I Am Woman, I'm a Wordsmith

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Landing That Dream Job March 25, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:02 pm

Job hunting funny

 

My daughter is graduating from college in less than two months.  This means many things, two of which are mom is an emotional wreck and daughter is interviewing for jobs.  In fact, she’s taking off tomorrow for a round of interviews in her dream city:  New York City.  Yep, mom is nervous but mom is proud.  Mom is also praying!

 

Looking for a job.  The dreaded four words.  I know many people other than my daughter who are currently doing so.  It’s not fun and it’s stressful.  Unemployment hovers between 5 and 6 percent and even in a “hot” city like Austin, finding work is tough work.  There’s an old and wise saying that “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job,” but what to do when you’re a college student with no job or someone who is unemployed?  You keep your head up and you search for that job!  But, where do you start?

 

Probably first and foremost is to carefully think about what you want to do, where you’d like to work, and what will make you happy.  Be honest about your expectations and what your strengths and weaknesses are.  From there, your search begins and there are many stages in that search.  Let’s start with your resume.

 

 Resume

RESUMES

I’ve written many resumes for clients and I can honestly say the ways they are designed and disseminated have drastically changed in just the past few years.  It’s no secret that the written “snail mail” resume is dead as a dinosaur and that online is the way to go.  Today resumes are posted on and uploaded to a host of job search sites like Indeed and Monster.  Being that recruiters and HR managers will be looking at your resume via those sites and their own in-house ones, along with thousands of others, how can you make yours stand out?

 

Your resume is basically a summary and a capsule – albeit a small one – of you and your experiences.  This is where you tell potential employers how your talents and achievements can benefit their company.  They don’t necessarily want to know that you’ve won countless awards; they want to know how your contributions to those awards can benefit their business.  Using the right words to do this is critical.

 

Incorporating some keywords into your resume that you see in job postings is one way of increasing your chances of making the short list.  Most recruiters use computer software to weed through the cyberspace mounds of resumes they receive so if the job calls for “team work,” “billing experience” or “flexibility,” be sure to add those words in the body of your resume.  Yes, this means you will need to create multiple resumes, but you should be doing so anyway.

 

Keeping your resume to a maximum of two pages is recommended and including additional skills and knowledge such as fluency in a foreign language or expertise in public speaking is also advised, separate from and in addition to your employment and experience entries.

 

 

“Motivation alone is not enough.  If you have an idiot and motivate him, all you have is a motivated idiot.”  Jim Rohn

 

 

Words to avoid using in your resume are any overused and clichéd words such as “hard worker” and “out of the box.”  Employers are tired of them and many, like “motivated,” do nothing to separate you from the pack.  Think of more original and interesting ways to describe yourself and avoid jargon and idioms all together.  There is also really no need to list references or to state “references upon request,” as this in understood and potential employers are well aware that you would never list a reference who wouldn’t glowingly refer you.

 

In short, a well-written resume highlights one’s accomplishments and experience and focuses on results rather than duties or roles.  Saying you “increased sales 50 percent” is more impressive than “supervised a staff of 10.”  One last tip:  add a pop of color to your resume.  Don’t go crazy with multiple hues and wild designs, but rather simply and subtly make subheads or bullets on bulleted items a different color.

 

Social media is also vital in a job search.  Create a LinkedIn profile.  Clean up your Facebook, Snap Chat, Tumblr, and Instagram sites.  A whopping 75 percent of recruiters say their hiring process includes researching candidates online and a sure fire way to not get an interview is to have even one questionable photo or comment on one of your sites, regardless of how old they are.

 

Interview

INTERVIEWS

So your resume did its job and the hiring company is interested in you; interested enough to set up an interview.   Now what?  Three words:  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  Research that company and the industry it’s in.  Find out its history, accomplishments, locations, and key staff members, especially those in the department you may be working in.  Just as important is what many call the “elevator pitch,” basically a 30-second snapshot of why you think you’re the best person for the job.  Don’t sound cocky or arrogant, but do come across as confident and capable.  Envision meeting who you want to work for on an elevator and having only a couple of floors to make them want to hire you.  Then, ask questions.

 

Yes, most candidates consider the interview as the place where companies ask the questions and applicants sell themselves, but tuck away in the back of your mind the fact that you need to be asking questions too.   Just like a job applicant, a company or position may look good on paper, but is it the right place for you?  It’s tricky, though.  You need to keep the company’s needs front and center verbally while answering questions in a way that clearly conveys what you have to offer and contribute.  Here are some questions most experts agree are both professional and helpful:

 

  • Can you describe a typical day for this position?
  • Why do you like working here?
  • How would you describe the work environment and corporate culture?
  • What is the time table for filling this position?
  • What are some the company’s long and short-term goals?
  • How will my performance be measured?
  • What is the next step?
  • Who currently holds or previously held this job and why is the position being filled?
  • Who would be my supervisor?

