A Sparkling Vintage Life

manners

Courtesy in a Violent World


This “bonus” minisode tackles the topic of common courtesy, which is so much more than using the right salad fork. If we’re ever going to solve the problem of hatred and violence in our world, we’ve got to start with treating each other with basic respect, kindness, and dignity.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript of this episode.

Show notes:

Civility by Stephen L. Carter

 

Transcript of Episode 18.5: Courtesy in a Violent World

This is a quick minisode–I’m calling it Episode 18.5–about the role of good manners in society. This is maybe a slightly more serious topic today than I normally talk about, but a few distressing things have happened lately in the news. I know distressing news is not unusual, and normally I don’t watch a lot of news for that reason. But a couple stories have come across my newsfeed than broke my heart.

First, there was a brawl that broke out at that supposedly happiest place on Earth, Disneyland. Even worse, this brawl broke out in the Toontown section, which I understand is where the youngest children go. So who knows how many people  including some very young children had their visit ruined by having to be unwilling witnesses to this brawl that broke out among adults who were angry with each other and couldn’t manage to settle their differences peacefully, without shouting and cursing and physical violence.

I was still reeling from that story when the second story hit. This one happened much closer to my home. It happened in a small town quite near to me, where two teenage girls beat a third teenage girl, allegedly with a baseball bat, and put her in the hospital. This is normally a quiet, almost sleepy place, and to have something like this happen here just … there are no words.

I’m not going to go into detail on either one of these stories, nor am I going t link to them. I don’t want these kinds of topics on my page. The only reason I’m even bringing them up here today is that I feel they point to and are indicators of what can happen when people forget, or perhaps are never even taught, how to be civil to one another. Call it what you will–call it good manners or proper etiquette or civility or decency–those are all facets of the same thing. These acts of violence, as well as many others that take place here in America and all over the world, are symptoms. They’re symptoms of people losing their ability to get along with each other for the good of the community.

Sometimes people are amused by or even ridicule my longing for a return to good manners in society today. After all, who cares which fork you use for your salad or whether or not to chew with your mouth closed. Well, they’re right. It’s not about the forks. It’s not about the table manners. When you’re talking violence, these things don’t matter much. As many commenters have pointed out, people who do these sorts of things are steeped in dysfunction and violence and maybe mental illness. No amount of “please” and “thank you” can fix that.

But at its essence, above everything else, practicing good manners is simply a social lubricant that reduces the friction that occurs when people rub up against others or encounter people who rub them the wrong way. It’s a balm for wounds to keep them small and avoid letting them blow up into bigger problems.

Manners help people of different viewpoints and backgrounds and experiences to get along when they’re in the public square or at any type of gathering.  Mannerly behavior and civility give people a framework within which they can try to work out their differences and a standard of behavior to treat each other with respect and dignity, not to beat someone to a pulp because they said or did something someone else didn’t like. At the very least, if differences cannot be resolved, good manners provide a way for each party to walk away, to maintain their own space, and to avoid interacting for their mutual benefit, if that’s the only way to keep the peace.

I’m not talking about glossing over problems or putting a fake happy face on them. But I am talking about using what used to be called common courtesy or basic courtesy to allow us to overlook the petty grievance or unintended slight instead of taking offense, or to resolve it in a way that leaves both affected parties with their dignity intact before the situation devolves into a brawl. Civility also assures that others don’t get drawn into the disagreement, either as unwilling witness like the innocent tourists trying to enjoy a day at Disneyland, or even those who are initially not involved but whose emotions are ginned up to the point where they take sides in the fight.

In his excellent book Civility, Stephen L. Carter writes, “Civility as a moral proposition begins with the assumption that humans matter, that we owe each other respect, and that treating each other well is a moral duty. Civility so understood often requires us to put aside our own interests and desires for the benfit of others–which, as the ancient philosopher Erasmus understood, is what civilization is all about.”

In short, civility teaches us to discipline our desires for the sake of others.  In short, it’s the Golden Rule: to treat others as we would want to be treated. To love one another, and love our neighbors as ourselves.

