Beyond Words

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

When a Blogger Can’t Blog September 10, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:53 pm

I had lunch with some dear friends yesterday and during our time together one of them mentioned that she hadn’t seen any of my blogs of late. I told her I’ve had so much going on in my life, including many a crisis and heartbreak, that I just didn’t have the energy to write. She wisely said, “Maybe that’s the best reason to write.” Bingo Liz. You were right so here I am. Blogging. Writing. Lamenting.


Remember when we all couldn’t wait for 2020 to end and for 2021 to start fresh and new? Well, I’d give my right arm (which, BTW is one of my laments today) to go back to 2020 and say adios to 2021. As a nester and introvert, 2020’s lockdown felt “safe at home” not “stuck at home” to me and I loved it. Yes, there was worry and fear about the virus and I occasionally missed lunches with friends, travel, and shopping but on the whole, I was okay. I was also the most physically fit I’d been in years. I walked with abandon, took up tennis again and played 2-3 times a week, golfed regularly, treasured my online yoga class, and ate healthy for the most part.


Then came 2021.


Seemingly overnight but in reality in just in a matter of one month, our country was turned upside down and the pandemic was anything but gone. I could go on and on about this, but anyone who knows me knows where I stand and anyone who loves what’s going on and is responsible for it can go stand somewhere else.


Thankfully, I did sneak in an annual college girls’ trip in February, which was so good for the soul, but soon after returning all of Texas found itself not stuck in COVID, but rather SNOVID. For an entire week power was in and out, freezing rain was followed by ice and snow, and cities and towns were shut down for days on end. Again, for a nester it was kinda cool but after two days of sitting at home in a full-length puffer, long-johns, and ski cap the cool quickly wore off and we were ready for some heat. I will say however, those COVID masks made for great face warmers!


After that weather weirdness spring sprung but so did a lot more. Our long-planned trip to Lake Tahoe was partly hampered by wild fires but I’m not complaining. It was memorable and fun in its own crazy way. So, not to go into too much detail and bore you to death, I’ll just quickly mention what all’s had me in a funk during the past six months or so:


  • I finally had to medically address back and leg issues that unfortunately may have been exasperated by all that physical activity I mentioned about. Go figure. I had to get an MRI, the worst nightmare for a claustrophobic like me, which resulted in a back injection and now PT. Things have improved some but am pretty sure my neck and right arm are up next and will probably require much of the same. Awesome.


  • Family members were hit head on by a drunk driver and are still healing physically and emotionally. Seeing them suffer while staying with them on multiple occasions to help out was taxing and painful. So needless. So senseless.


  • Our daughter has been on an emotional roller-coaster of her own and suffered the ultimate of heartaches, from which she is still healing. Jeremiah 29:11 is reassuring as always and she is a strong woman but no mom wants to see her daughter suffer on any level. When she hurts, I hurt.


  • My sisters and I are taking the final steps of placing our mom in an assisted living facility, a move she is fighting every step of the way, making a hard decision even harder. It’s time though and she will be safer and hopefully happy.


  • Oh, and did I mention our country, its economy, and world standing are all falling apart daily? This is what happens when hate rules people’s thoughts and choices. There’s nothing like sitting in your childhood home for probably the last time with your mom and watching our country surrender to and arm an enemy we so vehemently once opposed live on TV.


  • And after wiping tear after tear off my face as we drove home from mom’s, the very next day one of our dogs was on death’s door for more than 48 hours…all while I’m dealing with my daughter and my mom…but she has rebounded like a Phoenix.


  • In the span of one week I sent sympathy flowers to three friends who lost their dads and a card to another.


  • Oh, and let’s not forget 9/11 and the 20th anniversary of that devastating day.


And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.


It literally has felt like I haven’t been able to deal with one blow before another blows me over.


But like Nikki our dog with apparently nine lives, I continue to try to live my best life and be grateful and live as if the above is true. I’m not looking for pity or pretending I’m alone and “woe is me.” For me, putting it all down in writing is actually therapeutic and I’m so grateful to my friend for encouraging me to do so. Trust me, I know so much of what has happened could have been so much worse and in the midst of all the pain, I’m more convinced than ever that God’s protection reigned and Guardian Angels were working overtime.



That’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my all-time favorite movies and is so true. I’m paying a lot more closer attention to the good stuff but still, and as always, we tend to ask “Why?” I was talking to my husband about our daughter’s pain and asked “What is the lesson to be learned here?” to which he answered, “Carla, maybe there isn’t a lesson. Maybe it’s just life.” Ouch. I hate it when he’s right!


I also know that many have it much worse. A mom I know lost her son tragically and was diagnosed with colon cancer in a matter of months. I ache for her and wish I could share her pain and take so much of it away.



That is so true and often proves itself as time passes. But, we can never heal by going back to what breaks us and as Leanna Crawford so eloquently sings in her song “Fragile Heart,” “Where you feel apart becomes where you begin.” Amen sister.


I still have much to deal with and get through and find myself bummed one minute and grateful the next. I’d really like 2021 to begin again but since that’s not happening, I need to.


The old saying “God never gives you more than you can handle” has popped in my head almost on a daily basis and when it does I most often say, “Okay, I’m good here God. You can stop.” But, I also know He helps us handle what we are given and will be there every step of the way for me and with me. Believing this and that everything will be okay is hard for me though. I’m a worrier. I’m really good at it.


But as luck and God would have it, I just this week ran across a workshop by one of my most favorite people on earth that has my name written all over it. It’s called the “Creative Courage Workshop” presented by spiritual mamma and all around amazing human Susie Davis. I’m signed up for the virtual event and could not have signed up faster.


You might be interested too. Designed for anyone who strives for peace instead of worry and fear and anyone tired of anxiety and worry bossing them around, it’s worth considering. Give it a look at The world is a scary place right now and I for one need calmness, peace, and faith.


To get there, I need to let go of so much. I need to let go of worry and fear. I need to let go of guilt and setting boundaries. I need to let go of wanting to fix everything. I need to let go of my fantasies. I need to do what I can but accept I can’t do it all and fix everything. In short, I need to leave everything in God’s hands so I’m more able to see His hand in everything.  I can’t wait to see what that looks like. Hopefully calmer and better.


I’ll leave you with a fun little graphic below. Read it first top to bottom and then bottom to top. It’s amazing what a little change in perspective can make. Enjoy!


Pencil Me In August 14, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:04 pm


Students are headed back to school and school supplies are being bought up in stores coast to coast. I love school supplies and can totally relate to the above meme. Notebooks. Highlighters. Binders. Calendars. Planners. Folders. Markers. Sharpies. Glue sticks. Post-its. White Out. Pens. And, of course, pencils. I love them all.


Elements of Style

As I write this, if I glance at the wall in front of me in my office, I see a giant pencil hanging on the wall. And I mean giant. It’s one of my favorite pieces of “art” and brings a bit of whimsy and color to the room.


When our daughter was school-aged, no matter the age, I was that mom who hated the pre-packaged and boxed up school supplies. I longed to take her to every Target and Office Max in the area and stock up on everything and anything. She should feel lucky but am not sure it’s on the top of her “Why mom mom is awesome list.”




If she were to make such a list, maybe she could use some fun colored pencils, which are always fun to write and draw with. Again, doubtful.



Or maybe she could use a fat pencil or a little golf pencil, which BTW are great for early writers as they are the perfect fit for their little hands.


Yes, I love pencils and all things office supplies. Sooooo……when I came across a story about a man who sculpts delicate works of art on the tips of pencils I took notice. I think you will too.


Pencil Thin Master


Jasenko Dordevic is a Bosnian sculptor who has erased the improbable when it comes to works of art by carving miniature sculptures that are not only stunning but mind-boggling. Inspired by lead artist Dalton Ghetti, Dordevic has been creating sculptures on the tips of graphite pencils since 2010 and loves the fact that pencils, long used as tools for making art, are now art themselves. Amazing, right? Here are a few samples of his truly amazing work courtesy TOLDart.





I don’t know what kind of pencil Dordevic uses but I do know this school supply loving blogger decided to pencil in time to learn all about the writing tools we take somewhat for granted. What exactly is the famous No. 2 pencil and why is it called that? Why are most pencils that signature yellow-gold? Intrigued? Read on.



Meredith Miller Matthews

The photo above shows a variety of pencils and was posted by a mom to demonstrate that the prettier the pencil does not always mean the longest lasting or best bang for your buck. We’ve all bought them and we’ve all been frustrated by crumbling leads as we try to sharpen them. Come to find out that Ticonderoga pencils are hands down the most popular and respected among those who know. Tico what?



The Write Stuff


It all started back in 1812 when curious ship captain son Joseph Dixon discovered a love for experimenting with graphite found on his dad’s boats. The young entrepreneur mixed the mineral with clay and water, rolled it into strips, and baked it in his mom’s oven.  He later pressed it all into cedar wood and the first Ticonderoga pencil was born.


