Notes: Why No Screens

Cell_PhonesWhy no screens at Social Arts Atlanta events?

We have all come to rely on these “smart” devises as a way to communicate, make notes, find information and take pictures. This collective data, words and images, can make so many things easier. Need to change the carpool schedule? Send a text. See just the right layout for a meeting? Snap a picture and email it to your assistant.

Yet, as with many fantastic and amazing things, there are down sides.

Screens document and broadcast the good and the bad. Creating an environment where students can make a mistake without the fear of being the subject of a post on social media, well intentioned or not, is important. We all need the space to mess up and try again, to practice and get our footing.

Phones, tablets and MP3 players can be used to create a physical barrier, a crutch, the techo means to “look the other way” from something uncomfortable. In social situations, this discomfort is likely caused by not knowing what to do or say. Because Social Arts’ classes do not allow screens and are relatively small and, student more naturally engage and learn that knowledge and practice are empowering. Most situations are not as difficult as you could ever image.

SAA’s no screen policy is both a protection and a way to make students open up, be uncomfortable to get more comfortable.

Notes: Receiving a Gift

giftflowersWhat is a gift? It may be something you have been longing for or it may be something you never thought you would see in your life. In truth, it is evidence that someone thought about you. The manner in which you receive a gift is important and learning to be grateful for even the seemingly most miss guided gift is an invaluable life skill.

Following is an excerpt from Teaching Children Gift Etiquette by Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D. It is written as a guide to teaching children about accepting gifts. We found it a good recap for everyone.

  • Be sure the adults model gratitude and courtesy. It’s impossible to teach children to be gracious if they are watching their parents and other role models behave badly. Raising children well often means cleaning up our own acts. When we remember to regularly say please and thank you and demonstrate our gratitude both for the gifts we receive and the givers who enrich our lives by their very presence, we provide our children with powerful lessons in both politeness and love. When we thank our children for presents they give us — whether it is a drawing they made or something they purchased — we show them how good it makes people feel to be appreciated.
  • Talk to your child about what giving is all about. Ideally, it is an act of love and caring. It’s a way people say, “You’re special to me. I want to make you happy.” Even when a gift is a disappointment, the intention was to please.
  • Kids as young as 5 can learn to figure out something positive to say about a disappointing gift. Finding a reason to be grateful when it would be so much easier to get upset is an invaluable life skill. At age 8, Jocey’s son could have said, “I’ll like playing with this fire truck with my little brother.” (At only 3, my son was too young to be that sophisticated when confronted with the robot though he surprised us all by finding a way to make it less scary.) Give your kids some practice by imagining together some outrageous “gifts” and thinking about what positive things they could say to compliment the gift or the giver.
  • Teach them that if they can’t find something to like about the gift, they can always focus on the love. Someone loved them enough to think about what to get, to go to the store to buy it, and to wrap it up and deliver it. They can always tell the person that it makes them feel good and special that someone went to all that trouble.
  • Emphasize that it’s never, ever, okay to hurt the giver’s feelings. They mustn’t poke fun at the gift or embarrass the giver — even if the giver isn’t there to hear it. Laughing at another’s expense isn’t being funny. It’s just unkind. If those unkind comments get back to the person, it can damage the relationship.
  • Reassure your children that if they really, honestly don’t like a gift, they can quietly come to you later to talk about it.Often gifts can be exchanged or a parent can tactfully help the giver better understand what would be a better choice at another time. And sometimes at least, what at first seemed like the most inappropriate, useless gift ever can become a dear reminder of the person who gave it.

As with all social situations, a bit of thought and practice are always useful. Even if you are not certain where you will store the three foot tall statue of a lama, it will be an unusual reminder of your time with your distant cousin Louis and may be the best gift at your next “white elephant” party.

Source: Hartwell-Walker, M. (2014). Teaching Children Gift Etiquette. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 9, 2014, from

Notes: The Buffet

The_BuffetWith gathering and being a guest this season, we are all likely to come upon The Buffet. This is a easy way to serve a crowd but can be unnerving to navigate. As always, a bit of thought and practice before an encounter is  helpful.



  • It is a party, not a race and there is usually more than enough.
  • Wait your turn, be in the moment, speak to those around you, The Buffet is part of the party.
  • Refrain from eating while in line.
  • Serve a modest portion, it will be easier to manage if you have to eat standing up.


  • Hold a plate. Put it in your left hand, with the palm facing up, under your thumb and on top of your pointer finger. This will leave the right hand available for serving and shaking hands.
  • Add a napkin. It should go under your plate. If you know you have to eat standing, open the napkin before tucking it between your middle and pointer fingers securing it with the weight of the plate. This way, you can wipe the figures of your right hand as needed.
  • Now, add utensils. It or they go under your plate using the pointer and/or middle fingers to hold them.
  • Place a beverage glass. It can go in the area of you palm created by holding the plate, secure the glass with your ring and little fingers.
  • Serve food to your plate.

To manage this process with confidence and grace, really does require practice.It is a bit of a juggle. Just like parallel parking or the correct use of its and it’s, managing The Buffet takes repetition. The time, well spent, will allow for the full enjoyment of the company and food.

Note: Be A Good Guest

At the end of the year, we gather. This long tradition is likely linked to the cold and short days. We just cannot do as much work out in the fields.

So young or old, we are likely to be a guest. Whether it is at an office party, a friend’s open house or your great-aunt’s assisted living cafeteria, being a good guest is a good idea and relatively simple.

Think like a host.

  • Make only reasonable requests. What would your reaction be if your employee asked that limbo be added to the agenda of the cocktail gathering?
  • Offer to help. How did you feel when your home-from-college niece offered to unstop the powder room toilet so you could take the souffle out of the oven?
  • Be open to suggestions. When you were not sure how to talk to your best friend’s  eleven-year-old niece, wasn’t it great when she accepted your invitation to play Sorry?
  • Avoid negative comments. How did you feel when your friend talked about how she got heinous food poising from a batch of gingerbread at your first cookie decorating party?

To help both yourself and the young people in your life, take a moment to talk or think about the people you have enjoyed hosting. What make these people enjoyable to be around, what makes you want to invite them back?

Just this small bit of thought and preparation will make you and yours great guests and repeat guests.