So, no, I’m not naïve enough to think a few charm-school lessons are going to solve the deeply rooted problem of violence and incivility in our world. But I’m not going to sit idly by, either. I’m going to do my part to restore dignity and grace to the extent that I can, within my sphere of influence, one person at a time. Won’t you join me?

 

The Well-Dressed Vintage Traveler


Join Jennifer Leo as she considers the elegant dress and deportment of the traveler of yesteryear, while contemplating her own upcoming encounter with the blood sport that is modern air travel.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down for the transcript.

Show notes:

Turns out there’s a World Tiddlywinks Championship. Who knew?

A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

The 1928 Jewelry Company

(Scroll down to see the Rose Pin giveaway!)

The Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle

Jennifer’s fiction:

You’re the Cream in My Coffee

Ain’t Misbehavin’

Songbird and Other Stories

Jennifer’s blog and newsletter sign-up

Giveaway! If you’d like a chance to win this beautiful porcelain rose pin created by The 1928 Jewelry Company, visit jenniferlamontleo.com/podcast, click on Episode 10, and leave a comment that you’d like the pin. Or, even better, leave a review of the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Then alert me by e-mail (jenny@sparklingvintagelife.com) or with a comment and I’ll put your name in the drawing. Winner will be chosen at random on April 30, 2019.

Episode 11 Transcript: The Well-Dressed Vintage Traveler

Today’s topic is Travel. I’m about to embark on a trip to the Chicago area to visit my father for Easter. In preparation, I thought it would be fun to look at travel from years past in comparison to today’s rather inelegant proceedings.

It’s been a quiet week here in northern Idaho. I’ve been working on the audiobook edition of Songbird and Other Stories. I know that there is some debate as to whether authors should record their own audiobooks, or should hire voiceover talent to do it. I think that in fiction the author’s personal voice is important, so I’ve chosen to record this one myself. My publisher did hire a reader to record the audiobook of You’re the Cream in My Coffee a couple of years ago, and I thought she did a competent job. But I’d like to try recording this one myself, and so I am. That’s one of the advantages of independent publishing, that I can maintain control and make these sorts of decisions for myself, for better or for worse. If in the end I don’t like the results, I can try something else. If you listen to audiobooks, do you have an opinion whether you prefer books read by the author or read by a professional voice artist? It probably depends on whether the author is a competent reader. I suppose that just because a person can write, doesn’t mean they can do a good job reading aloud. But I think I’ll do okay. Anyway, that’s my plan. The audiobook version of Songbird should be out in early May. The cover design is already done and we’re just waiting for me to finish recording the stories. Otherwise, since I’ll be traveling this week, I probably won’t get much writing done, although sometimes planes and airports turn out to be good incubators for creative activity. I’ll be prepared with my writing materials, just in case.

And now on to today’s topic. It’s no secret that while travel has grown in speed, efficiency, and affordability, it has declined in grace and charm and, in some cases, even basic civility. As I set off on my trip I’m not looking forward to the government-sanctioned assault on my person that is the TSA pat-down, or the cattle-car atmosphere of the airline cabin. I don’t appreciate being nickled-and-dimed for every convenience, from checking a bag to having enough room to move my legs. But I will appreciate getting from Idaho to Illinois in hours versus the days that it would take by train or car. In preparation I thought it would be fun to look at some travel advice from long ago to see how travel back then compares to today’s experience.

Writing for teenagers in 1948, Eleanor Boykin had this to say about travel: “There are so many ways to travel now that no one need remain always on home base. … Don’t start even a bus trip to Uncle David’s, though, unless you can bear up under an engine breakdown or a fidgety seatmate. People who cannot adjust to the unexpected and unwanted had better play tiddlywinks by the fire. But if your disposition is elastic, if you keep your eyes, ears, and mind open–not your mouth–travel will rub off some of your prejudices and will make you a more interesting person. It will not only broaden our tolerance as travelers but also enlarge our goodwill to the stranger within our gates.”

Well, that’s still true, isn’t it, as a general rule, that travel exposes us to different types of people and ways of living, which in turn makes us more interesting to talk to? Although I wonder how many listeners will understand the reference to tiddlywinks or remember playing it. Tiddlywinks is a game that involves flipping little discs into a central container some kind.  

