I Am Woman, I'm a Wordsmith

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

From Christmas to Chanukah December 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:12 am

menorah

 

Happy Hanukkah!  What?  I’m not Jewish!  Nope, but as a Christian I know we owe a tremendous debt to our Jewish friends so I thought I’d take a break from my Christmas-themed posts and share a little Hanukkah history with you.

 

Today marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the eight-night Jewish “Festival of Lights,” which observers celebrate by lighting the candles on a menorah. As I write this and as you read it, Jews across the world are gathering to light candles and share blessings. We’ve all seen the tiered candelabras, now let’s learn about them.

 

It’s in honor of Judah Maccabee and his four brothers who lead a revolt against the Assyrian Greeks who had taken over Jerusalem.  The Maccabees won the war and regained control of their cherished temple, which the Assyrians had all but destroyed.  After cleaning it up, the Maccabees went to light a menorah lamp but could only find enough oil to last one night.  That’s when Jews believe a true miracle happened as it lasted eight nights, allowing them to make more oil.  This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights.

 

During modern day Hanukkah traditions, each night one candle on a special menorah called a Hanukkiah is lit.  There are a total of nine candles and there are blessings said with each lighting.  It all kinda reminds me of our Christian Advent wreaths, their candles, and the accompanying prayers said with the lighting of them.

 

It’s not surprising, as Christianity is rooted in Judaism, the least of which is God’s own son, Jesus Christ, who was Jewish!  Other teachings Christianity received from Judaism is our basic understanding of God, God’s covenant with His people, and the practice of assembling together for worship.  Christians do so on Sundays; Jews on their Sabbath, roughly observed from Friday evening until Saturday night.  The two faiths agree on many things.  For example, Christians accept the Old Testament and all its teaching as inspired, and both faiths believe in the perfect creation of the world by an infinite God, that Satan introduced sin into the world, that God judges sin, and that sins must be atoned for.  What most prominently separates the two is that Judaism does not accept the central Christian teaching that Jesus is the Messiah.  For most Jews, the coming of the Messiah or the messianic age is still in the future.

 

Judaism is the oldest of the world’s three great monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, all of which serve only one God.  Judaism is also the parent of both Christianity and Islam.  Jews believe Yahweh, the only one God, created and rules the universe and revealed his law, the Torah, to the then Hebrews.  The Torah contains more than 600 commands, which are summed up in the Ten Commandments.  Sacred scriptures of Judaism are the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  The scriptures also form the biblical Old Testament but do not adhere to the Christian New Testament.

 

So how is Hanukkah celebrated?  First and foremost, it’s all about the oil; that sacred oil used in the Temple by the Maccabees.  Today Jews traditionally eat two foods, sufganiyot, which are like jelly donuts; and the more famous latkes, which are basically potato pancakes.  Both are fried in oil and are eaten throughout Hanukkah.

 

dreidel

 

As with Christians and Christmas traditions, Jewish families vary in their Hanukkah traditions.  Two things that are pretty standard are the giving of gifts and playing the dreidel.  Gift giving is reserved for children, who receive a small present each night for the eight nights of Hanukkah.  Unbeknownst to me, however, is that the dreidel is actually a game.  Each side of one has a Hebrew letter that stands for the phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham,” which means “A great miracle happened here.”  Players start with the same number of tokens, which can be anything from pennies to candies to the traditional chocolate coins called gelt.  Players take turns rolling the dreidel, hoping they land on the side that allows them to take the “pot” in the middle.  The game continues until one player collects all the tokens.  Sounds fun to me!

 

Although we’ve all heard of Hanukkah, its fame is partially due to the fact that it falls so near Christmas.  It is not considered a major holiday by Jews and is nowhere near the ranks of Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah or Passover, which are much more important and honored holidays.