Dixon went on to amass graphite, iron, and steel factories and during the Civil War, when soldiers were seeking a more practical alternative to the quill pen for writing home, Dixon’s pencils became widely popular and the Dixon Crucible Company was soon making 86,000 pencils a day. Today the company (thankfully!) makes a wide variety of writing utensils, including colored pencils and golf pencils.


It wasn’t until 1913 that the yellow No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil was introduced. Originally made with a brass ferrule, it was temporarily changed to green plastic due to a metal shortage during World War II but returned to its now-iconic color and metal ferrule after the war.



So what exactly is a No. 2 pencil? It all has to do with the graphite grading scale and a pencil’s location on it depends on the hardness of its graphite core. The higher the number, the harder the core is and the lighter its written marks will be. A No. 2 pencil is the second darkest, is considered by many as the perfect pencil, and is sometimes also called an HB pencil. It has a soft core and leaves darker marks but it they and other “soft” pencils dull faster and require more frequent sharpening.



So who really invented the pencil? Most agree that the ancient Roman writing instrument called a stylus is the granddaddy of them all. Scribes used the thin metal rods to leave a readable mark on papyrus, the early form of paper. Graphite entered the picture in England in 1564 and was a writing hit. Graphite “sticks” were originally wrapped in string but were later inserted into hollowed-out wooden sticks. Sounds like the first ever wooden pencil to me!


Stateside, William Monroe, a Massachusetts cabinet maker, is credited with making America’s first wood pencils and none other than author David Thoreau was known not only for his writing skills but for his pencil making ones as well. Who knew?!



But why yellow? Amazingly, pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s as the best graphite came from China where yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil makers wanted people to know the very best graphite was used in their pencils so they painted their pencils yellow to symbolize a regal and crowning achievement following European producer Koh-I-Noor’s lead in painting their lead items yellow.




Then there’s the Blackwing pencil, favored by the likes of John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington, E.B. White, and Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones.  Crafted in the 1930s by the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, the pencil with the celebrated rectangular eraser became synonymous with quality and was considered the calligraphy pencil of all pencils. But then, in 1998, Blackwings were discontinued and a buying frenzy ensued, including one by Sondheim who reportedly bought a lifetime supply of them. Thankfully, the pencil was re-introduced in 2010 and cult-following number two has ensued over a number No. 2 pencil.



Write This Down


I leave you now with the above graphic of colorful pencils with traits and virtues we should all strive for as well as two things having to do with school supplies, pencils, or both. One, is that as kids return to school, many don’t have the supplies they may need, particularly art supplies that allow them to create and learn at the same time. Enter “Painting Pandas,” a nonprofit dedicated to giving art tools and visual art lessons free of charge to the underserved and who may not have access to them and ages 5-12. Check them out at


Lastly, “The Parable of the Pencil” has always been one of my favorites and what better place to put it, then “write” here? Thanks for reading…and writing. Keep leaving your mark, sharpening your skills, erasing your mistakes, and focusing on what’s on the inside. It’s what makes you and all pencils special.



Give Me Some Direction August 5, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:56 pm

There’s a running joke between me and my daughter. Any time we are driving in an unfamiliar area and the risk of getting lost or taking a wrong turn is high, we jokingly say, “I hope we don’t end up in Tempe.”


You see, neither of us have any sense of direction and when she lived in Scottsdale, no matter how hard we tried to find our way somewhere we’d more often than not take that wrong turn and see the sign saying “Welcome to Tempe.” We knew right then and there we needed to turn around and start up our maps app.


Thank goodness for maps apps.  Even my husband, who has an amazing sense of direction, relies on what I affectionately call “Poopsie” to get him where he’s going in unfamiliar territory. Funny thing is, once he’s gone somewhere say two or three times, he no longer needs Poopsie. I, on the other hand, can return somewhere again and again and yet still end up in Tempe if I don’t use a map app. Come to find out, I am not alone.



Reporter Dr. John LaPook of “CBS Sunday Morning” recently did a fascinating piece on this very subject and I learned so much. For one, animals are amazingly adept at sense of place. Polar bears in particular are great navigators as they migrate north-to-south every year, as are snow geese.  We look up at a “V” of geese or any birds flying above and think how cool it is and how cool it looks, but it’s actually a navigational tool and a sort of “follow the leader.” They all flawlessly fly together using visual clues, the position of the sun, and their sense of smell to get them where they’re going and quite possibly to safer ground. For many in the animal kingdom, this makes perfect sense because they often live where getting lost could very well be the end of them. The same could hold true for us humans.


“People are bad at sense of direction but ought to be good at it because if you lose your way it’s a threat to survival,” Temple University Professor Norah Newcombe told LaPook.  Yikes!



Getting lost in Tempe or Tulsa may not threaten my survival but there are areas of many places that mistakenly venturing into very well could. So what can we learn from directionally blessed animals? Awareness is key; be aware of what’s going on around you. Look for visual markers that stand out to you and pay attention. I sense a solution here.


All of our senses, in fact, are involved in forming a sense of place, which is coded in the very wiring of the brain. Think of it all as a sort of internal map system of specialized nerve cells that track where you’re headed and where you are in relation to landmarks. Landmarks. Key word here.



Follow These Directions

When driving (or walking or hiking or cycling or maybe even boating) into unchartered territory, keep a mental track of landmarks you pass. These don’t have to be the Lincoln Memorial or Wrigley Field, but can be something as simple as a Dairy Queen or a water tower. A national park ranger also suggested to LaPook to every now and then look back from where you came and notice those landmarks. This will hopefully help in both remembering how to get somewhere the next time and returning from where you came should you be making a round trip. Yeah right my lost brain is telling me as I write this. No chance. But, I guess it’s worth a shot, right?



But, when I think about it, the “look back and look and landmarks” cue might actually work for me as I’m one of those who hates when someone says “go east on I35 then turn south onto Avenue A.” No thank you. I need  “left and right” directions rather than “east and west,” so “Turn left at third stop sign then go right at the big white church” is just what I need. And, don’t even get me started on boat navigational terms. Winward? Leeward? Bow and stern? Port and Starboard? Ugh!



Exits in big cities can be challenging for me, as I want a simple “Exit north (okay…in this sense it makes sense) onto I20,” but they often are “Exit north on I20/Exit 24B/County Road 682 Dallas.” Do what? I do however, love that many states use mile markers and incorporate them into exits. These help me prepare for that confusing exit lurking up ahead.



This whole idea of recognizing and tracking our environment is so respected that a Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2014 for a study that proved your brain creates maps of where you’ve been. My brain clearly didn’t participate in that study and if it had, it would have definitely lowered the bar when it came to learning, remembering, and connecting routes. My husband’s on the other hand, would have proved them right.



Which brings us to the age old question of “are men better navigators then women?” You know the joke, a man would rather get lost then ask for directions but are they really better at human navigation? There’s no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this, but it’s quite telling that men can escape from a maze faster than women and are more likely to take shortcuts. Whatever.



Manly or not, many a male today relies on their technical navigation tools to safely get them from Point A to Point B. But, Newcombe is not a fan as she says they are bad for our sense of direction in that if you rely on them too much, you aren’t forming an overview of your environment. I for one am putting my money on Poopsie rather than the Professor for this one.


So off I go, map app in hand, and hoping I don’t end up in Tempe. Then again, Tempe’s not a bad place to get lost and besides, sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself. Let’s go find out.



While researching this blog, I ran across some fun and interesting info about our nation’s highway system I thought I’d share. Some of it I knew; some I was thrilled and surprised to learn. Enjoy!


Did you know…

Despite how confusing highways and their signage might feel sometimes, our nation’s highway numbering system actually makes sense once you know how it works. Highways that run east/west have even numbers while those running north/south have odd numbers. An easy way to remember this is “E for East.”


As for those other “route” numbers, they too have a reason. Numbers of even-numbered routes increase from south to north, which is why in the southern US I10 runs between Santa Monica, California and Jacksonville, Florida while the higher numbered I90 runs between Seattle and Boston.


And there’s more…

Odd route numbers increase from west to east while major north/south interstates increase route numbers from west to east. This is why I5 is on the west coast and I95 in on the east.


Finally, any route numbers divisible by 5 are considered major arteries among primary routes and designed to carry traffic long distances. Examples would be I10 and I95.


So, you’re driving along an interstate or route of some sort and you come across signage. There’s a method to their madness as well.



One of the best and most useful yet little known things about signage on Interstate highways is that the positioning of the Exit Number on the sign tells you if you’ll be exiting right, left, or straight.


Most exit signs will also include Mile Marker numbers, which start at the state line when you cross into a new state or at the beginning of that an Interstate.


For east/west highways, mile markers count from west-to-east. If you are driving eastbound, they start with “MM 1” one mile from the state line. They start counting from south-to-north for highways going in those directions. When driving north, numbers start one mile from the southern state line.


Usually, Exit numbers correspond to the mileage markers on the Interstates. If you are in the middle of nowhere and need assistance, providing emergency personnel with the nearest mile marker can be crucial to finding your location. This is why you should pay attention to the mile markers during your road trip.