Miss Boykin goes on to say, “When traveling, ask the man in uniform–the station guard, policeman, or other person authorized to give information. Don’t ask advice or aid of strangers, except in serious emergencies.  A girl traveling alone should be especially reserved with members of the opposite sex. If not, her attitude may be misunderstood, and she may find herself in a situation she will not enjoy. The best advice that can be given inexperienced travelers of either sex is to be very discreet in the matter of acquaintances.” That’s good advice in any decade, don’t you think? As to plane travel, Miss Boykin writes, “You may find yourself on the verge of taking a trip by air. You know that you must travel light. The aviation companies suggest that you let it be known when you are making your first trip by plane, in order that special attention may be given to your comfort. Meals which are substantial enough under the conditions  will be served you without charge. You can feel free to call on the stewardess for information or advice. On most lines, there is a policy of no tipping. At your journey’s end, it will not be out of place for you to express appreciation for their good services to either pilot or hostess.”

Going back further, to 1938, the more worldly-wise Marianne Meade disagrees with Miss Boykin about advertising the fact that it’s your first plane trip. She says, “When you are taking your first airplane trip, do not advertise the fact that it is your first trip, and expect the hostess and fellow passengers to be sympathetic with your nervousness or thrilled with excitement as you probably are. If they are novices themselves they won’t be interested in your story, and if they are experienced air travelers they will be bored. Maintain your poise, do what is expected of the seasoned air traveler, and enjoy the trip as much as possible.”  It doesn’t sound as if Miss Meade was a big fan of airline travel, does it? She continues, “Adjust in your ears the plugs of cotton which the hostess will give you. Chewing gum may also be distributed. Both items are to prevent your ears’ being affected at high altitudes. Most passengers remove their coats, and a woman may remove her hat if she wishes. It is permissible to chat if your neighbors if they seem so inclined. Many passengers prefer to sleep or read a book throughout the trip, and under such circumstances you should not insist on carrying on a conversation.”

Here’s a totally outdated concept: “Before lighting a cigarette, it is courteous to ask your neighbor if the smoke will annoy him and then ask the copilot if smoking is permitted. In some planes a notice is posted in the front of the salon when smoking is permitted, but at other times and on other planes smoking is strictly forbidden.

“Do not wear heavy perfume in the confined space of a plane, and when your corsage wilts, have it disposed of to avoid nauseating the other passengers.  Do not try to talk to the pilot or explore any of the compartments not open to passengers, and don’t take it upon yourself to open the plane door when you land.”

Some of these inappropriate behaviors would get you arrested today!

I was surprised to find tips for plane travel going that far back, to the 1930s. For some reason I thought airplane travel only became commonplace for the general public after World War II, as opposed to just the military personnel. But clearly enough people were flying before the war to make such etiquette rules necessary.

Writing in 1934, Hallie Ermenie Rives sounded a little more enthusiastic about air travel in her book on etiquette. She says, “Today the great, luxurious airplane glides through the air as smoothly as the most perfectly equipped automobile takes to the road. The airlines plan everything for the passenger’s comfort. As soon as he enters the terminal, his baggage is stowed away in the plane, to be forgotten about until it is claimed at the end of the trip. Aboard the plane, the same efficiency and courtesy prevail. An attendant places the passenger’s belongings on a rack above his head. Just before the take-off, the stewardess hands him a package of chewing gum and some cotton for his ears. The passenger remembers that he must not smoke until he is in the air; but once aloft, the stewardess passes cigarettes and points out the convenient ash tray. The plane affords a generous assortment of magazines and newspapers, and at various intervals refreshments are served by the stewardess. Reclining chairs, individual ventilating systems and in some planes motion pictures all provide for the traveler’s comfort.”

If you were wondering what to wear on your travels in 1934, Hallie Rives would have come to your rescue. “A woman for traveling should select a simple, unostentatious dress. Dark colors are preferable to light, as they are less conspicuous and more serviceable from the standpoint of dust. The traveling clothes of the well-dressed woman are admirable in their severity of cut and design. A close-fitting dark hat, preferably one with a flat back, so that one may lean back comfortably, a tailored dress and smart topcoat, little or no jewelry, and sensible footgear, mark the experienced as well as the fashionable traveler.”