 

Finally, is it Hanukkah or Chanukah?  A Hebrew word, it has many English spelling variations, the most popular of which are Hanukkah and Chanukah. Traditionalists say the proper spelling of the word, which means “dedication” or “induction,” is “Chanukah” as it comes closest to representing the pronunciation of the Hebrew word and using Hebrew letters. “Hanukkah,” however, more accurately recreates the Hebrew spelling. However you spell it or however you say it, say it with respect.

 

So here’s to my Jewish friends. May your Hanukkah be blessed and may your year be full of joy. Mazel Tov!

 

 

Comforting Joy December 14, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:43 pm

The Inspired Room

(Photo courtesy “The Inspired Room”)

 

“Rejoice always.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16

 

Happy Third Sunday of Advent, on which the third candle of an Advent wreath is lit, this time the sole pink one and the one that symbolizes joy.  This third Sunday is called “Gaudete” Sunday, which is the Latin word for “rejoice.”  On this day and every day we are called to “scatter joy” and to rejoice in all things good.

 

What does it mean to “rejoice?”  It doesn’t necessarily mean to feel happy or giddy but rather to find a source of joy and to be grateful.  Most of all, it calls us to express that feeling of thanks and resolve to be a herald of good tidings.

 

But, who am I kidding, as sometimes it’s tough to find joy and certainly to rejoice.  We all have our struggles and our sorrows but something I read today gave me hope.

 

Paul speaks of rejoicing in God’s love together.  Yep, God never wants us to be or feel alone so he actually instructs us to pray and love together.  God envisions us helping one another carry life’s burdens, offering a listening ear or shoulder to cry on, taking care of those ill or alone, and accompanying loved ones through their struggles.   We will find, says Paul, that rejoicing is something we do by reaching out to each other.  We are joyful when others find joy, but we also weep when others are hurting.

 

Christmas is filled with songs and sayings of joy.   “Joy to the World.”  “Comfort and Joy.”  “Echoing their joyous strains.”  Notice it’s not “Happiness to the World” or “Comfort and Happiness.”  There’s a big difference.  “Happy” is often attached to circumstances or possessions, but if you possess real joy, you remain joyful even when things aren’t going the way you hoped they would.  A joyful person knows that any temporary struggle is God’s way of strengthening us and preparing us for the ultimate joy.  You feel confident that God is in control and you allow life to unfold in His time, not yours.  Not an easy state to accomplish, but one to strive for nonetheless.

 

Be the good

 

Goodness is greater than sin and love conquers all, and in this we can rejoice today and every day as good happens daily, even amongst the bad.  We should spread this Advent joy to each other and those we meet throughout our busy days.  Let us remember that true joy does not come from the things we buy and receive at Christmas, but from the love, kindness, and compassion we receive from and give to others.

 

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing that you may abound I hope.”

Romans 15:13

 

It’s All in the Numbers December 13, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:50 pm

Guess what today is?  Yes, it’s Saturday and yes it’s the first Saturday this Fall without an ESPN “Gameday” to watch, which makes me very sad, but it’s also something more significant.

 

Today is 12/13/14.  Not only is it perhaps the perfect day to get married so the groom can never forget his anniversary date, it’s also the last sequential calendar date for at least 20 years!  The next time this happens will be 1/2/34, as in 2034!  And think about it, the next 12/13/14 won’t be until December 13, 2114.

 

Gamblers love these types of dates and expectant parents often induce the birth of a child if the due date falls anywhere near today or any other “special” date.  It’s rare and it’s distinctive.

 

This all brought to mind a blog I wrote back in 2012, my second ever posting.  In honor of 12/13/14, I thought I’d share it with you again.  Enjoy today and every day!

 

 

 9

Dates with Destiny June 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:24 pm Edit This

Dates.  Not the kind you go on with the opposite sex.  Not the type you eat.  I’m talking about those numbers on a calendar; particularly the ones that mean something.  Dates, you see, are often anything but trivial.  Many even have widely popular and Webster-worthy names.   Blind dates.  First dates.  Travel dates.  Game dates.  Dates with destiny.