And finally, leave it to Texas to lay claim to the highest numbered mile marker with Interstate 10’s Mile Marker 880 and its corresponding exit in Orange, Texas. And, it’s not only the highest numbered mile marker and exit on any freeway in the U.S., but in all of North America. In essence this means there are 880 miles of that I10 in Texas, which is one long drive for anyone.


While we’re talking highways, let’s talk about two of our country’s most iconic and famous ones. First, Highway 1.



Highway 1 is a major north/south highway that runs 2,370 miles along the east coast from Key West, Florida to Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border. It is the longest north/south road in the U.S. and is generally considered the easternmost of the main north/south U.S. highway system although parts of others run closer to the ocean. Construction of the U.S. Interstate Highway System resulted in I95 becoming the major north/south east coast highway in the late 1960s but US1 is still a favorite of many.



On the west coast you’ll find the equally symbolic Highway 101 or US 101. The nearly 1,550 mile long road runs through California, Oregon, and Washington. It is also known as El Camino Real and is the westernmost north-south route in the U.S. Highway System.


The highway travels from the East Los Angeles Interchange, the world’s busiest freeway interchange, to Tumwater, Washington. In between, it runs through a greater portion of L.A. and is also called the Hollywood Freeway, Ventura Highway, and other monikers while traversing through the San Fernando Valley, Thousand Oaks, Santa Barbara, and many other locales. It goes across the often photographed Bixby Creek Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge but although US 101 remains a major coastal north–south link on the Pacific coast, it has been replaced in overall importance for transport by I5.


I’ve been fortunate enough to have driven “The 101” and stood at the “end of the road” of Highway 1 in Key West and will say, they are both memorable. So, as Willie would say, get “on the road again” and maybe check them out. Just be sure to take Poopsie with you.


Happy travels everyone!



Pray For Yourself August 2, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:32 am

Think for yourself. Fend for yourself. Treat yourself. Pray for yourself?


How many times a day or a week do you pray for someone else? If you’re like me, almost on a daily basis, right? I get prayer requests from people near and far on a regular basis or I simply lift up my loved ones every day. If I asked you how many times a day or a week you pray for yourself, would your answer be the same? Mine certainly wouldn’t and this sad fact was revealed to me today in a powerful podcast I listened to.


If you know me at all, you know that I adore spiritual mamma and all-around inspirer Susie Davis. Today she and her husband, Al Davis, Jr., talked about praying for yourself on their podcast. It was eye opening.



Come to find out that praying for yourself is one of the most underdeveloped disciplines and that most people don’t pray for themselves, me included. It is often considered selfish and self-serving but in reality, it’s anything but.  Even Jesus often prayed for Himself. Gethsemane is only one vivid example of this.


Think about it, as Susie and Al said, the person you live with the longest is yourself so shouldn’t you love and pray for yourself? If you don’t love yourself, pray for it. It really and truly pleases God when we love who He created. It’s not selfish; it’s smart and it’s basically giving God permission to guide you, lead you, forgive you, and disciple you.



Sadly, we often leave prayer – whether for ourselves or for someone else – for another time. A quiet time. A calm time. A happy time. Funny thing is, we sometimes avoid praying when we need it most. When we’re sad, hurting, sinful, anxious, or just feeling a general feeling of unworthiness. That’s when He wants us most. God does not want perfect. He asks us to bring Him our helplessness, weaknesses, imperfections, and sins. He understands that we make mistakes and is waiting with open arms for us to offer Him prayers for ourselves.


The person with the most potential impact with God in your life is, you guessed it, yourself, so pray big and pray a lot. Examine the holes and flaws in your life and pray to remove them, fix them, or change  them. These could be character holes. Discipline holes. Moral holes. Don’t you want them removed? Then pray for that!



When you do pray for yourself, Al reminds us to check your motives at the door. Be humble and pray to make wise decisions. Also pray to be full of joy and God’s will and way as well as influence and wisdom. And don’t hide. Don’t hide what’s in your heart or your head but instead bring it all to Him and let His love wash over you.


Praying for yourself is also a way of what Susie calls “soul care.” Walk away from the madness and make quiet time for pray. Set your boundaries and say no to things that might distract you. Choose being present over being busy and look for things that matter most to you and your heart. Go rest and go pray. Feed yourself. Provide for yourself. Take care of yourself. Don’t skip yourself when you pray and remember to be active not passive in your prayers and on your prayer list. Be needy with yourself!



Give yourself permission to pray for yourself.  Pray against pride. Pray for humility. Pray to be physically and mentally healthy. Pray for things you want to become and for help in things you don’t like about yourself. Pray to handle your responsibilities, to be more charitable, patient, accepting, honest, happy, and encouraging. Pray to avoid malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, greed, laziness, and slander. We are living in a world full of those who think they are righteous. Pray not to feel you are without sin or guilt or that you alone are morally upright. Remember that only God is truly righteous.



Pray big and pray often but remember even simple prayers can save your life. Whether you pray for something big for yourself or something on a smaller scale, when you do, give yourself permission to be you and talk to God about you. Ask Him “what do you want to teach or show me today?” Author Ronald Rolheiser describes prayer as “lifting mind and heart to God,” so do just that. Lift every thought and every feeling regardless of how irreverent, selfish, angry, unimportant, or frivolous they might seem.  If you’re feeling joyful, pray praise. If you’re feeling anger, pray anger. He knows you’re angry and He will help you through it. What’s important, Rolheiser writes, is to pray what’s inside of us and not what we think God would like to see inside of us. Be honest. Be bold.



But, be ready to listen. Turning down the volume of life and all its distractions allows you to listen to God. God listens and He speaks to us through prayer. Prayer by its nature is requesting. It’s not demanding. It’s asking for understanding and clarity. It has the power to heal our fragmented minds and hearts. Our souls.


Prayer is often called “worship” and in worship, as the old word “worth-ship” implies, it’s worth it, He’s worth it, and I’m worth it. I’m worth praying for and asking for anything. Anything large enough to occupy your mind is large enough to pray for. Ask away and pray away!



Susie and Al say there are so many reasons you should pray for yourself. Pray for yourself because you love yourself…or because you don’t. Pray for yourself because how you are affects everyone around you. Learn to love to pray for yourself. Don’t feel guilty about it. Feel grateful. You deserve it. Can I get an amen?





The Inside Scoop July 18, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:00 am

You don’t often hear “thank you Mr. President” these days, but today we can boldly say just that to a past president because today is National Ice Cream Day thanks to President Ronald Reagan.  Yep, good ole’ Ronnie saw to it that a special day be celebrated the third Sunday in July to commemorate the frozen treat enjoyed by more than 90 percent of the U.S. population. It became official in 1984 and not only hailed all things ice cream, but helped the American dairy industry as well. Today, nine percent of all milk produced in the U.S. is used in making ice cream.


I’m not a big ice cream eater and really don’t buy it, but I do like a rare cone or scoop of it. Today there are many versions and flavors of ice cream, but according to the International Dairy Foods Association, how the frozen concoction got its start is debatable.



No specific date or inventor can be credited with creating the first ever ice cream but its origins do go way back. The Bible references King Solomon’s love of iced drinks; Alexander the Great was known to have enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar; Persians were said to have served their royal families a recipe using saffron, iced rose water, vermicelli, and fruit; and during the Roman Empire Caesar sent workers into the mountains to retrieve snow, which he would later flavor with fruits and juices.


That’s about all we know until more than 1,000 years later, when Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East with a recipe that resembled what we call sherbet today. Italy can also lay claim to developing what was called “Cream Ice” when in 1660 an Italian man named Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli offered his makings to the public. By retrofitting a machine made by his fisherman grandfather, he produced a top-quality gelato blending milk, butter eggs, and cream. The treat was sold in Paris and became a hit. I’ve had gelato in Italy, and can say without a doubt it is the best in the world. Thank you Francesco!



The U.S. was a bit slower in discovering the love for a bowl of frozen anything.  Ice cream was first advertised in America in the “New York Gazette” in 1777, but the first official account of it stateside came in a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland’s governor who wasn’t the only statesman to favor the dessert. Inventory records of Mount Vernon revealed two pewter ice cream pots belonging to George Washington and none other than Dolly Madison is known to have served a strawberry version at President Madison’s second inaugural ball. Thomas Jefferson was also an ice cream lover, and the Library of Congress today houses his original handwritten recipe for vanilla ice cream, which is pictured above.


Ice cream remained an elite confection until around 1800 when insulated ice cream houses were invented. By 1851, the manufacturing revolution changed not only America as a whole, but the ice cream industry as well when commercial ice cream production started in Boston. Steam power, mechanical refrigeration, the homogenizer, electric powered motors, new freezing processes, and motorized delivery all contributed to bringing ice cream to the masses. Fast forward to 2020, when U.S. ice cream makers churned out just over 1 billion gallons of ice cream. Maybe it was the lockdown. Maybe we just love ice cream.



The dessert’s growing popularity also led to offshoot enterprises, including the quintessential American soda fountain shop and its quickly popular ice cream soda. Think 1950s and you think soda fountain: cute little counter seats all lined up and staff people wearing striped outfits. You don’t get any more American than that.




