. It is also helpful psychologically if you have the support of your family, any family, and/or friends. One thing Rose Mary and Rex did for their children was to give them a sense of togetherness, and a lasting sense of the importance of family and sticking together always.
   In this age of avarice and envy in America, this book is a reminder of the resourcefulness and drive we have lost as an affluent, free society. It also reminds us of what good can be accomplished again with a lot of hard work and perseverance in gaining back our sense of togetherness and purpose in our personal lives, communities and country.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

LTTE - Harpers Bazaar, September Issue 2011

Dear Editor,
   In reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's September Issue article: "What has Michelle Bachmann done Right," I gasped at her shocking comment: "I believe government has a crucial role in developing a free and equal society."
   Pardon me? With 70% of the world's population existing on a staple diet of rice and beans, and Billions of people living under Dictatorships, or complete chaotic lawlessness, America is the best example of a free and equal developed society.
   All Americans are free to vote in any free election. We are free to study hard within our free educational system, and additionally, freely check out any of the millions of books written in any free Public Library. We are also free to apply for any job we wish to work for and may qualify to earn.
   The modern Mother of these four children as a free citizen was free to seek out free birth control, and free to have, or not to have, any amount of children she could afford, or not afford, either financially or through familial or community support systems. She was also free to commit to the Father, (or any of the Fathers), of these children and free to raise these children in any environment she wished to strive to attain.
   This modern Mother was apparently as well, free to seek out illegal drugs, free to spend her money on illegally purchasing these illegal drugs over and over again, free to use these illegal drugs, and free to allow herself to become addicted to these illegal drugs. She was free to, at any time during her addiction, seek out many and various free treatment programs, without prosecution, through her free local churches and/or free community centers or family. What this modern Mother did to her children was unfair.
   I commend Mr. & Mrs. Diffenbaugh and Michelle Bachmann for raising foster children. They are freely taking up the responsibility for kids who's Mother (and Father) equally and freely failed at, over and over and over again.
   These parents freely failed to freely commit to each other, freely failed to commit to their children they freely brought into this world, and freely failed to resourcefully and responsibly raise these four children. They also freely failed to obey the "Rule of Law" in this free country.
   Like childhood, no free or occupied society is always equal or fair, but America is the most fair and most equal society on the planet.
   My Father wisely always said: "One cannot legislate morality." As a smoker, he also wisely said: "Smoking is a personality." I assume drug use is, as well, a personality. Willfully having four children in our modern society without a partner to help raise these children responsibly, without any resourcefulness, without utilizing religious, community or reasonable familial support systems and without any care or regard for personal responsibility or our rule of law in this free country is a selfish, self-centered, self serving lifestyle.
   Lifestyle is a personality. Lifestyle gets passed on generation after generation. Lifestyle can neither be legislated, nor governed. Lifestyle is neither fair nor equal, but in America, lifestyle is free and we are free to live our lives as responsibly or as irresponsibly as we wish.

Respectfully submitted,

Katherine Barrett Baker
The Sabot School of Etiquette
1451 Amber Lake Road
Manakin-Sabot, Virginia 23103

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Modern Manners Meltdown in America - Better, Worse, or Just Different?