 

During the interview, speak slowly and project poise.  Stay focused and be positive and upbeat.  Never say “I’ll do anything” though, because one, that’s a hard promise to live up to, and two, it’s better to talk about your passions, interests, and skills rather than come across as desperate or over-eager.

 

Your resume or referral got you in the door so odds are the interviewer is already interested in your skills.  Now he or she wants to get to know you:  your personality, your demeanor, and your mannerisms.  This is where what you wear to an interview comes into play.

 

Catherine Walsh, Corporate Communications Senior VP of Coty, Inc., told The Zoe Report, “I recommend wearing what makes you feel comfortable.  You should feel great walking in the door.”

 

Great advice, and I would add making sure what you wear meshes with where you’re interviewing.  If your interview is at a design firm, you can get away with a piece of statement apparel or jewelry but, if it’s at a more corporate level, you probably want to stick to classics and neutrals.  Think sensible and simple at all costs.  The last thing you want to do is feel awkward or uncomfortable .  One universal tip:  avoid any fragrance…men or women.

 

It’s also important what you take with you to an interview.  Be sure to bring along several copies of your resume (clean and professionally copied), a portfolio if job-related, a professional and neat notepad, and a classic pen.  Never, ever request any of these items from the person interviewing you.  This will immediately send the message that you are ill-prepared and unprofessional.

 

Before and after the interview, shake hands firmly and extend your thanks.  Always make eye contact.  After the interview, jot down everything of importance such as who you met and what was discussed.  Thank you notes are your last step in the interview process.  I prefer, as do many experts I referred to for this blog, a handwritten note, but in today’s tech savvy society, an e-mail thank you within 24 hours is also acceptable.  It just won’t stand out as much.  Just sure to copy everyone you met during the interview.

 

 Fingers crossed1

 

“Before you own the garage, you gotta sweep the floors.”  Kid Rock

 

NETWORK & WORK

We are all well aware that “it’s who you know” often matters more than what you know when it comes to landing a job, so be sure to network and get the word out that you are looking for work.  Don’t be afraid to accept a “lesser” job if it’s at a company you are very interested in working for.  Once you have your foot in the door, it’s always easier to move up that corporate ladder.   There is no elevator to success.  You gotta take the stairs.

 

If you’ve been out of work for a while or are re-entering the workforce, don’t talk about how long it’s been since you’ve worked.  Instead, talk up your past experience as if it happened only recently and project fresh and timely ideas.  As Catherine Walsh added, “The most important skill needed to succeed is to have big ideas.  You can find many talented people to execute your vision but coming up with the idea is the hardest part.”

 

Good luck and believe in yourself!

 

 

 

My Two Cents March 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:33 pm

vigil

 

I’ve heard it and I’ve had it.  I’ve heard the OU SAE story all week and I’ve had it up the “here” with it.  As an OU grad and the mom of a current OU student, yes I’m biased but I’m also sad and embarrassed.  What I am not is unapologetic or insensitive.  Both my daughter and me are or were part of the OU Greek system so this story hit especially close to home.  It mortified me.  It angered me.  At the risk of sounding self-important, here are my thoughts on the whole issue:

 

Did OU President David Boren do the right thing by closing the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house and expelling students known to be involved?  Yes.  Did President Boren somewhat over-react?  Yes.  Once the video went viral Sunday night, Boren was looking head on at a rock and a hard place.  Report the “formation of a committee to oversee the issue” and OU just may have gone up in flames.  I applaud him for acting swiftly and decisively.  I also feel his decision was somewhat unfair to the SAE members now left homeless but who had nothing to do with the sickening video.  I have dear friends whose family members are both current and former members of SAE and they are anything but racist, prejudice, or evil.  Still, they suffer.  But, those boys on the bus learned the song from somewhere right?  I also know that SAE had “strikes” against it already at OU and that perhaps this embarrassing episode was simply the last straw for the uber-popular OU frat.

 

Seeing the video for the first time via a text Sunday evening made me sick to my stomach.  I also immediately said “this will be on the nightly news by tomorrow.”  There are just some things today’s society does not and will not tolerate:  berating or insulting African-Americans, gays, and Muslims.  Sadly, had the frat boys sang “there will never be a Catholic SAE,” the video would have remained on the implicated girl’s phone and the world would have never seen it.  Adding fuel to this viral fire is that people just love to hate on Greeks.  Kinda like the Texas A&M Aggie subculture, if you’re not in it you don’t get it and if you are in it you can’t explain it.  If you have tried and true distain for anyone with letters on their shirts or a Greek affiliation in their past, you are displaying a level of prejudice yourself.  To say you hate them is saying you hate me.  And my daughter.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I know what those SAEs did was wrong on so many levels, but I also feel somewhat bad for the two expelled students. One minute you’re living the college life and the next minute you’re back home with mom and dad with no place to go and your entire beloved university livid with you. What they sang was horrific, but did doing so merit their entire lives being ruined?  Did anyone die?  Were any laws broken?  Will they ever be able to attend another university?  Is it right that they have been forced to leave their family homes due to violent death threats?  Do two wrongs make a right?