When religious leaders complained about congregations partaking in what they called “sinfully rich sodas” on Sundays, ice cream merchants responded by eliminating the carbonated water from the dessert and the name was later changed to “sundae” to remove any connection to the Sabbath. The result? A dessert concoction that even I can’t resist: the ice cream sundae.


Floats and Banana Splits also have stories behind their names. Philadelphia soda-shop owner Robert McCay Green inadvertently made the first float in 1874 when he substituted ice cream for regular cream in a classic cream soda. As for the ever-popular and oh-so-yummy banana split, its name and invention is widely attributed to David Strickler also of Pennsylvania who made one on a whim in 1904 when bananas were still a relatively new U.S. import.



It didn’t take long for retailers to take note and more and more prepackaged ice cream began being sold in supermarkets. Sadly, this commercial renaissance coincided with the slow but steady disappearance of ice cream parlors and soda fountains and today remnants of them like toy ice cream trucks, signage, and packaging ice cream tins are collector’s items sought the world over.


With growing demand came a variety of supply, including ice cream on a stick, ice cream sandwiches, and other concoctions, including the ice cream cone, which was invented in 1904. Back then there was just one type of cone but today there is a wide variety of choices, with waffle cones and sugar cones tied for the most popular ice cream containers.


One of my happiest childhood memories was my mom and dad packing my two sisters and me in the car and heading to Baskin Robbins for our pick of their 31 flavors. We loved 31 Flavors and it still holds a special place in my heart.



Brand loyalty is high in the ice cream industry. I personally prefer Texas’ own Blue Bell ice cream or Halo Top, a lower-calorie option. Others like everything from Häagen-Dazs to Breyers and beyond. A quick tidbit about Häagen-Dazs: it’s an American-made brand that got its origins not in Belgium but the Bronx.


Husband and wife ice cream entrepreneurs Reuben and Rose Mattus decided to start their own confection company in the Bronx in 1959. Reuben’s uncle had been hawking homemade Italian lemon-ices on the streets of Brooklyn since Reuben was 10-years-old and eventually expanded into a family-run business called Senator Frozen Products. Business was sparse and the couple knew they wanted a new name to evoke an aura of old-world craftsmanship. Both Jews of Polish descent, Reuben and Rose were drawn to the Danish language as Denmark was the only country that saved the Jews during World War II. Reuben came up with the name Häagen-Dazs, a Danish-sounding name that means absolutely nothing; and it stuck. It also worked as the brand rose to prominence, eventually being purchased by Pillsbury in 1983 and later by Nestlé.


Something I loved learning while researching this topic is that the majority of U.S. ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturers have been in business for more than 50 years and many are still family-owned. So loyal are ice cream eaters and so enamored with the product are they that it is said the brain of an ice cream lover has been likened to that of an addict. Yikes! There’s even a Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco.



So there’s the scoop on ice cream, but what about all the different kinds? What is the difference, you might wonder as do I, between ice cream, gelato, sorbet, and sherbet? According to, not all frozen treats are created equal. Here’s the scoop on that.


Ice Cream. The USDA requires any frozen treat labeled “ice cream” to contain at least 10 percent milk fat and the product must also get churned during freezing.


Gelato. If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know this stuff is the bomb. The word means “ice cream” in Italian but the two are not the same. Gelato also has a custard base like ice cream, but it contains less milk fat and less churned air, resulting in a denser texture and a softer, glossier look. Gelato is also traditionally served at slightly warmer temperatures.


Sorbet. Containing only fruit and sugar and no dairy, this is what you’ve been served as a palette cleanser during multi-course meals. Sorbet’s intense fruit flavor makes it the perfect refreshing accoutrement.


Sherbet. Sorbet’s creamier cousin, sherbet is basically sorbet with milk; usually buttermilk. It also contains cream, egg whites, and gelatin.


Frozen custard. This is what you’re looking for if you’re looking for creamy. Frozen custard is made just like ice cream but with added egg yolk, resulting in a delectable texture that’s similar to melted ice cream. This stuff is especially popular in the Midwest and South.


Frozen yogurt. Instead of milk or cream, frozen yogurt is just that: yogurt. It is usually more tart and lower in fat than ice cream.


As for calories and fat content, we all know ice cream is loaded with both, but what about the options? In general, ice cream contains at least 10 percent butter fat but often times that content is between 15-25 percent. Italian gelato, on the other hand, contains less than 10 percent fat while most sorbets are naturally fat-free. Don’t let that fool you though, as what they lack in fat they make up with in sugar. They also lack calcium since they’re non-dairy.  Calorie-wise, most sherbets and sorbets have the same number of calories as any “light,” “low-fat,” or “nonfat” ice cream or frozen yogurt. Interestingly enough, demand for low-fat or non-fat ice cream is just 4 percent.



Are you screaming for ice cream yet? Until then, I’ll leave you with a bevy of ice cream fun facts. Enjoy!

  • The average American consumes more than 22 pounds of ice cream and frozen desserts each year.
  • 90 percent of American households consume ice cream.
  • The ice cream industry has a $13.1 billion impact on the U.S. economy, supports more than 28,000 direct jobs, and generates $1.8 billion in direct wages.
  • The milk produced by a cow in its lifetime can make 9,000 gallons of ice cream.
  • New Zealand owns the title of top ice cream consumer in the world and Long Beach, California eats the most ice cream in the U.S.
  • Because of its yummy taste and texture, ice cream was used as a greeting when immigrants arrived on Ellis Island.
  • The Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) is the most successful ice cream market in the U.S.
  • Pecans are the most popular nut flavoring and strawberry is the most popular fruit in ice cream.
  • Candy and chocolate pieces are the most popular ice cream confections.



It’s hard to say what the most popular ice cream flavor is, as it varies with age groups. Those 14-17 like Mint Chocolate Chip best, 18-24 year olds choose Cookies ‘n Cream, those aged 25-34 prefer Cookie Dough, and Chocolate is the number 1 choice of those 35-44 and over. Still, Vanilla is often considered the most popular ice cream flavor in the U.S. with 29 percent of total sales.




Praying for the World One Bead at a Time July 11, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:00 am

“Continue to say the Rosary every day to obtain the peace of the world”

Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal, July 13, 1917.


I had my 90-year-old mom in town last month and during one stint, my husband had a bad sinus infection so we put him in the guest room and mom slept with me. One night while we were going to bed, she pulled out her rosary (as she always does) and reminded me that Mary asked us to pray a daily rosary when she appeared in Fatima, Portugal and said the above words. “It’s not too much to ask” were my mom’s exact words to me that night.



As long as I can remember, my mom has been devoted to the rosary and keeps one under her pillow. I too have rosaries everywhere – in my purse, next to my bed, and in my car. Truth be told however, I’ve never been a devoted rosary sayer. Not sure why, as I’m a cradle Catholic, believe in it, and like I said, have seen my mom say one all the years of my life. Sometimes I feel guilty because I don’t know the Mysteries by heart or even what days to say them on. I always have to refer to my little rosary “cheat sheets” to get through one, although I do have an audio one I absolutely love and often listen to as I’m going to sleep at night; particularly those nights when my mind races and I just can’t get to sleep. Like magic, it works every time. What does that tell you? Or me?!



So what is the rosary and why do Catholics use them?  Its history is quite fascinating and yes, biblical in many ways. In fact, it is, in essence, a compilation of the Gospel and leads us to contemplate Jesus Christ.



The name “rosary” is derived from the Latin word for “rose garden” and its beads are said to be like flowers on a stem.  The rosary and devotion to it has evolved over many, many years. Today’s rosary is most likely the result of two traditions that developed separately and were combined in the 1400s. One tradition is based on Christ and the other is based on Mary. Early versions were divided into three sets of 50, mirrored after the Psalms in the Bible. Over the years, the Marian and Jesus versions were combined and the rosary gave way to what’s called a “chaplet” of 50 prayers. It’s interesting to note that the word chaplet comes from the French word for “crown.”



A typical rosary has 10 sets of beads called “decades” followed by a larger bead. On each smaller bead a “Hail Mary” is said and on each large bead an “Our Father” is prayed.  When you recite the prayers, you move your fingers from one bead to the next one down or up on the rosary. Over time additional prayers have been added, including the “Glory Be,” the “Apostle’s Creed,” the “Fatima Prayer,” and “Hail Holy Queen” in addition to a new set of “mysteries.” The Mysteries are meditations surrounding the birth, life, and death of Jesus and his Mother. These are beautiful tributes that I won’t go into here, but if you’re curious look into them. Each can be attributed to the Bible and each is powerful in its own way.



The decade rosary beads are circular stranded and attached to a shorter strand that has a crucifix, one large bead, three small ones, and another large bead. A five-decade version typically has 59 beads. These beads might be made from silver, gold, glass, precious gems, pearls, or any number of materials. The one by my bed is similar to the above one as its made made from string-like ribbons and was handmade by my late niece. Mine is white though and even the cross is woven. It is beautiful in its simplicity and special in its origin.