Dates are magical numbers in our lives.  In posting my previous blog, my very first one, I noticed it was on June 9, a somewhat surprising memorable day for me.  You see, June 9 was our daughter’s due date.  For nearly nine months that was “the” day for me, as everything revolved around it.  Now, 19 years later, I still remember it and find it somewhat prophetic that this empty nester’s first blog was posted on that very date…all by coincidence.  The reason I find it surprisingly memorable is because June 9 is not my daughter Kristen’s birthday.  No, she decided to come 3 ½ weeks early on May 16.  Still, June 9 will forever hold a special place in my memory bank.

We all have our own “June 9th,” or what I like to call distinctive dates.  Birthdays, anniversaries, the day you won the lottery.  These, you might say, are the happy, celebratory ones.  We also, however, have more somber dates etched in our minds.  The day a loved one passed away, the day of a personal tragic event and, of course, September 11, a date that will never be the same for most of us.

Future dates are also significant.  Our smart phones and laptops are filled with them.  We use them to plan our lives and sometimes even those of others. We boast of target dates, holy dates, and dates that we promise to start something new or achieve something grand.  But, “a goal without a date is just a dream,” (Milton H. Erickson), so choose your dates wisely.  Literally!

I recently saw a cute idea called “The Dates Our Lives Were Forever Changed” on Pinterest via Etsy to commemorate special dates.   It’s a framed print of dates of your choice.  It got me thinking:  what dates would I include on it?  How about you, what dates would you use?  Do you have one that’s personally unique or one the rest of us haven’t thought of?  Do share!

In the end, today may not be a “special” date for you, but make it special anyway and, as Annette Funicello once said, “life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.”

Have a wonderful day!

 

 

Friday Funny

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:00 am

Christmas

Poor Dasher!  Happy Friday!

 

Tuesday Tip: Donate Wisely December 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:04 am

santa

 

“Are you interested in donating to….” is what I heard over and over again while doing some Christmas shopping and taking care of general household errands yesterday.  It seemed like ever register I went to to pay for my items I was asked to donate to that store’s Christmas charity of choice.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like to donate to worthy causes, but this year’s constant questioning left me a little, well, uncharitable.

 

I may have been more sensitive than normal because right before leaving to do my shopping I had donated what I think was fairly substantial amounts to my two charities of choice this year.  Each year my husband and I choose two (or in his case this year, one) charities to donate to.  In the past our favorite non-profits have ranged from our church and its programs to Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas to the Boys and Girls Club in my husband’s hometown.  We focus on our interests and how our lives have been impacted by certain organizations and go from there.

 

As many of you know, I love dogs and I’m passionate about our nation’s military.  For that reason The Austin Dog Alliance’s “Hounds for Heroes” was one of my 2014 choices.  The new program supplies therapy dogs for wounded servicemen and women.  I am thrilled to help!  Secondly, and don’t scoff here, but I chose to donate to my daughter’s sorority at OU.  Before you him and haw, listen to my reasoning.   This is Kristen’s senior year at OU and Alpha Chi Omega has played a big role in making her four years in school memorable.  It has provided her housing, food, but most of all a group of life-long and trusted friends.  When my very own sorority at OU cut Kristen during recruitment, AXO was there to pledge her and pledge their love.  I will never, ever forget this and even though I’m an alum of my house, they will never see another penny of mine.  Alpha Chi Omega will.  Nanny, nanny, boo, boo?  Maybe just a little.

 

give1

 

Choose Wisely

So, how should one choose what charities or philanthropies to donate to?  Most experts say the most important criteria is that you have a personal connection to that charity.  You want to be able to not only donate resources to it, but your heart as well.  Enter “Hounds for Heroes” for me, as not only did I donate to the cause, but I also volunteer at the Dog Alliance.