 

I’ve been reading a lot about this all week, but my favorite was a blog by SMU Professor Maria Dixon who wrote that perhaps a better and more beneficial punishment would have been to make all SAEs sing their dreadful song in front of their beloved black cook and then let him tell them how it makes him feel.  Bingo.  Perhaps the two “ring leaders” should have been required to stand in front of their adored football and basketball teams and apologize. Ouch.  Then, shut down the fraternity but send fraternity members back to class and back to life.  Punish them but teach them.  Inform them and show them. Make them think but make them feel.

 

Maya1

 

Dixon also talks about the fact that many young men and women arrive at universities across America having never really associated with anyone except people just like them.  They live in suburbia, are put in private schools rather than neighborhood public schools, then are dropped off at much more diverse college campuses and expected to “get it.”  Yes my daughter is in a sorority and grew up in the suburbs but she also went to public schools and has seen her share of diversity and culture.

 

Another issue that needs to be addressed and that the “OU SAE” deal has brought to light is that kids today are “okay” with words and language that previous generations would never have approved of much less so pervasively permitted.  We have become desensitized to everything from the “f-bomb” to racial slang and no one seems to care.  How is it fair for Gen-Xers and Millenials to listen to music that repeatedly employs the “n” word but then be reprimanded when they use it…unless of course they’re black…which makes it all the more confusing and somewhat hypocritical?  If the “n” word is such a horrible word, and I firmly believe it is, why isn’t it totally and completely banned from society, including in rap music and in movies?  I’m as offended to listen to Lil Wayne say it as I was hearing an SAE say it.  Why was it okay for OU football player Eric Striker to use profanity and insult white frat boys and sorority girls in his reactive Snapchat video?  Do we all want to make it acceptable to be punished for not only what we do but what we say?  Hold on tight, I feel a slippery slope coming.

 

Am I justifying the busload of SAEs?  A strong and emphatic no!  What they did was deplorable and deserves consequences that equally discipline them and wake everyone and anyone up who associates with them and that kind of behavior, my daughter included.  What I don’t justify is that OU is now associated with being racist.  The University of Oklahoma did not sing and post a racial slur, a small group of students did.  Let’s get that straight.  OU severely punished them so perhaps the university should be applauded rather than condemned.  The so-called “four star” football recruit that reportedly changed his signing allegiance upon seeing the video?  I call B.S.  He’d been talking about doing so for weeks.

 

I arrived on the OU campus a naive Hispanic woman from New Mexico who know nothing about sororities and fraternities but quickly and fairly found a home in one.  Never, ever did I hear or was subjected to any racial taunts or actions. Is the Greek system segregated?  Yes, but there are many houses that aren’t.  There are also several exclusively black fraternities and sororities.  Whether they have any white members I don’t know.  Everyone everywhere has their “groups.”  There is nothing wrong with that.  What is wrong is when any one of them becomes bigoted or profoundly immoral.   Are those young SAEs bigots?  I’m not so sure.  Is Al Sharpton?  Probably so.

 

Oklahomans have been dealt many historic blows.  They are not haters and they are truly nice and genuine people.  I’m generalizing and making this claim based only on those I know and am well aware that all Okies aren’t good just like all SAEs aren’t bad.  Still, protestors are continuing to march at OU, spray paint private property, and harass those involved.  I’m not sure what they want though.  Those involved have been punished and we’ve all felt the pain of the shocking and depressing events.  Wrong is wrong and what’s done is done. Let’s pause but let’s also move on.

 

One of the first things I asked my daughter was “what would you have done if you were on that bus?”  As we discussed things, I also told her that perhaps the biggest lesson learned from this whole debacle is not that “racism is still alive” like many have claimed but the lessons learned regarding social media.  If you don’t want it on CNN or Fox News tomorrow, don’t say it or do it tonight.  The fact that it was downloaded and uploaded ad nauseam shouldn’t be what troubles us though.  What’s most troubling to me is that it was considered fun and okay by so many on that bus to sing and clap along. My hope is that they are feeling true remorse and to remember that we are all brothers and sisters, and not just Greek ones.

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Tip: Adding Texture to a Room March 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:00 am

 

You could say it started with a window.  While browsing through a magazine some weeks back I ran across this photo:

 Cornice

I loved it: a linen-covered cornice board edged with nail head trim. I have cornice boards in my family room and this idea screamed, “Carla, do this!” So what did Carla do, she got on it!

 

First I removed the plaid fabric that was draped over checked fabric and then called a professional. She came over, assessed the project, and promptly quoted me a price that was not only shocking but borderline insulting. Really, I thought. To cover something that’s already in place? Then insult met injury as she proceeded to give suggestions on other parts of my room. I felt like I had taken my car in for an oil change and was told I needed a new transmission. Not happy. Not impressed.