 In the 1940s, Veronica Dengel agreed. “Take clothes that won’t crush easily. On your trip, wear tweed or cloth suits or wool frocks with heavy coats, rather than dressy silk things.”

A couple of decades later, in 1964, Genevieve Antoine Dariaux had even more to say on the topic. In her book A Guide to Elegance, she writes, “If you consider that when you are far away from home and surrounded by strangers, you are judged entirely on the strength of your external appearance, perhaps you will realize the importance of being flawlessly well dressed whenever you travel. Which means that your clothes should be perfectly adapted to your role of traveler and not give the impression that you are on your way to a wedding with a veiled hat and fur stole, or at the opposite extreme, toward the conquest of Annapurna with a knapsack on your back. On the excuse that travel so often leads to a holiday resort, there is a dismaying tendency today to set forth already dressed for that first sun bath.” She say, “In trains, planes or cars, if you are traveling from one city to another, you should wear a city outfit. With this basic ensemble you will need really very little in your suitcase if your accessories have been carefully planned. In the winter your black pumps, black purse, and coat will be just as appropriate for all your evening wear. In the summer your bag and shoes might be beige. A lightweight coat and a dressier stole in a neutral color will combine attractively with the two or three little dresses in your luggage. During three seasons out of four, a suit is the mainstay of your wardrobe. It can be warmed up by a blouse or sweater or it can be worn alone when the weather is mild.”

How does that description stack up next to the apparel sported by passengers on your most recent flight?

Finally, Hallie Rives offers us some advice for train or plane behavior that we’d do well to heed today. “It is just as objectionable to annoy others by loud talking or boisterous laughter or by other unnecessary noise when in a train or plane as when in a private home. To wander up and down the aisles, to open conversation with strangers, except as man to man, perhaps, in the freer atmosphere of the smoker, to call attention to oneself by eccentric behavior, are badges of ill-breeding or of the self-conscious and inexperienced traveler. A train or plane is not the place in which to hold forth upon one’s personal affairs. Neither is it courteous to discuss one’s fellow passengers or to point out peculiarities of appearance.”

Goodness. I can’t wait to see how well-behaved the general public will be on my upcoming flights. Maybe it’s time for the tide to turn and good manners to come back into fashion. But, I won’t hold my breath, lest I pass out and require smelling salts from the congenial air hostess.

 A reminder from last week’s episode that there’s still time to enter the giveaway of a beautiful porcelain rose pin created by The 1928 Jewelry Company, visit jenniferlamontleo.com/podcast, click on Episode 11, and leave a comment that you’d like the pin. Or, even better, leave a review of the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you leave a review, please alert me by e-mail (jenny@sparklingvintagelife.com) and I’ll put your name in the drawing. Winner will be chosen at random on April 30, 2019. I’ll also post a photo of the pin in the show notes so you can see it. You can find the show notes at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under Episode 11.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a topic you’d like me to address, drop me a line at jenny@sparklingvintagelife.com. If you can take a few minutes to stop by iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts and leave a positive review, that will help raise the visibility of the show so others can find it.

And I’ll be back in a moment with today’s grace note.

Today’s grace note is A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, one of the books I quoted above. Originally published in 1964, this book was reprinted 2004 and copies can still be obtained through Amazon. Some of the used copies available there are quite inexpensive, or see if your local library can obtain it. Madame Dariaux was a Frenchwoman who was considered quite the fashion guru back in 1964.  She wrote A Guide to Elegance as a primer on being well dressed and developing grace and poise. It consists of 91 short articles arranged alphabetically, from Accessories to Zoology. The Zoology chapter covers using live animals as accessories, a trend which apparently was having a moment in 1964. Madame Dariaux writes, “Making a public appearance with a baby panther, a tame crocodile, or an orangutan, even a very intelligent one, should be reserved for starlets in need of publicity, for it creates a circus atmosphere that is quite incompatible with the discreet behavior of an elegant woman. However, the situation is quite different if one’s animal companion is our most faithful of friends, the dog.” That sounds like something worthy of a future episode.

 

Episode 5: What is Charm? part deux


In this follow-up episode to “What is Charm?”, Jennifer shares a list of twenty “shortcuts to charm” written by actress Arlene Francis in 1960. Surprisingly, these tips are as relevant today as they were almost sixty years ago, focusing on kindness, respect, and courtesy.