As we pray the rosary we quietly meditate and its repetitive nature promotes a powerful and contemplative prayerful introspection. Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and non-believers can certainly all benefit greatly from this type of practice. The rosary teaches us how to just be and in some ways is the perfect prayer for busy people in today’s crazy, noisy, and confused world. It also settles our hearts and minds. We live hectic lives in a chaotic world, a world troubled by war, violence, hate, division, and brokenness. Amidst the chaos and confusion, our souls yearn for peace and clarity. The rosary puts things in perspective and allows us to see things as they really are while praying for things we hope for. It reaches deep down into our souls and puts us at ease, creating a peace that is rare and beautiful. Ultimately, it teaches us to slow down, calm down, let go, offer our struggles to God, and listen.


But it is more than that. It has the true power to heal and to make a difference in your life, the life of loved ones, our communities, our nation, and the world as a whole. I for one trust without a doubt that my mom’s many rosaries said on my behalf saved me and blessed me. I believe!



When we pray the rosary, we can bring our needs and struggles, and the needs of others, to Mary. She cares for us like a loving mother and wants to bring our troubles to her son Jesus. Being the good Son that He is, Jesus listens to his mamma! He listens when we pray in His name for the needs of our family and friends, for our schools and churches, our neighborhoods and neighbors, the sick and lonely, and our troops and leaders. Praying the rosary can bring peace to a troubled world, healing to broken hearts, and clarity to those in chaos.



The Feast of the Holy Rosary is October 7, a tradition that started in 1573. Devotion to it was made popular by Dominican preachers and Saints Philip and Louis de Montfort promoted the saying of it. A century’s old tradition, you could say the rosary “went viral” in May of 1917 when Catholics believe Mary appeared to three young village children in Fatima, Portugal. Among her many messages was the request of saying a daily rosary as well as getting spiritually healthy and letting Her be your guide.


Her message was simple and practical, but how do we get there? Maybe start by identifying things in your life that need to change. This could anything from bad habits to an unhealthy lifestyle, envy to gossip. Then, focus on ways to make improvements, ask God for advice, and invite Him into your decisions. You should also establish a daily habit of prayer and meditation. It doesn’t have to be long. Even just 10 minutes can make a difference.



And while I’m here and before I close, I want to squelch the common notion that Catholics “worship” Mary, statues, or even the rosary. Catholics agree that it is wrong to worship any image and that we worship only God as noted in Psalms 115 and 135.


Even ancient Israel was concerned about idolatry and the pagan culture. But when Jesus was born, God was seen in the flesh for the very first time. Although we don’t know exactly what He looked like, Christians began depicting Him in images. They did the same for Mary, the Apostles, and others. Keep in mind that for more than 1,500 years of Christian history, there were no printing presses and most people could not read or write. Art, in the form of paintings, stained glass, mosaics, and statues, served as important ways of teaching the Bible and religions as a whole. Today, they serve the same function in the Catholic Church as say family photos do. They are simply reminders of those who have gone before us and just as we ask others to pray for us, we ask them to pray to God for us too. We can never have too many people praying for us, right?


In today’s morally damaged society, the danger of idolatry is not too much idolization of religious statues and photos, but rather the worship of money, fame, sex, drugs, power, pleasure, and control. Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about “too much Mary” and focus more on “too little praying.” The rosary is a good place to start.






Married to the Perfect Dress June 30, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:06 pm

I recently attended the wedding of the son of some very good friends. It was semi-formal and every detail was carried out to perfection. No detail was overlooked and it felt both flawlessly formal and impeccably intimate. I knew I wanted maxi dresses for both the wedding and the rehearsal dinner, but not formal dresses.  As I began searching for the perfect looks, I quickly discovered doing so was going to be a real challenge. I also learned that I’m not alone in this predicament, as many have asked where I got my looks as they too have searched and searched for similar ones.


What is it with semi-formal and cocktail dresses for women, say older than mid-40s? The majority of dresses I found were sleeveless. Please. Retailers and designers: there comes a time when a woman either doesn’t want to go sleeveless or in many cases, shouldn’t go sleeveless. I am not a huge fan of my arms but I don’t hate them. Still, they are not, IMO, sleeveless material and neither are those of many a woman I see going sleeveless. Also IMHO, I believe after a certain age, unless you have truly “cut” arms and a body to die for, a woman shouldn’t wear a sleeveless dress; particularly of the semi-formal or cocktail variety and one that is form-fitting. That’s just me though.



Now granted, depending on the event, a simple sleeveless sheath or a fun Lilly Pulitzer number might be appropriate, but as with anything: gauge the audience and event and remember that even though it fits, it doesn’t mean you should wear it. When all else fails, do what my dear friend does to perfection: pair a beautiful silk blouse with white jeans or pants, throw on some heels, pearls or a subtle statement necklace, and you’ll look polished and perfect.


Speaking of fit, another obstacle I ran into while shopping for the wedding was form-fitting dresses. Again, we are of a certain age. Please design dresses to fit our “mature” bodies. Anything tight, clingy, and revealing is out for me.  I’m all about keeping it classy and comfortable as well as age-appropriateness.  If you absolutely have to have that form-fitting or sleeveless dress, throw on a colorful ruana or striking wrap. One wedding guest did this and it was stunning and a blogger I follow is forever wrapping herself in something and it always works.


Granted, many women in my age bracket have gorgeous legs and to them I say: show ‘em off! Me? I’ve never really liked my legs so I prefer midis or maxis. Anything that shows my knees is an almost instant no for me. This was also a challenge while dress buying. I saw a lot of pretty things but they were short. God bless all those sites that allow you to filter your search and I could click on midi and maxi and then search away.


Right up there with short and sleeveless is anything belted or tied at the waist, including any type of elastic gathering, although the latter occasionally works on me. I will say the belted/flowy look is all the rage this season, with the style everywhere. Cute yes, just not for my body and my shape.



Gauze Maxi Dress

Chico’s Gauze Maxi Dress


Ann Taylor Zebra Print Puff Sleeve Midi Dress

So what did I settle on? The above perfect hot pink maxi from Chico’s for the rehearsal dinner and a surprise subtle animal print from Ann Taylor for the wedding, also above. Both proved comfortable and exactly what I was looking for. They were no easy find however, and took multiple orders and returns to find. As with anything, I knew the minute I saw them and tried them on that they were it. I love when that happens!



For footwear, I opted for festive pink flats and mid-height woven natural sandals. I knew parking could be a distance issue, there might be lots of walking, I like to be comfy, and this girl planned on dancing at the reception! The winner of the “best shoes” however, went to the groom’s mom who chose adorable yet comfortable pointed-toe glitter flats. That mamma had her thinking cap on as she debated what shoes to wear and I have officially taken note!



Lelinta Rainbow Stripes Button Closure Shirt Dress

When shopping, my taste ranges from high-end to discount stores and I tend to go more traditional than trendy and a good caftan is always my friend for anything from a wedding to a swimsuit cover-up. One of my favorite dresses is pictured above and is from…drum roll please…Walmart! I follow a blogger whose posts are 90 percent designer and very expensive items, but not too long ago she posted a fabulous dress she found at Walmart. I immediately took a liking to it and bought it. You can’t believe how many compliments I get every time I wear it and the shocked looks I get when asked “who are you wearing?!”


I also like to practice a secret French commandment of not trying to make everything perfect. Leave something a little undone, whether it’s a messy bun, a Chanel jacket with jeans, or maybe unpolished nails with an otherwise polished look…excuse the pun!  I personally have not had a manicure since the 2020 lockdown and I don’t miss the commitment or upkeep at all. For the wedding I did brush a very subtle Essie “Ballet Slippers” (Queen Elizabeth’s trademark hue!) on my nails but stayed away from a bright color or over-manied style.




When choosing any outfit for a special occasion, keep in mind that you will more than likely be photographed. There’s nothing less flattering than tummy, arm, or leg flaws front and center in a pic. Photos normally add pounds to you so check out all those body parts when deciding whether to purchase an item. This is the time of year when you might be taking lots of photos at weddings, graduations, and while on trips. It’s not only helpful to know what to wear for those photos, but how to look best in them.


Funny thing actually happened on my way to posing for photo after photo during our wedding weekend: the best pic of the bunch was an impromptu non-posed pic that the mother of the groom texted me. It was natural, casual, and the one that I said “frame that puppy!”




Whatever you’re wearing, don’t over pose…keep it natural and not so staged. And selfies; please limit them. They are overplayed and actually a bit vain, especially the older you get. High schoolers, college coeds, and millennials: go for it. Everyone else: put a limit on them. I personally rarely post photos of just me on social media and can’t remember the last time I posted an actual selfie of just me. All those “look at me drinking a glass of wine at this beach” or “this is me looking fabulous at this fabulous restaurant” snaps are snapping me into a photo frenzy. Give it a rest ladies.