 

I kindly thanked her for coming over and extended the obligatory “I’ll be in touch.” Then I put my mind to work on Plan B. Enter my friend JZ.  JZ is not a rapper, but an excellent seamstress. I told her my idea, she said it was sooooo do-able, and that was that. We bought some wonderful upholstery fabric, went to work, and at the end of the day I had two fabulous “new” cornice boards.

 

Back to the “professional.” Although I didn’t appreciate how proud she was of her abilities and cost of putting them to work for me, I did take her suggestion that I add more texture to my room to heart. This did surprise me a bit though, as I feel I have lots of color and pattern going on in what is a somewhat small room, but okay, I thought, I’ll check it out.

 

I could have consulted my college friend Christie who is a professional designer and so talented, but being the computer hack that I am, I went straight on-line.

 

What I found was something I wasn’t crazy about. I Googled “texture in rooms” and one after another, the images were of rooms I didn’t find very appealing. I dug deeper though and discovered that texture can be done subtly and traditionally. Now we were talking.

 

RZoe pretty

Photo: Rachel Zoe Report

Texture It Is

Think of texture as “touchable.” Leather is touchable. Burlap is touchable. Think also of contrasts through a variety of textures. Soft and rough. Shiny and dull. Texture is such an easy way to make a room interesting, especially if you are not big on color. It also adds personality to a space. It adds flair.

 

Furniture is one way to incorporate texture into a room, but accessorizing is a much more affordable and less obvious way of doing so. Hang a throw over the back of a chair. Place some glass on a wooden table. Add a rug. Plants scream texture and you can add another a favorite of mine: anything tufted such as a sofa, headboard, even a fun ottoman.

 

I’m dying over this sofa:

20055160810927094_V9FQPeAz_b

 

And these rooms: (photo courtesy Houzz)

living room   Texture-Threve Interiors  Texture-The Design Tabloid

 

I follow a blog called “The Inspired Room” and came across some ideas regarding texture that I could wrap my decorating brain around. Melissa recommends adding layers of texture and says that the key to a “beautifully warm and comfortable home” is to add layers to every room. She also says that when a room lacks those layers of texture, it can fall flat, regardless of any other décor or expensive accessories you’ve put in it. Yikes! I had my work cut out for me!

 

Adding Texture

Fears aside and mouse in hand, I found that adding texture has many benefits. It adds dimension to a room and appeals to both our visual and tactile senses. In short, it makes a room more interesting and invites guests to touch and feel. You can do this by adding rugs, an interesting paint finish, attention-grabbing art, a unique piece of furniture, or an array of bold fabrics.

 

Perfect little corners of texture: (photo courtesy The Inspired Room)

152348399864802583_Idole3hW_b       Texture-The Inspired Room

 

But wait, except for a rug (which my husband is completely against) and an interesting paint finish (which I’m not a big fan of), I have all of this. Growing up in Santa Fe made me an art lover and I have lots of it throughout our home. I feel I also have plenty of color and pattern through a plaid wing-back chair, a floral comfy chair and ottoman, a ticking sofa, a wood and iron table, a painted end table, and my husband’s big leather chair. Maybe I’ll add some fun pillows, but anything else puts me smack dab on the fence.

 

While I decide, I thought I’d share with you some ways you might want to add texture to your surroundings, whether they be your home, office, or anywhere else. Depending on your style, I’ve put together some personal tips and some from “Better Homes & Gardens.” Enjoy and let me know if you have any fabulous ideas!

 

Traditional

If you want to establish elegance and have a traditional style, dress up your décor with woven wools, smooth silks, hand-tufted rugs, fabric trims, gilded frames, cut crystal and polished wood.

 

Country

For a country style, your goal should be to establish comfort. By adding layered rugs, chenille, ticking fabrics, weathered woods, and dimensional artwork you will be well on your way to creating an inviting interior.

 

Modern

Note:  It’s important to know that “modern” means a period of time regarding design and “contemporary” refers to what’s in and what’s trendy.  They are two completely different styles.

A modern approach is big on making an impact, which you can do by incorporating shag rugs, smooth leather, sparse fabrics, light woods, glossy surfaces and shiny metals into the room.

 

Romantic

Ambiance and charm are key here. Hand-hooked rugs, embroidered fabrics, vintage lace, painted furniture, wicker, ruffles, and trims all play a big role.

 

Rustic

Bring the outdoors in by having exposed ceiling beams, lots of raw materials like timber stools and end tables, and unadorned windows as long as the view is a good one.

 

In the Mood

All of the above establish your style, but texture can also set the mood of your room. Looking for a more feminine mood? Then choose soft, fine fabrics and embellished furniture. If it’s a masculine feel you’re wanting, use rustic metals and rich woods. Formal can be created with silky pillows and velvety slipcovers while a comfy vibe will include anything fluffy and furry. Raw, natural materials easily add a sense of calm and warmth to a place and are popular in both formal and casual settings. By mixing neutral patterns and textures you can also add depth to your décor and create a room oozing with both charm and polish. BH&G also recommends every room have a focal point, which texture can help create, such as a lattice table, a large piece of art, or even an interesting rug in an otherwise unadorned room.