 

Donating time is just as important as donating money and it’s nothing to be ashamed of if you simply can’t afford to give money.  The first thing you should think about prior to making any charitable donations is your financial stability.  Things like paying off debt, contributing to a savings plan, having adequate insurance, and building an emergency cash reserve should all be taken care of prior to even considering giving large amounts of money to any charity.  Until then, that charity is sure to welcome your time and talents.  As Dallas financial planner J. Tyler Russell told The Wall Street Journal, “The best analogy I can give when it comes to gifting is the standard airline-safety protocol.  If there is a sudden loss of air pressure in the cabin, secure your own mask before helping those around you.”  Genius!

 

If you are blessed with the resources to give this holiday season, know that it’s not only the season of giving but the season of scams.  To avoid getting duped, follow your philanthropic passions but be sure to take the time to find the right charity to give to.  Do your research to ensure that the charity you’re considering is efficient, ethical, and effective.  Once you find the perfect one for you, know that 100 percent of your gift will never go completely to their programs.  All charities must pay for costs like postage, utilities, salaries, and insurance.  A good rule of thumb according to charitynavigator.org is to focus your donations on those charities that give no less than 75 percent of donations to programs and leave a scant 25 percent for overhead costs.

 

 

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly?

Potential donors in recent months and years have voiced concerns over multi-million dollar salaries of the CEOs of many charities.   For the past nine years, Charity Navigator has examined compensation packages of nearly 4,000 mid-to-large sized U.S. charities.  Their research found that some CEOs are indeed making the big bucks but they are also running multi-million dollar operations.  Leading one of these charities requires someone who understands not only the charity and its mission, but also someone with a high level of fundraising and management expertise.  These leaders are paid according to the marketplace so six-figure salaries are not uncommon.

 

That said, CEOs in the northeast were found to be the most highly paid as were those leading charities in the Public Benefit category.  Not surprisingly, the larger the charity, the higher its head’s salary is.

 

Forbes magazine also conducts an annual survey of charities that receive the most private donations each year.  For 2013, the largest U.S. charities, based on donations were:

  1. United Way – $3.9 billion
  2. Salvation Army – $1.9 billion
  3. Task Force for Global Health – $1.7 billion
  4. Feeding America – $1.5 billion
  5. Catholic Charities – $1.4 billion

 

In its rankings, Forbes also includes what it calls “All-Star Charities,” which in 2013 included Brother’s Brother Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Boys & Girls Club of America.

 

Barring any natural disaster, I like my money to stay local.  But there are some national charities that you might consider, based on how much of donated funds actually go to those in need.  They are:

 

  1. Salvation Army. Even though its commissioner manages a $2 billion organization, recent records show he receives a small salary of $13,000 per year plus housing. In addition, 96 percent of donated dollars go to the cause.
  2. Veterans of Foreign Wars. The National Commander of the VFW receives no salary, allowing your donations to go directly to veterans and their families.
  3. Make a Wish Foundation. 100 percent of earnings go to funding the wishes of critically ill children.
  4. St. Jude Research Hospital. Created by actor Danny Thomas and now run by daughter Marlo, St. Jude’s uses 100 percent of its funding to help children with cancer who have no insurance and can’t afford to pay for treatment.
  5. Ronald McDonald Houses. 100 percent of this charity’s donations go to running houses for parents who have critical children in the hospital.

 

On the flip-side, you might want to do some serious research into just how much of each dollar from the following charities goes to those in need:  The American Red Cross, March of Dimes, The United Way, UNICEF, and even Goodwill.  It’s estimated that some of them give only one dime of every dollar or even less than five cents of every donated to dollar to the cause.  Again, do your research!

 

The best advice I can give is to open your heart and give with only the best intentions.  Even the smallest donation is always appreciated and don’t forget your time and talents.  It’s the season to give but don’t feel pressured.  “Would you like to donate?”  Yes, but please don’t pressure me.

 

 

 

A Saintly Month December 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:39 pm

I always love celebrating the feast of Saint Nicholas with my little preschoolers.  They love learning that he was the original Santa Claus, they love taking their shoes off and walking around in only their socks, and they love returning to find gold coins inside of them “from” Saint Nicholas.