All those beautiful photos you see online were not the first shot and the majority of them use filters and all sorts of beautification tricks and treatments but there certain posing tricks worth taking not of such as standing slightly behind someone else and at an angle. Other tips include tilting your head, turning your body 45-degrees so it’s not facing the camera head on, keeping your weight on one leg or crossing one leg in front or behind the other, standing up straight and maintaining good posture, pushing your chin forward and slightly up, keeping your arms slightly away from your body, and most importantly: relaxing! As for your hands, two good tips are to hold your fingers as if your nails are wet or to rest your hands on top of your thighs. Have pockets? Place one hand in one of them!


Now for the feet. Standing straight at the camera with arms straight down and feet together will make even the smallest of bodies look bigger. Instead, think “twist and shift.” Twist your body at the waist, turn one hip toward the camera, and shift your weight onto a slightly back positioned foot. Then, angle the foot that’s forward away from your body and turn your face toward the camera.


Where a camera is, is equally important. Consensus has it that looking slightly up toward the photographer is best and never, ever look down toward the camera.


And speaking of posing, can we officially retire the hand on the hip pose? I know it’s supposed to make your arm and your waist look thinner and more defined, but honey, if you don’t have thin arms and a small waist to begin with, no hand on the hip is going to do the trick and most likely will do just the opposite cuz all you’re doing is drawing attention to them. The pose is overdone and I’m over it. You need to be too.



I’m by no means an influencer, professional stylist, or fashionista but I do love fashion and I hope this helps and answers any questions many of you posed (again, excuse the pun!) my way. I’ll leave you with some dresses I found during my wedding search. Just remember these shopping mantras: Fashion is what you buy and style is what you do with it. Fashion is fleeting; style is timeless. Have fun shopping!


Tucker Nuck Batik Breeze Jamie Dress


Trina Turk Honolulu Dress


Stein Mart Handmade Polyester Maxi Caftan



Donna Morgan Roopa Ruffle Dress


Lilly Pulitzer Parigi Lace Maxi


Nordstrom Maggy London Print Charmeuse Midi


Walmart Scoop Peasant Dress with Puff Sleeves Sarah Shirtdress


Old Navy Embroidered Midi Swing Dress







Its Broad Stripes and Bright Stars Are Still There June 14, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:35 pm

Happy Flag Day America! Yep, today is Flag Day and I’m here to talk all about it. If you are a flag hater, now’s the time to delete all, scroll on, and move on.



For starters and considering this is an Olympic year, did you know the U.S. flag dips to no person, even king or queen, and is the only flag at Olympic ceremonies that doesn’t dip to the head of state of the host country. I did not know this.


I do know that Old Glory, as our flag is often called, has taken a beating in recent years and I’m not talking wind and rain. I’m talking hatred, disrespect, and the flying in conjunction with other flags. I am not a fan of this recent trend for two reasons: the American flag stands alone and stands for all Americans while topical and trending flags only represent a small portion of Americans. That’s my flag feeling and I’m flying with it.


I love our flag. I fly it proudly and I love all things flag…from shoes to towels to hats to clothing…and I mean no disrespect by them although there are pretty strong rules about how the American flag should be displayed. I’m pretty sure even the oldest of old timers wouldn’t mind seeing our flag everywhere, even if it’s on a cheeseboard. Even Johnny Cash called her “The Ragged Old Flag” as he saluted all the battles she’s been through.


Okay, on with Flag Day. Unlike most other countries, America only has two national symbols: the bald eagle and the American flag, the latter of which has a fascinating history and has been the inspiration for poems, songs, books, artwork, fashion, food, and holidays. Today, we celebrate one of those holidays.


Flag Day celebrates the adoption of the American flag by the Continental Congress with the First Flag Resolution of June 14, 1777. Many years later, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916 requesting June 14 become National Flag Day and in 1927, President Calvin Coolidge issued a second proclamation, but Flag Day wasn’t officially recognized until President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1949.


In between all of this, it was none other than a school teacher, Bernard J. Cigrand, who held the first unofficial Flag Day in Waubeka, Wisconsin in 1885 and is today considered the “Father of Flag Day. Then, in 1893 the Colonial Dames of Pennsylvania got  a resolution passed requiring the American flag be displayed on all public buildings in Philadelphia. In 1937, Pennsylvania was the first state to make Flag Day a legal holiday. A teacher and a bunch of women basically “created” Flag Day. I love it.


Soon after Flag Day became official nationwide, another law was passed requiring public school superintendents ensure patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day, and others be observed in schools. Tell this to the current New Jersey school board that just recently voted to remove the names of religious and national holidays on school calendars and replace them as merely a “day off.” How times have changed.





The American Flag has survived a lot, including two World Wars and current attacks from its own citizens. It’s been burned in defiance overseas but only recently has been done so right here on our own soil. Still, it is a symbol of freedom and liberty, hope and pride for most. Shut out today’s news reports and shut your eyes and instead think back to Buzz Aldrin standing proudly next to an American flag on the moon and the brave first responders holding up a tattered stars and stripes in the rubble of September 11 and unfurling a giant banner on the Pentagon. Those are the images our Founding Fathers and Betsy Ross would be proud of, but guess what,  good ole Ms. Ross may not really be who we all think she is.



The first American flag is often deemed “The Betsy Ross Flag” but her actual role in its development is fuzzy and highly debated. Part of the problem is her story didn’t surface until 34 years after her death and most historians agree she probably didn’t design or sew the first flag.  During the time the flag was made, there were at least 17 flag makers in Philadelphia, any of which could have sewn the first one.


Ross’ story came to life and was made public at the end of the Civil War, when it was embraced as a patriotic symbol of the country’s state of emotional and social recovery. The Betsy Ross story was published everywhere even without historical evidence or documentation supporting the tale. It was a good story that sounded good to a country that was searching for anything good, and it stuck.



The design of the flag is a bit tidier, but still has its mysteries. The vast majority of historians believe Francis Hopkinson is most likely responsible for the stars and stripes design. Hopkinson also contributed the design of the Great Seal of the United States but was never compensated for either. As for those stars and stripes and the three colors, experts can only guess as to why Congress chose them.


Some believe stars were chosen as they represent man’s desire to achieve greatness, as in “reach for the stars,” while others think the idea may have come from Freemasonry, of which Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Robert Livingston, and Paul Revere were all members of and to whom stars were important icons. The stripes probably harken back to two pre-existing flags that had previously flown in Boston and Philadelphia.  As for the colors of red, white, and blue, most say they were chosen after being used in the first unofficial flag, the Continental Colors and are thought to symbolize hardiness and valor, purity and innocence, and perseverance and justice, in that order.



Although unofficial, the Continental Colors Flag is considered the first American flag and was used from 1775-1777. It included a field of 13 alternating red and white stripes with a British Union Jack in the canton. It is generally believed that the stripes represent the 13 colonies while the Union Jack was meant to show colonial loyalty to the crown and traditional British values.


By June 14, 1777 the flag was replaced by the first Stars and Stripes, on which the Union Jack was replaced with a blue field of 13 white stars said to represent a “new constellation” and America’s new found independence.



The original Star-Spangled Banner was sewn by flag maker Mary Pickersgill and others during the War of 1812. The massive flag measured 30 by 42 feet and weighed approximately 50 pounds. It consisted of 15 stripes and a blue union of 15 stars representing all the states in the Union at the time. Years later the number of stripes was reduced to 13 to represent the original 13 colonies.


The flag was made for Lt. Col. George Armistead and commissioned to fly over Ft. McHenry, where it was raised in 1814 following  the American defeat of the British at the Battle of Baltimore. Inspired by the sight of the flag in all its glory, American lawyer Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” poem, which was later set to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a well-known English song. By 1861 the song’s popularity grew widespread…you could say it went “viral,”…and in 1931 it became our National Anthem.


Quick note: the “spangled” in Star-Spangled Banner means “decorated with small shiny pieces and adorned with small bright objects.”  This lover of glitter has found a whole new reason to love our Star-Spangled Banner.


The original flag is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, gifted by the Armistead family in 1907.



As for our current 50-star flag, it has an equally interesting history albeit one that’s a bit more down home. It began with the impending statehood of Alaska and Hawaii and started as a high school project. For real.


High schooler Bob Heft’s history teacher at Lancaster High School in Ohio gave the class an assignment in 1958 to bring in something they made and the rest as they say is really and truly history.


Upon getting the assignment, Heft constructed a 50 star flag by modifying an old 48 star flag using blue cloth and white hand-cut stars to replace the canton. A flag enthusiast, he was inspired to add two more stars knowing there were discussions about adding Alaska and Hawaii to the Union. Upon handing in his flag, he was disappointed with the B- grade he received and challenged the grade, agreeing that if the design was accepted by Congress, the grade would be changed to an A. After spending two years writing letters and making phone calls and both states becoming eventually earning statehood, President Eisenhower informed  Heft that his design had been chosen out of 1,000 designs. On July 4, 1960, he joined Eisenhower in Washington to watch his flag be officially raised. Note to kids everywhere: never give up and never settle.


So now you know the history of our flag, but do you know the etiquette that goes along with it? Here is a quick guide:


Flying at Half-Staff or Half-Mast

“Half-staff” means the flag is flown halfway up its flagpole as a symbol of mourning while “Half-mast” is when a flag is flown halfway up a ship’s mast to signal mourning or distress. When lowering a flag to either, you must first hoist it to the very top of the flagpole before lowering it. Only the president or a governor can call for this observance.