 

When adding texture, consider combining similar touches like fabrics and trims on pillows or groupings on a coffee table. You can “harmonize” a room by blending comparable characteristics such as naturals and carry it throughout you room, from the window coverings, to the paint color, to lampshades, and accents. You can also repeat textures and patterns. Placing a leather sofa in front of a table sporting stacks of leather books works well, as does setting a wicker basket next to a wicker chair. For real drama, envelop a lovely velvet chair with velvet drapes.

 

Or, do the complete opposite and mix it up. There’s nothing I love more than mismatched chairs around a table or a formal table surrounded by casual or fabric-covered chairs. Traditional Chippendale chairs covered in a check fabric would add whimsy and flare to the long-time dining room darlings, as would mixing up styles. These eating areas are great examples of mixing it up and doing it just right:

Rustic meets glam             Dining room Texture-Houzz   elements of style1

(photos courtesy Houzz and Elements of Style)

 

Combine painted furniture pieces with upholstered ones or antiques with something modern or contemporary. Or, dress up or dress down any cabinet or dresser simply by adding the right drawer pulls. Still, you may want to pick something rough like a sturdy leather sofa and pile it high with satiny pillows. Finally, how about placing a gorgeous antique sideboard in an otherwise informal room? The possibilities are endless.

 

It can feel overwhelming at first, but relax. There are many ways to incorporate texture into a room. Here are just a few easy ways that you or anyone can accomplish:

 

Windows.  This is what got me started! I love window treatments and was happy to learn that the right ones can add texture to a room. Fabric is my treatment of choice, but textured blinds, flowing sheers, or heavy plantation shutters all do the trick. Pick your style and always remember they are flexible and changeable.

 

Rugs.  In and of themselves, rugs are texture and they come in an assortment of fabrics and varieties. Go crazy with an animal print or fur rug or stay neutral with something in jute or sisal.

 

Walls.  This is where you can have some real fun and add some tangible interest to a room. Bead board and Wainscoting. My favorites. Wallpaper. Yep, it’s back and in a big way.  Grass cloth. Yes, please! Even painted paneling, but not your momma’s paneling. I’m talking shiplap and contemporary. Other ideas include adding molding, ornate (not country) stenciling, and one of my favorites: exposed brick.

 

Don’t stop at the common areas of your home either. Bedrooms naturally lend themselves to texture. In fact, beds with layers upon layers of texture are the coziest of all. Think about adding a chenille or other touchable throw on top of your duvet cover and satiny sheets. Toss in some interesting throw pillows and revel in the results.

 

I love both of these rooms, Erin Gate’s guestroom and Rachel Zoe’s bedroom:

ErinGates guest room   RZ-Bedroom-800

 

Bedrooms and a guest room after my own heart: (photo courtesy Elements of Style)

 

Elems of Style master - Collette bed  Xguest room

Shiplap and more:

bedrom

 

And don’t forget the bathroom! How sick is this marble mosaic-tiled shower, powder room, animal print chair and rug, and fireplace next to the tub?! Take me away…now! (photo courtesy Houzz)

Bathroom - Marble mosaic tiled shower Texture-Houzz1     bath8 bath3

 

 

Bottom line, be bold and don’t be afraid to have fun with texture but keep in mind that too much of it can be overwhelming so be careful and don’t go overboard. Also, remember that the more textured and patterned an object is, the heavier it will feel and the bigger it will appear. As with any décor, don’t overdo it and consult a professional if you can. Texture:  you can do it and it will do wonders for a room!

 

 

Friday Funny March 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:08 pm

Pinatas

Happy Friday!

 

Boy Toys? Don’t Tell the Girls!

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:50 am

boots

 

As many of you know, in addition to writing this blog and doing some freelance writing here and there, I teach preschool.  I adore my little three-year-olds and I love my job.  I’m not a teacher by trade, but as they say here in Texas, “I got here as fast as I could!”

 

It never surprises me to watch my boy students play in the kitchen or “beauty shop” and for my girls to play with the cars and castle blocks.   But, just last week one of my boys said, “Ms. Carla, the girls said I can’t play in the beauty shop cuz it’s only for girls.”  What?  Not good, my friends.  Not good.

 

Some things are just hard to change, right?  So ingrained is society’s thinking on gender that I actually went to a training workshop on it just last week…the same week my girls wouldn’t let my boys get their hair done!

 

Presented by Dr. Shelley Nicholson of Nicholson Early Childhood Education Center, the training had me at hello.

 

Children

 

First off I learned that men and women have the same hormones – testosterone and estrogen – just at different levels.  Hmmmm…didn’t know that.  I also learned that gender really has nothing to do with body parts or sex.  “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women while “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.  Gender is biologically fixed and irreversible.  Boys play with boys and boy toys and girls play with girls and girls toys, right?  Wrong.  Young children don’t give a hoot about gender and the only reason they congregate toward same sexes is because they are natural sorters and since sex is constantly emphasized through everything from dress to hair styles, that’s how their little brains sort and separate things to make sense.  It’s not brain surgery, it’s preschool brain activity.