GIVEAWAY: If you enjoyed this episode, please feel free to leave a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts..Stitcher, Doggcatcher, etc.  Then shoot me a message telling me you did so, along with which of my books you’d like to be in the drawing for (You’re the Cream in My CoffeeAin’t Misbehavin’, or Songbird and Other Stories). I’ll be drawing names on March 15, one for each book. You can send the email either to jennifer@sparklingvintagelife.com or jenny@jenniferlamontleo.com.

The Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle

Jennifer’s fiction:
You’re the Cream in My Coffee
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Songbird and Other Stories

Jennifer’s blog

 

Episode 4: What is Charm?


She’s charming. He’s a charmer. Prince Charming. When you hear someone described as “charming,” what images does it bring to mind? Listen in as Jennifer tries to dissect what writers of the past have said about the quality of charm, and what it means for us today.

GIVEAWAY: If you enjoyed this episode, please feel free to leave a review on iTunes (or, if you don’t use iTunes, leave a review wherever you get your podcasts..Stitcher, Doggcatcher, etc.). Then shoot me a message telling me you did so, along with which of my books you’d like to be in the drawing for (You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Ain’t Misbehavin’, or Songbird and Other Stories). I’ll be drawing names on March 15, one for each book. You can send the email either to jennifer@sparklingvintagelife.com or jenny@jenniferlamontleo.com.

Jennifer’s blog

Sparkling Vintage Charm School: Telephone Manners

I don’t know if it’s due to the Age of Texting or what, but recently I’ve noticed a marked decline in telephone manners. So I thought it might be a good time for a refresher, circa 1938:

“If possible, the telephone should be placed so that one can have privacy and quiet while talking,” wrote Marianne Meade of the Junior League. “In many houses this is not possible, so the family must make up in courtesy what is lacking in convenience. [Once upon a time, families shared one telephone, or perhaps a main phone and one extension.] They must not consciously listen to what is being said, and they should also refrain from unnecessary noise or loud talking. This does not mean, however, that conversation should give way to a dead silence until the telephone call is completed, but rather that the family should continue to talk in low tones.

“While not in the best of taste, some member of the family may ask who it was that phoned, and he should receive a courteous answer. But the questioning should go no further unless the call concerns the entire family, or unless the person who received the call is inclined to give more details. Incidentally, it is not considerate to engage in prolonged telephone conversations, because you thereby prevent others from making and receiving calls which may be much more important than yours.” [Yes, children, entire households used to share not only one telephone, but one telephone line to the house. Some even shared the line with other households in the neighborhood, called a “party line.” Oh, the horror!]

Writing for teens, Eleanor Boykin added, “You can never be sure when you telephone a friend that you will not interrupt a visit or call him from a shower bath, but you can considerately void telephoning very early in the morning or late at night, or at the usual hours for meals.” [Do families even have set meal times anymore? Well, it’s a nice idea.]

On answering the telephone: Miss Boykin went on to say, “When you are on the answering end of the telephone, put a smile into your voice. As soon as you hear who your caller is, greet him as pleasantly as if he were at your front door. ‘Hello, Billy, how are you’ or ‘I’m glad to hear from you, Helen.” Don’t grunt”Yeah, what is it?” It is the caller’s place to bring the talk to a close.

On taking messages pre-voicemail: “Telephone messages for absent members of the family should be written down just as carefully and delivered just as faithfully as in an efficient office,” wrote Hallie Erminie Rives. “If a pad and pencil is kept beside the telephone, or better yet, fasted in place, there will be no excuse for not writing the message exactly as it is given. The message may then be put with the proper person’s mail, or left in a designated place, so that the individual can get it even if no one is around to tell him about it when he returns home.”

On using a public telephone: Miss Rives cautions, “Always note if someone is anxiously waiting to use it. Long gossipy chats while others wait should be taboo.”

In You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Marjorie runs into this situation when she stays at the YWCA and must share a public phone:

In the lobby, I tapped my foot and tried to catch the heavily shadowed eye of the bottle-blonde now hogging the sole telephone.