When and How to Fly the American Flag

For flags that are stationary on a building or flagpole, it’s customary to fly them from sunrise to sunset. American flags can be flown at night provided they are properly illuminated with their own dedicated spotlight.


Carrying the American Flag

The American flag is never to touch the ground or any object below it and it should never be carried flat unless draped over a casket for a funeral.


Folding the American Flag

What most of us think of when we hear this term is the procedure performed by members of the Armed Forces. U.S. flags are traditionally folded into a shape that’s reminiscent of a triangular-shaped tricorn hat typically worn during the Revolutionary War. A standard America flag will require 13 folds and there should be two lengthwise folds and 11 triangular folds.


When Flying with Other Flags

American flags are to be placed in a position of prominence over all other flags. It should also be larger or equivalent in size to all other flags on the pole or staff. The American flag should always be hoisted first and lowered last.


The U.S. Flag Code also has actual guidelines of how to fly the American flag alongside other flags. (Note to U.S. embassies of late: pay attention here.) The guidelines stipulate that no other flag may be placed in “superior prominence” to the U.S. flag (I’m guessing this means size and placement of as well…again…take note U.S. embassies) and that no flag may fly above the U.S. flag. (Sorry Texans, yours cannot despite the popular and oft-repeated story that it can because you were once a nation…more on this in a bit).


In fact, no flag may fly above the U.S. flag but all state flags may fly at the same height. Other stipulations include that when multiple flags share the same pole, the U.S. flag must fly at the peak; if two flags fly side-by-side, the U.S. flag must be on the flag’s right and the viewer’s left; and if the U.S. flag flies with multiple state flags, the U.S. must be in the center and higher than the rest.


Here’s where Texas comes in since it has its own flag code that states that if flags are on separate poles, the flags should be displayed on poles or staff of the same height, the flags should be of approximate equal size, and the U.S. flag should be to the left of the state flag from the perspective of an observer. But take heart Texans, as your flag is the only flag that can be found inside every American flag as shown in the above photo!



There is also proper etiquette and procedures we are to respectfully follow during the playing of our National Anthem, which are:

  • Stand facing the flag with your right hand over your heart
  • Men not in uniform should remove their hats
  • Men and women in uniform should give the military salute during the entire song


The same rules hold true during the Pledge of Allegiance, the only difference being that during the Pledge a flag must be present while the “Star-Spangled Banner” can be sung without a flag present.


And speaking of the Pledge, I guess we can’t do Flag Day with the Pledge of Allegiance, right?



The Pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy and first published in “The Youth’s Companion” on September 8, 1892. The words “the flag of the United States of America” were added in 1923 and in 1954 under the urging of President Eisenhower, the phrase “under God” was added. It was once customary and practically a given that school children coast-to-coast start their school days with the Pledge but along with other patriotic traditions, this too is falling through the cracks.


When you do pledge allegiance to our United States flag, you’re to face the flag and place your right hand over your heart. Those in military uniform remain silent during its recitation and render the military salute.


So there’s the “whats,” now what about the “whys?” I have two big whys: why is our flag called “Old Glory” and why are flag patches on service member uniforms “backwards?”



The American flag has been called “Old Glory” for nearly two centuries and its story can be traced back to 1831 when a ship captain from Massachusetts named William Driver coined the phrase during one of his voyages. At the time he’d received an American flag from one of his shipmates and he proudly displayed it on his ship. As he sailed off one day, Driver noticed the flag was flowing proudly and gracefully in the wind and he yelled out, “Old Glory!” It was indeed waving and blowing in all its red, white, and blue glory.


Driver had a long appreciation for the flag and in 1837 he retired as a ship captain. Soon after, the Civil War raged during which the flag was often referred to as Old Glory. When writing his thoughts about the American flag, Driver wrote: “It has ever been my staunch companion and protection. Savages and heathens, lowly and oppressed, hailed and welcomed it at the far end of the wide world. Then, why should it not be called Old Glory?” Why indeed.



As to why the American flag appears reversed on uniforms, it makes sense once explained.


U.S. Army Regulations specify that the blue field of stars should always be in the highest position of honor. When viewing a flag on a wall vertically or horizontally, that position is the top upper left. When displayed on a “moving object” like a person or vehicle, the highest position of honor is the front, not the rear, so the field of blue should be displayed to the front.


According to Army Regulation 670-1: “The American flag patch is to be worn so the star filed faces forward or to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”


I like to think of it this way: the flag must face forward and advancing, never retreating.


So there you have it, everything and anything you may or may not have wanted to know about Flag Day and our American flag. It flies on government buildings, schools, and even the moon and after much history and heroics, its broad stripes and bright stars are still there waving proudly o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s keep it that way.


Happy Flag Day everyone!







Gifts We Could All Use May 24, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:52 pm

Editor’s Note: This post was intended to be posted yesterday, but life happened and I’ve had to delay it by one day. A day late but never too late for its message. Although spiritual in nature, its message is one today’s divided and angry world could use, regardless on one’s beliefs.


One of my favorite prayers to teach little ones, including our daughter when she was young, is the very simple “Holy Spirit, help me today in everything I think, do, and say.” It’s not biblical or found in a specific scripture, but I’ve always thought it pretty well sums up what should be our thought process each and every morning.


I’ve always had a special affinity for the Holy Spirit. I have a prayer that’s typed out on an old-school typewriter that I’ve had and said for years. I don’t know where I got it but I do know it’s very special to me. This should be somewhat surprising considering that growing up the Holy Spirit was often referred to as the Holy Ghost. Yikes! What young Catholic girl would ever want anything to do with a ghost? As it turns out, me and many others.


Granted, the “ghost” reference is somewhat up there with rotary phones and televisions with antennas, but the third person of the Holy Trinity is indeed ageless and timeless. Maybe I’m a fan because the Holy Spirit is often described as the love between Father and Son and is also sometimes referred to as the “female” side of God; the kinder gentler side full of wisdom and joy. Not that God and Jesus aren’t, but who doesn’t need a spiritual mamma in their life?



Pentecost Sunday

The Holy Spirit is on my mind because the church celebrates Pentecost today. It is one of the most important feast days of the year and it concludes the Easter season. It’s also considered the birthday of the church.


Pentecost is the Christian celebration of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles, Mary, and other first followers of Jesus as they gathered in the Upper Room; literally and figuratively lighting a fire in them for the Word. It commemorates their transformation from frightened and confused to ultimately those who preached and made believers of millions thanks to the gifts given to them to do so. It’s those gifts and their ripened “fruits” that I feel, regardless of your beliefs and opinions, are much needed in today’s world.


The name “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek word “pentekostos,” which means 50. Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus and 10 days after His ascension into heaven.


As often has it, there is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu’ot, which falls 50 days after Passover and commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses. I have to believe my Jewish brothers and sisters would agree with today’s message.




The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Without going into too much detail, the Gifts are dispositions that make us open to following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They are there for the asking and give us strength for the journey. Four enlighten our minds: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and counsel; and three strengthen our hearts: fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. They are biblical and can be found in Isaiah 11:2 and are ways of living we should all strive for. They are:


Wisdom. The ability to exercise good judgment and distinguish between right and wrong. It is also common sense and often advances in years and gains life experience.


Understanding. The ability to think clearly and have insight and discernment.


Counsel. The ability to give and receive good advice.


Fortitude. Moral strength, courage, determination, and resiliency.


Knowledge. The ability to study and learn and put what is learned to constructive and good purpose.


Fear of the Lord. Acknowledges that everything comes from God and therefore downplays personal achievement, pride, and self-sufficiency.


Piety. Being devoted to goodness, decency, mercy, meekness, and virtues.



The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

The Gifts are to be made of good use or they won’t ripen and grow. They must be cultivated and applied daily; the result of which are the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, and I’m not talking apples, oranges, and bananas.  As with the Fruits of the Spirit, those types of fruits are never manufactured but grown; seeds need to be planted and a gardener needs to tend to them. As opposed to the “bitter fruits” of immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, drunkenness, and carousing found in Gal 5:19-21, the Fruits of the Spirit are good habits, virtues, and deeds that are by-products of God’s presence in our lives. They can be found in Gal 5:22 and are:


Love. Unconditional love that expects nothing in return. Opposite: Self-serving.


Joy. Inner contentment that comes with speaking and upholding truth, honesty and integrity in relationships, and decent conduct. Opposite: Discontent.


Peace. Living with contentment in a world that is never satisfied. It is also when the dignity of all living beings are respected and when legitimate differences are tolerated. Opposite: Anxiety-filled.


Patience. The virtue of suffering delay with composure and without complaint. It is also the willingness to wait even in a world of instant gratification and to slow down and set aside one’s personal plans and concerns. Opposite: High-strung.


Kindness. A warm and friendly disposition demonstrated by a kind and compassionate person who is polite, well-mannered, respectful, considerate, pleasant, agreeable, cheerful, helpful, positive, and complimentary. Opposite: Privileged and Elitist.