 

“Santa,” by the way, means “saint” in Spanish.  It’s no coincidence that Santa Claus got that name and it’s no coincidence that St. Nicholas often wore a red robe and had a long, white beard.

 St. Nick

Legend has it that Nicholas, who was a bishop in what is now Turkey, heard about three sisters who were very poor so he climbed onto their roof and threw gold coins down their chimney, which landed in their stockings that were drying on the fireplace.  Hmmmm….stockings on a mantel and someone climbing on a roof and giving gifts.  Again, no coincidence here.

 

If you’re still not convinced, revisit “The Night Before Christmas,” in which it is St. Nick who slides down the chimney, has a bowl full of jelly, and hollers “Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen, on Comet,  on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen!”   Not one mention of Santa is made throughout the timeless tale.

 

Today jolly old St. Nick is considered the patron saint of children and we celebrate his feast day on December 6.

 

 

 St. Lucy

St. Lucy is also a popular December saint, especially in Sweden where she is called St. Lucia.  The name Lucy means “light” and light is how she is celebrated.  Her legend comes from stories told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.

 

The most common story is that young Lucy would secretly bring food to persecuted Christians in Rome who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. Lucy would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things and so she could see in the dark underground. Her feast day, December 13, is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress and a crown of candles on her head.  The crown is made of Lingonberry branches, which are evergreen and symbolize new life in winter.  Towns and villages often select a local girl to play St. Lucy, a national Lucy is chosen, and young girls all over Sweden dress up as St. Lucy.   St. Lucy Day is also celebrated in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Bosnia, Croatia and anywhere there are large Scandinavian populations.

 

St Lucy is considered the patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble and she reminds us that the beautiful lights of Christmas honor the birth of Jesus, the true Light of the World.

 

 

 OurLadyOfGuadalupe

South of the border in Mexico, the same level of adoration is bestowed upon Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The story goes that Juan Diego witnessed a Marian apparition of an Indian woman dressed like an Aztec princess who sent him to ask the bishop of Mexico City to build a chapel on the spot where she appeared.  The bishop was not convinced it was Mary so she appeared again and gave roses to Juan Diego to take to the bishop.  When Juan Diego opened his cloak to deliver the roses, on the fabric was a portrait of Mary as she had appeared to him, ultimately convincing the bishop and all who believe.  We celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day on December 12 and she is considered the patron of the Americas.

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe has always held a special place in my heart, as I attended OLAG school in Santa Fe, made my First Holy Communion in the beautiful church there, and was married in it as well.  I also love that she told Juan Diego, “Let not your heart be disturbed.  Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”  From her we learn both faith and understanding.

 

Those are just three of the saints honored around Christmastime.  Saints are considered “heroes” of the Catholic church and who doesn’t need a hero in these trying and tumultuous times?  Let’s all take the time to pray and remember the real Reason for the Season.

 

 

 

Tuesday Tip: The Gift of Time December 2, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:01 pm

Christmas 7

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend,” Theophrastus

 

 

That was the daily quote I received in an email yesterday.  I receive the quotes every day, but this one resonated with me in a big way.

 

It’s the Christmas season, which means buying presents for loved ones, donating to worthy causes, and helping those in need.  In other words, spending money.  But, what if we spent more time than money with those we love?  What a wonderful and powerful present our presence can make in someone’s life.

 

Time is what we seem to have less and less of, especially this time of year.  But isn’t time what we would all love more of, especially quality time spent with friends and family?  I don’t know about you, but dinners with my family and stress-free walks with them would make me much happier than another piece of jewelry or a gift certificate to somewhere I don’t need.

 

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Instead of buying someone everything on their list, how about considering these Christmas gift suggestions:

 

To your enemy, give forgiveness

To an opponent, tolerance

To a friend, your heart

To a customer, friendly service

To a child, a good example

To your family, real love

To all, charity

To yourself, respect

 

These “gifts” won’t cost a thing but are worth more than anything money can buy.

 

 
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