“‘So I says to him, I says, “Just how do you expect me to do that?” And he says to me–get this, Myra–he says, “I dunno, you figure it out, you’re supposed to be the smart one.” So I says to him–hold on a sec, Myra.’ The blonde placed her hand over the mouthpiece and glared at me. ‘You want something, sister?’

‘Yes, the telephone. Are you almost through?‘”

You can see the problem.

In her book of etiquette, Miss Rives says, “Certainly one should never use a coin box telephone for the ‘Guess-who-this-is’ type of all or for the continuation of the family argument started the night before. Men should not smoke in the tiny, airless cubicle.” [Note: Women were not to smoke at all. Elsewhere the author notes, “In the larger cities women now smoke so generally that it almost seems as though they are destined to use the weed wherever and whenever men do. As yet, however, women of breeding do not smoke on the street, or in a public conveyance.” ]

Yes, texting is convenient and carries its own set of rules. But it never hurts to brush up on the basics of actually talking to another person on the phone.

 

 

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Students: Is Your School Etiquette Up to Snuff?

girl in schoolFor most students, the school year is well underway. Here’s hoping your experience measures up to the standards set by Eleanor Boykin in This Way Please (1940):

“In schools all over the country, students have formed etiquette or good-form clubs.” [Ed. note: How’s your school’s etiquette club going? Thought so.] “It looks as if a new era of courtesy has started with better school manners. Dan Rough-and-Ready, who thinks it funny to poke fellow students on their way to class, to guffaw loudly when someone slips on the assembly platform, and to shuffle noisily into the classroom, will soon be out of the picture.

“Be proud of the ‘front’ your school puts up to the community. This means keeping the grounds free of rubbish. The janitor cannot always be behind you to pick up fruit peelings, lunch wrappers, and the like. You can easily acquire the habit of taking them to a container. Your conduct on entering and leaving the grounds also reflects on the school. Leave for hoodlums the shouting from one block to the next and pushing one another into people’s yards.

“If you rush pell-mell out of a classroom and go bumping down the corridors, you will have to stop several times to apologize for jolts you administer, so what good has violent hurry done you? You have merely advertised the fact that you are lacking in poise.

“It is nearly always the same people who make a last-minute dash for assembly and come in breathlessly to find a seat. This habit of being late grows upon one and is likely to become a social handicap when school days are over. . . . Squirming, whispering, and foot-scraping are labels of the underbred. Try to be interested in the program for your own sake. People who are easily bored and close their minds to ideas and happenings are painfully likely to become boring themselves. Even if you are not entertained, you can at least appear attentive and not disturb those who may be enjoying the proceedings. An outside speaker deserves all the courtesy you can show him, because he is your guest.

“Some of your teachers you will like more than others; but respect yourself enough to respect the position of all of them. An insolent attitude or one of trying to ‘get ahead of teacher’ shows a churlish nature. A teacher may sometimes seem unfair. Be grown-up about it, and ask for a chance to talk it over. Being surly or ‘talking back’ is childish. Calling out ‘Teacher!’ is uncouth. Address any instructor by name, ‘Mr. Sanborn’ or ‘Miss Swain.’ Wild handwaving to attract attention would be sensible if you were stranded on a desert island and saw a boat in the distance, but in the classroom it makes you look rather foolish.

“Ways to make yourself unpopular: Walk about with a superior air as if only a few people were worth your notice. Borrow books, pencils and other articles and never return them. Boast of your grades. Start tales on other students. Be quick to pick a quarrel. Try to run everything you are connected with. Bully your schoolmates, particularly the smaller ones. Break into another’s story with ‘I know what it is’ or ‘You’re wrong.’ Try to get others to do your work for you. Humiliate others by laughing at their mistakes.

“Playing practical jokes is dynamite to popularity. Who can feel at ease with one who is likely to get him to sit on a thumbtack or slip a dead snake in his pocket?

And finally, “Don’t make yourself the butt of jokes around school by a too apparent devotion to a Certain Person. Romance loses some of its charm–like the banana in the refrigerator-under the cool gaze of unromantic observers.”

How does your school (or your child’s school) compare to this 1940s ideal? Better? Worse? Or just different?

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Jennifer Lamont Leo