 

As Dr. Nicholson told us, women are not worse at math and boys do cry.  A child’s choice of toys based on their sex has more to do with social expectations than psychological ones.   You know that famous “What are little boys made of?” saying?  It’s 200 years old!  And Barbie?  She first came out in 1952, targeted naturally to girls, and from her came G.I. Joe for boys in 1964.  But, there was no way a rough and tough Army man could be called a doll.  Manufacturers of G.I. Joe coined the term “action figure,” and the rest is toy history.

 

XSociety

 

Girl toys have long been packaged in pinks and purples and focus on fashion, grooming and friendship, while toys geared more toward boys are based on action, fighting, or strength.  This style of marketing and thinking in general  is detrimental to society as a whole.  Civilization needs men and women to work well together, so when we give our girls all the dolls and our boys all the trucks, we are not doing them or us any favors.  Yes, many girls will gravitate toward a doll house and boys will opt for cars, but we need to balance it out for them because when little ones grow up and venture out into the big, bad world, they will need to work successfully and productively with the opposite sex.

 

Study after study, however, shows that when it comes to little girls and little boys we all generally treat them differently.  One showed babies of both sexes playing with a Jack-in-the-Box.  The toy would be wound up and the clown would pop out, but amazingly, most described the girls as being “scared” but the boys as being “mad” even though their reactions expressions were similar.

 

Strides have been made in telling girls they can be and do anything, but the opposite isn’t necessarily true of our boys.  Think about it, if Susie wants to play softball instead of try out for cheerleader, mom and dad will probably support her.  But, what if Johnny wants to try out for the cheer squad instead of the football team?  Chances are he might not have complete backing from mom and specifically dad.  It is how it is.  (Personally, I always told my daughter it’s better to have others cheer for her rather than her cheer for others!)

 

Yes, there are more and more male nurses, flight attendants, and beauty experts, but for the first time in history, there are more girls in American universities than boys and only 2 percent of Early Childhood teachers are male.  Yay college-aged females but where are our toddler’s male teacher role models?

 

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If we start gender-specific thinking at a young age, it becomes ingrained.  You see, brains look for habits and habits are really hard to change once they are established.  There’s also a “but wait” aspect to it all.  If we give boys balls and trucks right away and encourage rough play but then punish them for that very behavior once they get to elementary school, what message are we sending them?

 

I’m guilty as charged.  I sometimes unwittingly implement what experts call “The Hidden Curriculum” in the classroom.  This is described as when teachers unintentionally separate genders.  Greeting my female students with a compliment about their cute sparkle shoes makes them feel good, but if what they hear all their life is how cute the “outside” of them is, again, what message are we sending them?  Yes, I always tell my girls to use their “girl muscles” when attempting something physical but I also love the fact that my husband is responsible for all things bug, trash, car, and lawn related in our home!

 

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Not surprisingly toy makers are feeling the heat.  Gender-specific toys have long been the norm – just walk into any Toys ‘R Us and you’ll see obvious “boy” aisles and apparent “girl aisles – but science sets for girls and blue Easy-Bake ovens are in high demand, the latter the result of a 13-year-old girl asking Hasbro to make an oven that would appeal to her baby brother.  The toy industry generally reflects society as a whole and the days of girl toys being home-related and boy toys being brain-related are long gone.  Just recently Lego came out with pink sets and London giant Harrods department store redesigned its toy section by theme rather than gender.  Well done chaps!

 

I know, I know, why pink Legos, but hey, if they get girls to build then what’s the harm?  The goal is not to de-sex or de-gender society, but to make opportunities open to all.  Just think about the bird world.  Do female peacocks and cardinals complain that the males in their families are much better looking?  Probably not!

 

According to Dr. Susan Linn of Harvard Med School, children begin to identify themselves as boys and girls between the ages of three and four.  That’s my classroom!  Yes, there are neurological differences between boys and girls at birth, but limiting their interests limits their growth.

 

I love it when the girls in my class play with the boys.  They have fun, they share, and they learn.  This is normal for the age group, as proximity is the main way friends are made during the toddler years.  This changes once kids start school however, as “common interests” become the way friendships and peer groups are made.  Still, as early as preschool, “gender segregation” occurs without anyone even realizing it and it persists throughout life.  In all age groups, social identities are often formed by sticking to your own.  Girls will think “I’m a girl so I belong to that girl group.”  In the end, we just all want to fit in.

 

Chanel       Dream Big Little Man

 

One of my long-time biggest pet-peeves is when girl teams are called “Lady Tigers” or “lady” anything.  Why aren’t the “Lady Longhorns” just the “Longhorns?”  Title IX went a long way in benefitting female athletes but it should have gone further and banned the word “lady” or “girl” or “female” before any team name!

