Dear Ms. Plume,
I have dear friends who keep inviting me to wonderful events and parties; I could never reciprocate in kind but would like to do something special for them. Flowers or bottles of wine just aren’t enough, and I do write thank you notes but that’s what is expected. How can I show my affection and appreciation in a more meaningful way?Belle
My favorite thank you gift is a special photograph or a photo book. We all seem to keep our photographs on our computers or in our phones these days and rarely put them in print. There are wonderful places that print photos on metallic paper or sheets of aluminum or on canvas with the option of a gallery wrap. There are also lots of sites for having books made and they range from small palm size to large and extravagant books. So, next time take your camera and snap away. Most people at least secretly love having their picture taken and it is also a good way to interact at a party and see things from another perspective.
Dear L. A. Plume,
We live in a tightly knit community where a particular set of neighbors are not getting along with each other. We all know the depth and breadth of their arguments because we can hear them shouting. Although they are a lovely couple when they are happy, they are now known in the neighborhood as the “Bickersons.” No one wants to get within fifty feet of either one of them because they are each looking for an audience and someone who will take his or her side. What can we do/say to stop this barrage of information we don’t want?
When you are approached, simply say, “Stop. I’m sorry you are going through a difficult time right now, but I consider you both as friends so I don’t want to be caught in the middle.” The problem with getting too much information about someone is that you will not be able to erase it from your mind. Because those snippets of information can be really personal and ugly, and designed to get you to take sides, what is most unfortunate is that every time you see that person again, something will flash in front of you. You’ll be trying to talk to him/her and all of a sudden, you’ll remember that s/he has a bizarre sexual preference, bad personal hygiene, or hates your dog, or worse – your hair.
L. A. Plume
Dear Ms. Plume,
I have been invited to a family reunion by a very good friend. She, of course, refers to her family members as Uncle Otis, Uncle Gene, Aunt Jane, etc. I have heard so many stories about these people that I already feel like I know them, but they haven’t met me yet. When I am introduced to them is it all right for me to address them as she does or should I call them by their formal names, such Mr. Hughes, etc.?
When addressing someone who is your elder, it is proper to address them by their title, such as “Mr. Hughes,” and then let them tell you if you may call them by their first name. I personally think it a bit presumptuous to address an elder by their first name unless you are particularly close to them, but I have always been fond of the Aunt and Uncle titles which show respect, even if they are not your family. When my children were young, they and other children of my friends, addressed me and my friends as Aunt XX, and we all loved being “Aunties” to so many wonderful children.
L. A. Plume