Goodness. A bigheartedness grounded in unselfish generosity and integrity and the courage to do the right thing even when it’s hard. Opposite: Dishonest and Deceitful.


Faithfulness. Demonstrated by loyalty, fulfilling commitments fulfilled, keeping promises, and being true to one’s word. Opposite: Unreliable.


Gentleness. Sensitivity and humble consideration for others. Mild-mannered, not pushy or abrasive. Quick to listen and slow to speak with a desire for wisdom and understanding before the desire to be heard. Opposite: Arrogant and Melodramatic.


Self-control.  Reject evil and choose goody by being in control of one’s self rather than controlled by temptation or other people. The ability to remain calm, cool, and collected especially in times of crisis; be even tempered; and avoid impulsive, knee-jerk reactions and responses. Opposite: Undisciplined.


It is often said that these Gifts and Fruits are also revealed in The Beatitudes, which Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount and can be found in Matthew 5-7. On the flip-side, they and the Virtues of humility, chastity, kindness, temperance, vigilance, meekness, and generosity can also ward off the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, anger, and greed, respectively.



Turn on any newscast or scroll any social media site and the urgent need for all of these good traits and true gifts will quickly be revealed. Time to be the gardeners of our inner spirits so we can plant the seeds of fruits that are healthy for the whole of the land. Time to dig deep.




House Rules May 17, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:49 pm

Summer break is almost here, the country is slowly opening up, and a society tired of being masked up and locked down appears ready to venture out. That might be flying somewhere, taking a road trip, staying in a luxury hotel, or maybe visiting friends or family. If it’s the latter, take note. Being a guest and hosting guests are important roles and they both come with some standard rules of thumb. Let’s start with being a gracious guest.




It’s fun and frugal to camp out in someone’s guest room but we’ve all heard that guests are like fish: they start to smell after three days. So, rule number 1: don’t overstay your welcome. Granted, three days may seem like a really short visit so always double-check with your host. Get and give specific dates and never, ever just assume an invitation awaits you. Just because someone you know lives in a fabulous place doesn’t mean you’re invited to visit and stay with them and for goodness sakes, never just show up. No one wants to be Cousin Eddie from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”


It’s also important to be clear as to who exactly will be joining you on the visit. Opening your home to a couple is much different than doing so to a family of five with a dog or special needs visitors.


Blogger and author Mary Hunt also reminds guests to respect their host’s space and the house rules of that space. Don’t arrive with multiple suitcases, clothing that requires numerous hangars, a cooler full of your vegetarian or keto foods, and while visiting, make sure everything you bring stays in the room where you’re staying. And keep that room or space tidy. When you’re not in it, it should look just like when you arrived. You’re not staying in a hotel so don’t treat your friend’s home like one. Housekeeping won’t be dropping by when you leave the room.


As for house rules, well, they rule. If your hosts remove their shoes when they come in, so should you. If they’re non-drinkers, don’t arrive with bottles of wine and bourbon. Pay attention to where they eat and drink. If they drink their morning coffee at the table or in the kitchen, join them there. Be sure any kids you bring with you adhere to rules as well and have them pitch in and lend a hand when it comes to setting the table, washing dishes, or taking out trash. Go over manners, respect, and tidiness and let them know you expect all three from them, which includes everything from television/tablet/music choices to verbal politeness to picking up their clothes.


Arrive knowing that your hosts are just that-your hosts. They are not your tour guides, chauffeurs, or babysitters. Arrange your own transportation prior to arrival and invite them to join you on any activities you have planned. Just don’t expect them to do everything with you unless they choose to. If possible, let them know any plans or reservations you have before arriving so they can schedule joining you beforehand. Be sure to include your kids and any elderly relatives you bring with you on any and all activities and don’t expect your hosts to babysit either unless they offer.



We’ve all heard that saying when it comes to national parks and such, and it kinda applies to being a gracious guest as well. Before departing, remove sheets and pillow cases from beds, fold them, and pile them neatly on the floor along with any towels. Simply throw the comforter over the mattress and prop the pillows up. Wipe down bathrooms and offer to remove trash from your room.


As you take your memories with you, maybe don’t leave footprints but leave behind a kind gesture of your gratefulness. This could be something as simple (and at the very least) a nice thank you note as well as a small candle of their favorite scent, tasteful hand towels, or other small tokens of appreciation.  Lastly, always offer to reciprocate them hosting you.




Your main goal as a host is not to make your guests feel pampered but comfortable. Take time to remove anything that might make them squirm and add things that will encourage them to relax. This might be just letting them settle in casually when they arrive to placing fresh flowers in the room where they’re staying. At the same time, don’t exhaust yourself. Be yourself and let them be themselves. Keep it simple but nice. If you’re stressed they will sense it and in turn feel stressed. Guests don’t expect a perfect house or a perfect host.


Before they arrive, ask them about any allergies…both food and otherwise…and inform them of your schedule. If you have a doctor or hair appointment, yoga or dance class, let them know so they’re aware you’ll be unavailable during those times.


Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette queen Emily Post, suggests setting a specific start and end date for the visit and to consider your guest’s interests when setting up any activities. Just because you like to hike or visit museums doesn’t mean they do. Lastly, take under consideration any little people who will be visiting and order your home accordingly. Put away any precious breakables or possibly dangerous items before your guests arrive.



We’ve all been guests at someone’s house and I’m betting we can all remember one or two homes that stand out and felt like the owners thought of everything. Was the bed dreamy?  Were the towels cushy?  Did you have everything you needed or forgot?  These are the keys to a top notch guest room.  I’ve gathered some tried and true guest room tips and ideas here for you and would love your input on anything I’ve forgotten or something that caught your eye and that you appreciated as you guested somewhere.



  • Although most guest rooms, mine included, have queen beds, design experts agree that twin beds are guest room perfection. Also if there’s room, have a comfy chair nearby for both sitting and plopping things onto.
  • Every guest room (or room you use for guests) needs a reading lamp. Reading glasses, depending on their age, would be a bonus treat, as would a nightlight.
  • Provide at least one smart phone charger in case they forgot theirs.
  • If the guests don’t have to share a bathroom with anyone else in the house, stock it up with shampoo, shaving cream, lotion, toothpaste, etc. If they share the bathroom, have all these items – perhaps travel sizes – in a basket for them in the guest room.
  • A basket filled with bottled water, drinks, and both salty and sweet snacks is also appreciated and can be accompanied by a pretty carafe and glass that they can fill and refill.
  • Either show them where towels are stored or bring some out and put them on the guest bed. Be sure to include bath towels, hand towels, and wash cloths.
  • Have a pen and paper handy for them.
  • As mentioned above, a low-key vase of fresh flowers is a nice touch to any guest room.
  • To alleviate both incoming and outgoing smells, have a small candle and matches available and/or a subtle reed diffuser.
  • If possible, empty out a dresser drawer and make sure there is space for their clothes in the closet along with plenty of (non-wire) hangars for them to use. A luggage rack or bench for suitcases is also a nice touch.
  • For a true luxury hotel experience, provide various robes for guests to use.
  • Reading materials – books, magazines, catalogs, etc. – should be stacked or laid out in a way that tells them “it’s okay to read these!”
  • If you have Wi-Fi in the house, have the code written down somewhere in the guest room.
  • On the Wi-Fi card that I provide our guests is also our address and phone numbers. Should they need to call an Uber or order food delivery for the group, it’s nice for them to have the address close at hand.
  • If your guest room has a television, have handy step-by-step instructions for all TV remotes and include a channel guide.
  • Provide guests with neighborhood info that includes nearby pharmacies, gas stations, grocery stores, florists, etc. Even though all of this is available on smart phones and computers, guests will appreciate not having to look them up.
  • Give your guests a brief tour of your home, pointing out where dishes, snacks, and other items are located.
  • Show guests how to use your coffeemaker. Every kind is different and this will allow guests to help themselves to the java.
  • Create as comfy a bed as possible. 300-400 count sheets are as high as you need to go, goose down is fluffier than duck when it comes to duvets and pillows, and a fluffy mattress topper will ensure your guests sleep like queens and kings.  Think layers too:  layers of pillows and layers of sheet/blanket/duvet/folded throw.  I personally prefer bamboo or microfiber sheets but 100 percent cotton is popular as well.
  • Be sure outlets are available and easily accessible for a multitude of all things electronic. If several are covered by a bed or dresser, provide a multiple outlet converter and extension cord.
  • Provide plenty of mirrors for your guests. Full-length mirrors come in all styles and are wonderful additions to any guest room as are magnifying mirrors.
  • Two cute ideas on saw on-line for guest rooms are to provide a clear, glass vase of river rocks and a Sharpie for them to sign and date and/or a calendar for them to add their birthday and date of visit to.


In the end, you want your home to be a sanctuary and to make your guests feel at home and at ease.  Treat your guests like family and your family like guests, right?



Here’s hoping that the welcome mat is out for wherever you want to go or whoever you want to host.  Open your hearts, open your minds, open your eyes, and open your doors.