 

Okay, I digress.  So, we have clearly defined gender roles.  That’s a given.  Still, some things are surprising.  Did you know that women weren’t the first sex to wear high heels?  I found this out while watching “CBS Sunday Morning” recently.  I love that show and about fell off my stilettos when I heard that high-heeled shoes were first worn by men as a sign of nobility.  Even King Louis XIV of France was often seen wearing red-heeled shoes.

 

 

We're different

 

Sounds very Downton-ish to me but I just can’t go there.  In my mind, certain things are just meant for one sex, not both.   I’m so not on the “everyone is the same and equal” bandwagon but I do strongly feel girls and boys should be allowed to equally strive for similar goals and dreams.  Call me silly, but it just might start in my little preschool class.  Boys, make those muffins and girls, start your engines!

 

 

 

 

The Big Fat Lie March 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:38 am

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(Photo courtesy Elements of Style)

 

Did you hear the one about the grandma who ate butter all her life and was healthier than all of her children and grandchildren who removed it from their “healthy” diets?  Turns out it’s no joke and the joke’s on all of us who are only now learning the real truth about fats in our diets.

 

Researchers have, over the past several years, been studying the possibility that fats in our diets may not be as bad as previously thought.  Now before you stop reading and think I’m crazy, calm down.  We’re not talking a diet of Big Macs and rib eyes every night; we’re talking a high-fat, low-carb diet.  Kind of like the one my mom has eaten all her life.

 

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My mom.  The thinnest one in our family and the one with the prettiest skin.  She’s also a very healthy 84-years-old.  And this, in a family of all girls.  She eats real butter (margarine…never), uses real cream (no hazelnut creamer for her), still grates real cheddar cheese rather than buying the bagged ones, and loves her eggs in the morning.  For years, we have been warned and scared that these foods, along with meats, are bad for us because they are high in saturated fats, which we’ve also been told often lead to heart disease.   Funny that these foods were menu staples for years, years when our country wasn’t plagued with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  Hmmmm….

 

Adam and Eve

 

Decades of low-fat, high-carbs diets being shoved down our throats have not lead to a healthier society and some experts report that children have actually suffered nutritional deficiencies eating only low-fat foods.  Come to find out that without fat, our bodies can’t and won’t digest vitamins A and D and that all the dangerous LDL cholesterol we’ve been told to avoid is actually created when we eat too many refined carbs, not the carbs found in meats and butter.  This is what many new studies are showing after research conducted around the world.  In fact, evidence is pointing to the alarming outcome that saturated fats are not as bad as we thought and cannot be linked to heart disease at all.  The science and medical communities aren’t exactly saying “pass the bacon” but they’re also not saying “pass up all fats.”

 

Eating all this “low-fat” stuff seemed to work for a while but it wasn’t necessarily healthy.  Fat-free milk won’t help you lose weight and low-fat yogurt won’t make you more fit.  For sure fat-free cookies or low-fat chips won’t!  In fact, we Americans are not healthier at all.  After more than 20 years of cleansing and counting, more than two-thirds of American adults are obese and one-tenth have type 2 diabetes, a disease that was virtually unheard of in “the good ole days.”  (Only 15 percent were considered obese in 1980 and between 1980 and 2011 the number of adults with diabetes increased 278 percent!) In addition, heart disease, which limiting our cholesterol and “bad fats” was supposed to prevent, is still the number one killer in America.

 

I’m definitely a protein girl and I’m thrilled to learn that higher-protein diets can help increase resting metabolic rates.  These involve calories while sitting, but I was also thrilled when my trainer told me to eat more proteins, especially after working out.  The key it seems is not saving all your proteins for dinner like so many of us do.  Spreading them out throughout your day is much better and much smarter.

 

Lose weight

 

Where to start?  How about with eggs…nature’s little gem packed with six grams of high-quality protein and choline, which promotes normal cell activity and improves liver function.  Eggs also don’t contain any carbs or sugars and are gluten free!

 

If Jesus fed today...

 

Gluten.  The new dreaded six letter word.  Avoiding it is a health issue for some, but for others it’s just another trend along the lines of Paleo and vegan diets.  So was the Atkins diet at one point but was then frowned upon.  Now we’re learning Dr. Atkins was on to something.   There’s no arguing that fruits, veggies, and whole grains are healthy and should play major roles in our eating habits, but eating like cavemen doesn’t have to be the end all.

 

I don’t know about you, but hours of preparing a veggie and non-protein laden meal can be exhausting and eating a meal consisting of a salad with no dressing and a dry, skinless piece of chicken just isn’t going to cut it for me.  Yes, I’m overweight but I’ve always said it’s not because I’ve eaten too much salad dressing in my life.   As Investigative Journalist Nina Telcholz wrote in the New York Times bestseller, The Big Fat Surprise, “It slowly dawned on me that cooking meat was a more efficient way to get a meal on the table,” she writes.  “Making a vegetarian feast, with all the slicing, dicing, and roasting, could easily consume the better part of a day.  Grilling a steak, by contrast, takes minutes and with a simple green side salad, it’s a complete meal.”  Amen sister!  Although I’d probably add a side veggie too.   Maybe more families would eat at home under this scenario rather than grabbing fast food.  No one wants to go home after a long day and prepare a meal for an hour or so but everyone is hungry.  Choose lean meats, lettuce that doesn’t have the name “iceberg” in it, and lots of green veggies and you are good to go.