   We must ask ourselves, in this age of constantly evolving newest, latest and greatest information: Are old fashioned manners out of fashion? Has 24 hour Cable News TV taken us into a reality of fighting, fortunetelling and fear mongering? Has unreal Reality TV taken us away from forming our own realities in our own lives? America has traditionally been the "firstest and bestest" in everything we do. Yet, America is not going through a Renaissance right now. However, one fact never changes: Manners take you everywhere.
   Americans can become the most beautifully educated people on the planet. We can all go to College and University, but can we go out to dinner without embarrassing ourselves? Are our parents and schools teaching the number one manners rule, which is: Leaders always make others feel special. Leaders never embarrass others. Leaders always anticipate the other person's next need.
   Has America become a Godless, reckless, lawless, and feckless, uncivil society? Will the unique entrepreneurial spirit of our nation, our "Rule of Law" and our rules of etiquette continue to set us apart from every other country in the world? In any society, the manners pendulum swings along with the social, political and moral pendulums, and as any piano lesson, the pendulum swings back and forth, left to right.
     As time moves farther away from the opulent Golden Age and strict, formal Victorian manners, our daily behaviors become more relaxed as our casual lives grow busier and more complicated. I was once told by a Victorian raised, very socially prominent 'Grand Dame': "A 'toe-mat-toe" is worth 1/2 a penny more than a tomato." However, does this saying still ring true? Is this saying even applicable in today's society.
   No more do we have to keep up with Pickle Forks, Oyster Forks, Fish Forks, Olive Forks, Lemon Forks, Pastry Forks, Sweetmeat Forks, and Ice Cream Forks. As John Loring, the man who compiles all those Tiffany and Company coffee table books, says: "Thank goodness Tiffany and Co. does not have to keep up with manufacturing and stocking these 100 +  different opulent serving pieces and accoutrements any longer."
       These days, there exists an entire new generation of teenagers that do not know how to hold their forks. They have been raised eating french fries and chicken fingers with their fingers in the car on the way to supervised after school and weekend activities such as band practice, soccer practice or dance class. However, this generation of kids are technology savvy. They can Skype and place photos on Face book from their phones in seconds. My 4 year old grandson who could not yet read, showed me how to use the "skip" button on the clicker to skip through the "Previews" before watching a DVD movie.
   This teenage generation also has friends at school, as shown on their Face book pages, of all different ethnicity, race and religion from all over the world. They think nothing of these 21st Century international immigrants from far lands. They judge their friends by how good they are as people. This fresh, new generation of young people are neither better off, nor worse off, they are just different.
   My 15 year old Nephew calls my husband and myself by the traditional titles: Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jim. However, he calls his best friends' parents by their first names as requested by these parents. Otherwise, he answers: "Yes, Mrs. Jones." As shocking as this may sound to most Southerners, the phrases "Mam" and "Sir"  smack back to a certain time of servitude in the old South, and this time of servants and domestic help is over. The younger generation can just as easily say: "Yes, Mrs. Jones" and "No, Mr. Smith" rather than "Yes, Mam" or "No, Sir." Respect of proper titles to the adult is still shown. The language is just different.
   Weddings are now different. No longer does the little hometown girl marry the little hometown boy the week after graduating High School or College. Technology, and the ease of travel have made commuter relationships possible. Couples now post their wedding stories, photos, gift giving information, and directions on line, on their own websites! Very convenient for ordering gifts, and the out of town guests attending the wedding. Yes, the gift registry is listed, but no longer do guests have to telephone the Mother of the Bride to ask where the Bride is registered.
   Party invitations and RSVP's are also different. Party invitations are still sent out by snail mail, but also may be sent out by E-mail. The R.s.v.p. can be phoned in or conveniently answered on e-mail. As Richmond is so traditional, I still receive a few wedding invitations every Summer that require a hand written response, so I write my response, but I must say the pre-stamped envelope and matching card to check and place in the mail is quick and convenient. Yes, knowing how to write a response to a wedding is nice, but is it still important in society? Is this skill worth 1/2 a penny more than sending a pre-made card in the mail?    
   Entertaining is also different. Often, the Host and Hostess do all the preparation, cooking, serving, and clean up for parties. Technology and relatively inexpensive prepared foods have made entertaining easier for the hosts. Savvy guests help hang up coats, help in the set up or clean up and may even help park cars!
   Stemware and Fine China usage is also different. The large Victorian Iced Tea glass used for only Iced Tea during the opulent Victorian age is now sold on gift registries as a Water Goblet. The large Water Goblet is now used as a Wine Goblet. The smaller Wine Claret is not used much any longer, and the Champagne Flute has now replaced the Champagne Saucer. Many Dinner plates are now 10" -12" large. They also double as Buffet, Charger or Service Plates.
   Salad Plates now also double as Dessert Plates. Bread and Butter Plates, if even ordered by the Bride, double as Dessert Plates.

 Mugs have replaced the Cup and Saucer. Rimmed Soup Bowls have replaced the double handled, hand honed Cream Soup Bowls and Plate. Neither are better nor worse, just different.
   By living less formally, does this mean the younger generations have to be less kind, less thoughtful, less patient? No it does not.
Families must maintain the responsibilities of parenting and teaching their children general respect.
The best thing we can do as a society is to remember, teach, listen and have faith in God. Remember the fallen as they have kept us free. Remember our friends and families. Remember our relatives who have passed. Listening to the life stories of wise women and men, their life celebrations and struggles, is the greatest gift that can be given to the young. One fact remains: Change is neither better nor worse, it's just different.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Operation "White Cake" As She Wished Is True Love

During this age of avarice, some young people confusing accomplishment with bling, this romantic man spent 1 year planning his girlfriend's surprise dream wedding. He proposed, then they were immediately married! Such a fresh, lovely, true change of pace! Etiquette constantly changes with changing times but this change back to true love is a lovely and welcome change!

Best wishes and congratulations to the happy couple for a lifetime of bliss!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summertime Is Everyday A Casual Friday Manners Day

    Maybe, chalk it up to the heat of Summer and people are so hot, they have lost minding their manners. Maybe our entire society is much more casual as we are more international, muilticultural and move farther in time away from the strick manners of Victorian societies. Would you floss your teeth during a business meeting? Do you reapply your lipstick, (or watch another woman do so), before, during or after a meal at the table? Really?
   Last week, during a casual business meeting with lunch ordered in, one man pulled out his dental floss and began flossing his teeth. Yes, you read right, flossing his teeth. Did he think no one would notice? In seeing this act, my husband and another man imediately put down their forks and that was the end of their meal. They were completely grossed out!
   A few weeks ago while out at a restaurant, I watched one man's face as his date reapplied her lip stick after a meal. His facial expression was one of distaste. Why didn't this woman just excuse herself for 2 minutes, get off her "wallet" and go to the Ladies' Room? Did she think no one was watching?
   The next time you eat out in public at a restaurant, public park or charity event, look around. By watching others' behavior at the table, one can tell who has been somewhere and who has not.  
   Every summer this reapplication of lipstick issue pops up. Possibly every day during the summer is a casual Friday manners day? Today, this issue was discussed on the Hoda and Kathie Lee Show. Lipstick reapplication examples were given while at public events in the Hamptons.