 

That kind of meal is more filling as well, meaning I’m not going to graze afterwards or save room for dessert.  It makes sense to those who have studied the issue, reporting that people often eat extra calories of carbs like pasta or chips but that it’s almost impossible to do so with meat.

 

There’s also the diabetes link.  We’ve been living with the belief that carbs turn into sugar, but what really happens is that when we eat too many carbs, the pancreas releases high levels of insulin, which causes the body to store fat.  Our brains then kick in, sensing too few calories to burn and choosing to eventually slow down our metabolism.  By studying all of this, researchers have concluded that the carbs in foods like pasta, starchy vegetables, sugars, and grains can cause your body to release insulin.  This is not only unhealthy, it also encourages your body to store fat, not burn it.  In the studies, it’s noted that by replacing fats with high-carbs, grains, and sugars, we have created a society that’s not only obese but diabetic as well.

 

Eat

 

Sounds simple, right?  Well the U.S. government is agreeing with all of this to some extent.  In new dietary guidelines released just last week, an advisory committee reversed previous recommendations on limiting dietary cholesterol stating it is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.  Yes, this could be because we’re eating less of it, but it also supports new evidence that shows there is no appreciable relationship between heart disease and cholesterol.  And although it says Americans still eat too much salt, it’s focusing more on reducing the amount of sugars we consume.

 

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So, how can you make sense of all the puzzling information out there about food?  Well, avoid all those yucky trans-fats, but eat your eggs, eat your cheese, eat your lean meats, eat your nuts, and eat your avocadoes.  Add lots of fruits and veggies and eliminate processed foods.  Steer clear of refined carbs like those found in white bread and opt for whole grains.  And exercise, exercise, exercise.  We all know what it takes to lose weight and to eat healthy.  Just do it.

 

 

 

Loud and Clear February 23, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:11 am

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“Don’t worry about anything and have no anxiety.  Instead, tell God your needs and thank Him for His answers.”  Phil. 4:6-7

 

 

I have been doing a Holy Spirit bible study at church for the past few weeks and today He spoke to me loud and clear.

 

You see, for several months I’ve been contemplating volunteering more during the mass.  I see many of my friends serve as Eucharistic Ministers, Lectors, and Hospitality Ministers and have been feeling the urge to do the same.  In many ways I don’t feel “qualified” to hand out Holy Communion but I do love to read and have no problem speaking in front of a crowd so maybe, I’ve thought, I should sign up to be a Lector and declare the Word of God during the mass.

 

Still, Hospitality Minister was screaming my name for some reason.  Kristen served as one during the Life Teen mass when she was in high school and I’ve always thought “I can do that!”  One of the wise and wonderful women in my long-time “friends” bible study works on stewardship in our church and I talked to her and the other ladies in the group when we met last week.  All suggested I should pray about it and listen for God’s discernment.

 

So, I have.  Even today as I entered church I thought to myself “I’m going to email the Liturgy Director at church and tell her to assign me wherever there is the greatest need.”  That’s it, I thought, it’s settled.  Let someone else settle it for me.

 

Until, that is, the Holy Spirit spoke at the end of mass.  Actually, it was Scott who heads up the Hospitality Ministry but through him I heard the Holy Spirit loud and clear.  Scott went on to say there is a current need for Hospitality Ministers and that’s all I needed to hear.  Bingo.  I’m all signed up!  As my bible study friend told me in a text when I told her, “That was the Holy Spirit at His best today.”  I couldn’t agree more.

 

Doing so also fulfills one of the suggestions on the “40 Things to Give Up for Lent” program I’m doing:  “Giving up Your Comfort Zones.”  I like the comfort of going to whatever mass I want on Sunday and sitting in our same spot.  Now, that won’t be the case but I’m ready to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

 

Today was the second week in a row that mass served as a “gotcha” moment for my bible study.  The ladies and I had planned for months that for February we would study the Book of Job.  Then, when we realized our monthly get together fell on Ash Wednesday we contemplated doing a reading or lesson on Lent instead.  Until, Job was one of the readings in mass the preceding Sunday and many of us were experiencing “Job moments” in our lives and were in need of some comfort and support.  We hear you God and we thank you!

 

In a life full of distractions, decisions, and disappointments, it’s often hard to know where to go, where to turn, or even what to do.  It’s definitely challenging to hear the answers through all the noise, but if you slow down, shut down, and calm down, the answers are usually right there.  You just need to know where to look and who to turn to.

 

 
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